Over By Christmas? – Growing Allied Confidence I THE GREAT WAR Week 213


You launch a series of stunningly successful
offensives over a period of months, and yet, when they’re over you find yourself in a
worse position then when you started. How can that be? Let’s take a look. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week, the Battle of Amiens ended, with
a resounding Allied victory that really shook the Germans. This was a part of the new Allied strategy
of launching small attacks all up and down the western front. Allied troops continued arriving in Vladivostok
as well, even as Russia’s Bolshevik government launched a terror campaign against its internal
opponents. In the Caucasus, Baku managed to defend itself
from the Ottomans. But disorder within Baku was growing and growing
and Lionel Dunsterville – in command of the small British force there – was pessimistic. He had been under the impression that he was
bringing limited technical help to train the locals to defend themselves; the locals thought
the British were coming to fight for them. He had just three battalions from the Midlands. Baku itself could be pretty easily defended
from the west where there were steep but not very high cliffs and the gap of Wolf’s Gate. Heck, one battalion was probably enough for
that, but northwest of the city the cliffs disappear into flatlands, and that was also
where some of the main oil fields and refineries were located, as well as where the railway
entered the town, so defensive lines were going to have to be stretched up there, and
that’s like a 25km front. It would be tricky, if it were at all possible,
to defend the city from that direction. Further south, some other British were trying
to fool the Ottomans. On August 20th, the British Imperial Camel
Corps, having ridden all the way across the desert from Al Mudawwarah in under two weeks,
was now some 25 km southeast of Amman. They learned that the Ottomans were in force
between them and the Amman railway, which they had come to sabotage. But even if they couldn’t do that, they
could still fool the enemy into thinking they were far more than they actually were all
over the region. So each man opened 3 or 4 tins of bully beef,
destroyed the contents, and littered the cans around. The cars they had with them drove around like
crazy, leaving all sorts of crisscrossed tire tracks. They even took animal droppings that they
burned as fuel and scattered that around to suggest a whole lot more camels. Then they headed out. By this time, Edmund Allenby’s overall plan
of deception, ahead of his planned September offensive, seemed to be working. If he could convince the Ottoman 8th Army,
under German Liman von Sanders, that he would be attacking to the east of the Ottoman lines
across the River Jordan as he had before, Sanders was in for a nasty surprise. The Germans were being repeatedly surprised
on the Western Front, though, unable to gauge where the next Allied attack would come. This week saw the Battle of the Ailette, conducted
by Charles Mangin and the French 10th Army. It was a success, and after the French attacked
between Soissons and Compiegne the 20th, German Quartermaster General Erich Ludendorff will
call this a second “black day for the German army” (Stevenson) The British army launches the Battle of Albert
– also called the Battle of Bapaume – the 21st. Here, it’s Julian Byng and the 3rd army
using tanks to take the Albert-Arras railway. Byng attacked with 13 infantry and 2 cavalry
divisions, and five tank battalions numbering 156 tanks. Now, they attacked on a 20 km front, which
was pretty wide for that size force, but the Germans only had ten divisions opposing them. The New Zealand Rifle Brigade had spearheaded
the attack the 21st, and by leapfrogging as the British had at Amiens, by the end of the
week the frontline was east of the Albert-Arras railway, and they had taken 5,000 prisoners
in just the first two days (Generals) On August 20th, with the French at the outskirts
of Lassigny, Allied Supreme Commander Ferdinand Foch is now confident enough that he writes
French PM Georges Clemenceau and said they can secure victory in 1919. The French recaptured Lassigny the 21st. That day when the attack on the River Somme
was resumed, British Commander Sir Douglas Haig said he thought they could win by the
end of the year. On the Somme front, though, the Germans still
outnumbered the allies 42 divisions to 32 (Gilbert), but the Allies had momentum and
morale. They began taking all of the scenes of the
bloodiest fighting from 1916 as the week came to an end. But let’s look at the overall German situation
in the west, now with a month of hindsight since their last Western Front Offensives. The Germans, beginning in March, had put together
