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dansparky

Analysing the Battle of Le Cateau.

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dansparky

Again, as with Mons the British Official History describes the British contingent of 2nd Corps, 4th division and the 19th Brigade as being outnumbered at le cateau.   Zuber argues that in actuality the British had double the numbers than that of the German Army.  Since Zuber, Max Hatings and Adrian Gilbert have stated that numbers were roughly equal.  The main difference at Le cateau seems to be the disparity in terms of Artillery the Germans enjoyed over the British, this amplified the British feeling of German Superiority.  Spencer Jones in 1014 concurred with the Artillery superiority and stated that the German attack consisted of 5 divisions and incorporated other elements as the day progressed.   This would tally I think with page 210 of the official British history that states the German account reveals that Kluck could only two infantry and 3 cavalry divisions into the battle.

 

With Mons one can examine the war Diaries of the BEF to determine activity on their front and thereby develop an idea of what German forces came into play based on their location.  I am not so sure this approach would work with le cateau?  What do people think?

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dansparky

Zuber writes that the german supposedly had 4 corps ,ii, iii, iv, vi reserve and probably two cavalry divisions.  102 infantry battalions, 12 cavalry regiments, + 32 cavalry squadrons 600 guns and 24o mg.  The British official history once again maintained that the british drove of german hordes who had a 3:1 numerical superiority. Map 11 of the official british history shows that the bef were attacked by  IV AK, HKK2, IV RK AND 5ID of III AK, THIS IS Completely wrong.  British history distorting the fact etc. 

 

I do not have map 11 but i do have sketch 3 taken from the BOH regarding this matter.  I have no idea if Map 11 in zuber's

sketch 3.  However, page 141 (of BOH 1922) states that map 11 was struck off and quotes many Amendments.  Based on this fact but i need to delve deeper Zuber's accusation on the BOH inflating numbers appears to be wrong as the corrected it within the same volume.  Am i missing something?

 

b ohistory le cateau.jpg

boh.jpg

Edited by dansparky

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dansparky

The map regarding le cateau in the 1937 edition does show only 2 infantry divisions and 3 cavalry divisions bearing down on le cateau.  This then agrees with the German Account mentioned in the OBH.

LE CATEAU 2.jpg

LE CATEAU 1937.jpg

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dansparky

The 1922 issue also stated (see below) what appears to be in sketch 3 maybe map 11.  So Zuber seems to not have seen the amendments in 1922 a did not look at further editions regarding this.

182 OBH 1922.jpg

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Kitty55

As I am no war expert, I can only comment on letters sent back via my town soldiers from Mons and Le Cateau and the impression they give me.

 

To me it seems - via these letters - that at Mons most of those in BEF from town had been soldiers that had taken part in the 2nd Boer War or later in South Africa prior to the Great War. This lot seemed to be more hopeful and looking forward to the fight. However, by the time they got to Le Cateau they had become more disheartened wishing to go home and just be with their families. The one thing that is definitely apparent is the fact that these slightly older soldiers (though still in their late 20's to early 30's) had learnt their lessons about guerrilla warfare and were possibly more aware of the enemy than soldiers had ever been before. Their interviews and/or letters before censorship came in are pretty enlightening to their various plights – daredevils, signallers, drivers (plenty in the ASC), RAMC, Norfolk’s, Vets, DCLI., etc. all have differing stories of the aspect of the battles but on the whole all agree with each other on the various movements within it. For example I have a letter from a gunner in the rear that backs up exactly what a town’s actioner’s clerk, who was a daredevil at the front of the Mons retreat, says – and yet they never met until it was all over and one was repatriated having been a POW since Mons. We never lost a soldier until November that first year but we had plenty of wounded at Mons and the Maine with several POW’s too.

 

Also socially don’t forget this was the first generation in which everyone had a chance to learn their “3 R’s”. So we know a lot more about how things really were for the average man in the ranks. Before the Boer War it was really only the officers and their ‘stiff upper lip’ that reported anything on the military front/issues. That is apart from the occasional sponsored reporter.

