King George V and the Great War
King George V - Inspecting American Ship At Liverpool - 1917
1. George V and the House of Windsor
George v. was forty-five years old when he became king. A second son, he was an active naval officer until his brother's death in 1892 put him in the direct line of succession. He was known as a good sailor, a great traveler, and an excellent speaker.
He threw himself conscientiously into the discharge of the delicate duties of his position, and showed courage in speaking his mind. In 1893 he married his second cousin, Princess Mary of Teck, a great-granddaughter of George III.
Though daughter of a German father, she was born and brought up in England. Thus, for the first time since the Tudors, both king and queen were thoroughly British in sympathy and education.
This was emphasized after the outbreak of the German war, when king George repudiated all foreign titles, and desired that his dynasty should be known as the House of Windsor.
2. The Crown, The Dominions, and India
The new king appreciated the importance of the crown as a link between the various portions of the Empire, which were tending to drift in different directions as they severally worked on their own destinies. His uncle, the duke of Connaught, who had already been sent to South Africa to open the first Union Parliament, was appointed Governor-General of the Dominion of Canada.
In the winter of 1911-1912 the king- and queen went to India, being the first British reigning- sovereigns to visit the greatest of their dominions. They held a magnificent Durbar at Delhi, at which the king announced the transference of the seat of government of India from Calcutta to Delhi, the old capital of the Mogul Empire.
Many schemes for the improvement of the government and the development of the resources of India were suggested, and in 1917 a considerable advance in the direction of Indian self-government was promised. The loyalty of India during four years of war, and the large share taken by Indian troops in the campaigns, gave reasons for making such changes as early as practicable.
Meanwhile the self-governing colonies were all developing their own resources. Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa set an example to the mother country by schemes for organizing national defense The problems of the relations of the Dominions to the Empire, though much discussed, were never seriously faced.
3. The Second Election of 1910
Between 1910-1914 Parliament was hotly engaged in the old party warfare, though it found some leisure to deal with problems more deeply affecting the heart of society. The great fact for the politicians was the impending conflict between Lords and Commons.
To avoid this, an attempt was made to bring' about an understanding' between the two houses by a conference of party leaders of both sides. On the failure of the effort, the government appealed to the country, seeking a clear mandate from the electors to destroy the veto of the House of Lords.
The parliament, elected in January, 1910, was dissolved in November, and another general election was held in December; but the balance of parties in the new house was the same as in the old one.
The number of Liberal and Unionist members was exactly equal, so that the ministry, as in the earlier parliament, could maintain its majority only when it could secure Irish Nationalist and Labour support. It was accordingly with weakened authority that it began in 1911 to put its proposals into practice.
4. The Veto Act, 1911
A Parliament Bill was laid before the Commons in February, 1911. The Lords' absolute power to stop all legislation was to be changed into a suspensory veto.
The Lords were neither to reject nor amend a money bill; any other bill, if passed by the Commons in three consecutive sessions, was to become law, irrespective of the action of the Lords; the duration of a Parliament was to be out down from seven years to five, so that only measures passed by a young House of Commons could be pushed through, over the heads of the Lords, without an appeal to the people.
To meet complaints that no proposals were made as to the reconstitution of the upper chamber, the Prime Minister pledged the government to bring forward a scheme for this within the lifetime of parliament. Insisting, however, that the Parliament Bill must be got through as a first step, he carried it in the Commons.
The Lords' attempts to amend the bill were firmly resisted, and as the Lords dared not persist, it became law by August. A measure was also carried to pay each member of the House of Commons £400 a year for his services. Other government measures, including the budget, had to be postponed to an autumn session.
5. National Insurance Act, 1911
In this autumn session Lloyd George finally passed his National Insurance scheme. This plan secured that all workers with an income below a certain level should be provided with an allowance, in the event of their sickness or unemployment, out of funds to which the insured person, his employer, and the State alike contributed.
This was the first of a series of measures designed to make life more tolerable to the mass of the population, and to mitigate the harshness of the industrial struggle for existence. Unrest, culminating in a series of strikes, shewed that there was widespread dissatisfaction with existing conditions. The most serious of the labour troubles was a great strike of colliers in the spring of 1912.
6. Home Rule, Welsh Disestablishment, and Parliamentary Reform, 1912
In 1912 also Parliament sat most of the year. The government proposed to set up Home Rule for Ireland, to disestablish and disendow the Welsh Church, and to widen the electoral franchise. Its Irish scheme took a different shape from the provisions of the Home Rule bills of 1886 and 1893.
Ireland was to have a parliament of two chambers, a House of Commons, and a small nominated senate : but the Irish parliament was only gradually to take over its full powers, and was not to make laws concerning the crown, the army and navy, or foreign policy.
There was also to be an Irish executive, responsible to the local parliament. Forty-two Irish members were still to sit at Westminster, with powers equal to those of Great Britain's representatives.
The bill produced acrimonious debates, and the Irish Unionist members, led by Sir Edward Carson, openly threatened resistance in the event of it becoming law. The measure was, however, slowly pushed through the Commons, only to be rejected by the Lords.
The Welsh Church Bill, also passed by the Commons, had the same fate. The New Reform Bill proposed that no man should have more than one vote, that residence or occupation should be the sole qualification of a voter and that the cumbrous registration law should be simplified.
There was, however, no proposal to rearrange the constituencies or to give votes to women, despite strong agitation, both inside and outside parliament, in favor of the latter step.
An amendment for giving women votes was ruled inadmissible by the Speaker. Thereupon Asquith withdrew the whole bill. He promised to give facilities next year for the discussion of a measure for women's suffrage.
7. The Session of 1913
Unfruitful debates prolonged the 1912 session till February 1913, and, after a few days' interval, the new session began. The Home Rule and the Welsh Church bills were again sent up by the Commons and again rejected by the Lords.
The same fate overtook a bill abolishing plural voting, while leaving untouched the other anomalies of the electoral system. A "Women's Suffrage bill, brought forward by private members, failed to pass the Commons, the Prime Minister being in the forefront of the opposition to it.
