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Passchendaele 100 years on

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ASH.31/07/2017 20:50:01
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Just been watching on tv the ceremony commemorating 100 years of the Battle of Passchendaele. I was choked and moved to tears hearing letters from the fallen and their families. Many so young and some not so young with families forced to fight, thousands of of them. Such a tragedy on such a mass scale. A sin against humanity.

Shame nothing was said, it never is, on why it happened or who was to blame. The people responsible for it all - the generals and the leaders at the top, on both sides and their egos'

Watching this again reminds me why I despise nationalism.

Dave Hopkin31/07/2017 20:57:33
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Without the intention of starting an argument or offending anyone's feelings

It was a war that had to be fought, just as much as the second the historians of the 1960's who portrayed it as a "pointless war" have a lot to answer for I am afraid

Biggles' Elder Brother - Moderator31/07/2017 20:59:04
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Yes - far too many young men, on both sides, sacrificed for heaven knows what purpose - I don't think by then anyone really knew why. If ever there was a pointless war it was WWI - and that is the tradigy of it all.

Go to any local church and see the list of the war dead - its always much longer for WWI than others - in the relatively small town where I live the impact in terms of losing so many young people, from what was then a very small community, must have been immense.

BEB

Biggles' Elder Brother - Moderator31/07/2017 21:00:06
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Well - we'll have to agree to differ on that one Dave - WWII yes I can see the point - WWI, no.

BEB

Dave Hopkin31/07/2017 21:13:10
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One of the problems associated with WW1 is the lack of clarity of "why we fought" - unlike WW2 where the horrors were all too apparent they were much more subtle in WW1 - the historians of the 50s and 60s (which formed the basis for what we commonly hold as the popular view) voiced opinions and analysis against the background of WW2, but as many many records came into the public area under the 60 year rule - a great deal of re-evaluation has been done with the benefit of these insights

Max Hastings wrote quite a compelling piece on it **LINK**

Geoff Sleath31/07/2017 21:14:29
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I had 3 uncles who fought in WW1 (my father, born in 1909 was too young, and too disabled for WW2). 2 came back and my uncle Sydney was killed in May 1916 on a wire cutting expedition. He was quite old at 22!

I agree with BEB. In fact very few, if any, wars are really justified and WW2 is an exception.

Geoff

Dave Hopkin31/07/2017 21:23:13
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Please dont misunderstand my posts - my family lost two in the first war, one in Palestine buried in what is now the Gaza Strip, and one in Devils Wood in the middle phase of the Somme Offensive (he was 17 and already survived Gallipoli having lied about his age)

But I ask myself if we had not gone to war in 1914 what would have been the result? The answers I always come back to seems to point out that it was for a reason we fought

John Bisset31/07/2017 21:24:05
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My understanding is that while there were several countries in Europe 'spoiling for a fight', the actual outbreak of hostilities was largely due to misunderstandings and errors by the various military planning staffs. Although there were plans for rapid deployment of troops towards the frontier jump-off positions by train, no-one had thought out how to satisfactorily bring them back in an orderly way from their mobilised positions. That exposed forces to a risk of a sneak attack succeeding, so that once deployed it was 'safer' to go into action than to back away.

The senior staffs did not understand the implications of the new transport capabilities, nor the increased danger which machine guns and modern artillery etc. posed. They were, quite simply, ignorant - and generally far too slow to learn. Warfare had changed, greatly.

So it was not only largely unjustified and to some extent accidental in its beginnings, but a war of a ferocity hitherto undreamed. Appalling. My family was lucky; we only lost one close relative in WW1.

Edited By John Bisset on 31/07/2017 21:26:25

Edited By John Bisset on 31/07/2017 21:26:42

David Davis31/07/2017 21:31:59
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At the time Great Britain, her Allies principally the French, her Dominions and her Empire had been at war with Germany for nearly three years.

In the previous year, the battle of the Somme had been fought which had resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of British, French and German soldiers, but the Allies had eventually forced the Germans out of their prepared positions which they had occupied since 1914. They retreated even further back in February 1917. Also in 1916 the Battle of Verdun had taken place between the Germans and the French. The Battle of Verdun still holds two records; it remains the longest battle in history having started in February 1916 and having ended in November 1916 and more men were killed per hectare, acre or square mile then on any other battlefield anywhere. It is said that if all the men killed in the Battle of Verdun could be brought back to life and made to stand on the spot where they were killed, there would not be sufficient space on the battlefield to enable themn to do so.

In April 1917 the French attacked on the Chemin des Dames in the Aisne. It was a disaster and many French infantry regiments mutinied. The French and British military authorities at the time managed to suppress this information but it fell to the British Army to play the leading role in attacking the Germans from that time onwards until the end of the war, at first to keep the Germans away from the French.

In June 1917 the British Army achieved an overwhelming victory against the Germans at Messines and the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele was a spectacular success. Edmund Blunden, a young officer in the Hampshire Regiment wrote that his biggest problem that day lay in locating the German frontline trenches. They had all been blown to bits by the artillery. Then it started to rain. The artillery barrage had wrecked the drainage system in the flat Flanders countryside and some soldiers drowned in the mud. Just how many died in this way is still a matter of dispute.

