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Old November 6th, 2012, 10:32 PM   #61
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The British French expected the German 1918 offensive, they were no surprise even the tactics (called "riga" tactics) were very much expected, and even were the Offensives were. They knew they were coming and had developed better defensive tactics (deeper zones, more point based and no so many troops in the front line ) the sectors were the Germans attacked were the least well prepared and less strongly defended, that was because the British focused on defending the more strategic areas first. The Germans attacked were the attacking was good, not the strategically important areas, so while the gains were impressive they basically failed to take anywhere important. (tactically good / strategically bad). The Germans had less trucks because they had less fuel, but in supporting their offence trucks were not so great, crossing the battle area (and a large part of their gains were across former battlefields and areas they themselves had devastated during their earlier retreat) the terrain was pretty bad for trucks. The Horses/mules had been badly fed, and the poor conditions and lack of numbers available gave them really bad supply problems. (the Allies were able to import large numbers of animals from the US which had plenty available)

One flaw in the German "Storm trooper" tactics is that they run the units into the ground, basically they kept going until the unit was destroyed, the British would have leap frogged different units through each other.

The German economy was in dire straits by 1918. The Railways were not being maintained (the lack of steel allocation led to a lack of capacity which reduced the effective steel allocation all round), while military production was maintained the civilian economy was suffering. The Austrians were much worse off with things like machine gun production just plummeting (down 80%) and the railways really struggling (the Hungarians did well at the rest of the dual monarchy expense) and the Turks the economy was in free fall. The Allies had economic problems as well just not as bad, (the U boat menace it could have been worse but the the convoy system and US involvement saw them over the hump, the succession minors in south america, led to a large number of German shipping being seized (both in the US and others) which helped , well US (and Japanese in the Med) escorts making it all much easier)

On the Best Infantry, the Germans were better trained generally, had better tactics, and larger numbers of Officers/NCOs per unit. The BEF though small was a pretty good quality and better tactically than the germans in some respects (the German massed attacks in 1914 were as bad as many others sometimes, and the British cavalry had moved generally over to mounted infantry due to their boer war experience)

Monash (Aus) was a good organiser and perhaps showed the British system at it's best in 1918, but was only really doing slightly better what was General British army doctrine. The Australian were good troops, the lack of conscription is some ways kept the force undiluted by effects of dilution with second rate troops conscription can bring , but the manpower available in each battalion was getting pretty small in 1918 (effectively compared with almost everyone else their units were also solely experienced battle hardened veterans making them better man to man but the overall lack of manpower strength reduced their effectiveness too)

The Turks showed amazing resilience in defence well badly trained, often badly led, poorly equipped and very badly supplied (the Turkish corps didnt even have a real supply train in the org chart). But the ability of the Infantry to just endure their terrible conditions was remarkable and unlikely that others could have shown so much under such conditions.
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Old November 7th, 2012, 12:18 AM   #62
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Not all divisions are created equal. Within an army there can be a large differences in training, equipment, espirt de corps, leadership, morale and overall combat effectiveness between divisions. So in that sense I think it can be hard to generalize when not all units were of the same quality.
They are made of course. That's kind of the thing about how the dfifferent armies played this late in the war. The Germans set about consciously creating an elite in the form of the Sturmtruppen. Other divisions got less priority, and thus became less quality. The average quality is thus hard to gauge, since the Germans bet on imroving the top. The British, French, Americans etc. might be said to instead to have gone for getting armies where they tried to set the bottom standard as high as possible.

The Germans did it out of necessity, and I would think the Allies (name change as the US came in) had the right idead, that the point was to be good-enough overall. The Germans then spent their best, and with them the best manpower and resources went. As Pugsville said, their adversaries wouldn't have kept them going until they were essentially rubbed out, but kept rotating new divisions in. Well, the Allies could keep rotating divisions because all their divisions tended to good-enough. The Germans either would have to make a VERY much smaller offensive in 1918, to be able to rotate quality Sturmtruppen, or give up on the idea of one last War Winning Great Battle. (But since a small offensive would have been insufficient, it would have menat accepting the impossibility of the task anyway).

Generally I think the Sturmptruppen was a desperate idea. Their performance has partially papered over the severe deficiencies in the German army by 1918. And since it clearly didn't work, I think it on balance was the wrong idea at least.
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Old November 7th, 2012, 01:31 AM   #63

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Oh, what the heck. I would say us Americans were the best. Now i don't think i am biased either, but well, heck that is exactly how it sounds. Honestly American infantry came in too late to adequately judge how good they were. Suffice too say, they took their cues and organizations from the French military.

Seriously, i would have to say it is a close one between all of the belligerents, but in the end of the analysis it is a toss up between either the German infantry or the UK Tommies and the commonwealth infantry, specifically, the Australian digger.

