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Tropas britânicas sendo recebidas na França, 1914
As tropas britânicas foram muito bem-vindas quando chegaram à França em 1914. Aqui vemos parte do BEF sendo recebido por senhoras francesas em sua chegada à França em agosto de 1914.
Império e poder marítimo
Em setembro de 1715, John Erskine, Conde de Mar, ergueu o estandarte para um levante 'jacobita', com a intenção de restaurar a monarquia Stuart exilada ao trono, e proclamou James Francis Edward Stuart (filho de James II) rei da Escócia. Os jacobitas foram derrotados pelas forças do governo nas batalhas de Sheriffmuir e Preston em novembro de 1715. Três meses depois, a rebelião foi reprimida. Os líderes jacobitas sofreram impeachment e alguns foram executados.
De acordo com os planos pré-guerra, uma força expedicionária deveria ser organizada entre as forças do Exército Regular no Reino Unido, com uma força de seis divisões de infantaria e uma divisão de cavalaria (72 batalhões de infantaria e 14 regimentos de cavalaria), além de unidades de apoio.
Foi planejado que as sete divisões seriam controladas centralmente pelo Quartel-General e, como tal, não foram feitos planos para níveis intermediários de comando. Um estado-maior do corpo foi mantido em tempo de paz, mas a decisão foi tomada na mobilização para criar um segundo (e mais tarde um terceiro) a fim de se conformar melhor com a estrutura de comando francesa. Ambos tiveram que ser improvisados.
No momento da mobilização, havia temores significativos de um desembarque alemão em vigor na costa leste da Inglaterra e, como tal, foi tomada a decisão de reter duas divisões para defesa doméstica e enviar apenas quatro, mais a divisão de cavalaria, para a França Para o presente. O 4º foi despachado no final de agosto e o 6º no início de setembro.
O comandante-em-chefe inicial do BEF foi o marechal de campo Sir John French. Seu chefe de gabinete era o tenente-general Sir A. J. Murray, com o major-general H. H. Wilson como seu adjunto. GSO 1 (Operações) foi o Coronel G. M. Harper, e GSO 1 (Inteligência) foi o Coronel G. M. W. Macdonogh.
O Adjutor-Geral era o Major-General Sir C. F. N. Macready, com o Major-General E. R. C. Graham como Adjutor-Geral e o Coronel A. E. J. Cavendish como Adjutor-Geral Adjunto. O Quartermaster-General era o Major-General Sir W. R. Robertson, com o Coronel C. T. Dawkins como Assistente do Quartermaster-General. A Artilharia Real era comandada pelo Major-General W. F. L. Lindsay, e os Royal Engineers pelo Brigadeiro-General G. H. Fowke.
GHQ Troops, Royal Engineers Edit
As tropas do quartel-general controlavam os engenheiros do grupo do exército. Tinha a seguinte estrutura em 1914: 
- Primeiro Trem de Ponte, Royal Engineers
- 2º Trem de Ponte, Royal Engineers
- 1st Siege Company, Royal Monmouthshire Militia, Royal Engineers
- 4ª Companhia de Cerco, Royal Monmouthshire Militia, Royal Engineers
- 1st Siege Company, Royal Anglesey Militia, Royal Engineers
- 2ª Companhia de Cerco, Milícia Royal Anglesey, Engenheiros Reais
- 1ª Seção de Alcance, Royal Engineers
- Estabelecimento de transporte ferroviário
- 8ª Companhia Ferroviária, Engenheiros Reais
- 10ª Companhia Ferroviária, Engenheiros Reais
- 2ª Companhia Ferroviária, Royal Monmouthshire Militia, Royal Engineers
- 3ª Companhia Ferroviária, Royal Monmouthshire Militia, Royal Engineers
- 3ª Companhia Ferroviária, Royal Anglesey Militia, Royal Engineers
Não havia uma divisão de cavalaria permanentemente estabelecida no Exército Britânico na mobilização, da 1ª à 4ª Brigadas de Cavalaria foram agrupadas para formar uma divisão, enquanto a 5ª Brigada de Cavalaria permaneceu como uma unidade independente.
Em 6 de setembro, a 3ª Brigada de Cavalaria foi destacada para atuar em conjunto com a 5ª, sob o comando geral do Brigadeiro-General Gough. Esta força foi re-designada como 2ª Divisão de Cavalaria em 16 de setembro.
Cavalry Division Edit
A Divisão de Cavalaria foi comandada pelo Major-General Edmund Allenby, com o Coronel John Vaughan como GSO 1 e o Brigadeiro-General B. F. Drake comandando a Artilharia Montada Real.
Brigada Independente Editar
O I Corps era comandado pelo Tenente-General Sir Douglas Haig. Seus oficiais superiores eram o Brigadeiro-General J. E. Gough (Chefe do Estado-Maior), o Brigadeiro-General H. S. Horne (comandando a Artilharia Real) e o Brigadeiro-General S. R. Rice (comandando os Engenheiros Reais).
Edição da 1ª Divisão
A 1ª Divisão foi comandada pelo Major-General S. H. Lomax, com o Coronel R. Fanshawe como GSO 1. O Brigadeiro-General N. D. Findlay comandou a Artilharia Real e o Tenente-Coronel A. L. Schreiber comandou os Engenheiros Reais.
- (Brigadeiro-General F. I. Maxse)
- 1º Guarda Coldstream
- 1ª Guarda Escocesa
- 1.º The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
- 2º Os Fuzileiros Reais Munster 
- 2º Regimento Real de Sussex
- 1.º Regimento Leal de Lancashire do Norte
- 1º Regimento de Northamptonshire
- 2o Corpo de Fuzileiros Reais do Rei
- 1o The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment)
- 1º The South Wales Borderers
- 1º Regimento de Gloucestershire
- 2º Regimento Welch
- Tropas montadas
- Um Esquadrão, 15º (do Rei) Hussardos
- 1ª Companhia Ciclista
- 113ª bateria, RFA
- 114ª bateria, RFA
- 115ª bateria, RFA
- 116ª bateria, RFA
- 117ª bateria, RFA
- 118ª bateria, RFA
- 46ª bateria, RFA
- 51ª bateria, RFA
- 54ª bateria, RFA
- 30ª Bateria (Howitzer), RFA
- 40ª Bateria (Howitzer), RFA
- 57ª Bateria (Howitzer), RFA
- 23ª Companhia de Campo, RE
- 26ª Companhia de Campo, RE
- 2º Guarda Granadeiro
- 2. Guardas Coldstream
- 3. Guardas Coldstream
- 1º Guarda Irlandês
- 2º Regimento de Worcestershire
- 2ª Infantaria Ligeira de Oxfordshire e Buckinghamshire
- 2ª Infantaria Ligeira das Terras Altas
- 2º The Connaught Rangers
- 1º The King's (Regimento de Liverpool)
- 2º Regimento de South Staffordshire
- 1ª Princesa Charlotte de Gales (Regimento Real de Berkshire)
- 1º Corpo de Fuzileiros Reais do Rei
- Tropas montadas
- Esquadrão B, 15º (do Rei) Hussardos
- 2ª Companhia Ciclista
- 22ª bateria, RFA
- 50ª bateria, RFA
- 70ª bateria, RFA
- 15ª bateria, RFA
- 48ª bateria, RFA
- 71ª bateria, RFA
- 9ª bateria, RFA
- 16ª bateria, RFA
- 17ª bateria, RFA
- Bateria 47 (Howitzer), RFA
- Bateria 56 (Howitzer), RFA
- 60ª Bateria (Howitzer), RFA
- 5ª Companhia de Campo, RE
- 11ª Companhia de Campo, RE
- 3º Regimento de Worcestershire
- 2º Voluntários do Príncipe de Gales (Regimento de South Lancashire)
- 1º O Duque de Edimburgo (Regimento de Wiltshire)
- 2º The Royal Irish Rifles
- 2º The Royal Scots (Regimento Lothian)
- 2º Regimento Real da Irlanda
- 4º O próprio duque de Cambridge (Regimento Middlesex)
- 1º The Gordon Highlanders 
- 1º Os Fuzileiros de Northumberland
- 4º The Royal Fusiliers (Regimento da Cidade de Londres)
- 1º Regimento de Lincolnshire
- 1 ° The Royal Scots Fusiliers
- Tropas montadas
- Esquadrão C, 15º (do Rei) Hussardos
- 3ª Companhia Ciclista
- 107ª bateria, RFA
- 108ª bateria, RFA
- 109ª bateria, RFA
- 6ª bateria, RFA
- 23ª bateria, RFA
- 49ª bateria, RFA
- 29ª bateria, RFA
- 41ª bateria, RFA
- 45ª bateria, RFA
- 128ª bateria (Howitzer), RFA
- 129ª Bateria (Howitzer), RFA
