"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov

Ya ever seen my house?

Ya ever seen my house?
Neither have I Ted! You douchebag.
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Feint


Do you recall that golden Saturday morning of July 1?
That date was a Saturday in 1916.
While the main Somme offensive took place astride the river that gave the offensive its name, about 10 miles to the North other plans were afoot.
In the hope of hoodwinking the Germans, extensive preparations were made opposite the occupied village of Gommecourt.
See Google photo at top. The chunk of woodland in the upper right, Gommecourt Wood was occupied as well, the German trenches running right around its southern, western and northern edges.
This of course formed a salient.
The large salient to the north where the British doggedly held the medieval city of Ypres put the occupiers of same at a distinct disadvantage being that fire could, and did, come from the front, both sides and occasionally the rear.
The Gommecourt salient, however, was quite small putting the advantage on the German side as it gave the defenders the ability to enfilade the British lines to the north as well as the south while being relatively safe from shellfire due to the proximity of the two edges.
About 800 yards to the west lay the British trenches where the 56th division was dug in.
The plan was to create the impression that the main portion of the offensive was to occur there.
A few days earlier the lads had been sent out in the wee hours to dig a new trench system about halfway across no-man's-land.
500 men over the course of two nights completed the trench with the intention of occupying it the night before Zero.
All went according to plan. The Germans fell for the ruse even though the smoke screen which comprised the major task of the 48th Reserve Division to the south was gently blown back over the British lines where it did no good whatsoever.
The success of the trick notwithstanding, the Brits suffered similar horrific casualties as discussed back in July (link above).
The new trench, already blown to bits by German shells was occupied as planned, the lads went forward and the same thing happened as did farther to the south.
The map to the left, taken from "Somme" by Lyn MacDonald, shows the layout prior to the offensive. The dark dotted line represents the German trenches.
This particular salient, despite its small size represented the westernmost point of the entire German line - from the North Sea to the Swiss border.
Within the wood itself (AKA Gommecourt Park) stood the shelled ruins of a chateau the yard of which contained "The Kaiser's Oak". This tree, also known as "The Royal Oak" had been planted initially in 1879 to commemorate the golden wedding anniversary of Kaiser Wilhelm I.
Apparently that tree didn't take as another was planted in 1883. This second tree served as a landmark throughout the war, what remained of it anyway, and is with to this day. To the right, a drawing made in 2006.
What's all this "tree discussion" is in aid of, you ask. In 1996, a member of "The Great War Forum" found this:
In the vicinity of that gnarly, ugly, old tree; lost (or tossed) by one of the valiant lads of the 56th division back in the day.
Because this is all about me, you should know that I've made a replica - brass - the original appears to be cast in iron.
It is available here, and will be sold for half price ($25 shipped in US) until the date the offensive ended (November 18).
In closing, the sprawling map below, included to show the extent of the Somme battlefield, contains the corner of the world we've been discussing.
The little rectangle up at the top (see arrow).

1 comment:

Culpeper said...

You have to go to the asshole of the world, Between Vaughn and Encino, New Mexico. Just about every make and model of trucks are just sitting out there in the high plains.

Locations of visitors to this page