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Were WWI General idiots?

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    Posted: 07 Dec 2010 at 00:58
That is my understanding. Yet in a book that I have been reading recently, it said that they weren't because they kept thinking about what to do. And i don't deny that, but for a long time they kept butchering people.

So does that absolved them?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Panther Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Dec 2010 at 01:16
Well, you have too admit, from our vantage point in history and technologically speaking, 1914 style warfare was a far cry from what it was in the 19th century. Did the Generals realize that before the slaughter began? BTW... What book is it you are reading?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Dec 2010 at 02:00
You have to admit that they seemed to have a distinct lack of imagination much of the time.

Men like von Lettow-Vorbeck, Monash and Brusilov were exceptions to the rule in that they were willing to make use of original and unconventional tactics as a means of making their war a war of movement rather than the awful attrition that it generally was. The bulk of generals were not so imaginative, and so the slaughter continued.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote hugoestr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Dec 2010 at 02:37
I am reading a children's book on World War One. My son is very interested in the topic right now :)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tashfin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Jan 2011 at 17:05

The lack of mobility (through mechanised formations as were available in WW2) and static  nature of trench warfare, on the Western Front in particular also contributed to the stagnation in imaginative tactics/generalship .Douglas Haig being a good (or rather bad) example. However, there were exceptions, especially in other theatres where greater mobility could be afforded due to the wider territorial expanses favourable to cavalry/manouver tactics ( e.g. Eastern Front and the Middle East ) for example:

Erich Ludendorf &  Max Hoffman ( and to a lesser extent Paul Hindenburg who was more of a figurehead) on the Eastern Front : Battles of Tannenberg and Masurian Lakes in 1914, where large Russian armies  were surrounded and destroyed or heavily defeated after their initial successes in attacking East Prussia. The German offensives of 1915 also demonstrate more flexible strategy/tactics, however again these were on the Eastern Front.
 
It is arguable that Ludendorf also demonstrated imaginative generalship in the planning and execution of operation 'Michael' in April 1918 which broke the stalemate on the Western Front, though ultimately this offensive failed, new tactics such as the use of stormtroopers were used which came, initially, as a shock to the Allies.
 
Alexei Brusilov (as has been mentioned), famous Brusilov offensive of 1916 against Austro Hungarians.
 
British general Edmund Allenby in the Middle Eastern Theatre against the Ottoman Empire (Gaza and Megiddo battles of 1917/18).
 
Admittedly, though, good generalsip in WW1 was a rareity.
 
 
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Jan 2011 at 17:32

WWI generals have taken a lot of beating for what happened then and a lot of it was undeserved.

 
What the allies did in late 1914 by forcing a trench war on the Germans probably saved them from total defeat, Germany was winning the war and advancing rapidly (by those says' standards) and crushed every resistance the allies threw at them. The unexpected readiness of Russian troops in August saved the allies by diverting the German troops that were supposed to outflank the French and assault Paris directly (most of these were cavalry which played a decisive role in the early days of WWI). The French were understrengthed and the British weren't ready untill 1915 so trenches were necessary.
 
As for what happened later on and the horrendous casualties well remember that tanks were introduced in 1916 and still the war was bloody and terrible. It was medical advances that actually made WWII seem less bloody that it really was. If I am not mistaken of the nearly 1 million British dead in WWI only 400k were actually KIA (half of them in 4 various engagements over a  very short period of time), the rest died from wounds and/or diseases which were rampant in the filthy trenches.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AlphaS520 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Jun 2012 at 17:48
Yes, yes they were. The idea of prolong trench warfare is actually quite ridiculous. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote SpaceMonkey Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Jul 2012 at 12:51
Countries tend to fight using the tactics and know how from previous wars. The last example they really have to draw from were the Napoleonic wars, which is disastrous with the addition of rifled weapons and all of the other modern machinery. There were of course other wars, but not to such a scale.... as far as I know since I am lacking a little in that period. Plus, it does not appear that Europe learned much from the American Civil War, which exemplified the horrors of the new modern ways of warfare. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AlphaS520 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Jul 2012 at 12:59
Previous obvious tactics such as simple ambushes and the uses of decoys (made so available to the west by Hannibal Barca) was never seen in WWI. They could've retreated, and lead the enemy force into their trench, which would be a trap. Certain extremely simple tactics, such as the one called Hammer and Avil (made available to the west by Alexander III of Macedon), was never seen in WWI.

