The First Battle of Ypres

The First Battle of Ypres (French: Première Bataille des Flandres; German: Erste Flandernschlacht 19 October – 22 November 1914)      

The First Battle of Ypres 

(FrenchPremière Bataille des FlandresGermanErste Flandernschlacht 19 October – 22 November 1914) was a battle of the First World War, fought on the Western Front around Ypres, in West Flanders, Belgium. 

The battle was part of the First Battle of Flanders, in which GermanFrenchBelgian armies and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) fought from Arras in France to Nieuport on the Belgian coast, from 10 October to mid-November. 

The battles at Ypres began at the end of the Race to the Sea, reciprocal attempts by the German and Franco-British armies to advance past the northern flank of their opponents. 

North of Ypres, the fighting continued in the Battle of the Yser (16–31 October), between the German 4th Army, the Belgian army and French marines.

The fighting has been divided into five stages, an encounter battle from 19 to 21 October, the Battle of Langemarck from 21 to 24 October, the battles at La Bassée and Armentières to 2 November, coincident with more Allied attacks at Ypres and the Battle of Gheluvelt (29–31 October), a fourth phase with the last big German offensive, which culminated at the Battle of Nonne Bosschen on 11 November, then local operations which faded out in late November. 

Brigadier-General James Edmonds, the British official historian, wrote in the History of the Great War, that the II Corps battle at La Bassée could be taken as separate but that the battles from Armentières to Messines and Ypres, were better understood as one battle in two parts, an offensive by III Corps and the Cavalry Corps from 12 to 18 October against which the Germans retired and an offensive by the German 6th Army and 4th Army from 19 October to 2 November, which from 30 October, took place mainly north of the Lys, when the battles of Armentières and Messines merged with the Battles of Ypres.

Attacks by the BEF (Field Marshal Sir John French) the Belgians and the French Eighth Army in Belgium made little progress beyond Ypres. 

The German 4th and 6th Armies took small amounts of ground, at great cost to both sides, during the Battle of the Yser and further south at Ypres. 

General Erich von Falkenhayn, head of the Oberste Heeresleitung (OHL, the German General Staff), then tried a limited offensive to capture Ypres and Mont Kemmel, from 19 October to 22 November. 

Neither side had moved forces to Flanders fast enough to obtain a decisive victory and by November both sides were exhausted. 

The armies were short of ammunition, suffering from low morale and some infantry units refused orders. 

The autumn battles in Flanders had become static, attrition operations, unlike the battles of manoeuvre in the summer. 

French, British and Belgian troops in improvised field defences, repulsed German attacks for four weeks. 

From 21 to 23 October, German reservists had made mass attacks at Langemarck, with losses of up to 70 percent, to little effect.

Warfare between mass armies, equipped with the weapons of the Industrial Revolution and its later developments, proved to be indecisive, because field fortifications neutralised many classes of offensive weapon. 

The defensive firepower of artillery and machine guns dominated the battlefield and the ability of the armies to supply themselves and replace casualties prolonged battles for weeks. 

Thirty-four German divisions fought in the Flanders battles, against twelve French, nine British and six Belgian divisions, along with marines and dismounted cavalry. 

Over the winter, Falkenhayn reconsidered Germany strategy because Vernichtungsstrategie and the imposition of a dictated peace on France and Russia had exceeded German resources. 

Falkenhayn devised a new strategy to detach either Russia or France from the Allied coalition through diplomacy as well as military action. 

A strategy of attrition (Ermattungsstrategie) would make the cost of the war too great for the Allies, until one dropped out and made a separate peace.

The remaining belligerents would have to negotiate or face the Germans concentrated on the remaining front, which would be sufficient for Germany to inflict a decisive defeat.

Battle of Hill 70


The Battle of Hill 70

The Battle of Hill 70 took place in the First World War between the Canadian Corps and four divisions of the German 6th Army.

The battle took place along the Western Front on the outskirts of Lens in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France between 15 and 25 August 1917.

The objectives of the assault were to inflict casualties and to draw German troops away from the 3rd Battle of Ypres and to make the German hold on Lens untenable.

The Canadian Corps executed an operation to capture Hill 70 and then establish defensive positions from which combined small-arms and artillery fire, some of which used the new technique of predicted fire, would repel German counter-attacks and inflict as many casualties as possible.

The goals of the Canadian Corps were only partially accomplished; the Germans were prevented from transferring local divisions to the Ypres Salient but failed to draw in troops from other areas.

A later attempt by the Canadian Corps to extend its position into the city of Lens failed but the German and Canadian assessments of the battle concluded that it succeeded in its attrition objective.

The battle was costly for both sides and many casualties were suffered from extensive use of poison gas, including the new German Yellow Cross shell containing the blistering agent sulfur mustard (mustard gas).

The Spanish flu

Spanish Flu Pandemic

The death toll is estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million[ to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in human history.

To maintain morale, World War I censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States.

Newspapers were free to report the epidemic’s effects in neutral Spain, such as the grave illness of King Alfonso XIII, and these stories created a false impression of Spain as especially hard hit.

This gave rise to the name of the Spanish flu.

Historical and epidemiological data are inadequate to identify with certainty the pandemic’s geographic origin, with varying views as to its location.

Most influenza outbreaks disproportionately kill the very young and the very old, with a higher survival rate for those in between, but the Spanish flu pandemic resulted in a higher than expected mortality rate for young adults.

Scientists offer several possible explanations for the high mortality rate of the 1918 influenza pandemic.

