100 Years Ago Today: A Chronological Catalogue of the Tragedy of the First World War

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  1. Dhamptastic

    Dhamptastic Here To Help

    22 November 1915.

    The Battle of Ctesiphon.


    As London gave tacit approval to Indian ambitions, and began shuffling around their military formations to allow India the military power it needed, the Indian Army forces in the Mediterranean began their drive on Baghdad. The commander of Indian Army forces in Mesopotamia, Sir John Nixon, was eager to take advantage of the perceived weakness of Ottoman forces in the region and gain the crown jewel of Mesopotamia. The Raj government was hopeful that they would be allowed to keep at least part of what they conquered in any peace settlement, and the more they took the more they might get. The British government was indecisive in its discussions and was unable to make a decision on policy regarding the ambitions of India. Nixon was confident, believing Baghdad would be in his hands by Christmas.


    The commander of the offensive forces was, once again, Charles Townshend.


    Throughout the advance up the Tigris, Townshend had questioned the intentions of his superiors. The formal goal of the Mesopotamian Campaign had been to protect British oil resources in Persia, adjacent to the city of Basra. It was logical to secure the Ottoman province of Basra. The advance to Kut could be justified in that it possessed the entrance to a canal connecting the Tigris and Euphrates, and therefore could potentially threaten British positions on the Euphrates. But beyond that, Townshend was unsure of the point. Nevertheless, he was a reliable general and followed his legal orders.

    The advance was slow. Every foot marched took the Indian forces further from their supply base. Roads were relatively useless and no rail connections existed, so supplies had to travel up the river. With appropriate cargo-carrying boats or ships, this wouldn't be a big deal. However, the fleet of river craft Townshend was able to assemble did not include vessels which were capable of carrying large amounts of cargo. And as winter arrived, the water level dropped, reducing the volume of traffic which could travel. Therefore, progress was slowed by the logistical problems inherent in operating in undeveloped areas.

    Even before the clash at Kut a month before, Ottoman forces were planning their defense of Baghdad. But preparations kicked into overtime after the British captured Kut on 29 September. On 2 November, the local Ottoman commander, Colonel Nureddin Pasha, moved to secure his rear.


    Called "Bearded Nureddin" later in life, on 2 November, he ordered the arrest and detention of high profile Christians and Jews in Baghdad. Paranoia was high, and it was widely believed that religious minorities were unreliable. 70 elite residents were immediately shipped to Mosul, with their families required to sell their property and follow on their own. In effect, the Ottoman government was able to seize the properties. This is, of course, similar to the first move against the Armenian population, but with important differences: first and foremost, the arrested elites were not murdered by the state; and there was no subsequent mass-deportation and genocide.

    With that accomplished, Bearded Nureddin focused on choosing and preparing a battlefield.

    He found it some 20 miles south of Baghdad, at the ancient city of Ctesiphon.


    Ctesiphon was founded by the Parthian Empire during its conquest of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire, across the Tigris. After becoming the capital of the Parthian state, it rose in significance. It eventually absorbed the old Greek city of Seleukia. Its importance shown by the number of times the Romans captured it during punitive campaigns against Parthia: five. When the Neo-Persian Empire of the Sassanids rose and displaced the Parthians, it continued to grow and was against a major military objective of the Romans. Except the Sassanids grew stronger than the Romans and it was at Ctesiphon that the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate was killed in battle, ending the reign of the descendants of Constantine and resulting in the final division of the Roman Empire into East and West.

    By 570 AD, Ctesiphon was the largest city in the world, with over 500,000 residents. It would keep that honor for sixty years.

    Until 632. In that year, Muhammad died and Abu Bakr became the Caliph of a unified Arab Muslim state. And began conquering the world. By virtue of being directly north of the Arabian peninsula, Mesopotamia was the first victim. In 636, Ctesiphon fell. Within twenty years, its Persian population was gone. And no one came to take their place: as Arab settlers displaced indigenous populations, they did not choose the old Persian capitol. Instead, the Caliphate chose to build a new capital some 20 miles north: Baghdad. Within a century, Ctesiphon was a ghost town.

    As Baghdad expanded, Ctesiphon was cannibalized for building materials.

    All that remained in 1915 was all that remains today, the ruins of the Sassanid Royal Palace.


    The arch is 121 feet tall. The largest un-reinforced brick vaulted ceiling in the world, the largest ever made as well as the largest surviving, a vast and stunning example of the engineering abilities of the Neo-Persian Empire. Nothing like it exists in the Roman Empire. Mostly likely, it enclosed a vast throne room, where the Neo-Persian King would stun his audiences with the grandeur of decadence.

    The only reason the palace still exists for us to marvel at today is because its demolition was too vast a project for the Caliphate's engineering abilities at that time.


    Bearded Nureddin had a month to prepare, and did his work well.

    Two deeply entrenched lines faced the advancing Indian forces. 52 guns were carefully placed and likely avenues of attack were presighted. Many covered the Tigris.

    And Nureddin had four divisions, including the two newly raised Anatolian divisions. 18,000 men faced the oncoming enemy; a far better equipped, prepared, and trained force than the British Indian forces had yet encountered in the campaign.


    The majority of Townshend's forces were his own division, the 6th (Poona) Division, but heavily weakened by attrition and having to leave garrisons at points on their advance. He had about 11,000 men, supported by two river gunboats.

    His plan of attack was similar to his previous battles. Smaller detachments would attack the Turkish line, while a larger column flanked the enemy positions.


    On the 21st, Townshend sent reconnaissance flights over the area. One, a B. E. 2c biplane, flew further beyond the first Turkish line.


    What the pilot, Major H. L. Reilly, saw was bad. He observed the second line of trenches, and new tents, which he estimated to house at least 7,000 men. Townshend was walking into a trap! Realizing that this information was of critical importance, Reilly turned for friendly lines and put on speed. Fire came from Turkish positions, slapping into his wings and fuselage. He kept going until he heard the distinctive clank of a bullet hitting his engine. Smoke and oil poured from the plane, forcing Reilly to land between the lines. He made for friendly forces, but was rounded up by Arab auxiliaries currently allied to the Turks.

    Townshend was unaware of the trap.


  2. Dhamptastic

    Dhamptastic Here To Help

    The attack was designed to go in at dawn on the 22nd, but confusion sent the columns on incorrect routes. They ended up attacking the strongest Turkish positions, and came late.

    Supporting gunboats were stopped cold by Turkish artillery and mines in the river.

    The 17th Indian Brigade, closest to the river, was stopped well before the lines by concentrated artillery fire.

    The main attack, the 16th and half of the 30th Brigades, charged forward but was stopped in front of the trenches.

    The flanking movements, however, found sparsely manned forward lines and broke through. To take advantage of this, Townshend ordered the 17th Brigade to fall back, sweep across the battlefield, and exploit the breach.

    At this point, Bearded Nureddin committed his reserves--the new 51st Division--which smashed into the flank of the British forces.

