History Podcasts

Damaged railway line in Belgium, 1914

Damaged railway line in Belgium, 1914

Damaged railway line in Belgium, 1914

Here we see a stretch of the railway between Landen and St. Cround, damaged by the Belgians to deny it to the advancing Germans in 1914.

Railways in War

In branchline service in the early 1900s,
this German locomotive, which was built in 1861
was probably typical of those which were 'still good enough
to pull German troop trains working as 'war engines'
when Belgium and France were invaded.

Using equipment like this in south-east England,
British railways were hustling soldiers to ports on the English Channel
so they could join the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium.

The map above shows the "natural pattern" of the railways before the war started, with the darker lines representing double track railways.
As you would expect, drawing "No Man's Land" through the countryside disrupted the pre-war flow of standard gauge railway traffic.

So transporting thousands of troops, supplies, weapons, and ammunition to the active war zones required adapting railway lines and operating practices.

THEN, with advances or retreats, the railway traffic patterns would change again .

The map above shows the division of part of the Front in the first months of the war.
Brackets indicate who commanded which sections of Front.
Initially it was Field Marshal Sir John French commanding the small British Expeditionary Force .
his zone appears as (French) on the map near Ypres, Belgium.

As the war "progressed", and the BEF grew,
it took over the remaining area north of the Somme River from the forces of France.
The Somme runs through Amiens, Peronne and St. Quentin.

So . the northern end of the Western Front running into Belgium .
became British and included the Canadians fighting at various locations .
including in "Flanders Fields".

'Train Service Suspended!' was the contemporary title.
Beaumont Hamel 'station' in 1917.
A damaged passenger car can be seen still on the rails, to the left of the picture.

The shell dump behind a ridge is purposely not in the direct view of the enemy.
As always, smooth low-friction rails make heavy load movement easier.

'Supply trains' and 'ammunition trains' were generally convoys of horse-drawn wagons hauling toward the battle area.

Trucks using gasoline motors were also beginning to appear near the Front during the war.
Here trench mortar 'aerial torpedo' bombs sit at a trans-shipment point between wagons and a railway in the French sector.

  • In August 1914, British field guns had a total of 1000 shells available at or approaching the front lines.
  • In June 1916, EACH 18 pound (shell weight) gun had 1000 shells ready for firing at its gun position.
  • These 18-pounders often operated 2 miles behind the active front.
  • In 1917 during the summer, 18 pound shell use reached 1,000,000 shells fired PER WEEK.
  • Just before the Armistice, Britain had over 10,000 guns, howitzers and trench mortars in the field.
  1. The battlefield was low-lying farmland which was flat and usually drained slowly.
  2. The rains were unusually heavy.
  3. With repeated artillery bombardments all of the natural drainage was disrupted. Water pooled in shell holes and saturated the surrounding soil. The water table rose to meet the surface soil in places.
  4. With the pounding of heavy human and vehicular traffic "higher" pathways turned from grass, to mud, to mud with watery ruts, to quagmires.

Mules and horses suffered terribly during World War One.

Where possible, narrow gauge railways were laid. With multiple axles spreading the weight of the payload out, the railway could often "float" on the mud. The use of special tracks, featuring metal "cup" ties also distributed the weight broadly. With the mules and wagon above, all the weight is being forced down on just a few points - hooves and wagon wheels.

A Frenchman by the name of Decauville developed his idea of modular ready-to-run railways which could be quickly laid and taken up without demanding all the skills of professional railway maintenance crews. A farmer and distiller with a large operation, Decauville's first efforts were used on his own farm for transporting the harvest from the fields and hauling manure. The small, stable railway 'footprint' allowed him to haul large quantities of commodities without the damage to his fields which would have resulted if equivalent horse-drawn wagons were used. He thought there was no reason why this technology couldn't be employed in factories, mills, mines and other facilities where a full-scale conventional railway would never have been justified.

* To fully grasp 'The Decauville Concept': Go to a toy store and look at a 'toy train' with all the rolling stock and track sections in one box.

* Handy tip if you build your own trench railway: A track segment with a permanent LEFT curve, becomes a track segment with a RIGHT curve if you turn it so the other butt end faces you.

Because little metal pieces tend to get lost in a muddy battlefield, having the track sections in "one piece" with perhaps two standard bolts to secure track sections together met the needs of the armies well. It also meant unskilled labour could be used to do most of the tracklaying.

