Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Sign in to follow this  
PhilB

If K foresaw a long war

Recommended Posts

PhilB

A recent thread discussed Kitchener`s forecast of a long war and made interesting observations. I am now left wondering why, if he contemplated a long war, no efforts seem to have been made, pre-war, to produce an army big enough to fight such a war. Doesn`t it boil down to - short war, small army; long continental war, big army? With an army and navy such as we had in 1914, surely we only had in mind the defence of the homeland?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest

Establishment of a plan to put a BEF of four divisions plus cavalry into the field and the "conversations" with the French were themselves a considerable departure from previous policy.

In the years leading up to WWI, particularly with the cost of the naval arms race, there was no possibility of any further massive increse in spending to create a large army, which would also have meant introducing conscription, to develop a trained reserve on the continental model.

Finally, do you think that if the Germans had not invaded Belgium in 1914 Britain would have gone to war? If the answer is no, then what would such an army have been for?

Whatever Kitchener's views, the creation of a larg earmy before August 1914 was politically ruled out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
PhilB
Finally, do you think that if the Germans had not invaded Belgium in 1914 Britain would have gone to war? If the answer is no, then what would such an army have been for?

But the planned size of the army would presumably reflect the worst case scenario and that was a continental war. Are you suggesting that that possibility was not foreseen or just ignored as being inconvenient? Phil B

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Anthony Pigott
But the planned size of the army would presumably reflect the worst case scenario and that was a continental war. Are you suggesting that that possibility was not foreseen or just ignored as being inconvenient? Phil B

Politicians are not usually in the habit of planning for, and spending money on, the 'worst case scenario'. ;)

Regards

Anthony

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
PhilB
Politicians are not usually in the habit of planning for, and spending money on, the 'worst case scenario'. ;)

Regards

Anthony

But that doesn`t mean the War Office shouldn`t be planning for it! Phil B

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
But that doesn`t mean the War Office shouldn`t be planning for it! Phil B

Maybe they had a plan tucked away somewhere. Plans are cheap.

Their job was to carry out the political policy of the government and to work within the financial estimates approved by Parliament.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
AndyHollinger

The pre-war army was not Kitchener's but Haldane's. It was designed as a multi-purpose Imperial army - to which one of the projected purposes was to intervene in some European conflict. It certainly was a "mass" army on British standards and integrated with it's reserve system of Territorials, etc.

From a historical prespective it was quite massive and expensive for the UK ... but its design point was not a general European conflict as was the case of Germany and France.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
PhilB
From a historical prespective it was quite massive and expensive for the UK ... but its design point was not a general European conflict as was the case of Germany and France.

Which indicates that the "official" view was that a long continental war was not on the cards? Phil B

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
Which indicates that the "official" view was that a long continental war was not on the cards? Phil B

Not necessarily. I think the official view was that if one happened Britain should avoid a heavy land force commitment. Remember that never in history had the British Army been large in comparison with continental armies. The traditional view was that while Britain might provide subsidies, other armies should do the main fighting, assuming that Britian couldn't stay out of it.

And while a war might have been seen as on the cards at some time within 5-10 years, there was no obvious reason in May 1914 for supposing it would start in August 1914.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Anthony Pigott

The issues and debate about how Britain should prepare for a possible war are well covered in the usual histories and memoirs of the period.

In particular conscription was the subject of much controversy but the government was always against it.

Similarly, there was great reluctance to spend more money on the Army. Smith-Dorrien relates the story of having dinner with an un-named cabinet minister while he was GOC Aldershot. S.-D. raised the issue of re-equipping with the latest Vickers MGs (which he was very much in favour of), which would have cost £100k. The minister told S.-D. that he shouldn't be afraid of Germans who would doubtless mostly run away if there was any serious fighting. S.-D. was not impressed.

Regards

Anthony

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Moonraker
Politicians are not usually in the habit of planning for, and spending money on, the 'worst case scenario'. ;)

Regards

Anthony

Just as an UOT aside: politicians are damned if they do and damned if they don't. Look at the millions of pounds spent post-WWII on Greenham Common (now returned to rather bleak heathland) and other USAF bases in the UK (admittedly mostly if not entirely funded by the United States) and on underground "seats of government" bunkers, now declared redundant. A few weeks ago national TV featured the sell-off of the National Seat of Government near Corsham, Wiltshire, full of obsolete equipment that had only been used in the occasional exercise. And there were (are?) people who thought it unfair that safe places underground be reserved for a chosen few and should be available to everyone! At what cost?

