The Battle of La Lys – Operation Georgette I THE GREAT WAR Week 194

If I were to make sensational newspaper headlines
about some of this week’s activity, I wonder how they’d read? Hm… “the betrayal of an ally” or “an
Emperor’s humiliation!” Yeah, those are pretty good. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week, Operation Michael, the first phase
of the German Spring Offensives, came to an end. The Germans took huge amounts of territory
and prisoners, but dangerously extended their lines and failed to take Amiens. Britain’s offensive in Palestine to take
Amman also failed and they retreated back across the River Jordan. Germany began phase two of its attacks in
the west this week. Haste continued to be the top of German Quartermaster
General Erich Ludendorff’s plans. He could not give his enemy a chance to take
the offensive. At the beginning of this week, Operation Erzengel
– Archangel – began. It had originally been a diversion to support
Operation Michael, but now it was to reduce the salient their advance had created. The primary objective was the high ground
east of the Oise-Aisne Canal. The attack ended the 9th after good progress
had shortened their lines 7km. As we saw last week, Ludendorff no longer
had the manpower for St. George One, his operation in Flanders, but St. George Two would go ahead
on a reduced scale – this would be Operation Georgette. On April 9th, Ludendorff’s 53rd birthday,
on which the Kaiser gave him as little statue… of the Kaiser, yep, it began with the Battle
of the Lys against the British and Portuguese. The overall objective (Gilbert), was to cross
the Lys River, overrun the southern Ypres salient, and drive to the coast between Calais
and Dunkirk. The main objective was Hazebrouck railway
junction. The attack was on a 16km front and British
intelligence had wrongly guessed it was coming at Vimy Ridge, so it was – like the beginning
of Michael – an immediate success, causing the Allies to retreat. 6,000 Portuguese troops were taken prisoner
and a 6km gap was opened in British lines. Those Portuguese had been in the lines way
too long and were to have been rotated out that very morning, so this was really unfortunate
timing for them. This was, though, where Portuguese soldier
Anibal Milhais – known as Soldier Million – covering the retreat, began building his
legend, holding off the Germans so intensely with his Lewis gun that they went around him
and he was behind enemy lines for three days. Also, 2,000 tons of mustard gas was shot on
the British, incapacitating 8,000 men, many blinded. By the second day (Undone), the British sent
in Herbert Plumer’s 2nd army – he’d just returned from Italy. The Germans still had some day one problems,
though. Their left wing had been held fast at Givenchy. Also, they had serious difficulty bringing
forward artillery. “The soft, wet ground made the tanks, along
with all other heavy equipment, road bound. When the tanks started breaking down along
the few and relatively narrow avenues of approach, they blocked the advance of the accompanying
artillery. The stalled tanks had to be blown in place
before the supporting guns could be moved up. This experience could not have done much to
ameliorate Ludendorff’s blind spot for the tank.” (German offensives) On the 10th, the British were driven from
Messines, which they took last summer, and on the 11th, British Commander Sir Douglas
Haig gave his famous special order of the day (Gilbert), “There is no 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 to the end.” Noble words, but there were doors in that
wall, and “A World Undone” says Haig was discussing with US President Woodrow Wilson
a possible removal of British armies from France via the channel ports. On the 11th, the Germans took Armentieres,
though on the left they were still held up at Givenchy and Festubert. By the end of the week, they were within 8km
of Hazebrouck, behind which lay those channel ports, but I have to say that the British
retreat was not a rout. It was in fact a controlled retreat. That same day, Ludendorff met with his staff
to consider a new attack on Amiens for the 20th. The Allies had had an important staff meeting
of their own. Last week on the 3rd, they met and agreed
to strengthen Ferdinand Foch’s authority as overall commander. Haig, who had supported Foch’s rise to the
position two weeks ago, was now no longer interested. Since the French had taken over parts of his
line and British troops were arriving from Egypt and Mesopotamia, he saw no need any
longer to be directed by anyone. But on the 14th- next week – Foch is given
title of General in Chief of the Allied Armies. In no uncertain terms, he is Haig’s boss. April 6th marks one year since the United
States joined the war. President Wilson made a speech in Baltimore,
saying that (Chronology) “the reasons for the war are more clearly disclosed than ever
before… we know what the war must cost… if need be all we possess.” Wilson goes on to point out Germany’s terms
