Les troupes britanniques d'être accueillis en France, 1914

Les troupes britanniques d'être accueillis en France, 1914


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Les troupes britanniques d'être accueillis en France, 1914

Les troupes britanniques ont été très bien accueillies à leur arrivée en France en 1914. On voit ici une partie de la BEF accueillie par des dames françaises à leur arrivée en France en août 1914.


Empire et puissance maritime

En septembre 1715, John Erskine, comte de Mar, éleva l'étendard d'un soulèvement « jacobite », destiné à restaurer la monarchie Stuart en exil sur le trône, et proclama James Francis Edward Stuart (fils de Jacques II) roi d'Écosse. Les Jacobites ont été vaincus par les forces gouvernementales lors des batailles de Sheriffmuir et de Preston en novembre 1715. Trois mois plus tard, la rébellion avait été annulée. Les dirigeants jacobites ont été destitués et certains ont été exécutés.


Contenu

Dans les plans d'avant-guerre, un corps expéditionnaire devait être organisé parmi les forces de l'armée régulière au Royaume-Uni, avec un effectif de six divisions d'infanterie et une division de cavalerie (72 bataillons d'infanterie et 14 régiments de cavalerie), plus des unités de soutien.

Il était prévu que les sept divisions seraient contrôlées de manière centralisée par le quartier général et, en tant que tel, aucun plan n'a été fait pour les niveaux intermédiaires de commandement. Un état-major de corps a été maintenu en temps de paix, mais la décision a été prise lors de la mobilisation d'en créer un deuxième (et plus tard un troisième) afin de mieux se conformer à la structure de commandement française, ces deux éléments ont dû être improvisés.

Au moment de la mobilisation, il y avait des craintes importantes d'un débarquement allemand en force sur la côte est anglaise, et en tant que tel, la décision a été prise de retenir deux divisions pour la défense intérieure, et d'en envoyer seulement quatre, plus la division de cavalerie, en France pour le présent. Le 4e a finalement été expédié fin août et le 6e début septembre.

Le commandant en chef initial du BEF était le feld-maréchal Sir John French. Son chef d'état-major était le lieutenant-général Sir A. J. Murray, avec le major-général H. H. Wilson comme adjoint. Le BSG 1 (Opérations) était le colonel G. M. Harper, et le BSG 1 (Renseignements) était le colonel G. M. W. Macdonogh.

L'adjudant général était le major-général Sir C. F. N. Macready, avec le major général E. R. C. Graham comme adjudant général adjoint et le colonel A. E. J. Cavendish comme adjudant général adjoint. Le quartier-maître général était le major-général Sir W. R. Robertson, avec le colonel C. T. Dawkins comme quartier-maître général adjoint. L'Artillerie royale était commandée par le major-général W. F. L. Lindsay, et les Royal Engineers par le brigadier-général G. H. Fowke.

Troupes du GHQ, Royal Engineers Modifier

Les troupes du quartier général général contrôlaient les ingénieurs du groupe d'armées. Il avait la structure suivante en 1914 : [4]

  • 1er train de pontage, Royal Engineers
  • 2e train de pontage, Royal Engineers
  • 1re compagnie de siège, milice royale du Monmouthshire, Royal Engineers
  • 4e compagnie de siège, milice royale du Monmouthshire, Royal Engineers
  • 1re compagnie de siège, milice royale d'Anglesey, Royal Engineers
  • 2e compagnie de siège, milice royale d'Anglesey, Royal Engineers
  • 1re section de télémétrie, Royal Engineers
  • Établissement de transport ferroviaire
    • 8e Compagnie de chemin de fer, Royal Engineers
    • 10e Compagnie de chemin de fer, Royal Engineers
    • 2e Compagnie de chemin de fer, Royal Monmouthshire Milice, Royal Engineers
    • 3e Compagnie de chemin de fer, Royal Monmouthshire Militia, Royal Engineers
    • 3e Compagnie de chemin de fer, Royal Anglesey Militia, Royal Engineers

    Il n'y avait pas de division de cavalerie établie de façon permanente dans l'armée britannique lors de la mobilisation, les 1er à 4e brigades de cavalerie ont été regroupées pour former une division, tandis que la 5e brigade de cavalerie est restée comme une unité indépendante.

    Le 6 septembre, la 3e brigade de cavalerie est détachée pour agir conjointement avec la 5e, sous le commandement général du brigadier-général Gough. Cette force a été rebaptisée 2e division de cavalerie le 16 septembre.

    Division de cavalerie Modifier

    La division de cavalerie était commandée par le major-général Edmund Allenby, avec le colonel John Vaughan comme GSO 1 et le brigadier-général B. F. Drake commandant la Royal Horse Artillery.