the greatest string of tactical successes of the whole war, and yet they had not produced
any great advantage, let alone strategic victory. In fact, it was the opposite; Germany in August
1918 was in a far weaker strategic position than it had been at the beginning of the year. It was now weaker in manpower and equipment
than its opponents; and I mean both quantitatively and qualitatively, and morale was at a new
low. And the reasons for the failures? In “The German 1918 Offensives”, David
Zabecki has quite a lot to say about that. On a strategic level, he thinks the offensives
were doomed from the start in terms of achieving a true military victory. They had only a slight numerical superiority,
but their equipment was inferior and worn, and they had an inadequate supply system. They may, however, have been able to convince
the allies that Germany itself could not be defeated militarily, and entered into peace
negotiations from a position of strength, but they didn’t do this. They could, Zabecki argues, with better operational
design, have split the British from the French, and probably even driven the British off the
continent, but then what? Britain wasn’t going to abandon the fight
as long as Germany held the Belgian coast, Britain – and the Allies – had naval superiority
and the blockade was strangling Germany. The Americans could have just been re-directed
to Britain for an eventual counterattack like – spoiler alert – what happened a couple decades
later. Thing is: “On the tactical level, the Germans
were formidable opponents. Their discipline, training, leadership, and
tactical doctrine produced units that were almost impossible to beat in anything approaching
evenly matched force-to-force encounters, either on the defense or the offense… The German army’s greatest tactical handicap
was its mobility, which limited its ability to maneuver to operational depth.” But even off the Western Front, looking at
the total German picture, you saw other major problems. G.J. Meyer writes in “A World Undone”,
“Further to the east, the folly that had been Brest-Litovsk was continuing to draw
German troops into a military, political, and economic quagmire. They had to occupy the city of Kharkov deep
inside Ukraine to maintain some vestige of control and any hope of extracting grain…
they had to move into the Donets Basin… in search of fuel for the decrepit railways
taken from the Russians. They had to stretch their lines of communication
into the Crimea to discourage an Allied advance from the Middle East.” This were looking grim for them all over. On the 22nd, the Allies announced their aims
with the landings at Archangel. Those forces were called in by the “legitimate
representative of the Murman government” to expel the Germans and annul Brest-Litovsk. They guarantee no interference in internal
Russian affairs. That’s interesting, because this week after
secret negotiations between the Soviets and Germans, the Soviets recognize an independent
Georgian state. This is part of the German machinations to
secure Baku and its oil. But this causes anti-German sentiment to grow
and grow in the Turkish press. And as for the Soviets, this week saw them
again lose Irkutsk to the Czechoslovak Legion. And that brings us to the end of a rather
confusing week of an almost impossibly confusing war. A ruse by the Imperial Camel Corps on the
Palestine Front, defense issues in the Caucasus, Allied successes on the Western Front, an
overall depressing situation for the Germans, but specifically – tactical success but overall
failure for them on the Western Front. But the Germans’ single greatest flaw, according
to Zabecki, and if you read his monumental work on the German 1918 offensives, there’s
not a whole lot of reason to dispute him, was the lack of clearly defined strategic
and operational objectives. Even postwar, Ludendorff and Chief of Staff
Paul von Hindenburg in their writings still don’t have any clear vision of a concrete
military objective this year. Or a concrete political one. What Ludendorff was doing this summer, and
this he did admit in his writing, was keeping the initiative, keeping the attacks going,
in the hope of exploiting whatever opportunities came up. Well, American General Gordon Sullivan once
said, “Hope is not a method”. But, as Zabecki points out, hope was the only
method German High Command had left in the summer of 1918. If you want to get David Zabecki’s book
about the German Spring Offensive, you can get it via the link below in the description
and if you buy it there we get a small cut from the checkout price. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Michael
Harrington who is supporting our show in memory of his great uncle Timothy who died this month
100 years ago in The Great War. Don’t forget to subscribe, see you next
time.

