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Britiske tropper blev budt velkommen til Frankrig, 1914
Britiske tropper var meget velkomne, da de ankom til Frankrig i 1914. Her ser vi en del af BEF blive budt velkommen af franske damer ved deres ankomst til Frankrig i august 1914.
Empire og Sea Power
I september 1715 hævede John Erskine, jarl af Mar, standarden for en 'jakobitisk' stigning, der havde til formål at genoprette det eksilerede Stuart -monarki til tronen og udråbte James Francis Edward Stuart (James IIs søn) til konge af Skotland. Jacobitterne blev besejret af regeringsstyrker ved kampene ved Sheriffmuir og Preston i november 1715. Tre måneder senere var oprøret blevet ophævet. De jakobitiske ledere blev anklaget og nogle blev henrettet.
Under førkrigsplaner skulle der organiseres en ekspeditionsstyrke blandt de regulære hærstyrker i Det Forenede Kongerige med en styrke på seks infanteridivisioner og en kavaleridivision (72 infanteribataljoner og 14 kavaleriregimenter) plus støtteenheder.
Det var planlagt, at de syv divisioner ville blive centralt kontrolleret af hovedkvarteret, og som sådan blev der ikke lagt planer for mellemliggende kommandoniveauer. Et korps personale blev opretholdt i fredstid, men beslutningen blev truffet om mobilisering for at oprette en anden (og senere en tredje) for bedre at kunne tilpasse sig den franske kommandostruktur, begge disse skulle improviseres.
På mobiliseringstidspunktet var der betydelig frygt for en tysk landing i kraft på den engelske østkyst, og som sådan blev beslutningen truffet om at holde to divisioner tilbage til hjemmeforsvar og kun sende fire plus kavaleridivisionen til Frankrig for nuet. Den 4. blev til sidst sendt i slutningen af august og den 6. i begyndelsen af september.
Den første øverstkommanderende for BEF var feltmarskal Sir John French. Hans stabschef var generalløjtnant Sir A. J. Murray med generalmajor H. H. Wilson som stedfortræder. GSO 1 (operationer) var oberst G. M. Harper, og GSO 1 (efterretning) var oberst G. M. W. Macdonogh.
Adjutanten var generalmajor Sir C. F. N. Macready med generalmajor E. R. C. Graham som viceadjutant og oberst A. E. J. Cavendish som assisterende generaladjutant. Quartermaster-General var generalmajor Sir W. R. Robertson, med oberst CT T. Dawkins som Assistant Quartermaster-General. Det kongelige artilleri blev kommanderet af generalmajor W. F. L. Lindsay og de kongelige ingeniører af brigadegeneral G. H. Fowke.
GHQ -tropper, Royal Engineers Rediger
Hovedkvarterets tropper kontrollerede ingeniørerne i hærgruppen. Det havde følgende struktur i 1914: 
- 1. Bridging Train, Royal Engineers
- 2. Bridging Train, Royal Engineers
- 1st Siege Company, Royal Monmouthshire Militia, Royal Engineers
- 4th Siege Company, Royal Monmouthshire Militia, Royal Engineers
- 1. belejringsselskab, Royal Anglesey Militia, Royal Engineers
- 2. belejringsselskab, Royal Anglesey Militia, Royal Engineers
- 1. Rangsektion, Royal Engineers
- 8. jernbaneselskab, Royal Engineers
- 10. jernbaneselskab, Royal Engineers
- 2nd Railway Company, Royal Monmouthshire Militia, Royal Engineers
- 3rd Railway Company, Royal Monmouthshire Militia, Royal Engineers
- 3. jernbaneselskab, Royal Anglesey Militia, Royal Engineers
Der var ingen permanent etableret kavaleridivision i den britiske hær ved mobilisering, 1. til 4. kavaleribrigader blev samlet for at danne en division, mens 5. kavaleribrigade forblev som en selvstændig enhed.
Den 6. september blev den 3. kavaleribrigade løsrevet for at handle i fællesskab med den 5. under overordnet kommando af brigadegeneral Gough. Denne styrke blev genudnævnt til 2. kavaleridivision den 16. september.
Kavaleridivisionen blev kommanderet af generalmajor Edmund Allenby, med oberst John Vaughan som GSO 1 og brigadegeneral B. F. Drake som kommanderede Royal Horse Artillery.
Uafhængig brigade Rediger
I Corps blev kommanderet af generalløjtnant Sir Douglas Haig. Hans højtstående stabsofficerer var brigadegeneral J. E. Gough (stabschef), brigadegeneral H. S. Horne (kommanderende Royal Artillery) og brigadegeneral S. R. Rice (kommanderende Royal Engineers).
1. division Rediger
1. division blev kommanderet af generalmajor S. H. Lomax, med oberst R. Fanshawe som GSO 1. Brigadegeneral N. D. Findlay befalede det kongelige artilleri, og oberstløjtnant A. L. Schreiber befalede de kongelige ingeniører.
- (Brigadegeneral F. I. Maxse)
- 1. Coldstream -vagter
- 1. skotske vagter
- 1st The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
- 2. The Royal Munster Fusiliers 
- 2. Royal Sussex Regiment
- 1. Det loyale nordlige Lancashire -regiment
- 1. Northamptonshire -regimentet
- 2. Kongens kongelige geværkorps
- 1st The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment)
- 1. grænserne i South Wales
- 1. Gloucestershire Regiment
- 2. Welch -regimentet
- Monterede tropper
- En eskadrille, 15. (kongens) husarer
- 1. cyklistfirma
- 113. batteri, RFA
- 114. batteri, RFA
- 115. batteri, RFA
- 116. batteri, RFA
- 117. batteri, RFA
- 118. batteri, RFA
- 46. batteri, RFA
- 51. batteri, RFA
- 54. batteri, RFA
- 30. (Howitzer) batteri, RFA
- 40. (Howitzer) batteri, RFA
- 57. (Howitzer) batteri, RFA
- 23. Field Company, RE
- 26. Field Company, RE
- 2. Grenadiervagter
- 2. Coldstream -vagter
- 3. Coldstream -vagter
- 1. irske vagter
- 2. Worcestershire Regiment
- 2. Oxfordshire og Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
- 2. Highland Light Infantry
- 2. The Connaught Rangers
- 1st The King's (Liverpool Regiment)
- 2. South Staffordshire Regiment
- 1. prinsesse Charlotte af Wales (Royal Berkshire Regiment)
- 1. Kongens kongelige geværkorps
- Monterede tropper
- B eskadrille, 15. (kongens) husarer
- 2. Cyklistfirma
- 22. batteri, RFA
- 50. batteri, RFA
- 70. batteri, RFA
- 15. batteri, RFA
- 48. batteri, RFA
- 71. batteri, RFA
- 9. batteri, RFA
- 16. batteri, RFA
- 17. batteri, RFA
- 47. (Howitzer) batteri, RFA
- 56. (Howitzer) batteri, RFA
- 60. (Howitzer) batteri, RFA
- 5th Field Company, RE
- 11. Field Company, RE
- 3. Worcestershire Regiment
- 2. Prinsen af Wales frivillige (South Lancashire Regiment)
- 1. hertugen af Edinburghs (Wiltshire Regiment)
- 2. De kongelige irske rifler
- 2. Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment)
- 2. Det kongelige irske regiment
- 4. hertugen af Cambridge's Own (Middlesex Regiment)
- 1. Gordon Highlanders 
- 1. Northumberland Fusiliers
- 4th The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)
- 1. Lincolnshire Regiment
- 1. Royal Scots Fusiliers
- Monterede tropper
- C eskadrille, 15. (kongens) husarer
- 3. cyklistfirma
- 107. batteri, RFA
- 108. batteri, RFA
- 109. batteri, RFA
- 6. batteri, RFA
- 23. batteri, RFA
- 49. batteri, RFA
- 29. batteri, RFA
- 41. batteri, RFA
- 45. batteri, RFA
- 128. (Howitzer) batteri, RFA
- 129. (Howitzer) batteri, RFA
- 130. (Howitzer) batteri, RFA
- 56th Field Company, RE
- 57th Field Company, RE
- 2. Kongens egne skotske grænser
- 2. hertugen af Wellingtons (West Riding Regiment)
- 1st The Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)
- 2nd The King's Own (Yorkshire Light Infantry)
- 2. Suffolk -regimentet
- 1. East Surrey Regiment
- 1. Hertugen af Cornwalls lette infanteri