8. Ulster and Home Rule, 1913-1914
The government had not improved its position either in parliament or in the country. Even its more broadly conceived measures, such as the Insurance Act, were difficult to carry out, and required amending and supplementing before they worked well.
he Prime Minister was vigorously attacked by the friends of Women's Suffrage, who thought that he had interpreted his pledge in too lawyer-like a fashion. Adverse bye-elections slowly undermined the Liberal majority, and increased the reluctance of the ministers to appeal to the country.
The worst trouble before them seemed to be the disturbed state of Ireland, brought about by the fact that, under the Parliament Act, the Home Rule Bill would automatically become law by the end of the session.
Headed by Carson, the Ulster Protestant party took a solemn covenant to resist Home Rule by force. It drilled and armed a large force of Ulster Volunteers to defend Protestant Ulster. The Nationalists naturally followed the example, and levied a host of National Volunteers to enforce Home Rule.
Ireland was divided into two armed camps, each professing to prepare to fight the other. The Irish government, barely controlled by the weak Irish Secretary, proved incompetent either to comprehend or to restrain the fierce passions which its proposals had excited.
9. Home Rule and the Ulster Covenant 1914
In this tense atmosphere the session of 1914 opened. The government once more brought forward its old measures, but, as a concession to Ulster, it allowed any county, or county borough, to exclude itself by popular vote from the Home Rule Act for six years.
Carson offered to consider permanent exclusion, but ministers refused to move any farther. Rumors spread of a projected concentration of troops to enforce Home Rule on Ulster. Thereupon some highly placed army officers, stationed in Ireland, sent in their resignation.
The result was a ministerial crisis, involving the resignation of the minister of war and of Sir John French, chief of the staff. The trouble was patched up only by the Prime Minister himself undertaking the charge of the War Office.
Nevertheless the Home Rule Bill was still pressed through the House, Asquith maintaining that concession to Ulster must take the shape of a subsequent amending act. But his Amending Bill was only produced because the Lords refused to discuss the Home Rule Bill until this was done.
It proved to be the old offer of six years' exclusion to any counties voting for such a course. The Lords then amended the Home Rule Bill before them by excluding all Ulster from its operation.
The danger of war with Germany now led the king to summon a conference of all parties to Buckingham Palace, but nothing resulted from this. After war broke out, the Government dropped the Amending Bill, and thus forced the Lords to reject outright the Home Rule Bill.
When the Welsh Church Bill was again sent up to the Lords, it was once more thrown out. As union against the German peril made it undesirable that these two fiercely opposed measures should become law at the end of the session under the Parliament Act, a Suspensory Act postponed their operation until after the war.
10. Origin of the Great War
King George V in Uniform c 1920
The greatest war in history was the result of the claim of Germany to dominate the world and the inevitable resistance which such a pretension excited. Visions of an Empire, transcending the power of a Louis xiv. or a Napoleon, had long dazzled the eyes of William II., the German Emperor, and the German military class.
The merchants and manufacturers, intoxicated by their increasing success in commerce and industry, shared in the illusion of their rulers. For more than forty years Germany's claims had divided Europe into hostile camps. Each continental nation was armed to the teeth; every accidental dispute became dangerous because it might provoke an internecine conflict.
On the one side stood the Triple Alliance of the Central Powers, Germany, Austria and Italy, which latter state was, however, becoming conscious that she was dragged in the wake of her mighty allies without any regard to her own special interests. Opposed to the Triple Alliance stood the Dual Alliance of Russia and France.
Alone of the great European powers, Britain did her best to keep free from the trammels of the rival leagues. Even after necessity had forced her to shew strong sympathy for the Dual Alliance, she hoped still to live on friendly terms with Germany, and made no attempt to rival the armaments of the continental powers.
Her politicians turned a deaf ear to the warnings of the veteran Lord Roberts that only general national service could prepare her for a great war. Haldane, who, as war minister, had done more than any other man for army reform, declared that enough had been accomplished to meet any eventuality.
Thus Britain blinded herself to the increasing arrogance of German claims. If war was avoided for so long, it was mainly because Germany was well content with the success of her policy of " peaceful penetration," supplemented upon occasion by threats, which generally resulted in her obtaining what she wanted.
11. Continental Troubles 1911-1913
Between 1911 and 1913 three new troubles shewed that the armed peace was not likely to last much longer. The first of these was in Morocco, where there was war between the French and the disorderly government of that kingdom.
In 1911 the German Emperor sent the gunboat Panther to the port of Agadir, thus revealing his desire to interfere between France and Morocco. The Anglo-French agreement had laid down that Morocco was within the French sphere of influence; Britain now declared that she was prepared to support France against German attack.
The Kaiser withdrew the Panther, and accepted a treaty which left France undisturbed in Morocco. It was a great triumph for the entente cordiale, but it left bad blood behind it.
12. The Turkish Revolution 1909
A second trouble was even more disturbing to Germany, because it foreshadowed the breakdown of the Triple Alliance by the secession of Italy, and opened up once more the eternal Eastern question, which had been comparatively quiet since the powers had put an end to the Greece-Turkish War of 1897.
There had been many disputes among the Christian states, between which the greater part of the Balkan peninsula had been divided since 1878. These became the more dangerous since Turkey went through a domestic revolution in 1909.
By this the Sultan, who had so cruelly oppressed the Armenians, was overthrown, and a new government set up, controlled by the Young Turks, who boasted that they would revive the Turkish power by introducing western methods of democracy and liberty.
They sought and obtained support in Germany, and prepared to reorganize the Turkish army under German advisers. But the Christian subjects of Turkey, finding the rule of the Young Turks as oppressive as that of the old Sultans, rose up in revolt, especially in Macedonia.
The Christian rebels included Greeks, Serbs, and Bulgars, but the kingdoms of Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria were prevented by their jealousies of each other from rendering effective aid to them. For a time the Macedonian troubles were thrown into the background by the war which broke out between 1911 and 1912 between Italy and Turkey.