- 130ª Bateria (Howitzer), RFA
- 56th Field Company, RE
- 57th Field Company, RE
- 2 ° The King's Own Scottish Borderers
- 2o The Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment)
- 1º The Queen's Own (Regimento Royal West Kent)
- 2º The King's Own (Yorkshire Light Infantry)
- 2o Regimento Suffolk
- 1º Regimento de Surrey Leste
- 1ª Infantaria Ligeira do Duque da Cornualha
- 2º Regimento de Manchester
- 1º Regimento de Norfolk
- 1.º Regimento de Bedfordshire
- 1º Regimento Cheshire
- 1º Regimento de Dorsetshire
- Tropas montadas
- Um esquadrão, 19 (do próprio rei da Rainha Alexandra) Hussardos
- 5ª Companhia Ciclista
- 11ª bateria, RFA
- 52ª bateria, RFA
- 80ª bateria, RFA
- 119ª bateria, RFA
- 120ª bateria, RFA
- 121ª bateria, RFA
- 122ª Bateria, RFA
- 123ª bateria, RFA
- 124ª bateria, RFA
- 37ª bateria (Howitzer), RFA
- 61ª bateria (Howitzer), RFA
- 65ª Bateria (Howitzer), RFA
- 17ª Companhia de Campo, RE
- 59th Field Company, RE
- 1.º Regimento Real de Warwickshire
- 2º Seaforth Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs, O Duque de Albany)
- 1ª Princesa Victoria (Fuzileiros Real Irlandeses)
- 2.º The Royal Dublin Fusiliers
- 1º Príncipe Albert (Infantaria Ligeira Somerset)
- 1º Regimento de Lancashire do Leste
- 1º Regimento de Hampshire
- 1ª Brigada de rifles (do próprio príncipe consorte)
- Próprio do 1º Rei (Regimento Real de Lancaster)
- 2º The Lancashire Fusiliers
- 2º The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
- 2º Regimento de Essex
- Tropas montadas
- Esquadrão B, 19º (Real da Rainha Alexandra) Hussardos
- 4ª Companhia Ciclista
- 39ª bateria, RFA
- 68ª bateria, RFA
- 88ª bateria, RFA
- 125ª bateria, RFA
- 126ª bateria, RFA
- 127ª bateria, RFA
- 27ª bateria, RFA
- 134ª bateria, RFA
- 135ª bateria, RFA
- 31ª bateria (Howitzer), RFA
- 35ª Bateria (Howitzer), RFA
- 55ª Bateria (Howitzer), RFA
- 7ª Companhia de Campo, RE
- 9ª Companhia de Campo, RE
- 1º The Buffs (regimento de East Kent)
- 1º Regimento de Leicestershire
- 1º The King's (Shropshire Light Infantry)
- 2º Regimento de York e Lancaster
- 1º The Royal Fusiliers (Regimento da Cidade de Londres)
- 1º Regimento do Príncipe de Gales (North Staffordshire Regiment)
- 2º Regimento Leinster do Príncipe de Gales (Royal Canadians)
- 3ª Brigada de Rifle (Própria do Príncipe Consorte)
- 1º The Prince of Wales's Own (Regimento de West Yorkshire)
- 1º Regimento de East Yorkshire
- 2º The Sherwood Foresters (Regimento de Nottinghamshire e Derbyshire)
- 2ª Infantaria Ligeira Durham
- Tropas montadas
- Esquadrão C, 19º (Real da Rainha Alexandra) Hussardos
- 6ª Companhia Ciclista
- 21ª bateria, RFA
- 42ª bateria, RFA
- 53ª bateria, RFA
- 110ª bateria, RFA
- 111ª bateria, RFA
- 112ª bateria, RFA
- 24ª bateria, RFA
- 34ª bateria, RFA
- 72ª bateria, RFA
- 43ª Bateria (Howitzer), RFA
- 86ª bateria (obus), RFA
- 12ª Companhia de Campo, RE
- 38th Field Company, RE
- Bateria de cerco nº 1
- Bateria de cerco nº 2
- No. 3 Siege Battery
- No. 4 Siege Battery
- No. 5 Siege Battery
- No. 6 Siege Battery
- 1º Cameron Highlanders da Rainha 
Royal Flying Corps Editar
As unidades do Royal Flying Corps na França eram comandadas pelo Brigadeiro-General Sir David Henderson, com o Tenente-Coronel Frederick Sykes como Chefe do Estado-Maior.
Linhas de comunicação tropas de defesa Editar
Um regimento de cavalaria continha três esquadrões e estava equipado com duas metralhadoras. Um batalhão de infantaria continha quatro companhias e duas metralhadoras.
Uma bateria de Royal Horse Artillery continha seis canhões de 13 libras, enquanto uma bateria de Royal Field Artillery continha seis canhões de 18 libras, ou seis obuseiros de 4,5 polegadas. Uma bateria pesada da Royal Garrison Artillery continha quatro canhões de 60 libras. Cada bateria tinha dois vagões de munição por arma, e cada brigada de artilharia continha sua própria coluna de munição.
Cada divisão recebeu um destacamento antiaéreo de canhões pom-pom de 1 libra em setembro, anexados à artilharia divisionária.
A Divisão de Cavalaria tinha um total de 12 regimentos de cavalaria em quatro brigadas, e cada divisão de infantaria tinha 12 batalhões em três brigadas. A força da Divisão de Cavalaria (sem contar a 5ª Brigada de Cavalaria) chegou a 9.269 todas as patentes, com 9.815 cavalos, 24 canhões de 13 libras e 24 metralhadoras. A força de cada divisão de infantaria chegou a 18.073 em todas as patentes, com 5.592 cavalos, 76 canhões e 24 metralhadoras.
Em termos numéricos amplos, a Força Expedicionária Britânica representava metade da força de combate do Exército Britânico como potência imperial, uma parte considerável do exército teve de ser reservada para guarnições no exterior. Esperava-se que a defesa doméstica fosse fornecida pelos voluntários da Força Territorial e pelas reservas.
A força total do Exército Regular em julho era de 125.000 homens nas Ilhas Britânicas, com 75.000 na Índia e na Birmânia e outros 33.000 em outros postos no exterior. A Reserva do Exército chegou a 145.000 homens, sendo 64.000 na Milícia (ou Reserva Especial) e 272.000 na Força Territorial.
Serviço doméstico Editar
O estabelecimento regular em tempo de paz nas Ilhas Britânicas era de oitenta e um batalhões de infantaria - em teoria, um batalhão de cada regimento de linha foi implantado no serviço doméstico e um no serviço no exterior em qualquer ponto, girando os batalhões a cada poucos anos - e dezenove regimentos da cavalaria.
Além daqueles reservados para a Força Expedicionária, havia três batalhões de Guardas e oito de infantaria de linha (incluindo aqueles nas Ilhas do Canal) - quase o valor de uma divisão. No evento, seis batalhões desses regulares foram destacados para o Continente junto com a Força Expedicionária, para atuar como tropa do Exército. O Regimento da Fronteira e Alexandra, Própria da Princesa de Gales (Regimento de Yorkshire) tinham a distinção incomum de serem os dois únicos regimentos de infantaria regulares a não contribuir com tropas para a Força Expedicionária. Ambos veriam primeiro a ação com a 7ª Divisão, que desembarcou em outubro.
Dados os tumultos que ocorreram durante as greves nacionais de 1911–12, havia a preocupação de que haveria agitação em Londres com a eclosão da guerra. Consequentemente, três regimentos de cavalaria - o 1.º salva-vidas, o 2.º salva-vidas e a Royal Horse Guards - estavam estacionados no Distrito de Londres e não foram reservados para a Força Expedicionária; cada um deles forneceu um esquadrão para um regimento composto, que serviu com a 4.ª Brigada de Cavalaria . Além disso, havia três brigadas de Artilharia de Campo Real e várias baterias de Artilharia Montada Real, não destinadas ao serviço no exterior.
Depois que a Força Expedicionária partiu, isso deixou um estabelecimento regular total de três regimentos de cavalaria (um pouco esgotados) e cinco batalhões de infantaria  - menos de um décimo da força de combate normal das forças locais, e principalmente implantados em torno de Londres. Essa força defensiva seria complementada pelas unidades da Força Territorial, convocadas no início da guerra - na verdade, muitas já estavam incorporadas para seu treinamento de verão quando a mobilização foi ordenada - e pela Reserva Especial.
