Published on 2 May 2016
The winter 1916 ends with the invasion of Serbia and Montenegro and unrestricted submarine warfare. And the spring of 1916 starts with the Battle of Verdun at the Western Front and Russian successes in Anatolia. The British are in trouble in Ireland and in Mesopotamia but are still carving up the Middle East in the Sykes-Picot Agreement. The Eastern Front drowns in spring thaws while the Russian homefront is in disarray.
May 3, 2016
April 29, 2016
Published on 28 Apr 2016
The secret agreement between France, Britain and Russia that was signed this week 100 years ago was a turning point in the relations to the Arab world. It negated all future promises made by the British and still has consequences 100 years later. The Middle East was becoming more and more important to the British in 1916 and people like T.E. Lawrence are starting to become major players in the background.
April 19, 2016
Published on 27 Jan 2013
THE GREATEST RAID OF ALL “What a story it is, straight out of a Commando comic book.” (The Guardian) Jeremy Clarkson tells the story of one of the most daring operations of World War II — the Commando raid on the German occupied dry dock at St. Nazaire in France on 28th March 1942. It was an operation so successful and so heroic that it resulted in the award of five Victoria Crosses and 80 other decorations for gallantry.
April 15, 2016
Published on 14 Apr 2016
The Russian offensive at Lake Naroch were an utter failure but the Russian General Aleksei Brusilov is already gearing up for the future mother of all offensives on the Eastern Front. At the same time the meat grinder at Verdun is sucking in German and French troops alive. Erich von Falkenhayn realised that his initial idea probably won’t work but he still tries to capture the Mort Homme and Cote 304. In far away Mesopotamia the siege of Kut is still going on even though the British and Indian soldiers are already killing the hunger with Opium pills.
April 1, 2016
Published on 31 Mar 2016
After the huge failure at Mort Homme the Germans decide to take Cote 304 and therefore go to the western edge of the Verdun salient to make progress. On the Eastern Front the Russian 5th army loses 28,000 men in the Lake Naroch offensive and runs in its own artillery fire while at home, the Russian minister of war will be sacked. On the sea, German U-boats strike down a hospital ship and a ferry, which they thought were troopships.
March 29, 2016
That is how the logic of strategy works. Its different levels might be thought of as the floors of a building. Nothing can be achieved at the operational level of strategy without adequate tactical capacity below it — there’s no point in moving units around in clever manoeuvres if they cannot fight at all — just as there is no capacity at the tactical level if there are no supplies and no weapons. The technical level of strategy is just as essential, for all its simplicity as compared to the mysteries of unit cohesion, morale and leadership which largely determine tactical strength. But this edifice of several stories has a most peculiar feature: there are no stairs or elevators from the operational level, where battles are fought, up to the level of grand strategy, where entire wars are fought with every political and material strength or weakness in play, including alliances and enmities. Absent overwhelming superiority to begin with, no war fought with the wrong allies against the wrong enemies can yield victory, even if a hundred battles are won. By 1814, that was Napoleon’s predicament, as it would be for Germany in both world wars: German forces fought skilfully and often ferociously to win again and again in battles large and small, but nothing could overcome the consequences of siding with the decrepit Ottoman and Habsburg Empires against the British, French, Japanese and Russian empires the first time around, or with Bulgaria and Italy against all the Great Powers but Japan the second time.
Edward Luttwak, “A Damned Nice Thing”, London Review of Books, 2014-12-18.
March 25, 2016
Published on 24 Mar 2016
The Russians want to relieve the pressure of their French allies at Verdun by starting a huge spring offensive near Lake Narroch. But this is not the only reason: The spring thaws are coming and the Germans on the Eastern Front have the high ground. At the same time, the epic struggle at Verdun is continuing: Neither the French nor the German Army can gain a decisive advantage at Fort Vaux. At sea, the British use the depth charge successfully for the first time and the German ship Greif tries to run the British Blockade.
March 11, 2016
Published on 10 Mar 2016
The fierce battle of Verdun is still going on and the initial surprise momentum of the German Army under Erich von Falkenhayn is lost. Battles for hill tops and forts turn into carnage where even the winning side is loosing too much men to go on. The Siege of Kut is growing ever more desperate as the there is virtually no food left for the British Army. And in all that Portugal is joining the war.
March 4, 2016
Published on 3 Mar 2016
The fierce Battle of Verdun continues but as the Germans under Crown prince Wilhelm push harder and harder, the German casualties begin to rise to the same levels as the French. The French Army is only kept alive through the sacred road which brings men to the front without a pause. One French soldier that gets captured around Verdun, is Charles De Gaulle. At the same time, on the almost forgotten Libyan Front South African cavalry saves the day like in the glorious past of the British Army.