    Brigade indépendante Modifier

    Le I Corps était commandé par le lieutenant-général Sir Douglas Haig. Ses officiers supérieurs d'état-major étaient le brigadier-général J. E. Gough (chef d'état-major), le brigadier-général H. S. Horne (commandant l'Artillerie royale) et le brigadier-général S. R. Rice (commandant le Royal Engineers).

    1ère Division Modifier

    La 1re Division était commandée par le major-général S. H. Lomax, avec le colonel R. Fanshawe comme GSO 1. Le brigadier-général N. D. Findlay commandait la Royal Artillery, et le lieutenant-colonel A. L. Schreiber commandait le Royal Engineers.

      (Brigadier-général F. I. Maxse)
      • 1er gardes Coldstream
      • 1er gardes écossais
      • 1er Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
      • 2e The Royal Munster Fusiliers[7]
      • 2e Régiment Royal Sussex
      • 1er régiment Loyal North Lancashire
      • 1er régiment du Northamptonshire
      • 2e Corps royal de fusiliers du roi
      • 1st The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment)
      • 1er les frontaliers du sud du Pays de Galles
      • 1er régiment du Gloucestershire
      • 2e régiment gallois
      • Troupes montées
        • Un escadron, 15th (The King's) Hussars
        • 1ère Compagnie Cycliste
          • 113e batterie, RFA
          • 114e batterie, RFA
          • 115e batterie, RFA
          • 116e batterie, RFA
          • 117e batterie, RFA
          • 118e batterie, RFA
          • 46e batterie, RFA
          • 51e batterie, RFA
          • 54e batterie, RFA
          • 30e batterie (obusier), RFA
          • 40e batterie (obusier), RFA
          • 57e batterie (obusier), RFA
          • 23e compagnie de campagne, RE
          • 26e compagnie de campagne, RE

          2e Division Modifier

          La 2e division était commandée par le major-général C. C. Monro, avec le colonel Hon. F. Gordon en tant que BSG 1. Le brigadier-général E. M. Perceval commandait la Royal Artillery, et le lieutenant-colonel R. H. H. Boys commandait le Royal Engineers.

            (Brigadier-général R. Scott-Kerr)
            • 2e Grenadier Gardes
            • 2e gardes Coldstream
            • 3e gardes Coldstream
            • 1er gardes irlandais
            • 2e régiment du Worcestershire
            • 2e d'infanterie légère de l'Oxfordshire et du Buckinghamshire
            • 2e régiment d'infanterie légère des Highlands
            • 2e Les Rangers de Connaught
            • 1er The King's (Liverpool Regiment)
            • 2e régiment du South Staffordshire
            • 1st Princess Charlotte of Wales's (Royal Berkshire Regiment)
            • 1er Corps royal de fusiliers du roi
            • Troupes montées
              • Escadron B, 15e (The King's) Hussards
              • 2e Compagnie de Cyclistes
                • 22e batterie, RFA
                • 50e batterie, RFA
                • 70e batterie, RFA
                • 15e batterie, RFA
                • 48e batterie, RFA
                • 71e batterie, RFA
                • 9e batterie, RFA
                • 16e batterie, RFA
                • 17e batterie, RFA
                • 47e batterie (obusier), RFA
                • 56e batterie (obusier), RFA
                • 60e batterie (obusier), RFA
                • 5e compagnie de campagne, RE
                • 11e compagnie de campagne, RE

                Le IIe Corps était commandé par le lieutenant-général Sir James Grierson. Ses officiers supérieurs d'état-major étaient le brigadier-général George Forestier-Walker (chef d'état-major), le brigadier-général A. H. Short (commandant l'Artillerie royale) et le brigadier-général A. E. Sandbach (commandant le Royal Engineers).

                Le lieutenant-général Grierson est décédé dans un train entre Rouen et Amiens le 17 août, le général Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien a pris le commandement à Bavai, le 21 août à 16 heures.

                3e Division Modifier

                La 3e Division était commandée par le major-général Hubert I. W. Hamilton, avec le colonel F. R. F. Boileau comme BSG 1. Le brigadier-général F. D. V. Wing commandait la Royal Artillery, et le lieutenant-colonel C. S. Wilson commandait le Royal Engineers.

