Précis of Lessons learnt from the experiences of a Division in the Cambrai Operations.

Fourth Army No G.S. 221


Précis of Lessons learnt from the experiences of a Division in the Cambrai Operations.


30th November to 6th December 1917.


To be returned to Major W.C. Green.


The following extracts from the report of the 2nd Division on the Cambrai operations of the 30th November and subsequent days, during which the enemy made a determined attempt in great strength to break the British line between the villages of Moeuvres and Bourlon, are reproduced as an excellent example of how a successful defensive battle should be conducted:-


The Army Commander directs special attention to the following points which stand out as the chief factors in inflicting extremely heavy losses on the enemy and enabling the 2nd Division to hold their line secure against repeated assaults made by the enemy in very great strength –

  • The effective use of the rifle, the Lewis and Machine Guns, and Stokes Mortars. – Great care had been taken during training periods to encourage musketry and train infantrymen and Lewis gunners in the art of using rapid fire. Picked shots used as snipers had the time of their lives, and killed a very large number of the enemy.
  • Initiative and resource shown by Platoon Commanders and Section Leaders. – This was a very marked feature in the conduct of the defence and was the direct result of most careful instruction in the use of ground and knowledge of minor tactics inculcated during times of rest and training. Such forms of instruction, either on maps or on the ground, fully repay the time devoted to them.
  • The marked superiority of the British soldier in fighting at close quarters.- This is largely due to the excellent spirit which existed throughout the 2nd Division, and to the careful instruction in the use of the bayonet, the bomb and the rifle combined. In fact, making full use of all weapons in conjunction.


No small credit is due to the Divisional Artillery for the promptness with which the barrage was imposed in answer to the “S.O.S.” signal and the continuous volume of accurate fire which was maintained without intermission during critical periods. Circumstances were difficult, but the artillery observation was good, and in several instances gunners were firing over the sights; but it was the whole-hearted co-operation of all arms in the one purpose of annihilating the attack which contributed more than anything else to the complete success of the defence.


The following extracts are taken from the official report of the 2nd Division:-


  • THE RIFLE. The men had marked confidence in their rifles and hundreds of men actually killed Germans and, in future, it will not be difficult to encourage musketry.       There are instances of one man cleaning and loading a rifle for a comrade who was picking off Germans.       It was noticeable that when an attack had been beaten off men on their own initiative cleaned their rifles and collected S.A.A. and got ready for the next attack.



Great stress had been laid during the training on the constant practice of rapid fire. This was well repaid.


It would be beneficial to have opportunities of practice at longer ranges than are usually available. A 400 yards’ range is not often met with.


  1. Lewis Guns. Lewis guns were in action the whole time, and proved their destructive powers equally with those already credited to the rifle. The true role of Lewis gun – i.e. mobility with fire power – was utilised.       Instances were many where Lewis guns on their own initiative moved from point to point of the line being attacked and picked up targets of immediate urgency. They claim hundreds of the enemy, and by pushing forward in places which were not being attacked were able to bring cross-fire to bear on massed enemy advancing on the flanks.


  1. Stokes’ Mortars. – Stokes’ mortars were invaluable in driving back bombing attacks and in ejecting forward parties of the enemy. Here again Battalion Commanders called upon Stokes’ mortars on their own initiative for assistance, and the trust placed in these weapons by the infantry was noticeable.


The difficulty of rapid movement and traversing of Stokes’ mortars was overcome by the firer steadying the gun between his legs without any platform.


This method had been previously practiced, and was attended with success, the extra mobility obtained and greater traversing power being marked.


  1. Maintaining Ground. – In most cases it is less costly for attacking troops to hold on to good positions gained than to evacuate them. A party of Germans who had established themselves in a sunken road in our line made no attempt to hold on, but retired and in doing so were caught by our fire and practically wiped out. Had they remained they would have been evicted only with cost to ourselves.


