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Remembered Today:

Attrition


PhilB
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Particularly in war, intention and reality are but distant relatives! I think this thread has reached a consensus, though, that attrition was, at some stage, not only intended but unavoidable? Phil B

I will have to agree with that assessment. Except for attrition there was no other way of defeating the powerful German Army and therefore forcing it from Belgium and France.

JGM

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"Having reviewed those platitudes, has anyone any idea if any consideration was ever given to relying on the guns to inflict the necessary casualties which they did well, rather than, apparently, using the guns to enable the infantry to engage. In other words is their any evidence of staff analysis of the results of the various attacks either by the Allies or the Germans.

Old Tom"

Tom not sure if you meant this only from the British standpoint (?)

From the German side yes, defintely. Verdun was designed to use the superior German killing power of their high-angle weapons. Advance slowly, let the French form a front, and then obliterate them with 210' and 150' fire.

A lot of emphasis was put on keeping infantry casualties to an absolute minimum. Of course, the battle went off on its own course in time.

Your question brings me back to my question from a few days ago. Why were the British still using week-long bombardments in 1917?

Whenever these efforts broke away from attrition battles, and became breakthrough attempts (which it sees they all were at some point) casualties became very high.

Paul

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Jon, no problem with any delay. I appreciate the consideration given to your replies and the points you raise.

It is not so much that I think Haig was at fault for planning to exploit a breakout. In fact I think he had to absolutely plan for such an eventuality. As I said I am no military strategist, also I have the benefit of hindsight, but I struggle with the fact that Haig believed the army could get as far as Bapaume on the first day.

I guess it depends on what you mean by 'believed'. If you mean that Haig threw everything into planning for such an eventuality, then I would respectfully disagree. Everything about the methodical build-up, such as the creation of waterpipes and reservoirs, railway systems, stronger roads, etc pointed to preparations for a longer campaign. Yes, some resources were put towards the possibility of a breakthrough but the first day of battle was meticulously planned as a limited advance. When you look at the perceived opportunity of Loos - the wide open spaces beyond the first day's advance - then Bapaume was not out of the question. It could have been reached by cavalry had the German front completely collapsed. The front didn't collapse and Bapaume wasn't reached. No shame in planning for the possibility - Megiddo showed what could happen when an opposing army had reached breaking point.

Robert

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Is the quote you use above from Rawlinson’s 3 April Plan for Offensive? I have re-read Hart, Beckett, Prior and Wilson and the quote you use above contradicts their own findings. Absolutely everything I have read to date confirms Rawlinson considered the German second line beyond the range of all but the very long range guns and that sighting the line was difficult because it could only be observed from the air, being on a reverse slope.

Jon, the quote is from Rawlinson's 3rd April document that was submitted to GHQ. I cannot speak to Hart and Beckett. Prior and Wilson appear to have been very selective in their quotes, which is something that struck me quite forcibly at the time. Many other authors appear to have drawn on their conclusions.

You are quite right that Rawlinson described the capture of the second line as exceedingly difficult and not to be attempted on day one. But the specific reference was: 'I do not propose to include the second line South of Pozières in the objectives allotted to Corps.' (point number 21 - 3rd April). In the same point, Rawlinson went on to note that 'North of the Albert-Bapaume Road there will also be some difficulty in observing the German second line, but it is within 4000 yards of our front line, sometimes much less, and I consider its capture, therefore, a feasible operation and one which should be included in the objectives given to Corps.'

