Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Sign in to follow this  
Jojessholli

Blue on Blue Artillery

Recommended Posts

Jojessholli

Hi Guys

When I was studying WW2, I came across quite a few  'Blue on Blue' encounters from artillery (mainly US) and wondered if anyone had heard of any major disasters of this type during WW1 (via artillery).  Would be very interested in reading about any encounters you know about.

Regards

Vic

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
David Filsell

Pretty rare I would have thought with lines directly (relatively) opposite, which was a far less common experience in the'Second Half'.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
squirrel

With the lines close together in WW1 it seems to have been a not uncommon occurrence. Arty was referred to as “the drop shorts” in a number of accounts I have read.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Jojessholli

Thanks Guys - appreciate the comments.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ron Clifton

I have read accounts in which senior officers have commented that, if British troops did not take casualties from their own artillery, they were not following up the barrage closely enough. A distance of fifty yards was considered normal, and there were often drop-shorts which caused casualties. US troops were apparently unwilling to follow up at less than one hundred yards.

 

Ron

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
David Filsell

Fair commments- I took the thread - apparently incorrectly - to mean artillery on blue artillery fire on blue artillery!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
MikeMeech
6 hours ago, Jojessholli said:

Hi Guys

When I was studying WW2, I came across quite a few  'Blue on Blue' encounters from artillery (mainly US) and wondered if anyone had heard of any major disasters of this type during WW1 (via artillery).  Would be very interested in reading about any encounters you know about.

Regards

Vic

Hi

The problem was well known and a number of arrangements were put in place to try and reduce the problem (it was never eliminated).  Basically the infantry were supposed to follow the 'timetable' that was laid down in the orders/instructions for the attack, to aid in this the training before hand was meant to simulate following the barrage.  During the attack each platoon would carry one or two flags to wave to show their location to the rear.  Also they were supposed to show their location to Contact Patrol aeroplanes when called for or when laid down in orders, using ground flares or other means, again this was a means of trying to reduce incidents of this kind.  You can find some of the instructions for this in SS 135 'Instructions on the Training of Divisions for Offensive Action', Section III, of December 1916 and other documents of the period.

Of course it did not always work, for various reasons, but as 'Blue on Blue' incidents still happen today, despite the technology, shows how difficult it is to eliminate the problem.  It was never down to the 'Generals' not caring! 

 

Mike

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Jojessholli
6 minutes ago, MikeMeech said:

Hi

The problem was well known and a number of arrangements were put in place to try and reduce the problem (it was never eliminated).  Basically the infantry were supposed to follow the 'timetable' that was laid down in the orders/instructions for the attack, to aid in this the training before hand was meant to simulate following the barrage.  During the attack each platoon would carry one or two flags to wave to show their location to the rear.  Also they were supposed to show their location to Contact Patrol aeroplanes when called for or when laid down in orders, using ground flares or other means, again this was a means of trying to reduce incidents of this kind.  You can find some of the instructions for this in SS 135 'Instructions on the Training of Divisions for Offensive Action', Section III, of December 1916 and other documents of the period.

Of course it did not always work, for various reasons, but as 'Blue on Blue' incidents still happen today, despite the technology, shows how difficult it is to eliminate the problem.  It was never down to the 'Generals' not caring! 

 

Mike

Thanks Mike - I did think it would be hard to avoid, considering the tactics employed during WW1 were new to most armies - artillery tactics in particular had changed due to the distance guns could fire.  'Deep Battles' were new to modern armies - some of the tactics employed then, would carry on for many years to come but were not without issue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
JMB1943

Vic,

 

Discusses this topic, and provides some numbers to think about.

 

Regards,

JMB

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
voltaire60

   A specific example of this concerns one of my local casualties, Private Henry Pearson, 1st Royal Fusiliers, who was listed as "accidentally drowned" on the Somme, 9th August 1916.  A rather curious fate but the War Diary  shows 1 RF was subject to a British artillery bombardment - and whoever wrote the war diary (available on Ancestry) was none too happy about it.

