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Remembered Today:

The 5th Army


Desmond7
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Horlicks - I meant to post this in 'other' - perhaps some friendly moderator could move it?

Many thanks!!!

Can anyone provide information about the state of morale in units of tthe 5th Army just prior to the German March Offensive?

I have been told that Haig informed Gough as early as 1917 that it was common knowledge that many units 'dreaded' being posted to the 5th Army. Any truth in this?

To be specific, I have a large number of men in the unit I am researching who have been through three major battles - never mind the line-holding - by the time March 1918 comes around. Some have been wounded more than once and then shoved back into the line.

Given the awful 'hammering' which many of the formations in 5th Army seem to have endured in the earlier part of the war, is it fair to say that a great many of the men were at the end of their tether?

I know the weight of numbers, new tactics, mist etc was on the German 'side' in the early part of this offensive but looking at the number of unwounded POWs, I tend to think that morale must have been at an all time low.

Equally aware of the many 'stands' made on March 21 etc.

Edited by Desmond7
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Des I have no idea if Haig told Gough this if that's your question, if question is did men want to avoid 5th Army I think the answer is some did, have seen references several times.

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Hi Des

I do not think the 5th Army morale was too bad seeing that it saw off the biggest German attack since 1914, with under strength battalions.

As for the many P.O.W., I was thinking of this only the other day, when looking up something for another member on the 1/K.S.L.I. This battalion suffered many men taken P.O.W. in this battle. They were on high ground with gullies either side of them filled with mist, the Germans used these gullies well and get behind the Battalion, cutting of all the front line companies, only small groups fort there way back. Should those in the front line have fort to the death ? once the game was up what good would it have done to fight on and get killed ? All I know is that if it was me in the front line and Germans were in front, at the sides and behind then I would have give up.

Annette

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Paul - any quick ones you can remember? Would be appreciated.

Annette - Fully agree on the odds they faced and the fact that infiltrating Germans had cut off many of those in the forward defence line in particular. My Grandad was one of them!

To sum up, in your opinion the large number of prisoners had less to do with low morale and more to do with the tactics of the Germans on that day?

Putting ALL the factors which the Germans had going for them to one side, have you any general thoughts on the British morale in 5th army by this stage of the war? I have also read that many units/men grumbled that they did not like being taken out of the 'trenchline' defences they had been used to and stuck in redoubts and rifle pits?

Best wishes

Des

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I have also read that many units/men grumbled that they did not like being taken out of the 'trenchline' defences they had been used to and stuck in redoubts and rifle pits?

Best wishes

Des

I can confirm that Des. Originally read it in 'See how they ran' (Moore I think?) and saw it only this week on History channel. The 'elastic defense' wasnt welcomed by the troops. Believe they called the units posted into the redoubts 'Sacrificial Soldiers' or troops or duty.

Steve

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Steve - If I'd been in their position I would definitely have felt 'expendable'

Was the programme 'Line of Fire: Kaiser's Battle'? I remember seeing bits of that show before I got stuck into this project seriously!

IIRC it was pretty well done.

Thanks Des

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I would say that the morale was pretty good. There may have been grumbles about transfers to the Fifth Army but many accounts I have read suggest that the men were waiting expectantly for the German attack. The precise hour was not known but there was no secret about where the attack was most likely to come. If anything, there was a frustration to get on with it, coupled with the sense of teaching the Germans a lesson.

But the most significant thing is the way in which Fifth Army largely held together despite the massive impact of the assault. Although holes appeared in the line as Fifth Army withdrew, and although there were local instances where some units fell back sooner than others, thereby exposing flanks, the Germans never really broke out as such. I think this is the greatest testament to the morale, and competence, of the men. The same thing was apparent in the Battle of Lys. The British Official Histories of these actions (Operations Michael, Mars and Georgette) are really stirring stuff - I have read them from cover to cover, as good as any novel if not better.

Robert

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Robert - in the wake of your last post, I've been thinking.

Quoting you:-

But the most significant thing is the way in which Fifth Army largely held together despite the massive impact of the assault.

Unquote.

Who would you give the credit to in this context?

Any commanders at e.g. Brigade or Dvisional level who moved their troops in a particularly effective way?

Was it a low ranking soldiers' battle with junior officers and NCOs holding their men together?

It is largely accepted that Gough was the scapegoat - but was his performance in the few days he had left before his sacking worthy of note? Forgive my ignorance with regard to this short period.

