>

WW1 Eastern Front

Foxbat

None The Wiser
Supporter
Joined
Jul 24, 2003
Messages
6,682
Location
Scotland
#1
Many folk consider the trench warfare of the Western Front as 'the way it was' but the Eastern Front was a war of movement for the duration of fighting on that front. The large swathes of land in the east just didn't lend itself to static defences because there would always be enough space to go around them (and this is exactly what the Germans did in the west to the static Maginot Line in WW2).

Any general adopting trench warfare in the east in WW1 would soon have found themselves being attacked from the rear.

Eastern Front | International Encyclopedia of the First World War (WW1)
 

Caledfwlch

I am not a Geek, I am a Level 22 Warrior!
Joined
Apr 29, 2011
Messages
626
Location
Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Principality of Wales
#2
It's another reason as to why I feel very dubious about the attempts to rehabilitate the British and Allied General Staff, claiming that "Lions led by Donkeys" is not fair, and the Commanders had no choice but to use the form of warfare we had.
Flanders and northern France are not exactly full of choke points, they are fairly flat open regions, of course, there is nowhere near the space available in on the Eastern Front, but still....

Mind, the Irish Peace Park affected me quite badly, hills are not all that common in Flanders, and this was barely even a hill, but it was raised, and to see the ground, and know that the Irish troops based there were not only ordered to charge the German Trenches at the top, full of machine gunners, but were made to Walk, not run, the bravery is unimaginable.
 

BAYLOR

There Are Always new Things to Learn.
Joined
Jun 29, 2014
Messages
13,157
#3
It's another reason as to why I feel very dubious about the attempts to rehabilitate the British and Allied General Staff, claiming that "Lions led by Donkeys" is not fair, and the Commanders had no choice but to use the form of warfare we had.
Flanders and northern France are not exactly full of choke points, they are fairly flat open regions, of course, there is nowhere near the space available in on the Eastern Front, but still....

Mind, the Irish Peace Park affected me quite badly, hills are not all that common in Flanders, and this was barely even a hill, but it was raised, and to see the ground, and know that the Irish troops based there were not only ordered to charge the German Trenches at the top, full of machine gunners, but were made to Walk, not run, the bravery is unimaginable.
What rehabilitate ? They sent men to there deaths needlessly and for what a few feet of ground at a time?
 

Caledfwlch

I am not a Geek, I am a Level 22 Warrior!
Joined
Apr 29, 2011
Messages
626
Location
Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Principality of Wales
#4
Exactly. But some British Historians have been trying to rehabilitate those Generals, claiming it was the only way to fight that War.

In my opinion, they are simply glory seekers, attempting to get their names in the press, and on TV by challenging what is believed and known.

But, sadly, they are getting air time.
 

BAYLOR

There Are Always new Things to Learn.
Joined
Jun 29, 2014
Messages
13,157
#5
Exactly. But some British Historians have been trying to rehabilitate those Generals, claiming it was the only way to fight that War.

In my opinion, they are simply glory seekers, attempting to get their names in the press, and on TV by challenging what is believed and known.

But, sadly, they are getting air time.
Sir Douglas Haig for The UK and Joffre of France just kept sending men into grinders. Later on they did adjust their tactics. Haig spent the rest of his life regretting how he conducted things in the war He worked to help veterans. What that man took to his grave I cannot imagine. Joffre probably did as well. :unsure:
 
Last edited:

Foxbat

None The Wiser
Supporter
Joined
Jul 24, 2003
Messages
6,682
Location
Scotland
#6
Personally, I don't think that it was a question of choice regarding Western Front methods but more of a form of warfare born out of ignorance. The British generals involved had risen through the ranks with an older mindset and didn't know how to cope with modern weaponry. The best example of evolution of warfare in WW1 was not the tank (in my opinion) but the shift in infantry tactics by the Germans. They moved their doctrine from the control of larger formations to the use of smaller units and allowed the use of initiative on a squad level. This gave them a new form of flexibility, which ideally suited modern weaponry. Luckily for us, it came too late in the war.

The doctrine was then developed by all sides and was used extensively in WW2. It's no accident that the make-up of a squad tended to be a certain number of riflemen and a light or medium machine because this gave a good balance of fire and movement. What the flexibility of initiative also did at the squad level was to allow the smaller units to adapt to the terrain they were working in rather than being stuck in a dogmatic, strategic approach, which more or less led to the horrific 'meat-grinder' effect of 'over the top' assaults.

