On This day in World War 1


  • 2019 2018 2017

    I’ve been lagging quite a bit…. 2014 took precedence over 1914 this week.

    August 30 saw the conclusion of the Battle of Tannenberg, the destruction of Russia’s second army at the hands of the German eight army, commanded by the famous generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff. Russian losses were staggering and exceeded German losses by a factor of more thatn 10. The Russian commander Samsonow wouldn’t face the disaster and committed suicide on this day. The Germans found his body, which was returned to his widow a few years later.
    Around the same time, Austria-Hungary won the Battle of Komarow, though in a far less decisive way - and it was offset by a defeat on the Gnila Lipa, a river now in the Ukraine. Russia took the city of Lemberg, the capital of Galicia, on September 3.

    In the west, the French and British armies finally stopped the German advance on the outskirts of Paris, with the massive First Battle of the Marne starting on September 6. The Germans, encouraged by the success of their campaign so far, planned to encircle Paris with their first army and pressed towards the southeast, but that maneuver exposed their right flank to an Allied counterattack.
    The French fifth and sixth armies and the British Expeditionary Force attempted to exploit a gap that had formed between the German first army and the second army that had remained further to the north. The French government wasn’t optimistic about the outcome however, and fled to Bordeaux. To illustrate the precariousness of the Allied position, the French sixth army had to be reinforced by driving 6,000 reservists to the front in Paris taxis.

    On September 2, Japanese forces landed in China to begin the siege of Germany’s Tsingtao colony.

    In late August - early September, German colonial troops repulsed a British attack in northern Cameroon, winning a battle at Garoua.

    On September 5, HMS Pathfinder was the first ever ship to be sunk by a self-propelled torpedo fired from a submarine. Submarines sank ships before, and so did self-propelled torpedoes, but the
    combination of the two saw its debut that day - to be repeated many times after. The event also carried the message across that there was no safety in the British home waters, because it happened in the Firth of Forth.

    A curious and rather successful German enterprise began during this period: the passenger lines Kronprinz Wilhelm had been converted to an auxiliary cruiser, and captured 15 allied ships off the coast of South America during the months that followed. Her typical course of action was to use her superior weapons and speed to compel the enemy ship to stop and board it. If it was of any prospective military value, the crew would be captured and the ship sunk - otherwise, the Germans politely wished them a pleasant journey.


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

    @Herr:

    In the west, the French and British armies finally stopped the German advance on the outskirts of Paris, with the massive First Battle of the Marne starting on September 6. The Germans, encouraged by the success of their campaign so far, planned to encircle Paris with their first army and pressed towards the southeast, but that maneuver exposed their right flank to an Allied counterattack.  The French fifth and sixth armies and the British Expeditionary Force attempted to exploit a gap that had formed between the German first army and the second army that had remained further to the north.

    Perhaps I’m not recalling the circumstances of the Battle of the Marne correctly, but I was under the impression that it came about because the Germans strayed from their plan to encircle Paris. The right wing of the German Army was originally supposed to pass to the west of Paris as it headed southward, thus enveloping the city.  The German commanders, however, went “off script” and instead swung their entire force around so that it passed east of Paris in an attempt to trap and destroy the French Army; in other words, rather than trying to envelop Paris, they tried to envelop the enemy’s main force.  Unfortunately for the Germans, this exposed their own flank to a potential counter-attack from the west, which (as you described in detail above) is precisely what subsequently happened.


  • 2019 2018 2017

    Enveloping Paris from the west as well was indeed a part of the original Schlieffen plan, but that plan hadn’t been quite as successful as the Germans had hoped it would be. Which was not too surprising, because they had committed fewer troops than originally intended by Von Schlieffen, and the reason for that was, that they also needed to fight Russia.
    As a result, when the Battle of the Marne started, the front line ran north-south from Ypres in Belgium to a point some 50 to 60 miles north of Paris, and from there, mostly east-to-southeast towards the Franco-German border. Sending an army westward and then south to arrive west of Paris, would have been a high risk operation, exposing that army to counterattacks on both flanks. In the original Schlieffen plan, a much larger area to the north would have been overrun, and the encirclement of Paris would have involved forces arriving from that direction.

    So while I agree that the German High Command probably planned and hoped to win the war that way when it started, I’m not sure that encircling Paris from the west was still their intent in early September. Accounts of the situation and events and especially of the various plans are not always consistent, and I may have misinterpreted some of them, but it seems that the German idea was to break the French lines east of Paris, and thus separate the French armies in the east of the country from the capital, which would then be captured. The actual encirclement would only have been partial.

