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On This day in World War 1



  • Well, the 100 year anniversery seems like a good enough time to start one of these, since I don’t think the Great War gets the love it deserves around here. I’m gonna go ahead and start with events that happened in 1914, and just work up as the years go by  :-D.

    Quick recap of events so far.

    July 28th: Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia after the latter refused key points of the Hapsburg ultimatum.

    July 29th: Hapsburg artillery and river vessels shell the Serbian capital of Belgrade. Russia begins partial mobilization.

    July 30th: Russia declares mobilization against Germany in response to threats from the latter.

    July 31: Germany declares a “state of danger of war.” (Kriegsgefahr.) Kaiser Wilhelm’s attempts to convince his cousin “Nicky” to demobilize are all for naught.

    August 1: Germany mobilizes for war against Russia, asks France to remain neutral. France says no.

    August 2nd: As the French withdraw 10 km behind her borders to avoid any claims that she fires first, the German army invades Les Trois Vierges in Luxembourg, seizing a critical railway station.

    August 3rd: Germany declares war on France, amid fabricated claims that France bombed the German border towns with planes. The German ambassador to Belgium gives the Belgian government an ultimatum, asking for permission to move freely through the country. Belgium says screw you.

    August 4th: Germany declares war on Belgium. Great Britain, who had already guaranteed the French Coast protection with the Royal Navy and had mobilized their fleet for war, finally declares war on Germany in response to the violation of the neutral power.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @DarthShizNit:

    August 4th: Germany declares war on Belgium. Great Britain, who had already guaranteed the French Coast protection with the Royal Navy and had mobilized their fleet for war, finally declares war on Germany in response to the violation of the neutral power.

    As a footnote: On August 4th, not long after the declaration of war, someone from the British government (I forget who) allegedly found First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill sitting in a club chair reading a novel.  The incredulous man asked, “How on earth can you be reading a novel at a time like this?”  Churchill, who had already issued the orders to mobilize the Royal Navy, knocked some ash off of his cigar and replied, “Well, I’ve already done all that needs to be done.  What else do you expect me to do?”  And he went back to reading his book.



  • August 5th: The German forces moved into position to launch an attack on the Belgian fortresses at Liege early the next morning. Elsewhere, Great Britian mobilized.



  • I’m enjoying this board.



  • August 6th: The Germans launch their attack on the Belgian fortress of Liege. The Germans attack in massed columns of men and are slaughtered by the Belgian defenders. At one point in time, sensing weakness, the Belgians launch a bayonet charge against the numerically superior but shocked Germans. The Germans are thrown back in confusion on the first day of their supposed walk through of Belgium. It would take the Germans until the 16th to overcome the resistance, and even then only with the aid of their massive siege guns.

    August 7th: The Battle of the Frontiers begins with the French invasion of Mullhouse near the Swiss border. It was the first time French troops had moved into Alsace in over 40 years. Being French, they opened their first offensive action of the war with a massive bayonet charge against what few Germans they could find. Within a month, the French and Germans would each suffer roughly 300,000 casualties.



  • @DarthShizNit:

    It would take the Germans until the 16th to overcome the resistance, and even then only with the aid of their massive siege guns.

    Bring up the mammoth 420mm Krupp guns!


  • 2019 2018 2017

    Today in 1914, Germany lost its first U-boat due to enemy action. U-15 was rammed by HMS Birmingham and went down with all hands.


  • 2019 2018 2017

    Today in 1914, the German cruisers SMS Goeben and SMS Breslau reached the Dardanelles Strait in Turkey after being chased across the Mediterranean by the British (details can be read heren and here).

    This was an important success for the Central Powers, because it cemented Turkey’s entry into the war on their side. Turkey had signed an alliance with Germany earlier, but the ratification of that alliance was dubious at best, and the Turks had not been eager to start military action. That changed after the two German ships joined the Turkish navy, a marked contrast to an earlier British decision to appropriate two nearly complete battleships that the Turks had ordered from them. Soon after, German admiral Wilhelm Souchon was appointed commander-in-chief of the Turkish Navy.


  • 2019 2018 2017

    Most sources mention August 11 as the date on which the British established their “Government’s Press Bureau”. It had been announced a few days earlier, with the stated intent to “issue authoritative news of the war concerning movements and engagements.” In reality, the idea was to stop others from issuing news that the Government might consider less “authoritative” - in other words, they hoped to be able censor the press.
    While that worked to an increasing degree later in the war, the first efforts of the Bureau were not successful, and its chairman F.E. Smith, a close personal friend of Winston Churchill, resigned after a few weeks from a job that probably didn’t suit him very well to begin with.


