History of the Great War

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The History of the Great War is a series of 109 volumes, covering the war effort of the British state during the First World War. The full title is the History of the Great War Based on Official Documents but the series is usually referred to as the British Official History. It was produced by the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence under the control of the Official Historian Brigadier-General Sir James Edmonds for the army volumes and other historians for the navy, air force, medical and veterinary volumes.

Work began on the series in 1915 and in 1920 the first volumes of Naval Operations and Seaborne Trade were published. The first "army" publication, Military Operations: France and Belgium 1914 volume I and a separate map volume were published in 1922 and the final volume, The Occupation of Constantinople was published in 2010. In the 1987 introduction to Operations in Persia 1914–1919, G. M. Bayliss wrote that the guides issued by Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO) were incomplete. "Sectional List number 60" of 1976 omitted the Gallipoli volumes but contained The Blockade of the Central Empires (1937), which had been retained "for official use only" until 1961. The twelve volume History of the Ministry of Munitions and two other volumes on the Occupation of the Rhineland (1929) and Operations in Persia 1914–1919 (1929) were also not listed.[1]

The History of the Great War Military Operations volumes, were written as a technical history for military staff, rather than as a popular history for consumption by the general public. John Keegan, criticised the prose for being dry and featureless, "the compilers... have achieved the remarkable feat of writing an exhaustive account of one of the world's greatest tragedies without the display of any emotion at all.". In 1996 Paddy Griffith called it an encyclopaedic work, transparently individualistic in tone, lucidly organised, wide in scope and by far the best book on the Western Front.[2][Note 1]

The war on land[edit]

  • History of the Great War based on Official Documents by Direction of the Committee of Imperial Defence[Note 2]
  • The Occupation of Constantinople 1918–1923 (draft provisional history 1944), Brigadier-General J. E. Edmonds, 2010
  • Military Operations: East Africa, 1914–1916
  • Military Operations: Egypt and Palestine
    • Volume I: From the Outbreak of war with Germany to June 1917, accompanying map case, Captain Cyril Falls, 1928[3]
    • Volume II: From June 1917 to the end of the War, accompanying map case, Part I, Captain Cyril Falls, 1930, Part II, Captain Cyril Falls, 1930[3]
  • Military Operations: France and Belgium, 1914
    • Volume I: Mons, the Retreat to the Seine, the Marne and the Aisne, August – October 1914, accompanying map case, Brigadier-General Sir James E. Edmonds, 1922 (2nd edition 1925, 3rd revised edition, 1934)[4]
    • Volume II: Antwerp, La Bassée, Armentières, Messines and Ypres, October – November 1914, accompanying map case, Brigadier-General Sir J. E. Edmonds, 1925[5]
  • Military Operations: France and Belgium, 1915
    • Volume I: Winter 1914–15: Battle of Neuve Chapelle: Battles of Ypres, accompanying map case, Brigadier-General Sir J. E. Edmonds and Captain G. C. Wynne, 1927[3]
    • Volume II: Battles of Aubers Ridge, Festubert, and Loos, accompanying map case, Brigadier-General Sir J. E. Edmonds, 1928[3]
  • Military Operations: France and Belgium, 1916
    • Volume I: Sir Douglas Haig's Command to the 1st July: Battle of the Somme, accompanying appendices volume and map case, Brigadier-General Sir J. E. Edmonds, 1932[3]
    • Volume II: 2 July 1916 to the end of the Battles of the Somme, accompanying appendices and maps volume, Captain Wilfrid Miles, 1938[3]
  • Military Operations: France and Belgium, 1917
    • Volume I: The German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line and the Battles of Arras, accompanying appendices volume, Captain Cyril Falls, 1940[3]
    • Volume II: Messines and third Ypres (Passchendaele), Brigadier-General Sir J. E. Edmonds, 1948[3]
    • Volume III: The Battle of Cambrai, Captain Wilfrid Miles, 1948[3]
  • Military Operations: France and Belgium, 1918
    • Volume I: The German March Offensive and its Preliminaries, accompanying appendices volume and map case, Brigadier-General Sir J. E. Edmonds, 1935[3]
    • Volume II: March–April: Continuation of the German Offensives, accompanying map case, Brigadier-General Sir J. E. Edmonds, 1937[3]
    • Volume III: May–July: The German Diversion Offensives and the First Allied Counter-Offensive, Brigadier-General Sir J. E. Edmonds, 1939[3]
    • Volume IV: 8 August – 26 September: The Franco-British Offensive, Brigadier-General Sir J. E. Edmonds, 1947[3]
    • Volume V: 26 September – 11 November: The Advance to Victory, Brigadier-General Sir J. E. Edmonds and Lieutenant-Colonel R. Maxwell-Hyslop, 1947[3]
  • Military Operations: Gallipoli
    • Volume I: Inception of the campaign to May 1915, accompanying maps and appendices volume, Brigadier-General C. F. Aspinall-Oglander, 1929[3]
    • Volume II: May 1915 to the evacuation, accompanying maps and appendices volume, Brigadier-General C. F. Aspinall-Oglander, 1932[3]
  • Military Operations: Italy, 1915–1919, Brigadier-General Sir J. E. Edmonds and H. R. Davies, 1949[3]
  • Military Operations: Macedonia
    • Volume I: From the Outbreak of War to the Spring of 1917, accompanying map case, Captain Cyril Falls, 1933[3]
    • Volume II: From the Spring of 1917 to the End of the War, accompanying map case, Captain Cyril Falls, 1935[3]
  • Military Operations: Mesopotamia, Compiled at the Request of the Government of India, under the Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence
    • Volume I: Outbreak of Hostilities: Campaign in Lower Mesopotamia, Brigadier-General F. J. Moberly, 1923[3]
    • Volume II: April 1916: The Attempt on Baghdad, the Battle of Ctesiphon, the Siege and the Fall of Kut-al-Amara, Brigadier-General F. J. Moberly, 1924[3]
    • Volume III: April 1917: The Capture and Consolidation of Baghdad, Brigadier-General F. J. Moberly, 1926[3]
    • Volume IV: The Campaign in Upper Mesopotamia to the Armistice, Brigadier-General F. J. Moberly, 1927[3]
  • Operations in Persia 1914–1919, (confidential, 1929) Brigadier-General F. J. Moberly, 1987[3]
  • The Occupation of the Rhineland 1918–1929, (confidential, 1944) Brigadier-General J. E. Edmonds, 1987[3]
  • Military Operations: Togoland and the Cameroons, 1914–1916 Compiled by Arrangement with the Colonial Office, under the Direction of the Committee of Imperial Defence, Brigadier-General F. J. Moberly, 1931[3]

