George S. Patton War Diary entry for September 13, 1918

DATE: September 13, 1918

ORGANIZATION: 344th Battalion FROM: Nonsard

HOUR: 3:00 p.m. TO: Vigneulles HOUR: 12:00 m.n.

ORGANIZATION: 345th Battalion FROM: Beney

TO: Bois de Beney 358.1-243.0

AVAILABLE FOR ALL DUTY: 46 Officers and 643 Men

WEATHER: Rain a.m. Clear p.m. ROADS: Poor

HEALTH: Good CAMP: Fair LOSSES: [1 or 0 – digit unclear] Officers wounded; 3 men wounded


Due to bad road conditions, no supplies arrived during the night. By draining all the tanks, the 344th Battalion was able to supply seven of their tanks which moved forward to VIGNEULLES and thence to HATTON CHATTEL.50 Supplies arrived at 3:00 p.m. and the remaining tanks moved forward to VIGNEULLES.

At 5:00 a.m. 345th Battalion with 15 tanks reported to Brigadier General McArthur and were instructed by him to lay in readiness at BOIS DE BENEY and await orders. Per V.O.C.O.51 the battalion moved from BOIS DE BENEY to BOIS DE THIAUCOURT at 8:00 p.m. At 11:55 p.m. orders were received from Lieutenant Colonel Patton “to go to assistance of infantry against enemy counterattack.” The tanks were made ready but the attack did not take place.

The sorry tale of Lord French’s CYA book, “1914.”

J. W. Fortescue, “Lord French’s ‘1914,’” Vol. 232, Quarterly Review (London: John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1919), pp. 352-363. In this article Fortescue explains why, “this to be one of the most unfortunate books that ever was written.”

No man, it has been well said, was ever written down except by himself; and we wish that Lord French had pondered this aphorism before he sat down to write this book. The Field-Marshal at the opening of the war enjoyed a military reputation which was second only to Lord Kitchener’s in this country; and he had worthily earned it. The memories of South Africa are swamped in those of the past five terrible years; yet there are some who have not yet forgotten the name of Colesberg and the excellent and audacious service of General French which is associated with that name. At the close of the Boer War no one was surprised to see him rise successively to the command of the First Army Corps at Aldershot, to the Inspectorship-General of the Forces, and to the supreme post of the Chief of the General Staff. Lord Haldane has testified to the valuable assistance which he received from Sir John French in preparing the forces of the Empire for the great struggle which has so recently been brought to a successful end; this is a thing which we must never forget. The time will come when the country will set aside old political prejudices and acknowledge the vast debt which it owes to Lord Haldane; and then the names of the officers who were associated with him in his reorganization of the forces of the Empire will likewise be remembered with honour.

The country therefore heard with confidence and satisfaction of the appointment of Sir John French to command the British Expeditionary Force in August, 1914. People hardly realized that his army was, though small in numbers, incomparably the best trained, the best equipped, the best organised and the best disciplined that Britain had ever put into the field. It was (we say it after mature consideration) certainly superior to that which Wellington led from Portugal to the campaign of Vitoria in 1813, and from the battlefield of Vitoria through the Pyrenees to Toulouse. This is no small praise, but it is the truth. It was felt in 1914 that Sir John French was the right man to command such an army.

By Aug. 20 the British force–four infantry divisions and one cavalry division–was assembled; the infantry southeast of Landrecies, the cavalry northeast of it about Maubeuge, seeking touch with the French Fifth Army under General Lanrezac, on the left of which the British were appointed to stand. A great advance of the French and British line along the whole length of the French frontier from Longwy north-westward to Landrecies was, so Lord French tells us, in immediate prospect; and all ranks were in the highest spirits. So far only one misfortune had overtaken the British, namely the sudden death of Sir James Grierson, who commanded the II Corps, on Aug. 17. Sir John French asked that Sir Herbert Plumer might take General Grierson’s place. Lord Kitchener preferred to send Sir Horace Smith Dorrien; and thereby hangs a very sorry tale.

On the 21st the British began their movement northward; and at the close of the day the cavalry reached the line of the Mons Canal on either flank of Mons, while the four divisions of infantry, according to Sir John French’s account, radiated forth (so to speak) from Maubeuge the I Corps north-eastward to Givry, and the II Corps north-westward to Sars-la-Bruyere. This, if correct, would be a rather a curious disposition; but it is not correct. Lord French cannot describe even his first day’s march with accuracy. On the 22nd the Field-Marshal motored eastward to visit General Lanrezac, and came upon the French Army in retreat. What had happened was obscure to him then and is still somewhat obscure to us now; but the fact of the retirement was certain. Unable to find General Lanrezac, Sir John French returned to his own troops, but did not arrest their further advance, which had gone forward in accordance with his previous orders. Nightfall found the II Corps on the Mons Canal, upon a line running from Obourg (three miles east of Mons) westward, with the cavalry moving away westward to prolong the left of the II Corps, and the I Corps thrown back on the right from Mons south-eastward.

Concerning the object of these dispositions Sir John French is silent, but it is certain from his own confession that he had some idea of an offensive movement. Early on the morning of the 23rd the Germans opened an attack between Obourg and Mons, which gradually spread westward until the whole line of the II Corps was engaged. This was the action of  Mons, which the Field-Marshal airily dismisses as mere ‘heavy pressure upon our outposts.’ General Smith-Dorrien, he says, ‘was nowhere threatened by anything more than cavalry supported by small bodies of infantry.’ Unfortunately German as well as British accounts show that large bodies of German infantry were engaged, and that they suffered very heavily. But the Field-Marshal cares nothing for facts so long as he can say something unpleasant about General Smith-Dorrien. He implicitly blames Sir Horace for evacuating the untenable salient of Obourg, and drawing back the whole of his line slightly to conform with the movement; and he sneers at his subordinate for feeling anxious when he, the august chief, was calm.

The sequel showed that the subordinate was right. At 5 p.m. Sir John received ‘a most unexpected telegram’ from General Joffre, saying that Lanrezac’s army was in full retreat, and that three German corps were moving against the British front and a fourth round their left. As the Field-Marshal had seen the French retirement with his own eyes and had been warned, buy his own admission, on the 22nd that at least three German corps were opposed to him, it is difficult to understand why this telegram was ‘most unexpected.’ However, he still waited for yet another telegram, which reached him at 11:30 p.m., before he gave his orders for retreat. Thus, on his own showing, Sir John French wasted from six to seven previous hours until he decided to extricate his army from a position of the utmost peril.

On the 24th the retreat began. The Field Marshal would have us believe that the I Corps covered the retreat of the II. This is ludicrously incorrect. The II Corps was heavily engaged all along the line, and fought a desperate flank action on the extreme left with brilliant success; whereas the I Corps was not pressed in the least. Lord French gives the whole of the credit for the flank action to the cavalry, thought the brunt was borne by the 1st Norfolks and 1st Chesires, and to the 19th Brigade which had no share in it at all. The II Corps was commanded by General Smith-Dorrien and therefore could no nothing right. Even a clever little movement, by which Sir Horace made the 3rd and 5th Divisions change places, is set down as ‘confusion,’ and is described quite unwarrantably, as having hampered the retreat of the I Corps. By a singular irony, however, Lord French does blunder into commendation of the 8th Brigade which, though he forgot it for the moment, belonged to the II Corps, but was commanded by Doran and not by Davies, as he inaccurately says.

On the 25th the retreat was continued. An awkward obstacle, the Forest of Mormal, lay in the way; and it was necessary for the I Corps to pass to east and the II Corps to west of it. At the day’s close the two corps were six miles apart, General Haig’s left being at Landrecies, where it ought not to have been, and General Smith-Dorrien’s right in its appointed place at Le Cateau. How did this come about? The Field-Marshal talks vaguely about serious German attacks on the I Corps at Maroilles and Landrecies, and assigns as the time of the engagement Landrecies a varying series of hours from 9 p.m. on the 25th to the early morning of the 26th–all for the purpose of excusing the failure of the I Corps to arrive at its proper halting-ground. This is quite useless. There must have been some grave mistake or neglect on the part of his staff; and we cannot forget that, though Lord French covers Sir Archibald Murray and Sir Henry Wilson with fulsome praise in his book, he did not keep them on his staff till the end of his command. Sir Archibald, being Chief, must, in the absence of further information, be held responsible for the gap between the I and II Crops, and for the action of Le Cateau which followed in consequence.

The Field-Marshal’s orders were for the retreat to be continued on the 26th; and General Smith-Dorrien had issued his commands accordingly to the II Corps. It was  past midnight, however, before he could ascertain the whereabouts of all his troops; and then he discovered that the 4th Division, which had joined the army on the 25th, was in isolation in advance of his line, that his troops were greatly exhausted, and that the cavalry was so weary and so much dispersed that it could not be counted on longer to cover the retreat. He therefore took his memorable decision to stand and fight, in spite of the Field-Marshal’s orders. Lord French condemns this resolution, omitting, however, to say anything about the situation of the 4th Division, and inserting instead a story (of which we are sorry to say that we believe not one word) about General Allenby’s warning Sir Horace that, unless he continued his retreat, he would be surrounded. And here we approach the most astonishing and unsavoury incident in the whole of Lord French’s volume.

In his despatch of Sept. 7, 1914, the Field-Marshal gave General Smith-Dorrien full credit for the cool courage he had shown in accepting battle at Le Cateau. Further, he by implication blamed the French General Sordet, for failing to help Smith-Dorrien. In the volume before us he takes back his praise, alleging that, when he wrote his dispatch, he was unaware of the service rendered by General Sordet; and he now contends that, but for General Sordet, Sir Horace would have been pinned to his ground and surrounded. Now it is an indisputable fact, established by documentary evidence, that General Smith-Dorrien, in addition to writing his own thanks to General Sordet and recounting his obligations to him in a special order to his troops, reported within three days to Lord French himself the good help that he had received from General Sordet, and begged that thanks might be sent to him through General Joffre. The Field-Marshal’s statements upon this point, therefore, both in his dispatch and in his book are not correct.