Only my completely unqualified opinion of course:)
 

Caledfwlch

I am not a Geek, I am a Level 22 Warrior!
Joined
Apr 29, 2011
Messages
626
Location
Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Principality of Wales
#7
Your "unqualified" opinion makes absolute sense to me!

I have never been able to discover why the British Army, the Armies of the Crown Dominions, and certain European Nations, such as France (leading me to suspect they adopted the term during WW2, as the Free French Army, etc) use the term "Section" for what the rest of the world generally refers to as a Squad, or local language version of Squad. Just a strange quirk that originated within British & Imperial Forces I guess.

The British General Staff have absolutely no excuse for not coming up with the German's tactic of smaller, highly mobile units, and just as little excuse for letting the Germans come up with it first!!

The British Army had a template for deities sake - the British Army created what was the very first 20th/21st century style Infantryman - in the sense of very well trained Soldiers, operating in small highly mobile units, allowed to use their initiative within their sphere, and using tactics such as "Fire and Manoeuvre" tactics and a style of operating perfectly suits the personal firearms infantrymen have been using since 1914. Except the British Army's template was created in 1800, several decades before weapons that suited the tactics better - repeating rifles and so on came into existence.

I speak of course, about the "Experimental Corps of Riflemen" who a couple of years later where fully incorporated into the British Armies Regimental Structure and given the name they became and are famous for, during the Peninsular War against the French Empire - the 95th Rifles.

The rest of the Army, at least until they began proving their use and metal in Spain & Portugal, was very sneery and snobbish at this upstart new Regiment - the Rifles were utterly alien to them. They wore Dark Bottle Green uniforms, unlike the Infantry's Red jackets with the Facings in the Regiments colour. There where no Privates in the Rifles - the rank and file were all "Chosen Men" what the British and other Armies would later call "Corporal" and to really cause confusion amongst the Infantry, especially the Officer Corps, you could call the rank and file "Rifleman" but if you stepped into a hall where a company was sat resting, and shouted out "Riflemen to your feet" every single person, including the Sergeants, and Officers would stand up. If you asked an Infantry Regiment Lieutenant, Major, or Lieutenant -Colonel, who they were, they would say "I am an LT, Major etc of XX Regiment" if you asked the same of a Rifles officer, he would simply, and very proudly say "I am a Rifleman"
I think the decision to make them all Chosen Men was to reflect the fact that to get selected into the Rifles, you had to be a crack shot, and I think, have served in the British Army for a couple of years, there were no Recruiting Sergeants roaming Britain with a Drummer under the Regimental Colours, singing:
Here's fourteen shillings on the drum
For those who'll volunteer to come
To list and fight the foe today
Over the hills and far away
:D:D

Riflemen did not carry Bayonets - Rifles were too long, and unwieldy, so Riflemen carried short Swords on their belts for hand to hand combat - where in the Infantry you would hear the command "Fix Bayonets! the Rifles command was "Draw Swords"
Riflemen had a special March, possibly called the "Quick March". For several paces Riflemen would march, like the Infantry, but at a slightly higher speed, then run for several paces, then back to the speedier march. Using it, they were able to get to places quicker, and further than the Infantry, a vital element as being Skirmishers and Scouts, they needed to scout ahead of Infantry formations on the march.

Intelligence, so they could quickly adapting to events and changes as they happen, using their own initiative were also vital skills, and the Rifles had a looser, less rigid command structure than the Infantry, Officers were encouraged to maintain a closer relationship with the men, than they would in the Infantry, eating with them and so on.
And they came up with tactics such as Fire and Manoeuvre. On Battlefields, whilst Skirmishing ahead, and engaging French Voltigeur's Skirmishing ahead for example, Riflemen worked in pairs, 1 would Fire, whilst covered by his oppo, who would then move forward a few paces to their chosen position, then reload, the 2nd fires his rifle, dance ahead, reload and repeat.
They were also of course, considered "Ungentlemanly" because one of their roles on the Battlefield was to damage the enemy command structure, targeting Officers and NCO's.
 

Foxbat

None The Wiser
Supporter
Joined
Jul 24, 2003
Messages
6,682
Location
Scotland
#8
Learned a lot from your post. Thanks (Napoleonics ain't a strong point for me).