Realise these are wide-ranging questions which can only be responded to in time.

Thanks Des

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Des; expendable is right! Think may have been a LOF programme but seen a few so may be wrong (in the last 6 months especially). And it was well put together too I agree.

Considering the start point of the battle, they did really well to hold and maintain cohesion. Yea, the diversion of troops to maintain the 'French connexion' rather than saving their troops firstly definitely had a bearing. But the way the units Ive looked at kept going must have been mainly due to the 'attitude' of the troops and the way they followed their officers' without question, to the end in many cases.

I have read in diaries that the 11th RF's (54th Bgde) returned 2 Officers & 20 OR's at end 23rd March (got mauled at Mennessis on 22nd from memory) yet STILL arrived Brigade conducting some sort of a fighting withdrawal (?), and as a coherent unit. I imagine other stragglers arrived in the coming days, but still amazes me.

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Des, sorry but I can't remember the specific accounts I have read about men reluctant to serve under Gough but I think it's true, especially dominion men.

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Des you ask

Quoting you:-

But the most significant thing is the way in which Fifth Army largely held together despite the massive impact of the assault.

Unquote.

Who would you give the credit to in this context?

Any commanders at e.g. Brigade or Dvisional level who moved their troops in a particularly effective way?

In think Gough could see what was coming and know that he did not have enough man power to hold the line, so he planned and ordered units to fall back when their positions there untendable, and take up new lines, and counter-attack where and when possible to delay the Germans until French and British reinforcments came from other areas.

Annette

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Des, sorry but I can't remember the specific accounts I have read about men reluctant to serve under Gough but I think it's true, especially dominion men.

Nicholson's Official History of the Canadian Expeditionary Force makes the following statement with regard to the Passchendaele operation:

" An entry in Haig's diary suggests that he had contemplated assigning

the Corps to the Fifth Army, the change to the Second Army being

made on the recommendation of his Chief of Staff, Lieut.-General

Kiggell, "because the Canadians do not work kindly" with General

Gough. "

A footnote to this says:

" Later that year Haig was to draw Gough's attention to the number

of divisions which "had hoped that they would not be sent to the

Fifth Army to fight". This attitude Haig blamed on Gough's staff

rather than on the Army Commander himself. "

Both these reference Haig's Private Papers.

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Who would you give the credit to in this context?

Any commanders at e.g. Brigade or Dvisional level who moved their troops in a particularly effective way?

Des

The brigade and battalion commanders deserve high praise. Travers in 'How the War Was Won' makes the case that communications with any higher levels of command were severely hampered. The highly efficient British system of telephone lines and junction boxes was targetted by the Germans. They had detected the latter because of the work that had to be hurriedly done when the Fifth Army took over the line.

Here is the first example that I came across of lower level command performance - from the history of the 1st and 2nd Northumberland Fusiliers ('History of the Fifth):

Though the men were desparately weary [at the end of the 22nd March], their spirit was high, and after the experiences of the past two days all were confident that the enemy could not prevail against them.  Lieut.-Colonel Moulton-Barrett, however, had long been conscious that things were going badly to the south, though it had not been till 9.30 pm that he became fully aware of how serious the situation was.  At that time, his transport officer, Captain Guy Allgood, had reported at his headquarters and informed him that the pack ponies, which were bringing up the rations, had come under heavy rifle and machine gun fire when still a mile distant from Battalion Headquarters.  Without any direct information from higher authority as to what was transpiring outside his own immediate surroundings, this had been sufficient to give Moulton-Barrett a fairly close appreciation of the danger in which the 9th Brigade stood.

The narrative goes on to list the other ways in which commanders became aware of the danger to their flanks, namely loss of contact with neighbouring units who were withdrawing, and the detection of German Very lights. The latter were widely used by stormtroopers particularly to indicate when the artillery should lift the barrages. British soldiers could pick these up as well and realise that they were going to be outflanked. Captive balloons also gave the same indication, as the Germans were quick to bring these forward.

In the case of Moulton-Barrett, he did make contact with Divisional HQ by telephone. The fear of passing messages in the clear led HQ to communicate the command to withdraw in Hindustani. In other unit histories, commanders took the decision into their own hands. Sometimes this led to problems. One unit would hold (as in the case of the 9th Brigade) while their neighbours would fall back. But when you step back and look at the whole picture across the entire front, cohesion was broadly maintained.

