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

Remembered Today:

BEF 1914: Attrition of Officers' Experience


Guest
 Share

Recommended Posts

While doing some research on the 2nd Bn Royal Irish Regiment in 1914, I noticed that every officer that landed with the battalion had ended up becoming a casualty in 1914. A quarter of a millenium's worth of Officers' experience had been eroded.

Even by the standards of 1914 it seems quite extreme. The longest any of them managed to remain in the battalion before becoming a casualty was 68 days. On average (if that has any meaning) these Officers lasted 27 days, or less than 4 weeks. Of the 26 originals, ten would die, six were wounded and evacuated, eight became POWs and two were invalided to the UK (presumably sick). Added to this the MO became a casualty as did a brother officer who was in the Brigade Staff. 28 if these two are included.

The 2/RIR had a particularly unfortunate time at Mons on 23rd Aug 1914 and later at Le Pilly in late Oct 1914. At the latter engagement the battalion had started with 20 Officers and 884 Other ranks on 19th Oct 1914 and within 2 days had been reduced to one Officer and 135 men according to their published history. It was commanded by the Transport Officer Lt E D G M Phiillips. Three days later after a new draft of 100 men was added to the ranks, the battalion could only muster about 200 men, suggesting some of the 135 survivors later succumbed to the trials of Le Pilly. After this date the battalion was taken out of the front line for four months to rebuild and re-fit.

The Officer casualties in this single battalion effectively destroyed 250 years' worth of (Officer) military experience within 10 weeks. Over half had gone within just two weeks. Some stats on the average length of experience measured from first commissioning date:

Lt Col and 2 Majors - average 25 years each

Captains (7)* - average 15 years each

Subalterns (16) - average 4 years each

Nineteen Officers were sent to the battalion between first disembarkation and the battalion being taken out of the line. It is impossible to estimate or compare the experience of the replacement Officers as most were Special Reservists or newly commissioned subalterns. It becomes a rather futile calculation when we discover that all except one also became a casualty. Furthermore, of this cohort's casualties all except one did not get beyond 27th Oct 1914.

44 of the first 45 regimental Officers became casualties (98%)

Only two survived beyond the 27th Oct 1914 and one of these was invalided in Feb 1915.

Only one wounded Officer (a Lt) returned to duty and was serving with the battalion in mid Dec 1914.

I suspect the experience of the 2/ RIR was not 'typical' but it does illustrate just how much training and experience could be eradicated in a very short time. MG

* The QM's Officer service only has been included. One might reasonably add 20 more years for this individual.

2nd Bn Royal Irish Regiment - Original Officers landing on 13th Aug 1914 (Source: 1914 Star medal roll)

post-55873-0-33665800-1423148361_thumb.j

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So Guildenstern and Rosencrantz go to't...

It's shocking to contemplate, Martin.

It's tempting to conclude that this was a uniquely British phenomenon, reflecting the ordeal of a small band of professionals deployed against mass continental armies, with the deadliness of the experience amplified for officers. In such a band of brothers, mightn't we expect that the rate of loss would be unrivalled ?

To counter that, I would cite the caption to a photograph in Jack Sheldon's The German Army at Ypres, 1914.

Here we have a picture of twelve officers from Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment 16, taken " pre-deployment".

At the end of the battle for Geluveld, eight of the twelve had been killed, two were evacuated wounded and two survived unscathed, one of whom was the Regimental Medical Officer.

Phil (PJA)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Martin

Another battalion who lost many officers during 1914 was 1st Queen’s as you will see from the notes attached to the following photograph http://www.queensroyalsurreys.org.uk/new_museum/20th_century_room/case4/officers_mess/officers_mess_1914.shtml. Volume six of the standard regimental history, John Davis’s, History of The Second Queen's Royal Regiment, (London, 1906), contains details of officers’ services from 1661 to 1904.

The Surrey History Centre holds nominal rolls for officers of both the Queen’s and the East Surrey regiments during WW1, which were deposited there by the National Archives. As part of a much larger project I have transcribed the one for 1st ESR and put it on the back burner as I am concentrating on the other ranks of the unit throughout the war. I will try and remember where I’ve put it.

Bootneck

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, Martin.Sobering reading, did any other battalions have similar stats?