  • 2019 2018 2017

    August 12, 1914, saw a Belgian success at the Battle of Haelen (now named Halen). A German cavalry charge was repulsed by Belgian cavalry that had dismounted from their horses and met the enemy with rifle fire. At the end of the day, the Germans had to withdraw, leaving many of their shiny metal cavalry helmets on the battlefield. The battle is therefore remembered as the “Battle of the Silver Helmets” (though the helmets weren’t really silver).
    The battle demonstrated that the days of the classic cavalry charge with flashing sabers and thundering horses had come to an end. According to a recent documentary that I saw, the idea to dismount and shoot instead of meeting the numerically superior Germans head on, originated with some of the younger Belgian officers, who convinced their general of its effectiveness.
    Other than the morale boost, the Belgian victory had little strategic significance: the Germans took Liege a few days later.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @Herr:

    Other than the morale boost, the Belgian victory had little strategic significance

    I wonder about that.  This battle seems to be a good example of the more-stubborn-than-expected resistance which the Germans encountered in Belgium.  This stubborn resistance didn’t prevent the Germans from overrunning most of Belgium, but it did slow down their drive into France, which depended heavily on speed of execution for its success.  Worse still, the frustration experienced by the German Army at these delays served to fuel some of the reprisals they took against the Belgians, and these reprisals provided the Allies with an early basis for the atrocity stories that they circulated to stoke hatred against the beastial Huns and urge their soldiers and civilians to do their utmost for the war effort.



  • Sadly, and no discredit to the brave Belgians…but the Germans had planned on taking up to two weeks before starting their massive sweep down south. So while the Belgian resistance was inspiring, it didn’t actually hamper German war efforts all that much.


  • 2019 2018 2017

    @CWO:

    @Herr:

    Other than the morale boost, the Belgian victory had little strategic significance

    I wonder about that.  This battle seems to be a good example of the more-stubborn-than-expected resistance which the Germans encountered in Belgium.  This stubborn resistance didn’t prevent the Germans from overrunning most of Belgium, but it did slow down their drive into France, which depended heavily on speed of execution for its success.  Worse still, the frustration experienced by the German Army at these delays served to fuel some of the reprisals they took against the Belgians, and these reprisals provided the Allies with an early basis for the atrocity stories that they circulated to stoke hatred against the beastial Huns and urge their soldiers and civilians to do their utmost for the war effort.

    Fair point, and maybe I should have used more cautious wording such as “limited” instead of “little”, though neither is particularly quantitative. The Belgian victory did contribute to stabilizing the left flank of their army and allowed an orderly retreat in that region. But the Germans still had to finish the Battle of Liege anyway, some 20 miles further east, and that would take them a few more days.
    I would need more detailed information on the precise military situation during those days to say anything more conclusive.


  • 2019 2018 2017

    In the mean time, I failed to find specific highlights for August 13th, 1914. Some sources mention that date for the declaration of war on Austria-Hungary by Britain and France, but that actually happened on the 12th.

    But while browsing, I did find this: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ww1-archive/

    The Daily Telegraph intends to republish all their historic newspapers of 100 years ago, which should give us a very interesting perspective on what the public in the UK learned about the war at the time.


  • 2019 2018 2017

    Today in 1914, the French started a counteroffensive by invading German-held Lorraine. As a part of their plan XVII, one French army advanced on Sarrebourg and another one on Morhange. Whether this plan was a particularly good idea at the time it was executed seems doubtful, but Lorraine had been lost to France in the Franco-Prussion war of 1870, and they very much wanted it back.



  • Sorry, been away from technology for a few days.

    August 15th, 1914, a VERY busy day in the war.

    Western Front: Fierce fighting goes on in Lorraine. Contrary to common perceptions, the French often gave as good as they got in confused encounters in misty forests that left hundreds of thousands of casualties by the end of the month. On this day, the French were still making progress.

    The Belgian fortress at Liege is effectively reduced to rubble.

    Eastern Front: The Russian invasion of East Prussia begins, based on a promise that the Russians gave to the french, despite the fact that only half the men assigned to the armies had even been successfully mobilized up to that point.

    Balkans Front: The Battle of Cer begins, with the Hapsburg army invading Serbia. The Battle would last until the 25th and end in a humiliating defeat for the Hapsburg’s.

    Africa: The first meeting of dissatisfied Boers takes place. This would eventually lead to a boer revolt against South Africa.



  • Where does this misconception of France’s weakness in WWI come from? Does it come from what happened thirty years later?



  • 30 years latter, and the fact that for us Yanks and Brits, our perception of WW1 is OVERWHELMINGLY from British sources. As such, it tends to gloss over things the French did.

