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Old 2nd November 2017, 09:31 AM   #41
angrysoba
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Originally Posted by TubbaBlubba View Post
I think it can be summed up as a temporary horrible mismatch between offensive and defensive capabilities.

FWIW: I've come to agree with the revisionist position that the outbreak of the war was less complicated than is commonly assumed. Wilhelm II wanted war (and had some downright bizarre misconceptions about Germany's standing) and he made sure he got it.
By "revisionist", do you mean the Fischer thesis? I thought that this was widely accepted by most modern historians now.
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Old 2nd November 2017, 10:05 AM   #42
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Originally Posted by Tolls View Post
Except they weren't replayed over and over again.
There were tactical, strategic and technological differences in each offensive after the lines stabilised in the West.

Passchendaele involved different tactics to the Somme, building on lessons learned there, on both sides.
Well, some did learn, some... not so much. Or not as fast as you'd expect from even a cat.

I mean Potiorek, which I mentioned already, led three failed campaigns against Serbia... and screwed up all three by pretty much being unable to learn to deal with modern warfare even after screwing up the first two times. You'd think the third time's the charm, he's probably sat and had a long think about what went wrong, learned his lesson, etc. Right? Well, wrong. The third time he just led the Austro-Hungarian army into its biggest disasters yet, at Belgrade and Kolubara. So I guess the third was the charm after all

Speaking of three being the charm, Conrad von Hötzendorf -- you know, the guy who obsessively wanted a war in the first place -- leads three offensives against the Russians in the Carpathian mountains, which all end in the same way: soldiers with unsuitable equipment freezing to death.

And I mean, not only he could have learned from the problem the first two times, but there was also other nations to learn from. Such as Enver Pascha's freezing 90% of his own army. You know, since Turkey was an ally, and had German officers helping them, and all.

I mean, wth, even a toddler, if he puts his finger in the candle flame once, he learns his lesson. If he does it three times in a row, you might start to suspect that the poor lad is a bit... special.
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Old 2nd November 2017, 10:13 AM   #43
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Originally Posted by Border Reiver View Post
But the old claim that "they just kept doing the same thing over and over again" doesn't hold water when examined. Why did the British keep going at the Somme when day 1 was an absolutely horrible loss of life? Their allies needed pressure put on German defences elsewhere to keep those Germans from using more of the resources of men and material on their own offensive operations.
Yes, tactics improved tremendously during the Somme. By the end of the battle the British had begun employing "Stormtrooper" type infantry tactics as would be developed by the Germans a year later. *

Also, especially regarding the Somme, there is a tendency for people to only have knowledge of how the first day went (20,000 dead). Given the battle raged for 140 days and total British dead were 100,000 (i.e. an average, after the first day, of 80,000/139 = 600), the first day should not be seen as typical of the battle.

Incidentally, deaths were:
Britain, 100K
France, either 50K or 70K (i've read respectable histories that give either figure)
Germany, 160K
... Not really a one-sided slaughter. And, by taking the pressure off the French at Verdun, it very likely saved the Allies from losing the war.


As an additional aside; the British view the Somme as a huge bloodletting because it's scale was unprecedented... but was it really the epitome of attrition? Consider the average rates of death:

British division, Somme 1916, average deaths per week engaged: 90
British division, Normandy 1944, average deaths per week engaged: 100

(The Somme lasted for twice as long, and involved three times as many British divisions as Normandy).




* http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com...alchanges.aspx
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Old 2nd November 2017, 10:19 AM   #44
HansMustermann
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And then there's stuff that's not even about repetition or new weapons, but about common sense. Such as: pay <bleep!>ing attention to the intelligence, fer FSM sake.

The most egregious example of this isn't even Russia, which I mentioned before, but a team effort between Austria-Hungary and Italy.

- Conrad von Hötzendorf again (that guy is like a motherlode of high grade stupidity) is preparing an offensive against Italy in the spring of 1916. Thing is, not only did the exact plans get leaked, they're even published in the Italian and even French press weeks before the attack. Does he change the plan? Hell, no. He attacks exactly in the place where every guy who could afford a newspaper knew he was coming.

But that's made up for by...

- Luigi Cadorna, the Italian chief of staff, is taken completely by surprise anyway.

I mean, WTH, it reads like the lost script for a Blackadder episode...
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Old 2nd November 2017, 10:38 AM   #45
HansMustermann
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Originally Posted by Giz View Post
Yes, tactics improved tremendously during the Somme. By the end of the battle the British had begun employing "Stormtrooper" type infantry tactics as would be developed by the Germans a year later. *
Yeah, by the end they were also starting to figure out that maybe they should actually coordinate, instead of each unit attacking alone at a different time and getting mowed down.