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. Think back to 2014 and think about all the time that has passed, to today in 2018 and think about the poor lads who spent that much time in the trenches who fought for our freedom.

  2. I mean the germans should have evidently tried an Artillery Only offensive. When will you play artillery only indy?

  3. One quick question, did the other fronts gone quiet? I mean after the italian recapacitated what happened?, what about the macedonian front? those guys must be rotten in their trenches

  4. That've been feeding us this narrative for 4 years now. The central powers will recover in 1919, I have the upmost confidence.

  5. Wars are both started and ended by the politicians. The German armed forces had done all that they could but only the politicians could end the war.

  6. 3:43 Soldiers of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade were known as " the dinks " , the brigade's motto was Soyez Ferme, ( Stand Fast ). One of the brigade's most famous actions was the storming of the ramparts of the fortified village of Le Quesnoy in the last week of the war.

  7. In a few days Lt. Walter Jean Harper, USA, CWS, would leave New York Harbor for an 11 day voyage to France. My grandfather.

  8. whats going to happen to this channel once the war officially ends? will indy cover the friekorps or the russian civil war?

  9. QUESTION: what were Austria-Hungary final objectives in WW1? Being Italian, it is not clear to me especially what did they wanted with us. Re-conquer Venice? Milan? Annex Northern Italy? Us, We wanted Trento and Trieste, but them??

  10. It sounds like Ludendorff had the same approach on the strategic level that he had on the tactical level: stormtroopers attacking constantly, keeping the initiative, exploiting openings in the hope of creating a general breakthrough.

  11. guys. your amazon shop links doesn't work. been noticing this in several vids. wanted to browse the resources you use. i know you list some outright, but wanted to make sure you get your cut.

  12. The Amazon link does not seem to work. I have tried it off and on for the past several months and it just says page is unavailable.

  13. waiting to see what will happen. the military term for this is 'giving up the initiative' it means you're waiting for the others side and it never goes well for you from that point on

  14. as the war ends in november 11 1918 100 years from then i will start collecting a 6mm german ww1 army and make plans for recreating a great ww1 campaign im sure this time the germans will win right?O_o

  15. I have a question for "out of the trenches" what happens to the soldiers personal belongings in the trenches after he is killed? do they send it back to the family? or do they just dump the stuff somewhere? Thank indy and crew!

  16. the germans would have defiantly won if the americans had not gotten involved, they would have still probably crushed the british and french had they been given more time

  17. watched all your vids and only now noticed the caltrops on the suitcase. Were they used regularly in the war? or was it deemed a waste of metal considering other such items like barbed wire could be used with that material.

  18. Indy, it is not far to say german did find a objective point that would force the empty to surrender if no such objective exists. If you want to say a the german were a fault for not finding an objective wroth holding, than point out an objective that would have forced the allies to their knees. Short of taking Paris or making it the the English channel both of which were to far away for a single battle to get to. I do not find this a valid argument.

  19. at 7:35 – 7:40 you talk about the legitimate representative of the merman government at a conference on archangel. my question is, what was the merman government? were they only on archangel? or was this like a typo and its meant to say german?

  20. Are you going to cover the Battle of San Matteo? It was Austria-Hungary’s last victory of the war, and the battle ended on September 3.

  21. So, if the German's had thrown everything the had, in Marxh, for one objective: Paris, do ir die, they wouldn't have been able to pull that off either, for logistical reasons?

  22. Indy — thanks for the shout out for my Great Uncle, Private Timothy A. Harrington. He died in France a century ago, and other than a few photos and his name on a memorial in Bayonne, N.J., his memory is almost forgotten. Thanks for remembering him.

  23. The story of the WW2 Wermacht was similar: great tactics, great man to man, but poor strategy, abysmal diplomatic approach, and totally unrealistic expectations.

  24. Indy, Flo, and TGW team, I finally got caught up on the weekly episodes!!! Now I'm current, and catching up on the special episodes, "Who Did What" and "Out of the Trenches." Thank you all for your dedication, depth, and enthusiasm! Cheers!

  25. I have to conclude that Hindenburg was an incompetent moron. Not just as a commander in WW1 but he was also an awful President as well. He was unable to deal with either the post war economic crisis nor the Reichstag fire crisis both of which fueled Hitler's rise to power.

  26. Makes a lot of sense. It is very important to define your mission and set clear objectives. Got to have something concrete to work toward. Big mistake by German command. Keep the initiative, sure, but do it by making attacks which have clear objectives.

  27. "Strategy without tactics is the longest path to victory, tactics without strategy is the longest path to defeat".

  28. 8-22-2019 at cemetery I saw a Marble Marker .  Harold Kunow  Cpl  Co L 305  US Inf   age 26  8-26-1918  .  I had to check to see what was up .  There are  some Sept and Oct  1918 markers and one Nov 10th 1918 Marker .   Cemetery is Mt Hope in Rochester , N.Y  .   Things that I noticed is these Soldiers were in the 20s and 30s and Older During the fight .    I also noticed that some of the Veterans who died later  were dying in groups in 1924-25-26 .    They are all lined up by  Dates and seeing a row of that year's Burial makes you Wonder ?

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