The Fall of Bucharest – Political Turmoil in Russia I THE GREAT WAR Week 124


The Allies have not taken a single enemy capital
over the course of the war. The Central Powers have taken several: Brussels,
Belgrade, Cetinje, Durazzo, and this week another one falls. For this week comes the fall of Bucharest. I’m Indy Neidell: welcome to the Great War. Last week, three columns of Central Powers
forces began to converge on Bucharest, the Romanian capital, and the Romanians made ready
their defense, there was action in the skies over Britain, and in Greece, Allied troops
tried to march to Athens but were forced to withdraw by Greek Royalist forces. There was more turmoil in Greece this week
too. On the 6th, there were massacres of Venizelists,
supporters of Eleftherios Venizelos’ provisional government, in Athens. The Royalists were now in control there, effectively
nullifying Venizelos’ recent declaration of war on the Central Powers. Also this week the Entente declared a blockade
of Greece, effective from the 8th, and to make sure they remained in control of the
Eastern Mediterranean telegraph cables, the British occupied the isle of Syra and would
soon occupy all of the Cyclades. The Royalist attack in Athens last week caused
Allied Commander of the Salonika Front Maurice Sarrail to concentrate troops in his rear
to meet a possible Greek threat to cut communications with Monastir. The fighting had been heavy in that region
and the French had been unable to push the Bulgarians out of gun range of the city. The Germans had sent a division over from
the Somme and the Bulgarians troops from Dobrogea, but they were not strong enough to retake
the city and life there had become very uncomfortable. The shelling that the citizens had been told
was not coming, did in fact come, and wreaked havoc on the city. There was also a food shortage, but the city
couldn’t be evacuated because that would’ve blocked the single supply road for the allied
troops. Fortunately, or unfortunately, however you
see it, the onset of winter would soon put an end to operations on the Macedonian front
for the time being. The only foreign capital the Allies were active
in was neutral Athens, but not the Central Powers. Last week, Romanian General Constantin Prezan
was put in charge of the defense of Bucharest, and his plan was to defeat the three advancing
enemy columns one by one. His 1st and 2nd armies in the north and northwest
would form a screen against the Germans coming from the west from the Olt and the south from
Brasov. General August von Mackensen’s, coming from
the south, was the smallest enemy column, and was the closest to Bucharest, but the
defenses of the capital were to the west and northwest of it. Bucharest’s forts were obsolete and had
been stripped of their guns, so the defense would take place outside of the city and the
only real geographic boundary was the Arges River, just under 20km west of Bucharest,
and at the end of last week the Romanians had hit Mackensen’s left flank there. French Major General Henri-Mathias Berthelot,
the Allied liaison officer, figured he would get help from the Russian army of the Danube,
but transportation was a nightmare. The railroads were overwhelmed with evacuating
Bucharest and Wallachia, and moving Romanian units, but the Russians said they’d send
four army Corps and three cavalry divisions. If they could only arrive in time. And they had their hands full elsewhere anyhow,
as this week the Bulgarians repulsed Russian attacks in Dobrogea. Mackensen’s flank was threatened but relief
was coming. Those troops arrived just after noon on the
3rd, hitting the Romanians from behind and scattering them in panic. The next day the Germans, Bulgarians, and
Turks mopped up the west back of the Arges. 24,000 Romanian prisoners and 30 guns were
reported taken. Over the next few days a further 51,000 men,
85 artillery pieces, and 115 machine guns were captured. In the north, the German 9th army was now
cutting off the retreat of the Romanian 1st army. German General Erich von Falkenhayn was very
satisfied, since all along the Arges River, from the Danube to the mountains, two German
led armies had fought and beaten most of the Romanian army, and on December 4th, the Kaiser
ordered the ringing of church bells throughout Germany. Mackensen brought his artillery into place. Meanwhile the Romanian army had retreated
east from the city where it met up with the Russians. The decision to abandon the capital had actually
been made nearly two weeks ago, though the government hadn’t moved to Iasi until the
3rd, but the Central Powers would find it difficult to get what they wanted from Romania
– oil and grain. To prevent all that oil falling into the hands
of the Central Powers, Colonel John Norton-Griffiths, a British MP and engineer, organized serious
