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Remembered Today:

The Monash/Currie 1919 Story


Terry
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I have often heard that if the war had lasted into 1919, the prime minister had formulated plans to place the Australian Monash and the Canadian Currie in command the the British forces. Do any of the Pals have any information on this? Is it actual historic fact or just wishful thinking on the part of we "colonials"?

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It's a shame he didn't actually do it a lot earlier on.

How true, the Canadians were well known for innovation in battle tactics. Haig could have learnt a lot from Canadian commanders had he listened and looked!

Cheers,

Michael

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Grandsonmichael

I would be interested to know what these exclusively Canadian battle tactics were. Can you expand your posting to identify them ?

Regards

Jim Gordon

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Hi Jim,

I'm not sure about tactics on the grand scale. From what I have read Canadian troops were quite innovative in trench raiding,etc., early on. As the war progressed, the staff of the Canadian Corps, which by the way included a considerable number of brilliant British officers including Alan Brooke, performed very well. MacNaughton apparently did extremely well in improving artillery tactics in 1917-18.

I suppose any intelligent officer could have looked at the results of 1 July,1916, and somehow managed to find a better way to fight a battle.

No Canadian reached the rank of army commander, but remember Canada's pre-war regular army was tiny. Many of the men who rose to command brigades and divisions were militiamen (I think) and they performed certainly as well and in many cases better than many regular officers.

I'm not really sure what grandsonmichael meant, but these are some of my thoughts.

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Had the War lasted into 1919, perhaps the only Commander with any significant Army to lead would have been Pershing. If they didn't make him boss-cocky, he may have taken his Chauchats and gone home.

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As one of the "Canadian Pals", I will commit to outline some of the background regarding references to Sir General Arthur Currie and the facts and myths regarding his military career.

If there are others with a specific background and knowledge on Currie, I will defer to them.

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Sorry guys, I was sleeping...

I'm not sure about tactics on the grand scale. From what I have read Canadian troops were quite innovative in trench raiding,etc., early on.

This is exactly part of what I mean:

It was Lieutenant-Colonel Farquhar who introduced the concept of using specific soldiers who were skilled at shooting to form special sniper units to counteract the German snipers. He encouraged his men to use their brains and think up ways to counteract the - at the time - (say beginning of 1915) lack of equipment and weapons. Canadian soldiers made grenades well before regular hand grenades were issued. They filled tins -after eating the contents :D- and filled them with nails and explosives.

Also the Canadian Division developed the concept of trench raids to 'break'the stalemate of trench warefare. Not only that, they thought up specific tactics how to actually raid a trench and return with prisoners, info and with as few lossess as possible.

The whole idea was to avoid the large scale attacks which were so horrendous in terms of loss of lives, etc. and instead save lives...

At a later stage they developed the art of mounting attacks on a larger scale, based on their experiences of small scale trench attacks.

What the Canadians lacked in terms of sheer manpower they compensated with innovative and leadership skills. Other examples are the use of trench mortars, hand and rifle grenades on a large scale. Preparation for battles went hand in hand with meticulous preparations and training using maps, reconnaissance photos and full-scale mock-ups of positions on a widespread scale.

According to some historians the Canadians actually learned a lot faster the importance of establishing and maintaining superiority in firepower to counteract the trench defenses of the enemy and in the end destroy these, than the British did.

There's more, but the point I wanted to make is that much of the inspirations for the above mentioned innovations came from Currie himself. He sure had the qualities of a good field commander.

Cheers,

Michael

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I believe this to be a photo of Currie, in Pith Helmet, instructing some other Colonials in the fine art of Jamtin Bomberry. Nice of him to drop off in Gallipoli for their edification.

post-3-1095243486.jpg

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I believe this to be a photo of Currie, in Pith Helmet.

I don't think General Currie was ever outside of France & Flanders. Sorry, mate.

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Currie in Gallipoli masquerading in a British Sergeants tunic?

The Canadian strength was training at all levels from the lowest rifleman to the Generals and Brigadeers. Both Montgomery and Alexander served their apprenticeship on the staff of a colonial division.

Currie and Monash believed in giving the troops under them as much information and time as possible to prepare for an operation be it a raid or an all out attack

Both the Canadians and Australians believed in Firepower over Manpower. Monash even said that his divisions being under strength did not bother him as long as he had plenty of Machine guns. Both the Aussies and Canucks kept the Lewis guns recovered from the battlefield causing other Corp and Army commanders to complain why they could not have the same amount of guns. The Canadians taught the whole Army how to use platoon weapons in concert to destroy enemy strong points

Currie would issue maps down to the lowest level possible and air photos were issued down to platoon level. Both Monash & Currie believed in in allowing Junior ranks to use their initiative something sadly missing from the British Army make up until 1918

There were many British Divisions equally as good as the Colonials. There would have been more if wounded soldiers had have been allowed to go back to their old units instead of being sent to a unit of total strangers (Although the TA units did early on)

Arnie

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Currie in Gallipoli  masquerading in a British Sergeants tunic?

Weren't the Turkish snipers so effective that many officers discarded their rank identification? It looks like a Canadian Serjeant's tunic to me.

