Posted 06 September 2008 - 06:45 AM
This is not a definitive reply, merely a few remarks for your consideration. One of the most detailed German regimental histories is that of IR 84, the regiment which stormed the bridge at Nimy. As far as Mons is concerned, it contains eleven detailed and mostly lengthy descriptions of the battle. None of the eyewitnesses confused rifle fire with machine gun fire. There are descriptions of 'heavy/very heavy fire', 'well-aimed fire', 'skills of concealment, camouflage and good shooting acquired in colonial wars' etc etc. Two witnesses, specifically describe 'rifle and machine gun fire'; two more 'very heavy Infanteriefeuer '[i.e. rifle fire]. One witness, Theodor Schroeder, decribes the locations of Dease's machine guns up on the railway bridge abutments precisely correctly. So I think we can take it that at least one of the regiments pricipally involved was under no false impression about the type of fire with which it had been engaged.
I shall check a few other sources, but I have to say I bracket this idea with other self-congratulatory assertions such as, 'as everyone knows, the such-and-such division was the one most feared by the Germans.'
One final point, which I raise not to knock the Holts, many of whose books I own, but to make the point about how myth and legend grows with the re-telling. This is their description of events at Nimy (Battlefields of the First World War p 10) :'A solid mass of soldiers in columns of fours came on towards the canal from the north. The Tommies were astounded. Their opponents moved as if on parade, as if taking part in some Napoleonic war game. They were ducks in a shooting gallery to the riflemen of the BEF who were trained to fire fifteen rounds a minute and capable of almost double that with such a target...The two machine guns commanded by Lieutenant Dease, sited on top of the embankment where you are standing at the southern end of the bridge, wreaked terrible havoc among the grey horde...'
Here are the casualty figures of IR 84, aka 'the grey horde', as supplied by the regimental adjutant. Note that these are the totals for the entire two day battle.
Killed: 1 officer, 3 NCOs, 20 OR
Wounded: 6 officers, 10 NCOs, 45 OR
Given that the strength of a regiment in 1914 was (give or take a few) 70 officers and 3,200 OR, losses of 7 officers and 78 OR, mean that most of the 'ducks in [the] shooting gallery' got away with it and, as for the machine guns, I suppose it depends on what you mean by 'terrible havoc.' It is instructive to walk St Symphorien cemetery, laid out by the Germans originally and count the German graves by regiments. There are not many.