Murrough

I have not properly analysed the data, but I do have a database with most of the BEF Battalion Officers for 1914 and early 1915. As a rough estimate I think it would be right at the extreme end (could it be more extreme?) but I think there will be a few battalions that lost more than 90% of their original Officers in 1914. My interest is the lost experience. When men die or become permanent casualties, their experience goes with them. Some severely wounded might be able to pass on some experience from behind a desk, but experience in military affairs is needed in the front line where it matters most. Replacing an Officer with 25 years of experience is a difficult thing to do. While the learning curve was undoubtedly steep during the war and men arguably learned more in one year of warfare that years of policing an empire, it is difficult to comprehend just how challenging it was to replace the lost skill, training and experience.

Experience not only accumulates, it compounds. The extent to which this compounds is subjective and will vary depending on the individual.

Comparing the 2nd Bn Royal Irish Regt's fate to other battalions is a very tricky piece of analysis. Despite what we might believe, the diaries did not record every arrival departure and casualty among the officers and some of the histories make mistakes, having been written years after the events. The 2nd Bn Royal Irish Regt omit Lt Tandy in their list of officers who disembarked, as does the history (based on the diaries of course). He only appears later in a separate narrative and only today have I managed to pin him down to A Company - mentioned in passing in their Mons narrative. His MIC confirms him as a 13th Aug arrival in theatre, but unless one had prior knowledge of his existence it is difficult to imagine how one would count him. Tricky.

As an aside - I am plodding through some narratives of battalions that saw extreme losses in 1914. In the case of the 2nd Bn Royal Irish Regt, they had a truly dreadful 1914 and were tested severely at Mons, Audencourt, suffered again at Orly and the Aisne and faced their ultimate destruction at Le Pilly. The war diary is exceptional. Each episode has long narratives written by the few survivors. The Mons narrative is 4,000 words alone - possibly one of the most interesting I have read. It includes some beautiful sketch maps which are also replicated in the published history. I have just finished transcribing it - a process that helps embed these narratives in the mind. One gets a feel, however remote, of how experienced Officers handled their battalions in the most trying of circumstances. The Battalion had twelve Officer casualties that day.

The account was written by the redoubtable Maj S E St Leger. He seems to me to be one of the many unsung heroes - a word I use very sparingly - of the BEF. Rather like Maj Paul Charrier of the 2nd Bn Royal Munster Fusiliers, a man who held his regiment together when lesser men might have buckled. Both became casualties unflinchingly doing their duty and with them a tremendous amount of experience and judgement was lost forever. MG

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Martin

Very interesting. I think, however, that other battalions came close to this. The 2nd Wiltshires were down to just one 2Lt and the QM at the end of October 1914, and most of 1st Gordons were forced to surrender at Le Cateau. What strikes me, though, is the speed with which these battalions were reconstituted.

As for experience itself, obviously that of soldiering in general does count for much, but from October 1914 a new form of warfare was being waged, which meant people learning as they went along. Previous experience could in some ways be a hindrance to this.

Charles M

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Martin

Very interesting. I think, however, that other battalions came close to this. The 2nd Wiltshires were down to just one 2Lt and the QM at the end of October 1914, and most of 1st Gordons were forced to surrender at Le Cateau. What strikes me, though, is the speed with which these battalions were reconstituted.

As for experience itself, obviously that of soldiering in general does count for much, but from October 1914 a new form of warfare was being waged, which meant people learning as they went along. Previous experience could in some ways be a hindrance to this.

Charles M

Charles - I am sure there were a number of battalions that had similar experiences. I ran a separate thread on battalion disasters - there were at least a dozen battalions reduced to one Officer by various means during 1914.

Ref 'previous experience'. I take the point that previous experience might not have counted for much in some ways. However, I was thinking along more basic lines, aside from the tactical experience of modern warfare that was unfolding in 1914. 'Experience' has many dimensions. I imagine the most basic - and arguably the most valuable - was simply the day-to-day organisation of a battalion and its 'interior economy'. The oiling of the cogs that make the machinery of a unit work. It is difficult to define. Theoretically simple procedures such 'battle preparation' (to use a modern term) called for detailed organisation. Procedures in seemingly straightforward operations such as taking over a trench appear to have been quite tricky in reality. It is this low level of experience which I imagine was of great value.

Subalterns straight out of OTC would have been at a disadvantage and in battalions where the NCO ranks had also been devastated, there was no depth of experience either. The diaries often label their officers as SR or make comment on the proportion that were SR presumably as some rough measure of their relative value compared to Regulars. Among the ORs some battalions were over 90% Special Reservists by Dec 1914 meaning the Regular ORs and Army Reservist ORs had been depleted as well, leaving young officers with fewer experienced NCOs to turn to. MG

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How far was this destruction of a professional cadre a uniquely British phenomenon, reflecting the deployment of an army that was too small to absorb the shock of 1914 ; and how far was it a reflection of fighting that was so intense that it unleashed the same kind of havoc - even in proportionate terms -on all the major armies ?

