Las tropas británicas son bienvenidas en Francia, 1914

Las tropas británicas son bienvenidas en Francia, 1914

Las tropas británicas son bienvenidas en Francia, 1914

Las tropas británicas fueron muy bien recibidas cuando llegaron a Francia en 1914. Aquí vemos que parte del BEF fue recibido por las damas francesas a su llegada a Francia en agosto de 1914.


Imperio y poder del mar

En septiembre de 1715, John Erskine, conde de Mar, elevó el estándar para un levantamiento 'jacobita', con la intención de restaurar la monarquía estuardo exiliada en el trono, y proclamó rey de Escocia a James Francis Edward Stuart (hijo de James II). Los jacobitas fueron derrotados por las fuerzas gubernamentales en las batallas de Sheriffmuir y Preston en noviembre de 1715. Tres meses después, la rebelión había sido sofocada. Los líderes jacobitas fueron acusados ​​y algunos fueron ejecutados.


Contenido

Según los planes anteriores a la guerra, se organizaría una fuerza expedicionaria de entre las fuerzas del Ejército Regular en el Reino Unido, con una fuerza de seis divisiones de infantería y una división de caballería (72 batallones de infantería y 14 regimientos de caballería), más unidades de apoyo.

Se planeó que las siete divisiones serían controladas centralmente por el Cuartel General y, como tal, no se hicieron planes para los niveles intermedios de mando. Se mantuvo un cuerpo de personal en tiempo de paz, pero se tomó la decisión de movilizar para crear un segundo (y más tarde un tercero) con el fin de ajustarse mejor a la estructura de mando francesa, ambos tuvieron que improvisarse.

En el momento de la movilización, existían temores importantes de un desembarco alemán en vigor en la costa este inglesa, y como tal se tomó la decisión de retener dos divisiones para la defensa local y solo enviar cuatro, más la división de caballería, a Francia. para el presente. El 4 se envió finalmente a finales de agosto y el 6 a principios de septiembre.

El comandante en jefe inicial de la BEF fue el mariscal de campo Sir John French. Su jefe de personal era el teniente general Sir A. J. Murray, con el general de división H. H. Wilson como su adjunto. GSO 1 (Operaciones) fue el Coronel G. M. Harper, y GSO 1 (Inteligencia) fue el Coronel G. M. W. Macdonogh.

El ayudante general fue el general de división Sir C. F. N. Macready, con el general de división E. R. C. Graham como ayudante general adjunto y el coronel A. E. J. Cavendish como ayudante general adjunto. El Intendente General fue el Mayor General Sir W. R. Robertson, con el Coronel C. T. Dawkins como Asistente del Intendente General. La Artillería Real fue comandada por el General de División W. F. L. Lindsay, y los Ingenieros Reales por el General de Brigada G. H. Fowke.

Tropas del GHQ, Ingenieros reales Editar

Las tropas del Cuartel General General controlaban a los ingenieros del grupo de ejércitos. Tenía la siguiente estructura en 1914: [4]

  • 1er tren puente, ingenieros reales
  • Segundo tren puente, ingenieros reales
  • Primera Compañía de Asedio, Milicia Real de Monmouthshire, Ingenieros Reales
  • 4a Compañía de Asedio, Milicia Real de Monmouthshire, Ingenieros Reales
  • Primera Compañía de Asedio, Milicia Real de Anglesey, Ingenieros Reales
  • Segunda Compañía de Asedio, Milicia Real de Anglesey, Ingenieros Reales
  • Primera sección de rango, ingenieros reales
  • Establecimiento de transporte ferroviario
    • Octava Compañía de Ferrocarriles, Ingenieros Reales
    • 10a Compañía de Ferrocarriles, Ingenieros Reales
    • Segunda Compañía de Ferrocarriles, Milicia Real de Monmouthshire, Ingenieros Reales
    • 3a Compañía de Ferrocarriles, Milicia Real de Monmouthshire, Ingenieros Reales
    • 3.a Compañía Ferroviaria, Milicia Real de Anglesey, Ingenieros Reales

    No había una división de caballería establecida permanentemente en el ejército británico en la movilización, la 1ª a la 4ª Brigadas de Caballería se agruparon para formar una división, mientras que la 5ª Brigada de Caballería permaneció como una unidad independiente.

    El 6 de septiembre, se destacó la 3.ª Brigada de Caballería para actuar conjuntamente con la 5.ª, bajo el mando general del General de Brigada Gough. Esta fuerza fue redesignada como la 2ª División de Caballería el 16 de septiembre.

    División de Caballería Editar

    La División de Caballería fue comandada por el General de División Edmund Allenby, con el Coronel John Vaughan como GSO 1 y el General de Brigada B. F. Drake al mando de la Artillería Real a Caballo.

    Brigada independiente Editar

    El I Cuerpo estaba al mando del teniente general Sir Douglas Haig. Sus oficiales superiores de estado mayor eran el general de brigada J. E. Gough (jefe de personal), el general de brigada H. S. Horne (al mando de la artillería real) y el general de brigada S. R. Rice (al mando de los ingenieros reales).

    Primera División Editar

    La 1ra División fue comandada por el General de División S. H. Lomax, con el Coronel R. Fanshawe como OSG 1. El General de Brigada N. D. Findlay comandó la Artillería Real, y el Teniente Coronel A. L. Schreiber comandó a los Ingenieros Reales.

      (General de Brigada F. I. Maxse)
      • Primeros guardias de Coldstream
      • Primeros guardias escoceses
      • 1st The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
      • 2º Los Fusileros Reales de Munster [7]
      • 2o Regimiento Real de Sussex
      • 1er Regimiento Leal de Lancashire del Norte
      • 1er Regimiento de Northamptonshire
      • 2. ° Cuerpo Real de Fusileros del Rey
      • 1st The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment)
      • 1 ° Los Borderers de Gales del Sur
      • 1er Regimiento de Gloucestershire
      • 2o Regimiento de Welch
      • Tropas montadas
        • Un escuadrón, 15o (el rey) de húsares
        • 1a Compañía Ciclista
          • 113a batería, RFA
          • 114a batería, RFA
          • 115a batería, RFA
          • 116a batería, RFA
          • 117a batería, RFA
          • 118a batería, RFA
          • Batería número 46, RFA
          • 51a batería, RFA
          • 54a batería, RFA
          • 30a batería (obús), RFA
          • Batería 40 (obús), RFA
          • 57a batería (obús), RFA
          • 23a Compañía de campo, RE
          • 26th Field Company, RE

          2.a División Editar

          La 2da División fue comandada por el General de División C. C. Monro, con el Coronel Hon. F. Gordon como OSG 1. El General de Brigada E. M. Perceval comandó la Artillería Real, y el Teniente Coronel R. H. H. Boys estuvo al mando de los Ingenieros Reales.

            (General de brigada R. Scott-Kerr)
            • 2do Granaderos de la Guardia
            • 2. ° Guardias de Coldstream
            • 3. ° Guardias de Coldstream
            • 1st Irish Guards
            • 2o Regimiento de Worcestershire
            • 2.o La Infantería Ligera de Oxfordshire y Buckinghamshire
            • 2.o La Infantería Ligera de las Tierras Altas
            • 2 ° Los Connaught Rangers
            • 1st The King's (Regimiento de Liverpool)
            • 2.o Regimiento del Sur de Staffordshire
            • Primera Princesa Charlotte de Gales (Regimiento Real de Berkshire)
            • 1er Cuerpo Real de Fusileros del Rey
            • Tropas montadas
              • Escuadrón B, 15 ° Húsares (del Rey)
              • 2a Compañía Ciclista
                • 22a batería, RFA
                • 50a batería, RFA
                • 70a batería, RFA
                • 15a batería, RFA
                • 48a batería, RFA
                • 71a batería, RFA
                • Novena batería, RFA
                • 16a batería, RFA
                • 17a batería, RFA
                • 47a batería (obús), RFA
                • 56a batería (obús), RFA
                • Batería 60 (obús), RFA
                • 5th Field Company, RE
                • 11th Field Company, RE

                El II Cuerpo fue comandado por el teniente general Sir James Grierson. Sus oficiales superiores de estado mayor eran el general de brigada George Forestier-Walker (jefe de personal), el general de brigada A. H. Short (al mando de la artillería real) y el general de brigada A. E. Sandbach (al mando de los ingenieros reales).

                El teniente general Grierson murió en un tren entre Rouen y Amiens el 17 de agosto. El general Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien asumió el mando en Bavai, el 21 de agosto a las 16.00 horas.

                3.a División Editar

                La 3ra División fue comandada por el General de División Hubert I. W. Hamilton, con el Coronel F. R. F. Boileau como OSG 1. El General de Brigada F. D. V. Wing comandó la Artillería Real, y el Teniente Coronel C. S. Wilson comandó a los Ingenieros Reales.

