Three Years of World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR Week 157

The war that would be over by Christmas. The war that all of Europe marched off to
joyously. The war that now has a death toll in the millions,
casualties in the tens of millions, has brought in nations from all over the world, has seen
the use of flamethrowers, mustard gas, bombing of civilians, the advent of the tank; indeed
the advent of Total War. That war is now three years old. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week the Russian Kerensky Offensive faced
serious trouble as the German and Austrians counterattacked. The artillery barrage heralding the arrival
of Britain’s Western Front offensive was in high gear, and the German Reichstag proposed
to work for peace, though the army and the Chancellor said that ain’t gonna happen. The Kaiser, for the first time since before
the turn of the century, now met representatives of all German political parties, except the
Independent Socialists (Gilbert). In sort of a stunning turnabout from his recent
thoughts about Belgian independence after the war, he made a speech arguing for a Second
Punic War against Britain during which all of Europe, under Germany’s leadership, would
destroy British world domination. The political reps were, needless to say,
completely shocked; the Kaiser obviously had no interest at all in last week’s peace
resolution. In the British House of Commons, Ramsay MacDonald,
Labor Party leader, did try to get support for the Reichstag Peace resolution, but was
defeated 148-19. After that he bitterly wrote to US President
Woodrow Wilson that American neutrality would have been better for peace. And on a related note, at the end of the week
came a meeting of Bolshevik sympathizers in London, who called themselves the London Soviet,
and they wanted an immediate end to the war. The British government, though, arranged for
the Daily Express to reveal the location of the meeting and distributed leaflets saying
that it was “pro-German”. 8,000 people, including soldiers in uniform,
turned up and broke up the meeting. In the field, Britain was just about to launch
a new major offensive in Flanders, but it would be tricky. The positions to be attacked were both geographically
and militarily some of the best defended on the Western Front. The Germans looked down from the higher ground
of Passchendaele and Gheluvelt over a plain from which three years of constant shelling
had removed all vegetation. In addition to the complete absence of any
concealment, the drainage system had been destroyed so that rain – frequent in August
– turned the ground into a swamp. The Germans “Flanders Position” was nine
layers deep, from listening posts to trenches to machine gun posts and all the way back
to the heavy artillery and reserves. The men had also been trained in the new flexible
defense system the Germans had developed and then used successfully against the British
and French three months ago at Arras and the Aisne. On th eir main line of defense, that to be
attacked by the British 5th Army, were 1,556 field guns and heavy guns on a front of just
over 11km. The British, though, had 2,299 guns, one for
every 5 meters, which was ten times the density they had used at the Battle of the Somme last
summer. On July 26, 700 British and French aircraft
took to the sky and cleared it of Germans, giving the British air superiority to a depth
of 8km, which was where the German observation balloon line began. You gotta realize that visibility from, say,
a captured balloon in clear weather, was up to 100 kilometers, and since the balloon had
a telephone cable attached to its tether, you could easily and quickly correct your
artillery positions. The preliminary artillery barrage had already
begun last week and would total some 4 million shells – four times the number used at the
Somme. That barrage continued all week as the British
made ready to attack. And her allies made brand new attacks already
this week. The Battle of Marashti (Marasti) began July
22nd. This was a Romanian and Russian joint attempt
to ideally encircle and destroy the German 9th Army and take back Romanian territory
lost last fall. Back in May, plans were made for the Romanian
1st and 2nd armies for this new campaign, and it came off now against German and Austro-Hungarian
defenders. The Romanian artillery began to pound and
destroy enemy positions July 22nd, and did an excellent job, totally disorganizing the
defensive front lines and opening gaps in the barbed wire. The next day the Romanian infantry went over
the top. After the 1916 campaign, they had been reorganized
and further trained, and they were battle-hardened troops fighting on their home territory, and
it showed. For the rest of the week they pushed the enemy
back a dozen kilometers on a front over 30 km wide and took hundreds of prisoners and
dozens of artillery pieces and the morale of the Romanians was riding high. But Russian morale was collapsing as the Germans
and Austrians were making big advances of their own. At the end of last week they had begun their
counterattack, and now the Russians, low on supplies began to flee in panic. General Alexei Brusilov ordered the retreat
but it was turning into a rout. All through the week the Russian retreat continued. By the 23rd, it was undisciplined on a front
of over 200km. The next day Stanislau and Halicz fell, and
on the 26th Tarnopol fell. This seemed like the reverse of last summer,
when the Russians rolled over the Central Powers, and might spell disaster for Russia. (Gilbert) “Tens of thousands of Russian
soldiers simply threw down their rifles and fled from the war zone. Hundreds of officers were murdered. Two Allied armored car units, one British
and one Belgian, were serving on the Eastern Front… their officers pleaded with the Russian
deserters to return to the front line, but in vain.” And here are a couple of notes to end the
week. Polish leader Josef Pilsudski was arrested
this week and imprisoned in Magdeburg after forbidding his soldiers to swear and oath
of loyalty to the Central powers. And Siam declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary
the 22nd. And the week comes to an end, The Central
Powers routing the disorganized Russians, even as Romania is pushing back the Central
Powers. Groups around Europe that want peace being
easily suppressed by their governments, and the British finalizing plans for an offensive
that will begin in just a few days. I mentioned two weeks ago that mustard gas
made its debut. In the six weeks following that macabre milestone,
19,000 British soldiers were incapacitated by the gas, many of them being blinded. When the war broke out, so many millions upon
millions of people had thought of the honor and glory the fight would bring, this noble
war. Well, Wilfred Owen was at Craiglockhart War
Hospital at this time in Britain, and he wrote one of the most powerful poems to come out
of the war, “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, to die for the fatherland is a sweet
thing and becoming”. “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And toward our distant rest began to trudge. Men marched asleep, many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue, deaf even to the hoots, Of gas shells dropping softly behind. Gas! GAS! Quick, boys- an ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time, But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floun’dring like a man in fire or lime… Dim, through the misty panes and thick green
light, As under a green sea I saw him drowning. In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. If in some smothering dreams you too could
pace Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face, like a devil’s, sick of
sin; If you could hear at every jolt the blood
Come gargling from the froth corrupted lungs; Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues- My friend, you would not tell with such high
zest To children ardent for some desperate glory The old lie- dulce et decorum est
…pro patria mori. The war is three years old and there is no
end in sight. If you want to learn more about another write of the war, you can click here for our special about Erich Maria Remarque Our Patreon supporter of the week is Nam-Chi
Vu. Thanks to our Patreons we have been able to make this show better and better over the past couple of years Please considering giving to us to help us out, make it even better We will see you next time.Don’t forget to subscribe

