RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (Full Version)

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Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (4/8/2018 1:33:52 AM)

8 April 1918

In the U. S., conscription applied to African-American men as well. For a time it seemed that the government shouldn't have bothered. Demonstrating that racism is idiotic as well as evil, the Army's higher-ups forgot about the fine service rendered by “colored” regiments during the Civil War, and decided that black recruits would not fight effectively. Their units were generally confined to rear-echelon duties such as stocking supplies, and the soldiers were frequently mistreated. On this date, the African-American 369th Infantry Regiment was transferred to service in the French army.

The U.S. Army’s loss was everyone else’s gain: the French were used to soldiers from their African colonies, and welcomed the 369th warmly. They even provided some better equipment than had been originally issued, especially metal helmets. The African-Americans repaid their new hosts by compiling an exemplary combat record. Now known to fame as the “Harlem Hellfighters”, they would stay in the line longer than any other American regiment, and during that time never yielded so much as a meter (or a yard) of ground.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (4/9/2018 12:31:06 AM)

9 April 1918

Ludendorff was a very offensively-minded general, and he had already planned other attacks besides Operation Michael. The first effort had aimed to break the junction between the British and French armies, and now he sought to sever the link between the British and the remaining Belgian forces near the northern coast. Originally this had been code-named Operation George, but Ludendorff had found it necessary to reduce its scale after the heavy losses of Operation Michael. The new code-name was Operation Georgette. The primary goal was to cause the British to shift large numbers of troops to the north, weakening the lines near Amiens. However, if the attack were successful enough, there was a possibility of seizing the channel ports of Dunkirk and Calais, which would severely cripple the British supply route. Even if the Germans could not make it that far, capturing the rail hub at Hazebrouck would put a serious crimp into Allied operations.

The opening bombardment was grimly effective. Over 8,000 casualties were sustained by the Allied defenders, though less than 100 were fatalities. But incapacitated soldiers were as good or even better for the Germans as dead ones, for the gassed men generally had to be escorted to the rear by healthy ones.

Although Spain stayed neutral during WWI, and would during WWII as well, Portugal had joined the Allies and declared war on Germany. (The primary reason seems to have been to preserve its African colonies.) Unfortunately it had neither a rich economy nor great reserves of manpower, so it could provide only a couple of divisions of not very well equipped troops.

It was on one of the Portuguese divisions that the first wave of the German assault struck. The troops were tired, having been in the line for months and due to be relieved in a few days. Many of them felt they had been abandoned by the government in Lisbon. With those factors and the heavy losses from the bombardment, it was more than understandable that the division collapsed under the masses of German troops. For the rest of the war, many of the British somewhat unfairly considered the Portuguese soldiers to be timid.

The German troops were quick to take advantage of the opening. By the end of the day, they had advanced 10 km (6 miles) beyond their starting positions, crossing the river Lys. But there was a success for the British as well. The 55th division had taken advantage of the winter months to build a formidable set of trenches near the town of Givenchy. Here, the German assault was beaten back with heavy losses. And without being able to widen the breach in the British lines, the Germans would not be able to bring in supplies and fresh troops in the numbers they needed.


rico21 -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (4/9/2018 10:17:43 AM)

9 April 1918
Hundreds of people flocked Monday morning to the Richebourg Military Cemetery (Pas-de-Calais) to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Lily, the "Portuguese Verdun".
ceremony where will be unveiled a commemorative plaque, before a tribute to the dead. Other events are being organized in the region for the centenary of this little-known battle.
Several regiments from different army corps, as well as dozens of onlookers, were waiting in the foggy morning in front of the small cemetery where 1,831 Lusitanian soldiers rest, the only one of its kind in France.
When, on April 9, 1918, four German divisions attacked the Portuguese Expeditionary Force of 55,000 men, nearly 7,400 Portuguese were killed, wounded or taken prisoner.
"I came because my grandfather fought here two years, he was 20 when he arrived, he who lived under the sun of Portugal fought by -20 degrees, it was absolute horror, a real butchery, "says Antonio Duarte, 38, a Franco-Portuguese entrepreneur.
"It was necessary to make this homage because less than 1% of the French know that there was a Portuguese expeditionary force during the First World War.I am very happy that the president is there," he continues.
"It is a place that touches the whole history of Portugal",. "This is a moment of memory very important for our two countries, because there are 1.3 million French of Portuguese origin".
As early as 1914, Portuguese soldiers were engaged in the colonies of Angola and Mozambique, coveted by Germany.
But it was not until March 1916 that Germany and Portugal, so far neutral, declared war, especially after the arrest of German ships in Portuguese ports.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (4/10/2018 1:09:59 AM)

10 April 1918

Now the German Fourth Army threw four divisions against a single British Second Army division north of Armentières. The Second Army reserves had been sent south to where it was mistakenly believed they were needed more. As Churchill dryly reported later, "The assault was successful". It gained up to 3 km (1.9 mi) of ground. Bois Grenier fell, Armentières was evacuated, and German troops went across the Lys river, seizing the towns of Estaires, Steenwerck, and Ploegstreet. This forced a neighboring division, now flanked on two sides, to fall back roughly 4 km (2.5 mi) as well.

The next objective was the Messines ridge, which had been the scene of the most tremendous mine explosions in history in June 1917. Taking it would widen the breach in the Allied lines to the north, since the Germans still could not break the 55th Division in the south. Once that was done, the key prize was Hazebrouck, a vital railroad hub, and if that fell, the British would have to fall all the way back to the ports on the English Channel to get supplies.

The Allied gains of the Battle of Ypres, which had come at horrific cost, were being lost. There was great anxiety that the Germans would capture Calais and other Channel ports, and establish submarine bases there. It was supposed that they might even move the Paris Gun to Calais and use it to bombard London. (Exactly why this would have been worse than the Zeppelin and bomber raids already occurring is hard to understand.)

