Futile Exercise?: The British Army's Preparations for War 1902-1914

#21
Many of the superior concrete defences of the German front were constructed using British Blue Circle cement, thoughtfully sourced through the 'neutral' Dutch.
Zeiss scopes for rubber via the Swiss also? Some very dodgy deals but I do like the fact British POW officers could order tax free watches from the Swiss.

Need to read up on some general ww1 books off to the battlefields in a month.
 
#22
Obviously. But that's not what we mean when we talk about trench warfare in the context of WW1. Modern soldiers dig trenches too but nobody considers that to be trench warfare do they?

Edited to add that what we refer to as Trench Warfare in WW1 was more akin to Siege Warfare perhaps.
That's what I would have said also, the whole concept of what trench warfare became would have been difficult to foresee.

I would add that French and Co. while they had experience in colonial wars and possibly placed too much reliance on Cavalry did have an idea of a bigger scale conflict against trained European armies.
That was what all the studies were about prior to it kicking off, and why they held large scale manoeuvres to practice themselves and subordinates in just that type of conflict.
That the BEF Tommy did well against the onslaught wasn't just down to his being well trained it was because he was reasonably well lead too.
I think the BEF commanders did as well as they could have with the troops they had against the size of the attack they faced, and it showed that they were trained and prepared for it.

As said the conflict developed in a way that nobody expected and it was here that soldiers and commanders needed a fast learning curve, with the commanders slower on the uptake.
But if Haig did well in his 1918 offensive it shows that what he had prepared for in 1914 stood him in good stead.
 
#23
That's a bit unfair, they also spent a significant part of their careers fighting the Boers who dug trenches and at times had better artillery. The British Army of 1914 was perfectly ready for a war of maneuver, what all sides failed to foresee was the decent into the biggest siege in history.
It might well be 20/20 hindsight but perhaps expecting a war of manoeuvre in Western Europe, whilst considering the Boer War was more than a little optimistic.

Compared to Southern Africa, which was a large area to operate in with far fewer troops than were present in the much smaller theatre that was Western Europe, to expect to be able to manoeuvre as freely as in the earlier war would rapidly find you encountering large numbers of the enemy. Said enemy would also be trying to manoeuvre. With such a relatively limited space to manoeuvre in and large opposing forces trying to do so, coupled with the associated firepower available, trench (siege) war should, perhaps, have been more expected than was the case?
 
#24
I would add that French and Co. while they had experience in colonial wars and possibly placed too much reliance on Cavalry.
.
On that note mythology aside The UK had at least equipped and trained its cavalry to fight as dismounted Infantry* The horse was just increased mobility - The French cavalry refused to dismount and behave as common infantry - and suffered for it

*Or perhaps gone full circle viz Dragoons


QUOTE="Dwarf, post: 8585527, member: 23343"]
I would add that French and Co. did have an idea of a bigger scale conflict against trained European armies.
.[/QUOTE]

To be fair the UK has only done large scale warfare twice 1914+ and 1939+ With the UKs position and reliance on sea power I think it will forever be thus
 
#25
On that note mythology aside The UK had at least equipped and trained its cavalry to fight as dismounted Infantry* The horse was just increased mobility - The French cavalry refused to dismount and behave as common infantry - and suffered for it

*Or perhaps gone full circle viz Dragoons
I do know that, and after S Africa when cavalry often acted as mobile infantry I would expect the generals to have been aware of that too. Perhaps I should have said envisaged a wider role for them than ultimately was available.
 
#26
It might well be 20/20 hindsight but perhaps expecting a war of manoeuvre in Western Europe, whilst considering the Boer War was more than a little optimistic.

Compared to Southern Africa, which was a large area to operate in with far fewer troops than were present in the much smaller theatre that was Western Europe, to expect to be able to manoeuvre as freely as in the earlier war would rapidly find you encountering large numbers of the enemy. Said enemy would also be trying to manoeuvre. With such a relatively limited space to manoeuvre in and large opposing forces trying to do so, coupled with the associated firepower available, trench (siege) war should, perhaps, have been more expected than was the case?
Yet fast forward to 1940 and its France's doctrine that Trench warfare will be the order of the day and concentration on methodical battle that leads to their undoing in 1940 - totally incapable of dealing with a fast moving German Panzer Army .

On the Dyle and on the Weygand line (and contrary to myth the Maginot line ) -where German options were limited so fighting was closer to the WW1 rerun they expected and could react to - the French did well. That swing through the Ardennes though they just could not react to
 
#27
I do know that, and after S Africa when cavalry often acted as mobile infantry I would expect the generals to have been aware of that too. Perhaps I should have said envisaged a wider role for them than ultimately was available.
Apologies intended as a general comment not teaching you to suck eggs

Re SA Wasn't it a case that the Yeomanry was recruited for the Boer war as horse equipped infantry rather than cavalry - or have I made that up.
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#29
Training for trench construction is one thing. I doubt that anyone foresaw, let alone planned, the four year stalemate that typified the Western Front though.
But training is preparation, agreed that no one least of all the Hun expected to have to fight a trench war but that's what technology forced upon us. If it had been a war like the second South African then trenches were used as were block houses but the land was greater than the armies that tried to do battle over it. The size of the forces involved and the desire not to give ground is what made trench war (with hindsight) inevitable. The Russo Japanese war showed this.

I agree that the Army, and indeed French himself, were both prepared for a short, sharp war of manoeuvre. But when that plan went tits up, he and the rest of the command couldn't adapt fast enough.
Doctrine often is what we have to develop when the enemy decide to change the rules of the game. Honestly we more than shouldered the burden in France especially when you consider the fighting on other fronts we ended up doing!
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#30
British officers, however, were not thinking in terms of a European land war. They were used to Colonial and expeditionary war, not mass combat such as the French and Germans were planning for, and had practiced in the Franco Prussian War in 1870, which would have been well within institutional memory of both High Commands, and in which hundreds of thousands of troops had been deployed.
When you consider that it was only in Crimea where we came to regard the French as allies after centuries of fighting them that you understand why fighting in Europe wasn't a big thing.
 

FORMER_FYRDMAN

LE
Book Reviewer
#32
It's probably also worth remembering that, in defence terms, the Royal Navy was the main effort and that the British Army was not designed or intended to do the heavy lifting against the main force of a technological equal and never really had been, even against Napoleon.

How the British created the Army of 1918, effectively from a standing start, remains this country's finest single military achievement - and, sadly, it's rarely discussed.
 
#33

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