  1. CounterAttack. – The value of immediate counter-attack by the unit on the spot was exemplified again and again.       The enemy was prevented from bringing up machine-guns, and consolidating positions he had penetrated.       These counter-attacks were undertaken invariably on the initiative of Platoon and Subordinate Commanders and were the result of recent training and the good discipline of all ranks.


  1. Brief Narrative of Events. On the night of the 26th November, the 2nd Division took over the front between Bourlon Wood (exclusive) and Moeuvres. During the next three days the Division was fully occupied in restoring order to a line which had been taken over hurriedly during operations and in replacing chaos by organisation.


The subsequent story is one so brimful of heroism that it deserves to take its place in English History for all time, and to be a proud day in the lives of all those splendid British soldiers who by their single-hearted devotion to duty saved what would have been undoubtedly a catastrophe had they given way.


On the morning of the 30th the Divisional front was held by the 99th Infantry Brigade on the right, with the 1st R. Berks (right), 17th R. Fus (centre), and 1st K.R.R.C. (left) and the 6th Infantry Brigade on the left, with 2nd S. Staffs (right), 13th Essex (centre), 17th Middlesex (left).  About 9.0 a.m. the enemy attacked in great strength all along the Divisional front, the brunt of the first attack falling on the 1st R. Berks, 17th R. Fus, and 13th Essex Regiment.


  1. Attack on 99th Infantry Brigade.- On the extreme right, the Division on the right was pressed back, together with the right-hand posts of the R. Berks. The situation on this flank was for the moment critical. However, our rifle and Lewis gun fire, assisted powerfully by three machine-guns, inflicted enormous losses upon the enemy, held up their advance, and eventually drove them back after three hours’ hard fighting. At the same time the 17th R. Fus. were attacked in the act of withdrawing their advanced posts to the main line of resistance. The rearguard, assisted by machine-guns, held off the whole of the enemy’s attack until the main portion of the battalion was fully organised, and they died to a man with their face to the enemy.       The O.C., 17th R. Fusiliers, writes:-

“Of the heroism of the rearguard it is difficult to speak.  Captain Stone and Lieutenant Benzecry, although ordered to withdraw to the main line, elected to remain with the rearguard.  The rearguard was soon fighting with bayonet, bullet and bomb to the last.  There was no survivor.   Captain Stone, by his invaluable information as to the movements of the enemy prior to the attack and his subsequent sacrifice with the rearguard, saved the situation at the cost of his life.  Lieutenant Benzecry was seen to be wounded in the head.  He continued to fight until he was killed.”


On the left the 1st K.R.R.C. were attacked at the same time, but owing to the intense volume of rifle, Lewis gun, and machine-gun fire that was produced, the enemy were literally mown down, and never got nearer than 200 – 300 yards from the front line.  Those who crept forward were disposed of by snipers and Lewis guns.


About 11.30 a.m, the enemy again attacked all along the line, and although at one point they gained a temporary success, they were hurled back with great slaughter, giving favourable targets at 50 to 200 yards range.


At 2.30 p.m. large masses of the enemy again attacked the 1st R. Berks. Regt.


On the left their attack was driven off with heavy loss by machine-gun, Lewis gun, and rifle fire, but on the right the enemy forced back the Brigade on the right of the Division, and captured the three extreme right posts, the garrisons of which fell fighting to the last, and there was such a heap of German dead in and around these posts that after the line had been restored (2nd December) it was impossible to find the bodies of our men.


The other five posts on the right stood firm and repulsed all enemy attacks, until reinforcements restored the situation and drove the enemy back behind the Ridge.


Too much praise cannot be given to this splendid company of the 1st R. Berks Regt and its commander, Lieutenant Valentine, for their valour and steadfastness in this most critical time, extending over some six hours.  They met attack after attack of the enemy, who were always in vastly superior numbers, and who came on right up to them time after time, only to be mown down and retire in disorder.  The casualties in this company were 46 all ranks and a Lewis gun, but they never flinched.  They claim to have killed over 500 of the enemy, and it is believed that this is no exaggeration.


