Winning and Losing on the Western Front: The British Third Army and the Defeat of Germany in 1918

1 May: 'The British Army and the End of the First World War' by Jonathan Boff
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1 May: 'The British Army and the End of the First World War' by Jonathan Boff

While it might have worked for platoon and company commanders, it certainly did not at the divisional level and upwards. We can distinguish four phases in the evolution of German command. During the first, under Moltke the Younger, such was the chaos that there was no single clear philosophy of command. The next, it would abdicate all responsibility and leave subordinates to their own devices.

This phase was too unstable to last longer than a few weeks and ended with Moltke's effective dismissal in September His successor, Erich von Falkenhayn, knew he was an unpopular choice as Chief of the General Staff and owed his position exclusively to the Kaiser's trust.

Within weeks a cabal of senior generals and courtiers was intriguing to get him sacked. The insecurity Falkenhayn unsurprisingly felt manifested itself in a determination to exercise 'grip', either by restricting the resources he made available to his subordinates or by bypassing the normal chain of command and inserting individuals he trusted to handle sensitive operations.

Disappointments at Verdun and setbacks on the Somme in the first half of drained his authority away until, at the end of August, even the Kaiser agreed he needed to go.

The plan for Passchendaele

They reacted against Falkenhayn's centralization and delegated power to their subordinates. Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, commanding the army group fighting the Battle of the Somme, later reminisced that 'for the whole length of the immense and bloody Battle of the Somme, I was given a free hand. When disaster struck on the first day of the Battle of Arras 9 April , there were serious failings in the diagnosis of what had gone wrong, which marked the beginning of the fourth and last phase, characterized by two major problems. First, subordinates grew increasingly scared of telling their superiors the truth.

Poor information generated bad decisions and repeated failures which in turn led to a lack of willingness to be honest about what was going wrong and so a vicious spiral downwards in combat effectiveness. At the root of the fear was Ludendorff. A naturally aggressive and controlling personality in any case, exhaustion and growing insecurity about his own position made him shout louder and micro-manage - the second problem - more and more until eventually he was bypassing whole chunks of the chain of command and telling divisions in the front line where to place each individual anti-tank battery.

For a man with military, economic and political responsibilities from Belgium to Baku, this was madness. By using our site, you agree to our collection of information through the use of cookies. To learn more, view our Privacy Policy. Log In Sign Up. Jake Thomson.

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These arguments amongst historians include the Allied naval blockade, decisive military offensives, the failure of the Schlieffen Plan and the United States entering the war in German and British accounts tend to have conflicting views as to what culminated in Allied victory. September Wilhelm, W. The Ottoman Empire faced a similar social issue of internal national insurgencies across its vast empire.

Several historians such as Hewins characterise the blockade as only partially successful in its intended effects on Germany, and therefore should not be the factor which accounts for the Allied victory. Barton C. Hacker and Margaret Vining Leiden: Brill, , pp.

Haller, Jr. Hallett, Christine E. Higonnet, Margaret R. Higonnet Boston: Northeastern University Press, , pp.

Table of Contents

Training might aim to refresh basic skills; to pick up new techniques learnt from experience elsewhere; or, indeed, to rehearse for specific operations over mock-ups of the enemy defences. Part V, "Conclusions," briefly evaluates Rupprecht's performance as a commander and as a politician. The advancing troops would stop once they had penetrated 1, yards into the German lines. German artillery was organised in a series of Sperrfeuerstreifen barrage sectors ; each officer was expected to know the batteries covering his section of the front line and the batteries ready to engage fleeting targets. This would be heavily shelled and then assaulted in strength. The capture of Ginchy and the success of the French Sixth Army on 12 September, in its biggest attack of the battle of the Somme, enabled both armies to make much bigger attacks, sequenced with the Tenth and Reserve armies, which captured much more ground and inflicted c. Margaret R.

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