The Action After Mons

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The Action After Mons

Post  Adam02 on May 31st 2014, 15:01

I did enjoy the post-Mons encounter. What was the name of the engagement and what were the relative strengths of the sides. Are we sure the British were so much better than the Germans? I can see that the quality / quantify differential is needed to make the game interesting and it succeeded in this to a magnificent extent. After round one it did not look like the Germans were going to get anywhere. Did not the BEF also have a lot of reservists (65%)? Perhaps the British reservists were better??

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Re: The Action After Mons

Post  Mrbootsthecat on June 1st 2014, 14:12

Hi Adam,
It was the batle of Le Cateau. At this stage of the war, Phil is probably accurate in having the BEF as such high quality. ( Yes, I know its a first time for Phil to be accurate, but even he has a lucky strike now and then)
They were experienced, with various colonial wars and the Boer war as recent memories. They were paid extra for good marksmenship, and so this was a well practiced art. They were a highly trained and practiced army... the only downside of this is that a lot of this expertise ended up staying in Flanders fields permanently, and Kitchener's New Army had to learn a lot in the field.
The German army had a mass of conscripts and reservists, with an experienced cadre. However, tactically they had not progressed from the Franco Prussian war fought forty years earlier. Hence the reliance on almost Napoleonic columns to attack.
hope this assists.
Tony

PS Phils opinon about the French is even worse!
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Re: The Action After Mons

Post  Mrbootsthecat on June 1st 2014, 14:14

Oh, and in the game, it ended at just the right time for the British. Another couple of turns would have seen Dave in my positions, and you probably finishing off the Highlanders in the village. Still, the games over when the whistle blows, so I will claim it as a winning draw on my part...
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Re: The Action After Mons

Post  Adam02 on June 2nd 2014, 10:49

This raises an interesting question: was the Boer War for the British more useful preparatory experience for the very early battles of WW1 than the experience of the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian wars were for the Germans? Not my period but the issues do not seem at all clear cut.

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Re: The Action After Mons

Post  phil24 on June 2nd 2014, 19:43

Adam,

It's nice to see that Tony listens to me occasionally while I waffle on about the Great War. He's spot on. In 1914 the BEF was without doubt the most professional army in the world. If you get to read " the advance from Mons" by Walter Bloem, which is the memoir of a German officer who fought at Mons and Le Cateau, he describes how devastating the British rifle fire was.

In the years before the Great War British soldiers signed on to serve for a number of years in the regular army, and then a number of years in the reserve. All British soldiers received additional pay by becoming marksmen and army training, for that period, was very good. When the BEF went to France the Battalions were brought up to strength by reservists, but these were fully trained soldiers, and the only problem they had with reintegration into the ranks was breaking in new boots on the cobbled roads of France and Belgium.

The first Territorial Army formation to see action in France was a signals unit at Ypres in October 1914. Many more Territorial Units saw action from early 1915 as, by that time, the BEF had taken 90% casualties. However, their rifle fire was not as devastating as the BEF, but they did a magnificent job until joined, as Tony says, by Kitchener's new armies.

With regard to the tactics of both sides, the British had been fighting on the North West frontier for a long time and had also fought against the Boers in South Africa from 1900-1902. They had discarded the red coats in favour of khaki uniforms to make themselves less obvious and had developed tactics to negate the sniper fire of both the Afghans and Boers. Winston Churchill mentions this a lot when describing his combat experiences at that time.

In contrast, the Germans, who had not fought a war for 40 years, were still using attack columns and as described in a number of books, including "the Mons Star and "Old soldiers never die" , the well trained British riflemen (Cavalry were equally as good as infantry with the rifle) shot the German columns to bits and being of a hardier breed than we are now, generally enjoyed the experience. The Germans did not change their tactics until after 1st Ypres in October-November 1914, when they again took horrendous casualties.

The biggest problem that the BEF had at the time was that they were always likely to be outflanked by the much bigger German army. Fortunately, German Generals were not very good and kept missing the opportunity to do this.

If we get to play a French v German game you'll see that the rules reflect the fact that the French, like the German army, was a large conscript army without the professionalism of the totally volunteer BEF.

Hope that this assists,

Phil

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Re: The Action After Mons

Post  Gwin on June 2nd 2014, 20:16

Well I for one found it interesting.

Many thanks Phill and Tony.

Simon
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Re: The Action After Mons

Post  Adam02 on June 2nd 2014, 21:18

Nice reply Phil (and Tony). You have got me interested. Been reading about Le Cateau. What an amazing encounter. Even started to think about WW1 gaming. My thoughts are turning to Great War Spearhead...

Adam

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Re: The Action After Mons

Post  Adam02 on August 26th 2014, 08:01

I see that today is the anniversary of Le Cateau

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Re: The Action After Mons

Post  Phil King on August 27th 2014, 10:52

If you check out 'Our Great War' on BBC iPlayer, the first episode is about the first action of the BEF, it illustrates why it is not a good idea to attack on a narrow front (a bridge), in column, facing a machine gun backed by well trained soldiers who enjoy shooting people, especially Germans!
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Re: The Action After Mons

Post  Adam02 on October 7th 2014, 19:08

are people listening to Tommies Radtio 4 - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03thbp3

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