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Sabotage In The Desert – Battle of Broodseinde I THE GREAT WAR Week 167

Sabotage In The Desert – Battle of Broodseinde I THE GREAT WAR Week 167


Millions of men are at war. You’re trying to win, but you’re the leader
of just a few hundred disorganized tribesmen. What can you do for the war effort? Well, you can try sabotage. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week the British had yet another success
at the Battle of Passchendaele, as well a success on the Euphrates. The other fronts were relatively quiet, though,
of course, the day to day fighting continued most everywhere unabated. And we saw some of that day to day fighting
this week in the Middle East. Lawrence of Arabia, an Algerian French officer
named Rosario Pisani, and around 100 Bedouin tribesmen set off to sabotage the Hejaz Railway,
armed with an electric mine and a pressure mine. That railway was of major importance to the
Ottomans for transporting troops and supplies around the region. On the 3rd, Lawrence buried the pressure mine
south of Shedia station. No trains appeared for two days, but a water
train passing on the 5th did not set off the mine. So at midday, when he assumed the railway
guards were taking a siesta, Lawrence crept forward and laid the electric mine by the
pressure one. This was under one of the three bridges there. At 8 AM on the 6th, a train arrived from the
north and the mines were detonated when the locomotive was crossing the bridge. The explosion was enormous and the locomotive
was destroyed. 20 passengers in the first carriage were killed
and the carriages themselves were decoupled and began to roll back down the hill. The Turkish guards came out of their blockhouses
and Lawrence and company got out of there. As a result of this, the locomotive drivers
went on strike, and for passengers that still wished to ride the railway in spite of the
numerous sabotage incidents; seats at the rear of the train could be bought at premium
prices. The sabotage was working. And there was other news from the Middle East
this week. In Palestine (Gilbert) the Ottoman secret
police had broken up the Jewish spy ring that worked for the British and arrested Sarah
Aaronsohn, one of its leaders. She was tortured for four days, but gave no
information. She killed herself October 5th. The British government had, by this time,
began to consider the idea of replacing Turkish rule in Palestine with a Zionist state under
British control. On the 2nd, they learned of a meeting in Berlin
where the Germans and Ottomans made plans to offer European Jews a German sponsored
national home in Palestine. But the machinations behind the lines took
a back seat to the ones in the field. At Passchendaele, British Commander in Chief
Sir Douglas Haig thought they were about to breakthrough the German lines and the cavalry
could finally come in. His Generals Herbert Plumer and Hugh Gough
weren’t so certain and expressed themselves to him about this. They thought the high ground needed to be
secured before any big advances could happen and this would take a few more bite and hold
grabs of 1-2 km each. This was a new tactic Plumer had come up with
– which we saw the past two weeks – to counter the deep German elastic defense system. After each grab, though, you had to build
roads and all to bring up the artillery, which took time. Haig sat the generals down on October 2nd
and told them they were wrong, the breakthrough was soon to come. I wanna quote Nick Lloyd here from “Passchendaele”
about Gough and Plumer, “They had seen this before; a limited success that had been based
on exhaustive preparation and phenomenal firepower causing Haig to find new faith in dramatic
breakthrough operations. As they already knew, it was best to nod in
agreement and get on with the job at hand.” The Germans, for their part, resorted to old
tactics to try and beat Plumer, since the new ones didn’t work, loading the forward
positions so that attackers couldn’t make even little land grabs. It was drizzling rain, at 6 AM on October
4th when Plumer’s Second Army launched the Battle of Broodseinde, with I and II ANZAC
Corps making the main assault against Broodseinde Ridge. The whole frontage was around 1km wide. This turned out to be even more of a disaster
for the Germans than September 20 and 26 had been. The men in the front positions were annihilated
by the artillery barrage, which came with such intensity that it truly was a wall of
fire; in addition, the German reserves had been placed too far forward and were also
hard hit. The battle was, for all intents and purposes,
over by the early afternoon. The British had advanced 700m (over one km