The fact, we fear, is that on the 26th Lord French and his staff completely lost their heads, and that, in the vain endeavor to conceal this, he has taken leave of all sense of accuracy. He would fain have us believe that at Le Cateau, as at Mons, General Smith-Dorrien was opposed by nothing but cavalry; but this absurd contention can be equally disproved in both cases. It is significant that the Germans never mention and never have mentioned the action of Le Cateau, which is pretty sure evidence that it went ill for them. Lord French, in his eagerness to belittle it, contends that, without General Sordet, General Smith-Dorrien would  never have escaped. Yet the safe retreat of the II Corps was assured long before General Sordet came into action. Lord French avers (on p. 78) that the fight cost at least 14,000 men and 80 guns, and on p. 87 that the casualties of the II Corps since Aug. 23 numbered 15,000 men and 80 guns. The two statements are plainly incompatible with one another; and the actual casualties at Le Cateau–as Lord French could easily have ascertained if he desired to know the truth–did not exceed 8000 men and 36 guns. He actually has the effrontery to asset that the German cavalry reached St. Quentin, in pursuit of the II Corps, on the evening of the 26th, whereas it had not done so even on the morning of the 28th. Lastly, he commends the withdrawal of the I Corps from Landrecies, which was hardly even hampered by the enemy, as one of the most brilliant episodes of the whole retreat.

No doubt there is ignorance as well as malice in this portion of his narrative. Lord French himself, long before the issue of the action of Le Cateau was decided, hurried away to Noyon, forty miles from the battlefield, and there waited, leaving his army for one day, if not two, to look after itself. Happily Von Kluck, instead of pursuing the II Corps, marched south-westward across its rear; and the British force continued its rapid retreat unmolested. It is evident that Lord French sent home very gloomy reports, for they brought Lord Kitchener to Paris, where there was a stormy interview between the two Field-Marshals. As to what actually passed, we are too distrustful of Lord French’s accuracy to accept his account for gospel; but we must record our entire agreement with him upon one point, namely that a Commander-in -Chief in the field must not, so long as he be Commander-in-Chief, be subjected to interference from home. The Government may remove him if it so pleases, but, if it does not remove him, it must leave him alone.

Retreat gave place to advance and to the battle of the Marne. Lord French throws little new light on the rather feeble movements of the British on Sept. 6; but he, who ignores the great work of the II Corps during the retreat, finds space to describe every petty action of the cavalry and I Corps in the subsequent movements. The truth is that, though the British share in the battle of the Marne was important, it was not very arduous. As to the battle of the Aisne, again, he has little of interest to say;  and it is not until its close, when he very rightly pleaded for the transfer of the British Army to its old place on the left of the line, that Lord French’s narrative again becomes arresting.

It seems that the resolution of the Belgian Government to abandon Antwerp, when the Germans began actively to threaten it, came as a most disagreeable surprise to the Field-Marshal. ‘It was difficult (he says) to understand why the Belgians, who had fought so well at Liege, were unable to do more in defence of a fortress which was much stronger, and situated, moreover, in a position where it could be supported by the British fleet.’ Was it so difficult? The example of Liege had shown that no fortifications could stand for long under high-explosive shells of large caliber; and forty-five miles–the shortest distance between Antwerp and the sea–is surely longish range even for the very newest guns of the British fleet. Or does Lord French think that the fleet could have steamed up the Scheldt to Antwerp or near it? However Lord French at once realized that Antwerp was to be made the base for a German advance against the channel ports; and he very naturally and rightly became eager to move north-ward as soon as possible in order to relieve Antwerp, if it might still be saved, or, if not, at any rate to bar the way to the sea.

Unfortunately Lord Kitchener and Mr. Churchill were also framing plans for the relief of Antwerp on their own account, and making arrangements with General Joffre in furtherance of the same, without consulting Lord French in the first instance at all. A hundred and twenty years ago Henry Dundas had initiated operations upon this same Belgian coast under his own direction, ignoring the Duke of York, who was in command of the Army in the field; and history repeated itself. The relief of Antwerp failed egregiously; and the Belgian Army, having delayed its retreat until dangerously late, suffered very heavy losses before it reached the Yser. Beyond doubt Lord French is right in maintaining that the Troops sent by Lord Kitchener and the First Lord of the Admiralty to save Antwerp should have been placed under his command, subject to the supreme direction of General Joffre; and there is very much to be said for his contention that, if this had been done, Lille would have been saved. Antwerp has been a tender spot to British statesmen for over three centuries; and it seems that both the Admiralty and the War Office lost their heads when they realized that it was in serious danger.

Meanwhile the main British Army had been travelling northward from the Aisne; and the race for the sea, begun by both French and Germans in September, had become very keen. There were high hopes that the British and French would on the 13th make a combined advance, and that the French left would reach Lille and the British centre Courtrai. Unfortunately the Germans were too quick for the Allies; and to save the French from being outflanked in the north, it was necessary to throw the II Corps hastily into the fighting line in that most difficult and detestable country just to the north of La Bassee. This was hard upon the II Corps, which had borne all the brunt of the retreat and had, by sheer ill-fortune, happened also upon the most difficult ground in the valley of the Aisne. Many of its battalions had suffered so heavily that their numbers, in spite of the drafts sent to them, were very low; and they were sadly short of officers. In such circumstances its fighting power had necessarily been diminished; and General Smith-Dorrien could not but be alive to the fact. Lord French endeavoured, as he himself tells, to calm Sir Horace’s misgivings by point out that the cavalry, the 4th Division and the 19th Brigade had all of them been as heavily engaged at Le Cateau as the II Corps. We should doubt if his arguments carried great weight. In the first place the cavalry was very little engaged at Le Cateau; and in the second, the 4th Division had not been seriously engaged before that action, whereas the II Corps had had two severe days’ fighting on the 23rd and 24th, as well as a wearing day on the 25th of August before it turned and stood to bay at le Cateau on the 26th. To this day we believe that Lord French has no idea of the work done by the II Corps between the 23rd and the 26th. He has persuaded himself that the I Corps covered the retreat of the II, which is the exact reverse of the truth; and he has not grasped the elementary fact that the II Corps lost more men in combat with the enemy on the 23rd than did the I Corps during the whole of the retreat.

In any case this premature, though inevitable, launching of the II Corps into the fighting line seems to have militated against the success of the great offensive movement in the north upon which Lord French, apparently General Foch also, had built great hopes. The British troops were thereby broken up; and the II and III Corps, instead of standing side by side, were some miles apart, the gap being filled by French cavalry, which, in such a country, was at great disadvantage.

Meanwhile the Cavalry Division and the III Corps cleared the high ground that lies east of Cassel and the lower hills to south of it, encountering no very serious opposition; and the II Corps also made some progress. But there was continual evidence that the Germans were growing stronger and stronger on the line from La Bassee northward, and the Allied troops were none too thick at any point. On Oct. 19 the I Corps came up from the Aisne; and Lord French had to make up his mind whether he should use it to reinforce his sorely tried troops from Menin southward to La Bassee, or to meet, by a counter-offensive, the enemy’s threats against Ypres and the Yser. On the one hand, if the Germans succeeded in driving a wedge through the British at some point south of Menin–and the place of junction with the French about La Bassee was likely to be chosen for the purpose–then they would either force the British Army to surrender or drive it into the sea. On the other hand, if they broke through the line about Ypres or to the north of it, they would reach the sea-board and master the Channel ports. Lord French, as he puts it, had to choose between the certain disaster of losing the Channel ports and the less certain though, if it should overtake him, more overwhelming disaster of being driven into the sea. He decided to avert the certain disaster, thereby taking terrible risks; and the event showed that his judgment was correct. This in our opinion, is the one great thing that Lord French did during his period of command on the Western Front; and too gladly admit that it was really and truly great. He had every right to select for himself the title of Lord French of Ypres.

On Oct. 21 he launched the I Corps to an attack for the recovery of Bruges; and on the same day, whether before or after he had committed these troops to their offensive he does not tell us, he learned that the Germans had brought up four fresh Reserve Corps to break his line at Ypres. The strength of this reinforcement and the suddenness of its appearance came to him, as he confesses, like a bolt from the blue. Apparently the Intelligence Departments of the Belgian, French and British armies must all equally have been taken by  surprise. Then the storm broke, and the projected offensive of the Allies became a stubborn, almost desperate, defensive. The story of the first battle of Ypres afford such numberless examples of British coolness and tenacity that it is hard to select any one of them as more conspicuous than the rest. Lord French dwells in particular upon the defence of Messines by the cavalry; and, though he may foster some natural prejudice in favour of the arm in which he was trained we do not think that he is unduly partial here. He gives no instances of individual gallantry, and herein shows sound sense; but we can never read of those days without recalling Lieutenant Stewart, of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, who on Oct. 24 went out with two men only to parry a flank attack upon his battalion and shot down seventy Germans, including the teams of two machine-gun detachments, with his own rifle.

Lord French’s account of the crisis of the battle on Oct.31 is highly dramatic:

‘As I passed through Ypres on the way to Haig there were manifest signs of unusual excitement, and some shells were already falling in the place…I saw loaded vehicles leaving the town, and people were gathered in groups about the streets chattering like monkeys or rushing hither and thither with frightened faces…I had not gone more than a mile from the town, when the traffic in the road began to assume an anxious and most threatening aspect. It looked as if the whole of the I Corps were about to fall back in confusion on Ypres. Heavy howitzers were moving westward at a trot–always a most significant feature of a retreat–and ammunition and other wagons blocked the road almost as far as the eye could reach. In the midst of the press of traffic and along both sides of the road, crowds of wounded came limping along as fast as they could go, all heading for Ypres. Shells were screaming overhead and bursting with reverberating explosions in the adjacent fields.’

Sir John pursued his way on foot to the Chateau of Hooge and found General Haig and his Chief of Staff, John Gough, anxious but cool, poring over their maps. They gave a bad account of affairs; and the Commander-in-Chief passed the worst half-hour of his life until a staff officer came galloping in with the news that the lost village of Gheluvelt had been retaken, and that the advancing Germans had been checked. Lord French’s account of the reason for the sudden turn of the tide is the usual one–that Brigadier-General FitzClarence had on his own initiative summoned the Worcesters of the 5th Brigade and ordered them to counter-attack. But is it not the fact that the Worcesters had been held ready by the Divisional Commander for just such a contingency, and were brought in to action according to his orders? This in no way detracts from the good service of General FitzClarence in the actual direction of the counter-attack; and it must not be considered derogatory to the fame of the Worcesters if we mention that the Berkshires also attacked Gheluvelt independently, and contributed not a little to the re-establishment of a favourable situation. A Commander-in-Chief has no time to trouble himself with such details; but we, who have leisure, can do justice to the good work of one of the finest battalions of the Old Army.