                  (Brigadier-général F.W.N. McCracken)
                  • 3e régiment du Worcestershire
                  • 2e The Prince of Wales's Volunteers (South Lancashire Regiment)
                  • 1er duc d'Édimbourg (Wiltshire Regiment)
                  • 2e The Royal Irish Rifles
                  • 2e The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment)
                  • 2e The Royal Irish Regiment
                  • 4e The Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex Regiment)
                  • 1er Les Gordon Highlanders[8]
                    (Brigadier-général F.C. Shaw)
                    • 1er The Northumberland Fusiliers
                    • 4e The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)
                    • 1er régiment du Lincolnshire
                    • 1er The Royal Scots Fusiliers
                    • Troupes montées
                      • Escadron C, 15e (The King's) Hussars
                      • 3e Compagnie de Cyclistes
                        • 107e batterie, RFA
                        • 108e batterie, RFA
                        • 109e batterie, RFA
                        • 6e batterie, RFA
                        • 23e batterie, RFA
                        • 49e batterie, RFA
                        • 29e batterie, RFA
                        • 41e batterie, RFA
                        • 45e batterie, RFA
                        • 128e batterie (obusier), RFA
                        • 129e batterie (obusier), RFA
                        • 130e batterie (obusier), RFA
                        • 56e compagnie de campagne, RE
                        • 57e compagnie de campagne, RE

                        5ème Division Modifier

                        La 5e division était commandée par le major-général Sir C. Fergusson, avec le lieutenant-colonel C. F. Romer comme BSG 1. Le brigadier-général J. E. W. Headlam commandait la Royal Artillery, et le lieutenant-colonel J. A. S. Tulloch commandait le Royal Engineers.

                          (Brigadier-général G. J. Cuthbert)
                          • 2e The King's Own Scottish Borderers
                          • 2e duc de Wellington (West Riding Regiment)
                          • 1st The Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)
                          • 2e The King's Own (Infanterie légère du Yorkshire)
                          • 2e régiment du Suffolk
                          • 1er Régiment de East Surrey
                          • 1 Infanterie légère du duc de Cornouailles
                          • 2e Régiment de Manchester
                          • 1er régiment de Norfolk
                          • 1er régiment du Bedfordshire
                          • 1er régiment du Cheshire
                          • 1er régiment du Dorsetshire
                          • Troupes montées
                            • Un escadron, 19e (Queen Alexandra's Own Royal) Hussards
                            • 5e Compagnie de Cyclistes
                              • 11e batterie, RFA
                              • 52e batterie, RFA
                              • 80e batterie, RFA
                              • 119e batterie, RFA
                              • 120e batterie, RFA
                              • 121e batterie, RFA
                              • 122e batterie, RFA
                              • 123e batterie, RFA
                              • 124e batterie, RFA
                              • 37e batterie (obusier), RFA
                              • 61e batterie (obusier), RFA
                              • 65e batterie (obusier), RFA
                              • 17e compagnie de campagne, RE
                              • 59e compagnie de campagne, RE

                              Le IIIe corps a été formé en France le 31 août 1914, commandé par le major-général W. P. Pulteney. Ses officiers supérieurs d'état-major étaient le brigadier-général J. P. Du Cane (chef d'état-major), le brigadier-général E. J. Phipps-Hornby (commandant l'Artillerie royale) et le brigadier-général F. M. Glubb (commandant le Royal Engineers).

                              4ème Division Modifier

                              La 4e division débarque en France dans la nuit du 22 au 23 août. Elle est commandée par le général de division T. D'O. Snow, avec le colonel J. E. Edmonds comme BSG 1. Le brigadier-général G. F. Milne commandait la Royal Artillery, et le lieutenant-colonel H. B. Jones commandait le Royal Engineers.

                                (Brigadier-général J. A. L. Haldane)
                                • 1er régiment du Royal Warwickshire
                                • 2e Seaforth Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs, The Duke of Albany's)
                                • 1ère princesse Victoria (Royal Irish Fusiliers)
                                • 2e The Royal Dublin Fusiliers
                                • 1er Prince Albert (Infanterie légère du Somerset)
                                • 1er régiment du Lancashire oriental
                                • 1er régiment du Hampshire
                                • 1st The Rifle Brigade (le Prince Consort's Own)
                                • 1er King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment)
                                • 2e The Lancashire Fusiliers
                                • 2e The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
                                • 2e régiment d'Essex
                                • Troupes montées
                                  • Escadron B, 19e (Queen Alexandra's Own Royal) Hussards
                                  • 4e Compagnie de Cyclistes
                                    • 39e batterie, RFA
                                    • 68e batterie, RFA
                                    • 88e batterie, RFA
                                    • 125e ​​batterie, RFA
                                    • 126e batterie, RFA
                                    • 127e batterie, RFA
                                    • 27e batterie, RFA
                                    • 134e batterie, RFA
                                    • 135e batterie, RFA
                                    • 31e batterie (obusier), RFA
                                    • 35e batterie (obusier), RFA
                                    • 55e batterie (obusier), RFA
                                    • 7e compagnie de campagne, RE
                                    • 9e compagnie de campagne, RE

                                    6ème Division Modifier

                                    La 6e division s'embarque pour la France les 8 et 9 septembre. Il était commandé par le major-général J. L. Keir, avec le colonel W. T. Furse comme GSO 1. Le brigadier-général W. L. H. Paget commandait la Royal Artillery, et le lieutenant-colonel G. C. Kemp commandait le Royal Engineers.

