Home Forums General Blogs Digging into the trenches. A family great war history project

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    Avatar photoIvan Sorensen

    Well, that sounds kind of grandiose.

    Anyways, me and my wife has been working on a project where we will tackle the history of the First World War in a couple of formats. The plan is to dig into tactics, equipment, specific battles, books from the era and so forth. Really anything that takes our fancy, with an eye towards explaining the conflict and trying to nail down how things really worked.

    Along the way, we’ll of course also tackle the gaming side of things, but to start off for those of you who like a bit of reading, please swing by substack to check out the first post: An essay on British infantry in 1914

    Substack posts will happen every Friday.

    If you want some more bite sized snippets of history, you can also check us out on Threads at https://www.threads.net/@digging_into_the_great_war/post/C75MUraPxVG where we are going to pick out two drawings or photos every week to talk a little bit about. This is really meant more as a “oh huh, some history” while you have the first cup of coffee.

    We are still figuring all this stuff out but please take a look and if you would be so kind, consider subscribing.

    Avatar photoRobert Dunlop

    Thank you for providing the link. A very good piece of work.

    Here are some extra thoughts:

    1. The Russo-Japanese War and the Balkan Wars were monitored by British observers. The information, as well as observations of the German and French military manoeuvres (until the British were stopped from attending) fed into the “recent experiences and observations drawn from the Boer Wars and other colonial conflicts”.

    2. British annual manoeuvres drew on scenarios involving invasion of the UK and similar by major modern enemy forces.

    3. “musketry (the use of rifles)” was very important and involved two major aspects. Marksmanship is the best understood, with individual soldiers receiving financial benefits from achieving high rates of fire associated with accuracy. Less well understood but more important was the training in coordinated fire on a beaten zone. Both aspects of musketry were taught in the French and German armies as well.

    4. Sub-sections were involved in fire and manoeuvre as the distance closed on the enemy to 2-300 metres. Haldane described this in his pre-war training manual for infantry companies. There is at least one Pathé movie of British pre-war manoeuvres that illustrate this approach.

    5. With regards to your point “Cavalry was not considered to be a main threat to organised infantry in good morale”, I think you are referring to cavalry armed with blade and/or lance. Cavalry were also armed with rifles or carbines, which were highly effective against infantry. Cavalry were supported by machine guns too.

    6. You mention about brigading of British MGs, which were normally distributed as 2 per battalion as you noted from your excellent research. Germans operated MG companies (13th Company) but the guns were often parcelled out as two gun teams in practice. The key was assuring mutually supporting lanes of fire, which was best coordinated by the machine gunners as experts in their weapon system. Hence the British and French moving to aggregate MGs into companies outwith the control of infantry commanders and, in the case of the British, into a separate arm – the Machine Guns Corps (my grandfather served in the New Zealand Machine Gun Corps during WW1).


    Avatar photoIvan Sorensen

    Very kind and I appreciate the details.
    I had wanted to discuss the big exercises before the war (which I think Peter Hart mentions in Fire & Movement) but ended up not quite feeling like it would fit.

    Avatar photoRobert Dunlop

    You’re welcome.

    A good book on pre-war big exercises in the UK is:

    “Futile exercise? The British Army’s preparations for war 1902-1914” by Simon Batten (ISBN: 978-1-911512-85-1)

    Robert Foley has published an excellent appraisal of the pre-war manoeuvres in Germany under von Schlieffen.

    There are multiple contemporaneous Pathé and similar films as videos online of such manoeuvres in Germany, France, Belgium, and UK.

    I have several books in German and French covering pre-war After Action Reports from manoeuvres.


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