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Old 7th November 2017, 03:43 AM   #201
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Originally Posted by Minoosh View Post
That Blackadder clip made me look at a few episodes on YouTube - in one case the commander tosses a helmet out of the trench and it is immediately followed by a hail of machine-gun bullets and rolls back in full of holes. Hugh Laurie mentions helmet camouflage might do some good. In the final scene of the series they really are going "over the top" armed with revolvers. The implication is they all die more or less immediately. This is in 1917.

Earlier in the series Blackadder gets orders to advance. Spoilers: He fakes a bad connection on the phone, manages to ignore a telegram and then shoots and eats a passenger pigeon.

I'm not taking my history from that, obviously, but did Germany have the edge on automatic weapons, and how long did it last?

ETA: He dismisses a would-be offensive saying Haig wants to move his drinks cupboard 4 inches closer to Berlin. So what ever the facts, popular culture later offered a very cynical take on generals' best-laid plans. But the Allies did win, after all. I would like to learn from this thread, with specific examples of how Allied tactics improved enough to change the course of the war.

Germany had an early advantage in the number of heavy automatic weapons that lasted until 1915. By later 1915 British and Imperial doctrine had both increased the number of Vickers per battalion AND had the #s to make doctrine closer to reality.

The Western Allies, due to their requirement to attack used "light
Machine guns to support attacks. These were things like the Lewis Gun, the Chauchat and the BAR. The Germans, who were on the defensive for most of the war, didn't develop these weapons.

They did however develop sub machine guns for use by storm troopers during the 1918 offensive.
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Old 7th November 2017, 03:48 AM   #202
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Originally Posted by Damien Evans View Post
That wasn't what that was, and if you actually knew much about WW1 you would have known why I posted that. See, what happened was once the Germans had decided they couldn't dislodge the Australians from Pozieres with infantry, they turned the artillery on them. Pozieres turned in to a German artillery practice range, and almost all of the Australians lost in the second part of the battle were killed by shells. All up in the 6 weeks of Pozieres over 12,000 of the Australians were killed, most of them by mortar shells.
Local exceptions did happen, indeed. I was more like talking about the overall average, and specifically about the periods between the actual fights. But yes, like in any extended battle, some places and times are going to be very different than others.

The Australians and generally the rest of the commonwealth troops also generally tended to be given the crappier assignments and have higher losses.

So, well, as I was saying, the Aussies have my compassion. And the fact that it's a bit of an exception doesn't diminish their heroism and suffering. But, well, a localized fluke doesn't really change the averages for the whole battle much.
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Old 7th November 2017, 07:43 AM   #203
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
The difference is just that: they're on patrol, or just getting into a position to observe. And in case of a problem, they can take cover and call for support. They're not required to carry that while charging a mile over cretered terrain, under concentrated machinegun fire (and a water-cooled Maxim could fire continuously for hours, unlike the bursts used by modern machineguns), without ANY cover. Including without any cover fire.

There's bit of a difference, you know.
I'm fairly certain that the troops in the first wave of attack were not carrying all the spare barbed wire and trench posts. Someone was, but not the soldiers who had to make the main rush. As noted this extra material was during later UK small gains tactic when they would need that material for setting up the captured trench for defense. If they weren't able to do that properly then their efforts and casualties were wasted.
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Old 7th November 2017, 08:30 AM   #204
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
The Australians and generally the rest of the commonwealth troops also generally tended to be given the crappier assignments and have higher losses.
Not quite.

Overall British forces took a higher percentage casualties then any of the Dominions (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India and Newfoundland).

The ANZACs and the Canadians ended up developing a reputation as "shock troops" for a number of reasons - national insistence on keeping their forces together rather than breaking them up to backfill British units, which lead to higher morale, and success in a few battles with the accompanying press that leads to them being used in later battles, and success in those battles lead to reinforcing the impression that the Dominion troops are best at leading the way. Which of course leads to them being used more often in that role.

Its a definite case of success breeding later success.
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Old 7th November 2017, 08:45 AM   #205
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For the casualties it would probably be better to have the casualties against number mobilised. That wiki has casualties against population.

Not sure there's a convenient table for that that I can find. The Dominions often get lumped into GB and Empire.
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Old 7th November 2017, 08:48 AM   #206
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
And you are? I see you just threw a ridiculous claim, and now are stomping out and slamming the door when it wasn't immediately accepted.
What are you blabbering about? I made no claim. I gave you an explanation but you INSIST that you know what these military experts should've done back then.

Well, ****-a-doodle-doo. It's a shame they didn't have you to advise them.