Fear entered once more into the English mind, and fear produced its invariable results, until precedents for what was done in the twentieth century had to be sought in the worst days of the Star Chamber, Titus Oates, and Judge Jeffreys. Once more, when the panic reached its height during the spring of 1918, British subjects were deprived of liberty without due process of law and by arbitrary tribunals sitting behind closed doors; once more we reverted to the old maxim of Roman law and the everlasting plea of despots, salus populi suprema lex*, and learnt to practise ourselves the precepts we scorned in others.

--A. F. Pollard, ”A Short History of the Great War”

*"The safety of the people should be the supreme law.”

(On the subject of liberty, be it admitted that the United States was no better. Congress had passed the Espionage and Sedition Acts, which absolutely trampled on freedom of speech.)

Desperate for more men in the ranks, Parliament now passed the Third Military Service Act, which in hindsight looks worse than useless. The age of service was raised to fifty-one, which therefore covered a number of skilled and experienced workmen who were doing much greater service in the factories than they could do in the trenches. Worse still, Ireland was made subject to the draft, which infuriated the Irish people.

It was one thing for poverty or trouble with the law to push men into volunteering, and many an Irishman had joined in the burst of enthusiasm in 1914. But after the awful slaughter of Passchendaele, forced conscription to replace the losses was not to be tolerated. Irish independence had probably been inevitable after the Easter 1916 uprising, but the outrage the proposed draft caused made it a matter of only a few years. (And may well have contributed to Ireland's later refusal to declare war on Nazi Germany.) It was quickly realized that there would be rioting if conscription of Irishmen were actually carried out, so that part of the bill was never put into effect. Instead, troops actually had to be diverted there to make sure there was no further large-scale unrest in the discontented Emerald Isle.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (4/11/2018 1:38:46 AM)

11 April 1918

The German advance now captured the towns of Armentières and Estaires. At this rate, Hazebrouck would fall in a few days. Sir Douglas Haig considered the situation desperate, and that evening, he wrote out his famous "backs to the wall" order:


K.T., G.C.B., G.C.V.O., K.C.I.E.
Commander-in-Chief, British Armies in France


Three weeks ago to-day the enemy began his terrific attacks against us on a fifty-mile front. His objects are to separate us from the French, to take the Channel Ports and destroy the British Army.
In spite of throwing already 106 Divisions into the battle and enduring the most reckless sacrifice of human life, he has as yet made little progress towards his goals.
We owe this to the determined fighting and self-sacrifice of our troops. Words fail me to express the admiration which I feel for the splendid resistance offered by all ranks of our Army under the most trying circumstances.
Many amongst us now are tired. To those I would say that Victory will belong to the side which holds out the longest. The French Army is moving rapidly and in great force to our support.
There is no other course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause each one of us must fight on to the end. The safety of our homes and the Freedom of mankind alike depend upon the conduct of each one of us at this critical moment.

(Signed) D. Haig F.M.
British Armies in France
General Headquarters
Tuesday, April 11th, 1918


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (4/12/2018 9:01:38 PM)

12 April 1918

The reception of the "backs to the wall" order was mixed. Some were cheered, but many others considered it essentially a waste of time, for they had no intention of giving up:

Recalling those days, my feeling is that it had no purpose except to let everyone know that times were grim. Never, as I think back, can I remember hearing anyone even so much as suggesting that we might be defeated. At various times, during the retreat, we met men of many regiments and units, from all parts of England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and from overseas. They were infantrymen, engineers, artillerymen and other branches of the army. I cannot recall anyone uttering words of despair. They complained of fatigue, of hunger, of inconvenience: they would utter “Roll on, Blighty”, which being translated meant “I shall be glad when all this is over and we can go home”. But despair or defeat seemed not to have been contemplated.

--Gunner Maurice Burton, later natural history writer and zoologist, Dr Maurice Burton

Especially, the part of Haig's order stating that positions must be held to the last man was mostly ignored by high and low. On this date, General Herbert Plumer (below), commander of the British Second Army, began a major withdrawal from the northern flank. Plumer and his men were generally left alone, for the Germans were putting their efforts into the center and south. In the center they made progress, but in the south, the British 55th Division, the West Lancashires, continued to defy all efforts to capture Givenchy. This meant that Bethune and the valuable coal deposits nearby also remained in Allied hands.

Sir Douglas Haig was by now making daily pleas for reinforcements to Ferdinand Foch, but the French Generalissimo was reluctant to send help. He still believed that the Germans would strike at the French positions, and eventually, he would be right. However, Foch decided he could spare a few divisions, though Haig's statement of "moving rapidly and in great force" was less than fully accurate.

Across the Channel, the Germans tried another Zeppelin raid on England. They avoided London and its defenses, but that meant going over less familiar terrain and their navigation was poor due to altitude and weather. Towns in the Midlands were hit, though the majority of the bombs fell on open countryside. Figures for the results inflicted are remarkably precise: 7 people killed, 20 injured, and £11,673 damage. This would be the last Zeppelin attack on English soil to inflict casualties.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (4/13/2018 2:40:55 AM)

13 April 1918

The Germans’ main objective for the day was now a line of hills that included the towns of Bailleul and Neuve Eglise. But the tide was turning. The weather had cleared, allowing British artillery to hammer the advancing German formations. More, although French reinforcements had not yet reached the scene, the 1st Australian Division had arrived. This was one of the most seasoned units the British had, having served at Gallipoli, the Somme, and other actions. They had recuperated over the winter, and now had the numbers as well as the experience. The German assault was stopped outside of Bailleul after gaining only a few hundred meters.

In the Finnish civil war, however, the German forces were making good progress against the Reds. On this date was the climax of the battle for the capital, the city of Helsinki. German soldiers methodically seized the Market Square, the Smolna, and the Presidential Palace. They were soon joined by Finnish White soldiers who had been hiding in the city while it was under the control of the Reds. German artillery then wrecked the Workers' Hall, the remain Red strongpoint. The eastern parts of Helsinki surrendered in the early afternoon with a white flag from the tower of Kallio Church.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (4/14/2018 3:51:46 AM)

14 April 1918

In the Lys River sector, the Germans continued to inch closer to the town of Bailleul, but at an ever-increasing cost to the British defense.

