The Battle of Passchendaele – Mutiny in the German Navy I THE GREAT WAR Week 158

The Battle of Passchendaele – Mutiny in the German Navy I THE GREAT WAR Week 158

Ever since his offensive at Arras in April,
British Commander in Chief Sir Douglas Haig has been champing at the bit to get his summer
offensive going in Belgium, and this week, it happens. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. The shift from last week to this week marks
the 3rd anniversary of the outbreak of the war, and there was a lot going in in the field. On the Eastern Front, the Russian retreat
had turned into a rout with many men flinging down their rifles and abandoning the fight;
while in Romania, Russian and Romanian forces were themselves pushing back the Central Powers. The Kaiser made a speech reaffirming his commitment
to destroy what he called “British world domination”, and in Flanders, the preliminary
barrage for the new British offensive was in full swing. And that offensive, the Third Battle of Ypres,
also known as Passchendaele, began this week. The Allies could really use a period of dry
weather, since the land in Flanders floods with the summer rains. But it had rained the 29th and the artillery
barrage from 3,000 big guns had seriously damaged the local drainage system in any case,
so the land was seriously marshy. The weather on July 31th was overcast and
cloudy. Zero Hour was set that day for 3:50 AM, so
the battlefield would be in darkness, and because of the clouds the Royal Flying Corps
would be unable to really play a part. As the moment came and the creeping barrage
roared to life, the men went over the top. Nine British and six French divisions went
forward on a 25km front, though “A World Undone” says it was 17 total. There were 17 more in reserve. The French under Francois Anthoine were on
the left, Herbert Plumer’s second army was on the right to hold Messines Ridge as a pivot
for the main thrust, and that was ten divisions of Hugh Gough’s 5th army in the center. Nearly half a million men were attacking. Opposing them were 20 divisions of the German
4th Army in four clusters; 9 near the front, 6 behind them, 2 at the rear, and 3 further
behind, so pretty much anywhere the Allies made a hole, the Germans could send up men
to try and close it. Many of the British and French attackers made
good progress, taking their first objectives with relative ease and they found that a lot
of the front line German trenches had been obliterated by artillery. 136 tanks had been deployed as support for
the advance to the Black Line – about 2km into the German positions. Only two tanks failed to reach their deployment
positions at zero hour, a big change from last fall, those these were Mark IVs, not
Mark Is, but tanks didn’t really make much of an impact that day. The ground was terrible for them, though the
tank “Crusader” helped the Gordon Highlanders advance to the Black Line by taking out snipers
and machine gun nests, and the tank “Challenger” patrolled the Black Line for most of the day,
wreaking havoc on the Germans. But Mark IV tanks had a top speed of around
6 km/h, and the boggy ground slowed them to a crawl and made them major targets. This day thus became and still is one of the
worst in history for the only just established British Tank Corps. Of the 52 tanks advancing with Gough’s men,
22 broke down and 19 were put out of action. The most crucial point of the British 5th
Army’s attack was on the Gheluvelt Plateau, but the ground was terrible there and the
German positions were supported by artillery on reverse slopes but still, some gains were
made, though there were reports of men sinking up to their waists in mud and falling behind
the creeping barrage. But what of the German defenders? Well, the foremost trenches had been garrisoned
pretty lightly, with the majority of the defenses being in great depth and kind of deployed
in a checkerboard pattern, as we’ve seen before, that offered the strongpoints mutual
support. Thing is, the German units would signal for
artillery help, but the flares often went unseen because of the weather, so the front
positions couldn’t really do much to stop the assault. Still, German field guns on elevated ground
to the north and the south of the plateau, which would have been spotted by Allied aircraft
without the clouds and fog, did their deadly work. By midday, German counterattacks had tilted
the battle to their favor, but much like their enemy, they had serious problems with deployment
and communication. A runner sent with vital information could
take several hours to cross a few thousand meters. By late afternoon casualties were heavy on
both sides, the troops were exhausted, and reserves were drying up, so the men were ordered
to dig in and the battle was ended for the moment. And it began to rain again. Gough had actually achieved some sort of success. Things hadn’t maybe gone so well on his
right, but elsewhere the 5th Army had taken its first two objectives on time and without
