Britische Truppen werden in Frankreich begrüßt, 1914

Britische Truppen werden in Frankreich begrüßt, 1914



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Britische Truppen werden in Frankreich begrüßt, 1914

Britische Truppen waren bei ihrer Ankunft in Frankreich im Jahr 1914 sehr willkommen. Hier sehen wir einen Teil des BEF, der von französischen Damen bei ihrer Ankunft in Frankreich im August 1914 begrüßt wurde.


Imperium und Seemacht

Im September 1715 erhob John Erskine, Earl of Mar, die Standarte für einen „Jakobitenaufstand“, der die im Exil lebende Stuart-Monarchie wieder auf den Thron bringen sollte, und erklärte James Francis Edward Stuart (James II. Sohn) zum König von Schottland. Die Jakobiten wurden im November 1715 in den Schlachten von Sheriffmuir und Preston von Regierungstruppen besiegt. Drei Monate später war die Rebellion niedergeschlagen. Die jakobitischen Führer wurden angeklagt und einige hingerichtet.


Inhalt

Nach den Plänen der Vorkriegszeit sollte aus den Streitkräften der Regular Army im Vereinigten Königreich eine Expeditionstruppe mit einer Stärke von sechs Infanteriedivisionen und einer Kavalleriedivision (72 Infanteriebataillone und 14 Kavallerieregimenter) sowie Unterstützungseinheiten organisiert werden.

Es war geplant, dass die sieben Divisionen zentral vom Generalhauptquartier kontrolliert werden, und als solche wurden keine Pläne für mittlere Führungsebenen gemacht. Ein Korpsstab wurde in Friedenszeiten beibehalten, aber bei der Mobilmachung wurde beschlossen, einen zweiten (und später einen dritten) zu schaffen, um besser an die französische Kommandostruktur anzupassen, beide mussten improvisiert werden.

Da zum Zeitpunkt der Mobilmachung erhebliche Befürchtungen einer deutschen Landung an der englischen Ostküste bestanden, wurde beschlossen, zwei Divisionen für die Heimatverteidigung zurückzuhalten und nur vier plus die Kavallerie-Division nach Frankreich zu entsenden für das Geschenk. Der 4. wurde schließlich Ende August und der 6. Anfang September versandt.

Der ursprüngliche Oberbefehlshaber des BEF war Feldmarschall Sir John French. Sein Stabschef war Generalleutnant Sir A. J. Murray mit Generalmajor H. H. Wilson als seinem Stellvertreter. GSO 1 (Operations) war Colonel G. M. Harper und GSO 1 (Intelligence) war Colonel G. M. W. Macdonogh.

Der Generaladjutant war Generalmajor Sir C. F. N. Macready, mit Generalmajor E. R. C. Graham als stellvertretender Generaladjutant und Oberst A. E. J. Cavendish als stellvertretender Generaladjutant. Der Generalquartiermeister war Generalmajor Sir W. R. Robertson mit Colonel C. T. Dawkins als stellvertretender Generalquartiermeister. Die Royal Artillery wurde von Generalmajor W. F. L. Lindsay und die Royal Engineers von Brigadegeneral G. H. Fowke befehligt.

GHQ Troops, Royal Engineers Bearbeiten

Truppen des Generalhauptquartiers kontrollierten die Ingenieure der Heeresgruppe. Es hatte 1914 folgenden Aufbau: [4]

  • 1. Brückenzug, Royal Engineers
  • 2. Brückenzug, Royal Engineers
  • 1. Belagerungskompanie, Royal Monmouthshire Militia, Royal Engineers
  • 4. Belagerungskompanie, Royal Monmouthshire Militia, Royal Engineers
  • 1. Belagerungskompanie, Royal Anglesey Militia, Royal Engineers
  • 2. Belagerungskompanie, Royal Anglesey Militia, Royal Engineers
  • 1. Ranging Section, Royal Engineers
  • Eisenbahnverkehrsunternehmen
    • 8. Eisenbahngesellschaft, Royal Engineers
    • 10. Eisenbahngesellschaft, Royal Engineers
    • 2. Eisenbahngesellschaft, Royal Monmouthshire Militia, Royal Engineers
    • 3. Eisenbahngesellschaft, Royal Monmouthshire Militia, Royal Engineers
    • 3. Eisenbahngesellschaft, Royal Anglesey Militia, Royal Engineers

    Es gab keine dauerhaft aufgestellte Kavallerie-Division in der britischen Armee bei der Mobilmachung, die 1. bis 4. Kavallerie-Brigade wurden zu einer Division zusammengefasst, während die 5. Kavallerie-Brigade als eigenständige Einheit verblieb.

    Am 6. September wurde die 3. Kavalleriebrigade abgelöst, um gemeinsam mit der 5. unter dem Oberbefehl von Brigadegeneral Gough zu agieren. Diese Kraft wurde am 16. September in 2. Kavallerie-Division umbenannt.

    Kavallerie-Division Bearbeiten

    Die Kavallerie-Division wurde von Generalmajor Edmund Allenby kommandiert, mit Colonel John Vaughan als GSO 1 und Brigadegeneral B. F. Drake als Kommandant der Royal Horse Artillery.

