15/1/1918 Arab progress east of the Jordan #1918Live

Allenby has pushed into Palestine and taken Jerusalem. Now attention shifts further east to the Transjordan region, where Arab rebels are putting pressure on the Turks. The British and French are supporting the rebels with equipment, training and small contingents of colonial troops, with the result that the Arabs are now looking much more like a proper army, though they still feature plenty of Bedouin irregulars.

The British are keen for the Arabs to take the Turkish garrison town of Ma’an. However Ma’an is strongly defended and the Arabs are not keen on the kind of costly frontal assault that is second nature to commanders like Allenby who have served on the Western Front. Instead the Arabs bypass Ma’an and advance to the north, intending to attack it at a more opportune time.

Today at Tafila the rebels have a stroke of luck. The enemy commander of this administrative centre, Zaki al-Halabi, decides that he has had enough of serving his Turkish masters in Constantinople. He changes sides and joins the rebels, bringing the Tafila’s garrison with him.

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Arab army officers and captured machine guns after the fall of Tafila (History of Jordan)

8/1/1918 Wilson’s Fourteen Points #1918Live

When the USA declared war on Germany, President Wilson stated that the Americans were not joining the Allies but were merely associating with them. To some extent this is hair-splitting, but it reflects the reluctance with which the United States was drawn into the war. Wilson sees the United States as fighting not a war of conquest or even one narrowly of self-defence, but a war that will serve to bring a final end to the scourge of warfare that has troubled humanity since the dawn of time.

Now Wilson addresses the United States Congress to articulate what America is fighting for, which he sees as “peace without victory”. He hopes to make the world “safe for every peace-loving nation” and he outlines fourteen war aims to advance this goal:

1. No more secret treaties between nations; no more secret negotiation of treaties

2. Freedom of the seas

3. The removal of barriers to trade between nations

4. The reduction of armaments held by nations to their lowest possible level

5. An impartial adjustment of all colonial claims (with the astonishing provision that attention should be given to the interests of colonised people)

6. The evacuation of Russian territory by other nations’ armies (a promise designed to undercut the Bolsheviks and keep Russia in the war)

7. The restoration of Belgium as a fully independent country

8. The restoration to France of Alsace-Lorraine, lost in the war of 1870

9. Italy’s frontiers to be readjusted along “clearly recognisable lines of nationality”.

10. The peoples of Austria-Hungary to be accorded “the freest opportunity to autonomous development”

11. Romania, Serbia and Montenegro to be restored and Serbia given access to the sea.

12. The non-Turkish parts of the Ottoman Empire to be given an “absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development”, the Dardanelles to be freely accessible to all international shipping and the Turkish part of the Ottoman Empire to remain independent.

13. An independent Polish state to be established, with access to the sea.

14. A “general association of nations” to be established.

He finishes by stating that the United States bears no malice towards Germany and is seeking merely for it to “accept a place of equality among the peoples of the world, the new world in which we now live, instead of a place of mastery”.

Wilson hopes that the achievement of these aims will remodel the world, ending the era of major conflict between nations. Some of the Allies however worry that Wilson has given himself over to lofty but unrealistic idealism. They are more intent on guaranteeing their post-war security by crushing their enemies and eliminating them as future threats.

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Wilson addressing Congress (Emerson Kent: the Fourteen Points)

December 1917

Britain takes Jerusalem. Russia agrees an armistice with Germany and starts negotiations towards a peace treaty. The Bolsheviks consolidate their power. Australia rejects conscription. War brings famine to East Africa.

2/12/1917 Using unconventional methods, the Bolsheviks assert their power over the State Bank and the army

6/12/1917 Finland declares independence again

6/12/1917 The Halifax Explosion: a Canadian city devastated

7/12/1917 Cambrai: a bloody draw but a German victory on points

9/12/1917 Jerusalem falls to the British

9/12/1917 Romania throws in the towel

11/12/1917 Allenby arrives in Jerusalem

13/12/1917 Motuihe jailbreak: a German pirate busts loose

15/12/1917 Russia and Germany agree an armistice

16/12/1917 Turkey’s extermination of the Armenians

17/12/1917 Canada’s conscription election

18/12/1917 Russia and Turkey agree an armistice

19/12/1917 Russia’s voters reject the Bolsheviks

19/12/1917 Britain attempts to close the Channel to U-boats

20/12/1917 Australia votes against conscription again

20/12/1917 The Cheka: Soviet Russia’s political police force

21/12/1917 Germany’s sea wolf Luckner at bay

22/12/1917 As civil war begins in Russia, Soviet and German delegates meet at Brest-Litovsk

