Most powerful country in Mainland Europe in 1914-1915?

Most powerful mainland European power in 1914?

  • France

    Votes: 4 8.9%
  • German Empire

    Votes: 39 86.7%
  • Russia

    Votes: 1 2.2%
  • Austria-Hungary

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Spain

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Ottoman-Empire

    Votes: 1 2.2%
  • Other

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    45
May 2018
755
Michigan
#41
The British had superior infantry doctrine and training over the Germans in 1914. There Battalaion commanders nearly all had actual battle experince. Their cavalry had made the transitiion to mounted infantry. The Germans still belived in attacking in mass groups in the open. The Germans were better in artillery. The Briitish army was small but there was a reaonsable argument that it was better man for man than the German. The Boers gave the British a much needed kick in the arse that led to actual reforms.

The German General staff, it;s skils are legendary, but it's also a deeply flawed institution. Operational slick, strategically and logistically dumb. Much like ww2.
Interesting, I was under the impression that German combined arms doctrine was more "mature" than the British (and the French), and the 20-man platoon attacks of the Franco-Prussian War were further developed by WWI. However, WWI is not an era of expertise for me.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,247
#42
Interesting, I was under the impression that German combined arms doctrine was more "mature" than the British (and the French), and the 20-man platoon attacks of the Franco-Prussian War were further developed by WWI. However, WWI is not an era of expertise for me.
No the British were ahead , they were well behind until the boer war really motivated real reforms and improvements. British doctrine pushed initiative and responsibility to the man of the spot. They recognized that confusion and communications meant you could wait and rely on senior officers making decisions and poor information and lag time for communications. And their commanders on the spot had combat experince.

The the initial well trained, experinced BEF was more or less destroyed by early 1915. The improvsiation of mass army, of millions, meant that a massively inexerpinced force, rushed to the fornt lines before proper training with what officers remained being promoted regardless of ability. The British army of 1914 was not the army of 1915/1916. Which is not the army of 1917/1918.

Haig was part of the reform writing the new Field Service Regulations (offical doctrine) Haig gets a lot of totally underserved stick for being a backward cavalry General. He was not. Oh he had his share of major failings, too much latitude to subordinates and tolerating some bad generals for too long. (his soft people skills were poor) but lack of innovation embracing change was not one of them.

Infantry doctrine and tactics were changing throughout the war, innovation was pretty constant and widespread. It was an extremely technical war, with masisve techniology change, whole new wepaons systems, tactics, being developed and had to be co-ordinated with totally inadepquete communications systems.

he French went in with arguably the worst doctrine (basically "balls!") really adapted really quickly. French Generals either performed or were sacked with great ruthlessness.

The Germans were greatin many respects, but they had their own failures. The just endless predictable counter attack to take every sqaure inch of ground, often at lareg cost. In 1918 the storm troopers elite were just used up, they attacked and were driven till their units were effectively destroyed. For all the oeprtaional brilliance the German 1918 campiagn was strategically aimless. It attacked where it was easy to attacked, the worst troops defending, but these were less well defended precisely because they were pretty unimportant. To lareg degree the German high command doubled down and became even better at opertaional warfare and even worse at strategy and logistics.
 
May 2018
755
Michigan
#43
No the British were ahead , they were well behind until the boer war really motivated real reforms and improvements. British doctrine pushed initiative and responsibility to the man of the spot. They recognized that confusion and communications meant you could wait and rely on senior officers making decisions and poor information and lag time for communications. And their commanders on the spot had combat experince.

The the initial well trained, experinced BEF was more or less destroyed by early 1915. The improvsiation of mass army, of millions, meant that a massively inexerpinced force, rushed to the fornt lines before proper training with what officers remained being promoted regardless of ability. The British army of 1914 was not the army of 1915/1916. Which is not the army of 1917/1918.

Haig was part of the reform writing the new Field Service Regulations (offical doctrine) Haig gets a lot of totally underserved stick for being a backward cavalry General. He was not. Oh he had his share of major failings, too much latitude to subordinates and tolerating some bad generals for too long. (his soft people skills were poor) but lack of innovation embracing change was not one of them.

