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  • British Hubris during WWI

    I am watching "The Great War" series on YouTube and am up to 1916 and the fall of Kutz. The campaign in Mesopotamia was a classic example of British misconceptions which were brought about by years of subduing natives in the colonies. I can think of the Gallipoli campaign as another example of disaster caused by total unappreciation of the natives and their ability to wage war. Are there other examples I have missed or not encountered?

    Thanks!

  • #2
    I think you have missed other examples of hubris, and not just from the British either, and unrelated to fighting natives in Africa.

    The classic example of hubris in this terrible conflict, IMOH, is the very decision by the German General Staff to set in motion the Schlieffen Plan. Talk about an underestimation of French military capability AND a very serious mistake of trying to fight the last war (The Franco-Prussian) all over again. and all rolled into one Both of these errors the result of not only hubris (when it came to potential French performance), but an even more serious mistake in judging possible Russian military performance based on their poor showing during the Russo-Japanese conflict of 1905.

    The Sclieffen plan was suspect for several reasons, first and foremost was it's ridiculously tight timetable. Also, when designing his master plan, Alfred von Schlieffen wanted the greater majority of the 700,000 odd troops deployed to be on the RIGHT WING, a; "little" detail von Moltke the younger made nonsence of by deploying the western front forces in a balanced manner all along the front itself. Von Schlieffen;s dying words were "KEEP THE RIGHT WING STRONG". The 1914 commander von Moltke also contributed to the failure of the "wheel" through Belgium and France by transferring three entire corps of infantry from the right wing to East Prussia as a direct result of the German defeat at Gumbinnen. These troops were they not needed for Tannenburg, as Max Hoffman already had the desired movements in motion to defeat Samsonov, (and he based that on pure guesswork that Samsonov and Rennenkempf would not support one another from his time as an observer during the Russo-Jaqpanese war where he was a personal witness to a FISTFIGHT ON A RAILWAY PLATFORM between the two Russian commanders, Samsonov and Rennenkampf)

    The units sent by von Moltke played little or no part in the subsequent encirclement of Samsonov..

    Additionally, those missing units from the German right flank meant the two armies at the rightmost of the "wheel", (von Kluck on the extreme flank and von Bulow to his left) did not have the necessary mass of movement to send von Kluck around Paris as planned. Aerial recon detected a general German 'surge' to the EAST of Paris, aiming straight at the river Marne. French commander Joffre was busily deploying troops to the right of von Kluck as well as behind the Marne river, so, when the the French in front of Paris moved into the German flank, it forced von Kluck to "rerfuse to the right", and opened up a gap between himself and von Bulow, a gap into which the BEF marched straight into, into clean ground and directedly to the town of Mons.

    Also, the French along the Marne river drove straight ahead also, causing a general backward German movement away from the Marne and pushing them out of the flank trap that Joffre had so carefully laid for them. And they did not stop their retreat until they reached the high ground of Artois, where they dug in, forcing the French to do the same.

    This lack of analysis of the real situation during the First Battle of the Marne was painfully absent from Indie Niddell's commentary.

    Some historians have theorised that the Sclieffen plan was not only wildly ambitious, but absolutely impossible due to the fact that it was done enrirely at walking pace, with the French able to deploy in front of it by railway movement much faster. Some have even said that the success of the Schieffen Plan was not only unlikely, but impossible due to the very fact that the German Army was not using TRUCKS, another vital bit of analysis missing from Indie Niddell's show.

    Amnd another thing often overlooked.....why oh why or HOW do you 'prevent' a two front war by starting A TWO FRONT WAR TO BEGIN with? The German General Staff REALLY WERE EXPECTING A COMPLETE AND UTTER REPLAY OF 1870. Truly a classic case of planning for the next war based on experiences in the last one.

    Shades of Vietnam.

    Just something small to finish....Indie Nidell states quite clearly that "Fort Vaux was held by the French for the entire ten months of the Battle of Verdun"


    POPPYCOCK

    Vaux and its 500 odd man garrison were forced to surrender after viscious fighting, (Sometimes in complete darkness of the tunnels of Vaux, deploying flamethrowers in the tunnels of the fort itself). Vaux was completely surrounded, unable to be either reinforced, nor was French artillery any help because the struggle took place inside the fort itself.

