The Enemy, the Weather, and the Terrain: The Effects of Weather on Historical Battles
Weather inversions over valley areas can sustain airborne contaminants for long periods of time. Other sources of BIC that will lower visibility in the AO are clouds of dust from vehicle traffic or smoke from fires. These types of contaminants not only blind you but also may help your adversary in detecting troop movements and pinpointing your location. Whenever a source of moisture or water vapor is released into the cold air by internal combustion engines, artillery fires, or launching of self-propelled munitions, visibility can be reduced to zero when the moisture freezes instantly and changes into ice fog.
Ice fog may restrict visibility across a whole valley and, once created, can linger for hours. Ice fog crystals permit ground objects to be seen from above while severely restricting visibility on the ground--an advantage for aerial reconnaissance. On airfields an ice fog created by fixed-wing aircraft may cover an entire runway. Visibility can be reduced so that other aircraft cannot take off or land if the wind is calm. Besides reducing visibility, the ice fog draws attention to the airfield location.
Launching missiles such as the tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided TOW in very cold air can create an ice fog. As the TOW moves to the target, the exhaust blast exits into the air where it condenses and creates the ice fog. If the wind is calm, this fog follows the trajectory of the missile and reduces launch point visibility to such an extent that the operator loses sight of the target. Also, the launch point can be identified by threat forces from the condensation trail of the missile. Natural light is critical in planning operations where night vision devices NVD are used or in operations timed to use only available light.
Natural light values vary as a function of the position of the sun, moon, stars, and clouds. Light data are available from your SWO for any time, period, and place. These data are particularly important for determining first and last light, moonrise, and moonset, and are most effective for planning use of NVD.
Appendix F provides more detail on the impact of illumination on electro-optical E-O devices. Variables such as altitude, cloud cover, terrain-produced shadows, visibility, and direction of vehicle or aircraft movement in relation to the sun or the moon can also affect light level availability. Artificial light is intended to increase visibility, but, under certain weather conditions, this does not always occur. Low cloud ceilings will limit the area covered and effective time of flares. Rain, snow, or fog can reduce flare effectiveness.
However, under the right conditions, cloud cover can enhance the effects of artificial light due to cloud base reflection. Snow or sand covered terrain also reflect both natural and artificial light. Temperature, wind, and precipitation have a major influence on your ability to pick out a target from the background in the infrared spectrum. They also affect seismic sound and acoustic signatures. Detection of objects in the infrared spectrum depends on a temperature contrast between the object and its surrounding environment.
This difference is known as the background signature. A more detailed explanation on how the background signature is affected and changed by weather is also in Appendix F. Snow, rain, and wind influence the background signature because they can change the surface temperature of objects. These elements lower object temperatures and thus reduce the differential between a target and its background. A heavy layer of snow produces a washout during any part of the day since it causes both the object and the background to exhibit the same temperature.
Precipitation also degrades seismic sensors through the introduction of background noise rain , while a snow-covered surface will dampen sound and the movement of troops. Although we have discussed such elements as clouds, temperature, and precipitation, other phenomena should not be overlooked.
In the desert, strong winds produce dust storms that can last for hours or even days. Any wind, during cold weather, causes loss of heat from the body and increases the danger of freezing. This is discussed in Appendix L. Thunderstorms, with their associated lightning, strong winds, and heavy rains affect the battlefield environment. Owing to their short-lived ferocity and unpredictability over a given time and location, thunderstorms are difficult to assess in planning.
But when they occur, they definitely disrupt intelligence gathering and affect personnel movement, equipment function, and target identification. Atmospheric pressure is essential information for aircraft operations. High humidity and temperature affect aircraft lift and significantly reduce a soldier's ability to work and fight.
All of these products are vital in preparing a complete weather picture of the battlefield, and showing critical weather impacts on your unit's systems and operations. There are two types of weather observations normally collected on the battlefield: Participating Army personnel usually someone on your staff will be taking a limited number of abbreviated surface observations, using a small, manual belt weather kit BWK.
The BWK is scheduled for replacement by an automated meteorological sensor system. WETMs take and disseminate hourly observations as well as special observations when critical changes occur. Regardless of the source of weather observations, they reflect current --conditions and could be used, if the weather is stable, as an indicator for up to 1 to 3 hours.
Remember that as the quality and quantity of observations diminish, their value, as even near-term trend indicators, also diminishes. It is the Army's responsibility to provide upper-air data to support field artillery as needed. These upper-air observations may be taken as frequently as every 2 hours, or only twice daily. Upper-air data primarily supports field artillery operations, but other mission areas use it routinely.
