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The First Modern Battle – The Battle of Hamel I THE GREAT WAR Week 206

The First Modern Battle – The Battle of Hamel I THE GREAT WAR Week 206


The warring armies have air forces, they have
armored cars and tanks, they have artillery, they have gas, they have machine guns, they
have endless infantry, but until this week no one had ever really integrated those all
together into one tight battle plan. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week the Battle for Belleau Wood ended
with an Allied victory. It was the first battle of the war that saw
heavy American casualties. In the Middle East a huge contest for control
of the Baku oilfields was brewing, and in a Reichstag speech, the German Foreign Minister
Richard von Kühlmann said that Germany was open to receive peace proposals. This week saw a meeting of some other German
leaders. On July 2nd, at the Spa Crown Council, Army
Chief of Staff Paul von Hindenburg, Quartermaster General Erich Ludendorff, and Chancellor Georg
von Hertling sign a new secret war aims program, which includes ideas about Poland. Poland could choose its sovereign, but Germany
would command its army, run its railways, and even annex a border region. Von Kühlmann was not there, though, he was
on the outs with these guys since first a few weeks ago at a Hague Conference he’s
told his rep to let the British know Germany would accept a status quo peace in the West. The others were 100% determined that Belgium
would at the very least remain under German economic and political control. And there was, of course, von Kühlmann’s
speech last week saying that the war could not be won by a military solution. Yeah, that didn’t sit so well either. So in a few days, von Kühlmann will “resign”
as Foreign Minister. David Stevenson writes that he was basically
muscled out by Ludendorff and Hindenburg, who re-used an old tactic: telling the Kaiser
that unless von Kühlmann went, they would, and von Kühlmann was out, succeeded by Admiral
Paul von Hintze. I guess they weren’t so open to peace proposals
after all. This was a good time for planning for them,
since the Western Front had been relatively quiet for several weeks now, but, as G.J.
Meyer writes in “A World Undone”, “The quiet was interrupted on July 4th by the Battle
of Hamel, one of the most remarkable – if largely forgotten because comparatively bloodless
– operations of the war.” The idea was just to clear the Germans away
from the environs of Amiens, and the operation was planned and put into action by John Monash,
now Lieutenant General and commander of the Australian Corps. I haven’t talked much about Monash yet,
but he’s a really interesting character. Coming from a humble background in the Australian
outback, Monash had degrees in law, engineering, and liberal arts, was also a musician, and
founded a consulting firm that worked with bridge and railway construction. He was also, again according to Meyer, arguably
the most effective commander of the war on either side. He commanded a brigade from the beginning
of the war, was at Gallipoli from start to finish, and was at Messines Ridge and Passchendaele. Thing is, a lot of people at tried to prevent
his advancement through the ranks, and a lot of people had a problem promoting him to command
of 200,000 troops. First of all, he had not been a professional
soldier, second of all he was a “colonial”, and to top it off his parents were Jews who
came from Germany. By this time, Australian Prime Minister Billy
Hughes had even been persuaded to replace Monash, but after seeing Monash’s planning
and execution at Hamel, he totally changed his mind. What Monash basically did was integrate artillery,
aircraft, tanks, infantry, and machine guns into one big machine like no one ever had
before. It took a total of 93 minutes for his forces
to accomplish all of their objectives. They took prisoners in the thousands and only
took light casualties themselves. The attack went off at 0310, there was no
preliminary bombardment, and the big guns had been pre-registered. There were 60 tanks that would play a big
role in the battle, and their noise approaching the lines was covered by low flying planes
and general artillery sounds. When the barrage did commence, it hit the
German batteries that had been targeted by aerial recon and sound ranging. The creeping barrage ahead of the advancing
infantry was 60% shrapnel shells, 30% high explosive, but also 10% smoke shells to obscure
things. The tanks set off and rolled avenues in the
barbed wire for the infantry to follow. German strongpoints were for the tanks to
take out, and the infantry would signal them with rifle grenades. There was even a reserve wave of tanks – including
supply tanks – to keep the momentum going, while airplanes kept a lookout for anti-tank
guns and strafed the German infantry. Meyer again, “Hamel has been called the
first truly modern battle. It became the model for later British operations,
a brochure describing Monash’s tactics was distributed to every officer in the BEF.” It wasn’t just tactically, though that the
Allies were improving. They were beefing up their numbers and their
supply lines. By July 1st (Gilbert) a million American soldiers
and military personnel were in France. 20,000 tons a day of supplies were arriving. On American Independence Day, July 4th, 95
ships were launched from American ports as a result of a shipbuilding “crusade”. Of course, American production had really
leapt during the war, but you could see a general supply trend. This year and last year you had all these
