Forgotten Battles

WFF

Defeating the Senussi (December 1915-March 1916): The appliance of science?

by Ewan Lawson

The campaigns in the Western Desert in the Second World War are well known with locations like Sollum and Bir El Hakim having secured their place in history. What is less well known is that this area had previously been fought over some 25 years before during the Great War. Part of the effort by Germany and Turkey to raise Islamic communities against the Entente powers, it was ultimately unsuccessful and demonstrated the sort of imaginative approach coupled with the importance of logistics that were to become features of the later campaign.

From the signing of its secret treaty with the Sublime Porte, the German government had encouraged the Ottomans to, in the words of the Kaiser, ‘inflame the whole Mohammedan world’. At the heart of this so called Jihad strategy announced in November 1914 was a desire to distract France and Britain with uprisings in their colonial territories which could also have the effect of decreasing the number of troops available to fight on the Western front. In Egypt, there was also a belief that it could lead to the cutting of the Suez Canal, critical to Britain’s support from its Asian and Australasian territories. However, many of those Islamic communities approached by missions from Istanbul, initially at least attempted to play a long game and to see where the war was heading before they committed. The Senussi of Cyrenaica were no different in this.

The Senussi were a religious order dating from the beginning of the 19th century formed to reform and purify the faith. Under their leader the Grand Senussi Sayed Ahmed they had been fighting the Italians since 1911 as they had attempted to occupy Cyrenaica. The Senussi had assumed the leadership of the tribes in the region in this campaign and whilst Sayed was an effective leader, his forces were poorly equipped and he himself was in an insecure position as he was only a nephew of his predecessor.

After a failed attempt to influence Sayed Ahmed by a German delegation in 1914, the Ottomans dispatched Nuri Bey, the half-brother of Enver Pasha, to encourage the Senussi to attack British Egypt. Through the summer of 1915, training and augmentation by the Ottomans increased the confidence of the Senussi at the same time as reverses at Gallipoli began to undermine their perceptions of British strength. However, even as late as September of that year despite a series of incidents in the vicinity of Sollum, the senior British officer who was engaged with the Senussi, a Lt Col Snow of the Egyptian Coastguard, was confident that hostilities could be avoided. Actions by German submarines off of the coast were to change that.

In November 1915, German U-boats sank two British merchant ships and handed over their crews to the Senussi who could not be persuaded even with an offer of money to return them. U-boats then attacked Egyptian Coastguard vessels in Sollum Bay, sinking one and damaging another after which the Senussi began to attack and occupy outposts around Sollum and barracks in the town itself. Particularly disturbing for the British was that a number of Egyptian troops switched sides and defected to the Senussi.

The British command recognised the danger of Senussi success for internal security in Egypt but also that Sollum was in an exposed position and there was a need to avoid an early reverse. Thus the decision was made to withdraw to Mersa Matruh some 120 miles to the East in order to concentrate forces and build up the logistic stocks needed for a campaign. The terrain along the coast was semi-desert with reasonable access to water. Inland, the terrain was harder going desert but with a number of oases, some of considerable size and supporting significant populations. On the 20 November 1915, the order was issued to establish the Western Frontier Force (WFF) under Major General Wallace at Mersa Matruh comprising of composite infantry and yeomanry brigades, as well as Australian, Indian and New Zealand troops and detachments of the Bikanir Camel Corps. By early December, this force had grown to 1400 strong and now included artillery as well as aircraft of the RFC. Wallace decided that he needed to inflict an early defeat on the Senussi in order to undermine their confidence and prestige, and so, on 11 December, sent a small expedition along the coast towards a Senussi concentration at Wadi Senab. A series of engagements followed over the next couple of days with infantry and cavalry supported by armoured cars and aircraft inflicting tactical defeats on the Senussi before the force returned to Matruh.

Having cleared a force of some 5000 Senussi with artillery and machine-guns occupying a ridge 6 miles south-west of Matruh with a dawn attack supported by naval gunfire from HMS Clematis, Wallace determined on a plan to retake Sollum. A seaborne assault on the port simultaneous with an advance on Sidi Barrani was considered unfeasible due to the easily defended position at Sollum and so it was determined instead to drive through Barrani first. The WFF had been reinforced with troops returning from Gallipoli and a large number of camels although HQ in Cairo had deliberately spread disinformation about a British withdrawal in order to fix the Senussi. At the end of February 1916, the force advanced towards Barrani attacking an entrenched enemy force to the south east of the town. Infantry advanced supported by cavalry and armoured cars and after a fierce battle the Sennusi broke and fled. Ottoman General Jaffar Pasha was captured and as in part he had been a steadying influence on the Senussi, they never again stood and awaited a British attack. Sollum was then recaptured in mid March with the Duke of Westminster and force of armoured cars pursuing the retreating enemy and eventually recovering the sailors who had been captured by German U-boats the previous year. This marked the end of the campaign on the coastal plain.

