31/10/1918 The nationalists take over in Budapest and settle accounts with Count Tisza #1918Live

The once mighty Habsburg Empire is disintegrating into a patchwork of new nations with overlapping borders. Yugoslavia has been proclaimed in the south, to combine southern Slav areas of the Empire with Serbia. The Czechs have declared their independence from Austria and now the Slovaks declare their independence from Hungary; the two kindred peoples hope to unite into a new state, Czechoslovakia. Meanwhile German-Austrians are talking about either establishing a republic for themselves or else uniting with Germany.

Budapest has seen increasingly large and rowdy demonstrations by Hungarian nationalists seeking to sever the link with Austria. Blood has been spilled but Lukachich, commander of the city’s garrison is unable to restore order. So many of his troops have gone over to the rebels that he begs Emperor Karl to send him a contingent of loyal troops. However, the Emperor demurs; “enough blood has been spilt,” he says. Wekerle, the Hungarian Prime Minister, resigns and is replaced by Károlyi, the nationalists’ leader. Lukachich is placed under arrest.

The changing of the guard in Budapest allows old scores to be settled. Tisza, the Hungarian prime minister in 1914 when Austria-Hungary went to war, has already survived two assassination attempts. Tonight his luck runs out as armed soldiers burst into his city residence. Blaming him for the war in which millions have died, they shoot him down in front of his wife and niece.

For all the chaos within its borders, Austria-Hungary is still at war with the Allies, but the war may not have much time left to run. Emperor Karl has already requested an armistice of the Italians and now they receive his negotiators at Padua to work out the details of the end to hostilities. Meanwhile in Paris representatives of the USA, Britain, France and Italy meet and agree that once Austria-Hungary drops out of the war the Italians should occupy the territories on the Dalmatian coast assigned to them by the Treaty of London.

István Tisza

30/10/1918 Vittorio Veneto recaptured, Monte Grappa outflanked #1918Live

As the Austro-Hungarians retreat to the pre-war frontier Italian troops race to recover lost territory. Italian troops advancing from the Piave today recover Vittorio Veneto; later advance troops make it all the way to the Livenza river. In accordance with Diaz‘s plan, other Italian units wheel to the north, threatening to outflank the Austro-Hungarian defenders of Monte Grappa. Thus far the Austro-Hungarian defenders here have held their positions against a series of Italian attacks, inflicting some 25,000 casualties on the enemy, but now they are in danger of being enveloped. After night falls they begin a retreat to the north.

image source (Italian Ministry of Defence: La battaglia di Vittorio Veneto)

30/10/1918 The Armistice of Mudros: Turkey exits the war #1918Live

The Allied victories in Palestine and Syria have brought them to borders of Anatolia. Rather than face invasion of their heartland the Turks have requested an armistice, using Townshend (captured with his army at Kut in 1916) as a go-between. Now after four days of discussions Turkish negotiators agree an armistice with Britain’s Admiral Calthorpe onboard the Agamemnon, anchored in the harbour of the Lemnos port of Mudros.

Under the terms of the armistice, the Turks are to demobilise their army, release all prisoners of war and hand over all warships to the Allies. German and Austro-Hungarian troops are given a month to depart from the Ottoman Empire. Constantinople is to come under Allied occupation and the Allies will be allowed to occupy other parts of the Ottoman Empire to “restore order”. The Turks are also obliged to withdraw their forces from Cilicia, a region that the French are interested in acquiring. Turkish forces are to be withdrawn from the Transcaucasian territories they conquered after the collapse of Russian power there.

The armistice specifically authorises the Allies to occupy the Armenian areas of eastern Anatolia in the event of disorder. The Turks are also required to release any Armenian prisoners, a sign of Allied intentions to hold accountable those responsible for the Turkish regime’s crimes against them.

The armistice will come into effect tomorrow.

map source (Edmaps: Historical Maps of the Caucasus)

30/10/1918 National revolution in Hungary #1918Live

The collapse of Austro-Hungarian forces in the field has convinced the various peoples of the Empire that their future lies in independence. National committees have appeared across Austria-Hungary and are taking over powers that would previously have belonged to officials appointed from Vienna or Budapest. The local civil administrations are transferring their allegiance to these new bodies, leading in many cases to a surprisingly seamless transition. It is as though the Empire is just fading away.