To the disgust of Germany and Austria, Italy imposed a peace upon the Turks by which Tripoli and many islands in the Eastern Ægean remained in her hands.
13. The Balkan League 1912 and its Dissolution 1913
Worse for Germany was now to come, for the conclusion of the peace between Italy and Turkey was followed by the serious renewal of the Balkan troubles.
The easy defeat of the Turks encouraged the Balkan peoples to make up their feuds, and in 1912 all, except Romania, joined in the Balkan League, concluded through the wise statesmanship of the Greek Prime Minister, Venizelos.
In 1912 the league took up arms against the Turks, and drove them out of Macedonia. Behind the Balkan League was the unconcealed support of Russia, and the sympathy of the Western powers.
But its success imperiled Germany's schemes of using her Turkish tools to establish her influence in Western Asia, and to threaten the British power in Egypt and India.
The league even more directly attacked Austria, because the expansion of Serbia blocked her path to Salonica, and exposed her to the danger of Serbia becoming the champion of the Southern Slavs of Croatia and Bosnia.
By the help of the German princes, who reigned over most of the Balkan States, Germany and Austria broke up the Balkan League. Their task was the easier since Greece and Serbia were quarreling with Bulgaria over the division of the Turkish spoils.
Bulgaria now went to war against her rivals, whereupon Turkey resumed hostilities against her. But Romania, hitherto neutral, joined in the attack on Bulgaria, which was soon forced to disgorge many of her conquests. The intervention of the powers forced an unsatisfactory peace on the Balkans in September, 1913.
By it Turkey in Europe was reduced to the districts between Adrianople and Constantinople, and the Balkan States, to which Albania was added, received large accessions of territory.
But Austria annexed Bosnia, and stopped Serbia from access to the sea. Moreover, Bulgaria secretly joined hands with the Central Powers, and, like Turkey, courted their support to re-establish her position at the expense of the Serbs.
14. The Crime of Sarajevo and Its Consequences, June-August 1914
A great change now took place in German policy. There had long been an active German war party, but hitherto it had been kept in some check by the Emperor. But the threatened withdrawal of Italy from his alliance and the inability of the Central Powers to stop the increase of Serbian territories convinced him that the time was come when Germany must fight.
If this was to be done, the sooner the war began the better, since Germany was ready, and her rivals, despite their elaborate preparations, were neither willing nor able to bring their forces rapidly into the field.
An accidental calamity soon gave the pretext to fire the train which set the world ablaze. In June, 1914, as the archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, was driving through the streets of Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, he was assassinated by a Serb fanatic.
Austria accused Serbia of complicity in the crime, and demanded her unconditional submission. Serbia yielded nearly all that was asked, but in her terror appealed to Russia, the natural protector of Slavonic peoples in distress.
Russia answered by setting her army on a war footing, whereupon Austria began hostilities against Serbia. Germany, which knew and approved of Austria's action, ordered Russia to demobilize under threat of immediate war.
On Russia's refusal, Germany and Austria declared war against her. Thereupon France, as bound by treaty, took up arms in defense of her eastern ally. Thus a general European war became inevitable.
15. Britain Joins the War - August 4, 1914
The only question still open "was what Britain was to do. In order to prevent the war, Sir Edward Grey proposed to refer all disputes to a European conference; but the Central Powers contemptuously rejected his suggestion.
Germany persuaded herself that Britain was too conscious of her military weakness, too much wedded to the doctrine of peace at any price, and too fearful of civil war in. Ireland to venture to draw the sword.
Yet she hated and feared Britain even more than her continental enemies, knowing that Britain's sea-power stood between her and the schemes of maritime and colonial expansion which were dearer to Germany than much wedded to the doctrine of peace at any price, and too fearful of civil war in. Ireland to venture to draw the sword.
Yet she hated and feared Britain even more than her continental enemies, knowing that Britain's sea-power stood between her and the schemes of maritime and colonial expansion which were dearer to Germany than even continental ascendancy.
In her eagerness to make the war short and decisive, she wantonly provoked British hostility by demanding from Belgium a passage for her troops through Belgian territory in order that she might strike at France on her unprotected northern frontier.
The neutrality of Belgium had been solemnly proclaimed by all the powers after her independence had first been established, and Britain was known to lay special stress upon its maintenance. But Britain was roughly told that treaties were but " scraps of paper," and that Germany was resolved to take the shortest road to victory.
This gross contempt for public law silenced the last hesitation on Britain's part. Impelled by interest and honor to support France and Russia from wanton attack, she was doubly bound to stand forth as the protector of a weak state like Belgium, and to vindicate the sanctity of international law against the doctrine that might makes right.
On August 4 she went to war against the Central Powers. Great levies of men and vast grants of money were made. Kitchener was appointed war minister; all the available forces, amounting to about 150,000 men, were sent over the Channel under Sir John French. The navy, under Admiral Jellicoe, was already prepared to convoy the expeditionary force and uphold British supremacy on the seas against the new German navy.
16. The Invasion of France, August 1914
The early course of the war went almost as the Germans had expected. The little Belgian army was overwhelmed, and a huge German force marched through conquered Belgium into France. By this time British troops were joining with the French, but it was impossible for the northern army of the allies to hold its own against the overwhelming numbers of the invaders.
Defeated at first between Mons and Charleroi, and later on the line between Cambrai and Le Cateau, the Anglo-French army was driven back into the heart of France. The Germans crossed the Maine and threatened Paris.
17. The Battles of the Marne and of the Aisne
The French government fled to Bordeaux. A fresh army, assembled to defend Paris, held the line of the Ourcq, a northern tributary of the Marne. It thus stood on the right flank of the advancing Germans. But the Germans, despising" their enemies, pushed on southwards. Thereupon the French, with wise daring, fell fiercely on their flank.
Meanwhile, the beaten armies of France and England made a wonderful recovery. Between 6 and 10 Sept. Paris was saved by the battle of the Marne. The Germans were beaten back from the Marne to the Aisne, where they dug themselves in so effectively that the allies were brought to a standstill.