    Unabhängige Brigade Bearbeiten

    Das I. Korps wurde von Generalleutnant Sir Douglas Haig kommandiert. Seine leitenden Stabsoffiziere waren Brigadegeneral J. E. Gough (Generalstabschef), Brigadegeneral H. S. Horne (kommandierender Royal Artillery) und Brigadegeneral S. R. Rice (kommandierender Royal Engineers).

    1. Division Bearbeiten

    Die 1. Division wurde von Generalmajor S. H. Lomax kommandiert, mit Colonel R. Fanshawe als GSO 1. Brigadegeneral N. D. Findlay kommandierte die Royal Artillery und Lieutenant-Colonel A. L. Schreiber kommandierte die Royal Engineers.

      (Brigadier-General F. I. Maxse)
      • 1. Coldstream Guards
      • 1. Schottische Garde
      • 1. The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
      • 2. Die Royal Munster Füsiliere[7]
      • 2. Das Royal Sussex Regiment
      • 1. The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
      • 1. The Northamptonshire Regiment
      • 2. Königliches Schützenkorps
      • 1. The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment)
      • 1. Die Grenzbewohner von Südwales
      • 1. The Gloucestershire Regiment
      • 2. Das walisische Regiment
      • Berittene Truppen
        • Ein Geschwader, 15. (des Königs) Husaren
        • 1. Radfahrer-Unternehmen
          • 113. Batterie, RFA
          • 114. Batterie, RFA
          • 115. Batterie, RFA
          • 116. Batterie, RFA
          • 117. Batterie, RFA
          • 118. Batterie, RFA
          • 46. ​​Batterie, RFA
          • 51. Batterie, RFA
          • 54. Batterie, RFA
          • 30. (Haubitze) Batterie, RFA
          • 40. (Haubitze) Batterie, RFA
          • 57. (Haubitze) Batterie, RFA
          • 23. Feldkompanie, RE
          • 26. Feldkompanie, RE

          2. Division Bearbeiten

          Die 2. Division wurde von Generalmajor C. C. Monro kommandiert, mit Oberst Hon. F. Gordon als GSO 1. Brigadegeneral E. M. Perceval kommandierte die Royal Artillery und Lieutenant-Colonel R. H. H. Boys kommandierte die Royal Engineers.

            (Brigadier-General R. Scott-Kerr)
            • 2. Grenadiergarde
            • 2. Coldstream Guards
            • 3. Coldstream Guards
            • 1. irische Garde
            • 2. The Worcestershire Regiment
            • 2. Die leichte Infanterie von Oxfordshire und Buckinghamshire
            • 2. Die leichte Highland-Infanterie
            • 2. Die Connaught Rangers
            • 1. The King's (Liverpool Regiment)
            • 2. The South Staffordshire Regiment
            • 1. Prinzessin Charlotte von Wales (Royal Berkshire Regiment)
            • 1. Königliches Schützenkorps
            • Berittene Truppen
              • B Schwadron, 15. (des Königs) Husaren
              • 2. Radfahrer-Unternehmen
                • 22. Batterie, RFA
                • 50. Batterie, RFA
                • 70. Batterie, RFA
                • 15. Batterie, RFA
                • 48. Batterie, RFA
                • 71. Batterie, RFA
                • 9. Batterie, RFA
                • 16. Batterie, RFA
                • 17. Batterie, RFA
                • 47. (Haubitze) Batterie, RFA
                • 56. (Haubitze) Batterie, RFA
                • 60. (Haubitze) Batterie, RFA
                • 5. Feldkompanie, RE
                • 11. Feldkompanie, RE

                Das II. Korps wurde von Generalleutnant Sir James Grierson befehligt. Seine leitenden Stabsoffiziere waren Brigadegeneral George Forestier-Walker (Generalstabschef), Brigadegeneral A. H. Short (kommandierender Royal Artillery) und Brigadegeneral A. E. Sandbach (kommandierender Royal Engineers).

                Generalleutnant Grierson starb am 17. August in einem Zug zwischen Rouen und Amiens. General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien übernahm am 21. August um 16 Uhr das Kommando in Bavai.

                3. Division Bearbeiten

                Die 3. Division wurde von Generalmajor Hubert I. W. Hamilton kommandiert, mit Oberst F. R. F. Boileau als GSO 1. Brigadegeneral F. D. V. Wing kommandierte die Royal Artillery und Lieutenant-Colonel C. S. Wilson befehligte die Royal Engineers.