Below are two different proprietary connecting systems. Notice that the metal ties of the LeGrand system are cup-shaped underneath to float better on soft ground. In the top illustration, two men are moving a section of track which probably weighs just over 200 pounds.

Track switches are relatively complicated, delicate pieces of track and if their tapered 'switch points' are damaged, derailments occur with regularity. It was possible to buy 'modular' left, right or three-way track switches. However, a simpler solution was to place special pivoting wheelsets under your load and use a rather unconventional turntable .

Wheelset with pivoting load-bearing girder.

Track and turntable viewed from above.

In the drawing above a (L)oad which looks like a pole is being transported on two pivoting wheelsets.
The load is making a 90 degree left turn.

The leading wheelset has run onto the cast iron turntable, been turned 90 degrees .
and has rolled off toward the top of the illustration.
The trailing wheelset will be next.

Needless to say, this system worked best in low traffic areas.
But it was simple, robust and required little maintenance.

Here troops are installing the top plate of one of these turntables.
In this case, the turntable has no 'rails' in the top casting .
the steel wheels will simply sit around the smaller raised circle . I am guessing.

There was often plenty of water in the trenches, but it was undrinkable.
Above, an armoured gasoline-powered locomotive has taken a water tankcar for filling with clean water for the troops.

Gasoline cans were used to carry both water and gasoline by hand to the front lines.
As the cans were usually not rinsed, potable water often tasted like gasoline.

Beside a main line railway track is a large storage area for military canned provisions.

Some British Army 'iron ration' favourites :
bully (corned) beef, hard tack (like dog biscuits), canned stew or vegetables, 'plum & apple jam', canned bacon.

At the left, troops are scaling the pyramid of food.
Horse-drawn wagons and a primitive truck can be seen . ready to take the rations forward.

In 1917 a light railway is used to haul ammunition, and a few riders, behind Canadian lines at Vimy Ridge.

There are several possible reasons why mules are being used instead of a locomotive .

* On a steep grade . 24 horseshoe to roadbed adhesion . is higher than . 4 steel wheel to steel rail adhesion .
(The light locomotive's wheels would just spin.)

* Locomotives may also be needed in higher traffic areas.
* As mules don't give off black smoke , enemy artillery spotters will be slow to spot this train as a target.

The use of traditional coal-fired steam locomotives was very limited near the front midway through the war.
At this stage, both sides were using aerial surveillance and the location of most major enemy installations was well known.
Black smoke to aim at would just be 'icing on the cake'.

In other artillery developments .
Flash spotting with acoustical ranging was sometimes used to pinpoint the location of enemy artillery batteries .
so counter-battery fire could be directed effectively.

A French observation aircraft in 1916.
Weather permitting, of course.

Using a wireless radio, aerial observers could sometimes adjust the fire of artillery batteries.
In this posed photo, the battery commander relays correction information with a megaphone.

This is perhaps an example of a Decauville out of the box 'modular solution'.
Far behind the Canadian lines near Vimy Ridge. Look . trees !

Contemporary title: 'The Ever-Memorable Exploit of the Canadians on Easter Monday 1917'

Sorry about the seam and the odd horizon - many of these battlefield news photos are not aligned well.

This panorama shows modular light railway track,
push-carts for evacuating the wounded,
and the common practice of using recently captured enemy soldiers as stretcher bearers.

Duckboards lead to a battlefield cemetery.

In active areas of the Front, the ability to have proper grave observances such as this was rare.
With constant artillery barrages and the shifting Front, interments were often temporary - another health hazard.
After the war, special crews went over battlefields and huge memorial ossuaries were filled with human remains.

Walking wounded board regular mainline cars, likely for treatment and rest near the Channel or in England.

Fatigued British soldiers often hoped for a 'Blighty One' . translation: an 'England Wound'.
The most desired outcome, for many experienced soldiers,
was a minor wound which made them permanently unfit to fight.

A gasoline powered locomotive prepares to depart with stretcher cases.

I retained the horizon on the following photograph to preserve the original detail.

After the final German offensive of the war,
the badly wounded await evacuation by rail at a field hospital.

At a dressing station where first treatment was given.

Cold and wet in yet another French winter .
these veteran soldiers are posing, under orders, for an 'embedded photographer'.