General Haig actually ordered his men to march in formation to the enemy trenches, due to the fact that he have no knowledge of the battlefield whatsoever, in fact, most WWI general doesn't. That's why this stalemate could be seen as one of the dumbest in all of history, as it have cost so many lives, but the generals was too stupid to understand even the most basic of all which should know, to understand the terrain and the situation of the battle.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Birddog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Jul 2012 at 13:22
The 1st world war presented tactical situations have had never been seen before, or seen since. Despite the general view point that the generals were idiots, tactics for the new kind of warfare were developed as the war progressed. Hair did not order his men to walk forward information at the Somme because he didn't understand the terrain. He picked the battle field because it was dry and had not been contested. The troops went forward in for,action due to over confidante in the 7 day Artillary preparation before then walked across no-mans-land. The generals of world war one learnt and changed there tactics as the war progressed, even Haig.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AlphaS520 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Jul 2012 at 13:43
Care to explain the 'tactics' used in WWI?
WWI was and will always be viewed as the war that was lead and fought in the dumbest way ever by anyone who knows anything in a broad range of history. They certainly changed the style of warfare, but the tactical skills have certainly degraded to the extreme.

General Haig did ordered his men to march across no man's land, everyone knows this, and it is everywhere even on the internet. This resulted in the slaughter of his men by new technological advances, such as the browning machine gun.

They have 4 years to devise a plan, and no general actually though of luring the enemy into ambushes, or at least change their position instead of being in a pointless stalemate.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Jul 2012 at 13:43
On the whole I agree with Birddog, but I'd add that the last campaign involving Britain with relevance to ww1 was in fact the Boer War, where it became evident that the superiority of dug-in defensive positions with modern arms, made traditional battlefield tactics all irrelevant. And while no-one else was involved in that war, that were plenty of people observing.

The maritime equivalent was the Russo-Japanese war, in particular Tsushima. (The Royal Navy had observers with the Japanese fleet.)


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Captain Vancouver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Jul 2012 at 16:47
Mindsets can be hard to change. The shift from one paradigm to another can take time.
 
Steamships had proved themselves by the middle of the nineteenth century, but shipbuilders continued to plunk down masts and rigging. This was partly backup, but also it was simply hard to conceive of ships without sails at that time.
 
We have the same thing today. In Canada, there is a controversy over the purchase of the very expensive new F-35 fighter. It may be one of the biggest defensive buys ever, despite evidence that is mounting by leaps and bounds in the real world that the airspace of future war will be automated.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Jul 2012 at 20:01
Originally posted by AlphaS520 AlphaS520 wrote:

Previous obvious tactics such as simple ambushes and the uses of decoys (made so available to the west by Hannibal Barca) was never seen in WWI. They could've retreated, and lead the enemy force into their trench, which would be a trap. Certain extremely simple tactics, such as the one called Hammer and Avil (made available to the west by Alexander III of Macedon), was never seen in WWI.
 
Easier said than done. How many did Hannibal have, 20k, 30k?
 
In WWI especially in the mobile warfare phase of it (until Nov. 1914) nearly 6 million men in some 300 divisions were on the move on all sides. The logistics to control these men on a 1000 km front are just phenominal. Indeed if anything the level of control those armies had was amazing to begin with. Never before in history did we see such levels of mobalisation since the largest on of that size.
 
