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The Great War and the Importance of Synchronization

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  • The Great War and the Importance of Synchronization

    The battlefield of 1914-1917 was an aberration.

    Many people, including the politicians of the day, were at a loss to explain what was occurring and why. The record shows, clearly, that the military minds of the period were engaged in a gigantic learning curve, where the principles of modern, "total" war were being hammered out, chiefly at the expense of those on the ground.

    "The Blame" for this state of affairs, at least in England and the Commonwealth, was laid squarely at the feet of Army generals like Haig. but looking at Haig's record in 1918 we see a quite differing picture, and it paints a portrait of a man who was doing quite well. The attrition contests of 1916-17 are often looked back on as being unnecessary wastage,, yet Haig was at the mercy of the French as much as Whitehall, Camapigns like the Somme and the continuance of Ypres were also said to have gone on for longer than was strictly necessary, but all of these 1916-1917 trials of strength propped up a flagging French military, mismanaged as they were. Poilus were denied leave from the front, and the mutinies of 1917 came very close to breaking the back of the French war effort.

    Artillery dominated the fields, and here we have, IMOH, the crux of the matter.

    The Napoleonic concept of combined arms wardfae had broken down, and once the infantry went "over the top", even local commanders lost control and contact with their subordinates. A lack of suitable transportation over shell-shocked terrain did the rest, as forward units ran out of everything, unable to be resupplied in time, or even to move further forward to their ultimate objectives.

    The tracked vehicle changed all this, as well as more sophisticated artillery techniques, with aircraft in support. Suddenly, as if a curtain had been lifted, 1918 came, and the different arms of the services started to CO-OPERATE with eachother, in mutual support, just as Napolean's men had.

    This topic begs discussion from the various members here, so I have opened the bill with this post, and now sit back to await comments, if any, from those that know better than I why 1918 was so darned different to the rest of the Great War.

    Drusus.
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  • #2
    The Germans wasted their best troops trying to break the Western Front in 1918. The troops left were no longer rated 1's and 2's by the British. Many were 3's, 4's and 5's. Even the British Army was capable of penetrating a line held by 4's and 5's. If the better troops could not reach the threatened sector in time the Germans were pushed back. The areas taken by the German Offenses were not good areas to fight in and not really worth the men it took to take them. There were no rail links and the roads and terrain was marshy and had suffered from the Artillery. The Germans could not bring forward their supplies and Artillery into the areas they took.

    Even donkeys are capable of good things on occasion.

    Pruitt
    Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

    Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

    by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Drusus Nero View Post
      Poilus were denied leave from the front, and the mutinies of 1917 came very close to breaking the back of the French war effort.
      Slight aside, but I did not know of the Poilus denial of leave. Can you provide any additional details? Was this a short-term occurrence or was it throughout the war? Was there a reason behind it?
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      • #4
        Originally posted by Herman Hum View Post

        Slight aside, but I did not know of the Poilus denial of leave. Can you provide any additional details? Was this a short-term occurrence or was it throughout the war? Was there a reason behind it?
        The French 'system' of allocating leave was considered inefficient and arbitrary and the cause of significant dissatisfaction. Both politicians and Petain wanted improvements and by the beginning of 1917 a new system had been announced. This would provide the French soldiers with a more generous leave policy than any extant army on either side. However its implementation was delayed as the French General Staff believed that the Nivelle offensive would bring the war to a swift end and most soldiers could be demobilised anyway - so why go to all the bother?

        It was normal practice in all armies to stop leave before an offensive, firstly to enable maximum numbers to be available and secondly to ensure that the railways were kept clear for reinforcements to the front and casualties evacuated from it. Scheduling rail movements on a large scale in a pre computer age was a major task and leave trains would be an unwanted added factor. Intelligence staff on either side would regard reports of leave cancellation as a presage of something big about to happen.

        The French soldiers would have the double whammy of not getting the promised extra leave and having what leave there was cancelled.
        Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
        Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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        • #5
          Ironically their lack of home leave in the Great War was a reason for the French defeat in 1940 - a distinct lack of reservists aged 22-25.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Gooner View Post
            Ironically their lack of home leave in the Great War was a reason for the French defeat in 1940 - a distinct lack of reservists aged 22-25.
            Ironically given that German and French leave entitlements were about the same then this makes little sense. The reasons for the Fall of France are much less simplistic.
            Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
            Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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            • #7
              Originally posted by MarkV View Post

              Ironically given that German and French leave entitlements were about the same then this makes little sense.
              Their entitlements may have been the same but only on paper. Or German leave involved being able to go home whilst French leave was to the nearest estaminet.
              I'll point out to you the French Army's hollow years:

              Class year: Year of birth : age : male numbers

              before

              classe 1934 : 1914 : 25 : 316,000
              classe 1933 : 1913 : 26 : 324,000
              classe 1932 : 1912 : 27 : 328,000
              classe 1931 : 1911 : 28 : 307,000

