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Remembered Today:

The Monash/Currie 1919 Story


Terry
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Terry

Would never have guessed you were a Canadian fellow ;)

You had your Currie & Lord Beaverbrook, We had Monash & Baron ? Murdoch.

We had the ultimate advantage though, it's reported that our PM Billy Hughes and Lloyd George would converse in Welsh, when hatching their most dastardly plots.

Apparently this worked when Hughes set out to obstruct Pres Wilson at Versailles.

Edited by bonza
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Here is the exact quote and citation regarding the orginal question on the possible intended roles of Currie and Monash ...

"Men who had lost friends in hopeless, unsupported attacks were not consoled. If victory was now imminent, it was all the worse to die. Soldiers grumbled that Currie was a glory-seeker, demanding the bloodiest tasks for his corps. Australians in Rawlinson's army made the same bitter charges against Sir John Monash. Currie's anger at the 11th Division on October 1 [1918] was his own version of inter-Allied friction. So were complaints by British generals that dominion troops got too much credit for the progress all along the British front. Beaverbrook, now in charge of Lloyd George's propaganda, took care of his own, and both Currie and Monash needed victorious reputations if Lloyd George was to give them command of the British armies in 1919."

Marching to Armageddon, Desmond Morton and J. L. Granatstein, Lester & Orpen Dennys, p 228

While not fully-read on the actions of Lt-General Currie, here are a series of additional cited quotations which should provide a partial insight into this largely forgotten Canadian general.

"The key step in changing and improving Canadian Corps tactics in the attack came when the GOC, General Byng, let Major-General Arthur Currie join a group of British senior officers who visited the French to study their methods of fighting. Currie was an innovator, one who, for example, interviewed officers and men from the battalions that attacked Regina Trench to find out what had worked and what had not. Currie also wanted - as many officers who disliked the French did not - to consider what might be learned from them.

The French had their problems, but they had their strengths too - particularly an emphasis on reconnaissance. It was a military adage that 'time spent on reconnaissance is never wasted,' and the French practised this strategy, putting every man who was to attack into the line so he could see the ground, the objective, and the likely enemy resistance points. The French also used air photographs extensively, distributing them to the officers of the assaulting units, who then briefed every man. When the attack went in, the objectives were geographical features, such as a hill or a wood, not a map reference or a trench. A German trench was always located to maximize Allied difficulty, not to control the battlefield the next day when the Germans counterattacked. The French also emphasized the training of the assaulting force. Currie believed that they had much to teach the Canadians: the polius rehearsed major attacks on ground similar to that they faced, and they worked hard on platoon and company tactics, fire and movement, and weapons handling. Moreover, they believed attacks were much more likely to succeed if fresh troops were employed.

Above all, the French had come to the realization that the key to success was the infantry platoon. Much better armed than it had been when the war began, the platoon now included machine guns, bombs, and rifle grenades. The French divided platoons into bombers, automatic riflemen, and two sections of riflemen, and they expected their infantry to maneuvre on the battlefield, to deal with problems as they arose, and not (as was the British and Canadian way) always to ask for more artillery support. It was up to the infantry, not the artillery, to be the master of the battlefield. Currie recommended that the Canadian Corps adopt a flexible, maneuvrable platoon organization. At the same time, he wanted to use munitions to save his men, so artillery and its proper employment were critical to the success of attacks.

He urged as well that the Canadians adopt the French method of determining the number of waves in an attack by the requirements of the ground and the defences; the British, in contrast, had used a formulaic and rigid system. He recommended that the French system, which put the priority on forward movement, be adopted. The French infantry used rifle grenades and machine guns to keep the enemy in their trenches, so that the infantry could rush strong points. Men moved forward, expecting follow-on troops to eliminate any pockets of resistance. The attackers, Currie suggested, had to consolidate the captured position; in any case, if the attack was to move on, fresh units had to form up in the captured positions and jump off from there.

Byng agreed, as did the majority of the British commanders. So did Byng's staff planners, most of them still Britons, but many by now Canadians. 28 Together they rapidly began to change the Canadian Corps into a new model army, one that was consistently ahead of all but the very best British divisions in innovative tactics. In the battle for Vimy Ridge, the corps' next major struggle Currie's ideas played the decisive role."