A Força Territorial foi planejada com uma força de mobilização de quatorze divisões, cada uma estruturada ao longo das linhas de uma divisão regular com doze batalhões de infantaria, quatro brigadas de artilharia, duas companhias de engenheiros e ampc. - e quatorze brigadas de cavalaria Yeomanry. Previa-se que essas unidades seriam usadas exclusivamente para defesa doméstica, embora no caso quase todas se voluntariassem para o serviço no exterior, os primeiros batalhões chegaram ao continente em novembro.
Serviço internacional Editar
Quarenta e oito batalhões de infantaria serviam na Índia - o equivalente a quatro divisões regulares - com cinco em Malta, quatro na África do Sul, quatro no Egito e uma dúzia em vários outros postos imperiais. Outros nove regimentos de cavalaria regulares serviam na Índia, dois na África do Sul e um no Egito.
Não se esperava que as forças no resto do Império Britânico contribuíssem para a Força Expedicionária. Uma proporção considerável deles fazia parte das dez divisões do Exército da Índia, uma mistura de forças locais e o planejamento regular britânico havia começado em agosto de 1913 para organizar como as forças indianas poderiam ser usadas em uma guerra europeia, e um plano provisório havia sido feito para duas divisões de infantaria e uma brigada de cavalaria a serem adicionadas à Força Expedicionária estes foram despachados, no caso, mas não chegaram à França até outubro.
No evento, a maioria das unidades de guarnição ultramarinas foi retirada assim que puderam ser substituídas por batalhões territoriais, e novas divisões regulares foram formadas aos poucos no Reino Unido. Nenhuma dessas unidades chegou a tempo de servir a Força Expedicionária.
Soldados emprestados: as divisões 27 e 30 americanas e o exército britânico na frente de Ypres, agosto-setembro de 1918
Ypres, ou “Wipers”, como os britânicos Tommies chamavam a antiga cidade belga, é sinônimo de Primeira Guerra Mundial. Um número extraordinário de vidas foram perdidas lá e no saliente próximo durante combates aparentemente intermináveis ao longo de quatro anos. Numerosos monumentos e cemitérios pontilham a paisagem e lembram os horrores da guerra. Um desses monumentos homenageia as divisões 27 e 30 americanas. Essas duas divisões, compostas em grande parte por tropas da Guarda Nacional, receberam seu batismo de fogo em 30 de agosto a 1º de setembro de 1918, quando enfrentaram forças alemãs veteranas em um dos pontos mais altos da área, Kemmel Hill, e nas aldeias vizinhas de Vierstraat, Vormezeele, e Wytschaete. Os alemães haviam conquistado as posições em abril daquele ano, mas estavam recuando quando os americanos chegaram. Mesmo assim, eles se recusaram a se retirar discretamente e, no processo, ensinaram aos ansiosos meninos uma lição de combate na Frente Ocidental.
Ruins of St. Martin & # 8217s Church em Ypres, Bélgica, ca. 1918. (Departamento de Guerra)
Quando esta operação começou, os americanos estavam na segunda fase de instrução dos melhores soldados que os Aliados tinham a oferecer. Logo após chegar à Frente Ocidental na primavera de 1918, o comandante das Forças Expedicionárias Americanas (AEF), general John J. Pershing, enviou relutantemente as 27ª e 30ª Divisões para treinar com o Exército Britânico. Foi a sua maneira de apaziguar o marechal de campo Sir Douglas Haig, que insistiu que os "breadboys" americanos se unissem à Força Expedicionária Britânica (FEB) para preencher as fileiras de seu exército esgotado. Pershing, porém, tinha outros planos. Ele procurou formar um exército independente e resistiu à pressão constante de Haig. Foi só quando o Departamento de Guerra dos EUA aceitou uma oferta dos britânicos para transportar tropas americanas para a Europa que Pershing permitiu que os americanos treinassem com os Tommies de Haig. Além disso, Pershing concordou que os britânicos equipariam, alimentariam e armariam seus homens, e que eles também poderiam ser utilizados no front em caso de emergência. Sob este programa de treinamento, dez divisões americanas passaram um tempo no setor britânico como o American II Corps. O acordo também beneficiou os americanos, uma vez que o Departamento de Guerra não tinha frete para enviar tropas ao exterior, nem tinha armas suficientes para entregá-las a todos os soldados.
A paz entre os dois comandantes, entretanto, diminuiu quando Pershing transferiu oito das divisões para seu recém-organizado Primeiro Exército americano. Pershing queria todas as dez divisões de volta, mas Haig protestou veementemente e foi autorizado a manter duas - a 27ª e a 30ª. Eles permaneceram como o menor corpo da AEF.
Haig agora tinha cerca de 50.000 novos soldados americanos para utilizar como quisesse. Uma divisão da AEF compreendia cerca de 27.000 oficiais e homens, mas os dias 27 e 30 nunca alcançaram essa força. Suas brigadas de artilharia chegaram à França separadamente e foram imediatamente designadas para o Primeiro Exército. Pershing também não distribuiu substituições entre os dias 27 e 30 até depois do Armistício, um sinal de que as considerava de menor importância do que suas outras divisões.
Antes de chegar à França, a 27ª Divisão treinou em Camp Wadsworth, Carolina do Sul, perto de Asheville, Carolina do Norte e nas montanhas Blue Ridge. A maioria das divisões do Exército foi enviada para o sul e sudeste dos Estados Unidos para treinamento. “As noites eram extremamente frias, mas o sol estaria escaldante durante o dia”, recordou vividamente o soldado William F. Clarke, membro do 104º Batalhão de Metralhadoras. Não era incomum voltar de "um dia no campo de treinamento ou de uma caminhada de dezesseis quilômetros, transpirando profusamente e quase congelando até a morte à noite".
O major-general John F. O’Ryan foi o comandante da 27ª Divisão e o oficial de mais alta patente da Guarda Nacional a comandar um contingente tão grande de tropas durante a guerra. Ele era um disciplinador e suas tropas eram reconhecidas por seu comportamento profissional, ao lado de unidades do Exército Regular. A divisão era composta por tropas de toda a Nova York, incluindo homens de algumas das famílias mais proeminentes de Nova York, bem como fazendeiros e trabalhadores de todo o Empire State. Antes do serviço no exterior, os nova-iorquinos foram enviados à fronteira mexicana em 1916 durante a Expedição Punitiva como a 6ª Divisão, a única unidade da Guarda organizada dessa forma. A 27ª Divisão adotou uma insígnia que consistia em um círculo preto de borda vermelha com as letras “NYD” em monograma com as estrelas da constelação de Orion, em homenagem ao seu oficial comandante.
A 30ª Divisão era mais típica da Guarda Nacional. Uma combinação de regimentos da Carolina do Norte e do Sul e do Tennessee, a divisão se reuniu em Camp Sevier, perto de Greenville, na Carolina do Sul. Durante o curso da guerra, nove oficiais-generais diferentes comandaram a divisão até que o Exército se estabeleceu em um colega de classe de Pershing em West Point, o general Edward M. Lewis, que já havia liderado a 3ª Brigada de Infantaria, 2ª Divisão. A 30ª Divisão, apelidada de “Velha Hickory” em homenagem ao presidente Andrew Jackson, incluía unidades cuja linhagem datava da Guerra de 1812. Como os da 27ª Divisão, os regimentos dos regimentos da 30ª Divisão serviram na fronteira mexicana durante a Expedição Punitiva.
Um menino soldado do 71º Regimento de Infantaria, Guarda Nacional de Nova York, despedindo-se de sua namorada enquanto seu regimento parte para Camp Wadsworth, Spartanburg, S.C., onde a Divisão de Nova York treinou para o serviço. 1917. IFS.
Por mais de oito meses, as duas divisões passaram por intenso treinamento físico, conduziram manobras em guerra aberta e assistiram a palestras de oficiais britânicos e franceses enviados aos Estados Unidos como conselheiros. Unidades das 27ª e 30ª Divisões começaram a chegar à França durante a última semana de maio de 1918. Entrando nos portos de Calais e Brest, os americanos foram recebidos na zona de guerra com o distante trovão de peças de artilharia e ataques aéreos alemães noturnos. Depois de dias de marcha dura, ambas as divisões foram designadas a um setor atrás das linhas de frente britânicas para começar o treinamento. Para garantir a compatibilidade com os soldados britânicos, os americanos foram obrigados a trocar seus amados rifles calibre .30 Modelo 1917 pelo Lee-Enfield Mark III.