              Then

              classe 1939 : 1919 : 20 : 222,000
              classe 1938 : 1918 : 21 : 206,000
              classe 1937 : 1917 : 22 : 182,000
              classe 1936 : 1916 : 23 : 173,000
              classe 1935 : 1915 : 24 : 209,000

              After

              classe 1943 : 1923 : 16 : 353,000
              classe 1942 : 1922 : 17 : 360,000
              classe 1941 : 1921 : 18 : 366,000
              classe 1940 : 1920 : 19 : 359,000


              For Germany in comparison the class of 1915 was 464,000


              The reasons for the Fall of France are much less simplistic.
              A reason for the Fall of France in 1940.

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              • #8
                Actually German births declined at a similar rate

                http://www.lexikon-der-wehrmacht.de/...Wehrdienst.htm

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Pruitt View Post
                  The Germans wasted their best troops trying to break the Western Front in 1918. The troops left were no longer rated 1's and 2's by the British. Many were 3's, 4's and 5's. Even the British Army was capable of penetrating a line held by 4's and 5's. If the better troops could not reach the threatened sector in time the Germans were pushed back. The areas taken by the German Offenses were not good areas to fight in and not really worth the men it took to take them. There were no rail links and the roads and terrain was marshy and had suffered from the Artillery. The Germans could not bring forward their supplies and Artillery into the areas they took.

                  Even donkeys are capable of good things on occasion.

                  Pruitt
                  Interesting:- would you care to enlarge on the "Donkeys' comment ?
                  "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
                  Samuel Johnson.

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                  • #10
                    I think it stands by itself. I will say I don't like Haig.

                    Pruitt
                    Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

                    Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

                    by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Pruitt View Post
                      I think it stands by itself. I will say I don't like Haig.

                      Pruitt
                      The myth of " The Lions led by Donkeys" had been well-and-truly put to rest by now, I'd thought.
                      Actually Haig- a controversal figure,certainly, was no better-or worse- then many WW1 commanders.
                      (Some would say that Pershing could be regarded as culpable as well). Anyway,in the end, Haig did was military commanders are supposed to do;- win.
                      Whether he could have accomplished that end with fewer casualties will always be a matter for debate.

                      "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
                      Samuel Johnson.

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                      • #12
                        Pershing was surrounded by Generals that knew even less than he did. Many Divisional Commanders ordered their men to attack until the Armistice began. Of course they did NOT lead their men from the Front. Interestingly Douglas MacArthur was known to lead Bayonet Charges.

                        Pruitt
                        Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

                        Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

                        by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

                        Comment


                        • #13

                          An intersting experiment was documented at Sandhurst few ago: cadets were put on a mock battlefield loaded with the exact same pack weights and weapons of WWI and told to move across NML just as the British had done against a single MG. The soldiers were wearing laser hit tags and the MG emitted a laser.

                          On the intitial try, no one made it to the objective. After several tries, at most one or on one occasion two made it, but wounded.

                          The second time, the troops were allowed to drop everything but their weapons and ammo and run for it anyway they could, making it as difficult as possible to predict their path. On the very first attempt, 8 out of ten got past the MG.

                          The problem was petrified leadership unable to even perform the most rudimentary analysis of the situation and come up with a simple solution. Haig and all of the others were imbued with the "mass of men" concept, refusing to realize that rapid movement is the key to advancing, and no one lugging up to 100 pounds of gear is moving rapidly across broken terrain, but plodding into sited MG fire.

                          The leaders did not come up through the ranks under the same conditions that WWI was fought, and so were totally unable to properly assess or lead under the new and far more lethal conditions.

                          Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
                            An intersting experiment was documented at Sandhurst few ago: cadets were put on a mock battlefield loaded with the exact same pack weights and weapons of WWI and told to move across NML just as the British had done against a single MG. The soldiers were wearing laser hit tags and the MG emitted a laser.

                            On the intitial try, no one made it to the objective. After several tries, at most one or on one occasion two made it, but wounded.

                            The second time, the troops were allowed to drop everything but their weapons and ammo and run for it anyway they could, making it as difficult as possible to predict their path. On the very first attempt, 8 out of ten got past the MG.

                            Assuming these unburdened men did manage to scoot across no-mans land and capture the enemies trench with less casualties, how could they then hold them against the inevitable counter-attacks?

                            World War I showed a continuous learning process - by all sides - there was no panacea to the problems of trench warfare.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Gooner View Post


                              Assuming these unburdened men did manage to scoot across no-mans land and capture the enemies trench with less casualties, how could they then hold them against the inevitable counter-attacks?

                              World War I showed a continuous learning process - by all sides - there was no panacea to the problems of trench warfare.
                              Have a follow up force reinforce as soon as the trenches were captured?
                              "To be free is better than to be unfree - always."

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