Freeman, John (2011)
M.Phil. thesis, University of Birmingham.
The historiography of the First World War has always found the Third Battle of Ypres controversial, yet there is a missing dimension to these debates; the study of military intelligence. The young historiography of military intelligence during the First World War, has helped to put the various intelligence systems employed into context. However no study has focussed on how intelligence helped the BEF when preparing for an operation. This thesis examines in detail the intelligence received prior to the Battle of Broodseinde (4 October 1917) which took place during the Third Battle of Ypres, and whether intelligence of this attack may have influenced the operational planning.
The Battle of Broodseinde is known for the massacre of three full German divisions who were in place ready to attack the British lines. This thesis examines whether the BEF had any prior knowledge of this German attack.
This thesis is in two parts; the first chapter provides a basis by explaining the context of the Battle of Broodseinde within the wider campaign and how military intelligence operated in 1917. The second chapter then focuses on the intelligence analysis of the formations of the BEF that stopped this counter-attack, mainly Second Army and I and II Anzac Corps. This provides a clear picture of how these formations assessed the enemy’s intentions.
This thesis concludes that by 1917 the BEF had a mature intelligence analysis system in place to monitor the operations of the German Army. The study of military intelligence at Broodseinde reveals that Second Army and the Corps below it had a very accurate picture of the German Army thanks to a disciplined system of cross-referencing sources. Due to this Second Army were able to accurately predict the attack. However Second Army could not definitively stipulate when the attack would happen, due to time constraints. As such the British operation here was not specifically targeted towards this attack. The thesis concludes that the study of further battles in this way would provide a greater understanding to how the BEF directed the war.
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