new committees set up to deal with all the different commodities, and they showed a real
cooperative spirit, a collective arrangement that the Central Powers just didn’t have. They also had more resources in general to
start with, but by now, and as we saw earlier in the year, the problems the Central Powers
had with food and arms supplies were out of control. Bulgaria had a huge food supply crisis. They didn’t have that many large estates,
and people ran their farms individually, without things like fertilizer. They didn’t have a big infrastructure or
industry, and they had to import most armaments more complicated than explosives. In the Balkans, they had a front of hundreds
of kilometers to defend, and supplying it required requisitioning a quarter of the nation’s
agricultural draft animals. David Stevenson notes in “With our Backs
to the Wall” that Bulgarian cereal output fell from 26 million quintals in 1912 to 12
million this year, with potatoes and fodder faring even worse. Close to half of the factories were no longer
operating because of labor and material shortages. Overuse and lack of maintenance of the railways
created a transportation crisis, and, “By this stage Bulgaria, like wide tracts of Eastern
Europe, was reverting to a pattern of all but autarkic local sub-economies.” Retail prices had gone up like 800% by this
year. Last year, all supply came under the Directorate
of Economic and Social Welfare, but it didn’t, or couldn’t address a further big problem
– the illegal exports of goods by German and Austro-Hungarian soldiers. They were better paid than the Bulgarians
and could easily outbid them for stuff on the black market. And last year the Germans stopped the monthly
credit Bulgaria was getting and now in April stopped sending supplies. The Directorate had the task of not only supplying
the Bulgarian troops, but also the German and Austrians there, and guess what? Sometimes it supplied them better than its
own men. There was too little seed corn left from last
year and the year before and thousands were already dying of starvation. Peasants were hoarding; food riots were regular
things. Women’s revolts had begun during the winter
when mobs of women had attacked Directorate offices to demand more food and the return
of their husbands and sons from the front. These continued, and by May the police were
firing on the demonstrating women, and by now, half-starved women protesting was pretty
much a daily occurrence. And the situation was even worse in the Ottoman
Empire. Their economy was in no way set up to fight
a modern war, certainly not one of four years, and the supply chain was often non-existent. They had no real steel or chemical production
capacity, and not even that many telegraph lines or paved roads. They had exactly one domestic coalfield at
the start of the war, and since the Russians bombed it, it was producing less than a quarter
of its previous output. Trains without coal burned wood instead, which
led to deforestation. Even the rail network, though, was only one
tenth the size of, say, India’s. Inflation had raised prices by 2,000%, and
last winter there were reports of both starvation and cannibalism. And yet the war continued. In the field for the armies, and everywhere
for the individuals. The Italians advanced all week in Piave Delta
and on Monte Grappa front, taking three thousand prisoners. The first American killed on that front in
the war (Gilbert) was ambulance driver Edward McKey, but the second one hit was none other
than Ernest Hemingway, wounded by an Austrian mortar while he was delivering chocolate to
Italian troops. 227 pieces of shrapnel, mostly in his legs,
would be removed in hospital. He would be awarded the Italian Silver Medal
of Valor and the War Cross. And here are some notes to end the week. On July 1st in Britain, an explosion in a
Midlands shell factory kills 100, injures 150. On July 3rd, Ottoman Sultan Mehmed V dies;
he is succeeded by Mehmed VI. There are also two notes from the skies this
week. June 27th was the date of the first successful
parachute jump in action (Gilbert), when Leutnant Steinbrecher, a German pilot, was shot down
by the British over the Somme, but landed safely, and July 4th was the date of the first
airborne supply drop to troops in battle, as 100,000 rounds of ammo were brought in
to Australian machine gunners. And that was the week; parachutes and airdrops,
no confidence in von Kuhlmann, an Italian advance, hard times in Bulgaria and the Ottoman
Empire, and a beautifully executed battle. Even though it was small. And we’ve seen that sort of thing before
– testing out some new tactic or strategy small scale at first. Like last fall as the French did at La Malmaison,
or the Germans at Riga. And now we have a real integrated battle doctrine
for the first time in a little battle. And what the armies learn from the little
battles, like the French and Germans last fall, they can use to devastating effect in
the big battles. But for the Allies to have a big battle in
the west, they’ll have to first regain the initiative, and Germany still has that for
the time being and don’t plan to give it up. It’s really exciting, isn’t it? If you want to learn more about John Monash,
one of the generals of World War 1, you can click right here for our bio episode about
him. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Dhruv
Kapoor who has been supporting our show for over three years now like many other of our
Patreons. Thank you so much. Don’t forget to subscribe, see you next
time.