February 27, 2016
Published on 25 Feb 2016
The Germans start the biggest battle in history with an artillery barrage of over 1000 guns on a 20 km front. The Battle of Verdun is the first major German offensive since the Race to the Sea and Erich von Falkenhayn has high hopes to break through the French lines. Right before the offensive starts, the French are able to reinforce their defences, so they are barely able to hold the line. The French credo is: “lls ne passeront pas!” – they shall not pass!
January 12, 2016
Published on 7 Jan 2016
1915 was a year in favour of the Central Powers. But in early 1916, the Russians, British and French were sending more fresh troops into battle than ever before – and better equipped too. French General Joseph Joffre was confident that a huge combined offensive at the Somme in summer would turn the tide. But German Chief of Staff Erich von Falkenhayn had his own plans to bleed the French dry at Verdun.
January 11, 2016
Published on 4 Jan 2016
Mata Hari or Margaretha Geertruida Zelle is one of the most fascinating women of the 20th century. Not only did the Dutch woman charm half or Paris with her exotic and erotic dancing. After several up and downs she ended up as a spy for love gathering intelligence for the German secret service. When she was caught by the French, her live ended as unglamorous as it started.
January 10, 2016
Published on 2 Jan 2016
Indy is answering your questions about the First World War again and this time we are talking about the neutrality of Greece, the accuracy of Blackadder Goes Forth and the contribution of Asia and Africa.
December 1, 2015
Published on 30 Nov 2015
William “Billy” Bishop was not only the top Canadian flying ace but also one of the most successful flying aces of World War 1. With 72 confirmed victories, he soon became the fear of the German Jagdstaffeln who actually put a bounty on his head and called him Hell’s Handmaiden. Surviving one of the bloodiest theatres of war, the sky above the Western Front, Billy Bishop’s skill made him a national hero.
November 28, 2015
Brendan O’Neill reminds us that being a supporter of free speech requires you to support those who don’t always agree with you or express themselves in ways you’re comfortable with:
It’s the 21st century and Europe is meant to be an open, enlightened continent, and yet a man has just been sentenced to jail — actual jail — for something that he said. Will there be uproar? It’s unlikely. For the man is Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, the French comedian, and what he says — that Jews are scoundrels and the Holocaust is a fiction — is deeply unpleasant. Yet if we’re serious about freedom of speech, if we are truly committed to ensuring everyone has the liberty to think and say whatever they please, then the jailing of Dieudonné should outrage us as much as the attempts to shut down Charlie Hebdo or the jailing of a Saudi blogger for ridiculing religious belief. We should be saying ‘Je Suis Dieudonné’.
Due to the regimen of hate-speech laws in 21st-century Europe — which police and punish everything from Holocaust denial to Christian denunciations of homosexuality — Dieudonné has been having run-ins with the law for years. In 2009, a French court fined him €10,000 for inviting a Holocaust denier on stage during a gig. In March this year, a French court gave him a two-month suspended prison sentence for saying he sympathised with the attack on Charlie Hebdo and with the anti-Semite who murdered Jews at a Parisian supermarket a few days later. Now, this week, a Belgian court has given him an actual prison sentence: a court in Liège found him guilty of incitement to hatred for making anti-Semitic comments during a recent show and condemned him to two months in jail.
In all these cases, Dieudonné has been punished simply for thinking and saying certain things. This is thought-policing. It’s a PC, spat-and-polished version of the Inquisition, which was likewise in the business of raining punishment upon those who said things the authorities considered wicked. To fine or imprison people for expressing their beliefs is always a scandal, regardless of whether we like or hate their beliefs. Dieudonné really believes the Holocaust is a myth, as much as a Christian fundamentalist believes that people who have gay sex will go to hell or American liberals believe Hillary Clinton will make a good president. He is wrong, massively, poisonously so; but then, so are those Christians about gays and those liberals about Hillary. If every person who says wrong, malicious or stupid things were carted off to jail, Europe’s streets would be emptied overnight.
It is incredibly illiberal for the state to police hatred. Hatred might not be big or clever, but it’s only an emotion. And officialdom has no business telling us what we may feel — or think, or say, or write. Allowing the state to monitor belief represents a brutal reversal of the Enlightenment itself. John Locke, in his Letter Concerning Toleration (1689), set the tone for the Enlightenment as an attempt to ‘settle the bounds’ between the business of government and the business of morality. ‘The business of laws is not to provide for the truth of opinions, but for the safety and security of every particular man’s goods and person’, he wrote. That ideal is now turned on its head. Across Europe, governments ‘provide for the truth of opinions’, and in the process they silence those they don’t like and patronise the rest of us, reducing us to imbeciles incapable of working out what is right and wrong, and of speaking out against the wrong.
All hate-speech laws should be scrapped. Dieudonné should be freed. And a continent whose governments argue against the imprisonment of bloggers in Saudi Arabia while jailing comedians at home needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror.