What happened today in WW1?

Discussion in 'World War 1' started by spidge, Jan 1, 2009.

  1. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    January 1, 1915
    British ship Formidable is torpedoed

    In the early-morning hours of New Year’s Day, 1915, the 15,000-ton British HMS class battleship Formidable is torpedoed by the German submarine U-24 and sinks in the English Channel, killing 547 men. The Formidable was part of the 5th Battle Squadron unit serving with the Channel Fleet. The Formidable and the seven other battleships of the 5th Battle Squadron were under the command of Admiral Lewis Bayly, and were in the channel for firing practice on New Year’s Eve.

    Unbeknownst to the British, the German submarine U-24, captained by Rudolph Schneider, had been watching the squadron all day and waiting for the perfect moment to strike. Schneider found his moment with the squadron heading west in Lyme Bay. At a little before 0230 hours the German submarine fired a torpedo into the starboard side of the Formidable by the fore funnel. The battleship began taking on water and began to list to its starboard side before being plunged into darkness. The German captain maneuvered the submarine into position and fired a second torpedo into the port side of the Formidable about 45 minutes after the first strike. The Formidable was now taking on water fast and capsized and sank about 90 minutes after the second torpedo strike. Only 233 of the original crew of 780 survived.
  2. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    British nurse Marion Rice writes from a hospital on the Western Front

    January 3, 1917
    British nurse Marion Rice writes from a hospital on the Western Front

    From: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-...tegory&displayDate=01/03&categoryId=worldwari

    “You never know what is going to happen from one day to the next,” nurse Marion Rice writes on this day in 1917, from an army hospital in Caux Seine Auf, France. Her brief Christmas leave to Paris had just been cut short by an influx of wounded soldiers that forced her and her fellow nurses to return to work.

    Rice begins her letter by expressing how much she yearned to be sitting down with the family to eat some “home food”; she continued with an account of her recent trip to Paris with other nurses from her hospital. She had enjoyed a trip to the cinema—a new invention at the time—and a shopping excursion before receiving a telegram from the hospital telling her to return at once, as “wounded were arriving.”

    After a difficult train voyage, Rice was faced with a scene at the hospital unlike any she had experienced before. She wrote: “Now we have been put into a different class instead of receiving the more lightly wounded like all the other hospitals in the war zone we get heavy ones particularly bone cases such being Dr. Fitell's specialty. Also we draw from three distributing stations instead of one…In this lot there were one hundred and you never smelled such smells or saw such sights. I can't tell you how many amputations there were almost all of which will have to be done over. One man has both legs gone, he lay in a shell hole six days, there was nothing to eat but the hole was filled with water and in that water lay decaying the body of his best friend. And he had to drink that water to keep alive. Pleasant isn't it.”

    Rice’s letter, with its observations of both the commonplace and the horrifying, reflects not only the unique reality of life in the army hospitals on the Western Front during the long and grueling conflict, but also the devastating human toll of the war.

    To read Rice’s letter in its entirety or to read other letters written from the front during World War I, visit HistoryChannel.com’s Dear Home: Letters from World War I exhibit.
  3. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    January 5, 1916 - First conscription bill is introduced in British parliament

    January 5, 1916
    First conscription bill is introduced in British parliament

    With the Great War edging into its third calendar year, British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith introduces the first military conscription bill in his country’s history to the House of Commons on this day in 1916.

    Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener, Britain’s secretary of state for war, had warned from the beginning that the war would be decided by Britain’s last 1 million men. All the regular divisions of the British army went into action in the summer of 1914 and the campaign for volunteers based around the slogan "Your King and Country Need You!” began in earnest in August of that year. New volunteers were rapidly enlisted and trained, many of them joining what were known as “Pals battalions,” or regiments of men from the same town or from similar professional backgrounds.

    Though the volunteer response was undoubtedly impressive—almost 500,000 men enlisted in the first six weeks of the war alone—some doubted the quality of these so-called “Kitchener armies.” British General Henry Wilson, a career military man, wrote in his diary of his country’s "ridiculous and preposterous army" and compared it unfavorably to that of Germany, which, with the help of conscription, had been steadily building and improving its armed forces for the past 40 years.

    By the end of 1915, as the war proved to be far longer and bloodier than expected and the army shrank—Britain had lost 60,000 officers by late summer—it had become clear to Kitchener that military conscription would be necessary to win the war. Asquith, though he feared conscription would be a politically unattractive proposition, finally submitted. On January 5, 1916, he introduced the first conscription bill to Parliament. It was passed into law as the Military Service Act later that month and went into effect on February 10.