I grew up believing that the Ghurkas or the Kiwis were the most feared trench raiders, perfecting the art of peaceful penetration. After reading this topic, it appears the Canadians feel they were the experts. If you went by the name Princess Patricia's, OR wore a skirt to work, you would have to be a good fighter. Perhaps they inspired Johnny Cash to write A Boy Called Sioux.

Edited by bonza
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Let's give him a real face then...

We are veering away from Terry's original question, sorry mate, my fault I suppose....

I have often heard that if the war had lasted into 1919, the prime minister had formulated plans to place the Australian Monash and the Canadian Currie in command the the British forces. Do any of the Pals have any information on this? Is it actual historic fact or just wishful thinking on the part of we "colonials"?

So is there a known answer?

Cheers,

Michael

post-3-1095256562.jpg

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I grew up believing that the Ghurkas or the Kiwis were the most feared trench raiders, perfecting the art of peaceful penetration. After reading this topic, it appears the Canadians feel they were the experts. If you went by the name Princess Patricia's, and wore a skirt to work, you would have to be a good fighter. Perhaps they inspired Johnny Cash to write A Boy Called Sioux.

Let's see Bonza you have produced 2 photos:

1. Shows Australians making grenades from tins during Gallipoli, two months after the Canadians began serving in France (5 months for the Princess Pats).

2. A scale model deing used for the Battle of Messines again 2 months after the Canadians used a similar technique at Vimy.

Also by the way the PPCLI didn't wear kilts, they were not a highland outfit.

But hey why should facts interfere with jingoistic back-patting? ;)

Neil

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Yes, fellows, could anyone answer my original question? I am positive I saw it in several books,etc. I know that in "Marching To Armageddon" there is mention of Lloyd George's plan to place them in command of the British armies in 1919. I can't recall where, but in another source it specified what job each would have - C in C, CGS,whatever.

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Sorry guys, I was sleeping...

I'm not sure about tactics on the grand scale. From what I have read Canadian troops were quite innovative in trench raiding,etc., early on.

This is exactly part of what I mean:

It was Lieutenant-Colonel Farquhar who introduced the concept of using specific soldiers who were skilled at shooting to form special sniper units to counteract the German snipers. He encouraged his men to use their brains and think up ways to counteract the - at the time - (say beginning of 1915) lack of equipment and weapons. Canadian soldiers made grenades well before regular hand grenades were issued. They filled tins -after eating the contents :D- and filled them with nails and explosives.

Believe me in my retrospective view I would have been very happy to see Monash or Currie replace Haig but I thought Hesketh-Prichard devised/pioneered the Sniping and Scouting tactics/schools on the WF and that jam tins were first used by the Allies for bomb making in Gallipoli?

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Signals,

I'm quite happy to continue this subject if someone reopens it as a new thread, but it is not fair towards Terry to continue it here.

He started this thread with a clear question and is still waiting for an answer....

Cheers,

Michael

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I think this question has come up before. I beleive that both mens names were banded around when Haigs position became known to be precarious but i dont think that either was ever considered seriously for CIC. Being of Colonial stature they may not have drawn the respect they should have from the British officers who many were pro Haig.

I also beleive that I heard a speaker say once that the difference of the Canadian army was that they did not work out a plan from an attack, artillery type of thinking, but from an engineering way of thought. Could they get the men and munitions up the line and resupply the men. Could they get the food and reinforcements foward. If this was no then they did not proceed, or atleast until they worked this part out (if that makes sense, i am not explaining it very well)

Whilst i like both Currie and Monash and beleive they were among the best around the Empires commanders, they were IMO only so as they had come from brigade command up and gained the experience. I am unsure if either could have adapted to a more hands off style of command, and all the political pressures that went with it!!!

regards

Arm.

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Terry, I think Dancocks mentioned it in "Legacy of Valour".

I think it should be mentioned Currie, while he had his disagreements with Haig on some issues, essentially agreed with his direction of the war. One aspect which allowed Currie more free rein in his tactics was his direct line to the Canadian government - no doubt Monash could do the same to his advantage.

As for Currie replacing Haig, I doubt he would have wanted that nor do I think Lloyd-George ever had that intention.

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Neil

Neither Australian picture claims to have been taken on the day either procedure was implemented. In fact the quantity of "jam tins" suggest a long standing practice.

However both do provide visual proof of the procedures which pre-dates any comparable evidence of Canadian practice. Perhaps you may rectify that situation?

Re the PP's & kilts, I have amended my and to or. Thank you.

Take care

Terry

I have seen this mentioned in relation to Monash. IMHO a significant problem either of the two Colonials would have faced would be the difficulty in achieving results on a British & Empire scale, similar to their successes at "Colonial" level.

We can only imagine which of the 3 major allies, British French or US would have demanded a Supreme Commander, and who would have provided the actual troops for them to command.

The Australian Historian, Bean, did refer to your question in various writings. It may not be question specific, but his Chapter, Monash Succeeds Birdwood, commencing at Page 184 of Vol VI of his Official History may interest you.

It is available on-line in the Features Section of the AWM website. www.awm.gov.au

Incidently there was a Monash discussion under Battle of Hamel startin back on July 4 2004.

Have fun!

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Thanks fellows; food for thought here. I have also heard that Currie and Monash were on Lloyd George's list because of the efforts of Lord Beaverbrook, a devious crafty little fellow from my home province.

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