Quote:
What is in fact an irrational position, and wanting to "maintain your preconceived conclusion" is the ridiculous position that we can't look back and judge who was better at it and who was worse.
Dishonest. That's not what you were doing. You didn't say they made mistakes. You said they were all "stonking stupid" because they didn't learn when they a) were dealing with a completely new type of war and b) they actually did learn. Since you steadfastly refuse to change your mind on this even after you've been demonstrated to be wrong, it's not a stretch to say that you're unwilling to change your mind. It is, actually, merely a statement of fact.
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Old 7th November 2017, 08:56 AM   #207
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
How I would have done it, is take it into account when coming up with the plan.
Genius. Sheer genius! It's just amazing to me that no one prior to 2017 has ever thought of that. I'm calling the folks at Nobel right now.
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Old 7th November 2017, 09:09 AM   #208
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Originally Posted by Tolls View Post
For the casualties it would probably be better to have the casualties against number mobilised. That wiki has casualties against population.

Not sure there's a convenient table for that that I can find. The Dominions often get lumped into GB and Empire.
The Canadian Expeditionary Force had 619,646 people enrolled, out of total population of 7.2 Million (about 8.5% of the total population). If you use the total number of deaths for Combat and MIA from that chart, about 9% were killed.

If you use the larger number for all military deaths then you end up with about 10.5% died during the war.

Not sure where you'd get the stats for the rest of the Commonwealth - likely from each of the nations.
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Old 7th November 2017, 09:13 AM   #209
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Originally Posted by Minoosh View Post
That Blackadder clip made me look at a few episodes on YouTube - in one case the commander tosses a helmet out of the trench and it is immediately followed by a hail of machine-gun bullets and rolls back in full of holes. Hugh Laurie mentions helmet camouflage might do some good. In the final scene of the series they really are going "over the top" armed with revolvers. The implication is they all die more or less immediately. This is in 1917.

Earlier in the series Blackadder gets orders to advance. Spoilers: He fakes a bad connection on the phone, manages to ignore a telegram and then shoots and eats a passenger pigeon.

I'm not taking my history from that, obviously, but did Germany have the edge on automatic weapons, and how long did it last?

ETA: He dismisses a would-be offensive saying Haig wants to move his drinks cupboard 4 inches closer to Berlin. So what ever the facts, popular culture later offered a very cynical take on generals' best-laid plans. But the Allies did win, after all. I would like to learn from this thread, with specific examples of how Allied tactics improved enough to change the course of the war.
Blackadder is great comedy but awful history.

It is influenced far more by the war poets than by serious historians. (But that gives it a large part of its appeal; each series riffs off recognisable cultural stereotypes of a popular era)
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Old 7th November 2017, 09:50 AM   #210
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Originally Posted by Border Reiver View Post
Not sure where you'd get the stats for the rest of the Commonwealth - likely from each of the nations.
Yeah, it looked like that.
This is what I dug up:
New Zealand. 100,000 mobilised, 18,000 dead.

Aussies 400,000 with 60,000 dead. 15%

For the UK, 744,000 dead out of 6 million mobilised. 12.4%.
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Old 7th November 2017, 10:36 AM   #211
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Originally Posted by Tolls View Post
Yeah, it looked like that.
This is what I dug up:
New Zealand. 100,000 mobilised, 18,000 dead.

Aussies 400,000 with 60,000 dead. 15%

For the UK, 744,000 dead out of 6 million mobilised. 12.4%.
This was one reason why I had a problem with Corrigan's Mud, Blood, and Poppycock

He tried to use similar figures to argue the casualty figures weren't horrifically high, when being mobilised meant you had a lower survival chance than of being in a Roman legion that was decimated.

I also think that comparing the Somme to Normandy is a bad example. In the battle for Normandy, although the casualties were at a similar rate, the gains were significant.

His book actually persuaded me of the opposite. Although I would grant that the British generals seemed less bad than a lot of the others.
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Old 7th November 2017, 11:13 AM   #212
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Originally Posted by Argumemnon View Post
Genius. Sheer genius! It's just amazing to me that no one prior to 2017 has ever thought of that. I'm calling the folks at Nobel right now.
Didn't know there was a Nobel for monday morning quarterbacking?
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Old 7th November 2017, 11:18 AM   #213
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Originally Posted by Oystein View Post
Didn't know there was a Nobel for monday morning quarterbacking?
No, for philsophy but... I'm told it was awarded for exactly what I described somewhere in the 8th century BCE.
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Old 7th November 2017, 11:37 AM   #214
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Originally Posted by Tolls View Post
Yeah, it looked like that.
This is what I dug up:
New Zealand. 100,000 mobilised, 18,000 dead.

Aussies 400,000 with 60,000 dead. 15%

For the UK, 744,000 dead out of 6 million mobilised. 12.4%.
The Newfoundlanders really took it in the shorts though.

About 8,500 men enrolled out of a population of about 200,000, or around 4.25% of the total population. Unfortunately, Newfoundland had 1 really bad day (July 1, 1916) when their infantry battalion of 753 men stepped off in the morning - and 68 were able to answer roll call the next day. Almost half of Newfoundland's war dead (1,300) came from this one instance
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Old 7th November 2017, 08:05 PM   #215
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Originally Posted by Argumemnon View Post
Dishonest. That's not what you were doing. You didn't say they made mistakes. You said they were all "stonking stupid"
Well, the point was that there were so many mistakes, and so repeated again and again, and so based on what everyone but Haig and the like considered to be unsound premises even at the time (NOT in hindsight), that... I'm at a complete loss as to what might explain the sheer incompetence at their job other than stupidity.