Originally posted by AlphaS520 AlphaS520 wrote:


General Haig actually ordered his men to march in formation to the enemy trenches, due to the fact that he have no knowledge of the battlefield whatsoever, in fact, most WWI general doesn't. That's why this stalemate could be seen as one of the dumbest in all of history, as it have cost so many lives, but the generals was too stupid to understand even the most basic of all which should know, to understand the terrain and the situation of the battle.
 
Of course he didn't have any knowledge whatsoever. This was the first war where you had multiple field armies and army corps with literally millions of men serving in them. This was the first war with modern field long range artillary which was many times more accurate than the old generation and in massive numbers (I think in the last major western european war, the Franco-Prussian war, Prussia managed only to muster 500 guns for the +200k army that besieged Paris, in WWI a single army corps had just as many guns and these were of larger calibre and more accurate). This was the first war with real time communications between frontline and command and finally this was the first war with mass use of machine guns.
 
In the mobile phase generals conducted the war fairly competently but it was when both sides became entrenched that things began to get screwed up because trench warfare was something entirely new and was a successful defensive tactic.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Birddog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Jul 2012 at 22:26
Originally posted by AlphaS520 AlphaS520 wrote:

Care to explain the 'tactics' used in WWI?
WWI was and will always be viewed as the war that was lead and fought in the dumbest way ever by anyone who knows anything in a broad range of history. They certainly changed the style of warfare, but the tactical skills have certainly degraded to the extreme.

General Haig did ordered his men to march across no man's land, everyone knows this, and it is everywhere even on the internet. This resulted in the slaughter of his men by new technological advances, such as the browning machine gun.

They have 4 years to devise a plan, and no general actually though of luring the enemy into ambushes, or at least change their position instead of being in a pointless stalemate.




Everyone knows is like the bloke in the pub told me.

Hindenburg did withdraw the German army in early 1917 into the prearranged bunker system that you might considered as a huge strategic trap for the Allied armies. But no one wins a war fighting on the defensive.

Yes, I did say the Haig did order the men to walk across no mans land. It was the first day of the Somme, after a 7 day Artillary barrage. A week long Artillary barrage had never been tried before and was supposed to blow the German front line to bits before the infantry went over the top. The plan did not work. This battle was a monster of planning and preparation, that over estimated the power of Artillary and the strength of German bunkers.

By 1918 with the combination of tanks, airplanes, Artillary and new infantry tactics the allies did push back and finally broke thro the German lines in October 1918. Look up the battle of Hamel, 1918. The lessons learnt in this battle was passed all through the British army.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jul 2012 at 07:59
The biggest mistakes regarding wars may not be about military tactics or strategy at all, but about politics and diplomacy. I would guess ww1 could an example here, though I admit my lack of expertise.  Then military men may have an influence upon politics they should not have, but if they make political mistakes, in particular making other powers their enemy I think it is not about being "military idiots", but if anything "political idiots".
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Nomadic Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Nov 2012 at 23:34
Originally posted by hugoestr hugoestr wrote:

i don't deny that, but for a long time they kept butchering people.

So does that absolved them?
You also have to look at the decisions of political leaders. The political leaders of every nation in continental Europe practiced the idea of "every man a citizen, every citizen a soldier".  This allowed politicians to boast of reserve armies totalling millions of men.  The politicians, however, cared little that it was impossible for the generals to train most of these men to any real standard.
 
Originally posted by Captain Vancouver Captain Vancouver wrote:

Mindsets can be hard to change. The shift from one paradigm to another can take time.
Thne factor in that the shift had to be distributed amongst millions of men.  Germany alone mobilized 3,000,000 men in August 1914.
 
No country could afford to train the millions of reservists. Sometimes, entire corps of reservists were trained for several weeks in parade ground drill and were led by junior officers with say, 3 months of text book training.  Even senior officers in these units were often brought out of retirement and were and only familiar "pre shift" tactics.   


