Nov 27, 1914: Hindenburg celebrates Warsaw campaign

-via History.com

On November 27, 1914, German commander Paul von Hindenburg issues a triumphant proclamation from the battlefields of the Eastern Front, celebrating his army’s campaign against Russian forces in the Polish city of Warsaw.

On November 1, Hindenburg had been appointed commander in chief of all German troops on the Eastern Front; his chief of staff was Erich Ludendorff, who had aided him in commanding several earlier victories against Russian forces in East Prussia. The new command, dubbed OberOst, had two objectives: First, they were to mount a counterattack in Poland while their colleague, Erich von Falkenhayn, managed German forces fighting in the Ypres region on the Western Front. Second, they were to balance the faltering Austrian command headed by Conrad von Hotzendorff. Earlier, Conrad had audaciously blamed his army’s failure against Russia on a lack of sufficient German support and demanded that 30 new German divisions be sent east, a notion that Falkenhayn steadfastly opposed.

The German campaign against Warsaw, launched in early November 1914, aimed to draw Russian manpower and other resources away from their ferocious assault on the struggling army of Germany’s ally, Austria-Hungary. In this it proved successful. The Germans scored several significant victories, most notably at the neighboring city of Lodz. Though the broader German assault ultimately failed, leaving Warsaw still in Russian hands, the kaiser rewarded Hindenburg by promoting him to field marshal, the highest rank in the German army.

In his statement of November 27, Hindenburg expressed his satisfaction with the results of the campaign and, of course, with his promotion. “I am proud at having reached the highest military rank at the head of such troops. Your fighting spirit and perseverance have in a marvelous manner inflicted the greatest losses on the enemy. Over 60,000 prisoners, 150 guns and about 200 machine guns have fallen into our hands, but the enemy is not yet annihilated. Therefore, forward with God, for King and Fatherland, till the last Russian lies beaten at our feet.  Hurrah!”

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NOVEMBER 22 1914 – THE BATTLE OF BASRA (NOVEMBER 21) , THE BATTLE OF YPRES, END OF THE RACE TO THE SEA

Following the landing at Fao on November 6, British forces moved inland, converging on the city of Basra. They defeated the Ottoman forces in a chain of smallish conflicts, leading to capture of the city on November 21. Though the capture of Barsa substantially aided in securing the Persian oilfields and refineries, this was a mission slightly ambiguous in nature . . . the British forces eventually felt it necessary to begin to advance up the nearby river.

. . . .

South of the flooded plains at Neuport, North of the chain of battlefields stretching from Aisne to Lille, rested the Belgian town of Ypres (pronounced EEP-wres). Ypres had a history of strategic importance, as it was located near the port towns in the Belgian region of Flanders. In late 1914, this importance was clear: the British desperately needed to break through here (or at least to not give ground) in order to have a better chance of securing the port facilities at Antwerp, much needed for seaborne supplies and reinforcements. The Germans, on the other hand, apart from wanting to prevent British access to the ports, saw Ypres as their last opportunity to break through a not-yet-entirely-static defensive front and re-engage in mobile warfare, pouring across France and forcing victory.

Fighting in the region of Ypres had begun around mid-October. Sir John French, leading the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), fell back to Ypres following the fall of Antwerp. Supreme German commander, Erich Falkenhayn, ordered a breakthrough in this area, and attacks began on October 20. The Neuport region became hopeless soon after October 27, when Belgian King Albert ordered the sluice gates opened . . . a huge area flooded, blocking advance for both Entente and Central forces for the entire war.

Falkenhayn reorganized his forces, and ordered a narrow advance on Ypres itself with a collection of troops far out-numbering the BEF’s seven infantry and three cavalry divisions. Though the discrepancy in force strength forced the British onto the defensive, this may have been the British strength: troops of the BEF had been specially trained to fight against long odds in defensive warfare, each man was required to be able to hit a target fifteen times a minute at a range of three hundred yards. Most could do even better than that, for the soldiers had been granted unlimited ammunition for practice, and cash prizes were awarded for high scores.

