Kipling, the Irish Guards and the First World War

Wesley Boyd with a fascinating Irishman’s Diary in today’s Irish Times (subs needed)on Kipling and his personal connection to the Irish Guards: “…a fervent unionist, Kipling was incensed by the insurgency in Ireland but he developed a great admiration for the gallantry of the men of the Irish Guards, most of whom were Catholic and from the southern provinces”.He continues:

When the war started in 1914 Kipling’s only son, John, still at school and not yet 17, applied for a commission in the army. He was turned down because of his age and poor sight. His father was a friend – from their days in India together – of Field-Marshal Lord Roberts, colonel-in-chief of the Irish Guards. The friendship was enough to secure a commission for John in the regiment. He sailed to France with the newly formed 2nd Battalion in 1915 and was one of the first casualties at the battle of Loos. When last seen he was wounded but still leading his men across open ground; he was listed as missing, believed killed.

After the war, Kipling was asked by the Guards to record it’s fortunes in the First World War:

Kipling’s detailed account of battles and meticulous records of changes in the commissioned ranks as new officers arrived at the front to replace the dead and wounded may appeal more to military historians than to general readers. But the lists give a fascinating view of the class structure of the Brigade of Guards, particularly in the early years of the conflict. When the 1st Battalion embarked for Le Havre on August 12th, 1914, scarcely one of its 30 officers lacked a title.

The commanding officer was Lieut-Col Hon GH Morris and the others included Lord Desmond Fitzgerald, Lord John Hamilton, Lord Guernsey, Viscount Castlerosse, Lord Arthur Hay, Sir Gerald Burke, Sir Delves Broughton and Lieut Hon HR Alexander. But rank was no shield against the thunderous guns. One of the few survivors, despite being wounded twice, of that first aristocratic wave was Lieut Alexander from Caledon in Co Tyrone; he was to become Field-Marshal Earl Alexander of Tunis in the second World War.

By the end of the war in 1918 the two battalions had lost 2,349 men dead, including 115 officers; the total of wounded was 5,739. In the index of the dead there is a multitude of Irish names from Ahern to Walsh, Boland to Toomey, Lynch to Sullivan.

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  • SpiceGirls

    zzzzzz

  • Mick Fealty

    It does read much better in total.

  • I thought it was very interesting anyway.

  • Ivan Nelson

    Did the article not mention the really interesting thing about Kipling’s son? John Kipling’s body was never found. His father made enquiries everywhere, and tramped the battle field…but nothing was ever found. Then a couple of years ago the grave of an unidentified Irish Guards officer was found in one of the Commonwwelth war graves cemeteries…and using modern techniques it was identified as young Kipling. Kipling was devastated by the death of his son and probably never got over it

  • Mick Fealty

    “John Kipling, remained listed officially as “missing believed killed” for 77 years. Then in 1992 a researcher at the War Graves Commission re-checked the old files on unidentified British casualties at Loos and established, beyond doubt, the whereabouts of his grave. It was much too late to bring comfort to Kipling, who died in January 1936. But one link remains between the writer and his son and all the others who died in the “war to end wars”. By Kipling’s perpetual endowment, the Last Post is sounded every evening at the going down of the sun at the Menin Gate”.

  • Crataegus

    So very very sad. I didn’t realise Kipling’s made an endowment, to enable the Last Post to be sounded every evening. His personal sense of loss, like so many others, must have been terrible. Here in NI come 11th Nov I wish that everyone would simply recognise the day for what it is, simply a day for remembering loved ones lost. Some things should be beyond politics and should be respected by all.

    Makes one thing what a heinous crime war is. Often so many innocent die because of the personal greed and ambition of a few. Abominations are excused and centuries of work and labour reduced to dust and ash. Will we ever learn?

  • fair_deal

    Kipling like thousands of others turned to spiritualism to try and contact his dead son.

    When asked my great-grandfather who fought in the first world war would always gave the same brief answer “terbil son terbil”

  • Brian Boru

    Those Catholics fighting in WW1 were mostly duped by Redmond and the Home Rulers into believing (Woodenbridge Speech) that they would get Home Rule because of British gratitude if they fought for Britain at the Somme etc. It was very naieve of Redmond to expect that. The Curragh Mutiny showed that even if the British govt decided on something, it was not a done-deal that the British army would go along with it. I acknowledge their bravery but decry the hypocrisy of a govt telling people to fight “for the freedom of small nations” while suppressing that freedom in Ireland.

  • Dr Strangelove

    Kipling, the Empire’s poet, was at times an hysterical supporter of the Unionist cause as much as he was anti-catholic.

    In his poem “Ulster” from 1912, he writes:

    We know the wars prepared
    On every peaceful home,
    We know the hells declared
    For such as serve not Rome

    Yet, as Christopher Hitchens has pointed out, he would select an Irishman or an Irish name, for a romantic or courageous character in his fiction and ballads.