- 2. Manchester Regiment
- 1. Norfolkregimentet
- 1. Bedfordshire Regiment
- 1. Cheshire -regimentet
- 1. Dorsetshire Regiment
- Monterede tropper
- En eskadrille, 19. (dronning Alexandras egen kongelige) husarer
- 5. cyklistfirma
- 11. batteri, RFA
- 52. batteri, RFA
- 80. batteri, RFA
- 119. batteri, RFA
- 120. batteri, RFA
- 121. batteri, RFA
- 122. batteri, RFA
- 123. batteri, RFA
- 124. batteri, RFA
- 37. (Howitzer) batteri, RFA
- 61. (Howitzer) batteri, RFA
- 65. (Howitzer) batteri, RFA
- 17th Field Company, RE
- 59th Field Company, RE
- 1. Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- 2. Seaforth Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs, Hertugen af Albany's)
- 1. prinsesse Victoria's (Royal Irish Fusiliers)
- 2. The Royal Dublin Fusiliers
- 1. Prins Alberts (Somerset Light Infantry)
- 1. East Lancashire Regiment
- 1. Hampshire Regiment
- 1st Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort's Own)
- 1st King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment)
- 2. Lancashire Fusiliers
- 2. The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
- 2. Essex -regimentet
- Monterede tropper
- B eskadrille, 19. (dronning Alexandras egen kongelige) husarer
- 4. cyklistfirma
- 39. batteri, RFA
- 68. batteri, RFA
- 88. batteri, RFA
- 125. batteri, RFA
- 126. batteri, RFA
- 127. batteri, RFA
- 27. batteri, RFA
- 134. batteri, RFA
- 135. batteri, RFA
- 31. (Howitzer) batteri, RFA
- 35. (Howitzer) batteri, RFA
- 55. (Howitzer) batteri, RFA
- 7. Field Company, RE
- 9. Field Company, RE
- 1st The Buffs (East Kent Regiment)
- 1. Leicestershire Regiment
- 1st The King's (Shropshire Light Infantry)
- 2. York og Lancaster Regiment
- 1. The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)
- 1. Prinsen af Wales (North Staffordshire Regiment)
- 2. Prinsen af Wales Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians)
- 3.Riflebrigaden (Prinsgemalens egen)
- 1. prinsen af Wales egen (West Yorkshire Regiment)
- 1. East Yorkshire Regiment
- 2. Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire og Derbyshire Regiment)
- 2. Durham Light Infantry
- Monterede tropper
- C eskadrille, 19. (dronning Alexandras egen kongelige) husarer
- 6. cyklistfirma
- 21. batteri, RFA
- 42. batteri, RFA
- 53. batteri, RFA
- 110. batteri, RFA
- 111. batteri, RFA
- 112. batteri, RFA
- 24. batteri, RFA
- 34. batteri, RFA
- 72. batteri, RFA
- 43. (Howitzer) batteri, RFA
- 86. (Howitzer) batteri, RFA
- 12. Field Company, RE
- 38th Field Company, RE
- Nr. 1 belejringsbatteri
- Nr. 2 belejringsbatteri
- Nr. 3 belejringsbatteri
- Nr. 4 belejringsbatteri
- Nr. 5 belejringsbatteri
- Nr. 6 belejringsbatteri
- 1. Dronningens egne Cameron Highlanders 
Royal Flying Corps Rediger
Royal Flying Corps-enhederne i Frankrig blev kommanderet af brigadegeneral Sir David Henderson, med oberstløjtnant Frederick Sykes som hans stabschef.
Linjer til kommunikationsforsvarstropper Rediger
Et kavaleriregiment indeholdt tre eskadriller og var forsynet med to maskingeværer. En infanteribataljon indeholdt fire kompagnier og to maskingeværer.
Et Royal Horse Artillery-batteri indeholdt seks 13-punder kanoner, mens et Royal Field Artillery-batteri indeholdt seks 18-punder kanoner eller seks 4,5-tommer haubitser. Et tungt batteri af Royal Garrison Artillery indeholdt fire 60 pundpistoler. Hvert batteri havde to ammunitionsvogne pr. Pistol, og hver artilleribrigade indeholdt sin egen ammunitionssøjle.
Hver division modtog en anti-fly-løsrivelse af 1-pund pom-pom-kanoner i september, knyttet til divisionsartilleriet.
Kavaleridivisionen havde i alt 12 kavaleriregimenter i fire brigader, og hver infanteridivision havde 12 bataljoner i tre brigader. Kavaleridivisionens styrke (ikke tællende 5. kavaleribrigade) kom til 9.269 alle rækker, med 9.815 heste, 24 13-punder kanoner og 24 maskingeværer. Styrken ved hver infanteridivision kom til 18.073 alle rækker, med 5.592 heste, 76 kanoner og 24 maskingeværer.
I store numeriske termer repræsenterede den britiske ekspeditionsstyrke halvdelen af den britiske hærs kampstyrke som en kejserlig magt, en betydelig del af hæren måtte holdes til side til oversøiske garnisoner. Hjemforsvar forventedes at blive leveret af frivillige fra Territorial Force og af reserverne.
Den almindelige hærs samlede styrke i juli var 125.000 mand på de britiske øer, med 75.000 i Indien og Burma og yderligere 33.000 i andre oversøiske udstationeringer. Army Reserve kom til 145.000 mand, med 64.000 i Militsen (eller Special Reserve) og 272.000 i Territorial Force.
Den fredelige regulære etablering på de britiske øer var enogfirs bataljoner af infanteri-i teorien blev en bataljon af hvert linjeregiment indsat på hjemmetjeneste og en på oversøisk tjeneste på et givet tidspunkt, roterende bataljonerne hvert par år-og nitten regimenter af kavaleri.
Bortset fra dem, der var øremærket til ekspeditionsstyrken, var der tre bataljoner af vagter og otte linjeinfanteri (inklusive dem på Kanaløerne) - nogenlunde en divisions værdi. I tilfælde blev seks bataljoner af disse stamgæster indsat til kontinentet sammen med ekspeditionsstyrken for at fungere som hærstyrker. Border Regiment og Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own (Yorkshire Regiment) havde den usædvanlige sondring at være de eneste to regulære infanteriregimenter, der ikke skulle bidrage med tropper til ekspeditionsstyrken, begge ville først se aktion med 7. division, der landede i oktober.
I betragtning af optøjer, der var sket under de nationale strejker 1911–12, var der bekymring for, at der ville være uro i London ved krigsudbruddet. Følgelig var tre kavaleriregimenter - 1. livgarde, 2. livgarde og Royal Horse Guards - stationeret i London -distriktet og ikke øremærket til ekspeditionsstyrken. . Derudover var der tre Royal Field Artillery -brigader og en række Royal Horse Artillery -batterier, der ikke var øremærket til oversøisk service.
Efter at ekspeditionsstyrken var afgået, efterlod dette en total regelmæssig etablering af tre kavaleriregimenter (lidt udtømt) og fem infanteribataljoner  - mindre end en tiendedel af hjemmestyrkernes normale kampstyrke og hovedsagelig indsat i London. Denne forsvarsstyrke ville blive suppleret af enhederne i Territorial Force, som blev indkaldt ved krigens udbrud - ja, mange var allerede legemliggjort til deres sommertræning, da mobilisering blev beordret - og af Special Reserve.
Territorial Force blev planlagt med en mobiliseringsstyrke på fjorten divisioner, der hver var struktureret i retning af en almindelig division med tolv infanteribataljoner, fire artilleribrigader, to ingeniørkompagnier og ampc. - og fjorten brigader af Yeomanry -kavaleriet. Det var påtænkt, at disse enheder udelukkende ville blive brugt til hjemmeforsvar, selvom næsten alle meldte sig frivilligt til oversøisk tjeneste, ankom de første bataljoner til kontinentet i november.
Oversøisk service Rediger
Otteogfyrre bataljoner af infanteri tjente i Indien-svarende til fire regelmæssige divisioner-med fem på Malta, fire i Sydafrika, fire i Egypten og et dusin i forskellige andre kejserlige forposter. Yderligere ni regelmæssige kavaleriregimenter tjente i Indien, med to i Sydafrika og et i Egypten.