    I too have been watching this series with great interest, but Indie's team are not infallible.


    Thanks and enjoy the rest of the series.

    Gaius Claudius Germanicus Drusus Nero signing off.
    Last edited by Drusus Nero; 14 May 20, 06:12.
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    • #3
      just another note....

      you mention Gallipoli as an examp[le of hubris and underestimation.

      Gallipoli failed for several reasons (in no particular order)

      Firstly, the campaign itself was conceived by Winston Churchill out of a double desire to take on the central powers on another front that was somewhere...anywhere...other than the western front. As an "easterner" from the outset, Churchill's mindset was hell bent on doing something that would not only directly aid the Russians, but bring to bear the might of Britain's naval power in a manner that later commentators would incorrectly label "knocking away the props" of the German war effort, ignoring completely that it was in fact the Germans themselves who were propping up their allies, not the other way around.

      From the beginning, thrr invasion was set off "half cocked", with an attempt to force the Dardenelles by ships and minesweepers alone. This spoiled any chance of a surprise landing being affected, and its objective of Constantinople was most certainly NOT any guarantee that Otrtomon Turkey would exit the war. A deeper tradgedy was the very fact that Russian munitions and military production bounced back by 1916, and the Russians themselves viewed the entire effort with distaste, partly because it was launched without a concurrent effort from the Russians themselves, and partly for reasons of Russian pride in not wanting their allies to "come to their rescue. Additionally, the Dardenelles had always been viewed by the Russians as a potential conquest that they should undertake themselves, with the view to annexing the region for Russia alone. Allied landing and capture of the straits was, therefore, not something they, the Russians, really wished to occuir.

      In addition to all of these handicaps, the landing on the peninsula itself should have happened right at the top of the peninsula to begin with, at Bulair. Tuerkish deployments had placed two full divisions at Bulair, with the Turks themselves expecting that the majority of Allied seaborne forces would land principally at that exact spot. The landings themselves managed to get ashore because the rest of the peninsula was only sprodically guarded, rather than the many men they had placed at Bulair itself.

      Turkish forces had little difficulty from then on with the landings at the wrong end of the peninsula. The turks simply used the hieghts to hem in each beachhead, but they were chronically short of howitzers for plunging fire, the type needed for p[lacing munitions right into trenches. Until better and more artillery started to arrive from Germany, the Turks had to confine themselves to massive ionfantry assaults with the aim of sweeping the Anzacs totally back into the sea, or to keep the Cape Helles allied forces off the high hills. The allies, too, suffered from a general lack of plunging fire artillery because they relied for fire support on the flat trajectory guns of the fleet; this support was severely compromised with the twin loss of the battleships 'Triumph" and "Majesatic", a loss that forced the retirement of the principle big ship fleet units to the island of Lesbos, effectively taking them out of the campaign.

      In fact, the Royal Navy showed a marked reluctance to lose ANYTHING that floated, with their 'big effort' of March 18th 1915 soured by the loss of three old pre-dreadnoughts. Every time that Churchill tried to push Admiral De Roebuck into another attempt of the same style as March 18, De Roebuck always found an excuse not to. A little more dash and daring might have saved lots and lots of allied deaths, and incidently prevented the Turks from reinforcing their positions across the Straits themselves.

      But all of this was academic to the illogicality of the objective concept of the naval effort itself. Exactly how a naval force alone was supposed to force Constantinople to surrender, let alone the entire country of Turkey itself, was never quite made clear.

      All this was combined with poor photo recon of Turkish positions, (or non existant in some cases) and a seemingly brash willingness to throw all attempts at tactics out the window entirely, particularly when it came to decisions made on a tactical level by General Alymar Hunter-Weston.

