Charming The Poles – The Central Powers Look For New Allies I THE GREAT WAR Week 120

They’ve tried new weapons, new tactics,
new battlefronts, but the war keeps growing in size and there’s no end in sight. By now we’ve reached the point where morale
has crumbled to where the leaders will try anything – attacking their own men, creating
new nations, freeing prisoners – ANYTHING to be able to continue the war. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week the 9th Battle of the Isonzo River
began and ended, with the Italians nearly breaking through the Austrian lines, but the
Austrians being saved by reinforcements in the nick of time. The Romanians held their own in the mountains,
the Bulgarians were pushed back in the Balkans, and German flying ace Oswald Boelcke met his
fate. It had been quiet at the Somme, but it wasn’t
this week. British Commander in Chief Sir Douglas Haig
had determined that the seventh British attack on the Germans at the Transloy line would
take place November 5th, and as usual, he set objectives beyond the line itself. The fact that finally taking Transloy would
not end the ordeal provoked Lord Cavan, whose men would actually carry out the attack, to
speak up. He insisted to Haig’s second in command
Sir Henry Rawlinson that there was no chance of success in the attack, and though Cavan
realized that they must support the French, even if it meant a sacrifice, this sacrifice
would do nothing much to assist the French and would destroy morale in the men. Rawlinson didn’t budge, and sent for a small
“test” attack the 3rd to see what might be expected the 5th. And what might be expected was failure, because
that’s what just happened to the test attack. Cavan said he wouldn’t attack until Rawlinson
had personally seen conditions at the front. So Rawlinson turned up, looked around, and
said, “yeah, let’s not do this attack.” He convinced Haig not to do it. But then Haig changed his mind, and the attack
was back on, and you can guess how it went. It failed. With a couple thousand casualties. The Germans didn’t budge. The Germans were trying not to budge elsewhere
this week, in Dobrogea. Against the Russian and Romanian forces, but
there were problems with the Russians by now. The German advance had threatened to break
the allied lines, so Russia had to call off any strikes further north against Hungary
on the Southeastern front to plug the gap here. German General August von Mackensen’s Bulgarian
forces were poised to cut off Bucharest from the sea and by this point it seemed like only
big Russian reinforcements could prevent a Romanian collapse. 26 Russian infantry divisions and 11 cavalry
divisions were now heading south. However, the Romanian railways that took them
there could only handle 19 trains a day, and each Russian Corps required 130 trains to
move, so there literally was no means of getting the Russian troops to Romania. In any case, the Romanians had only provided
30 actual trains, so Russian soldiers had to arrive all the way from Czernowitz on foot. By November 9th only the Russian IV Corps
had arrived and they were sufficient to hold the Bulgarians south of the Danube. No one knew if any more Russians would arrive
in time. Still, though, Mackensen’s line was actually
giving way a bit this week to Russo-Romanian pressure. He retreated through Topal and was now only
20km north of the Cernavoda-Costanza railway. On the other Romanian front, in the mountains,
the Germans resumed their offensive and the situation there still looked like it was anybody’s
game. And it was probably just as well that Russia
was no longer on the offensive on the eastern front; on the 5th, British observer Colonel
Knox wrote in his diary (Gilbert), “The plain truth is that without airplanes and
far more heavy guns and shell and some knowledge of their use, it is butchery, and useless
butchery, to drive Russian infantry against German lines.” Knox was told by General Nikolai Dukhonin,
Russian Quartermaster General, that “since the beginning of June, Russian killed and
wounded exceeded a million men”. But they had not just held out against the
Central Powers, the Russian summer offensive had steamrolled the Austrians and come close
to knocking the Empire out of the war. And by this point (Gilbert) the Central Powers
no longer had confidence in a decisive breakthrough because of French and British perseverance
in the west, Brusilov’s Russian advance in the east, and Italian tenacity in the mountains. The Kaiser thought maybe there was a political
solution to the war- winning over the Polish to the German cause. General Erich von Ludendorff dreamed of a
Polish army under German leadership that could fight in the east so Germany could concentrate
in the west. On November 5th, Germany and Austria-Hungary
announced that Poland will be established as an independent state with Warsaw as capital. But Germany would keep a tight grip on her,