Two more attacks were made against the 17th R. Fusiliers during the afternoon.

By the end of the day the line stood practically intact, with the exception of one or two points at which the enemy had occupied our position.


During the day the work done by the machine-guns was of inestimable value; in some places where their positions enfiladed the enemy’s attacking lines, the execution done was tremendous. Guns continued in action after they had been completely cut off, holding out until eventually the enemy were driven back.


  1. Narrative of the 6th Brigade (on the left). Similar events to those described above were happening on the 6th Brigade front, the enemy making constant attacks down both sides of the canal. On the right, repeated efforts were made by the enemy to gain ground, but these failed through the determined efforts of officers and men on the spot, the 13th Essex Regt and 2nd S. Staffs Regt. On the left of the Brigade, however, the enemy succeeded in penetrating the line at one point, thus isolating a Company of the 13th Essex Regt. who were in a small salient on the canal. During the remainder of the day and following night repeated efforts were made to regain touch with this company, but without success.       It would appear that at 4 p.m. the isolated company of the 13th Essex Regt., realising the improbability of being extricated, held a Council of War at which the two surviving Company Officers (Lieutenant J.D. Robinson and 2nd-Lieutenant E.L. Corps), the Company Sergeant-Major (A.H. Edwards) and Platoon Sergeants (Phillips, Parsons, Fairbrass, Lodge, and Legg) were present, and it was unanimously determined to fight to the last, and have “no surrender”. Two runners who were sent at this time to notify the Battalion H.Q. of this succeeded in getting through, and this was the last known of this most gallant company.

A.A. MONTGOMERY, Major-General

General Staff, Fourth Army.

31st January 1918

Field Survey Coy., R.E. 8210  31-1-18


Reprinted by Gale & Polden Ltd, Aldershot, for the use of the Senior Officers’ School, Aldershot.

F. Springett letter 27 January 1918

Somewhere in France


Sunday 27.1.18



My Dear Brother Sid,

Just a few lines hoping they will find you quite well as it leaves me A1.

I am sorry I cannot give you any address yet but hope to in my next letter, but don’t worry I am alright. I am enjoying myself fairly well up at this camp, we have plenty of sport and concerts and jolly good concerts too.

I see by the papers that some of you fellows will soon have to move I do hope they let you alone, they certainly ought to.

Just remember me to the “girl”. Ha Ha.

Dear Sid, you know I cannot write much, so of course it means very short letters not like the “Blighty” ones. Ha Ha.

I will write again as soon as I get the address.

Well Dear Sid, just cheer Mother up when you go home. “Don’t forget”

I haven’t anything else to say. So I will pack up hoping this letter finds in the best of health.

Goodbye Best Love

I remain

Your Loving Brother



205166 Rifn F.W. Springett


With cover to Mr S.K. Springett, 29 Bath Road Dartford Kent

Postmarked A.P.O. Rest unreadable.  Passed by Censor 5321

F.W. Lanchester memo January 1918


to the




F.W. Lanchester, M. Inst. C.E.

January, 1918.




In the main Report and Dossier prepared by Mr. H.A. Titcomb, which has been submitted to me, the enemy resources in coal and iron have been subjected to careful analysis; a list of iron mines is given with output of ore, so far as known, and the location and relative importance of his iron works from which he derives almost the whole of his material for munition manufacture have been analysed as to years output, relative importance, etc., and the position of every iron works of importance has been located and marked on a number of maps; in many cases photographs and large scale plans are given.


The object of the present Memorandum is to deal with the problem of dislocating his supplies by the employment to bombing aeroplanes. This Memorandum is to be regarded as a preliminary attack on the problem – an endeavour, in the first place, Part I, to lay down the objective which can be most economically made the subject of attack, that is to say, economically from the point of view of obtaining the greatest crippling effect on the enemy with bombs, etc., and, in the second place, Part II, to find a basis for the assessment of the force of aeroplanes and establishment necessary.


