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Rugbyrelic

The last 100 days of WW1 is an area of particular interest to me where materiel was in abundance and repeated concerted attacks across an extended front saw many highly successful allied victories.  My thoughts however are that this period had moved away from the Bite & Hold tactics of 1915, and was more a successful employment of the RMA and therefore 'breakthrough' by default?

Is anyone able to broaden at all or discuss the theory?

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DigNap15

As far as I can recall, and after just reading Forgotten Victory by Gary Sheffiled.

The British attacks int eh 100 days were of a limited nature as the could force the Gemrans back, but then could not bring up the artillery and roads and railways and water supplies.

So they employed a rolling method with each army launching an attack in turn.

It is good to read of the British victory there, but it is still sad in that it was our men doing most of the dying in 1918.

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Robert Dunlop

A very interesting question. The repeated concerted attacks were not aimed at occupying a sector of enemy territory and then inviting the defenders to retaliate. This was Rawlinson's definition, loosely translated, of bite-and-hold (I quoted his definition here). Many attacks were aimed at pushing as deeply as possible into the German lines, which were defended in much greater depth than had been the case in 1915. Once culmination was reached then the offensive would be scaled back, the captured territory having been consolidated for defence throughout the series of ever-decreasing advances (in many but not all cases).

 

A more fundamental difference, however, was not related to the conduct of specific offensive operations. When major attacks were few and far between, a bite-and-hold operation could be very costly for the attacker. Not on the day of the attack itself, when very limited objectives supported by significant artillery protection could overwhelm the enemy positions. After the attack it was possible for the defender to mass significant artillery assets and bring converging fire to bear on the captured territory. Plumer's campaign in Third Ypres is often hailed as the archetypal series of bite-and-hold operations. Each attack during the drier weeks was associated with relatively small losses but the number of casualties between attacks was high. During the Last 100 Days, it became harder and harder for the Germans to shift assets from one sector to another. The rolling sequence of attacks along the line meant that the Germans could not mass defensive or counter-attack forces in one place. In essence, the Allied offensive strategy under Foch achieved what Rawlinson thought would only be possible if the Germans were made to '...extend their front for another 500 or 600 miles across Austria'. A relentless cycle of multiple attacks in different places achieved the same end result - preventing the Germans from responding to a break-in with significant reserves. 

 

Robert

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phil andrade
On 25/10/2019 at 06:21, DigNap15 said:

 

It is good to read of the British victory there, but it is still sad in that it was our men doing most of the dying in 1918.

 

There were more than two hundred thousand French military deaths on the Western Front in 1918.

 

As many as - and perhaps slightly more than - the total suffered by the British and Dominion forces there.

 

American, Belgian, Italian and Portuguese losses also need to be reckoned with .

 

You’re absolutely right to draw attention to the very high British casualty rates in 1918, and the cost of the Hundred Days must never be forgotten.....but to state that the British were doing most of the dying is to overlook the enormous loss of life suffered by other nations.

 

The British Empire accounted for about forty to forty five  per cent of all Allied casualties on the Western Front in 1918.

 

Phil

 

 

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DarrellDuthie

This last point is a very good one.

Although I would also submit that the casualties were proportionately much higher in certain quarters than others. For example the Canadian Corps (from a strength of somewhat more than 100,000 in August 1918) suffered roughly 46,000 casualties during this period. This had naturally much to do with the fact that it was at the forefront of breaking through many of the toughest lines of German defence (e.g. Hindenburg/Droucourt-Queant/Canal du Nord etc) and being virtually continuously in action. And, as it's commander Lieutenant-General Currie pointed out with a certain degree of pride, went up against and bested roughly a quarter of the German forces on the Western Front in those three months.

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2ndCMR
8 hours ago, DarrellDuthie said:

This last point is a very good one.

Although I would also submit that the casualties were proportionately much higher in certain quarters than others. For example the Canadian Corps (from a strength of somewhat more than 100,000 in August 1918) suffered roughly 46,000 casualties during this period. This had naturally much to do with the fact that it was at the forefront of breaking through many of the toughest lines of German defence (e.g. Hindenburg/Droucourt-Queant/Canal du Nord etc) and being virtually continuously in action. And, as it's commander Lieutenant-General Currie pointed out with a certain degree of pride, went up against and bested roughly a quarter of the German forces on the Western Front in those three months.

