"The British Army was so much more effective in 1918 compared 1916"

March 7th, 2010  

Topic: "The British Army was so much more effective in 1918 compared 1916"

Hello, my first thread, im doing this question (the thread title) for a school essay, and i have become a bit stuck, i have some points down about the advancement of technology of the british with the introduction of artillery, new weapons, wireless communications etc but im failing to find new points, im trying to argue both sides of this statement and then make up my opinion of a conclusion. i have chose to ask this question here instead of using wikipedia is that you can't really find opinions on wikipedia its just facts and i thought it was better to come here and find it, please help, i will be in much debt.
March 7th, 2010  
The Battle of Hamel, 4 July 1918

This was a joint infantry and tank assault, backed by an extremely careful artillery plan seen in three maps. These are copies of the maps issued to the Australian artillery beforehand, except that the front line has been added as a thick line and the names of the two armies and the direction of the Australian attack have also been included.
Map 3: Field artillery barrage map, Hamel
Map 4: Heavy artillery barrage map, Hamel
Map 5: Machine gun barrage map, Hamel
Things to note
  1. Monash had the heavy artillery barrage go forward in a series of five big lifts while the field artillery barrage moved in a series of nine smaller ones.
  2. Both stopped at a joint halt line (marked for the infantry by a thick smoke screen). The barrage paused here for ten minutes so that the soldiers could mop up any remaining Germans and prepare for the next advance.
  3. The heavy and field artillery then combined in fourteen lifts at the rate of 100 yards every four minutes to a final "protective line".
  4. Even then Monash was cautious. The field artillery stayed there, but the heavy artillery ranged forward for up to 3000 yards (to break up possible counter-attacks) before pulling back.
  5. The machine gun barrage was carefully coordinated with the artillery.
It was all planned with great care and in great detail. All three maps overlay one another to form one coherent fire plan. It had a limited practicable objective.
Additional points
Monash was helped by his engineering education and experience, which had given him the ability to recognise a technical problem and work out a practical solution. He used all forms of technology available to him, particularly wireless and tanks (not only for leading the attack, but also as ammunition carriers), to save the troops. Four carrier tanks hauled ammunition and supplies that it would have taken 1200 men to shift. He used planes, not only for observation, bombing enemy formations and intelligence in battle, but also to fly over the lines to drown out the noise of the tanks lining up, and to drop ammunition by parachute.
He also used smoke extensively (cf. White in the second battle of Bullecourt). Monash fired a mixed smoke and gas barrage daily before Hamel, so that the German soldiers always thought of gas when they saw smoke. On the morning of the attack he used smoke only; the Germans assumed the usual mixture and wore their masks, while the attacking Australians were free.
Monash was also keenly aware of the importance of the timing of the attack. He had tests held to work out the exact hours of darkness, and enforced an early start so that the men did not attack when the sun was rising. Finally, great stress was laid on secrecy so that the element of surprise operated in this battle, unlike others in the First World War.
The result
The battle was over in an hour and a half, with the Australians capturing approximately 1400 prisoners and gaining all their objectives for just over 1000 total casualties and possibly 150 dead. It was a brilliant success and used as a model by the British high command. It shows how effective the ANZAC Corps had become under Monash in 1918.
March 11th, 2010  
It shows how effective the ANZAC Corps had become under Monash in 1918
More like it did what it could always have done without an incompetent pom in charge.
March 11th, 2010  
I have to admit neither the Australian nor New Zealand military would have reason to miss British leadership, the casualty rates plummeted and the success rate soared afterward.
March 12th, 2010  
monash practically invented blitzkrieg...
he was before his time...
March 13th, 2010  
A Pommy officer couldn't organise a root in a brothel with a fist full of fifties in WW1.
April 15th, 2010  
Jeff Simmons

Topic: Lessons from the Somme and the Aisne

I believe the improvement in Allied tactics is primarily due to lessons learned from debacles such as the Battle of the Somme (1916) and the Battle of the Aisne (1917). At the Somme, much of the failure can be blamed on faulty intelligence, ie, the German defenses were underestimated, including the fact that they had changed to a heavier gauge of barbed wire which was impervious to British cutters. The result on the Somme was 50,000 casualties the first day. On the Aisne, there was a severe breakdown in communications, and the French had to fire artillery completely by timetable. Also, most of the French tanks meant to support the attack broke down before they reached the battlefield; the remainder were quickly disabled. The result on the Aisne was 120,000 casualties in the first two days, and subsequently a widespread French mutiny. The Allies learned from both of these events. They subsequently improved intelligence-gathering, battlefield communications, air/ground cooperation, and tank designs.
April 17th, 2010  
The failure at the Somme was due to the need to relieve the pressure on the French at Verdun. The French had their backs to the wall and due to even worse leadership than the British the French were in a state of mutiny. Rawlinson had raised objection to the battle plans for the Somme but was over ruled by Haig
April 17th, 2010  
Jeff Simmons

Topic: Yes, indeed

Your points are well-taken. The Somme was supposed to be a joint British/French operation, but as you pointed out, the French were under too much pressure at Verdun to participate in the Somme offensive. That left the British holding the bag. I have read that the Somme was chosen as a point of attack simply because it was where the British and French occupations met; some say there was nothing tangible to gain by the offensive, and if there was, the British certainly did not meet that goal. Nonetheless, it did lead to new strategic and tactical planning on behalf of the British, many of whom declared, "No more Sommes." I must differ, however, on the timing of the French mutinies. The French were not yet in a state of mutiny during the Somme offensive or at Verdun, both of which were fought in 1916. The French mutinies occurred in May and June of 1917 following the bungled Aisne fight ("A Short History Of World War I," by James L. Stokesbury).
April 29th, 2010  
Originally Posted by Wallabies
A Pommy officer couldn't organise a root in a brothel with a fist full of fifties in WW1.
There were plenty who couldn't... but Plumer wasn't too bad, indeed he was quite thorough. The AIF was fortunate to operate under him on a couple of occasions. Then there's Allenby, again, not a complete idiot - and J.F.C. Fuller - he was as much a father of Blitzkrieg and combined arms theory as Monash was.

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