After a fortnight of hard fighting, called the battle of the Aisne, the French and English also entrenched themselves opposite the Germans.
18. The Battle of Ypres, October-November 1914
With rare insight Kitchener foretold three years of war, and set doggedly to work to create a British army that could play its fair share in the defense of the freedom of Europe. The danger, however, though less immediate, was still imminent.
A desperate attempt to save Antwerp by a hastily levied British force failed lamentably, and all Belgium fell into the Germans' hands, save a little scrap of south-western Flanders, in the midst of which was the historic town of Ypres.
To preserve this fragment, French's army was skilfully transferred from its first position on the Aisne to the northern sector, where it joined hands with what was left of the troops who had failed at Antwerp.
The Germans desperately tried to break* through their thin lines in the first battle of Ypres between October 20 and November 11. But the British, though forced back, did not yield before the sevenfold odds brought against them. Thereupon both sides settled down to the monotony of winter trench warfare.
19. The Western Field of Battle, 1914-1917
The positions taken up by the rival armies in November, 1914, remained substantially the same until the summer of 1918. The allied line ran from the North Sea near Nieuport, along the Yser, and bending just east of Ypres, crossed the Lys near Armentderes and continued southwards, west of Lille, to the eastern suburbs of Arras, and thence by Albert on the An ere, to the Somme.
A few miles to the south, it bent eastwards to the Oise, and thence along the Aisne and the Vesle to Reims, whence the trenches stretched to the borders of Lorraine, and then, bending southwards again, almost followed the frontier up to the Swiss border.
The Belgians held the trenches along the Yser; the British stretched from the Yser to near Arras, and when her new levies were ready, took over more of the line until, within two years, their posts extended to the Somme. The rest of the front was defended by the French.
20. The Period of Trench Warfare 1914-1917
Along the 400 miles between the sea and the Jura constant engagements raged, involving the loss of myriads of lives but in no substantial way affecting the balance of fortune.
The allies held on, hoping that time would enable them to bring their full forces to the fight. The Germans, though not anticipating a war of positions, showed great skill in adapting themselves to its requirements. Their interest was still to quicken the pace.
By concentrating huge masses of troops on weak places of the enemy's line, they strove to force their way through. But none of these attempts had any real measure of success. In the second battle of Ypres (22 April-13 May, 1915) they narrowed down the British salient, but could not capture Ypres, much less fight their way to Calais.
In the battle of Verdun (Feb.-April, 1916) they advanced almost to the walls of the hardly beset fortress city of the Meuse, but were at last brought to a standstill, and soon to yield ground before fierce French counter-attacks. The allies were not more fortunate in their attempts to beat back the Germans.
The French advances involved huge sacrifice of life. The British attempts to break the lines that blocked the approach to Lille were almost as costly. The unbounded hopes, excited by such local successes as the capture of Neuve Chapelle (10 March, 1915), were soon shown to be vain.
The most important offensive in which British and French shared was that called the battle of the Somme, which began in July, 1916, and continued for the rest of the year. The winter-struggle which succeeded it, called the battle of the Ancre (18 November to 11 March, 1917), carried the allies to the gates of Bapaume and Peronne. It was the first offensive that seriously contracted the enemy's line.
Yet neither French nor British were ready for a great advance. The British were at a special disadvantage by reason of weak numbers, insufficient munitions, and sometimes bad staff-work as well. But the allies accomplished at least as much as their enemies.
21. The Campaigns Against Russia 1914-1917
There was also fighting* on a vast scale in Eastern Europe between the Central Powers and Russia. The Russians began well by two invasions of East Prussia, but the Germans found a Saviour in General Hindenburg, who drove the enemy back into his own territories.
Hindenburg then fought his way through Russian Poland into Lithuania and the Baltic Provinces. There were even greater changes of fortune in the struggle between the Austrians and the southern armies of Russia. The Austrians failed to overrun the little Serbian Kingdom and to defend Galicia from invasion.
By April, 1915, the Russians were on the crest of the Carpathians, threatening the rich Hungarian plain. But Germany came to the help of her ally, and General Mackensen's victory on the Dunajec, in May, 1915, completely changed the situation. Galicia was rapidly recovered and the Austro-German eastern front was soon pushed forwards from the Romanian frontier to the Baltic near Riga, leaving a great extent of Russian territory in their possession.
There were still ebbs and flows in the tide of eastern warfare up to the summer of 1916, when a notable Russian advance at the expense of the Austrians was made. But Hindenburg now threw such strong forces on to the eastern front that the ill-armed, ill-equipped Russian armies fled rapidly before him.
Ignorance, incompetence and treachery had sapped the resources of the great Russian Empire, and the Tsar, Nicholas II., was powerless to set things right. It was in vain that Romania, after long hesitation, came to Russia's assistance.
Thereupon Bulgaria, which had already joined Turkey in declaring for the Central Powers, helped Austria to crush Serbia, and fell upon Romania from the south. Before long Mackensen overran Wallachia and forced Romania to accept a dictated peace.
Meanwhile in March, 1917, the unhappy Tsar was driven from his throne. But the Russian revolution did not establish a strong government. Attempts at constitutional monarchy and a socialist republic proved failures, and power was usurped by a gang of bloodthirsty fanatics called Bolsheviks, who reduced Russia to anarchy.
Long before they made a disgraceful betrayal of their country and its allies in the treaty of Brest-Litovsh (3 March, 1918), German influence had been established over Russia, and her troops were free to join hands with their comrades in the west. Luckily the seething confusion that prevailed after the treaty prevented the Central Powers from enjoying the fruits of their victory.
22. The Dardanelles Failure 1915
A third field of war was opened up when Turkey joined the Central Powers. Her threats against the Suez Canal forced Britain to collect an army in Egypt to safeguard the means of access to India.
The khedive of Egypt, who upheld the Turkish cause, was deposed by the British, who declared Egypt a protectorate free from Turkish suzerainty, and set up as its sultan a loyal member of the khedive's house.