    Britain had entered the war believing that its primary role would be to provide industrial and economic support to its allies, but by war's end the country had enlisted 49 percent of its men between the ages of 15 and 49 for military service, a clear testament to the immense human sacrifice the conflict demanded.
  4. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    January 7, 1915 Bolshevik envoy approaches German ambassador in Turkey

    January 7, 1915
    Bolshevik envoy approaches German ambassador in Turkey

    As Bolshevik groups work to foment revolution among Russia’s peasants, Alexander Helphand, a wealthy Bolshevik businessman working as a German agent, approaches the German ambassador to Turkey in Constantinople to let him know how closely German and Bolshevik interests are aligned.

    “The interests of the German government are identical with those of the Russian revolutionaries,” Helphand claimed. The Bolsheviks were working feverishly to destroy the czarist regime and break the country into smaller socialist republics. At the same time, Germany was depending on a major upheaval within Russia to break the stalemate on the Eastern Front and push the immense but volatile country toward peace negotiations with the Germans. Helphand persuaded the German Foreign Ministry that a mass strike was the key to revolution in Russia—and that Germany should lend a hand to the Bolsheviks in their efforts to engineer that strike.

    The conversation marked the beginning of Germany’s growing interest in the fomentation of the Russian revolution—an interest that culminated in their facilitation, in April 1917, of the return of exiled Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin from Switzerland to Petrograd in a train that passed over German soil. His journey was the result of efforts made by the German foreign secretary, Arthur Zimmermann, to convince the kaiser and the army that Lenin’s presence was paramount to the success of revolution in Russia—a revolution Germany should support despite the inherent threat Marxism posed to imperial regimes like the kaiser’s. Germany did not have to wait long to see the results of its investment. In November 1917 Lenin and the Bolsheviks seized power. Barely a month later, Russia sought peace with Germany.
  5. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    January 8, 1917 Wilson outlines the Fourteen Points

    January 8, 1917
    Wilson outlines the Fourteen Points

    In an address before a joint meeting of Congress, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson discusses the aims of the United States in World War I and outlines his famous "Fourteen Points" for achieving a lasting peace in Europe.

    The peace proposal, based on Wilson’s concept of “peace without victory,” called for the victorious Allies to set unselfish peace terms, including freedom of the seas, the restoration of territories conquered during the war and the right to national self-determination in such contentious regions as the Balkans. Most famously, Wilson called for the establishment of “a general association of nations”—what would become the League of Nations—to guarantee political independence to and protect the territorial lines of “great and small States alike.”

    Wilson’s principal purpose in delivering the speech was to present a practical alternative both to the traditional notion of an international balance of power preserved by alliances among nations—belief in the viability of which had been shattered by the Great War—and to the Bolshevik-inspired dreams of world revolution that at the time were gaining ground both within and outside of Russia. Wilson hoped also to keep a conflict-ridden Russia in the war on the Allied side. This effort met with failure, as the Bolsheviks sought peace with the Central Powers at the end of 1917, shortly after taking power. In other ways, however, Wilson’s Fourteen Points played an essential role in world politics over the next several years. The speech was translated and distributed to the soldiers and citizens of Germany and Austria-Hungary and contributed significantly to their decision to agree to an armistice in November 1918.

    Like the man himself, Wilson’s Fourteen Points were liberal, democratic and idealistic—he spoke in grand and inspiring terms but was less certain of the specifics of how his aims would be achieved. At Versailles, Wilson had to contend with the leaders of the other victorious nations, who disagreed with many of the Fourteen Points and demanded stiff penalties for Germany. The terms of the final peace treaty—including an ineffectual League of Nations convention that Wilson could not even convince his own Congress to ratify—fell far short of his lofty visions and are believed by many to have ultimately contributed to the outbreak of a second world war two decades later.
  6. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    January 9, 1917 Battle of Khadairi Bend begins

    January 9, 1917
    Battle of Khadairi Bend begins

    After several months of preparations, British troops under the command of their new regional chief Sir Frederick Maude launch an offensive against Turkish forces at Khadairi Bend, to the north of Kut, Mesopotamia.

    The British had previously occupied Kut, a strategically important town located on the Tigris River in the Basra province of Mesopotamia—modern-day Iraq—but had surrendered it, along with 10,000 troops under Sir Charles Townshend, in late April 1916 after a five-month siege by the Turks. The humiliating loss of Townshend’s forces caused the British War Office to seek a replacement for Sir John Nixon as regional commander in Mesopotamia. Maude, a cautious and systematic general, arrived in Mesopotamia in mid-1916 as commander of the front-line corps on the Tigris, relieving General George Gorringe, and was soon given command of the entire front. By October 1916, Maude had become determined to use the 150,000 troops under his command to launch a renewed offensive toward Kut.

