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Old October 3rd, 2017, 03:36 PM   #21

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The review continues with chapter fourteen...

Chapter Fourteen: The Mort Homme

Horne begins the chapter by immediately tying into the closing to the previous chapter, and namely to make the point that local commanders in the Verdun region, including Petain, did not share Joffre's optimism regarding Germany's position at Verdun. In fact it's even mentioned that by March 14, Crown Prince Wilhelm had gotten the reserves he needed to resume the offensive against the French, and this time focusing on the west bank of the Meuse and the hill, Mort Homme... Dead Man's Hill...

Click the image to open in full size.
(Map of the area around Cote 304 and Mort Homme (Dead Man's Hill) and surrounding villages)

In this, it would imply that Petain's difference of opinion with Joffre would thus give reasoning for resumption of the German offensive not being quite as successful as they were earlier in the offensive. The lack of success in the way lead to the creation of propaganda images that depict German leadership in a way that would not be so flattering...

Click the image to open in full size.
(A propaganda poster of Crown Prince Wilhelm and Kaiser Wilhelm II whipping German soldiers into the arms of death...)

And from this reference, Horne then makes the comment on German and French death totals by the end of March. He cites the Germans having suffered 81,607 and the French 89,000. The Germans had suffered fewer fatalities, but in the comparison of the numbers, Horne does show that numbers were comparable and close to what Jankowski would cite in his book as a near 1 to 1 exchange rate for the battle as a whole...

And much of what drove up German casualties came issues that related the fact that as they assaulted Mort Homme, they again took fire from another hill to the west... identified as Cote 304, and it soon became clear that to take Mort Homme, the Germans would also have to take Cote 304. Horne describes that the attack on Cote 304 would start with some success as a 11th Bavarian Division had the good fortune to attack in a sector that despite the strengths of the French position, the position was manned by units that had extremely low morale and desertion was high. The result was a rapid advance and taking 2,825 men prisoner, 25 machine guns, 12 assorted cannon, and a box full of new Croix-des-Guerres as part of the capture of a village called Bois d'Avocourt. The action would be such that the opinion of one French officer that the actions by those that surrendered being among the most "deplorable to occur on our side during the Great War."

However, even with these surrender and morale issues, the successes the Germans had at d'Avocourt wasn't something that broke the French. In fact Horne also adds some point in mention that with regard to the forces the Germans kept in the lines during the fighting at Verdun, they often kept veteran forces together and in the course of the fighting... and as a result the veteran officers and men were ground down in the fighting and were simply topped off with non-veteran replacements. But while these issues weren't going to change, Germany by early April made Verdun it's focal point and individual unit tactics would be made... to go from infiltration, which was starting to fail as they lost woods and other obstacles to move through, to all out assault...

The changes also included streamlining the command with General von Gallwitz being command over Fifth Army forces on Left bank of the Meuse while General von Mudra commanded Fifth Army forces on the Right bank of the Meuse, and both under Crown Prince Wilhelm.

Click the image to open in full size.
(General Bruno von Mudra, Commander of German 5th Army units on the Right Bank of the Meuse at Verdun)

Click the image to open in full size.
(General Max von Gallwitz, Commander of German 5th Army units on the Left Bank of the Meuse at Verdun up until July 1916)

Von Gallwitz also brought with him a young staff officer that Horne notes as playing an important role in Germany's future, a young Erich von Manstein...

Click the image to open in full size.
(Erich von Manstein, in 1916 an officer on Von Gallwitz's staff, picture is from 1938)

And von Gallwitz rapidly found himself impressed with France's artillery and commented gloomily that what was had was not enough. And the fighting for Mort Homme continued, with Eugene von Falkenhayn, the older brother of Erich, leading the direct attacks on the hill, there was soon friction within the German command even in the new system... In the end, this reflects many of the problems that frequently plagued German military history in that there was just as much politicking going on behind the lines as in any other army... but Horne really doesn't explain fully on how matters were either simplified or resolved. He points to the friction and then moves on into the continued fighting for Mort Homme, which reaches a point that to the Germans comes off as a disappointment when they take a point that they identify as the summit only to learn that they've still got about one hundred feet more...

At the same time... Horne has again brought in the mention of an officer better known for his service in World War II than in World War I. While von Manstien probably did perform some duty of note as a staff officer under von Gallwitz, Horne's mention of him is only to state that he was there. In this, as he did with De Gaulle earlier in the book... it would seem that Horne is doing more to drop names than to relate any action of importance to the battle...

And with the battle, Horne does continue to describe the German advance... and primarily as it being costly. The duels of artillery were described in many ways that mad them massive in scope and scale. So much so, that Horne describes some soldiers transferred to the area where the Battle of the Somme would be fought finding the bombardment there paling before what they'd endured at Verdun. And while the Germans advanced, it was not in any rapid rush. In fact Horne's description is more like that of a gradual rise and ebb, similar to a tide coming in on a beach with each wave reaching slightly higher as the tide comes in... but the wave does pull out again as well.

And despite optimistic reporting on the German side, there were concerns, and with von Gallwtiz pointing to the issues created with the fact that French artillery on Cote 304 would need to be silenced before Mort Homme could be taken. As otherwise, the French were managing to bleed the Germans for Mort Homme and even push the Germans back. By May 3, 1916, the full attack on Cote 304 began with over 500 pieces of artillery firing and followed what Horne describes as an avalanche of German troops in the attack... though it would still take three days to secure Cote 304. Once that was done, Mort Homme did fall to the Germans by the end of May, allowing the Crown Prince to achieve what he'd set out to do in March... Though, Horne notes that it nearly three months to clear these two hills and that there were some signs of that German losses might be more troubling than the French...

Quite a price to pay... for Dead Man's Hill...

CHAPTER STRENGTHS:
1) Horne continues to provide very descriptive language to shape his narrative. Reading it does give one the sense of the huge losses of men and material that went into the war and the struggles that went into it.

2) This is further aided by Horne's use of language... but the advance of the German forces at Cote 304 and Mort Homme does show the difficulties in advancing on the Western Front in WWI. And that would be something that just about any history should relate to. In general, defenders have advantages over the attacks, and that was the general reason why in many of the Allied offensives that the Allies in WWI suffered heavier losses. At Verdun, the Germans would be enduring many of the same hardships that the French and British had endured earlier in the war. And while the German use of artillery may have helped prevent them from taking losses as heavy as the French took... it was not as if taking either Cote 304 or Mort Homme were easy for them. Even the lucky break with the units that surrendered didn't mean the immediate capture of their objectives.

CHAPTER WEAKNESSES:
1) Misidentified ownership... On page 163, Horne comments on the 11th Bavarian Division taking the "Russian fortress of Przemysl." However, this fortress was not Russian, but Austrian and had been taken by Russians in early 1915. While Horne may be fully accurate in who the 11th Bavarian Division took Przemysl from... that action was to retake the fort for the Central Powers, as it had been in Austria's hands at the start of the war.

2) Minor difficulties with time flow... And this was a potential problem that has hung over the book and how Horne has wrote many of his chapters. Many of the earlier chapters on the battle itself focus on individual days within the battle, and while that allowed for Horne to describe individual day to day actions in great detail... it would mean that if he started getting into scenarios where he's covering more time in a single chapter... the more what he puts in will be more a generalized over-view of the actions during that time period rather than the in depth description that he had in those earlier chapters... Now, Horne's use of language makes his general description good enough to compensate for this weakness... but it should be noted that at times it may come off as hard to see that time is actually moving along at a greater pace than it was earlier in the book...

3) Mentions of "unimportant" people... This time for Erich von Manstien... This is a weakness in the same way the mention of De Gaulle in chapter 12 was a weakness. While the man plays a role in German history that is notable, we mostly only know Erich von Manstien for his planning of the attack in the West in 1940 and command on the Eastern Front in WW2 before arguments with Hitler cost him his job. Now Manstien career had the potential provide more windows into staff work in WWI, as Horne does identify him as an officer on Gallwitz's staff... BUT he's not used for anything more than to say that he was involved in the fighting at Verdun. Horne doesn't give us anything about what Manstien actually did as part of the fighting...

IMPORTANCE/CHAPTER THOUGHTS...
You really start to see the flow of time increase in this chapter as the chapter starts in March and ends in May... And to a great extent this is to be expected, as given how long the fighting was in the Battle of Verdun that Horne could not progress through more than three hundred days of battle one day at a time... And in this, while some of the day to day detail is lost, Horne's skill with the English language in shaping his narration generally makes up for it... And it isn't as though his general description of events is lacking detail, either...

But the chapter's importance remains with some demonstration that taking heavy losses for little to no gain in the First World War was NOT something unique to the Allies in the war. It was not something that only the Allies endured and that when the Germans did launch attacks, as the fighting at Verdun showed, they often found themselves taking losses that often had them struggling with the same issues that we often use to criticize Allied commanders, particularly those who get blamed for taking heavy casualties.
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Old October 10th, 2017, 04:57 PM   #22

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The review continues with chapter fifteen...

Chapter Fifteen: Widening Horizons

Chapter fifteen is a longer chapter by comparison to earlier chapters in the book, but in doing so, Horne actually works to bring in information on the lives of the rank and file in the battle and the troubles they had to confront. In this, to some extent it would counter claims that are present in Jankowski's book that the "classical historians," which Jankowski has held Horne as the epitome of, didn't talk on the effects of the war on the rank and file beyond the casualty lists and numbers. Now this isn't the focus of Horne's book, but it needs to be noted that he does touch on the subject, and that is what this particular chapter focuses on.