I suppose technically that last bit would be technically an argument from incredulity. I find it extremely hard to believe that someone would be unable to adjust their premises after the previous battle, or indeed the previous wave ON THE SAME DAY, proved them wrong. I'm not talking things in my hindsight, but that were in THEIR immediate hindsight. And which were proven to not be something only visible from 2017, but that other people right there and then also judged correctly.

I mean, take the battle of Nek on 7 August 1915, during the Galipoli campaign. The artillery had stopped 7 minutes early, and the troops wait 7 more minutes to attack at the scheduled time, during which the Turks recovered and were alert and ready to shoot at anyone coming at them. So far that's not stupid.

But here comes the surrealistically stupid, if utterly heroic, epic fail:

The first wave goes over the top and are mowed down by machinegun fire within metres of the trench. Some even fall right back in the trench.

The second wave scrambles, stepping over the dead and the wounded, and is mowed down right on top of the previous fallen.

Lieutenant Colonel Jack Antill is asked to stop the attack, because it's obviously a fail, but he refuses and sends a third wave... which are mowed down right on top of the previous two waves.

AGAIN people plead with him to stop the attack. Nope, a fourth wave happens. With the results that were not only predictABLE, but predictED by everyone except the good colonel.

And it's not just me calling it an epic fail. Peter Burness, senior historian at the Australian War Memorial, calls it "The Nek was such a heroic failure it almost epitomises the First World War,"

Also, the same historian makes the following judgment, "Behind the glorious charge of the Light Brigade there is a story of inadequacies, incompetence and bitter personal rivalries. The action at the Nek was no different." It's not even ME calling it, "inadequacies, incompetence and bitter personal rivalries", it's a historian calling it literally that.

But really, historian or not, I don't see how anything would qualify the above as anything else than an epic fail, so that's not even what I'm asking. The question is WTH kind of thinking process caused it. I'm applying Hanlon's Razor and voting "stonking stupidity", but if you have a better explanation, I'm willing to learn.
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Old 8th November 2017, 12:37 AM   #216
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Originally Posted by Border Reiver View Post
Germany had an early advantage in the number of heavy automatic weapons that lasted until 1915. By later 1915 British and Imperial doctrine had both increased the number of Vickers per battalion AND had the #s to make doctrine closer to reality.

The Western Allies, due to their requirement to attack used "light
Machine guns to support attacks. These were things like the Lewis Gun, the Chauchat and the BAR. The Germans, who were on the defensive for most of the war, didn't develop these weapons.

They did however develop sub machine guns for use by storm troopers during the 1918 offensive.
Well, while the Lewis was a fine LMG, and the BAR is thereabouts too, I'm not sure I'd call the Cahuchat an advantage for the French, and even less so for the Americans who got to use one.

Some called the Chauchat the worst machinegun ever fielded -- although, to be fair, mostly the .30-06 version for the Americans, which tended to jam after firing a mere couple of rounds -- and the general opinion among the Americans was in line with the following quote by Lemuel C Shepherd, "That BAR was so much better than that damned Chauchat. If we’d only had the BAR six months before, it would have saved so many lives." Some units preferred to stop using the Chauchat and just using their service rifle instead, which... really, when a soldier would rather shoot a bolt action rifle than an automatic one, is a sign that there's something AWFULLY wrong with the automatic.

So, all in all, it just joins my gallery of examples where even the most basic common sense says they should have TESTED it first.


That said, just for completeness sake, I'd add the Vickers was actually not issued in THAT high numbers, because of its high cost and having IIRC about twice the weight of a Lewis (once the Lewis was available for a comparison.) Later in the war it was actually being withdrawn from infantry units and replaced with the Lewis, and only the Machinegun Corps got to keep it. So while the British DID increase their number of machineguns, it was mostly Lewis rather than Vickers.
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Old 8th November 2017, 01:00 AM   #217
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Also, btw, I've been investigating a bit the claim that some piece of kit must have been good if the soldiers didn't throw it away. Because it seemed like a promising metric.

Turns out that during WW1, destruction of military property was punishable by death. Which, I can only assume, would deterr most people from discarding any equipment, regardless of what they do or don't think about its usefulness.
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Old 8th November 2017, 01:05 AM   #218
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Well, while the Lewis was a fine LMG, and the BAR is thereabouts too, I'm not sure I'd call the Cahuchat an advantage for the French, and even less so for the Americans who got to use one.

Some called the Chauchat the worst machinegun ever fielded -- although, to be fair, mostly the .30-06 version for the Americans, which tended to jam after firing a mere couple of rounds -- and the general opinion among the Americans was in line with the following quote by Lemuel C Shepherd, "That BAR was so much better than that damned Chauchat. If wed only had the BAR six months before, it would have saved so many lives." Some units preferred to stop using the Chauchat and just using their service rifle instead, which... really, when a soldier would rather shoot a bolt action rifle than an automatic one, is a sign that there's something AWFULLY wrong with the automatic.