The Senussi had for some time also had a presence in the large oases of the Western desert and Siwa in particular had long been a centre of their influence. From Siwa it was possible to threaten the Nile valley through two routes; a northern through Bahariya and a southern through Dhakla and Kharga. Initially, the British adopted a defensive strategy with a combination of forts and observation from the air. However, once the campaign on the coast had been completed successfully the Senussi seemed to lose any aggression and indeed evacuated Kharga in April 1916. The British-led forces had by then established the Imperial Camel Corps from elements of the Australian divisions and the Light Horse, along with New Zealanders and British Yeomanry and Territorial infantry. The Corps, supported by armoured car patrols and air power were now responsible for securing Egypt from threats from the west as the British moved to entirely remove the Senussi challenge. A railway that had previously run to Kharga was pushed further towards Dhakla and in October 1916, near simultaneous attacks were made on both Dhakla and Bahariya using a combination of the Corps and armoured car patrols to maximise speed and mobility. Both fell with few casualties and although the bulk of the Senussi forces along with Sayed Ahmed fled to Siwa oasis, a number were captured and permanent garrisons were established.

The series of defeats suffered by the Senussi had fatally undermined confidence in Sayed Ahmed and the British began negotiations with his nephew Sayed Idris who was his rival for the leadership and who had consistently spoken against the conflict. The British, supported latterly by the Italians, attempted to capture Sayed Ahmed at Siwa oasis in January 1917. Sayed Ahmed withdrew and despite a rapid mobile operation by a mixed force of armoured cars and the Camel Corps, he managed to escape with a small number of troops to Jaghub. With British prestige in the Western Desert at an all-time high, Sayed Idris took the opportunity to accept their conditions for a peace agreement having been recognised as Grand Sheikh and Emir of Cyrenaica and Tripoli. He also reached an understanding with the Italians which lasted until 1923. Sayed Ahmed was finally smuggled out of North Africa by an Austrian submarine to Constantinople where he became a propaganda figure in the Turkish governments’ pan-Islamic movement.

This relatively unknown campaign against a relatively well-equipped and, initially at least, motivated enemy, demonstrated how technology in the form of armoured cars and aircraft, could bring a decisive edge. This lesson was to be well learned not least by Churchill who was to make it the basis for imperial policing in the Middle East in the inter-war years. It is also highlighted how it is essential to understand the nature of the logistics challenge and to be prepared where possible to give ground to allow time to build up forces to ensure later success, lessons that would characterise successes in the region in the next war.

About the author: Ewan Lawson is the Senior Research Fellow for Military Influence at the Royal United Services Institute and a former RAF officer. During his career, he worked closely with the Defence Studies Department on his research interests. He is now a PhD candidate at the School of Oriental and African Studies where he is researching the development of international regimes to deal with sexual violence in conflict. (www.unwcc.org)

Image: Western Desert Theatre of Operations Against the Senussi with thanks to http://www.1914-1918.net

Kaiser Wilhelm II., August v. Mackensen

Forgotten Battles: Gorlice-Tarnow, May-June 1915

by Dr ROBERT T. FOLEY

Undoubtedly, the year 1915 has been largely ignored, if not forgotten, by British historians of the First World War. In part, this is because the year was one of success for Central Powers and failure for the Entente. In the West, the ‘Iron Wall’ of the German army repelled numerous major Franco-British offensives with minimal losses. In the Dardanelles, Turkish forces had warded off all attacks by British and French naval and land forces and were poised to inflict a stinging defeat on the Entente. In Mesopotamia, the Turks had stopped a British advance and laid siege to this force at Kut-al-Amara. It was on the Eastern Front in 1915, however, that the Central Powers had their greatest successes. With the exception of a recent book by Richard DiNardo and one of my earlier books, these victories by the Central Powers in the east have been almost completely overlooked by Anglophone historians.

