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Old November 3rd, 2012, 03:42 PM   #1

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Best Infantry of World War I


During World War I, which nation had the best infantry, regarding equipment, training, courage, leadership and other factors?

I know that the British Army during World War I differentiated from the French and Germans in that it was made up of volunteers. Were they on average better soldiers than German soldiers because of this?

I know that the French were first to wear steel helmets, namely the Adrian. Did this affect their effectiveness during World War I's trench battles?

...or did the Germans have the best infantry?
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Old November 3rd, 2012, 05:14 PM   #2

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On the whole, I would give the Germans the edge, based on how they handled their infantry and the tactics they used. On the Western Front, the Germans generally held a very defensive stance with few real offensives against the Allied line. The biggest offensive they had was at Verdun, a fight the French ultimately won, but even in defeat, the Germans inflicted heavier casualties on the French then they themselves sustained.

However, the failure to take Verdun and force a breakthrough, combined with the lengthy battle on the Somme forced the Germans to return to a defensive stance, and they would even withdraw to a prepared defensive position to let the Allies futily expend lives against the Hindenburg Line. It would force the French army to mutiny in 1917 and would slow British progress in the north, with the help of heavy rains. However, the French weren't broken by the mutiny and would recover, and British losses at Paschendale were not enough to knock them out of the war. And to make matters worse, America had entered the war on the Allied side and the British blockade was beginning to have a profound impact on the German economy.

Germany did have one hope. Russia fell out of the war in 1917 to begin fighting itself in the Russian Civil War. With the Eastern Front largely removed, Germany was free to transfer a significant portion of its army west, finally giving them the forces to launch a major offensive. And Germany, desperate as it was, took it in the Spring of 1918 and unleashed its stormtroopers on the BEF near Amiens. Armed with machineguns, flamethrowers, and grenades, the stormtroopers made multiple gains against the British, and if it weren't for massive French reinforcements would have lost Amiens and been forced to retreat north. From there, through weight of numbers, the French, British, and Americans would begin to push the Germans back... and exhausted by four years of war and naval blockade, the Germans asked for an armistice on November 11, 1918.

And these terms of tactics, this was especially beneficial for the Germans, as the best infantry weapons of WWI are the British Lee-Enfield or the American M1903 Springfield. The Springfield had the highest muzzle velocity and the greatest effective range, but only carried a five round clip. The Lee-Enfield carried a ten round clip, and allowed the average British infantryman to put more rounds downfield then his competators and even his allies. It will depend on which catagory you think is the most important when comparing the two. Range or the size of the clip.
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Old November 4th, 2012, 01:25 AM   #3
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...best infantry weapons of WWI are the British Lee-Enfield or the American M1903 Springfield. The Springfield had the highest muzzle velocity and the greatest effective range, but only carried a five round clip. The Lee-Enfield carried a ten round clip, and allowed the average British infantryman to put more rounds downfield then his competators and even his allies. It will depend on which catagory you think is the most important when comparing the two. Range or the size of the clip.
The SMLE was better than the Springfield - not only because of its 10 round clip but also because of its smooth bolt action.

Range wasn't a factor in WWI nor any war since. Military rifles started to focus on rate of fire and by the end of WWII, less powerful rounds were being developed
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Old November 4th, 2012, 01:36 AM   #4
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Infantry quality was pretty much the same between the major combatants I'd say. Artillery was the way to kill/stop the enemy.

That said, if introducing a time-factor I'd got with the Germans in 1914 and 1915, not just for their infantry but for their artillery. It holds particularly true if I put myself in the shoes of a foot-slogger and wants to maximise my odds of getting out of it all ok. Come 1916 the French could challenge that. From mid 1917 I'd take the French artillery park and gear like a shot. By 1918 I'd shun all things German like the plague. As a general planning for war in 1918 I'd actually like to take the British infantry, and then equip them with the French gear. That would be a beauty. However, if I was in the Poor Bloody Infantry in 1918, I'd most definitely go with the French army, wanting to maximise my chances of getting out alive and in one piece.
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Old November 4th, 2012, 01:38 AM   #5
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French soldiers 1 because Marne, Verdun, Somme watch the French sector during this offensive. but this is real issue for me is unfounded since the first world war is once fixed the Western Front became a huge artillery duel or poor infantrymen were made ​​to grind rhythms offensive at best useless Respect to all his men died under tons of steel
When was the mutiny of the French army it is a myth that there is some refusal to obey if more men will be executed by firing squad execution by the French army shall not be deemed to be tender deserters or mutineers with (the accounts of the former Roman decimal)
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Old November 4th, 2012, 02:27 AM   #6

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Temujin View Post
During World War I, which nation had the best infantry, regarding equipment, training, courage, leadership and other factors?