So, all in all, it just joins my gallery of examples where even the most basic common sense says they should have TESTED it first.


That said, just for completeness sake, I'd add the Vickers was actually not issued in THAT high numbers, because of its high cost and having IIRC about twice the weight of a Lewis (once the Lewis was available for a comparison.) Later in the war it was actually being withdrawn from infantry units and replaced with the Lewis, and only the Machinegun Corps got to keep it. So while the British DID increase their number of machineguns, it was mostly Lewis rather than Vickers.
There's nobody who's going to say that the Chauchat was a good machinegun. There were certainly better.
But you have to also ask, why the Chauchat was desigend the way it was. There was a reason for it. The design choices certainly could have been executed better, but there were reasons for them.

Besides. There are more countries which design weapons, which turn out to be dogs. Witness the Uk saga of the SA80 weapon system, where they had a perfectly good first prototype, which turned worse and worse, the longer the design and tweaking process lasted.
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Old 8th November 2017, 01:10 AM   #219
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There may have been reasons, but the result was still a weapon where the French version sucked, and the American-calbre version didn't really even work.

Even the French version had poor accuracy, ridiculously low rate of fire, it overheated anyway, and overheating made it malfunction. And I don't mean a cookoff when extremely overheated, like any other weapon. I mean at a much lower temperature it failed to extract or failed to chamber, because different parts were at different temperatures, and they didn't fit together any more on account of different expansion. The american version really didn't have a different design to account for its failing almost immediately, it just overheated faster on account of the more powerful .30-06 round, and then malfunctioned in the same way as the original French one.

So reasons or not, maybe buy some Lewis guns from the Brits instead? Just an idea


THAT said, I never claimed that the Chauchat was the only lemon. Hell, no, not by a long shot. But, you know, the fact that other weapon designs were screw-ups doesn't change the fact that the Chauchat was a screw-up too. Best that can be said, is that they screwed up an automatic weapon design before screwing up one was mainstream.
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Old 8th November 2017, 01:18 AM   #220
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
There may have been reasons, but the result was still a weapon where the French version sucked, and the American-calbre version didn't really even work.

Even the French version had poor accuracy, ridiculously low rate of fire, it overheated anyway, and overheating made it malfunction. And I don't mean a cookoff when extremely overheated, like any other weapon. I mean at a much lower temperature it failed to extract or failed to chamber, because different parts were at different temperatures, and they didn't fit together any more on account of different expansion. The american version really didn't have a different design to account for its failing almost immediately, it just overheated faster on account of the more powerful .30-06 round, and then malfunctioned in the same way as the original French one.

So reasons or not, maybe buy some Lewis guns from the Brits instead? Just an idea


THAT said, I never claimed that the Chauchat was the only lemon. Hell, no, not by a long shot. But, you know, the fact that other weapon designs were screw-ups doesn't change the fact that the Chauchat was a screw-up too. Best that can be said, is that they screwed up an automatic weapon design before screwing up one was mainstream.
Buy some Lewis guns?

By the end of the Great War some 50.000 Lewis guns had been produced, as opposed to some 260.000 Chauchat machine guns (I suspect a bit less, as that is the total production till 1922).

Was the Uk able to produce an additional quarter of a milion Lewis guns?
If not, then this is simply not a solution.

Besides. The Chauchat in French service was chambred in 8 mm Lebel, the cartridge they used for all their fire arms. The Lewis was not. Do you want to introduce another logistical burden?
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Old 8th November 2017, 02:19 AM   #221
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The production was mostly limited by how many did the army buy. I don't think anyone would have minded opening another factory, if someone's paying.

Plus, there is another thing you can do: LICENSE the design. Then you can use your own factories to produce it, if somehow the UK isn't up to the task. Which I doubt, but still, there may be advanages in making it locally anyway.

I mean, WTH, even the Maxim gun, for the countries that used it (which, granted, did not include France as it decided to design its own instead,) was produced under license. The Vickers MG was for example a modification of a licensed Maxim design. The Chauchat M1915, was based on the long recoil patented by Browning in 1900, and again it was using the mechanism by licensing it.

It wouldn't even be the only licensed design. It happened all the time. E.g., the Austro-Hungarian Army's Roth-Steyr M1907 was a Roth design licensed by Steyr.

Hell, not only that, but even internally inside a single country, the production of all those quantities of material on short notice pretty much required that some more factories produce it under license. EVERYONE was doing that..

So there is no real "if not".

Changing the design of a weapon to another caliber is also something that was hardly a problem, and was done all the time. The French themselves had no trouble rechambering the Chauchat from 8mm Lebel to .30-06 for the Americans, so I'm really drawing blanks for why you think it had to end up in a logistical problem.
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Old 8th November 2017, 03:10 AM   #222
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
The production was mostly limited by how many did the army buy. I don't think anyone would have minded opening another factory, if someone's paying.