In Zagreb a national committee of Croats has taken over the local administration. Now it declares Croatia part of a new united nation of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, to be colloquially known as Yugoslavia. With Serbian and Allied forces advancing up the Balkans the Austro-Hungarian authorities are in no position to block this new state’s emergence. Meanwhile in Hungary the situation is more tense. A power struggle has emerged in Budapest between the national committee of Károlyi and forces loyal to the Habsburg crown. Demonstrators have been killed by the security forces, but the tide is flowing towards the nationalists. Nationalism has made inroads into the city’s garrison and now Hungarian army officers are themselves joining the revolution. The city’s telephone exchange is taken over by rebel troops, leaving Lukachich, Budapest’s loyalist commander, isolated and unable to exercise any control over events.

images source:

Revolutionary crowds & Mihályi Károlyi (The Orange Files: The First Hungarian Republic)

29/10/1918 The Austro-Hungarians retreat to the Italian border #1918Live

After three years of failure the hour of victory appears at last to have arrived for the Italians. Their troops are now pouring across the Piave and pressing eastwards. The Austro-Hungarians attempt to make a stand on the Monticano but the Italian wave is too much for them. Lest the army be destroyed, Boroevic now calls for a unilateral withdrawal to the frontier. With Emperor Karl having already requested an armistice, Arz, the Austro-Hungarian commander, reluctantly agrees. The Austro-Hungarians begin their great retreat.

29/10/1918 Mutiny breaks out in the German fleet #1918Live

President Wilson has stated that the Allies will not negotiate with an authoritarian Germany. To placate him the Germans have sacked Ludendorff and rewritten their constitution to sideline the Kaiser and transform Germany into a parliamentary democracy. Although Prince Max has been struck down by influenza, the Chancellor’s indisposition has not paralysed the German government. A note has been despatched to Wilson drawing attention to the constitutional changes and asking if now at last substantive negotiations for an armistice can begin.

But not everyone in Germany wants an immediate end to the war. Ludendorff’s dismissal has neutered resistance within the army, but the leaders of Germany’s navy do not an armistice before they have had a last crack at the British fleet. Hipper, the fleet commander, and Scheer, the naval chief of staff, have made secret plans for the fleet to sail out and attack enemy shipping in the Channel. This will inevitably bring out the British fleet, leading to a final showdown between the two great navies. Of course, the German fleet is now much smaller than the British, so the battle will end with its destruction and the loss of thousands of lives, but honour of the German navy will have been restored.

Preparations for this death ride are proceeding in secret but rumours begin to spread among the German fleet’s sailors. They are less keen on this suicidal mission. When word spreads through the fleet that tomorrow they will embark on their death ride, sailors on three of the battleships declare that they will not obey orders. Insubordination spreads, obliging the naval commanders to call off the mission. In an effort to contain the sailors’ unrest, they now order the dispersal of the ships with the most unruly crews to different bases. The ringleaders of the mutiny are also placed under arrest by loyal sailors.

28/10/1918 As his empire disintegrates, Emperor Karl requests an armistice #1918Live

Austria-Hungary is at breaking point, with the Empire’s cohesion being torn apart as the strains of war and the imminent defeat leave the central governments powerless in the face of local unrest. In Cracow the city council confiscates food supplies intended for the Austro-Hungarian army, determined that the needs of Polish people should come first. In Prague the Czechoslovak National Council declares itself the government of an independent Czechoslovakia; across Bohemia and Moravia officials who had previously served the Austrian government in Vienna now row in behind the new regime. Unrest continues in Budapest, where the authorities are struggling to contain nationalist supporters of Károlyi and his National Committee. Meanwhile the military situation remains dire, with every indication that the Italian advance across the Piave will lead to a complete rout of the Austro-Hungarian army.