Other related volumes

  • Order of Battle of Divisions
    • Volume I: The Regular British Divisions Major A.F. Becke, 1935[3]
    • Volume IIa: The Territorial Force Mounted Divisions and the 1st-Line Territorial Force Divisions (42–56), Major A.F. Becke, 1936[3]
    • Volume IIb: The 2nd-Line Territorial Force Divisions (57th–69th) with the Home Service Divisions (71st–73rd) and 74th and 75th, Major A.F. Becke, 1937[3]
    • Volume IIIa: New Army Divisions (9–26), Major A.F. Becke, 1938[3]
    • Volume IIIb: New Army Divisions (30–41) and 63rd (R.N.) Division, Major A.F. Becke, 1945[3]
    • Volume IV: The Army Council, G.H.Q.s, Armies and Corps, 1914–1918, Major A.F. Becke, 1945[3]
  • Principal Events, 1914–1918, H. T. Skinner and H. FitzM. Stacke, 1922[6][Note 3]
  • Statistics of the Military Effort of the British Empire During the Great War 1914–1920, War Office, 1922[7]
  • Transportation on the Western Front, 1914–1918, accompanying map case, Colonel A. M. Henniker, 1937[3]

The war in the air[edit]

  • The War in the Air, being the story of the part played in the Great War by the Royal Air Force
    • Volume I, W. A. Raleigh, 1922 (revised 1939)[8]
    • Volume II, H. A. Jones, 1928[9]
    • Volume III, accompanying map case, H. A. Jones, 1931[10]
    • Volume IV, H. A. Jones, 1934[11]
    • Volume V, accompanying map case, H. A. Jones, 1935[12]
    • Volume VI, H. A. Jones, 1937[13]
    • Appendices, H. A. Jones, 1937

The war at sea[edit]

  • Naval Operations
    • Volume I, accompanying map case, J. S. Corbett, 1920 (2nd edition, 1938)[14]
    • Volume II, accompanying map case, J. S. Corbett, 1921 (2nd edition, 1929)[15]
    • Volume III, J. S. Corbett, 1923 (revised edition, 1940)[16]
    • Volume IV, accompanying map case, H. J. Newbolt, 1928[17]
    • Volume V, accompanying map case, H. J. Newbolt, 1931
  • The Merchant Navy
    • Volume I, A. Hurd, 1921[18]
    • Volume II, A. Hurd, 1924[19]
    • Volume III, A. Hurd, 1929
  • Seaborne Trade
    • Volume I: The Cruiser Period, accompanying map case, C. E. Fayle, 1920[20]
    • Volume II: From the Opening of the Submarine Campaign to the Appointment of the Shipping Controller, C. E. Fayle, 1923
    • Volume III: The Period of Unrestricted Submarine Warfare, C. E. Fayle, 1924
  • A History of the Blockade of Germany and the Countries Associated with her in the Great War, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey, 1914–1918, (confidential, 1937) A. C. Bell, 1961

Ministry of Munitions[edit]

