Remembered Today:

Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
widavies

Most succesful British (UK) unit WW1

67 posts in this topic

Hi All,

In the British army during WW1 there are many comments on the affectiveness of the Scottish and Irish regiments in the great war, especially from the enemy perspective. Does anyone actually know which regiment statistically was actually the most effective British (UK) regiment during the war?

Regards

Will

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Will ,

I think it would depend on what size you are after. I may be biased somewhat, but a successful division was the 60th, Territorials from London. Right from the base of Vimy Ridge, through Salonika and onto Egypt and Palestine.

And just to throw a spanner in the works, I personally think some of the most successful units were those composites mashed together to hold back the German Spring Offensive.

Cheers Andy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello Will

By what criteria are you going to define "effective"? If you want a statistically valid answer, you are going to have to define some measures which can be expressed numerically, and specify the weighting which is to be attached to each criterion.

The result will probably be one of those "league tables" so beloved of governments and hated by most of the educational, medical or other establishments to which they are applied.

Judging by its nil casualty record (as far as I know) and the fact that it never yielded an inch of trench to the enemy, I'd say the War Dept Sausage Factory at Poplar must be a strong contendeer!

On the other hand, you could have started a good debate!

Ron

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello Will

By what criteria are you going to define "effective"? If you want a statistically valid answer, you are going to have to define some measures which can be expressed numerically, and specify the weighting which is to be attached to each criterion.

The result will probably be one of those "league tables" so beloved of governments and hated by most of the educational, medical or other establishments to which they are applied.

Judging by its nil casualty record (as far as I know) and the fact that it never yielded an inch of trench to the enemy, I'd say the War Dept Sausage Factory at Poplar must be a strong contendeer!

On the other hand, you could have started a good debate!

Ron

Hi Ron,

Criteria?

I will try and define regions of operations first and separate these out as follows :-

1) Western Front

2) Gallipoli.

3) Other Theaters (all the other regions:-Middle East, Africa, etc.)

Then for each theater of operation to apply the following performance criteria in the following way:-

1) Attack, (shock wave or follow up waves, strength of position attacked, season, weather conditions at the time, opposition, strength, geography, rate of attack, planning and support, effectiveness, after action defence, holding of captured positions)

2) Static defence ( location geography

3) Retreat or Rearguard actions

Then define cost per action with regards:

1) Personnel & casualties

2) Equipment losses

3) Material/Prisoners gained

Then possibly a sub section with bravery awards allocated to units (note: maybe officers awards are not the best indicator)

1) Officers

2) NCO's

3) Other ranks

Would this help in defining what should be required to define the best British (UK) unit in the three defined theaters of war

Regards

Will Davies

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I recall (vaguely) a talk at my local WFA dealing with "successful" divisions (it may even have been battalions). The premise was to look at each large scale attack and assess whether it succeeded completely, aprtially, or failed. I cannot give more details as the talk was so tedious and the graphics so appallingly bad (and impossible to read even from midway down the room)that I may even have nodded off.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are you only dealing with infantry?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Ron,

Criteria?

I will try and define regions of operations first and separate these out as follows :-

1) Western Front

2) Gallipoli.

3) Other Theaters (all the other regions:-Middle East, Africa, etc.)

Then for each theater of operation to apply the following performance criteria in the following way:-

1) Attack, (shock wave or follow up waves, strength of position attacked, season, weather conditions at the time, opposition, strength, geography, rate of attack, planning and support, effectiveness, after action defence, holding of captured positions)

2) Static defence ( location geography

3) Retreat or Rearguard actions

Then define cost per action with regards:

1) Personnel & casualties

2) Equipment losses

3) Material/Prisoners gained

Then possibly a sub section with bravery awards allocated to units (note: maybe officers awards are not the best indicator)

1) Officers

2) NCO's

3) Other ranks

Would this help in defining what should be required to define the best British (UK) unit in the three defined theaters of war

Regards

Will Davies

That looks like a comprehensive list of your criteria. I'll be delighted to see the results of the analysis when you get them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are you only dealing with infantry?

Yes lets make this primarily about infantry units and include any other units ie Naval division fighting as infantry for prolonged periods.

