Gas! – A New Horror On The Battlefield I THE GREAT WAR Week 28


It becomes almost monotonous. Death. In the
trenches of the west, the mountains of the east, in Africa and the Middle East, in the
mud, the sand, or the snow, nothing but death, but it’s not monotonous because it gets
worse: for this week we see the beginnings, the first rumblings of two of the most feared
and deadly programs in the entire of history of war. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War Last week we saw the Emperor Franz Joseph’s
army launch a winter offensive against the Russians who were also cleaning up against
the Turks in the Caucasus. The British navy had scored points over the Germans in the
North Sea, while the French had stopped the Germans once again at the Aisne. And the British
and French were now jointly making plans for a future attack on the Dardanelles. All right, this week we’re going to focus
a bit on the Eastern Front and the Ottoman Empire, and actually, this year, 1915, a huge
chunk of what happened that would determine the course of the war played out on the Eastern
Front or in Ottoman territory. Now, it’s only been a few weeks since the
Turkish Third Army was almost completely destroyed by the Russians at the battle of Sarikamis.
But the Ottomans are on the move again, this time against the British as Turkish troops
advance toward the Suez Canal. This was quite cleverly done; see, they marched 200km through
the Sinai desert using wells that German engineers had secretly dug in advance so that they could
keep the element of surprise. Little background here: the British had formally
declared a Protectorate of Egypt back on December 18th, and had installed Prince Hussein Kamel
as Sultan, deposing Almas Hilmi. The Suez Canal had featured prominently in British
affairs since it opened back in 1869 and its defense was a pretty important thing since
it was the main route between Britain and many of her colonies. The Ottoman Empire had
been planning to take the canal since the beginning of mobilization. It would be tricky, though, because you’d
need artillery and you’d need surprise, and there was no way to attack the canal by
road, so you had to cross the desert to get to it. But on February 3rd, the Turkish troops,
under the leadership of the German Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Kress von Kressenstein-
really- attacked. The British were protecting the west bank and the main attack was at Ismailia. Now, the Canal is about 50 meters wide so
the Turkish forces tried to throw pontoon up bridges in an attempt to get across, but
Indian machine gunners, backed by Egyptian artillery, cut them down and the Turkish forces
were forced to retreat, taking well over ten times the number of casualties as the defenders.
See, the Turks had really relied on surprise, but the British forces knew way in advance
that they were coming because of reconnaissance aircraft. You could really see that planes
were becoming more and more important this war. So this was the very beginning of the
Sinai and Palestine campaign. In other news from the Middle East this week,
the Turks suffered another loss, this one on the Persian Front, as the Russians took
Tabriz on January 30th. You can probably imagine how a successful
attempt on the Suez Canal might have affected the naval war, but there were other events
this week that really did affect it. On January 30th, a German submarine sank four
British merchant vessels off the Lancashire coast. Following this, the British Admiralty
advised merchant ships to fly the flags of neutral countries in future to avoid being
sunk by the Germans. A few days later, Kaiser Wilhelm gave his approval to un restricted
submarine warfare, although it would take a couple of weeks to really get going. The Germans were making moves on land this
week as well, over in Poland as they clashed with the Russians beginning January 31st at
the Battle of Bolimov This was yet another move by the Germans toward
Warsaw but was also intended to draw Russian troops away from East Prussia. This battle
is mainly remembered today because it marked the first time the Germans used gas on a large
scale. It wasn’t the poison gas used later on, though; it was xylyl bromide, which is
a tear gas. The German army launched 18,000 shells loaded with the gas, but it was first
blown back at them, and then failed to vaporize, having frozen in the winter temperatures.
When the new secret weapon failed, the German attack was called off. The Russians did launch several counter attacks,
though, which were stopped by the German artillery at a cost of 40,000 casualties, twice that
of the Germans. And that’s called a minor battle. But I suppose it is a minor battle in the
grand scheme of things, because further to the southeast there was a major battle going
