August 1916

August 1916

Verdun

The Moroccan Colonial forces captured the village of Fleury on the 17th August 1916, after making careful preparations for the assault on the 10th August 1916. German counter-attacks were repulsed by the Zouave troops, and Fleury remained in French hands for the remainder of the war. The village of Fleury had changed hands sixteen times from the 23rd June until the 17th August 1916.

On the 29th August 1916, Chief of the Imperial German Staff Erich von Falkenhayn is dismissed by Kaiser Wilhelm II. Falkenhayn had been discredited by the disappointing progress of the Verdun offensive. The entry of Romania into the war on the side of the allies, together with the Brusilov Offensive results in Germany having to divert troops away from Verdun. The German army is required to reinforce the nearly collapsed Austro/Hungarian army. Paul von Hindenburg succeeds Falkenhayn as Chief of the General Staff, although real power is exercised by his deputy Erich Ludendorff. The Kaiser is effectively reduced to a figurehead after Hindenburg becomes Commander-in-Chief of the German armed forces. From 1916 onwards, Germany is an unofficial military dictatorship often called the “Silent Dictatorship”.

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The Somme

On the 9th/10th August 1916, Noel Chavasse while serving as Medical Officer of the 10th Battalion of the Kings Liverpool Regiment (Liverpool Scottish), stationed at Guilemont, was awarded the Victoria Cross for tending the wounded in no-man’s land. He was then a 32 year old qualified doctor.

Under heavy fire he tended the wounded all day in full view of the enemy. He continued during the night in his search and treatment of wounded troops in front of the enemy’s lines. The following day he and a stretcher bearer carried a seriously injured soldier 500 yards to safety. He proceeded, with some volunteers, to rescue 3 wounded men just yards from the enemy’s trenches. He also buried two dead officers and collected many identity discs. During those two days and nights he saved the lives of 20 wounded men. For this action he was awarded the VC. Previously in 1915 he had been awarded the Military Cross for similar deeds rescuing the wounded in no-man’s land. His VC was the first of the two Noel Chavasse was awarded.

 

The Village of Guillemont was on top of a gentle ridge, from which the German defenders enjoyed an uninterrupted view of the approaches from the wooded areas. The British attacked on the 18th August 1916, not knowing the Germans had installed various obstacles to bar their way. Rusty barbed wire was installed across open ground, thorny thickets filled shell holes, massed machine guns and hidden snipers were deployed by the Germans. When the British infantry attacked after the artillery bombardment, they were slaughtered and forced to retreat. The attack was a complete failure and Guilemont was not captured until the 3rd September 1916.

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The Balkans

The Allied forces in Salonika were reinforced on the 1st August 1916 by 5000 Russian troops. After Italy’s declaration of war against Germany, Italian troops were sent to bolster the Allied forces in Salonika on the 12th August 1916.

On the 17th August 1916, Romania reached an agreement with the Allies over their proposed level of military involvement. At stake was the Romanian expectation of territory gains. The Romanian declaration of war was not transmitted to the Germans until 27th August 1916 when Romania entered the war on the side of the Allies. Romania had a successful offensive against Austria-Hungary through the Carpathian Mountains, advancing 50 miles into Transylvania. Although Germany had been worried the Romanians would enter the war on the side of the Allies, they were taken by surprise at the Rumanian declaration of war. Germany’s immediate response was to declare war on Romania the following day, the 28th August 1916.

On the 17th August 1916, the Battle of Florina was an offensive operation by the Bulgarian army against the Serbian army, in which the Bulgarians captured the city of Florina, located in present-day Greece. German assistance to the Bulgarian offensive began on the 17th August 1916. The Serbians were constantly being supplied with re-enforcements in the form of new weapons, munitions and fresh troops, while the Bulgarians soon depleted their ammunition stocks. The Bulgarian high command were forced to call a halt to the offensive on the 27th August 1916 and ordered the troops to dig in at their occupied positions

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On the 28th August 1916, Germany declared war on Romania, followed on the 30th August 1916 by Turkey’s declaration of war against Romania

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In mid-August 1916, the 2nd Regiment of the Serbian army left Salonika on their way back in the fight for Serbia. They were going home to join the Allies. Sergeant Flora Sandes, an English lady who had enlisted in the Serbian army, marched alongside the ranks of the Serbian soldiers. Although officially she was leader of her section, she had Serbian Sergeant Milidin as her deputy, who provided the experience. Flora was aware of the esteem the 2nd Regiment had for her and how worried they were she might be taken prisoner by the Bulgarian forces. The Bulgarians were not particularly merciful to Serbian prisoners. Milidin assured her she would not be taken prisoner while he was still alive, leaving her to wonder whether he would shoot her himself rather than let her be captured.

