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The "machine guns" of Mons ?


i_m_bob
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Tom

have a look at Post 23 on P 1. The figures you want are there. Phil You are probably right in your supposition. One of the problems in making authoratative remarks is that we are in the hands of the historians, who varied in how they used the contents of war diaries, casualty returns etc. I tend to trust Rolls of Honour. They were usually compiled with the utmost care and integrity, because they served to honour the fallen and, in the German army which has no memorials to the missing, for example, often these entries in regimental histories are the only record that an individual fought and died. One snippet that I do find interesting appears in the history of Fus Regt 35, Its 9th Coy, under Lt Lippert, was given the task of clearing the Frameries battlefield. Over two days his men buried 169 German soldiers and 135 British soldiers, together with fifty horses. I suspect that many of the British were members of one of the forbears of my regiment, (2nd Bn South Lancashire Regiment). Between Mons and Le Cateau they incurred more casualties than they had during the entire Peninsular War.

Jack

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Sorry I have been out of this for a bit, finishing off a chapter of my Cambrai book. Salesie, the few figures I have provided so far give you an overview of of the casualties suffered by one third of all the forces deployed against the BEF. You are right that they are few, but that is because this battle only involved a few German regiments and even fewer of these were heavily engaged. As far as ground being captured/or evacuated is concerned (not that it makes much difference in battle) I suggest you take a closer look at events by the bridges at Nimy and Obourg. They were pretty evidentally taken by storm. The key to Nimy, for example, was an action by Musketier Niemeyer of 8th Coy IR 84, who swam the canal under fire, got hold of a boat which enabled Sergeant Roewer's section to get across, again under heavy fire then, whilst Roewer's men kept up the firefight, managed to swing the bridge open, which enabled the men of IR 84 to swarm across. Niemeyer was killed moments after this, but his action would have earned him the VC if he had been British.

I hope to produce the III Corps figures later. These include heavy casualties suffered by Grenadier Regts 8 & 12.

Jack

Jack, I'm sure that Musketier Niemeyer deservedly won whatever Cross of Iron was equivalent to the VC, but individual acts of valour, and highly localised successes, have nothing to do with my main point. The German "steamroller", with its so-called superior skill-at-arms, did not roll-over and flatten the BEF as it expected it would, nor did it manage to carry out its Kaiser's orders and destroy such a "contemptibly small army". Indeed, at no stage in the war did the German army ever fulfil any of its objectives in the west.

In line with Haig's "one continuous battle" analogy in his final despatch, where he likened the German spring offensive in 1918 to the desperate, last-ditch advance by the Old-Guard at Waterloo, I liken Mons through to 1st Ypres (the actions Aug to Nov 1914) to Quatre Bras. As you know, the crossroads at Quatre Bras had to be held the day before the main action at Waterloo in order to stop Napoleon from separating the British and Prussian armies; if the crossroads had been lost then Napoleon had a clear run towards Brussels giving the "allied" armies no chance of linking-up and stopping him. Likewise, the German right-wing sweep needed stopping, otherwise Germany's main objective, a very short war in the west, would have succeeded. Surely, just as at Quatre Bras, the enemy's main objective had to be denied him, and it is the fact that the old-contemptibles ably assisted in denying the Hun his objectives which is to their immortal credit, not how many Germans they actually killed when doing so?

In this context, it seems to me that casualty figures are pure window dressing. Whether heavy casualties or not the German army, when enjoying numerical superiority over the BEF, did not roll-over and flatten the "contemptibly small army" at Mons or in subsequent actions (up to and including 1st Ypres). If this failure at arms on the German part was not down to them being shot-flat and suffering high casualties then logic says there must be some other reason, and, this early in the war, it has to be a military one does it not? So what was it?

However, back to your casualty figures. If, as you say, they're "none-definitive" and come with "every imaginable health warning", the obvious question is why are they thus? Indeed, how can any rational analysis be based on figures that carry such health warnings from their own disseminator?

