Heavy Action At The Somme – The Fight For Monastir I THE GREAT WAR Week 121

Heavy Action At The Somme – The Fight For Monastir I THE GREAT WAR Week 121


You can have a battle because you have superior firepower or manpower. You can have a battle because you have intelligence that you know gives you an advantage. Or you can have a battle because you think any sort of a victory will make you look good in front of your allies. Seems kind of stupid but that’s what happened this week. I’m Indy Neidell. Welcome to the Great War. Last week, the British failed at the Somme. The Russians tried to send men to help Romania, but logistical problems were foiling that. The French occupied Vaux at Verdun, and the Central Powers announced that would create an independent Poland. Here’s what followed. There was heavy action at the Somme this week. For the British, sir Hugh Gough, and I realize I was pronouncing that incorrectly before so thank you for your comments. Sir Hugh Gough and the Reserve Army were to attack along the Ancre the 13th. Continuous rains in late October and early November had turned the ground to mud and prevented large attacks. But back on the 8th, Gough had gotten something that stunned him from Commander-in-Chief Sir Douglas Haig’s office. Word that there would be a meeting of Allied commanders on the 15th, and the British would look better if the 5th Army could have some big success before that date. So, hey Gough. No pressure or anything, but can you win in the next few days? Hence the 13th, once the ground had dried. Haigh told Gough that at the Chantilly Conference: “The British position would doubtless be much stronger if I could appear there on top of the capture of Beaumont Hamel, for instance, and with 3,000 German prisoners.” Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson write in “The Somme”: “The British position at an inter-allied conference would hardly be much strengthened by the capture of the heap of rubble that was Beaumont Hamel. Nor was Haig’s position likely to be much improved by the capture of a village 116 days after it had been scheduled to fall.” But Haig was fairly desperate. The weather was ruining his plans to continue the fight all winter, and this operation may be his last chance. To end the Battle of the Somme with some sort of success, any success, was kind of a must for Haig. The attack on the 13th went off before dawn. But there was a thick fog once the sun had risen. Not even the most accurate creeping barrage in history would protect the infantry if they couldn’t follow it. And the only effective means of communication between the front lines and HQ was carrier pigeons. Along the northern third of the front, it was a huge failure with men sinking up to their waists in the mud. One of the battalions summed up the reasons for the failure. These were the reasons: 1. Loss of direction in the dark and fog. 2. Loss of most officers because of un-subdued machine guns. 3. The broken and muddy ground. 4. Uncut barbed wire. 5. The invisibility of the barrage in the mist. 6. The barrage had missed the second German lines. 7. Rifles became clogged and useless in the mud. Things went better a bit further south, where the mist was lighter. They even captured some of the German third lines. But the key action was even further south at Beaumont Hamel and St. Pierre-Divion. At Beaumont Hamel, the British blew 30,000 pounds of explosives to create a huge crater for the men so they’d be invisible from German machine guns. And the British took Beaumont Hamel, which had defied Haig since July, at 10:45 am. Many of the battalions took casualties of 40-50% in the assault. So there would be no subsequent advance there. St. Pierre-Divion too was captured, thanks to excellent howitzer work. And the Germans fled straight into the path of a British assault battalion. So for once, the number of prisoners was higher than the number of casualties. 