Phil (PJA)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This brings to mind a comment from 1/KRRC where a regular officer wounded in September returned late in 1914 to rejoin a Bn which had been largely destroyed and rebuilt [1037 casualties by 18th November.. including 38 officers] - on his death in Jan 1915 his c/o remarked 'he has done wonders in making the Company out of new and nearly raw material' .. the value of many years experience and confidence to *command* should perhaps not be underestimated, although as noted by others everyone was acquiring new skills required for static warfare

Billy Congreve on 3rd Division staff cites captured German letter written 14th September at Rheims.. 'my regiment started with 60 officers has now only 5. more than 2000 men are hors de combat... it was the same with the Saxons fighting at our side' [Armageddon Road p.35)

another from 74th Regiment, Xth Corps.. 'our colonel was badly wounded. he is the third we have had ..',,,, 'our first battalion.. is reduced from 1,200 men to 194..'

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am currently reading Gary Sheffield’s Leadership in the Trenches: Officer-Man Relations, Morale and Discipline in the British Army in the era of the First World War (London, 2000) and on page 33 he states that by the end of 1914 there had been a total of 4270 officer casualties of which 1278 were deaths from all causes. He takes these figures from page 253 of OSMEBEGW and also says that by the middle of September 1914 593 officers had been sent to the BEF as battle-casualty replacements. Earlier he quotes an approximate figure of 28060 for the total number of officers on 4 August 1914 taken from page 234 of OSMEBEGW.

My maths is rather rusty but I make it that approximate total officer casualties for 1914 is 15.22% of total officers at the start of the war and total deaths is 4.55% or 29.93% of the total officer casualties for 1914. Sorry if this takes this thread away from the loss of experience.

Bootneck

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bootneck,

The figures you cite make a very different impression from those that Martin has provided us with.

Isn't the crucial thing here the destruction of the officers who actually disembarked in August 1914 ?

I don't know how many officers disembarked in mid August 1914, but I would bet that there were no more than four thousand ; their casualty rate was catastrophic.

The 1,278 officer deaths that Gary Sheffield alluded to need to be adjusted to allow for an additional 253 who were posted as missing and were not prisoners : these were also fatalities - and their addition actually increases the number of officer deaths by one fifth.

Phil (PJA)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bootneck,

The figures you cite make a very different impression from those that Martin has provided us with.

Isn't the crucial thing here the destruction of the officers who actually disembarked in August 1914 ?

I don't know how many officers disembarked in mid August 1914, but I would bet that there were no more than four thousand ; their casualty rate was catastrophic.

The 1,278 officer deaths that Gary Sheffield alluded to need to be adjusted to allow for an additional 253 who were posted as missing and were not prisoners : these were also fatalities - and their addition actually increases the number of officer deaths by one fifth.

Phil (PJA)

Phil - There are two factors at play -

1. The concentration of Officer casualties and fatal casualties in the Infantry

2. The concentration of Officer casualties and fatal casualties among the Aug 1914 cohorts.

The aggregate data in SMEBE does not tell us the distribution or concentration. The logistic tail for the BEF was large and there were a reasonable number in the rear with the gear who had less chance of becoming a casualty. The sharp end was very sharp, particularly for Battalion Officers even up to CO level.

I am slowly collating the data for original COs and so far where the data was recorded* nearly 50% were battle casualties in 1914. The analysis is not complete but I will post it quite soon. My aim is to build a database of all battalion Officers of 1914 and analyse the data. I think Majors probably had the highest attrition, something I did not expect but on reflection it makes sense. The burden of command and setting an example. If its difficult to find an Infantry Major who landed in Aug 1914 who didn't become a casualty. MG

*

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Martin,

The numbers are small enough to allow for pretty comprehensive investigation ; at least, for those with the inclination.

The infantry casualties in 1914 surely accounted for 85% of the total for all arms ( I don't know that...but I would bet on it as a minimum).

Combat fatalites among officers in 1914 were fifteen hundred, allowing for those 253 missing that people seem to keep ignoring when they allude to deaths from all causes.

There you have it...about 1,275 infantry officers' fatalities in 1914.