If they knew you were in their gaze today .

Some might be tickled to learn .
that even 'Old Fritzie's' great-great-grandchildren might see their picture .

And they might be interested that today many Germans would be able to understand
'The King's English' written here .

displayed through 'a kind of telephonic, electrically-lit, typewriter-book'.

Some might want us to understand why they went to war .
why they continued to fight .
and to remember their accomplishments, and hopes for the future.

Some might want us to try to comprehend their personal experiences .
and to see how they finished their lives - hours or decades later.

Ypres Salient Battles 1914

The line (blue dashed line) held by the British Army east of Ypres at the start of the First Battle of Ypres on 19 th October 1914.

This battle occurred in the late autumn at a crucial point in the “Race to the Sea”, when the Allied Armies and the German Armies were engaged in an attempt to outflank one another in a desire to reach and secure the ports on the northern French coast. With the agreement of the French Commander-in-Chief (General Joffre), the British Commander-in-Chief (Field-Marshal Sir John French) withdrew British forces of the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.) from their positions on the Aisne battlefield. They moved to Artois and Flanders to extend the left flank of the French Army and hold back the German advance towards the coast.

At the same time the British 3rd Cavalry Division and 7th Division were covering the withrawal of the Belgian Army from Antwerp. These two divisions were then moved to the east of Ypres on a line between Langemarck - Poelcapelle - Zonnebeke - Gheluvelt - Zandvoorde.

In September 1914 four new German Army Corps had been formed (approximately 48,000 men in total). Over two thirds of the men were young, inexperienced volunteers between 17 and 19 years of age (known as Kriegsfreiwillige). As a result of the young age of so many of the soldiers, the Corps became known as the “Kinderkorps”. The word “Kinder” translates as “children” in English.

These four Corps were incorporated into the newly established German Fourth Army. By 19 th October, with only a few weeks of training, they were on the march towards Ypres from the north east. From 20 th October they encountered the experienced, well-trained soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.) who were holding a series of positions making up the forward British Line north-east and east of Ypres.

The Front Line (red dashed line) stabilized east of Ypres at the end of the 1st Battle of Ypres by 22 nd November 1914.

The First Battle of Ypres comprised three phases:

    The Battle of Langemarck

The four new German Corps of the German Fourth Army made an advance on the British Line north east of Ypres. German casualties were very heavy especially in the vicinity of Becelaere and Langemarck. The courageous but inexperienced young Germans in the “Kinderkorps” were cut down in their hundreds. Some regiments lost 70% of their strength in casualties. The British battalions fought to hold their ground but also lost casualties in dead, wounded and prisoners.

This battle has a special significance for the German people for this reason. Many soldiers who fell during this battle are now buried in the German military cemetery of Langemarck (nowadays it is spelt Langemark).

On 29 th October the German Army attacked the British Line on the Menin Road at Kruisecke Crossroads, east of Gheluvelt. The German aim was to break through the British front and take Ypres.

A very serious situation for the British developed with the German occupation of Gheluvelt but a successful counter-attack involving the 2nd Battalion the Worcestershire Regiment recaptured the village and restored the break in the British Front Line. Sir John French wrote of this momentous action: “I regard it as the most critical moment in the whole of this great battle.” (1)

Brief History of Railroads in Europe

The importance of rail transportation to the history of Europe cannot be understated the implementation of railroads throughout Europe brought about huge changes to Europe as a continent and continues to play an important role in Europe to this day. When looking at the history of railroads in Europe, however, it is hard to look at “Europe.” The history of rail transportation happened in phases. Rail transportation first exploded in Great Britain and then spread to continental Europe, where each nation approached railroads differently and at different times.

Tapping a Puddler Furnace

Although each European country has a different history when it comes to railroads, every European country can trace the history of their railroads to the same beginning. The development of the modern railway system came about thanks to two factors: technological advances and war. Early trains were powered by steam engines, but steam engines were not originally suitable for rail transportation. The steam engine needed two major improvements before it would be suitable for rail transportation. The first issue with the steam engine was that its oscillating motion had to be made into a rotary motion that cold drive the wheels of a train. The second problem was that a stronger iron was needed to withstand the pressure needed to drive steam locomotives. The first problem was solved by James Watt. His Sun and Planet gear connected the piston to the wheels of the train somewhat off center to drive it forward. The second problem was solved by the implementation of the rolling and puddling process in 1783, which made iron stronger by eliminating impurities. The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars also contributed to the rise of railroads in Europe. The loss of so many horses during these wars made an alternative form of transportation necessary. Thanks to these factors, the first steam locomotive came in 1804. By 1820, a properly running locomotive had been designed and the rolling and puddling process had been developed and widespread enough to make cheap, quality railroads possible.[1] From here, the history of railroads in Europe diverges by country.