    On January 7 and 8, 1917, General Maude’s forces launched a series of minor diversionary attacks nearby as a lead-in to what turned out to be an unusually effective bombardment by artillery on January 9 at Khadairi Bend, a heavily fortified town in a loop of the Tigris north of Kut. The resulting battle continued for almost three weeks, including two counterattacks by the Turks, before the town fell on January 29. In a report Maude made of the offensive several months later, he recounted “severe hand-to-hand fighting” and “heavy losses” by the enemy at Khadairi Bend, which contrasted with some of the quicker victories earned by the British in the preceding months.

    The Battle of Khadairi Bend proved to be just a prelude to the major Allied offensive in Mesopotamia, the Second Battle of Kut, which began the following month and ended with Kut in British hands. Spurred on by victory, Maude’s forces continued toward the region’s most important city, Baghdad, which fell on March 11.
  7. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    January 10, 1923 Harding orders U.S. troops home from Germany

    January 10, 1923
    Harding orders U.S. troops home from Germany

    Four years after the end of World War I, President Warren G. Harding orders U.S. occupation troops stationed in Germany to return home.

    In 1917, after several years of bloody stalemate along the Western Front, the entrance of America's fresh, well-supplied forces into the Great War—a decision announced by President Woodrow Wilson in April and provoked largely by Germany’s blatant attacks on American ships at sea—proved to be a major turning point in the conflict. American naval forces arrived in Britain on April 9, only three days after the formal declaration of war. On June 13, the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), commanded by the celebrated General John J. Pershing, reached the shores of France.

    By the time the war ended in November 1918, more than 2 million American soldiers had served on the battlefields of Western Europe and more than 50,000 of them had lost their lives. The last combat divisions left France in September 1919, though a small number of men stayed behind to supervise the identification and burial of their compatriots in military cemeteries. An American occupation force of 16,000 men was sent to Germany, to be based in the town of Coblenz, as part of the post-war Allied presence on the Rhine that had been determined by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.

    In 1923, after four years in Germany, the occupation troops were ordered home after President Harding succeeded Wilson in 1921 and announced a desire to return to “normalcy” after the disruptions of wartime. Meanwhile, the bitterness of the German population, demoralized by defeat and what they saw as the unfairly harsh terms of peace—of which the American occupation was a part—grew ever stronger.
  8. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    January 11, 1916 French forces occupy Corfu

    January 11, 1916
    French forces occupy Corfu

    To provide a safe and stable haven for the growing number of refugees pouring out of the devastated Balkan state of Serbia, French forces take formal military control of the Greek island of Corfu on this day in 1916.

    The northernmost of a string of islands in the Ionian Sea, Corfu was a British protectorate in the 18th century before passing into the possession of Greece in 1864. Over the course of 1915, as German and Austro-Hungarian forces battered Serbia—whose ambitions of self-determination had ostensibly sparked the entire Great War with the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June 1914—thousands of the country’s soldiers and civilians alike fled into the mountains of Albania. Near the end of 1915, in a massive rescue operation involving more than 1,000 trips made by Italian, French and British steamers, 260,000 Serb soldiers were transported to Corfu, where they waited for the chance to reclaim their country.

    Corfu became the seat of the Serbian government-in-exile as well as an important base for supplying relief to the front in Salonika, on mainland Greece. In mid-April 1916, the first of 125,000 Serbian troops, escorted by French and British warships, traveled from Corfu to Salonika, where they would relieve a much smaller army and fight alongside their French and British allies.

    In the summer of 1917, negotiations took place on Corfu between the representatives of various Slav countries over the creation of a new Balkan state, based on the assumption that Austria-Hungary would be dissolved in defeat and Serbia would be independent once more. The Pact of Corfu, signed on July 20, 1917, was a vision of a new nation made up of the three main ethnic groups—Serbs, Croats and Slovenes—and ruled by the Serbian royal family. This vision appealed to many—particularly the United States and its idealistic leader, Woodrow Wilson—but would require a decisive victory in the war to become reality. At the time of the Pact of Corfu, that victory remained far in the future.
  9. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    January 12, 1919 Leaders of the Big Four nations meet for the first time in Paris

    January 12, 1919
    Leaders of the Big Four nations meet for the first time in Paris

    The day after British Prime Minister David Lloyd George’s arrival in Paris, he meets with representatives from the other Big Four nations—Prime Ministers Georges Clemenceau of France and Vittorio Orlando of Italy and President Woodrow Wilson of the United States—at the French Foreign Ministry on the Quai d’Orsay, for the first of what will be more than 100 meetings.

