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PLAN No. 2., Issue 15636, 29 October 1914
PLAN No. 2.
FIRST PLAN COUNTED OUT. MOLTKE GOES HOME THE GERMAN PROJECT NOW. ITS PROS AND CONS. LAND GUN AND THE SEA GUN. [By A. Spence.] General Von Falkenhayn must have had a swift promotion to the top of the German army. Three times in 50 days we have bad
nows that Helninth Von .Moltke does not now find his lines cast in pleasant places. The first intimation tv as that, while he nominally retained his position as Chief of the General Staff, he was really a nobody. Then came an announcement that lie 'was ill—suffering from liver trouble. Yesterday the news was that fie was in a dying condition, and the symptoms had been aggravated by the failure of his plans to reach Paris. To the German way of thinking nothing fails worse than failure of any sort of operation. In their peace mannmvres the eye of the superior military direction is on every officer who takes paid, from generals to subalterns. One symptom of want of knowledge or irresolution dooms. That officer is a marked man. In less than a fortnight after manoeuvres end. lie receives an official letter directing him to apply for “ sick leave. ’’ He knows at once what that means. His military career is over. Moltke's illness may bo real or official. Tn any case his superiors would never forgive the failure to reach Paris. It is the first principle in strategy that an army must not be committed to the offensive on any line until, in the judgment _cf its directors, it is prepared to maintain the offensive. Moltke committed all German armies tn a very important offensive against a very important point. Ho failed, thereby entailing consequences which the Germans will feel till the end of the war. One strategic miscalculation at the start is, in the military mind, the unpardonable sin. The news which we have received regarding Von Moltke looks very real nows indeed, and deeply important nows,_ too, for when an army side-tracks its Chicf of ■Staff it is almost the. greatest confession of failure that that army can make. What seems less real, though it may he true, too, is the rapid rise of Von Falkenhayn. In the German -Army List one has to search down many pages of small typo before his name occurs, and he proves to be only a major-general by rank, and not even a. corps commander. He was recently,
in fact, the Chief of Staff of the Fourth Army Corps of Saxons. Anhalt and Magdeburg troops. To raise him to the top of the free (though he has latterly been in the department of the Secretary of State for Wart means passing over such men as Von Sehliotfcn and all the superior Staff officers. also over the heads of the commanders 0 f inspections; further, over the heads <,f tlie corps commanders. If the Kaiser has made this promotion, it is a radical step. GERMAN PLAN No. 2. The new German plan—for it is a new plan—has long been evident dimly. Each dav's onerations write it in bolder letters, and even ho who runs may now read. Their centre is on the Aisnc and their left towards Lorraine. At first the central ana left armies were intended to be part, of a general concentric move Parisward. Now they stand fast. They are the. containing force, with line after line of trenches hack through tho difficult Ar-
demies behind them. The mobile forces arc in Belgium. The objective is the seaboard nearest to England. Towards Belgium. therefore, they will pour every man who can he stripped from the eentie and left. Tin's is plan No. 2. The movement which pulled the English out of the trenches near Snissons, and sent them north to the neighborhood of Lille, indicates that nlan No. 2 is to he rudejy opposed. If plan No. 2 fails. Von Falkenhavn’s. lease of power, assuming that he is actually in power, will he brief enough. He will receive tho official letter—tho letter relating to sick leave. CALAIS AND GUNS. Plan No. 2 is to be aided and abetted by all sort' of artillery monstcis from German arsenal?. Theie has keen ono good message from Copenhagen 011 that point. Baron Von Darr-npe, of the Ger man Adjutancy Staff 'whatever that, may meani, has declared that, when the Germans ijjre in possession of Calais, they will use 17in howitzers for protecting it a base for destroyers and submarine?, The month of the port' will be guarded by a triple row of mines. I do not think that any German, imle-< lie grew nnwontedly garrulous, would give ft-.vay the inside working of plan No. 2 with such frankness and detail. Still, (here is much in what he is alleged to have said. Tho red German idea, as far as every iiiuce of lifns nom their country can place it, has pointed to the fact that they "hoped to .-nia,-h the English fleet somewhere between Calais and Dover.” This de-tnictio'i is not, to he done by their own fleet , hut by imposing conditions which will compel port ion of the English Navy to assemble off Calais. The e English ships are in he struck lay fire from tho land. It is subtle enough as far as it goes. Twelve days ago the operation of the German mobile armies in Belgium ni.a hj it necessary to despatch English slops in the coast. England sent no Dread noughts hut . by happy conception, bought up Brazilian monitors, and employed them v.ilh good restih. Today wo hear i British destroyers entering the liver at Nieujaort. They fired a broadside ; turned round, fired the other bioadside; then fired tlie stern gun as a parting salute,. Unfortunately, this cable goes on to stale, that the British destroyers mounted 6in guns.