    Why exactly that plan went wrong, can probably be attributed to various courses. The Germans may have underestimated the strength of the Paris garrison, or may have been misinformed of the whereabouts or even the existence of the French Sixth Army, that had just been formed. This account by Von Kluck, the commander of the first German Army, casts blame on Von Bulow’s Second Army for not protecting the right flank of the advance, and it’s illustrative of the overall difficulty in coordination and communications. Of course, it was written by a man who had to defend himself for the failure of the entire operation. Another factor may have been that troops had recently been transferred to the eastern front, because the Russian threat seemed bigger than it turned out to be - the Germans didn’t know beforehand that they would be as successful as they were at Tannenberg.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 '13 Moderator

    Just seen in Twitter: today, the 22nd September 1914 the U9 Sank three Cruisers: HMS Hogue, Aboukir and Cressy. All in about an hour. Remarkable feat.
    The commander was Otto Weddigen. He first torpedoed HMS Aboukir, causing heavy flooding. It was evident she would sink. (Took 30 mins.) the British commander, Captain Drummond, ordered his two other Cruisers to pull alongside the foundering ship to aid in rescuing the crew, thinking it had hit a mine!
    The rest had been made easy for the German commmander. Next Weddingen fired two torpedoes from 300 metres at HMS Hogue. The Sub had to surface, but was able to avoid destruction by the fast sinking second Cruiser (10 mins).
    After firing two torpedoes at the last Cruiser, hitting with one, Weddingen turned his Sub around and fired his last torpedo at HMS Cressy, which took 15 mins to sink.
    1459 sailors died, the rest were rescued by (Neutral)Dutch vessels and returned (illegally) to service.
    Everyone British who could be, was blamed. From the Admiralty, the Admirals who were not present and who did not “lend” Desrtoyers,  to the commander of all 3 ships, Captain Drummond. Zigzagging at 12-13 knots as prescribed, was not done as the Cruisers could not maintain that speed!
    The result was that Armoured Cruisers were never again asked to do the patrol and stopping major ships in dangerous seas was banned.



  • @wittmann:

    Just seen in Twitter: today, the 22nd September 1914 the U9 Sank three Cruisers: HMS Hogue, Aboukir and Cressy. All in about an hour. Remarkable feat.
    The commander was Otto Weddigen. He first torpedoed HMS Aboukir, causing heavy flooding. It was evident she would sink. (Took 30 mins.) the British commander, Captain Drummond, ordered his two other Cruisers to pull alongside the foundering ship to aid in rescuing the crew, thinking it had hit a mine!
    The rest had been made easy for the German commmander. Next Weddingen fired two torpedoes from 300 metres at HMS Hogue. The Sub had to surface, but was able to avoid destruction by the fast sinking second Cruiser (10 mins).
    After firing two torpedoes at the last Cruiser, hitting with one, Weddingen turned his Sub around and fired his last torpedo at HMS Cressy, which took 15 mins to sink.
    1459 sailors died, the rest were rescued by (Neutral)Dutch vessels and returned (illegally) to service.
    Everyone British who could be, was blamed. From the Admiralty, the Admirals who were not present and who did not “lend” Desrtoyers,   to the commander of all 3 ships, Captain Drummond. Zigzagging at 12-13 knots as prescribed, was not done as the Cruisers could not maintain that speed!
    The result was that Armoured Cruisers were never again asked to do the patrol and stopping major ships in dangerous seas was banned.

    This U-Boat was a warship killer. She would later sink another RN Cruiser and a Russian Auxiliary Minesweeper. Her merchant GRT was low at 8,600 tons. This U-Boat would survive the war and the actions of September 22, 1914 will never get forgotten.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 '13 Moderator

    I thought it remarkable the ship survived.
    The commander, Weddigen, didn’t though. He was transferred to another U Boat and that was sunk.


  • 2019 2018 2017

    Thanks for an interesting story, Wittmann. I’ve been a bit to busy myself to tell more of the Great War, but I intend to return to this thread soon.



  • I believe on the Western Front at this time a series of flanking movements from both sides begun which continued until Flanders. This series of local actions has become popularly known as The Race To The Sea.



  • Have any of you read the account of the SMS Seeadler? Its the most unusual merchant raider of the World Wars.


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

    @ABWorsham:

    Have any of you read the account of the SMS Seeadler? Its the most unusual merchant raider of the World Wars.

    I’d never heard of her.  I’ve just looked her up.  I thought at first you were talking about the German cruiser of the same name, but then I saw the article on the sailing ship that served as a commerce raider in WWI.  16 merchant ship captures is an impressive record; from what I can recall, it’s an even higher figure than the Graf Spee scored in WWII. Thanks for this interesting bit of naval history.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 '13 Moderator

    Thanks Worsham.
    It is an excellent story. Looks like it should be a Civil War Commerce Raider!



  • @CWO:

    @ABWorsham:

    Have any of you read the account of the SMS Seeadler? Its the most unusual merchant raider of the World Wars.

    I’d never heard of her.  I’ve just looked her up.  I thought at first you were talking about the German cruiser of the same name, but then I saw the article on the sailing ship that served as a commerce raider in WWI.  16 merchant ship captures is an impressive record; from what I can recall, it’s an even higher figure than the Graf Spee scored in WWII. Thanks for this interesting bit of naval history.

