Despair Everywhere I THE GREAT WAR Week 159

Despair Everywhere I THE GREAT WAR Week 159

For three years the war has raged, still with
no end in sight, and as it has rolled on and the death toll climbed ever higher, and as
the offensives have grown larger and bloodier, like none ever seen before on earth, something
else has grown and grown – despair. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week a huge British and French offensive,
what would be known as the Battle of Passchendaele or the Third Battle of Ypres, began in Belgium.
The Romanians and Russians beat the Germans and Austrians in Romania, but the Russian
army was in full retreat on the eastern front. We also saw a mutiny in the Germany navy.
Here’s what followed. There was new action this week in Romania
as the Battle of Marasesti got going. German Field Marshal August von Mackensen
began the offensive August 6th. That same day units of the Russian 4th army were to
begin leave their positions and be replaced by Romanian troops. On the 7th, Mackensen
took 3,000 prisoners and the following day the Russo-Romanian forces began to pull back,
and the week ended with Mackensen crossing the Suritsa River. Also in Romania this week,
the Second Battle of Oituz began. This was another Central Powers attack in the Oituz
valley on a 7 km front, with the Romanians greatly outnumbered. Behind the Romanian lines
lay the rear of the Russian and Romanian fronts, so a defeat here could have serious consequences.
Although the Romanians initially resisted the Austro-German assault, by the end of the
week they had been forced to move to new defensive lines and were exhausted. They were also having
trouble with reinforcements because of the concurrent fighting at Marasesti. There is something I really have to say now
about the Battle of Marasesti. This was not a little skirmish. This was a major month
long battle involving 500,000 soldiers. I would very much like to be able to talk more
about the tactics and the thinking behind the battle, but I just don’t have the source
material. Maybe there’s some good stuff in Romanian, but I don’t know. So, I apologize
for not being able to go into real detail into it, and if someone has good source material,
please let us know and maybe we can cover the battle more during out of the trenches
or something. Anyhow, the Russians there were going to be
pulled away to defend their own front, where they were looking for somewhere to push westward. On the 8th, they attacked the Austrians at
Kovel, and failed to take it, but this was nothing compared to what else was going on
in that whole sector south of the Pripet Marshes. 863,000 Russians were facing just under half
a million Austrians. I read in Martin Gilbert’s “The First World War” that the Austrians
were understandably alarmed, but German General Max Hoffmann, Chief of Staff on the Eastern
Front, thought that was a typical failure of Austrian nerve, and they were “a mouthful
of sensitive teeth: every time the wind blows there’s a toothache.” German troops now
reinforced them as they had last year. In fact, six divisions had been pulled off the
Western Front in July, even though the Germans knew the Allies were preparing a new offensive.
Kind of shows how German Quartermaster General Erich Ludendorff sort of dismissed the western
allies in favor of winning the war in the east. Anyhow, massive Russian assaults followed
into withering machinegun and artillery fire, but there was no breakthrough. The Austrian
lines held and the Russians took tens of thousands of casualties. And at home in Petrograd, the collapse of
Russia’s Kerensky Offensive three weeks ago and the subsequent retreat had destroyed
a lot of the confidence and all of the momentum that Russia’s Provisional Government had
built up since the February Revolution, and people are abandoning its Centrist position
in droves. The Bolsheviks, on the left, who call for “peace, bread, and land”, begin
to seriously attract new followers, in spite of their treasonous activity of just a few
weeks ago. On the right come more and more calls for the return of the Tsar, or some
powerful authority figure. The new commander of the army, Lavr Kornilov, repeatedly makes
statements critical of the Provisional Government, even as the men in his army desert in droves,
undeterred by his liberal use of the death penalty in the field, which is supposed to
increase loyalty among the troops, but will have the opposite effect, destroying morale
even further. Low morale is also an issue among the British
on the western Front after the first week of their Flanders offensive. The rain finally stopped on August 6th, to
reveal a battlefield pretty much in name only. The earth was blown up and covered with barbed
wire, dead bodies, and equipment. The drainage system was completely overwhelmed and the
land was totally flooded. The former trenches were no longer recognizable as such, although
the Germans’ concrete blockhouses still dotted the landscape relatively unharmed. To get to the front lines, the soldiers had
