Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Zuber and Mons


phil andrade
 Share

Recommended Posts

Okay after a long series of vacations, graduations, cruises and who knows what else I have finally finished the book. It is far better than his book on the Ardennes. However, it was a very difficult read and the author entirely lost credibility after the important first 67 pages of the book. My interest is the doctrine and training and then from a case study perspective seeing how this was applied. He does not make a clear distinction that there are manuals for the different branches and they were not combined under one super manual like the current U.S. Army. Zuber makes the leap from what Clausewitz calls war on paper to real war. In book one of Clausewitz, there are some very short chapters that would have done the author well to ingest. Especially Chapter 7. He goes from doctrine and a good explanation of the existing infantry doctrine to his giant leap that execution of the doctrine was well done because of the doctrine itself, battle drills, and troop leading procedures.

"At the tactical level to German army showed what 40 years of hard and serious work could accomplish. The mission was the most difficult imaginable: hasty attack on a very strong defensive position. The German army executed this mission superbly. The Germans fought a combined arms battle. Tactical cavalry reconnaissance and security were good. In spite of some great terrain difficulties, artillery support was usually decisive… the infantry showed its mastery of fire and movement are repeatedly crossing open ground…"

This comes from his evaluation of Mons. It directly contradicts his analysis of doctrine on page 45 where he says "The infantry attack on a deployed enemy was the baseline tactic of all German attacks." "In an attack on a deployed enemy, the attacker had the time to conduct careful reconnaissance patrols led by infantry, cavalry, artillery and engineer officers, while the main body was still advancing. " Perhaps trying to view this through the lens of the battalion, brigade or division operations officer he might find the reconnaissance to be somewhat lacking. Perhaps okay for a company commander but less acceptable to the headquarters above.

The Imperial German machine had a serious series of debates and disagreements on the baseline documents themselves as well as any endeavor to do a combined arms synchronized attack. There were many reasons for these disagreements, many are laid out in the Handbook of Imperial Germany and some have been discussed here. Given the technology of 1914 synchronization was incredibly difficult. Synchronization works best–best but not well–when there is great communication. Radio contact between artillery batteries, forward observers, cavalry patrols and infantry regiments left something to be desired and makes synchronizing these diverse elements difficult. Add in a tablespoon of friction and we get the confusion that we all are studying. Once again however, the author has this incredible bias that is so very pro-German that it is like the little boy who cried Wolf. I am sure that some of his claims have a lot of merit. I am not from Great Britain and don't have the emotional attachment to this engagement but you really get tired of his one-sided view of execution. Why are German officers who make statements in regimental histories great experts as opposed to their opponents?

One key thing I can say to explain his view is that he is very very anti-Kuhl. I don't necessarily agree with him entirely but his rejection of the German First Army Corps leadership certainly explains some of his findings. It does not necessarily square with the recent book by Herwig but at least he can draw his conclusions in part from his view on the operational movement. Unless I missed something entirely he did not reference the 1929 book by Kuhl entitled "Movements and Supply of the German First Army during August and September 1914". This might have been useful.

Back to the doctrine. Gone are the horrible premise problems of the Ardennes's book.

He does not reject operational and strategic warfare as a premise of this book. In addition, he discusses both the 1889 doctrinal manual as well as the 1906 manual. However, he does nothing to address the 1895 and in 1909 cavalry documents–to say nothing of the artillery, etc. etc. Maybe he read some of the comments made previously. I really do not think he did a bad job of this. I think he has done a service in laying out in English prose how the system was supposed to work. His view however, is still encapsulated from the viewpoint of a company commander. He focuses repeatedly on troop leading procedures and battle drills. He does not do justice to the execution as spelled out by Clausewitz.

There is a dearth of books explaining Imperial German doctrine and training in the English language. One can always get a hold of the 1915 Balck but Zuber has definitely stirred the waters. I would buy the book for the first 67 pages understanding that it is an infantry focus. I would take things from his analysis of the battles without putting too much credence in his conclusions–I am sure there are a lot of good nuggets to be mined. You do have to get over his one sidedness and it is not easy. It certainly will make you research.

What Rookery wants is a discussion of military theory, going back to the 1880s, indeed to a lengthy discussion of Clausewitz.

What I have presented is militrary practise: how the troops actually trained, combat at the platoon/company/batterys/quadron level..

He's clearly not interested and he says so - the only part of my books that interest him are the theoretical parts.

This is further made clear by his inability to understand the difference between the theoretical attack and the attack.in practicse.

There is no mention by Rookery of the actual conduct of cavalry reconnaissance, or the the tactical conduct of Mons and Le Cateau, from both the French and British points of view, which is the actual subject of the book. Whether the Germans attacked in mass or open order, what the German impression of British rifle fire was, the failure of British cavalry reconnaissance, engineer and artillery support., the effectiveness of the German cavalry at Le Cateau, the IR 66 attack against a deployed enemy, not a word. This is grunt stuff.

