Our scheduled speaker for the evening, fellow-member Dr. Rodney Warwick, was unfortunate enough to be hospitalized for emergency treatment on the very morning of the day he was scheduled to speak. His lecture has therefore been postponed until January, 2015. This necessitated an unscheduled change in our lecture programme and we wish to offer our apologies to the members and visitors who came to hear Dr. Warwick speak. As it proved to be an impossible task to find a replacement speaker for the evening at such short notice, we had to resort to continue to show a further two episodes from the series World War One in Colour. Fortunately most members of the audience were quite amenable to the unforeseen schedule change, and again, to those, who were a "captive audience" so to speak, our sincere apologies.
We are nearing the end of the year, with Remembrance Day on the 11th of November to commemorate the end of that terrible conflict, "The Great War" as it was called back then. Its participants and the fallen will be remembered and honored at commemorative services and wreath-lying ceremonies countrywide on Sunday the 9th November. This coming Saturday, the 8th of November, the SA Legion's annual Poppy Day street collection will take on the streets of the cities and towns countrywide. It is a worthy cause so please support it. Similarly, here in South Africa, the German and Italian participants and war dead are also being commemorated in an appropriate manner in their own communities, but on differing dates.
In view of the absence of the customary lecture summary, the Cape Town Branch of the Society saw it fitting to give an overview of the events of the last six months of the very first year, 1914, of World War One, or the First World War, as it was also called:
World War One (WWI) started out as a European conflict which quickly became a worldwide conflict due to the colonial interests of some of the main belligerents (Great Britain, France and Germany) and the involvement of their respective dependencies, which turned, what should have been a regional war, into a global war. The conflict stretched over more than four years, spanned four continents and on the high seas covered all the oceans. Compared to the widespread destruction wrought during World War Two, especially of densely populated urban centres, WWI was mainly a localised conflict limited to primarily rural areas, and the fields were quickly returned to agriculture and pasturage. The towns that were destroyed were quickly rebuilt, except around Verdun.
It can be argued that there are a wide range of differing causes that led to the conflict, whether socio-economic, political, geostrategic or even ideological. Some advocates see it as a logical progression from the 1871 Franco-Prussian War; other as a second Thirty Year's War starting in 1914 and ending in 1945; or as the first of the Oil Wars over the past century, from 1914 to 2014 (i.e. the wars of geostrategic domination for natural resources which have become a common thread of history since the end of the 19th century), and finally, as the first worldwide trigger for revolutionary social reform on a global scale that was initiated in 1848 and perfected in the 20th century. Conflict is the fastest and surest facilitator to ensure social reform by changing of values and norms through the propagation of ideas and to mould public opinion. This is achieved by means of "fear-mongering" using the mainstream media to generate broad-based support for a common cause. It is still continuing to this day: In WWI three empires were destroyed and balkanised - the German-, Austrian-Hungarian and the Ottoman empires; one empire destroyed and socio-politically reconstructed according to revolutionary ideological principles - Russia; two empires were impoverished and enfeebled, to only be deconstructed fully in the following world war (or, as some pundits see it - the continuation war of the "Thirty Years' War") - Great Britain and France, and finally, one emerging empire to ultimately constitute the only surviving super-power at the end of the 20th century - the United States of America.
Although Germany is held forth as the guilty party for starting the war, however, it is far from the truth, if one looks objectively and critically at the events. Analysing the causes, it is clear that not one of the belligerent parties at the onset of war would have been willing to back off: Russia would not have been prepared to give up its claim as "Slavic protector" in the Balkans - not for domestic or foreign policy reasons, amongst which, her dream of controlling the Bosporus/Dardanelles for access to the Mediterranean; Austria-Hungary, beset by multiple nationalist unrest especially in the Balkans, could not afford a further strengthening of the Serbian position; Germany could not afford to be moved into a position of utter isolation and locked in between two unfriendly powers, France and Russia - the consequence if she had forsaken her fading ally, nor could she view with complacency the strengthening of Russia to a point where Russia could overrun Germany (a view also held by ambassador Buchanan1 in St Petersburg and F-M Sir Henry Wilson, CIGS). Likewise France was unable to accept the risk of isolation in Europe if she left her Russian ally, Russia, unsupported.