100 comments on “The First Modern Battle – The Battle of Hamel I THE GREAT WAR Week 206

  1. the suburb Monash just down the road from me is named after him, unfortunately it has a bit of a ghetto notoriety

  2. imagine how different the world would be if Germany had gone for a status quo peace in summer of 1918. potentially 3 empires that died after the war could have survived.

  3. What I have been waiting for 🙂 it is the Centenary of Mateship (the first time Australian and US troops fight together). My partners great great uncle died in the Battle of Hamel and i visited the battlefield last year. Amazing place! Here in Melbourne so many things are named after Monash and he is on our $100 note. He worked on the Princes Bridge that still stands in Melbourne as well.

  4. Man I can't believe this is the last year. This show's gone by so quick yet at the same time it's been a long and dynamic ride. Keep it up y'all

  5. I don't think Monash, or for that matter Currie, hit on anything revolutionary. They simply used everything they had and integrated it into their plans. WW1 generals were often poor at using what they had available to them – perhaps the staff work was simply too overwhelming for them (the vast size and complexity of WW1 armies partly explained this).

  6. Germans could have made another bruchmuller and the stormtroopers tactic and should have taken the amein that's the most important objective on western front

  7. Hear is a great lecture about Monash and the battle Hamel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53ksc_YyvSY

  8. I can't believe I'm just hearing about this we're almost 4 years into the war lol awesome channel though, you should do something ww2 after the war is over

  9. Monash is on the Australian $100 banknote;
    https://www.australianbanknotes.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/CS96-One-Hundred-Dollar-806610-zoom.jpg

  10. What happened to the Western Front frontlines after the end of the World War I? How long did the “cleanup” take? We’re talking about complex systems of trenches, fortifications and positions spanning hundreds of kilometers, with thousands of big siege guns placed throughout. Did the Entente military powers do any cleanup after the war? Or was it left to the locals? Were things like big guns and fortifications deemed too costly to bring back home(especially by the US and UK) and left there(maybe donated to the French)? Were any small arms/machine guns or anything that could be used by individual civilian looters left behind? What would I see if I visited Somme/Loos/Ypres etc. in 1920? 1925? 1930?

  11. I subscribed to this channel in June 1914 🙂 and have been an avid fan ever since.
    I am thoroughly enjoying it. I am NOT looking forward to November!

    What should Indy's costume be for the WW2 show?

    I think the police inspector from Foyle's War would do just nicely.
    .

  12. Monash was not knighted in the field. He was knighted in the Kings New Year's honours of January 1918. It was for leadership of 3rd Australian Division in 1917. The King did visit him at his HQ to invest him but it was not on the battlefield. For a balanced view of Monash and Hamel watch Aaron Pegram's talk on the AWM YouTube channel.

  13. I have a question for out of the trenches, did Bulgaria commit any big war time atrocities during the Great War. Thank you for such a great channel.

  14. Hello Indy and team, greeting from Semarang City, Central Java, Indonesia. Maybe you can explain about parachute and airdrops in aircraft fighting at World War 1.

  15. Very interesting. My family is originally from Belgium and I heard that Germany invading Belgium was the main factor in them losing the war. In your opinion how true is this?