    Victors of the Great War, the leaders of these four nations were determined to control the agenda of the conference that would decide its peace terms. There was no precedent for such a momentous peace conference; even the Congress of Vienna of 1815, which had preserved order in Europe for almost a century before collapsing in 1914, had been far smaller and less complicated than the gathering at Versailles.

    As soon as Wilson arrived in Europe in mid-December (in the first-ever official visit to the continent by a U.S. president), Clemenceau and Lloyd George convinced him of the need for the Allies to establish their own position on the peace terms before beginning the general conference and sitting down with the enemy. In a break with traditional diplomacy, Germany was not invited to this preliminary round of talks. This made Wilson nervous, as he feared—understandably, as it turned out—that the Allies would end up setting the majority of the terms of the peace before the general conference even began, an eventuality that would surely frustrate and anger the Germans and would damage the ideal of a “peace without victory” that Wilson considered vital to a secure future.

    The meetings that began January 12 also failed to include representatives from the smaller allies or any neutral countries, though at the wishes of Britain, Japan later joined the group, which became known as the Supreme Council. The Council met daily, sometimes two or three times a day, knowing that the eyes of the world were on them. Even after the general conference began on January 18—a day chosen to rankle the Germans, as it was the anniversary of the coronation of Kaiser Wilhelm I as ruler of a new, united Germany in 1871—the smaller group continued to meet separately to hash out the crucial questions of the peace settlement.
  10. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    January 13, 1916 Battle of Wadi

    January 13, 1916
    Battle of Wadi

    In an attempt to relieve their compatriots under heavy siege by Turkish forces at Kut-al Amara in Mesopotamia, British forces under the command of Lieutenant General Fenton Aylmer launch an attack against Turkish defensive positions on the banks of the Wadi River.

    British forces under Sir Charles Townshend had occupied Kut, a town on the Tigris River in the Basra province of Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) by September 1915. On December 5, the Turks had begun a siege of the town, inflicting heavy casualties. In response to Townshend’s calls for assistance, the British regional command, led by Sir John Nixon, assembled a relief force led by Aylmer that included three new infantry divisions dispatched from India.

    On January 4, 1916, Aylmer set out up the Tigris from the British forward base at Ali Gharbi with 19,000 troops, 46 guns and two aircraft. His path was blocked by 22,500 Turkish troops and 72 guns under commander Nur-Ur-Din at Sheikh Sa’ad, just 15 kilometers upriver from Ali Gharbi and 32 kilometers from Kut. On January 6, Aylmer’s forces launched an initial attack, which the Turks quickly repelled, resulting in heavy British losses; another attack the next day failed as well. On the night of January 8-9, however, when Aylmer’s forces struck again, they were surprised to find that the Turkish troops had withdrawn for some unknown reason; Nur-Ur-Din was subsequently removed from command after he failed to justify the withdrawal.

    Still, after losing more than 4,000 men, Aylmer’s troops were exhausted and demoralized as they continued to make their way up the Tigris toward Kut, and their progress was hampered by the region’s typical shortage of available roads and supply routes. Meanwhile, the Turkish army under new regional commander Khalil Pasha set up new and firmer defensive positions—with some 20,000 troops—along the banks of the smaller Wadi River, through which the British would have to pass in order to reach Kut.

    Aylmer, aware of these enemy movements, planned to surround the Turkish forces, sending troops around to secure the area immediately behind the Turkish lines while simultaneously attacking with artillery from the front. The attack, which began in the early afternoon of January 13—postponed from the morning because of a persistent mist and a slow advance by artillery across the river—quickly lost the intended element of surprise, as the outnumbered British forces on both sides of enemy lines struggled to assert themselves against a robust Turkish defense. By the time Aylmer called off the attack at the end of the day, his troops had gained control of the Wadi, but it was a small advance that was unworthy of the 1,600 men killed or wounded in the attack and did little to bring relief closer to Townshend’s beleaguered forces at Kut. In April 1916, after nearly five months under siege, Townshend finally submitted, along with 10,000 of his men, in the largest single surrender of British troops up to that time. The British won back Kut in February 1917, on their way to the capture of Baghdad the following month.
  11. spidge

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    January 14, 1915 South African troops occupy Swakopmund in German Southwest Africa

    January 14, 1915
    South African troops occupy Swakopmund in German Southwest Africa

    As part of an attempt to display its loyalty to the British empire and, perhaps more importantly, enlarge its own sphere of influence on the African continent, South Africa sends troops to occupy Swakopmund, a seaside town in German-occupied Southwest Africa (modern-day Namibia).