                  (Brigadier-General F. W. N. McCracken)
                  • 3. Das Worcestershire Regiment
                  • 2. Die Freiwilligen des Prinzen von Wales (South Lancashire Regiment)
                  • 1. Der Herzog von Edinburgh (Wiltshire Regiment)
                  • 2. The Royal Irish Rifles
                  • 2. The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment)
                  • 2. The Royal Irish Regiment
                  • 4. The Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex Regiment)
                  • 1. Die Gordon Highlander[8]
                    (Brigadier-General F. C. Shaw)
                    • 1. Die Northumberland-Füsiliere
                    • 4. The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)
                    • 1. Das Lincolnshire Regiment
                    • 1. Die Royal Scots Fusiliers
                    • Berittene Truppen
                      • C-Geschwader, 15. (des Königs) Husaren
                      • 3. Radfahrer-Unternehmen
                        • 107. Batterie, RFA
                        • 108. Batterie, RFA
                        • 109. Batterie, RFA
                        • 6. Batterie, RFA
                        • 23. Batterie, RFA
                        • 49. Batterie, RFA
                        • 29. Batterie, RFA
                        • 41. Batterie, RFA
                        • 45. Batterie, RFA
                        • 128. (Haubitze) Batterie, RFA
                        • 129. (Haubitze) Batterie, RFA
                        • 130. (Haubitze) Batterie, RFA
                        • 56. Feldkompanie, RE
                        • 57. Feldkompanie, RE

                        5. Division Bearbeiten

                        Die 5. Division wurde von Generalmajor Sir C. Fergusson kommandiert, mit Oberstleutnant C. F. Romer als GSO 1. Brigadegeneral J. E. W. Headlam kommandierte die Royal Artillery und Oberstleutnant J. A. S. Tulloch kommandierte die Royal Engineers.

                          (Brigadier-General G. J. Cuthbert)
                          • 2. The King's Own Scottish Borderers
                          • 2. The Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment)
                          • 1. The Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)
                          • 2. The King's Own (Yorkshire Light Infantry)
                          • 2. Das Suffolk-Regiment
                          • 1. The East Surrey Regiment
                          • 1. Leichte Infanterie des Herzogs von Cornwall
                          • 2. Das Manchester Regiment
                          • 1. Das Norfolk-Regiment
                          • 1. Das Bedfordshire Regiment
                          • 1. Das Cheshire-Regiment
                          • 1. Das Dorsetshire Regiment
                          • Berittene Truppen
                            • A Squadron, 19. (Queen Alexandra's Own Royal) Husaren
                            • 5. Fahrradkompanie
                              • 11. Batterie, RFA
                              • 52. Batterie, RFA
                              • 80. Batterie, RFA
                              • 119. Batterie, RFA
                              • 120. Batterie, RFA
                              • 121. Batterie, RFA
                              • 122. Batterie, RFA
                              • 123. Batterie, RFA
                              • 124. Batterie, RFA
                              • 37. (Haubitze) Batterie, RFA
                              • 61. (Haubitze) Batterie, RFA
                              • 65. (Haubitze) Batterie, RFA
                              • 17. Feldkompanie, RE
                              • 59. Feldkompanie, RE

                              Das III. Korps wurde am 31. August 1914 in Frankreich unter dem Kommando von Generalmajor W. P. Pulteney gebildet. Seine leitenden Stabsoffiziere waren Brigadegeneral J. P. Du Cane (Generalstabschef), Brigadegeneral E. J. Phipps-Hornby (kommandierende Royal Artillery) und Brigadegeneral F. M. Glubb (kommandierende Royal Engineers).

                              4. Division Bearbeiten

                              Die 4. Division landete in der Nacht vom 22. auf den 23. August in Frankreich. Sie wurde von Generalmajor T. D'O kommandiert. Snow, mit Colonel J. E. Edmonds als GSO 1. Brigadegeneral G. F. Milne kommandierte die Royal Artillery und Lieutenant-Colonel H. B. Jones kommandierte die Royal Engineers.

                                (Brigadier-General J. A. L. Haldane)
                                • 1. The Royal Warwickshire Regiment
                                • 2nd Seaforth Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs, The Duke of Albany's)
                                • 1. Prinzessin Victoria (Royal Irish Fusiliers)
                                • 2. The Royal Dublin Füsiliers
                                • 1. Prinz Alberts (Somerset Light Infantry)
                                • 1. The East Lancashire Regiment
                                • 1. The Hampshire Regiment
                                • 1. Die Schützenbrigade (Prince Consort's Own)
                                • 1. King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment)
                                • 2. Die Lancashire-Füsiliere
                                • 2. Die Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
                                • 2. Das Essex-Regiment
                                • Berittene Truppen
                                  • B Squadron, 19. (Queen Alexandra's Own Royal) Husaren
                                  • 4. Radfahrer-Kompanie
                                    • 39. Batterie, RFA
                                    • 68. Batterie, RFA
                                    • 88. Batterie, RFA
                                    • 125. Batterie, RFA
                                    • 126. Batterie, RFA
                                    • 127. Batterie, RFA
                                    • 27. Batterie, RFA
                                    • 134. Batterie, RFA
                                    • 135. Batterie, RFA
                                    • 31. (Haubitze) Batterie, RFA
                                    • 35. (Haubitze) Batterie, RFA
                                    • 55. (Haubitze) Batterie, RFA
                                    • 7. Feldkompanie, RE
                                    • 9. Feldkompanie, RE

                                    6. Division Bearbeiten

                                    Die 6. Division schiffte sich am 8. und 9. September nach Frankreich ein. Es wurde von Generalmajor J. L. Keir kommandiert, mit Colonel W. T. Furse als GSO 1. Brigadegeneral W. L. H. Paget kommandierte die Royal Artillery und Lieutenant-Colonel G. C. Kemp befehligte die Royal Engineers.