                  (General de Brigada F. W. N. McCracken)
                  • 3er Regimiento de Worcestershire
                  • 2.o Voluntarios del Príncipe de Gales (Regimiento de Lancashire del Sur)
                  • 1 ° El duque de Edimburgo (regimiento de Wiltshire)
                  • 2.o Los rifles reales irlandeses
                  • 2.o The Royal Scots (Regimiento de Lothian)
                  • 2o Regimiento Real Irlandés
                  • 4 ° El duque de Cambridge (regimiento de Middlesex)
                  • 1º Los montañeses de Gordon [8]
                    (General de Brigada F. C. Shaw)
                    • 1 ° Los Fusileros de Northumberland
                    • 4o The Royal Fusiliers (Regimiento de la Ciudad de Londres)
                    • 1er Regimiento de Lincolnshire
                    • 1 ° Los Fusileros Royal Scots
                    • Tropas montadas
                      • Escuadrón C, 15 ° Húsares (del Rey)
                      • 3a Compañía Ciclista
                        • 107a batería, RFA
                        • 108a batería, RFA
                        • 109a batería, RFA
                        • 6.a batería, RFA
                        • 23a batería, RFA
                        • 49a batería, RFA
                        • 29a batería, RFA
                        • 41a batería, RFA
                        • 45a batería, RFA
                        • Batería 128a (obús), RFA
                        • 129a batería (obús), RFA
                        • 130a batería (obús), RFA
                        • 56th Field Company, RE
                        • 57th Field Company, RE

                        5.a División Editar

                        La Quinta División fue comandada por el General de División Sir C. Fergusson, con el Teniente Coronel C. F. Romer como OSG 1. El General de Brigada J. E. W. Headlam comandó la Artillería Real, y el Teniente Coronel J. A. S. Tulloch comandó los Ingenieros Reales.

                          (General de Brigada G. J. Cuthbert)
                          • 2.o Borderers escoceses del rey
                          • 2 ° El duque de Wellington (regimiento de equitación del oeste)
                          • 1st The Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)
                          • 2.o El Rey (Infantería Ligera de Yorkshire)
                          • 2do Regimiento de Suffolk
                          • 1er Regimiento de East Surrey
                          • 1. ° Infantería ligera del duque de Cornualles
                          • 2o Regimiento de Manchester
                          • 1er Regimiento de Norfolk
                          • 1er Regimiento de Bedfordshire
                          • 1er Regimiento de Cheshire
                          • 1er Regimiento de Dorsetshire
                          • Tropas montadas
                            • Un escuadrón de húsares 19 (el propio real de la reina Alexandra)
                            • 5a Compañía Ciclista
                              • 11a batería, RFA
                              • 52a batería, RFA
                              • 80a batería, RFA
                              • 119a batería, RFA
                              • Batería número 120, RFA
                              • 121a batería, RFA
                              • 122a batería, RFA
                              • 123a batería, RFA
                              • 124a batería, RFA
                              • 37a batería (obús), RFA
                              • 61a batería (obús), RFA
                              • 65a batería (obús), RFA
                              • 17a Compañía de campo, RE
                              • 59th Field Company, RE

                              El III Cuerpo se formó en Francia el 31 de agosto de 1914, al mando del General de División W. P. Pulteney. Sus oficiales superiores de estado mayor eran el general de brigada J. P. Du Cane (jefe de personal), el general de brigada E. J. Phipps-Hornby (al mando de la artillería real) y el general de brigada F. M. Glubb (al mando de los ingenieros reales).

                              4ta División Editar

                              La 4ª División desembarcó en Francia la noche del 22 y el 23 de agosto. Fue comandada por el General de División T. D'O. Snow, con el Coronel J. E. Edmonds como OSG 1. El General de Brigada G. F. Milne comandó la Artillería Real, y el Teniente Coronel H. B. Jones comandó los Ingenieros Reales.

                                (General de Brigada J. A. L. Haldane)
                                • 1er Regimiento Real de Warwickshire
                                • 2nd Seaforth Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs, El duque de Albany)
                                • 1st Princess Victoria's (Royal Irish Fusiliers)
                                • 2.o The Royal Dublin Fusiliers
                                • 1st Prince Albert's (Infantería ligera de Somerset)
                                • 1er Regimiento de East Lancashire
                                • 1er Regimiento de Hampshire
                                • 1st The Rifle Brigade (Príncipe consorte)
                                • 1st King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment)
                                • 2.o Los Fusileros de Lancashire
                                • 2o Los Fusileros Royal Inniskilling
                                • 2o Regimiento de Essex
                                • Tropas montadas
                                  • Escuadrón B, 19o (Real propio de la reina Alexandra) Húsares
                                  • 4a Compañía Ciclista
                                    • 39a batería, RFA
                                    • 68a batería, RFA
                                    • 88a batería, RFA
                                    • Batería número 125, RFA
                                    • 126a batería, RFA
                                    • 127a batería, RFA
                                    • 27a batería, RFA
                                    • 134a batería, RFA
                                    • 135a batería, RFA
                                    • 31a batería (obús), RFA
                                    • 35a batería (obús), RFA
                                    • 55a batería (obús), RFA
                                    • Séptima Compañía de Campo, RE
                                    • 9th Field Company, RE

                                    6ta División Editar

                                    La 6ª División se embarcó para Francia los días 8 y 9 de septiembre. Fue comandado por el General de División J. L. Keir, con el Coronel W. T. Furse como OSG 1. El General de Brigada W. L. H. Paget comandó la Artillería Real, y el Teniente Coronel G. C. Kemp comandó a los Ingenieros Reales.

                                      (General de Brigada E. C. Ingouville-Williams)
                                      • 1st The Buffs (Regimiento de East Kent)
                                      • 1er Regimiento de Leicestershire
                                      • 1st The King's (Infantería ligera de Shropshire)
                                      • 2o Regimiento de York y Lancaster
                                      • 1st The Royal Fusiliers (Regimiento de la Ciudad de Londres)
                                      • 1 ° El Príncipe de Gales (regimiento de North Staffordshire)
                                      • 2 ° Regimiento Leinster del Príncipe de Gales (Canadienses Reales)
                                      • 3 ° La Brigada de Fusileros (El Príncipe Consorte)
                                      • 1 ° El Príncipe de Gales (Regimiento de West Yorkshire)
                                      • 1er Regimiento de East Yorkshire
                                      • 2.o Los forestales de Sherwood (regimiento de Nottinghamshire y Derbyshire)
                                      • 2.o La Infantería Ligera de Durham
                                      • Tropas montadas
                                        • Escuadrón C, 19o (Real propio de la reina Alexandra) Húsares
                                        • 6a Compañía Ciclista
                                          • 21a batería, RFA
                                          • 42a batería, RFA
                                          • 53a batería, RFA
                                          • 110 ° batería, RFA
                                          • 111a batería, RFA
                                          • 112a batería, RFA
                                          • 24a batería, RFA
                                          • 34a batería, RFA
                                          • 72a batería, RFA
                                          • 43a batería (obús), RFA
                                          • Batería 86 (obús), RFA
                                          • 12th Field Company, RE
                                          • 38th Field Company, RE
                                            • Batería de asedio n. ° 1
                                            • Batería de asedio No. 2
                                            • Batería de asedio No. 3
                                            • Batería de asedio No. 4
                                            • Batería de asedio No. 5
                                            • Batería de asedio No. 6
                                            • 1 ° Los propios Cameron Highlanders de la reina [7]

                                            Royal Flying Corps Editar

                                            Las unidades del Royal Flying Corps en Francia estaban al mando del general de brigada Sir David Henderson, con el teniente coronel Frederick Sykes como jefe de personal.

                                            Líneas de comunicación tropas de defensa Editar

                                            Un regimiento de caballería contenía tres escuadrones y estaba provisto de dos ametralladoras. Un batallón de infantería constaba de cuatro compañías y dos ametralladoras.

                                            Una batería de artillería Royal Horse contenía seis cañones de 13 libras, mientras que una batería de artillería de campo real contenía seis cañones de 18 libras, o seis obuses de 4,5 pulgadas. Una batería pesada de la Artillería de la Guarnición Real contenía cuatro cañones de 60 libras. Cada batería tenía dos vagones de municiones por arma, y ​​cada brigada de artillería contenía su propia columna de municiones.

                                            Cada división recibió un destacamento antiaéreo de cañones de pompón de 1 libra en septiembre, adjuntos a la artillería divisional.

                                            La División de Caballería tenía un total de 12 regimientos de caballería en cuatro brigadas, y cada división de infantería tenía 12 batallones en tres brigadas. La fuerza de la División de Caballería (sin contar la 5ª Brigada de Caballería) llegó a 9.269 en todos los rangos, con 9.815 caballos, 24 cañones de 13 libras y 24 ametralladoras. La fuerza de cada división de infantería llegó a 18.073 de todos los rangos, con 5.592 caballos, 76 cañones y 24 ametralladoras.

