Corporal Hitler and the Great War 1914-1918: The List Regiment

By John F. Williams | Go to book overview

10

FROMELLES 1916

For most of the war the battlefield near Fromelles was one of the quietest on the Western Front. But on the occasions when serious fighting did erupt there, it could also claim to be one of the bloodiest. On these occasions the BEF did most of the bleeding, with the German division responsible for the carnage being the 6th BRD. The second of these encounters, in May 1915 as part of what the British call the Battle of Aubers Ridge, preceded the third by some 14 months. This third British offensive, utilizing one English and one Australian division, was on a smaller scale this time. Not even the Bavarians were inclined to describe it as a Schlacht, favouring instead the term Gefecht (fight or action). On the other side, since it was the Australian's first full-scale engagement of the Western Front, the Australian official history devotes 120 pages to what is called The Battle of Fromelles, while the British official history devotes a surprisingly large 17 pages, to a chapter entitled 'The Subsidiary Action at Fromelles'.

While they made considerable propaganda out of a minor Bavarian triumph, the action at Fromelles in July 1916 was of such minor importance that the German official history describes it in less than a paragraph. An important paragraph nevertheless, for it shows that Rupprecht expected an attack on his Sixth Army's left flank (as did Falkenhayn), and from late June to early July 1916, strengthened artillery in the sector and sent a Prussian division to reinforce the I Bavarian Reserve Corps. As for the actual 19-20 July engagement, the same source covers this in three brief sentences. 'On 19 July, a heavy [British] deployment of gas once again affected the 6th Bavarian Reserve Division south-west of Lille. The enemy attack pushed forward to the German trenches, where it could be completely beaten off. About 500 Englishmen remained as prisoners in the hands of the Bavarians.' The account in the Bavarian official history is more extensive and informative, even if it is only a discursive footnote running across three pages.

Since the beginning of the great battle on the Somme and even earlier, the enemy had endeavoured to divert the attention and strength on the German side again and again in other directions.

-136-

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Corporal Hitler and the Great War 1914-1918: The List Regiment
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - A University of the Trenches 4
  • 2 - 1913-14: 17
  • 3 - Cannon Fodder 34
  • 4 - West Flanders 1914 50
  • 5 - Winter 1914-15 73
  • 6 - Neuve Chapelle 1915 86
  • 7 - Fromelles 1915 98
  • 8 - Nursery Tales of 1915 114
  • 9 - Hugo Gutmann and the Good Soldier Mend 128
  • 10 - Fromelles 1916 136
  • 11 - Hell on the Somme 147
  • 12 - Declining Fortune 161
  • 13 - 1918 178
  • Epilogue: 198
  • Notes 211
  • Selected Bibliography 226
  • Index 233
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