Some analyses have shown the virus to be particularly deadly because it triggers a cytokine storm, which ravages the stronger immune system of young adults.

In contrast, a 2007 analysis of medical journals from the period of the pandemic found that the viral infection was no more aggressive than previous influenza strains.

Instead, malnourishment, overcrowded medical camps and hospitals, and poor hygiene promoted bacterial superinfection.

This superinfection killed most of the victims, typically after a somewhat prolonged death bed.

The Spanish flu was the first of two pandemics caused by the H1N1 influenza virus; the second was the swine flu in 2009 followed by the latest Coruna virus in 2020.

HMS Queen Elizabeth

HMS Queen Elizabeth

HMS Queen Elizabeth was the lead ship of her class of dreadnought battleships built for the Royal Navy in the early 1910s and was often used as a flagship.

She served in the First World War as part of the Grand Fleet and participated in the inconclusive Action of 19 August 1916.

Her service during the war generally consisted of routine patrols and training in the North Sea.

She and the other super-dreadnought battleships were the first of their type to be powered by oil instead of coal.

Queen Elizabeth later served in several theatres during the Second World War and was ultimately scrapped in 1948.

The Queen Elizabeth-class ships were designed to form a fast squadron for the fleet that was intended to operate against the leading ships of the opposing battleline.

This required maximum offensive power and a speed several knots faster than any other battleship to allow them to defeat any type of ship.

Queen Elizabeth had a length overall of 643 feet 9 inches (196.2 m), a beam of 90 feet 7 inches (27.6 m) and a deep draught of 33 feet (10.1 m).

She had a normal displacement of 32,590 long tons (33,110 t) and displaced 33,260 long tons (33,794 t) at deep load. 

She was powered by two sets of Brown-Curtis steam turbines, each driving two shafts, using steam from 24 Yarrow boilers.

The turbines were rated at 75,000 shp (56,000 kW) and intended to reach a maximum speed of 24 knots (44.4 km/h; 27.6 mph).

Queen Elizabeth had a range of 5,000 nautical miles (9,260 km; 5,754 mi) at a cruising speed of 12 knots (22.2 km/h; 13.8 mph).

Her crew numbered 1,262 officers and ratings in 1920 while serving as a flagship.

The Queen Elizabeth class was equipped with eight breech-loading (BL) 15-inch (381 mm) Mk I guns in four twin gun turrets, in two super firing pairs fore and aft of the superstructure, designated ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘X’, and ‘Y’ from front to rear.

Queen Elizabeth was the only ship of her class that mounted all sixteen of the designed BL 6-inch (152 mm) Mk XII guns in casemates.

Twelve of these were mounted along the broadside of the vessel amidships and the remaining four were grouped in the stern abreast ‘X’ and ‘Y’ turrets.

These latter guns were quickly found to be too close to the water and were frequently flooded at high speed or heavy seas.

Two were removed and the other pair were shifted to positions on the forecastle deck near the aft funnel, protected by gun shields, in May 1915.

The ships’ anti-aircraft (AA) armament consisted of two quick-firing (QF) 3-inch (76 mm) 20 cwt Mk I[Note 1] guns. She was fitted with four submerged 21 inches (533 mm) torpedo tubes, two on each broadside.

Queen Elizabeth was completed with two fire-control directors fitted with 15-foot (4.6 m) rangefinders. One was mounted above the conning tower, protected by an armoured hood, and the other was in the spotting top above the tripod foremast.

Each turret was also fitted with a 15-foot rangefinder.

The main armament could be controlled by ‘B’ turret as well. The secondary armament was primarily controlled by directors mounted on each side of the compass platform on the foremast once they were fitted in March 1917, although one temporary director was fitted in November–December 1916.

The waterline belt of the Queen Elizabeth class consisted of Krupp cemented armour (KC) that was 13 inches (330 mm) thick over the ships’ vitals.

The gun turrets were protected by 11 to 13 inches (279 to 330 mm) of KC armour and were supported by barbettes 7–10 inches (178–254 mm) thick.

The ships had multiple armoured decks that ranged from 1 to 3 inches (25 to 76 mm) in thickness.

The main conning tower was protected by 13 inches of armour.

After the Battle of Jutland, 1 inch of high-tensile steel was added to the main deck over the magazines and additional anti-flash equipment was added in the magazines

HMS Dreadnought

HMS Dreadnought

HMS Dreadnought was the first dreadnought battleship, a classification to which she gave her name, and was born out of the minds of Vittorio Cuniberti and First Sea Lord Admiral Sir John Fisher and the results of the Russo-Japanese War.

She was the first to use steam turbines, of which Dreadnought had two, from the Parsons company, that supplied four shafts that all told gave the 527-foot (161 m) long warship a revolutionary top speed of 21.6 knots (40.0 km/h; 24.9 mph) in spite of her displacement of 18,120 long tons (18,410 t).

Dreadnought’s primary armament was a suite of ten 45-caliber Mk X 12-inch (300 mm) guns, arranged in such a way that only eight of her main guns could fire a broadside and a secondary armament of ten 50-caliber 12-pounder guns and five 18-inch (460 mm) torpedo tubes.

Her belt armour ranged from 4 inches (102 mm) to 11 inches (279 mm) of Krupp armour.

Dreadnought sparked a naval arms race that soon had all the world’s major powers building new and bigger warships in her image.

Although her concepts would be improved upon for decades, Dreadnought’s construction set an unbeaten record of 15 months for the fastest construction of a battleship ever.

From 1907 until 1911, Dreadnought served as the flagship of the Home Fleet until being replaced by HMS Neptune (1909) in March 1911.