Regards

Will

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I recall (vaguely) a talk at my local WFA dealing with "successful" divisions (it may even have been battalions). The premise was to look at each large scale attack and assess whether it succeeded completely, aprtially, or failed. I cannot give more details as the talk was so tedious and the graphics so appallingly bad (and impossible to read even from midway down the room)that I may even have nodded off.

Sounds a bit like the project at the IWM some years back, run by Peter Simkins and others, designed to evaluate the effectiveness of British Infantry Divisions. Don't think it resolved anything (I might be wrong). It had a name - SHLM, or something similar.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Now you mention it, Steve, it was Peter Simpkins giving the extremely tedious talk I refer to in post #5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, its the SHLM project. Theres a useful chapter in the paddy Griffithe edited colelction of essays. See this article on the WFA website:Divisional elitism and the SHLM project

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In the British army during WW1 there are many comments on the affectiveness of the Scottish and Irish regiments in the great war, especially from the enemy perspective. Does anyone actually know which regiment statistically was actually the most effective British (UK) regiment during the war?

Hi Will

I would clarify what you mean by 'unit'. Unit normally means a infantry battalion or its equivalent in other arms. 'Formation' on the other hand means higher level aggregations of units such as divisions, corps etc.

However a regiment of infantry didn't fight as a regiment (unlike in the French and German armies) but as separate battalions which would be in a number of divisions. To take a typical distribution, the regular battalions i.e. 1st and 2nd battalions of the Royal Blankshire Regiment would be most likely to be in one of the regular divisions. The Territorial battalions would be in the TF divisons e.g. 1/4th, 1/5th battalions in a first line TF division, the 2/4th, 2/5th in a second line TF division. The New Army battalions (e.g. 7th, 8th, 8th) would be in one or more New Army Divisions.

Given that, it is pretty hard to say which is the most effective regiment given that so much depended on the parent formation. If you can adequateley define and measure battalion effectiveness, how do you then aggregate battalion scores into a regimental measure? I'm pretty certain that no one has looked at regimental effectiveness, and that is why the focus has been on looking at formations instead, with the division being the most manageable formation to study.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Will

I would clarify what you mean by 'unit'. Unit normally means a infantry battalion or its equivalent in other arms. 'Formation' on the other hand means higher level aggregations of units such as divisions, corps etc.

However a regiment of infantry didn't fight as a regiment (unlike in the French and German armies) but as separate battalions which would be in a number of divisions. To take a typical distribution, the regular battalions i.e. 1st and 2nd battalions of the Royal Blankshire Regiment would be most likely to be in one of the regular divisions. The Territorial battalions would be in the TF divisons e.g. 1/4th, 1/5th battalions in a first line TF division, the 2/4th, 2/5th in a second line TF division. The New Army battalions (e.g. 7th, 8th, 8th) would be in one or more New Army Divisions.

Given that, it is pretty hard to say which is the most effective regiment given that so much depended on the parent formation. If you can adequateley define and measure battalion effectiveness, how do you then aggregate battalion scores into a regimental measure? I'm pretty certain that no one has looked at regimental effectiveness, and that is why the focus has been on looking at formations instead, with the division being the most manageable formation to study.

Hi Charles,

I was thinking of infantry battalions (and attached units) as the body under scrutiny. I take on board what you say about performance was affected by the larger army bodies they were attached too. However if we try and analyse performance in a standardised format we might be able to achieve the individuals units performance compared with other units.

If each member fills in a standard template evaluation form ( something along the lines of the attached-This was a first attempt and any suggestions on improving it would be most welcome) on their preferred unit then we can at least have a level playing field to work with. Duplications of units can also be accomodated and averaged to give a more rounded rating and these can then be statistically analysed to find out a little bit more about each units performance over time in the field.

I think the commanders must have known which units they preferred to use in crucial times to give the best possible chance of success. Lets see if we can actually see if this was true.

