British Advance At Passchendaele I THE GREAT WAR Week 165


The Battle of Passchendaele, also known as
the Third Battle of Ypres, had raged through the entire month of August, but had gone quiet
as that month came to an end. Well, it’s quiet no more, for this week
Passchendaele comes to life, and comes to life with a bang as Herbert Plumer cracks
the German defenses. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week the Second Battle of Verdun and
the 11th Battle of the Isonzo River had both come to an end. There were mutinous disturbances among some
British soldiers and the Chinese Labor Corps in France, and in Russia, Army Commander Lavr
Kornilov attempted a coup to establish a military dictatorship; a coup that quickly failed,
but that left tens of thousands of armed Bolsheviks in the capital after Prime Minister Alexander
Kerensky had appealed to them for help against Kornilov. And there are further developments in Russia
in the wake of all this. Leon Trotsky and other Bolshevik leaders are
released from prison because of public pressure. They’ve been held there since the street
violence of the July Days. The political outcome of the Kornilov affair
was a disaster for Kerensky. He was hated now by both the left and the
right; the left thought he had been in league with Kornilov for a time, which was sort of
right, the right thought he was a traitor who had abandoned the capital city to the
Bolsheviks. His provisional government was by now impotent,
and Kerensky’s appeal for assistance had kind of showed who had power in Petrograd. Many Bolsheviki and the Bolshevik Red Guards
were now armed, and releasing Bolshevik leaders from prison threw them into an already volatile
political situation, and think – at the beginning of the year, their were registered 24,000
Bolsheviks, by the end of September that number would be over 400,000. On the 21st, sailors of the Baltic fleet will
declare that they do not recognize the authority of the Provisional Government and will not
follow its orders. Kerensky tries this week, with the council
of five, to declare Russia a republic, but who was listening by now? Russian soldiers in France were even infected
by the spirit of revolution. There was a brigade at La Courtine who raised
the Bolshevik red flag and refused to go to the front. On the 16th, though, they were attacked by
a brigade loyal to Kerensky. Several dozen Russians were killed in “The
Massacre of La Courtine”. American Army Commander John Pershing visited
the camp and declared it, “the vilest and most unsanitary place I have ever seen.” (Gilbert) There was even a joke at the time
about the Russian army, because of its dire state and the territory it lost over the summer: “How far did the Russians retreat today?” “14 km, same as they will tomorrow.” “How do you know?” “That’s as far as a tired German can walk.” But revolt was not limited to Russians. This week, 500 Egyptian laborers rioted at
Marseilles. They had been led to believe that their position
was only temporary, and now found out that they were to stay in France until the end
of the war, and who knew when that would be? One laborer knocked a British officer out
and seized his rifle and bayonet. He was tried and executed for “disturbance
of a mutinous nature”. And further north in Belgium, the second phase
of the Battle of Passchendaele began. The first three weeks of September had been
surprisingly free of rain in Flanders, which was great for the attackers. British General Herbert Plumer, now in overall
charge of the 2nd and 5th armies, wanted to take the Gheluvelt Plateau with the 2nd while
Hugh Gough with the 5th took part of the Ypres Ridge on the left. Plumer had managed to gather more artillery
for a barrage even greater than those of July and August. He had one artillery piece for every 5m of
front and his artillery would be fired in five waves, with each one being a zone nearly
200m deep. Zone one was shrapnel, two was high explosive,
the third was indirect machine gun fire, and the last two were high explosives. The entire pattern, nearly a kilometer deep
from front to back, swept over all German positions is a storm whose character changed
every few minutes. Three and a half million shells were fired
in this storm before and during September 20th. Now, on the 16th came reports of an incident
where some British soldiers who were brought in from No – mans land, claimed under oath
that they’d seen some of their men, after being disarmed and taken prisoner, bayoneted
by the enemy. So with that fresh in their minds, there were
few prisoners taken on the 20th when the offensive was renewed. Plumer had the fortune to hide his preparations
behind the slightly elevated ground he had taken in early June at the Battle of Messines
Ridge and when his men now attacked behind a creeping barrage, the German positions fell
fairly easily. When they reached their objectives, they stopped
and began building defenses. The soldiers in the main German defenses further
to the rear waited for the British to come at them, and by the time they realized that
wasn’t going to happen, it was too late in the day to counterattack. So Plumer’s plan had been a success. Okay, it was an expensive success – casualties
were high – but the German casualties from the barrage and this day of battle were some
25,000, and more importantly, the Germans were alarmed. Plumer’s plan had been to not try for a
breakthrough of a few miles since that would be pretty futile against the new flexible
German defenses, but to take small gains that never went far enough to trigger a counterattacks. Cumulatively, they might drive the Germans
out of their defenses altogether. The attack today had not just taken some German
ground, it had captured pillboxes and bunkers that were crucial to the German defense system. Plumer had put a crack into the Hindenburg
Line and the Germans were vulnerable to further attacks. He had planned to advance in four stages,
each no more than 1,500 meters and he would have a six day pause between stages for the
artillery to be brought up. The Times announced on the 21st, “Menin
Road Battle. Big British success.” and the day after that began giving the troops
details – Australians at Glencorse Wood, South Africans at Borry Farms. But was it really a big success? Historians have generally thought so, but
Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson argue against that since Plumer only took limited ground
with big casualties – over 20,000 casualties for five square miles gained, which is v.
By comparison, Hugh Gough’s attack July 31st that’s been often maligned, including
by myself, took 18 square miles, losing about 1,500 for each one. Having said that, the ground given up in July
was largely abandoned by the Germans as the attack came on, but the ground taken now was
very much ground that the Germans really wanted to keep and couldn’t really afford to lose. German Fourth Army reports claiming everything
was okay and there was nothing to worry about were looked on with serious skepticism by
Crown Prince Rupprecht, in overall command of that army as part of his Army Group Rupprecht. He thought it was a big mistake to underestimate
the enemy, and believed himself guilty of doing just that. “I too believed that, owing to their heavy
losses, the English were no longer capable of renewing the great battle in Flanders”. (Passchendaele). British Prime Minister David Lloyd George
was soon to visit the front to see for himself what was going on, and then on to Paris to
discuss something interesting. On the 19th, London had got a telegram from
its Ambassador to Spain that a representative of the German government was interested in
knowing if his Majesty’s government would listen to a suggestion for peace. That German was none other than the new Foreign
Secretary Richard von Kühlmann, and he wondered if Britain would talk about the possible restoration
of Belgium, if Germany could have a free hand in Russia and could get back its African colonies. In the end, nothing would come of this, since
British Commander in Chief Sir Douglas Haig and Chief of Staff Wully Robertson wanted
to keep on fighting, also, the British notified their Allies about this idea, and they held
that any offer of a separate peace should just be ignored. When von Kühlmann realized this wasn’t
gonna happen, he made a speech in the Reichstag that Germany would never abandon its territorial
claims in the west. And there was some new action in territory
in Africa. On the most forgotten front of the war, the
Libyan front. On the 20th, General Nuri Pasha – half brother
to Ottoman Minister of War Enver Pasha – and the Ottoman Africa Group Command were defeated
by General Cassini at Zanzur, west of Tripoli. And that ends the week, with the resumption
of hostilities in Belgium, and the spirit of revolution in the air in the east and the
west. Well, among the Russians, at any rate. But morale for the British on the West is
pretty high. Plumer seems to have solved the problem of
breaking the German defenses. That’s great! And, I mean, at only 4,000 casualties per
square mile. Hey, go outside and walk a mile in one direction. Then turn a right angle and walk another. Now think that it took 4,000 casualties to
take just that land. Now think how far you are from Berlin. If you are curious about the mostly forgotten
Libyan Front, you can click right here to find out more about that in one of our weekly
episodes. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Georgi
Momchilov – thank you for your support on Patreon. Our new maps, our field trips to original
WW1 locations, they all happened thanks to your support. Don’t forget to subscribe, see you next
time.

