Who won WW1?

I don’t see how you can credit the British Expeditionary Force with winning the first world war. The French alone appear to have inflicted higher casualties on the Germans than the British empire and also suffered considerably higher casualties so giving Haig credit seems a bit silly.

Um, which post are you quoting?

But yes, the French did a large part for victory at Verdun…

An earlier post by PDF27 suggested that the British Expeditionary force was the most decisive factor in the first world war and I disagreed with this assessment. I don’t see how you can give them the most credit for winning the war when their contribution to victory was less than that of France alone to say nothing of the other allies.

The French stopped the Germans. The British beat them. The war in the west can essentially be divided into two phases (it would have been three had the war continued into 1919).

  1. German attacks. This phase essentially lasted from the declaration of war until the first day of the Somme. By and large, it consisted of Germans attacking and French largely fighting and dying in place (with some local counterattacks) to hold them. The Battle of Verdun (while it continued after the first day of the Somme) belongs in this phase. Essentially, the French army was tactically successful in it’s objective of holding the Germans and stabilizing the front and failed strategically in that it was bled white and until the German army had been run through the mincing machine in 1916/17 was unable to carry out successful offensive actions. They played a (successful) minor part on the Somme, fought a number of successful defensive actions in summer 1918 (although the British took the brunt of the offensive) and were nearly broken by their own offensive in the Chemin des Dames.
  2. Allied attacks. Prior to the hundred days, this was largely a British/Dominion affair. While they had a very bloody apprenticeship (notably at the start of the battle of the Somme), it had the desired effect of running the Germans through a meat grinder (for instance roughly 80 German divisions were crippled or destroyed on the Somme). Apart from the Chemin des Dames offensive, the French were pretty quiet in this area until the hundred days, when Foch was convinced that the Germans had shot their bolt and ordered all the Allied armies into the attack together.
  3. Had the war continued into 1919, the US contribution would have become decisive - towards the end of the war their contribution was roughly similar to that of Belgium, but was rapidly ramping up to be equivalent to all the other states put together.

A good example of the way the Germans went through the meat grinder at the hands of the British from 1916-18 can be found in the breaking of the Hindenberg line (OK, more than breaking - the whole thing was taken by storm, largely by the British).

Another one is at Ypres. In 1918, the British and Belgians captured in 2 days what had taken them 3 months in 1917. The only plausible explanation is that the German army was coming apart at the seams, and the overwhelming majority of the fighting between November 1917 and August 1918 was done by the BEF.

In terms of casualties, French casualties for the war as a whole were roughly 10-20% higher than British/Dominion casualties. However, the French started the war with very badly flawed tactics (counterattacking bayonet charges against machine guns for instance) and a concept that nothing mattered except the advance, carried out with the bayonet and driven through with French élan.
Accordingly, they suffered horrendously in the initial German attack (far worse than the British on the first day of the Somme) and this largely accounts for their high casualties. Take this out, and the French casualties would have been marginally lower than those of Britain and the Empire.

Oh, and some numbers for you from the hundred days offensive:
The BEF captured 188,700 prisoners and 2,840 guns.
The French and Belgians combined captured 154,700 prisoners and 2,354 guns.
The Americans captured 43,000 prisoners and 1,421 guns.

It should be noted at this point that the French army of 1918 was substantially larger than the BEF…

I agree with most of the above assessment. Unfortunately the French leadership was very uneven and their initial counter-thrust into German was poorly though out. But Verdun may have been the single biggest factor in the defeat of the German Army in WWI. But the French were damaged to the point of mutiny making them only effective in defensive actions and combat ineffective until at least 1918 in offensive ones.

The British offensives were ever important. But we cannot forget that the American contribution is what drove the Germans to launch a desperate offensive in 1918 in order to knock France out of the War before the US could overwhelm them. In a sense, even the threat of US arms haunted German commanders and forced desperate gambles that caused them to attrit their forces. Despite fumbling badly as far as tactics (US commanders often arrogantly dismissed British advice), the Belleau Wood (showing that even green US Marines could quickly match German experience with higher morale and the blissful ignorance of the horrors of War) and the sheer exuberance overall of fresh US soldiers and Marines demoralized the Germans, whose soldiers had been ground down by fours years of near constant battle.

