Mechanised War In Mesopotamia – Toplica Uprising I THE GREAT WAR Week 135

Every nation fighting this war had a propaganda
machine in place by this time, the newspapers telling the people exactly what they needed
to hear to be convinced to continue fighting the war. But when that’s not enough, it’s time
to get tough, to get organized. Time to establish a Department of Information. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week the British made progress in Mesopotamia,
clearing the right bank of the Tigris of the enemy near Kut. There was Russian action in the skies of the
Eastern Front, skirmishing on the Western Front, and neutral Americans held as prisoners
of war in Germany. Here’s what followed. It seemed that modern mechanized war was truly
coming to Mesopotamia, for starters, as British artillery near Kut overwhelmed any Ottoman
counter attacks as the British advanced up the Tigris River toward Kut-al-Amara. The Ottomans still held strong positions at
Sanniyat, though. But the Ottoman commander, General Khalil
Pasha, had been overconfident in his men’s ability to play defense and had sent several
divisions to the Persian front. There were now simply not enough troops to
withstand General Sir Stanley Maude and the reorganized and revitalized British. Maude had a plan to avoid a direct assault
on Sanniyat by crossing the Tigris upstream from Kut at the Shumran Bend. This would be really risky, but he prepared
well, with three pontoon bridges made ready and a diversionary attack at Sanniyat to pin
down the Ottoman reserves. At 5:15 the morning of the 23rd, they attacked. The Ottoman counter fire was fierce but the
British held a bridgehead just long enough to get a pontoon bridge up. When the Ottomans realized what was happening,
they evacuated Sanniyat to avoid being cut off, and as the week came to an end, they
began evacuating Kut itself. Another army was also being pushed back this
week, on the Western Front. The Germans. On February 17th, the British made gains on
both sides of the River Ancre, capturing 761 German soldiers, including 12 officers. During the preliminary artillery bombardment
a British artillery sergeant left the trenches with a telephone, made it to a shell hole
for cover in a forward position, and directed the gunfire that destroyed the German barbed
wire emplacements. This sort of combat activity continued all
week. On the 20th, New Zealand troops penetrated
German lines south of Armentieres 300m, wrecking dugouts and trench works. Southeast of Ypres, the British penetrated
500m after desperate fighting, taking 114 prisoners and several machine guns. The steady pressure on the Germans since the
beginning of February had yielded results far beyond British Field Marsha l Sir Douglas
Haig’s expectations. The Germans had been forced to abandon their
front on the Ancre and move to new defenses on Bapaume Ridge. This retreat covered about 5km, and the British
occupied a number of German strongholds with no fighting. The Germans had saved their guns but had destroyed
ammunition dumps with loads of ammunition they couldn’t take with them. By this week it really began to seem like
the Germans were up to something, but the foggy weather prevented British airmen from
seeing just what it was. The Germans were, in fact, up to something,
but if the British can’t see what it was then neither can we, for the time being. Something else happened as the week drew to
a close that would have huge ramifications later on. Now, over the past couple weeks I’ve talked
a lot about the situation between Germany and the United States, especially since the
US broke off diplomatic relations between the two. Last month I mentioned a telegram sent by
German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann to the German ambassador in Mexico City. The telegram proposed an alliance between
Germany and neutral Mexico whereby Mexico would declare war on the US. Germany would provide huge financial support
and Mexico would receive its former territory in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. Pretty serious intrigue – getting one neutral
nation to attack another one to prevent that one from going to war with yourself. Anyhow, the German trans-Atlantic telegraph
cable had been cut, so Zimmermann used a British owned cable that President Woodrow Wilson
had provided him for negotiations, and he sent the coded telegram. He and the rest of the German command were
unaware that Britain had long ago cracked the code and was reading Germany’s trans-Atlantic
telegrams. This one was a bombshell – if this went public
it would be a propaganda weapon of enormous power. But if it went public it would also reveal
that Britain had cracked the German code, so for a month British intelligence did nothing. Until this week, when they found a way to
disguise how they’d got the telegram – they’d pretend that they got it from a ship they’d
intercepted. On February 23rd, 1917, British Foreign Secretary
