Thomas Herbert Russell.

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ready for immediate launching. The officers and crew behaved excellently
and did everything possible in the circumstances, getting people into
the boats and picking up those in the sea.

"I was the last to leave, taking the plunge into the sea as the ship
was going down. After being in the water some time I was taken aboard a
raft, to which I had assisted two men and women.

"If the submarine had given me a little more time, I am satisfied I
could have saved everybody."

The Arabic's tonnage was 15,201 gross. It was 600 feet long, 65 feet
beam and 47 feet in depth. It was built at Belfast in 1903 by Harland &

On September 4 the German forces under General von Beseler stormed and
captured the bridgehead at Friedrichstradt, the most important defense
of Riga. The furiousness of the attacks in this region led military
critics to believe that the fall of the city of Riga was imminent.

Everywhere as Russians retreated they left a trail of utter devastation,
causing the Teutons to march around burning cities, finding the country
devoid of food or shelter. This destructive policy, however, resulted in
saving the Czar's army and rendering futile the hope of the Kaiser that
the military forces of Russia could be crushed.

With the Russian armies in full retreat and their double line of
fortresses all fallen to the invader, the apparent calm on the Western
front continued to be the marvel of the European campaign, as up to
September 7 no development on the Western front indicated that any
effort was being made to distract the Kaiser's attention from his
victorious expedition into the territory of the Czar.


The struggle of combined land and sea forces of the Allies to gain
control of the Dardanelles, and thus open the way for the British and
French fleets to Constantinople and the Black Sea, continued through the
autumn of 1915 and furnished some of the most sanguinary battles of the
war. From the day of the landing of British troops on the Grallipoli
peninsula up to the end of November the fighting was continuous and
bloody. The British losses were tremendous, while the Turkish defenders
of the supposedly impregnable straits also suffered heavily, but with
Mohammedan stoicism.

A terrible picture of the slaughter at Seddul-Bahr, where the British
troops landed from transports under the guns of their fleet, in the face
of an awful Turkish bombardment, was painted on his return to England in
November by Lieutenant-Commander Josiah Wedgwood, a Liberal member of
Parliament, who had received special mention for bravery at the front,
and the coveted stripes of the Distinguished Service order.

"Our school books told us," said Commander Wedgwood, "that the bloodiest
battle in history was that between the confederates and federals at
Sharpsburg during the American civil war, when one-third of all the men
engaged were left on the field. But Sharpsburg was a joy ride compared
with Seddul-Bahr."

Paying a tribute to the enemy, he said: "The Turks are the finest
fighters in the world, save only the Canadians and Australians. And they
proved to be humane. They could easily have killed all those who went
to succor the wounded, but I found them extraordinarily merciful as
compared with the enemy in Flanders."

Commander Wedgwood's first view of fighting at the Dardanelles was at
the so-called V beach, where a steamship, the "River Clyde," was run
aground to furnish cover for the landing of the British troops.

"This modern 'wooden horse of Troy,'" said Commander Wedgwood, "was run
ashore on a beautiful Sunday morning, 400 yards from the medieval castle
of Seddul-Bahr. I was on the vessel, but never noticed her grounding for
the horrors ahead of us in the shallow waters on the beach. Five tows of
five boats each, loaded with men, were going ashore alongside of us.
One moment it had been early morning in a peaceful country, with rustic
sights and sounds and smells; the next moment, while the boats were just
twenty yards from shore, the blue sea around each boat was turning red.
It was truly horrible. Of all those brave men two-thirds died, and
hardly a dozen reached unwounded the shelter of the five-foot sand dune.

"About 9 o'clock a dash across the row of lighters from the Wooden Horse
was led by Gen. Napier and his brigade major. Would they ever get to the
end of the lighters and jump into the sheltering water? No; side by side
they were seen to sit down. For one moment one thought they might be
taking cover; then their legs slid out and they rolled over.

