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Title: The Story of the Great War, Volume VI (of VIII)
       History of the European War from Official Sources

Author: Various

Editor: Francis J. Reynolds
        Allen L. Churchill
        Francis T. Miller

Release Date: July 12, 2009 [EBook #29385]

Language: English

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Major General John J. Pershing, appointed to organize and command the American forces in France, is shown landing in France on June 12, 1917. French officers and officials of high rank are there to welcome him. His arrival is recognized as an epoch-making date in the war, for it foreshadows the creation of a great American Army in France.



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Copyright 1916
By P. F. Collier & Son

(p. 001) CONTENTS
















(p. 007) LIST OF MAPS

Battle Lines on All Fronts, August 1, 1917.




The first month of the Allied offensive on the Somme front closed quietly. The British and French forces had every reason to feel encouraged over their successes. In the two thrusts since July 1, 1916, they had won from the Germans nearly twenty-four square miles of territory. Considering the extent to which every fraction of a mile was fortified and defended, and the thoroughness of the German preparations to make the district impregnable, the Allied gains were important. As a British officer said at the time, it was like digging badgers out of holes—with the proviso that every badger had machine guns and rifles at the hole's mouth, while the approach to each was swept by the fire from a dozen neighboring earthworks.

It was estimated that in the first month of the Allied offensive on the Somme the German casualties amounted to about 200,000 men, while the Anglo-French forces lost less than a fourth of that number. The Allies claimed to have captured about 13,000 prisoners and between sixty and seventy field guns, exclusive of machine guns and the smaller artillery.

With the capture of Pozières it might be said that the second phase of the Battle of the Somme was concluded. The Allied forces were well established on the line to which the second main "push" which began July 14, 1916, was directed.

During the first three days of August, 1916, comparative quiet prevailed along the Somme front, and no important offensive was (p. 010) attempted by either side. Minor fighting continued, however, every day, and during the nights the English positions were heavily bombarded by the German guns.

On the night of August 4, 1916, the British assumed the offensive, advancing from Pozières on a front of 2,000 yards. The attack, which seems to have taken the Germans by surprise, was entirely successful, as the British troops gained 1,000 yards of the German second line and captured over 400 prisoners. This second line consisted of two strongly fortified trenches running parallel, which were backed by a network of supporting and intermediate trenches, all strongly constructed, with deep dugouts and cunningly devised machinery of defense. When the Australians made the thrust forward from Pozières while the British cooperated on the left over the ground to the east of the village, they found when going over the enemy trenches that in many places the British guns had wrecked and almost obliterated the German second lines. After the British advance the Germans launched two spirited counterattacks, which were easily repulsed by the British artillery. The British casualties were unimportant, but the troops suffered intensely from the heat of the evening and from the gas masks that they were forced to wear, as previous to the attack the Germans had bombarded with gas shells.

Minor fighting and artillery duels continued intermittently until the morning of August 6, 1916, when the Germans delivered two fierce attacks on the ground gained by the British east of Pozières. The Germans, employing liquid fire in one attack, forced the British back from one of the trenches they had captured on August 4, 1916, but part of this was later regained. The following day the Germans continued their attacks north and northeast of Pozières on the new British lines. After heavy bombardment of the British positions, the Germans penetrated their trenches, but were forced out again, having suffered some casualties and leaving a number of prisoners in British hands. In front of Souchez the Germans exploded a mine, and here some of their troops succeeded in entering the English trenches over the crater, but were quickly bombed out again.

(p. 011) On the same date late in the afternoon the French forces to the north of the Somme carried out a well-planned attack which resulted in the capture of a line of German trenches between the Hem Wood and the river. The French took 120 prisoners and a number of machine guns.

On August 8, 1916, the British positions north and east of Pozières were heavily bombarded by German artillery. In the evening of the same date British troops pushing forward engaged the enemy near the station of Guillemont. A bomb attack made by the Germans on the eastern portion of the Leipzig salient south of Thiepval was driven back with some casualties. Two British raiding parties about the same time succeeded in entering the German lines north of Roclincourt and blew up some dugouts. On this date a squadron of ten German aeroplanes endeavored to cross the British lines on a bombing expedition, but were driven off by four British offensive patrols. Two of the German aeroplanes were forced to descend behind their own lines, while the others were scattered and did not return to attack. In the evening of the same day the Germans made four attacks on the British lines to the northwest of Pozières, and in one were successful in occupying a portion of a British trench.

During this day the French north of the Somme, while the British were fighting at Guillemont, advanced east of Hill 139, north of Hardecourt, and took forty prisoners. The Germans, making two attempts to recapture the trenches won from them by the French on the previous day, were beaten back, leaving a great number of dead on the field. In the evening French troops captured a small wood and a heavily fortified trench to the north of the Hem Wood, making their gains for the two days, an entire line of German trenches on a front of three and three-quarter miles and a depth of from 330 to 350 yards.

In the battered and shell-pitted region to the northwest of Pozières fighting between the British and German troops continued unceasingly. The slight gains made by the British troops were won only by the greatest risk and daring, for the whole plateau between Thiepval and Pozières (about 3,000 yards) lay open to the German fire from the former place. A great part of (p. 012) it could be reached by machine guns, while German batteries at Courcelette and Grandcourt commanded the ground at close range. A network of German trenches, well planned, stretched in almost every direction. Flares and shell fire made the region as bright as day during the night, and it was only by rushing a trench from saps made within a few feet of the objectives or by breaking into a trench and bombing along it that the British were able to achieve any small gains. And gains were made on this terrible terrain daily, though only a few yards might be won, and a dozen or more prisoners captured.

The British attack on the Germans around Guillemont, which took place as previously noted on August 8, 1916, was at first successful. A section of the troops carried some trenches, and then pushing on gained a useful piece of ground south of Guillemont with few casualties. Another (the left) section of British troops were unable to proceed farther on account of the darkness. Another section, owing to miscalculation, swept through the German trenches straight into the village of Guillemont, where they lost their direction amid the ruins and confusion. Working their way through the shattered streets they proceeded to dig themselves in when they had reached the far northeast corner of the place. With enemies all around them, and the breadth of the ruined village between them and their friends, the adventure could have but one conclusion. A few of the men succeeded in getting back to the British lines, but the remainder fell into the hands of the enemy.[Back to Contents]

(p. 013) CHAPTER II


In the morning of August 11, 1916, after the usual preparatory bombardment, French troops carried the whole of the third German position north of the Somme from the river northeast of Hardecourt—that is to say, on a front of about four miles and to an average depth of about a mile. This third German position consisted of three, and in some places of four, lines of trenches strongly defended and with the usual trench blockhouses. The French attacked in force along the whole front, and in eighty minutes, according to the description given in French newspapers, carried the German position at a small cost in casualties compared with results. The Germans fought bravely and stubbornly, but the French artillery did such effective work before the advance attack that in the hand-to-hand conflicts that followed the French troops readily overcame the enemy. A Bavarian battalion which garrisoned a blockhouse on Hill 109 offered such a determined resistance that when the victorious French finally entered the work they found only 200 of the garrison alive.

In the afternoon of the same day, August 11, 1916, French forces north of the Somme took several German trenches by assault and established their new line on the saddle to the north of Maurepas and along the road leading from the village to Hem. A strongly fortified quarry to the north of Hem Wood and two small woods were also occupied by the French troops. During the course of the action in this district they took 150 unwounded prisoners and ten machine guns.

British air squadrons numbering sixty-eight machines on August 12, 1916, bombed airship sheds at Brussels and Namur, and railway sidings and stations at Mons, Namur, Busigny, and Courtrai. Of the British machines engaged in these attacks, all but two returned safely. In the evening of the same day (p. 014) the British forces attacked the third German position which extended from the east of Hardecourt to the Somme east of Buscourt. On this front of about four miles the British infantry carried the trench and works of the Germans to a depth of from 660 to 1,100 yards. To the northwest of Pozières the British gained 300 to 400 yards on a front of a mile, and also captured trenches on the plateau northwest of Bazentin-le-Petit.

The French continued to make appreciable gains south of the Somme, carrying portions of trenches and taking some prisoners. The new British front to the west of Pozières was repeatedly attacked and bombarded by the Germans, and on August 15, 1916, they succeeded in recapturing trenches they had lost two days before. But they were unable to hold their gains for more than a day, when the British drove them out and consolidated the position.

During the afternoon and evening of August 16, 1916, German and French to the north and south of the Somme engaged in heavy bombardments. At Verdun the German lines were forced back close to Fleury, the French taking enemy trenches and smashing a counterattack with their artillery.

On the afternoon of August 17, 1916, there was hard fighting along the whole Somme front from Pozières to the river. The British gained ground toward Ginchy and Guillemont and took over 200 prisoners, including some officers. During the night the Germans delivered repeated attacks against the positions the British had captured, but only in one instance did they succeed in winning back a little ground.

On August 18, 1916, the British continued to add to their gains, advancing on a front of more than two miles for a distance of between 200 and 600 yards. As a result of these operations carried out along the British front from Thiepval to their right, south of Guillemont, a distance of eleven miles, was the gain of the ridge southeast of Thiepval commanding the village and northern slopes of the high ground north of Pozières. The British also held the edge of High Wood and half a mile of captured German trenches to the west of the wood. Advances were also made to the outskirts of the village of Guillemont, where the (p. 015) British occupied the railroad station and quarry, both of some considerable military importance. As a result of these operations the British captured sixteen officers and 780 of other ranks.

German guns continued to shell the British positions throughout the day and evening of August 18, 1916, but no infantry attacks were attempted. On the following day after a heavy bombardment the Germans made three vigorous bombing attacks on the British positions at High Wood, all of which were repulsed, though the Germans succeeded in some instances in gaining a foothold for a time in the British trenches. In the aggregate the British successes in this region had in a week resulted in the capture of trenches which, if put end to end, would reach for a number of miles.

On August 24, 1916, the French completed the capture of Maurepas, for which they had been battling for nearly two weeks, after seizing the trenches to the south of the village. Maurepas was of great military importance, for, with Guillemont on the British front, it formed advanced works of the stronghold of Combles. The attack was launched at five in the evening on a front of a mile and a quarter from north of Hardecourt to southeast of Maurepas. The French troops captured the German portion of Maurepas at the first dash, and a little later the strong intrenchments made by the Germans to cover the Maurepas-Combles road were in their possession. The victory was won over some of Germany's best troops, the Fifth Bavarian Reserve Division and the First Division of the Prussian Guard under Prince Eitel Frederick.

On the same day, August 24, 1916, the British troops on the north of the Somme attacked the German positions in the Maurepas region and carried with a rush that part of the village still held by the Germans and the adjoining trenches, taking 600 prisoners and eighteen guns. South of the village the Germans made a violent attack on the British position at Hill 121, but owing to the concentrated fire of artillery which mowed them down they were unable to reach the British lines at any point.[Back to Contents]

(p. 016) CHAPTER III


Throughout the week the Germans attempted repeatedly to retake the positions that had been won from them by the French and British troops. One of the most desperate attacks made was against the British positions between the quarry and Guillemont. After a heavy preparatory bombardment the Germans launched an attack that took them to the edge of the British trenches, where a desperate hand-to-hand struggle was made in which the Germans fought with stubbornness and determination, but were finally repulsed with heavy losses.

The new French positions gained at Maurepas were violently attacked on August 26, 1916, but the French artillery wrought terrible havoc among the German troops, and they withdrew in disorder. In two days the French took over 350 prisoners in this sector.

On the evening of August 26, 1916, the British captured several hundred yards of German trenches north of Bazentin-le-Petit and pushed forward some distance north of Ginchy.

After gaining a trench of 470 yards south of Thiepval and taking over 200 prisoners, the British on August 24, 1916, joined up with the French forces on the right, where important progress was made around Maurepas. Continued hard fighting on the eastern and northern edges of the Delville Wood advanced the British lines several hundred yards on each side of the Longueville-Flers road. These operations resulted in the British capturing eight officers and about 200 of other ranks.

West of Ginchy two German companies attacked the British trenches and were driven off by machine-gun fire. Bombardment of British positions continued during the night. Two aeroplane raids carried out by the British airmen damaged trains on the German line of communications. Important military points were also bombed with some success, but in encounters with German aircraft the British lost one machine.

(p. 017) The importance of the Thiepval sector to the Germans was demonstrated in their constant efforts to regain the positions there that had been captured by the British. A great number of guns were concentrated by the Germans in this sector. The bombardment which preceded the attack was of unusual violence, but owing to the intrepid spirit of the men from Wiltshire and Worcestershire, who defended the positions, the Germans were unable to reach the trenches and withdrew in disorder. According to an eyewitness of this attack, the first wave of German soldiers advancing to attack was thrown in disorder by the intense gunfire from the British positions. A second wave of men started—swept a little farther over the shell-torn terrain than the others had done, then faltered, broke apart, and fell back, having failed to get through the British artillery fire or even to approach their trenches.

In the area around Mouquet Farm and in the trenches south of Thiepval the British captured during the day one German officer and sixty-six of other ranks. British aircraft displayed great activity in this sector, dropping five tons of bombs on points of military importance behind the enemy lines. One hostile machine was brought down, while two British machines failed to return. South of the Ancre the British made slight advances, capturing four German officers and fifty-five of other ranks.

A great battle developed north of the Somme on September 2, 1916, in which the British and French forces took thousands of prisoners and captured important territory. After intense artillery preparation the French infantry cooperating with British troops attacked the German positions on a front of about three and three-quarter miles between the region north of Maurepas and the river. The strong German forces engaged were unable to resist the onslaught of the Allied troops. The villages of Forest, east of Maurepas, and Cléry-sur-Somme were captured, as well as all the German trenches along the route from Forest to Combles as far as the outskirts of the last place. The Germans launched with heavy forces a counterattack against the conquered positions, but were driven back by the heavy fire of the French batteries. The French official reports gave the number (p. 018) of unwounded prisoners captured in this battle as exceeding 2,000, and the booty taken included twelve guns and fifty machine guns. German aircraft which engaged British flyers during the progress of the battle were driven off with a loss of three machines destroyed and four badly injured. The British lost three.

Fighting on the Somme and Ancre was continued with increased severity on September 3, 1916. The Germans stubbornly contested the British advance, but were unable to gain any material advantage except at Ginchy, occupied by the British, who were driven out of all but a small portion of the place. As an offset to this loss the British troops captured the strongly fortified village of Guillemont and the German defenses on a front of one and two-third miles to an average depth of about 800 yards. The British took during this battle over 800 prisoners.

The new French positions to the north of Combles were violently attacked on this same date, but the German effort was broken by the machine-gun and artillery barrage. The French captured over 500 prisoners and ten machine guns.

South of the Somme, on a front of about twelve miles, the French troops attacked enemy organizations from Barleux to the region south of Chaulnes and were entirely successful in gaining their objectives.

Southwest of Barleux the French infantry in a single push carried three successive German lines and advanced over a mile, which brought them to the outskirts of Berny and Deniécourt. To the south, by a well-planned enveloping movement, the village of Soyécourt was carried, and here a whole Prussian battalion was cut off and surrendered after a short resistance. South of Vermandovillers, where the Germans occupied a portion of the village, the French launched an attack on the German front in the afternoon, but it was night before they could break through north of Chilly. The French pushed on through the breach, forcing the Germans to retire to their second line, leaving 1,200 prisoners, guns and machine guns in French hands. Desperate attempts were made by the German General von Hein to recover the lost ground. Before the French had time to consolidate their (p. 019) positions he launched six counterattacks, all of which failed under the French barrage of fire. On September 4, 1916, the French made 2,700 prisoners between Barleux and Chilly.[Back to Contents]



The intense activity of the Allied forces in the Somme region in August and during the first week in September, 1916, exceeded in interest the happenings around Verdun. While only one building in the town remained uninjured by the shells which the Germans poured into it daily, the French, to whom the initiative had passed, continued to harry the enemy daily along the Thiaumont-Vaux front. Their "nibbling" process went on unceasingly, seizing some hundred yards of trenches, or taking batches of 200 or 300 prisoners with such frequency as to produce a decidedly depressing effect on the German commanders and on their troops, who in this sector represented the pick of the German army.

On September 6, 1916, a signal success was won by the French at Verdun when they carried the German line on the Vaux-Chapître Wood-Le Chenois front to a length of 1,000 yards, taking 250 prisoners and ten guns.

In the second week of September, 1916, the French and British forces made important gains in the Somme region. On September 9, 1916, British forces advancing on a front of 6,000 yards occupied Falfemont Farm, Leuze Wood, Guillemont, and Ginchy, the area gained being more than four square miles. The bravery displayed by the Irish troops from Connaught, Leinster, and Munster in connection with the capture of Guillemont was especially commended by headquarters. The same troops fought with distinction in the capture of Ginchy, a village only in name, for shell fire had reduced it to mere heaps of rubble and dust.

(p. 020) In an assault on the French front September 9, 1916, between Belloy-en-Santerre and Barleux the Germans by using jets of flame obtained a temporary footing in the French trenches, but were driven out by a vigorous counterattack with the loss of four machine guns. On the night of September 11, 1916, French forces north of the Somme took the offensive and drove a broad wedge right in between the powerfully defended German positions of Combles on the north and Péronne to the south. Continuing their advance on the following day, in less than half an hour they carried the German first line and, taking Hill 145 by the way, pressed on to the Bapaume road south of Rancourt, and held it as far south as Bouchavesnes village which was captured by a brilliant dash early in the evening. On September 13, 1916, the French again advanced, carrying several positions and occupying in this region the German third line. They also captured a trench system south of Combles. In the two days' fighting 2,300 German prisoners were captured.

On the night of Thursday, September 13, 1916, the British forces won German trenches to the southeast of Thiepval and a heavily fortified place known as Wunderwerk. This was the prelude to a series of brilliant victories won by the British troops which had not been surpassed during the entire fighting in the Somme area. At 6 a. m. on September 15, 1916, the British attacked on a front of about six miles, extending from Bouleaux Wood east of Guillemont to the north of the Albert-Bapaume road. A tremendous bombardment of the enemy positions continued for twenty minutes before the infantry advanced to attack. The Germans were believed to have 1,000 guns concentrated in this sector which had been shelling the British positions for several days, but during this battle for some reason, perhaps lack of ammunition, they played an unimportant part, and were far outclassed by the British artillery.[Back to Contents]

(p. 021) CHAPTER V


It was in this battle that the British for the first time introduced a new type of armored cars which proved veritable fortresses on wheels, and came to be popularly known as "tanks." These destructive engines of warfare were from twenty to forty feet long and were painted a dull drab, or some unassuming color calculated to blend with the tones of the landscape. In a dim light they suggested the giant slugs of a prehistoric age. Sliding along the ground on caterpillar wheels, with armored cheeks on each side of the head, above which guns stuck out like the stalked eyes of land crabs, their first appearance in this sector may well have created consternation among the German troops who saw them for the first time. There was something uncanny about these steel-scaled monsters that slid over the ground as it were on their stomachs, balanced by a flimsy tail supported on two wheels. Weighing many tons, when the "tank" came to an obstacle, such as a house or wall, it rammed the obstruction with its full weight, and then climbing over the débris lumbered on its way. Through vast craters and muddy shell holes and over trenches the monsters waddled along, scattering death and destruction as they advanced. The German soldiers, after the first consternation caused by the appearance of these war engines in the field, bravely attacked them; swarming over the sides of the "tanks" and seeking to batter in the steel scales and armored plates and to silence the guns that spouted fire from the head, but the daring efforts were useless and caused many casualties. Machine-gun fire was also ineffectual. They could only be disabled by a direct hit from a large gun. It is said that the Germans voiced their disgust for this kind of warfare, and protested that the British were not fighting fair!

At first the Germans thought they could rush a "tank" as they would a fort, and lost heavily in such futile attacks; they could (p. 022) make no impression on the steel "hide" of the monsters. Once astride a trench, the guns of the tank could rake right and left, mowing down the defenders whose volleys pattered harmlessly on the steel plates of the war engine.

A young Australian who served in one of these new war machines described "tanksickness" as being as bad as seasickness until you became accustomed to the constant plunges and lurchings as the "tank" encountered obstacles on its way. The Australian noted down his impressions while cruising around the German lines in a "tank." A few quotations from his diary may be of interest:

"Peppering begun at once. Thought old thing was going to be drowned in a shower of bullets. Germans dashed up from all sides. We fired at them point-blank. The survivors had another try. More of them went down.... A rain of bullets resumed. It was like as if hundreds of rivets were being hammered into the hide of the 'tank.' We rushed through.... Got right across a trench. Made the sparks fly. Went along parapet, routing out Germans everywhere. Tried to run, but couldn't keep it up under our fire. Threw up the sponge and surrendered in batches."

"One can hardly imagine any spectacle more terrifying," said an eyewitness, "than these monsters must have presented to German eyes when, after a hurricane bombardment, through the smoke and dust of bursting shells, the great shapes came lumbering forward in the gray light of dawn. The enemy evidently had no hint of what they were. They emptied their rifles at them, and the things came rolling on. They turned on their machine guns, and the bullets only struck sparks from the great beasts' awful sides. In several places they sat themselves complacently astride of the trench, and swept it in both directions and all the ground beyond with their machine guns. Against strong points they were invaluable, because they could thrust themselves, secure in the toughness of their hide, in close quarters where unprotected infantry could never get. In woods they trampled their way through the undergrowth and climbed over or broke down barricades, contemptuous of the machine guns (p. 023) and rifle fire which made the approach of unarmored men impossible."

During this advance the British penetrated the third German line, which was shattered at all points. Three new villages—Flers, Martinpuich, and Courcelette—fell into British hands and more than twenty miles of German trenches were taken. Over 100 officers and 4,000 other ranks were captured by the British.

Martinpuich, which was known to be strongly fortified by the Germans, was the first trench to be carried by the British troops almost without a check. Beyond this was a series of other trenches and fortified positions in shell holes and the like. And here the "tanks" did effective service, their appearance creating consternation among the German troops, whose gunfire was powerless to injure or to impede the triumphal progress of these ungainly forts on wheels. In one instance a German battalion commander surrendered to a "tank" and was taken on board as a passenger. Up to the outskirts of Martinpuich there was stiff fighting and the village itself bristled with machine guns. The Germans stubbornly and bravely contested the British advance through the ruins. The British troops, however, continued to push forward almost yard by yard until the whole place was in their hands, and they had dug themselves in in a line on the farthest eastern and northern sides of the village.

Before the hour set for the advance the British troops who took Courcelette were strongly attacked by the Germans on the front just north of the Bapaume road. The British front-line trench was broken by the attack, and hard fighting was in progress when the hour set for the British advance arrived. Then from support lines and other positions to the rear of the trench the Germans had entered the British troops swept forward. The Germans were overwhelmed as the waves of khaki-clad, cheering men rushed forward and over them and out beyond the objective points as originally planned. In front of Courcelette there were formidable German positions; two trenches in particular which had been strongly fortified and against which the British troops for a time hurled themselves in vain. Twice the British troops were driven back, but the third assault was (p. 024) entirely successful, the British troops sweeping over the two trenches and into the outskirts of Courcelette. By 8.10 o'clock the British forces had worked clear through the village ruins and had carried two especially strong positions on the farther side, a quarry on the north and a cemetery on the northeast of the village.

In the High Wood area, to the right of the two attacks described, the Germans had converted a large mine crater into a fortress of formidable strength, for from this position they could sweep the entire wood with machine guns so placed that the British were powerless to reach them. The "tanks" were of great efficiency in reducing this strong point on the eastern angle of the wood. The British troops fighting every yard of the way, slowly encircled the wood, which was still full of cunningly hidden machine guns, and then went steadily through it. This wood, which was described as a horrible place, with its heaps of dead and shattered defenses, was effectually cleaned out by the British and occupied by them, and a line was established due north of the farthest extremity for about 1,000 yards.

Flers was captured by the British by successive pushes in which the "tanks" again demonstrated their value. Leading the way, these monsters waddled through the village, shattering barricades, crushing their way through masonry and creating general alarm among the German troops, who saw these formidable war engines for the first time.

In the capture of Courcelette, Flers, and Martinpuich the British air service successfully cooperated with the movements of the artillery and infantry. During the day, September 15, 1916, thirteen German aeroplanes and kite balloons were destroyed, and nine others were driven down in a damaged condition. The British reported that four of their machines were lost.

On the following day, September 16, 1916, the Germans attacked the British positions around Flers and along the Les Bœufs road, and were beaten off. The British line which had been held and lived in for a day was now little more than a series (p. 025) of shell holes linked by a shallow trench. Though "the air was stiff with bullets" as an officer described it, the British troops climbed out of their shattered position and pushing on took possession of a more satisfactory trench ahead, where they consolidated and sat down. This last small advance cost the British more casualties than all the other operations during the two days' fighting.[Back to Contents]



Meanwhile the Allied troops—the French on the south, the British on the north—made steady progress in hemming in Combles. The French increased their gains by storming Le Priez Farm and against severe attacks held their gains north and south of Bouchavesnes. In another dashing attack they took by assault a group of German trenches south of Rancourt, some of their troops pushing forward to the edge of the village. South of the Somme they advanced east of Deniécourt and northeast of Berny, taking several hundred prisoners and ten machine guns. The closing-in process around Combles went steadily forward.

In the evening of September 17, 1916, the British forces in the vicinity of Courcelette extended their gains on a front of 1,000 yards, captured a strong fortification known as the Danube Trench on a mile front, and also the strongly defended work at Mouquet Farm which had been fought over for several weeks. On the same date the French made a spirited attack south of the Somme, wresting from the Germans what portions they still held of the villages of Vermandovillers and Berny, the ground between the two, and also between Berny and Deniécourt, breaking up all counterattacks and taking 700 prisoners.

On September 18, 1916, the British on the Somme front continued to add to their gains of the previous days. Northwest of Combles they captured a strongly fortified German work and, (p. 026) beating off numerous counterattacks north of Flers, took six howitzers, two field guns and lighter pieces, as well as some prisoners. South of this the British took another section of German trenches, and by a counterattack won back trenches to the east beyond Mouquet Farm which they had lost on previous days.

On the same date the French took the village of Deniécourt, making the third village captured by them in two days. During these operations over 1,600 prisoners were taken, including twenty-five officers.

Owing to the weather conditions, little progress was made by the Allied forces on September 19, 1916. Raids were successful, however, on enemy trenches northeast of Bethune, and the French made some advance and took prisoners east of Berny. The Germans made five spirited attacks against the French front in Champagne where the Russian detachments were posted, all of which were repulsed with heavy losses by the guns and machine guns. From 9 in the morning until nightfall of the following day the Germans continued their assaults on the French lines, but only here and there did they make even temporary progress.

On Thursday, September 21, 1916, the British line in the west was again advanced. A section of the German front about a mile long was attacked between Martinpuich and Flers. Two lines of German trenches were captured in this push. Meanwhile the French continued to develop their hemming in of Combles, nibbling their way forward, taking prisoners and guns, a slow but determined advance that the Germans could not restrain.

British guns displayed great activity on Friday, September 22, 1916, when they destroyed ten hostile gun pits, damaged severely fourteen others, and blew up five ammunition pits. About the same time fifty aeroplanes raided an important railroad junction, destroyed several ammunition trains, and caused violent explosions and conflagrations.

September 25, 1916, was a notable day in the history of the Allied advance in the west, when French and British forces (p. 027) again assumed the offensive. The German positions were stormed on a front of about six miles between Combles and Martinpuich to a depth of more than a mile. The strongly fortified villages of Les Bœufs and Morval with several lines of trenches were captured. Morval, standing on a height north of Combles, with its subterranean quarries and maze of wire entanglements, constituted a formidable citadel of defense. By the capture of these villages German communication with Combles was cut off. The British took a large number of prisoners and immense quantities of war material.

About noon of the same date the French attacked the German positions between Combles and Rancourt and the defenses from the latter village to the Somme. Rancourt was taken after a sharp struggle, and the French lines were advanced to the northeast of Combles as far as the southern outskirts of Frégicourt. East of the Bethune road the French positions were extended for half a mile, while farther south several systems of German trenches were captured in the vicinity of the Cabal du Nord.

On the second day of the Allied offensive the French and British continued their successful advance. Combles, which the Allied troops had been closing in on for some days, was captured. Here an enormous quantity of booty, munitions, and supplies which the Germans had stored away in the subterranean regions of the place fell to the victors.

The subsequent capture of Gueudecourt by the French and British forces completed the notable advance of the Allies on September 25, 1916. They were now in possession of the ridge that dominates the valley of Bapaume, having cleared a stretch of ground on the far side of the crest to a distance of half a mile. In the night of September 26, 1916, the British troops captured Thiepval and the strongly fortified ridge east of it, which included an important stronghold, the Zollern Redoubt. The British reported the capture of over 1,500 prisoners during the two days' fighting.[Back to Contents]

(p. 028) CHAPTER VII


September 30, 1916, marked the close of the third month of Allied fighting in the Somme region. Since September 15, 1916, seven new German divisions were brought against the British and five against the French. According to reports from British headquarters in France, the British troops had engaged thirty-eight German divisions, of which twenty-nine had been forced to withdraw in a broken and exhausted state. During the three months' campaign the Allied forces captured over 60,000 German prisoners, of which number the British claimed to have taken 26,735. Besides other war material the Allies recovered from the Somme battle fields 29 heavy guns and howitzers, 92 field guns and howitzers, 103 trench artillery pieces, and 397 machine guns.

In the afternoon of October 1, 1916, the British troops assaulted the double-trench system of the main German third line over a front of about 3,000 yards from beyond Le Sars to a point 1,000 yards or so east of Eaucourt l'Abbaye. The British troops in the center, directly in front of Eaucourt l'Abbaye, were held up by the complicated defenses there, but the troops on the right, carrying everything before them, swept over the main lines of trench east of the place until well beyond it they occupied positions on the north, which they held against all German assaults. The center was meanwhile reenforced by the arrival of "tanks," which accomplished useful work in clearing the trenches; these were then occupied by the British troops. On October 2, 1916, German forces succeeded in pressing through a gap in the British line, and again occupied trenches before the village, while the British continued to hold their positions on the farther side, some of which were a thousand yards to the rear of the enemy. The following day the British heavily bombarded Eaucourt l'Abbaye and drew the cordon tighter around it. October 4, 1916, they (p. 029) assumed the offensive, and driving the Germans out of their trenches, filled up the gap and entered the town. Eaucourt l'Abbaye, with its old monastic buildings furnished with immense cellars, crypts and vaults, offered admirable conditions for prolonged defense. More important than the occupation of this place was the capture by the British of the positions around it with over 3,000 yards of the long-prepared German third line. These gains were won by the British troops at considerable cost in casualties, while the Germans also lost heavily.

The important part played by the "tanks" in this successful operation is worthy of record. One of these machines becoming disabled, continued for some time to operate as a stationary fortress. Later the "tank" became untenable and the crew were forced to abandon it. While this was being done the commanding officer of the "tank" was somewhat severely wounded so that he could not proceed. Two unwounded members of the crew refused to leave the wounded officer, and for more than two days they stayed with him in a shell hole between the lines. While hiding in this dangerous position the wounded officer was again struck by a bullet, but it was found impossible to get him away until the British captured the positions around the town.

There was intermittent shelling of the British front south of the Ancre during the night of October 4, 1916. A successful raid was carried out by a London territorial battalion in the Vimy area on the following day, and an assault on the British trenches east of St. Eloi was repulsed. October 6, 1916, was unmarked by any important offensive on the part of the belligerents. The Germans continued to shell heavily the British front south of the Ancre. Three British raiding parties succeeded in penetrating German trenches in the Loos area and south of Arras.

An important success was won by the British on the following day, October 7, 1916, when Le Sars—their twenty-second village—was captured. The Germans evidently anticipated the attack, for they had massed a large number of troops on a short front. The town itself was held by the Fourth Ersatz Division, and the ground behind Eaucourt l'Abbaye by a Bavarian division. The place, though strongly fortified, did not offer the resistance that (p. 030) the British troops expected. Their first forward sweep carried them to a sunken road that ran across the village at about its middle, and a second rush after the barrage had lifted brought them through the rest of the place and about 500 yards beyond on the Bapaume road. In Le Sars itself six officers and between 300 and 400 other ranks were made prisoners by the British. The Bavarians between Le Sars and Eaucourt fought with stubborn valor and gave the British troops plenty of hard work. Owing to the complication of fortified positions, trenches, and sunken roads, the ground in this section of the fighting area presented many difficulties. To the northeast of Eaucourt the determined pressure of the British troops caused the Bavarian resistance to crumble and the victors swept on and out along the road to Le Barque. At other points the British pierced the German lines and occupied positions midway between Eaucourt and the Butte de Warlencourt. To the left, a mile or so back, in what was known as the Mouquin Farm region, the British troops pushed forward in the direction of Pys and Miraumont, and all that part of Regina Trench over which there had been much stiff fighting was held by them. German troops had recovered a small portion of the front-line trenches they had lost to the north of Les Bœufs. In this sector on the night of October 7, 1916, the British guns shattered two attempted counterattacks and gathered in three officers, 170 men, and three machine guns. To the north of the Somme the French infantry cooperating with the British army attacked from the front of Morval-Bouchavesnes and carried their line over 1,300 yards northeast of Morval. During this advance over 400 prisoners, including ten officers, were captured, and also fifteen machine guns. Large gatherings of German troops reported north of Saillisel were caught by the concentrated fire from the French batteries.

In the region of Gueudecourt the British advanced their lines and beat off a furious attack made on the Schwaben Redoubt north of Thiepval on October 8, 1916. This repulse of the Germans was followed by the British troops winning some ground north of the Courcelette-Warlencourt road. In two days they took prisoner thirteen officers and 866 of other ranks.

General Sir Douglas Haig (left), commanding the British armies in France and Belgium, and General Joffre, supreme commander of the French armies. In December, 1916, Joffre was made a Marshal of France.

(p. 031) The British continued their daily policy of making raids on the German trenches. Several were carried out on October 10, 1916, in the Neuville-St. Vaast and Loos regions, where trenches were invaded, three machine-gun emplacements destroyed, and a large number of prisoners taken. On the same date there was intense artillery activity on the Somme between the French and Germans. The French fought six air fights and bombed the St. Vaast Wood. To the south of the river the French troops took the offensive and attacked on a front of over three miles between Berny-en-Santerre and Chaulnes. Here the French infantry by vigorous fighting captured the enemy position and certain points beyond it. They also captured the town of Bovent, and occupied the northern and western outskirts of Ablaincourt and most of the woods of Chaulnes. During this offensive more than 1,250 Germans were taken.[Back to Contents]



Unceasing activity on the part of the Germans on October 11, 1916, showed that the recent successes of the Allies had by no means dampened their ardor or impaired their morale. All day long they shelled the British front south of the Ancre, especially north of Courcelette. Here the Germans attempted an attack, but were caught on their own parapets and stopped by the British barrage. Two German battery positions were destroyed here by bombing from aeroplanes. Two British aircraft engaged seven hostile machines, one of which was destroyed and two others were severely damaged. Behind the German front British aeroplanes bombed railway stations, trains, and billets, losing during these air fights four machines.

In the afternoon of this date, October 11, 1916, the British troops by a determined push gained 1,000 yards between Les Bœufs and Le Transloy, having gained all the territory they set out to win. The advance, which was won at a comparatively (p. 032) small cost, brought the British lines within 500 yards of one of the few conspicuous landmarks in this desolate region—a cemetery about half a mile from Le Transloy.

The English continued to make night raids on the German trenches. Five such raids undertaken October 11-12, 1916, in the Messines, Bois Grenier, and Haisnes areas were all successful; heavy casualties were inflicted on the Germans and a number of prisoners were taken. During the day of October 12, 1916, the British attacked the low heights between their front trenches and the Bapaume-Péronne road, where they gained ground and made captures. On this date the French infantry north of the Somme made progress to the west of Sailly-Saillisel. South of the Somme French forces took the offensive on October 14, 1916, delivering an attack west of Belloy-en-Santerre, by which they gained possession of the first German line on a front of about a mile and a quarter. By another attack they captured the village of Génermont and the sugar refinery to the northeast of Ablaincourt. In these two attacks nearly 1,000 prisoners were taken, including seventeen officers.

On the same date British forces in the neighborhood of the Stuff Redoubt and Schwaben Redoubt cleared two lines of German communication trenches for a distance of nearly 200 yards. During these operations, which were carried out by a single company, the British took two officers and 303 of other ranks. In the evening the British advanced their lines northeast of Gueudecourt and made further captures of men and material.

On Sunday, October 15, 1916, south of the Somme, the Germans made desperate attempts to regain the trenches they had lost to the French southeast of Belloy-en-Santerre, but the attacks were shattered by the French artillery.

French assaults by the German troops were repulsed on the following day when the French carried a wood between Génermont and Ablaincourt, taking prisoner four officers and 110 of other ranks, as well as a number of machine guns. The German aircraft were especially active on this day and the French fought seven engagements. In the Lassigny sector a German machine hit by French guns fell in flames behind its own lines.

(p. 033) The clear weather which prevailed during the day of October 16, 1916, tempted British airmen to renewed activity. They bombed successfully railway lines, stations, and factories. During the numerous fights in the air three German machines were destroyed and one was driven to earth, while two kite balloons were forced down in flames. For these successful exploits the British paid somewhat heavily. One of their machines was brought down by German gunfire and six were missing at the end of the day.

Heavy bombardments on both sides, trench raids, and counterattacks, which resulted in some successes for the Allied troops, marked the following days. On October 21, 1916, the Germans lost heavily in an attempt to recover Sailly-Saillisel from the French. Three regiments of the Second Bavarian Division recently arrived in this sector were shattered one after the other by French curtain and machine-gun fire. South of the Somme a brilliant little success was achieved by the French north of Chaulnes. Early in the afternoon the French infantry after a heavy bombardment of the enemy lines pushed forward and gained a foothold in the Bois Étoile which was held by troops of Saxony.

The Chaulnes garrison attempted to come to the support of the Saxons, but were driven back by the destructive fire from French batteries. Generals Marchand and Ste. Clair Deville, who were wounded in fighting in the Somme region, continued to hold their commands and to direct the action of the French troops under them.

Early in the morning of October 21, 1916, German troops in considerable force attacked the Schwaben Redoubt north of Thiepval occupied by the British, and at several points succeeded in entering the trenches. But in a short time the British troops by a vigorous attack drove them out, capturing five officers and seventy-nine of other ranks. A subsequent attack by the British, delivered on a front of some 5,000 yards between Schwaben Redoubt and Le Sars, advanced the British line from 300 to 500 yards. Sixteen officers and over 1,000 German prisoners were taken during this operation, while the British losses were said (p. 034) to be slight. On this same date British aircraft showed great activity, bombing German communications, an important railroad junction, and an ammunition depot, while there were several air duels in which the British destroyed three machines and drove others behind their lines. Two British aeroplanes were not heard from again.

In the afternoon of the following day, October 22, 1916, the British right wing advanced east of Gueudecourt and Les Bœufs and captured 1,000 yards of German trenches. On the same day British airmen bombed two railway stations behind the enemy's lines, hitting a train and working great damage to buildings and rolling stock. The British airmen in a series of engagements brought down seven German machines, damaging others and forcing them to descend. At the close of the day eight British machines were missing.[Back to Contents]



On October 24, 1916, on the Verdun front a great victory was won by the French in the capture of Fort Douaumont. This stronghold, which had been termed by the Germans "the main pillar of the Verdun defenses," had been captured by the Brandenburgers in the last week of February, 1916. The French lost the fort, but they clung desperately to the approaches, which for weeks were the scenes of bloody struggles. The fort was retaken by the Allied troops on May 22, 1916, but after two days of furious bombardment and the attacks of fresh German troops they were driven from the place. From that time until the French recaptured it on October 24, 1916, it had remained in German possession. Shortly before noon of the last date the French launched their attack on the right bank of the Meuse after an intense artillery preparation. The German line, attacked on a front of about four and a half miles, was broken (p. 035) through everywhere to a depth which attained at the middle a distance of two miles.

General Nivelle had intrusted the plans for the recapture of Fort Douaumont to General Mangin. Artillery preparation began on October 21, 1916, when the air was clear and favored observation by captive balloons and aeroplanes. For two days the fort and its approaches were subjected to an almost continuous bombardment of French guns. On October 23, 1916, the explosion of a bomb started a fire in Fort Douaumont. The shelters covering the quarries of Haudromont were destroyed and also the battery at Damloup, while the ravines were blown to pieces. Owing to the wide extent of the French attacks the Germans seemed to have been in doubt as to the point from which the main assault would be launched. Gradually the French "felt out" the positions of the 130 German batteries, a great number of which they destroyed.

The troops selected by the French for their attack belonged to divisions that had been fighting for some time in this sector. According to the French official account of the storming of the fort, from left to right was the division of General Guyot de Salins, reenforced on the left by the Eleventh Infantry. This division was made up of Zouaves and Colonial sharpshooters, among them the Moroccan regiment which had previously been honored for heroic conduct at Dixmude and Fleury, and to whom fell the honor of attacking Fort Douaumont. Then came the division commanded by General du Passage, consisting of troops from all parts of France. A division commanded by General Bardmelle, composed of troops of the line and light infantry, came next, and a battalion of Singhalese also took an equal part in the attack.

At 11.40 a. m. the attack was launched in a heavy fog. It had been planned that the first stroke should take in the quarries of Haudromont, the height to the north of the ravine of La Dame, the intrenchment north of the farm of Thiaumont, the battery of La Fausse-Côte, and the ravine of Bazite. In the second phase, after an hour's stop to consolidate the first gains, the French troops were to press on to the crest of the heights to the north of (p. 036) the ravine of Couleuvre, the village of Douaumont, the fort of Douaumont, the dam and pond of Vaux, and on to the battery of Damloup.

The French attack succeeded in carrying out the first phase of the plan with insignificant losses, and proceeded almost immediately to advance to the second objective. "At 2.30 p. m.," said a French eyewitness of the attack, "the fog lifted and the observers could see a magic spectacle. It was our soldiers, filing like so many shadows along the crest of Douaumont, approaching the fort from all sides. Arriving at the fort, they quickly established themselves within, and through field glasses could be seen the long column of prisoners as they filed out.

"The French Fourth Regiment, charged with taking the quarries of Haudromont, went beyond their objective, which was the trench of Balfourier. The division under General Guyot de Salins had taken Thiaumont and Douaumont, while that of General du Passage had seized the wood of Caillette and advanced to the heights of La Fausse-Côte.

"Steadily foot by foot the French infantry pushed on, driving the enemy before them and taking 3,500 prisoners on the way, till at last after a severe struggle around Fort Douaumont they shot all of its defenders who refused to surrender and won it back to France."

In the space of four hours the French had recaptured territory which had taken the Germans eight months to conquer at a cost of several hundred thousand of their best troops. The Germans explained their defeat on the ground that the fog hampered their observation and barrage, while the French artillery had set fire to a store of benzine in the fort, which forced the garrison to evacuate.

In addition to the fort and village adjoining, the French forces captured the Haudromont quarries which had been in possession of the Germans since April 18, 1916.[Back to Contents]

(p. 037) CHAPTER X


On the Somme front the operations of the Allied troops were impeded by heavy rains, but artillery duels continued daily; the British airmen made many raids on enemy positions and were successful in bombing depots and railways. October 27, 1916, an aerial combat took place in which many machines were engaged. Five aeroplanes fell during the fight, two of which were British.

On Saturday morning, October 28, 1916, the British troops carried out a successful operation northeast of Les Bœufs, which resulted in the capture of enemy trenches. The Germans driven from their position were caught by the British rifle fire and lost two officers and 138 of other ranks. On the following day the British won another trench from the Germans to the northeast of Les Bœufs.

In summing up the gains of the Allies during the month of October, 1916, it will be noted that they had made steady progress. The British forces had won the high ground in the vicinity of the Butte de Warlencourt, which brought them nearer to the important military position of Bapaume. The French had by ceaseless activity pushed forward their lines toward Le Transloy. During four months from July 1 to November 1, 1916, the Franco-British troops in the course of the fighting on the Somme had captured 71,532 German soldiers and 1,449 officers. The material taken by the Allies during this period included 173 field guns, 130 heavy guns, 215 trench mortars, and 981 machine guns.

Verdun Front, February 1, 1917.

After the French victory on October 24, 1916, when Fort Douaumont was captured from the Germans, it was inevitable that Fort Vaux on the same front must also fall, and this took place on November 2, 1916. For some days Fort Vaux had been subjected to intense artillery fire by the French, and the German (p. 039) commander ordered the evacuation of the fortress during the night. It was in defending this stronghold against overwhelming odds that the French Major Raynal and his garrison won the praise of even their enemies. The German direct attack on the fort began March 9, 1916, and for ninety days Major Raynal held it against the ceaseless attacks of Germany's finest troops backed not by batteries, but by parks of artillery. Only when the fort was in ruins and the garrison could fight no longer were the German troops able to occupy the work. The French Government marked its appreciation of Major Raynal's heroic defense by publishing his name and by conferring on him the grade of Commander of the Legion of Honor, a distinction usually reserved only for divisional generals. The German Crown Prince appreciating Major Raynal's heroic qualities permitted him on his surrender to retain his sword.

North of the Somme, despite the persistent bad weather, the French troops on November 1 and 2, 1916, captured German trenches northeast of Les Bœufs and a strongly organized system of trenches on the eastern outskirts of St. Pierre Vaast Wood. By these operations the French took 736 prisoners, of whom twenty were officers, and also twelve machine guns.

The British forces on the Somme on the night of November 2, 1916, by a surprise attack captured a German trench east of Gueudecourt and carried out a successful raid on German trenches near Arras. British aircraft, which had been actively engaged in bombing German batteries, in the course of several combats in the air destroyed two hostile machines. On November 4, 1916, the Germans attempted by a counterattack to regain the trenches won by the British near Gueudecourt, but were driven off with heavy losses, considering the number of troops engaged. The Germans left on the field more than a hundred dead, and the British captured thirty prisoners and four machine guns. British aircraft, which continued to operate despite the heavy weather that prevailed, suffered heavily on November 4, 1916. One of their machines which had attacked and destroyed a German aeroplane was so badly damaged that it fell within German lines and four other British aircraft did not return.

(p. 040) German attempts to wrest from the French the trenches they had won on November 1, 1916, on the western edge of St. Pierre Vaast Wood were unsuccessful, though at some points the German troops succeeded in penetrating the lines. But their foothold in the French trenches was only temporary, and they were driven out with considerable losses.

On Sunday, November 5, 1916, the French took the offensive south of the village of Saillisel, attacking simultaneously on three sides the St. Pierre Vaast Wood, which had been strongly organized by the German troops. As a result of this spirited attack the French captured in succession three trenches defending the northern horn of the wood, and the entire line of hostile positions on the southwestern outskirts of the wood. At this point the fighting was of the most desperate description. The Germans fought with great bravery, making violent counterattacks, which the French repulsed with bomb and bayonet, and capturing during the operations on this front 522 prisoners, including fifteen officers.

The British troops, which had won 1,000 yards of a position on the high ground in the neighborhood of the Butte de Warlencourt on November 5, 1916, were forced to relinquish a great part of their gains when the Germans made a violent attack on the following day.

North of the Somme the French made important advances between Les Bœufs and Sailly-Saillisel. To the south on November 6, 1916, in the midst of a heavy rain they launched a dashing attack on a front of two and a half miles. German positions extending from the Chaulnes Wood to the southeast of the Ablaincourt sugar refinery were carried, and the whole of the villages of Ablaincourt and Pressoir were occupied by the French infantry. Pushing forward their lines they also captured the cemetery to the east of Ablaincourt, which had been made into a stronghold by the Germans. The French positions were farther carried to the south of the sugar refinery as far as the outskirts of Gomiécourt. In these successful operations the French captured over 500 prisoners, including a number of officers.[Back to Contents]

(p. 041) CHAPTER XI


In the Ancre region the British won some notable victories on November 12, 1916, when Beaumont-Hamel was taken, which the Germans considered an even more impregnable stronghold than Thiepval. The British also swept all before them on the south side of the Ancre, capturing the lesser village of St. Pierre Divion. The defeats which the British had suffered in this region during July of 1916 were amply atoned for by these victories. Beaumont-Hamel lies in the fold of a ridge and was honeycombed with dugouts and the defenses so cunningly prepared that it was extremely difficult for the British artillery to destroy them. Under Beaumont-Hamel there is an elaborate system of caves or cellars dating from ancient days, and it was the emergence of the German troops from the dugouts and these lairs that made the attack of the Ulster troops in July unavailing. Attacking simultaneously northward, down the nearer slope, and eastward directly against the face of the main German line before Beaumont-Hamel, the British troops captured the whole position at once.

The entire front on which the British attacked was over 8,000 yards. On the right, or east, the advance began from the western end of Regina Trench from the British position about 700 yards to the north of Stuff Redoubt. From this point a German trench known as the Hansa line ran northwestward to the Ancre, directly opposite the village of Beaucourt. On the extreme right, north of Stuff Redoubt, to reach that trench meant an advance of only a score or so of yards. To the westward, above Schwaben Redoubt half a mile, the advance was nearly 1,000 yards. By St. Pierre Divion, along the valley of the Ancre itself, the advance was over 1,500 yards. Everywhere in this sector the British troops were successful. They gained in this offensive a stretch of 3,000 yards north of the Ancre to an average depth of about a mile. The victory of the British troops was especially (p. 042) notable, because they had struck frontally at the main German first line with tier upon tier of trenches which the Germans had strongly fortified and wired for two years past. One English county battalion alone to the south of Beaumont-Hamel took 300 prisoners, and in the village itself 700 were captured, mostly soldiers from Silesia and East Prussia. At the close of the day over 2,000 German prisoners had been taken, and the ground won by the British amounted to about four square miles. During the night of November 12, 1916, and during the day following in the clean-up of the labyrinthian defenses which the Germans had skillfully constructed 2,000 more prisoners were added to the number already captured in this sector. The British advance had brought them to the outskirts of Beaucourt-sur-Ancre, which was taken on November 14, 1916. Pushing on through the village to the left of it, the British troops advanced over the high ground to the northeast of Beaumont-Hamel, on to the road from Serre to Beaucourt, having gathered in another thousand prisoners on the way.

During the two days' fighting in this region no British troops won greater distinction than the Scots and the Royal Naval Division. In all the German lines in France there was no more formidable position than the angle immediately above the Ancre, where Beaumont-Hamel lay in a hollow of the hill. On the morning of November 13, 1916, the Royal Naval Division attacked the stretch from just below the "Y" ravine on the south of Beaumont-Hamel to the north side of the Ancre. After a preliminary bombardment, which played havoc with the German barbed-wire entanglements protecting their front line, the British naval troops swept over the line with a rush as if the barriers had been made of straw. The British right rested on the Ancre as they swept across the valley bottom. Northwest, where there was a rise of ground, the center of the line had to attack diagonally along the slope of the hill. At the top of the slope there was a German redoubt hidden in a curve, and invisible in front, composed of a triangle of three deep pits with concrete emplacements for machine guns which could sweep the slope in all directions. This formidable redoubt was situated immediately (p. 043) behind the German front trench, reaching back to, and resting on, the second. At all points the British naval troops carried the front trench by storm. On the right they rushed along the valley bottom and the lower part of the slope, carrying line after line of trench on to the dip where a sunken road ran along their front going up from the Ancre to Beaumont-Hamel on the left.

Here for a short space of time the British troops rested while others, also of the Naval Division, came up and swept through them on and up the slope until they had won a line beyond. After this the first line caught up with them again, and they all swept on together in a splendid charge that covered a good 1,500 yards and which brought them to the very edge of Beaucourt. It was during this operation that a British battalion commander was wounded, but continued to lead and animate his men during the entire advance.

Meanwhile the British right center was held up by the redoubt. The German machine guns, while checking the troops in front of them, also swept the ground along the face of the slope to the left.

Here the troops of the Royal Naval Division suffered badly, but they continued to advance under the withering fire, winning the first and second line trenches, and then, as supports came up on the right, braving the machine-gun fire, they pushed on across the dip and sunken road up the slope toward Beaucourt. Here all the troops made a junction, forming a line on the Beaucourt-Beaumont-Hamel road. Back of this line the Germans still held the central parts of the trenches, over the two ends of which the British troops had swept. The redoubt still remained intact and other important positions were in German hands.

On the night of the 13th the British battalion commander who had been wounded during the advance gathered together 600 men, all that could be spared, from established positions, and with these troops he purposed to attempt a farther advance. It was while he was gathering these men together that the officer received a second wound, but still refused to retire from the field.

(p. 044) At early dawn of November 14, 1916, this officer led his 600 men against the village of Beaucourt. In less than a quarter of an hour's hand-to-hand fighting the British troops had won the village. When the sun shone on the scene of the struggle the British troops were digging themselves in on the farther side of Beaucourt. It was only then that the brave battalion commander who had successfully led the attack with four wounds in his body had to be taken to the rear.

It was on November 14, 1916, in the fighting on the Ancre that the Scots won special distinction. Their line in the fighting was just above that taken by the Naval Division, and included Beaumont-Hamel itself and the famous "Y" ravine. This ravine was such a formidable place that it merits a somewhat detailed description. Imagine a great gash in the earth some 7,000 or 8,000 yards in total length. In form like a great "Y" lying on its side, the prongs at the top projected down to the German front line while the stem ran back connecting with the road through the dip which goes from Beaumont-Hamel on the north to the Ancre. At the forked or western end, projecting down to the front, there is a chasm more than thirty feet deep, with walls so precipitous that in some parts they overhang. The Germans had burrowed into the sides of the earth and established lairs far below the thirty feet level of the ravine, where they were practically out of reach of shell fire coming from whatever direction. In some instances they had hollowed out great caves large enough to contain fully a battalion and a half of men. In addition, the thoroughgoing Germans had made a tunnel from the forward end of the ravine to their own fourth line in the rear. Altogether the position was admirably adapted to sustain a long defense and it was owing to the darkness when the British attacked, and which took the Germans by surprise, that the stronghold was captured. The violent artillery bombardment by the British before the attack had battered all the ordinary trenches and positions to pieces without effecting any serious damage to the underground shelters. Following the bombardment, the Scotch troops broke over the German defenses, meeting their only check in the onward rush at the ends of the "Y" ravine. On (p. 045) the south of this narrow point, keeping step with the Naval Division on their right, they swept across the first and second lines to the third. Here there was stiff fighting for a time, and when the Scots had struggled forward they left behind a trench full of German dead. On the north side every foot of ground was contested before the third line was reached, and then from both sides the ravine was attacked with bombs. At a point just behind the fork of the "Y" the first breach was made, and down the sheer sides of the ravine the British troops dropped with bayonet in hand. Then followed a stubborn struggle, for the Germans filled both sides of the chasm. Bombing, bayoneting, and grappling hand to hand continued for some time, the Germans despite their bravery being slowly forced back. At this stage of the fighting the British delivered a new frontal attack against the narrow bit of the front line still unbroken at the forward end of the "Y." As the Germans at that end turned to repel the assault the Scotch troops in the ravine rushed forward to be joined presently by other British troops that had by this time broken into the ravine, when there followed a scene of indescribable confusion. The struggle, however, was of short duration, when the Germans, at first singly and then in groups, flung down their arms and surrendered. All the Germans visible were made prisoners, but it was known that the tunnel and the shelters and dugouts contained many men. A shrewd Scotch private who had lived in Germany succeeded by strategy in drawing out most of the Germans from their hiding places. The canny Scot took a German officer who had surrendered, and leading him to suspected dugouts bade him order the men inside to come out. This ruse worked happily and at one dugout fifty Germans issued forth and surrendered.

While this struggle in the ravine was going on, other Scotch troops had swarmed over the German lines higher up, and by noon had taken possession of the site—there is no village—of Beaumont-Hamel. The place is underlaid with many subterranean hiding places, and it was during the process of gathering in the Germans concealed in these underground shelters that some extraordinary incidents took place. One example of personal (p. 046) bravery at this time must be cited. While the fighting was still going on a man of the British Signal Corps was running telephone lines up, and had just reached his goal in a captured German trench when he was struck down before the mouth of a dugout. Just as he collapsed a German officer appeared from the depths, and "Signals" could see that there were a number of German soldiers behind him. By a supreme effort the wounded man struggled to his feet and ordered the officer to surrender. This the German was quite ready to do. The Scot then pulled himself together and with his remaining strength telephoned an explanation of the situation back over the line which he had just laid. Having done this he stood guard over the German officer in the opening of the dugout, keeping others blocked behind him, until relieved of his charges by the arrival of help. As a whole the Scots took over 1,000 prisoners and gathered in fifty-four machine guns in the day's fighting.

No doubt the British successes in this area were gained by the unexpectedness and dash of their attacks which took the Germans by surprise. The foggy weather which prevailed had hampered the Germans so that they were unable to observe the movements of British troops.

In the region to the south of the Ancre a relief was going on, so that there was double the usual number of Germans in the trenches. The relieving division, the Two Hundred and Twenty-third, one of the Ludendorff's new formations and going into action for the first time as a division, was caught within a few minutes after getting to the trenches. Again the "tanks" were found of special service, though owing to the heavy mud encountered during the advance they were considerably hampered in their movements. At one point north of the Ancre a "tank" was useful in clearing the German first-line trench, and at another point south of the river one pushed forward and got ahead of the British infantry into a position strongly held by the Germans who swarmed around it and tried to blow it up with bombs. The "tank" stood off the furious assaults until the British infantry came up, when it became busy and helped the troops clean up the trenches and dugouts in the vicinity.[Back to Contents]

(p. 047) CHAPTER XII


While the British were winning one of their most important victories on the Somme on the French front both north and south there was continued activity. The whole village of Saillisel, over which there had been prolonged fighting, was now in French hands. Heavy attacks by the German troops assisted by "flame throwers" were repulsed. Southeast of Berny the Germans succeeded in penetrating the French trenches, but were thrust out by a keen counterattack.

During the fighting in these sectors the French took 220 prisoners, seven officers, and eight machine guns.

North of the Somme the Germans attacked from Les Bœufs to Bouchavesnes, evidently with the purpose of forestalling a new French offensive beyond Saillisel, which would endanger the left of the German line opposed to the British, by the menace of being turned on the south. Regiments of the Prussian Guard Infantry Division attacked in the forenoon and in the afternoon along the six-mile front. But the French forces remained firm and unwavering on both wings, and the Germans could gain no headway against their curtain and machine-gun fire. Around the St. Pierre Vaast Wood, in the center of the line, the fighting reached the greatest intensity. The Germans displayed unyielding bravery, and despite very heavy losses succeeded in capturing outlying trenches along the western fringe, and in the northern corner of the wood. These positions afforded them little advantage while Saillisel and the southwest fringe of the wood were firmly held by French troops.

South of the Somme from Ablaincourt to Chaulnes Wood, a distance of two and a half miles, the Germans pounded the French positions almost unceasingly for forty-eight hours. At 6 o'clock in the morning of November 15, 1916, the Germans after a final shower of tear shells endeavored to drive in their (p. 048) wedge. The main efforts of the attacking contingent were concentrated on Ablaincourt and Pressoir. The French were quite prepared for the onslaught and the oncoming waves of German troops wavered and broke under the fiery storm of French shells. Despite their heavy losses the Germans after repeated failures succeeded about noonday in rushing the eastern portion of Pressoir. Renewing the attack after a short interval, other portions of the place were occupied by them. During the night, the small force of French troops which had held the village all day against overwhelming odds was reenforced, and in the early hours of November 16, 1916, by a brilliant counterattack the Germans were swept out of the village and the French line was once more solidified. The Germans during two days' fighting had displayed conspicuous courage, but the twelve attacks they made on Pressoir, where they gained a temporary advantage, cost them heavily. Certain regiments, among others the One Hundred and Eleventh Prussian, lost 60 per cent. of their effectives.

On November 15 and 16, 1916, the British continued to make gains north of the Ancre. One division advanced a mile, and took over 1,000 prisoners at a cost of about 450 casualties. On November 16, 1916, Sir Douglas Haig reported that in twenty-four hours the British had taken six German officers and 297 of other ranks. In the afternoon of this date the Germans launched a vigorous counterattack, and forced the British to relinquish a part of the ground east of the Butte de Warlencourt, which had been won on November 14, 1916. During the week the British aeroplanes were constantly active and some important successes were won over enemy aircraft. On November 16, 1916, two junctions on the German lines of communication were bombed, and railways and aerodromes were attacked with bombs and machine-gun fire by day and night. German aircraft, which had displayed considerable activity at this period, fought a number of aerial engagements with British flyers with disastrous results to themselves. Three German machines were brought down on the British side, and two fell within the German lines. The British also drove down five more in a damaged condition, (p. 049) while their own losses in these air combats amounted to only three machines.

According to the British official report 6,190 Germans had been made prisoner during four days' fighting in this sector.

On a front of about a mile and a half the British troops on November 18, 1916, again forged ahead for an average distance of 500 yards or so on the south side of the Ancre. On the north of the river they pushed on at daybreak through fast-falling snow until the British line was now within three-quarters of a mile to the northeast of Beaucourt and 500 yards beyond the Bois d'Holland, which was in British hands. The last advance had brought them to the outskirts of Grandcourt and here bomb fighting at close range went on throughout the day of November 18, 1916.

To the west of this village ran the original main German second line, which lower down passed through such famous places as the Stuff and Zollern Redoubts. With its parallel lines of trenches and complications it was quite as formidable as the main first line constructed about the same time two years before. The British had already broken through the line up to a point some 600 yards north of Stuff Redoubt. On November 18, 1916, their troops again smashed the line for a distance of more than 500 yards. The Germans still held positions on the line to the south of Grandcourt, but the British had penetrated so far to the right and to the left that the line could no longer serve as a barrier to the village. The British advance was begun about 6 a. m., preceded by a short but fierce bombardment of the German line, and which according to the account afterward given by prisoners caused the Germans to seek the shelter of their dugouts. Troops from the British Isles and Canada who made the advance together were among the Germans before the latter could issue from their shelters after the withering storm of shells. At different places savage hand-to-hand fighting went on in the trenches. On the sides of the ravine below Grandcourt, where the slopes were swept by machine-gun fire, the British were unable to advance. But for some two miles to the right they swept all resistance away. Especially important were the British (p. 050) gains on the extreme right, which gave them possession of another stage of the descent along the minor spur running in a northerly direction. The whole of the south side of the Ancre to the edge of Grandcourt was now firmly held by British troops.

In the night of November 21, 1916, after a heavy preparatory bombardment by trench mortars, the Germans carried out a successful trench raid on British lines south of St. Elie. A considerable part of the British front-line trench was demolished by German fire and twenty-six British were taken prisoner by the raiders.

The clear weather that prevailed along the Somme front at this time encouraged German, French, and British airmen to engage in raiding expeditions. On November 24, 1916, British machines attacked and routed a formation of twenty German aeroplanes, and held possession of the field without losing one machine. At other points the British flyers smashed eight German machines and drove several down to earth in a damaged condition. In these encounters the British lost three aircraft of various types.

In Lorraine three British aeroplanes fought an engagement with a considerable number of German machines. The result was that the British drove down an enemy machine in the forest of Gremecy, remaining masters of the field without incurring any losses themselves. On the Somme front there was incessant activity among the French airmen, who fought about forty engagements, during which they brought down five German machines. Quartermaster Sergeant Flachaire destroyed his sixth machine near Manancourt and Lieutenant Doullin his tenth south of Vaux Wood.[Back to Contents]



November, 1916, the fifth month of the Battle of the Somme, drew to an end with fog and drizzling rain, the whole fighting area a drab expanse of mud and pools of water. For two months there had not been an interval of more than three or four days of fine weather at a time, and the ground had grown steadily more and more water-logged, which greatly hampered military operations. Except on the Ancre, where the British had taken 7,000 prisoners, no other important victories had been won by them, but each day marked some gain, and in the aggregate the ground won, the casualties inflicted, and the slow but continuous attrition of the enemy were of importance. The British claimed that in November alone they had taken prisoner between 9,000 and 10,000 Germans and had put out of action fully four times as many.

The wastage of the Allies' aircraft in November, 1916, was considerably less than in any of the previous four months. In the official reports it was definitely stated that 148 British, German, and French machines had been brought down. Of this total thirty-two British machines were admitted by General Headquarters to have been lost or were counted missing. As an offset to these losses the British airmen had destroyed twenty-four, captured seven, and brought down damaged twenty-six German machines. In addition to these the Royal Naval Air Service operating under French military authorities had brought down five hostile aeroplanes.

It was claimed by the French that they had destroyed, captured, and driven to earth in a wrecked condition fifty German machines. Lieutenant Guynemer continued to hold his lead among French airmen, having scored in November, 1916, his twenty-third victory. In three days of this month he brought down six German aeroplanes. Guynemer's victories in the air (p. 052) had inspired other members of the French flying corps to fresh deeds of daring, and during November, 1916, Lieutenant Nungesser and Adjutant Dorme destroyed their fifteenth and sixteenth hostile machines respectively. In the only reports published by the Germans during this month it was claimed that they had destroyed or put out of action thirty-six hostile machines.

On December 1, 1916, British troops successfully raided German trenches south of Armentières. On the same date the Germans attempted a trench raid northeast of Neuve Chapelle which was beaten off by the British, who inflicted some losses on the raiders. On the French front their airmen were active in bombing enemy positions.

A German attack was made in force on December 3, 1916, after a heavy bombardment of the British trenches south of Loos. After a spirited struggle the Germans were driven off, having suffered heavy casualties. On this same day British aircraft won some important successes inside the German lines, when they bombed among other objectives a railway station and aerodrome. The British Naval Air Squadron also engaged in a number of air combats on this date, destroying two German machines and damaging four others.

Heavy bombardments of enemy positions by day and the usual trench raids at night continued for more than a week, during which the Allied troops registered minor successes, insignificant when considered separately, but important in the aggregate. It was not until December 13, 1916, that any important engagement was fought, when a German attack was made on Lassigny, that part of the French front nearest to Paris. It was estimated by French headquarters that the Germans had brought together for this attack 40,000 troops and had concentrated corresponding quantities of artillery. After an intense bombardment of the French lines that lasted for some hours the German troops pressed forward. If they had hoped to take the French by surprise, they were speedily undeceived. The assaulting waves were received by a withering fire from the French 3-inch and machine guns that tore great gaps in the German close-formed ranks. (p. 053) A barrier of fire thrown to the rear of the Germans caught and ravaged the supporting reserves.

The French trenches were reached over a frontage of about 300 yards, but an immediate counterattack enabled the French to recapture their lines. Only a few survivors of the German attacking column escaped. Most of them were killed after a determined resistance. An hour later the Germans renewed the assault and again failed. As their reserves came up they were easily dispersed by the heavy French artillery.[Back to Contents]



On December 15, 1916, the French troops won an important victory in the region of Verdun, north of Douaumont, when they broke through the German lines on a front of six and a quarter miles, extending from the Meuse River to the plain of Woevre, penetrating to a depth of nearly two miles. In this advance the French troops captured the villages of Vacherauville and Louvemont, the fortified farm of Chambrettes, and the fortified fieldworks of Hardaumont and Bezonvaux. The results gained by the French in this advance compare favorably with General Mangin's sensational exploit on October 24, 1916, when Fort Douaumont was taken.

The battle began at 10 o'clock in the morning as the church clock near by sounded the hour. Immediately every French gun started a storm of steel, showering shells immediately behind the German front line. While this intense bombardment was at its height, the French infantry made a dashing advance and gained the village of Vacherauville, where they encountered stubborn resistance. There was hand-to-hand fighting from house to house until finally the Germans were driven out, resisting every step of the way. Pressing on beyond the village the French next attacked an important German trench known as "Bethmann's (p. 054) Bowl," which they penetrated after a hard struggle and made the defenders prisoners. Next Pepper Hill was attacked, and the two crests of this height were won in exactly one hour after a start had been made. During this time the Germans on the opposing slope were caught in the rear by a French flank movement. Completely taken by surprise they attempted to flee when French airmen, dropping their machines to within 500 feet of the ground, brought their machine guns to bear on the now disorderly crowd of fugitives, and those who escaped the devastating fire sweeping down on them at once surrendered.

The French infantry now advanced along the valley behind Pepper Hill, and with the aid of a French force that had fought its way through the fortified fieldworks of Caurières Wood took Louvemont by a brilliant assault.

In front of Douaumont the French troops made a rapid advance, but in Hardaumont Wood their forward movement on the right flank encountered stubborn opposition. Fighting continued there until late in the afternoon, when the German garrison in Bezonvaux Redoubt, about five kilometers beyond the original French line, surrendered.

It was especially encouraging to the Allies that in this impressive victory only four French divisions participated, while it was known from prisoners taken that the Germans had five divisions in the field.

The French owed much of their success to the daring work performed by their aviators. Dozens of airmen dashed here and there, taking observations, correcting artillery, and accompanying the infantry's advance. At intervals they dashed back to headquarters with detailed reports of what was going on, thus keeping the commander in chief in close touch with the operations of the troops. The German gunners seemed to have become unnerved by the rapidity of the French advance, and fired almost at random. They had no assistance from their own aviators, who were kept in subjection by the French airmen, of whom not one was lost during the day.

The French did not overestimate the magnitude of the victory they had won. It compelled the Germans to move back their (p. 055) artillery, which up to that time was a source of danger to the French supply depots and works on the other side of the Meuse, and also laid open the flanks of the French position on Le Mort Homme.

Owing to the swiftness of the advance and the disorganization of the German batteries the French losses were comparatively slight. As stated in the French official report the total number of prisoners taken on December 15, 1916, was 11,387, including 284 officers, and 115 cannon were captured, with 44 bomb throwers and 107 machine guns. This great victory was the last act of General Nivelle before assuming the chief command of the French armies on the western front. To this officer belongs the credit of drawing up the plan of attack, in which he was assisted by General Pétain, at that time his superior officer. The assault proper was left to General Mangin. The four divisions engaged were commanded by such leaders as General de Maud'huy and General du Passage.

During the night of December 17, 1916, German troops delivered a strong counterattack against the new French positions north of Douaumont. By hard fighting they succeeded in forcing the French out of the fortified position known as Chambrettes Farm, the farthest point which the French attained in their advance on December 15, 1916. The Germans were not allowed for long to enjoy their small success, for on December 18, 1916, the French returned in force and reoccupied the position which they now held intact.[Back to Contents]



In the afternoon of December 20, 1916, Canadian troops made an important raid on German trenches north of Arras on a front of 400 yards and succeeded in putting out of action, temporarily at least, an entire battalion of German infantry.

(p. 056) The Canadian troops, after the first preparatory fire of the British guns had ceased, advanced and occupied the German trenches in less than two minutes. The Germans, who had not expected that the raid would take place before Christmas Eve, were completely surprised. As they hurried for the saps and dugouts leading to the rear trenches, the Canadians showered hand grenades among them. Caught entirely unprepared, the Germans in the first line offered but a feeble resistance, the majority at once surrendering with cries of "Kamerad!" Many others were taken as they fled for the second and third lines while the Canadians pushed on to the second trenches. About twenty dugouts were destroyed, some of them with bombs captured from the Germans. In a few of these dugouts the occupants refused to surrender and consequently their lairs were blown to pieces. It was estimated that 150 Germans were killed during the raid. The Canadians took one commissioned officer prisoner and fifty-seven of other ranks.

A British officer engaged in the raid thus describes the struggle after the German line was penetrated:

"As we entered the trenches many Germans broke from the dugouts. All who did were subsequently well cared for. Each of our men was given definite instructions for his precise task and a map of the enemy's trenches, which proved absolutely correct.

"Each man knew every detail of the proposed operation. They were delighted at this and entered the fight with great cheers. When they came out two hours later they were singing and as happy as schoolboys on a holiday.

"The neatness and dispatch with which the raid was carried out were unique. The artillery cooperation of the British guns was perfection. Beautifully placed curtains of fire prepared our advance, and creeping forward protected us as they proceeded to demolish absolutely the enemy trenches and dugouts. The program had given the men an hour and a half for their work, but the clean-up was accomplished in an hour and ten minutes, when the raiders signaled that they were ready to return to their own trenches."

(p. 057) The Germans did not attempt a counterattack until the following night, when they mistakenly bombarded and raided their own first lines, believing that the Canadians were still there. As it happened, the Canadian troops who had carried out the successful raid were some miles away. They were not a part of the fighting line, but on rest, and had gone forward for this particular military operation planned some weeks before.

During the night of December 19, 1916, British troops made a successful raid on German lines in the neighborhood of Gommecourt, where after doing considerable damage to the defensive works they retired without any casualties. Early in the morning of the following day the British made another successful raid on German trenches north of Arras, where they captured a number of prisoners.

On the same date, December 19, 1916, a British contingent encountered a hostile patrol north of Neuve Chapelle. After a brief, sharp fight the leader of the patrol was killed and his men surrendered.

German official reports of this date stated that, west of Villers-Carbonnel, Grenadiers of the Guard and East Prussian Musketeers forced their way into a strong British position that had been destroyed by effective fire, and after blowing up dugouts retired to their own lines, bringing away with them four officers and twenty-six men as prisoners. The Germans claimed that during various air engagements about this time along the Somme they destroyed six hostile aircraft.

During the night of December 20, 1916, a strong German raiding party attacked the British line opposite Lens, but only a few succeeded in penetrating the trenches. After a short struggle these were ejected by the British troops and the raiding party was driven off.

Southwest of Armentières a British raiding party entered German trenches and made some prisoners.

On December 21, 1916, the French Government made public the official order summoning General Nivelle to the command of the armies of the north and northeast and signed by General Joffre. General Castelnau, General Joffre's Chief of Staff, having (p. 058) reached the age limit, was retained on the active list by a special decree indorsed by the President of France, which was preliminary to his appointment to the command of an army group.[Back to Contents]



During the night of December 28, 1916, German troops in considerable force delivered a spirited attack on a three-kilometer front between Hill 304 and Dead Man Hill, northwest of Verdun. The German advance was made after an intense artillery preparation. According to the official French reports the French infantry and machine-gun fire broke the attack, but a trench south of Dead Man Hill was occupied by a few German troops. In the account of the attack given out from Berlin it was stated that German troops penetrated the third and second lines of the French positions, from which 222 prisoners, of whom four were officers, together with seven machine guns, were brought back. All attempts made by the French troops to regain the captured trenches were defeated, the German report stated.

Between the Aisne and the Oise French artillery carried out a destructive fire on the German positions in the region of Quennevières. French patrols penetrated the shattered German trenches which had been hastily evacuated. All the afternoon of December 28, 1916, German guns on the left bank of the Meuse bombarded French positions between the Meuse and Avocourt. At several points on the French front in this sector the Germans made vigorous attacks with grenades, but in every instance they were repulsed with considerable losses.

During the night of December 28, 1916, a party of British troops made a successful raid against German trenches to the east of Le Sars with good results.

(p. 059) The closing days of the year were not marked by any important military operations on either side. Though no great attacks were attempted, the old business of trench warfare being resumed, the opposing forces continued to harass and destroy each other at every opportunity. The grim object of British, French, and German was to kill wherever shell or machine-gun bullet could reach an enemy. This period of "peace" was really one of ceaseless activity, and the British distinguished themselves in keeping the Germans constantly on the alert. To prevent the building of defenses, or smash them when built, to concentrate gunfire on communication trenches so as to render them impassable, to destroy reliefs coming in or going out, to carry death to the foe in ditches and dugouts—in short, to injure him in any way that human ingenuity and military science could devise—such were the tactics employed by belligerents during the days and nights when in official language there was "nothing to report."

Official announcement was made on New Year's Day by the British Prime Minister's Department that General Sir Douglas Haig, commander in chief of the British armies in France, had been promoted to the rank of field marshal. His chief aids on the French front, Lieutenant General Sir Henry Rawlinson and Major General Sir Hubert Gough, commanding the Fourth and Fifth Armies respectively, were also gazetted for promotion.

In reviewing the work of the Allies for the past six months Field Marshal Haig made no secret of the fact that he had been forced by circumstances to assume the offensive in July somewhat earlier than he intended. Had he waited until his munitionment was complete and his raw drafts had acquired more experience, the Battle of the Somme might not have resulted so favorably to the Allies. The Germans were near the outskirts of Verdun and striking hard, and the moral and political consequences of the fall of Verdun would have been so serious that it was impossible to delay the offensive. Field Marshal Haig stated in his summing up that the Battle of the Somme was begun to save Verdun, to prevent the transfer of further German reenforcements from the west to the Russian or Italian fronts, and (p. 060) to wear down the strength of the enemy forces, and that all these purposes were fulfilled.

The brief period of so-called "peace" which had prevailed along the Somme during the closing days of 1916 was broken on New Year's Day, when a strong German patrol attacked the British trenches north of Vermelles. The British troops defending the position having foreknowledge of the attack, were quite prepared for a vigorous resistance and the Germans were driven off with sanguinary losses, leaving a number of dead and wounded on the field. In the evening of this date, under cover of a heavy bombardment, a German patrol consisting of about forty men made an attempt to reach the British lines to the north of Ypres. A few of the German troops succeeded in gaining the British trenches, but were ejected after a brief struggle. At other points on the front between the Somme and the Ancre the British troops started the new year in spirited fashion by carrying out effective counterbattery work and heavy bombardment of German positions in the neighborhood of Neuve Chapelle and Armentières.

During the afternoon of January 6, 1917, British troops under cover of a heavy bombardment successfully raided German positions southeast of Arras, where advancing over a wide front they entered the enemy's defenses and penetrated to the third line. Here they succeeded in bombing and destroying a number of dugouts and wrought considerable damage to the German defensive works. In minor engagements of this character the British reported to have taken 240 prisoners since Christmas.

French artillery on the Somme front was especially active during the first days of the new year. On the night of January 4, 1917, French aerial squadrons scattered projectiles on the German aviation field at Grisolles and on the railway station and barracks at Guiscard.

A number of explosions and four incendiary fires resulted from these attacks by French airmen.

Surprise attacks were attempted by German troops on the French advance posts east of Butte du Mesnil in the region of Maisons de Champagne. During the day of January 5, 1917, (p. 061) French artillery fire dispersed the attackers, who fled from the field, leaving a number of prisoners in French hands. The British troops along the Somme continued their raids on German positions every night and frequently during the day. In the afternoon of January 7, 1917, they attacked a German trench south of Armentières, and after bombing the German defenses retired in good order with nineteen prisoners. On the same date a German contingent after a preliminary bombardment attempted to penetrate British trenches southwest of Wytschaete. The attackers evidently expected that their heavy gunfire had demoralized the defenders and looked for an easy victory, but they were speedily repulsed with considerable losses. Another attempt made under cover of a heavy bombardment to seize British advance posts to the north of Ypres also met with disaster.[Back to Contents]



Early in the morning of January 10, 1917, small detachments of British troops attacked the German lines to the north of Beaumont-Hamel. For some days rain and sleet had been falling almost continuously, and the battle field in this section of the fighting area largely consisted of swamps and miniature lakes. The British troops following the barrage fire penetrated the German position on a front of 500 yards. The Germans had sought refuge from the withering fire of the British guns in their dugouts, which rain and snow and sleet had converted into mudholes. The German soldiers were wet and cold and miserable, and offered but slight resistance. Three officers, nine non-coms., and 109 men surrendered to the British—a larger number than the raiding party contained.

In the afternoon of January 10, 1917, the British carried out a successful raid east of Loos which resulted in the capture of a (p. 062) number of prisoners. Throughout the day British guns pounded German positions in the neighborhood of Les Bœufs and on both sides of the Ancre Valley. Destructive bombardment of German trenches opposite Le Sars, and battery positions in the neighborhood of Gommecourt, produced good results.

On the following day, January 11, 1917, British troops successfully attacked German positions to the north of Beaumont-Hamel. The action had some local importance, for the Germans occupied high ground from which they had observation of the British trenches.

The British attack was begun shortly before dawn in a dark and heavy mist. As the first glimmer of morning light appeared the snow began to fall, hiding with a white mantle the miry battle field, in which the British troops sank ankle deep as they struggled forward floundering here and there in old shell holes. The Germans had not recovered from the nerve-shattering bombardment that had preceded the attack when the British soldiers were upon them and over their dugouts before they could bring their machine guns into play. The majority of the Germans did not attempt to fight, but surrendered at once. Some of the German officers attempted to rally their men, and, fighting bravely rather than surrender, were killed. In the two days' fighting in this sector the British captured over 300 prisoners. The German version of this attack stated that "an insignificant trench had been abandoned to the enemy."

In the night on this date, January 11, 1917, British troops were reported to have penetrated German trenches north of Arras, where a number of prisoners were taken at the cost of a few casualties.

Early in the morning of January 13, 1917, German troops forced their way into a British post northwest of Serre. By a hotly pressed counterattack the British drove them out and again occupied the post. Thirteen prisoners, including three officers, were captured in this area. The British during the night also attacked German trenches west of Wytschaete, where they were successful in attaining their objectives and captured a number of prisoners.

This notice was posted in French munitions works by order of the Minister of Munitions. It contains an aviator's pictures of Fort Douaumont before and after the artillery bombardment and proves the importance of immense munitions supplies.

(p. 063) Owing to the almost continuous bad weather, heavy rains, and snowfall, there was little fighting along the Somme during the succeeding days, but the bombardment of enemy positions was continuous, and the British took some prisoners in trench raids.

In the morning of January 17, 1917, British forces on the Ancre launched the strongest attack that had been attempted for weeks on a front of 600 yards north of Beaucourt. Preceded by a heavy bombardment that shattered the German defenses British troops occupied a line of enemy posts at the cost of a few casualties. The position won by the British was especially valuable because it afforded them better advantages than they possessed for observation in this area. In the afternoon of this date the Germans attempted a counterattack which was broken up with heavy losses by the British artillery barrage.

Another daylight raid was successfully carried out by the Canadian troops northeast of Cité Calonne on the same morning. The Canadians succeeded in penetrating German trenches on a front of 700 yards and pushed forward to a depth of 300 yards, or as far as the enemy's second line. The German dugouts were completely wrecked. The British report stated that heavy losses were inflicted on the enemy. They captured one officer and ninety-nine of other ranks, and several machine guns and a trench mortar. In the evening of this date the Germans, after three hours of intense artillery fire, delivered a series of reconnoitering attacks in Chevaliers Wood on the height of the Meuse (Verdun front). The British artillery and machine guns at once became active and sent such a withering fire against the Germans that they were scattered with heavy losses.

Violent artillery duels continued for several days following, but there was no important fighting along the Somme. On January 20, 1917, in the region south of Lassigny, the Germans were especially active in shelling French positions. They attempted a surprise attack on one of the advanced French trenches, but were beaten off. On this date the French launched a successful attack against German lines in the Vingre sector, where they captured a number of prisoners. In the sector of Burnhaupt, in Alsace, the French won a victory in an encounter (p. 064) with enemy patrols, and repulsed a strong German reconnaissance which attempted to reach French lines in the region southwest of Altkirch.

During the night of January 20, 1917, and most of the following day, German and French artillery fought an almost continuous duel on the right bank of the Meuse, while patrols of the two armies engaged in close and sanguinary encounters in Caurières Wood. It was during the fighting in this region that the British took over twelve miles of the French front. French troops, however, still held the line on the northern bank of the Somme near Mont St. Quentin, the key to Péronne.

In the morning of January 21, 1917, the British forces made a successful raid on German trenches southeast of Loos. It was a short but spirited fight while it lasted. The British reported that they had bombed and destroyed dugouts full of Germans, while their own losses were slight. A number of Germans were made prisoner in this raid, but the majority preferred to fight rather than yield, and fighting fell.

In the evening on this date the Germans on the right bank of the Meuse (Verdun front) attacked on two different occasions the French trenches to the northeast of Caurières Wood. They made the advance after an intense preliminary bombardment, but were unable to reach the French position. The accurate fire of the French artillery proved destructive and drove them back, and the French were enabled to hold their lines without a break. About the same time British troops repulsed a German raid on their lines north of Arras. During the night and on the day following, January 22, 1917, the British took a number of prisoners as the result of patrol and bombing encounters in the neighborhood of Grandcourt, Neuville-St. Vaast, Fauquisart, and Wytschaete.

German Army Headquarters reported that on this date the British attacked their lines near Lens and in a hand-grenade engagement were repulsed with some losses. Near Bezon one of their reconnoitering detachments brought back several prisoners and one machine gun from short excursions into hostile positions.

(p. 065) In the night of January 22, 1917, the Germans attempted two raids on British positions between Armentières and Ploegsteert. In one instance the Germans were driven back before they could reach the British trenches. The second party of raiders succeeded in penetrating a portion of the British position, but were quickly driven out. The raiding party while advancing, and again on returning, came under British machine-gun fire and left a number of dead on the field. On this date the British lost one aeroplane and drove a hostile machine down in the neighborhood of Aubigny. About the same time the French reported the capture of a Fokker, which landed in their lines near Fismes. Two other German machines were brought down in an aerial engagement in the vicinity of Marchelpot, and another by the fire of French antiaircraft guns in the direction of Amy.

A new division, and the sixth to enter the fight, was now flung against the French with the purpose of cutting through the line and covering the German occupation on the southern slope of Hill 304. "The blackened stumps of the shell-swept wood," said an eyewitness, "offered no protection to the kaiser's legions, and regardless of the officers' shrill whistles and brandished revolvers the German soldiers flung aside their equipment, rifles, and hand grenades and raced back to their former trenches."

During the night of January 26, 1917, French artillery continued to pound German lines in the sector of Hill 304. At Les Eparges a surprise attack was attempted by German troops that was repulsed with considerable losses to the attackers. During the day's fighting in this sector the French aviators brought down five hostile aircraft, Lieutenant Guynemer scoring his thirtieth victory.

Allies' Gain at the Somme, up to February, 1917.

In the neighborhood of Transloy on the Somme front British forces carried out a successful operation on January 27, 1917. Owing to the blizzard weather the Germans evidently did not expect an attack, perhaps thinking that the British would remain under shelter as they were doing. No unusual preparation seemed to be going on within the British lines that would suggest to an outside observer that an important military operation (p. 067) was about to be launched. But in the British trenches well prepared and organized troops were waiting the order to attack. Suddenly the British batteries spoke in thunderous tones, showering German trenches and defensive works with shells of enormous destructive force. The barbed-wire obstructions before the German positions were cut like packthread. The British troops at the signal sprang out into no-man's-land following the curtain of fire. Sweeping over and around the position, the Germans were trapped in their dugouts before they could get up to bomb the invaders or fire upon them with machine guns. The whole German garrison of this strong position gave up the fight after making but slight resistance.

The prisoners, numbering six officers and 352 men of the Hundred and Nineteenth and Hundred and Twenty-first Regiments, the Württembergers of Königen Olga, who had hardly recovered from the surprise occasioned by their capture, were packed into old London busses and were hurried to their camp on the British side of the battle field.

The prisoners confessed that they had been caught napping. The British gunfire they had believed was simply the usual morning salutation, and remained in their dugouts until it was over. They said they would have put up a fight if they had had any kind of chance, but taken by surprise they could only surrender.

German gunners at other points had by this time observed the red lights that went up, the signals of distress, and thus learned that the position had been captured. But they were too late in getting their guns into action, and the white haze that hung over the scene at that early morning hour hindered their observation, so that the feeble fire they could concentrate on the captured position did no harm.

The British had pressed on farther than the objective given to them to a point 500 yards beyond the German first line, where they established themselves, finding the deep warm dugouts much more comfortable than the temporary shelters of their own which they had left. Later in the day the British troops occupying the most advanced position were withdrawn to the ground which had been assigned as the objective in the attack. The Germans (p. 068) made different attempts to force them out of this position, but all attacks broke down under fire, for the British had perfect observation of their movements from the higher ground they had won in recent battles in this sector.

On the French front there was active fighting all day long on January 27, 1917. On the left bank of the Meuse French troops engaged the Germans with hand grenades on the eastern slopes of Hill 304. On the right bank of the river they made a successful attack against German positions between Les Eparges and the Calonne trench. The German position was found to be strewn with dead, and a great quantity of booty was taken. In Lorraine there were numerous artillery duels in the sector of the forest of Bezange. Near Moulainville a German aeroplane was brought down in flames by the fire of French guns.

The continued bad weather that prevailed along the Somme and on the Verdun front did not hinder the Allies from assuming the offensive whenever there appeared to be an opportunity to make even the slightest gain. At daybreak on January 28, 1917, British forces penetrated German trenches northeast of Neuville-St. Vaast, where they successfully bombed the enemy in dugouts and brought away a number of prisoners. All day British artillery was active north of the Somme in the neighborhood of Beaumont-Hamel, Lens, and the Ypres sector. Northeast of Festubert the British carried out a successful raid in which they captured an officer and a number of other ranks. The British raiders escaped without any casualties. The Germans after an intense bombardment attempted to rush a British post east of Fauquissart, but were repulsed in disorder.

On this date the French forces also displayed courage and activity in carrying out successfully important minor operations at different points along the Somme. During the night they entered German positions in the sector of Hill 304 on the left bank of the Meuse; artillery duels and grenade fighting were almost continuous. In the Champagne, and at various places on the front in Alsace, there were numerous patrol encounters between the Germans and French in which the latter were generally victorious. A German attack made on a French trench at (p. 069) Hartmannsweilerkopf was repulsed with heavy losses to the raiders. An attempt made by German aviators to bomb the open town of Lunéville proved abortive. No damage was done and no lives were lost.

