British Infantry Battalion Commanders in the First World War

BRITISH INFANTRY BATTALION COMMANDERS IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR – Review by Dr Wayne Osborne
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The War office ordered over 1, Holts caterpillar tractors , which transformed the mobility of the siege artillery. Until , artillery generally fired over open sights at visible targets, the largest unit accustomed to firing at a single target was the artillery regiment or brigade.

Individual guns were aimed so that their fall of shot was coordinated with others to form a pattern; in the case of a barrage, the pattern was a line. It was useful when enemy positions had not been thoroughly reconnoitred, as it did not depend on identifying individual targets in advance. Once the infantry had reached the German trenches, the artillery shifted from the creeping barrage to the standing barrage , a static barrage that would protect the infantry from counter-attack while they consolidated the position.

A variant was the box barrage , in which three or four barrages formed a box—or more often three sides of a box—around a position to isolate and prevent reinforcements being brought up into the front line. This was normally used to protect trench raids , [] although it could also be used offensively against a German unit.

Another type of barrage was the SOS barrage, fired in response to a German counterattack. An SOS barrage could be brought down by firing a flare signal of a pre arranged colour, as a German barrage tended to cut the telephone lines. A pre-registered barrage would then descend on No Man's Land. With the introduction of the tank the artillery was no longer required to aid the infantry by destroying obstacles and machine gun positions. Instead, the artillery assisted by neutralising the German artillery with Counter battery fire.

The Royal Engineers Signal Service, formed in , was given responsibility for communications that included signal dispatch , telegraph , telephone and later wireless communications, from army headquarters to brigade and down to battery level for the artillery. In , trench wireless sets were introduced, but the transmissions were easily intercepted by the listening Germans.

Civilian telephones were used at the outset of the war, but they were found to be unreliable in the damp, muddy conditions that prevailed. Consequently, the field telephone was designed; a device that operated with its own switchboard. Apart from voice communication, it featured a buzzer unit with a Morse code key, so that it could be used to send and receive coded messages.

This facility proved useful when, in the midst of bombardment, exploding shells drowned out voice communication. The telephones were connected by lines that sustained continual damage as a result of shell fire and the movement of troops.

Operation Pedestal: The Allies Rescue Malta

The lines were generally buried, with redundant lines set in place to compensate for breakages. The primary types of visual signalling were Semaphore flags , lamps and flags, lamps and lights, and the heliograph. In open warfare, visual signalling employing signal flags and the heliograph was the norm. A competent signaller could transmit 12 words a minute with signal flags during daylight and signal lights at night. Signal lights, which were secured in a wooden case, employed a battery-operated Morse code key.

In trench warfare, operators using these methods were forced to expose themselves to enemy fire; while messages sent to the rear by signal lights could not be seen by enemy forces, replies to such messages were readily spotted, and operators were, once again, exposed to enemy fire. During the war, the Army also trained animals for use in the trenches. Dogs carried messages; horses, mules and dogs were used to lay telephone and telegraph cables. These units were first used for aerial spotting on 13 September , but only became efficient when they perfected the use of wireless communication at Aubers Ridge on 9 May Aerial photography was attempted during , but again, it only became effective the following year.

The Section Attack - 2 Yorks - British Army

The British use of air power evolved during the war, from a reconnaissance force to a fighting force that attempted to gain command of the air above the trenches and carry out bombing raids on targets behind the line. Given its potential for the 'devastation of enemy lands and the destruction of industrial targets and centres of population on a vast scale'.

A Canadian Commander

He recommended a new air service be formed that would be on a level with the Army and Royal Navy. The formation of the new service, however, would make use of the under-utilised men and machines of the Royal Naval Air Service RNAS , as well as ending the inter-service rivalries that at times had adversely affected aircraft procurement. Planes did not carry parachutes until , though they had been available since before the war. On 1 August , the Royal Engineers consisted of 25, officers and men in the regular army and reserves; by the same date in , it had grown to a total of , Royal Engineer tunnelling companies were formed in response to the German blowing of 10 small mines in December , at Givenchy.

In July , on the first day of the battle of the Somme, what became known as the Lochnagar Crater was created by a mine at La Boisselle. Twenty-one companies were eventually formed and were employed digging subways, cable trenches, Sapping , dugouts as well as offensive or defensive mining. They also operated the railways and inland waterways. In September , the Machine Gun Corps MGC was formed to provide heavy machine-gun teams after a proposal was made to the War Office for the formation of a single specialist machine-gun company for each infantry brigade—a goal to be achieved by withdrawing guns and gun teams from the battalions.