Discussions had been going on behind the scenes over just how much authority General Ferdinand Foch would have. On this date, he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of Allied Armies in France, and given the title of Généralissime ("Supreme General"). But his actual power was somewhat less: for instance, the Belgian forces were not under his authority. (After all, Foch did not outrank King Albert I (below), who was leading his forces in the field.)


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (4/15/2018 3:22:46 PM)

15 April 1918

An extraordinary thing about the genocide of the Armenians was that it was known to the world almost from the beginning. The New York Times ran a series of articles detailing atrocities, and a number of people, including former President Theodore Roosevelt and Pope Benedict XV, spoke out against the slaughter. The Turkish government had previously turned a deaf ear to the complaints and denunciations, because only the Russians had been in position to do anything about it, and Russia was now retreating from the area. Apparently, the Turks now decided to mollify the rest of the world.

Although the official head of the Ottoman Empire was Sultan Mehmed V, the real rulers were a trio of “Young Turks”. These were Talaat Pasha, Djemal Pasha, and most importantly, Minister of War Enver Pasha. (“Pasha” was the honorary title given to Ottoman officers of Major General rank or higher.) On this date it was announced that when Taalat Pasha returned from the Peace Conference at Brest-Litovsk, he would grant amnesty to the Armenians in Turkey.
But in practical terms, it was an empty gesture for the benefit of the Western Europeans and Americans. Most surviving Armenians were living outside of Turkey proper, and those few left in Turkey were being systematically eliminated.

In northern France, the Germans finally captured the town of Bailleul. However, it gave them no particular advantage, and their troops were now exhausted. In the meantime, the British Second Army completed its withdrawal from Passchendaele ridge to more defensible positions along the Yser Canal. To the north, the Belgian Army also retreated to maintain the line.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (4/17/2018 4:12:07 AM)

17 April 1918

To the Allies' great relief, Operation Georgette was now failing. Givenchy and Bethune to the south still held out, and so did Hazebrouck in the center. This meant the Channel ports were entirely out of danger. The Germans occupied Passchendaele ridge and some new territory to the north, but it gave them no advantage. And at last, French reinforcements had arrived in the Lys sector. There was, however, one objective which might still be useful. A line of hills, of which Mont Kemmel or Kemmelberg was the highest, would allow whoever occupied it to command the countryside for a good distance beyond with artillery.

On this date, the Germans launched their first assault to take the hill. But high ground has always given advantages to the defenders, and the attack had not had the planning and preparation of the start of Operation Georgette. At the end of the day, the British still held Mont Kemmel.

Although the fighting of Operation Georgette was still going on, Ludendorff had not completely abandoned his hopes of seizing the city of Amiens and its rail links. To do that, he needed to take the village of Villers-Bretonneux. Although the attempt had failed in March, Ludendorff guessed that the British defenses had been thinned to get troops to the Lys sector. Perhaps they could be thinned a little more: as night fell, German artillery began a bombardment of the positions held by three Australian brigades with mustard gas shells.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (4/18/2018 3:26:29 AM)

18 April 1918

The German attempt to take Mont Kemmel continued, but at a deliberate pace instead of an all-out charge. They made no appreciable headway, but lost fewer troops.

Since the Germans could not defeat the 55th Division and take Givenchy, they now attempted an advance on Bethune. It was a reasonable move: capturing the town would isolate Givenchy, and there were also resources of coal in the area. The opening bombardment was intense, using both field artillery and 12-inch railroad guns. But British defenses had been built up in the area, including a system of not only trenches but tunnels where counter-attacks could be launched from. The German thrust managed to take a few of the forward trenches, but that was all.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (4/21/2018 4:33:54 AM)

21 April 1918

Although air warfare was not as important as part of the struggle as it would be in World War II, it got a great deal of publicity. (Very likely this was to distract the public from the appalling conditions in the trenches.) The "Knights of the Air" were celebrated as romantic heroes. And the most famous of them all was the German, Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, the "Red Baron". (Note that he had been born in what is now Poland.) By this time, the 25-year-old von Richthofen had managed to shoot down 80 confirmed Allied aircraft, making him the leading ace on either side.

On this date, von Richthofen had led his Jagdgeschwader (fighter wing) 1, better known as the "flying circus", over Allied-held territory, hunting for enemy aircraft. They found a flight of Sopwith Camels, and engaged. Although the Camels were faster machines than the Red Baron's Fokker Dr.I triplane, von Richthofen managed to get on the tail of a Camel flown by novice Canadian pilot Lieutenant Wilfrid May. This attracted the attention of Captain Roy Brown, May’s flight commander, in another Camel, who attacked in turn. Von Richthofen managed to dodge Brown's dive, but then rashly resumed his pursuit, going to low altitude and in range of Allied ground fire.

Anti-aircraft cannon were not very effective during WWI. No automatic cannons were yet available, and the larger caliber guns did not have sufficiently accurate rangefinders or fuses to explode their shells at close enough altitudes except in rare cases. Ground machine-guns were quite a different story, however. The unarmored biplanes of the war were quite vulnerable to rifle-caliber bullets, and the ground gunners soon learned to "track" low-flying airplanes. Targeting was much easier than it would be in WWII, for an airplane that could reach 130 mph (209 km/hr) in level flight was considered quite fast for the time. Experienced pilots much preferred plane-to plane "dog-fighting " to ground-attack missions. Survival in air-to-air combat was generally a matter of pilot skill, but against ground fire, life or death was almost entirely up to luck.

