Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by ordinaryforces, Jul 11, 2012.

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  1. anyone watching this programme on bbc1 at the moment?
    jeez it's been said before, but those men fought in horrendous conditions, how the men that survived that and led the rest of their lives is beyond me.
    a total of 600000 killed among the two sides!! in that battle alone.
  2. AKA the Third Battle of Ypres and one of around thirty major battles between 1914-1918. And as you say, at huge cost but for questionable gains. "Passchendaele", opposed by Prime Minister Lloyd George, saw 310,000 BEF casualties in Flanders. German casualties 260,000. Mustard gas, chemical burns, the heaviest rain in thirty years, drainage systems and ground destroyed by bombardments, immobile Tanks, and Haig's alleged inflexibility . It's been argued the offensive had to happen before the allied war effort collapsed and before poor French morale turned to mutiny. Alan Clark said that "if the dead could march, side by side in continuous procession down Whitehall, it would take them four days and nights to get past the saluting base". Conditions must have been atrocious. How anyone survived, during or after any of those battles, is remarkable.
  3. It's a good Iron Maiden song.
    • Like Like x 2
  4. With the Army suffering these huge casualties I often wondering how much longer before the UK simply ran out of recruits, according to one recent book I've read (1918 by Peter Hart) the British army were reducing divisions by a third or one brigade and likewise brigades were down to two battalions. Where as the huge US army were deploying Divisions with the equivilant of four brigades.
    IIRC the Army was in similar situation towards the end of WW2.
  5. I read a book about the development and introduction of Tanks, can't remember the title. That did mention labour shortages starting to cause problems for industry with the call-up extending to older and older workers.

    Could have become a real "chicken and egg" situation; either produce arms and not have a big enough army to use them or build up the army and nobody left at home equip them.
  6. IIRC both WW1 and WW2 were run from a national plan that assumed armed forces of about 5 million (including turnover due to casualties), with the balance of manpower devoted to food, energy and industrial output.

    Despite the horrific toll, UK weakened at a far lesser rate than Germany or France. The downsizing of formations in 1917/18 had more to do with the post-Passchendaele government policy of withholding reserves and reinforcements from France - there were about 600,000 trained soldiers retained in UK at the time of the German offensives in March 1918.
  7. Interesting point; by 1945 the UK was preparing to transfer naval personnel to the army to make up numbers, so we were only one/two years behind the Germans in manpower problems. Might that situation arise again? I'm not sure, but do recall that the number of TA medical types being mobilised was, and may still be, having an effect on NHS routine services.

    Larry Bond mentions this inhis novel 'Vortex' where the SA forces are fully mobilised, it gives them a time limit after which the economy as a whole will be crippled. As it happens, one of his other books, 'Cauldron' has France and Germany uniting militarily to invade the eastern nations after a european wide financial crisis, spooky eh?
  8. Bouillabaisse

    Bouillabaisse LE Book Reviewer

    I'd check those Alan Clark figures before you quote them - he almost certainly didn't.
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  9. ,

    From my research and if we're quibbling, the late Alan Clark, Member of Parliament for Kensington & Chelsea, a former Minister of Defence and a military historian. recorded in the Daily Express, November 1998 that the founder of the War Graves Commission Sir Fabian Ware calculated that if the dead could march side by side in continuous procession down Whitehall, it would take them four days and nights to get past the saluting base.
  10. Anyone using the words Alan Clark and historian in the same sentence should be shot, slowly.

    Third Ypres was a long and complicated battle and saw both good and bad choices by Haig, Plumer and Gough. The weather had an enormous effect on proceedings - two of the seven separate battles that made up the whole began in bright sunlight with dust more of a problem than mud. And if you want to see the real effects of mud on fighting try the Aussie campaigns in northern New Guinea.

  11. Why were so 600,000 kept back in the UK?
  12. Lloyd George had a profound difference of opinion with Haig about the conduct of the war, and was scheming to sack him. LG felt that Haig was pointlessly slaughtering soldiers, and so took steps to limit the volume of men being sent to France (new recruits, returned convalescents, even men returning from leave or being routinely rotated).

    Its an ongoing debate whether Lloyd George's point of view was justified (Haig did after all eventually "win" the war), but he nearly lost the war by depleting the British Army in France just as (a) the British had to take over more line from the weakened French (b) the Germans were temporarily at a significant numerical advantage with their forces released from the eastern front.
  13. During WW1 the (3) British armies grew to over 4 million with 70 divisions, fuelled by the introduction of conscription in January 1916.
    Home reserves were probably necessary to supply the old Contemptibles, the main theatre of war in France and Belgium against the German Empire, not the only theatre at that time.
    The British were engaged in Italy and Salonika against the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Bulgarian Army, while other units fought in the Middle East, Africa and Mesopotamia—mainly against the Ottoman Empire—and one battalion fought alongside the Japanese Army in China during the Siege of Tsingtao.
  14. Some of them, such as my grand father, had been injured or affected by gas, so were in hospital or convalescent units.
  15. Which does not alter the fact that Clark didn't know, nor did he much care, what he was talking about, as long as his book sold well. Most if not all his writing on WW1 has been shown to be - shall we say - somewhat distant from the evidence.

    He has a thread to himself. Started by Cuddles. Worth a look, for the amusement value, if nothing else.