                                      (Brigadier-General E. C. Ingouville-Williams)
                                      • 1. Die Buffs (East Kent Regiment)
                                      • 1. The Leicestershire Regiment
                                      • 1. The King's (Shropshire Light Infantry)
                                      • 2. The York und Lancaster Regiment
                                      • 1. The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)
                                      • 1. The Prince of Wales (North Staffordshire Regiment)
                                      • 2. Das Leinster Regiment des Prinzen von Wales (Königliche Kanadier)
                                      • 3. Die Schützenbrigade (die eigene des Prinzgemahls)
                                      • 1. The Prince of Wales's Own (West Yorkshire Regiment)
                                      • 1. Das East Yorkshire Regiment
                                      • 2. The Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment)
                                      • 2. Die Durham Light Infantry
                                      • Berittene Truppen
                                        • C Squadron, 19. (Queen Alexandra's Own Royal) Husaren
                                        • 6. Fahrradkompanie
                                          • 21. Batterie, RFA
                                          • 42. Batterie, RFA
                                          • 53. Batterie, RFA
                                          • 110. Batterie, RFA
                                          • 111. Batterie, RFA
                                          • 112. Batterie, RFA
                                          • 24. Batterie, RFA
                                          • 34. Batterie, RFA
                                          • 72. Batterie, RFA
                                          • 43. (Haubitze) Batterie, RFA
                                          • 86. (Haubitze) Batterie, RFA
                                          • 12. Feldkompanie, RE
                                          • 38. Feldkompanie, RE
                                            • Nr. 1 Belagerungsbatterie
                                            • Nr. 2 Belagerungsbatterie
                                            • Nr. 3 Belagerungsbatterie
                                            • Nr. 4 Belagerungsbatterie
                                            • Nr. 5 Belagerungsbatterie
                                            • Nr. 6 Belagerungsbatterie
                                            • 1. Die eigenen Cameron Highlander der Königin[7]

                                            Royal Flying Corps Bearbeiten

                                            Die Einheiten des Royal Flying Corps in Frankreich wurden von Brigadegeneral Sir David Henderson mit Oberstleutnant Frederick Sykes als seinem Stabschef kommandiert.

                                            Linien der Kommunikationsverteidigungstruppen Bearbeiten

                                            Ein Kavallerieregiment bestand aus drei Schwadronen und war mit zwei Maschinengewehren ausgestattet. Ein Infanteriebataillon bestand aus vier Kompanien und zwei Maschinengewehren.

                                            Eine Batterie der Royal Horse Artillery enthielt sechs 13-Pfünder-Kanonen, während eine Batterie der Royal Field Artillery sechs 18-Pfünder-Kanonen oder sechs 4,5-Zoll-Haubitzen enthielt. Eine schwere Batterie der Royal Garrison Artillery enthielt vier 60-Pfünder-Geschütze. Jede Batterie hatte zwei Munitionswagen pro Geschütz, und jede Artilleriebrigade enthielt eine eigene Munitionskolonne.

                                            Jede Division erhielt im September eine Flak-Abteilung von 1-Pfünder-Pom-Pom-Geschützen, die an die Divisionsartillerie angeschlossen war.

                                            Die Kavalleriedivision hatte insgesamt 12 Kavallerieregimenter in vier Brigaden und jede Infanteriedivision hatte 12 Bataillone in drei Brigaden. Die Stärke der Kavallerie-Division (ohne 5. Kavallerie-Brigade) betrug 9.269 alle Ränge, mit 9.815 Pferden, 24 13-Pfünder-Geschützen und 24 Maschinengewehren. Die Stärke jeder Infanteriedivision betrug 18.073 alle Ränge mit 5.592 Pferden, 76 Geschützen und 24 Maschinengewehren.

                                            Im Großen und Ganzen repräsentierte das British Expeditionary Force die Hälfte der Kampfstärke der britischen Armee als imperiale Macht, ein beträchtlicher Teil der Armee musste für Garnisonen in Übersee reserviert werden. Es wurde erwartet, dass die Heimatverteidigung von den Freiwilligen der Territorial Force und von den Reserven bereitgestellt wird.

                                            Die Gesamtstärke der regulären Armee betrug im Juli 125.000 Mann auf den britischen Inseln, davon 75.000 in Indien und Burma und weitere 33.000 in anderen Überseeposten. Die Armeereserve umfasste 145.000 Mann, davon 64.000 in der Miliz (oder Sonderreserve) und 272.000 in der Territorial Force.

                                            Heimservice Bearbeiten

                                            Die reguläre Aufstellung in Friedenszeiten auf den britischen Inseln bestand aus einundachtzig Bataillonen Infanterie – theoretisch wurde ein Bataillon jedes Linienregiments zu einem bestimmten Zeitpunkt im Heimatdienst und eines im Überseedienst eingesetzt, wobei die Bataillone alle paar Jahre wechselten – und neunzehn Regimenter der Kavallerie.

                                            Abgesehen von denen, die für die Expeditionsstreitkräfte bestimmt waren, gab es drei Bataillone Garde und acht Linieninfanterie (einschließlich derjenigen auf den Kanalinseln) – ungefähr der Wert einer Division. In diesem Fall wurden sechs Bataillone dieser regulären Truppen zusammen mit der Expeditionstruppe auf den Kontinent entsandt, um als Armeetruppen zu fungieren. Das Border Regiment und Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own (Yorkshire Regiment) hatten die ungewöhnliche Auszeichnung, die einzigen beiden regulären Infanterieregimenter zu sein, die keine Truppen zur Expeditionsstreitmacht beistellten, beide würden zuerst mit der 7. Division kämpfen, die im Oktober landete.