Finally, Great Britain, her resources already strained and with a lagging economy, could not risk her Imperial position obtained through the Anglo-French entente (1904) and the Anglo-Russian entente (1907). Nor could Great Britain ignore the real threat of an economically superior Germany on the European continent with its concomitant challenge to Britain's Balance of Power foreign policy vis-à-vis the continent, and flowing from that, the perceived threat to Britain's sea power by a growing German battle fleet protecting its own merchant marine on the open seas, in much the same way as Britain did hers. Britain's strength lay in her naval dominance of the High Seas - which guaranteed her global trade hegemony. With the modernisation of the British Navy, by changing over from coal-fired to oil-fired propulsion, Britain not only revolutionised naval warfare, but concomitantly had wider geostrategic interests, namely to safeguard and guarantee her oil resources situated thousands of kilometres away whilst her coal resources were localised. To this end it explains Britain's covert involvement in the Balkans conflict of 1912-1913, partly to sabotage Germany's growing influence in the Ottoman Empire, by trying to block the completion of the joint German-Turkish Berlin-Baghdad railway line, and more importantly, working towards securing control over the Mesopotamian and Persian oilfields.
The July Crisis was the spark in the powder keg that triggered the conflagration we today call the First World War. By 1914, a decade of reckless diplomacy and recurrent crises had taken its toll on European international relations, and it was widely feared that a general war was becoming unavoidable. Political unrest, assassinations, strikes and revolutionary fervour were commonplace. On June 28, the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by Gavrilo Princip, a young Bosnian Serb - whose weapons had been supplied by ultra-nationalists belonging to the secret society known as the "Black Hand", with contacts in the Serbian government and supported by the war faction in the Russian Government, led by Izvolsky and Sazonov. Serbia and Austria-Hungary's bitter antagonism stems back to the Balkan War of 1912-13 and Austria soon secretly decided to make use of the murder to force a crisis that would lead to an invasion to punish Serbia in a localised war for its agitation of the local populations and its destabilisation of the region. On July 5 the German Kaiser conditionally pledged to support Austria in this dangerous scheme that could easily have wider ramifications. Despite some disquieting hints, it was only on July 23 that the crisis broke into the open, when Serbia was suddenly presented with an impossible ultimatum by Austria-Hungary.
From then on, events moved quickly. Russia immediately gave strong support to its ally Serbia, France backed her ally Russia, and though Germany began to grow alarmed, it reiterated its support to Austria. Serbia rejected the ultimatum and started mobilisation on the 25th of July. After Austria declared war on Serbia on July 28, hoping for a limited, localised war, the crisis rapidly spun out of control. The problem lay with the interlocking treaties promising automatic and reciprocal support in case of war. As the situation grew more ominous, the exhausted diplomats and political leaders were unable to resist their military chiefs' demands for preparatory measures, which neighbouring nations felt compelled to respond to, leading to full-scale mobilisations and then to war. Russia had already decided on war by the 25th; a partial mobilisation was ordered on the 29th, followed by a general mobilisation on the 30th. Austria-Hungary, Belgium & Turkey ordered general mobilisation on the 31st of July. France and Germany ordered general mobilisation on 1st August. Germany declared war on Russia on August 1st and on France two days later. On August 4th, Germany invaded Belgium, which drew Britain into the conflict on the same day. Austria came in between August 6th and August 12th. By then, all of the major European powers - except Italy - were at war with each other.
July 29, 1914 - The Russians began partial troop mobilisation. The Germans then warned Russia against mobilisation and began to mobilise themselves.
July 30, 1914 - Reacting to the Austrian attack on Serbia, Russia began full mobilisation of its troops. Germany then demanded that it stop.
July 31, 1914 - By the morning the Russian mobilisation was known in Berlin. By noon the German government proclaimed a "Threatening Danger of War" - a step preliminary to mobilisation. In the afternoon it sent ultimatums to Russia and France, the former to suspend mobilisation, and the latter to remain neutral in a possible Russo-German war.
