The Macedonian Standoff – The Five Nation Army Is Repelled I THE GREAT WAR Week 146


When the Western Front became a stalemate
in 1914 the Allies began looking for new places further and further afield to try and breakthrough. From Gallipoli to Palestine to the Tigris
River they’d had high hopes, but to no avail. And more high hopes come crashing down this
week as Russian, French, British, Italian, and Serbian forces – the five nation army
– fail in Macedonia. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week, French army Chief of Staff Robert
Nivelle was fired because of French disasters in the field, and replaced by Philippe Petain. The British ended the week with a huge disaster
of their own in the field, but prepared for more attacks. The Russians, their army crippled by desertion
and mutinous behavior, still vow to continue the war. Indeed, the war continued everywhere and one
such place was the Macedonian Front. The Allied plan this week against the Bulgarians
and Germans was for the Italians and French, with a Russian infantry brigade, to attack
at Crna Bend, the Serbs would attack in their sector, and the British would attack east
of the Vardar. In fact, General Maurice Sarrail planned a
frontal assault on the whole length of the enemy lines by the French and Italians, which
his commanders were pretty skeptical about. I mean, we’ve seen before how daunting the
Bulgarian defensive system was, possibly the best on any front, and they had the heights,
with dozens of searchlights blazing down on the Allies in battle. They were also backed by German heavy artillery
and Austrian howitzers. Still, on the 5th, 91 French and Italian artillery
batteries opened up on the enemy. The bombardment lasted for four days but did
not significantly damage the enemy’s defenses. At 6:30 AM on May 9th, the French, Italian,
and Russian infantry attacked. It was a failure. During the assault the Bulgarians took just
under 700 casualties. Add the 1,000 or so they’d taken in the
barrage and that’s 1,700ish. I don’t know the German figures, but they
may be a bit higher since they were in the thick of the fighting, but the Allies took
5,450 casualties and gained absolutely nothing. Sarrail was not deterred by this and tried
another attack the 11th. It too was a failure. The Second Serbian army went into action the
9th, and that attack stalled after taking its first few objectives, but then the Serbs
were stuck under a withering counter artillery attack. French and British big guns helped out a bit,
but they couldn’t get much further. As for the British attack, that was the renewal
of the Battle of Doiran, which began a couple weeks ago. The British launched an artillery barrage
and then an assault on the evening of the 8th, but by the following day they were forced
to abandon the attacks because of heavy casualties. Fog and smoke caused confusion, telephone
lines were cut by shellfire, their infantry were hit by their own artillery, it was a
mess of confusion. Since the battle began in April, they had
lost over 12,000 men killed, wounded, or captured while Vladimir Vazov’s Bulgarians had lost
just a 6th of that, and half of those from disease, not battle. As for the First Serbian Army, Sarrail asked
for action and got delay. They said that until the heights had fallen
to the Second Army, the first was too vulnerable. Then the Serbs asked Sarrail to stop the whole
campaign. All of these defeats and lack of progress,
combined with the French failure to advance at Monastir, meant that for the course of
the whole Spring Offensive the Allies had lost tens of thousands of men in total and
had taken basically nothing. There would be another attack next week on
the Struma River and the Irish division there would take its objectives after barely firing
a shot, but Sarrail would call off the entire offensive, having achieved nothing except
turning living men into dead ones. Of course, this was overshadowed by the recent
colossal French failure at the Chemin des Dames, so he didn’t have to worry about
his job at this point. The French were actually attacking there again
this week. The attack that began the night of the 4th,
continued on the 5th AND managed to take Craonne and the edge of the Californie Plateau, but
could not cross the Alette River. Another attack a few days later took Vauclair
and Laffaux Mill. Actually, on the 5th, the attacks were in
cooperation with the British, and they took the crest of the Craonne Ridge and 6,000 prisoners. And further north the British were trying
again at Bullecourt, as they had last week. First, they held off a German counter attack
on the 6th, then mounted their own attack on the 7th, gaining a foothold in the ruins
of the village. Over the next few days, they were shelled