Cheers-salesie.

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Salesie

The figures come with a health warning, because I have had to extract them from the regimental histories. Although I have no reason to doubt what they contain, the destruction of the Prussian archives in April 1945 means that there is no way of verifying them from primary sources. That said, I imagine that they are are reasonably correct. As you say, it is not the precise figures themselves that matter, it is the underlying trends. All I would say is that having looked at them, read the accounts of the actions and considered the number of formations actually committed to battle, I find it difficult to associate myself whith the school of history which suggests that the BEF slaughtered very large numbers of German soldiers at either Mons or Le Cateau. I go back to almost the first point I made. There are very few German 1914 graves near the old battlefields.

Now you are absolutely on the money when you point out that the Germans failed entirely to knock the BEF out of the battle. If you take a look at my forward to the Le Cateau guidebook, you will see that I make that very point. Failure of intelligence, which primarily in 1914 meant failure of the cavalry to deliver what was expected of it, meant that a major opportunity was lost at Le Cateau, the BEF was never as pressed again during the retreat to the Marne.

My view and I speak as someone whose predecessor regiments performed with distinction throughout 1914, is that the BEF did everything that might have been expected of it. Equally the sheer numbers engaged by the French and the Germans means that those best efforts, whilst important, only amount to a small percentage of the whole campaign.

Jack

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I agree, Jack, that the BEF's contribution in 1914 was small in percentage terms, and would add that the French Army deserves much more credit than we British tend to give it for its supreme efforts in stopping the German "flail" - though I believe that the BEF punched above its weight, and its "sacrifice" at 1st Ypres, in holding the Germans when outnumbered, sometimes by seven-to-one, was vital rather than important.

Cheers-salesie.

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Here is a bone we all might like to pick at. Nothing like a good speculate to start the day.

Q. What is the origin of the assertion that the German army was shot down in droves at the Battle of Mons?

My initial thoughts are that personal accounts of those present, coupled with the fertile imagination of some war correspondents ('Angels of Mons' etc) may have created that impression in the minds of the general public, whose morale, after all had to be kept up. After the war, other accounts began to appear and there was more scope for 'soldiers' stories', which might have grown somewhat in the telling - or not. Let us consider the tales from the Royal West Kents. Who were they shooting at? Grenadier Regiment 12 (See casualty figures). Was their experience typical of the battle? Emphatically not. Gren 12 suffered the worst casualties by far.

Digression

While we are at it, our gamekeeper and his friends may not have done all the damage. The history of Gren 12 (p25), whilst praising the RWK at St Ghislain: 'The enemy had selected their positions along the canal extremely skilfully, so there could be no question of aimed fire by us. We could see absolutely nothing.' Meanwhile its battalions came under lacerating fire from buildings near the bridge and from all along the canal bank. However what apparently really did damage, to the 2nd Bn in particular, was 'a hail of overwhelmingly heavy shrapnel fire from the area of the slag heaps near St Ghislain', fired by the Royal Artillery when they launched their assault.

If my thoughts concerning impressions extrapolated from the Gren 12 experience are somewhere near the truth, did anything compound it? Well here is a thought. Which German left an account behind which seemed to confirm everything so far 'known' about the battle? Walter Bloem of course. Who was he? The officer commanding 2nd Coy Gren 12. Was his experience typical of the Battle of Mons? Emphatically not, but it provided for those who did not want to dig any deeper, that bane of the intelligence officer's life: false confirmation.

Jack

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PJA

Your quote "From now on, I will have to view the British accounts of the slaughter meeted out by "fifteen rounds rapid" with more circumspection", is fair.