August 1, 1914 - Russia having refused to reply to the ultimatum, or stop the mobilisation, Germany forthwith declared war on Russia. France and Belgium began full mobilisation.
August 2, 1914 - Germany requested the benevolent neutrality of Belgium and in the evening occupied Luxembourg to secure the railroads, essential for the implementation of the Schlieffen Plan. Turkey arranged a secret military alliance to protect itself from possible Russian attack.
August 3, 1914 - Germany declared war on France. Italy and Romania declared their neutrality.
August 4, 1914 - Germany declared war on Belgium, and invaded the, up till then, neutral Belgium. Britain then sent an ultimatum, rejected by the Germans, to withdraw from Belgium. Great Britain declared war on Germany. The declaration was binding on all Dominions within the British Empire including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa.
August 4-16, 1914 - The Siege of Liege occurred as Germans attacked the Belgian fortress city but met resistance from Belgian troops inside the Liege Forts. The twelve forts surrounding the city were then bombarded into submission by German and Austrian large-calibre howitzers using armour-piercing and high explosive shells. Remaining Belgian troops then retreated northward toward Antwerp as the German westward advance continued.
August 6, 1914 - The Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Russia.
August 7, 1914 - The first British troops landed in France. The 120,000 highly-trained members of the regular British Army formed the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), commanded by Field Marshal John French. (Effective strength of the British Army at the time being 248,000 troops.)
August 7-24, 1914 - The French desire to score a quick victory ignites the first major French-German action of the war. The French Army invades Alsace and Lorraine according to their master strategy known as Plan XVII. However, the French offensive is met by effective German counter-attacks using heavy artillery and machine-guns. The French suffer heavy casualties including 27,000 soldiers killed in a single day, the worst one-day death toll in the history of the French Army. The French then fall back toward Paris amid 300,000 total casualties.
August 8, 1914 - Britain enacted the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA), granting unprecedented powers to the government to control/restructure the economy and daily life. (Parallel examples are: Policies and legislation in Britain flowing from PEP [Political & Economic Planning] before, during and after WWII and in the USA the Homelands Security Acts and similar legislation after 9/11.)
August 12, 1914 - Great Britain and France declare war on Austria-Hungary. Serbia is invaded by Austria-Hungary.
August 17, 1914 - Russia invades Germany, attacking into East Prussia, forcing the outnumbered Germans there to fall back. This marks the advent of the Eastern Front in Europe in which Russia will oppose Germany and Austria-Hungary.
August 20, 1914 - German troops occupy undefended Brussels, capital of Belgium. Following this, the main German armies continue westward and invade France according to their master strategy known as the Schlieffen Plan. It calls for a giant counter-clockwise movement of German armies wheeling into France, swallowing up Paris, and then attacking the rear of the French armies concentrated in the Alsace-Lorraine area. Under the overall command of Helmuth von Moltke, Chief of the German General Staff, the Germans seek to achieve victory over France within six weeks and then focus on defeating Russia in the East before Russia's six-million-man army, the world's largest, can fully mobilize.
August 26, 1914: The Battle of Tannenberg - On the Eastern Front, German troops in East Prussia under the new command of Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff opposed the Russian 2nd Army. Aided by aerial reconnaissance and the interception of uncoded Russian radio messages, the Germans effectively repositioned their troops to counter the initial Russian advance. Five days later, after surrounding the Russians, the battle ended with a German victory and the capture of 125,000 Russians. Following this success, the Germans drive the Russians out of East Prussia with heavy casualties. The impressive victory elevates Hindenburg and Ludendorff to the status of heroes in Germany.
September 5-12, 1914: Battle of the Marne - On the Western Front, Paris was saved as French and British troops disrupted the Schlieffen Plan by launching a major counter-offensive against the invading German armies to the east of Paris. Six hundred taxi cabs from the city helped to move French troops to the Front. Aided by French aerial reconnaissance which revealed that a gap had developed in the centre of the whole German advance, the French and British exploited this weakness and pressed their advantage. The Germans then began a strategic withdrawal northward as the Allies pursued. Each side repeatedly tried to outmanoeuvre the other and gain a tactical advantage as they moved northward in what became known as the "Race to the Sea", another one of the myths of WWI.