Regards

Will

post-51029-0-59588600-1334327109.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just a thought -if during an attack you had two battalions side by side one was the best battalion in the British Army and the other was the worst battalion in the British Army. And let's say the best battalion had very poor artillery coverage and the ten foot wide barbed wire on their front remained uncut, and they were badly cut up trying to get through. Now on the other hand the worst battalion in the British Army had perfect artillery coverage, which blow all the wire to bites and killed all the Germans on their front, and they just walked into the German trenches without any problems, how would that effect their rates, would the best battalion then become the worst and vis a versa <_<

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just a thought -if during an attack you had two battalions side by side one was the best battalion in the British Army and the other was the worst battalion in the British Army. And let's say the best battalion had very poor artillery coverage and the ten foot wide barbed wire on their front remained uncut, and they were badly cut up trying to get through. Now on the other hand the worst battalion in the British Army had perfect artillery coverage, which blow all the wire to bites and killed all the Germans on their front, and they just walked into the German trenches without any problems, how would that effect their rates, would the best battalion then become the worst and vis a versa

Good point maybe we can add two columns rating assistance and adverse conditions (scale 1-5).

Will

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not sure there is an answer to this question. Can you compare like with like? So many factors need to be taken into account, including terrain, weather, time of year, intelligence gathering and application, enemy dispositions, technology etc etc

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not sure there is an answer to this question. Can you compare like with like? So many factors need to be taken into account, including terrain, weather, time of year, intelligence gathering and application, enemy dispositions, technology etc etc

Why not rate each of the factors mentioned , plus all others required in separate columns, (from 1 to 5, bad to good, easy to hard, etc, ) .then at end evaluate totals statistically. If members submit reports on the same units then these would also be averaged. Then when all compiled we can do an overall presentation of the results. It might not be perfect, but at least it will give us a general idea if any units do stand out as being special.

Regards

Will

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Of course there can be no measured answer, but I am surprised that no one has offered a personal view! I know that they may be shot down, but perhaps it may form a starting point!

Chris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

EDIT: ...

I think the commanders must have known which units they preferred to use in crucial times to give the best possible chance of success.

EDIT: ...

Regards

Will

Not so, i'm afraid. Units were transferred to and fro on a schedule decided by GHQ . Commanders were allocated tasks and required to undertake them with the resources at hand. Particularly in crucial times, commanders did as best they could. I believe that if it were possible to order the different regiments in some sort of hierarchy, it would have been done long ago.

When the Germans wished to train stosstroopers, they transferred individuals from all parts of the infantry and gave them special training. This was contrasted with the British practice of improving the level of performance across the board. That implies to me that there were no superior units and the British took pains to keep it that way. It is also given as a reason for the failure of the Germans in 1918, their best and bravest individuals were killed and captured, ours were scattered evenly through the armies. We did not have an elite but our average was higher than theirs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OK - why not look at it another way? Who did the Germans most fear?

Chris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The best measures are usually the simplest.

Perhaps the unit that spent the longest cumulative time in the front line might be a simple measure or captured the most ground (whether they got help from good artillery or sleeping Germans is incidental.

Another measure might be the unit that suffered the least casualties - a different type of 'success'?

Mark

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OK - why not look at it another way? Who did the Germans most fear?

Chris

Good question. Assuming that such a unit existed and that we could ever find out who they were. My money would be on the RAF followed by tanks. Given that most Germans were killed or wounded by artillery, might we include them?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We know that certain RFC/RAF squads were more feared and respected than others, but what about the infantry? Surely the Germans knew they had a job on their hands if up against a Guards regiment, for example?

Chris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think people are a bit reluctant to get into the usual bun fight of who done this and who done that.

If it was me in a trench the unit i would most fear would be the one in front of me.

Gary.

P.S. Everyone knows that the Regiment that the Germans did fear most was The Black Watch. :whistle:

Take cover

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think people are a bit reluctant to get into the usual bun fight of who done this and who done that.

If it was me in a trench the unit i would most fear would be the one in front of me.

Gary.

P.S. Everyone knows that the Regiment that the Germans did fear most was The Black Watch. :whistle:

Take cover

Ignoring Gary's obviously incorrect answer (ask Churchill who it was... you need to move North and East a bit!)

Wouldn't the measures you have applied so far mean you could only be successful in offensives? (Implied by Andy's comment above)

How about small units stopping attacking units cold against overwhelming odds? holding cucial positions at crucial times? etc

Things are presumably also going to be complicated by the evolution of tactics (so "bite and hold" is unlikely to rack up yardage gained at the battalion level as limited objectives/acheivable were set whereas previously more grandiose aims were specified - and not acheived)

I would also wonder what the purpose of such rank ordering of "effectiveness" might be? Is there a broader research interest in this or is it a general pondering?

What was the IWM's aim? (I am not familiar with that project although perhaps should be)

Chris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0