The intention being that they would crush the barbed wire for the infantry, then cross the trenches and exploit any breakthrough behind the German lines. Originally formed in Companies of the Heavy Branch MGC, designated A, B, C and D; each company of four sections had six tanks, three male and three female versions artillery or machine guns , with one tank held as a company reserve. Tanks were primarily used on the Western Front. The first offensive of the war in which tanks were used en masse was the battle of Cambrai in ; tanks started the attack, and the German front collapsed.

At midday the British had advanced five miles behind the German line. Some 22, men had served in the Tank Corps by the end of the war. A detachment of eight obsolescent Mark I tanks was sent to Southern Palestine in early and saw action against Turkish forces there. From 12, men at the start of the war, the Corps increased in size to over , by November By the end of , the war on the Western Front had reached stalemate and the trench lines extended from the Belgian coast to the Swiss frontier.

Soldiers were in the front or reserve line trenches for about eight days at a time, before being relieved. There were three trenches in a typical front line sector; the fire trench, the support trench and the reserve trench, all joined by communication trenches. At the front, soldiers were in constant danger from artillery shells, mortar bombs and bullets and as the war progressed they also faced aerial attack.

Other sectors were in a perpetual state of violent activity. However, quiet sectors still amassed daily casualties through snipers , artillery fire and disease. The harsh conditions, where trenches were often wet and muddy and the constant company of lice and rats which fed on unburied bodies, often carried disease.

NY National Guard's 27th Division fought first battle at the end of August 1918

They could also contract frostbite in the winter months and heat exhaustion in the summer. The men were frequently wet and extremely muddy, or dry and exceedingly dusty. Daily routine of life in the trenches began with the morning 'stand-to'. An hour before dawn everyone was roused and ordered to man their positions to guard against a dawn raid by the Germans.

Once complete, the NCOs would assign daily chores, before the men attended to the cleaning of rifles and equipment, filling sandbags, repairing trenches or digging latrines. Soldiers also had to take it in turns to be on sentry duty, watching for enemy movements. Each side's front line was constantly under observation by snipers and lookouts during daylight; movement was therefore restricted until after the dusk stand-to and night had fallen. A set procedure was used by a division that was moving into the front line. Once they had been informed that they were moving forward, the brigadiers and battalion commanders would be taken to the forward areas to reconnoitre the sections of the front that were to be occupied by their troops.

Detachments from the divisional artillery group would move forward and were attached to the artillery batteries of the division they were relieving. The Army was ultimately under political authority. Since the Glorious Revolution of the Crown has not been permitted a standing army in the United Kingdom — it derives its existence from the Army Act, passed by Parliament each year every five years since the late s.

The House of Commons took these responsibilities seriously: a letter from Haig clarifying the position on shell-shock had to be read out in the House of Commons on 14 March Lesser offences were dealt with by commanding officers. Field punishment FP had replaced flogging abolished at home in and on active service in , although still used in military prisons until FP No. Striking an inferior was an offence but it was not uncommon in some units for officers to turn a blind eye to NCOs keeping discipline by violence, or even to do so themselves.

Men who committed serious offences were tried by Field General Court Martial, sometimes resulting in execution. Despite "assertions" that these were "kangaroo courts" e. The accused was entitled to object to the composition of the panel e. Eighty-nine per cent of courts martial returned a guilty verdict, [] the vast majority of cases being for offences such as Absence Without Leave the most common offence , drunkenness and insubordination. Terms of imprisonment were often suspended, to discourage soldiers from committing an offence to escape the front lines, but also to give a convicted man a chance to earn a reprieve for good conduct.

Of the officers tried, 76 per cent were found guilty, the most common offence 52 per cent of cases being drunkenness. A death sentence had to be passed unanimously, and confirmed in writing by various officers as the verdict passed up the chain of command. A man's battalion and brigade commander tended to comment on his own record, but senior generals tended to be more concerned with the type of offence and the state of discipline in that unit.

Of the 3, men sentenced to death, [] men were actually executed, the vast majority of these for desertion, the next largest reasons for execution being murder 37 — these men would probably have been hanged under civilian law at the time and cowardice Of the 91, 40 were already under a suspended death sentence, 38 of them for desertion, and one man had already been "sentenced to death" twice for desertion.