September 8, 1914 - The French government enacted nationwide State of War regulations which included total control over the economy and national security, strict censorship, and suspension of civil liberties.
September 17, 1914 - On the Eastern Front, Austrian forces steadily retreated from the advancing Russian 3rd and 8th armies fighting in southern Poland and along the Russian-Austrian border. The Germans then sent the newly formed 9th Army to halt the Russians. This marked the beginning of a pattern in which the Germans aided the weaker Austro-Hungarian Army militarily and organisationally.
September 22, 1914 - The first-ever British air raid against Germany occurred as Zeppelin bases at Cologne and Düsseldorf are bombed.
October 19, 1914: First Battle of Ypres (Oct 19 - Nov 22) - Still hoping to score a quick victory in the West, the Germans launched a major attack on Ypres in Belgium. Despite heavy losses, British, French and Belgian troops fended off the attack and the Germans did not break through. During the battle, the Germans sent waves of inexperienced 17 to 20-year-old volunteer soldiers, some fresh out of school. They advanced shoulder-to-shoulder while singing patriotic songs only to be systematically gunned down in what the Germans themselves later call the "massacre of the innocents." By November, overall casualties totalled 250,000 men, including nearly half of the British Regular Army.
October 29, 1914 - The Ottoman Empire (Turkey) entered the war on the side of the Germans when she attacked the Russian port of Odessa without prior warning. Three days later, Russia declared war on Turkey. Russian and Turkish troops first clashed along the common border of the Russian Caucasus and the Ottoman Empire - Armenia. Here the Turks suffered heavy losses as a result of the inhospitable terrain and extremely cold weather conditions, rather than through combat.
October-November, 1914 - The German and Austrian armies launched a combined offensive against the Russians on the Eastern Front. The German 9th Army targeted Warsaw, Poland, but was opposed by six Russian armies and withdrew. The Austrians attacked the Russians in Galicia (a province in northeast Austria) with indecisive results. However, the Russians failed to press their advantage at Warsaw and instead began a split counter-offensive moving both southward against the Austrians in Galicia and northward toward Germany. The German 9th Army regrouped and cut the Russians off at Lodz, Poland, and having halted their advance, forced the Russians to withdrew eastward.
November 1, 1914 - Austria invaded Serbia. This was the third attempt to conquer the Serbs in retaliation for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. This attempt failed like the two before it, at the hands of highly motivated Serbs fighting on their home ground. The Austrians withdrew in mid-December, after having suffered over 220,000 casualties from the three failed invasions.
November 3, 1914 - Kaiser Wilhelm appointed Erich von Falkenhayn as the new Chief of the German General Staff, who replaced Helmuth von Moltke who was sacked due to the failure of the Schlieffen Plan.
November 5, 1914 - France and Britain declared war on the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire.
November 6, 1914 - In the Persian Gulf, a major British offensive began as the 6th Indian Division invaded Mesopotamia. The objective was to protect the oil pipeline from Persia and capture the rich Mosul and Basra oil fields vital to the Anglo-French war effort. Two weeks later they captured the city of Basra, which was but the beginning of a long and wasteful campaign of attrition.
December 1914 - The Western Front in Europe stabilized in the aftermath of the First Battle of Ypres as the Germans went on the defensive and transferred troops to the East to fight the Russians. The 720km/450-mile-long Western Front stretched from the Channel Coast southward through Belgium and Eastern France up to Switzerland's border. Troops from both sides constructed opposing trench fortifications and dugouts protected by barbed wire, machine-gun nests, snipers, and mortars, with an in-between area called No Man's Land. The Eastern Front also saw its share of trenches as troops dug in after the Russians held off the Germans in Poland and the Austrians held off the Russians at Limanowa. The 960km/600-mile Eastern Front stretched from the Baltic Sea southward through East Prussia and Austria to the Carpathian Mountains.