The British forces in France did not attempt any offensive during the day of January 29, 1917, but at night a successful raid was carried out in the neighborhood of the Butte de Warlencourt north of Courcelette.

The British penetrated the German trenches and bombed the dugouts, destroying a gun and taking seventeen prisoners. East of Souchez another British raiding party penetrated German lines and wrecked the defenses.

The Germans continued their efforts to drive the French out of their positions in the region of Hill 304. On this date, January 29, 1917, they made a violent attack with grenades on an advanced French trench in this sector, but were repulsed with losses by the French artillery. Three German aeroplanes were brought down.

The 30th of January, 1917, was an unimportant day in the fighting in France. The British bombarded German positions opposite Richebourg l'Avoue, east of Armentières and Ypres. Between Soissons and Rheims the French artillery dispersed two surprise attacks attempted by the Germans, one in the sector of Soupir and the other in the region of Beaulne (Aisne).

In Lorraine during the night a French detachment penetrated the first and second line of German trenches at a point south of Leintrey. The defenders of these positions were put out of action and the French took about fifteen prisoners. In the region of Moncel another party of French raiders successfully carried out a surprise attack on German positions.

On this last day of the month the British headquarters in France reported that during January they had captured 1,228 Germans, including twenty-seven officers.[Back to Contents]




Coincident with their attempt to recapture Kovel, the Russians launched a new drive against Lemberg, the ancient capital of Galicia. This movement was a result of the successes which they had gained in the Bukowina and in eastern Galicia during July, 1916. By the end of that month, as has been previously told, the Russians had reconquered all of the Bukowina, overrun some of the most southern passes of the Carpathians, and were in possession of that part of eastern Galicia located north of the Pruth and Dniester Rivers and east of the Strypa River.

Having gained these advantages, they now attempted to press them and attacked Lemberg both from the north and from the south. In the former direction they advanced from Brody and Tarnopol against the strongly held Styr and Bug line. In the south Lemberg was defended by the Dniester line. Before forcing this line it was necessary to capture Stanislau, an important point on the Czernowitz-Lemberg railway. Between the Bug and the Dniester lines of defense Lemberg was secured in the east, and still farther by a third line of natural defenses. This was formed by a series of northern tributaries of the Dniester, of which the most important were the Sereth, Strypa, and Zlota Lipa Rivers. The former two had already been crossed by the Russians, but there still remained the very formidable and extremely strong line of defenses along the last, which had more than once before proved very difficult to overcome.

(p. 071) On the Russian side there were engaged in this struggle three army groups under Generals Sakharoff, Stcherbacheff, and Lechitsky. The Austro-German forces were divided into four groups under Generals Puhallo, Boehm-Ermolli, Von Bothmer, and Von Pfanzer-Ballin.

During the first few days of August, 1916, the fighting along this entire line, though continuous and severe, was not particularly well defined and was more or less split up into comparatively small and local engagements. On August 1, 1916, engagements of this nature took place southwest of Burkanoff and west of Buczacz. In the latter region the ground offered great difficulties. A small but very marshy river—the Moropiec—was strongly defended by the Austro-German forces, and when these finally had to give way, they destroyed all bridges. Nothing daunted, the Russians waded across in the face of severe fire and frequently up to their necks in water, gained the western bank, and after making some hundreds of prisoners, promptly dug themselves in. Other engagements occurred on the same day in the Dniester-Pruth sector—in the direction of Stanislau near Wisniowcza and Molodgonow.

On August 2, 1916, the Russians developed a strong attack on both sides of the railway near Brody against Ponikowica, but were unsuccessful. However, the attacks were kept up and by the next day, August 3, 1916, yielded not only considerable ground, but more than 1,000 prisoners. Fighting was kept up in this locality throughout the following day. The Austro-Germans launched nine counterattacks, all of which were repulsed. The losses on both sides were very severe. For, though the Austro-German forces had to give way, they did so only after the most stubborn resistance. Every little village had to be fought for for hours, and each street had to be cleared at the point of the bayonet. Especially severe encounters occurred near Meidzigory and Tchistopady. By August 5, 1916, the Russians had registered some important successes in this small sector. The number of their prisoners had mounted to over 5,000, and a considerable number of machine guns and bomb throwers had fallen into their hands. The Austro-Germans tried to dislodge (p. 072) their opponents by means of violent artillery fire and a series of strong counterattacks, but were unsuccessful, and by the end of the fourth day, August 5, 1916, the Russians were in possession of the west bank of the Sereth, near and northwest of Zalocze, and of the villages of Zvyjin, Ratische, Tchistopady, Gnidava, and Zalvoce, and the entire ridge of heights between them.

Without let-up the Russians continued to hammer away at the Austro-German lines on the Graberka and Sereth Rivers. On August 6, 1916, the Russian troops captured some more strongly fortified positions in the vicinity of the villages of Zvyjin, Kostiniec, and Reniuv. This region abounds with woods, and lends itself therefore easily to the most determined defense. This resulted again in very fierce bayonet encounters. The Austro-German forces attempted to stop the Russian advance and launched a long series of very energetic counterattacks, especially in the region of the river Koropiec. All of these, however, were in vain. They were repulsed and resulted in considerable losses. According to their official statement, the Russians made about 8,500 prisoners in the Sereth sector on August 5 and 6, 1916, captured four cannon, nineteen machine guns, eleven trench mortars, a large number of mine throwers and much war material of all kinds. The amount of ground captured by August 7, 1916, was claimed to have reached the considerable total of sixty-one and one-half square miles.

Closer and closer the Russians were getting to their immediate objective, Stanislau. On August 7, 1916, strong Russian forces attacked along a front of about fifteen miles on a line between Tlumach and Ottynia and succeeded in forcing back the Austro-Germans along this entire front. They forced their way into the town of Nizniow (about fifteen miles northeast of Stanislau), which was captured, as also were the villages of Bratychuv, Palakhiche, Nodworna, Charnolocza, Krovotula, Nove, and the small town of Ottynia, and finally the town of Ilumach itself.

In spite of the gradual retirement of the Austro-Germans they maintained their counterattacks, which, however, were not successful. By April 8, 1916, they had been forced to take their line back to the west of Nizinoff-Tysmienitsa-Ottynia, or within a few (p. 073) miles east of Stanislau. The Russians on that day crossed the Koropiec, drove their opponents out of their fortified positions, and themselves occupied the left bank up to the point of its juncture with the Dniester. Late on the same day the town of Tysmienitsa was taken as well as a ridge of heights to the northeast as far as the right bank of the Dniester. The fall of Stanislau now had become only a matter of days.

Throughout the next two days, August 9 and 10, 1916, the battle for the possession of Stanislau continued to rage incessantly. One after another the Russians overcame all the obstacles in their way. River after river was crossed, trench after trench was stormed, and village after village was captured. At last, about 8 o'clock in the evening of August 10, 1916, the Russians under General Lechitsky entered Stanislau from where the Austro-German troops had previously retired in good order in a northerly direction against Halicz.

Farther north, in the region of Buczacz and Zalocze, the Russian advance likewise progressed, though somewhat slower. Although by August 11, 1916, the ground between the Zlota Lipa and the Horovanka from the village of Kraseczuv up to the village of Usciezelione had been captured, the Russian line had not been able to push quite as far west toward Lemberg as in the region of Stanislau. In spite of this fact, however, the Russians continued to push their advance. On August 12, 1916, they occupied Podhaytse on the Zlota Lipa, halfway between Buczacz and Brzezany, and Mariampol on the Dniester.

The Austro-German forces continued their stubborn resistance all along the line, and every bit of ground gained by the Russians had to be fought for very hard. On August 13, 1916, fighting occurred along the entire Galician front, from the Dniester up to the upper Sereth. The Zlota Lipa was again crossed on that day at some of its numerous turnings. After a very stubborn fight the village of Tustobaby, northwest of the Dniester, strongly defended by fortifications and machine guns, fell into the hands of the Russians. Russian attacks in the region of Zboroff on the Tarnopol-Lemberg railroad were repulsed, as were also attacks made west of Monasterzyska.

(p. 074) "In addition, there were taken a large number of rifles, 30 versts of small-gauge railways, telegraphic materials, and several depots of ammunition and engineering materials."

Throughout the next few days the Austro-Germans resumed the offensive along the entire line. In spite of this the Russians managed to advance at some points. At others they stubbornly maintained their ground, and only in a few instances were they forced to yield slightly. As the end of August approached the fighting along the entire eastern front decreased very much in importance and violence. Local engagements, it is true, took place at many points. But the result of none of these had any important influence on the respective positions of the Russians and Austro-Germans. The latter had lost considerable ground during the Russian offensive and, if the Russian reports were at all reliable, had suffered even more severe losses in men and material. In this respect, however, the Russians had fared no better, and possibly even worse. At any rate, neither Kovel nor Lemberg, apparently the two chief objectives of the Russian operations, had been reached, so that in spite of the Russian gains the advantage seemed to rest with the Austro-Germans.

At the same time at which the Russians advanced against Kovel and Lemberg the Austro-German forces renewed with increased vigor their activities in the Carpathian Mountains, undoubtedly with the object to reduce, if possible, the Russian pressure on their Bukowinian and Galician positions. To a certain extent the Central Powers met with success.

On August 4, 1916, a strong force of about one division, belonging to the army group of the then Austrian heir-apparent, Archduke Charles Francis Joseph, attacked the Russians in the mountain passes southwest of Kutty on the Cheremosh, drove them back in a northeasterly direction and captured some 400 men and a few machine guns. Again on the next day, August 5, 1916, the Austro-Germans attacked in force, this time somewhat farther west on the Pruth River in the vicinity of Jablonitza south of Delabin, without gaining any noticeable ground.

On August 6, 1916, the Austro-German successes of August 4, 1916, were somewhat extended by the capture of some additional (p. 075) heights on the Cheremosh River. For the next few days there was little fighting in these regions. But on August 11, 1916, an attack begun the day before south of Zabie on the Cheremosh resulted in the capture of about 700 Russians and a few machine guns.

Gradually this movement spread until on August 14, 1916, the Russians saw themselves forced to evacuate Jablonitza on the Pruth, which, together with some near-by villages, was immediately occupied by the Austro-Germans. Over 1,000 Russians were captured. Additional territory was regained by the Austro-Germans in this vicinity on August 15, 1916. During the next few days the Russian resistance gradually stiffened. In spite of this fact, and in spite of some local successes gained by the Russians on August 15, 1916, south of Delatyn and north of Kimpolung and again on August 17, 1916, south of Jablonitza near Korosmezo, the Austro-Germans continued to gain ground and increased the number of their prisoners. On August 19, 1916, the Russians reported some additional successes in the Jablonitza sector as well as on the Cheremosh and in the neighborhood of Kirlibaba, northwest of Kimpolung near the Hungarian-Bukowinian-Rumanian border.

On the same day, however, August 19, 1916, the Austro-Germans occupied some heights south of Zabie, which they succeeded in holding against strong Russian attacks launched on the same day, as well as on August 20 and 21, 1916. During the balance of August, 1916, the fighting in the Carpathian Mountains deteriorated as a result of the new developments farther south on the Rumanian border in a number of small local engagements. The results of none of these had any particular influence on the general position of either side, and in most instances amounted to little more than fighting between outposts. The only exception was the fighting in the neighborhood of Nadvorna, a few miles south of Stanislau, where the Russians in the face of stubborn resistance made some slight advance toward the Hungarian border, from which they were, on August 29, 1916, still some twenty miles distant.[Back to Contents]

(p. 076) CHAPTER XIX


In preceding chapters we have learned of the successful onslaught which the Russians made against the Austro-German lines during the months of June and July, 1916. Along the entire southern part of the eastern front—from the southern base of the Pinsk salient down to the Austro-Russo-Rumanian border—the troops of the Central Powers had been pushed back many miles.

From June 4, 1916, to August 1, 1916, the Russians had regained some 15,000 square miles in Volhynia, Galicia, and the Bukowina. Lutsk, Dubno, and Czernowitz were some of the valuable prizes which had fallen into the hands of the czar's armies. At the beginning of August, 1916, they now threatened the important railway centers of Kovel and Lemberg, the latter the capital of Galicia.

In defending the former the Austro-German armies had made a determined stand on the banks of the Stokhod River. This bit of water has its origin some ten miles west of Lutsk, from which point it winds its tortuous course for about one hundred miles in a northerly direction toward the Pripet River, of which it is a tributary. Its northern part flows through the Pripet Marshes. Its southern part, up to about the village of Trojanovka, forms a salient, with its apex on an almost straight line drawn between Kolki on the Styr and Kovel on the Turiya. This salient, as well as the part of the Stokhod between the southern base of the salient and its origin, formed a valuable and very formidable natural line of defense for Kovel against any attacks from the northeast, east, and southeast. Here the Austro-Germans had thrown up strong defensive works and were resisting with all their might.

On August 1, 1916, the most furious kind of fighting took place in the Stokhod sector. By that time the Russian attack, begun a few days before, had made considerable progress, so that the (p. 077) Russians were at some points some few miles west of the river. Time and again the Russians heavily attacked the German-Austrian lines. In most places, however, the latter not only held, but were even strong enough to permit of repeated powerful counterattacks. This was especially true in the region of the bend of the Stokhod near the villages of Seletsie, Velitsk, and Kukhari. Very heavy fighting also developed at many points north of the Kovel-Sarni railway. Near the village of Smolary the Russians attacked three times, but were thrown back as often, and between Witoniez and Kiselin six Russian attacks followed each other in rapid succession, encountering the most stubborn resistance.

Without abatement the Russians threw themselves against their opponents' lines in this sector on the following day, August 2, 1916. But the Germans protected themselves with such a well-directed and furious curtain of artillery fire that the czar's troops could make no further progress in spite of exceedingly heavy losses. Again Witoniez and Kiselin were the center of desperate fighting which gradually spread to the forest near Ostrow, north of Kiselin, and to the region near the villages of Dubeschovo and Gulevitchie.

As the fighting progressed it became more and more evident that the Austro-German command had determined to make a stand at the Stokhod at any cost. The special correspondent of the London "Times," observing the fighting from the Russian side, described its furiousness and the ever-increasing resistance of the Austro-Germans as follows:

"From an observation point eighty feet above the ground in the swaying foliage of a huge oak, a few versts distance from the battle field, I obtained an extraordinary view of the country and of the Russian artillery preparation. The country here is as flat as a board and marshy, with the slow-flowing Stokhod oozing in the midst of beds of water lilies. The difficulties of an advance are almost incredible, yet our troops forded the river in places, passing mazes of barbed wire sunk in the water.

"The cannonading continues day and night, at times reaching such violence that it is impossible to distinguish sounds; it is (p. 078) simply a continuous roar like thunder. At night the whole sky is illuminated by bursting shells, searchlights, and star bombs. The town is filled with wounded."

During the night of August 3 to 4, 1916, the stiffening of the Austro-German defensive found expression in a series of very violent German attacks against the village of Rudka-Miryanskaia, which formed a very strong salient in the Russian positions. This little hamlet—it is hardly more than that—is situated on the river Stavok, a tributary of the Stokhod. Austro-German forces advanced from three sides. Throughout the entire night the fighting for the possession of this point was kept up. Attack after attack was repulsed by the Russians. But in the early morning hours the latter were forced to evacuate the village and to retreat more than 500 yards to the east. A few hours later reenforcements arrived and the Russians once more gained possession of the village, in the streets of which the sanguinary kind of hand-to-hand fighting raged for hours. As a result the Austro-German forces were finally thrown back beyond the river Stavok. Before long, however, fresh Austro-German troops launched new counterattacks and regained most of this territory, holding it thereafter in the face of a number of violent Russian counterattacks.

Considerable fighting occurred likewise on August 3, 1916, both somewhat farther north and south of this position. In the former direction Russian detachments crossed the Stokhod at some points near Lubieszow and occupied a series of heights, where they fortified themselves strongly. To the south Ostrow again was the center of bitter engagements, which, however, yielded no definite results.

By this time, August 10, 1916, it had become more or less evident that the Russian drive against Kovel had been stopped by the Austro-Germans. For a few days now a comparative reduction in the violence of the fighting in the Stokhod sector set in.

Local attacks, however, as well as counterattacks continued even during this period near Lubieszow and Zarecze, especially on August 11 and 12, 1916. Gradually, and concurrent with (p. 079) increased activity on other parts of the eastern front, engagements in the Stokhod sector became fewer and less important.

On August 18, 1916, however, the Russians somewhat renewed their activity. The first sign was increased artillery fire at various points. This was quickly followed by local attacks near Rudka-Czerwiszce, Szelwow, and Zviniache. Especially noticeable was the increase in Russian activity in the neighborhood of the first of these three places, where the village of Tobol, after having changed hands repeatedly, was finally occupied by the Russians. The latter were successful on August 17, 1916, in crossing the Stokhod in this vicinity at a point where they had previously been unable to make any progress. On the other hand, they were forced to evacuate some of their positions east of Kiselin.

Both on August 20 and 21, 1916, the Russians attempted to enlarge the success which they had gained near Rudka-Czerwiszce. In this, however, they were not successful, encountering the strongest kind of determined resistance and suffering considerable losses. Local engagements at various points on the Kovel-Sarni railroad and in the neighborhood of Smolary likewise terminated in favor of the Austro-German forces. During the balance of August, 1916, fighting on the Stokhod was restricted to moderate artillery fire, local infantry engagements, and extensive reconnoitering operations, carried on now by one side, now by the other, without, however, yielding any important results or changing to any extent the respective positions.

While the Russians were developing their attack against Kovel the balance of the eastern front was comparatively inactive with the exception of the Galician and Bukowinian sectors. The fighting which occurred there had as its object the capture of Lemberg and developed soon into a struggle of the first magnitude. It will be described in detail in the following chapter.

North of the Stokhod occasional local engagements occurred from time to time. Thus the Germans gained a slight local success on August 1, 1916, near Vulka on the Oginsky Canal to the northwest of Pinsk. On the same day considerable fighting (p. 080) took place near Logischin and on both sides of Lake Nobel, both in the same vicinity. The fighting on the banks of the lake continued during the next few days, but bore no important results.

Smorgon, the small but important railroad station on the Vilna-Minsk railway, just southwest of the Vilia River, which so many times before had been the center of furious fighting, again was made the scene of attacks on the night of August 2, 1916. At that time the Germans launched gas attacks on both sides of the railway. The attack opened at 1 o'clock in the morning and the gas was released six times with intervals between the waves. The gas attacks finished at 6 a. m. The use of gas was discovered in good time, with the result that the Germans, who were following the attacks, on attempting to advance, were met with rifle and machine-gun fire and suffered severe losses.

On August 3, 1916, considerable activity was displayed in the vicinity of Lakes Narotch and Wiszniew. The Russians there attempted to advance against the German field positions near Spiagla, but were promptly thrown back. Farther north the Germans gained some slight local successes by capturing a few advanced Russian trenches northwest of Postavy. At some other points, especially on the Shara, southeast of Baranovitchy, the railway center east of Slonin, lively hand-grenade battles occurred.

On the following day, August 4, 1916, the Russians made an attempt to cross the Dvina near Deveten, a few miles northwest of Dvinsk, but were repulsed. Another similar undertaking, attempted August 8, 1916, east of Friedrichstadt, met the same fate. On that day German batteries successfully bombarded Russian torpedo boats and other vessels lying off the coast of Kurland and forced them to retire.

August 10 and 11, 1916, brought a series of small, local attacks launched by the Russians south of Lake Wiszniew, near Smorgon and Krevo. They were all repulsed. These attacks were renewed on August 12, 1916, bringing, however, no better results. On August 13, 1916, considerable fighting took place in the region of Skrobiowa and along the Oginsky Canal, south of Lake Wygonowskoie.

(p. 081) A lively local engagement developed on August 16, 1916, west of Lake Nobel in the Pripet Marshes, about sixty miles northeast of Kovel. The fighting lasted throughout August 17 and 18, 1916, and finally resulted in a repulse for the Russians, who lost some 300 men and a few machine guns.

A gas attack, launched by the Germans during the night of August 22, 1916, in the region south of Krevo, a little town north of the Beresina River and about fifty miles southeast of Vilna, brought no results of importance. The same was true of an attack against Russian trenches south of Tsirin, northwest of Baranovitchy, made after considerable artillery preparation on August 24, 1916.

Toward the end of August, 1916, the Russians again attempted at various times to cross the Dvina. In no case, however, were they successful. Even when they succeeded in launching their boats, as they did on August 26, 1916, near Lenewaden east of Friedrichstadt, they were driven back by the German fire.[Back to Contents]



In spite of the temporary setback which the Russians experienced at the end of August, 1916, in their attempt to reach and capture once more Galicia's ancient capital, Lemberg, they were undaunted.

With the beginning of September, 1916, the vigor of their attacks increased noticeably. On September 1, 1916, Russian attacks were launched against the Austro-German lines east of Lemberg from all directions. They were especially strong and violent in the vicinity of Zlochoff and Halicz. In both these regions the Russian troops were successful in advancing after capturing a number of positions. Without abatement fighting continued on the next day, both before Halicz and Zlochoff. In spite of the most fierce attacks, many of which were (p. 082) made at the point of the bayonet, the Russians on September 2, 1916, were unable to advance.

The fighting on September 3, 1916, was centered chiefly around Brzezany and Zboroff. In both localities the Russians claimed successes and reported large numbers of prisoners. Again, on September 4, 1916, Brzezany was the center of much fighting. Attack after attack was launched by the Russians and thrown back by the Austro-Germans. On the following day, September 5, 1916, the Russian persistency finally found its reward. Although Russian attacks near Zlochoff broke down under the Austro-German fire, other attacks between the Zlota Lipa and the Dniester resulted in the pressing back of the Austro-German center. Throughout the next few days the Russians continued to hurl attack after attack against the Austro-German lines, stretching, to the west of Lemberg, from Brody to Halicz. The regions near Zlochoff, Zboroff, Brzezany, and Halicz, and especially that small strip of country lying between the Zlota Lipa and the Dniester, were witnesses of some of the most stubborn and sanguinary fighting which even this blood-drenched corner of unhappy, war-swept Galicia had seen.

Again and again the Russian regiments would sweep up against the strongly fortified and strongly held Austro-German lines, after gunfire of unheard-of violence had attempted to prepare their task. But though occasionally they made some advances, stormed some trenches, or by the very violence of their attacks forced back the Austro-Germans, the latter, generally speaking, held their ground.

Some very interesting sidelights are thrown on the fighting near Halicz by the special correspondent of the London "Times," Stanley Washburn, who writes from the Russian lines about the middle of September, 1916, as follows:

"Our troops are now but a few hundred yards from Halicz railway station, and just across the river from the town.

"Fighting has been going on on this army front almost without intermission since August 31, and has resulted in the capture of 25,000 prisoners, of whom 8,000 are Germans, and twenty-two guns, some of them heavy guns.

(p. 083) "The most significant, observation one makes on coming to this front after two months with the more northern armies is the complete reorganization of the Austrian front since the beginning of the offensive in June. It was then held by six Austrian divisions and one German. It is now held with a slightly extended front by fragments of nine German divisions, two Turkish divisions, and three and a half Austrian divisions. Of the Austrian divisions originally here three have been completely destroyed, and two have departed, one for the Rumanian front and another is missing.

"The composition of the German forces here shows the extraordinary efforts the Germans are making to bolster up the Austrian cause and preserve Lemberg. The only German division here at the inception was the Forty-eighth Reserve Division. Last July there came from the Balkans the Hundred and Fifth German Division, and at the same time the Hundred and Nineteenth from our Riga front. Subsequently two regiments of this division were sent to Kovel. Now one of these has been hurried back here. The Ninety-fifth and the Hundred and Ninety-ninth Divisions came in August, and within the past few days the Hundred and Twenty-third Division arrived from the Aisne and the Two Hundred and Eighth from the Somme. In addition there are present here a fragment of the First Reserve Division and of the Third Prussian Guard Division.

"The Turkish troops, which came several weeks ago, consist of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Divisions, which last year opposed the Allies at the Dardanelles. They have been fighting with extraordinary fierceness.

"The immense efforts being made by the Germans to hold this front and to make sweeping movements, become increasingly difficult, and the campaign here promises to become similar to that in the west, where the enemy's lines must be slowly digested mile after mile."

With the beginning of October, 1916, the Russians once more began their drive against Lemberg. On the last day of September, 1916, the Russians advanced short distances along both sides of the Brody-Lemberg railroad, as well as farther south, (p. 084) near Zboroff, until they were stopped by the curtain of fire directed against them from the Austro-German lines. Still farther south, along both sides of the Zlota Lipa, violent hand-to-hand encounters occurred. In the angle between the Tseninoka and the Zlota Lipa the Russians also advanced and gained a foothold in the first line of the Austro-Germans.

The latter immediately launched strong counterattacks on October 1, 1916, which resulted in the recapture of some of the lost ground, especially along the Brody-Lemberg railroad. By October 2, 1916, the battle for Lemberg was again in full swing all along the line from Brody down to the Dniester, and the Russians succeeded in advancing at some points on the Zlota Lipa. Without diminution the battle continued on October 3, 1916. But so stubborn was the Austro-German resistance that the Russians, in spite of the most violent assaults, were unable to make any noticeable progress, except in the neighborhood of Brody and Zboroff, as well as on the Zlota Lipa. Not only were infantry attacks kept up for two full days, but the most lavish expenditure of shells resulted in the most stunning artillery fire. No changes of any importance, however, occurred in the positions of either side. The same condition continued on October 6, 1916. On October 7 and 8, 1916, the fighting in this region had slowed down to a considerable extent, except in the vicinity of Brzezany where a series of attacks and counterattacks took place without having any definite result for either side.

Throughout the following week up to October 15, 1916, little of real importance occurred in the Lemberg sector. Engagements, some of them more nearly deserving the name "battles," were frequent at many points, but barren of results. Gradually, however, the artillery fire from both sides increased in violence, a sure sign of new attacks. On October 14, 1916, coincident with the new Austro-German offensive in the Carpathians, the Russians again attacked in force near Zboroff, while the Germans attempted an advance south of Halicz. These undertakings gradually developed, and by October 15, 1916, the battle was again raging furiously all along the line east of Lemberg. Especially on the western bank of the Narayuvka, a few miles (p. 085) north of Halicz, strong Austro-German forces were employed and began to gain ground slowly. This small success was gradually increased during the following days, and on October 19, 1916, additional ground was gained in this section. The Austro-Germans claimed to have captured over 2,000 men and held their newly regained positions against a number of strong counterattacks. This success was again enlarged on October 20, 1916.

The fighting for complete control of the west bank of the Narayuvka continued on October 21 and 22, 1916, and by that day the Russians had been forced to give up all their positions. This greatly improved the Austro-German positions before Halicz. This, in conjunction with the severe losses, which the Russians had suffered, resulted in a reduction of fighting and, at least for the time being, the Russian attempts to reach Lemberg ceased. During the balance of October nothing of importance happened in the Lemberg sector of the eastern front, although the Russians attempted a number of times during the last two days of the month to recapture the positions which they had lost on the Narayuvka.

These attempts were renewed on November 1 and 2, 1916, with equal lack of success. Engagements in this region which occurred on November 3, 1916, gave a few additional Russian positions to the Austro-Germans. For the rest of November, 1916, the vicinity of the Narayuvka was frequently the center of minor actions between comparatively small detachments. Similar engagements occurred at various other points on the Lemberg sector, and in some instances were preceded by heavy artillery fire. The net result of all this fighting made practically no change in the relative positions, except that it gave an opportunity to the Austro-Germans to strengthen their positions near Halicz and to bar the way to Lemberg more efficiently than ever.[Back to Contents]

(p. 086) CHAPTER XXI


Just as the Russians maintained their attacks against Lemberg, they continued their drive against Kovel, farther north, in September, 1916. On the first of that month fierce fighting occurred east and south of Vladimir Volynsky, about twenty-five miles south of Kovel. On the Stokhod Austro-German counterattacks near the village of Tobolo, about forty miles northeast of Kovel, likewise resulted in fierce engagements. On September 2, 1916, strong Russian attacks were launched northeast and southeast of Sviniusky. At one time these resulted in the capture of the village of Korytniza, which, however, had to be given up again by the Russians when the Austro-Germans commenced a dangerous outflanking counterattack.

The fighting in this region continued for that entire week, September 3 to 9, 1916. Neither side could gain any noticeable advantage. No matter how often and how violently the Russians threw themselves against the Austro-German lines on the Stokhod, the latter held as they had done before so often. In isolated places the Austro-Germans even assumed the offensive. But in that respect they were not any more successful than their opponents.

Attack in the Riga Sector.

On September 9, 10, and 11, 1916, the Russians launched a series of very fierce attacks, carried out by strong forces against Bavarian troops, holding part of the Stokhod line near Stara Czerwiszcze. Again and again they came on in wave after wave. But neither great numbers nor the most extensive artillery fire had any effect, as far as gaining ground was concerned. The losses on both sides, however, were appalling. By the middle of September, 1916, the fighting in the Kovel sector lost noticeably in violence. On September 16, 1916, however, the Russians again attacked west of Lutsk over a front of about twelve miles. Though they suffered severe losses, they could not overcome the Austro-German resistance, and for the balance of the month of (p. 088) September, 1916, comparative quiet reigned along the Kovel sector of the eastern front.

Simultaneously with their renewed efforts against Lemberg the Russians began once more to drive against Kovel, with the beginning of October, 1916. On October 1 and 2, 1916, the most stubborn fighting developed west of Lutsk in the neighborhood of Zaturze, Zola Savovskaia, and Shelvov. In some places Russian troops stormed twelve times against one and the same position, and at one point they made seventeen attacks. These attacks were kept up for a number of days, but met with little success, and by October 5, 1916, comparative calmness prevailed on the Volhynian sector.

However, on October 8, 1916, the battle west of Lutsk, in the direction of Vladimir Volynski, broke out once more in full fury. On that day the Russians gained some slight successes at a few points, which they lost, however, again on the following day. During the next few days a number of smaller engagements occurred at many places west of Lutsk, near Kiselin and along the Stokhod. These were only forerunners of a new drive against Kovel which was begun on October 14, 1916.

On that day the Russians captured some trenches near Korytniza, forty miles south of Kovel. These were held against many violent Austro-German counterattacks, although the latter were kept up for a number of days. By October 18, 1916, a new battle had developed in the neighborhood of Kiselin, and fighting also was renewed more vigorously on the Stokhod. In the latter region the Austro-Germans regained some ground which they held against strong counterattacks. By October 20, 1916, activities on the Volhynian front had slowed down to an exchange of artillery fire of varying intensity and to minor engagements of local extent and little importance. This condition continued throughout the balance of October, 1916, except that during the last few days the Russian artillery fire along the entire Stokhod line, especially just west of Lutsk, increased greatly in violence.

Throughout November, 1916, only a few actions of real importance took place in the Kovel sector. Most of these occurred (p. 089) on the Stokhod, where the Austro-Germans succeeded in improving their positions at various points. The Russians seemed to be satisfied everywhere to maintain their positions and to repulse as violently as possible all Austro-German attempts to press them back. The most important engagement in this sector most likely occurred on November 9, 1916, in the region of Skrobova, near Baranovitchy, where the Central Powers attacked along a front of about two and one-half miles and inflicted heavy losses on the Russians.

Throughout the entire period of the Russian offensive against Kovel and Lemberg comparative quiet reigned in the northern half of the eastern front. Of course there, as well as everywhere else, continuous engagements occurred. But they were almost all of a minor character, and in most instances amounted to little more than clashes between outposts or patrol detachments. On September 2, 1916, the Germans made a somewhat more pretentious attack against some Lettish battalions of the Russian army near Riga. The latter retorted promptly by a strong counterattack which inflicted severe losses. On September 3, 1916, the Russians repulsed a strong German gas attack.

During the balance of September, 1916, comparatively little of importance occurred along the northern half of the eastern front between Riga and the Styr. On September 6, 1916, the Russians crossed to the western bank of the Dvina, north of Dvinsk, drove the Germans out of their trenches along a short stretch and captured these positions. On the next day the Germans promptly attacked these positions, first with artillery and then with infantry, but were unable to dislodge the Russians. On September 12, 1916, the Russians made a number of attacks north of Dvetnemouth and near Garbunovka, but were repulsed. A similar fate was suffered by a series of massed attacks, preceded by a gas attack, which were undertaken by the Germans on September 22, 1916, southwest of Lake Narotch.

The month of October, 1916, brought little of moment on the northern half of the eastern front. Of course, local engagements occurred at various places almost continuously, but most of them were little less than fights between outposts of patrols. On (p. 090) October 12, 1916, the Germans suddenly attacked Russian trenches near the village of Goldovitchy, on the western bank of the Shara, north of the Pripet Marshes. A few isolated gas attacks were attempted by the Russians in the same vicinity on October 24 and 25, 1916. The latter was reciprocated by an infantry attack, carried out by a small German force on October 26, 1916, which had no result. A similar attack made against the Russian positions just south of Riga was equally unsuccessful.

During November, 1916, practically nothing of importance happened anywhere along that part of the eastern front which stretches from Riga to the Styr. Occasional attacks by small infantry groups were made by both sides, but resulted in no actual change in the relative positions. At other times artillery duels would take place, varying in duration and intensity, and having likewise no result of real importance.[Back to Contents]



Accompanying the renewed Russian efforts against Lemberg and Kovel in the beginning of September, 1916, fighting broke out again with greater vigor in the Carpathians. Numerous local engagements took place on September 1, 1916, none of which, however, brought any successes to the attacking Russians. They were more successful on the following day, September 2, 1916. South of Rafailov, in the region of Kapul Mountain and also near Dorna Vatra, the Austro-Germans lost some strongly fortified positions and the Russians thereby captured some heights. Considerable fighting also occurred on both banks of the Bystritza near the Rumanian border. These successes were somewhat extended by the Russians on September 3, 1916. On the following day small engagements developed southwest of Zabie and in the region of Shypoth. Strong Russian attacks (p. 091) were repulsed with heavy losses southwest of Fundul Moldowi. Finally, on September 5, 1916, these continuous Russian attacks lasting day and night somewhat undermined the Austro-German resistance and resulted in a slight Russian advance along the entire line of attack.

On September 6, 1916, the Russians attacked southeast of Zielona, about thirty-five miles southwest of Stanislau, and on the Bagaludova west of the Kirlibaba Valley, on the border between the Bukowina and Hungary. Both of these attacks were repulsed. The Austro-Germans promptly replied with counterattacks near Zielona and west of Shypoth on September 7, 1916. The Russians registered some successes on the following day, September 8, 1916, west and southwest of Shypoth as well as near Dorna Vatra. On the same day the Austro-Germans were also forced to retreat northwest of Mount Kapul, a neighborhood in which more or less fighting had been in progress ever since July, 1916. This mountain peak is about 5,000 feet high. Again on September 9, 1916, the Russians gained some ground west of Shypoth after attacking at many points in the southern Carpathians. The heights east of the Cibo Valley, about three miles west of Mount Kapul and just within the Hungarian line, were also occupied by Russian forces.

Attacks again occurred in the Mount Kapul sector on September 10 and 11, 1916. On the latter day the Russians finally succeeded in capturing Mount Kapul, after first having occupied a ridge to the north of it. Almost 1,000 prisoners as well as some machine guns and mortars fell into their hands. This success apparently encouraged the Russians to other efforts in this territory.

On September 12, 1916, they attacked in the Carpathians along the entire line from Smotrych, southwest of Zabie, to the Golden Bystritza, without, however, making any headway.

Part of the position on Mount Kapul lost by the Austro-Germans on September 11, 1916, was recovered on the fourteenth. To the west, in the Cibo Valley, the fighting continued, but here too, as along the balance of the eastern front, fighting gradually slowed down during the rest of September, 1916.

(p. 092) During the first half of October, 1916, fighting in the Carpathians was of a rather desultory nature. Neither side, though frequently undertaking local engagements, registered any noticeable successes. Suddenly on October 14, 1916, simultaneously with the increased vigor shown by the Russians in Volhynia and Galicia, the Central Powers launched a violent offensive movement along the entire Carpathian front, from the Jablonica Pass down to the Rumanian border, on a front of some seventy-five miles.

Especially heavy fighting occurred near Kirlibaba, in the Ludova sector, and south of Dorna Vatra. In the latter region the Russians were thrown back over the Negra Valley. These early successes, however, led to nothing of importance. After October 15, 1916, up to the end of the month only local engagements took place. By that time weather conditions in the Carpathians had become too severe to permit of any extensive operations.

Just as on the other parts of the eastern front the Carpathian sector showed comparatively little activity during the month of November, 1916. Only at one point, in the region south of Dorna Vatra, did there occur an action of somewhat greater importance. The Russians there had gradually gained some ground by a series of small engagements. About the middle of the month the Austro-Germans launched a strong counterattack and regained all the ground, inflicting at the same time heavy losses on the Russians. At other points occasional artillery duels took place, and at many places small local engagements between outposts and patrol detachments occurred almost daily.[Back to Contents]



With the beginning of December, 1916, the severity of the cold weather became so pronounced that activities at the eastern front had to be reduced to a minimum by both sides. During the first week of December, 1916, considerable fighting, however, continued in that part of the Carpathians just north of the Rumanian border, especially in the vicinity of Dorna Vatra and Kirlibaba. This, too, gradually decreased in violence, and during the second week of the month only minor engagements between outposts and the usual trench activities occurred.

On December 17, 1916, the Germans, after considerable artillery preparation, started a more extensive offensive movement in the vicinity of Great and Little Porsk, about twenty-one miles southeast of Kovel. After considerable fighting, lasting all afternoon, nightfall put a temporary stop to this undertaking. It was, however, renewed during the early morning hours of the following day, and as a result the Germans occupied small portions of the Russian positions. These were held against a number of Russian counterattacks made during the following days. Minor engagements also occurred on December 16, 17, and 18, 1916, near Kabarowce, northwest of Tarnopol; in the Jezupol region of the river Bystrzyca between Stanislau and the Dniester; southwest of Vale Putna in the extreme south of the Bukowina; on the Narajowka River near Herbutow, about ten miles north of Halicz; and near Augustowka south of Zboroff.

During the balance of December, 1916, nothing of importance happened at any part of the eastern front, except that on December 25, 1916, the Germans violently bombarded the Russian positions in the region between Brody and Tarnopol in Galicia and farther south on the Narajowka south of Brzezany.

The first few days in January, 1917, brought little change on the eastern front. Engagements between small detachments (p. 094) occurred daily at a number of places. None of these was of any importance.

On January 23, 1917, the Germans after extensive artillery preparation launched an attack with considerable forces against the positions which the Russians had recently gained along the river Aa. Though meeting with stubborn resistance they were successful, and captured not only considerable ground, but also some 1,500 prisoners. The Russians were forced to retire about a mile and a half toward the north. During the next two days, January 24 and 25, 1917, they were forced back still farther. These gains the Germans were able to hold in the face of strong Russian counterattacks made on January 26 and 27, 1917, though they were unable to extend them.

During the last four days of January, 1917, engagements along the entire front increased occasionally in number and violence. On January 28, 1917, Russian troops attacked positions held by Turkish troops near the Galician village of Potutory, some seven miles south of Brzezany. At the point of the bayonet the Turks were forced to yield, and in spite of a number of counterattacks the Russians maintained their success. Fighting on January 29, 1917, was restricted chiefly to the vicinity of the river Aa, where the Germans again made some slight gains. This was also the case on January 30, 1917, when the Germans with the assistance of extensive artillery bombardments and a series of gas attacks captured some more Russian positions as well as about 900 prisoners and fifteen machine guns.

On the last day of January, 1917, practically nothing of any importance occurred at any point of the eastern front, the whole length of which was that day in the grip of ever-increasing cold.[Back to Contents]




Finally the military power of Rumania was of enough consequence to warrant the greatest exertions on the part of diplomats to obtain its active support. With a population of close to 7,000,000, the little state could throw a respectable army into the field. In 1914 her infantry numbered well over a quarter of a million, her cavalry close up to 20,000, while her equipment included 600 modern cannon and 300 machine guns. Aside from this there was a considerable reserve to draw from. By the middle of 1916, just before she entered the war, it was estimated by good authorities that the Rumanian army numbered at least 600,000 men under arms and that about an equal number could still be counted on in the reserves. In theory at least, it was a well-trained army. The artillery of all classes numbered about 1,500 guns, but there was a marked shortage of really powerful cannon. The horse and field artillery were armed with Krupp quick-firers of 3-inch caliber, and the heavy and the mountain guns were from the Creusot works in France. The infantry was armed with the Austrian Mannlicher rifle, but of these arms Rumania possessed barely enough to arm her 600,000 men.

Shortly before she definitely made her decision, this stock of arms was considerably augmented by shipments from France and England, and even from Russia, but on account of the fact that they must be shipped by a dangerous sea route and then across Russia, the time of transit covering six weeks, she was probably not very well supplied with ammunition.[Back to Contents]

(p. 096) CHAPTER XXV


The first news of the actual fighting was given to the world through an official Austrian communiqué, dated August 28, 1916, announcing that, during the preceding night, the Rumanians had begun a determined attack on the Austrian forces in the Red Tower Pass and the passes leading to Brasso. On the following day another report added that the attempted invasion had become general and that the Imperial troops were resisting attacks in all the passes along the whole frontier. But, added the report, everywhere the Rumanians had been successfully repulsed, especially near Orsova, in the Red Tower Pass, and in the passes south of Brasso. In spite of these successes, however, the Austrians were compelled to retire their advanced detachments to a position prepared in the rear, as planned long before, because overwhelming forces of Rumanians were attempting a far-reaching flanking movement. As a matter of fact, the Austrians, never very determined fighters, and now especially demoralized by the recent success of the Russian offensive under Brussilov, were giving way all along the line before the Rumanians under General Averescu. On the same day a Rumanian official report gave a long list of villages and towns which the Rumanians had taken beyond the frontier, their Fourth Army Corps also having taken 740 prisoners. Within two days Averescu had advanced so rapidly that he was in possession of Petroseny, north of the Vulkan Pass, and of Brasso, beyond Predeal Pass. His troops were pouring through the Tolgyes and Bekas Passes up in the north in steady streams, and were advancing on Maros Vasarhely, a military base and one of the principal towns of central Transylvania. The Rumanians advancing by way of Gyimes, after a sharp encounter with the Austrians, had driven the latter back to the heights east of Csikszereda, a point over twenty miles inside the Austrian frontier. Finally, spirited fighting was taking place in the (p. 097) Varciorova Pass on the Danube, and here too the Austrians made a very poor showing.

Then on the last day of the month came the announcement from Bucharest that Russian forces had arrived on Rumanian soil and were already crossing the Danube over into Dobrudja, their left wing on the Black Sea coast being protected by ships of the Russian fleet. The commander of this force was General Zaionchovsky, who, together with his staff, had been welcomed in Bucharest by a throng of the enthusiastic inhabitants, women and children hurling bouquets of flowers on the Russians as they passed through the streets. Another peculiar feature of this event was the organization of a brigade of Serbians, interned soldiers who had escaped into Rumanian territory during the invasion of their country the year previously. These now became a part of the Russian contingent. Meanwhile in the north the Rumanians and the Russians had also joined forces, and on August 29, 1916, Berlin officially announced that the German-Austrian forces in that section had been attacked by the Russo-Rumanians in the Carpathians.

On the Danube the Austrian river fleet showed some activity. A monitor shelled Varciorova, Turnu Severin, and Giurgevo, situated on the Rumanian bank, and some small craft were captured at Zimnita. On the other hand, the Rumanians were reported to have begun a general bombardment of Rustchuk, an important Bulgarian port on the river. And on the night of the 28th the fact that the nation was at war was brought home to the citizens of the capital by an aeroplane and a Zeppelin, which sailed over the city dropping bombs, but doing very little harm. During the following month such raids were to be almost daily occurrences, and many were the women and children killed by the bombs hurled down from above.

On the 1st of September, 1916, came the announcement of a really striking victory for the Rumanians: Orsova, where heavy fighting had been raging since the first hour of the war and in which the Austrians were daily claiming success, was finally taken. Here the Austrians held a strong position, against which the Rumanians had hurled one assault after another, until they (p. 098) succeeded in taking two heights overlooking the town, each over a thousand feet high and thus forced the defeated enemy over the Cserna River, a northern branch of the Danube. This success caused some sensation, for now it appeared that the way was opening for an offensive across the southern portion of Hungary which should sever the Teutons and the Magyars from their Bulgarian and Turkish allies.

Badly beaten as they had been by Brussilov, the Hungarians and the Austrians were now considerably shaken. Again, Germany was called on to come to the rescue, as she had done before on the eastern front and in Serbia. Nor could the Germans afford to overlook the call, for there had been much agitation in Hungary for a separate peace. Indeed, Germany had for some time been preparing to relieve the situation as subsequent events conclusively proved. On the following day, September 2, 1916, her first blow was struck.[Back to Contents]



Up to this time the Rumanians had hoped, perhaps, even believed, that Bulgaria would refrain from attacking in Dobrudja. Not a word had come from Sofia indicating that Bulgaria intended to begin hostilities. But on this day, September 2, 1916, a strong force composed of Bulgarians, Turks, and Germans, which had been quietly mobilizing behind the Bulgarian frontier, hurled itself over into Dobrudja and threw back the weak Rumanian guards. The force with which this blow was delivered was understood a few days later, when it was learned that Germany had sent her best field commander, General Mackensen, to direct operations in this zone.

This territory is of a nature entirely different from the scene of the fighting along the eastern and northern borders of Rumania. Dobrudja forms a square tract of level country, about (p. 099) a hundred miles long and sixty broad, lying just south of the delta of the Danube and along the Black Sea coast. The larger part of it is marshy or low, sandy plain. Here the Danube splits into three branches, only one of which, the Sulina, is navigable. Two railroads traverse this country; the one running from Bucharest to Constanza, an important seaport; another branching off from this line below Medgidia, running down to Dobric, thence over the frontier into Bulgaria. The former was of special importance to the Rumanians, as it was the only line of communication between Rumania and any Rumanian force that might be operating in Dobrudja. It crossed the Danube over a bridge and viaduct eleven miles in length, forming the only permanent crossing over the river below the bridge at Belgrade. This structure ranks as one of the big engineering works in the world, its cost being close to $3,000,000. It consists, first of a bridge of three spans, 500 yards in length, then follows a viaduct eight miles in length, resting on piers built on islands, and finally comes a bridge 850 yards in length, of five spans, crossing the main channel of the river, which here is a hundred feet deep in places. Such is the famous Cernavoda Bridge. Toward this important point Mackensen's first move was obviously directed.

On September 3, 1916, a Rumanian dispatch announced that Mackensen was attacking in full force along his front below Dobric and that he had been repulsed. But as developed within twenty-four hours Mackensen was not repulsed. On the contrary, he was advancing, as was shown the next day when he had extended his lines to a point eight miles northwest of Dobric, while the full length of the frontier was well within his front. On the following day, the 4th, Dobric was attacked and easily taken, and the combined forces of Bulgarians, Turks, and Germans hurled themselves against the outer fortifications protecting the south end of the bridge at Tutrakan. Fortunately for the Rumanians they were now reenforced by a considerable body of Russians, and the Bulgarians were temporarily checked, the heaviest fighting taking place in the neighborhood of Dobric. But the Rumanians and the Russians were plainly outnumbered, at Dobric they were gradually pressed back, while at the bridgehead (p. 100) they were severely defeated. At this latter point the enemy showed his vast superiority in artillery, which he had concentrated here for the purpose of demolishing the fortifications. After nearly a dozen assaults, each following a furious artillery preparation, the Bulgarians finally, on September 6, 1916, drove the Rumanians back and took the fort. It was at this point that the German and Bulgarian dispatches claimed that 20,000 Rumanians were taken prisoner, but dispatches from Bucharest stoutly denied this. However, as was admitted later, the total losses of the Rumanians could not have been much less.

After the fall of Tutrakan the Russo-Rumanian forces, under the command of General Aslan, retired northward, and a lull came in the fighting on this front which lasted almost a week. On the 8th Silistra too was evacuated by the Rumanians after a spirited defense by the small garrison. When the news of these reverses became known to the people of Bucharest little depression was shown, for the operations against the Austro-Hungarians were continuing successfully for the Rumanians.

In spite of the fact that the Austro-Hungarians had had two years' experience of warfare, and that the Rumanians were new to actual fighting, the former made very poor resistance. With comparative ease the Rumanians advanced beyond Brasso and took Sepsiszentgyorgy and forced the Austro-Hungarians to retreat west of Csikszereda. On the 8th the Rumanians announced themselves in possession of Toplicza, San Milai, Delne, and Gyergyoszentmiklos, while in the sector between Hatszeg and Petroseny they were pressing the enemy severely. Nowhere did the Austrians make any serious resistance: they retreated, as slowly as possible, under the protection of rear-guard actions, yielding over 4,000 prisoners to the advancing Rumanians, as well as a great deal of railroad rolling stock, cattle, and many convoys of provisions. That they were expecting the assistance which was presently to come to them from the Germans seems obvious from the fact that they did not destroy the railroad or its tunnels or bridges as they retired; they apparently felt certain of returning. The peasantry, on the other hand, burned their houses and crops in those sections where the population is (p. 101) Magyar, then fled toward Budapest, which was beginning to fill with refugees. In those sections where the Rumanians were numerous the people, according to the Rumanian dispatches, welcomed the invaders with frantic enthusiasm.

The victorious Rumanians continued toward Hermannstadt, taking Schellenberg on the way. Here a Hungarian army had been defeated in 1599 by Rumanians under Michael the Brave. Hermannstadt, however, marked the high tide of Rumanian victory. At this point the resistance of the enemy began suddenly to stiffen. And then came the report that the Rumanians were observing German uniforms among the opposing forces. Again Germany had come to the rescue. On September 13, 1916, the first German troops to arrive on the scene came in contact with the Rumanians southeast of Hatszeg near Hermannstadt. Within two days the Rumanians were no longer able to gain ground, though for some time longer they sorely pressed their enemies.

Meanwhile, Mackensen in Dobrudja was showing extreme activity. The lull which followed the retirement of the Rumanians from Tutrakan was suddenly terminated on the 12th, when the Bulgarians and their allies attacked Lipnitza, fifteen miles east of Silistria. Here the Rumanians resisted furiously, and after an all-night fight they severely repulsed Mackensen's troops, taking eight German guns. However, this was only a temporary advantage. Some days later the German kaiser, in a telegram to his wife, announced that Mackensen had gained a decisive victory in Dobrudja. While this phraseology is perhaps a little too strong as a description of the situation at that date, the fact was that the Rumanians and the Russians were again forced to retire northward. According to the German reports the retreat was a disorderly flight, but the absence of any reports indicating a large capture of prisoners or material would indicate that the Germans exaggerated their success. At this moment a new loan was being launched in Germany, and it was natural that the military situation should be somewhat warmly colored.

On September 17, 1916, the Rumanian dispatches indicated that the Russo-Rumanian forces in Dobrudja had fallen back to (p. 102) a line reaching from Rasova, south of Cernavoda some ten miles to Tuzla, twelve miles south of Constanza. Thus the situation was quite grave enough. Meanwhile, some days before, General Averescu, who seemed to have been doing so well on the Hungarian front, was sent to Dobrudja, in the hope apparently that his superior abilities would save the situation. He arrived on the 16th, together with considerable reenforcements which had been drawn from the northwest, where the Russians were supporting the Rumanians. Further Russian contingents had also arrived, and on the following day, the 17th, Averescu turned suddenly on Mackensen and gave him determined battle. This was the heaviest fighting which had so far taken place in this section. Again and again Mackensen hurled his Bulgarians and Turks against the Russo-Rumanian lines, first battering them with his huge cannon. At Rasova, on the Danube, his attacks were especially heavy. Had he taken this point he would have been able to flank the Rumanians at Cernavoda, capture the bridgehead there and so cut all communication between the Rumanians in Dobrudja with Rumania itself. The battle raged until the 19th all along the line, with no definite advantage to either side. But on that day reenforcements came to Averescu. That night he began to advance. The mightiest efforts of Mackensen's forces were unable to check him. At dawn the Bulgarians began to retreat, setting fire to the villages through which they retired. In this battle the Rumanians were plainly victorious. No doubt they were in superior numbers, for Sarrail's offensive in Macedonia had grown extremely formidable and the Bulgarians had been compelled to rush down reenforcements from the Dobrudja front. At any rate, Mackensen was forced to retreat until he established his re-formed lines from Oltina, on the Danube, to a point southwest of Toprosari, thence to the Black Sea coast, south of Tuzla. For the time being the Rumanians were much elated by their success. But, as time was to show, it was merely temporary.[Back to Contents]



The center of interest in the campaign now became the Hungarian front. As has already been stated, by the middle of the month the arrival of German reenforcements had checked the advance of the Rumanians, and now the situation along this front assumed an aspect not quite so encouraging to the Rumanians. Some little progress was still made in this direction in the third week of the month; after a few slight engagements the Rumanians occupied Homorod Almas and Fogaras, the latter a town of some importance halfway between Brasso and Hermannstadt. During these operations nearly a thousand prisoners were taken. Finally, on the 16th, they reached Barot, dominating the railroad between Brasso and Foeldvar, some thirty miles beyond the frontier.

Meanwhile German troops had reenforced the Austrians at Hatszeg, in the valley of the Streiu. Here on the 14th a pitched battle was begun in a mountain defile, which lasted two days and resulted in the defeat of a force of Magyars. On the 18th General von Staabs, commanding a large force of German troops, attacked the Rumanians in the Hatszeg sector, and after a very hot fight thrust them back. And at about the same time German forces began attacking the Rumanians in the Gyergyoi Havosok and Kalemen Hegyseg ranges of the Carpathians.

On the 21st a Berlin dispatch announced that the Teutonic forces had carried the Vulkan Pass and cleared it of the enemy. On the following day, however, the Rumanians were still fighting at this point and three days later forced the Teutons back and reconquered the lost territory, as well as the neighboring Szurduk Pass. By the 28th they had recovered ten miles of lost ground within the Hungarian frontier, driving the Austrians and the Germans before them.

Teutonic Invasion of Rumania.

A month had now passed since the outbreak of hostilities and the Rumanians were still holding a large conquered territory, (p. 105) nearly a third of Transylvania, or about 7,000 square miles of country. They were in complete occupation of four out of fifteen administrative departments and a portion of five others. Up to this time 7,000 prisoners had been captured. Meanwhile large forces of Germans continued arriving and reenforcing the enemy's lines, and now the determination of the Germans to devote their best energies to the punishment of Rumania was indicated by the fact that this northern army was under the command of General von Falkenhayn, formerly chief of the German General Staff.

On September 26, 1916, the Germans began their first really serious advance, the point of attack falling on the Rumanians near Hermannstadt, about fifty miles northeast of Vulkan Pass. For three days the Rumanians made a heroic resistance against a great superiority in men and heavy cannon on the part of the enemy. On the third day the Rumanians found themselves entirely surrounded, their retreat through the Red Tower Pass being cut off by a column of Bavarian Alpine troops who had scaled the mountain heights and occupied the pass in the rear. Rendered desperate by this situation, the Rumanians now fought fiercely to escape through the ring that encircled them, but only a comparatively few succeeded in reaching Fogaras, from which town another Rumanian force had been trying to make a diversion in their favor. In this action, according to German accounts, the Rumanians lost 3,000 men, thirteen guns, ten locomotives, and a quantity of other material. This battle, called by the Germans the Battle of Hermannstadt, enabled them to occupy again the Red Tower Pass. On October 1, 1916, they had continued beyond this pass and were attacking a Rumanian force south of it, near Caineni, on Rumanian territory. Thus, with the first of the new month the Rumanians were on the defensive in this region.[Back to Contents]



On the following day general attention was again attracted toward the Dobrudja by a feat on the part of the Rumanians which for the moment gave the impression that she was about to strike the enemy an unexpected and decisive blow. A day or two before a Turkish and a Bulgarian division had been severely repulsed near Toprosari, south of Tuzla. Immediately there succeeded a general assault along the entire line to which Mackensen had retreated on the 20th, but though thirteen guns were captured, he did not again give ground.

Suddenly, on the morning of October 2, 1916, the Rumanians threw a pontoon bridge across the Danube at Rahova, about halfway between Rustchuk and Tutrakan, and well in the rear of Mackensen's line. Before the small Bulgarian forces stationed at this point were aware of what had happened they were completely overwhelmed by the Rumanians, who were streaming across the bridge. All the villages in the neighborhood were seized and for twenty-four hours it was expected that Mackensen was about to suffer a sensational repulse. But apparently the Rumanians lacked the forces necessary for the successful carrying out of what would have been a brilliant stroke, or possibly the Bulgarian forces which appeared here against them were larger than had been expected, for the next day they announced that the force which had been thrown across the river had again retired, unharmed, the object of its demonstration having been accomplished. According to the Bulgarian accounts their retreat was forced because of the appearance of an Austrian monitor, which began shelling and destroying the pontoon bridge, and that before the retreat had been completed the bridge had been destroyed and a large remnant of the Rumanian force had been captured or killed. In general, however, the fighting during these first few days of the month gave neither side any (p. 107) advantage, and again the situation calmed down to comparative inactivity.

That the retirement of the Rumanians was well ordered is shown by the fact that even the Berlin dispatches claimed very few prisoners, in addition to a thousand taken at Brasso, while the Austro-Germans had lost considerably over a thousand. On the 6th Fogaras had been relinquished. North and east of Brasso the Rumanians had also retreated. On the 8th Berlin announced that "the entire eastern front of the enemy was in retreat." This was, in general, quite true, except that for a few days longer they still held their positions in the valley of the Maros.

Aside from the advantage in his superiority of numbers, Falkenhayn also had at his disposal the better railroad accommodations. A line running parallel with almost the entire front enabled him to shift his forces back and forth, wherever the contingencies of the situation made them needed most. By the 12th he was facing the Rumanians in the passes. Heavy fighting then began developing at Torzburg, Predeal, and Buzau Passes. Finally the Rumanians were forced back toward Crasna on the frontier. A critical moment seemed imminent. Averescu, who had defeated Mackensen, was now recalled from the Dobrudja and sent to take command of the Rumanian forces defending the passes behind Brasso.

By the middle of the second week of October, 1916, the Rumanians had lost all the territory they had taken, except a little in the northeast. The German-Austrian pressure was now heaviest in two areas: about the passes behind Brasso and before the Gyimes Pass in the northeast.

In the latter region, on the 11th, the Rumanians had retired from Csikszereda and from positions higher up on the circular strategic railroad in the valley of the Maros. Before Oitoz Pass they resisted fiercely, and for a time were able to hold their ground. But it was in the passes behind Brasso that Falkenhayn's weight was being felt most severely. On the 12th the following description of the general situation was issued from Bucharest:

(p. 108) "From Mount Buksoi as far as Bran the enemy has attacked, but is being repulsed."

On the following day came better news than the Rumanians had heard for some weeks. The Germans had not only been checked in the Buzau and the Predeal Passes, but they had suffered a genuine setback there, being forced to retire. This victory was important in that Predeal Pass had been saved, for not only was this pass close to Bucharest, but through it ran a railroad and a good highway, crossing the mountains almost due south of Brasso at a height of a little over 3,000 feet. On the next day, however, the Rumanians were driven out of the Torzburg Pass and forced to retire to Rucaru, a small town seven miles within Rumanian territory. Falkenhayn's forces were now flowing through the gap in the mountain chain and deploying among the foothills on the Rumanian side of the chain. Here the situation was growing dangerous to an extreme degree. Only ten miles farther south, over high, rolling ground, was Campulung, the terminus of a railroad running directly into Bucharest, only ninety miles distant.

But Falkenhayn made no further progress that day. In the neighboring passes he was held back successfully while his left flank in the Oitoz Pass and his right flank in the Vulkan Pass were each thrown back. All during the 15th and the 16th the fighting in the passes continued desperately, the battle being especially obstinate before the railroad terminus at Campulung, up in the foothills. At about this same time the Russians in the Dorna Vatra district, where they joined with the Rumanians, began a strong offensive, in the hope of relieving the pressure on the Rumanians farther down. This attempt was hardly successful, as the German opposition in this sector developed to unexpected strength. On the 17th Falkenhayn succeeded in squeezing himself through Gyimes Pass and reaching Agas, seven miles inside the frontier. At about the same time strong fighting began in the Red Tower Pass. The battle was, indeed, raging at a tense heat up and down the whole front. It was now becoming obvious that the Central Powers had determined to make an example of Rumania and punish her "treachery," as they called (p. 109) it, even though they must suspend activity in every other theater of the war to do so. Not a little anxiety was caused in the Allied countries. The matter was brought up and caused a hot discussion in the British Parliament. In the third week France sent a military mission to Bucharest under General Berthelot, while England, France, and Russia were all making every effort to keep the Rumanians supplied with ammunition, in which, however, they could not have been entirely successful.

The Rumanians, on their part, continued defending every step forward made by the enemy. On the 18th they won a victory in the Gyimes Pass which cost the enemy nearly a thousand prisoners and twelve guns. At Agas, in the Oitoz region, the Austro-Germans also suffered a local defeat. Nor had they so far made very marked progress in the passes behind Brasso. There seems to be no doubt that had the Rumanians been able to devote all their forces and resources to the defense of the Hungarian frontier, they would probably have been able to hold back Falkenhayn's forces. But Mackensen had forced them to split their strength.

On October 19, 1916, the situation in Dobrudja again began assuming an unpleasant aspect. On that date Mackensen began a new offensive. Since his retirement a month previous he had remained remarkably quiet, possibly with the purpose of making the Rumanians believe that he had been more seriously beaten than was really the case, so that they might withdraw forces from this front for the Transylvania operations. This, in fact, they had been doing, and when, on the 19th, he suddenly began renewing his operations, the Russo-Rumanian forces were not in a position to hold him back.

After a vigorous artillery preparation, which destroyed the Russo-Rumanian trenches in several places, Mackensen began a series of assaults which presently compelled the Russo-Rumanian forces to retire in the center and on the right wing. On the 21st the Germans reported that they had captured Tuzla and the heights northwest of Toprosari, as well as the heights near Mulciova, and that they had taken prisoner some three thousand Russians. This success now began to threaten the railroad line (p. 110) from Cernavoda to Constanza. This line had been Mackensen's objective from the beginning. On the 23d a dispatch from Bucharest announced that the Rumanian lines had retired again and were barely south of this railroad. Having captured Toprosari and Cobadin, the Bulgarians advanced on Constanza, and on the 22d they succeeded in entering this important seaport, though the Rumanians were able to remove the stores there under the fire of the Russian warships.

General von Mackensen and his staff in Rumania. Already victorious in campaigns in Galicia and Serbia, Mackensen won new laurels in the Dobrudja. His troops pushed on to Bucharest, which fell December 6, 1916.

On the same date Mackensen began an attack on Medgidia, up the railroad about twenty-five miles from Constanza, and succeeded in taking it. He also took Rasova, in spite of the fierce resistance which the Rumanians made at this point. In these operations Mackensen reported that he had taken seven thousand prisoners and twelve guns. Next he attacked Cernavoda, where the great bridge crossed the Danube, and on the morning of the 25th the defenders were compelled to retire across the structure, afterward blowing it up. Thus the railroad was now in the hands of Mackensen. The Russians and the Rumanians had been driven across the river or up along its bank. But it would be no small matter for the enemy to follow them. With the aid of so effective a barrier as this broad river it now seemed possible that the Rumanians might decrease their forces very considerably on this front, still succeed in holding Mackensen back, and turn their full attention to Falkenhayn in the north. Of course, there still remained the northern section of Dobrudja, passing up east of southern Rumania to the head of the Black Sea and the Russian frontier, along which Mackensen might advance and get in behind the rear of the main Russian lines. But this country in large part constitutes the Danube delta and is swampy, and is certainly not fitted for operations involving heavy artillery. Moreover, Mackensen was now at the narrowest part of Dobrudja, whose shape somewhat resembles an hourglass, and a farther advance would mean an extension of his lines. Aside from this, by advancing farther north, he laid his rear open to a possible raid from across the river, such as the Rumanians had attempted on October 2, 1916, unsuccessfully, to be sure, but sufficiently to show that the whole bank of the river must be (p. 111) guarded. The farther Mackensen advanced northward the more men he would require to guard his rear along the river. For the time being, at least, the river created a deadlock, with the advantage to whichever side should be on the defensive. The Rumanians might very well now have left a minimum force guarding the river bank while they turned their main forces northward to stem the tide of Teuton invasion through the passes.

For over a week this seemed exactly what the Rumanians were doing. On November 4, 1916, the situation along the Rumanian front in the mountains looked extremely well for King Ferdinand's armies. At no point had the Teutons made any appreciable headway, while in two regions, in the Jiul Valley and southeast of Kronstadt, Bucharest reported substantial gains. Berlin and Vienna both admitted that the Rumanians had recaptured Rosca, a frontier height east of the Predeal Pass.[Back to Contents]



On November 6, 1916, came the news from Bucharest that the Rumanian and Russian forces in northern Dobrudja had again assumed the offensive and that Mackensen's line was giving way; and that in retiring his troops had burned the villages of Daeni, Gariot, Rosman, and Gaidar. Full details of these operations were never issued, but as day after day passed it became obvious that the Russo-Rumanian armies were indeed making a determined effort to regain the ground lost in Dobrudja.

On November 9, 1916, it was announced through London that the Russian General Sakharov had been transferred from Galicia and was now in command of the allied forces in Dobrudja; that he had succeeded in pushing Mackensen's lines back from Hirsova on the Danube, where a gunboat flotilla was cooperating (p. 112) with him, and that Mackensen was now retreating through Topal, twelve miles farther south, and was only thirteen miles north of the Cernavoda-Constanza railroad. On November 10, 1916, an official announcement from Petrograd stated that "on the Danube front our cavalry and infantry detachments occupied the station of Dunareav, three versts from Cernavoda. We are fighting for possession of the Cernavoda Bridge. More than two hundred corpses have been counted on the captured ground. A number of prisoners and machine guns have also been captured. We have occupied the town of Hirsova and the village of Musluj and the heights three versts south of Delgeruiv and five versts southwest of Fasmidja." On the following day the Russian ships began bombarding Constanza and set fire to the town which, according to the Petrograd reports, was burned to the ground. At the same time a Russian force advancing southward along the right bank of the Danube occupied the villages of Ghisdarechti and Topal. On that same date Sofia also reported heavy fighting and an enemy advance near the Cernavoda Bridge. Two days later, on the 13th, an indirect report through London stated that the Russians had crossed the Danube south of the bridge, behind Mackensen's front. This was not officially confirmed, but apparently another attempt was made to strike Mackensen's rear from across the river.

Meanwhile the Russo-Rumanian line was pressing Mackensen's front back, hammering especially on his left wing up against the river, until he was a bare few miles north of the railroad and thirty miles south of the point farthest north he had been able to reach. Here he seems to have held fast, for further reports of fighting on the Danube front become vague and contradictory. At any rate, the Russo-Rumanian advance stopped short of victory, as the recapture of the Cernavoda-Constanza railroad would have been. That Mackensen's retreat may have been voluntary, to encourage the enemy to advance and thereby weaken his front on the Transylvanian front, seems possible in the light of later events. Also, it was possible that his forces had been weakened by Bulgarian regiments being withdrawn and sent down to the Macedonian front, where Monastir was in grave (p. 113) danger and was presently to fall to the French-Russian-Serbian forces. From this moment a silence settles over this front; when Mackensen again emerges into the light shed by official dispatches, it is to execute some of the most brilliant moves that have yet been made during the entire war.[Back to Contents]



Meanwhile hard fighting had been going on on the Transylvanian front, one day favoring one side and on the next day favoring the other. On November 5, 1916, the Germans regained Rosca heights, which the Rumanians had taken on the 3d. On the 7th the Russians were pressing the Germans hard below Dorna Vatra, while southeast of Red Tower Pass and near the Vulkan Pass the Rumanians suffered reverses, losing a thousand men as prisoners, according to the Vienna and Berlin dispatches. But before another week had passed it became evident that the Teutons were gaining, whether because of superior artillery, or because the Rumanians had weakened this front for the sake of the Dobrudja offensive. For each step the Teutons fell back they advanced two. Not unlike a skillful boxer Falkenhayn feinted at one point, then struck hard at another unexpectedly. Without doubt skill and superior knowledge, as well as superior organization, were on the side of the invaders. By the middle of the month the Rumanians were being forced back, both in the Alt and the Jiul valleys, facts which could not be hidden by the dispatches from Bucharest announcing the capture of a machine gun at one point or a few dozen prisoners at another. A few days later the London papers were commenting on the extremely dangerous situation in Rumania.

The Teutons had been pushing especially hard against the extreme left of the Rumanian line in western Wallachia. On the 15th, after a week of continuous hammering, the Austro-Germans (p. 114) forced their way down from the summits after battering down the permanent frontier fortifications with their heavy mortars. Pushed down into the foothills, the Rumanians, who were now being reenforced by Russian forces, decided to make a stand on the range of hills running east and west and lying south of Turgujiulij, the first important town south of the mountains. Foggy weather favored the Russo-Rumanians and enabled them to take up a strong position at this point before being observed by the Germans. The latter began launching a series of assaults. For three days these frontal attacks were continued. Finally numbers told; the Rumanian center was broken. Then the German cavalry, which had been held in reserve, hurled itself through the breach and raced down through the valley toward the railroad, thirty miles distant, preventing the fleeing Russians and Rumanians from making any further stands. On the following day, the 19th, the cavalry had reached the Orsova-Craiova railroad and occupied it from Filliash, an important junction, to Strehaia station, a distance of twelve miles.

Two days later came the announcement that Craiova itself had been taken by the Teuton forces. This town is the center of an important grain district on the edge of the Wallachian Plain. From a military point of view the importance of its capture was in that it was a railroad junction and that the Germans now held the line of communication between the Orsova region, constituting the extreme western portion of Wallachia, and the rest of Rumania. As a matter of fact, as was to develop a few days later, the Teutons had broken through the main Rumanian lines, and in doing so had clipped off the tip of the Rumanian left wing. Some days later the capture of this force was announced, though it numbered much less than had at first been supposed—some seven thousand men.

But now a new danger suggested itself. The Teutonic invasion was heading toward the Danube. Should it reach the banks of that river there would be nothing to prevent a juncture between the forces of Falkenhayn and those under Mackensen, thereby forming a net which would be stretched clear across Rumania and swept eastward toward Bucharest. Falkenhayn (p. 115) had only to clear the northern bank of the Danube, and nothing could prevent Mackensen's crossing; as was presently to develop, this fear was not without foundation. On the 24th came the announcement from Berlin that Falkenhayn had captured Turnu-Severin on the Danube and that Mackensen's troops had crossed in several places and effected a juncture with Falkenhayn's men. Farther north the Rumanians were reported to be falling back to positions along the Alt River, a swift, deep stream in its upper reaches which broadens out into many arms down on the plain and forms a difficult obstacle to an advancing army. At Slatina the bridge is over four hundred yards in length. This, apparently, was to be the new line of defense, running north and south. Still farther north, in the Carpathians, in Moldavia, the Austro-Germans were developing another strong offensive, and here, near Tulghes Pass, where the Russians held the line, a pitched battle of unusual fury developed, bringing the Austro-Germans to a standstill for the time being, at least. Again there came reports from Petrograd of activity along the front in Dobrudja, but this appears to have been at the most nothing but a demonstration to distract Mackensen from effecting any crossing farther up the Danube at a point where he might flank the Rumanian lines along the Alt. Throughout the countries of the Allies it was now generally recognized that Rumania was doomed, unless the Russians could send enough forces to rescue her.

On the 26th official dispatches from both Berlin and Bucharest stated that Mackensen had crossed the Danube at Zimnitza and was advancing toward Bucharest. The German statement had him in the outskirts of Alexandria, only forty-seven miles from the capital, and reported that the Rumanians were retreating eastward from the lower Alt. On the following day Berlin announced that the entire length of the Alt had been abandoned by the Rumanians, which was confirmed by a dispatch from Bucharest. This retreat had been forced by the crossing effected by Mackensen's troops to the rear of the line, threatening its flank and rear. That the danger to Bucharest was now being felt was obvious from the fact that on the following day the Rumanian Government and diplomatic authorities removed from Bucharest (p. 116) to Jassy, about two hundred miles northeastward, near the Russian frontier. On this date, too, it was reported that Mackensen had captured Giurgiu, which showed that he had advanced thirty miles during the past twenty-four hours. From Giurgiu there is direct rail connection with Bucharest: this line Mackensen could use for transport service, thus increasing the danger to the Rumanian main army that it might have its retreat cut off. Having abandoned the Alt line, the next logical line that the retreating Rumanians should have attempted to hold was the Vedea, another river running parallel to the Alt and emptying into the Danube. Here, too, there was a railroad running along the river bank, or close to it, which would have served as a supply line. But it was just this railroad which Mackensen had captured at Giurgiu. Once more he threatened the Rumanian flank, and so a stand at the Vedea became also impossible. Certainly the Teutons were now moving with extraordinary rapidity, and there was undoubtedly some truth in the Berlin statement that the Rumanians were fleeing eastward in a panic-stricken mass. Great quantities of war material were abandoned and captured by the advancing Teutons. It is significant, however, that neither Berlin nor Vienna were able to report the capture of any great amount of prisoners.

By the first of the month the Teutons had almost reached the Arges River, the last large stream that ran between them and the outer fortifications of Bucharest. Behind this river the Rumanians finally came to a stand, and now Berlin, instead of describing the precipitate flight of the enemy, spoke only of the hard fighting which was going on. At this time the German War Office also announced the capture of Campulung, which opened the road through the Torzburg Pass.

That Russia was now making strong efforts to relieve the pressure on the Rumanians before Bucharest became obvious on December 1, 1916, when it was reported from Petrograd that a Russian offensive had been begun on the Bukowina border and was spreading down along the Rumanian frontier south of Kirlibaba, along a front over two hundred miles in length. Here, according to the report, the Rumanians, in cooperation with the (p. 117) Russians, captured a whole range of heights in the Buzeu Valley southeast of Kronstadt, while the Russians themselves reported similar progress. At the same time Berlin, while also touching on the severity of the fighting in the north, reported that the Russians were hurling themselves against Mackensen's entire front in Dobrudja. The German reports admitted that here and there the Russian attacks effected slight local gains at tremendous cost. Whatever the actual facts, this offensive movement came too late to have any material results; Bucharest, at any rate, was doomed.[Back to Contents]



On December 3, 1916, what appears to have been a desperate battle from the German reports took place along the river Argechu in the region before Bucharest. This is a mountain stream which, from Piteshti to southwest of Titu, is sometimes a hundred yards in width and at some points twenty meters deep, though fords are found at frequent intervals. At this time, however, the river was well flooded and only the bridges were available for crossing. At this point strong detachments of Bulgarians, Austrians, and Germans coming together from the north, east, and south met with resistance from the Rumanians on the other side of the river. For an entire day the Rumanians held back the enemy, then suddenly broke and fled so abruptly that they had not time to destroy the bridges, over which the invaders streamed after the retreating Rumanians, capturing several thousands of prisoners.

On the following day the left wing of the Austro-Germans captured Tergovistea. At Piteshti the First Army of the Rumanians made another brief stand, but was driven back beyond the Titu junction of railroads from Bucharest to Campulung. South of Bucharest Russian and Rumanian forces also offered a stout resistance, but were finally compelled to retire when the (p. 118) enemy's cavalry cut around in their rear and threatened their line of retreat. During this one day the Germans claimed to have taken 8,000 prisoners, the Danube army capturing also thirty-five cannon and thirteen locomotives and a great amount of rolling stock.

It was not the battle along the Argechu, however, which was the cause of the immediate danger to Bucharest. The blow which decided the fate of the Rumanian capital came from the north. The real danger lay in the German forces coming down from the passes south of Kronstadt. Already Campulung was taken and the Argechu crossed in the north. Then the invaders streamed down the Prahova Valley, which begins at the passes and runs down southeast behind Bucharest. The Rumanians now had the choice of evacuating their capital or having it surrounded and besieged. Bucharest was a fortified city, but the Germans carried such guns as no fortifications built by the hand of man could resist. Antwerp had been the first demonstration of that fact.

The plan of holding the city had also several other objections. From a military point of view the city was of little value. Its retention would have had a certain moral value, in that it would have shown that the Rumanians were by no means entirely defeated, but as practically all the nations of Europe were now on one side or the other of the fighting line, this political effect would have found few to influence. To defend it, moreover, would have meant its complete destruction, and sooner or later the defending force would have been taken prisoners. There was no chance of saving the city from Teuton occupation, such occupation might be delayed, nothing more. Rather than waste a large force in a futile defense, the Rumanians decided to evacuate the capital without any effort to stay the advancing enemy at this point. This decision seems to have been taken some time before the city was in actual danger. The civilian population was leaving the city in a steady stream and every railroad carriage going eastward was crowded to full capacity.[Back to Contents]



On December 6, 1916, the German War Office announced the entry of Teutonic troops into the Rumanian capital, and what was more important still from a military point of view, the capture of Plœchti, an important railroad junction thirty-five miles northwest of Bucharest, famous for its oil wells and therefore of great value to the Austro-Germans. As developed later, however, these wells were destroyed by the retreating Rumanians, and for some time to come, at least, rendered almost useless.

Whatever the value of Bucharest from a military point of view, there can be no doubt that its capture was a heavy blow to the Allies. With it went one-half of Rumania. The mightiest efforts of Russia had been unable to save the kingdom from the hands of the invaders. Thereby she had been forced to confess a certain degree of weakness. Nor had Sarrail in Macedonia been able to divert the activities of the Bulgarians from Dobrudja to any serious extent. This too constituted a second confession of weakness.

Indeed the activities, or lack of activities, on the part of the Allies in Macedonia, in spite of the capture of Monastir, had been even more disappointing than the inability of the Russians to save Rumania.

But the disaster to the cause of the Allies was more apparent than real. As has been demonstrated on the Russian front more than once during this war, the capture of territory alone has very little influence on the final result of a campaign. It is not enough to defeat an enemy; his forces must be destroyed, eliminated, wholly or in part, and this can only be accomplished by the capture of his forces. Though the Germans claimed that the Rumanians had lost 100,000 men to them as prisoners, an obvious exaggeration, the Rumanian fighting forces remained comparatively intact after the fall of Bucharest. The best of the (p. 120) Rumanian troops undoubtedly remained, for by this time they were becoming seasoned veterans.

Having taken Bucharest, the German rush noticeably subsided; it lost its force. This was in part due to the bad weather conditions which now set in and lasted a week; rain fell in the plains in torrents and made the passage of troops, and especially of artillery, very difficult, even impossible. No doubt this also hindered the retreat of the Rumanians, but the advantage was on their side.

On the 18th it was reported from Petrograd that the entire Rumanian front was being held by Russian soldiers, the Rumanians having retired to their rear beyond the Sereth River at Jassy and in Bessarabia, where they were being reorganized for future operations. After the Bucharest-Plœchti line had been lost, according to one unofficial report, the Russians had sent some strong cavalry divisions to support the Rumanian retreat. The Russians offered strong resistance in the region of Buzeu so as to permit their engineers to construct a defensive front between Rimnik Sarat and the marshes at the mouth of the Danube. On that same date Berlin announced an advance of the Teutonic forces in northern Dobrudja. It was in this latter section that the Teutons now centered their activities. The Russo-Rumanians still remained in Dobrudja, on the south side of the Danube. So long as they had a footing here they remained a potential threat to the Teutons, which might awaken into active danger at the first favorable opportunity. To be ousted from this northern tip of Dobrudja would be even more serious to the Russo-Rumanians than the loss of Wallachia. From this point they might, at some future day, initiate an offensive against Bulgaria which might become extremely dangerous. Once across the river, however, it would be difficult for them to recross, for reasons that have already been discussed: no line of fortifications, no intrenched positions they might throw up, would be so effective a defense to the Teutons as the mouth of the Danube.

In Rumania, west of the river, continuous and at times heavy fighting continued, sometimes assuming almost the proportions of pitched battles. During the last week of the month Mackensen (p. 121) apparently realized the hopelessness, for the present at least, of driving the enemy out of Dobrudja, and shifted some of his forces over to the west bank of the river. The Russians had retired behind the Rimnik River, a small stream which is about twenty-five miles north of the Buzeu and parallel to it. On January 1, 1917, the Germans announced that the Russians had been forced back against the bridgehead at Braila and that in the Dobrudja they had advanced beyond Matchin. On the 5th, Braila, the most important city left to the Rumanians, fell into the hands of Mackensen, and at the same time the last of the Russians retired from the northern tip of Dobrudja. This was the heaviest blow that had fallen since the capture of Bucharest, and from a military point of view was even more serious. Once driven across the broad waters of the Danube mouth, the Russians and the Rumanians could not recross in the future except in very strong force and with great losses. At the same time it was now possible for Mackensen to reduce his forces in Dobrudja to a minimum and reenforce the troops operating over in Rumania proper.

During the rest of the month the fighting continued up and down the line with unabated vigor, though without any sensational results. The Germans were now hammering at the main line of the Russian defense and could not expect any large gains. The defeat of the Rumanians had been, after all, only the driving back of a salient. But in general the fighting during the latter half of January, 1917, seemed to favor the Teutons.

On the 15th Berlin reported that the Bulgarian artillery was bombarding Galatz from across the Danube. On this date too the Russians lost Vadeni, ten miles southwest of Galatz, their last position south of the Sereth. On the other hand, Petrograd announced on this same day that on the northern Rumanian front, in a violent engagement on the Kasino River, the Rumanian troops forced the Germans back, while the German attacks northeast of Fokshani were repulsed by the Russians. By the following day these local attacks developed into a general engagement, such as had not been fought since before Bucharest had fallen. At Fundani, Berlin reported, the Russians hurled (p. 122) one mass attack after another—waves of humanity as they were termed—against the German lines and gained some temporary advantages. On the 17th Petrograd announced the recapture of Vadeni. After a prolonged artillery preparation the Russians rushed their infantry against the position in the town and drove the Germans out. The latter, after receiving reenforcements and assisted by an artillery drumfire, made a powerful counterattack, but did not succeed in driving the Russians back. Berlin admitted this defeat, incidentally mentioning that Turkish troops were here engaged. Berlin also admitted that "between the Kasino and Suchitza Valleys the Russians and Rumanians made another mass attack and succeeded in regaining a height recently taken from them." On the 20th, Mackensen's forces, as was stated by Berlin and admitted by Petrograd, succeeded in taking Nanesti and driving the Russians back to the Sereth.

On January 22, 1917, an Overseas News Agency dispatch stated that the number of Rumanian prisoners taken during the entire campaign to date now numbered 200,000. Describing the situation of the Rumanian army at that time, the dispatch continued:

"The rest of the Rumanian army, part of which fought well, is reorganizing in Moldavia and Bessarabia. The few Rumanian divisions which still are engaged at the front are very much reduced in numbers. According to the assertions of Rumanian prisoners, one division was composed of only 2,800 men, while another numbered but 2,400. The Rumanians suffered their heaviest losses from artillery fire. The large number of dead in proportion to the wounded is remarkable. On one square kilometer (about three-fifths of a square mile) of the battle field of Campulung 6,000 Rumanian dead were counted. Some of the Rumanian infantry regiments were composed of only four companies of 150 men each. Because of the lack of sanitary organization, an extraordinary large percentage of the wounded died in the hospitals, which, however, afforded room only for the officers, while large numbers of wounded soldiers were lodged in damp cellars, peasants' huts, and barns, where they died miserably."

(p. 123) On January 20, 1917, the military critic of the Overseas News Agency summed up the situation as follows:

"The Russo-Rumanian efforts to delay the advance of the Teutons against the Sereth Plain are taking the form of fierce counterattacks, launched to avert the danger that their position on the Putna and the Sereth be outflanked. During the last few days especially violent attacks have been directed against the position situated on the Carpathian slopes north of the Suchitza. These developed no success and cost the enemy heavy losses in casualties and prisoners.... On the Carpathian front, in the Oituz district, the Teutonic forces have pressed forward until they are in a position whence they can take the circular valley of Ocna under their fire. As has been confirmed by the Russian headquarters report, Bogdaneshti and Ocna were shelled. Ocna is an important railroad station and a point of support for the Russian defense in the upper Trotus Valley, while Bogdaneshti bars the outlet to the great valley of the Trotus and Oituz. All the determined attempts made by the Russians and Rumanians to extend the narrow limits of their hold on the southern bank of the Sereth have been more or less unsuccessful. The German troops, however, with their capture of the village of Nanesti, tore the pillar from the wall of the Russian defense. Nanesti forms the strategical center of the bridgehead of Fundeni and covers the great iron bridge across the Sereth, which is in the immediate vicinity of Nanesti. The entire construction of the Nanesti-Fundeni bridgehead, which is a modern field fortification, illustrates its importance as a central point of support of the Sereth line. In the remaining sectors of the Sereth snowstorms and mists have interfered with military activity."

During the middle of January, 1917, the French Admiral du Fournier of the Entente fleet in Greek waters paid a visit to the Russo-Rumanian front. On his return from this tour, which was taken on the way to France, he wrote in the Paris "Matin":

"The Russian army was surprised by the rapid succession of Rumanian reverses and had to suspend Brussilov's offensive in Galicia in order to send large reenforcements to Rumania, but its position was such that it could not cover its flank in Wallachia (p. 124) and its rear in Dobrudja rapidly enough to stop the advance of the invaders. It was only on the Sereth that it succeeded in forming with the first corps that arrived from the army of General Sakharoff a front which was lengthened by several good Rumanian divisions. A few weeks will witness a change in the military situation. In my journey in a motor car with the troops on the march I saw nothing but magnificent soldiers, admirably equipped and in excellent form."[Back to Contents]



The half year ending with February 1, 1917, was a period of almost continuous activity before Saloniki, in sharp contrast to the previous six months, which had been quite uneventful. Yet that interval between the conquest of Serbia by the Austro-German and Bulgarian troops and the renewal of fighting, beginning in August, 1916, were months of furious preparation by General Sarrail and his colleagues. From what was little more than a precarious footing in Saloniki itself they had established a firm base protected by a wide circle of intrenchments, while their forces had been augmented to something not far from three-quarters of a million men under arms and a huge supply of ordnance and munitions. From a mere expedition to keep a back door open for the defeated Serbians, Sarrail's army had developed into what was obviously going to be a gigantic campaign against the rear of the Central Powers, an attempt to enter Austria through a back window. Such, at least, was the supposition of military critics the world over. Incidentally the presence of so large a force of the Allies in Macedonia served various other purposes. Viewing the situation with a retrospective eye, at the present moment, there can be no doubt that Greece would by now have thrown her lot in with the Central Powers had it not been for her fear of Sarrail's forces. Also, (p. 125) the Teutons and the Bulgarians were compelled to devote a large force to holding a front opposite Sarrail, and so weaken their other fronts. And finally, without Sarrail in Saloniki, Rumania would never have decided to join hands with the Allies, certainly not so early as she did. To be sure, Rumania was defeated, but her defeat must have cost the Central Powers grave losses which may eventually prove to have turned the tide in favor of the Allies.

Already before August, 1916, it was becoming obvious that Sarrail was beginning to feel strong enough to play a less passive part. Little by little he had been pushing out his lines. The remnants of the Serbian army, which had been recuperating at Corfu, were reorganized and transported to Saloniki by sea, whence they were sent to take over a portion of the front on the extreme left. Somewhere around August 1, 1916, Russian soldiers began landing at Saloniki, though this significant fact was not reported till nearly three weeks afterward, when about 80,000 of them had joined Sarrail's force and had been sent out on the left front, west of the Serbians. During this interval a large force of Italians also joined the Allied troops at Saloniki and joined the British near Doiran. All the Allies except Japan were now represented on this front by their contingents, though of course the French and British were still in vastly preponderating majority. The moral effect was strong, for it was the first time that troops of all the Allies were camped side by side. The landing of the Russians, who had come through France, thence by the sea route, was no doubt effected in the hope of affecting the Bulgarians, who are not only Slavs, but have a very strong feeling of affinity for the Russians, who liberated them from the Turks. It was probably hoped that on being brought face to face with them on the firing line many Bulgarians would desert, or possibly even there would be an uprising in Bulgaria against Czar Ferdinand's policy. That nothing of this sort did actually happen, either in Macedonia or in Dobrudja and Rumania, where the Russians also faced Bulgarians, may perhaps be ascribed to the revulsion of feeling against the Russians which many Bulgarians had begun experiencing of (p. 126) recent years, on account of the many black intrigues which the Russian Government had hatched against the independence of Bulgaria.

In the matter of Bulgaria, it is but fair to state that Russia, Rumania, and Serbia had little right to complain; Bulgaria had just scores to wipe off against all of them. Each was but paying the price for some selfish policy in the past for which Bulgaria had had to suffer.[Back to Contents]



There was the intense racial hatred between Greeks and Bulgars, more fully explained in previous volumes. Hatreds of this nature affect the public more than governing bodies. On the public sentiment of Greece this hatred seems to have been a more powerful influence than more subtle political considerations. The detested Bulgar, the barbarian, the "kondri-cephalous" (blockhead) was advancing into eastern Macedonia, which the Greeks had gained at so much cost, and they were taking possession of that section of the country where the population really is preponderatingly Greek. In the north, in western Macedonia, he was also invading Greek territory, taking Florina, approaching the very boundaries of Greece proper; indeed, cavalry patrols of the Bulgarians had descended as far as the plains of Thessaly.