    Other accounts of 1 RF are lacking  but  the one source I have yet to look at is the diary kept by the battalion Medical Officer, Charles Wilson, later better known as  Lord Moran, Churchill's doctor. A photocopy is held by Wellcome although the original remains with the family.

   I have a nagging suspicion that the "blue on blue" and "accidentally drowned" may well be connected and .that his cause of death might be a fudge to cover up the mistake.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Jojessholli
18 hours ago, JMB1943 said:

Vic,

 

Discusses this topic, and provides some numbers to think about.

 

Regards,

JMB

Many thanks JMB

3 hours ago, voltaire60 said:

   A specific example of this concerns one of my local casualties, Private Henry Pearson, 1st Royal Fusiliers, who was listed as "accidentally drowned" on the Somme, 9th August 1916.  A rather curious fate but the War Diary  shows 1 RF was subject to a British artillery bombardment - and whoever wrote the war diary (available on Ancestry) was none too happy about it.

    Other accounts of 1 RF are lacking  but  the one source I have yet to look at is the diary kept by the battalion Medical Officer, Charles Wilson, later better known as  Lord Moran, Churchill's doctor. A photocopy is held by Wellcome although the original remains with the family.

   I have a nagging suspicion that the "blue on blue" and "accidentally drowned" may well be connected and .that his cause of death might be a fudge to cover up the mistake.

Very sad indeed, thanks for sharing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
MikeMeech
6 hours ago, voltaire60 said:

   A specific example of this concerns one of my local casualties, Private Henry Pearson, 1st Royal Fusiliers, who was listed as "accidentally drowned" on the Somme, 9th August 1916.  A rather curious fate but the War Diary  shows 1 RF was subject to a British artillery bombardment - and whoever wrote the war diary (available on Ancestry) was none too happy about it.

    Other accounts of 1 RF are lacking  but  the one source I have yet to look at is the diary kept by the battalion Medical Officer, Charles Wilson, later better known as  Lord Moran, Churchill's doctor. A photocopy is held by Wellcome although the original remains with the family.

   I have a nagging suspicion that the "blue on blue" and "accidentally drowned" may well be connected and .that his cause of death might be a fudge to cover up the mistake.

Hi

 

This may or may not be a 'Blue on Blue', however, "accidental drownings" were not uncommon.  A quick look at 'Airmen Died in the Great War 1914-1918' (CD-ROM) reveals several quite quickly, eg.:

 

AM.1  Billingham, RFC, 9 Sqn. France. Accidentally Drowned. 11.11.17.

AM.2  Bourne, RFC, Milton Stores Depot, England.  Accidentally drowned when off duty in Abingdon. 2.5.17.

AM.1 Boyland, RNAS, Killinghome NAS, Accidentally drowned after falling from a jetty, along with AM.2 Goode. 3.3.17.

Sgt. Brooks, RFC 23 Reserve Squadron.  Accidentally drowned off Aboukir when trying to salvage an aeroplane.  21.3.17

 

At work or 'play' servicemen near water could drown, and it did happen and I suspect there might be a fair few examples in the army as a whole.

 

Mike

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
voltaire60
Just now, MikeMeech said:

Hi

 

This may or may not be a 'Blue on Blue', however, "accidental drownings" were not uncommon.  A quick look at 'Airmen Died in the Great War 1914-1918' (CD-ROM) reveals several quite quickly, eg.:

 

AM.1  Billingham, RFC, 9 Sqn. France. Accidentally Drowned. 11.11.17.

AM.2  Bourne, RFC, Milton Stores Depot, England.  Accidentally drowned when off duty in Abingdon. 2.5.17.

AM.1 Boyland, RNAS, Killinghome NAS, Accidentally drowned after falling from a jetty, along with AM.2 Goode. 3.3.17.