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. The Kaisers calls for a second Punic War against Britain were pretty disturbing when you consider the fate of the Carthaginians…

  2. Finally the working people of Russia is understanding that the war isn't between nations but between classes.

  3. Don't worry, the Central Powers will win. The Kaiser will use his Hohenzollern skills to destroy them all. And Kaiser Karl will just marry someone else, like some Romanov, or somthing.

  4. This period of time and in warfare and our history is without a doubt, the craziest Bloodiest cruelty and weirdest and stupid in universal history , the war strop nothing and changed everything

  5. Hello to Indie and the crew! Shoutout from Massachusetts.The war turned 3 years old today, and myself 19, so as a gift for me I'd appreciate it if you answered my question for Out of the Trenches…I know you've gone into detail about gas a bit, but I was wondering what sort of biological mechanisms were at play. Were there any "cures" or specific treatments of any kind for victims of mustard, chlorine, or phosgene gas at that point in time? I know milk can be effective against the effects of tear gas. You all do a wonderful, wonderful job and I look forward to every episode. Thank you.

  6. Indy, thanks again for an amazing episode. Your reading of the poem was powerful and gut-wrenching. You never fail to bring us back to remembering the suffering of the individual soldier on the ground, and I thank you for that. It's all too easy to get caught up in the excitement of offensives, or to howl at the polititians and generals. You anchor us all in the reality of it all as best you can a hundred years later. (My grandfathers both served in the !st AIF, both wounded, one by gas. I'm a respiratory nurse and have seen patients fight and panic for every breath. Your reading of the poem brought all of that into sharp focus.)

  7. "I think I'm beginning to understand….doesn't mean I'm not sick of this damned war, the blood, death, the endless poetry."