to traverse a network of duckboards laid on the swampy ground. (Passchendaele) “Moving
along these narrow, precarious wooden pathways became one of the enduring memories of the
battle for British and Imperial soldiers: conveyer belts of fear and terror that took
them from the relative safety of the rear lines all the way to the front, where there
was no possibility of sleep or rest, only uncertainty and inevitably sheer terror.” The rain had prevented Sir Hugh Gough from
sending his 5th Army to capture the objectives he had failed to take July 31st, but he was
determined, if nothing. At a meeting on the 7th, it was decided that II Corps would try
to advance within the next few days, depending on the condition of the ground. Two divisions
would make the assault, the 18th toward Inverness Copse and Glencorse Wood, and the 25th into
the village of Westhoek. Moving the big guns up to support this was a Herculean effort,
and these two divisions had already been at the front for most of a week, wet and exhausted.
There was even almost a shortage of food and water, because of the logistical nightmare
of bringing everything up from the very rear. A small army of engineers and the Chinese
Labor Corps built shelters and dugouts, maintained pumping stations and water tanks, filled shell
holes, and so forth. They would’ve also worked on salvaging the ditched tanks, but
the weather made that impossible. Bear in mind that by the end of this week, the combined
French and British casualties were over 68,000 (World Undone) for the battle. The attack finally went off on August 10th,
aimed at knocking out, capturing, or driving away the German field artillery. 25th division
managed to take Westhoek and hold it against fierce counterattacks, so this attack had
limited success, but it was still costly. The weather had conspired to prevent real
artillery support. Gough would attack again next week. The mood among the British troops was as dark
as the weather, though it was kind of the opposite among the Germans there. (Passchendaele)
“The major offensive that had been prepared with the utmost care for months… and which
was carried out with unprecedented force with double superiority in infantry and triple
superiority in artillery, had failed utterly.” And those opposed to British Commander in
Chief Sir Douglas Haig’s offensive were active this week. There was a conference in
London on the 8th where Prime Minister David Lloyd George tried to get approval for an
alternate plan to get off the western front and send 12 British divisions and loads of
heavy guns to Italy to attack on that front. Lloyd George pointed out that the go-ahead
for the Flanders Offensive, now nearly two weeks old, had been given with the understanding
that it would quickly lead to clear results, and that hadn’t happened. British Chief
of Staff Wully Robertson, who supported Haig, was well aware that Lloyd George had a valid
argument, and wrote to Haig (Generals), “The powers-that-be are beginning to get
a little uneasy in regard to the situation. The casualties are mounting up and the Ministers
will persist in asking whether a loss of, say, 300,000 men will lead to a really great
result, because if not, we ought to be content with something less than we are doing now.” I just want to anachronistically point out
that 300,000 men is getting close to the number of British soldiers that died IN TOTAL in
the Second World War. And there was one notable individual British
death this week. At Scapa Flow back on August 2nd, British
Squadron Commander Edwin Dunning took off from an airfield and landed his plane on the
aircraft carrier “Furious”. This was a first, since before, planes could take off
from the carriers, but couldn’t land on deck and had to be winched aboard from barges.
Dunning did it again five days later, but was killed during a third attempt on August
7th when his plane went over the side and into the sea. And one note to end the week – on the 5th,
Richard von Kuhlmann becomes the new German Foreign Minister, replacing Arthur Zimmermann,
the author of the infamous Zimmermann telegram. And the week ends, with mud and despair in
Belgium, Russian despair in the east and at home, and a new German offensive in Romania. It just had to happen, right? Despair. Three
years of stalemate in the west under endless artillery and now oceans of mud. Last week
a mutiny in the German ranks, earlier this summer a general mutiny in the French army,
and now Russian soldiers unwilling to fight even in the face of execution. On all battlefronts
we see it more and more; no hope at all left, but what can you do? You go on hour-by-hour,
one day at a time, until you win, you break, or you die. If you lost track about the complicated situation
in Russia by now, you can click right here for our Russia special that will explain how
the country ended up with a revolution. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Chirurgeon
Crane. Support us on Patreon to get more maps, more animations and even more. Visit
to find out more. See you next time.