overwhelming casualties. In fact, in the first two days of the battle,
they advanced more than the British had on any previous western front offensive, in one
sector four km and in another, three. Gough decided that his men were to try and
push the Germans to the Green Line – the third objective, and another kilometer or so toward
Polygon Wood – by August 4th, but the rain fell for the remainder of the week, preventing
real large-scale operations. British casualties for the 5th and 2nd armies
from July 31-August 3rd were 31,850, including 23,000 the first day. Now that’s a lot, but it’s a lot fewer
than from the first day of the Battle of the Somme last summer, just a bit more than half
of that. Thing is, Gough’s planning had proven to
be pretty flawed. He hadn’t driven into the German defenses
nearly as far as he’d imagined he would, and there was really no chance that infantry
could move as fast and as far as he wanted through the layered German positions. He certainly hadn’t come near to taking
Roulers, which was what was supposed to happen before the planned amphibious landing could
take place, so that amphibious force just remained idle. Also, the continuing German hold of the Gheluvelt
Plateau negated any chance of a breakthrough. Germany though, going back to the artillery
barrage of the 21st, had taken 30,000 casualties itself, including 9,000 missing, which isn’t
surprising since the barrage was the heaviest ever and a lot of those missing Germans had
simply been buried alive by it, and more than 5,000 Germans were taken prisoner between
July 31 and August 2nd. A side note here – German 4th Army estimated
that on just July 31st its batteries fired off the equivalent of 27 ammunition TRAINS,
four times what was seen as heavy consumption at the Somme. And the Germans also had other things to worry
about. On the 2nd, from the battleship Prinzregent
Luitpold at Wilhelmshaven, a stoker named Albin Köbis led a mutiny of around 400 sailors
into town with cries of “down with the war!” The men were persuaded to return to the ship
and there was no violence, but several hundred sailors that had “attitude problems” were
sent to shore and 75 were put in prison. Köbis was sentenced to death and was executed
by a firing squad in Cologne. Another sailor who’d led a similar sort
of action aboard the Friedrich der Grosse was also executed. But there was now a spirit of mutiny among
soldiers of both sides. In the Russian army and its now two week long
retreat, many men were just refusing to fight. On the 1st, Russian Prime Minister and Minister
of War Alexander Kerensky replaced General Alexei Brusilov as Army Commander in Chief
with General Lavr Kornilov. Kornilov had become a hero for the nation
just a few weeks ago when the Russian offensive was making great strides, and Kerensky hoped
this would not only raise morale in the army, but somehow stop its collapse. And at the end of the week, Czernowitz fell
to the Central Powers’ forces. But things weren’t going well for them elsewhere. The Battle of Marasti came to an end this
week on August 1st, with a ringing Russian and Romanian victory over the Central Powers. In the ten days of the battle, they had breached
the enemy lines along a 35 km front to a depth to a depth of 28 kilometers and had liberated
some 30 villages. However, because of the Russian defeats in
Galicia, much of the Russian forces were planned to soon be withdrawn to fight on their own
territory, and German Field Marshal August von Mackensen planned an offensive of his
own. And that was the week – an Allied victory
in Romania, a continuing Russian retreat and a new Russian army commander, a mutiny in
the German navy, and a major new Allied offensive in the west. With half a million men attacking. Just a spoiler – the total forces involved
in the Battle of Passchendaele would be nearly four million men. Four million men fighting each other and killing
each other. That’s more than the urban population of
Berlin, of Madrid, of Buenos Aires. Heck, if you just count the city proper it’s
more people than Los Angeles. And they were all soldiers, and they were
all fighting each other, day after day after Just think about that for a minute. I mentioned the book “A World Undone”
by G.J. Meyer earlier, it is a fantastic book One of my favourite books about the war and a great source for our show. Of course you can get in our amazon store
by clicking the link below. If you want to learn more about the man behind
the Third Battle of Ypres, you can click right here for our bio episode about Sir Douglas
Haig. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Robert
“Jeff the Hobo” Cartwright. That is an awesome name. Thank you Jeff the Hobo and everybody else for your support on Patreon, we could not do this show without it. See you next time.


  1. Just finished binging every regular episode of The Great War. This is easily one of my favorite shows on YouTube. Keep up the great work, Indy and everyone else on your team.

