Transcript

Allied Supreme War Council
Catalogue reference: WO 106/729


(THIS DOCUMENT 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 by its
Military Representatives.

1918 CAMPAIGN.

To:-

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.

          2. Looking 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 those theatres.

          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 mechanical devices.

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.



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