and the Poles wanted political power, not just military. Polish military leader Josef Pilsudski said
“No army without a government to command it”. When government was denied, Pilsudski withdrew
his 10,000 strong brigade from Ludendorff’s command. This whole scenario backfired on the Germans,
because German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg had been exploring the option of a separate
peace with the Russians. But think about it, whatever the land agreement
in that peace would be, does anyone think the Tsar would’ve agreed to an independent
Poland being carved out of the west of his empire? Furthermore, informal- and secret- talks had
already taken place in Stockholm between German industrialist Hugo Stinnes, and the vice president
of the Russian Duma, A.D. Protopopov, but now they were discontinued. Vladimir Lenin was actually relieved about
all of this – in exile in Switzerland – because he was worried that a separate peace between
Germany and Russia would ruin the chance for a Russian revolution. Wheels within wheels. But everyone needed new men to fight the war
and the Poles would’ve helped. Look at Austria-Hungary. On just the Isonzo River against the Italians,
the Austrians had lost 130,000 men since August and had no real hope of replenishing their
losses, but Italian Chief of Staff Luigi Cadorna’s advantages weren’t as strong as they appeared. His recruits were poorly trained, likewise
the new officers, and the little ground gained for enormous casualties was far from a limited
success at a reasonable cost. And he still blamed failure on the infantry’s
lack of fighting spirit, and the impact of all this on the morale of his men was obvious. None of Cadorna’s offensives had given the
men the feeling they’d actually won something, and since Italy was fighting an aggressive
war, if they were not advancing then they were, by definition, failing. A lieutenant fighting on the Carso summer
it up, “It’s not the dying that is the demoralizing thing, the thing that grinds
you down, it is dying so uselessly for nothing. This is not dying for the fatherland, it is
dying for the stupidity of specific orders and the cowardice of specific commanding officers.” By now there were even mutinies. Last week 6 men were executed for mutiny and
Cadorna issued a directive that commanders had to decimate mutinous units. Morale was failing everywhere. For two years at Ruhleben POW camp, prisoners
kept their spirits up by hoping the war would soon end, but after the British and Germans
agreed to exchange all civilian prisoners over 45 years old, everyone else realized
that they were going to be there for a long time. One guy sent home, Israel Cohen, wrote on
November 6th in the preface to the first published history of Ruhleben camp, “Hundreds of tragedies
are being slowly and secretly enacted behind the brick walls and barbed wire fence of Ruhleben…
of men torn from their families, reft of their livelihood, and tormented daily by gnawing
anxiety about the future struggle for which physical privation and mental depression are
rendering them more and more unfit.” And here are some notes to end the week: On Nov 5th at Verdun, the French occupied
whole of Vaux. On the 6th came the defeat and death of Ali
Dinar, former sultan of Darfur, near the frontier at Wadai. That same day the liner Arabia was sunk by
torpedoes off the Greek coast. On the 7th, Woodrow Wilson was elected to
a second term as U.S. President, and on the 9th, Portuguese troops were now ready to leave
for the Western Front. And a busy week of war ends with British failure
at the Somme, logistical problems for Romania and Russia, a glimmer of hope for the Poles,
and morale crumbling everywhere. There is a quick fix for that. On the Italian front, the men on the lines
knew they were going to attack soon when the military police mounted machine guns behind
them, ready to shoot at soldiers who hesitated when the charge was called. There’s no hard data on how many men were
killed this way, but in memoirs and diaries you get an impression. “The White War” recounts that in one minor
action in the Dolomites, 80 men were killed by enemy machine guns, and 25 by the military
police. Cadorna said, “When a soldier lacks the
spirit and will to fight, he lacks everything”. Unlike most Cadorna-isms, this is actually
pretty true, but he also believed in the converse, that having spirit and will made soldiers
unstoppable, and that is one great falsehood of modern war. More often than not the soldiers would break
under these conditions and suffer from what was then called Shellshock. If you want to find out more about the psychological
effects of modern war, click here to watch our special episode. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Randolph
Guevara. Thanks to Randolphs’ and your support we
can make this show better and better.