    John Kipling inherited his father’s poor eye sight, thus the contraditon between his father’s apparent loathing of Irish Nationalism/Catholicism and his string pulling to secure John a commission with the Irish Gaurds Gaurds was acute.

    There is no doubt that Kipling wrote the history as a form of atonement.

  • Brian Boru

    “We know the wars prepared
    On every peaceful home,
    We know the hells declared
    For such as serve not Rome ”

    Bigoted nonsense from Kipling.

  • DK

    Brian,

    You’re right. Britain should have gone ahead and given the Irish home rule. The new parliament would almost certainly have voted to join the war on the side of the Allies – as the volunteers proved with their feet even when home rule was postponed “due to the emergency”.

    Then Britain and Ireland would have been bound together in a common struggle as equals – even if that struggle would turn out to be a fine example of the effects of an increase in firepower on massed infantry.

  • fair_deal

    “the contraditon between his father’s apparent loathing of Irish Nationalism/Catholicism and his string pulling to secure John a commission with the Irish Gaurds Gaurds was acute. ”

    The Irish Guards was not an Irish nationalist nor Catholic body so how is joining it a contradiction?

    “Bigoted nonsense from Kipling.”

    Hmm and isolated Protestant communities had such a magnificent time during the Irish Civil War?

  • Crataegus

    Brian Boru

    My experience of all war is that most of those participating are duped. A war to end all wars, for the father land, for glory or simply press ganged, conscripted and forced.

    I think it is much more powerful if we simply remember all those that had died needlessly and the utter barbarity that humanity is capable of. Making factional political points simply fragments the message and lessens the main point of heart felt pain and pointless loss.

    For me some things are just too appalling and we should all grieve together for the loss and reflect on what we can all do to prevent future atrocities and endeavour to make those responsible for current wars account personally for their actions.

  • Dr Strangelove

    While the body was certainly not a nationalist or catholic one its men would have had a bearing on the
    nature of the outfit. I would agree however that catholicism would have been a lot more prevalent than nationalism within the Gaurds.

  • Brian Boru

    “Brian,

    You’re right. Britain should have gone ahead and given the Irish home rule. The new parliament would almost certainly have voted to join the war on the side of the Allies – as the volunteers proved with their feet even when home rule was postponed “due to the emergency.”

    Do you mean 32 county Home Rule?

  • Roger

    If the British government had given Ireland thirty two county home rule in 1914 there would probably have been a protestant Belfast Rising sometime in the war.
    Before the war the novelist George Birmingham had imagined one and the original plans fo thirty two county home rule had been suspended because of the threat of one.

  • Brian Boru

    Fermanagh and Tyrone were Catholic and should not have been given the NI.

  • To Brian Boru

    Brian “”We know the wars prepared
    On every peaceful home,
    We know the hells declared
    For such as serve not Rome “

    Bigoted nonsense from Kipling. ”

    You must remember the period he lived in, and you show your ignorance about the catholic churches involement in wars throughout history including all recent confilcts including vietnam, bosnia as well as the great wars. The Catholic church has *ALOT* to answer for, and from this viewpoint his views are not biggoted, but perfectly legitimate.

    And he made a well tasty cherry bakewell

  • DK

    Roger/Brian,

    Hard to know who would be left to do the fighting as all the UVF and IRA/B (whatever it was called) had run off to the recruiting office. The curragh “mutiny” happened before the war started and was simply about Irish protestants refusing to fight against their compatriots in the North. The British could have forced the issue using regulars from outside Ireland – but they were also all off having a crack at the hun.

    Worst case – Britain allows 32 county home rule and the UVF start an uprising, dragging in British troops and Nationalist troops. German Schliefen plan succeeds and Germany win the first world war.

    Best case – Britain allows 32 county home rule with some sort of fudge/opt-out for the North. All the UVF and IRA/B rush merrily off to be machine-gunned in France alongside the British. Germany lose the war. Ireland has peaceful independence with some sort of seperate Northern state that may not be estranged and may eventually integrate due to the shared experience of the world war.

  • “Lions led by donkeys”…and..” the more things change the more they remain the same”.

    How ironic Kipling’s life must have been…he’s anti Catholic but admires the Irish Guards. He loves his son and yet pulls strings to have him enlisted and killed.

    ” But the lists give a fascinating view of the class structure…scarcely one of its 30 officers lacked a title.” why is this fascinating rather than pathetic. It was a time of increased attention to the rights of men and a break down of class structures. Yet the Brit Army was led by donkeys based on hereditary title expecting a short war to reinforce the ill gotten belief that they deserved such titles.

    With the lengthening war and a realisation that the title wasn’t bullet proof things moved to the stalemate of trench warfare and the anti war writings of Sigfried Sassoon & co.

  • bootman

    So he used his contacts to allow his poor-sighted boy go and die.. truly inspiring! another glorious chapter in the annals of the mercenary regiments of the British army

  • DK

    Bootman and Niall: You can’t really be suggesting that Kipling wanted his son to die. I think Kipling really wanted his son to get a chance at glory and not live the rest of his life cursing his short-sightedness (and his father) for denying him a chance.