It was felt at the time that, precisely because most soldiers in combat were afraid, an example needed to be made of men who deserted. Thirty percent were regulars or reservists, 40 percent were Kitchener volunteers, 19 percent were Irish, Canadian or New Zealand volunteers, but only nine percent were conscripts, suggesting indulgence to the conscripts, many of them under 21, who made up the bulk of the army by late in the war. Only executed men's records survive, so it is hard to comment on the reasons why men were reprieved, [] but it has been suggested that the policy of commuting 90 percent of death sentences may well have been deliberate mercy in the application of military law designed for a small regular army recruited from the rougher elements of society.

Most were away from the front line — 14 of the executed deserters were arrested in the United Kingdom — and many deserters had never served in the front line at all. In the latter part of the war, executed men's families were usually told white lies by the authorities; their families received pensions, and the men were buried in the same graves as other dead soldiers.

Death for desertion was abolished in over objections in the House of Lords from Lords Allenby and Plumer, two of the most distinguished British commanders of World War One; calls for its restoration in World War Two were vetoed on political grounds. By contrast, of men sentenced to death for falling asleep on sentry duty in all theatres in World War I, only two were executed sentries were usually posted in pairs to keep one another awake; these two, who served in Mesopotamia , were made an example of because they were found sitting asleep together, suggesting that they had colluded.

Australians made up seven percent of the British Expeditionary Force but 25 percent of deserters, while an Australian was nine times more likely to be imprisoned than a British soldier. Haig asked for permission to shoot Australians, but their government refused. British discipline of the First World War was not especially severe compared to most other armies of the time e.

The French admitted to only executions and the Germans 48, but these figures may not be reliable as both armies had problems with discipline. At the time Posttraumatic stress disorder known as " shell shock " because it was initially wrongly thought to be caused by concussion damage to the membranes of the brain was beginning to be recognised and was - in principle - admissible in defence; it was classified as a war injury, although there were concerns that soldiers accused of offences tried falsely to claim shell shock as a defence.

There were enquiries in , , and , which examined documents now lost and witnesses now dead. This campaign was rejected in February because there was no evidence of procedural error i. However, their sentences were not overturned as it was impossible after this length of time to re-examine the evidence in every case.

It has been pointed out that we have only anecdotal accounts, but no figures, for men who were shot on the spot by officers and NCOs for "cowardice in the face of the enemy". There were over 13, Royal Military Police "redcaps". They were unpopular, at a time when the police were often unpopular with young men from big cities.

Besides policing, a large part of their job was maintaining discipline on the march and keeping roads running smoothly, and collecting stragglers from a battle. During the March retreat 25, stragglers were rounded up and sent back to fighting units. Royal Military Police also fought on occasion if headquarters areas were threatened by an enemy advance. Although soldiers sometimes told lurid tales of men who refused to fight being shot by Military Police, no reliable first-hand accounts exist of this happening. There were occasional examples of men making unwanted homosexual advances, homosexuality being then criminal under both military and civil law, to escape the front lines, but prosecutions for this crime were rare, and there is also evidence of men turning a blind eye to homosexual relationships.

Men were also motivated by positive means. New medals were instituted: the Military Cross was created in December for warrant officers and officers up to captain, the Military Medal for enlisted men in March although to the regret of some men, it did not carry a cash bounty like the Distinguished Conduct Medal. By , medals for bravery were often awarded within a week to ensure that the man lived long enough to receive it.

It is often said that the pre-war professional army died at the First Battle of Ypres. By the end of the battle, the BEF had suffered 86, casualties, mostly to the infantry. Trench warfare prevailed in , and the BEF—as the junior partner on the Western Front—fought a series of small battles, at times coordinated with the larger French offensives, like the Battle of Neuve Chapelle which is always associated with the shell crisis , the Battle of Aubers Ridge , the Battle of Festubert in May and the Battle of Givenchy in June. For the British Army, the year of was dominated by the Battle of the Somme which started disastrously on 1 July.

The first day on the Somme remains the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army , with 19, British soldiers killed and 38, wounded or missing, all for little or no gain. It was not until 6 November that Passchendaele ridge was captured, by which time the BEF had sustained around , casualties. The Third Army commander—General Julian Byng —planned an ambitious breakthrough and achieved an unprecedented advanced of 5 miles 8.

A German counter-offensive succeeded in recapturing most of the lost ground. The final year of the war——started with disaster and ended in triumph. The main weight of the first blow— Operation Michael —fell on General Gough' s Fifth Army which was forced to retreat. Field Marshal Haig issued his famous Order of the Day, "With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight on to the end.

