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From the Library of



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Marshal Ferdinand Foch
From a painting by Sir William Orpen, R.A.






i9 2 3


LVII. Brussilov in Galicia (June 3-August 11, 1916) .

Change in Russia's Plan — Condition of Austrian Armies—
Brussilov's five Battle-grounds — Fall of Lutsk and
Dubno — The Affair at Baranovitchi— Fall of Czerno-
vitz and Kimpolung— Capture of Brody— Results of the
Ten Weeks' Battle — Changes in Austrian Dispositions.



BOOK II. {Continued).


LIII. The British Line in the West (February 8- June
18, 1916)

Fighting around the Ypres Salient — The Canadians at-
tacked — The Training of the New Armies— The " Break-
ing-point " in War— The Prophylactics against Fear-
Death of the younger Moltke.

LIV. The Political Situation (February 10- June 24,
i9 l6 )

The Operation of the Military Service Act in Britain —
The British Budget of 1916 — Germany's Finances —
Death of Gallieni — Resignation of Tirpitz— America's
Ultimatum to Germany— The Easter Rebellion in Ire-

LV. The Battle of Jutland (May 30- June 5, 1916) . 32

The British Grand Fleet on May 30 — Jellicoe's Prin-
ciples of Naval War— The German Fleet sighted— The
Battle-cruiser Action — Arrival and Deployment of Battle
Fleet — The Race southward — The Night Action — British
and German Losses— The Points in Dispute— Summary
of Battle — Death of Lord Kitchener.

LVI. The Austrian Attack in the Trentino (October

21, 1915-June 15, 1916) 55

The Winter Fighting in Italy, 1915-1916 — Plan of Aus-
trian Staff — Topography of the Asiago Plateau — The
Attack begins — Arrival of Reserves from Fifth Army —
The Attack dies away — Boselli succeeds Salandra as
Prime Minister.





LXXII. The Russian Coup d'£tat (December 29, 1916-

March 16, 1917) 379

Rasputin : his Career and Death — Protopopov — The
Quiet before the Storm — Revolt of Petrograd Garrison
— Formation of Provisional Government — The Petrograd
Soviet — Abdication of the Emperor — The House of
Romanov — The Gap to be filled — The Failure of the

LXXIII. The New Government in Britain (December

19, 1916-May 2, 1917) 4°3

Mr. Lloyd George — The War Cabinet — Problems of Men,
Food, and Raw Materials — The British Finances —

LXXIV. The Breaking of America's Patience (Janu-
ary 22-April 6, 1917) 4 20

Effect on America of Germany's new Submarine Policy
— Diplomatic Relations suspended — American Mer-
chant Ships armed— The special Session of Congress — Mr.
Wilson's Message — America declares War.

LXXV. Germany shortens her Western Line (No-
vember 16, 1916-April 5, 1917) .... 432

The new Hindenburg Positions — Nivelle departs from
Joffre's Policv— Haig's Difficulties — The final Arrange-
ments — The British capture Serre — Beginning of German
Retreat — The New Line and its Pivots.

LXXVI. The Battle of Arras (April 4-June 6, 1917) 447

The Arras Neighbourhood — Haig's Problem and Dis-
positions — The Attack of Easter Monday — Difficulties
of Weather — Fighting on the Scarpe and at Bullecourt—
Summary of Battle.

LXXVII. The Second Battle of the Aisne (December

16, 1916-June 2, 1917) 465

Nivelle's new Strategy — Attitude of new French Cab-
inet — The Heights of the Aisne — Defects in French Plan
— The Attack begins — The Moronvillers Fighting —
Petain succeeds Nivelle — Foch Chief of General Staff-
Last Days of the Battle — The French Mutinies.

LXXVIII. Mesopotamia, Syria, and the Balkans (Janu-
ary 9-June 25, 1917) 482

Maude advances north of Bagdad — Escape of Turkish
13th Corps — Capture of Samara — Falkenhayn sent to
Turkey — The First and Second Battles of Gaza — Allenby
succeeds Murray — Sarrail's abortive Spring Offensive —
King Constantine abdicates, and Venizelos becomes
Prime Minister.