Great Britain was “the pioneer of train travel.” The first public railway, the Stockton and Darlington Railway, was constructed in Britain in 1825.[2] It was not until 1830, however, that the train “Rocket” of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway grabbed the world’s attention and led to the start of the Railroad Era. Railroad Mania began in the 1840s, during which Parliament passed 272 acts, many of which led to the creation of new railroad companies. This Railway Mania led Britain to reach a new peak of 9,000 kilometers of track in 1950 compared to 1,500 kilometers in 1939 and 90 kilometers in 1829. Railroads became crucial to Britain’s economy. Trains transported iron and coal supplies from North England to the factory-filled cities of the East and West and transported many people from rural areas to cities, where they took jobs in the plethora of factories.[3]

Festival of Calais (1848) – Priests Bless the Railway Engine

France’s first railway came in 1828, three years after Great Britain erected its first railway. Although France was only a few years behind Britain when it came to rail transportation, the industry was not as important to the French as it was to the British.[4] The Napoleonic Wars hindered France’s ability to construct railroads and countries like Britain, Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland were able to continue to expand their railroads while France was incapacitated. Aside from this, many French citizens were opposed to the idea of a railway system. They were not happy with the idea of the country’s picturesque landscape being marred by the construction of railroads. France also lacked the coal and iron resources of Britain, with Britain producing over 200 million tons of coal annually compared to France’s measly 35 million tons. On top of this, France lacked a strong, central government, which meant it took ages for the government to reach decisions related to rail transport.[5] France also had many navigable waterways, which were supplemented by the construction of canals. A national railway network would have hurt these water-transport industries and local riverside businesses. It was not until the 1880s that France caught up to Britain in total railroad length.[6]

Germany’s first railroad came in 1835 with the construction of the six-kilometer Bayerische Ludwigsbahn, which was located in Bavaria. Germans had visited Britain prior to this and examined the British railway industry and brought what they learned back to Germany. British investors were also looking to invest in the industrialized regions of Germany.[7] In fact, the locomotive and driver of Germany’s first railroad were both British.[8] Railway construction boomed in Germany in the 1840s and the Germans once again learned from the British and passed laws to prevent something like Railway Mania from happening in Germany. By 1849, Germany had over 5,000 kilometers of track, double that of France, which had 2,467 kilometers of track at the time. Aside from economic benefits, a national railway system assisted in German unification.[9] As the various German states began developing their own railways, the corners of Germany began to connect.[10] In 1871, twenty-five German states were unified by the national railway network and by 1873 Germany had surpassed Britain’s total railway length.[11]

Tsarskoe Selo Railway (1837)

Russia was perhaps the European country that benefited most from railroads, seeing as their other modes of transportation, rivers and roads, were useless during the harsh Russian winters. Ironically, Russia was at first opposed to the implementation of a national railroad system. Czar Nicholas I supported rail transport, but Russian noblemen were skeptical of the profitability of railroads and many supported the development of canals instead. Russia did not start building modern railways until the 1830s, when between 1834 and 1836 E.A. Cherepanov and his son M.E. Cherepanov laid three and a half kilometers of railway to connect the Vyskii Factory and the Mednyi Mine. In 1836, Czar Nicholas I approved the construction of the Tsarskoe Selo Railway, which was a twenty-seven kilometer railroad that connected St. Petersburg to Tsarskoe Selo. After this, other railway lines were constructed throughout the country. It did not take Russia long to catch up with its European neighbors, with the country surpassing France in total rail length in 1876, Britain in 1886, and Germany in 1900. The national railway system greatly helped Russia’s economy and led to the employment of millions of workers.[12]

Railroads continued to expand throughout Europe, lacing the countries of the continent together slowly but surely. Greece was the last European country to start a train service. The first Greek railroad, the Piraeus-Athens service, opened in 1869, well after the first British train services were implemented. The Greek railroad system continued to expand during the 1900s and was eventually connected to the Macedonian railway system, which effectively added Greece to the European railway grid.[13] By the early 1900s, all of Europe had railway lines, and these lines formed a grid that connected Europe in a way it had never been connected before.