to Russia with the Brest-Litovsk Treaty from a month ago. Russia, if you remember, had to give up 700,000
square kilometers of territory and 50 million people, in addition to vast sources of raw
materials. Wilson says this is Germany acknowledging
that it’s not justice, but dominion they seek. And by Germany he means “her military leaders
who are her real rulers… her statesmen give lip service to peace… the real test of their
justice and fair play appears in their action in Russia… The German idea is a world empire of gain
and commercial supremacy.” He then says he “does not wish to judge
harshly and is still ready to discuss an honest peace, but German proceedings in Russia have
given him his answer and he accepts the challenge. Only one answer is possible and that is force…
force without limit.” One of the Central Powers leaders had, though,
at least thought about possible peace. Last year, in March, I talked about what would
become known as the Sixtus Affair. This was when AH Emperor Karl had written
detailing his willingness to make a separate peace with the Allies, abandoning Germany. He wrote a letter that went to the British
and French Prime Ministers on the subject, and he and his Foreign Minister Count Czernin
had even met with two Princes representing the allies as intermediaries to negotiate. Karl’s letter stated that he supported French
claims to Alsace-Lorraine, and agreed in principle to the restoration of Belgian independence. Now this never came to anything because France
got a new Prime Minister who wasn’t interested, and anyhow, Italy wasn’t even mentioned,
and that was kind of a big deal for Austria’s war. And this was all secret too, right? But now, Count Czernin gives a speech attacking
current French PM Georges Clemenceau as being the main obstacle to peace. This made Clemenceau pretty angry and so he
published Karl’s letter from last year. This blew up big time, since you can imagine
how thrilled Germany was to find out that Karl had been plotting to abandon them. In fact, there was now even worry that Germany
might occupy Austria-Hungary. Czernin got Karl to send his “word of honor”
to the other three Central Powers that the letter was never supposed to be seen by the
French government, that Belgium was not even mentioned, and Clemenceau was lying about
Alsace-Lorraine. Czernin even tried to persuade Karl to step
down as emperor, but in the end, it is Czernin himself who resigns, two days from now on
the 14th. This was an enormous embarrassment for Karl
and the end result was Austria becoming even more dependent on Germany. Czernin is succeeded by Count Burian von Rajecz. But Karl’s empire was really fragmenting
by now anyhow. The Allies certainly encouraged that. On the 8th, the Conference of Nationalities
Oppressed by Austria opens. This was set up by the Allies in Rome. Even the Italian government, with all its
earlier hopes of winning Austrian land on the Dalmatian Coast, now accepted the Southern
Slavs’ right to future independence. Another empire, though, was trying to take
someone’s independence. Marching tow#ard the Caucasus, on the 6th,
the Ottomans occupied Ardahan. The Armenians withdraw toward Novo-Selim,
hoping to check the Turkish advance on Kars, but by the 9th, the Turks are marching on
Batum and Kars. “Among the men at the front, there is no
doubt they were facing a renewal of the war with the Turks, but the newly established
rulers of Transcaucasia still continued to believe in a peaceful solution and their intervention
deprived the troops on the frontier of their last chance of serious resistance.” And as the week ends, Russia protests to Germany
about Germany’s landing of troops in Finland last week, and also to consuls in Moscow about
last week’s British and Japanese landing in Vladivostok. Wilson makes a speech against the Germans,
the Germans launch a new and so far successful offensive in Flanders, and Emperor Karl’s
old plans now blow up in his face. Well, I’m about 100% certain he didn’t
expect that to happen. I do wonder, though, why neither Clemenceau
nor any other allied leaders published the letter earlier. It certainly sowed discord among the Central
Powers. You know what, though? There was a very long-term result of Karl’s
hope for peace and the role he played in trying – even in secret – to bring it about in 1917
and 1918. In 2004, he was beatified by Pope John Paul
II. The Pope said this of Blessed Karl of Austria,
“To his eyes, war appeared as something appalling… His chief concern was to follow the Christian
vocation… also in his political actions. For this reason, his thoughts turned to social
assistance. May he be an example for us all, especially
those who have political responsibilities in Europe today.” If you forgot how the Portuguese ended up
in this war, you might want to check our Portugal special right here. It’s great and there is a bit more about
the Battle of La Lys in there. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Gustavo
Loyola. Obrigado, Gustavo and to all the fans around
the world who support this show. Don’t forget to subscribe, see you next