Styrkerne i resten af det britiske imperium forventedes ikke at bidrage til ekspeditionsstyrken. En betydelig del af disse var en del af den ti-divisions hær i Indien, en blanding af lokale styrker og britiske stamgæster havde planlagt i august 1913 for at arrangere, hvordan de indiske styrker kunne bruges i en europæisk krig, og en foreløbig plan havde været lavet til to infanteridivisioner og en kavaleribrigade, der skulle føjes til ekspeditionsstyrken, disse blev sendt i tilfælde af, men ankom ikke til Frankrig før i oktober.
I tilfælde af at de fleste oversøiske garnisonsenheder blev trukket tilbage, så snart de kunne erstattes med territoriale bataljoner, og nye regelmæssige divisioner blev dannet stykkevis i Det Forenede Kongerige. Ingen af disse enheder ankom i tide til at se service hos ekspeditionsstyrken.
Lånte soldater: Den amerikanske 27. og 30. division og den britiske hær ved Ypres-fronten, august-september 1918
Ypres eller "Wipers", som de britiske Tommies kaldte den gamle belgiske by, er synonymt med 1. verdenskrig. Et ekstraordinært antal liv gik tabt der og i den nærliggende markante under tilsyneladende endeløse kampe i løbet af fire år. Talrige monumenter og kirkegårde prikker landskabet og minder en om krigens rædsler. Et sådant monument hylder den amerikanske 27. og 30. division. Disse to divisioner, der hovedsageligt består af National Guard-tropper, modtog deres ilddåb den 30. august-1. september 1918, da de engagerede veteran tyske styrker på et af områdets højeste punkter, Kemmel Hill og de omkringliggende landsbyer Vierstraat, Vormezeele, og Wytschaete. Tyskerne havde opnået positionerne i april samme år, men var på tilbagetog, da amerikanerne ankom. Ikke desto mindre nægtede de at trække sig stille tilbage og lærte i den proces de ivrige dejboer en lektion i kamp langs Vestfronten.
Ruiner af St. Martin ’s Kirke i Ypres, Belgien, ca. 1918. (Krigsafd.)
Da denne operation begyndte, var amerikanerne i anden instruktionsfase af de bedste soldater, de allierede havde at tilbyde. Kort efter ankomsten til vestfronten i foråret 1918 sendte de amerikanske ekspeditionsstyrker (AEF) general John J. Pershing modvilligt den 27. og 30. division til at træne med den britiske hær. Det var hans måde at blidgøre feltmarskal Sir Douglas Haig, der insisterede på, at amerikanske dejgutter fusionerede i den britiske ekspeditionsstyrke (BEF) for at fylde rækken af hans udtømte hær. Pershing havde imidlertid andre planer. Han søgte at danne en uafhængig hær og modstod det konstante pres fra Haig. Det var først, da US War Department accepterede et tilbud fra briterne om at transportere amerikanske tropper til Europa, at Pershing tillod amerikanerne at træne med Haigs Tommies. Derudover aftalte Pershing, at briterne ville udstyre, fodre og bevæbne hans mænd, og at de også kunne bruges på forsiden, hvis der skulle opstå en nødsituation. Under dette uddannelsesprogram tilbragte ti amerikanske divisioner tid i den britiske sektor som American II Corps. Aftalen kom også amerikanerne til gode, da krigsministeriet manglede forsendelse til at sende tropper til udlandet, og det havde heller ikke nok våben til rådighed til at udstede dem til hver soldat.
Fred mellem de to befalingsmænd blev imidlertid formindsket, da Pershing tildelte otte af divisionerne til sin nyorganiserede amerikanske første hær. Pershing ville have alle ti divisioner tilbage, men Haig protesterede voldsomt og fik lov til at beholde to - den 27. og 30.. De blev tilbage som AEFs mindste korps.
Haig havde nu omkring 50.000 friske amerikanske soldater at bruge, som han fandt passende. En AEF -division omfattede cirka 27.000 officerer og mænd, men den 27. og 30. nåede aldrig denne styrke. Deres artilleribrigader ankom separat i Frankrig og blev straks tildelt First Army. Pershing tildelte heller ikke udskiftninger til den 27. og 30. før efter våbenhvilen, et tegn på at han betragtede dem som mindre vigtige end hans andre divisioner.
Inden ankomsten til Frankrig trænede den 27. division i Camp Wadsworth, South Carolina, nær Asheville, North Carolina og Blue Ridge Mountains. De fleste hærens divisioner blev sendt til de mildere sydlige og sydøstlige USA til træning. "Nætterne var bittert kolde, men solen ville være brændende varm i løbet af dagen," huskede privat William F. Clarke, medlem af den 104. maskingeværbataljon, levende. Det var ikke ualmindeligt at komme tilbage fra hverken "en dag på borefeltet eller fra en vandretur på ti kilometer og sved kraftigt og derefter næsten fryse ihjel om natten."
Generalmajor John F. O'Ryan var den 27. divisions kommandør og den højest rangerede nationalgardeofficer, der havde kommandoen over et så stort kontingent tropper under krigen. Han var en disciplinær, og hans tropper blev anerkendt for deres professionelle adfærd, der rangerede sammen med enheder i den regulære hær. Divisionen bestod af tropper fra hele New York, herunder mænd fra nogle af New York Citys mest fremtrædende familier samt landmænd og arbejdere fra hele Empire State. Inden tjeneste i udlandet blev New Yorkerne sendt til den mexicanske grænse i 1916 under strafekspeditionen som 6. division, den eneste gardenhed organiseret på denne måde. Den 27. division vedtog et insignier, der bestod af en rødgrænset sort cirkel med bogstaverne "NYD" i monogram med stjernerne i stjernebilledet Orion, til ære for deres kommandant.
Den 30. division var mere typisk for nationalgarden. En sammensætning af regimenter fra North og South Carolina og Tennessee, divisionen kom sammen på Camp Sevier, nær Greenville, South Carolina. I løbet af krigen beordrede ni forskellige generalofficerer divisionen, indtil hæren slog sig ned på en West Point -klassekammerat til Pershing, generalmajor Edward M. Lewis, som tidligere havde ledet 3d infanteribrigade, 2d Division. Den 30. division, kaldet "Old Hickory" efter præsident Andrew Jackson, omfattede enheder, hvis slægt stammer tilbage fra krigen i 1812. Ligesom den 27. havde regimenterne i 30. divisionsregimenter tjent på den mexicanske grænse under straffekspeditionen.
En soldatdreng fra det 71. regimentinfanteri, New York National Guard, sagde farvel til sin kæreste, da hans regiment forlod Camp Wadsworth, Spartanburg, S.C., hvor New York Division uddannede sig til service. 1917. IFS.
I mere end otte måneder gennemgik begge divisioner intens fysisk konditionstræning, gennemførte manøvrer i åben krigsførelse og deltog i foredrag fra britiske og franske officerer sendt til USA som rådgivere. Enheder fra den 27. og 30. division begyndte at ankomme til Frankrig i løbet af den sidste uge af maj 1918. Amerikanerne kom ind i havnene i Calais og Brest og blev budt velkommen til krigszonen med fjern torden af artilleristykker og tyske luftangreb om natten. Efter dage med hård marchering blev begge divisioner tildelt en sektor bag de britiske frontlinjer for at begynde at træne. For at sikre kompatibilitet med de britiske soldater blev amerikanerne forpligtet til at bytte deres elskede .30 kaliber Model 1917-rifler med Lee-Enfield Mark III.
Uddannelsesprogrammet specielt designet til disse divisioner bestod af ti ugers instruktion til infanteri og maskingeværetropper, der skulle gennemføres i tre perioder. Først trænede de uden for linjen i mindst fire uger, der omfattede øvelse, musketeri og fysisk træning. Dette omfattede undervisning i Lewis -maskingeværet og andre infanterivåben. Dernæst skulle amerikanerne tilknytte britiske tropper i linjen i tre uger. Betjente og ikke-officerede betjente ville komme ind i en otteogfyrretimers periode, mens mændene sluttede sig til britiske kompagnier og delinger i kortere perioder. Endelig skulle hvert regiment træne i et bageste område i tre til fire uger for at give mere avanceret undervisning. Der ville amerikanerne øve på at manøvrere bataljoner og kompagnier. For det meste kom dejgutterne og Tommies godt ud. Ikke overraskende klagede amerikanerne imidlertid over de britiske rationer. Vant til amerikansk mad serveret i store portioner, fik de i stedet en lille kødration, te (i stedet for kaffe) og ost.