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. What an excellent series! With today being Veterans' Day in the US and Armistice Day in Europe, I have been reminded of a couple of relatives of mine who happened to fight on the Italian and Western Fronts respectively. My grandmother told me stories from her father, whose brother was in the Kaiserschutzen in the Alps and how they were terrified more of the Italians mining underneath them in the mountains or being buried by an avalanche (the white death) caused by explosions than of being killed by Italian bullets. One of my great great uncles fought in Flanders and said they were most afraid of the mud whether being wounded and drowning in the slime of the shell craters or being buried alive underneath it. My question, and thanks for bearing with me, is what role did the actual terrain and conditions contribute to shell shock and instances of fear and morale on the battlefield? Is there any records of soldiers committing suicide because of the weather and natural environment on their already frayed nerves from fighting? Thank you so much and keep it up!

  2. Excellent ! Informations objectives, documentation et illustrations bien choisies. Remarquable travail même si, pour pouvoir l'apprécier, il faut connaitre l'anglais.

  3. Have you heard of the Great War mod for the Paradox Interactive game Hearts of Iron IV, it's a very fun grand strategy game and the mod seems to be well polished, I would recommend it.

  4. In 10 days from today, Britannic, Titanic's larger sister-ship sank outside of Greece a 100 years ago. It is a somewhat "forgotten story" when it comes to Titanic's two sisters, both serving in the great war. I hope this will be mentioned!

  5. I have a question about Bosnia in WW1, my great grandfather died at the battle of caporetto and i always get stories of Bosnians being very good troops and terrifying to the Italians because of our Fez's, I was just curious if you knew wether or not it's true because I don't wanna get caught in a lie. love the channel and thanks.

  6. Hi Andy I am Ali from Sudan and I would like to know more about Sultan Ali Dinar what did he does in WWI and what was he with.Always I watch your show ✌?️✌?️✌?️

  7. 2 years from today, the armistice is signed 100 years ago. To every vet out there, thank you for your service

  8. Hello Indy, I just recently found out that my maternal Great-Grandfather was a US infantryman in the Big Red One during the Great War. His name was Edgar Alphonso Gill, and as you stated before that we rarely get a personal look at the war, I was wondering if you'd like to find more out about him and talk about it in a show. All his descendants here in Texas would love it. Especially his young Great-Great- Grandson.

  9. cadorna has to be the worst high ranking officer in history
    and i would never have thought that any army would actually fire at their own men on the battlefield as for example portrayed in the "enemy at the gates" movie, where retreating soviets were mowed down by their own guys
    i am totally speechless right now

  10. Hey Indy!

    I've always wondered about how soldiers during this time period (and many others) dealt with the great sounds of war. With all of the magnificent battles composed of tens of thousands of artillery shells and rifle cartridges being fired, did millions of troops come back with devastating hearing loss? Or did they have a way of coping with the sounds of battle? Love the show and look forward to a response!

    Also my apologies if this question had already been answered, but I have not been able to locate it on your channel.

  11. Indy, I hope you and your team realize that you are doing a great service to the memories of the men and women on all sides who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

  12. Were smoke grenades ever used on the front as a way to advance on the enemy's trench? I really enjoy watching your weekly episodes, keep it up!

  13. I have a question Indy what was South America doing at this time, did they play their part during the war or were they neutral

  14. Hello Indy, will there be a special episode on Latvian Rifleman during the war, russian revolution and after the war and their occupation of their own country in 1919, as well as their political effort during the war and after it in some of newly formed Latvia's, regions as well as freedom fights in Latvia in general(since they happen mostly after the war (18th November of 1918 till 1920). I believe that our small country's independence struggle has some of the weirdest and most complex freedom fighting in history since its far from straight forward, and most of our history experts choose to simplify it(or exclude some major happenings because of nationalism) , and doing so have created a false knowledge of Latvian Rifleman and Latvian people during freedom fights and a very weak perception of the great war in general.

  15. guys i found a good-ish video game(mod) for ww1,hearts of iron IV great war mod is out(there is also a finished Hoi 3 mod)

  16. I have 2 questions for Out Of The Trenches:

    1st question: were there other east or southeast Asian nations involved in the Great War aside from Japan?

    2nd question: what will you guys do after 1918 (or 2018)? will you continue making these topics?


  17. hi indy. crazy about the show, watch it endlessly. i suddenly thought of something and I NEED THE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION : If defense have such a great advantage in the great war, why then did not both sides just stay on the defensive and never attack? If you do not attack, then your men don't die, right? if your enemy attacks, you have the advantage, so why attack at all?!?

  18. Could you do a Finland during World war 1? (I know they weren't a official nation but the history about the country at that time is very interesting.)

  19. I'm new to you're channel, but have you don't a video about world war 1 mysteries or odd technology? And keep up the good work .

  20. A year ago I thought that nobody could challenge Conrad von Hötzendorf for the title of worst general of the war. By now Luigi Cadorna has made it look easy running away with that title. But Douglas Haig is slowly but surely gaining ground on both of them.

  21. Some people do horrible crimes and espace…
    If we ever build a time machine we should go back and kidnap all of those evil dictators and tyrans and put them into a concentration camp and give them some nice and well deserved torture….Cadorna is a person that should be in that lot !!

  22. Is this series going to end in 2018? Because while the world war did, fighting didn't with the Russian Revolution and whatnot as direct results of the World War. And other significant events that happend shortly and because of WW1. Such as the League of Nations. Why Wilson opted out. How the Treaty of Versailles was a bad move in hinsight.
    The failed Hungerian Revolution of 1919 and German Revolution of 1918–19. The Ukrainian War of Independence of 1917-1921. etc

    Consider the fallout and further violence did the war even really end in 1918?

