General Henri Gouraud

B3, some Key Personalities in the Great War

Henri Joseph Eugene Gouraud; 17 November 1868 – 16 September 1946

Introduction: this chapter has been prepared for the book on Great War French Generals, editor Prof. W. Philpott of Kings’ College London, commissioned by the publishers Pen & Sword.

(c) GNA Bailey, 5 July 2012.

A synopsis: motivated to join the military because of the French defeat in 1871 Gouraud graduated from St. Cyr in 1890. Posted to the French Sudan in 1894, he captured the leading rebel Samori in 1898 to great acclaim. Gaining influential patrons he returned to Africa being promoted brigade general in 1911.

At the onset of the Great War in 1914 as the youngest French General at 47 years old he took command of the Colonial Division then Corps in the Argonne where he had affectionately become known as the Lion of the Argonne. Posted in command of the French forces in the 1915 Dardanelles offensive, he was struck by a Turkish shell losing his right arm and breaking both legs. When he recovered he took command in December 1915 of the 4th Army in the Champagne sector. Sent to Morocco in December 1916 he returned to his beloved army in July 1917.

During the Kaiser’s Offensive in the Spring of 1918 he prepared the elastic defence in depth. During the Second Battle of the Marne the Germans exhausted themselves before beginning to be driven back. The 4th Army pursued them back to the German border.

After the War he commanded the Army of the Levant in Syria and the Lebanon before finishing his distinguished career in 1937 as the Military Governor of Paris. On his death he was buried in a vault of the Ossuary at Navarin Farm, near Suippes, Champagne, joining the remains of the unknown soldiers of the 4th Army who lie there.

A soldier of France

Born on the 17th of November 1867 to a medical doctor, Gouraud grew up motivated by the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71. His earliest memory had been seeing the Uhlan cavalry of the Prussian Army. He entered the French “Sandhurst” of St. Cyr, graduating in 1890 to join the Troupes de Marin before entering the 21st Foot Chasseur Regiment stationed in France. His father objected to him serving overseas but in 1894 Gouraud was posted to the French Sudan. In 1898 whilst leading a military expedition into the jungle he found and captured Samori, long a resistor to French control. Returning to France, as a young Captain he was feted by Parisian society and acquired influential patrons. Back in Africa he continued his career, being promoted Colonel in 1907 and Brigadier-General in 1912. He served under General Lyautey , the Resident Governor of Morocco, until1914.

The Battle of the Frontiers, 1914

The Schieffen Plan developed in the years before 1914 was designed to propel the right wing of the German armies through Belgium before wheeling southwards into France, encircling Paris and getting behind the French armies manning their northern frontier. Other German armies held back the French forces attempting to recapture Alsace and Lorraine, the spoils of war gained in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. After the initial battles in what became known as the Battle of the Frontiers, General Albert d’Amade was entrusted by General Joseph Joffre, the French Supreme Commander, with the responsibility of defending Northern France from Lille to the English Channel with the 61st and 62nd Reserve Divisions, some 40,000 French reserve troops1. Meanwhile Joffre launched two armies into the Ardennes in the abortive attempt to cut the main bulk of the German armies from their supplies of food and ammunition. Though D’Amade’s forces suffered reverses, they helped delay the turning movement of a German army corps and cavalry division around the rear of the British forces on their right flank retreating from Mons and Le Cateau.. Thus a German manoeuvre likely to be fatal to the British Expeditionary Force was thwarted. D’Amade was already known to the British command as he had been military attaché with the British forces in the Boer War before directing the French operations in Morocco.

Joffre then directed d’Amade to organize a new French 6th Army of four reserve divisions , a regular army corps and the French Cavalry Corps of three divisions 2. But it was not strong enough to resist the enormous pressure being exerted by von Kluck’s great army so had to retire alongside the retreating British forces, leaving Northern France under enemy control. However the French forces including the 6th Division regained their fighting spirit, their élan, on the river Marne and Joffre won the battle which condemned the belligerents to fight trench warfare along what came to be called the Western Front.

After the Battle of the Marne lead to the German retreat to the northern bank of the river Aisne to the east banks with continuing French attacks around St. Menehould to the east of Rheims. This was in response to the army of the German Crown Prince aiming to complete the encirclement of Verdun. General Sarrail with his Verdun Army was holding the Meuse river against the Crown Prince. Between St. Menehould and the Meuse were the woods of the Argonne. There the youngest of the French Generals, Henri Gouraud, aged 47, with his single division of Colonial mountain troops repelled two German army corps3. The quality of his leadership was such that he became affectionately known as the “Lion of the Argonne”, a man idolized by his men. His driver was an Englishman who had volunteered for the Foreign Legion, driving Gouraud around in the 17-20 h.p. Mors staff car. Unfortunately food ordered by the General for Bob Merry one day failed to reach him. When Gouraud asked about this mishap, Bob responded that he could go without food for twenty–four hours. A few days later when Bob said that his boast had been accomplished, Gouraud teased him “Ah! No! Merry, you said forty-eight hours”4.

Under the command of Gouraud, the division was expanded into the Colonial Corps and gradually over time pushed the enemy back. He was seen as a “solid, fearless and imperturbable soldier of the best French type”5, a bullet having passed through his shoulder in January 1915.4 . These qualities were taken into account by Joffre some four months later when looking for a replacement for General d’Amade.

The reasons for creating a Third Front at the Dardanelles

In 1915, the Western Front was becoming consolidated into a war of attrition where attacks gained little or no ground but at an enormous cost in casualties. In Eastern Europe the German armies were consuming Russian manpower at a fearful rate whilst capturing large tracts of land. The Allied High Command began to consider a new strategy, the possibility of a third front to be opened by the Allies with two strategic aims. The first was to force Turkey, the ally of Germany, out of the War by placing a fleet of battleships alongside Istanbul (Constantinople). Secondary to this was to open up a sea pass through the Dardanelles, across the Sea of Marmara and through the Bosporous to the Black Sea to help the faltering efforts of the Russian armies on the Eastern Front with munitions and other supplies. Pressurised by Winston Churchill, Lord Kitchener appointed Sir Ian Hamilton to command the Anglo-French expedition to assault the Gallipoli Peninsula. However there was a flaw to the approach of the two men, whereas the War Minister was known to “like plans to move as fast as his own wishes”, Sir Ian believed that “swiftness in war comes from slow preparations”6. Unfortunately Lord Kitchener did not appreciate views which conflicted with his; thus many of the problems which beset the expedition stemmed from this failing. The lack of forward planning of the whole operation, both naval and military, was recognized from an early stage7. But withdrawal before the expedition was launched was not an option, because of the ‘loss of face’ amongst the undecided countries and those luke-warm to the Allied cause.

After the assault of the British Royal Marines in late February to silence the forts’ cannons at Helles, understandably the Turks were aroused and, under German supervision, started to fortify the Peninsula. They also mined the Dardanelles with Leon floating mines 8. Shelling the forts by the big guns of the battleships began the naval operation. On March 18, the British and French battleships attempted to ‘force’ the Dardanelles. The Allies were aware that minefields were being sown which were a “real cause of anxiety”9. Admiral de Robeck, speaking at a conference in the presence of Hamilton the day before, wished that the Allies had more powerfully-engined mine-sweepers manned by regular naval commanders and crews, rather than trawlers with their civilian crews, to clear a way through the minefields.

Unbeknown to the commanders a small Turkish steamer had laid a string of some 20 floating mines parallel to the coast in Eren Keui Bay near the entrances to the Dardanelles 10 days earlier. The French battleship Bouvet struck one of the mines, turned turtle and rapidly sank with the loss of six hundred sailors. Shortly after the British pre-dreadnought-battleships Irresistable and Ocean also struck the mines and foundered that night. The uncertainty created in the minds of the Allies by the failure of their efforts lead to the renewal of the attempt being abandoned. The irony was that Turkey had bought these mines from Russia before the War, Russia using mining as a strategic naval policy in the Baltic: perhaps this indirectly helped seal the fate of the Russian Empire and changed the nature of the Great War and possibly the 20th century.

After the failure of the British and French Navies to force the Dardanelles, the military planners were left with their second option; the landing of troops on both sides of the Dardanelles, on the Gallipoli Peninsula and at Kum Kale. The latter was to be a feint to confuse the Turks as to where the main attack was to be made and also to silence artillery fire from the Asiatic side likely to pound the landing beaches at Helles. The French forces were to be commanded by General d’Amade, known by Hamilton from his days as French military attaché in South Africa. He was appointed as the most senior of those generals no longer needed on the Western Front and due to retire at the end of 1915. In preparation for the operation Hamilton had held many discussions with him in Egypt and inspected his French troops in Alexandria10. The assaulting French forces on the Asiatic shore of the Dardanelles “have dealt a brilliant stroke at Kum Kale”11 but were then faced with the reinforced village of Yeni Shahr perched above Kum Kale.

The British forces landed on the Cape Helles beaches and the Australian and New Zealand units at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915. Two days later two French divisions, some 17,000 men, came ashore at S beach on the east side of Morto Bay to the right flank of the Helles landing beaches and began their advance towards the Kereves Spur at 0800 hours the next day. The difficulties of the landing at Kum Kale on the other coast of the Dardanelles contributed to the delay in landing on S beach. Though the clearing of the fortified village had lead to some 500 Turks surrendering in the cemetery, it had been at the cost of a quarter of the French soldiers becoming casualties. Faced with the severe obstacle presented by Yeni Shahr d’Amade asked Hamilton12 if he could re-embark his troops rather than embark on more futile assaults against the village. Hamilton agreed remembering Lord Kitchener’s strong, clear order that the Asiatic side was “out of bounds”13. D’Amade left to give out the orders for withdrawal from Kum Kale. The British field commanders then attempted to have the French forces stay another 24 hours in Kum Kale, to assist secure the contested landings at Cape Helles. Hamilton contacted d’Amade to request this delay but it was made too late. He appreciated that instructing d’Amade to revoke the orders would upset the French troops very much and were not enough to warrant changing them. Nevertheless Kum Kale had been cleared, though French casualties were substantial. D’Amade was later considered to have been too pessimistic when he asked to re-embark , a factor in his replacement two weeks later.

The French Government did suggest to General Joseph Joffre, their supreme military commander, on 18 February, that one of the divisions to go to the Dardanelles should be one of the front line units preparing to attack at Artois and Champagne but Joffre replied it was “absolument impossible to consent”. Understandably he did not want to put more effort into the Dardanelles enterprise, as his immediate aim was to drive the Germans out of Northern and Eastern France and recover the strategic resources in coal, iron and steel produced by the coal-fields of Belgium and Northern France and the iron mines of Lorraine. This weakened the military effectiveness of the invading French. Alongside the Metropolitan Brigade with its battalion of Foreign Legionnaires was the Colonial Brigade, but different in its ability to stand firm. Actually drawn from African natives of the French empire in Africa, not Senegal alone, its soldiers also stood firm until their European officers became casualties, when they lost their cohesion and ran. Together they formed the French1st Division.14.

At Helles, taking the Spur was to be the immediate objective for the French. It overlooked the deep water course of Kereves Dere and was an approach to the Achi Baba ridge which dominated the Helles landings. Describing the topography, the now infamous Achi Baba is positioned as on the rim of a ‘saucer’, the approach routes to Kereves Dere to the south west of Achi Baba being the sides of the ‘saucer’ and the Morto Bay and Beach S being the flat bottom of the ‘saucer’.

The French did succeed in capturing the Bouchet redoubt at Second Krithia (6-8 May) but this limited success was not enough to save d’Amade from being ‘Limouged’ because of the disappointing results of his command in the first two Battles of Krithia and at Kum Kale. Whether his removal was justified is debatable for, as has been observed, “the French had failed to take the much more formidable obstacle of the strongly entrenched Kereves Dere.”15 The redoubt became a salient on three sides by Turkish trenches who were able to subject it to enfilade fire.16 Joffre turned to a man with the strong reputation of having captured Samory in the Sudan, served under General Lyautey in the pacification of Morocco from 1912 to the onset of the War, and then become known as the “Lion of the Argonne” for his defensive and offensive skills between August 1914 and May 1915. Major-General Henri Gouraud was selected to replace d’Amade as Commander of the Expeditionary Corps of the Orient on 11 May 1915. Hamilton wrote a kind review of d’Amade as being “most charming, chivalrous, loyal soldier” and “a delightful person and, in the combat, too brave.”17.

Gouraud in Gallipoli

The emphasis now to be given to the French efforts under the command of Gouraud is because their contribution has been largely forgotten in British histiography.

Gouraud arrived at Cape Helles three days later with his Chief of Staff, Colonel Girodon. Another French division also disembarked with General Maurice Bailloud in command to supplement the divisions that had landed on 27 April.19 . This French 2nd Division had a composition very similar to the 1st with its Metropolitan and Colonial Brigades. It was positioned to the left of the French lines with the Ist remaining close to the Kereves Dere ravine.20 That day d’Amade brought Gouraud to meet Hamilton who described him as “a resolute, solid looking gaillard is Gouraud. He brings a great reputation with him from the Western Front.”21, he being tall and with a beard. Before d‘Amade left on May 16 he told Gouraud that every effort had made to drive back the Turks. But then Gouraud discovered that the Turkish defences were more formidable than he had been led to believe, constant shelling from cannons positioned on the hill of Achi Baba and from the opposite shore of the Dardanelles making the situation in the French trenches perilous. Even before his official appointment Gouraud on 3 May was suggesting that two batteries of 155-mm cannons and 24 trench guns be taken to the Dardanelles.22 They arrived in time to support the attack of 4 June.

On 20 May rumours began to circulate about Winston Churchill, the champion in the British War Council of the Dardanelles front, leaving the Admiralty and next day both he and Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Jacky Fisher, the First Sea Lord, resigned. Hamilton suggested to Kitchener that he should come to Helles and see for himself what was being attempted by the Allied forces23. Three day later HMS Triumph was sunk by a U-boat and the other battleships ‘skedaddling’ back to shelter in Mudros harbour on the island of Lemnos, some 40 miles from Helles. On 31 May HMS Majestic was sunk by a U-boat in broad daylight leading to morale being raised amongst the Turkish troops having watched the destruction of two battleships with their complements of guns.24. The removal of the other battleships meant that the Turkish forces making assaults across No Man’s Land or sheltering within their trenches were no longer to experience shelling from heavy naval guns. For example, one shell fired from one of the 15 inch guns of HMS Queen Elizabeth showered 10,000 shrapnel bullets on hitting its target.25 In particular the firepower from the cruisers was lost, as was lighting the trenches with powerful searchlights from the battleships to foil enemy assaults at night.. There would be no more high explosive shells fired in the Dardanelles from the Aegean sea. Supplying the forces on Cape Helles and at Anzac Cove became far more difficult, the supplies having to be brought from Lemnos in small boats, shallow bottomed to avoid the possibility of being torpedoed. The menacing presence of one or possibly two German submarines changed the whole operational efficiency of the Dardanelles campaign.

Gouraud and his staff lunched with Hamilton at Sedd-el-Bahr on the 22 May when Bailloud came in bursting with news to tell them that his division had captured the formidable Haricot redoubt overlooking Kereves Dere. Unfortunately his joy was premature, as so often during the Allied campaign the Turkish forces mounted a massive counter-attack to recapture it.26.

Gouraud’s first assault in command led to the capture of the Gouez stronghold on the night of 28 May which was the held against powerful Turkish attempts to recapture it two nights later.27 Then he found himself having to plan a third Krithia battle with the notorious British Lieutenant-General Hunter-Weston who favoured the direct full frontal broad daylight charge, not sensible against the machine-gun nests prepared by the Turkish enemy as advised by their German officers. The French were given the objective of taking the Spur, getting across the Dere and obtaining a footing on the far bank. The attack was launched on 4 June, Gouraud meeting Hamilton on the pier at Helles and they watching from a command post on the left of the attack, dug out by the troops of Hunter-Weston. This post gave them a view over the battlefield but not of the battle because of a dust storm raging at that time.

Though better planned than before, there was general failure because of the restricted artillery support. Restricted because some trenches being only 100 metres apart, the decision was taken to avoid ‘friendly fire’ casualties by shelling beyond the Turkish trenches. The land being open and virtually flat, the French suffered some 2,000 casualties, the British over 5,200. The French soldiers managing to again capture the Haricot redoubt, but the survivors were bombed and shelled out of it later. Despite the grievous losses, Hunter-Weston decided on another attack but Gouraud informed him that his troops were so shattered he was not prepared for them to have to undertake another frontal assault.28 It is not surprising in retrospect for Hunter-Weston to have expected success from his troops when charging in a frontal assault across No Man’s Land in a dust storm against machine-guns being fired on fixed lines where limited vision prevented the soldiers seeing where the bullets were coming from. His reputation was based on being a ‘thruster’. The battle faded away for, as Hamilton later wrote “battalions became companies and divisions brigade.”29

On 7 June Hamilton met with Gouraud and they spent an hour discussing matters and discovering the “hesitations” of both the British and French Governments . One issue of concern was the provision of artillery. The normal complement of the cannons for two divisions in Flanders had to cover five divisions on Helles – 40 % of what should be expected.30 Hamilton wrote of Gouraud as being a “coadjutor rather than as a subordinate.”31 and the French troops bearing the brunt of the enemy fire from the Asiatic guns. On 13 June Gouraud sent Hamilton a letter which was his detailed analysis of the Gallipoli operation. He recognized that the Turkish fortifications were comparable to those on the Western Front with the German commanders applying the same techniques as they employed in France. He thought the heavy cannons installed between Eren Keui bay and Yeni Shahr could be dealt with by the guns of the British monitors. He then provided his analysis of the options available within the strategic overview of the countries surrounding the Dardanelles.32

Gouraud went with Hamilton to Imbros on 15 June to discuss the operational situation. The Allies were not prepared to supply the quantities of high explosive shells and the number of howitzers needed to support the infantry during assaults. Rather than modern 4.5-inch howitzers, only 5-inch howitzers of Omdurman vintage with their inaccuracy at reaching targets were made available because there was more ammunition available for them than for the modern howitzers. Meanwhile the Turkish forces were receiving more heavy guns. Hamilton noted that they must decide whether they wanted to “score in the East or in the West”.33 Furthermore the supply of munitions being offered by the War Office was breaking the scale of supply agreed with Joffre when settling on the participation of French units in the campaign. Even more galling was to find the excellent trench mortars, supplied by Japan, had run out of shells and that the British War Office had failed to order more.34 This was bad for the morale of the Allied troops as the shells were good at penetrating the deep Turkish trenches. Accepting the reasoning of Gouraud, Hamilton recognised that passive defence on the Dardanelles was not possible, and if the Allies had not the nerve to fully support the campaign, then it should be wound up. The limits to helping the campaign even applied to finding acceptable corps commanders which eventually lead to the disastrous appointment of Lieut. General Sir Frederick Stopford to be placed in charge of the landing at Sulva Bay from 6 August.