Dreadnought was then assigned to the 1st Division of the Home Fleet and was present at the Fleet Review for the coronation of King George V.

In December 1912, the ship was transferred from the 1st Battle Squadron and became the flagship of the 4th Squadron until 10 December 1914.

While patrolling the North Sea on 18 March 1915, she rammed and sank U-29, becoming the only battleship to have sunk a submarine.

Dreadnought did not participate in the Battle of Jutland as she was undergoing a refit.

Two years later, she resumed her role as flagship of the 4th Squadron, but was moved into the reserve in February 1920 and sold for scrap on 9 May 1921.

She was broken up on 2nd January 1923

Chemical Warefare

Chemical Warfare of World War 1

The use of toxic chemicals as weapons dates back thousands of years, but the first large scale use of chemical weapons was during World War I.

They were primarily used to demoralize, injure, and kill entrenched defenders, against whom the indiscriminate and generally very slow-moving or static nature of gas clouds would be most effective.

The types of weapons employed ranged from disabling chemicals, such as tear gas, to lethal agents like phosgene, chlorine, and mustard gas.

This chemical warfare was a major component of the first global war and the first total war of the 20th century.

The killing capacity of gas was limited, with about ninety thousand fatalities from a total of 1.3 million casualties caused by gas attacks.

Gas was unlike most other weapons of the period because it was possible to develop countermeasures, such as gas masks.

In the later stages of the war, as the use of gas increased, its overall effectiveness diminished.

The widespread use of these agents of chemical warfare, and wartime advances in the composition of high explosives, gave rise to an occasionally expressed view of World War I as “the chemist’s war” and also the era where weapons of mass destruction were created.

The use of poison gas by all major belligerents throughout World War I constituted war crimes as its use violated the 1899 Hague Declaration Concerning Asphyxiating Gases and the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare, which prohibited the use of “poison or poisoned weapons” in warfare.

Widespread horror and public revulsion at the use of gas and its consequences led to far less use of chemical weapons by combatants during World War II

The Christmas Truce

The Christmas Truce of World War 1

The Christmas truce (German: Weihnachtsfrieden; French: Trêve de Noël) was a series of widespread unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front of the First World War around Christmas 1914.

The truce occurred only five months into the war.

Hostilities had lulled as leadership on both sides reconsidered their strategies following the stalemate of the Race to the Sea and the indecisive result of the First Battle of Ypres.

In the week leading up to 25 December, French, German, and Great Britain & Empiresoldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk.

In some areas, men from both sides ventured into no man’s land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs.

There were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps, while several meetings ended in carol-singing. Men played games of football with one another, creating one of the most memorable images of the truce.

Hostilities continued in some sectors, while in others the sides settled on little more than arrangements to recover bodies.

The following year, a few units arranged ceasefires but the truces were not nearly as widespread as in 1914; this was, in part, due to strongly worded orders from the high commands of both sides, prohibiting truces.

Soldiers were no longer amenable to truce by 1916.

The war had become increasingly bitter after heavy human losses suffered during the battles of 1915.

The truces were not unique to the Christmas period and reflected a mood of “live and let live”, where infantry close together would stop overtly aggressive behavior and often engage in small-scale fraternisation, engaging in conversation or bartering for cigarettes.

In some sectors, there were occasional ceasefires to allow soldiers to go between the lines and recover wounded or dead comrades; in others, there was a tacit agreement not to shoot while men rested, exercised, or worked in view of the enemy.

The Christmas truces were particularly significant due to the number of men involved and the level of their participation—even in quiet sectors, dozens of men openly congregating in daylight was remarkable—and are often seen as a symbolic moment of peace and humanity amidst one of the most violent events of human history.

Fraternisation—peaceful and sometimes friendly interactions between opposing forces—was a regular feature in quiet sectors of the Western Front.

In some areas, both sides would refrain from aggressive behavior, while in other cases it extended to the regular conversation or even visits from one trench to another.

On the Eastern Front, Fritz Kreisler reported incidents of spontaneous truces and fraternisation between the Austro-Hungarians and Russians in the first few weeks of the war.

Truces between British and German units can be dated to early November 1914, around the time that the war of maneuver ended.

Rations were brought up to the front line after dusk and soldiers on both sides noted a period of peace while they collected their food.

By 1 December, a British soldier could record a friendly visit from a German sergeant one morning “to see how we were getting on”.

Relations between French and German units were generally tenser but the same phenomenon began to emerge. In early December, a German surgeon recorded a regular half-hourly truce each evening to recover dead soldiers for burial, during which French and German soldiers exchanged newspapers.

This behavior was often challenged by officers; Charles de Gaulle wrote on 7 December of the “lamentable” desire of French infantrymen to leave the enemy in peace, while the commander of 10th Army, Victor d’Urbal, wrote of the “unfortunate consequences” when men “become familiar with their neighbours opposite”.

Other truces could be forced on both sides by bad weather, especially when trench lines flooded and these often lasted after the weather had cleared.

The proximity of trench lines made it easy for soldiers to shout greetings to each other and this may have been the most common method of arranging informal truces in 1914.

Men would frequently exchange news or greetings, helped by a common language; many German soldiers had lived in England, particularly London, and were familiar with the language and society.

Several British soldiers recorded instances of Germans asking about news from the football leagues, while other conversations could be as banal as discussions of the weather or as plaintive as messages for a sweetheart.