                                      (Brigadier-général E.C. Ingouville-Williams)
                                      • 1er The Buffs (East Kent Regiment)
                                      • 1er régiment du Leicestershire
                                      • 1st The King's (Infanterie légère du Shropshire)
                                      • 2e régiment d'York et de Lancaster
                                      • 1er The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)
                                      • 1st The Prince of Wales's (North Staffordshire Regiment)
                                      • 2e The Prince of Wales's Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians)
                                      • 3e brigade de fusiliers (le Prince Consort's Own)
                                      • 1er The Prince of Wales's Own (West Yorkshire Regiment)
                                      • 1er régiment du Yorkshire de l'Est
                                      • 2e The Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment)
                                      • 2e régiment d'infanterie légère de Durham
                                      • Troupes montées
                                        • Escadron C, 19e (Queen Alexandra's Own Royal) Hussards
                                        • 6e Compagnie de Cyclistes
                                          • 21e batterie, RFA
                                          • 42e batterie, RFA
                                          • 53e batterie, RFA
                                          • 110e batterie, RFA
                                          • 111e batterie, RFA
                                          • 112e batterie, RFA
                                          • 24e batterie, RFA
                                          • 34e batterie, RFA
                                          • 72e batterie, RFA
                                          • 43e batterie (obusier), RFA
                                          • 86e batterie (obusier), RFA
                                          • 12e compagnie de campagne, RE
                                          • 38e compagnie de campagne, RE
                                            • Batterie de siège n° 1
                                            • Batterie de siège n°2
                                            • Batterie de siège n°3
                                            • Batterie de siège n°4
                                            • Batterie de siège n°5
                                            • Batterie de siège n° 6
                                            • 1er The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders[7]

                                            Royal Flying Corps Modifier

                                            Les unités du Royal Flying Corps en France étaient commandées par le brigadier-général Sir David Henderson, avec le lieutenant-colonel Frederick Sykes comme chef d'état-major.

                                            Lignes de communication des troupes de défense Modifier

                                            Un régiment de cavalerie contenait trois escadrons et était pourvu de deux mitrailleuses. Un bataillon d'infanterie contenait quatre compagnies et deux mitrailleuses.

                                            Une batterie de la Royal Horse Artillery contenait six canons de 13 livres, tandis qu'une batterie de la Royal Field Artillery contenait six canons de 18 livres, ou six obusiers de 4,5 pouces. Une batterie lourde de la Royal Garrison Artillery contenait quatre canons de 60 livres. Chaque batterie avait deux wagons de munitions par canon et chaque brigade d'artillerie contenait sa propre colonne de munitions.

                                            Chaque division a reçu en septembre un détachement antiaérien de canons à pom-pom de 1 livre, rattaché à l'artillerie divisionnaire.

                                            La division de cavalerie avait un total de 12 régiments de cavalerie dans quatre brigades, et chaque division d'infanterie avait 12 bataillons dans trois brigades. L'effectif de la division de cavalerie (sans compter la 5e brigade de cavalerie) s'élevait à 9 269 tous grades, avec 9 815 chevaux, 24 canons de 13 livres et 24 mitrailleuses. L'effectif de chaque division d'infanterie s'élevait à 18 073 tous grades confondus, avec 5 592 chevaux, 76 canons et 24 mitrailleuses.

                                            En termes numériques, le Corps expéditionnaire britannique représentait la moitié de la force de combat de l'armée britannique en tant que puissance impériale, une partie importante de l'armée devait être réservée aux garnisons d'outre-mer. La défense nationale devait être assurée par les volontaires de la Force territoriale et par les réservistes.

                                            La force totale de l'armée régulière en juillet était de 125 000 hommes dans les îles britanniques, avec 75 000 en Inde et en Birmanie et 33 000 autres dans d'autres affectations à l'étranger. La Réserve de l'Armée s'élevait à 145 000 hommes, dont 64 000 dans la Milice (ou Réserve spéciale) et 272 000 dans la Force territoriale.

                                            Service à domicile Modifier

                                            L'effectif régulier en temps de paix dans les îles britanniques était de quatre-vingt-un bataillons d'infanterie - en théorie, un bataillon de chaque régiment de ligne était déployé en service à domicile et un en service outre-mer à un moment donné, faisant tourner les bataillons toutes les quelques années - et dix-neuf régiments de cavalerie.