However, the way Horne goes about covering this issue is rather reflective of how he's covered a lot of what he's mentioned many aspects of the battle, and that is continue to paint the image of the battle as one of death and destruction and misery. This includes references to a pilot flying over Verdun and looking down on the red roofs of the town and then seeing where there were no red roofs with the line that, "you know what has happened there." This soon goes into the discussion of the shelling and the damage it did and how intense that it was, going to the point where recovering and burying the dead was difficult, if not impossible.

This, of course leads the scent of decay lingering over the battlefield, which obviously smelled bad. Though, to explain on the issue of being unable to bury the dead in such a situation, Horne feels the need to provide commentary that the British felt the French didn't bury their dead with the same tidiness as they did. Now, while there may be some validity to the claim... I don't think it really works to highlight the intensity of the shelling both sides endured at Verdun that got to the point the French couldn't be tidy about burying their dead. The use of the comparison would only serve to create the image that the French weren't tidy and doesn't really say anything about Verdun itself. It might be a valid point to make in reference to battles that were less intense for the sake of a general comparison, but with Verdun... it only serves to confuse readers as to whether or not the scent of death that hung heavy over Verdun was caused by the intensity of the fighting or French lack of care for their dead.

Horne continues to comment on the effects of the shelling and warfare in the trenches, with the fighting leaving soldiers exposed to lice and the trenches being leveled by the shelling. He provides added detail with providing various direct quotes from soldiers who fought at Verdun to point to how destructive the battle was to make it quite clear on how devastating and destructive the fighting was and to even present on how "mistaken" people at home could be...

Quote:
"Oh, the people who were sleeping in a bed and who tomorrow, reading their newspaper, would say joyously -- 'they are still holding!' Could they imagine what that simple word 'hold' meant?"

- a twenty year old French corporal...

quoted by Alistair Horne, The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 page 177
The combat and destructive nature of the shelling also served to allow Horne to take that sort of nature to then provide comparisons on how the soldiers in the front trenches then viewed the artillerymen behind them. The commentary that Horne provides on this would then serve to give the implication that the infantry in the front lines tended to be rather resentful of the artillerymen who the infantry felt never faced danger. In this he argues that the men at the front resented that the artillerymen for having it easy, and Horne even puts in some quotes and commentary that would seem to reflect that criticism that the infantry had of the artillery had...

Quote:
"One day when, quietly sitting underneath an apple tree, I was writing a letter, a 130 mm. shell landed forty meters behind me, causing me a disagreeable surprise."

- Staff Segeant Fonsagrive, serving with a 105 mm battery

quoted by Alistair Horne The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 page 179

and...

"Tell the children we have a poor refugee dog which suffers from a terrible fear and displeases me because he is dirty and snores at night. Two swallows have made their nest near us..."

- Major Henches, another artilleryman in a letter to his wife...

quoted by Alistair Horne The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 page 179
When compared to the commentary of men in the front lines being blown to pieces by artillery and combating with lice and losing their shelters because of the intense German (and at times even French) artillery, complaints of a lone shell landing 40 meters, a dirty and snoring dog, and nesting birds would seem rather trivial. Though, Horne would also point to the irony that Henches would be killed on the Somme that Autumn... it would still point to the differences between what was endured by those in the front lines compared to the artillerymen behind them... Even though the mention of Henche's death later during the Battle of the Somme and other mentions of the artillery crews taking some shelling as well would also show that despite some of the resentment of the artillery, that didn't mean that they avoided taking fire completely or weren't in danger during the battle.

The focus of the chapter, remains with the rank and file and Horne makes some emphasis that many of the real "heroes" of the Battle of Verdun were those who those who among the rank and file who fought in not only the basic infantry but the men who also supported them. Then men who ran messages, brought up food, and operated the stretchers. It serves to provide some balance to the previous chapter which put a fair amount of focus on the general officers as they responded to the events of the battle in many ways. It serves to provide a nice balance to the book and a reminder of the fact that the battle, while directed by men like Joffre, de Castelnau, Petain, Crown Prince Wilhelm, and so on... it was still fought by average men, who endured the shelling and needed to be fed and needed medical care when wounded.

And in this, Horne presents the difficulties and horrors that the men faced for lack of food and difficulty to get medical care, with stretcher barriers having difficulty in getting the wounded to the hospitals. This soon leads to comparison to the Second World War and how British veterans often could rely on being treated quickly for their wounds with antibiotics, sulfa, other field treatments to be delivered quickly, and with means to transfer seriously wounded troops to major hospitals behind the lines with great speed. In contrast, Horne points to the French troops at Verdun didn't get this advantage... It took much longer for the wounded to be moved from the front lines to surgeries and various things like antibiotics were NOT available and that the best medial equipment was often lacking. This often meant that wounds could often lead to death and that from February 21st to end of June 1916, some 23,000 French soldiers died of wounds in hospitals from the fighting at Verdun.

The comparison is interesting and shows a major comparison between WWI and WWII, but it should be noted that many of the methods in WWII did not exist in WWI and that there is likely to have been different methods between the British and French armies with regard to medicine within World War I, let alone World War II. In this, would have been better served to compare medical treatment between the French at Verdun and the British on the Somme rather than the French at Verdun and the British in World War II. The technology and methods in WWII were likely developed in WWI and thus wouldn't be that valid to compare to WWI. A development from WWI to WWII could be mentioned, but this is not made in the book. Horne merely makes the comparison between the British army in WWII and the French army in WWI... Perhaps some mention on the development and improvement of medicine between WWI and WWII could have been used, but again, this is not really done.

As Horne moves toward the end of the chapter, he continues to move through the look at how the battle would effect the individual soldiers... essentially reflecting the sort of focus that Jankowski referenced in his book in referring to the social issues in wondering how the brutal aspects of war would affect the men fighting it with a quote from a French lieutenant at the beginning of the battle wondering, "Perhaps we shall soon all reach the degree of brutishness and indifference of the soldiers of the First Empire." In this, it should be noted that while these sorts of social issues isn't the focus of Horne's history the way the way it is for Jankowski, it must be noted that Horne is aware of it....

And in this as Horne ends the chapter, he includes the mention on the war affected the men who fought the battle...

CHAPTER STRENGTH:
The chapter gives some strong inclination on how the war was fought and how the men viewed it. In this it provides a close look at the effects of the war on people. It may not be the focus of the book, but making some mention of the effect provides some information on what the war is like for the rank and file. And in this Horne also balances this chapter out with its rank and file focus with the previous chapter with its greater focus on the higher ranking officers.

CHAPTER WEAKNESSES:
1) While Horne does admit it... the chapter carries a very heavy French focus. We know largely on how the French responded to the battle but not really on the Germans. Horne provides good explanation of what facts he has, and in pure theory we can speculate that the Germans had similar issues, but the lack of information leaves this chapter very much under a French influence.

2) Poor pacing. While Horne has generally done good job with regard to balance and movement chapter to chapter, within this chapter he seems to sort of ramble from point to point. This is likely the fact that a lot of this chapter dwells on many of the social matters in terms of how war effected the average French people... but it means that Horne very loosely moves from people being blown apart to lacking medical skill to losing their morality.

3) Too much focus on death and destruction. Wars naturally do result in death and devastation. That much is a given... And Verdun was a bloody battle, but much of that also relates to the fact that it was a LONG battle... nearly 300 days. Which would then taking the high end French casualty estimates would put it at 1,824.92 casualties per day. In total the French would lose a lot of men at Verdun, yes, but that is counting total losses. Total losses may look big when looking at the end results, but that doesn't necessarily mean the rate of casualties taken. And while nearly 2,000 men per day is rather high... there are other battles in French history that had HIGHER daily casualties than Verdun, which is somethin Jankowski got into with his book.

Compare Verdun to the 100 Days Offensive at the end of the war. That campaign lasted around 100 days, thus the name of the offensive in 1918. Looking solely at French casualties per day for that offensive, French losses would be over 5,000. So, the last offensive of the war would clearly have had a HIGHER French cost than the Battle of Verdun did in 1916... And such calculations could be made with other battles... Compare that with the Battle of Agincourt for example. That was a one day battle and had French losses as high 10,000 in one day. That's nearly five times the daily casualty rate at Verdun. Even Austerlitz, Napoleon's great's victory, had a higher daily casualty rate than Verdun, as the battle lasted one day and Napoleon took 9,000 casualties.

Yet, Horne's description of the fighting, while reflective of the overall carnage of the war and the total casualties taken over the nearly 300 days of the Battle of Verdun... it does not actually reflect what could be considered an average daily rate. Now, obviously averages are not precisely accurate, but it would still give a general image of the day to day combat. Verdun was a bloody battle, yes, but mostly because of how long it lasted. It was not bloody because men were being slaughtered in the tens of thousands per day... which is the sort of impression that Horne's narrative gives.

IMPORTANCE/CHAPTER THOUGHTS... What makes this chapter important is the way it balances out issues with the rank and file in this chapter with the concerns of the general officers in earlier chapters, particularly the previous chapter. It reminds the reader of just who was doing the fighting and dying...

And while Horne's use of descriptive language may end up coming off as a weakness in this chapter... it should be noted that the weakness #3 is NOT a weakness of fact. Horne has not put any false numbers or anything that is blatantly false. The weakness is more on emphasis and Horne's own use of language. His point is to describe the nature of the fighting, which he does VERY well. But it's something that can lead imagining that every day was a ghastly slaughter of men. And when looking at the total casualty numbers, Horne is rather accurate... (I'd tend to trust Horne's numbers over Mosier's). But in a comparison of the average daily casualty rate, one just needs to remember what he's described fits the big picture more than the day to day picture of the death and destruction...