                                            Angesichts der Unruhen, die während der nationalen Streiks 1911 bis 1912 stattgefunden hatten, bestand die Sorge, dass es bei Kriegsausbruch in London zu Unruhen kommen würde. Folglich waren drei Kavallerieregimenter – die 1st Life Guards, 2nd Life Guards und Royal Horse Guards – im Londoner Distrikt stationiert und nicht für die Expeditionsstreitkräfte vorgesehen . Darüber hinaus gab es drei Royal Field Artillery Brigaden und eine Reihe von Royal Horse Artillery Batterien, die nicht für den Überseedienst bestimmt waren.

                                            Nachdem die Expeditionsstreitkräfte abgezogen waren, blieben insgesamt drei Kavallerieregimenter (etwas erschöpft) und fünf Infanteriebataillone [12] – weniger als ein Zehntel der normalen Kampfstärke der Heimatstreitkräfte – übrig und wurden hauptsächlich in der Umgebung von London eingesetzt. Ergänzt wurde diese Verteidigungskraft durch die bei Kriegsausbruch einberufenen Einheiten der Territorial Force – viele waren ja schon bei der Mobilmachung für ihre Sommerausbildung verkörpert – und durch die Sonderreserve.

                                            Die Territorial Force war mit einer Mobilisierungsstärke von vierzehn Divisionen geplant, jede nach dem Muster einer regulären Division mit zwölf Infanteriebataillonen, vier Artilleriebrigaden, zwei Pionierkompanien usw. – und vierzehn Brigaden der Yeomanry-Kavallerie. Es war vorgesehen, diese Einheiten ausschließlich für die Heimatverteidigung einzusetzen, obwohl sich fast alle freiwillig zum Auslandsdienst meldeten, trafen die ersten Bataillone im November auf dem Kontinent ein.

                                            Überseedienst Bearbeiten

                                            Achtundvierzig Infanteriebataillone dienten in Indien – das Äquivalent von vier regulären Divisionen – davon fünf in Malta, vier in Südafrika, vier in Ägypten und ein Dutzend in verschiedenen anderen imperialen Außenposten. Weitere neun reguläre Kavallerieregimenter dienten in Indien, zwei in Südafrika und eines in Ägypten.

                                            Von den Streitkräften im Rest des britischen Empire wurde nicht erwartet, dass sie zur Expeditionsstreitmacht beitragen. Ein beträchtlicher Teil von ihnen war Teil der indischen Zehn-Divisionen-Armee, eine Mischung aus lokalen Streitkräften und britischen regulären Truppen hatte im August 1913 damit begonnen, die indischen Streitkräfte in einem europäischen Krieg einzusetzen, und ein vorläufiger Plan war ausgearbeitet worden für zwei Infanterie-Divisionen und eine Kavallerie-Brigade vorgesehen, um die Expeditionsstreitmacht zu ergänzen, wurden diese schließlich entsandt, kamen aber erst im Oktober in Frankreich an.

                                            In diesem Fall wurden die meisten der überseeischen Garnisonseinheiten abgezogen, sobald sie durch Territorialbataillone ersetzt werden konnten, und im Vereinigten Königreich wurden nach und nach neue reguläre Divisionen gebildet. Keine dieser Einheiten traf rechtzeitig ein, um den Dienst bei der Expeditionsstreitmacht zu sehen.


                                            Geliehene Soldaten: Die 27. und 30. amerikanische Division und die britische Armee an der Ypern-Front, August-September 1918

                                            Ypern, oder „Wipers“, wie die britischen Tommies die alte belgische Stadt nannten, ist gleichbedeutend mit dem Ersten Weltkrieg. Während vier Jahren wurden in scheinbar endlosen Kämpfen außergewöhnlich viele Menschenleben dort und in der nahen Umgebung verloren. Zahlreiche Denkmäler und Friedhöfe prägen die Landschaft und erinnern an die Schrecken des Krieges. Ein solches Denkmal würdigt die 27. und 30. amerikanische Division. Diese beiden Divisionen, die größtenteils aus Truppen der Nationalgarde bestanden, erhielten ihre Feuertaufe am 30. August-1. und Wytschaete. Die Deutschen hatten die Stellungen im April dieses Jahres gewonnen, befanden sich jedoch auf dem Rückzug, als die Amerikaner eintrafen. Nichtsdestotrotz weigerten sie sich, stillschweigend in den Ruhestand zu gehen, und erteilten den eifrigen Kneipen dabei eine Lektion im Kampf an der Westfront.

                                            Ruinen der St.-Martins-Kirche in Ypern, Belgien, Ca. 1918. (Kriegsabt.)

