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.

6/12/1916 Bucharest falls

Romania’s bold counter-attack against the invading armies of Germany, Bulgaria and Austria-Hungary has failed. The shattered remnants of the Romanian army are now in retreat, hoping to find some safety towards the Russian frontier.

With the defeat of the Romanian army, Bucharest is now untenable. The Romanian king has already abandoned the city. Now it falls to the enemy, with Germany’s Mackensen installing himself in the royal palace.

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German mounted troops in Bucharest (Wikipedia)

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.

25/10/1916 Romania: Mackensen storms Constanza

Romania’s dreams of easy victory have long been forgotten. Now it is being overrun by its enemies. Its allies are unable or unwilling to send forces to its aid. In Britain there is some disquiet at Romania’s fate and talk of launching some kind of offensive in the Balkans to assist it, British leaders realise that Romania will most likely be completely in enemy hands before any kind of relief attempt can be effected.

Falkenhayn is commanding a German and Austro-Hungarian battlegroup that is crossing the Carpathians into Romania from Transylvania. Mackensen meanwhile leads a mainly Bulgarian force pushing along the coast. Today Mackensen’s men storm the port of Constanza. This victory means that no help will come to the Romanians by sea. Their only hope is that the Russians will be able to send an army to save them.

10/10/1916 Falkenhayn expels Romania from Transylvania

Romania entered the war on the Allied side expecting easy gains from Austria-Hungary. Unfortunately Romania’s leaders have made a terrible mistake. After initial successes in Transylvania, the Romanians have found themselves assailed by a two-pronged enemy assault.

Germany’s Mackensen leads a force of Bulgarians and some Germans who are pushing into Romania along the coast. In Transylvania, meanwhile, Falkenhayn has arrived with German reinforcements to lead the embattled Austro-Hungarians there. First he forced the Romanians onto the defensive, then he started to push them back towards the border. Now at last he has expelled them completely from Transylvania. Falkenhayn is now poised to lead his mixed army into an invasion of Romania itself. Romania’s survival as an independent nation looks very much in doubt, unless the Allies can find some forces to send to its aid.

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Falkenhayn (fourth from right) and his staff (Wikipedia)

29/9/1916 Romania pushed back in Transylvania

Romania’s entry into the war on the side of the Allies continues to look like a terrible mistake. With Russian help, the Romanians have managed to stop Mackensen’s German-Bulgarian thrust along the coast towards the port of Constanza. However in Transylvania they are facing a strong counter-attack from the Germans and Austro-Hungarians under Falkenhayn. The Romanians entered the war to seize this territory but now they are desperately fighting here to prevent an invasion of their country. And it does not look like this is a battle the Romanians can win. Despite stiff Romanian resistance, today Falkenhayn’s men manage to secure Sibiu, captured by the Romanians during their invasion of Transylvania.

On the Western Front war remains relatively static, with each side able to achieve only minor gains. Here in the East though a war of movement is still possible. With Mackensen and Falkenhayn pressing the Romanians hard, there is the real possibility that their decision to enter the war will see the entire country overrun by the enemy.

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Bulgarian and German troops on the move (MetroPostcard)

18/9/1916 Things start to go badly wrong for the Romanians

Romania’s leaders joined the war on the Allies’ side in the expectation of an easy victory that would allow them to establish a Greater Romania on both sides of the Carpathians. To accomplish this, Romanian armies pushed across the border into Transylvania. Austria-Hungary was already being pressed by Brusilov’s offensive in Galicia and the Italians on the Isonzo, so Romania’s invasion would be the coup de grâce that knocked it out of the war.

Or so they thought, but the Romanians have miscalculated. By the time they launched their invasion of Transylvania, the Austro-Hungarians had weathered the storm of the Brusilov Offensive: German reinforcements had staved off the threat of collapse, while on the Isonzo the Italians are showing no great likelihood of achieving a strategic victory.

Now the Romanians find their plans increasingly going awry. Germany’s Mackensen leads a combined Bulgarian and German force that has invaded Romania from the south and is threatening the vital port of Constanza. Meanwhile in Romania the Austro-Hungarians have received German reinforcements. Falkenhayn commands here. Anxious to restore his reputation, he is keen to administer a drubbing to the Romanians. Today his men launch their first major counter-attack.

The Romanians are obliged to halt offensive operations in Transylvania and assume a defensive posture. Their decision to join the war has now engulfed them in a battle for national survival.

image source (Wikipedia)