[quote name='Robert Dunlop' date='Feb 19 2007, 09:38 AM' post='625960']
Are we still up for it??
Within reason - yes. Remember we are looking at the feasibility of the concept in this thread rather than the detailed tactics. Nonetheless your post raises important issues that needed to be addressed.
It shows the complexity of the problem, the detail the planning went to and the difficulties commanders had to address in mounting an offensive against strong defensive positions. This in turn belies the superficial comments about the incompetence of British generals one often sees and Carlyon's dismissive analysis on the tactics employed at 3rd Ypres.
Many of the questions posed above we cannot answer here but they would be issues raised and considered during the planning process. A few comments on some of them:
[quote]Have you got the enemy's batteries accurately located? [/quote]
Absolutely essential for an effective counter battery fire plan. The techniques for acquiring this information were first being developed during the Great War and included sound ranging, flash spotting, air photo intrepretation and air photography gridded to maps. By this stage of the war I think the British commanders understood the importance of discovering the positions of the German batteries, allocating sufficient resources to them and withholding the counter battery fire so as to catch as many of the German guns in the discovered positions immediately prior to the assault. Too early and the enemy moves his surviving guns to new positions or replaces the lost guns with new batteries in new positions.
[quote]Are changes of position occurring, and, if so, in what manner? For example, is the enemy occupying alternative positions near vacated ones; is he re-occupying his old ones after a certain lapse of time,
or do you see a general tendency to move his batteries back?
Have you discovered any new positions in course of construction, and are they being camoflagued as they are being made...?
Have your Intelligence and Artillery Reconnaisance Officers detailed information as to where he is placing his machine guns, etc?
Again, essential factors in determining the objectives to be set, the artillery fire plan and the tactics to be employed in the assault.
[quote]How do you propose forming up the troops for the attack...?[/quote]
Spacing of the assault waves is important to ensure the succeeding waves with deeper objectives do not become entangled with the leading waves in the fight for the initial German defences. The leading waves need to be close to the barrage so as to minimise the distance to be crossed to reach the initial defences once the barrage lifts to deeper targets. Spacing and grouping between troops in a wave is needed to reduce the number of casualties from specific MG positions.
[quote]Have you a detailed plan for stopping the bridges over the River Lys or Canal d'Ypres, as the case may be...?
Again another important consideration. In our option the bridges over the Lys become a significant factor. We need to ensure we establish strong defensive posts to cover bridges and the exits from them, reserves placed to support those defences quickly and the bridges and their immediate exits become SOS DF's. The defence of the bridges would need to be allotted a separate commander charged with defending the left flank of the offensive. We need to ensure he has the resources to undertake his mission.
[quote]Are you satisfied with the Inter-Corps and Inter-Division barrages are all co-ordinated and that, as far as possible, they meet with the views of Divisional Commanders? [/quote]
This, as I understand it, was a major failing at the Somme, particularly during the "minor" attacks and also between Gough and Rawlinson once their two Armies were involved in the battle. Inter -unit coordination is a must and we would have liaison officers from each adjoining Division working in the others' HQ to ensure all details are covered. This would include artillery, engineer, infantry and other staff liaison officers so that the details of what is being discussed are fully understood and properly communicated.
[quote]Have you arranged your barrage in depth from the moment of the assault onwards?[/quote]
I would expect this to be a given - it's absolutely essential to ensure the leading waves are protected from the depth defences whilst fighting through the initial defences and to break up any German counter attack preparations.
[quote]What is your plan for destroying the wire?[/quote]
You mentioned in other threads that shrapnel was the most effective artillery round at cutting wire. I would add to this the use of "pipe pushers" or as we know them now "bangalore torpedoes" being employed to clear uncut wire on the night preceeding the assault. For other readers, these are metal tubes filled with explosives that are pushed into the wire and when fired are extremely effective in clearing a barbed wire entanglement to ground level for a width of about 15 to 20 metres. They can be connected end on end to give a pipe the length to penetrate the depth of the wire. They are employed by combat engineers and infantry assault pioneers.
[quote]Have you considered the number of guns that it will be necessary for you to allocate to counter-battery at zero?[/quote]
This is the vexed question of available resources. Hence my query above about the frontage of the initial phase. It is a matter of ensuring that the attack can be effectively supported by the resources available to the commander.