  16. Dear Great War team,
    I noted that many people may be trying to catch up on videos. So I made an "All Episodes" playlist. Thanks again to the Great War team.
    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLV_5OZIgpQUDW6VzkdzuXqGDivaOwB_9E
    (I will add the extras after)

  17. Hey Indy, Question for out of the trenches. German foreign minister Von Kuhlman said Germany would accept a status quo peace with the western allies before he resigned. how likely would it be for the western allies to accept a white peace? and would Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece be likely to be included in a white peace, if it was possible, or would they fall under the domination of the central powers.

  18. This is the episode every Australian was waiting for, the next 100 days is the coming of age of the Australian army

  19. One of the people that wanted Monash out was rupert murdoch father the other charles bean war Historian calling him a dirty Jew and that he was a German spy. I suppose the Germans didn't see ot that way when fighting against him especially on the Hindenburg Line.

  20. I am bet that we are close to finish.. Looking forward for the outcome. No spoilers please. I think that after this it was smooth sailing from here to this day. Btw i'm from Finland.

  21. Don't mind me, just chewing some popcorn in anticipation for the Battle of Baku…

  22. There's a forest preserve in Shorewood, Illinois, named after Hamel (although it's been anglicized to "Hammel"). As far as I can tell, there were a lot of soldiers who joined up from that area of Will County who served at Hamel and, upon returning home, the woods that became the preserve reminded them of the woods around Hamel.

  23. Hello I wanted to ask if you could make a video where it is explained whether in World War I also on the Swiss border gas and other means that are harder to control have been used?

  24. Monash was a great general may be dependent on your perspective, if you were a victim of his strategy you might not agree.but then I guess he really did make a difference, all you need is a plan sometimes to break the stalemate.

  25. The Germans have lost the war at this point, they needed miracle. Yet, they wanted to keep Belgium and whole of Eastern Europe. Why? They should have looked for peace. British out of Belgium and Russians out of Eastern Europe would have been enough for the Germans to be save and truly independent.

  26. Monash the most effective commander of the war, I dunno….

    Monash or Currie…. they were both superb, would be really, really hard to choose between the two. Us Brits were lucky to have them.

  27. Although technically only one 'Corp' was formed so that Australian forces served together, the Australian 'Corps' contained all five Australian infantry divisions serving on the Western Front. It was the largest corps fielded by the British Empire in France. At its peak the Australian Corps numbered 109,881 men. normally a Corp has 2 div's so five is unusual. An Army has 2 or more Corps / that is 100,000 to 150,000 [so Field Marshal rank] ………. Keep an eye on this 'Corp' ……. in the coming months!

  28. Quintal ? According to Wikipedia, the quintal or centner is a historical unit of mass in many countries which is usually defined as 100 base units of either pounds or kilograms. It is commonly used for grain prices in wholesale markets in India, where 1 quintal = 100 kg.[1]

    In British English, it referred to the hundredweight; in American English, it formerly referred to an uncommon measure of 100 kilograms.

  29. Mehmed VI after the war was exiled in a town in Italy called "Sanremo". That happens to be the town where I live in, very famous in Italy, mostly because of the local music festival held every year that goes on national tv and is always the most watched program, and the old Sultan's house, called Villa Magnolie, is now the school I go to

  30. Hey Indie can I get a shout out to the 2500 US soldiers who were "Embeded" with the Aussies at Hammel?
    The date of July 4th was picked as a start date to motivate these men and if Monash is to be believed they and the Aussies considered each other "blood brothers" after this battle.
    (Ref: Australian victories in France 1918 by John Monash)

  31. One of my supervisors for my masters degree just finished a sculpture of Monash for the Australian War Memorial, in commemoration of the battle of Hamel. There is a ring of text on the base taken from Monash's diary that reads "I am living and moving." It's a really beautiful sculpture, worth having a Google!

  32. Such an engrossing series. Hope you guys are gonna give World War 2 similar treatment starting next year?

  33. for more of the German and Austrian home fronts see:
    Victory must be Ours Laurence Moyer
    US WW I Museum and Memorial program "Total War comes to the Fatherland"
    Vienna and the Fall of the Habsburg Empire Maureen healy

  34. One important omission relating to Hamel was that approx. 1,000 American troops fought alongside the Australians, and indeed under the command of the British Army (Australians) for the very first time, much to the chagrin of General of the Army, "Black Jack" Pershing.