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. Hey Indy and crew, great video as always! Do you think you guys could talk about some of these countries in your videos if you're not already planning to?

    *Belarus and Ukraine
    *Finland
    *Wales and Scotland
    *Persia
    *Siam
    *Tibet/Nepal and Mongolia
    *Azerbaijan and Georgia
    *British Egypt and the other British African colonies
    *The French African colonies
    *The German Pacific colonies
    *Belgian Congo
    *Slovakia and Slovenia
    *Montenegro

  2. The significance of the battle was partly in the land, but more in the resources it cost the British vs the Germans to fight over it. That is by no means a validation of such a calamitous loss of life, just keeping in mind what the generals thought they were doing. They were trading lives like currency, 20,000 British dead and wounded for 25,000 Germans dead, wounded and captured. The horror of modern war has many forms, and here it is in the cold, cruel calculation of lives lost on my side vs lives taken from the enemy.

  3. I have a question for out of the trenches that perhaps you guys can answer. During the spring offensive of 1918 on the western front why didn't Austria-Hungary send troops to help? Since Russia surrendered they had thousands of troops freed up to. Why didn't they send half at least to the west and the rest to italy? I would think that they knew that the war would be decided in the west just like Germany did but Germany didn't seem to ask for more troops from Austria-Hungary and Austria-Hungary didn't seem to offer help. I tried to do my own research on this but a standard Internet search came up with nothing. Maybe you guys or people in this comment section can help answer this question. Also If Austria-Hungary sent some troops I would think that with a few thousand more men Germany could of broke through. P.S Love the show been watching since January 2015.