Infantry doctrine and tactics were changing throughout the war, innovation was pretty constant and widespread. It was an extremely technical war, with masisve techniology change, whole new wepaons systems, tactics, being developed and had to be co-ordinated with totally inadepquete communications systems.

he French went in with arguably the worst doctrine (basically "balls!") really adapted really quickly. French Generals either performed or were sacked with great ruthlessness.

The Germans were greatin many respects, but they had their own failures. The just endless predictable counter attack to take every sqaure inch of ground, often at lareg cost. In 1918 the storm troopers elite were just used up, they attacked and were driven till their units were effectively destroyed. For all the oeprtaional brilliance the German 1918 campiagn was strategically aimless. It attacked where it was easy to attacked, the worst troops defending, but these were less well defended precisely because they were pretty unimportant. To lareg degree the German high command doubled down and became even better at opertaional warfare and even worse at strategy and logistics.
I see, and I think you make an excellent point: which "British Army" are we talking about? The BEF of 1914, Lord Kitchner's Army, or the British Army of 19__? I have a feeling that most of the cliched "donkeys" of WWI didn't come from the 1914 BEF. I also find it intersting that the 1914 BEF seemed to have fully embraced mission-type tactics, something pioneered by Moltke and the Prussian General Staff: initiative and independent thinking.

It is interesting to see that Haig is somewhat historically redeemed by his Field Service Regulations and his enthusiastic support of Haldane and the reforms.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,247
#44
I see, and I think you make an excellent point: which "British Army" are we talking about? The BEF of 1914, Lord Kitchner's Army, or the British Army of 19__? I have a feeling that most of the cliched "donkeys" of WWI didn't come from the 1914 BEF. I also find it intersting that the 1914 BEF seemed to have fully embraced mission-type tactics, something pioneered by Moltke and the Prussian General Staff: initiative and independent thinking.
initiative from junioir officers tehre are parrallels with mission tactics, the regulations say something like the officer on the spot can dis regard orders if teh situation has changed such that the orders are no longer relevant to the situation on the ground. The British army had a large backgorund in colonial opertaions which tend to emphasize initiative, aggression, small unit cohension.

It is interesting to see that Haig is somewhat historically redeemed by his Field Service Regulations and his enthusiastic support of Haldane and the reforms.
I would say rather SOME of criticism and characterization of Haig is mis-informed. But he;s certianly got a few failings the he should be criticized for. But he was generally an innovator and pro innovation. He was certinaly prioirtiising tanks and aircraft, the British develped good doctrinal repsonse to germna tatcics and developed their own. The 1918 spring offensive was predicted both in timing, targets and tactics. And effective counter tactic had been developed. But they were not pushed down and through the army effetcively to all commands, Some commanders were not so embracing of new doctrine, and Haig allowed this. And these were the commands that suffered badly in the spring 1918 offensive.
 
May 2018
755
Michigan
#45
I would say rather SOME of criticism and characterization of Haig is mis-informed. But he;s certianly got a few failings the he should be criticized for. But he was generally an innovator and pro innovation. He was certinaly prioirtiising tanks and aircraft, the British develped good doctrinal repsonse to germna tatcics and developed their own. The 1918 spring offensive was predicted both in timing, targets and tactics. And effective counter tactic had been developed. But they were not pushed down and through the army effetcively to all commands, Some commanders were not so embracing of new doctrine, and Haig allowed this. And these were the commands that suffered badly in the spring 1918 offensive.
Agreed. Haig is quite criticized, much of it valid, but very much of it has been influenced by post-Vietnam viewpoints and films such as Oh, What A Lovely War! or books such as The Donkeys. Haig would, without any further investigation, seem to fit the role of a "hate-able British Aristocrat who callously sent thousands of men to their deaths". Ironic, that a few French Generals (particularly ones who thought "pluck" was more important than equipment, training or tactics) fit the "Donkey" cliche more than Haig.

Indy Neidell gives a pretty fair answer to the question "Why was Haig still in command?"
 