As the present Memorandum is intended to be in no degree final or exhaustive, arguments are put in their briefest possible form for the consideration of the Committee, and the estimate of numbers of aeroplanes, etc., may be taken as purely tentative and not based on the fullest information which may be available when actual dispositions come to be taken. The further data which will be required in order to prepare a final Report I am of opinion exist, but on such points as probable losses involved in raiding enemy country, and such further questions as the efficiency factor representing the number of machines necessary for each machine maintained in daily commission, are matters on which the Military Authorities alone can give reliable opinion, since much of the existing data is in their hands and is confidential.




The first point I will discuss is the best objective.  Firstly, I agree with Mr. H.A. Titcomb that to attack the sources of the enemy’s coal supply would be far less effective than to attack the sources of his iron supply.


Since pig iron is the basis of all steel manufacture the problem, therefore, is to destroy his capacity for producing pig iron by whatever means promises the most rapid and complete success.


The two main weak points in the manufacture of pig iron, as vulnerable to the bombing aeroplane, are unquestionably:-

  • Mine head works, pumping plant etc.
  • Iron smelting works.


Firstly, I will say that the weight of effort should be directed against the one or the other and not against both, for if we could smash half of his iron smelting works to the extent of putting out of action half of his blast furnaces, his production of iron ore would be a matter of indifference to us – his output of pig would be reduced to one half.  If, on the other hand, our effort were divided between mines and iron works, diminishing, say, the capacity of each by 25% then his capacity for producing pig iron would only be reduced in about the same ratio.  In other words, once a “bottle-neck” can be made at any point in his production it pays to exert every effort of strangulation at the “bottle-neck” to restrict production still further and not to act in some other place.


Now if we attack his mines and diminish the output of ore, he can replace his loss of ore to some extent by importations from Sweden.  But even if the resources of Sweden are already taxed to their limit, he has considerable stocks of ore which doubtless would enable his blast furnaces to continue for some time before our action becomes effective as diminishing his supply of pig.  Beyond this the raising of ore hinges on the question of labour supply, and it is reasonable to believe that his present limit is quite as much due to labour shortage as to the number and ultimate capacity of the pits, consequently, a great many pits would have to be put out of action before his supplies would even begin to show a falling off.


On the other hand, to bomb the iron works in any vital part might, and probably would, result in the blast furnaces “freezing” and in spite of any efforts he might make there would be a stoppage for at least three or four months; also the cessation of output would be immediate.


Beyond the above, an iron works is vulnerable in so many different parts, namely – the power house, the blowing engines, the hot blast stoves or regenerators, the gas washing plant, the water cooling systems and the blast furnaces themselves, besides quantities of piping, railway track, etc. The working of an iron works is as dependent one part on another as the parts of a geared mechanism, and a bomb dropping into any of the vital parts would be as fatal as a bullet through the mechanism of an eight-day-clock.


From the point of view of difficulty or distance there is very little to choose between the main shaft works and the iron works, except that the latter are, if anything, more conspicuous and less numerous, i.e., individually more important and of a larger vulnerable area.


I conclude, therefore, that the iron works should be made the subject of the attack.




From the main Report it appears that there are four districts within raiding distance from the Western Front, the complete output of which represents 83% of the total pig iron smelted in Germany;

The approximate particulars tabulated from the Report (see Dossier p.p. 2, 38 and 40) are as follows:-

District Nearest Point No. of iron works Approx. radius in miles Percentage of Germany’s output for 1916
1. Annexed Lorraine Nancy or Verdun 22 50 30
2. Saar Nancy 5 70 7
3. Coblenz Nancy 3 150 3
4. Westphalia Nancy or Belgium 18 200 43
  TOTALS 48   83


Inspections of the various plans given in the main Report reveals the fact that a large iron works commonly covers a compact site of 150 acres or thereabouts, of which the more vulnerable or dangerous portion constitutes about 10 per cent, say 15 acres. This 15 acre area can be regarded as the target and its position can be located without difficulty from the fact that it includes blast furnaces (commonly arranged in rows) and the hot blast stoves, which are no less conspicuous and which form a corresponding row or number of groups.  These conspicuous landmarks are not always located within the target in the same manner, but this fact presents no difficulty, as the anatomy of each works can be studied from its plan.  Plans can of course be verified by air reconnaissance and photography, and thus any extensions and alterations can be taken account of.


