26/5/1918 Georgia exits the Transcaucasian Federation #1918Live

Last month a new country joined the family of nations: the Transcaucasian Democratic Federal Republic, uniting Georgians, Azeris and Armenians in a federal union, together with members of other smaller ethnic groups. Today, barely a month after its formation, the Federal Republic begins to disintegrate.

The odds were stacked against the federation from the start, with internal ethnic divisions exerting a strong centrifugal force. More immediately threatening is the continued advance into the Caucasus of the Turkish army, with Enver Pasha determined to restore Turkish prestige by re-absorbing long-lost territories back into the Ottoman Empire. Georgian leaders fear that the federation is too weak and internally divided to resist the Turks, so now they declare independence. A German force under Kressenstein has already arrived in Tbilisi. The Germans declare Georgia to be under their protection, preventing the Turks from overrunning this new state.

With Georgia gone, the Transcaucasian Democratic Federal Republic is effectively dead. Mutual hostility between the Azeris and Armenians mean that they will not be able to peacefully coexist in a single federation. It cannot be more than a few days before the federation is formally dissolved.

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Meeting today of Georgia’s National Council (Wikipedia: Democratic Republic of Georgia)

25/5/1918 Trotsky orders the Czechoslovak Legion’s suppression #1918Live

Disaffected Czechs and Slovaks captured from the Austro-Hungarians were recruited into a Czechoslovak Legion to fight alongside the Russians against the Central Powers. The Bolsheviks had agreed to transport the Legion by rail to Vladivostok, from where they would be shipped to Europe to continue their war. However clashes between the Czechoslovaks and the Bolsheviks have seen members of the Legion take over the town of Chelyabinsk, cutting the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Now Trotsky, commander of the Red Army, decides that he has had enough of these troublesome Czechoslovaks. Repudiating the transit agreement, he telegrams Soviets across Siberia, ordering them to suppress the Legion. “Every armed Czech found on the railway is to shot on the spot!”, he demands.

The Czechoslovaks are a disciplined and well-armed fighting force, while the various Soviets still have only Red Guard militia units at their disposal. Trotsky may perhaps have bitten off more than he can chew, initiating an unnecessary war in Siberia that his men will not easily win.

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Czechoslovak legionnaires (SovietJournal: The Czech Legion)

Leon Trotsky (Wikipedia)

23/5/1918 The former Tsar and Tsarina are joined in Ekaterinburg by their children #1918Live

The former Tsar and Tsarina are being held in Ekaterinburg in the House of Special Designation. The regime here is far stricter than the prisoners have been used to. The house is sealed off from the outside world, surrounded by a high wall and the windows painted over to prevent any attempt at signalling to royalist sympathisers. The guards are surly and ill-mannered, accompanying the inmates to the lavatory and covering the house’s walls with obscene slogans. For most of the day the prisoners are confined to their room. To pass the time, the Tsar starts reading Tolstoy’s War & Peace, which he had not previously found time for.

Today at least there is some good news for the former royal couple, as their son Alexei and four daughters Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia are brought to Ekaterinburg and incarcerated with their parents. Now at least the family is together again.

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The Royal Family in happier times (Wikipedia)

21/5/1918 Ludendorff’s gaze turns to India #1918Live

Ludendorff is preparing a diversionary offensive against the French in the Chemin des Dames sector, after which he plans to attack the British in Flanders. He hopes that this will see the British driven into the sea and the French forced to make peace. But he is concerned that the destruction of their army in France and Belgium may not be enough to force the British to agree to peace terms. With their naval dominance they will be able to rest secure in their homeland and continue to strangle German trade.

How to force Britain’s surrender? Ludendorff thinks he has the answer. Today he writes to Hans von Seeckt, German chief of staff of the Turkish army. Outlining his concerns, he reveals to Seeckt his solution: Britain will have to make peace if threatened in India. Accordingly Seeckt is to prepare the Turkish army for an overland march to attack the jewel in Britain’s imperial crown.

Ludendorff takes for granted that the Turks will gladly allow their army to be used for this grandiose adventure.

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Erich Ludendorff (The Soldier’s Burden – Die Grosse Schlacht in Frankreich: Events leading up to the 21st of March 1918)

Hans von Seeckt (Wikipedia)

19/5/1918 Gervais Lufbery’s fatal fall #1918Live

In 1916, before the USA entered the war, the Lafayette Escadrille of fighter pilots was formed by American volunteers to assist the French. Most of the Americans were new to flying but one who was not was Gervais Lufbery, a Franco-American who had previously worked as an aircraft mechanic before training to become a pilot. Lufbery proved to be a gifted pilot and soon achieved the 5 victories that qualified him as an ace. When the USA entered the war Lufbery transferred to the American air force, training new pilots in combat techniques but continuing to fly missions himself, achieving some 17 victories, mostly while flying with the Lafayette Escadrille.

Today Lufbery unfortunately meets his end. After intercepting a German reconnaissance aircraft near Nancy in France his own aeroplane flips over and he falls out, his seatbelt apparently unfastened. The fall proves fatal.

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Gervais Raoul Lufbery (Wikipedia)

19/5/1918 The last Gotha bombing raid on London #1918Live

Germany has followed its Zeppelin bombing raids on Britain with Operation Türkenkreuz, a series of attacks by giant Gotha aeroplanes. The Gotha raids have been more destructive than the Zeppelin attacks and have forced the British to deploy fighters in south east England that would otherwise be in place on the Western Front. But the bombing raids have taken their toll on the Germans too, with many of the Gothas shot down by enemy fighters or crash-landing on their return home (especially when missions are undertaken at night to avoid the British fighters). Today, after a terror bombing raid on London that killed some 49 people, German commanders decide that the strategic bombing campaign is not worth the resources that are being put into it. There will be no more bombing raids on London; instead the Gothas will be redeployed to attack targets behind enemy lines on the Western Front.

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Gotha bombers (Pinturas aviación Gran Guerra 1914-1918: Great London air raid scare (Tumblr))

17/5/1918 Sinn Féin leaders arrested as Britain strikes against “German plot” #1918Live

Ireland is in a tumult thanks to British plans to introduce conscription. Nationalist parties Sinn Féin and the Irish Parliamentary Party have joined forces with the Catholic Church and organised labour to oppose the measure.

Despite the opposition and warnings from senior figures in the local administration, London is determined to bring conscription to Ireland; such is the desperate need of new recruits to make good the losses suffered in the German spring offensives. Lord French (previously the British commander on the Western Front) has been appointed Lord Lieutenant in Ireland. A member of the Anglo-Irish gentry, French is convinced that firm measures will bring the lower orders to heel.

Some of the British suspect a German hand in the unrest in Ireland. Joseph Dowling, captured after a U-boat landed him in the west of Ireland, has spun a tall tale about Sinn Féin leaders being in league with Berlin and preparing for a German invasion of the Emerald Isle. Lord French himself is sceptical, as are others, but Dowling’s story finds a receptive audience in London. The British decide to nip this plot in the bud by rounding up the Sinn Féin leaders before they can get up to any further mischief.

Now the British strike. Ireland wakes up this morning to learn that more than 70 leading members of Sinn Féin have been arrested, including Éamon de Valera, Constance Markievicz and Arthur Griffith. The British hope that this bold step will decapitate the troublesome party and bring an end to the unrest in Ireland.

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Some of the arrested Sinn Féin leaders (Ireland’s Own: The German Plot)