    Far on the flank, Townshend's cavalry became entangled with Arab auxiliaries and had no effect on the main battle.

    The sun set on the first day, with the British in possession of the first Turkish line.


    On the second day, 23 November, the British attacked the second Turkish line.

    They were stopped cold, and then the Nureddin attacked and forced the British back to the first line they had captured the previous day.

    The second day ended with heavy casualties on both sides.



    On the third day, 24 November, both sides withdrew, unaware of the other side's movements.

    The Turkish forces suffered over 6000 losses in their costly defense and counter-attacks. Their casualties fell heaviest on the 46th Division, one of the new Anatolian divisions, which took 65% losses. Notably, the division was able to stand despite the losses.

    The Indian forces took 4600 casualties out of 11,000.

    One British soldier remarked that it didn't matter how officers tried to pronounce Ctesiphon, because the soldiers called it "Pistupon". (for the record, tes-e-phon, with a hard T like at the start of "test", and a short E like in "heh")

    Down to 8500, counting walking wounded, Townshend decided he had no choice but to fall back on Kut.

    Nureddin had withdrawn, figuring he could fight again between Ctesiphon and Baghdad. The Ottoman Army had stood its ground and given as well as it got once again. Moreover, Nureddin took an army which was defeated from Mosul to Kut, and won. Knowing his reinforcements were already committed, he was prudent. But once it became apparent the British were falling back, he turned around and pursued them.

    Back to Kut.
  3. Dhamptastic

    Dhamptastic Here To Help

    30 November 1915.

    The Fall of Serbia, The Retreat


    Editorial Notes:

    Fallout 4 is the devil, sucking up all of my free time. Not a real excuse for sloughing off, but I do have a weak will when it comes to Bethesda games and have since Arena.

    Most of the photographic images here are from the Imperial War Museum's digital collections, they're awesome if you can get past their terrible indexing.



    With overwhelming force pushing them from north and south, Serbia was in a crisis. When the Bulgarian First Army captured Nis, the whole country became untenable. What components could retreat south from the north did, and southern units had little choice but to retreat northwards.

    Between an Austrian and German anvil and a Bulgarian hammer were roughly 150,000 Serbian soldiers in Kosovo.


    "Kosovo" is an emotionally charged word. To Serbian nationalists, it evokes the 1389 Battle of Kosovo, in which the largest principalities which emerged from the collapsed Serbian Empire made their last stand against the Ottoman Empire, fighting to a bloody draw, killing the Ottoman Emperor in battle, losing their own ruler in battle. One last futile act of defiance before being conquered, the eternal spirit of Serbian defiance. To Westerners--Americans and Western Europeans--it is more apt to evoke visions of ethnic cleansing and precision bombing videos on CNN, the last "television war" of the 1990s and an occasional model against which humanitarian operations are measured.

    The 1915 Battle of Kosovo was another act of futile defiance.


    Backed against a wall, the commander in chief of the Serbian military, Marshall Radomir Putnik was faced with two options.


    With the Bulgarians advancing from the South and East and the Germans and Austrians closing in from the North, he could order a desperate retreat into the mountains of Albania. Or he could attack south, try to push the Bulgarians back far enough that Serbian forces could link up with the British and French.

    Albania was a bad idea. In 1912, Serbia tried to capture Albania. Strategically, Serbia needed sea ports if it were to be a major power. The Danube is navigable up to Belgrade, but it is subject to closure by enemies further down river. They were allies with Montenegro, and Austria to their north was too strong and too allied to greater powers. So Albania was their target. Serbian forces occupied major towns and cities, but were faced by an insurgency in the countryside. So, they began systematically massacring Albanian villages. Because the men were out fighting, most death was visited upon non-combatants. The Carnegie Endowment for Peace, under its first president Elihu Root, made investigating Serbian massacres their first major international mission. They discovered around 120,000 dead Albanian civilians in Kosovo and Albania. Serbian propaganda flooded the country with denials. Methinks she dost protest too much, it poisoned the Albanian people against the Serbs. Any retreat would be hell.

    So Putnik chose to attack southwards. Unbeknownst to him, the Anglo-French movement into Serbia was aborted after the Battle of Krivolak. The French commander, Maurice Sarrail, had outstripped his supply line and had little choice but to fall back after skirmishing with Bulgarian forces. Has Putnik known the French had turned back, he likely would not have launched his last desperate offensive.

    In early November, disorganized and mixed elements of all three Serbian field armies threw themselves southwards towards Kumanovo. They did not get far, and took extreme losses.

    In response, the Bulgarians and Germans together advanced.

    The Battle of Kosovo resulted in 30,000 Serbian casualties, and 199 artillery pieces lost.

    It was a disaster, and there was no choice but to fall back into Albania.

    On 25 November, the retreat was ordered.

    The goal was the Adriatic Coast, where Entente naval forces could transport the surviving Serbian soldiers and civilians to the Ionian Isles, and allow them to resume fighting elsewhere.


    Approximately 350,000 Serbians marched into Albania.

    Civilians, those who could flee, led the way. What the Austrians and Bulgarians were doing to Serbian civilians was enough to make anyone want to leave (we'll talk about that at a later time).



    Wherever possible, civilians were escorted, but it didn't always keep Albanian tribesmen away.



    As soldier and civilian marched into the mountains, the dead were left where they lay.


  4. Dhamptastic

    Dhamptastic Here To Help

    As November became December, rains turned to snow, as the Serbians moved through the Albanian mountains.






    Men froze on sentry duty.


    King Peter I marched with his men.


    But Marshal Putnik, weakened by stress and illness, was unable to ride. And had to be carried out in a sedan.



    The rear guard fought ferocious actions to delay the Bulgarians and against Albanians.



    To give up, to lag behind, to let your guard down, was death.


    Over 350,000 Serbians entered into Albania. Only about 150,000 made it to the Adriatic in early 1916. The vast majority of those were soldiers.


    Over 200,000 Serbians, their bodies anyway, remained in the mountains of Albania. Thousands had died simply from exhaustion. Thousands more were killed by disease. And thousands more yet were killed, often slowly and horribly, by vengeful Albanians.

    Those who survived were not out of danger. Thousands more died in hastily erected hospital camps on the Ionian Islands. Because of the rocky soil, their bodies were dumped into the sea. One dumping ground was an inlet on the island of Vido, now called the Blue Graveyard.


    Putnik was one such casualty who died long after escaping. Once evacuated, he was moved to a hospital in Nice but never recovered. He was removed from command by King Peter I in January 1916, and died 17 May 1917 of a lung disease which developed during the retreat. He was disgraced at home, but welcomed by the Western powers. In 1918, in recognition for his efforts against impossible odds, Canada put his name on a mountain in Alberta: Mount Putnik.

    It is the taller peak to the right.


    Serbia's ally, Montenegro, would stand alone.