Edited by Nomadic - 09 Nov 2012 at 03:05
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ribbaud Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Nov 2012 at 12:16
Originally posted by Birddog Birddog wrote:

Originally posted by AlphaS520 AlphaS520 wrote:

Care to explain the 'tactics' used in WWI?
WWI was and will always be viewed as the war that was lead and fought in the dumbest way ever by anyone who knows anything in a broad range of history. They certainly changed the style of warfare, but the tactical skills have certainly degraded to the extreme.

General Haig did ordered his men to march across no man's land, everyone knows this, and it is everywhere even on the internet. This resulted in the slaughter of his men by new technological advances, such as the browning machine gun.

They have 4 years to devise a plan, and no general actually though of luring the enemy into ambushes, or at least change their position instead of being in a pointless stalemate.




Everyone knows is like the bloke in the pub told me.

Hindenburg did withdraw the German army in early 1917 into the prearranged bunker system that you might considered as a huge strategic trap for the Allied armies. But no one wins a war fighting on the defensive.

Yes, I did say the Haig did order the men to walk across no mans land. It was the first day of the Somme, after a 7 day Artillary barrage. A week long Artillary barrage had never been tried before and was supposed to blow the German front line to bits before the infantry went over the top. The plan did not work. This battle was a monster of planning and preparation, that over estimated the power of Artillary and the strength of German bunkers.

By 1918 with the combination of tanks, airplanes, Artillary and new infantry tactics the allies did push back and finally broke thro the German lines in October 1918. Look up the battle of Hamel, 1918. The lessons learnt in this battle was passed all through the British army.


Nobody ordered the troops to walk across no man's land. This is a myth that probably arose from Rawlinson's comment, "the infantry would only have to walk over to take possession." The various divisions decided on their own methods but famously the less experienced divisions thought the most practicable way was to advance in line at a steady pace so the officers wouldn't lose control of their men. The British Army paid heavily for it's lack of experience on the first day, but the survivors learned fast.

As you say the planning was meticulous, but several factors caused it to fail; dispersing the available artillery diluted it's effects, as did using the  wrong shell type (Shrapnel) because that was all that was available. The plan worked almost to perfection in the southernmost sectors which achieved the required artillery concentrations due to the French allocating artillery resources to the British. The southern sector is always a postcript in most "first day" narratives, which always concentrate on the "slaughter" in the northern sector.

By the time the offensive wound down the British had just about learned all they needed to know to break through the German lines and were slowly implimenting the lessons of using combined arms of Artillery, infantry tanks and aircraft, thus rendering the then current German defensive arrangements obsolete. This was one factor in the German decision to retire to the Hindenburg Stellung.

In 1917 the Germans had redesigned their defenses to cope with the new British tactics, but these ultimately failed as the tactics evolved in 1916 proved equally effective. Only the appaling bad luck of foul weather in the Ypres sector narrowly prevented a breakthrough.

By 1918 the tactical and operational combined arms doctrine was already in place. Hamel merely trickled down notes on "best practice" and a few innovations. By the time of Amiens, the British army was well versed in methods of breaking any defence the Germans could put up as demonstrated finally when they broke the Hindenburg Stellung.

The bitter irony is that Haig envisaged just such a combined arms doctrine in 1915, but lacked the means to impliment it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Nomadic Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Nov 2012 at 02:25
Originally posted by Ribbaud Ribbaud wrote:

 
Yes, I did say the Haig did order the men to walk across no mans land. It was the first day of the Somme, after a 7 day Artillary barrage. A week long Artillary barrage had never been tried before and was supposed to blow the German front line to bits before the infantry went over the top. The plan did not work.
 
I think the Britsh plan at the Somme was based on an earlier offensives (Loos?) where a carefully planned, relatively heavy bombardment followed by infantry assaults was successful (at least by the standards of WWI).  This then led to the conclusion that "If a relatively heavy bombardment accomplished "X", then a super heavy bombardment would accomplish "10X".  
 
As you mentioned, however, the plan did into account for new German construction techniques  in conjunction with motivated defenders (the previous successful offensive was against a high proportion of second and third string German batalions).     
 