Public indignation flamed to a white heat. On September 1, 1916, came a press dispatch from Athens stating that the population was rising against the Government and that the king had abdicated in fear. This latter statement proved untrue, but in the Macedonia occupied by the Allies a modified revolution was indeed taking place, no doubt encouraged by the Allies. A provisional committee, or government, had been organized, and to this authority the Greek garrisons at Vodena, Port Karaburun, (p. 127) and Saloniki had surrendered. "Cretan gendarmes and Macedonian volunteers," continued the report, "have surrounded the barracks of the Greek infantry in Saloniki and exchanged shots with the garrison after cutting the water main and electric-light wires and shutting off food supplies. A detachment of sixty regulars attempted to break its way out. Its surrender was demanded, and when the regulars refused the volunteers fired shots in the air. The regulars replied with a volley, whereupon the volunteers opened fire on them, compelling them to return to the barracks. Altogether three men were killed and two wounded. Before the garrison finally surrendered three companies of French colonial infantry marched to the parade grounds. They were soon followed by two battalions of infantry, which took up positions on both sides of the parade grounds in the rear of the barracks. Machine guns were posted at conspicuous points and armored cars were stationed opposite the entrance of the barracks.... At 11 o'clock that night the Greek troops marched out unarmed and were interned at Camp Keitinlek outside the city."

Apparently these incidents had a temporary influence on the Government at Athens, for on September 3, 1916, it was reported that all parties had agreed to give their support to the Zaimis cabinet, which was now ready to reconsider its previous policy and give its full support to the cause of the Allies. The German Ambassador, it was said, had left Athens. How confident was Venizelos in the belief that the Government had come around to his policy is obvious from the following statement, which he made on that same date:

"The addition of one more nation to the long list of those fighting against Prussian militarism for the liberty of Europe and the independence of the smaller states cannot but give more strength to the common confidence in a complete victory of the Allies. I deeply grieve that my country has so much delayed in paying her due contribution to the struggle for these most precious benefits of humanity, and trust the influence caused by Rumanian intervention will render it absolutely impossible for the existing Greek authorities any further to persist in their policy (p. 128) of neutrality, and that at the earliest moment Greece too will join the camp of her proved and traditional friends for the purpose of accomplishing her own national ideals."

Meanwhile the revolt in Greek Macedonia seemed to be spreading. A provisional government was declared established with a Colonel Zimorakakis at the head, and all the gendarmes and the cavalry had gone over to the new régime.

What gave further color to the reports that Greece was definitely deciding to go over to the Allies was the announcement that the elections had been postponed indefinitely. The Zaimis cabinet, it will be remembered by those who have read the previous volume, was merely provisional to fill the interim until the next elections. These had at first been fixed for August 7, 1916, then postponed for another month. Now they were again postponed indefinitely. Truly it seemed that the two big parties had come to an understanding. Added to this was the report that Baron Schenk, the chief of the German propaganda, had been arrested and brought a prisoner aboard one of the French warships. Also the telegraph and telephone systems of the country had been given over to the control of the Allies.

There now followed an interval of complete silence, broken only on the 10th, when it was reported from London that the Greek Premier, Zaimis, had held a conference with the Entente ministers and had asked what consideration Greece would receive should she join the Allies. The ministers were reported to have replied that they would ask instructions from their respective governments. On the following day Zaimis suddenly offered his resignation. The king refused to accept it and, on the ministers of the Entente expressing their confidence in his sincerity, he withdrew his resignation. On the following day the Entente Powers made their reply to Premier Zaimis, regarding what reward Greece might expect should she join them. They were not disposed, they stated, to enter into a discussion of this subject. If Greece desired to join them, she must waive the question of compensation for the present, though the Entente Powers stood ready to assist her in equipping her with arms and munitions.[Back to Contents]



Meanwhile an incident in eastern Macedonia occurred which aroused a great deal of feeling against the Greek Government in the Entente countries. It will be remembered that the Bulgarians had advanced along the coast in this region, being unopposed there by Allied troops, and that they had finally appeared before Kavala. In spite of the vigorous shelling from the Allies' warships they occupied the forts surrounding the city, which were immediately evacuated by the Greek garrisons. These, together with the soldiers in the city and other outlying garrisons, numbering between six and eight thousand, constituted a part of the Fourth Army Corps of the Greek army. On September 13, 1916, Germany suddenly issued the announcement that this body of Greek soldiers had surrendered.

"After German and Bulgarian troops," continued the announcement, "had found themselves compelled by General Sarrail's offensive to march as a counterattack into Greek Macedonia, the Fourth Greek Army Corps stood ready in Seres, Drama, and Kavala, behind the left Bulgarian wing, which had advanced to the Struma. The measures of the Entente aimed at forcing these Greek troops to its side or preparing for them a fate similar to that which befell the overpowered portions of the Eleventh Greek Division at Saloniki. Free communication with Athens was interrupted and intercourse with the home authorities was controlled by the Entente and refused arbitrarily by the Entente.

"The commanding general of the Fourth Greek Army Corps at Kavala, faithful to the will of the chief commander and the legally constituted Government's policy of maintaining neutrality, and in view of the unsupportable situation of the troops under his command, menaced by famine and disease, has been compelled to proceed on his own authority. On September (p. 130) 12, 1916, he asked the German chief commander to protect his brave troops, loyal to the king, to relieve them of the pressure of the Entente and provide food and shelter for them. In order to prevent any breach of neutrality, it has been agreed with the commanding general to transport to lodging places in Germany these Greek troops in the status of neutrals with their entire arms and equipment. Here they will enjoy hospitality until their fatherland is free of invaders."

There now arose the cry in the press of all the Entente countries that the surrender of this force of Greek soldiers was only an act on the part of the Greek Government to assist the Germans, whom it planned to support actively when a propitious moment should come. In reply the Greek Government published the telegrams that it had exchanged with the Greek commander at Kavala. On the 11th he had telegraphed to Athens, through the admiral of the British fleet:

"The Fourth Greek Army Corps at Kavala wishes to surrender immediately to the British. The Bulgarians have threatened to bombard the city to-morrow."

The British admiral thereupon sent the following message to General Calaris, the War Minister in Athens:

"Do you wish me to permit the Greek troops to embark on Greek ships?"

In response the Greek War Minister wired:

"To the Fourth Army Corps at Kavala: Transport yourselves immediately with all your forces to Volo, arranging with the British admiral. The police and civil authorities must remain at Kavala."

Apparently the division that existed throughout the entire Greek population appeared among these Greek soldiers, for not all surrendered with their commander to the Germans; a large number withdrew and escaped to Thaos. On the face of the telegraphic correspondence, involving the British admiral, it would seem that the Greek commander acted in accordance with his personal sympathies rather than from instructions, but the incident nevertheless succeeded in stirring strong feeling against Greece in France and England.

(p. 131) That matters were not running smoothly within the inner circle of the Greek Government became evident on September 16, 1916, when it was announced that Premier Zaimis had now definitely and absolutely resigned, and that Nikolas Kalogeropoulos had been asked by the king to form a new cabinet. He was one of the foremost lawyers of Greece, had lived for many years in France, and was said to be in sympathy with Venizelos and the Allies. In 1904 he had been Minister of Finance for a brief period, and in 1908 and 1909 he had been Minister of the Interior. The new premier was sworn into office under the same conditions as surrounded his predecessor: his was merely a service cabinet, to maintain control until the elections could be held in accordance with the constitution.

In strange contrast to this event, which seemed to bode well for the Allies, the "Saloniki movement," as the revolt in favor of intervention was called by the British press and which had been lying quiet for some time, now broke out afresh. On September 21, 1916, came the report that the people on the island of Crete had risen and declared a Provisional Government in favor of the Allies, and that the new authorities had sent a committee to Saloniki to tender their adherence to General Sarrail. Also it was rumored that Venizelos was going to Saloniki to place himself at the head of the revolt. On the 20th he gave out an interview to the Associated Press correspondent in which he certainly did not deny the possibility of his doing so:

"I cannot answer now," he said, "I must wait a short time and see what the Government proposes to do.... As I said on August 27, if the king will not hear the voice of the people, we must ourselves devise what it is best to do."[Back to Contents]



Having reviewed the situation in Greece during the month of September, 1916, we may now return to our narrative of the military activities along the Macedonian front. At the end of August, 1916, a lull seemed to settle down along the entire front, nothing being reported save minor skirmishes and trench raids. On the 2d the Italians at Avlona in Albania, said to number 200,000, were reported from Rome to be making an advance. Here the Austrians were facing them, the only point along the line in which Austrian troops were posted. The Italians made an attack on Tepeleni on the Voyusa, and drove the enemy from that position as well as from two neighboring villages. After this event nothing further was heard from them, though, as will appear later, it was obvious that they were making some headway. Apparently it was their object to cooperate with the rest of the Allies in Macedonia by turning the extreme right of the Bulgarian line.

On the 11th the silence was broken by the announcement from London that an energetic offensive was being resumed along the entire front on the part of the Allies. On that date the British made a crossing of the Struma over to the east bank and attacked the Bulgarians vigorously and, in spite of the counterattacks of the enemy, were able to hold their advanced position. The French, too, began hammering the foe opposite them west of Lake Doiran to the Vardar, and a few days later reported that they had taken the first line of trenches for a distance of two miles.

It was over on the extreme left, however, that the Allies were to gain what seemed to be some distinct advantages. Near Lake Ostrovo the Serbians hurled themselves up the rocky slopes toward Moglena and stormed the well-intrenched positions of the Bulgarians, and succeeded in dislodging them and driving them back. A few miles farther over, at Banitza, a station on the (p. 133) railroad, they also centered on a determined attack, and there a pitched battle developed, the Bulgarians having the advantage of the bald but rocky hills behind them. Over in the west, before Kastoria (Kostur, in Bulgarian dispatches), the Russians advanced and succeeded in driving the Bulgarians back. Some miles north of the town rise the naked crags and precipices of an extremely difficult range of mountains; here the Bulgarians stood and succeeded in preventing the Russians from making any further progress, their right flank being protected by the two Prespa lakes.

For almost a week the battle raged furiously back and forth along this section of the front. On the 15th the Bulgarian lines opposed to the Serbians suddenly gave way and broke, and the triumphant Serbs made a rapid advance, pursuing the enemy for nine miles and capturing twenty-five cannon and many prisoners, according to dispatches of Entente origin. For the next thirty-six hours the fighting was intense, and then the whole Bulgarian right wing seemed to crumple and swing backward. For a while the Bulgarians made a stand on the banks of the Cerna, at the southern bend of the great loop made by the river, but finally the Serbians effected a crossing and continued driving the Bulgarians up along the ridges forming the eastern side of the Monastir Valley. Farther to the left the French and Russians were also succeeding in their efforts. The Bulgarians were driven out of and beyond Florina (Lerin in Bulgarian dispatches) and General Cordonnier, in command of the French, immediately established his headquarters at this important point, commanding the whole Monastir plain. Up this level country the Bulgarians fled. Reports did not indicate to just what point up the valley the French were able to advance, but it was quite obvious that the Bulgarians were able to stay them some distance before Monastir, where the mountains approach the city and offer excellent positions for artillery against troops advancing up the railroad line toward the city. On the map at least this important city seemed to be threatened, but it was still too premature to pronounce it in serious danger, as did the Entente press.[Back to Contents]



It was during these six days' hard fighting that the Greek volunteers underwent their baptism of fire and the first of them shed their blood for the cause of the Allies. These constituted the First Regiment of Greek volunteers commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Gravanis. He was under the command of the French general at Fiorina, and he and his men took a prominent part in the capture of the town. During the next few days the fighting calmed down, except farther eastward above Ostrovo, where the Serbians had succeeded in driving the Bulgarians from their important positions along the Kaimakcalan ridges. Here the Bulgarians counterattacked bitterly and continuously, but apparently with no success. These assaults were repeated at intervals of several days during the rest of the month, and though Sofia reported the recapture of Kaimakcalan Heights and a general triumph along this whole section of the front, the reports from both sides later indicated that these dispatches were wholly false, probably issued to satisfy a restless general public. On the other hand, the Allies made no further advance: by the first day of the following month they held about the same ground they had gained during the intensive fighting shortly after the middle of September, 1916. As is usual after extreme military activity, there followed a period of calm, during which both sides were preparing for the next outburst of effort. But the end of September, 1916, showed plainly that the Bulgarians and Teutons were entirely on the defensive in Macedonia and were content to hold their own.

During the month of October, 1916, little of a sensational aspect occurred on the Macedonian front; the latter half of this period was, however, one of hard fighting and steady hammering along the Serbian sector. On the 2d the Serbians reported that they had not only consolidated the positions they had taken on the important heights of Kaimakcalan but they had advanced beyond (p. 135) this point three kilometers and taken Kotchovie. At the end of the week Jermani, a village at the base of a high ridge on the lower shore of Little Prespa Lake, was taken by the French. Some days after came a rather detailed dispatch from Rome, significant in the light of later events. The Italians from Avlona were obviously making steady progress over a very difficult territory—difficult on account of the poor communications. On the 10th it was reported that they had taken Klisura, about thirty-five miles from Avlona, in the direction of Monastir. This was barely a fourth of the distance; nevertheless they were advancing toward Lake Ochrida, west of the Prespa Lakes, against which the Bulgarians rested their right wing. It was evident that they had driven back the Austrians who were supposed to hold this section.

On the 12th the British made an advance over on the right section of the front; nothing of any real importance had occurred over here since the supposed advance had begun, but there had been a great deal of noise from the artillery on both sides. On this date the British reached Seres, but were held back by the Bulgarians, who had previously driven out the Greek garrison and occupied the forts in the immediate neighborhood. These positions the British now began hammering with great vigor, with their biggest guns, though without any immediate result.

At the end of the third week of the month the Serbians, under General Mischitch, made another drive ahead and succeeded in penetrating the enemy's lines for a distance of two miles, taking Velyselo, and a day later Baldentsi. At the beginning of this battle, which lasted two days, the advantage rested with the Bulgarians. They held the higher line beyond the Cerna River, whose slopes were so steep that they could roll huge bowlders down on the attacking parties. After a two hours' artillery preparation early in the morning, the Serbians suddenly sprang forward with loud cheers and rushed the heights. From the rear they could be recognized at a great distance, on account of the large square of white calico which each man had sewn to the back of his coat, and the leaders carried white and red flags with which to indicate the farthest point reached, so that the artillery (p. 136) in the rear could see and avoid shelling them. While the Serbians stormed one crest, the artillery pounded the crest just beyond. Finally all the crests were covered by little fluttering red and white flags, while the Bulgarians fled headlong down the opposite slopes. On the following day a period of very bad weather set in and drowned further operations in a deluge of rain.

On the 21st came another report from Rome of some significance. In the Iskeria Mountains east of Premeti an Italian detachment occupied Lyaskoviki, on the road from Janina to Koritza. The latter town marks the racial boundary between the Bulgarian and Albanian countries. To the eastward was the rough country of Kastoria in which the Russians were operating. In other words, the Italians were emerging from Albania and were getting within reach of the Macedonian field of operations. In fact, on the 29th it was reported that this Italian expedition had linked up with the extreme left of the Allied wing, but this report must have been quite premature; it still had some very rough country to traverse before this could be accomplished. The end of the month saw a lull in the operations in the entire Macedonian theater on account of the bad weather.[Back to Contents]



On October 11, 1916, the patience of the Allies seems to have been again exhausted with the wavering policy of the Greek monarch. On that date Admiral du Fournier came to Athens and demanded the surrender of the entire Greek fleet, except the cruiser Averoff and the battleships Lemnos and Kilkis (the latter two formerly the American ships Idaho and Mississippi). He further demanded the transfer of control to the Allies of the Piræus-Larissa railroad and that the shore batteries should all be dismantled. These demands were complied with at once, and (p. 137) all but the three vessels named were surrendered and their crews landed. The ships so handed over consisted of three battleships, one protected cruiser, four gunboats, three mine layers, one torpedo depot ship, sixteen destroyers, twelve torpedo boats, four submarines, and the royal yacht. The rest of the Greek navy had already gone over to the Allies, as was mentioned, and was now in Saloniki. The Piræus-Larissa railroad, which the Allies also demanded, runs for a distance of 200 miles in a winding course from Piræus, the seaport of Athens, to Larissa. The cause of this sudden action, as explained by the British press, was that for some time Greek troops had been concentrating in the interior near Larissa, while other troops were gathering in Corinth, from whence they could easily reach the force in Larissa.

An Athens division had been quietly moving along the railroad line, leaving a regiment to intrench themselves before the king's palace at Tatoi. Apparently the fear was that King Constantine was preparing, at a favorable moment, to retire with his army and intrench himself in the plains of Thessaly until he could there join hands with the Bulgarians and the Germans and perhaps attack the Allies on their left flank. The surrender of the railroad now made this impossible.

The result of this action was that large street demonstrations began at once, supposed to have been instigated by the Reservists' League. The French admiral thereupon landed a large force of marines and occupied a number of public buildings whence he could control the main streets with machine guns. By the 16th all Athens seemed to be in an uproar, but the violence which took place was directed against Venizelist sympathizers, while in their demonstrations against the Allies the rioters contented themselves with jeering and hurling insulting remarks. In these disorders the police remained absolutely passive, and on some occasions joined with the rioters. This caused the French admiral to demand that the command of the police force should be practically turned over to him. A French officer was at once established as chief inspector at the Ministry of the Interior. Transfers or dismissals in the force could now (p. 138) not be made without his consent, while he himself had arbitrary power in dismissing and transferring. He was also empowered to appoint inspectors throughout the rest of the kingdom. Naturally, the royalist press came out in strong denunciations, but these were terminated when the French established a press censorship.

On the 22d the Allied governments demanded that the Greek force concentrated at Larissa be withdrawn from that point and scattered throughout the southern part of the country, and this demand was also promised. During the rest of the month there were reports of conferences between King Constantine and the French admiral and the representatives of the Entente, all tending to show that he was again becoming intensely pro-Ally.[Back to Contents]



The quiet which prevailed in the field of military effort in Macedonia toward the end of October, 1916, continued well into November, 1916, save for local artillery activity and trench raids. But on the 11th fighting broke out again in the bend of the Cerna River on the sector held by the Serbians and French. That the Allies here made serious gains was proved by the fact that for the first time Sofia dispatches admitted an enemy advance, though they minimized it to trifling significance. On that date the Serbians began a series of attacks which resulted in the capture of Polog and 600 prisoners. During all of the following day the battle continued, and again the Serbians advanced, supported by the French, this time penetrating the enemy's lines for a distance of seven miles, enabling them to take the village of Iven and another 1,000 prisoners. On this date the Serbians announced that since September 14, 1916, when the offensive began, they had taken 6,000 prisoners, 72 cannon, and 53 machine guns. Again the Sofia dispatch admitted that the (p. 139) Serbians had succeeded in "making a salient before our positions northeast of Polog."

The Serbians had now broken through the range of hills intervening between themselves and the eastern edge of the Monastir Plain. For a day there was a lull, and then the Serbians and French resumed their attacks. Northeast of Iven the Bulgarians and Germans were compelled to fall back, close pressed by the Serbians, who occupied the village of Cegal. North of Velyeselo the French and Serbians also advanced; the fighting spread westward as far as Kenali. The prisoners taken during the past few days now numbered 2,200, among whom were 600 Germans. But more important still, the Allies were now almost due east of the city of Monastir. That city was now in imminent danger.

On the 16th the entire line of formidable frontier defenses centered on Kenali had to be abandoned by the German and Bulgarian troops, in which operation they lost heavily. They then retreated across the Viro River, west of the railroad and across the Bistritza River to the east of the line, so that the Russians, following them up closely, succeeded in arriving within four miles of the city. Meanwhile the Serbians, in the mountains east of the swamps which protected the plain along the Cerna, were rushing rapidly on in their effort to swing around to the northeast of the city before the enemy should be able to intrench himself among the rolling hills that bound the northern extent of the plain. It was significant that among the prisoners were a number of members of regiments which had been fighting, only a week previously, upon the Dobrudja front under Mackensen.[Back to Contents]

(p. 140) CHAPTER XL


A glance at the map will show that Monastir was now practically in the hands of the Allies, that it would be impossible for the Germans and Bulgarians to hold it any longer. As has already been explained, the plain or valley near whose head it stands is a broad, level region which here penetrates the mountainous interior of this portion of the Balkan Peninsula. To the eastward it is bounded by low, rolling foothills, which gradually rise into high, rocky mountains or heights. On the west there are no foothills: the mountains rise abruptly, stretching south almost to Kastoria. The railroad, after leaving Banitza, in the foothills, swings around into the plain, but under the shadows of the high ridges on the western side. Up toward the head of the plain these mountains curve slightly inward. About ten or fifteen miles below the point where they meet the rolling foothills, thus forming the head of the valley, the city of Monastir lies, some of its outlying suburbs being plastered up against the base of the mountains.

An army occupying the heights above would absolutely dominate the city; its artillery could pound it to a wreck within a few hours.

It was along these heights on the western edge of the plain that the French and the Serbians had advanced, driving the Bulgarians and Germans before them. Just at Monastir these heights are especially high and jagged, and the Bulgarians and Germans might very well have held out here against the enemy for a much longer period. But the foothills over on the eastern side of the plain had been passing into the hands of the Serbians operating in that region. These forces were now passing to the northward of the city, though the marshy plain still intervened. They were advancing toward the head of the valley. Should they succeed in reaching this point, where the highway to Prilep passed, they would cut off the retreat of the Bulgarians.

(p. 141) But there was still another road by which the Bulgarians might have retreated: the highway leading through Resna to the upper part of Lake Ochrida. Had this been open they might have risked the blocking of the Prilep road. But, as was later indicated by the reports, the Italians had by this time advanced above Koritza and were not only in touch with the Russians operating around Kastoria and the lower part of the Prespa and Ochrida lakes, but they were skirting the western shore of Ochrida and threatening to advance on Monastir by this very highway. Thus the Bulgarians were threatened from two directions—by the Italians, who were turning their right flank, and by the Serbians, who had broken through their lines in the foothills east of the Monastir plain. There is probably no doubt that they could have held off all frontal attacks from the heights above Monastir. Thus they were squeezed, rather than driven, out of the city.

On the night of the 18th the German and Bulgarian forces in the city quietly withdrew and retreated along the Prilep road to the head of the valley. At 8 o'clock the following morning, on November 19, 1916, exactly a year since the Serbians had been driven out of the city by the Austrians and Bulgarians, the Allied forces marched into the Macedonian city, and an hour later the flag of King Peter once more floated above the roofs. Apparently the Bulgarian retreat had been too long delayed, for before reaching the head of the valley they were cut off by the Serbians and only escaped after heavy losses, both in killed, wounded, prisoners, and materials. At the same time the Serbians effectually closed the road, taking several villages and all the dominating heights.

From a military point of view the fall of Monastir was not of vast importance; it was of about the same significance from a tactical aspect as Bucharest. But from a moral and political aspect it was of immense importance. Though only populated by some 50,000 of mixed Turks, Vlachs (Rumanians), Greeks, a few Serbs and Bulgarians, the latter predominating, it was the center of the most Bulgarian portion of Macedonia. Throughout the outlying districts down to Kastoria, over to Albania, and (p. 142) up to Uskub, the population is purely and aggressively Bulgar. Here the simple peasants were persecuted by the Greek Church for fifteen years preceding the First Balkan War and by the Serbians afterward; by the one on account of their religion, by the other on account of their nationality. Here, too was the center of the revolutionary movement against the Turks, and here the people rose time and time again in open insurrection, only to be quenched by fire and blood. Nowhere in the Balkan Peninsula has there been so much oppression and bloodshed on account of nationality. For these reasons Monastir has a deep sentimental significance to every Bulgarian. No part of Macedonia means so much to him. Its possession by the Serbians after the Balkan Wars did more, probably, to reconcile the country to King Ferdinand's otherwise hateful pro-German policy than anything else. As is now well known, Ferdinand stipulated that this city should not only be taken from the Serbians, but that it should belong to Bulgaria, before he entered the war on the side of the Germans and Austrians. Otherwise it is quite likely that the Teutons would not have considered it worth while to advance so far south. Its recapture by the Serbians and their allies must, therefore, have had a corresponding depressing effect in Bulgaria.

On the day following the evacuation of Monastir the Italians appear for the first time in the reports of the fighting in this region. They had obviously come in contact with the Bulgarians on their extreme right and were pressing them back, thus forcing the whole line to retire. The French, too, made some advance along the eastern shore of Lake Prespa, while the Serbians took five villages in the foothills at the head of the plain. The main forces of the Bulgarians and Germans were making their stand about twelve miles north of the city, well up in the hills and crossing the Prilep highway.

For some days following bad weather again settled down over the Monastir section of the Macedonian front, and though it did not stop the fighting, it rendered further progress on the part of the Allies very difficult. But in spite of the brilliant victories announced by the dispatches from Berlin and Sofia, these very (p. 143) reports indicated, by the changing localities of the skirmishes that the Germans and Bulgarians were still being pressed back. By the end of the month the Serbians northeast of Monastir had advanced as far as Grunishte. In the northwest the Italians were fighting in the mountains about Tcervena Stana. Reporting on the last day of the month, Berlin announces that "this was the day of hardest fighting." The Germans and the Bulgarians had now reached their next line of defense and were making desperate efforts to hold it.

Meanwhile, over on the right of the Allied front, between Doiran and the Vardar, violent fighting had been going on during the past few weeks, and though the Allies seemed to make some slight progress here and there, none of these gains were of a significant nature. Here the Bulgarians seemed to be holding their own completely. Possibly it was not Sarrail's object to attempt any real advance over in this section; merely to keep the enemy engaged there and prevent his rendering too much aid to the harried Bulgarian right wing. His main offensive, if he really had contemplated a real advance, had evidently been planned for the Monastir route into Serbia. That all the Slavic troops, the Russians and Serbians, were placed over in this section gives, besides, some little color to this supposition.[Back to Contents]



In Greece the same old situation continued. In the beginning of the month there had come the first clash between the volunteer soldiers of the Provisional Government and the troops of the king. The Greek troops at Larissa had not yet had time to remove to southern Greece, in accordance with the demands of the Allies, when on November 2, 1916, a body of volunteers of the Provisional Government marched overland to Katerina, a town twenty-five miles northeast of Larissa, where a garrison (p. 144) of royalist troops was stationed. Whether the insurgents really attacked the garrison, or whether the royalist force withdrew peacefully, was not made clear, but the fact was that the volunteers entered the town and took possession. Following this incident, it was stated from Athens on the 12th that King Constantine had given his permission that any of his officers in either the army or navy might join the forces of the Provisional Government, provided they first resigned from the regular establishment. On this date Germany entered her official protest against Greece handing over her ships and much war material to the French admiral. In connection with this report it was stated that Germany herself, on taking the forts and towns in eastern Macedonia, had seized 350 cannon, 60,000 rifles and $20,000,000 worth of ammunition. In the light of these facts, naturally Germany's protest was not taken very seriously. Indeed, it seems only to have suggested to the Allies that they complete what Germany had so well begun, for on the 18th Admiral Fournier presented a demand to the Greek Government that it surrender all arms, munitions, and artillery of the Greek army, with the exception of some 50,000 rifles. The reason given was that the equilibrium had been disturbed by Germany's seizure of so much war material. This demand the Greek Government refused to concede five days later. Admiral Fournier thereupon declared that the Greek Government had until December 1, 1916, in which to make its decision.

On the 26th the Provisional Government, through President Venizelos, formally declared war against Germany and Bulgaria. On this same date the Allied representatives protested to the Greek Government against the continued persecution of the adherents of the Provisional Government, and warned it that these must stop. At the same time several prominent Venizelists in Athens were advised that they would be fully protected, among them the mayor of the city.

On December 1, 1916, when the ultimatum regarding the surrender of the arms and ammunition of the Greek forces expired, a crisis was again precipitated. The day before a transport with French troops appeared in Piræus Harbor and preparations (p. 145) were made to land them. At the same time the Greek Government took control of the telegraphs and the post office, expelling the French officers in charge. During the day Admiral du Fournier notified the Greek Government that the first installment of war material must be delivered that day. The reply was a definite refusal. Thereupon troops and marines were landed from the transport and ships at Piræus. Again large mobs assembled in the streets, and on the Allied troops marching into Athens a number of the demonstrators fired on them with revolvers. It was even reported that royalist troops took part in these disorders and made organized attacks on the French troops. Three Greek officers and twenty-six soldiers were reported killed, while the Allies lost two officers and forty-five marines. Apparently the Venizelists also took part in the rioting and the street fighting against the royalists, for General Corakas, head of the recruiting bureau for the Provisional Government in Athens, was arrested on a charge of inciting guerrilla warfare in Athens and using his room in the Hotel Majestic as a point from which to fire upon Greek soldiers. Mayor Benakas of Athens, a sympathizer of the Provisional Government, was also removed from office.

On the following day, the disorders still continuing, the Entente Powers declared an embargo on all Greek shipping in their ports.[Back to Contents]



On December 4, 1916, Lord Robert Cecil, War Trade Minister, said in the British House of Commons that the situation was more serious than it had ever been before. Despite assurances from the Greek king that no disturbances would be permitted, a "most treacherous and unprovoked attack was made on the Allies' detachments landed by the French admiral on Friday." The British Government, Lord Cecil continued, considered the responsibility (p. 146) of the king and Greek Government to be deeply involved in this matter and Great Britain was considering, in conjunction with her Allies, immediate steps to secure a radical solution of the situation which had arisen. During these troubles the Greek ministers at Paris and London and the consuls at London and Manchester resigned, stating that they could no longer identify themselves with the present Government of Greece.

By the following day the Allied forces had been compelled to withdraw under the protection of their ships at Piræus. Meanwhile, it was said, the Greeks were intrenching on all the heights around the city. All the citizens of the Allied nations had left the city and had taken refuge in Piræus. The diplomatic representatives of the United States, Holland, and Spain entered a protest against the treatment being accorded the Liberals. To this the Greek Government replied as follows:

"The Royal Government from the first day had in view only the reestablishment and maintenance of order in the trouble on Friday and Saturday caused by revolutionary elements. This was done completely with as little damage as possible.

"If, contrary to the orders given, there was some excess of tension and indignation on the part of the population and the troops, who saw in a movement so tragic for the fatherland agitators taking advantage of the unhappy events of the day to take up arms against the country and try to overthrow the established government, this must be taken into consideration. This exasperation was particularly aroused by the bombardment of the Royal Palace and the neighborhood thereof, in this, an open city, at the very moment when, an armistice having been concluded, it was hoped that peace would finally reign. Nevertheless, the Royal Government is decided to punish every person guilty of committing illegal acts and exceeding instructions, and a severe investigation will be begun to this end so soon as acts of this nature are brought to the attention of the Royal Government. In this connection the Foreign Minister considers it his duty to recall to your attention that by his note of November 28 he warned the neutral powers of the tragic position in which (p. 147) the Greek nation was placed as a result of measures taken against Greece and of the consequences which the French admiral's insistence on obtaining Greek war material might well have."

A further explanation of the Greek point of view, with special reference to the street fighting in which the Allied troops were engaged, was contained in a note sent to the United States Government, on December 9, 1916. This communication was, in part, as follows:

"Please bring to the knowledge of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that the Royal Government, with two letters and several oral declarations, had informed the French admiral of the impossibility of delivering the war material they were summoned to give away. Despite these warnings the admiral decided to land a certain number of detachments which in several columns proceeded from Piræus to the capital, which was under military control. The detachments occupied some of the outskirts and repulsed the royal army, which only at that moment decided to defend themselves without any orders. After the morning skirmishes between the Allied detachments and our troops, a truce was decided upon, at the request of the admiral. Despite the armistice, however, and after firing had ceased, the Allied warships bombarded several parts of the city and fired not less than thirty-eight shells, seven of which were directed against the Royal Palace. There can, under these conditions, be no question of treachery or of an unprovoked attack."

After the fighting and rioting had continued for some forty-eight hours, quiet and order seem to have been reestablished in Athens. Then followed a period of secret conferences between members of the Greek Government, the king and the representatives of the Entente Powers, the details of which were not made public. On December 16, 1916, it was announced from Paris that Greece had accepted unreservedly the conditions of the Allies. Regarding the disorders of the first few days of the month, the Greek Government declared its desire to give every legitimate satisfaction and proposed arbitration. A hope was expressed, at the same time, that the Allies would lift the blockade which had been in force ever since the disorders. (p. 148) Further details were not given out; until the end of the month calm again prevailed in Greece. But as yet there was no indication that permanent settlement of the difficulties was in sight.[Back to Contents]



With regard to the military activities of the Allies along the Macedonian front, little more need be said for the period ending with February 1, 1917. Having been ousted out of the Monastir Plain, the German-Bulgarian troops were now defending a new line which seemed more advantageous to them. Apparently fighting continued, sometimes with furious determination on both sides, but the results were negligible. The terrain was now somewhat similar to that in France, and the situation seemingly became similar. The opposing lines faced each other deeply intrenched. Neither side could seriously drive the other back. By this time the Serbian capital had been reestablished in Monastir and the Serbians could make the claim that they were again fighting on native soil, though the Monastir district outside the city never gave birth to one Serbian.

Considering the whole period covering the half year ending with February 1, 1917, it may well be said that, whatever his reasons, General Sarrail's activities have deeply disappointed the friends of the Entente. Reviewing the results of the entire half year's fighting along the Macedonian front, no results worthy of mention are visible save the capture of Monastir, and even this is almost entirely limited to its political value. From a military point of view, the Bulgarians have held their own with forces obviously inferior in numbers to those of the Allies. Naturally, in such a country the advantage is always with the defensive. It is significant that throughout the half year there are few dispatches indicating strong counterattacks on the part of the Bulgarians.[Back to Contents]




Next to the Trentino the Isonzo was the part of the Austro-Italian front which had seen most fighting in the past. From the very beginning of the war it was there that the Italians had made their most elaborate efforts. Not only did the territory, difficult though it was ever there, allow the use of larger numbers and make possible more extensive operations, but success on the Isonzo front held out a greater promise than anywhere else—possession of Trieste.

In spite of heroic efforts on the part of the Italian troops, however, so far not a great deal had been accomplished. It was time that the Italian lines were well in Austrian territory. But in midsummer, 1916, they were still not much farther advanced than soon after the outbreak of hostilities between Italy and Austria. The Austrians so far had resisted all Italian attempts to take Goritz, an important town on the Isonzo, about twenty-two miles northwest of Trieste. With Goritz in the hands of the Austrians Trieste was safe. For it could not be approached by the Italians as long as this important position threatened the flank and rear of any army attacking Trieste along the seashore.

For considerable time little activity had been reported from the Isonzo front. In fact, during the beginning of August, 1916, nothing but occasional artillery engagements occurred anywhere on the Austro-Italian front. On August 4, 1916, however, signs of renewed Italian activity on the Isonzo front became noticeable. On that day a vigorous attack was launched against Austrian positions on the Monfalcone sector, the most southern wing of (p. 150) the Isonzo front. This sector was about ten miles southwest of Goritz and fifteen miles northwest of Trieste.

Goritz was protected by three strong positions, Monte Sabotino to the north, Podgora to the west, and Monte San Michele to the south. The second of these had been in possession of the Italians for some time, but was of little use, though only just across the river from Goritz, because it was exposed to murderous fire from the Austrian positions on Monte Sabotino. To the south of Monte San Michele and north and east of Monfalcone there stretched the Doberdo and Carso Plateaus. These were elevated flatlands of a rocky character, very much exposed. They were bounded on all sides by hills, the western slopes of which rose almost directly out of the Gulf of Trieste. Before Trieste itself could be reached these plateaus had to be crossed.

Following their initial successes of August 4 and 5, 1916, the Italians extended their operations on August 6, 1916. Stubborn fighting took place in the region of the Goritz bridgehead, on Monte Sabotino and Monte San Michele, as well as near Monfalcone and the Doberdo Plateau. The Italians, as may be seen from the following description of the special correspondent of the London "Times" who observed the attack, preceded the general attack with an elaborate artillery bombardment.

"From 7 o'clock yesterday morning until 3.30 in the afternoon a fearful bombardment swept the Austrian positions from Monte Sabotino to Monfalcone such as has never been equaled even in this desolate zone. Gray-green clouds veiled the entire front, contrasting with the limpid atmosphere of a perfect day. All the hillsides on this side of the Isonzo were covered with new batteries, which belched forth an unceasing rain of projectiles on the surprised Austrians on the rocks of Sabotino, whose summit (2,030 feet) completely dominates Goritz. The Carso, the possession of which by the Austrians has been a deciding factor in many memorable struggles, was completely hidden by smoke until 3.30 in the afternoon. The general attack had been arranged for 4 o'clock, but the waiting troops on the Sabotino by 3.30 could endure restraint no longer. Their commander ordered the cessation of the bombardment and ordered the advance.

(p. 151) "Since October 23 last year the Italian line on the Sabotino remained unchanged. The southern side of the mountain sloping down to the Pevmica was honeycombed with elaborately constructed caverns, drilled out of the solid rock by the Italians. During these months each cavern was made to contain an entire company of infantry.

"Recently, unknown to the enemy, a tunnel 850 feet long, which reached to within 90 feet of the Austrian trenches had been added to the engineering exploits of the Italians; 800 men were assembled in this tunnel. At a given signal they led the attack, supported by first-line troops and strong reserves, thanks to this intricate system of galleries on Sabotino's crest. The attack was watched by countless observers, who, on other mountains, were hanging breathless on the result of this hour's work. Innumerable patches of scrubby undergrowth had been set on fire by the Italians to prevent their serving Austrian snipers and were now wrapped in low-hanging clouds of black smoke. Between these black patches the Italians crept ahead when the signal came. The assault of the Austrian positions was of incredible rapidity. So much so that the first positions were carried by the time the enemy turned on his curtain of fire. The first, second, and third lines of trenches were carried in twenty minutes, after which the Austrians began a terrific bombardment of their old positions. The redoubt on the summit fell within an hour and the chase went on along the crest and down the sides, straight to the Isonzo, the pursuers everywhere gathering up prisoners in droves. San Mauro (one and one-fourth miles south of Sabotino) was taken by 6 o'clock, after which the work of intrenchment began."

In spite of the most stubborn resistance the Austrians had to give way gradually. On August 7, 1916, the Austrian troops on Monte Sabotino were withdrawn to the eastern bank of the Isonzo. At the same time the positions on Monte San Michele were evacuated and the Italians thereby were put in full possession of the Goritz bridgehead. Their attacks of August 5, 6, and 7, 1916, had netted them territory for which they had been fighting for months, besides about 10,000 prisoners, some 20 (p. 152) guns and 100 machine guns and considerable war material of all description.

Without loss of time they brought in heavy artillery and opened a devastating fire on unfortunate Goritz. Strong resistance was offered by the Austrians at many points, not so much now in the hope of preventing the fall of Goritz as in order to protect their retreat. In spite of this resistance small detachments of Italians crossed the Isonzo at nightfall of August 8, 1916, while their engineers threw bridges over the river at various points.

On August 9, 1916, the bridge over the Isonzo leading directly into Goritz was stormed after one of the most sanguinary battles of the entire attack. This removed the last obstacle, and Italian troops immediately occupied the city. At the same time other troops took up the pursuit of the retreating Austrians. The latter delayed these operations as much as possible by rear-guard actions and by counterattacks against the new Italian positions on Monte San Michele and against the village of San Martino, just south of the mountain.

On August 10, 1916, the Third Italian Army continued with increased pressure the attack on the San Michele and San Martino sectors, which had begun on the 9th instant, and succeeded in capturing very strong Austrian defenses between the Vippacco and Monte Cosich. The Austrians were routed completely and retired east of Vallone, leaving, however, strong rear guards on Cima Debeli and on Hill 121, east of Monfalcone.

The Italians also occupied Rubbia and San Martino del Carso and the whole of the Doberdo Plateau, reaching the line of the Vallerie. East of Goritz the Austrians were holding out in trenches on the lines of Monte San Gabriele and Monte San Marto.

The Vallone was crossed by Italian troops on August 11, 1916. The same detachments stormed the western slopes of Monte Nadlogern and the summit of Crn-Hrid and occupied Opacchiasella, on the northern edge of the Carso Plateau.

By this time the Austrians had recovered their breath to some extent. They had taken up strong positions previously prepared (p. 153) for them in the hills to the east of Goritz and there resisted successfully all Italian attacks. Occasional counterattacks against the new Italian positions, however, brought no results.

To the south of Goritz, too, the Italian advance came to a standstill after the Vallone Valley, separating the Doberdo from the Carso Plateau, had been crossed. Continuous fighting, however, went on along the northern edge of the Carso Plateau throughout the balance of the month of August, 1916, much of it being done by the artillery of both sides. The end of August, 1916, then, saw the Italians in possession of Goritz and their lines at some points as much as five miles nearer to Trieste. The latter, however, seemed at least for the time being safely in the hands of the Austrians, who by this time had received reenforcements and appeared to be determined to stop the Italian advance across the Carso Plateau at all odds.[Back to Contents]



With the beginning of fall and the slowing down of the Italian drive against Trieste after the capture of Goritz, activities on the various parts of the Austro-Italian front were reduced almost exclusively to artillery duels. Occasionally attacks of small bodies of infantry were made on both sides. They yielded, however, hardly ever results of any importance and had practically no influence on the relative positions of the Austrians and Italians.

On September 1, 1916, the Austrians made an unsuccessful attack against Italian positions on Monte Civarone in the Sugana Valley (Dolomite Mountains). Italian attacks south of Salcano and west of Lokvicza were equally unsuccessful. Especially heavy artillery engagements occurred on that day on the (p. 154) Trentino front and along the coast of the Gulf of Trieste near Monte Santo.

On September 2, 1916, along the coast of the Gulf of Trieste artillery and mine-throwing engagements continued in various sectors with intermittent violence. Fighting also spread to the Plava sector. On the Plœcken sector the Italians after a very violent artillery fire attacked unsuccessfully on a small front. Several attempts made by minor Italian detachments to advance on the Tyrol front were repulsed. Two attacks on Civaron failed.

On the Trentino front Austrian artillery activity continued. Villages of the Astico Valley and the Italian positions on Cauriol in the Avisio Valley in particular were shelled. On the northern slopes of Cauriol Italian Alpine troops engaged the Austrians, inflicting considerable losses. In the hilly area east of Goritz some detachments of Italian infantry pierced two wire entanglements and bombed the Austrian lines, causing supports to be rushed up. These were effectively shelled by batteries.

At the head of the Rio Felizon Valley, in the upper Bovi, during the night of September 3, 1916, detachments of infantry, Alpini, and volunteers succeeded by a daring surprise attack in capturing several commanding positions on the Punta del Forane. A violent Austrian counterattack was decisively repulsed.

On September 4, 1916, the usual artillery activity took place on the Trentino front. The Austrian artillery fire was especially intense against Italian positions on Mount Civaron in the Sugana Valley, and on Mount Cauriol in the Fiemme Valley.

A more violent attack was attempted by the Austrians on the evening of September 6, 1916, against the Italian lines on Monte Civarone in the Sugana Valley. After brisk fighting the Austrians had to withdraw, abandoning their arms and ammunition and leaving some dead on the ground.

In the Vallarsa, Adige Valley, on the evening of September 7, 1916, strong Austrian detachments after an intense bombardment attacked Italian positions between Monte Spil and Monte Corno. They succeeded in breaking through some trenches. A (p. 155) counterattack recaptured for the Italians the greater part of the ground lost.

On September 8, 1916, in the Tofana zone Italian troops repulsed an attack against the position in the Travenanzes Valley which their troops had taken on September 7, 1916.

On the Trentino front the activity of the artillery was more pronounced on September 9, 1916. Unimportant attacks on Italian positions on Malga Sugna, in the Vallarsa, on the Asiago Plateau, and on Monte Cauriol and Avisio, were repulsed. At Dolje, in the Tolmino sector, after preparation with hand grenades, the Austrians attempted to break through the Italian line, but were driven back immediately.

On the next day, September 10, 1916, between the Adige and Astico Valleys the Italians developed increased activity. Austrian hill positions in this sector were subjected to strong artillery and mine fire. On the Monte Spil-Monte Testo sector the advance of several Italian battalions was repulsed.

On the same day the coast front, the Carso Plateau, and the Tolmino bridgehead were shelled strongly by Italian artillery. On some sectors of the Tyrol front there was continued activity on the part of patrols and the artillery. In the zone between Vallarsa and the head of the Posina Valley Italian infantry captured a strong intrenchment at the bottom of the Leno Valley. Between Monte Spil and Monte Corno they completed capture of the trenches still left in Austrian hands after the fighting of September 7, 1916. Progress was made by the Italians on the ground north of Monte Pasubio and on the northern slopes of Corno del Coston, in the upper Posina Valley. Italian batteries destroyed military depots near St. Ilanio north of Rovereto. The Austrians shelled Caprile, in Cordevole Valley, and Cortina d'Ampezzo.

On September 12, 1916, Italian Alpine troops, north of Falzarego gained possession of a position which not only commanded Travenanzes Pass, but also interrupted communications between the Travenanzes Valley and the Lagazuoi district.

This success was extended on the next day, September 13, 1916, when Italian detachments by a daring climb succeeded in (p. 156) taking some positions in the Zara Valley in the Posina sector and on Monte Lagazuoi in the Travenanzes-Boite Valley.

Once more, on September 14, 1916, the Italians opened a new offensive in the region of the Carso Plateau. Artillery and mine fire increased there with the greatest violence. In the afternoon strong infantry forces in dense formation advanced to the attack. Along the whole front between the Wippach River and the sea fierce fighting developed, and the Italians in some places succeeded in penetrating the Austrian first-line trenches and in maintaining themselves there. North of the Wippach, as far as the region of Plava, artillery fire was very lively, but no infantry engagements worth mentioning developed. In the Fiemme Valley artillery duels continued. Several attacks delivered by Italian detachments about a battalion strong against the Bassano ridge were repulsed.

A second attack on the Carso Plateau in the evening of September 14, 1916, carried the Italian lines forward a few more miles and enabled them to surround the height and village of San Grado. After bombarding the Austrian positions for eight hours, this height and the village were stormed on the following day, September 15, 1916.

During the balance of the month of September, 1916, only minor engagements and artillery duels occurred in the various parts of the Austro-Italian front. The only exception was a successful Austrian attack against the summit of Monte Cimone on the Trentino front southeast of Rovereto. Early in the morning of September 23, 1916, the entire summit was blown up by an Austrian mine and the entire Italian force of about 500 men was either killed or captured. Later that day the Italians captured the summit of the Cardinal (8,000 feet) at the northeast of Monte Cauriol south of the Avisio after overcoming the most stubborn Austrian resistance.

During the first half of October, 1916, activities on the Austro-Italian front presented much the same picture as during the preceding month. Outside of artillery duels and local engagements there happened little of interest or importance to the general positions. However, there were of course a few exceptions. (p. 157) Thus on October 2, 1916, Italian troops captured two high mountains, the Col Bricon (7,800 feet), at the head of the Cismon-Brenta Valley, and an unnamed peak more than 8,000 feet high, in Carnia between Monte Cogliano and Pizzocollima.

Various other successes of a similar nature were gained by the Italians during the next few days in this region, between the Avisio and the Vayol Cismon Valleys.

In the meantime a heavy artillery bombardment had been started by the Italians on the Carso Plateau. From day to day the intensity of the artillery fire increased. At last on October 10, 1916, the Italians launched their attack against the Austrian lines south of Goritz and on the Carso. The battle lasted all day and night. After practically all the intricate Austrian defenses had been destroyed Italian infantry captured almost the whole of the line, composed of several successive intrenchments between the Vippacco (Wippach) River and Hill 208, and advanced beyond it. Novavilla and the adjoining strong position around the northern part of Hill 208 also fell into their hands after brisk fighting. Prisoners to the number of 5,034, including 164 officers, were taken and also a large quantity of arms and ammunition.

These successes were considerably extended on the following day, October 11, 1916. Strong Austrian counterattacks availed nothing.

The Italians maintained their new positions and continued to push their advance on the Carso Plateau and southeast of Goritz, even if slowly, throughout October 12 and 13, 1916. For the balance of the month there was little activity on the Isonzo front beyond extremely heavy artillery fire, most of which had its origin on the Italian side. Occasional attempts on the part of the Italians to push their lines still farther had little success. Equally unsuccessful were Austrian endeavors to regain some of the lost ground.

On the balance of the Austro-Italian front there was a great deal of local fighting in the various mountain ranges. The heaviest of this was centered around Monte Pasubio (7,000 feet), where many attacks and counterattacks were carried out during (p. 158) October 17, 18, 19, and 20, 1916, under the most difficult conditions and frequently during very severe blizzards.

With the beginning of November, 1916, the Italians once more resumed their drive against Trieste. On the last day of October, 1916, the Italian artillery and mine fire had reached again great violence east of Goritz and on the Carso Plateau. It became even more extensive and vigorous early in the morning of November 1, 1916. A few hours later the Italians began their infantry attacks against the Austrian lines, many of which had been destroyed previously by the bombardment.

South of the Opacchiasella-Castagnievizza road the Austrian line was occupied at several points and held against incessant counterattacks, as were likewise trenches on the eastern slopes of Tivoli and San Marco and heights east of Sober. On the Carso, the wooded hills of Veliki, Kribach, and Hill 375 east and above Monte Pecinka, and the Height 308 east of the latter, were stormed and occupied.

From Goritz to the sea heavy fighting which resulted in further Italian successes along the northern brow of the Carso Plateau continued on November 2, 1916. Here troops of the Eleventh Army Corps, which repulsed violent counterattacks during the night, took strong defenses on difficult ground east of Veliki, Kribach, and Monte Pecinka.

On the next day, November 3, 1916, the offensive on the Carso was prosecuted successfully by the Italian troops. In the direction of the Vippacco (Wippach) Valley the heights of Monte Volkovnjak, Point 126, and Point 123 a little east of San Grado were stormed. An advance of almost a mile eastward brought Italian troops to Point 291 and along the Opacchiasella-Castagnievizza road to within 650 feet of the latter place. On the rest of the front to the sea the Austrians kept up a bombardment of great intensity with artillery of all calibers. A massed attack was directed against Point 208, but was broken up by concentrated fire.

By November 4, 1916, the Austrian resistance had stiffened to such an extent that a lull became noticeable in the Italian enterprises east of Goritz and on the Carso Plateau. In spite of this, (p. 159) however, the Italians had succeeded again in advancing their lines, inflicting at the same time heavy losses to the Austrians and making almost 10,000 prisoners in four days' fighting. Their own losses were also very heavy, and undoubtedly were partly responsible for the cessation of this new drive against Trieste.

This was practically the last Italian effort during 1916 to reach Trieste. Weather conditions now rapidly became so severe that any actions beyond artillery bombardments and minor attacks by small detachments had become impossible. During the balance of November, 1916, artillery duels were frequent and sometimes very severe on various parts of the Isonzo front, especially on the Carso Plateau. Beyond that neither side attempted anything of importance, though here and there small engagements resulted in slight adjustments of the respective lines. On the other parts of the Austro-Italian front much the same condition prevailed during all of November, 1916; indeed even artillery activity was frequently interrupted for days by the severity of the weather.[Back to Contents]



Much of the fighting on the Austro-Italian front which has been narrated in the preceding pages has been going on in territory with which comparatively few are acquainted. A great part of the front is located in those parts of northern Italy and the Austrian Tyrol and Trentino which for generations have been known and admired all over the world for their scenic beauty and natural grandeur. People from many countries of the world have used this ground which now is so bitterly fought over as their playground, and have carried away from it not only improved health, but also the most pleasant of memories. Though much of its beauty undoubtedly will survive the ravages of even this most destructive of wars, a great deal of damage has been (p. 160) inflicted. For in order to achieve some military ends the sky line of entire mountain ranges has been changed. Summits have been blown up, and contours of mountains which have been landmarks for centuries have been changed.

Pleasant though life is in these regions when peace reigns, they offer particularly great and severe difficulties to the fighting men. The dangers and hardships which these courageous soldiers of Italy and Austria have been called upon to undergo are not easily appreciated unless one has been on the very ground on which they do some of their fighting. The following extracts from descriptive articles from the pen of Lord Northcliffe, Mr. Hilaire Belloc, and some special correspondents of the London "Times" give a most vivid picture of actual conditions in the Austro-Italian mountains in war times.

Speaking of his visit to the Cadore front, Lord Northcliffe says in part:

"In discussing the peculiarities of the hill fighting as contrasted with the fighting on the road to Trieste his Majesty the King of Italy, who has a fine sense of words, and who has spoken English from childhood, said: 'Picture to yourself my men 9,000 feet up in the clouds for seven months, in deep snow, so close to the Austrians that at some points the men can see their enemies' eyes through the observation holes. Imagine the difficulties of such a life with continued sniping and bomb throwing!'

"The illustrated newspapers have from time to time published photographs of great cannon carried up into these Dolomite Alps, but I confess to having never realized what it means. It never occurred to me what happens to the wounded men or to the dead. How do supplies and ammunition reach these lonely sentinels of our Allies?

"Here food for the men and food for the guns go first by giddy, zigzag roads, especially built by the Italians for this war. They are not mere tracks, but are as wide as the road that runs between Nice and Mentone, or the Hog's Back between Guilford and Farnham. When these have reached their utmost possible height, there comes a whole series of 'wireways,' as the Italian (p. 161) soldiers call them. Steel cables slung from hill to hill, from ridge to ridge, span yawning depths and reach almost vertically into the clouds. Up these cables go guns and food, as well as timber for the huts in which the men live, and material for intrenchments. Down these come the wounded. The first sensation of a transit down these seemingly fragile tight ropes is much more curious than the first trip in a submarine or aeroplane, and tries even the strongest nerves.

"Man is not fighting man at these heights, but both Italians and Austrians have been fighting nature in some of her fiercest aspects. The gales and snowstorms are excelled in horror by avalanches. Quite lately the melting snow revealed the frozen bodies, looking horribly lifelike, of a whole platoon which had been swept away nearly a year ago.

"While there have been heavy casualties on both sides from sniping, bombing, mountain and machine guns, and heavy artillery, there has been little sickness among the Italians. The men know that doctors' visits are practically impossible. Therefore they follow the advice of their officers. Yet the men have all the comforts that it is humanly possible to obtain. The cloud fighters are extremely well fed. Huts are provided, fitted with stoves similar to those used in Arctic expeditions.

"Higher yet than the mountain fighting line stand the vedettes, sentinels and outposts whose work resembles that of expert Alpine climbers. They carry portable telephones with which they can communicate with their platoon. The platoon in turn telephones to the local commander."

Of some of the fighting and of life in the Dolomites he says:

"Of the three peaks of the Colbricon only the third, known as the Picolo Colbricon, remains to the enemy. The action which is now being developed on the Colbricon is especially interesting from the fact that the Italian advance there is not due to trained mountain troops, but to the light arm of Bersaglieri, who have there proved themselves equal to their best traditions. In the advance from the first to the second summit of Colbricon the Bersaglieri had to climb a gully at an angle of 70 degrees. At (p. 162) two points the wall rises perpendicularly, and the enemy was able to defend his positions by simply rolling down rocks, which carried in their train avalanches of pebbles.

"In no region of the Italian front is there greater difficulty in the matter of supply, transport, and the care of the wounded. Every stretcher bearer here finds himself continually exposed to the peril of falling over a precipice together with his wounded.

"As the sun rose the great peaks of the Dolomites stood out like pink pearls, set here and there in a soft white vapor. Coming through a Canadian-looking pine forest, with log-house barracks, kitchens, and canteens beneath one such peak, I was reminded of Dante's lines: 'Gazing above, I saw her shoulders, clothed already with the planet's rays.' But poetic memories soon faded before a sniper's bullet from a very near Austrian outlook.

"At one spot the Austrian barbed-wire entanglements were clearly visible through glasses on a neighboring summit at a height of over 10,000 feet. A few yards below in an open cavern protected by an overhanging rock the little gray tents of Italy's soldiers were plainly seen. It may be a consolation to our men on the Somme and in Flanders that the war is being waged here in equally dangerous conditions as theirs.

"The Italians have driven back the Austrians foot by foot up the almost vertical Dolomite rock with mountain, field, and heavy guns, and especially in hand-to-hand and bomb fighting. Sniping never ceases by day, but the actual battles are almost invariably fought by night.

"The only day fighting is when, as in the famous capture of Col di Lana and more recently at Castelletto, the whole or part of a mountain top has to be blown off, because it is impossible to turn or carry it by direct assault. Then tunnels sometimes 800 yards long are drilled by machinery through the solid rock beneath the Austrian strongholds, which presently disappear under the smashing influence of thirty or forty tons of dynamite. Then the Alpini swarm over the débris and capture or kill the enemy survivors and rejoice in a well-earned triumph.

(p. 163) "One needs to have scaled a mountainside to an Italian gun's emplacement or lookout post to gauge fully the nature of this warfare. Imagine a catacomb, hewn through the hard rock, with a central hall and galleries leading to gun positions, 7,000 feet up. Reckon that each gun emplacement represents three months' constant labor with drill, hammer, and mine. Every requirement, as well as food and water, must be carried up by men at night or under fire by day. Every soldier employed at these heights needs another soldier to bring him food and drink, unless as happens in some places the devoted wives of the Alpini act nightly under organized rules as porters for their husbands.

"The food supply is most efficiently organized. A young London Italian private, speaking English perfectly, whom I met by chance, told me, and I have since verified the information, that the men holding this long line of the Alps receive a special food, particularly during the seven months' winter. Besides the excellent soup which forms the staple diet of the Italian as of the French soldiers, the men receive a daily ration of two pounds of bread, half a pound of meat, half a pint of red wine, macaroni of various kinds, rice, cheese, dried and fresh fruit, chocolate, and thrice weekly small quantities of cognac and Marsala.

"Members of the Alpine Club know that in the high Dolomites water is in summer often as precious as on the Carso. Snow serves this purpose in winter. Then three months' reserve supplies of oil fuel, alcohol, and medicine must be stored in the catacomb mountain positions, lest, as happened to an officer whom I met, the garrisons should be cut off by snow for weeks and months at a time."

Mr. Hilaire Belloc vividly pictures some mountain positions and observation posts in the high Dolomites as follows:

"There stands in the Dolomites a great group of precipitous rock rising to a height of over 9,000 feet above the sea and perhaps 6,000 feet above the surrounding valleys, one summit of which is called the Cristallo. It is the only point within the Italian lines from which direct and permanent observations can be had of the railway line running through the Pusterthal. In the mass of this mountain, up to heights of over 8,000 feet, in (p. 164) crannies of the rock, up steep couloirs and chimneys of snow, the batteries have been placed and hidden quite secure from the fire of the enemy, commanding by the advantage of the observation posts the enemy's line with their direct fire. One such observation post I visited.

"A company of men divided into two half companies held, the one half the base of the precipitous rock upon a sward of high valley, the other the summit itself, perhaps 3,000 feet higher; end the communication from one to the other was a double wire swung through the air above the chasm, up and down which traveled shallow cradles of steel carrying men and food, munitions, and instruments. Such a device alone made possible the establishment of these posts in such incredible places, and the perilous journey along the wire rope swung from precipice to precipice and over intervening gulfs was the only condition of their continued survival. The post itself clung to the extreme summit of the mountain as a bird's nest clings to the cranny of rock in which it is built; while huts, devised to the exact and difficult contours of the last crags and hidden as best they might be from direct observation and fire from the enemy below, stood here perched in places the reaching of which during the old days of peace was thought a triumph of skill by the mountaineers. And all this ingenuity, effort, and strain stood, it must be remembered, under the conditions of war. The snow in the neighborhood of this aerie was pitted with the shell that had been aimed so often and had failed to reach this spot, and the men thus perilously clinging to an extreme peak of bare rock up in the skies were clinging there subject to all the perils of war added to the common perils of the feat they had accomplished.

"Marvelous as it was, I saw here but one example of I know not how many of the same kind with which the Italians have made secure the whole mountain wall from the Brenta to the Isonzo and from Lake Garda to the Orther and the Swiss frontier. Every little gap in that wall is held. You find small posts of men, that must have their food and water daily brought to them thus, slung by the wire; you find them crouched upon the little dip where a collar of deep snow between bare rocks marks some (p. 165) almost impassable passage of the hills that must yet be held. You see a gun of 6 inches or even of 8 inches emplaced where, had you been climbing for your pleasure, you would hardly have dared to pitch the smallest tent. You hear the story of how the piece was hoisted there by machinery first established upon the rock; of the blasting for emplacement; of the accidents after which it was finally emplaced; of the ingenious thought which has allowed for the chance of recoil or of displacement; you have perhaps a month's journeying from point to point of this sort over a matter of 250 miles."

A special correspondent of the London "Times" describes the fighting around Monte Pasubio in the Trentino, which has already been mentioned in the preceding pages, as follows:

"When the tide of the Austrian invasion rolled back at the end of June, 1916, its margin became fixed on the crest of the Pasubio, an enormous and irregular group of mountains, of which the Italians remained in possession of the highest peak, but all the northern summits and the top of the whole central ridge called the Cosmagnon Alps remained to the enemy. It was from this ridge that they dominated the Vallarsa, and their first-line trenches were on its edge. Fifteen yards below them the Italians had burrowed in somehow and had hung on until now.

"With the oncoming of winter, however, and the avalanches their hanging on became altogether too problematic. For weeks the weather prevented action through some meteorological phenomenon. When it is fair below in the plain Pasubio is crowned with dense fogs, and vice versa. Finally, the summits revealed themselves clear against the sky. The careful preparation had passed unobserved of the enemy, and during the night of the 8th inst., with increased intensity at dawn of the 9th inst., the artillery attacked on the whole line for several miles.

"Bombs were employed in great number, and are found to be even more effective here than on the Carso, the friable rock breaking into millions of fragments under the explosion.

"In the afternoon a demonstrative attack in the Vallarsa carried the line ahead some 400 yards, and at half past 3 the principal attack carried the trenches of the crest (Cosmagnon Alps), (p. 166) together with the summit called Lora. The arduous mountaineering feat of arriving on the mountain's overhanging brow was accomplished on rope ladders by infantry Alpini and Bersaglieri.

"The line once brought over the crest, the battle raged furiously on the mountain top. The Austrians had constructed magnificent caverns and dugouts, and made them as impregnable as their long residence permitted. Their resistance was specially keen around the fearful natural fortifications called the Tooth, consisting of spires and slender ledges and abounding in caverns. The Tooth still remains in part to the Austrians. From the first day, the Alpini have scaled part of it and still stick there.

"One of the spectacular sights of the day was an Alpini perched on his spire of the Tooth, who kept the Austrian machine gunners from their task, pelting them with rocks every time they set to work.

"The fighting all took place on the rolling surface of the Cosmagnon Alps—closed in by the barrage fire on both sides under the dazzling sky, but with the world below completely shut off by Monte Pasubio's crown of clouds. Shrapnel and shell disappeared in the ocean of clouds."

More so than in any other war theater, fighting on the Austro-Italian front was influenced by weather conditions during December, 1916, and January, 1917. For practically its entire extent it was located in mountainous territory, most of it indeed, as we have seen, being among mountain peaks thousands of feet high.

No wonder then that there was little to report at any time during December, 1916, and January, 1917, except artillery activity of varying frequency and violence. Occasionally engagements would take place between small detachments. These, however, were hardly ever little more than clashes between outposts or patrols. These and quite frequently even artillery activity were stopped entirely for days at a time by the severity of the blizzards and gales that prevailed throughout most of December, 1916.

(p. 167) In January, 1917, much the same condition prevailed. Batteries everywhere were shelling each other and whatever positions of the enemy were within reach as often as the weather was clear enough to do so. On January 1, 1917, Goritz was subjected to a particularly heavy bombardment from the Austrian guns, which caused considerable material damage.

On January 4, 1917, two attacks carried out by small Austrian detachments—one between the Adige and Lake Garda and the other in the Plava sector—were repulsed. An Italian attack on the Carso Plateau resulted in an advance of about 600 feet along a narrow front. Similar small advances were made in the same region by the Italians at various times. In most instances they were maintained in the face of frequent Austrian counterattacks, though some of the latter occasionally were successful.

On January 18, 1917, the Austrians attempted, after especially violent artillery preparation, an attack against the Italian positions between Frigido and the Opacchiasella-Castagnievizza road on the Carso, south of Goritz. Italian gun and rifle fire, however, stopped the Austrian attack before it had fully developed. A few days later, on January 22, 1917, a similar Austrian attack, launched southeast of Goritz, was somewhat more successful and resulted in the temporary penetration of a few Italian positions. The same success accompanied a like undertaking in the vicinity of Goritz near Kostanjeoica on January 30, 1917.

On practically every day through January, 1917, there was considerable artillery activity in the various sectors of the entire front. This increased in violence in accordance with weather conditions, but generally speaking had little result on general conditions, which at the end of January, 1917, were practically the same as had been established after the fall of Goritz.[Back to Contents]




During the six months, covering the period from August 1, 1916, to February 1, 1917, aeroplane warfare at the various fronts was as extensive, varied, and continuous as at any time during the war, if indeed not more so. The efficiency of machines and operators alike became higher and higher developed. Atmospheric conditions became less and less of a factor in flying. If in spite of these facts the number of machines and flyers lost continued to be comparatively huge, this was due to the fact that the development of flying made fairly equal progress in the flying corps of the various belligerents, and that increased efficiency and independence from atmospheric conditions rather had the tendency of increasing the daring of aviators.

It is of course evident that it would be impossible within the limits of these chapters to narrate every flying enterprise undertaken. Hundred, perhaps thousands, of flights made, are never reported either officially or unofficially. The largest number of these of course had as their object chiefly the gathering of information or the more accurate direction of artillery fire.

In the following pages, however, will be found an account of all the more important independent aeroplane enterprises undertaken at the various fronts, as well as aeroplane raids made into the interior of some of the countries at war.

On August 1, 1916, an Italian aerial squadron attacked with considerable success an Austro-Hungarian plant for making (p. 169) Whitehead torpedoes and submarine works located west of Fiume on one of the Croatian bays of the Adriatic.

Two German aeroplanes, coming from the Dardanelles, on August 4, 1916, dropped bombs on the aerodrome of the Entente Allies, located on the island of Lemnos in the Ægean Sea, but were promptly driven off by gunfire from British ships.

On the same day, August 4, 1916, Turkish or German aeroplanes attempted a bombardment of shipping on the Suez Canal. The attack was carried out by two machines over Lake Timsah, forty-five miles south of Port Said. The town of Ismailia, on the lake border, also was bombarded. No damage was done.

Again on August 6, 1916, a bomb attack by aeroplanes over Port Said and Suez inflicted little material damage and caused slight casualties.

On the following day, August 7, 1916, an Austrian squadron made up of twenty-one aeroplanes attacked Venice. They claimed to have dropped three and one-half tons of explosives and to have caused great damage and many fires; the Italian Government, however, stated that the damage caused was comparatively small and that only two people were killed.

On September 5, 1916, two British aeroplanes raided the Turkish aerodrome and aeroplane repair section at El Arish, ninety miles east of the Suez Canal, dropping twelve bombs with good results. Turkish aeroplanes attacked the British machines but ultimately gave up the fight, and the latter returned to camp undamaged.

Again on September 8, 1916, three British machines bombed El Mazaar and the Turkish camp near by.

Early in the morning of September 13, 1916, a group of Austrian seaplanes attacked Venice once more. Incendiary and explosive bombs struck the church of San Giovanni Paola, the Home for the Aged, and a number of other buildings, inflicting some damage, although no casualties were reported. Chioggra also was attacked by the same machines; but here, too, the damage was rather slight.

On the same day in the afternoon an Italian air squadron of eighteen Capronis under the protection of three Nieuport antiaircraft (p. 170) aeroplanes attacked Trieste. Six Italian torpedo boats and two motor boats assisted them in the gulf. Numerous bombs were dropped, but these caused only slight damage, and none of military importance. One man was slightly wounded.

Austrian aeroplanes and antiaircraft batteries obtained hits on the Italian torpedo boats. At the same time an Italian air squadron appeared over Parenzo, dropping twenty bombs in a field. No damage was done.

Still another attack was reported on this day, this time by the Russians. A squadron of four Russian giant aeroplanes of the Slyr-Murometz type bombarded the German seaplane station on Lake Angern in the Gulf of Riga. The Russians claimed to have dropped about seventy-five bombs and to have started a great conflagration. They also claimed that eight German seaplanes counterattacked, but were repulsed by machine-gun fire, and that as the result of the bombing and the air fight not fewer than eight German machines were destroyed or put out of action. None of the Russian machines were reported either lost or damaged.

A German aerodrome, located at St. Denis-Westrem in Belgium, was attacked on September 22, 1916, by British machines who claimed to have killed forty Germans and to have burned two sheds and three aeroplanes. On October 1, 1916, bombs were dropped by British aeroplanes on the Turkish camp at Kut-el-Amara.

Three days later, on October 4, 1916, British aeroplanes carried out a successful bombing attack on Turkish camps in the neighborhood of El Arish. It was claimed then that recent aerial attacks on the Turkish aerodrome at El Arish had had the effect of compelling the Turks to move their machines and hangars from that place.

An Austro-German air squadron on October 12, 1916, was reported to have dropped bombs on Constanza, the principal Rumanian Black Sea port.

On October 20, 1916, a British naval aeroplane attacked and brought down a German kite balloon near Ostend. A similar machine engaged a large German double-engined tractor seaplane, (p. 171) shooting both the pilot and the observer. The seaplane side-slipped and dived vertically into the sea two miles off Ostend. The remains later were seen floating on the water. Both the British machines were undamaged.

Two days later, October 21, 1916, a German aeroplane approached the fortified seaport of Sheerness at the mouth of the Thames, flying very high. Four bombs were dropped, three of which fell into the harbor. The fourth fell in the vicinity of a railway station and damaged several railway carriages. British aeroplanes went up and the raider made off in a northeasterly direction. No casualties were reported.

A German seaplane was shot down and destroyed later that day by one of the British naval aircraft. The German machine fell into the sea. Judging by time, it was probably the seaplane which visited Sheerness.

Margate, a resort on the southeast coast of England, was attacked on October 22, 1916, by a German aeroplane, which succeeded in inflicting slight material damage and injuring two people before it was driven off.

The French made a strong attack on the Metz region on the same day, October 22, 1916, employing twenty-four machines. They claimed that these dropped 4,200 kilograms of bombs on blast furnaces at Hagodange and Pussings north of Metz, and also on the railway stations at Thionville, Mezures-les-Betz, Longwy, and Metz-Sablons. On the same day another French aerial squadron bombarded the ammunition depot at Monsen road (Somme). German aeroplanes dropped several bombs on Lunéville. There were no victims and the material damage was insignificant. On the Somme front two German aeroplanes were brought down and three others were forced down in a damaged condition. Finally, good results were achieved by a French bombing expedition against factories of Rombach and the railway station at Mars-la-Tour.

The Germans, however, claimed that the French air raids did no damage to Metz and other points, but that five civilians were killed and seven made ill by inhaling poisonous gases from the bombs. They further claimed that twenty-two French aviators (p. 172) had been shot down by aerial attacks and antiaircraft fire and that eleven aeroplanes were lying behind the German lines. Captain Boelke conquered his thirty-seventh and thirty-eighth foes.

On October 27, 1916, French aeroplanes dropped forty bombs on the railway station at Grand Pré, eight on the railway station at Challerange, and thirty on enemy bivouacs at Fretoy-le-Château and Avricourt, north of Lassigny, where two fires were seen to break out.

On the same night ten other French machines dropped 240 bombs on the railway station at Conflans and thirty on the railway station at Courcelles. Another French machine dropped six shells on the railway line at Pagny-sur-Moselle.

The British report for the same day likewise announced that aerial engagements took place between large numbers of machines on both sides. It was reported that five machines fell during a fight, two of which were British. On another occasion one British pilot encountered a formation of ten German machines, attacked them single handed and dispersed them far behind their own lines.

On October 28, 1916, it was announced that Captain Boelke, the famous German aviator, had been killed in a collision, with another aeroplane. He was credited with having brought down forty aeroplanes.

Not until almost the middle of November, 1916, did aeroplane warfare develop its usual activity.

On the night of November 9-10, 1916, British aeroplanes dropped bombs without success on Ostend and Zeebrugge. One British machine was forced down and captured and the aviator, a British officer, made prisoner.

On the morning of November 10, 1916, a German battleplane attacked two British biplanes between Nieuport and Dunkirk. It shot down one and forced the other to retreat. In the forenoon three German battleplanes met a superior British aerial squadron off Ostend and attacked it. After a combat the British were forced to withdraw. The German machines returned to their base, having suffered insignificant damages.

(p. 173) Between 10 and 11 o'clock on the morning of November 10, 1916, a group of seventeen British aeroplanes bombarded the steel works at Völklingen, northwest of Saarbrücken. One thousand kilograms of projectiles were dropped on the buildings, which were damaged seriously. In the course of the operations British machines fought several actions against German machines, three of which were felled.

On the following night between 8 and 9 o'clock eight British aeroplanes executed a fresh bombardment of these works, dropping 1,800 kilograms of projectiles. Several fires were observed. All British machines returned safely.

During the night of November 10-11, 1916, British squadrons drenched with projectiles the stations of Ham, St. Quentin, Tergnier, and Nesle, in the Somme region, and the aerodrome at Dreuze, the blast furnaces of Ramsbach, the aeroplane sheds of Frescati (near Metz), and the blast furnaces of Hagodange (north of Metz). These operations caused great damage, and several explosions and fires were observed.

A German aeroplane during the night of November 10-11, 1916, bombarded several French towns. Nancy and Lunéville received projectiles which caused damage or casualties. Amiens was also bombarded on various occasions during the same night. Nine persons of the civilian population were killed and twenty-seven injured.

On November 11, 1916, five German machines were claimed to have been brought down by the British.

The following day, November 12, 1916, a squadron of British naval aeroplanes attacked the harbor of Ostend. A considerable number of bombs was dropped on the dockyards and on the war vessels in the harbor. On the same day it was also reported that two successful air raids had been carried out by aircraft operating with the British forces in Egypt. The points raided were Maghdaba and Birsaba. A ton of high explosives was dropped. Two Fokker machines were brought down by the raiding aeroplanes, all of which returned safely.

Near Saloniki two aeroplanes belonging to the Central Powers were forced to descend behind their own lines. During the (p. 174) night of November 14, 1916, ten British machines at various points in France carried out a series of successful raids on railway stations and rolling stock.

On the same day a Turkish aeroplane flying very high dropped several bombs in and about Cairo, Egypt, killing and wounding a number of civilians. No military damage was done and only one military casualty was incurred.

On November 17, 1916, it was reported that a French aviator had succeeded in flying across the Alps after dropping bombs upon the station at Munich, the capital of Bavaria. He landed near Venice, having flown 435 miles in one day.

London was again attacked on November 28, 1916. An aeroplane, flying very high, dropped six bombs which injured nine people and did considerable damage. A German machine, brought down a few hours later near Dunkirk, was supposed to have been the one returning from the attack on London.

On November 30, 1916, in Lorraine, three British aeroplanes fought an engagement with several German machines. One German machine was brought down in the forest of Gremecy.

On the same day on the Somme front French airmen fought about forty engagements, in the course of which five German machines were brought down.

Six French machines dropped fifteen bombs on Bruyères. Another French air squadron carried out a bombardment of the aerodrome of Grisolles (north of Château-Thierry). Between 3.45 p. m. and 7 p. m. 171 bombs of 120 mm. were dropped.

That night between 9.30 p. m. and 1.10 a. m. four French machines bombarded the blast furnaces and factories of Völklingen (northwest of Saarbrücken).

On December 1, 1916, a group of aeroplanes of the British Naval Air Service bombarded the blast furnaces of Dillingen, northwest of Saarbrücken. During this expedition one ton of explosives was dropped.

A German aeroplane was brought down during the return journey.

During December 2, 1916, Italian aeroplanes bombed Austrian positions at Dorimbergo (Fornberg) and Tabor, in the Frigido (p. 175) (Vippacco) Valley. On the following day, December 3, 1916, another Italian air squadron bombed the railway station for Dottogliano and Scoppo on the Carso (seven and one-half miles northeast of Trieste). Notwithstanding bad weather conditions and the violent fire of the Austrian artillery, the aviators came down low to drop a ton and half of high explosives.

Numerous air flights took place and one Austrian machine was brought down; one of the Italian machines was reported missing.

Austrian seaplanes dropped bombs at several points on the Carso without causing casualties or damage. An Italian aeroplane dropped five large bombs on the floating hangars at Trieste, with excellent results.

On December 4, 1916, Austrian aircraft dropped a few bombs on Adria and Monfalcone without doing any damage.

On the Tigris front, during the same day, December 4, 1916, Turkish aeroplanes bombed successfully British camps. Six British machines immediately made an equally successful counterattack.

On December 14, 1916, a British squadron of naval aeroplanes carried out a bombardment of the Kuleli-Burges bridge, south of Adrianople.

Throughout the balance of December, 1916, there was a great deal of local air activity at many points on all the fronts. Comparatively speaking, however, no major actions occurred.

The same condition existed during the early part of January, 1917.

On January 11, 1917, an Austrian air squadron dropped a considerable number of bombs in the neighborhood of Aquieleja, southwest of Monfalcone. One Austrian seaplane was brought down by Italian antiaircraft batteries. At the same time two aeroplanes bombarded the aviation ground at Propecto and the seaplane base in the harbor of Trieste.

The Russian front reported increased aerial activity on the following day, January 12, 1917. A German aerial squadron, consisting of thirteen airplanes, dropped about forty bombs on the station and town of Radzivilov. Russian aeroplanes bombarded (p. 176) with machine-gun fire a German battery near the village of Krukhov.

Similar exploits were reported from many different points on the various fronts during the following week. Especially was this true of the western front. However, there nowhere occurred any major actions.[Back to Contents]



During the night of July 31 to August 1, 1916, a squadron of Zeppelins, reported to have numbered at least six, raided the eastern and southeastern counties of England. Sixty bombs were dropped, causing considerable material damage, but, as far as was ascertained, no casualties.

Again the following day, August 2, 1916, six Zeppelins appeared over the east coast of England. According to German claims, London, the naval base at Harwich, and various industrial establishments in the county of Norfolk were covered with a total of about eighty bombs, which caused, of course, considerable loss. Although English authorities claimed that antiaircraft guns registered a number of hits against one, or possibly two, of the Zeppelins, and that another, flying during its return trip over Dutch territory, was fired at and hit, all of the six were later reported to have returned to their home base undamaged.

Another squadron visited the east coast again one week later, August 9, 1916. There were reported to have been between seven and ten machines which dropped about 160 bombs, caused extensive damage, and killed twenty-three people. English batteries finally forced the withdrawal of the Zeppelins.

About twenty-four hours after Rumania's entrance into the war on the side of the Allies a Zeppelin, accompanied by an aeroplane, appeared during the night of August 28, 1916, over Rumania's capital, Bucharest. After a short bombardment, (p. 177) which caused but little damage, they were both forced to withdraw by the fire of antiaircraft guns. Before returning to their bases they bombarded three other unnamed Rumanian cities without causing much damage.

Shortly after 11 o'clock in the evening of September 2, 1916, the eastern coasts of England were again attacked, this time by a fleet of thirteen airships, the most formidable attack that had so far been launched against England.

The measures taken by the English authorities for the reduction or obscuration of lights proved most efficacious, for the raiding squadrons, instead of steering a steady course as to the raids of the spring and of last autumn, groped about in darkness looking for a safe avenue to approach their objectives.

Three airships only were able to approach the outskirts of London. One of them, the L-21, appeared over the northern district about 2.15 in the morning of September 3, 1916, where she was picked up by searchlights and heavily engaged by antiaircraft guns and aeroplanes. After a few minutes the airship was seen to burst into flames and fall rapidly toward the earth.

The ship was destroyed, the wreckage, engines, and half-burned bodies of the crew being found at Cuffley, near Enfield. The other two ships which approached London were driven off by the defenses without being able to approach the center of the city. A great number of bombs were dropped promiscuously over the east Anglian and southeastern counties, causing considerable but not very serious damage. Two people were reported killed and thirteen injured.

The funeral of the sixteen members of the German Zeppelin took place on September 6, 1916, at Potter's Bar Cemetery, and was carried out under the direction of the British Royal Flying Corps. A young member of the latter, Lieutenant William Robinson, who had been responsible for the Zeppelin's destruction, received later the Victoria Cross as well as a number of monetary rewards and civic honors. The site at Cuffley, which had been the scene of the airship's destruction, was presented to the English nation by its owner.

(p. 178) During the night of September 23, 1916, twelve Zeppelins again made their appearance over the eastern counties of England and the outskirts of London. Although the material damage was widespread, it was borne chiefly by small homes and shops. The toll in human life was greater than at any other raid, amounting to thirty-eight killed and 125 injured. However, two of the Zeppelins were forced down in Essex; one of them was destroyed together with its crew; the other managed to make a landing and its crew of twenty-one were made prisoners.

Two days later, during the night of September 25, 1916, a smaller squadron of about six airships attacked the northeastern and southern counties of England. Bombs did considerable damage, most of which, however, was inflicted on privately owned property. Thirty-six people were killed and twenty-seven more injured.

With the advance of autumn Zeppelin raids became less frequent. Only once during October, 1916, on the night of October 1 to 2, did a squadron of Zeppelins appear over English territory. At that time ten airships attacked the eastern coast and London. The damage again was principally to private property. Only one person was reported killed and one injured. One of the Zeppelins, however, was brought down in flames near Potter's Bar, and from its wreckage the bodies of nineteen members of its crew were recovered.

Not until the end of November, 1916, was another Zeppelin attack reported. At that time, during the night of November 27 to 28, 1916, two airships raided Yorkshire and Durham. They did considerable damage, killed one and injured sixteen persons. Both Zeppelins were brought down and destroyed and the entire crews of both perished.

One airship was attacked by an aeroplane of the British Royal Flying Corps and brought down in flames into the sea off the coast of Durham.

Another airship crossed the North Midland counties and dropped bombs at various places. On her return journey she Was repeatedly attacked by aeroplanes of the British Royal (p. 179) Flying Corps and by guns. She appeared to have been damaged, for the last part of her journey was made at very slow speed, and she was unable to reach the coast before day was breaking.

Near the Norfolk coast she apparently succeeded in effecting repairs, and, after passing through gunfire from the land defenses, which claimed to have made a hit, proceeded east at high speed and at an altitude of over 8,000 feet. She was attacked nine miles out at sea by four machines of the British Royal Naval Air Service, while gunfire was opened from an armed British trawler, and the airship was finally brought down in flames.

During December, 1916, no Zeppelins were apparently used actively. As far as it was possible to determine definitely, the number of German airships wrecked from the outbreak of the war up to January 1, 1917, was nineteen. Of these twelve were lost during 1916 as follows:

L-19. Wrecked in the North Sea on February 3.

L-77. Shot down by French guns near Brabant-le-Roi on February 21.

L-15. Shot down in raid on eastern counties, and sank off Thames estuary on April 1.

L-20. Wrecked near Stavanger on May 3.

Unnamed airship. Destroyed by British warships off Schleswig on May 4.

Unnamed airship. Brought down by Allied warships at Saloniki on May 5.

L-21. Burned and wrecked near Enfield, September 3.

L-32 and L-33. Brought down in Essex, September 24.

Airship brought down at Potter's Bar, October 1.

Two airships brought down in flames off the east coast, November 27-28.

Another list, based on an article published in the "Journal of the Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute," yields a total of thirty-eight Zeppelins as having been destroyed since the outbreak of the war. Of this number the loss of thirty was said to have been authenticated.

(p. 180) Of the larger total (38) 5 were destroyed in 1914, 17 in 1915, and 16 in 1916. Of these 4 were lost in France, 6 in Russia, 7 in Belgium, 7 in England, 1 in Denmark, 1 in Norway, 1 in the Balkans, 5 in the East, and 6 in Germany.

No further activities of Zeppelins were reported during January, 1917, except that it was announced unofficially on January 3, 1917, that two Zeppelins had been destroyed at Tondern, Schleswig, by a fire due to defective electric wiring in a recently constructed double shed.

To sum up the losses in aeroplanes incurred by the various belligerents during the six months' period, August, 1916, to February, 1917, is practically impossible. Figures are available for a few months only, and they are not only unofficial, but come from all kinds of different sources, most of them very much biased.

Furthermore, there always is a wide discrepancy between figures published by adherents of the Allies and those published by the friends of the Central Powers.

As an example of this condition the following may well serve: At the end of January, 1916, an unofficial statement claimed that the Germans lost during 1916 on the western front a total of 221 aeroplanes. The French authorities immediately claimed that they had knowledge of 417 German aeroplanes which had been shot down by their aviators, and that 195 more machines were brought down damaged, of which undoubtedly a number finally were to be considered lost to the Germans. Neither statement, however, is supported by sufficient data to allow any kind of checking up. The truth, therefore, must be sought somewhere around the average between these two figures.

Equally difficult is it to arrive at any definite figures regarding the losses in man power incurred by the various aviation corps. No official figures are available except the lists of casualties published in aviation papers. These, however, cover only the French and English organizations, and even in these two cases they contain a large number of men who lost their lives not at the front, but in aviation camps in England or France while being trained.

(p. 181) However, that section of the French Aviation Corps containing American volunteers has been more liberal in publishing statistics. On November 3, 1916, it was announced that the flying unit of the French Corps, consisting entirely of American volunteers, had brought down between May and November a total of twenty-one German machines. At that time it consisted of twelve American members. Unfortunately it had lost previously to this date two of its members.

Kiffin Rockwell of Atlanta, Ga., had been killed in an air battle over Thame in Alsace on September 23, 1916. He had joined the Foreign Legion of the French army in May, 1915, had been severely wounded, received the Military Medal, and after his recovery had been transferred to the Flying Corps. He had participated in thirty-four air battles, and a few hours before his death had been promoted to be a second lieutenant.

Norman Prince, Harvard graduate and native of Hamilton, Mass., was severely wounded early in October, 1916. He died a week later on October 14, 1916, in a hospital after first having been decorated with the cross of the Legion of Honor. He had also received some time before the Military Medal.

On November 2, 1916, it was announced that Anthony H. Jannus, a young Washington aviator, had been killed in Russia on October 12, 1916, while flying for the Russian army.

Another young American, Ruskin Watts of Westfield, N. J., who was serving in the English Aviation Corps on the western front, was on November 2, 1916, reported as missing since September 22, 1916. No further news of his fate was known.

This meant that, as far as was known definitely, four Americans had lost their lives fighting for the Allies as members of their aviation service.[Back to Contents]



The totals of the damage inflicted by submarines of the Central Powers on the merchant fleets of the Entente Allies during July, 1916, was not officially announced until August 16, 1916. On that day an official statement was published in Berlin to the effect that German and Austrian submarines and mines had destroyed during July, 1916, 74 merchantmen belonging to England and her allies. These ships had a total tonnage of 103,000 tons.

The activity of German and Austrian submarines increased considerably during August, 1916. According to an official German statement submarines or mines sunk 126 merchant ships, belonging to England and her allies, totaling 170,679 tons gross, as well as 35 neutral merchant ships, totaling 38,568 tons. These figures, however, did not agree with figures compiled in this country. The New York "Journal of Commerce" records only 93 ships of a total tonnage of 123,397 as having been sunk in August, 1916. The same authority also announced that in the period from August 1, 1914, to September 1, 1916, there had been destroyed, 1,584 merchant ships, aggregating 2,939,915 tons.

Among the ships sunk in August, 1916, was the Italian mail steamer Letimbro. She went to the bottom of the Mediterranean on August 4, 1916, and it was claimed that many of her 1,100 passengers were lost. Other ships of more than 2,000 tons which were lost in August, 1916, were:

British: Tottenham, 3,106 tons; Favonian, 3,049 tons; Mount Coniston, 3,018 tons; Aaro, 2,603 tons; Trident, 3,129 tons; San Bernardo, 3,803 tons; Antiope, 2,793 tons; Whitgift, 4,397 tons; Britannic, 3,487 tons; Heighington, 2,800 tons; and Newburn, 3,554 tons.

Italian: Citta di Messina, 2,464 tons; Hermerberg, 2,824 tons; Siena, 4,372 tons; Teti, 2,868 tons; Nereus, 3,980 tons; Angelo, 8,609 tons; Sebastiano, 3,995 tons; Stampalia, 9,000.

(p. 183) Other nations: Ivar, Danish, 2,139 tons; Kohina Maru, Japanese, 3,164 tons; Tenmei Maru, Japanese, 3,360 tons; Tricoupis, Greek, 2,387 tons; Ganekogorta Mendi, Spanish, 3,061 tons; Pagasarri, Spanish, 3,287 tons.

Of vessels smaller than 2,000 tons the losses to the various nations were as follows: Great Britain, 23; France, 6; Italy, 10; Russia, 4; Norway, 9; Sweden, 6; Holland, 2; Denmark, 3; Greece, 3.

A large discrepancy regarding the total number and tonnage of Allied and neutral merchantmen sunk by mines and submarines was again noticeable in the figures published in the United States newspapers and in official statements of the German admiralty.