Within the target aforesaid, commonly representing an area of 15 acres, there are certain objectives, such as the blowing engines and power-plant houses, the gas washing plant, the pumping machinery, etc., in addition to the system of piping, which consists of some miles or more of pipes and conduits from one to ten feet in diameter, any of which, seriously damaged, will stop the whole works. Such items represent within the 15 acre danger area, or target, about ten per cent of the total or commonly 1 – ½ acres.


I shall take, for the purpose of this Memorandum, that as an average figure the accuracy of bomb-sighting will be fairly represented by assuming that all bombs would be dropped with equality of distribution within a circle of a quarter of a mile diameter, whose centre is the objective, or bulls-eye. Such a circle, viewed from 12,000 feet represents a contained angle of 6O.  This does not actually mean that in bombing practice a bomb will never fall outside such a circle, but rather that the density of the “pattern” in the central portion of the circle would correspond to an equal distribution of the total number of bombs over the area stated.


The area of a circle a quarter of a mile diameter is about 32 acres And if, to be on the safe side and to allow for some of the iron works not being as large as those which the figures given in the preceding paragraph were based, we take one acre as the vital area, we reach the result that 1/232 of the total charge dropped will be effective.  I have credited nothing here for the fact that beyond the vital area there is also the area, ten times as large, which I have described as dangerous.  A lucky bomb on this dangerous area might easily incapacitate or destroy individual furnaces or hot blast stoves thus, crippling the output of the works to a serious extent.  However, it is well to leave something in reserve to be on the safe side.


Beyond this there is hardly a point in the whole iron works at which a large bomb would not do material damage and justify itself by tearing up tracts, damaging rolling stock, wrecking roofs and so forth. The factor 1/32 therefore may be looked upon as conservative, even sufficiently so to allow for a certain demoralisation of aim due to anti-aircraft fire, etc.  However, it is easy to over-estimate the effect of a bomb.  A large bomb might conceivably drop even in the vital area and not actually incapacitate a single machine.  It is almost inconceivable that such a thing should be possible, but it is well to allow for it.  I have, therefore, taken the factor for the latter purpose of the present Memorandum as half the above, namely 1/64.  On the other hand I am definitely assuming that on this reduced basis the bombing is absolutely effective and that the consequence would be those of a “freeze-up” of the blast furnaces and a stoppage, either wholly or partial, for a period of two or three months.*  * Compare foot note page 7 [5 below]


To put the matter definitely, the assumption is that the bomb contents of one raiding aeroplane, which we may assume to be a single bomb of 600 or 700 lbs, or an equal weight of lesser bombs, would, if delivered to the area described as vital, put the whole works out of action for a period of two or three months, assuming the charge to take effect; and that the further assumption is that on average once in 64 times this would be the case. I do not think the fairness of this estimate can be challenged on the basis of the data given.


We may represent the above statement in a ready form by laying it down that to maintain an iron works “out of commission”, in other words, to entirely stop its output, it will be necessary to make sufficient provision to raid it at the rate of one aeroplane per diem. In practice this would of course mean that it would be raided by massed squadrons, possibly once every 2 or 3 months to the extent of fifty to a hundred machines (See note *).  It would be reconnoitered and kept under air observation from time to time to ascertain whether the bombing had been effective and would be raided on a large scale as often as necessary.  The basis of one machine per iron works per diem however gives, on the data, calculations and allowances aforesaid, a measure of the establishment required.