Gouraud prepared another assault to be launched on 21 June 1915. This time there was to be heavy and concentrated artillery fire on a narrow front of some 650 metres. Both French Divisions attacked. The limited objective of the crest of the Spur (named Hill 83 by the Turks) was taken as well as the head of the Ravine de la Mort and including a series of trenches. The Haricot redoubt was secured. Now the French trenches were able to overlook those of the Turks but 3,200 casualties – including Colonel Girodon – had been suffered by the Zouves, Foreign Legionnaires and the French Class of 1915, as against some 6,000 Turkish casualties. For a week the Turkish forces counter-attacked gaining a transient footing between two of the lost trenches. Then in the early morning of 30 June the Colonial troops successfully stormed the defences of the subterranean Quadrilateral fortress under cover of massed cannon fire. Seven deeply-cut trenches connected by shrapnel- protected communication trenches and defended by machine-guns were over-run. In the afternoon the Turks counter-attacked in large numbers but their assaults failed, leaving the fortress firmly in French hands.35 There was now only one line of trenches left to the Turkish forces.

A ‘random’ shell fired at the French enclave on 30 June 1915 changed the course of the Gallipoli campaign and possibly also of the Great War. Both Gouraud and later Bailloud, his successor in command, wanted to have the seizure of the Asiatic coast of the Dardanelles as a means of silencing the Turkish batteries as the pounding had become unbearable. It was from there that the 8-inch shell was fired. The shell exploded close to the General. As was his practice carried out on a regular basis he was visiting an ambulance on ‘V’ beach carrying the wounded, soldiers injured in capturing the Quadrilateral. The blast of the explosion hurled him over a 2 metre high wall; both his legs were broken and his right arm damaged. As soon as he heard on 1 July Hamilton went to visit him already being treated on a hospital ship There gangrene set in and his arm had to be amputated. Once out of danger Gouraud was transported to France in the battleship Tchad. His abilities as a commander were sorely missed. Hamilton was badly affected by the loss, having seen Gouraud as a coadjucator more than a subordinate. He said that “we could more easily spare a Brigade.”36 King George V sent a telegram to Hamilton regretting the loss of Gouraud to the Allied armies.

Bailloud, who succeeded Gouraud, asked Hamilton on 7 July to be allowed to cancel the French attack the next day, an attack already fully planned by Gouraud. The French had suffered a loss of confidence from the injuries both to Gouraud and Girodon. Bailloud remained deeply worried by the shelling the French troops were receiving from the Asiatic guns. In ‘The Great War’ there is a photograph taken in 1918 of Gouraud, bare headed, astride his speckled white horse addressing his mounted dragoon cavalrymen of the French 4th Army on the eve of the German assault which became known as the Gouraud Manoeuvre.37 There is not evidence that he was left handed before the explosion so he had to adjust to the awkwardness of controlling the horse with his ‘trailing’ arm.

The value of Gouraud to the Gallipoli campaign was not lost altogether. From his hospital bed on 19 July he alerted the French Government that the shelling was putting the French Corps in jeopardy. He continued into September expressing his view that leaving the soldiers exposed to the shelling from Kum Kale was “sheer folly”. Then he and Girodon were invited on 29 November to meet with Kitchener, the supreme British warlord. They supported the British view that evacuation of the Peninsula would be most difficult, they also favoured the liquidation of the Balkan venture. However Kitchener recognized the French wish to land at Salonika in support of the Serbian Army; and the failure to open up the sea route to Russia. He decided that the Allied evacuation had to be carried out. By 8 January, the evacuation was complete

After Gouraud’s wounding the French efforts diminished under the control of Bailloud, a commander described by Sir Maurice Hankey, Secretary to the British War Council, as “the most confirmed pessimist I have met since the war began….He is a stupid old man and ought to be superseded.38 Unfair though this was it showed the British no longer had confidence in the French despite their being up against the most formidable part of the Turkish defences since 25 April and the most exposed to the Asiatic cannons of the Turkish defenders. Following Gouraud’s loss to the Dardanelles campaign, French political and military interest focused instead on Salonika until the time came to evacuate the Peninsula. French politics had become dominated by ‘l’affaire Sarrail’. General Maurice Sarrail had gained great popularity by commanding the French 3rd Army which acted as a pivot at Verdun during the German wheel through the Ardennes and the advance to the river Marne in August 1914.
Unfortunately he then ran foul of Joffre as he was believed to be intriguing to replace Joffre. Joffre’s prestige won on the Marne was seen to be waning as the result of the fruitless frontal assaults in Artois and Champagne which achieved little but long casualty lists. Joffre relieved Sarrail of his command but could not sack him outright because of Sarrail’s popularity as a Republican General. What to offer Sarrail? Preferably not the command of a French army on the Western Front! This problem intensified when he did not consider Gallipoli sufficiently important. The French Prime Minister Viviani resigned on 25 October to be replaced by Aristide Briand. General Joseph Gallieni, the instigator of “the ride of the Parisian taxis” to take the German forces in the flank at the Battle of the Marne, replaced Alexandre Millerand as Minister of War. Sarrail was offered the command of the Salonika venture and accepted, a command independent of Joffre.

The French evacuation was conducted within the plans of the Allied evacuation. By 21 December the 2nd French Division holding the heights of Kereves Dere had been transferred to Salonika and replaced in the line by the British Royal Naval Division. On 2 to 4 January the remaining French infantry moved out leaving their artillery loaned to the British VIII Corps. The 75-mm guns were evacuated with the British artillery when it was withdrawn. Six badly worn heavy guns and one British 6-inch were destroyed on the last night of the evacuation.

Although it is speculation, the rolling up of the Turkish left flank at Kereves Dere leading to the capture of the Achi Baba hill might have been achieved as a result of overcoming the last line of the Turkish defences coupled with the inspired leadership of a Gouraud. This could not have happened under Bailloud with his reputation of being “a pessimist, stupid and too old”. Breaking through at Kereves Dere might have secured the Achi Baba position and saved the continuing Anzac agony on the heights above Anzac Cove. Hamilton had recognized the need to capture Achi Baba and methodically destroy the Turkish trenches and gun lines. Taking the hill would have provided support to the troops fighting at Anzac Cove and offered a much shorter distance towards the Narrows of the Dardanelles. Destroying the Turkish defences at Nagara Point and Chanak would have opened the passage to the Allied naval forces.

That was not to be as it was later not to be at Chunuk Bair. The New Zealand troops of the Wellington Infantry Battalion commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Malone captured the heights on 8 August and found themselves overlooking the Narrows. Thirty six hours later the Turks recaptured the heights and, like the 30 June at Kereves Dere, momentum was lost and the stalemate of trench warfare ensued.38

The French forces which began with 17,000 troops suffered 9,874 killed in action or died of their wounds, greater than the number of Australian casualties (some 8,709). However few British and Commonwealth authors give credit for their efforts on a part of the Peninsula recognized as having the most formidable of the Turkish defences,39 some even failing to acknowledge their involvement. It has to be remembered that at the same time the French forces on the Western Front were also suffering enormous casualties as they tried unsuccessfully to expel the Germans dug in at Artois and on the Champagne heights.

Champagne and Morocco

When he was sufficiently recovered for active service in December 1915, Gouraud was appointed the Commander of the 4th Army in Champagne. Not the part with the vineyards growing the grapes for the world’s most celebrated drink but lousy Champagne, a region north–east of Rheims, where the poor soil sits on the chalk of the Moronvilliers heights and the rolling hills north of Suippes. He brought his troops to a state of readiness whilst attritional battles raged at Verdun and on both banks of the river Somme. In the December of 1916 General Lyautey, now Minister for War, asked his former deputy to become the new Governor General of Morocco. Without joy at leaving his Army, Gouraud departed for Morocco. However his stay was not long, for in June 1917 he returned to the command of his army.

Capturing the Moronvilliers heights, from April 1917

The Nivelle Offensive has gone down in military history as a military disaster. In the Spring of 1917 the French assaulted the heights north of the river Aisne along which ran the Chemin des Dames. between Soissons and Rheims. Meanwhile the British were fighting the Battle of Arras and the Canadians were successfully capturing Vimy Ridge. Even today the commander of the French forces is cursed for the enormous rate of casualties for what is judged as little return.

General Nivelle decided to extend his front from Rheims to Auberive, when planning his offensive on the Aisne, to include the Moronvilliers heights. They had been garrisoned by the Germans after the Marne and from them in the 1915 battles of Champagne their heavy artillery enfiladed the French forces to blunt their attacks. These heights, with their hills of some 200 metres above sea level, tower over the plain to the south.

The army began its offensive on 17 April, the day after the main attack to the west of Rheims. The late April snowfall linked to the appalling conditions of the muddy ground made advancing up the slopes very difficult The foggy weather restricted artillery counter-battery fire from the French cannons to known or suspected sites whilst the Germans fired shrapnel over likely approach routes and positions known to have been captured by the French. Aircraft were grounded because of the high wind thus limiting aerial observation. Nevertheless Mont Cornillet (208 metres) was captured and the German counter-attacks repelled.

In two days of terrible fighting the main hills making up the heights as well as the immensely strongly fortified village of Auberive were captured by the four French regiments of African troops and Foreign Legionnaires. Six days and nights of German counter-attacks by Saxony troops were repelled before the few remaining Legionnaires were relieved. Again the Legion had been all but destroyed and, as after Trou Bricot in the Septermber 1915 Battle of Champagne, it was rebuilt. The superb monument to the Foreign Legion in the Campe Militaire de Suippes commemorates the sacrifices of the Foreign Legion in Champagne.

Berru north east of Rheims remained in German hands to compensate for the observational capabilities of Mont Haut though not part of the Moronvilliers heights.as did the valleys north of the heights. From field-artillery batteries and howitzers sited there the Germans were able to prevent the French forces advancing down the reverse slopes of the heights they had captured.40

The fiasco of the Aisne offensive with the mutinies of French units which followed finished the military career of Nivelle. He was dismissed and Petain became Commander-in-Chief. He sanctioned the plan to resume the attack on 30 April with a heavy artillery barrage before his infantry advanced on the left flank from Mount Cornillet towards the hamlet of Nauroy. Before the soldiers had to contend with the mud, now they were held up by the thick pine woods harbouring the German machine-gunners. Behind the German line were artillery cannon firing shrapnel and gas shells. In the centre the infantry advanced from Mount Haut towards the village of Moronvilliers but were stalled by the German forces holding onto Mounts Casque and Teton. On 1 May the Germans twice tried to recapture the lost ground around Mount Casque but were unsuccessful. On 20 May an intensive French bombardment of the two hills was answered by German artillery firing counter-battery. Meanwhile the French infantry managed to take most of the two hills and one thousand prisoners. A violent German bombardment followed by attacks of storm-troopers and infantry support units came to nothing. In the pause that followed both armies then burrowed down into the chalk and began driving mines towards the enemy lines.

Petain recalled Gouraud to the command of the 4th Army. In the first week of July1917 the German General Ludendorff planned a massive effort to retake the whole of the Moronvilliers heights. Three new divisions were moved up and new heavy guns hauled by tractors into positions by night. When the troops were seen practising assaults Gouraud decided to pre-empt the German offensive. Beginning a bombardment on 12 July and varying its intensity on an extensive front of some miles he was seeking to deceive the Germans as to where the French would attack. At 20.00 hrs on Bastille Day, 14 July, French infantry assaulted and carried the saddle between Mont Haut and Mont Blond despite the furious barrage from the German guns. More of Mount Teton was also taken losing the Germans the observation-posts they had fought bitterly to retain. That night a series of counter-attacks were repulsed by French gun fire so by the morning the German forces were spent and the heights firmly controlled by the French. An indicator of the failure of the German efforts was the removal of much of their artillery to Verdun. Thereafter the fighting moved to west of Rheims and to the Verdun salient with the German forces benefiting from the release of soldiers from the Eastern Front following the collapse of the Russian autocracy.

The intensity of the fighting resulted in the villages of Moronvillers and the hamlet of Nauroy being razed to the ground. Together with Perthes-les-Hurlus, Hurlus and le Mesnil-les-Hurlus they remain a century later ‘the destroyed villages of Champagne’. The ruined chapel of Nauroy still shows the destructive force of sustained shell-fire with its stone walls reduced to piles of powdered chalk.41

The Kaiser’s Offensive, 21 March 1918

By the winter of 1917 the Allied forces were exhausted after the relative failures of the Nivelle Offensive, Passchendaele and the stalemate of the Battle of Cambrai. The collapse of the Eastern Front was likely to release many German divisions for supplementing their forces on the Western Front. The British armies then began to prepare an elastic defence-in-depth seen put into practice by the defending German units in early 1917.

Work began on modifying the trench system which had been in place for much of the previous three years. The Blue Line or “Forward Zone” was to be filled by a third of the infantry in a division and its purpose was to blunt the initial charge of the German units. Some two miles behind was to be the Red Line or “Battle Zone” where the main British forces would engage the by now tired German survivors of the Forward Zone. Further back was to be the Brown Line or “Rear Zone” where the British troops would eliminate any German who would have managed to push through the Battle Zone. However in reality the Rear Zone was for lengths of the system merely a line on a map.

On 21 March 1918 the German divisions surged forward led by their elite storm-trooper units, aided by the fog. Overwhelmed by the violence of the assaults, communications soon broke down between the British units: some resisted with superb gallantry, other capitulated. Operation Michael continued its success until it began to slow as a result of increasing resistance, the tiredness of the depleting forward German units and the logistical failure to replenish these units with replacement troops and the supplies of food and ammunition to sustain them.

Six days later Marshal Foch was appointed Generalissimo to coordinate the Allied efforts. Next day began Operation Mars but with less effectiveness though initially there was success. Strategically the German commanders were trying to split the Allies thereby forcing the British Armies back to the Channel ports. Once Mars had run out of steam the commanders revised their strategy by Operation Georgette on the 9th of April and Operation Archangel on the 6th, this attack was against the French forces along the river Aisne sector which began to create a huge bulge in the French lines and threaten Paris. Operation Blucher on the 27th May began an assault on the Chemin de Dames and with Operation Gneisenau on the 9th June cost the German forces another 130,000 casualties. The trench warfare then stabilised with the exhaustion of both sides caused by the flailing of German punches which failed to achieve the strategic objective of the two German commanders, Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff. The successful Australian attack on the village of Hamel on 4 July 1918 accomplishing its capture in just over an hour demonstrated that the Allies were beginning to recover from the pressures of the previous three months

The Gouraud Manouevre.

On the 15th of July the Germans tried again with Operation Marneschiitz which became known as the Second Battle of the Marne. 43 divisions were brought to a state of readiness on either side of the city of Rheims. In the west side the French commander had packed too many of his troops into the forward trenches so, following the intensive bombardment by German artillery, the German storm-troopers soon overwhelmed them.

In the ensuing ferocious action the British divisions behind the line, located there to rest and recuperate after their punishment further north, suffered heavy casualties. However the American troops defended valiantly at sites such as Belleau Wood and the lines again stabilised but well south of where they had been at the beginning of the battle.

On the eastern side of Rheims between the village of Biene and the Argonne forest42 the story was different. The 4th Army had ceded the least ground of any French army since 21 March.43 The German Generals von Below and von Einem tried to break through the lines of trenches using tactics successful to the west of Rheims. However they were facing a tactically sophisticated leader, General Gouraud who was in command of his beloved French 4th Army which included the US double-strength 42nd ‘Rainbow’ Division, so named because its National Guard units were drawn from all over the United States. He was encouraged to plan its defences by Petain’s Directive Number 4 of 24 January 1918, the defence in depth.