One unusual phenomenon that grew in intensity was music; in peaceful sectors, it was not uncommon for units to sing in the evenings, sometimes deliberately with an eye towards entertaining or gently taunting their opposite numbers.

This shaded gently into more festive activity; in early December, Sir Edward Hulse of the Scots Guards wrote that he was planning to organise a concert party for Christmas Day, which would “give the enemy every conceivable form of song in harmony” in response to frequent choruses of Deutschland Über Alles.

Christmas 1914

British and German troops meeting in no man’s land during the unofficial truce (British troops from the Northumberland Hussars, 7th Division, Bridoux–Rouge Banc Sector)

Roughly 100,000 British and German troops were involved in the informal cessations of hostility along the Western Front.

The Germans placed candles on their trenches and on Christmas trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols.
The British responded by singing carols of their own.

The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were excursions across No Man’s Land, where small gifts were exchanged, such as food, tobacco, alcohol, and souvenirs, such as buttons and hats.

The artillery in the region fell silent.

The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently killed soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties.

Joint services were held.

In many sectors, the truce lasted through Christmas night, continuing until New Year’s Day in others.

On Christmas Day, Brigadier-General Walter Congreve, commander of the 18th Infantry Brigade, stationed near Neuve Chapelle, wrote a letter recalling the Germans declared a truce for the day.

One of his men bravely lifted his head above the parapet and others from both sides walked onto no man’s land. Officers and men shook hands and exchanged cigarettes and cigars, one of his captains “smoked a cigar with the best shot in the German army”, the latter no more than 18 years old.

Congreve admitted he was reluctant to witness the truce for fear of German snipers.

Bruce Bairnsfather, who fought throughout the war, wrote

I wouldn’t have missed that unique and weird Christmas Day for anything…

I spotted a German officer, some sort of lieutenant I should think, and being a bit of a collector, I intimated to him that I had taken a fancy to some of his buttons…

I brought out my wire clippers and, with a few deft snips, removed a couple of his buttons and put them in my pocket.

I then gave him two of mine in exchange…

The last I saw was one of my machine gunners, who was a bit of an amateur hairdresser in civil life, cutting the unnaturally long hair of a docile Boche, who was patiently kneeling on the ground whilst the automatic clippers crept up the back of his neck.

Henry Williamson a nineteen-year-old private in the London Rifle Brigade, wrote to his mother on Boxing Day,

Dear Mother, I am writing from the trenches. It is 11 o’clock in the morning.

Beside me is a coke fire, opposite me a ‘dug-out’ (wet) with straw in it.

The ground is sloppy in the actual trench but frozen elsewhere.

In my mouth is a pipe presented by Princess Mary.

In the pipe is tobacco.

Of course, you say.

But wait.

In the pipe is German tobacco. Haha, you say, from a prisoner or found in a captured trench. Oh dear, no! From a German soldier.

Yes, a live German soldier from his own trench.

Yesterday the British & Germans met & shook hands in the Ground between the trenches, & exchanged souvenirs, & shook hands.

Yes, all day Xmas day, & as I write. Marvelous, isn’t it?

Captain Sir Edward Hulse reported how the first interpreter he met from the German lines was from Suffolk and had left his girlfriend and a 3.5 hp motorcycle.

Hulse described a sing-song which “ended up with ‘Auld lang syne’ which we all, English, Scots, Irish, Prussians, Württenbergers, etc, joined in.

It was absolutely astounding, and if I had seen it on a cinematograph film I should have sworn that it was faked!”

Captain Robert Miles, King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, who was attached to the Royal Irish Rifles recalled in an edited letter that was published in the Daily Mail and the Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News in January 1915, following his death in action on 30 December 1914

Friday (Christmas Day).

We are having the most extraordinary Christmas Day imaginable.

A sort of unarranged and quite unauthorized but perfectly understood and scrupulously observed truce exists between us and our friends in front.

The funny thing is it only seems to exist in this part of the battle line – on our right and left we can all hear them firing away as cheerfully as ever.

The thing started last night – a bitterly cold night, with white frost – soon after dusk when the Germans started shouting ‘Merry Christmas, Englishmen’ to us.

Of course, our fellows shouted back, and presently large numbers of both sides had left their trenches, unarmed, and met in the debatable, shot-riddled, no man’s land between the lines.

Here the agreement – all on their own – came to be made that we should not fire at each other until after midnight tonight.

The men were all fraternizing in the middle (we naturally did not allow them too close to our line) and swapped cigarettes and lies in the utmost good fellowship. Not a shot was fired all night.

Of the Germans, he wrote: “They are distinctly bored with the war… In fact, one of them wanted to know what on earth we were doing here fighting them.”

The truce in that sector continued into Boxing Day; he commented about the Germans, “The beggars simply disregard all our warnings to get down from off their parapet, so things are at a deadlock. We can’t shoot them in cold blood… I cannot see how we can get them to return to business.”

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (24 and 25 December) 1914, Alfred Anderson’s unit of the 1st/5th Battalion of the Black Watch has billeted in a farmhouse away from the front line.

In a later interview (2003), Anderson, the last known surviving Scottish veteran of the war, vividly recalled Christmas Day and said

I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence. Only the guards were on duty. We all went outside the farm buildings and just stood listening.

And, of course, thinking of people back home.

All I’d heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking, and whining of bullets in flight, machinegun fire, and distant German voices. But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted ‘Merry Christmas’, even though nobody felt merry.

The silence ended early in the afternoon and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war.

A German lieutenant, Johannes Niemann, wrote “grabbed my binoculars and looking cautiously over the parapet saw the incredible sight of our soldiers exchanging cigarettes, schnapps, and chocolate with the enemy”.

