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The Great War and the Importance of Synchronization

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  • #16
    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.
    As part of the learning curve more light machine guns were issued as the war went on. These could accompany the attack and be available to set up the defense against a counter attack.
    "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" Beatrice Evelyn Hall
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    • #17
      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?
      The first echelon could even be the experienced men while the second echelon were the ones to receive their baptism of fire. Next offensive, the ones who were in the second echelon would then be the first echelon while newer men formed as the second wave.
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      • #18
        Originally posted by Surrey View Post

        Have a follow up force reinforce as soon as the trenches were captured?
        That was the trouble ,the technologies of communication had not keep pace with the advances in firepower, thus making proper command and control of forces difficult. A problem not solved until mid and late 1918.
        "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
        Samuel Johnson.

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        • #19
          Hi

          We should realise that the 'stereotypical' view of the Somme that all the troops went forward heavily loaded walking in nice straight lines has been considered 'wrong' for some time. For example Prior and Wilson in their book 'The Somme', pages 114-115, mentions that of the 80 Battalions that went over the top on 1st July, 53 had their initial assault troops creeping out to the German wire before the lifting of the barrage and then rush German lines. Ten others rushed the German lines from their own parapet. Twelve battalions walked at a steady pace, this includes those troops of the XV and XIII Corps who were following a creeping barrage in the South and were the most successful on the day. What tactic was used by the infantry depended in a lot of cases on the Battalion commander. What failed on the day was the artillery, as it failed to suppress and/or destroy the German artillery and machine guns, due to a combination of factors, including a lack of 'heavy' artillery, poor shell/fuse reliability, inexperience at all levels from gunner upwards, poor artillery plan compared with what happened later in the war. Indeed inexperience at all levels was a problem as the BEF had grown from about 6 Divisions to 60 by July 1916.
          Where artillery fails to suppress MGs and artillery an attack usually fails as in the 1918 German Spring offensive Operation MARS, where the German artillery failed to locate many of the British machine guns and was fairly ineffective against the British artillery. Even where successful in Operation MICHAEL using overwhelming artillery and troops against a 'weak' defensive system, they still had about 40,000 casualties on the first day despite the fog that hid them from view to some extent and 'running' across the battlefield, one can only speculate on what the casualty levels would have been without the fog, so various tactics are no panacea.
          Back to 1916, light scales for infantry were considered and used, for example in the 'Fourth Army Tactical Notes' of May 1916, para. 12 has:

          "Although a steady pace for the assaulting troops is recommended, occasions may arise where the rapid advance of some-lightly equipped men on some particularly part of the enemy's defences may turn the scale."

          Choice was basically up to the 'man on the spot'.

          As 1916 goes on the 'light' scales are included in orders and instructional pamphlets, for example the 'Tactical Memoranda Circulated by GOC XIV Corps' of 3rd August 1916, which in para. 8 states:

          ""The first assaulting line cannot be equipped too lightly - 50 rounds SAA, 4 to 6 bombs, Haversack with rations, Waterbottle full, Rifle and bayonet, have been found to meet all requirements."

          Of course following troops would bring more equipment ammunition etc forward and carrying parties that would also be allocated to bring other supplies. Following troops would also be allocated to bring light trench mortars and shells forward, as well as MGs/Lewis Guns. On Lewis Guns it was not just the 'learning curve' that equipped the BEF with more, they could only receive these when production capability built up to meet demand.

          SS135 'Instructions for the Training of Divisions for Offensive Action' of December 1916, page 16 has:

          "The leading waves are the fighting men; their primary job is to get to the objective, as quickly as possible, and bayonet or capture the garrison. Men lightly equipped, armed with the rifle and bayonet and a few bombs are required for this work.
          Behind them come consolidation parties, carrying parties and the reserve."

          There is a lot of documentation available on what troops were at least meant to be doing tactically on the battlefield and also the orders and instructions issued prior to the battles and the 'lessons learnt' documents post battle.