 

Not a bad record for a Corps of four divisions.  Foch called it "an army second to none".

 

No wonder there was so much resentment.

 

 

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phil andrade

The redoubtable Canadians, had, of course, been spared the full impact of the spring fighting of 1918, and this husbandry was a significant factor in their supreme achievement in the Hundred Days.

 

People seem to forget the New Zealand record here.

 

In proportion to national population, the Kiwis - I believe , and will check this -  took a bigger hit in the Hundred Days than either the Canadians or the Australians.

 

As for the Canadians, I’m wondering whether Currie shared Pershing’s conviction that the fighting should be continued and success exploited to the point where Germany’s future potential to start another war would be obliterated.  Was there a kind of “ North American” syndrome here....a New World approach to conflict ?

 

Phil

 

 

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phil andrade

You will frequently read or hear in the commentary of the Great War that the fighting on the Western Front in 1918 was singularly costly, and that, with the exception of the Battle of Arras in 1917 and the German March Offensive of 1918, the casualty rate suffered by the BEF in the Hundred Days was the worst of the war.

 

Circumspection is required here : the notorious casualty rates of 1918 obscure the fact that they contained an inordinately high proportion of gas poisoning and prisoners ; the corollary being that the incidence of fatalities among those casualties was rather reduced.  To illustrate the point, the BEF suffered immense casualties in September and October 1918 : but in the months of September 1916 and October 1917, more British and Dominion troops were killed than in their 1918 counterparts.

 

But the loss of life in 1918 was indeed enormous, and I have consulted the CWGC database and also the 1914 population census to compare the proportionate loss of life suffered by the UK and Dominion contingents in France and Belgium between 8 August and 11 November 1918. I wanted to check my suggestion above that New Zealand took the biggest hit.  In terms of actual deaths, per 100,000 of  total national population in 1914, the UK lost 149 ; Canada 140, Australia 112 and New Zealand 204.  I had not expected that degree of Kiwi sacrificial supremacy.  

 

Phil

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MikeMeech
10 hours ago, 2ndCMR said:

 

Not a bad record for a Corps of four divisions.  Foch called it "an army second to none".

 

No wonder there was so much resentment.

 

 

Hi

The Canadian Corps had four Canadian Divisions but during the '100 Days' it did not just have those four divisions on strength.  As Major-General McNaughton mentions in his 1930 article, 'The Development of Artillery in the Great War', that on average the Canadian Corps had attached, and under the control of, one British Division throughout the '100 days'.

This was due to Currie's "two Divisions in and two out" policy (as stated on page 468 of Nicholson's 'Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919') which meant that all four Canadian Divisions would not be in the line at the same time.  This meant that Currie had to use British Divisions to keep up his fighting strength in the front line during the '100 Days', Schreiber in 'Shock Army of the British Empire', page 31 Endnote 29 states the following:

 

"A list of the British divisions that operated under the control of the Canadian Corps during the 100 Days includes: 4th British, 51st Highland, 32nd British, 11th British, 1st British, 56th London, 49th West Riding, 63rd Royal Naval, 8th British, 52nd Lowland (total = 10).  This total does not include tank or other support units, such as artillery.  For further information on the activity of these formations, see the reports on each held in NAC, RG9, III, Vol. 4809, files 190-191, and NAC, RG 9, III, Vol. 4798, files 95-106."

 

The Canadian Corps over the '100 Days' used 14 Divisions to achieve their victories over this period, according to the above sources, not just 4.  This is not to undermine Canadian achievement, but to point out that it was all rather more complicated.  It also shows that the Canadian Corp was not completely 'Homogeneous' during its fighting and the fact British divisions could move in and out of the Canadian Corps (and other Corps) show that battle methods and procedures were not 'different', which should not be a surprise as they were all using the same manuals and training school methods.

 

Mike

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stevem49

The 11th Division got much praise from the Canadian commanders for their efforts.  "Period of open warfare. The 11th Division was now attached to the Canadian Corps, and in accordance with this the Sherwood Foresters moved up by lorries to Vis-en-Artois on 25th September....."  The period showed just how far the Armies had come, with units from different countries interchanging and all arms attacks. Rations and Ammo dropped by the RAF, tanks, infantry, cavalry fighting as one.  The losses as mentioned were high but they got the job done. 

 

Stevem

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phil andrade

How the gunners coped with this is a story we must reflect on.  The wear and tear on the guns, the constant replenishment of ammo, the attrition of the horses, let alone of the gunners themselves...an epic.

