Last month we had a talk from Jim Roche on “The Somme in Context”.
His talk began by looking at the statistics of the armies deployed in the war. Britain at that point decided to concentrate on her naval power and not on foot soldiers. Countries like Germany, Russia and France had millions of soldiers, whereas Britain had only about 250,000 made up mainly of volunteers. Our soldiers were mainly raw recruits who were badly equipped and had unreliable armaments.
Our airforce was in the same situation - difficulty in obtaining and training pilots and mechanics to maintain the aircraft. Our military intelligence was also poor.
During the Somme battle the Germans had positions on the high ground, whereas the allies were on the low ground. As we know casualties on both sides were horrendous. The Germans were on the defensive with the allies pushing forward to gain ground. The main reasons for the former was that the Germans had not enough troops at that point as the bulk of their forces were fighting in Russia. Once this battle was over in 1916 the fighting continued in Europe until 1918. Before the end of the war, the British army, through volunteers and recruiting campaigns reached 8 million soldiers, which was a considerable turnaround from 250,000 in 1914. By 1918, the British army had probably the best trained army in Europe, with good aircraft, tanks and weaponry.
By the time of WW11 the British military introduced a different approach by using machine technology rather than sacrificing the numbers of soldiers lost at the Somme.
Our next meeting is on Thursday, 16 March at 7.30pm in the Session Room when we welcome Andy Bailey who will give a talk on Concorde.