                                            En términos numéricos amplios, la Fuerza Expedicionaria Británica representaba la mitad de la fuerza de combate del Ejército Británico como potencia imperial, una parte considerable del ejército tuvo que ser reservada para guarniciones en el extranjero. Se esperaba que la defensa del hogar fuera proporcionada por los voluntarios de la Fuerza Territorial y por las reservas.

                                            La fuerza total del Ejército Regular en julio era de 125.000 hombres en las Islas Británicas, con 75.000 en India y Birmania y otros 33.000 en otros destinos en el extranjero. La Reserva del Ejército llegó a 145.000 hombres, con 64.000 en la Milicia (o Reserva Especial) y 272.000 en la Fuerza Territorial.

                                            Servicio a domicilio Editar

                                            El establecimiento regular en tiempo de paz en las Islas Británicas era de ochenta y un batallones de infantería; en teoría, un batallón de cada regimiento de línea se desplegaba en servicio a domicilio y otro en servicio en el extranjero en cualquier punto dado, rotando los batallones cada pocos años, y diecinueve regimientos. de caballería.

                                            Aparte de los destinados a la Fuerza Expedicionaria, había tres batallones de Guardias y ocho de infantería de línea (incluidos los de las Islas del Canal), aproximadamente el valor de una división. En el evento, seis batallones de estos regulares se desplegaron en el continente junto con la Fuerza Expedicionaria, para actuar como tropas del ejército. El Regimiento Fronterizo y Alexandra, la Princesa de Gales (Regimiento de Yorkshire) tenían la inusual distinción de ser los únicos dos regimientos de infantería regular que no contribuían con tropas a la Fuerza Expedicionaria, ambos entrarían en acción por primera vez con la 7a División, que desembarcó en octubre.

                                            Dados los disturbios que se habían producido durante las huelgas nacionales de 1911-12, existía la preocupación de que hubiera disturbios en Londres por el estallido de la guerra. En consecuencia, tres regimientos de caballería, el 1er salvavidas, el 2o salvavidas y el Royal Horse Guards, estaban estacionados en el distrito de Londres y no estaban destinados a la Fuerza Expedicionaria; cada uno de ellos proporcionaba un escuadrón para un regimiento compuesto, que sirvió con la 4a Brigada de Caballería. . Además, había tres brigadas de artillería de campo real y varias baterías de artillería a caballo real, no destinadas al servicio en el extranjero.

                                            Después de la partida de la Fuerza Expedicionaria, esto dejó un establecimiento regular total de tres regimientos de caballería (algo mermados) y cinco batallones de infantería [12], menos de una décima parte de la fuerza de combate normal de las fuerzas nacionales, y principalmente desplegados alrededor de Londres. Esta fuerza defensiva sería complementada por las unidades de la Fuerza Territorial, que fueron convocadas al estallar la guerra -de hecho, muchas ya estaban encarnadas para su entrenamiento de verano cuando se ordenó la movilización- y por la Reserva Especial.

                                            La Fuerza Territorial se planeó con una fuerza de movilización de catorce divisiones, cada una estructurada a lo largo de las líneas de una división regular con doce batallones de infantería, cuatro brigadas de artillería, dos compañías de ingenieros, etc. - y catorce brigadas de caballería Yeomanry. Se preveía que estas unidades se utilizarían únicamente para la defensa nacional, aunque en el caso de que casi todos se ofrecieran como voluntarios para el servicio en el extranjero, los primeros batallones llegaron al continente en noviembre.

                                            Servicio en el extranjero Editar

                                            Cuarenta y ocho batallones de infantería estaban sirviendo en la India, el equivalente a cuatro divisiones regulares, con cinco en Malta, cuatro en Sudáfrica, cuatro en Egipto y una docena en varios otros puestos avanzados imperiales. Otros nueve regimientos de caballería regular estaban sirviendo en la India, dos en Sudáfrica y uno en Egipto.

                                            No se esperaba que las fuerzas del resto del Imperio Británico contribuyeran a la Fuerza Expedicionaria. Una proporción considerable de ellos formaba parte del ejército de diez divisiones de la India, una mezcla de fuerzas locales y regulares británicos había comenzado la planificación en agosto de 1913 para organizar cómo se podrían utilizar las fuerzas indias en una guerra europea, y se había elaborado un plan tentativo. hizo que dos divisiones de infantería y una brigada de caballería se sumaran a la Fuerza Expedicionaria, estas fueron despachadas, en el caso, pero no llegaron a Francia hasta octubre.

                                            En el evento, la mayoría de las unidades de guarnición de ultramar se retiraron tan pronto como pudieron ser reemplazadas por batallones territoriales, y se formaron nuevas divisiones regulares poco a poco en el Reino Unido. Ninguna de estas unidades llegó a tiempo para entrar en servicio con la Fuerza Expedicionaria.


                                            Soldados prestados: las divisiones 27 y 30 estadounidenses y el ejército británico en el frente de Ypres, agosto-septiembre de 1918

                                            Ypres, o "Wipers", como los británicos Tommies llamaban a la antigua ciudad belga, es sinónimo de la Primera Guerra Mundial. Se perdió un número extraordinario de vidas allí y en el saliente cercano durante luchas aparentemente interminables a lo largo de cuatro años. Numerosos monumentos y cementerios salpican el paisaje y recuerdan los horrores de la guerra. Uno de esos monumentos rinde homenaje a las divisiones 27 y 30 estadounidenses. Estas dos divisiones, compuestas en gran parte por tropas de la Guardia Nacional, recibieron su bautismo de fuego entre el 30 de agosto y el 1 de septiembre de 1918, cuando se enfrentaron a las fuerzas alemanas veteranas en uno de los puntos más altos de la zona, Kemmel Hill, y las aldeas circundantes de Vierstraat, Vormezeele. y Wytschaete. Los alemanes habían ganado las posiciones en abril de ese año, pero estaban en retirada cuando llegaron los estadounidenses. No obstante, se negaron a retirarse en silencio y, en el proceso, dieron a los ansiosos doughboys una lección de combate a lo largo del frente occidental.

                                            Ruinas de San Martín & # 8217s Iglesia en Ypres, Bélgica, ca. 1918. (Departamento de Guerra)

                                            Cuando comenzó esta operación, los estadounidenses estaban en la segunda fase de instrucción de los mejores soldados que los aliados tenían para ofrecer. Poco después de llegar al frente occidental en la primavera de 1918, el comandante de las Fuerzas Expedicionarias Estadounidenses (AEF), el general John J. Pershing, envió a regañadientes a las Divisiones 27 y 30 a entrenar con el Ejército Británico. Fue su forma de apaciguar al mariscal de campo Sir Douglas Haig, quien insistió en que los doughboys estadounidenses se fusionaran en la Fuerza Expedicionaria Británica (BEF) para llenar las filas de su empobrecido ejército. Pershing, sin embargo, tenía otros planes. Intentó formar un ejército independiente y resistió la presión constante de Haig. Fue solo cuando el Departamento de Guerra de Estados Unidos aceptó una oferta de los británicos para transportar tropas estadounidenses a Europa que Pershing permitió a los estadounidenses entrenar con los Tommies de Haig. Además, Pershing acordó que los británicos equiparían, alimentarían y armarían a sus hombres, y que también podrían utilizarse en el frente en caso de que surgiera una emergencia. Bajo este programa de entrenamiento, diez divisiones estadounidenses pasaron un tiempo en el sector británico como el II Cuerpo estadounidense. El acuerdo también benefició a los estadounidenses, ya que el Departamento de Guerra no tenía el transporte marítimo para enviar tropas al extranjero, ni tenía suficientes armas a mano para entregarlas a todos los soldados.

                                            La paz entre los dos comandantes, sin embargo, se vio disminuida cuando Pershing reasignó ocho de las divisiones a su recién organizado Primer Ejército estadounidense. Pershing quería recuperar las diez divisiones, pero Haig protestó con vehemencia y se le permitió quedarse con dos: la 27 y la 30. Se quedaron atrás como el cuerpo más pequeño de las AEF.

                                            Haig tenía ahora unos 50.000 soldados estadounidenses frescos para utilizar como mejor le pareciera. Una división de las AEF estaba compuesta por aproximadamente 27.000 oficiales y hombres, pero la 27ª y la 30ª nunca alcanzaron esta fuerza. Sus brigadas de artillería llegaron a Francia por separado y fueron asignadas inmediatamente al Primer Ejército. Pershing tampoco asignó reemplazos al 27 y 30 hasta después del Armisticio, una señal de que los consideraba de menor importancia que sus otras divisiones.

                                            Antes de llegar a Francia, la 27ª División se entrenó en Camp Wadsworth, Carolina del Sur, cerca de Asheville, Carolina del Norte y las montañas Blue Ridge. La mayoría de las divisiones del ejército fueron enviadas al sur y sureste de los Estados Unidos, más suaves, para su entrenamiento. “Las noches eran terriblemente frías, pero el sol era abrasador durante el día”, recordó vívidamente el soldado William F. Clarke, miembro del 104º Batallón de Ametralladoras. No era raro volver de "un día en el campo de perforación o de una caminata de diez millas, sudando profusamente y luego casi morir congelado por la noche".

                                            El Mayor General John F. O’Ryan fue el comandante de la 27ª División y el oficial de más alto rango de la Guardia Nacional en comandar un contingente tan grande de tropas durante la guerra. Él era un disciplinario y sus tropas fueron reconocidas por su comportamiento profesional que se ubicó junto a las unidades del Ejército Regular. La división estaba compuesta por tropas de todo Nueva York, incluidos hombres de algunas de las familias más prominentes de la ciudad de Nueva York, así como agricultores y trabajadores de todo el Empire State. Antes del servicio en el extranjero, los neoyorquinos fueron enviados a la frontera mexicana en 1916 durante la Expedición Punitiva como la 6ª División, la única unidad de la Guardia organizada de esta manera. La 27ª División adoptó una insignia que consistía en un círculo negro bordeado de rojo con las letras "NYD" en un monograma con las estrellas de la constelación de Orión, en honor a su oficial al mando.

                                            La 30ª División era más típica de la Guardia Nacional. Un compuesto de regimientos de Carolina del Norte y del Sur, y Tennessee, la división se reunió en Camp Sevier, cerca de Greenville, Carolina del Sur. Durante el transcurso de la guerra, nueve oficiales generales diferentes comandaron la división hasta que el Ejército se decidió por un compañero de clase de Pershing en West Point, el general de división Edward M. Lewis, quien anteriormente había dirigido la 3.ª Brigada de Infantería, 2.ª División. La 30ª División, apodada "Old Hickory" por el presidente Andrew Jackson, incluía unidades cuyo linaje se remontaba a la Guerra de 1812. Como los de la 27ª, los regimientos de la 30ª División habían servido en la frontera mexicana durante la Expedición Punitiva.

                                            Un niño soldado del 71o Regimiento de Infantería de la Guardia Nacional de Nueva York, despidiéndose de su amada mientras su regimiento se va a Camp Wadsworth, Spartanburg, Carolina del Sur, donde la División de Nueva York se entrenó para el servicio. 1917. IFS.

                                            Durante más de ocho meses, ambas divisiones se sometieron a un intenso entrenamiento físico, realizaron maniobras en guerra abierta y asistieron a conferencias de oficiales británicos y franceses enviados a los Estados Unidos como asesores. Unidades de las Divisiones 27 y 30 comenzaron a llegar a Francia durante la última semana de mayo de 1918. Al entrar en los puertos de Calais y Brest, los estadounidenses fueron recibidos en la zona de guerra con el lejano trueno de piezas de artillería y los ataques aéreos alemanes nocturnos. Después de días de dura marcha, ambas divisiones fueron asignadas a un sector detrás de las líneas del frente británicas para comenzar a entrenar. Para garantizar la compatibilidad con los soldados británicos, se pidió a los estadounidenses que cambiaran sus amados rifles modelo 1917 calibre .30 por el Lee-Enfield Mark III.

                                            El programa de entrenamiento diseñado específicamente para estas divisiones consistió en diez semanas de instrucción para tropas de infantería y ametralladoras a realizar en tres períodos. Primero, entrenaron fuera de línea durante un mínimo de cuatro semanas, abarcando ejercicios, fusilería y ejercicio físico. Esto incluyó tutoría en la ametralladora Lewis y otras armas de infantería. A continuación, los estadounidenses debían unirse a las tropas británicas en la línea durante tres semanas. Los oficiales y suboficiales entraban por un período de cuarenta y ocho horas, mientras que los hombres se unían a las compañías y pelotones británicos por períodos más cortos. Finalmente, cada regimiento debía entrenar en un área de retaguardia durante tres o cuatro semanas para proporcionar instrucción más avanzada. Allí, los estadounidenses practicarían maniobras de batallones y compañías. En su mayor parte, los doughboys y Tommies se llevaban bien. Sin embargo, no es sorprendente que los estadounidenses se quejaron de las raciones británicas. Acostumbrados a que la comida estadounidense se sirviera en grandes porciones, en cambio se les dio una pequeña ración de carne, té (en lugar de café) y queso.

                                            Durante el segundo período de entrenamiento, las Divisiones 27 y 30 fueron asignadas al Segundo Ejército Británico para entrenamiento y se trasladaron a su sector, al suroeste de Ypres, para organizar y defender una parte de la Línea East Poperinghe. La posición tomó su nombre de la ciudad de Poperhinghe, situada varios kilómetros al norte y que consiste en un sistema irregular de trincheras, fortalezas y fortines no conectados.

                                            Durante la primera parte de agosto, la 30.a División se movió cerca de Poperhinghe y Watou, donde quedó bajo el control táctico del II Cuerpo Británico, mientras que la 27a asumió la segunda posición, o reserva, en las defensas británicas cerca de Kemmel Hill, bajo el mando de la comando del XIX Cuerpo Británico. Esto incluyó el lago Dickebusch y las áreas de Scherpenberg.

                                            Finalmente, el 30 avanzó hasta el mismo sector de reserva que el 27, dejando ambos en la cara norte del saliente de Lys, un frente que cubría 4.000 yardas. El saliente se formó en la línea aliada al sur de Ypres en la primavera de 1918 cuando los alemanes atacaron a lo largo del río Lys durante la Operación Georgette y tomaron Kemmel Hill de manos de los franceses. Un oficial británico escribió que "la pérdida de Kemmel por parte de los franceses es buena, lo sostuvimos de todos modos, debería hacerlos menos descorteses".

                                            El saliente se extendía desde el lago Zillebeke, en un momento el principal suministro de agua para Ypres, al sureste de Voormezeele. Había sido moldeado por los combates de First Ypres en 1914, y los combates posteriores habían creado profundos cráteres. El suelo era muy bajo y los agujeros de los proyectiles se convertían en pequeños charcos. Rodeando el saliente estaba el terreno elevado: Observatory Ridge, Passchendaele Ridge, Messines-Wytschaete Ridge y Kemmel Hill, todos en manos de los alemanes. Estas posiciones permitieron al enemigo un campo de fuego despejado en todas direcciones. Un estadounidense observó que a menudo "los hombres de los sistemas avanzados creían que estaban siendo bombardeados por su propia artillería, cuando, de hecho, los proyectiles eran de los cañones enemigos de la derecha y de la retaguardia".

                                            Los batallones de los Regimientos de Infantería 119 y 120 de la 30ª División comenzaron a ocupar partes del frente en el sector del Canal, diez millas al suroeste de Ypres. Un regimiento tenía su campamento en "Dirty Bucket", a unas cuatro millas de Ypres. Los soldados fueron alojados en chozas construidas por los británicos en un bosque de robles lo suficientemente grande como para albergar a toda una compañía (256 oficiales y hombres). Los cuartos estaban lejos de ser lujosos: la falta de catres o literas significaba que los soldados dormían en el suelo. Sin embargo, para los oficiales al mando y de estado mayor del 27 y 30 fue muy diferente. La 27ª mantuvo su cuartel general en Oudezeele, mientras que la 30ª División estableció su mando en Watou, donde O’Ryan y Lewis dormían con relativa comodidad. Muchos de los miembros del personal de las divisiones y los oficiales superiores del regimiento estaban alojados en lo que se llamó "Armstrong Hut". Plegables y fáciles de mover, los lados de las cabañas estaban cubiertos con bolsas de arena para proteger a los ocupantes de la metralla y los fragmentos de proyectiles en caso de que estallara un proyectil de artillería cerca. Los bancos de sacos de arena tenían un metro de altura, "lo suficiente para cubrirte cuando estás acostado en el catre".

                                            Escala de pared en Camp Wadsworth, S.C. Ca. 1918. Paul Thompson. (Departamento de Guerra)

                                            Ambas divisiones estaban ahora a sólo cuatro millas del frente y dentro del alcance de la artillería enemiga. El 13 de julio, el soldado Robert P. Friedman, miembro de la 102a División de Ingenieros, murió como resultado de las heridas de los proyectiles alemanes y se convirtió en la primera víctima de combate sufrida por la 27.a División. Friedman fue uno de los muchos soldados judíos, tanto oficiales como soldados, en el 27, y todos en la división lamentaron su pérdida. La 30ª División tuvo su primera muerte relacionada con el combate un mes antes, cuando el primer teniente Wily O. Bissett de la 119ª Infantería fue asesinado de manera similar el 17 de junio.