  2. A question for out of the trenches: What helmet designs created during WWI are still used today, or did any helmets made during that time inspire any other helmets that we see in use for things like construction?
    Thank you so much.

  3. Thousands of feat march to the beat, it's an army on the march.
    Long way from home, paying the price in young mens live.

    Thousands of feat march to the beat, it's an army in despair.
    Knee – deep in mud, stuck in trench with no way out.
    ~ Sabaton, The Price Of A Mile

  4. Indy I've been watching since episode one and I'd like to say I love how much this channel has grown I have one question will we get this same thing for ww2 in 30ish years

  5. Is this the German mutiny, cited by Hitler, as 'the reason', or 'a reason' for the German surrender in 1918?

  6. Hi Indy and the gang! My question for out of the trenches is that i know about american soldiers who volunteered in the British and french armies before the USA joined the war, and the Czech legion in Russia, but was there any foreign volunteers who joined the German army? Keep up the great work and thanks.

  7. I feel compelled to watch every episode of The Great War. If I don't, I believe Indy will come to my home and murder me with the Gurkha Kukri on his desk.

  8. Hello Indy & Crew! You run a fabulous show it is obvious you are giving your whole self in the show and you are awesome for that. My question (maybe for out of the trenches) is: A couple of weeks ago you told us something about the signing of the "Corfu declaration". Could you tell us something more about the activities of the "Yugoslav commitee", led by Ante Trumbić and Frano Supilo, which had been trying, throughout the whole war, to persuade the western politicians to work towards organising unified state of Southern Slavs later called the "Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes". Much love! Looking forward to every new episode.

  9. Hello Great War channel I have a question for you and if I'm lucky this might make it to out of the trenches. I saw in the news recently that trenches in England have been excavated or found and it was not training trenches it was defences according to the news. If it was defences could you tell us about it and did they extend into Scotland and where they effective. Thank you for they very interesting episodes and keep up the amazing work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. 4 million men = madrid or berlin.
    What if I say that 4 million men is 25% if the Dutch population in the whole Netherlands.

  11. "Pe aici nu se trece"(romanian)/"They shall no pass"(english). The slogan of Romanian Army in the Battle of Mărăşeşti against of Germans and Austro-Hungarians. The biggest victory of Romanian Army of entire WW1. Today, 6 august, we celebrate the centenary of the Battle of Mărăşeşti. Glory of Romanian Army!

  12. Navy personnel seem to have a tendency to revolt what comes to continental powers, regardless of nationality and time period.

    No amount of training, discipline or supplemental tasks seem to mask the fact they have way too little, if any, meaningless activity and moral suffers to the point of mutinous extracurricular activities.

    Fleet in being doctrine might justify such expenditure, if we're generous enough, but still, all those idle personnel could have been used better elsewhere..

  13. The battle of Britons-charging-machine-guns-but-in-soggy-ground-this-time, and Russians retreating and changing their government again.

  14. It boggles the mind to know that even when the British and French CONSISTENTLY threw millions of men away in senseless slaughters like the Somme, they still somehow managed to win the war. I knew that tactics were poorly implemented before coming to this channel, but only now am I discovering the true extent of it. Like, honestly, had I not had prior knowledge of the outcome of the war and I was just watching this completely blind, I'd say the Central Powers are gonna win for sure, just because of the sheer badassery of the Germans.

  15. Hey Indy! Did it ever happened that both sides went over the top at the same time and fought in no man's land? By coincidence, or any other reason…

  16. Seriously…the German navy hanging out in the docks for most of the war but being the ones to mutiny and ally themselves with the communists.

  17. A question for The Great War prior to the War what was the most valuable colonies to the German Empire?

    I read that Only Togoland and German Samoa became profitable and self-sufficient

    thank you all of the Great War and Crew!!!

  18. Hey Indy the 2 tanks you mentioned around 3 minutes in the show are they the namesakes for the latter British Challenger and Crusader tank models? Seems like an awfully big coincidence

  19. Do you guys have a full version of your intromusic? I really like it and i would like to hear it while playing World of Warships 😀

  20. Have you noticed how at the beginning of his videos it seems more enthusiastic, and by the end it's sad, a little slow, and he sounds tired. It's like a mirror to the Great War himself

  21. Blood is falling like a rain
    Its crimson cloak unveils again
    The sound of guns can't hide their shame
    And so we die on Paschendale

  22. I'd love to invent a time machine, go back to 1917 grab a few generals from all sides,bring them back to the future and make them watch this series………not so they can learn the outcome of the war, but to watch the senseless stupid needless loss of life. make them watch the true scale of their blunders and out dated martial code of warfare.

