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"New scenario book: The Death of Glory - France 1914" Topic


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Ponder28 Jun 2011 2:37 p.m. PST

Howdy,

It should be out at Historicon.

Front Cover:

picture

Back Cover:

picture

Ponder on,

JAS

Personal logo Saber6 Supporting Member of TMP Fezian28 Jun 2011 2:46 p.m. PST

OMG, on "the List"!

Retail?

Ponder28 Jun 2011 3:08 p.m. PST

Howdy,

After Historicon, it should be available from the website.

[url]http://testofbattle.com/drupal-4.7.4/[/url]

I can't speak to retail distribution.

Ponder on,

JAS

DestoFante28 Jun 2011 4:57 p.m. PST

Would this be compatible with the old "Over The Top", or CD-TOB is entirely new animal?

Ponder28 Jun 2011 7:08 p.m. PST

Howdy,

It's new, but can trace its roots to "Over the Top." Greg Novak wrote a foreward for the new book. "Over the Top" covered the entirity of WW1. The new book only addresses the Marne Campaign of 1914. No trenches.

Ponder on,

JAS

Ponder14 Jul 2011 10:47 a.m. PST

Howdy

Retail was $24.00 USD (USD) at Historicon. I expect it will be the same on the test of battle website.

Ponder on,

JAS

matt bowden Inactive Member04 Dec 2011 4:07 p.m. PST

what scale is this for? is it a tactical (spearhead) game or squad (Warhammer historicals ) type game?

deflatermouse05 Dec 2011 3:40 a.m. PST

few things.
VERY biased set of scenarios in favour of the Germans .

It is NOT for the Marne.

The last scenario is set Nov 5th 1914- the day before the Battles of the Marne. So Fronter/Belgium battles is closer to what you get.
All the senarios (including the theoritical one ) the French loose ; excpet for the one against the Belgians which they win.
Some of the information is very skewed to support this eg the battle of the French Colonial Brigade was actually against a German Corp plus, not a divison as in the game.
Very baised in favour of the Germans.
It is compatable with OTT orbats, which is quoted as a source material.
Difference is German units in OTT are 1 cmd 2 inf stands per company, "Marne" has them as 1 cmd 3 inf stands (a 30%? increase in unit strength)
scale 2 figures per stand 8 figures per company
will post more after looking at them again.
Looking at Brigade level games.

Ponder05 Dec 2011 3:41 p.m. PST

Howdy,

The scenarios all come from the Marne Campaign (as Tyng and others have called it).

The German troops at the start of the war were in general much better trained than the French, Belgians, or British. Given even numbers, there is a bias for the Germans. However, the scenario victory conditions try to balence this. All scenarios were playtested.

The company strength is based routinely on about 60 men per stand. Not on platoons of varying strengths. So, four stands for a full strength company.

The basic tactical "battlegroup" for good tactical games was taken as the infantry regiment (British Brigade), not the brigade.

The Neufchateau scenario pits the French Fifth Colonial Brigade against a German Brigade, as was present in the morning of the battle. There is an option to continue into the afternoon, with the Germans receiving another brigade as reinforcements, as occurred.

Happy gaming,

JAS

monk2002uk05 Dec 2011 10:13 p.m. PST

deflatermouse, I presume you mean the last battle is dated September 5th, not November 5th 1914? The latter date would fit with the First Battle of Ypres.

If the former is correct then the scenarios precede the First Battle of the Marne. JAS, this would explain your comment about the German troops being 'in general much better trained than the French, Belgians or British' ;-) It was after September 5th that the German First and Second Armies were decisively beaten in the First Battle of the Marne.

Joking aside, what is the ground scale? Is it the same as Command Decision too?

Robert

Ponder06 Dec 2011 3:54 p.m. PST

Howdy,

The first fifteen pages or so of the book is a summary of the Marne Campaign. Your question is addressed therein.

The scale is as Command Decision. The update/scenario book is in line with "Test of Battle," the lastest (i.e., fourth) edition. If you like Command Decision, you should like this.

Ponder on,

JAS

Ponder08 Dec 2011 2:35 p.m. PST

Howdy,

In playtesting for the new scenario book, I have refereed and played a number of games. The most difficult adjustment players have to make is in the use of artillery.

Calling indirect fire is difficult, as guns and observers have to be in close proximity. Off-board artillery is generally not present in the maneuver battles of the Marne Campaign. Why? Because radios are not available for tactical use.

A well-laid out table will generally have relatively short lines-of-sight. However, certain hilltop positions will dominate due to their presence.

Artillery will often become a direct fire weapon in the scenarios. The danger is getting the guns so close that they will take effective small arms fire. Setting up your guns before the enemy can set up his is a tremendous advantage. Counter battery fire is not an abstraction, as guns are on the table.

Historically, the Germans tended to opt for relatively close range direct fire, and French for indirect fire. Many historians account for the higher casualties taken by the Allies as due to the prevalence of larger caliber German guns (i.e., 105 and 150 howitzers). My conclusion after playing and refereeing is this is only a partial answer to the question. Much of the advantage of howitzers is lost if they cannot be used effectively for indirect fire. These large guns are very vulnerable if used for direct fire. The higher level of training for the Germans is likely to be the most significant factor in the differential in casualties.

Key thoughts: Having a plan for using artillery in a scenario is the first key for effective use. Setting up guns first is a big advantage. Combined arms in the Marne Campaign is coordinating artillery with your infantry. Machine gun stands and the French 75 are the only two weapons with a base ROF greater than 1. Artillery and machine guns have a range advantage on small arms.

Ponder on,

JAS

monk2002uk08 Dec 2011 6:29 p.m. PST

There are numerous examples of artillery being used in indirect fire mode in the Marne campaign. The lack of radios was not an issue. Typically FOOs could locate on a hill crest or some other elevated position (including the mobile observation posts – a German example illustrated here (link). Gun batteries were located out of line of sight but the flash was not always able to be hidden. Much is written about the British batteries firing over open sights at Le Cateau for example but many batteries fought in the way that I have described, including the 60 pounder heavy batteries. The Germans attempted counter-battery fire but the searching fire did not trouble the hidden batteries.

Communication between FOOs and their batteries could be by telephone, signalling or a chain of men who transmitted verbal commands one to the other.

One of the reasons that German field guns could be told off to operate in direct fire mode is that they were often supported by batteries that were operating in indirect fire mode.

Coordination of artillery with infantry was not unique to the Marne campaign. It was a truism throughout the war. Artillery and machine guns have a range advantage where line of sight permitted. While this was true in many parts of the Belgium and northern France, there were other areas where the terrain was very close. The bocage-like terrain near Charleroi was one example. The area around Ypres was another. In these situations, it was very hard to get adequate artillery support going.