  35. I always wondered if there is a sequel series covering WW2 day by day, either starting 2019, or 2039.

  36. It should be mentioned that Monash planned the attack for July 4 in honour of the Americans under his command who were to take part. When Pershing found out the day before that the Americans were to take part in an offensive, rather than just gaining a bit of trench experience, he tried to have them withdrawn. He succeeded in having those in reserve removed, but Monash turned the Nelsonian blind eye with regard to those ready to go in the front line. Pershing was no doubt surprised when he was congratulated for the performance of the Americans after the battle.

  37. Also, the Ottomans had fought 3 years of war before the First World War in the Balkan wars. Also the main Ottoman coal area of Zonguldak had been under Russian blockade while Russia was in the war and there were not enough ships to transport coal from Zonguldak to Constantinople (this was over now.)

  38. The explosion was at the National Shell Filling Factory, Chilwell, Nottingham. The remains of the unidentifiable bodies are buried in the churchyard at St Mary's, Attenborough.

  39. Firstly. Sorry about my english.
    And! Biltsgrig it is continue of german shturm tactic developed in WW1.
    It's mean using small groups that seeps thru position and afterward attacks stronghold. It was been with prelimened bombardment and without it.
    Second wave of troops should attack after this comes up thru holes and embracing enemies troops. Third wave destroy enemies troops.
    Blitskrig is the same but in more greit scale.
    With some very important adding.
    It have to be combined with very close cooperation of the military air forces.
    It may be without tanks but in situation than one machine gun can stop infantry and cavalery, so using tanks or armored vehicles become very important.
    It's obvious that close cooperation all types of arm is very important and it is what was developed by Monash.
    Why Monash could complete this.
    I think becose He was not profecional officer and can develope approach different from doctrine which profesional oficers were stydied followed it..
    It's not firstly example when non profesional at some scope come in and propose approach that change all.
    Tesla for example.

  40. I was surprised that this battle of Le Hamel was not more commemorated last week on it's centenary in Australia, being Monash's perfect battle. Also, the integration of American and Australian forces which made it happen. I'm recalling the importance that it had as recalled in the 1964 BBC Great War doco series..

  41. Is this the first time cannibalism was seen in the First World War? How desperate were the situation where these cases occured? Was there a complete breakdown of society for this to happen? It is a very terrible thing to think about but I am very curious to learn more about this incident.

  42. Need more update on what's going on in Russia! I feel like we need an explanation about what's going on there and when they may be ready to engage again. Especially I'm thinking of what's going to happen to poland unless russia gets its act together.

  43. The smoke shells had another purpose besides obscuring the advance, in the weeks leading up to the attack the artillery had been including gas shells with smoke shells in a rate of about 1/9 of gas/smoke(if I remember correctly). This was given the name “conditioning fire”. It’s results was that on the day of the attack, many Germans were hindered by wearing gas masks, which reduced their accuracy and made it more difficult to breath.

  44. If armies were struggling to feed their soldiers why didn't they feed them vegan diets? You can feed 16 vegans per meat eater so surely in desperation they should have done this. Is this just because they lacked this knowledge?

  45. This episode was great! Indy swiftly covered many interesting topics in a comprehensive and erudite fashion. I especially liked hearing about the first successful in-action parachute survivor. I will have to research that pilot to see what happened to him following his history-making event. Everything after that must have felt somewhat like bonus time.

  46. Crazy to think that as a Bulgarian you can go and fight in deplorable conditions for family and country and yet back home country is killing family.

  47. You mean you can win a battle without fancy uniforms, fighting spirit and repeated major infantry offensives against the same target?

  48. No suprise that an Australian was the smartest commander during WW1.
    When Aussie commanders were allowed free reign. They very rarely failed 😈

  49. If Germany had won Europe would be a confederation of dignified monarchies right now.
    Enlightened Emperors Kings and Princes ruling over a cultured and glorious European civilization.

    If the Germans had won… In 1914, '15 or even '16.
    If the Germans had won in 1917 or in 1918 they would have ruled over a smashed European civilization. Filled with anger, resentment, and revolution.

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