O programa de treinamento projetado especificamente para essas divisões consistia em dez semanas de instrução para tropas de infantaria e metralhadoras a serem realizadas em três períodos. Primeiro, eles treinaram fora da linha por um mínimo de quatro semanas, abrangendo exercícios, mosquete e exercícios físicos. Isso incluiu aulas particulares de metralhadora Lewis e outras armas de infantaria. Em seguida, os americanos deveriam aliar-se às tropas britânicas na linha por três semanas. Oficiais e suboficiais entravam por um período de 48 horas, enquanto os homens se juntavam a companhias e pelotões britânicos por períodos mais curtos. Finalmente, cada regimento deveria treinar em uma área de retaguarda por três a quatro semanas para fornecer instruções mais avançadas. Lá, os americanos praticariam manobra de batalhões e companhias. Na maioria das vezes, os bonequinhos e os Tommies se davam bem. Não surpreendentemente, porém, os americanos reclamaram das rações britânicas. Acostumados com a comida americana servida em grandes porções, eles receberam uma pequena ração de carne, chá (em vez de café) e queijo.
Durante o segundo período de treinamento, as divisões 27 e 30 foram designadas ao Segundo Exército Britânico para treinamento e transferidas para seu setor, a sudoeste de Ypres, para organizar e defender uma parte da Linha de Poperinghe Leste. A posição recebeu o nome da cidade de Poperhinghe, situada vários quilômetros ao norte e consistia em um sistema irregular de trincheiras, fortalezas e casamatas não conectadas.
Durante a primeira parte de agosto, a 30ª Divisão moveu-se perto de Poperhinghe e Watou, onde ficou sob o controle tático do II Corpo de exército britânico, enquanto a 27ª assumiu a segunda, ou reserva, posição nas defesas britânicas perto de Kemmel Hill, sob o comando do XIX Corpo Britânico. Isso incluiu o lago Dickebusch e as áreas de Scherpenberg.
Por fim, o dia 30 avançou para o mesmo setor de reserva do dia 27, deixando ambos na face norte do saliente de Lys, uma frente que cobria 4.000 jardas. A saliência foi formada na linha aliada ao sul de Ypres na primavera de 1918, quando os alemães atacaram ao longo do rio Lys durante a Operação Georgette e tomaram a colina Kemmel dos franceses. Um oficial britânico escreveu que "a perda de Kemmel pelos franceses é boa, mas a mantemos de qualquer maneira, deve torná-los menos rudes".
O saliente estendia-se do Lago Zillebeke, que já foi o principal suprimento de água de Ypres, até o sudeste de Voormezeele. Ele foi moldado pela luta de First Ypres em 1914, e os combates subsequentes criaram crateras profundas. O terreno era muito baixo e os buracos de projéteis transformaram-se em pequenas poças. Cercando a saliência ficava o terreno elevado - Observatory Ridge, Passchendaele Ridge, Messines-Wytschaete Ridge e Kemmel Hill, todos mantidos pelos alemães. Essas posições permitiam ao inimigo um claro campo de fogo em todas as direções. Um americano observou que muitas vezes os "homens nos sistemas avançados acreditavam que estavam sendo bombardeados por sua própria artilharia, quando, na verdade, os projéteis eram dos canhões inimigos à direita e na retaguarda".
Batalhões dos 119º e 120º Regimentos de Infantaria da 30ª Divisão começaram a ocupar porções da frente no setor do Canal, dez milhas a sudoeste de Ypres. Um regimento tinha seu acampamento em “Dirty Bucket”, a cerca de 6,5 quilômetros de Ypres. Os soldados foram alojados em cabanas construídas pelos britânicos em um bosque de carvalhos grande o suficiente para abrigar uma companhia inteira (256 oficiais e homens). Os aposentos estavam longe de ser luxuosos - a falta de berços ou beliches significava que os soldados dormiam no chão. Para os oficiais de comando e estado-maior dos dias 27 e 30, porém, era muito diferente. A 27ª manteve o quartel-general em Oudezeele, enquanto a 30ª Divisão estabeleceu seu comando em Watou, onde O’Ryan e Lewis dormiam com relativo conforto. Muitos dos funcionários das divisões e oficiais superiores do regimento foram alojados no que foi chamado de "Armstrong Hut". Dobráveis e facilmente movíveis, as laterais das cabanas eram cobertas com sacos de areia para proteger os ocupantes de estilhaços e fragmentos de projéteis, caso uma bala de artilharia explodisse nas proximidades. Os bancos de sacos de areia tinham um metro de altura, "apenas o suficiente para cobri-lo quando estiver deitado na cama".
Escalonamento de paredes em Camp Wadsworth, S.C. Ca. 1918. Paul Thompson. (Departamento de Guerra)
Ambas as divisões estavam agora a apenas quatro milhas da frente e bem ao alcance da artilharia inimiga. Em 13 de julho, o Soldado Robert P. Friedman, membro dos 102º Engenheiros, morreu em conseqüência de ferimentos causados por bombardeios alemães e se tornou a primeira vítima de combate sofrida pela 27ª Divisão. Friedman foi um dos muitos soldados judeus, tanto oficiais como alistados, no dia 27, e sua perda foi lamentada por todos na divisão. A 30ª Divisão teve sua primeira morte relacionada ao combate um mês antes, quando o primeiro-tenente Wily O. Bissett, da 119ª Infantaria, foi morto de maneira semelhante em 17 de junho.
Na Bélgica, os americanos testemunharam as adversidades sofridas pela população civil. Embora o bombardeio quase tenha destruído as aldeias ao redor de Ypres, não conseguiu quebrar o espírito do povo flamengo. Como os fazendeiros continuaram a cultivar seus campos, os engenheiros das divisões americanas na Linha de Defesa de Poperinghe Leste foram especificamente instruídos a não danificar as plantações. Esta foi uma ordem difícil de seguir, já que colocar fios emaranhados perto da frente significava limpar algumas das plantações, apesar dos protestos dos fazendeiros.
Ao longo de várias noites, de 16 a 24 de agosto, as Divisões 27 e 30 se prepararam para o combate. A 30ª Divisão ordenou que sua 60ª Brigada de Infantaria assumisse o setor do Canal da 33ª Divisão Britânica, localizada na face norte da saliência de Lys a sudoeste de Ypres. A 119ª Infantaria estava do lado direito da linha, a 120ª Infantaria à sua esquerda. Na reserva estava a 59ª Brigada de Infantaria (117º e 118º Regimentos de Infantaria). Uma semana depois, a 53ª Brigada de Infantaria (105º e 106º Regimentos de Infantaria), 27ª Divisão, substituiu a 6ª Divisão britânica no setor de Dickebusch. Assumiu posições de frente e apoio com regimentos lado a lado e a 54ª Brigada de Infantaria (107º e 108º Regimentos de Infantaria) na reserva. As divisões britânicas deixaram suas unidades de artilharia para apoiar os americanos.
Os movimentos de tropas, bem como o transporte de suprimentos, eram realizados por ferrovia leve e durante a noite para evitar atrair fogo da artilharia alemã na colina Kemmel. À frente das unidades de infantaria e metralhadora estavam os engenheiros 102d (27ª divisão) e 105 (30ª divisão). Eles tiveram a difícil e perigosa tarefa de consertar estradas esburacadas, tornadas quase intransitáveis após três anos de bombardeios. Assim que as tropas chegaram à frente, foram alojadas em cabanas de madeira construídas por engenheiros britânicos. Dois esquadrões de oito homens, com um cabo no comando, dormiam em uma cabana, que um ocupante descreveu como espaçosa. Para coordenar a ligação entre a infantaria e a artilharia, as turmas de trabalho tiveram que instalar cabos. Isso significava cavar uma trincheira de quase dois metros na dura argila da Flandres, que não era muito diferente do solo da Carolina do Sul.
Cada dia envolvia vigilância de postos de observação e aviões. The first few days were reported as calm. A “quiet, inoffensive attitude,” is how a 30th Division officer summarized this period. Such calm, however, did not last. Suddenly, as the division’s historians noted, “the scene had now shifted to the battleground of the World War—a stern and terrible reality to the men of all ranks.” They were referring to night patrols sent out as far as 1,000 yards to probe enemy defenses. Troops patrolling too close to the German outpost lines were greeted with machine gun fire.