25/12/1917 Creeping authoritarianism in Russia

26/12/1917 Brest-Litovsk: Trotsky spins out the peace talks

30/12/1917 Germany and Austria’s winter of hunger

31/12/1917 Chaos in Trebizond as the Russian army disintegrates

31/12/1917 The horrors of war in German East Africa

image sources:

Allenby arrives in Jerusalem on foot (Wikipedia: the Battle of Jerusalem)

New Zealand officers celebrate Christmas on the Western Front (Mental Floss WWI Centennial: Last Christmas At War)

map (Mental Floss WWI Centennial: Armistice on the Eastern Front)

see also:

Monthly Archive 1917

November 1917

@ww1liveblog (Twitter)

World War 1 Live Blog (Facebook)

4/1/1918 French pacifist politician Joseph Caillaux arrested #1918Live

In early 1914 Joseph Caillaux of the Radicals had been all set to form a French government in coalition with the Socialists. Caillaux’s bold plan was to push for a rapprochement with Germany that would allow for a reduction in the French army size, thereby releasing funds for progressive social programmes. But then his wife, Henriette Caillaux, shot and killed the editor of Le Figaro. Caillaux stood aside while his wife went on trial and so was not at the helm when the July Crisis plunged Europe into war.

Unlike many others, the war has not dented Caillaux’s pacific sentiment and he continued to speak out for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. He is also rumoured to be engaged in secret negotiations with the Germans. But Clemenceau, France’s new prime minister, is determined to prosecute the war to victory and to silence those calling for an early peace. Clemenceau is also a Radical, but this does not stop him now having Caillaux arrested and charged with treason.

image source:

Advertisement for The Caillaux Case (1918) (Wikipedia: Henriette Caillaux)

3/1/1918 Hard times for Italian civilians and prisoners of war under Austria

Last year’s Battle of Caporetto saw the Austro-Hungarians conquer a large swathe of territory in northern Italy. Many of the civilians who lived here fled before the Austro-Hungarian advance, but many others stayed in place. This region was only incorporated into Italy after 1866 and folk memories of Habsburg rule were often positive. The local Catholic clergy was particularly keen to see the replacement of Italy’s anti-clerical regime with the more church-friendly Austro-Hungarians.

However, the actual experience of occupation has been less positive. The initial advance of the Austro-Hungarians saw a wave of pillage and abuse by the Habsburg soldiers. Thereafter the Austro-Hungarians established an extractive regime, seeking to take as much food and other resources from the territory as possible. The Austro-Hungarians have seized all of the area’s livestock and are now eyeing up other foodstuffs as well as fodder, manure and general household goods.

Caporetto also saw large numbers of Italian soldiers surrendering to the Austro-Hungarians. The sufferings of these unfortunates is now considerable. Austria-Hungary is beset by food shortages, to the extent that it has recently had to cut the rations of its own frontline troops. Enemy prisoners come last in food queue, so the rations Italian PoWs are receiving are completely inadequate. No no help comes to the captured Italians from their homeland: the Italian government, viewing soldiers who surrender as traitors, has blocked the despatch of food parcels.

The result for the Italian prisoners is starvation. In their camps in Austria-Hungary they are now suffering a higher mortality rate than that of frontline soldiers. So desperate is their situation that when a man dies of starvation, his comrades hide the corpse so that they can continue drawing his meagre ration.

image sources:

(Wikipedia: WWI Italian Front)

Italian prisoners, possibly recently captured (Wikipedia: World War I prisoners of war in Germany)

November 1917

Red October: the Bolsheviks seize power in Russia. Britain pushes into Palestine. The Balfour Declaration. The muddy hell of Passchendaele winds down. Caporetto ends with the Italians thrown back to the Piave. Cambrai: triumph of the tanks, then the Germans strike back.