    Serbian civilians would feel the brunt of ethnic cleansing. Over 1.1 million Serbians would die in WWI, mostly civilians, out of a prewar population of 4.5 million. Roughly 27% of the entire population. 60% of the male population. In terms of Serbs not born, Serbia is still deep in a demographic hole from WWI, with a mere 7 million modern inhabitants in a LARGER geographic area.
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  5. Dhamptastic

    Dhamptastic Here To Help

    5 December 1915.

    The Siege of Kut develops.


    In 2002, the government of Saddam Hussein received a shipment of headstones from Britain. This was not a taunt about what would happen a year later. The headstones were inscribed with the names of British soldiers killed in Iraq. And this was not a preemptive shipment, as if Britain knew who would be killed after 2003. Rather, this shipment was from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the intergovernmental body responsible for the commemoration of British Commonwealth war dead from the two world wars. 2002 marked the first time, since the Iran-Iraq War, that the CWGC was allowed in Iraq to maintain the 20,000+ known war graves in that country. A further 30,000 Commonwealth soldiers were killed in Iraq during the First World War, but that number were Indian soldiers who were almost exclusively cremated as per their cultural traditions. A very large number of those graves and funerary pyres were filled because of Kut.


    The city of Kut, also known as Al-Kut and Kut Al-Imara and Kut El Amara and perhaps a dozen other names, is today a middling Iraqi city of 375,000. But in 1915, it only housed 6500 people. This titanic expansion in population, far out of proportion to growth, was accomplished by a barrage dam on the Tigris, which raised the water enough to ensure supplies to a vast irrigation network. The term "barrage" refers to a dam made up of a number of gates rather than a large solid edifice: gates can be opened or closed depending on water flow to ensure a desired water level. The barrage allowed the agricultural output of the immediate region to expand geometrically. In 1915, it was still an agricultural region, just in smaller scale. Because of its cereal grain agribusiness, it was/is also a center for the manufacture of rugs. Kut might be best known today for being the urban center nearest to Iraq's nuclear weapons production plant, previously bombed by Israel in 1981, the US in 1991, and converted into a spent fuel repository, which US Marines blundered into in 2003, breaking IAEA protocols and potentially allowing significant nuclear material to pass into private hands, raising the risk of dirty bomb attacks for the foreseeable future.


    On 3-4 December 1915, roughly 11,000 tired and battered British and Indian soldiers filed into the city.

    8500 of these men had been on the retreat since the Battle of Ctesiphon not quite two weeks earlier, and the remainder were garrisons, detachments, and support troops collected as the army retreated.

    In the city were not only the 6500 indigenous population, but 3500 Indian non-combatant support personnel, and over 2000 sick and wounded from the campaign.

    The action on this map is not relevant to the current post, but the geographic area is.

    Kut sits at the very tip of a sharp U in the Tigris River, almost making it an island, or like Miami on the tip of Florida.

    This was both a good and a bad position.

    It was ideal for defense, in that a garrison need only concentrate on defending the land side of the city. A defender would only need light defenses along the river: the Turkish forces lacked significant riverine capability and a single machine gun can defeat any number of heavily loaded reed boats. The agricultural output of the area was significant and the city contained large reserves of food. And to retreat beyond it would entail a long retreat through disease-infested marshes while being harried by Arab auxiliaries employed by the Ottomans.

    There was a significant problem, however. The very problem the Indian army had in supplying an advance would be magnified by having to try to supply a besieged force while also supplying the inevitable relief force.

    This problem was worsened by the commander of the soon-to-be-besieged British Indian forces, Charles Townshend.


    Townshend sent word to his superior, Sir John Nixon, that he only had a month of food on hand. In reality he had food for well more than four months, if he rationed. This kicked relief preparations into high gear, and subsequently reduced the capability of Nixon to get supplies to Kut. Given that Townshend was well aware of the difficulties in moving supplies up the river, he must have known the effect his message would have...so why did he do it?

    In risk assessment, there are four categories of knowledge. There are the Rumsfeld Three: known knowns (things you know you know), known unknowns (things you know you don't know), and unknown unknowns (the more dangerous things you don't know you don't know). But there is also a fourth category: unknown knowns. That which we refuse to acknowledge that we know. This is by far the most dangerous, as it preys on what Lincoln referred to as the "better angels of our nature". A good historical example is the Munich Agreement. The unknown known was that Hitler was not going to abide by it, this cannot be attributed to hindsight as most observers in those governments with direct knowledge said so at the time, but the governments of Europe consciously chose to not acknowledge what they knew in a vain hope to avoid an unsavory result. It might be unfortunate, in the future, that appeasement is back in fashion. But it might not.

    Did Townshend choose to unknow what was known? Was he admitting reality to himself but presenting a different picture as a strategem, and to what end would that have helped? I think it's likely that Townshend was so apprehensive of a retreat through hostile territory that he misrepresented his supply situation to reflect a scenario where his men would not have supplies for further retreat. And I would argue that his arguments against advancing to Baghdad is ample evidence of his prudence, and now he had a situation where he had an excuse not to engage in what he would have seen as ruinous aggressive movement. And given the easy fights advancing to Ctesiphon, it is reasonable to conclude that Townshend would have considered his last battle to be an anomaly and would have believed that relief would come before his real food supply was exhausted.


    Immediately, Townshend had his men entrenching across the mouth of the peninsula which Kut occupied.

    By the end of December, it looked like this.


    These were probably the most complex and elaborate field works outside of Western Europe.


    To save on food, Townshend sent his cavalry and draught animals away via a pontoon bridge over the Tigris, on the map it would be the northern one by the fort. This was accomplished between the 5th and 6th, at which point Turkish artillery began shelling the bridge and the order was given to destroy it. And a second bridge was erected a short ways upstream, which according to the commander of the Ox and Bucks battalion present, caused great dissent as it was believed the city was to be abandoned across it. This rapidly became a moot point, as on the 9th of December, the Turks attacked and closed the bridgehead.

    This aggressive movement by the Turkish forces is in keeping with the point of view of their commanders.

    Bearded Nureddin was still the senior Turkish officer, however he would be removed in January 1916 and given a newly organized infantry corps in Anatolia.


    But by this point, Colmar von der Goltz had taken operational control of the Ottoman Fifth Army.


    The two worked well together, both being highly intelligent and aggressive commanders. And von der Goltz had spent a long portion of his military career as an adviser to the Ottoman Empire, and so had deep respect for their intelligence and abilities. Lacking cliche European airs of superiority, von der Goltz was an ideal choice to put in such a crucial area.

    When Nurredin and von der Goltz arrived, their army was a mere 11,000 men. Eventually, over 40,000 would be funneled into the siege. They arrived in a steady stream.

    Through December, Ottoman forces kept constant pressure on the British. Artillery shelled both Kut itself and British trenches. They sealed off British attempts to cross the river. And they mounted three major attacks on enemy works, but were repulsed each time.

    You can see the effects of shelling on this aerial photograph.