Sgt. Brooks, RFC 23 Reserve Squadron.  Accidentally drowned off Aboukir when trying to salvage an aeroplane.  21.3.17

 

At work or 'play' servicemen near water could drown, and it did happen and I suspect there might be a fair few examples in the army as a whole.

 

Mike

 

   Very much agreed Mike. One does not lead to the other- Of course, drownings not uncommon in the frontline or at rest  But the juxtaposition of  "friendly fire" and the unusual nature of his death is something I would like to get to the bottom of. A distinct  small of rattus rattus!!     I too have several airmen drowned- OK, they were flying over the sea at the time -so  frontline on the Somme may be a bit unusual.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
MikeMeech
2 hours ago, voltaire60 said:

 

   Very much agreed Mike. One does not lead to the other- Of course, drownings not uncommon in the frontline or at rest  But the juxtaposition of  "friendly fire" and the unusual nature of his death is something I would like to get to the bottom of. A distinct  small of rattus rattus!!     I too have several airmen drowned- OK, they were flying over the sea at the time -so  frontline on the Somme may be a bit unusual.

Hi

 

As a matter of interest, how many troops were killed or injured in the 'Friendly Fire' incident mentioned?  Were they all 'drowned accidentally' or are other causes mentioned?

Other units appear not to have a problem in reporting 'Friendly Fire' casualties, or even those that died in 'accidents' on ranges especially when using grenades.  I just wonder why this particular incident would have been covered up and for what purpose?

 

Mike

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
voltaire60

Hi Mike- let me check the WD for 1RF again- I was surprised to find friendly fire mentioned at all- My assumption from reading pots of WD entries is that "unpleasantness" tends to get glazed over or not mentioned at all.(Let alone Sir James Edmonds removing stiuff when WDs were in his basement)  A variant of "friendly fire" is the WD for 1/18 Londons (London Irish) for Christmas Eve 1915 shows considerable variance between the actualite and what the WD says happened.  London Irish were brought in to act as stormers after the detonation of a British mine. Alas, the detonation touched off a German counter-mine( or, a sporting chance, the Germans touched off the British mine). One of my local casualties was killed by suffocation through falling mud as the London Irish advanced to get the lip of the crater. Not mentioned in WD, which infers all casualties were normal shot and shell when attacking- But the London Irish website has more detailed records kept by a diligent historian of the battalion which tells a different tale. Not so much "friendly fire" as "friendly mud"

    Hence my suspicion of the blandness of WD entries- I simply do not trust them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
MikeMeech
On 14/05/2019 at 09:45, voltaire60 said:

Hi Mike- let me check the WD for 1RF again- I was surprised to find friendly fire mentioned at all- My assumption from reading pots of WD entries is that "unpleasantness" tends to get glazed over or not mentioned at all.(Let alone Sir James Edmonds removing stiuff when WDs were in his basement)  A variant of "friendly fire" is the WD for 1/18 Londons (London Irish) for Christmas Eve 1915 shows considerable variance between the actualite and what the WD says happened.  London Irish were brought in to act as stormers after the detonation of a British mine. Alas, the detonation touched off a German counter-mine( or, a sporting chance, the Germans touched off the British mine). One of my local casualties was killed by suffocation through falling mud as the London Irish advanced to get the lip of the crater. Not mentioned in WD, which infers all casualties were normal shot and shell when attacking- But the London Irish website has more detailed records kept by a diligent historian of the battalion which tells a different tale. Not so much "friendly fire" as "friendly mud"

    Hence my suspicion of the blandness of WD entries- I simply do not trust them.

Hi

I am surprised if a unit put down anything more than KIA as a 'cause' most of the time!  I don't know if there are any 'after action reports' for this period or event or when artillery were involved what was 'discussed' afterwards.  Certainly 'after action' reports were appearing a few days after 1 July 1916 discussing what had happened, for example XV Corps dated 11.7.1916, which would be based on the lower level units' reports.

I suspect that units would 'cover up' any suicides, if they could, to protect the NOK.