Battles - The Destruction of Louvain, 1914

Between Liege and Brussels, the Belgian city of Louvain was the subject of mass destruction by the German army over a period of five days from 25 August 1914. The city itself fell to the German First Army on 19 August 1914 as part of the German strategy to overrun Belgium during the month of August 1914.

Occupied therefore by the Germans the city was relatively peaceful for six days until 25 August. On that date German units to the rear of the city were attacked by an initially successful Belgian force advancing from Antwerp.

Panicked, those German troops under fire withdrew to Louvain, which in itself caused confusion to German soldiers stationed in the city. Shots were heard amid fearful cries that the Allies were launching a major attack.

Once it became clear however that no such Allied attack was underway or even imminent, the city's German authorities determined to exact revenge upon Louvain's citizenry, whom they were convinced that contrived the confusion that day.

The German form of retaliation was savage. For five consecutive days the city was burnt and looted. Its library of ancient manuscripts was burnt and destroyed, as was Louvain's university (along with many other public buildings). The church of St. Pierre was similarly badly damaged by fire. Citizenry of Louvain were subject to mass shootings, regardless of age or gender.

As demonstrated earlier at other Belgian towns, including Dinant, the destruction of up to a fifth of Louvain's buildings merely comprised a standard German strategy of intimidating occupied Belgian territories as a means of securing maximum civilian co-operation.

Already widely regarded as an unacceptable strategy internationally, the treatment of Louvain provoked highly critical press headlines (which routinely referred to German barbarism and 'rivers of blood') and caused great concern in neutral capitals.

With the government in Berlin unrepentant, the German retaliation ceased on 30 August.

Click here to view footage of the sack of Louvain.

Click here to view of map charting the progress of the German invasion of Belgium in August 1914.

Saturday, 22 August, 2009 Michael Duffy

Bulgaria mobilised a quarter of its male population during WW1, 650,000 troops in total.

- Did you know?

The 1926 Financial Reconstruction ↑

The key role of the big private banks became apparent with the financial heritage’s liquidation of post-war reconstruction. By 1925, Belgium’s financial and monetary situation had become critical. The Ruhr-occupation by Belgium and France was not a success and had a negative effect on the Belgian economy. The exchange rate of the Belgian franc remained low and unstable. Aside from the fact that it had become clear that Germany would not pay all its war damages, the United States was not prepared to acquit the war loans, as had been expected initially. Moreover, the French franc, closely associated with the Belgian franc for the general public, was weakened too, while a loan came at the expiry date. The debt of the state was at its highest and much of it was floating debt, which was a factor of budgetary instability. The state was in debt with the National Bank, too, a consequence of the way the reimbursement of the exchange of the Deutschmark had been organized.

It was in this context that Albert-Edouard Janssen (1883-1966), director of the National Bank, was made minister of finance under a left-wing government (consisting of Socialists, who had won the election and were the largest group in Parliament, alongside Flemish Christian Democrats). Janssen’s plan to cope with monetary instability included achieving an equilibrium of the state budget by cutting expenses, and a tax reform at the disadvantage of the higher income groups. The debt of the state to the National Bank was to be paid back with an international loan and through a revaluation of the gold stock of the Bank. The aim was stabilization at 106-107 Belgian francs for one British pound, which would more or less be a return to the pre-war gold standard. This approach reflected the monetary orthodoxy of the National Bank, which was convinced that a return to the pre-war liberal monetary order was actually possible. The plan ultimately failed because of an organized (press) campaign by the right wing opposition, and the private banks’ less cooperative attitude, led by the Société Générale. [33] The government fell and Francqui became minister in the new national cabinet, and the main policymaker of the financial reconstruction. His plan implied strict control of the state expenses and a consolidation of the floating debt by a forced exchange for shares of the newly established railway company, the exploitation of which was to be organized following industrial principles. Francqui used this plan to impose reform of the National Bank. The governor of the National Bank was replaced by a confidant of the private banks, and representatives of the industrial sectors became directly involved in the management of the bank, which now had to limit its activities to the field of industrial credit. The ties with the SNCI were severed. The relation between the public sector and the private banks, especially the Société Générale was redesigned to the big banks’ advantage. The hostility of the Société Générale against Janssen’s plan of 1926 was not only inspired by its rivalry with the National Bank, but was connected with the economic consequences of the solution proposed by Janssen. The exchange rate of 106-107 Belgian francs per British pound would lead to a severe deflation with negative effects on Belgian industry, while the financial groups’ priority was now with industrial expansion. [34] After it had stabilized, the Société Générale continued on with industrial expansion, branching out to new sectors including electricity and favoring concentration, helped by a change in legislation (1927) to facilitate mergers. [35]