The latter on October 26, 1916, announced that 180 ships with a total tonnage of 254,600 had been sunk, of which 141 of 182,000 tons belonged to Great Britain and her allies, and 39 of 72,600 tons to neutral nations. The New York "Journal of Commerce," on October 5, 1916, published a summary of merchantmen lost during September, 1916, which accounted only for 70 vessels of 150,317 tons, of which 25 were said to have belonged to Great Britain and 18 to neutral Norway, while France lost 4, Italy 4, Sweden 5, Denmark 4, Spain, Greece, and Holland each 2, and Belgium 1. Of all these the following were more than 2,000 tons:

British: Duart, 3,108 tons; Strathalian, 4,404 tons; Swift Wings, 4,465 tons; Kelvinia, 3,140 tons; Torridge, 5,036 tons; Strathtay, 4,428 tons; Heathdene, 3,541 tons; Llangorse, 3,841 tons; Butetown, 2,466 tons; Bronwen, 4,250 tons; Strathe, 2,500 tons; Newby, 2,168 tons; Counsellor, 4,958 tons; Lexie, 3,778 tons; Swedish Prince, 3,712 tons; Roddam, 3,218 tons; Lord Tredegar, 3,856 tons; Dewa, 3,802 tons.

Norwegian: Elizabeth IV, 4,182 tons; Polynesia, 4,064 tons; Bufjord, 2,284 tons; Qvindeggen, 2,610 tons; Furu, 2,029 tons; Isdalen, 2,275 tons.

Other nations: Antwerpen, Dutch, 11,000 tons; Benpark, Italian, 3,842 tons; Gamen, Swedish, 2,617 tons; Luis Vives, Spanish, 2,394 tons; Assimacos, Greek, 2,898 tons.

(p. 184) For the month of October, 1916, the New York "Journal of Commerce" placed its total figures of Allied and neutral merchantmen sunk by mines or submarines at 127 vessels of 227,116 tons, according to a compilation published on November 3, 1916. No official figures of the German Government for October, 1916, were available. Of the above-mentioned 127 vessels, Great Britain lost 38; Norway, 56; Sweden, 10; Denmark, 8; Greece, 5; Russia, 4; Holland, 3; France, Belgium, and Rumania, each 1. Of these the following were of more than 2,000 tons:

British: Franconia, 18,150 tons; Alaunia, 13,405 tons; Welsh Prince, 4,934 tons; Rowanmore, 10,320 tons; Astoria, 4,262 tons; Cabotia, 4,309 tons; Midland, 4,247 tons; Cluden, 3,166 tons; Barbara, 3,740 tons; Framfield, 2,510 tons; Ethel Duncan, 2,510 tons; Sidmouth, 4,045 tons; Crosshill, 5,002 tons; Sebek, 4,601 tons; Renylan, 3,875 tons; Strathdene, 4,321 tons; West Point, 3,847 tons; Stephano, 3,449 tons.

Norwegian: Christian Knudsen, 4,224 tons; Risholm, 2,155 tons; Snestadt, 2,350 tons; Edam, 2,381 tons; Sola, 3,057 tons; Bygdo, 2,345 tons.

Russian: Tourgai, 4,281 tons; Mercator, 2,827 tons.

Dutch: Bloomersdijk, 4,850 tons.

Greek: George M. Embiricos, 3,636 tons; Massalia, 2,186 tons; Germaine, 2,573 tons.

Rumanian: Bistritza, 3,668 tons.

More interest than ever before in submarine warfare was aroused in this country when the German war submarine U-53 unexpectedly made its appearance in the harbor of Newport, R. I., during the afternoon of October 7, 1916. About three hours afterward, without having taken on any supplies, and after explaining her presence by the desire of delivering a letter addressed to Count von Bernstorff, then German Ambassador at Washington, the U-53 left as suddenly and mysteriously as she had appeared.

This was the first appearance of a war submarine in an American port. It was claimed that the U-53 had made the trip from Wilhelmshaven in seventeen days. She was 213 feet long, equipped with two guns, four torpedo tubes, and an exceptionally (p. 185) strong wireless outfit. Besides her commander, Captain Rose, she was manned by three officers and thirty-three men.

Early the next morning, October 8, 1916, it became evident what had brought the U-53 to this side of the Atlantic. At the break of day she made her reappearance southeast of Nantucket. The American steamer Kansan of the American Hawaiian Company bound from New York by way of Boston to Genoa was stopped by her, but after proving her nationality and neutral ownership was allowed to proceed. Five other steamships, three of them British, one Dutch, and one Norwegian, were less fortunate. The British freighter Strathend, of 4,321 tons, was the first victim. Her crew were taken aboard the Nantucket Shoals Lightship. Two other British freighters, West Point and Stephano, followed in short order to the bottom of the ocean. The crews of both were saved by United States torpedo-boat destroyers which had come from Newport as soon as news of the U-53's activities had been received there. This was also the case with the crews of the Dutch ship Bloomersdijk and the Norwegian tanker Christian Knudsen.

On December 20, 1916, the German admiralty announced that the total losses inflicted on Allied and neutral merchantmen by submarines and mines during November, 1916, amounted to 191 vessels of 408,500 tons. Of these 138 ships of 314,500 belonged to Great Britain and her allies, and 53 ships of 94,000 tons to neutral countries.

On November 13, 1916, the Norwegian steamship Older, on passage from Newport to Gibraltar, was captured by a German submarine, which placed a prize crew on board her. For a time the submarine remained in company. Eventually, however, the Older separated from the submarine, apparently with the intention of making for a German port. She was intercepted by a British ship of war, recaptured, and brought into a British port, and the prize crew were made prisoners of war.

The losses of Allied and neutral merchantmen sunk by submarines and mines during the month of December, 1916, according to the New York "Journal of Commerce," totaled 134 vessels of 251,750 tons, of which 53 vessels of 157,217 tons belonged to (p. 186) Great Britain and her allies, and 81 vessels of 84,533 tons to neutrals.

Among the largest of these were the following British boats: King Malcom, 4,351 tons; Reapwell, 3,417 tons; Luciston, 2,948 tons; Moeraki, 4,392 tons; King Bleddyn, 4,387 tons; Couch, 5,620 tons; Tanfield, 4,358 tons; Avristan, 3,818 tons; Strathalbyn, 4,331 tons; Ursula, 5,011 tons; Bretwalda, 4,037 tons; Westminster, 4,342 tons.

The French merchant marine, in addition to a number of smaller boats, lost: Kangaroo, 2,493 tons; Emma Laurans, 2,152 tons. One Belgian steamer of 2,360 tons, the Keltier, also was sunk.

Of neutrals, the Dutch lost the Kediri, 3,781 tons; the Norwegians the Rakiura, 3,569 tons; Modum, 2,942 tons; Meteor, 4,211 tons; Manpanger, 3,354 tons; the Greeks, Salamis, 3,638 tons; and the Danish, Michail Ontchonkoff, 2,118 tons.

The balance of the boats destroyed in December, 1916, was made up of vessels of less than 2,000 tons, among which there were Russian, Swedish, and Portuguese boats as well as ships belonging to the nations already mentioned. One American-owned was also included, the John Lambert, of 1,550 tons, owned by the Great Britain & St. Lawrence Transportation Company.

On December 4, 1916, a German submarine sank in the Mediterranean the former Anchor liner Caledonia, a steamer of 9,223 tons. The German version of this occurrence was as follows:

"On December 4, 1916, in the Mediterranean, the British liner Caledonia attempted to ram one of our submarines without having previously been attacked by the latter.

"Just before the submarine was struck by the steamer's bows it succeeded in firing a torpedo, which hit and sank the Caledonia. The submarine was only slightly damaged.

"The captain of the steamer, James Blaikie, was taken prisoner by the submarine."

In January, 1917, the toll exacted by mines and submarines was especially large. The New York "Journal of Commerce" gave on February 6, 1917, the following figures: 154 vessels of (p. 187) 336,997 tons. Of these 87, of 229,366 tons, belonged to Great Britain and her allies, and 67, of 107,631 tons, to neutrals. No American boats were included.

On January 1, 1917, a German submarine sank the British transport Ivernia in the Mediterranean while carrying troops. Four officers and 146 men as well as 33 members of the crew were reported missing.

The British battleship Cornwallis was sunk on January 9, 1917, likewise in the Mediterranean. Thirteen members of the crew were reported missing. The Cornwallis, which was launched at Blackwell in 1901 and completed in 1904, had a displacement of 14,000 tons, length of 405 feet, beam of 75-½ feet, and draft of 26-½ feet. Her indicated horsepower was 18,238, developing a speed of 18.9 knots. She carried four 12-inch, twelve 6-inch, ten 12-pounder, and two 3-pounder guns, as well as four torpedo tubes. The complement of the Cornwallis was about 750.

Two days later, January 11, 1917, the British seaplane carrier Ben-Machree was sunk by gunfire in Kasteloxizo Harbor (Asia Minor). There were no casualties.

Among the larger boats (above 2,000 tons) sunk during January, 1917, were the following:

British: Apsleyhall, 3,882 tons; Holly Branch, 3,568 tons; Baycraig, 3,761 tons; Lesbian, 2,555 tons; Andoni, 3,188 tons; Baynesk, 3,286 tons; Lynfield, 3,023 tons; Manchester Inventor, 4,247 tons; Wragby, 3,641 tons; Garfield, 3,838 tons; Auchencrag, 3,916 tons; Port Nicholson, 8,418 tons; Matina, 3,870 tons; Toftwood, 3,082 tons; Mohacsfield, 3,678 tons; Tremeadow, 3,653 tons; Neuquen, 3,583 tons; Tabasco, 2,987 tons; Matheran, 7,654 tons; Jevington, 2,747 tons.

French: Tuskar, 3,043 tons.

Japanese: Taki Maru, 3,208 tons; Chinto Maru, 2,592 tons; Misagatu Maru, No. 3, 2,608 tons.

Russian: Egret, 3,185 tons.

Norwegian: Britannic, 2,289 tons; Older, 2,256 tons; Fama, 2,147 tons; Esperança, 4,428 tons; Bergenhus, 3,606 tons; Jotunfjell, 2,492 tons; Myrdal, 2,631 tons.

(p. 188) Dutch: Salland, 3,657 tons; Zeta, 3,053 tons.

Greek: Evangelos, 3,773 tons; Demetrios Goulandris, 3,744 tons; Aristotelis C. Ioannow, 2,868 tons; Demetrios Inglessis, 2,088 tons; Tsiropinas, 3,015 tons.

Spanish: Valle, 2,365 tons; Manuel, 2,419 tons; Parahyba, 2,537 tons.

Toward the end of January, 1917, the severity of submarine warfare was noticeably increased. Day by day the number of vessels sunk grew larger, and some of them were of especially large tonnage. On January 28, 1917, a French transport, carrying 950 soldiers to Saloniki, the Amiral Magon, was sunk in the Mediterranean with a loss of about 150 men.

Then came on January 29, 1917, the official announcement that the British Government had decided to lay new mine fields in the North Sea in order to cope more successfully with the ever-growing submarine menace. According to this announcement the British Government warned all neutrals that from this date the following area in the North Sea was to be considered dangerous to shipping:

The area comprising all the waters, except the Netherlands and Danish territorial waters, lying southwestward and eastward of a line commencing four miles from the coast of Jutland in latitude 56 degrees N., longitude 8 degrees E.

As a result of this new policy it was announced by Lloyd's that eleven vessels of about 15,000 tons were sunk on the first day of the blockade. During the first week of the blockade, February 1 to 8, 1917, according to British figures, which, however, were claimed by German officials to be much lower than the actual figures, there were sunk 58 vessels of 112,043 tons, of which 1 was American, 20 belonged to other neutrals, 32 to Great Britain, and 5 to the other belligerents.[Back to Contents]




A welcome period of quiet in the submarine controversy with Germany followed the settlement of the Sussex case recorded in the previous volume. But neither the Administration nor the country was deluded into resting in any false security. The dragon was not throttled; it merely slumbered by the application of a diplomatic opiate. While the war lasted the menace of its awaking and jeopardizing German peace with the United States was always present.

The achievements of the Deutschland, a peaceful commercial submarine which inaugurated an undersea traffic between the United States and Germany, provided an interesting diversion from the tension created by the depredations of her armed sisters. After safely crossing the Atlantic and finding a safe berth in an American port in the summer of 1916, she showed such hesitation in setting out on the return trip that doubts were general as to whether the dangers of capture by alert Allied cruisers were not too great to be risked. The attempt nevertheless was finally made on August 2, 1916, when she darted under water after passing out of the three-mile limit at the Virginia Capes and was successful. She arrived at Bremen on August 23, 1916, with a cargo of rubber and metal, and apparently found no difficulty in eluding the foes supposedly in wait for her on the high seas. When she left her Baltimore berth, so the story went, eight British warships awaited her, attended by (p. 190) numerous fishing craft hired to spread nets to entangle her. Near the English coast dense fogs aided by obscuring the vision of her foes' naval lookouts, and in rounding Scotland to reach the North Sea she had to evade a long line of warships and innumerable auxiliary craft extended far north.

Germany found occasion for exultation in her return without mishap. The blockade was broken. Berlin was bedecked with flags and the whole country celebrated the event as though Marshal von Hindenburg had won another victory. The Deutschland again left Bremen on October 10, 1916, and found her way into New London, Conn., on November 1, 1916, leaving for Germany three weeks later with a rubber and metal cargo said to be worth $2,000,000 and a number of mail pouches. She was reported to have arrived safely off the mouth of the Weser on December 10, 1916.

A repetition of the Deutschland's exploits was looked for from her sister undersea craft, the Bremen, about whose movements the widest speculation was centered. She was reported to have left Germany for the United States on September 1, 1916, but did not appear, nor was any trace of her seen en route. She never arrived, and became a mystery of the sea. A story circulated that she had been captured by a British patrol boat in the Straits of Dover and thirty-three of her crew of thirty-five made prisoners, the remaining two having been killed when the boat was caught in a steel net. The British admiralty preserved its customary silence as to the truth of this report. Her German owners finally acknowledged their belief that she had been lost probably through an accident to her machinery. At any rate a life preserver bearing the name Bremen was picked up off the Maine coast about the end of September, 1916.

As the summer of 1916 advanced American contemplation of this agreeable trade relation with blockaded Germany by means of a commercial submarine service was abruptly switched to a review of the manner in which that country was observing its undertaking not to sink unresisting vessels without warning. A certain communication credited to Admiral von Tirpitz was circulated in Germany urging a return to his discarded sea policy. (p. 191) This was nothing more nor less than the pursuit of unrestricted and ruthless submarine warfare, the espousal of which by him as Minister of Marine, in conflict with the milder methods favored by the German Chancellor, forced his resignation earlier in the year. Of course such a change would mean an immediate clash with the United States and the ending of diplomatic relations.

President Wilson had been watching Germany's behavior since May, 1916, when she pledged her submarine commanders to safeguard the lives on board doomed vessels. Three months' probation, according to American reports, failed to show any evidence that she was not living up to her promise; but British reports cited a number of instances pointing to an absolute disregard of her undertaking with the United States. She had hedged this promise with a condition reserving her liberty of action should a "new situation" develop necessitating a change in her sea policy, and the question arose whether she was not trying to create a new situation to justify such a change. Concurrent with the new Von Tirpitz propaganda, at any rate, came a recrudescence of submarine destruction without warning, mainly in the Mediterranean. This activity lent weight to a fear that the kaiser and Von Bethmann-Hollweg were yielding to the pressure exercised by the Von Tirpitz party. Germany regarded her submarines as her chief weapons for damaging the Allies; but she was embarrassed by the problem of how to operate them without clashing with American interests. Her policy at length shaped itself to a careful discrimination in raiding Atlantic traffic and avoiding attacks on liners altogether.

The leader of the German National Liberals, Dr. Ernest Bassermann, echoed the Von Tirpitz cry, in an address to his constituents at Saarbrücken. The most ruthless employment of all weapons, he urged, was imperative. Besides Von Tirpitz, High Admiral Koester, Count Zeppelin, and Prince von Bülow shared this view. He told the world, which he was really addressing, that the submarine campaign had not been abandoned, but only suspended solely on account of the American protest. It was not clear that there had really been any cessation of submarine (p. 192) activity, though some abatement had undoubtedly followed the undertaking with the United States.

The manifest unrest in Germany provoked by the curb placed upon her submarines by President Wilson caused the eyes of Washington to be fixed anxiously on the uncertain situation. It was solely a psychological and mental condition, but of a character that seemed premonitory of an outbreak on Germany's part. Dr. von Bethmann-Hollweg, in a cryptic remark to the Reichstag on September 28, 1916, succeeded in aggravating American concern, though he may not have so intended. "A German statesman," he said, "who would hesitate to use against Britain every available instrument of battle that would really shorten this war should be hanged."

There was no obvious reference to the United States in this utterance; but the German press seized upon it as a pretext for an attack on American neutrality. The connection was provided by the coincidental death of an American aviator named Rockwell, who, with a number of compatriots, had served the Allies on the French front. The point made was that the active part American airmen were taking in the ranks of the Allies, combined with the enormous supply of war materials furnished by American firms, indicated the futility of abiding by concessions made to the United States controlling the submarine war. The United States was charged with taking advantage of restricted submarine activity to cover the participation of American citizens as aids to the Entente and to expand its war trade. Being simultaneous and couched in the same key, the press outbursts bore every indication of a common inspiration, probably official.

"Moderation in the use of Germany's undersea craft," said one group of journals in effect, "merely serves to further American assistance to the Entente Allies in men and munitions."

Another paper, the "Tageszeitung," characterized the American policy as one in the pursuance of which President Wilson Was making a threatened use of a "wooden sword," and called for a policy of the utmost firmness against that country.

It was intimated from Washington that if any faction in Germany—in this case the Pan-Germans—succeeded in reviving (p. 193) submarine methods whereby ships were sunk without warning or without safeguards against loss of American lives, the submarine crisis with Germany would be reopened with all its possibilities. At the same time no serious importance was attached by official Washington to the German clamor for more frightfulness.

It was true that the Pan-Germans were making a powerful onslaught for the overthrow of the German Chancellor, Dr. von Bethmann-Hollweg, who was the only obstacle to a return to ruthless submarine warfare. Moreover, as perceived by the "Berliner Tageblatt," "tension in the atmosphere of imperial politics has reached such a high point that a discharge must follow if the empire is not to suffer lasting damage." But Washington looked for development on the high seas, not in the political arena of Berlin, where the sound and fury of words did not afford a safe barometer of governmental action.

By the end of September, 1916, a "lull" in German submarine activity was reported, due, according to Lord Robert Cecil, to a shortage in submarines. But reports showed that between June 1, 1916, and September 24, 1916, 277 vessels, sixty-six of which were neutral, had been sunk by submarines, fifteen of them without warning, and with the loss of eighty-four lives. The abatement really took place in June and July, 1916, following the American agreement with Germany in May, 1916. The "lull" may therefore be measured by these figures: Vessels sunk in June, 57; in July, 42; in August, 103; in September (to the 24th), 75.

The only real lull was a cessation in attacks on liners. The British view, based on the allegation that fifteen vessels had been sunk without warning causing a loss of eighty-four lives, was that German frightfulness was already in full swing despite Berlin's promise to the United States. The American attitude, however, was that so long as American lives were not lost on ships sunk without warning the United States had no ground for intervention. Hence Germany could apparently sink vessels with impunity so long as the noncombatant victims belonged to other nationalities.

(p. 194) The agitation in Germany to break the undertaking with the United States was thrashed out between the adherents of Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg and the Pan-Germanists without shaking the Chancellor's strength. He had the support of Field Marshal von Hindenburg and the navy chiefs, who, in frowning on an unbridled submarine warfare, successfully imposed the weight of their authority against any change. The subject divided the Budget Committee of the Reichstag, the question being whether its discussion should be permitted in open session. The outcome was that the committee decided, by a vote of 24 to 4, to smother the agitation by refusing to permit its ventilation in the open Reichstag.[Back to Contents]



While the German Budget Committee was thus occupied a new and startling turn was given to the situation by the unheralded appearance at Newport, R. I., on October 7, 1916, of a German submarine, the U-53. Rising out of the water in the afternoon, it remained long enough for its captain to deliver a missive for Count von Bernstorff, the German Ambassador, pay a call on Admiral Knight, the American commander there, ask for news of the missing Bremen, and obtain a sheaf of New York newspapers for information regarding Allied shipping. Then it left the port, whither it had been piloted, and disappeared under the waves. The visit, standing by itself, was an interesting episode; but it proved to be much more than a mere social call.

The next day revealed the real object of the submarine's presence in American waters. Off Nantucket it appeared in its true guise as a raider of shipping and sank five vessels—three British, one Dutch, and one Norwegian. Having thus brought the submarine war to the very threshold of the United States, causing a reign of terror among held-up shipping along the Atlantic seaboard—a (p. 195) state of mind which, while it lasted, meant a virtual blockade of American ports—it disappeared and was not again heard of.

There was no doubt that the exploits of the U-53 were intended as a demonstration to test American feeling as to whether Germany could attack on this side of the water munition and other vessels bound for Allied ports. It appeared a bold attempt to create a new precedent by overriding one laid down in 1870 by President Grant, who ruled that American waters must not be used by other nations for belligerent purposes. Outside the three-mile limit, however, German submarines could operate with the same impunity as in the Arctic Ocean, so long as they observed the requirement of giving warning and allowing people on board the intercepted vessels time to save their lives. But the manifest point was that the waters outside the three-mile limit were contiguous to the American coast, and provided highways for American shipping, coastwise and foreign. The proximity of German submarines, even though they confined their attention to Allied shipping to and from American ports, constituted too great a menace to the free movement of the American mercantile marine.

A wolf at a man's door is none the less dangerous because the wolf is lying in wait for the appearance of an inmate of the man's house and not for the man himself. Informal intimations persuaded Germany that she could not safely repeat the experiment of carrying the war to America's door.

The innovation, even in its most innocuous form, was contrary to good international usage. Great Britain had previously offended in this respect by permitting her patrolling cruisers to intercept and examine merchant vessels off the port of New York. She desisted at Washington's request. But a waiting cruiser, plain to the eye, interfering with shipping to prevent communication with Germany, was a mild offender compared with an unseen submarine crossing the paths of ships and liable to err in its indiscriminate destructiveness.

Fortunately, no American lives were lost. But this was not the fault of the submarine. No question could be raised of its (p. 196) behavior in sinking four of the five ships, namely, the Strathdene (British freighter), bound from New York to Bordeaux; the West Point (British freighter), bound from London to Newport News; the Bloomersdijk (Dutch freighter), bound from New York to Rotterdam; and the Christian Knudsen (Norwegian freighter), bound from New York to London. The danger, happily averted, to American-German relations lay in the sinking of the fifth vessel, the Stephano, a British passenger liner plying regularly between New York, Halifax, N. S., and St. John's, Newfoundland. Among the Stephano's passengers were a number of Americans, who, like their companions in misfortune, had to seek the doubtful safety of small boats miles offshore.

The situation was saved by the presence of American destroyers in the vicinity. Their commanders and crews were actual witnesses of the sinking, and afterward interposed as life savers of the shipwrecked victims. The Balch rescued the passengers and crew of the Stephano, numbering 140, and other destroyers took on board the crews of the four freighters. The American navy in saving Germany's victims had saved Germany from facing the consequences of her behavior in jeopardizing the lives of Americans on board the Stephano. German diplomacy was even capable of pointing to the fact that the prompt relief afforded the Stephano's passengers by American destroyers was proof that the submarine commander had safeguarded their lives by relying upon the American navy as a rescuer. The irony of such a contention lay in the implication that if American destroyers had not been on the scene the vessels might have been spared.

It was a short-lived panic. The U-53 came and went in a flash; but amid the scare created by its presence President Wilson found it necessary to assure the country that "the German Government will be held to the complete fulfillment of its promise to the Government of the United States. I have no right now," he added, "to question its willingness to fulfill them."

The Administration's deliberations on the subject produced the decision that the U-53 had not ignored the German pledges. (p. 197) It came, saw, and conquered according to formula. It had first warned the vessels, gave enough time for the people on board to be "safely" transferred to boats, and there were American naval eyewitnesses to testify as to the regularity of its proceedings. The incident passed as one on which no action could be taken by the United States. But Germany saw that it could not well be repeated. American sensibilities had to be respected as much as international proprieties. The reproof conveyed to the British Ambassador by Secretary Lansing that "the constant and menacing presence of cruisers on the high seas near the ports of a neutral country may be regarded according to the canons of international courtesy as a just ground for offense, although it may be strictly legal," applied with double force to the presence of German submarines because of their greater danger.

Tart comments on the incident came from Great Britain, though its Government did not appear to have protested to the United States against the view that the U-53's proceedings were lawful and regular.

Lord Robert Cecil, an official spokesman, saw a ruse in the submarine's visit:

"German public opinion appears to be obsessed with the idea that the way to deal with the Allied blockade is to have a succession of sudden crises with neutrals, which may be used for striking diplomatic bargains. These bargains, in the mind of Germany, always take one form—that Germany is to refrain from violating international law and humanity in return for the abandonment by Great Britain as toward neutrals of the legitimate military and naval measures of the Allies."

In the House of Lords the United States was accused of a breach of neutrality by Lords Beresford and Sydenham. Referring to "the activities of the U-53 under the very eyes of the American navy" and to President Wilson's ultimatum which resulted in the German pledge, Lord Sydenham said:

"Even before the exploits of the U-53 that pledge was torn to shreds. Yet the Government of the United States has made no sign whatever that the sinking of neutral ships goes on almost (p. 198) every day. What must small neutrals think of their powerful representative?"

No life, he said, was lost because of the presence of American warships. Lord Sydenham took the position that the presence of American warships actually enabled Germany to defy what President Wilson had described as a sacred and indisputable rule of international law.

Lord Beresford expressed a similar view:

"The United States are really aiding and abetting this rather serious state of affairs. If the United States had not sent their ships, which for some extraordinary reason happened to be on the spot, to save life, the Germans would no doubt have broken the pledge to which their attention had been called. I think we are bound to take notice of a fact which does not appear to be quite within the bounds of neutrality as far as the United States are concerned."

Lord Grey, Foreign Secretary, declined to commit the Government to such an attitude. He held that the American-German undertaking was no affair of Great Britain's.

It was left for the spectator to be truly prophetic, as the later peace movement showed, in seeking a motive for the U-53's proceedings. It considered that Germany sought to force the United States to propose peace terms, regardless of whether the Entente Allies were agreeable or not:

"Thus, with unrestricted submarine warfare as a settled policy, Germany gives America warning of what is likely to happen unless the United States is prepared to declare that the war has reached a point where it is dangerous for neutrals. If the United States is willing to play this rôle, the Germans will hold their hands from an extra dose of unlimited submarine frightfulness."

The U-53 had no sooner gone when an exchange of communications between the American and Allied governments regarding the status of foreign submarines in neutral ports became public. The question related to the hospitality accorded the Deutschland in Baltimore and New London; but as it arose in the midst of the hubbub occasioned by the U-53, the American view appeared to (p. 199) determine that such craft could call at an American port like any other armed vessel, so long as it did not stay beyond the allotted time.

The Allied governments besought neutrals, the United States among them, to forbid belligerent submarine vessels, "whatever the purpose to which they are put," from making use of neutral waters, roadsteads, and ports. Such craft could navigate and remain at sea submerged, could escape control and observation, avoid identification and having their national character established to determine whether they were neutral or belligerent, combatant or noncombatant. The capacity for harm inherent in the nature of such vessels therefore required, in the view of the Allied governments, that they should be excluded from the benefit of rules hitherto recognized by the laws of nations governing the admission of war or merchant vessels to neutral waters and their sojourn in them. Hence if any belligerent submarine entered a neutral port it should be interned. The point was further made that grave danger was incurred by neutral submarines in the navigation of regions frequented by belligerent submarines.

The American answer was brusque, and resentful of the attempt of the Allies to dictate the attitude neutrals should take toward submarines which visited their harbors. The governments of France, Great Britain, Russia, and Japan were informed that they had not "set forth any circumstances, nor is the Government of the United States at present aware of any circumstances, concerning the use of war or merchant submarines which would render the existing rules of international law inapplicable to them." Moreover, "so far as the treatment of either war or merchant submarines in American waters is concerned, the Government of the United States reserves its liberty of action in all respects and will treat such vessels as, in its opinion, becomes the action of a power which may be said to have taken the first steps toward establishing the principles of neutrality."

Finally, as to the danger to neutral submarines in waters frequented by belligerent submarines, it was the duty of belligerents (p. 200) to distinguish between them, and responsibility for any conflict arising from neglect to do so must rest upon the negligent power.

This caustic exchange of views on harboring submarines took place before the appearance of the U-53. Had the Allies deferred approaching the United States until after that event, the situation favored the belief that the submarine's behavior would have dictated a different reply from Washington. Indeed, there was a strong presumption that if another German armed submarine had the temerity to visit an American port it might have been promptly interned, not under international law, but at the behest of public opinion.[Back to Contents]



The conduct of the country's foreign policy became hampered by the presidential campaign. President Wilson was frankly uncertain of reelection and embarrassed by the feeling that any determination he made of a policy toward Germany might be overturned by his successful opponent. So American domestic politics perceptibly intruded at this stage in the country's foreign policy.

In fact, that policy was practically in suspension. Germany eagerly availed herself of the hiatus, and, satisfying herself that President Wilson would be defeated, and that his successor would adopt a different attitude to her (she had no real ground for this supposition), embarked upon a submarine activity that was in strange contrast to the moderation which the German Chancellor had stubbornly fought for in its conduct.

The point to be remembered was that Germany's pledge to President Wilson was the only curb on frightfulness. Germany rashly assumed that the defeat of President Wilson would nullify it. At any rate, his uncertain outlook in the preelection period opened the way for a submarine outbreak which would be extended (p. 201) with impunity owing to the Administration's hesitation in taking action that might not be sustained by the President's presumed successor, on the theory that Mr. Wilson's defeat would be tantamount to a popular repudiation of his policies.

Light was thrown on the German submarine policy by a Berlin dispatch, dated October 26, 1916, which indicated that the submarines were at least placating the extremists:

"While the silence of the German press and public on the subject of sharpened submarine warfare may be attributed in some measure to the stand of Hindenburg and Ludendorff against it, much more significant is the growing popular realization that sharpened submarine warfare is actually in force. And the public is beginning to regard it as efficient and highly satisfactory. The fact is that it is successful as never before, for it is sharpened not qualitatively, but quantitatively."

The British admiralty later reported that between May 4 (the date of the German pledge) and November 8, 1916, thirty-three vessels had been sunk by German submarines without warning, resulting in the loss of 140 lives. In the same period 107 ships, all of British registry, had been sunk and "the lives of the crews and passengers imperiled through their being forced to take to the sea in open boats while their ships were a target for the enemy's guns."

President Wilson's success at the polls, which hung in the balance several days after the election, was the signal for a change of attitude on Germany's part. The Berlin Government realized that his foreign policy had received the indorsement of a majority of American citizens, and the assurance was communicated that the German admiralty was again on its good behavior.

But many depredations had been committed which Germany would be hard put to explain satisfactorily. No less than ten pressing American inquiries regarding sunk ships were sent to the Berlin Foreign Office as soon as the President, assured that his tenure of office was no longer in doubt, returned to the consideration of foreign affairs. The submarine outbreak showed an undoubted disposition on Germany's part to violate her (p. 202) pledge, and if the Administration was satisfied that she had done so, its expressed attitude was that no more protests would be sent. The American answer to Germany's defiance could only be the dismissal of Count von Bernstorff from Washington and the recall of Ambassador Gerard from Berlin.

The outstanding cases on which the United States called for an adequate defense from Germany were:

The Rowanmore, British freighter, bound from Baltimore to Liverpool, sunk off Cape Clear on October 25, 1916. Two Americans and five Filipinos were on board. No lives were lost.

The Marina, a British horse carrier, bound from Glasgow to Newport News, sunk without warning off the southwest coast of Ireland on October 29, 1916. She carried a mixed crew of British and Americans. Six Americans lost their lives.

The Arabia, a Peninsular and Oriental passenger liner, sunk in the Mediterranean without warning on November 6, 1916. One American was on board. No lives were lost.

The Columbian, an American steamer, sunk off the Spanish coast on November 8, 1916, after being held up for two days under surveillance by the submarine during a storm.

Germany charged that the Rowanmore attempted to escape on being ordered to stop. Her steering gear was shot away after an hour's chase, when the captain hove to and lifeboats were lowered. The crew complained that the submarine shelled the boats after they had cleared the ship. This the commander denied. The flight of the Rowanmore appeared to deprive her of the consideration due to an unresisting vessel under cruiser warfare.

The Marina carried a defensive gun, as did the Arabia. This fact alone, Germany contended, entitled her submarines to sink both vessels without warning, in addition to the commander's belief in each case that the vessel was a transport in the service of the British admiralty. The American Government was satisfied that neither vessel was engaged in transport service on the voyage in question. In the Arabia's case, 450 passengers were on board, including women and children, who were only saved because the Administration had already held that the gun's (p. 203) presence on a vessel did not deprive her of the right to proper warning before being sunk. Germany admitted liability for sinking the Columbian and agreed to pay for the value of the vessel and the contraband cargo she carried.

The Marina case stood out, in the view of the State Department, as a "clear-cut" violation of Germany's pledges to the United States. Her gun was not used, and no opportunity was afforded for using it. The "presumption" on the part of a German submarine commander that a vessel was a transport was a favorite defense of Germany's and disregarded the American ruling on armed merchantmen, which held that "the determination of warlike character must rest in no case upon presumption, but upon conclusive evidence."

Berlin was looking for trouble. A period of complications in American-German relations was frankly predicted. The Administration was plainly concerned by the situation; but no decision to take action was forthcoming. Its hesitation appeared to be due to the apparent need for a further note to dispose of new interpretations Germany had ingeniously woven in her various excuses by way of evading the letter and spirit of the Sussex agreement. One view of her submarine "rights" which Germany insisted on upholding was that armed merchantmen were not legally immune from attack on sight.

Herr Zimmermann, the German Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, defined anew his Government's attitude:

"As the armament of several British ships has been used for attack, and has therefore endangered the lives of crew and passengers, of course armed ships cannot be considered as peaceful trade boats."

The cases of the Marina and Arabia put the German pledges to a test. Neither vessel attempted to escape nor offered resistance, though armed with a solitary gun. The issue therefore resolved itself into these considerations:

First. Since the German submarine commanders have pleaded extenuating circumstances on which they based their presumption that the Marina and Arabia, were transports, and not passenger vessels, were these circumstances sufficient to have (p. 204) justified the commanders in mistaking the two steamers for transports?

Second. If there were such extenuating circumstances, were they such as to warrant the commanders in departing from the general rule laid down by the American Government in the Sussex note, calling forth the pledges given by Germany in May, 1916, in which it was guaranteed that "in accordance with the general principles of visit and search and destruction of merchant vessels recognized by international law, such vessels, both within and without the area declared as naval war zone, shall not be sunk without warning and without saving human lives, unless these ships attempt to escape or offer resistance?"

Whatever intimation was made to Germany by the United States did not become public. By December, 1916, the whole question appeared to have been suddenly shelved by the peace proposals Germany hurled at the Allies in loud tones of victory, coupled with an invitation to the United States to interpose as a mediator. Peace, of course, would dispose of further friction with the United States. While the proposals were pending, moreover, American action on German violations of her submarine agreement was suspended. What was the use of a diplomatic rupture with Germany on the eve of peace? But Germany knew that her official "peace kite" was making an abortive flight. Peace she really did not expect, knowing it was not within reach; but she was anxious to preserve friendly relations with the United States, although daily flouting it in her conduct of the submarine war. Her peace move was therefore shown to have had a double edge. It postponed, but did not avert, a final crisis with the United States, and that, indeed, might well have been its initial aim in view of the foredoomed futility of its ostensible object. Certainly President Wilson espoused the peace proposal for the same reason; but, as shown in the following chapter, the efforts of both were in vain. The real climax was to come after all.[Back to Contents]



The movement for peace was at its crest, and President Wilson was apparently sanguine that his efforts in furthering it were on the eve of bearing fruit, when Great Britain planned to extend her blockade of the German coast in the North Sea. She enlarged the dangerous area which hitherto only barred the entry of German naval forces south into the Straits of Dover and the English Channel by cutting off the German North Sea coast altogether, in order to prevent the egress and ingress of German sea raiders by the northward route and to curtail the chances of the kaiser's warships making successful forays on the English coast. The significance of this action was not seen until it became known that Great Britain had discovered that Germany, while seemingly occupied with peace, was preparing a warning to neutrals of her intention to establish a deep-sea blockade of the entire British and French coasts. By extending the mined area round the German coast Great Britain sought to counteract and anticipate the new German project, the aim of which was to starve the British Isles by a bitter and unrestrained submarine war on all ships. The British warning of the extended dangerous area came on January 27, 1917. Germany announced her new policy four days later, proclaiming that it was in retaliation of Great Britain's latest attempt to tighten her strangle hold on German food supplies. But there was overwhelming evidence—the German Chancellor himself provided it—that the German plan had been matured long in advance of Great Britain's course, and that the peace overtures had really been made by Germany in order that their certain rejection could be seized upon as a justification for the ruthless sea warfare projected.

The Wilson Administration, round whose horizon mirages of peace still appeared to linger, was not prepared for the blow when it came. The President could scarcely credit the news (p. 206) brought by a note from Germany on January 31, 1917, that she had withdrawn her pledges to the United States not to sink ships without warning. But the situation had to be faced that a crisis confronted the country in its relations with the German Empire.

Germany found occasion in her note of renunciation to link its purport with that of the President's address delivered to the Senate nine days previously. (See Part VI, Chapter LVIII, "Peace Without Victory.") In its exalted sentiments she gave a perfunctory and manifestly insincere acquiescence by way of prefacing familiar reproaches to the Allies for refusing to accept her peace overtures. In rejecting them, she said, the Allies had disclosed their real aims, which were to "dismember and dishonor Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria."

Germany was poignantly grieved by the continuance of the war, not solely because of fear of this supposititious dismemberment, but because "British tyranny mercilessly increases the sufferings of the world, indifferent to the laws of humanity, indifferent to the protests of the neutrals whom they severely harm, indifferent even to the silent longing for peace among England's own allies. Each day of the terrible struggle causes new destruction, new sufferings. Each day shortening the war will, on both sides, preserve the lives of thousands of brave soldiers and be a benefit to mankind."

Anything to end the war, was Germany's slogan. Because of the sufferings of the German people "a new situation" had been created which forced her to "new decisions." Because of the sufferings of other nations, and the Entente Powers' refusal to make peace at her bidding, she thus announced her resolve: "... The Imperial Government, in order to serve the welfare of mankind in a higher sense and not to wrong its own people, is now compelled to continue the fight for existence, again forced upon it, with the full employment of all the weapons which are at its disposal."

The Imperial Government furthermore hoped that the United States would "view the new situation from the lofty heights of impartiality, and assist on their part to prevent further misery and unavoidable sacrifice of human life."

New German Submarine War Zone of February 1, 1917.

(p. 208) The "new situation" as presented to the United States was that within a barred zone Germany had drawn round the British and French coasts, extending from the Shetlands as far south as Cape Finisterre, and to the west some 700 miles into the Atlantic, and also in the Mediterranean, all sea traffic would be stopped on and after February 1, 1917, and that neutral vessels navigating the proscribed waters would do so at their own risk. The only exception made was a "safety lane" permitted for one American vessel a week with identifiable markings to sail to and from Falmouth through the Atlantic zone (the United States Government to guarantee that it did not carry contraband) and another safety lane admitting sea traffic through the Mediterranean to Athens. All other vessels would be sunk without regard to the pledges Germany made to the United States. Germany thus practically shut off American traffic with Europe in pursuance of her new sea warfare against her enemies.

The edict was extended to hospital ships on the charge that the Allies used them for the transportation of munitions and troops. The charge was denied by the British and French Governments; but frightfulness admitted of no truth nor acceptance of denials of German charges, obviously made deliberately to justify barbarities, and so hospital ships, with their medical and nursing staffs and wounded, were to be sunk whenever found by submarines.

The real attitude of Germany toward her withdrawn pledges to the United States was betrayed by the German Chancellor in addressing the Reichstag Committee on Ways and Means. He revealed that the pledges were merely a temporary expedient, made to fill up a gap until more submarines were available. It appeared that in March, May (when Germany surrendered to the American demands), and in September, 1916, the question of unrestricted warfare was not considered ripe for decision—that is, Germany was not ready to defy the United States. Dr. von Bethmann-Hollweg thus defined the situation:

"I have always proceeded from the standpoint of whether U-boat war would bring us nearer victorious peace or not. Every means, I said in March, that was calculated to shorten the (p. 209) war constitutes the most humane policy to follow. When the most ruthless methods are considered best calculated to lead us to victory, and swift victory, I said then they must be employed. This moment has now arrived.... The moment has come when, with the greatest prospect of success, we can undertake the enterprise."

What changes, he asked, had come into the situation? A firm basis for success had been established by a considerable increase in submarines; poor harvests confronted England, France, and Italy, who would find their difficulties unbearable by an unrestricted submarine war; France and Italy also lacked coal, and the submarines would increase its dearth; England lacked ore and timber, her supplies of which would be diminished by the same means; and all the Entente Powers were suffering from a shrinkage in cargo space due to the submarines. With the bright prospect of success afforded by the supposed plight of the Allied Powers, Germany, he indicated, was prepared to accept all the consequences that would flow from the unrestricted submarine warfare decided upon.

So was President Wilson. The German Chancellor made it clear that after Germany gave her solemn pledge on May 4, 1916, not to sink ships without warning, she had occupied the intervening months in feverish preparations to break it and to tear up the pledge like a scrap of paper and throw it to the winds. On the Chancellor's own words Germany had been convicted of a breach of faith.

The President considered the crisis for three days. There was no question of the United States tolerating Germany's disavowal of her unlawful blockade of American trade with the belligerent countries. The only questions to be decided were whether to warn Germany that a rupture would follow her first act hurtful to American life or property; to demand the withdrawal of her decree by an ultimatum; to wait until she committed some "overt act" before taking action; or whether to cease diplomatic relations without any parley at all.

The last-named course was determined upon. On February 3, 1917, President Wilson addressed the two Houses of Congress in (p. 210) joint session, informing them that the United States had severed its relations with Germany. The President reviewed the circumstances which led to the giving of the German undertaking to the United States following the sinking of the Sussex on March 24, 1916, without warning. He reminded Congress that on the April 18 following the Administration informed the German Government that unless it "should now immediately declare and effect an abandonment of its present methods of submarine warfare against passenger and freight-carrying vessels, the Government of the United States can have no choice but to sever diplomatic relations with the German Empire altogether." The German Government consented to do so with reservations. These the United States brushed aside, and committed Germany to the plain pledge that no ships should be sunk without warning unless they attempted to escape or offered resistance. In view of Germany's new declaration deliberately withdrawing her solemn assurance without prior intimation, the President told Congress that the Government had no alternative consistent with the dignity and honor of the United States but to hand Count von Bernstorff, the German Ambassador, his passports, and to recall Ambassador Gerard from Berlin. But the President refused to believe that the German authorities intended to carry out the decree.

"I cannot bring myself to believe," he said, "that they will indeed pay no regard to the ancient friendship between their people and our own or to the solemn obligations which have been exchanged between them and destroy American ships and take the lives of American citizens in the willful prosecution of the ruthless naval program they have announced their intention to adopt. Only actual overt acts on their part can make me believe it even now."

But in the event of such overt acts the duty of the United States was clear:

"If this inveterate confidence on my part in the sobriety and prudent foresight of their purpose should unhappily prove unfounded, if American ships and American lives should in fact be sacrificed by their naval commanders in a heedless contravention (p. 211) of the just and reasonable understanding of international law and the obvious dictates of humanity, I shall take the liberty of coming again before the Congress to ask that authority be given me to use any means that may be necessary for the protection of our seamen and our people in the prosecution of their peaceful and legitimate errands on the high seas. I can do nothing less. I take it for granted that all neutral governments will take the same course."

Should Germany compel the United States to declare war, the President repudiated that any aggressive attitude would dictate such a course:

"We do not desire any hostile conflict with the Imperial German Government. We are the sincere friends of the German people, and earnestly desire to remain at peace with the Government which speaks for them. We shall not believe that they are hostile to us unless and until we are obliged to believe it, and we purpose nothing more than the reasonable defense of the undoubted rights of our people. We wish to serve no selfish ends. We seek merely to stand true alike in thought and in action to the immemorial principles of our people which I have sought to express in my address to the Senate only two weeks ago—seek merely to vindicate our right to liberty and justice and an unmolested life. These are the bases of peace, not war. God grant that we may not be challenged to defend them by acts of willful injustice on the part of the Government of Germany!"

War was apparently inevitable. Submarine warfare on Atlantic shipping made certain some "overt act" offensive to the United States. The German attitude was that the new decree would be remorselessly acted upon; it could not and would not be modified; it was absolute and final; and the only security for American shipping was to avoid the prohibited zone by abandoning its trade with Europe.

Germany frankly discounted the effect of the entrance of the United States, as a belligerent opposed to her. Measuring her estimated gains from the pursuit of an unbridled sea war, she decided that they would more than outweigh the disadvantage of American hostility.[Back to Contents]

(p. 212) CHAPTER LIV


With the Allied Powers the American Government's relations continued to be friendly under certain diplomatic difficulties, due to a group of unadjusted issues relating to the blockade of German ports, mail seizures, and the blacklist. Popularly, overwhelming pro-Ally sympathies and an enormous trade due directly to the war more than offset commercial irritation arising from Allied infractions of American rights; but while they continued they intruded as obstacles to the preservation of official amity. If the Administration was content to enter its protests and then let matters rest, its inaction merely meant that the Allies' sins were magnanimously tolerated, not condoned. The Allies, on the other hand, maintained that they were not sinning at all, that they were only doing what the United States itself had done when engaged in war and would do again if it ever became a belligerent. Diplomacy failed to reconcile the differences, and so nothing was settled.

Great Britain, as the chief offender in trampling roughshod over American privileges of trade in war time, added to her manifold transgressions, in August, 1916, by placing further curbs on neutral trade with the Netherland Overseas Trust. Under a scheme to ration the neutral countries of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Holland—that is, restricting their imports to their estimated domestic needs—further licenses granted to British exporters to trade with these countries were discontinued. Here was a check on British exports for fear of the surplus reaching Germany through neutral channels. A check on American exports followed by Great Britain forbidding the Overseas Trust to accept further consignments of certain commodities from the United States for Holland, and by her refusal to grant letters of assurance safeguarding the delivery of American shipments destined for the three other countries. By these devices Great Britain controlled supplies to these countries at the (p. 213) source. The effect was that certain American consignments predestined for Holland were stopped altogether, while the shipping companies trading between the United States and Scandinavia could not take cargoes without British assurances of safe discharge at their ports of destination. The British official view was that excessive exports from Great Britain to these countries could not very well be forbidden while permitting them from the United States and other neutral sources. The veto had to be general to be effective.

One measure passed by Congress, providing for the creation of a Shipping Board, empowered the Secretary of the Treasury to forbid clearance to any vessel whose owner or agents refused to accept consignments offered for transport abroad by an American citizen for reasons other than lack of space or inadaptability of the vessel to carry the cargo offered. Another measure, the Omnibus Revenue Law, made similar provisions in a more drastic form, aiming specifically at retaliation for the Allies' blacklist of German-American firms, and the various blockades and embargoes in operation against American products. It provided that the owners or agents of vessels affiliated with a belligerent engaged in a war to which the United States was not a party must neither discriminate in favor of nor against any citizen, product, or locality of the United States in accepting or refusing consignments on pain of clearance being refused.

The same penalty attached to vessels of any belligerent which denied to American ships and citizens the same privileges of commerce which the offending belligerent accorded to its own vessels or to those of any other nationality. An alternative penalty, to be exercised by the President in his discretion, denied to such offending belligerents' ships and citizens the privileges of commerce with the United States until reciprocal liberty of trade was restored. A third provision aimed at penalizing a belligerent who prohibited the importation at its ports of any American product, not injurious to health or morals, by barring importation into the United States from the offending country similar or other articles.

(p. 214) The prevailing view was that the exercise of such reprisals by the President would virtually mean nonintercourse in trade and involve serious international complications. An isolated English impression, only of moment because it placed the aspects of the legislation in a nutshell, recognized that while it might be merely a "flourish" having a special virtue on the eve of a presidential election, the reprisals were aimed at the Allies, primarily against Great Britain, and were popular in the United States as a commercial club that could be wielded instead of having recourse to the threats that brought Germany to respect American demands. But the British official attitude as taken by Lord Robert Cecil was unmoved. "It is not likely," he said, "that Great Britain will change her blacklist policy at the request of the United States. The idea that Great Britain is adopting a deliberate policy with which to injure American trade is the purest moonshine, since outside of our own dominions our trade with the United States is the most important. Of course, natural trade rivalry exists, but no responsible statesman in this country would dream of proposing an insane measure designed to injure American commerce."

The blacklist was the last straw which provoked the retaliatory legislation. But, alone of the seemingly unadjustable disputes pending between the United States and Great Britain, it was on the blacklist issue that the latter had an unanswerable defense. The British stand left official Washington's complaint bereft of foundation under international law. The only ground on which the American protest could be justified was by contending that the blacklist violated international comity. In other words, if it was not illegal—there was no doubt of its legality—it was an incivility.

There had been the usual diplomatic exchange between the two governments on the subject prefacing a lengthy communication sent by Lord Grey—the new title of the British Foreign Secretary upon his promotion to the peerage—on October 10, 1916. Therein he repeated that the blacklist was promulgated in pursuance of the Trading with the Enemy Act (a war measure explained in a previous volume), and was a piece of purely (p. 215) municipal legislation. Moreover, the American Government was assured, "the Government of Great Britain neither purport nor claim to impose any disabilities or penalties upon neutral individuals or upon neutral commerce. The measure is simply one which enjoins those who owe allegiance to Great Britain to cease having trade relations with persons who are found to be assisting or rendering service to the enemy."

Nor were the steps taken confined to the United States:

"With the full consent of the Allied Governments, firms even in Allied countries are being placed on the statutory list, if they are firms with whom it is necessary to prevent British subjects from trading. These considerations may, perhaps, serve to convince the Government of the United States that the measures now being taken are not directed against neutral trade in general. Still less are they directed against American trade in particular; they are part of the general belligerent operations designed to weaken the enemy's resources."

The burden of the note was that Great Britain maintained the right, which in the existing crisis she also deemed a duty, to withhold British facilities from those who conducted their trade for the benefit of her foes. This right Lord Grey characterized as so obvious that he could not believe the United States Government seriously contested the inherent privilege of a sovereign state to exercise it except under a misconception of the scope and intent of the measures taken. It would appear that the American Government gracefully surrendered, by default, its earlier contention that Great Britain had no right to forbid her subjects from trading with American firms having Teutonic affiliations.

The American objections to detentions and censorship of mails by the Allied Powers, which were bent on preventing German sympathizers from using the postal service to neutral countries as a channel for transmitting money, correspondence, and goods for the Central Powers, brought a further communication from Lord Grey on October 12, 1916. It threw no new light on the subject, the bearings of which were dealt with in a previous volume. The American contentions, so far from being conceded, (p. 216) were themselves attacked in an argument intended to refute them. The Allied governments were only prepared to give assurances that they would continue to lessen the annoyances caused by the practice and were "ready to settle responsibility therefor in accordance with the principles of law and justice, which it never was and is not now their intention to evade."

Lord Grey thus defined the Allied position:

"The practice of the Germans to make improper use of neutral mails and forward hostile correspondence, even official communications, dealing with hostilities, under cover of apparently unoffensive envelopes, mailed by neutrals to neutrals, made it necessary to examine mails from or to countries neighboring Germany under the same conditions as mails from or to Germany itself; but as a matter of course mails from neutrals to neutrals that do not cover such improper uses have nothing to fear."

Germany's treatment of mails, Lord Grey pointed out, went much further than mere interception:

"As regards the proceedings of the German Empire toward postal correspondence during the present war, the Allied governments have informed the Government of the United States of the names of some of the mail steamers whose mail bags have been not examined, to be sure, but purely and simply destroyed at sea by the German naval authorities. Other names could very easily be added. The very recent case of the mail steamer Hudikswall (Swedish), carrying 670 mail bags, may be cited."

The discussion was as profitless as that arising from the blacklist. As to the blockade issue, involving interference with American commerce on the high seas, both sides appeared to epistolarily bolt, and the question remained in suspended animation. The blacklist and mail disputes acquired a similar status.[Back to Contents]




In January, 1917, the British forces in France captured 1,228 Germans, of whom twenty-seven were officers. The first month of the new year passed unmarked by any striking gains for either side. The Allies had maintained and strengthened their old positions, made slight advances at some points, and continued to harass and destroy the enemy in trench raids, artillery duels, and in battles in the air.

Some record of the principal minor operations in France and Belgium at this time is necessary, as every offensive movement had a set purpose and was a part of the Germans' or Allies' plans.

On February 1, 1917, in the neighborhood of Wytschaete, parties of Germans dressed in white attempted two surprise assaults on British trenches, but were rolled back with severe losses before they could get within striking distance. In these encounters the British took prisoners without losing a man or incurring the slightest casualty.

On the same date the French were engaged in lively artillery actions at Hartmannsweilerkopf and east of Metzeral. Around Altkirch and to the east of Rheims they were successful in spirited encounters with enemy patrols. In Lorraine during the night the Germans attacked trenches south of Leintrey, but were shattered by French fire. In the sector of St. Georges in Belgium a surprise attack also failed.

On the British front in the course of the same night a dashing raid was carried out against German trenches northeast of (p. 218) Guèdecourt (Somme sector) in which two officers and fifty-six men were taken prisoners.

The British carried out another successful operation on February 3, 1917, north of the Ancre, pushing forward their line east of Beaucourt some 500 yards on a front of about three-quarters of a mile. Over a hundred prisoners and three machine guns were captured. On the same night southeast of Souchez German trenches were penetrated and twenty-one prisoners and some guns were taken. Several dugouts containing Germans were bombed and an enemy shaft was destroyed.

While the British continued to make slight gains and to harass the enemy, the French were engaged in minor operations no less successful. A surprise attack in the region of Moulin-sous-Toutvent resulted in the capture of a dozen prisoners. A similar operation in the region of Tracy-le-Val between the Oise and the Aisne was also a victory for French arms. The Germans fought with determination, but were unable to make any headway against the indomitable French spirit. The number of casualties incurred by the Germans was not known, but the French took twenty-two prisoners.

During February 4, 1917, the Germans displayed intense activity, as if determined to retrieve their frequent failures since the month opened.

Three hostile raids were attempted by strong German forces during the night and early morning of February 4-5, 1917, on the British lines on the Somme front. The Germans in each attack were thrown back in disorder, leaving a number of prisoners in British hands.

Northeast of Guèdecourt during the night of the 4th the British occupied 500 yards of a German trench, capturing a machine gun and seventy prisoners, including two officers.

In the space of twenty-four hours (February 4-5, 1917) the Germans made four successful counterattacks against the new British front east of Beaucourt. The British continued the work of consolidating their new positions undisturbed by the frantic efforts of the Germans to oust them, and in raids and counterattacks captured forty prisoners, including one officer.

(p. 219) British airmen registered a number of victories during February 4, 1917. Three German machines were destroyed and six others driven to earth seriously damaged. Only one British machine was counted missing.

During the evening on this date the French south of the Somme defeated a German raid near Barleux, inflicting heavy casualties and taking some prisoners. Incursions into German lines in Alsace and the Chambrette and Pont-à-Mousson sectors were carried out with satisfactory results. They captured a considerable amount of war material and brought back one officer and a number of prisoners.

The British on the Somme front were now determined to push on to the capture of Grandcourt. On February 6, 1917, they occupied 1,000 yards of German trench in the neighborhood of that place. Artillery activity on both sides of the Somme front and in the Ypres sector continued during the day and night. The British brought down ten German machines in aerial battles and lost two of their own flyers.

On February 5-6, 1917, the French continued to raid German lines with good results. In Alsace near Anspach they penetrated three German positions, wrecking enemy works and bombing shelters and returned to their own lines without losing a man.

The continuous pressure which the British brought to bear on both sides of the Ancre River forced the Germans to evacuate Grandcourt on February 6, 1917. The capture of the village was regarded as important, marking a notable advance for the British on the forts of Miraumont and Grandcourt, which covered Bapaume from the west.

In Lorraine on this date the Germans succeeded in piercing a salient in the French lines, but were driven out by a spirited counterattack. Three German planes were brought down during the night, Lieutenant Huerteaux scoring his twentieth victory.

The Entire Western Front, August 1, 1917.

The British followed up their success in capturing Grandcourt by advances on both sides of the Ancre. On the morning of February 8, 1917, they drove the Germans out of a position of (p. 221) importance on the highest point of Sailly-Saillisel hill, gaining all their objectives and capturing seventy-eight prisoners, of whom two were officers. In the operations along the Ancre a German officer and eighty-two men were made prisoner.

South of Dixmude a strong German raiding party attempted to attack a Belgian outpost. They were received by such a hurricane of infantry and machine-gun fire that the field was strewn with dead, and few of the raiders succeeded in making their escape.

During February 9-10, 1917, the French and British continued to register minor successes in daring raids, bombarding enemy positions and capturing in one way or another several hundred prisoners.

An advance worthy of special note was made by British troops in the night of February 10, 1917, when they captured a strong system of German trenches on a front of more than three-quarters of a mile in the Somme line. This was on the southern front just north of Serre Hill. The German prisoners taken during this operation numbered 215, including some officers.

On the same date French raiders penetrated German trenches in the Forest of Apremont, destroying defenses and capturing prisoners. In the neighborhood of Verdun a German plane was shot down, and in other sectors French aviators during fiercely fought combats in the air brought down in flames two other machines.

North of the Ancre the British continued to make progress, occupying without difficulty a German trench some 600 yards long and taking a good number of prisoners. The Germans tried to force the British out of their recently won positions south of Serre Hill, but, caught in artillery barrage and machine-gun fire, were driven off with serious losses. On this date also the French carried out successful raids during the night on the Verdun front in the neighborhood of the famous Hill 304, and another in the Argonne which resulted in the destruction of enemy works and the capture of a number of prisoners.

The small gains made by the French and British during the first weeks of February, 1917, were not especially important in (p. 222) themselves, but each slight advance brought the Allies nearer to important German positions. The daily trench raids served to harass and bewilder the common enemy, and while the number of prisoners taken were few in each instance, in the aggregate the number was impressive. The British and French were not disposed to squander lives recklessly in these minor exploits, and it was only when they were within striking distance of an important objective that they operated with strong forces and the most powerful guns at their command.

The Canadians, who always displayed a special liking for trench raids, and were uncommonly successful in such operations, engaged in one on the morning of February 13, 1917, which merits description in some detail. The attack was made on a 600-yard front between Souchez and Givenchy. The Germans under the shell storm that shattered their trenches had retreated to the depths of their dugouts, and while it lasted few ventured forth to oppose the raiders. The British bombardment had been so effective that the German machine-gun emplacements must have been destroyed or were buried under débris, for only a few guns spoke out as the Canadians "went over." The Germans in the dugouts could not be coaxed out. Explosives thrown into their hiding places must have produced appalling consequences. The sturdy Canadians did not relish this kind of work, but there was no alternative. For an hour they searched the mine shafts and galleries around Givenchy and destroyed them. Some Germans in the depths were killed before they could explode certain mines they had prepared under British positions. About fifty prisoners of the Eleventh Bavarian Regiment were captured who had fought in Russia, at Verdun, and on the Somme.

Five hours later the same Canadian troops, unwearied by this strenuous experience, were carrying out another raid farther south, where they obtained good results.

On this date, February 14, 1917, the steady pressure maintained by the British forced the Germans to abandon advanced positions between Serre and the Somme and to fall back on their main fighting position.

One of the strange armoured automobiles or "tanks" with which the British surprised the Germans in September, 1916. Their caterpillar trucks and peculiar form make it possible for them to advance easily over obstructions and trenches.

(p. 223)On the following day, February 15, 1917, the troops of the German Crown Prince achieved a success of some importance. After intense artillery fire they stormed four French lines south of Ripont in the Champagne, on a front of about a mile and a half, gaining ground to a depth of half a mile. They captured twenty-one officers and 837 men of other ranks, and a considerable quantity of war material. On the same date the British carried out a successful raid southeast of Souchez, penetrating enemy positions and taking prisoners. In air combats in different sectors British airmen disposed of nine German machines and lost four of their own.

The British made important gains on both banks of the Ancre when in the morning of February 17, 1917, they attacked German positions opposite the villages of Miraumont and Petit Miraumont on a front of about two miles. North of the river a commanding German position on high ground north of Baillescourt Farm was carried on a front of about 1,000 yards. In these operations along the Ancre the British captured 761 prisoners, including twelve officers.

During the preliminary bombardment of the German positions a British artillery sergeant slipped out of the trenches with a telephone, and, establishing himself in a shell hole in a forward position, directed the gunfire which shattered the German barbed-wire defenses.

The Germans made a courageous attempt to oust the British from their newly won positions on the spur above Baillescourt Farm in the morning of February 18, 1917. Their infantry, advancing in three waves with bodies of supporting troops in the rear, were swept by the concentrated fire of the British artillery. The storm of fire shattered the attack and the German forces were rolled back in confusion. At no point were they able to reach the British lines.

During the night the British carried out four successful raids on German positions southwest and northwest of Arras, south of Fauquissart and north of Ypres, during which nineteen prisoners were taken and great damage was wrought to hostile defenses.

(p. 224) The British continued their successful minor operations during the succeeding days. On February 20, 1917, New Zealand troops penetrated German lines south of Armentières to a depth of 300 yards, where they wrecked dugouts and trench works. The intense preliminary bombardment which preceded the raid had proved so destructive that the New Zealanders found the German support lines filled with dead. The raid resulted in the capture of forty-four prisoners. In an attack southeast of Ypres the British, advancing on a front of 500 yards, reached the German support line after desperate fighting. They destroyed dugouts and mine shafts and took 114 prisoners, including an officer and a number of machine guns.

The steady pressure of the British on the German positions along the Ancre since the beginning of the month brought results that surpassed Field Marshal Haig's most sanguine expectations. The Germans were forced to abandon their front on the Ancre, escaping to a new line of defenses along the Bapaume ridge. Their retreat covered about three miles and the British were able to occupy a number of German strongholds which they expected to win by hard fighting. Serre, the two Miraumonts, and Pys were occupied without a struggle. The Germans succeeded in saving their guns during the retirement, but were forced to destroy ammunition dumps and military stores. In the night of February 24, 1917, British troops, advancing south of Irles and toward Warlencourt, occupied the famous butte which had been the scene of intense fighting in the previous month.

The foggy, misty weather which prevailed at the time in this region had greatly facilitated the German retreat, as the keen eyes of the British airmen were unable to study their movements. It was surmised that some important operation was under way owing to the reckless expenditure of shells which had been going on for some days. The Germans were shooting up stores of ammunition which they found impossible to take with them in their retreat.

During February 25-26, 1917, the British continued to harass the retiring Germans, pressing forward over the newly yielded (p. 225) ground and forcing back the rear guards of the enemy. In these actions the Germans depended chiefly on their heavy guns mounted on railway trucks, which in case of necessity could be rushed away at the last moment.

Early in the morning of February 26, 1917, heavy explosions were heard in the direction of Bapaume, where the Germans were engaged in destructive work to prevent the British entry. Along their lines of retreat large trees had been felled across the roads, forming lofty barriers, on the other side of which great mine craters had been opened up.

Despite desperate rear-guard actions, and the strenuous efforts made by the Germans to hinder the advance, the British continued to press forward. The village of Ligny about a mile and a half west of Bapaume was occupied, as well as the village of Le Barque. North of the Ancre the western and northern defenses of Puisieux were wrested from the Germans.

On February 27, 1917, the British pushed forward all along the eleven-mile line stretching from south of Gommecourt to west of Le Transloy. The British objective at this time was a crest overlooking the high ground running between Achiet-le-Petit and Bapaume. At every stage of the British advance fresh evidences were found of the German destructive methods before retiring. The carefully built dugouts which they had so long occupied had been reduced by explosives to heaps of rubbish.

The Germans had left certain bodies of men behind with machine guns to hinder the British pursuit. As they had carefully chosen their positions they were enabled to work considerable damage. The British had encounters with some of these outposts on the 27th in the neighborhood of Box and Rossignol Woods. The Germans, having found that their machine-gun fire did not restrain the advance, tried a shrapnel barrage which proved more effective, but only delayed the pursuers for a short time.

The British troops were so elated over the fact that the Germans were retreating that they made light of the ingenious obstacles thrown in their way. The great advance continued, the British occupying Rossignol Wood, Rossignol Trench, and (p. 226) considerable ground to the northeast of Puisieux. The latter place was partly occupied by Germans who fought as if determined that the British should pay a high cost for possession of the village. The British had worked their way into a corner of the line, and other parties were engaged in driving out the defenders, who fought from house to house.

Southeast of the village the British line was being pushed out above Miraumont and Beauregard Dovecote. The Germans in the Gommecourt salient shelled Miraumont and bombarded the neighborhood with high explosives in reckless fashion as if eager to consume their supplies.

During the night of February 27, 1917, the German troops abandoned Gommecourt and the British took possession. Here on July 1, 1916, the Londoners had fought with desperate valor in assaulting an almost impregnable position, and in the storm of massed gunfire were threatened with annihilation.

To the northeast of Gommecourt the British advanced their line more than half a mile, and also captured the villages of Thilloy and Puisieux-le-Mont. A successful raid carried out in the night by the British in the neighborhood of Cléry resulted in the capture of twenty-two prisoners.

There was sharp fighting among the ruins of Puisieux, where the Germans had to be hunted from their hiding places. After this clearing-out process the British line now ran well beyond Gommecourt on the left and down to Irles on the right. The Germans concentrated heavy shell fire on Irles, and showered high explosives on Miraumont and upon other places on the front from which they had withdrawn. The British were now less than a mile from Bapaume, in the rear of which the German guns on railway mountings were firing incessantly on British positions.

On March 1, 1917, British headquarters in France, summarizing the operations during February, stated that the British had captured 2,133 German prisoners and occupied either by capture or the withdrawal of the Germans eleven villages. Some of the positions captured were of the highest importance, to which the Germans had clung as long as they could with desperate energy, (p. 227) and from which the British had tried vainly to conquer. The Germans had retired on the Ancre on a front of twelve miles to a depth of two miles.

The first stage of the German retirement plan was completed on March 2, 1917, when they made a definite stand, their line now running from Essarts through Achiet-le-Petit to about 1,000 yards southeast of Bapaume. The Loupart Wood occupying high ground along this line had been transformed into a strong field fortress after German methods, and here it was evident every preparation was made for a stiff defense.

The British had an enormous task before them in building roads through the recovered ground. The Germans had carefully timed their retirement when the ground was hard, but now owing to a week's thaw most of the Somme and Ancre area was transformed into liquid mud. In addition to the difficulties presented by the terrain, the British patrols in the evacuated territory constantly encountered isolated bodies of German defensive troops who, obedient to their instructions, fought bravely to hold the positions they had been assigned to. Everything that cunning could devise was resorted to to delay the British advance. An Australian patrol discovered in one place a chain stretched across a ravine which was connected with a mine at either end.[Back to Contents]



The British troops continued to advance in the Ancre area in spite of the difficult terrain and the desperate defense of the Germans who had been left behind in the retirement and who occupied positions where they might work the greatest damage to the pursuers. East of Gommecourt on March 3, 1917, the British gained two-thirds of a mile along a two-mile front. They were also successful east of Bouchavesnes, where they (p. 228) captured the enemy's front and support lines on a front of two-thirds of a mile. In these operations they captured 190 prisoners and five machine guns.

On March 4, 1917, the Germans made a violent attack on the Verdun front which was repulsed by the French. North of Caurières Wood the Germans gained a footing in French advanced positions. They were driven out on the following day in a spirited counterattack, leaving many of their comrades dead on the field.

Thaws, fogs, and snows continued to hamper military operations in all sectors of the fighting area. On March 8, 1917, the French won a decided victory over the Germans in Champagne. Notwithstanding the snow, which rendered any military movement difficult, French troops operating between Butte du Mesnil and Maisons de Champagne carried German positions on a front of 1,680 yards to a depth varying from 650 to 865 yards. As the French crossed no-man's-land, preceded by a complete curtain of fire which raised and dropped mechanically, the German artillery was everywhere active, but their massed fire could not check the attackers' steady advance. As the French reached the first lines of German trenches the occupants offered little resistance, but came running out with uplifted hands in token of surrender. At some points, however, the Germans had converted their positions into regular fortresses, and here there was desperate fighting with grenade and rifle. The French cleared out these strongholds and made their way slowly up the slopes toward the objective. During the fight French aeroplanes circled overhead watching the movements of the Germans behind the points attacked. Not a German machine was visible, but some were hidden among the snow clouds, for the rattle of machine guns, heard at times, denoted their presence above the battle field.

On the following day, March 9, 1917, the Germans launched three violent attacks in this sector in an attempt to force the French out of their newly won positions. The Germans did not lack bravery, and pressed forward in the face of a strong barrage and machine-gun fire. The French guns, however, wrought such (p. 229) destruction in their ranks that they were finally forced to retire, their number shattered and depleted. In the two days' fighting in this sector the French took 170 prisoners, of whom four were officers.

The British captured Irles in the morning of March 10, 1917. Previous to the attack their howitzers had deluged the place with shells. The infantry followed closely, one force advancing from the south and another turning north, to head off any attempt of the Germans to retreat. In a sunken ravine the British found a small garrison of old men with machine guns. Here thirty prisoners were taken and the rest killed. The British swept on over the German trenches, meeting with very little opposition. About 150 Germans were taken in this main attack and quite as many more were gathered in by troops working west and north. The prisoners were all Prussians, belonging chiefly to the Second Guards Reserve. The Germans succeeded in withdrawing without very heavy losses, leaving their rear guard to bear the brunt of the British attack. The evacuation of Irles, which had become untenable, had been fixed by the Germans for the 10th at 7.30 a. m., but the British caught them napping by striking two hours earlier, with the result that they captured three officers and 289 men.

In the night of March 10, 1917, the French carried out successful surprise attacks on the German trenches in the Lassigny and Canny-sur-Matz regions, and in the neighborhood of the Woevre north of Jury Wood, destroying defensive works in these operations and taking fifteen prisoners and some machine guns.

In the afternoon of March 12, 1917, the French troops operating on the Champagne front recaptured all the trenches on Hill 185. These lines lay west of the Maisons de Champagne Farm which the Germans had won in the previous month. The attack was made over a front of nearly a mile. During the night of March 11, 1917, French troops had crawled forward and by the use of grenades prepared the way for the general assault on the German positions which were carried on the following day. All the German trenches were taken on the hill and a fortified work on the slopes north of Memelon. In the (p. 230) course of the action the French captured about 100 prisoners and a considerable number of machine guns.

On March 12, 1917, the British advance was resumed on a front of nearly four miles to the west of Bapaume. The Germans, retreating, left only a strong screen of rear guards to oppose, but they avoided contact with British patrols as far as possible. It was evident that the Germans were reserving their strength for some important operation.

The British, pushing onward, advanced their line north of Ancre Valley on a front of over one and a half miles southwest and west of Bapaume. South of Achiet-le-Petit the British made important progress and occupied 1,000 yards of German trenches west of Essarts. On March 13, 1917, Haig's troops had won the coveted ridge overlooking Bapaume from the northwest. For the first time since the struggle began on this front the British had the advantage of the highest ground. Bapaume, which the Germans had been blasting and piling up with the wreckage of stores and the trunks of fallen trees, was now within easy striking distance and the next point to be captured in the British advance.

Grévillers was occupied by the British during the night, their line now stretching along the ridge which runs northwest from that point to the outskirts of Achiet-le-Petit, where the Germans were in possession.

In the course of this latest advance Loupart Wood was occupied. It is situated on the shoulder of a high ridge which overlooks the entire Somme battle front. The British were highly elated over the capture of the wood, where for eight months German batteries had rained shells upon the British positions. It was regarded as one of the strongest artillery posts which the Germans held on the western front.

The Germans had made desperate efforts to hold this strong position, but thirty hours of incessant bombardment by British guns leveled their defenses and crushed in the dugouts, and they withdrew, a shattered remnant.

In the Champagne region the Germans continued their attacks during March 13-14, 1917, on the French positions on Hill 185. (p. 231) The loss of the hill a few days before, and of positions around Maisons de Champagne were regarded as important by the Germans, for they persisted in their attacks though every attempt made was repulsed with appalling losses. They were unable to reach the French line at any point, though concentrating strong artillery fire on the lost positions and attacking with grenades throughout the night. The French continued to hold their own despite these desperate onslaughts and were even able to increase their gains in this sector.

In the region of St. Mihiel the French by a dashing operation captured Romainville Farm with its garrison of thirty Germans. At four different points French detachments penetrated German trenches between the Meuse and Apremont Forest, pushing as far as the second line of defenses and bringing back a number of prisoners.

On March 15, 1917, French forces south of the Somme in the neighborhood of Roye after an intense shelling of the German lines penetrated east of Canny-sur-Matz to a depth of about half a mile. British troops between Péronne and Bapaume made important gains about this date. Pushing forward on a front of two and a half miles they occupied German trenches running from the south of St. Pierre Vaast Wood to the north of the village of Saillisel, a stretch of about 3,000 yards.

On March 17, 1917, the Germans were forced to abandon the whole line of about fifteen miles between the Oise and Andechy, owing to the pressure of French forces. These lines were strongly fortified and had been occupied by the Germans for about two years. The French continued their advance movement on the following day. Their advance guard entered Roye in pursuit of a German contingent that had blown up streets in the interior of the town. About 800 of the civil population which the Germans had not had time to remove received their liberators with a wild enthusiasm that was pathetic to witness.

North and northeast of Lassigny the French made further gains, occupying the town and a number of points beyond, and pushing forward past the road between Roye and Noyon. During the night of March 17, 1917, French air squadrons bombarded (p. 232) German organizations in the region of Arnaville, and the factories and blast furnaces at Völkingen, where a great fire was seen to break out. Stations and roads in the region of Ham and St. Quentin were also bombarded with good results, and all the French aeroplanes returned undamaged.

On March 18, 1917, the Germans were in retreat over a front of approximately eighty-five miles from south of Arras on the north to Soissons on the Aisne. They evacuated scores of villages, and the important towns of Péronne, Chaulnes, Nesle, and Noyon. Evidently the Germans had been forced to leave somewhat hurriedly, for many of the places evacuated were only slightly damaged as the result of military operations.

British and French troops, keeping in close touch with the German rear guard during the advance, pushed forward to a depth of from ten to twelve miles, and their cavalry entered Nesle about the same time. The occupation of Noyon on the Oise was of special importance, as the nearest point to Paris held by the Germans. The famous Noyon elbow or salient, from which it was expected the Germans would launch an attack on the French capital, now ceased to be a source of anxiety and apprehension to the French fighting forces in this region.

Péronne, for which the French had fought desperately for nearly two years, was entered by the British on March 18, 1917, after a brief action with the German rear guard. East of the place the Germans had fired a number of villages as they retreated. Athies, a town of some importance, was reduced to a smoldering ruin and the smoke of its burning buildings could be seen for miles. The Germans displayed their "thoroughness" as they retired by poisoning the wells with arsenic, and setting high-explosive traps into which they hoped the British advance guards would blunder. Bridges over all the waterways were burned and the crossroads carefully mined.

The German Retreat on the Western Front, March 18, 1917.

The capture of Bapaume, that quaint Picardy town which the Germans had transformed into an almost impregnable stronghold and fortress, was a special cause for rejoicing by the British troops. It was a prize they had longed for through many weary months. There was no waving of flags or beating of (p. 234) drums when the British patrols entered the town, for there was stiff fighting ahead, and the place was filled with underground strongholds. Soon the welcome message came over the wire that all the enemy rear guard had been accounted for, and the British were free to survey their new acquisition. Fires were smoldering in many parts and not a house was left intact. Shells had wrought a great deal of the ruin, but it was evident that many of the buildings had been dynamited. The statue of General Louis Faldeherbe, who defended Bapaume against the Germans in 1870, was missing, and had evidently been carried off by the kaiser's troops.

The defensive works around Bapaume were of the most elaborate description, and the highest ingenuity had been employed in making the place impregnable. In addition to a splendid trench system forming a network around the place, there were acres of barbed wire stretched upon iron posts firmly planted in the earth, and intricate systems of wires spread over the ground to hamper an enemy attack. In addition to strong redoubts at different points fitted up with every defensive device, the cellars under the houses had been consolidated in many places, forming great underground galleries that could shelter thousands of German troops.

The British were not permitted to occupy Bapaume in peace, for while the enemy could no longer be seen, he was heard from constantly and destructively. All day long and during the night the town was shelled and great damage was wrought in such sections which the enemy had registered before leaving.

The German forces were still retiring, hastened on their way by the British troops, who were pressing them closely. From captured Germans it was learned that fresh divisions, including one that had fought in Rumania, had been thrown in as a screen to shield the retiring troops.

The Germans had devised so many traps to catch the Allies and delay the pursuit that the advance was necessarily slow. The French found less opposition than the British, and were able to push forward more rapidly, covering twenty-two miles in the (p. 235) three days since the retirement began. Over 120 towns and villages were recovered by the French alone. The joy of the inhabitants who had been for thirty-two months in the hands of the Germans was a deeply moving spectacle. Every French soldier was embraced amid smiles and tears. Many of the women declared that they owed their own lives as well as the lives of their children to American relief in the occupied territory.

The mayors, assistant mayors, and other officials of Candor and Lagny had been carried off by the Germans, but owing to the rapidity of retirement many women and children had been left behind. All over thirteen were compelled to work without payment. Boys were driven to dig ditches or small trenches for telephone wires under fire. Those who refused for religious reasons to work on Sunday were fined. The Germans had closed all schools during their occupation of the French towns. The destruction of property was carried out in the most thorough fashion and according to systematized plans. Captured orders on the subject directed the blowing up of houses, wells, and cellars except those held by rear-guard outposts. Farm implements were burned and destroyed. Orders were given to collect filth in the neighborhood of wells to contaminate the water. All the fruit trees with rare exception in the evacuated territory were girdled or otherwise killed.

The use of cavalry by the French and British seemed to have taken the Germans by surprise and interfered with their plans. In one village they were forced to hurriedly depart without touching the supper which was laid out on the table. In other places the Allies found newly opened boxes of explosives with which the Germans had planned to destroy the villages before leaving.

The famous castle and stone village of Coucy-le-Château on the road from Paris to Namur, and one of the show places of the Laon region, were reduced to ruins. The village and castle date back to the thirteenth century and were regarded by art critics as architectural gems of medieval France. The castle had been spared from destruction during the French Revolution, and (p. 236) millions had been expended since on its preservation. This splendid monument of feudal Europe is no more.

The German retreat was continued more slowly on March 19, 1917, when all northern France was swept by fierce equinoctial gales, and rain squalls were frequent in the battle area. Despite weather conditions, which hampered military operations, the British troops made good progress, and on the 20th held the line of the Somme in strength from Péronne southward to Canizy. British patrols were active as far east as Mons-en-Chaussée, and in several sectors between Bapaume and Arras British cavalry were engaged in skirmishes with the enemy.

In the course of the following week the British forces restored eleven villages to France, and the whole department of the Somme was now cleared of invaders. The capture of Savy, which was held by a garrison of 600 Prussians of the Twenty-ninth Siegfried Division, brought the British within four miles of St. Quentin, and near to the Hindenburg line, where the Germans were strongly concentrated. St. Quentin had in part been destroyed and its picture galleries and museums looted of their contents. The outer bastion of the Hindenburg or Siegfried line was protected by barricades of tree trunks and swathed about with barbed wire. The Siegfried division holding the new German line of defense was busy during the last days of March, 1917, in building concrete emplacements, trenches, and dugouts.

On April 1, 1917, the British troops were within three miles of St. Quentin, while the French threatened the place from the south.

During the month of March, 1917, the British captured 1,239 Germans, of whom sixteen were officers, and large quantities of war material, including twenty-five trench mortars and three field guns. During the first three months of the year they had taken prisoner a total of seventy-nine officers and 4,600 of other ranks.

On April 2, 1917, General Haig's troops drove a wedge into the German line on the ridge protecting St. Quentin on the west, capturing the villages of Holnon, Francilly, and Selency. With (p. 237) the occupation of the last village the British had a footing on the ridge overlooking St. Quentin, which lies in a hollow. If they could maintain their hold on this position the capture of St. Quentin was certain.

At the northern end of the British line of advance their success was no less important. Attacking on a front of about ten miles they captured an important series of German positions defending the Arras-Cambrai highroad. Six villages were occupied by the British after heavy fighting. A town of some importance, Croisilles, was also captured during the course of these operations. This was considered a valuable gain, as a section of the Hindenburg line lies behind it. Longatte and Ecourt St. Mien, two villages below Croisilles also fell to the British. The Germans defended themselves with reckless bravery acting on Hindenburg's orders that the position must be saved at all costs.

The French launched a concerted attack on the following day, April 3, 1917, over a front of eight miles on both sides of the Somme, storming the heights south and southwest of St. Quentin and advancing within two miles of the city, General Nivelle's forces were now in a position to begin the final attack on the place.

Haig's troops on the British front west of St. Quentin had extended their hold on Holnon Ridge and occupied Ronssoy Wood farther to the north, while in the region of Arras they captured after stiff fighting the village of Henin.

South of the Ailette River the French fought their way forward foot by foot. On the 3rd they drove the Germans out of their positions around Laffaux and brought increasing pressure to bear against the enemy's line south of Laffaux Mill.

On this date the Germans threw more than 2,000 shells into the open city of Rheims, killing several of the civilian population.

General Nivelle's troops continued to advance on April 4, 1917, through violent snow squalls and over sodden ground, and the Germans were pushed back along the whole front from the Somme to the Oise.

(p. 238) A dashing attack carried out near La Folie Farm, about a mile and a half north of Urvillers, threw the Germans in such disorder that they fled precipitately, abandoning three lines of strongly fortified trenches, leaving behind the wounded and much war material, including howitzers. The French had now gained the foot of a ridge 393 feet high on the southern outskirts of St. Quentin. By the capture of La Folie they cut the railroad connecting St. Quentin with the Oise, leaving only one line on the north by which the Germans could escape from the doomed city. On the west bank of the Somme French patrols had pressed forward to the outskirts of St. Quentin. On the British front west of the city the Germans made a violent attack, but were driven off with heavy losses. Farther to the north the British succeeded in straightening their line between the Bapaume and Péronne highway converging on Cambrai.

The most important event during April 5, 1917, was a powerful attack made against the French by picked German troops to the northwest of Rheims along a mile and a half front. The purpose was to clear the left bank of the Aisne Canal. They succeeded in gaining a foothold at certain points in the French first-line trenches, but were thrust out later by counterattacks.

The only other important event on this date was the strong bombardment by the Germans of the new French positions south of St. Quentin. The British and French troops, despite occasional checks occasioned by the frantic efforts of the Germans to stay their victorious progress, continued to steadily advance their lines, which now extended in a semicircle two miles from St. Quentin.[Back to Contents]



The steady pressure maintained by the Allied troops on German positions culminated on April 9, 1917, when the British launched a terrific offensive on a twelve-mile front north and south of Arras. German positions were penetrated to a depth of from two to three miles, and many fortified points, including the famous Vimy Ridge, were captured. The line of advance extended from Givenchy, southwest of Lens, to the village of Henin, southwest of Arras. For a week British guns had been bombarding this sector without cessation, and during the night preceding the attack the fire had increased in intensity to a degree that surpassed any previous bombardments. The British literally blasted their way through the German front and rearward positions. Vimy Ridge, dominating the coal fields of Lens, where thousands of French had fallen in the previous year, was captured by the Canadians. The terrific bombardment by British guns during many days had not depressed the Germans' spirit and the advance was hotly contested. The British, however, were in excellent fighting trim, and forced their way onward in spite of the fiercest opposition. They took a famous redoubt known as "The Harp," virtually an entire battalion defending it. Here three battalion commanders were captured. Over 6,000 prisoners were taken by the British, including 119 officers. The majority of these belonged to Bavarian regiments, which since the fighting began in France had suffered the most heavily. Württembergers and Hamburgers were also represented. An enormous quantity of war material fell into British hands, including guns, trench mortars, and machine guns.

Taking of Vimy Ridge by the Canadians, April 9 and 10, 1917.

In making their retreat in the Somme sector the Germans had announced that they had completely disarranged by so doing the (p. 241) British offensive plans. The smashing blow delivered on April 9, 1917, was the answer.

At other points on the line the British had also made substantial gains, capturing by storm, on the road to Cambrai, Boursies, Demicourt, and Hermies. Progress was also made in the Havrincourt Wood south of the Bapaume-Cambrai railway. To the south, in the neighborhood of St. Quentin, General Haig's troops captured three villages, bringing forward their lines to within two miles of the St. Quentin Canal.

As a result of the first two days' fighting in the Arras region the number of German prisoners captured by the British had increased to over 11,000, including 235 officers, 100 guns of large caliber, 60 mortars, and 163 machine guns.

The British troops did not rest to enjoy their first day's victories, but pushed on along the greater part of the twelve-mile front from Givenchy to Henin. They penetrated as far as the outskirts of Monchy-le-Preux, five miles east of Arras. On the way they captured a high hill which protects Monchy, thus threatening the entire German line south of the Arras-Cambrai highroad.

More to the north the British troops took Fampoux and its defenses on both sides of the Scarpe River. The fiercest fighting on April 10, 1917, was on the northern part of Vimy Ridge, where from isolated positions to which they still clung, the Germans attempted a counterattack. They were driven out of these positions and from the slopes of the ridge which was now strongly held by the British.

Vimy village was one of the vaunted German field fortresses, and was strongly defended. Here the Canadians gathered in over 3,000 prisoners garrisoning the stronghold and 100 officers. The final British bombardment had sent most of the German defenders into the deepest of the dugouts from which they did not venture forth until the British called upon them to surrender. Among the officers captured on the ridge were seven lieutenant colonels and several doctors, who surrendered with all their staffs. They blamed their predicament to the failure of supports to come up as promised.

(p. 242) The British had carried out their successful onward sweep in the face of unfavorable weather conditions. During April 10, 1917, when the last German was being cleared out of the Vimy area, the snow fell heavily.

Throughout the day following the weather continued unfavorable, impeding the operation of troops and making observation impossible. In the morning the Germans attempted two counter attacks on the new British positions in the neighborhood of Monchy-le-Preux, but were beaten off with heavy losses. Prisoners reported that they had been ordered to hold the village at all costs.

To the south bodies of British troops penetrated a German position near Bullecourt, where they gained a number of prisoners and damaged the enemy's defenses. This small success was forfeited at midday when the Germans, attacking with strong forces, drove the British back to their lines.

The village of Monchy was captured by the British in the morning of April 12, 1917. Throughout the previous day this tiny village perched on a hill had been the storm center around which the battle raged.

The attack was made by British and Scottish troops, who fought for three hours to clear the Germans out of the railway triangle. Having dispersed the enemy, they fought on to the Feuchy Redoubt, only to find that the entire German garrison there had been buried by the British bombardment so that not a man escaped alive.

At 5 o'clock in the morning of April 12, 1917, British troops on the right, linking up with the Scots and supported by cavalry on the left, with Hotchkiss and machine guns swept forward to the capture of Monchy.

The cavalry dashed into the village on the north side, meeting with few Germans, for as they pressed forward the enemy was retreating on the southern side, hoping to escape that way. Here they encountered Scots and Midlanders and fierce fighting ensued. The Germans were well provided with machine guns, and from windows and roofs sent a withering fire upon the British as they swarmed into the streets of the village. The (p. 243) Germans made a brave resistance, but the British continued to press them hard, fighting their way into houses and courtyards and capturing or killing the defenders. Some of the garrison of the place succeeded in escaping to a trench in the valley below, where they had a redoubt and machine guns.

By 8 o'clock in the morning the British had a number of guns in position for the defense of the village against counterattacks which were sure to follow. It was found that the Germans had prepared in the village an elaborate system of dugouts that could provide shelter from the heaviest shell fire. Under the château there were great rooms luxuriously furnished and provided with electric lights, where British and Scotch officers regaled themselves with German beer.

An hour after the occupation of the village it was heavily shelled by big German guns, German airmen from above directing the fire. The British held on determinedly in spite of heavy losses, and their courage never flagged. In the afternoon the Germans made some determined counterattacks, but their advancing waves were mowed down by the British machine guns and eighteen pounders, and finally they were thrown back in confusion. The British now advanced beyond the village, while the Germans were forced to retreat from the trench below.

In the opinion of the German press the battle of Arras was an event of only local importance which did not affect in any degree the strategic situation. The plan of the Anglo-French command to deliver a shattering blow on the Somme front and roll up the new Hindenburg line by assaults on both flanks at Soissons and Arras, they contended, had been foiled.

With better weather conditions the British were able to push forward more rapidly and to make further breaches in the Hindenburg line. Advancing over a wide front, they were drawing nearer to the coveted line of German communications running north and south through Douai and Cambrai. On the northern horn the British captured Liévin, the southwest suburb of Lens, and Cité St. Pierre, northwest of that place. On the southern horn they advanced within 400 yards of St. Quentin. Some idea of the extent of the British advance within a week may be (p. 244) gained from the fact that the British were now three miles beyond the famous Vimy Ridge.