    The British army was not unique in the titled being the officers – the “vons” in the German army are a similar phenomenon: essentially the aristocracy was expected to join the army and lead it. Officers were much more likely to be killed than their men, that’s what comes from having to lead by example.

    The higher commands were not “donkeys”, but rather confounded with low technology to try and break through fortifications – this didn’t stop them trying though: By the end of the war, both the Germans with their infiltration tactics and the Allies with combined arms operations (tanks/planes) had figured out how to break the stalemate: and both did, the Allies decisively.

  • You can’t really be suggesting……get a chance at glory…” Of course not. I’m pointing out the stupid irony of the father leading his son to his death. Kipling being a donkey. Where’s the glory – a privileged child feels he must go to the first mechanized war, volunteered on British society by Westminster mandrins to save their own neck and that of royalty, in a time of nationalism. That’s an sad irony
    “…the aristocracy was expected to join the army and lead it”. Leading to the expression “lions led by donkeys” about clueless toffs believing the propaganda that the war would be over in no time and so they should lead a group of ‘pals’ as a means of ‘justifying’ their ill gotten titles. Once the reality of war hit these Oxbridge fools hunkered down for some stalemate until the Yanks came along.
    “ Officers were much more likely to be killed than their men, that’s what comes from having to lead by example “ in the war your reality which you seem to be fighting single handedly
    “The higher commands were not “donkeys”, rather confounded with low technology to try and break through fortifications” Wrong, the WW1 was the first mechanized war which is the basis of it being such a deadly war. The British commanders walked their troops (Canadian, Aussie, NZ, Irish, Indian etc) into hails of bullets similar to the Iranian kids in the Iran/Iraq war when commanders looked for advantage thro sheer numbers only.
    “…this didn’t stop them trying though…” it was very easy for Haig and Foch to order troops forward as they had little concern for the men. It wouldn’t stop anyone from trying if the only cost was the death of a few thousand plebs (hence the expression cannon fodder).
    “…and both did, the Allies decisively. “ No both changes moved the war to a different style but it was the intervention of the Yanks and the collapse of the German home front which brought the conflict to an end (…well, for another 20 years).

  • Mick,
    what’s with the picture at the top of your article/link re. Kipling and the Irish soldiers in WW1.

    I can’t read what written in the star / badge / emblem but it seems to say ‘Quis Separabit’. Doesn’t this have ugly contempory connection to JA as I believe he quoted this on his release.

    Why is this a part of the header about a link with the Irish Guards in WW1?

  • DK

    Niall,

    It’s too easy to just simplify the first world war to a bunch of hooray-henry toffs ordering the plebs over the top. The massive expansion of the army after the war was declared diluted the toffs in any case.

    World war one was the logical extension of the increase in firepower experienced in the American Civil war, which also descended into trench warfare around Richmond.

    I’d be interested to know how you would have broken through in 1915. No tanks, most regular troops dead and being replaced by enthusiastic conscripts. All you have is a lot of artillery behind the front line. No mechanisation – you don’t have the ability to bring supplies or guns forward to the troops breaking through – the trucks at the time were shit – what few of them there were; no fodder for the horses. This is the reality of WW1 – troops advanced, took the enemy front line, but did not have the support to continue and were ejected by counter-attacks. The only hope is to hurl as much as possible into the attack in the hope that enough will survive to hold the gains and the advance to resume. This didn’t work very often.

    You could simply give up attack as a bad idea and hunker down in your trench, but this is bad for morale. Yes, the troops want to attack – read any biographies and you are struck by how keen they are to get at the enemy. It was only after 4 years of this that some refused to attack (French army).

    “Once the reality of war hit these Oxbridge fools hunkered down for some stalemate until the Yanks came along” – This statement is so far off the mark and unrelated to the realities of the first world war that I wonder what motivated you to write it. The British army attacked in every year of the war, and broke through in 1918 (as did the French and the Americans and others). The German army was defeated militarily in 1918, which their high command recognised. The myth that they hadn’t been beaten but betrayed from behind was comfort later on.

    Of course the Americans were important, but they were pretty much supplied by the British and French and it is not certain if they were a decisive ingredient given the failure of the final German 1918 offensive which shattered their army.

    Interestingly, probably the first mechanised war was the Irish Civil war, in which movement was a clear feature and armoued assaults (using armoured cars) often carried the day – along with artillery. Which is part of the reason why the Free State won, as they had Armoured Cars and Artillery, despite being outnumbered initially.

  • Katinka

    Niall, the badge at the top of this link is the cap badge of the Irish Guards. I think it is based on the badge of the Order of St Patrick which was founded in or about 1780. The motto is an old one, long predating its use by terrorist organisations in Northern Ireland.