The Champagne and Moronvilliers heights were denuded of French troops leaving behind a thin screen of volunteers, a forlorn hope, to deceive the Germans that the heights were still held in depth. His Forward Zone was manned by a small number of French teams who accepted that their task was to create as many German casualties as possible until overwhelmed. The soldiers called it their “sacrificial trench”. Their machine-guns were positioned in folds in the ground like lice sheltering in the folds of a garment, making them very hard to “squash”. The surrounding French trenches were left empty so that the intense bombardment of high explosives and poison gas of the German artillery was simply disturbing earth. Gouraud was extremely confident that the tactics would work. As he said to his horsemen when addressing them on the eve of the battle, “You will break the assault, and it will be a great day.”44

His defensive action began when the artillery, based on intelligence received, carried out pre-emptive counter battery firing upon the German trenches packed with storm-troopers whilst organizing to attack in the early daylight. Enough machine-gun ‘nests’ survived the German rolling barrage to surprise the advancing storm-troopers with ferocious machine-gun fire. Some nests were quickly surrounded and their soldiers fought to the death, others managed a gradual fighting retirement pursued by the enemy troops but their fire had delayed the Germans so destroying the precise timing of the rolling barrage. The remaining storm-troopers then found themselves in a wasteland but one sown with anti-personnel mines.45 Struggling across this land they were exhausted, disorientated, uncoordinated and scattered, and were incapable of going forward without being reorganized and reinforced. The French artillery then began their execution. The quick-firing 75s raked the enemy troops in front of the main French lines and laid a line of fire along the original French trenches. When seven waves of attacking soldiers finally faced the main French forces, fresh and eager for battle, alongside their American comrades, no wave could break through this second line. Only at Perthes-les-Hurlus and Prunay did the German infantry manage to get into this line Not being able to advance or retreat, the stormtroopers died under the heavy bombardment of the French howitzers laying shells between the two lines. Later in the day the French infantry and the infantry from the Rainbow Division were to recapture most of the battlefield together with part of the ‘sacrificial trench’.

The Germans had put into the battle 25 divisions with another 15 in support. Some 50,000 soldiers became casualties against light French casualties including those of the ‘sacrificial trench’. The Germans were stopped from crossing the Marne. The extent of the disaster was compared to the Prussian defeat by the Napoleonic army at Auerstadt in 1805.46. The vinters of Rheims from their wine cellars rewarded the French soldiers with many thousand bottles of fine wine for having saved them. What was to become known as the Gouraud Manoeuvre showed that a careful plan well implemented could resist the power of the German storm-troopers.

The British Commander-in-Chief, Field-Marshal Haig, heard that day that success had been achieved. He noted in his diary for that Monday “East of Rheims the attack was held and the Enemy only gained the ‘outpost zone’.”47 Two days later Gouraud sent to G.Q.G.A. a report about the ‘plus brilliante’ results of the Manoeuvre.48 It was brief compared to those from armies which had not performed so well. On the 20 July he sent another report setting out the relief of regiments which had fought on the 15th and their replacement by fresher units.49 On 26 September his troops surged into attack in a general offensive along 10 miles of line. The French Fantassins and two American divisions drove through the German trenches. Between then and the 1 October the 4th Army reached as far as the railway junction in Challerange, so important in the battles of 1915 for supplying the German troops holding the Champagne heights.50 There the Army halted whilst other French and British armies retook the areas around Chateau-Thierry, Roye and Albert, lost in the Kaiser’s Offensive and the Operations Blucher and Gneisenau, to straighten out the bulges in the Allied lines. Further offensives by the 4th Army began the final German retreat which ended when Gouraud reached Sedan on Armistice Day. On 22 November he entered the city of Strasbourg to free it from a Soviet ‘government’ proclaimed on 11 November. Sadly for him his mother, with whom he had maintained a very close bond, died that day.

The US Rainbow Division

The relationship between Gouraud and the Division could not have started on a worse footing. His driver ran over the first ‘doughboy’ of the Division they met in the village of Tilloy. Though Private Burnett suffered a serious leg injury, he survived the War to return to his home in the United States.51 Fortunately this accident did not sour relations for after the War Gouraud became the honorary president of the Rainbow Veterans Association and retained strong links with it until his death in 1946. Travelling to the United States he enjoyed the ‘ticker tape’ reception in New York dressed in his military uniform as a General of France.

Gouraud becomes Commander of the Army of the Levant

Immediately afterwards Gouraud was appointed to take Command of the Army of the Levant and on 21 November 1918 reached Beyrut. His task was to assist in the dismemberment of the Ottoman empire and govern the French-occupied countries of Syria and Lebanon under the mandate of the League of Nations. It was a time of religious and ethnic turmoil in the Middle E and he had to fight battles and put down rebellions sometimes brutally. Whereas he had displayed great prowess in military management, controlling the unruly tribes proved to be different, a problem that continues to be found by so many military commanders of civilian populations. His reputation was somewhat tarnished by the methods the French forces used to maintain governance of these countries before he left his post in 1923.

The Military Governor of Paris

Gouraud completed his military career by becoming the Military Governor of Paris, following on from distinguished French Generals like Galieni. In 1937 he retired, three years before Nazi Germany completed what he had foiled the Kaiser’s Germany achieving in 1918, the occupation of Paris. The French Armies and the British Expeditionary Force having been routed, the French government retreated south to Vichy where Marshal Petain became its figure head in the collaboration with its former enemy.

The Navarin Farm Ossuary

Two years after the Germans were driven out of France by the British, Free French and American forces Gouraud passed away on 16 September 1946. Aged 79, he had lived long enough to see the final destruction of the German attempt to gain military hegemony over Europe.

On the rolling slopes of the Champagne heights there is a large memorial building positioned where the Navarin Farm used to be. This site, to the north-west of Suippes, had seen bitter fighting during the battles of 1915 and 1918. Its purpose is to to provide a final resting place for unknown Frenchman, and also Germans, whose bones can still be found on the battlefields of Champagne, even in the 21st century.

With the US Ambassador to France, Gouraud laid the first stone on 4 November 1923. He is now interred in a vault within the Ossuary and lies with the remains of the soldiers who died fighting with his beloved 4th Army.

General Henri Gouraud: an appreciation

Gouraud gained the respect of his contemporaries in the Allied armies and it is appropriate to summarise and conclude his contribution to the winning of the Great War in the words of his contemporaries

General Sir Ian Hamilton, Gallipoli 1915: Describes Gouraud as a “coadjutor than a subordinate.” On hearing of his wounding Hamilton wrote “we could more easily spare a Brigade.”

Colonel Douglas MacArthur of the US Rainbow Division in 1918, and the American victor of the Pacific War in 1945, said of his personal qualities, he “was without a weakness.” MacArthur also wrote that “with an arm gone, and half a leg missing, with his red beard glittering in the sunlight, the jaunty rake of his cocked hat and the oratorical brilliance of his resonant voice, his impact was overwhelming, He seemed almost to be the reincarnation of that legendary figure of battle and romance, Henry of Navarre. And he was just as good as he looked. I have known all the modern French commanders, and many were great measured by any standards, but he was the greatest of them all.”

President Poincare of France in 1922 said of his military and political skills, “the pacifier and the organizer of Syria.”

References

1. Wilson, H.W. & Hammerton, J.A. (1914), The Great War: The standard history of the all-Europe conflict. The Amalgamated Press London, vol.2, chap.XXVII, p.36.
2. Wilson, H.W. & Hammerton, J.A. (1914), The Great War: The standard history of the all-Europe conflict. The Amalgamated Press London, vol.2, chap.XXIX, p.69.
3. Wilson, H.W. & Hammerton, J.A. (1915), The Great War: The standard history of the all-Europe conflict. The Amalgamated Press London, vol.4, ch.LXXIII, p.186.
4. Merry, R.G.. (1915), News from the Front, The Autocar, January 30th, 1915.
5. Cassar, G.H. (1971), The French and the Dardanelles, George Allen and Unwin.
6. Hamilton, Sir I. (1920), Gallipoli Diary, Edward Arnold, Vol. 1., p.28.
7. Hamilton, Sir I. (1920), Gallipoli Diary, Edward Arnold, Vol. 1., p.91.
8. Hamilton, Sir I. (1920), Gallipoli Diary, Edward Arnold, Vol. 1., p.89.
9. Hamilton, Sir I. (1920), Gallipoli Diary, Edward Arnold, Vol. 1., p.22.
10. Hamilton, Sir I. (1920), Gallipoli Diary, Edward Arnold, Vol. 1., p.78.
11. Hamilton, Sir I. (1920), Gallipoli Diary, Edward Arnold, Vol. 1., p.137.
12. Hamilton, Sir I. (1920), Gallipoli Diary, Edward Arnold, Vol. 1., p.151.
13. Hamilton, Sir I. (1920), Gallipoli Diary, Edward Arnold, Vol. 1., p.9.
14. Travers, T. (2001), Gallipoli 1915, Tempus, Appendix II.
15. Pugsley, C. (1984), Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story. Houghton and Stoughton, p.189.
16. Ministe de la Guerre (1923), Les Armees Francaise dans le Grande Guerre, Tome 8 Premier Volume, Imprimerie Nationale Paris, Chapter 6, p.76.
17. Hamilton, Sir I. (1920), Gallipoli Diary, Edward Arnold, Vol. 1, p.222.
18. Wilson, H.W. & Hammerton, J.A. (1915), The Great War: The standard history of the all-Europe conflict. The Amalgamated Press London, vol. 4, ch. LXXXIII, p.420.
19. Travers, T, (2001), Gallipoli 1915, Tempus, Appendix III.
20. Ministe de la Guerre (1923), Les Armees Francaise dans le Grande Guerre, Tome 8 Premier Volume, Imprimerie Nationale Paris, Map 12.
21. Hamilton, Sir I. (1920), Gallipoli Diary, Edward Arnold, Vol. 1, p.226.
22. Ministe de la Guerre (1923), Les Armees Francaise dans le Grande Guerre, Tome 8 Premier Volume, Imprimerie Nationale Paris, p.70.
23. Hamilton, Sir I. (1920), Gallipoli Diary, Edward Arnold, Vol. 1., p.242.
24. Hamilton, Sir I. (1920), Gallipoli Diary, Edward Arnold, Vol. 1., p.250.
25. Hamilton, Sir I. (1920), Gallipoli Diary, Edward Arnold, Vol. 1., p.166.
26. Hamilton, Sir I. (1920), Gallipoli Diary, Edward Arnold, Vol. 1., p.244..
27, Ministe de la Guerre (1923), Les Armees Francaise dans le Grande Guerre, Tome 8 Premier Volume, Imprimerie Nationale Paris, p.79.
28. Rhode James, R. (1965), Gallipoli. B.T.Batsford Ltd, p.214..
29. Ministe de la Guerre (1923), Les Armees Francaise dans le Grande Guerre, Tome 8 Premier Volume, Imprimerie Nationale Paris, p.85.
30. Hamilton, Sir I. (1920), Gallipoli Diary, Edward Arnold, Vol. 1., p.287.
31. Hamilton, Sir I. (1920), Gallipoli Diary, Edward Arnold, Vol. 1., p.295..
32. Hamilton, Sir I. (1920), Gallipoli Diary, Edward Arnold, Vol. 1., p.297.
33. Hamilton, Sir I. (1920), Gallipoli Diary, Edward Arnold, Vol. 1., p.304.
34. Hamilton, Sir I. (1920), Gallipoli Diary, Edward Arnold, Vol. 1., p.317..
35. Wilson, H.W. & Hammerton, J.A. (1915), The Great War: The standard history of the all-Europe conflict. The Amalgamated Press London, vol.4, ch. LXXXIII, p. 428.
36. Hamilton, Sir I. (1920), Gallipoli Diary, Edward Arnold, Vol. 1., p.360.
37. Wilson, H.W. & Hammerton, J.A. (1919), The Great War: The standard history of the all-Europe conflict. The Amalgamated Press London, vol.12, ch. CCLX, p.136.
38. Pugsley, C. (1982), The New Zealand Story, Hodder & Stoughton.
39. Rhode James, R. (1965), Gallipoli. B.T.Batsford Ltd, p.232.
40. Wilson, H.W. & Hammerton, J.A. (1918), The Great War: The standard history of the all-Europe conflict. The Amalgamated Press London, vol.10, ch.CCII, p. 223.
41. Michelin (2006), Atlas of France.
42. Ministe de la Guerre (1923), Les Armees Francaise dans le Grande Guerre, Tome 7 Premier Volume, Maps, Map no.4, Imprimerie Nationale Paris,
43. M.S. Neiberg (2008), The Second Battle of the Marne, Indiana University Press, p.108.
44. Wilson, H.W. & Hammerton, J.A. (1919), The Great War: The standard history of the all-Europe conflict. The Amalgamated Press London, vol.12, ch.CCLIX, p. 136.
45. Cooke, J.J. (1994), The Rainbow Division in the Great War 1917-1919, Praeger, Westport, p.104.
46. Wilson, H.W. & Hammerton, J.A. (1919), The Great War: The standard history of the all-Europe conflict. The Amalgamated Press London, vol. 12, ch. CCLX, p.125.
47. Sheffield, G. & Bourne, J., editors (2005), Douglas Haig: War Diaries and Letters, 1914-1918, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, p.430.
48. Ministe de la Guerre (1923), Les Armees Francaise dans le Grande Guerre, Tome 7 Premier Volume, Annexes to 1st Volume, Imprimerie Nationale Paris, p.132.
49. Ministe de la Guerre (1923), Les Armees Francaise dans le Grande Guerre, Tome 8 Premier Volume, Annexes to 1st Volume, Imprimerie Nationale Paris, p.236.
50. Ministe de la Guerre (1923), Les Armees Francaise dans le Grande Guerre, Tome 7 Premier Volume, Maps, Map no.34, Imprimerie Nationale Paris.
51. Cooke, J.J. (1994), The Rainbow Division in the Great War 1917-1919, Praeger, Westport, p.98.

Sources

Various documents in ‘Les Armees Francaise dans le Grande Guerre, Tome 8 Premier Volume’ of the official French war records were consulted to establish the French positions on the Gallipoli peninsula. These are listed to assist those wishing to further their understanding of the French contribution.

Photograph no.1: region of Kereves Dere as filmed from an aircraft.
Map no.5: showing the relationship between Kum Kale and Yeni-hehr.
Map no.10: progress made between 15 May and 30 June whilst Gouraud was the Commander.
Map no.12: showing the sectors held by the 1st and 2nd Divisions.
Map no.13: progress made between 1 July and 4 October whilst Bailloud was in command.
Sketch no.1: region of Achi Baba showing the topography from Krithia to Kereves Dere.

Film

The Imperial War Museum has films taken which include General Gouraud. They are listed as:
IWM344, IWM440-03, IWM508-32, IWM508-70 and IWM508-75.

IWM344; Reel 01: frames 0-185, Gouraud introducing Sir John French to French officers and soldiers. Mostly the sequences are of Ypres in ruins, especially the Cloth Hall, so probably filmed in late 1915 or early 1916 as Gouraud’s right arm is missing and he walks with a slight limp holding his stick in his gloved left hand.
A British film of some 11,600 frames.

IWM440-0; Part 3: frames 13207-13413, same sequence as filmed in IWM344; frames 13423-13538, Gouraud and Sir John French walk along the platform beside a waiting train.
A British film of some 14,900 frames.

IWM508-31/32; frames 11316-11556, Gouraud walking to and entering the church for the funeral of General A. Baratier, killed in a front-line trench on 20 October 1917; frames 12337-12491, Gouraud walking towards the cemetery for the burial of General Baratier.
A French film of some 16,500 frames.

IWM508-70; July 1918: ‘In Champagne with Army Gouraud’; frames 6779-7193, Gouraud riding on his white horse inspecting a cavalry troop of French lancers, doffs his cap in salute using his left hand; frames 7201-7888, on foot presents the Croix de Guerre to the standards of the 6th and 23rd Dragoons, embracing then kissing on the cheek the standard bearers; frames 7889-8053, salutes soldier cyclists marching past (the march past continues with squadrons of galloping cavalry, mounted artillery and armoured cars).
A French film of some 9,700 frames.

IWM508-75; 14 August 1918: Rewarding his troops for the Manouevre on 15 July 1918; frames 1008-1271, Gouraud saluting the standards as he marches by them; frames 1311-2186, Gouraud smiling, embracing the standard bearers, but helped by another senior officer as he has difficulty in pinning the medals and ribbons on to the flapping standards with only one hand; 2272-2364, Gouraud continues to award the honours.
A French film of some 9,000 frames

Note: all films are likely to have been shot at 18 frames per second, hence the duration of these sequences can be calculated.

Further comments: On 23 August 2001 I made an authorised visit to the former battlefields within the Camp Militaire de Suippes and was guided around by Major Jean-Claude Cassant. At the destroyed village of le-Mesnil-les-Hurlus the top section of a human skull was discovered amongst the wild plants in the village cemetery. Major Cassant placed it in an iron funeral urn there to be taken later to the Navarin Farm Ossuary.

I drove Major Cassant around the tracks of the battlefields in a white car. When we finished the car was completely white, including the wheels and the tyres, from the chalk powder. He told me the troops training there sunk to their knees in the pulverised chalk in the summer but up to their thighs during the rainy part of the winter.

The next day the extent of Nivelle’s continuing disgrace was revealed to me. When a French Customs unit stopped and searched my car on the road bordering the military area, a young officer spotted a paper on the passenger seat with the word ‘Nivelle’ typed in block letters. He then turned to me and said using his limited English “Nivelle, a bad general !” My passport was checked and I was then waved off on my way to take photographs at the Hand of Massiges.

Postscript: After writing this appreciation of Gouraud I was given a copy of the first US film to win the Oscar for Best Film. ‘Wings’ was a silent film starring Clara Bow as the girl who falls in love with two men who become American fighter pilots in the Great War. At a military ceremony on an airfield in France the pilots are awarded gallantry medals by a French general for shooting down enemy aircraft. He wears a kepi, has a bushy beard and is missing his right arm – the precise features of Gouraud. After the War, the Americans admired him so much they made him President of the 42nd Division veterans. Clearly his fame spread to Hollywood as a supreme example of a French general.

Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig

001 THE ENIGMA OF HAIG:

Evidence from his Diaries, his Letters and his Handwriting

Table of Contents:
Haig: the lion or the donkey, the controversy continues
Haig: what sort of man was he?
Haig and Monash: initiating the analysis
Personal preliminary observations
Testing the preliminary observations
Selecting the samples to be analysed
The Graphology Report by Margaret Webb
• General Personality
• Relationship with Others
• General Intellect
Comments upon the Findings
Shedding light on the Enigma
Acknowledgements
Prepared for the Website

Haig: the lion or the donkey, the controversy continues

Was Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig the brilliant strategist who by 1918 had created a victorious army of 2.5 million soldiers, a British Expeditionary Force over thirty times bigger than it was in August 1914? Or was he a blunderer, or even a mass murderer, who knowingly sent hundreds of thousands to their deaths because he was unwilling to try better ways of waging war.

Even at the start of the Twenty-first Century, Haig’s detractors continue to condemn him as somehow being personally responsible for every soldier now lying under white tombstones in the ‘silent cities’ or blended into the Belgium and French soil. His supporters try hard to justify his military decisions as being part of a ‘learning curve’ that eventually brought success. The popular media, with their inability to allow facts to spoil a good story, find it easier to take the side of ‘Tommy Atkins’, a civilian conscripted unwillingly into the army as a private and condemned to be blown to bits or shot in the rat-infested water-logged trenches of Ypres and the Somme.

Undoubtedly the detractors still hold sway in the popular mind because it is fashionable in contemporary Britain to relate to the ‘victim’, even ‘victims’ who carry out heinous crimes. All can be presented as ‘victims’ of either their environment or their genes, none are considered to have the ability to control their own behaviour. The innocent (both morally and sexually) ‘Tommy Atkins’ lying under his tombstone, perhaps identified by the line ‘Known unto God’, fits comfortably into the contemporary vision of the ‘victim’. Unfortunately, history is often too complex for the sound-bite journalist or the paid-by-sales popular history author to have the time or the inclination to analyse and understand the details of the events of yesteryear.

The evidence of the war years and the 1920s shows that Haig was ‘lionised’ as having led the BEF to victory. The cost of this victory was accepted because warfare was recognised as a brutal activity that had to be carried out to resolve disputes once diplomacy had failed. Death was accepted as an inevitable part of that experience, in the same way that in the Edwardian Age an early death was generally accepted as the sad but inevitable fate of many children suffering infectious diseases for which modern drugs had not yet been invented. Hence Haig’s quality of command was accepted as being separate from the day-to-day experiences of the BEF soldiers fighting in the front-line trenches. When Haig died in 1926, his lying -in-state in Edinburgh for four days brought large crowds to pay their last respects – gatherings exceeding those for many members of the Royalty. His soldiers, writing during the war, deplored the life of the trenches, but mostly accepted that this was the price to pay to defeat the enemy. In retrospect, that life was seen by the many who returned safely to their homes as being the most exhilarating of their lives. They were proud of what they had done, and remained proud as they marched past the Cenotaph in Whitehall and town and village memorials each year on Armistice Day for most of the Twentieth Century.

Lion or donkey, the ‘battle’ has waged since disillusionment set in after the economic Depression of the later 1920s and the resurgence of a militaristic Germany in the 1930s. Fear of what might come led the ‘Liddell Harts’ to popularise the view that there had been no victory because the Germans had not been defeated. As a dead man who had not written his memoirs, Haig was given the personal responsibility for the death of each BEF soldier by the ‘Laffins’, the ‘Clarks’ and the ‘Winters’. Indeed the German defeat was even accepted as the result of the ‘stab in the back’, by the many who admired Hitler and his ‘rejuvenation’ of the German people – and contrasted it with the indecisive political actions of the British Governments during the inter-War years. The charges that Haig and his Generals had been ‘donkeys’ for allowing Germany to ‘win’ the war at terrible cost to the British people were held to be proven in the Court of the Hindsight of History.

Even though modern authors such as John Terraine and Brian Bond seek to bring a more balanced view to the history of the military and political events of the First World War, the controversy continues. Unfortunately it is likely to continue to do so because the protagonists prefer to snipe and bomb from their trenches rather than walk towards each other across No Man’s Land.

Haig: what sort of man was he?

Part of the critical judgment made of Haig is that he presents an enigma to his biographers. He is generally accepted as being dour, shy, and inarticulate – and not the best companion with whom to spend rain-lashed days at a British country -house weekend. The populist image of a not-attractive personality sits uncomfortably within the British contemporary life-style that wants its ‘heroes’, either politicians or media celebrities, to have exciting personal lives to match their public images. Even the occasional criminal activity or sexual misdemeanour are seen to enhance the excitement. Dourness, shyness and the inability to master the sound-bite are deeply unfashionable.

Yet the perceptions of Haig’s contemporaries were those of the people who grew up in the Victorian and Edwardian eras and accepted that he be judged on his military performance as the Commander-in-Chief of the BEF rather than on any supposed deficiencies in his private personality. Even though the Twenty-first British person has different moral standards and values, nevertheless there is a purpose in trying to understand the ‘whole man’. Was the sort of man he was partly responsible for the numerous occasions where operational tactics were flawed and ineffective? Was the date for which he remains popularly judged, the First of July 1916, the direct result of weaknesses in his psychology which condemned many thousands of volunteer troops to death and injury? This analysis presents views to be considered alongside his biographers’ assessments.

Haig and Monash: initiating the analysis

Researching into the battlefield performance of General Sir John Monash, as presented in this Website, I became aware of the fact that he had been rebuked by Haig in late September 1918. This was because of Monash’s agitated state of mind when commanding his Australian Corps during the assaults on the Hindenburg Line.

To assess what Haig himself thought of the incident, knowing that he greatly admired Monash, I sought out his private papers. As the edited version by Robert Blake was not satisfactory, I enlisted the help of the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives based in King’s College London in order to read their microfilms of these papers. These cover both his daily entries in his diaries as well as the sometimes more than daily letters to his wife Doris.

Reading the diaries and letters in their original hand-writing, I was struck by the fact that there is a considerable difference in the personality revealed in his letters to his wife from that exhibited in the diaries. Lest it be suggested that the latter were being written in a public capacity and the former in a very personal capacity, it is known that Haig accepted that both would enter the public domain at some stage. Therefore he would not have been tempted to write about matters in the letters which could be claimed to be libelous, especially as he was aware that he was the subject of much criticism over his handling of military operations – particularly from the British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George.

Personal preliminary observations

Without covering the ground covered and indeed fought over by his many biographers, these are my personal comments based on observations of his two sizes of writing, smaller in his diaries than in his letters. Although ‘cool’ in his diaries even when noting casualty returns, he must have seen his daily, and sometimes twice-daily, letters to Doris as being the opportunity to unburden himself at an emotional level. The letters are intellectually uninspiring, indeed they could have been written by a sentimental teenager.

But the manner of his upbringing and military life may have slowed the development of emotional feelings that normally mature with age. He married in middle-age for the first time after a very brief courtship and had been married for nine years before the outbreak of war. The shock of being plunged into a situation of great stress may have released feelings which had to be let out. As a leading commander and then the Commander-in-Chief, expressing his feelings as a military leader would have had to be kept in careful check, bearing in mind the British culture of the early Twentieth century of the ‘stiff upper lip’. This perhaps explains the coolness of his demeanour. Only the letters to his wife gave the possibility of a safe outlet to his deeper feelings.

The strong feelings are revealed in two ways. Firstly by his concerns for the health of his wife – clearly she had lost too much weight as the result of complications following the birth of their only son (they already had two daughters Xandra and Doria) – and that his baby son was growing normally (he got his medical officers to assure him of this). And secondly by his concern for the future of the disabled officers, how they might suffer after the war, and what could be done for them, expressed on many occasions such as on the 19th of July 1918 (nearly 4 months before Armistice Day). He knew that many had risen through the ranks during the war so could not fall back upon the private income normally available to Regular officers, especially in prestigious Regiments. The Poppy Appeal, still given high status in 2001, is the tangible expression of Haig as a feeling man rather that as the austere Commander-in-Chief of popular reputation.

As to the detached feeling he presents in 1918, this could have been the result of having to operate beyond the day-to-day administration of the BEF, especially in strengthening the coalition partnership with General Ferdinand Foch resulting from the Doullens Conference during the Kaiser’s Offensive in the Spring of that year. Although still technically in command he was prepared to accept his Army and Corps Commanders such as Rawlinson and Monash running their ‘own shows’ except when obvious problems arose (such as for Monash on the 29th of September). This may have come as a relief to him after the mental batterings he took in 1916 with the unsatisfactory progress of the Somme battles and in 1917 as Third Ypres bogged down in rain and mud. Having to explain why promises of breakthrough were not being kept when facing across the Cabinet table charismatic politicians such as Lloyd George, articulate at expressing their concerns about the manpower consequences of his military campaigns, must have put pressure on his self-confidence.

For his personal letters reveal he did lack such confidence deep within himself – hence his expressions of how lucky he was that Doris had been prepared to marry him and love him, and how touched he was that Doris wished to use his own name in naming their son. Not the image an arrogant self-assured man would present, even to his own wife – more the sort of thinking that is nowadays found acceptable by Twentieth-first century feminists!

My preliminary conclusions were that clearly the psychology of Haig was likely to continue being of interest to historians and analysts of military management because it reveals a personality which is more complex than the popular image of ‘Butcher’ Haig still promulgated in the newspapers – especially around the time of Armistice Day each year. But whatever his imperfections as a military commander, to his lasting credit his armies which he had to build up as effective fighting units did help bring to a successful conclusion one of the most horrific conflicts ever experienced by mankind.

Testing the preliminary observations

In order to test these conclusions, I asked Margaret Webb, an experienced graphologist and Diploma holder of the British Institute of Graphologists, to analyse samples of handwriting of both the letters and the diaries. Graphology is a technique often used in business recruitment. Although treated with some scepticism in Britain, it is accepted in many countries as an aid to assessing personality traits. Hence its use in analysing features of Haig’s personality could add to the psychological profile of the leading BEF commander developed by historians. However it is reasonable to suggest that their assessments can be challenged as their skills and learning are rarely in the sciences of psychology or psychiatry.

In requesting this analysis, great care was taken not to reveal Haig’s identity as I did not want his popular image to influence her judgement. Although graphologists normally wish to see the original handwriting to assess the physical strength put into making the strokes, I had to tell her that the original writings were stored in another country. Fortunately she though of France and countries overseas, rather than Scotland!

Selecting the samples to be analysed

Photocopies were taken from samples of the microfilm in the Liddell Hart Centre, the originals being stored in the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh.

In selecting the samples, certain obvious dates (such as the First of July 1916) could not be used because they contained information likely to reveal the status of the writer. Also where a date such as the 11th of November 1918 was used, a page was selected that did not mention the momentous events of that day.

From Haig’s letters to his wife, the dates chosen were:

Easter Sunday, the 31st of March 1918;
Armistice Day, the 11th of November 1918.

These were numbered 1 and 2 and Margaret Webb was asked to analyse them first before she saw the other samples.

From his diaries, the dates chosen were:

Monday, the 27th September 1915;
Sunday, the 21st October 1917;
Sunday, the 31st of March 1918;
Saturday, the 26th of July 1916.

These were numbered from 3 to 6.

All are periods of especial interest to historians. The 27th of September 1915 was during the battle of Loos, that tragic precursor to the Somme campaign – represented by the 26th of July 1916. The 21st of October 1917 was during Third Ypres. The 31st of March 1918 was during the Kaiser’s Offensive when the fate of the war hung very much in the balance. The diaries’ samples were not numbered in the normal time sequence to prevent the graphologist building a time-based scenario.

In fact selecting the samples was particularly difficult due to the need to retain Haig’s identity as a secret. Margaret Webb had some suspicions but no certainty because all I had told her was that the writings were from the early part of the Twentieth century. Nevertheless, clearly military matters were being discussed – except in his letter to Doris on the 11th November 1918! Unfortunately the mention of a tie as a present indicated the person was male. To retain Haig’s incognito, I had to avoid samples of his signature, even though this is a considerable aid to analysis.

The Graphology Report by Margaret Webb

Margaret Webb’s report on the 6 samples is now given as originally received.

Margaret Webb M.BIG (Dip.)

Note: The originals were not available for inspection, therefore the pressure (energy levels of the writer etc.) and quality of the pen stroke were not discernable.

General Personality
The handwriting of letters 1 and 2 is extremely active and alive, dominated by drive and enthusiasm. The writer preferred variety and action and would be always ‘on the go’. He was very hard working and would have liked to be the centre of attention. Ambition, courage, perseverance and leadership qualities are also very much in evidence. The writing shows a person who could make quick decisions based on his ability to ‘think ahead’, well into the future, but this would be at the expense of clarity of thinking and caution. He possessed great foresight, seeing the whole and complete picture of a situation rather than concentration on the detail, as he would become bored easily if presented with anything that required great patience and tolerance. He would hate uninspired routine, always being drawn to the exciting challenges of new possibilities. People such as these are frequently irritable, jumpy and easily distracted as they are always in a hurry to get things done. Although his mind was ‘unscientific’ in the true sense of the word, he was curious about everything in the world around him and possessed the ability to analyse, question and probe deeply into things. He was usually open and broadminded, but with a few narrow opinions. One of his less positive character traits was an ability to conceal and cover up as some ambiguity is detected within his writing. His planning and organising ability was good but he would delegate tasks that required concentration, patience and equanimity.

He would see both new possibilities and new ways of doing things. He could quickly and easily adapt to new situations. He had great initiative for starting major projects and impulsive energy for carrying them out, and this enthusiasm would get other people interested too. As already mentioned, leadership qualities are in evidence and he would therefore have had many followers.

Relationships with Others
The writer was friendly and possessed a genuine and warm personality, but very powerful and dominating – a determined person, difficult to ‘not notice’. He was actively curious about people, activities and food etc., he was also strong in the art of living, getting a lot of fun out of life, making him good company. His abilities in using all his ‘senses’ may have shown in:- a continuous ability to see the need of the moment and turn easily to meet it, and the skilful handling of people and conflicts. He would make his decisions by using the personal values of feeling rather than the logical analysis of thinking. The strong feeling side to his personality would make him sympathetic and interested in people. He would fit into any social situation and would not find conversation an effort, speaking freely and fluently.

There was however a conflict deep within his personality of wanting v not wanting people – he would welcome the warmth and love of another but felt isolated at the same time, therefore making it difficult for him to foster deep and meaningful friendships. He could be very sympathetic and kind, lending a listening ear, but this could be short-lived making some of his social attitudes to others seem very conflicting and confusing; he may have had one or two respected and close friends to whom he was loyal but, on the whole, few permanent friends as he would tend to put people into categories of black and white – acceptable and fun to be with against not worth bothering about/sympathetic against cutting one dead another time. Therefore, he was not an easy character to get on with as his listening skills were good only up to a point, and he soon became impatient. His confidence fluctuated causing him self-doubt and he could become over-emotional, easily losing control. Although he normally put a certain amount of distance between others, he was not very independent and would always need to know that there was someone trustworthy in the background.

General Intellect
This is the writing of an extremely intelligent, witty and quick thinking person, with a dry sense of humour. His rich imagination and original mind were two of his great strengths, together with his ability to think on his feet and talk about a variety of topics. He had a powerful moral conscience, and probably held strong spiritual/religious beliefs. In all areas of his personality, some conflict is in evidence – he was the host of a very complex personality, e.g. he could be very critical and cutting but charming at the same time. He was goal-minded and constantly thinking ahead, but this would be battling against a strong conscience together with some repression.

He was not particularly good at putting things in a logical order and would have difficulty in standing back and reflecting upon a situation with any amount of caution. Instead he would jump into a situation based on inspirations and hunches. His problem solving ability could, for example, have succeeded purely because he got a lot accomplished at the last minute under the pressure of a deadline, rather than his thinking ability and sound judgement.

There is a male figure influence evident within the hand-writing, with little indication of a strong female influence. (This does not mean that a mother figure was absent – it simply infers that a father figure was the more dominant during his early life.)

NOTE – The writing is very spontaneous and natural; well advanced beyond the time it was written at the beginning of this century. The copybook at this time teaches writing that is elaborate in many ways, and this handwriting is unconventional in that it shows much simplification in many of its forms. This means that he would not adhere to convention, preferring to do things his own way. His dominating personality was one of originality and flair – instantly recognisable as someone ‘different’ from others in very many ways.

The handwriting of documents 3-6 (all written in ‘note’ form) show the same character traits as above, but the personality was under extreme pressure, both emotionally and mentally. The writer’s self-confidence fluctuates considerably and the whole personality seems to be under very great strain. Also detected are lapses in concentration and fatigue, together with a great deal of anxiety and irritability.

(The samples for analysis are very poor, barely legible in places. Age and nationality of writer plus information regarding the precise dates of the documents was not available.)

Comments upon the Findings

Knowing that Margaret Webb had been commissioned to analyse the handwritings of the serial killer Frederick West and Carlos the Jackal, I asked her whilst she was analysing Haig’s handwriting if he was some-one capable of committing murder. She assured me that he was not a killer like West and the Jackal!

Margaret Webb was asked to look at samples 1 and 2 first so her findings start from Haig’s letters to his wife. Yet when she moved on to samples 3 to 6 taken from his diaries, the difference in handwriting is not sufficient for her to justify preparing a second report – which would be the case if Haig exhibited very different personalities depending on the circumstances under which he was writing at that moment in time. His two styles therefore reflect the internal tensions he felt when writing, little tension when writing about ‘simple’ matters to his wife, but heightened tension when recording his activities as firstly a senior commander and then as the BEF Commander-in-Chief.