Which they shouldn't have done in the first place, unless they were high, drunk or terminally stupid.

Originally Posted by Giz View Post
Also, especially regarding the Somme, there is a tendency for people to only have knowledge of how the first day went (20,000 dead). Given the battle raged for 140 days and total British dead were 100,000 (i.e. an average, after the first day, of 80,000/139 = 600), the first day should not be seen as typical of the battle.

Incidentally, deaths were:
Britain, 100K
France, either 50K or 70K (i've read respectable histories that give either figure)
Germany, 160K
... Not really a one-sided slaughter. And, by taking the pressure off the French at Verdun, it very likely saved the Allies from losing the war.


As an additional aside; the British view the Somme as a huge bloodletting because it's scale was unprecedented... but was it really the epitome of attrition? Consider the average rates of death:

British division, Somme 1916, average deaths per week engaged: 90
British division, Normandy 1944, average deaths per week engaged: 100

(The Somme lasted for twice as long, and involved three times as many British divisions as Normandy).




* http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com...alchanges.aspx
Proof that you can even use maths to paint a misleading picture. By the same kind of maths, during the fighting with France in early WW2, Germany:

- had about 141 divisions, let's round down to 140
- had around 160,000 casualties (rounded up)
- the fighting with France technically started with the Saar offensive on 7 September 1939, and ended on 22 June 1940 with the Second Armistice at Compiègne, for a total of 320 days

now... 160,000 / 140 / 320 is approximtely 3.6 casualties per division per day.

I mean, wth, what you're doing is padding the maths with many many days when no actual fighting happened, other than some deaths by artillery and such.
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Old 2nd November 2017, 10:47 AM   #46
Giz
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
I mean, wth, what you're doing is padding the maths with many many days when no actual fighting happened, other than some deaths by artillery and such.
Just in passing, regarding other than some deaths by artillery and such, as you are seemingly unaware of this too:

"Artillery was by far the greatest killer in the war; about 58.3 percent of German deaths were caused by artillery "

https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-onlin...losses_germany
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Old 2nd November 2017, 11:15 AM   #47
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1. Yes, it was, but mostly during the actual pushes and a lot less during just staying in the trench and waiting for the artillery shells to destroy the barbed wire. Especially since we're talking Somme, more than a year after the introduction of the Brodie helmet.

So, yeah, during the days I called "padding", there were only SOME deaths by artillery. I'm actually quite confident in calling it only "some" during those days. Only during the actual attacks there were a LOT of deaths by artillery.

2. We were talking about specifically the British deaths at the Somme. Where the artillery bombardment was heavier on the Germans than on the Brits.
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Old 2nd November 2017, 11:25 AM   #48
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Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
By "revisionist", do you mean the Fischer thesis? I thought that this was widely accepted by most modern historians now.
Yes. I suppose you're right, but the MAIN thesis is heavily entrenched in the popular consciousness.

I suppose you could call the Fischer thesis a synthesis.
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Old 2nd November 2017, 11:43 AM   #49
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Originally Posted by The Sparrow View Post
As someone else said, massive technology changed the rules in radical new ways that no one knew how to deal with yet.

Hell, it was the end of forts. I believe the French or Belgians had one that was blown to bits by artillery fire. No forts anymore.
Not at all, Look at Przemyśl it was surrounded and held out for months as a fortress. Of course it caused the Austro Hungarians to lose several armies to the cold of winter trying to save it. So a few hundred thousand men froze to death trying to rescue one hundred thousand.
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Old 2nd November 2017, 12:10 PM   #50
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Well, just to put some more accurate numbers on it, since "a few hundred thousand" paints a somewhat tame picture: in the three offensives led by von Hötzendorf to relieve those 100,000 men, he lost about 800,000 men.

Because, I guess, why lose only 100,000 when you can at least try for a 1 million total. I guess there must have been a Steam achievement for 1 million, or something
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Old 2nd November 2017, 12:40 PM   #51
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Well, just to put some more accurate numbers on it, since "a few hundred thousand" paints a somewhat tame picture: in the three offensives led by von Hötzendorf to relieve those 100,000 men, he lost about 800,000 men.

Because, I guess, why lose only 100,000 when you can at least try for a 1 million total. I guess there must have been a Steam achievement for 1 million, or something
I was only counting fatalities to winter, minor things like amputated limbs from frostbite would be included in the larger number of casualties.
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Old 2nd November 2017, 12:46 PM   #52
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Originally Posted by Brainster View Post
IQ doesn't measure anything other than the ability to take an IQ test.

/politically correct mode
Tho 'it's a remarkably good correlate to academic achievement, positive financial outcomes, certain categories of heath(!)and a bunch of other "good things".