The seaboard gunnery comes to (his : Given equal calibre of guns, and equal gunnery, the fire from the land will beat the fire from the sea. We may therefore expect to find the Germans >.oon employing very heavy gun- on the Belgian coast. The c e will prove (to much for monitors unle-- the right- counter-stroke i.s delivered. Our ih*.!ntrv and the French infantry will light (or those gun positions. Beyond such combat there will be incessant a., 1 fight,-. The side which cat; get its airmen np in suitable positions will be the side which can direct the ranging. In a duel of this nature the ranging is all in all. One well-placed shot may destroy the biggest gun on land or the biggest ship at sea. THOMAS AND IBX Aid. Thomas Atkin* and hi* lately-joined friends—lbn An, Slier Singh, and .suchlike—seem to be tieating Flan No. 2 with a good deal of disrespect. There is a- long message from the Jiigii Commissioner to-day, interesting enough, but ancient. It starts out at operations now 17 dav* old, but those are no ordinary operations. They are operations which aie putting the foot of the British soldier on Belgium, which he has not seen since he left it at Mons two months ago. The ground actually won is insignificant. It is something like a fight between Dunedin and Seacliff—it is not far. But the run of the country, thick-set with villages, thick-set with hedges and embankments, also with railway cuttings, streams, and canals, makes every point a field fortress. These who are acquainted with tactics will recall the special chapters in the text books, which reserve grim page* for such topics as “ street fighting,” " attack and defence of woods and villages,” always 1 adding the wise hint: “ Salient* should be few and well chosen.” One wonders, sometimes, how the English Staff and the English soldier surmount it all. An ordinary i village, when placed in a state of defence, Lwill present five or six salient". The same with a. wood.
Then a railway cutting counts. British officers have recently begun a study of tn# American Civil War, so it does not seen* out of place to mention that Lawton* Confederate brigade, holding a cutting at the battle of Manassas, in 1862, found themselves out of ammunition, but (good troops as they must have been) they beat back the Northern assault with, showers of ballast picked up off the railway and thrown by hand. The High Commissioner’s message features one or two things of interest. The Aliks louncl the Germans everywhere entrenched, and attacks on villages were usually unavailing until the rumbling howitzer came up. it reads like a page out of Clery. He was the first writer in the world who discerned what the everlasting duel between the trench and the high-tirer would come to in time. Singularly enough, he himself and his chief Butler failed badly against the primitive- Boer trenches in Natal. It seems that the habit of mind which is favorable to analysis is not favorable to achievement.. Another point of interest in the mes. cage is the continual delivery of German counter-strokes at night. This is what ‘•Tommy's'’ letters home frequently mention ; " The beggars will not knock off at night, and we get no sleep,” OPPOSING PLAN NO. 2. The commitment by the Allies, wrestling north, is illustrated by some of today’s rabies. There are three canals between Nieuport and Dixmude. Each. ia an ocean for purposes of battle. The Germans got over the second last Sunday, ami “ the battle looked critical. The cables have been guarded on the critical aspect of our battles, but it is not tha first time wo have so heard. It seems that some French reserve was put in at the moment, and told. The message indicates a skilful use of the all-important reserves by the. Allies. They must not be sent in prematurely, nor too late. If too soon there, comes a clumsy bloodshed in the firing line; if too Late the battleline falls to pieces. It is at the moment ■when the men in the firing line are beginning to look back over their shoulders that the next wave of troops should be coming. Only experienced commanders can discern that moment—can estimate to a minute how long it win be before the struggling fringe of men in front will break.