                                            En Bélgica, los estadounidenses fueron testigos de las penurias sufridas por la población civil. Aunque los bombardeos casi habían destruido las aldeas alrededor de Ypres, no lograron quebrar el espíritu del pueblo flamenco. A medida que los agricultores continuaban cultivando sus campos, los ingenieros de las divisiones estadounidenses en la Línea de Defensa de East Poperinghe recibieron instrucciones específicas de no dañar los cultivos. Esta fue una orden difícil de seguir ya que el tendido de cables enredados cerca del frente significó limpiar algunos de los cultivos a pesar de las protestas de los agricultores.

                                            A lo largo de varias noches, del 16 al 24 de agosto, las Divisiones 27 y 30 se prepararon para el combate. La 30ª División ordenó a su 60ª Brigada de Infantería que tomara el control del sector del Canal de manos de la 33ª División británica, ubicada en la cara norte del saliente de Lys al suroeste de Ypres. El 119º de Infantería estaba en el lado derecho de la línea, el 120º de Infantería a su izquierda. En reserva estaba la 59ª Brigada de Infantería (117º y 118º Regimientos de Infantería). Una semana después, la 53ª Brigada de Infantería (105º y 106º Regimientos de Infantería), 27ª División, relevó a la 6ª División británica en el sector de Dickebusch. Se hizo cargo del frente y las posiciones de apoyo con regimientos uno al lado del otro y la 54ª Brigada de Infantería (107º y 108º Regimientos de Infantería) en reserva. Las divisiones británicas dejaron sus unidades de artillería para apoyar a los estadounidenses.

                                            Los movimientos de tropas, así como el transporte de suministros, se llevaron a cabo en tren ligero y durante la noche para evitar atraer el fuego de la artillería alemana en Kemmel Hill. Por delante de las unidades de infantería y ametralladoras estaban los ingenieros 102d (27a división) y 105a (30a división). Tenían la difícil y peligrosa tarea de reparar carreteras con marcas de viruelas, casi intransitables después de tres años de bombardeos. Una vez que las tropas llegaron al frente, fueron acuarteladas en cabañas de madera construidas por ingenieros británicos. Dos escuadrones de ocho hombres, con un cabo a cargo, dormían en una cabaña, que un ocupante describió como espaciosa. Para coordinar el enlace entre la infantería y la artillería, los detalles del trabajo tuvieron que tender cables. Esto significó cavar una zanja de seis pies a través de la arcilla dura de Flandes que no era diferente del suelo de Carolina del Sur.

                                            Cada día involucró vigilancia desde puestos de observación y aviones. The first few days were reported as calm. A “quiet, inoffensive attitude,” is how a 30th Division officer summarized this period. Such calm, however, did not last. Suddenly, as the division’s historians noted, “the scene had now shifted to the battleground of the World War—a stern and terrible reality to the men of all ranks.” They were referring to night patrols sent out as far as 1,000 yards to probe enemy defenses. Troops patrolling too close to the German outpost lines were greeted with machine gun fire.

                                            At first, the Germans were unaware that Americans had entered the sector opposite them, but according to a prisoner interrogated at 27th Division headquarters, this changed when the rifle fire became “more brisk and haphazard.” When asked to elaborate, the soldier from the German 93d Infantry Regiment explained that soldiers “who have been in the war for some time only fire individually when they are sure they have a target, whereas new troops are apt to fire more or less constantly at night, whether or not they have a target.” The considerable shooting and muzzle flashes allowed the Germans to better pinpoint the American line of advance. Once they recognized that untested American troops were opposing them, it became a daily ritual to try their mettle by harassing them with artillery fire, lobbing shells into back areas to hit crossroads and villages.

                                            On 30 August, the enemy conducted a surprise move that further tested the doughboys. In the early morning, heavy clouds of smoke crept toward the American lines. An initial report said it was a gas attack, but further observation revealed the Germans were burning dumps of some kind to mask a withdrawal. A prisoner captured near Kemmel Hill confirmed the updated report when he told interrogators that troops were retiring to the Wytschaete-Messines Ridge. He claimed a new line was established in front of Armentieres, and that eight men per company in machine gun posts remained behind on Kemmel, where they were to give the impression of strength.

                                            That night British XIX Corps headquarters ordered O’Ryan to send patrols from his brigades to reconnoiter the left of the line, opposite the 30th Division. This order was not unexpected. Earlier in the day O’Ryan and Plumer met and the latter remarked casually after tea, “Oh, by the way, O’Ryan, how would you like to have a go at our friends on the ridge?” O’Ryan responded that “his men were there for that purpose,” and was then told by Plumer to have a word with his chief of staff. O’Ryan then discovered that the details of the plan and tentative corps order were already in place.

                                            O’Ryan went into action and instructed the 53d Brigade to move elements of the 105th and 106th Infantry Regiments toward the German trenches to determine the depth of the withdrawal. As they approached the German lines, there was minor resistance from scattered machine gun posts. The patrols were accompanied by members of the British 184th Tunneling Company, which checked the vacant enemy dugouts for mines and booby traps. After reaching the enemy positions, the patrols reported back to brigade headquarters that the prisoner’s statement was correct—the Germans had given up most of Kemmel Hill. Additional patrols were organized and told to be ready to advance in support of those sent out. Soon, the Americans were gearing up for their first battle as entire regiments.

                                            On 31 August, the British II Corps ordered the 30th Division to send out patrols in its sector to determine enemy strength and location. The division commander, Major General Lewis, chose the 60th Infantry Brigade and made it clear that if strong resistance was met, the brigade was to return to its entrenchments. Small parties from the 119th and 120th Infantry Regiments moved out, and like those of the 53d Brigade, found the German defenses at Kemmel Hill mostly abandoned. Additional parties from the 30th Division held nearby positions at the Voormezeele Switch and Lock 8 of the canal. The Germans were still close by in strength, so Lewis ordered his troops to hold tight and await further orders. Relaying messages was difficult because the Germans kept a close eye on the runners and frequently fired on them, so the Americans mostly communicated by wire. To ensure there was little delay in this method, the 105th Signal Battalion laid 15,000 feet of cable along this position to establish a forward communications post.

                                            At 0730 the next morning, Lewis gave the order to advance. After a brief barrage, a platoon of forty men from Company I, 120th Infantry, moved forward towards Lankhof Farm. There, the Germans had constructed a cluster of pillboxes in the ruins of an old farm building and positioned machine gunners and snipers. As the Americans advanced, the Germans withdrew to the canal and abandoned their defenses at the farm, suffering only two casualties. The platoon then pushed beyond the farm and established contact with the 119th Infantry advancing on the right of Lock 8. Artillery from the British 33d Division fired in support, but several rounds fell short, wounding a number of Americans.

                                            Friendly fire incidents were an unfortunate consequence of war, and the 30th Division had recently lost two men this way. In the first instance, First Lieutenant Robert H. Turner of the 115th Machine Gun Battalion was struck on 24 July by a shell from the 186 Battery, Royal Field Artillery, while he and another officer were on patrol near a Belgian chateau. In the second occurrence, Second Lieutenant Lowell T. Wasson of Company M, 120th Infantry, was shot by a private from his unit on 7 August. Wasson apparently became confused after returning from a patrol near Swan Chateau and had entered a listening post unannounced. The private guarding the post was ordered to fire on Wasson by his superiors, who thought the intruder was a German conducting a trench raid.

                                            With the 119th taking fire from both its own artillery support and the Germans, two more platoons from the 120th Infantry were sent forward to help relieve the chaotic situation. After advancing 1,000 yards, they retired, having lost touch with both flanks. The Germans complicated matters with fire from trench mortars and machine guns hidden in Ravine Wood. At 1000, 2d Battalion, 119th Infantry, advanced and held on against heavy resistance. During this action, a patrol that included Corporal Burt T. Forbes of Company I, was acting as a flank guard when a squad of eight Germans approached. As the enemy started setting up their machine guns, Forbes charged the Germans, single-handedly killing three and driving the other five away. For this act of bravery, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the French Croix de Guerre. Word of the action was sent to the rear by pigeon. It was the first time this means of communication had been used by the 30th. Remarkably, only one hour and five minutes elapsed between the time the message was sent, received and transmitted by the division staff.

                                            After intense fighting, the 30th Division’s contribution to the operation was over. It gained one square mile of ground, inflicted one hundred German casualties, and captured sixteen prisoners, two machine guns, one grenade launcher, and a small amount of ammunition and stores. Kemmel Hill was now in Allied hands and, as one doughboy remarked, “it sure is a blessed relief to move around without feeling the German eyes watching you.” In the process of taking this coveted piece of land, the 30th lost two officers and thirty-five men killed.

