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Discussion in 'Military History' started by Mahross, Nov 18, 2003.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    Anthony,
    The figures are 78 British Generals killed by direct enemy action, 146 wounded in the Great War.
    Breakdown by year was:
    10 in 1914
    47 in 1915
    48 in 1916
    51 in 1917
    76 in 1918.
    Total casualties include two Generals who were wounded twice.
    Frank Davies & Graham Maddocks - Bloody Red Tabs: General Officer Casualties of the Great War 1914-18.
    It can be seen that the figures actually increased in the years that they were supposed to be skulking miles behind the front!
    Regards,
    Gordon

    [ 25. November 2003, 02:51 PM: Message edited by: The_Historian ]
     
  2. Anthony EJW

    Anthony EJW Member

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    I've seen several estimates of British casualties for Ypres (which is unusual for the British army). For example, Steel and Harts "Passcendaele: The Sacrifical Ground" gives a total of 275,000 British casualties and 200,000 German casualties. In "The Smoke and the Fire" Terraine gives a figure of 244,000 British casualties. Richard Holmes estimates that both British and German forces suffered around 260,000 casualties.

    French participation during the Third Battle of Ypres was minimal- they were still recovering from the mutinies at the time. Casualties were around 8,500.

    In a post-Second World War interview, Brigadier-General John Davidson, head of operations staff at GHQ at the time of the Battle of Passchendaele, stated that:

    "There is just one point- D.H. is always supposed not to have known or to have been misinformed as to the conditions (physical) in front. This really is bunkum - as not only did he get reports from his own general staff, but he talked to numerous Regimental Officers and saw and discussed affairs regularly with Btn. Commanders, Brigade and Divisional Commanders as well as Corps and Army Commanders."

    quoted in Bloody Red Tabs,Davies and Maddocks

    The rainfall at Ypres in 1917 was the worst in the region for 75 years -in October 4.5 inches fell,compared with just one inch in 1914 and 1915,and 2.75 inches in 1916. With hindsight it can be seen that the offensive should have been discontinued when the rain started- but at the time it could fell have been expected that the rain would let up.

    Despite their best efforts and the casualties they caused, neither terrain nor the Germans were able to prevent the grinding British offensives when good weather allowed them to show the full power of their methods. The German army group commander who was in charge of the defence was planning a "comprehensive withdrawal" until the rain intervened to save them.

    Indeed, but the lack of an arm of exploitation and poor communications; not to mention the time needed to move up and supply the extensive artillery barrages, took time. These factors placed a major handicap on attempts to achieve suprise and momentum.

    I'm not sure what you mean by lack of cohesion?

    I think you are underestimating the fighting done by British divisions during the attack. French divisions did not constitue the only reserve either, nor was it just Australian divisions putting up stiff resistance. This isn't to deny that the French made massive contributions, nor that the Australian formations fought very well; but the British units did a lot of fighting and more than one German attack came to greif on British defences- i.e. the German effort at taking Arras finally collapsed due to the stiff resistance put up by six British divisions.

    Your total KIA figures are much higher than other figures that I have read- total German and French dead are just under 700,000 dead. If total casualties are around 1 million then that is a 70% fatality rate! This seems a bit high...

    Prior and Wilson in "The First World War" give total French *casualties* for the battle as around one third of a million. Anthony Claton in "Paths of Glory" gives a total of 330,000 German casualties and 351,000 French casualties.

    I largely agree.

    As you say, the British effort on the Somme was not developed in isolation, nor indeed was it a solely British enterprise (originally, the French were to take the main role). This was to be part of a combined allied offensive in conjuction with the Russians and the Italians. But the German offensive on the Somme changed all that.

    The unremitting thunder of the guns of Verdun while the British assembled turned it instead into a rescue operation. As July rolled on it became quite clear that the French would not be playing the major role on the Somme as orginally intended; indeed, it was a question whether they might not collapse altogether. This was a very real fear at the time.

    Prepared or not, the men would have to go over the top on 1st July. Britain could not leave her ally in the lurch.
     
  3. Anthony EJW

    Anthony EJW Member

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    [​IMG]


    When are men wasted and when they are not? The sad thing about war is that if any mistakes at all are made men can lose their lives- and many might still die even if no mistakes are made at all. As General Mangin I think put it, or something similar: "If we defend we lose a lot of people, if we attack we lose a lot of people, whatever we do we lose a lot of people."
     
  4. Anthony EJW

    Anthony EJW Member

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    Glad to see somebody else has read the book!

    The authors also found that, of the 78 generals who died in the war: 34 were killed by shell fire or trench mortar rounds, 22 were killed by small arms fire, either rifle (including sniper) or machine gun fire, three were drowned, one accidentally, one inadvertently poisoned himself, one died of cholera, one died as the result of a flying accident and one died from accidently injuries. Of the remaining 15 no direct cause of death is known, but most likely artillery or small arms fire killed them.