These surface and upper-air meteorological messages should be quickly transmitted to WETMs. Weather forecasts are prepared by WETM forecasters and normally cover periods from 1 hour out to Outlooks extend from 3 days to 7 days. Several factors determine the accuracy of the forecast. Forecast accuracy normally diminishes as the forecast period increases. A hour forecast is more accurate than a hour outlook. Although extended outlooks may not predict cloud base heights or exactly when the rain will start, they can show expected movement of weather systems with associated cloud and precipitation areas.
Forecasts and extended outlooks are the building blocks you use to determine the effect of the weather on planning. The shorter time period and the greater the number of observations in the forecast area, the higher the confidence you can have in the accuracy of your analysis. Weather information required beyond the extended outlook 7 days is based upon historical climatological data.
This information is important for long-range planning, especially if you are to deploy to an unfamiliar AO. Climatology data gives the commander average weather conditions and the weather extremes that can be expected in the field. This assists in planning You will need to work with your SWO while still in garrison to collect and process climatology data. Weather support to Army tactical units is provided in two ways. The WETMs provide all forecasts and supplemental weather information received from national and local sources, together with surface observations taken at each WETM location.
The Army is responsible for taking surface and upper-air observations forward of the division command element and in direct support of Army weapon systems and operations. Observers are assigned to the same locations listed above and assist forecasters by taking surface weather observations. MOTs may also be deployed to selected tactical airfields and landing zones LZs. Size and composition of WETMs vary from as few as 4 observers and forecasters to teams with as many as 14 observers and forecasters plus 2 officers.
Battle of Passchendaele - Wikipedia
Fighting continued sporadically into October, adding to the German difficulties on the Western Front and elsewhere. On the left bank, close to the Meuse, one division had failed The French army was once more capable of the offensive. It had quickly overcome its depression. The 4th Army had held on to the Gheluvelt Plateau in August but its casualties worsened the German manpower shortage.
More heavy artillery was sent to Flanders from the armies further south and placed opposite the Gheluvelt Plateau. After a pause of about three weeks, Plumer intended to capture the plateau in four steps, with six-day intervals to bring forward artillery and supplies. Plumer arranged for the medium and heavy artillery reinforcements reaching Flanders to be added to the creeping bombardment, which had been impossible with the amount of artillery available to the Fifth Army.
The shorter and quicker advances possible once the ground dried, were intended to be consolidated on tactically advantageous ground, especially on any reverse slopes in the area, with the infantry still in contact with the artillery and aircraft, ready to repulse counter-attacks. After the dry spell in early September, British advances had been much quicker and the final objective was reached a few hours after dawn, which confounded the German counter-attack divisions.
The Enemy, the Weather, and the Terrain
The front battalions had needed to be relieved much more frequently than expected, due to the power of British attacks, constant artillery-fire and the weather. Replacement units became mixed up with ones holding the front and reserve regiments had failed to intervene quickly, leaving front battalions unsupported until Eingreif divisions arrived some hours later. In July and August, German counter-attack Eingreif divisions had conducted an "advance to contact during mobile operations", which had given the Germans several costly defensive successes.
The fine weather in early September had greatly eased British supply difficulties, especially in ammunition and the British made time to establish a defence in depth on captured ground, protected by standing artillery barrages. The British attacked in dry, clear conditions, with more aircraft over the battlefield for counter-attack reconnaissance, contact patrol and ground-attack operations. Systematic defensive artillery-fire was forfeited by the Germans, due to uncertainty over the position of their infantry, just when the British infantry benefited from the opposite.
German counter-attacks were costly failures and on 28 September, Thaer wrote that the experience was "awful" and that he did not know what to do. The other regiments of the Eingreif divisions were to be held back and used for a methodical counter-stroke a day or two after and spoiling attacks as the British reorganised. Every effort was to be made to induce the British to reinforce their forward positions with infantry, where the German artillery could bombard them.
The British plan for the battle fought from 20—25 September, included more emphasis on the use of heavy and medium artillery to destroy German concrete pill-boxes and machine-gun nests, which were more numerous in the battle zones being attacked and to engage in more counter-battery fire. The British had heavy and medium and field guns and howitzers, having more than doubled the quantity of artillery available at the Battle of Pilckem Ridge.
The German defence had failed to stop a well-prepared attack made in good weather. A mutually-costly attack by the Germans on 25 September, recaptured pillboxes at the south western end of Polygon Wood. Next day, the German positions near the wood were swept away in the Battle of Polygon Wood.