Over the following weeks, all five armies of the BEF went on the offensive from the Somme to Flanders. In the final offensives, the BEF had captured , prisoners and 2, guns which was only 7, prisoners and guns less than those taken by the French , Belgian and American armies combined. It was mounted by Irish republicans with the aims of ending British rule in Ireland and establishing an Irish Republic. Army reinforcements were moved into Dublin and, by 28 April, the 1, rebels were facing 18 to 20, soldiers, [] the rising was suppressed after seven days of fighting, its leaders were court martialled and executed.

Military casualties were dead, wounded and 9 missing. The Irish and Dublin police forces had 16 killed and 29 wounded, non-combatant civilians died. A new front was opened in Salonika at the request of the Greek government, intending to support Serbian forces and oppose Bulgaria. With the objective of destroying the Bulgarian Army, the French and British launched a new offensive in April , without any significant success.

A stalemate ensued without any movement by either side; the front became known as Europe's biggest internment camp for the Allies by the Germans. Italy joined the war on the Allies' side on 5 May , declaring war on Austria-Hungary on 23 May and on Germany on 28 August The British Army's involvement in the Italian campaign did not start until late , when troops were sent to help prevent a defeat on the Italian front. On 24 October in the battle of Caporetto the Second Italian Army collapsed and the Italians were forced to retreat to the Piave River , where they could be reinforced with five British and six French Divisions from the Western Front, complete with supporting arms and commanded by General Herbert Plumer.

The reinforced Italians successfully managed to halt the Austro-Hungarian advance at the battle of the Piave river. During the Allied counter-attack in October , the Austro-Hungarian Army collapsed after taking heavy losses at the battle of Vittorio Veneto. An armistice was signed shortly afterwards on 3 November In , the British Army was involved in what became known as the Siege of Tsingtao when the 2nd Battalion South Wales Borderers landed in China in support of Japanese forces in the capture of the German port of Tsingtao.

A bombardment of the port started on 31 October , and by 7 November, the Japanese 18th Division, 29th Infantry Brigade and the British—Indian Brigade, had stormed and captured the garrison and its 4, troops. The German forces of von Lettow-Vorbeck's Schutztruppe remained undefeated and surrendered on 25 November , 14 days after the Armistice in Europe. The casualty rate amongst British and Empire troops, excluding the Africans, was 6, dead and 3, wounded. Turkey had entered the war on the German side on 31 October One of its first acts was to close the Dardanelles Straits to the Allies.

These were a series of attacks against the Turkish defences aimed at capturing the original objectives of 25 April They all failed to achieve their objectives. The Suvla landing was reinforced by the arrival of the 10th Division from Kitchener's New Army , 53rd , 54th first-line Territorial divisions and the dismounted yeomanry of the 2nd Mounted Division. The final British attempt to resuscitate the offensive came on 21 August, with attacks at Scimitar Hill and Hill Control of these hills would have united the Anzac and Suvla fronts, but neither battle achieved success.

When fighting at Hill 60 ceased on 29 August, the battle for the Sari Bair heights, and indeed, the battle for the peninsula, was effectively over; by January , the Allies had withdrawn. Estimates of casualties vary enormously, but of the around , Allied troops involved in the campaign, , were wounded and 44, died, 20, of the dead being British.

The British force fighting in Mesopotamia was principally drawn from the British Indian Army, with only one solely British formation, the 13th Western Division. Its objective was to secure the Royal Navy 's oil supply from Persia. He continued with the River War until October , when the British captured the Mosul oil fields, a development that led to the collapse of the Turkish forces.

The Armistice of Mudros with Turkey was signed on 30 October During the campaign, , British and Indian casualties were caused. Of these, 53, died, with 13, of the dead succumbing to disease. The Sinai and Palestine Campaign was fuelled by criticism of the policy of a static defence of the Suez canal , which employed six infantry divisions and five mounted brigades. The British Army in the Sinai and Palestine subsequently included the 10th , 42nd , 52nd , 53rd , 54th , 60th , 74th and 75th divisions.

Murray made steady progress against the Turkish forces, which were defeated in the battles of Romani , Magdhaba and Rafa. However, he was repulsed at the first and second battle of Gaza in Allenby reorganised his forces along more conventional lines. This led to the capture of Jerusalem in December Although these raids were unsuccessful, they encouraged Turkish commanders to believe that the main British effort would be launched across the Jordan, when in fact it would be launched along the coastal plain.