                                            En plus de ceux destinés au corps expéditionnaire, il y avait trois bataillons de gardes et huit d'infanterie de ligne (y compris ceux des îles anglo-normandes), soit environ l'équivalent d'une division. En fait, six bataillons de ces réguliers ont été déployés sur le continent avec le corps expéditionnaire, pour agir en tant que troupes de l'armée. Le Border Regiment et Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own (Yorkshire Regiment) ont la particularité inhabituelle d'être les deux seuls régiments d'infanterie réguliers à ne pas fournir de troupes au Corps expéditionnaire.

                                            Compte tenu des émeutes qui s'étaient produites pendant les grèves nationales de 1911 à 12, on craignait qu'il y ait des troubles à Londres au début de la guerre. Par conséquent, trois régiments de cavalerie - les 1st Life Guards, 2nd Life Guards et Royal Horse Guards - étaient stationnés dans le district de Londres et non destinés au corps expéditionnaire. . De plus, il y avait trois brigades de la Royal Field Artillery et un certain nombre de batteries de la Royal Horse Artillery, non destinées au service outre-mer.

                                            Après le départ du corps expéditionnaire, cela a laissé un effectif régulier total de trois régiments de cavalerie (un peu épuisés) et de cinq bataillons d'infanterie [12] - moins d'un dixième de la force de combat normale des forces nationales, et principalement déployés autour de Londres. Cette force défensive sera complétée par les unités de la Force Territoriale, mobilisées dès le déclenchement de la guerre — en effet, nombre d'entre elles sont déjà incarnées pour leur entraînement d'été lorsque la mobilisation est ordonnée — et par la Réserve spéciale.

                                            La Force Territoriale était prévue avec une force de mobilisation de quatorze divisions, chacune structurée selon les lignes d'une division régulière avec douze bataillons d'infanterie, quatre brigades d'artillerie, deux compagnies du génie, &c. – et quatorze brigades de cavalerie Yeomanry. Il était prévu que ces unités seraient utilisées uniquement pour la défense nationale, bien que dans le cas où presque toutes se soient portées volontaires pour le service outre-mer, les premiers bataillons arrivèrent sur le continent en novembre.

                                            Service à l'étranger Modifier

                                            Quarante-huit bataillons d'infanterie servaient en Inde - l'équivalent de quatre divisions régulières - avec cinq à Malte, quatre en Afrique du Sud, quatre en Égypte et une douzaine dans divers autres avant-postes impériaux. Neuf autres régiments de cavalerie régulière servaient en Inde, dont deux en Afrique du Sud et un en Égypte.

                                            Les forces du reste de l'Empire britannique ne devaient pas contribuer au corps expéditionnaire. Une proportion importante d'entre eux faisaient partie de l'armée indienne de dix divisions, un mélange de forces locales et de réguliers britanniques avait commencé en août 1913 à organiser la façon dont les forces indiennes pourraient être utilisées dans une guerre européenne, et un plan provisoire avait été faites pour que deux divisions d'infanterie et une brigade de cavalerie soient ajoutées au corps expéditionnaire, celles-ci ont été envoyées, dans l'événement, mais n'arrivèrent en France qu'en octobre.

                                            En fait, la plupart des unités de garnison d'outre-mer ont été retirées dès qu'elles ont pu être remplacées par des bataillons territoriaux, et de nouvelles divisions régulières ont été formées au coup par coup au Royaume-Uni. Aucune de ces unités n'est arrivée à temps pour servir dans le corps expéditionnaire.


                                            Soldats empruntés : les 27e et 30e divisions américaines et l'armée britannique sur le front d'Ypres, août-septembre 1918

                                            Ypres, ou « Wipers », comme les britanniques Tommies appelaient l'ancienne ville belge, est synonyme de la Première Guerre mondiale. Un nombre extraordinaire de vies ont été perdues là-bas et dans le saillant voisin au cours de combats apparemment sans fin au cours de quatre ans. De nombreux monuments et cimetières parsèment le paysage et rappellent les horreurs de la guerre. L'un de ces monuments rend hommage aux 27e et 30e divisions américaines. Ces deux divisions, composées en grande partie de troupes de la Garde nationale, ont reçu leur baptême du feu le 30 août-1er septembre 1918, lorsqu'elles ont engagé des forces allemandes vétérans sur l'un des points les plus élevés de la région, Kemmel Hill, et les villages environnants de Vierstraat, Vormezeele, et Wytschaete. Les Allemands avaient gagné les positions en avril de cette année mais étaient en retraite lorsque les Américains sont arrivés. Néanmoins, ils refusèrent de se retirer tranquillement et, ce faisant, donnèrent une leçon au combat le long du front ouest aux pâtissiers enthousiastes.