At first, the Germans were unaware that Americans had entered the sector opposite them, but according to a prisoner interrogated at 27th Division headquarters, this changed when the rifle fire became “more brisk and haphazard.” When asked to elaborate, the soldier from the German 93d Infantry Regiment explained that soldiers “who have been in the war for some time only fire individually when they are sure they have a target, whereas new troops are apt to fire more or less constantly at night, whether or not they have a target.” The considerable shooting and muzzle flashes allowed the Germans to better pinpoint the American line of advance. Once they recognized that untested American troops were opposing them, it became a daily ritual to try their mettle by harassing them with artillery fire, lobbing shells into back areas to hit crossroads and villages.
On 30 August, the enemy conducted a surprise move that further tested the doughboys. In the early morning, heavy clouds of smoke crept toward the American lines. An initial report said it was a gas attack, but further observation revealed the Germans were burning dumps of some kind to mask a withdrawal. A prisoner captured near Kemmel Hill confirmed the updated report when he told interrogators that troops were retiring to the Wytschaete-Messines Ridge. He claimed a new line was established in front of Armentieres, and that eight men per company in machine gun posts remained behind on Kemmel, where they were to give the impression of strength.
That night British XIX Corps headquarters ordered O’Ryan to send patrols from his brigades to reconnoiter the left of the line, opposite the 30th Division. This order was not unexpected. Earlier in the day O’Ryan and Plumer met and the latter remarked casually after tea, “Oh, by the way, O’Ryan, how would you like to have a go at our friends on the ridge?” O’Ryan responded that “his men were there for that purpose,” and was then told by Plumer to have a word with his chief of staff. O’Ryan then discovered that the details of the plan and tentative corps order were already in place.
O’Ryan went into action and instructed the 53d Brigade to move elements of the 105th and 106th Infantry Regiments toward the German trenches to determine the depth of the withdrawal. As they approached the German lines, there was minor resistance from scattered machine gun posts. The patrols were accompanied by members of the British 184th Tunneling Company, which checked the vacant enemy dugouts for mines and booby traps. After reaching the enemy positions, the patrols reported back to brigade headquarters that the prisoner’s statement was correct—the Germans had given up most of Kemmel Hill. Additional patrols were organized and told to be ready to advance in support of those sent out. Soon, the Americans were gearing up for their first battle as entire regiments.
On 31 August, the British II Corps ordered the 30th Division to send out patrols in its sector to determine enemy strength and location. The division commander, Major General Lewis, chose the 60th Infantry Brigade and made it clear that if strong resistance was met, the brigade was to return to its entrenchments. Small parties from the 119th and 120th Infantry Regiments moved out, and like those of the 53d Brigade, found the German defenses at Kemmel Hill mostly abandoned. Additional parties from the 30th Division held nearby positions at the Voormezeele Switch and Lock 8 of the canal. The Germans were still close by in strength, so Lewis ordered his troops to hold tight and await further orders. Relaying messages was difficult because the Germans kept a close eye on the runners and frequently fired on them, so the Americans mostly communicated by wire. To ensure there was little delay in this method, the 105th Signal Battalion laid 15,000 feet of cable along this position to establish a forward communications post.
At 0730 the next morning, Lewis gave the order to advance. After a brief barrage, a platoon of forty men from Company I, 120th Infantry, moved forward towards Lankhof Farm. There, the Germans had constructed a cluster of pillboxes in the ruins of an old farm building and positioned machine gunners and snipers. As the Americans advanced, the Germans withdrew to the canal and abandoned their defenses at the farm, suffering only two casualties. The platoon then pushed beyond the farm and established contact with the 119th Infantry advancing on the right of Lock 8. Artillery from the British 33d Division fired in support, but several rounds fell short, wounding a number of Americans.
Friendly fire incidents were an unfortunate consequence of war, and the 30th Division had recently lost two men this way. In the first instance, First Lieutenant Robert H. Turner of the 115th Machine Gun Battalion was struck on 24 July by a shell from the 186 Battery, Royal Field Artillery, while he and another officer were on patrol near a Belgian chateau. In the second occurrence, Second Lieutenant Lowell T. Wasson of Company M, 120th Infantry, was shot by a private from his unit on 7 August. Wasson apparently became confused after returning from a patrol near Swan Chateau and had entered a listening post unannounced. The private guarding the post was ordered to fire on Wasson by his superiors, who thought the intruder was a German conducting a trench raid.
With the 119th taking fire from both its own artillery support and the Germans, two more platoons from the 120th Infantry were sent forward to help relieve the chaotic situation. After advancing 1,000 yards, they retired, having lost touch with both flanks. The Germans complicated matters with fire from trench mortars and machine guns hidden in Ravine Wood. At 1000, 2d Battalion, 119th Infantry, advanced and held on against heavy resistance. During this action, a patrol that included Corporal Burt T. Forbes of Company I, was acting as a flank guard when a squad of eight Germans approached. As the enemy started setting up their machine guns, Forbes charged the Germans, single-handedly killing three and driving the other five away. For this act of bravery, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the French Croix de Guerre. Word of the action was sent to the rear by pigeon. It was the first time this means of communication had been used by the 30th. Remarkably, only one hour and five minutes elapsed between the time the message was sent, received and transmitted by the division staff.
After intense fighting, the 30th Division’s contribution to the operation was over. It gained one square mile of ground, inflicted one hundred German casualties, and captured sixteen prisoners, two machine guns, one grenade launcher, and a small amount of ammunition and stores. Kemmel Hill was now in Allied hands and, as one doughboy remarked, “it sure is a blessed relief to move around without feeling the German eyes watching you.” In the process of taking this coveted piece of land, the 30th lost two officers and thirty-five men killed.
In the 27th Division sector, the British XIX Corps ordered O’Ryan to begin advancing his division at 1000 on 31 August and occupy a line along the Vierstraat Switch, 1,000 yards from their present location. Patrols from the 106th Infantry advanced along the line until held up for three hours by machine guns concealed in numerous nests near Siege Farm. The Americans retaliated with their own machine guns, and artillery fire from the British 66th Division. By 1730, the Germans had been driven back and the objective gained.
August ended as another bloody month on the Western Front, and September started off the same way. On the morning of 1 September, the 105th Infantry went forward on its right to pivot on the 30th Division at Vierstraat Village. As the Americans attempted to advance to the east crest of Vierstraat Ridge, the Germans continued to resist and drove the Americans back to the village. During the fighting, the doughboys used some creative methods to send messages to the rear the 102d Signal Battalion sent messages using pigeons and dogs. Amazingly, the dogs successfully maneuvered over broken ground, under heavy fire to deliver messages.
Despite such valiant efforts, communication was still difficult, as reflected in a frantic field message sent from 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry: “Our new position very heavily shelled, making communications almost impossible…request that artillery open fire on hill opposite our new position.” Information on why the regiment was stalled did not reach brigade headquarters until late in the day on 1 September. Messages were delayed because shellfire had cut the forward communication wire. To help remedy the troubling situation, Corporal Kenneth M. McCann of the 102d Field Signal Battalion worked for seventy-two hours, while subjected to repeated gas bombardments and machine gun fire, to replace the forward line near Kemmel Hill. For his extraordinary efforts, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
More discouraging news reached the rear from an officer observing at the front. On the left of the 106th Infantry, two battalions had become badly mixed up and crowded into the line. When word reached the 53d Infantry Brigade commander, Brigadier General Albert H. Blanding, he ordered the commander of the 106th, Colonel William A. Taylor, to the front to investigate. Taylor reported two hours later that the officer in command at the front, Major Harry S. Hildreth, had “apparently entirely lost control and seemed at a loss as to what to do.” Blanding ordered Taylor to immediately relieve Hildreth and take command. Not until daylight the following morning was the situation in hand. Hildreth was only temporarily reprimanded. He was lucky this was his only punishment since it was commonplace in the AEF, as well as the BEF, to permanently relieve commanders from their units for poor performance. Hildreth returned to battalion command in the 106th a few days later.
On 1 September, Blanding ordered his brigade not to make a general attack, but to advance the front line as far as possible. With the help of artillery harassment, the two regiments moved forward, and by the afternoon of the next day, had captured the southern slope of Wytschaete Ridge. At noon on 2 September, Taylor phoned Blanding and requested permission to dig in on the line of the first objective and wait for relief. His request was denied. Instead, he was ordered to advance further, and after another day of hard fighting, the 106th permanently reoccupied the Chinese Trench, which ran between the Berghe and Byron Farms. By now, the Germans had retired in some strength to Wytschaete Ridge. The two-day operation ended with the 53d Brigade losing two officers and seventy-seven men killed, mostly from artillery fire.
