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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Legitimate Bombing Targets


PhilB
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It is clear that German and British artillery would search for HQs within their range which meant certainly battalion and possibly brigade. With the advent of aerial bombing the options were widened to include virtually all the area occupied by the BEF. What were the German bombers` principle targets? HQs, Base Camps, Stores Depots, Railways? Were all considered fair game, including higher HQs?

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QUOTE (Phil_B @ Jan 23 2009, 11:10 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
What were the German bombers` principle targets? HQs, Base Camps, Stores Depots, Railways? Were all considered fair game, including higher HQs?

Pick any of the above. Basically it depends on the phase of your campaign. Targets vary from phase to phase.

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I'm re-reading "Under the Devil's Eye" for the umpteenth time and it looks as if the Allies did not plan for bombing raids in the rear areas. Although marked with red crosses, a combination of poor accuracy from the bombers and close proximity to legitimate targets meant that the medics were hit from time to time by stray bombs.

Keith

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QUOTE (Phil_B @ Jan 23 2009, 10:50 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I would have thought a static HQ like Querrieu or Montreuil would have been sitting ducks?

I don't know if bombing a town in the hope of hitting an important member of the staff would be seen as a worthwhile target. The same planes could be hitting rail-heads or any of your list.

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Mate,

I am aware of some discussion at the time of the British idea of sighting hospital units near railways.

These became targets (the railways) for German attack which in many occasions also hit these hospital units.

Rail ways were fair game but were the British guilty of some crime for sighting these hospital close to possible Targets?

So if its fair game to target rail ways why not HQ 's?

S.B

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So if its fair game to target rail ways why not HQ 's?

S.B

It may have been a hangover from previous wars. Certainly by WW2, HQs were prime targets but in Napoleonic times was it not considered unsporting to shoot at the opposing commander (except at sea)? IIRC Wellington forbade his men to fire at Napoleon?

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QUOTE (Phil_B @ Jan 24 2009, 09:38 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
It may have been a hangover from previous wars. Certainly by WW2, HQs were prime targets but in Napoleonic times was it not considered unsporting to shoot at the opposing commander (except at sea)? IIRC Wellington forbade his men to fire at Napoleon?

Napoleon never came within range of British troops (he was well back at Waterloo). The story actually stems from the Peninsular when an artillery officer mentioned that he could observe the opposing French General (Massena I think but I'd have to go look it up) and should he open fire on him? Wellington's reply was on the lines that it was not the job of Generals to take pot shots at each other and directed the artillery oficer to concentrate his fire on his real target ie the advancing French infantry. The actions of some medium tanks and armoured cars in 1918 show that the British at least were not averse to shooting up enemy HQs. The allocation of bombing targets was probably on the basis of where is it likely that we'll cause the most significant damage?

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from time to time by stray bombs.

This comtinuesdfor decades, even with more sophisticated bomb aiming equipment in WW2 stray bombs missed the targets and aircraft bombed the target or even the wrong country. The USAAF bombed neutral Switzerland, although they claimed to be precision bombers.

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Rail ways were fair game but were the British guilty of some crime for sighting these hospital close to possible Targets?

Siting a hospital near a railway would be due to wanting to get the casualties to it as fast as possible. Before the advent of aerial bombing the railway would unlikely to have been in range and certainly not in a precise range of artillery.

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The Germans started the war with no qualms about selecting targets with military significance. This was demonstrated with their assault on Belgium and the shelling of British coastal towns. During their bombing raids on the UK mainland all targets, including civilian, were apparently fair game; just as with their bombing in Europe.

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Quote:- "The allocation of bombing targets was probably on the basis of where is it likely that we'll cause the most significant damage?"

The killing or wounding of a commanding general or his staff would be significant damage? Especially during the planning stages of a battle. Were there significant attempts to bomb HQs like Querrieu and Montreuil?

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I don't know about bombing HQs in the Great War, but, as far as I am aware, it is legal to kill combatants anywhere. HQs are legitimate targets for any weapon (that is legal).

Roxy

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QUOTE (Phil_B @ Jan 24 2009, 01:42 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Quote:- "The allocation of bombing targets was probably on the basis of where is it likely that we'll cause the most significant damage?"

The killing or wounding of a commanding general or his staff would be significant damage? Especially during the planning stages of a battle. Were there significant attempts to bomb HQs like Querrieu and Montreuil?

The death of a senior staff officer would be anticipated and a deputy appointed to carry on in the event. When one looks at the hundreds of officers operating in Montreuil one realises how little the death of any one officer would have impinged. The plans would have continued to be implemented, his immediate deputy would have carried on until a permanent replacement was made. After all, very senior officers did die or were sacked and the war carried on.

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QUOTE (Phil_B @ Jan 24 2009, 01:42 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Quote:- "The allocation of bombing targets was probably on the basis of where is it likely that we'll cause the most significant damage?"

The killing or wounding of a commanding general or his staff would be significant damage? Especially during the planning stages of a battle. Were there significant attempts to bomb HQs like Querrieu and Montreuil?

Only if you could be fairly certain of getting him. Many (all?) of the buildings used for such purposes had cellars. Anyway how would the Germans know that a battle was being planned? Unless security was really compromised.

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Maybe I`ve overestimated the importance of a general and his staff as potential targets. Which would the Germans consider a better option, bombing a HQ chateau in the hope of hitting the general and staff, or the local railway station in the hope of hitting a troop train or disabling the track for a time?

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QUOTE (Phil_B @ Jan 24 2009, 04:56 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Maybe I`ve overestimated the importance of a general and his staff as potential targets. Which would the Germans consider a better option, bombing a HQ chateau in the hope of hitting the general and staff, or the local railway station in the hope of hitting a troop train or disabling the track for a time?

Disabling the track - hitting a troop train would be a bonus.

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Long term planning at the highest levels would be done very far from the front. The possibility of losing a commander was a contingency that was planned for. Bombing the permanent way would divert vital supplies for a while. Hitting a troop train would cause casualties today instead of next week. Only overwhelming air superiority could make a significant impact on a planned offensive. Bloody April did not stop Arras being a major British victory for the first few days and it was not the German airforce which brought it to a halt.

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Wellington's reply was on the lines that it was not the job of Generals to take pot shots at each other and directed the artillery oficer to concentrate his fire on his real target ie the advancing French infantry.

This was the view of one general in one battle; it was not a binding contract. Neither the Allied or Central powers had any compunction about killing their opponents of whatever rank.

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QUOTE (Phil_B @ Jan 24 2009, 04:56 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Maybe I`ve overestimated the importance of a general and his staff as potential targets. Which would the Germans consider a better option, bombing a HQ chateau in the hope of hitting the general and staff, or the local railway station in the hope of hitting a troop train or disabling the track for a time?

You are also overestimating the size of the HQ, the small bombloads and the ability of German bombers to get through to their objective. Your post reads more like one for when bombers were more advanced.

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This was the view of one general in one battle; it was not a binding contract. Neither the Allied or Central powers had any compunction about killing their opponents of whatever rank.

Nor I suspect did Wellington - I was merely correcting an inaccurate version of the account. Wellington was actually pointing out to the artillery officer that war is not a personal duel.

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Wellington was actually pointing out to the artillery officer that war is not a personal duel.

This has not prevented generals seeking to counteract their oponents, capture or eliminate them through history. As WWI started with the assasination of someone in military uniform it could be very personal!

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Would the death of any general and his staff have altered the course of the war? I think that takes the Big Man theory of histry too far.

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