  23. I liked the episode, but after 8:40 it became too fast. For example I had no idea before who was Ali Dinar, or where was Darfur so I had to look it up. And then I realized I had no idea from the show why and by whom he was killed. Should I joy or grieve.

    I do not regret I looked the story up, because I learned much about the Egyptian Labour Corps(ELC) and Egyptian Camel Transport Corps(CTC), and a bit of colonial politics.

    Basically you said a fact that 1guy died. For an event to describe there are three necessary requirements beside the 'what happened' : 'when', 'where', 'why'. From this you used only the when and where. So you missed an opportunity to describe an interesting event.
    Not very important from the perspective of a great war. Just like Rudolph Lambart was also not very important, still that was one of the most catching part in the show what was done very well.

    You could sad in the show that the Sultan was killed by the British because he was pro Ottoman. Even this small information is useful. He used the Senussi as contacts which would be interesting. Since yo talked about the Senussi before, it would ring a bell for some . Or you could mentioned the half-year long campaign's goal to annex Darfur into Sudan.

    But even if you would not want to dive into politics. Giving quick facts can make a difference in a show:
    The bill of the cost of the invasion was sent to Egypt to tax it out of the Egyptian taxpayers. And it was half a million pounds.(£500,000)
    Or the sunked liner costed £250,000. So from two liners they can invade an african sultanate:)

  24. Hello there Indy and crew! Great work and great show!

    I'll bring a bit of controversy, a request and a couple of questions.

    Lenin wasn't expecting the revolution in 1916 and bolshevik party was up for peace (it was one of their three slogans when they took the power on 1917). Maybe he said that war helped the start or Russian Revolution, but I don't think he was calculating so early the course of events that would lead to the fall of zarism.

    Please when the show reach the point of the exit of Russia of the war don't stop telling the events of the eastern front as many histories of the WWI do.

    What sources are you going to use to talk about the Russian Revolution? Are you familliar with the works of Isaac Deuschter and Yevgeny Tarle?

    Greetings from Buenos Aires,

    Martín Gorojovsky.

  25. The fact that the Italian military police (I think they are the "Regi Carabinieri") placed machine guns behind the lines seems to me an idiocy copied verbatim by what happened in the Red Army at Stalingrad in 1942,but that is never mentioned in any testimony of Italian veterans of the Great War. It doesn't seem possible to me also for the technical impossibility of placing a machine gun in a trench; nor the Royal Carabinieri had an adequate number of machine-gun companies.

  26. Who would rank worse as a Chief of Staff:  Cadorna or Hotzendorf? Thoughts?  I think that if they do another 11 stupid moves of the middle war , either of them would probably be in the top 3 or 4 :Hotzendorf for redeploying the troops from Galicia for the Trentino offensive( and destabilizing the eastern front in time for the Brusilov offensive) , and Cadorna for his repeated attacks on the Isonzo.

  27. Really excellent article on Haig's Somme attack this week 100 years ago. Blames Haig the General less than Haig the aristocrat for being the bearer of medieval ideals about war, honor, elan and callous disregard for the men sent to their deaths under an overarching Maltuhsian "culling" of the masses current in the ruling class ethos, one that survives into the present era.

  28. Actually, what was the situation in Austria-Hungary like in general? I have a Czech friend who seems to hate talking about his nation's history and I don't see a way it would not relate to WWI.

  29. Hey Indy, would it be possible to, on the maps, include borders that moved with the front lines to actually visualise where each country had expanded to?
    Otherwise love the show! keep it up!

  30. Back in the time when Conrad von Hötzendorft was the greatest villan of the war, I read a comment that warned "wait until you met Cadorna". I wonder if in the next episodes Cadorna could stop amezing me.

  31. Started watching the series 7 days ago. Just finished this episode. Absolutely love your show!!
    Now i feel a little lost cause i'm out of videos 😉

  32. Hi there The Great War team. Where did you find that Lenin was relieved that a separate peace was not concluded between Germany and Russia? I can only find this article he wrote in 1916 on the possibility of a separate peace: . To me it doesn't seem like he opposes a separate peace but that he just drives home his point that a separate peace concluded by what he called the bourgeois governments would set the stage for a new war. Perhaps you have a different source? Or was this something he didn't state publicly?

  33. germany's chief of staff was fired after taking poland from russians occupying some french land but Cadorna was still chief of staff after fighting 9 battles in same place and not even having major victory and breakthrough

  34. Just wondering about the Italian officer you guys quoted @7:23. Could you give a specific source about where you found that and who exactly wrote it? It's a perfect summation of so many of the failures of the war!

