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.