Published on 23 Jul 2015
This week Russia premieres her tactics of “Scorched Earth”. A new strategy of burning their own land is to avoid enemies profiting from their conquests. Russia had been retreating from the German and Austro-Hungarian armies for nearly three months now. Continuously losing huge areas of land and hundreds of thousands of men on the Eastern Front. As a consequence, millions of civilians had to flee their homes. At the same time allied troops at Gallipoli are weakened by infections and disease due to lack of hygiene and heat while Italy repeatedly failed to take out Austrian strongpoints.
July 24, 2015
July 17, 2015
Published on 16 Jul 2015
The German-Austrian offensive on the Eastern Front had undone all of Russia’s territorial gains in the last weeks. Lemberg had fallen and the German troops were at the gates of Warsaw. The Russian casualties were in the millions, especially equipment and officers were becoming scarce. And exactly now, the German high command (OHL) prepared an all-out offensive along the entire frontline. At the same time in Gallipoli, one failure followed the other. How long would the Entente be able to continue this exercise in butchery?
July 14, 2015
Published on 13 Jul 2015
Italy was a major European country that joined World War 1 almost a year after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Initially, Italy actually had an alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary called the Triple Alliance, but Italy decided to back the Entente powers instead because they were promised disputed land in the Alps and near Trieste. Find out all about Italy in World War 1 in our new special.
June 26, 2015
Published on 25 Jun 2015
Just a few weeks ago Austria-Hungary’s military laid in shambles. But with German support from August von Mackensen and other German generals, the tide is turning on the Eastern Front. Even Lemberg can be conquered again and the Russians are still on their Big Retreat.
June 15, 2015
Apologies for presenting this one out of order, but last week was a bit disordered. The next Great War video will be week 47, probably on Friday.
Published on 4 Jun 2015
When Przemysl falls for the 2nd time and when the British and ANZAC troops fail at Gallipoli again, one thing becomes clear: Artillery is the key for future battles. August von Mackensen had used it with great success at the Gorlice-Tarnow-Offensive and the French even diverted one million men to shell factories. Meanwhile German Zeppelins bombed London and the US sent submarines for aid.
June 12, 2015
Published on 11 Jun 2015
Reginald Warneford is important to Britain’s war effort. Not just because he shot down a German zeppelin, but because he is made a hero in times when heroes are needed. He receives a Victoria Cross soon after his victory because the commanders know about the average life span of pilots in World War 1. Meanwhile, the Austro-Hungarian army digs into the alpine rocks to fend of the Italian Attackers and Gallipoli continues to be a butchery without any progress.
May 29, 2015
Published on 28 May 2015
After the defeats of Austria-Hungary against Russia, Italy is seeing her chance to grab disputed territories from them. Even though they are not prepared for a full scale war economically or militarily, the declare war against the Central Powers. So, just one month after the landing at Gallipoli, yet another front is opened in Europe. Meanwhile the Russians are still on the run from August von Mackensen and in Gallipoli the fighting stops to collect the dead.
May 22, 2015
James Simpson on the revolution in military affairs triggered by the development of the steam engine and the railways:
Trains were cutting-edge weapons of war in the 19th century — and all the major powers were figuring out how to deploy them. The Europeans learned how to move troops by train. The Americans — how to fight on rail cars. The British, meanwhile, found they could dominate an empire from the tracks.
In today’s world of tanks, bombers and submarines, it’s perhaps hard to believe that the train was once an amazingly mobile weapons platform. They might be locked to their rails, but for over a century trains were the fastest means of hauling troops and artillery to front lines across the world.
The invention of the railway shaped warfare for a century. Rails allowed force projection across immense distances — and at speeds which were impossible on foot or by horse.
The first demonstration of the military efficacy of the railroads was the 1846 Polish Uprising. Prussia rushed 12,000 troops of the Sixth Army Corps, with guns and horses, to the Free City of Krakow to help put down the Polish rebellion. In this period of nationalist uprisings, Russia and Austria also used their railroads against similar uprisings from 1848 to 1850.
A lack of infrastructure and experience stifled the success of these early endeavors. Due to a lack of rolling stock, suitable platforms and double-track stretches, the trains sometimes operated far slower than a man could march on foot.
Austria was first to get it right. In 1851, the Austrian Empire shuttled 145,000 men, nearly 2,000 horses, 48 artillery pieces and 464 vehicles over 187 miles.