In the case of artillery, there are several examples of similar ad hoc decision-making. 'Field Guns in France' is the latest example that I have read that illustrates this.

There is much less information about NCO's and junior officers. They tend not to appear in unit histories. But I think they were extremely important.

Lyn Macdonald's book 'To the Last Man' illustrates very well how it all came down to good old Tommy Aktins in the end.

Gough performed well. He argued the case for more men and resources, knowing that Fifth Army would be attacked and realising how vulnerable they were. He remained in touch with his corps HQs by travelling throughout the day. Gough's appreciation of the tactical situation and the necessary response -withdrawal to maintain a defensive line - was pretty spot on. Like Charteris after Passchendaele (I'm currently reading 'At GHQ'), a sacrificial lamb was needed when the dust had settled.

Robert

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men reluctant to serve under Gough but I think it's true, especially dominion men.

This stems principally from the shambles that was the Battle of Bullecourt. 'The Blood Tub' illustrates this very well. Haig was a personal friend of Gough, whose brother had served Haig in First Corps Headquarters. Gough's brother was killed at the time of the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. It would not be surprising if Haig tried to lay the blame for Bullecourt on Gough's staff

Robert

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To Annette, Robert, Steve, J in Edmonton and Paul - thanks for insights all round.

Robert - Loved the hindustani message code!

Many questions answered. Cheers all.

More views welcomed.

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In Farrar Hockleys bio of Gough he squarely rests the blame on Gough reputation with Neil Malcolm his COS. It painted a picture of Malcolm going around being the ******* why Gough was to all intents oblivious to this. I think like many Commanders Gough chose to foster this as a way of getting results, wrongly i might add.

There is many accounts of Generals fearing going to Goughs command. they believed they would be degummed as they had in previous times encountered his wrath.

Gough was not to blame for the retreat of March 1918 and his men and to a certain extent his coomand did well to hold them in check. That said Gough may not have been guilty of this but as previously said he was guilty of other areas of his Generalship. I have often wondered how his reputation would have faired had he stayed in command and enjoyed the glory of aug and sept 1918. Rawlinson certainly over came his bad rep with the expliots of his command in the advances of late 1918!!!

As for examples of these officers not wanting to go to Goughs command I beleive i read it in Travers 'the killing Ground'. Whilst this book is not 100% reliable it does raise some good questions and does have some good quotes.

regards

Arm.

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There is many accounts of Generals fearing going to Goughs command. they believed they would be degummed as they had in previous times encountered his wrath.

This is an always interesting, if controversial, topic. The Canadian opinions I have read seem to be unanimous in attributing the Canadian dislike of Gough to sloppy staff work. The Canadian experience with Gough dates from the Somme starting in September, 1916. I would like to see more informed analyses before taking a strong position myself, but it is quite possible that different generals place greater or lesser value on different military virtues.

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Thanks all for latest.

Re: Neil Malcolm in Arm's post:-

Again, forgive my lack of knowledge - any evidence that his obnoxious reputation was deserved. Arm - when you say that Malcolm was the source of many of these problems ... was he an interfering so and so; or was he ultra demanding and unsympathetic with the realities of warfare; did he just have a condescening attitude which peeved his 'line managers'?

Great stuff - really interesting. Initially started off on a morale whim which has been largely answered. Now I'm fascinated by this staff v formations politicking!!!

Keep 'em coming. Being read avidly.

Des

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Jonathan Walker examines Gough's and Malcolm's performance in his book 'The Blood Tub' (ISBN 1 86227 087 2).

'Fast changing events, such as those of the Spring of 1917, posed many "command and control" problems for [Gough].  Control of his Army operations were not helped by his appointment as his Chief of Staff, of Neill Malcolm, who often helped temper his excesses but, more importantly, cut him off from subordinate opinion.

Gough was essentially a highly charged and spirited commander, a single-minded man and one who had little time for the more leisured and cautious attitudes of his contemporaries. 

Because he stamped his mark on every battle he directed, the story of Bullecourt is incomplete without a study of his character and career.  His rise within the British Army was nothing short of meteoric, and this speed of promotion inevitably cut across many of his fellow officers.  On his own admission, he was too quick to sack subordinates and this built up a cluster of disgruntled brigadiers and major-generals.  It was wretched that at Bullecourt they should once more come together.

After service in the Boer War in 1904, [Gough] took up an appointment as lecturer at Staff College, Camberley...  During the three years that Gough taught there, most of the future Great War commanders passed through its doors as instructors or students. 