  4. Another well done episode!
    But i was wondering, are you ever going to cover the rebellion in the French colonies against France?
    You mentioned the British problems of revolts of Ireland and South Africa, also the Darfur and the Dervish fighting.
    Today you mention the Italians in Libya and you covered the Sanussi fight already.
    But nothing about:
    1) The Kaocen revolt/Tuareg rebellion against French colonial rule of the area around the Aïr Mountains of northern Niger.
    2) The Berber Zayan war in Morocco.
    3) The Volta-Bani Revolt in Mali.
    Has the French DGSE told you not the talk about it?

  5. The losses suffered for this really small patch of land is incredible. It really does put Blackadder's scene of the captured land into perspective (the one where Blackadder thinks it is a scaled model, but it really is the land captured in a very literal sense).

  6. Hey Indy, I am an MA History student, and a while back, I stumbled across an interesting WW1 general: Sir Ian Hamilton. While he is best known for the failure of Gallipoli, I think it would be an interesting character study for a biopic or something! I read some of his memoirs about the Russo-Japanese War, and he was definitely unorthodox for his time.

  7. Rejecting that peace offer was pretty dumb.

    A separate peace with Germany lets the Entente dictate whatever terms they want to Austria-Hungary and the Ottomans with hardly any more fighting. Russia is already dead and the Germans can deal with the Bolsheviks. Germany gives back everything they didn't hold before the war that any of the remaining members of the Entente care about. France doesn't get Alsace or Loraine, but every other war goal is achieved easily with Germany out of the war.

    I bet if you polled the actual French people in late September of 1917 about the offer they'd say Alsace and Loraine weren't worth dying for if the Germans were willing to go back to their border without any more Frenchmen dying.

  8. British soldier from ww1 now in ww2 pines by a sniper " What would major Tom say?" A moment passes before he runs out of cover screaming "OVER THE TOP!"

  9. Hi indy. Love the show. I use the info to coreced my teacher in history class. I have a question for OOTT. In a past video you said you were an actor by cerrear. What movies or other types of acting jobs have you been in? Sorry for the spelling

  10. Great video! 100 years ago today my 2nd-great Uncle had just arrived at Camp Mead as part of the new 79th Division 304th Engineers.

  11. FYI guys, the Russian Expedition in France has one person in particular. The future Soviet Defense Minister and Hero of Stalingrad, Rodion Malinovsky.

  12. for russians in France i would recommend "with snow on their boots" there wqere only 2 brigades. the russians had offered to send troops to france to add numbers to the western front in return for weapons shipments. the french talks of 50,000 men/month but in the end it was two brigades total and for all intents they just got sucked up into the french meat grinder.

    The big deal in 3rd pyre at this point was that the general had and kept to reasonable expectations. he had a plan and kept to it rather than declaring 'one big push yadda yadda yadda. It was only as the rains would settle in and haig wouldn't back off that this became the examle of donkeys leading lions.

  13. Correct me if I'm wrong but I remember that after the 11th battle of Isonzo km ( plus all the others engagements in the alps) the italian front was 3500 casualties per km (not mile)

  14. I wonder just how close to the front did Lloyd George actually reach? I am thinking maybe the front command line. I recall generals like Schwarzkopf coming out with his entourage and never really getting out to the line. Of course, I know it would be madness to bring Lloyd George right out into the thick of it, but to really get a feel of it you need to get past the rear command posts. I am always skeptical of these tours of the front by the leadership.

  15. Hey, so this might seem like a silly question, but I'm trying to make a piece of fiction alternate history story so: If in the middle or early stages of the war, there would be a "common enemy" for the allies and central powers, would they band together or just continue blowing eachother to kingdom come and try to blow up the "common enemy" at the same time? Hope you see this, also just subbed!

  16. When do Germany and Austria-Hungary planned the Caporreto offensive, I know it started in late October, but wonder when they started planning?

  17. You say Kuehlmann went to offer peace to the British. But surely the Germans' first target for a peace settlement would be the French, as a) they dragged the UK into the war to start with and b) peace with France would drastically reduce the size of the Western Front, even if the British and Belgians remained at war. Did the Germans try to make peace with France?

  18. 2 things.
    1) When are guys (The Great War) gonna quote Sabaton in one of your videos?
    And 2) I love the comment section in this video 😀

  19. I'm glad to see that you mention the fact the Germans were offering peace and that they wanted a return to the borders before the war started. I wonder, will you mention the Balfour Declaration in the future?

  20. Ok i did some Math… 769 Km away from Berlin… that are 477 Miles …. that make about 1,9 Million Casualtys !

    Next Week its mine !!

