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Official Inquiry into Conduct of WW1


PhilB

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Jonathan Saunders

Not that I am aware of but if you use the Official History as a yard stick then I doubt any Inquiry would have been too damning on the central characters, if that is was what you were trying to find out.

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No, that wouldn`t be in the nature of Official Inquiries. It would have made a very interesting read, though. Especially if D Ll G had chosen the members! Phil B

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Wait a minute. Why would there be any form of enquiry? Are you missing the little recognised fact that the Allies won a world war and advanced into Germany?

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Wait a minute. Why would there be any form of enquiry?

700,000+ dead, 2,000,000+ casualties? And maybe the odd lesson to be learnt? Perhaps some blame needed to be apportioned? Phil B

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Steven Broomfield

That's novel, Phil...blame someone for winning a war!

It is now 90 years on: we think differently, act differently, believe differently and jolly well live differently. We might inhabit a culture where everything has to be someone (else)'s fault, but in 1919, I suspect they were just pleased to have won.

Oh, and proud, too.

Why not leave it there?

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I believe Hubert Gough demanded an inquiry into the events of March 1918 in an effort to clear his name and the reputation of 5th Army. I don't think he got it. But as Chris says we won. The inquiries were forgotten and the honours and hard cash distributed to our wonderful generals and admirals.

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I think that the reason why there wasn't an Official Inquiry into WWI was that they were uncommon in those days rather than because we won. There has subsequently been one into a war that we won, the Franks Report on the Falklands, although I think that it focused on the causes & pre war errors rather than the onduct of the actual fighting. After WWI, I think that the Official History was originally conceived as an impartial study of the conduct of the war, although it couldn't be termed an Official Inquiry in the modern sense

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Perhaps some blame needed to be apportioned? Phil B

I'm sorry - blame for what?

For facing the main body of the main enemy (and I presume you accept it was a rather good army the Allies were fighting) and defeating it? No one, as far as I can see, - even Lloyd George and God knows he would have had he could have done so - has explained how it could have been achieved more cheaply.

For doing that at the same time as carrying a number of other major theatres of war to a similar conclusion?

I think your rationale somehow assumes WW1 was a "bad war", as opposed to the "good war" of WW2. But the latter was vastly more expensive in terms of casualties. Not for Britain, as at no time did it face the main body of the main enemy in the way it had in the Great War.

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I'm sorry - blame for what?

So it was safe to assume that, after a war which was catastrophic to our nation and empire, there was nothing to learn? No mistakes could possibly have been made that an inquiry might have revealed and possibly prevented being repeated? No need to check that some men might have died or been mutilated needlessly? Phil B

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Soon after the war. In July 1919, a War office Committee reported on the post - war Army. The commitee drew clear lessons from the past and made prposals for the future. For a minor noe European War small all Regular E.F. could be improvised from Home forces, inevitably for a European War a National army would again be required. Here the comittee could draw on the chaotic recruiting of 1914 and its consequences.

In 1920 the General Staff reported:

'One thing is certain, viz. that despite the temporary elimination of Germany the problem before us is not less menancing than that which we had to prepare prior to the recent war. That emergency could only be met by moblizing the manpower of the Nation in support of the fighting services, and we should be well advised to retain the machinery for a similar expansion in the future'

Quoted in 'British Military Policy between the Two Wolrd Wars' Brian Bond 1980.

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Jonathan Saunders

There were Enquiries into certain aspects of the war or at least there was one Enquiry, which was the Darling Report in 1919. Again if that can be used as a yard stick then it indicates any such official enquiry, whilst noting improvements for the future, would have supported past actions irrespective of any evidence to the contrary.

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Phil,

“Official Inquiry into Conduct of WW1, Was There One?”

Yes, in 1919 a German Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry sat in Berlin to consider the causes of Germany’s failure. The official reports are available to the public.

I only have part of one Admiral von Cappelle stating the problems the Battle of Jutland caused to the expansion of the submarine fleet.

Regards Charles

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It is a great pity that the conduct of the War at Sea was not reviewed because lessons could have been learned for the future:

1 'Q' ships ceased to be a threat to enemy submarines part way through the war a) because they became aware of the ploy and B) once the enemy decided to sink indiscriminately the ploy was useless. Yet the tactic was continued to the end of the war and again used used from the start of WWII.

2 Armed Merchant Cruisers were somewhat of a liability because they were easily torpedoed, being large vessels, and were not armoured sufficiently to hold their own in a gun fight. Yet, again, they were used in WWII.