  • Katinka

    DK is absolutely correct. The ‘Black day’ for the German army was 9 August 1918 in the battle of Amiens when British and Dominion – mostly Australian – forces decisively defeated the Germans. They did it by a combination of infantry supported by tanks and aircraft. German strongpoints were by-passed and left to mopping up troops…it was the birth, if you like, of blitzkreig. The person who learnt most from it was on the losing side – Erwin Rommel. This was the victory which opened warfare from the stalemate of the trenches, and destroyed the supremacy of the rifle and machine gun.

  • Mick Fealty

    Niall, Katinka has it right. Quis Separabit = who shall separate us.

    The earliest reference I can find is in the South Carolina State Seal and the Great Seal of Maryland (where it was associated with Catholic settlers) from 1776. The Irish Guards were established in 1900. The Order of St Patrick was suspended in 1922. Also belonged to the South African Irish Regiment established in 1914, until it swapped it for “Faugh-a-Ballagh” (“Clear the way”). The UDA took the same motto when established in 1971.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    DK: “It’s too easy to just simplify the first world war to a bunch of hooray-henry toffs ordering the plebs over the top. The massive expansion of the army after the war was declared diluted the toffs in any case. ”

    Ah, but it was led by the hooray-henry toffs… I believe Black Adder IV — gotta be a genius to wring laughes out of trench warfare. The British obsession with class distinction put a great many incompetants in charge.

    DK: “World war one was the logical extension of the increase in firepower experienced in the American Civil war, which also descended into trench warfare around Richmond. ”

    Unfortunately, its worse than that. Firstly, the “War to End All Wars,” was a leap forward in equipment over the American “War between the States” without a corresponding change in tactics and strategy. Antietam and Gettysburg were fought with rifled muskets, with a smattering of repeaters, revolvers and breechloaders. The First World War was fought with machineguns, proper artillery, bolt action rifles, culminating in armed aircraft, prototype tanks and submachine guns, not to mention poison gas. Infantry charges against fortified positions were ruinous at Antietam and Gettysburg… Secondly, it was an example of what happens when the system of treaties meant to localize / prevent war breaks down.

    DK: “I’d be interested to know how you would have broken through in 1915. No tanks, most regular troops dead and being replaced by enthusiastic conscripts. All you have is a lot of artillery behind the front line. No mechanisation – you don’t have the ability to bring supplies or guns forward to the troops breaking through – the trucks at the time were shit – what few of them there were; no fodder for the horses. This is the reality of WW1 – troops advanced, took the enemy front line, but did not have the support to continue and were ejected by counter-attacks. The only hope is to hurl as much as possible into the attack in the hope that enough will survive to hold the gains and the advance to resume. This didn’t work very often. ”

    Actually, the Schlieffen plan — the original German offensive *could* have worked, if executed as planned by Schlieffen. However, Moltke the Lesser / Younger / Incompetant didn’t understand the plan, which included withdrawing before the French in the Center/South, drawing them in, whilst running a long flanking manuever. Moltke watered down this plan, removing units from the swinging flank to defend again French advances. He also transferred troops East for a battle they would never reach in time. After that, it gets sketchy on how it could have been done.

    DK: “You could simply give up attack as a bad idea and hunker down in your trench, but this is bad for morale. Yes, the troops want to attack – read any biographies and you are struck by how keen they are to get at the enemy. It was only after 4 years of this that some refused to attack (French army). ”

    ACtually, if I recall correctly, following the 1914 Christmas “truce,” officers had to shoot a few of the “plebes” to instill the proper fighting spirit after the Christmas carols and soccer games.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    DK: “Of course the Americans were important, but they were pretty much supplied by the British and French and it is not certain if they were a decisive ingredient given the failure of the final German 1918 offensive which shattered their army. ”

    Yes and no… The Americans did receive some equipment from the Allies, although some of it, such as the French Chauchat Machinegun, was almost worse than useless, they also brought their own, including the 1903 bolt action Springfield rifle, the Browning automatic rifle and the 1911a Colt pistol in .45 caliber.

    The Americans has a few contributions to make, such as countering German infiltration tactics late in the war (veterans of the unpleasentness with the Apache found the Germans to be not nearly as difficult).

    What the American contributed most was non-combat materiel and a military psychological victory. The prospect of American grund troops — fresh troops, was a boost to the allies and demoralizing to the Germans.

    Ironically, had the Germans not backed off of unrestricted submarine warfare in 1915, they might have been able to isolate England — serious ASW gear did not exist until later in the war and the United States was in no real position to provide credible aid in 1915. Also, regardless of the initial propaganda, the Lusitania, registered as an auxilliary cruiser and loaded with war material, was a legitimate target and would have served poorly as an excuse to enter the war.

  • Harry Flashman

    Dread Cthulhu

    You make some interesting points but I’m a fraid you completely lost me when you stated you believe in Blackadder as an accurate (if admittedly satirical) account of trench warfare. I’m afraid Blackadder comes from the same tired old stable of “Oh What a Lovely War”, where bumptious, oafish generals slaughtered poor dumb proles in futile slaughter after futile slaughter. It’s no surprise that these would be pretty much the BBC’s view of the First World War.