LXX1X. The Russian Revolution (March 16-July 23,

1917) 5o6

The Weakness of Russia — The Origin of Bolshevism —
Lenin and Others — The Soviet Principle — Progress of
the Provisional Government — The last Russian Offen-
sive — Brussilov's initial Success — The Debdcle.

LXXX. The Italian Front in the Summer of 1917

(May 12-September 18, 1917) .... 530

The Capture of Monte Kuk and Monte Santo — The
Fight for Hermada — The Bainsizza Plateau won — The
Struggle for San Gabriele — Cadorna closes his Offensive.

LXXXI. The Third Year of War : the Change in the
Strategic Position (June 28, 1916-June 28,
1917) 546

The " Mathematical Certainty " of 1917 — The New
Factor — Tactical Developments — Landing of first
American Troops — The Year at Sea — Gravity of Sub-
marine Peril — America sends Destroyers — Revision of
War Aims — Economic Position of the Belligerents — A
New Europe.

LXXXII. The Third Battle of Ypres (June i-November

10, 1917) 57°

Haig's Flanders Policy — Sir Herbert Plumer — Battle of
Messines — The Preliminaries of Third Ypres — The " Pill-
boxes " — The Attack of 31st July — The Weather — The
Attack of 1 6th August — The September and October
Actions— Capture of Passchendaele — Summury of Battle.



Marshal Ferdinand Foch Frontispiece

British Battleships in Action at Battle of Jutland
(About 6:30 p.m., May 31, 1916) 42

From a painting by Robert H. Smith

The Old German Front Line, 1916 152

From a painting by Charles Sims, R.A.

A Street in Arras 450

From a painting by John S. Sargent, R.A.

Admiral William Sowden Sims 556



February 8-June 18, 1916.

Fighting around the Ypres Salient — The Canadians attacked — The Training of the
New Armies — The " Breaking-point " in War — The Prophylactics against
Fear — Death of the younger Moltke.

WHEN the Imperial Crown Prince unleashed his attack on
Verdun one part of his purpose was to induce a British
counter-offensive. Hence the German lines were not thinned else-
where ; least of all on the British front, where the chief danger was
anticipated. The citadel on the Meuse soon became a maelstrom
which sucked in all free strategic reserves, and demanded the com-
plete attention of the German Staff. Elsewhere the war seemed to
stand still, while the world watched the most heroic and skilful
defence that history had known. Verdun was France's exclusive
business, and her generals chose to hold the line there with their
own troops, and to ask for no reinforcements from the British front.
Kitchener at once offered British divisions for the Meuse, but Joffre
gratefully declined them. Help, however, was given in another
way. The British armies took over the whole line from Ypres to the
Somme, and the French Tenth Army, which had held the line from
Loos to a point south of Arras, was released for the main battle
ground. This was not the only contribution made by the Allies
during that long struggle. On 20th April a contingent of Russian
troops, some 8,000 strong, landed at Marseilles. They had been
brought across Siberia, and then by sea from Dalny, by way of the
Suez Canal. Their number could represent no great accession to the


French field force, but their presence was a proof of the new attempt
at a unification of command among all the Allies which was needed
to give effect to their unity of purpose.

To the spectator it appeared that during the first half of 1916
the British army was stagnant in the West. The judgment was
in error. Its duty was the hard one of waiting — long months of
desultory trench fighting with no concerted movement, no great
offensive purpose, to quicken the spirit. It was a costly duty.
Frequently the daily toll was over 1,000 ; and if we take only an
average daily loss of 500, that gives a total in six months of 90,000
men. From it all there came, apparently, no military result of any
consequence. The British army was neither attacking nor seriously
on the defence, and those indeterminate weeks were for officers
and men among the hardest to bear in the whole campaign. Apart
from the steady normal bombardment, the main activities were
mining, and the enterprises which were known as " cutting-out
parties." Both had been going on all winter, but in the new year
they became a formula and a habit. Their chief use was to keep
the spirit of the offensive alive in our men, to harass the enemy,
and to provide information as to the exact German dispositions.
Everywhere from Ypres to the Somme such raids were attempted,
and on the whole we, who were the initiators of the adventures,
kept the lead in them. But the Germans retaliated with various
raids which, after their fashion, were more elaborately organized
than ours. Mobile batteries toured along their front, and at
different places opened a bombardment, under cover of which
their infantry raided our front line, and carried off prisoners. It
was remarked that these attempts were specially common south
of Arras. Places like Gommecourt, La Boisselle, and Carnoy were
frequently selected, as if the enemy had grown suspicious of that
section of front which had never yet been the theatre of any great

