January 1918

January 1918

Western Front

In early 1918, the Western Front had no significant influence in the war until the first phase of the German offensive on the 21st March 1918.The Germans began to move troops from The Eastern Front onto the Western front after the Russians had sought an armistice. The plan was to mount a spring offensive against the Allies, before the Americans arrived in Europe in large numbers. The inclement winter weather was an ideal time for both sides to re-inforce their defences and for the British and French forces to adjust their area of involvement along the Western Front.

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Eastern Front

In January 1918, General Lavr Kornilov organised a volunteer army of 3,000 men who opposed the Bolshevik government, led by Vladimir Lenin. The volunteer soldiers would eventually become known as the White Army. Over the next few months other groups joined in the struggle. Those who joined the White Army include the Cadets, who wished to continue the war against the Central Powers. Some Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries that were opposed to the doctorial powers of the new regime also joined the resistance. Others who joined included landowners who had lost their estates and factory owners whose property had been nationalised. Royalists, who wished to restore the monarchy, and devout members of the Russian Orthodox Church who objected to the government’s atheism, also joined. The Bolshevik Army would eventually be known as the Red Army and the two opposing factions would lead to the Russian Civil War in August 1918.

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Other Theatres

In America on the 8th January 1918, President Woodrow Wilson outlined in a speech to the United States Congress, the principles for peace negotiations in order to end the Great War. The United States had joined the Allied Powers in fighting the Central Powers on 6th April 1917. Its entry into the war had in part been due to Germany’s resumption of submarine warfare against merchant ships trading with France and Britain. If America was going to fight, he wanted to try to break the nationalistic disputes and ambitions. The need for moral aims was more important, when after the fall of the Russian government, the Bolsheviks disclosed secret treaties made between the Allies. Wilson’s speech also considered Vladimir Lenin’s “Decree on Peace” of November 1917, which proposed an immediate withdrawal of Russia from the war. It also called for a just and democratic peace that was not compromised by territorial readjustments, and led to the Treaty of Brest- Litvsk on the 3rd March 1918. In The speech, known as the Fourteen Points, Wilson directly stated what he considered the causes for the world war. He requested the abolition of secret treaties, a reduction in armaments, an adjustment in colonial claims and freedom of the seas. Wilson also made proposals that would ensure world peace in the future. For example, he proposed the removal of economic barriers between nations, and a League of Nations. Included in Wilson’s proposed Fourteen Points, he also had more practical objectives in mind. He hoped to keep Russia in the war by convincing the Bolsheviks that they would receive a better peace from the Allies, which would boost Allied morale, and undermine the German war support. As a basis for easing international relations, the address was well received in the United States, the Allied nations and even by Bolshevik leader Lenin.

 

On the 28th January 1918, 100,000 German workers took to the streets of Berlin, demanding an end to the war on all fronts. Within a few days, the number had increased from 100,000 to 400,000. Plagued by hunger and increasingly frustrated with the continuing Great War, hundreds of thousands of long-suffering German workers prepared for a massive strike in Berlin. Although 1917 had brought a string of military triumphs to the Central Powers it had seen hunger and discontent on the home front rise to unprecedented levels. War with Russia and the Allied naval blockade in the North Sea, had cut Germany and Austro-Hungary off from a crucial supply of food creating food shortages. Discontent flared first in Austria, where flour rations were cut in mid-January. Strikes began almost immediately in Vienna and by the 19th January 1918 there was a general strike throughout the country. Food shortages were even worse in Germany, where some 250,000 people had died from hunger in 1917. The reaction of the German government and the army, frightened by visions of Bolshevik style revolution was swift and decisive. On the 31st January 1918, a state of siege was declared and the ringleaders of the strikes were arrested and court-marshalled. 0ne hundred and fifty were imprisoned, while 50,000 more were drafted into the army and sent to the front.

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Flora Sandes gave a fund raising speech at the Alhambra Theatre in Leicester Square, London on the 29th January 1918. Flora, who was the only English lady to have fought in the trenches with The Serbian Army, was back in England recovering from wounds she sustained on the battlefield. Upon her arrival in England in 1917 she attracted considerable attention from the national press. Nationally she helped to raise funds for her friend, the Hon. Evelina Haverfield, who was the experienced fund raiser for the Scottish Women’s Hospital in Serbia. For her first speaking engagement she appeared in her sergeant-majors uniform complete with campaign and bravery medals. Although nervous at speaking solo to a music hall audience she raised the biggest collection ever taken at a matinee performance. She was to go onto further fund raising activities in the future.

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