Point 22 went on to note: 'I place great importance on the capture of Pozières and Contalmaison as starting off places for any further advance that may be undertaken against the enemy's position in front of the Maricourt salient'. The second line was only just beyond Pozières. Indeed, Rawlinson went on to say in point 23: 'The line of objectives I propose should be reached is shown in green on the attached map.' Unfortunately, I cannot attach the map but I can describe it. The furthest limit of the advance in the 'April Plan' is just beyond the German second line running from Miraumont in the north to Contalmaison Wood in the south. Pozières was included within this objective. Rawlinson's proposal is virtually identical to the major objectives in this area on July 1st. It was 34th Division that 'was to attack and capture the German defences on the Fricourt spur and astride Sausage Valley as far as La Boiselle (inclusive). It was then to advance to the line Contalmaison - Pozières (exclusive), halting some eight hundred yards in front of the German 2nd Position. The 8th Division, on the left, was to capture the German front defences north of the Bapaume road, including the whole western slope of Ovillers spur and the village. It was then to push forward to a line facing the German 2nd Position between Pozières (inclusive) and Moquet Farm' (quoted from the British Official History).

What about the breakthrough to Bapaume? Rawlinson addressed this in a memorandum of Fourth Army issued on 28th June 1916 'with regard to action to be taken if the enemy's resistance breaks down':

"It has been decided that if the enemy's resistance breaks down during the first phase of the operations the nearest available infantry will be pushed forward in advance of the cavalry." Notice that he refers to "first phase" and not first day. Furthermore, he immediately goes on to reinforce that "this does not involve any change in the disposition of troops at Zero on 'Z' day, or in the general plan, but necessitates the III and X Corps being ready to push their reserve divisions forward as soon as it is ascertained that the enemy's resistance is broken down."

Robert

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... Haig was largely under French direction..

Old Tom, this is from Kitchener's instructions to Haig, issued from the War Office on 28th December, 1915:

"His Majesty's Government consider that the mission of the BEF in France, to the chief command of which you have recently been appointed, is to support and cooperate with the French and Belgian Armies against our common enemies. The specific task laid upon you is to assist the French and Belgian Governments in driving the German Armies from French and Belgian territory, and eventually restore the neutrality of Belgium, on behalf of which, as guaranteed by the Treaty, Belgium appealed to the French and to ourselves at the commencement of hostilities."

Robert

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Notice that he refers to "first phase" and not first day.

Robert - thanks for your further reply. Can you just confirm how you interprete Rawlinson's meaning of the "first phase" ie. whether you think he meant the morning of 1 July, all of 1 July, a period exceeding 1 July (say 72 hours+).

Many thanks,

Jon

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Jon, I will need to check this when I get home. My impression is that 'first phase' can be read as 'first day, or whatever time it takes to achieve the objectives thereof'.

Robert

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Jon, I will need to check this when I get home. My impression is that 'first phase' can be read as 'first day, or whatever time it takes to achieve the objectives thereof'.

Robert

Robert - it would help if you could check this as at the moment I am thinking "first phase" and "first day" were two entirely different things to Rawlinson. One thing I would say with Rawlinson quotes - he was always contradicting himself - for example, one moment he said something like "nothing can survive the Somme artillery preperation", a day or two later, he was saying it would be remarkable if his troops achieved and held the first German line.

Jon

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Hello,

Many thanks Robert for the quotation. Returning to the artillery:

I suppose that there is little doubt that not all the artillery deployed was of a high standard (wear, training and so on), also aerial direction of gunfire was not yet fully developed and there were questions of ammunition quality.

The questions of the first and second German lines and Haig v Rawlinson have been well rehearsed, but as in subsequent attacks attempts to break into and hold a second line position usually failed.

The concept of the creeping barrage was applied to very different degrees by the various Corps, which suggests to me that Rawlinsons staff either did not know of the different Corps use of artillery or that there was a lack of understanding on the part of Commanders. My notes from 'History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery' Gen Sir Martin Farndale show:

VIII Corps. The barrage started 100 yds from the front line i.e on the German trenches and as it lifted the advancing infantry were exposed.

XIII Corps The concept was not accepted the artillery were ordered to lift from trench to trench.

XV Corps The three divisions adopted different versions. 7th Division was effective, 21st division artillery were instructed to search back and forward, not successful, 17th Division artillery were told to lift 500 yds, the attack failed

III Corps The guns made 6 major lifts but were ordered to ‘rake back’, hence the infantry could not stay close; failure.

X Corps The technique was ignored.

