2RWF Great War Performance

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Str8Bloke, Mar 24, 2009.

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  1. I've just finished reading "The War the Infantry Knew" which led to Frank Richard's books. All very good reading, by the way.
    Both authors bemoan a decline in performance by the battalion. I was surprised at this, believing that the BEF became unstoppable in 1918.(Thanks to Paddy O'Brian's work) But then I couldn't remember either author mentioning training with new weapons or tactics. They seemed, between getting drunk, to be more interested in Officers Riding Schools and returning to peace soldiering.
    In short; I got the impression that the battalion resisted the new ideas that the Canadians and Aussies excelled at.
    Can this be right? or can someone point me in the right direction.
  2. I don't know whether I can point you in the right direction, but I'll add my 2p.

    Because of the number or literary soldiers in the unit 2 RWF are probably the best documented unit in the British Army of the Great War. This is the British "Band of Brothers" amnd deserves to be immortilised on filem or TV. Whjat is more, 2 RWF are an ordinarly line unit, unlike Easy company.

    This unit is a pre war regular unit, but by the end of 1916 is full of conscript soldiers. Of course Dr Dunn is correct to point out that in 1918 the line was being held by one third of the men of 1915, who were much worse soldiers than the pre war regulars.

    It has good COs and bad COs, heroes and villans (with many more of the former.) Both Dunn and Richards are heroes and backbones of the Regiment. How many of our current MOs could temporarialy resign from the RAMC; summon rifle, bayonet, and bandolier and command their battalion? None of our current crop of NCOs could aspire to the career of CSM Stanway who goes from CSM to CO.

    You are right to regard both as tactical reactionaries. But these gallent ssoldiers, with a DSO, MC, two DCMs and an MM between them had learned their trade in the pre 1914 Army. Neither of them were in roles where they were at the cutting edge of tactical development. Dunn is the Doc and Richards is a signaller.

    People get the idea that Dunn is amilitary reactionary is from two comments in "the war the infantry knew". He objects to the replacement of the 2 Vickers guns with 16 Lewis guns. That doesnlt stop the good doctor from knowing how to deploy the Lewis gun or using it himself!

    2 RWF didn't do a worse job than the Aussies they fought shoulder to shoulder with in Sptember 1917 on the Gheluvelt plateau or in September 1918 over the Hindenberg line. Its a tribute to the ethos of the British Army and the qualities of soldiers like Captain Dunn and Pte Richards, and the many bsoldiers who did not shoose to be combatants that they did what they did.
  3. Thanks for the reply Petranadon; sorry for my delay.
    Am I right in thinking "Goodbye to All That" is also 2RWF? There was a mention about Battle Schools there; but a bit disparaging if I remember correctly.
    My point is that, after reading Corrigan, Paddy O'Brian and Hesketh- Pritchard I had the impression that the BEF of 1918 was, very often, a fantastic killing machine, pushing new ideas and pulling off Britain's greatest ever victory.
    Can anyone think of a few other memoirs that reflect this?
    I also read Fireeater by Pollard VC, not much there either.
    I was hoping to keep it to the Infantry...
  4. Whoops, my bad. I re-read Fireater by Capt PollardVCMCDCM.
    It's full of reference to bomb schools, Lewis gun schools etc.
    The bit on training the Yanks explained how they managed to lose half as many men as the BEF, in just a few months, against a beaten enemy.
    Pollard's professional competence shines through- eg; his map reading tips.

    Pollard then describes how the HAC were loaded onto lorries, to be used as Motorised Infantry during the Hundred Days, twenty years before Guderian etc. What were the 2 RWF used for at that time?