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The British Surrender At Kut – Germany Restricts The U-Boats I THE GREAT WAR – Week 93

The British Surrender At Kut – Germany Restricts The U-Boats  I THE GREAT WAR – Week 93

For over 140 days they’ve stood out, but
now they can no longer. This week the British and Indian army at Kut surrenders to the Ottoman
Empire. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week saw naval action off the English
coast though the European fronts were mostly quiet because of rains and floods, but in
the Middle East the British position had become desperate, as neither British nor Russian
relief could not make it through. And since it’s the big news this week, let’s
go there first. On April 29th, 1916, General Charles Townshend
surrendered at Kut Al-Amara to the Ottoman Empire. Historian James Morris called this,
“the most abject capitulation in Britain’s military history.” And when you think about
it, more men surrendered here than did to the Americans at Yorktown, so this was a huge
victory for the Turks, and since it came only a few months after the British debacle at
Gallipoli, the British public was shocked. The men had been under siege since early December
and starvation and disease were now epidemic, and photos from this month are horrifying.
2,500 sick and wounded men were allowed their freedom in exchange for a similar number of
Ottoman troops in British captivity, but over 3,000 British and 6,000 Indians were taken
prisoners. The next day the newly captured troops began their long march toward Anatolia
and prison camp. So the Mesopotamian Front grew quiet for the
time being, but another front flared to life this week, the Italian Front. Now, the Italian forces that were massing
along the Isonzo River were larger and better armed than they had been in 1915, and Italian
army Chief of Staff Luigi Cadorna gave responsibility for a future offensive against Gorizia to
the Third Army and beefed it up by transferring General Luigi Capello and his VI Corps in
from the Second Army. Capello was given a major role in the planned offensive; he was
to take Mt. Sabotino, Oslavia, and Podgora to open up the way across the Isonzo and take
Gorizia. Capello had promoted Pietro Badoglio to Colonel. Badoglio would later be commander
of the Italian army in World War Two, and now in 1916 he showed his worth by analyzing
the problems likely to face VI Corps. His planning began with both infantry and air
patrols to reconnoiter Austro-Hungarian defensive positions, and he really studied each element
of the earlier battles to try to anticipate Austrian Commander Svetozar Borojevic von
Bojna’s overall response to Italian actions. He reorganized his artillery so each group
had specific targets, something really missing in the last battle in March, and he improved
communication between artillery and infantry, AND he created a mobile response force of
18 cavalry and 4 bicycle squadrons. Those squadrons and fresh regiments would follow
the fighting infantry units into battle, since in earlier battles once troops reached their
first objectives they were often too exhausted to exploit success or resist counter-attack,
so this would hopefully tackle that problem. On May the 4th, the Italian army made a diversionary
attack on the southern Corso. This was supposed to fool Borojevic into believing it would
be the main force of the future offensive so that he would hopefully transfer troops
south from Gorizia. The attack began with a four-hour artillery barrage and then four
divisions quickly captured the first line of Austro-Hungarian trenches. Borojevic argued
with Austrian High Command for immediate reinforcements, but Austrian Army Chief of Staff Conrad von
Hotzendorf wouldn’t oblige, so unfortunately for Cadorna and Capello, no Austrian troops
were transferred from north to south. And further to the Northwest was an attack
that was anything but diversionary. At Verdun, where the endless battle was over
two months old. On May 3rd, 500 German heavy guns opened fire on a front about a mile wide.
The bombardment continued for two days and nights. Alistair Horne writes that the men
on the ground thought that “as if to finish us off the Germans had decided to point one
cannon at each one of us.” This was the big German attempt on Cote 304, a major strategic
target, and General von Gallwitz had vowed to blast the French off the hillside. It seemed
that he was succeeding, because there were no deep shelters left after all the weeks
of bombardment. Horne writes, “One French officer describes how he was buried three