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Old October 22nd, 2017, 02:47 PM   #23

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The review continues with chapter sixteen...

Chapter Sixteen: In Another Country

Chapter sixteen is a shorter chapter and one where Horne begins to touch on tangential issues to the Battle of Verdun, and namely the comparisons between those at the front and those behind the lines. It is here where Horne offers the questions on what was happening in Germany and France where there was no fighting... In a sense, it is a pause from the narrative on the battle, as the issues Horne discusses in the chapter would also be something that would apply to the war as a whole and not just the Battle of Verdun, but it would be something to notice.... And Horne does keep his details largely limited to the time period of 1916, though with some comparisons to pre-war statistics as well.

Horne begins with many aspects of the war on the German home front, which he notes was the worst of all the belligerants in World War I, mostly due to the British Blockade. (See: What You Need To Know About The British Naval Blockade Of The First World War | Imperial War Museums for reference). He notes that Germany had demonstrations as early as 1915 over the lack of quality in whipped cream and that rationing was already intense in early 1915. By the end of 1916, conditions under the blockade became worse in what became known as the "turnip winter." (See: Szenen for reference). Horne also notes that the blockade did more than just limit food in that the Germans were also going through roof tiles to get the supplies needed for shell production and that cotton shortages would soon force Germany to turn to many other sources of material...

And over this situation, Kaiser Wilhelm II continued to rule Germany and in much the same way that he had before the war.

Click the image to open in full size.
(Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, German Emperor and father of Crown Prince Wilhelm, who ruled in much the same way that he had prior to WWI during the war...)

Horne describes the Kaiser's interests in the war in following some of the stories that came back to him from the front, though many may have simply been invented for his amusement. Beyond this, much of the Kaiser's time seemed to follow many of the sorts of things that he enjoyed before the war, be it in hunting expeditions and house parties that made it clear that the Kaiser was not living under conditions similar to those that his people dealt with when referring to the effects of the British blockade...

Yet, despite this, Horne makes the commentary that despite the aloofness the Kaiser had with regard to his generals and the obvious lifestyle that was so different from what the average German endured... the German people seemed to soldier on and remained supportive of the war. There were some attempts to protest the war, as Karl Liebknecht tried to orchestrate an anti war rally in the Potsdamer Platz on May 1, 1916 was what Horne describes as a "flash in the pan."

Click the image to open in full size.
(Karl Liebknecht, German Socialist and member of the Spartacus League, who was arrested following an anti-war rally in May 1916)

In this... despite all the hardships and issues that would give anyone good reason to protest against the war, so far Germany had quite literally soldiered on...

And for the French soldiers, coming off the line offered differences from their experiences at the front. Horne describes soldiers coming off the line being able to get access to a bunk, a hot meal, and potentially even a bath as they came off the line and into the evacuated Verdun. Moving further behind the French lines, Horne describes France's situation as being between Britain and Germany. In this, France's home front in 1916 was not as hurt by shortages as Germany's nor as relaxed as Britain. In fact Horne even mentions that Britain had not mobilized its own war effort to the same degree as France had...

Horne describes that there were attempts at rationing things like meats, cereals, sugars and so on, but early on in the war, it seamed that many of these ration requirements were often ignored. The worst shortages the French endured were in the areas the Germans had occupied in 1914, though Horne also notes that this would be less than what would be endured in World War II with regards to what the Germans would take in the occupied area. For the rest of France, it would not be until 1917 when the German U-boat campaign resumed its unrestricted campaign that the French government felt compelled to create a "Ministry of Food" and the ration restrictions were increased.

Horne also provides some descriptions and references to Paris, which despite being only 150 miles from the front, is described as "another world." That, even in mid 1916 as the great battles of that year blazed, Paris essentially remained the "city of light" and seemed to attract people from all over the warring nations on the side of the Allies. People from France's various colonies intermixed with men of the Foreign Legion, with even British Highlanders, and even American flyers from the Lafayette Squadron. Paris even seemed to import British songs over the course of the war. In many ways, life in Paris was almost as if there was no war. As the battle for Cote 304 raged the glittering film Salammbo was showing... (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salammb%C3%B4#Film). At the same time, there was the Spring Flower Show, done in all its pre-war glory.

It is an interesting picture when contrasted to all the destruction described in earlier chapters, though Horne has seemed to have some things mentioned in less detail than before. Such as the mention on when the film was released. By the Wikipedia article, the film was released in 1915 and was an Italian film. The movie could have continued to air in 1916, and Horne's commentary on men of all uniforms being drawn to Paris in 1916 would reflect this... But the fact that Horne doesn't get into specific detail on this is an issue... As since the movie is listed at Italian and premiered in 1915... there could be the potential for Horne to have some factual error... either in research or in his source's memory.

The element of Paris being so different... operating as if the war wasn't even on, lead to its own problems behind the French lines and with the French economy. This included inflation and a thriving black market. Yet, in spite of this, the French economy continued on, or as Horne describes it... it muddled through. But the fact that it muddled through and had issues with a thriving black market, would mean that France was open to scandal, usually resulting from corruption, defeatism, and potentially treason. These issues generally tried weaken French morale and their support for the war. These hurt... and when war profiteers and propagandists were added in, there were signs of difficulty with the French... As Horne notes in a footnote on page 196 strikes and mutinies had gone UP from previous years...

Quote:
Whereas on the home front in 1914-1915 strikes had ben negligible, in 1916 there were 314 (most of them in the last quarter of the year), and in 1917, the year of the Army mutinies, 696.

-Footnote by Alistair Horne, The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 page 196
But ultimately, as with Germany, despite what difficulties there were, France seemed to hold the will to resist, in spite of the losses at Verdun. They were tested by the sacrifices made, but seemed to retain the will to endure and carry on. This included various political efforts in the creation of the "Union Sacree," where men of all political groups put aside their differences in the interest of national unity. This even included men like Anatole France, an author noted for opinions that ran counter to nationalism and militarism before the war, resuming his seat with the "Conservatives of the Academie," which Horne says he abandoned after the Dreyfus Affair. And in this "Union," other surprises appeared... namely among the French Socialists. Despite all the reversals of the war, when the International Revolutionary Socialists held their meeting in Switzerland to demand peace and revolution to end the war, few French deputies supported it. The most notable was one Pierre Laval.

Click the image to open in full size.
(Anatole France, a French author known for anti-militarist and socialist ideologies who found himself part of the Union Sacree at the Academie Francias)

Click the image to open in full size.
(Pierre Laval, at the time a French Socialist who voted in favor of immediate peace at a conference in Switzerland in April 1916, something FEW French Socialists did...)

Even France's women participated in supporting the war effort. Some served as nurses while others served in the factories for war manufacturing. Horne states that some of their efforts may have started in 1914 with a search for adventure, but as casualties and deaths mounted, dedication replaced it. By 1916, Horne equates France's position to the actress Sarah Bernhardt, mutilated but undaunted.

Click the image to open in full size.
(Sarah Bernhardt, a French actress who continued to perform on the stage during World War I, despite having lost a leg to gangrene, the picture is from 1880)

CHAPTER STRENGTH:
Horne does provide an intriguing description of life behind the lines for both the French and the Germans and demonstrating how both endured... Germany with its ability to soldier on in spite of loss of food and other raw materials that it needed and with France managing to muddle through despite its losses. The fact that anti-war elements on both sides were still in the minority by 1916 shows on just how much both sides could endure.

CHAPTER WEAKNESSES:
1) Little real direct reference to the Battle of Verdun. While Horne does refer to some elements and actions that happened to go on during the same timeframe as the Battle of Verdun, he doesn't appear provide any real direct connection between the battle and these events, such as news from the battle influencing these events in some way. This ultimately becomes an issue, as while all of what Horne describes happened... it's more relevant to the war as a whole and specifically to the battle itself.

In this, we know what is going on with the French and German home fronts in 1916, but we don't know how much of that is directly related to the fighting at Verdun.

2) At times some lack of detail... For the most part, Horne has been very attentive to detail, but in this chapter... some of that attention appears to be lacking. His reference to the movie showing in Paris in 1916 is the prime example. An online search has revealed that the only version of that movie that was released during WWI was an Italian film in 1915. Now, it is possible that the film came to Paris and was still showing, and this is in fact likely... BUT from the way it's explained in the chapter, one would think that it was premiering in 1916 and was a French film. In this, Horne could have stood to provide some detail on the film's history so that the reader understands it... As it is... there is the potential that either Horne made a mistake or one of his sources had a poor memory...

IMPORTANCE/CHAPTER THOUGHTS... As with the last chapter, Horne is attempting to touch on issues that newer historians, like Jankowski, may have a greater focus on. He does a relatively decent job of presenting the events that occurred on the home front in both France and Germany fairly well, but it's really done in a way that shows the difference between a historian like Alistair Horne and Paul Jankowski. Horne, being more of the classical military historian is excellent with descriptive language and presenting a factual narrative of the battle, but things relating to the societies and cultures engaged in the battle are not quite as well detailed.

The fact that while Horne fails to provide a direct connection between the battle and the events on the home front shows this. It isn't that what Horne wrote is factually wrong. It's more that the way he's presented his information would do quite well for a general history of the war as a whole, showing the consequences of the war on the home front, but doesn't have a way to specifically tie it into the battle being covered in the book. In this, had Horne been better able to demonstrate how events at Verdun had influence on perceptions on the home front rather than just a comparison of events that happened to be going on at the same time as the battle... Horne would have a much stronger chapter... As it is, chapter is limited to a simple comparison.
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Old October 30th, 2017, 05:45 PM   #24

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The review continues with chapter seventeen.