                                            Ruines de l'église Saint-Martin’s à Ypres, Belgique, ca. 1918. (Département de la guerre)

                                            Lorsque cette opération a commencé, les Américains étaient dans la deuxième phase d'instruction par les meilleurs soldats que les Alliés avaient à offrir. Peu de temps après son arrivée sur le front occidental au printemps 1918, le commandant des forces expéditionnaires américaines (AEF) le général John J. Pershing envoya à contrecœur les 27e et 30e divisions s'entraîner avec l'armée britannique. C'était sa façon d'apaiser le feld-maréchal Sir Douglas Haig, qui insistait pour que les petits pains américains fusionnent dans le British Expeditionary Force (BEF) pour remplir les rangs de son armée épuisée. Pershing, cependant, avait d'autres plans. Il a cherché à former une armée indépendante et a résisté à la pression constante de Haig. Ce n'est que lorsque le département américain de la Guerre a accepté une offre des Britanniques de transporter des troupes américaines en Europe que Pershing a permis aux Américains de s'entraîner avec les Tommies de Haig. De plus, Pershing a convenu que les Britanniques équiperaient, nourriraient et armeraient ses hommes, et qu'ils pourraient également être utilisés au front en cas d'urgence. Dans le cadre de ce programme d'entraînement, dix divisions américaines passèrent du temps dans le secteur britannique en tant que II Corps américain. L'accord a également profité aux Américains puisque le ministère de la Guerre ne disposait pas des moyens de transport nécessaires pour envoyer des troupes à l'étranger et n'avait pas non plus suffisamment d'armes en main pour les distribuer à chaque soldat.

                                            La paix entre les deux commandants, cependant, a été diminuée lorsque Pershing a réaffecté huit des divisions à sa première armée américaine nouvellement organisée. Pershing veut récupérer les dix divisions, mais Haig proteste avec véhémence et est autorisé à en garder deux, les 27 et 30. Ils sont restés en arrière en tant que plus petit corps de l'AEF.

                                            Haig avait maintenant environ 50 000 soldats américains frais à utiliser comme il l'entendait. Une division AEF comprenait environ 27 000 officiers et hommes, mais les 27e et 30e n'ont jamais atteint cette force. Leurs brigades d'artillerie arrivent en France séparément et sont immédiatement affectées à la 1re armée. Pershing n'attribua également de remplacements aux 27e et 30e qu'après l'armistice, signe qu'il les considérait comme de moindre importance que ses autres divisions.

                                            Avant d'arriver en France, la 27e division s'est entraînée au Camp Wadsworth, en Caroline du Sud, près d'Asheville, en Caroline du Nord, et dans les Blue Ridge Mountains. La plupart des divisions de l'armée ont été envoyées dans le sud et le sud-est des États-Unis pour y être entraînées. « Les nuits étaient extrêmement froides, mais le soleil était brûlant pendant la journée », se souvient vivement le soldat William F. Clarke, membre du 104e bataillon de mitrailleuses. Il n'était pas rare de revenir soit « d'une journée sur le terrain de forage ou d'une randonnée de dix milles, en transpirant abondamment, puis en mourant presque de froid la nuit ».

                                            Le major-général John F. O'Ryan était le commandant de la 27e division et l'officier le plus haut gradé de la Garde nationale à commander un si grand contingent de troupes pendant la guerre. Il était disciplinaire et ses troupes étaient reconnues pour leur comportement professionnel qui se classait aux côtés des unités de l'armée régulière. La division était composée de troupes de tout New York, y compris des hommes de certaines des familles les plus en vue de la ville de New York, ainsi que des agriculteurs et des ouvriers de tout l'Empire State. Avant de servir outre-mer, les New-Yorkais ont été envoyés à la frontière mexicaine en 1916 lors de l'expédition punitive en tant que 6e division, la seule unité de garde organisée de cette manière. La 27e division a adopté un insigne composé d'un cercle noir bordé de rouge avec les lettres « NYD » en monogramme avec les étoiles de la constellation d'Orion, en l'honneur de leur commandant.

                                            La 30e Division était plus typique de la Garde nationale. Composée de régiments de Caroline du Nord et du Sud et du Tennessee, la division s'est réunie au Camp Sevier, près de Greenville, en Caroline du Sud. Au cours de la guerre, neuf officiers généraux différents ont commandé la division jusqu'à ce que l'armée s'installe sur un camarade de classe de West Point de Pershing, le général de division Edward M. Lewis, qui avait auparavant dirigé la 3e brigade d'infanterie, 2e division. La 30e division, surnommée « Old Hickory » en l'honneur du président Andrew Jackson, comprenait des unités dont la lignée remontait à la guerre de 1812. Comme ceux de la 27e, les régiments des régiments de la 30e division avaient servi à la frontière mexicaine lors de l'expédition punitive.

                                            Un garçon soldat du 71e Régiment d'infanterie de la Garde nationale de New York, disant au revoir à sa bien-aimée alors que son régiment part pour Camp Wadsworth, Spartanburg, S.C., où la Division de New York s'est entraînée pour le service. 1917. IFS.