But military eggheads in 1887 - you betcha.

Terence Zuber

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dear Terence

As I seem to be adressed by your kind remarks on another thread, I think I should reply.

You are quite correct in saying that the British view suffers from an over reliance on British sources. If you then proceed to place a similar reliance on German sources that creates a rather strange impression

Carl

hardly ever p***** off, (altough last time I was seriously p***** it was in the company of the German army :ph34r: )

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Dear Terence

As I seem to be adressed by your kind remarks on another thread, I think I should reply.

You are quite correct in saying that the British view suffers from an over reliance on British sources. If you then proceed to place a similar reliance on German sources that creates a rather strange impression

Carl

hardly ever pissed off, (altough last time I was seriously pissed, it was in the company of the German army :ph34r: )

I used both British and German sources; in fact, in Mons I used more British sources, and more diverse British sources, than Ascoli, Terraine or Lomas, who (except for Bloem) didn't use German sources at all.

Terence Zuber

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 years later...

As a newcomer to this great forum I just wanted to register my thanks . Reading through all the comments throughout this thread has given me a great deal of information and a few more book titles to be added to my long list of wants - closely monitored by my ever watchful partner (bless her!!) .

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for bumping this up, in reading through it again, I had forgotten that Mr. Zuber joined the conversation - as you say, a lot of information.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I noticed Terence Zuber's user name is showing as Wuerzburg, didn't it used to be Schlieffen ?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had forgotten that too, guess he used the Schlieffen handle for the Schlieffen plan thread. In looking at his profile, he apparently hasn't been back to the forum for almost five years now. I did buy his book on Liege a year or so ago but haven't gotten through it yet (takes me a long time as the constant bias is annoying).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have had a quick look at this resurrected thread.

 

I now remember being bored when I first looked at it, and have asked myself "why".

 

Part of the answer is that the main protagonists never use one word when two [or more] would suffice.

 

Here is my summary :

 

Despite poor generalship,  lack of Liaison with allies, and an exaggerated belief in its own superiorority, the BEF escaped from Mons substantially intact. It then escaped from Le Cateau, mauled but able to fight another day. Four years later, its successors won the war.

 

Does that touch the spot?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 hours ago, Muerrisch said:

Despite poor generalship,  lack of Liaison with allies, and an exaggerated belief in its own superiorority, the BEF escaped from Mons substantially intact. It then escaped from Le Cateau, mauled but able to fight another day. Four years later, its successors won the war.

 

 

A concise description - with a few amendments it is also describes the German outcome.

"Despite poor generalship, lack of Liaison between Armies, and an exaggerated belief in its own superiorority, the German Armies allowed the British to escape from Mons substantially intact. It  was then allowed to escape from Le Cateau, mauled but able to fight another day. Four years later, its successors won the war".

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

17 hours ago, lostinspace said:

I did buy his book on Liege a year or so ago but haven't gotten through it yet (takes me a long time as the constant bias is annoying).

I found it extremely difficult to follow. I always said I would avoid Liege but I lied. Our current work is on the German reconnaissance from the start of the war until they missed the BEF. We had to go through Liège pretty thoroughly. About halfway done.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I can't remember for sure, I think in "The Mons Myth", Zuber insisted that German reconnaissance was accurate and spotted the British well before the infantry arrived but that von Kluck wasted the opportunity?  You must have different information or maybe an alternate interpretation?
 

Dave

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dave,

Kluck  had no clear idea.  This is a quote from  the First Army  diary I just translated.  It is  Kuhl's entry the day before Mons.  

"There remains doubt as to what is going on from the English, whether strong forces are there and where."  The German cavalry was way out of position – way way out of position. The local cavalry attached to the Army Corps's were still there. The fixed wing aircraft were being sent to the wrong place.  lighter than air reconnaissance was not used in this area. He was aware that British cavalry was operating somewhere in the area, and that a British plane had been shot down. However, to say that he had excellent reconnaissance is a little bit more than a stretch. I read that quote also. But I just chalked it up to the normal bias. Their reconnaissance was really poor. Really really poor.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Joe,

 

