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Remembered Today:

The Donkeys


andigger

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Pals... I am rereading this book, and probably know a few more things this time around than last, but that could only mean that my questions are less stupid. :o

Anyway I am reading about the battle of Neuve Chappelle and Alan Clark tells a story of the British Army moving forward in measured steps with modest territorial goal... a few thousand yards ahead in one instance. This sounds contrary to the stories from the some when the first day objective were miles ahead of reality.

What do you think happened? Although the measured movements in this battle had a negative effects of missing the exploitation of the break in the German line, and there was territory that was extensively shelled because it was thought to be occupied but wasn't (Bois de Biez). It seems like these mistakes could have lead to lessons learned that could have saved so many lives over the next 3+ years.

Andy

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armourersergeant

I have always been of the opinion that this battle whilst small by those that followed had all the elements for the Genenrals to learn much from. yet they still by mistake, chance and constraints of artillery expertise did not impliment many these lessons well enough, soon enough. Such is war!!

Not read the book myself so can not pass comment on it.

regards

arm.

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I should have added this quote last night, but in the conclusion to th eNueve Chappell chapter Clark argues that after the battle the French had a higher level of respect for the British high command because it demonstrated they were willing to spend lives for the sake of attacking the Germans, and gaining territory was not necessarily required for the cost.

Thoughts???

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Guest woodyudet

Clark is a modest historian - this particular book is poor in my opinion. Barbarossa is ok as an entry point, but nothing more.

If you're going to read any Alan Clark, read his diaries!

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Andrew Hesketh

Neuve Chapelle did not have the same grandiose objectives as the Somme - it was more of an early version of 'bite and hold', so the modest goals to which you refer are understandable.

However, as woodyudet, has said, I would not read Clark without being wary as he was not a terribly good historian. I heard Richard Holmes speak recently and he was (politely) dismissive of Clark.

For a different slant I would recommend 'Command on the Western Front' by Prior and Wilson. Like Clark they do not rave about the quality of generalship but their reasoning is more convincing. The book also includes a reasoned argument as to why the possibility of exploitation of the initial success at Neuve Chapelle was actually illusory.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've completed the book now, and there was another passage that caught my eye. During the battle of Mauser Ridge (23 Apr) the 1st Manchesters, 'some' Pathans, Sikhs, and Connaught Rangers made it to the German wire, when in the decisive move the Germans released gas.

This is the first time I have heard of gas being used in a defensive move. Was this more common, or could this have been a desperate least step by the Germans.

Andy

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This is the first time I have heard of gas being used in a defensive move. Was this more common

Andy

Are you asking whether releasing gas in a defensive move was more common than using it offensively, then the answer is no. This is very uncommon. Largely because the process of installing gas cylinders for cloud gas attacks was a very labour intensive process. So unless the Germans had foreknowledge of the British attack well in advance, it would suggest they may have been planning an attack in the same sector - very unusual.

Thanks for the info.

Robert

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Clark is a modest historian - this particular book is poor in my opinion. Barbarossa is ok as an entry point, but nothing more.

If you're going to read any Alan Clark, read his diaries!

One of the first WW1 books I read was Alan Clark's "Aces High" which a history of the war in the air during the Great War.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, but don't know how it rates as an historical work?

Tim

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Charteris, who was Haig's Chief of Intelligence at Neuve Chapelle, wrote the following about that battle:

'We have not captured the position on [Aubers] ridge which was our objective. At one time of the first day we had taken the German trench line, with very slight loss. There was a gap. We had found precisely the strength we had anticipated in front of us. We knew the German reinforcements could not reach them for at least 12 hours. DH [Haig] ordered the 4th Corps to push troops through the gap. The cavalry was all ready to go through after them.

Then for some reason not yet explained, the whole machine clogged and stopped. It was maddening. When the attack did get going again the next day, the Germans had reinforced their line, and no progress was made. The German reinforcements came up and counter-attacked, and the battle petered out.

DH was determined to find out the cause of the delay and went to-day to both Corps and Divisional HQ to investigate the matter personally. The breakdown was undoubtedly at a Corps HQ where DH's orders, and were not transmitted to the division concerned for some hours. One thing has resulted; DH in all future battles will have his battle HQ still farther up, so that he will be in closer touch with his Corps and Divisional HQ.

The plans for the battle were all worked out on maps, brought up to date from air photographs for the first time in the war.'

Robert

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