on, as the Austro-Hungarian army continued its Carpathian offensive. We saw that army, backed by three German divisions,
make some headway in the mountains last week, but the tables were now starting to turn.
On February 1st, the Russians advanced from the Dukla Pass to the Upper San River. The
weather had deteriorated rapidly and the combination of that and battle losses wrecked the Austrian
frontline troop strength. By its second week, the offensive had all but collapsed. The Russians
held the Dukla Pass and Russians troops were heading through it to threaten important railway
junctions. On top of this, a major objective of the offensive had been to break the siege
at Przemysl and free the Austrian army trapped there. This wasn’t about to happen this
week- they were still 100km away. Sure, there were both gains and losses, back and forth,
and by the end of the week the Russians were even falling back from Bukovina, but- -I’m going to quote Graydon Tunstall here:
“Combat exhaustion under winter mountain conditions is incomprehensible to anyone who
has not suffered through such an experience. Habsburg troops routinely lacked basic necessities.
Food supplies…were usually frozen solid. Heavy rainfall, blinding snowstorms, and icy
river crossings left the soldiers’ uniforms frozen to their bodies…most suffered lung
ailments and frostbite- many froze to death. What meager equipment the troops did receive
proved unsuitable: boots with cardboard soles, for example, quickly became unusable. The
Habsburg Supreme Command displayed a profound ignorance of these obvious conditions throughout
the war- an utter failure to recognize the realities of mountain warfare in winter…”
and he continues: “…Utterly exhausted, many of the troops
became apathetic or committed suicide by shooting themselves or exposing themselves to enemy
fire. Tens of thousands of horses too- critical to the Habsburg supply chain- succumbed to
overexertion and starvation.” A big problem with the Austrian army that
really showed here is that they, alone among the major powers, did not have a reserve army,
so hundreds of thousands of men were forced to remain at their posts until they were killed,
wounded, captured, or missing- which usually meant they had frozen to death. Everyone else
regularly rotated their frontline troops, which the Russians were doing here. The Russians
were also more used to the climate and terrain, and they were, perhaps surprisingly to some,
better led and tactically superior. They also had superior artillery, so by the end of the
first two weeks of this offensive, the official Austrian casualty toll was 88,900 of an initial
force of 175,000. But still, the offensive continued in full force. Think back six months when Austria-Hungary
declared war on Serbia. Who could have even imagined they would be fighting a winter war
in their own mountains to the north losing 45,000 men a week. But much of the Austro-Hungarian
elite had wanted a war, a war for glory and land, and as we know, the assassination of
Franz Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip made a great excuse for that war. This week, some of that came round full circle,
as Veljko Cubrilovic, Misko Jovanovic, and Danilo Ilic, three of Princip’s accomplices,
were hanged February 3rd. Princip himself was not – he had been sentenced to 20 years of hard labor, having been less than 20 years old at the time of the crime That was the minimum age for which one could receive the death penalty. And so the week ends, with the Russians and
Austrians fighting intensely in the mountains. The Germans have stopped the Russians at Bolimov,
and the British have stopped the Ottomans at the Suez, but really, two things happened
this week that foreshadow horrors to come, so I’m going to mention them again. The Kaiser gave the green light to unrestricted
submarine warfare. Traditional prize rules held that only warships or merchant ships
that are a threat to the attacker may be sunk without warning, and that merchant crews must
be put in safety before their ships are sunk. No more. Freighters and tankers, ships that
couldn’t really defend themselves, would now be sunk without warning. This would lead
to thousands upon thousands of civilians drowning helplessly over the coming years. But the
fear of being torpedoed perhaps pales in comparison to the threat of poison gas- your lungs burning
as you cough your life away. The groundwork for both of these horrors, yes horrors any
way you look at it, was laid this week. There was no more compassion left; just brutality
and evil. Brutality and monotony were also constant
companions of soldiers living in the trenches. We made a special episode about this life,
the schematics and plans behind these elaborate defences. You can check it out right here. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for more
information on World War 1 and don’t forget to subscribe. See you next week