100 thoughts on “Despair Everywhere I THE GREAT WAR Week 159

  1. We know especially our Romanian fans were counting on us to cover the battle of Mărășești but we couldn´t find a reliable account of it in time. We´re very sorry if we disappointed you. There are already some helpful suggestions in the comments so we might be able to cover that battle in detail in the near future.

  2. There is no winning for the foot soldiers of the belligerents is there? If you listen to your CO, you may find yourself charging into enemy machine gun fire or something equally lethal. If you disobey your orders, you'll likely get hung or fired upon for cowardice. No wonder Russian morale was abysmal– do their leaders have their best interests at heart? I don't think so.

  3. I may have missed something during some of the weekly episodes but I've started to notice that not much is happening on the border between the Ottoman Empire and Russia for a while

  4. Ieper / Wipers …. So strange that i live my daily life where so many soldiers died, and even fallen are possible still under our feet… RIP Heroes Last post, remember the fallen and never forget how pointless war actually is.

  5. I was sad when i thought the 1916 irish easter rising wasnt on this and i just so it was and i was like omg fam , this channel gives alot of detail!

  6. For out of the trenches:what did the french to do to replace the chauchat lmg if it was in that bad of a state (I have been watching for a few weeks)

  7. Great work Great War team! The German pronouncement that 3rd Ypres was a failure seems harsh at this point… Hadn't the Allies already taken more ground than they had during the Somme? Not that that was enough to justify the costs per se, or was a spectacular success, but it does seem to show a certain progress toward the eventual breakthroughs of 1918.

  8. You have videos of leaders like mussolini and adolf hitler during ww1 and i was wondering if you guys will ever do a video on Harry Truman since he was a colonel during the war

  9. My grand grandfather was fighting at marasesti. I subscribe to your YouTube channel last year in October and I was waiting for your episode almost one year. AND NOW IN YOUR EPISODE YOU SAY ALMOST NOTHING ABOUT THE MARASESTI BATTLE.

  10. its disappointing that people never even bother to look up Italy during both of the world wars, they did not do as bad as most people think!

  11. The battle of Mărășești is a very important moment in Romanian history. I am disappointed in your lack of coverage on it. As you have stated in you comment, you could not find reliable sources in time. If that is the case, you should have asked in an older video from spring/June at least for the Romanian viewers to help you with sources regarding the events. Just like it happened in the comment section of this video. I hoped that you guys would treat Romanian and its history better than the west usually treats it (a.k.a. ignoring it almost completely) but it did not happen. I guess I should not complain since I am just a simple viewer who does not have enough money to support this channel in any form except watching your videos when you post them. I still love the show, but I thought higher of you.

  12. The sheer scale of battles and men deployed always blows my mind about WW1. Half a million soldiers, in ONE battle, for only ONE month. We probably went into Afghanistan with that many for years

  13. Feels like almost two months since I heard anything about the British Army marching up into the Ottoman Empire… did I miss something?

  14. Here's an Out Of The Trenches for you guys! One of the first stories about the war I was told as a kid was about the wooden platforms used to cross the muddy fields. If a soldier fell from the platform, other soldiers were not allowed to help, since stopping on the narrow bridge would halt the whole army. The fallen soldier would be left to drown in mud like quicksand, in full view of the army, his pleas ignored. It always really disturbed me. Any truth in that ever happening? Love the show!

  15. another great episode and covering campaigns not well known in the west. we know so little about the battles involving Romania – no doubt suppressed during the long period of soviet rule with the puppet Nicolae Ceaușescu who kept Romanians down during his decade long rule. Romania has only recently emerged from a "dark age".

  16. Hey Indy and crew,
    I hear everyone saying that the equipment in the first world war favoured the defenders, so why aren't the russians and romanians able to stop the attacks from the central powers? Was it incompetence, bad equipment or something else?

  17. Hi Indy and team, I've got a question for OotT: How many (if any) were there POWs' attempts to escape and return to they home country? Or escape to some neutral country, like Spain? And (although I realize it's a very broad question) what were the POWs conditions of living in each warring country? Thank for making the greatest show in YouTube!

  18. I noticed around the 6-minute mark a mention of "Inverness copse" – clearly not a local name. Was this perhaps named by or after a concentration of British soldiers from Inverness? Was it common for local landmarks to be given new names in this fashion? Do any such placenames live on today? Or is this a rare anomaly? If there's a story behind this, I'd love to see it on OOT.