      Gallipoli crippled the British buildup on the Western Front for 1915, reducing them to limited offensives only at Loos and Neuve Chappelle, offensives conducted on far too narrow a front, and with artillery ammunition not only in short supply but with a scandalous number of 'duds' to boot. The "easterner" clique had to dance to the French tune, promising to only 'support' a 'big push' on the Somme River during 1916. But, the French Army had already lost many men at artois and in Chhampaign, and when Von Falkenhayn got the drop on the Allies by launching his Verdun offensive in late February, the French commanders behaved exactly as Falkenhayn predicted, feeding in two thirds of the French army into "The Miul;l on the Muese", and making majoprity French participation on the Somme an impossibility.

      Indeed, Gallipoli had a long arm and forced the Allies into settling the issue on the Western Front, where they ashould have been operating to begin with.

      In the words of John Terraine…."The German army was the "motor" of the Great WaR"

      You could not expect to defeat the Germans anywhere else BUT the Western Front, for this is wherwe the majority of the German Army was operating.

      Thanks for listening again....

      Gaius Claudius Germanicus Drusus Nero, signing off.....
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      • #4
        All that said,the Gallipoli campaign might still have been a success given a more thrusting command on the ground- it very nearly was. What was needed,perhaps a "General Patton type"
        Hamilton was a fine soldier, but too much the gentleman .
        "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
        Samuel Johnson.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by BELGRAVE View Post
          All that said,the Gallipoli campaign might still have been a success given a more thrusting command on the ground- it very nearly was. What was needed,perhaps a "General Patton type"
          Hamilton was a fine soldier, but too much the gentleman .
          Als didn't the Turks only control the heights because the Allies let them? Soon after the landings there was nothing stopping the Allies from taking them. It was the delay from advancing off the beaches that caused the problems. A bit like Anzio in the next war perhaps?
          "To be free is better than to be unfree - always."

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          • #6
            I'll try to answer Surreys reply as best I can...…


            I have already stated that the Allied forces sufferby spirited and desperate Turkishj counter assaults, frequently launched immediately after the ground was lost, and regardless of the costed from their reliance on direct fire naval artillery for fire support, but the Turks also sufferwed from a definite lack of plunging fire as well.

            Consider the very fact of the Anzac position at Ari Burnu. Too many troops crammed into the sides of a group of hills, with very little in the way of a rear area to speak of. With the superior positions that the Turks held, modern howitzers could have made a complete mess of rthe Anzac beachhead in a very short space of time. But their flat trajectory fire gave the Australians and New Zealanders regular breathing space to assemble their suppliys and assaulting units for uphill attacks that were thrown off the hills again and again by spirited and often ver y costly counterattacks launched virtually straight after the ground was lost.

            For this the Turks had none other than the eagle eye for vital ground and the determination of their on the spot commander, one Mustafa Kemal (later Ataturk) to thank for this crucial defensive attitude. Kemal's quick thinking and uncaring attitude to losses restricted the Anzac beachead to a tiny piece of real estate for the initial landings, and kept it that way for the duration of the campaign. Kemal also correctly for saw exactly where the allies would strike next for their upcoming August offensive, sweeping his hand along the area of Suvla Bay when quizzed by his superiors as to what a potential offensive by the Allies would aim for next. Kemal, with this in mind, was not fooled by the Australian attack at Lone Pine, seeing the ground for what it was (strategically and tactically worthless), and feeding the majority of his reserves straight back into Gaba Tepe and holding out at Chocolate Hill and Hill 60.

            As for the Allies "letting" the Turks hold the high ground? I don't think so, based on the very fact that EVERY offensive they launched tried to prise the Turks from these vital positions, namely Gaba Tepe, Battleship Hill, Baby 700, Achi Baba, Krithia, and the hills surrounding Suvla Bay.

            It's a known fact that possession of these hills did not, in fact, do anything at all towards silencing the Turkish forts along the European shore of the Dardenelles, but they were a vital stepping stone. The landings at Suvla should have taken [place at Bulair instead or even directly up the other side pof the peninsula itself, where all the forts actually where.

            Had the Turks possessed modern howitzers and sufficient ammunition to lay down proper barrages and drumfire, they could veryu well have ended the campaign a whole lot sooner, and the battlefield, especially at Ari Burnu, would have resembled a Verdun like abbatoir.