    Most notable of all is the figure of generals killed by small arms fire. To be hit by rifle or machine gun they must have been in the front line. There were no chateau in the front line.
     
  5. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    About Third Ypres casualties I found numbers very different in many sources. I found 310.000 casualties in www.firstworldwar.com and 250.000 in Anthony Livesey's "Great Battles of WWI". :confused:

    There's also the anecdote of lieutenant general Sir Launcelot Kiggel, chief of staff of the BEF who cried when he visited the front. "Good Lord! Have we really sent men to fight in this?" The generals, having good wine in their Châteaus, just ignored the front situation and Haig's advisors didn't tell the field marshal about the real conditions of the trenches, just to be accepted and give more optimism to the very optimistic Haig. [​IMG] Even Foch and Pétain told Haig that there could be no success in his offensive.

    I agree with this. But metheorologists perfectly knew, based on studies of the 80 prior years that only three weeks of operations could be expected without rains. If you add that there was no drewers system because it had been destroyed by years and years of artillery fire... :rolleyes: The first part of the operation, as you said, was very succesful, but two weeks of rain ruined the momentum, the surprise element and made the terrain conditions worse, and of course, gave the Germans two weeks to bring reinforcements to the sector. This is the point where Haig should have halted his attack.

    I meant precisely the logitic and communication problems. In a terrain like that, guns couldn't move forward fast enough to support the advancing infantry. The guns sank into the mud, horses drowned as well as men. Trenches (if you can call those holes like that) didn't allow infantry to be communicated efficiently.

    I think thre's no point in discussing this, since you have seen in my earlier posts that I do all, but underestimating anyone's contributions. We perfectly agree that the BEF, the Canadians and ANZAC did a lot of fierce fighting in France, as well as the French Army and La Légion. We even agree about the yanks don't doing that significant stuff... [​IMG]

    Then total casualties in Verdun would have reached more than 1,5 million to have a 700.000 casualty number. Your figures give a total of 681.000 KIAs in Verdun. Not very different form mine. Livesey's book states some 337.000 for the Germans and 377.200 for the French, which gives a total of 714.200KIA.

    Don't you mean Verdun? :confused:

    Maybe now the comparisson's worth it. 1944 and 1917...
     
  6. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    200 generals out of how many? :rolleyes:

    And a question, is field marshal Lord Kitchener included there, when his ship was torpedoed and he died? :confused:
     
  7. sommecourt

    sommecourt Member

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    Can you explain what you mean by this? You don't seem to understand the difference between casualties and KIA; KIA is KILLED IN ACTION. A casualty can be a soldier killed, wounded, missing, prisoner, sick etc. There is a difference between these.

    Most French books on Verdun estimate casualties between 700,000 and 770,000 to includ both sides.
     
  8. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Sommecourt, I PERFECTLY understand the difference between casualty and KIA. Casualties include killed, wounded, missing and captured. Read my post and you'll find that I am talking about casualties and KIAs by separate. Even Anthony put some death rate of those casualties. I think I was quite clear.
     
  9. Anthony EJW

    Anthony EJW Member

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    "This story had been repeated many times since it first appeared, and most people accept its veracity without demur, and yet it too is largely a myth. It presumes that generals and Staff officers were totally ignorant of the conditions at the front because they never went there...
    The fact remains, however, that the incident did not quite happen as it has been reported down the years... correspondence revleated that, in a post-Second World War interview, Brigadier-General John Davidson, head of operations staff at GHQ at the time of the Battle of Passchendaele, stated that the weeping staff officer was himself and not Kiggell and that he had held his hands to his face to show he was dumb to enquiries and not to hide tears.
    The notes for this interview, which took place on 21 April, 1945, between Davidson and G.C. Wynne, of the Historical Section, Offical War Histories, are still in existence and include the following passages:
    'His only comment was that some hint might be given of the difficulties of a staff officer in his own position in the circumstances, knowing that the campaign had to be continued, but being unable to give any reason to the mulitiude of angry questions.
    The weeping staff officer story in Lloyd George's book was due to his holding his hands to his face to show that he was dumb to enquiries and not to hide tears. He agreed, however, that as he alone knew the reason it was difficult to put such an explanation in an offical history, and better that he should take up this matter himself with the ofical account as a backgroun. He agreed that it was really too trivial a matter to worry about.'"