On 3 September, the Americans received withdrawal orders, and moved back from the Canal and Dickebusch sectors during the next two days. The British 41st Division relieved the 27th, and the British 35th Division took the sector vacated by the 30th. Relief of the 27th did not go smoothly. When the order reached the 53d Brigade, it was so far forward that it took a considerable amount of time to reach the light railways for transportation to the rear. After reaching the rear, the brigade found that the 41st Division was in the midst of moving forward, and considerable congestion ensued. Once behind the front lines, the soldiers of the 27th Division, looking forward to warm beds and clean uniforms, discovered that billeting and bathing facilities were hard to find. O’Ryan later wrote that provisions had been made for his men, “but the lack of time and other circumstances prevented it being done to the fullest extent.” For the men of 30th Division, it was also “rather a hard trip, but the men stood it well,” remembered the commander of the 105th Engineers. “The cars were dirty and those for the First Battalion had manure in them when they were backed on the siding. Our men had to clean them out and then buy straw to put on the bottom of the cars. I may be mistaken, but the trains the British use for a trip like this are better and cleaner cars. We seem to be the ‘Goats’.”
In the rear, battalion and company commanders from both American divisions wrote after-action reports that provide a window into the seemingly chaotic American experience of being in the line for the first time. In one report, a lieutenant in the 119th Infantry complained that his platoon’s ammunition supply was defective, and for twenty-four hours, he had no reserve rounds. Another officer remarked how the supply of water that reached the front lines during the nights of 2-3 September was not enough for one platoon, and that “this shortage, which seems to exist in all parts of the line, is the greatest hardship the men have to bear.”
Other mistakes were not so insignificant and showed the weaknesses in the divisions’ officer corps. Upon reaching an objective, a platoon commander could not communicate with his left flank because he did not have a telephone, lamp, pigeons, or even a signalman. “Liaison was poor,” he complained. “I had no ground flares, no panels, and no other means of getting in touch with aeroplanes.”
Such mishaps by the doughboys were also observed by the opposing German troops. The commander of the German 8th Infantry Division, Major General Hamann, remarked in his battle report that “withdrawal of our line confronted the American troops with a task to which they were by no means equal.” When the 27th Division moved out of its quiet sector to pursue the Germans, Hamann wrote, “The inexperienced troops do not yet know how to utilize the terrain in movement, work their way forward during an attack, or choose the correct formation in the event the enemy opens artillery fire.”
After the war, Hamann was more complimentary toward the New Yorkers. O’Ryan had written him to gather information for his book, The Story of the 27th, and the German officer responded, saying “reports reaching me from all sources, particularly from our artillery observation posts, were that your infantry was unusually energetic in their attack.”
Enlisted men had plenty to say about the Ypres-Lys operation, and they wrote such thoughts in letters sent home, personal diaries, and memoirs. The sound of battle created a lasting memory for many soldiers. One soldier from Tennessee described the constant firing of machine guns as though it were “popcorn popping.” Another wrote how it seemed to him that the Germans knew the location of every trench, since they constantly harassed the Americans during the day with artillery fire. At night, their planes bombed the front and rear, and the “artificial camouflage provided what little deception was practiced upon the enemy.”
The historian of Company K, 117th Infantry, recalled that “the night of the big barrage on Kemmel Hill was a night of discomfort and nervousness” among the men in his unit. Nerves were frayed, and one private recalled seeing a sergeant in his company advance cautiously with his rifle toward a noise in the rear that he insisted was caused by German soldiers conducting a raid. Moments later, he learned it was a trench rat retreating to its hole. Once the men of Company K actually participated in combat, they “were happier than we had been for many months, for the first battle experiences had been met with all the credit that was to have been expected, and we had not quailed at the smell of gunpowder.”
Bravery by the American soldiers did not go unnoticed by the British. General Sir Herbert Plumer wrote O’Ryan that “the wonderful spirit that animated all ranks and the gallantry displayed in the minor engagements your division took part in with us foreshadowed the successes you would achieve later.” Plumer was indeed correct. The American II Corps would continue serve with the BEF and during the attack on the Hindenburg Line on 29 September 1918, with the Americans attached to the British Fourth Army. Despite taking significant casualties, the 27th and 30th Divisions spearheaded the attack and with help from the Australian Corps, pierced a vital portion of the German defenses along the St. Quentin Canal. Nevertheless, it was the operation in Ypres that helped define the two divisions. After World War I, the newly established American Battle Monuments Commission recognized this in 1927 by placing a marker on Vierstraat Ridge. It reads in part: “Erected by the United States of America to commemorate the service of American troops who fought in this vicinity.”
British Troops being welcomed to France, 1914 - History
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The main job of the British forces in 1914 and 1915 was to support the French. This is because the British Army was very small. In 1914, it had about 250,000 men scattered around the British Empire. In that year, the British sent 5 divisions (a division was usually about 15,000 men) to the front in France. The French army had 72 divisions and the Germans had 122 divisions. The French and Germans both had a system of compulsory military service. This meant all men served about 2 years in the army and gained some basic training and experience. Britain had no such system.
Once war began, the British Army recruited furiously. By 1916, the army was about 1.5 million strong, but there were problems. The expansion was done at breakneck speed using enthusiastic but raw recruits. They had a little over a year's training and virtually no combat experience. Worse still, they were desperately short of experienced officers. More experienced soldiers knew how to find the best cover, how to advance as safely as possible and what to do if their commanding officer was killed (common in trench warfare).
General Sir Douglas Haig, British Commander-in-Chief on the western front, was not really ready to attack in mid-1916. He wanted to wait until later in the year and attack in Flanders (not the Somme). However, his hand was forced. In February 1916, the Germans attacked the French fortress of Verdun. The attack intensified for the next four months until there was a danger that Verdun would fall and the Germans would break through the French lines. The British and French governments decided that Haig would have to attack at the Somme in July. This would be the first major battle of the war for the British Army.
General Sir Henry Rawlinson's original plan of attack was simple. He intended to hit the front line of German defences with intense artillery bombardments to destroy German positions and kill large numbers of troops. The idea was to wear down the Germans in a war of attrition. The main weapon would be the artillery bombardment, but there would also be small-scale raids and attacks by British forces.
Map of the Allied plan of attack at the Somme
Haig was sure that the Germans would crumble and he wanted Rawlinson's plan to allow for this possibility. If this took place, then British forces could achieve the long awaited breakthrough. Cavalry could get behind the German defences, attack the Germans in the open and disrupt the road and rail links that kept the German troops supplied and reinforced.
This change in plan caused problems because it meant the artillery bombardment was spread over a wider range of German defences and so did less damage than Rawlinson hoped. It also meant that the attacking infantry were more spread out than Rawlinson planned. This was a problem because they were inexperienced troops and there were few experienced officers. The commanders were concerned that there would be chaos if soldiers charged forward and lost contact with their officers. This was the main reason why orders were given to walk towards the enemy positions. As history now shows, these tactics were disastrous and the senior commanders contributed to the huge death toll during the attack. However, it is important to remember that Haig issued those orders because he felt he had little choice. Units with experienced officers usually adapted the tactics and suffered fewer casualties than units with inexperienced officers.
The attack took place on 1 July 1916. For a week before that, a huge bombardment of German positions had been going on. Most of the British troops expected the German defences to be badly damaged, but it is a myth that they were told that the Germans would simply surrender.
Haig underestimated the strength of the German defences and his changes to the plan weakened the impact of the bombardment. Another problem was that about 30% of the 1.7 million shells fired by the British did not go off. The attacking British troops met extremely strong artillery and machinegun fire from the German defenders. There were some important successes at the southern end of the attacking line, but the troops at the northern end suffered huge casualties. Around 20,000 were killed and around 40,000 wounded.
Rawlinson was appalled by the losses on the first day and wanted to end the attack. However, Haig insisted that it should carry on. He was convinced that they had fatally weakened the Germans, although he had little evidence to support this view. Haig also had little choice because he had to relieve the pressure on Verdun.
Haig was later criticised for wasting lives by throwing men at heavily defended trenches. In fact he varied his tactics when he could. For example, in September he used tanks for the first time in the war. The reality was, however, that Haig had few options. He had to relieve Verdun and he did not have the weapons that commanders in future wars would have – effective aircraft and reliable tanks.
The battle continued until November 1916 when Haig called off the attack. An area of land about 25 km long and 6 km wide had been taken. British casualties ran at about 420,000 and French casualties were about 200,000. German casualties were about 500,000. This definitely weakened the Germans, but the Germans killed more Allied troops than they lost themselves. However, the pressure was off Verdun. The British troops who survived now had combat experience. The British and Allied forces also learnt many valuable lessons about trench warfare, which were put into action in 1917-18.