5,000 Germans were taken prisoner that day. On the 14th, operations went ahead. But by now, the artillery didn’t know where the forward troops were and the attacks couldn’t be coordinated. Still, Beaucourt fell that day as did Saki, the famous writer H.H. Munro, killed by a German sniper. He was 46 years old and had falsified his age to enlist. That night, Haig messaged Gough from the conference to not make any large scale attacks until Haig’s return. He didn’t want to jeopardize things after the success of the 13th. Haig returned and things had gone well enough for him at the conference. The allies had decided that the Western Front was decisive, that they would keep the pressure on the Germans through the winter and go on the offensive again in the New Year. Haig gave Gough permission to continue limited attacks and as the week came to an end, on the night of November 17th, the first snow of the year fell on the Somme battlefield. Weather had an effect on another battleground this week in the Balkans. The Macedonian Front had been quiet for a couple of weeks but on the 11th, fighting broke out again in freezing rain and sleet. That the allies were making serious gains here was shown by the fact that for the first time, Sofia admitted enemy advances in the press. Though they downplayed their significance. They do admit that the Serbs had made a salient northeast of Polog. And in actuality, the Serbs had broken through the hills between themselves and the edge of the Monastir plain. As the week went on, the Bulgarians and the Germans were forced back by the French and Serbs, and the allies were almost due east of Monastir. On the 16th, the entire defense system centered on Kenoli was abandoned and thousands of German and Bulgarian prisoners had been taken in a few days. A side note: many of the prisoners were men who, only a week earlier, had been fighting with German general August von Mackensen in Romanian Dobrogea. And at the end of the week, the Russians had pulled to within a few miles of Monastir, and the Serbs swung around to the northeast to tighten the noose. Since I mentioned Dobrogea, that’s where I’m going to look next. That’s the southern Romanian Front and at beginning of the week, the Russians and Romanians were advancing against Mackensen’s retreating Bulgarian forces. But on the 12th, they failed at Cernavodă and themselves retreated to Dunărea. They had, though, pressed Mackensen back to only a few kilometers from the Cernavodă-Constanța railway and 50 kilometers from his furthest advance. But here, he held fast and the allied forces could not take the railway. It is possible Mackensen’s retreat was voluntary to encourage a Romanian advance, and this would weaken the Transylvanian Front. It’s also possible his forces had been weakened by Bulgarian troops leaving his command to head to the Balkans for the fighting near Monastir that I just told you about. That was the southern Romanian Front. But there was a lot of action as well on the northern one. Much of the week was the Romanians retreating in the Jiului and Aluta valleys and below Torzburg, and there was heavy fighting in the Prahova valley, south of the Predeal Pass. On the 15th, the Germans brought heavy artillery through the Torzburg Pass. That day, they pushed the Romanians out of the mountains and to the foothills of Western Wallachia. Here the Romanians, fortified by Russian help, made a stand on the range of hills lying south of Târgu Jiu, the first important town south of the mountains. For three days, the Romanians held until numbers finally began to tell. On the 17th, the Romanian center broke and the German cavalry, which had been held in reserve, raced through the gap and through the valley, preventing any further Romanian stance. As the week ended, it looked like German general Erich von Falkenhayn had broken the Romanian Front. And here are a couple of notes to round things out. On the 16th, Polish recruiting for the German Army is about to begin. German Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg declares that German promises to Poland concerning independence depend on the results. On the 17th, the French mounted an air raid over the Alps on Munich. And that was the week. British successes at the Somme. An allied advance in the Balkans, and the Romanians being stopped in the south and breaking in the north. And a conference of allied leaders at Chantilly, where Haig really wanted to impress his counterparts with the Battle of the Somme. The battle that had raged for four and a half months and had taken a few kilometers of blasted, barren ground for hundreds of thousands of casualties with impressive milestones like 20,000 British soldiers dying in one day, or units taking a single German trench line for 60% casualties. That’s pretty impressive alright! Haig should be proud. If you want to find out more about the first day of the Battle of the Somme which was pretty impressive in its failures you can click right here to watch that episode. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Paris Filbert Please support us on Patreon to make our show ever better and ever brighter. We have i deas for more new formats. We want to add more and better animations, and we can only do it with your help.

