papalagi (papalagi) wrote,

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (30 ноя 1874 - 24 янв 1965) Part III 1916–1918 (1923-31)

To All Who Endured



Now it was Foch’s turn to speak. ‘It is a hard task you offer me now: a compromised situation, a crumbling front, an adverse battle in full progress. Nevertheless, I accept.’ Thus there was established for the first time on the Western Front that unity of command towards which Mr. Lloyd George had long directed his cautious, devious but persevering steps, and to which, whatever may be said to the contrary (and it is not little), history will ascribe an inestimable advantage for the cause of the Allies.

The Fifth Army from the 28th onwards ceased to exist. Its shattered divisions were painfully reorganized behind the line. The gap was filled by the now rapidly arriving French, by the cavalry, by the improvised forces collected from the Schools, and by General Rawlinson who began, from scanty and diverse materials, to constitute a ‘Fourth Army’ and to maintain the tottering and fluctuating line of battle.



The French seemed to the British Headquarters sunk in stupor and passivity. Since the Nivelle disaster they had been grappling with mutiny and nursing their remaining resources. With the exception of the ‘set piece’ battle of Malmaison in the winter, and the stinted and tardy divisions which had been involved south of the Somme in the later stages of March 21, they had only fought in ordinary trench warfare for nearly nine months. During that time the much smaller British Army had fought almost unceasingly, and wisely or unwisely had sacrificed in the common cause, apart from the prolonged Arras-Messines offensive of 1917, more than 400,000 men in the Passchendaele tragedy, and had now lost nearly 300,000 more under Ludendorff’s terrible hammer. It was upon an Army bled white by frightful losses, its regimental officers shorn away by scores of thousands, its batteries and battalions filled and refilled with young soldiers plunged into battle before they knew their officers or each other, that the massed might of the desperate German Empire now fell.

Foch’s doctrine of never relieving troops during a battle may apply to a battle of two or three days; but struggles prolonged over weeks do not admit of such rules. Divisions after a certain point, if not relieved, simply disappear through slaughter and intermingling with the reinforcements who are sent to sustain them; and the individual survivors of many days of ceaseless peril, horror and concussion become numb and lifeless, even though unscathed by steel.

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