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ECHOES OF WAR 1915-1918 (PART 4)

DOI: 10.5787/8-4-764

Keywords: South African Brigade , The downfall of Russia , German armies , Brigadier General F S. Dawson , Captain Hallack , Retreat of the South African Brigade , Lieutenant Colonel Young

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Abstract:

Dudng the summer months of 1917- 1918 there was a strange quiet on the Eastern front. The downfall of Russia afforded General E Ludendorff, who became the first quartermaster general of the German armies when Field Marshal von Hindenburg assumed the office of chief of the German general staff of the armies in the field, the opportunity to deal the Allies in the west a decisive blow. Instead he decided to work to perfect his preparations for his final coup. His plan was based on the highly specialized training of certain units, and was a legitimate conclusion from the German use of 'storm troops'. The first point was the absence of any preliminary massing near the front of attack. Men were brought up by night marches just before zero hour, and secrecy was thus obtained for the assembly. Again, there was no long bombardment to alarm the enemy, and the guns began at the moment when the infantry advanced, the enemy's back areas being confused by a deluge of gas shells. The assault was made by picked troops in open order, or rather in small clusters, carrying light trench mortars and many machine guns, with the field batteries close behind them in support. The actual mode of attack, which the French called 'infiltration: may be likened to a hand, of which the fingertips are shod with steel, and which is pushed into a soft substance. The picked troops at the finger-ends made gaps through which others poured, till each section of the defence found itself outflanked and encircled. A system of flares and rockets enabled the following troops to learn where the picked troops had made the breach, and the artillery came close behind the infantry. The men had unlimifed objectives, and carded iron rations for several days. When one division had reached the end of its strength, another took its place, so that the advance resembled a continuous game of leap-frog.

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