Also, it should be noted that German advances in 1918 were severally hindered not just by Allied resistance, but by the fact that their own Army was becoming unglued and German soldiers began to ignore orders and gorged themselves in captured French towns on foodstuffs and alcohol as they devolved often into a looting mob. I think this was no small problem according to some historians as the British, French, and certainly the US troops were much better fed and it was noticed that while German soldiers were certainly not emaciated, the blockade had no small effect on the overall poor nutrition and redundant died of German soldiers, and certainly of German’s overall…

Was it? I’m just not sure about that one. There were a hell of a lot of factors at work, and that is only the most commonly quoted one. Off the top of my head and in no particular order…

  1. With the capitulation of the Russians at Brest-Litovsk, the Germans suddenly had a sizeable army doing nothing. It was always going to go to the Western Front, as that was the decisive theatre of the war, and just leaving it as a reserve is the sort of strategy that will never appeal to any army commander unless they’re on the verge of defeat and screaming out for more men. Realistically, it was always going to be used for an attack somewhere as and when it became available.
  2. The German supply situation was parlous and getting more so, despite the huge areas of farmland, etc. taken from the Russians. Substantial numbers of people were suffering from malnutrition in Germany by this point.
  3. The Germans had finally realised from the battering they took in 1916/17 that being on the defensive in a war of attrition didn’t mean they would take substantially lower casualties, and they also knew that taking equal casualties to the allies would mean they lost the war. Hence, business as usual would lead to them losing.
  4. The US had entered the war, with the promise of substantial additional strength arriving in late 1918/early 1919. This has the same effect as (3) - both mean that war past the end of 1918 is bad news for Germany.
  5. The British at Ypres and Cambrai had demonstrated the ability to crack just about any German defensive position, and the first glimmerings of mobile warfare were starting to reappear. This raised the possibility of successfully fighting a war of manouver, and offered hope of a way out of the stalemate*.

Agreed on the first point, not nearly so convinced on the second - I would expect the reverse to be true, and the Germans to be relieved to be fighting a less effective enemy.

Taken from “Forgotten Victory” by Gary Sheffield, page 254.

I think the effect this had on the German offensive can easily be overstated. I’ve just finished reading Ernst Jünger’s Storm of Steel (In Stahlgewittern), about his time in the trenches, and from it it is clear both that the German troops in the offensive at this time were amazed at the amount of food/equipment they found in the trenches they took and that they did indeed participate in a certain amount of looting (as Jünger did himself). However, if his account is anything to go by it had a pretty minor effect on the offensive and indeed may have helped it by reducing the logistics difficulties. Far more problematical for them was the fact that they simply outran their artillery support, and so were unable to deal with the improvised British defences towards the rear areas.

  • Interestingly the British drew the opposite conclusion from these same successes - that fighting battles for very limited territorial objectives and stopping before you outrun your artillery was the way forward. This largely explains why the Kaiserslacht ground to a halt when and where it did, while the British offensive of the hundred days just kept grinding on and on.

Yes well, how did they explain the fact that they were defeated in a culmination of three successive battles, then? :lol:

Even an inferior enemy was blunting their attacks and this as the French urged the Marines to retreat. And I think his commentary must have been about the wheat field attack which was only a small part of the battle, most of which was in the wooded area…

I think the effect this had on the German offensive can easily be overstated. I’ve just finished reading Ernst Jünger’s Storm of Steel (In Stahlgewittern), about his time in the trenches, and from it it is clear both that the German troops in the offensive at this time were amazed at the amount of food/equipment they found in the trenches they took and that they did indeed participate in a certain amount of looting (as Jünger did himself). However, if his account is anything to go by it had a pretty minor effect on the offensive and indeed may have helped it by reducing the logistics difficulties. Far more problematical for them was the fact that they simply outran their artillery support, and so were unable to deal with the improvised British defences towards the rear areas.

I recall this, but I think John Keegan goes into some depth about this. Unfortunately, the book is not with me…

My understanding was that the French inflicted heavier casualties on the Germans than the British empire did in 1914, 1915 and 1916. They may also have killed and wounded more Germans in 1918 though the British empire may have captured more Germans this year. If the British contribution was so decisive than what about all the Germans killed, wounded and captured on the French sector of the front?

Churchill tries to provide a breakdown of German casualties oppossite the Franco-Belgian and British empire fronts during the war but this is not very satisfactory because the losses are not differentiated by sector for 1914, the stats for Germans missing and POW seem to be inaccurate and there was also an underreporting of casualties that was not corrected until later.

I have seen different numbers given for BEF casualties on the western front but I believe the vast majority of French casualties were on the western front. It appears that French combat deaths on the western front were higher than BEF combat deaths there in 1914, 1915, 1916 and 1918 while BEF combat deaths were only higher in 1917. Just what exactly was killing all these Frenchmen if the BEF was doing most of the fighting?

Lads what to hell the France in ww1 has deel to Eastern front brutality in during ww2?