With the last phase of the famous battle we shall not concern ourselves further than to note that the II Corps, which had been withdrawn from the line, utterly exhausted, on Oct. 28, was gradually drawn into it again, brigade by brigade or battalion by battalion, until almost the whole of it had been absorbed into the I Crops. Even so Sir Douglas Haig had under him but a shadow of a corps, and Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien was left with hardly a man under his command. Such was the price of the victory of Ypres–the destruction of the Old Army, probably the finest, for its numbers, that ever went for the to war.

We shall not follow Lord French into the rather controversial matter which concludes his volume. We agree heartily with him that it was a great mistake in Lord Kitchener to raise new armies, instead of utilizing the organization for expansion of the Territorial Force which Lord Haldane had already prepared for him; but beyond that we shall not go. We have found too many inaccuracies in this book to permit us to accept any statement of his without the utmost caution; and, though this may seem to be a hard saying, we must warn our readers to follow our example.

Upon the whole we must pronounce this to be one of the most unfortunate books that ever was written. It does not preach even sound military doctrine. There is some parade of commonplace military reading, but there is also the curious teaching that such a river as the Somme or the Oise would provide a military barrier, behind which a retreating army could rest and refit. Surely such a notion is hardly one which in these days should be put forward upon the authority of a Field-Marshal. But this is not the worst. It is the spirit of the whole work which really gives us pain. The author has descended to misstatements and misrepresentations of the clumsiest and most ludicrous kind in order to injure the reputation of a subordinate, who is forbidden to defend himself; and, coming from one in his high position, this brings shame and dishonor not only upon the Field-Marshal himself but upon the Army. A worse example to young officers than is to be found in this book we cannot imagine. We entreat them to avoid it, or, if they do read it, to study it for warning against what is wrong rather than for instruction in what is right. Lord French is, it is true, still the recipient of honours and rewards; but no accumulation of titles, batons, grants, orders or decorations can ever fit him to stand in the company of such men as Ralph Abercromby, John Moore, Rowland Hill and Thomas Graham. Let these, and not Lord French, stand before the youth of Britain as the models upon which to train themselves to be officers and gentlemen.

J.W. Fortescue
















Reading List for World War I (The Great War)

Abbott, Willis J. The United States in the Great War. New York: Leslie-Judge Co., 1919.

Allison, J. Murray. Raemaekers’ Cartoon History of the War. New York: The Century Co., 1918.

Blumenson, Martin. Patton: The Man Behind the Legend, 1885-1945. New York: Quill – William Morrow, 1985.

__________. The Patton Papers 1885-1940. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1972.

Boraston, J.H. Sir Douglas Haig’s Despatches. London & Toronto: J.M. Dent & Sons LTD, 1919.

Buchan, John. A History of the Great War. Vols. I-IV. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1923.

Cotton, Robert C. “A Study of the St. Mihiel Offensive,” Infantry Journal. XVII, No. 1 (July 1920), 43-59.

D’Este, Carlo. Patton: A Genius for War. New York: HarperPerennial, 1996.

Doyle, Arthur Conan. A History of the Great War: The British Campaign in France and Flanders 1918 July to November. Vol. Six. New York: George H. Doran Company, 1920.

Egan, Maurice F. A Brief History of the Great War. New York: William H. Sadlier, 1919.

Eisenhower, D. D. “A Tank Discussion,” Infantry Journal. XVII, No. 5 (November 1920), 453-458.

Farago, Ladislas. Patton: Ordeal and Triumph. New York: Ivan Obolensky, Inc., 1964.

Field Service Regulations United States Army 1914, Corrected to July 31, 1918. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1918.

Hirshson, Stanley P. General Patton: A Soldier’s Life. New York: Perennial, 2003.

Horne, Charles F. Ph.D. and Walter F. Austin, LL.M., eds. The Great Events of the Great War.  Vol. VI. The National Alumni, 1920.

List, Major Single. “The Battle of Booby’s Bluffs.” Infantry Journal. Published in six installments: XVIII, No. 5 (May 1921), 447-458; XVIII, No. 6 (June 1921), 606-611; XIX, No. 1 (July 1921), 41-50; XIX, No. 2 (August 1921), 149-155; XIX, No. 3 (September 1921), 295-302; and XIX, No. 4 (October 1921), 427-433. Verbatim transcription published by same title, The Battle of Booby’s Bluffs. Silver Spring: Dale Street Books, 2017. 

Ludendorff, General. My War Memories. Vols. I and II. London: Hutchinson & Co., 1919.

McKinley, Albert E., Charles A. Coulomb, and Armand J. Gerson. A School History of the Great War. New York: American Book Company, 1918.

Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War. Vol. 1. American Expeditionary Forces: General Headquarters, Armies, Army Corps, Services of Supply, Separate Forces. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History United States Army, 1988.

Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War. Vol. 2. American Expeditionary Forces: Divisions. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History United States Army, 1988.

Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War (1917-1919). Vol. Three, Part 1. General Introduction, Organization and Activities of the War Department, Territorial Departments, Tactical Divisions Organized in 1918, Posts, Camps, and Stations. Washington, D.C.: World War I Group, Historical Division Special Staff United States Army, 1949.

Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War (1917-1919). Vol. Three, Part 2. Directory of Troops in Alphabetical Order. Washington, D.C.: World War I Group, Historical Division Special Staff United States Army, 1949.

Palmer, Frederick. America in France. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1918.

__________. Our Greatest Battle. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1919.

Patton, George S., Jr. “304th American Brigade at St. Mihiel: Operations of the 304th Tank Brigade, September 12th to 15th, 1918,” November 12, 1918. Appendix 4, U.S. Army Expeditionary Force, France, 1917-1919, Tank Corps: Report Operations Tank Corps, A.E.F. France: General HQs A.E.F., Office of Chief of Tank Corps, 1918. Carlisle: U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, Ridgway Hall, D608.U56 1918.

__________. “Tanks in Future Wars,” Infantry Journal. XVI, No. 11 (May 1920), 958-962.

Pershing, John J. My Experiences in the World War. Vols. I and II. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1931.

Rockenbach, Samuel D. Operations of the Tank Corps, A.E.F. Silver Spring: Dale Street Books, 2017. Verbatim transcription of unpublished document commonly known as the Rockenbach Report, dated November 1918.

__________. “Tanks and their Cooperation with other Arms,” Infantry Journal. Published in installments: XVI, No. 7 (January 1920), 533-545; XVI, No. 8 (February 1920), 662-673.

__________. U.S. Army Expeditionary Force, France, 1917-1919, Tank Corps: Report Operations Tank Corps, A.E.F. France: General HQs A.E.F., Office of Chief of Tank Corps, 1918. Carlisle: U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, Ridgway Hall, D608.U56 1918.

Rogge, Robert E. “304th Tank Brigade: Its Formation and First Two Actions,” Armor. XCVII, No. 4 (July-August 1988), 26-34.

Simonds, Frank H. History of the World War. Vol. 5. New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1920.

Stamps, T. Dodson and Vincent J. Esposito. A Short Military History of World War I.: Atlas. West Point, New York: Department of Military Art and Engineering, 1950.

Stanton, Theodore, Translator. A Soldier of France to His Mother. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co., 1917.

The Americans in the Great War. Vol. I. The Second Battle of the Marne (Chateau-Thierry, Soissons, Fismes). France: Michelin & Cie, Clermont-Ferrand, 1919.

The Americans in the Great War. Vol. II. The Battle of St. Mihiel (St. Mihiel, Pont-a-Mousson, Metz). France: Michelin & Cie, Clermont-Ferrand, 1920.

The Americans in the Great War. Vol. III. Meuse-Argonne Battlefields (Montfaucon, Romagne, Sainte-Menehould). France: Michelin & Cie, Clermont-Ferrand, 1920.

The Story of the Great War. Vol. XV. New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1920.

Thomas, Shipley. The History of the A.E.F. New York: George H. Doran Company, 1920.

Von Giehrl, Hermann. Battle of the Meuse-Argonne from the German Perspective. Silver Spring: Dale Street Books, 2017. Reproduction of articles titled “Battle of the Meuse-Argonne,” published in installments in the Infantry Journal: Vol. XIX, No. 2 (August 1921), 131-138; Vol. XIX, No. 3 (September 1921), 264-270; Vol. XIX, No. 4 (October 1921), 377-384; and Vol. XIX, No. 5 (November 1921), 534-540.

__________. Das Amerikanische Expeditionskorps in Europa 1917–18. Originally published as an article in the German Military Journal, Wissen und Wehr (July 1921), pp. 217-340. Also published independently under same title by Berlin: E.S. Mittler & Sohn, 1922.

__________. The American Expeditionary Forces in Europe, 1917-1918. Silver Spring: Dale Street Books, 2018. Reproduction of English translation of Das Amerikanische Expeditionskorps in Europa 1917–18, published by the Infantry Journal in installments: Vol. XIX, No. 6 (December 1921), 630-637; Vol. XX, No. 1 (January 1922), 18-23; Vol. XX, No. 2 (February 1922), 140-149; and Vol. XX, No. 3 (March 1922), pp. 292-303.

Wilson, Dale E. Treat ‘Em Rough: The Birth of American Armor, 1917-20. Novato, California: Presidio Press, 1990.


1914 – British Expeditionary Forces Organization

Excerpt from 1914 by John French, Viscount of Ypres, first Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Forces. ebook version here


I have thought fit to interrupt my narrative here to devote some pages to the composition of the original Expeditionary Force. The First Expeditionary Force consisted of the First Army Corps (1st and 2nd Divisions) under Lieut.-Gen. Sir Douglas Haig; the Second Army Corps (3rd and 5th Divisions) under Lieut.-Gen. Sir James Grierson (who died shortly after landing in France and was succeeded by Gen. Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien), and the Cavalry Division under Major-Gen. E. H. H. Allenby. To these must be added the 19th Infantry Brigade, which, at the opening of our operations in France, was employed on our Lines of Communication. The original Expeditionary Force was subsequently augmented by the 4th Division, which detrained at Le Cateau on August 25th. The 4th Division and the 19th Infantry Brigade were, on the arrival of Gen. Pulteney in France, on August 30th, formed into the Third Army Corps, to which the 6th Division was subsequently added.

