Category: world war 1

Germans and Whites Cut Off Finnish Reds

German and White Finnish forces meet in Lahti, completing the encirclement of much of the Finnish Red Army.

April 20 1918, Lahti–Since the Germans landed at Hanko on April 3, the situation of the Finnish Reds had quickly deteriorated.  On the 6th, Mannerheim’s White forces captured Tampere, and on the 13th, the Germans took Helsinki, suffering only 200 casualties in the ten days’ campaign.  Meanwhile, another force of Germans had landed at Loviisa, fifty miles east of Helsinki.  On April 20, they linked up with Mannerheim’s forces approaching from the north near Lahti, cutting off a Red force of over 25,000 men.  The last seat of Red power was in Vyborg, near the Russian border, and on the same day Mannerheim and the Germans began their advance on the city.

Today in 1917: Failure of the Nivelle Offensive

Today in 1916: Russian Expeditionary Force Arrives in France
Today in 1915: Armenians Besieged in Van

Sources include: Prit Buttar, The Splintered Empires.

Hashemites Defeated at Ma’an

Hashemite forces on the way to Ma’an.

April 19 1918, Ma’an–Feisal had planned to launch an attack on the key railroad station at Ma’an while Allenby attacked Amman to the north in early April; however, heavy rains and flooding, which caused delays for the British, meant the Arab operation was postponed until well after the British had crossed back over the Jordan.  Nonetheless, Feisal hoped that the Turks had redirected enough strength to face Allenby that his small force could overwhelm the reduced defenses at Ma’an after cutting the railway both north and south of town.

Over three days of fighting, the Arabs took multiple Turkish trench lines around Ma’an, and some of the Turkish officers were considering surrender.  However, the people of the town, fearing that the Arabs would ransack their homes, took up arms and bolstered the Turkish defenses.  Meanwhile, the Arabs had suffered disproportionate casualties from Turkish artillery and machine-gun fire, with no way to respond; the French battery sent to aid the Hashemites ran out of ammunition within hours.  On April 19, after suffering nearly 300 casualties (including more than half of their officers), the Hashemites reluctantly decided to retreat before their forces broke entirely.  Ma’an would remain in Turkish hands until the fall.

Today in 1917: First American Action of the War

Today in 1916: Wilson Addresses Congress on Submarines, Threatens to Sever Relations with Germany
Today in 1915: Massacres of Armenians in Van

Sources include: Eugene Rogan, The Fall of the Ottomans

Conscription Extended to Ireland

John Dillon of the Irish Parliamentary Party leads an anti-conscription rally in Roscommon.

April 18 1918, Dublin–The British government was sent into crisis by Germany’s renewed offensives in the west.  Believing he was in real danger of losing the war, Lloyd George introduced a bill to expand conscription into the House of Commons on April 9, only hours after the Germans launched Operation Georgette in Flanders.  Conscription would now affect all men from 17

½ to 50, though 40-50 year-olds would remain in Britain for home defense.  Some exemptions for munitions workers were removed, and standards for good eyesight were lowered.  Most controversial, however, was the expansion of conscription to Ireland, where it had so far not been enacted due to extreme political opposition.  Lloyd George attempted to temper this by announcing that he would also implement Home Rule for Ireland, attempting to co-opt the report of the Irish Convention. The bill was pushed through in a week’s time with a majority of 198 votes.  A day later, the Irish Parliamentary Party left the Commons in protest; this would mark the end of (non-abstentionist) Irish representation in Westminster outside of Northern Ireland.

The Military Service Act become law on April 18.  The same day, leaders of the Irish Parliamentary Party, Sinn Féin, the All-for-Ireland Party, and Labour met in Mansion House in Dublin, formed the Irish Anti-Conscription Committee, and began to plan how would they oppose the realization of conscription in Ireland.  On the same day, Ireland’s Catholic bishops were holding a meeting, and agreed that they should call upon their parishioners to resist conscription “by the most effective means at our disposal…[that are] consonant with the law of God."  In conjunction with the Anti-Conscription Committee, they agreed to post the following pledge on the door of every Catholic church the following Sunday, April 21:

Denying the right of the British government to enforce compulsory service in this country, we pledge ourselves solemnly to one another to resist conscription by the most effective means at our disposal.

This was followed by a one-day general strike on Tuesday the 23rd.  Ultimately, the extreme opposition in Ireland, the passing of the crisis on the Western Front, and the arrival in France of many more American troops (and others; the Italians sent a force of 50,000 to the Western Front on April 18 as well), meant that the government would never attempt to enforce conscription in Ireland.