  • History of the Ministry of Munitions
    • Volume I: Industrial Mobilisation 1914–15, 1922
    • Volume II: General Organisation of Munitions Supply, 1921
    • Volume III: Finance and Contracts, 1920
    • Volume IV: The Supply and Control of Labour 1915–16
    • Volume V: Wages and Welfare, 1921
    • Volume VI: Man Power and Dilution, 1922
    • Volume VII: The Control of Materials, 1922
    • Volume VIII: Control of Industrial Capacity and Equipment, 1922
    • Volume IX: Review of Munitions Supply, 1922
    • Volume X: The Supply of Munitions, 1922
    • Volume XI: The Supply of Munitions
    • Volume XII: The Supply of Munitions, 1921

All marked "Confidential" and "For Official Use Only"

Medical and veterinary[edit]

  • General History
    • Volume I: Medical Services in the United Kingdom; in British Garrisons Overseas and During Operations against Tsingtau, in Togoland, the Cameroons and South-West Africa, Sir W. G. Macpherson, 1921[21]
    • Volume II: The Medical Services on the Western Front and during the Operations in France and Belgium in 1914 and 1915 Sir W. G. Macpherson, 1923[22]
    • Volume III: Medical Services during the Operations on the Western Front in 1916, 1917 and 1918; in Italy and in Egypt and Palestine, Sir W. G. Macpherson, 1924[23]
    • Volume IV: Medical Services During the Operations on the Gallipoli Peninsula; in Macedonia; in Mesopotamia and North-West Persia; in East Africa; in the Aden Protectorate and in North Russia. Ambulance Transport during the War, Sir W. G. Macpherson and T. J. Mitchell, 1924[24]
  • Casualties and Medical Statistics of the Great War, T. J. Mitchell and G. M. Smith, 1931
  • Pathology, edited by Sir W. G. Macpherson, W. M. Leishman and S. L. Cummins, 1923[25]
  • Diseases of the War
    • Volume I, edited by Major-General Sir W. G. Mcapherson, Major-General Sir W. P. Herringham, Colonel T. R. Elliott and Lieutenant-Colonel A. Balfour, 1922[26]
    • Volume II: Including the Medical Aspects of Aviation and Gas Warfare and Gas Poisoning in Tanks and Mines, edited by Major-General Sir W. G. Mcapherson, Major-General Sir W. P. Herringham, Colonel T. R. Elliott and Lieutenant-Colonel A. Balfour, 1923[27]
  • Hygiene of the War
    • Volume I, edited by Sir W. G. Macpherson, 1923
    • Volume II, edited by Sir W. G. Macpherson, 1923
  • Surgery of the War
    • Volume I, edited by Sir W. G. Macpherson, Sir A. A. Bowlby, Sir Cuthbert Wallace and Sir Crisp English, 1922[28]
    • Volume II, edited by Sir W. G. Macpherson, Sir A. A. Bowlby, Sir Cuthbert Wallace and Sir Crisp English, 1922[29]
  • Veterinary Services, edited by Sir L. J. Blenkinsop and J. W. Rainey, 1925

Additional volumes[edit]

  • A short history of the RAF: Air Publication 125, Air Ministry, Air Historical Branch, 1920 (2nd edition 1929, revised edition, 1936)
  • The Official Names of the Battles and Other Engagements Fought by the Military Forces of the British Empire during the Great War, 1914–1919 and the Third Afghan War, 1919: Report of the Battles Nomenclature Committee as approved by the Army Council, 1922
  • Eastern Siberia, 1920
  • The Evacuation of Northern Russia, 1919, 1920[30][Note 4]

Analysis[edit]

Tim Travers, 1987[edit]

In The Killing Ground: The British Army, the Western Front & the Emergence of modern War 1900–1918 (1987), Tim Travers wrote that on the planning and conduct of the battles of Pilckem Ridge (31 July – 2 August) and Langemarck, (16–18 August) in the Third Ypres campaign, (31 July – 10 November 1917) described in Military Operations: France and Belgium 1917 part II, there were three controversies.[31] Travers wrote that General Sir Hubert Gough the Fifth Army commander, believed that Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig had ordered him to plan a breakthrough offensive, particularly at a meeting on 28 June, yet a few days later Haig vacillated and wanted a step-by-step attack. Travers also wrote that it was illogical to give the principal command of a step-by-step attack to a "thruster" like General Gough, when General Sir Herbert Plumer the Second Army commander had a reputation for thoroughness. Travers held that Haig wavered in his thinking about what he wanted but left Gough believing that he was to plan for a breakthrough.[32][Note 5]