according to Lloyd) and then – once again – stopped and dug in. They had inflicted 30,000 casualties on the
Germans, though they’d taken 25,000 themselves, even after destroying the forward German positions-
there was still another 500m of killing zone to tackle. This was pretty painful for the British, but
totally unsustainable for the Germans. What would they do? German Quartermaster General Erich Ludendorff
searched for some way to launch an offensive that would draw British troops away from the
region, but came up with nothing. Ludendorff ordered his men to switch back
to the flexible defense, which at least would keep most of them out of range of British
artillery. He was seriously worried at this point, “I
myself was put to a terrible strain. The state of affairs in the West appeared
to prevent the execution of our plans elsewhere. Our wastage had been so high as to cause grave
misgivings, and had exceeded all expectations.” He even wondered how much ground could be
given up without endangering the U-boat bases on the Belgian coast. So, as distant as they may have once seemed,
Haig’s objectives were now an actual possibility. The Battle of Broodseinde was even called
“the greatest victory of the war” in some British press, but there are different opinions
as to the scale of success. The autumn rains hadn’t come down yet, almost
miraculously, but they would, and the ground now in front of the British was low lying
and would flood in any rainfall and become tough to cross. This had been an issue last year at the Battle
of the Somme, when the British had given up high ground to advance onto and be forced
to defend lower ground. Still, it was undeniable that Plumer’s forces
had made headway, and they had seriously rattled the opposition. The German official history would call this
a big British success and would note the drop in German morale once they realized that they
couldn’t hold their ground against overwhelming British artillery. Haig called for the next attack to come October
8th, two days earlier than planned. He was determined to take Passchendaele. General John Charteris, Haig’s Chief of
Intelligence, looked at the enormous casualties of the past few weeks, though, and wrote on
the 5th that they should stop for the winter. Plans however, were finally drawn up for THREE
new assaults, to take place the 9th, 12th, and 14th. British Prime Minister David Lloyd George
and others felt that it was this week that Haig lost all sympathy. The Battle of Passchendaele was two months
old, gains had been made, sure, but they were modest and the losses were high, winter was
coming early, and Haig was ordering further attacks. And it looked like the Germans would be making
some further attacks of their own, but far to the northeast. On October 2nd, the Russian fleet refused
to obey the Russian Provisional Government, so the Germans could execute plans to land
on the islands in the Gulf of Riga. Operation Albion would take the islands in
the Estonian Archipelago, which the Germans believed would allow them to outflank the
Russian army and move on Petrograd, the Russian capital. At the moment, they were trying to subdue
the coastal batteries and clear the extensive network of mines. If successful, a land invasion would follow. And here are a few notes to end the week. On the 29th and 30th, Italian attacks on the
Bainsizza Plateau, take 2,000 Austrian prisoners. On the 30th, Sun Yat Sen was arrested at Canton
for organizing revolution. That same day a Congress at Kiev demands independence
for all Russian nationalities. On October 1st, British naval airplanes bombed
Beirut harbor. And on October 2nd, HMS Drake was torpedoed
off the Irish coast, 19 men were killed. The Drake was an armored cruiser that had
a checkered career, including time serving as flagship of the Australia Station. And the week ends, with yet another Allied
success at Passchendaele, skirmishing in Italy, a Russian mutiny in the Baltic, and sabotage
in the Middle East. But would the British successes continue in
Belgium? The Germans were certainly worried by now,
as they were slowly being forced from their vaunted defenses. But winter had come early, and the weather
had turned bad, and that ground easily flooded. Perhaps success had gone to Haig’s head,
but perhaps his dreams of breakthrough were really just about to come true in the three
battles scheduled for next week. And remember, the thing about Haig’s dreams
of breakthrough – he only had to be right once. If you want to learn more about the German
defences at Passchendaele, you can watch our special episode about that right here. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Psych! Is that his legal name? We live in marvelous times. Don’t forget to subscribe, see you next
time.