The Germans were cut down so rapidly that they mistakenly believed that they were up against a great many machine guns.

Nevertheless, the Germans still had both the troops and motivation to continue attacking. On November 11, they commenced attacks on the Menin Road, only four miles away from Ypres. Using two premier divisions, the Germans tore huge holes in the British front, clearing the way for British disaster.

Unfortunately, this battle was indicative of an emerging trend of warfare on the Western Front: breakthroughs were so uncommon that neither men nor officers were prepared to exploit them. Perhaps even more importantly, however, the desperate fighting took an immense toll on the men themselves. Both physically and mentally exhausted, it may have been too much to ask the men to achieve victory for themselves: they had seen too many of their comrades fall.

German losses amounted to about 47,000, while the Entente lost a total of aver 150,000 (including French and Belgian casualties). Most telling of all since the beginning of the war was the price that the British alone had paid so far: of over 160,000 men of the original BEF sent to France, less than half remained by the end of the Battle of Ypres. Though they fought well, the bloodiness of the battlefields, including Ypres, showed no mercy. The First World War would be long and immensely costly.

By November 22, Falkenhayn had to admit that the Ypres front had become static, like the rest of the Western theatre.

Worst of all, the static nature of the Western Front would mean the most miserable of existences for the front-line soldier: Trench Warfare.

A WEEK IN REVIEW, NOVEMBER 9-16, 1914:

(My school semester is nearly over, and I’ll begin to compose my own posts again)

NOVEMBER 11 1914 – SULTAN MEHMED V DECLARES JIHAD ON THE ALLIES

(Text from First World War.com)

Ottoman Issuance of Fetva, November 1914

Reproduced below is the text of the Fetva – a holy commandment directed to Muslims worldwide – issued by the Ottoman government (in the name of Sultan Mehmed V), which ordered its Muslim readers to rise up in arms against those nations currently engaged in war against the Ottoman Empire, chiefly Britain, France and Russia. The Allies had long feared the issuance of a Fetva, worried that it might indeed be acted upon by Muslims throughout the world (notably in India and Egypt); in the event however it passed largely without action. The Fetva, which took the form of a question and answer document, was issued by Essad Effendi, Sheik-ul-Islam.

Issuance of Ottoman Fetva by Essad Effendi, Sheik-Ul-Islam:

Fetva

If several enemies unite against Islam, if the countries of Islam are sacked, if the Moslem populations are massacred or made captive; and if in this case the Padishah in conformity with the sacred words of the Koran proclaims the Holy War, is participation in this war a duty for all Moslems, old and young, cavalry and infantry? Must the Mohammedans of all countries of Islam hasten with their bodies and possessions to the Djat? [Note: Jihad, Holy War.]

Answer: “Yes.”

The Moslem subjects of Russia, of France, of England and of all the countries that side with them in their land and sea attacks dealt against the Caliphate for the purpose of annihilating Islam, must these subjects, too, take part in the holy War against the respective governments from which they depend?

Answer : “Yes.”

Those who at a time when all Moslems are summoned to fight, avoid the struggle and refuse to join in the Holy War, are they exposed to the wrath of God, to great misfortunes, and to the deserved punishment?

Answer : “Yes.”

If the Moslem subjects of the said countries should take up arms against the government of Islam, would they commit an unpardonable sin, even if they had been driven to the war by threats of extermination uttered against themselves and their families?

Answer : “Yes.”

The Moslems who in the present war are under England, France, Russia, Serbia, Montenegro and those who give aid to these countries by waging war against Germany and Austria, allies of Turkey, do they deserve to be punished by the wrath of God as being the cause of harm and damage to the Caliphate and to Islam?

Answer: “Yes.”

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. III, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

. . . .

