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Remembered Today:

Fortified villages- again


burlington
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I am resurrecting this topic again from last year

Are there any pics or plans or other information now available?

Preferably from the Somme but any logical example would help

Thanks

Martin

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Martin,

This is probably not much help but from the History of the 8th Royal Scots,pioneers to the 51st Highland Division.

FIRST BATTLE OF CAMBRAI

"For two weeks prior to the Battle of Cambrai,on 19th November 1917,the Battalion was engaged in the secret work of reconstructing the Village of Metz-en-Couture,so as to make it capable of holding the Division,to allow them to concentrate for the attack.This was successfully achieved under the very eyes of the enemy without their knowledge.The Division entered the village in anticipation of spending the usual uncomfortable night before an attack,but so delighted were they with their homes,that they expressed the wish that there might be an attack oftener".

The History was written for a Newspaper hence the journalistic licence and unfortunately no details of the actual work undertaken.

George

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Thanks George. Very helpful

I think that for all their tactical importance, the study of fortified villages seems to be sadly neglected.

Or am I missing something somewhere?

Martin

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Martin

We have been doing an archaeological survey around Ostend and as part of the background research I have been looking at material at Kew. The posted image is part of a montage of aerial photographs and accompanying map produced by the RNAS in July 1917 of the German defensive lines west of Ostend. Most of this material was produced for the propsed amphibious landing and drive along the coast proposed as part of 3rd Ypres.

The map shows part of the German 4th line just west of Ostend and shows how the Germans fortified the village at Raversyde (which also contained the Aachen Battery) and then fortified a line of farms to the south, producing storngpoints. Not villages and not at the Somme but I hope it helps.

Cheers

Dominic.

post-4-1106128819.jpg

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Thanks Dominic.

As you say, not villages or the Somme, but interesting and important nonetheless.

Martin

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Martin, it,s not the Somme, but here is a drawing...in 2 halves which you'll have to print and overlap....of the defences for Aubers village, hope it's of use, Peter.

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Thanks Mebu

Very grateful

Looks like just what I am after.

Regards

Martin

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The following material comes from the British translation of the German 'Manual of Position Warfare for all Arms: Part 1 - The construction of field positions (Stellungsbau)'. The original was issued by the Prussian War Ministry in 1916:

'a) Villages - it is laid down that large garrisons should not be kept in villages, and that these should be defended by small flanking posts, strongly dug in, and barricades, supported by defences outside.

If villages form part of the fighting line, the first line of defence should be outside them, with the supports in strongly concreted shelters in the houses near the edge; there should be strongly concreted machine-gun emplacements in houses to sweep the ground between the front trench and the edge of the village, and "bomb-proof" machine-gun emplacements to sweep the streets, which should be barricaded. If the village is large, keeps should be organized. Houses not required for defence should be destroyed and the debris used as overhead cover to protect the cellars. Street and house-to-house fighting should be avoided, as it leads to heavy losses.

Villages behind the front system which do not form part of any line, should be arranged as points d'appui. They are most valuable to stop break through. The measures to be taken are:-

Clearing the field of fire on all sides, organization of houses, walls, etc for defence, or provision of fire trenches in and behind the edge, to secure frontal and flanking fire for the whole circumference, and erection of obstacles.'

As mentioned before, these can only be regarded as general guidelines. Local circumstances played an important part in determining how villages were incorporated into defensive positions.

Just to note that in the beginning of the war, the usual strategy would be to loop-hole the walls of houses for defensive purposes. The British did this at Mons for example. An additional step was to create a trench within the building - there is the classic photograph of German soldiers (?snipers IIRC) standing in such a trench firing through loop holes that are low to the ground. I believe this picture was taken on the Eastern Front.

Robert

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A few quotes about one of the notorious 'fortified' villages, Longueval, from a British perspective:

'The battering that the village had received from our guns had only been sufficient to convert it into a stronghold of immense strength [as if the Germans had not had a hand in achieving this]. Amidst the jagged and tumbled masonry the defenders had numerous well-protected corners from which they could fire without being detected, and the oblong was full of shelters where the garrison could take shelter from the fire of field guns. Against infantry alone the place was virtually impregnable, since the scope for manoeuvering was limited and all approaches were swept by the fire of the defenders.'

'Every ruin housed at least one machine-gun, and to escape the sputtering lead the men had to cower under the broken masonry that lined both sides of the street. The Boches had every advantage; they occupied positions that could not be precisely located, and they commanded all the cleared spaces that the assailants had to traverse if they intended to push home their attack.'

'There were some subterranean passages right through the village of Longueval against which it was rather difficult to compete. The Boche had entrances well on his side of the village and when things got a bit too warm for him down he would pop...'

Robert

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Andy, the map is with a report dated 1919.....the survey was carried out soon after the British took Aubers late in 1918, to check what they had been up against for the last 4 years, as it was one of the few areas they always thought too strong, Peter

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