  23. I hope that the The Battle of Passchendaele will be one of the new operations on BF1 Apocalypse DLC. The Battle of the Somme is number 1 on my wish list though.

  24. Well if anyone would know about ''British world domination'' it would be Kaiser Willie, him being part of the British royal family an' all.

  25. Russia wants peace, yet Kerensky is unwavering in his commitment to the war. He is destroying the legitimacy of the revolutionary government. He is imperilling the revolution itself by this shortsightedness,. Does he want to create a dictatorship just so he can continue this awful futility? What is to be done?

  26. You guys have probably gotten this request before, but TGW should do a bio special on "the last fighting Tommy", Harry Patch. Passchendaele was the battle he was deployed at where he went over the top. At 111 he died as the last verified trench fighter of WWI. He didn't speak about the war until he was over 100 after some 80 years of silence. He wrote a great biography before he died. Great bio material for the channel.

  27. Why didn't you talk about all the Australian regiments being united at the only time in the war you didn't say anything about the ANZAC soldier who lost we're life's fighting there

  28. I'm so proud that I have the opportunity to represent my town and the royal British legion at the battlefields of pacsiondale to commemorate the 100 year anniversary,

  29. Arrow, we Canadians and Australians along with all the other nations that were at the time Dominions and Colonies,both British & French have much to be proud of in regards to our great soldiers sacrifice. I think that Australia and Canada should rightly be especially proud of the leaders in the field that we produced, your Currie and our Monash were giants above the entire British class system leaders. First their concern and compassion for their troops, second their amazing battlefield intellect, their humility and commitment could not ever be matched by the entire British and French staff generals put together. As an Vietnam war conscript Infantryman I particularly appreciate how far ahead of their time they were, sadly the leadership of the Australian army was pathetic in comparison during our Vietnam commitment. Arrogance, hubris and a total lack of battle fitness was the general rule. Too old ( every Battalion Commander was a Korean Vet) they were totally out of touch with the generation of conscripts that made up in excess of 50% of the combat riflemen that made up their battalion. Most of the regular troops were old illiterate, innumerates of the post WW 2 except with the exception of some excellent junior NCO's and few senior NCO's. Promoted on the basis of urgency in a true meritocracy they wouldn't have been given command of a flock of chooks!

  30. Ah Alexander Kerensky was such a tragic figure in trying to get some order in the revolutionary Russia.

    Most people now just know him as the guy that made several Clans worth of Space Eugenics Mongols with their own cute animal mascots.

  31. My great great grandma Alice’s brother (Harry Lythe) emigrated from England to Canada 🇨🇦 in 1910, he enlisted to the Canadian expeditionary force in 1915 when he was 27. During Passchendaele he was serving with a Lewis gun section, around 18-21st September 1917 he went missing during the battle, his name is on the Vimy memorial. His brother who moved to Canada in around 1912 (George) became a pilot in 1917 and survived the war. Although many won’t read this and those who do probably aren’t interested, I have link to a page about him with a Toronto news article.

  32. It's always interesting seeing the date of death for some of the generals involved, kind of gives away what their circumstances become later on.

  33. On a foreign field he lay, lonely soldier unknown grave, on his dying words he prays, tell the world of Paschendale

  34. Hear the sound of a machine gun
    Hear it echo in the night
    Mortals firing rains the scene
    Scars the fields
    That once were green

    It's a stalemate at the front line
    Where the soldiers rest in mud
    Roads and houses
    All is gone
    There is no glory to be won

    know that many men will suffer
    Know that many men will die
    Half a million lives at stake
    Ask the fields of Passchendaele

    And as the night falls the general calls
    And the battle carries on and on
    How long?
    What is the purpose of it all
    What's the price of a mile?