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. What happened to the Balkan front? Particularly Austria-Hungary vs Serbia? Isn't this where the whole damn thing started? This has to be the dumbest war in history

  2. I miss Galicia(1914), Lodz(1914), Przemyśl(1914, how did Indy say that so many times in 2014-2015), Masurian Lakes(1914 and 1915), Belgrade(1914/15), Loos(1915), Lake Naroch(1916), and Arras(1917).

  3. I wonder if he kept the statue or throw it away?
    All those German lives…

    And all ludendorff got was a fucking statue.

  4. I believe the history available points to the fact that Ludendorff was not prepared for the extent of the success his stormtroopers won.

  5. I have read reports that the RAF burned their planes during the retreat to prevent their capture, but I do not know how many squadrons they lost to the German advance. Does anyone know?

  6. "Have you ever thought of testing your vacuum with a blacklight? Probably not, that'd be weird…" Well, that's one way to start a video about ww1, granted it's just an ad, but still, I start off these videos by watching the ad.

  7. Portuguese soldier: “ finally we can have some break. Man I can’t wait to head to the tavern.”
    german attack
    Portuguese soldiers: “ OH COME ON!”

  8. 1:35 did The germans have that triangel rank system in The Great war too? ? I se that on one of The soildiers there

  9. I've skipped months of this series multiple times since the start, and the only forgone effort is listening. I am no soldier. I am incapable of listening to their tales day by day while they have been at war. A humbling and humiliating acknowledgement.

  10. What are you doing after November? Any photos/newsreels of the Roman invasion of Britain? There must be plenty of stuff about the wars in South Africa. (Zulu, Boer etc)

  11. Howdy y'all! Question for OOTT: I had heard that the US didn't officially join the Entente b/c of politics. Was Pershing still under Foch or was a different arrangement made? If so, how did the American public feel about US troops being under foreign command? Was it easier since the French were republicans as well? Also, thank you guys for your incredible dedication to the project. It's been and remains amazing.

  12. Indy, I must make a correction. The "lh" digraph in Portuguese is read like "ll" in Spanish (in dialects without yeísmo).
    Anyway, thanks for the amazing content.

  13. 14.4.1918 in my home city Joensuu Finland get its darkest moment. Members of White guard was drinking alcohol, and they get idea killing 100 captured russian red army soldiers. No one know why. That time value of human life was zero. 99 was murdered, one survive because he could talk finnish. Victims was mainly russian, but there was many estonian, polish, latvian and tatars.

