Monday, 13 October 2014

john terraine on mons - part one

Here are some of the things I learned from reading John Terraine's book on Mons (the first major battle sequence of WWI), in the Pan British Battles series, this summer. (It was very good; don't know if any of the analysis etc has been superseded since it was published in 1960.)

- '[one can see] in the terrifying success of the Blitzkrieg simply the belated fulfilment of a plan which had failed a quarter of a century earlier, and which, in all its fundamentals, had been devised in 1905. What Hitler had done was, in effect, simply to supply, through mechanical power, the force which was never available in 1914 to consummate the famous Schlieffen Plan.' [pxii]

- the Schlieffen Plan was based on Hannibal's triumph at Cannae in 216BC. [pxiii]

- in the years leading up to WWI, the perceived primary purpose of the British Army was 'To fight beside the French Army in the event of German aggression', and the position in France that the British Army would take up on the left flank of the Frency Army had also been planned. [pxviii]

- [on the BEF preparing for war in August 1914] There was no hatred of Germany, says one of the regimental officers, 'but in the true mercenary spirit we would equally readily have fought the French. Our motto was, "We'll do it. What is it?"' In those days all foreigners were much alike to Englishmen; it had been a different matter, even for 'mercenaries', back in March, when it was a question of coercing Ulster. ... Lieutenant B L Montgomery, of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, records that it was laid down in the very detailed instructions on mobilization procedure 'that all officers' swords were to go to the armourers' shop on the third day of mobilization to be sharpened. It was not clear to me why, since I had never used my sword except for saluting, But of course I obeyed the order and my sword was made sharp for war.' [p4]