100 thoughts on “Heavy Action At The Somme – The Fight For Monastir I THE GREAT WAR Week 121

  1. today is the 19th November in 11 days, the battle of Bucharest will begin and it will be capture on the Sixth. Now the Romanian disaster is approaching

  2. I love the series. Quick question, at the 8:46 mark in this video there is an incredibly striking image of a battlefield with rays of sunlight breaking through the clouds. What is this photo and where could I find it?

  3. TGW crew, are you planning to briefly mention WWI Christmas Battles in Latvia (near Riga), and the role of Latvian Riflemen in that offensive?

  4. I'm so glad that there is actually a channel that focuses on a period of time that was almost forgotten, I found your channel about a month ago. ww1 was such an interesting war, it always also makes me happy to see that your channel is growing so much. keep up the great work.

  5. Bernard Freyberg- one of the most decorated men in the British forces won his VC in this engagement. His actions were described by another later VC recipient, Major William Philip Sidney of the 5th Bn Grenadier Guards, as "probably the most distinguished personal act of the war". (Major Sidney won his VC at Anzio and went on to become Viscount De L'Isle, VC, KG, GCMG, and GCVO)."

    To read more about Freyberg's valour and bravery- he was wounded 26 times and his body was covered with scars- Churchill called him The Salamander for its mythical ability to pass through fire unscathed click on the link, below. He died when a stomach wound received at Gallipoli in 1915 ruptured in 1963 while he worked as the Deputy Constable of Windsor Castle- basically the Queen's Master of Ceremonies for banquets etc http://www.queensroyalsurreys.org.uk/vc/vc08.html

  6. Is it true that Heroin made by Bayer was used in the trenches by German army for giving soldiers a boost ?Keep up the great work

  7. I like the new map graphics you guys put in. It's nice to see my Patreon money going to good use. Keep up the good work guys.

  8. Hey just had to say great channel, definitely subscribing. I have a question maybe you could answer in one of your future videos – what did all the armies do with the captured enemy artillery peices, machine guns, rifles etc? Did they actually use them against the same enemy whom they had captured them from or to bolster under strength units? Thanks

  9. Hi Indie & Team!
    A question for "Out of the Trenches" or even a topic for a special episode:
    Could you go into detail regarding the ethnical groups within the Austro-Hungarian Empire and how they saw the war?
    A the empire is always looked on as one unity on the map. I have the impression, that people are not really aware or tend to forget, that the Habsburg imperium existed on shaky legs due to having subjects with so many various ethnical and cultural backgrounds.
    I'm pretty sure not all of them were very supportive of the Austrian war ambitions.
    Thanks! 🙂

  10. Hi Indy and the crew there's something wrong with the Austro-Hungarian side of the map with names in Transilvanya having their Romanian names not the actual Hungarian what they had back then. Those cities got their names after the peacy treaties

  11. Heyhey! You're pronouncing my un-Anglicized (non-anglicized?) family name right! Awesome!

    Fun side note: Gough is aristocratic German. Interesting he kept the spelling (at the time) despite the anti-German sentiment. I mean, the British Royal Family changed their name to Windsor over it, after all.

  12. Hello, great channel, very informative and educational! i got some suggestions, i havent seen all your videos, maybe you have allready made of videos about them. Krieg dem Kriege, aka War against war. Johnny got his gun, Storm of Steel you should noticed between his book and his diaries, now avialbale, Heeresbericht, Westfront 1918. Some ww1 soldiers songs. like Argonnerwald or Wildgänse rauschen durch die Nacht, Ich hatte einen Kameraden, in flanders fields, Der Tod in Flandern. WW1 Awards of UK, USA, France, Russia, Austria and Germany. WW1 Invalids and protheses. Parachutes. OSKAR VON NIEDERMAYER and the Niedermayer–Hentig Expedition. And the german machine gun 08/15, where the term 08/15 originates from, which describes something for nothing special, ordinary in modern german language use. The outcome of the war. Like the treaty of versailles, freikorps and their crimes, starvation, high inflation, NSDAP, Soviet-Russia, Rosa Luxemburg etc. Curious weapons, like medieval weapons mele-attack or the one-man-tank. Small bombings onto the german empire. Howitzer Big Bertha. Medical aid and treatment in ww1. After ww1, different war grave commisions. How is ww1 showed, portrayed today in different countries like, they fought for us, so we can be free or they fight for your county, lets never forget these brave mens or like germany, more a warning and trying to undestand war is gruseome and senseles and hopefully no war in europe again.