The comment about thinking ahead (paragraph 1) but at the expense of clarity of thinking and caution links with his attrition policy even though the British Armies were experiencing severe casualties for little territorial gain both on the Somme and at Passchendaele.

Yet during the emergency of the Kaiser’s Offensive, Haig quickly assessed his personal position during the Doullens Conference on the 26th of March 1918. He put aside his own pride and proposed that General Foch should take overall control over both the French Armies and the BEF to halt the Offensive. Two days he dismissed the unlucky General Sir Hubert Gough from his command of the BEF Fifth Army – an officer he had loyally sheltered from the possibility of dismissal since the year before. The selection of the note from the 31st of March 1918 was as soon after these two events as was practicable.

Haig has the reputation of being so inarticulate that when showing his battle strategy plans on maps his hand would sweep over a large area of the Western Front accompanied by a series of grunts and it would be his staff who would interpret his movements. But was his inarticulateness when his Army and Corps Commanders and General Staff took care to explain their operational plans the result of his becoming bored easily – so he said little to hide the fact that he had absorbed little?

His ability to see new possibilities (paragraph 2) may have been reflected in his strong support for the tank, even after its poor performance (in terms of reliability) at the Somme and Third Ypres. As a cavalryman, he might instead have adopted the scepticism of other cavalry commanders – instead he allowed the giant raid originally planned for the Cambrai assault of November 1917 to ‘grow like topsy’ into a full-scale assault on the Hindenburg Line which had tremendous short-term success.

He must have been good company with some (paragraph 3) because he retained the loyalty of his Royal friends despite the machinations of the British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George. If he had not been acceptable company it is unlikely that King Edward VII would have welcomed him at Court! However the Court of King George V and Queen Mary would have suited a dour, shy person not given to sparkling conversation. There is no doubt that the suggestion he was capable of ‘speaking freely and fluently’ jars with those who have studied Haig as a professional military commander.

Clearly he kept loyal (paragraph 4) to some like his friend, the Director of Military Intelligence Brigadier-General John Charteris, beyond the time they were effective. Perhaps he kept these staff because his self-doubt meant that he needed them as men he could trust.

The presence of strong spiritual/religious beliefs (paragraph 5) ties in with his regular church attendance even when critical military circumstances might have kept him away. He is supposed to have dabbled in spiritualism but it is likely this was done to please his wife, however he might also have been curious to find out if it meant anything – a reflection of an enquiring mind.

He is considered to have had a very close relationship with his mother rather than his father, but this would not have prevented him from being heavily influenced by his father’s attitudes and beliefs (paragraph 7).

As Commander-in-Chief and someone who was a leader for most of his military life, it is not surprising he was recognised as being ‘different’ (paragraph 8).

It is revealing that his diaries of his activities as Commander-in-Chief show extreme pressure in his handwriting. The deliberate ‘hiding’ of the dates provides no evidence that the pressure grew more intense from the year of the unsuccessful battle of Loos, 1915, to the year of the Advance to Victory, 1918 (paragraph 9). 0therwise the graphologist would have highlighted samples 4 and 5 (Third Ypres and the Kaiser’s Offensive) as indicating a difference from samples 3 and 6. The general conclusion based on how he wrote his diaries must be that he was under great strain during the whole of his term of office until Armistice Day.

Shedding light on the Enigma

The different personality traits revealed by Haig’s handwriting are worthy of psychological analysis – for shedding light on the enigma may make clearer why he took decisions which too often appeared to lack logic (see paragraph 3). For examples, the extensions to the fighting on the Somme when diminishing returns had long before set in. Yet even the continuation of fighting at Third Ypres in 1917 raises a challenge to the popular condemnation of Haig’s attrition policy, the German view that the continuation of the very dry period in the late autumn by just one week would have seen their army defeated in the field.

With the voluntary support of an experienced graphologist unencumbered by any prejudice about the writer, her analysis of Haig’s handwriting does reinforce the conclusions reached by some historians. They confirm that Haig was a complex personality not deserving of his nickname ‘Butcher’.

Two schools of historians dominate the biographies written about Haig, those that praise him and those that damn him. How many of them seek to understand what sort of man he was is questionable. Hence it is reasonable to use a technique which although controversial in Britain is widely accepted elsewhere as having value in illuminating the personality through the person’s handwriting. Hence I find that the graphologist’s report suggesting he had a not unsympathetic personality makes sense of his good relationships with his Army Commanders, his loyal General Staff, his family and the British Court.

Although Haig’s relationship with Lloyd George was unsatisfactory, when Lloyd George wished to replace him, firstly Lloyd George found himself in peril of being replaced and secondly no other senior British officer was considered to be suitable. Whatever judgment is made about his performance as a military manager during the succession of battles, nevertheless the record is clear. He did weld together a fighting force that did hold out until victory was achieved. He was the figurehead of a learning experience that found solutions to the dramatic changes in weapons technology and overcame their earlier overpowering dominance of the battlefield. He provided the leadership that turned civilians, firstly volunteers, later mainly conscripts, men used to peace behind the protection of the British Royal Navy, into soldiers capable of outlasting the Teutonic warrior.

Perhaps a man with a simpler personality might not have been able to achieve this?

Acknowledgements

May I thank the Librarians at the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King’s College London, for their help in finding the microfiche films needed to suit my requirements and for their advice on how to get the best out of the viewing equipment especially in preparing the photocopies for later examination by the graphologist.

I must, above all, thank Margaret Webb who gave me her professional expertise without payment to carry out this handwriting analysis of the unknown writer. However historians might view her findings, the methodology offers the opportunity to further the understanding of the psychology of historical personalities no longer alive.

Prepared for the Website

28 March 2001

General Sir John Monash – The First Military Commander?

GENERAL SIR JOHN MONASH:
THE FIRST MILITARY MANAGER?

DID HE BRING TO COMMAND BUSINESS IDEAS NOT KNOWN TO OTHER BEF COMMANDERS?

Abstract

The military management skills of General Sir John Monash, commander of the Australian Corps on the Western Front in 1918, is the subject of this assessment. The objective is to examine whether or not he brought unique competencies to leadership based on his earlier business experiences. Benchmarking his actions against those of other senior British Expeditionary Force commanders such as Sir Henry Rawlinson, Sir Arthur Currie and Sir Andrew Russell enable his overall performance to be analysed. Contemporary management concepts are used to test the findings.

Both primary research, the examination of original letters and reports, and secondary research, the literature about the First World War, have provided information to support the overall conclusion. Monash was a pioneer in military management but not unique. He shared with others from business and commercial backgrounds the ability to exploit management ideas and the new technologies current during the Great War. He should be remembered for bringing Twentieth Century thinking to an Imperial Army still largely dominated by Nineteenth Century teachings.

Table of Contents

Abstract
Why Examine the Military Management of the Great War?
The Shaping of Business Management in the Early Twentieth Century
Military Commanders as Seekers of Sustainable Competitive Advantage
The Researching of Monash’s Contribution to the Military Operations of 1918
Monash the Man; As an Engineer and as a Soldier
The Anzac Legend; The Problems with Illusion
Currie and Russell; Mythologizing the Other Dominions
Assessing Rawlinson’s Progress, 1914 to 1918
Monash and Rawlinson; Comments on their Working Relationship
Monash; the Unique Military Commander?
Taking Military Management Forward; A General Conclusion
Appendix 1: Defining Fayol’s Principles of Management
Appendix 2: The Evidence for Monash being a Military Manager
Appendix 3: Monash and his Military Experiences after 1918
Appendix 4: Rawlinson’s erratic planning
References and Additional Notes
Acknowledgements

Why Examine the Military Management of the Great War?

General Sir John Monash, the commander of the Australian Corps within the British Expeditionary Force (the BEF) during the final months of the Great War on the Western Front, has been considered by historians to have had a unique ability – that of being able to apply the skills of business management to the fighting of battles. It has led to Monash being thought of as the first military manager. As described by Pitt (1962), paraphrasing Liddell Hart’s obituary of Monash, he “…possessed one of the few ‘Big Business’ type of brains among the Allied commanders…” (also Serle, 1982a). However is this judgement based on a myth, or did he bring something to command which gave his units success out of proportion to their numbers and what they were asked to do? It is the analysis of the relevance of this ability that is the core of this assessment.

In juxtaposition to this question can be addressed two others. Were other commanders using such skills but hiding their origin simply because they progressed their careers through the established military hierarchies or were they from countries which did not seek to mythologize their commanders’ contribution to winning the Great War?

To set the scene – what is meant by business management will be examined first. This will show what influences were shaping the ways things were done during the early years of the Twentieth Century. Then the impact of these influences upon the operational thinking of a number of the leaders of the BEF units will be examined to allow the record of Monash as a military commander to be assessed. This will enable a more accurate judgement to be made of Monash’s contribution to the initial development of the military manager ethos, a development which has continued up to the present time albeit that controversy continues between the leadership school and the management school of military training.

The Shaping of Business Management in the Early Twentieth Century

During the Twentieth Century there has been a revolution in the understanding of how to manage business organizations. The stimulus for this has been the need to gain and hold a competitive advantage. Powering the stimulus has been the change in global economics brought about by technological changes such as Information Technology. These have allowed organizations to grow so that they have to ‘feed’ on greater and greater geographical areas – a process called globalisation. Trade has fuelled the growth of the larger commercial organizations so that they have outgrown their home countries, even their continents, and now export their goods and services throughout the world. In the early Twentieth Century, the Greater German Empire sought such expansion but felt itself blocked by the globally-based British Empire, one of the economic factors creating the political tensions which led to the Great War.

Allowing this process to progress has been the development of what is today known as ‘management’. Management has evolved beyond the term ‘administration’, which is about developing and maintaining procedures. It is the ‘umbrella’ term covering the activities of forecasting, planning, organizing, commanding, co-ordinating and controlling – concepts brought together in a cohesive whole by Henri Fayol in his hugely influential book ‘Administration industrielle et generale’. The book was published in 1916, the year of Verdun and the Somme on the Western Front.

Henri Fayol, (1845-1925) the successful French industrialist, was trained as a mining engineer. Between 1864 and 1918 he worked in one company, spending the last thirty years turning it into a prosperous organization. In his book, writing about the then already recognised five key activities of technical; commercial; financial; security; and accounting; he focused on a sixth, the managerial activities. These managerial activities are contained in 14 precepts, his famous ‘Principles of Management’.

They are:-
• division of work;
• authority;
• discipline;
• unity of command;
• unity of direction;
• subordination of individual interests to the general interest;
• renumeration;
• centralization;
• scalar chain;
• order;
• equity;
• stability of tenure of personnel;
• initiative;
• esprit de corps.(as listed in Cole, 1990)

Definitions of these terms are given in Appendix 1.

Although the modern management theorist might criticise these terms, nevertheless they reflected the management practices found to be the best for the organizational structures common in the early Twentieth Century, many based on paternalistic bureaucracies. For example, in the British Army such an organizational structure was the battalion with its scalar chain of command, its division of labour based on different weapon systems and activities, its use of authority and discipline, and its centralized purpose controlled by a commanding officer. Although personal initiative had to be contained within ordered procedures, the battalion usually had a superb esprit de corps built upon the loyalty of its men (Lee, 1997a).

Although the date of publication, 1916, and the language of publication (French), both precluded the book from being directly applied by the Great War’s BEF commanders, nevertheless, it linked concepts which had been gaining international respectability for some time. A major influence on these was F.W. Taylor who published his ‘The Principles of Scientific Management’ in 1911. With other American managers interested in management theories, the idea of managing scientifically was introduced into workplaces such as factories and construction sites and greatly improved productivity.

When the production of war materials, for example, gun tubes and shells, later demanded large quantities be made in short periods of time, scientific management provided the means by which this objective was achieved. Careful manufacturing to fine tolerances was critical for producing weapons such as the British 60-pounder gun which would accurately deliver explosives on to geographical points selected for creeping barrages and counter-battery fire (Winter, 1991a).

Military Commanders as Seekers of Sustainable Competitive Advantage

The mention of the two battles, Verdun and the Somme, is no coincidence. When military commanders fight each other, in effect they are trying to gain a competitive advantage over the other and then sustain that advantage through the exercise of military and, with other leaders, political power. Using Clausewitzian terminology, they seek to ‘impose their will on the enemy’. The later name for the Great War is the First World War which more accurately defines the nature of this conflict. The enemy states were in two blocs involving the major empires and nations of the world. Whereas campaigns between belligerents in previous centuries had been fought in relatively limited geographical areas, the campaigns of the Great War by contrast took place globally and simultaneously, on land, sea, and even in the air. Combatants from countries as far apart as India, Germany, the United States, New Zealand, Arabia, Turkey and South Africa found themselves fighting other combatants sometimes thousands of miles from their homelands.

The global nature of the Great War meant that those in command and responsible for co-ordinating groups of combatants from many countries were required to give thought to how these different groups could be motivated to achieve their best performance. Whereas controlling groups from within one’s own nation is commanding the known, doing so with foreign groups exposes the commander to the unknown element of different national cultures. The modern international businessman has had to become sensitive to differences in national cultures; understanding what is important has had to be learned, and the knowledge passed on, over a number of decades. Although many of the commanders of the Great War on the British and French side did have experience of commanding ‘native’ troops in India and in North Africa, only a few gained a reputation for cultural sensitivity.

Hence many Entente commanders, brought up in the Sandhurst or St. Cyr traditions, found themselves being required to command multi-national groups bringing with them many different thoughts on how war should be fought and expressing these thoughts in different languages. Furthermore not all the leaders of these groups were necessarily long-serving officers trained exclusively in military thinking. Some had qualified in non-military professions, and had led lives exposed to new ways of thinking fermented during the great industrial progress of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries. Others had been involved with commercial enterprises and absorbed the new ideas being publicised by Fayol, Taylor and others on how to run these enterprises more efficiently so as to be successful.

Thus the military commanders on the Western Front were finding themselves being exposed to, and having to take account of, new attitudes and practices brought about the unusual circumstances of this multi-national conflict. These reflected the explosion in scientific ideas, the cascading of these ideas into industrial processes, and the divergence in the ways of doing things resulting from geographical and cultural factors. To get the best out of these processes required sound management. Furthermore, these commanders were soon made aware by practical examples such as the lethal power of machine gun fire that many of the military practices of the years 1860 to 1910 were being rendered obsolete by the industrialisation of the fighting, which demanded the huge expenditure of material resources to support the front-line troops – demands which could only be met by exploiting the commercial advances in making manufactured products of an acceptable quality in vast quantities.

In attempting to analyse the impact of these new attitudes, the name of one general stands out, the Australian commander John Monash. His ‘Big Business’ approach to military command (Pitt, 1962), seen in his application of commercial thinking to military problems – as evidenced in his own statements set out in Appendix 2 – can be said to make him the first recognisable military manager. He was one of the first ‘citizen officers’ (Cutlack 1935, Serle 1982b) to have reached the rank of Major General whilst being able to consider practically applying the many skills he acquired in his professional and commercial life outside military service. Hence Monash will be the pivotal personality around which this assessment revolves and will be used to benchmark the standard to which a number of other British and Dominion commanders performed in the managerial role.

From this analysis will come a deeper understanding of how management began to play its proper role in improving the effectiveness with which troops fight. In the early Twentieth First Century, this role is recognised, albeit sometimes controversially, as having a part to play in the running of military campaigns as well as of business organizations. Indeed, increasingly the lessons of military operations are being used to understand how to win commercial success, and new business ideas are being exploited to further improve military effectiveness. Although the Harvard Business School approach may have been misapplied in controlling American operations in the Vietnam War, recent conflicts in the Falkland Islands, in the Persian Gulf and, more controversially, in Kosova show how good management can help bring success – and with it a considerable saving in human lives.

The Researching of Monash’s Contribution to the Military Operations of 1918

In order to examine individual performances in the managerial role, three levels of research are available, of which the first has little applicability today. Being some eighty years since the end of the Great War, none of those who commanded remain alive. Even those who served as subalterns and privates are few in number, and as seen in the Armistice Day parade in Whitehall, London, or at the great Thiepval Memorial to the Missing ceremony (Coombs, 1976) on the First of July, are now extremely frail. Inevitably their reminiscences are usually based on selective memories – and anyway, unless they were attached to GHQ or Corps HQs, they would have known nothing of how decisions were made by the BEF commanders.

The second level is what academics and researchers call ‘primary research’. Here the war letters, personal letters and diaries of the commanders can be examined and analysed. Thus the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives at King’s College London provides microfilm of Sir Douglas Haig’s diaries and letters, the originals being stored in the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh. Sir Henry Rawlinson’s papers are stored at Churchill College, Cambridge. He commanded the Fourth Army in which the Australian Corps, led by Monash, fought during the Hundred Days of 1918. General Sir John Monash’s papers are stored at the Australian National Library in Canberra, but a selection of his war letters have been published (Cutlack, 1935).

Having examined the Haig Diaries, both as photographed from his original diaries and as selected by Blake (1952), the weakness of this form of research can be understood where someone with Haig’s renowned self-control writes to present his views on current and forthcoming operations recognising that these will be read by future historians. Sir Henry Rawlinson’s diaries covering the periods surrounding the battles of Hamel (4 July 1918) and of Amiens (beginning 8 August 1918) and the attack on the Hindenburg Line (September 1918) have also been read, in Churchill College (during November 2000), to examine the working relationship between Monash and his Fourth Army Commander.

