Adapt or Die – The Artillery Barrage I THE GREAT WAR – Week 50

Adapt or Die – The Artillery Barrage I THE GREAT WAR – Week 50


Adapt or die! That’s what they say, right?
And it’s been true so far during the war. Cavalry charges and brightly colored uniforms
gave way to trenches and drab colors against the destructive power of machine gun defenses,
and defense had indeed been king so far. But what happens when one side adopts the enemy’s
offensive strategy and refines it? Staggering success. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week we saw the Allies make headway at
Gallipoli, but still fail to break through. The British were on the move in Mesopotamia
and the Austro-Germans forces still pushing the Russians ever back on the Eastern Front.
Here’s what came next. Well, for starters, a colony fell. On July 9th, 1915, German troops in German
Southwest Africa unconditionally surrender to South African General and Prime Minister
Louis Botha. That might seem like an insignificant occurrence far far from the main action, but
the German troops in their colonies served to tie down the Allied colonial troops and
prevent them from going to Europe to join the fight there, so Germany losing a whole
colony is actually a big deal and would have long term consequences in Europe. And there was action each and every week for
the Allies in Europe, and this one was no exception. As last week’s fighting in the Argonne died
down, fierce fighting broke out at Arras, Souchez, and on the Meuse. It seems everyone
had some small success this week- the Germans at Vaux Féry, the French recaptured positions
on the heights above the Meuse, and the British captured trenches near Pilkem. However, if
everyone has a success, then that simply means everyone also had a failure. Here’s something else that happened in France
this week that wasn’t on the battlefield: On July 6th, there was an Anglo-French meeting
at Calais. French Minister of War Alexandre Millerand and British Prime Minister Herbert
Asquith were the senior politicians present. All concerned were determined to make new
offensives in the fall. British Commander in Chief John French and French General Joseph
Joffre agreed the following day that this was a must. However, British Secretary of State for War
Herbert Kitchener wrote scathingly of this, “Joffre and Sir John told me in November
that they were going to push the Germans back over the frontier; they gave me the same assurances
in December, March, and May. What have they done? The attacks are costly and end in nothing.” But this isn’t quite true. What they had
done was inspire German General August von Mackensen and his Gorlice-Tarnow Offensive. See, Back in March at the Battle of Neuve
Chappelle, French’s forces had nearly achieved a major success and broken the German lines.
Well, he sort of had. On a front of less than a mile, he had concentrated 300 big guns and
destroyed the German trenches and barbed wire emplacements. This total overkill had opened
the road to Lille for hours, and only the failures of communications and reserves to
arrive to exploit the break had spoiled the best chance the Allies had yet had to penetrate
the German lines, but Mackensen had adopted French’s tactic and magnified it to enormous
proportions, and created a mobile battering ram that over the past two months had succeeded
in the East where French had failed in the west. He had driven the Russians from the
Carpathians, from Przemysl, from Lemberg, from most of Galicia and inflicted hundreds
of thousands of casualties on the retreating Russians with over 2,000 big guns. This week, though, saw a hitch in his plans.
As his “phalanx” moved northward between the Bug and Vistula Rivers, heavy fighting
developed on July 5th, which saw the Austro-German forces suffer a big defeat. Mackensen’s
northern movement from Galicia toward the Chelm-Lublin railway line was halted. The Russians had another big success this
week, also on the Eastern Front. See, Austrian Archduke Josef Ferdinand’s
forces had taken Krasnik July 2nd, but four days later were badly beaten by the Russians,
who took 15,000 Austrian prisoners. The Imperial forces were forced to withdraw, and at the
end of the week, another Austrian offensive on the Zlota Lipa River was repulsed. These
victories were really big for the Russians, but still Russia was by now petitioning her
allies that they must provide for the re-armament of the Russian army if they wanted any new
offensives to ever happen. The Russians had fewer than 100 infantry divisions now opposed