Arthur Balfour shared the contents with the American ambassador in London, who shared
it with US Secretary of State Robert Lansing, who shared it with Wilson. Wilson was furious, but willing to keep it
a secret until it could have maximum impact. See, handling propaganda had become ever more
important as the war continued. Before 1917, nations like France, Britain,
and Germany had relied on a fairly easily maintained censorship of the press, had told
their people that the war was being won, and that the enemy was evil incarnate. Looking back, a lot of it seems ridiculous
today. The German story was that they were fighting
a defensive war against a gang of nations set on destroying Germany. The British and French stories were just the
opposite – they were defending civilization from Germans that wanted to rule the world. Both sides wrote grisly stories of enemy atrocities. You could read stories about Germans cutting
off the hands of French boys so they could never become soldiers, or on the other side
you could read that the Russians were poisoning lakes in East Prussia and that the British
and French gouged out the eyes of German prisoners. And EVERYONE lied and manipulated the media;
heck newspapers ran decade old photos from Russian pogroms against Jews as new photos
of what Germans were doing in Belgium (A World Undone). But things began to change around now. The British government began to target pacifists
and conscientious objectors. Pacifist leaders were arrested when addressing
assembled workers. This was in reaction to ever increasing strikes
and protests, but it ignored the real causes – long work hours under harsh conditions,
the rising cost of living, and lack of food. Strikers were accused of treason and the governments
began to institutionalize their efforts to bring the public to heel. This month in Britain, Prime Minister David
Lloyd George established the Department of information to better control what the public
was told. He would soon create the National War Aims
Committee, which despite its name was created to neutralize domestic dissent. “The committee’s aim was to persuade workers
that there could be no negotiated peace with a barbaric foe”. (World Undone) But domestic dissent was not reserved for
Western Europe. This week saw the beginning of the Toplica
uprising. This was a Serbian rebellion against Bulgarian
rule in occupied territory in the Balkans. Kosta Vojinovich, who had established a resistance
last summer, and Kosta Pechanac, who had been flown into the Toplica region to also establish
resistance were the leaders, but the Serbs in general were angry about the denationalization
of the Serbian people in occupied territories. Serbian language and traditions were prohibited,
Serbian schools had been closed, and books had been burned, but now the Bulgarians announced
they would conscript local Serbs into their army, and many conscripts fled to the mountains. It was there that the first armed conflicts
between them and the Bulgarians occurred, and from headquarters on Kopaonik, Vojinovich
and Pechanac declared the rebellion on February 21st. And that was the week, the British homing
in on Kut. Also advancing in the west as the Germans
pulled back, though that advance was suspiciously easy. Action on the Italian front on the 10th east
of Gorizia, as Austrian forces managed to enter Italian trenches and take 15 officers
and 650 enlisted men prisoner, and the establishment of a new agency for propaganda. It wasn’t just Britain, though, that was
establishing new agencies and methods of propaganda. France’s new propaganda agency focused on
spreading tales of German atrocities, and that the war was a crusade to save justice
and liberty. In Germany, General Erich Ludendorff began
a program of instruction in patriotism, to persuade the disheartened – and hungry – German
public that they were saving civilization. Here’s a telling quote from him about propaganda
(World Undone), “Good propaganda must keep well ahead of actual political events. It must act as pacemaker to policy and mold
public opinion without appearing to do so. Before political aims are translated into
action, the world has to be convinced of their necessity and moral justification”. You can guess the long-term results of all
this, when the real world is abandoned. The propagandists saw to it that whoever lost
the war would feel absolutely and irredeemably wronged, and whoever won would have enormous
difficulties in dealing with any sense of reason or rationality with the populations
of the defeated nations. Another gruesome reality of modern war. A big propaganda tool was actually film, the
fairly new mass medium. We made a whole special about propaganda film
and you can check that out right here. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Geovanna
Ramirez – support our show via Patreon or by buying our official Merchandise. You can also like us on Facebook for more
WW1 facts. See you next time.