NOVEMBER 16- 1914 – THE BERGMANN OFFENSIVE

(text from wikipedia)

The Bergmann Offensive was the first engagement of the Caucasus Campaign during World War I. General Georgy Bergmann, commander of I Caucasian Army Corps, took the initiative against the Ottoman Empire. On 2 November, Bergmann’s troops crossed the border in the general direction of Köprüköy. On the right flank, a brigade under Istomin moved from Oltu in the direction of İd. On the left flank a Cossack division under Baratov moved into the Eleşkirt valley towards Yuzveran, after it crossed the Aras River.

In response the Ottoman 3rd Army went on a general counter-offensive. As a result Russian forces were threatened by an enveloping movement on both sides. Only quick arrival of Russian reinforcements saved the situation. The fighting finally petered out on 16 November. Russian losses were up to 40% and their morale was shaken. Meanwhile, Turkish morale was high. The success during this first engagement encouraged Enver Pasha in his plan to attack at Sarıkamış.

NOVEMBER 9 1914 – THE BATTLE OF COCOS

The Battle of Cocos was a single-ship action that occurred on 9 November 1914, after the Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney responded to an attack on a communications station at Direction Island by the German light cruiser SMS Emden.

After the retreat of the German East Asia Squadron from south-east Asia, Emden remained behind to function as a commerce raider.

During a two-month period, the German cruiser captured or sank 25 civilian vessels, shelled Madras, and destroyed two Allied warships at Penang. In early November, Emden ’​s commanding officer, Karl von Müller, decided to attack the communications station at Direction Island, in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, to hamper Allied communications and frustrate the search for his ship. Around the same time, the first convoy of Australian and New Zealand soldiers bound for Europe sailed from Albany, Western Australia, with Sydney, under the command of John Glossop, and three other warships escorting.

During the night of 8–9 November, Emden reached the islands, and sent a shore party to disable the wireless and cable transmission station on Direction Island. The station was able to transmit a distress call before it was shut down; this was received by the nearby convoy, and Sydney was ordered to investigate. Emden opened fire at 09:40, surprising those aboard Sydney by scoring hits well beyond what British intelligence estimated her guns were capable of. The German ship was unable to inflict disabling damage to the Australian cruiser before Sydney opened up with her more powerful main guns. At 11:20, von Müller ordered that Emden beach on North Keeling Island. The Australian warship broke to pursue the collier Buresk, which scuttled herself, then returned to North Keeling Island at 16:00. At this point, Emden ’​s battle ensign was still flying, and after no response to instructions to lower the ensign, Glossop ordered two salvoes shot into the beached cruiser. Sydney had orders to ascertain the status of the transmission station, but returned the next day to provide medical assistance to the Germans.

Of Emden ’​s crew, 134 were killed and 69 wounded, compared to only 4 killed and 16 wounded aboard Sydney. The German survivors were taken aboard the Australian cruiser, with most transferred to auxiliary cruiser Empress of Russia on 12 November. Sydney rejoined the ANZAC convoy in Colombo, then spent the rest of the war assigned to the North America and West Indies Station, then the British Grand Fleet. von Müller and some of his officers were imprisoned in Malta, and the rest of the German personnel were sent to prisoner-of-war camps in Australia. An additional 50 German personnel from the shore party, unable to be recovered before Sydney arrived, commandeered a schooner and escaped from Direction Island, eventually arriving in Constantinople. The defeat of the last German ship in the region allowed RAN warships to be deployed to other theatres, and troopships were able to sail unescorted between Australia and the Middle East until renewed raider activity in 1917.

NOVEMBER 7 1914 – THE BATTLE OF TSINGTAO, FIRST ISSUE OF THE NEW REPUBLIC

The Siege of Tsingtao, 1914

(text from firstworldwar.com)

Although actually in China Tsingtao (Qingdao today) was leased to Germany as a colony by the Chinese government in the wake of the murder of two German missionaries in the late 19th century.  In order to appease the German government following the two deaths China granted Germany a 99-year lease on the colony in 1898.

Germany subsequently built a port and naval base at Tsingtao, establishing it as the main German installation in the Far East.  Tsingtao was consequently garrisoned by some 4,000 troops.