  13. Thank you for the maps of Romania and Southern Serbia. These REALLY help me understand where exactly everything is happening and why.

  14. Did you do a video about that ottoman Tank Train? The one you play against in Battlefield 1? What was the reason why Italy got Southtirol and who decided what german land got the diffent european countries? Why is the Stab-in-the-back-myth a considerd myth and why did the german general stuff builded up that myth which is still popular within some rightwing extremists? Where was the selfsunking of the german fleet before a briitsh island and was that when british soldiers shot german soldiers in boats, which was hide for decades? What if the amercians whouldn't join ww1? Could the central powers win ww1 and how would world look today? Maybe still Ottoman Empire, German Empire and another Kaiser? Still Austria-Hungray? At alst no Hitler, no ww2. How long was the expection to survive as a newbe in the frontlines? is 2 or 6 weeks true? François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl met in 1984 in Verdun and hold Hands. Was there something similar with the British? Have you ever heared of the Free State Bottleneck? It is nothing special, but i life in area which was once the so called free state bottlleneck 😉 Southwesterngermany up to centralgermany, i would say. What about showing ORIGIANL COLOR photos, not black-white photos colored afterwards? Maybe the first orginal color photos done in a war.

  15. It's crazy to know that this war (and show) will continue for two more years, despite all the shit they've already gone through…

  16. If you want to see how the Romanian name of places and people is pronounced, you can hear their pronounciation here: https://www.ivona.com/

  17. Hello Great War I have a question for you. Please respond. Did General Haig ever visit the Somme battlefield during the offensive?

  18. how many men survived ww1? how much dollars cost ww1or who earn the most, the gunfactroies? When was the most fighting in a year? What do i mean with the last question? Well during medieval, the battles were mostly in spring and autum. Can we see something similar during ww1 or was every day big battles? Do have USA and UK or France have local warrior memorials like in germany? What excatly was the last pay of the Versailles Treaty in 2010 and why so late? If i remeber right, to the US Government and so late because of reunification. How much was paied of Germany in whole for the treaty of versailles? Not, how much germany had to pay, but how much did germany really paied? And how was history of ww1 and the treaty of versailles seen in the last 10 decades? There are still people who think germany is the only one to blame for the outbreak of ww1. How much did the conditions played a role what germany forced france in 1871 to pay and were the conditions as hard or more hard what germany would have done to france, if germany would have won ww1? How much did REVENGE play a role in human history in wars and conflict gernerally? Did play Napoleon Bonaparte and the Pfälzische Erbfolgekrieg play anyrole, even a minirole for the handling of france in 1871? Is ist why France was the Erbfeind oder Erzfeind of Germany? Or even france role in the thirty years war? I dont think so, because everyone did atrocities in the thirty years war, even the germans to themselfes each other. so i dont think the germans blamed the french for thiry years war. But did the germans may use this to have an reason? there is still anger and hate and revenge like what did germany expect if start a war or germany should have paied much more, those faggots. its not my opinion, but there peopel outhere who think this, insteat of learn from history, be nice to each other. what was the most intersting thing that indy learnaed and who decides what to teach or not to teach about?

  19. Can you talk about Lanrezac in your smart person chair episodes? I heard he is often credited with saving the French army and disagreed with Daddy Joffre on the severity of the German march through Belgium

  20. Hey Indy and crew
    Just a quick request, could you guys do a special out of the trenches or out of the ether episode on felix von luckner and his adventures in the high seas during WW1. From my research he was regarded as a moral driven captain as well as a resourceful man, interesting considering he was a German privateer. He was also quite the character and is a celebrated hero in both Germany and the New Zealand port where he was held- fun fact

  21. Haig's attitude towards warfare reminds me of my attitude towards homework in middle school. Don't actually be successful, but try to make it look like you are.