As has been pointed out significant advances were made on the right benefitting to some extent from French artillery. These were not exploited, I guess because, either Rawlinson did not know of them in time or that the plans were not sufficiently flexible. The whole matter of communication is another story.

I suppose this contribution adds little, but is intended remind us that the 'New Armies' had a lot to learn.

Old Tom

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...at the moment I am thinking "first phase" and "first day" were two entirely different things to Rawlinson.

Jon, the short answer is 'yes' (they were different) and 'no' (they weren't). More accurately, Rawlinson set out the following description in his submission of 3rd April:

"I therefore propose to divide the operations into two phases.

The first phase is shown in blue on the map [which I described above, ie just beyond the German second line in the vicinity of Pozières, though I should note that the British Official History says that the '"1st Phase" (line on the sketch map) practically coincide(s) with "blue" (line described above)'], the second phase in green [which was beyond Warlencourt on the left and Flers on the right].

The time to elapse between the first and second phases cannot at present be definitely decided, but arrangements will be made to commence the second phase immediately the first objectives have been secured. Moreover, forward gun positions from which to deal with the objectives of the second phase will be prepared and the organization for the second attack will be well thought out and arranged beforehand.

It is most important that there should be as little delay as possible between the two phases so that the enemy may not have time to reorganise his defence or bring up more men and guns from a distance."

Each infantry corps set out the phases in more detail. XIII Corps published a "Contigent Forecast of Operations of 2nd & 3rd Phases" [my emphasis]. It noted:

'1st Phase - Day Z - 1st phase ends on capture of green line [not same green line as above]

2nd Phase - Day Z - 2nd phase begins after capture of green line.

- Day A - Consolidation of Green Line. Preparation to support advance of XV Corps.

- Night A/B - Relief of two left brigades.

- Day B - Preparation to support XV Corps in attack on Brown Line.

- Night B/C - Relief of 30th Division by 9th Division.

- Day C - 2nd phase ends on capture of Brown Line by XV Corps.

3rd Phase - [and so on]'

Here we see a more definite timetable, but it is still a 'contingent forecast'. In the more detailed XIIIth Corps Plan of Operations, the section on the Second Phase is prefaced by:

'The success of subsequent operations will depend to a large extent on the consolidation and retention of the objectives gained in the First Phase'. It should be noted that the planning for the Second and Third Phases is very cursory by contrast with the details for the First Phase. The former includes very very detailed map instructions for various objectives in that phase for example. To illustrate, here are the 'First (nearest) objectives', as defined by the BGGS XIIIth Corps, for 18th Division:

'From tram line at A.3.c.8.6 to trench connecting A.3.c.10.75 with A.2.d.75.90 - pt 6159 - Pommieres Redoubt - junction of support trenches at F.6.a.70.10.

As a support to the above and subsidiary to it the consolidation of the following strong points:

a. junction of trenches at A.9.a.30.95

b. junction of trenches at A.2.d.05.25

c. junction of trenches at A.1.d.8.3

d. junction of trenches at F.6.c.85.45

e. junction of trenches at F.6.c.68.07'

The 'Second (further) objectives' of 18th Division for the First Phase were:

'Western corner of Montauban as far E as divisional boundary, thence Westwards to trench junction at S.27.c.1.7, and along trench to junction of trenches at S.26.d.7.6, thence Northwards along trench to about S.26.b.5.4, thence Westwards along the spur through S.26.a.8.3 and S.26.a.2.2, thence to join up with the R of 7th Division. At the latter point a strong point is to be constructed immediately it is gained.'

By way of contrast, the descriptions in the 'Instructions for the Second Phase' are much less detailed:

'Possibilities in regard of the action of the [neighbouring] XV Corps in event of easy attainment of the objective of the 1st day's operations have been indicated in 132/33 (G) dated 26th June.

The probable alternatives therefore with regard to the movements of our left division after attainment of the Green Line and prior to the main advance of the XV Corps to attack the Brown Line are either:-

a. ....retain the line of their original objective

or b. ... remain on the Green Line in touch with the 7th Division near S.25.b.3.0.'

