Category: 1918

The Coming Army: A Punch cartoon mocks the Bri…

The Coming Army: A Punch cartoon mocks the British government’s new conscription rules. Desperate for manpower Britain has decided that all men up to 56 years of age must serve, and extended conscription to Ireland.

A tank crewman has a shave while his mate keep…

A tank crewman has a shave while his mate keeps watch with a Lewis gun.

April 19, 1918 – Central Powers Occupy Crimea

April 19, 1918 – Central Powers Occupy Crimea

Pictured – German soldiers on the peninsula’s coast. The German Empire now stretches from the North Sea to the Black.

On April 19 German and Austro-Hungarian forces entered the Crimean peninsula. The rest of Ukraine was run by a nationalist government as a protectorate of Germany, sending grain to supply the Central Powers. However after the October Revolution Crimean Tartars had broken off to form their own state, the Crimean People’s Republic. In the confused fighting of early 1918 the Bolshevik Red Army had crushed the Tartars, before itself being driven out by the Ukrainians.

The Germans entered the chaotic scene and established their own puppet government led by a Lithuanian Muslim named General Maciej Sulkevich. As in Ukraine their rule was harsh and entirely based on the exploitation of the rural peasantry to feed their armies fighting in the West.

A French soldier wounded by a piece of shrapne…

A French soldier wounded by a piece of shrapnel. April 1918.

Irishmen sign anti-conscription pledges. April…

Irishmen sign anti-conscription pledges. April 1918.

April 18, 1918 – Irish Anti-Conscription Commi…

April 18, 1918 – Irish Anti-Conscription Committee Meets

Pictured – This anti-conscription pledge and ones like it were signed by Irish men in rallies throughout the country.

The majority of Irish had accepted the outbreak of war in 1914 favorably in hopes that it would lead to greater autonomy and home rule. While there was support for a volunteer war, however, few nationalist Irish accepted a draft like there was in Britain. In April 1918, however, the British government extended conscription to Ireland in hopes of making up manpower shortages.

The extension provoked widespread resistance by nationalists, trade unions, and the Catholic church. In Dublin, a group of party leaders met as the Anti-Conscription Committee, including Sinn Féin leaders Éamon de Valera and Arthur Griffith. In coordination with the Church, Irish nationalists devised an anti-conscription pledge to be taken by men at a series of rallies against the practice. Strikes and protests would accompany the pledge.

In the end (and despite a British idea that it might be easier to send Catholic Irish troops to the French Army,) the government would abandon conscription in Ireland. The arrival of the Americans had in any case begun to make it unnecessary. However the outrage caused by conscription would be a chief factor leading to Irish nationalist election victories in 1918 and ultimately the Irish War of Independence.

An officer of the Duke of Cambridge’s Own writ…

An officer of the Duke of Cambridge’s Own writes a message at the battatlion’s field HQ.

Tommies man a barricade in the village of Bai…

Tommies man a barricade in the village of Bailleul, April 1918.

April 17, 1918 – Allies React as the Americans…

April 17, 1918 – Allies React as the Americans Arrive in Numbers

Pictured – A common theme in Entente propaganda depicts the western Allies holding the line while legions of fresh Americans arrive to help.

The long-awaited Americans were finally starting to arrive. In resposne to Allied calls for help the American military hurried up its deployment and began sending divisions over piecemeal to Europe. Soon there would be over 25,000 arriving per month, far offsetting the losses Britain and France had suffered in the German offensive.

Sir Ernest Shackleton, the famed Arctic explorer, was escorting one such convoy to Liverpool from New York.

“We were twelve ships in all and carried 25,000 United States troops. When we got to the danger zone we were met by seven destroyers; and it was a good job, because the next day were were attacked by two submarines, but before they could discharge a torpedo one of our destroyers dropped depth charge and blew up one of the Huns; the other cleared off.” 

The German submarines were unable to keep the Americans out of France and the Allied armies continued to grow. But the Allies disagreed on how to dispose of their new forces. British and French military circles had a low opinion of American troops and wanted to use them as reinforcements in their own armies. Two companies of US troops were destroyed on 20 April.

“That kind of result,” wrote Lloyd George, “is bound to occur if a largely amateur United States Army is built up without the guidance… of British and French officers.”

Winston Churchill, son of an American mother, aptly pointed out that the problem had more to do with German strength than US weakness. Eventually a settlement was made: the Yanks would brigade with British and French divisions through the summer, when they would be organized into their own American Expeditionary Force under Foch’s command.

For those on the ground, strategy did not matter and the arrival of fresh friendly troops was a great morale boost. Vera Brittain remembered her first sight of the new ally vividly. Walking to her hospital ward near the front, she watched a large column of soldiers marching up the road.

“They were swinging rapidly towards Camiers, and though the sight of soldiers marching was now too familiar to arouse curiosity, an unusual quality of bold vigour in their stride caused me to stare at them with puzzeld interest. They looked larger than ordinary men; their tall, straight figures were in vivid contrast to the under-sized armies of pale recruits to which we were accustomed…

Had yet another regiment been conjured out of our depleted Dominions? I wondered, watching them move with such rhythm, such dignity, such serene consciousness of self-respect. But I knew the colonial troops so well, and these were different; they were assured where the Austrialians were aggressive, self-possessed where the New Zealanders were turbulent.”

Who were they? Her question was answered by a group of nurses behind her: “Look! Look! Here are the Americans!”

Britain falls back.

Britain falls back.