Our tacticians seem to be doing very well —better than one would suspect from the comments of the examiners for Staff College honors at Camber ley. There is an excellent cable to-day. The business in battle is to get as near to the enemy as passible without coming out of column into line. In the message referred to the Allies made the best use of a thick mist. No doubt there were many columns marching in fours on roads or tracks approximately parallel. Then the mist lifting, perhaps, the French cavalry debouched boldly on to an arterial paved road. A German battery began to enfilade. There were trenches to face and peat bogs to pass. The cavalry and infantry were sent boldly on; the artillery could" not follow. Fighting without gunfire in support, it became an affair for the bayonet. The honor was handed over to a Scottish regiment, and they _ went in with the pipes playing. In 10 minutes the thing was done. There are two points in the message which sum it up. A bold but skilful use of troops in an embarrassing terrain; the “ personal ascendancy” which piped these .Scotchmen right home. BACKING UP PLAN NO. 2.
The chance that Germans will assault our sea forces with heavy fire from the land in pursuance of the new plan has been mentioned. One cable to-day tells its own story : —“ The Germans have guns mounted at Heyst and Zeebnigge for the purpose of meting out attacks by sea. They have also sown mines along the coast, using Ostend tugs and luggers.” it is a likely message. Our naval and military wit will have to discern the counter-stroke. This phase of the battle of West Flanders will grow. CHIEFS OF ALL PLANS.
There is a good sketch of General Joffre to-day. it pictures him sitting at the telephone in his room, which is of course the, right place so long as he docs not undertake too much office work. He is, it is said, “ just a plain soldier.” Well, so is his first lieutenant, Sir John French. Probably no more modest and deserving men have, come to kingship in commanding in the world’s greatest war. Merit for once, in a- way has come into its own. Armies abound with advertising generals, and England is no exception. It is satisfactory to note that Kitchener has not yet deemed it necessary to send any of the advertisers to the front, great as their prestige with the public might be. What General Joffre is doing in his office Sir John French will not do. No offict work for him, or, at least, as little a? possible. As chief tactician he sits in tho saddle, and notes the sway of battle. Afterwards—say, 11 p.ra.—a few directions to his splendid Staff, and then to bed. No general ever knew better how to assemble a good Staff than Sir John French. THE NEW WARFARE. Warfare now and warfare in Hannibal's time is not very different., except that the slaughter is less and the duration of conflict longer than it was in the dim times when Carthage threatened Rome. A London ‘ Times ‘ correspondent say* that the aeroplane has robbed war of tactical interest . There V now only an nnwielding lunge, of great armies at each other, and, after that, hammer-and-tongs battle. 1 think he is going a. little too far. The phases where the strategist ends arid bloodshed begins have been set out more than onee in the.se notes. Bloodshed is the feature now in pursuance of Plan No. 2. hut it is not everything. No doubt the phase* Of war which give Napoleon'/ movements such interest are over, but only on earth. ’The, old play of intellect has merely been lifted 2,000 metres into the air, and there it all is. THAT MAN TJE WET. It seem? that 'Christian De, Wet ha* turned traitor. His deeds in the South Arfn’can War raised a good deal of interest in what one military writer ha* playfully referred to a,a “the, Christian era.” hit us hope that interest is over. A man who takes an oath of loyalty, and then does as this picturesque brigand ha* done, should never bo referred to again except, in terms of contempt. It seem* wrong to discuss the loyalty of some of the Boer burghers in South Africa, but we must probably expect more along the lead which has now- been given by thi* “ Christian.” COB RESPOND ENTS. A number of interesting letters, including one from a High School boy, hav# been received. These will appear to-mor-ro"’.
PLAN No. 2., Issue 15636, 29 October 1914
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