            As it was, this lack of modern artillery spared a lot of allied lives. The Turks had all the best observation positions, and had little need for modern photo recon. But Turkish losses were enormous, due to this very lack of artillery forcing them to mount counter assaults, one after another, that relied soely on masses of bodies to be effective. Therefore, the Australians got away from Gallipoli with what was a fairly modest casualty total when compared to the awful Turkish losses. But that is not to sayu that we did not throw men away in the same manner....we did, but not as often as the Turks had to. Turkish losses during their May counteroffensive alone were half the Australian final total for the entire campaign.

            But as I stated, we also threw men away in frontal assaults. We were luckey that Hunter-Weston wasn't in charge at Anzac. Birdwood was a far better decision maker than good ol' "Hunter-Bunter", "The Butcher of Helles", and I'm not even going to mention Frederick Stopford......a General sent out to Suvla because it was felt that he was too old for the western front. He was, in fact, the oldest General still on the 'active' list, and was slated for Suvla despite deep reservations about his potential performance.
            Hamilton seemed to feel that stopford needed no guiding hand over his operations, spurred on no doubt by the fact he was a Knight of the Realm, and I believe an old campaign buddy of Hamilton himself.

            Short answer? ….NO....Mustapha Kemal held onto those hieghts for dear life, turning himself into a national hero and the later "Father of the Turks" all in the same campaign.

            Young Turks, be free tonoight….time is on your side!
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            • #7
              Originally posted by Drusus Nero View Post
              I'll try to answer Surreys reply as best I can...…


              I have already stated that the Allied forces sufferby spirited and desperate Turkishj counter assaults, frequently launched immediately after the ground was lost, and regardless of the costed from their reliance on direct fire naval artillery for fire support, but the Turks also sufferwed from a definite lack of plunging fire as well.

              Consider the very fact of the Anzac position at Ari Burnu. Too many troops crammed into the sides of a group of hills, with very little in the way of a rear area to speak of. With the superior positions that the Turks held, modern howitzers could have made a complete mess of rthe Anzac beachhead in a very short space of time. But their flat trajectory fire gave the Australians and New Zealanders regular breathing space to assemble their suppliys and assaulting units for uphill attacks that were thrown off the hills again and again by spirited and often ver y costly counterattacks launched virtually straight after the ground was lost.

              For this the Turks had none other than the eagle eye for vital ground and the determination of their on the spot commander, one Mustafa Kemal (later Ataturk) to thank for this crucial defensive attitude. Kemal's quick thinking and uncaring attitude to losses restricted the Anzac beachead to a tiny piece of real estate for the initial landings, and kept it that way for the duration of the campaign. Kemal also correctly for saw exactly where the allies would strike next for their upcoming August offensive, sweeping his hand along the area of Suvla Bay when quizzed by his superiors as to what a potential offensive by the Allies would aim for next. Kemal, with this in mind, was not fooled by the Australian attack at Lone Pine, seeing the ground for what it was (strategically and tactically worthless), and feeding the majority of his reserves straight back into Gaba Tepe and holding out at Chocolate Hill and Hill 60.

              As for the Allies "letting" the Turks hold the high ground? I don't think so, based on the very fact that EVERY offensive they launched tried to prise the Turks from these vital positions, namely Gaba Tepe, Battleship Hill, Baby 700, Achi Baba, Krithia, and the hills surrounding Suvla Bay.

              It's a known fact that possession of these hills did not, in fact, do anything at all towards silencing the Turkish forts along the European shore of the Dardenelles, but they were a vital stepping stone. The landings at Suvla should have taken [place at Bulair instead or even directly up the other side pof the peninsula itself, where all the forts actually where.

              Had the Turks possessed modern howitzers and sufficient ammunition to lay down proper barrages and drumfire, they could veryu well have ended the campaign a whole lot sooner, and the battlefield, especially at Ari Burnu, would have resembled a Verdun like abbatoir.