You mentioned Redcoats and I do recall reading somehwere that the reason for the colourful uniforms was in order that the generals could make sense of what was happening on the battlefield. It's a good job they at least got rid of this aspect before WW1
 

Caledfwlch

I am not a Geek, I am a Level 22 Warrior!
Joined
Apr 29, 2011
Messages
626
Location
Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Principality of Wales
#9
Learned a lot from your post. Thanks (Napoleonics ain't a strong point for me).

You mentioned Redcoats and I do recall reading somehwere that the reason for the colourful uniforms was in order that the generals could make sense of what was happening on the battlefield. It's a good job they at least got rid of this aspect before WW1
Aye - every European Army had it's own colour, for tracking on the battlefield, plus, the style of warfare in those days meant that camouflage or blending in was utterly pointless. Infantry Companies face each other, and fire muskets, and keep doing so until one side breaks and runs, or is wiped out.
I believe the Bottle Green of the 95th Rifles was to help them blend into the scenery a bit more, as their style of warfare benefited from it.

Portugal, around the same time, possibly a little before, also created a Regiment, the Rangers or "Caçadores". During the Peninsular War, they wore a very similar uniform to the 95th Rifles, using a similar Bugle badge but coloured brown, which better suited the terrain.
By around 1811/12 say, I think it would be fair to say that despite being both a much smaller Nation and Military, the Portuguese Army was far, far more disciplined, lethal and effective than Spain's.
Spanish Infantry had a tendency to break and run after only exchanging 1 or 2 shots with the French, even if they outnumbered them, if you could talk them into even fighting in the first place! They were not cowards, far from it, but the poor buggers were lumbered with an absolutely horrifying Officer Corps. I think that in the Peninsular War period, the Spanish Crown and Nobility were very like the pre-revolutionary Ancien Regime in France. It wasn't a huge barrel of laughs being a Peasant in Wales, Scotland or England, but people living under those Ancien style regimes in Spain, pre revolutionary France etc had it much, much worse.

Spanish Officers tended to be from the Nobility, and awkward things like making sure the Men got fed were beneath their Noble Brows, Their men would be starving, whilst British Army Quartermasters and Officers often desperately worked magic to try and also feed the Spanish soldiers, who were not supposed to be their problem. Yet the Officers, would strut amongst their starving men, in gleaming Peacock uniforms, dripping with gold and expensive materials, unearned medals, and physically assault them for serious offences like not saluting quick enough.

You cannot blame the men for not being prepared to fight for Officers like that, who treated them like utter scum, couldn't be bothered to ensure they had food, and most importantly, many, if not most of those Officers would not go anywhere near the front line, they would stay well out of musket range, can't get mud on my feet Señor! Dying for ones country was for the peasants. There were plenty of Aristocratic British & Portuguese Officers who didn't treat their men as well as they should, but they still stood and marched with them into French musket fire.

Another issue, is Spain refused to allow British or Portuguese Officers to train or command Spanish troops. Despite the fact it's Officer Corps had absolutely no skills or experience in fighting what at the time was a modern war. Portugal had a similar problem of skills lack, but instead of being stubborn, or insisting they were amazeballs wonderful soldiers, they asked Britain to supply training officers, and learned quickly - So the Portuguese Army became very good, and you had British Officers leading Portuguese troops, sometimes as temporary lendings, sometimes ex Vets holding commissions in the Portuguese Army, and Portuguese officers leading British troops. Frankly, Portugal's Army of 1812, despite the numbers disparity would have likely kicked the absolute hell out of the Spanish. :D
One little known fact amongst the Public is that the Military Alliance between for the last 2-300 years Portugal and Great Britain, but originally between the Kingdom of Portugal and the Kingdom of England is the oldest continuous Alliance in the World. The Anglo-Portuguese Alliance was first signed/cemented in 1376.
 