Canada's Army, Waging War and Keeping the Peace, J. L. Granastein, Univ of Toronto Press, pp 110-111

"Ordered to take Lens in August [1917], Sir Arthur Currie annoyed his British superiors by insisting on his own better plan. By capturing Hill 70, which dominated the battered mining town, he would force the enemy to try to take it back, making it a killing-ground for the German counter-attack divisions. With enough artillery in support and with machine-guns dug in on the forward slope, he could make the Germans pay a heavy price for the hill. Painstaking preparation for the attack included 400,000 shells; smoke screens; rolling, jumping, and box barrages; and the first significant use of wireless to help heavy guns register on targets visible from Vimy Ridge. Five German divisions successively tried to knock the Canadians off the hill, at a cost at least double the Canadian losses. When Canadians tried their own attack on Lens, they, too, were mauled, and the luckless 44th Battalion again lost almost half its men at the Green Crassier. No soldiers ever fought the Germans with impunity.

Currie was right about another battle too. He predicted that getting involved at Passchendaele, Haig's disastrous Flanders offensive, would cost Canada 16,000 men, and he did not want to go. Haig insisted: Currie, he promised, would learn why after the war."

When Your Number's Up, Desmond Morton, Random House of Canada, p 170

"There is ample evidence of Currie's skilled and forceful generalship and the efflciency of his well organized staff in the smoothness and despatch with which the preparations for the Canadian assault were carried to completion. A good start on the necessary liaison and reconnaissance had been made by Canadian representatives at Australian corps and divisional headquarters and by advance parties from Canadian brigade and battalion headquarters. As early as the 17th the assaulting units had all available details of the German defences. As intelligence officers and infantry and artillery observers working in joint observation posts recorded new enemy work, or work that had previously escaped notice, the gunners carried out the required destructive shoots. ". . . I am convinced that this reconnaissance and close liaison between the artillery, the infantry units, and the staff", General Currie stressed in his report on the action, 'is vital to the success of any operation.'

As the method of employing artillery underwent continual development, the principle of massive, closely coordinated support for the infantry was the constant goal of General Currie, who, in the words of a subsequent commander of the Canadian Corps Heavy Artillery, "consistently sought to pay the price of victory in shells and not in the lives of men".

"I am of the opinion", Currie was to write later, "that much of the success of the Canadian Corps in the final 100 days was due to the fact that they had sufficient engineers to do the engineering work and that in those closing battles we did not employ the infantry in that kind of work. We trained the infantry for fighting and used them only for fighting."

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Phew, what more can I say after Borden Battery spoke/quoted?

He did warn us he was willing to jump into this discussion... :D

Just a few remarks:

This is actually a lesson in how to discuss an issue, mention the books and authors where we gained our knowledge, so everyone can read them and agree or disagree. Which of course means I should have done the same.

My statements were almost exclusively based on David J. Bercuson: The Patricias, the proud history of a fighting regiment, Stoddart Publishing Co. Limited, 2001 chapters 2, 3 and 4.

Lesson learnt.

Cheers,

Michael

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You notice how Dwight (Borden Battery) behaved just like a Great War Canadian: not jumping right in to take foolish losses, but instead taking his time, carefully researching and planning, then steamrolling ahead with all his resources and supply lines operating at peak performance.

Thanks, buddy.

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then steamrolling ahead with all his resources and supply lines operating at peak performance.

I love it...which reminds me:

Same source as I mentioned before has some revealing information regarding resources.

By the end of the war the soldiers of the Canadian Corps.....would be equipped with one automatic weapon for every thirtheen men - as opposed to one for every sixty-one men in a British corps.
page 74.

Canadian commanders.......equipped themselves with three times the number of Lewis light machine guns than did comparably sized British formations.
pages 85 & 86.

Signals wrote:

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?

I take it you are referring to the book he wrote in 1920: Sniping in France 1914-1918? You should know than that the First Army School of Scouting, Observation and Sniping wasn't established untill 1916. Long after the Canadians started experimenting with sniper units.

Cheers,

Michael

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Signals wrote:
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?

I take it you are referring to the book he wrote in 1920: Sniping in France 1914-1918? You should know than that the First Army School of Scouting, Observation and Sniping wasn't established untill 1916. Long after the Canadians started experimenting with sniper units.

Once more into the breach....Gallipoli Friends.

Please note both the periscope, and the improvised periscope rifle.

post-3-1095386252.jpg

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Someone may be interested in a field kitchen, replicas of which have recently been commissioned from Mr Bernie Dingle, Master Coachbuilder of Nar Nar Goon in Victoria.

Just to forestall an anticipated claim from the Canadian Camp, I attempted to append a picture of a pre WW1 Wheel, but the technical problems were beyond me.

post-3-1095386841.jpg

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Well, guys, this seems to be degenerating into a "mine is bigger than yours" contest, which is not what I was looking for. Ah, national pride!

I had always heard that Monash and Currie were outstanding leaders of what were to start with colonial armies, but became national ones. I just wondered if Lloyd George seriously considered them or if their "colonial" and non-regular, and in one case even religious status would have in reality prevented their climb to the top.