    A sailing ship armed for offensive warfare in a World War that is movie worthy. The ship also survived a hurricane!


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 '13 Moderator

    On the 27th October 1914, the British Dreadnought, Audacious
    Was the first battleship to sink in WW1. She hit a mine off the North  coast of Ireland of all places. She sank later that evening, but with no loss of life. Although a sailor on another ship half a mile away died when hit by a piece of shrapnel as she exploded and sank.
    Audacious was a King George class Deadnought, 600ft long, weighing 24000 tons and armed with ten  13.5 inch guns. She was only commissioned the year before. 
    Her sinking was covered up until the end of the war.


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

    @wittmann:

    On the 27th October 1914, the British Dreadnought, Audacious Was the first battleship to sink in WW1. […] Her sinking was covered up until the end of the war.

    Thanks for this item.  The part about the cover-up is especially interesting.  I wonder if the Admiralty would have tried to keep the sinking a secret if there had been heavy loss of life rather than no casualties?


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 '13 Moderator

    Could they have? There was the sister ship to the Titanic close by, the Olympic. In an ironic twist, it heeded the distress call.  It rescued many of the crew and tried to tow it.
    I am on my phone, so can’t attach a link. Is quite an interesting read.



  • On November 1, 1914 the First World War naval Battle of Coronel took place on the coast of central Chile near the city of Coronel. German Kaiserliche Marine forces led by Vice-Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee met and defeated a Royal Navy squadron commanded by Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 '13 Moderator

    Evening Worsham. Thanks for posting that. I saw it on twitter this morning and was unaware of the battle. Was interesting to read about it.
    I saw it was a  Cruiser battle and that Cradock died along with 1600 sailors. Two of the modern German Cruisers were called Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.
    I think it said it was the  first time the Royal Navy had lost a ship since 1815. Remarkable fact.



  • @wittmann:

    Evening Worsham. Thanks for posting that. I saw it on twitter this morning and was unaware of the battle. Was interesting to read about it.
    I saw it was a  Cruiser battle and that Cradock died along with 1600 sailors. Two of the modern German Cruisers were called Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.
    I think it said it was the  first time the Royal Navy had lost a ship since 1815. Remarkable fact.

    Graf Spee knew that his victory over the RN at Coronel spelled his doom. Any chance he had of anchoring in home water had just vanished. The best he could do was to cause as much damage for the German cause before his time ran out. Coal was becoming a constant problem, and refueling in the busy Atlantic was dangerous unlike the wild open quiet South Pacific. Heavy shells were running extremely low from the victories at Papeete and Coronel. His cruisers were far beyond the need of a dry-dock overhaul.

    While resupply his ships in a pro German Chilean after the battle he was presented a gift of flowers from the local governor, his reply was, “Thank you, they will look great at my funeral.”



  • I just picked up a book about WW1 in the Pacific called Spee Raiders. Its been a great read.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 '13 Moderator

    It is so weird (to me) to hear German and Pacific in the same sentence.
    I am reading Osprey’s new release  about Kursk’s Northern shoulder (Model). Lots of great pictures of tanks. Especially the Ferdinand!


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

    @wittmann:

    It is so weird (to me) to hear German and Pacific in the same sentence.

    One still-surviving relic of Germany’s small and short-lived colonial empire in the Asia-Pacific region is the name of a particular group of islands off New Guinea: the Bismarck Archipelago.  Another relic is Tsingtao Beer, which started being produced in 1904 by the Germania-Brauerei.  Tsingtao (now Qingdao) was a German-controlled territory in China from the late 19th century to 1914, when Japan seized it.  The beer is still being produced in Qingdao, under the old Tsingtao name.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 '13 Moderator

    The Battle of Cambrai began today, the 20th November, in 1917.
    The British 3rd Army(Byng) pushed 3-4 miles into Germans lines, but were unable to surround Cambrai itself and break The Hindenburg line. The whole of The Tank Corps’ strength was utilised: 476 tanks. By the end of the day 179 had been destroyed or had broken down. The Cavalry Corps (Kavanagh) was poorly led and did not fulfil its objectives. The 4000 British casualties were low for such an operation, however.
    Two weeks later the Germans would successfully counter attack.


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

    @wittmann:

    The whole of The Tank Corps’ strength was utilised: 476 tanks.

    If I’m not mistaken, this was the first time in history in which tanks had been used in massed formations.  The results, although limited by the slow speed, limited range and poor reliability of WWI tanks, were nonetheless a precursor of the tank tactics that came to maturity during WWII.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 '13 Moderator

    As a child, I learnt Cambrai was the first battle in which tanks were used.
    Later, I discovered it was at the Somme!
    500 is certainly a large number. Did I read the Germans only had 20 Battle Tanks?


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

    @wittmann:

    Did I read the Germans only had 20 Battle Tanks?

    That figure sounds right.  Germany domestically built only a small number of tanks.  I think they had only one model, called the A7V as I recall, a big squarish boxlike contraption that required a ridiculously large crew – more than a dozen men, I think.


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