Robert

monk2002uk09 Dec 2011 1:49 p.m. PST

Another example of the German Beobachtungswagen:

link

Robert

Ponder12 Dec 2011 3:30 p.m. PST

Howdy,

Provisions for calling indirect fire via flags, mirrors, or wire, etc. are included. The second section of the supplement is a "special rules" section adapting CD-TOB to the Marne Campaign.

I was attempting to contrast the difference when compared to the WW2 rules for calling artillery.

Ponder on,

JAS

Grumble Inactive Member13 Dec 2011 9:34 p.m. PST

I have enjoyed playing several of the scenarios in this book at conventions. I would play more if I had the figures; all my WWI stuff is for the Middle East. The book has been helpful in adapting some of the Over The top scenarios to use with Command Decision 4.

monk2002uk17 Dec 2011 1:01 a.m. PST

Thanks for the further clarification, JAS. I can understand your point about contrasting the processes for calling-in artillery in early WW1 versus WW2. There were clear differences in practice, with the use of radio for artillery control coming later in WW1.

I suppose my concern started with your point about indirect fire:

"Calling indirect fire is difficult, as guns and observers have to be in close proximity."

Perhaps I have misunderstood, so please bear with me and correct as necessary. You are quite right that guns and observers had to be in close proximity to enable indirect fire. Thank you for noting the provisions about the use of flags, mirrors, wire, etc. My point is that if artillery batteries or regiments were set up in this way, close to their observers, then calling indirect fire was not difficult. If an observer could see the target and the comms system was working then devastating fire could be called in extremely quickly. It could be argued that the comms systems were prone to failure because they were more 'primitive' than radio. In practice, however, this does not seem to have been the case. There are numerous examples of infantry coming under shrapnel and HE fire from hidden batteries. I guess my concern is that readers will get the impression that indirect artillery fire was not used or if it was used then it was difficult to call.

"Off-board artillery is generally not present in the maneuver battles of the Marne Campaign."

This point was touched on earlier. Just to note that at Le Cateau, for example, the British had three infantry divisions involved. Almost all of the guns in the left and centre divisions were in defilade and used indirect fire. Fifth Division on Smith-Dorrien's right flank was late in setting up their artillery. Most of the guns were put in place during the night or in the heavy early morning mist. Consequently, several guns were exposed and suffered accordingly.

Taking Le Cateau as an example, if I understand the ground scale correctly then most of the British guns would have been off-table or if they were on-table then the batteries would have been in defilade.

"A well-laid out table will generally have relatively short lines-of-sight. However, certain hilltop positions will dominate due to their presence."

This is true of some scenarios. Looking at the list for 'The Death of Glory' then I would expect that Haelen, Sambre, and some of the Ardennes scenarios to have lines of sight that were very limited due to the close terrain. Other scenarios, such as Guise, would have more open terrain. In all cases, any hilltop positions will be important as you rightly point out. For the close terrain of Haelen and Sambre (especially the latter where it was almost like bocage) then it would have been difficult for conventional WW2 artillery to be brought into play. Mobile artillery would have been used in close support, ie tanks being used in the same way as direct fire field guns in WW1 (leaving aside the use of mortars, which were a fundamental difference between early WW1 and WW2).

"Artillery will often become a direct fire weapon in the scenarios."

Some of the scenarios appear to be based on the early encounter battles, especially in the Ardennes. Direct artillery fire was integral to the roles of advance- and rear-guards. The fundamental difference between the French and German forces during some of these battles is that the French did not realise that they were so close as to require combined arms advanced guards. It was part of their doctrine to use direct fire in this way but their recon was so bad (based on wrong assumptions about the proximity of the German forces) that the doctrine was not implemented.

In other situations, the use of artillery was very different and approximated more the use of indirect fire.

"Historically, the Germans tended to opt for relatively close range direct fire, and French for indirect fire."

I have noted the use of close range direct fire in support of advance guards for encounter battles. The differences were not 'historical' in the sense of doctrinal but specific to individual battles. By way of contrast, it is interesting to consider what happened at Mons for example. The BEF knew that the Germans were approaching in significant numbers but the terrain made it difficult to set up artillery in defilade positions and provide useful observation. The British were dug in. Zuber makes several mentions of the Germans using field guns to open fire at close range. It seems, when you read his book, as if this was the standard way in which the German artillery was used. Taking the attacks on Nimy and Obourg for example, the direct fire episodes were conducted by one or two guns at most (typically not more than the equivalent of a section). These guns were wheeled forward to attack specific outpost positions, typically in loopholed buildings. The manoeuvring was covered by the tremendous volume of indirect fire from the divisional and corps artillery that were all positioned in defilade. In more exposed parts of the battlefield, such as the German attack from St Symphorien, the German batteries were all set up in defilade wherever possible. It took very little time for the Germans to deploy their guns and set up comms with observers (see comments above on this point).

Robert

Tiger73 Supporting Member of TMP17 Dec 2011 8:57 a.m. PST

I have this scenario book and highly recommend it. Well
witten, organized, and full of info on the early 1914 campaign. I observed most of the scenarios being extensively playtested at the HMGS East cons. Jessee has put a great deal of work and care into the book.

Jerry Merrell

Ponder17 Dec 2011 3:32 p.m. PST

Good afternoon Robert,

I certainly have appreciated your posts. All to few, give any consideration to how even minor differences in technology affect "simple" tasks, such as artillery use. I'll try to address several of the points you raise.

My contrast with WW2 was also to address the expectations and frustrations of players who routinely play that period will feel when they shift to the Marne. No tanks, and artillery "different." If you're not expecting this, it can make for a bad introduction/experience.

In my readings of the Marne campaign, I was struck by the efforts both sides went to, to make effective use of artillery. Artillery use was one of the decisive factors of the campaign. The logistics associated with a constant supply of shells was crucial.

The difficulty in calling fire in the maneuver battles is that guns have to be very close to the front, remember no radio. Artillery is also less maneuverable than infantry, and easily left behind. When both sides are moving, it is difficult to predict where best to set your guns ahead of time. As a practical matter, direct fire becomes the most flexible option.

The German use of gun sections was an attempt to make artillery use more responsive. It was also consistent with their doctrine to push assets and decisions down. This in contrast with the French, who wanted high level control. Different situations made both approaches effective at different times.

After the initial clashes on the frontiers, the French made use of artillery a central aspect of their operational planning. At Guise, as you note, the terrain was more open. The French wanted to use artillery to blunt the German attack. However, early morning fog limited visibility and reduced artillery effectiveness. This was an important factor in the battle. The Germans quickly penetrated the forward French positions. Visibility improved, artillery effectiveness rose, and the German attack bogged down. The scenario in the book attempts to portray this. The French attempted counterattacks, but despite well-publicized theatrics, these attacks were not coordinated. The French then retreated.