These differences in detail are mirrored across all the corps and divisional orders that I have studied. I believe this is the other key piece of evidence that I mentioned before which negates the idea that the advance on day one was meant, primarily, to include Bapaume.

Robert

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Robert - once again many thanks for the time taken in putting together such a comprehensive reply.

For me personally there are two issues:

1) Rawlinson's original plan did not include taking the German second line on the first day. This feature of the final plan was included on the insistence of Haig.

I have read your last post several times and unless I am missing something fundamental - which is possible - then there is nothing to suggest Rawlinson's first phase was to be completed in a single day. I can understand that he would split the plan in two phases because taking the German second line would provide the high ground needed from which the second phase could be launched. On the otherhand I believe it is generally accepted that Haig saw the German second line not only a first day objective but a first morning objective, with first wave troops following right through to the German second line and allowing the following waves to secure the German first line.

2) In the event of a breakthrough, which Haig (rather remarkably IMHO) thought possible on the first day, then as we know, the cavalry would exploit the gap right up to Bapaume and then roll-up to the north.

I would tend to agree with you that the first day plan did not primarily include Bapaume but it was considered a very real possibility by Haig. Without wanting to repeat myself, I struggle with Haig's optimism that in a single day the Allies would break through three German lines of defence that included some of their strongest defensive positions on the Western Front, however I regard what influenced Haig's final plan was his belief a breakthrough would be achieved and the potential for open and mobile warfare beyond the German third line.

I am not sure where this leaves us but I am very grateful for the benefit of your thoughts.

Jon

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1) Rawlinson's original plan did not include taking the German second line on the first day. This feature of the final plan was included on the insistence of Haig.

Jon, I have no evidence that Haig insisted on taking the German second line on the first day. This assumption may have been based on the interpretation that Bapaume was an objective for day one. It clearly was not. Rawlinson had noted the importance of taking Pozières and Contalmaison in his plan of 3rd April. The reason for this objective is clear when you walk the Somme battlefield. The proximity of Pozières to the German second line is shown in the attached segment of a May 1916 trench map:

post-1473-1153070737.jpg

Contalmaison is just south of Pozières and is also located on the forward slope of the Pozières ridge. In OAD 876 (16th May), Haig noted:

"that the Serre-Miraumont spur; Pozières; Contalmaison, and Montauban be the objectives obtained during the first day's operations...".

OAD 12 (16th June, 1916) noted:

"First objective. To seize and consolidate a position on the Pozières ridge..."

Neither OAD mentions taking the German second line. Both are consistent with Rawlinson's first stated objectives in this area. The detailed plans for the units attacking in this area did not include the German second line.

...there is nothing to suggest Rawlinson's first phase was to be completed in a single day. I can understand that he would split the plan in two phases because taking the German second line would provide the high ground needed from which the second phase could be launched.

This is my fault for not making things more clear. Phase one of Rawlinson's original plan involved taking the German front line and occupying Pozières & Contalmaison. Then came phase two, the attack on the German second line. Phase one was to be separated from phase two by a period of time for consolidation and preparation. Phase one was not divided into separate sub-phases if you will. It was designed as a single operation. This reflects the importance, as recognised by Rawlinson, of taking the high ground of Pozières ridge as quickly as possible. Rawlinson does not say that phase one will take more than one day. All the detailed plans for Z Day identify phase one as being completed on day one. As quoted before, there were plans for exploiting the success of phase one but these plans were not detailed and were contingent on that success.

Robert

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On the otherhand I believe it is generally accepted that Haig saw the German second line not only a first day objective but a first morning objective...

Yes, this is what has been written by many commentators. I humbly submit that this conclusion is incorrect. As noted, Haig widened the scope of the attack. The detailed planning for the area covered by Rawlinson's original plan, ie the plans for what would definitely be done on day one, remained essentially unchanged. The detailed plans for the additional attacks did not aim for breakthroughs to Bapaume.