    Eventually, the decision was made to entrench and open a proper siege.

    Knowing British relief attempts were coming, Colmar von der Goltz took a page out of the Julius Caesar playbook and entrenched against his besieged enemy, and also against relief forces. This formed a two-sided siege camp, walled in and walled out. Like at Alesia during the Gallic Wars.


    And so the Ottomans would await British attacks.
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  6. Dhamptastic

    Dhamptastic Here To Help

    6 December 1915.

    An Inter-Allied Conference at Chantilly.


    What 1915 taught the Entente is part what it teaches us today: cooperation between allied belligerents is absolutely essential.

    This isn't exactly a revelation, and it should not have been for the Entente. In their immediate intellectual past we see examples. During the Peninsular War, Anglo-Spanish cooperation made and broke campaigns. For example, during the Talavera campaign, the Spanish agreed to feed the British and cooperate in the field. But instead, the Spanish only grudgingly provided a pittance of food and their army operated with the kind of superiority complex which could only bring ruin; an ironic superiority complex considering Spanish performance to that point. Lack of cooperation resulted in two French armies uniting against the Spanish, forcing the British to fight their battle at a significant disadvantage, and then the victory proved to be empty as the pittance of food stopped being provided and Wellington had to withdraw to Portugal. It took the fall of the Spanish Junta and Wellington being named Generalissimo (making all Spanish armies subordinate to him) for cooperation to happen and for the French to be driven from Spain. But the Peninsular War was able to be won in large part because of Napoleon's defeat in Russia. That campaign, and the subsequent year's clashes, should have illustrated for the French the need. It is one thing to look at numbers for Napoleon's defeat in 1812: perhaps 685,000 going in, 70,000 coming out. But it's another to remember that a large part of those losses were -->defections<--. Napoleon's army was bolstered by army corps from Saxony and Bavaria and Austria and Prussia, German states obligated by dictated treaty after they were defeated. As Napoleon fell back from Moscow, these forces, which had been on the northern flank of the French advance, defected. Over 100,000 of that number survived the campaign, but ended it on the opposite side. In the 1813 campaign, Napoleon was able to be successful until the coalition against him learned to cooperate. And thus he was pushed back to the suburbs of Paris by the next year and forced to abdicate and take exile (a short rest) on Elba. Even more recently, the Crimean War should have illustrated the importance of coordination between allies and between theatres.

    Anyway, we always forget the lessons of the past. Because obviously we're smarter than they were. It's not that you're doomed to repeat the past because you don't know what happened, it's because you know the past and so are confident that you know why bad things happened and can do better with your hindsight.

    Hubris brings nemesis.


    Cooperation failed in 1915.

    When the Russians were most desperate for aid in the late spring and summer, the western allies could not respond. By the time they were able to prepare and launch offensives in the autumn, the Russians were no longer in need.

    When Serbia was most in need, Britain and France landed at Salonika but were unable to move fast enough, and in enough force, to affect the outcome.

    Even cooperation on a single front was problematic. The French and British tried to time their offensives, but more often than not one or the other only gave halfhearted support.

    What Entente military leaders wanted to hammer out was a realistic plan for cooperation in the coming year.


    As previous military conferences, the December 1915 Chantilly Conference was preceded by a meeting (at Calais in this instance) between civilian leaders.

    At that meeting, the British had insisted on a withdrawal from Salonika. They argued that with the fall of Serbia, the reason for the Salonika expedition was void. An expedition to support Serbia can't fulfill its mission without a Serbia to support. In principle, France agreed to this. This is just one example of the issues decided, but it is one which would set the tone for the conference at Chantilly. After the meeting at Calais, as civilian representatives reported to their governments the results of deliberation, a minor panic descended on the other powers. In Rome, Petrograd, and in the exiled Serbian court, the idea of the Salonika front being closed was feared. Here was a front which, however useless to its mission, could nevertheless occupy significant military attention to the tune of many divisions. Those forces would be stuck there, and couldn't be used elsewhere. For Italy and Russia, especially, that was a big deal since a handful of divisions could change the course of their fronts. Therefore, London and Paris rapidly became bombarded by notes and memoranda requesting that the Salonika front be maintained. The Tsar himself sent personal notes to Asquith in London and Briand in Paris.

    Therefore, as the Chantilly Conference opened on 6 December 1915, the representatives attending had to grapple with how to realistically support their allies.


    There were three main players this time around.

    The French were represented by their Commander in Chief, Joseph Joffre. As the conference was meeting at his own headquarters, he also acted as the presiding officer. Joffre had recently been promoted to the overall French commander in the whole war, not just the Western Front. It's a niggling detail, as he was already the CinC of the French Army, but his authority did not extend to overseas operations as those were, before the promotion, controlled by different arms of government. So he was also the most powerful man at the conference.


    The British were primarily represented by the commander of the BEF, Sir John French. It was not publically known yet, but Sir John had already submitted his resignation. The failure at Loos had broken his reputation and he no longer had the confidence of the British government. The note announcing his resignation arrived in London on the morning of the 6th, as he was sitting down with his foreign peers. This will be talked about later in more detail, but his resignation would take effect ten days later.


    Also playing a key role in the deliberations was the Russian delegate, Yakov Zhilinskiy. Zhilinskiy had been the front commander controlling the Russian First and Second Armies in 1914, the man who allowed his armies to attack into East Prussia seperatly, resulting in ones defeat and the other's destruction. He had been sent to France as a military representative to keep him out of trouble. He would be recalled in 1916, for the purposes of firing him and forcing him into retirement. He'd subsequently be captured and shot by the Bolsheviks as he tried to escape Russia in the wake of revolution. If it followed the standard scenario, the Bolsheviks would have captured him and asked him to fight for them and when he refused they shot him. Had he accepted, his execution would have instead come in the 1920s as Stalin purged his old Imperial technical staff.


    Also present were representatives from Serbia, who I can't find names for, and Italy, led by Carlo Porro. Porro was Cadorna's #2 man.


    The British delegation was also reinforced by Sir Archibald Murray, who had begun the war as Sir John French's chief of staff but had a mental breakdown during the Battle of Mons, and after recovering was temporarily made Chief of the Imperial General Staff in September as Kitchener (who, despite being Secretery of State for War was also the defacto Chief of the Imperial General Staff) was on an extended tour of the war zones. Murray would go on to theatre command in Egypt and Palestine; he would do well enough to show that his breakdown in 1914 was an anomaly.


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  7. Dhamptastic

    Dhamptastic Here To Help

    The conference opened with a memorandum, from the French, presented to participants.

    The full text can be found here: http://www.firstworldwar.com/source/chantillymemo.htm But I will extract some from it.

    The plan was to attack in 1916. Germany had the upper hand in 1915, and had to be pushed back if the war was to be satisfactorily ended. The French proposed that France, Britain and Italy must attack first. This would draw German divisions away from the Russian Front. Two weeks after the attacks begin, the Russians will attack a now-weakened Eastern Front.