Reader Comments

  1. Wait… A destroyed train? Could this mean the first mission in 5th story of the Battlefield 1 is from sabotage?

  2. Hey Indy and Co. This question is a bit of a sensitive one, but I feel as though it's a bit important: how common was suicide in WWI? I imagine a soldier, seeing hundreds or even thousands of people dead in a mudhole in a field in nowhere, all for a measly few metres of mud- such things must not have been good for the minds of those who saw it.

    Thank you all for the work you do to make this show what it is 🙂

  3. My Great Great Grandfather Jamies Thomas Young was born in 1896 In Dublin. he joined the Royal Dublin army regiment in 1915. He was at the Somme on the first day he and 500 other man charged over the top only him and 180 man came back. In March 1917 he went over the top again but was hit in the leg by shrapnel. He returned to Ireland and missed the rest of the War. My other Great Great Grandfather Ernest George Von Ehren born in east London on the 30th of May 1892 to a German father and a English mother. He joined the Royal London Army regiment on the 2ed of August 1914 he spent 3 years on the Western Front as a infantryman. In mid 1917 he was selected to be trained as a Tank gunner. On the 18th of August 1918 he was hit in the face by German gunfire and received a bad cut to his face. He was sent back to England on the 9th of September he missed the rest of the Great War.

  4. Which revolution was Sun Yat-sen organizing when he got arrested? As a Taiwanese/citizen of Republic of China, I have never learn about this arrest of our nation's father in 1917.

  5. Have you guys done an American weapons episode yet? I searched for it but i couldnt find it. If you haven't please do cause that would be very interesting to see. Either way love the channel keep up the awesome work.

  6. I say this since the first vídeo I watched from the channel, but damn, I gotta say this again because this one is a great example of this, the soundtrack you guys use is phenomenal, it really gives the chill and the "feel" of immergence, greetings from Brazil!

  7. 2:32 — I'd never heard about the Ottoman-German plan to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine. In researching this, I discovered that the GERMANS had SAVED the JEWS in Palestine from the sort of genocide that the Ottomans inflicted on the Armenians and the Greeks. A JEWISH source attests to this: https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/books/.premium-1.608235

  8. I beg you please do an episode dedicated to flame throwers 🔥 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🤒 also I am sick

  9. Haig really didn't do anything wrong, no seriously, you've been watching this whole channel right?

    This entire war was an absolute shit show, no one had a better idea on how to win the war, his plans were costly, but so were everyone else's.

    So unless you've got a time machine so that you can go back and lead your forces to victory without so much bloodshed, don't blame Haig out of context for his part of the war, you wouldn't likely do any better.

  10. Good episode!

    Douglas Haig was a cavalry officer. That prejudiced his view of combat operations. He constantly sought an opportunity for cavalry to deliver a decisive blow, even when that opportunity did not exist.

  11. As of ten p.m. October fifth one crazy person has disliked this video. As of 10:05 pm this person has been identified and placed on Interpol's watch list.

  12. Indy! The Astros are back in the post season with the pitching and hitting to go ALL THE WAY! If Houston makes it to the World Series will you do an episode of OOTT where you show off that SIC old school Astro tat on your shoulder? Go STROS!!!

  13. Another YEAR of the war ahead. Holy shit, yeah you get a nice perspective watching it in real time. It's not just a page in a book

  14. I'm exhausted following this for 3 years, imagine how hard it was on the people actually fighting in trenches.

  15. I don't remember how deep you all have gone into food of different nation's. But what might be fun is a in the field special where you all try cooking front line food and letting us know how they made it more palatable.

    I'm a baker and listen to this every week wile I'm working at night. Thank-you. I look forward to it every week.

  16. IF THERE WAS A NOBEL PRIZE FOR BEST DOCUMENTARIES YOU GUYS SHOULD WIN IT HANDS DOWN! NO ONE COMES CLOSE TO INDY, FLO AND THE REST OF THE CREW!

  17. After the success at Broodseinde, I think the next week is going to be a walk in the park for our New Zealand boys at the front.

  18. Can you do a bio special episode about Tom Barry at some point? He first fought in mesopotamian campaign for the british, then after the war joined the republican struggle in ireland as commander of the 3rd west cork flying column
    Would be class if you done an episode about him, thanks

  19. In other words Plumer had finally figered out who to whittle away the Germans, was making it work-at least better tha nayone else had, and the haig stepped in a f'ed it all up.

  20. Did General Haig wake up every morning thinking, "We didn't breakthrough yesterday, but today for sure we'll scatter the Germans! We only need to throw more men at the enemy machine guns!!"

  21. This has to be arguably one of the greatest channels on Youtube. Sadly were it not for my disability I would gladly make a financial contribution. Thanks to the team for their great effort and best of luck to you all!