Limiting the impact of the indexation mechanism of wages by the employers offered only a limited protection of purchase power against inflation. Consequently, the new financial institutional configuration of the post-war period was not a fundamental threat to the interests of the financial elite, which is a possible explanation as to why the competitive strategy of the Belgian industry (low prices and wages) did not change in a fundamental way after 1918.

Dirk Luyten, Centre for Historical Research and Documentation on War and Contemporary Society and University of Ghent

Hejaz Railway

Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

Hejaz Railway, Turkish Hicaz Demiryolu, railroad between Damascus, Syria, and Medina (now in Saudi Arabia), one of the principal railroads of the Ottoman Turkish Empire.

Its main line was constructed in 1900–08, ostensibly to facilitate pilgrimages to the Muslims’ holy places in Arabia but in fact also to strengthen Ottoman control over the most distant provinces of the empire. The main line, built by a multiracial labour force mainly under the supervision of a German engineer, traversed 820 miles (1,320 km) of difficult country and was completed in only eight years. It ran from Damascus southward to Darʿā (Deraa) and thence over Transjordan via Az-Zarqāʾ, Al-Qaṭrānah, and Maʿān into northwestern Arabia, and inland via Dhāt al-Ḥajj and Al-ʿUlā to Medina. The major branch line, 100 miles (160 km) long, from Darʿā to Haifa on the Mediterranean coast of Palestine, was completed in 1905.

Even before World War I (1914–18) the Bedouins of the adjacent desert areas attacked the railway, which challenged their control over the pilgrims’ route to the holy places from the north. When the Arabs of the Hejaz revolted against Turkish rule in 1916, the track between Maʿān and Medina was put out of operation by Arab raids, largely inspired by the British military strategist T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). After the war the operative sections of the track were taken over by the Syrian, Palestinian, and Transjordanian governments. The section of the railway running from Maʿān, Jordan, to Medina was heavily damaged and was abandoned after 1917 plans to restore the line in the 1960s were not fulfilled.

In the late 20th century the northern portion of the Hejaz Railway (also called the Hejaz-Jordan Railway) between Amman, Jordan, and Damascus was in use and carried mostly freight. To the south, between Amman and Wādī al-Abyaḍ, the rail line was only partly in operational condition and was not being used. From Wādī al-Abyaḍ via Maʿān to Batṇ al-Ghūl the southern continuation of the Hejaz Railway was also in use, as was the relatively new rail line (owned by the Aqaba Railway Corporation) between Batṇ al-Ghūl and Al-ʿAqabah, which opened in 1975. Phosphates from the mines at Wādī al-Abyaḍ and nearby Al Ḥasā were transported by rail to the port of Al-ʿAqabah on the Red Sea.

Battle of Amiens

On August 8, 1918, the Allies launch a series of offensive operations against German positions on the Western Front during World War I with a punishing attack at Amiens, on the Somme River in northwestern France.

After heavy casualties incurred during their ambitious spring 1918 offensive, the bulk of the German army was exhausted, and its morale was rapidly disintegrating amid a lack of supplies and the spreading influenza epidemic. Some of its commanders believed that the tide was turning irrevocably in favor of Germany’s enemies as one of them, Crown Prince Rupprecht, wrote on July 20, “We stand at the turning point of the war: what I expected first for the autumn, the necessity to go over to the defensive, is already on us, and in addition all the gains which we made in the spring—such as they were—have been lost again.” Still, Erich Ludendorff, the German commander in chief, refused to accept this reality and rejected the advice of his senior commanders to pull back or begin negotiations.