  19. Yay, now it is the battle of Marasesti, the greatest blow the Central Powers took on the eastern front in 1917. General Averescu was for sure a genious of defense and as the Romanians won both at Marasesti and at Oituz Romania became what it became : Great ( something thet was destroied by the politicians who are now at power.

  20. The only major Entente Victory in 1917 on the Eastern Front…and you guys don't do some research about it ? This seems a tad lazy.

  21. The show is phenomenal. Keep up the great work. Perhaps you could select different music for the intro sequence.

  22. Hey i got a question its pretty insane but were Garden forks used in ww1 as weapon? As you could easily sharpen them and then they look deadlier than a shovel. It could easily stab the enemy like a bayonet. I know they could of been used on the western front took like from the nearby farmers or villagers and used to move a massive amount of dead soldiers by stabbing into them and moving them away from the trench or front and put into graves. All i know! So thats my question, were they actually used?Please like so it could be seen!

  23. I'm honestly surprised there wasn't a general revolution…on the whole European continent.

    It is sad to think that humans are so blind and foolhardy to keep following leaders who throw the flower of the country's people into a meat-grinder over and over and over and never learn from it.

  24. There was there major battles Mărăști , Mărășești, Oituz. The Romanians have nowere to widraw. It was the most brutal bloody battles.

  25. Hey guys, I'm not if you have the question before but can you give us a list of the best World War 1 movies there is a available. Thanks guys 🙂

  26. It's true, history is written by winners, greedy humans, senseless hypocrites. I'm going to stop watching your series because it is defending and hiding the true criminals. I'm going to dig the real reason's for both wars, as in some countries of Europe has been made illegal to even think otherwise than what they teach you in schools. Can someone tell me where to start my research?

  27. Hi indy. I greatly appreciate the effort made by you and team in making this show, as well as your desire to present the events of the WWI, as close as possible to the truth. Unfortunately, with regard to the information required for the documentation on the battle of Mărăști, Mărășești si Oituz, you have to understand first the history of Romania between
    1875 and Second War, and what happened right after the WW2 (the period when communist came to power in Romania), a fairly complicated history with many betrayals from the side of ouer western allies (hence the lack of information from France, England and the USA part), which I do not want to discuss at this moment, because it would take a very long time
    and would cause a lot of quite unpleasant discussions, so let's leave this issue with historians.

    Regarding the information required for your documentary, I can suggest the following sources of information, other than the Romanian ones:
    Glenn Torrey-  Romania and World War 1
    Glenn Torrey-  The Revolutionary Russian Army and Romania,1917
    Glenn Torrey-  Henri Mathias Berthelot: Soldier of France, Defender of Romania Glenn Torrey- The Romanian Battlefront in World War I
    General Henri Berthelot and Romania: Mémoires Et Correspondance, 1916-1919
    Jean-Noël Grandhomme, Michel Roucaud, Thierry Sarmant  – La Roumanie dans la grande guerre et l'effondrement de l'arm 1916-1918

    For more detailed information about the battles of Marasesti, Marasti si Oituz, you can check the following Romanian sources:
    – Battle of Marasesti  22nd of July-1st of August 1917; – The Battle of Oituz in Romania 8-28 August 1917; – The Battle of Marasesti in Romania 6-19 August

    Indy, I want to draw your attention to the events that will follow, namely December 1917 and January-February 1918, as well as the Romanian military campain in Bucovina in 1918. Unfortunately, this period has been completely erased from the history books by Russians after the Second World War, the information from safe sources is very few, some of the documents
    of the Romanian Army were, after my knowledge, confiscated and destroyed by NKVD to Stalin's direct order. Currently, due to the political and military tensions in the area (the annexation of the Caucasus by Russia), all these issues are not discussed, being considered too delicate at these time. (LOL)

    Romanian Army Campaign in January – February 1918:
    Battle of Galati  – 12-13 January 1918 ( the firs join action in history of the word, with the coordination between the naval, infantry, artilary and air, forces against enemy forces. The force ratio was 1/24 against the Romanian army, and we won);
    The Fightings for Socola – Iasi;
    The Fightings for Pașcani;
    The Fightings for Fălticeni;
    The Fightings for Mihăileni;
    The Fightings for Timișești;
    I hope, this info will help you. Keep up the good work.