    1. Muzykant, Jan Martynowicz (s. 1897) Liivi, Ramotskoje
    2. Punovski Liivi, Bolderaja
    3. Chrenowski, Ludvig Rafaelowicz (s. 1886) Vilnan kuv., Kymina?
    4. Gavrilovitš, Jevstafei Martinovitš Kovnon kuv.
    5. Grinkevitš, Ivan (s. 1896) Minsk, Borisov
    6. Rotsau, Aleksander Petrovitš, (s. 1900) Vitebskin kuv., Dvinsk
    7. Samoljevitsch, Anton Iwanowicz (s. 1895) Suvalkin kuv., Moteli?
    8. Sinitko, Osip Vikentjevitš (s. 1901) Vitbskin kuv., Melski?
    9. Slysek, Henryk Stanislawowicz (s. 1897) Varsova
    10. Sobolevski, Aleksandr Antonovitš Vilna
    11. Stechler, Wasili Janowitsch Varsova
    12. Stuncha, Frans Adamowicz (s. 1892) Vilnan kuv., Missen?
    13. Tyc, Henryk Nikolajewicz Varsova
    14. Ksein?, Bedretdin Ibrahimovitš Simbirskin kuv., Maloje Rybuškino
    15. Aleksejev, Aleksandr Aleksejevitš Pietarin kuv.
    16. Aleksejev, Mihail (s. 1899) Tverin kuv., Mihailovo
    17. Arevjev, Feodor Tverin kuv., Pavlovskoje
    18. Badrov, Ivan Nikolajevitš (s. 1896) Jaroslavin kuv., Iljinski
    19. Baranov, Aleksandr Grigorjevitš Nizni-Novgorodin kuv., Makatelem
    20. Beljakov, Mihail Nikanorovitš Pietari
    21. Boikov, Jakov Ivanovitš (s. 1895) Pietarin kuv., Katilska?
    22. Bojaršinov, Vasili Afanasjevitš (s. 1899) Permin kuv., Pavlovski
    23. Brjugan?, Ivan Ivanovitš (s. 1899) Pietari
    24. Brjuhov, Ivan Aleksejevitš Pietari, Rybatskoje
    25. Doronin, Nikita Sergejevitš Tverin kuv.
    26. Feodorov, Nikolai Markelovitš Pietari
    27. Frolov, Aleksandr Aleksejevitš (s. 1900) Vitebskin kuv., Somehenskoe?
    28. Gidroitš, Ignati Osipovitš Vitebski
    29. Grigorjev, Vasili Sergejevitš Vitebski
    30. Grulov, Pjotr Andrejevitš (s. 1899) Besuhkin kihlak.?, Tverin lääni
    31. Hodzenko, Zahar Anisimovitš Vitebskin kuv.
    32. Isupov?, Vasili Vasiljevitš (s. 1900) Tverin kuv., Udomlja
    33. Ivanov, Aleksandr Aleksandrovitš Narva
    34. Ivanov, Aleksandr Jegorovitš (s. 1901) Pietarin kuv., Uspenskoje?
    35. Jasumov, Nikolai Aleksejevitš (s. 1898) Jaroslav
    36. Jemeljanov, Pjotr Matvejevitš (s. 1890) Pihkovan kuv., Vorontsov?
    37. Jevdokimov, Aleksandr Vasiljevitš (s. 1893) Vladimirin kuv., Suzdal
    38. Juvenski, Aleksei Aleksejevitš Kostroma
    39. Karelin, Ivan Nikolajevitš (s. 1899) Tulan kuv., Belkovski
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    41. Karpov, Aleksandr Ivanovitš Pietarin kuv.
    42. Kaverin, Vladimir Mihailovitš (s. 1888) Jaroslav, Rybinsk
    43. Klimov, Andrei Maihailovitš (s. 1878) Kostroman kuv., Priskokovo
    44. Koragin, Aleksei Dmitrijevitš (s. 1900) Pietari, kotoisin Tveristä
    45. Kormilitsyn, Makar Aleksejevitš (s. 1891) Perm, Jekaterinburg
    46. Kornev, Ivan Stepanovitš Tverin kuv., Vyšegorskaja?
    47. Korolev, Feodor Ivanovitš Jaroslavin kuv.,
    48. Kotov, Vasili Stepanovitš Pietari
    49. Kovaljov, Aleksandr Aleksandrovitš (s. 1900) Pietari
    50. Krutov, Pjotr Filippovitš (s. 1883) Tverin kuv., Gorodok/Gorodnja?
    51. Kudrin, Ivan Damianovitš Orjolin kuv., Maloarhangelsk
    52. Kuzmin, Andrei (s. 1900) Tverin kuv., Rzev
    53. Kuzmin, Grigori Trofimovitš Pietari
    54. Lapitski, Dmitri Grigorjevitš (s. 1901) Mogiljovin kuv.
    55. Lebedev, Nikolai Ivanovitš Kostroman kuv., Tšuhloma
    56. Malko, Martyn Fjodorovitš (s. 1899) Vilnan kuv.
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    59. Mešin, Iosif Vikentjevitš (s. 1901) Vitebskin kuv., Voivotskoi?
    60. Mihailov, Pavel Aleksandrovitš (s. 1901) Tverin asema
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    65. Norusk, Pavel Petrovitš Pietari
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    68. Orlov, Pavel Ivanovitš Jaroslav
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    71. Pavlov, Pjotr Filimonovitš (s. 1896) Pihkova, Ostrovsk
    72. Plisnak, Vladimir Vasiljevitš Vilnan kuv., Ošmjany
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    74. Rostiknajev, Grigori Stepanovitš (s. 1893) Tobolin kuv., Tjumen
    75. Rubin, Vladimir Nikolajevitš (s. 1893) Pietari
    76. Saleren (Sahran?), Pjotr Mihailovitš Ufan kuv., Ufa
    77. Salihov, Mihail Grigorjevitš Pietari
    78. Savoidov, Feodor Aleksandrovitš Vologdan kuv., Velsk
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    80. Seratkin, Ivan Dmitrijevitš (s. 1900) Kostroman kuv., Voskresenski
    81. Šerdio, Aleksandr Akinfijevitš Pietari
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    86. Smirnov, Ivan Pavlovitš Pietari
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    88. Šulikin, Vasili Vasiljevitš Rjazanin kuv., Serednikovski?
    89. Tjulikov, Ivan Jakovlevitš Pietari
    90. Trofimov, Ivan Trofimovitš Tverin kuv., Kašin
    91. Trubin, Jakov Petrovitš Orjolin kuv., Livny
    92. Udovikin, Malakias Abramovitš Permin kuv., Ohansk
    93. Ušakov, Dmitri Ivanovitš Pietari
    94. Vasiljev, Artemi Vasiljevitš (s. 1893) Pietari
    95. Vinogradov, Vladimir Varsonofjevitš Vologdan kuv., Kadnikov?
    96. Zaharov, Aleksei Mihailovitš (s. 1897) Novgorodin kuv., Staraja Russa
    97. Leppland, Albert Janovitš Liivinmaa, Verseki?
    98. Luuk, August Ivanovitš Jamburg
    99. Marland, Albert Gantsovitš Narva