...I regard what influenced Haig's final plan was his belief a breakthrough would be achieved and the potential for open and mobile warfare beyond the German third line.

I respect this viewpoint. We both agree that Haig wanted this possibility covered in the planning process. I think we differ on the degree to which Haig's request meant a slavish committment to total breakthrough on day one or a contigency 'just in case' the breadth of attack overwhelmed the Germans.

Robert

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Jon, I have no evidence that Haig insisted on taking the German second line on the first day. This assumption may have been based on the interpretation that Bapaume was an objective for day one.
Jon, just to be clear, I use the word "objective" to refer to the primary objective, ie the military goal(s) for which detailed planning was carried out. This is different from the looser concept of a desirable longer-term goal(s) for which contingency plans may be set out. The contingency plans, however, did not include the details of the primary goals.

Robert

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In OAD 876 (16th May), Haig noted:

"that the Serre-Miraumont spur; Pozières; Contalmaison, and Montauban be the objectives obtained during the first day's operations...".

OAD 12 (16th June, 1916) noted:

"First objective. To seize and consolidate a position on the Pozières ridge..."

Neither OAD mentions taking the German second line. Both are consistent with Rawlinson's first stated objectives in this area. The detailed plans for the units attacking in this area did not include the German second line.

Robert - I have to admit that to date I have regarded the reference to Serre - Pozieres - Contalmaison line as including parts of the German second line, specifically that part involving Pozieres.

I believe Rawlinson's original first day plan was to obtain strategic points beyond the German first line but not as far as the German second line - which was a Rawlinson objective for 3/4 July. I still conclude the German second line was introduced as a first day objective by Haig and put forward the following quotes that I believe imply this to be the case:

Rawlinson's diary, 14 April 1916: It is clear that DH would like us to do the whole thing in one rush and I am quite game to try but it certainly does involve considerable risks ..."

Rawlinson quoted in P&W "Command on the WF": "It still seems to me that an attempt to attain more distant objectives, that is to say the enemy's second line system, under the condition above described (I think this refers to the Montgomery - Rawlinson Memorandum, 19 April 1916) involves considerable risks.

Rawlinson to Wigram , 26 June 1916: "The attack is to go for the big thing. I still think we would do better to proceed by shorter steps; but I have told DH I will carry out his plans with as much enthusiasm as if it were my own."

I've also been looking for the Haig quote in which he states the first wave have to push on beyond the first line allowing the following waves to mop up. Unfortunately I have given up trying to find the exact quote but it would be interesting to know the what words Haig used ie. did he say "push on to second line"?.

Together these quotes reinforce my belief that it was Haig's insistence that the second line be taken on the first day.

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...to date I have regarded the reference to Serre - Pozieres - Contalmaison line as including parts of the German second line, specifically that part involving Pozieres.

Jon, on 3rd April Rawlinson noted that "Contalmaison, Pozières and Serre are defended localities between the front system and the second line." [my emphasis]

I believe Rawlinson's original first day plan was to obtain strategic points beyond the German first line but not as far as the German second line - which was a Rawlinson objective for 3/4 July.

This is correct. As noted above, Rawlinson considered the abovementioned fortified villages as being separate from the second line. Haig's final instruction to Rawlinson about the objectives (OAD 12 - 16th June) confirmed Rawlinson's original notion. It was only "having secured a position on the Pozières ridge" that Rawlinson was to go for the "Second objective... depending on how the battle develops." As I published before, Haig noted two options: "The enemy's resistance may break down, in which case our advance will be pressed eastwards"; "alternatively,... we may find that a further advance eastwards is not advisable". This does not suggest that Haig was utterly driven by a single plan.

Robert

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...I still conclude the German second line was introduced as a first day objective by Haig and put forward the following quotes that I believe imply this to be the case:

Rawlinson's diary, 14 April 1916: It is clear that DH would like us to do the whole thing in one rush and I am quite game to try but it certainly does involve considerable risks ..."