Travers found that Haig emphasised the importance of the Gheluvelt plateau, particularly at the meeting of 28 June and that on 30 June, Haig had written "Capture the Passchendaele–Staden Ridge.", on his copy of the Fifth Army plan.[35] The emphasis given by Haig to the Gheluvelt plateau also occurs in GHQ orders of 5 July and Fifth Army orders on 8 July. Travers wrote that the Fifth Army failed to give adequate emphasis to this requirement and that a structural obstacle constrained the Fifth Army, since the southern edge of the Gheluvelt plateau was beyond the boundary between the Fifth and Second armies.[35] Travers concluded that Haig and GHQ chose the time, place and strategy of the campaign and that Gough and the Fifth Army staff selected tactics for the attacks of Pilckem Ridge and Langemarck.[35] Travers described Wynne's first draft of the Official History, completed in 1943 as "anti-Haig", the second draft of 1944 "anti-Gough", the third draft of 1945 as "anti-Haig and anti-Gough" and Edmonds's fourth draft published in 1948 as "pro-Haig and anti-Gough", at which Wynne removed his name from the volume. In a chapter of sixteen pages with forty footnotes,[Note 6] Travers wrote that Edmonds was willing to accept some criticism by interested parties, to whom drafts were circulated and make amendments. Travers also considered that Edmonds became increasingly protective of Haig's reputation and noticeably autocratic in his dealings with the other historians.[36]

Travers described a leadership vacuum in the BEF, which was caused by the practice of delegation and that Edmonds's failure to stress this in the Official History was "scandalous". Gough had attempted a breakthrough offensive, conforming to the decisions laid down by Haig. Gough was at fault for overlooking the importance of the Gheluvelt plateau and for ignoring a suggestion of Lieutenant-General Cavan, the XIV Corps commander to add weight to the attack opposite the plateau.[37] Travers wrote that the Official History omitted a request, made by Gough in August for a conference to discuss a remedy for the lack of weight being brought against the Gheluvelt plateau, which Haig and the staff at GHQ should have settled along with the awkward placing of the boundary between the Fifth and Second armies, long before the attack commenced. The Official History laid most of the blame for the decisions on the type of offensive, the width and direction of attacks and responsibility for planning on Gough and the Fifth Army staff, rather than on Haig and GHQ for selecting the Ypres salient at all, beginning controversies which have yet to end.[38][Note 7]

Andrew Green, 2003[edit]

Andrew Green devoted a chapter of his study Writing the Great War, Sir James Edmonds and the Official Histories 1915–1948 (2003) to the production of the Passchendaele volume of the Official History.[39] In 27 pages and 106 footnotes, (none referring to a 1917 source) Green described the writing of the book by G. C. Wynne and then the circulation of the first draft to participants. Hubert Gough found the first draft highly objectionable and since so many other participants in the battle had died, his views were given considerable attention by J. E. Edmonds, during Wynne's absence on war work in 1943. Gough held that the draft exaggerated his intention to break through the German defences at Ypres. Gough described the meeting held on 28 June 1917 by Haig with Gough and Plumer, as evidence of Haig's understanding and acceptance of the Fifth Army plan. Gough noted that General Headquarters had caused a road to be built and kept clear for the use of cavalry and that Haig had rejected Rawlinson and Plumer's plans as too limited. Gough stressed that his plan was not limited by specific objectives, which had hampered attacks at Loos and Gallipoli in 1915 and the Somme in 1916. Wynne had referred to Davidson's memo of 26 June but Gough pointed out that reserves were available, close to the attacking troops to exploit advantages that emerged, not that the attacking troops should advance indefinitely.[40]

Green wrote that Edmonds told Wynne to include the points made by Gough but that Wynne had objected, as Davidson had related how Haig revised his views, after a 25 June meeting with the Cabinet in London and had written "wear down the enemy but have an objective" on the Fifth Army plan. Wynne claimed that Gough had misunderstood Haig's intention in 1917, which was the source of Gough's objections to the draft. At first Edmonds supported Wynne's position but later accepted Gough's views.[41] Green concluded that Haig had intended Gough to conduct a breakthrough attempt and that Edmonds had included this in the draft, as well as describing the changes in Haig's outlook during 1917, as the prospect of significant French support varied. Gough had added a fourth objective to meet Haig's requirements but overlooked the importance of the Gheluvelt plateau, spreading his forces equally across the attack front. Green noted that Prior and Wilson had found this in their 1998 study.[Note 8] Green also recorded that Edmonds referred to the continuity of Haig's optimism about the possibility of a deep advance on 4 August, 21 September and in early October, long after the likelihood had ended.[43]