 
 


Edited by Nomadic - 11 Nov 2012 at 03:00
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Birddog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Nov 2012 at 05:46
Originally posted by Ribbaud Ribbaud wrote:

Originally posted by Birddog Birddog wrote:

Originally posted by AlphaS520 AlphaS520 wrote:

Care to explain the 'tactics' used in WWI?
WWI was and will always be viewed as the war that was lead and fought in the dumbest way ever by anyone who knows anything in a broad range of history. They certainly changed the style of warfare, but the tactical skills have certainly degraded to the extreme.

General Haig did ordered his men to march across no man's land, everyone knows this, and it is everywhere even on the internet. This resulted in the slaughter of his men by new technological advances, such as the browning machine gun.

They have 4 years to devise a plan, and no general actually though of luring the enemy into ambushes, or at least change their position instead of being in a pointless stalemate.




Everyone knows is like the bloke in the pub told me.

Hindenburg did withdraw the German army in early 1917 into the prearranged bunker system that you might considered as a huge strategic trap for the Allied armies. But no one wins a war fighting on the defensive.

Yes, I did say the Haig did order the men to walk across no mans land. It was the first day of the Somme, after a 7 day Artillary barrage. A week long Artillary barrage had never been tried before and was supposed to blow the German front line to bits before the infantry went over the top. The plan did not work. This battle was a monster of planning and preparation, that over estimated the power of Artillary and the strength of German bunkers.

By 1918 with the combination of tanks, airplanes, Artillary and new infantry tactics the allies did push back and finally broke thro the German lines in October 1918. Look up the battle of Hamel, 1918. The lessons learnt in this battle was passed all through the British army.


Nobody ordered the troops to walk across no man's land. This is a myth that probably arose from Rawlinson's comment, "the infantry would only have to walk over to take possession." The various divisions decided on their own methods but famously the less experienced divisions thought the most practicable way was to advance in line at a steady pace so the officers wouldn't lose control of their men. The British Army paid heavily for it's lack of experience on the first day, but the survivors learned fast.

As you say the planning was meticulous, but several factors caused it to fail; dispersing the available artillery diluted it's effects, as did using the  wrong shell type (Shrapnel) because that was all that was available. The plan worked almost to perfection in the southernmost sectors which achieved the required artillery concentrations due to the French allocating artillery resources to the British. The southern sector is always a postcript in most "first day" narratives, which always concentrate on the "slaughter" in the northern sector.

By the time the offensive wound down the British had just about learned all they needed to know to break through the German lines and were slowly implimenting the lessons of using combined arms of Artillery, infantry tanks and aircraft, thus rendering the then current German defensive arrangements obsolete. This was one factor in the German decision to retire to the Hindenburg Stellung.

In 1917 the Germans had redesigned their defenses to cope with the new British tactics, but these ultimately failed as the tactics evolved in 1916 proved equally effective. Only the appaling bad luck of foul weather in the Ypres sector narrowly prevented a breakthrough.

By 1918 the tactical and operational combined arms doctrine was already in place. Hamel merely trickled down notes on "best practice" and a few innovations. By the time of Amiens, the British army was well versed in methods of breaking any defence the Germans could put up as demonstrated finally when they broke the Hindenburg Stellung.

The bitter irony is that Haig envisaged just such a combined arms doctrine in 1915, but lacked the means to impliment it.
 
If officers in some divisions believed "the most practicable way was to advance in line at a steady pace so the officers wouldn't lose control of their men" then I'd say some men were ordered to walk across no-mans-land and it is not a myth.
 
I am not knocking the British Army, or the Generals. The Generals in all all armies in the WW1 had a huge learning curve to overcome in trench warfare. Most of my detainled knowledge of the WW1 tactics of British units is mostly focused on the Australians, and I know that most of the tactics used by the Australians were universal throughout the British army by 1918.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ribbaud Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Nov 2012 at 13:56
Originally posted by Birddog Birddog wrote:

Originally posted by Ribbaud Ribbaud wrote:

Originally posted by Birddog Birddog wrote:

Originally posted by AlphaS520 AlphaS520 wrote:

Care to explain the 'tactics' used in WWI?
WWI was and will always be viewed as the war that was lead and fought in the dumbest way ever by anyone who knows anything in a broad range of history. They certainly changed the style of warfare, but the tactical skills have certainly degraded to the extreme.