                                            In the 27th Division sector, the British XIX Corps ordered O’Ryan to begin advancing his division at 1000 on 31 August and occupy a line along the Vierstraat Switch, 1,000 yards from their present location. Patrols from the 106th Infantry advanced along the line until held up for three hours by machine guns concealed in numerous nests near Siege Farm. The Americans retaliated with their own machine guns, and artillery fire from the British 66th Division. By 1730, the Germans had been driven back and the objective gained.

                                            August ended as another bloody month on the Western Front, and September started off the same way. On the morning of 1 September, the 105th Infantry went forward on its right to pivot on the 30th Division at Vierstraat Village. As the Americans attempted to advance to the east crest of Vierstraat Ridge, the Germans continued to resist and drove the Americans back to the village. During the fighting, the doughboys used some creative methods to send messages to the rear the 102d Signal Battalion sent messages using pigeons and dogs. Amazingly, the dogs successfully maneuvered over broken ground, under heavy fire to deliver messages.

                                            Despite such valiant efforts, communication was still difficult, as reflected in a frantic field message sent from 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry: “Our new position very heavily shelled, making communications almost impossible…request that artillery open fire on hill opposite our new position.” Information on why the regiment was stalled did not reach brigade headquarters until late in the day on 1 September. Messages were delayed because shellfire had cut the forward communication wire. To help remedy the troubling situation, Corporal Kenneth M. McCann of the 102d Field Signal Battalion worked for seventy-two hours, while subjected to repeated gas bombardments and machine gun fire, to replace the forward line near Kemmel Hill. For his extraordinary efforts, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

                                            More discouraging news reached the rear from an officer observing at the front. On the left of the 106th Infantry, two battalions had become badly mixed up and crowded into the line. When word reached the 53d Infantry Brigade commander, Brigadier General Albert H. Blanding, he ordered the commander of the 106th, Colonel William A. Taylor, to the front to investigate. Taylor reported two hours later that the officer in command at the front, Major Harry S. Hildreth, had “apparently entirely lost control and seemed at a loss as to what to do.” Blanding ordered Taylor to immediately relieve Hildreth and take command. Not until daylight the following morning was the situation in hand. Hildreth was only temporarily reprimanded. He was lucky this was his only punishment since it was commonplace in the AEF, as well as the BEF, to permanently relieve commanders from their units for poor performance. Hildreth returned to battalion command in the 106th a few days later.

                                            On 1 September, Blanding ordered his brigade not to make a general attack, but to advance the front line as far as possible. With the help of artillery harassment, the two regiments moved forward, and by the afternoon of the next day, had captured the southern slope of Wytschaete Ridge. At noon on 2 September, Taylor phoned Blanding and requested permission to dig in on the line of the first objective and wait for relief. His request was denied. Instead, he was ordered to advance further, and after another day of hard fighting, the 106th permanently reoccupied the Chinese Trench, which ran between the Berghe and Byron Farms. By now, the Germans had retired in some strength to Wytschaete Ridge. The two-day operation ended with the 53d Brigade losing two officers and seventy-seven men killed, mostly from artillery fire.

                                            On 3 September, the Americans received withdrawal orders, and moved back from the Canal and Dickebusch sectors during the next two days. The British 41st Division relieved the 27th, and the British 35th Division took the sector vacated by the 30th. Relief of the 27th did not go smoothly. When the order reached the 53d Brigade, it was so far forward that it took a considerable amount of time to reach the light railways for transportation to the rear. After reaching the rear, the brigade found that the 41st Division was in the midst of moving forward, and considerable congestion ensued. Once behind the front lines, the soldiers of the 27th Division, looking forward to warm beds and clean uniforms, discovered that billeting and bathing facilities were hard to find. O’Ryan later wrote that provisions had been made for his men, “but the lack of time and other circumstances prevented it being done to the fullest extent.” For the men of 30th Division, it was also “rather a hard trip, but the men stood it well,” remembered the commander of the 105th Engineers. “The cars were dirty and those for the First Battalion had manure in them when they were backed on the siding. Our men had to clean them out and then buy straw to put on the bottom of the cars. I may be mistaken, but the trains the British use for a trip like this are better and cleaner cars. We seem to be the ‘Goats’.”

                                            In the rear, battalion and company commanders from both American divisions wrote after-action reports that provide a window into the seemingly chaotic American experience of being in the line for the first time. In one report, a lieutenant in the 119th Infantry complained that his platoon’s ammunition supply was defective, and for twenty-four hours, he had no reserve rounds. Another officer remarked how the supply of water that reached the front lines during the nights of 2-3 September was not enough for one platoon, and that “this shortage, which seems to exist in all parts of the line, is the greatest hardship the men have to bear.”

                                            Other mistakes were not so insignificant and showed the weaknesses in the divisions’ officer corps. Upon reaching an objective, a platoon commander could not communicate with his left flank because he did not have a telephone, lamp, pigeons, or even a signalman. “Liaison was poor,” he complained. “I had no ground flares, no panels, and no other means of getting in touch with aeroplanes.”

                                            Such mishaps by the doughboys were also observed by the opposing German troops. The commander of the German 8th Infantry Division, Major General Hamann, remarked in his battle report that “withdrawal of our line confronted the American troops with a task to which they were by no means equal.” When the 27th Division moved out of its quiet sector to pursue the Germans, Hamann wrote, “The inexperienced troops do not yet know how to utilize the terrain in movement, work their way forward during an attack, or choose the correct formation in the event the enemy opens artillery fire.”

                                            After the war, Hamann was more complimentary toward the New Yorkers. O’Ryan had written him to gather information for his book, The Story of the 27th, and the German officer responded, saying “reports reaching me from all sources, particularly from our artillery observation posts, were that your infantry was unusually energetic in their attack.”

                                            Enlisted men had plenty to say about the Ypres-Lys operation, and they wrote such thoughts in letters sent home, personal diaries, and memoirs. The sound of battle created a lasting memory for many soldiers. One soldier from Tennessee described the constant firing of machine guns as though it were “popcorn popping.” Another wrote how it seemed to him that the Germans knew the location of every trench, since they constantly harassed the Americans during the day with artillery fire. At night, their planes bombed the front and rear, and the “artificial camouflage provided what little deception was practiced upon the enemy.”

                                            The historian of Company K, 117th Infantry, recalled that “the night of the big barrage on Kemmel Hill was a night of discomfort and nervousness” among the men in his unit. Nerves were frayed, and one private recalled seeing a sergeant in his company advance cautiously with his rifle toward a noise in the rear that he insisted was caused by German soldiers conducting a raid. Moments later, he learned it was a trench rat retreating to its hole. Once the men of Company K actually participated in combat, they “were happier than we had been for many months, for the first battle experiences had been met with all the credit that was to have been expected, and we had not quailed at the smell of gunpowder.”

                                            Bravery by the American soldiers did not go unnoticed by the British. General Sir Herbert Plumer wrote O’Ryan that “the wonderful spirit that animated all ranks and the gallantry displayed in the minor engagements your division took part in with us foreshadowed the successes you would achieve later.” Plumer was indeed correct. The American II Corps would continue serve with the BEF and during the attack on the Hindenburg Line on 29 September 1918, with the Americans attached to the British Fourth Army. Despite taking significant casualties, the 27th and 30th Divisions spearheaded the attack and with help from the Australian Corps, pierced a vital portion of the German defenses along the St. Quentin Canal. Nevertheless, it was the operation in Ypres that helped define the two divisions. After World War I, the newly established American Battle Monuments Commission recognized this in 1927 by placing a marker on Vierstraat Ridge. It reads in part: “Erected by the United States of America to commemorate the service of American troops who fought in this vicinity.”


                                            British Troops being welcomed to France, 1914 - History

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                                            The main job of the British forces in 1914 and 1915 was to support the French. This is because the British Army was very small. In 1914, it had about 250,000 men scattered around the British Empire. In that year, the British sent 5 divisions (a division was usually about 15,000 men) to the front in France. The French army had 72 divisions and the Germans had 122 divisions. The French and Germans both had a system of compulsory military service. This meant all men served about 2 years in the army and gained some basic training and experience. Britain had no such system.

                                            Once war began, the British Army recruited furiously. By 1916, the army was about 1.5 million strong, but there were problems. The expansion was done at breakneck speed using enthusiastic but raw recruits. They had a little over a year's training and virtually no combat experience. Worse still, they were desperately short of experienced officers. More experienced soldiers knew how to find the best cover, how to advance as safely as possible and what to do if their commanding officer was killed (common in trench warfare).

                                            General Sir Douglas Haig, British Commander-in-Chief on the western front, was not really ready to attack in mid-1916. He wanted to wait until later in the year and attack in Flanders (not the Somme). However, his hand was forced. In February 1916, the Germans attacked the French fortress of Verdun. The attack intensified for the next four months until there was a danger that Verdun would fall and the Germans would break through the French lines. The British and French governments decided that Haig would have to attack at the Somme in July. This would be the first major battle of the war for the British Army.

