31/7/1917 Kerensky replaces Brusilov with Kornilov as army commander #1917Live

Something has gone very wrong with the Russian army. The recent offensive in Galicia has been a disaster, leading to a breakdown in discipline and a surge in desertions. Now the Germans and Austro-Hungarians are attacking in their turn and making great gains.

The offensive had been the brain child of Kerensky, then the war minister and now Prime Minister. Two days ago he met senior generals at the army headquarters in Mogilev, where they blamed the Revolution for the army’s plight. Denikin is particularly scathing of interference in the army’s affairs by the Petrograd Soviet and the invitation to insubordination he sees in its order that army units should elect soldiers’ committees and disobey orders that conflict with its own resolutions.

Now Kerensky decides that something will have to be done about the army. He dismisses Brusilov, thereby deflecting the blame for the offensive’s failure from himself. Brusilov’s replacement as commander in chief is Kornilov. Kornilov’s appointment is greeted with delight by those who feel that the Revolution has gone too far and that order needs to be restored. They hope that he will not merely restore order within the army but within society at large.

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Lavr Kornilov (Spartacus International)

31/7/1917 Third Ypres begins with British successes #1917Live

The failure of Nivelle‘s offensive on the Chemin des Dames and the following disorders in the French army have meant that Britain has had to take the leading role on the Western Front. Now Haig‘s long-planned offensive in Flanders begins, the Third Battle of Ypres. Officially this is meant to be a battle of limited objectives, designed to seize a modest amount of ground and inflict heavy casualties on the Germans. But Haig is ambitious and remains committed to the idea of a decisive battle. He hopes that his men will be able to achieve a breakthrough, leading to the recapture of the Belgian coast and ultimately the liberation of occupied Belgium.

The attacks today are relatively successful. British troops manage to storm German positions along much of the offensive’s front. French troops, playing a supporting role, also enjoy considerable success, suggesting that Pétain‘s efforts to overcome the mutinies are bearing fruit. A large number of German prisoners are taken and many casualties inflicted on the enemy, though Allied casualties are also high.

However the attack is not as successful as Haig had hoped. No breakthrough has been achieved as of yet. Tanks sent forward to bludgeon through the German lines have found the muddy and cratered ground difficult to traverse. Indeed, the waterlogged soil of Flanders is proving difficult for the infantry as well. Nevertheless, Haig determines that the attacks will continue, hoping that the today’s successes will be a prelude to a great victory.

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German prisoners and British wounded cross the Yser Canal (Wikipedia)

Stretcher bearers (Wikipedia)

30/7/1917 German U-boat crews meet their July targets #1917Live

Germany’s U-boat campaign is now controversial, as Reichstag politicians have become sceptical about its ability to defeat Britain by the autumn. They are beginning to suspect that it has brought the USA into the war for nothing.

The U-boat crews themselves meanwhile are continuing to do their utmost. In the last month they have sunk another 600,000 tonnes of Allied shipping. According to the projections by Holtzendorff, the navy’s chief of staff, this rate of success should be enough to force Britain out of the war. However, although the British are hurting, there does not seem to be any obvious sign that they are about to collapse. For Germany it looks like the U-boat crews are doing all that was asked of them but that Holtzendorff has greatly underestimated the resilience of the enemy.

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US propaganda poster (Wikipedia)

24/7/1917 Lightning Force: Enver’s plan to recapture Baghdad #1917Live

In Aleppo today Enver Pasha, Turkey’s paramount leader, meets with senior military figures including Djemal Pasha, the Proconsul of Syria, and Kemal Pasha, whose star has been on the rise since the Turkish victory at Gallipoli. Enver has a big plan to reveal. He is forming a new army group to be called Yildirim (Lightning Force), combining formations commanded by Kemal and Halil Pasha with German units. The overall commander will be none other than Germany’s Falkenhayn, the former German commander in chief who recently presided over the conquest of Romania.

Yildirim’s mission is a simple one: the recapture of Baghdad. Enver hopes that by doing so Turkey’s prestige in the Middle East will be restored. His audience are more sceptical, fearing that it would be foolhardy for Turkey to launch an offensive in Mesopotamia when the British are threatening to advance into Palestine. And the Turkish officers do not relish the prospect of being commanded by Falkenhayn. The Turks are increasingly resentful of the perceived arrogance of their German allies and suspect that Falkenhayn will be cut from the same cloth as the various German officers they have had to deal with. But Enver is insistent and with Germany providing considerable financial and military resources to Yildirim they are able to call the tune.

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Enver and Djemal visiting Jerusalem last year (Wikipedia)

June 1917

French army mutinies continue. The Battle of Messines. London bombed. Aqaba falls to the Arabs. The first US troops arrive in Europe. The Kerensky Offensive begins.