 

To keep moving forwards, to deploy and deliver on that scale and intensity , without the luxury of set piece planning, quite something .

 

We hear a lot about the expenditure of the infantry : what, I wonder, was the toll exacted on the artillery, both in terms of worn out tubes and smashed and gassed men ?

 

Editing : mustn’t forget, of course...if this was a strain on the British gunners, what on earth was it like for the Germans ?

 

Phil

 

 

Edited by phil andrade

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DarrellDuthie
5 hours ago, MikeMeech said:

The Canadian Corps over the '100 Days' used 14 Divisions to achieve their victories over this period, according to the above sources, not just 4.

Hi Mike,

 

This statistic obfuscates more than it clarifies. All of the ten divisions mentioned as coming under Canadian Corps command did so on occasion, for typically very short periods. In many cases it made sense to assign temporary control to the Corps as these divisions held an important flank during an attack; a case in point being the 51st Highland along the Scarpe in late August as the Corps pushed past Orange Hill, Monchy-le-Preux and a succession of defence lines to the Fresnes-Rouvroy Line. To suggest that 14 divisions did the work of the Canadian Corps during the 100 Days is simply untrue, not to mention unfair, and it does undermine their achievements. The Corps was assisted by many Imperial units in both fighting and logistics and most Canadian historians (true to national stereotype) bend over backwards to point this out.

 

Frankly I don’t understand the urge to rush forward to make things more complicated when the basic gist of what was said was true. In the interests of accuracy (if not a clear story) I might complicate matters further by pointing out that much of the support you refer to was in no small measure “Canadian” itself – thinking of the Tank Corps, RFC/RAF, the Royal Engineers, the railways, the hospitals, or that 70% of the wood used by the Allies was produced by the Canadian Forestry Corps (this last from the official history). A footnote to a footnote as it were.

 

The Dominions have tended to get short shrift regarding their achievements and sacrifices over the years, such that many people in the UK and elsewhere don’t even realize the extent of their involvement in the Great War. The British national broadcaster in one of its Amiens centenary pieces managed, for example, to describe the August 8th battle with scarcely a mention of either Canada or Australia. Now that would be worth a quibble.

 

All the best,

Darrell

Edited by DarrellDuthie

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MikeMeech
49 minutes ago, DarrellDuthie said:

Hi Mike,

 

This statistic obfuscates more than it clarifies. All of the ten divisions mentioned as coming under Canadian Corps command did so on occasion, for typically very short periods. In many cases it made sense to assign temporary control to the Corps as these divisions held an important flank during an attack; a case in point being the 51st Highland along the Scarpe in late August as the Corps pushed past Orange Hill, Monchy-le-Preux and a succession of defence lines to the Fresnes-Rouvroy Line. To suggest that 14 divisions did the work of the Canadian Corps during the 100 Days is simply untrue, not to mention unfair, and it does undermine their achievements. The Corps was assisted by many Imperial units in both fighting and logistics and most Canadian historians (true to national stereotype) bend over backwards to point this out.

 

Frankly I don’t understand the urge to rush forward to make things more complicated when the basic gist of what was said was true. In the interests of accuracy (if not a clear story) I might complicate matters further by pointing out that much of the support you refer to was in no small measure “Canadian” itself – thinking of the Tank Corps, RFC/RAF, the Royal Engineers, the railways, the hospitals, or that 70% of the wood used by the Allies was produced by the Canadian Forestry Corps (this last from the official history). A footnote to a footnote as it were.

 

The Dominions have tended to get short shrift regarding their achievements and sacrifices over the years, such that many people in the UK and elsewhere don’t even realize the extent of their involvement in the Great War. The British national broadcaster in one of its Amiens centenary pieces managed, for example, to describe the August 8th battle with scarcely a mention of either Canada or Australia. Now that would be worth a quibble.

 

All the best,

Darrell

Hi

I am quoting the Canadian sources that mention this.  The divisions mentioned were not just on the flank but also between Canadian divisions (eg. the 56th Division between the 1st and 2nd Canadian divisions in the attack on the Sensee Canal, see Nicolson) all under command of Currie and in his planning for battle.  I did not say that "14 division did the work of work of the Canadian Corps", I said the Canadian Corps used 14 divisions during the '100 Days', 4 Canadian and 10 British, so Currie could implement his policy of having two Canadian divisions forward and two back.  