Caledfwlch

I am not a Geek, I am a Level 22 Warrior!
Joined
Apr 29, 2011
Messages
626
Location
Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Principality of Wales
#10
I think some interest Alternate History Scenario's could come from the Alliance with Portugal.
If another member of NATO or the EU for example attacked Portugal, Great Britain would have no choice but to go to Portugal's Defence. It has always honoured its treaties and obligations - to the point that it has gotten the UK into at least 3 Major European and World Wide Wars. It entered the Peninsular War after France attacked Portugal, WW1 because of it's Treaty to protect Belgium, and WW2 because of it's Treaty to protect Poland.
I have a feeling that part of the reasons for the UK being involved in the Crimean War was due to a treaty with France.
Having seen that France had passed legislation bringing back the National Guard last year, I was reading up on the original NG, and ended up reading a fair bit about Louis-Napoléon (Napoleon 3rd) President of France, (also known as the Prince-President) and I think, for a short while, Emperor or King, at least realistically that's what he was in terms of Power and Position, even if not formally crowned) and Louis-Napoléon is a fascinating guy. And I am sure it was within that, that I saw something about how he was an important factor in British French relations in the 1830's-60's, creating templates for what would become the Triple-Entente etc.
He also radically overhauled France, modernising the infrastructure, how it was governed, how the economy functioned, Agricultural reforms, seemingly small things at the time that are why France is now a wealthy and stable modern nation.
 

sknox

Member and remember
Joined
Mar 25, 2013
Messages
606
Location
Idaho
#11
Caledwlch, have you read Eugen Weber's book, Peasants into Frenchmen? It covers rural France from the mid-1700s up to the Great War. Per the subtitle, the bulk of the book covers 1870 to 1914, but the initial chapters go earlier. While much of the coverage is socio-economic, he has some good observations on the importance of the war in creating cultural unity, or at least in ironing down the wild variety that was France.
 

Caledfwlch

I am not a Geek, I am a Level 22 Warrior!
Joined
Apr 29, 2011
Messages
626
Location
Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Principality of Wales
#12
Caledwlch, have you read Eugen Weber's book, Peasants into Frenchmen? It covers rural France from the mid-1700s up to the Great War. Per the subtitle, the bulk of the book covers 1870 to 1914, but the initial chapters go earlier. While much of the coverage is socio-economic, he has some good observations on the importance of the war in creating cultural unity, or at least in ironing down the wild variety that was France.
Sounds an interesting read! Thanks for the recomendation!

That also makes absolute sense, that the Great War effectively solidified the changes and centralisation of France begun by Louis Napoleon - though these changes are not always good things.

IMO, the way that "French" (I use this very loosely) itself as a linguistic/cultural identity has also been centralised under these processes has very much left the French Republic and it's Citizens much, much the poorer. The State, and the so called Cultural Elite have put "French/Frenchness" onto a kind of holy pedestal, its almost a Godly Idol, ironic for a state which unlike the US does seem to ruthlessly enforce the separation of State and Church.

Centralisation has been utterly ruthless on the regional languages and cultures of France - people forget that "France" is not one of those rare states who's political borders match the cultural/linguistical/tribal makeup of it's populoation, it is an artificial Nation State, like Spain or the UK, created by 1 central Power/People (The French) who politically and militarily dominated the surrounding regions and their people - Whilst I believe most of the different peoples such as Occitan's and Picardians are pretty much the same people (Franks) as the French, not a different "race" like the Bretons, or the Basques, they still had differing cultures and languages which have been ruthlessly diminished and butchered by the arrogance of those in the heart of the centralised State, because of course, Paris, like London sits at the heart of its spiderweb, greedily sucking away from the rest.

I have met Breton Nationalists who dream of a Breton State, and I have met more realistic Bretons who are proud to be part of France, they just want the right for their kids to go to school in their cultures traditional language, they are the majority, but Paris is scared by people who dont want to fit their interpretation of Frenchness, they don't understand why everyone in France doesnt want to be a good little Parisian effectively, in terms of language, culture, opinion etc.
 

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Messages
9,618
Location
nearly the New Forest
#13
Another issue, is Spain refused to allow British or Portuguese Officers to train or command Spanish troops.
I don't know how accurate that is as a general statement of the Spanish position, but Samford Whittingham was a British officer who held high command in the Spanish army, and not merely as an honorary position, since he led troops into battle. He also established a training college for Spanish cavalry officers at one point Samuel Ford Whittingham - Wikipedia
 

Montero

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 2, 2008
Messages
2,056
#14
Regarding great big blocks of infantry on the Napoleonic War battlefield dressed in bright colours - you also need to remember that gunpowder was far from smokeless - so whenever they fired there was a cloud of smoke above them.

The comments about rifle tactics and how the rifle regiment was regarded - there was a lot of that about in the armed forces. The WW1 submarines were not liked by a lot of the surface navy - one Admiral called them a bunch of pirates so they adopted the Jolly Roger flag and flew it when they came back into port. (BTW the submarine museum at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is well worth a visit.) In WW2 the SAS were unpopular with regular army types. So the whole idea of adopting tactics from anything "not regular" would have been regarded with great suspicion.

