Were Trench Raids really effective?

First World War 1914-1918 from the German perspective.

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Scott Powell
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Were Trench Raids really effective?

Post by Scott Powell » Fri Feb 08, 2008 8:00 pm

The British instituted Trench raids mainly to
A) maintain the offensive spirit
B) demoralize the enemy
C) when possible obtain prisoners

In light of the causualties sustained in the raids, were these raids worthwhile?

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Hans Knospler
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Post by Hans Knospler » Fri Feb 08, 2008 8:46 pm

IMHO, no. There weren't many fast advances with trench warfare. The warfare itself was very slow, and in that respect, you'd have to dig a new trench (or use the enemies) to move foward. Even though were not talking casulties...it was a complete waste of human life (in terms of warfare) and was led by insane leadership.
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Liam
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Post by Liam » Sat Feb 09, 2008 9:50 am

Ah, but soldiers being soldiers some men enjoyed the danger and dare I say it, the chance for some action that trench raids provided. My Great-Grandfather apparently volunteered for many a raid and no doubt he and his fellow Black Watch Jocks were highly unpopular with their German opposites. A new soldier was told to buddy up with my ancestor on one such raid. He was questioning the practicality of wearing kilts in trench warfare, and my Great-Grandfather pointed out one often over-looked advantage of wearing them: "when yon Jerry sees ye wi' yer black face and knobkerrie in yer haund, he'll crap himself jist wait an' see. Mind, ye might jist crap yersel an aw, but wi' the kilt on it jist fa's straight oot!' :D
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Post by Scott Powell » Sat Feb 09, 2008 5:46 pm

great story Liam !
i am of two minds of these raids myself. i can see where the boredom of static warfare would make these raids appealing to the Or,and of course Brass wouldnt want the troops getting too complacent :heaven forbid more unoffical truces should occur.

I also am pondering if instead of small raids, if the larger attacks wouldnt have been more effective at night. i.e more enemy killed, less friendly losses

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Marc Binazzi
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Post by Marc Binazzi » Sun Feb 10, 2008 1:25 pm

The French army had what was known as "nettoyeurs de tranchées" (trench cleaners), I recently saw photographs of these men (all volunteers of course) and they did not look like they would make prisoners.... they had a specific equipment, in particular knives and grenades and they had a scary reputation but I guess all armies developed that type of special force. Another way to "clean" the trench on the other side was to dug a tunnel underneath and put explosives in it. Germans and French played that game quite a bit.
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Post by phylo_roadking » Sun Feb 10, 2008 1:44 pm

I don't think they had any hard startegic use - apart from intel gathering, of course, and prisoners had only a limited utility for that - but it certainly could play it's part in the overall tactical situation. I wish I could remember the source, it's LONG pre-Internet, but I read once that an increased incidence of trench raids was like a concentrated barrage - regarded as the sign of an imminent attack...so the British at least got into the tactic of increasing their raids in quiet sectors to draw in reserves, or have troops moved from one sector to another away from a planned Allied attack ;)

However, it DID have the additional use of making the normally interminably-boring life of trench warfare continually a high-stress environment...so low-activity, high-stress - the correct environment to lower morale, breed rumours etc. I don't know if the brass were aware in concrete terms of what they were doing - increasing the ever-present risk and growing level of battle fatigue in enemy lines - but given how they reacted to battle fatigue behind their OWN lines I severly doubt it LOL
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Post by Marc Binazzi » Sun Feb 10, 2008 1:49 pm

This is a link to the thread discussing Trench Cleaners on a French WW I Forum. The text is French but the photographs and drawing speak for themselves. There was a doubt regarding the cartridge holders two of the soldiers wear: French cavalry or British Army????

http://pages14-18.mesdiscussions.net/pa ... 1971_1.htm

the strange and extremely unpleasant-looking device drawn is called "arme de zigouilleur", an old slang word for "killer's weapon" or "slaughterer's weapon".
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Post by John Kilmartin » Mon Feb 11, 2008 3:49 pm

Hi Scott,
I would recommend Tommy / Richard Holmes and When Your Numbers Up / Desmond Morton for a view of Commonwealth forces on the Western Front and Canadians on the same front respectively. It is said that the reason that one of the four divisions attacking Vimy Ridge at Easter 1917 did not reach its objectives on that day was the fact that it had been involved in a large scale trench raid in the preceeding weeks against the wishes of the Corps commander Sir Arthur Curry.
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Post by Scott Powell » Mon Feb 11, 2008 7:12 pm

John Kilmartin wrote:Hi Scott,
I would recommend Tommy / Richard Holmes and When Your Numbers Up / Desmond Morton for a view of Commonwealth forces on the Western Front and Canadians on the same front respectively. It is said that the reason that one of the four divisions attacking Vimy Ridge at Easter 1917 did not reach its objectives on that day was the fact that it had been involved in a large scale trench raid in the preceeding weeks against the wishes of the Corps commander Sir Arthur Curry.
Cheers.
John K
thanx very much for the titles, i will look them up!

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Post by Ogiwan » Thu Feb 21, 2008 7:48 am

I'm currently reading Rommel's Infantry Attacks! for my German Military History class, and the book is about his experiences in World War I. At the start of it is his experiences on the Western Front before (and at the start of) the stagnation. Rommel commanded such a trench raid, and it boiled down to several days (if not a week or more) of planning, a few harrowing hours of the actual operation, and 6-8 prisoners.

Not that impressive.

Concerning night attacks, I believe they were used, but only towards the end of the war.
Gold for the craftsman,
Silver for the maid.
Copper for the craftsman,
cunning at his trade

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Sitting in his hall
"but Iron, Cold Iron,
is master of them all"
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Liam
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Post by Liam » Thu Feb 21, 2008 12:42 pm

The British carried out successful large-scale night attacks during the Battle of the Somme in 1916 - Bazetin Ridge and Poziers in particular.
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Post by sniper1shot » Mon Mar 10, 2008 1:22 pm

One point no one has mentioned is MORALE.
Both for and against....

For the Allies (or whoever is the attacker) as they are doing something to the enemy. Intel gathering to see who they are opposite.

Against the Enemy (or whoever is the surprised) as they are never sure when one is coming, always at night, not sure if they will survive it or be Kia. Nervous and constantly on edge.
Only he is lost who gives himself up as lost.

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