                                            Pendant plus de huit mois, les deux divisions ont suivi un entraînement physique intense, effectué des manœuvres en guerre ouverte et assisté à des conférences d'officiers britanniques et français envoyés aux États-Unis en tant que conseillers. Les unités des 27e et 30e divisions commencèrent à arriver en France au cours de la dernière semaine de mai 1918. Entrant dans les ports de Calais et de Brest, les Américains furent accueillis dans la zone de guerre avec le tonnerre lointain des pièces d'artillerie et des raids aériens allemands nocturnes. Après des jours de marche acharnée, les deux divisions ont été affectées à un secteur derrière les lignes de front britanniques pour commencer l'entraînement. Pour assurer la compatibilité avec les soldats britanniques, les Américains ont dû échanger leurs fusils bien-aimés de calibre .30 modèle 1917 contre le Lee-Enfield Mark III.

                                            Le programme de formation conçu spécifiquement pour ces divisions consistait en dix semaines d'instruction pour les troupes d'infanterie et de mitrailleuses à effectuer en trois périodes. Tout d'abord, ils se sont entraînés hors ligne pendant au moins quatre semaines, englobant l'exercice, le mousqueterie et l'exercice physique. Cela comprenait des cours particuliers sur la mitrailleuse Lewis et d'autres armes d'infanterie. Ensuite, les Américains devaient s'attacher aux troupes britanniques en ligne pendant trois semaines. Les officiers et sous-officiers entraient pour une période de quarante-huit heures, tandis que les hommes rejoignaient les compagnies et les pelotons britanniques pour des périodes plus courtes. Enfin, chaque régiment devait s'entraîner dans une zone arrière pendant trois à quatre semaines pour fournir un enseignement plus avancé. Là, les Américains s'entraînaient à manœuvrer des bataillons et des compagnies. Pour la plupart, les pâtes et les Tommies s'entendaient bien. Sans surprise cependant, les Américains se sont plaints des rations britanniques. Habitués à la nourriture américaine servie en grandes portions, ils ont plutôt reçu une petite ration de viande, du thé (au lieu de café) et du fromage.

                                            Au cours de la deuxième période d'entraînement, les 27e et 30e divisions ont été affectées à la deuxième armée britannique pour l'entraînement et se sont déplacées dans leur secteur, au sud-ouest d'Ypres, pour organiser et défendre une partie de la ligne est de Poperinghe. La position tire son nom de la ville de Poperhinghe, située à plusieurs kilomètres au nord et constituée d'un système irrégulier de tranchées, de forteresses et de casemates non reliées.

                                            Au cours de la première partie d'août, la 30e division s'est déplacée près de Poperhinghe et de Watou, où elle est passée sous le contrôle tactique du IIe corps britannique, tandis que la 27e a pris la deuxième position, ou de réserve, dans les défenses britanniques près de Kemmel Hill, sous le commandement commandement du XIX corps britannique. Cela comprenait le lac Dickebusch et les régions de Scherpenberg.

                                            Finalement, le 30e avança vers le même secteur de réserve que le 27e, laissant les deux sur la face nord du saillant de la Lys, un front qui couvrait 4 000 mètres. Le saillant a été formé dans la ligne alliée au sud d'Ypres au printemps 1918 lorsque les Allemands ont attaqué le long de la Lys pendant l'opération Georgette et ont pris Kemmel Hill aux Français. Un officier britannique a écrit que "la perte de Kemmel par les Français est bonne, nous l'avons tenue de toute façon, cela devrait les rendre moins incivils".

                                            Le saillant s'étendait du lac Zillebeke, autrefois la principale source d'approvisionnement en eau d'Ypres, au sud-est de Voormezeele. Il avait été façonné par les combats de First Ypres en 1914, et les combats ultérieurs avaient créé de profonds cratères. Le sol était très bas et les trous d'obus sont devenus de petites mares. Autour du saillant se trouvaient les hauteurs – la crête de l'Observatoire, la crête de Passchendaele, la crête de Messines-Wytschaete et la colline de Kemmel, toutes détenues par les Allemands. Ces positions laissaient à l'ennemi un champ de tir dégagé dans toutes les directions. Un Américain a observé que souvent les « hommes des systèmes avancés pensaient qu'ils étaient bombardés par leur propre artillerie, alors qu'en fait, les obus provenaient des canons ennemis à droite et à l'arrière ».