100 thoughts on “Gas! – A New Horror On The Battlefield I THE GREAT WAR Week 28

  1. I'm actually from Bolimov (Bolimów in Polish) and in the town square there is a bell made from one of the gas canisters.

  2. One of my favorite things about this channel is the lack of obvious bias in your briefs. That's enormously hard to do, and, Indiana you do very well at it. I think there was only once in the previous videos that I noticed you describe with utter disdain the disastrous Ottoman expedition led by Enver Pasha. And it's hard not to treat these leaders with the contempt that they deserve for their utter incompetence. But the gas attacks can truly only be described as you put it: evil. Your "this was modern war" refrain is starting to get a little haunting.

  3. 7:27 "…but still the offensive continued in full force" … I'm not sure if "full" is best word here… 🙂

  4. Did Austro-Hungaria and Russia also fight in a type of trench battle? I'm curious of how they actually fought

  5. Been watching for a couple of months now, watching several episodes a day when I can catching up to where we are now in July 2016. Great concept going week by week like that and it allows a more thorough examination than you would get in a book. Like the "out of the trenches" episodes as well. I'm a fan of military history in general and hope I won't have to wait another 20 years to get a similar WWII series, but I guess the 100 years ago this week angle is part of the charm of this series so wouldn't really work for WWII.

  6. Hey Indy!! Thanks to you and your team for the great series!! I've got an idea for a special, and I don't know if it is interesting enough, but I would enjoy a special about the war flags and the flags in general of the warring nations.. Also, I would very much like a special about the political split in Greece throughout the war between the royalists and the Venizelists. Keep up the good work!!

  7. Excellent and ambitious series. Thank you for taking on such a project. The Great War has generally been overshadowed by WW2.

  8. Thankyou for another great episode.
    Since Bucovina was mentioned, I can not resist to add this song.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-wcMfGdMow&index=25&list=RD6jmkqHmzuCg

  9. I am a cold war soldier. I served in WEST Germany in the late 80s and the biggest fear was Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical warefare. The 500,000 Russians and East Germans weren't what we were worried about, nor were we particularly worried about Nuclear attacks on Europe, but chemical and biological were considered the most likely aside from the front line combat.

  10. somehow I knew you would not mention Britain being first to use the gas, even if not on such big scale. I simply expect such things from western documentaries at this point.

  11. I've been binge-watching these and whenever I start a new week's video my first thought now is "Oh boy, can barely wait to see how Hotzenderp fucked up this time!". If it weren't for the absurd amount of death and pain his idiocy caused he'd make a great comedy character.

  12. JESUS! (and I'm Muslim), I don't even know if I want to continue watching this series anymore. This series should be taught in every history class, the entire next generation would be the most pacifistic/anti-war ever.

  13. 3:17 my great grandfather died on one of those merchant ships that were sunk. I wonder if he could have survived if the British navy was more effective against u boats.

  14. the gentlemen's war was no more, and while wars are hell and the most terrible thing we humans can do to each other, there was a certain beauty and gallantry in those wars fought by gentlemanly rules. that ended in the XX century, and boy, gas and uboats were one hell of a way to end it

  15. Indy, how did you just become such a good host/speaker? Is it all natura, did you take class or did you have previous experience? Your intonations, hand movement, cadence are on point.

  16. Hello Indy, I have a question for your amazing Out of the Trenches show. My question is regarding the Battle of Osowiec and the so-called "attack of the dead" that occurred there. I have not been able to find much information on the topic, and hoped you can clarify. Thanks in advance.

  17. Hey Indi and team . I want you guys to take a look at a book called "all quiet on western fronts". there are some horrifying , true and real descriptions of western front in the book . thanks a lot for great show. keep it up

  18. Not a bad thing, just an observation, but boy do you talk with your hands! I've just found the channel in the last week and have only now in the past couple videos noticed. Your videos are beyond great though.

  19. I read that originally the German Navy started unrestricted submarine warfare, Because the British developed Q ships that pretended to be unarmed merchant ships; So the German U-boats would surface to allow the crews to abandon ship before they were sunk. And the Q-ships would fire on them with hidden armaments. And in one case known as the Baralong Incident a Q-ship captain ordered the massacre of a sunken U-boat's surviving crew.

  20. Would be interesting to get some background on the Persian front. How did Persia (formally neutral) get involved in this mess?

  21. Just one thought about gas: maybe it was not seen as a new horror back then but as a way to end the war quickly and save more lives at the end of the day. Similar to the argument to use the nuclear bomb in WWII?