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. The propaganda of Germans cutting off French hands… reminds me of French cutting of English longbowmen's fingers…

  2. Hey Indy I think you may really enjoy this ww1 reenactment thing we did with fireworks, it's in trenches and everything and it's pretty crazy, we just didn't have uniforms or anything but the giant explosions make up for that

  3. Just a book recommendation based on the topic of Propaganda: Preachers Present Arms by Ray H. Abrams offers (Published originally in 1933) offers an excellent view of the Preparedness Movement,The Committee on Public Information, and the role of churches in America. Who helped to spread nationalistic propaganda, fund-raise for Liberty Loans, and to recruit soldiers once the US entered the war.

  4. Hello Indy and team,

    Regards from India.

    How were the British and British colonial troops organized militarily. For eg During the Mesopotamian Campaigns if British Indian Army were fighting alongside the British Army, upto what levels were these two armies segregated militarily, if at all. Were there mixed divisions of troops having regiments from both these armies with barely any distinctions between the respective two armies or were they strictly segregated like those of the British and French Armies on the western front but having similar objectives?

    Thanks again,


  5. 4:20 "Germany would provide huge financial support…" Payed with what – their Papier-mark currency they already have significantly decreased the value of? What could Germany offer Mexico when Germany already is strained keeping Austria-Hungary and the Ottomans in the war? Even if they magically produced a huge surplus of cannons and guns, how will they ever be able to ship them to Mexico across the Atlantic while eluding the naval blockade that slowly and surely starves them into submission (why they resumed unrestricted submarine warfare in the first place having no other choice) ? It seems as if Germany is making big promises they're unable to keep.

    As for the war propaganda from the war. It's fair to say nothing has really changed since then. Only now we have Hollywood movies to demonize the enemy and biased "news" networks who portray the latest war as some "noble crusade" – and btw the crusades themselves only started when several important shipping harbors in Asia Minor fell to the Muslims and the Catholic Church found its finances seriously compromised. Most disturbing are those trying to white-knight some people in order to justify their own involvement.

    For those who mention I.S. ISIS and ISIL didn't happen in a vacuum no more than Hitler did in 1930's Germany. Extremists always gain a lot of support in places where people have been given the short stick for way too long by their conquerors. Btw, we don't have our own extremists in our own countries do we….? Of course we do, and yet we're well off and comparatively happy. Now imagine a new Great Depression in the world. Oh dear, oh dear.

  6. I love this channel. As an American, World War One is often overlooked because of how long ago it was and America's duty in the war. We truly didn't have to experience the hardship that the European countries did during this time so it is easily forgotten. However, thanks to Indy and the team I am able to learn more and share more to show others how important this war actually was. Keep up the great work guys!

  7. Fake news then – Fake news now. Is anything to be believed?  We should    question everything.

    Awesome video. Explained so well that I enjoy listening.

  8. Tried looking for what happened in the last weeks of the war, but realized the show is doing the war week by week and won't be done for another year and 3 quarters.

  9. Excellent segment with the timely reference to propaganda and our contemporary dangers of abandoning truth in the era of fake news. However, in this modern Internet setting with global lateral peer to peer communication, abandoning the truth in favor of omission, distortion and demonization is one dangerous puppy that will come back to bite its practitioners on the butt. I'm really anticipating future segments on the arrival of US troops on the battle line and the high voltage short circuit of the ruling class that was the bolshevik revolution.

  10. Indy, I have spent the last couple of weeks discovering his channel and catching up. You and your crew are amazing for putting this together! I learned so much about this war thanks to you guys. And I didn't even come for Battlefield 1!