Total Allied casualties in the Sinai and Palestine campaign were 60, of which 20, were killed. Some 15, of the dead were British. The War Office responded with a plan to send a force of hand-picked British officers and NCOs to organise any remaining Russian forces or civilians who were ready to fight the Turkish forces. It arrived in Baku in August It was hoped that Dunsterforce could raise an army from the Christian Georgian , Armenian and Assyrian people who had supported the Russians and had historically feared the Turks.

While Dunsterforce had some success the task proved beyond its ability. The British Army during World War I was the largest military force that Britain had put into the field up to that point. The cost of victory, however, was high. The official "final and corrected" casualty figures for the British Army—including the Territorial Force —were issued on 10 March The losses for the period between 4 August and 30 September included , " killed in action , died from wounds and died of other causes" and , missing minus , released prisoners of war , for a net total of , dead and missing.

Casualty figures also indicated that there were 1,, wounded. Those not involved in fighting or occupation duties were demobilised. The demobilisation of 4,, men that followed the end of the war had, within a year, reduced the British Army to , men; by November , two years after the signing of the Armistice , this figure had fallen to , men. The Ten Year Rule was introduced in August , which stipulated that the British Armed Forces should draft their estimates "on the assumption that the British Empire would not be engaged in any great war during the next ten years".

In , Winston Churchill , as Chancellor of the Exchequer , successfully urged the Cabinet to make the rule self-perpetuating and hence it was in force unless specifically countermanded. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. See also: British home army in the First World War. Army Operational structure of the British Army List of units current regiments. History Timeline Recruitment. Main article: Trench warfare. Main article: Easter Rising. Main article: Mesopotamian campaign. Main article: Sinai and Palestine Campaign. Main article: Caucasus Campaign. Main article: Senussi Campaign. Army, with ration strength of 2 million men, exceeded the BEF both in size and percentage of the front occupied.

Related information

Stevenson p , , BEF ration strength peaked at 1. Following the extension of the British line early in , the BEF occupied The U. The French sector was Boff pp. By the end of the war, the BEF "field strength", at 1. Watson , p. Retrieved 7 February Retrieved 28 May New Zealand History online. Retrieved 6 June BBC History. Retrieved 13 May Retrieved 2 June National Archives. Retrieved 3 June Western Front Association. Retrieved 7 June Retrieved 26 May The London Gazette Supplement. Infantry Weapons of the First World War".

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British Infantry Battalion Commanders in the First World War: 1st Edition (Hardback) - Routledge

Archived from the original on 29 June Glasgow Digital Library. New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage. BBC h2g2. Australian War Memorial. Archived from the original PDF on 18 June Retrieved 29 May Retrieved 1 June UK Gov. Retrieved 18 February University of Tennessee : The Teaching Company. Event occurs at disk 1, lecture 6.

Archived from the original on 30 June University of Birmingham. Archived from the original on 14 October Harpers Magazine. New Zealand Electronic Test Center. Retrieved 3 May World War I portal. Addington, Larry H Army Council General Annual Report of the British Army — Parliamentary Paper , XX, Cmd. Parliament United Kingdom. Ashworth, Tony Trench Warfare — Macmillan Press, London. Badsey, Stephen Doctrine and Reform in the British Cavalry — Ashgate Publishing.

Bailey, Jonathan B A Field Artillery and Firepower. Barthorp, Michael Afghan Wars and the North-West Frontier — London: Cassell.

Table of Contents

In order to reconnect the lines of communication between the General Staff and the front line. That sometimes took hours, assuming the messengers survived to get through. Perhaps no other weapon system ever went through a steeper growth curve than the aircraft in World War I. I was well ahead and fired when it filled my sight. Doran Company. With the expansion, the number of troops at its disposal, quite naturally, increased. In the real evacuation, British ships did not evacuate French soldiers to an equal extent as British soldiers until June 1st.

Bean, C. The AIF in France: Official History of Australia in the War of — Volume III 12th ed. Canberra: Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 10 May Volume V. Canberra : Australian War Memorial. Beckett, Ian Frederick William Territorials: A Century of Service. Plymouth: DRA Publishing. Manchester University Press ND. New Africa Books. Blaxland, Gregory Amiens Star Book. Boff, Jonathan Winning and Losing on the Western Front. Cambridge University Press. Bond, Brian; Cave, Nigel []. Haig — A Reappraisal 70 Years On.

