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The German counterattack at Cambrai and the British generals

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  • The German counterattack at Cambrai and the British generals

    After the British had made quite some gains with their new tanks at Cambrai, a German counteroffensive soon retook pretty much all that had been conquered before.
    In his book "On the psychology of military Incompetence" chapter Cambrai, page 92f, Dixon claims that prior to the battle, intelligence reports of the impending German counterattack were disregarded by the British generals and that requests from junior officers for reinforcements and disruptive shelling of the German embarkation areas were denied.
    So far, so WWI-ish.

    BUT, he then claims further that after the debacle, British generals blamed the junior officers and NCOs who had been in the thick of the fighting, that the generals had not been surprised by the Germans but only at the inadequacy of their own forces, General Byng even claiming that noone had asked for reinforcements.

    Now I ask, is this true, or a popular myth about brutish WWI generals, totally indifferent towards their men? Dixon seems to rely mostly on "The Ironclads of Cambrai" by a Bryan Cooper, does Cooper claim the same, and how reliable is he in turn?
    Reaction to the 2016 Munich shootings:
    Europe: "We are shocked and support you in these harsh times, we stand by you."
    USA: "We will check people from Germany extra-hard and it is your own damn fault for being so stupid."

  • #2
    According to my reading it was Byng who criticised all of his subordinates, even getting his corps commanders replaced.
    Signing out.

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    • #3
      Dixon goes further claiming that the unfair assertions of Byng and other high-rankers were endorsed by both Haig and Smuts, the later according to Dixon shifting through the reports of the high-rankers while deliberately ignoring the low-rankers side of the tale.

      Has anyone hear read "The Ironclads of Cambrai" by a Bryan Cooper or at least a review about it?
      Reaction to the 2016 Munich shootings:
      Europe: "We are shocked and support you in these harsh times, we stand by you."
      USA: "We will check people from Germany extra-hard and it is your own damn fault for being so stupid."

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Acheron View Post
        After the British had made quite some gains with their new tanks at Cambra
        These would be the new tanks which had been in use for over a year and already taken part in 2 major offensives?

        Also I think there's a tendency to over-estimate the work of the tanks - Cambrai represented an effective use of artillery-infantry-tank combined arms tactics... with the most important arm first.
        My board games blog: The Brass Castle

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        • #5
          True The Land, but my impression is that the tanks still had some effect out of proportion to their physical attributes, I guess German High command hadn't introduced anti-tank weapons and tactics on a wide scale.

          Maybe I should ask another question: has anyone heard about the scapegoating of junior ranks after the German Cambrai counterattack at all?
          Reaction to the 2016 Munich shootings:
          Europe: "We are shocked and support you in these harsh times, we stand by you."
          USA: "We will check people from Germany extra-hard and it is your own damn fault for being so stupid."

          Comment

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