For the purpose of convenient reference, I have included in this chapter the composition of the 6th Division, which joined us on the Aisne, and of the 7th Division and the 3rd Cavalry Division, which came into line with the original Expeditionary Force in Belgium in the opening stages of the First Battle of Ypres; as also of the Lahore Division of the Indian Corps, which likewise took part in the Battle of Ypres.


General Officer Commanding-in-Chief: Field-Marshal Sir J. D. P. French.

Chief of the General Staff: Lieut.-Gen. Sir A. J. Murray.

Adjutant-General: Major-Gen. Sir C. F. N. Macready.

Quartermaster-General: Major-Gen. Sir W. R. Robertson.


First Army Corps: Lieut.-Gen. Sir Douglas Haig.


1st Division: Major-Gen. S. H. Lomax, wounded October 31st, replaced by Brig.-Gen. Landon (temp.), then by Brig.-Gen. Sir D. Henderson.


1st Infantry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. F. I. Maxse, succeeded by Brig.-Gen. FitzClarence, V.C. (killed, November 11th). Col. McEwen then took command. Later on, Col. Lowther was appointed to command the Brigade.

1st Batt. Coldstream Guards.

1st Batt. Scots Guards.

London Scottish (joined Brigade in November).

1st Batt. Royal Highlanders (the Black Watch).

2nd Batt. Royal Munster Fusiliers (cut to pieces at Etreux, August 29th, replaced by 1st Batt. Cameron Highlanders).


2nd Infantry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. E. S. Bulfin, wounded November 1st, succeeded by Col. Cunliffe-Owen (temp.). Brig.-Gen. Westmacott took command November 23rd.

2nd Batt. Royal Sussex Regt.

1st Batt. Northampton Regt.

1st Batt. N. Lancs Regt.

2nd Batt. K.R.R.


3rd Infantry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. H. J. S. Landon, appointed to command the Division after October 31st, Col. Lovett taking command of Brigade. Brig.-Gen. R. H. K. Butler was appointed to command the Brigade November 13th.

1st Batt. The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regt. (cut up October 31st, replaced by 2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers).

1st Batt. S. Wales Borderers.

1st Batt. Gloucester Regt.

2nd Batt. Welsh Regt.


Divisional Cavalry:

“C” Squadron 15th Hussars.

1st Cyclist Co.


Royal Engineers:

23rd & 26th Field Cos.

1st Signal Co.


Royal Artillery:

R.F.A. Batteries—

XXV. Brigade—113, 114, 115.

XXVI. Brigade—116, 117, 118.

XXIX. Brigade—46, 51, 54.

XLIII. Brigade (Howitzer)—30, 40, 57.

Heavy Battery R.G.A.—26. 1st Divisional Train.

R.A.M.C.: 1st, 2nd, & 3rd Field Ambulances.


2nd Division: Major-Gen. C. C. Monro.


4th (Guards) Brigade: Brig.-Gen. R. Scott-Kerr, wounded September 1st and succeeded by Brig.-Gen. the Earl of Cavan (arrived September 18th).

2nd Batt. Grenadier Guards.

3rd Batt. Coldstream Guards.

2nd Batt. Coldstream Guards.

1st Batt. Irish Guards.

1st Herts (T.F.) (joined Brigade about November 10th).


5th Infantry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. R. C. B. Haking, wounded on September 16th; succeeded by Lieut.-Col. Westmacott until Haking returned on November 20th.

2nd Batt. Worcester Regt.

2nd Batt. Highland L.I.

2nd Batt. Oxf. & Bucks L.I.

2nd Batt. Connaught Rangers. (2nd Connaughts were amalgamated with their 1st Batt. at the end of November and replaced in the Brigade by 9th H.L.I. (Glasgow Highlanders).)


6th Infantry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. R. H. Davies, invalided in September; succeeded by Brig.-Gen. Fanshawe, September 13th.

1st Batt. The King’s (Liverpool) Regt.

1st Batt. Royal Berks Regt.

2nd Batt. S. Staffs Regt.

1st Batt. K.R.R.


Divisional Cavalry:

“B” Squadron 15th Hussars.

2nd Cyclist Co.


Royal Engineers:

5th & 11th Field Cos.

2nd Signal Co.


Royal Artillery:

R.F.A. Batteries—

XXIV XXXIV. Brigade—25, 50, 70.

XXXVI. Brigade—15, 48, 71.

XLI. Brigade—9, 16, 17.

XLIV. Brigade (Howitzer)—47, 56, 60.

Heavy Battery R.G.A.—35. 2nd Divisional Train.

R.A.M.C.: 4th, 5th & 6th Field Ambulances.


Second Army Corps: Lieut.-Gen. Sir James Grierson, died August 17th; succeeded by Gen. Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien.


3rd Division: Major-Gen. Hubert I. W. Hamilton, killed October 14th; Major-Gen. Mackenzie in command till end of October; then Major-Gen. Wing till November 6th; then Major-Gen. Haldane.


7th Infantry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. F. W. N. McCracken

3rd Batt. Worcester Regt.

1st Batt. Wilts Regt.

2nd Batt. S. Lancs Regt.

2nd Batt. Royal Irish Rifles.


8th Infantry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. B. J. C. Doran, invalided October 23rd; Brig.-Gen. Bowes took over command.

2nd Batt. Royal Scots.

2nd Batt. Royal Irish Regt. (Battalion cut up at Le Pilly, October 20th; became G.H.Q. troops, replaced by 2nd Suffolks.)

4th Batt. Middlesex Regt.

1st Batt. Gordon Highlanders. (Employed as G.H.Q. troops during September, being replaced by 1st Devons, but rejoined Brigade at beginning of October.)


9th Infantry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. F. C. Shaw, wounded November 12th; succeeded by Lieut.-Col. Douglas Smith, Royal Scots Fusiliers.

1st Batt. Northumberland Fusiliers.

4th Batt. Royal Fusiliers.

1st Batt. Lincolnshire Regt.

1st Batt. Royal Scots Fusiliers.


Divisional Cavalry:

“A” Squadron 15th Hussars.

3rd Cyclist Co.


Royal Engineers:

56th & 57th Field Cos.

3rd Signal Co.


Royal Artillery:

R.F.A. Batteries—

XXIII. Brigade—107, 108, 109.

  1. Brigade—6, 23, 49.

XLII. Brigade—29, 41, 45.

XXX. Brigade (Howitzer)—128, 129, 130.

Heavy Battery R.G.A.—48.

3rd Divisional Train.

R.A.M.C.: 7th, 8th, & 9th Field Ambulances.


5th Division: Major-Gen. Sir Charles Fergusson, invalided October 22nd; succeeded by Major-Gen. Morland.


13th Infantry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. G. J. Cuthbert, invalided about the end of September; succeeded by Brig.-Gen. Hickie, who went sick October 13th, Col. Martyn getting command (temp.).

2nd Batt. K.O. Scottish Borderers.

2nd Batt. (Duke of Wellington’s) West Riding Regt.

1st Batt. Royal West Kent Regt.

2nd Batt. K.O. Yorkshire L.I.


14th Infantry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. S. P. Rolt, invalided October 29th; succeeded by Brig.-Gen. F. S. Maude.

2nd Batt. Suffolk Regt. (replaced by 1st Devons at the beginning of October, and became G.H.Q. troops).

1st Batt. East Surrey Regt.

1st Batt. Duke of Cornwall’s L.I.

2nd Batt. Manchester Regt.


15th Infantry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. Count A. E. W. Gleichen.

1st Batt. Norfolk Regt.

1st Batt. Cheshire Regt.

1st Batt. Bedford Regt.

1st Batt. Dorset Regt.


Divisional Cavalry:

“A” Squadron 19th Hussars.


Royal Engineers:

17th & 59th Field Cos.

5th Cyclist Co.


Royal Artillery:

R.F.A. Batteries—

  1. Brigade—11, 52, 80.

XXVII. Brigade—119, 120, 121.

XXVIII. Brigade—122, 123, 124.

VIII. Brigade (Howitzer)—37, 61, 65.

Heavy Battery R.G.A.—108.


5th Divisional Train.

R.A.M.C.: 13th, 14th, & 15th Field Ambulances.


19th Infantry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. L. G. Drummond, succeeded early in September by Brig.-Gen. F. Gordon. [Note.—This Brigade was formed from units on Lines of Communication, and was attached successively to the Cavalry Division, Second Corps and Fourth Division during the retreat from Mons and advance to the Aisne. In the Flanders fighting of October-November, 1914, it worked with the Sixth Division.]

2nd Batt. Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

1st Batt. Scottish Rifles.

1st Batt. Middlesex Regt.

2nd Batt. Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

19th Field Ambulance.


Cavalry Division: Major-Gen. E. H. H. Allenby, took command of the Cavalry Corps on its formation in October, Brig.-Gen. De Lisle taking command of the 1st Cavalry Division.


1st Cavalry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. C. J. Briggs.

2nd Dragoon Guards. 5th Dragoon Guards.

11th Hussars.


2nd Cavalry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. H. De B. De Lisle, transferred to command 1st Cavalry Division in October and succeeded by Brig.-Gen. Mullins.

4th Dragoon Guards.

9th Lancers.

18th Hussars (Queen Mary’s Own).


3rd Cavalry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. Hubert De La Poer Gough.

4th Hussars.

5th Lancers.

16th Lancers.


4th Cavalry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. Hon. C. E. Bingham.

Household Cavalry (Composite Regt.).

6th Dragoon Guards. 3rd Hussars.


5th Cavalry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. Sir Philip P. W. Chetwode.

12th Lancers.

20th Hussars.

2nd Dragoons (Scots Greys).


Royal Horse Artillery:

Batteries—”D,” “E,” “I,” “J,” “L” (“L” Battery went home to refit after Néry (September 1st), and was replaced by “H,” R.H.A., which arrived about the middle of September).


Royal Engineers:

1st Field Squadron. 1st Signal Squadron.

[Note.—In September the 2nd Cavalry Division was formed, consisting at first of the 3rd and 5th Cavalry Brigades under Major-Gen. Gough, Brig.-Gen. Vaughan taking command of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade. With these brigades were “D” and “E” Batteries, R.H.A. In October the 4th Cavalry Brigade was transferred to the 2nd Cavalry Division, as was also “J” Battery, R.H.A. The 2nd Cavalry Division had the 2nd Field Squadron R.E. and 2nd Signal Squadron.]

R.A.M.C.: corresponding Cavalry Field Ambulances.