 

Mike

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
phil andrade

Without having the source to hand, I’m confident that Alistair Horne, in his Price of Glory book about Verdun, cites an estimate ( made by a  senior French officer ) that seventy five thousand French troops were killed by their own artillery fire in the Great War. Maybe it was seventy thousand. Either way, it’s a shocking figure....at least five per cent of deaths from all causes in the French army 1914-18.  On reflection, perhaps not so surprising, bearing in mind the relentless and intense deluge of shells : literally tens of millions in the Battle of Verdun alone, falling onto a shell hole wilderness, killing friend and foe alike.  Following a creeping barrage made friendly fire casualties almost impossible to avoid.

 

Phil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
MikeMeech
11 hours ago, phil andrade said:

Without having the source to hand, I’m confident that Alistair Horne, in his Price of Glory book about Verdun, cites an estimate ( made by a  senior French officer ) that seventy five thousand French troops were killed by their own artillery fire in the Great War. Maybe it was seventy thousand. Either way, it’s a shocking figure....at least five per cent of deaths from all causes in the French army 1914-18.  On reflection, perhaps not so surprising, bearing in mind the relentless and intense deluge of shells : literally tens of millions in the Battle of Verdun alone, falling onto a shell hole wilderness, killing friend and foe alike.  Following a creeping barrage made friendly fire casualties almost impossible to avoid.

 

Phil

Hi Phil

 

As you know this subject has been discussed on the GWF quite often (we have both commented on it before as have many others) and many examples (including from British War Diaries and Official History volumes) given, the 'Search function' will give lots of information for those interested.  Your figure quoted is a footnote on page 99 of my 1993 paperback edition, it is from General Percin's book 'Le Massacre de Notre Infanterie', however, there was some 'criticism' in previous threads on how this figure was arrived at and the 'Political Agenda' of the author concerned.

Monash at Hamel insisted that the Mk. V tanks advance very close to the barrage, despite the Tank Corps warning him that low trajectory shells were likely to hit the 8 feet. 8 inches high vehicle.  Luckily the Artillery were on the ball and 'only' hit one Tank (not good for the crew of course), although, like infantry, I do wonder if they did follow the barrage as closely as they were supposed to?  Risks were taken and following the barrage closely did cut down casualties from enemy direct fire.  However, the enemy artillery would still have to be reduced in effectiveness by counter-battery fire otherwise casualties would be still be sustained from them (the barrage fire did not protect the infantry from that source).  Again we always come back to the problem of the commanders and artillery actually knowing where the infantry were, the problem of communication systems, and the problems of wear on artillery barrels, that occurred during battle, that 'altered' their accuracy, and the sometimes 'non-standard' performance of shells and fuzes that was never totally eliminated.  It still can happen today and will probably never be totally eliminated as a cause of death.

 

Mike

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
phil andrade

Hello Mike,

 

Yes, when I pursued the link it became all too apparent that we’ve discussed all this before : a bit embarrassing to see that I’ve repeated myself ; but, in a sense, reassuring to be so consistent !

 

Like your point about wear and tear on gun barrels being a factor here.  I worked with a guy in Smithfield who had been badly wounded at Monte Casino : he’d been a gunner on 25 pounders, and one of the barrels exploded and, in his own words , “ I caught fire “.

 

If this happened in the Second World War, when metallurgy was more advanced, then surely it must have occurred in the Great War, and, I suspect , there is archival evidence about gunners being killed or wounded by the tubes exploding. 

 

Another aspect of blue on blue.

 

Phil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Bernard_Lewis

Regarding the 114th Infantry Brigade attack on Aveluy Wood (10 May 1918) I wrote along these (rough - edited later) lines for my "Swansea Pals" book:

 

‘at 9 a.m. the artillery barrage opened and the attackers moved forward. The hostile reply to our barrage was slow in developing and when it did develop consisted of a light barrage…

 

QUOTE

‘Owing to the mist and fog, the contact airplane had been unable to see anything from a very low altitude at 9.35 a.m.

