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Lt. von der Linde, fifth winner of WWI and the first below the rank of General. At age 22 he and 4 volunteers captured Ft. Malonne.

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Guest Brian von Etzel

Regimental commanders and the officers that served beneath them almost certainly deserved the PlM as a bravery award. For the rest, it was probably only a merit distinction.

David

This is a bit irritating to me. Perhaps if you check on the circumstances regarding the PlM award on an individual basis you might discover otherwise. My grandfather was a front line General exposed to constant fire as the front collapsed and he organized an orderly retreat to the German border and held the Americans and French.

Generalizing like this just isn't fair to these guys as any one of these men, who weren't always old men in photos, could have been exposed to fire and bombardment on a constant basis.

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Brain said:

"This is a bit irritating to me. Perhaps if you check on the circumstances regarding the PlM award on an individual basis you might discover otherwise. My grandfather was a front line General exposed to constant fire as the front collapsed and he organized an orderly retreat to the German border and held the Americans and French.

Generalizing like this just isn't fair to these guys as any one of these men, who weren't always old men in photos, could have been exposed to fire and bombardment on a constant basis."

Brian, if you look at the defensive proceedures (aka "defense in depth") that the German army started using in the West as standard operating proceedures, you'd realize that divisional commanders or higher ranking officers were -seldom- in the first or second lines trenches. Here's part of the "why".....

A typical division in 1917 had three infantry regiments, and a defensive line usually held three, if not more, defensive lines. The first line was usually thinly held, and there might be a man to hold evey ten feet of front, and a similar amount towards the rear. The second line was usually held by a unit that was in a "ready" mode, but not required to post sentries, send out patrols, etc. These guys often got to handle a great deal of the logistical and support work (hauling supplies up to the front line). The third line was usually the reserve, or guys who had done their front line stint ( a week on average, or until battle casualities depleted the unit so badly it had to be rotated out and refit, rebuilt.) Further back was the gun lines, depots, and ...then...the divisional HQ.

On average, a German defensive position could be 2-3 miles wide, and a similar depth to the rear.

Now, each regiment has it's own HQ unit, and these are echeloned to the rear. A divisional general seldom had his own HQ closer to the front than the third line (about 2-3 miles to the rear), and usually further back than that. I've seen stats that suggest the average divisional general was far enough to the rear that he potentially could keep tabs on everything that was going on in FRONT of him, (the battle wasn't to his rear, and he needed to see or know everything that was going on in his sector of control)..

Divisional (and higher) HQ's are chosen for their proximity to road grids, and related lines of communication towards the front, rear, and to maintain contact with units on all sides. If a divisional HQ is too far forwards, it becomes a target for heavy artillery (ranges of 10/12 miles) and well within an accurate shooting distance. One study comparing British and German general officers casualties rates, and the "chateau general" ideology, suggests that divisional HQ's tended to be located right outside the range of heavy artillery (12 miles or so to the rear).

You suggest your grandfather was under "constant fire".....well, he may have been in range of artillery fire ("field artillery" such as a French 75 can range up to about 3-4 miles, and larger guns can easily double that). However, I seriously doubt your grandfather was exposed to "constant" small arms fire (rifles) or smaller support weapons (light and medium mortars) in 1918. If he was close enough that he was under "constant fire" from small arms, he would have been spending far too much time in a front line trench system, and far in advance of where a typical Divisional level HQ and it's staff would have been. He might have been able to see the front close up, but if he was too close, he may have been out of touch with what the rest of the units under his command were doing. German defensive thinking required knowing what all three defensive zones were doing, and co-ordinating the actions of all three zones simultaneously. That's best done, watching from the rear of the third line, not from the middle of the front lines itself. In the context of trench warfare, leading from the rear does make sense, although trying to do the same thing in mobile warfare doesn't.

The higher up the army food chain you go, the futher to the rear Corps, and then Army Group HQ's tended to be located. Ludendorf toured front line sectors when he took over control of the western front, but after 1917, OHL was usually located in and around Spa, Belgium, which in 1917, was more than 75 miles from the actual front.

Les

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One more thought on the location of HQ's...

Regimental commanders relied on the reports of their three battalion commanders, and divisional generals in turn received reports from their three regimental commanders, and channeled information onwards to their own superiors.

WWI marked a change in the way commanders "saw" the front. WWI technology had advanced in some areas (killing technology) while communications were not far advanced from the age of officers handing notes to runners, and telling the guy to report on the situation to another officer. In WWI, radios were new, bulky, not very transportable, prone to breakdowns, and problematical in the extreme. The telephone was a recent enough invention, that phone wires could easily be laid between HQ's of different units, and reports made quickly. However, artillery fire could cut phone lines, even those that were buried several feet underground.