It was expected that the Germans would stubbornly defend St. Quentin and Lens, which were now the British objectives, and on which the heaviest British gunfire was now concentrated. In the course of the day advances were made south and east of Fayet to within a few hundred yards of St. Quentin. On the way the village of Gricourt was carried at the point of the bayonet and over 400 Germans were captured.

Lens, an important mining center, had been in possession of the Germans since the autumn of 1914. It stretches for several miles and the surrounding district is rich in mineral wealth. Throughout the day of April 14, 1917, the British poured heavy high-explosive shells into the city, using for the first time guns that had been recently captured from the Germans. The continued bombardment caused fires and explosions in the city. It was believed that some of these conflagrations were the work of the enemy, who were preparing to abandon the place.

In the course of the day, April 14, 1917, the British pushed their way through Liéven, a straggling suburb of Lens, meeting with stubborn defense in every street, where the Germans had posted machine guns at points of vantage and rear-guard posts that gave the British considerable trouble. Soon a body of British troops had penetrated Lens itself and were working their way slowly forward. From the western side other troops were advancing through Liévin, slowly and cautiously. The main German forces were in retreat, but the machine-gun redoubts, skillfully manned, were a constant source of danger and wrought considerable destruction.

From prisoners captured the British learned of wild scenes that had taken place in Lens while the Germans were attempting to get away their stores and guns and begin the retreat. Frantic efforts were made to blow up roads and to carry out orders to destroy the mine shafts and flood the galleries, so that property of enormous value should not be left to France. The occasion for this mad hurry was because the Germans believed that the British might be upon them at any moment.

(p. 245) During the evening they had sufficiently recovered from their first panic to send supporting troops back into Lens to hold the line of trenches and machine-gun forts on the western side and check the British advance while they prepared for themselves positions on the Drocourt-Queant line, the Wotan end of the Hindenburg line, from which the British were forcing them to withdraw. It was learned from German prisoners that there were still about 2,000 persons, principally old men, women, and children, still in the Lens district waiting for a chance to break through to the British lines. The condition of these poor creatures can be imagined, surrounded by destruction from all sides and hiding in holes in the ground with death always hovering near.

The British continued to close in around Lens from three directions, their progress being slow owing to the stubborn attacks made by German rear guards and the fierce fire of cunningly placed machine guns.

Field Marshal Haig's chief purpose in advancing on Lens was to turn La Bassée from the south. La Bassée and Lens form the principal outworks of Lille, which is the key to the whole German position in Flanders. If the British succeeded in capturing these two places, Lille would be seriously threatened.

On the 15th the British continued to gain ground in the direction of St. Quentin and east and north of Gricourt, to the north of the city.

In the morning the Germans delivered a powerful attack over a front of six miles against the new British position, which extended from Hermies to Noreuil. In the face of a terrific fire from British artillery they forged ahead, but lost so many men that they were at last forced to retreat, gaining no advantage except at Lagnicourt village, to one part of which they clung tenaciously. Immediately the British organized a counterattack, which was carried out with dash and spirit. The Germans were driven out of the village and 300 prisoners were taken. Some 1,500 dead were left in front of the British positions.

April 16, 1917, was a day of glory for French arms, when General Nivelle launched a great attack on a front of about (p. 246) twenty-five miles between Soissons and Rheims. The French were everywhere successful, capturing the German first-line positions along the entire front and in some places penetrating and holding second-line positions.

The scene of General Nivelle's great victory was the historic line of the Aisne, to which the Germans had retreated after the battle of the Marne. Ever since that epoch-making event in the history of the Great War the Germans had held the line despite every effort of the Allies to dislodge them. The Germans had ample warning that a great offensive was in preparation, for the French had been bombarding their positions for ten days before. On their part they had made every effort to repel the threatened attack, and had massed a great number of men and guns in that region. In justice to the Germans it must be said that they fought with courage and desperation along the whole front. They realized the importance of holding the line at all costs, for if the French advance proved successful, it would mean the isolation of Laon, upon which the Hindenburg line depended.

North of Berry-au-Bac, where the old line of battle swings to the southeast toward Rheims, the French forces gained their greatest advance. To the south of Juvincourt they succeeded in penetrating the German second-line positions and held on. Every effort made by the Germans during the day failed, the French artillery literally tearing their ranks to pieces. Further advances were made by the French to the banks of the Aisne Canal at the villages of Courcy and Loivre.

General Nivelle reported that over 10,000 prisoners were captured during this offensive together with a vast amount of war material.

Meanwhile the British in the Lens area were constantly engaged with the Germans, who again and again launched counterattacks to recover lost positions, to impede the advance and to gain time to strengthen their defenses on the line of retreat.

During the night of April 15, 1917, the British captured Villeret, southeast of Hargicourt, which served to further widen the second gap in the Hindenburg line north of St. Quentin. The British were successful in all these minor struggles in making (p. 247) prisoners, and owing to the Germans' hurried retreat vast quantities of military stores fell into their hands. Since April 9, 1917, the British had captured over 14,000 prisoners and 194 guns.

In the midst of a driving rain and flurries of snow that hampered military operations the French struck another blow on the 17th, on a new eleven-mile stretch of front east of Rheims from Prunay to Auberive. They carried the entire front-line German positions. From Mt. Carnillet to Vaudesincourt support positions seven miles in extent also were captured. During this push 2,500 German prisoners were taken.

The French advance on both sides of Rheims now left that city in a salient that would prove a great source of danger to the Germans. The French having captured the German second-line position northwest of Rheims, smoothed the way for an advance that might force the enemy out of the forts that held the cathedral city in subjection.

The French continued their offensive with undiminished vigor and dash on April 18, 1917, driving the Germans in disorder from their positions north of the Aisne and securing a firm hold on high ground commanding the river. The number of German prisoners had now increased to 20,730. Great quantities of war material fell to the French, including 175 guns, 412 machine guns, and 119 trench mortars.

On the front from Soissons to Rheims General Nivelle's troops captured four villages, which brought them to the outskirts of Courteçon, an advance of about two miles for the day.

Another successful French attack was delivered to the west, where the old German line stood on the south bank of the Aisne, which resulted in the capture of the important town of Vailly and a strong bridgehead near by. On the western leg of the German salient, whose apex was at Fort Condé on the Aisne, the French struck another decisive blow which gave them the village of Nanteuil-le-Fosse, and endangered the Germans in the fort, who were now in the position of being cut off.

East of Craonne a French contingent surrounded the forest of La Ville-au-Bois and forced the surrender of 1,300 Germans.

(p. 248) In the afternoon of April 18, 1917, the Germans delivered a strong counterattack in which 40,000 men were employed, in an attempt to recover their lost second-line positions to the east of Craonne which had been seized by the French in the first onslaught. Though vastly outnumbered in man power, the French were well supplied with artillery, and the attackers were rolled back in confusion with heavy losses before they could reach the French lines at any point. During the day's fighting in this area the French captured three cannon and twenty-four guns, together with a number of shell depots. Most of the guns were immediately turned against the Germans and proved effective in assisting in their destruction.

Undeterred by heavy losses and constant failure the Germans with stubborn courage continued to press counterattacks south of St. Quentin. One of these was successful in seizing a number of French positions. But the gain was only temporary, when the French came dashing back in force, regained the positions, and captured or killed the occupants to the last man.

The double offensive of the British north of Arras and of the French on the Aisne had disarranged the German plans, according to reliable information that reached the Allied command. Hindenburg was preparing an offensive against Riga and another against Italy; attempts on Paris and on Calais were also projected, but the Allied western offensive forced him to bring back the greater part of his forces intended for these fronts.

For several days the fighting in the Arras region slowed down. The Germans had brought forward new batteries and stationed them around Lens and Loos, replacing those captured by the British during the first day's battle. These guns were now constantly active, sending heavy shells into Liévin, Bois de Riaumont, and into the suburbs of Lens and Monchy. The neighboring ridge and slopes were also subjected to machine-gun fire.

Beyond bombarding German positions, the British made no important advance, though preparations were going forward for the next stage in the great battle of Arras.

The French continued to make gains along the Oise, pressing back the Germans toward the Chemin-des-Dames, which runs (p. 249) along the top of the heights north of the river. On April 20, 1917, General Nivelle's troops occupied Sancy village and gained ground east of Laffaux. The French front in this sector now faced the fort of Malmaison, which crowns a range of high hills protecting the highroad from Soissons to Laon. The Germans launched a heavy attack on April 19, 1917, in which large forces of troops were employed in the region of Ailles and Hurtebise Farm. The French artillery and machine guns delivered such a withering fire against the attackers that they were thrown back in disorder with appalling losses.

In Champagne the French continued to make progress, capturing important points in Moronvilliers Wood.

British troops south of the Bapaume-Cambrai road slowly advanced on Marcoing, a place of considerable importance and an outpost to Cambrai. In this push, begun on April 20, 1917, they captured the southern portion of the village of Trescault, which lies about nine miles from Cambrai. They also surrounded on three sides Havrincourt Wood, which from its high position constitutes a formidable barrier in the way of advance, and which the Germans will eventually be forced to evacuate. Ground was also gained by the British between Loos and Lens, and every attempt made by the Germans to regain lost positions was repulsed.

On the French front in western Champagne the Germans on the 21st made desperate efforts to recapture the positions on the heights which they had lost in the previous week. Mont Haut, the dominating position in this region, was the principal objective against which they launched repeated attacks, all of which came to naught. There were numerous minor operations on the Rheims-Soissons front during the night of the 21st. Rheims was repeatedly bombarded, the Germans paying particular attention to the cathedral, which received further damage from shells.

What might be termed the second phase of the battle of Arras was begun in the morning of April 23, 1917, when the British resumed the offensive. At 5 o'clock in the morning the British advance started east of Arras on a front of about eight miles, capturing strong positions and the villages of Gavrelle and (p. 250) Guémappe. The occupation of these places and of strongholds south of Gavrelle as far as the river Scarpe broke the so-called Oppy line, defending the Hindenburg positions before Douai. The British were successful in clearing the enemy out of the neighborhood of Monchy, which commands the region for forty miles. The Germans appreciating the value of this position had launched twenty counterattacks against it in the ten previous days. It proved to them the bloodiest spot in all this war-ravaged region, and when the British advanced at early dawn on the 23d, thousands of dead in field-gray uniforms littered the approaches to the position. During the day the British took over 1,500 prisoners.

On this date, April 23, 1917, the Germans attacked the French lines in Belgium at several points in the course. Bodies of Germans succeeded in penetrating some French advanced positions, but after spirited hand-to-hand struggles were killed, captured, or driven off. In most cases the Germans never got in touch with the French, but were rolled back by the concentrated fire of the French artillery. Fighting continued in the Champagne, where the Germans renewed again and again their efforts to capture the new French positions on Mont Haut.

On the second day of the offensive the British had made gains east of Monchy, and had pushed on between that village and the river Sensée to within a short distance of Cherisy and Fontaine-les-Croisilles, holding all their newly won positions against attack.

It was noted by the British command that the Germans during this second phase of the battle of Arras had fought with exceptional ferocity, which even the heavy losses they incurred did not weaken. On the front of about eight miles seven German divisions were employed. British guns were effective in shattering massed counterattacks, and there was considerable hand-to-hand fighting in which the British were sometimes badly handled, but at the close of the day the British had recovered all the positions they had been forced out of temporarily. The fighting continued on the 24th, but was less ferocious, the opponents having exhausted themselves in the (p. 251) previous day's efforts. In the second and third day of the offensive the British captured 2,000 prisoners.

During the night of April 23, 1917, the British advancing on a wide front south of the Arras-Cambrai road captured the villages of Villers-Plouich and Beaucamp and pressed forward as far as the St. Quentin Canal in the vicinity of Vendhuille.

The second phase of the offensive in the Arras region was especially notable for the victories won by the British in the air. In one day forty German machines were brought down, while the British lost only two.

The British advance was now necessarily slow, for they were no longer engaged in rear-guard actions as in the first phase of the offensive, but faced strong bodies of troops whose valor was unquestioned. Thus, as in the first days of fighting in the Somme, there was desperate fighting to gain or regain a few hundred yards of trenches. With varying fortunes the opponents fought back and forth over the same ground without either side gaining any distinct advantage, though both were losers in precious lives. By early morning of April 25, 1917, Scottish and British troops had reestablished the line on the Bois Vert and Bois de Sart.

A striking incident in connection with the fighting in this area was the recovery of parties of British soldiers who had been given up as lost. They had been cut off from rejoining their regiments and had come through the most ghastly perils, being swept by a British barrage that preceded an infantry attack and subjected to the deadly and constant shelling of the German guns. They had clung to their isolated positions in the face of all these terrors and not a man was killed.[Back to Contents]



During the night of April 25, 1917, the Germans renewed their attempts to recover lost positions on the high ground near the Chemin-des-Dames, and especially west of Cerny. West of Craonne they hurled masses of men against Hurtebise Farm with disastrous results. Eastward in the vicinity of Ville-aux-Bois the French artillery dropped shells with mathematical precision on the German lines. The regiment that was detailed to capture the village of Ville-aux-Bois, which formed with Craonne one of the pillars of the German line in this area, carried out the difficult operation with complete success. It was necessary to capture two heavily garrisoned woods before the place could be assaulted. At the end of the first day's fighting the French had taken hundreds of prisoners and several dozen machine guns. The prisoners alone numbered more than the French troops who made the attack.

Fighting continued in this region during the 26th. The French repulsed all attempts made by the Germans to recover lost ground, and extended their gains.

During the desperate fighting along the Aisne in this offensive the French captured about 20,000 prisoners and 130 guns. The German losses in killed, wounded, and prisoners were estimated at over 200,000—one of the most formidable totals of the Great War.

North of the Scarpe River and in the vicinity of Catelet the British continued to improve their positions. Thirteen German aeroplanes and one balloon were brought down on the 26th by British aviators.

On April 28, 1917, the British attacked on a front extending in an easterly direction from Vimy Ridge at its northern hinge and southward to the Scarpe River. Gains were made at all points attacked, and the so-called Oppy-Mericourt line which (p. 253) protects the Drocourt switch to the Hindenburg line was pierced again. An eyewitness stated that he saw no less than five gray waves of Germans blindly facing the British fire in an attempt to regain the lost positions. Torrents of British shells tore gaps in the German ranks, and those who succeeded in forcing their way through the barrage were mowed down by sprays of machine-gun bullets. Under this storm the German attack broke down. There was bayonet fighting at different points, and many Germans were killed by blows from rifle butts.

The Canadians, who had been resting since their brilliant work on Easter day, when they swept the Germans from Vimy Ridge, were in fine fighting trim. By a brilliant assault they captured Arleux-en-Gobelle and held the village securely against all attempts made by the Germans to recapture it.

Southeast of Oppy, the British took Greenland Hill, which overlooks the Scarpe Valley. There was fierce fighting north of the village of Roeux, at the chemical works on the Arras-Douai railway, which changed hands several times. The character of the fighting on the 28th did not result in the taking of many prisoners, for almost everywhere it was a struggle to the death.

The loss to the Germans of Monchy-le-Preux was regarded by them as a serious matter, and they were prepared to sacrifice any number of men to retake it. Late in the night of April 28, 1917, they launched two violent attacks against the British positions east of the town. Two new divisions had been brought up and were hurled into the struggle only to be literally torn to fragments before they could reach even an outpost. On this date also Gavrelle was violently attacked from the north. This was the fourteenth or fifteenth counterattack the Germans had made against the village, which failed as all the previous ones had done.

On the same date there were violent outbursts in the Champagne and Aisne regions on the French front, in which the Germans made no progress. The French gained ground and prisoners near Ostel in the Chemin-des-Dames area. German lines were invaded in the sector of Hill 304 on the left bank of the Meuse and a considerable number of prisoners were taken. (p. 254) At Auberive after a violent bombardment the Germans attacked in force, but were repulsed by the French artillery.

South of the village of Oppy, where the fighting had raged for several days, the British captured a German trench system on a front of about a mile. Here the Germans offered the most stubborn resistance, and after the position was won they launched furious counterattacks in the hope of smashing the British before they had opportunity to organize their gains.

The results of the fighting in this region could not be estimated by the number of prisoners taken or the amount of ground gained. The British had a difficult task to perform in assaulting positions protected by natural defenses, and held in strength with quantities of machine guns. After forcing the enemy out of the positions, and when their strength was well-nigh spent, the British troops were forced to beat off repeated counterattacks preceded by barrage fire and to destroy the enemy again and again. They encountered no more formidable conditions in the course of the war than in this region, for the Germans had machine redoubts on the slopes commanding fields of fire on both sides of the Scarpe River, and each advance made by the British exposed their flanks to enfilading fire. In the face of such deadly opposition the British still continued to press onward, forcing the Germans to pay a fearful price for Hindenburg's strategic plans.

On the last day of the month French troops in the Champagne made a new attack on both sides of Mont Carnillet, a commanding peak southeast of Mauroy. To the west the French captured several fortified lines of trenches from the heights as far south as Beine. East of the mount General Nivelle's men forced their way up the northern slopes of Mont Haut; and northeast of this position to the approaches of the road from Mauroy and Moronvilliers. This advance widened on the west and deepened the salient driven into the German lines between Prunay and Auberive, rendering exceedingly precarious their hold on ground east of Rheims.

There was no important fighting on the British front on April 30, 1917, and General Haig's troops were not ungrateful for the (p. 255) brief respite afforded them. The Germans did not attempt any important attacks owing to a shortage of ammunition and military supplies. From documents found on prisoners the British learned that there was a dearth in all war material and that the supply of new guns to replace those worn out was very limited. During the night General Haig's troops improved their positions between Monchy-le-Preux and the Scarpe River, repulsing a feeble German attack on the new positions.

While comparative quiet reigned in the fighting area on the last day of April, 1917, British airmen were active, and in the course of twenty-four hours a number of highly dramatic battles were fought in which the British brought down twenty German aeroplanes and lost fifteen machines themselves.

During the night of May 1, 1917, the French consolidated their new positions on the wooded hills east of Rheims. In the course of the following day the Germans delivered two strong attacks against French lines northeast of Mont Haut, but were rolled back by the French barrage fire and machine-gun fire which broke the waves of assault and scattered the attackers.

The report for the month of April, 1917, issued by the British War Office stated that in the course of the offensive operations in France 19,343 prisoners had been taken, including 393 officers. In the same period the British had captured 257 guns and howitzers, 227 trench mortars, and 470 machine guns. The French during the same period had captured over 20,000 prisoners. It was estimated that the Germans had 143 divisions in France, but only ninety-nine of these were in the actual line, the rest being held in strategic reserve.

During the month of April, 1917, more aeroplanes were lost by the combatants than in any month since the fighting began. A careful compilation from British, French, and German communiqués shows a total loss of 717 during this period. The Germans lost 369, the French and Belgians 201, and the British 147.

On May 2, 1917, the French in the Champagne began to push their way slowly through the great forest south of Beine, which covers considerable territory from south of Mont Carnillet to La Pompelle Fort, the most easterly fortification of Rheims.

(p. 256) On May 3, 1917, General Haig's troops struck a fourth blow against the German front east and southeast of Arras, penetrating the Hindenburg line west of Queant. The British push toward Cherisy, Bullecourt, and Queant was at the southern end of the day's major operation, which covered a range of nearly eighteen miles. At the north Fresnoy was the chief objective. It lies just east of Arleux, taken a few days before by the Canadians.

These two villages were strongly organized for defense with complicated trench fortifications, forming one of the strongest points on the Mericourt-Oppy-Gavrelle line. Fresnoy was carried by the Canadians after the most furious fighting, in which the German positions changed hands a number of times, but at last remained securely in possession of the troops from oversea. North and south of Fresnoy a two-mile front was won by the British, who also secured a grip on the German trench system north of Oppy.

While the British were dealing hammer blows on the enemy's lines the French had been preparing another coup, which was carried out on May 4, 1917. By this operation they captured the village of Craonne on the Soissons-Rheims front, several fortified points north and east of the village, and German first-line positions on a front of about two and a half miles.

Craonne was an especially valuable capture, for it stands on a height at the east end of the Chemin-des-Dames, protecting not only the plateau north of the Aisne, but the low ground between it and Neufchâtel. The Germans had held the place since the first battle of the Aisne, and against its cliffs many gallant French troops had vainly flung themselves, only to be thrown back with heavy losses. The possession of Craonne gave the French command of an open road through the valley of Miette where a few weeks before they had captured the German second line south of Juvincourt. They could now, advancing through this corridor, outflank the entire German position depending on Laon as its center.

The French Offensive on the Craonne Plateau, Champagne.

Throughout May 4, 1917, the British were occupied in organizing and strengthening the new positions they had won in and (p. 258) around Fresnoy and in the sectors of the Hindenburg line near Bullecourt. Repeated German counterattacks were repulsed at all points, except in the neighborhood of Cherisy and the Arras-Cambrai road, where the British were forced to abandon some of their new positions. In the day's fighting the British captured over 900 prisoners. During the night General Haig's troops made considerable progress northwest of St. Quentin and northeast of Hargicourt, where the Malakoff Farm was captured.

By May 5, 1917, the French army was in sight of Laon, and had begun to shell the German positions on the steep hill on which the city stands. The position of the French was decidedly favorable for important operations against the enemy. If they moved up the Rheims-Laon road, and pushed north from Cerny with a strong force, it would be possible to outflank from the south the whole German line, which here turns to the northwest in a wide sweep from Laon, through La Fère to St. Quentin and Cambrai. This operation if successful would compel the Germans to retire to the Belgian frontier.

The Germans were not satisfied with the way things were going, so the Allied command learned from prisoners. It was estimated that they had lost thus far in the Anglo-French drive on this front no less than 216,000 men, of whom the British took 30,000 prisoners and the French 23,000; about 47,000 were killed on the field and 160,000 were put out of action. The British and French casualties had also been very heavy—the former numbering about 80,000 and the latter 93,000 including killed, wounded, and prisoners.

On the British front the Germans continued to make the most desperate efforts to regain a section of the Hindenburg line east of Bullecourt, which the Australians had won in the advance of May 3, 1917. From three sides day and night the sturdy defenders were assailed by the Germans, but their attacks by day were killed by the British artillery, and at night were driven off by bomb and bayonet. The Germans had good reason to value this wedge bitten into the Hindenburg line, for its possession by the Australians weakened an otherwise strong position that ran formerly from Arras to Queant. The British were now in touch (p. 259) with the Hindenburg line all the way from Queant south to St. Quentin, and were pressing the Germans toward the Drocourt switch in the north.

On the new lines east of Mont Haut held by the Germans a position garrisoned by 200 men was captured by the French during the night of May 5, 1917.

The French continued to make progress, slowly but firmly pressing the Germans back from many points, and gaining more ground than they lost through counterattacks. By the 6th of May, 1917, they had captured all the unconquered positions on the Chemin-des-Dames and were masters of the crest over which it runs for more than eighteen miles. The moral effect of this victory was to give the French the assurance that they could beat the Germans on their chosen battle ground and force them out of their deepest defenses into the open field. German invincibility had become a shattered myth.

For some days General Haig's troops had been tightening their grip around Bullecourt, which lies in the original Hindenburg line due east of Croisilles. The Australians who held this front had surrounded the village on three sides and its fall was imminent.

On May 8, 1917, Bavarian troops stormed Fresnoy village and wood and wrested some ground from the British on the western side. During the night the Germans had concentrated large forces for an attack north of Fresnoy which were dispersed by British fire. By a strong counterattack the British recovered all the ground on the west that they had lost on the previous day.

Some idea of the intense fighting in northern France may be gained from the fact that since April 1, 1917, over thirty-five German divisions (315,000 men) were withdrawn from this front owing to their exhausted condition. The French and British had lost heavily, but their casualties were from 50 to 75 per cent fewer than they incurred in the Battle of the Somme.

Fresnoy, which was held by the Canadians, and which jutted into the German lines, was subjected to intense fire and showers of high explosives and shrapnel throughout the night of the 7th, and in the morning of the following day the Germans attacked (p. 260) in force. The British were overwhelmed, but served their machine guns to the last, and only fell back from their advanced lines when the village was no longer tenable. The greater part of the ground lost by them was recovered on the following day.

The French captured first-line German trenches over a front of three-quarters of a mile northeast of Chevreux near Craonne, during the night of May 8, 1917, capturing several hundred prisoners. Vigorous counterattacks made about the same time by the Germans to regain lost positions on the plateau of Chemin-des-Dames and on the Californie Plateau were shattered by the French artillery. The Germans here displayed the most intrepid bravery, sending forward successive waves of men again and again until the battle area was strewn with dead. Northwest of Rheims the French carried 400 yards of German trench, taking prisoner 100 men and two officers.

Severe and continuous fighting went on during May 9, 1917, in the neighborhood of Bullecourt, where the Germans tried vainly to shake the British hold on the position. East of Gricourt a portion of the German front and support lines were captured by the British, also a considerable number of prisoners. Counterattacks on the French front along the Chemin-des-Dames and in the region of Chevreux resulted in heavy losses to the Germans in men and guns.

Toward the close of the day, May 11, 1917, the British after the hardest and most sanguinary fighting won two positions at Roeux just north of the Scarpe, and at Cavalry Farm beyond Guémappe. The loss to the Germans was serious, for these were observation posts of the highest value. The British captured about 350 prisoners, mostly of Brandenburg regiments, who were found crouching in tunnels waiting for a pause in the storm of shell fire to rush out and meet the attackers with machine guns. But they waited too long, and Haig's troops were upon them before they could use their weapons. At Roeux the Bavarian garrison in the tunnels fought ferociously, and being unwilling to yield were destroyed.

Around Guémappe, by the Cavalry Farm, which the Scottish troops had been forced to abandon in the previous month, the (p. 261) fighting was less intense. The Scots went about their task in a businesslike way and routed the garrison and took ten guns and a number of prisoners.

Bullecourt, which had been the scene of some of the hottest fighting since the offensive began, and where the Australians had repulsed a dozen strong counterattacks, was in large part occupied by the British on May 12, 1917. North of the Scarpe, British troops established themselves in the western part of the village of Roeux, and improved their positions on the western slopes of Greenland Hill.

Along the Aisne and south of St. Quentin the French continued to bombard enemy lines. A violent attack made by the Germans on the 12th against French positions on the Craonne Plateau north of Rheims broke down under French artillery and machine-gun fire.

The British continued to hold their own in Bullecourt and to improve their position there and at Cavalry Farm and Roeux. In the three days' operations the British had captured 700 prisoners, including eleven officers and a considerable number of guns and war material.

May 14, 1917, was a successful day for the Germans when they captured Fresnoy. Early in the morning they succeeded by strong counterattacks in gaining a foothold in the British trenches northeast of the village. At a later hour the British attacked and regained the lost ground, but were forced to withdraw when the Germans brought forward two fresh divisions. The Germans continued their violent attempts to regain Roeux and that part of Bullecourt which was firmly held by the British. The struggle around these two places which had been raging for four weeks grew daily more intense, and the ground around the British positions was heaped with dead.

All of Roeux was by the 15th in British hands: the château with its great dugouts and gun emplacements, the cemetery from which a large tunnel ran westward to Mount Pleasant Wood, and the village itself.

After a terrible shell fire during the night of the 15th the Germans launched a strong assault in dense numbers, and the ruins (p. 262) were strewn with new dead beside the old dead. Despite the intense fire from British machine guns some German troops penetrated advanced posts and barricades and desperate fighting with bomb and bayonet followed. The British fiercely counterattacked, driving the enemy back, and gained more ground than they had held before.

At Bullecourt there was the same story to tell. This place, to use the expression of an eyewitness, "had become a flaming hell." In twelve counterattacks the Germans had only succeeded in destroying a few of the British advanced positions. They had only been able to maintain a hold on the southwest corner of the village owing to the tunnels in which they were protected from the heaviest fire.

A German counterattack of unusual strength was delivered in the morning of May 16, 1917. No bloodier struggle was fought during the Allied offensive in 1917 than here at Bullecourt. From shell crater and from behind bits of broken wall the British with bombs and bayonets hung on until relieved by the arrival of fresh troops. In the orchards and gardens and in shallow trenches the opponents struggled in close combat, springing at each other's throat when the supply of bombs was exhausted. The British obtained a grip on Bullecourt for the time being, but they knew the respite would be brief, when the Germans would return and renew the bloody struggle.

The old Hindenburg line having been breached at Bullecourt and Wancourt, the Germans were now busy strengthening their new line of defense which ran through Montigny, Drocourt, and Queant.

The British had improved their defenses to the east, and had pushed forward a little nearer to Lens. Here the Germans continued to wreck and destroy buildings and machinery, so that the great mining center would prove of little value to the Allies when they occupied it.

Early in the morning of May 20, 1917, a British attack broke into the Hindenburg line between Fontaine-les-Croisilles and Bullecourt, southeast of Arras. The Germans made several violent attempts to recover their lost positions, but were unable (p. 263) to make any gains during the day. The purpose of the British attacks in this sector was to capture the last salient on the front southeast of Arras. With this accomplished the German support line from Drocourt to Queant would be seriously endangered.

The French lines on the Chemin-des-Dames north of the Aisne continued to be subjected to attack, the Germans throwing great masses of troops against the positions on the heights.

After very heavy artillery bombardment that lasted the greater part of the night the Germans in the early morning of the 20th made preparations for a general assault, but the French counterfire was so heavy that over the greater part of the front the attack could not be developed. Northeast of Cerny the Germans succeeded in occupying French trenches on a 216-yard front, but at all other points where they advanced the French counterattacks and barrage fire rolled them back and wrought disaster among their ranks.

During the last week of May, 1917, the French forces along the Chemin-des-Dames only fought on the defensive. The Germans attempted to regain lost positions, but were unsuccessful in obtaining the slightest advantage, while their losses must have been considerable.[Back to Contents]



After an intense bombardment that lasted all day of June 1, 1917, and part of the night the Germans on the 2d, employing large forces, hurled five attacks on the French Craonne position; three against the eastern face of Californie Plateau and two against Vauclerc Plateau. It seemed as if the Germans hoped to win the coveted position on the heights by sheer weight of numbers. Advancing in dense masses shoulder to shoulder (p. 264) they formed an impressive spectacle. But not for long. Soon great gaps were torn in the solid lines by the famous French artillery.

The ranks quickly closed up and again surged onward in dense gray waves, only to be shattered again and again by the splendidly served French guns. The same process was repeated, the Germans advancing, their ranks depleting, and then as the French fire became even more destructive they fell back, leaving the battle ground littered with dead.

The French rightly called this a victory, for they maintained all their positions and the Germans had not succeeded in gaining a foothold at any point. The German headquarters was silent concerning the fight on this date.

While the French continued to hold their position on the eastern extremity of the Chemin-des-Dames they threatened to turn the right flank of the Laon bastion by an advance over the open ground north of Berry-au-Bac. For this reason the Germans were desperately anxious to recover the Craonne position, which was the key to the whole tactical situation in this part of the front.

For about two weeks the British had been bombarding the strong German salient south of Ypres. On June 7, 1917, they delivered against this position or series of fortifications an overwhelming blow. It was one of the most spectacular military operations carried out during the war and marked a brilliant victory for the Allied arms. By this startling coup the Germans were forced out of one of the strongest positions they held on the western front. As far as human ingenuity and military skill could make it so, the position was impregnable. From its commanding situation the Germans were able to observe with ease all the preparations that were in progress in the British lines and arrange to checkmate them. The value of the position to the Germans in this area was therefore of supreme value.

For two and a half years the Allied armies in this little corner of Belgium had held the Germans in check, and during that time they were almost at the mercy of the German guns on the Messines-Wytschaete Ridge.

(p. 265) The German front defenses of this position consisted of the most elaborate trench systems and fortifications, forming a belt of about a mile deep. Farms and woods around were garrisoned and machine-gun emplacements were set up in every available corner. Concrete dugouts of the strongest description were provided for the protection of garrisons and machine gunners, and nothing that labor and skill could devise was neglected to make the position indestructible. Yet all this laboriously constructed defense work that had taken many months to complete and the strength and skill of thousands were swept away in a few hours' time.

For nearly two years companies of sappers—British, Australians, and New Zealanders—had been busily engaged in tunneling under the low range of hills upon which the German position stood. In these underground passages engineers had planted nineteen great mines, containing more than a million tons of ammonite, a new and enormously destructive explosive. The secret of the mines was so well kept during the time they were preparing that the Germans seemed to have had no suspicion of the great surprise in store for them.

At exactly 3.10 in the morning of June 7, 1917, all the nineteen mines were discharged by electric contact and the hilltops were blown off amid torrents of spouting flames with a roaring sound like many earthquakes that could be heard distinctly farther away than London. Large sections of the German front, supporting trenches, and dugouts went up in débris amid thick clouds of smoke. To add to the terror of the defenders of the position the British guns after the explosions shelled the salient steadily until preparations were completed for attack. Then the British infantry under Field Marshal Haig and General Sir Herbert Plumer advanced with a rush to the assault and the German front line for ten miles was captured in a few minutes.

The Taking of Messines Ridge, June 7, 1917.

Less than three hours after the first attack the Messines-Wytschaete Ridge was stormed. The British pushed their advance along the entire sector south of Ypres, from Observation Ridge to Ploegsteert Wood to the north of Armentières. Later in the day the German rear defenses, which ran across the base (p. 267) of the salient, were assaulted. Here the Germans had concentrated strong forces and the British encountered stiff opposition, but by nightfall the whole rear German position along a five-mile front to a depth of three miles was secure in British hands. The Canadians, who were in the forefront of all the fighting, had an enjoyable day of it, unsurpassed since they swept the Germans from Vimy Ridge.

In the course of the day's fighting the British captured over 7,000 prisoners and a large number of guns of all calibers. The Germans, it was estimated, had about 30,000 casualties, and the British less than a third of that number.

Eyewitnesses to this spectacular and dramatic operation have described the shattering effect the terrific explosions had on the Germans defending the positions, especially on those protecting the ill-famed Hill 60, where so many brave British soldiers had perished in previous fights.

When this hill burst open and a dense mass of fiery clouds and smoking rocks shot skyward, the British troops assigned to take the position and while still some distance away were thrown down by the violence of the concussion. But no one was injured, and finding their footing they dashed on in the direction of the hill. Below Mount Sorrel and in Armagh Wood they encountered groups of Jägers and Württembergers, who crawled out of holes in the still quivering earth, and, shaking with terror, weakly raised their hands in token of surrender. There was no desire to fight left in these men, but where the dugouts had not been shattered by British fire and were partly intact hundreds crouched in the dark and could only be persuaded to come into the open when bombs were hurled among them.

In other places the explosions had not produced such terrifying effects on the Germans, and the British met with stubborn resistance. This was the case in the neighborhood of the Château Matthieu, to the west of Hollebeke, which was strongly held and where the Londoners who engaged the Germans had a strenuous time of it before they gained the upper hand.

The British had looked for stout resistance from the enemy in a street of fortresslike houses built of huge blocks of concrete (p. 268) six feet thick, but their shell fire had done its work so thoroughly that most of the structures were in ruins, while the occupants of those that remained intact were too cowed and panic-stricken to make any but the feeblest defense.

For the first time on anything like a large scale the British leveled woodlands by spraying them with drums of burning oil, thus laying bare hidden trenches and gun emplacements and clearing the way for their infantry to advance.

In Dead Wood some German troops of the Thirty-fifth Division attempted a counterattack on a body of British South Country troops. It was a fierce, close struggle, when bayonets were the favorite weapon. The Germans, who are not generally fond of cold steel and hand-to-hand fighting, on this occasion did their share in the general thrusting and stabbing, and certainly displayed no lack of courage. But the men of Kent, who were eager to be on their way, fought with such wild fury that the Germans, after they had incurred very heavy losses, were eager to drop their rifles and surrender.

The part the armored tanks played in the battle of Messines Ridge was not very important, but they would have been missed if they had not been present in emergencies to help out the infantry. When there was no particular business for the monsters, pilots and crews sallied forth and joined in the fight.

Military critics award the principal honors in the battle of Messines Ridge to the guns and the gunners who served them. For about a fortnight the gunners had worked incessantly with scarcely any sleep in the midst of nerve-racking noises and with death constantly hovering around them. The number of shells used in this battle by the British was incredible. One division alone fired over 180,000 shells with their field batteries and over 46,000 with their heavies.

It was a joyous hour for the British in the course of the day's fighting when they were able to abandon the old gun positions after two and a half years of stationary warfare. They had no longer to fear that any more shells would be fired by the Germans from the commanding position on the ridge. All danger from that quarter had ceased.

(p. 269) The cheering British troops made way for the gunners, as shouting joyously they went up the ridge on a run, the infantry trailing along after them. Arrived near the top, the gunners unlimbered and went into action for the second phase of the fighting.

British aviators, who performed important scout work for the gunners, were deserving of a liberal share in the honors of the day. Some of the Royal Flying Corps seemed to have gone battle-mad in the course of the fighting, for they engaged in such death-defying adventures as no wholly sane person would have attempted.

There was one British aviator in particular whose reckless daring shone conspicuously even above that of his fellows, and who on the occasion showed an utter disregard for life. One of his major operations was to fly over a body of German troops on the march. Hovering at a short distance above them, he sprayed the astonished troops with machine-gun fire until they scattered and fled. Passing joyously on his way, the aviator encountered a convoy and flying low poured volleys into the Germans and was gone before they had time to recover from their astonishment and retaliate. Near Warneton a large force of German troops was massing to attack when down among them dashed the aviator, his machine gun crackling, when they dispersed in all directions, leaving dead and wounded on the field.

Another daring young flyer belonging to the Royal Flying Corps attacked and silenced four machine-gun teams in strong emplacements.

Other British aviators were active in clearing out trenches of their German occupants, and when they ran out of ammunition for their Lewis guns hurled down on the enemy bombs, explosives, and anything that injures or destroys.

By the British capture of Messines Ridge the Germans lost their last natural position that commanded the British lines. The victory came as a fitting climax to the British achievements in France during the preceding three months' campaign. By the capture during that period of Bapaume, Vimy Ridge, Monchy (p. 270) Plateau, and now Messines Ridge, the British had completely changed the military situation on the western front.

The area gained in this vast operation was a front nine miles long to an extreme depth of five miles. Owing to strong German pressure exerted at this point the advance was checked, but the British continued to engage and harass the enemy in minor operations.

During the night of June 8, 1917, the British resumed activities in the neighborhood of the great mining center of Lens. An attack was launched south of the Souchez River on a front of two miles, penetrating to a depth of half a mile.

On the following day the Germans with strong forces delivered a determined assault on British lines on a front of six miles east of Messines. The attack failed. South of Lens the Canadians on the same date pierced the German lines on a front of two miles, destroying defensive works and taking a number of prisoners.

Artillery and heavy guns were busy on both sides during the night of June 10, 1917, east of Epehy. The Germans assembled strong forces of troops in this area to attack, but were scattered by the intense fire of British guns. Southeast of La Bassée the British carried out a dashing raid on enemy lines, during which they destroyed elaborate trench systems and mine galleries and captured eighteen prisoners. Successful raids were also made on German positions east of Vermelles and south of Armentières on the same night. The British continued these dashing exploits on the following day on both sides of Neuve Chapelle, east of Armentières, and north of Ypres. In each operation the German defenses were smashed and a considerable number of prisoners were taken.

In the Champagne the French had to defend themselves against persistent German assaults made to regain lost positions at Mont Blond and Mont Carnillet. The Germans had never renounced the hope of recovering these invaluable observation points, and sacrificed thousands of men in the vain hope of wearing down the French resistance. The region of the Californie Plateau was also subjected to furious attacks and violent artillery (p. 271) engagements, and while the French lost heavily the Germans were unable to gain the slightest advantage.

Early in the morning of June 12, 1917, the British won new and valuable positions astride the Souchez River. In the night the Germans in force delivered a counterattack to regain the lost ground, displaying a disregard for safety and stolid bravery as they pushed on in spite of heavy losses. But the British were in a situation where they could rake the German lines with their artillery and machine-gun fire, and made the most of their advantage. The Germans could not make any headway against this storm of fire, and at last when their ranks were shattered they gave up hope and retired.

Owing to the British advance east of Messines, and to the continued pressure of their troops south of the front of attack, the Germans were forced to abandon large and important sections of their first-line defensive system in the region between the river Lys and St. Yves. Following closely the retreating enemy, the British made important advances east of Ploegsteert Wood and also in the neighborhood of Gaspard.

While their allies were gaining ground and hastening the German retreat on their front, the French in the regions of Braye, north of Craonne, northwest of Rheims, and on the left bank of the Meuse, near Cumières, were being hammered continuously by German guns. It seemed that defenses and defenders must be destroyed by this hurricane of fire and shell. But the soldiers of the Republic had learned many lessons concerning German methods of warfare since the fighting began in this region and knew how to conserve their strength, and were prepared to out-fight the enemy whenever the odds were anything like equal. The concentrated fire of the German guns damaged the French defenses, but were ineffective in crushing French spirit, so that the attacks that followed the bombardments failed in every instance to gain any advantage.

Positions the British had captured earlier in the week south of the Ypres-Commines Canal were attacked by the Germans on June 15, 1917, following heavy artillery preparations. In the first dash a few Germans succeeded in approaching the British (p. 272) front trenches, but they were killed or driven out and the attack collapsed at all points.

In the night of the 15th the sorely tried French forces continued to bear the brunt of German fury around Craonne and Mont Carnillet. Raids they made in the region of Hill 304, on the heights of the Meuse, broke down with heavy losses. East of Rheims the French were successful in minor operations in which they captured a good number of prisoners. Artillery duels were almost continuous on the following day north and south of the Ailette River, in the Champagne, and in the region of the heights of Carnillet and Blond. The Germans won a section of trench in neighborhood of Courcy, but later were driven out or destroyed by the French in a counterattack.

East of Monchy-le-Preux the Germans after a heavy bombardment of British positions made an attack in force that was entirely successful in gaining the first-line defenses. The British were driven back with considerable losses to their main new position on Infantry Hill.

After the disastrous experience of the German airmen during the battle of Messines Ridge their flying forces adopted the familiar tactics of mass formation. The British air pilots seldom encountered in these June days squadrons of less than fifteen machines, and occasionally they met aerial armies of as many as sixty planes. In some battles in the second week of June, 1917, between seventy and eighty machines were involved. Most of these air fights took place inside German territory, and despite superior numbers the British Royal Flying Corps continued to prove their superiority in the air over the Teutons. In one of these aerial battles, when a large number of planes were engaged, the British pilots smashed ten German machines, while only two British flyers were compelled to withdraw from the fight, one of them making a successful landing within his own lines.

Of the reckless bravery displayed by some of the younger members of the Royal Flying Corps many authentic stories are told. One intrepid British pilot coolly took up a position over a German aerodrome at a considerable distance within the enemy (p. 273) lines. There were seven machines in the aerodrome when the British flyer took up his position above, and as they issued forth first one and then two at a time he attacked and in every instance was successful in smashing or in driving out of control the German machine.

On the Arras battle front on June 19, 1917, the British gained some ground south of the Cojeul River, capturing during the operation thirty-five prisoners.

French positions between the Ailette River and Laffaux Hill in the Champagne and northwest of Rheims were on this date the special marks for the concentrated fire of German guns. French outposts were attacked at Mont Teton and Mont Carnillet (an almost daily occurrence this summer), but the Germans were unable to gain any advantage and were driven back to their trenches with heavy losses.

The British were successful on June 20, 1917, in regaining the Monchy position which had been lost some days before. It was of utmost value that this point should be wrested from German hands if the advance was to continue, and the British were correspondingly elated that they had possession of it again.

South of La Fère the French attacked during the night following the 21st, and penetrating German lines in the region of Beauton, destroyed large numbers of the enemy and brought back prisoners. In the Champagne after severe artillery preparation the Germans attacked French trenches on Teton Height and to the east of this position on a front of 400 yards. The Germans employed strong forces in the operation, and in a daring push in which they sacrificed large numbers of men they succeeded in penetrating advanced positions. But they were unable to hold them long, when the French came back in a dashing assault that swept them out and back to their own lines. On the following day the French in a brilliant movement made on a 600-yard front advanced their line 600 yards nearer to Mont Carnillet.

It was in this region that a unit consisting of only sixty-two French Grenadiers and portable machine guns occupied a position that the Germans coveted. The Germans attacked with a (p. 274) strong force, but the stout-hearted defenders, though vastly outnumbered, not only drove them back, but pressed on in pursuit, capturing a considerable length of German trenches and killing more than 200.

In the Chemin-des-Dames on June 22, 1917, the Germans launched a number of attacks, which led to some desperate engagements. In the vicinity of La Royère Farm the ground was covered with the bodies of German dead, according to the statements of correspondents on the field. The Germans at a heavy cost only succeeded in gaining possession of a short section of a French front trench.

Rheims continued to be the mark on which the Germans vented their anger when things went wrong, and on the 22d they threw 1,200 shells into the cathedral city.

The British had made no sensational advances in France for some time, but along the entire 120-mile front occupied they continued to maintain strong pressure on the enemy positions. During the night of the 24th they carried out a number of successful local operations. One of these enterprises was of importance, as it increased the British grip around Lens. Attacking by starlight the British troops stormed and captured 400 yards of front-line trenches east of Riaumont Wood, in the western outskirts of Lens, thus drawing closer the ring of iron with which they were hemming in the French mining center.

In numerous raids carried out in the night on enemy trenches in the vicinity of Bullecourt, Roeux, Loos, and Hooge, much damage was wrought to German defenses and a considerable number of prisoners were captured. One daring body of British troops remained for two hours in German trenches, blowing up dugouts and inflicting serious casualties on the garrison.

In the general advance on Lens the Canadians occupied the strongest outpost in the defense of that place and had pushed forward to La Coulotte. The object of the British command was to exert extreme pressure on the enemy and at the same time keep down the casualties, and this they were successful in doing.

Patrols sent out reached the crown of Reservoir Hill without meeting opposing forces and pressed on down the eastern slope (p. 275) to occupy the strong Lens outpost. South of the Souchez River the Canadians were pressing on the very heels of the retreating Germans. Railway embankments southeast of the Lens electric station were occupied, and the advance was then continued toward La Coulotte.

For several days the Germans had been destroying houses in the western part of the mining center, in order to secure a wider area of fire for their guns. This movement suggested to the British command that they intended to cling as long as possible to the eastern side of the city and to prolong the fight to the bitter end by house-to-house fighting.

In the night of June 25, 1917, the French made a brilliant attack northwest of Hurtebise on a strongly organized German position. They gained all their objectives and the rapidity with which the attack was carried out proved a crushing surprise to the Germans who lost in the fight and in counterattacks ten officers and over 300 of other ranks.

Among the positions captured by the French in the operations in this region was the "Cave of the Dragon," which was more than 100 yards wide and 300 yards deep, and had been converted into a strong fortress. The cavern had numerous exits and openings through which machine guns could be fired. Here the French captured a vast amount of war material, including nine machine guns in good condition, ammunition depots, and a hospital relief outpost.

In the morning of June 27, 1917, the Canadians, encouraged by their recent successes, which had been won at slight cost, decided to attack across the open ground sloping upward to Avion and the village of Leauvette near the Souchez River. The assaulting troops consisted of men from British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia, and the British army contained no more daring fighters. The attack was a success, except at one point, where the Germans were strong in machine guns, and were surrounded by barbed-wire entanglements of a peculiarly complicated sort. Here the sturdy men from overseas were unable to gain their objectives, but at other points they gained valuable ground.

(p. 276) In the following night, during a heavy rainstorm, the British attacked a number of the southwesterly suburbs of Lens, including the one known as Avion. They won all their first objectives, and captured over 200 prisoners. The fighting was in and out of ruined buildings, collieries, pit derricks, and the usual structures of a mining settlement. It was continued on the following day, advance being made on a total front of about four miles to a depth of over a mile. The result of these attacks was to give the British a series of strongly organized defensive systems on both banks of the river Souchez covering Lens.

On the same night the suburbs of the mining center were attacked, the British captured German forward positions south and west of Oppy in the Arras sector on a front of about 2,000 yards.

On the 28th and 29th of June, 1917, the Germans launched by night powerful attacks in the Verdun sector near Hill 304 and Avocourt Wood. They succeeded in piercing French first lines over the whole front attacked, but were subsequently driven out, except at one point, on the slope of Dead Man Hill, where they clung tenaciously, defying every attempt made by the French to regain the position.[Back to Contents]



In the first days of July, 1917, the Verdun sector became the scene of some of the heaviest fighting on the western front. The Germans seemed determined to redeem their failures in this area in the previous year and engaged in daily assaults with large numbers of picked forces. The German High Command had circulated so many stories regarding the declining strength of the French troops and of their weakened morale that they must have come to believe their own inventions. The soldiers of (p. 277) the Republic certainly did their best to convince the German command that they were very much alive and in good fighting trim. Most of the German attacks in the Verdun sector were repulsed, but they succeeded in retaining some conquered ground on the west slope of Dead Man Hill. On the Aisne front during the night of June 30, 1917, the Germans attacked near Cerny and Corbeny, when their storming detachments were almost annihilated by the devastating fire of the French artillery. To the northeast of Cerny the Germans succeeded in gaining a small salient which had first been leveled by their guns.

South of Lens the British continued to make progress, capturing a good portion of the German trench system in this area and taking a number of prisoners. British aviators on this front maintained successfully their supremacy of the air. In the space of twenty-four hours they brought down five German aeroplanes, and four others were driven out of control, while only one British machine was missing.

Heavy artillery fighting continued during July 1, 1917, in the sector between Cerny and Ailles on the French front. At a late hour French troops carried out a spirited attack on both sides of the Ailles-Paissy road and ejected the Germans from the trenches they had captured in the previous week. In the night of July 2, 1917, the Germans made a strong counterattack in an endeavor to oust the French from their regained position, but were repulsed. In the course of the night several more attacks were made by the Germans, who, thrown back in every instance, finally abandoned the effort when day was breaking.

On the left bank of the Meuse, on the Verdun front, violent artillery fighting continued the greater part of the night on the same date between Hill 304 and Avocourt Wood. Early in the morning following the Germans attacked on a front of 500 yards at the southeast corner of the wood. The assaults broke down under the devastating French fire and no attempt was made to renew the effort.

On the British front no important actions were fought during the first week of July, 1917, but everywhere defenses were strengthened and the pressure on the German positions became (p. 278) unceasingly intense. Southwest of Hollebeke in Belgium the British advanced their lines on a front of about 600 yards during the night of July 4, 1917. Successful raids in the vicinity of Wieltje and Nieuport resulted in the capture of a good number of prisoners.

On the Verdun front the Germans renewed their offensive without obtaining any important progress. Heavy artillery fighting continued near Moronvilliers in the Champagne and around Hill 304.

German positions west and north of this hill were subjected to a destructive fire of French batteries during the day of July 5, 1917, and with such good effect that the enemy guns only feebly replied.

Near Louvemont, on the left bank of the Meuse, the French were successful in several encounters with German patrols, which they dispersed after sharp fighting, killing a number and taking prisoners.

In the Champagne, especially at Le Casque and Le Teton, there was active artillery fighting throughout the day. In the region between the Miette and the Aisne the Germans attacked three French posts, but were driven off by the French artillery fire.

The British now took the offensive and advanced their line on a 600-yard front south of Ypres, near Hollebeke, and continued to exert pressure on the German lines. On the 7th a further push forward was made east of Wytschaete in Belgium.

The French sector of the Chemin-des-Dames to the south of Filain was menaced at all times because it was dominated by the ancient fort of Malmaison in possession of the enemy. In the early morning of July 9, 1917, the Germans began an intense bombardment of this sector and then attempted to rush ten or twelve infantry battalions into the French positions. A brigade of the famous Chasseurs-à-pied holding the line were forced back by overwhelming numbers. The Germans evidently thought that success was certain, for they had brought with them quantities of barbed wire, boxes of grenades, and trench mortars, and everything that was needed to organize the position whose capture (p. 279) would give them the command of a considerable section of Chemin-des-Dames.

They failed, however, to consider the indomitable French spirit. The Chasseurs had only retreated a short distance when they gathered together engineers and reservists who had been working on roads in the rear and rushed back, and by a series of brilliant counterattacks ejected or killed most of the Germans in spite of their heroic resistance, capturing large quantities of their war material and reoccupying the line almost to its fullest extent.

The Germans having obtained reenforcements, fought furiously to regain the lost position, but the French elated by their success redoubled their efforts to destroy the enemy and the shell craters, and communication trenches were soon encumbered with German dead. The French losses in the fighting here were severe, but as they occupied safer positions the Germans' casualties were far greater. The fighting was so intense throughout the action that very few prisoners were taken by either side. A group of French soldiers who had been made prisoners and brought to the German second line attacked their guard and fled to their own lines, escaping without hurt the intense fire directed against them.

On this date, July 10, 1917, the Germans delivered a smashing blow against the British lines north of Nieuport on the Belgian coast. For twenty-four hours the Germans had maintained an intense bombardment which lasted from 6 o'clock in the morning of the 10th up to midnight and was renewed again at dawn on the following day. The firing was on such a huge scale that it could be distinctly heard as far as London. The effect of this bombardment was to level all the British defenses in the dune sector and to destroy their bridges over the Yser. According to the Berlin reports 1,250 men were captured by the Germans in this battle.

To the southward, in the region, of Lombaertzyde, the Germans only obtained a temporary success, the British in a strong counterattack driving them out of the positions they had won before they had time to organize for defense.

(p. 280) That the Germans were enabled to succeed in this coup was largely owing to the weather conditions. A heavy gale was blowing on the Belgian coast and British naval support was impossible. The Germans enjoyed the advantage of having strong coast batteries all along the dunes which they could move about at will from one point to another. There was, however, no blinking the fact that a weak point existed in the British defenses. Such success as the Germans won was attributed by some critics to their superiority in the air, the British at the time being short of machines.

The net gains to the Germans in this battle was the capture of British positions on a front of 1,400 yards to a depth of 600 yards. The British losses in the shelled terrain between the river Yser and the sea were estimated at 1,800.

During the night of July 11, 1917, British naval aeroplanes carried out successful raids in Flanders in and near five towns, when several tons of bombs were dropped with good results. Railway lines and an electric power station at Zarren were attacked by gunfire from the air, and bombs were dropped on a train near St. Denis-Westrem. The British airmen's bombs caused a fire near Ostend, and heavy explosions at the Varssenaere railway dump followed by an intense conflagration which was still flaming fiercely when the British returned safely to their own lines.

On the French front there was increasing aerial activity on July 12, 1917, on both sides from daybreak to midnight. In some cases as many as thirty machines were actively engaged. As a result of these encounters fourteen German aeroplanes were brought down and sixteen others were driven out of control. Nine British machines were counted missing.

Fighting continued daily in the Champagne and at frequent intervals. The Germans were paying a high price for every foot of ground gained and learned at the cost of heavy sacrifices that the French were as strong as ever, notwithstanding a report to the contrary was circulated by the German High Command that they were short of men and would be unable to fight much longer.

(p. 281) On July 14, 1917, the French scored a double victory when they occupied five heights among a clump of hills known as the Moronvilliers Massif to the east of Rheims. The positions won were of the first importance whereby the Germans lost their principal observatories in this region. The French occupied all the crests of the hills, but some of the slopes were held by the Germans, from which points of vantage they were able to watch the movements of their opponents.

The net gains to the French during the day included a network of German trenches on a front of over 800 yards to a depth of 300 yards, while the prisoners captured numbered 360, including nine officers.

On the left bank of the Meuse, in the Verdun sector, around Hill 304 and Dead Man Hill, artillery duels were continuous during the night of July 13, 1917.

The loss of the strong positions on the Moronvilliers hills, the chief observation posts in the region, spurred the Germans on to make frequent and frenzied attempts to force the French out. In the night of July 15, 1917, the hills were subjected to sustained and violent bombardment. It was followed by German attacks on Mont Haut and a height known as the Teton. At Mont Haut the Germans succeeded in penetrating French positions, but were driven out by a brilliant counterattack. The fighting lasted throughout the night, and was of the most violent description. By morning the French had thrust the Germans back and held all positions on the hills securely. The Germans had gained only a short stretch of trench near Mont Haut, which for the time they were able to hold possession.

On the left bank of the Meuse, in the Verdun sector, to the west of Hill 304, the French carried out a dashing operation early in the morning of July 17, 1917. After strong artillery preparation that had lasted all through the previous night the French attacked, and notwithstanding the stubborn and energetic resistance of the enemy, recaptured in a few minutes all the positions that the Germans had occupied since June 29, 1917. Following up the advantage thus gained the French carried German positions beyond their objectives to a depth of 2,000 (p. 282) yards on both sides of the road between Esnes and Malancourt. All the first German line was captured, and a little later after the most intense fighting the second line was carried. The French gained ground in this advance to a depth of over a mile. The number of unwounded prisoners captured reached 425, of whom eight were officers.

The loss of such important positions in the Verdun sector stimulated the Germans to make repeated endeavors to recapture them, and during the night of July 17, 1917, they delivered furious counterattacks preceded by intense artillery preparations. The assaults were all repulsed by the French, and at no point were the Germans enabled to gain even a temporary footing.

In the evening of July 18, 1917, the Germans attacked the French lines south of St. Quentin over a front of about half a mile. They succeeded in penetrating the first line, and held it for a brief period, when they were driven out. A few hours later the Germans made another strong attack over a front of about four miles, their objective being the same—the hillock known as Moulin-sous-Toutvent. This attack was broken up by the French artillery and machine-gun fire.

Throughout the day of July 19, 1917, French and German artillery were active along the whole French front, but beyond inflicting some casualties for which they paid heavily the Germans gained no advantage.

A general assault was launched by the Germans with important forces during the night of July 19, 1917, on the line along the plateau between Craonne and Vauclerc. Over the whole extent of the front there was hand-to-hand fighting, but everywhere the French succeeded in holding their positions. An energetic counterattack made between the Californie and Casemates Plateaus enabled the French to regain a trench line which the Germans had penetrated and held since the previous day. Fighting continued in the Hill 304 region, and in the Champagne, but the Germans failed to make any progress.

The Somme Battle Front, August 1, 1917.

During these days of intense fighting on the French front the British had not been marking time, but they had far less to (p. 284) contend against than their valorous allies. The French had to bear the brunt of German fury throughout the week. The whole French line from Verdun to St. Quentin in this period had been subjected to almost continuous attacks. At the cost of enormous losses that had not been exceeded during the war, save at Verdun in the previous year, the Germans had only gained a slight advance on a front of 2,000 feet, at the foot of the slope leading to the Chemin-des-Dames between Vauclerc and Craonne. The French now held all the important heights of the Aisne which Hindenburg had declared were impregnable.

The German High Command had given orders that the French positions on the heights must be captured at all hazards. Throughout the night of July 21, 1917, the high plateaus north of Craonne were shelled by German guns of the heaviest caliber. An attack was made at daybreak from Hurtebise to the east of Craonne. The two plateaus to the north, called the Casemates and Californie positions, are three-cornered in shape, projecting toward the north and joined by a narrow saddle. The approach to this is not so abrupt from the north as that to the plateaus themselves. The French artillery fire broke up the attack between Hurtebise and the Casemates Plateau before it could develop.

Assemblages of German troops north of Ailette were dispersed with heavy losses by the concentrated fire from French batteries. German attacks east of the plateaus led to violent hand-to-hand conflicts in which the Germans fought with great courage, but were unable to make gains. Throughout the day the battle raged, the Germans hurling great masses of men against the French lines, and, thrown back with heavy losses, again and again renewed the attacks. On the Californie Plateau after repeated repulses they succeeded in gaining a foothold, but were only able to hold it for a short time, when the French threw them back in an assault that laid many a German low.

Since the 10th of the month the British had done little but repel counterattacks, but they had won a little useful ground east of Monchy, close to the coast, and around Ypres and Lens theirs and the German batteries were busy day and night. From (p. 285) prisoners captured by the British it was learned that the Germans were suffering from the great wastage of men. Out of one division west of Lens it was stated that between seventy and eighty men had been buried every day for some weeks past. The British losses were also considerable, but their guns did more shooting, and the enemy's casualties were consequently much heavier. The British continued to hold the upper hand in air combats, few German machines being encountered. During July 23-24, 1917, British airmen dropped between four and five tons of bombs on enemy aerodromes, ammunition depots, and railway junctions with good results. North and east of Ypres the British made several raids during the 24th, capturing 114 prisoners, including two officers.

On the French front General Pétain, commander in chief of the French armies, found time while the battle was still raging to review the famous division whose four regiments had won the highest honors at Verdun, Nieuport, on the Somme, and in the Champagne. The troops which had been fighting for three years showed outwardly no sign of the terrible ordeals they had undergone, holding themselves proudly erect as they passed the saluting base amid the strains of military music and flying colors. General Pétain, who believed in treating his men as if they were his own sons, commended their bravery and thanked them in the name of the Republic for the brilliant example they had set to the other soldiers of France.

The loss of the plateaus north of Craonne continued to rankle in the mind of the German command, and repeated efforts were made to recover these precious positions. In the night of July 25, 1917, a ferocious attack was made on the French lines on a front of about two miles from La Bovelle Farm to a point east of Hurtebise. In the face of a murderous fire from the French artillery that wrought havoc in the advancing masses the Germans pressed on and succeeded in occupying portions of French first-line trenches south of Ailles. Repeated attacks made on Hurtebise Farm broke down under French artillery fire. Attacks on Mont Haut, following an intense bombardment that lasted all night long, failed to make any progress. North of Auberive the (p. 286) French carried out a successful operation during which they penetrated German trenches and continued their advance.

In Flanders in the night of the 25th the town of Nieuport, which had been in ruins since the first year of the war, was bombarded by the Germans with guns of every caliber. The British guns replied with equal violence, so that for miles around the air vibrated day and night and the ground shook with tremors.

East of Monchy the Germans resumed action, 400 attacking with flame throwers the line of British trenches that had already been smashed by artillery fire, and succeeded in occupying some posts of no great importance.

In the Champagne the sorely tried French troops were allowed no respite by the Germans, who would not renounce their hope of regaining the important positions on the heights. In the night of July 26, 1917, no less than five attacks were made by the Germans in the vicinity of the height south and west of Moronvilliers, but all broke down under fire of the French artillery. East of Auberive, several groups of Germans led by an officer tried a surprise attack which led to close fighting and from which hardly one German soldier escaped unwounded. The ground around the French position was strewn with dead, including that of the officer who led the attack.

Barrage or curtain fire used to protect and clear the way for an infantry advance. Here the fire is being used to protect French troops for an advance on Fort Vaux.

From the Flemish coast southward past Lens the great gun duel between the British and Germans continued without ceasing. The Germans had brought up vast stores of ammunition and poured shells into Nieuport, Ypres, and Armentières, and for miles around sprayed the country at large with the hope of smashing hidden British batteries. To this wide sweeping storm of fire the British were replying with far greater violence, sending two shells to the enemy's one, a rivalry of destruction that had not been surpassed on any previous occasion since the war began. Except for occasional raids the infantry remained quiescent under this gunnery. North of Arras and east of Ypres the British raids netted a considerable number of prisoners and machine guns. The fury of the British fire was not without effect on the generally stolid and imperturbable Germans, for at (p. 287) Fontaine-les-Croisilles they ran away without firing a shot when a British raiding party rushed forward to attack.

The three weeks' bombardment in Belgium closed on the morning of July 31, 1917, when British and French troops launched an attack on a gigantic scale along a front of nearly twenty miles from Dixmude on the north to Warneton on the south. The Allies won a notable victory, capturing in the first day of the battle ten towns and over 5,000 prisoners, including ninety-five officers. The attack began a little before 4 o'clock in the morning, just when the first faint light of dawn was breaking, German trenches had been either leveled or were completely wiped out by the preceding bombardment. The shelling increased in violence as the troops of the Allies left their positions and rushed forward to attack. The first and second German lines were carried almost without opposition, but at some points the Germans held up the advance with machine guns from their rear positions. These the British stormed, and lost considerable men in the operation, but they were comforted with the thought that the German losses were much heavier.

As a result of the day's operations the British had advanced their line on a front of over fifteen miles from La Basse Ville, on the river Lys, to Steenstraete on the river Yser.

The French troops on the extreme left and protecting the left flank of the British forces captured the village of Steenstraete, and rushing on penetrated the German defenses to a depth of nearly two miles. Having won all their objectives at an early hour in the day, the French continued to advance, occupying Bixschoote and capturing German positions to the southeast and west of the village on a front of nearly two and a half miles. In the center and on the left British divisions swept the enemy from positions to a depth of two miles, and secured crossings at the river Steenbeek, thus gaining all their objectives. In carrying out this attack British troops captured two powerful defensive systems by assault, and won against fierce opposition the villages of Verlorenhoek, Frezenberg, St. Julien, and Pilken, together with farms that had been transformed into fortresses and other strongholds in neighboring woods.

(p. 288) The victory of the Allies was more remarkable because of unfavorable weather conditions. The day was marked by heavy rain and the sky was full of heavy sodden clouds, so that observation was well nigh impossible for the airmen and kite balloons. Fortunately on the night before the attack the rain held off and the many thousands of British troops who occupied mudholes and shell holes close to the enemy lines had reason to bless the dark since they had a better chance of escaping observation. But this was not always possible, for the German flares and rockets often revealed their position and a shell would pass over them or smash among them, killing some and maiming others. Those who escaped these death-dealing visitors were forced to maintain silence, lest they betray their position. During the night the German aviators were more active than during the day and many times their bombs found a mark among the British soldiers crouching on the ground. It was a terrible ordeal through which these brave fellows had to pass, the forced inaction was maddening, and they were all the more eager to fight when at last the welcome signal came in the early dawn to go forward to attack.

Despite the discouraging weather conditions, which hindered observation, large squadrons of British planes led the advance against the German lines and not only maintained constant contact with the infantry, but flying low carried on a destructive warfare with their machine guns.

There were many air battles fought at a few hundred feet above the ground, but the Germans were decidedly outclassed and had to retire after they had lost six machines.

One British aviator doing patrol duty, and flying at a height of not more than thirty feet, came upon a German aerodrome on which he dropped a bomb with careful precision. As the Germans in the sheds came tumbling out, the aviator turned his machine gun on them, and circling around the field poured such a stream of fire into the kaiser's men that they scattered, leaving a number of dead on the ground.

The Germans having presently recovered, from their astonishment got a machine gun into action and came back to attack the (p. 289) airman, who made a dive, and when not more than twenty feet from the ground silenced their gun with his own. Then he circled the field, firing through the doors of every building he passed on the groups of men within. Leaving this scene the British airman next came upon two German officers, and his machine-gun working steadily put them to flight. A column of several hundred troops encountered after this were dispersed when he swept along the line, leaving a number of dead and wounded on the field. It was now time to return to the British lines for more ammunition and some slight repairs, but the gallant aviator encountered two German war planes that engaged him in battle. One he disabled by a well-directed shot and the other seized the opportunity to hurry from the scene.

On the Aisne front during July 31, 1917, there was violent artillery fighting south of La Royère; the French had won all their objectives and more. The German advanced trenches were filled with dead and the French captured 210 prisoners.

On the same date the Germans after heavily bombarding French lines at Cerny and Hurtebise, attacked positions east of Cerny on a front of 1,500 meters with three regiments. French counterattacks immediately carried out, drove the Germans back, their ranks seriously depleted, and the French were now enabled to advance along the whole front.

The day was calm on both sides of the Meuse, but farther south, in the right center of the French attack, after gaining Hooge village and Sanctuary Wood, their first objectives, they fought their way forward and carried the village of Westhoek, against very obstinate resistance from the enemy. In this neighborhood there was stiff fighting throughout the day, and still continued. The French had penetrated the German defenses to a depth of about a mile. A number of violent counterattacks were repulsed. South of the Zillebeke-Zandvoord road, on the extreme right, French troops at an early hour in the day had succeeded in winning all of their objectives, capturing the villages of La Basse Ville, and Hollebeke. The French claimed to have suffered few casualties in these important operations, and by nightfall of (p. 290) July 31, 1917, over 3,500 German prisoners had been passed behind the lines.

The German Government having industriously circulated reports that the French armies had suffered such a wastage of men that in a short time they would prove a negligible factor in the war, the French War Office announced that there were a million more troops in the fighting zone than were mustered to stem the German flood tide at the Battle of the Marne. It was also declared that the Republic had more men under arms than at any time in her history. Nearly 3,000,000 troops were in France alone, exclusive of the interior and in the colonies.[Back to Contents]




The cessation of diplomatic relations between the American and German Governments was an inevitable consequence of the latter's submarine decree abrogating the undertaking it gave in the Sussex case. The world knew it. Germany knew it. Her ambassador at Washington, Count von Bernstorff, knew it best of all, and accepted his dismissal in a fatalistic spirit. The rupture had to come. He had done his best to avert it, and his best had availed nothing.

The long-feared break having become a reality, the American people looked wide-eyed at the unexampled international situation. What now? When two parties enter into a bargain and one breaks it, there is usually a parting of the ways, a personal conflict perhaps, when there is not also a lawsuit. But no court could settle the differences between the United States and Germany. The nation squarely faced the fact that the two countries were officially not on speaking terms; they were on the dangerous ground of open enmity, when the least provocation would be as a spark to a powder magazine. Sparks there were in plenty; but the explosion waited. President Wilson guarded the magazine. He waited an "overt act" before giving up his vigil and letting events take their course.

Germany began her announced ruthless submarine warfare against neutral shipping with caution. Apparently she was loath to precipitate matters by acting in the letter and spirit of (p. 292) the new decree which warned that any neutral vessel found in the new danger zone "perished." On February 3, 1917, when the decree was in operation, one of her submarines encountered an American freighter, the Housatonic, off the Scilly Isles, which came within the proscribed area. It sank her, but first gave warning, permitted the crew to take to the boats, and actually towed the boats ninety miles toward land. A British patrol vessel then appeared; the submarine fired a signal to attract its attention and vanished under water, leaving the patrol vessel to rescue the Housatonic's crew. According to the new order given the submarines the Housatonic ought to have been sunk without warning.

This unwonted chivalry looked promising; but it was deemed to be merely an act of grace extended to neutral vessels on the high seas which had left their home ports before the date (February 1, 1917) when the new policy of ruthlessness went into effect. It was not repeated.

No such shrift was accorded British vessels, whether Americans were on board them or not. About the same time the merchantman Eavestone was sunk by a submarine, which also shelled the crew as they took to the boats. The captain and three seamen—one an American—were killed by the gunfire. This action was debated as an "overt act," but apparently the Administration did not regard isolated fatalities of this character as providing ground for a casus belli.

What came nearer to a flagrant violation of the Sussex agreement was the destruction by submarine torpedoes of the Anchor passenger liner California without warning off the Irish coast with 230 persons on board. The vessel sailed from New York for Glasgow on January 28, 1917, and its crew and passengers included a sprinkling of Americans. There were no American casualties; but attacks on passenger liners without warning, regardless of the menace to American life, formed the crux of the various crises between the United States and Germany, and the sinking of the California, as an "overt act," therefore brought the breaking point nearer and nearer. The loss of life was forty-one, thirteen passengers and twenty-eight of the crew (p. 293) being drowned. The vessel sank in nine minutes and the submarine made no effort to save the lives of its victims.

The loss of two British steamers, the Japanese Prince and the Mantola, sunk without warning, added to the growing indictment against Germany in the consequent jeopardizing of American lives. There were thirty American cattlemen on board the Japanese Prince. With the remainder of the crew they took to the boats, and after drifting about for several hours were saved by a passing ship. An American doctor on board the Mantola was among the latter's survivors.

The next attack on American shipping was the sinking of the Lyman M. Law, a sailing vessel loaded with lumber from Maine to Italy, by a submarine off the coast of Sardinia in the Mediterranean. The crew, seven of whom were American, were saved. There was no warning; the crew were ordered to debark, a bomb was placed on board, and the vessel was blown up and sank in flames.

The destruction of the Cunard liner Laconia, without warning, followed. Three American passengers were lost, two of them women, mother and daughter, who died from exposure in one of the boats. The vessel was torpedoed in the Irish Sea at 10.30 p. m. on February 25, 1917, and it was not until 4 o'clock the next morning that the survivors, scantily clad, were rescued in a heavy sea.

All these outrages were readily chargeable as overt acts, any single one of which could have constituted a cause for war, if the Administration was looking for one. But Germany's offenses, viewed singly, were passed over; it was their cumulative force that was providing the momentum to hostilities.

Two American freighters, the Orleans and the Rochester, left New York on February 9, 1917, without guns or contraband, bound for Bordeaux, France, and were the first craft to leave an American port after Germany issued her terrifying order condemning all neutral vessels found in the new danger zone.

Meantime the barometer at Washington was ominous. The California sinking, then the Laconia, proved how slender was the thread that held the sword of Damocles over the heads of (p. 294) the American people. Tension increased. "We are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst," came one official view early in the crisis. The President became detached and uncommunicative.

Germany indirectly sought to avert the consequences of her conduct. A week after the rupture in diplomatic relations Dr. Paul Ritter, the Swiss Minister, to whom she had delegated the charge of her interests in the United States, approached the State Department with an informal proposal to reopen negotiations. Secretary Lansing required him to put his request in writing, and the following memorandum was thereupon presented by Dr. Ritter on February 11, 1917:

"The Swiss Government has been requested by the German Government to say that the latter is now, as before, willing to negotiate, formally or informally, with the United States, provided that the commercial blockade against England will not be broken thereby."

Secretary Lansing's answer, made the next day, was short and to the point. He notified Dr. Ritter, under instructions from the President, that "the Government of the United States would gladly discuss with the German Government any questions it might propose for discussion were it to withdraw its proclamation of the 31st of January [1917], in which, suddenly and without previous intimation of any kind, it canceled the assurances which it had given this Government on the 4th of May last [1916], but that it does not feel that it can enter into any discussion with the German Government concerning the policy of submarine warfare against neutrals which it is now pursuing unless and until the German Government renews its assurances of the 4th of May and acts upon the assurance."

No further interchanges took place on the subject. The answer clarified the situation and disposed of doubts caused by the veil the President had thrown about the workings of his mind. It told the country that its Executive was not wavering and would brook no compromise.

Little hope prevailed in Berlin that war with the United States could be avoided, since the bait offered with a view to (p. 295) formulating a modus vivendi for reconciling the divergent attitudes of the two governments had failed. It was said that behind Dr. Ritter's overtures was a proposal that American vessels would be spared in order to avoid actual war if the United States assented to the continuance of the extended blockade against England. This implied that all other vessels, neutral or belligerent, were marked for destruction. However that might be, Berlin, finding its approaches repulsed, boldly denied that the German Government had been a party to initiating any overtures at all. No recession of the submarine program was thought of or proposed; no change of policy was possible In fact, this denial brought with it tidings that the periods of grace Germany granted to neutral ships entering the prohibited zones had expired and that all immunity from attack and destruction had therefore ceased. Then it developed that Dr. Ritter's overtures had been traced to pacific elements in the United States, represented by William J. Bryan, who was said to have been in league with the ex-ambassador, Count von Bernstorff, and the Washington correspondent of a Cologne newspaper, in a plan to avert hostilities. Part of this propaganda was the transmission of dispatches from Washington to the German press stating that the President's message to Congress must not be construed literally, and that there was no desire for war with Germany. The purpose of these dispatches was to prevail on Germany to abate her submarine warfare by way of convincing the United States that her new policy was not so ruthless as had been described. The pacifists knew very well that the President had no intention of yielding to half measures, and that the only course Germany could take to obtain a resumption of negotiations was the absolute withdrawal of her order revoking the Sussex pledge. The Administration resented the pacifists' activities as an attempt to undermine the uncompromising position it had taken. Their dealings with a foreign government were actually unlawful; but no action was taken.

A subsequent announcement from Berlin stated that Dr. Ritter (inspired by American pacifists) had telegraphed the (p. 296) German Government offering to mediate, whereupon he was told that Germany was agreeable on the terms named in the interchanges Dr. Ritter had with the State Department. As to a belief which had arisen from Dr. Ritter's action that the marine barrier maintained against Great Britain by submarines and mines had been or would be weakened out of regard for the United States or for other reasons, official Berlin (February 14, 1917) had this to say:

"Regard for neutrals prompts the clearest declaration that unrestricted war against all sea traffic in the announced barred zones is now in full effect and will under no circumstances be restricted."

The United States had spoken: "Withdraw your new submarine decree before making any proposal," it had demanded of Berlin. Germany had spoken: "Our course cannot be changed."

The situation in Washington drifted along without any definite program of future action being disclosed; but the President was not idle. He decided—though he held the power himself—to ask Congress for authority to protect American shipping on the high seas by providing merchantmen with naval guns and gunners. There was a freight congestion in Atlantic ports, due to the reluctance of American shipowners to sail their vessels without defensive armament. The President's decision was a step nearer war, for armed American vessels, on encountering German submarines, would be bound to cause hostilities, and war would be a reality. Berlin took this view. If the United States armed its merchant ships, German opinion was that the considerate submarines would be unable to save passengers and crews of the vessels they sank. Were the vessels unarmed the submarines could perform this kindly service. This sardonic hint was construed as an official warning from Germany that the arming of American vessels meant war. The Administration, however, was no longer concerned with Germany's viewpoint. It realized that so long as it permitted American ships to be held in port in fear of attack by submarines if they ventured out, its inaction would in effect be (p. 297) viewed as acquiescing in the German policy. Such a state of affairs, it was decided, could not be allowed to continue indefinitely.[Back to Contents]



Before the armed neutrality stage of the prewar period was reached certain events transpired in Berlin which call for inclusion in the record.

Immediately upon the rupture of diplomatic relations the State Department notified Ambassador Gerard, who was requested to ask for his passports. About the same time the German Government acceded to a demand made by Secretary Lansing for the release of a number of Americans captured from ships sunk by a German raider in the South Atlantic and taken to a German port on board one of them, the British steamer Yarrowdale. Germany had no right to hold these men as prisoners at all, since they were neutrals. Yet there was an attempt to interject their release into the international crisis as an olive branch and a concession to American feeling. The two issues were distinct; but Germany, by her subsequent action, managed to link them together.

Ambassador Gerard requested his passports on February 5, 1917, while the release of the Yarrowdale prisoners was pending. Meantime dispatches which came to Berlin from Washington via London were blamed for misleading the German Government into thinking that the United States was detaining Count von Bernstorff, and had seized the German ships, with their crews, lying in American ports. Until it received assurances regarding the "fate" of the ex-ambassador and learned what treatment was to be meted out to the "captured" crews of the German vessels, the kaiser's government detained Ambassador Gerard, his staff, a number of Americans, including newspaper correspondents, as well as the Yarrowdale men. It (p. 298) practically held all Americans in Germany as prisoners for a week.

In view of the readiness of the German Government to seize upon the flimsiest excuses for its manifold disgraceful deeds, permissible doubts arose as to whether it was willingly or willfully misled by the dispatches. Every courtesy was shown to the departing German Ambassador by the Washington Government; safe conduct across the ocean was obtained for him from Great Britain; and he publicly expressed his acknowledgments. As to the German vessels, there were no seizures, and the only restraints imposed on the crews were those required by the immigration laws. Whatever the motive, the detention of Ambassador Gerard was so wanton a violation of law and usage as to constitute in itself an act of war.

While Ambassador Gerard was held incommunicado in Berlin, his mail intercepted, his telephone cut off, and telegraphic facilities denied him, the German Government actually sought to parley with him by way of revising an old treaty to apply to existing conditions. Mr. Gerard, having ceased to hold ambassadorial powers after the breaking of relations, could not enter into any such negotiations; but then the German Government had never been concerned with legalities. It blandly asked him to sign a protocol, the main purpose of which was to protect Germans and their interests in the United States in the event of war.

The proposed protocol, besides containing a formal reratification of the American-Prussian treaties of 1799 and 1828 regarding mutual treatment of nationals caught in either belligerent country in case of war, provided for some remarkable additions as a "special arrangement" should war be declared.

Germans in the United States and Americans in Germany were to be entitled to conduct their businesses and continue their domicile unmolested, but could be excluded from fortified places and other military areas. Or if they chose, they were free to leave, with their personal property, except such as was contraband. If they remained they were to enjoy the exercise (p. 299) of their private rights in common with neutral residents. They were not to be transferred to concentration camps nor their property sequestered except under conditions applying to neutral property. Patent rights of the respective nationals in either country were not to be declared void nor be transferred to others. No contracts between Germans and Americans were to be canceled or suspended, nor were citizens of either country to be impeded in fulfilling their obligations arising thereunder. Finally Germany required that enemy merchant ships in either country should not be forced to leave port unless allowed a binding safe conduct by all the enemy sea powers.

In short, Germany asked that in the event of war her nationals and her ships and commercial interests in the United States be regarded as on a neutral footing and exempt from all military law. They were to be as free and unrestricted as in peace time.

Mr. Gerard refused to sign the protocol after he had ceased to exercise ambassadorial functions. Thereupon Count Montgelas, chief of the American department of the Foreign Office, hinted that his refusal to sign it might affect the status of Americans in Germany and their privilege of departure. The reference was to American press correspondents in Berlin, whose fate was apparently thought to weigh with American public opinion. This threat to detain newspaper representatives as supposedly important pieces on the diplomatic chessboard before war was declared brought a firm refusal from Mr. Gerard to yield to such pressure. He also expressed doubt whether the newspaper representatives could be utilized to urge acceptance of the protocol under pain of detention. Thenceforth nothing further was heard of the protocol. Germany was undoubtedly exercising duress in requiring Mr. Gerard to sign it, since his passports were withheld and a needless guard had been placed round the American Embassy.

It appeared that the protocol had also been submitted to the State Department by the Swiss Minister in Washington. Secretary Lansing finally disposed of it. In a communication to Dr. Ritter he said the United States Government refused to modernize and extend the treaties as Germany proposed, and indicated (p. 300) that the Government held the treaties null and void since Germany herself had grossly violated her obligations under them. The treaty of 1828, for example, contained this clause governing freedom of maritime commerce of either of the contracting parties when the other was at war:

"The free intercourse and commerce of the subjects or citizens of the party remaining neuter with the belligerent powers shall not be interrupted.

"On the contrary, in that case, as in full peace, the vessels of the neutral party may navigate freely to and from the ports and on the coasts of the belligerent parties, free vessels making free goods, insomuch that all things shall be adjudged free which shall be on board any vessel belonging to the neutral party, although such things belong to an enemy of the other.

"And the same freedom shall be extended to persons who shall be on board a free vessel, although they should be enemies to the other party, unless they be soldiers in actual service of such an enemy."

Secretary Lansing pointed out another clause of equal import in the treaty of 1799, providing:

"All persons belonging to any vessels of war, public or private, who shall molest or insult in any manner whatever the people, vessel, or effects of the other party, shall be responsible in their persons and property for damages and interests, sufficient security for which shall be given by all commanders of private armed vessels before they are commissioned."

Germany was reminded of her violations of these stipulations in strong terms. Said Secretary Lansing:

"Disregarding these obligations, the German Government has proclaimed certain zones of the high seas in which it declared without reservation that all ships, including those of neutrals, will be sunk, and in those zones German submarines have in fact, in accordance with this declaration, ruthlessly sunk merchant vessels and jeopardized or destroyed the lives of American citizens on board.

"Moreover, since the severance of relations between the United States and Germany certain American citizens in Germany (p. 301) have been prevented from removing from the country. While this is not a violation of the terms of the treaties mentioned, it is a disregard of the reciprocal liberty of intercourse between the two countries in times of peace and cannot be taken otherwise than as an indication of the purpose on the part of the German Government to disregard, in the event of war, the similar liberty of action provided for in Article 23 of the treaty of 1799—the very article which it is now proposed to interpret and supplement almost wholly in the interests of the large number of German subjects residing in the United States and enjoying in their persons or property the protection of the United States Government."

In addition to declining to enter into the special protocol Germany proposed, Secretary Lansing significantly added:

"The Government is seriously considering whether or not the treaty of 1828 and the revised articles of the treaties of 1785 and 1799 have not been in effect abrogated by the German Government's flagrant violations of their provisions, for it would be manifestly unjust and inequitable to require one party to an agreement to observe its stipulations and to permit the other party to disregard them.

"It would appear that the mutuality of the undertaking has been destroyed by the conduct of the German authorities."

The meaning of this passage was that as Germany was deemed to have abrogated the treaties by sinking American ships, the German vessels immured in American harbors would be under no treaty protection should war be declared, and would be immediately seized by the American Government. Germany had thus destroyed the protection they would have received in case of war.

The intimidation exercised on Ambassador Gerard to obtain his signature to the protocol and its submission by Dr. Ritter to Secretary Lansing showed that Germany was nervously concerned about safeguarding her interests in the United States and feared for the safety of her nationals in the pending crisis. Ample assurances presently came to Berlin, however, that, during the diplomatic break at any rate, the American Government would not resort to Teutonic methods. Count von Bernstorff (p. 302) was safe; no ships had been seized; no crews arrested; no other German persons or interests molested. Thereupon Ambassador Gerard and an entourage of some 120 Americans received their passports and left the German capital on February 10, 1917, for the United States via Switzerland and Spain.

Germany was less ready to release the Americans known as the Yarrowdale prisoners. Her Government still appeared to fear that the crews of German warships in American ports were in danger, and evidently wanted hostages at hand lest any trouble befell them at the hands of the American military authorities. Secretary Lansing demanded their release on February 3, 1917, when relations were broken. Germany assented, then withdrew her assent. A second request for their freedom and for an explanation of their continued detention was made on February 13, 1917. At this date the men had been held as prisoners of war for forty-four days contrary to international law. After being captured from Allied vessels sunk by the German raider, they were taken before a prize court at Swinemunde, when their status was determined. Neutral merchant seamen, according to Germany, must be held as prisoners of war because they had served and taken pay on armed enemy vessels. Germany disclosed for the first time that she was treating armed merchantmen as ships of war and regarded neutral seamen found on such vessels as combatants. The German raider had captured altogether 103 subjects of neutral states. They were not imprisoned because they had committed hostile acts, which would have justified their detention. They were penalized for being on enemy vessels. The American Government insisted that Germany had no right to hold any Americans as war prisoners unless they committed hostile acts. Germany had no answer to make to that contention. But she did not free them. "They will be released just as soon as we learn of the fate of the German crews in American ports," said Herr Zimmermann, Foreign Secretary.

Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated President of the United States, March 4, 1913; was reelected and began his second term March 4, 1917. He signed the Declaration of War, April 6, 1917.

Germany had already been assured that the crews were in no danger. The conviction grew that she meant to detain the Yarrowdale seamen as hostages pending a determination of the (p. 303) crisis as to peace or war. The Administration had been inclined to subordinate all collateral issues between the two countries to the major and vital one created by the submarine peril; but the plight of these seamen caused their case to become one of the chief factors in the crisis. Germany seemed to conclude that their continued detention, in view of the indignation roused in Washington by such a wanton violation of international law, to say nothing of the open insult hurled at the dignity and good faith of the United States, would only precipitate war. On February 16, 1917, came a report that the men had been released. This proved to be a false alarm. On February 26, 1917, Berlin notified that their release, although ordered "some time ago," had been deferred because an infectious disease had been discovered in their concentration camp at Brandenburg. They were consequently placed in quarantine "in the interest of neutral countries." On March 2, 1917, Dr. Ritter informed Secretary Lansing that the transfer of the American sailors to the frontier had been arranged but delayed until the quarantine ended. On March 8, 1917, they were finally released from quarantine and sent to the Swiss frontier. Members of other neutral crews were sent home through various frontier towns. All were said to have been penniless and in rags. Apart from the necessary quarantine (a Spanish doctor found typhus in the camp), the record stands as an example of Germany's gift for unscrupulous temporizing and for using procrastination as a club to hold the United States at bay when on the brink of war.

The Reichstag met shortly after Germany had compulsorily disposed of her connections with the United States. An expected address by the kaiser's Chancellor, Dr. von Bethmann-Hollweg, had been deferred until February 27, 1917, when a tardy official recognition was made of the American action.

The most deliberate official notice of the course the United States would take was served on the German Government in the President's ultimatum arising out of the torpedoing of the Sussex early in 1916. If Germany continued her ruthless sea warfare, the President warned her, "the Government of the (p. 304) United States can have no choice but to sever diplomatic relations with the German Empire altogether." Now the time had come for the President to go even beyond that step. The day before the Reichstag listened to the Chancellor's complaint the voice of the American President was again heard in the Capitol at Washington.[Back to Contents]



President Wilson addressed Congress in joint session, February 26, 1917, asking authority to use the armed forces of the United States to protect American rights on the high seas. He desired to establish a state of "armed neutrality." This was not a request for a declaration of war, nor was it an act of war. It was to prepare the United States to resist what might be warlike acts by Germany.

Reviewing the maritime conditions caused by Germany's submarine order of January 31, 1917, which produced the diplomatic rupture, the President disclosed an unexpected view—that Germany's misdeeds in carrying out her new decree had not, in his opinion, so far provided the "overt act" for which the United States was waiting.

"Our own commerce has suffered, is suffering," he said, "rather in apprehension than in fact, rather because so many of our ships are timidly keeping to their home ports, than because American ships have been sunk....