  22. When I was in school the Russian part of WW1 was summed up in one paragraph. In it is said little more than that their army fought with wooden farm tools and they quit in 1917. Now here I see that they are playing by far the biggest part of the war and out matching the Austrians in everything including weapons and equipment. This is why you shouldn't trust school.

  23. The Austro-Hungarian army's soul crushing incompetence is seriously painful to learn of seeing as it lead to millions of deaths

  24. Cant wait to start reading the hate comments about Americans when they joined the war after looking at all these people bashing Austria lol….wow

  25. Did the truks and the austrians won anything in this war? Or were just there to make life even more difficult to Germany?

  26. This is how one of Warner Bros. first big stars got his start. Rin Tin Tin was born in a kennel used to supply the German Army, and was later rescued by a U. S. soldier along with four littermates and his mother. He was eventually brought to dog shows near Hollywood, and his career took off from there. Rin Tin Tin became an international star of the silent/early sound era the world over, including back in Germany where he was born.

  27. I think the reason World War 1 lasted so long was probably because every side suddenly realized their mistakes at the same time and went, "ahhhhhhhhhh……" before smartening up.

  28. A war to end all war has caused more civilian losses than PROBABLY all other wars in the 18th century combined 😮 and is just about to go on further as it reaches the seas 🙁

  29. Maybe we should stop calling it WW1 or the great war and go with Austria, war to lower its population. If we call it that then we can look at Austria as successful.

  30. WOW that is a big deal.. so the freaking British order the merchants to fly False flags, a MAJOR violation of international law and English law with many insured out of London.

    And yet the germans are blamed when theya re forced to just sink any flagged ship near Britain because of this CRIME!!!!

    Like the RMS Lusitania that we NOW know did in fact have massive amounts of Ammunition and guns in the Hold, Found by deep sea Explorers nearly a century later

  31. The most shocking thing about all of this crappile for me is, that the guys who committed and suffered all theese atrocities where no different then you and me. The had the bad luck to be born back then, so they died like flies. What a waste.

  32. I can only imagine some poor Turk soldier be it Private , Sargent, Platoon Leader and even a General standing at the Suez Canal dismayed and saying," How did they know we were coming?" I can only guess that they blew off the lone airplane circling above their heads not giving it a second thought. It probably dawned on the Private as he saw his comrades lying dead at the wreckage of the pontoon bridges.

  33. >>>>Hello Indy, I have a question for your amazing Out of the Trenches show. My question is regarding the Battle of Osowiec and the so-called "attack of the dead" that occurred there. I have not been able to find much information on the topic, and hoped you can clarify. Thanks in advance.
    I'm also interested 🙂 it would be great if you can tell something about it.

  34. Thank you for being so transparent about the brutality of this war. It is horrifying. I graduated high school in '08, and really the most we covered about WWI was the assassination that started it all and simulating the start of the war ourselves through a classroom exercise. Never did we learn this much, and that is a shame and a failing.

  35. I really appreciate you taking the time to acknowledge how terrible poison gas was. My great great grandpa served in WW1 and when he came back he was psychologically scarred, a once ver gentle and kind man, he suddenly would be very harsh and quick to anger. He eventually abounded my family only to be found a few years later dead in a park. In the autopsy, the doctors described how terrible the stench of mustard gas was when they opened up his corpse…

  36. Poison gas produced surprisingly few casualties-it has been bigged up beyond its actual efficiency-also trying it out on British and French was a big mistake-the wind or breeze blows west to east for 3/4 of the year. But if an irony that a Jewish German scientist led the research team into chlorine as a weapon.

  37. So. Germany has a general called Francois and other called Einstein. One did not like the french and the other the english.

  38. When a serbian kill a austrian boi in a bosnian territory so you as a indian have to fight in africa against the Ottomans in the name of the brits

  39. "Whatever you think of these damn Turks, you cannot call them weaklings. Their army must have marched across the whole bloody desert in about ten days, under this burning sun. Right now they occupy the far bank of our precious canal; I can see them watching us like wolves.
    Tomorrow we shall be upon them like the devil."

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