I løbet af den anden uddannelsesperiode blev den 27. og 30. division tildelt den britiske anden hær til træning og flyttet til deres sektor, sydvest for Ypres, for at organisere og forsvare en del af East Poperinghe Line. Stillingen tog sit navn fra byen Poperhinghe, der ligger flere kilometer nord og består af et uregelmæssigt system af ikke -forbundne skyttegrave, højborge og pillekasser.
I løbet af den første del af august flyttede den 30. division nær Poperhinghe og Watou, hvor den kom under taktisk kontrol af British II Corps, mens den 27. indtog den anden, eller reserve, position i det britiske forsvar nær Kemmel Hill, under kommando over British XIX Corps. Dette omfattede Dickebusch -søen og Scherpenberg -områderne.
Til sidst avancerede den 30. til den samme reservesektor som den 27., og efterlod begge på den nordlige side af Lys -fremtrædende, en front, der dækkede 4.000 yards. Den fremtrædende blev dannet i den allierede linje syd for Ypres i foråret 1918, da tyskerne angreb langs Lys -floden under Operation Georgette og tog Kemmel Hill fra franskmændene. En britisk officer skrev, at "tabet af Kemmel af franskmændene er godt, vi holdt det under alle omstændigheder, det burde gøre dem mindre uciviliserede."
Den fremtrædende strakte sig fra Zillebeke -søen, på et tidspunkt den vigtigste vandforsyning til Ypres, sydøst for Voormezeele. Det var blevet formet af kampene i Første Ypres i 1914, og de efterfølgende kampe havde skabt dybe kratere. Jorden var meget lav, og skalhuller blev til små bassiner. Omkring det markante var højlandet-Observatory Ridge, Passchendaele Ridge, Messines-Wytschaete Ridge og Kemmel Hill, der alle var i besiddelse af tyskerne. Disse stillinger tillod fjenden et klart ildfelt i alle retninger. En amerikaner bemærkede, at "mændene i de fremadgående systemer ofte troede, at de blev beskudt af deres eget artilleri, da skallerne faktisk var fra fjendens kanoner til højre og bagpå."
Bataljoner fra 30. divisions 119. og 120. infanteriregiment begyndte at besætte dele af fronten i kanalsektoren, ti miles sydvest for Ypres. Et regiment havde sin lejr ved "Dirty Bucket", cirka fire miles fra Ypres. Soldater blev indkvarteret i hytter bygget af briterne i en lund af egetræer, der var store nok til at huse et helt kompagni (256 officerer og mænd). Kvartaler var langt fra luksuriøse - mangel på barnesenge eller køjer betød, at soldater sov på gulvet. For kommanderende og stabsofficerer fra den 27. og 30. var det imidlertid meget anderledes. Den 27. havde hovedkvarter i Oudezeele, mens den 30. division oprettede sin kommando i Watou, hvor O’Ryan og Lewis sov relativt komfortabelt. Mange af divisionernes medarbejdere og højtstående regimentsofficerer var indkvarteret i det, der blev kaldt "Armstrong Hut." Sammenklappelige og let bevægelige, blev hytternes sider banket med sandposer for at beskytte beboerne mod granatsplinter og skalfragmenter, hvis en artillerirunde sprængte i nærheden. Sandposernes bredder var tre fod høje, "lige nok til at dække dig, når du lå på barnesengen."
Vægskalering på Camp Wadsworth, S.C. Ca. 1918. Paul Thompson. (War Dept.)
Begge divisioner var nu kun fire miles fra fronten og godt inden for rækkevidde af fjendtligt artilleri. Den 13. juli døde privat Robert P. Friedman, medlem af 102d Engineers, som følge af sår fra tysk skaldild og blev den første kampskade, som den 27. division led. Friedman var en af mange jødiske soldater, både officerer og hvervede mænd, den 27., og hans tab blev sørget over alle i divisionen. Den 30. division havde sin første kamprelaterede død en måned tidligere, da premierløjtnant Wily O. Bissett fra 119. infanteri blev dræbt på en lignende måde den 17. juni.
I Belgien var amerikanerne vidne til de strabadser, som civilbefolkningen led. Selvom beskydning næsten havde ødelagt landsbyerne omkring Ypres, lykkedes det ikke at bryde det flamske folks ånd. Da landmændene fortsatte med at dyrke deres marker, blev ingeniører fra de amerikanske divisioner på East Poperinghe forsvarslinje specifikt instrueret i ikke at beskadige afgrøderne. Dette var en vanskelig ordre at følge, da lægning af trådforviklinger nær fronten betød at rydde nogle af afgrøderne på trods af protester fra landmændene.
I løbet af flere nætter, 16.-24. August, forberedte 27. og 30. division sig til kamp. Den 30. division beordrede sin 60. infanteribrigade til at overtage kanalsektoren fra den britiske 33d -division, der ligger på nordsiden af Lys -fremtrædende sydvest for Ypres. Det 119. infanteri var på højre side af linjen, det 120. infanteri til venstre. I reserve var den 59. infanteribrigade (117. og 118. infanteriregiment). En uge senere lindrede 53d infanteribrigade (105. og 106. infanteriregiment), 27. division, den britiske 6. division i Dickebusch -sektoren. Det overtog front- og støttepositionerne med regimenter side om side og 54. infanteribrigade (107. og 108. infanteriregiment) i reserve. De britiske divisioner forlod deres artillerienheder for at støtte amerikanerne.
Troppebevægelser samt transport af forsyninger blev udført med letbaner og udført i løbet af natten for at undgå at tiltrække ild fra tysk artilleri på Kemmel Hill. Inden infanteri og maskingevær var der 102d (27. division) og 105. (30. division) ingeniører. De havde den vanskelige og farlige opgave at reparere pockmarkerede veje, der blev gjort næsten ufremkommelige efter tre års skudbrand. Da tropperne nåede fronten, blev de indkvarteret i træhytter bygget af britiske ingeniører. To hold på otte mænd med en korporal i spidsen sov i en hytte, som en beboer beskrev som rummelig. For at koordinere forbindelsen mellem infanteriet og artilleriet skulle arbejdsdetaljer lægge kabel. Dette betød at grave en seks fods skyttegrav gennem det hårde Flandern -ler, der ikke lignede South Carolina -jorden.
Hver dag involverede overvågning fra observationsposter og fly. The first few days were reported as calm. A “quiet, inoffensive attitude,” is how a 30th Division officer summarized this period. Such calm, however, did not last. Suddenly, as the division’s historians noted, “the scene had now shifted to the battleground of the World War—a stern and terrible reality to the men of all ranks.” They were referring to night patrols sent out as far as 1,000 yards to probe enemy defenses. Troops patrolling too close to the German outpost lines were greeted with machine gun fire.
At first, the Germans were unaware that Americans had entered the sector opposite them, but according to a prisoner interrogated at 27th Division headquarters, this changed when the rifle fire became “more brisk and haphazard.” When asked to elaborate, the soldier from the German 93d Infantry Regiment explained that soldiers “who have been in the war for some time only fire individually when they are sure they have a target, whereas new troops are apt to fire more or less constantly at night, whether or not they have a target.” The considerable shooting and muzzle flashes allowed the Germans to better pinpoint the American line of advance. Once they recognized that untested American troops were opposing them, it became a daily ritual to try their mettle by harassing them with artillery fire, lobbing shells into back areas to hit crossroads and villages.
On 30 August, the enemy conducted a surprise move that further tested the doughboys. In the early morning, heavy clouds of smoke crept toward the American lines. An initial report said it was a gas attack, but further observation revealed the Germans were burning dumps of some kind to mask a withdrawal. A prisoner captured near Kemmel Hill confirmed the updated report when he told interrogators that troops were retiring to the Wytschaete-Messines Ridge. He claimed a new line was established in front of Armentieres, and that eight men per company in machine gun posts remained behind on Kemmel, where they were to give the impression of strength.