But there is uncontroversial evidence of effectiveness , particularly at 1st Ypres. I did a great deal of work on 7th Infantry Division - quite apart from inspecting the Divisions' complete range of War Diaries, I unearthed unpublished material, regimental magazine accounts and etc. If one accepts the well known theory of "two proofs" for claims, it is clear that accounts of piles of German dead and wounded before various battalions in the line were evident, witnessed and reported after mgs were put out of action. Casualty figures would clinch - I hope Jack will eventually get to 1st Ypres. (Another is ofcourse is Kindermord. where both the German and British accounts agree on the slaughter). So the mad minute and "browning the mass" was effective - and enemy casualty figure exageration is a factor in every battle since caveman I am sure. So let's be circumspect by all means, but there is plenty of sound effectiveness of British rifle fire in War Diaries supported by personal accounts, diaries and reports.

regards

David

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Quite so, David. It's hard to reconcile the authentic figures, which Jack has meticulously researched, with the legendary descriptions of the "Mad Minute" of rifle fire which formed our traditional image of the Old Contemptibles and their magnificent stands at Mons, Wipers and elsewhere.

I for one feel rather shaken by the revelations of this thread; it has always been a comforting source of pride to me that my Grandpa's pals did so well in those early battles: on the other hand, I'm grateful to be made aware that I, along with so many others, can easily be seduced by cherished accounts that need to be re-assessed in the cold light of research.

Phil.

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..........

Q. What is the origin of the assertion that the German army was shot down in droves at the Battle of Mons?

..........Who were they shooting at? Grenadier Regiment 12 (See casualty figures)..............

...............Which German left an account behind which seemed to confirm everything so far 'known' about the battle? Walter Bloem of course. Who was he? The officer commanding 2nd Coy Gren 12. .....................

Jack

That is a powerful argument Jack. ( Sorry for butchering your post) If , as you say, it all hinges on our old friend W. Bloem then the story fails David's two source test. I will be scouring through some books of mine in the expectation of confirming your conclusions. It had occurred to me that men might find it difficult to distinguish between casualties caused by their own rapid fire, MGs and shrapnel but I certainly always accepted the overall casualty estimates. I believe Bloem was not involved in the Kindermord? I have at least one German source to that but have not read it for some time. I will be most interested to read anything I find with this new mindset to guide me. ( My eyes are already twitching at the thought of that Fraktur B) ).

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In support of David's contentions, it must be the case that soldiers of the calibre of, say, the Prussian Guard who were fought to a standstill at Nonne Boschen, and other German troops who were held or repulsed by the BEF at Ypres and elsewhere in 1914, would not have failed if they had not suffered heavy, and, in some cases, extreme casualties. To suggest otherwise would be to demean their fighting prowess.

Phil.

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Hi All,

Please don't lose site of the fact that inflicting non-fatal casualties on the enemy along with making him take cover and unable to manouevre, restrict his freedom of movement and have an impact on morale. As such, it is also achieving the desired effect. The result of being pinned down is shown in some detail in Ross Kemp in Afghanistan (his first contact during a foot patrol). Ross Kemp describes, quite colourfully, his feelings about the situation.

Here is the first record, that I have found, that extols the qualities of British musketry at Mons. It is from The Operations of the British Army in the Present War, The Retreat from Mons. Preface by Field Marshall Lord French, July 1917:

http://www.archive.org/details/retreatfrommons00gorduoft

Aye

Tom McC

post-10175-1221081323.jpg

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You seem to have been easily seduced by Jack's figures, Phil - even though they carry a mighty health warning. Why assume that the German Regimental History casualty figures are accurate? Is it not possible that if British accounts tend to overestimate the effect of the BEF's musketry then the German accounts would tend to underestimate the effect? As Jack says, there is no way of verifying the authenticity of his figures - so, do these figures not also need to pass the two-source test?

Smith-Dorrien mentions this very thing in his memoirs i.e. "That the enemy received a very serious blow, and losses far heavier than ours, and gained a wholesome respect for the efficiency of British troops are facts beyond dispute, and the failure of their official accounts to expatiate on the battle is ominously suggestive of their being none too proud of the results."