And now the luck of the Red Baron ran out. A single .303 caliber bullet struck him in the right side of the upper chest, inflicting mortal damage to heart and lungs. With his remaining life now measured in seconds, von Richthofen managed a rough landing in a field. Several Allied infantrymen rushed to the plane, just in time to hear his last words, which apparently included "kaputt".


At first, Captain Brown was given credit for shooting down the Red Baron, and celebrated as a hero. It was, after all, a time when the Allies badly needed the boost in morale that a new hero brings. In later years, however, this idea has been essentially disproved because the fatal bullet came from the side and nearly horizontally, rather than from behind and above as it would have been if fired from Brown's Camel. The man most likely to have shot Von Richthofen is now believed to be Sgt. Cedric Popkin, a gunner with the 24th Machine Gun Company, part of the Australian 4th Division.

Von Richthofen's loss was another step towards the increasing Allied dominance of the air. It would not be complete supremacy, however, for the "Flying Circus" continued to be a potent force, eventually being commanded by Hermann Göring. The Red Baron’s official score of planes shot down was unsurpassed in WWI, though both he and other aces also had a number of unconfirmed "kills". Therefore, the highest scoring pilot of the war will never be definitively known. But the Red Baron was certainly the most famous fighter pilot of his time, and thanks to the comic strip "Peanuts" it is more than likely he will be the most famous of all time.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (4/22/2018 2:28:19 AM)

22 April 1918

The Germans had always known that their main fleet, named the Hochseeflotte or “High Seas Fleet”, had fewer battleships than the British. They had hoped to even the odds with superior engineering and gunnery. The Battle of Jutland had come as a rude awakening: though the German battle-cruisers had the edge over their British counterparts, when it came to the battleship main line, the Germans had come off second best. More than one German ship came home with 15-inch holes in her, at a time when there was not a gun in the German navy larger than 30.5 cm (12 inches). Worse, during the time period of the battle when British Admiral John Jellicoe had a good idea of the location of the German ships, he had decisively outmaneuvered them. The British Grand Fleet had “crossed the T” not just once but twice, and gotten between the German fleet and home. The High Seas Fleet had escaped after darkness fell, but another hour of daylight could well have seen a British victory on the scale of Trafalgar.

The odds had only gotten worse since then. Not only had the British out-built the Germans, there was now a squadron of American battleships at hand. The Allied fleet would have to be whittled down before it could be engaged in a decisive battle. But how to do that? The Germans occasionally raided the English coastal town with fast ships, but the distance was too far from their home ports to risk the slower battleships. There was a nearer possibility, however: British shipping convoys were being run to Norway, and the Germans occasionally attacked them with destroyers and light cruisers. To abate the nuisance, the Royal Navy had begun to escort the convoys with a few battleships. The Germans realized that they now had an opportunity to engage only a few British capital ships with a larger force. A plan was put together to sortie the whole High Seas Fleet to intercept a convoy which German intelligence had predicted would be within striking distance on the 23rd. On this date, the German fleet was made ready to sail.

By an extraordinary coincidence, the Royal Navy was also planning to strike a blow at this time. The German capture of much of the Belgian coastline gave them bases for their U-boats. However, it was necessary to put the docks for the submarines some distance inland, where they could not be shelled by British surface warships. (The British had built some “monitors”, smaller ships with just one double turret rather like the American Civil War USS Monitor. However, these packed the potent 15-inch guns, and did considerable damage to German shore installations.) From the submarine pens, there were canals for the transit to the sea, reaching the coast at two places, named Zeebrugge and Ostend.

Admiral Sir Roger Keyes came up with a daring plan to block these canals. Surplus ships would be filled with cement, and then scuttled in the canals at the openings to the sea. Naturally, the Germans could not be expected to stand idly by while the attempt was made, and both places were protected by shore batteries. At Zeebrugge, matters were further complicated because the canal opening was sheltered by a “mole”, a large sea wall which had been turned into something much like a fort. Admiral Keyes therefore planned to land troops on the mole, capturing and holding it while the block-ships sailed into the canal opening. To prevent a counter-attack by German infantry from re-capturing the mole, three old submarines laden with explosives would sail under the viaduct connecting the mole to land, and blow it up after their crews had evacuated.

This needed to take place at night, and Admiral Keyes also planned a smokescreen to shield the raiders from the German coastal batteries. The wind and the tides therefore needed to be right, and on this date, the predictions were finally favorable. The two British flotillas weighed anchors and made for the Belgian coast.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (4/23/2018 3:27:52 AM)

23 April 1918

It was St. George’s Day, but luck did not favor the British raids against the Zeebrugge and Ostend. Shortly after midnight, the winds shifted, and the smokescreen at Zeebrugge was dissipated. The German shore batteries spotted the approaching ships and opened a deadly fire. HMS Vindictive ended up in the wrong place, and the effort to seize the mole and suppress the German guns was only partly successful.

Two of the three submarines went off course, but the commander of the third steered his vessel personally to a spot under the viaduct, and evacuated at the last minute. The explosion destroyed the viaduct. Though they took serious casualties, the British pressed on, and two of the three blockships were sunk in the channel.

The final cost was heavy: over 200 men dead, over 300 wounded, and the destroyer HMS North Star was sunk. The actual results were minimal: the Germans dredged around the sunken blockships, and within days had submarines using the passage.
But since two of the blockships had successfully been placed in the canal entrance, the British assumed the operation had been a success. Admiral Keyes’s knighthood was advanced from Commander of the Royal Victorian Order to Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath. Some years later, he would be made a Baron.

The raid at Ostend was a failure so complete that the British could not fool themselves. The winds were even less cooperative than at Zeebrugge, blowing the smoke screen back towards the raiding ships and nearly blinding them. The German commander had also thought of such a raid, and had cleverly moved the navigation buoy that had marked the canal opening, to a spot in a group of sandbanks. The first blockship, HMS Brilliant, ran aground. The second, HMS Sirius, ploughed into the Brilliant. German machine-gun and cannon fire from the shore, which had already inflicted casualties, now became lethal on the immobilized vessels. Their crews abandoned ship while the officers set the scuttling charges, which were scarcely needed. British motor launches managed to rescue a number of the men, but the casualties had nonetheless been heavy.