Gough set about recruiting a small staff.  He asked for men he knew or trusted from the Cavalry, his old I Corps and even old school friends.  Gough chose as his Chief of Staff his old friend Major-General Neill Malcolm, who had recently seen action at Gallipoli.  Malcolm had been a lecturer at Staff College, edited Henderson's The Science of War, and was therefore very much a man embued with 'offensive spirit' and moral courage.

[After Pozieres]  Haig put most of the blame for the failure on his Army commander and was for once unimpressed with Gough's performance.  He felt that Gough and Malcolm had 'failed to properly supervise the Australian operation'.

For the incoming AIF 4th Division, Gough, and his Chief of Staff, promised an unrelenting diet of 'offensive action'.  In a memorandum to Corps Commanders and their subordinates on the eve of the 4th Division's arrival, Malcolm emphasised that 'every yard of ground gained has great consequences both material and moral'.  In his directive, he stressed the word 'energy' over and over again, demanding 'relentless pressure everywhere and always'.

F.S. Oliver, who saw Malcolm in action at Fifth Army HQ, noted:

"He is often up at 5 o'clock to go and see some outlying division; then he is in his office for an hour before breakfast, and returns to it shortly after 9 o'clock.  He is working all day, either in the office or among the divisions, and goes back after dinner, remaining there till midnight or later.  I don't believe that any man can work his brain safely for as long hours as this."

Gough, with Malcolm in tow, was making one of his regular rounds of the line.

Gough and Malcolm were too similar in temperament.  Malcolm, the brusque Scot, was a competent administrator and, like Gough, had a good grasp of the concept of command.  But he was apt to explode at the slightest provocation, and most staff officers tended to keep out of his way.  Even Gough conceded later to Liddell Hart [after Gough had fallen from grace, so these comments must be taken with a pinch of salt] that they were not a good pairing:

"Despite Neill Malcolm's good brain, he had not been an ideal Chief of Staff; too impatient with those who are slow, and showed it.  Gough felt he had made a mistake in always going around with Neill Malcolm, who had thought it his duty simply to endorse his Chief's opinion.  It would have been better if they had gone round separately, so that junior commanders would have been free to ventilate their troubles to Malcolm."

In practice, few junior commanders were prepared to discuss problems with Malcolm, even in private.  Brigadier-General Jerry Boyd made a habit of by-passing Malcolm whenever he could, and dealing with the more junior Beddington in Fifth Army HQ.

Malcolm, to his credit, constantly tried to instil in his subordinates the importance of moving HQs forward.  Malcolm must have been aware of the [faulty - too far in the rear] siting of all divisional and brigade HQs before the battle commenced, but there is no evidence that Fifth Army Staff attempted to change these HQ positions.

Gough, who was given a very loose rein by Haig at Bullecourt, was also allowed the same latitude at Passchendaele later in the year.  Early in 1918 [prior to the March offensive], Neill Malcolm left Gough to take up his divisional command...'

These comments paint an interesting picture. Gough and Malcolm had a good grasp of military tactics. Malcolm was very hard-working and both men often visited their subordinates. However, communication seems to have been one-way. The main emphasis was on attack, come what may. Both men were intolerant of the imperfect. Thus, inadequate attention was given to ensuring that relatively inexperienced commanders at the lower divisional and brigade levels were given adequate guidance and support. Walker points out that some of the Australian officers, and officers who were commanding Australians, did make mistakes. To some extent, the Australian divisions' staff officers were still on the same learning curve as the BEF had been in 1914.

It should be remembered that one handicap the AIF suffered was a shortage of staff officers.  Most of the staff in the 4th Division were in fact British and, in certain cases, far from competent.

Robert

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As always - a mine of info. Thanks very much for that insight.

A hard-driver paired with a hard-driver ... it could not have been easy to have served under these two men.

Thanks Robert

Des

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I have not read 'the blood tub' so can not comment on this above quote (is it good?) but from Farrar Hockleys book he seems to blame Malcolm soely. But it must be remembered that FH i believe worked closely with the family to write his book and as thus he was not likely to show Gough in a truely bad light. This book changed the way I looked at the command and Generalship of the first world war. If this could make Gough seem good then there must be really some good generals out there! For the record I beleive Gough whilst over promoted does carry the can for all the bad things that happened in the Great war, in many ways more so than Haig.