    When war broke out in 1914, South African Prime Minister Louis Botha immediately pledged full support for Britain, antagonizing a portion of South Africa’s ruling Afrikaner (or Boer) population, who were still resentful of their defeat, at the hands of the British, in the Boer War of 1899-1902.

    That conflict had pitted the Boers, descendants of South Africa’s Dutch settlers who controlled two republics—the gold-rich Transvaal and the Orange Free State—against the colonial armies of Great Britain. A stiff Boer resistance, including an extensive campaign of guerrilla warfare, had ultimately been repressed by brutal methods—including concentration camps—introduced by the British commander in chief, Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener (who later became Britain’s minister of war). Under the terms of the Treaty of Vereeniging, which ended the Boer War in 1902, the Boer republics were granted eventual self-government as colonies of the British empire. They received their own constitutions in 1907 and in 1910 the British Parliament’s South Africa Act established the Union of South Africa as a united self-governing dominion of the British empire. Botha, the leader of the South African Party, became its first head of government.

    In 1914, Botha and Minister of Defense Jan Smuts, both generals and former Boer commanders, were looking to extend the Union’s borders further on the continent. Invading German Southwest Africa would not only aid the British—it would also help to accomplish that goal. The plan angered some Afrikaners, who were resentful of their government’s support of Britain against Germany, which had been pro-Boer in their war against the British. Several major military leaders resigned over their opposition to the invasion of the German territory and open rebellion broke out in October 1914. It was quashed in December and the conquest of Southwest Africa, carried out by a South African Defense Force of nearly 50,000 men, was completed in only six months.

    On July 9, 1915, Germans in Southwest Africa surrendered to South African forces there; 16 days later, South Africa annexed the territory. At the Versailles peace conference in 1919, Smuts and Botha argued successfully for a formal Union mandate over Southwest Africa, one of the many commissions granted at the conference to member states of the new League of Nations allowing them to establish their own governments in former German territories. In the years to come, South Africa did not easily relinquish its hold on the territory, not even in the wake of the Second World War, when the United Nations took over the mandates in Africa and gave all other territories their independence. Only in 1990 did South Africa finally welcome a new, independent Namibia as its neighbor.
  12. spidge

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    January 15, 1919 Rebel leaders are murdered in failed coup in Berlin

    January 15, 1919
    Rebel leaders are murdered in failed coup in Berlin

    A coup launched in Berlin by a group of radical socialist revolutionaries is brutally suppressed by right-wing paramilitary units from January 10 to January 15, 1919; the group’s leaders, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, are murdered.

    Germany’s long, ultimately losing struggle on the battlefield—culminating in the signing of the armistice in November 1918—and dismal conditions on the home front, including severe food shortages, caused many German socialists to turn away from the Social Democratic Party, which had supported the war effort in 1914 in the hopes that reform would follow a German victory. Although still the largest party in the Reichstag government, the Social Democrats saw their membership fall from over a million in 1914 to a quarter of that number in 1917.

    By that time, a minority had broken off from the party and formed their own, the Independent Socialist Party. Luxemburg and Liebknecht led the Spartacists, the Marxist, revolutionary core group of the new party, which held firmly to the belief that German participation in a war was only justified in the case of a purely defensive conflict. In 1916, Luxemburg—under the nom de guerre Junius—had published a treatise in which she denied that the Great War was defensive for Germany, claiming instead that it was driven by imperialist, capitalist interests. Social democracy had failed the German working class, Luxemburg claimed, and the only solution was international class revolution, such as that envisioned by Vladimir Lenin and begun by the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917.

    On January 6, 1919, just weeks before the peace conference that would determine Germany’s future opened in Paris, the Spartacists gathered in Berlin to begin a revolution. Luxemburg urged her followers not to attempt a coup before they mustered sufficient popular support, but she was unable to restrain them. The rebels launched their attacks on January 10. In the conflict that ensued, both Luxemburg and Liebknecht were captured and killed. Her body, thrown into a canal, was not retrieved until five months later.
  13. spidge

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    January 16, 1916 Montenegro capitulates to Austro-Hungarian forces

    January 16, 1916
    Montenegro capitulates to Austro-Hungarian forces

    After an eight-day offensive that marked the beginning of a new, aggressive strategy in the region, Austro-Hungarian troops under commander in chief Franz Conrad von Hotzendorf take control of the Balkan state of Montenegro.