  22. What was the most bad thing of the versaill treaty for the loosers of ww1`? for germany was it the loss of german land and the massive pavement and causing high inflation and starvatatio and hunger, killing even german children? What was the most bad thing for Austria, for Ottoman Emprie? How much role played french hate against germans, who created the german empire in versailles in 1871? why did it anger them so much?

  23. I definitely appreciate that you guys decreased the volume of the intro music. It was really quite loud compared to Indy.

  24. So when are the Przemysl episodes coming out you were there ages ago? Also is it not time for another trip somewhere, Verdun / Somme or Gallipolli??

  25. There has been a bunch of British documentaries in last two years that attempt to rehabilitate Haig and his conduct at Somme. I guess the trauma still lingers.

  26. Wondering if anyone could help me. I'm currently writing an essay for university and the title reads simply, "who won the Battle of the Somme?". I've brainstormed a few ideas as to who won such as; the Allies, due to the siege of Verdun being scaled down and then lifted, but I want to argue more towards no one having won due to the loss of life and the maintaining of their current positions. Could anyone help me elaborate on these points or cook up some new thoughts on who was the true victor? Cheers and great channel btw!

  27. Damn you, Indy! You've tricked me into learning things! Forgive me, brain! I was the victim of irresistible charisma and a lively, dynamic narrative! T-T

  28. Someone mentioned "playing possum" during an assault. Read Will R Bird's "Ghosts Have Warm Hands" and I think the same account might be in "The Communication Trench"

  29. while the maps of the Romanian front look nice, the use of Romanian names in Austria-Hungary is seemingly at odds with your policy to use the names of the time of the events

  30. It seems like this entire series should be shown to people who are thinking about joining the military. History is a constant stream of political bullshit that kills millions of people. Some of these battles come down to someone just thinking it would sound cool to capture a hill or blow something up.

  31. i think Indy is just biased. In Every sentence he indirectly tries to emphasize Serbian army or how "good" they are when in fact
    Bulgaria stopped all french + british + Serbian advances until 1918 at dobro pole.

    indy almost never says something good about Bulgarian army which was freaking BEAST really in WW1

  32. Tolbukhin? The city was named Dobrich. It was named Tolbukhin after the Soviet marshal Fyodor Tolbukhin between 1949-1990.

  33. Waittttt, wasnt the HMS Brittanic sank this week? The sister ship of the Titanic?? Why wasnt it covered????? Maybe a special down the line?

  34. I'm a bit late to the show but am completely addicted. It really puts what we were taught in school to shame.
    My great grandad was a cavalry man in WW1 but had his horse shot from under him. He eventually ended up at the front where on one charge, he went over the top only to be buried by German artillery fire. The only part of his body above the ground was his hand, and the only reason I can type this today is because some retreating troops saw his hand move and dug him out under heavy fire. Such stories of gallantry and bravery and love for brothers-in-arms must exist in many alive today.
    After the war he used to have electric shock therapy for after effects of mustard gas.
    I'm really proud to be able to tell his story (or the part I know of it), I guess he was very lucky to escape the hell of the western front where so many died. He surely would have died that day too if it wasn't for those brave comrades.

  35. Great episode but it would be greater if proper English SUBTITLES were available…the automatic one was unfortunately appaling (too many names that are not correctly spelled). As I am a nice patron of TGW I hope that the small amount of my money given every month will lead to an 100% proper English subtitles on ALL the videos that are shown here 😉 .

  36. I have been watching this series for the past couple of days straight… One thing strikes me: the failure to adapt strategy and tactics to modern warfare, seem to have cost more lives than the actual technological warfare advances..

    gas was highly ineffective, especially once gasmasks were available.
    the flamethrowers seemed to be working better as defensive weapons rather than offensive.
    And not thinking about supplies in a massive scale seemed to often prohibit proper food, water and care for people.