I have no interest in trying to review the decisions of long-dead politicians and military commanders whilst making generally unsupportable, unevidenced claims that 'he knew this' or 'he thought that ...'. We simply don't generally have the sort of detailed contemporaneous records of the many hundreds of decision makers to make these sorts of claims even vaguely plausible.

But what is evident is, I think, enough to grasp the more general problem.

I doubt that typical individual IQs have changed much since the shaping of flints and use of the wheel began. But group or social organizations, (like nations or military or religion or political parties...) are a different matter. These groups create certain odd goals as part of group identity - often having to do with creating some 'authority' to rule or control something. Then individual motives are ignored, replaced, subsumed in favor of some group motive.

It seems quite probably that no individual French soldier (as described above) would choose to dress and bright uniforms and march on a machine gun nest. Not even if they adhered to the same state motive of sovereign territorial control would they choose this tactic to accomplish this end. It's a bad use of resources.

So what went wrong ? Viewed as an economic problem the fact of centralized control reduces or removes price signalling. The entity making the decisions were (mostly) separated and insulated from the costs & value of those decisions. There was no countervailing force(influence, motivation) available when someone chose uniforms colors or tactics or strategies.

I suspect this flaw is why guerrilla warfare, or underground insurrection movements is so successful at a certain small-ish scale. There is still a lot of negotiation & 'buy-in' from participants that reflects a more reasonable valuation of group 'value' (where 'value' can also include popular delusions or demagogic notions).

I don't think "prepared to fight the last war" is likely to be accurate any longer. Certainly modern military forces have groups that try to review and address each new weapon system in a systematic way and ... but that doesn't mean that any military can change equipment, defenses or tactics on a rapidly,nor without a great outlay of resources, nor that the analyses are w/o error. Instead they are prepared to fight 'some war' which is unlikely to be the one they are required to address.

More than almost any other endeavor, war destroys and defies planning. Flexibility is the ultimate requirement, but was clearly never a significant component in WW1 military structures, nor much of WW2. How to create much flexibility w/o vast cost is an open question.
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Old 2nd November 2017, 01:46 PM   #53
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Ages ago I read Mark Urban's Rifles about the Peninsular War and he asserted that the French had taken a rather perverse lesson from that, which (if I recall correctly, and it seems odd if I have) was that the muzzle loading rifle fire was able to break an infantry attack, so the attackers should have had more élan, so some of the commanders sent their troops over the top without ammunition in WWI as that would slow them down.

I borrowed the book from the library, so don't have it to hand.
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Old 2nd November 2017, 01:58 PM   #54
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Originally Posted by Border Reiver View Post
This doesn't excuse some of the idiocies that you've pointed out - the lack of subdued colour uniforms for the French Army, the shambolic way the AH approached war and the refusal to look at the lessons learned by other powers in how military operations should be conducted (looking at you Italy...)
Militaries are very conservative organizations, frequently slow to embrace change and hidebound by traditions. Right up through WWII it was the norm for soldiers to have just one style of uniform for the parade ground and the battlefield and, since it was important to look smart on the parade ground those uniforms tended to lack practicality. Hence the bright colored uniforms of the French for example.
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Old 2nd November 2017, 02:23 PM   #55
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Well, just to put some more accurate numbers on it, since "a few hundred thousand" paints a somewhat tame picture: in the three offensives led by von Hötzendorf to relieve those 100,000 men, he lost about 800,000 men.

Because, I guess, why lose only 100,000 when you can at least try for a 1 million total. I guess there must have been a Steam achievement for 1 million, or something
Conserving manpower is an important part of warfare. But so is expending manpower. And there are other important things as well. Location. Timeliness. Morale. Simple body count is never the whole story.

Which I think is the problem with a lot of the complaints you've raised. You've taken complex events and tried to reduce them down to a single simple factor selected ahead of time to support your predetermined conclusion.

I'd be much more interested in considering your premise that stupid decisions were made, if you were actually considering the decisions in context and in detail. Right now the entire thrust of your commentary is simplistic and dismissive. It doesn't seem to acknowledge or adjust for new information.
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Old 2nd November 2017, 05:13 PM   #56
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Well, you've yet to actually provide new information. I repeat, just stating that some good reasons/explanations/whatever exist that would explain it, and the other guy doesn't know them, is just the sophisticated theology defense, unless you can actually point said information out. (So sophisticated that nobody ever can point out WHAT it is, in case you're not familiar with the "sophisticated theology" term.)

And frankly, if you make an "X exists" claim, you have the burden of proof. It's that simple. Even if X is information/reasons/explanations/etc.

So, you know, if I wasn't impressed by that sophisticated theology defense when the fundies do it, I'm still not impressed when YOU do it.