May 10, 2015
At War on the Rocks, Jake Hall talks about the pervasive inflence of intoxication during the First World War:
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand is often regarded as the proverbial match in the tinderbox where World War I is concerned. The imperial-nationalist tensions surrounding Austria-Hungary’s waning empire, tensions which inspired the assassination and ensuing conflict, were frankly unwarranted, considering the swill these regions were, and still are, trying to pass off as potable spirits. Then again, what’s a tragic war of global scope without tragically misguided motivations at the start? One contributing factor to the war-primed Europe of 1914 sounds oddly familiar. Disenfranchised youth of marginalized states resorting to suicidal violence. It’s easy to see how the seven agents of Ferdinand’s assassination could be lining up to enlist in ISIS today. Youthful, “angsty,” and driven by an unhinged sense of importance and righteousness, it was a 19 year old, Gavrilo Princip, who carried out the clumsy assassination on the streets of Sarajevo. After a failed bombing attempt, failed suicide attempt, and a major security lapse by Ferdinand’s guards, the conspirators succeeded in gunning down the Archduke and Duchess almost by chance. With that act the Serbian nationalists, on a quest for south Slavic unification, killed a couple that were by many accounts lovely people, and started the July Crisis that led to the Great War.
The conflict that followed became the then-largest mobilization of military force ever, until the rematch 21 years later. HG Wells was the first to declare WWI the “war to end war,” and though that designation had contemporary critics, it quickly became a motto for the hostilities. A war to end war seems like an occasion for a drink, no? If it doesn’t, you’ve either never had a drink or you’ve never had a soul. In any case, what follows is an account of which powers were most benevolent during the war, measured chiefly by the alcohol rations secured and distributed to their soldiers. It presumes that the men fighting in the trenches on all sides had drawn short straws in life, and the side most willing to allow a little buzz on the front line exhibited a little humanity.
So how does all this play out in the end? France occupied the role of major supplier to all sides drinking needs. The Germans made large gains at the start of the war, and enabled rear-echelon troops to frequent taverns in their newly conquered territories. Couple that privilege with their substantial liquor rations, and the German rank-and-file were well situated for some time. Ultimately, the British naval blockade started affecting German supplies, which directly cut into their drinking. When the Allies reversed Germany’s advances and ended the war, they virtually ensured the Germans would only be drinking regret and resentment for nearly two decades. The French military was also generous with its rations where allies were concerned, attempting in a small way to soften the hard line the British and American citizens and leadership held with regard to their troops’ drinking. Russia incurred the mother of all hangovers when it finally stopped drowning itself in vodka for a minute, and basically played the role of your friend who passes out at the bar. Final outcome? À votre santé, France.
May 5, 2015
Published on 4 May 2015
Conrad von Hötzendorf was one of the main figures pushing for war and escalating the July crisis in 1914 leading to World War 1. His failure as commander in chief of Austria-Hungary were staggering but still today some consider him a military genius. Who was this man who polarizes military scholars till today and played such a huge role in the downfall of the Habsburg empire? Find out in our biography.
April 16, 2015
At the heart of the grandeur was a man who liked plain food, predictable routines, and, for relaxation, hunting and shooting. He was a good Catholic without thinking much about it. Like his fellow sovereigns Nicholas II and Wilhelm II, Franz Joseph loved the military life and almost always appeared in uniform. Like them too he was sent into a rage when the details of army uniforms were wrong. Apart from that, he was invariably courteous to everyone although always conscious of rank. He only shook Margutti’s hand once, to recognize that he had been promoted. (Margutti regretted ever after that no one else at court had seen this momentous gesture.) Franz Joseph found modern art puzzling but his sense of duty took him to public art exhibitions and the opening of important new buildings, especially if they were under royal patronage.” His taste in music ran to military marches or Strauss waltzes and, while he liked the theater and from time to time the prettier actresses, he preferred the old favorites. He did not like unpunctuality, loud laughter or people who talked too much. He had a sense of humor, of a rather basic sort. He had climbed the Great Pyramid in Egypt, he wrote to his wife, Empress Elisabeth, with the help of Bedouin guides. “As they mostly only wear a shirt, when they are climbing, and that must be the reason why English women so happily and frequently like to scale the pyramids.”
Margaret MacMillan, The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914, 2013.
April 10, 2015
Published on 9 Apr 2015
The leaders of the Ottoman Empire are looking for a scapegoat after their collosal defeat in the Caucasian Mountains a few month earlier. They start the systematic relocation and disarm Armenian troops among their ranks to end all calls for Armenian independence. Today’s estimates place the death toll of the genocide up till 1.5 million men, women and children.
April 3, 2015
Published on 2 Apr 2015
Not only the soldiers are suffering on the Eastern and Western Front, the Dardanelles or since this week also in Macedonia. More and more civilians become refugees in this modern war. Even far away from the battle grounds they are not safe anymore when German submarine sink civilian ships.
March 27, 2015
Published on 26 Mar 2015
The generals at the Western Front are slowly starting to adapt to the modern war. The battle of Neuve-Chappelle will be a blueprint for future operations and further improvements are supposed to finally bring the decisive advantage. In the meantime, after 133 days, the fortress of Przemyśl capitulates – the longest siege of World War 1.
March 20, 2015
Published on 19 Mar 2015
Even though the Entente offensive near Constantinople didn’t really take off yet, the allied powers were already dreaming about splitting up the Ottoman Empire between themselves – and even promised territory to other nations. In the meantime, Austria-Hungary started its third offensive in the Carpathians to free the besieged army in Galicia.