continuously and attacked with flamethrowers, and though the battle wouldn’t officially
end until next week, it was for all intents and purposes over. The British had taken tens of thousands of
casualties for a minute portion of the Hindenburg Line. By this time General Edmund Allenby commanding
the 3rd Army was warning Commander in Chief Sir Douglas Haig that the reserves now being
sent into battle were “semi-trained troops, unable to use their rifles properly”. Also at this point, twice as many British
as Germans were being killed in the offensives – the British were up to 4,000 casualties
per day – so on the 10th in the House of Commons, Winston Churchill, pointing out American troops
wouldn’t be ready until next year, said, “Is it not obvious that we ought not to
squander the remaining armies of France and Britain in precipitate offensives before the
American power begins to be felt on the battlefield?” He received no answer; there would be more
offensives. Prime Minister David Lloyd George, unlike
the military, saw no reason to attempt offensives before the Americans arrived; and he pushed
for a new Italian offensive. He was really putting a lot of faith in the
importance of the American army. I mean, when the US declared war, for a while
it wasn’t even certain if they would send any men, and would only send supplies and
money. Congress did pass last week a bill to raise
500,000 men, but the US army didn’t even have divisions; its biggest unit was the regiment. So the US began putting together a First Division
to dispatch to France, even though it hadn’t been trained for combat and was too small
to make a difference. It and the rest of the American Expeditionary
Force would, from May 10th, be under the command of General John J. Pershing. Seeing as how I’ve mentioned the Italian
front, I’ll look there for a minute. It’s been quiet for pretty much the past
six months, but that’s about to change. Now, both sides had really built up their
forces over the winter. The Italian forces had nearly doubled and
their artillery was up to 2,200 big guns including British and French heavy pieces. On the other side, Austro-Hungarian commander
Svetozar Borojevic von Bojna was still way outnumbered, but he too beefed up his numbers
and now had 1,400 big guns. As usual, his engineers had been busy rebuilding
fortifications and protecting machine gun posts, fortifying trenches and shelters, and
building additional defensive lines. The Italians would soon attack and the plan
was straightforward; the 10th Battle of the Isonzo would be on two flanks. First, the army of Gorizia would attack on
the northern flank, trying to break through to the Bainsizza Plateau. Italian army Chief of Staff Luigi Cadorna
hoped that this would lead Borojevic to move men to the north, and then the Italian Third
Army would attack to the south, across the Carso Plateau toward Trieste. Borojevic’s problem was that he didn’t
know when the Italians would attack, since they were now much better at camouflage and
hiding their movements. The attack was set for the beginning of May,
but heavy rains delayed it again and again. It would happen soon. And something interesting happened in early
May at sea. A convoy of merchant ships guarded by destroyers
sailed from Gibraltar to Britain without a single loss to a German submarine. The convoy system had been dismissed earlier
as useless, but after this the British admiralty began looking into it seriously. They had to do something, having lost nearly
900,000 tons in April alone – 50% more than what Germany believed was needed monthly to
drive Britain out of the war. And that’s the end of the week. The Allies unable to break through in Macedonia,
the Allies unable to break through in the west, and the Allies planning for a breakthrough
in northern Italy. Well, at least they’re still planning for
one somewhere. It’s hard to know just what they generals
in the west were thinking about the Macedonian front, but I know that it was a side note
or a footnote to many of them. Couldn’t be that hard, I mean – the Bulgarians? Can they fight the five nation army? How many times do we see this? The smaller or “lesser” nations that are
supposed to be easy pickings, and NEVER are. Remember when the Germans were joking about
just sending the police to arrest the British army back in 1914? Yeah, they don’t do that any more. See, it turns out that every nation can learn
to be great at modern war. If you want to learn more about the excellent
Bulgarian defenses, check out our weekly episode from February right here. Our Patreon supporter of the week is April
Joy Greibrok. Help us out on Patreon to make this show better
and better. And don’t forget to subscribe, see you next
week.

