Military Review

"Michael". The March offensive of the 1918 Kaiser army in France. Part of 2

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Since the end of 1917, the German General Staff has strained all its organizational and operational capabilities to prepare a crushing blow.


The 44 divisions were redeployed from the Eastern Front (but in the last spring 1918 still remained until the 50 divisions). In March, on the French front, the Germans managed to concentrate the 181 division (in April, the figure rose to 195) - creating superiority over the Allies in the number of formations.

The forces of the Germans were distributed between 4 army groups: 1) group of the Crown Prince of Bavaria Ruprecht - 4-I, 6-I, 17-I and 2-I army - occupied the right front from Ostend to Boen; 2) The Kronprinz Group of the Germanic - 18-I, 7-I, 1-I and 3-I armies - was the center of the front from Boen to the eastern edge of the Argon Forest; 3) M. von Galvitz’s group — the 5 Army and Group C — provided the left bank of the r. The Moselle from the eastern edge of Argon to Pagni and, finally, 4) the group of the Duke of Württemberg Albrecht - 19-I army and groups A and B - covered the front to the Swiss border.

"Michael". The March offensive of the 1918 Kaiser army in France. Part of 2

6. Kronprinz Ruprecht of Bavaria.

Despite the difficult combat tests, the combat readiness of the German infantry divisions, which had in their composition 3 (instead of the previous 4) regiments, stood still at the proper height. In tactical terms, the German troops were trained and retrained in winter on the basis of the instruction “Offensive battle in the conditions of positional warfare”, specially issued on the eve of the upcoming offensive. Light machine guns were introduced into the infantry company. Actively used tools for direct infantry support. The infantry regiment had a mortar company and flamethrower squads. But serious tank no connections. E. von Ludendorff exclaimed confidently: “The tank was primarily an offensive means of struggle; but our attacks succeeded even without a tank. " The tank by the German General Staff was greatly underestimated.

Under the influence of tank attacks of the Allies, the troops were actively trained in the basics of anti-tank defense. Assault were formed aviation detachments. Serious were the successes in the combat training of artillery. "Manual" provided for the possibility of opening fire to defeat without prior fire. The fire was supposed to be conducted during the offensive - in the form of a fire shaft advancing ahead of the infantry. To achieve the latter, an approximate calculation determined the rate of advance of the fire shaft - one kilometer per hour. While practicing the interaction of artillery and infantry, in January - February 1918 the German command took the divisions intended for the offensive to the rear - where the latter practiced attacking the enemy’s fortified position, acting under cover of a fire shaft.


7. German infantrymen. 1918

Thus, the offensive technique in a positional war was developed and mastered by the troops. In tactical terms, the preparation was very serious.

The situation with the material support of the forthcoming operation was worse. There was a noticeable lack of horse and forage (this was one of the reasons for division of divisions into positional and shock divisions - only the latter had the necessary number of draft horses for artillery and carts). Quarterly supplies, clothing and food left much to be desired.

The morale of the German troops was noticeably worse than at the beginning of the war. The death of army cadres and the transfer of troops from the east, who tasted the "sweetness" of fraternization, affected. Already in the battle of Cambrai, one of the best divisions was trashed by food warehouses seized from the enemy - and this was quite serious evidence of a strong drop in discipline. The long and seemingly hopeless waging of a positional war also greatly influenced the fall of an offensive spirit so strong in the first years of the war. Finally, the Russian revolution and socialist propaganda slowly began to penetrate into the army - the 1899 called for the year inspired the German command great anxiety and forced him, through the mouth of E. von Ludendorff, to define their army only as “militia with great combat experience”. But signs of moral decline have so far been observed only relatively minor - and they are relatively easily eliminated by the force of military tradition, solid discipline and authority of the command staff. When, at the beginning of 1918, preparations began for an operation that could lead Germany to peace, high morale and readiness for self-sacrifice awakened in the troops.

A decisive offensive at the front, which looked like a solid fortified 700-kilometer wall, was certainly a serious task. Three and a half years of positional warfare, which only occasionally led to a visible result, did not bring decisive success to the parties. The Allies recognized the impossibility of breaking through the fortified band of Germans without the massive introduction of new means of warfare. But the Germans were going to soon prove the falsity of this concept.