    In fact the British Army of 1914-18 was a fiercely combative fighting force whose discipline, uniquely among armies in that war, never cracked. The officers and men were professional fighting soldiers who were rightly proud of their immense achievement when they hurled back the German army in August 1918.

    They never regarded themselves as dumb sheeplike innocents who were callously butchered by their posh superiors; junior officers had the shortest lifespan at the front and by war’s end 100 British generals had been killed at the front. When the architecht of their mighty victory, Field Marshall Haig, died after the war veterans in their hundreds of thousands turned out to pay their honoured respect. I suggest these men were more aware of the real situation in the trenches than oh so terribly witty Ben Elton.

    Don’t be fooled by lefty, peacenik propaganda or by the dreary laments of two junior officers whose poems seem to be the only thing that passes for education on the Great War in today’s curriculum. The First World War was a hellish war, started and prolonged by German militarism that was not finally extirpated for another quarter of a century, but the British, Irish, Indian and Commonwealth officers and men who so thoroughly smashed the German Army in 1918 have everything to be proud of.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Harry Flashman: “You make some interesting points but I’m a fraid you completely lost me when you stated you believe in Blackadder as an accurate (if admittedly satirical) account of trench warfare. I’m afraid Blackadder comes from the same tired old stable of “Oh What a Lovely War”, where bumptious, oafish generals slaughtered poor dumb proles in futile slaughter after futile slaughter. It’s no surprise that these would be pretty much the BBC’s view of the First World War. ”

    Harry, work with me — **HOW** many times was the offensive strategy of “blow the whistle, climb out of the trench and charge the fortified” position repeated, with painfully similar results? The war degenerated into a war of attrition, where large numbers of men were sacrificed in exchange for scant miles of ground. The tactics of battle were painfully nineteenth century, despite the obvious lessons of the American Civil War and the folly of infantry assaults against fortified positions. Yet the British generals couldn’t come up with anything brighter than “charge!”

    Harry Flashman: “Don’t be fooled by lefty, peacenik propaganda or by the dreary laments of two junior officers whose poems seem to be the only thing that passes for education on the Great War in today’s curriculum. The First World War was a hellish war, started and prolonged by German militarism that was not finally extirpated for another quarter of a century, but the British, Irish, Indian and Commonwealth officers and men who so thoroughly smashed the German Army in 1918 have everything to be proud of.”

    Speaking of falling for the propaganda, the First World War was started because a series of putatively defensive treaties were invoked, in series, following the murder of the heir to the Austo-Hungarian Empire, starting with the Imperial Russia. THIS is the action that put things off kilter — The Russian declaration of war took a local event and made it international. After that, the Germans were drawn into the war through their defensive treaty with Austria, then France through their treaty with Russia and England with their treaty with France (iirc). Arguably, ever declaration of war following the Russian one was “legitimate,” in so far as there was an enemy declaring was on an ally, making Russian adventurism and a misplaced sense of “Pan-Slavic” brotherhood the primary cause of internationalizing the war. Yes, the Prussians were militaristic, but that doesn’t necessarily make the Second World War thier fault. Likewise, the foolish notions on all sides that this would be a “quick and pleasent” war with the boys coming home for Christmas colors perceptions of this conflict.

  • Dk

    DC said: “—**HOW** many times was the offensive strategy of “blow the whistle, climb out of the trench and charge the fortified” position repeated”

    How are you supposed to attack without climbing out of the trenches? I believe that sometimes they used football rattles or signal shells instead of whistles, but the principle is the same – something to indicate it’s time to attack. The variety comes in the preparation for the offensive – big bombardment, quick bombardment, no bombardment (suprise), mines, gas, tanks.

    Also, the inital Schlieffen plan attack was before the trench system was established. And I agree that it was mucked about with, with forces removed for elsewhere (apparently Schlieffens last words on his death bed were “keep the right wing strong”).

    Irish civil was much more illustrative of “blitzkrieg” warfare, where the Free State army frequently launched armoured attacks (with armoured cars) backed up by artillery that the Republican side couldn’t withstand. There were also naval landings, although these were mostly involving mooring a ferry at a pier and then rushing the few, startled defenders.

  • Dread “After that, the Germans were drawn into the war through their defensive treaty with Austria, then France through their treaty with Russia and England with their treaty with France (iirc).’

    I think Hew Strachan pointed out that London wasn’t a participant in any of the treaties prior to WW1 and only joined for financial and imperial reasons as they were funding the French and were concerned about stability in their colonies. Much in the same way as the US didn’t join after the sinking of the Luisitainia but again for financial reasons as they were financing the British but used the excuse of the Zimmerman telegram re. Mexico’s invasion of NM & Texas.