Admiral Keyes would acknowledge that the Germans in this case had not played foul, writing in his report to the Admiralty: "Their Lordships will share our disappointment at the defeat of our plans by the legitimate ruse of the enemy."

Early in the morning, the German High Seas Fleet put to sea. Unknown to them, British Intelligence was generally superior to German Intelligence throughout the war, and on this date had an even greater edge than usual. German Intelligence was mistaken about the timing of the convoys to and from Norway. The battle-cruiser squadron under Admiral Hipper arrived at the intercept point as planned, but found the sea empty. There would be no convoy that day.

Across the Atlantic, the Germans’ unrestricted submarine warfare was angering more nations than just the United States. Resources from several countries, such as tin from Bolivia and nitrates from Chile, went to the European Allies, and so their ships were targeted and sunk by U-boats. This had caused outrage and anti-German riots in several countries. The most important Latin American nation to declare war on the Central Powers was Brazil, which had done so at the end of October 1917. Smaller nations were now joining the struggle as well: on this date, Guatemala declared war on Germany.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (4/24/2018 4:12:12 AM)

24 April 1918

Back in the St. Quentin sector, the Germans attacked again at Villers-Bretonneux. The bombardment began at the rude hour of 0300. After three hours, two German divisions advanced from the south-east, led by 13 A7V tanks, with two more divisions in reserve. This time, they were successful: the battered British and Australian units had to fall back and give up the village.

However, the German further pursuit was not aggressive, using only 4 of the tanks they had started with. At about 0930 the stodgy German vehicles were met by 3 British Mark IV tanks.

One of them, commanded by a Lieutenant Frank Mitchell, engaged in a gun duel with a German opponent, and eventually landed a solid hit. The six-pound shell knocked the A7V on its side, and its crew hastily evacuated. Shortly, the British were reinforced by 7 Whippet tanks, and the Germans retreated back to the village. History’s first tank against tank action went to the Allies.

Mitchell’s tank would not keep the crown long, however: later on this same day a tread was blown off by a shell, and it had to be abandoned.

The Allies knew the value of Villers-Bretonneux, and Ferdinand Foch himself gave orders to recover it. The British were already making plans to do so, but there were delays, and night fell while the troops were being brought up. Nonetheless, General Henry Rawlinson ordered that the attack go forward. At 2200, a two-pronged assault without artillery preparation was launched. Casualties were serious, especially among the Australian units, but during the night the Germans in the village were essentially surrounded.

In the North Sea, the German High Seas Fleet had found trouble unrelated to the enemy. The battlecruiser Moltke had a propeller fall off of its shaft, and before the turbine could be stopped, the over-speed caused a gear to fly apart. Shrapnel from the gear caused an engine room to flood, which introduced saltwater into the boilers. The ship needed a tow back towards home, and only a battleship was powerful enough to do the job.

This apparent bad luck may well have saved the fleet, for with two capital ships out of action and no convoy to be seen, the Germans decided to head for home. This was a wise move, for the British Intelligence decoding group known as Room 40 had learned of the sortie, and a massive fleet under Admiral David Beatty of Jutland battlecruiser fame was heading to intercept. Moltke’s mechanics worked diligently, and by late afternoon the ship was able to proceed under her own power at 17 knots.

But Moltke’s problems for the day were not over. In the evening, she was spotted and torpedoed by the British submarine E42. 1,800 tons of water flooded into the battlecruiser. For a second time, skilled damage control came to the rescue, and Moltke would be able to return to port under her own power, though subsequent repairs meant she was out of the war until September.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (4/25/2018 3:42:13 AM)

25 April 1918

At Villers-Bretonneux, the British resumed their counter-attack. The fighting was costly, but by the end of the day, the village had been re-captured. It would remain in Allied hands for the rest of the war. Between British, Australian, and French troops, the Allies had taken about 15,500 casualties in all. The Germans had lost somewhere between 8,000 and 10,400 men, but they had once again failed to take Amiens and its railroad hub. They had also lost 3 of their A7V tanks, of which they had only 20.

The Germans switched their efforts back to the Flanders sector to the north. A preliminary bombardment disrupted British artillery positions, and then the main bombardment struck Mont Kemmel. The defenders in early April had been relieved by a French division, which was apparently not as well prepared, for they took serious losses from the gas and high explosive shells. After an hour, at least three and possibly as many as seven German divisions made a determined assault. Mont Kemmel was rapidly surrounded on three sides.

In spite of their casualties, the French fought back for eight hours before the Germans finally took the hill. But when the attackers surveyed their prize, Mont Kemmel turned out to be an isolated height, separated from the rest of the ridge. Further advances would have to wait, and meanwhile still more Allied reinforcements were on the way.

At sea, the German High Seas Fleet won the race against the British Grand Fleet: in the early hours of the morning they reached the minefields protecting the German ports. Further pursuit was too risky, and a frustrated Admiral Beatty had to turn the British ships back. Nonetheless, it seems safe to say that the morale of the German sailors sank even lower, and they now trusted their leadership even less.

At Kars in the Caucasus, the garrison opposing the Ottoman besiegers had decided they could not hold out. The Armenian Corps Commander General Nazarbekov, anxious to save his men from being massacred, was negotiating for terms. For once the Turks were willing to be generous. They agreed to let the entire garrison of Armenians and Russians evacuate unharmed – but they had to leave their weapons behind. Nazarbekov agreed to the terms, and that evening an Ottoman regiment occupied the city. It was a profitable bargain for the Turks: the booty amounted to 67 cannon, 19 machine guns, 11,000 rifles, and 2 million rounds of ammunition.

nicwb -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (4/27/2018 1:39:39 PM)

Thanks once again for this thread Capt Harlock -its an interesting and informative read.