    "1. Great Britain, France, Italy and Russia will deliver simultaneous attacks with their maximum forces on their respective fronts as soon as they are ready to do so and circumstances seem favourable. This is our essential aim, the principal means by which we expect to force a decision.

    2. Until this can be done, the Austro-German forces will be worn down by vigorous action, to be carried out principally by those powers which still have reserves of man power. (Great Britain, Italy and Russia).

    3. Each of the Powers will unceasingly continue to accumulate material and equipment. Russia and Serbia will be helped by their Allies to reorganize their armies in this respect."
    Taking the Salonika debate into consideration, the French memo agreed to keep that front open, and establish new ones.

    "1. The Coalition will first try to establish in the Balkans the effective barrier which they failed to form at Constantinople. With this object it is necessary:

    1. To continue in occupation of the Salonika region, in default of southern Serbia (Franco-British Expeditionary Force, remnants of Serbian army).
    2. To occupy Albania in force (Italy), to reassemble and reorganize the Serbian army.
    3. To continue pressure on Greece (France, Great Britain, Italy), in order to obtain the maximum co-operation from her, and to organize on her coasts operations against enemy submarines.
    4. To take economic and military action (Coalition and Russia) to keep Rumania free from German control.
    5. To follow closely the trend of events in the Balkans and profit by all opportunities to bring neutrals over to our side, and take advantage of changes which are always possible in view of the diverse interests at stake.
    2. At the same time, the Coalition must provide for the adequate defence of Egypt. With this object it is necessary

    1. To evacuate Gallipoli by degrees and send the British troops thus relieved to Egypt for rest and reorganization.
    2. To create a strong defensive system east of the Suez Canal. "
    This memo was largely agreed to.

    Then the Russians played their hand.

    Zhilinskiy forcefully echoed the words of his government that the Germans would not stand idly by and allow the Entente to pursue their plans without interference. It's a major problem in planning that we assume a passive foe. The Germans will attack on their own schedule, and another failure like 1915 must not be repeated. Again, when the French and British were finally able to attack to help Russia, it was too late.

    Therefore, the Russians argued, that each member of the Entente must pledge to launch immediate offensives to aid their allies.

    It would require amassing men and material in anticipation of enemy action as opposed to just to fill your own offensive needs, but that's just good planning. The shell shortage was trailing off and stocks of war materiel were expanding.

    This was also largely agreed to.


    Ironically, the Russians would be hoisted on this petard. In February 1916, the Germans would launch a major offensive against Verdun. And the Russians would be stuck with the job of launching a hasty offensive.

    But the conference was ended with a general agreement: the 1916 offensives would be timed for 1 July.
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  8. Dhamptastic

    Dhamptastic Here To Help

    This thread is not dead, I've just been exhausted.

    I'll restart it with the new year.

    Until then, here's 42 Quotes from the Germans about the Americans.


    42 Quotes From Germans About American Troops After World War I
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    Nick Greene
    filed under: History, military
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    In 1919, the United States compiled a report on German attitudes towards American troops and their behavior during the war and subsequent occupation. The document, titled “Candid Comment on The American Soldier of 1917-1918 and Kindred Topics by The Germans,” included interrogation and interview transcripts and intercepted letters from citizens that contained insight on post-war attitudes of the defeated nation. Below are some highlights and excerpts from that report, which you can read in its entirety here.

    On the Character and Ability of American Soldiers in Battle
    1. “I fought in campaigns against the Russian Army, the Serbian Army, the Roumanian Army, the British Army, the French Army, and the American Army. All told in this war I have participated in more than 80 battles. I have found your American Army the most honorable of all our enemies. You have also been the bravest of our enemies and in fact the only ones who have attacked us seriously in this year’s battles. I therefore honor you, and, now that the war is over, I stand ready, for my part, to accept you as a friend.”

    —Chief of Staff for General v. Einem, commander of the Third German Army

    2. “Americans are good fighters with nerve and recklessness.”

    —Arunlf Oster, Lieut. of Reserve

    3. “The prevailing opinion in Germany before our entry into war, was, that American was a money hunting nation, too engrossed in the hunt of the dollar to produce a strong military force. But since our troops have been in action the opinion has changed, and he says that though Germany is at present a defeated nation, he believes that they would be victors in a war with any nation in the world with the exemption of the United States.”

    —Karl Finkl of Bolingen

    4. “There were only a handful of Americans there but they fought like wildmen."

    —Antone Fuhrmann of Mayschoss

    5. had been told by other soldiers that the American infantryman was reckless to the point of foolishness."

    —Peter Bertram, shopkeeper of Dernau

    6. “The accuracy of American artillery fire…could have been considerably improved upon.”

    —Karl Diehl of Selters

    On Americans as Prisoners of War
    7. “The Americans were what might be called bad prisoners. A group of 14 were brought in one day and when asked about their units refused to talk. They refused to work and talked back to the officers, much to the annoyance of the officers and the concealed delight of the men.”

    —Paul Heinman

    8. “The Americans were the chief complainers when the food was bad which was always.”

    —Pietro D’Paris

    On Being a Prisoner of War Under the Americans
    9. “Prisoners of war under American jurisdiction continue to send home glowing reports of good treatment. It is clearly deducible that they are more satisfied with their present condition, than they would be at home”

    —Postal Censorship, April 12, 1919

    On the Sartorial Charms of American Troops
    10. "[American] officers are not well dressed….All officers in the German army even when in active field service have one or more trunks and from time to time are allowed to leave for the purpose of obtaining uniforms.”

    —Michael Hoffman of Rech

    11. “The American army seems to me as fine a collection of individual physical specimens as I have ever seen. But from the standpoint of military discipline it is a mob, pure and simple. The men appear slouchy, the officers to not stand out from the men in appearance and they do in any European army.”

    —Dr. Otto Schranzkmuller, former Prussian Municipal Official

    On the Relationship Between American Officers and their Subordinates
    12. “[American] troops lack the snap and precision of the German soldiers but…the cordial relations between the officers and men more than make up for the lack of iron discipline.”

    —Anton Liersch, Postal Agent in Dernau

    13. “The attitude of the American officer towards enlisted men is very different than in our army in which officers have always treated their men as cattle.”

    —M. Walter of Minderlittgen

    On Americans Being Good Occupiers
    14. “We were informed that your men were inclined to be rough, and the impression was left with us that we had a very serious time before us…but today, after living 24 hours with them, we have no longer andy apprehension. They are wonderfully mild mannered men and a great contrast to the domineering attitude of our own soldiers. Your troops, not even one, have spoken a single disagreeable word to anyone, and when we offered them wood for cooking and heating purposes they accepted with what seemed to be a certain shyness.”

    —Statement of the Mayor of Kaschenbacm

    15. “Children have constantly talked of the Americans’ arrival, and pictured them as a band of wild Indians, however, when they troops arrived, we were astonished at their behavior and pleasant attitude toward our people.”