I am not sure about the ANZAC situation, but from what I have read, the Canadian Corps was blessed in the early stages, and in many cases throughout the war with having some absolutely top-notch British officers, both in staff and command positions. Much of the success of the corps can be attributed to these men.

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Totally off topic but just out of curiosity how many times will the moderators allow the same troll to register under alternate ID's and propose the same lame 'my country did everything' arguments?

My apologies for not responding Paddy..um er..Dinkidi er Lucy..oh yeah ponza!

Neil

post-3-1095507550.jpg

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Signals wrote:
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?

I take it you are referring to the book he wrote in 1920: Sniping in France 1914-1918? You should know than that the First Army School of Scouting, Observation and Sniping wasn't established untill 1916. Long after the Canadians started experimenting with sniper units.

No I wasnt referring specifically to his book but that as far as I am aware he was amongst the pioneers of the scouting and sniping tactics on the Western Front in early 1915. I believe this later led to the Schools to which you refer, and for which Hesketh-Prichard must take a large part of the credit, hence my original reference.

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I concur with Terry's observation regarding the excellent staff work provided by a large number of British officers working for the Canadian Corps. Without this critical support and the very special qualities of General Byng, the Canadian Corps under Currie would have been far less effective.

In war, it is logistics and planning – not the over emphasise on battle plans and tactics – that are the foundations of military success. Good engineering and planning are, in general, transparent to any operation or project and are usually only recognized when something goes wrong.

Very little went wrong in the Canadian Corps’ string of victories from Vimy Ridge in April 1917 to the Last Hundred Days and the retaking of Mons in November 1918 – therefore the good staff work was transparent to the process and is thus is not fully recognized for what it achieved.

These staff positions take years to development. One must remember pre-war Canada only maintained a permanent force of some 3,000 before expanding to over 500,000 men during the Great War. The Canadian Corps would not have been in any position to generate more than a fraction of those required. In addition, the size of the four Canadian divisions in the Corps were substantially larger than a British division [in essense a near Army in capacity] – this would have placed an extra strain on staff resources.

However, as the original discussion thread dealt with the best LEADER of men, I would still strongly recommend Lt-Gen Currie – the intelligent and successful protégé of Byng – one of “Byng’s Boys.” He was the leader who established his mark for detailed planning, innovation and an aggressive and winning attitude. Much of the execution of the staff work, however, was undertaken by the British officers working with the wild men of Canada.

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I would strongly agree with Terry, the originator of this thread, in stating that the question he asked has not been answered and this after 35 subsequent postings (including one of my own). The xenophobic undertone to some of the responses has been particulary unfortunate.

Come on, has anyone a knowledge of documentary evidence, or can anyone point the researcher to a primary source where he can view it, of Lloyd George's intention to replace Haig with either Monash or Currie if the War had continued into 1919 ?

In hope

Jim Gordon

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Quoted from Lloyd-Georges memories.

page 2016.

"Unfortunately the British Army did not bring into prominence any commander who, taking him all round, was more conspiciously fitted for this post. No doubt Monash would have, if the oppotunity had been given him, have risen to the height of it. But the greatness of his abilities was not brought to the attention of the cabinet in any of the dispatches."

pages 2041-2042

"but intellect is out of place and strength does not count. In the grand army that fought the world war the abelest brains did not climb to the top of the stairs and they did not reach a height where politicains could even see them. Seniority and society were the dominent factores in army promotion. Deportment counted a good deal. Brains came a bad fourth, men of great intillectual powers are not tempted to join a profession which offers so little scope for the exercise of their powers and where the awards have no particular reference to special capacity. To be a good average is safer than to be gifted above your fellows. The only exceptions were to be found in the dominion forces. General Currie the commander of the Canadian army, and General Monash, the commander of the Australian army, were both in civil life when war broke out. Both proved them selves to be brilliant military leaders and went right through to the top. It means they had a natural apptitude for soldiering and that the fact of their being officers in unprofessional armies gave full play to their gifts. Monash was, according to the testominy of those that knew well his genius for war and what he accomplished by it, the most resourceful General in the whole of the British army. But the tradition of the dominions in the occupations of peace and war is encouraging to fresh talent. For this and other reasons the British government experienced a difficulty in securing for the supreme command the services of the ablest man which thier great armies could have provided. There was no conspicious officer in the army who seemed to be better qualified for the highest command than Haig.That is to say, there was no outstanding General fit for so overwhelming a position as the command of a force five times as great as the largest army ever commanded by Napoleon, and many more times the size of an army led by Alexander,Hannibal or Caeser."