Once over the Marne, the French were better able to use their artillery in the way they attempted at Guise. Terrain and logistical factors contributed to this, and it was an important factor in the outcome.

The major reason scenarios from latter portions of the campaign were omitted is I didn't find well detailed accounts of these battles. I think the Germans wanted to focus on the successful bits of the campaign, and the French just wanted to remember they won, details were embarasing. I suspect accounts are out there, I just have not seen them.

High level (i.e., Corps level) descriptions of battles is not condusive to creating accurate scenarios. One reason, I'll probably not do an East Front book for the period. You can do it, but the result is far too speculative for my taste.

Ponder on,

JAS

monk2002uk18 Dec 2011 3:03 a.m. PST

JAS, thank you for your further comments.

"My contrast with WW2 was also to address the expectations and frustrations of players who routinely play that period will feel when they shift to the Marne. No tanks, and artillery "different." If you're not expecting this, it can make for a bad introduction/experience."

I fully understand the need to do this, especially when providing a supplement to a rule set where players are used to tanks and WW2 style artillery availability. As a slight aside, field guns used in direct fire mode were the tanks of their day – mobile artillery with armour protection. As you have noted, the protection was very limited.

"The difficulty in calling fire in the maneuver battles is that guns have to be very close to the front, remember no radio. Artillery is also less maneuverable than infantry, and easily left behind. When both sides are moving, it is difficult to predict where best to set your guns ahead of time. As a practical matter, direct fire becomes the most flexible option."

I can understand why you suggest that direct fire 'becomes the most flexible option'. In essence, it is like using tanks on the early WW1 battlefield. You have pointed to the risks of doing this, with the guns being much less well armoured than the mobile direct fire artillery that is called a tank.

There are two problems that I have with the rest of this paragraph, FWIIW. I suspect some of the difficulty is around differences in terminology. Please bear with me on this. When you mention 'difficulty in calling fire in maneuver battles', I perceive that you are referring to the process of a FOO calling in fire on some target. Getting the guns in place and setting up the comms link is not something that I think of as being part of the process of 'calling in'. Is this what you are referring to? In one sense, 'calling in' can be deemed to include the process of manoeuvring the guns into place as a FOO cannot 'call in' guns that are not there. Is this what you are referring to? It is one of those potential contrasts with WW2 where you might expect that all of the artillery is in place before the game starts and it is just a matter of getting on the radio.

If 'calling in' is just the process of getting guns that are in place to respond to a FOO then, so long as the FOO could see a target, the process of 'calling in' was extremely quick and efficient.

If 'calling in' includes the process of getting the guns in place (and I don't have a preference either way as to the definition, FWIIW – it's just a case of agreeing what the definition is and I am very happy to go with what you recommend) then the biggest issue is getting the guns in place. This brings us back to your point about encounter battles where one or both sides is moving – 'it is difficult to predict where best to set up your guns ahead of time'.

When considering this last issue, it is worth noting that the problem of knowing how and where to set up such assets was not unique to encounter battles in early WW1. It is the problem of knowing where your enemy is, knowing the terrain, and being able to deploy assets appropriately as time unfolds. I mentioned the German use of direct artillery fire in the assault on Obourg, which comes up in Zuber's account. This incident took place at around midday. Three hours prior to this, the German IX Armee Korps was pushing south west, with 17th Division on the left and 18th Division on the right. It was 18th Division that headed towards the 4/Middlesex defenders around Oboug. By 10 am, cavalry reconnaissance had detected the defences around Obourg and General von Quast (General Officer Commanding IX Armee Korps) was able to direct 18th Division to attack the British there. The 36th Infantry Brigade headed the advance but II/Field Artillery Regiment 45 pushed two batteries forward and began engaging the British defenders with indirect fire. This allowed the German riflemen to push forward and begin engaging the British troops. So now the British were under direct rifle fire and indirect artillery fire. The German advance could not make further progress. It was the divisional commander who ordered an artillery section forward (not a spontaneous decision lower down the chain). Leutnant Petersen and two gunners then moved one field gun forward, engaged the buildings with direct fire (while being covered by indirect artillery and direct rifle fire) and opening up the way for the German force to advance again. It should be noted that Obourg was not defended by the whole of the 4/Middlesex but by not more than a company of men.

The details above illustrate how reconnaissance was the key in encounter battles. One of the challenges was to know how to deploy artillery quickly but protected by terrain. I enjoy this challenge in the early war games but it depends on the scale of game. When modelling the actions of companies or battalions then the deployment of divisional artillery assets has to be abstracted off the table or factored out of the game. This applies to encounter battles as well. Higher level artillery assets can be factored out by focusing on battles where, for example, close terrain or mist/fog negate these assets. This is not a problem nor is it a criticism. It is perfectly appropriate to constrain games in whatever way.

My concern in raising these issues is to raise awareness beyond the scope of Zuber's accounts, for example. If it is true that 'artillery use was one of the decisive factors of the campaign' then it must be recalled that the campaign ended in decisive defeat of the German intentions during the First Battle of the Marne. This German defeat was not down to logistics, as von Kuhl and von Bergmann's detailed treatise 'Movements and supply of the German First Army during August and September 1914' clearly shows.

Robert

Ponder18 Dec 2011 11:08 a.m. PST

Good morning,

Logistics was clearly an important factor. While small arms and food were not of critical issue; fatigue, replacements and artillery ammunition were. The Germans were far from their supply source, the French near. It made a huge difference.

I think logistics, the fragmented German high command, and quality of the French high command account for the outcome of the campaign. The French abandoned a failing offensive plan, and quickly shifted to a plan emphasizing the firepower of their artillery. Moreover, the French repositioned more troops by rail than the Germans did at Tannenburg – good staff work.

Ponder on,

JAS

monk2002uk18 Dec 2011 1:26 p.m. PST

The following quote is from General von Kuhl, who was the German First Army Chief of Staff:

"There was no shortage of subsistence during the Battle of the Marne; similarly there was no shortage of ammunition which might have had a decisive influence upon the course of that combat or upon the situation after the battle.

Generally speaking, the ammunition supply service, during the entire advance of the First Army, proved adequate, notwithstanding friction here and there; nor did it break down during the Battle of the Marne. The crisis in the ammunition supply did not occur until later, and it was not caused by inadequate transportation, but by insufficient ammunition reserves in the zone of the interior. Germany, like France, had not anticipated such a tremendous increase in the consumption of ammunition." [emphases are mine]

Robert

Ponder18 Dec 2011 4:42 p.m. PST

Howdy,

I don't find von Kuhl's statements credible.

Three questions, just to elaborate on von Kuhl's statement:

(1) How much ammunition did First Army use?

(2) How much did they receive and when?

(3) How many replacements did First Army receive in the last half of August and first half of September in 1914?