                                            Les bataillons des 119e et 120e régiments d'infanterie de la 30e division commencèrent à occuper des parties du front dans le secteur du canal, à dix milles au sud-ouest d'Ypres. Un régiment avait son camp à « Dirty Bucket », à environ quatre milles d'Ypres. Les soldats étaient logés dans des huttes construites par les Britanniques dans un bosquet de chênes assez grand pour abriter une compagnie entière (256 officiers et hommes). Les quartiers étaient loin d'être luxueux - un manque de lits de camp ou de couchettes signifiait que les soldats dormaient par terre. Pour les commandants et les officiers d'état-major des 27 et 30, cependant, c'était bien différent. La 27e maintenait son quartier général à Oudezeele, tandis que la 30e division installait son commandement à Watou, où O'Ryan et Lewis dormaient dans un confort relatif. De nombreux membres du personnel des divisions et des officiers supérieurs du régiment étaient logés dans ce qu'on appelait "Armstrong Hut". Pliables et faciles à déplacer, les côtés des huttes étaient recouverts de sacs de sable pour protéger les occupants des éclats d'obus et des éclats d'obus en cas d'éclatement d'un obus d'artillerie à proximité. Les bancs de sacs de sable mesuraient trois pieds de haut, « juste assez pour vous couvrir lorsque vous êtes allongé sur le lit de camp ».

                                            Échelle murale au Camp Wadsworth, L.C. Ca. 1918. Paul Thompson. (Département de la guerre)

                                            Les deux divisions n'étaient plus qu'à quatre milles du front et bien à portée de l'artillerie ennemie. Le 13 juillet, le soldat Robert P. Friedman, membre du 102e du génie, est décédé des suites de blessures causées par des tirs d'obus allemands et est devenu la première victime au combat subie par la 27e division. Friedman était l'un des nombreux soldats juifs, à la fois officiers et hommes de troupe, dans le 27e, et sa perte a été pleurée par tous dans la division. La 30e division a connu sa première mort liée au combat un mois plus tôt, lorsque le premier lieutenant Wily O. Bissett du 119e d'infanterie a été tué de la même manière le 17 juin.

                                            En Belgique, les Américains ont été témoins des souffrances subies par la population civile. Bien que les bombardements aient pratiquement détruit les villages autour d'Ypres, ils n'ont pas réussi à briser l'esprit du peuple flamand. Alors que les agriculteurs continuaient à cultiver leurs champs, les ingénieurs des divisions américaines de la ligne de défense East Poperinghe ont reçu l'ordre de ne pas endommager les récoltes. C'était un ordre difficile à suivre car la pose d'enchevêtrements de fils près du front impliquait de défricher une partie des récoltes malgré les protestations des agriculteurs.

                                            Pendant plusieurs nuits, du 16 au 24 août, les 27e et 30e divisions se préparent au combat. La 30e division a ordonné à sa 60e brigade d'infanterie de reprendre le secteur du canal à la 33e division britannique, située sur la face nord du saillant de la Lys au sud-ouest d'Ypres. Le 119th Infantry était sur le côté droit de la ligne, le 120th Infantry sur sa gauche. En réserve se trouvait la 59th Infantry Brigade (117th et 118th Infantry Regiments). Une semaine plus tard, la 53e brigade d'infanterie (105e et 106e régiments d'infanterie), 27e division, relève la 6e division britannique dans le secteur de Dickebusch. Il reprend les positions de front et de soutien avec des régiments côte à côte et la 54th Infantry Brigade (107th et 108th Infantry Regiments) en réserve. Les divisions britanniques laissèrent leurs unités d'artillerie pour soutenir les Américains.

                                            Les mouvements de troupes, ainsi que le transport de fournitures, ont été effectués par chemin de fer léger et menés pendant la nuit pour éviter d'attirer le feu de l'artillerie allemande sur Kemmel Hill. En avance sur les unités d'infanterie et de mitrailleuses se trouvaient la 102e (27e division) et la 105e (30e division) du génie. Ils avaient la tâche difficile et dangereuse de réparer les routes grêlées, rendues presque impraticables après trois ans de tirs d'obus. Une fois que les troupes ont atteint le front, elles ont été cantonnées dans des huttes en bois construites par des ingénieurs britanniques. Deux escouades de huit hommes, avec un caporal en charge, dormaient dans une hutte, qu'un occupant a qualifiée de spacieuse. Pour coordonner la liaison entre l'infanterie et l'artillerie, les détails des travaux devaient poser des câbles. Cela signifiait creuser une tranchée de six pieds à travers l'argile dure des Flandres qui n'était pas sans rappeler le sol de la Caroline du Sud.

                                            Chaque jour impliquait une surveillance à partir de postes d'observation et d'avions. 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 Les temps ou 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."

                                            Les références:
                                            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.



Commentaires:

  1. Ham

    Je m'excuse, ce n'est pas à moi. Merci de votre aide.

  2. Timothy

    Je pense que c'est la magnifique phrase

  3. Cai

    Le beau message

  4. Jannes

    Vous devez dire cela - dans le mauvais sens.



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