times that day in his trench, and dug out each time by his men. Others were less fortunate.
Of one battalion, only three men were said to have survived; many of the remainder were
simply buried alive by the shells. One by one the French machine guns were destroyed.
For over two days no food or supplies could be got through to the defenders, nor any wounded
evacuated. Reinforcements fortunate enough to arrive got lost in the chaos atop the ridge…
it was impossible to move. Orders had pushed up men on top of men and set up a living wall
against the monstrous German avalanche.” The Germans finally got a foothold on the
summit, but it was three more days of close combat before Cote 304 was finally theirs.
The German conquerors immediately demanded double rations of cigars to mask the smell
of the corpses. Indeed, the Germans had the smell of the dead in their bread and water;
the earth surrounding them was so packed with dead bodies that it permeated everything. But the capture of Cote 304 was the first
break in the French Line of Resistance and the stage was set for a big attack on the
Mort Homme. It would come soon. And something else happened in early May in
Eastern France. On May 1st, James Gerard, American Ambassador
to Germany, protested directly to the Kaiser himself at Charleville, German army headquarters,
about the continuing policy of German subs sinking merchant ships. The Kaiser took the
opportunity to rail against the British blockade and American compliance with it. Gerard pressed
the Kaiser to have the subs exercise “the right of visit and search, but must not torpedo
or sink any vessels unless the passengers and crew are put in a place of safety.” On the 4th came the official reply. Germany
will no longer sink vessels without warning and without saving life unless there is resistance
or an attempt to escape. This was the Sussex Pledge, named after the passenger torpedoed
by the Germans in March. While Gerard was happy to receive the pledge, he wrote to the
U.S. State Department that he believed Germany would “at some future date, forced by public
opinion, and by von Tirpitz and the Conservative parties, take up ruthless submarine war again,
possibly in the autumn, but at any rate about February or March, 1917.” Thing is, there was a split between the German
military, which was all for lack of restrictions, and Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg, who represented
the civilian government. He made pledges and the navy disregarded them, and the Kaiser
was either unwilling or unable to really support the Chancellor, but with Admiral von Tirpitz’s
sudden retirement, things seemed to swing toward the Chancellor. One thing you have
to realize, under German censorship the U-boat campaign was reported in only boastful terms,
with little or nothing about non-combatant and civilian deaths, so the German people
were uniform in demanding its continuation. Something else the German people probably
didn’t hear too much about was this: April 30th saw the third German gas attack
against the British in four days on the Western Front. This was on a front over 3 kilometers
wide, but a wind blew the gas this day over 10k behind the British lines. Rats, cows,
and pigs all fell in droves. soldiers died and over 500 incapacitated. And we reach the end of another week of war,
the 93rd, with poison gas in the west, the Italians launching a diversion, the Germans
taking a vital tactical position at Verdun, and a British humiliation in Mesopotamia. And it was a big one, but a well-deserved
one. What did they expect? They had marched up river, undermanned, under-equipped, with
no supply chain against forces with modern weapons like machine guns that could easily
be supplied from their base at Baghdad. What did they expect? Historian Geoffrey Eton wrote
of the men being marched away, “none of them fit to march 5 miles… full of dysentery,
beriberi, scurvy, malaria, and enteritis; they had no doctors, no medical stores, and
no transport.” They would also be treated with extreme brutality by their captors and
2/3 of the British and nearly a third of the Indians would never see their homes again.
What did they expect? This was Modern War. The Siege of Kut was the longest siege of
the entire war. Another long siege happened on the Eastern Front in the fortress of Przemysl
and if you want to find out more about that, click right here. Our Patreon supporter of the week is ThatAustrian
– and no, that’s not Hötzendorfs ghost, at least I hope so. Anway, support us making
this show and hopefully you can meet us on original WW1 locations in the future. Don’t forget to subscribe. See you next