In my readings on the Marne Campaign, I have found the details of specific actions often portray a different story than shown in the memoirs. However, to my knowledge, there is a lack of specific data to answer these questions. But at some point, you have to ask the question what was reasonable.

We know there was an ammunition shortage after the campaign, in the last half of September.

We know many (most?) German formations arrived on the Marne at half strength or less. This tell us replacements were not provided during the campaign.

Martin Van Crevald in his book, "Supplying War" evaluates the wagon/truck/train capacity available and finds it inadequate. Crevald also claims no German unit lost any engagement because of material shortages. He goes on to conclude "old modes of transport" were inadequate to handle the demands of modern war. But an engagement is not a campaign.

The Germans lost their campaign offensive campaign, and yet while attacking inflicted significantly more casualties than taken. Normally, the attacker would be expected to take greater losses than the defender in an unsuccessful attack. Any evaluation of the campaign should consider both, and offer explanation.

If logistics did not contribute to the German defeat, why did they lose? Why did they inflict more casualties than they took?

In the end, we don't know for sure. We can however, make reasonable speculations.

Ponder on,

JAS

monk2002uk19 Dec 2011 12:49 p.m. PST

JAS, here is some further information in answer to your questions:

(1) How much ammunition did First Army use?

I don't have this information readily to hand. It will take a while to check various sources. Von Kuhl notes there were only two occasions when significant numbers of shells were fired before the Battle of the Marne: the Battle of Mons; and the Battle of Le Cateau.

(2) How much did they receive and when?

Von Kuhl provides details about how the ammunition resupply process was streamlined for the two battles. Contingencies were exercised to ensure that ammunition was rapidly replenished. "On the days following, the requirements in ammunition were considerably less, since no engagements of major importance took place. It was now a matter of making the transportation of ammunition keep pace with the rapid advance of the army, so that in the event of combat the necessary ammunition reserves would be promptly available. Army headquarters, therefore, issued orders on August 31 to the effect that the loaded ammunition companies of the communications zone, which had been sent ahead, were to follow the army corps as a rolling reserve until their contents could be transferred to the corps ammunition columns.

During the Battle of the Ourcq, army headquarters ordered the communications zone to send ammunition directly to the troops, because a regular ammunition service on part of the corps columns was out of the question."

Von Kuhl provides details about the incredible work that was done to restore railway lines in the wake of First Army's advance. Standard railway ammunition trains carried 26,880 field artillery rounds or a lesser number of heavier calibre rounds (e.g. 12,000 rounds of light field howitzer ammunition). By "the evening of the 29th [August], the first subsistence and ammunition railway trains had already reached Valenciennes." The line to St Quentin was restored by the start of the Battle of the Marne.

(3) How many replacements did First Army receive in the last half of August and first half of September in 1914?

Von Kuhl does not provide this information. There were very few casualties in the Battles of Mons and Le Cateau. He comments that the reconstructed railway lines "were still inadequate for the transportation of large masses of troops, but they were able to meet the most urgent requirements of the First Army in supplies and replacements." [my emphasis]

Robert

Somua S3519 Dec 2011 2:08 p.m. PST

I like the scenario book, but have to agree with Deflatermouse. French 75's and Poilus kicked some ass, it wasn't just the faults in their own plan and logistics that defeated the Germans. How about throwing us Francophiles a bone? The French Army is invincible, after all. ;-)

Ponder19 Dec 2011 4:37 p.m. PST

Good afternoon Robert,

I am enjoying our discussion.

By the time the Germans crossed the Marne, they had left their pre-war plans far behind, and were making it up as they went along. Why do you think the Germans lost?

With regard to Somua's comment, here's another question: Going back to July, before the campaign, Why did the French believe they had a well-trained army? This question is one that the conventional histories of the campaign have never attempted to answer.

What objective evidence is there for such an assertion – The French Army of July 1914 was well-trained?

Did the French have large scale pre-war maneuvers to coordinate/exercise division level and below command?

Did the French have an operational doctrine we would recognize today as effective?

During the campaign, what specific battlefield actions indicate the French army was well-trained?

The best overall reference (in English) I know of for the French army in WW1 is Doughty's "Pyrrhic Victory." He does not address these questions, except to note the French army had been transformed from the army of The Franco-Prussian War … the "transformation had produced an army that would suffer high casualties while winning the "miracle" of the Marne … Unaware of the mismatch between his army's capability and the challenges is would soon face but optimistic about the "wholehearted support of Russia," Joffre welcomed the prospect of war with Germany."

I think the French focused on individual training and obedience. All pre-war training objectives were met, so obviously they were "well-trained." Their colonial sucesses proved it?!? I think their long-service units benefited from greater unit cohesion, however I have no reason to believe they better trained.

Their staff work was first rate, but their doctrine and training was bankrupt, and war showed that.

Ponder on,

Jessee

monk2002uk20 Dec 2011 2:59 a.m. PST

Jessee, I will defer on the broader points for now, if I may.

Picking up on van Creveld's work, his analyses are very interesting. They draw heavily on von Kuhl and von Bergmann's treatise (not memoirs – von Bergmann was von Kuhl's Deputy Chief of Staff, First Army). Creveld looked at some other sources as well. I have most of the German sources that he referred to. From his analysis, Creveld drew two very important conclusions. Both are directly pertinent to this discussion and you have already touched on the gist of them. I have quoted them out of sequence:

"p. 134 – there is no direct evidence to suggest that the failure of the railways to carry sufficient traffic or to keep up with the pace of the advance played any significant part in the German defeat on the Marne

p. 128 – nor is there any evidence that severe shortages were experienced by the other right wing Armies."

As I mentioned, you touched on this when noting "no German unit lost any engagement because of material shortages".

Creveld went on to point out that had the campaign continued much longer then German armies would have come unstuck. Their supply lines would have grown ever longer. It is an imponderable question, given that many other factors would have come into play if the Anglo-French forces had lost the Battle of the Marne.

With regards to German artillery during the Battle of the Marne, there is another way to come at this. The study of German artillery regimental histories casts further light on the issue, IMHO. These are the same histories that Zuber used in his books. Take, for example, the history for Field-Artillerie-Regiment Nr. 60. FAR 60 is a good unit to consider as it fought the Battle of the Marne, as well as against the British at Mons. FAR 60 went into the battle with a full complement of ammunition accompanying the batteries. During the battle, none of the units appear to have used direct fire from isolated guns (though my translation work is not complete yet). The batteries did come under significant counter-battery fire from French artillery. Horses and limbers were shot down; the regiment suffered several casualties. Most significant of all, the batteries ran into ammunition supply problems. This was not because of logistics problems further back in the lines of communications. It was because the ammunition resupply columns could not get to batteries through the French artillery fire.

Robert

Ponder20 Dec 2011 3:38 p.m. PST

Robert,

We're beginning to argue nits.

