IS THE Catalogue reference:PERTY OF HIS BRITANNIC MAJESTY'S GOVERNMENT).
S E C R E T.
JOINT NOTE No.12.
W A R C A BI N E T.
Joint Note to the Supreme War Council
THE SUPREME WAR COUNCIL.
The Military Representatives have the honour to inform you that at their
Meeting held on 21st January, 1918, they passed the following resolution:-
1. In submitting
to the Supreme War Council their advice on the military action
to be undertaken during 1918, the Military Representatives think it necessary
to place before the Supreme War Council in the briefest possible manner
the grounds on which their advice is based.
out over all the theatres of war they examined the state of affairs both
in the main theatres and in the secondary theatres, first of all from
the point of view of the security of the fronts in those theatres, and
then from the point of view of the opportunities which may present themselves
for gaining a decisive or, at any rate, far-reaching success in any of
3. It was
assumed that the United Kingdom was safe from all serious invasion
and that the necessary measures, both naval, military and air for its
defence against the contingency of an attack, involved no interference
with the operations of the British forces overseas.
4. It was
agreed, after the most careful and exhaustive examination, that the
safety of France could also be assured. But in view of the weight of attack
which the enemy can bring to bear upon this front, an attack which
may possibly, in the opinion of the Military Representatives attain a
strength of 96 Divisions, exclusive of "roulement", they
feel obliged to add that France will be safe during 1918 only
under certain conditions, viz:-
a) That the French and British forces in France are continuously
maintained at their present total aggregate strength, and receive the
expected reinforcement of not less than two American Divisions a month.
b) That there shall be a substantial progressive increase
in the total Allied equipment in guns of all calibres, in Machine Guns,
in Aeroplanes and in Tanks, with the personnel necessary to man them,
and the most effective co-ordinated employment of these and all other
c) That every possible measure shall be taken for strengthening
and co-ordinating the Allied system of defences, more particularly in
the sectors most liable to a heavy attack.
d) That the rail transportation be improved, and co-ordinated.
e) That the whole Allied front in France be treated as a
single strategic field of action, and that the disposition of the reserves,
the periodic re-arrangement of the point of junction between the various
Allied forces on the actual front, and all other arrangements should be
dominated by this consideration.
5. It was
agreed that Italy was safe, but again under certain conditions, viz:-
i) That the Italian Army be reformed, trained and re-equipped
with artillery before May 1st, and that several positions in rear of the
present line be constructed on modern principles.
(ii) That the power of rapid rail transport be increased
both in the interior of Italy itself, and between Italy and France in
order to secure strategic unity of action over the two theatres.
(iii) That, in addition to the necessary measures taken against
pacifism by the Italian Government itself, the Allies should assist Italy
by the provision of coal, wheat, and other necessaries, as well as financially,
in order to prevent the creation of economic conditions which would diminish
the strength of the interior resistance of the country.
6. If the
assumptions in paras 3, 4 and 5 are accepted then we have got this far
in our examination of the problem, viz:- that the enemy cannot in 1918
gain a definite military decision in the main theatres which would enable
him to break finally the resistance of any of the Allied Powers.
7. If the
enemy cannot gain a final decision against the Allies the question arises
whether there is any opportunity in the course of 1918 for the Allies
to secure, in the main Western theatres, a final, or even a far-reaching
decision, against the enemy? The Military Representatives are of the opinion
that, apart from such measure of success as is implied in the failure
of the enemy's offensive, or may be obtained by local counter strokes,
and leaving out of account such improbable and unforeseeable contingencies
as the internal collapse of the Enemy Powers, or the revival of Russia
as a serious military factor, no such decision is likely to be secured
during the fighting period of 1918. Neither the addition of the American
troops in view during this period, nor such reinforcements as could be
secured for any one of the main theatres by withdrawing from the secondary
theatres any margin of troops that may be available above the necessities
of local defences, would make a sufficient difference in the relative
position of the opposing forces to justify the hope of attaining such
a decision. This should not prevent the Allied General Staffs closely
watching the situation in case an unexpected development should furnish
an opportunity for vigorous offensive actions for which they should always
be prepared. In any case the defensive on the Western front should not
be of a merely passive character, but be worked out definitely and scientifically,
with the intention of gaining the maximum advantage from any opportunities
offered in this theatre. A detailed consideration of the nature of the
measures that should be envisaged is given in a paper which is appended
as an annexe to this Note.
8. The Allies
are, therefore, confronted with a fundamental, though not
permanent, change in the conditions upon which their strategy has to be
based, as compared with the conditions, existing or anticipated, as long
as the Russian armies kept the field. They are accordingly obliged to
consider how that strategy must be modified in order to take the fullest
advantage out of such opportunities as remain open to them during the
phase of deadlock on the Western fronts. In other words, pending such
a change in the balance of forces as we hope to reach in 1919 by the steady
influx of American troops, guns, aeroplanes, tanks, etc., and by the progressive
exhaustion of the enemy's staying power, it remains to consider what action
can meanwhile be taken against the enemy, elsewhere than in the main Western
theatres, which may enable us to secure a decision far-reaching in its
effect upon the political situation in the Near East and in Russia, both
during and after the war, and valuable in paving the way towards a subsequent
definite decision against the enemy's main armies. To allow the year to
pass without an attempt to secure a decision in any theatre of war, and
to leave the initiative entirely to the enemy would, in the opinion of
the Military Representatives, be a grave error in strategy apart from
the moral effect such a policy might produce upon the Allied Nations.
9. The possibility
of achieving any far-reaching decision in the Balkan theatre is
clearly excluded, for the present at any rate, by the strength and comparative
homogeneity of the enemy forces, and by the great superiority of the enemy's
system of communications. It is, indeed, possible that in this theatre
the Allied forces may find themselves heavily attacked, and may be compelled
to give ground. Such a contingency, though undesirable in itself, need
give rise to no serious apprehensions provided always that adequate preparations
are made in good time for the occupation of shorter and stronger lines
covering the mainland of Greece, and if possible Salonika.