That night British XIX Corps headquarters ordered O’Ryan to send patrols from his brigades to reconnoiter the left of the line, opposite the 30th Division. This order was not unexpected. Earlier in the day O’Ryan and Plumer met and the latter remarked casually after tea, “Oh, by the way, O’Ryan, how would you like to have a go at our friends on the ridge?” O’Ryan responded that “his men were there for that purpose,” and was then told by Plumer to have a word with his chief of staff. O’Ryan then discovered that the details of the plan and tentative corps order were already in place.
O’Ryan went into action and instructed the 53d Brigade to move elements of the 105th and 106th Infantry Regiments toward the German trenches to determine the depth of the withdrawal. As they approached the German lines, there was minor resistance from scattered machine gun posts. The patrols were accompanied by members of the British 184th Tunneling Company, which checked the vacant enemy dugouts for mines and booby traps. After reaching the enemy positions, the patrols reported back to brigade headquarters that the prisoner’s statement was correct—the Germans had given up most of Kemmel Hill. Additional patrols were organized and told to be ready to advance in support of those sent out. Soon, the Americans were gearing up for their first battle as entire regiments.
On 31 August, the British II Corps ordered the 30th Division to send out patrols in its sector to determine enemy strength and location. The division commander, Major General Lewis, chose the 60th Infantry Brigade and made it clear that if strong resistance was met, the brigade was to return to its entrenchments. Small parties from the 119th and 120th Infantry Regiments moved out, and like those of the 53d Brigade, found the German defenses at Kemmel Hill mostly abandoned. Additional parties from the 30th Division held nearby positions at the Voormezeele Switch and Lock 8 of the canal. The Germans were still close by in strength, so Lewis ordered his troops to hold tight and await further orders. Relaying messages was difficult because the Germans kept a close eye on the runners and frequently fired on them, so the Americans mostly communicated by wire. To ensure there was little delay in this method, the 105th Signal Battalion laid 15,000 feet of cable along this position to establish a forward communications post.
At 0730 the next morning, Lewis gave the order to advance. After a brief barrage, a platoon of forty men from Company I, 120th Infantry, moved forward towards Lankhof Farm. There, the Germans had constructed a cluster of pillboxes in the ruins of an old farm building and positioned machine gunners and snipers. As the Americans advanced, the Germans withdrew to the canal and abandoned their defenses at the farm, suffering only two casualties. The platoon then pushed beyond the farm and established contact with the 119th Infantry advancing on the right of Lock 8. Artillery from the British 33d Division fired in support, but several rounds fell short, wounding a number of Americans.
Friendly fire incidents were an unfortunate consequence of war, and the 30th Division had recently lost two men this way. In the first instance, First Lieutenant Robert H. Turner of the 115th Machine Gun Battalion was struck on 24 July by a shell from the 186 Battery, Royal Field Artillery, while he and another officer were on patrol near a Belgian chateau. In the second occurrence, Second Lieutenant Lowell T. Wasson of Company M, 120th Infantry, was shot by a private from his unit on 7 August. Wasson apparently became confused after returning from a patrol near Swan Chateau and had entered a listening post unannounced. The private guarding the post was ordered to fire on Wasson by his superiors, who thought the intruder was a German conducting a trench raid.
With the 119th taking fire from both its own artillery support and the Germans, two more platoons from the 120th Infantry were sent forward to help relieve the chaotic situation. After advancing 1,000 yards, they retired, having lost touch with both flanks. The Germans complicated matters with fire from trench mortars and machine guns hidden in Ravine Wood. At 1000, 2d Battalion, 119th Infantry, advanced and held on against heavy resistance. During this action, a patrol that included Corporal Burt T. Forbes of Company I, was acting as a flank guard when a squad of eight Germans approached. As the enemy started setting up their machine guns, Forbes charged the Germans, single-handedly killing three and driving the other five away. For this act of bravery, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the French Croix de Guerre. Word of the action was sent to the rear by pigeon. It was the first time this means of communication had been used by the 30th. Remarkably, only one hour and five minutes elapsed between the time the message was sent, received and transmitted by the division staff.
After intense fighting, the 30th Division’s contribution to the operation was over. It gained one square mile of ground, inflicted one hundred German casualties, and captured sixteen prisoners, two machine guns, one grenade launcher, and a small amount of ammunition and stores. Kemmel Hill was now in Allied hands and, as one doughboy remarked, “it sure is a blessed relief to move around without feeling the German eyes watching you.” In the process of taking this coveted piece of land, the 30th lost two officers and thirty-five men killed.
In the 27th Division sector, the British XIX Corps ordered O’Ryan to begin advancing his division at 1000 on 31 August and occupy a line along the Vierstraat Switch, 1,000 yards from their present location. Patrols from the 106th Infantry advanced along the line until held up for three hours by machine guns concealed in numerous nests near Siege Farm. The Americans retaliated with their own machine guns, and artillery fire from the British 66th Division. By 1730, the Germans had been driven back and the objective gained.
August ended as another bloody month on the Western Front, and September started off the same way. On the morning of 1 September, the 105th Infantry went forward on its right to pivot on the 30th Division at Vierstraat Village. As the Americans attempted to advance to the east crest of Vierstraat Ridge, the Germans continued to resist and drove the Americans back to the village. During the fighting, the doughboys used some creative methods to send messages to the rear the 102d Signal Battalion sent messages using pigeons and dogs. Amazingly, the dogs successfully maneuvered over broken ground, under heavy fire to deliver messages.
Despite such valiant efforts, communication was still difficult, as reflected in a frantic field message sent from 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry: “Our new position very heavily shelled, making communications almost impossible…request that artillery open fire on hill opposite our new position.” Information on why the regiment was stalled did not reach brigade headquarters until late in the day on 1 September. Messages were delayed because shellfire had cut the forward communication wire. To help remedy the troubling situation, Corporal Kenneth M. McCann of the 102d Field Signal Battalion worked for seventy-two hours, while subjected to repeated gas bombardments and machine gun fire, to replace the forward line near Kemmel Hill. For his extraordinary efforts, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
More discouraging news reached the rear from an officer observing at the front. On the left of the 106th Infantry, two battalions had become badly mixed up and crowded into the line. When word reached the 53d Infantry Brigade commander, Brigadier General Albert H. Blanding, he ordered the commander of the 106th, Colonel William A. Taylor, to the front to investigate. Taylor reported two hours later that the officer in command at the front, Major Harry S. Hildreth, had “apparently entirely lost control and seemed at a loss as to what to do.” Blanding ordered Taylor to immediately relieve Hildreth and take command. Not until daylight the following morning was the situation in hand. Hildreth was only temporarily reprimanded. He was lucky this was his only punishment since it was commonplace in the AEF, as well as the BEF, to permanently relieve commanders from their units for poor performance. Hildreth returned to battalion command in the 106th a few days later.
On 1 September, Blanding ordered his brigade not to make a general attack, but to advance the front line as far as possible. With the help of artillery harassment, the two regiments moved forward, and by the afternoon of the next day, had captured the southern slope of Wytschaete Ridge. At noon on 2 September, Taylor phoned Blanding and requested permission to dig in on the line of the first objective and wait for relief. His request was denied. Instead, he was ordered to advance further, and after another day of hard fighting, the 106th permanently reoccupied the Chinese Trench, which ran between the Berghe and Byron Farms. By now, the Germans had retired in some strength to Wytschaete Ridge. The two-day operation ended with the 53d Brigade losing two officers and seventy-seven men killed, mostly from artillery fire.
On 3 September, the Americans received withdrawal orders, and moved back from the Canal and Dickebusch sectors during the next two days. The British 41st Division relieved the 27th, and the British 35th Division took the sector vacated by the 30th. Relief of the 27th did not go smoothly. When the order reached the 53d Brigade, it was so far forward that it took a considerable amount of time to reach the light railways for transportation to the rear. After reaching the rear, the brigade found that the 41st Division was in the midst of moving forward, and considerable congestion ensued. Once behind the front lines, the soldiers of the 27th Division, looking forward to warm beds and clean uniforms, discovered that billeting and bathing facilities were hard to find. O’Ryan later wrote that provisions had been made for his men, “but the lack of time and other circumstances prevented it being done to the fullest extent.” For the men of 30th Division, it was also “rather a hard trip, but the men stood it well,” remembered the commander of the 105th Engineers. “The cars were dirty and those for the First Battalion had manure in them when they were backed on the siding. Our men had to clean them out and then buy straw to put on the bottom of the cars. I may be mistaken, but the trains the British use for a trip like this are better and cleaner cars. We seem to be the ‘Goats’.”