  28. Indy's sign off, "you win, you break, or you die." Its funny its 1917, people may have won battles, but noone has won the war. Winning a battle means the "privilage" of fighting the next one. The real choises are you "break or you die. There is no winning."

    Ps I love this series. Have watched every episode since the beginning and encourage everyone else to fo the same.

  29. Purdy please with a cherry on the top: use that Khukuri lying on the table for a special on the finest light infantry in the world namely the Gurkhas

  30. I guess the only way to solve the Ro problem would be to make an episode covering the main battles of 1917, if it's not much to ask. Sadly, indeed the sources are scarce… We'll see what we can find.

  31. We have all these Romanians dilligently googling Marasesti and trying to send Indy all the helpful links they can. You know, if one of you wanted to try your hand at doing a balanced video or write up, I expect Indy might be interested in linking to it, he's promoted other peoples' good historical work in the past. As long as the work is above the quality of an opinion piece and is backed up with decent source material I think that might be a better way to get the word out about this battle than bombarding Indy with Google and Wikipedia links.

    A slideshow of newsclips about the battle, which ought to be available somewhere in the Romanian national archives, combined with some historical background and mention of some of the famous people in the battle, would be a good base to build off of.

    After all guys, this is your country, you know who your own historians are.

  32. Will you make a movie of all of these once-a-week videos mushed together back-to-back, and call it "THE GREAT WAR Week by Week"?

  33. Finally caught up! Took me a couple months but I have finally caught up. I know I am late but at least I got here before the Americans started fighting, right?

  34. That quote really points out how either out of touch, or just plain callous the higher ups were to the common solider. It's a little disturbing to hear it when you know that this goal of theirs wasn't some instant victory plan. It's just to take that hill, take that kilometer, and maybe, maybe the other side will quit.

  35. There might have been despair 100 years ago but I'm partying now. Three years and I've finally caught up! Shame we've only got 'till Christmas before the show ends.

  36. Indy mentioned the Chinese workers who moved supplies up to the front. I don't know if Chou en-lai, future foreign minister of China, was there, but he was in the labor battalion.

  37. I would become a history professor or teacher just to replay these videos to my students they are so entertaining yet informative with strong material and presentation. Great job to "The GREAT WAR" team.

  38. There's a app made by the abc 2015s Gallipoli the first day 2016s Fromelles and Pozieres and this year 2017s the third battle of Ypres you should check it out its about the ANZACs and want they did

  39. Keeping the logistics up in those conditions ist such a great achievement. My utmost respect to anyone involved in that mess.

  40. Какая еще Ось в русских субтитрах?! Не путайте со Второй мировой войной, в Первую Антанте противостояли Центральные державы или Тройственный союз (позднее Четвертной).

  41. И английский термин "casaulties" означает не "убитые", а "потери", которые помимо убитых включают и раненых, и пленных, и пропавших без вести.

  42. Im from Romania and writing about the battle of Marasesti will take a lot but I tried to make a summary. Its a pity that the romanian front is not well kown in USA or Western Europe.

    The begining of 1917 was used by the Romanian government to improve the situation of the army. Also the long awaited Allied supplies finnaly reached Romania. Romania got 1.500.000 rifles, 2000 machineguns, 1.300.000 grenades, 355 artillery and some planes.

    The Battle of Marasesti took place in three stages, from July 24 / August 6 to August 21 / September 3, 1917 (the two sets of months are for iulian and gregorian calendar), on a front of about 35 km in length and was the most important military confrontation on the Romanian front in the summer of 1917. The forces that opposed during the battles were significant: on the one hand, the Russian IV Army – 84 battalions, 32 squadrons, 79 batteries – and the 1st Romanian Army – composed of six divisions, one of them cavalry, three brigades, Heavy Artillery Group, Aeronautical Group II, and on the other hand were the Central Powers with German IX Army (General Johannes von Eben) – consisting of 174 battalions, 16 squadrons, 150 batteries, three squadrons, a bike company and others.