  37. The addition of visual information about the terrain on the maps was a great idea. It really helps to comprehend the operational situation. I am glad that they added it.

  38. Last 3 episodes Indy you point to nothing. I miss the old layout. Yes I discovered this show just a month ago or so so yes I'm watching every last damn episode!! And I swear to god if you don't make a WW2 one, or Vietnam, I dunno I just swear. Keep up the good work, mucho gracias

  39. Indi. I love your channel and your information on the First World War. I was hoping if you could answer a question for me. What are your personal feelings about Field Marshal Haig? Do you personally feel that Haig deserved his nickname "The Butcher?" Or is he more of the "Educated Soldier," as told by historian John Terraine?

  40. A german misspronouncing something? I am utterly dissapointed from a guy who is used to pronounce Eichhörnchen

  41. Painting the generals to be idiots is justified in places (good grief I had no idea Cadorna was so obsessed with attacking one place) sure but they did have reasons for issuing the orders that they did.

    They were often commanding troops who weren't that well trained/equipped how exactly do you expect them to conduct a more precise and calculated war if they haven't been trained for such in the first place?
    Combined arms warfare was still very much in it's infancy with "modern" equipment.

    Wars have political goals, you have to show off your gains to get a place in the victory circle at the end. Yes it's morbid but so were the reasons for starting the war.

    I don't buy into the whole "CHECK OUT THIS DUMB DECISION THAT GENERAL MADE". Gaffs that you're so fond of. Blackadder gets away with it because it was funny. But even they knew when to back off.

    An army doesn't march on the reputation of a single man, it is fought at every level. And the armies of the time were inexperienced using technology they didn't understand with old fashioned mind sets used to wars with less effective weapons and less punishing casualty figures. (not to mention the education levels for the time were horrendous, so allowing individual units to act independently would be a recipe for disaster. This isn't taking into account the different languages of the time of different allied groups.)

    They still used the best tactics for the time. And even then with advances in training and conventional tactics ww2 was still just as bloody, filled with lots of little sad events. Trenches, flamethrowers, gas you name it all the same crazy stuff happened then too and then some.

    And yeah, Haig could have called off the Somme, if he knew for a fact that Germany wasn't going to push Verdun.
    Did he know this though? What was his intelligence at the time like? Did he have a crystal ball that gave him perfect charts about German troop movements? Did he have the German high command on a telephone line that he could have a nice wee chat to and check on their internal plans?
    They could barely see enemy troop movements to coordinate artillery strikes and you think they could know for a fact that the Germans weren't mounting a push?

    Suppose we live in a different world, suppose the Somme gets called off early once the offensive does it's job. What happens if the Germans really did try for Verdun, and if they did take it? Who's to say the Germans couldn't have used Armoured vehicles to make their own surprise pushes at the time or some other crazy tech.

    What happens if France is knocked out of the war? What happens to Europe?

    Do you begin to see the reasons for continuing the bloodbath? Because if they didn't the potential for even more was higher.

    Just imagine if they did take Verdun and France was knocked out, the British forced into a Dunkirk retreat.
    With the huge advantage to the defender there's no way we would have been able to retake Europe with allied support.

    And as you say, Romania was being attacked by four nations at once, Italy was stalling on their front and Russia was in Turmoil. America was still dilly dallying with convincing people to get involved.
    They needed to end this war fast. And I can't blame them for trying even despite the sad casualty figures.

  42. I started watching this channel exactly 1 week ago and I'm already on week 121! At this rate I'm going to run out of videos faster than Hotzendorf ran out of strategies

  43. Dear Indy,
    Have you heard the song , " Price Of A Mile", by Sabaton. It would not recruit troops for trench warfare. Spoiler alert, don't listen to "The Lost Battalion". Great Show !
    Jeff(FungChicken)

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