General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, commander of the II Corps, issued orders forbidding friendly communication with the opposing German troops.

Adolf Hitler, a corporal of the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry, was also an opponent of the truce.

In the Comines sector of the front, there was early fraternization between German and French soldiers in December 1914, during a short truce and there are at least two other testimonials from French soldiers, of similar behaviors in sectors where German and French companies opposed each other.

Gervais Morillon wrote to his parents “The Boches waved a white flag and shouted ‘Kamarades, Kamarades, Rendez-Vous’.

When we didn’t move they came towards us unarmed, led by an officer. Although we are not clean they are disgustingly filthy.

I am telling you this but don’t speak of it to anyone.
We must not mention it even to other soldiers”.
Gustave Berthier wrote “On Christmas Day the Boches made a sign showing they wished to speak to us.

They said they didn’t want to shoot. … They were tired of making war, they were married like me, they didn’t have any differences with the French but with the English”.

On the Yser Front were German and Belgian troops faced each other in December 1914, a truce was arranged at the request of Belgian soldiers who wished to send letters back to their families, over the German-occupied parts of Belgium.

Richard Schirrmann, who was in a German regiment holding a position on the Bernhardstein, one of the Vosges Mountains, wrote an account of events in December 1915, “When the Christmas bells sounded in the villages of the Vosges behind the lines… something fantastically unmilitary occurred.

German and French troops spontaneously made peace and ceased hostilities; they visited each other through disused trench tunnels and exchanged wine, cognac, and cigarettes for Pumpernickel (Westphalian black bread), biscuits, and ham.

This suited them so well that they remained good friends even after Christmas was over”.

He was separated from the French troops by a narrow No Man’s Land and described the landscape as “Strewn with shattered trees, the ground plowed up by shellfire, a wilderness of earth, tree-roots and tattered uniforms”.

Military discipline was soon restored but Schirrmann pondered over the incident and whether “thoughtful young people of all countries could be provided with suitable meeting places where they could get to know each other”.

He founded the German Youth Hostel Association in 1919.

Football matches
Many accounts of the truce involve one or more football matches played in no-man’s land.

This was mentioned in some of the earliest reports, with a letter written by a doctor attached to the Rifle Brigade, published in The Times on 1 January 1915, reporting “a football match… played between them and us in front of the trench”.

Similar stories have been told over the years, often naming units or the score.

Some accounts of the game bring in elements of fiction by Robert Graves, a British poet and writer (and an officer on the front at the time) who reconstructed the encounter in a story published in 1962; in Graves’s version, the score was 3–2 to the Germans.

The truth of the accounts has been disputed by some historians.

In 1984, Malcolm Brown and Shirley Seaton concluded that there were probably attempts to play organised matches which failed due to the state of the ground, but that the contemporary reports were either hearsay or refer to “kick-about” matches with “made-up footballs” such as a bully-beef tin.

Chris Baker, former chairman of The Western Front Association and author of The Truce: The Day the War Stopped, was also skeptical but says that although there is little evidence, the most likely place that an organised match could have taken place was near the village of Messines:

“There are two references to a game being played on the British side, but nothing from the Germans.

If somebody one day found a letter from a German soldier who was in that area, then we would have something credible”.

Lieutenant Kurt Zehmisch of the 134th Saxon Infantry Regiment said that the English “brought a soccer ball from their trenches, and pretty soon a lively game ensued.

How marvelously wonderful, yet how strange it was”.

In 2011 Mike Dash concluded that “there is plenty of evidence that football was played that Christmas Day—mostly by men of the same nationality but in at least three or four places between troops from the opposing armies”.

Many units were reported in contemporary accounts to have taken part in games: Dash listed the 133rd Royal Saxon Regiment pitched against “Scottish troops”; the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders against unidentified Germans

(with the Scots reported to have won 4–1); the Royal Field Artillery against “Prussians and Hanovers” near Ypres and the Lancashire Fusiliers near Le Touquet, with the detail of a bully beef ration tin as the “ball”.

One recent writer has identified 29 reports of football, though does not give substantive details.

Colonel J. E. B. Seely recorded in his diary for Christmas Day that he had been “Invited to a football match between Saxons and English on New Year’s Day”, but this does not appear to have taken place.

Eastern Front
On the Eastern front, the first move originated from Austro-Hungarian commanders, at some uncertain level of the military hierarchy. 

The Russians responded positively and soldiers eventually met in no man’s land.


Armistice of World War 1

An armistice is a formal agreement of warring parties to stop fighting.

It is not necessarily the end of a war, as it may constitute only a cessation of hostilities while an attempt is made to negotiate a lasting peace.

It is derived from the Latin arma, meaning “arms” (as in weapons) and -stitium, meaning “a stopping”.

The United Nations Security Council often imposes or tries to impose, cease-fire resolutions on parties in modern conflicts.

Armistices are always negotiated between the parties themselves and are thus generally seen as more binding than non-mandatory UN cease-fire resolutions in modern international law.

An armistice is a modus vivendi and is not the same as a peace treaty, which may take months or even years to agree on.

Armistice Day (which coincides with Remembrance Day and Veterans Day, public holidays) is commemorated every year on 11 November to mark the Armistice of 11 November 1918 signed between the Allies of World War I and the German Empire at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o’clock in the morning—the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.

Most countries changed the name of the holiday after World War II, to honor veterans of that and subsequent conflicts.