The infantry were supported by artillery-observation and ground-attack aircraft and a box-barrage fired behind the British front-line, which isolated the British from reinforcements and ammunition. Return-fire from the 33rd Division and the 15th Australian Brigade of the 5th Australian Division along the southern edge of Polygon wood, forced the attackers under cover around some of the Wilhelm Stellung pillboxes, near Black Watch Corner, at the south-western edge of Polygon Wood.
German attempts to reinforce the attacking troops failed, due to British artillery observers isolating the advanced German troops with artillery barrages. Plumer ordered the attack on 26 September to go ahead but reduced the objectives of the 33rd Division. The 98th Brigade was to advance and cover the right flank of the 5th Australian Division and the th Brigade was to re-capture the lost ground further south.
Reinforcements moved into the 5th Australian Division area and attacked south-westwards at noon, as a frontal attack was made from Black Watch Corner without artillery support, because British troops were known to be holding out. The attack succeeded by 2: Roads and light railways were extended to the new front line, to allow artillery and ammunition to be moved forward.
Dust and smoke thickened the morning mist and the infantry advanced using compass bearings. No ground captured by the British was lost and German counter-attacks managed only to reach ground to which survivors of the front-line divisions had retired. German artillery began a bombardment between the Menin road and the Reutelbeek. The British replied with small-arms fire and bombs, forcing the Germans to retreat in confusion but a post was lost south of the Menin road, then retaken by an immediate counter-attack.
SOS rockets were not seen in the mist and the British artillery remained silent. On 1 October, at 5: The British front line was cut off and German infantry attacked in three waves at 5: German troops massed near the Menin road. The German attack was defeated by small-arms fire and the British artillery, whose observers had seen the SOS rockets. The British were forced out of Cameron Covert and counter-attacked but a German attack began at the same time and the British were repulsed. Another German attack failed and the German troops dug in behind some old German barbed wire; after dark, more German attacks around Cameron Covert failed.
Communication with the rear was lost and the Germans attacked all day but British SOS rockets remained visible and the attacks took no ground; after dark German attacks were repulsed by another three SOS barrages. By coincidence, the Germans sought to recapture their defences around Zonnebeke with a methodical counter-attack Gegenangriff at the same time. Most of the German troops of the 45th Reserve Division were overrun or retreated through the British barrage, then the Australians attacked pillboxes one-by-one and captured the village of Zonnebeke north of the ridge.
As news arrived of the great success of the attack, the head of GHQ Intelligence went to the Second Army headquarters to discuss exploitation. Plumer declined the suggestion, as eight fresh German divisions were behind the battlefield, with another six beyond them. The II Anzac Corps commander wanted to advance north-east towards Passchendaele village but the I Anzac Corps commander preferred to wait until artillery had been brought up and supply routes improved.
The 7th Division commander objected, due to uncertainty about the situation and the many casualties suffered by the 21st Division on the right flank and Plumer changed his mind again. During the morning, Gough had told the Fifth Army corps commanders to push on but when reports arrived of a repulse at 19 Metre Hill, the order was cancelled. On 7 October, the 4th Army again dispersed its troops in the front defence zone. Reserve battalions moved back behind the artillery protective line and the Eingreif divisions were organised to intervene as swiftly as possible once an attack commenced, despite the risk of British artillery-fire.
Counter-battery fire to suppress the British artillery was to be increased, to protect the Eingreif divisions as they advanced. Without the divisions necessary for a counter-offensive south of the Gheluvelt Plateau towards Kemmel Hill, Rupprecht began to plan for a slow withdrawal from the Ypres Salient, even at the risk of uncovering German positions further north and on the Belgian coast.
Advances in the north of the attack front were retained by British and French troops but most of the ground taken in front of Passchendaele and on the Becelaere and Gheluvelt spurs was lost to German counter-attacks. Kuhl concluded that the fighting strained German fighting power to the limit but that the German forces managed to prevent a breakthrough, although it was becoming much harder to replace losses. Heavy rain and mud again made movement difficult and little artillery could be brought closer to the front. Allied troops were exhausted and morale had fallen. After a modest British advance, German counter-attacks recovered most of the ground lost opposite Passchendaele, except for an area on the right of the Wallemolen spur.
North of Poelcappelle, the XIV Corps of the Fifth Army advanced along the Broembeek some way up the Watervlietbeek and the Stadenrevebeek streams and the Guards Division captured the west end of the Vijwegen spur, gaining observation over the south end of Houthulst Forest. At a conference on 13 October, Haig and the army commanders agreed that attacks would stop until the weather improved and roads could be extended, to carry more artillery and ammunition forward.
