Australias Darkest Hour The Battle of Fromelles I THE GREAT WAR Week 104

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You Have Plans.

Specific plans for a limited specific battle, and you re prepared for it. But the big day draws near and as it does, you expand those plans, and expand them again until they are now the realm of fantasy. Careful, because once you begin planning fantasies in wartime, you can only be disappointed.

I

m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. The Battle of the Somme continued last week, though it was now a large and dizzying collection of small, uncoordinated assaults. The Germans tried again and failed again at Verdun, and the Russians took a bunch more ground before finally being halted at the Stockhod River. Here

S What Came Next On The World

s battlefields. Well, on a battlefield north of the Somme. There was a diversion this week. On the 19th at Fromelles with Australian troops.

Many Of These Men Had Fought Last

summer, autumn, and winter. at Gallipoli,, but this was their first offensive action on the Western Front. The idea was to prevent the Germans from sending reinforcements down to the Somme. Thing is, General Harold Elliott, known as Pompey, was alarmed by the strength of the German defenses at Fromelles, and thought the diversion would be more of a slaughter. He reported this to British UK Sir Douglas Haig, along with intelligence information that the Germans were not, in fact, being transferred to the Somme.

So There Was No Need For

the attack,, but the Corps commander, General Sir Richard Haking, wanted the attack to happen anyhow, confident of success.. The objective was Aubers Ridge, two miles south of Fromelles. . The attack would proceed across a low no-man

S Land Toward A Salient Called The Sugar

Loaf,, which was strongly fortified by the Germans. Now, the Germans in Fromelles had, high up in the church. a peephole designed for observation, and all through the 18th. They could watch the preparations for the attack, which began late in the day on the 19th after a day-long artillery barrage. But.

When The Men Went Over The Top, It

turned out the artillery had not taken out the German machine guns. The casualties were huge and the Sugar Loaf Salient remained in German hands, though some British and Australian soldiers did at least manage to reach the Sugar Loaf s outer wire. The scene was described like this, UK found the No-mans land simply full of our dead. In.

The Narrow Sector West Of The

Sugar Loaf salient, the skulls and bones and torn uniforms were lying about everywhere.. I found a bit of Australian kit lying 50 yards from the corner of the salient, and the bones of an Australian officer and several men within 100 yards. It.

Now, That Was Just A Brief Interlude Away

from the huge carnage of the Somme,. But the Australians lost 1,708 men killed and almost 4,000 wounded. . The British lost another 400 or so killed. German dead and wounded in total were under 1,500.

The Attack Was A Total Failure.

And at the Somme itself, the attacks also continued. As. The week began, so did the fight for Delville Wood. That battle began with the South African Brigade being ordered to take the wood.

Hugh Boustead Had This To Say

UK UK moved forward through an orchard in single file, led by the platoon officer. Smith, the Second Lieutenant, got through, but the next seven following him were shot dead in a circle of a few yards, picked off by clean shooting without a Murmur. This whole offensive-the Battle of Bazentin Ridge-had begun the 14th. IT.

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14Th.

IT was to be an assault by four divisions on the enemy s second line between Longueval and Bazentin-le-petit Wood. General Sir Henry Rawlinson s idea.

Commander Haig Thought Rawlinson Would Do Preliminary Stuff

to get the front to within a few hundred yards of the Germans,, but Rawlinson thought this impractical, but this meant the British had a no mans land of nearly a mile of no cover to cross,, which was a scenario for disaster. . But Rawlinson planned to make a night maneuver, where the divisions would form in no man s land undetected in the dark and close in, and then attack with the dawn.

As Long As It Remained Undetected,

it would solve the no mans land problem, but other night attacks, like back on the 3rd, had been detected and failed. . The bombardment would be different from the one that kicked off the battle back on the 1st; five times heavier and only against the German front trench system; 1,000 guns on a 6km front. As the day approached, though, the objectives were extended more and more, so from an initially modest plan to take that one line, there were now plans to push as far as Flers and Le Sars, several miles distant and even beyond.

Rawlinson Was Now Even Planning On

taking the third German line between Le Sars and Morvel. So. The objective was no longer an advance of a few hundred meters on a 6 km front,, but an advance of around 6 kilometers on a ten km front. Haig was actually against the scope of this plan. .

It Seems He Was No Longer As

optimistic about a German collapse as he had been last week. Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson inNK] Somme write, commentators have hailed the plan for July 14th as being a great advance in tactical sophistication. .