Most member states of the Commonwealth of Nations adopted the name Remembrance Day, while the United States chose Veterans Day.

The 1953 Korean War Armistice Agreement is a major example of an armistice that has not been followed by a peace treaty.
An armistice is also different from a truce or ceasefire, which refer to a temporary cessation of hostilities for an agreed limited time or within a limited area.

A truce may be needed in order to negotiate an armistice.

Battle Of Tannenberg

The Battle of Tannenberg in World War 1

The Battle of Tannenberg was fought between Russia and Germany between 26 and 30 August 1914, the first month of World War I.

The battle resulted in the almost complete destruction of the Russian Second Army and the suicide of its commanding general, Alexander Samsonov.

A series of follow-up battles (First Masurian Lakes) destroyed most of the First Army as well and kept the Russians off balance until the spring of 1915.

The battle is particularly notable for fast rail movements by the Germans, enabling them to concentrate against each of the two Russian armies in turn, and also for the failure of the Russians to encode their radio messages.

It brought considerable prestige to Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and his rising staff-officer Erich Ludendorff. Although the battle actually took place near Allenstein (Olsztyn), Hindenburg named it after Tannenberg, 30 km (19 mi) to the west, in order to avenge the defeat of the Teutonic Knights 500 years earlier at the Battle of Grunwald by Poland-Lithuania (which was also known as the Battle of Tannenberg in German).

Contents 1 Background 2 Prelude: 17–22 August 3 Battle 3.1 Consolidation of the German Eighth Army 3.2 Early phases of battle: 23–26 August 3.3 Main battle: 26–30 August 4 Aftermath 5 Post-war legacy 6 Footnotes 7 Further reading Background Germany entered World War I largely following the Schlieffen Plan.

Devised a decade earlier in response to concerns about fighting a two-front war with Russia and France, the Plan depended on differences in the speed with which the different nations could mobilize their armies for war.

The basic idea was for Germany to use its speed advantage to mobilize before the French could, invade and defeat France before it mobilized, and then turn the German army around, send it east, and defeat Russia, which was seen as being slower to mobilize than France. In short, Germany could deliver a devastating one-two punch before either of its adversaries was ready.

Put another way, the Plan depended on Russia’s slow entry into the war.

The French army’s Plan XVII at the outbreak of the war involved swift mobilization followed by an immediate attack to drive the Germans from Alsace and Lorraine. If the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) joined in accordance with their Allied treaty, they would fill the left flank.

Their Russian allies in the East would have a massive army, more than 95 divisions, but their mobilization would inevitably be slower.

Getting their men to the front would itself take time because of their relatively sparse and unreliable railway network (for example, three-quarters of the Russian railways were still single-tracked).

Russia intended to have 27 divisions at the front by day 15 and 52 by day 23, but it would take 60 days before 90 divisions were in action.

Despite their difficulties, the Russians promised the French that they would promptly engage the armies of Austria-Hungary in the south and on day 15 would invade German East Prussia.
East Prussia was a vulnerable salient thrust into Russian territory, extending from the Vistula River in the west to the border with (at the time, Russian) Lithuania in the east, a distance of roughly 190 km (120 mi).

On the north was the Baltic and on the south was the border with (at the time, Russian) Poland; it was about 130 km (81 mi) wide. 

Somewhat east of the center of the province was the heavily fortified peninsula on which its capital Königsberg (modern Kaliningrad, Russia) was located. The Russians would rely on two of their three railways that ran up to the border; each would provision an army.

The railways ended at the border, as Russian trains operated on a different rail gauge from Western Europe. Consequently, its armies could be transported by rail only as far as the German border and could use Prussian railways only with captured locomotives and rolling stock.

The First Army would use the line that ran from Vilnius, Lithuania, to the border 136 km (85 mi) southeast of Königsberg.

The Second Army railway ran from Warsaw, Poland, to the border 165 km (103 mi) southwest of Königsberg. The two armies would take the Germans in a pincer.

The Russian supply chains would be ungainly because—for defense—on their side of the border there were only a few sandy tracks rather than proper macadamized roads.
Adding to their supply problems, the Russians deployed large numbers of cavalry and Cossacks; every day each horse needed ten times the resources that a man required.

The First Army commander was Gen.

Paul von Rennenkampf, who in the Russo-Japanese War had earned a reputation for “exceptional energy, determination, courage, and military capability.”

The Second Army, coming north from Warsaw, was under Gen. Alexander Samsonov, who was “… possessed of a brilliant mind, reinforced by an excellent military education”.

Since commanding a division in the war with Japan he had been governor of Turkestan.

The two armies were directed by the military governor of Warsaw, who in wartime commanded the Northwest Military District, Gen. Yakov Zhilinsky. His duties in Manchuria had been more diplomatic than military. Before moving to Warsaw he had been Chief of the Russian General Staff for two years.

He set up his headquarters in Volkovysk. (Vawkavysk, Belarus), about 410 km (250 mi) from Königsberg. Communications would be a daunting challenge.

The Russian supply of cable was insufficient to run telephone or telegraph connections from the rear; all they had was needed for field communications.
Therefore, they relied on mobile wireless stations, which would link Zhilinskiy to his two army commanders and with all corps commanders.

The Russians were aware that the Germans had broken their ciphers, but they continued to use them until war broke out. A new code was ready but they were still very short of the code books.

Zhilinskiy and Rennenkampf each had one; Samsonov did not. 

Hence, many messages were sent in the clear, hoping that they would not be intercepted.