In the rear, battalion and company commanders from both American divisions wrote after-action reports that provide a window into the seemingly chaotic American experience of being in the line for the first time. In one report, a lieutenant in the 119th Infantry complained that his platoon’s ammunition supply was defective, and for twenty-four hours, he had no reserve rounds. Another officer remarked how the supply of water that reached the front lines during the nights of 2-3 September was not enough for one platoon, and that “this shortage, which seems to exist in all parts of the line, is the greatest hardship the men have to bear.”
Other mistakes were not so insignificant and showed the weaknesses in the divisions’ officer corps. Upon reaching an objective, a platoon commander could not communicate with his left flank because he did not have a telephone, lamp, pigeons, or even a signalman. “Liaison was poor,” he complained. “I had no ground flares, no panels, and no other means of getting in touch with aeroplanes.”
Such mishaps by the doughboys were also observed by the opposing German troops. The commander of the German 8th Infantry Division, Major General Hamann, remarked in his battle report that “withdrawal of our line confronted the American troops with a task to which they were by no means equal.” When the 27th Division moved out of its quiet sector to pursue the Germans, Hamann wrote, “The inexperienced troops do not yet know how to utilize the terrain in movement, work their way forward during an attack, or choose the correct formation in the event the enemy opens artillery fire.”
After the war, Hamann was more complimentary toward the New Yorkers. O’Ryan had written him to gather information for his book, The Story of the 27th, and the German officer responded, saying “reports reaching me from all sources, particularly from our artillery observation posts, were that your infantry was unusually energetic in their attack.”
Enlisted men had plenty to say about the Ypres-Lys operation, and they wrote such thoughts in letters sent home, personal diaries, and memoirs. The sound of battle created a lasting memory for many soldiers. One soldier from Tennessee described the constant firing of machine guns as though it were “popcorn popping.” Another wrote how it seemed to him that the Germans knew the location of every trench, since they constantly harassed the Americans during the day with artillery fire. At night, their planes bombed the front and rear, and the “artificial camouflage provided what little deception was practiced upon the enemy.”
The historian of Company K, 117th Infantry, recalled that “the night of the big barrage on Kemmel Hill was a night of discomfort and nervousness” among the men in his unit. Nerves were frayed, and one private recalled seeing a sergeant in his company advance cautiously with his rifle toward a noise in the rear that he insisted was caused by German soldiers conducting a raid. Moments later, he learned it was a trench rat retreating to its hole. Once the men of Company K actually participated in combat, they “were happier than we had been for many months, for the first battle experiences had been met with all the credit that was to have been expected, and we had not quailed at the smell of gunpowder.”
Bravery by the American soldiers did not go unnoticed by the British. General Sir Herbert Plumer wrote O’Ryan that “the wonderful spirit that animated all ranks and the gallantry displayed in the minor engagements your division took part in with us foreshadowed the successes you would achieve later.” Plumer was indeed correct. The American II Corps would continue serve with the BEF and during the attack on the Hindenburg Line on 29 September 1918, with the Americans attached to the British Fourth Army. Despite taking significant casualties, the 27th and 30th Divisions spearheaded the attack and with help from the Australian Corps, pierced a vital portion of the German defenses along the St. Quentin Canal. Nevertheless, it was the operation in Ypres that helped define the two divisions. After World War I, the newly established American Battle Monuments Commission recognized this in 1927 by placing a marker on Vierstraat Ridge. It reads in part: “Erected by the United States of America to commemorate the service of American troops who fought in this vicinity.”
British Troops being welcomed to France, 1914 - History
The interactive parts of this resource no longer work, but it has been archived so you can continue using the rest of it.
The main job of the British forces in 1914 and 1915 was to support the French. This is because the British Army was very small. In 1914, it had about 250,000 men scattered around the British Empire. In that year, the British sent 5 divisions (a division was usually about 15,000 men) to the front in France. The French army had 72 divisions and the Germans had 122 divisions. The French and Germans both had a system of compulsory military service. This meant all men served about 2 years in the army and gained some basic training and experience. Britain had no such system.
Once war began, the British Army recruited furiously. By 1916, the army was about 1.5 million strong, but there were problems. The expansion was done at breakneck speed using enthusiastic but raw recruits. They had a little over a year's training and virtually no combat experience. Worse still, they were desperately short of experienced officers. More experienced soldiers knew how to find the best cover, how to advance as safely as possible and what to do if their commanding officer was killed (common in trench warfare).
General Sir Douglas Haig, British Commander-in-Chief on the western front, was not really ready to attack in mid-1916. He wanted to wait until later in the year and attack in Flanders (not the Somme). However, his hand was forced. In February 1916, the Germans attacked the French fortress of Verdun. The attack intensified for the next four months until there was a danger that Verdun would fall and the Germans would break through the French lines. The British and French governments decided that Haig would have to attack at the Somme in July. This would be the first major battle of the war for the British Army.
General Sir Henry Rawlinson's original plan of attack was simple. He intended to hit the front line of German defences with intense artillery bombardments to destroy German positions and kill large numbers of troops. The idea was to wear down the Germans in a war of attrition. The main weapon would be the artillery bombardment, but there would also be small-scale raids and attacks by British forces.
Map of the Allied plan of attack at the Somme
Haig was sure that the Germans would crumble and he wanted Rawlinson's plan to allow for this possibility. If this took place, then British forces could achieve the long awaited breakthrough. Cavalry could get behind the German defences, attack the Germans in the open and disrupt the road and rail links that kept the German troops supplied and reinforced.
This change in plan caused problems because it meant the artillery bombardment was spread over a wider range of German defences and so did less damage than Rawlinson hoped. It also meant that the attacking infantry were more spread out than Rawlinson planned. This was a problem because they were inexperienced troops and there were few experienced officers. The commanders were concerned that there would be chaos if soldiers charged forward and lost contact with their officers. This was the main reason why orders were given to walk towards the enemy positions. As history now shows, these tactics were disastrous and the senior commanders contributed to the huge death toll during the attack. However, it is important to remember that Haig issued those orders because he felt he had little choice. Units with experienced officers usually adapted the tactics and suffered fewer casualties than units with inexperienced officers.
The attack took place on 1 July 1916. For a week before that, a huge bombardment of German positions had been going on. Most of the British troops expected the German defences to be badly damaged, but it is a myth that they were told that the Germans would simply surrender.
Haig underestimated the strength of the German defences and his changes to the plan weakened the impact of the bombardment. Another problem was that about 30% of the 1.7 million shells fired by the British did not go off. The attacking British troops met extremely strong artillery and machinegun fire from the German defenders. There were some important successes at the southern end of the attacking line, but the troops at the northern end suffered huge casualties. Around 20,000 were killed and around 40,000 wounded.
Rawlinson was appalled by the losses on the first day and wanted to end the attack. However, Haig insisted that it should carry on. He was convinced that they had fatally weakened the Germans, although he had little evidence to support this view. Haig also had little choice because he had to relieve the pressure on Verdun.
Haig was later criticised for wasting lives by throwing men at heavily defended trenches. In fact he varied his tactics when he could. For example, in September he used tanks for the first time in the war. The reality was, however, that Haig had few options. He had to relieve Verdun and he did not have the weapons that commanders in future wars would have – effective aircraft and reliable tanks.
The battle continued until November 1916 when Haig called off the attack. An area of land about 25 km long and 6 km wide had been taken. British casualties ran at about 420,000 and French casualties were about 200,000. German casualties were about 500,000. This definitely weakened the Germans, but the Germans killed more Allied troops than they lost themselves. However, the pressure was off Verdun. The British troops who survived now had combat experience. The British and Allied forces also learnt many valuable lessons about trench warfare, which were put into action in 1917-18.
There are few events in British history that carry as much significance as the Battle of the Somme. The battle has a dark reputation. The main reason for this is the heavy casualties.