There are few events in British history that carry as much significance as the Battle of the Somme. The battle has a dark reputation. The main reason for this is the heavy casualties.
Whole villages or sections of towns lost a generation of young men. One of the most famous examples is Accrington in Lancashire. Their young men joined up together in 1915 to form a 'Pals' Battalion. Young men from local streets, factories, football and rugby teams joined up at the same time. The army thought that this local identity would make for good fighting units who would stick together in battle. There were other areas that supplied such units. The very first Pals Battalion was signed up in Liverpool. There were Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle Pals. The 36th Division was made up mainly of Protestants from Ulster (mainly from the area which is Northern Ireland today). All of these units fought with great gallantry at the Somme. The trouble was it took only one heavy bombardment or one attack on a heavily defended position and a whole street or village lost its young men. Some parts of the country lost few or no young men, but this of course did not grab the headlines. The British Army changed its recruiting policy after the Battle of the Somme.
Another controversy about the Battle of the Somme is whether the British commanders were to blame for the heavy losses because they were incompetent. The main accusations are usually directed at the British Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Douglas Haig. He is charged with not caring about the heavy casualties. He is also accused of failing to change his tactics when things were not going according to plan. He earned the unwanted title of 'the Butcher of the Somme'. But was this fair?
The casualties at the Somme were heavy, but only by the standards of previous British wars. British casualties at the Somme were similar to the losses which German, Austrian, Russian and French troops had suffered in many of the battles of 1914-15. This battle had such a huge impact on Britain because Britain had never fought in a war like this before. Most of Britain's wars had been wars in the empire or battles at sea. In both cases, casualties tended to be relatively low.
With hindsight, we can see that Haig made mistakes and the first day of the Somme was a disaster. However, we also have to look at the limited options open to him. He was told to relieve Verdun and this meant attacking the Germans. Haig made mistakes by altering Rawlinson's plan, but he could not foresee that 30% of the British shells would fail to explode. Haig was criticised for sending men to capture enemy trenches, but no politician or military leader came up with any alternatives in 1916. It is very telling that most people at the time did not share the hostility later expressed towards Haig.
British Troops being welcomed to France, 1914 - History
B y the end of November 1914 the crushing German advance that had swallowed the Low Countries and threatened France had been checked by the allies before it could reach Paris. The opposing armies stared at each other from a line of hastily built defensive trenches that began at the edge of the English Channel and continued to the border of Switzerland. Barbed wire and parapets defended the trenches and between them stretched a "No-Mans-Land" that in some areas was no more than 30 yards wide.
British troops in the trenches
Life in the trenches was abominable. Continuous sniping, machinegun fire and artillery shelling took a deadly toll. The misery was heightened by the ravages of Mother Nature, including rain, snow and cold. Many of the trenches, especially those in the low-lying British sector to the west, were continually flooded, exposing the troops to frost bite and "trench foot."
This treacherous monotony was briefly interrupted during an unofficial and spontaneous "Christmas Truce" that began on Christmas Eve. Both sides had received Christmas packages of food and presents. The clear skies that ended the rain further lifted the spirits on both sides of no-mans-land.
The Germans seem to have made the first move. During the evening of December 24 they delivered a chocolate cake to the British line accompanied by a note that proposed a cease fire so that the Germans could have a concert. The British accepted the proposal and offered some tobacco as their present to the Germans. The good will soon spread along the 27-mile length of the British line. Enemy soldiers shouted to one another from the trenches, joined in singing songs and soon met one another in the middle of no-mans-land to talk, exchange gifts and in some areas to take part in impromptu soccer matches.
The high command on both sides took a dim view of the activities and orders were issued to stop the fraternizing with varying results. In some areas the truce ended Christmas Day in others the following day and in others it extended into January. One thing is for sure - it never happened again.
"We and the Germans met in the middle of no-man's-land."
Frank Richards was a British soldier who experienced the "Christmas Truce". We join his story on Christmas morning 1914:
Buffalo Bill [the Company Commander] rushed into the trench and endeavoured to prevent it, but he was too late: the whole of the Company were now out, and so were the Germans. He had to accept the situation, so soon he and the other company officers climbed out too. We and the Germans met in the middle of no-man's-land. Their officers was also now out. Our officers exchanged greetings with them. One of the German officers said that he wished he had a camera to take a snapshot, but they were not allowed to carry cameras. Neither were our officers.
We mucked in all day with one another. They were Saxons and some of them could speak English. By the look of them their trenches were in as bad a state as our own. One of their men, speaking in English, mentioned that he had worked in Brighton for some years and that he was fed up to the neck with this damned war and would be glad when it was all over. We told him that he wasn't the only one that was fed up with it. We did not allow them in our trench and they did not allow us in theirs.
The German Company-Commander asked Buffalo Bill if he would accept a couple of barrels of beer and assured him that they would not make his men drunk. They had plenty of it in the brewery. He accepted the offer with thanks and a couple of their men rolled the barrels over and we took them into our trench. The German officer sent one of his men back to the trench, who appeared shortly after carrying a tray with bottles and glasses on it. Officers of both sides clinked glasses and drunk one another's health. Buffalo Bill had presented them with a plum pudding just before. The officers came to an understanding that the unofficial truce would end at midnight. At dusk we went back to our respective trenches.
British and German troops
mingle in No Mans Land
Just before midnight we all made it up not to commence firing before they did. At night there was always plenty of firing by both sides if there were no working parties or patrols out. Mr Richardson, a young officer who had just joined the Battalion and was now a platoon officer in my company wrote a poem during the night about the Briton and the Bosche meeting in no-man's-land on Christmas Day, which he read out to us. A few days later it was published in Os tempos ou Postagem matinal, I believe.
During the whole of Boxing Day [the day after Christmas] we never fired a shot, and they the same, each side seemed to be waiting for the other to set the ball a-rolling. One of their men shouted across in English and inquired how we had enjoyed the beer. We shouted back and told him it was very weak but that we were very grateful for it. We were conversing off and on during the whole of the day.
We were relieved that evening at dusk by a battalion of another brigade. We were mighty surprised as we had heard no whisper of any relief during the day. We told the men who relieved us how we had spent the last couple of days with the enemy, and they told us that by what they had been told the whole of the British troops in the line, with one or two exceptions, had mucked in with the enemy. They had only been out of action themselves forty-eight hours after being twenty-eight days in the front-line trenches. They also told us that the French people had heard how we had spent Christmas Day and were saying all manner of nasty things about the British Army."
This eyewitness account appears in Richards, Frank, Old Soldiers Never Die (1933) Keegan, John, The First World War (1999) Simkins, Peter, World War I, the Western Front (1991).
Primeira Guerra Mundial
The origins of conscription and the ‘citizen-soldier’
The First World War was fought predominantly by conscript armies fielding millions of ‘citizen-soldiers’. The origins of this type of military lay in the levée en masse (mass mobilisation) organised by the French revolutionary regime at the end of the 18th century, the first modern force built on the idea that all male citizens had a duty to bear arms in defence of their nation. However, it was France’s rival Prussia which improved and systemised the military model, developing a new form of universal short-service peacetime conscription. After spectacular victories over Austria and France in 1866 and 1871, this provided the organisational template for other continental European armies. Austria-Hungary imitated it in 1868, France in 1872 and Russia in 1874. Britain and the United States, which relied primarily on their navies for security, were alone among the major powers in remaining with small professional armies.
How conscription worked
Short-service systems of conscription obliged healthy male citizens to undergo a relatively brief period of military training in their youth and then made them subject for much of the rest of their adult lives to call up for refresher courses or for service in an emergency. The exact terms of service varied from country to country but Germany’s system provides a good example. There, men were drafted at age 20 for two or three years of peacetime training in the active army. While all had an obligation to serve, financial limitations meant in practice that only a little over half of each male year group was conscripted. After training, men were released into civilian life but could be called back to the army until they reached the age of 45. In between, men passed through various reserve categories. Those who had most recently completed their training belonged to the first-line reserve for five years, where they could expect to be redrafted early in the event of crisis. Later, they were allocated for a decade to the second-line Landwehr. The third-line Landsturm was the oldest band of reservists, intended mainly for rear-line duties in a major war. The short-service conscript system offered two major advantages. First, it created a large pool of trained manpower that could quickly augment the standing army in an emergency. In August 1914, the German army needed just 12 days to expand from 808,280 to 3,502,700 soldiers. Second, in a long conflict, the system offered an organisational framework capable of deploying nearly the entire manpower of a state as soldiers. Conscript forces became true ‘nations in arms’ in 1914-18. 55% of male Italians and Bulgarians aged 18 to 50 were called to military service. Elsewhere the proportions were even higher: 63% of military-aged men in Serbia, 78% in Austro-Hungary and 81% of military-aged men in France and Germany served.
