[what won the day...]
1/Good tactics and use of the weapons available at the time.
Good tactics...In 1916, massed artillery and infantry assualts were good tactics...pretty much everyone thought so.
2/Combind tactics with Tanks supporting Infantry/Infantry supporting tanks.
Tanks? The first tanks were used September 1916..and they didn't impress. are you suggesting that all the previous attacks should have been postponed waiting for a weapon that was pure speculation? sounds like hitler with his 'wonder weapons' in late ww2.
As for combined tactics..how were they meant to come up with these...it was a *totally* new paradigm in warfare..I think it only fair that a few false starts were made in tactics.
That said, tanks of 1918, while useful were hardly the revolutionary, battlefield dominating machines of WW2.
3/Good briefing of ALL the troops from the Pvt up on the objectives of the attack and what role he is to play. This includes making a huge mud map of the terrain over which the offensive is to be conducted and showing the objectives and enemy troops postions. Walking all the troops through the plan and getting them to commit to memory where and what their objectives are.
It really would need to be a huge mud map in order to have several hundred thousand troops look at it long enough to commit the entire plan to memory.
Troops were told some things...head to that hill. expect fire from the right...there will be artillery barrage 50 yards in front of you.
4/ Improving communications.
They tried...( it was a major focus )
They buried phone lines 6 feet down..they broke. ( even with several backups ).
Radios just weren't common/reliable/sturdy enough to be near the front at a tactical level.
Runners...apart from the suffering high casualties and therefore being unreliable, they weren't exactly fast when you remember the mud/rough ground, zigzag of trenches, etc etc etc.
Pidgeons...died of shock from the noise.
Simply put, once the offensive started, the front might as well have been another planet. It took *hours* for word to get back.
Indeed, Colonel von Lossberg, Germany's defensive 'expert' found that at the Somme it took 8-10 hours for a message to get from the front to divisional headquarters and vice versa. ( source "The first world war" by John Keegan )
A battalion report from the 11th East Lancs on the first day at the Somme.
7:20am, troops entered no mans land
7:42am, reported by runner [NB not telephone] intense first of all descriptions
7:50am, sent Lt Macalpine to establish telephone communications...he returned to tell em all communication was cut..it was not restored all day.
8.22am no communication from my waves
9am "saw no sign of 3rd or 4th waves
10.01am no report from my waves
11.25am, no information from my waves
11.50am, no reports from my waves except reports from wounded men.
3.10pm [neighboring unit] not in touch with their waves
3.50pm urgently require more men
In other words, at BATTALION level, they had no idea what was happening, in spite of best efforts!
( addendum: At 8am the following morning, 11th east lancs battalion had 30 men of all ranks fit for action..the battalion commander was not one of them..he was killed while trying to find out what was happening to his men ).
5/ Allowing officers below flag rank (and NCOs) to make on the spot decisions to to over come unforseen events.
The reason that wasn't allowed was due to the lack of communications...the *only* way to co-ordinate units, and especially artillery were to pre-plan it. Without that co-ordination, it would have all been a worse debacle than it was.
6/ Reserve troops to follow up and exploit the break throughs.
There were plenty of reserves prepared for this at the start of every attack...who do you think went on on day 2, 3, 4 etc etc.
All of the above and more was achieved by the greatest General that came out of WW1. Sir John Monash and in 1918 he put the runs of the board to prove it.
No, he really didn't. he was a very good commander ( for the time), but no, he didn't. In most cases, he couldn't have. Even when he did, it was so late in the war that everyone else was doing it too.