"It was the Munsters that charged first, with a sprig of shamrock on
their caps; then the Dublins, the Worcesters, the Hampshires. Lying on
the beach, on the rocks, on the lighters, they cried on the Mother of
God. There, now, was Midshipman Drury swimming to a lighter which had
broken loose, with a line in his mouth and a wound in his head. If ever
a boy deserved his Victoria Cross, that lad did. And there was the
captain of the River Clyde, now no longer a ship to be stuck to but a
part forever of Gallipoli, alone with a boat by the spit of rock, trying
to lift in the wounded under fire.

"All these things I saw as in a dream. Columns of smoke rose from the
castle and town of Seddul-Bahr as the great shells from the fleet passed
over our heads and burst, and in every lull we heard the wounded.

"At 1 o'clock the Lancashires were appearing over the ridge to the left
from 'Lancashire landing.' "We saw fifteen men in a window in the
castle on the right by the water. They signaled that they were all that
remained of the Dublins who had landed at the Camber at Seddul-Bahr. At
3 o'clock we got 150 men alive to shore. We watched our men working
to the right and up into the castle ruins - at each corner the officer
crouching in front with revolver in rest.

"When night came a house in Seddul-Bahr was burning brightly and there
was a full moon. We disembarked men at once. All around the wounded
cried for help and shelter against the bullets, but there was no room on
boats or gang-way for anything but the men to come to shore.

"For two nights no one had slept and then another day dawned. We were
firmly ashore at Lancashire landing, and at Du Toit's battery to the
northeast, and the Australians were dug in at Anzac. An end had to be
made of V beach. The whole fleet collected and all morning blew the
ridge and castle and town to pieces.

"And all the time that wonderful infantry went forward up the hill and
through the ruined town. The troops that went in that attack had already
lost half their strength; the officers that led up those narrow streets
were nearly all killed. Dead beat, at 1 o'clock, before the final rush,
they hesitated. Then our last colonel, a staff man, Col. Doughty Wylie,
ran ashore with a cane, ran right up the hill, ran through the last
handful of men sheltering under the crest, took them with a rush into
the Turkish trench, and fell with a bullet through his head. But the
Turks ran and the ridge was ours."

Many weeks of bloody fighting followed and while there was talk early in
November of a possible abandonment of the Dardanelles campaign, the end
of the month found the struggle still in progress, with no end in sight.

Official figures made public October 15, show that the British
casualties at the Dardanelles up to October 9 were 96,899, of whom
1,185 were officers. The casualties among the Australian troops on the
Gallipoli peninsula up to the same date amounted to 29,121 officers and


On September 23, acting upon the advice of Premier Venizelos, King
Constantine of Greece ordered a general mobilization of the Greek army,
"as a measure of elementary prudence in view of the mobilization of
Bulgaria." Ten days later Premier Venizelos resigned upon official
notice that the King could not support his war policy, which was
believed to reflect the sentiments of the Greek people and to support
the Allies. King Constantine then endeavored to form a coalition
ministry. The great point at issue was whether Greece should support or
oppose the passage of the Allies through Greek territory to the aid of
Serbia. British and French troops to the number of 70,000 had meanwhile
been landed at Saloniki, the great Greek seaport, and were being hurried
to the support of the Serbians in their central territory, to oppose the
incursion of the Austro-Germans and the Bulgarians. In November King
Constantine and his military chiefs were visited by Field-Marshal Earl
Kitchener, the British Secretary of War, who made such demands upon them
in the interest of the Allies, backed by a temporary blockade of the
Greek coasts by the British and French fleets, that on November 25 it
was announced that cordial relations between Greece and the entente
powers had been established. The Greek government gave assurances that
no attempt would be made to interfere with the Allies' troops should
they under any contingency be forced to cross the Greek frontier,
but that railway and other facilities would be afforded them. It was
understood that the Allies also promised Greece a monetary indemnity
after the war for any damage that might be done through the occupation
of Greek territory.

With the question of Grecian intervention out of the way, the Allies
then occupied themselves with the attitude of Rumania and the
intervention of Russia in behalf of Serbia, in order that the latter
country might be saved from the fate of Belgium. It was generally
understood that Rumania could not afford to incur the enmity of Germany
by active interference in behalf of Serbia, even though the Serbians and
Rumanians were natural allies against Bulgaria.