The German Schlieffen Plan proposed to defeat France swiftly while the Russians were mobilizing. Then Germany’s armies would shift by train to the Eastern Front. Therefore, East Prussia was garrisoned by a single army, the Eighth, commanded by Gen.

Maximilian von Prittwitz und Gaffron, which was to hold back the Russians while the outcome in the West was decided. A tangle of lakes, marshes and dense woods characterized the province, which would help defenders.

When the war began the bulk of the German Eighth Army was southwest of Königsberg, ready to defend either the Western or the Southern frontier: 485,000 Russians were facing 173,000 Germans. More than half of the men in both armies had just been mobilized, so many were not yet fighting fit. 

Prelude: 17–22 August Rennenkampf’s First Army crossed the frontier on 17 August 1914, moving westward slowly. This was sooner than the Germans anticipated, because the Russian mobilization, including the Baltic and Warsaw districts, had begun secretly on 25 July, not with the Tsar’s proclamation on 30 July.

They were attacked at Stallupönen by a division of the German I Corps under Lt. Gen. Hermann von François. The Russians were driven back and lost 3,000 men as prisoners, but I Corps was ordered by Prittwitz, who had not authorized the attack, to pull back to Gumbinnen to concentrate his forces. The Russian advance continued on the afternoon of 18 August and on the following day.

Prittwitz attacked near Gumbinnen on 20 August, when he knew from intercepted wireless messages that Rennenkampf’s infantry was resting.

German I Corps was on their left, XVII Corps commanded by Lt. Gen.
August von Mackensen in the center and I Reserve Corps led by Gen. Otto von Below on the right. A night march enabled one of François’ divisions to hit the Russian XX Corps’ right flank at 04:00. Rennenkampf’s men rallied to stoutly resist the attack. 

Their artillery was devastating until they ran out of ammunition, then the Russians retired. I Corps attacks were halted at 16:00 to rest men sapped by the torrid summer heat.

François was sure they could win the next day. On his left, Mackensen’s XVII Corps launched a vigorous frontal attack but the Russian infantry held firm. That afternoon the Russian heavy artillery struck back—the German infantry fled in panic, their artillery limbered up and joined the stampede. Prittwitz ordered I Corps and I Reserve Corps to break off the action and retreat also.

At noon he had telephoned Field Marshal von Moltke at OHL (Oberste Heeresleitung, Supreme Headquarters) to report that all was going well; that evening he telephoned again to report disaster. 

His problems were compounded because an intercepted wireless message disclosed that the Russian II Army included five Corps and a cavalry division, and aerial scouts saw their columns marching across the frontier.

They were opposed by a single reinforced German Corps, the XX, commanded by Lt. Gen. Friedrich von Scholtz. Prittwitz excitedly but inconclusively and repeatedly discussed the dreadful news with Moltke that evening on the telephone, shouting back and forth. 

At 20:23 Eighth Army telegraphed OHL that they would withdraw to West Prussia.

An old photograph of a man with a mustache in military uniform.

Generalfeldmarschall Paul von Hindenburg However, by the next morning, 21 August, Eighth Army staff realized that because Samsonov’s II Army was closer to the Vistula crossings they must relocate most of their forces to join with XX Corps to block Samsonov before they could withdraw further.

Now Moltke was told that they would only retreat a short way; François protested directly to the Kaiser about his panicking superiors.

That evening Prittwitz reported that the German 1st Cavalry Division had disappeared.

His next call disclosed that they had ridden in with 500 prisoners. Probably Moltke had already decided to replace both Prittwitz and his highly regarded chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Alfred von Waldersee.

On the morning of 22 August their replacements, Col. Gen. Paul von Hindenburg and Maj. Gen. Erich Ludendorff was notified of their new assignments.

The Eighth Army issued orders to move toward Samsonov’s Second Army. I Corps was closest to the railway, so it would move by train to support the right of XX Corps, while the other two German corps would march the shorter distance to XX Corps’ left.

The First Cavalry Division with some older garrison troops would remain to screen Rennenkampf.

On the afternoon of 22 August, the head of the Eighth Army field railways was informed by telegraph that new commanders were coming by special train.

The telegram relieving their former commanders came later. I Corps was moving over more than 150 km (93 miles) of rail, day and night, one train every 30 minutes, with 25 minutes to unload instead of the customary hour or two.

After the battle at Gumbinnen, Rennenkampf decided to keep his First Army in position to resupply and to be in good positions if the Germans attacked again.

Both Russian armies were having serious supply problems; everything had to be carted up from the railheads because they could not use the East Prussian railway track, and many units were hampered by lack of field bakeries, ammunition carts, and the like.

The Second Army also was hampered by incompetent staff work and poor communications. 

Poor staff work not only exacerbated supply problems but, more importantly, caused Samsonov during the fighting to lose operational control over all but the two corps in his immediate vicinity (XIII & XV Corps).

Battle of Dogger Bank

The Battle of Dogger Bank

The Battle of Dogger Bank was a naval engagement on 24 January 1915, near the Dogger Bank in the North Sea, during the First World War, between squadrons of the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet.

The British had intercepted and decoded German wireless transmissions, gaining advance knowledge that a German raiding squadron was heading for Dogger Bank and ships of the Grand Fleet sailed to intercept the raiders.

The British surprised the smaller and slower German squadron, which fled for home. During a stern chase lasting several hours, the British caught up with the Germans and engaged them with long-range gunfire.

The British disabled Blücher, the rearmost German ship, and the Germans put the British flagship, HMS Lion, out of action.