    --Michael Simon of Neuerburg

    16. “Bolshevism is slowly spreading all over the world. I spoke to a Frenchman a few days ago, who stated that the working men in France demand 25 francs per day. I am glad and thankful we are having American troops occupying our town, otherwise we would have the same trouble as many of the larger cities.”

    —Translation of a letter from Coblenz

    17. "The American troops show much more consideration for the private rights of the inhabitants of the village than did the German troops."

    —Karl Schramem, Landstrumer of Zermullen

    18. "The Americans can very well serve as an example for our own troops whose behavior as they passed through here was none too good."

    —M. Erasmi of Kylburg

    19. “The people here hate the French more than they do the British. They much prefer the Americans as troops of occupation. Since the Americans have arrived the German people have learned to like them.”

    —Karl Felder of Bieder Breisig
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  9. Dhamptastic

    Dhamptastic Here To Help

    On Americans Being Bad Occupiers

    20. “The citizens of Eich who were fined for having a dirty yard and premises claim that their trial was unfair, and that the fines were too heavy. One of them says that American soldiers were partly responsible for the condition of his yard.”

    —U.S. Army report, April 17, 1919, in Trier

    21. “The young girls complain of the requisitioning of all public buildings by the Americans thereby making any sort of recreation impossible for them. They begrudge our monopoly of the dance."

    —Weekly Resume from the 3rd U.S. Army, Feb. 3 1919

    22. “Complaints, coming especially from the smaller towns, accuse the Americans of immorality and drunkedness.”

    —Weekly Resume from the 3rd U.S. Army, Feb. 3 1919

    23. “All male persons from 12-60 years old must give up their beds to the troops of occupation. Children under 12 years certainly never had any claim to a bed. We are supposed to sleep on the floor.”

    —Letter from Ehrenbreitstein

    24. “Our Americans are very good. But the officers and General are boasting scoundrels…in our house 10 men and 2 officers are quartered. They slam the doors so hard that the whole building shakes.”

    —Letter from Mia Clausen

    25. “Since day before yesterday there has been crisis here too, among our workers; they all want to strike. But that is only because of the terribly high food prices, for the Americans eat up our little bit and pay outrageous prices…The roads are all rundown from the army autos, and people are being killed every day by crazy chauffeurs. Electricity plants are over burdened and the inhabitants get a feeble current so that the Herr Americans may burn 3 lamps in every latrine.”

    —From a letter from Hans Rohrl, Neuwied

    Americans as Voracious and Rash Consumers
    26. “[I run] a store in Brohl, where among other things candy and cookies are sold to American soldiers…[I can] make a profit because the American soldiers will pay the price that I must ask, while the civil population would not.”

    —Herr Stenzel

    27. “They have lots of money and buy foolishly. Articles that just before our occupation were sold to the people and the German soldiers for 25 to 30 marks are now bought by the Americans for from 80 to 100 marks…a great many articles are being made expressly for the American souvenir hunters and in almost all cases these are made of cheap imitation material.”

    —Fritz Ulman of Cologne

    28. “The American Discipline is excellent, but the thirst for souvenirs appears to be growing.”

    —A daily letter from Treves, Germany

    29. cannot understand the general desire if the American soldier for the “Gott mit uns” belt buckles and the German Iron Crosses… alone have sold more Iron Crosses to American soldiers than the Kaiser ever awarded to his subjects.”

    —Fianale Fappen, novelty shop owner in Neuenahr

    American Troops' Relationship With German Women
    30. “Great activity here at present. We have a large aviation field. Seven out of ten of the population are Americans. Many of the girls have fallen deeply in love with them. A new song has already been composed, as follows:

    Wo steht denn das geschriben.
    Du sollst nur Deutsche lieben?
    Man liebt doch auch America.

    Translation:—“Where does one find it written, that one most love the Germans only? One can love America also.”

    —Letter from H. Moeren Sinzig

    31. “Many German girls go around with the Americans, I simply can’t understand it. If any American talks to me I am prepared to give him an answer.”

    —Letter from Lani Schuster, Coblenz-Leutzel

    32. “The girls are to blame, but one must not forget that the gentlemanly enemy are a decidedly forward people. Fresh beyond bounds.”

    —Letter from Gertrude Bisseldt

    33. “Many of our young girls have gone wrong since the A----- are [unclear] is almost hard to believe of some of them. Martha Strodter is engaged to an A-----. Isn’t she crazy?”

    —Letter from P. Stanier of Grenzhausen

    34. “They are like children and find their joy only in playing and eating which they do the whole livelong day…of course there are exceptions as in anything else, but some of these men are so far beneath, that their origin from the ape can be plainly seen upon their faces. How the censors will rave when they read this letter, but I am only writing the truth. They are the wildest when they are after the girls. But thank God that they can at once recognize the difference between a 'decent' and a 'common girl.'"

    —Translation of a letter from Hote Koetter, Neuwied. In the report, this is under the headline: “BAITING THE CENSOR”

    35. “Katchen Schroder was thrown into jail from Monday to Tuesday because she told a soldier to ---------. Another girl was unceremoniously spanked in broad daylight, and she is 23 years old too. And what can one do? However, it serves them right. Why don’t they leave the soldiers alone?”

    —Letter from Frau Lemka of Wollstein

    On American Motivation For Entering the War

    36. like the American soldier individually but do not like the nation as a whole…America entered the war for what money she could get out of it.”

    —Frau Frieda Fischer of Lohndorf

    37. “A German officer said that the Americans came over here only to see the world and for the sake of adventure.”

    —Mrs. Anton Bursch, shopkeeper in Echternach

    38. “You Americans are not real the heart and soul in the war, are you? The French hate us because we took Alsace and Lerraine, but you only entered the war to make sure that England and France would be able to pay you the money you had lent them. For that reason we are glad that the country is being occupied by Americans instead of French or English. Row-boats were often used to deceive German U-boats, and when the letter came to render assistance concealed guns opened fire on the U-boats.”

    —A German 12-year-old schoolboy

    On American Politicians
    39. “Schoreder has also written to me, did he not send you a clipping of Hoover’s speech in the Chicago Tribune? If not I will send you a copy. Hoover does not speak well of us.”

    —Letter from Berlin to Trier

    40. “[I will never] like the Americans because President Wilson had said that he would furnish food for Germany and has not done so.”

    —Young teacher in Neuwied

    On American Character and the Possibility of Moving to America
    41. “I would like to go to America for a half year or so because it is certain that these people possess a secret method which raises the most common fellows into an individual who stands up boldly and moves about freely and unconcerned.”

    —Letter from Frau Lisbette Schafer of Vallender to William Straube

    42. “What are your Americans doing? Do you get as much chocolate as I do! I am tired of the stuff and also of the entire pack, although I have had many very pleasant hours with them. The Americans cannot grasp that we have so much work to do. Those lazy people. Things are better for them in America than for us here. I may yet go with them. Then you would indeed make eyes.”