I found the passage for my comment above, pages 119/120 of "The Mons Myth" - "HKK 2 on 22 August. Unfortunately for the Germans, due to an erroneous air reconnaissance report that British cavalry had been sighted near Courtrai on 22 August, HKK 2 had been sent by HQ 2nd Army on a wild goose chase to reconnoitre on both sides of Lille.
However, 2nd Squadron Hussar R 8 was also sent from Soignies in the direction of St Ghislain-Mons. A patrol led by Lt Humann was given Tertre and St Ghislain as objectives....The patrol entered Tertre, where the point element reported 'strangely uniformed men without weapons'. Lt Humann rode forward and observed through his binoculars '15 or 20 British soldiers, who indeed had no weapons, but carried sticks under their arms and were standing or walking around, smoking...The use of security detachments was apparently unknown to the British at this time, or to these British at any rate'. Lt Humann withdrew in order to see how much of the canal was occupied by British troops. British silhouettes were seen on the skyline(!) as far a Baudour, which was not occupied. Lt Humann sent a report, requisitioned food and fodder, and the patrol bivouacked in a wood between Baudour and Tertre, observing the roads that led from the north to the British position.
A second patrol from Hussar 8 set out at dawn in the direction of Mons. One kilometre from Soignies they encountered a patrol from Cuirassier R 4, which had the same mission, so together they marched towards Mons. Halfway, in the middle of the town of Casteau, a squadron of British cavalry appeared from a side street, which forced the patrol to beat a hasty retreat. Three members of the Cuirassier patrol were captured. The British stopped at the end of the town. The German patrols reported this contact, which reached 9 KD at 1030 hours and was immediately forwarded to the 1st Army, arriving there at 1050. The two patrols then met a patrol from Uhlan R 13: the countryside was swarming with German cavalry. The hussars rejoined their squadron, which was about 8 km north of Mons, while the cuirassiers and uhlans continued their reconnaissance towards Mons, this time moving to the west and then south along the Ath-Mons road. They encountered a British infantry security detachment north of Nimy, dismounted, drove it back and sent a second report. The German cavalry patrols had performed superbly: they had identified British infantry on a 20 km front." There were two footnotes (138/139) in this excerpt, both referred to unit histories - Anon., Husaren-Regiment 8, pp. 99-100 and Glassmeier, Kurassier-Regiment 4, pp. 54-55.
I think Zuber contends that the cavalry reconnaissances were thorough but that 1st Army command did not fully believe the information they received from the cavalry sorties, but did (for some reason) believe the air report. Another excerpt, from page 121 - "There is little reason to agree with the German official history's repeated assertions that the 1st Army expected to fight the British from Mons to St Ghislain on 23 August, and wanted to extend its right flank to the west in order to outflank the British left. In fact, there is no reason to believe that the 1st Army expected a fight at Mons. Rather, the 1st Army expected only that some British troops would be at Valenciennes-Maubeuge, which meant a fight on the 24th at the earliest. The 1st Army had also not renounced the idea that British forces might still appear at Lille." 
Have you found anything on the activities of the divisional cavalry forces from III and IX Korps? I'm assuming that they would have been screening and scouting ahead of the advance, or were they leaving this up to HKK 2 as they passed through on their way to Courtrai?

Dave

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Quote

Have you found anything on the activities of the divisional cavalry forces from III and IX Korps? I'm assuming that they would have been screening and scouting ahead of the advance, or were they leaving this up to HKK 2 as they passed through on their way to Courtrai?

 

Dave,

 

I have not gotten that far yet. There are a couple of things that do not fill me with expectation concerning the reports that you mentioned. All of these cavalry units mentioned were part of the ninth Cavalry Division. That was part of HKK2.

 

“In the morning of the 22th, patrols of the 9th Cavalry Division, operating in a southerly direction, identified, for the first time, British cavalry and infantry. In the afternoon of the same day, patrols of the IX and VII Corps reported that the British zone extended eastward to a point half-way between Binche and Fontaine l'Eveque. With the knowledge that French Territorials were holding Conde, the extent of the British zone of operations was established, since it was also known that a group of French regular army units, constituting the left flank of the French Army, was concentrated at Charleroi.[1]

 

The reports did not make it until 11 at night to the division. On the day before Mons. HKK2 was in the middle of another flip-flop of the chain of command between first Army and Second Army. At best, this reporting chain was a bit muddled. Either way this was not well before orders had to be given for the following day let alone to endeavor to outflank the British position.

 

This is what they wrote in the war diary from the 23rd.-- In the morning went in Soignes, where the A.O.K had the message the HKK2 one at Tourney, east Lille since 22.8. Large squadrons of troops. The hitherto unresolved question as to whether and where the English would play would become even more difficult.

 

In hindsight at the landing posts the British and the operational camps were not untrue. The other side was waiting in the Ghislain-Mons, if only cavalry were established.

 

If the army continued its advance in the present manner, and the British appeared to be from Lille, the right flank of the army was secured by the staggered IIAK and IVRAK. But the planned encircling of the outer English wing could be called into question.

 

Thus the IV, III, and IX AK were held. You should not exceed the road Lenz-Mons-Binche without special order.

 


[1]. von Gonnermann, “Aufklärung vor der Heeresfront.”