The third level is usually called ‘secondary research’. For the purposes of this assessment, secondary research provides the main source of information. It is based on the many books written about the First World War and also about contemporary strategic and business management. However, the former books present problems of veracity. To what extent are the military authors seeking to provide objective assessments of often-controversial events, or are they trying to, perhaps sub-consciously, project their personal feelings, whether of admiration or animosity? This applies particularly to the events of 1916 and 1917 and especially to the battles of the Somme and Passchendaele.

In this assessment, this author as a lecturer and author on organisational management has no particular ‘school of history’ to defend. Instead he seeks to understand historical events using intellectual methodology and analysis from the business world which are not part of the historian’s ‘tools of the trade’. In presenting information, this author recognises that he has to select elements of historical recording in order to develop his analysis. However in the same way that a painting can be accepted as the representation of an actuality, this paper can be presented as a reasonable representation of what happened during the Great War. It builds on earlier authors who were able to question some of those that were part of the events, and who had better access to original diaries and letters deposited in the world’s museums and archives.

Monash the Man; As an Engineer and as a Soldier

In assessing the overall performance of Monash, it is prudent to separate Monash the man from the myth he came to represent. John Monash was born in Melbourne in 1865 of recently-arrived Jewish migrants from the Prussian-Polish region. When they settled in Australia, his father dropped the ‘c’ in the Monasch name to give the surname by which his son is now known. John Monash qualified as an engineer (alike Henri Fayol) and practised in construction, pioneering the use of ferro-concrete in Australia. Among his many interests was military training and he became a part-time militia officer gradually gaining promotion whilst in command of coastal artillery batteries. He was in the Australian forces which landed in Gallipoli in 1915 and the biographies by A.J. Smithers (1973), Geoffrey Serle (1982a) and P.A. Pedersen (1985) describe his control of troops during the campaign (where a temporary attack of panic fortunately did not damage his future prospects). After reaching the Western Front, he was made the commander of the 3rd Australian Division. His first divisional attack was at Messines on the 7th of June 1917 (Pedersen, 1985). On the 4th of October, he commanded the attack on the Broodseinde Ridge (to the east of Passchendaele) which employed his first use of ‘leapfrogging’ units of the Division through each other and onto the objectives. The success of the attack brought further renown to the whole Australian Corps.

Following Birdwood’s transfer away from the Australian Corps, Monash came into his own as the commander of the entire Corps, firstly in the very successful but limited action at Hamel, east of Villers-Bretonneux, on the 4th July 1918 (with appropriately, it being American Independence Day, some American troops taking part). The objective in capturing the Hamel Spur was to deepen the defences of the Villers-Bretonneux plateau (Pedersen, 1985). Because he was not directly involved with the disastrous First Battle of Bullecourt (11th April 1917) in which the 4th Australian Brigade suffered a 75 % casualty rate due to the fiasco in using the Mark 1 tanks, he was not prejudiced against the tank. 45 new Mark 5 Fighting tanks of the 5th Tank Brigade advancing in 3 echelons behind a creeping barrage helped the infantry to the swift capture of the Spur, a success achieved with limited casualties. Next month the divisions of his Corps were key elements in the famous advance on the 8th August at the Battle of Amiens, the first major step in closing the ring upon the worn-out German field armies. Two other important successes, at Mont St Quentin on September 1st and on September 29th in breaking through the Hindenburg Line at Bellicourt, were achieved before the Australian Corps left the front-line for rest and recuperation.

Whilst these actions cemented the global reputation of the Australians as superb fighters, they also benefited Monash, their Corps Commander, by giving him his long-lasting reputation even though his agitated state and indecision before the storming of the Hindenburg Line, similar to that he experienced during the Gallipoli campaign, lead to his being personally counselled by Sir Douglas Haig, his Commander-in-Chief (Serle 1982a, Pedersen 1985, Winter 1991b). However the next day, the 30th of September, two of his brigade commanders, Cannan of the 14th Brigade and McNicoll of the 9th Brigade, seized the opportunity to switch from a west-east line of advance to a northwards movement which allowed the remainder of the Hindenburg Line in the Australian sector to be cleared during the 31st of September (Pedersen, 1985).

After the end of hostilities, Sir John Monash remained a further year in Europe to ensure the smooth return of his troops to Australia. Unfortunately soon after his own return his personal happiness was blighted by the death of his wife who had suffered cancer of the uterus for six years without her knowing (although he was told of her condition in February 1916). He then returned to his professional life becoming general manager of the Victoria State Electricity Commission, which built one of the world’s greatest engineering schemes. Showing his good sense, he employed German engineers who were the only ones with the expertise to exploit the reserves of brown coal needed to fuel the power stations. After his death in 1931, Monash University, the second university established in the State of Victoria, was named in his memory.

There is ample evidence, some of it being listed in Appendix 2, that Monash was a superb military organiser, using a daily checklist (with each task meticulously crossed off once completed) to make sure that no task was overlooked. His engineering expertise came into play in rebuilding Australian confidence in the tank which brought success on the 4th of July. He used four Carrier tanks to supplement the carrying capacity of the Mark 5 Fighting tanks at Le Hamel village and Vaire and Hamel Woods to save over 1,250 soldiers having to carry forward 50,000 lb of supplies (wire, pickets, sheet iron, bombs, ammunition and water) to the advancing troops (Fletcher, 1994). Copying the Germans’ technique used in their attacks on the Lys and the Aisne during the Kaiser’s Battle, aircraft were used to parachute in 112,000 rounds of ammunition needed by the machine-guns although many of the parachutes failed to open (Pitt 1962, Pedersen 1985). Whether Hamel is categorised as a battle or a giant raid, it has achieved renown because of Monash’s meticulous planning, given support by Haig and Rawlinson. Therefore it is reasonable to claim that it was the first modern battle because of the close co-operation between the artillery, tanks, aircraft and the infantry (Serle 1982a, Bailey 1998)

During the Battle of Amiens (8th August 1918), his experiment with the Mark V Star tanks of carrying machine-gun sections into battle was less successful – because of the inadequacies of the tanks. Being slow, many supporting the Canadian 4th Division fell victims to German anti-tank gunfire. Also on both the Canadian and Australian fronts, the petrol fumes and heat within the tanks left the sections exhausted and unable to fight (Pitt, 1962). However, tanks did help 16 Austin armoured cars to break out and get into the rear areas (Fletcher, 1994). The Germans in the small villages of Proyart (Blond, 1965a) and Framerville were surprised and suffered heavily. Maps of the defence system of the Hindenburg Line showing details of the canal section from Bellicourt to St Quentin (Prior and Wilson, 1992) was seized, which proved of great advantage some six weeks.

Monash demonstrated the ability to achieve brilliant success with economy in both lives and labour. Coupled to these organizing skills was the ability to get the best use from the technology then available, hence what appeared to be the innovative use of tanks and aircraft (Serle, 1982a); however Winter (1991b) has recently suggested that Monash copied his tactics from GHQ’s SS135. Probably he was helped in having as his army commander, General Sir Henry Rawlinson, a man disliked by many British Regular officers for being clever but who was willing, by that stage of the war, to learn from experience (Pitt, 1962). Whereas other army commanders might have stifled Monash’s experiments, under Rawlinson’s command of the Fourth Army and with the support of Haig, Monash was given the tanks to try new methods (whether taken from SS135 or not) which brought the breakthroughs at Hamel and Amiens. It was his repeated attempts to gain maximum success with the maximum economy in Australian lives which established his renown.

The Anzac Legend; The Problems with Illusion

In assessing the performance of Monash as a military commander, the issue of what is known as the ‘Anzac legend’ (Thomson, 1994) has to be directly faced. This legend is based on the mythology that grew out of the Gallipoli campaign of 1915 which described the Australian soldier as ‘…basically different from, and better than, other soldiers in the British armies…’ (Andrews, 1993). To what extent did the renown of Monash come about because of the Anzac legend which he himself helped to create through his writings (Sheffield, 1999)? Certainly the Australian troops gained an awesome reputation and took the lead in many successful assaults. However, by the time they came into action in France in 1916, the pre-war leadership within the superb British Regular Army had disappeared in two years of fighting (Bidwell and Graham, 1982) and the New Armies were soon reeling from the events of the 1st of July on the Somme. Although this not the place for a detailed rebuttal of the claimed inadequacies of British divisions compared to the Dominion divisions, the response of Simkins in British Fighting Methods in the Great War (1996a) does help put the Anzac legend into context.

Simkins shows that the overall performances of British and Dominion divisions during the final Hundred Days were comparable. One of the best British Divisions during that time was the 24th. Yet three years earlier, together with the 21st Division, it was the victim of one of the most tragic blunders of the Great War (Regan, 1991). Both were New Army units which were in reserve at the battle of Loos in late 1915. With little training and without previous experience of battle they were sent in to attack between Hulluch and Bois Hugo on the 26th of September (Macdonald, 1993). Both Divisions were shattered by German machine-gunners who themselves were only subjected to a sparse and inaccurate British artillery bombardment (Lee, 1997b).

Eric Andrews and Alistair Thomson, two authors living in Australia, in their recent books The Anzac Illusion and Anzac Memories put forward powerful cases to show that the legend is a distortion. The psychological process which led to the legend becoming established is understandable. Australia was then in the process of separating from Britain, its parent country, by gradually becoming an equal partner. Praising the performance of her troops whilst denigrating that of British troops (unfortunately a less pleasant trait of Monash) was a natural part of this process. Strangely enough the legend also had a benefit to the British high command. It had the effect of encouraging Australian men to volunteer for the war – even though the Australian nation twice voted against conscription being introduced (Andrews, 1993). It also kept them fighting despite the heavy casualties they suffered in battles such as Fromelles, Pozieres and Bullecourt. Thus between 1916 and 1918, the Australian Divisions fought with dash and panache on most occasions.

Monash’s personal reaction in criticising the performance of the British divisions may unfortunately have been conditioned by his ancestry; Jews in Poland (and of course most of Eastern Europe including Germany) were treated as inferior and sometimes suffered pogroms. He himself recognised that he was sometimes subject to anti-Semitism, even by other Australians (Serle, 1982a). Such racialist sentiments were also not uncommon in the British military establishment. Quoting Pedersen (1985), “General Sir H. Rawlinson and Major-General A.A. Montgomery were the commander and chief of staff respectively of the 4th Army, to which the Australian Corps belonged. Monash saw them almost daily, but their anti-Semitism was well concealed from him.” Hence his understandable reaction of being critical of the British divisions’ performances. Nonetheless his criticisms did contain some truths. The British class system made it difficult for natural leaders from the lower classes to be appointed to the more senior officer ranks, and those being led often lacked the initiative to act as individuals. On the other hand many of the best British military leaders at both senior and junior levels were dead by 1916 (Bidwell and Graham, 1982).

However, Monash in his criticisms was not comparing like with like; even he had to recognise that the highly-trained professional British Regular Army had been largely destroyed in 1914 and 1915 (Serle, 1982a). In 1918, when Australian effectiveness reached its peak (Andrews, 1993), Britain’s conscription was ‘scraping the barrel’. However it is a myth that British Divisions were reduced to relying on English youngsters, newly out of school, being hastily trained and put into the trenches, many immediately having to serve as subalterns to cover the desperate shortage of junior officers. Experienced fighters who had served in the ranks during earlier battles were appointed as officers to replace officer casualties (Sheffield, 1999). And many of these youngsters would have been natural volunteers in 1914 and 1915 – indeed some may have tried to volunteer but been rejected because of their young age. The experienced ‘ranker’ officers and the newly arrived young officers, together with British veterans wearied of war (Bond, 1991) and alongside their Entente allies, successfully harried the retreating Germans back towards the frontier. Although the Germans were themselves weakened by their losses in the Kaiser’s Battle, nevertheless some of their units, and especially many of their machine gunners, continued to fight valiantly.

It is reasonable to conclude that both the British and the Dominion units gained success but in different ways. Lee (1997a) makes the comment that, at Passchendaele, both British and Dominion divisions had an ‘…extraordinary ability just to keep going, no matter how difficult the conditions…’. Simkins (1996b) concludes his assessment of the British 18th Division’s performance by praising the British soldiers’ ‘…bloody minded persistence and his powers of endurance…’. These are indications that different styles of performance could, and did, contribute to the final victory.

Following the lead of Andrews and Thomson, the Anzac legend should be put to one side, especially as much of it is owed to the great improvement in the organizational performance of the officers commanding the Australian Forces (Andrews, 1993). Monash was the commanding officer and hence his abilities as a military manager can be more accurately established without being overshadowed by the Anzac legend. These authors’ view is supported by the recognition that the term ‘Anzacs’ was a convenient acronym brilliantly exploited by the headquarters to publicise the Australian contribution, even though the Australian soldiers on the Western Front called themselves “diggers”, which they felt more accurately described their own culture (Thomson, 1994).

Currie and Rusell: Mythologizing the Other Dominions

Sir John Monash was not the only major ‘native’ commander of Dominion troops. Sir Arthur Currie was a native Canadian and Sir Andrew Russell a native New Zealander. Arthur Currie commanded the 1st Canadian Division at the most renowned Canadian victory, the capture of Vimy Ridge on Easter Monday during the Battle of Arras (9 April 1917). This ridge had been the objective of two ferocious French attacks in the Spring and Autumn of 1915 which claimed horrendous casualties and led to one of the most famous war novels, Henri Barbusse’s ‘Under Fire’ (1926). The successive French attacks pushed the Germans off the Notre Dame de Lorette Ridge out of Ablain-St. Nazaire, Souchez, Neuville St. Vaast and la Targette, then across the Zouave Valley and onto Vimy Ridge (Macksey, 1965). However, fierce and costly counter-attacks meant that the Germans retained the 400 feet ridge with its superb observation over the Allied lines from Lens to Arras.

From Macksey’s book which gives a full account of the ridge’s capture, the similarities between Currie and Monash are revealed. Currie, pre-War, was also an amateur soldier, being professionally a prosperous real-estate manager and auctioneer in Canada. Indeed, at one stage, Haig confused Monash with Currie by referring to Monash as an auctioneer (Serle, 1982a). Currie brought to field command a willingness to search widely for solutions to problems (Monash drew on his engineering expertise). He also had two beneficial attributes of being approachable and good at communication – offsetting any disadvantage of being’…corpulent, a decidedly unmilitary-looking commander’ and having a ‘…less than charismatic personality…’ (Oliver, 1997). By the Kaiser’s Battle a year later Currie had taken command of the four Canadian Divisions which made up the Canadian Corps. At the Battle of Amiens, two of the Canadian Divisions contributed greatly to the breakout before returning to Horne’s First Army around Arras. There they cleared the Drocourt-Queant Switch Line, controversially rated by Winter (1991b) as the ‘…British Army’s single greatest achievement on the Western Front.’

Currie relied on the support of the Canadian Government to have the Corps treated as a national army, which gave him the right to be properly consulted before Canadian troops were asked to take part in specific operations. This caused Haig to be confused about whether the Canadians were to be treated as allies like the French, and later the Americans, or as fellow citizens of the British Empire (Macksey, 1965). The reality is that the Dominion forces of Canada, Australia and also New Zealand had by feat of arms achieved an equality of status in nationhood – part of the British Empire but not subservient to it.

Whereas Monash was competent at handling his own finances, Griffith (1994) suggests that Currie was not only eccentric but also fell on hard times to be a near-bankrupt during the War. Bryant (1987) gives a full account of how $10,833.44 (1913 values) from the Canadian Department of Militia given to pay for equipment for the 50th Regiment of which Currie was the commanding officer was ‘diverted’ from his private bank account where it was held into paying off his personal debts. These arose from property speculations which went wrong during a slump in real estate values and the considerable costs expected to be paid by the commanding officer of a militia regiment. Three years later he repaid the debts – but fortunately his taking command of a brigade in the Canadian Expeditionary Force after the declaration of war diverted attention away from what undoubtedly could have been criminal charges for fraud in peace-time.

Despite these personal failings he is judged as being militarily highly competent with a deep interest in tactical science (Winter, 1991c). Following his troop’s poor showing on the 8th October 1916 during the fighting for Regina Trench (the Battle of the Somme), he meticulously debriefed them and used their insights to both form and extend his understanding of how to get better military performance. In addition, he carefully examined the new offensive tactical doctrines of the French (Oliver, 1997).

This modern approach to problem solving is clearly a considerable advance on the approach to strategic and tactical thinking of the BEF’s Headquarters which relied upon the traditions of the Camberley Staff College of the 1890s (Griffith, 1994). This transition from the traditional ‘professional’ approach to war to the technical ‘managerial’ approach, favoured by Currie and Monash, created tensions. This change, needed to cope with the new scientific and technological problems of the Great War, led to the headquarters’ staff seeming to become isolated from the front-line soldiers (Beckett and Simpson, 1985).

Unlike Monash and Currie, Andrew Russell left his home country to be educated at Harrow and Sandhurst. Following five years of military service as a Regular officer in Burma and India, he resigned his commission to revitalise the financial performance of his family’s sheep station. A practical man, he disliked wasting resources – and regarded his men as being his most valuable resource. He was a meticulous planner who demanded professionalism, paid great attention to detail, managed by personal inspections, carefully debriefed his senior officers after operations, and required rehearsals to build experience and eliminate tactical weaknesses (Liddle, 1997). In common with Monash and Currie, he commanded part-time soldiers until the outbreak of war, and alike Monash he built his reputation on Gallipoli (where he liaised well with Monash) so took command of the New Zealand Division when it was formed in 1916. The Division was also a ‘national army’ but when it grew too big to be administratively one division, he had to accept it being retained as a four-brigade division rather than being split into two two-brigade divisions (Pugsley, 1997).