1/11/1917 Allenby prepares to strike against Gaza

1/11/1917 A new German Chancellor

2/11/1917 Caporetto: the unstoppable Teutons cross the Tagliamento

5/11/1917 Mesopotamia: Britain takes Tikrit

6/11/1917 Rapallo: Allied leaders demand Cadorna’s head

6/11/1917 Kerensky’s failed attempt to crush the Bolsheviks

6/11/1917 Passchendaele finally falls to the Canadians

7/11/1917 Gaza falls to Allenby

7/11/1917 The Bolsheviks seize power in Petrograd

7/11/1917 Lawrence brings the Arab Revolt to Syria

9/11/1917 The Balfour Declaration: Britain gives away Palestine

9/11/1917 Caporetto: as the enemy advance falters, Italy sacks Cadorna

9/11/1917 The embattled Bolshevik government decrees land reform, bans the opposition press

11/11/1917 The Mons Conference: Ludendorff decides to attack the British next year

12/11/1917 As the Bolsheviks’ situation improves, Kerensky departs the stage

14/11/1917 Caporetto winds down as Italy manages to hold the enemy at the Piave

16/11/1917 Georges Clemenceau, France’s latest Prime Minister

17/11/1917 The Bolsheviks tighten their grip on power

18/11/1917 Allenby decides to press on towards Jerusalem

20/11/1917 Cambrai: triumph of the tanks

21/11/1915 Germany’s Zeppelin safari

23/11/1917 Germany’s Zeppelin safari aborted

23/11/1917 Cambrai: British progress stalls

25/11/1917 Negomano: Lettow-Vorbeck smashes the Portuguese

25/11/1917 Russia votes for a Constituent Assembly

26/11/1917 Sykes-Picot revealed: the world learns of British and French plans to carve up the Middle East

27/11/1917 Cambrai: as British attacks halt, the Germans prepare for a counterattack

29/11/1917 Fate catches up with German fighter pilot Erwin Böhme

30/11/1917 Cambrai: the Germans strike back

image sources:

poster (Robert Graham’s Anarchist Weblog – The Russian Tragedy: Alexander Berkman on the Russian Revolution)

map (Mental Floss WWI Centennial: The Second Bolshevik Coup Attempt Succeeds)

see also:

Monthly Archive 1917

October 1917

@ww1liveblog (Twitter)

World War 1 Live Blog (Facebook)

1/1/1918 1918, year of decision? #1918Live

For the Germans, 1917 was to have been the year the war ended in victory: the escalated U-boat campaign would force Britain to make peace, after which France and Russia could be picked off at the Germans’ leisure. But the projections as to how much damage could be inflicted by the U-boats were over-optimistic, as were calculations regarding British resilience to attacks on their trade. The U-boats failed to end the war and they have instead brought the USA into the war on the side of the Allies. Now the Americans are raising an army whose size will tip the balance in Europe if it arrives before the war’s end.

The Germans had one unexpected stroke of luck in 1917. Revolution broke out in Russia, with unrest spreading from the urban centres to the countryside and the Russian army. The Russians became increasingly unable to continue the war against Germany and Austria-Hungary; following their seizure of power the Bolsheviks agreed an armistice with the Germans and are engaged in negotiations towards a peace treaty at Brest-Litovsk.

Russia’s collapse means that the Germans are now free to redeploy men from the East. Ludendorff, Germany’s Quartermaster-General, plans to use these to launch a final offensive on the Western Front, one that will defeat the British and French before the Americans arrive in strength. This will be Germany’s last throw of the dice: if the offensive fails to bring an end to the war then Germany’s defeat will be unavoidable.

For the Allies, 1917 was mostly a terrible year. The Italians are still reeling from their defeat at Caporetto and are barely able to continue the war. On the Western Front the French offensive on the Chemin des Dames failed so badly that the French army came close to collapse. The British have made gains against the Turks, but the Middle East is a side show; their main effort on the Western Front at Ypres saw large numbers of men die horribly for no good purpose. Now the British and French know that the Germans are preparing something big for the spring. With their own armies exhausted, the Allies have no option but to hope that they can contain the German attacks until the American armies arrive.

It looks therefore like 1918 will decide the war’s outcome. Either Ludendorff’s offensive will win victory for the Germans, or it will fail, dooming Germany to defeat (though perhaps not until 1919).

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Erich Ludendorff (Wikipedia)