          Mike

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          • #20
            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.
            Follow-on troops. Remember, they just made a hole in the Line without an MG to dodge, and you scale up the experiment so that an entire force of twenty thousand or so are charging across and getting through. And, of course, you simply turn the MG around and use it against the enemy.

            But the real point of the exercise was to demonstrate the foolishness of the tactics being utilized by rote in every case.
            Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

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            • #21
              Originally posted by MikeMeech View Post
              Hi

              We should realise that the 'stereotypical' view of the Somme that all the troops went forward heavily loaded walking in nice straight lines has been considered 'wrong' for some time. For example Prior and Wilson in their book 'The Somme', pages 114-115, mentions that of the 80 Battalions that went over the top on 1st July, 53 had their initial assault troops creeping out to the German wire before the lifting of the barrage and then rush German lines. Ten others rushed the German lines from their own parapet. Twelve battalions walked at a steady pace, this includes those troops of the XV and XIII Corps who were following a creeping barrage in the South and were the most successful on the day. What tactic was used by the infantry depended in a lot of cases on the Battalion commander. What failed on the day was the artillery, as it failed to suppress and/or destroy the German artillery and machine guns, due to a combination of factors, including a lack of 'heavy' artillery, poor shell/fuse reliability, inexperience at all levels from gunner upwards, poor artillery plan compared with what happened later in the war. Indeed inexperience at all levels was a problem as the BEF had grown from about 6 Divisions to 60 by July 1916.
              Where artillery fails to suppress MGs and artillery an attack usually fails as in the 1918 German Spring offensive Operation MARS, where the German artillery failed to locate many of the British machine guns and was fairly ineffective against the British artillery. Even where successful in Operation MICHAEL using overwhelming artillery and troops against a 'weak' defensive system, they still had about 40,000 casualties on the first day despite the fog that hid them from view to some extent and 'running' across the battlefield, one can only speculate on what the casualty levels would have been without the fog, so various tactics are no panacea.
              Back to 1916, light scales for infantry were considered and used, for example in the 'Fourth Army Tactical Notes' of May 1916, para. 12 has:

              "Although a steady pace for the assaulting troops is recommended, occasions may arise where the rapid advance of some-lightly equipped men on some particularly part of the enemy's defences may turn the scale."

              Choice was basically up to the 'man on the spot'.

              As 1916 goes on the 'light' scales are included in orders and instructional pamphlets, for example the 'Tactical Memoranda Circulated by GOC XIV Corps' of 3rd August 1916, which in para. 8 states:

              ""The first assaulting line cannot be equipped too lightly - 50 rounds SAA, 4 to 6 bombs, Haversack with rations, Waterbottle full, Rifle and bayonet, have been found to meet all requirements."

              Of course following troops would bring more equipment ammunition etc forward and carrying parties that would also be allocated to bring other supplies. Following troops would also be allocated to bring light trench mortars and shells forward, as well as MGs/Lewis Guns. On Lewis Guns it was not just the 'learning curve' that equipped the BEF with more, they could only receive these when production capability built up to meet demand.

              SS135 'Instructions for the Training of Divisions for Offensive Action' of December 1916, page 16 has:

              "The leading waves are the fighting men; their primary job is to get to the objective, as quickly as possible, and bayonet or capture the garrison. Men lightly equipped, armed with the rifle and bayonet and a few bombs are required for this work.
              Behind them come consolidation parties, carrying parties and the reserve."

              There is a lot of documentation available on what troops were at least meant to be doing tactically on the battlefield and also the orders and instructions issued prior to the battles and the 'lessons learnt' documents post battle.

              Mike

              Excellent post.

              "As 1916 goes on the 'light' scales are included in orders and instructional pamphlets, for example the 'Tactical Memoranda Circulated by GOC XIV Corps' of 3rd August 1916, which in para. 8 states:

              ""The first assaulting line cannot be equipped too lightly - 50 rounds SAA, 4 to 6 bombs, Haversack with rations, Waterbottle full, Rifle and bayonet, have been found to meet all requirements."
              I guess the pamphlets were a reflection of what had already been tried in practice and found to work and an attempt to disseminate this widely.
              A 'bottom-up' development of military doctrine.

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