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,586
#46
Yeah, the Schlieffen plan was (IIRC) "one British Army at the Marne" away from nearly succeeding, while Germany was deploying against Russia. Any smart officer at the General Staff had to be aware that they would basically be carrying Austria, given its woefully sorry state.

I do find it funny that in Indy Neidell's "The Great War' series, he actually alleges that the British Army was the best army in 1914. Now, Indy isn't saying it was the most powerful (clearly by numbers, they were not). But he alleges that the superior level of training, professionalism and morale made them the best trained, best disciplined army in 1914. I am not sure I agree with this (given the legendary skill of the German General Staff), but there is evidence that backs Indy's claim fairly well.

I suppose we are specifying "Mainland Europe" to exclude Britain and the British Empire, which was clearly the "USA of post WWII" in 1914.
The British had virtually nothing to do with the French victory at the Marne. The role the British Expeditionary Force played in 1914 has been greatly exaggerated in the Anglosphere. If Brits and Americans have one thing in common, it is a propensity to exaggerate their military successes and/or denigrate the contributions of allies (particularly if those allies are French). That isn't to say that the British didn't play an absolutely vital role in Germany's defeat in the First World War (they did), just that the British did not have a large enough force deployed to France to make a real difference until 1916. Prior to that France shouldered the great majority of the burden of defending the Western Front.

6 British divisions participated in the First Battle of the Marne. For comparison, 64 French and 51 German divisions participated. The Marne was a French victory.

I'd agree however that qualitatively Britain fielded the best and most professional army in 1914, and British infantry in particular was superior to both German or allied French infantry. The UK's main weakness is that this army was small compared to the armies of Germany, France, or Russia, and primarily designed to fight small colonial wars. Quantity is a quality of it's own however, and it wasn't until 1916 that Britain had an army that was of a comparable size to those fielded by continental European nations. I'd rank the German Army of 1914 of having been superior for that reason, though the British Army would be my pick for 1918's best army. (despite mass mobilization meaning that the army that was not as professional as the one that sailed to France in 1914)
 
Likes: Gvelion
Sep 2016
1,141
Georgia
#47
Yes, I’m quite aware of the other wars. The French were whipped well in the Franco Prussian war. I don’t see how that has to do with the French marching their armies in columns with bright color uniforms and out dated guns into the machine guns and artillery of the Germans in 1914.
The French weren't marching in lines Napoleonic style and this wasn't Napoleonic warfare. Also what outdated guns ? Do you think they still used early 19th century guns or mid 19th century ?

Do you also think that French didn't have artillery ? Not to mention, that your precious Germans were defeated at Marne in 1914. How is that possible, if those ,, dirty '' French were so outdated ? Somehow German couldn't destroy French army at Marne despite being so ,, ahead of it in every department and French being stupid '' and catastrophe similar to what Prussia experienced in 1806 ( when French destroyed them in few weeks ) didn't happen.

French achieved victory in 1859 war against Austria and in Crimean War against Russia ( together with British ).

Also in your opinion, Franco - Prussian war taught French nothing ? They changed literally nothing in their organization and doctrine since 1870 ?

6 British divisions and 64 French divisions participated in the First Battle of the Marne.
 
Likes: Scaeva
Aug 2013
158
Finland
#48
The famous French 75mm field gun was maybe not a brand new design by 1914 but it performed excellently in it's intended role in the field, like at the Marne. The French artillery issues only really began with the trench warfare, they had a lack of guns suited for bombarding entrenched positions - basically bigger guns with higher elevation. This would mean howitzers and mortars, which had fallen out of favour as they were seen as too defensive.

I think all of the armies involved on the western front ended up significantly increasing their artillery arm during the war, the French however had this additional issue of having more artillery pieces of a type unsuitable for the trenches.

As a stop-gap they ended up improvising the gun setup of the 75mm to increase the elevation (see photo) and also to for example re-introduce older model mortars into service.

The image is from Canon de 75 antiaérien mle 1913-1917 - Howling Pixel

 

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