Reader Comments

  1. Hey guys awesome show! You guys may wanna pair up with EA and Dice they recently released Battlefield 1 which is set in WW1 and they are the most beautiful looking WW1 game so far. You may wanna talk to them to fund you guys in return of promoting their game. Just a suggestion. Once again big fan of your show always look forward to next episode!

  2. a little bit out there, but will you review the Battlefield 1 trailer due to it being based is an alternate history WW1?


    Not sure how well it will actually correlate with history but this seems like a perfect match for a marketing campaign with this channel and the producers of Battlefield

  4. this channel is going to grow so much especially with the announcement of the new Battlefield game

  5. for out of the trenches, can you guys discuss some of the special gear some of the soldiers had like the snipers mask, body armor and ect.

  6. The detail of information in these videos always blows me away. You guys strike a perfect balance between giving the details, but not getting bogged down in irrelevant bits.

  7. Hey Indiana! What do you think of the Battlefield 1 game?! Check it out and give me your thoughts on it?

  8. I have a question. Will you do a video on Michael Alexandrovich of Russia? I have been developing an alternate history scenario for a roleplay and to me it seems very feasible that if he stepped in after the failed Kerensky Offensive and gotten Russia out of the war. That Russia would transform into a constiutional Monarchy. (I'd actual like to pick your brain on this if at all possible, i've made a map of the world on the aftermath of this alternative WW1 and i'd like to know your thoughts.)

  9. "that austrian"… looking at what Hötzendorf was "capable" of it might very well be his ghost strongly supporting you

  10. Some of the names of places are strangely prophetic like Mort-Homme at 6min00 which means Dead-Man !!

  11. Capello looks like a penguin. Also, holy crap, Hotzendorf's incompetence actually BENEFITED the Austro-Hungarians for a change!

  12. It is sad that the Battlefield 1 game looks nothing like WW1. If you want a WW1 MOD… Try BF1918 for BF1942. That is actually really good.

  13. Well, now you've done it. I typically read one book a month about aviation in the First World War. Now you've spurred me to read a second book on non-aviation matters.

    I have been reading about the Zimmermann telegram. One source said the British could read the German diplomatic cypher 13040 because they had captured a codebook in the Mesopotamian campaign. What I cannot find is when they captured the codebook. Did Townshend's forces capture the book? Or did General Maude's? Either way it is an important repercussion.

  14. there must be a typo in the video at 0:54 about the The siege of Yorktown being in 1862. thats of course not true.

  15. More than 20 years later, in February 1942, the most embarassing capitulation of British forces happened in Singapore.

  16. There was despair 100 years ago and there is despair 100 years later. 100 years ago the British surrender at Kut. 100 years later I finally caught up with the channel. Oh the agony, now I have to wait every week to watch Indy and hear of WW1 history.

  17. Australian troops where the shock troops of the british Empire When will you truely cover us…Im putting my money in Patreon just to heaR THIS

  18. There was in fact a siege at Yorktown in 1862 but it did not involve the british.  McClellan's Army of the Potomac's 120,000 man army besieged McGruder's 10,000 man army there from April 5 to May 4 1862.  The rebels slipped away the night of the 4th the day before a planned massive bombardment and Little Mac pronounced the siege a brilliant success….but that is for another channel.

  19. Wow, I am absolutely amazed. You probably won't read this, but I am astonished by the depth at which you search these stories. The added letters and photos make it so fascinating and makes it come alive. It gives me a new perspective on the first world war and on how to create content. This is probably some of the best content I've ever seen. I will happily watch and try to contribute on patreon when I can.

  20. "Siege of Yorktown (1862)?!" 1862?! That would be in the middle of the US Civil War! The Surrender at Yorktown was in the late 1700s! Downvoted for such an obvious and clumsy error.

  21. Dear Indy

    This my first post on this site. I have been watching for awhile. This site is informative, sometimes funny and often in need of some better historical research. You might want to ask some questions on the following sites:

    The great war forum a general WW I site everthing you want to know about uboats everything you want to know about WW I vehicals WW I aviation

  22. Thanks to the Great War team, they are doing a great job! But hey, Indy, I believe that the Austro-Hungarian commander's name is Svetozar Boroevic von BOJNA, not von BONJA… Sorry for beeing a nit-picker, but for us Slaves von Bonja just does not feel right…

  23. LOL! Can't believe that Hötzendorf actually did something useful at once. By the way, in the Romanian language, "hotz" literarily means "thief", so the name sounds funny.