Whole villages or sections of towns lost a generation of young men. One of the most famous examples is Accrington in Lancashire. Their young men joined up together in 1915 to form a 'Pals' Battalion. Young men from local streets, factories, football and rugby teams joined up at the same time. The army thought that this local identity would make for good fighting units who would stick together in battle. There were other areas that supplied such units. The very first Pals Battalion was signed up in Liverpool. There were Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle Pals. The 36th Division was made up mainly of Protestants from Ulster (mainly from the area which is Northern Ireland today). All of these units fought with great gallantry at the Somme. The trouble was it took only one heavy bombardment or one attack on a heavily defended position and a whole street or village lost its young men. Some parts of the country lost few or no young men, but this of course did not grab the headlines. The British Army changed its recruiting policy after the Battle of the Somme.
Another controversy about the Battle of the Somme is whether the British commanders were to blame for the heavy losses because they were incompetent. The main accusations are usually directed at the British Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Douglas Haig. He is charged with not caring about the heavy casualties. He is also accused of failing to change his tactics when things were not going according to plan. He earned the unwanted title of 'the Butcher of the Somme'. But was this fair?
The casualties at the Somme were heavy, but only by the standards of previous British wars. British casualties at the Somme were similar to the losses which German, Austrian, Russian and French troops had suffered in many of the battles of 1914-15. This battle had such a huge impact on Britain because Britain had never fought in a war like this before. Most of Britain's wars had been wars in the empire or battles at sea. In both cases, casualties tended to be relatively low.
With hindsight, we can see that Haig made mistakes and the first day of the Somme was a disaster. However, we also have to look at the limited options open to him. He was told to relieve Verdun and this meant attacking the Germans. Haig made mistakes by altering Rawlinson's plan, but he could not foresee that 30% of the British shells would fail to explode. Haig was criticised for sending men to capture enemy trenches, but no politician or military leader came up with any alternatives in 1916. It is very telling that most people at the time did not share the hostility later expressed towards Haig.
British Troops being welcomed to France, 1914 - History
B y the end of November 1914 the crushing German advance that had swallowed the Low Countries and threatened France had been checked by the allies before it could reach Paris. The opposing armies stared at each other from a line of hastily built defensive trenches that began at the edge of the English Channel and continued to the border of Switzerland. Barbed wire and parapets defended the trenches and between them stretched a "No-Mans-Land" that in some areas was no more than 30 yards wide.
British troops in the trenches
Life in the trenches was abominable. Continuous sniping, machinegun fire and artillery shelling took a deadly toll. The misery was heightened by the ravages of Mother Nature, including rain, snow and cold. Many of the trenches, especially those in the low-lying British sector to the west, were continually flooded, exposing the troops to frost bite and "trench foot."
This treacherous monotony was briefly interrupted during an unofficial and spontaneous "Christmas Truce" that began on Christmas Eve. Both sides had received Christmas packages of food and presents. The clear skies that ended the rain further lifted the spirits on both sides of no-mans-land.
The Germans seem to have made the first move. During the evening of December 24 they delivered a chocolate cake to the British line accompanied by a note that proposed a cease fire so that the Germans could have a concert. The British accepted the proposal and offered some tobacco as their present to the Germans. The good will soon spread along the 27-mile length of the British line. Enemy soldiers shouted to one another from the trenches, joined in singing songs and soon met one another in the middle of no-mans-land to talk, exchange gifts and in some areas to take part in impromptu soccer matches.
The high command on both sides took a dim view of the activities and orders were issued to stop the fraternizing with varying results. In some areas the truce ended Christmas Day in others the following day and in others it extended into January. One thing is for sure - it never happened again.
"We and the Germans met in the middle of no-man's-land."
Frank Richards was a British soldier who experienced the "Christmas Truce". We join his story on Christmas morning 1914:
Buffalo Bill [the Company Commander] rushed into the trench and endeavoured to prevent it, but he was too late: the whole of the Company were now out, and so were the Germans. He had to accept the situation, so soon he and the other company officers climbed out too. We and the Germans met in the middle of no-man's-land. Their officers was also now out. Our officers exchanged greetings with them. One of the German officers said that he wished he had a camera to take a snapshot, but they were not allowed to carry cameras. Neither were our officers.
We mucked in all day with one another. They were Saxons and some of them could speak English. By the look of them their trenches were in as bad a state as our own. One of their men, speaking in English, mentioned that he had worked in Brighton for some years and that he was fed up to the neck with this damned war and would be glad when it was all over. We told him that he wasn't the only one that was fed up with it. We did not allow them in our trench and they did not allow us in theirs.
The German Company-Commander asked Buffalo Bill if he would accept a couple of barrels of beer and assured him that they would not make his men drunk. They had plenty of it in the brewery. He accepted the offer with thanks and a couple of their men rolled the barrels over and we took them into our trench. The German officer sent one of his men back to the trench, who appeared shortly after carrying a tray with bottles and glasses on it. Officers of both sides clinked glasses and drunk one another's health. Buffalo Bill had presented them with a plum pudding just before. The officers came to an understanding that the unofficial truce would end at midnight. At dusk we went back to our respective trenches.
British and German troops
mingle in No Mans Land
Just before midnight we all made it up not to commence firing before they did. At night there was always plenty of firing by both sides if there were no working parties or patrols out. Mr Richardson, a young officer who had just joined the Battalion and was now a platoon officer in my company wrote a poem during the night about the Briton and the Bosche meeting in no-man's-land on Christmas Day, which he read out to us. A few days later it was published in Tiderne eller Morning Post, I believe.
During the whole of Boxing Day [the day after Christmas] we never fired a shot, and they the same, each side seemed to be waiting for the other to set the ball a-rolling. One of their men shouted across in English and inquired how we had enjoyed the beer. We shouted back and told him it was very weak but that we were very grateful for it. We were conversing off and on during the whole of the day.
We were relieved that evening at dusk by a battalion of another brigade. We were mighty surprised as we had heard no whisper of any relief during the day. We told the men who relieved us how we had spent the last couple of days with the enemy, and they told us that by what they had been told the whole of the British troops in the line, with one or two exceptions, had mucked in with the enemy. They had only been out of action themselves forty-eight hours after being twenty-eight days in the front-line trenches. They also told us that the French people had heard how we had spent Christmas Day and were saying all manner of nasty things about the British Army."
This eyewitness account appears in Richards, Frank, Old Soldiers Never Die (1933) Keegan, John, The First World War (1999) Simkins, Peter, World War I, the Western Front (1991).
World War One
The origins of conscription and the ‘citizen-soldier’
The First World War was fought predominantly by conscript armies fielding millions of ‘citizen-soldiers’. The origins of this type of military lay in the levée en masse (mass mobilisation) organised by the French revolutionary regime at the end of the 18th century, the first modern force built on the idea that all male citizens had a duty to bear arms in defence of their nation. However, it was France’s rival Prussia which improved and systemised the military model, developing a new form of universal short-service peacetime conscription. After spectacular victories over Austria and France in 1866 and 1871, this provided the organisational template for other continental European armies. Austria-Hungary imitated it in 1868, France in 1872 and Russia in 1874. Britain and the United States, which relied primarily on their navies for security, were alone among the major powers in remaining with small professional armies.
How conscription worked
Short-service systems of conscription obliged healthy male citizens to undergo a relatively brief period of military training in their youth and then made them subject for much of the rest of their adult lives to call up for refresher courses or for service in an emergency. The exact terms of service varied from country to country but Germany’s system provides a good example. There, men were drafted at age 20 for two or three years of peacetime training in the active army. While all had an obligation to serve, financial limitations meant in practice that only a little over half of each male year group was conscripted. After training, men were released into civilian life but could be called back to the army until they reached the age of 45. In between, men passed through various reserve categories. Those who had most recently completed their training belonged to the first-line reserve for five years, where they could expect to be redrafted early in the event of crisis. Later, they were allocated for a decade to the second-line Landwehr. The third-line Landsturm was the oldest band of reservists, intended mainly for rear-line duties in a major war. The short-service conscript system offered two major advantages. First, it created a large pool of trained manpower that could quickly augment the standing army in an emergency. In August 1914, the German army needed just 12 days to expand from 808,280 to 3,502,700 soldiers. Second, in a long conflict, the system offered an organisational framework capable of deploying nearly the entire manpower of a state as soldiers. Conscript forces became true ‘nations in arms’ in 1914-18. 55% of male Italians and Bulgarians aged 18 to 50 were called to military service. Elsewhere the proportions were even higher: 63% of military-aged men in Serbia, 78% in Austro-Hungary and 81% of military-aged men in France and Germany served.