The great Austro-Hungarian-German victories began in early May 1915. Responding to increasingly desperate cries for assistance from the Austro-Hungarian High Command, which was facing an imminent collapse of its defensive front in the Carpathians, the German Chief of the General Staff, Erich von Falkenhayn, transferred eight divisions to the Eastern Front. These divisions were formed into a new army – the 11th – which was initially formed to carry out a breakthrough on the Western Front. This new army had been given Hans von Seeckt as its chief of staff. Seeckt had been chosen for this role, in part, because of his success in the limited battles of Vailly and Soissons in January 1915; Falkenhayn had hoped that Seeckt would use this experience to conduct a larger, war-winning breakthrough with the reserves the German army had now collected. Seeckt would oversee a large and successful breakthrough battle in 1915, but on the Eastern, not the Western Front.

In late April, the Central Powers collected some sixteen divisions and considerable heavy artillery southeast of Krakow. The German 11th Army was to join the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army in an attack on the Russian 3rd Army near Gorlice-Tarnow. The Austro-German force would be commanded tactically by General August von Mackensen, the 11th Army’s commander, with the Austro-Hungarian High Command directing the overall operation. The goal of what would become ‘Army Group Mackensen’ was to punch a hole through the Russian lines and threaten the flank and rear of the Russian forces advancing through the Carpathian Mountains further south.

The offensive began on 2 May and was successful beyond expectations. By 3 May, the 11th Army had captured 17,000 Russian prisoners. By 10 May, the Russian 3rd Army had retreated to the River San and had been ‘bled white’ in the words of its commander, General Radko Dmitriev; only 40,000 of its 250,000 men made it to the new defensive position. The Austro-German offensive did not stop on the San, however, but continued to punish the Russians. When the offensive was brought to a halt on 22 June, the Central Powers had advanced some 300 kilometers, had retaken Lvov, the capital of Austrian Galicia, and had inflicted enormous casualties on the Russian army; the 11th Army alone captured more than 250,000 Russian prisoners and 225 guns. The costs had been relatively light; the 11th Army suffered some 87,000 casualties in the offensive.

The Gorlice-Tarnow offensive was important to the Central Powers for a range of reasons. Strategically, the offensive relieved the pressure on the threatened Austro-Hungarian defensive positions in the Carpathians. Had the Russians broken through this line, they would have been on the Hungarian Plains with little between them and the Hungarian capital Budapest. The heavy casualties suffered by the Russians also did serious damage to the Russian army as a fighting force. In a report on 6 June Capt. J.F. Nielson, a British liaison officer, described the Russian army as a ‘harmless mob’ as a result of the offensive. The weakened Russian army would suffer even more later in the summer.

The battle also had important tactical implications for the Central Powers. The German army believed several factors were crucial for its successes. The first of these was surprise. The offensive was agreed by Falkenhayn and executed by the 11th Army in the space of only 20 days. German troops only began arriving on 17 April, with their deployment finished on 29 April. German troops did not move into attack positions until 1 May, and any German officer who went into the frontline before this time had to wear Austrian uniform. With such short timeframes, the Russian defenders had little time to identify German units opposing them. This alone helped ensure that when the attack came, the Russian would be surprised.

Second, the attacking force of the Central Powers collected over 1,000 guns, which overwhelmed the Russian artillery. The attackers also eschewed a long preparatory bombardment. The Central Powers began ‘harassing fire’ on the evening of 1 May, but only delivered a four-hour bombardment as a prelude to the infantry assault on 2 May. This bombardment was intensive, however, and designed to stun the Russian defenders rather than destroy their defenses. Drawing on the experiences of Vailly and Soissons, the artillery was assigned targets most appropriate to gun types; howitzers and mortars concentrated their fire on Russian trenches and wire, while flat trajectory cannon destroyed Russian bunkers and hit concentration areas. The 11th Army also made use of Feuerwelle, or fire periods, which saw different intensities of fire followed up by observation.

Third, the 11th Army’s attack orders stipulated that momentum of advance was to be kept at all times until the final objectives were reached. The Austro-German attacking units were deployed in depth, rather than breadth. Each unit was to draw upon its own reserves keep the momentum of the attack and was to drive forward regardless of progress by its neighbors. Mackensen and Seeckt expected these deep penetrations would be mutually supporting, as they would keep the Russians off balance.