December 10, 1914 - The French began a series of attacks along the Western Front against the Germans in the Artois region of northern France and Champagne in the south. Hampered by a lack of heavy artillery and muddy winter conditions, the French failed to make any significant gains and both offensives were soon suspended.
December 25, 1914 - A Christmas truce occurred between German and British soldiers in the trenches of northern France. All shooting stopped as the soldiers exited their trenches, exchanged gifts, sang carols and engaged in an impromptu soccer game. This is the only Christmas truce of the war, as Allied commanders subsequently forbade fraternisation with orders to shoot any violators.
August 6, 1914 - French and British troops invaded the German colony of Togo in West Africa. Twenty days later, the German governor there surrendered.
August 23, 1914 - Japan declared war on Germany. The Japanese then prepared to assist the British in expelling the Germans from the Far East. German possessions in the South Pacific included a naval base on the coast of China, part of New Guinea, Samoa, and the Caroline, Marshall and Mariana Islands.
August 27, 1914 - A detachment from the Japanese Second Fleet blockaded Kiaochow Bay in China, the sea access to the German possession at Tsingtao (the present-day Qingdao).
August 30, 1914 - Three days later, the first of 23,000 troops of the Japanese assault force landed on the coast of China, to lay siege to the German naval base at Tsingtao. German possessions in the Far East were attacked as New Zealand troops occupied German Samoa. A month later, the Japanese began their occupation of the Caroline, Marshall and Mariana Islands.
October 1914 - The Afrikaner Rebellion in the Union of South Africa started. It stemmed from dissatisfaction with the plan to use Union troops to invade German South West Africa.
November 7, 1914 - In the Far East, the German naval base at Tsingtao was captured by the Japanese, aided by a British and Indian battalion.
July 30, 1914 - Austrian warships bombarded Belgrade, capital of Serbia.
August 1-10, 1914 - SMS Goeben and SMS Breslau grabbed the imagination when they outwitted the British Mediterranean Fleet (consisting of three modern battle cruisers; the HMS Inflexible, HMS Indefatigable, and the HMS Indomitable; four armoured cruisers, four light cruisers, and 14 destroyers) to make a daring escape to the Dardanelles and safety in Turkish waters. Handed over to the Turkish Navy but manned by German Naval personnel.
September 7, 1914 - In the Far East, a German naval squadron, commanded by Graf von Spee severed the British Pacific communications cable.
September 20, 1914 - The light cruiser Königsberg, on the German East African station when the war began, sank the British protected cruiser Pegasus off Zanzibar. The Königsberg afterward sought refuge in the Rufiji River to make repairs. British warships soon blockaded it there, where it remained a focal point of local Allied attention until it was finally sunk ten months later.
September 22, 1914 - The German U-boat U-9, sank three aged British cruisers, HMS Aboukir, HMS Hogue and HMS Cressy on patrol off the Hook of Holland. The whole affair lasted less than one hour from the time of launching the first torpedo until the Cressy went to the bottom. Not one of the three had been able to make use of their main armament and heralded a new dimension in warfare.
October 29, 1914 - HMS Audacious sank after it struck a mine. She had only been in service for about a year when she was sunk and was a serious loss to the Grand Fleet at a time when its numerical superiority over the German High Seas Fleet was slim. The loss was not officially acknowledged until after the war despite it being widely reported in American newspapers.
October 29, 1914 - The Ottoman Empire (Turkey) entered the war on the side of the Germans as three warships shelled the Russian port of Odessa (including the Goeben).
November 1, 1914 - The British Navy suffers its worst defeat since the Napoleonic Wars during a sea battle in the Pacific. Two British ships, the HMS Monmouth and HMS Good Hope, were sunk with no survivors, by a German squadron commanded by Admiral Graf von Spee.
November 3, 1914 - British warships bombarded Turkish forts on the Dardanelles in a surprise attack seen as an unprovoked act of aggression, as no formal state of war existed between Great Britain and the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire.
November 4, 1914 - The light cruiser Karlsruhe sank 16 merchantmen in the Caribbean, successfully evading enemy ships before being lost to an accidental explosion off the Lesser Antilles.