Chapter Seventeen: The Air Battle

The chapter serves to provide a brief and interesting look into air to air warfare in World War One and how it developed, and Horne does a good job of tying in the development of a true air force into the Battle of Verdun. Horne retains his brilliant descriptive language at times, particularly in the references made that describe air combat in the war and how it was viewed by both sides, though it should be noted that at times, particularly in the beginning of the chapter, it seems that Horne's presentation seems to ramble without clear organization. On some level it's understandable, as in the beginning he's trying to give a quick rundown on the development of air combat... but it's still something that could be taken as confusing as he jumps from point to point.

Horne opens the chapter with a brief description of the infantry and artillery might see when they looked up to the sky. He uses this to set up a demonstration on how different the war in the air was from the war on the ground. This included on how the airmen couldn't hear the sounds of the artillery firing beneath them and how the battlefield seemed smaller to the pilots as they flew over it. It serves to set the airmen apart from the rest of the troops and how they became public figures as a result.

From there, Horne moves into the development of air combat with the standard line that before the war the airplane was seen as little more than a novelty, that when the war began the French had only 150 aircraft and the Germans didn't have many more. But the importance of aircraft became apparent as aircraft were used to spot von Kluck's mistake on the Marne in 1914 and soon France was producing many models of aircraft that were being flown by its pilots. In fact, Horne even makes the comment that based on France's industry and related issues, at first they were operating too many models. An error not repeated by the Germans. Though it should be noted that while the air forces grew after the start of the war, it should be noted that they still remained a small part of the forces involved. Horne provides some example on the growth of the French Air Force, that by the end of the war it would have around 13,000 personnel. Horne also adds in some mention on mortality issues here as well, with 3,500 killed in combat, 2,000 killed in training, and another 3,000 injured in accidents.

But with all these developments, Horne alludes to the Germans having superior machines to the French and that it was not until the French got "107 MPH Nieuport fighters" that they could engage the Germans on anywhere near close to "equal terms."

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(Nieuport fighters, French built fighters with various models that would see service at Verdun, including the 11, 16, and 17)

Though, Horne also notes that while the Germans may have a superiority in technology... it wasn't much to truly boast on, given that the Germans retained a heavy focus on building zeppelins during the war and that much of their technical superiority came from a Dutch inventor Anthony Fokker, whom Horne identifies as "Tony."

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(German Ace Werner Voss on the left and Anthony Fokker on the right)

From there, Horne gives a brief rundown on how air combat in World War I started with taking steal darts and progressed to pilots shooting at each other with service revolvers with rifles and machine guns following. It was not until 1915 with the introduction of Fokker's invention, a synchronizing gear that allowed German machine guns to fire through the propeller without doing damage to the propeller. See: First World War.com - Encyclopedia - Interrupter Gear for reference. Horne states that the introduction of this gear for aircraft when combined with German guns proved highly beneficial to the Germans as the French machine guns tended to jam, had smaller magazines, fired unexpectedly on landing, and were difficult to reload in the air.

Yet, Horne describes the nature of air to air combat being particularly suited to the French temperament. Their individualism made them quite keen to engage in combats that Horne describes as being comparable to Medieval combat or even the ghosts of Hector and Achilles. It showed a great deal of gentlemanly spirit that wasn't present elsewhere in the war, with Horne pointing directly to an incident in which a German pilot lost a glove over a French air field. He would later return and drop the glove's mate with a note saying he had no use of the glove without its mate. The French pilot who found the glove would later fly over the Germany's air field and drop a note that said, "thank you." It was a very different war from the war in the trenches...

But the Battle of Verdun would begin to change that. The fighting would see the beginnings of a true "Air Force" rather than just individual aces going up to patrol and then shoot at each other. It began with a promise made in January 1816 that Joffre and de Castelnau made to keep the skies clear. Yet this hadn't come true as by the beginning of the Battle of Verdun, the sky was filled with German Fokkers that brought down the German bombardments on them...

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(Fokker fighters available in 1916. Top is the Eindecker and bottom is the D.II)

As the Germans took control of the skies over Verdun, France's operational commander of its Air Force, Colonel Bares brought in six whole squadrons with a total of 120 aircraft, and their commander Marquis de Rose and gave them the order to, "Sweep the skies."

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(Charles de Tricornot de Rose the commander of France's fighters as the Battle of Verdun began and ordered by Colonel Bares to "sweep the skies")

From there, de Rose set about fulfilling that order by gathering up the best pilots of the French Air Force into what became the Groupe des Cigognes (Storks). Horne then includes a rundown of these pilots and the successes they had in the fighting at Verdun. It included men like Charles Nungesser, a pre-war boxer, who by Verdun could only use one leg on the rudder controls, yet in the course of the battle, he would shoot down six German aircraft and a balloon. There was also Jean Marie Dominique Navarre, who scored one of the Cigognes's first victories and when not in combat would entertain the troops with aerobatic maneuvers in his red painted plane, which Horne says that Richthofen copied from Navarre.

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(Top, Jean Navarre, Bottom, Navarre's red plane in battle with the Germans)

In all, Navarre fought 257 missions at Verdun and claimed eleven victories. Though, Navarre's life would end tragically, as he would go into some depression after the death of his brother and in 1919 attempted to fly under the Arc de Triomphe, but died when he collided with telephone wires under circumstances that might have made the entire stunt a suicide attempt.

But the greatest of the Cigognes as Horne covers them... was Guynemer.

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(Georges Guynemer, France's Ace of Aces... until his death in 1917)

Guynemer came from a family that traced a "legacy of heroes" that went back as far as Charlemagne, and while he looked frail and effeminate, he was greatly intrigued by the writings before the war that imagined many of the things that would come true in WWI. And to keep his plane ready, he spent hours making sure his guns were in top shape and ready for use. Horne describes his combat tactics as nervously darting into fights that often got others killed, but thanks to his highly accurate shooting, was able to survive. Though, in the end, Guynemer did not survive the war. In September 1917, his plane vanished into a cloud, where he was likely killed and all France mourned. At the time of his death, he'd shot down 54 German planes, then the highest scoring French ace.

From there, Horne moves over to discuss the German side of the air battle, noting that in February 1916 they had gathered their greatest concentration of air power at Verdun. This included some 168 planes, 14 "Drachen" balloons, and 4 zeppelins. Horne argues that they start with air supremacy at Verdun, but through a series of tactical errors that essentially limited what they could do with that supremacy... The first was that their strength was employed defensively with the battlefield divided into many small sectors. The stated mission was to defend German lines, though it should be noted to make such an action viable at the time, the Germans would have needed 720 aircraft, not 168. And in this, when the Cigognes arrived, they pounced on these spread out German planes. To counter these successes, the Germans brought the man often given the most credit for the rules of air combat that continue to this day, Oswald Boelcke.

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(Oswald Boelcke, German Ace and organizer of the Jagdstaffel or "Hunting Pack," later called the Flying Circus)

Through his own skill, Boelcke won back air superiority for the Germans and wounded various members of the Cigognes. It eventually came to a point where Boelcke noted that the "French don't even fly at us anymore." But in this time, the French did begin to develop counters. They began to fly in larger groups, sometimes with as men as twelve fighters escorting two observation planes. In addition, by mid April 1916, Bares and de Rose's organizational efforts had brought over 226 planes and pilots to the Verdun sector, outnumbering the Germans.

Boelcke worked out a method he figured to counter this by organizing his planes in a Jagdstaffel (Hunting Pack). The formation would a group of twelve flying in groups of three and would be closely interdependent on all the formation's members. In later years, it would attain such success that the one organized by Boelcke would become known as the Flying Circus. However, over Verdun, Boelcke's ideas never got the chance to be tried. On June 18 Max Immelmann died in combat with the Royal Flying Corps (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Immelmann). Not wanting to lose its other great flying ace, Boelcke was ordered on a training tour of the Russian Front. Though, Boelcke would return to combat with the Flying Circus in 1916 by July, though this time would come against the British and French on the Somme rather than at Verdun.

And at Verdun, where the organizations and tactics that would go into World War II and beyond were born, the French retained control of the air. Though Horne also notes that the struggle may have been too much for them and stating that the French Air Force declined for the remainder of the war. Though... I'd think this line is more a result of the fact that Horne's book is more focused on the battle at Verdun than it is a specific history on the air war as a whole... And with regard to Horne's focus, that is as it should be as his book IS on the Battle of Verdun, but it could well mean specific information on the air war in WWI after the battle that Horne has used for reference is likely very general or very English centric.

The other German mistake was its failure to use its early air superiority to aide in stopping the flow of Allied supplies. German bombers struck Paris in 1914 but did not strike the Sacred Way or the bridges over the Meuse, which allowed the French to continue bring supplies into Verdun. Horne then agrees with criticism of the Luftwaffe's decision making at Verdun made by the German historian Hans Ritter shortly after the war that they could have cut off all French logistics and won the battle had they bombed those roads and bridges. But they didn't and of the thirty four bridges over the Meuse, only one was demolished, and that was on February 28, 1916 when French demolition charges went off by mistake...

About the only answer as to why this was never done is a quote Horne has used from the Luftwaffe's commander General Hoeppner that, "We did not exactly know what should be required of aviation."

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(General Ernst von Hoeppner, commander of the German Luftwaffe in WWI)

From there, Horne moves on to another aspect of the air battle, and one that while it returns to the "French" side of the battle, the participants that he covers are actually Americans. These ate the flyers of the Lafayette Escadrille.