Work on the creation of an operational offensive plan began at the German General Staff in the autumn of 1917, and underwent a complex evolution.

The choice of the direction of the offensive, which corresponded to the strategic goals and at the same time satisfied the tactical conditions for the success of the strike, was a serious operational problem.

The first operational considerations were expressed by the Chief of Operations of the General Staff, Colonel-General G. Wetzel as early as October 1917, and then developed a month later.


8. G. Wetzel.

These considerations emphasized that the plan for the upcoming operation should be based on the possibility of achieving a decisive strategic goal. Considering the question from this angle, G. Wetzel considered only one direction to satisfy the conditions for carrying out a decisive operation - a strike by the left wing of the central group to the south, coupled with an attack on S.-Miel. This combined strike was supposed to cover the Verdensky fortified area and encircle the French forces of up to 11 divisions in it. If this operation was successful, the French front, in the opinion of G. Wetzel, would have been broken through in the most important and decisive point, and the German troops would enter the Marne valley, breaking free from the operational space.

G. Wetzel also considered the possibility of carrying out a decisive blow at the front of the British armies - considering the direction along the r. Fox Recognizing the importance of this direction, following the shortest route, leading the sea to the sea and cutting off the English from the sea, G. Wetzel emphasized the tactical difficulties in implementing this plan - they consisted in massing the enemy forces in well-fortified positions, as well as in finding close reserves.

Considerations of G. Wetzel did not go beyond the scope of staff work and were preliminary. The first official exchange of views at the level of the Supreme and army commands for the first time took place on November 11 1917. The main contours of the planned operation were identified. At this meeting, the views on the choice of the direction of impact differed greatly. Lieutenant-General G. von Kul, chief of staff of the Kronprinz Army Group of Bavaria, spoke in favor of an attack on a sector west of Lille — in a general direction to the north-west, in order to reach enemy forces concentrated in the arc at Ypres from the flank and rear. And the chief of staff of the German Kronprinz army group spoke in the spirit of G. Wetzel.


9. G. Cul.

E. Ludendorff did not agree with either the first or the second opinions. He demanded: firstly, the beginning of the offensive as soon as possible (in order to have time to carry it out before major American assistance came to the Allies), and, secondly, spoke in favor of conducting a decisive operation against the British. "We must break the British," said E. von Ludendorff, stating the need to choose an operational direction, which made it possible to cover all the British armies and press them to the sea.

Accordingly, the attack south of Argon fell away. In addition, the latter direction led to the mountainous region, which was too inconvenient, according to E. Ludendorff. As for the direction of the river. Lys, then, recognizing all of his strategic expediency, E. Ludendorff refused him because of the difficult terrain conditions and the terrain of the r. Fox - the latter could be overcome not earlier than mid-April, and this period was too delaying the beginning of the offensive.