A bold design was now conceived of striking at the heart of Turkey by seizing the Dardanelles. But the plan was badly executed. A futile naval demonstration in February and March, 1915, showed the continued truth of the old doctrine that ships were powerless against land-forts.
The attack also gave the Turks ample warning to prepare for the army that only reached the Dardanelles late in April. The new force was conspicuous for the large proportion of Australian, New Zealand, and British "territorial" troops which it included.
Their successful landing amidst the greatest difficulties shewed that these inexperienced citizen soldiers were well worthy to fight side by side with the old army. Unluckily the initial success of the landing was not followed up. The Turkish lines cooped up the allied force into the narrow peninsula which separates the Dardanelles from the northern Ægean.
Constantly exposed to shell-fire, suffering cruelly at each gallant attempt to drive the Turks farther back, insufficient in number for their terrific task, and inadequately directed by their higher command, they more than held their own from April to December.
But, in October, Bulgaria's entry into the war enabled Germany to send officers and munitions to stiffen the Turkish resistance. The Greek king, Constantine, a brother-in-law of William II., dismissed Venizelos, who had hoped to send Greek troops to co-operate with the allies, and henceforth did all that he dared to help the Germans. At last the Dardanelles expedition was safely and ably withdrawn.
23. The War in Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Macedonia
The Turks were attacked in other quarters. Russia conquered from them a great part of Armenia, and an expedition, mainly provided by India, sailed up the Persian Gulf, occupied Basra, and by November, 1915, marched within twenty miles of Baghdad. But it was too small and ill equipped for so great an enterprise.
Finally, the advanced section was besieged at Kut-el-Amara. The efforts to relieve it were badly conducted, and on 29 April, 1916, the defenders of Kut became Turkish prisoners.
The double disaster on the Dardanelles and in Mesopotamia reduced British reputation to a low ebb in the East. Nor was any fresh credit won by the occupation of Salonica by a mixed army of the allies. The Salonica force came too late to save Serbia, and was reduced to helplessness by the treachery of the Greek king.
24. The War Between Italy and Austria 1916-1917
A fresh gleam of hope came in May, 1916, when Italy, which had, by remaining- neutral in 1914, broken away from the Triple Alliance, joined the war. After that the Italians slowly fought their way over the Austrian frontier towards Trent and Trieste, the chief towns of thai " unredeemed Italy " which they hoped to conquer.
25. The Supremacy of the Seas
Of vital moment to Britain was the struggle on the seas. At first the Germans wrought much havoc upon allied merchant ships, raided the English coast, and won a pitched battle over a weak British squadron off the coast of Chile. But before long British naval supremacy decisively asserted itself.
The mighty fleet, which Germany had equipped to challenge the British sovereignty of the seas, was shut up in the well-protected area of the North German coast, of which Heligoland was the outpost.
Its only serious attempt to break out was rudely checked by admirals Jellicoe and Beatty, whose victory in the battle off Jutland on 31 May, 1916, put an end to the war between Dreadnoughts for which both nations were prepared.
26. The War in the Dominions
A first result of British supremacy at sea was the conquest of the German colonies by the British dominions and their allies. While Japan captured the German strongholds in China, Australia and New Zealand laid hands on those in the Pacific, and British South Africa and India supplied the main force that expelled the Germans from Africa.
German, East Africa resisted the longest, but was finally subdued by a force commanded by General Smuts, who, like Botha, the South African Prime Minister, had fought against Britain in the Boer War.
German attempts to stir up rebellion in India, South Africa, and elsewhere failed lamentably, and only strengthened the ties which bound together the British dominions.
The large armies sent to fight in Europe and the East by Canada, which established compulsory service, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa shewed, equally with the great military efforts of India in nearly every field of the war, the solidarity of the British Empire.
27. The Submarine Peril
Worsted on the sea and in the colonies, Germany launched new blows against Britain. The submarine and the mine made a chief triumph was in her discovery of the aggressive use of the submarine against merchant ships, through which she struck a more dangerous blow against British command of the seas than ever Napoleon had done.
The British islands she declared to be blockaded, and all ships faring thither became liable to be blown up by torpedoes or gunfire from unseen enemies. A new fashion of naval warfare had to be devised to counteract the German power under the seas which made nugatory British control over their surface, and for the first time in history made Britain vulnerable despite her insular position.
One result of German policy was the gradual alienation of the neutral powers, and in particular of the United States, which strongly resented such crimes as the sinking the great Cunard liner the Lusitania (7 May, 1915) and the consequent loss of over a thousand innocent passengers and sailors, both British and American.
The most eminent victim of the new warfare at sea was Kitchener, who perished on his way to Russia, the cruiser on which he was sailing being destroyed, probably by a mine, on a stormy night off the Orkneys.
28. The German Policy of Ruthlessness
The wholesale destruction of non-combatants, both enemies and neutrals, was, however, part of the deliberate policy of ruthlessness by which Germany believed she would terrorize the world into submission.
Other phases of the same brutality included the imprisonment of British subjects found in Germany at the outbreak of war, the ill-treatment of both civilian and military prisoners, and the sending of great air-ships called Zeppelins, and later of aeroplanes, to drop bombs at random on British cities.
None of these things, though adding immensely to human suffering and increasing the sum of material losses, had any real effect in altering the fortunes of war. The only serious menace was that of the submarine, which destroyed a large proportion both of British and of neutral merchant shipping, and brought Britain within measurable distance of famine.
Happily Britain could effectively retaliate by stopping all German sea-borne trade. As time went on, she devised measures of protection which made the submarine war very perilous to the German sailors engaged in it.
Moreover the need of fighting the submarine made every merchant ship and seaman in effect a naval combatant. Just as the landsman fought on shore, so did every seafarer fight on the ocean in the national struggle.
29. The Asquith National Ministry, June 1915
After three years of world warfare, it looked as if it were impossible for either side to secure a real decision. The deadlock in the west and the disasters in the east made men anxious whether all that was possible was being done to bring about victory.