    Bloody Red Tabs, Frank Davies and Graham Maddocks


    It is easy to judge in hindsight- and now it can be seen that the offensive should have been shut down when the rains returned- but it was much harder to choose at the time. As the Australian Historian says on the victory at Broodseinde in October 1917:

    "This was the third blow struck at Ypres in fifteen days with complete success. It drove the Germans from one of the most important positions on the Western front;notwithstanding their full knowledge that it was coming, they were completely powerless to withstand it... These clean victories on comparatively wide fronts were in sharp contrast with the uneven successes of the First Somme...One or two more such strokes and,with proper provision beforehand, even 'exploitation' might be attempted with confidence.The success of those strokes could be made a certainty,provided good weather continued. Granted this condition, there was little doubt that the commanders could at last powerfully affect, if not decide, the issue of the war.... there was a definite feeling that this battle was the most complete success so far won by the British Army in France... For the first time in years, at noon on October 4th on the heights east of Ypres, British troops on the Western Front sttod face to face with the possibility of decisive success."

    Closing down the battle after such success had been attained (by WW1 standards!) would no doubt have raised questions. Not to mention leave British troops stranded half way up the Passcendaele Ridge.

    I see your point. The mud was bad during rain but it was the unusually heavy rainfall which made the closing stages of the battle so hellish. Again, in hindsight it is clear the battle should have been closed down earlier than it did. But I think that had there been a typcial amount of rainfall the outcome of the battle would have been quite different.

    Alright. [​IMG]

    Clayton's figures are for total *casualties* - killed, wounded, missing and PoWs. He further breaks down losses of 143,000 German dead and missing and 56,000 French dead in addition to 100,000 missing or captured. Missing, of course, can range from "safe in enemy PoW camp" to "blown into tiny bits all over the battlefield".

    Er, yes. [​IMG]
     
  10. Anthony EJW

    Anthony EJW Member

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    The British lost more generals killed in action than either the French or Germans (despite having a smaller army and suffering less casualties over all). For comparison, total British generals who were KIA or died of wounds in WW2 (including Brigaders) was 21.

    Kitchener is included as one of the three generals killed by drowning, yes.
     
  11. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    [​IMG] Then it was brigadier general John Davidson the one who cried when saw the trenches... OK. I didn't know it. I bought the anecdote... :rolleyes:

    I do not agree at all that Third Ypres can be considered a success. Messines was. Passchendæle could only be considered a succes of Zeebrugge would have been captured by October or something like that, which of course, couldn't. And still, that wouldn't have brought an end to the war or even to the submarine menace as marshal Haig believed. 250.000 casualties to gain a ridge and a few kilometres of ground... [​IMG] That's WASTING and MURDER of men.

    I agree with you that in good weather - let's say like a sunny day like July 1st 1916 -, Plumer's tactics would have smashed prince Rupprecht's lines. But that's too much to change, too many what-ifs; the weather, the German reinforcements arriving, the terrain... Even general Plumer with his meticulous planning could repeat the success of Messines and other innovative generals saw their new tactics wasted for many reasons. The best example would be brigadier general Sir Hugh Elles in Cambrai (one of those few frontline commanders).

    These figures are TOO low. I don't agree with this.

    I was referring to how many British officers held the rank of general during WWI. I don't doubt that they were the commanders that tended to be more in the front. But still, they were a minority.
     
  12. No.9

    No.9 Ace

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    Playing ‘cut and paste’ are we. OK.

    Funny, I was in the services 60s/70s and I never knew of training to construct miles of trenches, did tunnels or make massed assaults of 1'000’000+? Come to think of it, this wasn’t even standard for W.W.II? The only thing that was ‘modern’ was by 1918 they started to get the hand of a ‘rolling barrage’, they slaughtered hundreds of thousands getting it right, but hey……we have to give the poor generals a break don’t we :rolleyes:

    Sure one general gets isolated with his men and lends a hand, perhaps HE was made of the right stuff? Alternately he may have felt remorse for a tactical balls-up – you don’t say? As for the 78 being more than W.W.II, the fatalities were double W.W.II so why not the amount of generals? Perhaps also in W.W.II the Army had learned a bit more about effective chain of command and had better officers at lower levels, i.e. trained professional officers rather than good ‘ole boys who bought or blagged their commissions?

    I agree, unfortunately the senior ones appear to have been utter cr@p!

    Nothing to presume, you start out with a plan ‘B’ and maybe a ‘C’ and ‘D’. We’re talking about strategic offensives not a platoon going to have a look what’s on the other side of a hill! But, this would entail empowering field officers with tactical authority – God forbid anyone but a Field Marshall should have such power :rolleyes:
    Oh boy, that’s rich :rolleyes: OK, please tell me how many lives it took to make a knucklehead arrive at such a monumentus decision – or did they spin a pickle?

    That’s what I said didn’t I? You were the one saying this was the same as the Western Front?????????
    May I suggest you read-up on W.W.II.

    You don’t understand my accurate statement on what Britain pre-conceived about fighting another war, and I can’t see any point in yours.