Royal Flying Corps: Brig.-Gen. Sir David Henderson.

Aeroplane Squadrons Nos. 2, 3, 4, and 5.


4th Division: Major-Gen. T. D. O. Snow, invalided September; succeeded by Major-Gen. Sir H. Rawlinson, who was transferred to 4th Army Corps early in October and replaced by Major-Gen. H. F. M. Wilson.


10th Infantry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. J. A. L. Haldane, appointed to command 3rd Division, November 6th; succeeded by Brig.-Gen. Hull.

1st Batt. Royal Warwickshire Regt.

2nd Batt. Seaforth Highlanders.

1st Batt. Royal Irish Fusiliers.

2nd Batt. Royal Dublin Fusiliers.


11th Infantry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. A. G. Hunter-Weston.

1st Batt. Somersetshire L.I.

1st Batt. Hampshire Regt.

1st Batt. E. Lancs Regt.

1st Batt. Rifle Brigade.


12th Infantry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. H. F. M. Wilson, in command of the 4th Division in October, and on promotion succeeded by Col. F. G. Anley.

1st Batt. K.O. (R. Lancaster) Regt.

2nd Batt. Lancashire Fusiliers.

2nd Batt. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

2nd Batt. Essex Regt.


Divisional Cavalry:

“B” Squadron 19th Hussars.

4th Cyclist Co.


Royal Engineers:

7th & 9th Field Cos.

4th Signal Co.


Royal Artillery:

R.F.A. Batteries—

XIV. Brigade—39, 68, 88.

XXIX. Brigade—125, 126, 127.

XXXII. Brigade—27, 134, 135.

XXXVII. Brigade—31, 35, 55.

Heavy Battery, R.G.A.—31.

R.A.M.C.: 10th, 11th, & 12th Field Ambulances.


Lines of Communication and Army Troops:

1st Batt. Devonshire Regt. (transferred to 8th Brigade about middle of September, later to 14th Brigade).

1st Batt. Cameron Highlanders (replaced 2nd Munsters in 1st Brigade about September 6th).

[Note.—The 28th London (Artists’ Rifles), 14th London (London Scottish), 6th Welsh and 5th Border Regt. were all in France before the end of the First Battle of Ypres, as was also the Honourable Artillery Company. These battalions were all at first on Lines of Communication.]

6th Division: Major-Gen. J. L. Keir.


16th Infantry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. C. Ingouville-Williams.

1st Batt. East Kent Regt. (The Buffs).

1st Batt. Leicestershire Regt.

1st Batt. Shropshire L.I.

2nd Batt. York and Lancaster Regt.


17th Infantry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. W. R. B. Doran.

1st Batt. Royal Fusiliers.

2nd Batt. Leinster Regt.

1st Batt. N. Staffs Regt.

3rd Batt. Rifle Brigade.


18th Infantry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. W. N. Congreve, V.C.

1st Batt. West Yorks Regt.

2nd Batt. Notts and Derby Regt.

1st Batt. East Yorks Regt. (the Sherwood Foresters).

2nd Batt. Durham. L.I.


Divisional Cavalry:

“C” Squadron 19th Hussars.

6th Cyclist Co.


Royal Engineers:

12th & 38th Field Cos.

6th Signal Co.


Royal Artillery:

R.F.A. Batteries—

  1. Brigade—21, 42, 53.

XXIV. Brigade—110, 111, 112.

XXXVIII. Brigade—24, 34, 72.

XII. Brigade (Howitzer)—43, 86, 87.

Heavy Battery R.G.A.—24. 6th Divisional Train.

R.A.M.C.: 16th, 17th & 18th Field Ambulances.


7th Infantry Division: Major-Gen. T. Capper.


20th Infantry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. H. G. Ruggles-Brise.

1st Batt. Grenadier Guards.

2nd Batt. Border Regt.

2nd Batt. Scots Guards.

2nd Batt. Gordon Highlanders.


21st Infantry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. H. E. Watts.

2nd Batt. Bedfordshire Regt.

2nd Batt. Royal Scots Fusiliers.

2nd Batt. Yorkshire Regt.

2nd Batt. Wiltshire Regt.


22nd Infantry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. S. T. B. Lawford.

2nd Batt. The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regt.

2nd Batt. Royal Warwickshire Regt.

1st Batt. Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

1st Batt. S. Staffs Regt.


Divisional Cavalry:

Northumberland Yeomanry (Hussars).

7th Cyclist Co.


Royal Engineers:

54th & 55th Field Cos.

7th Signal Co.


Royal Artillery:

R.H.A. Batteries—”F” and “T.”

R.F.A. Batteries—

XXII. Brigade—104, 105, 106.

XXV. Brigade—12, 35, 58.

Heavy Batteries R.G.A.—111, 112.

R.A.M.C.: 21st, 22nd and 23rd Field Ambulances.


3rd Cavalry Division: Major-Gen. The Hon. Julian Byng.


6th Cavalry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. E. Makins.

3rd Dragoon Guards (joined the Division early in November).

North Somerset Yeomanry (attached to the Brigade before the end of First Battle of Ypres).

1st Dragoons (The Royals).

10th Hussars.


7th Cavalry Brigade: Brig.-Gen. C. T. McM. Kavanagh.

1st Life Guards.

2nd Life Guards.

Royal Horse Guards (the Blues).


Royal Horse Artillery:

Batteries “C” and “K.”


Royal Engineers:

3rd Field Squadron.

R.A.M.C.: 6th, 7th and 8th Cavalry Field Ambulances.

First Gas Attack on the Western Front -April 22, 1915 at the Second Battle of Ypres

Excerpt from A History of the Great War by Arthur Conan Doyle (New York: George H. Doran Company, 1917), Vol. Two, pp. 48, 49 (describing the first mass gas attack on the Western Front).

[…] Up to the third week of April the enemy opposite the French had consisted of the Twenty-sixth Corps, with the Fifteenth Corps on the right, all under the Duke of Württemberg, whose headquarters were at Thielt. There were signs, however, of secret concentration which had not entirely escaped the observation of the Allied aviators, and on April 20 and 21 the German guns showered shells on Ypres. About 5 p.m. upon Thursday, April 22, a furious artillery bombardment from Bixschoote to Langemarck began along the French lines, including the left of the Canadians, and it was reported that the Forty­ fifth French Division was being heavily attacked. At the same time a phenomenon was observed which would seem to be more in place in the pages of a romance than in the record of an historian. From the base of the German trenches over a considerable length there appeared jets of whitish vapour, which gathered and swirled until they settled into a   definite low cloud-bank, greenish-brown below and yellow above, where it reflected the rays of the sinking sun. This ominous bank of vapour, impelled by a northern breeze, drifted swiftly across the space which separated the two lines. The French troops, staring over the top of their parapet at this curious screen which ensured them a temporary relief from fire, were observed suddenly to throw up their hands, to clutch at their throats, and to fall to the ground in the agonies of asphyxiation. Many lay where they had fallen, while their comrades, absolutely helpless against this diabolical agency, rushed madly out of the mephitic mist and made for the rear, over-running the lines of trenches behind them. Many of them never halted until they had reached Ypres, while others rushed westwards and put the canal between themselves and the enemy. The Germans, meanwhile, advanced, and took possession of the successive lines of trenches, tenanted only by the dead garrisons, whose blackened faces, contorted figures, and lips fringed with the blood and foam from their bursting lungs, showed the agonies in which they had died. Some thousands of stupefied prisoners, eight batteries of French field-guns, and four British 4.7’s, which had been placed in a wood behind the French position, were the trophies won by this disgraceful victory. The British heavy guns belonged to the Second London Division, and were not deserted by their gunners until the enemy’s infantry were close upon them, when the strikers were removed from the breech-blocks and the pieces abandoned. It should be added that both the young officers present, Lieuts. Sandeman and Hamilton Field, died beside their guns after the tradition of their corps. […]

Satirical Look at Officer Incompetence and Lessons Learned in the Great War

Excerpt from “Battle of Booby’s Bluffs,” a satire on officer incompetence and lessons learned in the Great War. Written in the style of Defence of Duffer’s Drift, it was originally published in installments in the Infantry Journal, (May through October) 1921 and republished by Dale Street Books in 2017.

[…] At 4:25 Lieutenant Swift called the battalion to attention, faced about and reported, “Sir, the battalion is formed.” I told him to take his post, and commanded, “Rest,” as I wished the companies to rest even to the last minute before going forward for the struggle which might last all day. I looked at my watch and marked the second hand as it slowly counted off the seconds until 4:30. The eyes of all my soldiers were on me, and I felt that no one could criticize me for lack of coolness and courage. I calmly stood there, making a few commonplace remarks to Lieutenants Swift and Bright, who seemed anxious to suggest something, but they had learned that I was the commander of this battalion, so they kept quiet. At 4:29 I faced about, and everyone could see from my stern attitude that the time had arrived. I then watched the second hand, which was spelling time for us and eternity for thousands of Reds and for some of us.

Just at 4:30 I lowered my left hand (which carried my wrist watch) and started to command, “Form for attack.” The most infernal racket burst forth. Shells by the thousand burst on the north and south road just west of me, and my command could not he heard more than ten feet.

I was dumfounded. Such a racket had never been heard in any boiler-shop or iron-foundry that I had ever visited. I could not think what had happened. How had the enemy known that we were to attack at this moment? I began to suspect treachery; but I knew that there could be no treachery in my battalion. Possibly some Red spies had slipped over in the early dawn and had heard Lieutenant Swift’s statement that the attack began at 4:30. At any rate we were lucky in that the Reds did not have our range, and as long as we remained where we were there need be no casualties.

I waited a few seconds, and was a little amused at the facial expressions of Lieutenants Swift and Bright. Being young men, they naturally were a little more prone to surprise than I was. I smiled to reassure them, and said, “It is all right, my boys; the enemy has not our range, and we seem to be perfectly safe. In fact it is evident that they are aiming less and less accurately; the shots seem to be falling shorter and farther from us.”

Then Lieutenant Swift yelled in a most disrespectful manner: “The barrage! It’s our barrage, and it travels at the rate of 100 yards in four minutes. Of course, it is missing us more and more. We must catch it. If we don’t take advantage of it our artillery will be of no assistance to us.”