However on 16 August 1914, a full week prior to the formal Japanese declaration of war with Germany, General Mitsuomi Kamio was instructed by the Japanese government to make advanced preparations for the siege of the German-controlled port.

The day prior the Japanese Prime Minister addressed an ultimatum to the German government, ordering the latter to remove German men-o’-war from Japanese and Chinese waters, and to hand over Tsingtao to Japanese control.  (Click here to read Minister for Foreign Affairs Baron Kato’s rationale for war with Germany.)

Thus on 2 September 1914, shortly after war was declared by the Japanese, Kamio’s 18th Division of 23,000 men backed by 142 guns began a bombardment of the port.  Britain, wary of Japanese intentions in the region, decided to send 1,500 troops to assist the Japanese (and to keep a watchful eye upon proceedings).

The Germany garrison, despite being outnumbered by some six to one, held out for over two months before finally surrendering on 7 November and handing over the port three days later.  Kamio’s siege tactics were much admired for their effectiveness; he advocated night raids and eschewed frontal attacks of the type shortly witnessed along the battlefields of France and Flanders.  With the port’s capture British forces were withdrawn and reallocated elsewhere.

Following Chinese acceptance of Japan’s Twenty-one Demands of January 1915 (agreed four months later) – issued upon pain of war – Tsingtao returned nominally into Chinese hands but did not in fact revert to Chinese control until 1922.

Click here to read a German newspaper reaction to the loss of Tsingtao.

. . . .

First issue of The New Republic published

(Text from history.com)

On this day [November 7] in 1914, while World War I rages in Europe, the first issue of a new weekly magazine, The New Republic, is published in the United States.

The New Republic’s editorial board was presided over by the journalist Herbert Croly, author of the influential 1909 book The Promise of American Life. Impressed by Croly’s arguments for greater economic planning, increased spending on education and the need for a society based on the “brotherhood of mankind”—ideas that were said to have influenced both Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson—the heiress Dorothy Payne Whitney and her husband, the banker and diplomat Williard Straight, approached Croly and asked him to join them in launching a new liberal journal that would provide an intelligent, opinionated examination of politics, foreign affairs and culture. After recruiting his friend and fellow journalist Walter Lippmann, Croly saw the first issue of the new magazine hit the stands on November 7, 1914.

Though its first issue sold only 875 copies, after a year the circulation of The New Republic reached 15,000. Strong supporters of Theodore Roosevelt and his newly formed Progressive Party, the magazine’s editors were wary of the administration of Woodrow Wilson, although they did support Wilson’s proclaimed neutrality at the beginning of World War I. In May 1915, however, a German submarine sank the British passenger ship Lusitania, killing 1,201 passengers and crew members, including 128 Americans. The New Republic began to switch its anti-war position, eventually throwing all its support behind President Wilson’s decision to take the nation to war in April 1917. Walter Lippmann especially grew close to the administration during wartime, working as an assistant to Newton Baker, the president’s secretary of war, and with Colonel Edward House, Wilson’s closest adviser.

In the aftermath of the war and the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, both Croly and Lippmann became critical of Wilson and the viability of the Versailles peace treaty and the League of Nations. Croly went so far as to call the treaty a “peace of annihilation” in its harsh treatment of Germany and to claim that the League would “perpetuate rather than correct the evils of the treaty.” Meanwhile, sales of The New Republic declined from a wartime high of 43,000 and the journal soon was operating at a loss. Lippmann left the magazine in 1920, and in 1930 Croly was replaced as editor. Today the magazine—headquartered in Washington, D.C.—still operates as a weekly journal of opinion, with a subscription rate between 45,000 and 60,000.

NOVEMBER 6 1914 – FAO LANDING

For a brief time, WWI seemed to take strategy back in time to the Medieval period, centering on a struggle for a castle, and the area it dominated.

Following Britain’s declaration of war against the Ottoman Empire, Britain leaders were concerned that their oil facilities in the Persian Gulf were not secure. It was decided that the best way to improve the situation was to seize the Ottoman held portions of the Persian Gulf. This meant taking the fortress at the small port town of Fao (Faw).