Today in 1917: Second Battle of Gaza

Today in 1916: Russians Capture Trebizond
Today in 1915: Roland Garros and his Plane Captured by Germans

Sources include: Randal Gray, Chronicle of the First World War.

Belgians Repulse German Attack

April 17 1918, Merckem [Merkem]–Although over 90% of their country was occupied by the Germans, the Belgian Army still continued to defend their portion of the line in Flanders.  Their sector had been relatively quiet since 1914, aided by deliberate flooding of much of the low-lying land in the area.  Although officially not part of the Allies, the Belgians still did their best to cooperate with the forces that were helping to defend what remained of unoccupied Belgium from the Germans.  When the Germans broke through south of Ypres on April 9, Belgian King Albert volunteered to extend his line south to aid the Allies.

On April 17, the Germans attacked the Belgian lines around Merckem, at the northern end of the Ypres Salient, which had been much reduced by Plumer’s withdrawal from Passchendaele.  An attempted attack on the British lines the previous day had failed after the Germans realized they were attacking into nothing.  Simultaneously, the Germans were attacking south of Ypres, towards Mt. Kemmel, in an attempt to take the high ground there and cut off what remained of the Ypres Salient.

The Germans had some initial success against the Belgians, but a counterattack with bayonets by the 3rd Division reversed all the German gains and captured 800 PoWs and 42 machine guns.  The northern end of the Ypres Salient was secured, and the Belgians had won one of their first victories in Europe since 1914.

Today in 1917: 

Further French Attacks as Mutinies Begin

Today in 1916: Final Attack to Relieve Kut Begins
Today in 1915: British Take Hill 60 After Sappers Detonate Mines

Sources include: Randal Gray, Chronicle of the First World War.

German troops fixing cylinders in position i…

German troops fixing cylinders in position in a trench before a gas attack.

A British Lewis gun crew lying dead in their…

A British Lewis gun crew lying dead in their front line trench, April 1918.

An overhead trolley for bringing the wounded…

An overhead trolley for bringing the wounded through the trenches.

Captured Russian trenches and barbed wire en…

Captured Russian trenches and barbed wire entanglements outside Tarnopol, July 1917.

Austro-Hungarian troops at the entrance of a…

Austro-Hungarian troops at the entrance of a dugout in trenches under deep snow, winter 1917.

Pogrom in Cracow

April 16 1918, Cracow [Kraków]–The Allied blockade of Europe and several years of back-and-forth fighting on the Eastern Front had led to severe food shortages in Austria, even in its breadbasket of Galicia.  The Jewish population of the area was over-represented in milling, baking, and other food-related trades, and the combination of hunger and anti-Semitism led to suspicions that the Jewish population was hoarding food.  These feelings were so pronounced by May 1917 that the Jewish population began seriously considering setting up its own defense forces in case violence broke out against them.  Late in 1917, an attempt by bread protesters to march south to the Jewish district of Kazimierz was halted by police.

In 1918, tensions rose further with bread strikes in January, followed by riots against the peace treaty with Ukraine, which had given major concessions to the Ukrainians at the expense of the Poles, in a misguided attempt to secure food supplies.  By the spring of 1918, the local Polish population no longer had any trust in the government; for example, two women on a tram were overheard saying that if the bread shortage continued, “we won’t go to the town council or governor, we’ll just demolish the shops where they sell cakes and rolls.”

On April 16, at a food market in the north of the city, Christians, enraged at the high prices and blaming Jewish traders for them, began attacking the latter.  A mob marched twenty-five minutes south to Kazimierz, looting Jewish shops; the police did nothing to stop them.  Violence continued through the 20th.  On the 19th, Jewish youths retaliated, driving out Christian traders from a market with sticks and iron rods.  The military attempted to intervene on the 18th, and did temporarily calm the situation, but neither side trusted the emperor’s soldiers; both Christians and Jews attacked or tried to drive the soldiers off.

Although the city was calm once again by April 21, it was not to be a one-time affair.  Pogroms would continue across Galicia throughout the remainder of 1918, and the ugly anti-Semitic attitudes would long outlast the war.

Today in 1917: The Nivelle Offensive

Today in 1916: Internal Security Dramatically Increased in Russian 12th Army
Today in 1915: Turkish Torpedo Boat Attack on Transport Ship Fails; 51 Die in Panic

Sources include: Alexander Watson, Ring of Steel.