    Thousands of feet march to the beat
    It's an army on the march
    Long way from home
    Paying the price in young men's lives
    Thousands of feet march to the beat
    It's an army in despair
    Knee-deep in mud
    Stuck in the trench with no way out

    Thousands of machineguns
    Kept on firing through the night
    Mortars blazed and wrecked the scene
    Guns in the fields that once were green

    Still a deadlock at the front line
    Where the soldiers die in mud
    Roads and houses since long gone
    Still no glory has been won
    Know that many men has suffered
    Know that many men has died

    Six miles of ground has been won
    Half a million men are gone
    And as the men crawled the general called
    And the killing carried on and on
    How long?
    What's the purpose of it all?
    What's the price of a mile?

    Thousands of feet march to the beat
    It's an army on the march
    Long way from home
    Paying the price in young men's lives
    Thousands of feet march to the beat
    It's an army in despair
    Knee-deep in mud
    Stuck in the trench with no way out

    Young men are dying
    They pay the price
    Oh how they suffer
    So tell me what's the price of a mile

    That's the price of a mile.

    Thousands of feet march to the beat
    It's an army on the march
    Long way from home
    Paying the price in young men's lives
    Thousands of feet march to the beat
    It's an army in despair
    Knee-deep in mud
    Stuck in the trench with no way out

  35. Passchendaele is one of the most tragic horrors in human history. May the lives of nearly a million men…who suffered beyond belief…rest in Elysium…the fields of eternal peace.
    Gods only know, they deserve such mercy…as the cruelty of the world showed them no mercy.
    Peace…sons of war. I pray you are never forgotten from our memories.

  36. This is true of a lot of WW1, but the landscape they fought on was horrendous, the earth was literally peppered with shells, and the entire landscape reduced to a wet and barren death plane. To think men, sometimes boys fought through that is terrifying

  37. Question, if you were offered a tactical victory that relieved a significant portion of territory, used up massive armaments resources of the enemy, would result in more than 1:1 casualties for the enemy (best numbers are probably 260k:300k), would allow the French to finally take the Chamin De Dames with half the casualties inflicted on Germans as French, that would result in the enemy having to significantly man the Flanders positions instead of their intended light forces, and the German Army would say, "Germany had been brought near to certain destruction by the Flanders battles of 1917"…wouldn't you take that? If you answer yes, then you must accept Passchendaele was not just a "victory" but more importantly than that, a key step to ultimate victory?

    And yet Lloyd George said (20'years after) "no soldier of any intelligence" remembering he thought Haig literally a dunce "now defends this senseless campaign." Lloyd George, Liddel Hart and other 30s writers (already seeing the future of the 2nd WW) have coloured our view today. It's why I would not base all my views of WW1 on books like World Undone, but doing original source materials.

    It's not a great battle, but it is an important victory and are towards final victory. To say the battle was lost (especially the first weeks)…is Lloyd George's mindset. Sending men to Italy cost victory later at Cambrai.

    I remain in full agreement with Indy the casualties are grotesque (though the 300k number Robertson referenced was total…not deaths…and Passchendaele had less than that and the Germans more.

    Victory in the war wasn't going to a small matter…I hate every loss of life, but as a military historian and a social one, this was the calculus.

  38. the amazon link is dead or something. Keeps saying the website is down temporarily and it has been several weeks…

  39. My history maybe a little rusty but ! I think Canadian Troops took Passchendaele ! In a week or less, 4 divisions ! Why didn't they just send the Canucks in to begin with, they seemed the only Army that could get anything done. and the AnzacTroops.

  40. Hotzdendorff: I might be the most incompetent butcher in this whole war.
    Cadorna: Hold my chianti.
    Haig: Hold my tea.

  41. 4 million men is more than the population of Wales, it's most of the population of Scotland and more than double the population of Northern Ireland…
    That's mind boggling.

  42. As I remember, russians were disloyal allies. They often refused to fight, acted in such way that romanian troops were put at disadvantage facing the germans and retreated and plundered the lands which they were supposed to defend. Our resounding victories in the summer of 1917 were mostly won by our romanian troops, pushed beyond their limits, defending what little land remained to us. The russians had no interest in dying for a people they despised, on the orders of a Tsar they grew to hate more and more.

  43. Woww,4 million men was larger than French-British Army’s operational land force in any point of WW1 and almost big as German Army’s operational force.

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