"Leadership" require an ability to make decisions, but it also required information. A general who didn't have information, or couldn't be found (because he wasn't at his HQ...) was not doing his job. If he couldn't receive information, and translate that into orders for all units under his command, and to pass situational reports to his superiors, and brother officers on his flanks, he wasn't doing everything his job required.

During previous wars, an officer could often see the entire battlefield from one spot. In WWI, mass modern armies resulted in battlefields which could be miles across, and created situations in which no single commander could see the entire battle at once. The importance of modern communications can't be stressed enough, and that lack led to an inability of commanders to stop out of control situations, re-evaluate old out of date information because situations changed since the report was made, etc.

Quite simply, leadership required "leaders" to be in a position to communicate with men under them, and up the food chain to more senior commanders. This meant being in a HQ location were he could be found, and was in a position to "lead". This translated into the simple equation, the larger the unit and greater the number of men under an officers command, the more likely he was forced to command from a fixed location, and the further away from the actual front line he was located.

Les

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Guest Brian von Etzel

I'm sure my grandfather wasn't in a trench. Your suggestion is that the PlM was for the most part on Generals a cermonial award which is entirely wrong. If you'd studied WWI in later part of the war and my grandfather you would know he relieved two Corps commanders who no longer had the confidence of his men.

I just think you're generalizing. One of the 'stories' my mother tells is of his aide having his head shot off while they were "too close to the front". Several photos of the late war show mostly smoke and him standing on a hillside overlooking. Not exactly in the trenches, but there.

Certainly within range of artillery and too often within range of snipers.

Edited by Brian von Etzel

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I can NOT believe that NOBODY noticed Frieherr von Lupin's hideously wrong painted medal bar after all the posts I've made on spotting impossible bars!!!!!! speechless1.gif ------>

http://gmic.co.uk/index.php?showtopic=2515...indpost&p=20771

Where did I put those wet noodles? rolleyes.gif

Now as to the civilized shame.gif relative merits of earning a PLM versus an EK2... am awaiting the British version of events which exterminated the entire regiment BUT for my "favorite" EK2 recipient and a handful of others... and yet got Freiherr von Watter dozens of miles away HIS Pour le Merite.

But that shall have to wait until after book arrives and my Epic Prose is ready, complete with plentious supporting illustrative scans for the Mini Series. cheeky.gifbeer.gif

And let's not even get INTO the absurd over-decoration of fighter pilots compared to the entire field army! speechless.gif

Now for a Rough N Tough Dude who looked like HE lurked in trenches----

Siegfried von la Chevallerie in 1918 before getting his Oakleaves to HIS Pour le Merite. Certainly dressed like the Jim Bowie of the Prussian Army! ohmy.gif

[attachmentid=11375]

Enlisted man's belt, glove leather Luger holster, and hunting short sword sidearm! speechless1.gif

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Brian,

I wasn't generalising, nor was I trying to be unfair to PlM holders in general or in particular. Should any of your remarks above be directed at me after my reply to your rather terse PM, I do not have a chip on my shoulder that I am projecting back into history, either.

As far as I am concerned, this forum is an opportunity to learn and discuss. I was simply wondering aloud as I do not have much knowledge of the circumstances of PlM awards to higher ranking officers. However, I would like to learn more about them.

From the posts above, I do not have the impression that anyone is trying to draw you into a fight, nor do I see anyone claiming that PlMs were awarded for ceremonial purposes.

Les makes some good points about the role of leadership and how battlefield command and control was practised in WW1. Of course, some general officers were certainly exposed to front-line risks in the course of their duties. Generalleutnant von Wencher, commander of 7. (W?rttembergische) Landwehr-Division, was badly wounded and the officers accompanying him were killed in the front line while they were preparing one of the many raids carried out in the comparatively quiet sector held by the division in April 1916, for example.

In my view, the relative merits of earning a PlM compared to an EK2 have nothing to do with the fact that some, not all, senior officers received the PlM as a merit award for leadership.

/David

Edited by David Gregory

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Guest Brian von Etzel

No, actually Les did a great job of explaining the merits of a leader who could be found which is far better than a front collapsing and no one to make decisions. I certainly didn't mean to suggest he was under constant fire. Given the circumstances of dire morale he exposed himself, PlM and all, to help bolster which everyone knew was a losing situation. Their backs were to the German border, an Armistice wasn't exactly to terms that were favorable, so the German command tried desperately to create the illusion of a solid line which could hold for years and draw the war on, which no one wanted. Certainly dead generals would also be bad deal for morale. Les, thanks again for the great explanations they give a real visual. I often wondered about Regimental command positions. From what I've read on the 1870 war the Battalion Commanders were in the thick of the actual fighting but I'm not sure how at that level WWI changed their involvement. I'd assume they didn't go over the top when the whistle blew but I'm wondering if they were at the second or third line trench positions.