These doubts resulted in two successive reconstructions of the ministry which, though working vigorously, and in some ways successfully, had not always risen to the occasion. The first reconstruction was in June, 1915, when a " National Ministry " was formed in which the politicians of various parties took office under Asquith.
Bonar Law, a Glasgow merchant, who had been Conservative leader since Balfour's resignation of that post in 1911, became Secretary for the Colonies, and Balfour himself First Lord of the Admiralty. Boom was also found for several of the Labour Leaders.
At the same time a Ministry of Munitions was established under Lloyd George, whose efforts soon put an end to the lack of shells, which had stayed our early offensive. Equipment was thus provided for our rapidly increasing armies.
30. The Dublin Rebellion, Easter 1916
The new ministry did not work much better than its predecessor. It had less unity: its cabinet was even larger, and therefore more incapable of directing war policy, and it suffered from the lack of responsible criticism, as there was no longer a strong opposition.
The progress of the war continued to be unsatisfactory, and Lord Kitchener, though doing a great work in creating a vast new army, was less successful as head of a great political department.
The millions of soldiers required for the war could not be acquired by voluntary enlistment, and the ministry carried, in January 1916, an act authorizing compulsory service for Great Britain, but excluding Ireland from the Act, in deference to Irish Nationalist opinion.
But the extreme school of Irish Nationalists, called the Sinn Feiners, repudiated Redmond's leadership, and declared for an Irish Republic. German intriguers strove to stir up a rebellion, and Sinn Fein played into their hands. On Easter Monday, 1916, there was fierce fighting in the streets of Dublin, where the Sinn Feiners were only put down after grievous bloodshed.
31. Lloyd George Becomes the National Leader
After Kitchener's tragic death, Lloyd George became War Minister. He had already shown gifts of imagination, leadership, and insight that gave him a foremost position among his colleagues and a still greater hold over a public opinion, increasingly impatient of half measures and failures.
Lloyd George soon convinced himself that the methods of Government that had grown up in peace time were ill adapted for a struggle for existence. In Dec., 1916, he offered the alternative of extensive changes or his retirement. Thereupon Asquith resigned and many official Liberals withdrew with him.
32. The Lloyd George Coalition Ministry, December 1916
Lloyd George became Prime Minister of a comprehensive Coalition, united by the intent to win the war. The conduct of the war was entrusted to a special war cabinet of five, which, it was hoped, would act with the necessary unity and promptitude, while the heads of the great departments were left free to devote themselves to their particular business.
Special features of the new government were its creation of new departments to supply war needs, such as controllerships of shipping and food supply, and its inclusion of ministers who had hitherto taken no part in political life.
33. The Organization of the Nation for War
A great change was soon brought about by the new ministry. A new spirit was given to the conduct of the war when the headquarters general staff, destroyed by Kitchener, who sent all its chiefs to France, was reconstituted.
Jellicoe was called from the Grand Fleet to do a similar work for the Navy, leaving his command at sea to Admiral Beatty. Energetic steps were taken to grapple with the submarine peril, the supply of food, and the replacing of the lost merchantmen by new tonnage.
It was found necessary for the state to control the supply of bread, meat, coal, wool, fats, and many other articles in universal use. The crucial problem of the supply of labour was seriously grappled with, and power was taken to settle compulsorily trade disputes.
The State enormously widened its powers, and in so doing necessarily made many bad mistakes. But this was the inevitable penalty of our unpreparedness. and, despite much friction, the new system of the subordination of the individual to the needs of society worked sufficiently well to make easier the continued progress of the war.
To end the war by an honorable peace was still a far-away hope; but the spirit in which the nation, with rare exceptions, rose to the emergency destroyed every craven fear of defeat and every wish for a patched-up peace. Thus the greatest crisis of British history was met by exertions worthy of the times.
34. Successes and Failures in the West 1917
Under these changed conditions, the allies approached the campaign of 1917 with renewed hopes. At first all seemed to go well. The Somme offensive of 1916 had hit the enemy so hard that in March, 1917, he voluntarily withdrew his troops eastwards, staying his retreat on the line between Cambrai and Saint - Quentin, where Hindenburg, called from the east to conquer the west, fortified the elaborate Hindenburg line which was believed to be impregnable.
There was progress too in Artois, whose in April the commanding Vimy ridge was captured, and in Flanders, where the Ypres salient was widened by General Plumer's army storming the Messines ridge in June. Again at Verdun and in Champagne the French made slow but decided progress.
These were greater successes than the allies had ever won, but they were still too weak to follow them up. A sharp check on the renewed British offensive happened in November, after our arms had penetrated to Cambrai.
Horrified at their losses, the French resolved not to repeat the offensive on a large scale. Worst of all, the Italians received an unexpected check. In October the Austro-Germans broke through the Italian line at Caporetto and overran the Venetian plain as far as the Piave.
But the Italians, helped by British and French troops, made a gallant recovery and the Austro-German advance was stayed.
35. The Eastern Victories of 1917
In the west the war of 1917 began well and ended badly; in the east it begun badly and ended well. Russia made her last vain efforts and slowly drifted out of the war.
However, in Greece King, Constantino's treachery was punished in June by his deposition and Venizelos as the minister of his successor, reconstituted the Greek army and put it at the disposal of the allies.
Yet the collapse of Romania set free large German and Bulgarian troops, and the allied Macedonian force was reduced to inaction. But the army, long kept idle in Egypt, was transferred to the Palestine frontier, where at first natural difficulties, and sluggish leadership, made its progress slow.
In October a fresh spirit was put into the army by its new commander, General Allenby, who defeated the Turks between Gaza and Beersheba. In Mesopotamia a new general, Sir Stanley Maude, avenged the capitulation of Kut by recapturing the scene of the Turkish triumph. On 15 March he penetrated to Baghdad.
36. America Joins the War 1917
Most important of all the events of 1917 was the addition of the United States to our allies. From 1 Feb. onwards the Germans declared an "unrestricted submarine campaign," by which all shipping, trading with any of the allied nations, was to be sunk at sight.