  14. Question for OOTT: Why didn’t the Germans use the ‘Paris Gun’ to shell Amiens during Operation Michael, disrupting the link between the BEF and the French? Thanks

  15. 9:55 they probably realised if Austria-Hungary wanted peace, other Central Powers may also want secret peace negotiations. Thus, revealing the letter would prevent any of the Central Powers from trusting the Allies. It’s thus more in the Allie’s interest to keep it unpublished in order to keep the option of causing a Central power backstab alive

  16. Been enjoying the whole WW1 series so far! Awesome work! What will you all be doing after November 11th? Is there a WW2 Series in the near future? Cheers!

  17. A new Portuguese movie just came out talking about Soldier Millions and a bit about the Battle of La Lys, it´s called "Soldado Milhões"

  18. Who dislikes these videos? There’s always a couple almost immediately, like someone set up their notifications to see when they come out to immediately dislike it

  19. Can you do a video on the Spanish Flu and how it affected Allied and German operations? Because 20 to 50 Million people died and over 6 hundred thousand Americans

  20. Thank God that nowadays someone remembered the peace oriented thinking of the emperor Karl who lost the war and his throne : the Pope John Paul II

  21. Another connection between today's episode and Portugal is that Emperor Karl is buried in Madeira Island. Because life is strange.

  22. I find it a bit disingenuous that Trotsky and the other Russians complained about giving up what their nation considered to be the "pale of settlement" (why would they care anyway?) which is pretty much what the Germans got in the treaty of Brest-Litovsk … js …

  23. So Germany wanted empire…… yeah that's totally unlike France, Britain and the U.S that did not want land and were totally not out for themselves. God, the allies were so full of it that it's actually painful to still listen to their excuses even 100 years after the war.

  24. "The German idea is a world empire of gain and commercial supremacy." And the truly rich irony here is that one of the main results of Germany's two attempts to attain this world empire was taking it away from all the European powers and giving it to the United States instead.

  25. I wonder why Germany didn't take this opportunity to sue for an armistice. The spring offensive sock the allies, but Ludendorf should also be aware about the impossibility to achieve total victory in the west and they were running against time, while more frest american troops join in France. Giving concession for an independent Belgium and cede Alsacie and Lorraine would be certainly acceptable terms for Britain and France. But in exchange they could ask for recognition of the Brest-Litovsk pact and gain vast territories and resources from the former Russian Empire. What was in the mind of the Kaiser or Ludendorf to keep pressing futile attacks?