Referring back to the table given, it will be noted that in cases 1 and 2 the distances to be flown are well under a hundred miles, that is to say, two hundred miles out and home, whereas in the cases 3 and 4 the distance is twice as great. As it is not always expedient to fly on the most direct course and the point of departure (aerodrome) has to be some distance back, it would be assumed that for cases 1 and 2 two hours flying is necessary and for cases 3 and 4 that four or five hours flying is necessary.  Parenthetically it may be remarked that this suggests that two types of machines will be desirable, one for the shorter distance work and one for the long distance work; also that these machines will be wanted in about equal quantity, the total number of works in the two groups being 27 and 21 respectively.


Taking first the short distance group, in which there are 27 works, we shall require 27 aeroplane journeys to be made per diem on an average, and if we take four hours flying as a day’s work we have two journeys each, or, say, 14 machines required in constant service.


Taking the second group we have 21 works, and we shall require 21 machines, since the distance will only permit of one journey per diem, the total number, therefore, of machines in constant service will require to be 35.


  • Note. Actually the attack should be founded on the endeavour to bring about a “freeze-up” of the furnaces.  By banking furnaces it is possible to preserve their fluidity for a fortnight or thereabouts.  Hence the problem is to subject a works to repeated raids at intervals of about one week or ten days, to bring about a “freeze”, after which it may be ignored as out of action for two or three months at least.


It is for the Military Authorities, or those that have adequate experience of raiding work to state what this means in the total flying machines necessary. I am inclined myself to think that in order to maintain a daily performance the total bombing force would have to be several times as great numerically as the number required to be on duty.  As a figure to form a basis of discussion I will take this factor to be five times, which will mean a total of 175 machines.  This will allow an average of four days for refit and repair to each machine after a day’s work.  In some cases doubtless, machines can be “gone through” and put into flying order in a few hours; in other cases the condition may be such as to require a fortnight or more in the repair shop.  In taking the above factor I am assuming that each machine is provided with the usual complement of spare engines and parts and that adequate general stores are carried.  If the above allowance appears more than adequate it is to be remembered that the enemy will do everything in his power to protect works which are of vital importance to his existence and to the continuing of the war, and existing experience cannot altogether be taken as a precedent; there will be a great measure of resistance which will have to be encountered and overcome.


These same considerations have equal weight, both as to loss of machines and loss of personnel. We commonly hear at present of raids being executed in which all the machines return safely; we cannot hope for anything so favourable when the work contemplated is taken seriously in hand.  I am inclined, as a basis of discussion, to allow for 10% loss of machines on every raid.  Since the raids contemplated on the above basis amount numerically to 48 out and home flights per diem, we must allow for five machines destroyed per diem by anti-aircraft fire and by defending fighting squadrons.  This means that the manufacturing resources to support the establishment will require to supply 35 aeroplanes per week; this we may fairly assume divided in equal quantities between short and long distance machines.  It will be well to allow for 20 of each type per week.


Likewise as to the loss of men either killed or taken prisoner, this would correspond with the losses of the machines and it would be necessary to provide for the training of men at the necessary rate for the special duty, namely, in the geography of the district and the character of their objectives and targets, beyond the ordinary training.


I believe that on the basis of equipment given and on the policy of execution, as above outlined, it would be possible in a very short time to so cripple the iron works in the districts in question that their output, if not reduced to zero, will become almost negligible.  Also, by supporting the bombing aeroplanes by fighting squadrons and by the usual tactical jiu-jitsu in the matter of feint and surprise attacks, it would be possible to maintain a service constantly in the face of anything that the enemy could do, the raids being mainly conducted by daylight, but by no means excluding night attacks led by men who have had the necessary experience and aided by guiding lights.


It is necessary to emphasise the fact, which has already been clearly demonstrated by the main Report and is more than admitted by the writings of the German Authorities themselves, if Germany can be deprived of half of her output of pig iron the war could not last many months.  (Compare Report Appendix E. page 39).  I believe the statement to be in no sense exaggerated and its achievement to be within the reach of our potential resources.