    By the end of 1915, after initial setbacks, the Central Powers had completed their conquest of Serbia, the upstart Balkan country that they claimed had provoked the war in June 1914, when a Serbian nationalist had assassinated Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Despite their success in the Balkans, Conrad was incensed that the victories had been achieved largely by German, not Austrian, forces. He opposed the establishment of a joint German-Austrian command in the region, fearing, with reason, that Austria would be subordinated to its stronger ally. Relations between Conrad and his German counterpart, Erich von Falkenhayn, who sought to turn German energies more fully toward France and the Western Front, had become so strained that they ceased direct communication almost entirely for a full month from December 1915 to January 1916. During that time, Conrad proceeded to develop Austria’s strategy for early 1916, which was to capture Montenegro in the winter and then turn toward Italy with an attack in the Trentino.

    On January 8, 1916, with a 500-gun artillery barrage, 45,000 Austrian troops and 5,000 Bosnian Muslims attacked Serbia’s ally, the neighboring state of Montenegro. Events unfolded quickly: Within 48 hours, the Montenegrins had retreated to their capital, Cetinje, after being driven from their fortresses at Mount Lovcen on the Adriatic Sea. Cetinje fell on January 11 and the end was already in sight. Montenegro surrendered on January 16. “When her emergency came, there was no one to help her,” the American diplomat John Coolidge wrote of Montenegro, “so she had to go.”
  14. spidge

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    January 17, 1916 Winston Churchill hears speech on the tragedy of war

    January 17, 1916
    Winston Churchill hears speech on the tragedy of war

    Winston Churchill, beginning his service as a battalion commander on the Western Front, attends a lecture on the Battle of Loos given by his friend, Colonel Tom Holland, in the Belgian town of Hazebrouck.

    The Battle of Loos, which took place in September 1915, resulted in devastating casualties for the Allies and was taken by the British as a sign of the need to change their conduct of the war. In one major consequence, Sir John French was replaced by Sir Douglas Haig as British commander in the wake of that battle.

    “Tom spoke very well,” Churchill wrote to his wife, Clementine, “but his tale was one of hopeless failure, of sublime heroism utterly wasted and of splendid Scottish soldiers shorn away in vain…with never the ghost of a chance of success….Afterwards they asked me what was the lesson of the lecture. I restrained an impulse to reply ‘Don’t do it again’. But they will--I have no doubt.”

    Churchill had been demoted from First Lord of the Admiralty after the British plan to attempt a naval capture of the Turkish-controlled Dardanelle Straits met with resounding failure in mid-to-late-1915. Reduced to a minor ministerial position, Churchill resigned from the government in November 1915 and rejoined the army, heading to the Western Front with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

    During his six months in Belgium, the young Churchill—who would later lead his country to victory in the Second World War and be celebrated as the greatest political leader in British history—saw first-hand the hardships of war and the sacrifices that unknown, unheralded soldiers made for their country. More than once, he himself narrowly escaped death by an enemy shell. As he wrote to Clementine, “Twenty yards more to the left and no more tangles to unravel, no more anxieties to face, no more hatreds and injustices to encounter…a good ending to a chequered life, a final gift--unvalued--to an ungrateful country.”
  15. spidge

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    January 18, 1919 Peace conference opens in Paris

    January 18, 1919
    Peace conference opens in Paris

    On this day in Paris, France, in the sumptuous Salle d’Horloge on the Quai d’Orsay, delegates convene for the official opening of the peace conference that will end the Great War.

    For Germany, already laid low in defeat, opening the peace conference on January 18 was an affront to national pride. On that same day in 1871, the efforts of Otto von Bismarck to unify Prussia and the German kingdoms into a single nation had culminated in the glorious coronation of Wilhelm I as kaiser of the new Germany. This was not a coincidence—George Clemenceau, the prime minister of the host country, had specially chosen the date.

    Gathered in the Salle d’Horloge were representatives from far-flung nations: some established powers, some—like those from the contentious Balkan region—emerging new states struggling to carve out a place for themselves. Notable absences in the room included the Greek prime minister, Eleutherious Venizelos, who was annoyed that Serbia had been allowed more delegates than Greece; the Japanese delegation, who had not yet arrived; and, most importantly, representatives from Russia, an Ally in 1914 under the imperial regime of Czar Nicholas II, now in the grips of a revolutionary dictatorship led by a small group of radical socialists, the Bolsheviks.

    The French president, Raymond PoincarÉ, addressed the assembled delegates, telling them, “You hold in your hands the future of the world.” All eyes would be on Paris during the coming months to see whether the peace brokered at Versailles would be worthy of the immense sacrifices made by both winners and losers during the Great War.
  16. spidge

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    January 20, 1918 Goeben and Breslau battle the Allies in the Aegean

    January 20, 1918
    Goeben and Breslau battle the Allies in the Aegean

    On the morning of January 20, 1918, British and German forces clash in the Aegean Sea when the German battleships Goeben and Breslau attempt a surprise raid on Allied forces off the Dardanelle Straits.