                                            Als diese Operation begann, befanden sich die Amerikaner in der zweiten Phase der Ausbildung durch die besten Soldaten, die die Alliierten zu bieten hatten. Kurz nach seiner Ankunft an der Westfront im Frühjahr 1918 schickte der Kommandeur der American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), General John J. Pershing, widerstrebend die 27. und 30. Division zum Training mit der britischen Armee. Es war seine Art, Feldmarschall Sir Douglas Haig zu beschwichtigen, der darauf bestand, dass sich amerikanische Doughboys zur British Expeditionary Force (BEF) zusammenschließen, um die Reihen seiner erschöpften Armee zu füllen. Pershing hatte jedoch andere Pläne. Er versuchte, eine unabhängige Armee zu bilden und widerstand dem ständigen Druck von Haig. Erst als das US-Kriegsministerium ein Angebot der Briten annahm, amerikanische Truppen nach Europa zu transportieren, erlaubte Pershing den Amerikanern, mit Haigs Tommies zu trainieren. Darüber hinaus stimmte Pershing zu, dass die Briten seine Männer ausrüsten, füttern und bewaffnen würden und dass sie im Notfall auch an der Front eingesetzt werden könnten. Im Rahmen dieses Ausbildungsprogramms verbrachten zehn amerikanische Divisionen als American II Corps Zeit im britischen Sektor. Das Abkommen kam auch den Amerikanern zugute, da dem Kriegsministerium weder die Schifffahrt zur Verfügung stand, um Truppen nach Übersee zu schicken, noch genügend Waffen zur Verfügung standen, um sie jedem Soldaten zu übergeben.

                                            Der Frieden zwischen den beiden Kommandeuren wurde jedoch beeinträchtigt, als Pershing acht der Divisionen seiner neu organisierten amerikanischen Ersten Armee zuordnete. Pershing wollte alle zehn Divisionen zurück, aber Haig protestierte vehement und durfte zwei behalten – die 27. und die 30. Division. Sie blieben als kleinstes Korps der AEF zurück.

                                            Haig hatte jetzt etwa 50.000 frische amerikanische Soldaten, die er nach eigenem Ermessen einsetzen konnte. Eine AEF-Division umfasste etwa 27.000 Offiziere und Mannschaften, aber die 27. und 30. erreichten diese Stärke nie. Ihre Artilleriebrigaden trafen separat in Frankreich ein und wurden sofort der Ersten Armee zugeteilt. Pershing teilte dem 27. und 30. auch erst nach dem Waffenstillstand Ersatz zu, ein Zeichen dafür, dass er sie für weniger wichtig hielt als seine anderen Divisionen.

                                            Vor ihrer Ankunft in Frankreich trainierte die 27. Division in Camp Wadsworth, South Carolina, in der Nähe von Asheville, North Carolina, und den Blue Ridge Mountains. Die meisten Armeedivisionen wurden zur Ausbildung in den milderen Süden und Südosten der Vereinigten Staaten geschickt. „Die Nächte waren bitterkalt, aber tagsüber war die Sonne sengend heiß“, erinnerte sich Private William F. Clarke, ein Mitglied des 104. Maschinengewehr-Bataillons, lebhaft. Es war nicht ungewöhnlich, dass man entweder von „einem Tag auf dem Bohrfeld oder von einer zehn Meilen langen Wanderung zurückkam, stark schwitzte und dann nachts fast erfror“.

                                            Generalmajor John F. O’Ryan war der Kommandeur der 27. Division und der ranghöchste Offizier der Nationalgarde, der während des Krieges ein so großes Truppenkontingent befehligte. Er war ein Disziplinarbeamter und seine Truppen wurden für ihr professionelles Auftreten anerkannt, das neben den Einheiten der regulären Armee stand. Die Division bestand aus Truppen aus ganz New York, darunter Männer aus einigen der prominentesten Familien von New York City sowie Bauern und Arbeiter aus dem gesamten Empire State. Vor dem Dienst in Übersee wurden die New Yorker 1916 während der Punitive Expedition als 6. Division, die einzige auf diese Weise organisierte Gardeeinheit, an die mexikanische Grenze geschickt. Die 27. Division nahm zu Ehren ihres Kommandanten ein Abzeichen an, das aus einem rot umrandeten schwarzen Kreis mit den Buchstaben "NYD" im Monogramm mit den Sternen des Sternbildes Orion bestand.

                                            Die 30. Division war eher typisch für die Nationalgarde. Die Division bestand aus Regimentern aus North und South Carolina und Tennessee und versammelte sich in Camp Sevier in der Nähe von Greenville, South Carolina. Während des Krieges kommandierten neun verschiedene Generaloffiziere die Division, bis sich die Armee für einen West Point-Klassenkameraden von Pershing, Generalmajor Edward M. Lewis, entschied, der zuvor die 3. Infanteriebrigade der 2. Division geführt hatte. Die 30. Division, nach Präsident Andrew Jackson "Old Hickory" genannt, umfasste Einheiten, deren Abstammung bis in den Krieg von 1812 zurückreicht. Wie die der 27. hatten die Regimenter der 30. Division während der Strafexpedition an der mexikanischen Grenze gedient.

                                            Ein Soldat der 71. Infanterie-Regiment, New York National Guard, verabschiedet sich von seiner Geliebten, als sein Regiment nach Camp Wadsworth, Spartanburg, S.C. geht, wo die New Yorker Division für den Dienst ausgebildet wird. 1917. IFS.