Alf Smith letter 15 January 1919

Jan 15th 18

My Dear Father

Thank you very much for the Pictorial, letter & 10/- note I received it safely & you can bet it will be very useful it is very kind of you to send it as rations are still rather short although not quite so bad.
I expect you have been wondering when I was going to write again but we have not been able to receive or write any letters for the last six days being up the line.
Well I am glad you all enjoyed yourselves at Xmas, it made a nice change for you spending part of the time with Ciss & the rest at Thames Ditton.
What sort of weather are you getting we had a heavy fall of snow last night golly it is mighty cold but still we are lucky to be able to keep good fires going. I don’t seem to notice the cold so much as I used to I suppose I must be hardened to it.
Well Dad you will be glad to know I shall be coming home on leave soon, probably in a few days as I am next on the roll to go; you may guess I am very anxious for it to come along. I think I shall go to Ciss first as it would be a good idea to leave my equipment there as we have to bring everything home & I am not anxious to carry them too far. I would come on to you from there, but as you know I cannot mention any day it will have to be a surprise.
Please thank Jess for her welcome letter. I think you must excuse more news, as I have got several letters to answer they have been collecting during the last six days.
I hope you are all in the best of health & still going strong like Johnny Walker. Glad to say I am A1.
With much love from
Your devoted

F. Springett letter 14 January 1918





Jan 14th 1918



My Dear Brother Sid,

Just a line to let you know that I have arrived safe “somewhere in France”.  Ha Ha.

I hope that you arrived back alright with Miss________ Oh I forget her name but that doesn’t matter. She was the best one I have seen you with yet.  Sid “Ha Ha.”

We had a pleasant journey across. Some were sick of course.

I was so glad to see you once again at Margate it was awfully good of you to come, I shall never forget it.   I can’t give you any address yet, but I hope to in my next letter.

Well Sid, I haven’t time for any more just now. So I will close.  Hoping this letter finds you quite well.


I remain

Your Affec Brother



With cover to Mr S.K. Springett, 29 Bath Road Dartford Kent

Postmarked A.P.O. S.12.   17 JAN 18.  Censor 1932


Alf Smith postcard 14 January 1918


Postmarked FIELD POST OFFICE 2* 15 JA 18

To T. Smith, 24 Palmerston Rd, Bowes Park, London N22 England.


I am quite well

I have received your Regd Dec 29 17

Letter follows at first opportunity

Signature only. A. Smith  Date  Jan 14th 18


H. A. Titcomb’s letter 11 January 1918

(from Lanchester’s file)





11th January 1918


C.W. Purington, Esq.,

Hon Sec.

American Committee of Engineers in London

6, Copthall Avenue E.C.


Dear Sir,

In connection with my recent Report on Germany’s Iron Industry and the War, I submit the following suggestions for increasing the efficiency of Air attacks on German War Industrial Centres.


My Iron Report illustrates one example only of Germany’s industries to be attacked.


In Great Britain at any rate, no demand has been made by the Authorities upon such leading and important scientific Societies as the Iron and Steel Institute or the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy for co-operation in studying the various War Industries of Germany, and it is reasonable to assume that, since these important Societies have not been asked to contribute their valuable knowledge, no general invitation has been extended to the Scientific and Manufacturing Societies and Associations – at least in Great Britain. I therefore, submit to the Committee the following general suggestions for their consideration.

Yours faithfully


(Signed) Harold Abbot Titcomb.









Numerous articles are appearing in the Press every day in England, America, Italy and France, calling attention and giving details of vast preparations which are being made for aerial attacks against Germany.  Articles and statements by important public men in these countries and by Government officials confirm these facts.  The French General Staff on October 18th 1917 advises that the Germans are well aware of these facts, and are already straining every nerve in order to meet the allied air offensive next year.  Throughout Germany factories are being commandeered, and new aeroplane and motor buildings constructed and labour secured for this purpose.


The American Secretary of War, Mr. Baker, announces that 20,000 aeroplanes are actually under construction in America, and our Ambassador in London, Mr. Page, announces that 100,000 American flying men are in training.


