7/1/1917 Romania overrun

Romania’s rash decision to declare war on Austria-Hungary has proved a terrible mistake. The country has now largely been overrun by the Central Powers, her armies smashed by the implacable might of Falkenhayn and Mackensen.

Bad weather and Russian reinforcements now bring an end to the enemy’s advance. Bucharest has fallen, together with the south and centre of the country. The remnants of the Romanian army hang on in Moldavia, where they desperately hope that they can preserve the independent existence of their country.

image source (Wikipedia)

24/12/1916 Germany seizes Romania’s granaries

The German food situation is grim. The British navy prevents Germany from importing food or fertilisers from overseas. The dislocation of war has led to a significant decline in domestic agricultural production. This year’s potato harvest has been struck by blight. Germans are calling this the “turnip winter”, as they are having to eat turnips (normally used as animal feed) instead of potatoes.

But there is one bright star on the horizon. When Romania joined the Allies, there was consternation in Berlin as Germany no longer had access to Romanian grain exports. Now, though, Romania has mostly been overrun by Falkenhayn and Mackensen. In their advance they have managed to seize the country’s granaries intact. The Germans will be able to eat bread made from Romanian wheat after all. Their food situation is still desperate but the conquest of Romania will allow Germany to continue fighting the war.

23/11/1916 Bucharest threatened, but Romania prepares to strike back

Romania’s unwise decision to join the Allies now sees its armies engaged in a desperate battle for national survival. German, Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian troops have invaded the country, with Mackensen leading one force attacking along the coast while Falkenhayn pushes into Romania from the Carpathians. German and Austro-Hungarian forces have also pushed into Moldavia, but here they have been checked by Russian forces. However the Russians do not have enough men to spare for the defence of the rest of Romania. Allied diversionary attacks in Macedonia have also done little to help the Romanians.

Now the fighting enters a new phase. Mackensen moves some of his men to the west, where they make a surprise crossing of the Danube at Sistova. Mackensen’s plan is for this Danube Army to march on Bucharest and bring Romanian resistance to an end.

But the battle for Romania is not over yet. Romanian commanders note that Falkenhayn and Mackensen’s armies are still widely separated from each other. They plan a desperate counter-attack, hoping that if they commit their reserves against one of the enemy armies they might be able to destroy it and then turn on the other. Even if they are unable to achieve a Romanian Tannenberg, they may be able to buy time for Russian reinforcements to arrive. So the Romanians begin their preparations for a last desperate offensive against Mackensen’s Danube army.

5/11/1916 Germany and Austria-Hungary promise an independent Poland

The Central Powers overran Poland in 1915. Since then Germany and Austria-Hungary have been arguing about what to do with the conquered territory. The Germans favour the creation of an independent Poland (more like a semi-independent Poland, guided by Germany), while the Habsburgs think that Poland should be added to their empire. The Austro-Hungarians fear that the creation of a Polish state will cause unrest among their own Polish citizens in Galicia.

The Germans had initially agreed that Poland would go to the Austria-Hungary, despite the fact that it was primarily German arms that had conquered it. Since then though the failures of Austro-Hungarian arms have changed the dynamic of the relationship. Austria-Hungary is increasingly looking like little more than a German client state, with its army being taken over by German officers.

So now the Germans are able to revoke their previous agreement to hand Poland to Austria-Hungary. By joint agreement, the Central Powers today declare their intention to establish a Polish state after the war’s end.

The Germans hope that their declaration will make it easy for them to raise a Polish army to fight against the Russians. As part of their wooing of the Poles, they now halt the recruitment of forced labour battalions in Poland. Perhaps the Poles will be more inclined to join a pro-German army if they are not being press-ganged into slavery.

20/9/1916 Brusilov’s offensive ends in failure

The Brusilov Offensive is over. In its early days, it brought the Austro-Hungarians close to collapse. Their line was only stabilised by the commitment of significant quantities of German reinforcements. The price of this aid has been the German take-over of the Austro-Hungarian army. The ancient Habsburg Empire is now little more than a client state of the arriviste Germans.

Brusilov’s offensive was meant to have been followed by another against the Germans to the north by Evert, with the rolling offensives denying the Central Powers the option of concentrating against any one threat. Unfortunately Evert’s offensive was still-born, thanks to his use of unimaginative human wave assaults. With Evert’s failure the Russians sent more reinforcements to Brusilov, but in an increasingly attritional battle the superior transport links and armaments of the Germans swung the battle in their favour. The offensive’s failure embitters Brusilov, who feels that he has been let down by his fellow officers.

The scale of blood-letting in the fighting is almost unimaginable. Russian casualties are variously estimated as being in the range of 500,000 to 1,000,000, with similar losses for the Austro-Hungarians and Germans. The bloodbath has effectively brought an end to Austro-Hungarian independence, but the offensive’s failure now threatens the credibility of the Tsarist regime in Russia.

image sources:

Maps (Wikipedia)

Soldiers (Metro Postcard)

15/8/1916 Germany takes over the Austro-Hungarian army

In Galicia Brusilov’s offensive against the Austro-Hungarians continues. Brusilov brought Austria-Hungary to the brink of collapse, advancing on a broad front, inflicting a great many casualties and taking vast numbers of prisoners. Now though the going is harder for the Russians. As the battle continues, their soldiers are increasingly worn down by the fighting. Worse, they are facing stronger enemies. The Austro-Hungarians have sent every man they can spare to block the Russian advance. The Germans have also come to the aid of their ally, sending considerable numbers of men to stiffen Austro-Hungarian resistance. Combined with British efforts at the Somme, this has forced Falkenhayn to halt German attempts to take Verdun from the French.

The Russians continue to press their offensive, but the fighting is becoming more attritional, with Russian men fighting against German and Austro-Hungarian guns. This is not the kind of battle Brusilov wanted to fight, but after the failure of Evert’s offensive to the north he has had to continue his efforts.

Germany’s assistance to the Austro-Hungarians does not come without a price. Falkenhayn has insisted that German officers be appointed to command and administer the combined armies on the Eastern Front. The Germans are effectively taking over the Austro-Hungarian army, removing its operational independence and turning it into an adjunct of their own army. The Austro-Hungarians went to war in 1914 to preserve the independence and integrity of their ancient empire. Now it is becoming little more than a client of their neighbour to the north.

image source (MetroPostcard)

25/7/1916 Brusilov’s offensive begins to slow down, Evert’s continues to fail

In Galicia Brusilov’s offensive against the Austro-Hungarians continues. After spectacular successes, the Russians are beginning to run out of steam as exhaustion and casualties make it harder for them to maintain the pressure on the enemy. Meanwhile the ranks of their enemies are being stiffened by Austro-Hungarian and German reinforcements.

Brusilov had always argued that the way to defeat the enemy was to follow his offensive with others elsewhere. That way the Germans would find it hard to concentrate their reserves against one threat. His commanders had accepted this plan and ordered Evert to attack the Germans to Brusilov’s north. However Evert’s efforts have been lacklustre. His men have attacked in the traditional Russian human wave assaults and have suffered terrible casualties for no great gains. What territory has been seized has mostly been lost to German counter-attacks.

Now Evert sends his men forward again, in another attempt to smash through the German defences. But again, despite a great numerical advantage his men make little or no progress but add to their already extensive casualty list.

image source (Imperor)