In the conclusion to the chapter on the Marne (pg 139), Van Crewald states: "Though railways were able to handle the requisite quantities of supplies, it proved impossible to advance the railheads sufficiently fast to keep within supporting distance of the army. By the time of the battle of the Marne, all the German armies save one, had gone beyond that distance."

We know they did not get replacements. We know they lived off the land. I am willing to accept small arms ammunition was not an issue. I am unwilling to accept that artillery ammunition was not an issue. As I said previously, at some point, von Kuhl's declaritive strains credibility.

Irregardless, no replacements and the fatigue of battle and marching, both clear evidence of logistical constraint.

So defer, no further:

(1) Why did the Germans lose?
(2) Why did the French believe they had a well-trained army?

Ponder on,

Jessee

monk2002uk20 Dec 2011 11:37 p.m. PST

Jessee, it looks like we will have to agree to disagree. On the latest quote from van Creveld, he is describing process not outcome. FWIIW, I agree that the railheads were beyond ideal 'supporting distance'. This should not be confused with the outcomes, however, which he clearly states were not affected by the limitations in process. With respect to artillery ammunition, contingencies were put in place to streamline the process of getting ammunition from the railheads to front line forces. Regimental accounts do not mention ammunition resupply as a major issue except, as noted, because of the conditions within a battle. None of the German Army Commanders that I have read (von Kluck, von Buelow, von Hausen, Kronprinz WIlhelm and Kronprinz Rupprecht) cite lack of artillery ammunition as a problem in the lead up to or in the fighting on those early days in September. It was a very serious problem afterwards but not due to logistics. All combatants suffered from this problem at around the same time (just as fatigue and reduced infantry complements were not unique to the German forces at the time of the Marne).

The origins of the German defeat on the Marne lie elsewhere.

Robert

Ponder22 Dec 2011 7:19 a.m. PST

Good morning Robert,

Pray continue; why did the Germans lose? I was willing to put forth my thoughts, I await yours.

Merry Christmas,

Jessee

monk2002uk28 Dec 2011 4:06 p.m. PST

Jessee, I will approach your question in a slightly different way. The following material comes from "Geschicte des Großherzoglich Mecklenburgischen Feldartillerie-Regiments Nr. 60 im Weltkriege 1914-1918". Any errors in translation are mine alone. I have chosen the history of Feldartillerie Regiment 60 (FAR 60) because it was located on the far left (inner and most eastern) flank of von Kluck's First Army by the time that the Battle of the Marne started. The material will be posted in several parts. My comments will be in italics. The story starts a few days before the Battle of the Marne, just to provide a little extra context:

"On 3 September the division reached the Marne, pushing on to Chezy in the evening to support the 18th Infantry Division that was fighting south of the Marne. It then went into cantonment in the late evening near Essomes, just west of Chateau Thierry.

On 4 September the beautiful Marne Valley was crossed at Chezy. The division continued to advance, covered by continuous protection from multiple artillery detachments [Detachment is hereafter used to translate Abteilung]. FAR 60 supported the Fusiliers Regt. 90 push from Corrobert, just south Artonges, and shelled the retreating enemy everywhere. (According to the war diary, the fighting took place near Viels Maisons, Montmirail). FAR 60 encamped at Bailly between the latter two locations.

5 September. After a brief pause to provide artillery protection for the crossing of the Petit Morin river north of Montmirail, the regiment continued to move forward. An abandoned supply column, which provided useful supplements of oats and rations, was clear evidence of the hasty French retreat. The artillery detachments used frequent bounds to cover the vanguard's advance, which enabled weak enemy resistance from positions near Leuze that were behind the leading infantry line to be broken up quickly and to be pursued with fire.

His Highness the Grand Duke stopped by and spoke to the officers and men during a long halt for a brew-up near a farm not far from Leuze.

Leuze is 1 km north of Morsains, which is where the bulk of the division bivouacked. The advance guard infantry regiment (IR 76) and a detachment of FAR 24 occupied Esternay.

During these marches and battles, it was really annoying that the bread supplies weren't enough for all the men. Foraging in the countryside had been unfruitful because the land up to the Marne had been gone over by other troops (18th Infantry Division). Also the 1: 80 000 maps were now useless. They had covered northern France but not this far south. There was a 1: 300 000 map in the regimental staff wagon. Various provincial-, district-, and school maps were picked up from military barracks and police buildings, town halls, and schools. Signposts were helpful.

Enemy aircraft harassed the marching columns and camps. Just as in training, air defense was pretty ineffective. Pilots dropped flechettes as bombs."

Note that the days leading up to the Marne were characterised by the French retreat. There were minor rear guard actions by the French defenders, during which the German artillery in their advance guards provided support for their infantry colleagues.

Robert

monk2002uk29 Dec 2011 3:22 a.m. PST

The next phase of the campaign reads completely differently.

"The Battle at Esternay – 6. 9. 14. [Esternay is almost due south of Chateau Thierry]

…IXth Corps had to hold on as the pivot for the rearward movement of the First Army on the 6th. The troops found out about this order on their day of rest. They were taking the opportunity to wash, as well as repair and maintain the equipment and harnesses. A huge quantity of mail had just arrived from home but had not been distributed to everyone. It was a Sunday. The order to hold, which was issued formerly by the division at 0300 hours, did not reach the men until much later. The repair work had just been arranged when fierce artillery fire rang out from the direction of the enemy. The alarm was raised at 0930 hours. Oberstleutnant von Fumetti rode out to reconnoitre; the artillery detachments followed via Champguyon. Shortly after 1000 hours they formed up in front of Morsains and Leuze. It was terribly hot and dusty. Just like the preceding days, this dust prevented the guns from taking up hidden positions because it gave away their movements. Most of the losses that were caused by enemy artillery on the 6th were due to the dust enabling effective shelling.

It wasn't clear where the enemy was because the officer patrols that had been sent out were not back yet. The only things that were known was that the advance guard had been enaged by heavy enemy fire in the early morning hours in Esternay on the Montceaux – Sézanne main road and that the advance guard artillery (F.A.R. I/24) was currently out of action because their horses had broken loose after coming under sudden fire. The heavy fire from the enemy lines, however, showed that this was a major attack.

FAR I/60 was first to be brought into position at 1115 hours, east of the road near Esternay. From there, 3rd Battery engaged enemy artillery at Seu (3 ½ km. south of Esternay). II/60 was deployed in concealed positions southeast of Champguyon. The unit moved at 1200 hours: 6/60 (Hauptmann Dommes) supported the advance against Chateau Esternay; 4/60 and 5/60 under Major Von Aigner advanced via la Noue towards the enemy position. 6/60 was under enemy artillery fire but from 1300 hours brought fire to bear on infantry passing la Noue and then fired on artillery north of la Noue, around Chateau la Noue and thereabouts. 5/60 (Hauptmann von Kuhlmann) later moved towards Chateau Esternay, south of 4/60, to better support the attack. It participated in the artillery duel from this position. As the enemy's attack developed further around Chateau la Noue in the afternoon, the battery relocated to a third position. Facing east from there, it engaged artillery behind Hill 205. 6/60 also changed to face east in the afternoon, and attacked three enemy batteries between la Noue and Chateau la Noue. Two batteries, one in the open and the other half concealed, were quickly overpowered with shrapnel. The abandoned guns of the battery in the open were still there next morning.