Bond, Brian, et al. Who's who in World War One. Bragg, William Sound Ranging. Artillery Survey in the First World War. Elstree: Field Survey Association. Bromley, Ian Troubador Publishing. Bull, Stephen World War I Trench Warfare: — Osprey Publishing. Most were experienced in the West and Russia. However, the average panzer division along the Atlantic Wall possessed merely seventy-five tanks.

Oberstgruppenfuhrer Josef Dietrich led the division as a panzer grenadier unit from 1 September , attacking Poland, France, and the Low Countries. In October , following combat in Russia and Italy, Leibstandarte was reorganized as a panzer unit. Leibstandarte fought in Normandy, where it was badly mauled by Allied air and ground forces in a counterattack near Mortain.

Transferred to the East, the division attempted to raise the siege of Budapest but failed. One of the three oldest tank units in the German Army, Second Panzer was formed at Wurzburg in under Generalmajor Heinz Guderian— one of the greatest armored commanders of all time. The division moved to Vienna following the Anschluss of , and subsequently many Austrians were assigned. Returning eastward, it was committed to the Balkans and Russia in , seeing almost constant combat.

The division survived the epic battle of Kursk in the summer of and was withdrawn for rest and recuperation in France in Generalleutnant Heinrich Freiherr von Luttwitz took command of the division in February Soon after D-Day he launched an attack at Mortain; it failed against heavy opposition, and he withdrew. Part of the division escaped the Falaise pocket, regrouped in September, and participated in the Ardennes offensive that winter. By then Generalmajor Meinrad von Lauchert had taken over.

By the end the command, under Oberst Col. Carl Stollbrock, had withered to four tanks, three assault guns, and some two hundred men, who surrendered to Allied troops at Plauen in April Its title changed over the next three years, becoming Das Reich in May It became a panzer grenadier division in November , drawing from the Second SS Motorized Division, which had fought in the Balkans and Russia — The division participated in the occupation of Vichy in , returning to the Eastern Front in early Das Reich became a dedicated panzer division the second in the SS in October under Gruppenfuhrer major general Heinz Lammerding, who remained until July The division refitted in France beginning February and by June counted 20, troopers in its panzer regiment, two grenadier regiments, a self-propelled artillery regiment, and affiliated units.

Das Reich opposed Overlord, earning lasting condemnation for an atrocity conducted en route. The town remains unrestored, in tribute to the victims. Subsequent operations were conducted in Hungary and Austria during Standartenfuhrer Karl Kreutz surrendered his command to the U. Army in May. Notwithstanding its elite SS status, when formed in February it relied partly upon conscripts. The original commander was Obergruppenfuhrer lieutenant general Willi Bittrich, from February to 29 June Committed to Russia in March , Hohenstaufen helped free German forces from the Kamenets-Podolsk pocket the following month.

Lacking 25 percent of its authorized strength in officers and noncoms, the division also faced a severe transport shortage— cross-country trucks were on hand of the nearly 1, authorized. Road transport was somewhat more plentiful. However, it returned to France in mid-June in response to the crisis in Normandy. Somewhat understrength, it counted approximately 15, men at the time of D-Day. Returned eastward in February , the division subsequently was withdrawn to Pomerania. In May, surrounded, it surrendered to the Soviets at Schonau in Saxony.

Formed as a panzer grenadier unit in June , Hitlerjugend was composed in large part of recruits from the Hitler Youth organization, most of them born in By 1 June the component regiments were Twelfth Panzer, Twenty-fifth and Twenty-sixth Panzer Grenadier, Third Artillery, and the usual recon and support units totaling 17, personnel. The division gained a fearsome reputation against the Canadians in Normandy, fighting nearly to destruction. However, its reputation was badly marred by incidents in which Allied prisoners were murdered—often the acts of young soldiers imbued with nationalist fervor from age ten onward.

Hitlerjugend survivors were withdrawn to Bremen for recuperation and rebuilding, and HJ was ready for the Ardennes offensive in December. It finished the war fighting in Hungary and Austria. By then merely youngsters of the original 21, remained in the division. Formed as the Fifth Light Division in early , it became a tank unit in July. The Twenty-first fought in North Africa —43 and was destroyed in the Tunisian collapse of May Generalleutnant Edgar Feuchtinger reestablished the division in France in July of that year, but it saw no combat until June Additional assets included an assault gun battalion and antitank battalion with towed 88 mm guns.