To be continued
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  1. BRONEVIK
    BRONEVIK 6 December 2017 07: 11 New
    18
    The training of the Germans was the most thorough.
    And tactically there was every chance of success.
    But the material base and strategy ...
  2. parusnik
    parusnik 6 December 2017 07: 49 New
    +5
    The lack of mobile troops from the Germans subsequently affect ...
    1. Cartalon
      Cartalon 6 December 2017 08: 55 New
      +2
      And who had the mobile troops in 1918?
      1. soldier
        soldier 6 December 2017 09: 29 New
        20
        They were focused by the respected Cartalon in the East. On the former Russian front (more precisely, what remains of it).
        1. soldier
          soldier 6 December 2017 09: 29 New
          20
          I mean cavalry divisions
          1. Cartalon
            Cartalon 6 December 2017 09: 48 New
            0
            Are you seriously? What role could cavalry play on a technology-saturated front?
            1. soldier
              soldier 6 December 2017 09: 52 New
              20
              What else could play.
              Cavalry, no one tore the defense. It had to be introduced into an open breakthrough. This is written by General Kul - one of the defendants in this article and a participant in the events. Is the authority sufficient?
              By the way. The British - despite the fact that they actively used their Royal Panzer Corps in the 1918 campaign, they also effectively used cavalry divisions. After 1914 - for the first time actively and successfully, especially in the summer.
              1. Cartalon
                Cartalon 6 December 2017 10: 16 New
                0
                The corps is still a tank, even if the cavalry could be led into a breakthrough, which is more than doubtful, it did not always have time and lagged behind, its fate would be sad, at first it would be hit by aircraft, and the first suitable reserves would finish it off.
                1. soldier
                  soldier 6 December 2017 10: 28 New
                  20
                  You understand what the matter is.
                  During the March offensive, the English 5th Army was practically defeated (as I understand it later) and there were no large operational reserves beyond its front. The French have just begun the transfer to the junction of the English and French fronts.
                  If the German general writes with longing - that cavalry (which was not) was needed for the operational development, then he should be trusted. She would have walked along the demoralized rear, broke reserves. Cavalry has a lot to do in such an environment. After all, there is no echelon front, as well as no echelon front)
                  And there would have been hit by aviation or not - my grandmother said in two. And she could have fought with reserves - after all, there is its own weapons, even heavy ones (albeit not the same as those of the infantry).
                  And there, his own infantry would have arrived.
                  1. Cartalon
                    Cartalon 6 December 2017 11: 26 New
                    0
                    The German infantry made 20 km a day, their cavalry would most likely have difficulty catching up and the regular cavalry would have an eternal problem of where to get fodder, so the cavalry in the PMV always hung around somewhere in the rear, you still have to be able to feed at the expense of the enemy.
                    1. soldier
                      soldier 6 December 2017 12: 13 New
                      18
                      Cartalon
                      The German infantry made 20 km a day, their cavalry would most likely have difficulty catching up and the regular cavalry would have an eternal problem of where to get fodder, so the cavalry in the PMV always hung around somewhere in the rear, you still have to be able to feed at the expense of the enemy.

                      The German cavalry did not need to catch up with their own infantry.
                      The cavalry needed to go into operational space.
                      And precisely because
                      German infantry doing 20km per day

                      That is why the Germans could not take Amiens - the infantry did not reach only 15 km to him. And it was a strategic center of connected English and French fronts. The French were already thinking of Paris, and the Germans of the English Channel.
                      A cast of cavalry introduced into a clean breakthrough would help resolve the issue, while infantry rates were low.
                      General Kul knew no worse than yours about forage for cavalry - but thought it was a moment of truth.
                      And he was missed due to the lack of mobile troops among the Germans - there were virtually no tanks, and cavalry in the east.
            2. Gopnik
              Gopnik 6 December 2017 11: 49 New
              +9
              Well, the Red Army successfully used cavalry formations even in 1945, and then with the saturation of technology everything was better.
              1. soldier
                soldier 6 December 2017 12: 15 New
                19
                You are absolutely right.
                Cavalry is not necessarily used for ATTACK. Although some represent just that.
                You can recall what the cavalry did on the French front and in Palestine in 1920 and during the Civil War in Russia.
                1. soldier
                  soldier 6 December 2017 12: 16 New
                  17
                  on the French front and in Palestine in 1918
                  1. Cartalon
                    Cartalon 6 December 2017 13: 10 New
                    0
                    The cavalry of the 45th year is not exactly cavalry, and Poland and Palestine are not nearly Flanders, not once in the WWI except fall 15g on the eastern front failed to introduce cavalry into a breakthrough.
                    1. soldier
                      soldier 6 December 2017 13: 49 New
                      16
                      Using "would", dear Cartalon, we are talking about the failed equestrian breakthrough of the Germans in Amiens. Moreover, the article is devoted to the German offensive.
                      Speaking of the actions of the cavalry of the allies, there would be no need to "speak".
                      In the 1918 campaign, the allied cavalry on the French front (summer-autumn) acted on a large-scale and successful basis. For the first time since 1914
                      If interested - I will pick up such examples.
                      Interested in?
  3. antivirus
    antivirus 6 December 2017 07: 50 New
    0
    When at the beginning of 1918 preparations began for an operation that could lead Germany to peace, a high morale and readiness for self-sacrifice awoke in the troops.
    THIS IS A SENTENCE TO THE TEMPORARY GOVERNMENT OF 17 G. ---- THERE WAS NOT FORCES TO TAKE ORDER IN THE COUNTRY AND IN THE ARMY.
    1. The inevitability of a revolution
    2. HAPP BEFORE RUNNING FROM ITS PEOPLE
    1. Gopnik
      Gopnik 6 December 2017 11: 51 New
      +3
      that is yes. They could not destroy the Bolshevik scum in the bud, but flirted with it. After the July events, and preferably earlier, it was necessary to declare terror against the Bolsheviks and give the military to the full power (Kornilov).
      1. antivirus
        antivirus 6 December 2017 12: 42 New
        0
        Is it Honduras and Taunton Macuta?
        Nikolay2 and then the entire ruling class in the first heat-carrier (Stolypin carriage) would go to Altai-virgin lands to pick up.
        and 8 h slave day? and felsheritsy in the village? and etc ?
        right now, DAM and GDP are to blame-- they’re “building badly”, and then it was possible without a doctor and soap in the locker room of the workshop?
  4. Nikitin
    Nikitin 6 December 2017 07: 52 New
    +2
    . Already in the battle of Cambrai, one of the best divisions smashed the food depots seized from the enemy - and this was quite serious evidence of a severe decline in discipline

