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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Barbed Wire


Jim Gordon

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The stereotype picture of the Western Front is two lines of trenches facing each other with barbed wire in between. One line of barbed wire is 'ours' and the other 'theirs'

Surely this must mean that if 'we' attacked 'them' the attackers must have to penetrate two lines of wire ?

My rather infantile question is - how did the attackers clear their own wire without losing the impetus of the attack ?

There could have been entanglements wired on trestles which could be moved aside but this would provide fire lanes for the enemy. In any case I can't imagine an object less amenable to manhandle out of the way than a barbed wire entanglement especially under fire.

In addition to the above were there any recorded cases where the wire was so dense that it deflected small arms fire coming 'through' it ?

Regards

Jim Gordon

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Jim

Paths were cut through our wire, and tapes laid to guide the infantry through, on the nights preceeding any attack. They were cut at angles so that it wasn't obvious from the other side.

One of the objectives of the barrage was to give the enemy something to occupy their attention whilst the attacking infantry formed up in front of our wire.

The enemy would have had fire lanes, but the hope (often misplaced) was that the enemy would be too busy dealing with the first wave of attackers upon them than worrying about the next wave forming up.

Regards,

Ken

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On the evening prior to the attack on Cambrai, the German sentries opposite Havrincourt heard the British wire being cut. Having heard that an attack might be likely, they called in a counter-preparatory barrage. It was short-lived but caused quite a stir in the British camp for a while.

Robert

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Hi Robert

Yes, the well informed :D

I think though Robert there was a past thread with a link possibly to their website?

The variations in barbed wire used on the Western Front by opposing combatants is quite a topic in itself!!

Regards, Chris.

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Thanks to all who posted !

To Robert Dunlop

I have a quote from the Narrative of Events by the C.O. of 1/6th Black Watch written shortly after Cambrai that may be of interest to you :-

"The frequent use made of Grenades in place of the Rifle in semi-close-quarter work can only be put down to the difficulty, in fact impossibilty, of taking aim, through dense masses of wire intervening between the men and the object "

Incidentally I have the Narrative of Events of all the participating infantry battalions at Cambrai. Willing to let you have copies if you are interested.

Regards

Jim Gordon

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Jim

Thank you very much for the kind offer. I would be extremely interested, and very grateful.

I am not at all surprised by the description. Not only was the wire thick but it was tall as well. And German wire had the most vicious barbs!

Robert

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Robert

Should have made it clear that I was referring to the infantry battalions of the 51st.(H). only. Still interested ?

Regards

Jim Gordon

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Jim,

A few snippets from the 8th Royal Scots,a Battalion you may be familiar with.

Early summer 1916-"The Battalion gave exhibitions to the Division of wiring and consolidating mine craters,and surprised the spectators by the rapidity the wire was erected.A section of nine men erected 50 yards of single apron fence in nine minutes."

Beaumont Hamel 14/15 November 1916-"It was decided to dig a new trench,200 yards west of "Munich Trench"(still occupied by the enemy),to cover the Divisional front.This proved a sound scheme,as it was used the following morning for a "jumping off" place for a further attack."

Arras 1917-"During February and March,the Battalion reconstructed the communication trenches and support lines,dug new trenches,and the "jumping off" trenches for the Division,and made dug-outs"

Cambrai 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"

George

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Should have made it clear that I was referring to the infantry battalions of the 51st.(H). only. Still interested ?

Absolutely Jim. That was my assumption.

Robert

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This from the Operational Orders issued by British XIIIth Corps prior to the first day of the Somme:

'Arrangement for passage of our troops through our own wire

The 18th and 30th Divisions will be responsible, within their respective areas, for clearing the gaps which it may be necessary to cut in our own wire North of a line joining Copse G and Bronfay Farm. These gaps should be about 30 yards wide and be cut so as to facilitate the movement of reserves up to and across the Peronne road by the existing markings of the latter. The sides of these gaps should be marked with poles standing about 3 feet above the ground and with a small piece of yellow cloth or straw tied around the top.'

Robert

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