Tuesday, February 16, 2010

After The Great War- Controversy

The first controversy was begun by American Brigadier Henry Reilly who argued that the Great War was won by the United States. The second is ongoing and revolves around Sir Douglas Haig and the effectiveness of British officers during the war.

Needless to say, British and Canadian officers viewed Reilly’s views as “moonshine” (Kenneth Radley, We Lead Others Follow: First Canadian Division 1914-1918 p.365). There have been some comparisons between the American performance during the Meuse-Argonne offensive, and the Canadian Corps during the 100 days. It shows the difference between a unit that benefited from training, experience, and the hard fighting of the previous years to a unit that had the numbers but lacked the experience.

Category                                      Meuse-Argonne       100 Days    

Number of troops engaged              650,000              105,000
Duration of operation(days)                 47                      100 
Maximum advance(miles)                    34                       86 
German divisions defeated                   46                       47 
Casualties suffered  for
Every German division                       2,170                    975
Total battle casualties                      100,000                47,830
Prisoners captured                            16,000                31,537
Guns captured                                     468                      623
Machine-guns captured                     2,864                   2,842
Trench mortars captured                     117                      336

There seems to be a re-evaluation on-going around Sir Douglas Haig and the British officer corps. For Canada this re-evaluation seems to center on the fact that in 1915 most of the senior officers(especially the staff officers) were British, and a large percentage of the infantrymen were as well. The English born recruits were largely veterans who had served in English regiments.  They provided the early stiffening that was needed in the First Division through 1915. By all accounts the Canadians were lucky in the officers that they received. Particularly in Sir Julian Byng. He was not a Colonel Blimp in any way.

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