Well I believe that many German Generals of WWII were veterans of the first conflict. Why were the German veterans of the first conflict so much more brutal the second time? What casued the people to change so much?

Nazy race ideology…
Did hear about it?
What make the “veteran of ww1” Adolf Hitler to start the ethnicl clearising and persecutions in GErmany?

There was the common (mis)perception that the German Army was “never defeated in the field” and was “stabbed in the back” by (Jewish?) bankers…

I think the “Jewish bankers” has rised on the surface bit later.
Initially Hitler blaimed the “National traitors from Gov” in 1918 fro German final failure.

At the point of surrender, or strictly the Armistice, the German military leadership knew it was beaten. Ludendorff had sufficient power to wage his total war for a couple of years (with no success) and to force the Foreign Minister to resign when in mid-1918 the Minister suggested negotiating with the Allies. When Ludendorff’s final offensive failed, he was the one who recognised that Germany was beaten, courtesy of his various failures, and his actions and decisions and those of the military he led were the source of Germany’s surrender.

The ‘stab in the back’ claims came later. That was just a beaten military and beaten nation looking for an excuse for its military failure, and the nation understanably looking all the harder because of the misrepresentation of its successes from the leadership during the war.

The stab in the back claim is always a convenient excuse for military and / or political failure, as described in more detail in the article quoted below.

There is no sense in the Nazis blaming the WWI surrender on powerful Jewish interests as a stab in the back when the basis of Nazi propaganda was that Jews were untermensch. Untermensch could hardly get themselves into positions of power to defeat ubermensch. Nonetheless, like much Nazi propaganda and other stab in the back theories, it didn’t have to make sense, just identify a minority group which somehow undermined the much more powerful government and the military and forced them to surrender at the point of victory, which excuses all military and political failures. Like the peace movement which in the minds of some deprived America of military victory in Vietnam rather than, say, the bunch of corrupt bastards running SVN and its military who had rather more to do with military failure in the field than a bunch of students occupying a university building in California.

Here is an interesting exploration of the stab in the back notion as a form of nationalism and then its relationship with specific elements of German cultural history.

Every state must have its enemies. Great powers must have especially monstrous foes. Above all, these foes must arise from within, for national pride does not admit that a great nation can be defeated by any outside force. That is why, though its origins are elsewhere, the stab in the back has become the sustaining myth of modern American nationalism. Since the end of World War II it has been the device by which the American right wing has both revitalized itself and repeatedly avoided responsibility for its own worst blunders. Indeed, the right has distilled its tale of betrayal into a formula: Advocate some momentarily popular but reckless policy. Deny culpability when that policy is exposed as disastrous. Blame the disaster on internal enemies who hate America. Repeat, always making sure to increase the number of internal enemies.

As the United States staggers past the third anniversary of its misadventure in Iraq, the dagger is already poised, the myth is already being perpetuated. To understand just how this strategy is likely to unfold—and why this time it may well fail—we must return to the birth of a legend.

The stab in the back first gained currency in Germany, as a means of explaining the nation’s stunning defeat in World War I. It was Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg himself, the leading German hero of the war, who told the National Assembly, “As an English general has very truly said, the German army was ‘stabbed in the back.’”

Like everything else associated with the stab-in-the-back myth, this claim was disingenuous. The “English general” in question was one Maj. Gen. Neill Malcolm, head of the British Military Mission in Berlin after the war, who put forward this suggestion merely to politely summarize how Field Marshal Erich von Ludendorff—the force behind Hindenburg—was characterizing the German army’s alleged lack of support from its civilian government.

“Ludendorff’s eyes lit up, and he leapt upon the phrase like a dog on a bone,” wrote Hindenburg biographer John Wheeler-Bennett. “‘Stabbed in the back?’ he repeated. ‘Yes, that’s it exactly. We were stabbed in the back.’”

Ludendorff’s enthusiasm was understandable, for, as he must have known, the phrase already had great resonance in Germany. The word dolchstoss—“dagger thrust”—had been popularized almost fifty years before in Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. After swallowing a potion that causes him to reveal a shocking truth, the invincible Teutonic hero, Siegfried, is fatally stabbed in the back by Hagen, son of the archvillain, Alberich.

Wagner had himself lifted his plot device from a medieval German poem, which was inspired in turn by Old Norse folklore, and of course the same story can be found in a slew of ancient mythologies, whether it’s the fate of the Greek heroes Achilles and Hercules or the story of Jesus and Judas. The hero cannot be defeated by fair means or outside forces but only by someone close to him, resorting to treachery.