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. Umm.. Indy did the British monarch did anything in the whole war?
    your show is very good by the way :)could answer my question?

  2. If someone asks me "How much do you love The Great War channel," I shall respond, "I endured a full Prager U advertisement for them."

  3. What? Only the Tenth Battle of the Isonzo? I thought Luigi was up to 100 by now! I bet THIS one will work though and the Italians will be in Vienna by Christmas!
    🙂
    -Jen

  4. Dear Indy and crew, thank you for a fantastic show, you have inspired my own love of history to new lengths. My question is, when you mentioned that American forces hadn't yet had big enough forces to justify using divisions in what other ways did the American army have to reshape itself in order to prepare for the war?

  5. hello guys I love the show I really like world war 1 my papa bill brown was in the great war but the Western front and the Italian front and the macdonia front and the eastern front thire my favorite fronts of world war 1

  6. GUYS!!….I..huh…finally made it…I've been watching everything that's been made on this channel starting from October last year.
    Lota time wasted but worth it. 😀

  7. staggering the amount of daily casualties. it's the entire population of a village per day. great show again.

  8. hey Indy, can you verify if this myth is real?

    I read from some old medical textbooks, detailing threat of rabies before vaccines

    It was said at one point wolves and dogs contracted rabies en masse on the Eastern Front, and attacked soldiers in their trenches

    In desperation German and Russians had a peace agreement for the time-being and turned to counter the wolf threat

    It cannot be real, is it?

  9. Well at least the Five nation armies didn't pack in parade equipment like the Soviets did at Battle of Suomussalmi…

  10. 5:15 – Allenby complaining that British troops were semi-trained and unable to use their rifles effectively. We have come quite some way from the quick-firing British troops of 1914. Since using a rifle is the basic role of an infantryman, it does make you wonder what they were teaching them in training by 1917, and how effective the training was.

  11. Question for out of the trenches: How did the various gases used by both sides react with fire? I figure there would be problems using a flamethrower in the aftermath of a gas attack if the gas could caught fire. Love the show, cheers from Sweden!

  12. The tenth battle… out of curiosity, what was the highest numbered battle for the same place in the war? Is that numbering just historians, or did they use it during the conflict?

  13. I know you have heard this many times before, but thank you and every team that you guys work with for putting in the effort and making this series.  It means very much to much of the world to see what our forefathers went through.  I also thank you for your generally neutral viewpoint on the war and political situations at the time, It makes the series very digestible and I always recommend you to my friends and family.

    You are among my favorite channels online.  Keep up the great work!

  14. Hello Indy & crew, I recently went on vacation to Ohrid and I was wondering if there was any fighting around the city during the first world war?

  15. The Bulgarians were also the best troops in the Warsaw Pact. Their deployment with/for the UN was a bit of a shock. Because they turned up actually knowing how to fight and fully motivated. Luckily we found out after the wall came down.

  16. At Bullecourt you mean the Australians repelled a German attack and were then attacked by flamethrowers.

  17. Can we see something about breakthrough on the Macedonian front. As far as know, it was glorious victory of Serbian army which break-through the enemy lines and startet to charge back to home (Serbia). Moral was so high that allies cavalry was not able to follow the Serbian infantry in progresing through the enemy lines towards the Serbia (Home). At some point, they were around 500 kilometers behind the first Serb units that refused the order to stop and wait for reinforcement from the sides and continued their fight toward the Serbia.

    Also I read somwhere that, when the Bulgarian front collapsed (and the Army) the only condition for surrender of the Bulgaria was that Serbian army was not allowed to go to/through the Bulgaria (As Serbs knew about the crimes and attrocities committed by the Bulgarians in Serbia during the war).

    Serbian role on the Macedonian front (also called "The Thessaloniki front") and in the wwI is very important. One way or another, Serbia's losses in the Great War were greater, proportionately, than any other nation: "62.5 per cent of Serbian males aged between 15 and 55 died between 1914 and 1918. Research by Russian demographer Boris Urlanis suggests 728,000 Serbian wartime deaths, of which just 278,000 were military."

    Thank you for the lessons about the courage of many small nations that certainly took part in the war and maybe eventually decided on the end of the war. Thats said, thank you for the great documentaries, the strong commitment to the facts and the honest and accurate storytelling (which is almost impossible to find today). Hopefully you will continue your history lessons on to the WWII 🙂

    Whish you all the best.

  18. Bulgaria army was the biggest and strongest army on the Balkan. We were capable of defeating both Serbia and Greece alone or beat alone Romania. We had biggest percentage of mobilisation. Almost a quoter of the nation joined the army.

  19. Sorry that I return now and then for pronunciation issues.

    'Pétain' and the 'chemin' in 'chemin des dames' pronounces like the 'a' in the English word 'lance'.

  20. Hi Indy will you do a special episode of the Macedonian genocide done by the Greeks in 1948 ?
    https://youtu.be/fsskMaEQsv0
    https://youtu.be/SyLfAz4z2Fs
    https://youtu.be/yZFeTdaPQLo
    https://youtu.be/WozTUfE3gRY
    https://youtu.be/IAVG2TK3JHk
    https://youtu.be/A822vQjKr9A
    https://youtu.be/VMH4oGRu6Nc

  21. Has anyone else noticed how good the music has gotten for this series? It actually manages to give me chills when accompanying the explanation of battles.