General Haig did ordered his men to march across no man's land, everyone knows this, and it is everywhere even on the internet. This resulted in the slaughter of his men by new technological advances, such as the browning machine gun.

They have 4 years to devise a plan, and no general actually though of luring the enemy into ambushes, or at least change their position instead of being in a pointless stalemate.




Everyone knows is like the bloke in the pub told me.

Hindenburg did withdraw the German army in early 1917 into the prearranged bunker system that you might considered as a huge strategic trap for the Allied armies. But no one wins a war fighting on the defensive.

Yes, I did say the Haig did order the men to walk across no mans land. It was the first day of the Somme, after a 7 day Artillary barrage. A week long Artillary barrage had never been tried before and was supposed to blow the German front line to bits before the infantry went over the top. The plan did not work. This battle was a monster of planning and preparation, that over estimated the power of Artillary and the strength of German bunkers.

By 1918 with the combination of tanks, airplanes, Artillary and new infantry tactics the allies did push back and finally broke thro the German lines in October 1918. Look up the battle of Hamel, 1918. The lessons learnt in this battle was passed all through the British army.


Nobody ordered the troops to walk across no man's land. This is a myth that probably arose from Rawlinson's comment, "the infantry would only have to walk over to take possession." The various divisions decided on their own methods but famously the less experienced divisions thought the most practicable way was to advance in line at a steady pace so the officers wouldn't lose control of their men. The British Army paid heavily for it's lack of experience on the first day, but the survivors learned fast.

As you say the planning was meticulous, but several factors caused it to fail; dispersing the available artillery diluted it's effects, as did using the  wrong shell type (Shrapnel) because that was all that was available. The plan worked almost to perfection in the southernmost sectors which achieved the required artillery concentrations due to the French allocating artillery resources to the British. The southern sector is always a postcript in most "first day" narratives, which always concentrate on the "slaughter" in the northern sector.

By the time the offensive wound down the British had just about learned all they needed to know to break through the German lines and were slowly implimenting the lessons of using combined arms of Artillery, infantry tanks and aircraft, thus rendering the then current German defensive arrangements obsolete. This was one factor in the German decision to retire to the Hindenburg Stellung.

In 1917 the Germans had redesigned their defenses to cope with the new British tactics, but these ultimately failed as the tactics evolved in 1916 proved equally effective. Only the appaling bad luck of foul weather in the Ypres sector narrowly prevented a breakthrough.

By 1918 the tactical and operational combined arms doctrine was already in place. Hamel merely trickled down notes on "best practice" and a few innovations. By the time of Amiens, the British army was well versed in methods of breaking any defence the Germans could put up as demonstrated finally when they broke the Hindenburg Stellung.

The bitter irony is that Haig envisaged just such a combined arms doctrine in 1915, but lacked the means to impliment it.
 
If officers in some divisions believed "the most practicable way was to advance in line at a steady pace so the officers wouldn't lose control of their men" then I'd say some men were ordered to walk across no-mans-land and it is not a myth.
 
I am not knocking the British Army, or the Generals. The Generals in all all armies in the WW1 had a huge learning curve to overcome in trench warfare. Most of my detainled knowledge of the WW1 tactics of British units is mostly focused on the Australians, and I know that most of the tactics used by the Australians were universal throughout the British army by 1918.