1/6/1917 French mutinies continue

4/6/1917 Brusilov takes over the Russian army

4/6/1917 Tenth Isonzo ends with an Austro-Hungarian surprise

6/6/1917 The revolutionary sailors of Kronstadt compromise

7/6/1917 Assault on Messines Ridge

10/6/1917 Italy launches a new offensive on the Asiago plateau

11/6/1917 Messines: the Germans retreat

12/6/1917 The Allies finally get rid of Greece’s uncooperative King

13/6/1917 Panic on the streets of London

14/6/1917 The Seeadler claims its first American victim

15/6/1917 Pétain attempts to conciliate French mutineers

16/6/1917 Germany’s plague of hamsters

18/6/1917 Nasir and Lawrence set their sights on Aqaba

19/6/1917 Italy attacks, Mount Ortigara falls

20/6/1917 Industrial unrest grips France

21/6/1917 The Women’s Battalion of Death

23/6/1917 Ukraine declares autonomy from Russia

24/6/1917 The Red Baron’s Flying Circus

25/6/1917 The first US troops arrive in France

25/6/1917 Mount Ortigara recaptured by the Austro-Hungarians

26/6/1917 Justice catches up with the last of the conspirators against Franz Ferdinand

27/6/1917 A new British commander in the Sinai desert

29/6/1917 Defeated Italians withdraw to their start lines on the Asiago plateau

29/6/1917 The guns fire for Kerensky’s great offensive

30/6/1917 Germany’s dawning realisation that the U-boat war has failed

30/6/1917 Cadorna denounced in the Italian parliament

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New Zealanders at Messines (Mental Floss WWI Centennial: Battle of Messines)

see also:

Monthly Archive 1917

May 1917

@ww1liveblog (Twitter)

World War 1 Live Blog (Facebook)

22/7/1917 Alexander Kerensky, Russia’s new Prime Minister #1917Live

The crackdown following the recent unrest in Petrograd sees the Bolsheviks in some disarray. They have been blamed for all the trouble, their leader Lenin denounced as a German spy. Senior Bolsheviks now languish in jail or lead a precarious existence on the run. Lenin himself and Zinoviev have fled to Finland, still part of the Russian Empire but a place in which it is easier for them to lie low.

Meanwhile the rise of Kerensky continues. The recent political turmoil has all been too much for Prince Lvov, who now resigns as head of the Provisional Government, naming Kerensky as his successor. This young man of destiny now sets about forming his new cabinet.

Pressing matters however must be dealt with immediately. The scale of the disaster following the recent failed offensive against the Germans and Austro-Hungarians is now increasingly apparent, with enemy advances continuing and the Russian army gripped be desertion and indiscipline. Kerensky acts in an effort to stem the flood. General Kornilov is appointed commander of the South Western Front, where the army’s disintegration is most pronounced. Kornilov is known to be a tough general of the old school; if anyone can restore order, it is him. Starting as he means to go on, Kornilov demands the reintroduction of the death penalty for deserters.

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Alexander Kerensky (Wikipedia)

Lavr Kornilov (Wikipedia)

20/7/1917 The Corfu Declaration: plans for a future Yugoslavia

No country is doing very well out of the war but Serbia is having a worse time of it than most. The Central Powers have overrun the country and driven the Serbian government into exile. Occupied Serbia is now a land of famine and pestilence.

Yet the Serbian government in exile, now based on Corfu, is still looking forward to the post-war future. Serb nationalists have long dreamed of uniting all Serbs into single kingdom; this after all was what motivated Gavrilo Princip when he shot Austria-Hungary’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Up to now the great power patron of the Greater Serbia project was Russia. With Russia now succumbing to revolutionary chaos, Serbian leaders are having to fine-tune their plans for the post-war settlement.

Some politicians from the other Slavic peoples of southern Austria-Hungary went into exile at the start of the war and began to agitate for the formation of a new country for all the southern Slavs, to be called Yugoslavia. Their aims were antithetical to those of the Serbs, as they want a federal country in which the separate Slavic peoples will enjoy equality while the Serbs want a unified Greater Serbia. But the Yugoslavs fear Italian plans for expansion on the Dalmatian coast and want to use the Serbian army as a counter-weight. The Serbs meanwhile are willing to make concessions now that their Russian patron is no longer able to fight their corner.

So it is that today that Nikola Pašić, exiled prime minster of Serbia, and Ante Trumbić of the Yugoslav Committee issue the Corfu Declaration, proposing to establish a Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (with the existing King of Serbia becoming the King of the Yugoslavs).

Britain and France are supportive of this new endeavour, but Italian politicians regard it with immediate suspicion. They had entered the war with dreams of establishing an empire on the eastern shores of the Adriatic. Perhaps if Italian armies had spent the last few years winning a string of impressive victories then Italian politicians would be better able to press their claims, but alas, successive failures on the Isonzo have made Allied leaders less receptive to Italian demands.

Text of the declaration

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Page one of the declaration (Wikipedia)