If you take this as read then i would say the answer to the question has to be a resounding NO. But i think that if LG was not aware of the skill of these men then he was also in the wrong job. I can not beleive thet these men got no mention in dispatches etc. or did not come to the front. i have got Haigs dispatches somewhere and will look up the info later it has just took me ages to type all this!!!!

regards

Arm.

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Arm,

Very interesting stuff! I've never looked at LG's writings, but it does at least show his feelings towards Monash and Currie.

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I left out the ranting and raving about the Britsh generals!!!!!! ;)

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Arm

Thank you for your very interesting reply. I have not studied Lloyd George's writings in depth but maybe should do ! However, at Page Nos greater than 2000 it would appear to be a daunting task.

Regards

Jim Gordon

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Jim,

I only got it as a reference works, i dont have the time to read it. :lol:

Arm.

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Hello Arm ....

Very well done ... and thank you for the time, effort, referencing and of course the typing. I had found part of this reference in another source ... but not the complete reference ... as you have provided. Again, thanks for the closure.

Regards

Dwight Mercer, Regina, Canada

PS With regards to typing, I have a flat-bed scanner and some OCR software that does a full page in about 60 seconds complete - results go into MS-Word and exportable into most any other format..

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Kneel

There was a clue to my modus operandi in the Pith Helmet picture of my first posting, Theems it just went over some peoples heads.

Take care

Recognised Columbo, mate, but can't read the writing. Am I missing anything?

post-3-1095514975.jpg

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Hi bonza,

If it will help, I have gathered that Monash would probably have got the nod ahead of Currie for the top job!

Best wishes from Canada,

Terry

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G'day Terry

Thanks for the thought.

Perhaps the best thing about the whole question is the fact that it was not resolved. I cannot speak authoritively, but the AIF may not have been able to exist much longer; the well was really running dry.

Just as an aside. Melbourne's Second University is named after Monash, perhaps as much in recognition of his Civil and other Engineering achievements as for his WW1 results. A recent survey of current students disclosed that very very few knew why it was named, ie who or what Monash was. The most popular answer was 'Cause you get here along the Monash Freeway'

ooRoo from Downunda

Pat

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Hi Pat,

It appears that Monash got some form of recognition. I stand to be corrected, but I can't think of any memorial, building, bridge, park, whatever named in honour of Currie here in Canada. Lots of things named after political hacks, but nothing after war heroes.

Please, fellow Canadian Pals, tell me I'm wrong!

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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.

Cheers,

Michael

Michael

I don't want to be pedantic, but wasn't it the Indian Brigade who were the first to start raiding on the Western Front, a type of warfare at which they proved to be particularly adept? I know that the Canadians used raiding to a great extent, particularly prior to the attack on Vimy Ridge, and I believe they lost a cumulative total of more men during these raids than they suffered during the actual attack.

So far as the concept of raiding was concerned surely this goes back to well before the Great War?

In "Goodbye to all That" Robert Graves says that no other word could conjure up such a sinking feeling of dread in one's stomach than "raid"

Sorry I am going off topic.

Tim

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Terry, McGill University named their Gymnasium after him. So I guess if you ask most McGill students who Currie was, they'd probably think he was a former athelete.

Here's some links, here , here and one last one here.

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Here is an excerpt from a paper presented by Tim Cook [author of No Place to Run - The Canadian Corps and Gas Warfare in the First World War].

"Following the fierce fighting on the Somme the 4th Division joined the Canadian Corps on a quieter front. Not content to sit back, the Canadians actively raided the German lines, causing casualties and eroding the German morale. Taking pride in winning control of no-man's-land, the Canadians began to not only compete among themselves but with other units for the biggest bag of prisoners or the most destruction wrought. The policy of raiding began to spiral out of control and the 4th Division was not immune to the informal rivalry. In fact to distinguish itself, the 4th Division planned the largest Canadian raid of the war, a 1,600-man attack behind a poison gas cloud against the heights of Vimy Ridge. Actually, it was to be more of a clean up and reconnaissance, for the raiders were told that the gas would wipe out the enemy and their role would centre on destroying a few dugouts and gathering information from the dead. The result was very different and the subsequent butchery nearly crippled the 4th Division as an effective fighting formation before its major assault on Vimy Ridge. "

Source: "A Proper Slaughter" The March 1917 Gas Raid at Vimy Ridge

Tim Cook [From Canadian Military History, Spring 1999, pp.7-23.]

PS To stay within the thread of this topic, a Google search of "General Arthur Currie" will present a small list of schools and a couple of libraries. Of course, most Canadian war heros usually end life in obscurity.

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