  35. Portuguese troops join the war, not knowing that they were heading up to the La Lys disaster in april 1918. At that time the government desired for joining the western front to appease internal turmoil, bounding people against an enemy.

  36. Cadorna a was a typical example of arrogant asshole produced in vast amounts from the ignorant, well fed military academy elites , the WORST part was the cowardly order of shooting their own soldier that the military police executed all too well….if there ever was a pretty good reason to have a revolution in Italy and hung the king and the whole lot of the military police this was it…..

  37. If I served in a war as fucked up as WW1 and lived, I'd go to the veteran's graveyard after the war, find every grave with an MP in it, and desecrate the shit out of it for what they'd have done to my brothers in arms.

  38. This reminds me of what Gen. Douglas MacArthur said: "There is no substitute for victory." If you plunge your troops into useless offensives where nothing is won or accomplished and they don't know why they're fighting then naturally morale is going to fall. I have a feeling most armies seem to forget this concept.

  39. Portuguese go to war, I do not know if I should congratulate or cry!
    Can do do talk about "Milagre de Tancos" (Miracle of Tancos) and a special about situation of Portugal?and if is not very to ask in december of 2017 is the 100 years of rise to power of Sidonio Pais, a president-"dictator", can do talk about in?
    Is the first of the dictators of the so-called nationalists who came to power
    (if you need help about portuguese i can help)
    Great show!

  40. Too bad that they didn't execute some of the generals who caused more harm to their own people than they did to the enemy —
    Hötzendorf and Potiorek of Austria
    Enver Pasha of the Ottoman Empire
    Cadorna of Italy
    Nivelle of France
    Haig of the U.K.

  41. Some people wonder why so many other people refuse to be soldiers. "Why are so many people are against conscription? Serving their country!". They wonder what is so bad about forced military service.

    Just look at all those cases. Soldiers' lives thrown away without any sort of mercy or hesitancy whatsoever. Coward and/or ignorant leaders, causing the deaths of millions for no good reason. Even going as far as blaming the men for not gladly giving their lives for nothing more than causing minimal damage to the enemy's defense.

    Treating their men as cattle and throwing them into useless meatgrinders. Forcing them to die, either by the enemies' hands or by their own superiors officers' hands. All just so that those who give the orders could continue to play games with the lives of others. Using individuals as pawns to be exploited by the higher ups.

    Modern war truly exacerbate cases such as these. Modern technology allows the killing of men to be done on unprecedented scale. Meanwhile, modern technology also allows information to reach us.

    I just hope that more and more people realize how cruel and oppressive it's to force someone to go through such experiences. That it creates awareness and disolves ignorance. That the knowledge of these monstrosities helps to save lives.

  42. You don't here much about the Italian genocide!
    I'm sure Cardona is now in his rightful place in afterlife.

  43. Like that saying "The bureaucracy is growing to meet the needs of the growing bureaucracy", The war is growing to meet the needs of the growing war

  44. Yay Communists – "let's let everyone else keep fighting each other, then we'll take over once they've worn each other down".

  45. Seventh attack in Somme?!! So, now Haig has officially entered the holy trinity of Legendary Great War Generals, who specialized in killing their own men.

  46. Hasnt Italy another general worthy enough to replace Cadorna? At that stage it is obvious this man doesnt make sense at all, how come nobody could see it in the government? Cardona should have been executed long ago!

  47. About the military police I once read this episode in the diary of an Italian soldier: during an offensive he was given the order to hand deliver a message. Upon returning he saw that his entire unit got annihilated and he was behind the enemy; he passed the night hidden and woke up in a puddle of blood realizing that he was injured. He could still walk and the enemy had retreated so he was able to reach the Italian lines and start to go towards the field hospital on foot, but he got caught by the military police, ordering him to go back while pointing their rifles at him. He had to show them his wound to be able to go on, if I remember correctly they didn't even help him and had to keep walking on his own towards the hospital.

  48. The Austro-Hungarians had von Hötzendorf, the Italians had Cadorna, and the English had Haig.

  49. It's kind of sad that if the war ended "before christmas" and either of the sides won decisively, there would be no Poland. Just transfer of the polish territory from the losing side to the winning one. It seems it was absolutely necessary for the whole of Europe to literally bleed dry for my country to be independent. Scary, and funny. In "polish mythology" there is a notion of "Poland as the Christ of Nations", but the bloody sacrifice it required to be risen from the abbys seems to place it as a (very much passive) Satan.

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