And who's to say if such bunkers won't be needed again one day?

Moonraker

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
PhilB

And who`s to say that the money spent on things that didn`t happen helped to prevent them happening? Rather like complaining that you spent money on house insurance but your house didn`t burn down! :rolleyes: Phil B

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
PhilB

From Command and Control on the Western Front, p30:-

"Although the BEF had been a finely honed instrument in August 1914, there had been no immediate plans or procedure for its expansion."

Surely there should have been? Phil B

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
truthergw
From Command and Control on the Western Front, p30:-

"Although the BEF had been a finely honed instrument in August 1914, there had been no immediate plans or procedure for its expansion."

Surely there should have been? Phil B

I find the the questions you are posing extremely interesting. Most of them are political in their nature, rather than military. In Britain it is parliament that decides when we go to war and who to fight against. It also decides how much money we will spend on our armed forces, before and during a conflict. To set up conscription for a standing army comparable to a New Army, ( never mind three), would have raised taxation levels to an unacceptable level. No political party who proposed this would have stayed in power beyond the next election. All of this changed when war was declared , because the taxpayers were convinced of the need for it. One of the reasons for propaganda?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
PhilB
Most of them are political in their nature, rather than military.

Certainly, truthergw (or may I call you "tru"?), but the production of plans and procedures for expansion sound purely military to me and would not strain the taxpayer. If you only have a contemptibly small army and your potential enemies have, and have long had, huge armies, then it is surely negligent not to have at least a plan for expansion? Phil B

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
truthergw
Certainly, truthergw (or may I call you "tru"?), but the production of plans and procedures for expansion sound purely military to me and would not strain the taxpayer. If you only have a contemptibly small army and your potential enemies have, and have long had, huge armies, then it is surely negligent not to have at least a plan for expansion? Phil B

Call me Tom but not too early :) I'll bet a lot of purely notional money that the Army and all its senior officers was awash with plans for enlargement. After all, that would mean more officers and more chance of promotion, quite apart from genuine reasons for expanding and improving on the status quo. Until the country was convinced of the necessity however, they would remain plans. I doubt if a middle ranking officer would advance his career by calling for a vast expansion of the army. Another thing to remember is that Britain required large numbers of soldiers to serve elsewhere. I do not mean Egypt or Africa but there were garrison troops all over the world. Every colony from the West Indies to Hong Kong and including the Indian Empire required large numbers of troops and amounts of equipment. Ireland had a large garrison and so did Great Britain itself. There were always large numbers of troops available for F&F if the political will to send them had been present.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Gibbo

In 1914 Kitchener was in the UK on leave from his job as Pro-Consul (effectively ruler) of Egypt, which he'd held since 1911. From 1902-9 he'd been CinC of the Indian Army. I'm not sure wgat he'd been doing from 1909-11 but as far as I know he played no role in the pre 1914 planning or strategy of the British Army. He was appointed Secretary of State for War on 6 August 1914. This office was then vacant. I think that the previous holder, whose name escapes me, had resigned over the Curragh Mutiny earlier that year.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
PhilB
I'll bet a lot of purely notional money that the Army and all its senior officers was awash with plans for enlargement.

Gary Sheffield doesn`t seem to be aware of them, Tom!

Good point, Gibbo - K was elsewhere when plans were (or weren`t) being drawn up for WW1.

Phil B

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
truthergw
Gary Sheffield doesn`t seem to be aware of them, Tom!

Good point, Gibbo - K was elsewhere when plans were (or weren`t) being drawn up for WW1.

Phil B

What I was trying to say in my clumsy way , was that I find it inconceivable that there were no plans and ideas for expansion being aired and discussed in the mess and clubs. There was no official Plan, because that was not in the area of competence of the Army. It was a political decision. We should not forget that at the highest levels, officers were politicians. Murray, Robertson, Kitchener and other members of the highest echelons spent their day working with civil servants and members of the Cabinet as well as other members of the establishment. They spent a significant amount of time watching their backs and stabbing any who did not. The leaders of the Army were as worried about who had the King's ear as they were about shell production figures. As a soldier in the field, Haig was constantly aware of how necessary it was for him to have people looking after his interests in Whitehall and Westminster. His Diary is as much about fighting Lloyd George as fighting the Bosches.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
AndyHollinger

There were plans, that's what the Territorials were ... we see WWI in a global and massive context when NOBODY saw it as such then.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...