The Americans, well there is alot to be said for having large supply of fresh faced, keen and well rested troops pitched into the battle at a time the enemy has exhausted themselves. your boys dun good.
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Old November 7th, 2012, 01:34 AM   #64
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The Americans, well there is alot to be said for having large supply of fresh faced, keen and well rested troops pitched into the battle at a time the enemy has exhausted themselves. your boys dun good.
Certainly they did good, but like every other army in WWI, they got consistently better through on-the-job-experience.
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Old November 7th, 2012, 10:21 AM   #65

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Regarding the US, the regiments of the 4th Marine Brigade deserve mention in any discussion of elite infantry formations in the First World War.

As a much smaller service than the US Army, the Marine Corps did not have to rely on conscription as much to fill the ranks as the United States mobilized for war. Throughout the war it was overwhelmingly a volunteer force. For those that were conscripted, the low manpower needs of the Marines (combined with a high rate of volunteers) gave the service the luxury of rejecting men if they did not measure up to its standards. Additionally men who were conscripted had to volunteer for service with the Marines, otherwise they served in the US Army. These factors combined to give the Marine regiments better quality recruits generally speaking, than their Army and National Guard counterparts.

As the country mobilized the lower manpower needs of the Marine Corps , both in terms of volunteers and conscripts, also allowed it to maintain the character of its prewar professionalism, in contrast to the 'citizen soldier' character of most infantry formations on either side of the First World War after 1914. 20% of the enlisted men of the 5th Marine Regiment for example, had been serving with the regiment prior to the outbreak of war, including most of the NCOs. Nearly all of the officers at the rank of Captain or above had been with the Marines prior to April of 1917, and most had seen action in either the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion, or the Banana Wars. (Haiti, Santo Domingo, and Nicaragua)

The French Army, to which the 4th Marine Brigade (as part of the 2nd American Division) was often attached, were quite fond of the Marines. The 5th and 6th Marine Regiments were cited no less than three times in French Army orders for gallantry in the Chateau-Thierry sector (Belleau Wood, later renamed Bois de la Brigade de Marines), in the Aisne-Marine Offensive (Soissons), and during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. General Gouraud, the one-armed hero of Gallipoli, in a dispatch to General Foch on the successful seizure of Mont Blanc, described the 2nd American Division as 'a splendid division, full of dash and ardor.' Phillipe Petain, his name not yet tarnished by treason, called the seizure of Blanc Mont (of which the Marines played the principal role) 'the greatest single achievement of the 1918 campaign.'

The Germans also, had grugding respect for the Marines. German Army dispatches made note of their tenacity, discipline, and skillful marksmanship. A German diary captured at Belleau Wood also contained the entry, "The Americans opposite us are terribly reckless fellows. They would make good sturmtruppen."
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Old November 7th, 2012, 10:37 AM   #66

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Scaeva tough I do believe the marine brigades were good troops we must also see the political aspect of these compliments.
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Old November 7th, 2012, 11:57 AM   #67

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Agree, in fact, Russian army probably caused to Central Powers the largest amount of casualties that they suffered.
Considering that France + UK produced 10 times the number of artillery shells than Russia I find such assertion to be strictly impossible.
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Old November 7th, 2012, 12:20 PM   #68

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The Russians causing the most casualties doesn't quite seem to add up, considering that the Germans had a smaller army on the eastern front, they shared their casualties with the Austria-Hungarians, and the Russians were by far the worst performers in the entire war. It was probably the French or the British who caused the most casualties.
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Old November 7th, 2012, 12:40 PM   #69
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Wow is the initial post a tough question...

First it depends heavily on the year... 1914 was hugely different than 1918 in terms of quality & moral & weapons themselves...

I would say the British had the most professional Army eary on, 1914. Their individual marksmanship was trained to a far higher level... for a while. Casualties up to and after the battle of Mons ensured that most of the old pros were gone by 1915... by the 1st day on the Somme they were far more amateurish than the Germans or French. Their leadership was of a wider quality variance also. The Brits had some damn fine officers, and some a$$hats who shouldn't have been allowed to lead mules to water.

The French had the best esprit d' corps for the earliest attacks, but they placed far too much emphasis on the bayonet, and didn't train enough marksmanship. Through Verdun they literally were shot to pieces almost every fight.

The Germans had the best average training, in so far as their reserves were trained to a higher level than the French, and the British "Territorials" were really not trained that well at all. The German's biggest drawvback early on was actually seen as an asset at the time. The freedom of Army commanders to choose to ignore their specific orders and be flexible. But their furthest west general left the coast and cut in front of Paris, exposing his flank, and cost Germany the fast victory.

The Americans didn't even dance till 1918, and they were only becoming professional when the war ended. As far as I can tell the Canadians were no more nor no less professionals then the other Commonwealth troops; Australians. Anzacs, Indian...

Austria was a joke, dug in and outnumbering the Russians 2+-1 they completely collapsed and the Germans had to pull their chestnuts out of the fire.

So, early, the Brits... later the Germans, the French bled their glory but never really held top slot. With Americans as eager amateurs in the end when German logistics and manpower collapsed.

One man's opinion anyway

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Old November 7th, 2012, 12:46 PM   #70

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Considering that France + UK produced 10 times the number of artillery shells than Russia I find such assertion to be strictly impossible.
As you may know,the Russians imported most of their shells from their allies because their industry was unable to provide the necessary armaments
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