              As it was, this lack of modern artillery spared a lot of allied lives. The Turks had all the best observation positions, and had little need for modern photo recon. But Turkish losses were enormous, due to this very lack of artillery forcing them to mount counter assaults, one after another, that relied soely on masses of bodies to be effective. Therefore, the Australians got away from Gallipoli with what was a fairly modest casualty total when compared to the awful Turkish losses. But that is not to sayu that we did not throw men away in the same manner....we did, but not as often as the Turks had to. Turkish losses during their May counteroffensive alone were half the Australian final total for the entire campaign.

              But as I stated, we also threw men away in frontal assaults. We were luckey that Hunter-Weston wasn't in charge at Anzac. Birdwood was a far better decision maker than good ol' "Hunter-Bunter", "The Butcher of Helles", and I'm not even going to mention Frederick Stopford......a General sent out to Suvla because it was felt that he was too old for the western front. He was, in fact, the oldest General still on the 'active' list, and was slated for Suvla despite deep reservations about his potential performance.
              Hamilton seemed to feel that stopford needed no guiding hand over his operations, spurred on no doubt by the fact he was a Knight of the Realm, and I believe an old campaign buddy of Hamilton himself.

              Short answer? ….NO....Mustapha Kemal held onto those hieghts for dear life, turning himself into a national hero and the later "Father of the Turks" all in the same campaign.

              Young Turks, be free tonoight….time is on your side!
              By letting the Turks hold the high ground I meant if the Allies had moved to occupy it immediately after landing they would have got there before the Turks. Once the Turks were there the Allies realised their mistake and as you say tried desperately to take it.
              "To be free is better than to be unfree - always."

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              • #8
                Indie Niddell, points out that the entire Dardenelles campaign was without a master plan. "Just take the Peninsula and march north. Something good is bound to happen, right?" I agree, that the Navy was pretty chicken when it came to taking the fight to the Turks. If they had been serious, I am sure they could have found more mine sweepers and destroyers to clean up the straits.

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                • #9
                  About those minesweepers. The Royal Navy drafted a bunch of fishing trawlers (and crews) into the service. In the Dardanelles, the RN sent some old pre-dreadnaughts into a minefield as they entered the Straights. Several hit mines and sank. The admirals turned to the minesweepers and said: "Your King needs you! Go in and sweep those mines! Never mind those shore batteries!" The minesweeper crews refused the honor of giving their lives for their country. The RN needed the big guns to take out the shore batteries, while the mines were being swept. Besides those bigger ships carried bigger crews and had higher ranking officers!

                  I don't think they ever reached a decision that solved the problem.

                  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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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Pruitt View Post
                    About those minesweepers. The Royal Navy drafted a bunch of fishing trawlers (and crews) into the service. In the Dardanelles, the RN sent some old pre-dreadnaughts into a minefield as they entered the Straights. Several hit mines and sank. The admirals turned to the minesweepers and said: "Your King needs you! Go in and sweep those mines! Never mind those shore batteries!" The minesweeper crews refused the honor of giving their lives for their country. The RN needed the big guns to take out the shore batteries, while the mines were being swept. Besides those bigger ships carried bigger crews and had higher ranking officers!

                    I don't think they ever reached a decision that solved the problem.

                    Pruitt
                    The fleet did include HMS Queen Elizabeth,one of the newest and shiniest battleships in the fleet,and ,however lacking the senior officers of the Royal Navy may have been in other qualities, nobody can reasonably question their courage.

                    No, while the RN and the French Navy failed to subdue the Turks with sheer bravado and some of the world’s finest infantry similarly failed to accomplish their objectives it was never destined to succeed.












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

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by BELGRAVE View Post

                      The fleet did include HMS Queen Elizabeth,one of the newest and shiniest battleships in the fleet,and ,however lacking the senior officers of the Royal Navy may have been in other qualities, nobody can reasonably question their courage.

                      No, while the RN and the French Navy failed to subdue the Turks with sheer bravado and some of the world’s finest infantry similarly failed to accomplish their objectives it was never destined to succeed.











                      It is interesting comparing the performance of the RN in the Dardanelles to capital ships vs shore batteries in ww2. I don't know of any situation where a battleship was seriously troubled by a shore battery in ww2.
                      "To be free is better than to be unfree - always."

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