    This was evidence that they had nothing to eat. from the word at all. And the front, and especially the rear, were dying of hunger
  5. XII Legion
    XII Legion 6 December 2017 07: 53 New
    18
    Operational planning is always interesting
    Competent Persons View
    Especially when it comes to a major strategic operation
    Thank you!
  6. soldier
    soldier 6 December 2017 09: 33 New
    20
    the year 1899, which was called up, inspired the German command with great alarm and made him, through the lips of E. von Ludendorff, define his army only as "a militia with great combat experience."

    In approximately the same way, in the summer of 1917, N.V. Ruzsky.
    Affected the death of army personnel

    The general trend.
    Nevertheless, if the Germans had strained the allies in almost 4 years after the war - with all the wear and tear, you can imagine what they would have done with the English-French in the 1st year of the war - if they had fought on one front (in the absence of the Russian).
    1. Cartalon
      Cartalon 6 December 2017 09: 52 New
      +4
      In the absence of the Russian front, the situation of 1870 and 1940 would have arisen, the Germans did not smell Bismarck, so it would be better to be on the Russian front.
      1. soldier
        soldier 6 December 2017 09: 53 New
        18
        Totally agree
  7. antivirus
    antivirus 6 December 2017 12: 42 New
    0
    Quote: soldier
    You are absolutely right.
    Cavalry is not necessarily used for ATTACK. Although some represent just that.
    You can recall what the cavalry did on the French front and in Palestine in 1920 and during the Civil War in Russia.
    1. antivirus
      antivirus 6 December 2017 12: 45 New
      0
      I somehow thought that a horse moves 2 times faster.
      can ride 100 km (Airborne Forces 100 years ago) - here the infantry and the rear can not keep up
      these 40 -50 km would be enough, even under shrapnel
      1. soldier
        soldier 6 December 2017 13: 51 New
        17
        Closing the Sventsyansky breakthrough - the Russian infantry overtook the German cavalry.
        Such is the arithmetic))
        1. antivirus
          antivirus 6 December 2017 13: 55 New
          0
          Germans did not live in the steppes
          and couldn’t disperse with lava and gather at a certain point
          and did not understand the "theater of war" - the landscape?
          ditch prevented or branches in the forest?
          1. soldier
            soldier 6 December 2017 13: 58 New
            17
            And what prevents the dancer))
            Maybe the Germans too?
            Everything is right with them. They want to calculate everything
            But there is something that cannot be measured by common arshin)
            1. antivirus
              antivirus 6 December 2017 14: 01 New
              +3
              Surely the eggs in the woods hung on the branches?
              1. soldier
                soldier 6 December 2017 14: 03 New
                18
                History is silent)))