After the Somme, the Division’s soldiers also became known as the “diggers” (Pugsley, 1997), and their formidable reputation was strengthened by operations at Messines, and at Gravenstafel Ridge and Bellevue Spur during Third Ypres in late 1917. At Copse 125 (Rossignol Wood) in the autumn of 1918, soldiers of their Otago Regiment were ambushed by the famous German storm-trooper, Ernst Junger, during the New Zealand attacks (Junger, 1985). He admired the splendid physiques of the corpses when he later saw them in daylight. And during the Hundred Days, the New Zealanders took the walled town of le Quesnoy, using scaling ladders in a way that the medieval warriors would have understood and praised.

It is reasonable to claim that the personal experiences of Monash, Currie and Russell in their civilian lives made their mental approach to military problem solving very different from the majority of the British Army’s Regular Officers. Thus it would be unwise to be simplistic in differentiating between the three – an important point when concluding on the uniqueness of Monash.

Assessing Rawlinson’s Progress, 1914 to 1918

Having discussed the competencies and personalities of these three Dominion commanders, it is worthwhile examining the performance of a British commander who managed at similar levels to Monash before ending the War as Monash’s superior officer. General Sir Henry Rawlinson led the 7th Division in October 1914, taking part in the battle of First Ypres. He then commanded the Fourth Corps at the 1915 battles of Neuve Chapelle (in March), Aubers Ridge (in May), Givenchy (in June) and Loos (alongside the First Corps, under Hubert Gough, in September).

Rawlinson took command of the Fourth Army for the 1916 battle of the Somme, his calamitous First of July being followed by the generally successful attack on the Bazentin Ridge on the 14th of July. During the ‘forgotten battles’ of the high summer (Prior and Wilson, 1992), which caused so many British casualties, many German regiments were shattered by the process of attrition. Unfortunately very little ground was gained in the later attacks of October and November whilst casualties were made worse by the muddy conditions of the battlefield in the late autumn and early winter. For most of 1917, he was on the sidelines preparing for the coastal assault at Nieuport which was never implemented (Wiest 1997). However he took over command of the Second Army in the final phases of the Passchendaele campaign (Rawlinson, 1917), thereby missing much of the criticism made of the generals who commanded the major attacks of Third Ypres.

Service in the Supreme War Board at Versailles kept Rawlinson away from the Kaiser’s Battle but he was put in charge of the battered Fifth Army reconstituted as the Fourth. With a successful preliminary attack at Hamel in July, the victorious 8th of August began the Hundred Days. Celebrated actions at the Hindenburg Line, and the Selle, helped complete Rawlinson’s contribution to winning the War.

Prior and Wilson (1992), having carefully analysed Rawlinson’s overall performance, have decided that his conduct showed’…no consistent advance in wisdom.’ and indeed was ‘…erratic…’ This is said of a commander who was allowed to retain command throughout the War despite leading troops in some of the most disastrous attacks of the whole War, Givenchy, Loos, First of July 1916, and Guillemont. If commanding in the French Army he would probably have become a Limoges (Tuchman 1980, Blond 1965b) after the First of July. Appendix 4 lists the behaviour and helps support the conclusion that Rawlinson was erratic. Rawlinson’s record suggests that the ability needed to control an army with its new technologies but antiquated communication systems was becoming beyond the capabilities of ‘professional’ army officers trained in the Victorian era, gaining experience and promotion within a small, highly professional, army but now having to ‘nurse’ a large number of newly created and inexperienced divisions under conditions of total war (such as the infamous German gas attacks launching Second Ypres in 1915). Only when power became decentralized in 1918 and the commanders gave responsibility to the experts in the new technologies such as counter-battery and predicted fire programmes did they regain competence in managing their now considerably narrowed span of control.

In terms of motivating his troops it is unfortunate to note that Rawlinson’s predisposition to criticise his infantry for failings directly his responsibility was seen in 1918 as well as in 1915. Haig’s admonition, and the horrendous casualties sustained during the Somme battles, appear to have made no lasting impressions as evidenced by his diaries. The caricature of the ‘Oh! What a Lovely War’(Littlewood, 1963) general might be applied, perhaps unfairly, to Sir Henry Rawlinson.

In management terms, Rawlinson seems to have had little sense of strategic planning, with no consistent vision of how to achieve success by moving up the learning curve based on personal experience of controlling in a succession of operations. Even though he recognised the value of the ’bite and hold’ approach, he seldom carried it out in his operations (Prior and Wilson, 1992). This can be judged an amateurish approach to a position demanding high responsibility. If this seems harsh, Rawlinson is nevertheless one of the more successful British commanders, hence can be used as a guide against which to benchmark the performance of Monash.

Monash and Rawlinson; Comments on their Working Relationship

In their book ‘Command on the Western Front’, Prior and Wilson (1992) record the working relationship between Rawlinson and Monash which began when Monash was appointed Commander of the Australian Corps before the battle of Hamel. Whilst Rawlinson accepted suggestions from commanders such as Monash, and Courage of the Tanks, they in turn were receiving and accepting sensible advice from their divisional commanders. The outcome of these discussions was that both on the 25th and 30th of August, and the 18th of September, Rawlinson gave Monash the opportunity to make best use of his Corps on the river Somme and at Mont St Quentin and le Verguier. At le Verguier (which had been in the British front line before the Kaiser’s Battle) the machine-gun barrage by 250 guns from the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th Divisions firing 300 yards ahead of the advancing 4th Division proved most effective in compensating for the lack of available tanks – 10 dummy tanks having been placed in position to confuse the Germans (Pedersen, 1985).

In preparing for the attack on the Hindenburg Line, Rawlinson sensibly required Monash to increase the frontage of attack from 6,000 to 10,000 yards to prevent the flanking fire which would have devastated the attacking Australians. Rawlinson also devised the novel means of using 3,000 lifebelts from cross-channel steamers to get the 46th North Midlands Territorial Division across the St Quentin Canal at Riqueval brought about by the now widened front (the tunnel over the canal only being 6,000 yards long).

The advance of the 27th American Division over 1,000 yards of fire-swept ground on the 29th of September before they could reach the security of their creeping barrage was accepted by Rawlinson but had deeply upset Monash. During the morning of the 29th the Americans took great casualties from the three unscathed German strongpoints at The Knoll, Gillemont farm and Quennemont farm within the Hindenburg Outpost Line (Pedersen, 1985). Monash then badly misjudged and ordered a frontal attack for 3 in the afternoon without the necessary artillery support which took Guillemont farm before it stalled, causing heavy casualties among the 10th and 11th Brigades of the Australian 3rd Division (Pedersen, 1985).

The famous Australian official war historian, Dr. C.E.W. Bean, reports Monash’s despair on the 27th September over the gap of 1,000 yards and the ‘rebuke’ he received from Haig (Serle, 1982a). Smithers then links this despair with Monash’s behaviour at Sari Bar on Gallipoli on the 6th of August 1915 which was also noted by Bean. The then Brigadier was reported to have said over and over again “I thought I knew how to command men”. Smithers sums up his luck at not being Limoged in 1915 in the phrase ‘…some after-taste must remain.’, especially as he then draws attention to an attack at Aghyl Dere recorded by Monash which contained two serious errors (Smithers 1973, Cutlack 1935). The veracity of Monash’s recounting of his own part in the Gallipoli evacuation has also been critically challenged by Serle (1982a) where Monash’s war letters suggest that he embarked in the last motor barge leaving Anzac Cove when in fact he had left five hours earlier.

Pedersen (1985) shows that his Gallipoli performance from the 6th to the 8th of August can be made the subject of ‘scathing criticism’. After the ill-fated attempt to seize Hill 971 at Sari Bar on the 6th his poor planning meant that when his 4th Brigade were repulsed with heavy casualties during their assault on the 8th the failure to provide proper medical support to bring down the wounded left many to suffer a gruesome fate. Pedersen tentatively poses the view that Monash ‘funked’ command on the 8th. With benefit of hindsight, perhaps he suffered psychological trauma on the 6th which resulted in his capacity to plan, for which he has always merited high praise, being eliminated by the shock of real warfare.

It is unfortunate that Monash then criticised the performance of the British New Army troops in Gallipoli in 1915. Likewise it is unfortunate that in his war memoirs he later complained about the failure of the 27th American Division in 1918, whilst overlooking his personal responsibility for the failure of the afternoon assault by the Australian 3rd Division. The American forces had suffered severely because German machine-gunners positioned within the 1,000 yards between the artillery barrage laid on to the main Hindenburg Line and the American’s start line flayed them with fire against which the Americans had no defence. Recalled to mind is the similarity to the gallant march to their deaths by the 1st Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont Hamel on the Somme on the 1st of July 1916. In his published private papers for the September and October of 1918 he did not refer to either failure of the 29th of September, his entry for the next date after the 29th being on the 3rd of November (there being none during the October) when he wrote about being made a Grand Officer de L’Order de la Couronne Belgium and also being awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Palm Leaf (Cutlack, 1935).

On the 1st of October the Australian 2nd Division relieved the Australian 3rd and 5th Divisions which were ‘all done up’ (Pedersen, 1985) and two days later helped eject the Germans from the Beaurevoir Line behind the Hindenburg Line. On the 6th the entire Australian Corps left the front-line for a well-deserved long period of rest and recuperation. This included Monash who was able to spend three weeks in and around London engaged in both military and social activities. On the 7th of November, the Australian 1st and 4th Divisions returned to the line although they did not have to go ‘over the top’ again.

In conclusion, Monash had been answering to Rawlinson for the 3 months starting just before the battle of Hamel. Undoubtedly he had made a significant contribution to improving Rawlinson’s plans, yet at the Hindenburg Line Rawlinson had had to improve on Monash’s plans. However to propose that Monash was vastly more skilled in planning than, say, Currie cannot be supported easily because of his misjudgments which lead to heavy casualties in the Australian 3rd Division on the 29th of September and the 2nd Division on the 5th of October at Montbrehain (Serle, 1982a). To build a myth around his judgment as a tactical commander when under the pressure of actual fighting, such as from the 6th to the 8th of August 1915, needs more substance, regardless of his abilities as a military administrator.

Perhaps the last words on the sustainability of the myth created around the command of Monash should be left to the American historian of the American 27th Division that it was just as well that Monash was ‘…never seriously tested by adversity.’ (O’Ryan, 1921)

Monash; the Unique Commander?

This examination has illustrated the abilities and the personalities of four senior British and Dominion commanders, one English, one Canadian, one New Zealander and the Australian Monash. This has been done in order to assess whether the performance of Monash has been mythologized rather than ranked objectively against that of other commanders who perhaps had to exercise their abilities under very different conditions and with different levels of support and resources.

Sir Henry Rawlinson, the Englishman, as Appendix 4 shows, had a very patchy record of performance. Sometimes he learned from what had happened, at other times he appeared to wilfully ignore these lessons. Yet his Fourth Army performed superbly during those final days after being reconstituted following its punishment during the Kaiser’s Battle. In assessing his overall performance he appears to have felt no need to work to a uniform focused programme of action. Indeed, he appears to have been reactive, rather than being proactive, thus planning his actions as he saw fit at that moment in time based on what he thought was best suited to a particular set of circumstances. Although not an acceptable form of modern strategic management, nevertheless it is a style of managerial control commonly followed by those lacking understanding of management principles.

Sir Arthur Currie and Sir Andrew Russell benefited from the superb fighting qualities of the Canadian and New Zealand troops which made them so feared by the Germans. Many of these soldiers had grown up in communities where the enterprising spirit and personal initiative were combined with an open-air life. This contrasted with the relatively poor health and strength of the average English, Welsh, or Scottish soldier brought up in heavily industrialised and polluted areas such as Glasgow, the Potteries, and the South Wales coal-fields (Baynes, 1967), and in the stultifying class system of the Victorian and Edwardian ages (Serle, 1982a).

Currie was encouraged by the Canadian Government to regard the Canadian Corps as a national army, which gave him the opportunity to display an independence not allowed to other Corps commanders in the rigid European military hierarchies, whether German, French, Austria-Hungarian, Russian or British. The American General Pershing was able to exploit a similar level of independence during the final months of the war for the same reason. But at a personal level, a question mark overhangs Currie’s performance at Second Ypres, during the first German gas attack in 1915, when he thrice ordered his troops to retreat. They refused and their stand saved the situation. He later asked Edmonds to suppress this embarrassing fact in the British Official History (Bond, 1991).

Russell similarly gained advantage from the New Zealand contingent always remaining self-contained and focused on their provincial origins (Pugsley, 1997). The remarkable performances at Flers (15th September 1916) and le Quesnoy (5th November 1918) are two highlights of its military achievements.

Nevertheless, troops have to be well led to perform well. The formidable reputations of the Canadians and the New Zealanders were built on and enhanced by the management skills which both Currie and Russell brought to their commands.

In assessing Monash’s performance against the standards set by these other three commanders, it is necessary to distinguish between his role as a military commander and his position as a figure-head for a young nation seeking to differentiate itself from the parent country. Like Currie, his unconventional ‘citizen’ route to supreme command of his national army meant that he had not absorbed the traditional military culture and training common to most European commanders. His professional expertise inevitably meant that he was able to bring a commercial perspective to analysing military situations and problems. The likelihood is that he instinctively thought in a business way rather than in a military way. Hence he was more receptive to innovative ideas simply because competitive advantage in the business world comes from exploiting new technologies and new methods of management. With his pre-War background, it is not surprising that he came to be credited with being the first military manager.

Nevertheless two factors can be presented as suggesting it is unwise to mythologise his military prowess. Firstly, two incidents, in Gallipoli (1915) and before the Hindenburg Line (1918), suggest that he was prone to breaking down under pressure. However his position outside the British military hierarchy was fortunate because both incidents could have resulted in him being ‘degummed’.

The second factor is the result of the national aspirations of a young country growing up and understandably seeking independence. Australia began its modern history with the unfortunate factor of being used as a British penal colony. Inevitably it lacked the sort of confidence which comes from being created as the result of heroic feats of arms. Yet it wished to set aside its feelings of inferiority with regard to its parent country and gain the freedom that, for example, a young adult wishes to display. With its citizens enjoying a similar lifestyle to that of the Canadians and the New Zealanders, it produced men with strong physiques used to showing personal initiative (helped, it must be added, by rigorous physical standards during the recruitment medical examinations which weeded out the weaker men)(Andrews, 1993). Hence the fine quality of its military performances in Gallipoli and at Pozieres on the Somme. As to the three debacles at The Nek, Fromelles and Bullecourt, these could be blamed on poor British leadership (even though the Gallipoli massacre was the fault of Colonel J.M. Antill, an Australian officer).

Following the Canadian example, the Australian Government sought separate status, the wish not to be commanded at senior levels by British officers (Serle, 1982a) and the right for injured Australians to be returned to the Australian divisions after their recovery. The British Government and the BEF’s General Headquarters found it prudent to accede. Monash, in general, was the commander of a force largely united within one national culture even though many of his soldiers were from recent immigrant families. He was less exposed to the problems of multi-cultural differences which complicated relations between the British and French commanders and between British officers and their colonial troops. Modern management theory recognises the crucial importance of these differences in complicating control and leadership.

As part of building a cultural heritage a young nation will seek heroes who can become examples to inspire succeeding generations. The English were well served by its Elizabethan adventurers who ‘singed the King of Spain’s beard’ and began the establishment of the British Empire. Such figures would have still meant much to early Australians, many being recent migrants from the United Kingdom. However later Australians would have been conscious of their geographical distance away from the parent country and begun to seek Australian heroes. Unfortunately their Ned Kellys were not role models. In the military sphere, although an Australian contingent was involved in the South African War, the main controversy from that conflict surrounded the execution by the British authorities of ‘Breaker’ Mourant and his partner in a murder.

Thus by the First World War, Australia needed Australian heroes. Junior officers such as Lieutenant W. Ruthven (Pedersen, 1985) and other ranks provided many who deservedly earned the Victoria Cross. Seriously lacking were senior officers who could be respected for attributes which extended to their personal lives. John Monash was such a person. Successful in his profession of civil engineering, from a migrant family which had done well, he later commanded the Australian Corps during the period of its maximum success. After his military service he returned to civilian life where his management of a large engineering project brought further renown. Inevitably his solid performance whilst a military commander acquired the veneer accorded great commanders. And the British people, having mixed feelings about the price in soldiers’ blood asked for by their British commanders, were happy to award him the status they denied many British corps commanders whose performance under battle conditions was no worse and often better.

In the title of this assessment, the question is asked about whether or not Monash brought to command business ideas not known to others. The answer is ‘yes’ if comparing his performance with that of most Regular officers. He did bring such ideas; and they were based on the practical experience gained in his pre-War professional life. Thus he absorbed business knowledge on how to be more scientific and efficient, to exploit clarity of thought in planning, to be lucid in explaining his plans, and to be economical in the use of manpower (Pedersen, 1985). He appears to have arrived at common sense conclusions on how best to run a business, and then later applied such thinking to managing an army corps. Yet there is no evidence from his war letters to suggest that he consciously took commercial examples from his own personal experience and thought how they could be applied to solving a current military problem. Nevertheless his record as a military manager later attracted two distinguished admirers. In 1963 the British historian A.J.P. Taylor is quoted by Pedersen (1985) as saying that Monash was ‘the only general of creative originality produced by the First World War’ and in 1968 Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery as saying that he ‘possessed real creative originality.’