    —Translation of letter from Niederbreisig to Gondorf

    All images courtesy Wikipedia Commons
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  10. Sabbatha

    Sabbatha Here To Help

    You'd think Luke could have trained a new cadre of Jedi in that time.
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  11. Dunadain

    Dunadain Famous

    Checks thread:

    Tumbleweeds, crickets, a lonely harmonica...

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  12. Dhamptastic

    Dhamptastic Here To Help

    I'm not dead. Just in the midst of a really busy time.
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  13. TheMuse

    TheMuse Here To Help

    I'm just here for the pictures. Only 23 more pages to go!
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  14. Dhamptastic

    Dhamptastic Here To Help

    An explanation.

    Long story short: I've been busy, very busy, and underpaid. And it's getting worse. Not to imply a political judgement, but the budget ideas put forward on the Federal level has made the sky fall. The assumption is that no one will be offering grants of any kind next year, regardless of how things turn out. Budgets have to be made far in advance, and the worst-case has to be planned for. So on the receiving end of grants, we assume the 2016 calendar year is the end of history. So we're writing for everything we can legitimately qualify for, or cheat and manipulate our way into getting. I don't have much experience with grants, so it's hell.

    Thus, this will be a little escape for me: doing something which is analogous to my real job. Can't keep up daily. I get home with just an hour or so to eat and play some video games. But weekends I'm generally only putting in half days, unpaid. I'll use some of my free time to engage in what I consider fun.


    The story so far...

    We left the war at the end of 1915.

    In broad strokes, each year was very bad for at least one major combatant. What Elizabeth II brought into modern language in 1992: an annus horribilis.

    1914 was extraordinarily bad for France. Approximately 1/3 of the number of French dead for the entire war were lost in the first five months. This was largely the result of French military culture. The need to defeat the beaten zone became an obsession with the offensive and the bayonet. The French expected mobile warfare--really, there wasn't a reason to think otherwise--and ordered small and mobile artillery, which made the German superiority in artillery all the more effective. Even as the nature of war was becoming apparent, metal helmets were rejected as the war was assumed to be almost over anyway. As French soldiers boldly attacked in 1914, they were boldly blown to pieces by German artillery long before machine guns could eat them up. It took the French a long time to overcome their own culture and adapt.

    1915 was a nightmare for two countries: Austria and Russia. In the Carpathian Winter War of 1914-15, the Austrian field army ceased to exist as an effective force. Given a massive influx of unready reservists, the army froze in a savage winter they were completely unequipped for. Men froze at their posts, froze through bullet holes in their clothing, starved. Fully 75% of the attacking Austrian soldiers were casualties, mostly to cold-related injuries. And their goal of lifting the siege of Przemysl failed. 130,000 Austrian defenders fell to the Russians.

    Russia suffered a catastrophic collapse. The outstanding success of the Gorlice-Tarnow offensive crumbled the Russian line and forced a retreat from the middle of Poland to a line running through the Belorussian city of Pinsk. With all of Poland in German hands, a peace-feeler was made by Kaiser Wilhelm II through the neutral Danes. Nicholas II refused. He'd take personal command of the army and ensure personal ownership of every defeat.

    1916 was German's worst year. With Easterners in the German Empire both appeased and cowed by the success of 1915's offensives but their failure to end the war, it was time for Westerners to show that the war would be won on the Western Front. The plan would be one of the first conscious attempts to attrit and enemy into defeat.

    Towards the end of the American Civil War, it was grasped by Lincoln and his senior generals that plans for capturing key cities wouldn't end the war. But that the enemy armies must be "destroyed". Given the near-impossibility of dealing mortal damage to any force with mobility equal to your own in a single battle, this entailed constantly forcing battle. In many cases, it resulted in bloodbaths. Either mutual, as at Spotsylvania. Or for one side, as at Cold Harbor. The lesson was that attacking WILL attrit your enemy, but it also attrits you.

    What the Germans conceived of was to take advantage of French pride and courage and capture a position which would offend French honor to the point where they would attrit themselves attacking to get it back. This is actually a matter of some controversy among historians. There are several camps, two of which are mutually exclusive: 1. that the Germans did indeed intend to threaten a place and force the French to attack them until death, and 2. that the Germans actually intended to capture the place, and the supposed plan is subsequent justification as an excuse for not capturing it. I'm in the first camp.

    The place was Verdun. It was a fortified place, and a point of pride. It was also something of a salient, a protruding French point into German-held territory, a bend in a river, flanks protected by the river. If the German Army could threaten it, they could "bleed France white".

    It didn't work out well. The German Army did capture points threatening Verdun, but only at far greater cost than was planned. The initial bombardment saw a million shells land in a zone 30km wide and 5km deep. Each battery had a zone which it swept back and forth with shells, pausing to allow the French to man their defenses to expect an attack and resuming to catch them in the open. Stormtroopers, trained in infiltration tactics and armed with flamethrowers, went forward and met little initial resistance.

    A lone German sergeant entered the largest French fort in the area and captured it, room by room, armed only with a rifle. It turned out it was manned by janitors and mechanics. The only German casualty was a scraped knee. The French never intended to fight from the forts: the example of the Belgian forts of 1914 showed they could not be defended.

    But as the German Army advanced, they outpaced their artillery. And then casualties began to mount. The first phase saw 24,000 French dead and 25,000 German. This 4:5 exchange rate would stay constant. In months of battle, the Germans would lose perhaps as many as 162,000 killed to the French 143,000.

    The French would see the rise of a new hero: Marshal Petain. His WWII infamy was decades away, his WWI fame is summed up in one line: On ne passe pas! Construed into English as "They shall not pass!"

    In case you didn't notice, Lord of the Rings is WWI. I'll try to remember to do a post on that.

    To relieve the fight at Verdun, the British and Russians launched offensives. At the Somme, the British won what was a decisive victory. But it's forgotten, because of the bloodbath of the first day. But, in fact, the Germans were pushed back six miles and lost half a million men. The Russian Brusilov Offensive targeted the remnant of the Austrian Army, and pushed it back into Poland and Galicia. The Russians would lose over a million men, but they could afford it. The Austrians also lost a million men, and couldn't afford it. Germany would need to do all of the lifting on the Eastern Front from 1916 forward.

    More of 1916 will be covered in relevant 1917 events.

    1917 would be the worst year for the British and Commonwealth armies.

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  15. Dhamptastic

    Dhamptastic Here To Help

    One component of 1917's woes would be the Siegfriedstellung: the Hindenburg Line.

    This is the Western Front at the end of 1915, showing the attacks of 1916.


    As the line moves south from the English Channel, it bulges west as it crosses the Franco-Belgian border, and then radically swings east once it hits the Oise River, and shoots over towards Verdun. This represents a massive salient. It's probably too big to be effectively threatened--as both Britain and France found--but it still represents an inefficiency for the Germans.