    The Goeben and Breslau—the same two swift, powerful cruisers that had famously eluded capture by the British in the Dardanelles in 1914 to reach Constantinople and bring Turkey into the war on the side of Germany—had attempted to leave the Dardanelles and head towards Salonika, Greece, when they encountered the British fleet. Just after sunrise on January 20, the Goeben and Breslau fired upon and sank two British monitors, the HMS Raglan and the M28, leaving 127 sailors dead.

    With two British destroyers, Tigress and Lizard, in pursuit, the German ships continued heading south toward Lemnos Island. The two ships rounded Cape Kephalo and were driven into a British minefield where Breslau was sunk, killing 208 men. Goeben turned back and attempted to tow Breslau to safety, until it too suffered severe damage after striking several mines and was forced to run aground near Chanak (now Cannanakale) in the Dardanelles. Repaired and put back into action on January 26, the hardy Goeben sailed to Sevastopol for the surrender of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in early May. At the end of the war, the ship was formally turned over to the Turks and in 1930 became the flagship of the Turkish navy; it was retired in 1950.
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    January 23, 1920 Netherlands refuses to extradite Kaiser Wilhelm to the Allies

    January 23, 1920
    Netherlands refuses to extradite Kaiser Wilhelm to the Allies

    On this day in 1920, the Dutch government refuses demands by the Allies for the extradition of Wilhelm II, the former kaiser of Germany, who has been living in exile in the Netherlands since November 1918.

    By early November 1918, things were looking dismal for the Central Powers on all fronts of the Great War. The kaiser was at German army headquarters in the Belgian resort town of Spa when news reached him, in quick succession, of labor unrest in Berlin, a mutiny within the Imperial Navy and what looked like the beginnings of full-fledged revolution in Germany. From every direction, it seemed, came calls for peace, reform and the removal of the kaiser. Wilhelm II was told that the German General Staff would make a unified, orderly march home to Germany when the war ended, but it would not defend him against his internal opponents.

    Faced with this lack of support, the kaiser agreed to abdicate his throne on November 9, 1918. Shortly after that, Wilhelm, the last of the powerful Hohenzollern monarchs, traveled from Spa to Holland, never to return to German soil.

    In January 1920, Wilhelm headed the list of so-called “war criminals” put together by the Allies and made public after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. The Netherlands, under the young, strong-willed Queen Wilhelmina, refused to extradite him for prosecution and Wilhelm remained in Holland, where he settled in the municipality of Doorn. Personal tragedy struck when his son, Joachim, committed suicide later in 1920. Augusta, his wife and the mother of his seven children, died barely a year later. In 1922, Wilhelm remarried and published his memoirs, proclaiming his innocence in the promotion of the Great War.

    Unlike Wilhelmina and the rest of the Dutch royal family, Wilhelm turned down Winston Churchill’s offer of asylum in Britain in 1940, as Hitler’s armies pushed through Holland, choosing instead to live under German occupation. He died the following year.
  18. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    January 24, 1915 British and German navies battle at the Dogger Bank

    January 24, 1915
    British and German navies battle at the Dogger Bank

    German naval forces under Admiral Franz von Hipper, encouraged by the success of a surprise attack on the British coastal towns of Hartlepool and Scarborough the previous month, set off toward Britain once again, only to be intercepted by a squadron of British cruisers led by Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty on the morning of January 24, 1915, near the Dogger Bank in the North Sea.

    Knowing his Scouting Squadron would be overpowered by the British, Hipper turned his boats around, figuring his ships would be able to outrun the British boats in pursuit. Beatty’s cruisers were faster than von Spee anticipated, however, and caught up to the Germans within an hour. At about 9 a.m., the British flagship, HMS Lion, opened fire on the Germans from a distance of more than 20,000 yards. The lead German ship, Seydlitz, was soon ablaze; 192 of its crew members died but the ship itself was saved despite the damage. Of the four German ships in Hipper’s squadron, only the oldest and biggest, the Blucher, was sunk, killing 782 men. The demise of the Blucher was captured on moving film; an engraving of a still in the film, of its sailors sliding off the sinking ship into the sea, was later used to adorn silver cigarette cases sold as souvenirs in Britain.