 

Which 'British national broadcaster' did this.  The main ceremony organised by the British was at Amiens Cathedral which was televised. The readings were given by the politicians and representatives of national  military personnel from,not only Britain, but Canada, Australia, United States, France, Germany as well as the mayor of Amiens. It was fully inclusive.  Although from what was mentioned on websites and forums at the time, IIRC, the Canadian media reporting of it was not very good.

 

Mike

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phil andrade

Darrell,

 

The Dominions have tended to get short shrift regarding their achievements and sacrifices.....many people in the UK and elsewhere don’t even realise the extent of their involvement in the Great War.

 

Forgive me if I disagree.

 

British people tend to associate Gallipoli with Australians.

 

When they think of the gas attack at Second Ypres, they allude to Canadians.

 

It’s their own countrymen that are overlooked.

 

When it comes to the contribution of Dominion soldiers being underrated, the only legitimate grievance belongs to New Zealand....a point that I’ve  laboured in previous posts.

 

Phil

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phil andrade

The role of the gunners in the Hundred Days will throw light on this.

 

How difficult would it be to find out how the bite and hold attacks of , say, Menin Road and Broodseinde in September and October 1917, compared with the Hundred Days in terms of the ratio of artillerymen who were killed in the BEF ?

 

I don’t think I know my way round the CWGC site well enough to establish this.

 

The demands on the gunners must have been enormous in the Hundred Days, but, perhaps, they did not suffer from return fire as had their counterparts in the Third Ypres battles.  The Germans were being knocked around so badly in later 1918 that it must have been difficult to deploy artillery effectively. I wonder if British Medical Statistics will indicate the proportion of wounds from artillery in the Hundred Days. I would have thought that prolonged battering on a static front was more favourable for the gunners to ply their trade effectively.

 

Sorry that I’m posing questions instead of answers, but maybe this will lead somewhere.

 

 

I’m still a bit taken back at the New Zealand loss of life in the Hundred Days.  I extrapolated from the figures and applied them to the London Borough where I live, and realised that they imply that close to seven hundred men would be killed in 96 days, in the culminating battles after four years of war.  Not a very instructive point, I know, but it makes some impact on me.

 

It strikes me that we’re exactly one hundred and one years to the day when the Canadians made a spectacularly devastating attack at Valenciennes : the Germans there were literally massacred by skilful and determined Canadian infantry, backed up by lethal artillery ....were they British gunners ?

 

And now, having banged on about the Kiwis in the Hundred Days, I must turn on my TV and see how their descendants ( well, some of them ! ) perform against Wales in the Rugby.

 

Phil

Edited by phil andrade

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DarrellDuthie
11 hours ago, MikeMeech said:

I am quoting the Canadian sources that mention this.

Hi Mike,

 

I know. Hence my comment about historians bending over backwards. However my point remains, adding this obfuscates without enlightening, thereby belittling the Canadian Corps' very real and important achievements.

 

As to which national broadcaster: the BBC. Below their headline piece, in which a reader not knowing otherwise, would never realize that it was the Canadians and Australians who carried the attack. To my mind this is the sort of piece that DOES warrant qualification or correction.

 

“The Duke of Cambridge and the prime minister have attended commemorations in northern France to mark the centenary of the Battle of Amiens - the beginning of the end of World War One.

Prince William and Theresa May both paid tribute at a service at Amiens Cathedral.

They also spoke to descendants of soldiers who fought in the battle.

In a reading, the duke said he was "delighted" to mark the centenary in the "historic cathedral".

He added the purpose of the service was to "honour the fallen of all nations" involved in the war.

In her message printed in the official programme, Mrs May paid tribute to the "courage, bravery and skill" of troops who fought at Amiens.

She added it was important to "reflect on the fear and hardship experienced by the people of this city and the surrounding battlefields".

At Wednesday's service, the story of the battle was told through contemporary letters, diaries and poems read by guests from the 2,000-strong congregation.

The British-commanded Fourth Army was involved in the battle, heralding the start of the Hundred Days offensive.

General Sir Henry Rawlinson had learnt the lessons of the bloody Somme offensive and employed improved tactics and new equipment.

More than 500 UK tanks were deployed, alongside 1,900 British and French aircraft, and more than 2,000 guns from the Royal Artillery.