Personnel had reached nearly full strength, with 16, officers, NCOs, and men. The Twenty-first counterattacked against the British sector but sustained heavy losses, including fifty-four tanks. Throughout June the division sustained 1, killed or missing and 1, wounded. The last commander was Generalleutnant Werner Marcks, who surrendered in April.

A new unit, the th was raised in March by converting the Sixteenth Panzer Grenadier Division. The division was based in western France but hastened to the Pas de Calais under the expectation that Normandy was a feint. Consequently, the th did not engage the Allies until July, in the massive tank battle for Mortain. The division withdrew with most other German units in August. Generalmajor Siegfried von Waldenburg assumed command in September, remaining for the duration of the war.

He directed subsequent operations in the Ardennes offensive. The division was trapped in the Ruhr pocket April One of the most formidable German armored formations was derived from training organizations and experienced tank-warfare instructors. The concept originated with Generaloberst Heinz Guderian, head of the Panzerwaffe, who gained the appointment for his colleague Generalleutnant Fritz Bayerlein.

Panzer Grenadier Lehr, th Panzer Lehr, and th Panzer Artillery Regiments, plus affiliated antitank, engineer, and reconnaissance battalions. However, many of the original units were transferred out or redesignated before D-Day. Well supplied and manned, in May Lehr had officers and 14, men, tanks, halftracks, 58 antitank guns, and 53 artillery pieces. Consequently, the division was some eighty miles from the invasion beaches on 6 June; it was obliged to make a difficult and costly run to the coast.

Though the division lost only five tanks on the way, it wrote off or abandoned eighty-four other armored vehicles and trucks or transport vehicles. In subsequent combat against Allied forces west of Caen, notably against the British Seventh Armoured Division, Lehr inflicted losses on the enemy but withdrew to protect its flanks. The attack was unsuccessful owing to a British flanking movement, and another attempt the next day was countered by effective naval gunfire. Lehr suffered more at the hands of Allied airmen during Operation Cobra, when a massive Eighth Air Force bombing attack saturated the area on 25 July.

Strachwitz estimated that 70 percent of his troops were killed, wounded, or stunned into ineffectiveness the same attack, however, killed Lt. Leslie McNair, commander of U. Army Ground Forces. Count Strachwitz departed on 23 August, succeeded by three commanders during September before Bayerlein resumed command, to remain through the Ardennes offensive until January Named for a sixteenth-century Teutonic baron, the division was established in October with many Volksdeutsche, or ethnic Germans.

Its composition was two grenadier regiments and an artillery regiment; a tank component existed only in name. There was precious little equipment and almost no transport. The panzer battalion had no tanks, and the division possessed only thirty-seven selfpropelled guns. The action was well portrayed in Band of Brothers.

Ostendorff was badly wounded on 15 June, and the Seventeenth was steadily repulsed to Paris, then Metz, then through Alsace. On VE-Day most of the division surrendered near Achensee. Thirty-eight German infantry divisions were deployed in Normandy, including five static divisions for coastal defense.

The infantry total included several Luftwaffe formations: parachute, field, and air-landing divisions. Defending Normandy was the Seventh Army under Col. Friedrich Dollmann. He placed three divisions d Air Landing, th and th Infantry on the Calvados coast and Cotentin Peninsula, backed by two counterattack units, the Ninety-first Air Landing and d Infantry Divisions. The th covered fifty-five miles, backed by the d and d.

The th Infantry Division was essentially idle on the Channel Islands. Deployed at the west end of the Utah Beach sector, the th was reasonably well staffed, with eleven battalions in three regiments: the th, th, and th. The first two included the th Ost Battalion and th Georgian Battalion, respectively, with conscripts from the East. The division also deployed the th Artillery Regiment.

In December Generalleutnant U. A company commander in the first war, he was twice wounded in action. Between the wars he had served in infantry, cavalry, and staff positions. From onward he commanded infantry and armored formations, including the Eighteenth Panzer Division. The th was the primary defender of Utah Beach, opposing the landing of the Fourth Infantry Division. The area inland and northwest of Utah Beach was occupied by one of the numerous Luftwaffe formations. With the d Air Landing Division, the Ninety-first constituted part of the mobile reserve on the Cotentin Peninsula.

He owned the th and th Grenadier Regiments with the Sixth Parachute Regiment attached, a well-equipped unit composed of troops averaging Major Friedrich Freiherr von der Heydte, one of his subordinates, proved controversial, being criticized for excessively independent action having taught law in New York, he treated captured GIs with remarkable civility. On D-Day Falley was attending a planning meeting in Rennes; rushing back to his command he was killed by U. Released to Seventh Army, the division put up stiff resistance around Carentan but made slow progress in counterattacking elsewhere.