Edited by joerookery
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Joe,

 

Doesn't the first quote (from von Gonnermann) pretty much confirm Zuber's information from the cavalry histories? In retrospect, the cavalry had provided some intelligence as to where the British were located along the canal but given the short amount of time available to von Kluck on the 22nd/23rd I think he probably made the best decision he could by holding II Corps and IV Reserve Corps in place on the right flank in case the rumors (and the air report) were true, while advancing on the canal with the rest of 1st Army. In my opinion it would have been very difficult to ignore either the enemy reported in his front, or the enemy on his flank. As it turned out the threat on the right turned out to be French territorials around Tournai, but v. Kluck didn't know this until HKK2 had completed its reconnaissance. There is, however, another piece to this puzzle that I have never understood; why didn't 1st Army use 2nd Cavalry Division to check out the troops detraining at Tournai? They had been detached from HKK2 earlier in the campaign to provide (I assume) v. Kluck with more scouting/screening capability? 

Not quite sure what this means - 

"In the morning went in Soignes, where the A.O.K had the message the HKK2 one at Tourney, east Lille since 22.8. Large squadrons of troops. The hitherto unresolved question as to whether and where the English would play would become even more difficult.In hindsight at the landing posts the British and the operational camps were not untrue. The other side was waiting in the Ghislain-Mons, if only cavalry were established."
Was this quote from the 1st Army war diary? 

In regards to von Kuhl, certainly he represents the use of HKK2 accurately but this is, of course, all in hindsight. The real question is, why hadn't the organization and use of a cavalry corps been thought through long before 1914? I'm guessing this question is what your new book will be trying to answer?

 

Dave
 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Quote

Doesn't the first quote (from von Gonnermann) pretty much confirm Zuber's information from the cavalry histories?

Yes they were found and he reports that very accurately. Now here is the thing. There is no radio. A messenger that is horse mounted must first go back to the reconnaissance squadron. Then after digestion another messenger needs to go back to the regiment. After digestion another messenger goes back to the division. This transpired by 11 PM. at night. First Army sent out the order for the 23rd. at 930 PM. So the message would have gotten there to the division after the Army had already set the day in motion. It is not clear currently whether the ninth Calvary division notified First Army by messenger or by radio. Both were possible. Did they leave that to second Army? Look at the poor number of staff in the 9th. HKK2 had no radio.  This is an excerpt from the Army order of the 22nd at 9:30 PM before the reports from the cavalry even got back to the division.

"A squadron of British cavalry was encountered today at Casteau, north-east of Mons, and a British aeroplane coming from Maubeuge was shot down near Enghien. In front of the Second Army there appear today to be only three cavalry divisions and a weak force of infantry."

So Kluck  Did not know the strength of the forces in front of him. The quote from the war diary confirms that he only thought there was cavalry out there In front of him.

 

Quote

There is, however, another piece to this puzzle that I have never understood; why didn't 1st Army use 2nd Cavalry Division to check out the troops detraining at Tournai? They had been detached from HKK2 earlier in the campaign to provide (I assume) v. Kluck with more scouting/screening capability? 

 Unfortunately, HKK2  was subjected to a series of changes in the chain of command. They constantly played flip-flop between first and second Army. The 2nd was detached initially to cover Belgians around Antwerp. By the 22nd HKK2 had all three divisions back together again, but they were pointed to the northwest  by Second Army.  On the 23rd they were feeding horses along the river Schelde west of Rennaix.  All three divisions were in a tight location for away from the canal. These are exactly the forces that should have been enveloping the British left flank.  That envelopment was what v. Kluck was trying to do

Neither Second Army nor the Supreme Army Command expected the British forces to come into action in the near future.[1]"

Quote

The real question is, why hadn't the organization and use of a cavalry corps been thought through long before 1914? I'm guessing this question is what your new book will be trying to answer?

 

 

 Yes but the real purpose is to show how they did miss the BEF.  When you consider all the kings horses and all the kings men along with his aircraft and dirigible, it s is far worse than we traditionally have accepted.

[1]. Great General Staff, Battle of Mons, 16.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Joe,

 

Thanks for the information on 2nd Cavalry Division, I was totally confused on the dates and locations. I have "The German Cavalry in Belgium and France" which shows 2nd Cavalry Division arriving at Berchem at some point during the 23rd (along with the rest of HKK2) and sending scouts across the Schelde towards Courtrai. Von Poseck doesn't give much detail on this, so I'm assuming that von der Marwitz  provided enough information to reassure von Kluck, and allow him to release II Corps and IV Reserve Corps.
 

Dave

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 years later...
On 27/02/2010 at 13:26, Jack Sheldon said:

IR 24 (of Douaumont fame) was also in and around Frameries, but mostly in a different part of it - they came across Scots casualties, for example. They, too, had high cas, more than IR 64, but who knows who inflicted them? 

Jack

It was the 1/Lincolns - in line along what is today Ave Champ de Bataille in Frameries.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...