Green added another example of Edmonds changing the draft in Gough's favour, by demonstrating that the weather in August was unusually wet. Edmonds included extracts from a French climate study Le Climat de La France (Bigourdan which contradicted the account of the August weather by Haig's Chief Intelligence Officer (1915–1918) Brigadier-General J. Charteris in his 1929 biography of Haig).[44][45] Edmonds wrote that the worst of the weather was from 12 October − 10 November, yet vividly described the wet and muddy conditions in August and their morale-sapping effect on British troops.[46] Wynne had written extensively on the difficulties of the French Army in the aftermath of the Nivelle offensive and the effect they had on British strategy but Edmonds drastically reduced this aspect of Wynne's draft.[47] Green noted that Edmonds left much of the remainder of Wynne's draft untouched, despite Gough's objection that it implied that Haig had abrogated his authority, by delegating so much to Gough and not imposing changes in accordance with his doubts about the feasibility of the Fifth Army plan, where it concerned the Gheluvelt plateau.[48] Edmonds noted the persistence with which Haig pursued objectives and that Haig advocated attacks regardless of their geographical progress, to keep pressure on the German Army.[47]

Green related an estrangement between Wynne and Edmonds over Edmonds' willingness to accept Gough's objections. Edmonds sent Wynne to meet Gough, which led to Wynne making a substantial change of view. Wynne revised his draft to remove much of the blame from Gough, writing that Haig bore principal responsibility for the Fifth Army plan in his third draft submitted in 1945. Edmonds then found this draft objectionable and quarrelled with Wynne, who removed his name from the authors of the book. In Green's view, Edmonds and Wynne had changed their views about Gough and made the narrative of his role in the events of 1917 much more accurate, it being noticeably less defensive of Haig. Wynne's conclusion had been that the strategy of retaining the initiative, to protect the French Army had succeeded and that the tactical intention to clear the Belgian coast had failed, due to an underestimation of German resilience and the mistaken attempt at a breakthrough. Earlier plans had been for short steps and an emphasis on the Gheluvelt plateau. Haig was responsible for accepting Gough's plan for 31 July, despite his cautious reminder to Gough on 6 July giving the Passchendaele–Staden ridge and the Belgian coast as targets. Wynne removed these details from his draft but concluded that the GHQ 1917 plan might have been as crushing as the attack at Messines ridge on 7 June. Edmonds had also accepted the logic of an offensive in Flanders but not that of appointing Gough; if Haig had wanted a step-by-step attack he was wrong to have superseded Plumer. Green showed that Edmonds acknowledged the constraints affecting Haig but that he had wanted a breakthrough attack, chose Gough who known as a "thruster" and encouraged his optimistic views about what could be achieved. Any misgivings felt by Haig had not been communicated to Gough.[49]

Green referred directly to Travers's 1987 analysis and noted that Travers had taken the same view as Edmonds on the questions of the intended breakthrough and the importance of the Gheluvelt plateau. Edmonds had written that Haig had accepted Gough's wishes and Green concluded that this did not mean that Gough was aware of Haig's doubts. Edmonds's version was that Haig wanted a decisive success and the capture of distant objectives on the first day, despite doubts which he had not shared with Gough. Travers had concluded that the Edmonds draft was wrong, yet Green wrote that Travers had formed the same conclusions as Edmonds. Travers had criticised the published draft, for failing to record that Haig had not resolved disagreements and problems among his subordinates long before the offensive began; Green pointed out that Edmonds had made the same criticism. Green wrote that judging the four drafts of the volume as "pro-" or "anti-" Haig and Gough was facile and led to inconsistent conclusions. Green noted that if the published draft was "anti-" Gough that it was surprising that he had called it a great improvement.[50]

Green compared the Official History with later studies. The Official History narrative did not support an explanation of the gap between 7 June and 31 July being caused by a need to divert the Germans from the French Army. Haig had decided on 7 May, to begin the Messines operation in early June and had not been informed of the state of the French Army until 2 June. Edmonds had written that the capture of Messines ridge took place on 7 June because of the difficulty of mounting three simultaneous attacks at Ypres. Edmonds ascribed the period between 7 June and 31 July to Haig's decision to give principal responsibility to Gough.[51] Wynne had claimed that Edmonds had failed to reveal the superiority of German tactics but Prior and Wilson, (1998) had shown that British tactics had evolved in 1917, although their application was inconsistent. Edmonds had shown that the attack on Messines ridge was a limited attack, intended to advance 1–2 miles (1.6–3.2 km) and that the plan incorporated progressive elements like those used at Arras on 9 April, particularly an emphasis on counter-battery fire and a carefully controlled creeping barrage. 2,266 guns and howitzers used 144,000 long tons (146,000,000 kg) of ammunition, 2½ times greater than that available for the opening of the Battle of the Somme, to counter the deep German defence zones and their Eingreif (counter-attack) divisions. Strongpoints were destroyed, wire was cut and German artillery suppressed. Three layers of creeping barrage 700 yards (640 m) deep, had preceded infantry trained in the pillbox fighting methods used at Vimy ridge. The infantry were followed by mopping-up parties, who captured by-passed German positions. Use of such techniques had been possible because the Royal Artillery had become more accurate. The gunners also had more ammunition to use and had been able to suppress German defences as the British advanced; objectives had been chosen within range of the British artillery and had led to a great victory. Prior and Wilson claimed that these methods were not used on 31 July, because Haig had overruled Rawlinson, Plumer and Davidson; Gough had overreached and left the British infantry vulnerable to German counter-attacks. Edmonds had concluded that on 31 July, too great a demand had been placed on the British artillery which had spread its fire too thinly.[52]