by 110 German and Austro-Hungarian ones, which were all far better armed and equipped (WarChron).
The Russians were also completely outgunned, although interestingly, they had the advantage
in aviation units 46-39. The Austrians though, were not only taking
a hit from Russia this week, but also taking one on the war’s newest front, the Italian
one. From the July 10th New York Times: “…The
Italians have won a battle which had been raging for six days on the Corso Plateau…
and they captured many Austrian positions and several thousand prisoners. “ Things were looking up all week for the Italians,
as- though they were repulsed at the bridgehead at Gorizia on the 7th- they took Monticello
in Trentino the 8th and captured Malga Sarta and Costa Bella on the 9th. And further to the southeast the Serbs occupied
Durazzo in Albania on July 4th. That city was, at the time, the capital of Albania. Even further south, at Gallipoli, things were
fairly quiet this week after the bloody carnage of last week’s action, but if we look to
Eastern Anatolia, the blood was still flowing. Back on June 25th, the 30,000 Armenians in
Trabzon were told they had five days to leave the city. Well, it turned out that they had
twelve days. On July 7th, the slaughter in Trabzon begins. In 16 days, 15,000 Armenians
there are killed by Turkish troops. Also near the end of June, Armenians in Erzurum were
ordered by decree to leave for Syria, but on June 30th, 3,000 of them are killed while
leaving. On July 1st, the governor general of Sivas
announces that the Armenians there will be deported in groups according their addresses
by July 5th. A total of 48,000 people are deported. And also on July 5th, 2,000 Armenian
soldiers working in labor camps in Diyarbakir are killed. But it wasn’t just internal issues this
week for the Ottoman Empire, as far to the south they were on the move. Turk and Arab forces attacked Lahej in Aden
at the mouth of the Red Sea on the 4th, and managed to put part of it to the torch, but
the British forces successfully defended it and the attackers withdrew the following day.
The Sultan of Lahej would die from wounds received several days later. And as long as
I’m talking about Sultans, on the 9th a bomb was thrown at the Sultan of Egypt. It
was ineffective. And a couple more notes to round out the week:
the number of Canadian conscripts was to increase to 150,000, and on the 9th, the export of
gold from France was prohibited. And that was the week. Everyone both gaining
and losing in the West. The Russians finally halting Mackensen’s colossus and thrashing
the Austrians, but still in dire need of assistance. The Italians beating the Austrians on their
front, the British holding off the Turks and Arabs, and the Armenians being killed and
deported in ever larger numbers. So Mackensen is halted for the moment. But
see what he had accomplished using French’s tactic of concentrated artillery barrages,
always on a narrow front, straight ahead at the enemy center. The effect was pretty obvious,
to the right and left the Russians stood firm and even sometimes took the offensive, but
they just could not concentrate anything close to enough to meet the main thrust, and their
lines fell again and again and again, and each time they fell, the phalanx pushed through
and opened a new hole, which would force the Russians to reorganize their whole front to
conform to the retreat of those broken by the phalanx. So while the Russian troops to
the north or the south would win victories of considerable magnitude, like the one over
the Austrians this week, and take tens of thousands of Austrian or German prisoners,
every success was faced with the fact Mackensen had broken another barrier and they had to
retire yet again. So to answer my question, what happens when one side adopts
the enemy’s offensive strategy and refines it? What happens is a casualty toll in the
millions. The bloody fact of modern war. But what other choice did the generals have?
When they used their pre-war tactics against machine guns in the early war, the result
was carnage on an unimagined scale – well unimagined till that point at least. You can
find out more about that in one of our earliest episodes from August 21 1914 right here. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Larry
Stevenson. If you want to meet your favorite history channel crew out on the historic battlefields
of World War 1, help us reach our milestone on Patreon. And if you like our show, tell everyone you
know about it. Twice. See you next time.