At once it came back to me. Colonel R had said in the conference of his field and staff officers that the barrage would start at 4:30 and move forward at once. Immediately I rose to the occasion. My voice could not be heard, so I opened my mouth several times and waved my hand. It made my heart bound to see how quickly the intelligent American soldier can adapt himself to circumstances. The majority of my men were volunteers and they understood at once what was wanted. Promptly B and C Companies moved out in extended order, and A and D Companies prepared to follow. At a double time B and C Companies spread over the center of our sector, guiding center, one man per yard. This covered about 500 yards, leaving some 250 yards on either flank, which was to be covered by A and D Companies as they advanced later at the prescribed distance of about 300 yards.

I took my position about 150 yards behind the center of the front line. The whole battalion moved forward in perfect order, guiding center, the front line some sixty yards behind our barrage.

My heart swelled with pride. Everything was working smoothly. It is true that some of the boys were falling, and my heart bled in sympathy but I gritted my teeth like a soldier, and marched proudly forward, calm and collected.

When we reached the crest, some four minutes after our advance had started, I halted for a moment and gazed upon the scene with my field glasses. The morning sun showed a perfect picture. One hundred and fifty yards ahead of me were B and C Companies in a magnificent line, marching straight to the front as if on parade. Some sixty yards in front of them was our barrage, still going forward at the rate of l00 yards in four minutes. Behind me, 150 yards, and off to the right and left flanks, respectively, were the A and D Companies, now in platoon columns. I felt that my weary days of work in the training camp were producing their reward. With a smile I placed my field glasses in the case and hurried forward to regain my position back of the center, midway between the two lines.

I heard Lieutenant Bright say to Lieutenant Swift, “Look at the shells bursting just this side of the creek. Either we have an extra wide barrage or it is their protective barrage in front of their line. My best information says that their line is west of the creek. If that is their protective barrage they will switch it as soon as they locate us, and then we will have an awful time.” I saw nothing to justify Lieutenant Bright in this dismal prediction. I did not care to administer any further admonitions to him, so I calmly marched forward.

After about twenty minutes the left of my front line arrived opposite the trees, already mentioned, on the south side of the bend in Booby’s Creek at 344.6-729.3, the barrage having passed this point. I saw a few men break from the left and start for the creek only some forty yards away, but a sharp command from a lieutenant or a sergeant called them back into line and they continued forward.

Evidently some of the Reds were in that creek bottom, but the platoon commander knew that I would send up some men from the support to clear them out. It was his duty to march straight ahead just as I had taught them day after day on the parade ground. I quickly turned to the left and waved forward a platoon from D Company, pointing to the creek bend. Not a second did they hesitate. Bravely they started forward, but luck was against me. I heard a rat-tat-tat from the creek bottom, then a continuous roll of rat-tat-tats. The left of my front line just crumpled up and lay down. It vanished.

The right, true to its training, immediately began to advance by rushes, straight to the front. Probably they had seen an enemy or something to their front. Steadily and surely they rose, rushed forward and fell, firing to the front. Each time fewer rose and rushed forward. Always some fell. But relief was at hand; the platoon from D Company was only some 100 yards away. I signaled “double time,” and they rushed forward and silenced the machine gun.

For a few minutes I breathed freely. But not for long. Suddenly, 100 yards back of me, there was again an unearthly racket, shells exploding and iron splinters Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-ing in all directions. Lieutenant Bright yelled “There it is! They have us located!” and truly it seemed so. One platoon of D Company simply disappeared. Half of another was blown into the air. Captain D, with rare presence of mind, commanded, “Scatter, boys, SCATTER!”[1] and the rest of the company abandoned all formation and rushed pell-mell for the creek bottom. On the right the enemy’s counter-barrage seemed less effective. Possibly they did not have enough guns, and they made it thicker on my left.

I moved over to my right and placed myself between the two lines, and we continued to move forward. Personally I felt that this showed great fortitude on my part. Practically half of my battalion had been killed or wounded, and yet I had not sounded the retreat.

At Bull Run the Federal troops retired with much less than that. In fact in no one of our great battles had the losses been 50 per cent. Yet here was I, Major List, still pushing forward after over 50 per cent of my men had been killed or wounded.

For some four more minutes we followed the barrage without accident. Then again we had hard luck. The barrage passed some more Red machine guns concealed in the woods south of the bend, and my line began to crumple up on the left. Still we struggled forward, and I noted with pleasure that a small party gained the top of Hill 407 and disappeared. My joy was short-lived, for just then the Red counter-barrage switched from D Company and fell upon A Company, My last supports vanished, and no first line existed except a few men on Hill 407.

My battalion was ruined. We had captured Hill 407, but at what a price! On all sides my brave boys were wounded and dying. Time after time my name was called, and I stopped to comfort old and personal friends. Finally, to my great grief, I came across young Frank Hale mortally wounded. I stopped and bent over him. “My boy, my boy, what can I do?” “Major,” he said, “can’t you call us anything but boys? Don’t you think some of us have behaved like grown-up men today?” And he smiled and died.

My cup was full, but it overflowed when a messenger rushed up from Captain B to say that he had captured Hill 407, but he had not been issued extra ammunition and would have to retire if I could not send him some. I had none to send him. I did not even know where to find it.

Though overcome with bitterness at Colonel R for having given me the hardest job of any of the battalions, I determined to be a soldier to my dying breath. My brave boys were streaming back over the field in wild confusion. No human flesh could stand against that hail of lead from the woods across the creek on our left. I sent Lieutenant Bright back to Colonel R to ask for help—that we were utterly beaten. Meanwhile I determined that I would sell my life as dearly as possible. No one at home should ever say that I, Single List, had fled from the foe. We had seen no enemy, but it was evident that many Red machine guns were in the woods south of the creek. I called for volunteers, and some forty brave lads gathered around me.

Remembering my grandfather’s story of how he rallied his men in the deadly Devil’s Den at Gettysburg, I seized a gun and began to exhort them to do their duty by their fellow-countrymen. The tyrannical Reds must not triumph. Our freedom was in danger. The country’s honor was at stake. Remember the glorious democracy for which they were fighting. I would lead them and be one of them. All became fired with my enthusiasm. They clamored for immediate action. They cried, “Lead on, List, we’re with you!” I turned to lead them, but just then three shells burst in our group and machine guns swept us like a hose. I was unhurt, but when the dust cleared not a man of my volunteers was with me—all were dead, wounded, or missing. I looked around the field, but could see no men. All of my battalion had disappeared.

Suddenly, Lieutenant Swift grabbed my arm and said, “Look!” I looked to the rear and saw a thin line of Blue skirmishers coming over the ridge. The 2nd Battalion was coming, but it was too late. My battalion had been fighting the whole battle alone, and it was demolished. No amount of reinforcements could reestablish the battle or bring my brave boys (men) back to me. As the line passed by me I saw that the Major of the 2nd Battalion, was in command and that he was accompanied by the lieutenant colonel. The latter spoke to me curtly and said, “Colonel R orders that you report to him immediately. I shall take command of your battalion—what is left of it.”

As I walked back to Colonel R, I was very much crestfallen. It was evident that I was to be relieved. Well, I was willing. My battalion was gone and my heart was broken. I cared no more for wars, and I wanted a peaceful time in the Service of Supply. But I did think that Colonel R should at least thank me for the gallant work done by my battalion. In his dispatches he should mention that the First Battalion, under Major Single List, had bravely breasted the leaden hail and captured Hill 407, but was unable to advance farther because of severe losses.

I did not expect him to mention that my battalion had fought the whole battle alone and unsupported, and had been stopped through lack of support after it had captured the Red fort on Hill 407, but I did hope that he would acknowledge that it had been specially selected for the most difficult task. Also I felt that he should specially mention my gallantry in rallying forty volunteers and advancing to clinch the victory by capturing the Red machine gun nest.  He should have left me with my battalion now that the victory was won, and at night the 2nd Battalion could have safely taken over the position so gallantly won by us.

I reported to Colonel R. He told me that I was relieved; that he had recommended me for reclassification; that I was not fit to command the battalion; and that I would at once go back to division headquarters and report to General A.

I need not give a long discussion here of the explanations given by Colonel R. It seems that he blamed me for not taking the machine guns before they enfiladed my line, but gave no idea as to how I was to do it. He blamed me for letting my men run out of ammunition, but said nothing about the fact that no ammunition carts had reported to me. He blamed me for allowing my men to be caught in close formation by the Reds’ counter-barrage, but offered no suggestions as to how it could be avoided. In short, he blamed me for and not himself for the loss of the battle. He offered no satisfactory explanation of why he had made my battalion fight the battle alone. He belittled my capture of the Red fort on Hill 407; said it was no victory; that there was not a single Red on Hill 407. He made many heartless remarks about the lack of fighting qualities in my battalion; said it was run like a political club. This last I did not discuss with him, as I saw he was moved by jealousy, and I said nothing more to him. I determined to appeal to General A.

At division headquarters General A was too busy to see me, and the adjutant handed me an order to go to Bluey for reclassification. As no one would give me justice, I sat down and wrote to my old friend Senator Sorghum, and told him all about the battle and my victory and about Colonel R’s robbing me and my brave battalion of the credit. I knew that Senator Sorghum would understand me and see that I received justice from the War Department in Washington. […]

[1] Author’s side note—A command actually given in an American machine gun battalion in France.


Meuse-Argonne from the German Perspective

Through the eyes of a German Staff Officer. Excerpt from Battle of the Meuse Argonne from the German Perspective (Silver Spring: Dale Street Books, 1917), reproduction of original articles published in the Infantry Journal in 1921.


Although the French attack west of the Argonne in no way surprised the German command, the Americans had succeeded in cleverly concealing their preparations for attack and in establishing a homogeneous American front of nine divisions during the night of September 25, in the place of the mixed French-American troops between the Argonne and the Meuse. These divisions were, from west to east, the 77th, 28th, 35th, 91st, 37th, 79th, 4th, 80th, and 33d, divided among three Corps Headquarters, the 1st, 5th, and 3d. Of these divisions, the 77th, 28th, 35th, 4th, and 33d had had experience in battle, the 37th and 80th had until then been engaged on a quiet front only, while the 91st and 79th were in the fighting line for the first time. All the divisions were well rested, fresh, and in thoroughly good fighting condition. Their nourishment, morale, and equipment were excellent. The effective strength of the companies was 225-250 men on an average. Artillery, aviation, and tanks were available in abundance.