  22. many a million of horses, and donkies, were frozen , or , worked to death, or , munched, during the time of the great war, malaria, dysentery, and , other human funk # 49 was among them, if i had been a horse i would have to tell command to eat my dick.

  23. Can you make a show for the Macedonians how fighting in the First World War.For example, in the Serbian army is fighting about 53 thousand Macedonians, in the Bulgarian army 33 thousand Macedonians in the 11 Macedonian division and another 87 thousand in other units in the Bulgarian army .20 thousand Macedonians fight in the Greek army.Тhere are about 150 to 200 thousand Macedonians fighting during the First World War.Also, general Ivan Vazov is a Macedonian by origin, Because the Macedonians did not have their own state, they were mobilized in various armies from the neighboring countries

  24. Churchill's comments only make sense if France's army doesn't completely give up and German submarines don't destroy the Americans before they arrive and starve the British people and factories by destroying its shipping (900,000 tons of shipping that month) and that Britain wasn't broke before the end of the year. Oh, and we didn't yet know the situation of the German homeland. To say nothing of a complete implosion of Russia's army in May and the movement of massive German army and supplies to the West. What would Germans do with more time to improve their positions? Sitting and waiting sounds great..but imagine Operation Michael launched in July 17 and not early 18 as the Americans are arriving and convoys have ended the submarine impact. Yeah…in hindsight they could have waited but…we know the future. I continue to defend much of Haig's actions (not all…not even Robert E. Lee or Patton/Montgomery were perfect). He's doing what he had to in 1917 and as we see, Arras was a victory…as costly as it was. In April/May 17 there existed a chance both France and Russia would surrender any day given the state of their armies. The lowely British Tommy saved the War (and a far worse future) in these months. Thank you…your sacrifice is not fully understood.

  25. I'm impressed that he can recite "the 10th (THE FREAKING TENTH!!) Battle of the Isonzo" with a straight face.

    Best Italian strategy at this point would have been to hold the line and wait for Cadorna to die.

  26. 6:47 I just can not comment about this guy riding on top of the barrel, relaxing and smoking. Must been a real fun ride to be able to do that.

  27. Each inch of stolen Bulgarian land – will be paid with a ton of blood.. Never will that chance – since 680 AD

  28. Imperial Germany was perhaps the greatest nation in history.
    It's fantastic army, its mighty industry, its progressive welfare state, all under the command of the Kaiser. A truly magnificent nation.

  29. MACEDONIA The First, the Oldest Civilization From Always Forever.
    BIBLE Confirm the Borders Of Free Macedonia for Macedonias.
    Not Zaev TRAITOR, COWARD

  30. NATIVE Lenguage Of Macedonians is Just Macedonian Lenguage From Always Forever.
    Greetings From MACEDONIA Land Of Philip || And Alexander The Great.

  31. I Love When People Arguing Over my Country MACEDONIA !!!!!
    Macedonia is first Christians In Europe Women Name Lidija And First Nation In Europe.

  32. Those Macedonians Have Enemies ????
    😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂
    🤫🤫🤫🤫🤫🤫🤫🤫🤫🤫🤫🤫🤫🤫

  33. Macedonia Is The First ORTHODOX Land In Europe From 1912 Greeks Kill Macedonians Only way they are only smile , Macedonians And Renamed the Macedonians In Confing Others AND From 1990 Greeks PRETEND To Be Macedonians And More From Macedonians,… Macedonia is ETERNAL Enemies Nothing you can MADE Macedonia is all the other is Nothing ++++++++++++++++++++++

  34. Macedonia Is The First ORTHODOX Land In Europe From 1912 Greeks Kill Macedonians Only way they are only smile , Macedonians And Renamed the Macedonians In Confing Others AND From 1990 Greeks PRETEND To Be Macedonians And More From Macedonians,… Macedonia is ETERNAL Enemies Nothing you can MADE Macedonia is all the other is Nothing ++++++++++++++++++++++

  35. MACEDONIAN Brothers And Sisters Don’t Pay Atention To Gayreece And Bulgarians , It is Worthless Same like Them Salfes. GARBAGE 🗑

  36. Macedonia From Ever Forever, Country We Macedonians Respect Every One the Same way how he Respect Macedonia , Macedonian Peoples , Lenguage, History, Identity, Civilization, Culture,Church …..

  37. Колкото и пъти да ни нападате, ние винаги ще ви побеждаваме. General Vazov sends his regards.

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