A string of military victories by combined air and land forces from Britain, Australia, Canada, France, and the US followed, leading to the surrender of German forces and the end of the conflict on 11 November 1918.

Armed Forces Minister Mark Lancaster and Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter also attended the service.

Gen Carter said the Battle of Amiens was a "remarkable achievement... moulding a new citizen-based force into a very accomplished fighting force, against a backdrop of rapid technological change".”

11 hours ago, phil andrade said:

When it comes to the contribution of Dominion soldiers being underrated, the only legitimate grievance belongs to New Zealand

 

Hi Phil,

 

Regarding the New Zealanders I couldn't agree more (I think relative to population NZ's were heavily represented at the fighting end). However part of the problem arises because there is simply little discussion of the battles in which Dominion forces played a major if not predominant role. The Somme and Passchendaele have for decades dominated UK perceptions of the war.  

 

Two asides: 1) have you ever looked at the other Dominions (South Africa, Newfoundland...) 2) Relating losses to population is a good measure of a country's "sacrifice", however from a military perspective it might be revealing to relate losses to forces in the field (although there are some data issues you'd have to get around). I had some thoughts on your second mail but will save those for another post.

 

All the best to you both,

Darrell

 

 

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MikeMeech
1 hour ago, DarrellDuthie said:

Hi Mike,

 

I know. Hence my comment about historians bending over backwards. However my point remains, adding this obfuscates without enlightening, thereby belittling the Canadian Corps' very real and important achievements.

 

As to which national broadcaster: the BBC. Below their headline piece, in which a reader not knowing otherwise, would never realize that it was the Canadians and Australians who carried the attack. To my mind this is the sort of piece that DOES warrant qualification or correction.

 

“The Duke of Cambridge and the prime minister have attended commemorations in northern France to mark the centenary of the Battle of Amiens - the beginning of the end of World War One.

 

Prince William and Theresa May both paid tribute at a service at Amiens Cathedral.

 

They also spoke to descendants of soldiers who fought in the battle.

 

In a reading, the duke said he was "delighted" to mark the centenary in the "historic cathedral".

 

He added the purpose of the service was to "honour the fallen of all nations" involved in the war.

 

In her message printed in the official programme, Mrs May paid tribute to the "courage, bravery and skill" of troops who fought at Amiens.

 

She added it was important to "reflect on the fear and hardship experienced by the people of this city and the surrounding battlefields".

 

At Wednesday's service, the story of the battle was told through contemporary letters, diaries and poems read by guests from the 2,000-strong congregation.

 

The British-commanded Fourth Army was involved in the battle, heralding the start of the Hundred Days offensive.

 

General Sir Henry Rawlinson had learnt the lessons of the bloody Somme offensive and employed improved tactics and new equipment.

 

More than 500 UK tanks were deployed, alongside 1,900 British and French aircraft, and more than 2,000 guns from the Royal Artillery.

 

A string of military victories by combined air and land forces from Britain, Australia, Canada, France, and the US followed, leading to the surrender of German forces and the end of the conflict on 11 November 1918.

 

Armed Forces Minister Mark Lancaster and Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter also attended the service.

 

Gen Carter said the Battle of Amiens was a "remarkable achievement... moulding a new citizen-based force into a very accomplished fighting force, against a backdrop of rapid technological change".”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hi

But did you actually watch the BBC's coverage (live) of he event? Which did not ignore anyone.  Also the French First Army was involved in Amiens to the south, as was the British III Corps to the north.  The British 32nd Division also became part of the Canadian Corps in the latter stage of the battle, as I am sure you know.

 

In my opinion the British (and other nations) public still has very little 'detailed' knowledge of WW1 outside the 'headlines', despite the 100th anniversary coverage (but then why would they unless they had a particular interest), and as I also do tour guiding at a museum I do meet a lot of members of the public of all nationalities.  Certainly British historians do not ignore Canada and Australia etc. in books on WW1, as far as I have seen  (pointing out books that do would be of interest), all I was doing was pointing out that the Canadian Corps did not just consist of 4 Canadian divisions throughout the '100 Days', they had British divisions on strength when Currie required them and as McNaughton pointed out that the Canadian Corps had one British division on average on strength throughout the period.  That is not ignoring or playing down what Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Newfoundlanders, Indians etc. actually achieved.  I do try in my posts in various thread to try to go beyond 'headlines', persistent myths, simplicities etc. (not to mention websites) I may not be always successful but I do try to get into the detail of what was actually going on as far as I can research into any particular subject.  I have to say when I have researched into the archives for my own writings I have come across information on all sorts of things that in the 1960s 'we' were being told 'didn't happen' in the British Army by the 'experts'.