Anyway, if you can actually point at some actual information, I'm more than willing to learn. But stuff boiling down to "oh noes, you simply don't know why I'm right" postulates isn't even an argument, it's intellectual masturbation.
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Old 2nd November 2017, 05:20 PM   #57
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Conserving manpower is an important part of warfare. But so is expending manpower. And there are other important things as well. Location. Timeliness. Morale. Simple body count is never the whole story.
Yeah, yeah, I'm sure he had a good reason to expend manpower TO FROST. I'm sure you'll teach me to squint juust right to see it

Because, see, that was the ACTUAL complaint about his screw-up. Those men were sent up a mountain in winter without anywhere near adequate winter equipment, without proper logistics, and without much of a plan, and FROZE TO DEATH. All while -- to help morale some more -- they got to watch their wounded in no man's land being eaten by wolves.

Three times in a row.

If you think you can find a reason in all that complexity to not learn the first two times around that, for example, thin soled boots and -30C temperatures don't mix, and still send more hundreds of thousands to DIE TO WINTER... yeah, I'm curious by now. Please go ahead and enlighten us all about how the complexity of the situation made it sane to send people to predictable deaths by winter alone. Again. And then yet AGAIN.

Because to where I stand, it's kind of a return on investment thing. You expend manpower to achieve... SOMETHING. Sending them to predictable failure, as in they're not even going to relieve the fort anyway if they freeze on a mountain half-way there, isn't an investment, it's just stupid.
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Old 2nd November 2017, 11:22 PM   #58
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Well, you've yet to actually provide new information. I repeat, just stating that some good reasons/explanations/whatever exist that would explain it, and the other guy doesn't know them, is just the sophisticated theology defense, unless you can actually point said information out. (So sophisticated that nobody ever can point out WHAT it is, in case you're not familiar with the "sophisticated theology" term.)

And frankly, if you make an "X exists" claim, you have the burden of proof. It's that simple. Even if X is information/reasons/explanations/etc.

So, you know, if I wasn't impressed by that sophisticated theology defense when the fundies do it, I'm still not impressed when YOU do it.

Anyway, if you can actually point at some actual information, I'm more than willing to learn. But stuff boiling down to "oh noes, you simply don't know why I'm right" postulates isn't even an argument, it's intellectual masturbation.
Well. Have it your way, if that's the only thing you want to do.
Shame. It was an interesting subject to disuss
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Old 3rd November 2017, 01:33 AM   #59
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post

Was the effective IQ that much lower back then, or what? Was it the lead water pipes? Or WTH?
Generally speaking, if we look back at a period in history and wonder why people then were apparently so stupid, its far more likely that we are simply failing to understand the actualities of the period rather than everyone simply being stupid.

To take a look at a few of your points

Quote:
the French enter the war in red pants, blue coats, and with the doctrine of slowly marching in a tight formation towards the machineguns. Because anything else would be un-French.
Yes, they did wear red pants, a throw-back to earlier days when camouflage was not an important factor on the battlefield. Yet plans were already well underway to replace the red pantaloons with horizon blue uniforms.

The whole 'marching in tight formations into machine guns' trope isn't really true either, though its a common misconception. The French had adopted looser formation since before the Franco-Prussian war at least.

Quote:
the Brits enter the war thinking that their 100,000 professional soldiers would defeat the millions of Germans. Don't wake up to actual mobilization until after trying a couple more stupid ideas, like the disastrous buddy system that depopulated whole towns.
The British never anticipated that a force of 5 infantry and 1 cavalry divisions would defeat the entire German invasion force of (IIRC) 8 armies. They were supposed, along with the Belgians, to bolster their senior coalition partners.

Mass mobilisation began pretty quickly after the war started but you can't just train 2 million men at arms in a couple of months. The plan was for the new armies to be ready to undertake a general offensive in mid-1917, by which time they would be ready. Unfortunately they had to undertake a general offensive a year early to save their senior coalition partners from collapse.

Obviously this had a negative effect on their general efficacy at first, but they learned pretty quickly.

The 'Pals Battalions' did have the unfortunate consequence that heavy casualties in one such unit would have a disproportionate effect on a given locality, but to state that such localities would be 'depopulated' is hyperbole.

Quote:
Germany enters the war ostensibly against Russia, but doesn't have plans to mobilize against Russia, and for a while doesn't even try to mobilize against Russia.
France was tied to Russia by way of an alliance. It wasn't completely stupid to attempt to knock France out with a swift hammer-blow before the Russians could fully mobilise.

Fully mobilising against Russia only would leave their western flank wide open to the French.

Obviously, this back-fired horribly, but hindsight was not a benefit they enjoyed.

