Tag Archives: war

The Battle of the Somme

First World War – “The Killing Fields”

People’s Century was an excellent television series which focused on major events in the Twentieth Century.  In this episode, soldiers from all sides of World War I remember the trenches, the tactics, and the terrible nature and scale of the slaughter that shattered the old world order.  They remember recruitment, machine guns and mustard gas, aerial bombing, the trenches, Battles of Verdun and the Somme, conscientious objectors, military justice, American participation, and armistice.





Arab Revolt

The Battle of Mecca and the start of the Arab Revolt

The Arab Revolt began fully on June 10th 1916 when Grand Sharif Hussein bin Ali, the guardian of the holy city of Mecca, ordered his troops to attack the Ottoman Caliphate’s garrison in the city.

Hussein’s troops, drawn from his tribe, significantly outnumbered the Ottoman soldiers but were considerably less well equipped. Consequently, despite impressive initial gains, Hussein’s troops were unable to win the battle until Egyptian troops sent by the British arrived to provide artillery support.

Through correspondence with Sir Henry McMahon, the British High Commissioner of Egypt at the time, Hussein had become convinced that the Revolt would be rewarded with an independent Arabian empire stretching through the Middle East. The British supported the Revolt as it distracted tens of thousands of Ottoman troops from joining other fronts in the First World War.

Captain T. E. Lawrence, known as Lawrence of Arabia for his involvement in the Revolt, did not join with the Arab forces until October 1916. Although he was just one of many British and French officers who worked closely with the Arabs during the Revolt, newspaper reports of his guerrilla tactics and close relationship with Hussein’s sons Faisal and Abdullah earned him fame.

The Revolt was an enormous success, but the outcome was not what was agreed in the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence. The British and French instead divided the land according to the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement that they had negotiated between themselves in 1916. Hussein was given the Hejaz region in the Arabian Peninsula, but was defeated in 1925 by Ibn Saud.

Arab Revolt

Video – a brief overview of the causes and course of the Arab Revolt in WW1

Lawrence of Arabia and the Arab Revolt

This video has subtitles to aid note-taking.

Battle of the Somme

The end of the Battle of the Somme

On the 18th November 1916, the Battle of the Somme ended when German troops retired from the final large British attack at the Battle of the Ancre amid worsening weather. Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig called a halt to the operation, claiming the Somme offensive to have been successful.

By the end of the battle the Allies had advanced more than 6 miles into German-held territory, and as well as refining their use of aircraft had also introduced the tank for the first time. In his dispatch from the front, Haig stated at the end of the battle that “Verdun had been relieved; the main German forces had been held on the Western front; and the enemy’s strength had been very considerably worn down.” He then went on to say that “any one of these three results is in itself sufficient to justify the Somme battle.”

However, the Somme offensive and its enormous number of casualties that totalled more than a million men on both sides has drawn criticism ever since. For example Lloyd George, a fierce critic of Haig, wrote in his War Diaries that “over 400,000 of our men fell in this bullheaded fight and the slaughter amongst our young officers was appalling.”

German losses were also significant, however, and some historians have since claimed that the battle left Germany unable to replace its casualties like-for-like, which contributed to their ultimate defeat through a war of attrition. However it was to be another two years before the war finally ended, after Germany signed the Armistice of Compiègne on the 11th November 1918.

Towards the end of WW1 (1917-1918)

Events in 1917-18 that brought the First World War to a close: the entry of the USA into the war, the Ludendorff Offensive, and the German naval mutiny of 1918.

The role of women in the First World War

Attack on Port Arthur

What triggered the Russo-Japanese War? Overview of the attack on Port Arthur.

On the 8th February 1904, the Russian-controlled Port Arthur was attack by Japanese torpedos.

Port Arthur was a fortified naval base in the south of Manchuria that had been leased to Russia since 1898. After crushing the Boxer Rebellion as part of an eight-nation coalition, Russia infuriated Japan, which claimed parts of Manchuria within its own sphere of influence, by refusing to remove its troops. Japan was willing to recognise Russian dominance in Manchuria in return for access to Korea, but an agreement could not be reached and Japan broke off diplomatic relations on 6 February 1904.

Three hours before the Russian government received the declaration of war on 8 February, the Japanese Imperial Navy conducted a pre-emptive strike. Japanese Admiral Tōgō sent ten destroyers to Port Arthur where their torpedoes damaged two of the Russian fleet’s most powerful battleships as well as a cruiser. Although none of the ships were sunk due to the effectiveness of torpedo nets in the port, the Russian fleet was seriously weakened as the ships that had been hit were put out of action. The attack was halted at around 2am the following morning after the Russians turned on their searchlights and began to return fire.

At around 8am Admiral Tōgō sent a reconnaissance mission through the morning mist to inspect Port Arthur. With his observers reporting that the Russian fleet had been crippled by the previous night’s attack, the Japanese fleet were ordered to launch an attack on the port. In reality the reconnaissance was wrong and the Russians were prepared for battle. The Battle of Port Arthur resulted in ships on both sides suffering damage before the Japanese fleet retreated.

Causes of the Russian Revolution – The Eastern Front in WW1