                                            Über acht Monate lang absolvierten beide Divisionen ein intensives körperliches Fitnesstraining, führten Manöver im offenen Krieg durch und nahmen an Vorträgen britischer und französischer Offiziere teil, die als Berater in die USA entsandt wurden. Einheiten der 27. und 30. Division trafen in der letzten Maiwoche 1918 in Frankreich ein. In den Häfen von Calais und Brest wurden die Amerikaner mit dem fernen Donner von Artilleriegeschützen und nächtlichen deutschen Luftangriffen im Kriegsgebiet begrüßt. Nach tagelangem Marschieren wurden beide Divisionen einem Abschnitt hinter der britischen Front zugeteilt, um mit der Ausbildung zu beginnen. Um die Kompatibilität mit den britischen Soldaten zu gewährleisten, mussten die Amerikaner ihre geliebten Kaliber .30 Modell 1917 gegen die Lee-Enfield Mark III eintauschen.

                                            Das speziell für diese Divisionen konzipierte Ausbildungsprogramm bestand aus einer zehnwöchigen Ausbildung für Infanterie- und MG-Truppen, die in drei Perioden durchgeführt wurde. Zuerst trainierten sie mindestens vier Wochen lang außerhalb der Linie und umfassten Bohrer, Musketen und körperliche Übungen. Dazu gehörte auch Nachhilfe im Lewis-Maschinengewehr und anderen Infanteriewaffen. Als nächstes sollten die Amerikaner drei Wochen lang britische Truppen in der Linie angreifen. Offiziere und Unteroffiziere traten für 48 Stunden ein, während sich die Männer für kürzere Zeiträume mit britischen Kompanien und Zügen verbanden. Schließlich sollte jedes Regiment drei bis vier Wochen lang in einem rückwärtigen Bereich trainieren, um eine fortgeschrittene Ausbildung zu ermöglichen. Dort würden die Amerikaner das Manövrieren von Bataillonen und Kompanien üben. Die Doughboys und Tommies haben sich größtenteils gut verstanden. Es überrascht jedoch nicht, dass sich die Amerikaner über die britischen Rationen beschwerten. An amerikanisches Essen in großen Portionen gewöhnt, bekamen sie stattdessen eine kleine Fleischration, Tee (statt Kaffee) und Käse.

                                            Während der zweiten Ausbildungsperiode wurden die 27. und 30. Division der britischen Zweiten Armee zur Ausbildung zugeteilt und zogen in ihren Abschnitt südwestlich von Ypern, um einen Teil der Ost-Poperinghe-Linie zu organisieren und zu verteidigen. Die Position erhielt ihren Namen von der Stadt Poperhinghe, die mehrere Kilometer nördlich liegt und aus einem unregelmäßigen System von unverbundenen Schützengräben, Festungen und Bunkern besteht.

                                            In der ersten Augusthälfte rückte die 30. Division in die Nähe von Poperhinghe und Watou vor, wo sie unter die taktische Kontrolle des britischen II Kommando des britischen XIX. Korps. Dazu gehörten der Dickebuschsee und die Scherpenberggebiete.

                                            Schließlich rückte der 30. in den gleichen Reservesektor wie der 27. vor und ließ beide an der Nordwand des Lysvorsprungs zurück, einer Front, die 4.000 Yards bedeckte. Der Bogen wurde im Frühjahr 1918 in der alliierten Linie südlich von Ypern gebildet, als die Deutschen während der Operation Georgette entlang der Lys angriffen und den Franzosen den Kemmel-Hügel eroberten. Ein britischer Offizier schrieb, dass "der Verlust von Kemmel durch die Franzosen gut ist, wir hielten ihn trotzdem für, es sollte sie weniger unhöflich machen".

                                            Der Vorsprung erstreckte sich vom Zillebeke-See, einst die wichtigste Wasserversorgung für Ypern, südöstlich von Voormezeele. Es war von den Kämpfen des Ersten Ypern im Jahr 1914 geprägt und die nachfolgenden Kämpfe hatten tiefe Krater geschaffen. Der Boden war sehr niedrig und Granatlöcher wurden zu kleinen Tümpeln. Um den Vorsprung herum befand sich die Anhöhe - Observatory Ridge, Passchendaele Ridge, Messines-Wytschaete Ridge und Kemmel Hill, die alle von den Deutschen gehalten wurden. Diese Stellungen ermöglichten dem Feind ein klares Schussfeld in alle Richtungen. Ein Amerikaner beobachtete, dass „die Männer in den vorderen Systemen oft glaubten, von ihrer eigenen Artillerie beschossen zu werden, obwohl die Granaten von den feindlichen Geschützen rechts und hinten stammten“.