Due to inadequate signalling, the remaining British ships stopped the pursuit to sink Blücher; by the time the ship had been sunk, the rest of the German squadron had escaped.

The German squadron returned to the harbour, with some ships in need of extensive repairs.
Lion made it back to port but was out of action for several months.

The British had lost no ships and suffered few casualties; the Germans had lost Blücher and most of its crew, so the action was considered a British victory.

Both navies replaced officers who were thought to have shown poor judgement and made changes to equipment and procedures, to remedy failings observed during the battle.

Before 1914, international communication was conducted via undersea cables laid along shipping lanes, most of which were under British control.

Hours after the British ultimatum to Germany in August 1914, they cut German cables. German messages could be passed only by wireless, using cyphers to disguise their content.
The Signalbuch der Kaiserlichen Marine (SKM) was captured from the German light cruiser SMS Magdeburg after it ran aground in the Baltic on 26 August 1914.

The German-Australian steamer Hobart was seized near Melbourne, Australia on 11 August and the Handelsverkehrsbuch (HVB) codebook, used by the German navy to communicate with merchant ships and within the High Seas Fleet, was captured. A copy of the book was sent to England by the fastest steamer, arriving at the end of October.

During the Battle off Texel (17 October), the commander of the German destroyer SMS S119 threw overboard his secret papers in a lead-lined chest as the ship sank but on 30 November, a British trawler dragged up the chest. Room 40 gained a copy of the Verkehrsbuch (VB) codebook, normally used by Flag officers of the Kaiserliche Marine.

The Director of the Intelligence Division of the Admiralty, Rear-Admiral Henry Oliver, established a code-breaking organisation to decipher German signals, using cryptographers from academic backgrounds and making use of the windfalls taken from the German ships.

At first, the inexperience of the cryptanalysts in naval matters led to errors in the understanding of the material and this lack of naval experience caused Oliver to make personal decisions about the information to be passed to other departments, many of which, particularly the Operations Department, had reservations about the value of Room 40.

The transfer of an experienced naval officer, Commander W. W. Hope, remedied most of the deficiencies of the civilians’ understanding.

On 14 October, Oliver became Chief of the Naval War Staff but continued to treat Room 40 more like a fiefdom and a source for the informal group of officers around the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, which received decoded messages but had the insufficient authority to use them to best advantage.

German ships had to report their position every night by wireless and British listening posts along the east coast took cross-bearings to find the positions of the ships when they transmitted.

This signals intelligence meant that the British did not need wasteful defensive standing patrols and sweeps of the North Sea but could economise on fuel and use the time for training and maintenance.

The Admiralty also uncovered the German order of battle and tracked the deployment of ships, which gave them an offensive advantage.
The lack of a proper war staff at the Admiralty and poor liaison between Room 40, Oliver and the operations staff, meant that the advantage was poorly exploited in 1915. (It was not until 1917 that this was remedied.)

When German ships sailed, information from Room 40 needed to be passed on quickly but Oliver found it hard to delegate and would not routinely supply all decrypts; commanders at sea were supplied only with what the Admiralty thought they needed.

Information could reach the Grand Fleet late, incomplete or mistakenly interpreted. When Jellicoe asked for a decryption section to take to the sea, he was refused on security grounds.

German raid Main article: Raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby With the German High Seas Fleet (HSF) confined to port after the British success at the Battle of Heligoland Bight in 1914, Admiral Friedrich von Ingenohl, the Commander-in-Chief of the HSF planned a raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby on the east coast of England, with the I Scouting Group (Admiral Franz von Hipper), a battlecruiser squadron of three battlecruisers and a large armoured cruiser, supported by light cruisers and destroyers.

Hipper opened fire at 08:00 on 16 December 1914, eventually killing 108 and wounding 525 civilians.

The British public and political opinion were outraged that German warships could sail so close to the British coast, shelling coastal towns with impunity; British naval forces had failed to prevent the attacks and also failed to intercept the raiding squadron.

The British fleet had sailed but the German ships escaped in stormy seas and low visibility, assisted by British communication failures.

The Germans had made the first successful attack on Britain since the 17th century and suffered no losses but Ingenohl was unjustly blamed for missing an opportunity to inflict a defeat on the Royal Navy, despite him creating the chance by his offensive-mindedness.

British counter-action The British had let the raid occur and appeared to the public to have been surprised (having been forewarned by decoded wireless messages) and then to have failed to sink the German raiding force on its way back to Germany. 

In 1921, the official historian Julian Corbett wrote, Two of the most efficient and powerful British squadrons…knowing approximately what to expect…had failed to bring to action an enemy who was acting in close conformity with our appreciation and with whose advanced screen contact had been established. — Strachan

The British had escaped a potential disaster because the British 1st Battlecruiser Squadron (Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty) was unsupported by the 2nd Battle Squadron (Vice-Admiral Sir George Warrender) when it failed to make contact with the raiding force.

The worst British failure was in the exploitation of the intelligence provided by the code-breakers at Room 40 (Sir Alfred Ewing), that had given the British notice of the raid.

Some intercepts decoded during the action had taken two hours to reach British commanders at sea, by when they were out of date or misleading.

News of the sailing of the HSF was delivered so late that the British commanders thought that the Germans were on the way when they were returning. At sea, Beatty had sent ambiguous signals and some commanders had not used their initiative.

On 30 December, the commander of the Home Fleet, Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, gave orders that when in contact with German ships, officers were to treat orders from those ignorant of local conditions as instructions only but he refused Admiralty suggestions to loosen ship formations, for fear of decentralising tactical command too far.