The Australian casualties at Villers-Brettoneux were about 2,500. It doesn't seem like much but when you recall it was only over a couple of days the fighting was pretty bloody. (for a comparison the Gallipoli campaign resulted in about 4 times as many casualties but these were from all causes including illness and over a period of several months.)

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (4/29/2018 2:55:00 AM)

29 April 1918

One last German assault was tried in the Lys sector. As many as 13 divisions went in against various Allied positions, including areas held by Belgian troops. However, General Plumer’s withdrawal of the British Second Army in the middle of the month to a shorter defensive line now turned out to be wise. A hill beyond Mont Kemmel, called the Scherpenberg , fell to the attackers, but that was the only gain worth mentioning.

For a second time, a German offensive which seemed promising at first had bogged down. The difficulty in WWI was not merely breaking through defenses of trenches, barbed wire, and machine guns. The Germans still had not resolved the problem of bringing up reinforcements and supplies through terrain devastated by shell craters.

In the Ukraine, the Ukrainian People’s Republic was overthrown by a coup d’etat with the blessing of the German army. A military dictatorship took over, headed by General Pavlo Skoropadskyi, who took the title of Hetman of Ukraine. This happened because the Germans had agreed to protect the Ukraine against the Russian Red Army in return for food supplies. The People’s Republic had succumbed to inefficiency and failed to deliver.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (4/30/2018 1:34:24 AM)

April 30 1918

In Palestine, British General Allenby ordered the commander of the Desert Mounted Corps, Lieutenant General Henry “Harry” Chauvel, to mount another attack across the Jordan River. Chauvel, the first Australian to be promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General, was not happy. His units had not fully recovered from the first attack in March, and his supplies were not what he felt were necessary for an offensive. Adding to this, Allenby had promised him help from Arab irregular units, but T. E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”) was in Jerusalem at the time and the British were not in close contact with the Arabs.

Nonetheless, orders were orders. Chavel’s forces, a mixture of horse cavalry, camel cavalry, and the 60th (London) Division, crossed the Jordan and assaulted several German Ottoman positions. They scored a success by overrunning the town of Es Salt, capturing 30 machine guns and 400 prisoners, including a German officer who found himself having to surrender at saber-point. Elsewhere, the Allied assault did not fare as well. The Germans and Ottomans had been warned by the first foray in March, and built some cunning defenses. Machine-gun fire from concealed positions stopped the British advance.

Von Sanders, the commander of the Ottoman and German forces in the area, learned of the attacks before the morning was out. He promptly began to plan a counter-attack, and he had the forces to do it with. There were significantly more Turkish and German troops in the area than British intelligence had estimated, and there was now a pontoon bridge to bring them forward which the British did not know about.

Both sides had learned the folly of throwing more and more troops into a battle which produced smaller and smaller results. Ludendorff had other offensives planned on the Western Front, and he needed to conserve troops for them. He now called off Operation Georgette. It had posed a very serious threat to the British, but when the final results were judged, the gains were not worth the costs. The channel ports were still in operation, as were the rail lines to the British army. Mont Kemmel had been taken, but not the remainder of the line of hills. Again, the losses had been worse for the Allies, but not by a decisive margin: about 110,000 casualties for the Allies and somewhere between 86,000 and 109,000 for the Germans.

And that constituted an advantage for the Allies. The Germans were reaching the limit of their manpower: large numbers of troops were still needed in Eastern Europe and to bolster their less effective Austro-Hungarian and Turkish allies. In the meantime, the Western nations were growing in strength. At about this time, Italian troops began to arrive to reinforce the French. More important, American troops were now coming in large numbers. For the German U-boat blockade was failing. About 120,000 American troops had crossed the Atlantic during that month alone, with very small loss, and Allied merchant shipping losses had declined to 278,700 tons for the month. The floodgates had opened.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (5/1/2018 4:21:41 AM)

1 May 1918

In Jordan, the British opened the day with renewed attacks on the German-Ottoman positions. Especially, the 60th (London) Division attempted to take the key point of Shunet Nimrin, but found it too well defended by machine guns which defied attempts by British artillery to suppress them. Later in the day, it was the Central Powers’ turn to attack, and they forced the 4th and 12th Light Horse Regiments to fall back into areas of rocky hills. Eventually there were not enough men and horses to move the British artillery further over the rough terrain, and after removing the breech-blocks, the guns were abandoned to the Ottomans.

There was a tradition about cannons, which had been expensive items through most of their existence. They had been essentially cast by hand, requiring time and careful attention so as not to develop flaws which would cause the gun to explode, which happened on occasion. When a cannon was captured by the other side, it could be quickly put to use killing the soldiers of the original side. For these reasons it became a point of honor for centuries not to allow one's own guns to be captured, and to seize the enemy's guns. Battle reports commonly listed the number of guns taken, as well as estimates of the casualties inflicted, and the famous Charge of the Light Brigade was ordered in large part as an attempt to prevent the Russians from hauling away captured British cannon.

The practical reasons had disappeared by WWI. Mass production and forging techniques were now churning out large numbers of reliable cannon. And the precision-machined shells were no longer interchangeable as round cannon balls had been. For instance, the famous French "soixante-quinze" fired 75mm shells, which would not work with the standard 77mm German field gun. Nonetheless, attitudes changed slowly, and the loss was considered an embarrassment for the British and “an advertisement for the Turk, which he will not fail to exploit” as General Allenby wrote in a letter to a fellow officer.

Towards the end of the day, Allenby reported to the War Office that “Operations are proceeding in accordance with plan.” This seems doubtful, to put it mildly.