If there was "stupidity" at play, it was the Kaiser's incompetent diplomacy that united three massive rivals (France and Britain had been fighting each other off and on for almost a millennia, Britain had been actively ***********-over the Russians as recently as 1905) against Germany. Effectively undoing all of Bismark's careful work.

Quote:
- when an artillery barrage fails, and the French sanely decide to postpone their attacks, the British general decides to go over the top anyway. Gets most of his men killed, like everyone knew would happen, they get hailed as heroes. Except it seems to me that knowingly sending good troops to die for no foreseeable gain is not heroism; it's at best incompetence and at worst borderline treason.

- Russia ignores its own intelligence, attacks frontally against massed German artillery, loses all its gains in a week. And then some.
This just seems like a massive generalisation. I'm not sure what you're referencing with the "artillery barrage fails" bit, but I'll assume you mean the first day of the Somme.

Firstly, a barrage is curtain of artillery fire that is designed to prevent the enemy from counter-attacking. You mean a bombardment, which was supposed to demolish fortifications and kill the enemy or render them otherwise incapable of putting up a fight.

The first day of the Somme was obviously not a good day for the British overall, but it was not an unqualified disaster. While some sectors achieved nothing but a lot of casualties, in other sectors, units achieved complete success.

Many of the casualties were actually caused by inexperienced Officers and NCO's rather than the bombardment failing to cut the wire. The 36th Division actually captured the Schwaben Redoubt, but inexperience lead them to keep attacking instead of consolidating their gains, with tragic results.

At least one other unit, finding it difficult to reach their own front line due to congestion in the communication trenches, went over the bags from secondary lines exposing them to excessive fire for much longer than was necessary.

Again, with hindsight, this may appear stupid, but these men were inexperienced and doing what seemed right to them at the time. Second guessing them a century later from the comfort of an armchair is a bit unfair.

Its also massive hyperbole again that most of the men were killed, or that the intelligence was so unequivocal that to press the attack was obviously not going to work.

Quote:
This goes way beyond not having experience with the new kind of war. In some cases people seemed to be unable to learn even from what was happening right there and then.
I'll not comment on AH and Romania etc. but with regards to the above, just ask yourself what is more likely;
  • That literally everyone back then was stupid
  • That a century later, and with the benefits of hindsight and having digested a lot of very bad historiography, you are simply misinformed about the nature of the events as experienced at the time

I think the answer is pretty obvious really.

In addition, the "inability to learn" accusation is ridiculous if you look at the tactical and technological innovations that occurred during the war. Innovations that occurred at a pace never seen before or since in the history of warfare.
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Old 3rd November 2017, 02:13 AM   #60
Hubert Cumberdale
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Originally Posted by Mark F View Post
Militaries are very conservative organizations, frequently slow to embrace change and hidebound by traditions. Right up through WWII it was the norm for soldiers to have just one style of uniform for the parade ground and the battlefield and, since it was important to look smart on the parade ground those uniforms tended to lack practicality. Hence the bright colored uniforms of the French for example.
I'm not sure how true this is, and I think there's a danger of fixating on the colour of uniforms over everything else.

The two decades prior to the outbreak of WWI had seen a considerable number of new innovations being introduced by all major armed forces, including the introduction of the first proper machine guns, the magazine-fed rifles firing high-velocity rounds using smokeless powder, the use of aircraft for battlefield reconnaissance, submarines, dreadnought battleships, and of course the use of quick-firing artillery fitted with hydraulic recuperaters to cope with recoil.

Sticking with uniforms though, the French had approved the use of horizon blue uniforms in June 1914, but these were not yet widely available by the outbreak of hostilities.

The British had been using khaki since the 1860's with the Anglo-Zulu war being the last significant conflict that saw the use of the red coat.

The Germans adopted feldgrau in 1910.
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Old 3rd November 2017, 03:45 AM   #61
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Originally Posted by Hubert Cumberdale View Post
I'm not sure how true this is, and I think there's a danger of fixating on the colour of uniforms over everything else.

The two decades prior to the outbreak of WWI had seen a considerable number of new innovations being introduced by all major armed forces, including the introduction of the first proper machine guns, the magazine-fed rifles firing high-velocity rounds using smokeless powder, the use of aircraft for battlefield reconnaissance, submarines, dreadnought battleships, and of course the use of quick-firing artillery fitted with hydraulic recuperaters to cope with recoil.

Sticking with uniforms though, the French had approved the use of horizon blue uniforms in June 1914, but these were not yet widely available by the outbreak of hostilities.

The British had been using khaki since the 1860's with the Anglo-Zulu war being the last significant conflict that saw the use of the red coat.