Jon, it is not clear from OAD 710 and 710/1, which were both published in response to Rawlinson's 3rd April plan. OAD 710 (12th April) mentioned "Your principal effort in the first instance will be directed to establishing a strong defensive flank on the spur from Serre (inclusive) to Miraumont and to capturing and securing the high ground about Pozières...". It may be that Haig made personal comments to Rawlinson that were not included in the OAD. It may be that Rawlinson misunderstood, or that he was referring to Haig's request that the attack frontage be widened - 'one rush' need not be interpreted as 'one rush forward as far as possible'; it might be 'one rush to encompass the flanks as well". It may be that he was trying to cover his back. In any event, Rawlinson was very clear in his response to Haig (19th April):

"I came to the conclusion that two courses were open to me. The first and most alluring one was to attempt the capture of the whole of the enemy's lines of defence as far south as the Albert-Bapaume road in one attack. The second, less ambitious but in my opinion more certain, to divide the attack in two phases, the first of which would give us possession of the enemy's front system and all the important tactical points between the front system and the second line [as described in my previous post]."

At this point, Rawlinson lists all the good reasons why the more ambitious attack was unlikely to succeed. Then he goes on to say (as you quoted from P&W]:

"After further consideration, it still seems to me that an attempt to attain more distant objectives, that is to say, the enemy's second line system, under the condition above described, involves considerable risks."

Rawlinson then says: "I, however, fully realise that it may be necessary to incur these risks in view of the importance of the object to be attained. This will, no doubt, be decided by the Commander-in-Chief, and definite instructions sent to me in due course." Definite instructions were sent. They do not, in my opinion, override Rawlinson's initial views with regard to the distance of the attack, as opposed to the width.

Rawlinson to Wigram , 26 June 1916: "The attack is to go for the big thing. I still think we would do better to proceed by shorter steps; but I have told DH I will carry out his plans with as much enthusiasm as if it were my own."

I worry, in light of the selective nature of P&W's quotes from information that I do have access to, that we may be missing more context from Rawlinson's letter to Wigram. I can only reiterate that if 'shorter steps' refers to the distance of the first objectives, then this does not fit the alignment between Rawlinson's initial recommendations and the final detailed objectives for the attack on July 1. Was Rawlinson experiencing cold feet, having first set out the need to secure objectives on Pozières ridge? Was he trying to cover his back? I don't know.

Robert

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Jon, on 3rd April Rawlinson noted that "Contalmaison, Pozières and Serre are defended localities between the front system and the second line." [my emphasis]

Robert - if Haig's plan for 1 July was the same as Rawlinson's then why would Rawlinson say such things as:

"... do the whole thing in one rush and I am quite game to try but it certainly does involve considerable risks ..." - surely Rawlinson would not have reason to use those precise words unless the 1 July objectives were different from his own plan.

"It still seems to me that an attempt to attain more distant objectives, that is to say the enemy's second line system ..." We know the second line was part of Rawlinson's original plan but not for 1 July, so for me the mention of more distant objectives and enemy's second line can only be reference to 1 July objective.

"The attack is to go for the big thing. I still think we would do better to proceed by shorter steps; but I have told DH I will carry out his plans with as much enthusiasm as if it were my own." We know Rawlinson wanted to stop the first day just between the German first and second line, so proceeding beyond that can only mean the German second line (and beyond). Again reference to "his plans" suggests a change from Rawlinson's objectives.

I hope this illustrates more clearly the difficulty I have in accepting that Haig did not interfere with Rawlinson's opening battle plan by extending the first day objectives.

Jon

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Jon, Rawlinson's proposed objectives were changed. It is getting late now. Perhaps tomorrow I will present the information about how the attack was to be widened and how Rawlinson reacted to this. In summary, he thought the inclusion of Montauban and the briqueterie on the right was a potential mistake. In the event, it turned out to be the most successful part of the whole attack.

