A History of the Great War, 1914-1918

By C. R. M. F. Cruttwell | Go to book overview

IX THE STRATEGICAL PREPARATIONS FOR 1915

WINTER had come with the stabilization of the fronts to impose some months of comparative inactivity upon the armies. Statesmen and soldiers had now to consider their plans for the campaign of 1915. All were determined so to overcome or circumvent the continuous and evergrowing lines of opposing fortifications as to gain an absolute decision before the favourable season ended. To the hopes and fears of the opposed counsels only one new factor presented itself as certain, namely, the great increase in the fighting strength of the British armies. A saying was current among the soldiers that Kitchener, in reply to a question as to when the war would end, replied that he did not know but that it would begin in May. It is true that the maximum weight of British effort would not be available until the middle of 1916. But it could be anticipated with reasonable certainty that the fourteen firstline divisions of the Territorial force would be ready for battle a year earlier. Except for a few isolated battalions who, brigaded with regulars, had won high praise from French during the battle of Ypres, this force of 250,000 men was still intact. Although armed with a semi-obsolete field artillery and a somewhat inferior rifle, these troops had a very high spirit and often a higher level of intelligence and general education than the old regulars. The enlistment of the new regulars, or 'K's army', as they were familiarly called, had, during the early weeks of the war, far exceeded the capacity of the War Office for armament or even uniforms. They had drilled in their own clothing with sticks to represent rifles. But it was anticipated that at least ten divisions could be armed and trained in time to be sent overseas to take part in the campaign of 1915.1

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1
Actually twenty-one had been sent abroad before the end of that

-137-

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