This policy was intensely resented by the Americans, already aggrieved by the loss of many American ships and seamen and by the plots of the Austrian and German embassies at Washington. It required gross blundering on the Germans' part to force America to abandon her long tradition of abstention from European politics.
The American President, Woodrow Wilson, wisely allowed matters to move slowly, so that when the Germans had filled up the cup of their offenses, it was at the head of a united nation that, on 6 April, 1917, he declared war. Like Britain, America set to work, with extraordinary success, to make a great army.
The submarine menace was shown to be illusory when hundreds of thousands of American soldiers were safely convoyed across the Atlantic. The adhesion of America was much more than a compensation for the collapse of Russia.
It was the more valuable since America joined the war, as her President said, "to make the world safe for democracy." It was more clear than ever that the war was a fight of freedom and right against autocracy and might.
37. The Great German Offensive, March-May 1918
The beginning of 1918 saw the allies weakened by their recent offensive and the Germans strengthened by fresh troops and cannon from the east. The Germans' game was now, as in 1914, to strike hard and quickly before the Americans arrived in force.
The first step of a general German offensive began on 21st March, when the thin line of the fifth British army, between the Sensee and Saint-Quentin was broken through.
In a few days the Germans were back in the old battlefields on the Somme and Anere, and pushed their advance to within a few miles of Amiens, so that there was danger of their working down the Somme to the sea, and cutting off the British from the French.
This serious blow was followed by others. Though the British front at Arras stood firm, the Germans farther north nearly drove a wedge between the British in Flanders and their army in Artois. Against the French the Germans advanced down the Oise nearly to Compiegne. Finally, a successful offensive farther east brought them from the Aisne to beyond the Marne. It was a crisis, almost as acute as that of Sept., 1914.
38. The Unity of Command
It was well that the resisting power of France was still great, while that of Britain had been multiplied tenfold. All the threatened armies made a surprising recovery. In their offensive the Germans had abandoned the indecisive war of trenches, but the allies soon learn to meet their new tactics and to improve upon them.
The allied soldiers had never failed in courage and hopefulness; the real difficulty was that each army had acted as a separate unit, and that there had been no single directive mind to plan and order the whole campaign.
At this crisis Lloyd George once more shewed rare insight and leadership. He insisted that a single general should be appointed to co-ordinate and direct the whole of the allied armies.
Undaunted by the resignation of both the Chief of the British General Staff and the British War Minister, he persevered until he gained his point. Marshal Foch was chosen as the generalissimo of all the British and French armies, the British Commander, Sir Douglas Haig, who had succeeded French, loyally falling in with the new situation.
For the first time a concerted plan of campaign was executed to meet the German attack. The Germans made no more progress. Amiens was saved and Paris preserved from danger. Meanwhile the armies were strengthened and reorganized; and hundreds of thousands of fresh Americans took up their posts beside their war-worn allies.
39. Foch Turns the Western Tide, July-September 1918
Foch bided his time, but by the middle of July he began his counter-offensive, and the whole situation changed as if by magic. Swinging blows were dealt against the enemy, now on one part of the line, then on another.
Over-strained by their great effort of the spring, the Germans had few fresh resources to meet the new danger. They still fought magnificently, but their own new methods were bettered and turned against them.
The first stage of Foch's campaign was the second battle of the Marne, fought under similar conditions to those of the first Marne battle of 1914. The two sides of the German salient towards the Marne were attacked with such success that by the end of July the French were back on the Aisne.
Meanwhile the French moved slowly up the Oise, while between Ypres and the Somme the British fought their way eastwards with almost uniform success. In August the pace was quickened, and it became more rapid with each succeeding month. By the end of September the line of 1917 was more than restored.
40. The Submission of Turkey and Bulgaria 1918
Meanwhile there was even more rapid progress in the East. In Mesopotamia Maude died in the midst of his triumphs; but his successor, General Marshall, pushed northwards towards Mosul. In Palestine Alienor, a born cavalry leader, out-maneuvered the Turks by rapid sweeps of his great force of Indian, Colonial, and Yeomanry horse.
After occupying Jerusalem, he advanced to Damascus and Beirut, and on 26 October he completed the conquest of Syria by seizing Aleppo, cutting thus the railway line that fed the Turks in Mesopotamia. Most surprising of all, the Macedonian army broke its long spell of inaction, and drove a wedge through the Bulgarian-German armies so successfully that on 29 September Bulgaria made an unconditional surrender.
This completed the isolation of Turkey, already severely tried by the loss of Syria and Mesopotamia. After the delays inevitable from Turkish indecision and procrastination, the Sultan made his complete submission, and obtained from the allies a cessation of hostilities, dating from 1 November. "With the collapse of Bulgaria and Turkey the eastern designs of the Central Powers were utterly frustrated.
41. The Submission of Austria
Austria meanwhile had long been struggling against threatened insurrection and extreme exhaustion at home. She now saw Serbia and Montenegro gradually reconquered by the allies, while Albania was overrun by the Italians and the Adriatic ports made useless by the naval activity of her enemies.
Moreover, late in October an Italian advance from the Piave undid the work of October, 1917, and soon won such prodigious success that a mere remnant of the Austro-Hungarian army was driven in panic flight from the Piave into Austrian territory.
Thereupon Slavonic Austria rose in revolt, and even Hungary saw that the game was up. The Austrian government now declared itself eager to accept peace on conditions laid down by the American President.
On 3 November it thankfully accepted an armistice on terms that left unredeemed Italy and Dalmatia in the allies' possession, and made impossible its further participation in the war. Since then the Austro-Hungarian state has dethroned its sovereign and broken up into its natural national elements.
42. The Reconquest of Northern France and Flanders, October 1918
The most important result of the triumph of the allies against Bulgaria, Turkey, and Austria was its decisive effect on the situation in France and Flanders. In October, while the allies were driving their eastern enemies out of the field, their successes in the west became more marvelous than ever.