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(The Lafayette Escadrille, Pictured: Standing (left to right) Soubiron, Doolittle, Campbell, Persons, Bridgman, Dugan, MacMonagle, Lowell, Willis, Jones, Peterson and de Maison-Rouge. Seated (left to right) Hill, Masson with "Soda," Thaw, Thénault, Lufbery with "Whiskey," Johnson, Bigelow and Rockwell)

The squadron was made up of American citizens flying under French colors as volunteers. At first the unit had the name the "Escadrille Americaine," but was forced to change it as the US government protested the name when the Wilson Administration was pressured by the isolationist lobby. It then took the name "Lafayette" which in a sense served both nations, as Lafayette was a French name and thus couldn't impede American neutrality and the Marquis de Lafayette, for who the squadron was named, played an important role in the American revolution.

The flyers came from all walks of life and were a real mixture of many aspects of American life, and Horne then begins to run through many of its principle members, just as he did with the Cigognes earlier in the chapter. There was William Thaw, who'd owned a hydroplane before the war and was the first to get a commission. There was Victor Chapman, who'd been studying art in Paris before the war and joined the Foreign Legion as a private in 1914. There was Kiffin Rockwell who was a medical student from North Carolina before the war. The two spent a year in the trenches before they turned to the Lafayette Escadrille. James McConnell and Elliot Cowdin both came from the American Ambulance Service. Bert Hall was a Texan soldier of fortune who flew for Turkey in the Balkan Wars so long as the Turks could pay him in gold. When that wasn't met, he left and soon offered his services to the French. In 1914 Bert Hall managed to capture a German airplane by forcing the pilot to land behind French lines.

Later recruits included James Hall, who found himself to be a remarkably lucky pilot, once landing with an unexploded AA shell lodged in his engine. He would later found a literary career with Charles Nordhoff that would include the "Mutiny on the Bounty." Joining the squadron after it was formed was Raoul Lufberry. He was born in France, but his family immigrated to the US. By 1912, Lufberry was a professional flyer and often made stunts with French daredevil Marc Pourpe. When Pourpe was killed in the first air battles of the war in 1914, Lufberry sought to avenge his friend and became America's first ace to do so, though like many others... Lufberry, himself, did not survive and was killed in May 1918.

While the men endured many of the same dangers and issues that all fighter pilots endured, the squadron retained a rather upbeat and with a rather carefree attitude. This included even keeping a pet lion named Whiskey...

But with this, the Escadrille earned a great deal of respect for many of its actions. They took losses, with 38 men serving with the squadron with 9 killed (including 4 of the original seven members)... but even with these losses, they were a highly successful unit. During its first six months of existence, it had 158 missions with 17 confirmed victories and most of these at Verdun. And when the unit was disbanded in February 1918, the Lafayette Escadrille was one of two squadrons to gain the distinction of being a twice decorated unit. The other was the Cigognes.

But bigger than its direct military contribution to the battle, Horne comments that the stories of the American flyers in France made their way to the states and helped win interest in support of the Allies favor... in that the Lafayette Escadrille emotionally readied the US to join war in 1917...

I'd hold it as a beautifully made point... but it should be remembered that American support for the war was heavily divided and not every American read about the Lafayette Escadrille and thought well of them for being there.

CHAPTER STRENGTHS:
1) Horne's beautiful use of language comes in in many points to describe the nature of the air combat and how the flyers were viewed during the war. It can vividly paint the image of the flying ace as a new version of a Medieval knight jousting with another. The closing to the chapter regarding the Lafayette Escadrille and how its exploits emotionally readied America is beautifully done.

2) Managing to keep the chapter relevant to the Battle of Verdun. While Horne does include some information from before the battle and from after it, there is a lot that he includes that focuses on the air battles in the region in WWI. It provides an important development to air warfare that IS relevant to the battle as a whole. And keeping that information relevant to the battle lets the reader understand what happened during the battle.

CHAPTER WEAKNESSES:
1) A sort of rambling and disorganized start. This really relates to when Horne goes through the background history to the air ware before the Battle of Verdun. He goes through French developments until 1916 and then jumps back to 1915 to mention the development of the interrupter gear. Horne provides enough information for the reader to get a general understanding, but it could have been much better organized so that it transitioned better... particularly in early parts of the war.

2) Poor identification of aircraft models. While the book isn't intended to be a specific history on the air war in WWI, the most that Horne does to identify the plane models is to name their manufacturer. But this can be confusing as many companies built multiple models. And simply identifying a plane as a Nieuport or a Fokker isn't that terribly specific. Fokker, for example built 24 different models during WWI... and while the Fokker may be one of the more famous plane companies of WWI, it was NOT the only company that built planes for the Germans. Nieuport built 11 different models, and similarly to Fokker, it wasn't the ONLY company building military aircraft in WWI. As such, just identifying the company will potentially only leave people confused as to what specific model is being used. One could do some detective work with the Nieuport model Horne refers to as he gives its air speed, but even that could be a bit confusing.

3) Lack of conversation on bombers and bombing tactics. While there is some mention of it... it's really only in passing and doesn't carry anywhere near the amount of analysis that goes into the fighter combat. France and Germany BOTH had bombers. There could be at least some reference to their models and what role they may have played at Verdun.

4) Poor balance between the two sides... In the way that Horne presents the nature of air to air combat playing similarities to old one on one duels it makes sense for the chapter to include some focus on the specific aces, but the only German ace that Horne really presents is Boelcke. Now, while all of Germany's aces may not served at Verdun... that doesn't mean that Boelcke was the ONLY ace to have served there. There could have been some reference to other German pilots that served there, as Horne provides mini-biographies for one French squadron and one American squadron in French service.

IMPORTANCE/CHAPTER THOUGHTS... The development of air warfare is important, as it was something that has stayed with us to this day. In fact many of the combat rules for air to air combat written by Boelcke are largely unchanged today. And presenting how much of what we would hold as critical to the tactics and use of an air force were begun in the course of fighting the Battle of France is critical to that understanding. And by providing some importance to effect air power had... or could have had... on the battle as a whole keeps it important to the book and to history...

Last edited by Sam-Nary; October 30th, 2017 at 05:54 PM.
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Old November 3rd, 2017, 05:31 PM   #25

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The review continues with chapter eighteen...

Chapter Eighteen: The Crown Prince

Horne opens the chapter with some mention of other events that occurred in 1916 and does this in a way to help set up what becomes the focus of the chapter. This includes a reference to what an Antarctic explorer asked when he reached South Georgia Island:

Quote:
"Tell me, when was the war over?" I asked.

"The war is not over," he answered, "Millions are being killed. Europe is mad. The world is mad."

-An exchange between Shackleton and someone on South Georgia Island...

Quoted by Alistair Horne The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 page 214
And this "madness" is soon brought in to a return to the fighting at Verdun. This includes mention of von Zwehl's corps engaged in various see-saw battles for various pieces of terrain. This soon begins to look into the question of how many had died for these pieces of terrain... This includes casualty ranges on May 1st being 81,607 to 120,000 Germans and 89,000 to 133,000 French.

These rising numbers and the overall situation soon lead into changes of opinion over the whole campaign and arguments within the high command. This again included arguments over where the attacks were to take place regarding the Left and Right bank of the Meuse River, the commitment of reserves to the Verdun sector, and concerns over the fate of the French Army. Knobelsdorf remained supportive of the offensive and was often urging for the men needed to make the offensive. Falkenhayn argued back in a way that went back and fourth between supporting the offensive to take Verdun and worrying over possible counter attacks and actions elsewhere. This ultimately left Crown Prince Wilhelm being the man who was the most balanced in looking at the situation at Verdun...

And while the Crown Prince did initially support the operations at Verdun, it would soon become obvious to him that his superior's mind seemed to be drifting to actions that were far from the image of singular focus that is often attributed to the German military in either World War. This included back and forth correspondence in which Falkenhayn appeared to try and spur Crown Prince Rupprecht into attacking the British at Arras. Rupprecht, however, refused to become involved in these sorts of measures and then came more bad news for Falkenhayn's ideas...

This included Falkenhayn's support for the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare. Following the sinking of the Sussex, American President Woodrow Wilson gave a strong and negative response that so rattled the German government that Falkenhayn was soon called to a conference with the Kaiser and the German Chancellor, Bethmann Hollweg.

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(Woodrow Wilson, American President in 1916, who responded firmly with regard to the sinking of the Sussex and hurt Falkenhayn's hopes for the war at sea)

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(Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, German Chancellor in 1916 and opposed unrestricted Submarine Warfare)

Following the meeting on April 30, 1916, when the American ambassador warned of a cessation of relations between the US and Germany, the Kaiser and Hollweg rejected Falkenhayn's urging of a resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare... And while a lot of this doesn't directly relate to Verdun, it DOES represent the problems that were picking apart Falkenhayn's plans and would lead to arguments in the command that would relate more directly to Verdun. And when there are problems... they tend to stack on top of each other...

And closer to Verdun, this argument came as subordinate officers began to become critical of how the offensive was being handled and lead to conflict within the Fifth Army's command. The came from a disgruntled Prussian officer, a General von Mudra, who voiced his opinion to Knobelsdorf that the tactics employed at Verdun would not work. By April 21st, he was relieved of command and sent back to the Argonne Sector, and before leaving he sent a memo to the Crown Prince in charge of the Fifth Army.

And in reading this... Crown Prince Wilhelm began to feel that the operation was a failure. This included personal suspicions on Falkenhayn's "bleed them white" argument was something that would lead a means for Falkenhayn to deny the men and supplies that would be needed for success at Verdun. And thus the argument over continuing the offensive soon began, with the Crown Prince finding himself forced to contend with both his chief of staff and with his superior... And Crown Prince Wilhelm, while he came to oppose the continued offensive at Verdun, lacked the influence that other German Princes, such as Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, had in the German army.