                                            General Sir Henry Rawlinson's original plan of attack was simple. He intended to hit the front line of German defences with intense artillery bombardments to destroy German positions and kill large numbers of troops. The idea was to wear down the Germans in a war of attrition. The main weapon would be the artillery bombardment, but there would also be small-scale raids and attacks by British forces.

                                            Image 1
                                            Map of the Allied plan of attack at the Somme

                                            Haig was sure that the Germans would crumble and he wanted Rawlinson's plan to allow for this possibility. If this took place, then British forces could achieve the long awaited breakthrough. Cavalry could get behind the German defences, attack the Germans in the open and disrupt the road and rail links that kept the German troops supplied and reinforced.

                                            This change in plan caused problems because it meant the artillery bombardment was spread over a wider range of German defences and so did less damage than Rawlinson hoped. It also meant that the attacking infantry were more spread out than Rawlinson planned. This was a problem because they were inexperienced troops and there were few experienced officers. The commanders were concerned that there would be chaos if soldiers charged forward and lost contact with their officers. This was the main reason why orders were given to walk towards the enemy positions. As history now shows, these tactics were disastrous and the senior commanders contributed to the huge death toll during the attack. However, it is important to remember that Haig issued those orders because he felt he had little choice. Units with experienced officers usually adapted the tactics and suffered fewer casualties than units with inexperienced officers.

                                            The attack took place on 1 July 1916. For a week before that, a huge bombardment of German positions had been going on. Most of the British troops expected the German defences to be badly damaged, but it is a myth that they were told that the Germans would simply surrender.

                                            Haig underestimated the strength of the German defences and his changes to the plan weakened the impact of the bombardment. Another problem was that about 30% of the 1.7 million shells fired by the British did not go off. The attacking British troops met extremely strong artillery and machinegun fire from the German defenders. There were some important successes at the southern end of the attacking line, but the troops at the northern end suffered huge casualties. Around 20,000 were killed and around 40,000 wounded.

                                            Rawlinson was appalled by the losses on the first day and wanted to end the attack. However, Haig insisted that it should carry on. He was convinced that they had fatally weakened the Germans, although he had little evidence to support this view. Haig also had little choice because he had to relieve the pressure on Verdun.

                                            Haig was later criticised for wasting lives by throwing men at heavily defended trenches. In fact he varied his tactics when he could. For example, in September he used tanks for the first time in the war. The reality was, however, that Haig had few options. He had to relieve Verdun and he did not have the weapons that commanders in future wars would have – effective aircraft and reliable tanks.

                                            The battle continued until November 1916 when Haig called off the attack. An area of land about 25 km long and 6 km wide had been taken. British casualties ran at about 420,000 and French casualties were about 200,000. German casualties were about 500,000. This definitely weakened the Germans, but the Germans killed more Allied troops than they lost themselves. However, the pressure was off Verdun. The British troops who survived now had combat experience. The British and Allied forces also learnt many valuable lessons about trench warfare, which were put into action in 1917-18.

                                            There are few events in British history that carry as much significance as the Battle of the Somme. The battle has a dark reputation. The main reason for this is the heavy casualties.

                                            Whole villages or sections of towns lost a generation of young men. One of the most famous examples is Accrington in Lancashire. Their young men joined up together in 1915 to form a 'Pals' Battalion. Young men from local streets, factories, football and rugby teams joined up at the same time. The army thought that this local identity would make for good fighting units who would stick together in battle. There were other areas that supplied such units. The very first Pals Battalion was signed up in Liverpool. There were Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle Pals. The 36th Division was made up mainly of Protestants from Ulster (mainly from the area which is Northern Ireland today). All of these units fought with great gallantry at the Somme. The trouble was it took only one heavy bombardment or one attack on a heavily defended position and a whole street or village lost its young men. Some parts of the country lost few or no young men, but this of course did not grab the headlines. The British Army changed its recruiting policy after the Battle of the Somme.

                                            Another controversy about the Battle of the Somme is whether the British commanders were to blame for the heavy losses because they were incompetent. The main accusations are usually directed at the British Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Douglas Haig. He is charged with not caring about the heavy casualties. He is also accused of failing to change his tactics when things were not going according to plan. He earned the unwanted title of 'the Butcher of the Somme'. But was this fair?

                                            The casualties at the Somme were heavy, but only by the standards of previous British wars. British casualties at the Somme were similar to the losses which German, Austrian, Russian and French troops had suffered in many of the battles of 1914-15. This battle had such a huge impact on Britain because Britain had never fought in a war like this before. Most of Britain's wars had been wars in the empire or battles at sea. In both cases, casualties tended to be relatively low.

                                            With hindsight, we can see that Haig made mistakes and the first day of the Somme was a disaster. However, we also have to look at the limited options open to him. He was told to relieve Verdun and this meant attacking the Germans. Haig made mistakes by altering Rawlinson's plan, but he could not foresee that 30% of the British shells would fail to explode. Haig was criticised for sending men to capture enemy trenches, but no politician or military leader came up with any alternatives in 1916. It is very telling that most people at the time did not share the hostility later expressed towards Haig.


                                            British Troops being welcomed to France, 1914 - History

                                            B y the end of November 1914 the crushing German advance that had swallowed the Low Countries and threatened France had been checked by the allies before it could reach Paris. The opposing armies stared at each other from a line of hastily built defensive trenches that began at the edge of the English Channel and continued to the border of Switzerland. Barbed wire and parapets defended the trenches and between them stretched a "No-Mans-Land" that in some areas was no more than 30 yards wide.

                                            British troops in the trenches

                                            Life in the trenches was abominable. Continuous sniping, machinegun fire and artillery shelling took a deadly toll. The misery was heightened by the ravages of Mother Nature, including rain, snow and cold. Many of the trenches, especially those in the low-lying British sector to the west, were continually flooded, exposing the troops to frost bite and "trench foot."

                                            This treacherous monotony was briefly interrupted during an unofficial and spontaneous "Christmas Truce" that began on Christmas Eve. Both sides had received Christmas packages of food and presents. The clear skies that ended the rain further lifted the spirits on both sides of no-mans-land.

                                            The Germans seem to have made the first move. During the evening of December 24 they delivered a chocolate cake to the British line accompanied by a note that proposed a cease fire so that the Germans could have a concert. The British accepted the proposal and offered some tobacco as their present to the Germans. The good will soon spread along the 27-mile length of the British line. Enemy soldiers shouted to one another from the trenches, joined in singing songs and soon met one another in the middle of no-mans-land to talk, exchange gifts and in some areas to take part in impromptu soccer matches.

                                            The high command on both sides took a dim view of the activities and orders were issued to stop the fraternizing with varying results. In some areas the truce ended Christmas Day in others the following day and in others it extended into January. One thing is for sure - it never happened again.

                                            "We and the Germans met in the middle of no-man's-land."

                                            Frank Richards was a British soldier who experienced the "Christmas Truce". We join his story on Christmas morning 1914:

                                            Buffalo Bill [the Company Commander] rushed into the trench and endeavoured to prevent it, but he was too late: the whole of the Company were now out, and so were the Germans. He had to accept the situation, so soon he and the other company officers climbed out too. We and the Germans met in the middle of no-man's-land. Their officers was also now out. Our officers exchanged greetings with them. One of the German officers said that he wished he had a camera to take a snapshot, but they were not allowed to carry cameras. Neither were our officers.

                                            We mucked in all day with one another. They were Saxons and some of them could speak English. By the look of them their trenches were in as bad a state as our own. One of their men, speaking in English, mentioned that he had worked in Brighton for some years and that he was fed up to the neck with this damned war and would be glad when it was all over. We told him that he wasn't the only one that was fed up with it. We did not allow them in our trench and they did not allow us in theirs.

                                            The German Company-Commander asked Buffalo Bill if he would accept a couple of barrels of beer and assured him that they would not make his men drunk. They had plenty of it in the brewery. He accepted the offer with thanks and a couple of their men rolled the barrels over and we took them into our trench. The German officer sent one of his men back to the trench, who appeared shortly after carrying a tray with bottles and glasses on it. Officers of both sides clinked glasses and drunk one another's health. Buffalo Bill had presented them with a plum pudding just before. The officers came to an understanding that the unofficial truce would end at midnight. At dusk we went back to our respective trenches.

                                            British and German troops
                                            mingle in No Mans Land
                                            Christmas 1914
                                            . The two barrels of beer were drunk, and the German officer was right: if it was possible for a man to have drunk the two barrels himself he would have bursted before he had got drunk. French beer was rotten stuff.

                                            Just before midnight we all made it up not to commence firing before they did. At night there was always plenty of firing by both sides if there were no working parties or patrols out. Mr Richardson, a young officer who had just joined the Battalion and was now a platoon officer in my company wrote a poem during the night about the Briton and the Bosche meeting in no-man's-land on Christmas Day, which he read out to us. A few days later it was published in Los tiempos o Morning Post, I believe.