  24. Indy, any reason why no forces decided to drop gas bombs in high volume over an area, say near the food/water/medical supplies?

  25. Hotzendorf is like those cartoon characters that pick up a penny and avoid a snipers bullet this episode.

  26. Just a heads up, you've got the year for Yorktown wrong. It was 1781 near the end of the Revolution. 1862 was the second year of the Civil War.

  27. America was at war for nearly 100 years before the British finally surrendered at Yorktown!  Being born in the US, I was unaware of that.  Thanks for your excellent factual research Indy.

  28. You're right about the year but wrong about the nations involved. In 1862 General George McClellan sent the northern army on what was called the Peninsula campaign. There was a battle fought near Yorktown but it did not involve the capture of any southern troops. Instead the confederates fell back north on the Peninsula in a planned withdrawal to stall the northern armies advance.

  29. I wonder what state you'd be in if you drank a shot every time Indy mentioned Przemysl or Conrad Von Hotzendorf, didn't think to mention what would happen if the Hotz made the right decision! Drink two shots, it won't happen again.

  30. 3:47 Did he just… did.. did we just witness Hotzendorf make.. a good strategic decision… Hell must be on the eastern front in December because it had just frozen over.

  31. >…the Siege of Kut ends with the biggest surrender of British forces in history.

    Are you mean "to date"? 80,000 Commonwealth troops surrendered to Imperial Japan in Feb. 1942.

  32. Oops, typo at 0:54: the siege of Yorktown where the Brits surrender to the Americans was in 1781. There was another siege of Yorktown in 1862 during the American civil war, but no Brit troops were involved then. Keep it up guys!

  33. What was a worst crime, the Germans sinking passenger ships or the U.S and Britain using passenger ships to transport war material?

  34. Know I'm late to the game, but your videos are better than anything else on TV nowadays. I'd contribute financially if I could spare it. I hope you keep doing well

  35. Is crazy to think that many places in europe people could not dig for years later without worrying about hitting a corpse.

  36. just wanted to add that I'm pretty sure cote with that accent over the e is pronounced coh-tay. been loving the series, thanks for all the effort you and your team put in.

  37. What do you mean by British and Indian army, what do you mean there were British and Indian soldiers or just Indian soldiers led by British officers

  38. I think I see a pattern when I notice that whenever the British surrenders, it is actually a smart move and leads them to winning and yet the public there considers it the worthy of Seppuku.
    Thank God for Townsend, at least there were some Indian survivors to tell the story because of him.
    Now, I know they all died, what a waste of life for people who don't have anything to do with the conflict!!

  39. want to see what happened to some of the weapons captured from the british by the turks?

  40. In Singapore early 1942 British Commonwealth forces of 120,000 men surrendered to Imperial Japanese Army of 40,000.

  41. During US Civilian War some 30-40% of both Union and Confederate soldiers deserted. It has been said that Confederate deserters were the core of invented Ku-Klux-Klan.

  42. 1:30 — were MADE prisoners, or taken prisoner; for that matter, "this tragIC war" … I can't take it anymore, I have to say something … plz move back to the States for a while to refresh the ol' English conventions … then again, it's falling apart everywhere. That's why I have to teach English to foreigners, I'm happy when they get something right.

  43. Were there any atrocities or controversial acts committed by Allies that compare to Germany USW or shooting Belgiun civilians? I dont want to be ignorant and think only the Central Powers committ atrocities.

  44. I just heard from "that austrian", and I can confirm that it is in fact the ghost of konrad von hotzendorf.

  45. No wonder Peter Englund, historian and former head of the Swedish academy wrote that in verdun people contracted tetanus easy in Verdun even in the 1990s

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