The offensive was to continue, to reach a suitable line for the winter and to keep German attention on Flanders, with a French attack due on 23 October and the Third Army operation south of Arras scheduled for mid-November. The attack was supported by a regiment of the French 1st Division on the left flank of the 35th Division and was intended to obstruct a possible German counter-attack on the left flank of the Canadian Corps as it attacked Passchendaele and the ridge.
The artillery of the Second and Fifth armies conducted a bombardment to simulate a general attack as a deception. Poelcappelle was captured but the attack at the junction between the 34th and 35th divisions was repulsed. German counter-attacks pushed back the 35th Division in the centre but the French attack captured all its objectives. Attacking on ground cut up by bombardments and soaked by rain, the British had struggled to advance in places and lost the ability to move quickly to outflank pillboxes. The 35th Division reached the fringe of Houthulst Forest but was outflanked and pushed back in places.
German counter-attacks made after 22 October, were at an equal disadvantage and were costly failures. The German 4th Army was prevented from transferring troops away from the Fifth Army and from concentrating its artillery-fire on the Canadians as they prepared for the Second Battle of Passchendaele 26 October — 10 November The artillery preparation started on 17 October and on 23 October, the German defenders were swiftly defeated and the French advanced up to 3.
Haig was pleased with the French success but regretted the delay, which had lessened its effect on the Flanders operations. The British Fifth Army undertook minor operations from 20—22 October, to maintain pressure on the Germans and support the French attack at La Malmaison, while the Canadian Corps prepared for a series of attacks from 26 October — 10 November. The Canadian operation was to be three limited attacks, on 26 October, 30 October and 6 November.
The 4th Canadian Division captured its objectives but was forced slowly to retire from Decline Copse, against German counter-attacks and communication failures between the Canadian and Australian units to the south. The second stage began on 30 October, to complete the previous stage and gain a base for the final assault on Passchendaele. The attackers on the southern flank quickly captured Crest Farm and sent patrols beyond the final objective into Passchendaele. The attack on the northern flank again met with exceptional German resistance.
The 3rd Canadian Division captured Vapour Farm on the corps boundary, Furst Farm to the west of Meetcheele and the crossroads at Meetcheele but remained short of its objective. During a seven-day pause, the Second Army took over another section of the Fifth Army front adjoining the Canadian Corps. Three rainless days from 3—5 November eased preparation for the next stage, which began on the morning of 6 November, with the 1st Canadian Division and the 2nd Canadian Division.
In fewer than three hours, many units reached their final objectives and Passchendaele was captured. The Canadian Corps launched a final action on 10 November, to gain control of the remaining high ground north of the village near Hill The area was subjected to constant German artillery bombardments and its vulnerability to attack led to a suggestion by Brigadier C. Aspinall, that either the British should retire to the west side of the Gheluvelt Plateau or advance to broaden the salient towards Westroosebeke.
Expanding the salient would make the troops in it less vulnerable to German artillery-fire and provide a better jumping off line for a resumption of the offensive in the spring of The noise of the British assembly and the difficulty of moving across muddy and waterlogged ground had also alerted the Germans. Some ground was captured and about prisoners were taken but the attack on the redoubts failed and observation over the heads of the valleys on the east and north sides of the ridge was not achieved.
Two battalions of the 2nd New Zealand Brigade of the New Zealand Division attacked the low ridge, from which German observers could view the area from Cameron Covert to the north and the Menin road to the south-west. Smoke and gas bombardments on the Gheluvelt and Becelaere spurs on the flanks and the infantry attack began at the same time as the "routine" bombardment.
The ruse failed, some British artillery-fire dropped short on the New Zealanders and the Germans engaged the attackers with small-arms fire from Polderhoek Spur and Gheluvelt ridge. A strong west wind ruined the smoke screens and the British artillery failed to suppress the German machine-guns. In a German General Staff publication, it was written that "Germany had been brought near to certain destruction sicheren Untergang by the Flanders battle of ".
No soldier of any intelligence now defends this senseless campaign The German submarine bases on the coast had not been captured but the objective of diverting the Germans from the French further south, while they recovered from the Nivelle Offensive in April, had succeeded.
By blaming an individual, the rest of the German commanders were exculpated, which gave a false impression that OHL operated in a rational manner, when Ludendorff imposed another defensive scheme on 7 October. Boff called this narrative facile and that it avoided the problem faced by the Germans in late Boff also doubted that all of the divisions in Flanders could act on top-down changes. The th Division was in the front line from 11 August to 18 October and replied that new tactics were difficult to implement, due to lack of training.
The tempo of British attacks and the effect of attrition meant that although six divisions were sent to the 4th Army by 10 October, they were either novice divisions deficient in training or veteran divisions with low morale after earlier defeats; good divisions had been diluted with too many replacements. Boff wrote that the Germans consciously sought tactical changes for an operational dilemma, because no operational answer existed.