                                            During the whole of Boxing Day [the day after Christmas] we never fired a shot, and they the same, each side seemed to be waiting for the other to set the ball a-rolling. One of their men shouted across in English and inquired how we had enjoyed the beer. We shouted back and told him it was very weak but that we were very grateful for it. We were conversing off and on during the whole of the day.

                                            We were relieved that evening at dusk by a battalion of another brigade. We were mighty surprised as we had heard no whisper of any relief during the day. We told the men who relieved us how we had spent the last couple of days with the enemy, and they told us that by what they had been told the whole of the British troops in the line, with one or two exceptions, had mucked in with the enemy. They had only been out of action themselves forty-eight hours after being twenty-eight days in the front-line trenches. They also told us that the French people had heard how we had spent Christmas Day and were saying all manner of nasty things about the British Army."

                                            Referencias:
                                            This eyewitness account appears in Richards, Frank, Old Soldiers Never Die (1933) Keegan, John, The First World War (1999) Simkins, Peter, World War I, the Western Front (1991).


                                            World War One

                                            The origins of conscription and the ‘citizen-soldier’

                                            The First World War was fought predominantly by conscript armies fielding millions of ‘citizen-soldiers’. The origins of this type of military lay in the levée en masse (mass mobilisation) organised by the French revolutionary regime at the end of the 18th century, the first modern force built on the idea that all male citizens had a duty to bear arms in defence of their nation. However, it was France’s rival Prussia which improved and systemised the military model, developing a new form of universal short-service peacetime conscription. After spectacular victories over Austria and France in 1866 and 1871, this provided the organisational template for other continental European armies. Austria-Hungary imitated it in 1868, France in 1872 and Russia in 1874. Britain and the United States, which relied primarily on their navies for security, were alone among the major powers in remaining with small professional armies.

                                            How conscription worked

                                            Short-service systems of conscription obliged healthy male citizens to undergo a relatively brief period of military training in their youth and then made them subject for much of the rest of their adult lives to call up for refresher courses or for service in an emergency. The exact terms of service varied from country to country but Germany’s system provides a good example. There, men were drafted at age 20 for two or three years of peacetime training in the active army. While all had an obligation to serve, financial limitations meant in practice that only a little over half of each male year group was conscripted. After training, men were released into civilian life but could be called back to the army until they reached the age of 45. In between, men passed through various reserve categories. Those who had most recently completed their training belonged to the first-line reserve for five years, where they could expect to be redrafted early in the event of crisis. Later, they were allocated for a decade to the second-line Landwehr. The third-line Landsturm was the oldest band of reservists, intended mainly for rear-line duties in a major war. The short-service conscript system offered two major advantages. First, it created a large pool of trained manpower that could quickly augment the standing army in an emergency. In August 1914, the German army needed just 12 days to expand from 808,280 to 3,502,700 soldiers. Second, in a long conflict, the system offered an organisational framework capable of deploying nearly the entire manpower of a state as soldiers. Conscript forces became true ‘nations in arms’ in 1914-18. 55% of male Italians and Bulgarians aged 18 to 50 were called to military service. Elsewhere the proportions were even higher: 63% of military-aged men in Serbia, 78% in Austro-Hungary and 81% of military-aged men in France and Germany served.

                                            The picture book of the Landsturm Man

                                            Detail of an illustration from The picture book of the Landsturm Man (1917).

                                            War volunteers and enlistment motivations

                                            While conscript armies proved indispensable, and even the British in 1916 and the Americans in 1917 began to draft men, significant numbers of volunteers also served in the First World War. Most famously, in Britain 2,675,149 men volunteered, the vast majority in the first half of hostilities. However, even countries with long traditions of conscription also had large volunteering movements. In Germany, around half a million men came forward. The great rush was at the start of the war: in the first 10 days 143,922 men enlisted in Prussian units alone. France’s voluntary enlistments were smaller but steadier, reaching 187,905 men by the end of hostilities. In multinational Austria-Hungary, men appear to have been less willing to volunteer for the Emperor’s army, although they promptly obeyed call up orders. Some nationalist movements did recruit successfully, however. The Polish Legionaries, the largest of these forces, had 21,000 volunteers by 1917. While volunteers tended to be disproportionately middle-class, their motives for joining the army may not have been so different from those of conscripts. Patriotic duty appears to have been a prime motivation for both groups, although coercion was also influential. Volunteers were not subject to the legal sanctions faced by conscripts who disobeyed drafting orders but they might be exposed to considerable social pressure to enlist. For small minorities, economic factors or lust for action and adventure were important. These recruits, whether conscripts or volunteers, were ‘citizen-soldiers’, whose attachment to their societies and stake in their states’ existence go far to explain the tremendous resilience of the armies of 1914-18.


                                            A Comprehensive World War One Timeline

                                            Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, and his wife, had decided to inspect Austro-Hungarian troops in Bosnia. The date chosen for the inspection was a national day in Bosnia. The Black Hand supplied a group of students with weapons for an assassination attempt to mark the occasion.

                                            A Serbian nationalist student, Gavrilo Princip, assassinated the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, when their open car stopped at a corner on its way out of the town.

                                            Although Russia was allied with Serbia, Germany did not believe that she would mobilise and offered to support Austria if necessary.

                                            However, Russia did mobilise and, through their alliance with France, called on the French to mobilise.

                                            Despite a French counter-attack that saw the deaths of many Frenchmen on the battlefields at Ardennes, the Germans continued to march into France. They were eventually halted by the allies at the river Marne.

                                            British troops had advanced from the northern coast of France to the Belgian town of Mons. Although they initially held off the Germans, they were soon forced to retreat.

                                            The British lost a huge number of men at the first battle of Ypres.

                                            By Christmas, all hopes that the war would be over had gone and the holiday saw men of both sides digging themselves into the trenches of theWestern Front.

                                            Although British losses were heavier than the German, the battle had alarmed both the Kaiser and the German Admiral Scheer and they decided to keep their fleet consigned to harbour for the remainder of the war.

                                            This article is part of our extensive collection of articles on the Great War. Click here to see our comprehensive article on World War 1.


                                            British Troops being welcomed to France, 1914 - History

                                            The actions of the colonist in response to the Townshend Act convinced the British that they needed troops in Boston to help maintain order. Lord Hillsborough, Secretary of State for the Colonies, dispatched two regiments-(4,000 troops), to restore order in Boston. The daily contact between British soldiers and colonists served to worsen relations.

                                            The decision by the British to dispatch troops to Boston was one of their worst decisions, in an entire series of bad moves, that helped make the eventual independence of America inevitable. The British government reacted to the Americans, and specifically to the Massachusetts opposition to the Townshend act by dispatching troops to Boston. This might have been the correct policy if the opposition was just made up of a few firebrands. The British, however, misread the opposition, which was wide spread.

                                            The announcement that British troops were arriving created immediate resentment among the colonists. The idea that British troops were coming, not to defend the colonists in times of war, but the pacify them, seemed inconceivable to many. In addition, the idea that troops of the standing army, many of whom did not have a reputation for high moral standards, would be living in their city on a daily basis filled many Bostonians with dread.

                                            In the end of September 1768 troop ships, accompanied by British men of war, arrived in Boston Harbor. The troops disembarked and initially encamped on the Boston Commons, as well as, in the Court House, and in Faneuil Hall. Friction immediately broke out when the Governor offered the troops Manufactory House as a barracks. The inhabitants of the Manufactory House refused to be evicted and the troops were forced to find other locations.

                                            The British officers had no trouble finding lodging and being accepted into the Bostonian Society. This was not the case, however, with their soldiers. The British soldiers were consumers of both large quantities of rum and prostitutes. Both these activities were an anathema to the rather puritan population of Boston. Worse still was the harsh discipline meted out to British soldiers.

                                            The British had a major problem with desertions. In the first few months of their stay in Boston, 70 troops deserted and found their way into the interior of the colony. Placing sentries on the outskirts of the city to stop deserters did nothing but inflame colonists further. Finally, General Gage, who had taken command of the British troops in Boston, ordered the next deserters be captured executed. That tragic fate fell on a young deserter named Ames. He was executed on the Boson Commons after and elaborate ceremony. This act disgusted the general population of Boston, even more than the regular whipping of British soldiers on the same location for infractions against army rules.

                                            The colonists' views of the average British soldier varied from resentment to pity. However, while on duty, an almost guerilla war seemed to rage between the soldiers and the colonists. This, of course, eventually resulted in the most well-known and tragic action, known as "the Boston Massacre".

                                            From the moment the British forces entered Boston to the moment they were forced by colonial troops to leave seven years later, their presence did the British no good. The extended British troop presence only served to bring the day of American independence closer.


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