The only bit of "evidence", so far, that I find to be of any possible significance is Jack's assertion of the small number of German graves from 1914 around Mons and Le Cateau - seeing as I have no personal knowledge of such things perhaps someone reading this thread could elaborate on the exact numbers? But, as I said earlier, casualty figures are mere window dressing, the BEF was not steamrollered by a larger, supposedly superior, force - so you can still be proud of what your Grandfather and his pals did; they punched above their weight, the German Army did not.

Here's a bit more from General Horace Smith-Dorrien's memoirs, published in 1925 entitled Memories of Forty-Eight Years Service (taken from chapter twenty-four, the retreat from Mons : Le Cateau): Please look carefully at Von Kluck's own words quoted at the end.

"It is undoubtedly a fact that after Le Cateau we were no more seriously troubled during the ten days' retreat, except by mounted troops and mobile detachments who kept at a respectful distance.

That the enemy received a very serious blow, and losses far heavier than ours, and gained a wholesome respect for the efficiency of British troops are facts beyond dispute, and the failure of their official accounts to expatiate on the battle is ominously suggestive of their being none too proud of the results. Then, again, one has only to study Von Kluck's orders and subsequent movements to appreciate that his Army was delayed and misled for a sufficient period to gain valuable time for Paris to prepare.

Those orders of Von Kluck on the evening of the 26th indicate that his army rested that night on the north side of the Le Cateau position, from which it may be deduced that he was unaware of our retirement and had been hit sufficiently hard to prevent his making a further attempt to take the position that evening. Again the hour given in the order for moving on the 27th was not till 5 a.m., which is also significant. The German account of the battle concludes with this statement : " The whole B.E.F., six Divisions, a Cavalry Division and several French Territorial Divisions opposed the First Army," which statement alone is flattering to the prowess of the portion of the B.E.F. who stood at Le Cateau. Perhaps Von Kluck's own testimony is as weighty as any which could be produced. I therefore quote from a letter dated 22nd June 1924 from Major-General the Hon. Sir F. Bingham, who, on recently becoming Governor of Jersey, had just resigned the position he had held for years as British Chief of the Military Mission in Germany :

" I saw Von Kluck again and asked him if you might quote what he said, and he said: ' Certainly, he may say that I always had the greatest admiration for the British Expeditionary Force. It was the wonderful kernel of a great Army. I have already said it in my book. The way the retreat was carried out was remarkable. I tried very hard to outflank them, but I could not do so. If I had succeeded the war would have been won.' "

Cheers-salesie.

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I don't think any suggestion has been made that the BEF were not an extremely efficient fighting force. They were after all much more experienced in battle than many of the German troops they came up against. What we are trying to track is the source of the oft repeated notion that the rapid rifle fire of the BEF at Mons led the opposing German troops to believe that they were being attacked by many more MGs than the BEF actually possessed. The suggestion is that no such idea existed in the German forces generally but sprang solely from W. Bloem in his book.

This is in answer to PJA's post.

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There seems to be a danger of this thread pursuing two different themes - i) British MG's at Mons and ii) how to define victory or defeat. Could the moderators split it into two separate threads?

I am grateful that Mr Sheldon has taken the time and trouble to assemble German casualty figures for Mons. This seems to be a niche activity he might carry on fruitfully in the future - when will your detailed German figures for the Passchendaele campaign be available, Jack? No hurry, next week will do; a breakdown by corps, division, and regiment on a day-by-day basis will do, ta very much.

More seriously, Mr Sheldon adds several caveats to his figures, so they are obviously not the final say on this matter. Don't shoot the piano player!

Finally - i m bob - see what you started?