  8. Wow. Usually I can find something to make a (admittedly dark) joke about. This episode was just plain dark.

  9. From LI to France, a soldier’s illustrated letters of WWI

  10. Fascinating Relief Maps Show The World's Mountain Ranges

  11. Was WWI REALLY "Total War"? It seems like nothing compared to WWII where entire great powers became occupied with the war continuing

  12. Started following this with great enjoyment. Have you done anything on the italian Carabinieri Reali in WWI? If not I'd really like to see it. Regards..

  13. I've read Wilfred Owens poetry before, when I was in 8th grade. Back then I didn't understand it, neither did I care. Having followed all the weekly episodes and witnessed the madness that unfolded over the last 3 years, his last stanza makes so much sense. The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
    Pro patria mori.

  14. You are the minder of the history of those numerous men who died in those mighty battles. Men will never see that kind of battle again, we hope, you display that hope. May I thank you.

  15. Very moving, Indy. Excellent installment, and a fitting opening to the fourth year (!) of murder and death.

  16. here is some topics for out of the trenches:
    1) The ghost WWI fleet of a 1000 USA wooden ships at Mallows bay.
    2) The Road of 52 Tunnels (Strada delle 52 Gallerie) on Monte Pasubio Italy.

  17. Question for out of the trenches: how were the Roma people (aka gypsies) generally affected by the war? Were there any regimes made up of Roma people on one side?

  18. Really pleased to hear you read out Dulce et Decorum est…I loved about five minutes away in Edinburgh, Scotland from where Wilfred Owen was in hospital at Craiglockhart.

  19. I've been watching this channel and this guy seems to glorify it. I'd like to see people like this in real combat and see if they talked about it like this. It's like all the countries leaders just use all of their soldiers as pawns.

  20. That was a pretty powerful poem, I don't think anything had quite given such a vivid (and grotesque) impression of the horrors of chemical warfare in World War I.

  21. Thanks Indy for mentioning my country that was formerly known as Siam entered the Great War and I hope you make a video about Siam in World War 1.

  22. I am so curious about Passchendaele and Langemarck! I'm reading "In Stahlgewittern" right now and I'm about to start the chapter on Langemarck. And I still remember that there was some Canadian action around Passchendaele, which I can't recollect, though. This is going to be interesting weeks!

  23. Hello Great war team, I had a question. I randomly stumbled upon a German version of this channel. I wanted to know if it was official and if so, why has it stopped posting?

  24. this is so cool your doing this 100 years to the date.I live near kc mo and have been to the ww1 museum.If you get a chance to see it i highly recommend you do so.

  25. I love when you end with powerful quotes or poems. It always sets the tone and reminds everyone the reality of what we're learning about.

  26. I remember when this series was only 11 episodes, time goes by so fast, I discovered this show in middle school with their Canada in WW1 Special.

  27. there were several times in history that 'total war' was waged in ancient china, the Peloponnesian Wars, the US civil war to name a few.

  28. Yay, the battle of Marasti is a Romanian victory, next is the battle of Marasesti, another Romanian victory ! I cannot wait another week.

  29. Will you ever do an episode about Ernst Jünger and his book Storm Of Steel?
    Probably the best memoir about The Great War

  30. So cool how an autocratic nation like Germany suppresses peace talks by having the Kaiser go over the heads of his own government.

    While a democratic country like Britain makes propaganda to trick it's own people into ignoring and shutting down peace talks in their borders.

  31. -How many layers of defence are you on?
    -Like, maybe 5, or 6 right now, my dude.
    -You are like a little baby. Watch this. Flanders Position

  32. The best line of the poem is 'like a devil's sick of sin' meaning that the war has turned so sour that even the devil is pissed off

  33. Your reading of "Dulce et Decorum est" is very powerful, kudos to you. The poem moved me to tears, you moved me to tears.

    Thank you.

  34. Thank you for the quote about how American neutrality would have helped end the war. The white supremacist Woodrow Wilson caused the war to last longer. America should have stayed out. Maybe there would have been a stalemate that wouldn't have led to WW2.

  35. We studied that poem in school but since it was in English class we focused on the language, etc and sort of dissected it rather then appreciate it as a piece of poetry. Having heard Indie read it and being able to appreciate it properly I wish we'd studied it in history class when we were covering WW1

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