The Military Dimension of the First World War Part IV

The Military Dimension of the First World War Part IV

The Entente counteroffensive and the collapse of the Central Powers: On the Allied side, General F. Foch in April 1918 assumed command of all land forces. He started his counter-offensive on July 18th. with a flank thrust from the forest of Villers-Cotterêts, which led to the withdrawal of the German front behind the Vesle. More on 8.8. (“Black Day of the German Army”) east of Amiens, supported by tanks and aircraft, pushed the Germans back into the “Siegfriedstellung”. At the end of September the Allies launched a general offensive in Flanders, Artois and Champagne. With stubborn resistance, the Germans gradually retreated to the Antwerp-Maas position in October and early November. The reasons for these successes of the Allies were, in addition to the complete exhaustion of the German forces, the arrival of the Americans (since June 1918 military intervention of around 2 million. John Joseph Pershing, * 1860, † 1948) rapidly increasing excess weight in personnel and material as well as the mass use of tanks.

In the meantime, after the collapse of the Macedonian front (mid-September) on September 29th, Turkey after heavy defeats in Palestine on October 30th. Armistice concluded with the Entente. On October 28 the Allies broke through the Austro-Hungarian front on the Piave. Thereupon the Viennese government asked for an armistice, which on November 3rd. came into force. The new Reich government (Reich Chancellor since October 3rd, Prince Max von Baden ) reluctantly decided on October 5th, at the insistence of Ludendorff (September 29th). asked American President Wilson for a ceasefire and initiation of peace negotiations on the basis of his peace program of 8 January 1918 (fourteen points). On 10/26 became Ludendorff replaced by General W. Groener . In the German Reich, the introduction of the parliamentary system of government was no longer able to stop the collapse. The November Revolution developed out of mutinies in the deep-sea fleet (especially in Kiel and Wilhelmshaven), which took place on November 9th. for the proclamation of the republic by P. Scheidemann with subsequent renunciation of the throne by the emperor and crown prince. On November 11th, 1918 an armistice was signed with the Allies in the Compiègne forest. the evacuation of the occupied territories and Alsace-Lorraine within 14 days, that of the left bank of the Rhine with the bridgeheads Mainz, Koblenz and Cologne within 30 days; Furthermore, it stipulated the release of all prisoners of war without consideration, the delivery of the submarines as well as large quantities of weapons and rolling stock, the internment of the main part of the German deep-sea fleet in Scapa Flow (self-sinking on June 21, 1919) and the continuation of the blockade.

According to, Sea War 1914–18: For the war on the seas and overseas, the advantages lay with Great Britain from the outset, whose potential was reinforced by the fleets and aids of France in the Mediterranean, Japan in the Far East and (from 1917) the USA in the Atlantic. The German overseas cruisers disappeared from the oceans in the first months of the war: the modern battle cruiser “Goeben” and the small cruiser “Breslau”, which were stationed in the Mediterranean, broke through to Constantinople at the beginning of the war and formed the core of the Ottoman fleet under the Ottoman flag fought against the Russian Black Sea Fleet. The German East Asian cruiser squadron under Admiral M. von Spee initially defeated weaker British naval forces at Coronel (November 1, 1914), but was in return destroyed by a superior British squadron near the Falkland Islands (December 8, 1914).

Isolated small cruisers and merchant ships converted into auxiliary cruisers caused considerable damage to the Allied merchant shipping (the “Emden” became particularly well known), but had no strategic effect. Similarly, the submarine weapon was initially only a backup against the superior British fleet. Nevertheless, the initial and surprise success of »U 9« (Kapitänleutnant Otto Weddigen, * 1882, † 1915) The sinking of three British large cruisers off the Dutch coast (September 22, 1914) in Germany led to an overestimation of the technical and strategic possibilities of submarines up to the expectation that the unrestricted submarine war would force Great Britain to its knees, later on the military intervention of the USA to prevent the western front. In fact, at the beginning of the war, a momentous preliminary decision was made in the naval war against Germany. Instead of the closer blockade of the mouths of the Elbe, Weser and Ems, which was expected in Germany, Great Britain immediately imposed another blockade (remote blockade): The British Home Fleet closed the canal and the North Sea between Norway and Scotland to German shipping. With its radius of action only reaching as far as Great Britain, the German deep sea fleet could neither break the long-distance blockade nor place and destroy parts of the Home Fleet under favorable conditions. In the Baltic Sea, the German naval forces were superior to the Russian fleet, but when the small cruiser »Magdeburg« hit a Russian mine (August 26, 1914), the German code book fell into Russian hands and was handed over to the British Admiralty, which from then on took over the German radio communications Could monitor the fleet.

Military Dimension of the First World War 4

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