  21. Question for out of the Trenches: I was recently gifted a collection of Punch Magazine Cartoons from the Great War (It was given as a Christmas gift to a member of my wife's family in 1916!) I was wondering if there were similiar cartoons/magazines from the Allience countries against the Entente powers during the war! Thanks for all the great videos!

  22. casualties happen. its not a commander's job to keep everyone alive. also, how many men would die if they sat and waited for german bombardment and assault?

  23. amazing channel.. there is so little on WW1 compared to WW2 .. I've prob learned more from this channel than the books I've read and the odd tv documentary.. there could be no separate peace made with Germany.. they simply wanted a free hand so they could carry on fighting Russia. IF Britain had agreed to a peace ( the French prob wouldn't ) Germany would have used the respite to rebuild its forces and get supplies in .. and then fight again! so Lloyd-George was right to refuse offer

  24. We hear much of rebellion in Russia, and France, British expeditionary forces, and greece yet not once has this channel covered any (If there are any) rebellions or mutinies in the german army. My question is: Did the german empire find itself with the same mutinous behaviour as France did, or what was going on that prevented this?

  25. I think that the war on the Western front should be renamed "the siege of Germany" — almost 4 years of the Western allies sitting outside Germany, trying to break in.

  26. hy indy Im new and am half egyption half sudanese i wanted to know sudan's role in ww1 my great grandfather became a doctor in London in 1911 and during the first world war he was giving medicine to injured britsh solderes i hope this will be in out of the trenches i LOVE your work

  27. Hello Indy (and all the crew of The Great War)
    When you ask people about WW1, they often talk about use of gas.. but, was biological warfare also used ? There was a lot of rodents and ricketsies in the trenches, they are known to be effective medium to spread sicknesses among the enemy troops ?
    Keep it up with such high quality show
    Thanks already for answer !

  28. Here’s a question for you: If you could change the outcome of the war, change who won what battles, (while still keeping the war in motion,) would you? If so, how?

  29. Every week we hear of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of casualties. It's amazing how there are still more men to throw into the meat grinder that is The Great War

  30. I like your suggestion to go outside and walk for a mile. and then ….I might do that later. It's dark and raining at the moment. Great video. Thank you.

  31. Was this Plummer's plan, or Currie's and Monash's plan (sarcasm!!)? Seems to be me it was again Canada's plan, again with Australian/ANZAC's help…and I don't know about the ANZAC side, but Currie complained to Haig that this was a waste, that Passchendaele had no strategic important and that 16,000 Canadian casualties would be wasted, to take hold of an area that wouldn't mean anything, except to do something that was politically expedient. And, how many Canadian causalities were there…approximately 15,800. What a waste!
    But what I would say it did do was to give Currie alot of political power (unknowingly). The Canadian political class fell in line behind him (because his predictions and his success) and demanded the British high command within the political establishment listen to Currie for any future attacks (although at this point, he was one of the few Haig would listen to for offensive details anyways).
    I don't know what happened on the ANZAC side, but I suspect, much the same (I know that Australia was losing as many as Canada was, on a population basis and New Zealand was significantly more than either of us).
    And one last thing, the number of shells used was based upon Currie's insistence, and he took alot of political heat from the British generals at the Army level, such as Gough/Rawlinson, and yes Plummer agreed to go along with it, but Plummer shouldn't be seen as someone who approved this piece of the strategy.

  32. I have been watching this Series for about two weeks now and I am finally Caught up with it i love it would you know any other YouTuber who covers any other war like you do or at least close to you

  33. This is a really cool show, one of my relatives was a Lewis gunner at Passchendaele. He was unfortunately killed there.

  34. 6:50 isn't that the spookiest thing. Outta like a dozen guy's, 1 is randomly shot dead, the other guys barely notice and then just disappear into the mist..

  35. The Australia corp defeated Germany outside of Amien. Won the battle of the Somme and the war. The Russians had nothing to do with it.

  36. While your at it look up Harry Chevaul. Led Lawrence of Arabia into Damascus. Australia won those battles for the Brits. They couldn't. They have been utterly useless for 100 years

  37. Look up Sir Kieth Park and General Leslie Morshead. Without the Imperial force Britain would have ceased to exist long ago.

  38. As I have said repeatedly…recapturing land held by the Germans couldn't be done without casualties… large numbers. There simply was no other way. While I always wondered by a trade of land in the East for freedom of French and Belgium lands, the fact remained… it wasn't going to fly. Too many stubborn people. To place the blame for this peace proposal on Haig and Robertson? How? Lloyd George was able to send the Foreign Minister to peruse all negotiation options. It was the French, British, and Italian governments that refused the peace offer. One that should have been accepted. Because the only other option was to reconquer the lands with that casualties Haig suffered. There was no other way to do so…save peace by negotiation.

  39. In the last episode the british screwed the chinnese,now they screwed the egyptians….they sure not waste time.

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