Practice English Speaking&Listening with: A Slice of The Pie - Splitting Up The Middle East I THE GREAT WAR Week 34

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How do you make sure your ally really fights with you and wont turn against you at some point?

What if they have a completely alien culture? An alien religion; an alien everything.

Well, if you cant force them to help, you offer them something they cant resist.

The Entente forces in 1915 were well aware of that, and thats why Britain offered

Russia the prize of prizes.

Im Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War.

Last week we took a look at the typhus epidemic that was ravaged Serbia and preventing foreign

attacks. The Austro-Hungarian army was fighting the Russians high in the Carpathian Mountains

but going nowhere at a terrible cost in men, further north the Germans were regrouping

to attack Russia in Poland, and in the west the British had tried and failed to break

through the German lines at Neuve Chappelle.

The French had been busy with their Champagne Offensive, a continuous series of battle that

began before last Christmas. Now, on March 17th it ends, not with a bang but with a whimper.

The Champagne Offensive was the first allied offensive since the Battles of Ypres and the

Yser last fall, and it highlighted changing strategies. French General Joseph Joffre had

been pursuing a policy of concentrated attacks against tactical and strategic targets, but

the British Battle at Neuve Chappelle highlighted what was now Britainsgrab and hold

philosophy, to bite off a chunk of territory in a wider attack with longer and heavier

artillery barrages, and then hold it against counter attack. But so far neither of these

modes of attack has yet been effective, as after nearly three months of the Champagne

Offensive, the stalemate in the trenches continues. French losses for the winter are estimated

at 400,000 casualties.

But the allies had high hopes for breaking the deadlock elsewhere in Europe; specifically

the Eastern Mediterranean.

On March 18th, what was intended to be a turning point in the war happened, as British and

French naval forces tried to force the Dardanelles. First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill

expected his ships to quickly push right through the straits of the Dardanelles into the Sea

of Marmara, and then cause total panic in the Ottoman Capital Istanbul when a whole

bunch of foreign warships suddenly appeared off the coast, that panic including the evacuation

of all troops to the Asian side of the city. The British planned on using ships alone to achieve this.

Foreign Secretary Edward Grey even told the War Council that he believed that the naval

success achieved at the Dardanelles might result in a coup in Istanbul, and a new government

would bring back Ottoman neutrality once again. Other ministers thought the victory would

persuade Greece, Romania, or Bulgaria to join the entente. Once through to the Black Sea,

the Royal and French navies could link up with their Russian counterpart for an assault

up the Danube into Austria-Hungary. This was suddenly the most obvious strategy to winning

the war to everybody.

And then there were the spoils: Secretary of State for war Lord Kitchener wanted Britain

to annex Aleppo and Alexandretta- Alexandretta especially had a large Christian population

and was a major Ottoman rail center. The Admiralty wanted to annex the whole Euphrates River

Valley all the way down to Basra to prevent the Russians getting a foot, or a ship, into the Persian Gulf.

And in return, when the Ottomans were defeated, Russia would get Armenia, the Bosporus, and

the Turkish capital itself, Istanbul. Greece, if she joined the war, would get Smyrna. Italy,

if she helped out, would get Adana in the south. France would receive Syria and part of Lebanon.

So everybody supported the Dardanelles invasion for a variety of selfish reasons, but you

know, they all actually depended on SUCCESS. Which the naval attack the 18th nearly was!

In hours, the forts covering the minefields in the Sea of Marmara and the mines themselves

were swept out of action!

The fleet advanced, and there were only 9 lines of mines remaining, all identified and

all ready for sweeping, between the fleet and the Fort of Chanak at the narrows. However,

one more line- a single line of 20 mines- had been laid by a Turkish steamboat ten days

earlier, and this changed everything. Three of the ten allied battleships were sunk, the

British Irresistible and Ocean and the French Bouvet. Another one was beached and yet another

put out of action. The attack was a failure.

Churchill wanted to continue the attack the following day, but bad weather postponed it,

and when heads had cooled, the senior British personnel decided it would be best to put

the army ashore in future and attack the remaining forts from the rear.