That then raises the question of why would the heir to the Kaiser lack that influence? The answer that Horne presents to that question relates to the Crown Prince's background. This serves to allow Horne to transition the chapter from covering events on the battlefield at Verdun and into a short biography of the German Crown Prince, which was probably the chapter's purpose, given its name...

Horne begins to move into this section with the commentary that Crown Prince Wilhelm is one of the more maligned figures of World War I and carried off the image of being ineffectual and foolish, but that this wasn't entirely his fault...

The issues in the Crown Prince's life that Horne presents to explain this demonstrate a man of many wild and different interests. He was educated at a young age to be a soldier and often urged into a mentality that praised war and militarism which lead to many bombast statements on looking for war and battle, but in many respects lacked the professionalism that would be attributed to many of Germany's other generals. In fact when the war came in 1914, Horne makes the point to illustrate that the Duke of Wurtemberg and Crown Prince Rupprecht were held by the Kaiser to be professional officers who deserved the rank of General by merit, which was not given to Crown Prince Wilhelm.

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(Albrecht, Duke of Württemberg, German General during World War I, and held to be deserving of the rank by the Kaiser, which was not given to his own son...)

It was an odd situation that would present the idea that Wilhelm II looked down on his eldest son... But Horne does present issues that would show how the Crown Prince's personality clashed with his father's. The Crown Prince seemed to enjoy many aspects of life that Wilhelm II stayed away from. This included various romantic affairs running from diplomatic visits to India, with French women in the occupied territories during the war, and that in 1923 when he was "smuggled" into Germany, his guards had to make sure he didn't "fall in love with some chambermaid." Horne equates this relationship that of George V and his eldest son in the UK in many ways. It would seem to present an image that some of Wilhelm II's judgement on his eldest son may have come from personal issues rather than anything else...

And as the war went on, some actions that the Crown Prince took and statements made seemed to be counter to the popular opinion. Supposedly he voiced warnings on von Kluck's mistakes before the Marne, which the Kaiser chided him on. After the Marne, he astonished an American reporter in saying that Germany had lost the war, and by 1916 even voiced some means to look toward deal to extricate Germany from the war... even if it meant handing back Metz to France. But in a situation where the German population still supported the war in 1916, while the Crown Prince may have seen the writing on the wall... if others didn't and wished to persist on, these statements if made public would likely be used against the Crown Prince...

When added to the personal differences over his playboy attitude that the Crown Prince and Wilhelm II may have had, it would make the case understandable why the Crown Prince didn't have that influence. And that made the argument over what to do at Verdun one that Crown Prince Wilhelm could not win.

CHAPTER STRENGTHS:
1)Highlights the growing changes of opinion within the German command regarding the continued fighting at Verdun. This has been sort of a repeated point for a chapter strength, but in a way it is critical to show that there were differences of opinion within the German army which is important in understanding how things happen in military campaigns... particularly with regard to WWI, where the most basic depiction of the war focuses more on the negatives on the Allied side rather than the Germans...

2) An excellent transition from the debate over strategy at Verdun to the Crown Prince's background. Horne does a decent job of this with his other biography chapters when he needs to transition from the biography to events of 1916, but more often not, the biography part of the chapter covers the entire chapter or starts the chapter, which thus makes that transition easy. With Crown Prince Wilhelm, however, the part of the chapter that covers his life is toward the end of the chapter and thus needs a good transition. And in discussing the actions at Verdun and comparing Crown Prince Wilhelm's influence over affairs to the influence Crown Prince Rupprecht had in his sector is an excellent point to transition over the Crown Prince's life.

CHAPTER WEAKNESS:
Too much emphasis on the Crown Prince's personal life. While it may reflect why his father didn't view him in the same way he viewed others, it doesn't change the fact that the more "professional" officers at Verdun had the wrong opinion on what to do. Horne tries to provide some defense for the Crown Prince... but it's too brief and essentially put between the criticisms of him that would only serve to preserve the negative views of the Crown Prince that ultimately relate little to the Battle of Verdun.

IMPORTANCE/CHAPTER THOUGHTS... On the whole, Horne has put together a strong chapter, illustrating the growing argument within the German command over the operations at Verdun and with an excellent transition into the life of Crown Prince Wilhelm. It shows both the differences of opinion in the German army and why the Crown Prince didn't have the influence needed to have an effect on decisions. And while the way Horne presents this may leave a lot of criticism at the feet of the Crown Prince for his character... It is minor and retains the importance in showing that the Germans were not universally supporting the offensive until the end...
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Old November 5th, 2017, 09:03 PM   #26

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The review continues with chapter nineteen...

Chapter Nineteen: The Triumvirate

In the last chapter, Horne addressed the growing concerns within the German high command over the failures to achieve the breakthrough at Verdun that was hoped for and soon combined with the frustration over expectations over "bleeding France white" not being reinforced with the numbers needed to do so. But it was not as though things were necessarily perfect on France's side as Horne ends the previous chapter...

Quote:
"Thus, just at the moment when the Battle of Verdun was about to enter its grimmest phase, the one man on the German side who could have put an end to the butchery was impotent to do so. And a similar state of affairs had meanwhile come about on the other side of the lines."

Alistair Horne The Prince of Glory: Verdun 1916 page 226
And in Chapter Nineteen, begins to address that issue on the other side of the lines from the Germans... beginning with a visit to Verdun by President Poincare on March 24th.

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(Raymond Poincare, President of the 3rd Republic of France in 1916)

The differences within the French command come from how Petain had been fighting the battle so far... being defensive and often ceding ground where it allowed him to then make the Germans pay for every yard gained, by rotating units in and out of Verdun. The method seemed to be working, as Horne notes that Germans seemed demoralized by the system that brought fresh men to the battlefield and served to actually deceive German Intelligence into thinking French losses were heavier than they in fact were. In many ways... this WASN'T a bad way to conduct the battle.

But to the French high command under Joffre, this "success" was a problem. True, the ground lost had been minimal... but Petain wasn't launching some great counterstroke that would drive the Germans back and to a general like Joffre, who firmly believed in the all out offensive, that WAS a problem. To top it off, Petain's system or rotating units in and out of Verdun was weakening the number of French units available for the campaign Joffre had wanted to fight in 1916, the Somme... (see: Battle of the Somme - World War I - HISTORY.com). But as Petain's lines largely held, Joffre faced the problem that he couldn't fire the general for fear of breaking French morale behind the lines...

This therefore left a question on how achieve the desired result? Joffre was disappointed Petain's lack of offensives while Petain chaffed under Joffre's demands for an offensive and fore moving troops to the Somme theater. In fact Petain even argued that if Verdun were to be held... the Somme would have to be left entirely to the British...

The answer would essentially come in promoting Petain to the entire region and bringing a new general in to take command of the units directly at Verdun... Robert Nivelle.

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(Robert Nivelle, brought in to serve under Petain at Verdun, Nivelle would be tasked by Joffre to push a more offensive fight at Verdun)

And Nivelle came to Verdun with some history of success behind him. He'd been schooled as a cavalryman before the war and at the Marne he'd been in command of artillery units and Horne describes his actions as shelling the German troops at close range and stopping the German attack. By 1915, he'd been promoted to general and had had a meteoric rise that matched Petain's in many ways... But unlike Petain, Nivelle was more dedicated to offensive spirit... And also unlike Petain, Nivelle could be cultured and suave, which lead to many positive impressions became hypnotic in many ways...

But his dedication to a more offensive spirit is what brought Nivelle to Joffre's attention, and at least with regard to Verdun, his dedication would prove beneficial. Horne even mentions that it was Nivelle who is credited for the famous challenge for the French troops at Verdun, "Ils ne passeront pas! (They shall not pass!)" And to Joffre... there were other plusses to bringing in Nivelle, and that was who came with him. In this, Horne describes Nivelle as a "triumvirate." The men who came with Nivelle were a Major d'Alenson and General Charles Mangin.

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(Charles Mangin, one of Nivelle's subordinates)

Horne then gives some background on Mangin, with much Mangin's career spent in the colonies as part of France's various colonial wars, where he'd been wounded three times. In 1898, Mangin had lead a force that nearly brought France to blows with Britain. By the time the war started, Mangin still stayed in a desert tent, regardless of the danger, and while he claimed to admire his African Troops, this didn't stop him from sending them into offensives that often had his colonial troops massacred. While considered competent, Horne still has Mangin described as a killer... and while Mangin may have had the charm to get his men to move forward... He seemed to have no limit, and thus could get his men into trouble.

In fact Horne even provides direct quotes that discuss Mangin...

Quote:
"...reckless of all lives and of none more than his own, charging at the head of his troops, fighting rifle in hand when he could escape from his headquarters, thundering down the telephone implacable orders to his subordinates and when necessary defiance to his superiors, Mangin beaten or triumphant, Mangin the Hero or Mangin the Butcher as he was alternatively regarded, became on the anvil of Verdun the fiercest warrior-figure of France."

-Winston Churchill, Quoted by Alistair Horne The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 page 233

"There is no man more capable of getting you into a mess... and there's no one more capable of getting you out of it!"

- "the great Lyautey," Quoted by Alistair Horne The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 page 233
But the question then remains if France could afford the cost of Mangin's tactics? The answer would soon be delivered as on April 19 Petain was promoted to command Army Group Center and Nivelle would take over the Second Army, effectively solving the problems of the rift between Joffre and Petain. Petain was removed from where he could immediately affect the Battle of Verdun and Joffre got his more offensive minded field commander.