Gleichen's brigade of counted 127 officers and 3,958 men ; if that's a reasonable benchmark for extrapolation, we could reckon that the 76,000 infantry who disembarked in August included not much more than three thousand officers.

Their names and fates are accessible for research.

Hark at me, a lazy commentator ...

Editng : the sample you select at the start of the thread suggests an even more catastrophic experience than the norm for the 1914 infantry officer, with about forty per cent of those who landed in August being dead within ten weeks....my suggestions of c.1,275 fatalities need to be applied to the entire contingent of officers, including all the replacements who arrived after the initial cohorts had been ruined. If that fatality rate applied to all the three thousand or so officers who disembarked in August, then there would not be enough deaths left to attribute to their replacements.

The notorious and discredited " Six Weeks" of life expectancy for the subaltern does not seem quite so far fetched, now, when we think of the experience between Mons and Ypres.

Phil (PJA)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1st Bn Scots Guards landed on 13th Aug 1914 with 26 Officers and the 2nd Bn Scots Guards landed on 7th Oct 1914 with 31 Officers. On the 20th April 1915 the 1st and 2nd Battalions met for the first time ever on active service. The history records "of the officers who had originally gone abroad only two in the 2nd Bn (Capt Warner and Lt & QM Ross) and one in the 1st Bn (Lt & QM Kinlay) had been continuously with their unit and were present that day"

The 1st Bn Scots Guards 1914 Star medal roll has 46 names on it. Of these, 37 (80%) became battle casualties; 31 (67%) in 1914. Of the original 26 Officers who disembarked on 13th Aug 1914, all except one became battle casualties (96%) and 23 (88%) became battle casualties within five months of landing. Only a very small number of the wounded returned. Fatalities among the original 26 number 12 (46%).

The 2nd Bn Scots Guards 'originals' did not fare much better; 23 of the original 30 became battle casualties by the end of 1914, barely three months after landing (77%).

MG

1st Bn Scots Guards: Original Group of Officers that Disembarked on 13th Aug 1914

post-55873-0-43793500-1423402618_thumb.j

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How do you intend to put this research to best use, Martin ?

The revelations are stark.

Is it your intention to demonstrate how far predictions for the rate of wastage were woefully short of the mark ? I know that you have alluded to this already.

The implications are weighty. If the BEF, which we have been encouraged to regard as a highly professional and effective instrument, was so mistaken in its assessment of the likely impact of war on its establishment, then, we might ask ourselves, what other momentous errors were extant in its calculations ?

If the British army had failed to predict accurately, what of the others ?

Were the French and German armies exposed to the same dire results of under estimating the attrition that was to afflict them, or were they more realistic in their calculations ?

Phil (PJA)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Predicting wastage, as opposed to actual wastage, is a new subject and a can of worms.

For example,

1. was a prediction made for the Peninsula Campaigns, or for the Crimea? Or indeed the S African War 1899-1902? I think not.

2. If so, were they accurate?

3. Was a prediction made for WW II?

4. If so, was it accurate?

5. I imagine a realistic prediction for WW III would have been approximately 100% within a week.

An extremely difficult area for debate, and one that this fool will not enter.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1st Black Watch Officers from the 1914 Star roll.

It includes an Argyll and two R.A.M.C, men, 27 of the 69 died.

BW1_zpsf3346dc0.jpg

BW2_zps4fa3b0c9.jpg

BW3_zpsf41b8149.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How do you intend to put this research to best use, Martin ? The short version: No-one knows how many of the BEF who landed in August became casualties. I want to know because some preliminry reserach indicated the BEF of Aug 1914 was likely to be the most unfortunate cohort of the whole of the British Army in the whole war. I don't believe this is remotely understood. 60% were civilians (albeit Reservists) only weeks earlier which makes it even more interesting.

