Please see "Venue" for details of the times and where we meet.
We are happy to have visitors at any of our meetings.
Meetings are back at Greek Street in Stockport for the AGM in April. See the "News" section for the latest situation, as and when we know what is happening.
On 13th May we will have John Sneddon to give his interesting talk he calls “The Trench Warfare Department”. Definitely not one to miss.
7pm Doors open
7.30pm Short AGM and we need you to vote on proposals!
7.50pm We introduce speaker. A talk by Dr John M Sneddon
WW1 - The Supply of Trench Warfare Munitions.
The armies of Europe went to war in 1914 not expecting, and therefore unprepared, for trench warfare which first made its appearance in September 1914 and became, by late November, the only form of warfare waged on the Western Front. It was to last for almost four years growing in complexity and tactical innovation and one of the understudied areas relating to its development is the provision of infantry munitions, and the myriad of other items, such as trench furniture, periscopes, flares for illumination and signalling, etc., required to make a soldier in his trench more militarily effective and perhaps even a little bit safer and more comfortable.
This talk will discuss the provision of trench warfare munitions to the BEF, as typified by grenades and mortars, from the first six "jam-tin" grenades manufactured for the 2nd Division on the Aisne battlefield in September 1914, to the growth of manufacturing under the control of the Trench Warfare Department which, by September 1916, was capable of delivering 1,500,000 Mills bombs a week.
We will start the story with the over-looked major innovators of 1914, the Sappers and Miners of the Indian Corps, who introduced the BEF to the trench mortar, followed by the development the ordnance factories created by the Royal Engineers in France, the First and Second Army bomb factories, that sustaining the BEF throughout most of 1915.
At home we will visit the failure of the Royal Ordnance Factories to meet the needs for trench warfare munitions, their efforts retarded by blinkered traditional thinking and lack of imagination on the part of senior staff, the antagonism of a powerful artillery lobby who believed that such munitions were a waste of resources, and rapacious private companies that saw War Office contracts as a cash-cow to be plundered with impunity.
Finally, and definitely not least, the provision of emergency munitions by the War Office independent of the Royal Arsenal that would, when transferred to the Ministry of Munitions in June 1915, blossom into the Trench Warfare Department responsible for the manufacture of the majority of trench warfare equipment required by the army, completed the development of the 3-inch Stokes and the French heavy mortar and co-ordinated the supply of chemicals and equipment essential for chemical warfare.
Report from Terry on John's talk
Last Month’s Talk
Prior to the commencement of the meeting, stewardship of the Branch Chairman was handed over to Eric Hunter and thanks were given to Ralph Lomas for all his past contributions and his commitment to act as Treasurer.
Dr John Seddon gave the Branch an exhaustive account of how, having realised that the soldier’s standard weapon, the trusted Lee-Enfield was restricted in its usefulness in the static nature of trench warfare. Furthermore, in order to inflict the maximum damage on the enemy it was necessary to hit them with as much ordnance as possible whilst they were in the firing lines and the supply chain behind
The extent of the change of weapons and tactics is covered in the preamble to the talk covered in last month’s introduction. However, in 1915, the BEF was committed to taking the war to the enemy. Some gains were made at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, but subsequently the lack of sufficient and reliable ordnance was overcome by possibly Lloyd George’s only positive contribution to the war effort.
Initial efforts to overcome the lack of static ordnance were tackled by improvisation, including the ubiquitous jam tin grenade. The Indian Corps, in particular, were adapt at improvising bomb factories. In time the Pippin Rifle Grenade became the standard rifle grenade and 1.5 million were produced.
Protection was provided by a variety of items. Metal body armour was only useful in static positions. It was too restrictive to be used in actual assaults. The one successful British aid was the introduction of the Brodie steel helmet. This was relatively effective within trenches against airbursts, but would not deter a rifle bullet. The French and Germans also provided their troops with helmets; the enemy’s being more effective.
This was an in depth account of the ordnance used in the Great War, supplemented by large number of photographs and illustratons.
On 10th June we have Rob Thompson as speaker. Talk TBC.
See "News" section of this website for information on the 11th April meeting.