 

Thanks and take care, Kitty

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dansparky

Thanks Kitty

 

Not the exact angle i was looking at, but personal experiences are very interesting and i have been looking at some examples of this.  As well as weighing up Historial arguments i am looking at Brigade diaries.  Your research sounds fascinating and personal insights from soldiers add another very interesting dimension.  Thanks so much for sharing. 

 

Do any of the accounts you have read mention affect of British Fire, rate of fire, Opinions of higher command, tiredness on the march, observations of Germans, the

effect of receiving fire?  Anything like that?  Do Soldiers refer to lesson the learnt during the Boer war?

 

Thanks Dan

Edited by dansparky

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Kitty55
1 hour ago, dansparky said:

Thanks Kitty

 

Not the exact angle i was looking at, but personal experiences are very interesting.  As well as weighing up Historial arguments i am looking at Brigade diaries.  Your research sounds fascinating and personal insights from soldiers add another very interesting dimension.  Thanks so much for sharing. 

 

Do any of the accounts you have read mention affect of British Fire, rate of fire, Opinions of higher command, tiredness on the march, observations of Germans, the

effect of receiving fire?

 

:huh: Not really just general comments mentioning people they knew and have seen, such as, "I saw Charlie charging past on his Rudge, then Jack Mitchell driving a bus full of soldier’s"  "I think they took Willie I saw him shot but thought he'd crawled away, perhaps it wasn't him" and of course one of the best headlines of all on the front page of my local paper - the week after a family had been officially notified their son had died – “FRED HEAD NOT DEAD – Parents Spent Insurance Already”.  :o It reached headlines throughout Britain as a precedent had to be set – it was one of the first soldier’s insurance cases in WWI.

 

Movements wise for the western front I’m enjoying reading Andrew Rawson’s series on the BEF at present – the latest, Arras 1917, arrived on my doorstep just a couple of days ago. However I do consult the war diaries on both Ancestry and N&MA regularly. Sometimes a diary is on one and not the other so I always check both. :P

 

Thanks and take care, Kitty

 

On - comments - The King was very nice and polite evidently, but many officers were classed as being idiots - especially by Corporals or Sergeants who had been Privates in the 2nd Boer War.

Edited by Kitty55

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joerookery

Dan,

 

Have you read " The Great War Dawning" VIs a vs Zuber?.

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dansparky
19 hours ago, joerookery said:

Dan,

 

Have you read " The Great War Dawning" VIs a vs Zuber?.

 
 

 

Hi, Joerookery i have read elements of GWD and hopefully will obtain a bit more.  An expensive book don not own it myself, I have spent far too much on books over last 2 years.   What do you mean Vls a vs Zuber?

 

best Dan

Edited by dansparky

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joerookery

 Dan, much of GWD unveils some of the problems with Zuber especially in the world of doctrine and training. It is  tough to analyze Zuber without knowing these gaps. I agree the book is horribly expensive,  which was the decision of the Austrian publisher. However at 4 1/2 pounds you could always use the book as a doorstop, a weapon to throw at  your opponents or as an anchor on a deep-sea expedition. Really it is a beautiful product but quite pricey.

 

 Our current  project goes from The start of the war Until 24 August. Alas not covering this battle.  This was entirely spurred on by his coverage of Liège. We were so disappointed that we felt forced to do it ourselves. From something I said I would never do I think the draft manuscript is about 300 pages so far.

 

VR Joe

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dansparky

7 hours ago, joerookery said:

 

 Our current  project goes from The start of the war Until 24 August. Alas not covering this battle.  This was entirely spurred on by his coverage of Liège. We were so disappointed that we felt forced to do it ourselves. From something I said I would never do I think the draft manuscript is about 300 pages so far.

 

 

2

 

Hi VR Joe

Ah, you worked on GWD.  Well, it is on my definite list when i finish my dissertation.   Being a student I have to be careful what I buy.  I have read parts and it looks an excellent book. 