"In sum, therefore, the situation we find ourselves in with regard to the actual conduct of the German submarine warfare against commerce and its effects upon our own ships and people is substantially the same that it was when I addressed you on February 3, except for the tying up of our shipping in our own ports because of the unwillingness of our shipowners to risk their vessels at sea without insurance or adequate protection, and the very serious congestion of our commerce, which has (p. 305) eventuated, a congestion which is growing rapidly more and more serious every day.

"This in itself might presently accomplish, in effect, what the new German submarine orders were meant to accomplish, so far as we are concerned. We can only say, therefore, that the overt act which I have ventured to hope the German commanders would in fact avoid has not occurred."

But he felt that American immunity thus far had been more a matter of happy accident than due to any consideration of German submarine commanders. Nevertheless, he pointed out, it would be foolish to deny that the situation was fraught with the gravest possibilities and dangers. Hence he sought from the Congress "full and immediate assurance of the authority which I may need at any moment to exercise."

"No doubt," he proceeded, "I already possess that authority without special warrant of law, by the plain implication of my constitutional duties and powers, but I prefer in the present circumstances not to act upon general implication. I wish to feel that the authority and the power of the Congress are behind me in whatever it may become necessary for me to do. We are jointly the servants of the people and must act together and in their spirit, so far as we can divine and interpret it....

"I am not now proposing or contemplating war or any steps that need lead to it. I merely request that you will accord me by your own vote and definite bestowal the means and the authority to safeguard in practice the right of a great people who are at peace and who are desirous of exercising none but the rights of peace to follow the pursuit of peace in quietness and good will—rights recognized time out of mind by all the civilized nations of the world.

"I believe that the people will be willing to trust me to act with restraint, with prudence, and in the true spirit of amity and good faith that they have themselves displayed throughout these trying months, and it is in that belief that I request that you will authorize me to supply our merchant ships with defensive arms should that become necessary, and with the means of using them, and to employ any other instrumentalities or (p. 306) methods that may be necessary and adequate to protect our ships and our people in their legitimate and peaceful pursuits on the seas."

Even before the President addressed Congress the "overt act" had been committed by Germany. News of the sinking of the Laconia, already mentioned, was published synchronously with the delivery of his message and subjected to correction his allusion to the noncommittal of any overt act by German submarines. The President, in fact, decided later that the destruction of the Cunarder without warning and at night, in rough seas, with the loss of American lives, constituted a "clear-cut" violation of the pledge the German Government gave to the United States after the Lusitania and Sussex sinkings. But it was felt that the next step in meeting the situation now rested with Congress.

The Senate and House immediately set about framing bills conforming, as far as the President's opponents permitted, to his request. There was no time to be lost. Congress expired on March 4, 1917, by constitutional limitation and the President had delayed submitting his message until the last moment, so that Congress had only eight days to debate and agree to a measure that excited the pacifists' bitter animosity in both Houses, as well as the opposition of other legislators who feared that the authority the President sought would encroach on Congress's war-making prerogative.

In the House of Representatives the opposition dwindled to negligible proportions. Public sentiment had been stirred by the sinking of the Laconia and by certain revelations the Administration published disclosing German overtures to Mexico in the event of war, the character of which will be chronicled later. Sensitive to the public pulse, the House was eager to receive the Armed-Ship Bill when it was reported on February 28, 1917, by the Foreign Affairs Committee, which had occupied a couple of days in shaping it. A stirring debate on the bill took place the next day (March 1) under cloture rule, and before the House adjourned that night it had passed the measure by a substantial vote of 403 to 13. The bill was at once sent to (p. 307) the Senate, and was substituted for the Senate Committee's bill, whose provisions conferred larger powers on the President. Expecting the Senate to pass its own bill as a substitute, it was the intention of the House leaders to accept the Senate's measure when it came to them for passage. The measure, however, never passed the Senate. Through the wide latitude allowed for unlimited debate a handful of Senators opposed to any action against Germany succeeded in effectually blocking the bill. The Senate sat late into the night of February 28, 1917, and took up the Armed-Ship Bill the next day. Senator La Follette, who led the successful filibuster against the bill, objected to its consideration, and, under the rule of unanimous consent, would only allow the bill to proceed on condition that no attempt was made to pass it before the next day. A precious day was lost, which sealed the fate of the measure. The bill came before the Senate for continuous debate on March 2, 1917, when it got into a parliamentary tangle. Debate was resumed on Saturday, March 3, 1917. Only a day and a half of the session now remained. Senator Stone who, though in charge of the bill, was opposed to it, found his position untenable and surrendered its conduct to Senator Hitchcock. This course enabled him to join the opponents of the bill openly by contending for an amendment excluding munition ships from armed protection—a revival of the arms embargo he had urged before. But the main obstruction to the bill came from a group of Western senators, who balked every effort for limiting debate or setting a time for a vote. As midnight neared the Administration's supporters saw that its chances of passing before Congress expired at noon the next day, Sunday, March 4, 1917, were of the slightest, and, anxious that the country should know where they stood, these senators, to the number of seventy-five, signed a manifesto reading as follows:

"The undersigned, United States senators, favor the passage of Senate bill 8322, to authorize the President of the United States to arm American merchant vessels.

"A similar bill already has passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 403 to 13.

(p. 308) "Under the rules of the Senate, allowing unlimited debate, it now appears to be impossible to obtain a vote prior to noon March 4, 1917, when the session of Congress expires.

"We desire the statement entered in the record to establish the fact that the Senate favors the legislation and would pass it if a vote could be obtained."

The Senate continued sitting until the stroke of twelve noon on March 4, 1917. The President was in the Capitol receiving reports of the course of his opponents' tactics. A vote not having been reached, the Armed-Ship Bill went down to defeat, having been talked to death, and the Senate automatically adjourned with the expiration of the last session of the Sixty-fourth Congress. The bill was assured of passage, had a vote been permitted, by 75 to 12. The twelve obstructionists were Senators La Follette of Wisconsin, Norris of Nebraska, Cummins of Iowa, Stone of Missouri, Gronna of North Dakota, Kirby of Arkansas, Vardaman of Mississippi, O'Gorman of New York, Works of California, Jones of Washington, Clapp of Minnesota, Lane of Oregon—seven Republicans and five Democrats.

The situation produced an indignant protest from the President, who, in a public statement, described the termination of the session by constitutional limitation as disclosing "a situation unparalleled in the history of the country, perhaps unparalleled in the history of any modern government. In the immediate presence of a crisis fraught with more subtle and far-reaching possibilities of national danger than any other the Government has known within the whole history of its international relations, the Congress has been unable to act either to safeguard the country or to vindicate the elementary rights of its citizens."

"The Senate," he proceeded, "has no rules by which debate can be limited or brought to an end, no rules by which dilatory tactics of any kind can be prevented. A single member can stand in the way of action, if he have but the physical endurance. The result in this case is a complete paralysis alike of the legislative and of the executive branches of the Government.

(p. 309) "Although, as a matter of fact, the nation and the representatives of the nation stand back of the Executive with unprecedented unanimity and spirit, the impression made abroad will, of course, be that it is not so and that other governments may act as they please without fear that this Government can do anything at all. We cannot explain. The explanation is incredible. The Senate of the United States is the only legislative body in the world which cannot act when its majority is ready for action. A little group of willful men, representing no opinion but their own, have rendered the great Government of the United States helpless and contemptible.

"The remedy? There is but one remedy. The only remedy is that the rules of the Senate shall be so altered that it can act. The country can be relied upon to draw the moral. I believe that the Senate can be relied on to supply the means of action and save the country from disaster."

The new Senate of the Sixty-fifth Congress met in extraordinary session at noon on March 6, 1917, when both parties took steps to frame a revision of the rules for preventing filibustering. Both caucuses agreed upon a cloture rule empowering the Senate to bring the debate on any measure to an end by a two-thirds vote, limiting speeches to one hour each, but sixteen senators must first make the request in the form of a signed motion presented two days previously. After several hours' discussion this rule passed the Senate on March 8, 1917. Thus the right to unlimited debate, which had been regarded as the most characteristic prerogative of senators, was at last restrained after enjoying a freedom of nearly one hundred and ten years.

The recalcitrant senators who prevented the passage of the Armed-Ship Bill were the subject of bitter criticism from the press and public throughout the country, which echoed, but in much stronger terms, the President's denunciation of them. There was none to do them reverence in the United States. The only meed of praise they received came from Germany. The essence of editorial opinion in that country regarding their action, according to a Berlin message, was that "so long as there (p. 310) are men in the American Congress who boldly refuse to have their country involved in the European slaughter merely for the sake of gratifying Wilson's vainglorious ambition, there is hope that the common sense of the American people will assert itself and that they will not permit the appalling insanity to spread to the new world that holds the old world in a merciless grip."

The German press, like the senators whom it eulogized, was mistaken in supposing that the President had been thwarted by the failure of the Armed-Ship Bill. Certainly he remained in doubt as to his next course. He had told Congress that he believed he had the power to arm merchant ships without its authority, but did not care to act on general implication. Now he was faced with the duty of ascertaining definitely where his freedom of action lay, since Congress had impeded, instead of facilitating, his conduct of the crisis with Germany. An old act, passed in 1819, governing piracy at sea, had been unearthed, and at first sight its terms were read as preventing the President from arming merchant ships. The law advisers of the Government, Secretary Lansing and Attorney General Gregory, examined this act and decided that it was obsolete. They were of opinion that it did not apply to the existing situation. The statute forbade American merchantmen from defending themselves against the commissioned vessels of a nation with which the United States was at "amity"; but they could resist by force any attacks made on them by any other armed vessels. In short, it legalized resistance to pirates. The word "amity" pre-supposed friendly diplomatic relations as well as a normal condition of traffic and commerce on the high seas in its application to the armed vessels of other nations. The provision forbidding conflict with them by American traders was intended primarily to prevent private citizens from embarrassing the Government's foreign relations. Now it was held that Germany's denial to Americans of the rights of the high seas was inconsistent with true amity, and caused her war vessels to lose, so far as the United States was concerned, their right to immunity from attack, both under international law and under this municipal (p. 311) act, which was viewed as superseded and void in its application to German war craft.

This decision disposed of an obstacle which had placed the President in a dilemma. It was true he could go to Congress again; but immediate action was imperative. Armed neutrality, under the President's powers as commander in chief of the army and navy, was thereupon determined. Every merchant ship which so desired would be provided with guns and naval gunners to operate them. Foreign governments were notified of this action in an executive memorandum which read:

"In view of the announcement of the Imperial German Government on January 81, 1917, that all ships, those of neutrals included, met within certain zones of the high seas, would be sunk without any precaution taken for the safety of the persons on board, and without the exercise of visit and search, the Government of the United States has determined to place upon all American merchant vessels sailing through the barred areas an armed guard for the protection of the vessels and the lives of the persons on board."

The President meantime was also confronted with the necessity of calling the new Congress into extra session, not so much to gain its assent to armed neutrality (since he had determined to act without it), but as a war expedient to support the measures projected against Germany. Owing to the Senate filibuster the previous Congress had been unable to pass appropriations exceeding $500,000,000, more than half of which was needed for the army. The new Congress was accordingly convened, to meet on April 16, 1917.[Back to Contents]



While Congress was in the midst of its consideration of the Armed-Ship Bill, the Administration amazed the country by revealing through the press that Germany had made overtures to Mexico for an alliance with that country in the event of war with the United States, and also sought to involve Japan.

This disclosure was due to American secret service agents, who had intercepted a communication addressed by Herr Zimmermann, the German Foreign Secretary, to Herr von Eckhardt, the German Minister at Mexico City, reading as follows:

"Berlin, January 19, 1917.

"On the 1st of February we intend to begin submarine warfare unrestricted. In spite of this, it is our intention to endeavor to keep neutral the United States of America.

"If this attempt is not successful, we propose an alliance on the following basis with Mexico: That we shall make war together and together make peace. We shall give general financial support, and it is understood that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona. The details are left to you for settlement.

"You are instructed to inform the President of Mexico of the above in the greatest confidence as soon as it is certain that there will be an outbreak of war with the United States, and suggest that the President of Mexico, on his own initiative, should communicate with Japan suggesting adherence at once to this plan. At the same time, offer to mediate between Germany and Japan.

"Please call to the attention of the President of Mexico that the employment of ruthless submarine warfare now promises to compel England to make peace in a few months.


(p. 313) The Administration was in possession of this document, and achieved a dramatic coup in exposing its contents just as important war legislation was pending in Congress. The immediate effect of the revelation was that the Armed-Ship Bill passed the House of Representatives by the overwhelming majority recorded in the previous chapter. The Senate was no less astonished; but its attitude was one of incredulity and produced a demand to the State Department vouching for the document's authenticity and demanding other information. Secretary Lansing assured it that the letter was bona fide, but declined to say more.

The letter was transmitted to Von Eckhardt through Count von Bernstorff, then German Ambassador at Washington, and now homeward bound to Germany under a safe conduct obtained from his enemies by the country against which he was plotting war. It came into the President's hands a few days before it was published on March 1, 1917, and provided a telling comment on Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg's declaration that the United States had placed an interpretation on the new submarine decree "never intended by Germany" and that Germany had promoted and honored friendly relations with the United States "as an heirloom from Frederick the Great." Its disclosure was viewed as a sufficing answer to the German Chancellor's plaint that the United States had "brusquely" broken off relations without giving "authentic" reasons for its action.

The bearings of the proposal to Mexico were admirably stated by the Associated Press as follows:

"The document supplies the missing link to many separate chains of circumstances which, until now, have seemed to lead to no definite point. It sheds new light upon the frequently reported but indefinable movements of the Mexican Government to couple its situation with the friction between the United States and Japan.

"It adds another chapter to the celebrated report of Jules Cambon, French Ambassador in Berlin before the war, for Germany's world-wide plans for stirring up strife on every continent (p. 314) where they might aid her in the struggle for world domination which she dreamed was close at hand.

"It adds a climax to the operations of Count von Bernstorff and the German Embassy in this country, which have been colored with passport frauds, charges of dynamite plots, and intrigue, the full extent of which never has been published.

"It gives new credence to persistent reports of submarine bases on Mexican territory in the Gulf of Mexico. It takes cognizance of a fact long recognized by American army chiefs, that if Japan ever undertook to invade the United States it probably would be through Mexico, over the border and into the Mississippi Valley to split the country in two.

"It recalls that Count von Bernstorff, when his passports were handed to him, was very reluctant to return to Germany, but expressed a preference for an asylum in Cuba. It gives a new explanation to the repeated arrests on the border of men charged by American military authorities with being German intelligence agents.

"Last of all, it seems to show a connection with General Carranza's recent proposal to neutrals that exports of food and munitions to the Entente Allies be cut off, and an intimation that he might stop the supply of oil, so vital to the British navy, which is exported from the Tampico fields."

A series of repudiations followed. The Mexican Government, through various officials except President-elect Carranza himself, denied all knowledge of Germany's proposal. The German Minister at Mexico City protested that he had never received any instructions from Secretary Zimmermann, which appeared to be the case, since they were intercepted. From Tokyo came the assurance of Viscount Motono, Japanese Foreign Minister, that Japan had received no proposal from either Germany or Mexico for an alliance against the United States. He scouted the idea as ridiculous, since it was based on the "outrageous presumption that Japan would abandon her allies." Secretary Lansing did not believe Japan had any knowledge of Germany's overtures to Mexico, nor that she would consider approaches made by any enemy, and was likewise confident that (p. 315) Mexico would not be a party to any agreement which affected her relations with the United States.

The Berlin Government impenitently admitted the transmission of the Eckhardt letter and justified the alliance with Mexico it proposed. The Budget Committee of the Reichstag, unequivocally and by a unanimous vote, indorsed the initiation of the ill-starred project as being within the legitimate scope of military precautions. Addressing the Reichstag, Herr Zimmermann thus defended his action:

"We were looking out for all of us, in the event of there being the prospect of war with America. It was a natural and justified precaution. I am not sorry that, through its publication in America, it also became known in Japan.

"For the dispatch of these instructions a secure way was chosen which at present is at Germany's disposal. How the Americans came into possession of the text which went to America in special secret code we do not know. That these instructions should have fallen into American hands is a misfortune, but that does not alter the fact that the step was necessary for our patriotic interests.

"Least of all are they in America justified in being excited about our action. It would be erroneous to suppose that the step made a particularly deep impression abroad. It is regarded as what it is—justifiable defensive action in the event of war."

The Mexican Government, despite its denials, remained under the suspicion that it had secret dealings with Germany. Toward the close of 1916 circumstantial rumors were afloat that German sea raiders, who were then roaming the South Atlantic, had a base somewhere on the coast of Mexico. The Allied Powers were persuaded that if this was true the raiders could not obtain supplies from such a source without the knowledge or connivance of the Mexican authorities. The British chargé at Mexico City thereupon presented a note to the Carranza Government stating that if it was discovered that Mexican neutrality had thus been violated, the Allies would take "drastic measures" to end the situation. The retort of the Mexican Foreign (p. 316) Minister, Señor Aquilar, almost insolent in tone, was to the effect that it was the business of the Allies to keep German submarines out of western waters, and that if they were not kept out Mexico would adopt whatever course the circumstances might dictate.

An allusion has previously been made to a peace proposal submitted by General Carranza. Its character was such as to point to the presence of German influences in Mexico, and the impression was created that it was made solely to embarrass the United States. Shortly after the American severance of relations with Germany, General Carranza circulated an identical note to the neutral powers, including the United States, asking them to join Mexico in an international agreement to prohibit the exportation of munitions and foodstuffs to the belligerents in Europe. Such an embargo, General Carranza piously pointed out in florid terms, would compel peace. The inference was plain. Only the Central Powers would benefit by such a step. If the note was not directly inspired by German intrigue it certainly suggested to the other neutrals a practical union against the Entente Allies. The proposal was contrary to international law and to the principles of neutrality as laid down by the United States to the German and Austro-Hungarian Governments.

The suspected complicity of Mexico as a tool of Germany, however, faded before the inconceivable folly of the latter in gravely proposing that Mexico should attempt to regain the "lost territories" of New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. The American press was almost united in declaring that Germany had committed an act of war against the United States. Certainly her exposed machinations brought hostilities perceptibly nearer.[Back to Contents]

(p. 317) CHAPTER LXV


Armed neutrality proved to be a passing phase in a rapidly developing situation. When the President on March 9, 1917, called on the new Congress to assemble on April 16, his course was solely dictated by existing conditions, which required legislative support, by the passage of adequate appropriations, for carrying out the defensive measures decided upon. But armed neutrality never became a reality. As a certain foretoken of war it could not be sustained. Not a naval gun had found its way on to the bow or stern of a merchant ship before the depredations of Germany forced the United States to reconsider its predetermined course of defensive armament.

"We make absolutely no distinction in sinking neutral ships within the war zone," Herr Zimmermann had warned. "Our determination is unshakable since that is the only way to end the war."

This was an intimation that American vessels, like those of other neutrals, must comply with the U-boat rulings or take the consequences. Hence more American vessels were sunk, Germany pursuing her evil way regardless of the American attitude.

On March 12, 1917, the unarmed steamer Algonquin, with a crew of twenty-seven, of whom ten were Americans, was shelled and sunk without warning by a German submarine. The crew succeeded in escaping.

A few days later the sinking of three unarmed American vessels, the City of Memphis, Illinois, and Vigilancia, was announced. The first and second named ships were returning to the United States in ballast; hence their destruction could not be justified on the ground that they were carrying freight for the Allies. The City of Memphis was first shelled and then torpedoed off the Irish coast on March 17, 1917. Her crew of fifty-seven escaped in five boats and were picked up by a steamer. The Illinois was torpedoed the next day. The (p. 318) Vigilancia was similarly sunk on March 16, 1917, by a submarine which did not appear on the surface. Fifteen of the crew, including five Americans, were lost.

These sinkings occasioned gratification in Germany. Count Reventlow, a notable German publicist, thus welcomed them in the "Deutsche Tageszeitung":

"It is good that American ships have been obliged to learn that the German prohibition is effective, and that there is no question of distinctive treatment for the United States. In view of such losses, there is only one policy for the United States, as for the small European maritime powers, namely, to retain their ships in their own ports as long as the war lasts."

Another German press comment was that the sinkings were certain to produce special satisfaction throughout the empire.

German contempt for American feeling could no further go. A cabinet meeting held on March 20, 1917, disclosed that the President's colleagues, even reputed pacifists like Secretaries Daniels and Baker, were a unit in regarding a state of armed neutrality as inadequate to meet the serious situation. The President was confronted with the necessity of immediately taking more drastic action rather than continuing to pursue measures of passive defense against the submarine peril represented by arming ships. The cabinet's demand was for an earlier convocation of Congress and a declaration that a state of war existed between the United States and Germany. The President listened, and that evening attended a theater supposedly to divert and prepare his mind for coping with the gravest of problems. Events proved that he had already determined his course.

Armed neutrality was a delusive phrase and misrepresented actual conditions; it merely glozed over a state of undeclared hostility and deceived no one. Yet it had its adherents; they wanted to give it a fair trial before discarding the pretense that it existed. The Government, they said, should wait and see how armed ships fared at the hands of German submarines. If they proved equal to encounters with U-boats, or, better still, if the U-boats did not dare to attack them, there would be no occasion (p. 319) for further action. The proposal would not bear scrutiny since it was now known that Germany regarded armed merchantmen as ships of war and their crews as combatants.

The next day, March 21, 1917, the President issued a proclamation calling upon Congress to assemble on April 2, instead of April 16, "to receive a communication concerning grave matters of national policy." The national emergency which had been in existence since Germany began sinking American ships in pursuance of her unrestricted submarine policy was now acknowledged. It would be the function of Congress, if the President so advised, to declare that a state of war existed between the Government of the United States and that of the German Empire. And a waiting and willing nation was left in no doubt that war there would be. The cabinet had become a war cabinet and the country warlike, goaded to retaliatory action by the wanton deeds of the most cruel government of this or any other age.

As the spokesman of an imperialistic régime preserving its accustomed rôle of a wolf in sheep's clothing, the German Chancellor addressed the Reichstag on March 29, 1917, and took cognizance of the critical situation in the United States in these terms:

"Within the next few days the directors of the American nation will be convened by President Wilson for an extraordinary session of Congress in order to decide the question of war or peace between the American and German nations.

"Germany never had the slightest intention of attacking the United States of America, and does not have such intention now. It never desired war against the United States of America, and does not desire it to-day. How did these things develop?

"Why, England declined to raise her blockade, which had been called illegal and indefensible even by President Wilson and Secretary Lansing," said the Chancellor. "Worse than that, she had intensified it. Worse than all, she had rejected Germany's 'peace' offers and proclaimed her war objects, which aimed at the annihilation of the Teutonic Powers. Hence unrestricted sea warfare followed.

(p. 320) "If the American nation considers this," concluded the Chancellor, "a cause for which to declare war against the German nation, with which it has lived in peace for more than one hundred years, if this action warrants an increase of bloodshed, we shall not have to bear the responsibility for it. The German nation, which feels neither hatred nor hostility against the United States of America, shall also bear and overcome this."

The march of events went on irresistibly. At 8.35 o'clock on the evening of Monday, April 2, 1917, President Wilson appeared before a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives. He had addressed the Congress in person several times during his terms of office, but never under circumstances or in a setting more dramatic. The streets leading to the Capitol were packed with vast throngs. White searchlights etched the dome and the pillars against the sky, revealing the Stars and Stripes waving in the breeze on the flagstaff above the dome. Two troops of United States cavalry in dress uniform, with sabers drawn, formed a guard round the House approaches. Hundreds of police, in uniform and in plain clothes, were scattered along the route followed by the President's automobile from the White House. Inside the House, which had been in almost continuous session all day, the members assembled to receive the President. The senators appeared carrying little American flags. The Diplomatic Corps, the whole Supreme Court—in fact, the entire personnel of the Government, legislative, judicial, and executive—gathered to hear the head of the American nation present its indictment against the Imperial Government of Germany.

The President was visibly nervous. He was pale. His voice was neither strong nor clear. He appeared to be deeply affected by the epochal and awesome character of his task. His distinguished audience listened in profound silence as he stated America's case without bluster and without rancor. The burden of his address was a request that the House and Senate recognize that Germany had been making war on the United States and that they agree to his recommendations, which included a declaration that a state of war existed, that universal military (p. 321) service be instituted, that a preliminary army of 500,000 be raised, and that the United States at once cooperate with the Allied Powers as a belligerent in every way that would operate to effect the defeat of Germany as a disturber of the world's peace.

In adopting ruthless submarine warfare, the President told Congress, Germany had swept every restriction aside:

"Vessels of every kind, whatever their flag, their character, their cargo, their destination, their errand, have been ruthlessly sent to the bottom without warning and without thought of help or mercy for those on board, the vessels of friendly neutrals along with those of belligerents. Even hospital ships and ships carrying relief to the sorely bereaved and stricken people of Belgium, though the latter were provided with safe conduct through the proscribed areas by the German Government itself and were distinguished by unmistakable marks of identity, have been sunk with the same reckless lack of compassion or of principle.

"It is a war against all nations. American ships have been sunk, American lives taken, in ways which it has stirred us very deeply to learn of, but the ships and people of other neutral and friendly nations have been sunk and overwhelmed in the waters in the same way. There has been no discrimination.

"The challenge is to all mankind. Each nation must decide for itself how it will meet it."

Here the President referred to the short-lived expedient of armed neutrality adopted to meet the challenge:

"When I addressed the Congress on the 26th of February last I thought that it would suffice to assert our neutral rights with arms, our right to use the seas against unlawful interference, our right to keep our people safe against unlawful violence. But armed neutrality, it now appears, is impracticable.

"The German Government denies the right of neutrals to use arms at all within the areas of the sea which it has proscribed, even in the defense of rights which no modern publicist has ever before questioned their right to defend. The intimation is conveyed that the armed guards which we have placed on our (p. 322) merchant ships will be treated as beyond the pale of law and subject to be dealt with as pirates would be. Armed neutrality is ineffectual enough at best; in such circumstances and in the face of such pretensions it is worse than ineffectual; it is likely only to produce what it was meant to prevent; it is practically certain to draw us into the war without either the rights or the effectiveness of belligerents. There is one choice we cannot make, we are incapable of making; we will not choose the path of submission—"

The President's audience had listened in silence up to this point. There was more of the sentence; but Congress did not wait to hear it. At the word "submission," Chief Justice White of the Supreme Court raised his hands in a resounding clap, which was the signal for a deafening roar of approval alike from congressmen, senators, and the occupants of the crowded galleries.

"We will not choose the path of submission," repeated the President, "and suffer the most sacred rights of our nation and our people to be ignored or violated. The wrongs against which we now array ourselves are no common wrongs; they cut to the very roots of human life."

Then came the presentation of the only alternate course the United States could take:

"With a profound sense of the solemn and even tragical character of the step I am taking and of the grave responsibilities which it involves, but in unhesitating obedience to what I deem my constitutional duty, I advise that the Congress declare the recent course of the Imperial German Government to be in fact nothing less than war against the Government and people of the United States, that it formally accept the status of belligerent which has thus been thrust upon it, and that it take immediate steps not only to put the country in a more thorough state of defense, but also to exert all its power and employ all its resources to bring the Government of the German Empire to terms and end the war."

Now what did this involve? The President thus answered the question:

(p. 323) "It will involve the utmost practicable cooperation in counsel and action with the governments now at war with Germany, and, as incident to that, the extension to those governments of the most liberal financial credits, in order that our resources may so far as possible be added to theirs.

"It will involve the organization and mobilization of all the material resources of the country to supply the materials of war and serve the incidental needs of the nation in the most abundant and yet the most economical and efficient way possible.

"It will involve the immediate full equipment of the navy in all respects, but particularly in supplying it with the best means of dealing with the enemy's submarines.

"It will involve the immediate addition to the armed forces of the United States, already provided for by law in case of war, of at least 500,000 men, who should, in my opinion, be chosen upon the principle of universal liability to service, and also the authorization of subsequent additional increments of equal force so soon as they may be needed and can be handled in training.

"It will involve also, of course, the granting of adequate credits to the Government, sustained, I hope, so far as they can equitably be sustained by the present generation, by well-conceived taxation."

The President asked his countrymen to undertake a herculean task. But it was a necessary task—he deemed it an imperative one, and he knew it would be borne by willing shoulders. Without any object of gain, it was to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the world as against selfish and autocratic power.

Neutrality was no longer feasible when the menace to the world's peace and freedom lay in the existence of autocratic governments backed by organized force and controlled solely by their own will, not by the will of their peoples. The United States had seen the last of neutrality in such circumstances. The age demanded that the standards of conduct and responsibility for wrong done which were respected by individual citizens (p. 324) of civilized states should also be observed among nations and their governments.

He acquitted the German people of blame. The United States had no quarrel with them. They were the pawns and tools of their autocratic rulers.

"Self-governed nations," said the President, "do not fill their neighbor states with spies or set the course of intrigue to bring about some critical posture of affairs which will give them an opportunity to strike and make conquest. Such designs can be successfully worked out only under cover and where no one has the right to ask questions."

What hope was there of a steadfast concert of peace with an autocratic government which could not be trusted to keep faith within it or observe its covenants? The President pointed out the futility of looking for any enduring concord with Germany as she was now governed:

"One of the things that have served to convince us that the Prussian autocracy was not and could never be our friend is that from the very outset of the present war it has filled our unsuspecting communities, and even our offices of government, with spies and set criminal intrigues everywhere afoot against our national unity of counsel, our peace within and without, our industries and our commerce. Indeed, it is now evident that its spies were here even before the war began; and it is unhappily not a matter of conjecture, but a fact proved in our courts of justice, that the intrigues which have more than once come perilously near to disturbing the peace and dislocating the industries of the country, have been carried on at the instigation, with the support, and even under the personal direction of official agents of the Imperial Government accredited to the Government of the United States.

"The selfish designs of a government that did what it pleased and told its people nothing," continued the President, "have played their part in serving to convince us at last that that government entertains no real friendship for us, and means to act against our peace and security at its convenience. That it means to stir up enemies against us at our very doors the intercepted (p. 325) note to the German Minister at Mexico City is eloquent evidence."

The President then delivered the most striking passage of an oration that will rank as one of the greatest ever addressed to a listening world:

"We are accepting this challenge of hostile purpose because we know that in such a Government, following such methods, we can never have a friend; and that in the presence of its organized power, always lying in wait to accomplish we know not what purpose, can be no assured security for the democratic governments of the world. We are now about to accept the gage of battle with this natural foe to liberty and shall, if necessary, spend the whole force of the nation to check and nullify its pretensions and its power. We are glad, now that we see the facts with no veil of false pretense about them, to fight thus for the ultimate peace of the world and for the liberation of its peoples, the German peoples included; for the rights of nations, great and small, and the privilege of men everywhere to choose their way of life and of obedience.

"The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them."

The following morning, April 3, 1917, the Foreign Affairs Committees of both houses met at 10 o'clock to consider war resolutions introduced the previous evening in the House and Senate immediately after the President's address. They were identical in form and were submitted to textual alterations by the committees. That adopted by the Senate committee, and accepted by the House leaders, read as follows:

"Whereas, The Imperial German Government has committed repeated acts of war against the Government and the people of the United States of America, therefore be it

(p. 326) "Resolved, By the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that the state of war between the United States and the Imperial German Government, which has thus been thrust upon the United States, is hereby formally declared and that the President be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Imperial German Government; and, to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States."

Senator Stone, chairman of the Senate committee, alone opposed its adoption. It was at once reported to the Senate, only to meet objection from Senator La Follette, who demanded the "regular order," that is, that the resolution, under the rule any member could invoke in order to postpone the consideration of important legislation, be withheld for one day. His objection came when Senator Hitchcock, who was in charge of the resolution, asked for unanimous consent to a suspension of the rules for its immediate consideration. The Senate was obliged to submit to the Wisconsin senator's obstructive tactics; but Senator Martin, the Senate Democratic leader, rather than permit any other business to be transacted, promptly obtained an adjournment till the next day. It was determined that the Senate, on reassembling, should sit without rest, recess or intermission, and without considering any other matter until the war resolution was passed. Senator La Follette and other pro-German pacifists in the chamber were barred from interposing further obstacles, especially as the new cloture rule was now operative.

The Senate assembled on April 4, 1917, in serious mien to carry out its task of passing the resolution before it could adjourn. It was a day of speechmaking and of historic utterances characterized by a moving earnestness of conviction. Orators of patriotic fervor came from senators who had before condemned any declaration of war as the greatest blunder the United States could commit. Others recounted the crimes of (p. 327) Germany against civilization, and, in face of these deeds, condemned any national unwillingness and cowardice to retaliate as showing a national degeneracy that was much worse than war.

The debate ended shortly after 11 o'clock that night, having lasted thirteen hours. The resolution was thereupon put to the vote and passed by 82 to 6. The actual alignment was 90 to 6, as eight absent senators favored the resolution. The six opponents were Senators La Follette of Wisconsin, Gronna of North Dakota, Norris of Nebraska, Stone of Missouri, Lane of Oregon, and Vardaman of Mississippi. They all belonged to the group of twelve who had prevented a vote on the Armed-Ship Bill. Three of this group, Senators O'Gorman, Clapp, and Works, had already retired into private life. The remaining three, chastened by the contumely their attitude had occasioned, deserted the pacifists and voted for the resolution.

The House had been waiting for the Senate's action and immediately proceeded to debate the resolution when it came before it on April 5, 1917, at 10 o'clock a. m. Following the Senate's example, it resolved to remain in session without any interval until a vote was taken. There was a strong band of pacifists in the House, some with pronounced pro-German sympathies, and they occupied much of the day with their outgivings. The House floor leader, Representative Kitchin of North Carolina, was one of their number. The debate extended through the night without cessation until 3.15 the next morning, April 6, 1917, when, after a wearisome discussion exceeding seventeen hours, the resolution passed amid resounding cheers by the overwhelming vote of 373 to 50.

The President signed the resolution in the afternoon of the same day, at the same time issuing a proclamation notifying the world that a state of war existed between the United States and the Imperial Government of Germany, and outlining regulations for the conduct of "alien enemies" resident within American jurisdiction.

American relations with Germany's allies—Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria—remained to be determined. In his (p. 328) war address to Congress the President made this allusion to them:

"I have said nothing of the governments allied with the Imperial Government of Germany, because they have not made war upon us or challenged us to defend our right and our honor. The Austro-Hungarian Government has, indeed, avowed its unqualified indorsement and acceptance of the reckless and lawless submarine warfare, adopted now without disguise by the Imperial German Government, and it has therefore not been possible for this Government to receive Count Tarnowski, the ambassador recently accredited to this Government by the Imperial and Royal Government of Austria-Hungary; but that Government has not actually engaged in warfare against citizens of the United States on the seas, and I take the liberty, for the present at least, of postponing a discussion of our relations with the authorities at Vienna. We enter this war only where we are clearly forced into it, because there are no other means of defending our right."

Under German dictation, however, Austria-Hungary and Turkey broke relations with the United States on April 9 and April 21, 1917, respectively. Bulgaria took no action. The American war declaration thus solely applied to Germany.[Back to Contents]



The United States entered the war as a member of the Allied belligerents in their fight for civilization against Germany at 1.18 on the afternoon of April 8, 1917, at which time President Wilson signed the resolution empowering him to declare war as passed by Congress.

The nation set about girding on its armor. A message was flashed to the great naval radio station at Arlington, Va., which repeated it to the extent of its carrying radius of 3,000 miles, (p. 329) notifying all American ships at foreign stations and the governors and military posts of American insular possessions in the Pacific and in the Antilles.

Orders were issued by the Navy Department for the mobilization of the fleet, and the Naval Reserve was called to the colors. The navy also proceeded to seize all radio stations in the country.

An emergency war fund of $100,000,000 was voted by Congress for the use of the President at his discretion.

The Allied warships which had been patrolling the Atlantic coast outside American territorial waters since the war began, to prevent the German ships in American ports from escaping, were withdrawn. There was no need of further vigilance, as one of the first acts of the Government was to seize every German and Austrian vessel which had lain safe under the protection of the Stars and Stripes. There were ninety-one German ships, several of them interned men-o'-war, aggregating 629,000 gross tonnage. The largest group were moored in New York Harbor, numbering 27, and included leviathans like the Vaterland, (54,282 gross tons), George Washington (25,570 tons), and Kaiser Wilhelm II (19,361 tons). Six were in Boston Harbor, among them the Amerika (22,622 tons), and the Kronprinzessin Cecile (19,503 tons). Others were held in the Philippines and Hawaii. Seven Austrian vessels were seized, but subject to payment, the United States not being at war with the Dual Monarchy.

All the German officers and crews were taken in charge by the immigration authorities and held in the status of intending immigrants whose eligibility for entering the country was in question until the end of the war. This decision meant internment.

The machinery of most of the German ships was found to be damaged to prevent the Government making immediate use of them as transports, for which the larger ones were admirably fitted. The damage dated from the severance of relations on February 3, 1917, and was a preconcerted movement undertaken by the various captains and officers upon instructions from Berlin to cripple the machinery when war seemed imminent. (p. 330) Captain Polack of the North German Lloyd liner Kronprinzessin Cecile, held in Boston, admitted that he had received orders to make his vessel unseaworthy from the German Embassy at Washington three days before the rupture with Germany took place.

Congress later authorized the President to take title to the German ships for the United States and to put them into service in the conduct of the war. Payment or any other method of return for their seizure was to wait until the war ended. In a short time more than half of the seized vessels had been repaired and put upon the seas under the American flag with new names. Fifteen were fitted for transports. The Stars and Stripes was duly hoisted on the great German liner Vaterland.

Simultaneous with the seizure of these vessels came wholesale arrests of Germans suspected of being spies. Federal officers swooped down on them in various parts of the country as soon as war was declared. They could not now safely be at large. Several had already been convicted of violating American neutrality by hatching German plots and were at liberty under bond pending the result of court appeals; others were under indictment for similar offenses and waiting trial; the remainder were suspects who had long been under Federal surveillance. It was a war measure taken without regard to the civil law to circumvent further machinations of German conspirators, who had now become alien enemies.

Bearing upon these precautions was a proclamation issued by the President warning citizens and aliens against the commission of treason, which was punishable by death or by a heavy fine and imprisonment. The acts defined as treasonable were: The use of force or violence against the American army and navy establishment; the acquisition, use, or disposal of property with the knowledge that it was to be utilized for the service of the nation's enemies; and the performance of any act and the publication of statements or information that would give aid and comfort to the enemy.

The Government had previously assured Germans and German reservists domiciled on American soil that they would be (p. 331) free from official molestation so long as they conducted themselves in accordance with American law. A general internment of German aliens was deemed to be both impracticable and impolitic.

Precautions taken against internal uprisings by Teutonic sympathizers proved to be sufficient without corralling the great number of German citizens established among the populace—a step which would not only be costly but inflict great hardships on many unoffending and orderly aliens. The Administration held by its previous determination not to resort to reprisals in its treatment of Germans nor to lose its head in the periodic waves of spy fever which spread throughout the country.

The President and his advisers, while taking all these preliminary measures of war, were deeply conscious of the enormous field of other activities, calling for leadership and statesmanship of a high order, which the war situation had opened out. Without being daunted by the prospect, the President took the step of appealing to the people at large for cooperation. There were so many things to be done besides fighting—things without which mere fighting would be fruitless. The President thus stated them:

"We must supply abundant food for ourselves and for our armies and our seamen, not only, but also for a large part of the nations with whom we have now made common cause, in whose support and by whose sides we shall be fighting.

"We must supply ships by the hundreds out of our shipyards to carry to the other side of the sea, submarines or no submarines, what will every day be needed there, and abundant materials out of our fields and our mines and our factories with which not only to clothe and equip our own forces on land and sea, but also to clothe and support our people, for whom the gallant fellows under arms can no longer work; to help clothe and equip the armies with which we are cooperating in Europe, and to keep the looms and manufactories there in raw material; coal to keep the fires going in ships at sea and in the furnaces of hundreds of factories across the sea; steel out of which to (p. 332) make arms and ammunition both here and there; rails for worn-out railways back of the fighting fronts; locomotives and rolling stock to take the place of those every day going to pieces; mules, horses, cattle for labor and for military service; everything with which the people of England and France and Italy and Russia have usually supplied themselves, but cannot now afford the men, the materials, or the machinery to make."

The President's specific appeal was to the agricultural and industrial workers of the country to put their shoulder to the wheel to help provision and equip the armies in Europe. On the farmers and their laborers, he said, in large measure rested the issue of the war and the fate of the nations. To the middlemen of every sort the President was bluntly candid: "The eyes of the country are especially upon you," he said. "The country expects you, as it expects all others, to forego unusual profits, to organize and expedite shipments of supplies of every kind, but especially of food," in a disinterested spirit. He asked railroad men of all ranks not to permit the nation's arteries to suffer any obstruction, inefficiency, or slackened power in carrying war supplies. To the merchant he suggested the motto: "small profits and quick service" to the shipbuilder the thought that the war depended on him. "The food and the war supplies must be carried across the seas, no matter how many ships are sent to the bottom." The miner he ranked with the farmer—the work of the world waited upon him. Finally, every one who created or cultivated a garden helped to solve the problem of feeding the nation; and every housewife who practiced economy placed herself in the ranks of those who served.

Legislative tasks which confronted Congress were overwhelming and not a little confusing. They embraced measures for authorizing huge issues of bonds to finance the Allies and provide funds for the American campaign; new taxation; food control; the provision of an enormous fleet of airships; forbidding trading with the enemy; an embargo on exports to neutral countries to prevent their shipment to Germany; an espionage bill; and chiefly, a measure of compulsory military service by selective draft to raise a preliminary army of 500,000 (p. 333) men, to be followed by a second draft of the same number, to enable 1,000,000 Americans to help the Allies defeat Germany.

The Bond Bill passed both houses of Congress without a dissentient vote within eleven days of the war declaration and five days of the bill's submission. The Administration sought authority for an issue of $5,000,000,000 bonds, to be raised by public subscription, and $2,000,000,000 bonds in Treasury certificates of indebtedness, the latter to be redeemed in a year by the aid of new war taxation then expected to be available. Both bonds and certificates bore 3-½ per cent interest. The main portion of the five-billion issue, or three billions, was apportioned as a loan to the Allies, in the disposition of which the President was to be wholly unhampered. Securities at par to that amount were to be acquired from the various foreign governments to cover the loan. Representative Kitchin, in presenting the bill to the House, described it as representing "the most momentous project ever undertaken by our Government and carried the greatest authorization of bonds ever contained in a bill submitted to any legislative body in the world." The only material amendments made limited the loans and the acquisition of foreign securities as collateral to the period of the war. The House passed the measure after two days' debate on April 14, 1917, by a vote of 889 to 0. The Senate vote, three days later, after a day's debate, was 84 to 0. The various factions in both Houses, which were hostile to the Administration's policy before war was declared, dropped all partisanship in their eagerness to support measures for prosecuting the war now that the die had been cast.

The War Revenue Bill was less easily disposed of. It bristled with contentious points bearing upon the most equitable ways and means of raising supplementary imposts to meet the first year's war outlays. As submitted to the House it was designed to raise a revenue of $1,800,000,000; but the barometer of the Treasury's needs kept rising and presently stood at $2,250,000,000 as the amount needed to be raised by the bill. The House hurriedly passed a loosely constructed measure, taxing practically every industry and individual, especially the incomes of corporations and men of wealth. It raised all tariff duties (p. 334) and abolished the free list by making the exempted articles subject to a duty of 10 per cent. The House accepted it as a war measure, full of inequalities that would never be tolerated in times of peace. It threw upon the Senate the onus of repairing the defects of the bill. It passed it largely as it stood, a hasty piece of patchwork, in order to get some kind of legislation before Congress to meet the Treasury's requirements. The measure was discussed in a cloud of confusion, and so perplexed the members that, in disposing of it, they relied upon the Senate to return it in better shape for adjustment in conference. The Senate was inclined to confine the measure's revenue scope to $1,250,000,000, leaving the balance needed by the Government to be raised by authorized bond issues. But in redrafting the bill the Senate committee, after vainly succeeding in paring the imposts below $1,670,000,000, was eventually obliged to raise them $500,000,000. The conferees' report further enhanced them to yield approximately $2,500,000,000. In this shape the bill finally passed the Senate October 2, 1917.

A simple named bill "to increase temporarily the military establishment of the United States," which was early presented to Congress after the declaration of April 6, 1917, stood out as the Administration's chief war measure. It became known as the Selective Draft Bill because of its chief provisions, which authorized the President to institute a modified form of conscription for raising a new army. It also authorized him to raise the regular army and the National Guard to their maximum strength and officer and equip them. These latter enlistments were to be voluntary, under existing laws, unless the required number was not forthcoming by that means, in which case the regular military establishment was to be replenished from recruits obtained by the selective draft. This latter method the President was empowered to use for creating two forces of 500,000 men each, one immediately, the other later, as deemed expedient. All men, citizens and intended citizens, between the ages of 21 and 30, were subject to call under the selective draft and were required to register their names for possible enrollment. The census showed that some 10,000,000 (p. 335) men between the ages named could be located by registration, from which number the Government could select the million of men required in two divisions. The House and Senate adopted the measure on April 28, 1917, by substantial majorities, the voting being respectively 397 to 24 and 81 to 8. A vain attempt was made in both Houses to raise the new army by voluntary enlistments.

There was a popular demand for sending former President Roosevelt to France as head of a volunteer force of four infantry divisions, and the Senate adopted an amendment authorizing the project. The House had rejected the proposal. When the bill reached the Conference Committee, the Senate amendment authorizing the Roosevelt expedition was deleted. But upon the bill's return the House reversed itself by refusing to accept it, and sent it back to the Conference Committee with the instruction to restore the section permitting Colonel Roosevelt to organize a volunteer force for service in Europe. The bill went to the President for signature with this provision restored; but the President declined, in his discretion, to avail himself of the authority to permit the dispatch of the Roosevelt division, and it never went.

The Food Control Bill which conferred large powers on the Government for safeguarding the food supplies of the country for war purposes proved as difficult to pass as the War Revenue Bill, but succeeded in reaching the President. Its presentation to Congress was heralded by a public statement from the President, who sought to impress upon the country the immediate need of legislation to conserve and stimulate the country's food production. He sought authority to appoint a food administrator, and named Herbert C. Hoover, who had creditably directed the feeding of the Belgians as head of the Relief Committee, for the post. The President drew a sharp line of distinction between the work of the Government as conducted by the Department of Agriculture in its ordinary supervision of food production and the emergencies produced by the war.

"All measures intended directly to extend the normal activities of the Department of Agriculture," he said, "in reference to the (p. 336) production, conservation, and the marketing of farm crops will be administered, as in normal times, through that department, and the powers asked for over distribution and consumption, over exports, imports, prices, purchase, and requisition of commodities, storing, and the like which may require regulation during the war, will be placed in the hands of a commissioner of food administration, appointed by the President and directly responsible to him.

"The objects sought to be served by the legislation asked for are: Full inquiry into the existing available stocks of foodstuffs and into the costs and practices of the various food producing and distributing trades; the prevention of all unwarranted hoarding of every kind and of the control of foodstuffs by persons who are not in any legitimate sense producers, dealers, or traders; the requisitioning when necessary for the public use of food supplies and of the equipment necessary for handling them properly; the licensing of wholesome and legitimate mixtures and milling percentages, and the prohibition of the unnecessary or wasteful use of foods.

"Authority is asked also to establish prices, but not in order to limit the profits of the farmers, but only to guarantee to them when necessary a minimum price which will insure them a profit where they are asked to attempt new crops and to secure the consumer against extortion by breaking up corners and attempts at speculation, when they occur, by fixing temporarily a reasonable price at which middlemen must sell.

"Although it is absolutely necessary that unquestionable powers shall be placed in my hands, in order to insure the success of this administration of the food supplies of the country, I am confident that the exercise of those powers will be necessary only in the few cases where some small and selfish minority proves unwilling to put the nation's interests above personal advantage."

A sweeping bill was thereupon presented to the House empowering the President, under the war clause of the Constitution, to take the measures he named whenever, in his opinion, the national emergency called for their exercise.

(p. 337) The mere conferring of such extreme powers on the President, it was hoped, would suffice. The Government view was that armed with the effective weapons the bill provided, no difficulty would be encountered in enlisting on the side of the public interest all recalcitrant private agencies without legal action.

The House, in passing the measure, made it more drastic by inserting an amendment prohibiting the further manufacturing of alcoholic liquors during the war, and authorizing the President, in his discretion, to commandeer existing stocks of distilled spirits. The President was unwilling to countenance such a drastic curb on the liquor industry, and the Senate Agriculture Committee, on his recommendation, restricted the veto on the manufacture of liquor to whisky, rum, gin, and brandy, removing the ban on light wines and beer, but retained the clause empowering him to acquire all distilled spirits in bond, as above named, should the national exigency call for such action. The Senate approved the bill as thus amended.

The antiwhisky provisions, which were due to the Prohibitionists, were denounced as unconstitutional. Nevertheless, the House vote on the bill was 365 to 5. The Senate vote was as emphatic, being 81 to 6.

A more direct contest with the President over his war powers was waged around the Espionage Bill. Though primarily framed to make spying and its attendant acts treasonable offenses punishable by death or heavy fines and imprisonment, it was projected more as a measure aimed at news censorship, on account of a section forbidding the pursuit and publication of information on the war. A violent and persistent agitation by the press of the country against such a restriction, echoed in both Houses in the course of lengthy debates, finally won the day. All control of the publication of war news was denied the Administration, despite the President's appeals to Congress for the provision of a press censorship. The newspapers demanded to be placed on their good behavior and scouted the idea that any law was needed to restrain them from publishing information likely to give aid and comfort to the enemy. Thwarted by Congress, the President had to be content to forego the authority (p. 338) he sought for placing a veto on war news except such as the Government permitted to be disclosed. He was reminded that when relations were broken with Germany and war neared, the press readily responded to the Administration's request—made in the absence of legal authority to establish a press censorship—to suppress the publication and transmission of information concerning the movements of American merchant craft, then about to be armed against German submarines. Since then announcements of arrivals at and sailings from American ports of all vessels were excluded from the newspapers.

The Espionage Bill had an inherent importance of its own, but its purposes had been so overshadowed by the prominence given to the censorship provision that they were lost sight of. It empowered the President to place an embargo on exports when public safety and welfare so required; provided for the censoring of mails and the exclusion of matter therefrom deemed to be seditious and anarchistic, and making its transmission punishable by heavy fines; the punishment of espionage; the wrongful use of military information; circulation of false reports designed to interfere with military operations; attempts to cause disaffection in the army and navy, or obstruction of recruiting; the control of merchant vessels on American waters; the seizure of arms and ammunition and prohibition of their exportation under certain conditions; the penalizing of conspiracies designed to harm American foreign relations; punishment for the destruction of property arising from a state of war; and increased restrictions on the issue of passports.

The measure acquired a conspicuous place in the war legislation by reason of the embargo provision. It appeared an inconsequential clause, judging from the little public attention paid to it; but the President saw a weapon in it that might have more effect in bringing Germany to her knees than Great Britain's blockade of her coasts, stringent as the latter had proved. It developed into a measure for instituting a blockade of Germany from American ports. It had long been known that the maritime European neutrals—Holland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden—had flourished enormously by supplying Germany (p. 339) with various necessities—mainly obtained from the United States on the pretense that the huge increase of their American trade was due to enlarged domestic consumption, the same being due, in its turn, to the cutting off of needed supplies from other countries by the British blockade and the war situation on land. The design of the embargo provision was to stop these neutrals from receiving any American goods until it was clearly established, before leaving an American port, that they would not be transhipped to Germany. With this object the President was authorized to stop any or all exports to any or all countries in his discretion. This was a sweeping blanket instruction from Congress aimed at placing a barrier on transhipment trade with Germany from the port of departure. "Satisfy us that your goods are not going to Germany via neutral countries," the Government told exporters, "and your ships can get clearance. Otherwise they cannot." The embargo was even aimed at neutral countries that permitted their own goods to cross the German frontier by threatening to cut those countries off from any trade with the United States. But it was not clear how it could be made effective in this respect. Its chief aim was rather to make it impossible for the neutrals to replenish with American goods such of their domestic stocks which had been depleted by exports to German customers.

The subject raised a stormy debate during a secret session of the Senate. Senator Townsend, in an assault upon the embargo proposal, took the view that the Administration wished to use the embargo to force small neutral nations into the war as American allies.

"I am not willing," he said, "to vote for the very German methods we have condemned. I understand that this provision is not to be used for the protection of American produce or to protect the American supply, but to coerce neutral countries. We stood for neutrality, and urged the nations of the world to support neutrality. Now that we are engaged in war we ought not to coerce other nations and force them to enter the struggle."

The Administration found a supporter from an unexpected quarter—from Senator Stone, chairman of the Senate Foreign (p. 340) Relations Committee, who opposed the war and all its works. He thus defended the embargo:

"If we were still neutral I should join readily in opposing such legislation. But we are now belligerent. If it is true that any neutral country, contiguous to Germany, which is now our enemy, is supplying Germany with food, munitions, and other materials out of its own productions, and then comes to the United States to purchase here and transport there a sufficient quantity to replenish its supply, doesn't the senator think the United States is within its belligerent rights to say that the United States doesn't consent?"

"It is true we are no longer neutral," insisted Mr. Townsend, "and we don't intend that any other country shall remain neutral. We are in trouble and want everybody else to be in trouble if we are strong enough to put them in."

The admitted purpose of the embargo was to force neutral countries contiguous to Germany to suspend trade with her as an enemy of the United States. The sentiment of the Senate, barring the objections of a few members like Senator Townsend, who protested against the embargo's "injustice," was that the United States had full control over its own trade, and, especially in time of war, could restrict it as its foreign interests required. No international law was involved in American legislation which determined the disposition of American exports, even if that legislation had a direct bearing on the prosecution of the war. The Administration refused to see any analogy between this embargo policy and the questions raised by the blockade controversy between the United States and Great Britain when the former was a neutral. American belligerency had necessitated a change of basis in the Government's attitude.

The President went to some pains to explain to the country what the export embargo meant. He created a Board of Exports Control, or Exports Council, composed of Herbert C. Hoover, the selected head of the food administration body, and a number of leading Government officials. This board's duty was to prevent a single bushel of wheat or the smallest quantity of any other commodity from leaving an American port without (p. 341) the board's license and approval. This check on exports, the President pointed out, regulated and supervised their disposition, and was not really an embargo, except on consignments to Germany.

"There will, of course, be no prohibition of exports," he said. "The normal course of trade will be interfered with as little as possible, and, so far as possible, only its abnormal course directed. The whole object will be to direct exports in such a way that they will go first and by preference where they are most needed and most immediately needed, and temporarily to withhold them, if necessary, where they can best be spared.

"Our primary duty in the matter of foodstuffs and like necessaries is to see to it that the peoples associated with us in the war get as generous a proportion as possible of our surplus, but it will also be our wish and purpose to supply the neutral nations whose peoples depend upon us for such supplies as nearly in proportion to their need as the amount to be divided permits."

Nevertheless the proclamation that came from the White House on July 9, 1917, disclosed an exercise of presidential authority without precedent in American history in that it contemplated, with British cooperation, the virtual domination of the country's trade with the whole world. It provided for the absolute governmental control, by license, of the exports of essential war commodities to fifty-six nations and their possessions, including all the Allied belligerents, all the neutrals, as well as the enemy countries. These commodities embraced coal, coke, fuel, oils, kerosene and gasoline, including bunkers, food grains, flour and meal, fodder and feeds, meats and fats, pig iron, steel billets, ship plates and structural shapes, scrap iron and scrap steel, ferromanganese, fertilizers, arms, ammunition and explosives. By the control of coal and other fuels the Government was bent on obtaining a firm grasp on shipping. And the point was, as stated in the preamble of the proclamation, "the public safety requires that succor shall be prevented from reaching the enemy."

Europe hailed the establishment of the American embargo as signalizing a "real blockade" against Germany. The Paris (p. 342) "Temps" succinctly expressed the prevailing view in the Allied countries:

"The Allies, despite the patience of their diplomats and the vigilance of their navies, have failed to make the blockade sufficiently tight. A new measure was needed; the United States has now supplied it. By forbidding indirect assistance the United States has introduced a new and efficient condition. If the Allies firmly apply the principle, as public opinion strongly demands, President Wilson's proclamation will have been one of the decisive acts of the war."

The need for sending foodstuffs and like necessaries to the Allies, as pointed out by the President in explaining the embargo, called for shipping facilities of a magnitude that demanded the immediate attention of Congress. Exports there would be in unexampled quantities, but their destination must largely be to the Entente countries, consigned in armed ships. Coastwise craft were drafted for transatlantic trade; ships under construction for private concerns were subject to acquisition by the Government; every craft afloat adaptable to war service—ferryboats, private yachts, motor boats and the like—were listed for contingent use; and the thousand or more merchant ships of American registry demanded an equipment of guns and ammunition to enable them to run the submarine blockade.

The seized German and Austrian ships helped to supply the needed tonnage, but they did not go far. War conditions, created by the recognition that the United States would practically win the war for the Allies by keeping their countries generously supplied with all necessities required the construction of a huge trade fleet of steel or wooden ships at a cost of a billion dollars. The Government, through the Shipping Board, reserved the right of preempting the products of every steel mill in the country and of canceling all their existing contracts with private consumers, so as to divert the use of steel products for the trade fleet. The acquisition of every shipyard in the country was also contemplated as a contingency. Tentative estimates provided for the construction of thousands of steel (p. 343) and wooden cargo ships aggregating between five and six million tonnage within the coming two years.

The shipbuilding program was undertaken by General Goethals, builder of the Panama Canal, as general manager of a new Government body called the Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corporation, and William Denman, its president. Conflict immediately arose between them regarding the expediency of building steel or wooden ships to meet the emergency, and the whole project was imperiled by their personal differences. General Goethals favored a steel fleet and planned to apply the available balance of an appropriation of $550,000,000 to the construction of fabricated steel ships of standard pattern. Early in July contracts for 348 wooden ships, aggregating 1,218,000 tons, and costing some $174,000,000, had been made or agreed upon and contracts for a further 100 were under negotiation. Of steel ships seventy-seven had been contracted for or agreed upon, amounting to 642,800 tons, at a cost of $101,660,356. This was a good beginning, as it represented a program under way for providing 525 ships of all sorts. The remainder of the Goethals program called for steel ships, of which he promised 3,000,000 tons in eighteen months. Another feature of the Goethals policy was the immediate commandeering of private ships in the stocks, whether owned by Americans, Allies, or neutrals. Acute friction arose between General Goethals and Mr. Denman, mainly over the question of the former's negotiations and plans with the steel interests. In the end President Wilson intervened by accepting the invited resignations of both, and placing the shipbuilding in the hands of Admiral Washington L. Capps, a naval ship constructor of renown, and Edward N. Hurley, former chairman of the Federal Trade Commission.

By now the foundations of a huge war machine had been laid by legislative and executive action; but it was discovered that a vital factor in modern wars had been overlooked. An enormous air fleet was necessary to provide further eyes for the Allies. Congress repaired this omission by voting $640,000,000 for building 22,000 airships and for raising and equipping an American corps of 100,000 aviators.[Back to Contents]



The country early realized the practical effect of the legislation passed by Congress enabling the President to call on the national resources in men, money, and material for conducting the war with Germany.

The Administration's first nation-wide appeal was for money. Under the Bond Bill it was empowered to raise war funds, and proceeded to do so by floating the first issue of the "Liberty loan of 1917," this being a demand for $2,000,000,000 from the popular purse. The money raised was to provide credits to the Allied governments to meet the enormous war purchases they were making in the United States, and, like previous accommodations to them, this provision of funds was not so much a loan as a transfer or exchange of credits. American money was lent to the Allies, deposited in American banks, to enable them to buy American products. Not a cent of the Liberty loan went out of the country.

It was the largest single financial transaction ever undertaken by the United States Government. It greatly exceeded all previous bond issues and squarely brought the country to face the necessities of war finance on a huge scale. But the prewar period, which produced a high tide of prosperity, due to the unexampled calls on American industries by the Allied Powers, had revealed the enormous wealth and economic strength of the American investing community, as well as a flourishing condition of the working population. The Government entered upon the financial operation with no misgivings and the result proved its confidence in the success of the loan. Bank subscriptions were discouraged. National loans hitherto issued in war time were floated as a basis of national currency and were taken up by the banks in large amounts. But the Liberty loan was an appeal to the million—to several millions; to the man in the street, the small tradesman, the salaried class. Workers realized (p. 345) that in subscribing to the loan they were not only securing an absolutely safe investment, but were providing funds for wages and profits. The money they invested as a loan to the Allies was applied by them to buying American goods.

The Liberty loan was floated on May 14, 1917, in denominations as low as $50, rising to $100,000, at 3-½ per cent. interest, redeemable in fifteen or thirty years. The banks of the country, national and State, the trust companies, newspapers, department stores, express companies, and numerous corporations and firms placed their establishments and staffs at the national service for receiving applications, which came from all classes. The response flagged as the date for closing the subscription lists neared (June 15, 1917), but there was a rally at the last moment by small investors, and the lists closed with the loan greatly oversubscribed.

Germany had been watching its progress. There were lulls during the month in which the loan was under issue and Germany was eager to see in a passing slowness of response a popular unwillingness to shoulder the burden of war and an apathy that she welcomed. The people had no spirit for the war and it was largely a bankers' loan, said her spokesmen. Anticipating this criticism the Government, aided by the press, publicists, and bankers, conducted a propaganda which successfully impressed the country that a large popular oversubscription could not be misconstrued by Germany, as it would convince her that there would be no stinting of national resources by the United States to aid the Allies in encompassing her defeat. The result showed that a request for $2,000,000,000 had been met by a response of $3,035,226,850 from over 4,000,000 investors, mainly for small amounts. The success of the loan, especially in its appeal to modest purses, was imposing. Secretary McAdoo of the Treasury thus expressed the Government's gratification:

"The widespread distribution of the bonds and the great amount of the oversubscription constitute an eloquent and conclusive reply to the enemies of the country who claimed that the heart of America was not in this war. The result, of which (p. 346) every citizen may well be proud, reflects the patriotism and the determination of the American people to fight for the vindication of outraged American rights, the speedy restoration of peace, and the establishment of liberty throughout the world.

"The Congress pledged all the resources of America to bring the war to a successful determination. The issue just closed will serve as an indication of the temper and purpose of the American people and of the manner in which they may be expected to respond to future calls of their country for the necessary credits to carry on the war."

The operation of the Selective Draft law provided a simultaneous opportunity for a display of patriotism. Acting under its provisions, the President in a stirring proclamation issued on May 18, 1917, called upon every man in the country between the age of 21 and 30 to register his readiness to be called upon for army service at the designated registration place within the precinct where he permanently resided. It was a call to the nation to arm.

"The power against which we are arrayed," the President said, "has sought to impose its will upon the world. To this end it has increased armament until it has changed the face of war. In the sense in which we have been wont to think of armies, there are no armies in this struggle, there are entire nations armed. Thus, the men who remain to till the soil and man the factories are no less a part of the army that is in France than the men beneath the battle flags. It must be so with us. It is not an army that we must shape and train for war; it is a nation.

"To this end our people must draw close in one compact front against a common foe. But this cannot be if each man pursues a private purpose. All must pursue one purpose. The nation needs all men; but it needs each man, not in the field that will most pleasure him, but in the endeavor that will best serve the common good. Thus, though a sharpshooter pleases to operate a trip hammer for the forging of great guns and an expert machinist desires to march with the flag, the nation is being served (p. 347) only when the sharpshooter marches and the machinist remains at his levers.

"The whole nation must be a team, in which each man shall play the part for which he is best fitted. To this end, Congress has provided that the nation shall be organized for war by selection; that each man shall be classified for service in the place to which it shall best serve the general good to call him.

"The significance of this cannot be overstated. It is a new thing in our history and a landmark in our progress. It is a new manner of accepting and vitalizing our duty to give ourselves with thoughtful devotion to the common purpose of us all. It is in no sense a conscription of the unwilling; it is, rather, selection from a nation which has volunteered in mass. It is no more a choosing of those who shall march with the colors than it is a selection of those who shall serve an equally necessary and devoted purpose in the industries that lie behind the battle line."

The President had strongly espoused the selective draft in preference to the voluntary system of raising an army organization. He had pointed out that many forms of patriotic service were open to the people, and emphasized that the military part of the service, important though it was, was not, under modern war conditions, the most vital part. The selective draft enabled the selection for service in the army of those who could be most readily spared from the pursuit of other industries and occupations. There being a universal obligation to serve in time of war, the Administration felt the need of being empowered to select men for military service and select others to do the rest of the nation's work, either by keeping them in their existing employment, if that employment was useful for war purposes, or utilizing their services in a like field.

"The volunteer system does not do this," he said. "When men choose themselves they sometimes choose without due regard to their other responsibilities. Men may come from the farms or from the mines or from the factories or centers of business who ought not to come but ought to stand back of the armies in the (p. 348) field and see that they get everything that they need and that the people of the country are sustained in the meantime."

Registration day, which was fixed for June 5, 1917, partook of the character of an election day. The young manhood of the country of the prescribed ages trooped to the registration places of their districts like voters depositing ballots at polling booths. It was a national roll call of the pick of civilian manhood available for military duty, and yielded an enrollment of 9,649,938 from which the first army was to be drafted.

"The registration," reported the Government, "was accomplished in a fashion measuring up to the highest standards of Americanism. The young men came to the registration places enthusiastic; there was no hint of a slacking spirit anywhere, except in a few cases where misguided persons had been prevailed upon to attempt to avoid their national obligation."

The machinery for the selective draft had merely been started. Only the groundwork had been laid. The principal operation—the draft itself—had to be undertaken, and the process was a slow one. Half the men who registered claimed exemption from military service for a multitude of reasons, but as not more than 6 per cent were to be chosen to compose the first citizen army, this was not important even if most of the exemption claims were justified and allowed.

The outstanding fact was that the registrants were all on an equal footing and that their mustering brought nearer the realization of the President's dream of a "citizenry trained" without favoritism or discrimination. The son of the millionaire and of the laborer, the college-bred man and the worker forced to earn his living from early youth, were to march side by side in the ranks and practice marksmanship and trench digging together. Great Britain and France had democratized their armies; the United States did the same.

The President increased the number of men to be drafted for the first army from 500,000 to 687,000 in order to use drafted men to bring the regular army and the National Guard to their full strength. Thus there were 687,000 men to be selected from a registration of 9,649,938. The quota required from each (p. 349) State, based upon each State's number of registrants, was determined in that proportion.

The draft, which was practically a great lottery to establish the order in which the registrants were to be called into war service, took place on July 20, 1917, in Washington. As it was anticipated that fully half of the men called would either be exempted or rejected after medical examination, the exemption boards appointed throughout the country, located in 4,557 districts, were required to call double the number of their quota for examination in the order in which the men's numbers appeared on the district list after the drawing. This meant a call of 1,374,000 men.

The drawing itself was based on a system of master-key numbers in two groups, written on slips of paper. These slips were rolled and placed in a bowl, from which they were drawn one at a time by blindfolded men. The picking of a single number out of one set of a thousand numerals, or out of another set of eleven numerals, drafted each man in the 4,557 districts whose registration card bore the serial number picked. The method fixed with absolute equality of chance the order in which all registrants—if called upon—were to report to their local boards for examination and subsequent exemption, discharge, or acceptance for military service. The local boards at once organized for the examination and enrollment of the men called.

The new citizen force became known as the National Army, in contradistinction to the regular army and the National Guard, and was organized into sixteen divisions, grouped by States as under:

Huge cantonments, or concentration camps—army cities—were put under construction in the various sections of the country where the drafted men could be expeditiously massed for mobilization and training before proceeding to the European battle ground. In all, thirty-two of these camp cities were required, the regular army and National Guard providing another sixteen divisions for which such training grounds were needed. The camp sites were chosen for spaciousness, absence of marshes, natural drainage situations, and proximity to lines of transport and a good water supply. Each army camp called for vast building supplies, as each was designed to constitute a complete town, with sewerage, water works, lighting system, and streets.

United States naval gunners defending the troop transport ships from submarine attack. The troop ships of the first contingent to cross the sea were twice attacked by submarines on the way.

The volunteer system was largely depended upon to recruit the regular army and the National Guard to their required strength; but in the draft call a provision of 187,000 men had been made for service in these two branches to fill up gaps caused by failure of volunteer enlistments or by the detailing of regulars or guardsmen to aid in training the draft recruits. The President pointed out that there was ample scope for the volunteer system in augmenting the two established services, which needed as many men as the draft army. On April 1, 1917, before war was declared, the regular army and National Guard numbered about 225,000 men. These branches needed augmenting to a strength of 293,000 and 400,000 respectively, making a (p. 351) combined force of 693,000. There was thus a call for 468,000 men, which was mainly responded to by volunteers. The draft citizen army of 500,000 and this force of 693,000 made an army approaching 1,200,000 men which the Government organized for field service in Europe in the first year of America's participation in the war. Adding to this an augmented naval force of 150,000, and the Marine Corps, numbering 30,000, a grand total approximating 1,400,000 men appears as the first American contribution to the forces fighting Germany.[Back to Contents]



What perhaps most vividly brought home to the nation that it was now one of the belligerents of the Allied Powers was the visit of a number of special commissioners from the governments of the latter countries, following the American declaration of war. The presence of the British and French missions in particular made a deep impression, not only because of the importance and magnitude of their errand, but because of their personnel. The British mission was headed by Arthur James Balfour, a former Conservative premier, and now Foreign Secretary in the Lloyd-George cabinet. The French mission included René Viviani, a predecessor of Premier Ribot and a member of his cabinet, and Marshal Joffre, the victor of the Battle of the Marne and an idol of France. The commanding personalities of Mr. Balfour and Marshal Joffre caught the American imagination and the visits they paid to several cities during their brief stay partook of the character of state events, marked by an imposing welcome and sumptuous hospitality.

A reception no less generous was accorded the members of the other missions—the Italian, headed by the Prince of Udine, son of the Duke of Genoa and nephew of King Victor Emmanuel, (p. 352) and including Signor Marconi, the inventor of wireless telegraphy; the Russian, headed by Boris Bakhmetieff, the new Russian Ambassador; and the Belgian, headed by Baron Moncheur. Other missions came from Ireland, Rumania, and Japan.

The reception of these various missions formed the occasion for a number of state functions which placed the Administration in the rôle of a national host to many distinguished guests from foreign countries with which the United States was now allied for the first time in a devastating war. The honors paid to them produced remarkable proceedings in Congress without parallel in that body's deliberations; but then the great world war had shattered precedents wherever it touched. The spectacle was witnessed of a British statesman, in the person of Mr. Balfour, addressing the House and Senate, an event which became an enduring memory. Congress also heard addresses from M. Viviani, Baron Moncheur, and the Prince of Udine. They told why their countries were in the war—a familiar story whose repetition within the halls of Congress had considerable point in that the national legislature itself had sanctioned war on Germany for the same reasons. American and Allied statesmen thus met on common ground in a common cause. The numerous conferences between the various sections of the Allied missions and American officials—beginning with that between the President and Mr. Balfour—were councils of war. They symbolized the joining of hands across the sea in a literal sense—across a sea infested with German submarines, which the envoys, incidentally, escaped both in coming and returning.

In the public ceremonials that marked their visit the leading envoys freely and repeatedly expressed their grateful recognition to the United States for unselfishly entering the war at last on the side which was fighting for civilization—a disinterested action without parallel in the history of wars, as Mr. Asquith had called it. Their gratitude might well be taken for granted; but, like the Allies' aims in the war, it bore repetition, because American aid was sorely needed, and they had, in fact, come to accept as much assistance as the United States had to give.

(p. 353) The immediate need was money, food, ships—all the accessories of war outside the fighting zone. Funds for loans having become available, the American Treasury proceeded to distribute its largesse generously. Great Britain received $200,000,000 as the first installment of a number of loans; France and Italy received $100,000,000 each; Serbia got $3,000,000; Russia $175,000,000; France another $60,000,000; and Great Britain $300,000,000 more. Further credits to the various countries brought the amount loaned to $1,525,000,000 by the close of July, 1917, or more than half of the $3,000,000,000 sanctioned by Congress for financing the Allies.

By these transactions the United States Government displaced the banking firm of J. P. Morgan & Co., who had been acting as fiscal agent for the Allies since they began to purchase huge supplies in America on American credits.

Great Britain, as the bulwark of her allies, had many weighty matters to lay before the United States. Her mission sought an understanding regarding the conduct of the blockade, naval operations, munition supplies, military dispositions and resources, and the shipment of foodstuffs. There was no driving of bargains, since neither was a competitor of the other, and hence could have no radical difference of view on questions to the settlement of which they had been drawn in union against a common foe. The attitude of the British mission invited American cooperation, reciprocal service, and expressed gratitude for the American partnership. They had no policies to suggest to the Administration. They had much information on the conduct of the war to lay before the United States—specially blunders to be avoided; but they did not presume to teach Americans how to make war. The United States, on its part, eagerly wanted to know all that could be known, and to be guided accordingly.

A week of conferences clarified the situation. Both the British and French missions revealed with surprising frankness the status of the Allied resources and the military situation. Great Britain was especially candid in disclosing the extent of her losses by submarines. She needed ships, as many as America (p. 354) could build. France needed an American army at once to augment her man power. Italy wanted coal and grain. Most of all, the collapse of Russia's military organization had brought the Allies to the pass of relying on American aid as imperative if Germany was to be defeated.

The personal contact between American Government officials and the various missions, especially the British, produced a mutual confidence and sympathy not to be measured by words. Resources and needs were frankly stated. The United States disclosed what it could do and how. The way, in short, was cleared for the United States to enter the Grand Alliance on a basis making for efficient cooperation in the conduct of the war.

A gentleman's agreement was effected with neither side committed to any binding policy. The United States retained a free hand, and was not controlled, formally or informally, by any entangling undertaking as to any future course it might elect to take in its relations with Germany. But one enlightening point emerged. It was that while the United States was free to enter into any peace it chose, it would not enter into a separate peace. No action in that direction was imaginable in the circumstances without consulting the Entente Allies. This injection of peace considerations into the war situation, before the United States had really entered the lists with troops and guns, was taking time by the forelock. But it was needful to clear the air early, as one of the reasons ascribed to Germany's apparent complacence to the entrance of America as a belligerent was that she counted on the United States as a balance wheel that might restrain the Entente's war activities and hasten peace, or later operate to curtail the Entente's demands at the peace conference. On these assumptions America's participation was supposed to be not wholly unwelcome to Berlin.

American freedom of action was unlikely to confuse the war issues in the manner Germany looked for. Whatever hopes Germany built upon that freedom did not deter Secretary Lansing and Mr. Balfour from hastening to counteract misleading impressions current that America would be embarrassed in its postwar foreign policy by becoming involved in European (p. 355) territorial questions, from which, for more than a century, it had remained aloof.

The French mission also achieved an incontestable popular triumph, due to the presence of Marshal Joffre and to memories of French assistance in the Revolutionary War. France's heroic resistance to German invasion of her territory, specially in thwarting the advance on Paris, had also attached American sympathies to her cause. M. Viviani and Marshal Joffre did not hesitate to avail themselves of this feeling by plainly requesting the immediate dispatch of American troops to France. While this course conflicted with the early plans of the American General Staff, the latter had to recognize the immense moral effect which the flying of the Stars and Stripes would have on the Allied troops in the Franco-Belgian trenches, and the request did not go unheeded. The country realized that the French importunity for troops was born of an equally importunate need.

All the missions, except the British, were birds of passage, who departed upon fulfilling their errands of securing American aid in directions where it was most required. There was more permanency to the British mission, owing to Great Britain's rôle of general provider to her Allies, which called for the establishment of several British organizations in New York and Washington as clearing houses. Mr. Balfour and his suite left, to be succeeded by Lord Northcliffe, chief proprietor of the London "Times," London "Daily Mail," and many other British publications, who was commissioned by Lloyd-George to continue the work Mr. Balfour had begun and to coordinate the ramifications produced by extensive scope of the Allies' calls on American industries for war equipment.

In the same direction the American Government consolidated its energies in a War Industries Board, which it created to supervise the expenditure of millions of dollars on equipping the American armies.[Back to Contents]



The Administration decided to send an American expeditionary force to France as an advance guard of the huge army in process of preparation. Major General John J. Pershing was placed in command of this expedition, which was believed to embrace an army division, a force of the Marine Corps, and nine regiments of engineers. A veil of official secrecy (religiously respected by the press in pursuance of the voluntary censorship it imposed upon itself) was thrown over the dispatch of the preliminary force, and nothing further was heard of it until tidings came of the unheralded arrival of General Pershing in England on June 8, 1917, and of the appearance of a number of American warships off the French coast about the same time.

This latter event proved to be the safe arrival of a convoyed naval collier, the Jupiter, which served as a harbinger of the fleet of transports conveying the American troops. It carried a cargo of army provisions, including over 10,000 tons of wheat.

The arrival of the first division of transports at an unnamed French seaport was reported on June 26, 1917. They were signaled from the deserted quays of the town at 6 o'clock in the morning, and as they steamed toward port in a long line, according to an eloquent eyewitness, they appeared a "veritable armada," whose black hulls showed clearly against the horizon, while the gray outlines of their escorting destroyers were almost blotted out in the lead-colored sea. Dominating all was an enormous American cruiser with its peculiar upper basket works. The warships went to their allotted moorings with clockwork precision, while tugs took charge of the transports and towed them to their berths. Resounding cheers were exchanged between the troops which lined the rails of the incoming ships and the populace which lined the quays.

(p. 357) The next day came a formal intimation from Paris that the first expeditionary unit of American troops, in command of Major General William L. Sibert, had safely reached their destination. Rear Admiral Gleaves, commanding the destroyer force which accompanied the transports, telegraphed the Navy Department to the same effect. But it subsequently transpired that all had not been plain sailing in passing through the submarine zone.

The expedition was divided into contingents, each contingent including troopships and a naval escort designed to hold off any German raiders that might be sighted. An ocean rendezvous had also been arranged with the American destroyer flotilla under Admiral Sims, which had been operating in European waters since May 4, 1917, in order that the passage of the danger zone might be attended by every possible protection. Frequent indications pointing to the presence of submarines in the expedition's course were observed as the transports neared European waters. The passage through the infested zone was therefore made at high speed; the men were prepared for any emergency; boats and life belts were at hand for instant use; and watches at every lookout were heavily reenforced.

These precautions were timely and more than warranted. The first contingent of transports was attacked twice by German U-boats. Admiral Gleaves, describing these incidents in reporting to Admiral Mayo, commander in chief of the Atlantic fleet, said the first attack was made at 10.15 p. m. on June 22. The location, formation, and names of the transports and the convoys, the speed they made, and the method of proceeding, were suppressed in the account made public by the Navy Department.

It appeared that the destroyers' flagship, which led the transport fleet, was the first to encounter the submarine. At least the officer on deck and others on the bridge saw a white streak about fifty yards ahead of the ship, crossing from starboard to port at right angles to the ship's course. The ship was sharply turned 90 degrees to starboard at high speed, a general alarm was sounded, and torpedo crews were ordered to their guns. (p. 358) One of the destroyers called A and one of the transports astern opened fire, the destroyer's shell being fitted with tracers. Other members of the convoying destroyers turned to the right and left. At first it was thought on board the flagship that the white streak was caused by a torpedo, but later reports from other ships warranted the conclusion that it was the wake of the submarine itself. At 10.25 the wake of a torpedo was sighted directly across the bow of the destroyer called A, about thirty yards ahead. The ship's course was swung to the left, and shots were fired from port batteries in alarm, accompanied by blasts from the siren. The destroyer then passed through a wake believed to be from the passing submarine. A second torpedo passed under the destroyer A's stern ten minutes later.

Another destroyer known as D was also the target of a torpedo which passed it from starboard to port across the bow about forty yards ahead of the ship, leaving a perceptible wake visible for about four or five hundred yards.

The submarine sighted by the flagship immediately engaged the attention of destroyer B. In fact it darted under the latter and passed the flagship's bows, disappearing close aboard on the flagship's port bow between the destroyer columns. The B followed the wake between the columns and reported strong indications of two submarines astern, which grew fainter. The B afterward guarded the rear of the convoy.

So much for the ghostly movements of the submarine or submarines which crossed the tracks of the first contingent of American transports on the night of June 22. In the absence of more tangible proof of their presence beyond that provided by white streaks and wakes on the sea surface, the incident might well have been a false alarm. It only occasioned much excitement and activity. But its interest lay in the alertness of the destroyers to danger. The officers on board the flotilla had no doubt at all that the danger was real. Admiral Gleaves, indeed, saw circumstantial evidence of the menace in alluding to a bulletin of the French General Staff which referred to the activities of a German submarine off the Azores. This U-boat, the bulletin said, was ordered to watch in the vicinity of those (p. 359) islands, "at such a distance as it was supposed the enemy American convoy would pass from the Azores."

The second contingent of transports, which arrived in France a week later, had a similar experience, with the important difference that their encounters with submarines took place in broad daylight, and that the firing at one of them produced material traces of the enemy's proximity. Two submarines were met on the morning of June 26, 1917, one at 11.30, when the ships were about a hundred miles off the coast of France, the other an hour later. The destroyer H, which was leading, sighted the first U-boat, and the I pursued the wake, but without making any further discovery. The second episode was more convincing of the actual presence of a submarine. The destroyer J saw the bow wave of one at a distance of 1,500 yards and headed for it at a rapid speed. The pointers at the destroyer's gun sighted its periscope several times for several seconds; but it disappeared each time before they could get their aim, which the zigzagging of the ship impeded. Presently the J passed about twenty-five yards ahead of a mass of bubbles which obviously came from the submarine's wake. A deep charge was fired just ahead of these bubbles. Several pieces of timber, quantities of oil and débris then came to the surface. Nothing more was seen of the submarine. There was plain evidence that it had been sunk.

Two days later—on the morning of June 28, 1917, at 10 o'clock—the destroyer K opened fire at an object, about three hundred yards ahead, which appeared to indicate a submarine. Admiral Gleaves described it as a small object rising a foot or two high out of the water, and leaving a small wake. Through binoculars he made out a shape under the water, too large to be a blackfish, lying diagonally across the K's course. The port bow gun fired at the spot, and the ship veered to leave the submarine's location astern. Then the port aft gun crew reported sighting a submarine on the port quarter, and opened fire. The lookouts also reported seeing the submarine under the water's surface. The ship zigzagged and the firing continued. Not only was the submarine seen but the lieutenant in charge of the (p. 360) firing on the K destroyer, as well as the gun crews and lookouts aft, testified that it fired two torpedoes in the direction of the convoy. The latter, however, had sheered off from its base course well to the right when the alarm was sounded. The K continued to zigzag until all danger had passed, and duly joined the other escorts. The convoy then formed into column astern.

No submarine ambuscades awaited the third group of transports. Their voyage was quite uneventful. Apart from the probability that much of the commotion marking the passage of the first and second contingents might well have been due to groundless fears, the success of the American expedition in safely landing in France registered Germany's first defeat at the hands of the United States. It was her boast that her submarines would never permit any American army to reach its destination.

General Pershing was in Paris when the first transport contingent arrived, and immediately set out for the French port to get in touch with his troops. They were debarking in long lines when he arrived, making their way to their temporary camp, which was situated on high ground outside the town. Their debarkation signalized the actual beginning of General Pershing's command in the European theater of war of an army in being, as yet small, but composed of seasoned troops from the Mexican border and marines from Haiti and Santo Domingo, all fit and ready for immediate trench service. He had been greeted in England as America's banner bearer, was immediately received by King George on his arrival in London, while Paris accorded him, as London did, the royal welcome which a sister democracy knows how to extend to the representative of a democracy bound to the Anglo-French Entente by the grimmest of ties. The landing of the vanguard of his army disposed of further hospitalities and brought him squarely to the business in hand, which was to get his troops in the fighting zone.

A section of the French battle front for eventual occupancy by the American forces was early selected after General Pershing had inspected the ground under the guidance of the British and French military authorities. Its location, being a (p. 361) military secret, was not disclosed. Meantime the troops were dispatched to training bases established for affording them the fullest scope to become familiar with trench operators. The bases also included aviation, artillery, and medical camps. Further tidings of them thenceforth came from the "American Training Camp in France," wherever that was. Toward the close of July, 1917, actual intensive work was under way and pursued with an enthusiasm which warranted hopes that the troops would soon reach a stage of efficiency fitting them for the firing zone. Trenches were dug with the same spirit as that animating soldiers digging themselves in under artillery fire. The trenches were of full depth and duplicated those of certain sections of the front line, consisting of front or fire trenches, support trenches, and reserve trenches, with intricate communicating passages between them.

The marines—those handy men who apply themselves to every service in warfare, as to the manner born, whenever the occasion requires—cheerfully bent their ardent energies to spade work, which was probably a new task even for that many handed corps. Thereafter they wired themselves in their trenches behind barriers of barbed-metal entanglements.

All this intensive work was performed under conditions approximating to actual warfare. Both offensive and defensive tactics were employed, including lively sham battles with grenades, bayonets, and trench mortars. For bayonet practice dummies were constructed and the men were taught the six most vital points of attack. The troops were entertained by stories telling how the French decorated and painted their dummies to resemble the kaiser, Von Hindenburg, and other enemy notables, and each company searched its ranks for artists who could paint similar effigies.

Practice in trench warfare did not displace route marching. The hardening process in that direction continued as part of the operations. The men's packs increased in weight until they neared fifty pounds. Duly the men would be equipped with steel helmets and an extra kit, when their packs would weigh eighty pounds, like the burden carried by the British troops. Accordingly (p. 362) the Americans were drilled to bear this burden without undue fatigue. This was the stage American operations in France had reached by the beginning of August, 1917.

Little was disclosed regarding naval movements—beyond the activities of American destroyers, which were not only occupied in convoying transports and passenger liners through the submarine zone, but cooperated with British patrols in checking submarine destruction in other lanes of travel. The British recognized them as a formidable part of the grand Allied fleet.

As to the navy itself, its personnel was increased to 150,000 men. Where the main American fleet was—whether with the British fleet at the Orkneys, or stationed in some other zone—no event transpired to give any clue. But patrol of the South Atlantic, as well as of the American coast, was assumed by the Pacific coast fleet under Admiral Caperton, the remaining French and British warships in those waters acting under his authority.

Sea warfare conditions, outside the useful work of the American destroyers provided by the German submarines, gave little scope for naval operations, and it was assumed that the main American fleet, like the British, was lying quiescent, with its finger on the trigger, awaiting its opportunity. The Navy Department meantime busied itself arming scores of American merchant vessels to brave the submarines, and in carrying out an extensive building program, which included the construction of hundreds of submarine chasers—a new type of swift, powerfully armed small craft—as well as of many new destroyers.[Back to Contents]




Without danger of overstatement or exaggeration, it may be said that the most dramatic feature of the Great War's history during the period February-August, 1917, was the revolution in Russia. To outsiders, acquainted with Russian conditions only superficially, it was startlingly unexpected. A revolution, usually, is merely the climax of a long series of events of quiet development, the result of a long period of propaganda and preparation, based on gradually changing economic conditions. The overthrow of the Russian autocracy seems to have been an exception to this general rule—at least in part. For even to close observers nothing seemed more dead than the revolutionary organizations in Russia on the outbreak of the Great War in the summer of 1914. To be sure, when the opportunity came, they sprang into life again and were able to place themselves in control of the situation. But the great climax certainly did not come about through their conscious efforts.

For this reason a detailed description of the early revolutionary movements directed against the czar's government is not necessary to a thorough understanding of the events which so startled the world in March, 1917. The causes which brought them about originated after the outbreak of the war.

We were in the habit of describing the two great governments, that of the German Empire and that of the Russian Empire, with the word "autocracies." And in that each was, and one still is, controlled absolutely by a small group of men, responsible (p. 364) to nobody but themselves, this was true. Aside from that, no further comparison is possible.

The German autocracy is the result of the conscious effort of highly capable men who built and organized a system with thoughtful and intelligent deliberation. With a deep knowledge of human psychology and the conditions about them, they have guided their efforts with extreme intelligence, knowing when to grant concessions, knowing how to hold power without being oppressive.

The Russian autocracy was a survival of a former age, already growing obsolete, rarely able to adapt itself to changing conditions, blindly fighting to maintain itself in its complete integrity against them. Change of any sort was undesirable to those controlling its machinery, even though the change might indirectly benefit it. It had been crystallized in a previous epoch, even as the tenets of its church were the crystallized superstitions of a barbaric age. It was, in fact, a venerable institution which certain men wished to perpetuate not so much from self-interest as from a blind veneration for its age and traditions. To them even the interests of the people were of far less importance than the maintenance of this anachronism in its absoluteness. Where the German rulers had the intelligence to divert opposing forces and even to utilize them to their own benefit, the Russian autocrats fought them and attempted to suppress them.

The chief of those forces which oppose autocracies are, naturally, the growing intelligence of the people and the resulting knowledge of conditions in other countries which they acquire. Realizing this fact, at least, the Russian rulers were bitterly opposed to popular education and made every effort to suppress the craving of the common people for knowledge of any kind.