Two things, you said "Haig ordered..." no he didn't, that was the myth; the whole army was so ordered. Individual battalions, brigades and divisions did things their own way. Secondly it's more accurate to state that Australians used standard British Army tactics throughout the war, unless you can point to a uniquely Australian tactic that was subsequently adopted by everyone else?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Nov 2012 at 18:43
Some very good points here from Bird Dog, Al Jass, and Ribbaud. I'd just add that the WWI was was also heavily influenced by two factors: First, on the battlefield itself, the Germans, having invaded and gained the initial territorial gains, essentially established the battle lines for the next four years. To do this, they gave up some ground initially taken to allow themselves better terrain for defense. In this regard, they had an advantage, and the French were thus obligated to attack across ground that the Germans had chosen. Ergo, their choice of ground and the means available to the various armies dictated the conduct of operations on the Western Front.

The second factor, regarding the French but impacting upon their allies as well, was nationalism. The loss of Alsace and Lorraine in their previous contest had been beaten into the public conscious for over 40 years. Ergo: Any French territory lost had to be regained. No ground could be given up. The German, as pointed out, could withdraw in specific sectors of the western front without injuring any feelings of national pride. National pride may seem a ridiculous factor in hindsight, but if was real enough in 1914-18, and did contribute to the mentality that produced WWI's butcher bills.  Somewhere on a blog recently, I saw a comment on the 1917 French military mutinies to the effect that the troops in the units involved were not against the perceived necessity of fighting the war, but rather the manner in which that fight was being conducted.





Edited by lirelou - 11 Nov 2012 at 18:45
Phong trần mài một lưỡi gươm, Những loài giá áo túi cơm sá gì
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Birddog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Nov 2012 at 22:39
Ribbaud, I I believe you when you say that no such walking across no mans land order was given by Haig. I stand corrected. Some units did try walking across no mans land, and that cannot be denied.
My knowledge of British army tactics is based on my knowledge of Australian units. I understand the same tactics were used throughout all the forces of the British Empire and were not unique to the Australians. I pointed out the battle of Hamel because it was fought under the command of the Australian General Monash, and is a battle I am familiar with. It was a battle demonstrating that a lot of planning and preparation had been put in by the Gerneral and his Staff, right down to hot food for the front line troops before the attack.

Edited by Birddog - 12 Nov 2012 at 01:11
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ribbaud Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Nov 2012 at 07:54
Originally posted by Birddog Birddog wrote:

Ribbaud, I I believe you when you say that no such walking across no mans land order was given by Haig. I stand corrected. Some units did try walking across no mans land, and that cannot be denied.


Absolutely not, such was the hubris of some units they really did kick footballs into no man's land. In some units, the pace was determined because it was thought if everybody raced across, order would be lost, units would get intermingled, etc. leaving them vulnerable to any counter attack. Other units knew better and used what would later become known as "stormtroop tactics" to get across.

Originally posted by Birddog Birddog wrote:


My knowledge of British army tactics is based on my knowledge of Australian units. I understand the same tactics were used throughout all the forces of the British Empire and were not unique to the Australians. I pointed out the battle of Hamel because it was fought under the command of the Australian General Monash, and is a battle I am familiar with. It was a battle demonstrating that a lot of planning and preparation had been put in by the Gerneral and his Staff, right down to hot food for the front line troops before the attack.


Meticulous planning was also put into the Somme offensive, but in 1916 the circumstances were different to those of 1918. At Hamel and later Amiens, the Germans hadn't had two years to construct their defenses, and by then the British "art of attack" had been perfected and the resources available were much greater. The Australian and Canadian Corps were the beneficiaries of these changed circumstances and had the advantage of having served  (in the case of the Canadians) as a complete unit throughout the war.  This gave them a unit cohesion lacking in British Corps and Divisions, which were constantly transferring regiments, brigades and divisions from one Corps to another.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ribbaud Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Nov 2012 at 08:00
Originally posted by lirelou lirelou wrote:

Some very good points here from Bird Dog, Al Jass, and Ribbaud. I'd just add that the WWI was was also heavily influenced by two factors: First, on the battlefield itself, the Germans, having invaded and gained the initial territorial gains, essentially established the battle lines for the next four years. To do this, they gave up some ground initially taken to allow themselves better terrain for defense. In this regard, they had an advantage, and the French were thus obligated to attack across ground that the Germans had chosen. Ergo, their choice of ground and the means available to the various armies dictated the conduct of operations on the Western Front.