  26. I wonder, what did the lines look like at the coast… Were there trenches on the beach? Why not mass the attack there, with no chance of being flanked? For that matter, it would also be interesting to know what was happening at the Swiss border, did the trenches just stop there too? Maybe this is one for OOtT, but I'd be very interested to know.

  27. So, German's in the run again for the Official medium for the world. Will someone tell me if I have start preparing it or not after the end of the War?

  28. Did not Russia give up most, if not all of the "Pale of Settlement" @ Brest-Litovsk?

    Did Russia give up all of these areas to their opponents because they didn't want them or were considered "useless"
    before the Great War?

    Just curious.

  29. If only the german offensive succeeded, just imagine a world where the treaty of versailles never happened

  30. This is all so stupid, there are no different ethic groups, we are all human and should not fight each other and be seperated by borders, imho.

  31. Fun fact. Ludendorff's birthday was the exact same day Robert E. Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox Courthouse.

  32. Hey Indy, I often cringe at the way you pronounce some foreign words … but then remember that you are dealing with many languages foreign to you. Can't you at least pronounce words in English correctly? 10:09 the Pope had not "beetified" , he had beatified – "be-at-if-eyed". From the same Latin root as beatitudes, or Beatrix (=she who brings joy.)

  33. After Operation Michael, what was originally named Operation George was renamed Operation Georgette due to its reduced scale (less than half the 50 German divisions in the original plan). If Operation George became a reality, they would've gone WHAM! on the Entente forces.

  34. Hey Great War, one question. After some study, most sources say that the French experienced slightly more casualties than the British during the spring offensive. However, the brunt of the German offensive seems to be directed at the British lines. Why did the French experience more casualties, or are my suppositions wrong.

  35. I don't see Haig's back to any wall. I don't see Haig fighting to the end. Or at all, in fact. The nerve of these guys who get glory while others die.

  36. Blessed Karl of Austria… The hypocrisy in that one. He was all for peace, but peace by giving up German claims. And the funny part, he renounces German rights on Alsace-Lorraine. A territory which at that time was owned by Germany and had a population of around 85% Germans and only around 12% French and yet he mentions nothing of ending the Austrian occupation of Serbia and Montenegro… Truly a benevolent heart of peace in that one.

  37. Thing is, Austrians dislike Germans, we do not like the Piefkes here. Also it is not austria, it is Österreich.

  38. I honestly thought Wilson was a bit naive but not anymore. The fact he condemns Germany for seeking huge gains and conquest while he turns a blind eye to the same thing being done by the British, his ally, around the world clearly shows he was nothing but another cutthroat politician just like all the others.

  39. I must say, although all the leaders of the great war were immoral in a lot of ways, I think that Carl is the most honorable of them all, he did not enter the war by choice, it was there when he became Emperor and he knew it was wrong and was willing to risk he honor and title to find a way to end it, truly an honorable act

  40. 2:29 I thought there was nothing worse then your French pronunciation. But now that I first hear you say a name in Portuguese, I take that back.

  41. My Great Great Uncle Sargent Major William Heffer died in the La Lys Offensive serving with the 11th Battalion Suffolk Regiment

  42. Georges Clemanceou: refuses to negotiate peace because he s sure that the entente will win.

    Few months later: calls himself peace maker ?

  43. I just dont understand why everyone says that the central powers were the ''bad guys''. It s just because he attacked firts.

  44. no wonder the Portuguese stayed out of the 2nd war, very little benefit for them to have lost so much, other than to honor their alliance with the British. We do not give them enough credit.

  45. It's worth mentioning that pope John Paul II was named after the emperor Karl I by his mother 🙂 His real name was Karol (polish version of Karl) Wojtyła.

  46. About 6,000 Portuguese died against 50,000 Germans at the front to protect the retreating English at La Lys, I have not yet seen in the UK a mention in their monuments in World War I as few saved their asses in front of the battle against the Germans. On the contrary, if we still go to that place many Belgians are grateful for this huge act of bravery, after Brexit the English will have a lot of time to correct that lack. 🙂

  47. So Carl was betraying Germany. The country that literally saved Austro Hungary from Russia so many times. They even sacrifice winning Verdun to help them. The only ones that supported their claims with Serbia.

    Of course you could seek peace. But first you should advice, retrieve all of German forces, and surrender all that was won with the germans banner.

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