Kraiss was an experienced combat soldier; he had been a company commander in World War I and had led a division into Russia in The d had been formed at Hanover in November from veterans of three grenadier regiments and fleshed out with replacements, including some Czech conscripts. He also possessed the d Artillery Regiment. Though the d was one of the few full-strength divisions in France, its presence was not detected soon enough by Allied intelligence to benefit the assault divisions.

The d had arrived in mid-March, and according to legend the one French carrier pigeon carrying a report of its arrival was shot by a German soldier. Major Werner Pluskat, the division artillery officer, may have been the first German to sound the alarm on 6 June. Pierre du Mont, southeast of the precipice at Pointe du Hoc. Kraiss withdrew his division the next day, counting some 1, casualties. The d effectively ceased to exist in July, though Kraiss commanded until 2 August. He died of wounds near Saint Lo.

What is Remembrance?

In April Generalleutnant Wilhelm Richter assumed command as a static division comprised of replacement units. Military engineering has a long and varied history, dating at least as far back as the Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages castle design and construction became recognized military specialties, and sieges of castles and cities were the responsibility of engineers.

The curriculum of the U. Military Academy at West Point, New York, was heavily oriented toward engineering throughout the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century, advancing technology required increasing specialization for military engineers. The design and construction of the Atlantic Wall was one of the major engineering feats of the s, with considerable planning involved not only in the concrete bunkers and fighting positions but in the beach obstacles as well.

Design and placement of mines also involved engineering specialists. For the Allies, an even greater variety of engineering effort was required for D-Day. At the strategic level, the concept of mobile harbors absorbed the attention of British and American engineers. At the tactical level, an extraordinary variety of engineering projects was required for Overlord. Though the U. Consequently, British and American engineers drew on those earlier operations to perfect such techniques as beach reconnaissance and mapping, mine detection and clearing, battlefield demolition, and beachhead traffic control.

Army engineer officer, Lt. Without the enormous contribution of all manner of army, navy, and Allied engineers, Overlord would not have been possible. Canadians fought as part of the British Commonwealth, as they were a satellite nation of theirs at the time; therefore, they were equipped with the same weapons as the British Army. But being quasi-independent and across an ocean meant they also drew on American experience and equipment.

During World War II Canada absorbed more than one million personnel for the armed forces, including , men and 25, women for the WW2 armies.

For supporters...

Peter E. Hodgkinson. British Infantry Battalion Commanders in the First World War. Ashgate Studies in First World War History Series. Burlington: Ashgate. Summary. Recent studies of the British Army during the First World War have fundamentally overturned historical understandings of its strategy and tactics, yet .

The government of W. King, elected in , was reluctant to send large numbers of troops to a repetition of the Great War, which had resulted in forty-two thousand killed and fifty-three thousand wounded from a total of 1,, in uniform. Nevertheless, Ottawa approved mobilization on the day Germany invaded Poland, and Canada declared war on the 10th.

The Empire training scheme was expanded, and existing troops were deployed to Britain in response to requests from London. Subsequently, in early King was reelected on the basis of no conscription for overseas service. The National Resources Mobilisation Act prohibited conscripts from being sent overseas, but eventually the demand overcame Canadian reluctance. By the following year planners had drafted preparations for fielding two corps totaling four infantry and two armored divisions, plus support troops.

After the Japanese attack on Hawaii in December , the national mood largely changed. Recognizing the potential threat to its Pacific coast, the King government sought a referendum permitting drafting of military personnel for service abroad. In April the English-speaking sector of the electorate handily approved the measure; the province of Quebec rejected it by nearly 75 percent. Though the English majority held sway, actual conscription for deployment was not acted upon until late The Canadian Second Division had nearly been destroyed in the Dieppe landing of August , and that incident loomed large in the consciousness of Canadian and British leaders alike.

At a time when Britain itself was strapped for manpower, reliance upon the Dominion was probably unavoidable. One factor often overlooked, however, was that the Canadians were trained for amphibious operations, while many British divisions were not. At the end of the Canadian Army had some , men overseas, including a major segment in Italy. The Canadians had also been engaged in the seizure of Sicily that summer. By June the army numbered , General Service personnel plus 65, drafted under the National Resources Mobilisation Act—men retained for service at home.

Throughout the European war, some eleven thousand Canadian troops lost their lives.