    Fact is, the French fought hard, and they fought well. And in my opinion, they ended up being the best army in the war overall.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @ABWorsham:

    Where does this misconception of France’s weakness in WWI come from? Does it come from what happened thirty years later?

    When I think of France in WWI (especially in its early months), what comes to mind isn’t weakness so much as recklessness.  The French army’s doctrine revolved around “l’offensive brutale et a outrance”, meaning head-on offensives that are brutal (for both sides) and which are carried out with complete disregard for their costs (to both sides).  This “cult of the offensive” (notably espoused by Foch) had a degree of validity, in that it recognized that you can’t win a war (or a soccer match) by playing a purely defensive game…but it failed to recognize that such tactics were both suicidal and ineffective when used across open ground against trenches defended by machine-gun positions set up at close intervals.



  • The French 75mm gun was a killing device of the ages. Around 15 RPM and a range up to 9,500 yards, I would hate finding myself a Imperial German troop caught in open ground in 1914 in the sights of a 75mm.

    Hearing my grandfather’s story of the 88mm left a lasting impression on me as a young lad on the effects of artillery.



  • August 16th: French and British warships blockade the Adriatic, bottling up the paper tiger that was the Hapsburg fleet.

    In France, the first of the BEF begins to land and assemble.

    As for the French being reckless, they certainly were, but it’s often overlooked that the Germans were no better when it came to launching massive frontal offensives against well dug in opponents. It wasn’t a cult like it was in the French Army, but the Germans were just as prone to throwing large columns of men (at least the French used lines!) into the teeth of waiting French 75mm’s all along the Franco-German border that fall. The Germans did overall have a far higher concentration of heavy artillery though, which did allow their offensives to at least cause more casualties than a French offensive did to the Germans, even if the Germans failed to gain ground.


  • 2019 2018 2017

    I’m a day late for August 17, but it was an important date because it marked the beginning of the Russian invasion of East Prussia. Things didn’t go well for the Russians from the start. They advanced into Germany for a few miles, and one of their divisions was immediately defeated at the battle of Stalluponen (now known as Nesterov), in spite of great numerical superiority. The German commander Hermann von Francois only reluctantly obeyed the orders of his superiors to retreat after his success, and Wikipedia mentions that he initially replied: “Report to General Prittwitz that General von Francois will withdraw when he has defeated the Russians.”


  • 2019 2018 2017

    Various events of August 19, 1914:

    The Belgian army retreated into Antwerp. Antwerp was protected by a line of fortresses and intended as a national redoubt where the Belgians would be able to resist an invader until relief came.

    On the easter front, the Battle of Gumbinnen started this day.

    US President Woodrow Wilson addressed Congress, proclaiming neutrality.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 '13 Moderator

    Thank you for your time in posting Herr KaLeun. Great work.



  • August 20th:

    Western Front: The Germans being a counterattack against the French in Lorraine. German heavy artillery outclasses anything the French can throw at it and the German army throws the French back to Nancy, erasing all gains the French had made, although the Germans fail to follow up quickly enough and the French are able to get entrenched in solid positions.

    Brussels is occupied by the Germans, who march through to display all their military might.

    Eastern Front: The Battle of Gumbinnen-After some skirmishing on the previous night, the German 8th Army (made up mostly of native East Prussians) under Maximilian von Prittwitz (dat name) moved into position to attack the Russian 1st Army under command of the mustachioed Paul von Rennenkampf.

    The Russians were well aware of the German intentions and were able to set up strong positions. The entire battle was effectively dictated by the Russian artillery formations, which had long been the most effective part of the Tsar’s armies.

    German general François’s corps was able to push back the Russian 28th division, after the latter’s artillery ran out of ammunition after whipping out the first waves of Germans (German infantry still tended to attack in column formation, leading to deadly results when faced with artillery). Their artillery out of action (the Russian armies effectively had no logistics, with the men surviving with what they had with them when they were ordered to advance), the 28th Divisions was mauled by the Germans until the 29th showed up later to stabilize the line.

    Else where on the front though, Russian artillery and well dug in infantry blunted the other German corps advance, and counter attacked. The Germans completely broke and ran away in a mob like panic more often associated with the Russian army. 6,00 prisoners were taken and the German 8th army thrown back.

    However, using up almost all of their ammunition, and taking a fair few casualties of their own, the Russians decided to consolidate their positions and wait for a logistics line to be established. This would have disastrous consequences, when Russian Theater Commander Yakov Zhilinskiy ordered the Russian 2nd Army under Samanov to advance without protection from the 1st Army, eventually allowing the Germans to concentrate their forces against it.

    East Africa: The German forces push the British out of a small town called  Taveta and cut the Ugandan railway.


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