 

Mike

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DarrellDuthie

Hi Mike,

 

I guess the only think I might say in response is to encourage you not to be overzealous in going beyond the headlines and persistent myths! Many times these headlines and myths have arisen for a reason - and while perhaps unnuanced there is often (perhaps because they are unnuanced) a certain truth to them. That a headline or myth exists does not make it a priori wrong. There is a tendency in recent years to sanitize history whereby lousy generals/units, etc. are reevaluated in the light of "new" research and insights and prove to be not so "lousy", whilst great ones are shown to be not so very great. History becomes grey. I'm quite sure the soldier saw things rather more black-and-white, either the unit to his side took the pillbox, or they didn't and he got a machine gun bullet in him as a result. General Monash when asked who he wanted alongside him in the centre of the Amiens attack didn't say, 'Oh, it doesn't matter. Just give me anybody. After all we've all got the same equipment, had the same training, used the same training manuals and will receive the same support.' Just saying!:) 

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DarrellDuthie
6 hours ago, phil andrade said:

I wonder if British Medical Statistics will indicate the proportion of wounds from artillery in the Hundred Days

This isn't a statistic but I do recall reading in the history of Canadian Medical Corps that the proportion of wounded to killed was far greater in the 100 Days than earlier in the war, which was attributed to more machine gun and rifle wounds rather than shrapnel and shells. In turn I would suggest 1) a change in the nature of the fighting away from 'bite and hold'. If you look at the distances involved intra-day, they are far greater than earlier stages. Enemy artillery consequently worked less well in such a fluid environment. 2) more and better counter-battery fire. At Amiens and several battles afterwards this was definitely a factor. 3) In contrast to the Allied artillery which moved mountains to keep up with the infantry, I suspect the Germans adapted less well. Incidently yes, British gunners were also involved at Valenciennes.

Finally as to the puzzle you posed about NZ. I wonder if the answer lies in the fact that you're talking about 1 division (no spreading of losses over multiple units which may or may not have have been involved in a particular attack. The NZ Division certainly had it's share of action during this period. To illustrate, earlier at Passchendaele, for example, the NZ Division (concentrated together in one attack) had c. 900 men killed on a single day.    

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phil andrade

Darrel,

 

Please do pitch in with comments about the last post I made.

 

Valenciennes has a personal resonance for me : in recent years I have befriended a gentleman from Victoria Island , BC, whose uncle was killed while serving with the Canadians. He was under age on enlistment and was seventeen when he was killed at Valenciennes.  Date of death is entered by CWGC as 4 November 1918 : I suspect that he might have been killed a couple of days earlier.  He’s buried at the communal cemetery there.

 

On both the big screen and the small , British people enjoy dramas that depict the Great War, and I have to say that Dominion soldiers feature largely : for example, there was the much loved Upstairs Downstairs soap opera from the 1970s, and there was the Aussie lover of one of the maids who” copped it” at Gallipoli....the soldier, that is, not the maid !

 

I have heard Australians speaking about Gallipoli who didn’t even know that British troops had fought there.  Most British people who have heard of Gallipoli, however, associate it with Australia.  Yet again , even here the NZs get overlooked...and, as for the French contribution ....we won’t go there !

 

I agree with you that some  Dominion actions on the Western Front have not been given sufficient prominence : the Canadian success at Lens comes to my mind straight away. And the ANZAC role at Messines.

 

When it comes to the Hundred Days, I do feel that the Canadian role stands out as uniquely triumphant.  As I write this I see that you have just posted a reply , so I’ll stop this and see what you’re saying.

 

Phil

 

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phil andrade
2 hours ago, DarrellDuthie said:

This isn't a statistic but I do recall reading in the history of Canadian Medical Corps that the proportion of wounded to killed was far greater in the 100 Days than earlier in the war, which was attributed to more machine gun and rifle wounds rather than shrapnel and shells. In turn I would suggest 1) a change in the nature of the fighting away from 'bite and hold'. If you look at the distances involved intra-day, they are far greater than earlier stages. Enemy artillery consequently worked less well in such a fluid environment. 2) more and better counter-battery fire. At Amiens and several battles afterwards this was definitely a factor. 3) In contrast to the Allied artillery which moved mountains to keep up with the infantry, I suspect the Germans adapted less well. Incidently yes, British gunners were also involved at Valenciennes.