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Capt W.M. Ozanne the Machine Gun Officer with 2Bn Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment, wrote an account of action's on the 23rd. His position was in support of The RWK's on a bridge over the Mons-Conde canal, approx 800 yards to the East of St Ghislain

Here is an extract that some may find interesting with regards to this thread;

"The first enemy attack developed about 12 noon as far as I can recollect. It was not pressed with much determination, consequently we didn't have much difficulty in breaking it up. Small bodies of enemy reached the open fields to our immediate front; they were, however, soon checked by our M.G. and rifle fire; as a result they scattered in small groups behind corn stooks, where they remained for the rest of the day. Their rest, however behind those stooks cannot claim to have been peacfull as we hotted them up with gun fire at irregular intervals throughout the day.

"In this attack I engaged (with my left gun) an enemy field-gun battery which endevoured to come into action more or less in the open 1100 yards from my left gun position. We had the desired effect of forcing them to cover, but I don't think we inflicted many casualties. No serious attacks developed on our immediate front during the rest of the day. Practically all our casualties were a result of enemy shelling. This was very consistent and accurate, particularly after about 3pm, when our guns appeared to stop firing".

Andy

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There seems to be a danger of this thread pursuing two different themes - i) British MG's at Mons and ii) how to define victory or defeat. Could the moderators split it into two separate threads?

I am grateful that Mr Sheldon has taken the time and trouble to assemble German casualty figures for Mons. This seems to be a niche activity he might carry on fruitfully in the future - when will your detailed German figures for the Passchendaele campaign be available, Jack? No hurry, next week will do; a breakdown by corps, division, and regiment on a day-by-day basis will do, ta very much.

More seriously, Mr Sheldon adds several caveats to his figures, so they are obviously not the final say on this matter. Don't shoot the piano player!

Finally - i m bob - see what you started?

I can't see that anyone is trying to shoot the piano player, only trying to bring the tune he's playing into perspective. Nor can I see how the thread is splitting into two themes i.e. casualty figures were introduced in an attempt to show that British musketry had no significant effect on the German Army's march south, so, consequently, why would they believe the BEF had more MGs than they actually did - which led to at least one pal seriously reassessing what he always believed his grandfather and his mates actually achieved - so the whole thing needed expanding to show how such a reassessment would be at best premature and at worse wholly inaccurate. In my opinion, this is just natural evolution of the thread.

Cheers-salesie.

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Tom,

Bloem's book does not contain the assertion. Bloem's book describes the musketry and as a separate entity, the British MG fire - which there was.

Aye

Tom McC

There was,Tom,but also volley fire,which is the truth/urban myth that I was told as a child.Thats from a relatives pov ,learned from his dad who was there.

I also learned that volley fire was more likely to 'disillusion' an opposing force as much as/or more than direct fire as men in the (safe)open & men in rank or rear (thought safe)were falling without sight of the enemy.Wounded who may not have been on the rota as wia for the dates we are talking about.Fits in with Jack's thing.

The use of volley fire,which apart from Mons, didn't often happen,should not be dismissed as just M.G.'s.

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59165,

IMHO, I don't think Bloem is the originator of the 'rifle fire was like machine-gun fire'. If you read Bloem's article, he describes quite lucidly, the volley fire - at distance of 1500 yards (page 40). Volley fire would not be as rapid as what is to come. He then describes, the machine-gun fire coming from the locality of a house (page 41); this stops at about 500 yards - possibly no longer in the 'beaten zone', or its arc of fire. Then, at close quarters - 150 yards - (as you would expect), the rapid rifle-fire hits the Germans (page 43).

Aye

Tom McC

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As I have admitted and Salesie has underlined, it impossible to be certain about the quality of casualty figures extracted from regimental histories. That does not mean we should write them off as worthless however. Whenever I have been in a position to check regimental histories of, say Bavarian or Wuerttemberg troops, against the war diaries and other documentation in Munich or Stuttgart, I have never come across any type of serious discrepancies. Small wonder, because the regimental records, supplemented by personal accounts, were the raw material of the histories. In my view - and you will have to take my word for it, unless you want to start grinding through the histories yourself - the good ones (and there were many in this category) are at least as good as the best British histories, and in many respects much more atmospheric. You get the story, warts and all. There are references to troops or individuals failing, drunkenness etc etc, which I have yet to find in any Allied history, which were mostly altogether drier.