All three Dominion commanders can be claimed to have applied their personal business expertise within their own commands. Although Pedersen (1985) mentions that it is difficult to find evidence of what Monash read he did read widely and thus was probably aware of the revolution in management thinking being pioneered by F.W. Taylor (1911), Henri Fayol and others. Whether or not the three commanders proactively managed their forces using the current business management theories is of minor importance, the issue is that the gap between thinking militarily and thinking commercially was then so great. Hence a different approach to formulating military strategy would have marked them out as having a revolutionary approach, particularly when their commands were seen to be successful in reaching their military objectives. However, Australia was seeking to create a new national identity; whereas neither Canada nor New Zealand had to re-invent themselves in strengthening their national identities at that time. Hence the performance of Monash needed to be mythologized whereas the performances of Currie and Russell did not have to be turned into myths.

As to the practical learning from the experiences on the Western Front, Monash had little input on military administration once he returned to Australia in 1919 (see Appendix 3). Yet this reaction to a citizen officer was not untypical. As if to put behind themselves the embarrassment of having to fight the war by drawing upon the civilian population for men and expertise, the Allied ‘professional’ officers stampeded to ‘…get back to some serious soldiering…'(Bidwell and Graham, 1982) after the Armistice.

In conclusion, Monash can be credited with being a pioneer of military management, although not necessarily unique in his performance. Nevertheless he brought a fresh outlook to military operations which matched many of Fayol’s Principles of Management. He was a Twentieth Century commander in an Imperial Army still largely dominated by Nineteenth Century teachings. It is for this pioneering role that he should be remembered rather than for his performance as an individual commander.

Taking Military Management Forward; A General Conclusion

This assessment has adopted a different approach, to examine historical events using the modern understanding of how to manage contemporary events. The problems caused by the benefits of hindsight are recognised through the acceptance that the Great War’s commanders had to operate within the mind-set of that period. The early Twentieth Century was a time of profound economic and social changes brought about by the new technologies. Inevitably the ability of those commanding to respond proactively reflected their upbringing, their social environments, and the cultures and traditions of the military forces they controlled. Haig and Rawlinson as Regular officers were seriously affected by these changes which challenged their acquired experiences.

On the other hand, Currie, Monash and, to a lesser extent, Russell brought to soldiering management expertise gained from their own involvement with the upheavals taking place in their nations’ business and commercial practices. These three had a different style of military management.

With the continuing interest in the history of the Western Front’s campaigns, a conclusion can be drawn that contemporary management thinking makes it possible to link these campaigns’ causes and effects within a different and, perhaps, more objective framework. This allows the relative importance of both the external and internal factors influencing historical events to be examined using modern analytical techniques. – as shown in the analysis of five battles in www.bef-battles.org.uk. It also enables the competencies of individual commanders to be assessed anew.

Appendix 1:

Defining Fayol’s Principles of Management (after Cole, 1990)

1. Division of work: Reduces the span of attention, effort or control needing to be exerted by a person. Has the benefits of developing practice in managing people and familiarity with how they operate.

2. Authority: The right to give orders – but a right which should be considered together with responsibility.

3. Discipline: The outward marks of respect and behaviour with accords with the formal agreements and informal arrangements between an organization and its staff.

4. Unity of Command: Each person should have one superior to which he reports and has responsibility.

5. Unity of Direction: One person in charge and one plan of action for an activity or group of activities which have common objectives.

6. Subordination of Individual Interests to the General Interest: The personal interests of one individual or one group should not be dominant, without reasonable cause, to the needs and requirements of the overall organization.

7. Renumeration: Pay should be fair to both the individual and to the organization.

8. Centralization: This is always present within an organization, to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the organization’s size and the quality of its managers.

9. Scalar Chain: The line of authority or command from the top to the bottom of an organization, nowadays covered by the terms ‘line management’ and ‘hierarchy’.

10. Order: A place for everything and everything in its right place, especially the use of people with the appropriate skills for particular tasks.

11. Equity: A combination of kindliness and justice towards all staff, regardless of their position within the organization.

12. Stability of Tenure of Personnel: The staff need to be given adequate time to settle into their tasks, before their performance is judged, recognising that some tasks such as management may take a lengthy period to learn.

13. Initiative: Within the limitations imposed by authority and discipline, all levels of staff should be encouraged to show initiative.

14. Esprit de Corps: Harmony is a great strength to an organization, thus teamwork should be encouraged throughout the organization and between the levels within it.

Division of Work, Scalar Chain, Unity of Command, and Centralization are characteristics of the typical bureaucratic organization widely found in the public and private sectors, including activities such as education and the military.

Although the paternalistic approach would have been the norm in the early Twentieth century to handle matters such as individual and general interests, renumeration and equity, the rise of industrial relations and personnel management have made this more or a joint relationship between the organization’s management and its staff.

Fayol’s reference to Initiative and Esprit de Corps was a recognition of how an individual’s actions could benefit the whole organization. This recognition goes well beyond the belief in the supremacy of the organization over the individual which was characteristic of the organizational culture and the general attitude to hierarchy then commonly held, especially by British company and land owners. Senior British officers’ feelings about Australian soldiers not showing respect to officers by saluting neatly sums up the differences in culture between the Old Country and the new Dominions, hence the Australians were viewed as fighters rather than as soldiers.

However in their defence, some British Regular officers welcomed the Armistice as the chance to return to ‘proper soldiering’ as they remembered it from their pre-War colonial days. In terms of the modern attitudes and activities of the British military forces, peace keeping and the maintenance of international order is very similar to the duties to which they wished to return!

Appendix 2:

The Evidence for Monash being a Military Manager

The statements presented in this appendix come from Monash’s personal writings, edited by F.M. Cutlack in 1935. It is reasonable to suggest that these show a mind more tuned to the needs of business management than to the normal military way of doing things. The figures in brackets are the pages within the ‘War Letters of General Monash’.

‘We have got our battle procedure now thoroughly well organised.’ ‘…really a triumph of organization.’ (41) Monash as Colonel commanding the 4th Australian Infantry Brigade, Gallipoli, 21 May 1915.

‘It is the old story – insufficient troops, inadequate munitions, attempting more than was possible with the means available.’ (65) ‘…although we have gained enormous new tracts of country, our strategic or tactical objectives are still unreached…’ (66) Gallipoli, 5 September 1915.

‘…one can see the cult of inefficiency and muddle and red-tape practised to a nicety.’ (70) Sarpi Camp, Lemnos, 25 September, 1915.

‘All this betokens lack of business management and power of co-ordinated action.’ (76-77) Sarpi Camp, 4 October 1915.

‘…disgusted with the evidences of much muddle and inefficiency…’ ‘…one has only to keep cool and think out one’s problems and tasks and the work of fighting soon becomes perfectly ordinary and humdrum.’ (78) At sea, 10 October 1915.

‘But here my engineering experience will help.’ (83) Anzac Cove, 10 November 1915; preparing the Australian camp to face the Turkish winter weather.

‘All this means organization and makes all the difference between success and failure.’ (98-99) Anzac Cove, 18 December 1915; preparing for the brilliantly successful evacuation – not one soldier among the 45,000 Australians facing 170,000 Turks were lost.

‘…organization is a very much easier job than reorganization.’ (105) Ismailia, Egypt, 15 January 1916.

‘These enterprises are a combination of the highest scientific preparation with the greatest personal gallantry.’ (120) Of trench raids in France, 3 July 1916.

‘A perfected modern battle plan is like nothing so much as a score for an orchestral composition, where the various arms and units are the instruments, and the tasks they perform are their respective musical phrases.’ (121) Quoted from Monash: Australian Victories in France in 1918.

‘…was a good example of modern war organization.’ (143) Lark Hill, 6 November 1916; a full scale training exercise which drew an audience of over 120 generals and senior officers. This is a forerunner of Bernard Montgomery’s exercise conducted in July 1938, the first of its type since Gallipoli! (Hamilton, 1981)
‘…designed to spread the stress on the personnel as widely as possible.’ (155) France, 11 January 1917; managing the reliefs of front-line troops to maintain their efficiency (that contrasts strongly with the management of the French troops which was a strong factor causing the widespread mutinies after the Nivelle Offensive of April 1917).

‘I hate the business of war, the horror of it, the waste, the destruction, and the inefficiency.’ (168) Menton, southern France, 16 March 1917; not the Oh! What a Lovely War image of a Great War general!

‘…in this my engineering experience has been a great help to me.’ (171) 3rd Australian Division Headquarters, 26 April 1917; preparing for Messines.

‘I put in a half-day with Walter (Dr Rosenhain) at the National Physical Laboratory, seeing the latest munitions inventions.’ (180) France, 10 July 1917; keeping up to date with new technology with the help of his son-in-law whilst on leave in London.

‘Throughout every department of the work, both fighting and feeding up supplies, stores and ammunition, I strive to introduce similar systematic methods and order, so that there shall be no muddling, no overlapping, no cross purposes, and everybody has to know exactly what his job is and when and where he has to do it.’ (203-204) France, 18 October 1917.

‘It was a miracle of good management.’ (228) France, 2 April 1918; transporting in the Australian Divisions to contain the great German offensive of March 1918.

‘It is because we do not consider psychology enough that we are taking so long to win the war.’ ‘…to try to deal with every task and every situation on the basis of simple business propositions, differing in no way from the problems of civil life, except that they are governed by a special technique. The main thing is always to have a plan; if it is not the best plan, it is at least better than no plan at all.’ (233) France, 3 April 1918.

‘…the Field-Marshal had suddenly decided to put into force a strategic plan which I had myself propounded…’ (263) France, 21 August 1918; the plan for the battle of Amiens, 8th of August 1918 – but was it a copy of SS135 as Winter suggests?.

‘On taking over command of the corps at the end of May, my first business was to weld the whole of the corps into one great fighting machine, with a common policy, unity of purpose, and unity of tactical thought and conception, and to infuse in the whole a spirit of unrelenting offensive.’ (275) France, 8 November 1918; a mission statement which could have been written 80 years later!

The proviso has to be made that Cutlack faithfully copied Monash’s original words. Without the opportunity to inspect the originals in Canberra and accepting Cutlack’s veracity, the value of these statements is in confirming the advantage of undertaking primary research. They are Monash’s personal views, and are not subject to interpretation in their rewriting when the basis of biographies covering Monash’s performance between 1915 in Gallipoli and Armistice Day.

Appendix 3:

Monash and his Military Experiences after 1919

After Sir John Monash’s return to Australia and the enthusiasm of his welcome, he had limited impact on the further development of the Australian military forces. This was probably because the Regular officers regained control of the army and like their British counterparts wished to return to the ethos represented by the term ‘serious soldiering’. Also Australian egalitarian traditions did not favour special recognition for their great leaders (Serle, 1982a), such as is normal in most other countries

Nevertheless, he did take part in commemorative events such as the parades on Anzac Day (25 April). In addition, he held many positions of honour in many organizations, such as his alma mater, Melbourne University. These are detailed in Geoffrey Serle’s detailed biography, already much quoted, especially Chapters 15, 16 and 17 ( pages 435 to 529). But his major civilian activity was as general manager and then chairman of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria from 1920 to 1931. This exploited the huge reserves of brown coal (lignite) in the La Trobe Valley to power the electrification of the Victoria State. This massive undertaking made great use of his pre-War engineering expertise.

If he was consciously to apply his military expertise it was in his role as general manager. Certainly he had to use political skills to overcome the many entrenched interests such as the provincial electricity suppliers. He did mention that ‘…I have had my fight and overthrown my enemies…’ in the Melbourne City Council. In his method of management he consciously adopted that successfully used in his wartime H.Q. where he did not buzz about but stay in one place where everyone knew where they could contact him. In overcoming the carping and criticisms which most people in public life have to face, in his case mostly unjustified, he recognised the advantage his war prestige gave him. Despite the paternalism of his style of management, he made use of enlightened, scientific practices to increase productivity through humane and conciliatory personnel management based on his personal military experience. Hence industrial relations between the S.E.C. and the trade unions were kept manageable at a time when many countries were experiencing intense industrial strife including national strikes.

Overall, Monash was able to successfully apply his experience of military command and organization. But without the benefits which hierarchical military discipline provide, he had to make best use of his dynamic personality and the power of his intellect in presenting his case and demonstrating the weaknesses of his opponents’ cases. He continued to show his command of detail and his analytical strengths, drawing out the views of colleagues before making decisions. As with the greatest leaders, he pulled people behind him rather than driving them in front of him. However he was astute enough to recognise that military expertise has its limits in civilian life. As he said of his period when acting chancellor of Melbourne University ‘…the University is about as difficult to manage – if not more so – than an army.’ – a sentiment many modern university vice-chancellors would agree with!

Perhaps the best tribute to his approach to both military and civilian management is in the motto of the second State of Victoria university, named after him, ‘I am still learning’.

Appendix 4:

Rawlinson’s erratic planning

Neuve Chapelle (10th-13th March 1915): artillery the key weapon enabling the infantry to break into the German trenches. Although he understands the advantage of ‘bite and hold’, Rawlinson blames the 8th Division commander for not exploiting the break in.

Aubers Ridge (9th May 1915): provided insufficient artillery so infantry left cruelly exposed to machine-gun and rifle fire. Rawlinson blames the troops who died stopping bullets with their ‘bare chests’.

Givenchy (15th-16th June 1915): similar cause and outcome to Aubers Ridge. Rawlinson blames the Canadian troops.

Loos (25th September-8th October 1915): gas and smoke used to reduce deficiency in artillery, incompetent use of the reserve 21st and 24th Divisions. Rawlinson blames Field Marshal Sir John French for how these reserves were used.

Somme (1st July 1916): the infantry are sacrificed because of over-confidence in use of artillery to cut wire and reach deep dugouts (however during the prolonged bombardment at the end of June he did note in his diary that the wire in places was not being cut).

Somme (14th July1916): ignores the success of the artillery bombardment and gives the credit to the attack on the Bazentin Ridge taking place at night.

Somme (27th July 1916): ignores the success of the artillery bombardment and claims the Germans were demoralized in Longueval and Delville Wood.

Somme, the forgotten battles (August-September 1916): having condemned the narrow-front attack on 16th July, allows two months of such attacks sacrificing tens of thousands of infantry. Haig lectures him on the duties expected of a commander.

Somme (15th September 1916): the tank-assisted attack at Flers, but insufficient artillery bombardment provided in the form of a creeping barrage. Undamaged German machine-guns in tank lanes cause severe casualties to the unprotected infantry.

Somme (25th September 1916): the battle of Morval helped by the return to a proper artillery bombardment.

Somme (from 6th October 1916): the battlefield becomes a sea of mud, numerous attacks along the Transloy Line yield nothing but more casualties. Rawlinson now in disfavour.

Hamel (4th July 1918): surprise reintroduced by skilful use of the creeping barrage. Rawlinson no longer the ‘Napoleonic’ creator of large military manoeuvres but ‘…a manager drawing forth and co-ordinating the endeavours of others.’

Amiens (8th August 1918): ‘the black day of the German army’; detailed planning passes into the hands of Monash, the Canadian General Sir Arthur Currie and their staff experts; introduction of neutralising fire and counter-battery bombardment to protect the infantry lays the grounds for success. On the 13th, Rawlinson had to defer to the power given Currie as the leader of a distinguished ‘national army’ and stop demanding further attacks.

Albert, the Hindenburg Line, the 23rd of August 1918, and thereafter: Rawlinson oversees with reasonable competence the integration of the plans of the all-arms experts and the aspirations of corps commanders such as Monash, and their divisional generals and brigadiers. However he allows the mentally broken English Third Corps commander, Butler, to return to command. Rawlinson harshly criticised the American 27th Division which advanced without artillery protection thereby suffering great casualties (recalling the fate of the 21st and 24th Divisions at Loos).

The Sambre and Oise Canal (4th November 1918): the Fourth Army’s last major assault, successfully carried out.

References and Additional Notes

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Bailey, G.N.A. (1998) Author’s personal investigation – 10 August 1998. On the ridge above Le Hamel, where the German front line was positioned, a superb monument of reliefs (one of Monash) on black marble panels has been built in recent years. The surrounding plinths and touch-activated voice messages explain why the battle, so easily overlooked, was important towards winning the war.
Barbusse, H. (1926) Under Fire: the Story of a Squad. English version: London: Everyman’s Library. One poignant episode is where two French soldiers wander in No Man’s Land seeking the site of the home of one of them – all that remains are pulverised traces of the road which passed the house in Souchez.
Baynes, J. (1967) Morale: A Study of Men and Courage, The Scottish Second Rifles at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle 1915. Cassell: London.
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Bidwell, S. and Graham, D. (1982) Fire-Power: British Army Weapon and Theories of War 1904-1945. George Allen & Unwin: London.
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Winter, D. (1991a) Haig’s Command: A Reassessment. Viking: London. Illustration 33, This gun could drop a shell fired from ‘Epping Forest’ into ‘Trafalgar Square’, 300 times a day!
Winter, D. (1991b) Haig’s Command: A Reassessment. Viking: London.
Winter, D. (1991c) Haig’s Command: A Reassessment. Viking: London. Winter ranks Currie the most successful allied general, making excellent use of artillery and machine gun barrages carefully linked to flexible infantry tactics.

Acknowledgements

This assessment would not have been completed without the support of a number of people.

Professor Brian Bond, the Professor of Military History at King’s College London, stimulated my thinking during his MA Options Military History: the First World War and The Face of Battle: Understanding 20th century Warfare during my time as an MA student in War Studies. Furthermore he encouraged me to experiment with new ways of looking at historical events, as seen in this assessment.

Brigadier Neville Pughe, for encouraging my application of contemporary management theories to historical military events.

Mike Piercy and Dr Gary Sheffield whose comments and observations have helped me towards seeking a balance between historical accuracy and contemporary management theories.

GNAB