Meanwhile, the Allies prepared for the war to stretch into 1919, not realizing victory was possible so soon. Thus, at a conference of national army commanders on July 24, Allied generalissimo Ferdinand Foch rejected the idea of a single decisive blow against the Germans, favoring instead a series of limited attacks in quick succession aimed at liberating the vital railway lines around Paris and diverting the attention and resources of the enemy rapidly from one spot to another. According to Foch: “These movements should be exacted with such rapidity as to inflict upon the enemy a succession of blows….These actions must succeed each other at brief intervals, so as to embarrass the enemy in the utilization of his reserves and not allow him sufficient time to fill up his units.” The national commanders—John J. Pershing of the United States, Philippe Petain of France and Sir Douglas Haig of Britain—willingly went along with this strategy, which effectively allowed each army to act as its own entity, striking smaller individual blows to the Germans instead of joining together in one massive coordinated attack.

Haig’s part of the plan called for a limited offensive at Amiens, on the Somme River, aimed at counteracting a German victory there the previous March and capturing the Amiens railway line stretching between Mericourt and Hangest. The British attack, begun on the morning August 8, 1918, was led by the British 4th Army under the command of Sir Henry Rawlinson. The German defensive positions at Amiens were guarded by 20,000 men they were outnumbered six to one by advancing Allied forces. The British—well assisted by Australian and Canadian divisions𠅎mployed some 400 tanks in the attack, along with over 2,000 artillery pieces and 800 aircraft.

By the end of August 8𠅍ubbed “the black day of the German army” by Ludendorff—the Allies had penetrated German lines around the Somme with a gap some 15 miles long. Of the 27, 000 German casualties on August 8, an unprecedented proportion�,000—had surrendered to the enemy. Though the Allies at Amiens failed to continue their impressive success in the days following August 8, the damage had been done. “We have reached the limits of our capacity,” Kaiser Wilhelm II told Ludendorff on that 𠇋lack day.” “The war must be ended.” The kaiser agreed, however, that this end could not come until Germany was again making progress on the battlefield, so that there would be at least some bargaining room. Even faced with the momentum of the Allied summer offensive—later known as the Hundred Days Offensive—the front lines of the German army continued to fight on into the final months of the war, despite being plagued by disorder and desertion within its troops and rebellion on the home front.

Launch of the Gallipoli Campaign

With World War I stalled on the Western Front by 1915, the Allied Powers were debating going on the offensive in another region of the conflict, rather than continuing with attacks in Belgium and France. Early that year, Russia’s Grand Duke Nicholas appealed to Britain for aid in confronting a Turkish invasion in the Caucasus. (The Ottoman Empire had entered World War I on the side of the Central Powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary, by November 1914.) In response, the Allies decided to launch a naval expedition to seize the Dardanelles Straits, a narrow passage connecting the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara in northwestern Turkey. If successful, capture of the straits would allow the Allies to link up with the Russians in the Black Sea, where they could work together to knock Turkey out of the war.

Did you know? In May 1915, Britain&aposs First Sea Lord Admiral John Fisher resigned dramatically over the mishandling of the Gallipoli invasion by First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill. His political capital damaged by the debacle, the future prime minister later resigned his own position and accepted a commission to command an infantry battalion in France.

Spearheaded by the first lord of the British Admiralty, Winston Churchill (over the strong opposition of the First Sea Lord Admiral John Fisher, head of the British Navy), the naval attack on the Dardanelles began with a long-range bombardment by British and French battleships on February 19, 1915. Turkish forces abandoned their outer forts but met the approaching Allied minesweepers with heavy fire, stalling the advance. Under tremendous pressure to renew the attack, Admiral Sackville Carden, the British naval commander in the region, suffered a nervous collapse and was replaced by Vice-Admiral Sir John de Robeck. On March 18, 18 Allied battleships entered the straits Turkish fire, including undetected mines, sank three of the ships and severely damaged three others.

Known Bugs

The legend will display some companies not currently on the map, but whose extent includes the area you’re looking at.

Occasionally tiles (square areas) of the map disappear. This is an issue with Google’s serving of the map tiles. Unfortunately, you might have to clear your browser cache to force Google to provide the tiles again.

Occasionally a whole region of the map disappears. This is a due to a time-delay in the map being sent from my webhost to Google. This might not correct until the next day. If the problem persists please let me know.

Watch the video: Belgium: Cargo train travels from China to Belgium cutting transport time by three quarters (January 2022).