Plus, there is another thing you can do: LICENSE the design. Then you can use your own factories to produce it, if somehow the UK isn't up to the task. Which I doubt, but still, there may be advanages in making it locally anyway.

I mean, WTH, even the Maxim gun, for the countries that used it (which, granted, did not include France as it decided to design its own instead,) was produced under license. The Vickers MG was for example a modification of a licensed Maxim design. The Chauchat M1915, was based on the long recoil patented by Browning in 1900, and again it was using the mechanism by licensing it.

It wouldn't even be the only licensed design. It happened all the time. E.g., the Austro-Hungarian Army's Roth-Steyr M1907 was a Roth design licensed by Steyr.

Hell, not only that, but even internally inside a single country, the production of all those quantities of material on short notice pretty much required that some more factories produce it under license. EVERYONE was doing that..

So there is no real "if not".

Changing the design of a weapon to another caliber is also something that was hardly a problem, and was done all the time. The French themselves had no trouble rechambering the Chauchat from 8mm Lebel to .30-06 for the Americans, so I'm really drawing blanks for why you think it had to end up in a logistical problem.
How long does it take to set up a production line? The making of weapons entails a little bit more than just ordering the stuff.
Licensing the Lewis gun to be able to make it in france, means stopping the tooling of the Chauchat guns and changing them to Lewis Gun tooling. Usually that is a process that takes a year or more.

And using the rechambering of the Chauchat from 8 mm lebel to . 30-06 does not really help your case, i might add.

Logistical problems, I think would seem easy to understand.
You have this huge army, which fires umpteen million of rounds per week/whatever. All the same cartridge. Whether the poor poilu used a lebel rifle, a Berthier, a Chauchat or a heavy machine gun, they all used the same ammo. In a pinch they can all use the same crate of ammo.
Now you want to introduce a new cartridge just for one kind of machine gun role?

The lebel cartridge was obsolecent and the French army had been looking for a new cartridge to use in the future. But then the War broke out and there was simply no time or resources to do this anymore. Better to stay with a less than optimal cartidge, but for which the weapons are present and the tooling and production is present, than to stop all production, just when you need more and more and more of the damn things.

That is also what logistics mean.
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Old 8th November 2017, 03:34 AM   #223
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Considering what you're answering to, and that you even address rechambering in the first part of your message, I'm kinda confused where do you get the "Now you want to introduce a new cartridge just for one kind of machine gun role?" idea. I'm sure you're not trying to force a strawman, so, uhm, what happened between the first and second halves of your message?

That said, let's address the other points:

- retooling... wouldn't be a factor at all, if they had TESTED the Chauchat before putting it into production. They had to retool factories to produce the Chauchat in the first place. So they'd just tool them from the start for whatever other substitute they'd decide on for the Chauchat, if they had TESTED it before retooling to mass produce it.

- the rechambering of the Chauchat... didn't really introduce any new problems. It just made the problems that the original 8mm Lebel version already had happen faster. But it was the same problems: when the gun warmed up, things didn't fit well together any more. The .30-06 produced more heat so this happened faster, but the underlying problem was the same.

I'm not sure a well designed MG like the Lewis, and a rechamber done by a competent designer, would be that likely to sprout new problems.

- And if it does, we come back in full circle to: then bloody TEST it before putting it into mass production
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Old 8th November 2017, 03:53 AM   #224
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You do realise these things (the Chauchat's problems) are hardly unusual?

History is replete with weapons that, when exposed to the harsh realities of a war, turned out to have issues. And those weapons were also TESTED.
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Old 8th November 2017, 03:55 AM   #225
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Well, the point was that there were so many mistakes, and so repeated again and again, and so based on what everyone but Haig and the like considered to be unsound premises even at the time (NOT in hindsight), that... I'm at a complete loss as to what might explain the sheer incompetence at their job other than stupidity.

I suppose technically that last bit would be technically an argument from incredulity. I find it extremely hard to believe that someone would be unable to adjust their premises after the previous battle, or indeed the previous wave ON THE SAME DAY, proved them wrong.
But they did adjust. I don't think you're being fair to them, and as I said your unwillingness to allow for the explanations given here doesn't reflect well on you.

When you're an expert in something, you kind of get used to a certain way of doing things because, although it sometimes fails, it mostly works. So when the environment changes you keep trying the reliable solutions, even if they fail a couple of times in a row, because you expect them to still work on average, until you realise they don't really work anymore, but it takes a bit of time. Realise that some of those doctrines had been in place for a LONG time.
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Old 8th November 2017, 03:59 AM   #226
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The Chauchat was desigend around the 8 mm lebel. Not the other way around, because that is what the French army had at the time and it was designed to be as light as possible (it being only 2/3 rds of the weight of the Lewis Gun).

The logistics of all fire arms having the same cartridge were thought of to be very important (and France was not the only country to choose a sub obtimal weapon in order to ease logistics).