German forces continued their drive into Russian territory. On this date they took Sevastopol, Crimea, and with it they captured part of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (5/2/2018 2:59:26 AM)

2 May 1918

The fighting around Es Salt was heavy, but neither side could gain an advantage on this date. The British troopers made a determined attempt to seize the strong-point at Shunet Nimrin, but the German and Ottoman defenders stood fast. Even when their artillery ran out of shells, the gunners picked up rifles and continued the fight against the British.

On the other hand, the Ottomans were unable to recapture Es Salt. More and more troops arrived, and the British defenders found themselves under fire from three directions. But the charges to re-take the town were fought off. Likewise, the British were able to keep a route to their position open in spite of attempts to disrupt their transport of supplies.

But by the end of the day, it was apparent that time was on the side of the Ottomans. Their reinforcements continued to arrive, and the Arabs that General Allenby had hoped would harass the Turkish and German movements were nowhere to be seen. And while the British supply line was still open, it could not deliver all that was needed. Above all, medicine was getting short, so short that the British resorted to dropping a package from an airplane. It worked for the bandages, but the vials of disinfectant and anesthetic were broken.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (5/4/2018 4:14:32 AM)

4 May 1918

The British commanders had come to the reluctant agreement that it was useless to try to hold Es Salt. On this date the evacuation was carried out. It was no simple matter to bring out Ottoman and German prisoners plus their own wounded. Much of the route was unsuitable for wheeled vehicles, so horses, camels, donkeys, and foot-marching were the order of the day. And to add to the British difficulties, their enemy actually managed to achieve air superiority for the time being, and the columns were occasionally strafed and bombed.

Nonetheless, thanks to skilled rearguard actions by cavalry, by evening the great majority of the British and Australian troops were back in relatively safe positions near the Jordan river. The “Second Action of Es Salt” had cost the British Empire 1,649 casualties all told. They had inflicted over 800 combat casualties and taken nearly 1,000 Ottoman and German prisoners. Nonetheless, the Ottomans claimed victory, for they had driven the invaders back, and demonstrated that they were not opponents to be taken lightly. The British and Australians had been fortunate to escape with the losses they had: it seems possible that with a bit more luck and effort, nearly the entire cavalry strength of the Allied forces in the Palestine area could have been lost.

General Allenby took note. A permanent advance beyond his present lines would take more troops, and more air-power would be a good idea as well. But with the enormous battles in northern France had siphoned away all the forces Britain could spare for the time being.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (5/5/2018 3:56:52 AM)

Early May

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had begun writing a history of British operations in the Western Front which would eventually turn into “The British Campaign in France and Flanders”, a massive six-volume work. Like the great majority of his Sherlock Holmes stories and other works, he was first publishing it as a serial in “The Strand Magazine”. Around this time Doyle’s account of the First Battle of the Somme began to appear in The Strand.

General Ludendorff would complain after the war that Germany had lagged in its propaganda efforts. He was right in that observation, but probably wrong in saying that Germany should have put in more effort. Compared with Britain, Germany never stood a chance in a propaganda competition. The British had recruited the greatest collection of writing talent of any war in history to promote their side. Sir Arthur was joined by Rudyard Kipling, H. G. Wells, Thomas Hardy, and still more who lent their pens to the Allied cause.

By this time the effort was under the Ministry of Information, whose Foreign Propaganda office was lead by John Buchan (“The 39 Steps”).

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (5/7/2018 4:01:52 AM)

7 May 1918

In what is called the Mesopotamian Campaign, British forces occupied Kirkuk without significant opposition. This was actually wise on the part of the Ottomans, for the British found the place too inconvenient to hold. The oncoming summer heat rendered supply runs difficult and dangerous -- motor transport was still unusual, and most deliveries were by donkey or camel. The British would evacuate in two and a half weeks.

In the town of Buftea, the Fourth Treaty of Bucharest, the peace treaty between Romania and the Central Powers was signed. The terms were harsh: although Romania maintained her independence in name, in practical terms Germany would be in control. German bureaucrats would have veto power over decisions by Romanian cabinet ministers, and could also fire Romanian civil servants.

In addition, Romania had to cede territory to Bulgaria, though in return the Central Powers recognized the union of Bessarabia with Romania. Also, Austria-Hungary was given control of the key passes through the Carpathian Mountains. And finally, Romania had to lease its oil wells to Germany for 90 years.


Capt. Harlock -> If At First You Don't Succeed (5/9/2018 1:21:53 AM)

9 May 1918

The British had known that their attempt in April to block the opening to the sea at Ostend had failed. On this date, they began a second raid, preparing to sacrifice the cruiser HMS Vindictive that had participated in the somewhat more successful raid on Zeebrugge, plus the old cruiser HMS Sappho. This time the attacking force would have a little more help: in addition to four “monitors” for shore bombardment, the plan called for night-time aerial bombing plus long-range artillery support from British land positions.

Led by Commander Alfred Godsal, who had been captain of HMS Brilliant during the first attempt, the little fleet set sail from the port of Dunkirk shortly before midnight. The weather prediction looked better this time: there would be very little wind to interfere with smokescreens. But almost immediately something went wrong: Sappho suffered a boiler blowout and had to turn back. Commander Godsal decided to press on and hope that Vindictive alone could block the canal entrance.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (5/10/2018 3:14:47 AM)

10 May 1918

Off of Ostend, for a second time, luck did not favor the British. As predicted, the wind was very light but the downside was that they encountered heavy fog. It was true that this helped shield them from the German shore batteries, but it also made things very difficult for their air and artillery support. Further, it made it hard to even find the entrance to the canal. The Vindictive had to make three approaches to the shore before she found the right place.

Once there, the fighting opened with a British success. In a rare use of torpedoes against shore targets, two German machine-gun positions at the ends of the piers flanking the entrance were destroyed. From then on, however, things went badly. Vindictive suffered a propeller failure, interfering with her ability to turn sideways to block the canal. While she was maneuvering, a lucky German shell hit the bridge, killing Commander Godsal instantly, and also killing or wounding most of the bridge crew. The ship, now almost unmaneuverable, drifted back out of the canal and grounded on a sandbar alongside one of the piers. Under heavy fire, the crew set the scuttling charges and then evacuated to a motor launch.