100 thoughts on “Adapt or Die – The Artillery Barrage I THE GREAT WAR – Week 50

  1. While discussing Albanian deportation, why is there an American Flag in the middle of the crowd at 7:27?

  2. Hello Great War Team, hi Indie, i am an avid viewer of your remarkable show! When I watch your episodes I think about costly offensives and retreats, artillery barrages and relentless machine gun fire and the ever present prospect of a terrified soldier finding his early, lonely, muddy grave on a nameless field far from home while only beeing a number in a statistic on a battle plan in an officers quarter. I wonder how the people at home were taking the endlessly soaring count of the fallen. Was there an awareness in the general publics of the dehumanizing madness their boys were subject to? Has there been resistance to the way that this war was fought? Or was censorship and propaganda successful enough? Best wishes, Alex from Vienna

  3. Question. I've been meaning to rewatch the old episodes, but I'm unable to find an event that I recall being mentioned where the Austrians were massacred: fired upon by their own artilleries while a marching band played. What episode is it where that is discussed or what battle is it?

  4. Hi guys, I love your channel! One thing I was wondering, can you do an episode in another language? Say… in the German, French, or Russian language? These are three of the main powers in the war right now, and it feels like they are being neglected due to the entire series being spoken in English. I think it would be cool to have an entire episode in a different language with English subtitles. If Indy knows any of these languages that is. If not, that's ok too.

  5. Once again – the series just keeps getting better and more interesting – many thanks. The weekly episode format really brings home just how long this war lasted much more effectively than any written record. Books cover whole periods of the war in short sections which gives a shortened historical perspective while this format really shows the time frame well. Being most interested in the period leading up to the Armistice, I know that it will be over 3 years before those episodes are uploaded – 3 years! The nightmare of The Great War just keeps getting better.

  6. Great series!  A question – who determined officer promotions? Many times a commanding officer would make serious blunders, but still get promoted.  Were the promotions given by higher-ups, or by heads of state, or were they political?

  7. If you like these videos, and why wouldn't you, you'll love Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcast on The Great War. Trust me.

  8. Awesome series guys 😀 also like the inclusion of the South Africans 😛 but I must kinda point out you do mispronounce Botha.

  9. Just an FYI – At 7:02 you mention "Canadian Conscripts." Canadians were volunteers until August 1917. The need to conscript fighting forces caused a political crisis in Canada because Quebec citizens did not want to participate in the war and had not significantly volunteered.

  10. Artillery has always been the King of Battles while the Queen is the Infantry.This has been true in the US Army for a long time and history.

  11. I like to entertain myself by pretending he actually said Herbert Assqweef at about 2 minutes into the video

  12. I wonder when the German stormtroopers appear on the front line. They were the idea what eventually would lead to the legendary blitzkrieg victories during ww2.

  13. Not that this is losing interest, I'm loving the series, but this WWI can so far be summed up to this:
    -On the Western Front, lots of people die for no good reason
    -On the Eastern Front, lots of people die for no good reason, and Hotzendorf fails at something
    -On Gallipoli, lots of people die for no good reason, after the Allies open a new front because they were bored.
    -Italy gets greedy and attacks, lots of people die for no good reason. Hotzendorf's place as "Greatest Moron of the War" is challenged.
    -In Middle East, lots of people die for oil (not a good reason)
    -In Africa, lots of people die as the colonies get bored and attack each other to say they "did something in the war"
    -And in Turkey, Armenians are killed after being blamed by Mr. "Evil Mustache", the other contendant for the idiocy contest.

  14. What will you do after The Great War. There's got to be more 100 years ago events you can cover. Like Prohibition events starting in 1920, and post WW1 Europe, anything. Hell, for Prohibition, you can use how Americans acted at home during the war to lay the seeds for something like covering that since the temperance movement was happing in America around this time.

  15. I started at week 1 and tried to see how many of these I could watch in a row, non-stop. This is as far as I got… and if he says "of modern war" one more time I'm going to kill something.

  16. What, that is all about Serbia? Not a single thing about how did they get there in the first place? Huge minus.

  17. So since everyone is begging you to do 100 years after WW2, Just do every year after 100 years…that is simple, correct? No, well… this one singular insignificant subscriber is going to make you loose pennies by hating you and not watching you Forever, and by forever I mean 1.38728437587320705273907857873878527385732877264619370985439850275634785089230592842794620857389278237984572389573892752839579256839752675637267526852626389652895693565764732 seconds

  18. The war crime against the Armenians is still an open wound today. And everything that happened before and during these devastating years.