  11. I feel like I'm watching a very suspenseful movie, I wonder where the Germans are going with their plans in the west. Very excited

  12. As you probably well know, History always tends to repeat itself. When Government or Government agencies are allowed to control the news and propagandize the people by spreading false or misleading info about the so called “enemy” to get their agenda across it always tends to lead to greater problems and lasting effects. You can look at the US Elections, and the President today. The media reports false and misleading news and has painted the new US President as the NEW Hitler. They don’t speak about Migrant problems in Germany, France and especially Sweden, yet when president Trump talks about Rapes, Attacks, and Riots in Sweden as an example that mass-migration can be dangerous for any county, the news says he’s lying, making it up and that its not happening, when it clearly is. People are getting misled and lied too by the news and their government. Not to get to political, but the point I’m trying to make is that propaganda can work so much that it can brainwash many people, even after a war. I’m sure some British Solders really believe that Germans would eat babies or some crazy stuff they were told, same as people today think Donald Trump is the New Hitler or that the Russians are behind EVERYTHING. You got a bad hair cut? It wasn’t the Hair Dresser it was the Russians. Putin clearly told her to give you a buzz cut. If Germany doesn’t vote for Merkel, it wasn’t the people choosing who they want to vote for, it was the Russians. Some people today STILL think all Germans are Nazi’s and hate Jews. Look at Bands like Rammstein, like them or not, they play all over the world, they respect every country they go too, yet they are still called Nazi’s because they sing in German and are proud of where they are from…that isn't right. Some people in the US Really think Trump will exterminate all Disabled people…?  Propaganda, and misinformation has lasting effects and I don’t think the government should get involved and the news should report the news as it is, good or bad. Report the truth. Let people make up their own mind, the media and government shouldn’t tell people what they should believe, during times of war and times of peace. Learn from History so not to repeat it.

    Thank you for all you do, I've been a fan and subscriber from the beginning and big supporter of what you guys do. Keep up the amazing work and stay safe in this crazy world.  🙂

  13. Love the series ….However I would love to see a special, later in 1917, on the unknown but brilliant English General Herbert Plumer, one of the only Generals regarded by soldiers who served under him.

  14. In South Africa this week we had a commemoration for the sinking of the SS Mendi on 21 February 1917 just off the Isle of Wight after accidently colliding with the SS Darro. 615 out of 882 drowned, nearly all of them black South Africans enroute to working on the French Front. It fits in timely with your propaganda discussion as well because both the NP and the ANC tended to steer clear of this tragedy, except if the narrative could be used to further specific political aims.

  15. YES! I'm FINALLY caught up! At least with the main show. still gotta work out on out of the trenches, who did what in WWI, etc

  16. "So you mean to tell me i have to go hungry and get my children killed on the battlefield because some dude got capped in Austro-Hungary?"
    "Yes, and if you don't like it you are a traitor"

  17. How was Mexico's army during that time? Would they have the slightest chance of succeding? Or did the Germans just count on Mexico's leaders being extremely stupid?

  18. I don't know if you think it is necessary or not but would you mind me asking something for the show or out of the trenches:

    As you pointed out in the video "If the British can't see what the Germans are up to, neither can we." the show is generally or currently more from a british perspective and when talking about the Germans it feels less like insight on the Germans but a report on the Germans from said britisch perspective.

    Could we maybe get a direct insight on the circumstances, situation and events in the german OHL, the generals, their thoughts and personal believe, from a more german perspective ? Just to get a feeling for the two-sided perspectives of the war and the situation for the german generals, talking about their behaviour, their mindsets and other such things.

    Generally I feel the series has been talking more about american, french, british or other sorts of such documentations, but that could just be me or the fact, that we might simply have more of these sources to fall back on.

    As far as I know the idea I proposed has also not been done for the triple entente so maybe you could do this for both sides.
    It would definetly be interesting to watch.

    Thanks for the show and keep up the great work !

  19. The tree at 2:22 into the episode reminded me of a recent awareness of the "Observation Post Tree". For example see :

  20. After two months, I'm finally caught up. I would have done it faster, but college, track, job and girlfriend prevented that.

  21. And the carnage just dragged on and on and…….
    I can perfectly imagine the sheer desparation of the British and French soldiers and many civilians at home, who at this stage thought the war would never end.

  22. One propaganda Canada used was the story of the Crucified Soldier where Germans Crucified a Canadian Soldier with bayonets on a tree or a barn door

  23. that's what I like about British and it's colonies. they seems quite unequipped, untrained and unprepared at the start but as they learn with their mistakes they r no army to mess with, putting it in context look at the development in the british performance since the beginning of the war, they were getting rammed by the German and play mainly on defense but now they r on the hunt and butt raping the Germans.