The Germans adopted feldgrau in 1910.
Yes, new technical innovations were introduced while the generals stuck with the tactics of Napoleon.
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Old 3rd November 2017, 03:55 AM   #62
Hubert Cumberdale
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Originally Posted by Mark F View Post
Yes, new technical innovations were introduced while the generals stuck with the tactics of Napoleon.
They did not. The trope of Napoleonic tactics in WWI is a massive falsehood. In no way at all did anyone use Napoleonic tactics in 1914, and by 1916 virtually everyone was using some form of fire and manoeuvre.
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Old 3rd November 2017, 04:02 AM   #63
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Armies usually plan and train for the last war they fought.
And the bigger the technological advance since the last battle, the more likely it is that business as usual won't work.
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Old 3rd November 2017, 04:07 AM   #64
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Originally Posted by Hubert Cumberdale View Post
This just seems like a massive generalisation. I'm not sure what you're referencing with the "artillery barrage fails" bit, but I'll assume you mean the first day of the Somme.
The first day of the Somme doesn't really fit.
The French did go over the top, and were successful in their sector (due to a mix of more guns-per-yard and being closer to the German trenches).

Your description of that day is a pretty good summary.
Throw in that the British army had had to extend its front to help the French, which resulted in their guns being more spread out. The original plan was a French offensive with British support, which became a British offensive (in a sector Haig did not want to attack) with French support.
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Old 3rd November 2017, 04:14 AM   #65
Hubert Cumberdale
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Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post
Armies usually plan and train for the last war they fought.
And the bigger the technological advance since the last battle, the more likely it is that business as usual won't work.
They also develop their armies along the lines of what worked and what did not in the last war.

The French were battered by German breach-loading artillery in 1871, so they put a lot of effort into developing a very effective breach-loader - the famous soixante-quinze and its not surprising that given the huge advances in artillery without any concurrent advance in command, control, and coordination, and with eight million men at arms covering a 500km front, things would bog down as they did.
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Old 3rd November 2017, 04:41 AM   #66
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As Hubert says, bogging down with the size of armies involved and (on some fronts) the fairly narrow frontage, was inevitable, without some technologies that allowed for exploitation of areas of success.

This required new methods of communication, new ways of supplying forward units, new ways of gaining intelligence on enemy troop movements.

Even the more fluid Eastern Front highlighted the lack of a solution to all three of those things.
Ludendorff never solved the supply issue.
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Old 3rd November 2017, 05:10 AM   #67
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Originally Posted by Hubert Cumberdale View Post
They also develop their armies along the lines of what worked and what did not in the last war.
This.

Lets look at the Imperial forces (British in the common tongue, but really this applied to the Indian Army, ANZACs, South Africans, Canadians, etc.).

What was the last war of significance that the Imperial forces had fought? The Boer War (1898-1902) with two significant phases.

What lessons had the British learned?

a. Long range rifle fire can be devastating to bodies of troops when you are not able to respond effectively. Solutions - better quality control at the rifle factories; adoption of a universal short rifle for all branches (Canada took a slightly different lesson out of this and equipped its soldiers with what was a superb long range target rifle); adoption of loose order tactics very similar to modern fire and movement
b. Logistics win - control the railways, control the enemy's food distribution network and they will eventually give in.
c. Direct fire artillery in support of infantry attacks is still valid - artillery is mostly light and intended to be used in a direct fire role at the start of WWI
d. Cavalry is in reality mounted infantry - there is still a use for cavalry but it's not what it was when the generals were Lts
e. Lower level commanders need flexibility - granted this hadn't filtered down to the NCO level by WWI, but officers are given leeway to interpret the way to achieve their objectives, where conditions permit
f. The Australians don't like it when you execute their soldiers.
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Old 3rd November 2017, 05:34 AM   #68
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Originally Posted by Border Reiver View Post
f. The Australians don't like it when you execute their soldiers.
Such a bunch of precious snowflakes!
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Old 3rd November 2017, 08:00 AM   #69
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Originally Posted by Tolls View Post
Your description of that day is a pretty good summary.

Throw in that the British army had had to extend its front to help the French, which resulted in their guns being more spread out. The original plan was a French offensive with British support, which became a British offensive (in a sector Haig did not want to attack) with French support.
Right. Haig hadn't wanted to attack there but that was where the British and French armies met, so that was where the French wanted it. Also, if he was to attack there, Haig had wanted until mid August to prepare... but Joffre had implored him to attack by July 1 because of the pressure on the French at Verdun.

So Haig had a choice of abandoning the French (and probably losing the war) or attacking early at a place not at his choosing. And when the initial attack went poorly, he couldn't call off the attack without infuriating the French (and Russians) who'd suffered such vast casualties by then.

Perils of being the junior* partner in an alliance, sometimes you have to conform with those pulling more weight - or else risk the war effort.