    First phase. Central Powers are gaining ground

    The fights began on the morning of July 24 / August 6, when at 7.30 am, the German-led group. Kurt von Morgen attacked the 34th Russian Infantry Division, managing to break the front on a 3km deep and 10km long. At the request of the Russians, gen. Constantin Cristescu, Commander of the First Romanian Army, ordered the intervention of the 5th Infantry Division west of the Siret, managing to stop the Germans from taking over the crossings. The following morning, Field Marshal August von Mackensen redirected the attack northward, forcing the Romanian-Russian troops to withdraw 2 km and abandon the village of Doaga. The Russian 71st Infantry Division, together with the romanian 9th and 14th Infantry Divisions entered the battlefield to cover the void left by the 34th Russian Division, that was almost decimated by the Germans.

    The following two days were marked by violent attacks by the Germans and by the losses of the Romanian-Russian army. On July 28 / August 10, there was a counter-offensive of the Entente's troops to recover the enemy entry between Focsani-Mărăşeşti and Siret communications, involving the Romanian 5th and 9th Infantry Divisions and 13 and 71 Russian infantry. However, the confrontation was violent, and the Romanian-Russian troops could not recover the Doaga village. Because of this failure there are misunderstandings between romanian General C. Cristescu and russian Gen. Aleksandr Ragoza on the next day's operations. The Romanian commander, supporter of the option of an offensive action, is replaced by general Eremia Grigorescu, and a unique Romanian-Russian command is created under the command of the Russian General.

    The second stage. The great victory of the Romanians

    The second stage, initiated on 31 July / 13 August, was opened with a German offensive in the Panciu area, which led to the withdrawal of Russian troops by 6 km. General Ragoza ordered the alignment of the Romanian troops to the line of the new front, which meant that the village of Mărăşeşti was to be abandoned. Romanian General Grigorescu refused and a new crisis at the command line is created, which this time has been resolved by the dismissal of Ragoza and the Romanian general taking over command.

    On August 1/14, von Mackensen attacked Romanian-Russian troops forcefully, advancing a few kilometers in the Chicera area. There is danger of penetrating the defense line. However, the counterattack of the Romanian troops, helped to avoid a dangerous situation. At the same time, gen. von Morgen leads a group of German soldiers attacking the Romanian positions that ensured the protection of the Cosmeşti bridge, forcing them to withdraw but not before the romanians dynamited the bridge. After a period of relative calm, on August 6/19, 1917, the general attack of the Central Powers troops took place, marking the peak of the fighting in Marasesti. The German Attack Group General von Morgen (made up of 5 infantry divisions) attacks the front between Panciu and Mărăşeşti defended by the Romanians. The most intense battle was in the Razor forest for the Hill 100, which dominated the area and controlled the last terrace to river Siret. Here was the Commander Grigore Ignat machine-gun company, which, resisting heroically until the last man, delayed the advance of the enemy, while the big Romanian units managed to withstand all the german attacks.

    During the third stage – 7/20 August – 21st August / September 3th – there was a weakening of the intensity of the confrontations, with the Germans making a last effort to attack in the Varniţa-Muncelu area.

    At the end of the war, General Kurt von Morgen noted in his memoirs: "The resistance of the enemy, especially of the Romanians, was unusually strong and manifested through 61 counterattacks during the 14 days of battle, attacks made especially with the bayonet. " In the Romanian panteon, the battle remains a milestone in the history of the heroism shown by the Romanian soldiers, with heroes like Captain Grigore Ignat and General Eremia Grigorescu, as well as the heroine of Marasesti, Ecaterina Teodoroiu.

    The Battle of Marasesti lasted 28 days, of which 15 were fighting and 13 relative calm. During the confrontations, the Romanian Army lost 27,410 soldiers – namely 16% of the Romanian troops at the beginning of the battles – of which 5,255 were dead, 9,818 missing and 12,467 injured. The Russian Army IV also suffered significant human losses, approximately 25,650 people – 7,083 deaths, 10,400 injured and 8,167 missing. In the German camp, the Army IX totalized a number of 60,000-65,000 dead, wounded and missing soldiers.

  43. Did steps have to be taken to prevent the German concrete bunkers from sinking in the wet ground, and, if so, what were they? Thanks for everything!

  44. For some reason the title and description of this are translated into dutch, and not very well either. Anyone know how to get my English back?

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