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Remembered Today:

German 'Strong points' at Passchendaele


Richard Turner

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Dear all,

Could anyone tell me what the German 'strong points' that Haig talks about in his 4th dispatch actually were?

Can I take these to be pill-boxes?

Is the term 'strong point' a translation from the German Schwerpunkt and if so what were Schwerpunkte?

With kind regards,

Richard Turner.

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A number of Bunkers/Pill Boxes such as the ones at Tyne Cot. Varying sizes but all manned by Machine Guns. Buildings were also turned into Strong Points. I think he was referring to all of them. For example - Ferdan House in Poelcappelle was a strong point - a building bristling with machine guns.

stevem

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The answer to question one is, in the context of Passchendaele, 'almost certainly yes.' However, he could well have been alluding to groups of pillboxes sited in particular areas, so as to support one another mutually, rather than single ones.

The practical military meaning of Schwerpunkt is 'point of main effort'. All levels of the German army had (and have today) one, as did the all arms and services. So, in the defence, a platoon might have declared its Schwerpunkt as being its front left section, a company its right forward platoon, a battalion its right hand company etc - all the way to the top. The logistic services at army level might perhaps declare that within the context of the operational Schwerpunkt, it own one was the forward delivery of heavy artillery shells to one part of the front for 48 hours, followed by 24hours of concentration on infantry small arms amunition etc etc.

The underlying idea is to decide which function or place has to take priority in the event of a choice concerning resources (reserves, transport capacity etc) and the result of it is that somewhere along a defensive front, some lucky platoon is going to be everybody's main effort. At the operational level during Passchendaele troops were kept in the line frequently for excessively long periods. That was because the logisticians had obtained the approval of the army group commander (Crown Prince Rupprecht) that the railway transport Schwerpunkt at certain times was going to be ammunition, rather than troop, trains and there was a strict limit to the railway capacity leading into Flanders.

Jack

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How did they fortify houses w/o collapsing them when they poured concrete into them? THere is at least one in the Salient and there is a picture of one on the French Somme thread. Thanks.

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Schwerpunkt were built into German lines at an early stage in the war. The 2nd and 3rd lines at Loos had them. The idea I believe, was that they were protected from all directions. In case of a breakthrough, the men of the ' garrison' were instructed to sit tight and wait for the counter attack. The concrete pillboxes added a new dimension since each one had to be spotted and dealt with by heavy artillery if they were not to be taken by lewis guns and grenades which was often costly in men.

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Let's not confuse Schwerpunkt and Stutzpunkt

Jack

Yes, I have never seen the word Schwerpunkt used for anything in the sense of "strong point" in English. It is a literal translation that does not correspond to the actual German usage of the word. Although I read little about WW II, and nothing in German (in contrast to a plurality of my WW I reading being in German), the context in which I have seen it used is the point of concentration of a Panzer attack.

I have a reprint German Military Dictionary originally from the US War Department circa 1944, and it's full entry for Schwerpunkt is "main effort, point of main effort (Tac); center of gravity". The entry for "Stuetzpunkt is "organized tactical locality, strong point, base, point of support (structures)." So the latter is a good term for the "strong point" term in English.

Bob Lembke

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Thanks everyone for your help on this. The information was very useful.

I may well have confused Stutspunkt with Schwerpunkt.

Richard.

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That's what I get for responding to an echo in an increasingly empty head. I have struggled to convince myself that a stutzpunkt might become a schwerpunkt for the allied attack but to no avail. :unsure:

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Hello,

Essentially a strong point is a feature of a defensive system and hence many were used by the German army, which was defending its gains for most of the war. Farms and villages, particularly with cellars, were often made into strong points. As the war progressed it became apparent that a strongly held front line was a good target for artillery and that many casualties could be avoided by adopting a system of defence in depth. The front line being lightly held and strong points being constructed behind the front line. The idea might be described as decreasing the density of troops in the area to reduce the effetiveness of artillery fire, while maintaining the capability of dealing with infantry penetrating the front line.

Old Tom

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