When it came to recording of casulaties, I believe, firmly, that we can trust the Rolls of Honour where they exist. Sometimes a complete team was assembled purely to work on the figures and to ensure that as much detail as possible of each of the fallen was recorded. Any errors in them are likely to be slips, rather than deliberate, because they were there to provide a lasting memory of the indivduals and as a comfort to their families. They are, in fact, a great aid when we try to identify the background of the fallen buried in the cemeteries. For Le Cateau, provided that the casualties were not dumped unceremoniously and unrecorded into mass graves by the French during post-war concentration, there is pretty good correlation between the lists and the graves at Le Cateau, Caudry and Selvigny.

However, figures for wounded and missing are not recorded consistently. Small wonder, because these histories were not official reports; they were intended primarily for the private consumption of those who served in the regiments and a great many were only published after a sufficiently large subscription list had been developed and, even then, wealthier members tended to make generous donations towards the cost. I own a couple which never got beyond the typescript stage. Many of the books have a special page for the individual to write in his own record of service as a family keepsake. I have yet to come across a history which differentiates between serious and slight wounds, but that information is always available where the original ten day casualty returns still exist (ask Ralph Whitehead).

This brings me on to partial confirmation of the figures for Mons, which I have built up from the histories. Postwar a branch of the German army worked for about twelve years on a three volume document entitled Sanitaetsbericht ueber das Deutsche Heer [Medical Report on the German Army]. It was published by Mittler of Berlin in 1934 and was [mis]used by the British official historians during their later work. This was a massive undertaking by the world champions of bureaucracy and accounting and Volume III, in particular, is very useful and revealing. These figures are as definitive as it was possible to get them.

Page 36 and Table 28 cover the ten day period 21 - 31 August 1914. According to the report, each of the corps of the entire German army averaged between three and five days of major battle during this period. Of the armies in the West, only Third Army suffered fewer casualties than First Army, whilst those engaged in the really serious, large-scale clashes with the French Army during the Battle of the Frontiers suffered far more. Casualty rates in wounded alone in Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Armies were between two and two and a half times higher than those for First Army, a clear indication of the intensity of the battles to the south of where the BEF was operating.

Here are the actual figures for First Army for the ten day which interest us:

Ration Strength: 174,433

Sick: 2,467

Wounded: 4,932

KIA and Missing: 2,145 (Of which 1,284 Missing - some of whom turned up later)

Wounded, but not struck off unit strength, 1,051 N.B. This is a lower percentage than normal, suggesting that even slight wounds had to be evacuated, because it did not take much to prevent a man from being able to march the necessary thirty to forty km a day during the move towards Paris.

Let us leave the sick list to one side, because only the German army records them as casualties. Over a ten day period the casualty figures that matter: KIA, Wounded and Missing (rounded up) add up to 7,200, so if we go for 3,000 at Mons and 2000 at Le Cateau that leaves 2,200 for every other action and all the corps not engaged at one or both of Mons and Le C.

Fair enough? Any reaction? Tends to call into question, say, the figures given by Richard Holmes in Riding the Retreat (p130)Mons 'French['s] ... losses had been light: some 1,600 killed, wounded and missing... German losses had been infinitely greater, perhaps 6,000 and possibly as many as 10,000: some burial parties resorted to mass cremation in an effort to cope with the piles of dead north of the canal...' Le Cateau (p195) 'We cannot do more than estimate German losses at around 5,000...'

Jack

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I should add that the two proofs 'rule' (more if you can get them) is a council of perfection - almost every writer can be suduced into using a good tale, quote or annecdote. Context and date of writing are equally important. I guess the real point is that we have not yet disproved the contention that rapid rifle fire was mistaken for mg fire by the Germans. Few I suspect had actually heard mg fire in war fighting before. Equally it is possible ofcourse that Brits drew this conclusion (from the weight of fire that they heard) and imposed it on the Germans. But I cannot help feeling that it would be the sad destruction of a much loved tale if someone, somewhere, cannot find poof(s). Again, low casualty figures seem to me no

absolute proof of any British failure at Mons - the BEF certainly kept their heads down whatever the figures may (eventually prove).