The long version: Personal interest driven by reading dozens of old regimental and campaign history books that make sweeping statements that did not seem to be possible. On closer inspection many claims were not supported in fact. This I find obsessively interesting. Why would authors of history simply make things up rather than acknowledge they didn't have the info? I suspect most modern military historians have to first dismantle the earlier histories and try and work out which parts were accurate. Having transcribed the BEF diaries for 1914 and digitised the regimental histories, these two databases become searchable documents. Importantly they are linked. The third step is to link individual names and dates from the 1914 Star and 1914-15 Star medal rolls to names and date and events in the diaries and the published histories. It is a bit of a revelation (see above). The ability to manage this mass of information on a single platform is extremely powerful. For example, when tabloid authors such as John Buchan says that the RSF ceased to exist, I know and can prove he was writing utter nonsense. His history of the RSF is woeful, but it is still the standard reference material. I find this rather annoying, particularly as one grandfather served in the RSF, so there is deep personal interest in this particular case. Much of the early regimental history was vulnerable to distortion and did not benefit from academic rigour. While many of the narratives are interesting, they often veer away from the know facts or are sometimes at odds with other accounts. Technology (Digitisation and assimilation of data) is enabling us to make comparisons and explore the inconsistencies. My biggest interest is to not only understand what happened, but to also understand how history was distorted. If, for example one has access to a searchable database of every diary and every published history, spliced with a database of, say, every Officer who served in 1914 (1914 Star) and 1915 (1914-15 Star) it becomes powerful. If tthe medal rolls are populated with additional information from the diaries and the histories, at the touch of a button one will be able know a lot more about the fates of these men and more importantly have confidence it is precise. We no longer have to rely on the sweeping statements of early authors.

The revelations are stark. I agree. Particular;y for 1914 which I think is still not properly understood. I am confident that the cohorts of Aug 1914 had by far the hardest time. This should be no surprise. The first day of the Somme dominates the (British) popular perceptions of the lethality of the Great War . I think that 1914 was far more lethal than the Somme when measured as a per cent of troops engaged. This is something that is not commonly understood or accepted. For me 22nd Nov 1914 is a far more significant date than 1st Jul 1916. A

Is it your intention to demonstrate how far predictions for the rate of wastage were woefully short of the mark ? I know that you have alluded to this already. I have no interest in exploring this. We already know that the official predictions were woefully wrong, despite many interesting articles written by far sighted observers pre-War. It is I think perfectly understandable that the 'forecasts' were wrong. How could they be anything else? This was a type of warfare that was completely new., way in excess of the scale of the Russo Japanese conflict. While that campaign held many lessons, I think the nature of the Great War was simply a revolutionary, continuous learning process.

The implications are weighty. If the BEF, which we have been encouraged to regard as a highly professional and effective instrument, was so mistaken in its assessment of the likely impact of war on its establishment, then, we might ask ourselves, what other momentous errors were extant in its calculations ? I am not sure I would call them errors. The planners had no model to work from. Would anyone else have made different decisions or assumptions? I doubt it.

If the British army had failed to predict accurately, what of the others ? I suspect they all failed to predict. Probably.

Were the French and German armies exposed to the same dire results of under estimating the attrition that was to afflict them, or were they more realistic in their calculations ? Probably. My interest is only in the British Army. The amount of material is gigantic and sadly I dont have bandwidth to look at other Armies. Thankfully our archives are still a mine of untapped information.

Phil (PJA)

Answers in blue. MG

1st Black Watch Officers from the 1914 Star roll.

It includes an Argyll and two R.A.M.C, men, 27 of the 69 died.

BW1_zpsf3346dc0.jpg

BW2_zps4fa3b0c9.jpg

BW3_zpsf41b8149.jpg

Derek. Thank you. More grist to the mill

I know you have the diaries. It is an interesting exercise to populate the blanks with the WIA and POWs. Slightly more grim reading. I recall the redoubtable Fortune being the only man standing of the 'originals'. MG

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Predicting wastage, as opposed to actual wastage, is a new subject and a can of worms.

For example,

1. was a prediction made for the Peninsula Campaigns, or for the Crimea? Or indeed the S African War 1899-1902? I think not.

2. If so, were they accurate?

3. Was a prediction made for WW II?

4. If so, was it accurate?

5. I imagine a realistic prediction for WW III would have been approximately 100% within a week.

An extremely difficult area for debate, and one that this fool will not enter.

Only fools rush in, so here I go !

When I was writing my questions to Martin ( and, by the way, thank you MG for your comprehensive and compelling answers) two things occurred to me. First there came to mind a notorious failure of British military analysts to make accurate predictions for infantry casualty rates for the Normandy campaign in 1944 ; apparently, they had predicated forecasts on the experience of fighting in North Africa, and the consequences were significant in NW Europe...so.... yes, in regard to your third question, predictions were made in WWII, and - in regard to a principal campaign - they were wrong.

The second thing concerns a much more recent prediction for the Gulf War in the 1990s, when American military thinkers - Dupuy & Co. - made forecasts of casualties that were far, far too high.