 

My research so far has determined that Zuber is wrong on Numbers.   British War diaries at mons support the OBH timing's of attacks and based on who was in front of them this suggests that German's engaged were higher.  Zuber accuses the OBH of trying to inflate the figure but it simply relates what the WD say.  He takes great pains to suggest various German units did not partake but he did not extend this argument to the British,  many elements did not partake in the reserve of 2 corps.

 

Additionally, as above he is right numbers were smaller at Le Cateau but the OBH had already corrected this.

 

Best Dan

Edited by dansparky

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dansparky

1)Does the book refer to Machine guns per infantry or cavalry division,  I believe it is 24 for an infantry division and 6 per cavalry division but have not seen this in a published source. 

 

2) Spencer Jones states 550 Guns at 228 Guns at le cateau while Zuber disputes this stating the Germans had half this.  The effect of artillery at le cateau along a 10 mile front for me makes this seem unlikely.  Would love to get to the bottom of this too.

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joerookery

Organization chart Cavalry Division 1914 600 dpi copy.jpg

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joerookery

Dan,

 

Relative to your question the answer is no. The diagram above is for a cavalry division. GWD It is the only book that I am aware of that actually draws much of its content from the "red donkey". So this is  pre-war data in spades  and covers pretty much everything except the HKK  and the super heavy artillery. it is always difficult to count numbers. This is made particularly difficult by the use of some of the German terms that are translated by Zuber. the machine gun additions to cavalry divisions came from the HKK. again this is complicated by the translation of the word Abteilung and the fact that the Jäger  battalions had a machine gun company that was basically the same size as the separate machine gun Abteilung.

 

The HKK was a corps-sized unit but not an army corps. Many works refer to these as cavalry corps based on an easy but inexact English translation. Some works used the word Heereskavalleriekorps.[1] That is incorrect and gives the wrong impression. Heereskavalleriekorps describes what the HKK became in 1915, after the organization received a staff and a logistical function. Later renamed, they became much more like normal corps—but that is not what they were in 1914. Interestingly, the editors of a 1940 book attributed the term Kavallerie Korps to HKK 2 Commander Marwitz in their commentary designed around his letters.[2]


[1]. Terence Zuber, The Mons Myth: A Reassessment of the Battle (Stroud, UK: History Press, 2010), 76.

[2]. Erich W. L. von Tschischwitz, General von der Marwitz (Berlin: Steiniger Verlage, 1940), 17.

 

Confusion also arises because of nomenclature used in 1914 to distinguish between Divisionskavallerie—cavalry formations assigned to the infantry corps upon mobilization—and Heereskavallerie—cavalry formations mobilized in cavalry divisions within the HKKs. All cavalry reserve formations were mobilized as Divisionskavallerie. Four HKKs were created upon mobilization, but not all of equal size. The HKKs 2 and 3 each had three divisions, whereas HKKs 1 and 4 each had two divisions.

Another related problem is many analysts’ failure to understand the size of the organization under discussion. Not only is the meaning of HKK often misunderstood, a further language anomaly causes even more problems: the translation of the word Abteilung. Many dictionaries translate Abteilung as “detachment” or even as “section.” In both cases, these translations give the impression that the Abteilung was a subset of a unit and relatively small. This inference is incorrect. The word Abteilung has several meanings; it is a multi-purpose word in the German language. Within a staff, it translates to “department.” In a field artillery regiment, it is “battalion.” For example: 

 

 sample  Corps organization from the red donkey

 

 

 

 

Organization chart Army Corps 1914 600 dpi copy.jpg

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dansparky

Hi VR Joe

Based on pages 141-142 (came today, nice and shiny) of the GWD, Zuber and others it appears that each infantry division had 6 MG's as did a jager battalion.  7th and 8th div together at Le cateau with 1 jager battalion within 7th brig combines to a total of about 54 machine guns.  Based on a few books such as Jack Horsfall Mons, Zuber and a few other sources numbers of MG's to a German Cav Division are 6.  If this was correct this would include another 18, it would also mean the 4th div only faced this 18 the others were massed against 2 corps.  But as you say these sources may not reflect what the cavalry possesed in 1914. 