Shortly after 11 o’clock of the night of September 25, a strong enemy artillery fire was opened on the whole front from west of the Argonne to the Meuse. At first, only a harassing fire was directed on the Argonne. Many gas shells were used. The long-range fire reached far into the back areas. The hum of aeroplanes and the sound of explosions were reported near Vauquois. The German telephone lines, meteorological stations, and survey and signal posts were put out of action.

The effect of the German counter-batteries was limited, as the front east of the Argonne was but sparsely provided with reinforcing artillery.

At 2 o’clock in the morning of the 26th of September the enemy’s fire, which in the meantime had died down, was renewed with full force, and the American Infantry came into the attack at 5 o’clock on the same morning.

Their blow fell chiefly on the 1st Guards, whose position lay east of the Argonne, and the adjacent 117th Infantry and 7th Reserve Divisions, while, at the same time, east of the Meuse, French troops (10th Colonial Division) made a demonstrative push on Dieppe. East of the Meuse, the enemy’s fire fell in varying intensity in the environs of Beaumont, while harassing fire only was dropped further east.

The attack of the American Infantry was greatly favored by a thick mist, which remained until late in the morning.

The 77th and 28th American Divisions in the Argonne did not make a serious attack and, on the day of the attack, won only an insignificant amount of terrain, which was, for the most part, voluntarily ceded by the 2d Landwehr Division. The left flank of the 1st Guards Division was at first quickly flattened out, and the entire division then forced back against the eastern edge of the Argonne. Varennes and Cheppy were lost. During the evening, the enemy pushed through as far as Baulny, but was driven out by the 4th Guards Regiment. Eighteen tanks, disabled by fire, remained stranded near Charpentry alone. In the evening, the 1st Guards Division, which had suffered extremely heavily, held the line running approximately through Argonne-Charpentry-Epinonville.

There was a wide gap left open in the valley of the Aire. No reserves were available, as only one regiment from the 5th Guards Division (Infantry Regiment No. 20) had arrived, and had already taken up a position near Exermont.

The 117th and 7th Reserve Divisions, too, had been overrun and flung back towards the north. The former still managed to hold Montfaucon, which formed the point of a salient, but the line of defense fell back again to approximately the Epinonville-Nantillois line and north of the wooded terrain of Septsarges and Dannevoux to the Meuse. Here further advance on the part of the enemy was prevented by the 5th Bavarian Reserve Division, which was moving in an easterly direction toward Nantillois.

The Americans had won a belt of terrain from about 4 to 9 kilometers deep on a front of about 20 kilometers.


After a comparatively quiet night, the enemy, again favored by mist, and supported by an extremely large number of tanks, renewed his attacks. This time he also attacked west of the Argonne in the direction of Cernay, but was repulsed by the troops of the 9th Landwehr Division. There was little heavy fighting in the Argonne on this day. Heavy fighting developed again between the wooded hills and the Meuse. Meanwhile, on the Montblainville-Epinonville front, the whole of the 5th Guards Division had been pushed in between the thin ranks of the 1st Guards Division. The main attack, supported by tanks, was launched on both sides of the valley of the Aire against Montblainville and Charpentry. Both of these places, which were defended by Landwehr Troops and the 3d Guards regiment, were lost. The enemy pushed up to Baulny, and, further east, crossed the main road running in a northeasterly direction from Charpentry. The counter attacks of the 4th Guards and 20th Infantry Regiments produced a temporary relief of the tension, but were unable to prevent the enemy, late in the evening, and supported by large numbers of tanks, from taking the heights north of Baulny. As in the valley of the Aire, on September 26, the situation east of the Aire for the Germans, who had no further reserves whatever available, was extremely critical.

* * * * * *


The Rockenbach Report on the origins of the Tank Corps A.E.F.

“Prior to the arrival of the A.E.F., the American Military Mission in Paris had, by direction of the Chief of the War College, investigated and submitted a report under date of May 21st, 1917, giving the latest British and French technical and tactical ideas on the use of Tanks. Major Frank Parker, Liaison Officer at G.H.Q. of the French Armies of the North and North-East, submitted notes covering French Tanks in the Allied Offensive of April, 1917. In the light of our recent experience his two chief criticisms are of interest:

‘(a) Insufficient protection against fire. Little extinguishing material was provided.

(b) Faulty liaison with the Infantry. On several occasions the Tanks went ahead of the Infantry and were destroyed for lack of support. Many were destroyed.’

“The French at that time had only two types of Tanks; the St. Chaumond and the Schneider. Neither were Tanks in the sense of later development. They were more properly artillery carriers. They had to be preceded by a group of skirmishers who indicated the route for them to follow. They were bad cross-country machines; under powered; badly arranged and it was all off with the crews if they were stuck.

“A joint British and French Tank Board met in London early in May, but were unable to reconcile their ideas as to machines or tactics. The British preferred the heavy Tank to be used in advance of the Infantry and the French desired their light Tank, which they were building, to be used in close liaison with the Infantry. Their normal position to be with the battalion support and only to advance when the Infantry was held up.

“Shortly after the arrival of the Commander-in-Chief, of the A.E.F., and his staff in France in June, 1917, various committees were appointed and sent to the British and French fronts to study their organization plans and equipment. Naturally “Gattling Gun” (J.H.) Parker noted and reported on the counter to the machine gun. On July 19th, 1917, the Commander-in-Chief directed the detail of the Board of well selected officers to study the new French Tank (Renault).

“On July 28th, the Chief Ordnance Officer of the A.E.F. requested to be informed as to the number of Tanks required in order that a definite request might be made on the War Department to expedite construction. Colonel Eltinge, General Staff, in addition to his other duties, was put in charge of Tank matters.

“On September 14th, the following cablegram was sent to the War Department:


No. 159-S Paragraph 15 – for Chief of Ordnance. Careful study French and British experience with Tanks completed and will be forwarded by early mail. Project includes three hundred fifty heavy Tanks of British Mark Six pattern; twenty similar Tanks equipped for signal purposes; forty similar Tanks for supply of gasoline and oil; one hundred forty Tanks arranged to carry twenty-five soldiers or five tons of supplies; fifty similar Tanks with upper platform for field gun; total six hundred heavy Tanks. Also following Renault Tanks; ten hundred thirty for fighting purposes; one hundred thirty for supply; forty for signal purposes; total twelve hundred Renault Tanks. Replacement of Tanks requires fifteen per cent per month after arrival here. Mark Six Tanks should be in proportion of one small cannon and four machine guns and the female carries six machine guns. Renault Tanks should be in proportion of two to carry a machine gun to one to carry a six-pounder, or one carrying three-inch gun. Other material required for Tank organization includes: three hundred six-ton auto trucks each carrying complete Renault Tank; ninety three-ton auto trucks; two hundred seventy three-ton auto trucks with trailers; ninety three-ton auto trucks with kitchen trailers; ninety Ford automobiles and one hundred eighty motorcycles. Understand that arrangements can be made with Renault Works to permit manufacture of Renault Tanks in United States and that they will furnish model. Also that complete plans and specifications for British Mark Six can be obtained. These are the only models of Tanks whose use is recommended by either British or French. British Mark Six is thirty feet long and weighs about thirty tons. It is a powerful machine but limited to particular localities. Groups are assigned to particular areas for fighting. Renault is about nine feet long and weighs about six tons. It is used in conjunction with Infantry and assigned to Infantry units. Arrangements for manufacture should be made at once. Understand that French desire about two thousand Renault Tanks from United States. Will take up with French War Office later. Tanks are used in large numbers or not at all, hence shipment not expected before next Spring. Will submit recommendations regarding organization later.



“Project for Overseas Tank Corps based on 20 combat divisions, consisting of the necessary headquarters, five heavy and 20 light battalions employing 375 heavy and 1500 light fighting Tanks, was approved by the Commander-in-Chief, A.E.F. on September 23rd and sent to the War Department. Details were to be worked out and submitted later.

“On October 14th Majors Drain and Alden of the Ordnance Department were detailed by Special Order, H.A.E.F. with instruction from the Chief Ordnance Officer, A.E.F., to collect all information obtainable on the use, design, and production of Tanks. Their report, submitted on November 10th, was exhausting and interesting.

“In order to coordinate the production efforts, an Inter-Allied Tank Commission was approved and Major Drain was appointed the American member thereof. He was directed to proceed in the attempt to get an agreement with the British and French as to the best type of Tank to be constructed and coordinate the production effort so as to get the largest number of Tanks in the minimum time. The effort with the British was a success and the Anglo-American Commission decided the type of heavy Tank, which was nothing more in idea than an enlarged Renault, and started design. The French, while approving, would take no active part. On December 6th the American member of the Supreme War Council, with the approval of the Commander-in-Chief A.E.F., cabled the War Department and got approval to enter into an Inter-Allied agreement for the joint production of 1500 of the Liberty Mark VIII Tanks, and for the allotment of 1500 Liberty engines for the same. The 1500 heavy Tanks were to be produced by the 1st of October, 1918.

“In the meantime, Captain G. S. Patton, Jr., Cavalry,[1] and Lieutenant Elgin Braine, had been on duty with the French Tanks. They had thoroughly mastered the light Tank (chars d’assaut Renault). They were very enthusiastic about it and were ready to make improvements. The War Department was cabled, requesting the rapid construction of the Renault Tanks. Steps were taken to secure and send specifications and two Renault Tanks to the United States. As the Renault is manufactured by a private concern, the negotiations were slow and tedious.

“Doubts as to the usefulness of Tanks were removed by the Battle of Cambrai, starting on the 20th of November, 1917. The salient points brought out as to the value of Tanks were: Economy in men per weapon, in men per yard of front, in casualties, increased enemy’s casualties, economy in Artillery personnel, in Cavalry personnel, in ammunition and manufacture, of transportation, of labor on the battlefield, of property, of tonnage and of time.

“At Cambrai a penetration of 10,000 from a base of 12,000 yards was made in 12 hours. That the Boche counterattack left the British in worse situation than before the attack in no way diminished the usefulness of Tanks, but made clear that Tanks were not an independent arm. There must always be the Infantry to support the Tanks and secure their gains. (Cambrai was a strategical success in that it held troops away from Italy).

