Learning Curve, The Great War
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Transcript: Source3
Extract from a meeting of the War Cabinet, August 1918
(Catalogue ref: CAB 23/7)

1. THE Chief of the Imperial General Staff, who had just returned from France, reported that there was not much information in addition to that which the War Cabinet had already received. Enemy resistance was stiffening all along the line, and neither Marshal Foch nor Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig proposed to make further attacks for the present unless they could advance without undue expenditure of life. The Allied Generals were, however, testing one or two places which they particularly wished to capture, because it seemed that if these places were taken the enemy would be obliged to fall back farther. It would be seen in the course of the next forty-eight hours whether these operations were worth undertaking.

The Chief of the Imperial General Staff continued that he had seen General Currie. He had also seen General Monash, commanding the Australians, with his five Divisional Generals, who were all much pleased with the result of their recent operations, more especially with the smallness of the losses incurred. The casualties of each of the five Divisional Generals had only amounted to about 600 apiece. The casualties of the enemy, on the other hand, appeared to have been very heavy, because the Germans had been pushed back so rapidly that they could not get away owing to the congestion of the roads. The total number of German prisoners taken by the British and French in these operations amounted to about 30,000, together with some 400 to 500 guns. The total losses of the Allies had been about 30,000, of which British losses were about 20,000.

The Chief of the Imperial General Staff said that the tanks had done splendid work. The number of tanks put out of action, whether lost or disabled, amounted to about 60 per cent. of the total, but many of these were not lost of the enemy, and could be repaired shortly. The temporary casualties to tanks were due chiefly to engine troubles and over-heating. The tank personnel had done very well, but it had become clear that there must be two or three relays of personnel, owing to the fact that the crews became exhausted in the intense heat inside the tanks.

Asked as to whether he considered it probable that the enemy would make a stand on the Vesle, General Wilson replied that he thought so. He added that their position would be so uncomfortable that he had from the first favoured the idea of leaving them there, and he believed that this was Marshal Foch's intention, but that it was not unlikely that the Germans would before long re-cross the Aisne.

The enemy appeared to have nineteen reserve divisions, of which fifteen were with Prince Rupprecht, two with the Crown Prince, and two with Prince Albrecht.

Proof of the deterioration of the enemy was evidenced in the fact that the 1st Australian Division, with but small losses to themselves, had so completely knocked out the 5th Bavarian Division that, in the opinion of the Australian Commanders, it seemed unlikely that the latter unit would be able to recover for two months.

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