The picture book of the Landsturm Man
Detail of an illustration from The picture book of the Landsturm Man (1917).
War volunteers and enlistment motivations
While conscript armies proved indispensable, and even the British in 1916 and the Americans in 1917 began to draft men, significant numbers of volunteers also served in the First World War. Most famously, in Britain 2,675,149 men volunteered, the vast majority in the first half of hostilities. However, even countries with long traditions of conscription also had large volunteering movements. In Germany, around half a million men came forward. The great rush was at the start of the war: in the first 10 days 143,922 men enlisted in Prussian units alone. France’s voluntary enlistments were smaller but steadier, reaching 187,905 men by the end of hostilities. In multinational Austria-Hungary, men appear to have been less willing to volunteer for the Emperor’s army, although they promptly obeyed call up orders. Some nationalist movements did recruit successfully, however. The Polish Legionaries, the largest of these forces, had 21,000 volunteers by 1917. While volunteers tended to be disproportionately middle-class, their motives for joining the army may not have been so different from those of conscripts. Patriotic duty appears to have been a prime motivation for both groups, although coercion was also influential. Volunteers were not subject to the legal sanctions faced by conscripts who disobeyed drafting orders but they might be exposed to considerable social pressure to enlist. For small minorities, economic factors or lust for action and adventure were important. These recruits, whether conscripts or volunteers, were ‘citizen-soldiers’, whose attachment to their societies and stake in their states’ existence go far to explain the tremendous resilience of the armies of 1914-18.
A Comprehensive World War One Timeline
Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, and his wife, had decided to inspect Austro-Hungarian troops in Bosnia. The date chosen for the inspection was a national day in Bosnia. The Black Hand supplied a group of students with weapons for an assassination attempt to mark the occasion.
A Serbian nationalist student, Gavrilo Princip, assassinated the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, when their open car stopped at a corner on its way out of the town.
Although Russia was allied with Serbia, Germany did not believe that she would mobilise and offered to support Austria if necessary.
However, Russia did mobilise and, through their alliance with France, called on the French to mobilise.
Despite a French counter-attack that saw the deaths of many Frenchmen on the battlefields at Ardennes, the Germans continued to march into France. They were eventually halted by the allies at the river Marne.
British troops had advanced from the northern coast of France to the Belgian town of Mons. Although they initially held off the Germans, they were soon forced to retreat.
The British lost a huge number of men at the first battle of Ypres.
By Christmas, all hopes that the war would be over had gone and the holiday saw men of both sides digging themselves into the trenches of theWestern Front.
Although British losses were heavier than the German, the battle had alarmed both the Kaiser and the German Admiral Scheer and they decided to keep their fleet consigned to harbour for the remainder of the war.
This article is part of our extensive collection of articles on the Great War. Click here to see our comprehensive article on World War 1.
British Troops being welcomed to France, 1914 - History
The actions of the colonist in response to the Townshend Act convinced the British that they needed troops in Boston to help maintain order. Lord Hillsborough, Secretary of State for the Colonies, dispatched two regiments-(4,000 troops), to restore order in Boston. The daily contact between British soldiers and colonists served to worsen relations.
The decision by the British to dispatch troops to Boston was one of their worst decisions, in an entire series of bad moves, that helped make the eventual independence of America inevitable. The British government reacted to the Americans, and specifically to the Massachusetts opposition to the Townshend act by dispatching troops to Boston. This might have been the correct policy if the opposition was just made up of a few firebrands. The British, however, misread the opposition, which was wide spread.
The announcement that British troops were arriving created immediate resentment among the colonists. The idea that British troops were coming, not to defend the colonists in times of war, but the pacify them, seemed inconceivable to many. In addition, the idea that troops of the standing army, many of whom did not have a reputation for high moral standards, would be living in their city on a daily basis filled many Bostonians with dread.
In the end of September 1768 troop ships, accompanied by British men of war, arrived in Boston Harbor. The troops disembarked and initially encamped on the Boston Commons, as well as, in the Court House, and in Faneuil Hall. Friction immediately broke out when the Governor offered the troops Manufactory House as a barracks. The inhabitants of the Manufactory House refused to be evicted and the troops were forced to find other locations.
The British officers had no trouble finding lodging and being accepted into the Bostonian Society. This was not the case, however, with their soldiers. The British soldiers were consumers of both large quantities of rum and prostitutes. Both these activities were an anathema to the rather puritan population of Boston. Worse still was the harsh discipline meted out to British soldiers.
The British had a major problem with desertions. In the first few months of their stay in Boston, 70 troops deserted and found their way into the interior of the colony. Placing sentries on the outskirts of the city to stop deserters did nothing but inflame colonists further. Finally, General Gage, who had taken command of the British troops in Boston, ordered the next deserters be captured executed. That tragic fate fell on a young deserter named Ames. He was executed on the Boson Commons after and elaborate ceremony. This act disgusted the general population of Boston, even more than the regular whipping of British soldiers on the same location for infractions against army rules.
The colonists' views of the average British soldier varied from resentment to pity. However, while on duty, an almost guerilla war seemed to rage between the soldiers and the colonists. This, of course, eventually resulted in the most well-known and tragic action, known as "the Boston Massacre".
From the moment the British forces entered Boston to the moment they were forced by colonial troops to leave seven years later, their presence did the British no good. The extended British troop presence only served to bring the day of American independence closer.
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6. division Rediger
Den 6. division tog til Frankrig den 8. og 9. september. Det blev kommanderet af generalmajor J. L. Keir, med oberst W. T. Furse som GSO 1. Brigadegeneral W. L. H. Paget befalede det kongelige artilleri, og oberstløjtnant G. C. Kemp befalede de kongelige ingeniører.
- (Brigadegeneral E. C. Ingouville-Williams)
III Corps blev dannet i Frankrig den 31. august 1914 under kommando af generalmajor W. P. Pulteney. Hans højtstående stabsofficerer var brigadegeneral J. P. Du Cane (stabschef), brigadegeneral E. J. Phipps-Hornby (kommanderende for Royal Artillery) og brigadegeneral F. M. Glubb (kommanderende Royal Engineers).
4. division Rediger
4. division landede i Frankrig natten til 22. august og 23. Det blev kommanderet af generalmajor T. D'O. Snow, med oberst J. E. Edmonds som GSO 1. Brigadegeneral G. F. Milne befalede det kongelige artilleri, og oberstløjtnant H. B. Jones befalede Royal Engineers.
- (Brigadegeneral J. A. L. Haldane)
5. division Rediger
5. division blev kommanderet af generalmajor Sir C. Fergusson, med oberstløjtnant C. F. Romer som GSO 1. Brigadegeneral J. E. W. Headlam befalede det kongelige artilleri, og oberstløjtnant J. A. S. Tulloch befalede de kongelige ingeniører.
- (Brigadegeneral G. J. Cuthbert)
II Corps blev kommanderet af generalløjtnant Sir James Grierson. Hans ledende stabsofficerer var brigadegeneral George Forestier-Walker (stabschef), brigadegeneral A. H. Short (kommanderende Royal Artillery) og brigadegeneral A. E. Sandbach (kommanderende Royal Engineers).
Generalløjtnant Grierson døde på et tog mellem Rouen og Amiens den 17. august General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien overtog kommandoen i Bavai den 21. august kl. 16.00.
3. division Rediger
3. division blev kommanderet af generalmajor Hubert I. W. Hamilton, med oberst F. R. F. Boileau som GSO 1. Brigadegeneral F. D. V. Wing befalede det kongelige artilleri, og oberstløjtnant C. S. Wilson befalede de kongelige ingeniører.
- (Brigadegeneral F. W. N. McCracken)
- (Brigadegeneral F.C. Shaw)
2. division Rediger
2. division blev kommanderet af generalmajor C. C. Monro med oberst Hon. F. Gordon som GSO 1. Brigadegeneral E. M. Perceval befalede det kongelige artilleri, og oberstløjtnant R. H. H. Boys befalede de kongelige ingeniører.
- (Brigadegeneral R. Scott-Kerr)