    As a result of Verdun, the Somme, the declaration of war by Romania which I didn't mention yet, but mostly the Brusilov Offensive, Germany faced a major shortage of manpower. At the end of 1915, almost a million men were in training depots, but these numbers were not nearly enough to cover both losses AND the even greater responsibility for the Eastern Front that Brusilov forced upon Germany.

    Younger and younger conscription classes would be called up: at the end of 1916, the 1898 class was called. 700,000 17 and 18 year olds. The Germans took men at age 20 in the peacetime draft. But this wasn't enough. It was decided that the salient would be abandoned, and that stronger defensive lines should be constructed, to maximize defensive efficiency.

    In September 1916 already, construction was beginning on better defensive trenches. These would take advantage of learned knowledge on defensive tactics and modern construction methods. Strong lines would occupy reverse-slopes, making direct fire against them impossible. They would have mutually supporting bunkers and shelters for hundreds of men each. Hundreds of yards of firmly-anchored barbed wire would protect them.

    Seen from the air, the barbed wire are dark swaths upon the ground, the trenches full of traverses to prevent grenades or artillery or machine guns from sweeping down too much of a trench at a time.


    Seen from the ground, they don't look like much, until you run into a bunker.


    Oh. And the reconnaissance images only show part of one line.

    There were three sets of lines. Each successively more powerful and separated by scientifically planned killing fields.

    They were so well made that they still exist today.


    By January 1917, they were complete enough to be used. This would save the German Army 13 or 14 divisions to shift into reserve or use elsewhere.

    Moving back from their old lines would be a dangerous prospect and it could be a major boon for France. This area was, before the war, the heart of France's extractive industries. In between abandoned farm fields were slag heaps from mining and ruined factory towns. Regaining this area could turn the production war against Germany. Use of this area had to be denied to France.

    Enter Operation Alberich.


    Alberich is the dwarf who guards the treasure of the Nibelungen. Because the SIEGFRIEDstellung has to keep with the Wagner naming theme.


    In Wagner's Ring Cycle, he forges the magic ring from gold stolen from Rhine maidens, granting the wearer the power of feminine manipulation (ie: the power to rule the world). With it, Alberich enslaves his people and forces them to mine gold and jewels. He forces his own brother to smith a magic helmet.

    German planners should have remembered that all are destroyed by the ring: Alberich, Wotan, the Giants, all of Valhalla, Siefried, Brunhild...the Nine, the Seven, Gollum, Sean Bean, Mordor...

    Bad choice.


    Launched on 9 February 1917, Operation Alberich was a multi-phased withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line, combined with ruining the very ground they fell back over. The first phase involved scorching the earth. Rear-area units were retasked from their normal jobs to wrecking everything in sight.

    Every able-bodied French civilian was rounded up and relocated to other areas as virtual slave labor. 125,000 or so. The remainder: the young, the old, the pregnant, the crippled, the ill...were left to take shelter in ruins without food or water.

    And then everything was destroyed.

    Railways and roads were demolished.


    Houses were blown up, burned, pulled down.


    Factories, warehouses, refineries, and all, were blown up. Mines were blown up, flooded, booby-trapped. Some were never reopened.


    Every fruit tree was cut down.


    Canals and dams were destroyed to flood fields. Wells were fouled with feces and corpses.


    This was the Rape of Belgium times a thousand.

    It was ruthlessly effective. But it backfired in more ways than one.

    First of all, the German Army on the line how had to fall back through an apocalyptic scene of fire, smoke, starving children and old women, slogging through mud and muck, unable to rest, to see, to hear. It was devastating to German morale at the time. The troops falling back were mostly Bavarian, who saw themselves as better than this. The rift between Bavaria and Germany opened by WWI, increased by Alberich, would cause fatal problems in Weimar Germany.

    Secondly, it was a major propaganda loss. The world was seeing absolute and irrefutable confirmation of the mostly-lies told by Entente propaganda in 1914. The Rape of Belgium might have only been a one-off thing, except then Alberich occurred.

    Thirdly, in 1918, the Germans would have to attack back over this ruined land.

    The destruction lasted for 34 days.

    On the 16th of March, German forces began to withdraw to their new lines.


    And the Entente did almost nothing.


    First, the Germans chose to withdraw. They were not retreating in disorder after a battle. A simple pursuit would have been inadvisable. Haig, the commander of the BEF, had literally written the book on cavalry operations and argued explicitly that aggressive pursuit is inadvisable because even a defeated foe can turn and destroy a rapidly-organized pursuit.

    Second, really first, the Entente was caught off guard. While reconnaissance had found significant evidence of new fortifications, there was little idea that the withdrawal would be so sudden and complete.

    Third, the Germans were really f-ing good. Their retreat was conducted with timetables and the coordination of all arms. Roads were left untouched by Alberich: as German infantry marched past, German engineers rendered them impassable.


    By March 23, the withdrawal was complete.

    The French saw the destruction of their country and protested:

    "The Government of the republic is now gathering the elements of protest which it intends sending to neutral Governments against acts of barbarism and devastation committed by the Germans in French territory which they are evacuating while retreating. At this time I ask you to make known to the Government to which you are accredited that we Intend to denounce before universal judgment the unqualifiable acts indulged in by the German authorities. No motive demanded by military necessities can justify the systematic devastation of public monuments, artistic and historical, as well as public property, accompanied by violence against persons. Cities and villages in their entirety have been pillaged, burned, and destroyed; private homes stripped of all furniture, which the enemy has carried off; fruit trees have been torn up or rendered useless for future production; streams and wells have been poisoned. The inhabitants, relatively few in number, who have not been removed have been left with a minimum of rations, while the enemy seized stocks supplied by the neutral revictualing commission which were destined for the civil population.

    You will point out that this concerns not acts destined to hinder the operations of our armies, but of devastation having no connection with this object and having for its purpose the ruin for years to come of one of the most fertile regions of France.

    The civilized world can only revolt against this conduct on the part of a nation which wanted to impose its culture on it, but which reveals itself once again as quite close to barbarism still, and, in a rage of disappointed ambition, tramples on the most sacred rights of humanity."​
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  16. Bob Crees

    Bob Crees Banned

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  17. XzerothreeX

    XzerothreeX Famous

    I second that.
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  18. Dhamptastic

    Dhamptastic Here To Help

    I hope it ends up as good as the older ones.
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  19. Righteous Ham

    Righteous Ham Here To Help

    And caught up! Between yesterday and today I've reread the last few pages to reacquaint myself of this book you've been writing. Seriously, if published you could easily charge twenty to thirty dollars per copy. Looking forward to your next post!

    P.S. I know a bit about being mentally taxed beyond one's ability to produce something like this. My own career has this effect upon my writing, so It's appreciated that you've taken up this cup once again as I know what this may be costing you.
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  20. Bob Crees

    Bob Crees Banned

    There is certainly a lot of research done in writing such a piece. Lots of respect @Dhamptastic
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