Pendulum swinging historiography.

I will throw one thing into the pot regarding previous military experience and how it might have impinged on military thinkers in 1914 . Fifty years earlier, the Union armies fighting the American Civil War's fiercest campaign in the Wilderness of Northern Virginia sustained almost exactly the same number of casualties, in almost exactly the same period of time, as did the BEF in the First Battle of Ypres.

Phil (PJA)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The 1st Bn Irish Guards.

30 Officers plus the MO. 27 Battalion Officers became casualties within 3 months (90%). 12 were to die in 1914 (40%). Four casualties returned of which three were subsequently killed. Fatalities were nearly 50%. The group included a Viscount, five Lords and six sons of Peers.

More or less a complete battalion's worth of Officers out of action in just over 12 weeks. MG

post-55873-0-86973800-1423430919_thumb.j

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Phil

Thank you for the comments; After doing some more digging I have found different figures in MS: C& MS so need to do more research on officer casualties in 1914. It will be best on a new thread.

Bootneck

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2nd Bn Royal Sussex Regt - Officers 1914. This is an interesting example as the battalions' 1914 fatalities (all ranks) were as close to the average number of all BEF Infantry landing in Aug 1914. It is as close to the 'average' that one can get. The Officer casualty stats are in excess of 90% and fatalities in excess of 40%, all except one happening in 1914.

26 Officers plus the MO disembarked on 12th Aug 1914.

  • 24 of the battalion Officers became casualties (92%)
  • 11 of the battalion Officers were fatalities (42%) of which all but one occurred in 1914.
  • 3 Officers rejoined after being wounded in 1914.

2nd Bn Royal Sussex Regt: Officers disembarking on 12th Aug 1914:

post-55873-0-33778400-1423483902_thumb.j

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1st Bn Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

The battalion disembarked on 12th Aug 1914 with 979 ORs and 28 Officers. Exactly 3 months later on 12th Nov the Battalion was reduced to one Officer (Lt J G W Hyndson) and 200 ORs when they came out of Ypres. 120 of the men went straight to hospital leaving Lt Hyndson with just 80 men. By this date the 1st Bn Loyal North Lancs had sent out 2,049 men to France and Flanders suggesting casualty levels around 96%. Doubtless many recovered, but this battalion had been effectively annihilated. Twice over.

Hyndson kept a very detailed diary and was present with the Battalion throughout 1914. He must have led a charmed life to survive the crossing of the Aisne (14 brother Officers became casualties that day) and First Ypres. His account is one of the most lucid narratives of this period and runs to 15,000 words. He mentions meeting with the appropriately named Capt Fortune, Black Watch, incidentally the only Black Watch Officer who was not a casualty in 1914. Some grim stats for the 1st Bn Loyal North Lancs:

28 Officers plus the MO disembarked on 12th Aug 1914. The CO was the first Officer to be killed in the battalion.

  • 27 battalion Officer casualties, all within 1914. (96%)
  • 26 battalion Officer battle casualties all within 1914
  • 16 fatalities, all within 3 months (57%)

Source: War diary, published history, Hydson's personal diary.

Again, over 250 years of Officer experience incapacitated within a very short period. The Loyal North Lancashire Regt's Armageddon does not get any special mention in the OH Vol II other than as a dry stat in a footnote. MG

1st Bn Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

post-55873-0-00899800-1423497034_thumb.j

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What made this 1914 fighting so deadly ?

Sorry if that sounds like a daft question.

Several different reasons occur.

The initial clashes were uniquely intense because the armies were going for " all out " victory and were commensurately reckless in engaging in combat : a recipe for prodigality ?

Tactics were lethally out of step with the realities of firepower ?

The opposing forces , far from being inept, were skillful and determined, and the fierceness of the fighting reflected how closely matched they were ?

This is a thread about the experience of the BEF in 1914 , and how it impinged on officers' casualty rates, and I admit that it's shaken me up a bit....but I hope my frequent references to the experience of other armies is not seen as a diversion, but as my attempt to put the figures into perspective.

Phil (PJA)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What made this 1914 fighting so deadly ?

Phil (PJA)

The list is potentially endless, but I would argue a mismatch between social conditioning, tactics and technology. To understand the latter two better one should follow the development of the structure of trenches in the RE handbooks. Ypres and the lack of sophisticated trenches was a seminal event in this process. The lessons were only driven home after the (British) catastrophes of Aubers and Festubert. MG

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Guest locked this topic
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...