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The Caucasus and Middle East Campaign

The Battle of Romani was fought between the 3rd and 5th August 1916 near the Egyptian town of Romani, east of the Suez Canal. The Ottoman infantry, under German leadership, launched an attack against the Australian mounted brigade and was forced back to their starting point at Katia. Deep sand, hunger and thirst, together with additional Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) forces caused the Ottoman attackers to retreat to El Arish and the Allied pursuit ended on the 12th August 1916. The battle was the last attack of the Central Powers on the Suez Canal at the beginning of the Sinai and Palestinian Campaign.

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The Eastern Front

On the 10th August 1916, the Battle for Kowell ground to a halt as both Russian and the Central Power troops were exhausted by the battle. The battle commenced on the 28th July 1916 as part of the Brusilov Offensive. Russian morale was low, German and Austro-Hungarian troops were forced to bring in additional re-enforcements from Verdun and the Italian front. Having brought the re-enforcements from the Western Front, Germany achieved control over the Austro-Hungarian armies at both operational and administrative levels. In effect Germany dictated Austro-Hungarian activities except on the Italian front.

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Other Fronts

As one of the leaders of the failed Irish Easter Rebellion in Dublin, Sir Roger Casement was executed for high treason on the 3rd August 1916. Casement had been knighted in 1911 for his report on the atrocities in Putumayo Bay in Peru, whilst with the British Consulate in Brazil. Upon returning to Britain he became more interested in Irish politics and joined the Irish rebels, then finally became one of their leaders. At the outbreak of the Great War, Casement travelled to Berlin in an attempt to form an Irish brigade of Irish prisoners of war to fight for Ireland and Germany. He did not have any success, nor did he receive much success when he put forward the suggestion in Ireland. He negotiated for a consignment of arms with the Germans and was provided with a German U-Boat to take him to the west coast of Ireland where he was to meet up with a boat carrying the weapons for the rebels. British intelligence had information about Casement’s movements and he was arrested on the 23rd April 1916. He had failed to rendezvous with the ship carrying the consignments of weapons. He was sent for trial, and on the 29th June 1916 he was found guilty of high treason and sentenced to death. He was stripped of his knighthood and executed at Pentonville Prison.

The Sixth Battle of Isonzo on the 6th to 17th August 1916, the Italians were finally able to establish control of Gorizia. On the 8th August 1916, the Austria/Hungarian army lacked reserves of troops and were forced to evacuate the bridgehead over the lsonzo River. The Austria/Hungarian army established a new defensive line east of Gorizia. This engagement proved to be the turning point of the battle, and for the Italians would be the most successful of the series of 12 battles. Over the next year, Chief of Staff Luigi Cordorna tried without much success to extend his armies gains.

Following the invitation of the British Government for Portugal to participate in the war, the Portuguese Parliament accepted the proposals on the 7th August 1916. The war effort would consist of 55,000 infantry soldiers plus 1,000 artillerymen to be sent to France. This was to be at the rate 4,000 soldiers per month to man 12 km of battlefront. Portugal also fielded forces in its African colonies in Mozambique defending against German forces. Military forces were also sent south to Angola to subdue native unrest instigated by the Germans.

On the 19th August 1916, following the Battle of Jutland, the German fleet carried out various raids against the Royal navy in the North Sea. These raids were designed mainly to keep up German morale. British Intelligence had information of the raids and the British fleet were in search of the German warships when the light cruiser HMS Nottingham was sunk by three torpedoes fired by the German Submarine U-52. A second cruiser HMS Falmouth was hit by two torpedoes fired by Submarine U-63. Whilst being towed to the Humber River, HMS Falmouth sank the following day after being struck by two more torpedoes, again fired by Submarine U-23.  The German fleet had used submarines to assist in the attacks on surface vessels, but on the 6th October 1916 a decision was made in Germany to resume attacks against merchant shipping. Following this engagement the German fleet, not having the assistance of submarines, did not venture out so far west into the North Sea for the remainder of the war.

Italy had been at war with Austria/Hungary for 15 months. On the 28th August 1916, after the success of the Sixth Battle of Isonzo, Italy declared war on Germany.

On the 29th August 1916, Paul von Hindenburg succeeded Erich von Falkenhayn as Chief of the General Staff. (See Verdun 29th August 1916). Following Hindenburg and Ludendorff’s up-graded positions, Germany’s entire war economy was placed under the Hindenberg Plan. This plan allowed the military to exercise dictatorial style powers over the control of the labour force, munitions production, food distribution and most aspects of daily life.

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