On the 1st Jan 1916, the British introduced a new weapon against the German U-boat, the depth charge. Herbert Taylor, of the Royal Navy’s torpedo school HMS Vernon based near Portsmouth had experimented with and perfected the first workable depth charge. Shaped like an oil barrel and filled with TNT, the depth charge exploded at a preset depth. Over 16,000 depth charges were released by the end of the war, sinking 38 U-boats and helping to destroy 141 more.
Before the Great War Germany, like most European countries, had a number of colonies in Africa. Each colony was surrounded by allied territories effectively starving the Germans of supplies. Cameroon, sited on the west coast of Africa was a German colony consisting of mountains, plateaus, dense jungle and swamps. On the 1st Jan 1916 British and French forces advance and reach Yaonde, after combatting skilful defence together with tropical rain. The Allied forces numbered approximately 25,000 but poor planning and lack of intelligence hindered their progress. The German opposition comprised approximately 5,000 troops, who used cunning tactics to hinder the allied advance. The allies’ final aim was to reach the last German stronghold of Mora, in the north of Cameroon.
By late 1915 the British army had lost approximately 60,000 officers and many more other ranks. On the 6th Jan 1916, the British Government introduced the Military Service Bill providing for the conscription of single men aged 18-41 to join the British armed forces. Britain had declared war on Germany in 1914 with a regular army of 100,000 men and approximately 125,000 Territorial Forces. Britain’s Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, requested young men to volunteer for the armed forces. With heavy casualties already sustained, the Military Service Act was passed into law on the 27th Jan 1916. Conscription was the only solution to maintaining the supply of forces necessary for the British army to win the war. The law became effective from 10th Feb 1916, despite Prime Minister Herbert Asquith’s reluctant submission of the act.
The final evacuation of Helles at Gallipoli on the 8th and 9th Jan 1916 was effected with no loss of life. Previously the evacuation of Suvla Bay and Anzac Cove, in Dec 1915, had been a brilliant success and achieved without any casualties.
The Gallipoli campaign overall was a complete disaster and the two evacuations were the only successes. Overall allied casualties numbered over 200,000 with many deaths from disease. The number of Turkish deaths is not clear but over 200,000 is generally accepted.
Admiral Hugo von Pohl was exceedingly cautious, not wanting to risk the German navy against the vastly superior British navy. Reinhard Scheer joined the German navy as officer cadet, and progressed through the ranks reaching the position of commander of the 11 Battle Squadron of the High Seas, at the outbreak of the Great War. On the 24th Jan 1916 Scheer was promoted to Admiral, and given the command of the High Seas Fleet, after the Kaiser dismissed von Pohl because of ill health, coupled with his cautiousness.
During the first years of the Great War Paris suffered very little damage to its streets and buildings, but on the 29th Jan 1916 a German Zeppelin dropped 19 bombs onto the house on 34 rue du Borrego. The owner, sous-brigadier (Lance Corporal) Bidault was killed, one of 54 people who lost their lives. A special funeral was held for them at Notre-Dame-de-la-Croix.
In January 1916, The American President, Woodrow Wilson, sent his Chief Foreign Policy advisor, Colonel Edward M House, to Europe to attempt to negotiate peace terms. The negotiations failed to reach an agreement, ending Wilson’s hopes the war would end. The outcome would be the inevitable inclusion of American involvement mainly due to the loss of American lives in the submarine incidents in the Atlantic.
Flora Sandes was an English lady who had travelled to Serbia as an auxiliary nurse at the outbreak of the Great War. At the beginning of the Serbian retreat, during the autumn of 1915, she had enlisted as a private soldier in the Serbian army. Due to her many British contacts, she was able to obtain supplies for troops in her regiment. Her reward for this was promotion to Corporal on the 1st Jan 1916.
On the 6th Jan 1916 the Montenegrin army had entrenched themselves around the village of Mojkovac. The intention of the battle was to allow a general retreat to Corfu. The Austro/Hungarian forces attacked the village with a heavy bombardment but the assault was unsuccessful, the Austro/Hungarian forces suffering heavy casualties. The Austro/Hungarian forces followed up with a second attack on the Montenegrin positions on the 7th Jan 1916. Despite having a stronger, larger and better-equipped army, Austro/Hungary again failed, with both sides having suffered heavy losses. The result being the abandonment of the Austro/Hungarian positions in Mojkovac.
From the 8th Jan 1916 the Austro/Hungarian army continued pushing their offensives south and gradually overcame Montenegrin forces until on the 16th Jan 1916 Montenegro capitulated and sought surrender terms.
On the 11th Jan 1916, France occupied the Greek Island of Corfu, and the first of the retreating Serbian troops began to land on Corfu on 15th Jan 1916.
On the 25th Jan 1916, the entire army of Montenegro surrendered and laid down their weapons.
The Caucasus and Middle East Campaign
Three new Indian divisions commanded by British Major-General Aylmer were despatched on 4th Jan 1916, to relieve the besieged British forces at Kut-al-Amara. En-route, the Turkish army blocked Aylmer’s forces at the Battle of Sheikh Sa’ad. After two days fighting, without any success, Aylmer’s forces attacked the Turkish defences only to discover the Turkish trenches were unoccupied. Despite this, Aylmer’s forces were not able to relieve Kut-al-Amara.
Russia had declared war on the Ottoman Empire in Nov 1914. Their two armies fought along their border. A mixture of assaults and defeats resulted in stalemate.
10-18th Jan 1916, the Russians achieved total surprise by defeating the Ottoman forces at the Battle of Koprukoy. Russia continued attacking to the south into the Ottoman Empire, heading for Erzerum.
The Battle of Wadi occurred on the 13th Jan 1916, being the unsuccessful attempt to relieve the beleaguered forces of Sir Charles Townsend then under siege by the Ottoman Sixth Army at Kut-al-Amara. General Fenton Aylmer was ordered to launch an attack against Ottoman defensive positions on the banks of the Wadi River. The Wadi was a steep valley with a stream running into the River Tigris. The attack was generally considered to be a failure, although Fenton managed to capture the Wadi, it cost him 1,600 men.
After the setbacks at the Wadi, Aylmer was ordered, on 21st Jan 1916, once again to attempt to break through the Ottoman lines. Aylmer’s relief force, now reduced to about 10,000 men, continued its movement up the Tigris until it encountered 30,000 men of the Ottoman army at the Hanna defile 30 miles downriver of Kut-al-Amara. After a short bombardment the British forces charged the Ottoman lines. In an advance across 600 yards of flooded no-man’s land, the British sustained 2700 casualties. Well prepared Ottoman positions, notably well-sited machine gun nests, forced the British to abandon the assault and withdraw the relief force to the base of Ali Gharbi. The night after the attack was freezing and, with medical care practically non-existent, many wounded British troops suffered unnecessarily. Morale for both the relief and the besieged forces at Kut-al-Amara plummeted, after the failure to secure the breakthrough.