A brief review of IXth Corp's situation will help to clarify what was happening. It should be noted, however, that the troops themselves were not fully aware of this situation. The enemy's major general offensive struck the IXth Corps when it was at the forefront of the German advance. The rear guard was in touch with IIIrd Corps, which was unprepared but quickly came to help IXth Corps. The left flank (17th Infantry Division), however, was completely unmasked because the Second Army's right flank was back at Montmirail. Any help from Second Army wouldn't be available until the evening. Nevertheless, General von Quast decided to order an attack. This explains why the enemy was able to advance unhindered at La Noue. The French Fifth Army, which had been so often defeated in the past, was now attacking although not very aggressively."

There is more information to follow. Note, however, that although the division had issued an order to hold, this order had not reached the front line units by the time the French attack struck. The division's order was not based upon a premonition of the French attack near Esternay but upon the need for the division to protect the First Army's 'rearward movement'. I translated Rückwärtsbewegung that way, rather than 'withdrawal' or 'retreat', because the alternatives do not capture the sense of the term in this context, IMHO. At this point in the battle, as shall become more clear, First Army was redirecting its troops against the threat of the French Sixth Army. The retreat would come later.

Note also that IXth Corps flank (ie the innermost flank of the whole First Army) was hanging in the air, unsupported by the outermost flank of Second Army.

Robert

Ponder29 Dec 2011 10:11 a.m. PST

Good morning Robert,

If I understand your thrust, you believe it was the disjointed high command for the Germans (i.e., the gap between I & II Armies) which led to their defeat?

I don't want to put words in your mouth, but can you boil your thesis down to a few simple statements.

Happy New Year!

Jessee

Supercilius Maximus29 Dec 2011 12:38 p.m. PST

Could people please note that it is "foreWORD" and not "foreWARD".

Ponder29 Dec 2011 1:36 p.m. PST

Noted – thanks.

JAS

monk2002uk29 Dec 2011 1:39 p.m. PST

Jessee, this is not the thrust of my analysis FWIIW. I will pull together a synopsis after posting the rest of the account.

"At 1230 hours, 1st Battery was told off to support 34th Brigade's attack at Chateau Esternay, followed shortly afterwards by 3rd Battery. Fusilier-Regiment 90 was echeloned on the left.

Despite every precaution, the dust from the limbered artillery was spotted, resulting in heavy fire from French artillery south of La Noue that was only partially suppressed by 6/60. Some of the limbers and caissons lost horses. But, as practiced in peace time, the teams were restored. Several brave men distinguished themselves on this occasion – Gunner Schmidt from Boiz near Hagenow to name but one.

The batteries passed through the hostile fire zone one gun at a time, accompanied by an ammunition wagon. At Vivier, a railway bridge that had come under fire was crossed in the same way.

While 2/60 engaged the enemy artillery south of La Noue, 1/60 and 3/60 went into position not far behind the general front line of infantry on the Esternay – Chateau Esternay road. Regts 76 and 75 were on the road south of Esternay; Regt 89 was at Chateau Esternay; and I/76 was in an advanced position with the machine gun companies from Regts 75 and 76. 1 and 3 Batteries fired at enemy infantry south of Chatillon. The huge forest that extended south of Chateau Esternay (Forêt de la loge à Gond) hindered all observation and provided protection from artillery fire. It presented a major and constant danger, particularly the threat of being encircled on the left flank. Intelligence about the movements of enemy infantry in the woods meant having to be aware that the enemy might emerge by the nearby Chateau. When heavy infantry fire was heard in the forest and individual stragglers started falling back, Major v. Graevenik ordered the left (3rd) battery to turn towards the chateau and he drove the stragglers back again, accompanied by his adjutant, Lt. v. Müller, who was lightly wounded in the hand but remained with the unit. Meanwhile the batteries remained under artillery and rifle fire. In 1st Battery, this led to Richtkries-Unteroffizier [range-finder] and Ziehlenweiser [gun-layer] Sergeant Mahler being severely wounded soon after Hauptmann v. Ludwiger. He was shot in the arm. He never complained; his one concern was that the battle continued to make progress. Mahler was an extraordinary and experienced NCO who was born in Elmshorn, Pinneberg District [in Schleswig-Holstein] and died that evening in a casualty station in Esternay. Lt. v. Glasenapp tried to evacuate Mahler using a limber but was unable to prevent his death. How fortunate it was that Mahler died because he escaped captivity with the French and never needed to experience the misfortunes of his country.

The courageous batteries helped stave off every enemy attack on the division's southern front. Ammunition resupply was difficult, as any movement threw up dust and drew enemy fire. I/60's ammunition column was hidden in the woods north of the detachment's position. Despite being hidden, I Detachment's ammunition column came under heavy artillery fire and it wasn't clear whether the location had been given over by spies or betrayed in some other way. The next day Hauptmann v. Uslar clearly saw Morse code being transmitted to the enemy by signalling lamp from a dense wood but he could not get hold of the transmitter. It was possible that a careless despatch rider revealed the location. Alternatively, it may have been due to the recurrent bombardment of isolated hollows and woods by the French, which had prevented Hauptmann v. Uslar from carrying out any reconnaissance by road. Whatever the cause, 15 men were wounded and 22 horses were lost. Through the constant example of Leutnant der Reserve Lindstaedt, NCOs and men calmly withdraw the harnessed teams in good order to a position further back (unfortunately, Lindstaedt was killed later). Stangenreiter [driver] Klingenberg also stood out as a good role model. The column had to change position frequently that day due to heavy fire. The advanced batteries 1/60 and 3/60 received extra ammunition early on due to the aggressive handling of the ammunition column by Hauptmann Bockhorn (Reserve-Offizier der Regiment), who pushed through to the front line. These batteries were also able to get further supplies from one of I/24's ammunition wagons in Esternay.

When it was recognised that the enemy was advancing past Chateau la Noue, 1st Battery returned back into its old position in the evening. Füs.Regt. 90 occupied the Foret du Gault and l'Ermite; a battery from FAR 9 joined in the battle north of the 4/60, facing east. In the evening, 4/60 and 5/60 fired on artillery in a northeasterly direction, when the flashes were spotted in the woods north of Chateau la Noue.