Green wrote that at the end of August Haig had turned to Plumer and bite-and-hold methods, which Edmonds had referred to as a radical revision. The greatest weight of artillery-fire possible was to be massed against the Gheluvelt plateau, for a succession of strictly limited attacks. Plumer planned four steps at six-day intervals, to give time to move artillery and supplies forward. The steps were limited to a depth of 1,500 yards (1,400 m) and a large increase in medium and heavy artillery was to be used to smash pillboxes and to add to the counter-battery effort. The attack of 20 September had double the number of guns on half the depth of attack, making four times the weight of shell compared to 31 July. Infantry tactics also emphasised systematic consolidation of all captured ground and strong-points. With the new battle drill and unprecedented artillery support, the attack was a complete success. Green noted that Prior and Wilson considered that Menin Road was a triumph of reduced expectations and that Passchendaele ridge was still 4,500 yards (4,100 m) away. Despite these changes, Haig insisted on preparations for a breakthrough but inadequate artillery preparation led to the failures of 9 and 12 October.[53] Green concluded that when the volume was published in 1948, there was much to awaken controversy, particularly the contrast between the effect of flawed tactics and the methods used with success earlier in 1917. Green wrote that the volume mostly accords with modern writing and contains little bias regarding Haig. Edmonds had referred to the external constraints of lack of manpower and the state of the French Army acting on Haig, yet his narrative had made the military errors manifest; Haig's desire for a breakthrough had led to a failure to relate strategy to tactics. Haig had failed adequately to communicate with Plumer and Gough and his persistence prolonged the offensive beyond the period of good weather. Green concluded that Edmonds had produced a work of lasting authority, in a series of substantial historical, military and literary value. Later scholars who have accused Edmonds of bias have had to acknowledge that his assessments and conclusions are largely accurate.[54]

Flanders, 1917 part II, 1948[edit]

In Military Operations France and Belgium Volume II, 7th June – 10th November: Messines and Third Ypres (Passchendaele). (1948) the Official Historian J. E. Edmonds wrote that Haig, Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force and General Gough the Fifth Army commander were at cross purposes before and during the early part of the Third Ypres campaign. The Historian described meetings between Gough and his Corps Commanders on 6 and 16 June, at which deeper objectives than those of the GHQ 1917 plan were decided and that an extra objective was added, to be attempted at the discretion of divisional commanders. The fourth objective (red line) was beyond the range of most of the Fifth Army's field artillery, so all heavy artillery was to be on call to put a defensive barrage beyond advanced posts along it. An advance to the red line was to be attempted only against weak opposition.[55]

Brigadier-General J.H. Davidson, head of the Operations Branch at General Headquarters, questioned the Fifth Army plan in a memorandum of 26 June, recommending that the objectives be limited and that the provision for an advance of 5,000 yards (4,600 m) to the red line be abandoned.[56] A Fifth Army order of 27 June, summarized a meeting of Gough and the corps commanders on 26 June and laid down the green line as the main objective, which required an advance of 1,000 yards (910 m) in the south to 3,500 yards (3,200 m) in the centre and 2,500 yards (2,300 m) in the north at the junction with the First (French) Army. Patrols were to be sent forward from it, to probe the German defences and occupy vacant ground but it was more important to avoid a ragged front line.[57] In a reply to Davidson, Gough wrote that the green line should be attempted and that an opportunity to take ground up to the red line, "without much opposition" should be taken.[58]

On 28 June Haig discussed Davidson's concerns at a meeting with Gough and General Plumer, commander of the Second Army and emphasised the importance of the Gheluvelt plateau.[59] The Historian wrote that the Fifth Army plan did not conform to Haig's judgement, that the main battle would be fought for the Gheluvelt plateau. Gough had spread the Fifth Army divisions evenly along the front, failing to increase the size of II Corps, which faced the German defences on the Gheluvelt plateau. In a footnote the Historian described Fifth Army intelligence summaries in July, which stressed the strength of the German defences on the plateau, that the Germans were building more defences there than on the rest of the front and that the assembly areas of the German Eingreif divisions were behind the plateau and Broodseinde–Passchendaele ridge. The summaries predicted that the Germans would try to hold the area, even if driven back across the Steenbeek further north.[60]

