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Subject: Australian Corps operational doctrine - 1918 rss

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Paul Procyk
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Since I read it, I have always been fascinated by one paragraph in the book

Shock Army of the British Empire: the Canadian Corps in the last 100 days of the Great War by Shane B. Schreiber

Incidentally, an excellent book covering the Canadian Corps operational doctrine and battles from Amiens to the end of the war.

However the paragraph in question was regarding Australian doctrine. Here quoted in full:

"The Australians, in the summer of 1918, found it simply easier to take the trench raid, a common feature of the Western Front by that time, one step further. Paying close attention to which parts of the outpost zone were being held by German detachments, and were only being occupied at certain intervals, the Australians soon became adept at slipping into the outpost zone at night, and then consolidating their gains by fighting off the German detachments sent to retrieve their outpost. This was not only frustrating for the Germans, it was also unnerving. These stealth tactics denied the Germans the opportunity to absorb and destroy the impetus of the attack because there was no real attack -- only a constant picking at the periphery that eased the Germans out of territory at the slightest slip of vigilance on their part. The Australian official historian, Dr. C.E.W. Bean, coyly termed this approach 'peaceful penetration' for it involved no large battles or artillery duals."

This is really the only instance where I have read about this tactic. Admittedly I would not consider myself that widely read on the First World War.

Anyone else read about this or have any thoughts on the matter?

Also, are the official Australian war histories for the First World war online somewhere?
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Steve Arthur
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http://www.awm.gov.au/histories/first_world_war/

I don't know if Australian troops were the sole practioners of this tactic but it sounds like something they'd do..
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Going thirty-eight, Dan, chill the f*** out. Mow your damn lawn and sit the hell down.
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Something that carried over into WWII as well. During the 'siege' of Tobruk Australian troops constantly patrolled in no-mans land at night and harrassed Italian and then German forces. Capturing troops, destroying artillery much to the constanation of the Italian forces.
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Paul Procyk
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Thanks.

Those are brilliant! I will have to download them and peruse them some time.

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michael connor
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Yes! What a gold mine.
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Kev.
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Read & Watch at www.bigboardgaming.com
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xmfcnrx wrote:
Yes! What a gold mine.


Aussie Aussie Aussie.....Oi, Oi, Oi.
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Steve Arthur
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hipshot wrote:
xmfcnrx wrote:
Yes! What a gold mine.


Aussie Aussie Aussie.....Oi, Oi, Oi.


Once a Bogan always a Bogan!!
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Menin Gate at Midnight, Will Longstaff, 1927.
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"At the landing, and here ever since" - Anzac Book, p. 35.
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My research over the past few years has explored this, and it will be published in my book due out next year. Bean dedicated a decent section of the Official History to peaceful penetration, and I've built upon this in my work. You can read some work I did on it a few years go during my PHD here:

http://unsworks.unsw.edu.au/fapi/datastream/unsworks:1685/SO...

Look at the section around page 206, 'peaceful penetration'.
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Paul Procyk
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Amnese wrote:
My research over the past few years has explored this, and it will be published in my book due out next year. Bean dedicated a decent section of the Official History to peaceful penetration, and I've built upon this in my work. You can read some work I did on it a few years go during my PHD here:


Thanks for that, also brilliant!

I had a quick read over your dissertation. I found it interesting that peaceful penetration was a bottom up initiative, and became a competition between the units involved over prisoner counts.

So did it in fact replace the set piece battle, or merely stem some of the blood letting required by the higher ups?

I will cast this question out to the wider BGG wargamer community. Do any WWI games out there simulate peaceful penetration on an operational scale?

On another note I was very much taken by your emphasis on the mundane aspects of the Great War, specifically trench digging. As I was reading it the thought came to me, are there any comparative analyses by a historian of the various trench structures of each of the Allied and Axis combatants? This may be an enjoyable read, if it existed.

Looking forward to your book when it is published. Let us know when it becomes available for purchase.
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Menin Gate at Midnight, Will Longstaff, 1927.
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brozo wrote:

I had a quick read over your dissertation. I found it interesting that peaceful penetration was a bottom up initiative, and became a competition between the units involved over prisoner counts.


Keep in mind they were undertaken under a range of different conditions throughout that period. But Bean argues, for example:

Among the Australians on the Somme the first of the long string of incidents that came to be known in the A.I.F. as “peaceful penetration,’ appears to have been the one(described in the previous volume) in which a corporal of the 58th Battalion, D. A. Sayers, holding a tiny post on the Somme flats near Hamel, seized a chance of cutting off a patrol of some thirty Germans which, under an officer, advanced from that village across the wide No-Man’s Land towards the Australian line on the after- noon of April 5th. (vol VI, p. 42).

Small peaceful penetration 'patrols' were typically led by a Lieutenant, but there are reports of small sections, even 1-2 men, using their initiative to capture weary German soldiers during this period. These men recognised that such efforts were less risky than the more formally planned (and more costly) raids. By this stage the Australian units were also brimming with confidence.

brozo wrote:

So did it in fact replace the set piece battle, or merely stem some of the blood letting required by the higher ups?


No, it was primarily undertaken by small groups, typically platoon or section size (10-20 men). The primary role was to identify the opposition (ie: take prisoners), but over time (largely due to its success) it escalated into taking large numbers of prisoners.

brozo wrote:

I will cast this question out to the wider BGG wargamer community. Do any WWI games out there simulate peaceful penetration on an operational scale?


It will be a difficult situation to game. A solitaire treatment may be best as essentially, in most cases, the Germans were caught completely unaware. You could utilise the Ambush! rules pretty well to simulate the situations.

brozo wrote:

On another note I was very much taken by your emphasis on the mundane aspects of the Great War, specifically trench digging. As I was reading it the thought came to me, are there any comparative analyses by a historian of the various trench structures of each of the Allied and Axis combatants? This may be an enjoyable read, if it existed.

I'm unfamiliar with any detailed comparative analyses. In England Janet Watson and Helen McCartney have published separate works on British units with a similar focus to myself. I've also recently published an analysis of trench building on Gallipoli (let me know if you can't access this as I'd be happy to email you a copy):

Wise - '"Dig, dig, dig, until you are safe": constructing the Australian trenches on Gallipoli'
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/19475020.2012.652...

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Menin Gate at Midnight, Will Longstaff, 1927.
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"At the landing, and here ever since" - Anzac Book, p. 35.
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It may also be of interest to note that the term 'peaceful penetration' comes (at least in the short term) from the pre-First World War German colonial incursion into the Pacific. British/Australian commentators before the war referred to the German peaceful penetration of colonies in the area north-east of Australia. There seems to be an obvious sexual connotation to the term also, but I wasn't familiar enough with the use of this type of language at the time to analyse those origins in any detail.
 
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