* in early 1916, Britain was still definitely the junior partner on the Western Front.
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Old 3rd November 2017, 08:30 AM   #70
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This is very educational, thank you all.
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Old 3rd November 2017, 08:32 AM   #71
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The French dropped their red trousers (har har!) and adopted colors not very different from the Germans' field gray.

Everbody adopted helmets. And learned to dig ever deeper.

Churchill said that war had gone from being splendid and cruel to being squalid and cruel.

Only point I'd make is that you can't generalize very usefully about history.
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Old 3rd November 2017, 11:10 AM   #72
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Wasn't much of the "walking into machine gun fire" due to the use of "walking" artillery barrages?

Very effective when it worked, but there were some horribly failures if the artillery was based on muddy ground.

ETA: or was it "creeping" artillery fire? I assume some of the forum members here know what I am getting at.

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Old 3rd November 2017, 11:36 AM   #73
Hubert Cumberdale
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Originally Posted by crescent View Post
Wasn't much of the "walking into machine gun fire" due to the use of "walking" artillery barrages?

Very effective when it worked, but there were some horribly failures if the artillery was based on muddy ground.

ETA: or was it "creeping" artillery fire? I assume some of the forum members here know what I am getting at.
No one was ever supposed to walk into machine gun fire.

There was a recommendation from Rawlinson on the 1st day of the Somme that men should walk across no mans land due to the weight of kit they were carrying and that it was anticipated that the defence would be negligible.

Thanks to Field Service Regulations, the decision was left to local commanders and of the 80 battalions that went over the top that day, 53, over half, crawled into no mans' land before the barrage lifted, closing up as close to the German lines as possible, and rushing the parapet. 10 rushed the enemy lines from the parapet, and 12 advanced at the brisk pace advised by General Rawlinson, but most of these were behind a creeping barrage, and were highly successful.

A 'creeping' or 'walking' barrage wasn't really designed to permit people to walk at a leisurely pace.

It was creeping because it was a curtain of fire which would advance a set distance at pre-determined intervals.

The idea was
  • To suppress local defence in the immediate frontage of the advancing infantry by demolishing fortifications, and killing or otherwise incapacitating defenders.
  • To prevent counter-attacks from developing

You can see a map of a creeping barrage plan here

https://geographicalimaginations.fil...ap-extract.png

Vimy being a very good example of the effective use of the creeping barrage.

The main difficulties were that if a sector was held up and lost their barrage i.e. it creeped too far ahead, then the effect was negated. The attacking troops could be subjected to stiff opposition and vicious counter-attacks without being properly dug-in.

Compounding matters was the inability of the attacking infantry to communicate with the artillery to either advance or retard the barrage. By late war, this was kind of sorted with the advent of SOS rifle grenades and radio-equipped spotting aircraft, but it was one of the main difficulties of the offensive from 1916-1917.

The barrage had to proceed according to timetable.

A unit that kept close to its barrage would almost always succeed. On the other hand, a unit that lost its barrage was in for a very bad day indeed.
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Old 3rd November 2017, 11:46 AM   #74
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Originally Posted by crescent View Post
Wasn't much of the "walking into machine gun fire" due to the use of "walking" artillery barrages?

Very effective when it worked, but there were some horribly failures if the artillery was based on muddy ground.

ETA: or was it "creeping" artillery fire? I assume some of the forum members here know what I am getting at.


What you are referring to is called a "creeping barrage".

Problems in communicating between the advancing infantry and the guns meant that the lifts (moving the fire from one line of targets to the next) had to be timed - too slow and the PBI move into their own shells, too quickly and the enemy has a chance to recover when the shells stop coming and when the PBI Storm the trenches.

As for walking - have you tried to run while carrying a rifle and 30-60 pounds of kit? Over ground your valiant gunners have been dropping HE onto? Walking was the best speed they could do.
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Old 3rd November 2017, 02:39 PM   #75
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Quote:
No one was ever supposed to walk into machine gun fire.
Unless your name is Diana Prince.....


Surprsingly, the production design in the movie for the World War one sequences was actually very good. The designers did their homework.
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Old 3rd November 2017, 05:36 PM   #76
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1. people didn't know WTF they were getting into.
Some English officers presented the prediction that a war in Europe could last years and kill millions and was laughed out of the room. Germany stocked millions of shells, thinking the stockpile would last years and burned through them in a matter of weeks.

2. Germany attacked Belgium as a way to get to France and knock them out before the Russians could mobilise. The Belgians proved remarkably competent and the Russians remarkably incompetent.

3. Most of the other points are covered under 'fighting the previous war'. They learned quickly though.
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Old 3rd November 2017, 07:38 PM   #77
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A big myth is that the stalemate was due to trenches with machine guns being impregnable. They weren't (at least not after the very early war).