The Central Powers would return to these tactical concepts and put them to good use later in 1915. They also reinforced the lessons of the German limited offensives on the Western Front in late 1914 and early 1915. While German soldiers recognized clearly that the Russians were a far less competent enemy than the French or the British and that the operations situation was far different on the Western Front, the success of the offensive at Gorlice-Tarnow stood in stark contrast to the Entente failures on the Western Front and on Gallipoli. It helped convince German soldiers that their tactical methods were superior to their enemies, even on the Western Front. The tactics employed by the Germans at Gorlice-Tarnow and elsewhere on the Eastern Front in 1915 would influence Falkenhayn heavily in his concept for the offensive at Verdun in early 1916.

Image: Kaiser Wilhelm II photographed with Hans von Seeckt and August von Mackensen outside the 11th Army headquarters sometime in spring 1915. Photo courtesy of the Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R11105.

Map_tonkin_autumn_1947

Forgotten Battles: Operation Léa, Oct-Nov 1947: A wild gamble at finishing the Indochina War?

Forgotten Battles is a feature on Defence-in-Depth designed to bring long-lost battles back from the depths of history. Our authors have chosen these engagements because they believe that their significance has been overlooked or overshadowed by better-remembered battles in history. The significance of the chosen battles may have been strategic and influenced greatly a particular war or campaign or may be based on other factors, such as social or cultural impact or the way in which a battle shaped the thinking of future leaders.

by DR MIKE FINCH

What if Ho Chi Minh had been killed in 1947?

If the question seems like a frivolous counter-factual, then it’s worth pointing out that it very nearly happened.

On 7 October that year the French Armed Forces launched Operation Léa, an offensive which brought together some 12,000 men under the command of General Raoul Salan. The principal aim of the operation was to seize the political-military leaders of the Viet Minh and smash their armed forces in their base area, a roughly triangular region of northern Tonkin known as the Viet Bac.

The plan was not without a touch of audacity. In the initial stage an airborne force was to be dropped directly on the key settlements of Bac Kan, Cho Don, and Cho Moi. At the same time, a stronger force of infantry, armour, and artillery would travel along route coloniale 4 (RC4), the main road from Lang Son to Cao Bang which passed roughly parallel to the Chinese border, before heading southwest to support the airborne force. Meanwhile, an amphibious force would travel up the Red River to provide support from the south.

Although the airborne assault plan for the opening day had been discovered by the Viet Minh intelligence network as early as 5 October, this information reached the HQ at Bac Kan just minutes before the first paratroopers hit the ground. As a result, Ho Chi Minh and General Vo Nguyen Giap barely managed to escape. French soldiers reported finding Ho’s daily correspondence, awaiting his signature, still laid out on his desk.

For the French, the semi-shock of the opening minutes proved to be the high point of an operation that quickly bogged down. The very act of transporting the 1,000-odd paratroopers to the drop zone over the Viet Bac took multiple trips over several hours. On the RC4, the mixed French column progressed slowly, only reaching the vicinity of Bac Kan by 13 October. The amphibious force moved more slowly still. The Viet Minh forces, meanwhile, were able to regroup and withdraw. After just over a month Operation Léa was called off.

The US-based academic Bernard B. Fall described Operation Léa as ‘a wild gamble at finishing the war in one single master stroke.’ Indeed, it is tempting to view the operation simply as an early milestone in a war of flawed operations, culminating in the ultimate catastrophe at Dien Bien Phu. Read in this way, Operation Léa offers further proof of the French army’s failure to understand the character of the war in which it was engaged, whether in attempting a pincer movement in a ‘war without fronts’ or utilizing armour in an inappropriate environment.

Yet such a conclusion does not tell the whole story. The First Indochina War – just like any war – had its own ebb and flow, and this offers a key to understanding why decisions were taken.

In 1947 the war was young. In Tonkin, fighting had broken out in the port of Haiphong and spread to Hanoi in December 1946. Over the winter, however, French forces succeeded in beating back Viet Minh troops from Tonkin’s delta region. Having fallen back on their base area in the Viet Bac, the Viet Minh position was one of relative weakness. And they could count on little outside support. Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War was several years off. Indeed, Ho had only recently managed to negotiate the withdrawal of Nationalist Chinese forces, which had moved into Tonkin along with the British following the defeat of the Japanese. Given these developments it is less surprising that the French Commander-in-Chief, Jean Étienne Valluy, felt confident that his forces could deliver a decisive result in the near future.