It Must Be Emphasized That A Night

attack in itself did not guarantee success.. . only one facet of Rawlinson s July 14th plan shows any improvement on the first day, namely the execution of a bombardment on the front German system of a far greater intensity than anything delivered on July 1st.

.

Here, Rawlinson may have revealed a measure of insight. . . two things tell firmly against any such notion.

First.

. . was the delusion that that the bombardment would not only overwhelm the German front defenses, but lead to a decisive collapse in German morale. .

.

The second is that Rawlinson. . . never again employed a bombardment of the intensity of July 14th.

That last would turn out not to be entirely true, actually. Actually. But the men got in place, the attack went off at UK UK and soon almost the entire German front trench system had fallen. .

This Was A Major Achievement.

. But big obstacles to further progress lay ahead. Behind the German lines lay the three fortified towns and woods of Bazentin,-le-petit, Bazentin,-le,-grand, and Longueval and Delville Wood. And If these fell, High Wood on the ridge was a further barrier.

And You Know What German Morale

did not collapse, and Rawlinsons large objectives really just fantasy. He had indeed proved that the weight of his artillery could secure the enemy s front position, but nothing beyond that. As Peter Hart says,

The British Had Indeed Succeeded In Breaking Uk To

the German system, but not in breaking UK it. Rawlinson then had the idea of a combined attack with the French on the 18th,, which was a date French General Ferdinand. send his men to attack as it was, but weather postponed that. Then Rawlinson said his men wouldn

T Be Ready Until The 22Nd,.

So the French went ahead and attacked alone-and unsuccessfully-on the 20th. So. The week ended there with new plans afoot for a combined attack. And further south at Verdun, the attacks seemed to be over for the time being.

But.

According to Alistair Horne, between February 21st and July 15th,. The French had lost over 275,000 men and 6,563 officers at Verdun, and over 120,000 casualties In just the past two months. . The Germans had lost nearly a quarter of a million men, about twice the amount German Chief of Staff Erich von Falkenhayn had wanted to allocate for his

Limited Offensive

in the first place. And an offensive that was anything but limited was still going on far to the east. Alexei. East.

Alexei Brusilov

s enormous and enormously successful Russian offensive was in its 7th week with no signs of slowing down,. Though this week his intelligence had uncovered an Austrian plan to counterstrike the Russian Center. SO. On the 16th Vladimir Sakharov

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S 11Th Army Launched A Pre–Emptive Strike

on the Upper Styr River. He drove the Austrians back to the Lipa, taking 13,000 prisoners. Actually, Russia was on the move everywhere this week. In Anatolia, the Russians were driving the Ottomans back southwest of Mush, while in Persia were themselves being driven back north of Kermanshah by Ottoman forces. And that was the week.

Russian Advances On Two Fronts And

a defeat on a third. Verdun quiet, a pointless diversion at Aubers Ridge, and dreams of German collapse at the Somme. My conclusion last week was about Rawlinson, and here he is again. Really believing that if they break through one. of trenches German morale would collapse and the cavalry could sweep in and overrun the entire German lines.

But Had That Happened At Any Point

in the war. Had German Morale collapsed at Loos and Champagne At Festubert At Verdun. And yet Rawlinson believed it would happen at the Somme. Pure fantasy. And The results of a general

S Pure Fantasy Are Easy Enough To

UK everyone dies. You can buy UK Somme by Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson in our Amazon shop to support our show. IF you want to find out more about Douglas Haig, the architect of the Somme offensive, click right here for our biography episode. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Seth Legare-please support us on Patreon, we couldn

T Make This Show Without It.

See you next week. .

Summary

The Battle of the Somme continued last week, though it was now a large and dizzying collection of small, uncoordinated assaults . The objective was Aubers Ridge, two miles south of Fromelles . The idea was to prevent the Germans from sending reinforcements down to the battlefield . But General Harold Elliott, known as Pompey, was alarmed by the strength of the German defenses . He reported this to British UK Sir Douglas Haig, along with intelligence information that the Germans were not, in fact, being transferred to Somme. So there was no need for the attack, but the Corps commander, General Sir Richard Haking, wanted the attack to happen anyhow, confident of success.& The attack would proceed across a low no-man&s land toward a salient called the Sugar Loaf, which was strongly fortified by the Germans. The attack began late in the attack began on the 19th after a day-long artillery barrage. But the Germans had, high up in…. Click here to read more and watch the full video