Incidentally, for WW1 trench warfare, read "All Quiet on the Western Front" - Erich Maria Remarque. Very readable, human, sad, occasional dark humour. (His book about the WW2 Eastern Front was made into a film I saw years ago (Remarque has a minor role in it) and that too was gripping and memorable.)
 

Caledfwlch

I am not a Geek, I am a Level 22 Warrior!
Joined
Apr 29, 2011
Messages
626
Location
Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Principality of Wales
#15
The Jolly Roger tradition certainly continued with Royal Navy Submarines, into the 1980's at least.
Returning to her UK Home port, in 1982, after the Falklands War, HMS Conqueror proudly flew the Jolly Roger.

article-2080490-0F4D4A1200000578-356_468x460.jpg


I have genuinely never understood the controversy over HMS Conqueror sinking the Belgrano.
Especially when those who do rant about it, never hold the Argentine Pilots to the same standard.
 

BAYLOR

There Are Always new Things to Learn.
Joined
Jun 29, 2014
Messages
13,157
#16
The Jolly Roger tradition certainly continued with Royal Navy Submarines, into the 1980's at least.
Returning to her UK Home port, in 1982, after the Falklands War, HMS Conqueror proudly flew the Jolly Roger.

View attachment 41601

I have genuinely never understood the controversy over HMS Conqueror sinking the Belgrano.
Especially when those who do rant about it, never hold the Argentine Pilots to the same standard.
What argument ? Given the fact that it was war, the Belgrano was a legitimate target.
 

Caledfwlch

I am not a Geek, I am a Level 22 Warrior!
Joined
Apr 29, 2011
Messages
626
Location
Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Principality of Wales
#17
What argument ? Given the fact that it was war, the Belgrano was a legitimate target.
Some British people claim that the sinking of the Belgrano was a war crime, because she wasn't pointing towards the British Task Force when she was taken out by HMS Conqueror.

Sad loss of life, absolutely, but they were the aggressors, the jack booted thugs of a fascist regime.
There is an amazing programme where Simon Weston (A Guardsman in the Welsh Guards, who survived the bombing of the Galahad after an Exocet attack, but with horrific scarring of his body and face, and is an amazing charity worker) meets some of the Pilots who were in the Argentine Air Force in 1982, men who fired exocet's at British ships, and if these guys can forgive each other, understand that they were the pawns of politicians, made to do and suffer horrific things, then the people in the UK screaming about the Belgrano need to have a long hard think. It was War. War is not nice. The Belgrano is not a British War Crime, it's a warning of the real cost of War, and every PM should be made to see photographs of that cost before they ever order a single shot fired.

The sad and horrifying thing is, the British public understand that cost, at large, just look at the huge protest marches against Iraq 2, Afghanistan etc.
But in Argentina, even allegedly educated people are still falling for the Propoganda.
BBC interviewed recently, for example, a University graduate, who firmly believed that the United Kingdom invaded the Falklands in the 1970's, and the 1982 invasion, was in fact an attempt to liberate and protect Argentine citizens forced to live under the British Jackboot!!
This was an educated lass, with access to google, the internet etc, and yet that was her belief?!!!
It was genuinely shocking.
 

Foxbat

None The Wiser
Supporter
Joined
Jul 24, 2003
Messages
6,682
Location
Scotland
#18
We're getting a bit off topic here but I agree that the Belgrano was a legitimate target even if it was heading away from the exclusion zone as some claim.

What many people fail to understand is that an exclusion zone is declared during conflict mainly to warn off neutral vessels and to prevent unintended loss of life. It also is used to warn neutrals that if they aid the other side in a conflict, they themselves may be considered a legitimate target. But under international law, the heading and location of a belligerent vessel (in this case the Belgrano) has no bearing on its status as a target and the UK was therefore justified in sinking it given the threat it would pose to our own naval forces.
 

Montero

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 2, 2008
Messages
2,056
#19
There is a display about it in the submarine museum, with film, very interesting. There were various designs of torpedo in the weapons locker of the submarine and the captain of the submarine chose the oldest design - one that was basically WW2 design. When asked why that one, why not a newer fancier one, he said that the Belgrano was also a WW2 design, so the weapon matched the target.
 

Similar threads

Top