The British landed on November 6, being immediately met by infantry assaults by the Ottoman’s as well as fire from the fortress itself. Much like medieval times, the troops found themselves digging trenches and building defenses while they awaited the construction (arrival) of their siege weapons (heavy artillery).

#100yearssinceWWI

NOVEMBER 5 1914 – FRANCE AND UK DECLARE WAR ON THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE; THE BATTLE OF TANGA

Consequent upon Russia’s declaration of war upon the Ottoman Empire (November 1), France and Britain, Russia’s allies, also eventually declared war. Notably, this set into motion events which allowed men like Lawrence of Arabia to build his fame.

. . .

In many ways, the Battle of Tanga mirrored the Battle of Kilimanjaro (November 3), but on a much larger scale)

(text taken from firstworldwar.com/battles/tanga.htm)

Often referred to as ‘The Battle of the Bees’, the Battle of Tanga, an amphibious attack launched by British and Indian forces, established the burgeoning reputation of Colonel (later General) Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck by the manner in which he successfully beat off the British-led attempt to capture German East Africa.

Some 80km from the border of British East Africa, Tanga was sited on a high plateau in German East Africa, and was its busiest sea port as well as being the site of the crucial Usambara railway.

Already the subject of gunboat diplomacy resulting from a British warship on 17 August, Tanga had been spared from bombardment by an agreement extracted from the town’s population to refrain from initiating local aggression.

However the British subsequently changed their minds and ordered General Aitken to capture the German colony via a landing at Tanga in November 1914; it was to be the first major action of the war in German East Africa.

Something of a fiasco from the start, Aitken’s force of 8,000 insufficiently trained Indian reserves (from Indian Expeditionary Force ‘B’) were preceded by the inopportune arrival, on 2 November, of a British cruise, Fox, announcing the termination of the August agreement.

Alerted by this and Aitken’s openness in his intentions – no attempt at concealment was considered – Lettow-Vorbeck was able to rapidly and substantially reinforce the town’s local defence contingent (initially a single company of men).

Believing (incorrectly) that the harbour had been mined, Aitken’s force gingerly landed approximately 3km south of Tanga harbour on 3 November, and without having performed standard reconnaissance of the area.

Next morning Aitken began to march upon the town, again without advance reconnaissance.  Arriving German forces quickly and effectively broke up the ill-formed advancing Indian parties; by early afternoon the fighting had taken upon the nature of jungle skirmishing, occasionally interrupted by swarms of angry bees prevalent in the East African bush (hence the action’s nick-name).  One British soldier commented afterwards, “what with a bunch of n…..s firing into our backs and bees stinging our backsides, things were a bit ‘ard…”.

Although numerically outgunned eight to one, Lettow-Vorbeck launched his own counter-attack on the evening of 4 November, backed by around 1,000 troops trained in the Prussian tradition.  Rapidly overrunning the hastily (and badly) prepared British positions, Lettow-Vorbeck’s forces obliged the British force to retreat back to their boats, an exercise that took much of the following day, 5 November.

A costly defeat, the attack at Tanga had cost the British 847 casualties (including 360 fatalities).  In turn the Germans had suffered 67 deaths (from a total of 148 casualties), but Lettow-Vorbeck gained much booty from the supplies left behind by the British in their hasty retreat, including machine guns, rifles and 600,000 rounds of ammunition.

The war in East Africa is often considered somewhat courtly and gentlemanly.  For example, after the battle the British met the Germans under a white flag and, over a bottle of brandy, compared notes and opinions of the battle, in addition to taking care of the wounded.

Lettow-Vorbeck’s reputation, already in the ascendant, continued to grow.  His war record was indeed remarkable; he never lost a battle and remained undefeated by the time he eventually ‘surrendered’ to the British on 25 November 1918, having belatedly heard of the Armistice from a captured British prisoner.  He returned to Germany a national hero, an East African Hindenburg.