And there were other reasons why the need for decision was pressing. Thousands of miles away another imperial conflagration was erupting. The Madagascar uprising, which began in March 1947, resulted in the immediate diversion of a colonial division bound for Indochina. Even before these events, it was apparent that the government in Paris – primarily concerned, it must be remembered, with the reconstruction of France and wary of expensive imperial commitments – wanted to reduce troop numbers in Indochina, not increase them. And unlike in the war in Algeria that would follow, in Indochina the use of conscripts to bolster troop numbers was not deemed a viable option. Given the likelihood of future constraints, it was preferable to seek a short, sharp blow. Whilst this entailed the use of formations better suited to conventional war – armour in particular – the effectives available in 1947 were significant. As Fredrik Logevall has recently pointed out, Operation Léa was ‘almost certainly […] the largest military action in French colonial history to that point.’

Of course, such considerations cannot turn failure into success. Valluy and Salan discovered to their cost the difficulties of applying modern military forces across Tonkin’s thick jungles, steep peaks, and snaking rivers. These difficulties were compounded by a flimsy infrastructure that decades of colonial rule had done little to improve. The RC4, nominally a main arterial route, could hardly be described as a modern road: in places, one broken down truck could halt an entire column for hours. Unsurprisingly, the road became a notorious ambush spot. Even the seasons militated against swift success, as the French discovered in 1947. The long, rainy summer months brought the campaigning season to a close, thereby draining offensive momentum and allowing defenders to regroup. In this sense, the French were confronting many of the same challenges that they had faced in the consolidation of the region some sixty years prior, challenges that I explored in my recent book on the development of the French method for colonial pacification.

In that era, French ‘success’ had taken over a decade to achieve. In the post-Second World War era, it took the Viet Minh almost a decade to force a French withdrawal. Both were long and tumultuous processes. A heavy focus on the Battle of Dien Bien Phu as a sort of Battle of Tsushima for the age of decolonization – encapsulating the futility of the French fight, and indeed that of the West more broadly – may suggest the inevitability of defeat. But this, of course, is to read a war backwards. From the vantage point of 1947, French defeat in the Indochina War did not appear inevitable. Operation Léa, however flawed, was shaped by the strategic conditions of its time, and represented a serious attempt at resolving the burgeoning conflict in Indochina before it escalated further.

Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Map_tonkin_autumn_1947.jpg

Vailly Map

Forgotten Battles: Vailly, 30 October 1914

Forgotten Battles is a new feature on Defence-in-Depth designed to bring long-lost battles back from the depths of history. Our authors have chosen these engagements because they believe that their significance has been overlooked or overshadowed by better-remembered battles in history. The significance of the chosen battles may have been strategic and influenced greatly a particular war or campaign or may be based on other factors, such as social or cultural impact or the way in which a battle shaped the thinking of future leaders.

by DR ROBERT T. FOLEY

In the aftermath of the battle of the Marne, the German armies had withdrawn to defensive positions along the Aisne River. This river, 50-65 meters wide in many places, offered the battered German army a strong defensive position. Moreover, the northern bank occupied by the Germans was the high ground, giving them good observation behind the Anglo-French lines. However, in several places, the French and British armies had been able to secure bridgeheads across the Aisne, which threatened the German defensive position.

In order to secure their position, the German 1st Army executed a large-scale ‘attack with limited objectives.’ On 30 October, troops of the 5th and 6th Infantry Divisions of the III Army Corps, supported by considerable heavy artillery from the 1st Army, attacked the French 69th Reserve Division around Vailly. Their objectives were to seize the heights around Vailly and in the process throw the French defenders back across the Aisne in this area of the front. The infantry assault began at 0830 after an intensive artillery preparation. Within 7 hours, the German troops had taken all their objectives.

As battles go on the Western Front during the First World War, this was a minor affair. However, the significance of this battle far outreached its minor tactical success of strengthening the 1st Army’s defensive position. Immediately, in stark contrast to the costly failures of the attacks of the German 4th and 6th Armies in Flanders and around Ypres, the 1st Army’s battle at Vailly secured its objectives quickly and with only limited (ca. 2,000) casualties. With hindsight, though, we can see two areas in which the battle as of lasting significance for the German army during the rest of the war.

Personnel

The success of the III Army Corps’ operation at Vailly is significant for the experience it gave a number of personnel who were catapulted to important positions based, in part, on the success of the battle. The chief of staff of the III Army Corps was then-Oberst Hans von Seeckt. Seeckt played a central role in planning and executing the operation. Indeed, his performance in this battle and the III Army Corps’ later battle around Soissons in January 1915 led to his assignment as chief of staff of a newly formed 11th Army. This army was initially to lead a German breakthrough operation on the Western Front in 1915, but was diverted east in April to support the Austro-Hungarian army against the Russians. In May, as chief of staff to August von Mackensen’s 11th Army, he planned and executed one of the war’s most successful breakthrough battles at Gorlice-Tarnow.