And many of the attacks launched at Fort Douaumont by Nivelle and Mangin ended in failure and in bloody failure But then came an eruption of smoke from Fort Douaumont on May 8, brought about the perceived opportunity for an offensive to retake the fort. Nivelle supported the opportunity though Petain would have preferred to wait until more troops were available. Joffre favored the proposed attack and so, the effort would be made to respond to the supposed disarray the Germans where in after the detonation of munitions in Fort Douaumont. The bombardment would include the use of new 370mm mortars, but like the German bombardment prior to Douaumont's fall to the Germans, this wouldn't do serious damage to the fort...

Click the image to open in full size.
(French 370 mm Mortar, Used to support Mangin's May attempt to retake Fort Douaumont)

The damage that was done was minimal, but did offer a way for the French to get into the fort... and through tremendous effort, some units did reach Fort Douaumont. A French NCO, a Sergeant Piau managed to lead a small group of men into the fort and were soon battling German Jagers for the fort. At times there seemed to be the sense that the fort would return to French hands, but it was ultimately not to be. The troops outside the fort never made it across the entire superstructure of the fort and eventually the Germans were able to reinforce their units in the fort. Mangin's attack failed... with heavy losses.

And the consequences of this failure seemed great. Horne notes that they might have had success had they waited for the reinforcements in order to have the numbers to attack on a wider front, as Petain preferred, but because those reinforcements weren't available, he argues the attack shouldn't have been made at all. Mangin's Corps was withdrawn, as it was too week to hold the line should the Germans attack and morale in the French Army dropped with the failure. Petain took full responsibility for the failure and surprisingly never gives a reproach of Mangin or Nivelle for the failure. Which given all of the literature written by generals to vindicate themselves after wars... I would tend to agree with Horne's judgement on that... Petain was quite magnanimous to officers who bore the real responsibility for the failure to retake Douaumont and the losses sustained in trying.

CHAPTER STRENGTHS:
1) Providing a good balance with the previous chapter. In a sense it ties the book together in that the previous chapter dealt with the first signs of discontent in the German high command over Verdun and this chapter does more to show the discontent within the French command structure and show that neither side had everything go their way.

2) Horne even provides some commentary on how both sides seemed to estimate enemy casualties being high and even gives some explanation as to how the miscounting of casualties occurred... at least on how the Germans may have miscounted. And Horne actually uses this to help support Strength 1 within the French high command. That the errors in counting casualties made Joffre look on the potential for an offensive with greater favor.

3) A strong return to the main combat at Verdun. While much of the chapter does focus on the issues within the French command structure and personalities of Nivelle and Mangin, Horne does provide the excellent and vivid description of the French counter attacks toward Douaumont.

CHAPTER WEAKNESS:
This is likely more relates to other issues that have come about in the course of the book due to the time covered in the chapter. Horne has written some brilliantly detailed chapters that cover the events of the battle... but these chapters are also covering actions of a single day. At the same time, he's had other chapters that are covering several days. And while there is still a fair amount of detail that Horne presents, it doesn't quite fit the same as in the chapters covering the events of a single day.

IMPORTANCE/CHAPTER THOUGHTS... This chapter carries some importance in two ways...

First, by showing that things were not well in the French high command, Horne provides some sense of balance in the book. It shows that things didn't go entirely in the favor of one side or the other, and while I personally would feel that the problems within Germany's leadership circles, political and military, needs greater emphasis to cut down on the worship that the Imperial German military and the Wehrmacht to this day still get... that doesn't mean that issues on the other side can be ignored. The Germans were battling the French at Verdun, and thus how their command dealt with the battle as it unfolded is important.

Second, the chapter begins to return the focus to the actual fighting at Verdun. While the past few chapters do have some relevancy to the battle and either helped shape the battle or were shaped by the battle, they largely cover matters that were tangential to the central part of the battle. And while they may be interesting... they could also be used as part of a separate book that focuses exclusively on those issues, such as the air war, the home front, and so on. Bringing us back into the trenches is important... as it IS the main part of the fighting at Verdun and provides the reader with the main explanation as to what happened in the battle... Which IS important.
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Old November 12th, 2017, 06:47 PM   #27

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The review continues with chapter twenty...

Chapter Twenty: May Cup

By June 1916, the battle at Verdun began to reach its deadliest phase, and as Horne describes it... it had become a battle where the fighting itself seemed to lose any human quality and where the enemy of the soldiers involved was not the enemy in the opposing trenches but the battle itself, particularly as forces continued to draw forces in. For the French it seemed to be a point of honor... that like a male deer caught in a fight with another male, they couldn't withdraw from the fight without the risk of losing everything. And for the Germans... they were drawn in because of the willingness by generals like Knobelsdorf to push the high command into continuing the offense. It was, as Horne describes it as though everything had been overtaken by some superhuman will from the "Stygian regions."

Quote:
stygian
adjective, often capitalized sty·gian \ ˈsti-j(ē-)ən \

1: of or relating to the river Styx
2: extremely dark, gloomy, or forbidding the stygian blackness of the cave

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stygian
Yet despite this, the attention on the battle as it progressed from other Allied (or future Allied cities) seemed to look at the French sacrifices and their stand at Verdun as being something that was becoming a costly failure for the Germans. Horne even provides two political cartoons, one from Baltimore and the other from Philadelphia that would reflect death and attrition not coming back to favor Germany... And in a sense, this DOES reflect the Stygian reference that Horne makes to start the chapter, though it must also be noted that the presentation was rather one sided. While various American, British, and Italian papers may have looked at the reported German losses and saw them as bloody failures... surely there were German, Austrian, Bulgarian, or Turkish papers that might have been informed on events of the battle and had their take on it...

For Nivelle's counter attack toward Douaumont did nothing to delay German offensive plans. In fact it was quite the contrary. The German offensive plans for June were sped up by the counter attack and Cote 304 and Mort Homme in German hands and 2,200 to 1,777 artillery pieces gathered the Germans were quite poised to strike on the Right Bank, as would be claimed in the German press...

Quote:
"Assuredly we are proposing to take Verdun..."

-quote from a German newspaper, quoted by Alistair Horne The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 page 246
The attack, the largest on the Right Bank since the battle began was aimed to move toward the areas around Thiaumont, Fort Souville, and Fort Vaux. This included a massive bombardment of another French fort, Moulainville. But while the "Big Berthas" that had leveled the Belgian forts in 1914, and to some extent did some damage to Fort Moulainville, Horne describes the Battle of Verdun as the final eclipse of the weapon as a weapon of terror. The French forts largely proved to be better protected and weren't completely leveled by the German bombardment, and while it did drive some French defenders into fits of madness... as the French figured the timing of the bombardments and managed to warn units in the forts which seemed to cut down on that...

What became tactically problematic for the Germans was the bombardment of forts like Moulainville seemed to be focused on trying to knock out its 155mm mounted cannon...

Click the image to open in full size.
(Model of the De Bange 155 mm cannon, likely the type of cannon mounted in many of Verdun's forts)

Horne argues that the Germans would have been better served to target Vaux and Souville. While neither were considered major strong points, Souville was used as an observation post and Vaux was an older fort that an all out bombardment might have rendered uninhabitable, which would be a better prize than doing moderate damage to a different fort with the objective of destroying its lone mounted gun...

But the Germans were experiencing problems. Many of the Big Bertha's were wearing down and their intended ammunition was running out. This reduced their accuracy and even lead to the accidental destruction of several German guns. To add to matters, French Naval gunners under the command of the future Admiral Darlan had managed to take out several of these Big Berthas as well with accurate counter battery fire. By June, the German Fifth Army only had four of the thirteen guns they'd possessed in February. It is perhaps THESE reasons why the annoying fire from the forts drew the fire of Germany's remaining heavy gunners.

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(Jean Louis Xavier François Darlan, French Naval Officer commanding artillery units providing counter battery fire in the Battle of Verdun)

Regardless of that, though, Nivelle's counter attack had left much of the ground open and after its failure the German General Berthold von Deimling urged his men toward an immediate drive toward Fort Vaux.

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(General Berthold von Deimling, Commander of the German XV Corps who urged an attack toward Vaux on June 1, 1916)

The German attack was observed by a French Captain of the 101st Regiment by the name of Charles Delvert. And the Delvert could only watch as the Germans continued to advance toward Vaux. Front line troops were overrun and marched off as prisoners. Though as the lines began to gradually approach Vaux, signs of resistance appeared and French machine gunners from the fort spend the rest of the day trying to hold the Germans off. And while the initial attack to Fort Vaux had been repulsed, the fight there had only just begun...

For Delvert... his fight was soon interrupted by the lighting of a flare accidently setting off ammunition being stored to repel the Germans... and at Vaux the worst hadn't come yet...

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(Charles Delvert, French Captain at the Battle of Verdun defending Fort Vaux on June 1)

CHAPTER STRENGTH:
The chapter is a good one in that it moves the narrative forward, but its biggest single strength is that Horne's descriptive use of language remains and truly serves to shape the image of the narrative. It really makes the image of the battle and how the forces fighting it kept fighting it take on the otherworldly image that is commonly associated with World War I... And in many ways, that image is fitting, and the use of the word "stygian" to describe what kept the armies fighting is a big thing...


CHAPTER WEAKNESSES:
1) At times... a lack of balance. This can relate in how Horne's narrative pushes the negative view of World War I and how it was viewed and in how others looked on the fighting at Verdun.