 

‘2/Lieut. Thomas returned at 10.50 a.m., with a message from O.C. ‘A’ Company giving his position, and at 10.55 a.m. I received a message verbally through the Signal Office at Forward Battalion Headquarters, from the O.C. ‘C’ Company, 15th Welsh Regt., that our artillery was firing short and holding up our advance.

 

‘Several more messages to this effect were received and at 11.20 a.m., I received a message from Captain Sampson commanding ‘D’ Company that the attack had failed, also one from O.C. ‘A’ Company that our artillery was still falling short and had held up our advance…I found that the Battalion was, except on the extreme right of the attack, back in our original Front Line, and all the companies very much mixed up, having suffered considerable casualties from our own Artillery fire.’2

 

With the British artillery fire playing havoc with its own troops the attack disintegrated in some confusion and the advance was abandoned. Brigadier General A Harman commanded the 114th Infantry Brigade and was thus in overall charge of the operation. Having despatched the Brigade Major, Captain Bucknell, and the Artillery Liaison Officer, Captain Phillips, forward to check on the progress of the attack, the disquieting nature of their preliminary report compelled him to head for the wood himself.

 

He first went to Parkinson’s Command Post but found that he had himself left to visit the position and evaluate the situation at first hand. Moving towards the wood Harman encountered Parkinson on his way back. He acquainted Harman with the steps he had taken to stabilize the situation. In response to a question asking what he attributed the failure of the attack to he pointedly placed in Harman’s hand the fuse from a British eighteen-pound gun. The clear implication was that the British artillery fire had been misdirected and had, in fact, fallen on its own troops.3

ENDQUOTE

 

Bernard

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Jojessholli
On 19/05/2019 at 15:39, Bernard_Lewis said:

Regarding the 114th Infantry Brigade attack on Aveluy Wood (10 May 1918) I wrote along these (rough - edited later) lines for my "Swansea Pals" book:

 

‘at 9 a.m. the artillery barrage opened and the attackers moved forward. The hostile reply to our barrage was slow in developing and when it did develop consisted of a light barrage…

 

QUOTE

‘Owing to the mist and fog, the contact airplane had been unable to see anything from a very low altitude at 9.35 a.m.

 

‘2/Lieut. Thomas returned at 10.50 a.m., with a message from O.C. ‘A’ Company giving his position, and at 10.55 a.m. I received a message verbally through the Signal Office at Forward Battalion Headquarters, from the O.C. ‘C’ Company, 15th Welsh Regt., that our artillery was firing short and holding up our advance.

 

‘Several more messages to this effect were received and at 11.20 a.m., I received a message from Captain Sampson commanding ‘D’ Company that the attack had failed, also one from O.C. ‘A’ Company that our artillery was still falling short and had held up our advance…I found that the Battalion was, except on the extreme right of the attack, back in our original Front Line, and all the companies very much mixed up, having suffered considerable casualties from our own Artillery fire.’2

 

With the British artillery fire playing havoc with its own troops the attack disintegrated in some confusion and the advance was abandoned. Brigadier General A Harman commanded the 114th Infantry Brigade and was thus in overall charge of the operation. Having despatched the Brigade Major, Captain Bucknell, and the Artillery Liaison Officer, Captain Phillips, forward to check on the progress of the attack, the disquieting nature of their preliminary report compelled him to head for the wood himself.

 

He first went to Parkinson’s Command Post but found that he had himself left to visit the position and evaluate the situation at first hand. Moving towards the wood Harman encountered Parkinson on his way back. He acquainted Harman with the steps he had taken to stabilize the situation. In response to a question asking what he attributed the failure of the attack to he pointedly placed in Harman’s hand the fuse from a British eighteen-pound gun. The clear implication was that the British artillery fire had been misdirected and had, in fact, fallen on its own troops.3

ENDQUOTE

 

Bernard

Thanks for sharing Bernard.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...