The description of the misunderstanding between Haig and Gough is contradicted by an account on the following pages of a visit made on 27 June by Haig to the headquarters of II Corps. Lieutenant-General Sir Claud Jacob the II Corps commander asked that his southern flank be extended, to allow an attack on the spur (Tower Hamlets) beyond the Bassevillebeek valley. Jacob wanted to deny the German army a jumping-off place for counter-attacks against the right flank of II Corps. Haig agreed with Jacob, emphasised the importance of the capture of the Gheluvelt plateau and arranged with the Fifth Army headquarters "at once", for II Corps to take command of the 24th Division to the south, which was the northernmost division of the Second Army. The Fifth Army boundary was extended south on 4 July to the Klein Zillebeke–Zandvoorde road. In a footnote the Historian also described the transfer of the artillery of the 23rd and 24th divisions and thirteen medium (60-pdr gun) and 25 heavy (fifteen 6-inch gun, five 8-inch and five 9.2-inch howitzer) batteries from the Second Army.[61][Note 9]

In the history of the 18th Division, the writer included an anecdote that II Corps had 1,000 guns and that each division in II Corps had twelve brigades of field artillery.[62] The Official Historian recorded 226 heavy and medium guns and 526 heavy and medium howitzers, (752) and 1,098 field guns and 324 field howitzers, (1,422) a total of 2,174 artillery pieces in the Fifth Army or 2,299 pieces "on the Fifth Army front".[63] Footnotes add that II Corps had an "extra division", three heavy counter-battery and three heavy bombardment double groups; (a single group had 4–6 siege, heavy or medium batteries) while each of the three British corps to the north had two heavy counter-battery double groups and three heavy bombardment single groups. The II Corps divisions had eight or nine field artillery brigades each, rather than the six in the divisions of the other corps.[63][Note 10]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Griffith called the quantity of writing on the Great War "prodigious" and that despite the eventual army Official Historian, J. E. Edmonds being unstable, insecure and never having held a field appointment during the war, was also conscientious, intelligent and rarely allowed his devious and opinionated nature to distort his comments in the Official History.[2]
  2. ^ Details of the Military Operations volumes are taken from the Introduction written by G. M Bayliss, the Keeper of the Imperial War Museum Department of Printed Books, for each of the facsimile volumes, published by Battery Press in association with the Imperial War Museum Department of Printed Books, which contain four un-numbered pages listing each volume in the series.[3]
  3. ^ Major Skinner, DSO was an officer with 29th Punjabis, Captain Stacke was holder of the Military Cross and an officer in the Worcester Regiment
  4. ^ A Blue Book presented to Parliament by the War Office.
  5. ^ The term "breakthrough" is not to be found in Field Service Regulations (1909)[33] and SS 135, Instructions for the Training of Divisions for Offensive Action (1916).[34]
  6. ^ 39 referring to correspondence about the drafting of the volume and one to a document written in 1917
  7. ^ Travers made no mention of the German army.
  8. ^ Passchendaele: The Untold Story, Prior, R. & Wilson, T. (1998). A. Simpson (2001) noted that Prior and Wilson's emphasis on British artillery use lacked analysis of infantry operations.[42]
  9. ^ It appears that the reverse chronological order in which these events are described has been overlooked or ignored by subsequent historians, regardless of their views on the honesty of the Official History or of being 'pro-' or 'anti-'Haig.
  10. ^ The information given in the Official History demonstrates that far from neglecting Haig's desire to concentrate on the Gheluvelt plateau, Gough put a disproportionate amount of the Fifth Army artillery at the disposal of II Corps (43%) and that II Corps had five divisions, with 3⅓ being engaged on 31 July, compared to four divisions with two engaged in each of the other corps. The green line for II Corps varied from a depth of 1,000 yards (910 m) on the southern flank at Klein Zillibeke, to 2,500 yards (2,300 m) on the northern flank along the Ypres–Roulers railway.[64] The green line from the southern flank of XIX Corps to the northern flank of XIV Corps required an advance of 3,500–2,500 yards (3,200–2,300 m).[65] An advance of 5,000 yards (4,600 m) to the red line was not fundamental to the plan and discretion to attempt it was left with the divisional commanders, based on the extent of local German resistance, which conformed to SS 135, Instructions for the Training of Divisions for Offensive Action. VIII, Exploiting Success , pp. 28–29. Had the German defence collapsed and the red line been reached, the German Flandern I, II and III lines would have been intact, except for Flandern I for a mile south of Broodseinde.[66] On 10 August II Corps was required to reach the black line of 31 July, an advance of 400–900 yards (370–820 m) and at the Battle of Langemarck on 16 August, the Fifth Army was to advance 1,500 yards (1,400 m).[67] The generally 'pro-' Haig historian G. Sheffield (2011) and the generally 'anti-' Haig historians T. Travers (1992) and R. Prior and T. Wilson (1996) do not refer to these discrepancies.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Moberly 1929.
  2. ^ a b Griffith 1996, pp. 258–259.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj Moberly 1995.
  4. ^ archive.org
  5. ^ archive.org
  6. ^ archive.org
  7. ^ archive.org
  8. ^ archive.org
  9. ^ archive.org
  10. ^ archive.org
  11. ^ archive.org
  12. ^ archive.org
  13. ^ archive.org
  14. ^ archive.org
  15. ^ archive.org
  16. ^ archive.org
  17. ^ archive.org
  18. ^ archive.org
  19. ^ archive.org
  20. ^ archive.org
  21. ^ archive.org
  22. ^ archive.org
  23. ^ archive.org
  24. ^ archive.org
  25. ^ archive.org
  26. ^ archive.org
  27. ^ archive.org
  28. ^ archive.org
  29. ^ archive.org
  30. ^ archive.org
  31. ^ Travers 1987, pp. 203–209.
  32. ^ Travers 1987, p. 205.
  33. ^ War Office General Staff 1909.
  34. ^ Corkerry 2001, pp. 1–81.
  35. ^ a b c Travers 1987, p. 206.
  36. ^ Travers 1987, p. 215.
  37. ^ Travers 1987, p. 216.
  38. ^ Travers 1987, p. 217.
  39. ^ Green 2003, pp. 167–194.
  40. ^ Green 2003, pp. 168–169.
  41. ^ Green 2003, p. 170.
  42. ^ Simpson 2001, p. 113.
  43. ^ Green 2003, pp. 171–175.
  44. ^ Edmonds 1948, pp. 211–212.
  45. ^ Charteris 1929, pp. 272–273.
  46. ^ Green 2003, p. 178.
  47. ^ a b Green 2003, p. 182.
  48. ^ Travers 1987, p. 177.
  49. ^ Green 2003, pp. 183–186.
  50. ^ Green 2003, pp. 186–188.
  51. ^ Green 2003, pp. 188–189.
  52. ^ Green 2003, p. 190.
  53. ^ Green 2003, pp. 191–193.
  54. ^ Green 2003, p. 207.
  55. ^ Edmonds 1948, pp. 127–128.
  56. ^ Edmonds 1948, pp. 128, 431–432, App XV.
  57. ^ Edmonds 1948, pp. 431–432.
  58. ^ Edmonds 1948, pp. 129, 440–442.
  59. ^ Edmonds 1948, pp. 129–130.
  60. ^ Edmonds 1948, p. 130.
  61. ^ Edmonds 1948, pp. 131–132.
  62. ^ Nichols 1922, p. 204.
  63. ^ a b Edmonds 1948, pp. 135–136.
  64. ^ Edmonds 1948, pp. 153, 433–436.
  65. ^ Edmonds 1948, p. map 10.
  66. ^ Edmonds 1948, p. 127, maps 10, 12, 15.
  67. ^ Edmonds 1948, pp. 180, 186, 190, App XVII, maps 17–19.