The enemy attack was broken when artillery batteries from 13th Infantry Division (Second Army) came into action on both sides of the Champguyon – Esternay road and part of the 19th Reserve Division (also from Second Army) supported the left flank of the 17th Infantry Division.

3/60 Battery (Hauptmann v. Bonin) remained in a forward position during the night to support the infantry. The ground won by 33rd Brigade and Regt 89 was consolidated, with only the far-advanced units of I/76 and Machine Gun Companies 75 and 76 being brought back for the night.

Once again the division experienced the taste of victory over an enemy who, despite achieving superiority in numbers, had not improved their military prowess.

The battle was the fiercest that the regiment had experienced so far.

Losses: 3 men killed, 34 wounded; 38 horses wounded, 10 killed. Most of the casualties were from I Detachment's ammunition column. Unfortunately, several of the wounded who could not be moved during the withdrawal next day were captured by the French, including Wachtmeister Stolte from 4th Battery and Unteroffizier Neubeck from 3/60, along with 12 comrades who returned after 5 years. In addition to Mahler, Sergeants Schuhr, 6/60, and Kröpelin, 3/60, were killed and died in captivity respectively.

Ammunition consumption: I. Detachment 884; II. Detachment 1270. The night passed quietly and without any problems."

Robert

monk2002uk30 Dec 2011 8:47 a.m. PST

The final quote for the moment:

"Brief overview of the overall situation

First Army was engaged in a fierce defensive battle, with IVth Reserve Corps and parts of IInd and VIth Corps pitted against the French 6th Army west of the Ourcq. The other parts of IInd and IVth Corps were available to support the advance.

On 6th September, First Army's IIIrd and IXth Corps had victoriously repulsed the French. The right wing of the Second Army was at Montmirail but on the 6th there was a gap between there and First Army's left flank (17th Infantry Division). Second Army's left wing, supported by Third Army, had advanced victoriously to Morains-le-petit.

The initial intention for 7th September, as set out in army orders, was that IIIrd and IXth Corps would form a defensive flank with Second Army northwest of Montmirail. The gap between First and Second Armies was to be closed by the two corps of cavalry, with a view to resuming the offensive again after the successful attack by Third Army.

The events on the Ourcq forced a change in plan on the 7th, with IIIrd Corps moving to First Army's northern flank and IXth Corps was left between Chateau Thierry and Montmirail. IXth Corps then followed suit on the 8th, moving towards First Army's northern flank as well via La Ferté Milon.

This was the context for the order to form a rear guard, which was given on the morning of the 7th. Third Battery withdrew first and kept on the move without stopping at all. Sixth Battery temporarily positioned itself on the left of 4th Battery. Then the two detachments formed up, let the infantry through, and marched in echelon as part of the rear guard. They marched by separate routes: II. Detachment via Champguyon; and I. Detachment south of Morsains. There was no pursuit from the enemy, giving the impression that they had fallen back. The march via Montmirail to the new delaying position was boiling hot work. The regiment went into bivouac late in the evening at Gillauche, about a third of the way to Chateau Thierry. The men were told that they had been victorious on the 6th and that their attack had repelled an army advancing from Paris."

Robert

tuscaloosa30 Dec 2011 11:45 a.m. PST

I find the scenario book very interesting and helpful to understand the campaign in general. It has also reawakened my interest in WW1.

Ponder30 Dec 2011 1:24 p.m. PST

Are you in Alabama, Tuscaloosa (your profile does not say)?

JAS

tuscaloosa30 Jan 2012 8:43 p.m. PST

No, I just liked the name (sorry for the late response).

CooperSteveOnTheLaptop31 Jan 2012 4:57 a.m. PST

"The German troops at the start of the war were in general much better trained than the… British."

Really?!?

Ponder31 Jan 2012 3:23 p.m. PST

Howdy,

I think so. What actual battlefield performance would make you think otherwise? Not Mons or LeCateau.

Ponder on,

JAS

Ponder31 Jan 2012 4:43 p.m. PST

Howdy,

… and to clarify, "that much" is one step (Regular to Experienced) in the game. Overall, CD-ToB has six steps of training:

Elite
Veteran
Experienced
Regular
Trained
Green

Ponder on,

JAS

monk2002uk03 Feb 2012 1:03 p.m. PST

Are you saying that the BEF is rated as 'regular' and the Germans are rated as 'experienced' in the first month of the war?

Robert

deflatermouse03 Feb 2012 2:01 p.m. PST

yes, thats how I read it but don't understand. Apart from a "Germans are great at everything, everyone one else is rubbish" belief.

That the BEf fought two major very successful engagements (which are not to be indicative of their rating)& conducted successful disengagements & withdrawal in the presence of superior numbers, then to luanch an attack ,I thought would at easily rate them as Veteran.
And then to go on to the Race to the Sea.

Monk2002uk, thank you for your very well presented, informed & articulate posts. Articulate & rational in ways I could not achieve.

Am I right interpurting the dilemma as why the Germans lost on the Marne as it wasn't Higher Command miscommunication problems,suppy problems & "certainly not the French" as they had "poorly trained army?
As the BEF (who were so good at running away) & French attack started the day after this senario book's end date then we'll never know.

monk2002uk03 Feb 2012 11:29 p.m. PST

FWIIW, I don't believe that the German failure on the Marne was due to higher command miscommunications primarily. Of course this was the thrust of every German commander's account after the event. They all read 'it wasn't my fault, it was the fault of my neighbour/s and General von Moltke/Oberst Hentsch'.

At the strategic level, it could be argued that the whole plan was flawed. There simply were not enough assets to achieve victory. This argument was directed at von Moltke at the time. It was linked to the idea of not following von Schlieffen's Plan in letter nor in spirit.

At the operational level, however, it was not really the duty of Higher Command to ensure that First Army and Second Army stayed in touch, for example. Indeed, the onus should be on the flank units themselves to ensure that contact is maintained. This was allowed to break down because the key commanders, von Kluck and von Bülow, both thought that the British and French were beaten. Von Kluck was an aggressive commander, which is probably why he was chosen to command the outermost wing of the wheeling action. He consistently misinterpreted what was happening on his right wing, and paid the price. Von Bülow complained afterwards that von Kluck's army should have stayed closer and should have been echeloned back, not forwards. It is clear from von Bülow's memoirs, however, that he did not do anything about this at the time because he too thought that the French Fifth Army was beaten.

As we saw from the example I posted above, the French counter-offensive came as a complete surprise to the units on the ground. Many of these units were taking a well-earned rest on the day and found themselves caught up in a defensive action.

This points to a failure in Intelligence. To some degree this is true, especially at the local level. It was the Ardennes in reverse, with German cavalry failing to reconnoitre sufficiently to detect the change in French plans. It should be noted, however, that commanders chose to misinterpret some of the intelligence that was provided.

This idea of the French Army (and the British seemingly) being 'poorly trained' feels like it comes from Zuber's works. I have seen frequent mention of this source on the Test of Battle Forum.