November 9, 1914 - The light cruiser Emden, detached by Admiral Spee to function as a raider in the East Indies and Indian Ocean, likewise sank sixteen Allied ships, but its greatest success was destroying the oil depot at Madras on September 22nd. Because of the threat it posed to Allied troop convoys en route to the Suez Canal, the Emden earned the distinction of the most-pursued German raider. The Russians sent the Zhemchug, one of their two Vladivostok cruisers, to assist in the hunt, which the Emden sunk on October 28, shortly after it arrived. The Emden was finally cornered by the Australian cruiser HMSAS Sydney in the Cocos Islands on November 9th.
November 10, 1914 - The German commander at Tsingtsao scuttled the remaining German warships and surrendered the garrison. Japanese naval losses included a cruiser, sunk by a German torpedo boat, along with a destroyer, a torpedo boat, and three minesweepers.
December 8, 1914 - The Battle of the Falkland Islands occurred as British Navy warships destroyed the German squadron of Admiral Graf von Spee in the South Atlantic off the coast of Argentina. Admiral von Spee and two sons (serving in his squadron) were amongst the 1,870 German sailors killed. Three of Germany's four cruisers were also destroyed.
December 16, 1914 - Britain suffered its first civilian casualties at home in the war as the German Navy bombarded the coastal towns of Whitby, Hartlepool and Scarborough, killing 40 persons and wounding hundreds.
The battle of Plataea was the battle which finally put paid to Persian plans with regard to an invasion of the European mainland. European history would have been very different had the (sometimes) united Greeks lost this important battle against the Super Power of the day.
It is interesting to reflect that the empires of Alexander the Great, Rome, and those that followed may never have emerged as the Persian Empire would have gradually enveloped the Western Mediterranean. In fact, the West as an entity may never have emerged at all.
The presentation will also touch on the other battles which took place during the Persian Invasion, e.g. Marathon, Salamis, and the Spartan stand at Thermopylae. Aspects concerning the Persian Empire, and the role of Athens and Sparta, will also be covered, as well as weapons and tactics used by both sides in the battle.
It will also be shown that this ancient world is still very much alive among us today.
Ian Cameron served in the Royal Marines from 1963 to 1973. He is the founder of the WW2 Aircraft Club in Cape Town and he also has a great interest in the history of the Ancient world.
DECEMBER HOLIDAY RECESS: There will be no lecture in December. The next meeting will be held on the 15th of January, 2015 (the THIRD Thursday, in order to accommodate the school holidays).
15 JANUARY 2015: THE AFRIKANER REBELLION OF 1914: 100 YEARS ON - A VIRTUALLY FORGOTTEN SAGA BUT WITH LINGERING ECHOES by Dr Rodney Warwick
The focus on the centenary of the First World War may overshadow another campaign which took place in South Africa from August to December 1914. It will probably slip unnoticed by most of the local press and not form part of any national debate. The Afrikaner Rebellion of 1914 had the potential of creating a serious political crisis, mostly within the northern parts of the infant Union of South Africa. However, the Rebellion's relatively quick suppression was evidence of the superior power of the state. It also reflected the tendency of the enfranchised white community, and most importantly, its Afrikaner component, to oppose any movement which threatened to take South Africa back towards its recent past. A past personified by the divisive 1899-1902 South African War. Fortunately for the government, the insurrectionists were poorly organized with inconsistent motivations. They were also splintered across three disparate regions, with little coordination between them. The talk will specifically focus upon the causes and the course of the Rebellion. It will, however, refer to its effect on the following decades and question what effect this has had on the South Africa of 2014. Dr Rodney Warwick is a member of the Cape Town Branch of the SAMHS. He has presented lectures on a regular basis over the years on aspects of 20th century SA military history, which is his particular field of expertise. He has a personal link to World War One, which he is particularly proud of. His uncle, George W. Warwick - author of that brilliant WWI battlefield memoir, We Band of Brothers - fought with the Transvaal Scottish (SA Brigade) at Delville Wood.
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