Seeckt was accompanied to the east by then-Oberst Richard von Berendt. Overshadowed by the self-publicity of Georg Bruchmüller, Berendt has been largely forgotten by history, but he was undoubtedly one of the most important German artillerists of the war. During the battle of Vailly, Berendt served as the artillery adviser to the 1st Army, and in this role shaped the artillery side of the battle. In the summer of 1915, he became the artillery adviser to Army Group Gallwitz and in the position played an important role in the destruction of the Russian army in Poland.

Finally, Seeckt’s operations officer was then-Major Georg Wetzell. While much of the III Army Corps’ staff went east to participate in the successful 1915 campaign against the Russians, Wetzell remained on the Western Front. When Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff formed the 3rd Oberste Heeresleitung in August 1916, Wetzell joined as operations officer and became Ludendorff’s right-hand man.

Doctrine

The battle at Vailly was not simply significant because it helped important individuals rise to prominence within the German army. The battle also offered important lessons about fighting in trench warfare. The 1st Army produced an after-action report – the first such report of a specific battle to be shared widely throughout the German army – in which the army highlighted what it felt to be important lessons for fighting in the new type of warfare now seen on the Western Front.

Unsurprisingly, the use of artillery dominated this report. Vailly was the first time that an army-level artillery adviser was used to coordinate the effects of field and heavy artillery. Indeed, the report went into considerable detail about how specific types of guns were used on specific targets: 10-cm cannon were best used in enfilade against specific distant enemy targets; heavy howitzers and 21-cm mortars were found to be of best use against enemy field fortifications; field guns proved to be of more limited utility in trench warfare. The artillery adviser controlled the various batteries available for the attack and made sure that they specific types of artillery were put to best use. He also was able to concentrate the fire of a larger number of batteries of various calibres than had yet been done in the war to date and controlled artillery from numerous army corps in support of the III Army Corps’ attack.

Targets for the artillery were chosen, in part, by the results of aerial reconnaissance. For the first time in the war for the German army, aircraft were used to photograph enemy emplacements and artillery. The results of these photographs were plotted on maps by artillerymen to calculate exact locations and ranges.

Artillery techniques were also highlighted in the after-action report. The III Army Corps made the first use of Feuerwelle, or fire periods, in the German army during the war. The artillery preparation was to take place in five periods over the night and early morning of 29/30 October. In the pauses between each of these periods, patrols were pushed forward to assess damage and to adjust artillery fire. Each wave of fire was different lengths of time from half an hour to an hour and a half, a conscious decision to keep defenders guessing about German intentions. The fifth wave was designed to be particularly intense to shock the enemy defenders prior to the infantry assault. Moreover, the III Army Corps developed an early form of Feuerwalze, or moving barrage. As the infantry advanced, German supporting fire was lifted forward to prearranged points on the battlefield. These barrages were also used to block off parts of the battlefield in an attempt to prevent enemy reinforcement. These new techniques gave the attacking infantry some protection from enemy infantry. Indeed, one post-war observer, Artur Bullrich, went so far as to write ‘Fire waves, rolling barrages, and box barrages were all born of the planning for battle of Vailly.’

The 1st Army’s after-action report went on to highlight what would be key aspects of attacks in trench warfare – the need for careful planning before any attack; the importance of very close infantry-artillery cooperation during the assault; and the importance of setting objectives realistic for the forces at hand. Although battle of Vailly would be quickly overshadowed by other, larger-scale battles, the success of the III Army Corps served as the model of a new type of battle for a new type of warfare and the lessons of the battle were quickly learned by the rest of the German army.

For more First World War research at the Defence Studies Department, see the First World War Research Group page.

For more on Vailly, see

Richard von Berendt, ‘Der General der Artillerie bei einem Armeeoberkommando,’ Artilleristische Rundschau (1928/29): 135-140.

Artur Bullrich, ‘Der Angriff auf Vailly am 30.Oktober 1914 als Ausgangspunkt entscheidender neuer Grundsätze der deutschen Kriegführung,’ Wissen und Wehr (1920): 257-270.

Bruce I. Gudmundsson, On Artillery (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1993).