On November 26, M. Pachitch, the Serbian premier, received a personal
telegram from the Russian emperor, in which the latter promised
the early appearance in Bulgaria of Russian troops and the Italian
government also promised the Serbians to send to their aid an
expeditionary force of 40,000 men. It was believed possible that the
Russian forces might seek to advance through Rumania, instead of forcing
a landing on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria - in which case the crossing
of Rumanian territory by Russian troops would bring Rumania into a
serious situation both economically and politically, and render it
difficult if not impossible for her to preserve her neutrality. At this
time Russia had concentrated a great army near the Rumanian frontier,
and it was understood that a large number of heavy guns had arrived at
Odessa for its use. The direction in which this Russian army would move
depended entirely upon the policy adopted by the Rumanian government.


On September 28, formal announcement was made in New York of the
terms of an American loan to Great Britain and France, arranged by a
commission of British and French financial authorities after conferences
with American bankers; a bond issue of $500,000,000 was soon floated,
drawing 5 per cent interest and issued to the syndicate at 96; the
money to remain in the United States and to be used only in payment for

Late in November the French people were called upon to subscribe to a
"loan of victory." The response from the people of Paris alone in one
day amounted to $5,000,000,000, thus exceeding the records of all former
popular war loans, including British and German issues, and typifying
the patriotic ardor of the French people and their determination to
continue the war to an issue successful to allied arms.


After a week's heavy bombardment of the German lines, an important
offensive movement was undertaken on September 25 by the French and
British against the German lines on the western front. The forward
movement occurred simultaneously in the Champagne district, between
Rheims and Verdun, by the French and in the Artois district, between
Ypres and Arras, by combined British and French forces. While the Allies
did not succeed in gaining much ground, and both sides suffered heavy
losses, it was claimed by the French war office on September 29 that
as a result of the four days' assaults of the Anglo-French forces the
Germans suffered losses amounting to the effective strength of 120,
men, while 23,000 men and 120 cannon were captured from the Teutonic
enemy. This constituted the result of what was described as the great
Anglo-French drive of the autumn, and the situation on the western
front then settled down once more into a state of siege. The first-line
trenches of the opposing forces along a wide-flung front were within a
short distance of each other. A new method of warfare had been developed
and the world began to realize that all historic conditions of war had
been revolutionized by the use of scientific weapons of destruction like
the machine gun, which mowed down men like hay, and the high explosive
shell that destroyed protective works as if they were made of cardboard
and filled the trenches with dead and dying bodies. Such was the
situation on the western front in the beginning of December. No let-up
in the determination of either side; no advance seemingly possible, no
attack that was not followed by a counter-attack; no gain of any
consequence anywhere; no possibility seemingly of any decisive battle;
nothing in sight but an absolute deadlock.


Late in September the German campaign against Russia appeared to lose
most of its force. Continued attempts were made by Field Marshal von
Hindenburg to fight his way to Riga, but without avail, and Russian
successes at various points along the eastern battle front were numerous
in October and November. The Russians declared on November 15 that they
deemed the city of Riga safe, and by November 26 it was apparent that
the Germans were engaged in a general retirement all along the River
Dvina. The Allies then became interested in the Kaiser's probable choice
of a line of defense for the winter on the northern section of his
Russian front. The breakdown of the German offensive was attributed
by the Allies to three things - the increase in the Russian ammunition
supply, a German shortage of munitions, and the weakening of the German
line for the Balkan campaign.


On October 1, 1915, it was evident that Bulgarian forces would shortly
be employed on the side of the central powers. Bulgarian troops from
Sofia were moving on to the Serbian frontier. King Ferdinand had ordered
the mobilization of all men under sixty-five years of age and martial
law was proclaimed, no citizen under forty-five being allowed to leave
the country. On October 4 Russia sent an ultimatum to Bulgaria and the
Russian minister was ordered to leave Sofia if by 4 p.m., October 5,
Bulgaria did not definitely break with Germany, Austria and Turkey. All
the allied powers supported Russia in this demand. Bulgaria did not
reply within the time specified and the Russian minister was reported
too ill to move from Sofia, thus indicating that the diplomats of the
great contending powers were still at work in an effort to secure the
important support of Bulgaria in the Balkan campaign which was imminent.