At a British conference on 13 October, a scheme of the Third Army for an attack in mid-November was discussed. Various casualty figures have been published, sometimes with acrimony but the highest estimates for British and German casualties appear to be discredited. Edmonds put British casualties at , and wrote that equivalent German figures were not available, estimating German losses at , Edmonds considered that 30 percent needed to be added to German figures to make them comparable to British casualty criteria.
Sheldon recorded , slightly wounded and sick soldiers not struck off unit strength , which if included would make , German losses. Cruttwell recorded , British casualties and , German. John Terraine followed Falls in but did not accept that German losses were as high as , Taylor in , wrote that Edmonds had performed a "conjuring trick" on the figures and that no one believed these "farcical calculations". Taylor put British wounded and killed at , and German losses at , Terraine refuted Wolff , who despite writing that , British casualties was the BEF total for the second half of , neglected to deduct 75, casualties for the Battle of Cambrai, given in the Official Statistics from which he quoted or "normal wastage", averaging 35, per month in "quiet" periods.
The area to the east and south of Passchendaele was held by posts, those to the east being fairly habitable, unlike the southern ones; from Passchendaele as far back as Potijze, the ground was far worse. Each brigade spent four days in the front line, four in support and four in reserve. The area was quiet apart from artillery-fire and in December the weather turned cold and snowy, which entailed a great effort to prevent trench foot. In January, spells of freezing cold were followed by warmer periods, one beginning on 15 January with torrential rain and gale-force winds, washing away plank roads and duckboard tracks.
Both sides raided and the British used night machine-gun fire and artillery barrages to great effect. On 23 March, Haig ordered Plumer to make contingency plans to shorten the line and release troops for the other armies. Worn-out divisions from the south had been sent to Flanders to recuperate closer to the coast. On 11 April, Plumer authorised a withdrawal of the southern flank of the Second Army. Next day, at the Battle of Merckem , the Germans attacked north-east of Ypres, from Houthulst Forest and captured Kippe but were forced out by Belgian counter-attacks, supported by the II Corps artillery.
On the afternoon of 27 April, the south end of the Second Army outpost line was driven in near Voormezeele and another British outpost line was established north-east of the village. In the case of the United Kingdom only casualties before 16 August are commemorated on the memorial. The Canadian Corps' participation in the Second Battle of Passchendaele is commemorated with the Passchendaele Memorial at site of the Crest Farm on the south-west fringe of Passchendaele village.
One of the newest monuments to be dedicated to the fighting contribution of a group is the Celtic Cross memorial, commemorating the Scottish contribution to the fighting in Flanders during the Great War. The monument was dedicated by Linda Fabiani , the Minister for Europe of the Scottish Parliament , during the late summer of , the 90th anniversary of the battle. Members of the British Royal family and Prime-Minister Theresa May joined the ceremonies, which started in the evening of 30 July with the service at Menin Gate, followed by ceremonies at the Market Square.
On the following day, a ceremony was held at Tyne Cot cemetery, headed by the Prince of Wales.
- Nowhere to Hide (Pine Hills Police Book 4).
- The Enemy, the Weather, and the Terrain by Montecue J. Lowry, published by Outskirts Press.
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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Passchendaele disambiguation. Battle of Verdun and Battle of the Somme. Local operations, December — June The Eastern Front in The progression of the battle and the general disposition of troops. June — July Battle of Messines German trench destroyed by a mine explosion. The British set-piece attack in mid British 18 pounder battery taking up new positions near Boesinghe, 31 July.
Battle of Pilckem Ridge. German defensive system, Flanders, mid Capture of Oppy Wood and Battle of Hill Battle of Langemarck and Operation Hush. British anti-aircraft gun at Morbecque, 29 August The British set-piece attack in late Derelict tank used as the roof of a dug out, Zillebeke, 20 September Q Battle of the Menin Road Ridge. Wounded men at the side of a road after the Battle of Menin Road. Action of 25 September Battle of Polygon Wood.
Battle of Passchendaele
Australian infantry with small box respirator gas masks, Ypres, September Actions of 30 September — 4 October British soldiers moving forward during the Battle of Broodseinde. Photo by Ernest Brooks. First Battle of Passchendaele. Aerial view of Passchendaele village before and after the battle.
Action of 22 October Battle of La Malmaison. Second Battle of Passchendaele. Terrain through which the Canadian Corps advanced at Passchendaele, in late Terrain at Passchendaele near where the Canadian Corps advanced, spring Action on the Polderhoek Spur. World War I portal.