    Ah so the French don’t count then? I thought they only rolled over in W.W.II?

    Hmm…….good Imperial dominions Crete and Greece! And since when were men poured in anything like into the Western Front meatgrinder???

    The expansion of air power couldn’t have anything to do with the advent of the US air force could it? I can’t see much point in quoting the re-employment of an AA battery? Needed to shoot down flying bombs were they.

    And the point is…………………………………..

    Would that be Brigadier Peter Young? Has his name on some 20 books. An authority (so I’m told) on the English Civil War. He actually wrote one excellent W.W.II book on his personal experiences in the Commandos, but generally lent (or rented) his name to a lot of the others.

    If you like books on W.W.I, have you read ‘Disenchantment’ by Charles Montague?

    No.9
     
  13. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    Hi,
    The only comparative casualty figures I could find for WW2 were:
    three Major-Generals KIA,
    One died of wounds
    fourteen Brigadiers KIA
    three died of wounds. This included one Lieutenant-Colonel who had the rank of acting Brigadier Commander.
    Rank of Brigadier-General had been abolished in favour of Brigadier by this period.
    Compared to a total casualty figure of 21 for WW2, this means the total casualty figure for British General Officers in WW1(224) was TEN TIMES higher.
    (Bloody Red Tabs, Davies/Maddocks page 22)
    Regards,
    gordon

    [ 26. November 2003, 09:34 AM: Message edited by: The_Historian ]
     
  14. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    [/QUOTE]I was referring to how many British officers held the rank of general during WWI. I don't doubt that they were the commanders that tended to be more in the front. But still, they were a minority. [/QB][/QUOTE]
    Herr General,
    Managed to find the following figures for you:
    British Army in 1914
    9 Field Marshalls
    19 Generals
    28 Lieutenant-Generals
    180 Brigadier-Generals
    114 Major-Generals
    TOTAL=350
    British Army in 1918
    8 Field Marshalls
    29 Generals
    47 Lieutenant-Generals
    219 Major-Generals
    600 Brigadier-Generals
    TOTAL=903
    (Bloody Red Tabs page 4)
    If we take the overall General Officer casualties (224)as a percentage of the total figures for the War's end for General Officers (903), then the casualty figures work out at approximately 25%.
    Having had a quick look at the Order of Battle of Divisions, vol.4 :The Army Council, GHQ's, Armies and Corps 1914-18 by Major AF Becke (reprinted by Ray Westlake Military Books in 1990), these figures would seem to be right.
    Regards,
    Gordon

    [ 26. November 2003, 10:07 AM: Message edited by: The_Historian ]
     
  15. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    *error* [​IMG]

    [ 26. November 2003, 10:12 AM: Message edited by: General der Infanterie Friedrich H ]
     
  16. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Thank you very much, Gordon! I LOVE those figures. I really appreciate them. ;)

    And precisely your figures prove my point.

    There were 224 general casualties during WWI, out of 903 generals; which means that 75,20% of them were NOT wounded, and given the high risk rate in the trenches, that shows us that three quarters of the British generals in WWI were smoking cigars in their Châteaus while more than a million British and dominion troops were slaughtered. :mad: [​IMG]
     
  17. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    mon plaisir! </font>
    • ;)</font>
     
  18. Mahross

    Mahross Ace

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    I have just posted an article on this subject on my site. You can see it at:

    http://www.freewebs.com/mahross/landwarfare.htm

    It's only short but deals with the historigraphical aspect of this arguement. You need to role to the bottom to get to it.

    [ 08. December 2003, 12:04 PM: Message edited by: Mahross ]
     
  19. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    Mahross,
    Just as a little addenda to that, on a moor about 3 miles from me is a complete D-Day training range, the best preserved in Britain. It was built in 1943 by the 11th DLI.
    It has a full-sized sea wall, life size concrete replicas of German emplacements (blockhouses, CPs with Tobruk watches), miles of trenches, m/g posts, arty posts etc. The wall has been shattered by an enormous explosion, and a local village was the base for a battery of 25 pounders to shell the range.
    On the west side, mock -up LCIs were constructed to let troops assault across the shore(a gravel section!), the beach (a minor road) and then attack the actual complex itself. I helped to record it for the Defence of Britain Project a few years ago, and if you type that into a search engine, you can go to the database. Type "Sheriffmuir" into the database-or "Atlantic Wall", and it should come up.
    There are a couple of other extant examples-one in Kent, one in Wales, but Sheriffmuir in Perthshire is the only one which is more or less complete and retains ALL it's original features.

    Regards,
    Gordon
     
  20. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Thank you very much, Mahross! ;) I'm going to print it and read it. Thanks!

    It is not the article of the British generals you have mentioned, is it?
     

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