3 The idea that escorting merchantmen in convoy was defensive and therefore not a fit and proper duty for the navy led to agitation to re-introduce hunting groups at the start of WWII; Churchill being the leading advocate. Fortunately it could not be idone immediately because of the lack of suitable ships to escort the convoys.

Best wishes

David

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Jonathan Saunders
It is a great pity that the conduct of the War at Sea was not reviewed because lessons could have been learned for the future:

Whilst your poiints are extremely valid there was of course an enquiry into each RN ship lost in the war. For example the Enquiry into the loss of HMS VANGUARD did lead to improvements and standardisation into the storage of cordite and temperature taking in magazines.

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Whilst your poiints are extremely valid there was of course an enquiry into each RN ship lost in the war.

But not into the losses of huge numbers of men and material in land actions? Phil B

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Are we perhaps referring to the "Report of the Committee on the Lessons of the Great War (The Kirke Report) first published in 1932 and republished in a Special Edition of the "British Army Review" in April 2002 and still (I believe) available - I purchased mine from MoD in 10/2003. IIRC it cost around £8.

The Kirke Report is in WO33/1297. The Special Edition mentioned above is an Army General Staff Publication and to acquire one you have to apply to the editor. I was writing an MA thesis at the time, and had no difficulty in getting one [apart from the fact I forgot to pay the invoice, and my door was subsequently broken in by SAS heavies!!!!] The alternative is to hie thee to the PRO with a dig. camera (its 127 pages long). Text in [ ] in this post are my own comments.

At that length it is of course too much to expect it to appear on the LLT, but I can at least inform you as to its Terms of Reference, Contents and Appendices. Its ToR were as follows:-

"The Committee will investigate and report on the following questions:

a. What are the principal lessons to be derived from our experiences in the several theatres of the Great War as disclosed by the official histories and reports?

b. Have these lessons been correctly and adequately applied in Field Service Regulations and other training manuals, and in our system of training generally?"

The Main report headings were:-

A. Peace Preparation [for the next war] 2 pages

B. Strategy and Tactics 15 pages

C. Equipment and Organisation 4 pages

D. Training 7 pages

The Appendices [Which apparently were not circulated at the time but are included in the Spec Ed]:-

I Report on the Lessons from the Western Front Maj Gen McNamara 24 pages

II Report on the Lessons from the Western Front Maj Gen Kennedy 19 pages

III Report on the Lessons from the Military Operations, Gallipoli 17 pages

IV Report on the Lessons of the Palestine Campaign 15 pages

V Report on the Lessons of the Campaign in Mesopotamia 12 pages.

[The lessons drawn from these last two were either incorrect, or have never been applied properly - see the daily newspapers, TV news, etc, etc :( ]

Editor of BAR was/is Col Mike Crawhaw, who had this to say about the report in the Foreword -

"In approaching the Report it is important to view it for what it is - a military document intended to draw out lessons from the conflict for application principally within the Army, together with a few points applicable to other services. It is not the report of a Board of Inquiry, nor is it intended in any way as an historical record. In fact it leans upon the Official History, and it is apparent from the text that Committee Members found it trying that the publication of the History had only reached 1916 at the time of its activities. However, although direct apportioning of praise or blame was not part of the Committee's remit, the Report is, given the constraints of official terminology and usage of the time, severely critical of the direction of operations in all theatres and of the High Command"

[i suspect that last may set off a rush to see this report :) ]

Crawshaw also made reference to the Braithwaite Report on the administrative support of the 1914-1919 BEF published in 1919, and to the fact that the Kirke Report was seemingly delayed - he concludes that "The delay was almost certainly related to the fact that FM Earl Haig died in 1928".

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That sounds more like it! Though, if they "leant on the OH" it`s hard to see how it can have been "severely critical of the High Command"? Phil B

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But since the High Command were able to modify and approve the OH before publication, they must have been largely mutually exclusive? Phil B

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Jonathan Saunders
But not into the losses of huge numbers of men and material in land actions? Phil B

I think there was an Enquiry into the Gallipoli/Dardanelles campaign.

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You've lost me. The Committee used the OH as fact, and subsequently interpreted those facts. The conclusions the Committee came to were critical of the high command. As the Committee were critical of the High Command, it does not matter if the OH had been "leant on" (how much has never been established completely accurately anyway).

So "bent OH" and "Criticism of High Command" obviously not exclusive.

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Clearly, if both happened, they were not mutually exclusive! But still hard to see. I thought that previous threads had established that the OH was changed to meet objections from High Command. So it can`t be seen as a collection of objective facts, particularly having been written by high ranking officers. Rather like an ex-minister writing a "factual" history of his own government. As I say, hard to see, especially as I don`t know what the criticisms were! Phil B

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