The much vaunted Hindenburg line, defended with stubborn courage by the Germans, did not keep back for long their victorious progress. During' October the tide of war swept eastwards beyond Cambrai and Saint-Quentin, northwards beyond La Fere and Laon.
The Americans, operating' as an independent force for the first time, destroyed the dangerous German salient of Saint-Mihiel on the Meuse, and then fought their way desperately through the defiles of the Argonne, and down the Meuse valley.
The Belgians, led by their King Albert, began to win back their plundered homes Early in October, the Germans made overtures for an armistice to President Wilson, but were told that they must evacuate all conquered territory, and give evidence that they could be trusted, before negotiations could even begin.
Even this austere answer was not rejected, for Germany clearly approached the end of her resources, and the autocratic Emperor was compelled by German opinion to accept new ministers professing anxiety for peace.
Meanwhile the allied forces moved on from success to success. On one astounding day, 17 October, the Belgians regained Ostend and advanced to the outskirts of Bruges, while the British entered unopposed into Lille and Douai.
By the end of October all West Flanders was conquered, while further south the German occupation of France was reduced to very restricted limits.
43. The Armistice, November 1918
So long as the Germans continued to resist stubbornly, there was little progress in the negotiations. But the collapse of Austria forced the Germans to see that further resistance was useless, so that the strenuous efforts of the military class to rally the nation to defend its threatened frontiers fell flat.
On 9 November German envoys appeared at Foch's headquarters, and transmitted home the conditions on which he would grant an armistice. The German surrender was now hastened by a revolt of the fleet, rising's in the large towns and the flight of William II to Holland.
On November 11, Germany accepted the armistice, and on the last morning of hostilities the British entered Mons, where more than four years earlier they had fired their first shots, and the French and Americans advanced to Sedan.
By the terms imposed by Foch the allies were to hold the line of the Rhine, and Germany was to surrender most of its military stores and fleet. There may still be delay before a formal treaty can be settled, but the armistice shows the certainty of an honorable peace upon terms that will remove from the world the perils of German domination.
44. Home Problems 1916-1918
The strenuous military effort of Britain was the more wonderful since many home problems seemed so pressing that the Lloyd George government felt compelled to deal with them, even at the risk of diverting attention from getting on with the war.
These were the condition of Ireland, the reform of parliament and the establishment on broader lines of a national system of education.
In Ireland, the military government, set up after the Dublin rebellion, maintained order but increased discontent. Bye elections showed that the Nationalist voters were abandoning Ireland and their old leaders in favor of Sinn Fein, and it was Slnn Fein, to little purpose that the "parliamentary party" vied with the Sinn Feiners in their denunciations of the government.
This was especially the case when, after the death of John Redmond, who had supported the war, his place as Nationalist leader went to John Dillon, who refused to help recruiting, and strongly opposed a tardy proposal of the government to extend compulsory service to Ireland.
Under such conditions attempts at conciliation necessarily broke down. An Irish Convention, in which Unionists and Nationalists discussed the possibility of a common policy of Irish reform, produced no result. Meanwhile the party of Dillon, though clamouring for the execution of the Home Rule Act, declared that no conscription was acceptable unless imposed by an Irish Parliament.
This demand involved the repudiation of the Act of 1914, which had reserved national defense to the Westminster parliament. The vacillations of the government, which first proposed and then postponed indefinitely a plan for Irish conscription, only made matters worse. It became clear that the Irish question could only be settled after the peace.
Meanwhile the centralization of all administration in London as a result of war conditions was creating a reaction in favor of some federal scheme for all parts of the United Kingdom, as a result of which some of the more obvious Irish complaints might be remedied.
Beyond that, the magnificent part played by the Dominions beyond the seas in the great war, brought to thoughtful minds a more distinct vision of some Imperial federation by which the various units of the Empire, while each living in perfect freedom, could be brought together by a common machinery to formulate imperial policy and defense
45. The Parliamentary Reform Act of 1918
General agreement made easy the passage of a new Reform Act in 1917. By it a further approach was made towards universal suffrage in three chief directions.
The number of voters was increased, notably by the simplification of registration, the shortening of the qualifying term of residence, by giving votes to all sailors and soldiers, even when on service abroad, and by extending the franchise to all women over thirty years of age, who had the qualifications of male voters or were the wives of voters.
This latter change was yielded by general consent as a recognition of the work done by women for the national defense, though fear of the women outvoting the men led in their case to an illogical postponement of the voting age.
A further approach towards equality of representation was made by depriving towns of under fifty thousand ^habitants of their members, by redistributing the constituencies according to population, a process which largely increased the number of representatives of the great towns and industrial districts.
No voter was allowed to vote for more than two constituencies, and the freehold franchise for counties was abolished. The Irish members were kept at their old number, so that Ireland became more over-represented then ever. All elections were henceforth to be held on the same day, and the first general election under the franchise was subsequently fixed for 14 December, 1918.
46. Education and National Reconstruction 1916-1918
Among the new men brought into politics in 1916 was Herbert Fisher, a University teacher, who was made Minister of Education on the novel ground of his acquaintance with the subject.
The Education Act of 1918, and the administrative reforms attending it, extended the principle of the Act of 1902 by which the counties and county boroughs were made responsible for education within their areas. The full results of the new policy can only be seen after the war.
But an immediately beneficial result followed from the increased sums devoted by the State to education by which teachers' salaries were improved, staffs were strengthened, and schools opened, extended, and better co-ordinated.
Such measures are but one aspect of the general problem of reconstruction after the war, on the right solution of which will depend not only the future of our education, but the necessary social and economic changes which are needed to improve the relations of capital and labour, the housing of the people, and the material and moral well-being of the whole of the empire.
It is only by a vigorous policy of reconstruction that the means can be found to enable the British Empire to face a future which should make the democracy united, happy, prosperous, serious, and free.
Tout, Thomas F. M.A., F.B.A. "Chapter II: George V. and the Great War (1910-1918)" in An Advanced History of Great Britain From the Earliest Times to 1918, Longmans, Green, and Co., New York, 1920, Pages 740-765.