  24. I remember Hittler in Main Kampf praising the propaganda of the Uk during WW1 as being superiour to the German one.
    One of his points is that the german propaganda depicted allied soldiers as week and cowerds but the german soldier was always comfronted by strong and brave allied soldiers who were never like those soldiers from propaganda films..
    While the allies depicted the german soldier as a monster who should be faught to the death… witch the allied soldiers did.

  25. This should be required viewing for anyone who thinks government control or censorship of the media is a good thing.

  26. I dunno, sounds like some kind of tactical retreat with a feigned defense going on. What and where they are retreating to I don't know (obviously) but i'd hazard a guess at a stronger defensive line of some kind but I would never dare imagine it as being something elaborate or as highly planned a defensive position as it may turn out to be .

  27. a push of 1km and more than 500 prisoners must have been ecstacy . watch Blackadder Goes Forth for a perspective

  28. Indy, just wondering if you ever referenced Tim Cook's WWI books – "Shock Troops", "At the Sharp End" and "Vimy". Well sourced story about the Canadian Corp on the Western Front.

  29. So every nation in the war was basically perfecting #fakenews, and still perfecting it 100 years hence.

  30. though before hand the brits should offer the US a applogy for violating there neutrality for the taps.

  31. I know this is a little whataboutism, but you completely neglect what the Serbians did during the Balkan Wars, which "justifies" Bulgarian actions a little.
    Greetings from Germany, still an awesome channel!

  32. General Maude actually seems competent. I notice 1917 as his date of death – not a chateau general then!

  33. Best regiment in Serbia army came from Toplica region.That regiment was elite regiment in Serbian army called ,,Iron Regiment". Greetings from Toplica region!

  34. The propaganda machines do their job, even after they've long died. Just look at the comments section for evidence.

  35. This started in 1917. I wonder just how much of our daily life is infiltrated with propaganda without anyone realizing it now.

  36. The Great War is more or less a propaganda peace from the stand point of the victors. The Toplica uprising was prepared by the Serbs prior to their defeat leaving able bodied man unconscripted. The population in the area were ethnically Bulgarian and the name of the local river was called Bulgarian Morava for a reason. This population was brainwashed to believe they were Serbs when after a Russian Turkish war the Serbs convinced the Great Powers that a local Bulgarian rebellion was Serbian and Turkey was forced to give the territory to Serbia. But i have to be grateful that the absurd Serbian propaganda about Bulgarian atrocities are not voiced here Nevertheless neither is there mention of the real burning of a Bulgarian city by the bandits of Kosta Pecanc. Same city was awarded to Serbia after the war and remain there to this day. The Bulgarian minority there tried not to long ago to publicly acknowledge the crimes against Bulgarian civilians and the burning of the town during WW1 but were prevented to do so by the Serb authorities.

  37. I bet that the rich did not suffer of food shortage or long working hours.Western propaganda exposed :)).

  38. How can you be a pacifist in a war like that? contrary to what everyone seems to think, that war did not happen for no reason, Austria attack serbia and nations came to it's aid. even today if your country was attacked, other nation would come to defend you because it is what is right.

  39. Another terrific episode. What you say about propaganda is a breath of fresh air. I don't know if it was this one or the last episode where you mention 10 year old photos of Russian anti-Semitic pogroms being presented as new photos of German atrocities in Belgium. When I was in elementary school we were shown several anti-communist propaganda movies. Even as 5th and 6th graders, in the 1960s we were puzzled why soldiers clearly in Japanese Army uniforms were said to be Red Chinese burying people alive. After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the Congressional hearings were clearly just a re-tread of Belgian War Crimes. Iraqi soldiers taking babies out of incubators and smashing their heads? The girl who claimed to have witnessed this, hadn't been out of the U.S. in years. Plus ca change….. The Luddendorf quote is very informative and ominous….and illustrative not just of WWI but how states, bureaucracies and institutions turn malignant.

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