sabotage at the Ploesti oil fields, blowing up or destroying 70 refineries and 800,000
tons of crude oil. He figured that the wells and machinery were
more valuable than the oil itself. British citizens working in the Romanian oil
industry were rounded up and drove stones or drill bits into the wellheads or dynamited
them., and since many oil tanks were located near granaries, opening the tank valves flooded
the grain and ruined both products. Cossack cavalry also helped destroy grain. I have to point out that the Romanians were
opposed to destroying their grain since they didn’t want to be condemned to starvation,
though they did authorize destruction of the wells. In “Prelude to Blitzkrieg”, a book on
the Romanian campaign, I read that an estimated 210 million gallons of fuel were destroyed. On December 6, 1916, Bucharest fell to Mackensen
and the Central Powers, as did the oil fields. It was Mackensen’s 67th birthday. Lieutenant-General Erich Tülff von Tschepe
und Weidenbach was appointed military governor of Romania. As the week came to and end, the Romanians
retreated eastward as Wallachia was now in enemy hands. Bucharest didn’t have any real military
value, but it did have political value. After the French fortitude at the Battle of
Verdun and Russia’s Brusilov Offensive, this would show the world that the Central
Powers were still very much alive and kicking. Nations on both sides had seen shake-ups in
their governments over the past few weeks, and this week was no exception. On December 4th, Herbert Asquith resigned
as Prime Minister, and David Lloyd George succeeded him the 7th. Winston Churchill wrote to a friend that he
believed George was the only man in the British government who had any aptitude for, or knowledge
of war, but that only disasters lay ahead in the coming months. Last week, Admiral David Beatty had succeeded
John Jellicoe as Commander of the British Fleet and this week, when Sir Henry Jackson
resigned, Jellicoe was appointed First Sea Lord. There was also big political activity in Russia
this week. On the 2nd, new Prime Minister Alexander Trepov
announced in the Duma that the Allies had acknowledged Russia’s right to Constantinople
and the Bosporus when the war was won. However, he was loudly hissed and the deputies
chanted, “Down with the ministers! Down with Protopopov!” Alexander Protopopov was a protégé of Rasputin. Now, Protopopov had tried to dissolve the
Duma, and though Trepov had gotten the Tsar to agree to remove Protopopov as Minister
of the Interior and move him to the less influential Commerce, and the cabinet had demanded Protopopov’s
resignation, the Tsarina had intervened. She and Rasputin requested, and the Tsar acceded
to that request, that the unpopular Protopopov remain as Minister of the Interior. And the week ends, with shelling in Monastir,
blood in Athens, political intrigue in Russia, and Bucharest falling to the Central Powers. Lloyd George had bluntly stated that the war
was not going well for Britain – the enemy had recovered the initiative, was expanding
its territory, and had 4 million men in reserve. The Battle of the Somme may have relieved
Verdun, but it hadn’t broken the German lines, taken any major objectives, or prevented
the Germans from sending men to other fronts. There was a growing danger to shipping from
submarines, the Entente was having solidarity problems, and the public at home demanded
victories, which only the Central Powers seemed to be getting. George also said this of the British Army’s
Commander in Chief (the Somme), “Haig does not care how many men he loses. He just squanders the lives of these boys. I mean to save some of them in the future…” This seems to imply that there would not be
another Battle of the Somme in 1917, but George didn’t suggest an alternative, better way
of conducting the war. And think about it, the Italians had big problems,
Russia was pretty much spent, Romania was collapsing, the Balkans didn’t help much
this year, Mesopotamia was halfway around the world, so if not the Western Front, then
where else would the British launch an attack? And there was no question about just playing
defense, George insisted that this war was a fight to the finish, and that would mean
fighting on the Western Front, and – it seems to me – that would entail more offensives
on the scale of the Battle of the Somme. And that battle alone claimed over a million
casualties in under five months. 1917 already looks grim. If you want to learn more about the architect
behind the battle of the Somme, Douglas Haig, you can click right here to check out our
special episode. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Joao
Madaleno Pereira. Support our show on Patreon to get better
maps, more animations and more content. Don’t forget to check out our merch store
for some great christmas gifts for the history buffs in your family. See you next time.