It cannot be doubted that these vast squadrons of aircraft should be utilised to the very best possible advantage in order to secure the most decisive results from their use. Any suggestions which might tend to increase the efficiency of the allied air campaign are, therefore, in order, and should be put forward for consideration by the higher authorities.  The following suggestions, or some small portion of them, may be of assistance in deciding the personnel of the General Air Staffs which will undoubtedly be appointed among the allied nations and especially of assistance in connection with the selection or appointment of the Air Strategy Staffs.



The various Airboards and Flying Authorities are fully competent to plan and carry out attacks upon the recognised military objectives of the enemy.  They are better acquainted than anyone else with the location of Aerodromes, Zeppelin sheds, Submarine Bases, Munition dumps, Railway communications, Bridges, and other ordinarily recognised military objectives; but these Air Boards (as at present constituted) probably do not represent the maximum efficiency and knowledge of the best industrial objectives in Germany.


There are in America, France and England, thousands of men, manufacturers, metallurgists, chemists and engineers who have a vast personal knowledge of Germany’s war industrial centres; where they are located and their relative importance for carrying on the war.  These men can serve their country best by placing their knowledge at the service of the General Staff who should direct and control the strategy of the coming great air attacks against Germany’s war industries.


Such civilians must necessarily know much more about these war industries and their importance than purely military or naval men can hope to do. The decision as to what industrial places are most important to attack should be left, therefore, not to Soldiers or Sailors, but to a properly constituted Civilian Board of the type above described.  This Civilian Board should make a most careful and detailed survey of the entire question, and prepare lists of places in Germany showing their relative war-importance to the enemy.  This list could be submitted to the Staff governing air tactics, which latter Staff could decide upon the relative susceptibility to attack of the different places specified.  A Joint Commission of the strategists and tacticians could then finally decide upon the objectives to be attacked, thus securing the most disastrous effects against Germany, coupled with the smallest losses to our own air fleet.



There are many vital spots and nerve centres of Germany which are the very life and source of her power in war.  Her remarkable organization of certain industries is enabling her to carry on the war and hold at bay the allied nations for years.  Amongst the most vital of such jiu-jitsu spots can be suggested the following.


  • Iron Mines of Lorraine, the principal source of Germany’s Iron and Steel.
  • Ironworks, especially those with blast-furnaces, which latter are remarkably sensitive to injury; are slow and difficult again to get into running order; are very easily seen and recognised from many miles distance. If an iron Blast-furnace is “frozen up” it may require months before it can resume operation.
  • Submarine Storage Batteries. The Akkumulatoren Fabrik, at Hagen, Westphalia is the largest maker in Germany.
  • Diesel Engine Works – where are manufactured the engines without which submarines could not operate. The two best submarine engines are the “Augsburg” and the “Krupp” engines, the former of which are made by Mechinin Fabrik at Augsburg and Nuremburg, and the latter by Krupp’s at Essen.
  • Jena, Wetzlar and Berlin, are centres of Germany’s marvellous optical industries, where are constructed their best periscopes, gun sights, tele-photographic apparatus and field and marine glasses.
  • Coal Mines.
  • Munition Factories.
  • Chemical Works and Dye Works, now largely engaged in manufacture of explosives. For example, the Elberfeld Dye Works have a very large factory at Elberfeld, and another large works on the Rhine some 5 or 6 miles North of Cologne on the east bank of the river.  These are particularly important Chemical factories.


In the forgoing brief list no mention has been made, of course, of submarine bases, aeroplane sheds, aerodromes, railway communications, bridges, etc, which have been up to the present the principal air objectives.



SUGGESTION.  It is suggested that the above matters are proper ones to be considered and taken up by the American Committee of Engineers in London, and it is hoped that attention be called to these matters, and co-operation secured with all possible other engineering, manufacturing and commercial organizations in America, England and France, to aid our respective Governments in any way possible and assist them in co-ordinating the information which exists among the civilian members of the various engineering societies and business men.