The only serious fighting in the first half of the year took place
in and around the Ypres Salient. There was no new Battle of
Ypres, as many expected ; but there was a long-drawn struggle
for certain points, which in the total wastage produced the results
of a great action. In that ill-omened Salient the Germans held
all the higher and better ground, and especially all the points
which gave direct observation for artillery. Our trenches were
for the most part in the water-logged flats, and when we reached
dry ground we were, as a rule, commanded from elevations in front
and flank. Further, all our communications were at the mercy


of the enemy's shell fire. The trouble began on 8th February,
when the German guns opened a heavy bombardment, which
endured for several days. On the 12th, early in the morning, an
infantry attack was delivered at the extreme left of our line, near
the point, of junction with the French on the canal. Next day
the centre of interest moved to the other side of the Salient. At
Hooge the Germans had sapped out, and linked up their sap-heads
into a connected line 150 yards from our front. On the 13th their
guns obliterated our front trenches. On the 14th, in the afternoon,
the whole section was under an intense bombardment, a series of
mines were exploded, and infantry attacks were launched against
our positions at Hooge and at the north and south ends of Sanctuary
Wood. They failed, being checked by our rifle and machine-gun
fire long before they reached their objective.

Farther south the enemy had better fortune. On the north bank
of the Ypres-Comines Canal was a ridge, 30 to 40 feet high, which
owed its existence largely to the excavations for the channel. It
was part of that horseshoe of shallow upland which separated the
Ypres basin from the vale of the Lys, and connected in the south
with the ridge of Messines. This particular hillock was covered
with trees and was held by both sides, and to that eastern part of
it over which our line passed we gave the name of The Bluff. A
bombardment on the afternoon of the 14th all but obliterated our
trenches there, and the infantry rush which followed captured
them and their continuation to the north — in all, about 600 yards.
It was an awkward piece of ground to lose, and after two fruitless
attempts to recover it, we were compelled to sit down and wait for
a better chance. The opportunity came on 2nd March, after the
enemy had been in possession for seventeen days. To the 3rd
Division was entrusted the task of winning the ground back. For
several days we bombarded steadily, and at 4.30 on the morning of
2nd March our infantry, wearing for the first time their new steel
helmets, effected a complete surprise. They rushed the German
trenches and found the enemy with bayonets unfixed, and many
of them without rifles or equipment. The British right carried
The Bluff with ease. The centre pushed through the German front,
and took the third line, which they held long enough to enable the
main ground to be consolidated. The left was delayed at first,
but since those on its right could bring an enfilading fire to bear
on the enemy, it presently was able to advance to its objective.

At the end of the month the British again attacked. The
Ypres Salient now represented a shallow semicircle, beginning in


the north at Boesinghe, on the Ypres-Dixmude Canal, and ending
in the south at St. Eloi. At the latter point a small German salient
had encroached on our line, to the depth of about ioo yards on a
front of 600. It was resolved to get rid of this, and straighten our
front, the place being roughly defined by the crossroads south of
the village of St. Eloi, where the Messines and Warneton roads
branched off. The first step was the exploding, on 27th March, of
six large mines within the salient, a shock so colossal that it was
felt in villages far behind the battle ground. Half a minute later
the infantry — a brigade from the 3rd Division — were racing across
the open to the German trenches. Inside the salient there was
nothing but death and destruction ; but machine guns were busy
on the flanks, and the left of the attack did not reach its objective,
so that a way was left for the Germans to occupy one of the mine
craters. The next few days were spent in repelling counter-attacks
and endeavouring to oust the enemy from the crater which he held.
This was successfully accomplished on 3rd April, and we thus
gained the whole of our original objective — the German first and
second lines on a front of 600 yards.