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. I was used to hear the name "Dobrodzia" now I have to get used to hearing it said properly Dobrodza as pronounced here
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ro-Dobrogea.ogg

  2. oh damn I didn't think about Africa, or anyone from there being shipped back to Europe to fight for Germany. That's very interesting, thanks alot!!

  3. Interesting thought after reading the title, people think Trump is Hitler, but what if Trump is Tsar Nicolas? Unable to lead, and such… so America like Imperial Russia take part in a great war thought to end all wars but pulls out to deal with revolutions, because Trump gets overthrown like the Tsar, and in the end, another war comes after that… its an interesting thought, much like that video about the youtube drama and Europe 1914 geopolitical situation comparison.. 100 years and all that changed is how things happen instead of what happened?! Really.. history repeats itself haha

  4. The Rumanian declaration of war was one of the worst moves of the Great War, and that says a lot.
    Didn't they look at a map before they declared war?

  5. Sam Neill stars as Sidney Reilly in the Ace of Spies the famous spy of WW1…give some good insight of what happened in the political and some economic things going on in Germany and Russia. I enjoyed the 12 episodes on YouTube.

  6. +The Great War , Indy, a while ago you made a video about cavalry in WW1. I think that the Romanian campaign could've been exelent source of information on the topic. As for a successfull use of cavalry in WW1 I have to mention the Bulgarian 1st Horse Division under the command of gen. Ivan Kolev in Dobrogea. Aside the successfull charges against outnumbering Romanian infantry (which amazed Mackensen), something interesting to mention is then and there the Bulgarian cavalry clashed with the Don Cossacks too (and defeated them) – literally the grandsons of the same Don Cossacks who years back fought together with the Bulgarians against the Turks in the Russo-Turkish war, which led to the reestabilishment of the Bulgarian state.

    "So far it was imposed the conviction that the attack of cavalry against infantry is impossible. You denied this with several actions of yours. Many senior cavalry commanders envy you and I can not convince them in the letters that what you did, really happened!" –August von Mackensen to Ivan Kolev

    "In developing the principles of tank warfare I've studied tactics from the actions of gen. Kolev's cavalry in Dobrogea. " — Heinz-Wilhelm Guderian in his memoir "Erinnerungen eines Soldaten"

    "The wild hurricane which man carries in himself found a vent and was already impossible to be stopped. The general rushed among us and began shouting "Stop, enough, stop!", because the massacre was ferocious." — Mayor Peev, cavalerist from 1st Horse Division

    By the way, the Bulgarians being the major portion of Makensen's led men, they did a parade in Bucharest.

  7. I have a question during the American Civil War disease was still the number one killer. Boys who grew up on farms where more susceptible to illness. Than say boys who grew up in the city . Was this the case during the First World War ?

  8. "…Where else other than the Western Front?"
    Well, I think that the first major Allied breakthrough came not in the west during the hundred days, but half a year before that, in late October of 1917, here in the Palestinian front. It was a massive blow to the German and Ottoman forces there, and the Germans actually took the time to bring more forces there, although most of them never made it.

  9. Hi, love your videos.
    Will you do a video on Czechoslovak legions in France, Italy and most importantly, in Russia?

    Thanks

  10. 4:50 sorry but it's actually pronounced "Iash", just like "Brasov" is pronounced "Brashov", and Pitesti is "Pitesht" (nearly silent i at the end). The S is SH if it has a small line under it. I hope you don't mind me pointing this out.

