World War I

World War I, fought between 1914 and 1918, took place primarily in Europe. You can discuss the events, people, and politics of WWI here.

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646 days ago

Henry Rawlinson was a talented officer with many modern ideas but he is remembered mostly today for two battles - the Somme and Amiens.

After commanding Corps in France Rawlinson was sent to take command of the First British Army but he did not remain in this role for long. Shortly after achieving this promotion he became vocal in his criticism of the tactics used in battle and of the command style and behavour of the higher ranking officers. This resulted in his removal from command and reposting to Gallipoli.

The Gallipoli Campaign was already lost when Rawlinson arrived and the task he was given was merely to oversee the withdrawal. This was considered a daunting task by most and Rawlinson was not expected to make much of the job but to all reports he handled the tasked ably and far better than anyone expected him to. As a result he was returned to the Western Front.

He took command of the Foruth British Army and had the dubious honor of leading it into the greatest tragedy to ever befall the British Army - the Battle of the Somme.

Rawlinson disagreed with Haig's Haig's tactics at the Somme. Haig aim was to relieve the pressure on the French at Verdun and to inflict heavy losses on the enemy. To do this Haig would bombard the German positions relentlessly for a week with artillery before advancing the infantry to take trenches from the "stunned" German troops. Rawlinson prefered a series of "bite-and hold" actions where his forces would have to seize a position only a short way from the his own line then secure their hold on it before pushing on. Haig invisioned the battle as being an easy march forward while Rawlinson saw it as being a tough battle for every inch of ground. However Rawlinson gave in to Haig's enthusiasm and was turned to his way of thinking. This was a mistake and tarnished his reputations forever, especially when he told his men before the battle that "the infantry would only have to walk over to take possession."

Rawlinson redeemed himself however with Amiens. Amiens showed the way forward for tactics, it was the first real "combined arms" battle ever fought which utilized infantry, cavalry, artillery, armour and airforce all at once. Never before had such a combination of military arms been used at the same time in one battle. So successful was this battle that it destroyed the morale of the Germans immediately opposing it and led Ludendorff to call it "the Black day of the German Army". It was a major turning point of the war.

Amiens was proof of Rawlinson's noted willingness to experiment with tactics. In 1916 he had organized the first major night attacks by any modern army and at Amiens his combined arms approach changed warfare forever.

His poor judgement at the Somme must be recognized as a point against him but he was one of the top generals of the war and one of the most modern, progessively minded military men in the world at that time.

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647 days ago

Plumer was one of the greatest British generals of the 20th Century and, arguably, the finest army commander on the western front. He was a methodical planner, a thorough trainer and was, more than most other commanders, very careful with the lives of his men - which certainly insured his popularity amungst them, and they nicknamed him "Daddy Plumer". Unlike his superiors and most of his contemporaries he never planned for ambitious break-throughs and instead planned only for modest tactical gains, keepin his army well in hand and not risking being hit with a counter-attack.

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