    Harry and the propagandists say “British Army of 1914-18 was a fiercely combative fighting force whose discipline, uniquely among armies in that war, never cracked. The officers and men were professional fighting soldiers who were rightly proud of their immense achievement when they hurled back the German army in August 1918” but I counter by pointing out the Shot at Dawn examples of true bravery of men disregarding orders but sadly paying for this by the idiot donkeys.

    “When the architecht of their mighty victory, Field Marshall Haig..” he was so despised that there’s only one official statue to the fool and that’s in the house of parli where it can’t be damaged by protesters / objectors

    “but the British, Irish, Indian and Commonwealth officers and men who so thoroughly smashed the German Army in 1918 have everything to be proud of.” While I point out that the German wasn’t smashed but achieved an armistice after Yank intervention and a collapse of the home front (Hew Strachan’s conclusion). The subsequent selfish arrangements at Versaille then led to the rise of Adolf and WW2. The death of millions in WW1 was nothing to be proud of in fact the opposite.

  • Katinka re your Apr 12, 2006 @ 11:15 PM postings…
    No he is not correct…Hew Strachan (historian and arthor as opposed to blog poster) points out that the war was won with the arrival of the USA troops and material and the break down of the German home front. The US troops wisely weren’t under French or Brit command and German peaceniks were foolishly (German martial viewpoint) moved to the Western Front. I think you believe the propaganda.

    Wrong – the Blitzkreig had been the mainstay and MO of the German army since the inception of WW1 (see Schliffen Plan).

  • My original posting was about the sad irony of Kipling life and now Mick and Katinka highlight the irony of Quis Separabit…Latin used by loyalists seeking separation from the Irish (aparthid thro re-drawing the border etc). Based on a motto from Maryland (settled by Catholics) and replaced by the gaelic Faugh a Ballagh of the Fighting 69th of New York http://www.69thnysv.org/traditions-customs.htm from the US Civil War.

  • DK

    Niall:

    “While I point out that the German wasn’t smashed but achieved an armistice after Yank intervention and a collapse of the home front”. Just take a look at any map of the change in the western Front in late 1918. The Germans were in headlong retreat with the front broken. It was only the nazi apologists who claimed that Germany was stabbed in the back and the army unbroken. The home front was also collapsed (thanks to the Royal Navy blockade). Possibly the tragedy of WW1 was that the war was stopped before Germany was invaded and occupied.

    As for the Schliefen plan being blitzkrieg. Since when was a powerful right hook comparable to a combined arms breakthrough? You might as well say that the battle of the Somme was blitzkrieg, only not quite strong enough to break through.

    German peaceniks moved to the Western front? Were these the same peaceniks that broke through the allied lines in Germany’s last offensive in 1918?

    On a final note, Hew Strachan believes that the war was just and the correct side won. I have not found any info about his reasons for final victory, but I suspect that the Americans are A reason, not THE reason. Here are my reasons, in no particular order:

    1. The successful blockade by the Royal Navy
    2. Improved combined-arms operations by the Allies with new equipment, notably tanks
    3. Extra American troops
    4. German recruitment problems – no-one left
    5. Demoralising impact of failure of spring 1918 offensive
    6. Mr Kipling’s new range of pies

  • “but I suspect that the Americans are A reason, not THE reason.” Then we agree… I disagreed with Katinka that the war was won on 09Aug1918. I was pointing out that Strachan (the best manager in the SPL) highlights the 2 points (US intervention and Home Front collapse in Ger) which I posted and you expanded this to 5 points.

    1. The successful blockade by the Royal Navy (Collapse of Home Front)
    2. Improved combined-arms operations by the Allies with new equipment, notably tanks
    3. Extra American troops (US intervention)
    4. German recruitment problems – no-one left (Collapse of Home Front)
    5. Demoralising impact of failure of spring 1918 offensive (Collapse of Home Front)

    “It was only the nazi apologists…” Godwins Theory please! Hew Strachan isn’t a nazi apologist

    “Possibly the tragedy of WW1 was that the war was stopped before Germany was invaded and occupied” the tragedy was that the war happened in the first place and/or Westminster volunteered, without obligation, to defend their economy and equally horrible expansionist / imperialist system.

  • kensei

    “I’d be interested to know how you would have broken through in 1915.”

    This misses the point that the war shouldn’t have been started in the first place. Claims of German expansionism ignore the fact they were only trying to play catch up with the other European powers in the quest for an Empire, most notably Britain. It was a war between empires that should never have been fought.

    And if I *had* have been in the war, I would certainly have been trying to look for something, anything, to break the terrible cycle of loss of life rather than just constantly pushing men to their deaths.

  • DK

    ““It was only the nazi apologists…” Godwins Theory please! Hew Strachan isn’t a nazi apologist”

    I did not call Hew Strachan a nazi. If you are going to make up things there is little point in continuing this discussion. What I said was that the Nazis used the excuse that it was the collapse in the home front that caused the defeat – engineered by Jews and Communists, rather than the Royal Navy. They further claim that the German army was undefeated (as do you in post 10 above: “the German wasn’t smashed but achieved an armistice” and post 11 referring to “German peaceniks”).