Then followed some weeks of confused and difficult fighting.
The 3rd Division was relieved by the 2nd Canadian Division, whose
task was to consolidate the ground won. Little of the work had
been done ; little could have been done owing to the weariness of
the troops which had made the attack, and the water-logged soil,
now churned into glutinous mire by the shelling and the mine
explosions. The communication trenches had all been obliterated,
and the German second line beyond the crater, which we nominally
held, had never been properly converted, and was in any case
practically destroyed by our own artillery fire. There was a very
general doubt as to where exactly was the British front line, and
where was the German. In such conditions it was not difficult
for the enemy to push us out of his old second line. The Canadians
— especially the 6th Brigade — were now holding isolated craters
with no good communications between them. The near side of
each crater was under direct enemy observation and constant fire,
so that supplies and reliefs could only come up at night, and it was
all but impossible to evacuate the wounded. At any one moment
it was difficult to say what craters were held, and this uncertainty
led to mistakes in sending up reliefs and considerable losses. Mean-
time an incessant bombardment went on, and some of the craters
were reduced to mere mud holes in no-man's-land, incapable of
being held by either side. The Canadians occupied a demolished


and much inferior position against greatly superior artillery, with
few chances of communication, and no cover for approach except
the darkness of the night. The general result was that we found
the gains of March 27th and 3rd April untenable, and gradually
loosened our hold on them.

April and May saw various local attacks in the Ypres Salient, at
Loos, and on the Vimy Ridge ; and in June these scattered activities
drew to a head in one section, as if to anticipate the great Allied
offensive now looming in the near future. The place was once
again the Salient, that section of it from Hooge to the Ypres-
Comines railway. It was held at the moment by the Canadians —
the 3rd Division, under Major-General Mercer. South of Hooge
lay the collection of broken tree trunks called Sanctuary Wood ;
then the flat watery fields around Zwartelen, where the Household
Cavalry made their dismounted charge at the First Battle of
Ypres ; then just north of the Ypres-Menin railway the mound
which was famous as Hill 60. Behind, between the British front
and Ypres, was the hamlet of Zillebeke, with its melancholy pond.
The area of the attack was nearly two miles in width, and being
the apex of a salient, the Germans were able to concentrate their
fire from three sides. At 9 o'clock on the morning of 2nd June a
bombardment was loosed on the British front trenches, and a
barrage was placed over the whole hinterland. The infantry attack,
in spite of heavy losses, had by the evening won the whole of our
old first line on a front of a mile and three-quarters, and during the
night pushed through our centre towards Zillebeke to a depth
of 700 yards. General Mercer was killed early in the day by shell
fire, and General Williams of the 7th Canadian Brigade was wounded
and made prisoner.

At seven o'clock on the morning of the next day, 3rd June,
the Canadians counter-attacked. They pressed on most gallantly,
and won back much of the lost ground. But they could not stay
in it, owing to the intensity of the German artillery fire, and they
were compelled to fall back from most of that shell-swept area,
which became a kind of extended no-man's-land. For two days
the battle was stationary, and then at midday on 6th June the
German guns opened again, concentrating on the front south and
north of the shattered village of Hooge. North of that place they
exploded a series of mines between three and four in the afternoon,
and presently their infantry had penetrated our first-line trenches.
This meant that the extreme point of the Ypres Salient had been
flattened in, that our front now ran behind what had once been


Hooge village, and that the enemy had advanced as far as the
Bellewaarde brook.

For a week the battle declined to an intermittent bombardment,
for infantry raids were impossible owing to the downpour of rain.
Then at 1.30 on the morning of 13th June a fresh Canadian division
— the 1st, under Major-General Currie — attacked on a front of
500 yards, extending from the south end of Sanctuary Wood to
a point 1,000 yards north of Hill 60. They found that the enemy
had not gone far in consolidating his gains, and they found, too,
that our previous bombardments had done great execution. They
occupied all his advanced line, and regained their original front
trenches in the most important part of the section, inflicting heavy
losses. Such gains in the marshes of the Salient were of little serious
value, but they were a proof that the enemy could not take posi-
tions there in which he could abide.