Robert

Ponder05 Feb 2012 1:47 p.m. PST

Howdy,

One of the good things about wargaming, is when you get ready to play the game, you can make whatever changes you feel appropriate.

In writing the book, I made a call based on how things appeared to me. I had a rational basis for my opinion. It is reasonable to critique or disagree. However, I would be interested in why. Robert has been very articulate, but he has not offered an alternative evaluation.

Doughty who wrote the most comprehensive evaluation of the French Army (Pyrrhic Victory) notes shortcomings. However, these are never articulated or evaluated. What were they, and why did they exist?

Other than the common knowledge argument, why do folks think the BEF was well trained? The long-service argument does not allow for the high porportion of reservists mobilized.

Why did the Allies take disproportionate casualties in the first few months of the war? The German attack was unsucessful, normally one would expect a failed attack to take greater casualties, not less. My main explanation is a difference in the level of individual and unit training. Are there other reasonable explanations?

Why assume a level playing field, when the historical record is unlevel. I don't believe in national modifiers, ala Napoleonics. I think a reasonable explanation is in order.

Ponder on,

JAS

monk2002uk06 Feb 2012 12:43 a.m. PST

JAS, it is absolutely your perogative to design the rules however you like. FWIIW, I would not extrapolate interpretations about overall casualty rates to cover the behaviours of much smaller units. This is especially true for the level covered by The Death of Glory. It is a fundamentally different level, where many of the outcomes were based not on the behaviours of the lower level units but on the context within which those units fought.

As to the training of the BEF, I am more than happy to debate this. Zuber has made a complete hash of interpreting how the BEF fought at Mons and Le Cateau – a complete and total hash! I will pick up on this issue in subsequent posts.

Robert

Ponder06 Feb 2012 4:21 p.m. PST

Robert,

I look forward to it!

JAS

monk2002uk07 Feb 2012 11:29 p.m. PST

The following comments are based around Zuber's book 'The Myth of Mons'. It casts the BEF in a very negative light. Before discussing this aspect, it is important to note the significant positive contributions of the book. Firstly, Zuber helps to debunk the myth that the Germans took very heavy casualties at Mons and Le Cateau. British regimental and other histories suggest otherwise, with the Germans falling foul of the Mad Minute at every turn, even to the extent of mistaking BEF musketry for machine guns. The Germans did not lose massive casualties to BEF rifle fire and they did not mistake this fire for MGs. Zuber was not the first to point this out (Jack Sheldon was) but he reinforces these points.

The other positive contribution is that Zuber has accurately translated those German regimental histories and other sources that he used. FWIIW, I have checked most of them and have not found any inaccuracies. He was not the first person to describe the German tactics in detail. It is helpful, however, that Zuber has reinforced the debunking of the myth about Germans attacking in close order formations. People still liken early war tactics to Napoleonic styles of warfare, which is clearly wrong.

Now for the negative aspects. Zuber has been very selective in his use of German sources. As mentioned above, what he does use is accurately translated but the problem lies with what he doesn't use. Two important aspects stand out. Firstly, he avoids dealing with those units who failed miserably and/or who took very heavy casualties as a result of BEF musketry. Second, Zuber fails to give a clear perspective on timelines. He does not demonstrate, for example, how the BEF slowed the German attack right down with its tactical prowess.

As for Zuber's understanding of the BEF perspective, it is truly woeful. As with his book on the Ardennes, it is better to ignore his comments about the enemy. He has focused on a few regimental histories but has no idea about what really went on from a BEF command perspective. Some highlights will suffice.

Unlike the German First Army, the BEF knew that First Army was approaching. British aerial reconnaissance picked up von Kluck's advance several days before Mons. Intelligence officers had driven deep in Belgium when the BEF arrived at Maubeuge. Subsequently, they phoned various towns and were able to identify which ones had been occupied and by when. Belgian civilians provided frequent reports as well. When the British cavalry arrived at Mons, they dug trenches in preparation for the British infantry who were following. This was based on an expectation, two days ahead of the battle, that the meeting engagement was likely to take place in the Mons area. As the infantry arrived on the day before, they took up these positions and took additional defensive measures. The bulk of the cavalry, apart from Gough's 5th Brigade, then moved across the cover the relatively open BEF left flank near Hensies and Quiévrain.

The British defences were strong, apart from the salient around Nimy and Obourg. This was held by an outpost line of two battalions. There was a command error, though not in holding the salient in this way. Reserves were well positioned across the base of the salient and they stopped the German assault from debouching from Mons once it was taken. The command error was in dividing the command of the salient between two brigades. The battalion around Nimy was under instructions to withdraw as soon as the German attack started. The battalion on the right, under command of a different brigade, was to hold the line as long as possible. This meant that the 4th Middlesex took very heavy casualties from the German 18th Infantry Division. Elsewhere the BEF mounted a strong defense that prevented the German First Army from rapidly exploiting the success of 18th Division.

The problem with Nimy and Obourg was compounded by Smith-Dorrien having only just arrived to take over command of II Corps. Despite this, II Corps received clear reports of what was happening and took the measures necessary to block the German break-in. These measures consisted of activating those British units that were in reserve for just such a problem. I have read all of the war diaries for all of the units that took part in the Battle of Mons (and most of those for Le Cateau) as well. The near real-time appreciation of what was happening is apparent in these historical primary sources.

The other thing that Zuber completely failed to understand is that, because the BEF was so well trained, the command structure was able to quickly adapt to situations. Informal relationships between British commanders were very strong, based on working together in South Africa, etc. For example, as the British cavalry division was working its way to the left flank, General Allenby stopped and conversed with his infantry colleagues to update them on the latest Intel on the German advance. There are several other examples where commanders on the ground were able to anticipate or solve problems by working together and formulating local solutions.

I could go into lots more detail (indeed work is already underway on a book to redress Zuber's work, including from the German perspective). Suffice to say that, with the greatest of respect, the BEF was at least as well trained as the elements of the German First Army with which it fought. To argue, as Zuber did, that the BEF was mostly made up of reservists when it took the field at Mons, is to completely miss the point. This is, as we have discussed around the issue of German ammunition supplies, focusing on the issue of structure not on process or outcome.

At the highest level, the outcome of Mons was that the German First Army gained possession of the battlefield on the following day. The BEF withdrew. This was not due to poor training. It is a big mistake, IMHO, to confuse this type of outcome with training at the tactical level. The position of the BEF was untenable once the French Fifth Army was forced back.

Within the context of the battle, however, the BEF posed major problems for the German First Army. Von Kluck's army was unable to achieve decisive victory, the Vernichtungsschlacht (annihilation battle) so beloved of German command. In this respect, First Army failed. It failed again at Le Cateau. More on this anon.

Robert

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