Now, the war was one that produced many negative looks on the battle in which people looked at it negatively. In that image it is understandable to see the battle as the enemy of the soldiers involved. But it needs to be noted that not every soldier had negative outlooks on their war experiences. Some soldiers did have positive experiences or thoughts. And while Horne's narrative if beautifully done... it DOES reflect those that had viewed their war experience far more negatively than anything else.

And while Allied newspapers (and newspapers in future Allied countries) may have taken the French sacrifices and reports on their defense of Verdun as giving the Germans problem, these were not the ONLY newspapers reporting on the war. The Allied propaganda on the battle was not the only propaganda being produced. Horne presents the Allied propaganda, but makes little to no mention of what the press of the Central Powers said about the losses at Verdun.

2) Mentions of "unimportant" people... This time for Jean Louis Xavier François Darlan. Again, Horne seems to be at times taking opportunities to point to World War II persons who had happened to be at Verdun. Now, in a way, he could have used Darlan's presence with the artillery units to show either some artillery skill or present more detail on his actions during the battle... but he doesn't. Instead, Horne seems to throw a WWII name out there with very little to say about him that directly relates to what he's doing at the battle.

IMPORTANCE/CHAPTER THOUGHTS... On the whole... this chapter really serves as a transition from Nivelle/Mangin's counter-attack toward Fort Douaumont in late May to the coming battles for Fort Vaux... Which then explains the reference to how the battle was developing, along with certain issues that both sides were running into... The Germans having their concerns with French counterbattery fire and their own issues with wear and tear on their siege guns and the French having concerns related to the numbers they had, both in men and material, that they had available to them... particularly after Nivelle's failed counter offensive.

And Horne does a GREAT job of this. This chapter has everything set up for the next big battle that would take place as part of the fighting at Verdun. And while the narrative that Horne tells fits the very negative "gloom and doom" sort of view that has been held of World War I, Horne at least remains consistent with it. There could be points where Horne could have provided more information that would relate to the men that had a more positive view of their war experiences...

The fact that Horne remains consistent is in a sense tolerable... as the view that the First World War was over-burdened by senseless slaughter hasn't necessarily gone a way, and even historians who might argue that things weren't entirely gloom and doom have to recognize the difficulties of the war and how they developed. This could mean that trying to point to differences could lead to other difficulties as either ignoring the problems that were real in WWI or coming off as bi-polar being very positive in one assessment and then being very negative in another. And that is were Horne's consistency in his narrative isn't a bad thing... even if there could be weaknesses in what is presented...

And even there... what Horne presents isn't completely wrong...
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Old November 16th, 2017, 07:57 PM   #28

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The review continues with chapter twenty one...

Chapter Twenty One: Fort Vaux

This chapter builds up from the previous chapter and focuses specifically on the other fort often associated with the fighting at Verdun, Fort Vaux.

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(German troops attacking a French fort, Identified as Fort Vaux and proved far more difficult than Douaumont...)

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(Fort Vaux as seen from the air in 1916)

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(Layout of Fort Vaux)

In many ways the chapter serves to highlight the differences between Vaux and Douaumont, and Horne remains consistent with this throughout the chapter... in that Douaumont was the newer and more advanced for that was captured without a fight while Vaux, despite being smaller, older, and far less capable was only captured after a bitter fight...

Horne opens the chapter with pointing to immediate comparisons between the two forts, relating Vaux's smaller size and greater age. In addition, unlike Douaumont, by 1916, Vaux had no weapon larger than a machine gun that was working. And creating potential problems for the French was that no tunnel system to link Vaux with French lines, which Horne then uses to provide some hint at the fort's fate and how it happened... In this, Horne presents Vaux as a fort that if one were to look at it would seem far more vulnerable to attack than Douaumont was, and it was in that situation that Mayor Sylvain-Eugene Raynal, took command of the fort on May 24, 1916.

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(Mayor Sylvain-Eugene Raynal, commander of Fort Vaux during the Battle of Verdun)

He found Vaux to be overcrowded and with many of the men there already wounded To add to this, Raynal was powerless as the Germans advanced on June 1. Machine gunners fired on the advancing Germans, who for some reason were unable to see where the fire came from and continued to advance toward the fort. The fire proved enough to stall the attack during the first day, but had still come with French forces weakened and with little real protection. In this, Raynal soon set his men to placing sandbags and set other potential obstacles to shore up the fort's defenses...

But the German bombardment returned and pounded Vaux through the night and it was only just before dawn that it ceased. From there, the Germans resumed their attack, and while some flanking galleries managed to put the Germans under fire, the Germans were able to force entrances into the fort in places and even tried to smoke the French defenders out by creating improvised attachments for their flamethrowers. By 4 PM, the Germans under the immediate command of Lieutenant Rackow of the 158th Paderborn Regiment, had breached the outer part of the defenses and were securing positions on top of the fort.

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(Lieutenant Rackow on the far left with Major Raynal and another French officer after the fall of Vaux. During the attack on Vaux Rackow was effectively as the commander of German units in the field attacking the French Fort)

German attempts to blast into the fort did open a whole, but by chance alerted the French to the attempt and did more damage to the Germans than the French, giving Raynal time to get a barricade and a machine gunner ready to confront the attack. And as such the French in Vaux held on, though by June 3rd, the Germans had advanced to the south of Vaux and the forces were cut off from the rest of the French army... In doing so, Raynal's forces were facing defeat if they could not be relieved. And this put a great deal of urgency in Raynal's communications with the French high command was limited to pigeons... but these did not last long...

In fact eventually Raynal sent one last message:

Quote:
"We are still holding. But... relief is imperative. Communicate with us by Morse-blinker from Souville, which does not reply to our calls. This is my last pigeon."

- Message from Raynal to French high command during the siege of Fort Vaux

quoted by Alistair Horne The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 page 258
The message proved a surprise, as French high command had already felt that Vaux had fallen by that point. In this, the last pigeon, which died shortly after delivering the message was the ONLY member of its species awarded the Legion of Honor.

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(The Legion of Honor, French Military Medal... awarded to the last pigeon sent by Raynal to report his situation at Fort Vaux)

But with the forces in Vaux isolated and needing relief, the promises of support would only work if the French could push the Germans away from Vaux. About the only help they ended getting was when the French artillery and other forts fired on Vaux to hit the German troops that were on top of it... But these bombardments when combined with German attempts to bombard the fort had their own negative problems to deal with. It left men dead and didn't herald successful relief from outside the fort. And despite managing to hold off German attacks, Raynal's forces were running critically short of water... as would be signaled to Fort Souville...

Quote:
"Imperative be relieved and receive water tonight. I am reaching the end of my tether..."

-Morse signal to for Fort Souville by Major Raynal... likely June 5, 1916

quoted by Alistair Horne The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 page 261
And sick with Malaria and with attempts at relief defeated, it was a tether that was reached and on June 7, 1916, Raynal surrendered Fort Vaux to the Germans... Not because his mean had been beaten in direct combat, but because they had run out of water. And in this Horne returns to his comparison to the Douaumont... that the fight at Vaux had gone longer than one would have expected and in the end had only ended when they ran out of water. Horne even includes commentary on what might have happened had Raynal been in command at Douaumont. It was the sort of resistance that the Germans ultimately respected and before sending Raynal into captivity for the remainder of the war he presented Raynal with the sword taken from another French officer and even congratulated Raynal on winning the Legion of Honor.

The fall of Vaux, however, didn't mean an end to the fighting. Nivelle launched a series of large counter attacks intended to retake the fort... all of which failed and at best managed to approach Vaux. And these failures angered Petain to the point of ordering Nivelle to cease making attacks toward Vaux.

CHAPTER STRENGTH: The chapter's greatest strength is once again Horne's ability to describe events and make a very engaging narrative, and essentially describing a fight that in many ways speak highly of the French. A lot of very general histories of both World Wars tend to paint the Germans as some sort of "superman" that had no individual equal... Yet, in this chapter, Horne presents it that while the Germans took Vaux, they did so not by being better soldiers but simply having more water than Raynal and his men... and that despite all the limitations that Fort Vaux had, particularly when compared to Douaumont, the French largely held and fought hard.

CHAPTER WEAKNESS: At times a confusing flow of time... Horne provides a lot of information that is rather details, but as the siege of Fort Vaux begins in earnest, there are times when his mentions of time are unclear... and speaking generally, Horne does provide enough that if you're reading closely, you'll know on what day certain events occurred... But this is only if you're reading closely. If you're not paying close attention, there are points he presents a lot of detailed information that goes through one day's events and often has the time of day also included, which could well lead to some confusion as to what day of the siege of Vaux that some events took place on...

IMPORTANCE/CHAPTER THOUGHTS... The big thing to take away from in this chapter is in France's ability to fight back and fight hard. Yes, they lost Fort Vaux, but they also fought hard for it, and had they had more water, it's like that Raynal's forces would have been able to fight on for even longer before either being overrun or forced to surrender. It is something that could be used as a lesson in not listening to stereotypes, because some times they are proven wrong.

The other thing that the modern reader could take away from this chapter is how much factors that really can't be controlled by human actions. When the Germans tried to blast into Fort Vaux, they had come remarkably close to catching Raynal who happened to be inspecting the same area at roughly the same time. Yet, Raynal managed to move away while the Germans ended up caught in the blast of their own explosives. Neither side could have known how close they had come to victory for one or disaster for the other...
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Old November 17th, 2017, 04:29 AM   #29
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Reading this review has been a joy, thank you!
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Old November 17th, 2017, 09:02 AM   #30

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Originally Posted by pete77 View Post
Reading this review has been a joy, thank you!
You're welcome. There are still some chapters to come...
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