Seeing that the end has arrived, Emperor Karl now requests an unconditional armistice from the Italians. In Prague the news is greeted with jubilation. Crowds throng the street, shouting the names of President Wilson and Tomáš Masaryk, Czechoslovakia’s exiled leader.

image source:

Karl, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary (Wikipedia)

28/10/1918 Boroevic prepares for Austria-Hungary’s last stand #1918Live

The Austro-Hungarians are being pressed hard by the Italians. Assaults on Monte Grappa have been repulsed but now the Italians have crossed the Piave in strength and are pushing towards Vittorio Veneto. Discipline is breaking down in the Austro-Hungarian army, with reserve units refusing to move up to the front and desertion rampant. Boroevic, the local Austro-Hungarian commander, reports that only German-Austrian troops in his army are proving entirely reliable (which is no doubt personally embarrassing to him as he is a Slav but one totally loyal to the Empire). When told that Emperor Karl is about to request an armistice he fears that this news will cause the army’s complete disintegration.

With the enemy now advancing from the Piave, Boroevic orders a retreat to a new line on the banks of the Monticano. He hopes that his men will be able to hold the Italians here until the war ends.

27/10/1918 Italian troops surge across the Piave as Hungary moves towards independence

Italian attempts to take Monte Grappa have thus far been unsuccessful, with the Austro-Hungarian defenders inflicting heavy casualties. But Emperor Karl is not complacent and knows that his Empire is on its last legs. Mutiny and indiscipline are now rife within the army, with reserves refusing to move to the front and units seeing their numbers deplete through desertion. At home the various nationalities within the Empire are increasingly restive and making preparations for independence. In Budapest today a national committee is formed, headed the nationalist leader Károlyi and made up of socialist and radical politicians. The committee claims to be the sole legitimate voice of the Hungarian people and announces a raft of reforms, including Hungarian independence, an end to the war and a massive expansion of Hungary’s restrictive franchise (including the granting of votes to women).

At the front the military situation takes a turn for the worse. Austro-Hungarian positions continue to hold on Monte Grappa, but declining flood waters on the Piave now allow the Italians to launch the second stage of their offensive, an amphibious assault across the river. Supported by British troops, the Italians are able to establish themselves on the east bank, linked back to the west by rickety pontoon bridges. Initially the Austro-Hungarians are able to contain the bridgeheads but British troops successfully spearhead a breakout. With enemy resistance weakening, it now looks like Italy’s hour of victory is at hand.

Bridge across the Piave (Italian Ministry of Defence: La battaglia di Vittorio Veneto)

26/10/1918 As Allied leaders discuss armistice terms, the Kaiser sacks Ludendorff

After discussing possible armistice terms with the Western Front commanders yesterday, Foch today reports to Clemenceau and Poincaré, France’s prime minister and president respectively. Foch follows the other generals by suggesting armistice terms that will effectively make it impossible for the Germans to return to war. If they refuse then the Allies should continue fighting until the Germans are obliged to surrender.

Meanwhile in Germany a rift has opened up between the Chancellor, Prince Max, who wants to continue negotiations towards an armistice, and Ludendorff, the army’s Quartermaster-General, who now favours an end to negotiations and military resistance to the outmost. In defiance of Prince Max, Ludendorff has had Hindenburg, the army’s commander, issue a proclamation condemning the armistice negotiations. Now Hindenburg and Ludendorff return to Berlin to meet the Kaiser, where they threaten to resign unless Prince Max is sacked and a more pliant Chancellor appointed; Max meanwhile has also threatened to resign unless Ludendorff is sacked.

By now Ludendorff’s star has fallen and the Kaiser is afraid his own star will fall with it. Instead of sacking Max, the Kaiser sacks Ludendorff, hoping that this will placate both President Wilson and the increasingly restive German people. Hindenburg’s offer of resignation is not accepted; the Kaiser needs him to continue leading Germany’s army in the nation’s hour of need. Ludendorff’s replacement meanwhile will be Groener, whose previous work directing the German war economy should make him more acceptable to the Social Democrats than any other general.

Ludendorff’s removal shocks many in the army, even those who were deeply critical of his leadership. But the way is now clear for Prince Max to pursue more substantive negotiations with Wilson.

image source:

Erich Ludendorff (Wikipedia)