These facts considered, it is not surprising that the first revolutionary movements in Russia should have been generated among the educated classes, even among the aristocracy itself. As far back as a century ago a revolutionary society was formed among the young army officers who had participated in the Napoleonic Wars, and who, in their contact with the French, (p. 365) imbibed some of the latters' democratic ideas, though they were then fighting them. Failing in their efforts to impregnate these ideas among the czar and his ruling clique, they finally, in 1825, resorted to armed violence, with disastrous results. Nicholas I had just ascended the throne, and with furious energy he set about stamping out the disaffection which these officers had spread in his army, and for the time being he was successful.[Back to Contents]



The first agitators for democracy among the civil population were the Nihilists, those long-haired, mysterious individuals whose bomb-throwing propensities and dark plottings have furnished so many Western fiction writers with material for romances. The Nihilists, so well described as a type in Turgenev's "Fathers and Sons," were the sons and daughters of the landed aristocracy, the provincial gentry, who went abroad and studied in foreign universities, or, studying at home, imbibed revolutionary ideas through foreign literature. Coming together in small groups, they began to formulate ideas of their own especially adapted to Russian conditions. At first these ideas were of a nonpolitical character and extremely abstract. They wished to go among the ignorant peasants and educate them in the Western sciences. "Going among the people" was a phrase among them which assumed the significance of a program. But with its antipathy toward all forms of learning the Government soon showed its determination to suppress all these efforts at educating the common people, and the youthful agitators were arrested and thrown into prison by the hundreds.

As a matter of fact their abstract ideas had made little impression on the ignorant mujiks, and had the Government ignored the Nihilists it is probable that their organization would have died a natural death from lack of success. But the opposition (p. 366) of the police only roused the fighting spirit of the young aristocrats, and they not only became more enthusiastic, but added recruits to their ranks more than enough in numbers to fill the gaps made by those in prison. The persecution by the police, furthermore, forced them to make a secret organization of their loosely knit groups, and this too fired the romantic imaginations of the young people.

The fight between the agitators and the police waxed stronger and more bitter. Then one day all Russia was shocked by the news that a Petrograd police chief had had a young woman in prison as a Nihilist suspect disrobed and flogged.

Hitherto the Nihilists had been entirely peaceful in their methods; violence had formed no part of their tactics. The indignation roused within their ranks by the outrage to the young woman resulted in a change. They decided to instill terror into the hearts of the Government officials by a systematic policy of assassination, whereby the most oppressive of the officials should be removed from their field of activity by death. The first of these assassinations, not quite successful, took place in Kiev in 1878. From then on violence on both sides increased and the bitterness intensified until in 1881 it culminated in the assassination of Alexander II. This so enraged the Government officials and vitalized their energy that soon after all the most active Nihilists had been captured or driven abroad, and for some years there came a lull in the agitation for democracy in Russia. But it was, after all, lack of success which had killed Nihilism rather than the violent measures of the Government. Practically all of the Nihilists had imbibed the radical doctrines of Karl Marx and Michael Bakunin, especially those of the latter, himself a Russian and more inclined toward violent anarchism than toward political socialism. These doctrines were far too abstruse for the untutored and practical minds of the peasants, and in most cases they had shown animosity rather than sympathy toward the agitators.

Yet the Nihilist doctrines and program formed the basis for later efforts toward creating a revolutionary spirit among the Russian people. To this day the few surviving Nihilists of the (p. 367) early days, notably Katherine Breshkovskaya, "the grandmother of the Russian Revolution," are venerated by the people as the last representatives of the heroic age.

It was not until the middle of the last decade of the nineteenth century, after the succession of Nicholas II to the throne in 1894, that revolutionary organization was revived in Russia. These modern efforts were concentrated into two forms of organization. The largest of these was the Social Democratic party, whose program consisted mainly of organizing the working people in the large cities and industrial centers. Its leaders were made up largely of recruits from the educated middle classes and from the Jewish elements.

Second in size, though quite as important in influence, was the Social Revolutionary organization. Though smaller in regard to membership, its leaders and most active members were those same students from the aristocratic classes which had made up the Nihilist groups. It was interested in injecting its doctrines into the peasantry, rather than propagating them among the working classes. And a certain branch of the organization, known as the Fighting Branch, still practiced assassination as a means to gaining its ends. As a result of its activities some of the highest officials of the Government and the most important dignitaries of the ruling clique lost their lives.[Back to Contents]



As members of both these organizations are at present in power in revolutionary Russia, it may be quite appropriate to enunciate their fundamental principles.

The Russian Social Democrats, together with all the Socialist parties of the world, stand for a democracy that shall be economic or industrial as well as political. They contend that a nation, such as the United States, which is democratic in its (p. 368) political organization, but whose industries and natural resources are in private hands, is democratic only in appearance. They stand for the socialized state which, being controlled by the universal suffrage of its people, shall in its turn own and control the natural resources and the industries through which the people are supplied with their daily needs. Their first aim is to gain control of the political machinery of the state, then reorganize industry on a socialistic basis.

The aims of the Social Revolutionists are not so easily defined, for the reason that there is more diversity of opinion among the membership. Most of them are undoubtedly Socialists, and many again are Anarchists of the Kropotkin school. Temperamentally the Russian is much more an Anarchist than a State Socialist, more an individualist than a collectivist. It is the Jewish element which gives the Social Democrats their numerical superiority. As compared to the Social Democrat it may be said that the Social Revolutionist, taking the average, is opposed to the strongly centralized state and bases his scheme of reconstruction on the local autonomy of the small community. It is the same difference that may be found, or is supposed to exist, between the principles of the Republican and the Democratic parties of the United States. The Social Revolutionist is the Democrat of Socialistic Russia; the Social Democrat is the Republican.

The failure of the war with Japan proved a strong stimulus to the revolutionary movements in Russia. In fact, their activities compelled the Government to conclude a peace when further hostilities might have brought about the defeat of the Japanese. To bring this domestic unrest to a head before it should gain too wide a volume, the Government sent its own agitators among the workingmen and incited them to make demonstrations and other forms of disturbance, which should serve the police as a pretext for violent suppression. The first of these demonstrations occurred on January 21, 1905, a date which remains in: scribed in the pages of Russian history as "Red Sunday." The workingmen, some thousands in number, were led by Father Capon, a priest, who was at least under the influence of the (p. 369) Government, if not in its pay. Against the wishes of the Social Democrats, with whom his organization cooperated, he decided to lead a great army of his followers to the gates of the palace and petition the czar for constitutional government. When the unarmed demonstrators arrived at the palace they were shot down by the hundreds and trampled into the mud by the hoofs of the cavalry horses.

The outrage stirred the Russian people profoundly. The revolutionary elements now began to act in earnest, though they were not quite as prepared as they had wished to be. A general strike was organized, and so effectively was it maintained that the czar and his clique promised the people a constitution. But when the strike had been called off and the disturbances subsided, it soon became evident that the promises were not to be fulfilled. More than that, the police now began such a series of repressive measures that again the fires on the revolution were lighted. Most notable of these was the uprising in Moscow in December, 1905, when the people and the soldiers fought bloody battles in the streets. But the revolutionary forces lacked proper organization, and were finally crushed. Of all the promises which had been made only the Duma remained, amounting to little more than a debating club with absolutely no independent legislative power.

The first Duma at least served to give some conception of the coloring of public opinion in Russia. The majority of the deputies belonged to the Constitutional Democrats, a political party which appeared and represented the moderate progressives, those who wished a constitutional monarchy and progressive reforms. Their leader was Paul Milukov, a professor in the University of Moscow and at one time professor in the University of Chicago.

The Duma, though the restrictive election laws had minimized the revolutionary elements within it, clamored for the promised reforms until it was finally dissolved by the Government. A number of deputies went to Finland and there issued a manifesto with the object of rousing a general demonstration, but without success. The second Duma proved quite as progressive (p. 370) as the first and was also dissolved arbitrarily. Then the electoral laws were made still more restrictive, so that the landed nobility and the clergy should be more represented. The third Duma, as a result, proved quite innocuous, and for five years it sat, never attempting to initiate any changes, attracting very little attention.

During this period reaction regained all its former ascendency, within the Social Revolutionary organization it was discovered that the chief of the fighting organization, Eugene Azev, was nothing more than the paid agent of the secret police and that he had been delivering the members of the organization into the hands of his masters as they proved themselves most dangerous. The agent through whom the exposure had been made, by an ex-police chief, was an obscure Russian journalist, Vladimir Bourtsev, who at once rose to international prominence as the "Sherlock Holmes of the Russian Revolution." To maintain his reputation he began with much publicity further investigations and discovered a great number of smaller-fry spies in the organization, with the result that all mutual confidence of the members was broken and the organization went completely to pieces.

After this, 1907, little more was heard in foreign countries of Russian revolution. Within Russia itself the university students who had formed the best material for the working committees turned their energies in other directions, degenerating into the notorious "candle-light clubs" and other somewhat depraved practices with free love as a basis.

Nor had anything occurred to revive the hopes of the friends of Russian freedom when hostilities broke out between Russia and Germany in 1914, and the greatest of all wars was precipitated. Certainly not within revolutionary circles. Among the peasantry and the working classes, indeed, and of spontaneous origin, there had appeared a great economic movement, more directly revolutionary in character than the more picturesque terrorist organizations. This was the cooperative societies. In the towns and cities and the industrial centers they took the form of consumers' organizations in which the people (p. 371) combined their purchasing power and conducted their own stores for the supply of their daily needs. These local societies again federated into the Moscow Wholesale Society, which purchased in bulk for its constituents. In the rural districts the peasants organized for the purpose of marketing their produce jointly; this form of cooperation was especially marked in Siberia among the dairy farmers. Then there were the credit societies, cooperative banks which federated in the Moscow Narodni (People's) Bank, and so had millions of rubles at its disposal with which to finance more cooperative organizations. All these societies were much restricted by the police, but they gained enough headway to play an important part in the economic life of the nation after the outbreak of hostilities and to become a big element in the final revolutionary movement.

Closely akin to the cooperatives, and of much older origin, were the Zemstvos. These local governing organizations were established in 1864 by Alexander II to satisfy the desire of the peasants to express themselves in local politics. The local Zemstvo is charged with the administration of education, sanitation, medical relief for the poor, maintenance of highways, and other local matters outside the sphere of the central government. Naturally the Zemstvo was not intrusted with any power that was likely to prove dangerous to the Petrograd Government, but as the members were elected by popular suffrage, restricted by certain qualifications demanding the ownership of property on the part of the electors. The Zemstvos proved highly effective training schools in which the peasants could learn self-government and parliamentary procedure. The local Zemstvos, like the cooperative societies, federated into district Zemstvos, which sometimes had the control of large affairs on their hands.[Back to Contents]



With the declaration of war against Germany, slumbering Russia seemed suddenly to awaken, and elements which had hitherto been antagonistic joined together for the common purpose of repelling the German invasion. Keenly patriotic, even to the point of fanaticism, in spite of his ready acceptance of radical doctrines, the Russian is ever ready to present a solid front against outside interference. Thus it was that when the war began revolutionists who had fled from Russia, or who had been exiled abroad, flocked home in great numbers and offered their services to the autocracy to fight the Germans. Never has Russia shown such unanimity of spirit and such solidarity of purpose. The Japanese War had been so plainly one of aggression, and in so distant a part of the world, that this same spirit had not been manifested in 1904. But now the Germans, always hated by the Slavs, were actually crossing the Russian frontier, close to the national capital. All Russia rallied to the call for action. As a matter of fact, it was the Russian autocracy itself which presently began realizing that it had unintentionally and illogically arrayed itself on the side of the forces which it had always fought, as the revolutionary elements in Russia also presently began realizing that they had followed their truest instincts in supporting the war against Germany.

For within a few weeks after the outbreak of hostilities the war assumed an entirely different character. In its first aspect it was a quarrel between various autocracies over greed for influence and territory. The Russian autocracy went into the fight because of its pretensions in the Balkans. Then France and Great Britain, the two big democracies of Europe, threw themselves into the conflict. They fought to oppose the ambition of the German rulers to Prussianize the whole of Europe. It soon became obvious that the Teutonic Powers wanted something of immensely more importance than territorial gains in Serbia; (p. 373) they wanted to become the masters of all Europe. And so the initial character of the war changed within a few weeks: it developed into a conflict between international democracy on the one hand and international autocracy on the other hand. It was then when the question of Serbia sank into comparative insignificance that the Russian autocrats realized that they had enlisted on the wrong side. But with the whole populace of the country enthusiastically united behind it, the Government was swept onward; it was too late to make an abrupt change of front.

Undoubtedly all the members of the ruling class of Russia realized this fact. But in full justice to them it must be said that the large majority of them, those who previously had supported the Government against the revolutionary and progressive elements, decided to accept the situation and support the war against Germany to a finish, whatever the results might be in internal affairs after the war.

Within the governing clique, comprising some of the most influential individuals, was a small group, later known as "the dark forces," which quickly came to the conclusion that democracy must be defeated at all costs.

First of all came the czar himself. Nicholas, however, played a very small figure as a personality in all the later intrigues. Weak of character, almost to the point of being mentally defective, he reflected only the personalities of those about him. Yet he was by blood seven-eighths German.

Next came the czarina, entirely German, with not a drop of Russian blood. Of a stronger personality, though scarcely more intelligent, she formed the real power behind the throne, in so far as direct control was concentrated in any one person. By persons of more intelligence than herself she could be used in manipulating the will of the czar to their own purposes. Behind her, or rather to one side of her, stood a group of the Russian nobility of German origin, descendants of the courtiers and officials brought into Russian court circles by the German wives of Russian czars. These still retained enough of their German sympathies to counteract any consideration they might otherwise (p. 374) have felt for the interests of Russia itself, especially as this was further strengthened by their realization that the defeat of Germany would also mean the doom of Russian autocracy, of which they were a part.[Back to Contents]



The dominating figure of this dark circle of pro-Germans within the Russian court was the monk Rasputin—Rasputin the peasant, the picturesque, the intriguing, the evil medium through which the agents of Germany manipulated the Russian Government toward their own ends, the interests of the German autocracy. Such a figure could have played a part in no other than a court of Oriental pattern, and such the Russian court was.

Gregory Novikh was a Siberian by birth, the son of a common, illiterate mujik, as illiterate and as ignorant as his father. Early in life, while still a common fisherman, he showed abnormal qualities. Degenerate, unrestrained in all his appetites, he possessed a magnetic personality sometimes found in persons of that type. It was said that no woman, even of the highest culture and quality, could resist his advances. So loose was his behavior that he acquired the nickname of Rasputin, which means a rake, a person of bad morals. And by this name he gradually became notorious all over the land.

From fishing Rasputin turned toward easier ways of making a living. He became an itinerant monk, a holy man, a mystic. A rôle he was able to play on account of his peculiar hypnotic powers. As a religious fakir he acquired influence over women of high degree, though his manners were coarse and his person was decidedly unclean.

Eventually Rasputin made the acquaintance of Madame Virubova, the favorite lady-in-waiting of the czarina. With the credulity of a superstitious woman of her class, the czarina (p. 375) was a patroness of many occult cults and had a firm belief in the influence of invisible spirits. Rasputin was presented to her by the lady-in-waiting as an occult healer and a person of great mystic powers. Immediately he was asked to show his powers on the young czarevitch, Alexis, heir to the throne, who was constitutionally weak and at that moment was suffering especially from attacks of heart weakness. Rasputin immediately relieved the sufferings of the child and so permanently established himself with the czarina and even with the czar. As has been explained since, Madame Virubova had previously administered a drug to the young czarevitch, and by applying the antidote Rasputin had obtained immediate results. Whether this story be true, or whether Rasputin really did possess those peculiar healing powers which certain abnormal persons undoubtedly do possess, the fact was that he remained in court as a permanent attachment and acquired an influence there which was equaled by no other person. He became, in actual fact, the real ruler of all the Russias, for the prime minister who incurred his displeasure did not long remain in power. Such a man, naturally, would have many enemies, even within court circles, and efforts were made to bring about the downfall of Rasputin. Once his enemies did actually succeed in having him expelled from Petrograd for a while, but immediately the czarevitch became critically ill and during his absence the czarina was almost continuously hysterical. Again he was invited back to court and then he set about building up his influence into a political machine that was never again to be broken, even after his death, until it became necessary for the reactionaries themselves to help destroy the autocracy itself in order to purge Russia of the spirit of Rasputin.

Rasputin, not the revolutionary movement, brought about the downfall of czarism.

Yet up until after the outbreak of the war Rasputin had been intelligent enough to refrain from interfering in matters of state importance. His influence had thus far been wielded only to secure his own position. Perhaps his keen instincts, rather than his intelligence, warned him against too deep an interference (p. 376) in political matters. To this self-restraint he owed his long continuance in power, for though the situation was well known all over Russia, it was regarded rather in the light of a joke. Rasputin's power was underestimated, perhaps; he was more or less regarded as the pet poodle of the czarina.

It was after the war that he suddenly changed his attitude. He was one of the first to realize the danger to the autocracy that a German defeat would mean; that the Russian court was ranged against the forces which would perpetuate it. Whether it was this realization which determined Rasputin to wield his powerful influence in favor of Prussianism, or whether he had been bought by German gold, the fact remains that he became the central figure about which revolved all those "dark forces" which were working for either a separate peace with Germany or the utter military defeat of Russia in the war. In this object Rasputin and his allies nearly succeeded. It was to avert this that practically all the social elements, both liberal and reactionary, united with the revolutionists in overturning czarism.

What the plans of the dark forces were during the first year of the war cannot now of course be definitely known. Perhaps they realized that the utter inefficiency of the Russian autocracy would soon decide the issue on the eastern front. And had there not appeared other elements to guide and support the Russian soldiers at the front, Russia would undoubtedly have been overrun by the German-Austrian armies before the end of the first year.

But the patriotic enthusiasm which German aggression had awakened also brought into life powerful social organizations created for the purpose of supporting the army in its fight against the Germans. Five days after war was declared a congress of all the Zemstvos met in Moscow and organized the Russian Union of Zemstvos. A Central Committee was appointed and, with almost unlimited funds at its disposal, raised through subscriptions, set to work to supplement the work of the Red Cross and the commissary department of the army, both of which were obviously unable to meet the needs of the situation. This organization practically took the place of the two (p. 377) other departments of the Government, establishing hundreds of hospitals and supplying their equipment, caring for the wounded soldiers, supplying the soldiers at the front not only with their necessities, but with tobacco, bathing facilities, laundries, and many other minor luxuries. During the first two years of the war the Central Committee disbursed over half a billion dollars. At the head of this organization, democratic in form, as its president was Prince George Lvov, who was later destined to play an important part in the organization of the revolutionary government.

Another spontaneous and democratic organization which came into existence to support the army against the Germans was the Union of Towns, representing 474 municipalities in Russia and Siberia. It, too, carried on a work similar to that of the Zemstvos, raising and spending vast sums of money. Then came the cooperative societies, supplying the army with food. In the towns and cities the consumers' societies combated the intrigues of the food speculators, which were even more active in Russia than they are in this country, and stabilized prices. In some of the cities the local municipal administrations turned over the whole problem of food supply to the local cooperatives, doing nothing more than foot the bills. During the war the membership of these societies rose to thirteen million. They, too, were democratic in form.

It would seem that the Government could have done no less than accept the cooperation of these social organizations thankfully and done all in its power not to handicap them in their efforts. But this did not happen. On the contrary, from the beginning they were hampered as though they were dangerous revolutionary organizations. This policy became even more pronounced later on, when the success of the Allies made the dark forces desperate.[Back to Contents]



On the outbreak of the war the premier was Ivan L. Goremykin, a typical autocrat, who had served under four czars, and who was now well past seventy. As though utterly unconscious of the war situation, he carried his administration on as he had done previous to the war. First of all, he began a determined campaign of persecution of the Jews, at a moment when the most violent anti-Semites would be irritated by such a course. He even went so far as to have a number of pogroms perpetrated and he spread persistent rumors that the Jews were betraying the cause of Russia, in spite of the fact that they were playing a leading part in the social organizations and were more than proportionately represented in the army. Then he instituted similar persecution among the Ruthenians and the Poles, and when Galicia was occupied by the Russian military forces Goremykin sent there a number of petty officials whom he instructed to make the inhabitants into Russians according to old methods. Then when the commander in chief, Grand Duke Nicholas, issued his manifesto promising the Poles liberty, the Goremykin ministry completely ignored the promise. And finally, a number of political refugees, who had returned from abroad to offer their services, either in the army or in the social organizations, were imprisoned or sent to Siberia.

Even the reactionaries who had previously supported all that the Government stood for were indignant. This feeling became most manifest in the Duma. In 1914 the Duma had been a reactionary body, the majority of the deputies being in favor of trusting entirely to the Government. In August, 1915, a most astonishing thing happened, the Duma, with a large majority, which included Conservatives, Liberals and Radicals alike, drew up a demand for a series of reforms, including the institution of a cabinet responsible to the people through itself. Another demand was for a general amnesty for all political prisoners. (p. 379) This was the famous Progressive Bloc. Goremykin refused even to discuss the program. Instead, he hurried to the czar to get his signature to a decree proroguing the Duma, in which he succeeded. The result was that the whole population rose in threatening revolution, and this time the threat was not from the revolutionary elements. Even former leaders of the Black Hundreds were among the protestants. It was then that Rodzianko, the president of the Duma, addressed a letter to the premier, placing the responsibility of Russia's recent defeats squarely on him and added: "You are obviously too old to possess the vigor to deal with so difficult a situation. Be man enough to resign and make way for some younger and more capable man." Then Goremykin resigned.

But the change was for the worse, rather than for the better, for the next premier was a close friend and associate of Rasputin, a younger man, to be sure, and more capable, but whose capabilities were to be turned in the wrong direction. Boris Sturmer, a German by blood and sympathies, former governor of Tver, one of the blackest of reactionaries, was appointed to fill the vacant premiership.

Sturmer, where his predecessor had perhaps been merely incompetent, now set about consciously to make a separate peace with Germany, and this object he hardly took the trouble to hide. Through the censorship he suppressed the loyal press and encouraged a number of papers which openly denounced Russia's allies and demanded a separate peace with the kaiser. Then he sent agents to Switzerland, there to confer with representatives of the German Government, so openly that it was known all over Russia, even among the peasants, that a separate peace was being prepared.[Back to Contents]



Again the popular protest checked the machinations of the dark forces. Then Sturmer turned deliberately to suppress the democratic organizations. Early in 1916 he issued an order forbidding any of these societies, which were keeping the armies in the field, from holding meetings. Next the headquarters of all these organizations were placed in charge of the police. And then came the removal from the Cabinet of Sazonov, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the one man in whose loyalty to Russia the people had confidence. Sazonov had always been a keen admirer of the British and the French, and was in close touch with the embassies of these countries in Petrograd. To the Russians he had seemed at least some sort of a guarantee against being surprised with a sudden separate peace. Nor can there be any doubt that he was a serious obstacle in the way of the dark forces in their efforts to bring about their object. Sazonov's removal acquired still deeper significance when it was announced that Sturmer himself would take charge of foreign affairs, business of which he had absolutely no experience.

Of a deep significance, though this was not obvious at the time, was the appointment of Alexander D. Protopopoff as Minister of the Interior. This was the man who was finally to kick aside the last wedge shoring up the tottering walls of the Russian autocracy.

Protopopoff, who had for the first time entered politics in 1908, being a cloth manufacturer of Simbirsk, was in that year elected a deputy to the Duma by the moderate Octobrists, a conservative body which usually sided with the Government. But when the Octobrists joined the Progressive Bloc against the Government, Protopopoff had shown himself quite radical and supported it. Quite unexpectedly, by the resignation of a vice president of the Duma, he rose to prominence by being elected (p. 381) to the vacant office. In the summer of 1916 he was one of a delegation which visited England, France, and Italy. On his return to Russia, through Stockholm, he there met and held a conversation with a German agent, but at the time, though the matter was taken up by the Duma for investigation, he managed to exonerate himself. But, as became known, the incident caused him to attract the attention of Rasputin, and he and the court favorite came together and to an understanding. The result was his appointment to the cabinet.

At first it was hoped that Protopopoff would prove the sign of surrender of the autocracy; that a liberal element was to be introduced into the administration through him. But the new minister showed himself in close harmony with Sturmer, and presently this last hope was destroyed.

With Protopopoff a new idea was introduced into the Government. It was he undoubtedly who conceived the idea of staging a revolution in Russia, of creating or precipitating a premature uprising, as had been done so successfully in 1905, but for a different purpose. The idea now was to create such internal disorders as to give the Government a pretext for making separate peace with the Central Powers. This might deceive everybody; the revolutionary elements, which would be used as the medium for the disorder, and the liberals and conservatives who were now strongly anti-Government. In the midst of the turmoil the separate peace could be effected; then the soldiers could be recalled from the front and used in suppressing the revolution, a task that could be easily accomplished with the vast number of men under arms. As was later to be demonstrated, the dark forces did not reckon with the psychological changes which the army was also undergoing.

Mysterious placards now began to appear in the factories and munition shops calling on the workingmen to go out on strike and organize demonstrations. Police agents, disguised as workingmen, went into the industrial plants and began to preach revolution. It was easy enough to utilize Socialist philosophy for this purpose. Why should the workers of Russia fight the workers of Germany, when their interests were (p. 382) identical? Why should they shed their blood for the ruling classes, when the ruling classes were the only ones who could gain through the war? The German Socialists were even then rising against their masters; the Russian Socialists were urged to do likewise and so join their German comrades in paving the way to the cooperative commonwealth.

Fortunately the Social Democratic party had already issued a detailed manifesto explaining why the Russian Socialists should stand by the war. The genuine leaders of the Socialists should[TN] the labor organizations realized immediately the policy which the dark forces were initiating. For once they came together with the liberals and even with the conservative elements, and prepared to combat this underhanded propaganda. Placards were posted and proclamations were issued by the real leaders denouncing the impostors and explaining their tactics. This underground fight among the laboring classes was of long duration, however. In instituting this policy the dark forces were indeed playing with the fire which was eventually to consume them.

Throughout the war the food supply had been very bad, not on account of any real scarcity of foodstuffs, but because of the inefficient handling of the inadequate transportation facilities. In some localities provisions rotted in the warehouses while in the large cities the people were starving, on the verge of famine. Instead of handling the food situation as the other belligerent countries were doing, Sturmer encouraged a group of dishonest financiers to acquire control of the food supplies, thereby making big financial profits himself. This greediness on his part was, however, to cause his own downfall before that of his associates. A traitor to his country, he was also a thief.[Back to Contents]



Such were the tactics the dark forces had fully adopted in the fall of 1916, only a few months before the revolution. They deliberately set about disorganizing the machinery of the nation to facilitate a Russian defeat. As has been proved, they did not stop short of actual treachery in the military field. The failure of the Rumanian defense was the result of actual betrayal by those higher even than the generals in the field. The Germans and Austrians had known every detail of the campaign plans of the Rumanians and the Russian army supporting them, and this information they had obtained directly from Petrograd.

Had it not been for the fact that the whole nation was awaiting the opening of the Duma to take place on November 14, 1916, it is more than probable that the revolution would have taken place in the fall of 1916 instead of four months later. It would then, however, have been a far bloodier event, for then the disintegration of the autocracy had not yet reached such a complete stage as it did in the following spring, and it might have offered a far more serious, perhaps a successful, resistance. But the last hope of the people was in the Duma, and they awaited its session in that spirit.

The Duma convened on the date set, and then was witnessed the remarkable spectacle of the conservative members denouncing the Government with the fiery oratory of Socialist agitators. The president himself, Michael Rodzianko, who hitherto had always been a stanch supporter of the autocracy, being a prosperous landowner and the father of two officers in a crack regiment, arraigned Sturmer as once he had arraigned the revolutionary agitators. But it was left to Professor Paul Milukov, the leader of the Constitutional Democrats, to create the sensation of the meeting. He not only denounced Sturmer as a politician, but he produced the evidence which proved beyond (p. 384) a doubt that Sturmer was receiving bribes from the food speculators; the specific case he brought up showed that Sturmer, through his secretary, had offered to shield certain bankers under indictment for a substantial consideration. Sturmer immediately took steps to dissolve the Duma. But the czar, whose signature he needed, was at the front. For the moment he was delayed.

During this interval another sensation occurred. General Shuvaiev, Minister of War, and Admiral Grigorovitch, Minister of Marine, appeared in the Duma, and declared themselves on the side of the Duma and the people. This settled the fate of Sturmer. On his way to the front to procure the signature of the czar to the proclamation dissolving the Duma he was handed his dismissal.

His successor was Alexander Trepov, also an old-time bureaucrat, but known not to be affiliated with the dark forces. It was hoped that he would conciliate the angry people. But Trepov never played an important part in later developments; the fight was now between the Duma and the people on the one hand and the Minister of the Interior, Protopopoff, on the other. This battle now began in earnest and was destined to be fought out to a bitter finish.

With a brazen fearlessness which must be credited to him, Protopopoff now arraigned himself openly against the whole nation and the Duma, with only the few hundreds of individuals constituting the dark forces behind him. But these sinister forces included Rasputin, the all-powerful, the czarina, and, unconscious though he himself may have been of the part he played, the czar himself.

Protopopoff now began persecuting the members and the leaders of the social forces as though they were the veriest street agitators for Socialism. Next he endeavored to have Paul Milukov assassinated, but the assassin repented at the last moment and revealed the plot. Then he gathered together former members of the Black Hundreds and recruited them into the police force and trained them in machine-gun practice. And finally he renewed the energy with which he (p. 385) had begun to organize revolutionary disorders among the workers.

All Russia was against him, even to the great majority of the members of the Imperial family. His own mother had warned the czar that disaster threatened him. As early as December, 1916, the Grand Duke Nicholas Michailovitch had held a long interview with the czar in which he had openly denounced the czarina and Rasputin in such strong terms that when he had finished, having realized he had gone extremely far, he remarked:

"And now you may call in your Cossacks and have them kill me and bury me in the garden." In reply the czar only smiled and offered the grand duke a light for the cigarette which he had been fingering in his nervous rage. It was by a member of the Imperial family that the first vital blow was struck at the dark forces. In the early morning hours of December 30, 1916, a dramatic climax was precipitated.

It was then that a group of men drove up in two motor cars to the residence of Prince Felix Yusupov, a member of the Imperial family through his having married a cousin of the czar. Among the men in the two cars were Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovitch, ex-Minister of the Interior, A. N. Khvostov, also an ex-Minister of the Interior, and Vladimir Purishkevitch, at one time a notorious leader of Black Hundred organizations, but since the beginning of the war an active worker in the social organizations and a deputy in the Duma, where he formed one of the Progressive Bloc.

A few minutes later the policeman on duty in the neighborhood heard shots within the house and cries of distress. On making an investigation he obtained no satisfaction, nor did he dare to continue his inquiry on account of the high rank of the owner of the house. Again the men came out of the house and carried between them a large bundle resembling a human form, which they hustled into one of the automobiles and rode off.

Next morning blood spots were found in the street where the motor cars had stood. Then a hole was discovered in the ice covering the river Neva, beside which were found two bloody (p. 386) goloshes. Further search revealed a human body, which proved to be the corpse of no less a person than the notorious monk Rasputin himself.[Back to Contents]



Thus was Rasputin finally removed from his sphere of evil influence by men who before the war had been of the very inner circles of the autocracy, but who had gradually undergone a great change of opinion. They believed that even the autocracy itself was only secondary in importance to Russia herself, and they had taken it upon themselves, after doing all in their power to circumvent the traitors through legitimate means, to remove the archconspirator as such creatures usually were removed in the days when they were more common. Rasputin had been lured to the house of Prince Felix and there killed.

It was said that the czarina was hysterical for days after the sensational news had swept over all Russia and Protopopoff fainted upon being informed of the death of his dark ally and master. The czar, who was at headquarters at the front, hurried home to Tsarskoe Selo. And then, as though to insult the nation, the dead mujik was buried with such pomp as was accorded only to members of the Imperial family, the emperor and Protopopoff being among the pallbearers.

The people treated the event as though it were a great military victory, rejoicing unrestrainedly. The premier, Trepov, who though a mere figurehead, was still loyal to Russia and secretly an enemy of Rasputin and Protopopoff, allowed all the details of the assassination to be published in the papers, even to the names of those concerned in the actual killing. These latter were of too high a rank to be punished, besides which popular sentiment stood solidly behind them. Trepov himself did not prosecute them because of his sympathy with their deed.

(p. 387) Now that Rasputin, the undoubted leader and master mind of the dark forces was dead, there was universal hope that the pro-German conspiracy was killed with him. But the machine he had built up for his own protection and medium through which to accomplish his ends was too well organized to be broken even by his removal. Into Rasputin's place stepped Protopopoff. He maintained his hold over the czar by means of spiritualistic séances in which he pretended to have communication with the spirit of the dead monk. The conspiracy continued unabated, only now Protopopoff worked with the fury of desperation. And so the crisis soon came to a head.

All Russia, save for the small palace group, was against him. At the new year reception held in the palace he was most severely humiliated by Rodzianko, the president of the Duma, who, when Protopopoff approached him with extended hand, swung his back to him, causing a sensation all over the country. At another time, when he entered the rooms of the aristocratic club in Petrograd, of which he was a member, all the other members present walked out. Yet he had the courage of his evil convictions; with the desperate fury of a tortured bull in the ring he faced all his enemies and continued on his path, the whole nation against him.

Trepov, who had shown his sympathy for the executioners of Rasputin, was removed. So were the Ministers of War and Marine, who had declared themselves for the people. Black reactionaries and pro-Germans were placed in their posts. Then he began arresting all the labor leaders who were agitating against strikes and demonstrations and in favor of prosecuting the war, leaving his own hirelings, who were preaching strikes and revolution, to continue their efforts unharmed. This was about the most obviously significant act he had yet committed. Then the food-supply trains arriving daily in Petrograd were deliberately halted in the provinces and the population drifted on to the verge of actual famine.

Then Protopopoff's efforts, in the early days of March, 1917, began to bear fruit. In spite of the warnings of the few loyal labor leaders still at liberty, the workers began to grumble and (p. 388) to talk revolt. Their stomachs were empty. On February 27, 1917, when the Duma went into session again, 300,000 workingmen had gone out on strike in Petrograd. The air was charged with electricity. Everybody realized that the critical moment was approaching: the final battle between the dark forces and the people.

On March 1, 1917, the only two leaders of the labor organizations which supported the Duma issued an appeal exhorting the workers to return to work.

And this appeal in favor of order and law was censored by the Government.

Further proof of the treachery of Protopopoff were not needed; this was the most convincing which had yet appeared.

During the first week of March, 1917, the unrest among the populace continued growing, and the Duma and the labor leaders felt themselves regarding the situation helplessly. Small riots occurred and martial law was immediately declared. Food was so scarce that even the wealthy were starving.

But Protopopoff had made one mistake: he was also starving the troops garrisoning Petrograd.

On March 9, 1917, the street railways ceased running on account of a strike of the street railway men. The streets were full of excited crowds, though as yet no violence had been committed. Cossacks and soldiers also patrolled the thoroughfares, while squads of police were on the housetops, covering the street corners with machine guns. Protopopoff wanted revolution, but he did not mean to allow it to succeed. All he wanted was a few days of violent disorder, a prolonged Red Sunday, during which a separate peace with Germany and Austria might be proclaimed.

But the violence did not break out so soon as he desired. The strike was spreading; by the 10th it had become practically universal. But meanwhile the workingmen were quietly organizing. Electing delegates, they formed the Council of Workingmen's Deputies, which immediately took over the control of their movements. It was this fact which caused what might have been a blind uprising of desperate people to assume the (p. 389) character of an organized revolution. On this date the Duma, which had been in continual session, broke off relations with the Government with a resolution stating that "with such a Government the Duma forever severs its connections." In response to this act the czar issued a decree ordering the dissolution of the Duma.

On the following day, Sunday the 11th, the members of the Duma unanimously decided to ignore the decree of the czar and to hold what was to prove the first session of the Duma as the representative body of the Russian democracy.

Meanwhile the street demonstrations continued, augmented by those workers who had not yet gone out on strike and were simply out on their weekly day of rest. A proclamation had been issued by the military authorities forbidding gatherings, adding that the severest measures would be resorted to in breaking them up. But no notice was taken of this order. The Cossacks were riding through the crowded streets, but, in sharp contrast to their behavior of former times, they took great care not to jostle the people even, guiding their horses carefully among the moving people.[Back to Contents]



The first actual violence was begun by the police, who opened fire on the crowds in certain sections of the city from the housetops with their machine guns. A number of demonstrators were killed and wounded, but still the disorders did not yet become general. Where the police opened fire the more resolute elements of the crowds rushed in to attack them and killed them. And now came Protopopoff's pretext for ordering the soldiers to fire and to begin such a massacre as had squelched the premature uprising on Red Sunday twelve years before.

(p. 390) It was at this point that one of the most vital arrangements of Protopopoff's scheme snapped.

There were 35,000 soldiers in Petrograd at this time, more than sufficient to suppress any uprising. Neither Protopopoff nor the most radical members of the Duma doubted that the soldiers would obey the orders of their officers, and shoot down the crowds on the streets. When had Russian soldiers ever refused to suppress demonstrations of the people? "The revolution is on," cried Milukov, "but it will be drowned in blood!" In this supposition both sides were to prove greatly mistaken.

The Russian army of March, 1917, was a very different organization from the Russian army of March, 1914. First of all, it was now composed of men who three years before had been part of the Russian people. The regular professional army, the standing establishment, which had been the support of the autocracy, had been practically drowned in the vast influx of recruits. Furthermore, the old, well-trained regiments constituting the regular army had been decimated in the fierce battles along the Russian front, some of them being annihilated. They had been eliminated. Of still more importance there had been a change in the minds of the highest army leaders themselves. Whatever might have been their attitude toward the autocracy and the people in the days of old, like their colleagues, the civilian reactionaries, they had seen the autocracy and the social organizations contrasted; they were profoundly patriotic and they realized what Rasputin and his dark forces had stood for, what Protopopoff stood for; they had personally, most of them, pleaded with the czar to clean the court of the sinister pro-German influences—with absolutely no success. They realized that the country must choose between the autocracy as it was and a government of the people if Prussianism was to be defeated, and they did not hesitate in their choice.

Among these army leaders, who had undergone such a change of psychology, was no less a person than the Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholaievitch himself, who had been removed from his command of the armies facing the Austro-Germans and transferred to the minor field of operations against Turkey, (p. 391) only because he had protested against the influence of an illiterate Siberian mujik.

With very few exceptions, the army leaders, from the commander in chief down to the regimental commanders, stood arrayed on the side of the Duma. So clever an intriguer as Protopopoff should have realized this.

One of the first regiments to be called out to fire on the people after the first encounters between the machine-gun squads of the police and the demonstrators was the famous Volynski Regiment, notorious in Russian revolutionary history. Never had it failed its masters. A noncommissioned officer of this crack regiment, Kirpitchnikov, immediately made the round of the soldiers and the other noncommissioned officers. They organized a committee which approached the officers. The latter, with the single exception of the colonel, stood with the committee. When the order came to fire on the people, they shot the colonel, formed, shouldered their pieces, and marched out on the streets as the first organized body of soldiers to fight for the awakening Russian democracy.

Persuading several other guard regiments to join them, they attacked Protopopoff's police squads. This event occurred at 5 o'clock in the afternoon of the 11th, and marked the beginning of the actual revolution. The fighting begun by the mutinied soldiers now became general. One by one other regiments were called out, but with very few exceptions all refused to fire on the people and joined the revolutionists. Then the Cossacks came over in a body. As twilight approached the firing in the streets became general and continuous.

Meanwhile Michael Rodzianko, president of the Duma, made one more effort to avert the great crisis. The czar, having been assured by Protopopoff several days previous that all danger was over and the situation well in hand, had gone to army headquarters at the front. To him Rodzianko sent a telegram worded as follows:

"The situation is extremely serious. Anarchy threatens in the capital, transportation of provisions is completely disorganized, and fighting has begun in the streets. It is of vital importance (p. 392) that a new cabinet be formed by some person enjoying the confidence of the people. Each moment of delay adds to the disaster. May the responsibility for a great national calamity not fall upon your head."

To this telegram the czar made no answer.[Back to Contents]



Meanwhile the deputies sat in session, helpless, regarding the situation with growing alarm. After all, the majority were naturally conservatives and feared revolution. As a matter of fact, they allowed themselves to lose grip of the situation.

As has already been said, the uprising was not a blind force giving vent to elemental feeling, but a thoroughly organized revolutionary movement. The old revolutionary forces had awakened in time to take control of the developing situation. It was the leaders of the Social Democrats, the Social Revolutionists, the successors of the old-time Nihilists and the labor leaders, who were proving themselves masters of the situation. The Duma sat quiet, inert, and so lost its opportunity. It hated the dark forces on the one hand, it feared the revolution on the other, and at the critical moment helped neither. What saved it from being completely discredited was the fact that a number of the revolutionary leaders, such as Alexander Kerensky and Tcheidze, both Socialists, were also deputies in the Duma, and, being of well-balanced minds, realized that they must have the support of those elements which the Duma represented to succeed. The real center of government of the new democracy, then rising out of the birth pangs of the nation, was the Council of Workingmen's Deputies.

This organization on the part of the active revolution was largely completed during the night of the 11th, even while heavy (p. 393) firing swept up and down the streets of the city. When Monday morning dawned the various radical and labor leaders had knit themselves together in the Council of Workingmen's Deputies and were in control of the revolutionary forces through a great number of subcommittees. An intelligent plan of campaign for the actual military or fighting operations had been drawn up and was followed with an efficiency that would have done credit to organized troops. Undoubtedly the officers of the mutinied regiments who had gone over to the side of the people helped, but the revolutionary commanders did not for a moment allow them to take control of the situation. The red flag of International Socialism was raised that Monday morning as the emblem of the new régime, and to the present moment it continues flying.

The dominating brain, the vital moral force, behind the revolution was Alexander Kerensky, the young Socialist lawyer.

On Monday morning the revolutionary column headed by a regiment of the mutineers delivered an attack on the Arsenal, after dispersing the police groups in the neighborhood. The commandant, General Matusov, proved loyal to Protopopoff and offered resistance, but after some sharp fighting the garrison was overcome and Matusov killed. The capture of the Arsenal gave the revolutionists possession of a supply of rifles, small arms, machine guns, and ammunition more than ample to equip all their fighting forces. The artillery depot was also taken, and now the revolutionary soldiers, most of them students and workingmen, organized into flying detachments which scoured the city in automobiles and hunted down the police as though they were wild animals. The jails and prisons too were broken into and all the political prisoners liberated. And so fell the notorious Peter and Paul Fortress, the Bastille of Russia, in which some of the finest minds of the Russian revolutionary movement, both men and women, had been done to death with horrible torture. In the confusion some criminals also escaped, but in spite of their presence in the fighting crowds, there was very little looting or disorder, such as invariably attends violent uprisings. Schlusselburg Prison, another monument to martyred (p. 394) advocates of freedom, also fell. Then, headed by one of the old revolutionists, just released from a long imprisonment, the people turned on the most hated of all the old institutions, the headquarters of the secret police. This building was stormed, its defenders killed and then burned to its foundations, together with all its records. Everywhere the revolutionary forces were successful, meeting comparatively little resistance.

Meanwhile the Duma continued inactive, except that Rodzianko sent a second telegram to the czar and also a telegram to each of the prominent army commanders, begging them to make their personal appeals to the czar, that he might be persuaded to take some action which would at least save him his throne nominally.

"The last hour has struck," wired the Duma president. "To-morrow will be too late if you wish to save your throne and dynasty."

And again the czar, misled by a false adviser, refused to heed. Various accounts would seem to indicate that he was drunk at the time.

By this time 25,000 soldiers of the garrison had joined Kerensky's revolutionary army under the red flag. Then came a committee from these soldiers to the doors of the Duma with the demand:

"We have risen and helped the people overturn the autocracy. Down with czarism! Where do you stand?"

President Rodzianko, speaking for the Duma, showed them his telegrams demanding a ministry of the czar responsible to the people, and said that they stood for a constitutional democracy. The soldiers were satisfied. Then soldiers began arriving at the Taurida Palace, the meeting place of the Duma, to acknowledge their recognition of its authority. This was done under the influence of deputies Kerensky, Tcheidze, and Skobelev, all Socialists, who felt the need of having the cohesion of the Duma to the revolution. At about this time the newly appointed premier, Golitzin, who had succeeded Trepov, telephoned his resignation to the Duma. The other members of the cabinet had disappeared.

(p. 395) That afternoon the Duma appointed a committee of twelve members, representing all parties, which should represent its authority and should assist the revolutionary organizers in maintaining order. These latter held a separate meeting in another room of the palace and issued an appeal to the populace to refrain from excesses. An election of deputies to the Council of Workingmen's Deputies was then called for that evening, the name of the council being now changed to the Council of Workingmen and Soldiers' Deputies.[Back to Contents]



By this time the firing in the streets had died down. Desultory fighting still continued in the outskirts of the city between patrols of the revolutionary forces and policemen, but by evening calm once more settled down over the city. The autocracy was dead; the revolution had been won. The dead and wounded had been collected and the latter were being cared for. The dead amounted to slightly less than two hundred.

The two committees—the one representing the Duma and the one representing the red radicals—were in joint session all that night working with a harmony that would have seemed incredible only a week before. On the following morning they issued two proclamations. The first simply appealed to the people to remain calm and commit no excesses. The other announced the establishment of a new government for Russia, which should be based on universal suffrage. Then the Duma committee issued a special appeal to army officers to support the new régime. All day delegations from various organizations of both social and military life of the capital appeared before the doors of the Duma to offer allegiance, and again and again Milukov and Kerensky, each the popular hero of their separate elements, the (p. 396) one of the liberal middle classes and the other of the radical working classes, were called out to deliver addresses to crowds of enthusiastic people. Despite their differences of opinion, these two and their fellows worked together with an ideal harmony, each supporting the other with his constituency. Perhaps no greater anomaly was ever presented in history than the spectacle of Rodzianko, ultraconservative, and Kerensky, radical Socialist, each addressing a large crowd, the one in one courtyard the other in another courtyard, exhorting their audiences to stand shoulder to shoulder for a common purpose. Nothing but the knowledge that on the morrow the Prussians might be thundering at the gates of the city could have produced such harmony of action between two such differing types.

Another picturesque incident of the actual revolution occurred when the Imperial Guards at the palace revolted and, having disposed of their commanders, sent a committee in to arrest the czarina, who was attending her children, all of whom were ill with the measles.

"Do not hurt me or my children," she appealed, "I am only a poor Sister of Charity." A guard was left over her while the main body of the regiment went over to Taurida Palace to place itself at the disposal of the Provisional Government.

Meanwhile other notorious members of the dark forces were apprehended. Ex-Premier Boris von Sturmer, the traitor whom Milukov had denounced as a thief, and who had since his downfall been a member of the court camarilla, was arrested and put in a cell lately occupied by a political prisoner. Next came the metropolitan of the church, Pitirim, an appointee of Rasputin, a feeble old man in a white cap and a black cassock, tottering in the midst of a crowd of laughing and jesting soldiers and workingmen, showing him, however, no other violence than with their tongues. One by one all the members of the old régime were brought in, or they came of themselves. Finally the archconspirator, Protopopoff himself, was the only one of note still at large. For two days his whereabouts remained unknown. As developed later, he was hiding in the house of a relative.

(p. 397) On the evening of the 13th an old man in civilian dress appeared before the main doorway of the Duma headquarters. A civilian guard, a student, stood there.

"I am Protopopoff," said the man to the astonished guard; "I have come to surrender myself to the Duma and to recognize its authority. Take me to the right person."

The guard shouted the ex-minister's name in his excitement and a crowd quickly gathered. Even the perennial good humor of a Russian crowd forsook this gathering and it began to assume the aspect of a Western vigilance committee. There were angry shouts; the archtraitor, Protopopoff, was before them in person. But before actual violence could be offered the old man, Kerensky, the Socialist leader, leaped into the crowd and allayed the excitement, thus saving Protopopoff's life.

Another strange feature of the day's events was the appearance of Grand Duke Cyril on the balcony of his own house, uttering a revolutionary speech to the crowds on the pavement below. He declared himself unequivocally for the new government, wherever it might lead, and appealed to the people to support it. Meanwhile the Duma committee sent telegrams to all the commanders along the various fronts and to the admirals of the Baltic and Black Sea fleets, stating the bare facts and asking their adhesion to the Provisional Government. From all came ready professions of loyalty and adhesion. Similar telegrams were sent to all the towns and cities throughout the provinces. And all the country responded similarly. With very little violence the old régime was upset all over Russia and local councils elected to work in harmony with and under the authority of the Provisional Government in Petrograd. The French and British ambassadors too hastened to inform the president of the Duma that their respective governments recognized its authority and were prepared to enter into diplomatic relations with the Duma committee.

On the 14th the streets of Petrograd had assumed their normal quiet, if not their normal appearance, for it was somewhat unusual not to observe a single policeman in sight. Every member of the police was either in prison, in the hospital, or (p. 398) dead. The maintenance of order was given over to a civilian police, or city militia, under the command of Professor Yurevitch, the first time in Russian history that a college professor had ever undertaken such a function. On this day the garrison of the fortress of Kronstadt and the sailors of the fleet stationed there mutinied, killed their commanders and came over to the cause of the revolution. That evening the Duma committee issued a proclamation worded as follows:

"Citizens! The wonderful event has transpired! Old Russia is dead. The Committee of Safety of the Duma and the Council of Workingmen's and Soldiers' Deputies are bringing back order into the city and the country.... The most pressing need now is food supplies for the people and the army. Assist with bread and your labor."

Until now since the last of the fighting the control of affairs had been in the hands of the two committees, one representing the radical revolutionists and the other the middle class and aristocratic Duma. Each committee appealed to its constituency to respect the authority of the other.

During all of the next morning, the 15th, the two committees were in continuous joint session, planning the formation of a cabinet or set of officers for the Provisional Government. Early in the afternoon this labor was concluded and the members of the new government were announced. Prince George Lvov, he who had organized the Zemstvo Union and served so efficiently as its president, was Premier and Minister of the Interior. Though an aristocrat of the bluest blood, he was extremely liberal in his views. Never had he been an autocrat, even in sympathy. Paul Milukov, the leader of the Constitutional Democrats, was Minister of Foreign Relations. He represented the middle-class liberals or progressives, constituting what in this country would be called the business men and professional class, as Lvov represented the broad-minded country gentry. Alexander Kerensky, the radical Socialist, an old member of the Social Revolutionists, the organization of many assassinations, was named Minister of Justice. Less fanatical and more balanced than many of his associates, he represented the connecting (p. 399) link between the two sharply contrasting elements which constituted the new government. To him the red flag of International Socialism meant more than the flag of national patriotism, but he, as some of his associates did not, realized that national patriotism must not be destroyed until the spirit of international brotherhood was an established fact; that world federation must rest first on national unity. He proved then, though still a man in his early thirties, the dominant figure of the situation, a position which he has retained to an increasing degree ever since.

The other members of the new cabinet were: M. A. I. Gutchkov, chairman of the War Industries Committee, Minister of War and Marine. In earlier life he had been a soldier of fortune, having fought under many flags, for many causes, including that of the Boers in South Africa. In politics he was conservative. Andrei Shingarev, a Constitutional Democrat, was made Minister of Agriculture, an important post, for under his charge came the complicated problem of food supply, to be solved by means of a transportation all too inadequate in its lack of rolling stock to supply both army and people together. A physician by profession, he was also an expert on finance. Neither Rodzianko, president of the Duma, nor Tcheidze, the president of the Council of Workingmen's and Soldiers' Deputies, was represented in the cabinet, though both had taken important and leading parts in the revolution and the organization following.

The policy agreed upon was a compromise between the two elements in the new government. The Duma party could not yet face the possibility of a pure republic, and desired a constitutional monarchy under the czar, reducing him to a mere figurehead, to be sure. The radicals wanted a clear-cut democracy. Between them, by mutual compromise, they agreed that the czar should be deposed and his brother Grand Duke Michael should be proclaimed regent, with the Czarevitch Alexis as heir apparent. The new constitution, which was to be as liberal as the most progressive in the world, must, it was decided, be worked out in detail by a national congress or constituent (p. 400) assembly which should be elected by universal suffrage as soon as possible. The more important and pressing task before the nation, it was realized by both elements, was the organization of transportation that both the people and the army might be supplied with food and that munitions and other military supplies might be sent to the front. The armies of two great empires were still to be defeated before there could be any detailed discussion of forms of government.[Back to Contents]



Meanwhile where was the czar? As yet not a word had been heard from him. He seemed to have been lost in the confusion. And as a matter of fact he was as though he were the lost soul of the dead autocracy wandering about in space, mournfully looking for some spot on which he might alight.

As has already been stated, Nicholas was at the general headquarters of General Alexiev, the commander in chief, when the crisis was precipitated in Petrograd. With him were a number of his personal toadies, among them Baron Fredericks, the Court Minister, said to have been responsible for most of the evil influences during past years. Another of his companions was General Voyeykov.

The two telegrams from Rodzianko had been received, but it seems probable that they had been intercepted by either one of these two attendants. At any rate, they must have counteracted whatever influence the telegrams might have had on the weak-willed man's decisions. General Alexiev, too, in response to Rodzianko's telegram to himself had attempted to bring the czar to a realization of the seriousness of the situation. Nevertheless he did nothing. Of the many personal pictures of the czar which have been painted by those who have known him (p. 401) personally one stands out predominantly: a little man with a weak face, twirling his mustache with one hand and alternately looking out of the window or fixing the speaker with a semi-vacant stare.

Nicholas stood so when Alexiev explained to him the situation in the capital and then pleaded with him to grasp his last opportunity. But this last opportunity he allowed to slip by. Undoubtedly he could then have saved himself. Had he been a man of broad intelligence he might have come forward and averted the rising storm by granting even less than the autocracy of Germany has conceded to the German masses. Thus he might have emerged more firmly fixed in his high position than ever before. There are those who assert that Nicholas is mentally defective. Certainly the facts bear them out.

Finally there came an urgent appeal from his wife to return to Tsarskoe Selo, and this, a purely domestic matter, he understood. Together with his suite he started on a train, his escort under the command of General Tsabel. All had been drinking heavily, and when finally the news of the uprising came through in full detail, they were all inclined to minimize the importance of what had happened. On the morning of the 14th General Voyeykov briefly summarized the situation to the czar, then added that General Ivanov, the one commander at the front who still remained faithful to the autocracy, was advancing on Petrograd with a regiment of picked men and he would soon restore order. General Tsabel overheard this conversation. He thereupon showed a telegram which he had just received from Petrograd in which he was ordered to bring the czar's train direct to the city instead of to Tsarskoe Selo.

"How dare they give such orders!" demanded Nicholas.

"This order," replied General Tsabel, "is backed by sixty thousand officers and soldiers, who have gone over to the revolutionists."

Nicholas was now finally impressed by actual fact.

"Very well," he said, suddenly, "if it must be so, it must. I will go to my estate in Livadia and spend the rest of my days among my flowers."

(p. 402) But even that was not a final decision. On approaching Petrograd and Tsarskoe Selo the news came through that the garrison at the latter place had gone over to the revolutionists. The czar now insisted that he would go to Moscow, which he believed still remained loyal. But presently there came a telegram announcing that the Moscow garrison had also revolted.

All day the train rolled back and forth from point to point, with no destination in view, the czar and his suite hoping to find some break in the wall about them. At Dno General Ivanov joined the party and advised the czar to go to the army. It was later said that he and General Voyeykov suggested that the Russian lines be thrown open at Minsk and the Germans be allowed to come in to suppress the revolution. To his credit be it said, however, that Nicholas refused to consider this last resort.

He next went to Pskov, the headquarters of General Russky, in command of the army nearest to Petrograd, hoping to persuade that commander to send a large enough force to Petrograd to suppress the revolution. At 8 o'clock in the evening he arrived. But Russky, together with all the other army leaders, including the Grand Duke Nicholas, who had conferred together by means of telegrams, had decided to support the Duma.

At 2 o'clock next morning, on the 15th, the czar met Russky. The latter explained to him his position, and then called up Rodzianko by telephone. Rodzianko told Russky that the Duma and the Council of Workingmen's and Soldiers' Deputies had mutually agreed that the czar must abdicate and two deputies—Gutchkov, the War Minister, and Shulgin—were on their way to demand a document to this effect from Nicholas. Before seeing the czar again Russky communicated with all the commanders and explained the new situation, namely, that the czar must be eliminated entirely. All replied immediately that they agreed to this as the best course. Then Russky went to the czar again and told him there was no other way open to him, he must vacate his throne. The czar agreed and went to his private apartment on the train to prepare the document.

(p. 403) At 8 o'clock that evening the two deputies from the Provisional Government arrived and were taken directly to the czar. They immediately explained to the fallen monarch the full details of the situation in Petrograd. The one incident that seemed to make an impression on him was the defection of his own body guard.

"What shall I do, then?" demanded Nicholas finally.

"Abdicate," replied Gutchkov briefly.

It will be remembered that the Provisional Government had decided that it would demand of the czar that he abdicate in favor of his son and of his brother, the Grand Duke Michael, as regent.

"I have already signed my abdication," said Nicholas, "but on account of his health I have decided that I cannot part with my son. Therefore I wish to abdicate in favor of Michael."

The two deputies asked leave to consult together for a few minutes over this change. Finally they agreed to this form of abdication. The czar then withdrew and presently returned with the document. The two deputies read it through, approved it, shook hands with Nicholas Romanoff, no longer czar, and returned to Petrograd.

Still unrestrained in regard to his freedom of action, Nicholas went to Moghiliev, the general headquarters, to bid his staff farewell, but his reception there was cool at least; nobody took the slightest notice of him, no more than if he had been some minor subaltern officer. Then his mother, the Dowager Empress Marie, appeared and in the evening he dined with her in her private car.

Meanwhile public opinion in Petrograd had begun to make itself strongly felt in regard to the outward form of the future Russian Government. Many organizations passed resolutions and street demonstrations took place, all protesting against a monarchical form of government. Before the Provisional Government needed to take any special action in response to this expression of popular sentiment, Grand Duke Michael, the new czar, hastened to abdicate in his turn. Favoring the principle of democracy, he added, he was not willing to assume the responsibilities (p. 404) of such a high office without the formal assent of the Russian people expressed by an election "based on the principle of universal, direct, equal, and secret suffrage." Finally, he urged the people to give their loyal support to the Provisional Government, until such a time as an election could be held.

Czar Nicholas abdicated on March 15, 1917. His brother, Czar Michael, abdicated within twenty-four hours.[Back to Contents]



The Provisional Government then made no further steps toward filling the vacant throne and Russia remained a republic.

Then on the following day came a telegram from General Alexiev, stating that the people of Moghiliev were growing impatient over the freedom allowed ex-Czar Nicholas and requested the Provisional Government to have him removed from headquarters. Alexiev did not wish him wandering about headquarters.

Four deputies were dispatched to Moghiliev to arrest the ex-emperor. The four were received with a popular demonstration of enthusiasm, which contrasted sharply with the coldness with which Nicholas had been received. Nicholas was in his mother's train when the four deputies arrived. He immediately emerged, crossed the platform and stood before the four representatives of the new republic like a school child about to be punished; with one hand he came to a salute, recognizing their authority; with the other he twirled his mustache.

He was shown his carriage and quietly placed under guard. The deputies took places in another carriage, and then the train steamed out of the station with Nicholas a prisoner. Arriving at the palace at Tsarskoe Selo, Nicholas was taken over by the (p. 405) commandant and marched through the gates of his old residence. And so he disappeared completely from Russian public life.

Meanwhile the czarina had also been arrested and confined to her suite of rooms in the palace. All the telephone and telegraph wires were cut. Most of the palace servants were dismissed and all the doors except three were locked and barred. A battalion of soldiers now mounted guard over him who had made more political prisoners than any other man in the world.

Now began the troubled career of the new Russian republic. The Council of Workingmen and Soldiers, under whose direct supervision the fighting forces of the old régime had been overcome and the revolution organized, and which represented just those elements which the Duma did not represent on account of the restrictive election laws, felt its right to exist beside the Duma, possessing at least an equal authority. Thus the new governing forces started under very peculiar conditions, with a double head. The Council immediately issued a proclamation inviting the communities all over Russia to elect local councils, which might send their delegates to Petrograd to associate themselves with the deputies elected by the workingmen and soldiers of the capital.

Another of the first acts of the Provisional Government was to order the liberation of all the political prisoners of the old régime, especially those in Siberia, and to invite all exiles abroad to return home. The return of some of these political exiles roused quite as much enthusiasm and popular demonstration as had the overthrow of the autocracy itself. The progress of Catherine Breshkovskaya, the "grandmother of the Russian revolution," from Siberia to Petrograd was almost like the progress of a conquering general. She had been one of the original Nihilists in the seventies and since then had spent most of her life in Siberia. All Petrograd turned out to welcome the popular heroine, now a feeble old woman, and she was officially received at the railroad station by Kerensky and other members of the Government in the old Imperial waiting rooms, where formerly only members of the Imperial family had been permitted to enter. Outside in the streets surged crowds of (p. 406) fur-capped people as far as the eye could reach, waving red banners and revolutionary emblems. Now and again a roar of voices chanting the Marseillaise would sweep back and forth over the throngs. Within the station the walls were banked with flowers and festooned with red bunting and inscriptions addressed to the returning heroine. However, this incident occurred later, already a great deal had been accomplished.

The emancipation of the Jews had been one of first acts of the new cabinet. All restrictions were removed and the Jews were recognized as Russian citizens, and as such to be distinguished from all other citizens in no way. Then the constitution of Finland was restored and its full autonomy recognized. The same recognition was granted all the other minor nationalities. Next the death penalty was abolished, and finally the Provisional Government declared itself in favor of the equal suffrage of women with men, a principle which is innate in the revolutionary movement of Russia, to which as many women as men have sacrificed themselves. The vast possessions of the ex-czar and most of his munificent income were confiscated. At the same time the grand dukes and other members of the Imperial family voluntarily gave up their landed possessions and at the same time expressed their loyalty to the new order.[Back to Contents]



Within the church the same overturning of old authorities took place. The new procurator caused to be thrown out the gilded emblems of the autocracy, and priests known to be in sympathy with the revolution were elevated to the offices vacated by the reactionaries. Most of the vast landed estates of the church were confiscated, and the church was relegated to a position in which it could no longer interfere in matters of state. Probably a majority of the radicals would have liked to (p. 407) abolish the church altogether, but even they must have realized that the great body of Russia's population, the peasantry, had not yet arrived at this state of mind, corrupt though they knew the institution to be.

For some weeks while these reforms, in which the vast majority of the people believed, were being promulgated the most enthusiastic harmony prevailed between the two elements constituting the Provisional Government. But those realizing the wide gulf lying between these two elements, the constitutionalists and the revolutionary radicals, were every day expecting the inevitable dissensions to arise. Eventually they came. They would have come much sooner had it not been for the fact that the nation was at war.

The friction which presently began between the two contrasting elements sharing the power of government has undoubtedly been much magnified and distorted by the press in Great Britain and this country, not through malicious intent, but through ignorance of the aims of one of these elements and of Russian character. The two elements in question are, of course, found in all countries, and the dissensions in Petrograd probably caused more bitterness in other countries between these opposing elements than existed in Russia itself. The conservative press of England and America exaggerated to absurdity the program and aims of the radical forces in Russia, while the Socialist press of these same countries was equally unreliable in its partisanship, and would have had its readers believe Prince Lvov and Milukov hardly any improvement on Protopopoff, a view in which it would not have been supported by the most radical Russians. For the true story of this period we must wait yet a while until dispassionate witnesses have had time to present their experiences and observations in permanent form.

Nevertheless, there seems to be no doubt that the wine of freedom did rise to the heads of the ultraradicals, and the Russian radical's ideas often do approach the borders of absurdity. Having obtained democracy in civil life, the extremists among the deputies of the Workingmen's and Soldier's Council (p. 408) wished to extend it in full to the army. Though this army was face to face with the best organized military machine in the world, they demanded the resignation of all the officers, that their places might be filled by the votes of the common soldiers. This rank absurdity the commanders on the front naturally resisted, and it was not allowed to come into practice, but the spirit behind the suggestion did begin to permeate the ignorant, peasants of the rank and file and caused endless demoralization. Animated by the same spirit, many of the workingmen in the factories supplying the army grew restless under the discipline of work and struck for impossible wages. They had always thought that under a Socialist system they would have little work and plenty to eat. Now the social revolution had been accomplished, and these improvements did not materialize. If more disorder and fighting were needed to bring them about, they would supply these deficiencies.

What added to this spirit was the arrival in Russia, early in April, 1917, of the extreme radical Socialist, Lenine. He is generally credited in this country with being an agent of Germany, but men of his type are not easily subsidized, nor would it have been necessary for the Germans to do so. Utterly idealistic, a wild fanatic, unpractical to the point of being unbalanced, he represented that wing of radicalism which lives in Utopias and will give no consideration to things as they are. They preach the doctrine of the brotherhood of man with the same bitterness that many religious sects preach the salvation of the soul. Lenine began his propaganda, together with thirty or more of his followers who arrived with him. They preached an immediate separate peace with Germany and Austria; it was not to the interest of the Russian working classes to fight the Teuton working classes when both were slaves under the same masters, the capitalists of the world. Let the Germans fight their capitalists and the Russians theirs. And even if the Germans did conquer Russia, what did it matter? They would not prove any worse masters than the Russian capitalists. All the working classes of the world should unite and attack the capitalists simultaneously, etc. Undoubtedly Lenine made some impression (p. 409) on the more ignorant workingmen of Petrograd and soldiers of the army, but his significance has been much overestimated in this country. In Russia his influence corresponds somewhat to the influence of Emma Goldman in this country: their followers are more noisy than numerous.[Back to Contents]



The first important cause for dissension between the Council of Workingmen's and Soldiers' Deputies and the Provisional Government occurred on April 7, 1917, when Professor Milukov, speaking as Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated that the occupation of Constantinople and the Dardanelles was essential to the economic prosperity of Russia. Either he underestimated the strength of the Socialist elements, or he did not understand their point of view, for here he proclaimed a principle to which even the mildest Socialist would be opposed: the holding of territory occupied by people of one nationality by a nation whose people are of another nationality.

There was a rising storm of protest, in which even Kerensky joined against his associate in the ministry. The result was that the Provisional Government was compelled to issue the famous statement of its aims in the war, in which it renounced all indemnities and the desire to conquer any foreign territories, at the same time enunciating the rights of all small nationalities to decide their own separate destinies. President Wilson had expressed a very similar formula before the entrance of the United States into the war in the words "peace without victory." Unfortunately this general statement of Socialistic principle lacked the detail necessary to make it applicable to the war situation; nor have the radical forces ever been unanimous enough in their opinions since then to supply these details. There remained, and there still remains, the question as to (p. 410) whether liberating Alsace and Lorraine from the Germans would be the conquest of foreign territory, or whether reparation on the part of Germany for the damage done in Belgium would constitute an indemnity. Must the Armenians remain forever under Turkey, or must armed force be employed to take Armenia away from Turkey, that the Armenians might settle their own destiny? Either course might be interpreted as against or in accordance with the principle enunciated.

Nevertheless, this manifesto had a powerful influence in the Allied countries, and the justice of the principles in question have been, broadly speaking, generally recognized.

The Germans made the most of the proclamation and suggested a separate peace through countless agencies, in which Russia should not lose any territory inhabited by Russians and need not pay any indemnities. At this bait the Leninites and dupes of the numerous agitators in German pay, which undoubtedly began infesting Petrograd, bit readily. But here the Provisional Government responded by a clever stroke of diplomacy, and in this it had the support of the council; if the German and Austrian Socialists were really in sympathy with the Russian ideals of democracy and wished to make peace with them, let them then also overturn their autocracies. If they would do this, then they might expect peace with Russia and undoubtedly with the other Allies, for France, Great Britain, and the United States had each declared that it was fighting the Teutonic autocracies and not the people they ruled.

The German Socialist is entirely a different type from the Russian Socialist. He believes in iron discipline. He believes in strong centralization. The German autocracy in many of its features approaches something not far from the ideal of the German Socialist, especially in its care of the working classes through state insurance, workingmen's compensation legislation, and its many state and municipal enterprises. In this lies the strength of the German autocracy; with all its imperialistic features, it has cared for the welfare of the working classes.

The German Socialists did not respond to this appeal. And from that moment all danger of a separate peace between the (p. 411) Russian democracy and Germany was past, if danger it may be called. The real danger to the cause of the Allies and to Russia itself was the internal danger, the disorganization in army discipline which the radicalism of the revolution naturally spread among the soldiers, augmented, as it was, by every power and agency which the enemy could bring to bear.

In the second week of April, 1917, a convention or congress of the Workingmen's and Soldiers' Council was held, all parts of Russia being represented. By a vote of 325 against 57 the continuance of the war was declared necessary. The council also issued various appeals to the soldiers, both in Petrograd and at the front, asking their support of the Provisional Government, which seemed at least to indicate that there were radical influences at work even too advanced for the council.

In Petrograd General Kornilov, the famous Cossack commander, who had once been a prisoner of the Austrians and had escaped, and who had personally placed the czarina under arrest, was placed in command of the Petrograd garrison. His task was especially difficult, as his men were in closer contact with the demoralizing influences of the radical debating clubs of the capital.

The Workingmen's and Soldiers' Council probably had no deliberate intention of undermining the military discipline necessary to maintain the efficiency of a body of troops, but it could not entirely give up its idea of "democratizing the army." The result of these efforts, as the members of the council themselves admitted, went far beyond anything they had intended. On the 1st of May a number of political demonstrations on the part of the soldiers took place in Petrograd. Socialistic in nature, some of them directed against policies of the Provisional Government. The council immediately disclaimed all responsibility for the demonstrations and appealed to the soldiers to remain in their barracks.

This disintegration in army organization nevertheless made continual progress during the early part of May, 1917, and was fast precipitating a crisis. The fact was that the Provisional Government, though nominally at the head of affairs, had no (p. 412) material power behind it. This power, the army, was organized in the council and was self-conscious. Naturally it could not resist the temptation of attempting to exercise its judgment, though it realized that it was not fitted to assume the entire responsibility of government. It felt, too, a right to assert itself because the Duma, on account of the restrictive election laws which had created it years before during the old régime did not represent those classes to which the soldiers belonged.

The members of the Provisional Government did not deny the justice of this claim, and early in May, 1917, they suggested as a remedy that the cabinet be reorganized and the radical elements be given fuller representation. But here again the council was faced by the obstacle in the Socialist principle that Socialist organizations must never fuse with so-called capitalist organizations. The offer was refused.[Back to Contents]



On May 9, 1917, the situation was intensified when the council issued an appeal to the working classes of the world to come together in a general congress to discuss terms of peace. This meant naturally an international Socialist conference. There was really no disloyalty behind this move. The majority of the deputies no doubt considered it a means of forcing the hands of the Socialists of the Central Empires, perhaps to force them to overthrow their autocracies. The idea was to formulate a peace program which would come close to demanding universal democracy the world over and, by having the Teuton Socialists subscribe to it, force them to bring pressure to bear on their governments which might even develop into revolution. But this was not understood abroad, and created much ill feeling.

On May 13, 1917, General Kornilov, commanding the Petrograd garrison, gave up his efforts in despair and handed in his (p. 413) resignation, on account of "the interference of certain organizations with the discipline of his troops." Generals Gurko and Brussilov also sent in their resignations, and a few days later Minister of War and Marine Gutchkov, wishing to precipitate the impending crisis, also resigned.

Complete anarchy now threatened, for the council still insisted on its right to guard the interests of democracy in the army as well as among the civil population. It was then that Minister of Justice Kerensky rose and saved the situation with an impassioned speech, in which he declared that he wished he had died two months before when democracy seemed such a promising dream. He then appealed to his associates in the council, of which he was a vice president, to set aside their Utopian fantasies for the time being and consider the needs of the present. His oratory carried the day. The council agreed to a coalition cabinet which should have full control of affairs.

After a joint session between the executive committee of the council and the Duma committee, the new cabinet was formed on May 19, 1917.

Paul Milukov retired as Foreign Minister, for his nationalistic utterances in regard to Constantinople had aroused against him all the radicals. Prince Lvov remained as premier. Kerensky became Minister of War. The Minister of Finance, Terestchenko, became Minister of Foreign Affairs. Shingarev, a Social Revolutionist, became Minister of Finance. Altogether the new cabinet included six radicals. Immediately afterward the council passed a resolution of confidence in the new government and urged all its constituents to support it. Kerensky then stated that he would immediately leave for a tour of the front for the purpose of exhorting the soldiers to submit to military organization and that an iron discipline would be instituted. The generals at the front now withdrew their resignations, which had not been accepted, and returned to their posts.

During this period two important conventions were held in Petrograd; a national congress of the Cossacks and a national congress of peasants. The former declared itself for a strong (p. 414) offensive against the enemy but passed no political resolutions other than to support the Provisional Government. The peasants' congress did likewise and also showed itself strongly Socialistic in its election of officers. Lenine, however, who was one of the candidates, received only 11 votes, as against 810 polled by Tchernov, a Social Revolutionist, and 809 by Catherine Breshkovskaya, the "grandmother of the revolution."

During the month of June, 1917, the Provisional Government made distinct progress, considering the almost insurmountable obstacles inherent in such a situation as it had to face. From now on there was very little friction between the cabinet and the council; they worked together with comparative harmony. The fact that the radical elements were now so well represented in the ministry probably was the chief reason, but the personality of Kerensky was now beginning to rise as the dominating figure of the new Russia. A fairly extreme radical himself, with the confidence of his associates, he was also respected by the more conservative elements on account of his sanity and practical abilities. On June 1, 1917, A. I. Konovalov, Minister of Commerce and Trade, resigned on account of friction with his associates over what he considered the Government's interference with private industries, but this incident passed quietly.

On this same date there occurred another incident which, on account of its highly dramatic aspect, attracted wide attention in the press of the Allied countries, and was therefore considered more significant than it has since proved to be. The local council of the Workingmen's and Soldiers' Council of Deputies in Kronstadt, the location of the naval arsenal and the headquarters of the Baltic fleet, declared Kronstadt an independent republic. The president of this council, a young student by the name of Anatole Lamanov, was apparently an anarchist of the extreme type; extreme in that he believed that anarchist principles could be put into immediate practice, and he at once issued a proclamation calling on all other communities in Russia to declare their independence. His idea was that all the communities should be knit together very loosely for specific purposes, such as the war against the Germans, of (p. 415) which he was still heartily in favor. Later dispatches, if true, would indicate that the real instigator of this comic-opera scene was a woman, possibly in the pay of the German Government, since she was the companion of Robert Grimm, a Swiss Socialist, later expelled from Russia by the Socialists themselves on account of pro-German activities.

With its usual tolerance the Provisional Government made no attempt to suppress this act of secession by armed force. The council itself in Petrograd, representing the whole country, immediately denounced the Kronstadt proclamation, and sent two deputies to Kronstadt to reason with Lamanov and his associates. The whole incident seemed to be largely a matter of paper proclamations, since no violence on either side ever occurred, and the Kronstadt situation finally faded from public attention. Nevertheless it caused Kerensky to cut short his tour of the various fronts and return to Petrograd two days later.

In the public speeches which he then made he spoke very encouragingly of the situation on the firing lines, but two days later it was announced that General Alexiev's resignation as commander in chief had been accepted and that Brussilov had been appointed in his place.

On the 10th President Wilson issued his famous note, prepared in response to the radical formula of the council, declaring for a peace "without annexation and without indemnities." In spirit it was in perfect accord with what the council had demanded: that no people should be annexed against their will, that democracy should be the guiding principle, etc. Certainly it was in accord with his previous declaration made before the war; a "peace without oppressive victories," a principle quite as radical as anything the Petrograd radicals had ever formulated. There was then, and has been ever since, every indication that the Provisional Government and the big majority of the members of the council accepted this declaration as being in harmony with their own sentiments. Nevertheless, it became the object of a very noisy attack by those extreme elements known as the Maximalists, best represented by Lenine and his type.[Back to Contents]



To the members of the German Government the Russian revolution undoubtedly came as a great surprise, placing their faith, as they did, in the efforts of Protopopoff and his machinations. It is extremely unlikely that Petrograd was infested with German agents disguised as radicals in the earlier days after the overthrow of the autocracy. But by this time, in June, 1917, Germany had had time to meet the new conditions, and obviously the German agents had arrived and were busy.

The only fertile ground available was that occupied by the Leninites. While the genuine Maximalists may have been, and in all probability really were, unconscious of the spies in their midst, they accepted the cooperation of the dark elements, and together they set to work to create disorder. The Kronstadt affair was their initial success.

In the early days of June, 1917, armed bands of these disturbers began parading the streets of the capital, haranguing the crowds. The Provisional Government followed the policy of noninterference. One party of the armed propagandists entered and took possession of a large residential building in the Viborg section of the city and held this position until late in July, 1917.

These activities culminated in an attempt on the part of the Maximalist leaders to organize a giant demonstration in the streets on June 23, 1917. Placards were posted all over the city denouncing the war, calling upon the soldiers to refuse to fight for the capitalist governments, etc.

The action taken by the Workingmen's and Soldiers' Council, itself so often denounced as being under pro-German influence, and even in German pay, by the press of the Allied countries, was extremely significant. It immediately placarded the city with appeals to the soldiers and workingmen to ignore the call (p. 417) of the Maximalists. All that night until daybreak not only Kerensky himself, but N. C. Tcheidze, the president of the council, and his associates, spent in making the rounds of the barracks, addressing the soldiers, appealing to them against participating in the demonstration. Their efforts were a complete success; on the following day there was no demonstration. And apparently in the last hour the Maximalist leaders themselves realized that foreign influences were at work, for when their organ, "Pravda," appeared, its front page was covered with an appeal to their followers not to demonstrate.

On June 16, 1917, a convention of newly elected deputies to the Workingmen's and Soldiers' Council, representing all Russia, convened in Petrograd. One of its first acts was to pass a resolution of approval of the Provisional Government's expulsion of Grimm, the Swiss Socialist, who had attempted pro-German activities in the capital, the vote being 640 against 121.

In the middle of the month the two American commissions, one under Root and the other under Stevens, arrived in Russia, and it was notable that the reported utterances of their members were sharply in contrast to the press dispatches in their optimism. The conclusion must be obvious that German influences were at work with our sources of news. The Stevens Commission, whose mission was of a technical nature, expressed surprise and pleasure over the progress which had been made in straightening out the transportation tangle and the good condition in which they found railroad facilities, the only handicaps being lack of locomotives and rolling stock.

Meanwhile, during June, 1917, a special council of sixty members was at work drafting new legislation for the civil government of the country. One law prepared by this body, as an illustration, was making the judges of petty courts subject to the election of the people on the American principle. This council was also intrusted with the task of formulating the groundwork for the new constitution for the Russian democracy, to be approved by the General Assembly when elected.

During the first half of July, 1917, the sudden offensive of the Russian armies, so brilliantly begun, seemed to engross every (p. 418) element of Russian society. Kerensky himself had gone to the front and was said to be leading the advancing troops himself. But even his magnetic personality and stupendous vitality proved insufficient to accomplish a task evidently begun too prematurely.

On July 15, 1917, five members of the Provisional Government resigned—Shingarev, Minister of Finance; Manuilov, of Education; Nekrasov, of Ways and Communications; Prince Shakovsky, of Social Welfare; and Acting Minister of Trade and Commerce, Steganov. Their reasons for this action was their inability to agree with their associates in the cabinet over the demands made just then by the Ukraine elements in southern Russia, who wanted complete independence. The dissenting ministers held that to grant such a demand would open the way to similar action on the part of Finns, Ruthenians, Poles, and other minor nationalities, which would mean the disintegration of Russia.

On July 18, 1917, there was a sudden outburst of Maximalist activity, the most violent which had yet occurred. A body of sailors from Kronstadt appeared and, together with the Anarchists who had previously made armed demonstrations, they began parading the streets. A body of Cossacks, armed only with sabers, which was advancing up one of the streets conveying some wagon loads of material was fired upon and several Cossacks were killed. The cavalrymen retired, being unable to return the fire. This first bloodshed roused the indignation of the troops supporting the Provisional Government, and they at once set about clearing the streets. Some severe fighting followed, in which a number of men on both sides were killed and several hundreds were wounded. The demonstrators were finally driven away and within forty-eight hours order had been reestablished. On this occasion, as before, the Council of Workingmen's and Soldiers' Deputies cooperated with the members of the Government in making the rounds of the barracks and the workingmen's quarters to quiet the soldiers and the people. The disturbance on this occasion was obviously of traitorous origin, as the leaflets which had been used in furthering (p. 419) the disorders accused both the Provisional Government and the council of planning a counter-revolution in favor of the autocracy.

The Provisional Government and the council now together appointed a special commission for the purpose of keeping in touch with the commandant of the Petrograd garrison and cooperate with him in counteracting the efforts of the Maximalist agitators.

Of special significance is the fact that these disorders occurred almost simultaneously with the mutinous behavior of the regiments at the front, whose treachery at a critical moment broke the Russian offensive. Another result of the disturbances was a more energetic policy against the Anarchists. Troops were now detailed to dislodge the armed bands of Anarchists who had been occupying several large residences in the city. On seeing that the Government was in earnest the Anarchists surrendered unconditionally.

On July 20, 1917, it was announced that Prince Lvov had resigned from the premiership and that Kerensky had taken his place. Prince Lvov gave as his reason for retiring his inability to agree with his Socialist associates in their determination to declare Russia a republic, since he believed that this decision was essentially the right of the Constituent Assembly yet to be elected. The recent disorders and the unfortunate situation at the front, however, probably had much to do with the new ministerial crisis, for it was also announced that Kerensky would be granted unlimited powers in suppressing further disorders and an "iron discipline" in the army would be instituted. At a joint conference held between the Workingmen's and Soldiers' Council and the Executive Committee of the Peasants' Congress, it was decided by a large majority to give the new government, to be known as the "Government of National Safety," absolute support.

On the following day Kerensky announced that sterner measures would immediately be taken: the death penalty would be reestablished, both in civil life and in the army. Deserters and traitors would be shot.

(p. 420) Though the radical elements were behind the change in the government personnel, the new cabinet was not by any means a Socialist body. Five non-Socialists still remained: Nekrasov, Vice Minister President, without portfolio; Terestchenko, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Efremov, Minister of Justice; Nicholas Lvov, Procurator of the Holy Synod; and Godniev, Controller of State. The radicals were Kerensky, the Premier, who also retained the War portfolio; Terestelli, Minister of Posts and Telegraphs; Skobeliev, Minister of Education; Tchernov, Minister of Agriculture; and Pieschiehonov, Minister of Supplies.

For some days there were reports that further changes were still to be made, giving the Constitutional Democratic party more definite representation in the cabinet, on condition that these representatives would be free from party dictation. Milukov, the party chief, showed himself very much opposed to this suggestion, as he was to the granting of such absolute power to the Government. On the last day of the month further changes had not been made. Already Russia's armies on the front were stiffening up against the German onslaughts. For this full credit was given to Kerensky. He stands now as the dominating figure in Russia, with the eyes not only of all Russians, but all the peoples of the Allied nations, turned on him as the man most capable of guiding the Russian republic through the difficulties lying before it. Beginning with only the confidence of the radical elements, he has gradually acquired a similar confidence in his abilities and integrity from the Russian conservatives and all the peoples of the countries aligned with Russia against the common enemy.[Back to Contents]




Various similar local enterprises were carried out on February 19, 1917. The Germans, about a battalion strong, attacked in close formation in the region of Slaventine, northwest of Podgaste, but were met by concentrated fire and forced to return to their own intrenchments. In the Carpathians during a snowstorm a Russian blockhouse south of Smotreo was successfully raided. The blockhouse was blown up after the capture of its defenders. North of the Slanio Valley, after driving away Russian forces and repulsing counterattacks by outposts, Austro-German forces advanced their fighting position on a ridge of heights.

East of Lipnicadolna, on the Narayuvka River (Galicia), the Russians exploded a mine under some German trenches and occupied the crater. The Germans, however, reconquered the position in a counterattack. South of Brzezany a Russian attack, made after mine-throwing preparations, was repulsed.

On February 22, 1917, near Smorgon, west of Lutsk and between the Zlota Lipa and the Narayuvka, fighting with artillery and mine throwing became more violent. Near Zvyzyn, east of Zlochoff, German thrusting detachments entered a Russian position and after blowing up four mine shafts returned with 250 prisoners, including three officers and two machine guns. A successful reconnoitering advance was made southeast of Brzezany by another German detachment.

(p. 422) Similar enterprises, frequently accompanied by increased artillery activity, were carried out in various parts of the front toward the middle of March, 1917. Thus on March 12, 1917, north of the Zlochoff-Tarnopol railroad, German reconnoitering detachments made an attack during which three Russian officers, 320 men, and thirteen machine guns were captured. Advances into the Russian lines near Brzezany and on the Narayuvka also brought gains in prisoners and booty.

Again on March 14, 1917, near Vitoniez, on the Stokhod, and near Yamnica, south of the Dniester, enterprises of German thrusting detachments were carried out with success. More than 100 prisoners and several machine guns and mine throwers were brought back from the Russian positions.

In the meantime there had occurred one of the most momentous events of the war. The great Russian nation had risen in a comparatively bloodless revolution against its former masters, the autocratic government headed by Czar Nicholas. Though these events took place March 8-11, 1917, news of them did not get to the outside world until March 16, 1917. By then the czar had abdicated both for himself and for his son. He, as well as his immediate family, had been made prisoners. A new democratic though temporary government had been set up by the guiding spirits who had directed the upheaval.

Of course, the Germans and Austrians were not slow in taking advantage of these new conditions. Fortunately for Russia the spring thaw was beginning to set in and made really extensive operations impossible for the time being.

The last week of March, 1917, however, saw some determined attempts on the part of the Germans to take as great an advantage of the Russian disorganization as circumstances permitted.

On March 21, 1917, in the direction of Lida, on the river Beresina, in the region of the villages of Saberezyna and Potaschnia, German thrusting detachments after a bombardment of long duration attacked Russian positions and occupied them. By a counterattack they were driven out of Potaschnia. The other part of the positions remained in their hands.

(p. 423) Northwest of Brody (Galicia) after artillery preparation the Germans attacked Russian positions in the region of Baldur. After a stubborn battle they were driven back to their trenches.

The Russian forces were still active in some sections. On March 23, 1917, Russian reconnoitering detachments, advancing after artillery preparation near Smorgon and Baranovitchy and on the Stokhod, were driven away by the Germans; however, severe fire by artillery and mine throwers preceded attacks, in which Austro-German troops south of the Trotus Valley in the Carpathians near the Rumanian frontier took by storm and in hand-to-hand fighting Russian positions on the frontier ridge between the Sueta and Csobonyos valleys and brought in 500 prisoners. A Russian advance north of Magyaros that followed soon after failed.

On March 26, 1917, the Germans again registered a success. Southeast of Baranovitchy an energetically carried out attack was successful. Russian positions situated on the west bank of the Shara between Darovo and Labuzy were taken by storm and in hand-to-hand fighting. More than 300 Russians were made prisoner and four machine guns and seven mine throwers captured. West of Lutsk and north of the railroad from Zlochoff to Tarnopol and near Brzezany, Russian battalions attacked after violent artillery fire. They were repulsed with heavy losses.

Considerable fighting occurred during the following night and day, March 27, 1917. This, in spite of the fact that the spring thaw was officially announced to have set in. On the night of March 26-27, 1917, after artillery preparation the Germans attacked in the region of Boguchy, northeast of Krevo, and occupied some Russian trenches. Immediate counterattacks restored the situation. On the Stokhod River, in the region of Borovo, the Russians delivered a mass attack. East of Brzezany (Galicia), following a mine explosion, Russian patrols raided German trenches and took twenty men prisoners. A German armored train bombarded Russian positions east of Korosmezo. During a raid on the northeast slope of Coman, in the wooded Carpathians, German raiding detachments worked their way into (p. 424) a Russian position, blew up several dugouts and returned with some prisoners and booty. A Russian attack on Magyaros failed. South of the Uzul Valley, near the Rumanian frontier, a strongly intrenched ridge was taken by storm and in hand-to-hand fighting by German troops, who maintained it against repeated counterattacks. One hundred prisoners and some machine guns and mine throwers remained in German hands.[Back to Contents]



By this time, however, the disorganization of the Russian forces which had resulted from the revolution made itself everywhere felt to a much greater extent. The Germans apparently were either taken by surprise by the suddenness of the revolution or else decided to wait for some time before undertaking any important operations and to determine first to what extent the revolution and change of government would affect the Russian armies. Another factor in the delay of the German attack which everyone expected almost as soon as news of the Russian revolution became known was the successful battles which had been fought by the British and French forces at the western front.

On April 3, 1917, however, signs began to multiply, indicating that the Germans had decided to begin more extensive operations. On that day they opened a heavy artillery fire against Russian munition depots on the left bank of the river Stokhod, in the region of the Stchervitche-Helenin station, and on the river passages. The fire was delivered partly with chemical shells. Simultaneously the Germans discharged thirteen gas waves from the Helenin-Borovno sector.