“This was the situation on December 23rd when I arrived at G.H.Q. and was detailed as Chief of Tank Corps.” Samuel D. Rockenbach, Chief, Tank Corps 

Excerpted from Samuel D. Rockenbach, Operations of the Tank Corps A.E.F. (Silver Spring: Dale Street Books, 2017), pp. 12-16, informally known as “The Rockenbach Report.” (Original report archived at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center at Carlisle, Pennsylvania under its full title,  Operations of the Tank Corps A.E.F. with the 1st American Army at St. Mihiel and in the Argonne Sept. 11th to Nov. 11th 1918 and with the British E.F. Sept. 18th to November, 1918. (France: General HQs, A.E.F., Office of the Chief of Tank Corps, 1918). OCLC Number: 25526224.))

[1] Patton was promoted in quick succession in early 1918. He had been wearing his Major clusters for only a week before he was notified that he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in April 1918.  Stanley P. Hirshson, “General Patton: A Soldier’s Life,” (New York: Perennial, 2003), p. 115.

1914 – The Advent of Modern War

“As the minds of both soldiers and civilians bent themselves to the great contest, it was inevitable that they should be busied with forecasts. All agreed that the war would be of a magnitude never known before in history, and that most of the problems would be different in kind from those of the past. During the last half century revolution had succeeded revolution. The invention of the internal combustion engine had provided motor transport and airplanes. Field telephones and wireless telegraphy had altered the system of communication among troops. The cannon had passed through a series of bewildering metamorphoses, till it had reached the 75mm. field gun and the mighty siege howitzer. No single weapon of war but had a hundredfold increased its range and precision. The old minor tactics, the old transport and intelligence methods were now, it appeared, as completely out of date as the stage coach and the China clipper. There would be no room in the Higher Command for the brilliant guesses, the sudden unexpected strokes, or the personal heroisms of old days. It would no longer be necessary to divine, like Wellington at Assaye, what was happening behind a hill. In one sense, many argued, the problem would be simpler, at least it would have fewer elements; but these elements would be difficult to control, and from their novelty, impossible to estimate. There was a general agreement that modern war was a venture into the unknown, and that while the existence of the new factors was plain, their working was incalculable.

“Let us glance at some of these new factors. The chief was the vast numbers now destined for the battlefield. The greatest action of the old regime was the Battle of the Nations at Leipzig, but there the combatants numbered only 472,000. At Sadowa there were 436,000, at Gravelotte 300,000. (A useful summary of the numbers engaged in the chief battles of the nineteenth century will be found in Otto Berndt’s Die Zahl im Kriege.) In the Russo-Japanese war the armies had been greater–Mukden, for example, had been fought on a front of eighty miles, had lasted for three weeks, and had engaged 700,000 men. But in the coming war it was plain that the number of troops, the length of the front, and the duration of actions must be indefinitely enlarged. The improvement in firearms would itself, as Schlieffen had pointed out in 1909, lead to a great extension of fighting front. The handling of such masses over such an area meant that railways would be of the first importance. Moltke, in 1870, had foreseen this, and his successors in the German command had practiced his teaching. They held, probably with truth, the view that Napoleon’s ultimate failure had been due to the fact that his armies had outgrown the technical resources of his age, and they were determined that every resource of contemporary invention should be harnessed in the service of their new millions. Staff work, too, Moltke had first made a science, must advance pari passu with the growth in complexity of the problems. One special feature also must distinguish this from other struggles. It was the first instance in history of large bodies of men operating in a closely settled country, for in most parts of the garden land of Western Europe there was little freedom of movement. The cultivated nature of the terrain would no doubt simplify the problem of communications, but it would not be easy to find the wide and open battlefield which it was believed that great masses of men would require.

“For it was almost universally assumed that the coming war would be a war of movement and maneuver. The principal reason for this view was that men’s minds could not envisage the long continuance of a struggle in which the whole assets of each nation were so utterly pledged. They underestimated the power of human endurance; they believed that modern numbers and modern weapons would make the struggle most desperate but also short, since flesh and blood must soon be brought to the breaking-point. Such a view was possible, because no belligerent had recognized the immense relative increase of strength given by modern weapons to the defence over the attack. One form of defence, the old-fashioned fortress, was indeed rightly underrated by Germany, for she realized that the heavy howitzer directed by aircraft would make havoc of the type of fort upon which France and Belgium had relied. (In practice, though in theory France held the sound doctrine which had been laid down by Napoleon. See his Corr. xiii. 10726, and xviii. 14707.) But of the impregnability of field entrenchments no combatant was aware till the third month of war. (See Lord French’s remarks in his 1914, pp. 12-13. the man who foresaw modern conditions most clearly was the pacifist Jean de Bloch, writing at the close of last century.)” John Buchan, History of the Great War, Vol. I (Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1922), pp. 114-116.


235 days in 1918 – The last campaign of World War I

“The last campaign of the World War was a fitting climax to a struggle which had endured already for more than three years and had surpassed all previous contests recorded in human history. In the final phase more than six millions of men, representing seven nations, fought for 235 days on a front of 250 miles from the North Sea to the Moselle, from the outer defences of Metz to the ruins of Nieuport. And the struggle was not limited to the west front. While Germany met her ancient foes in decisive contest on the battlefields of France, Italian armies first repulsed then crushed the Austrians on the Piave; Serbian, Greek, French, British, and Italian troops fought Bulgarians in Albania and Macedonia, and British troops overwhelmed the Turk on the Plain of Armageddon. Two continents furnished the battlefields, and five, reckoning Australia, supplied the combatants. 

“But it was the issue of contest in France which decided the fate of the world and the question of victory and defeat in the great struggle. And in this contest, which French historians already regard as a single engagement and describe as the “Battle of France,” all the previous western campaigns were repeated on a hugely increased scale. When the Germans crushed the British Fifth Army in March 1918, they swept forward over all the territory which had been gained and lost in the First Battle of the Somme and the subsequent “Hindenburg” Retreat.

“When in  April German effort turned north, it was on the fields of Flanders, the scene of the three great struggles about Ypres, that one more tremendous battle was fought. In April, before the war drifted northward, too, the German storm once  more reached the foot of Vimy Ridge. In May, when [Erich von] Ludendorff faced southward, a new conflict broke out upon the battlefields on the Craonne Plateau, where [Alexander von] Kluck had checked the French and British advance from the Marne in 1914, where Ludendorff had broken the Nivelle offensive in 1917.

“In July the last German attack stormed at the lines held by the French in Champagne, since the first great offensive, that of September, 1915, and in the same hour passed the Marne at the towns where the armies of [Karl von] Bulow and Kluck had crossed and recrossed that stream in the days of the First Battle of the Marne. Indeed, the Second Battle of the Marne in July, 1918, was in so many respects a replica of the First in September, 1914, that history affords no parallel more striking.

“When at last the tide had turned, the Allied advance in July followed the roads used by Maunoury, French, and Franchet d’Esperey after the First Marne, while the British victories of August and September were won on the fields of the First Somme, and the battle names of these two months recalled with glorious exactitude the places made famous and terrible by the campaign of two years before. In the closing days of September, moreover, the first American army to enter the conflict struggled forward over the hills and through the villages which had seen in 1916 the beginning of the German offensive before Verdun.

“With the coming of October, the whole character of the campaign changed. At last one saw the realization of all the various and ambitious plans for allied operations in the past. The British, emerging from the Ypres salient, swept the Germans from the Belgian coast and turned them  out of the industrial cities of the French north. The French and British on the sides of the Noyon salient realized the hopes of their commanders in 1916 and 1917, and entered St. Quentin and Laon, Cambrai, and Douai. Still to the eastward the French and the Americans, on either side of the Argonne between Rheims and Verdun, repeated on a widened front the attack of Joffre in September 1915, and achieved supreme success. lastly, in the St. Mihiel salient, the American First Army in its initial engagement put into successful operation the plans of the French in the winter of 1914-15 and, by abolishing the salient, closed the gap in the eastern armour of France.

“Flanders, Artois, Picardy, Ile-de-France, Champagne, and Lorraine were, in their turn, scenes of new contests whose extent of front surpassed the limits of ancient provides, whose circumstances recalled the history of previous campaigns, and disclosed in success the purposes and plans of Allied commanders, which had been in the past imperfectly realized or totally wrecked.  And as a final dramatic detail, when at last the Armistice came, King Albert was approaching his capital at the head of a Belgian army; Canadian troops had entered Mons, where British participation in the struggle had begun; French armies were in Sedan, the town for ever associated with the French disasters of 1870; and a Franco-American offensive was just about to break out to the east of Metz, over the ground which had seen the first French dash into the “Lost Provinces” and the opening reverse at Morhange.

“Nor was the drama alone splendid in its magnitude. Every element of suspense, surprise, intensity was present to hold the attention of the world, neutral and engaged alike; and so terrible was the ordeal that, the moment of victory once passed, conqueror and conquered alike sank back exhausted by the strain beyond that which had ever before been placed upon the millions in line, and behind  the line, who constituted nations at war.

“For history, moreover–which has attached to the Hundred Days of Napoleon a lasting significance as affording a standard of measurement for the rise and fall of one of the world’s great figures–there must be hardly less meaning in the span of Ludendorff, longer by twenty days only, which saw the greatest of German military leaders three times on the edge of supreme victory and, on the final day, overtaken by swift defeat, ordering a second retreat from the Marne; and this retreat, in barely more than another hundred days, would end in surrender after decisive defeat, which alone prevented the supreme disaster of a Waterloo twentyfold magnitude.

“Since Napoleon fell, no soldier had known such intoxicating success as came to Ludendorff in March, in April, and again in May; while between March 26th and November 11th, Foch–first in defeat prepared by his predecessors, and then in  victory organized by his own genius–wrote the most brilliant and far-shining page in all military history, and earned the right to rank as a soldier with the great Emperor, who had been his model.

“In less than eight months, the finest army in size, equipment, and training ever put into the field by a civilized nation was transformed–after initial victories which had no parallel in this or any other war, after conquests of ground, captures of guns, harvestings of prisoners unequalled in all the past campaigns of the war–into a broken and beaten host, incapable of warding off the final blow, defeated beyond hope of recovery, still retaining a semblance of its ancient courage and in parts a shadow of its traditional discipline, but incapable of checking its pursuers, of maintaining its positions, of long postponing that ultimate disaster, already prepared, when an armistice–incomprehensible even to the beaten army, by reason of the completeness of the surrender–saved the conquered from the otherwise inescapable rout.” Frank H. Simonds, History of the World War, Vol. 5  (New York: Doubleday Page & Company, 1920), pp. 3-7.