  22. so basically LoA was a terrorist murdering civilians, but because he worked for the british, he is still considered a hero?

    History really is written by the victors, hm?

  23. Indi casually mentions a German-Ottoman plan for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Was there such a plan by the Germans and Ottomans to have a semi-autonomous or autonomous Jewish state within the Ottoman Empire? Are there any documents that say the Germans and Ottomans had such a plan for a Jewish state?

  24. Will a episode on the British Jewish Legion be coming up, soon? Here's some sources: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_Legion & https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/2017/08/how-a-jewish-legion-came-to-fight-for-the-united-kingdom-in-world-war-i/.

  25. I stumbled across a list of your videos in order. I watched as far as #218. But now I can't get the list past #200. Suggestions?

  26. So people get mad at the Germans for sinking ships with civilians but no one talks about railway sabotage, hypocrisy

  27. I just caught up with this entire series after starting a month or two ago. It's really quite incredible, to see the war play out week by week as if by the view of the citizens watching it unfold. So many swings and giant victories or defeats, and then every time you bring up that map you realize nothing much changed as to who held what. It must have been harrowing to be a young man growing up and knowing you were about to enter the draft, after spending years watching nothing happen but body counts rising.

    It's strange to be forced to ask "How could nobody do anything to stop this?" and "Who would be insane enough to get involved in this?" at the same time.

  28. David Ben Gurion the future Israeli leader had an interesting story. At first he was pro-Ottoman and tried to raise forces to fight for the empire. Then when the British issued the Balfour Declaration he switched to a pro-British position and served that empire.

  29. Sun Yat Sun could not have been arrested by the Manchu government on September 30 of 1917 as the revolution has already been won in 1911.

  30. I know there's a lot of criticism about Haig, but honestly, sometimes the difference between victory and defeat simply hinges upon the fact the commander actually believes it's possible, and expects it to happen at every opportunity.

    Julius Caesar was much the same way. He simply expected to win, and somehow did it.

  31. Was the entire war on the Western Front just a diversion for Haig's cavalry, according to the Chief of Staff himself?

  32. You talk a bit too much of Lawrence of arabia. The fact that he wrote a book doesn't means there where a bunch of others British and French important officiers in those revolts.

  33. My great uncle died at the Battle of Broodseinde, 4th October, 1917. He fought in the 10th British Corps – he was in the 2nd battalion Seaforth Highlanders. He was born and lived in Derby, England. He was buried at Tyne Cot. I have seen his name on the panels there. He had no children so it feels like it is up to me to remember him.

  34. Can you provide some more information about the German-Ottoman meeting concerning a Jewish state in Palestine. I cant find any information on the subject.

  35. Far from home, a man with a mission
    In the heat of the glistening sun
    In the heart of ancient tradition
    This man's journey has only begun

    Lead the charge
    A raider has entered the battlefield

    Sabotage
    The game is about to unfold

    As the darkness falls and Arabia calls
    One man spreads his wings, as the battle begins
    May the land lay claim on to Lawrence name
    Seven pillars of wisdom lights the flame

    A revolt to gain independence
    Hide and seek, hunters hot on their trail
    Joined their ranks, obtained their acceptance
    Side by side raid the Ottoman rail

    Lead the charge
    Tafilah, Medina, Damascus calls

    Sabotage
    Demolish the bridges to dust

    As the darkness falls and Arabia calls
    One man spreads his wings, as the battle begins
    May the land lay claim on to Lawrence name
    Seven pillars of wisdom lights the flame

    After the war has been won, deception or treason?
    Who can tell?
    Who stood to gain?
    Who stood to lose?
    Who did the dying?

    Betrayal of trust from within or compelled?
    The pillars of wisdom can tell
    Back home where a new life awaits, whispers of past
    The sands of Arabia calling

    As the darkness falls and Arabia calls
    One man spreads his wings, as the battle begins
    May the land lay claim on to Lawrence name
    Seven pillars of wisdom lights the flame

    As the darkness falls and Arabia calls
    One man spreads his wings, as the battle begins
    May the land lay claim on to Lawrence's name
    Seven pillars of wisdom lights the flame

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