What was lacking to make battles decisive wasn't the ability to break into the enemy position, it was the ability to breakthrough and exploit the break in. WW1 happened at a time when both tugged mobile arm, and to an extent even more importantly, communication was no longer adequate.

Previous wars had battles where the general could sit on a hill and send messages over the battlefield by horse rider. In ww2, they had man portable radio. WW1 had neither, which meant it was virtually impossible for an offensive general to control reserves or shift resources from the pre-set plan once the troops had gone over the top.
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Old 3rd November 2017, 07:45 PM   #78
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Originally Posted by erwinl View Post
Well. Have it your way, if that's the only thing you want to do.
Shame. It was an interesting subject to disuss
What subject? Bare postulates that Hans just doesn't understand the complexities, but failing to mention even one single detail of those complexities?

Because that had been his WHOLE contribution in the thread so far. And I don't really feel sorry for asking for more information than "oh noes, you just can't understand why I'm right and you're wrong" postulates
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Old 3rd November 2017, 07:57 PM   #79
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Originally Posted by Eddie Dane View Post
1. people didn't know WTF they were getting into.
Some English officers presented the prediction that a war in Europe could last years and kill millions and was laughed out of the room. Germany stocked millions of shells, thinking the stockpile would last years and burned through them in a matter of weeks.
My point though is that for a lot of people, it was their job description to have plans for whatever they were getting into. For some of them it wasn't even a surprise that a war would start after all. I mean von Hötzendorf had been TRYING to start a war since he made general. For several years at that point he had petitioned the emperor a couple of times a month to start a war RIGHT NAO. He doesn't have an excuse for not having any realistic plan when he finally gets his wish.

And your point about artillery shells is valid, but that just illustrates the utter incompetence involved.

Let me explain: it is often said that amateurs think of strategy, while professionals think about LOGISTICS. It may sound dismissive of the former, but the point is rather that you can't just draw lines on a map. If you're a pro, you think WITH WHAT supplies you'll execute those plans. The best drawn plans WILL fail if they weren't based on cold hard numbers of how the logistics will work for it.

It was the JOB of the German high command to call a logistics officer and ask how many shells they'll need for those plans. It's not some optional extra. It's part of the job, if you have any clue what you're doing.

The fact that they were surprised by how many shells they need for their number of guns is the damning part, not the excuse.

Originally Posted by Eddie Dane View Post
2. Germany attacked Belgium as a way to get to France and knock them out before the Russians could mobilise. The Belgians proved remarkably competent and the Russians remarkably incompetent.
In the long run, the Russians were remarkably incompetent, no doubt. But at the start of the war, they actually mobilized faster than the French. It took Russia only 10 days to mobilize, which was faster than anyone expected. Which is when it became a scramble for Germany to improvise something, anything, to make up for the big hole in their plans where they should have had any plan at all for dealing with Russia.

And again, they really have NO excuse for never updating the Schlieffen plan since good ol' Schlieffen came up with it. The plan had last been revised in 1906, and not even touched since then. It hadn't even been changed even to deal with bloody obvious stuff like the new use of railway to mobilize faster. The rearmament of Russia was no big secret generally, but at the very least their Austian friends to the south were VERY aware at it. It's one reason WHY von Hötzendorf wanted a war ASAP. Because he wanted it before Russia becomes too much to deal with. Yet the Germans somehow never take note of it, and, in all fairness, even the Austrians really had no plans beyond "punch them before they finish rearming."

WTH, really? It was their job to have realistic plans for a war. That's what HQs do.
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Old 3rd November 2017, 08:07 PM   #80
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
My point though is that for a lot of people, it was their job description to have plans for whatever they were getting into. For some of them it wasn't even a surprise that a war would start after all. I mean von Hötzendorf had been TRYING to start a war since he made general. For several years at that point he had petitioned the emperor a couple of times a month to start a war RIGHT NAO. He doesn't have an excuse for not having any realistic plan when he finally gets his wish.

And your point about artillery shells is valid, but that just illustrates the utter incompetence involved.

Let me explain: it is often said that amateurs think of strategy, while professionals think about LOGISTICS. It may sound dismissive of the former, but the point is rather that you can't just draw lines on a map. If you're a pro, you think WITH WHAT supplies you'll execute those plans. The best drawn plans WILL fail if they weren't based on cold hard numbers of how the logistics will work for it.

It was the JOB of the German high command to call a logistics officer and ask how many shells they'll need for those plans. It's not some optional extra. It's part of the job, if you have any clue what you're doing.

The fact that they were surprised by how many shells they need for their number of guns is the damning part, not the excuse.
The Germans planned for a battle of manouvre. They had the shells for that.

They fell short Once they failed to knock out France quickly. Perhaps their logistics officers didn't plan carefully enough for failure?
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