References[edit]

  • Charteris, J. (1929). Field Marshal Earl Haig. London: Cassell. ISBN 1-13510-031-4. 
  • Corkerry, S. (Ed.) (1916 & 1917). Instructions for the Training of Divisions for Offensive Action, Instructions for the Training of Platoons for Offensive Action (Military Press 2001 ed.). London: The General Staff (War Office) (1916). ISBN 0-85420-250-1. 
  • Edmonds, J. E. (1948). Military Operations France and Belgium, 1917: 7th June – 10th November. Messines and Third Ypres (Passchendaele). History of the Great War Based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence II (IWM & Battery Press 1991 ed.). London: HMSO. ISBN 0-89839-166-0. 
  • General Staff (1909). Field Service Regulations Part I: Operations (Lightning Source UK Ltd ed.). London: HMSO. ISBN 1-24516-676-X. Retrieved 23 March 2014. 
  • Green, A. (2003). Writing the Great War: Sir James Edmonds and the Official Histories 1915–1948. London: Frank Cass. ISBN 0-7146-8430-9. 
  • Griffith, P. (1996). Battle Tactics of the Western Front: The British Army's Art of Attack 1916–1918. London: Yale. ISBN 0-30006-663-5. 
  • Moberly, F. J. (1929). Operations in Persia 1914–1919. History of the Great War Based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence (Imperial War Museum 1987 ed.). London: HMSO. ISBN 0-11-290453-X. 
  • Moberly, F. J. (1995) [1931]. Military Operations Togoland and the Cameroons 1914–1916. History of the Great War Based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence (facsimile ed.). London: IWM & Battery Press. ISBN 1-870423-58-5. 
  • Nichols, G. H. F. (1922). The 18th Division in the Great War (N&M Press 2004 ed.). London: Blackwood. ISBN 1-84342-866-0. 
  • Simpson, A. (2001). The Operational Role of British Corps Command on the Western Front 1914–18. London: Spellmount. ISBN 1-86227-292-1. Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  • Travers, T. (1987). The Killing Ground: The British Army, the Western Front & the Emergence of Modern War 1900–1918 (Pen & Sword 2003 ed.). London: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 0-85052-964-6. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]