Under cover of the artillery fire the Germans took the offensive on the Toboly-Helenin front and pressed back the Russian troops. Part of the Germans succeeded in crossing the Stokhod (p. 425) in the region northeast of Helenin. The Russian left flank detachments, which were defending the munition dumps, found themselves in a serious position owing to the pressure of the Germans and were forced to cross to the right bank of the Stokhod. Some of the Russian detachments suffered heavy losses. After strongly bombarding Russian positions south of Illukst the Germans, attacked and occupied field posts and trenches in the region south of the Poniewesch railway line, but were expelled and driven back by a Russian counterattack.

During the same night the Germans also directed a violent fire with artillery and mine throwers against Russian trenches in the region of the village of Novoselki, south of Krevo. At daybreak a German column in strength of about a company forced its way into first-line trenches near Novoselki, but as the outcome of a counterattack by Russian scouts was dislodged and driven back.

Russian raiding troops attacked the Austrians as they were attempting to fortify positions in the region six miles west of Rafailova. Having penetrated the barbed-wire entanglements the Russian troops occupied three rows of trenches and bayoneted the Austrians. On the remainder of the front rifle firing and reconnoitering operations occurred.

The German success on the Stokhod, according to German reports, developed almost into a rout. It was claimed that almost 10,000 men and officers and fifteen guns and 150 machine guns and mine throwers fell into the hands of the Germans.

On April 5, 1917, after heavy artillery preparation, partly with shells charged with chemicals, the Germans took the offensive and occupied part of the Russian trenches to the east of Plakanen, thirteen miles south of Riga. They were driven out as the result of a Russian counterattack.

On the following day, April 6, 1917, a number of local engagements were reported. North of Brzezany, in the region of Angostoveka and Koniuchy, after artillery preparation, the Germans attacked Russian positions, but were repulsed. Southwest of Brzezany, in the region of Lipnica Dolna, the Russians (p. 426) exploded a mine, destroying some German trenches which the patrols immediately captured. The Russians repulsed all counterattacks at this point and also took prisoners. In the same region they attacked with gas. West of the town of Tomnatik strong German detachments, supported by the fire of artillery, bomb throwers and mine throwers, entered Russian trenches, but were immediately ejected by counterattacks.

Again on April 7 and 8, 1917, the Germans on the Galician front made minor attacks in the Carpathians, in the region west of Dzemdron, in the direction of Marmaroch and Siguet and to the west of the town of Tomnatik. All of these were repulsed, however.

Similar unimportant activities occupied the next few weeks. In the meantime the disorganization of the Russian forces apparently continued to increase. The Germans, however, apparently had decided by this time not to attempt to make any military use of this condition, but to improve the opportunity to come to an understanding with the Russians. Almost daily reports appeared from various sources indicating that a certain amount of fraternizing was going on in many places on the eastern front. Though these reports varied very much, it became quite clear that generally speaking the Russian lines still held. In some places, undoubtedly, Russian detachments of varying size laid down their arms and refused to continue to fight. There were even isolated reports of some military groups having entered into peace negotiations with their opponents. It is almost impossible to sift the truth from these reports. It appears, however, that for some weeks a more or less unofficial truce had been established almost everywhere on the eastern front. The majority of the Russian soldiers at that time undoubtedly were strongly in favor of immediate cessation of hostilities. The Germans, on the other hand, seemed to be acting under orders to treat their opponents with a minimum of severity and to await further political developments before undertaking any important military operations.

The Russians, though of course glad enough to notice this cessation of military activity, apparently were frequently not (p. 427) willing to let the enemy get too close to their lines, even though he pretended to come with friendly intentions. The official Russian report occasionally indicates this, as for instance that for April 15, 1917, which says that "attempts to approach Russian positions at various sectors of our front by small enemy groups, the members of which carried flags in their hands, were discovered. These groups, on coming under our fire, returned rapidly to their trenches."

Only very rarely, however, did the Russians attempt any offensive movements during this period. On April 16, 1917, they made a gas attack in the region of Konkary, but were met by strong machine-gun fire. On the next day, April 17, 1917, the Germans started a slight diversion of a similar nature north of Zboroff in Galicia.

At that reports began to appear concerning the massing of troops by the Germans in the northern sector of the line, indicating an attempt to take Riga and possibly to march against Petrograd.

Throughout May, 1917, the disorganization of the Russian army continued. In the early part of the month the Council of Workingmen's and Soldiers' became more and more radical in its demands, both as to the share it was to have in the control of the army and as to the disciplinary measures under which soldiers were to live. So serious became the crisis that Minister of War General Gutchkov, as well as Generals Kornilov, Brussilov, and Gurko resigned their commands. A. F. Kerensky, then Minister of Justice, assumed the War portfolio, and it was primarily due to his sagacity that the government and the council finally agreed on May 16, 1917, on a basic program including the continuation of the war.

While these serious events were happening at Petrograd nothing of any importance occurred at the front. The Germans still were playing their waiting game and, according to reports, were exerting all their influence toward a separate peace with Russia, both in Petrograd and at the front.

Military operations during May, 1917, were practically negligible. Here and there skirmishes would occur between outposts (p. 428) and other small detachments, and occasionally artillery duels would be fought for short periods. Only a few times throughout the entire month were the engagements important enough to be mentioned specifically in the official reports. Thus on May 6, 1917, in the region of the village of Potchne, on the Beresina River (western front), Russian artillery dispersed a German attempt to approach the Russian trenches. In the direction of Vladimir Volynski, south of Zubilno, after an intense fire with grenades and bombs, a German company left their trenches and began to attack the Russian trenches with hand grenades. Russian artillery drove them back to their own trenches. On the Kabarovce-Zboroff front the Germans carried out an intense bombardment.

Again on May 8, 1917, German artillery was active in the direction of Vilna, in the Smorgon and Krevo sectors, in the direction of Vladimir Volynski, and in the Zatorchy-Helvov sector. In the region of Zwyjene, to the east of Zlochoff, the Germans exploded two mines which damaged Russian trenches. Northeast of Brzezany Russian artillery caused explosions among the German batteries. "Elsewhere on the front there were the usual fusillades and scouting operations," continued the Russian official report.[Back to Contents]



The beginning of June, 1917, saw the first signs of a decided change in Russian military conditions. It became clear that those political forces at Petrograd who were demanding a separate peace and an immediate cessation of hostilities were losing ground. Strong as the cry of the soldiers was for peace and sincere as their belief had been that the revolution had freed them not only from czarism and all that went with it, but also from the awful business of killing and maiming in which (p. 429) they had been engaged for almost three years, it gradually dawned on them that this was not yet time.

As early as June 1, 1917, reports came of increased firing at many points of the eastern front. A few days later, however, it again seemed as if Russia's military establishment was near to complete collapse. General Alexiev, appointed commander in chief of all the Russian armies as recently as April 15, 1917, resigned. He had been forced out as a result of the opposition on the part of the Council of Workingmen's and Soldiers' Deputies to his frankly pronounced belief that adherence to most prerevolution conditions in the army was essential if the army's discipline and effectiveness were to be retained. General Brussilov, then commanding on the southeastern front, was made commander in chief. Though this quick change in the supreme command necessarily was for discipline, it augured well in all other respects for a reconstruction of the Russian armies. The new supreme commander was known to be an efficient general, a keen fighter, and a sincere adherent of the Allied cause. His own command at the southeastern front was assumed by General Gurko.

On June 20, 1917, it was announced that the Congress of Soldiers' and Workingmen's Delegates from the whole of Russia which was then in session in Petrograd had voted confidence in the Provisional Government and unanimously passed a resolution demanding an immediate resumption of the offensive and the reorganization of the army. It was also reported that a war cabinet was formed including the leaders of the Russian army and navy and technical representatives.

On the same day it was reported that near Lutsk (Kovel region), on the Zlota Lipa, and Narayuvka (Lemberg region) and south of the Dniester the artillery of both sides was more active than it had been before. Russian raiding detachments, however, were driven off at several points by the Germans.

Again on June 21, 1917, in some sectors of the Galician and Volhynian fronts Russian artillery activity increased, heavy guns cooperating. Aerial activity was also livelier.

(p. 430) The first signs of a possible Russian drive against Lemberg and Kovel became evident on June 22, 1917. On the mountain front and in Volhynia Russian artillery fire was revived. The Russian artillery's continuous bombardment of the region south of Brzezany (Galicia) was energetically returned by Austrian batteries. Increased fighting activity also prevailed, especially between the Lemberg-Tarnopol railway (Galicia) and the Dniester, a front of about forty miles. Additional proof of the revival of the Russian fighting spirit was furnished by the detailed report of a small engagement on the historic Stokhod River. The Russian statement described how, near the village of Pozog (Volhynia), Russian scouts prepared an ambush, and, surrounding the approaching Germans, showered hand grenades on them. In the bayonet fighting that followed some Germans were killed. Owing to the approach of German reenforcements, however, the Russian scouts were forced to return to their own trenches.

On the rest of the front fusillades became more intense in the region of Krevo.

Apparently all thoughts of fraternizing with the enemy had left by that time the minds of the Russian soldiers. This was shown by the two occurrences reported on June 23, 1917. In Galicia, in the region of Grabkovce, an Austrian scouting party attempted to gain information of a Russian position, but was dispersed by a Russian company.

In the region of Presovce an Austrian company surrounded a Russian scouting party. The commander of the party assembled his men and by means of bayonet fighting and the use of hand grenades succeeded in breaking through and returning to their trenches without losing a single man.

June 24, 1917, brought very lively artillery activity at many points in the eastern theater. In the Narayuvka-Zboroff sector the Russian fire appreciably increased and continued with systematic regularity. In the Carpathians north of Kirlibaba fighting also increased in strength and frequency.

When revolutionary Russia seemed likely to revert to chaotic conditions, A. F. Kerensky, the Minister of War, rallied the armies. He succeeded Prince Lvoff as Premier.

The following day, June 25, 1917, the Austro-Germans apparently decided to follow the Russian lead and renew military (p. 431) operations to a considerable extent. In the direction of Zlochoff and in the region of Perpelniki (Galicia) a strong Austro-German party, supported by artillery, endeavored to approach the Russian trenches, but was repulsed by rifle fire. South of Brzezany, in the region of the village of Svistelniki, on the Narayuvka, German infantry forced their way into Russian trenches, but a counterattack compelled them to retire. The German heavy artillery conducted an intense fire in the region of Potuary, Ribney, and Kotov.

On June 26, 1917, south of the Lemberg-Tarnopol railway line and on the Narayuvka the artillery and mine-throwing fire was lively. On the Zlota Lipa more German forces made some Russian prisoners as the result of a successful reconnoitering advance.

On the last day of June, 1917, came at last news of renewed fighting on the part of the Russians on a larger scale. After a destructive fire lasting all day against Austro-German positions on the upper Stripa as far as the Narayuvka River there followed in the afternoon powerful attacks by the Russian infantry on a front of about eighteen and a half miles. The storming troops, who suffered heavy losses, were compelled everywhere to retire by the defensive fire of the Austro-Germans.

On the same day, after several days of violent fire from the heaviest guns, the Russians in the afternoon commenced an infantry attack south and southeast of Brzezany and near Koniuchy. Strong fire from Austrian batteries stopped this attack and inflicted heavy losses on the Russians. Another very strong attack, started late in the afternoon west of Zalocz, broke down under artillery fire. Toward midnight the Russians, without artillery preparation, endeavored to advance south of Brzezany. They were repulsed. During the night the artillery fire declined, but it revved the next morning. The artillery duel extended northward as far as the middle Stokhod and south as far as Stanislau.

Then came on July 1, 1917, the news that the Russians had successfully attacked in force on a front about thirty-five miles wide to the west of Lemberg. Not until then did it become (p. 432) known that Prime Minister Kerensky, the guiding spirit of the Provisional Government, had been at the front for four days and had by his fiery eloquence stirred up the Russian armies to such an extent that all talk of peace and all thought of sedition disappeared for the time being. Press reports stated that Kerensky having told the soldiers that if they would not attack he would march toward the enemy's trenches alone, was embraced and kissed by soldiers.

The Russian attacks were made at various points. In the direction of Kovel (Volhynia), in the region of Rudkasitovichskaya, Russian scouts under command of four officers, after destroying the wire entanglements by mines, penetrated the Austrian trenches, killed some of the occupants, and captured a number of prisoners. According to the testimony of prisoners, the Austrians knew of the attack from two deserters. In the direction of Zloczow, after two days' artillery preparation, Russian troops attacked the Austro-German positions on the Koniuchy-Byshki front. After a severe engagement they occupied three lines of trenches and the fortified village of Koniuchy and advanced to the Koniuchy stream, to the south of the village of the same name.

Farther south, southeast of Brzezany, after artillery preparation, Russian troops attacked the strongly fortified positions of the Germans and after stubborn fighting occupied them at places. Germans and Turks made counterattacks, and formidable positions changed hands constantly. Along the Stokhod and on the Dniester the lively artillery activity of the Russians continued. As a result of these attacks the Russians claimed to have captured 164 officers, 8,400 men, and seven guns. On the other hand, the Germans claimed that sixteen Russian divisions constantly employing fresh troops assaulted their positions, which were completely maintained or recaptured by counter attacks by Saxon, Rhineland, and Ottoman divisions. The Russian losses surpassed any hitherto known. Some units were said to have been entirely dispersed. The Germans apparently considered these attacks very serious, for it was announced officially that Field Marshal von Hindenburg and General von Ludendorff, (p. 433) quartermaster general, had arrived at headquarters of the Austro-Hungarian army to visit the Austrian field marshal, Artur Arz von Straussenburg.[Back to Contents]



It soon became clear that the gradual increase in fighting activity was not simply an impulsive response to Prime Minister Kerensky's eloquence or the result of isolated local conditions. Gradually the fighting spread over more and more ground. It became more efficient and less spasmodic. Undoubtedly this was partly due to the fact that matters behind the front began to settle down somewhat and that supplies of ammunition and food again flowed more regularly and abundantly. Then too the new commander in chief seemed to be more capable of controlling his troops and to have a more definite plan for his operations than his predecessor. Where formerly only small detachments of Russians apparently could be persuaded or forced to undertake military operations, now regiments, brigades, and even whole divisions, went again at the business of fighting. Thus the Russians were able to gain nice successes at many points. Especially in the direction of Zlochoff, the Russians continued their offensive successfully. In the afternoon of July 2, 1917, after a stubborn battle, the Zoraisky regiment occupied the village of Presovce, while the troops of the Fourth Finnish Division and the Cheshskoslovatsky brigade occupied the strongly fortified German positions on the heights to the west and southwest of the village of Zboroff and the fortified village of Korshiduv. Three lines of trenches were penetrated. The troops of the Central Powers then retired across the Little Stripa. The Finns took 1,560 officers and soldiers prisoner, while their captures included four trench mortars, nine machine guns, and one bomb thrower. The Cheshskoslovatsky (p. 434) brigade captured sixty-two officers and 3,150 soldiers, fifteen guns and many machine guns. Many of the captured guns were turned against the former owners. Positions to the west of the Uzefuvka also were taken.

Altogether in that day's battle in the neighborhood of Zlochoff the Russians took 6,300 prisoners, officers and soldiers, twenty-one guns, sixteen machine guns, and several bomb throwers. Southeast of Brzezany the battle continued with less intensity. In that region the Russians captured fifty-three officers and 2,200 men. Between the Baltic and the Pripet the activity of the fighting increased only at Riga and Smorgon; there was heavy artillery fighting on the middle course of the Stokhod, where, however, Russian local attacks on the Kovel-Lutsk railway line failed with heavy losses, and also on the Zlota Lipa. During the night following there was lively artillery fighting from the Stokhod to the Narayuvka. New strong attacks of the Russians took place at Brzezany, which failed with heavy losses.

South of Zboroff the Russians, with the use of superior forces, succeeded in pushing back a limited portion of the Austrian front toward the prepared supporting position. In engagements involving heavy sacrifices the Austro-Hungarians were forced to retire step by step against the pressure of superior forces, but did this so easily that they enabled the reserves to intervene for the restoration of the situation.

Unsuccessful attempts were made by the Germans in eastern Galicia on July 4, 1917, to regain some of the lost ground. East of Brzezany the Germans attacked advanced Russian posts, but were compelled by artillery fire to retire. East of Lipnicadolna on the eastern bank of the Narayuvka, after artillery preparation, they twice attacked Russian positions, but were repulsed on both occasions.

The next day, July 5, 1917, the violence of the fighting again increased. In Galicia, between Zboroff and Brzezany, an artillery battle of great violence developed. It diminished during the night and increased again after daybreak. Also at Zwyzyn, Brody, and Smorgon the artillery activity was very lively at intervals. On that part of the Galician front, held chiefly by (p. 435) Turkish troops intermingled with some Germans and Austro-Hungarian forces, the Russians made an unsuccessful attack which cost them, according to German claims, 200 prisoners and 500 dead.

Some more successes were gained by the Russian forces on July 6, 1917. In the direction of Zlochoff, after artillery preparation, Russian infantry attacked strongly fortified positions of the enemy. They occupied three lines of trenches, but later the Germans succeeded in pressing back the Russian detachments.

In the sector of the heights northwest of Presovce and in the wood west of Koniuchy Russian detachments conducted an offensive and engaged in a stubborn battle throughout July 6, 1917. The Germans executed counterattacks and at certain places pressed back the Russian detachments. Toward evening, however, there remained in Russian hands the heights northwest of Presovce and the villages of Lavrikovce and Travotloki and the heights east of Dodov, as well as seventeen officers and 672 men.

In the region northwest of Stanislau to the south of the Dniester, after artillery preparation, Russian advance detachments pressed back the Austrians in the Jamnica-Pasechna sector and occupied their trenches. South of Bohorodszany Russian advance detachments defeated an advanced post of the Austrians. The Russians also occupied Sviniuchy and repulsed the enemy's counterattack. Altogether in the engagement the Russians took 360 prisoners.

By now the Russian attack had spread so that Halicz, only sixty miles southwest of Lemberg, Galicia's capital, and its chief protection from the southeast, was practically in reach of the Russian guns. In this sector the front was somewhat more than thirty miles long and ran along the Narayuvka River. The newly organized Russian forces had been formed into three armies and were continuing to pound away at their adversaries. There was considerable fighting near Stanislau on July 7, 1917. Austro-Hungarian regiments in hand-to-hand encounters repulsed several Russian divisions whose storming waves, broken (p. 436) by destructive fire, had pushed forward as far as the Austrian position. Near Huta, in the upper valley of the Bystritza Solotvina, another Russian attack was repulsed. Between the Stripa and the Zlota Lipa the Russians were apparently unable to renew their attacks in spite of their gains of the previous days. Near Zboroff a Russian attack without artillery preparation broke down with heavy losses.

Farther north, in the Brzezany-Zlochoff sector, in the direction of Zlochoff the Germans launched energetic counterattacks on the front at Godov and the wood west of Koniuchy in an attempt to dislodge Russian troops. All these attacks were repelled. Assaults west of Bychka by troops in dense columns, supported by armored motor cars, were also repulsed.

Not until then did it become known that the Russians, in the beginning of their offensive, had had the support of some of their allies.

The Russian offensive had now been under way for more than a week. As so often in the past, it had been launched against that part of the front which was held chiefly by Austro-Hungarians, and also, as many times before, the troops of the Dual Monarchy had been forced to give way under the Russian pressure. German reenforcements, however, now began to arrive and the defense began to stiffen, bringing at the same time more frequent and stronger counterattacks.[Back to Contents]



The surmise that Halicz, the important railroad point on the Dniester, was soon to fall into the hands of the Russians, provided they were able to keep up the strength and swiftness of their offensive, was proved correct on July 10, 1917. Late that day the news that Halicz had fallen on July 9, 1917, into Russian hands came from Petrograd. The Russians were fighting (p. 437) under General Kornilov and their attacks were so strong that the Austrians under General Kirchbach were unable to resist. In two days Austro-German positions seven miles deep and strongly fortified during a period of two years were overrun by the victorious Russians. More than 1,000 prisoners, seven guns, many trench mortars and machine guns, and a large booty of engineering materials and other military stores fell into the hands of the victors. The Austro-Hungarians were forced to retire behind the lower course of the Lomnitza River, and at the end of the day the road to Lemberg, only sixty-three miles northwest of Halicz, seemed seriously threatened from the south.

Earlier in the day sanguinary battles occurred on the road to Halicz in the region of the villages of Huciska, Pacykov, and Pavelone. In the streets of Pavelone there was bayonet fighting, which ended in a complete rout of the Austrians. Toward evening the Russian troops reached the village of Bukovica, having occupied the villages of Viktarov, Majdan, Huciska, and Pacykov.

South of Brzezany there was intense artillery fighting. In the direction of Dolina the army of General Kornilov continued its offensive in the region west of Stanislau. The Austro-Germans displayed energetic resistance which developed into stubborn counterattacks. Farther north, too, near Riga, Dvinsk, and Smorgon, the fighting activity increased.

The Russians maintained their successes on the following day, July 10, 1917. In the direction of Dolina they continued the pursuit northwestward toward Lemberg of the retreating enemy, who had been broken by General Kornilov's army on the Jezupol-Stanislau-Borgordchan front—a front of almost twenty miles.

At midday troops led by General Tcheremisoff, who had accomplished the capture of Halicz, were thrown across to the left bank of the Dniester. Toward evening they reached the valley of the river Lomnitza on the front from the mouth of the river to Dobrovlany, and advance detachments, crossing over after a short engagement to the left bank of the river, occupied the villages of Bludniki and Babin. Russian troops advancing on (p. 438) the Borgordchan-Zolotvin front, having broken down the resistance of the enemy, reached the line of Posiecz-Lesiuvka-Kosmocz. This was a success in a new sector south of Halicz and threatened the approaches to the northern Carpathians.

In the course of the day the Russians captured more than 2,000 prisoners and about thirty guns. Altogether in the three days' battle from the 8th to the 10th in the direction of Dolina they took more than 150 officers and 10,000 men. Their captures also included about eighty guns, twelve of them of heavy caliber, and a large number of trench mortars and machine guns and a large quantity of engineering material and military stores. On the remainder of the front there was artillery firing, which was more intense in the direction of Zlochoff and south of Brzezany.

These various operations continued to develop on July 11, 1917, especially among the rivers Dniester and Lomnitza. After a stubborn and sanguinary battle the Austrians were forced out of the town of Kalusz, which was occupied by the Russians. Kalusz, a town of about 8,000 population previous to the war, is on the west bank of the Lomnitza and on the important railroad that runs from Stanislau to Lemberg south of the Dniester. Until the development of the Russian offensive it served as Austrian headquarters in this sector. To the west of Bohorodszany, on the Grabovka-Rosolna-Krivicz front, the Austrians taking advantage of the extremely intricate terrain, succeeded in holding back the Russian advance. Near Riga, Smorgon and Baranovitchy the artillery fighting was again spirited. Near Lutsk and in the East Galicia fighting area the firing also reached a point of considerable intensity at times. On the Ochtschara Russian chasseur troops were repulsed, as were local Russian attacks on the Stokhod.

On July 12, 1917, the firing activity between the Zlota Lipa and the Narayuvka increased. Engagements developed also on the Honika River, northwest of Halicz. Russian troops crossed to the left bank of the river confluence and captured heights on the line of the river Dniester-Bukazowice-Bludniki. After a stubborn battle the Austrians were driven back from the heights (p. 439) to the northeast of Ehilus. The Russians occupied the villages of Studzianka and Podhorki.

In the region of Kalusz a Bohemian regiment by means of a daring cavalry attack captured four heavy guns. Southeast of Kalusz, on the Landstru-Lazianya-Kraisne front, Russian troops engaged in battle with Austrian detachments who were protecting the crossings of the river Lomnitza on the road to Kornistov and Dolina. The crossings of the river at Perehinsko west of Bohorodszany were captured.

In the region of Vladimir Volynski (Volhynia) southeast of Kiselin German detachments under cover of artillery fire attacked Russian positions and entered Russian trenches, but were expelled by reserves which came forward, immediately restoring the situation. On the Dvina near Smorgon and on the Shara there was spirited fighting, and also west of Lutsk there was a temporary revival of activity in consequence of reconnoitering thrusts.

In describing the capture of Kalusz the "Russky Slovo" says that the Russian cavalry entered the town at noon and found it abandoned by the garrison. The Russians were soon attacked, however, by fresh enemy forces, which were rushed from the fortress. After a stiff fight the Russians were compelled to fall back. Reenforced, they returned and drove the Germans out. At 2 o'clock in the afternoon the Germans, supported by an armored train, counterattacked and again occupied Kalusz. But they were once more expelled with heavy losses. Sanguinary house-to-house fighting, mostly with the bayonet, ensued until 6 o'clock in the evening.

On July 13, 1917, it was reported that there was considerable rifle firing on the lower Lomnitza, between the confluence with the Dniester River and Kalusz. In the neighborhood of the town of Kalusz the Austrians made two attacks from the direction of Mosciska and near Gartenel and attempted to dislodge the Russian troops occupying Kalusz, but were repulsed. The Russians occupied, after fighting, the village of Novica, southwest of Kalusz. Heavy rains prevented extensive fighting at other points south of the Dniester. Near Dvinsk and Smorgon lively (p. 440) fighting activity continued. In eastern Galicia the gunfire was lively only in the Brzezany sector.

Heavy rains continued and swelled the rivers Lomnitza and Dniester and the small streams running into them. Naturally this also affected the condition of the roads. In spite of the unfavorable weather there was considerable fighting on July 14, 1917. Southwest of Kalusz the Austrians several times attacked troops which were occupying the Dobrovdiany-Novica front. All the attacks were repulsed. As a result of the battles in this region the Russians captured sixteen officers and more than 600 of the rank and file. In the region of Lodziany (eighteen miles southwest of Kalusz) as the final result of a series of stubborn attacks Russian troops drove the Austrians from their positions and took more than 1,000 prisoners and a number of guns. At the crossing of the river Lomnitza, near Perehinsko, the Austrians launched an offensive with the object of throwing Russian detachments back to the right bank of the Lomnitza. The Russian offensive on the Slivkiasen front met with stubborn resistance.[Back to Contents]



The accomplishments of the Russian armies during the first two weeks of July, 1917, were little short of marvelous. Not only had they captured such important points as Halicz and Kalusz and had forced back the Austrian lines in southeastern Galicia for miles and miles, but they had also taken large numbers of prisoners and captured valuable booty. From July 1 to July 13, 1917, 834 officers and 35,809 men were captured by the Russians, with ninety-three heavy and light guns, twenty-nine trench mortars, 493 machine guns, forty-three mine throwers, forty-five bomb mortars, three fire throwers, two aeroplanes, and much equipment.

(p. 441) By the middle of July, 1917, however, the first fury of the Russian onslaught had spent itself, and then too, as so often before, the Central Powers had recovered from their first surprise and had succeeded, thanks to their superior transportation facilities, in bringing up strong reserves. For the first time since the beginning of the Russian offensive on July 15, 1917, there appeared definite signs that the German defensive was stiffening. On the lower Lomnitza there were fusillades and artillery bombardments. Northeast of Kalusz the Germans made energetic attempts to throw back the Russian troops on the Lomnitza. The battle on the Landes-Reuldzian-Kraisne front continued all day. After a severe engagement the Austrians were driven out of the village of Lodziany and pressed hard to the river Lomnitza, but owing to attacks made by their newly arrived reserves from the direction of Rozniazov, and in view of the great losses, the Russian troops were compelled to retire a short distance and intrench themselves in the eastern end of the Lodziany.

Then on July 16, 1917, came the news that the Russians had been forced to evacuate Kalusz. Northeast of Kalusz the Germans had conducted persistent attacks which at first had been repulsed by the Russians. Finally, however, Russian troops occupying the left bank of the lower course of the river Lomnitza were transferred to the right bank, leaving Kalusz in Austrian hands and securing behind them the important crossing of the Lomnitza.

In the Novica-Lodziany-Kraisne section the Russian troops continued their attacks, with the object of throwing the enemy back across the Lomnitza. The Germans made stubborn resistance. With the approach of evening, they counterattacked in dense waves from the direction of Selohy-Kagnka, and, pressing the Russians back, occupied the village of Novica, but were driven out again upon the arrival of fresh reserves. Farther north, too, the lively fighting activity at Riga, Dvinsk, and Smorgon continued. With the clearing of the weather the firing on the Narayuvka front became heavier than it had previously been.

(p. 442) Once again on the following day, July 17, 1917, the Russians had to yield ground under the ever-increasing pressure from the Germans. In the north there was a still more noticeable increase in the fighting activity at Riga, south of Dvinsk, and at Smorgon. In eastern Galicia the firing was strong at Brzezany.

In the Carpathian foothills Bavarian and Croatian troops in a combined attack captured the heights to the east of Novica, which were stubbornly defended by the Russians, and repulsed Russian counterattacks in the captured positions. At other points on the Lomnitza line also the Russians were forced back in local engagements. As the result of a night attack Russian detachments reoccupied the village of Novica to the south of Kalusz, but, suffering great losses in this operation, withdrew to the eastern end of the village. Two German attacks on these detachments were repulsed. Northwest of Lutsk and on the East Galician front operations carried out by Austro-German forces brought about an increase in artillery activity and resulted in the capture of numerous prisoners.

The artillery activity south of Dvinsk and Smorgon, which had been lively for some days, continued.

During the next few days fighting everywhere became more violent. Near Jacobstadt, Dvinsk, and Smorgon, along the Stokhod, and from the Zlota Lipa to south of the Dniester, the artillery activity increased considerably. Advances and reconnoitering operations often led to local engagements. Near Novica, on the Lomnitza front, new strong Russian attacks were repulsed with sanguinary losses.

On July 19, 1917, east of Brzezany, to the south of Szybalin, Austro-German troops made repeated attacks and occupied a portion of the Russian first-line trenches. Austrian efforts to attack south of Brzezany were repelled by gun and rifle fire. West of Halicz detachments occupying the village of Bludniki retired, whereupon the Austrians, profiting by this movement, occupied the place. An effort to win back this village was unsuccessful. In the direction of Vilna there was animated artillery fighting throughout the day. After strong artillery preparation the Germans persistently attacked the Russian detachments (p. 443) on the Pieniaki-Harbuzov front, twenty miles south of Brody. At first all these attacks were repulsed. At 10 o'clock the Six Hundred and Seventh Mlynov Regiment, stationed between Bathov and Manajov, in the same region, left its trenches voluntarily and retired, with the result that neighboring units also had to retire. This gave the Germans opportunity for developing their success.

The Russians explained this occurrence officially in the following statement:

"Our failure south of Brody is explained to a considerable degree by the fact that under the influence of the Bolsheviki extremists (Anarchists) several detachments, having received a command to support the attacked detachments, held meetings and discussed the advisability of obeying the order; whereupon some regiments refused to obey the military command. Efforts of commanders and committees to arouse the men to fulfillment of the commands were fruitless."

A similar incident, indeed, had happened during the German attacks against Novica on July 17, 1917. On that day when the Germans early in the evening had taken the offensive and had seized the height south of Novica, to the south of Kalusz, one of the Russian regiments began to leave. Major General Prince Gargarin, commander of the military district, perceiving that the situation was critical, at once moved forward a battalion of the Ukhnov regiment commanded by Second Captain Burishen, which had only recently arrived in the district. This battalion conducted an energetic attack. Simultaneously General Prince Gargarin threw troops into the attack on both flanks, advancing infantry and native cavalry regiments of Daghestanians on the right and Circassians and Kabardians on the left. The Ukhnov regiment and the natives rushed forward in a furious onslaught, carrying with them also the Russian regiment which had retired. The general assault soon changed the situation in favor of the Russians.

These two occurrences were typical of many others of a like nature at various points of the entire front. The affected groups varied in extent, sometimes only small detachments would refuse (p. 444) to fight, while at other times entire companies or battalions and even whole regiments were affected.

It now became quite evident that the Russian offensive had to come to a standstill, and that Russian disorganization not only set in again, but came much nearer to a total collapse than it had been previous to the beginning of the Russian offensive. At the same time the new German offensive developed in strength and extent. Even then it was likely that the Russians not only were to lose the territory which they had gained so recently, but possibly a large portion of East Galicia that had been occupied by them for a long time. Whether the Central Powers would be able to follow up their offensive in Galicia with similar undertakings at other points of the eastern front, of course, was a matter that depended not only on conditions at the eastern front, but also on how things were going in the west.

The Austro-German forces made good use of the opportunity created for them by the defection rampant in the Russian armies. In East Galicia, on July 20, 1917, behind the hastily retreating Russian forces, of which only parts made a stand for rear-guard purposes, German troops in impetuous pursuit crossed the Zlochoff-Tarnopol road on both sides of Jezierna on a width of twenty-five miles. Wherever the Russians made a stand they were defeated in swift assaults; burning villages and great destruction showed the route of the retiring Russians.

Again the Russians had to admit officially that their army organization was going to pieces. They did this, in regard to their retreat toward Tarnopol, in the following words:

"Our troops on the whole did not show the necessary stability, and at some points did not fulfill military commands; consequently they continued to retire, and toward evening they paused on the line Renov-Hlatiki-Pokropuvia-Vybudow."

North of Brzezany Austro-Hungarian troops after hard fighting recaptured positions they lost on July 1, 1917. North of the Dniester Russian attacks broke down before the Austrian lines. South of the river the Russians were driven out of Babin. At Novica German and Austro-Hungarian troops stormed the Russian height positions in spite of a stubborn defense. From the (p. 445) Stokhod to the Baltic the activity of the artillery increased occasionally. It reached special intensity between Krevo and Smorgon and at Dvinsk.

At this critical point the Provisional Government again decided to make a change in the command of the Russian armies fighting in Galicia. Early in June, 1917, General Gouter had been placed in supreme command in this section. Lieutenant General L. G, Kornilov, then commander of the Eighth Russian Army, with which he had gained in the first part of July, 1917, the successes on the Halicz-Stanislau line, was now intrusted with the chief command of all Russian troops fighting in Galicia.[Back to Contents]



Day by day the Russians' disorganization became worse. Instances of defection became more frequent as the German offensive movement increased in violence. With their usual thoroughness, and with almost incredible swiftness, the forces of the Central Powers struck. Again the Russian Government was forced to admit officially that Russian commanders had lost control over their troops.

By July 21, 1917, the Germans and Austrians in the region west of Tarnopol managed to reach the Brzezany-Tarnopol railway at several points. Near Brzezany the Seventh Russian Army also began to yield to increasing pressure on its flanks. The number of prisoners and the amount of booty were large. At Jezierna rich supplies of provisions, munitions, and other war stores fell into German hands.

The Russian Offensive and Retreat in Galicia.

Late in the afternoon the Germans forced their way forward from Tarnopol to as far as the Sereth bridgehead. During the fight the railway line from Kozowa to Tarnopol was reached at several points. The Russian masses southeast of Brzezany (p. 447) began to yield. The town of Tarnopol and numerous villages east of the Sereth soon were in flames. On the lower Narayuvka River the artillery duel increased to considerable intensity. On the river Lomnitza after a bombardment the Germans took the offensive in the regions of the villages of Babino and Studzianka and forced Russian troops to evacuate Babino and cross the right bank of the Lomnitza. By the end of the day the whole Russian front from the Zlota Lipa close up to the Dniester was wavering under the pressure of the German-Austrian attack on the Sereth.

In the north, however, the Russians were still fighting back, though unsuccessfully. Between Krevo and Smorgon the Russians after a strong artillery preparation attacked with a strong force. Their assaults broke down with heavy losses on the German troops. After an agitated night fresh fighting broke out at that point. Northward as far as Naroz Lake and also between Drysviaty Lake and Dvinsk increased artillery fighting continued.

The offensive movements undertaken by the Russians in the northern sector were continued on July 22, 1917. In the direction of Vilna, in the neighborhood of Krevo, Russian troops attacked and occupied German positions in the district of Tsary-Bogushi, penetrating to a depth of two miles in places. Over one thousand Germans were taken prisoner.

However, the spirit of disobedience was gradually spreading among the Russian troops. "The development of a further success is being jeopardized by the instability and moral weakness of certain detachments. Particularly noteworthy was the gallant conduct of the officers, great numbers of them perishing during the fulfillment of their duties," says the official Russian statement. On the upper course of the Sereth, from Zalovce to Tarnopol, there was considerable rifle firing. South of Berezovica-Velka the Germans conducted an intense artillery fire. Between the rivers Sereth, Stripa, and Zlota Lipa they continued their offensive, occupying the villages of Nastasov, Beniave (on the Stripa), Uvse, and Slavintin. The strategic effect of the German operations in East Galicia was continually becoming (p. 448) more powerful. The Russians began retreating from the northern Carpathian front. From the Sereth to the wooded Carpathians the Germans were pressing forward over a front of 155 miles wide.

By July 23, 1917, the victorious German army corps had forced their way over the Sereth, crossing to the south near Tarnopol. Near Trembowla desperate Russian mass attacks were repulsed. The Germans advanced beyond Podhaytse, Halicz, and the Bystritza Solotvina River. The booty was large. Several divisions reported 3,000 prisoners each. Numerous heavy guns, including those of the largest calibers, railway trucks filled with foodstuffs and fodder, munitions, armored cars and motor lorries, tents, articles left on the field, and every kind of war material were captured.

Archduke Joseph's north wing now joined in a movement which had commenced to the south of the Dniester. There was strong Russian firing activity along that whole front.

In the north the fighting, too, was severe. In some places the Russians made decided gains, only to lose them again by the refusal of certain troops to obey their commanders. Southwest of Dvinsk Russian detachments, after strong artillery preparation, occupied German positions on both sides of the Dvinsk-Vilna railway. After this success entire units, without any pressure on the part of the Germans, voluntarily returned to their original trenches. A number of these units refused to carry out military commands during the battle.

Detachments of the Twenty-fourth Division, the Tulsk, Lovitsky, and Saraosky regiments, and the "Battalion of Death," consisting of women, acted especially heroically, and as at other points the gallantry of the officers was noteworthy. Their losses were large. In the direction of Vilna and in the region north of Krevo the Germans delivered a number of counterattacks, and succeeded in occupying one of the heights north of Bogush, which had been captured by the Russians on the previous day, July 22, 1917. Heroic exertion by the Russian officers was required to restrain the men from withdrawing to the rear in great numbers.

(p. 449) The German successes became more and more important and the Russian route more and more complete. Stanislau and Nadvorna were now in German hands and German forces were rapidly approaching Buczacz.

In the Carpathians, too, the Russians began to give way.

Prime Minister Kerensky had rushed to the Galician front as soon as news had reached him of the Russian débâcle. However, even his presence could not stem the Austro-German advance and the Russian flight. It was reported that he had even risked his life in this attempt.

On July 25, 1917, the Austro-German successes were still farther extended. During stubborn engagements Austro-German divisions gained heights west of Tarnopol and the Gniza River sector to the Trembowla-Husiatyn road. Farther southwest Buczacz, Tiumacz, Ottynia, and Delatyn were taken.

The Russian Carpathian front, owing to the pressure on the north of the Dniester, now commenced to weaken to the south of the Tartar Pass. The Russians were retreating there in the direction of Czernowitz.

In the north, south of Smorgon, concentrated German artillery fire partly closed up the breach in the German lines made by the Russians. The latter were compelled to retreat, and the Germans regained almost all of their former positions.

July 26, 1917, brought still further defeats to the Russian forces in Galicia. In a bitter struggle near Tarnopol, German divisions extended their gains by a powerful attack at the bridgehead on the eastern bank of the Sereth, which recently had been contested hotly. Farther south, in spite of stubborn resistance of Russians, who were sent forward regardless of the fact that thousands upon thousands of them were being mowed down under destructive German fire, the Germans captured the Gniza and Sereth crossings from Trembowla to Skomorocze. They were also advancing rapidly on both sides of the Dniester. Kolomea was captured by Bavarian and Austro-Hungarian troops. In the northeastern portion of the wooded Carpathians Austrian troops were following on the heels of the Russians who retreated in the direction of the Pruth.

The Entire Eastern Battle Front, August 1, 1917.

(p. 451) Without let-up the Germans and Austrians continued to press back the disorganized Russian armies. By July 27, 1917, the Austro-German divisions under General von Boehm-Ermolli had crossed the Jablonica-Horodenka-Zablowow line. Austrian troops on the northern wing were drawing close to the Pruth Plateau below Kolomea. West of Seletyn-Fundul, on the Moldavian Road in the wooded Carpathians, German and Austro-Hungarian troops wrested some heights positions from the still resisting Russians.

By July 28, 1917, the Russians on both sides of Husiatyn had retired behind the frontier. German corps had reached Zbrocz. Others approached the confluence of the northern Sereth and the Dniester. Between the Dniester and the Pruth the Russian rear guard made a stand. The Germans in a powerful attack broke through their positions and pursued the Russians on both banks of the Dniester. In the Cheremosh Valley Kuty was taken. Above and below the town a crossing of the river was effected by the Austrians.

In the last days of July, 1917, the Russian resistance stiffened slightly. Still the Teutonic forces gained new successes in eastern Galicia and Bukowina. The river Zbrocz was crossed at many points by German and Austro-Hungarian divisions from above Husiatyn to south of Skala, on a front of thirty-one miles, in spite of the bitter resistance of the Russians. Between the Dniester and the Pruth the allied Teutonic troops captured Werenocanka and Sniatyn, in the direction of Czernowitz.

In a strong assault German chasseurs broke through Russian rear-guard positions near Visnitz. The Russians were thereby forced to evacuate the Cheremosh line and retired toward the east. Also in the wooded Carpathians, on the upper course of the southern Sereth, and on both sides of the Moldava and the Suczawa, the Austro-Germans gained ground in an attack toward the east. Under pressure of this success the Russians abandoned their first-line positions in the Meste-Canaste sector.

That the Russian rout was not worse, and that they managed to save a large part of their armies, was due largely to the assistance rendered by Belgian and British armored cars.[Back to Contents]




On February 1, 1917, on the northern slopes of Monte Maso, along the Posina Torrent, and in the Astico Valley Italian patrols destroyed Austrian outposts, taking eleven prisoners. In the Sugana Valley Austrian artillery bombarded Italian positions on Monte Lebre and Ospedaletto and in Pesino Hollow with gas shells. On the Julian front there were minor artillery actions and activity by patrol. At one point a bombardment of the Austrian lines resulted in a small ammunition dump being blown up.

On the Trentino front even the artillery was handicapped by snowfall on February 3, 1917. In the upper Comelico Valley Italian troops repulsed a surprise attack. On the Julian front there was the usual artillery firing.

On February 6, 1917, on the Trentino front the artillery fighting was more intense in the Astico Valley. In the Sugana Valley an Austrian detachment which attempted to attack advanced Italian positions on Monte Maso was put to flight, leaving arms and ammunition on the ground. On the Julian front artillery fighting occurred, during which the Austrians bombarded Goritz for a short time.

In the Sugana Valley, after a violent bombardment, the Austrians at dawn on February 7, 1917, attempted another attack on one of the Italian positions on the right bank of the Brenta. It failed in its inception, however, owing to the combined action of Italian infantry and field batteries. A similar (p. 453) operation attempted by the Austrians on the Freikofel had a like result. In the Posina Valley, at Astico, in the Plezza sector, before Sagora, and in the vicinity of Boscomalo and Hudilog, the activity of Italian reconnoitering patrols led to minor skirmishes.

During the next few days there were desultory artillery actions in the Trentino. Italian batteries shelled Austrian positions on Monte Creino and dispersed supply columns on the northern slopes of Monte Pasubio.

On the Julian front the Austrian artillery showed increased activity. In the area east of Goritz on the night of February 10, 1917, after heavy artillery and trench mortar preparations, the Austrians in considerable forces attacked the Italian positions on the western slopes of Santa Caterina, northwest of San Marco, and east of Vertoibizza, between Sober and the Goritz-Dornberg railway. After heavy fighting the Austrians were repulsed nearly everywhere. However, the Austrians succeeded in entering several portions of Italian trenches, inflicted heavy losses upon the Italians and captured fifteen officers and 650 men, ten machine guns, two mine throwers and much other war material.

This slight success gained by the Austrians resulted in an intense bombardment and violent counterattacks on the part of the Italian forces during February 11, 1917. The latter entirely reestablished their lines and completely repulsed the Austrians, inflicting upon them serious losses and taking more than a hundred prisoners, among whom were a few officers. In the Trentino there was moderate artillery activity. Detachments of Austrian ski runners attempted to approach the Italian lines on the Pasubio. They were repulsed and dispersed by a few well-directed shots. In the upper valleys of the But and Fella there were continuous artillery duels. The Italians reached the station of Tarvia with their fire. In the Vedel zone, after throwing hand grenades, an Austrian detachment attacked. It was speedily repulsed in violent hand-to-hand fighting. The detachment was pursued and decimated by Italian fire. The few survivors were captured.

(p. 454) On the Trentino front the activity of the artillery increased again on February 12, 1917, especially in the Tonale Pass, on the western slopes of Monte Zugna, in the Lagarina Valley, in the upper Travignola, and in the Cordevole Valley. In the Arsa Valley and on the upper Coalba Torrent, on the right bank of the Brenta, Austrian raids were repulsed. In the upper But Valley the artillery was active. Italian batteries set fire to some Austrian barracks behind Val Piccolo.

The following day, February 13, 1917, Italian artillery fire again reached and hit the station at Tarvia. In the zone north of Sober, in the Goritz district, an Austrian attack was repulsed. In the Wippach Valley lively artillery engagements continued. The Italians fired numerous gas grenades. Italian attacks from the district of St. Peter were repulsed. Near Tonale Pass Austrian troops surprised an Italian point of support and took twenty-three Italian prisoners.

Similar events of minor local importance occurred during the next few days. Thus, on February 16, 1917, the Adige Valley was the scene of considerable activity by the artillery. Italian batteries caused fires to break out on the Austrian Zugna line. Minor encounters favorable to the Italian forces were reported from various places. On the Julian front there were the usual artillery actions. The railway station at Santa Lucia di Tolmino was hit by Italian fire.

Increased activity of reconnoitering parties led to small successful encounters during February 17, 1917, at Cavento Adamello Pass, near Forcellina di Montozzo, at Valcamonica in Vallaria, in the upper Posina at Astico, and at Felizon in the Boite Valley, and in Frigido Valley. In the upper But and on the Carso considerable artillery actions were reported. During the next few days the Italian artillery was again lively on several sectors of the mountain front. Tarvia was repeatedly shelled. On February 19, 1917, Austrian patrols made twenty-two prisoners as the result of an enterprise against Italian positions east of Monte Zebio and north of Assio.

During the following night Austrian detachments entered through galleries dug under the snow one of the Italian trenches (p. 455) near Casere Zebio Pastorile. After heavy hand-to-hand fighting they were repulsed with considerable loss, leaving some prisoners in the hands of the Italians.

On February 20, 1917, the Austrians attempted attacks on the left bank of the Maso Torreni and east of the Vertoibizza Torrent in the Frigido Valley. There were desultory artillery actions. They became especially intense in the south Loppio Valley in the upper Vanol, and on the Carso.

Other raids attempted by the Austrians during February 21 and 22, 1917, against the Italians on the Zugna in the Adige Valley, between Strigne and Spera in the Sugana Valley, and on the slopes of Monte Cadini in the upper Boite Valley, failed owing to firm resistance. In the Col di Lana area an Austrian detachment by a sudden attack occupied one of the Italian outposts. The detachment was at once counterattacked and driven off.

Again on February 23 and 24, 1917, the usual artillery actions took place, particularly in the Sugana Valley, in the Plava sector, and east of Goritz. Raids attempted by the Austrians against Italian positions on the northern slopes of Col Bricon, in the Travignola Valley, at Navagiust in the upper Degano, and on the slopes of Monte Nero were repulsed. In the area southeast of Goritz Austrian detachments, after a violent bombardment, attacked one of the advanced Italian positions south of Vertoiba. They were driven back and dispersed.

During the last few days of February, 1917, the weather cleared up somewhat and brought increased artillery activities. The artillery duel was more intense in the zone east of Goritz. Some shells fell on the town. At the confluence of the Vertoibizza and Frigido the Italians repulsed Austrian detachments that were attempting to approach their lines. On the northern slopes of San Marco an Italian detachment made a surprise attack and penetrated into the Austrian trenches, which were destroyed and the occupants driven out.

The month of March, 1917, opened in the same manner in which February, 1917, had closed. There were intermittent artillery actions all along the front. Italian batteries destroyed (p. 456) advanced Austrian posts on Marmolado Mountain, near the upper Avisio River (Trentino front), causing fires at various places. Detachments of Italian infantry on March 2, 1917, successfully raided Austrian trenches at different points, destroyed defensive works, and captured ammunition and other war material. Austrian patrols made several similar raids.

On March 4, 1917, artillery activity increased noticeably on the Trentino front from the Travignola Valley to the upper Cordevole. In the upper part of the San Pellegrino Valley, in the Avisio district, a brilliant attack by Italian troops resulted in the occupation of a strong position at an altitude of almost 9,000 feet on the Costabella group. The Italians captured sixty-one men and one machine gun. On the Julian front there were again intermittent artillery actions. Italian batteries caused explosions and fires in the Austrian lines near Castagnievizza on the middle Isonzo. Austrian detachments that attempted to approach the Italian positions southeast of Vertoiba were repulsed.

During the night of March 9, 1917, Austrian detachments, in the midst of a violent snowstorm, entered advanced positions on the southern slopes of Cima di Bocche. They were driven out by a counterattack. There were also the usual artillery duels. Italian batteries shelled the station at Santa Lucia di Tolmino and the Austrian lines in the Castaomavilla sector with good results. Not even minor engagements were reported on the following day, March 10, 1917. But on March 11, 1917, an Austrian detachment, in the Concei-Ledro Valley, in the Westerdak, after violent artillery and trench-mortar bombardment against Bezzecoa and Mount View, attacked the Italian position in the small valley of Vai, northeast of Lenzumo. The Austrians were repulsed and a few prisoners were taken. On the remainder of the Trentino front there were patrol encounters and increased artillery activity. In the Travignola Valley of the Avisio, after trench-mortar preparation against the southern slopes of Cima di Bocche, the Austrians attacked toward Peneveggio. They were driven off. There were the usual artillery actions along the Julian front. In the Castagnievizza sector, (p. 457) on the Carso, the Italians surrounded an outpost and captured the garrison, comprising nine men and one officer.

On March 12, 1917, there was the usual artillery activity in the Trentino. The Austrian batteries showed increased activity in the Tolmino Basin on the Julian front. On the Carso an Italian detachment raided the Austrian lines southwest of Lucati and destroyed the works. The dugouts were burned and twenty-four prisoners and one machine gun captured. An Austrian counterattack failed.[Back to Contents]



With the approach of spring, which of course comes late in the mountainous regions in which the Austrians and Italians were fighting, a quickening of all fighting activities became noticeable. Artillery duels became more frequent and violent, scouting expeditions more extensive and daring, and air reconnaissances an almost daily occurrence. All this pointed to the coming of a new offensive. Rumors were flying around almost as thickly as shells and bullets and they credited equally both sides with making preparations. However, for quite some time conditions continued very much in the same way in which they had been running along during the winter.

In the Monte Forno zone, on the Asiago Plateau, an Austrian detachment during the night of March 15, 1917, made a surprise irruption into one of the Italian trenches, but was promptly repulsed by a counterattack. In the upper Cordevole Valley small patrol engagements occurred on the slopes of Monte Sief. On the Julian front there were lively actions by both the artillery and by small infantry detachments.

In the Adige Valley zone there was intense artillery activity on both sides on March 16, 1917. Italian artillery bombarded the railway station at Calliano and Austrian cantonments in the environs of Villa Lagarina. Minor encounters of infantry (p. 458) occurred at Serravalle, Val Lagarina, on the slopes of Monte Sief, in the upper Cordevole, near the lower Studena, at Ponteblana Fella, and on the heights of Hill 126 on the borders of the Carso Plateau. Artillery and mine-throwing engagements on the Carso Plateau and in the Wippach Valley went on day and night. On the Cima di Costabella a minor Italian attack was repulsed.

East of Monte Forno, at the north of the Asiago Plateau, detachments of an Austrian regiment, advancing through snow tunnels, penetrated into the Italian trenches, destroyed the dugouts, and inflicted considerable losses upon the Italians.

On March 17, 1917, after violent artillery preparation the Austrians attacked Italian positions at the head of the small valley of Coalbo, in the Sugana, but were driven off with heavy losses. On the preceding night the Austrians destroyed, by heavy artillery fire, the defensive works of the position gained by the Italians in the San Pellegrino Valley on March 4, 1917, and succeeded in occupying the upper portion of it. On the Julian front increased artillery and trench-mortar fighting was reported. In the Plava sector the Italians repulsed an Austrian detachment which attempted to raid positions near Pallioca. East of Vertoiba an Italian patrol entered the Austrian lines, which were set afire. Ammunition and war material were taken. In the district of Kostanjevica an Italian attack preceded by strong artillery fire was repulsed before the village. On the Tyrolean front Italian long-range cannon shelled Arco and Villa Lagarina.

On the whole front there was increased activity of the artillery on March 18, 1917. It was most marked in the Lagarina Valley. Italian field hospitals at Goritz and Ronchi were struck, causing a few casualties. The Austrians attempted raids in the Giumella Valley and in the Lucati sector, but were checked.

On March 19 and 20, 1917, there was again considerable artillery activity in the Trentino. On Costabella Massif, after a violent bombardment with gas shells, the Austrians repeatedly attacked advanced Italian positions. They were repulsed with (p. 459) heavy loss. The usual artillery actions and patrol encounters were reported on the Julian front. Two Italian patrols entered the enemy lines in the Goritz area and destroyed them.

Comparative inactivity was the rule during the following week. But during the night of March 27, 1917, Austrian detachments in the Sugana Valley attempted to approach Italian positions on the left bank of the Maso Torrent west of Samone. They were driven off and dispersed by the Italian fire.

There was also considerable artillery activity on the Julian front. At dusk the bombardment was extremely severe in the section between the Frigido and Dosso Faiti. After destroying the Italian defenses the Austrians launched two attacks in force, one against Hill 126, where they succeeded in occupying some advanced trenches, and the other toward Dosso Faiti, which was repulsed.

Nothing of any importance occurred anywhere on the Austro-Italian front during the last few days of March, 1917.

April brought somewhat warmer weather, resulting in the beginning of the spring thaws. This made military operations even more difficult and brought about a very noticeable reduction in all activities on both sides. Not until April 6, 1917, was there anything of any importance whatsoever to report, and even then the operations were only of minor importance. On that day there were desultory artillery actions along the front, although the prevailing bad weather greatly interfered with operations.

During the afternoon the Austrians exploded a large mine in the vicinity of advanced Italian positions on the second summit of Monte Colbricon. The Italians suffered no serious damage and no casualties. On the Carso a small detachment of Italian troops surprised and occupied an advanced Austrian post north of Boscomalo, capturing the entire garrison.

On April 10, 1917, the artillery activity, normal on the remainder of the front, was more lively west of Lake Garda and in the Lagarina Valley. The Austrians having renewed their attack with medium-caliber guns on Limone Garda, Italian batteries replied by shelling the Austrian lines in the vicinity of (p. 460) Arco and Rovereto. On the Carso Italian patrols pushed back advanced positions of the Austrians at many points.

During the night of April 11, 1917, the Austrians, after violent artillery and trench-mortar preparations, succeeded momentarily in entering one of the advanced Italian trenches to the east of Vertoiba, but were immediately driven off on the arrival of Italian reserves.

Artillery was again active on April 12, 1917, on the Trentino front between the Adige and San Pellegrino Valleys. Italian medium-caliber batteries employed effective bursts of fire against the railway station of Calliano, where an unusual movement of trains had been observed. On the Colbricon Massif, in the upper Cismon Valley, the Austrians had been mining toward Italian advanced positions. During the night the Italians exploded a countermine, which destroyed the Austrian gallery. The edge of the crater was occupied by Italian troops and the position established. On the Julian front artillery duels were reported in the Plava area, to the east of the Vertoibizza Torrent and in the northern sector of the Carso. The Italians repulsed minor attacks in the vicinity of Della Tolmino, and against the position which they had captured on April 7, 1917, north of Boscomalo.

On April 13, 1917, the railway station at Calliano and moving trains in the neighborhood were repeatedly hit, an ammunition depot was blown up, and a fortified position destroyed in the Zugna area. On the remainder of the Trentino front bad weather interfered with all operations.

On the Colbricon Massif, in the upper Cismon, Austrian detachments attempted to attack the position which the Italians had captured on the preceding night after the explosion of their mine. They were repulsed with loss. On the Julian front artillery duels took place in the Goritz Basin.

Again on April 16, 1917, Italian artillery in the Lagarina Valley renewed the bombardment of the station at Calliano, damaging the building, putting trains and motor lorries to flight and dispersing troops. Encounters among small groups of infantry were reported.

(p. 461) In the upper part of the Aravionodo Valley in the midst of a heavy storm an Austrian detachment made a surprise attack and penetrated one of the advanced Italian positions west of Lake Bocete. They were driven back to their own lines. On the Julian front the artillery fighting was more intense in the vicinity of Goritz.

Bad weather once more interfered seriously with all operations for a few days. On April 20, 1917, however, there was again lively artillery fire on the whole front. Italian batteries shelled Austrian camps in the Lagarina Valley, dispersed Austrian detachments on the northern slopes of Monte Pasubio and at various points on the Carnia front, and checked Austrian fire in the Goritz area and on the Carso.

For the next two days only artillery duels were reported. These were continued on April 23, 1917, in the Sugana Valley, where extensive movements of troops behind the Austrian lines were reported. In the upper Cordevole Valley an Austrian detachment, which attempted to penetrate one of the Italian positions in the Campo zone, was counterattacked and dispersed, abandoning some arms and munitions. An Austrian attack at Gabria, northwest of Tolmino, had a like result, the Austrians suffering appreciable losses.

On April 29, 1917, an Austrian detachment entered one of the advanced Italian positions at Tonale Pass in the Camonica Valley. Notwithstanding a violent barrage fire from the Austrian batteries, Italian reenforcements at once reoccupied the position. The artillery activity was continued in a desultory way. It was somewhat more lively, however, in the Travignola Valley, at the head of the Costeana stream, and in the Goritz area. Reconnaissance patrols were active along the entire front.

The first definite signs of an impending Italian drive on the Julian front appeared on May 12, 1917. Along the whole front between Tolmino and the sea the Italians were active with artillery and mine throwers. The fire lasted through the entire night. It caused explosions and fires in the Austrian lines and was continued with unabated vigor in spite of prompt response from the Austrian guns during May 13, 1917.[Back to Contents]



It now became quite evident that the Italians once more were ready to attempt to reach their goal, Trieste. More and more violent became their bombardment of the Austrian lines on the Isonzo front. On May 14, 1917, on the Julian front from Tolmino to the sea the destructive fire of the Italian artillery, directed against strong Austrian positions, reached great intensity and was vigorously answered by numerous Austrian batteries of all calibers. Toward noon Italian infantry made several raids on various points along the front, which led to considerable progress in the Plava area, on the slopes of Monte Cucco, and on the hills east of Goritz and Vertoibizza. At the same time other Italian troops made a thrust in the northern sector of the Carso and reached the wrecked Austrian lines east of Dosso Faiti, capturing prisoners. The infantry actions continued during the entire day, supported by artillery and trench mortars, which were keeping the Austrian artillery in check.

On the remainder of the front the Austrians attempted various attacks in force on advanced positions northwest of Tolmino and on the Asiago Plateau. All were unsuccessful and resulted in severe casualties to the assailants.

This offensive action, it now appeared, had really begun on May 12, 1917, when, in the morning, fire was opened along the whole line from Tolmino to the sea. It was maintained with a regularly quickened rhythm until the morning of May 14, 1917, when it was intensified to a powerful drum fire. During the first part of the bombardment the Austrians reacted but feebly. It seemed as though the Austrians had been taken by surprise, but their reply was more vigorous on May 13, 1917, and extremely violent on the morning of the 14th. Austrian batteries then opened a heavy curtain of fire, pouring thousands of projectiles on the trenches in the Italian line.

(p. 463) Undeterred by this tempest of fire, the Italian infantry, toward noon, leaped over the parapets and dashed forward toward the objectives previously assigned. These positions were almost all difficult ones, and some of them hitherto had been regarded as impregnable; such, for instance, as the heights on the left bank of the Isonzo, from Plava to Salcano Pass. The steep slopes, covered with rocks and dotted here and there with thick clumps of brush, constituted a formidable obstacle to an infantry advance. Successive lines of trenches, prepared months before above deep caverns, well supplied with defensive and offensive material, were defended by seasoned troops and protected by batteries placed so as to flank attacks with their fire. Notwithstanding these conditions, the Italian infantry advanced.

This vigorous offensive movement was continued by the Italian troops on May 15, 1917. Ably supported by artillery, they succeeded in establishing themselves on the steep and wooded heights along the eastern bank of the Isonzo, north of Goritz, which had been transformed by the Austrians into a formidably fortified defensive position. On the left wing one of the Italian columns, after forcing a passage across the river between Loga and Bombrez, captured the last-named village and fortified itself there.

In the center the heights of Hill 383, northeast of Plava, were captured, while the Florence infantry brigade and the Vaellino brigade, after taking by assault the villages of Zagora and Zagomila, which were infested by machine guns, carried the crests of Monte Cucco and Monte Vodice with great dash.

On the right wing the other Italian columns made considerable progress on the steep slopes of Monte Santo. Fierce Austrian counterattacks, prepared and supported by a bombardment of exceptional violence, were all repulsed.

In the area east of Goritz the Messina brigade conquered Hill 174 north of Tivoli, which was strongly fortified and stubbornly held by the Austrians, whose insistent counterattacks were beaten back.

The city of Goritz suffered a heavy bombardment from Austrian batteries, and some buildings were seriously damaged.

(p. 464) On the remainder of the front down to the sea there were lively artillery actions. The Austrian rear lines were again effectively bombed by air squadrons and during the night by airships.

In the first two days of their advance the Italians made 3,375 prisoners, among them ninety-eight officers. They also captured a mountain battery, about thirty machine guns, and much war material, including arms and ammunition.

On the following day, May 16, 1917, the Austrian resistance stiffened somewhat. In spite of this the Italian advance continued. Fighting in the zone between Monte Cucco and Vodice was bitter and lengthy. Considerable Austrian masses, supported by the fire of numerous batteries, were repeatedly launched against Italy's new positions. Each time they were repulsed, and the Fochux bastion of Monte Cucco from Height 611 to Height 525 remained firmly in Italian hands. Moreover, the Italians made appreciable progress toward the important summit of Height 652, on the Vodice.

In the zone east of Goritz Austrian counterattacks, directed particularly against the summit of Height 174 and to the east of the Vertoibizza Torrent, broke down under Italian fire. Afterward Italian infantry, assuming a counteroffensive, occupied the important height to the south of Grazigna after a desperate conflict.

On the Carso Plateau the Austrians, with the evident object of lessening the Italian pressure in the region of Goritz, attempted a powerful effort against positions at Monte Vuocgnacco and Monte Faiti, on the northern sector of the plateau. Successive waves of Austrian infantry were broken down by well-directed fire, or rolled back in disorder after having suffered serious losses.

On the whole front from Tolmino to the sea there were continuous actions by artillery of all calibers. The Austrian artillery continued its work of devastation on the city of Goritz.

On May 17, 1917, the Italian troops were engaged in fortifying the important position captured east of Goritz and organizing (p. 465) communication with the rear. The Austrians attempted but failed to hinder the work of the Italian forces.

During the night the Austrians under cover of darkness attempted surprise attacks upon positions on the bridgehead of Bodrez (on the Isonzo seven miles southwest of Tolmino), on the Vodice, Hill 592, and at Grazigna. In the morning the Austrians brought up strong reenforcements and renewed their attack, which was particularly violent in the Vodice region and south of Grazigna. Shattered by Italian battery fire the Austrian masses were counterattacked and repulsed by infantry, who at several points surrounded their assailants and forced them to surrender.

The number of prisoners by now had increased to 6,432, including 143 officers.

All along the front from Tolmino to the sea the artillery continued very active. Goritz again suffered very heavy damage.

Surprise attacks during the night of May 17, 1917, on Italian positions on the heights of Hill 592 on Monte Vodice were repulsed. In the morning of May 18, 1917, Italian troops opened a vigorous attack, with the object of capturing the heights of Hill 652 on Monte Vodice, the key to the Austrian defenses north of Monte Santo. The stubborn resistance of the Austrians, supported by numerous batteries of all calibers, which kept up a continuous fire from the rear, rendered the action long and severe. Advancing from rock to rock, expelling the Austrians from trench and cavern, destroying their machine guns, Italian infantry by evening succeeded in reaching the crest of the long-contested heights and maintaining the position against the concentrated fire of Austrian batteries.

With the capture of the ridge between Monte Cucco and Monte Vodice, the task of diverting the Austrian attention, which was assigned to the troops in the sector between Bodrez and Loga, was completed, and they withdrew to the right bank of the Isonzo without molestation from the Austrians.

In the region east of Goritz the Italians maintained all their positions against persistent attacks, which were particularly violent south of Grazigna and on the heights of Hill 174 south of Tivoli.

(p. 466) On the remainder of the front incessant artillery duels occurred. The Austrian fire was especially violent against Goritz and the surrounding villages.

In the area north of Goritz the Italian troops on May 19, 1917, extended their positions on Hill 652, on the Vodice (a ridge which links captured Monte Cucco with Monte Santo, the immediate Italian objective in this region). Dense masses of Austrians preceded by a heavy barrage fire counterattacked in an attempt to stop the Italian progress, but each time were driven back with heavy loss. In the evening the Austrians withdrew their infantry, and concentrated a strong artillery fire on the lost positions. These the Italians firmly maintained. They captured two 4-inch guns, two 6-inch mortars, trench mortars and machine guns, and a large quantity of arms and ammunition. In the area east of Goritz Italian troops broke into the Austrian line and took some prisoners. On the Trentino front the Austrians attempted a diversion by a heavy bombardment and by local infantry attacks without success.

These attempts were resumed on May 20, 1917, in the Trentino, in the Campo area, in the Daone Valley, southeast of Lake Loppio, at Rio Cameras, in the Adige Valley, and on the Maso Torrent line in the Sugana Valley. Late in the evening masses of Austrian troops vigorously assaulted Italian positions on the Pasubio, west of Monte Dente. After heavy hand-to-hand fighting, the Austrians, suffering severe loss, were completely driven back all along the line of attack. On the Julian front, Austrian attacks on the northern slopes of San Marco, east of Goritz, between Monte Vuocgnacco and Monte Faiti, and in the neighborhood of Hill 268 were repulsed. The Italians took Hill 363, between Palieva and Britof, east of Plava, and extended their positions still more on the Vodice.

On May 21, 1917, the Austrians on the Trentino front, notwithstanding the repulse so far suffered, persisted in making desultory and fruitless attempts to divert the Italians from their main objectives. Raids were made in force against the advanced Italian line at Caventro Pass, Adamello, Pluberga Bridge, in the Chiesa, and in the Giumella Valley, at Rio (p. 467) Pionale. All were repulsed. Between Lake Garda and the Adige the Austrians, after an intense and prolonged bombardment with artillery of all calibers, attacked positions on Monte Dosso Alto, southwest of Loppio Lake, and on Monte Zugna. They were driven back with heavy loss. Other local attacks which were attempted in the Posina Valley, on the Asiago Plateau, and in Carnia failed. On the Julian front, in the sector north of Goritz, the artillery duel, already spirited, became more intense, but was not followed by infantry action. The position which the Italians captured on Hill 363, east of Plava, was consolidated.

East of Goritz the Austrians attempted repeatedly to recapture Hill 126, south of Grazigna, but failed on account of the effective action of Italian artillery reserves.

A slight lull set in on May 22, 1917, except that the Italians opened a very heavy fire against the Austrian positions on the Carso Plateau.

This bombardment continued on May 23, 1917, and after ten hours of violent bombardment, the troops of the Third Italian Army assaulted and broke through the well-organized Austrian lines from Castagnievizza to the sea. While they were heavily engaging the Austrians on the left, other troops, after carrying trenches in the center and on the right, occupied part of the area south of the Castagnievizza-Boscomalo road, passed Boscomalo and captured Jamiano, the important and strongly fortified heights of Hill 92 east of Pietrarossa, Hill 77, Hill 58, Bagni, and Hill 21. The Austrians, at first surprised by the sudden onslaught, toward evening counterattacked in force, supported by an exceptionally heavy bombardment. They were repulsed with severe loss.

During the day the Italians captured more than 9,000 prisoners, including more than 300 officers. In the Goritz area Italian troops repulsed heavy attacks, captured a strong point on the northwest slopes of San Marco, and after severe fighting made considerable gains in the Monte Santo and Vodice areas.

It was also announced officially that ten British batteries assisted in the fighting of these days.

(p. 468) On May 24, 1917, the battle continued to rage along the Julian front from the sea to Plava. Italian troops, advancing over very difficult and intricate ground, fought their way, yard by yard, through a deep labyrinth of fortifications stubbornly defended by strong, well-trained forces.

In the sector between the sea and the Jamiano-Brestovizza road large Italian forces, supported by some field batteries which advanced with the infantry, drove the Austrians back as far as Foce Timavo, Flondar, and Hill 31, a line south of Jamiano.

North of Jamiano, after heavy fighting, the strongly fortified heights Hills 235 and 247 were carried and the Italian positions extended as far as the outlying houses of Versic.

The Austrians attempted to lighten the Italian pressure on the southern Carso by violent counterattacks from Castagnievizza to Frigido. All these efforts failed. East of Goritz persistent Austrian raids were repulsed during the night on Hill 174, north of Tivoli, and at Grazigna. In the region of Monte Cucco and Monte Vodice the Austrians vainly made every effort to retake captured positions. An Austrian column attempted a surprise attack against Italian lines east of Hill 652 on the Vodice. It was counterattacked and driven back to its point of departure, which was then carried and held by Italian troops. East of Plava the Italians extended their occupation on Hill 363.[Back to Contents]



The struggle which had now been raging for almost a fortnight continued with unabated strength. Although the Austrians put up a most gallant and determined resistance, they could not keep back the Italian advance, which apparently was made with superior infantry and artillery forces.

(p. 469) On May 25, 1917, heavy fighting continued on the Carso. After intense artillery preparation lasting until 4 o'clock in the afternoon, infantry of the Seventh Italian Army Corps vigorously attacked and carried the network of trenches extending from the mouth of the Timavo River to a point east of Jamiano and took possession of the heights between Flondar and Medeazza.

Farther north, after severe hand-to-hand fighting, the Austrian defenses at the labyrinth east of Boscomalo were broken and Hill 220, southeast of the village, and trenches around Castagnievizza were taken. The operations on the northern sector of the Carso were confined almost exclusively to artillery actions. The Italians extended their positions on Hill 174, north of Tivoli.

The fighting was very heavy in the Vodice area, where the Austrians made every effort to dislodge the Italians from the important point Hill 652, which, however, remained firmly in Italian possession. After violent artillery preparation dense masses of Austrian troops attempted repeatedly and stubbornly to attack the Italian lines.

In the Plava zone the Italians made farther progress on the slopes of Hill 363 in the Rogat Valley. The total number of prisoners captured so far on the Julian front from May 14 to 25, 1917, was 22,419, including 487 officers.

It was now the fourth day of this new Carso battle. Still the Italians extended their positions. On May 26, 1917, artillery action all along the line continued fiercely from sunrise until evening. In the afternoon between the coast and Jamiano Italian infantry by a brilliant assault succeeded in reaching a point beyond the railway from Monfalcone to Duino, northeast of San Giovanni, and carried the strongly fortified Hill 145 southwest of Medeazza. They established themselves a few hundred yards from the village.

North of Jamiano violent attacks and counterattacks followed in succession all day, supported by artillery fire. Castagnievizza also was reached and passed, but the persistent and concentrated shelling by a number of Austrian batteries compelled the Italians (p. 470) to evacuate ground there. The latter maintained a hold on the western boundary, however.

In the area east and north of Goritz the artillery action was intense. The Italians shelled the basins of Cargaro and Britof, in which the Austrian supplies centered.

In the Plava sector Italian infantry carried the heights at the head of the Palieva Valley, thus connecting their Monte Cucco lines with those on Hill 363.

Weather conditions on May 27, 1917, slowed down the fighting everywhere, but did not prevent the Italians from extending their various successes slightly in all directions.

On May 28, 1917, however, the Isonzo battle was resumed for the third time. A new and large Italian attacking wave was directed against the heights of Vodice and Monte Santo. An Italian attack launched at noon against the north slope was preceded by powerful artillery fire. It extended along the entire sector.

During the afternoon it resulted many times in severe hand-to-hand fighting, which also raged during the night. Especially violent fighting occurred in the region of Hill 652. The entire extent of the Austrian front, however, now offered iron resistance to all Italian efforts.

South of Jamiano the Italians attacked Austrian positions four times, losing, besides heavy casualties, fifteen officers and 800 men as prisoners. The number of prisoners brought in by the Austrians since the commencement of the Isonzo battle amounted to 14,500 men, according to their official statements.

The Italian offensive now began to come to a stop. The hard fighting naturally had exhausted the Italian forces and munitions and by now strong Austrian reserves had come up and made the resistance sufficiently strong to stop further advances. On May 29 and 30, 1917, artillery was not very active on the Trentino front and in the Carnia, but was very heavy on the Julian front, particularly in the sector from Monte Cucco to Vodice and east of Goritz.

On May 31, 1917, considerable artillery activity developed in the northern sector of the Carso and on the line from Goritz to (p. 471) Plava. In the Vodice area numerous massed troops of the Austrians made a violent attack upon Italian positions on Hills 592 and 652. The attack, prepared by intense artillery fire and carried out with stubbornness, failed.

On June 1 and 2, 1917, the activity on the whole front was confined for the most part to the artillery, which was especially active against Italian positions east of Plava, in the Vodice area, and in the northern sector of the Carso.

On the Carso, after several days of violent artillery preparation, the Austrians attacked in mass on June 4, 1917, from Dosso Faiti to the sea. Although the Dosso Faiti positions were completely destroyed, they were strenuously defended by the Italians. The latter also resisted determined attacks from Castagnievizza to the ridges north of Jamiano and by counterattacks and heavy hand-to-hand fighting succeeded in maintaining their positions and even in occupying new advanced positions near Castagnievizza and Versic.

South of Jamiano, while maintaining their wing positions, the Italians were obliged to rectify somewhat the center of their new line to avoid the Austrian fire, at the same time carrying out frequent counterattacks, effectively stopping the Austrians.

It apparently was now the Austrians' turn. The Italians began to report slight withdrawals. On June 5, 1917, lively artillery duels continued on the front from the Monte Nero area to the heights of Goritz. On the Carso the violent shelling of Italian positions from Versic to Jamiano was resumed, provoking an energetic reply from their batteries.

South of Jamiano the fighting was less intense. The new Italian line fronting Flondar, however, was withdrawn slightly to a position more advantageous tactically.

The struggle continued during the next few days, especially near Jamiano. Positions changed hands frequently, but the advantage now seemed to be slightly with the Austrians, though neither side registered any extensive successes. The fighting gradually slowed down to the type which had been employed previous to the Italian drive. Most of the positions which the (p. 472) Italian forces had gained, remained, however, securely in their hands.

On June 10, 1917, there was a slight revival of more extensive operations, especially in the Trentino. Throughout the whole of the mountain zone of operations there was more fighting than usual, especially between the Adige and Brenta Rivers. In the night the Austrians were driven back and followed up at the Tonale Pass, in the upper Chiesa Valley, on the slope of Dosso Casino, and in the Posina Valley.

On the Asiago Plateau Italian artillery destroyed the Austrians' complex system of defenses at several points. Italian infantry, attacking during a violent storm in the direction of Monte Zebio and Monte Forno, carried the pass of Agnello, and captured nearly the whole of Monte Ortigara, 6,924 feet high, east of Cima Undice.

On the remainder of the front there were desultory concentrations of fire on the part of the Austrian batteries, to which the Italians replied. On the Carso attacks on the Italian line south of Castagnievizza were completely repelled.

During the balance of June, 1917, only isolated actions of importance occurred. On June 15, 1917, east of the Adamello Massif in the eastern Trentino, Italian Alpine detachments and skiers advanced over very difficult ground, notwithstanding furious resistance, and attacked the strongly fortified positions of Corno Cavento, at an altitude of 3,400 meters. The position was carried. The Italians captured what was left of the enemy garrison and two 75-mm. guns, one trench mortar, four machine guns, and a large quantity of supplies and ammunition. On the front of the Asiago Plateau the Austrian artillery continued to show great activity. Patrol attacks on Italian positions on Monte Zebio were repulsed.

On the Ortigara at dawn Italian positions on Hill 2,101 were again attacked with extreme violence. From 2.30 o'clock onward the Austrians, continually reenforced, redoubled their efforts, but they all failed.

In the San Pellegrino Valley an attack upon advanced Italian positions on the massif of Costabella was repulsed.

(p. 473) On the southern slopes of Monte Rombon the Italians occupied by surprise advanced posts, and maintained the same in spite of the concentrated fire of the Austrians.

On the Julian front the artillery fire was especially noticeable in the Tolmino sector, and on the heights northeast of Goritz. Columns of Austrian motor lorries were dispersed, and troops assembled east of Castagnievizza were shelled.

Again on June 20, 1917, the Italians renewed their activity in the Trentino. After twenty-four hours of artillery preparation, an Italian infantry attack on Sette Communi Plateau began early in the morning, and was carried out with the greatest display of effort, especially on the northern wing in the region of Monte Forno and the frontier ridge. All the assaults failed. A local success which gave the Italians a gain of about 100 yards was nullified by a counterattack. Nothing of importance occurred on the Isonzo front.

On the Asiago Plateau fighting was resumed on June 25, 1917. All night Italian troops opposed the desperate efforts of the Austrians, who, notwithstanding heavy losses, were attempting to retake the positions recently lost in the Monte Ortigara sector. Attacks and counterattacks were continuously made on the contested positions. Diversions at the same time by the Austrians on other portions of the front were completely stopped.

On June 28, 1917, the artillery struggle was fairly active on the whole front. In answer to the fire directed by the Austrians against Ala the Italians repeatedly shelled the railway station at Calliano. On the Asiago Plateau the Austrians concentrated a violent fire on Agnello Pass. Near Santa Lucia, in the Tolmino region, traffic was interrupted repeatedly by Italian fire.

Throughout the last few days of June, 1917, and all of July, 1917, only minor operations were undertaken by either side. Artillery activity varied in extent and frequency from day to day, and so did the operations of outposts and patrols. In a general way, however, there was no readjustment of the positions which had been established by the latest Italian drive.

On March 10, 1917, Austria-Hungary issued a proclamation, ostensibly to the Albanians, but obviously addressed to the whole (p. 574) world, that Albania was to enjoy local autonomy under an Austro-Hungarian protectorate. In June, 1917, Italy responded with a similar proclamation, granting Albania independence under Italian protection. At the time the announcement was made a semiofficial interview was granted to the representative of a London newspaper by Deputy Eugenio Chiesa, who had recently returned from a tour of inspection of the parts of Albania held by the Italian army:

"The Italian occupation in Albania and northern Epirus," he said, "extends well into the Greek kingdom. Not only have the Italians occupied Valona and its hinterland, but they have passed a long way to the south of the boundary between Greece proper and northern Epirus at Cape Stylos and have extended in a northern direction as far as the river Kalamas, opposite the south end of Corfu, which was intended by the thirteenth protocol of the Berlin Congress of 1878, and by the Berlin Conference of 1880, to have been the northwestern frontier of Greece, but which, since the last Balkan wars, has been well within the enlarged northwestern boundary. I am opposed," continued Signor Chiesa, "to the permanent occupation of these places, nor do I believe the Italian Government intends to retain them. I consider as sincere the manifesto of the commandant of Valona, but Valona Kanina, north of Valona, the surrounding districts, and the isle of Saseto must remain Italian, not only for strategic but for sanitary reasons, owing to the necessity of draining the pestilential marshes which affect the health of Valona. Venizelos, with whom I spoke at Saloniki, frankly recognized this occupation of Valona, Saseto, and the territory about Valona. The Italians have already constructed over 400 kilometers of roads and opened over 125 schools, where both Italian and Albanian are taught.... Corfu cannot remain Italian, it ought to be Greek."[Back to Contents]




The six months' period from February 1, 1917, to August 1, 1917, covers a more intensified submarine activity than any other period since the beginning of the war. It was on February 1, 1917, that the so-called unrestricted submarine warfare was initiated by the German Government. As was to be expected, losses resulting from this new type of "frightfulness" quickly became very large. As time went on, however, it became evident that the Germans were unable to maintain their submarine sinkings on an equal basis at all times. Losses varied greatly from week to week. However, even at that they soon became so severe as to cause grave difficulties to the countries fighting against Germany and her allies, which before long were joined by the United States as a result of Germany's new submarine policy.

Difficult as it had been in the past to compile an accurate account of submarine losses, such an attempt became even more impossible now. All the governments involved soon followed Great Britain's lead and stopped the publication of detailed data concerning their respective maritime losses. Figures, it is true, were published, at least by England, at regular intervals. But they were far from complete or accurate. It is now next to impossible to give even an approximate idea of the total losses.

The following data come as close to being correct as a careful consultation of official statements permits. They must, however, not be considered complete.

(p. 476) Up to the date of writing the United States had not published any official figures covering the losses incurred by the American merchant marine. From newspaper and other accounts, however, it appears that between February 1, 1917, and July 16, 1917, from thirty to forty American ships of more than 100,000 tons were lost. The first of these was the steamer Housatonic, sunk on February 3, 1917, near the Scilly Islands without loss of life. The sailing schooner Lyman M. Law was sent to the bottom of the sea on February 12, 1917, off the coast of Sardinia in the Mediterranean, also without loss of life. Next on the list was the steamer Algonquin, sunk on March 12, 1917, near the Scilly Islands without loss of life. Four days later, March 16, 1917, the steamer Vigilancia went down with a loss of fifteen men. On March 17, 1917, the City of Memphis was torpedoed, and on March 18, 1917, the Illinois, both without loss of life. The sinking of the steamer Healdon in the North Sea on March 21, 1917, however, brought about the loss of twenty-one members of her crew, seven of whom were Americans. On April 2, 1917, the sinking of the armed steamer Aztec was reported. With her twenty-eight of the crew, including a U. S. N. boat-swain's mate, perished. The Missourian went down on April 4, 1917, and the Seward on April 7, 1917, both in the Mediterranean. On April 24, 1917, the sinking of the schooner Percy Birdsall was reported. The crew was rescued. Later that month another small schooner, the Woodward Abrahams was sent to the bottom. On April 28, 1917, off the north coast of Ireland, the oil tanker Vacuum was sunk. As a result of exposure in lifeboats, seventeen of her crew, including some naval gunners, died. On May 2, 1917, the loss of the steamer Rockingham was reported, two of her crew being lost. During May, 1917, the following American-owned boats were sunk: Hilonian, Harpagus, Dirigo, Frances M., Barbara, and Margaret B. Rouss. Between June 12, 1917, and July 16, 1917, the American merchant marine lost, besides some small boats, the following eight vessels with a total tonnage of over 38,000: Hansau, Haverford, Bay State, Moreni, Petrolite, Massapequa, Orleans, and Grace.

(p. 477) The following list shows the losses of the British merchant marine during the period from February 25, 1917, to July 22, 1917. The figures are those published weekly by the British admiralty. During the month of February, 1917, 110 British ships of varying size and of a total tonnage of 316,204 were sunk:

Week Ending Over
1,600 Tons
1,600 Tons
March 4 14 9 3
March 11 13 4 3
March 18 16 8 21
March 25 18 17 10
April 1 18 13 3
April 8 17 2 6
April 15 19 9 12
April 22 40 15 9
April 29 38 13 8
May 6 24 22 16
May 13 18 5 3
May 20 18 9 3
May 27 18 1 2
June 3 15 3 5
June 10 22 10 6
June 17 27 5 0
June 24 21 7 0
July 1 15 5 11
July 8 14 3 7
July 15 14 4 8
July 22 21 3 1
July 29 18 3 0

These figures show that in twenty-two weeks England lost 438 vessels over 1,600 tons, 170 vessels under 1,600 tons, and 187 fishing vessels. The average tonnage of vessels over 1,600 tons has been said to be 4,500. On that basis the loss in this class alone would amount to about 2,000,000 tons. If we add to this the total loss during February, 1917, and an approximate figure representing the loss of vessels under 1,600 tons and of fishing (p. 478) vessels, it is safe to assume that the total loss suffered by the British merchant marine between February 1, 1917, and July 29, 1917, was about 2,650,000 tons.

On June 30, 1917, the German admiralty claimed that since the beginning of the war more than 5,500,000 tons of shipping available for Great Britain's supply of food, munitions, and materials had been destroyed up to June 1, 1917, and that, on that date, there was available for this purpose from all sources only about 4,500,000 tons which, it was claimed, could be destroyed at the rate of from 800,000 to 1,000,000 tons a month.

Of the other Allied countries only France supplied from time to time definite figures. During February, March, and April, 1917, seventeen French vessels were sunk while nine others were attacked, but escaped. During May, 1917, twenty-eight French vessels were attacked. Of these eighteen escaped and ten were sunk. In June, 1917, fourteen French boats were sunk and twenty escaped. During the early part of July, 1917, two more French steamers were reported sunk having a tonnage of almost 10,000. On June 22, 1917, a debate in the French Chamber of Deputies developed the fact that the French merchant fleet was 2,500,000 tons at the beginning of the war and since that time had lost 560,000 tons, 460,000 by acts of war. During the same period 680,000 tons had been built or bought and another 140,000 was on the stocks, so that the fleet was actually greater now than before the war.

The grand total of submarine operations during February, 1917, according to figures compiled by the British admiralty, showed the following results:

Number of ships sunk—British, 110; American, 2; other belligerents, 20; neutrals, 51.

Total tonnage destroyed—British, 316,204; American, 3,322; other belligerents, 44,272; neutrals, 93,019. Grand total February 1-28, 456,817 tons.

On the other hand the German admiralty made the following official announcement on March 19, 1917; "In February 368 merchant ships of an aggregate gross tonnage of 781,500 were lost by the war measures of the Central Powers. Among them (p. 479) were 292 hostile ships, with an aggregate gross tonnage of 644,000 and seventy-six neutral ships of an aggregate gross tonnage of 137,500."

The State Department in Washington on April 10, 1917, gave out the following official figures regarding neutral losses inflicted by submarines:

"Information has been received by the department that since the beginning of the war, including April 3, a total of 686 vessels have been sunk by German submarines, as follows: Norwegian, 410; Swedish, 111; Dutch, 61; Greek, 50; Spanish, 33; American, 10; Peruvian, 1; Argentine, 1; total, 686. Neutral vessels attacked and escaped: Norwegian, 32; Swedish, 9; Danish, 5; Greek, 8; Spanish, 2; Argentine, 1; Brazilian, 1; American, 8; total, 66."

On May 8, 1917, a debate in the Reichstag brought out the fact that the German admiralty claimed to have sunk during February, March, and April, 1917, 1,325 vessels of all sizes and nationalities with a tonnage of 2,800,000.

Denmark on May 22, 1917, announced that since the beginning of the war 150 ships had been lost and 210 Danish seamen had perished.

On May 28, 1917, the Athens newspaper "Patris" printed a list of 102 Greek ships of a total tonnage of 300,000 which had been sunk by submarines, leaving 149 Greek ships with a displacement of 500,000 tons still afloat.

Norway during March, 1917, lost sixty-four ships, during April, 1917, seventy-five; and during May, 1917, forty-nine.

On June 25, 1917, it was announced that from the beginning of the war up to that date Norway had lost 572 vessels of 815,000 tons, 431 of these of 680,000 tons being steamers. This made Norway by far the heaviest loser among all neutrals.

From all various sources it appears that the total tonnage sunk during the six months from February 1, 1917, to July 31, 1917, amounted to somewhere between five and six millions.

Of course the submarine fleet of the Central Powers suffered severe losses during the six months' period, February to August, 1917. The means employed to put submarines out of business (p. 480) were manifold. Large flotillas of small but swift patrol boats, squadrons of destroyers, guns mounted forward and aft on merchantmen, dragnets, mine fields, and last but not least aeroplanes, all contributed their share toward the combating of submarine warfare. Just how many submarines have been sunk or captured is not even approximately known. From good authorities, however, it appears that the Germans up to now have been able to put new submarines into commission at a greater rate than the Allies have been able to maintain in destroying them.

Only one case of a submarine fighting and destroying another submarine became known. This occurred on June 2, 1917, when a French submarine sank a hostile submarine just as it was sailing out of the harbor of Cattaro on the Dalmatian (Austro-Hungarian) coast of the Adriatic Sea.[Back to Contents]



The principal feature of naval warfare, aside from that conducted by and against submarines, was the absence of major engagements. Such engagements as occurred were of a minor nature and confined to meetings between patrol units or to local raids.

On February 25, 1917, German destroyers bombarded Broadstairs and Margate on the English coast. Two deaths but no material damage resulted.

About the same time it was announced that on February 15, 1917, a British cruiser had fought a successful engagement against three German raiders off the coast of Brazil, damaging two of them. The third escaped.

Not until March 22, 1917, did the German Government announce that the raider Moewe had returned to her home port from a very successful second raiding trip in the Atlantic Ocean (p. 481) which had yielded twenty-seven captured vessels, most of which of course had been sunk.

Still another German raider was