In spite of these episodes the first half of 1916 was for the

British field army a season of comparative quiet — a fortunate

circumstance, for it enabled Haig to complete his command and

perfect its training. Before midsummer the total of the British

army at home and abroad was nearly five million. The nation was

so prone to self-criticism that few realized and fewer admitted the

stupendous and unparalleled character of this military achievement.

There had been nothing like it in the history of any nation. With the

possible exception of France, Britain had mobilized for the direct

and indirect purposes of war a larger proportion of her population

than any belligerent country. Moreover, while engaged in also

supplying her Allies, she had furnished this vast levy with its

necessary equipment. She had jettisoned all her old theories and

calculations, and in a society which had not for a hundred years

been called upon to make a great effort against an enemy, a society

highly differentiated and industrialized, a society which lived by

sea-borne commerce, and so could not concentrate like certain

other lands exclusively on military preparation, she had provided

an army on the largest scale, and provided it out of next to nothing.

She had to improvise officers and staff, auxiliary services, munition-

ment — everything. She had to do this in the face of an enemy

already fully prepared. She had to do it, above all, at a time

when war had become a desperately technical and scientific business,

and improvisation was most difficult. It is possible to assemble

speedily hosts of spearmen and pikemen, but it seemed beyond

human capacity to improvise men to use the bayonet and machine

gun, the bomb and the rifle. But Britain had done it, and had done


it for the most part by voluntary enlistment. It was easy to point
out defects in her organization. Some critics — notably Mr. Churchill
— argued that there was an undue proportion of ration strength
to fighting strength ; that half the total ration strength of the
army was still at home ; that of the half abroad, half fought and
half did not fight ; that of the half that fought, about three-quarters
were infantry in the trenches, on whom fell almost all the loss ;
that of every six men recruited at one end, only one infantry rifle
appeared over the parapets at the other ; and that some 2,000,000
soldiers had never been under fire. Undoubtedly there was room
for " combing-out " ; for the embusque existed in the British as
in other armies, and the staff at home had grown to a preposterous
size. But in modern war, with its intricate organization, it was
clear that an army must have a far greater proportion of men
behind the fine than in any former campaign. The apparatus was
so vast that the operative point must seem small in contrast to the
mechanism which produced it.

Meantime Haig was busy with the task for which he was qualified
above almost all living soldiers, the training of troops. He had now
received the balance of the New Army divisions from home as well
as various units released from Gallipoli, and to produce that homo-
geneity which is necessary in a field force much thought and time
had to be given to field training. The work was performed by the
Commander-in-Chief and his generals with infinite care, enthusiasm,
and judgment. " During the periods of relief," he wrote, " all
formations, and especially the newly created ones, are instructed
and practised in all classes of the present and other phases of
warfare. A large number of schools also exist for the instruction
of individuals, especially in the use and theory of the less familiar
weapons, such as bombs and grenades. There are schools for
young staff officers and regimental officers, for candidates for
commissions, etc. In short, every effort is made to take advantage
of the closer contact with actual warfare, and to put the finishing
touches, often after actual experience in the trenches, to the training
received at home." The British armies in the field during the first
half of 1916 were one great training school.

In these months the mind of the High Command was facing a
problem for the solution of which little data existed in past history.
A great attack was in prospect — the greatest effort as yet made by
the Allies in the campaign — and it must be made with a new type
of army. The old regular was a known quantity ; the new soldier,


representing every rank of life and variety of mind and tempera-
ment, was still to be assessed. He had physique, brains, energy,
and devotion, but he could not in the nature of things have that
instinctive discipline which is the product only of years of service.
Hence the effect of the new battle conditions upon the moral of the
fighting man became a question of extreme practical urgency. In
the last resort all wars depend upon the resisting power of five
or six feet of shrinking human flesh. The men who fought at
Marathon were not greatly different in physique and temperament
from those who fought in Champagne and Poland. A pressure

Online LibraryJohn BuchanA history of the great war (Volume 3) → online text (page 1 of 64)