    What Harry and I and Hew Strachan and incedentally the German general in charge, Ludendorf, is that the German army was defeated militarily. Look at this map:

    http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~keller/gardinier/photo/ww1map.gif

    Here is an account of the end: http://www.lib.byu.edu/~rdh/wwi/comment/haig1.html

    which is a pro-haig source, but is dispassionate in it’s use of statistics showing the sheer scale of casualties/prisoners suffered by the German army as it disintegrated under the allied assaults: e.g. the number of German prisoners taken during the final ‘100 Days’ campaign, 18 July to 11 November 1918:

    British Expeditionary Force 188,700
    French 139,000
    American 43,200
    Belgian 14,500

  • Dread Cthulhu

    DK: “How are you supposed to attack without climbing out of the trenches? I believe that sometimes they used football rattles or signal shells instead of whistles, but the principle is the same – something to indicate it’s time to attack. The variety comes in the preparation for the offensive – big bombardment, quick bombardment, no bombardment (suprise), mines, gas, tanks. ”

    And all worked about the same, until the development of the tank. A couple hundreds yards of ground for thousands of dead. There was little to no lateral thinking, just repeated assaults against fortified positions. Little in the way of night operations, little in the way of creative thinking — the only example I can think of off the cuff is Gallipoli, which was less than sterling in the results.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Actually, in 1915, there was no need for a breakthrough. Hunker down and let unrestricted submarine warfare stangle the United Kingdom. There was no effective ASW equipment at that point, allowing the U-boats near free reign in the Atlantic.

  • DK “I did not call Hew Strachan a nazi. If you are going to make up things there is little point in continuing this discussion….” While you didn’t call him a nazi you did write (in point 13 above) ‘
    …It was only the nazi apologists who claimed that Germany was stabbed in the back and the army unbroken…” and I believe that HS did write that the war failed (from a martial Germ viewpoint) because of a collapse in the Home Front – amongst a number of other reasons but mainly for the mentioned. By your implication, one who holds different viewpoints from yourself (ie HS and me) is being lumped in with Adolf & co.

  • Katinka

    I have been out all day and have only just read Niall’s comment about my estimation of the battle of Amiens. Sorry, Niall I am not wrong. The German general staff knew after 9 or maybe 12 August that they were done for. The British hammered them after this battle – capturing and penetrating the Hindenburg Line as if it wasn’t there. Have you ever seen the famous photograph of an eniire British brigade taken on the banks of a canal? Taken from the bridge which they captured, and the whole thing was a formidable obstacle….read the references in DK’s post. It may be very pro Haig, but the statistics don’t lie. The German army was defeated by the allies, it did not collapse from within.

  • Harry Flashman

    Niall

    You say that there is only one monument to Haig (actually there is one to him in Edinburgh too, how many monuments are there to Montgomery or Wellington or Marlborough?) and that is because it would be attacked, possibly you are right but this is due to the lack of education today and does not relate to the facts at the time. Lloyd George in is memoirs ruined Haig’s reputation, that is were the myth started. LG waited bravely of course until the general was safely dead and buried and unable to reply. As I stated before hundreds of thousands of veterans turned out to Haig’s funeral to salute their leader, I’d take their judgement of the man as somewhat more reliable than post war academics and BBC propagandists. Have a look at the Poppy emblem some time, do you see a name? It is “Haig Fund” seems a bit odd for a callous butcher of sheeplike men.

    By the way, why is this only applied to British generals? When US Grant smashed the confederacy by hurling in divisions of barely trained recruits and when Zhukov did the same with the Red Army they are lauded as great victorious generals, why are only British generals held up to such scrutiny?

    I agree with the above that the knowledge of the US forces available to the Allies was a factor in the German collapse – be assured Niall, the Germans collapsed in the late summer of 1918, no other word can accurately describe their retreat. However the actual fighting done by doughboys was very limited compared to the British and French.

    Two final points, don’t take the First World War out of context, in the previous half century the German militarists had fought expansionist wars against Denmark, Austria and France in the twenty five years after the First World War they continued to do so, the facts are the facts, German militarist expansionism was the primary reason for the First World War. Finally it is not Godwin’s law to state that Nazis used the Versailles treaty as propaganda, it’s a plain and simple fact. However the facts remain, the unbeaten German army was not stabbed in the back by a coalition of Jews, democrats and Communists, they were routed from the field by superior opponents. Hyper inflation was not caused by reperations, the Germans never paid them and at the same time received massive loans from the US which were also never repaid, a world slump and German financial mismangement caused them their problems. Versailles was a much fairer treaty than the Germans would have imposed on defeated western allies, just ask the Russians after Brest-Litovsk or the French in 1940!