 

If it did it could mean 72 Mg's against 72 British Mg's of 2 corps (24 Mg's per div Official British History), plus possibly an extra two that were integral to each 2 battalions that would be within 19th brigade.  They could have had an extra 24 but the British cavalry was on walkabout.  So although the numbers of Machine Guns the German cavalry may have been different (due to possible variations of size and so on)  it seems that the amount of MG's deployable to both were essentially the same.

 

Best Dan

Edited by dansparky

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David Filsell

Do I  understand correctly - that there  was a revised edition of the OH? I certainly have never seen this asserted before- not that I am suggesting it is incorrect. But, iF this is so I do not believe it is widely known and if the first 1914 edition was edited/revised were any others?

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dansparky

Hi David,

 

The original publication in 1922 i don't think was itself edited.  The main chapter on le cateau and the accompanying maps paint a picture of overwhelming numbers against the bef.  A note however at the beginning of the chapter contains the note correcting details of German forces employed at le cateau.  Zuber notes this but as the chapter was not compleatly re-written he feels that it is a deliberate attempt to distort the facts.  Re-written or not there is still a note correcting at the beginning of the chapter.  After this Vol 1 at least (for I have never read these) was printed in 22, 2nd edition 1925, third edition 1933 and was reprinted in 26, 28 and 1937.  I have 22, 33, and 37. 

 

By later editions the German accounts carries the note we have since learnt only 2 divs and 3 cavalry divs were available to Kluck at Le Cateau.   A new map also appears reflecting this correction (i have never seen the additional maps that came in the map packs only those in the books).  Flicking through the 37 reprint it appears that the actual text of these chapters has changed to reflect various notes that were at te beginning of the chapter in earlier edition.  I must stress that I only flicked through though.

 

Best Dan

 

 

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David Filsell

Interesting, That seems to constitute a degree of re-editing to me. Not a crime of course, but it pays to know which edition one is quoting from. I wonder if there is anything in cab 45 anywhere?

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dansparky

Agreed I think what is interesting is that its often referred to but no mention as to the different version of events.  Either many over the years have only read one version or have chosen the version that works with their thesis. Modern works around this subject present a more balanced view suggesting they have consulted more than one edition.  Cab 45 shows lots of attempts to correctly chronicle the events (obtain clarification) but I have not seen anything yet talking about the different versions directly.

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joerookery

Dan,

 

As you know I have stopped looking past the 23rd – 24th however, as I was looking at distances I compared what I had versus the map you showed of the cavalry divisions being involved. I do not have Jack's book to hand. But something is quite amiss if you are just counting noses/machine guns. I do not think  HKK2 presented such a uniformed front. If you look at the map of how far they have come since the 23rd it is difficult to determine where the machine-gun companies in the Jäger battalions  actually were located. For that matter where were the  other MG-Abt?  based on the way that the cavalry operated it is hard to see anything much more than mounted squadrons being at the tip of the spear. For all I know all of those machine guns could be strung out over miles and miles. Just a thought – it was a long way to go. 

poseck copy.jpg

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dansparky

Hi Joe

I agree with difficulty in determining where machine gun companies were located.  Then you have the wastage factor so numbers could have differed greatly.  I looked at the order of battle of the First Army and then stated figures of MG'S for each for each infantry division and each jager in publication stated above.   I did the same for the Cavalry, in all possibility though those involved at Le Cateau may have had a somewhat different composition by then, and as you say somewhat dispersed, le cateau itself was a ten-mile frontage so is difficult to determine what was were.  Although based upon the maps above 2 corps would have had more MG fire to face, as it would have faced the Mg's of 8th

(order of battle, determining what was where could alter the picture).