Robert

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To avoid repetition, this post summarised Rawlinson's stated first objectives, including the German second line "North of the Albert-Bapaume Road":

 

This post gives virtually all of the details in Haig's last OAD to Rawlinson before the battle:

 

Some of the information in Rawlinson's response of 19th April has been posted. I focused on Rawlinson's arguments about the risks of extending the depth of his objectives to include the second line. Given that Rawlinson had already indicated that some of the German second line was a legitimate target, he must have been referring to other parts of the German second line elsewhere. This is made clear by his comment that:

"I have, therefore, arranged my revised plan so that, should it be decided to capture the objectives included within the green line in one attack, the orders and preparations for carrying out this attack will have been prepared. On the other hand, if it is decided to carry out the attack in two phases, as originally proposed [by Rawlinson on 3rd April], it will only be necessary to modify the orders to a small extent."

There is an opportunity for confusion about the 'green line'. On July 1, the 'green line' was the 'Fourth Army objectives for 1st day (1st July)'. It took in Serre on the left, then Miraumont (as part of the extension of Rawlinson's plan to include more on the left flank, as recommended by Haig), the German second line north of the Albert-Bapaume road (as originally recommended by Rawlinson), then curved down the Pozières ridge in front of Pozières and Contalmaison (but NOT including the German second line - as originally recommended by Rawlinson), and then just north of Mametz it curved back around Montauban (as required by Haig). This 'green line' is not the 'Green Line' (my capitalization to create a distinction) of Rawlinson's map of 19th April. The 'Green Line' stretched over the Pozières ridge to take in le Sars, Flers, Guinchy, Guillemont, etc - ie the whole of the German second line in the sector of attack. Rawlinson went on to point out:

"Should it be found impossible to capture the enemy's second line in the first attack, and should the troops making the attack fail to gain their objective, I consider the whole operation may be retarded to a greater extent than would occur should the attack be made in two phases [the first of which included the German second line north of the Albert-Bapaume road, Pozières and Contalmaison] as I originally proposed.

This seems to me to be an important consideration, in view of the instructions contained in your letter No. OAD 710 of the 12th April, which indicates clearly these operations are to be sustained over a considerable period of time." [my emphasis]

At no point did Haig concur with the suggestion of the Green Line as an objective. Haig did not raise the possibility in writing - Rawlinson did. It may well be that Haig asked the question but did not minute it. Haig specifically named Pozières ridge as the limit of the first major objective.

Rawlinson went on to address the "possibility of including Montauban and the Briqueterie in the first objectives to be attained."

He noted:

"The extension of the front to be attacked, so as to include Montauban and the Briqueterie-Maricourt ridge in the first objective [NB - these are NOT part of the German second line in this area] means the addition of one more division to those which will carry out the first attack, that is to say, that four divisions will be required on what was the XIII Corps front, instead of three, and eleven divisions on the whole Fourth Army front, instead of ten. It also means the extension of the front to be attacked from 20,000 to 22,500 yards.

Though it is possible to reinforce the XIII Corps by another division from Army reserve, in order to attack Montauban in the first attack, it is not possible to furnish them with an increased number of heavy howitzers to cover and support that attack. I cannot allot what I consider a sufficient number of heavy howitzers to the XIII Corps to make reasonably sure of capturing Montauban without withdrawing such howitzers from the VIII, X or III Corps and this I am reluctant to do in view of the stress laid by the Commander-in-Chief on the importance of gaining the line Pozières-Grandcourt-Serre and establishing a defensive flank there [my emphasis].

The crowding of troops into the Maricourt salient, under the original plan was considerable. The handing over of half of this salient to the French involves further congestion, and it seems to me very doubtful whether it will be possible to insert yet further troops into this salient with a good chance of carrying out a successful attack. For we know that the enemy can bring a powerful concentration of guns on this salient from the north-east or south.

The original defensive flank which I selected just east of Mametz was one which could be very easily protected by the fire of our own guns.

The defensive flank now proposed does not possess these advantages, for the ground north and north-east of Montauban and the Briqueterie will be very difficult to cover. It is not under our observation, except from the air, and, even when we gain possession of Montauban, it will only be visible from the front line trenches east and south-east of the town.