The picture book of the Landsturm Man
Detail of an illustration from The picture book of the Landsturm Man (1917).
War volunteers and enlistment motivations
While conscript armies proved indispensable, and even the British in 1916 and the Americans in 1917 began to draft men, significant numbers of volunteers also served in the First World War. Most famously, in Britain 2,675,149 men volunteered, the vast majority in the first half of hostilities. However, even countries with long traditions of conscription also had large volunteering movements. In Germany, around half a million men came forward. The great rush was at the start of the war: in the first 10 days 143,922 men enlisted in Prussian units alone. France’s voluntary enlistments were smaller but steadier, reaching 187,905 men by the end of hostilities. In multinational Austria-Hungary, men appear to have been less willing to volunteer for the Emperor’s army, although they promptly obeyed call up orders. Some nationalist movements did recruit successfully, however. The Polish Legionaries, the largest of these forces, had 21,000 volunteers by 1917. While volunteers tended to be disproportionately middle-class, their motives for joining the army may not have been so different from those of conscripts. Patriotic duty appears to have been a prime motivation for both groups, although coercion was also influential. Volunteers were not subject to the legal sanctions faced by conscripts who disobeyed drafting orders but they might be exposed to considerable social pressure to enlist. For small minorities, economic factors or lust for action and adventure were important. These recruits, whether conscripts or volunteers, were ‘citizen-soldiers’, whose attachment to their societies and stake in their states’ existence go far to explain the tremendous resilience of the armies of 1914-18.
A Comprehensive World War One Timeline
Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, and his wife, had decided to inspect Austro-Hungarian troops in Bosnia. The date chosen for the inspection was a national day in Bosnia. The Black Hand supplied a group of students with weapons for an assassination attempt to mark the occasion.
A Serbian nationalist student, Gavrilo Princip, assassinated the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, when their open car stopped at a corner on its way out of the town.
Although Russia was allied with Serbia, Germany did not believe that she would mobilise and offered to support Austria if necessary.
However, Russia did mobilise and, through their alliance with France, called on the French to mobilise.
Despite a French counter-attack that saw the deaths of many Frenchmen on the battlefields at Ardennes, the Germans continued to march into France. They were eventually halted by the allies at the river Marne.
British troops had advanced from the northern coast of France to the Belgian town of Mons. Although they initially held off the Germans, they were soon forced to retreat.
The British lost a huge number of men at the first battle of Ypres.
By Christmas, all hopes that the war would be over had gone and the holiday saw men of both sides digging themselves into the trenches of theWestern Front.
Although British losses were heavier than the German, the battle had alarmed both the Kaiser and the German Admiral Scheer and they decided to keep their fleet consigned to harbour for the remainder of the war.
This article is part of our extensive collection of articles on the Great War. Click here to see our comprehensive article on World War 1.
British Troops being welcomed to France, 1914 - History
The actions of the colonist in response to the Townshend Act convinced the British that they needed troops in Boston to help maintain order. Lord Hillsborough, Secretary of State for the Colonies, dispatched two regiments-(4,000 troops), to restore order in Boston. The daily contact between British soldiers and colonists served to worsen relations.
The decision by the British to dispatch troops to Boston was one of their worst decisions, in an entire series of bad moves, that helped make the eventual independence of America inevitable. The British government reacted to the Americans, and specifically to the Massachusetts opposition to the Townshend act by dispatching troops to Boston. This might have been the correct policy if the opposition was just made up of a few firebrands. The British, however, misread the opposition, which was wide spread.
The announcement that British troops were arriving created immediate resentment among the colonists. The idea that British troops were coming, not to defend the colonists in times of war, but the pacify them, seemed inconceivable to many. In addition, the idea that troops of the standing army, many of whom did not have a reputation for high moral standards, would be living in their city on a daily basis filled many Bostonians with dread.
In the end of September 1768 troop ships, accompanied by British men of war, arrived in Boston Harbor. The troops disembarked and initially encamped on the Boston Commons, as well as, in the Court House, and in Faneuil Hall. Friction immediately broke out when the Governor offered the troops Manufactory House as a barracks. The inhabitants of the Manufactory House refused to be evicted and the troops were forced to find other locations.
The British officers had no trouble finding lodging and being accepted into the Bostonian Society. This was not the case, however, with their soldiers. The British soldiers were consumers of both large quantities of rum and prostitutes. Both these activities were an anathema to the rather puritan population of Boston. Worse still was the harsh discipline meted out to British soldiers.
The British had a major problem with desertions. In the first few months of their stay in Boston, 70 troops deserted and found their way into the interior of the colony. Placing sentries on the outskirts of the city to stop deserters did nothing but inflame colonists further. Finally, General Gage, who had taken command of the British troops in Boston, ordered the next deserters be captured executed. That tragic fate fell on a young deserter named Ames. He was executed on the Boson Commons after and elaborate ceremony. This act disgusted the general population of Boston, even more than the regular whipping of British soldiers on the same location for infractions against army rules.
The colonists' views of the average British soldier varied from resentment to pity. However, while on duty, an almost guerilla war seemed to rage between the soldiers and the colonists. This, of course, eventually resulted in the most well-known and tragic action, known as "the Boston Massacre".
From the moment the British forces entered Boston to the moment they were forced by colonial troops to leave seven years later, their presence did the British no good. The extended British troop presence only served to bring the day of American independence closer.
Assista o vídeo: 16 Fotos França 1940 x 2015
Edição da 6ª Divisão
A 6ª Divisão embarcou para a França nos dias 8 e 9 de setembro. Foi comandado pelo Major-General J. L. Keir, com o Coronel W. T. Furse como GSO 1. Brigadeiro-General W. L. H. Paget comandou a Artilharia Real, e o Tenente-Coronel G. C. Kemp comandou os Royal Engineers.
- (Brigadeiro-General E. C. Ingouville-Williams)
O III Corpo de exército foi formado na França em 31 de agosto de 1914, comandado pelo Major-General W. P. Pulteney. Seus oficiais superiores eram o Brigadeiro-General J. P. Du Cane (Chefe do Estado-Maior), o Brigadeiro-General E. J. Phipps-Hornby (comandante da Artilharia Real) e o Brigadeiro-General F. M. Glubb (Comandante dos Engenheiros Reais).
Edição da 4ª Divisão
A 4ª Divisão desembarcou na França na noite de 22 e 23 de agosto. Foi comandada pelo Major-General T. D'O. Snow, com o Coronel J. E. Edmonds como GSO 1. O Brigadeiro-General G. F. Milne comandou a Artilharia Real e o Tenente-Coronel H. B. Jones comandou os Engenheiros Reais.
- (Brigadeiro-General J. A. L. Haldane)
Edição da 5ª Divisão
A 5ª Divisão foi comandada pelo Major-General Sir C. Fergusson, com o Tenente-Coronel C. F. Romer como GSO 1. O Brigadeiro-General J. E. W. Headlam comandou a Artilharia Real e o Tenente-Coronel J. A. S. Tulloch comandou os Royal Engineers.
- (Brigadeiro-General G. J. Cuthbert)
O II Corpo foi comandado pelo Tenente-General Sir James Grierson. Seus oficiais superiores eram o Brigadeiro-General George Forestier-Walker (Chefe do Estado-Maior), o Brigadeiro-General A. H. Short (comandando a Artilharia Real) e o Brigadeiro-General A. E. Sandbach (o Comandante dos Engenheiros Reais).
O Tenente-General Grierson morreu em um trem entre Rouen e Amiens em 17 de agosto. O General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien assumiu o comando em Bavai, em 21 de agosto às 16h.
Edição da 3ª Divisão
A 3ª Divisão foi comandada pelo Major-General Hubert I. W. Hamilton, com o Coronel F. R. F. Boileau como GSO 1. O Brigadeiro-General F. D. V. Wing comandou a Artilharia Real, e o Tenente-Coronel C. S. Wilson comandou os Engenheiros Reais.
- (Brigadeiro-General F. W. N. McCracken)
- (Brigadeiro-General F. C. Shaw)
Edição da 2ª Divisão
A 2ª Divisão foi comandada pelo Major-General C. C. Monro, com o Coronel Exmo. F. Gordon como GSO 1. O Brigadeiro-General E. M. Perceval comandou a Artilharia Real e o Tenente-Coronel R. H. H. Boys comandou os Engenheiros Reais.
- (Brigadeiro-General R. Scott-Kerr)