 

If only a few mounted squadrons were at the tip of the spear as they came in contact with the 4th, presumably the would have started to evolve into a bit more of a  phalanx as the day progressed.  The German army did not press forward for a considerable time, which would have allowed a build up of force.  But to what extent this was affected if the Cavalry's front was not uniform or somewhat dispersed I am not sure. 

 

Dan

 

Edited by dansparky

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joerookery

There is one more thought though it probably does not affect the number of machine guns. The Germans fourth cavalry division was pretty roughly handled at Halen. two squadrons had been dissolved even before the battle and the loss of 800 – 1000 horses was significant enough to impact the establishment of two brigades. While wastage is a valid point many of the Jaeger units were also roughly handled at Liège. I am not the most accurate counter of casualties but if Phil is around, he might have some insights.

 

Quote

The condition of the fourth cavalry division was lamented in the regimental history of the 18th dragoons. “Only a few soldiers had still lances. Almost all of them were broken or lost in Haelen. Many Helmets had disappeared or had no spike anymore or were replaced by the most fantastic headgears. Horses of all kinds of formations were present in the regiment because everybody tried first thing after the attack to find a replacement for his own dead or wounded horse among the countless horses galloping to and fro. Who did not find one anymore, seized a bike at the first opportunity and followed the division in this way. Who considered it possible before that the outward appearance of the regiment would change in this way within 10 days. “[1]


[1] (Larisch 1926)

 

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dansparky

Hi Joe

Hm, an important consideration as would be the loss of British equipment etc.  I am not as familiar as I would like to be about engagements outside of  B.E.F -Germany and the Major French encounters.  I also would like to get to the bottom of just how many Jager Battalions were present at Le Cateau.  I am somewhat confused on this point, the 4th Division largely came up against Cavalry and Jager battalions.  But the only Jager Battalion as part of any the opening elements at Le Cateau would have been number 4, going by 1914 order of battle (but some text such as Zuber states that there were 5 jager battalions, were these absorbed from somewhere?).  They were originally attached to 7th division so one would expect these to come up against the 2nd corps.  Going to take a look at Zuber.

 

I am also not entirely clear on the role of Pioneer Battalions.  I am guessing they would not be allotted any MG'S?  This is probably explained in GWD.  will take a look when i get in.

 

Dan

Edited by dansparky

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dansparky

Zuber adds that IV AK plus HKK2 attacked at Le Cateau and that only 1 brigade with 7ID could attack, to begin with, 8th could not attack until the afternoon.  He also says that the 14th Brigade of the 7th division did not even make it to the fight.  They delay in the advance could support the slow accumulation of troops, although there are many other explanations for this.   I have not yet looked at the 2nd Corps diaries to determine when they first recorded contact but it is likely that it would concur with what has been published, although one must determine the nature of the contact.  Solely Artillery etc. 

 

However, Zuber, said the same about Mons which initially makes me suspicious.  As the War diaries across the front suggest that the BOH is much more accurate on that particular episode and that Zuber's version of events simply does not tally with the war diaries.  I will check this but it, therefore, imlies that if all of the 2nd corps report contact at the same time at le cateau this could only be artillery and the initial one brigade stretched across the front.

 

*Note- Zuber estimates 84 Mg's missed this earlier slightly more than I thought but still this would be essentially equal to the British

 

Best Dan

Edited by dansparky

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phil andrade

Dan and Joe,

 

Forgive my failure to contribute : not due to lack of interest , I assure you.

 

Zuber hits very hard at the hyperbole surrounding the extent of German casualties at Liege : there were rumours of fifty thousand Germans cut down there, and even citations of supposedly officially stated figures of forty two thousand plus.

 

Zuber gives a definitive statement and puts German casualties at Liege as under 3,400.

 

There's plenty of exaggeration in the folklore of 1914 ; but it seems that it reached supreme heights when it came to the Liege fighting.

 

That doesn't change the reality that some German units were roughly handled there.

 

Phil

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