                                            Bataillone der 119. und 120. Infanterie-Regiments der 30. Division begannen, Teile der Front im Kanalsektor, zehn Meilen südwestlich von Ypern, zu besetzen. Ein Regiment hatte sein Lager in „Dirty Bucket“, etwa sechs Kilometer von Ypern entfernt. Die Soldaten wurden in von den Briten gebauten Hütten in einem Eichenhain untergebracht, der groß genug war, um eine ganze Kompanie (256 Offiziere und Männer) unterzubringen. Die Quartiere waren alles andere als luxuriös – ein Mangel an Feldbetten oder Kojen bedeutete, dass Soldaten auf dem Boden schliefen. Für die Kommandanten und Stabsoffiziere des 27. und 30. war es jedoch ganz anders. Die 27. behielt ihr Hauptquartier in Oudezeele, während die 30. Division ihr Kommando in Watou aufstellte, wo O’Ryan und Lewis relativ bequem schliefen. Viele Mitarbeiter der Divisionen und hochrangige Regimentsoffiziere waren in der sogenannten „Armstrong-Hütte“ untergebracht. Zusammenklappbar und leicht zu bewegen, wurden die Seiten der Hütten mit Sandsäcken überschüttet, um die Insassen vor Schrapnell- und Granatsplittern zu schützen, falls eine Artilleriegeschosse in der Nähe explodieren sollte. Die Sandsackbänke waren einen Meter hoch, „gerade genug, um Sie zu bedecken, wenn Sie auf dem Feldbett liegen“.

                                            Wandskalierung in Camp Wadsworth, S.C. Ca. 1918. Paul Thompson. (Kriegsabt.)

                                            Beide Divisionen waren jetzt nur noch vier Meilen von der Front entfernt und in Reichweite der feindlichen Artillerie. Am 13. Juli starb der Soldat Robert P. Friedman, ein Mitglied der 102. Ingenieure, an den Folgen von deutschen Granatenfeuer und wurde der erste Gefechtsopfer der 27. Division. Friedman war einer von vielen jüdischen Soldaten, sowohl Offiziere als auch Mannschaften, in der 27., und sein Verlust wurde von allen in der Division betrauert. Die 30. Division hatte ihren ersten kampfbedingten Tod einen Monat zuvor, als Oberleutnant Wily O. Bissett von der 119. Infanterie am 17. Juni auf ähnliche Weise getötet wurde.

                                            In Belgien erlebten die Amerikaner die Not der Zivilbevölkerung. Obwohl der Beschuss die Dörfer um Ypern fast zerstört hatte, konnte er den Geist des flämischen Volkes nicht brechen. Während die Bauern ihre Felder weiter bewirtschafteten, wurden Ingenieure der amerikanischen Divisionen an der East Poperinghe Defense Line ausdrücklich angewiesen, die Ernte nicht zu beschädigen. Dieser Befehl war schwer zu befolgen, da die Verlegung von Drahtverwicklungen in der Nähe der Front dazu führte, dass trotz Protesten der Bauern ein Teil der Ernten gerodet werden musste.

                                            In mehreren Nächten, vom 16. bis 24. August, bereiteten sich die 27. und 30. Division auf den Kampf vor. Die 30. Division befahl ihrer 60. Infanteriebrigade, den Kanalsektor von der britischen 33. Division zu übernehmen, die sich an der Nordwand des Lysvorsprungs südwestlich von Ypern befindet. Die 119. Infanterie befand sich auf der rechten Seite der Linie, die 120. Infanterie auf der linken Seite. In Reserve war die 59. Infanteriebrigade (117. und 118. Infanterieregiment). Eine Woche später löste die 53. Infanteriebrigade (105. und 106. Infanterie-Regiment), 27. Division, die britische 6. Division im Abschnitt Dickebusch ab. Es übernahm die Front- und Unterstützungsstellungen mit Regimentern Seite an Seite und der 54. Infanteriebrigade (107. und 108. Infanterie-Regiment) in Reserve. Die britischen Divisionen verließen ihre Artillerieeinheiten, um die Amerikaner zu unterstützen.

                                            Truppenbewegungen sowie der Transport von Vorräten wurden mit Stadtbahnen durchgeführt und während der Nacht durchgeführt, um das Feuer der deutschen Artillerie auf den Kemmelberg zu vermeiden. Den Infanterie- und Maschinengewehreinheiten voraus waren die 102. (27. Division) und 105. (30. Division) Pioniere. Sie hatten die schwierige und gefährliche Aufgabe, pockennarbige Straßen zu reparieren, die nach drei Jahren Beschuss fast unpassierbar waren. Als die Truppen die Front erreichten, wurden sie in Holzhütten einquartiert, die von britischen Ingenieuren gebaut wurden. Zwei Trupps von acht Männern, mit einem Korporal an der Spitze, schliefen in einer Hütte, die ein Bewohner als geräumig bezeichnete. Um die Verbindung zwischen Infanterie und Artillerie zu koordinieren, mussten Arbeitskommandos Kabel verlegen. Das bedeutete, einen sechs Fuß langen Graben durch den harten flandrischen Lehm zu graben, der dem Boden von South Carolina nicht unähnlich war.

                                            Jeder Tag beinhaltete die Überwachung von Beobachtungsposten und Flugzeugen. 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.

                                            Image 1
                                            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
                                            Christmas 1914
                                            . The two barrels of beer were drunk, and the German officer was right: if it was possible for a man to have drunk the two barrels himself he would have bursted before he had got drunk. French beer was rotten stuff.

                                            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 Die Zeiten oder Morning Post, 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."

                                            Verweise:
                                            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).


                                            World War One

                                            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.


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