Listen to this guy, talking about the Chauchat.
He really knows what he is talking about.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCwP3Dm52Ls
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Old 8th November 2017, 04:08 AM   #227
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I'm curious about this thread. Is the OP just trying to point out that "everyone was stonking stupid" or attempting to understand why particular bad decisions were made?

I find it very unlikely that something happened to make people around 1914 less intelligent than those in 1870, say. So I think the idea that everyone was just stupid is an extraordinary claim.

On the other hand if OP can show a pattern of poor decisions then... what? Is there some proposed reason for those poor decisions? Perhaps inefficient institutions? Nepotism?

Maybe the particular problems faced in WWI were particularly difficult to overcome and thus it took longer and more mistakes were made than has been the case in other times?

Of course that's all assuming that the OP has made his case, which I'm not seeing so far, to be honest.
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Old 8th November 2017, 04:26 AM   #228
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Originally Posted by Roboramma View Post
I'm curious about this thread. Is the OP just trying to point out that "everyone was stonking stupid" or attempting to understand why particular bad decisions were made?

I find it very unlikely that something happened to make people around 1914 less intelligent than those in 1870, say. So I think the idea that everyone was just stupid is an extraordinary claim.

On the other hand if OP can show a pattern of poor decisions then... what? Is there some proposed reason for those poor decisions? Perhaps inefficient institutions? Nepotism?

Maybe the particular problems faced in WWI were particularly difficult to overcome and thus it took longer and more mistakes were made than has been the case in other times?

Of course that's all assuming that the OP has made his case, which I'm not seeing so far, to be honest.
I've not seen any attempt at understanding why, yet.

Which is a shame, because that is a very interesting question to explore. Why were the things done the way they were?

Sometimes the solutions thought of were the best, given the time and technology, that were reasonably attainable. Doesn't mean they were pretty solutions though.

Sometimes people were indeed not up to the task they were given. But it takes experience to find out. And then. Are potential replacements better? Who knows. You only find out if you give them the chance and if they are available.

(For all his faults, and there were many, Joffre was very quick in removing sub performing generals in 1914 and the French army certainly was the better of, with him doing it).

A too high a turnover in commanding officers is also detrimental to moral of the army as a whole, just as a too low turnover is. There is a compromise, somewhere.

But it is easier to keep going from a 'lions led by donkeys' mind set, because that means you don't have to think. And sometimes the lions were led by donkeys. And sometimes they weren't.

As I said before
The Great war on the Western front (and in the east as well, but there on a more mobile case) was an attritional war. That means that you, barring any sudden breakthrough and collapse, win by destroying the enemies reserves, be they weapons, ammo, other supplies or soldiers, before he is able to destroy yours. No matter what you do, that is simply going to cost an enormous amount of lives.

We saw that in WWII again (Eastern Front), but don't see that too many times these days (although a case can be made concerning the ongoing Syrian Civil War).
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Old 8th November 2017, 05:04 AM   #229
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Originally Posted by Tolls View Post
You do realise these things (the Chauchat's problems) are hardly unusual?

History is replete with weapons that, when exposed to the harsh realities of a war, turned out to have issues. And those weapons were also TESTED.
Maybe, but jamming literally after 2-3 rounds is kinda a record. We're not talking stuff like some rifle which worked in the factory, but not in mud, or whatever. We're talking flat out failing to extract the spent cartridge before you finish the first burst, for the .30-06 version.
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Old 8th November 2017, 05:10 AM   #230
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Originally Posted by Argumemnon View Post
But they did adjust. I don't think you're being fair to them, and as I said your unwillingness to allow for the explanations given here doesn't reflect well on you.
I'm PROBABLY not fair, yes.

As for explanations, some hold more water than others. I've seen some here that contradict not only historians, but flat out contradict reality. E.g., there was a whole sub-thread claiming that it was impossible to tell troops to exploit a breakthrough at Neuve Chapelle... never mind that Haig managed to do just that: tell a cavalry brigade that was on standby to charge that-a-way. He did it 8 hours too late, but he had no problem finding some troops and ordering them to attack.

I like to think that it would reflect worse on me if I just believed any silliness that flat out contradicts reality, just because someone on the Internet just pulled out of the ass.
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Old 8th November 2017, 05:17 AM   #231
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
I like to think that it would reflect worse on me if I just believed any silliness that flat out contradicts reality
Yes, about that...

You did say that everyone in WWI was stonking stupid.
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Old 8th November 2017, 05:44 AM   #232
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This ^.

WWI was a marks a major watershed in military operations.

We can start with simply the scale - millions of people under arms for 5 years - all of whom need to be clothed, fed, paid, have their medical needs cared for, etc.