You know whats funny? To prevent Russia from having Istanbul, the British had gone

to war in 1854- the Crimean War- and in 1878 had sent a fleet through the Dardanelles to

again warn off the Russians, and now, if a British attack were successful, Russia would

take the great prize.

Russia was trying for another prize this week, actually, the fortress of Przemysl, which

shed had under siege for four months now, in which an Austro-Hungarian army, 120,000

strong, held out far behind enemy lines.

Over the past six weeks, Franz Josefs Imperial army had launched two offensives against the

Russians with a major objective being to break the siege. On March 14th, the second offensive

ground to a halt. The Russian numerical superiority had begun to tell- in the first half of March

the Austrian Second Army had suffered over 50,000 casualties out of fewer than 150,000

men. The main cause of the losses, to put it bluntly, was human sacrifice. Thats

the only way to describe it. Human sacrifice. Because the majority of the Austrian losses

came from direct frontal attacks against strong Russian defenses and with no artillery support.

But you know, it was really tragedy upon tragedy, and most of the time even transporting wounded

soldiers to the rear was an exercise in futility because even the lightly wounded often froze to death.

So the Second Offensive failed, and indeed a day later, the Russians actually broke the

Austrian center near Smolink, but the question still had to be asked, what of Przemysl? Well,

the garrison there was at the end of its tether, so on March 16th, Austrian army Chief of Staff

Conrad von Hotzendorf launched a THIRD Carpathian Offensive, and on March 19th, the army trapped

in Przemysl, whod been living off of horse meat and bread fillers for months, attempted to break out.

This attempt was a huge and very bloody failure. There had actually been no realistic chance

for its success, but it had been ordered by telegram by Conrad to protect thehonor

of the Austro-Hungarian army. It later developed that Russian code breakers had cracked the

Austrian codes and knew all about the breakout attempt in advance.

Things were actually looking pretty good for Russia all week long, even in the far north

where, at the beginning of the week, the Germans had launched a new offensive near Przasnysz.

But on the 12th and 13th, the Russians stopped them handily and then mounted a counter offensive

the 15th. For the next week the battle raged, and with no fewer than 46 assaults, until

the Germans were pushed back from their objective of cutting the railway between Warsaw and Petrograd.

Okay, when I was researching this episode I found a mention on a Wikipedia page that

said the Russians at that battle were the first ever to break a defensive line with

an armored division. I cant find it again though, and it was Wikipedia anyhow, and

I havent found it anywhere else, but if any of you have any info on this, please let us

know. It would be very interesting if it were true.

And at the end of the week, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps were training hard

in Egypt for future deployment at the Dardanelles. Their supply boxes, their orders, their papers...

everything was stamped A&N, Z.A.C., and thus the nickname Anzac for their armed forces

stuck and eventually was immortalized. Also this week the German cruiserDresden

was sunk; it was the final remnant of the German East Asia Squadron.

And there we stand, an end of an era with the German pacific navy destroyed and the

Champagne Offensive over, the beginning of an era as the entente tries to break through

the Dardanelles, and continued Austrian desperation in the Carpathians.

I was going to talk about Russia and the possibility of gaining control of Istanbul and the entrance

to the Black Sea, but Im not going to. Im going to use this time make a brief

mention of the historian Sir Martin Gilbert, who passed away February 3, 2015. 100 years

in the future. Gilbert was a historian of both world wars and was the official biographer

of Winston Churchill, but it was his work on the First World War, specifically his book

of that name (hold up book) that was a major inspiration for and influence on this channel.

Thank you Martin, this show wouldnt exist without you; rest in peace.

If you guys have interesting sources, stories and suggestions for us, you can share them

with us at any time. Were always looking for inspiration for Biographies and Special episodes

So check out our special on Trench Warfare right here.

You can also head over to our subreddit, where you can find amazing answers to historical questions

not only by me and the team, but also from other fans. Thanks a lot for that.

See you next week.

The Description of A Slice of The Pie - Splitting Up The Middle East I THE GREAT WAR Week 34