  11. well that escalated quickly, sadly no surprise, the big surprise was that a small nation mostly a anachronistic agrarian feudal state (fun fact last medieval style peasant revolt took place in the Kingdom of Romania torches and all in the beginning of the 20th century), dependence of crops means an reliance of natural events, often rain will "make or brake" a year in the Kingdom regardless on how hardworking the peasants were, lack of industry means, lack of means to produce armament.. and lack of equipment means not only defeat but death at a scale never seen before in the modern war, so yeah that was the true surprise..Romania willingly trowing itself in the carnage of modern war although it had observed the scale, and hopelessness, regardless of the intentions (true or not… it is a fact that the Entate powers never intended to keep their promise the the Kingdom ) or the outcome … the fact that remains is that a small country as the Kingdom of Romania suffered the greatest life loss reported to its population second only to Serbia, everyone was affected hundred of thousand of widowed wife, orphaned children, dire poverty for years to come, hole villages depopulated, it had no chance, especially in the face of the Germans who practically developed the "blitzkrieg" in the Romanian campaign, a war stile that will knell whole Europe 22 years latter, with prominent figures like Erwin Rommel getting their "first blood"

  12. Hey Indy, great show! I have a question for 'Out of The Trenches'. Although this isn't particularly relating to the war as such, how often do you travel between Berlin and Stockholm for filming The Great War episodes?

  13. Hello Indy and crew! I have a question, maybe for out of the trenches. So far it seems that the general August von Mackensen was by far the most capable general of the war. He was in charge of the Gorlize-Tarnow offensive which was extremely successful and he helped the Austro-Hungarian army to conquer all of Serbia. Now his task is to wage war on the Romanian front which, to me, seems to be…..not so important and the war certainly cannot be won there. Why wasn`t he placed on the Western front or front with Russia??? Is it possible that he was in some kind of a quarrel with Hindenburg and Ludendorff? Is it possible that the Romanian front was really that important to the German army? Because it seems foolish to me to put such a capable general on such a "not important front". Love the show keep the good work! Much love from Croatia!

  14. Can you talk more about the situation in Russia in 1916 in a later episode? You say how 'they were pretty much spent' but when did this become fully apparent and was it by this stage inevitable what was to come next. Great fan of the show and as always keep up the good work!

  15. Very interesting, the Argeṣ River is pronounced ARJESH, you read that "g" as English "J" and the "ṣ" as "SH".
    Iaṣi is pronounced IASHI and Ploieṣti as PLOIESHTI
    Great work anyway, I really enjoy your videos, congratulations to all your team!

  16. When I listen to crap like this I realized even more why everyone immigrated to the US and other places. Hell It explains why gradually the art world gradual switched from some place in France being the predominate global center of art (artists flocking there to learn and get better from the good competitive exposure and sharing of ideas) area to New York during the 20th century. Europe wasn't stable enough for art to thrive and safely go through its normal process of creating something new ->old generation hating it but new likes it -> the new idea becomes part of the old generation and finds itself becoming the new group hating the new next idea and style invented and becoming its prime opponent. H*ck even some of the rulers meddled in the art world by telling them how they wanted to stick to certain old ideas and methods. Then you had Hitler and his crony allies, then another was the USSR and cold war, and during this entire tension there was the effort of rebuilding and fixing the economies back up after ww2. No wonder the art global capital switched. The rulers, politics, economics, and social upheaval literally shot and killed the good thing they were having.

  17. Hey Indy and the team! I have 2 questions for Out of the Trenchens.
    1. Before the war Austria-Hungary was nit on same opinion about a declaration of war, Austria wanted it but the hungarian opinion was the opposite. After the war broke out, how was the hungarian opinion about the war? Did it influence the war effort?
    2. We hear a loz about the german and brittish navy but nothing about the french or austrian. Did they have major battles or some skirmishes?
    Keep up the good work!

  18. I just found your channel and this is an amazing idea! I'm going to start making my way forward from your first week, thank you for doing this!

  19. The Great War
    In one of your earlier episodes I heard that Moltke was more responsible for the First World War than Conrad von Hotzendorf. How is that?
    Plzzzz reply

  20. Can you guys have instead of the map, TV/monitor with map and troops movement for the week your talking about?
    Great show☺

  21. 5:15 My Great uncle bombed the same oil fields in WWII during operation Tilde wave he was reported MIA after the crew of his B-24 bailed out while he tried to fly it to bace with a guy too wound to bailout

  22. Has there been an episode on POWs? I'm curious if there are any extensive histories on POW life and to what extent were these men used as a labor force.

