30/9/1917 Falkenhayn redeploys to Palestine #1917live

Enver Pasha, the most prominent of the triumvirate that leads Turkey, has formed a new army group known in Turkish as Yildirim (Lightning Force). With a German senior staff, headed by none other than Falkenhayn, the group has been assembling in Aleppo in preparation for an offensive in Mesopotamia to recapture Baghdad and turn the tables on the British there.

Djemal Pasha, Turkey’s proconsul in Syria, is concerned about the threat of a British advance into Palestine. Enver has no time for naysayers and relieves him of his command, but Djemal’s concerns are heeded by Falkenhayn. He becomes convinced that an offensive in Mesopotamia would be foolhardy when his rear in Palestine is threatened. The British have also just pushed on from Baghdad to Ramadi, making a Turkish Mesopotamian offensive there that bit more difficult.

Enver would not listen to his Turkish colleague but he heeds the German. With his grudging acquiescence Yildirim now begins to redeploy to southern Palestine to meet the British threat there.

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Falkenhayn in Jerusalem (Axis History Forum: Falkenhayn and the Yildirim Group)

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)

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)

18/12/1916 Verdun finally grinds to a halt

The Battle of Verdun has raged since the Germans launched their first assaults in February. Now the French have pushed the Germans back, recovering much of their lost ground. The battlefield is increasingly in the grip of winter. After 302 days the struggle splutters to a halt.

The battle is a defeat for the Germans. They have not managed to break French morale by seizing Verdun. Nor have they succeeded in Falkenhayn’s goal of bleeding France to death by inflicting an unsustainable level of casualties. True, French casualties are enormous, estimated at 377,231 in total, of whom some 162,440 were killed. But the French wells of manpower have not run dry and they have always been able to find more men to feed the guns at Verdun. And the Germans have suffered almost as many losses as the French, taking some 337,000 casualties, of whom around 143,000 were killed.

The Germans have much greater reserves of manpower than the French, so they can better afford these losses. However the Germans have also lost great numbers of men at the Somme and are heavily engaged against Russia and in the Balkans. Attritional warfare is a dangerous game for them. Small wonder then that Hindenburg and Ludendorff are determined not to repeat Verdun.

The French also do not want a repeat of the battle. Nivelle, their new Western Front commander, made his name at Verdun, where he commanded the counter-attacks that recovered the ground lost to the Germans. He is planning to replicate these successes in a major offensive in the spring, one he hopes will smash through the German lines and bring the war to an end.

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Mountain of bones (Mental Floss)

Verdun: the World’s Blood Pump (Wikipedia; medal originally from British Museum exhibition “The other side of the medal: how Germany saw the First World War”)

map (Les Françcais à Verdun)

3/12/1916 Romania’s counter-offensive fails

Romania is engaged in a desperate battle for national survival in the face of invading German, Bulgarian and Austro-Hungarian armies. Mackensen leads a mainly Bulgarian force from the south while Falkenhayn commands an invasion force advancing from Transylvania in the west.

The Romanians have concentrated their forces and launched counter-attack on Mackensen’s force, hoping to smash his army before Falkenhayn can come to his aid. In some respects they are trying to emulate the 1914 German victories at Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes, where widely separated Russian armies were defeated in detail.

The battle started well for the Romanians. Mackensen was pushed back and many prisoners taken. But Mackensen and Falkenhayn are not incompetents like Samsonov and Rennenkampf, the unfortunate Russians defeated in 1914. Mackensen quickly recovers from the initial shock and mounts a spirited defence, aided by a contingent of Turkish reinforcements. Falkenhayn meanwhile launches attacks all along his front to aid his colleague.

The Romanian counter-offensive collapses. Flung back in all sectors, the Romanians now retreat to avoid encirclement. The gates of Bucharest lie open for the enemy.

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map (Wikipedia)

August von Mackensen (The First World War in 261 weeks)

1/12/1916 Romania’s desperate counter-attack

It is barely three months since Romania’s rash decision to enter the war. The Romanians are now engaged in a desperate battle for survival, with German, Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian forces pushing into their country from the south and west. The Romanians hope for Russian assistance but help is not arriving quickly enough.

Knowing that if they remain on the defensive they will be overwhelmed by the superior forces against them, the Romanians decided to strike back. The two invading armies are still separated from each other, so the Romanians concentrate against the force invading from the south, a mainly Bulgarian army commanded by Germany’s Mackensen. The Romanians hope to destroy or at least push back this army before Falkenhayn’s men advancing form Transylvania can come to their aid. In this kind of bold Napoleonic stroke they are trying to emulate the German victory at Tannenberg in 1914, which saved East Prussia from Russian invasion.

Today the Romanians attack. The attack appears to be going well, with Mackensen’s men being pushed back and the Romanians taking many prisoners.

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.