I have a feeling that Neil Malcolm was competant but miss guided. Gough had him taken away from his as said above though I seem to think that this was done much in the same way that Kiggel was taken from Haig. Scapegoats! A bad COS means that the cheif did not know what was happeneing. A General should be judged not just on what he says and does but also on whom he takes advice from.

I was always of the opinion that Gough said much about Haig and Malcolm after the event as if he needed to distance himself from once others aked the questions. Whilst in the mist of them he did not seem to mind being around these people and took guidence and advice from them.

one thing that has intrigued me is how Malcolm faired once he was a divisional commander. There must have been a few Corps commanders ready to take the revenge of 5th armies COS tantrums!!!! what do they say 'care who kick on the way up you make get a tap on the way back down'

regards

Arm.

regards

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Next step - Malcom the staffman to Malcolm the commander ....

Lapping it up.

Arm - I was gonna ask that one! Thanks for your assistance!

Des

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I have not read 'the blood tub' so can not comment on this above quote (is it good?)

I presume you mean the book rather than the quote ;) . The book is excellent. The quote, well it's the best I could do. Walker does provide a reasonably balanced view in my opinion. He does not provide as much detail on the failings at lower command levels but he does raise the issue. Bullecourt is set in the context of earlier battles at Pozieres and Moquet Farm. Walker provides lots of detail about the actual attacks on Bullecourt and the German counterattack that captured the field guns. I particularly liked the details about the tank movements. And the book is well written.

but from Farrar Hockleys book he seems to blame Malcolm soely.

I think this goes too far. Gough chose Malcolm, probably because he had many characteristics that suited Gough's style. It would not have been difficult for Gough to have taken alternate views. My guess is that it was easier not to. Gough was sufficiently aware of the problem that he talked about it later. Both Gough and Malcolm will have been aware that their lower command was still learning. Rather than take the Plumer or Maxse approach - train, train, train - they adopted the 'talk offensive spirit enough and they will cope' approach.

For the record I beleive Gough whilst over promoted does carry the can for all the bad things that happened in the Great war, in many ways more so than Haig.

What makes you say that? Gough's sphere of influence, ie arena in which he could make a difference, was quite small by comparison.

A bad COS means that the cheif did not know what was happeneing. A General should be judged not just on what he says and does but also on whom he takes advice from.

A chief who does not want to know what is happening will choose a COS that does not tell him. As with businesses, a set of norm structures will arise (implicit behaviours and ways of relating) that support this principle throughout the command structure. Thus, even if one individual such as Malcolm leaves, then the norm structures will ensure that behaviours continue. If the new replacement is like the person who left, then all is well (or dysfunctional, depending on your viewpoint). If the new person is sufficiently different, and therefore a threat, then the system will attempt to cause the person to conform. The chief need not do much at all to facilitate this. Any more junior staff officers who might have supported a different approach will typically have sought transfer to a more functional HQ. Those who are left are the ones who are comfortable or capable of working in the dysfunctional environment.

I was always of the opinion that Gough said much about Haig and Malcolm after the event as if he needed to distance himself from once others aked the questions. Whilst in the mist of them he did not seem to mind being around these people and took guidence and advice from them.

I totally agree.

one thing that has intrigued me is how Malcolm faired once he was a divisional commander. There must have been a few Corps commanders ready to take the revenge of 5th armies COS tantrums!!!! what do they say 'care who kick on the way up you make get a tap on the way back down'

I would love to know which division he went to. But I would venture that how well he did depended more on the pre-existing abilities of his staff. By early 1918, his staff would have been well groomed in the art of war. I suspect he would have been presented with information that he recognised as appropriate. Even if he persisted in some of his COS ways, a stable staff with strong norm structures would have been able to adapt to his style reasonably well and still function to their previous level.

Robert

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On the topic of staff work and co-ordination of units pre March 21. Am I right in saying that Divisional interpretations of how to operate the 'new' policy of elastic defence varied greatly?

For example .. some Divisions employed far more men in 'forward defence' than others. As I understand it, this lead to 'complaints' being made to 5th Army staff only for the answer to come back "sort it out between yourselves" or words to that effect.

Why was no firm policy implemented ... and if it had been dictated by 5th Army staff and all hasd followed a set pattern, would it have made a difference.

How great was this seeming failure to 'command and control' available forces in the overall scheme of things?