It was, in my opinion, madness to continue the battle when the conditions were so bad, but it did not rain for the entire duration of the battle and before you condemn the generals what would you have done?

Not attacked at all? Then perhaps the Germans would have attacked a demoralised French Army.

Attack but not advance to Passchendaele? That would have left the British Army in a worse position than existed on their start line.

Or carry on to Passchendaele where at least they would be on high ground.

There is no right answer.

David Davis31/07/2017 21:48:16
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PS.

The reasons for fighting in a nutshell.

Great Britain had an understanding with France, the Entente Cordial, that she would come to her aid in the event of her being at war with Germany. Great Britain was also a guarantor of Belgian neutrality.

Germany felt that she was surrounded by a hostile Russia and a France determined to avenge her defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 so she adopted the Schlieffen plan which was supposed to defeat France in forty-six days before she turned her attention towards the Russians. To enable this plan to work it was necessary to attack France via Belgium. Once Germany had invaded Belgium, Great Britain was obliged to declare war on Germany.

If we had stayed out, Germany would have won the war and imposed draconian terms on the defeated nations as she did with Russia in the Treaty of Brest Litovsk in 1917.

The effect of a German victory in the First World War is still a subject for debate.

Edited By David Davis on 31/07/2017 22:16:03

Dave Hopkin31/07/2017 21:56:17
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Posted by David Davis on 31/07/2017 21:31:59:

At the time Great Britain, her Allies principally the French, her Dominions and her Empire had been at war with Germany for nearly three years.

<SNIP>

There is no right answer.

To embroider the post above.... Keep in mind the reason we were in the war was to regain Belgian independence, as Germany was occupying large portions of it and after the halting of their early war advances (first battle of the Marne) they basically fell back a little to the best positions available (the higher ground) and settled down to static warfare to concentrate their efforts in the East - leaving the western allies a choice of accepting German occupation or attacking them - the Germans mounted only limited offensives in the west for the reminder of the war until 1918 with the Micheal Offensive when they tried to knock Britain out of the war before the main body of the US Army was operational in France - so the western allies had no political choice but to attack - the issue was how to break the overpowering advantage that prepared positions and machine guns and indirect artillery fire gave to the defence - that took time

ASH.31/07/2017 22:16:28
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Interesting article with links..

**LINK**

Peter Jenkins01/08/2017 00:00:44
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I often wondered why WW1 started and it was only after visiting the grave of my wife's grand father, who died in Sept 1918 during the final Allied push, that I became sufficiently interested to read sufficient material to allow me to understand what led to WW1. David Davis's "reasons in a nutshell" unfortunately miss out the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand during his visit to Sarajevo. At that time, that part of the Balkans was under the control of the Austro Hungarian empire which had ousted the weakening Ottoman Empire from control of the area.

Emperor Franz Joseph's decision to "teach Servia (as Serbia was called in those days) a lesson for engineering the assassination (which they did) of the Archduke, was to lead eventually to the conflict that was WW1. As far as history lessons are concerned, it seems to me that the law of unintended consequences was the major cause of the conflagration. Any attack on Serbia would compel the Tsar of Russia to step in to the aid of this Slavic nation. Key also was the view of Kaiser Wilhelm who, thinking he was the great strategist, gave tacit support to Franz Joseph's plan without consulting his own government. David flags up the alignment of France and Russia against Germany and the Hapsburgs in Vienna. The assumption that the Russians would stay out of the attack on Serbia was ill founded but might have not mattered had Austria Hungary acutally managed to defeat the Serbians in their first major engagement. It turned into a defeat for the Austrians requiring a much greater effort over a longer time and forced the Tsar's hand in mobilising against Austria Hungary. Meanwhile, the Kaiser's tacit approval of Franz Joseph's actions were now coming home to roost. Sandwiched between France and Russia, Germany felt under threat as a result of the Balkan battle and was forced to consider what fighting on two fronts would entail. That led to the dusting off of the Schliefen plan - the attack on France through Belgium - before the Russians could get fully mobilised. As David said, Britain had guaranteed the sovereignty of Belgium and so was committed to coming to her aid when Germany invaded. Adding to this string of errors was the surprising lack of any significant diplomatic activity between the major powers so that they all ended up falling into the mess of WW1. Had Franz Joseph thought that his proposed action against Serbia would lead to the break up of his Empire in 4 years I doubt he would have gone down that route. If the Kaiser had realised the full consequences, as his Foreign Minister did, of the potential for a major conflict resulting from punitive action agains Serbia, he would not have given the Franz Joseph the green light which led to his own defenestration once the German Army had lost the initiative. At the back end of 1918, we should remember that the most professional Army in the field was the British Army and it was they who were principally responsible for the defeat of the Germans. The American's provided little in the way of an Army until September 1918 when for the first time an American Army was committed to the field of battle. Prior to that, American Divisions fought under the command of a British General. The threat to the Germans was that America had the industrial and personnel might to tilt the balance decisively in 1919. So, the German Army handed the civilian government the job of sorting out an Armistice and then blamed the civil government for the "stab in the back" which led to their ultimate surrender.

