Category: 1918

Baron Carl Mannerheim salutes White Guardists,…

Baron Carl Mannerheim salutes White Guardists, February 1918. Mannerheim led the victorious White forces in the Finnish Civil War.

The Lighthorsemen.

The Lighthorsemen.

February 21, 1918 – Fall of Jericho

February 21, 1918 – Fall of Jericho

Pictured – “When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city.” A British officer looks out from captured Ottoman trenches at Jericho.

British forces reached their lowest point of the war on February 21, 1918, when they captured Jericho at the northern end of the Dead Sea. General Allenby’s Anglo-Australian force stunned the Ottomans with its quick advance from Jerusalem. After three days of fighting, the British captured the city, with total domination of the skies by the Royal Flying Corps and on the ground thanks to Australian mounted infantry and cavalry. With their victory Britain now had total strategic control of the area around Jerusalem.

February 20, 1918 – Ice Cruise of the Baltic F…

February 20, 1918 – Ice Cruise of the Baltic Fleet

Pictured – The icebreaker Krasin, which survives today as a museum ship in Saint Petersburg.

Russia’s army had more or less ceased to exist. On the Eastern Front, German and Austrian forces were pushing several miles every hour since they had renewed their invasion on the 18th. Their opposition melted in front of them. The Bolshevik’s hastily organized Red Army was a military in name only.

One of the most trustworthy weapon in the Bolshevik’s arsenal was the navy. The working-class sailors of the Baltic Fleet were overwhelmingly in favor of the revolution; 58% of them had voted for the Bolsheviks during elections to the Constituent Assembly. They proved excellent shock troops of the proletariat. With German forces advancing inward, however, the fleet stood at risk of being captured in Estonia, where it had been based.

Lenin ordered his ships to move, even though they were frozen in place by the ice. Icebreaking was a skill the Russian navy possessed in quantities, though, and escorted by icebreakers the Baltic Fleet escaped in the “Ice Cruise.” Most of the ships sailed for Helsinki, held by friendly Red revolutionaries. When the Germans showed up at Revel several days later, they were bewildered to find they had been robbed up prizes. Only a few scuttled submarines remained where they expected the Baltic Fleet.

Austro-Hungarian troops pause for a breath.

Austro-Hungarian troops pause for a breath.

February 19, 1918 – Lenin and Trotsky Ask Germ…

February 19, 1918 – Lenin and Trotsky Ask Germany for Peace, Central Powers Invasion of Russia Continues

Pictured – Austro-Hungarian troops enter the Ukranian city of Kamianets-Podilskyi.

The day after the war between Russia and the Central Powers began, the Bolsheviks asked for peace. A telegram signed by both Lenin and Trotsky arrived at Max Hoffman’s desk on the 19th. The Chief of Staff for the Central Powers’ Eastern Front was more irritated than happy. The invasion was going well, and Hoffman wanted to make the most of it while he could. He decided to respond as slowly as he could, and sent a courier through German lines to tell Lenin and Trotsky to put their request in writing.

The resumption of war allowed Germany to finish occupying the Baltic states and Ukraine. Minsk fell on the 20th with 9,000 stunned Russian prisoners. “The Russian army is more rotten than I had supposed,” confided Hoffman in his diary. “There is no fight left in them. Yesterday one lieutenant with six men took six hundred Cossacks prisoner.

The “eleven days war” had just two weeks to run, but make the most of it Hoffman did. German and Austro-Hungarian troops hopped on railroad cars and rode through Russia as if on holiday; advancing 150 miles in four days. “It is the most comical war I have ever known,” Hoffman wrote a few days later. “We put a handful of infantrymen with machine guns and one gun on a train and push them off to the next station; they take it, make prisoners of the Bolsheviks, pick up a few more troops and go on. This proceeding, has, at any rate, the charm of novelty.” Russia was falling to pieces; Germany wanted as much of it as it could get. 

A dead child in Tampere, Finland. The Finnish …

A dead child in Tampere, Finland. The Finnish Civil War left 37,000 people dead, the majority of them executed by the Whites or left to die in prison.

Fitting bombs on to an Airco DH.4 day bomber. …

Fitting bombs on to an Airco DH.4 day bomber. February 17, 1918.

February 17, 1918 – Dunsterforce Reaches Enzal…

February 17, 1918 – Dunsterforce Reaches Enzali, Denied Passage by Bolsheviks

Pictured – Trudging through Central Asia, the men of Dunsterforce took part in one of the British military’s most difficult, dramatic, and arguably pointless campaigns.

In January 1918 an old Indian Army officer named Lionel Dunsterville was ordered to leave Baghdad and head north for Baku, taking along with him 450 chosen men “highly individualistic characters … of the do or die type.” Dunsterville’s mission: secure the oil reserves of Central Asia (which Britain had a controlling stake in), and protect the passage to India. Dunsterville’s mission took him about as far from the center of attention as possible. The chance of excitement in this remote backwater of the world seemed minuscule; the real action was in Flanders, France, and Palestine.

Yet “Dunsterforce” ended up embarking on one of the more interesting campaigns of the entire war. This small British battalion would end up fighting Ottoman troops and jihadist mercenaries, sometimes fighting Bolsheviks alongside White Russian troops, sometimes fighting alongside Azerbaijani Bolsheviks against Kurdish guerillas and Cossack deserters, encountering German spies, saving American missionaries, and eventually fighting a doomed alongside both Red, White, and Armenian troops in a battle to try and save Baku from an Ottoman-Azerbaijani army.

Dunsterforce’s first encountered the chaos emanating from Russia on February 17 when it reached Enzali, on the way to Baku. Hoping to meet friendly Russian troops, they met instead Bolshevik soldiers, who told the British to shove off. The British were forced to march through the desert instead. Dunsterforce marched up to thirty miles a day in temperatures that reached up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit and as low as -40 degrees in the mountains at night. All the while they dealt with drought, famine, disease, and the horrors of a quickly-spreading civil war.

Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, with ot…

Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, with others members of his fighter squadron. With 80 kills Richthofen was the top-scoring pilot of World War One.