The Siegfried legend in particular, though, has nuances that would mesh perfectly with right-wing mythology in the twentieth century, both in Germany and in the United States. At the end of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, the downfall of the gods is followed by the rise of the Germanic people. The mythological hero has been transformed into the volk, just as heroic stature is granted to the modern state. Siegfried is killed just after revealing an unwelcome truth—much as the right, when pressed for evidence about its conspiracy theories, will often claim that these are hidden truths their enemies have a vested interest in concealing. Hagen, as a half-breed, an outsider posing as a friend, stands in for something worse yet—the assimilated Jew, able to betray the great warrior of the volk by posing as his boon companion.

It was an iconography easily transferable to Germany’s new, postwar republic. Hitler himself would claim that while recuperating behind the lines from a leg wound, he found Jewish “slackers” dominating the war-production bureaucracy and that “the Jew robbed the whole nation and pressed it beneath his domination.” The rape imagery is revolting but vivid; Hitler was already attuned to the zeitgeist of his adopted country. Even before the war had been decided, a soldier in his company recalled how Corporal Hitler would “leap up and, running about excitedly, say that in spite of our big guns, victory would be denied us, for the invisible foes of the German people were a greater danger than the biggest cannon of the enemy.”

It didn’t matter that Field Marshal Ludendorff had in fact been the virtual dictator of Germany from August of 1916 on, or that the empire’s civilian leaders had been stunned by his announcement, in September of 1918, that his last, murderous offensives on the western front had failed, and that they must immediately sue for peace. The suddenness of Germany’s defeat only supported the idea that some sort of treason must have been involved. From this point on, all blame would redound upon “the November criminals,” the scheming politicians, reds, and above all, Jews.

Yet it was necessary, for the purging that the Nazis had in mind, to believe that the national degeneration went even further. Jerry Lembcke, in his brilliant work, The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam, writes of how the Nazis fostered the dolchstosslegende in ways that eerily foreshadowed returning veteran mythologies in the United States. Hermann Göring, the most charismatic of the Nazi leaders after Hitler, liked to speak of how “very young boys, degenerate deserters, and prostitutes tore the insignia off our best front line soldiers and spat on their field gray uniforms.” As Lembcke points out, any insignia ripping had actually been done by the mutinous soldiers and sailors who would launch a socialist uprising shortly after the war, tearing them off their own shoulders or those of their officers. Göring’s instant revisionism both covered up this embarrassing reality and created a whole new class of villains who were—in his barely coded language—homosexuals, sexually threatening women, and other “deviants.” All such individuals would be dealt with in the new, Nazi order.

Oh, okay Mr. threadjacker! :wink:

Nothing, that’s why pdf split it off…

I do not like to refer to the 1914-18 and 1939-45 as WWI and WWII because I am doubtful whether these conflicts should be numbered that way. They may have been world wars but the War of the Austrian Succession, Seven Years War and Napoleonic Wars also seem worthy of being called world wars so I will refer to the conflicts as the 1914-18 and 1939-45 conflicts.

Anyway, one problem I have with comparing the Soviet contribution in 1939-45 and the BEF in 1914-18 is that it appears a far larger proportion of German casualties were suffered on the eastern front in 1939-45 than against the BEF in 1914-18. It has been convincingly argued that the eastern front accounted for over 80% of German military fatalities suffered over the course of the entire war. However, I have not found any source that claims that the BEF accounted for anywhere near such a high percentage of German casualties and fatalities. Does anyone feel that more than 80% of German combat deaths over the entire course of the war were inflicted by the BEF? I don’t see how you can credit them with inflicting casualties to compare with the Soviets.

German allies such as Finland, Hungary and Romania also suffered most (if not all) of their casualties on the eastern front whereas I do not think this is the case for any of Germanys allies on the western front in 1914-18 regardless of what one thinks the BEF was doing.

It also appears that the eastern front accounted for a greater percentage of the fighting in 1939-45 than the western front in 1914-18. In 1914-18 there was also a great deal of carnage on the western front and the Italian front.

I have seen different figures given for British empire casualties during the war and for the western front. Winston Churchill suggests the BEF suffered 684,000 fatalities on the western front while another source claims the British army had 616,552 dead of all causes in France along with 239,580 prisoners or missing.

To say that they “broke the main strength of the German army in the field” does not imply that it caused 80% of the German casualties. Rather, they caused sufficient casualties that the German army could no longer hold positions against them and had to sue for peace. This can be credited to the BEF because they were doing the majority of the fighting - from about Verdun until 2nd Marne the French fought few battles and achieved less. The Italians did very little apart from lose badly - e.g. Caporetto - while the US never really arrived in strength before the Armistice. The Russians did reasonably well early in the war, but were broken by internal revolution very early.