  • Katinka

    I don’t know about Montgomery, but I think Marlborough is hard done by in terms of memorials. Wellington is a bit different. He has the famous boot, two schools, and an obelisk in Phoenix Park in Dublin. The schools are Wellington College in Berkshire, and Wellington College in Belfast….did you know the Iron Duke was half a Belfastman?
    Not that he would have admitted it mind you. His father Garret Wesley married Miss Hill from Belvoir in 1759.

  • Roger

    The British and French had very little choice but to attack Germany and the German army directly throughout WWI. Nearly all of Belgium- the invasion of which caused British intervention- and a tenth of france [apart from Alsace-Lorraine, handed over against the inhabitants’ will in 1871] were occupied by Germany. Accepting the status quo in practical terms meant acquiescing in German victory and giving Germany a free hand in Eastern Europe.
    The British army in 1914 was well-trained and superior as infantry to European armies. However, it was trained and equipped to fight colonial wars with light equipment- not what it actually faced. The new armies couldn’t be trained to the same level. There were enormous faults- the suicidal French doctrine of attaque a l’outrance which contributed more to a possible German victory than any supposed genius of Moltke, equipment fiddles in the French army especially, that no-one thought of using smgs, are examples- but once WWI began then no individual genius would have made any difference.

  • HF “…German militarists had fought expansionist wars against Denmark, Austria and France…” and like all imperialist expansionists they should have been beaten back and made accountable be it in Europe, from ‘the Cape to Cairo’, in Singapore or in Ireland.
    “…Finally it is not Godwin’s law to state that Nazis used the Versailles treaty as propaganda, it’s a plain and simple fact. “ I already commented that the nazi implication was being directed against those taking a differing viewpoint from the establishment propaganda posted by DK and yourself.
    “…Germans would have imposed on defeated western allies, just ask the Russians after Brest-Litovsk or the French in 1940! …“ and again I state that evil German expansionism isn’t no less abhorrent than that of Britian, France or elsewhere.

    K “….did you know the Iron Duke was half a Belfastman?
    Not that he would have admitted it mind you. His father Garret Wesley married Miss Hill from Belvoir in 1759. “ He is quoted as saying…’Being born in a stable does not make one a horse’ as a retort to being called Irish… and yet has a obelisk in the Phoenix – shurely shome mishtake.

    Roger: “…Nearly all of Belgium- the invasion of which caused British intervention- and a tenth of france … Accepting the status quo in practical terms meant acquiescing in German victory and giving Germany a free hand in Eastern Europe.” Again the propaganda. Strachan points out that London wasn’t party to any agreement / pact to go to war in the event of any of the Euro powers being attacked. They entered WW1 in fear of the stability of their colonies and that France mightn’t be able to pay it’s financial obligations to the London exchequer. The defense of small nations is laughable irony when viewed from an Irish context.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Harry Flashman: “By the way, why is this only applied to British generals? When US Grant smashed the confederacy by hurling in divisions of barely trained recruits and when Zhukov did the same with the Red Army they are lauded as great victorious generals, why are only British generals held up to such scrutiny? ”

    A lack of succcess? Grant’s war of attrition, while bloody, played to the advantages of the Union’s advantage in man-power, as did Zhukov’s. Haig and England had no such advantage over the Germans. Throw in the fact that they were more successful that Haig, and you have the basis for the scrutiny.

    Harry Flashman: “I agree with the above that the knowledge of the US forces available to the Allies was a factor in the German collapse – be assured Niall, the Germans collapsed in the late summer of 1918, no other word can accurately describe their retreat.”

    Their collapse was hurried by a series of battles meant to return maneuver to the battlefield — in essence, to regain the initiative. Although successful, they paid too high a price in their effort.

    Roger: “The British army in 1914 was well-trained and superior as infantry to European armies.”

    No, they weren’t… see below.

    Roger: “However, it was trained and equipped to fight colonial wars with light equipment- not what it actually faced. The new armies couldn’t be trained to the same level.”

    In other words, they were ill-trained and ill-prepared for more than police-duties against primitives in the far-flung corners of the Empire.

    Roger: “There were enormous faults- the suicidal French doctrine of attaque a l’outrance which contributed more to a possible German victory than any supposed genius of Moltke.”

    Hardly. Moltke was a clumsy fiddler who bumbled the initial invasion. Had the right wing been kept strong and the center withdrawn, 1914 likely would have been the brief war and home for Christmas advertised, with the aggressive French caught behind the roundhouse right of the Schlieffen plan.

    Roger: “equipment fiddles in the French army especially, that no-one thought of using smgs, are examples- but once WWI began then no individual genius would have made any difference. ”

    Actually, both the Americans and Germans either used or were developing smgs — the Germans had the Bergmans late in the war, whilst the Americans were bringing foreward the Thompson. The French were poorly led, poorly equipped and came to the war with sky-blue uniforms — useless against the trees, stone and mud of the battlefield.

  • Dread, if you get a chance you should pick up “Back to the Front : An Accidental Historian Walks the Trenches of World War 1“ by Stephen O’Shea. A very entertaining read.