The second factor, regarding the French but impacting upon their allies as well, was nationalism. The loss of Alsace and Lorraine in their previous contest had been beaten into the public conscious for over 40 years. Ergo: Any French territory lost had to be regained. No ground could be given up. The German, as pointed out, could withdraw in specific sectors of the western front without injuring any feelings of national pride. National pride may seem a ridiculous factor in hindsight, but if was real enough in 1914-18, and did contribute to the mentality that produced WWI's butcher bills.  Somewhere on a blog recently, I saw a comment on the 1917 French military mutinies to the effect that the troops in the units involved were not against the perceived necessity of fighting the war, but rather the manner in which that fight was being conducted.



By and large I agree, however national pride played a part in German thinking as well; having taken the grounsd the German army was ordered to hold on to every bit of it, this resulted in many pointless counter attacks to recover lost ground on principle, not because the ground itself conferred any tactical advantage. This thinking just added to the butcher's bill and tended to equalise losses between attacker and defender.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 0ccamzRzr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Nov 2012 at 23:02
WW1 was the blending of the future of battle, over the old. static lines and moving in formation as one. One of the main reasons the trenchs were adopted was due to the advent of the Squad machine gun like the Vickers and believe it or not Barbed Wire. Because moving and charging at a enemy line with single shot rifles is one thing, but when you can just mow down an entire platoon in 10 seconds and not lose one of your men, that's a game changer.  They had no way to counter the machine guns because they had no Air cover or tank tactics, so digging into the earth was the only option. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ribbaud Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Nov 2012 at 12:00
Originally posted by 0ccamzRzr 0ccamzRzr wrote:

WW1 was the blending of the future of battle, over the old. static lines and moving in formation as one. One of the main reasons the trenchs were adopted was due to the advent of the Squad machine gun like the Vickers and believe it or not Barbed Wire. Because moving and charging at a enemy line with single shot rifles is one thing, but when you can just mow down an entire platoon in 10 seconds and not lose one of your men, that's a game changer.  They had no way to counter the machine guns because they had no Air cover or tank tactics, so digging into the earth was the only option. 


While machine guns were an important force multiplier, artillery was the biggest killer in WW1. It became possible to attack against machine guns alone, even using tactics developed in the 1850's, however very little could stand up to a major artillery barrage in the open. Trenches had been around long before WW1 and during the "race to the sea" in 1914 the practice was to occupy defensive terrain and entrench, when the enemy moved around your flank, you abandoned your position and moved to cut him off, he'd then entrench and the cycle would start again. Ultimately all these defensive positions were joined up to create the Western Front.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Nov 2012 at 19:29
The Boers already practised trench warfare as I recall.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote banna32 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jun 2013 at 16:05
why go over the top only to be shot yand not gain an inch
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote toyomotor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Mar 2014 at 01:46
Originally posted by hugoestr hugoestr wrote:

That is my understanding. Yet in a book that I have been reading recently, it said that they weren't because they kept thinking about what to do. And i don't deny that, but for a long time they kept butchering people.

So does that absolved them?
 
Not necessarily, but of the very senior ranks, some had little or no expertise in warfare, having purchased their commissions as a social "right".
 
The upper class officers who had purchased their commissions looked down upon those who had earned them through battlefield experience and intelligence. They were very reluctant to heed the advice they were given, after all, they were the aristocracy!
 
Some of the decisions made by the British High Command, for example, were murderous. The Gallipoli Campaign was one of them, but to them the loss of a few thousand "Colonials-Australian and New Zealanders" didn't matter. This attitude prevailed until WWII.
 
With the advent of a professional "Officer Corps", things changed rapidly, and they replaced the "Old Guard".
 
 
 
 
 
 
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