    The Lion herself took a beating, but only 15 British sailors were killed in the battle, which ended later that same day when Beatty, fearful of running into German mines and believing the enemy was setting up for a submarine attack, turned his ships around and let the rest of Hipper’s squadron escape.
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    spidge Active Member

    January 25, 1919 Formal commission is established on the League of Nations

    January 25, 1919
    Formal commission is established on the League of Nations

    On January 25, 1919, in Paris, delegates to the peace conference formally approve the establishment of a commission on the League of Nations.

    U.S. President Woodrow Wilson insisted on chairing the commission—for him, the establishment of the League lay squarely at the center of the peace negotiations. He was supported by British Prime Minister David Lloyd George. Though France’s Georges Clemenceau was more skeptical, believing the peace with Germany to be the more important goal, he went along with his American and British colleagues, refusing to let France be seen as an obstacle to the League’s formation. The commission was originally made up of two representatives from each of the Big Five nations—France, the British empire, Italy, Japan and the United States. Later, after smaller nations such as Belgium protested, they were granted the right to nominate additional representatives, first five and eventually nine.

    The first meeting of the commission was held on February 3. Tensions arose almost immediately over French attempts to make the League more capable of strong enforcement of its principles. They pushed for the strict disarmament of all nations, with broad powers of inspection given to the League, and the establishment of an international military force comprised of League members. The British and the American delegations suspected this was just another way for the French to achieve their goal of a permanent armed coalition against their most hated enemy, Germany. Politically, as well, the French program was an impossible alternative, as neither the British Parliament nor the U.S. Congress was prepared to give up the authority to decide when and where their country’s armed forced would be deployed. At one point, rumors flew that Wilson was set to abandon negotiations altogether. Still, the commission persevered, and a comprehensive draft was ready by February 14.

    This draft outlined all aspects of the League, including its administration: a general assembly, a secretariat and an executive council. There would be, contrary to French demands, no League army and no mandate for disarmament. To prevent the smaller nations from banding together to outvote the bigger ones, there was a provision that the majority of League decisions had to be unanimous, a requirement that was later pointed to as an important cause of the organization’s ineffectiveness.

    Finally, Germany would not be invited to join the League right away; France was strict on this point and its allies gave way without much of a struggle. This would put Germany in the frustrating position, later on, of agreeing in the Treaty of Versailles to the formation of an organization that it could not join.
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    January 26, 1918 Ukraine declares its independence

    January 26, 1918
    Ukraine declares its independence

    Soon after the Bolsheviks seized control in immense, troubled Russia in November 1917 and moved towards negotiating peace with the Central Powers, the former Russian state of Ukraine declares its total independence.

    One of pre-war Russia’s most prosperous areas, the vast, flat Ukraine (the name can be translated as “at the border” or “borderland”) was one of the major wheat-producing regions of Europe as well as rich with mineral resources, including vast deposits of iron and coal. The majority of Ukraine was incorporated into the Russian empire after the second partition of Poland in 1793, while the remaining section—the principality of Galicia--remained part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and was a key battleground on World War I’s Eastern Front.

    Immediately following the overthrow of the czar in February 1917, Ukraine set up a provisional government and proclaimed itself a republic within the structure of a federated Russia. After Vladimir Lenin and his radical Bolsheviks rose to power in November, Ukraine—like its fellow former Russian property, Finland—took one step further, declaring its complete independence in January 1918.

    But Ukraine’s Rada government, formed after the secession, had serious difficulty imposing its rule on the people in the face of Bolshevik opposition and counter-revolutionary activity within the country. Seeing Ukraine as an ideal and much-needed source of food for their hunger-plagued people, Germany and Austria brought in troops to preserve order, forcing the Russian troops occupying the country to leave under the terms of the treaty at Brest-Litovsk, signed in March 1918, and virtually annexing the region, while supposedly recognizing Ukrainian independence. In the words of Wilhelm Groener, a German army commander in Kiev, “The [Ukrainian] administrative structure is in total disorder, completely incompetent and in no way ready for quick results….It would be in our interests to treat the Ukrainian government as a ‘cover’ and for us to do the rest ourselves.”

    The defeat of the Central Powers and the signing of the armistice in November 1918 forced Germany and Austria to withdraw from Ukraine. At the same time, with the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire, an independent West Ukrainian republic was proclaimed in the Galician city of Lviv. The two Ukrainian states proclaimed their union in early 1919, but independence was short-lived, as they immediately found themselves in a three-way struggle against troops from both Poland and Russia. The Ukrainian government briefly allied themselves with Poland, but could not withstand the Soviet assault. In 1922, Ukraine became one of the original constituent republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.); it would not regain its independence until the U.S.S.R.’s collapse in 1991.

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