Then we can look at its effect on alliance operations - sure there have been military alliances before - but again, this one ended up different for a large number of reasons, and started paving the way for alliance standards in production. The production of .303 ammunition in Canada was a good example. The .303 British cartridge had been the Imperial standard for years and every Dominion used it. Most produced it. Unlike the rest of the Empire, Canada used the Ross Rifle instead of the Lee Enfield No1MkIII - not seen as a huge deal prior to the war - it used the same ammo, and the same chargers as a SMLE - and that makes it not a huge deal, given the nature of Imperial campaigns to point that used small numbers of troops that usually could be equipped for that campaign from a single arsenal. WWI changed that simply with its scale. The Empire needed bullets and men, and it needed them NOW. Canada answers, sending troops armed with the same Ross that has been winning them the Bisley matches for 4 years. Then the problems with the Ross start - jams, etc. Eventually they figure out the problems in a couple of years that the SMLE designers have taken about 20 to sort out. The bolt needs better steel - and a rivet to prevent people under pressure from assembling it wrong (this wasn't a problem in the testing as training wasn't rushed and no one was shooting at the recruits learning it). British made ammo is made to slightly looser specs then the Canadian stuff - because there are multiple factories making it, and the SMLE wasn't designed by a long range shooting fanatic who was making a rifle designed to the specs written up by another long range shooting fanatic who figured every Canadian soldier needed a rifle able to shoot the flys off a moose's but at 500 yards, so the single Canadian arsenal making rifle ammo for the military is making match quality ammo and the looser spec British stuff isn't working as well. Add a factory assembly issue caused by the rapid expansion of the line to accommodate the large number of rifles needed (this is part of the reason why you just can't start up a new factory and expect everything to work) and the necessary use of less skilled workers, and you've got a perfect storm that causes the Canadian soldiers to lose faith in their rifle. It's not that its a bad rifle - it had teething problems that needed the sorting out that had happened before over 20 years and a couple of small campaigns to identify and fix.

And by the time it needed to be switched out, you now needed to find several hundred thousand of the new replacements.
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Old 8th November 2017, 05:50 AM   #233
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Maybe, but jamming literally after 2-3 rounds is kinda a record. We're not talking stuff like some rifle which worked in the factory, but not in mud, or whatever. We're talking flat out failing to extract the spent cartridge before you finish the first burst, for the .30-06 version.
It's still not unique.
In consequence it doesn't actually further your argument about WW1 being somehow unique in this aspect.

Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
As for explanations, some hold more water than others. I've seen some here that contradict not only historians, but flat out contradict reality. E.g., there was a whole sub-thread claiming that it was impossible to tell troops to exploit a breakthrough at Neuve Chapelle... never mind that Haig managed to do just that: tell a cavalry brigade that was on standby to charge that-a-way. He did it 8 hours too late, but he had no problem finding some troops and ordering them to attack.
I think you misunderstood what the situation was. There was a communication failure, which was not unusual at that time as communication was one of the areas that was behind the technological curve, so to speak.

This has been explained.

Do you agree, though, that the initial assault was a success? That it was let down by the comms failure, which led to the failure to exploit the success, mixed with a failure to provide further objectives, resulting in troops stopping?
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Old 8th November 2017, 06:54 AM   #234
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
I mean, take the battle of Nek on 7 August 1915, during the Galipoli campaign. The artillery had stopped 7 minutes early, and the troops wait 7 more minutes to attack at the scheduled time, during which the Turks recovered and were alert and ready to shoot at anyone coming at them. So far that's not stupid.

But here comes the surrealistically stupid, if utterly heroic, epic fail:

The first wave goes over the top and are mowed down by machinegun fire within metres of the trench. Some even fall right back in the trench.

The second wave scrambles, stepping over the dead and the wounded, and is mowed down right on top of the previous fallen.

Lieutenant Colonel Jack Antill is asked to stop the attack, because it's obviously a fail, but he refuses and sends a third wave... which are mowed down right on top of the previous two waves.

AGAIN people plead with him to stop the attack. Nope, a fourth wave happens. With the results that were not only predictABLE, but predictED by everyone except the good colonel.

I kind of remember hearing that the third wave burned down, fell over, then got mowed down right on top of the previous fallen. (I might be thinking of something else though.)
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Old 8th November 2017, 07:52 AM   #235
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Originally Posted by Tolls View Post
Do you agree, though, that the initial assault was a success? That it was let down by the comms failure, which led to the failure to exploit the success, mixed with a failure to provide further objectives, resulting in troops stopping?
Considering that I'm the one who introduced Neuve Chapelle as an example of a successful early breakthrough, I don't have much choice there but to agree with myself. I mean, who am I to argue with myself?


Edit:
Originally Posted by Tolls View Post
It's still not unique.
In consequence it doesn't actually further your argument about WW1 being somehow unique in this aspect.
Well, now you've gone and shattered my illusions about mankind's sanity some more. That and made me genuinely curious. If you know of any other weapon that was produced in the quarter of a million range and issued to troops, while being unable to fire more than a couple of rounds even in the most ideal conditions, I would be genuinely grateful if you could tell me its name.

THAT said, I asked if people (or more specifically, generals) in WW1 were stupid in WW1. I didn't claim that stupid people existed ONLY in WW1. WW1 kind of feels unique in the sheer undiluted concentration of stupid decisions, but I never said that stupidity didn't also exist before 1914 or after 1918.
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Old 8th November 2017, 08:10 AM   #236
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@Roboramma
Well, it's more like an exasperated, "GAAH! WERE THOSE GUYS IDIOTS!?" kinda thing, than a serious thesis about the difference in IQ. It's really what happened when I ended up reading about yet another predictable bloodbath, and my cup kinda ran over. Metaphorically speaking.