Their troubles were not over. The motor launch was hit by machine-gun fire, though it managed to reach the destroyer Warwick and transfer Vindictive's survivors and its own crew before eventually sinking. But then it was Warwick's turn: she hit a mine and would also have sunk if another destroyer, HMS Velox, had not been secured alongside her. The two ships managed to stagger across the English Channel back to Dover. Warwick would be repaired in time to be present at the end of the war, and would go on to serve in WWII.

British casualties were 18 dead and 29 wounded, no light matter but much less than the losses during the Zeebrugge raid. The Germans claimed that the raid had not impeded their operations, while the British claimed success, since the Vindictive was partially blocking Ostend’s access to the sea. Both were partly right: smaller submarines could still go around Vindictive, while the larger ones were already able to use the canal at Zeebrugge again. However, the German surface raiders were trapped, and would stay there for the remainder of the war.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (5/11/2018 3:34:26 AM)

11 May 1918

A new peace conference between the Ottomans and the representatives of the countries of the Caucasus convened at the Georgian city of Batum, on the coast of the Black Sea. This was an ironic choice, as Batum had changed hands several times over the centuries as the Turks had advanced and then been driven back by the Georgians and finally by Imperial Russian forces in 1878.

Since the Armenians had dared to wage war, the Ottomans now increased their demands. The city of Tiflis was to be theirs, and also a railroad would be constructed to connect their new conquest of Kars with Baku. The Armenian and Georgian delegates were naturally unwilling to grant this, but they no longer had Russian support, so they attempted to stall for time. They hoped that the British would score victories on the Middle Eastern fronts, which would distract the Ottoman army.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (5/12/2018 3:52:03 AM)

12 May 1918

A little-known bit of history is that the famous ocean liner Titanic was actually the middle ship of a class of three vessels. The third ship, RMS Britannic, had been converted into a hospital ship for the war. In spite of design changes to make her safer, Britannic had hit a mine in the Mediterranean and gone down in 55 minutes on November 21, 1916. (There were an adequate number of lifeboats this time, and 1,035 people were rescued out of the 1,065 on board.)

Apparently RMS Olympic, the first of the class, was a luckier ship. At sea on this date, the Germans had an opportunity to sink her. The submarine U-103 intercepted a convoy including the Olympic, which was now being used as a troop carrier. Captain Claus Rücker surfaced and lined up his submarine for an attack with the stern tubes, for a quick getaway from the convoy escorts.

But things went wrong for the Germans. The stern tubes refused to flood, and the Olympic' s lookouts spotted the U-103. In moments, hunter changed to hunted. Olympic had been equipped with deck guns, and she opened fire. Not trusting to gunnery alone, the Olympic also altered course to ram. U-103 attempted to crash-dive, but wasn't quite fast enough. Olympic struck the submarine aft of the conning tower, and then as the troopship went by, one of her propellers sliced open the submarine's hull. By promptly blowing the ballast tanks, the crew managed to keep the now-doomed craft afloat long enough for 35 out of the 44 men on board to escape and be rescued by one of the convoy escorts.

It was more than an ordinary episode in the submarine conflict. U-103 had been the lead ship for a group of 6 U-boats that the Germans had sent out together in order to overwhelm the protection of a convoy. It hadn't worked well even before the sinking: Captain Rucker had found it difficult to coordinate while he was at sea. The Germans would make no further serious efforts at mounting a "wolf pack" until WWII.

Olympic would go on to transport about 200,000 troops across the Atlantic, earning the nickname “Old Reliable”. She would be converted back to a passenger liner after the war, and serve until 1934.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (5/14/2018 1:08:16 AM)

14 May 1918

Earlier in the war, a number of ethnic Czechs and Slovaks residing in the Russian Empire had proposed a volunteer force to fight the Austro-Hungarian armies. The Russians, in a surprisingly wise move, had agreed. The force had been active since 1916, and had expanded as the Czech and Slovak prisoners of war from the Austro-Hungarian army had realized they would rather fight against the Empire than for it. By the start of 1918, the Czecho-Slovak Legion numbered at least 60,000 men. Now, however, they were in a difficult situation. Since peace had been declared and a treaty signed between Germany and the newly formed Soviet Russia, they could no longer fight on that front. But they were in no mood to lay down their arms, for they saw the Austro-Hungarian Empire as an occupier, and President Wilson's Fourteen Points held out the strong possibility they could have a country of their own if they could win a place at the negotiating table when the war was over.

The Czecho-Slovak Legion therefore needed to leave Russian territory and travel to Italy and France. Of course, more Allied troops on the Western Front was the last thing the Germans wanted, and they applied considerable pressure on the Soviets to stop this from happening. The Bolshevik leaders had come up with a compromise: the Legion would be transported East via the Trans-Siberian Railway, and then evacuated from the port of Vladivostok. Where they went from there would be out of Russian hands. The process was going slowly, which is not surprising. The Russian government was still shaky after the revolution, there was a civil war ramping up, and of course there were local officials needing bribes to issue the proper paperwork. Lastly, the railway was also burdened with prisoners of war from the Central Powers being brought back west for repatriation.

On this date, one of those POW's on a westbound train at the station at Chelyabinsk threw a stone, injuring a Czechoslovak soldier. The angered Czecho-Slovaks stopped the train and shot the offender. The local Bolsheviks in turn arrested several of the men involved, and sentenced them to be executed. The Czecho-Slovak Legion wasn’t having that; they stormed the police station and freed their men. They would go on to take over Chelyabinsk, and then most of the Trans-Siberian Railway to the east of that.


jwolf -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (5/14/2018 2:45:50 PM)


The Russians, in a surprisingly wise move, had agreed.

Sad but true that any sign of wisdom from the Czarist government was a surprise.

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