On October 6, when Bulgaria was said to have sent an ultimatum to Serbia
demanding the territory ceded after the recent Balkan wars, the envoys
of the Allies at Sofia requested their passports, and Bulgaria became
an active participant in the war. The Bulgarian minister at Nish, the
Serbian capital, received his passports on October 8, and on the same
day the Bulgarian minister at Paris was handed his passports. On the
following day, October 9, Belgrade, the former Serbian capital, was
occupied by Austro-German forces and the invasion of Serbia by Austria
and Germany from the north and by Bulgaria from the east began in
earnest. The Serbian capital was removed the same day to Ishtib, in the


When the great army of Germans and Austrians entered Serbia at Belgrade
and other points along the Danube and began to drive the Serbian forces
to the south, they met with immediate and continued successes. Bulgarian
troops meanwhile pressed the Serbians on the west and by the end of
November it seemed as if the entire territory of Serbia was doomed to
the fate of Belgium. But on the south, allied troops, including a great
body of French who had been landed at Saloniki in Greece and made their
way northward, disputed the advance of the invaders and at several
points drove back the Bulgarians, thus holding the southern territory of
Serbia for their ally in the same manner that Flanders was being held by
the Allies for Belgium.



In all the arenas of the great struggle, the winter campaign of 1915-16,
the second winter of the war, was accompanied by unparalleled hardships
and sufferings. It was, in fact, described by Major Moraht, military
expert of the Berliner Tageblatt and the best known German military
critic, as "the most terrific campaign in the world's history." Hundreds
of thousands of men of all classes, in all the armies stretched along
the battle fronts east and west, struggled against wind, weather, and
winter amid conditions of the most extreme self-denial. Speaking for
the Teutonic forces in January, Major Moraht said: "On our western and
eastern fronts and along the lines held by our Austro-Hungarian allies,
the conditions under which we must stubbornly hold out are such as never
in the history of the world's most terrible campaign had to be endured
before." The winter was exceptionally severe and men were invalided by
the thousands, owing to frost-bites, despite ingenious precautions and
the fact that their spells in the trenches were reduced considerably.

The conditions faced by the Austrians and Italians in the Alps and on
the Isonzo were especially appalling. Thus a detachment of Austrian and
Alpine troops, engaged in patrol duty, met its doom in an avalanche in
southern Tyrol. Only one out of twelve was rescued alive, and he lay
buried under snow for fourteen hours before he was rescued.

Added to the sufferings of the fighting men during the winter the sum
total of human misery in Europe when 1916 dawned was vastly increased by
the awful conditions prevailing in Poland and in Serbia. Poland, a land
long recognized as given over to sorrows, had been crossed and recrossed
by hostile armies. It had been harried, almost destroyed. Towns and food
supplies, fields and granaries, were obliterated. The cattle had been
driven off by the invaders and the people were left starving. The misery
of Belgium a year before was as nothing compared with the misery of
Poland amid the rigors of winter, and the unhappy country clamored
for the help of happier peoples. It had become a land of graves and
trenches, of ruin and destruction on a scale that had been wrought
nowhere else by the war. Many of the abandoned trenches were the
temporary "homes" of countless refugees, mostly women and children, who
had been driven from their homes in the burned and ruined villages that
dotted the land. And there was little or no relief in sight for
the stricken Poles, innocent victims of a ruthless war and pitiful
playthings of Fate.


Artillery fighting with mortars and long-range cannon was a continuous
performance during December and January in nearly every section of the
western battle line. Every day tens of thousands of shells, both high
explosive and shrapnel, were hurled at the trenches and men were killed
or wounded by the score at a time. To the war-hardened men behind the
guns on both sides this business of slaying and running the risk of
being slain or crippled became so prolonged and monotonous that they
thought no more of it than of cutting down a forest or building a
pontoon bridge.