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some burial parties resorted to mass cremation in an effort to cope with the piles of dead north of the canal...'

Jack

Now that catches my eye! Do you think that quote of Richard Holmes's can be authenticated, Jack?

It would certainly account for the paucity of German graves on that battlefield.

In your post no.51, you cite the reminiscence of a German who helped arrange the burial of some of the dead at Framieres, and the numbers quoted - 169 German to 135 British - have the right "feel" to them. The British, retiring from the field, lost somewhat more men than the Germans. This was due to the capture of large numbers of prisoners. In terms of killed, the Germans did suffer the heavier loss. They attacked competent and resolute troops who exploited their firepower skills to good effect, and who inflicted some serious punishment. The disparity was not that great, though, and I reckon the ratio of those figures above gives a reasonable impression of the disparity in the numbers killed and wounded in the opposing armies at Mons.

Phil.

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Jack, I'm not having a go, honestly I'm not - but the more you post the more confused I become. Your posts on this subject tend to start with a health warning about your figures, but then you go on to explain why you believe them to be accurate, and the more I point out your own health warnings the more you seem to elaborate on your belief in their accuracy (but still give the health warning). I can't decide whether you consider them reliable, a bit iffy, very iffy or unreliable?

My confusion stems not only from your irresolution, but also from the apparent paradox your figures seem to throw up, and it is this paradox that is my main problem with them, which is two-fold. Firstly, I'm confused what point you're actually making with these figures, and, secondly, the figures seem at odds with the German Army's failure to rollover and flatten the BEF. Consequently, I feel obliged to repeat an earlier question of mine i.e. Whether heavy casualties or not, the German army, when enjoying numerical superiority over the BEF, did not roll-over and flatten the "contemptibly small army" at Mons or in subsequent actions (up to and including 1st Ypres). If this failure at arms on the German part was not down to them being shot-flat and suffering high casualties then logic says there must be some other reason, and, this early in the war, it has to be a purely military one does it not? So what was it?

In other words, if you've produced these figures to "prove" that Von Kluck's First Army did not suffer the casualties when facing the BEF that most of us commonly believe they did, what reasons would you give for Von Kluck's failure? How can the paradox be explained?

Cheers-salesie.

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An interesting thread indeed.

One point I would make about German graves at Mons. St Symphorien was by no means the only German cemetery at Mons. It remains because it is a CWGC site, and under their care. The substantial German cemetery in the centre of Mons, at the communal cemetery, was closed in the 1950s, and all the graves moved to the mass-grave at Langemarck. I believe burials here may have exceeded a thousand, possibly much more. However, they would of course have covered the whole war, and not just 1914. We cannot assume that what we see at St Symphorien represents the only German deaths for this period.

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.

Finally - i m bob - see what you started?

A pause for a word from the instigator:

The thread has taken off in directions that are fascinating, at least to myself. I wish to do nothing to discourage the discerning and polite probing of opinion, and inquiry into fact, that has so far characterized it. Neither would I seek to prune any branches.

My original intent was merely to find why Smith-Dorrien wrote what he did. To my eye, which is unpracticed in interpreting military memoirs, his accounts of his troops' actions are straightforward. He did not write "the Germans must have thought they were facing many machine guns, so rapidly did our men fire." His statement instead was simply a non-speculative declaration of German thinking at the time of the battle. This seemed to me to indicate some German source for his statement, or perhaps reports from neutral newpaper correspondents accompanying the Germans on their march.

My hope that the source would be well-known is fading, but the replacement discussion is most illuminating.

My thanks to you all, and please carry on.

--Bob

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