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Guest Brian von Etzel

Now for a Rough N Tough Dude who looked like HE lurked in trenches----

Siegfried von la Chevallerie in 1918 before getting his Oakleaves to HIS Pour le Merite. Certainly dressed like the Jim Bowie of the Prussian Army!?  ohmy.gif

Enlisted man's belt, glove leather Luger holster, and hunting short sword sidearm! speechless1.gif

Yes, Siegfried, he certainly appeared to be an 'up front' kind of guy. I remember this photo and looking at the reflections in the window there were a group of guys much more 'dressed' than Siegfried. Looks like a real soldier's general.

Edited by Brian von Etzel

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Hi everybody,

It is now a very interesting thread. Brian can you post a photo of your grandfather please. Thanks a lot.

I don't want to choose who are right and who are wrong. All I know is for one general he had to take the good decision to the good moment. All the mistake had got a big sequel. Remember the von Kluck'error during the Marne's battle. In spite of this he received the PlM in march 1915 for all his works, very strange indeed.

If you have got more photos ofrare officers who received the PlM, don't hesitate to post them.

Christophe

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Rick,

It is interresting to see one General with man's buckle. May be the hook is better than officer buckle ? tongue.gif Thanks for sharing

Christophe

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Guest Brian von Etzel

When I get home tonight I'll dig one out of a front line photo.

There is simply, for me, no generalizing, I am all too aware of PlMs being bestowed for no other reason that obviously political purposes to princes and family names. Nor would I hesitate to put a heavy timeline on the fact that my grandfather spent much much more time within a safe distance of getting killed than on any front line.

Of final note is the fact that these PlM winners, were, again, for the most part not always Generals. They all mostly began as lowly officers and worked their way up. Many from China, Afrika and the trenches where they were certainly exposed to fire. And from those positions they watched as their leaders got the glory for their guts and they had to be satisfied with Iron.

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You are right Brian. If you have a look in the 1924's Ranglisten, you can see that some officiers who received the PlM had colonies' awards and they have done a great job during WW1. For example Oberst von Falkenhausen and Major Schaumburg etc...

Chrisotphe

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I can NOT believe that NOBODY noticed Frieherr von Lupin's hideously wrong painted medal bar after all the posts I've made on spotting impossible bars!!!!!!  speechless1.gif  ------>

http://gmic.co.uk/index.php?showtopic=2515...indpost&p=20771

Where did I put those wet noodles?  rolleyes.gif

Now as to the civilized shame.gif relative merits of earning a PLM versus an EK2... am awaiting the British version of events which exterminated the entire regiment BUT for my "favorite" EK2 recipient and a handful of others... and yet got Freiherr von Watter dozens of miles away HIS Pour le Merite.

But that shall have to wait until after book arrives and my Epic Prose is ready, complete with plentious supporting illustrative scans for the Mini Series.  cheeky.gif  beer.gif

And let's not even get INTO the absurd over-decoration of fighter pilots compared to the entire field army!  speechless.gif 

Now for a Rough N Tough Dude who looked like HE lurked in trenches----

Siegfried von la Chevallerie in 1918 before getting his Oakleaves to HIS Pour le Merite. Certainly dressed like the Jim Bowie of the Prussian Army!  ohmy.gif

[attachmentid=11375]

Enlisted man's belt, glove leather Luger holster, and hunting short sword sidearm! speechless1.gif

Certainly dressed like the Jim Bowie of the Prussian Army! ohmy.gif

Or the Patton. Non-standard uniform seems to be the norm for -eccentric?- cavalry generals. Geordie Custer was another one.

Edited by Tom Y

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You are right Brian. If you have a look in the 1924's Ranglisten, you can see that some officiers who received the PlM had colonies' awards and they have done a great job during WW1. For example Oberst von Falkenhausen and Major Schaumburg etc...

Chrisotphe

Slightly off-topic, but some even got their PlM as a colonial award.

Before World War One even started, the officer below had already received:

Pour le Merite

Royal Hohenzollern House Order, Knight with Swords

Red Eagle, 3rd Class with Crown and Swords

Crown Order, 4th Class with Swords

Prussian Life Saving Medal

Bavarian Military Merit Order, Knight with Swords

Saxon Albert Order, Knight 1st Class with Crown and Swords

W?rttemberg Crown Order, Knight with Lions and Swords

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Guest Brian von Etzel

Thinking long and hard about the comments I am a little surprised to think about my grandfather near battle lines. But given the circumstances that were relayed to my mother by him it was all about a collapsing front. Would it have collapsed further if a shell had landed on these guys? Yes. Calculated risk? How do you calculate the presence of an artillery shell... I think now, today, that based on what's been said about HQ positions there was a measure of desperation of some of the decisions, including the one that caused this snapshot. But as promised, he's off to the far left.

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