The battle of the Messines ridge in early 1917 had been so successful because of the detonation of some 20 off huge mines that literally blew the German front line to smithereens. Haig heard that there was a potential for a breakthrough and asked the General in command when he could mount an attack to exploit this weakness. The answer was "ready to go in 3 days". Haig felt this was too long and passed the job to the neighbouring General who took weeks to get his plan into action and that was the Third Battle of Ypres. The weather during that time had been dry and sunny. So, had Haig not felt that 3 days was too long to wait for the attack to be mounted, the terrible Third Battle of Ypres would never have occurred. It is possible that the shock of this British advance, following the disruption to that part of the German front line by the carefully planned and executed mine warfare, that the British Army might have achieved their aim of breaking down the German defence and rolling up the German Army in 1917. It was not to be so the dreadful 100+ days of the Third Battle of Ypres continues to exercise it's fearful hold on our collective imaginations.

So, as far as I can see, WW1 happened because of extraordinary stupidity on the part of Emperor Franz Joseph and Kaiser Wilhelm compounded by the Tsar of Russia's actions and the lack of any knowledge on the part of Britain and France as to what was actually going on in central Europe during July 1914. It is almost inconceivable in today's "connected" world for this highly disconnected train of events to occur - almost but not quite I suppose since we only need to look at the situation with North Korea today.

Of course, I might be wrong!

ted hughes01/08/2017 08:31:45
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I think the pity of the 1st WW is not to do with the causes or reasons, but the futility of the tactics.

No-one had foreseen the power of the machine gun - it could be adjusted for a specific range, traverse back and fore ,was belt fed and provided a continuous impenetrable barrier.

This had never existed before.

Thousands of troops could be thrown at it (and they were) without success.

J D 801/08/2017 08:49:40
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flight lineAt these times we remember all those lost on the battle fields and rightly so. There were also many who survived but were injured in body and or mind.

The picture postcard shows my grandfather John Rees Evans and is dated January 1918.

Before and after conflict photos show a different person. He was a casualty of Great War but his name is not on any memorial as it was some years after WW1 when my mam was just eight he took his own life.flight line

Edited By J D 8 on 01/08/2017 08:57:41

ted hughes01/08/2017 09:05:45
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Posted by J D 8 on 01/08/2017 08:49:40:

flight lineAt these times we remember all those lost on the battle fields and rightly so. There were also many who survived but were injured in body and or mind.

The picture postcard shows my grandfather John Rees Evans and is dated January 1918.

Before and after conflict photos show a different person. He was a casualty of Great War but his name is not on any memorial as it was some years after WW1 when my mam was just eight he took his own life.flight line

Edited By J D 8 on 01/08/2017 08:57:41

Very important point and very moving.

Michael Ramsay-Fraser01/08/2017 10:58:10
222 forum posts

I'm not going to make an argument for either opinion on this subject for once. I have my own feelings on the subject and will keep them to myself.

However, I would respectfully ask the question as to why such a potentially divisive thread should continue to run when many other threads on similar veins have been closed with the reason being given that 'this is a modelling forum and should be restricted to the subject matter'?

I, and am sure others, have been pulled up for expressing opinions on similar subjects in the past and whilst I'm more than happy to debate this and other non-modelling subjects, it usually leads to widely differing opinions.

I'm just asking the question, what subjects are open for discussion and which are not? At the moment, I'm a little confused.

Pete B - Moderator01/08/2017 11:38:13
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How on earth could anyone find this thread divisive or controversial? It's been posted to acknowledge an awful part of human history and, as shown above, has a personal dimension for some of us.

The thread is not provocative and people are debating an historical point. They are doing so in reasonable and polite fashion. The content is not - as yet at least - political. Therefore, no one has breached the C of C, so what would be the basis for any Mod input?

The C of C (link found at the bottom of each page) is a useful read from time to time, by the way. That should give members an idea of how the forum is conducted.

As far as which discussions are acceptable or not, that's an almost impossible question to answer. Just try us and we'll let you know.....smile

Pete

Michael Ramsay-Fraser01/08/2017 11:56:22
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For your information, Pete, it has a personal dimension for me too. I can't think that there are many for whom it wouldn't.

However, two of the earliest posting expressed differing views of WW1 and that is, by it's very definition, divisive.

I'm NOT arguing against the validity of this thread, in fact I fully support it's inclusion on the forum.

However, you can't argue that for some, the war was justified and for others it was an abomination and, frankly, yes, it is political. All wars are, in some way political.

However, the point I was trying to make was that it has often been quoted by moderators that subject matter should be restricted to modelling matters and was asking why this thread was acceptable (bearing in mind that it is a) not about modelling & b) on a potentially divisive subject) and a (very) previous thread on the state funeral for Margaret Thatcher was not?

Bob Cotsford01/08/2017 12:02:48
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Michael does have a perfectly valid point. How can this discussion not revolve around politics?

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