  23. You should make a video on Ecaterina Teodoroiu, she was a soldier who fought and died for Romania. She unfortunately died in 1917 and didn't get to see our great succes in the war..I think she was one of the first women soldiers who were awarded medals for bravery in ww1 🙂

  24. I just want to thank the team and everyone who puts in the time and effort to research this stuff.

    Thank you so much!

    Also, Merry Christmas to all!

  25. In Greece on December 1916 small group of French navy landed in Pireaus and tried to reach the residence of King Konstantinos small street battles were on French have to abord their plans but the keep the blockade.After that the Royalist as you say turned against the people of Venizelos.

  26. "The Royalist attack in Athens last week caused Allied Commander of the Salonika Front, Maurice Sarrail, to concentrate troops in his rear …"

    Oh, my! That does sound dire.

  27. btw, in Britain, we always refer to DLG as 'Lloyd George' not 'George', i.e. there is effectively an invisible hyphen there — quite common in names at that time.

  28. how come everywhere I look the battle of the somme's result was "inconclusive"? It seems pretty obvious to me it was a huge defeat for the british… They failed to achieve any of the goals they had set for themselves and they sent hundreds of thousands of their youngsters to the slaughter. Germany was fighting in a bazillion fronts and still managed to repel the british at the somme. The incompetence of britain's high command was inexplicable… Two million british soldiers died under haig's command, and yet he managed to die a national hero.

  29. i think beatty may be pronounced, b(ait)ty. just thought i'd let you guys know just in case you wanna look into it, cheers guys and keep up the good work

  30. so… austria had hötzendorf, italy had cadorno, france had whatshisname and the british the haig… am I missing something or are russia and germany lacking a superheroe?

  31. The Russian and Romanian relations were good till the fucking bolsheviks came to power in Russia. This was a great episode. Congratz!

  32. In over 50 years of study of British history and the history of the Great War I have never heard David Lloyd George referred to as 'George'. It is always 'Lloyd George'. In fact, even Wikipedia says, 'In this multi-word name, the family name is Lloyd George, not George.' When he was ennobled, his title was David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor.

  33. To anyone interested what 6:35 says:

    "TELEGRAPH.
    Stock beer Kőbánya. ("Stone Pit", now 10th district of budapest)
    Spring Stock beer
    it has arrived and the enemy has surrounded
    First Hungarian Stock brewery
    Budapest-Kőbánya."

  34. I feel for Germany.. The best Military, Best Generals and Worst Allies . Even if one Ally supported Germany like the way Germany wanted this war would have been over.

  35. 7:30

    Now I wish Russia hadn't gone Soviet even more and had won the war, so then Greece could've gotten Constantinople back.

  36. Hi Indy and Floyd, and everyone else, sorry Floyd if I spelled that wrong. Can someone explain who the soldier in the painting behind Indy is, and where it comes from? Is it someone's family ancestor, is it something someone just made for fun, is it something you all found and thought would look cool for the set, or what? Thanks I will probably continue to ask this on future episodes, hoping someone will someday tell me, as I have wondered since I first saw him, but never asked till now. Your show is awesome and I have started from the beginning and am not skipping ahead. Although I do want to catch up before the end, I have a few months. Oh and I am looking forward to you next show, I am glad you are including Lloyd from Lyndybiege, I really like his channel and his work and think that he would be a great addition. Also I can't emphasize it enough, thank you to everyone on this show, especially those behind the scenes, I would hug you all if I could and praise you for helping me understand and love the history of The Great War, you did a far better job than my 10th grade history teacher.

  37. Romania tried to be Stonewall Jackson, out maneuvering three separate columns of enemies.

    It obviously didn’t go well

  38. The Fall of Bucharest o yea 😀 for bulgarians it was sweet revenge.its what they got for backstabbing us the 2 balkan war. we reakd them in tytrakan and then in Dobrih:D and they dident even botter to defend silistra.dobruja was free if i remember correctly in less then a week;D

  39. I think since ive found this channel ive given 97% of my watch time to it.
    Lmfaaao
    Im just waiting to get to america. Im almost caught up

  40. When you had watched 124 episodes in English and unexpectedly a beer adversitement in your native languge appears from 100 yrs ago. 😀

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