Early in January the city of Nancy, just behind the French lines, was
bombarded for three days by German 15-inch guns. Much damage was
done and a number of the inhabitants were killed and wounded. As a
consequence there was an exodus from the city, safe conducts being
issued to more than 30,000 persons.

Estimates made in Vienna of the total booty of the Teutonic allies
during the first seventeen months of the war, up to January 1, 1916,
were as follows: Nearly 3,000,000 prisoners, 10,000 guns, and 40,
machine guns, while 470,000 square kilometers of enemy territory had
been occupied.

About the same time the German losses, as compiled from official lists,
were estimated at 2,588,000, including over 500,000 killed and 350,
taken by the Allies as prisoners of war.


After every effort had been exhausted in the British Isles to raise
troops by voluntary enlistment, first under Lord Kitchener and then
under Lord Derby, the British government was finally compelled to resort
to conscription, although nearly 3,000,000 men had voluntarily responded
to the call to the colors. A bill was presented in the House of Commons
by Premier Asquith on January 5, 1916, providing for compulsory service
by "all men between the ages of 18 and 41 who are bachelors or widowers
without children dependent on them." Ireland was excluded from the terms
of the measure, which finally passed the Commons on January 20, the
opposition having dwindled to a meager handful of votes. Four members of
the Cabinet, however, resigned as a protest against conscription.


On January 9 the British battleship King Edward VII foundered at sea
as the result of striking a mine. Owing to a heavy sea it had to be
abandoned and sank shortly afterward. The entire crew of nearly 800 men
were saved. The vessel was a predreadnaught of 16,350 tons and cost
nearly $8,000,000. A week previously the British battleship Natal, a
vessel of similar character, was sunk by an internal explosion.

The main battle fleets of both Britain and Germany remained "in statuo
quo" up to March 1, 1916. British cruisers and patrol ships maintained a
constant watch upon the waters of the North Sea, and visitors permitted
to see the battle fleet at its secret rendezvous reported efficiency and
eternal vigilance as its watchwords. The German fleet lay in safety in
the Kiel Canal, still awaiting orders to put to sea and enjoy "der Tag,"
after nineteen months of inactivity.


After several months of comparative inactivity Russia launched a forward
movement against the Austro-German forces late in December. This winter
drive was not unexpected, as the Russian armies had had time to recover
from their reverses of the summer and autumn of 1915 and had received
much-needed supplies of guns and ammunition.

The fact that Russia was vigorously on the offensive again was soon
demonstrated. The first week of 1916 was marked by a progressive
development of a forward Russian movement extending along the Stye and
Strypa rivers from the Pripet marshes to Bessarabia. The main attack
seemed to be directed against Bukowina and Eastern Galicia, and for some
time the pressure of the Russian attacks forced back the lines of the
Austro-German right along the eastern front.

During January the Russians were also actively engaged against the Turks
in the Caucasus, where the battle front was over 100 miles long, and
against the Turks, aided by Germans in Persia, They began a general
offensive in the Caucasus on January 11 and made steady gains over the
Turks, while similar successes attended their efforts in Persia, where
revolutionists had entered the field against the Russians and British.


The month of December saw the end of the Austro-German and Bulgarian
drives through Serbia. By the end of the year the remnants of the
Serbian army had been driven across the frontiers and some 50,000 of
them found refuge in January on the Greek island of Corfu, which was
seized by the Allies for that purpose. King Peter found an asylum in
Italy; Belgrade and Nish were occupied by Austrians and Germans, and
the Bulgarians halted at the Greek border. The small British and French
forces in Serbia, greatly outnumbered, retired before the enemy's
advance from north and east, but saved the Serbian army from total
annihilation by protecting its retreat to the southern frontier. Then
the British and French retreated across the Greek border to Saloniki,
where they were largely reinforced and proceeded to fortify themselves
against possible German or Bulgarian attacks. King Constantine of
Greece, brother-in-law of the Kaiser, feebly protested against the
proceedings of the Allies on Greek soil, saying that he wished his

Online LibraryThomas Herbert RussellAmerica's War for Humanity → online text (page 36 of 49)