I know that the British Army during World War I differentiated from the French and Germans in that it was made up of volunteers. Were they on average better soldiers than German soldiers because of this?

I know that the French were first to wear steel helmets, namely the Adrian. Did this affect their effectiveness during World War I's trench battles?

...or did the Germans have the best infantry?
The british only had an all volunteer force in 1914 and 195, after that casualties and the need for mass armies meant we switched to a conscript force.

The Germans had an advantage here, they were based on a conscript model so they were used to mass drafts and could quickly train men up to a suitable standard, the British didnt have experience of mass armies and struggled expanding their force and getting everyone trained up to standard by 1916.
By 1917 some of the advantages of a disparate manpower became an advantage, the colonial men units were particularly useful and drawing men from industrial, academic and working backgrounds meant a surge of new ideas. Admittedly that was after screwups like the Somme where inexperienced men with novel ideas casused excess casulaties but by 1917/18 they had managed to merge the traditional military with the new thinkers and were particularly effective.
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Old November 4th, 2012, 06:19 AM   #7
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I think IIRC that the Germans entered the war with at least twice the number of Officers and NCO's as the next power. They invested more in their leadership, had better staff colleges etc.
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Old November 4th, 2012, 06:34 AM   #8

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On the whole Germans, notable mentions for French, without forgetting the huge casualties of British.
And I put forth Italians: one offensive every 3 months (more than any other contender) and a draconian discipline which no other army had to endure (Keegan states that no other Army could have tolerated such a regime) and the toughest front in WWI.
Often forgotten.
Moreover today is the "V-day" since Austria-Hungary signed the Armistice.
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Old November 4th, 2012, 10:01 AM   #9

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What sort of quality was the Austro-Hungarian infantry? Was there any big differences between the Austrian and Hungarian armies they fielded? I assume their infantry was worse than that of the Western Europeans due to their poor performance in the war. I guess the worst infantry was probably Russian.
I really don't know much about the Ottoman infantry.
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Old November 4th, 2012, 10:32 AM   #10

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Temujin View Post
What sort of quality was the Austro-Hungarian infantry? Was there any big differences between the Austrian and Hungarian armies they fielded? I assume their infantry was worse than that of the Western Europeans due to their poor performance in the war. I guess the worst infantry was probably Russian.
I really don't know much about the Ottoman infantry.
Austro-Hungarian infantry were two separate Armies (Hungarian army was called Honvéd), in fact they performed poorly, however Italy had to face some of the best units: Kaiserjaeger and Landesschutzen who gave an harsh fight to Italian Alpini who were the best Mountain infantry unit in the world.
Moreover consider that Austrians attacked very rarely (aside from local counter-attacks), there were only one major offensive in 1916 (Strafexpedition), therefore Italians had the weight of attacking one the worst front of WWI and our casualties according to Keegan were 70 % higher than others in terms of woundeds due to the nature of Carsican rock and stone which were frantumated by artillery provoking a storm of flakes that pierced everybody.
Russian Army was yes poorly trained and equipped but it is often underestimated: it maintained a strong fighting till 1916 after disastrous defeats (Gorlice Tarnow, Masurian Lakes, Tannenberg, Narow Lake etc) with millions of casualties.
Ottoman infantry was badly equipped on the whole, I mean, Ottoman Army was being re-equipped with German weapons (Mauser, Krupp guns) but it lacked many things and its firepower was inferior to European divisions.
Nonetheless, Ottoman soldiers fought well and with determination (Gallipoli, Kut, their resistance on Sinai front).
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