Finally as to the puzzle you posed about NZ. I wonder if the answer lies in the fact that you're talking about 1 division (no spreading of losses over multiple units which may or may not have have been involved in a particular attack. The NZ Division certainly had it's share of action during this period. To illustrate, earlier at Passchendaele, for example, the NZ Division (concentrated together in one attack) had c. 900 men killed on a single day.    

 

Darrel ,

 

That proportion of wounded to killed can be misleading, for two main reasons.  I.) In 1918, more BEF gas casualties were suffered than in all the other years combined : about sixty per cent of the war’s total, I would guess.   Gas  cases were included in the totals for wounded, and made the ratio different from that in the earlier battles. 2.) In a successful advance, such as the Hundred Days, wounded men could be brought into care, even if they were dying : their counterparts on the Somme, Bullecourt and Passchendaele were left to die where they fell, and were counted as killed.  MG bullet wounds tended to be very severe, as were those from rifles. I have found accounts in the Australian Medical History alluding  to the very fierce fighting of May 1917, when the Australians fought off a German counter attack in close quarters infantry combat.  The wounds were found to be caused chiefly by bullet, and were noted as “ very severe”. The Australians held their ground and repulsed the Germans.  The ratio of wounded to killed was high : more than four to one...but the wounded could be brought in, and, significantly, the proportion of the wounded who died was double the norm.  I wonder if the Hundred Days exemplified this : if we can analyse the number of wounded, less gas cases, and determine the mortality rate, it might be surprising.

 

Phil

 

 

Edited by phil andrade

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Gardenerbill

An excellent account of the battles of the 100 days can be found in Nick Lloyd's book 'Hundred Days - The End of the Great War', I highly recommend it.

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phil andrade

Does memory serve me, if I recall an anecdote about Foch, related by David Lloyd George, in which the Frenchman demonstrated his strategic  method to the Welshman by dint of feigning a delivery of rapid punches, from his chops to his guts, and then pretending to kick him in the shin, for good measure ? 

 

Was this the inspiration behind the Hundred Days, tout le monde a la bataille ! ...keep punching all along the front, no respite ?

 

No time for bite and hold here : far too breathless and relentless for that.

 

Foch provided inspiration ; Haig implementation ; Dominion contingents as the best practitioners ?

 

Editing here : Scope for me to reconsider the role of anecdote : there’s another one about Foch, this time accentuating his reputation for eccentricity in the pre war days when he was lecturing to students in a war college. He expressed his admiration for the parrot, because the bird was able to climb its cage, using its claws effectively, but securing each step upwards by clasping with its beak. Now, if that’s not bite and hold, I don’t know what is !  

 

Enough for now....all eyes on the rugby !

 

Phil

Edited by phil andrade

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DarrellDuthie
16 hours ago, phil andrade said:

Was this the inspiration behind the Hundred Days, tout le monde a la bataille ! ...keep punching all along the front, no respite ?

Hi Phil,

 

Oh, yes absolutely I think.

I read your exposition on wounded/killed with interest. If I can I'll see if I can dig up what I'd read about that - and see if my memory about the causes was correct.

On another note, your friend from Vancouver Island's relative could quite possibly have died on the 4th. There was a lot of fighting on that day as the Canadian Corps moved around Valenciennes and through the swamped area surrounding the city (the Germans had flooded it quite completely), approaching the coal mining area to the east and places like Vicq and Onnaing.

All the best,

Darrell

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phil andrade

Darrell,

 

Thanks for engaging with my points about the composition of the casualty figures.  The Hundred Days fighting, from what I’ve seen of BEF records, resulted in between 2,000 and 2,250 fatalities for every ten thousand who were were battle casualties, excluding prisoners.

 

In the battles of 1916 and 1917, the figure was often 3,000 - and sometimes more - for every ten thousand. When I read or hear that the later fighting was the “ most lethal” of the war, I do get a bit agitated, and feel that there has to be a challenge.

 

Regarding my friend’s uncle : yes, I reckon you’re right....I had conflated his burial at Valenciennes with the date of the action of 1-2 November , and should have been more aware of subsequent fighting and the toll it exacted.

 

Phil

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