    We still see political effects of that today. I think, if there have not been a WW1? How would Europe, the rest of the world be today if that never happened? I think the WW2 would never have happened for instance. Neither the cold war and the wall. Think about it. Thanks Indy for the best series ever!

  19. The war of the people are fueled by passion not reason and thus very very bloody. Had the czar the kaiser and the king wished to get together and stop as they could have in the past, I do not think that they would have been able to do in in 1916..

  20. Until I started watching this series,I was a civil war buff ,but the deaths in this war makes that blood bath seem less extreme!

  21. Quick question. You always talk about the tens of thousands of prisoners captured week in and week out. What happens to these prisoners? Especially the Austrian prisoners that the Russians took against Mackensen's offensive. Were thousands Austrians and Germans forced to retreat along with the Russian armies, were the released, were they killed, etc.?

  22. I'm really glad that you keep up with the time line regarding the Armenian Genocide. There are a lot of Turkish denialists out there

  23. Wait… Albania? what the… when did anyone say anything about Albania being in this war? did Serbia just went "eh… since no one is looking, I will take this capital over here, thank you".

  24. 1:57 herbert asquith looks pretty familiar with Indy dont u guys think? Love this show, im now doing a marathon to catch up 😀

  25. +The Great War — The man standing to the left of Mackensen at 2:35, chief-of-staff Hans von Seeckt, is a very noteworthy person. He was not only one of the prime architects of the Gorlic-Tarnow offensive, but was in fact the supreme commander of the postwar Reichswehr from 1920 to 1926. He reorganized and modernized the army, and supervised the education of the next generation of officers, while also designing future plans for rearmament. He was arguably he most important influence on the German military successes in the first half of WWII (ideas Hitler just took out off the cubboard). He was also the person who ran negotiations with the Soviets for joint military innovation programs in the 20s (because this was forbidden on German soil). After his rise to power, Hitler, fearing Seeckts influence in the amry, agreed Seeckt to go on a diplomatic and military mission to China from 1933-'35 (which was a serious affair though). The army was only open for Hitler to politically medle in when Seeckt died in 1936.

    I know I'm a bit late, commenting on a years old vid, but Hans von Seeckt can perhaps offer a useful biography when it comes to the epilogue of the Great War.

    Kind regards!

  26. Hello!
    Is there a channel you would recommend for any other major (American) wars? I would love to see this amount of detail used is any real global, or less than, conflict.
    Please and Thank you!

  27. French: A fine concept, this whole barrage idea. A shame our troops in the field couldn't use that to their advantage.
    Makensen: Hold mein beer.

  28. Dear Indy,
    you say in your video "succeeded in the East where French had failed in the West". Given the fact that the problem with communications was the same or even worse in the East, why do you think Mackensen was more succesful than French?

  29. If there is ever a movie where someone has to play Herbert Asquith (1:59) – then the no. 1 choice for the part has to be Hugh Laurie.

  30. Bit late now, but you could have added a death counter at the end of each week giving the total since week 1.

  31. I am sure someone has already pointed that out but this map (0:33) features a lot of freshwater reservoirs which weren't there untill after WWII. The Aral Sea also seems to be in its 21st-century state.

  32. By the way, your terrain map is… what do you call it when you have a map which is technically correct but not at the time that its set in? Can you call it obsolete? If so, i wanna point out that Lake Aral used to be much bigger until the Soviet Union began draining it.

  33. Have I missed something? Why would Serbs attack Albania? Also in previous episodes I noticed there were battles in Iran (Persia) – was Persia also at war? Seems like I missed that

  34. The truth behind the Mackensen's success probably is that the Germans distributed photographies of his terrifying moustache, eyes and cap among the Russian soldiers with a caption saying СОБИРАЮСЬ ЗА ВАС.

  35. The French had also broken the german front in 1915. The RICM regiment ïn Artois if im not mistaken.

    This doesnt seem to appaer in english litterature. Sad this fact didnt make it to this great show we love

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