Des

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My understanding is that there were significant differences in the interpretation and implementation of 'elastic defence'. Some units laid more emphasis on having men forward. Others seemed to withdraw from the outpost line very quickly. There seems to have been a lack of communication between some units, such that these differences took neighbours by surprise. In the mayhem of the German barrage, with its effects on telephone communications, a lack of understanding of your neighbours did not auger well.

The creation of the elastic defence policy is an interesting study. Samuels devotes a lot of attention to it in his book 'Command or Control?' (ISBN 0 7146 4214 2). During 1917, it became clear that the Germans would mount a major attack on the Western Front once Russian collapsed. By November, Charteris had predicted that 32, possibly 35 (in the event 40) divisions would be transferred from the Eastern Front (just read this today in his book 'At GHQ').

Haig created a committee to review the German counterattack doctrine as a model for the British. It was known as the Jeudwine Committe, named after Major-General Jeudwine, one of the three members. Another member was Colonel JE Edmonds, later to co-ordinate the writing of the British Official History. The committee was supposed to analyse how the Germans might attack. They didn't. The problem was that the German counterattack doctrine was based on the long preparatory phases used by the British before major attacks. Riga, Caporetto and Cambrai should have taught otherwise.

The second mistake made was to use the captured document Allegemeines uber Stellenbau (AuS), which translates 'General Priniciples of the Construction of Field Positions'. Edmonds, an engineer, would have been particularly interested in this document, which was in fact obsolete by the time it was examined by the committee. However, the Germans had a second document Die Fuehrung der Abwehr im Stellungskreig (DFAS), which translates as 'The Principles of Command in the Defensive Battle in Position Warfare'. If anything, this document was the more important, discussing 'such vital factors as the deployment of the garrison, the tactics it was to employ [and] the means by which the battle should be directed.'

The Jeudwine Committee proposed 'a simplified version of the German system... The existing line was to be held as an outpost line. It would be thinly garrisoned and would be abandoned in the face of a heavy attack. Behind this would be a zone 4,000 yards wide over which would be scattered strongpoints and machine-gun posts, which were to be held rigidly when surrounded. The rear of this zone was to be marked by the line of resistance. This line, which was usually to be out of enemy artillery range, was to be held rigidly by the bulk of the garrison. If any part of this line was lost to the enemy, supports and local reserves held under cover to the rear were to recapture it by counterattack.'

The committee missed two key things. Firstly, the concept of invisibility (die Leere des Gefechtfeldes - the empty battlefield). The Germans took great effort to hide strongpoints and other defensive structures, especially on reverse slopes. Secondly, the concept of 'immediate responsiveness' (Schlagfertigkeit - 'quickness of repartee') . Thus, they proposed a structural and not a process-related solution.

Haig's GHQ rejected the recommendations of the Jeudwine Committee. They published a document entitled 'Memorandum on Defensive Measures. This was a six page document, condensing the 23 pages of AuS and DFAS. It listed four main principles of defence:

'First, the defence must be conducted in an active manner, even in the face of superior numbers. Counter-attacks [were] to be prepared in advance. The spontaneity of action and freedom of movement in the German pamphlet were omitted [this also neglects the German concept of Schwerpunkt - application of force at the point of maximum leverage].

The second principle was that of economy of force. The German doctrine regarded economy of force as the achievement of effective defence with the minimum use of manpower and the maximum reliance on firepower and efficient command, tactics and organisation. The British saw economy of force as the result of the construction of strong, well-sited defensive positions, which would require fewer men to hold them.

The third principle was that of organisation in depth [that] omitted the second part of the German paragraph, which emphasised the importance of the system becoming ever stronger as the enemy penetrated deeper into the defences.

The final principle was the importance of maintaining the confidence and fitness of the troops.

The GHQ Memorandum on Defensive Measures gave only the broad outlines of this doctrine of defence that the BEF was to adopt.'

Little wonder that there were variations in the way in which the memorandum was implemented. Not only was the information open to interpretation but there were essential components that were missing.

It is hard to know how significant these differences were on the day. Certainly, the variable degree of elasticity did expose some units to difficult flanking attacks. But there is more to it than this. I think the real comparison is with General Gouraud's handling of the German attack on Reims. He abandoned the frontline, had hidden mg nests in the middle zone, and drew the Germans into an artillery killing zone beyond the reach of their own artillery. Textbook stuff but based on the experiences of the British and the French in the previous German offensives.

Robert

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