There is one further difficulty, and that is to obtain effective co-operation between my attack along the Briqueterie-Maricourt ridge and the French attack against the knoll north of Hardecourt. This can no doubt be got over, but it is a factor which must be taken into consideration, and it must be remembered that the capture of Hardecourt knoll by the French in the first attack is very improbable, seeing the narrow front from which they must debouch, and the divergent nature of their attacks.

There is no doubt that the question as to whether Montauban is to be attacked simultaneously with our first advance and with the French, or whether this attack is to be made after we have captured the high ground about Pozières, is a very difficult one, and I fully realise that there may be highly important reasons connected with the cooperation of the Allied armies which should over-rule the tactical disadvantages which I have endeavoured to represent in the preceding paragraphs."

Haig confirmed that Rawlinson had to attack Montauban.

Rawlinson's final Fourth Army Operations Order stated:

"The first day's operations will include the capture and consolidation of Montauban, Contalmaison, Pozières and Serre.

As soon as this line has been gained and consolidated, preparations will immediately be undertaken to commence the second phase of the operations.

The Army commander wishes to impress on all commanders that the success of the operations as a whole largely depends on the consolidation of the definite objectives which have been alloted to each corps. Beyond these objectives no serious advance is to be made until preparations have been completed for entering on the next phase of the operations." [my emphasis]

So the depth of Rawlinson's objectives was unchanged in the Pozières area, thereby answering Rawlinson's first concern in his response to Haig on 19th April. Montauban, however, remained a key objective. As noted above, Rawlinson was really troubled with this possibility. In fact, he takes up considerably more space arguing against this option in his 19th April letter.

This is why I conclude that Rawlinson's subsequent remarks, such as those quoted by P&W, relate to this issue.

From my studies, it seems very clear that there was no Operational Order, or part thereof, from Haig that required the capture of the German second line on 1st July, except insofar as Haig did not explicitly refute Rawlinson's original plan that included this objective north of the Albert-Bapaume road. All of the Operation Orders issued from Fourth Army down were entirely in conformance with an attack on Rawlinson's original objectives plus the extensions in width on both left and right flanks. IMHO, and it is only my opinion, the idea of an all-out first day attack on the German second line and then Bapaume cannot be supported by inferences from non-Operation Order sources such as Rawlinson's diary. The orders were what determined the planning and execution of the attacks on July 1.

Haig did alter Rawlinson's plan. The breadth of frontage was increased. The depth of attack was not, except in those flanking sectors that had not been included by Rawlinson. On the right flank, the German second line was not an explicit objective. XIII Corps' divisions were to stop well short of the German second line on day one. On the left flank, Miraumont was included in the first day's objectives. This is entirely consistent with the need to protect Rawlinson's stated intent to capture the second line north of Albert-Bapaume road. Rawlinson was very troubled by the flanks. His comments should, IMHO, be interpreted in this light.

Robert

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Robert,

You have put forward a very good argument that Rawlinson intended to include the German second line in his first day/phase objective for the Pozieres sector. That I cannot deny. I think you really need to put this theory in front of some academics with familiarity with the primary sources and see what they say.

I am still not convinced but I simply dont have the sources to dispute what you say.

Neither do I think this gets Haig off the hook for the most bloodiest day in our history or what followed in teh next 4+ months ;)

Unless your bored with this, can I ask what you think of the thinking behind, the planning, the preperation, and the theoretical value of the feint at Gommecourt? (Happy to continue here or start a new thread)

Thanks for the benefit of your studies so far.

Jon S

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can I ask what you think of the thinking behind, the planning, the preperation, and the theoretical value of the feint at Gommecourt?

This question is one that ha bothered me too, I mean if you were to feint an attack surely it ought to take place a few hours or even days before the main assault as the Gommecourt attack went ahead at 7.30AM on the 1st July, was it even supposed to be a feint at all?

JGM

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