Well, and literally. It kinda distracted me when pouring another beer, and my cup ran over all over my keyboard

That said, I AM still baffled by the sheer concentration of incompetence and bad decisions, and I don't really have any other explanation than stupidity. I'm not married to that explanation, so to speak, but I'd be damned if I have a better one.

I mean, take the most recently mentioned screw up, the battle of the Nek. THREE waves had been mowed down right when they climbed out of the trenches, and the commanding officer doesn't stop the fourth wave even while the officers are arguing with him to stop the insanity. And mind you, nothing had happened in between, to justify any sane expectation that things would go any different this time. There hadn't been a new artillery barrage or anything. So how does one fail to learn from 3 identical mistakes in a row, when they're right in front of one's eyes? I mean, said officer didn't even need a working memory, he just needed to LOOK. The previous three waves were still bleeding to death before his eyes, right in front of the trench. How DOES one fail to connect the dots anyway?

But if anyone can give me a satisfactory explanation for how one can need more than 4 verbatim repeats of the same disaster before they learn anything from it, without involving idiocy or insanity, I guess it would take a load off my mind.
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Old 8th November 2017, 08:15 AM   #237
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
@Roboramma
Well, it's more like an exasperated, "GAAH! WERE THOSE GUYS IDIOTS!?" kinda thing, than a serious thesis about the difference in IQ.
So when you flat out asked if IQ was lower back then because of lead pipes, it was just exasperation?
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Old 8th November 2017, 08:24 AM   #238
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Originally Posted by Argumemnon View Post
So when you flat out asked if IQ was lower back then because of lead pipes, it was just exasperation?
More like a little from column A, a little from column B. I WAS exasperated enough to at least consider lead pipes as a possible explanation. Hell, I wasn't 100% excluding the cosmic ray from Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders

But no, it wasn't a completely serious thesis. Especially since, as you may find evidence in past converstions I was involved in, I'm actually among those who don't find IQ to be all that useful a number.

But, as I was saying, I still don't really have a much better explanation.
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Old 8th November 2017, 08:29 AM   #239
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Considering that I'm the one who introduced Neuve Chapelle as an example of a successful early breakthrough, I don't have much choice there but to agree with myself. I mean, who am I to argue with myself?
What can I say, I lose track!

But, that does imply they weren't complete idiots.

Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Well, now you've gone and shattered my illusions about mankind's sanity some more. That and made me genuinely curious. If you know of any other weapon that was produced in the quarter of a million range and issued to troops, while being unable to fire more than a couple of rounds even in the most ideal conditions, I would be genuinely grateful if you could tell me its name.
You'd have to show that the Chauchat consistently failed after firing a couple of rounds. Because that doesn't seem to have been the case. There were issues with the manufacture of the magazines, which could cause issues, but again not consistent and solved in the field (and later in production).

An immediate answer for another weapon, the first that leapt to mind (as I'm sure you suspect) was the M16, before they made the adjustments. There must have been a shedload of them made.



Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
THAT said, I asked if people (or more specifically, generals) in WW1 were stupid in WW1. I didn't claim that stupid people existed ONLY in WW1. WW1 kind of feels unique in the sheer undiluted concentration of stupid decisions, but I never said that stupidity didn't also exist before 1914 or after 1918.
That stupidity did exist both before and after. It's just the battles were on a smaller scale prior to this, and after, well, you'd have to look at WW2.

The British army in the summer of 1916 consisted of a huge number of officers in charge of (eg) battalions and higher who had little enough training and sod all experience. These people simply didn't have the expertise, which is why an awful lot of them ended up being sacked.
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Old 8th November 2017, 08:39 AM   #240
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Originally Posted by Tolls View Post
You'd have to show that the Chauchat consistently failed after firing a couple of rounds. Because that doesn't seem to have been the case. There were issues with the manufacture of the magazines, which could cause issues, but again not consistent and solved in the field (and later in production).
The 8mm Lebel version could shoot more than that before overheating and malfunctioning. It was only the .30-06 version made for the Americans that was called the worst machinegun ever. I mean, mind you, it's still the same underlying issue of thermal expansion and tolerances in both versions, but the more powerful .30-06 round made them surface much faster.

And really, it's so well known a problem, you can even hit Wikipedia and search for the machinegun.

Originally Posted by Tolls View Post
An immediate answer for another weapon, the first that leapt to mind (as I'm sure you suspect) was the M16, before they made the adjustments. There must have been a shedload of them made.
The M16 did indeed have problems, mostly stemming from the fact that the army was using a different grade of ammunition than the manufacturer had specified. Which, yes, combined with the lack of a cleaning kit, was indeed a jam waiting to happen. Good call.

Still, unless my memory fails me, it took more than a couple of rounds to get there.
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