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7. Germany's Strategic Plan for 1917. The strategic conduct of the War was also modified. In view of the increasing strength of the Entente Powers, of their apparent intention to resume the offensive, and of the time required for the Hindenburg Programme' to mature, Germany was compelled to economize her forces, and, temporarily at any rate, to stand on the defensive. The tactical manuals were re-written, and the training of the troops was altered in accordance with this policy. For the time being the doctrine of the relentless offensive', so long inculcated in the mind of the German soldier, was abandoned. It was rightly anticipated that the 1917 offensive of the Allies in the West would be directed towards crushing in the great German salient between Arras and Reims. In order to avoid the full force of this blow, a retrenchment, known as the Siegfried Line', was prepared between the Scarpe and the Aisne, passing through St. Quentin, and a retirement to this position was timed to commence on the 16th March 1917 and was prepared in the fullest detail.

The adoption of this defensive policy in the West did not mean that Germany was to remain inactive in other directions. The reorganization of the Austro-Hungarian, Bulgarian, and Turkish Armies was taken in hand seriously, and plans were laid for undermining Russia's moral cohesion and for extending Germany's domination eastwards. At the same time it was hoped that the adoption of unrestricted submarine warfare in the early spring would prove decisive in bringing Great Britain to her knees.

Finally, after the occupation of Bucharest in December 1916, the German Emperor endeavoured to induce the Allies to enter into peace negotiations. As it was soon perceived that these negotiations would be based solely on Germany's territorial conquests, and would satisfy none of the Allies' war-aims, the illusory offer was rejected. Meanwhile, the Allies were reorganizing their forces for a renewal of the struggle. Changes in the Higher Command took place both in the French Army and in the British Navy. A new Ministry was formed in London under Mr. Lloyd George, and the War Cabinet' was instituted. In February 1917, the Allies, after a conference at Calais, reaffirmed their plan of joint offensives which had been decided upon at Chantilly in November 1916, and the general conduct



of the campaign on the Western Front was entrusted to the French Commander-in-Chief.

This plan of combined offensives was strategically sound, and its execution might well have proved successful, had not a new factor, hitherto unheeded, paralysed the military strength of the Russian Empire.

8. The Collapse of Russia. The enormous casualties suffered by the Russian armies were already producing a feeling of warweariness among the peoples of Russia. The national life had been dislocated by the over-mobilization of the country's manhood, and the harshness and inefficiency of the bureaucracy had caused widespread unrest. Apart from these factors, few Allied statesmen or soldiers had realized either the degree to which the economic life of Russia depended on Germany, or the powerful ramifications of German influence in all grades of Russian society. The economic interdependence of the different parts of Russia on their vulnerable inland lines of communication was also a vital factor which had not been sufficiently appreciated. The German blockade of Russia was just as effective and noxious in its consequences as that of Germany by the Allies. The anti-Tsarist revolt of March 1917 was accepted almost with relief by the Allies as expressing a new spirit of energy and progress in the Russian people, but its far-reaching effects were not at first foreseen. An age-long régime of autocratic tyranny and corrupt government had stunted the mental development and political growth of the Russian peoples, and had paved the way for a terrible social cataclysm. War-weariness and indifference turned to class-hatred and revolt against all authority, until civil order and military discipline were alike swept away in an orgy of bloodshed and cruelty.

The Kerensky government made vacillating efforts to stem the flood of Bolshevism which subsequently swept over unhappy Russia. A gallant though misguided attempt was made to cooperate with the military plans of the Allies, and on the 1st July 1917 a tardy offensive was opened astride the Dniester by the armies of Brussiloff and Korniloff against the Austro-German forces with initial success, which, however, was of but short duration. The poison of Bolshevism, stimulated by German intrigue, rapidly infected all units, and Russia as a military factor went out of the War.

9. German confidence in the result of the 1917 Campaign.

Germany little realized what a powder-train she was igniting when by her propaganda she encouraged anarchy and revolt in the armies of the Tsar. The complete disintegration of Russia's social cohesion was as little foreseen by German statesmen as by those of the Allies. The repercussion of Bolshevism on the war-weary German people and on the beaten German Army was afterwards to prove decisive, but at the beginning of 1917 that danger still appeared remote. There were, it is true, other clouds on the horizon, of which the German Higher Command was aware. The unexpected and costly failure in front of Verdun, and the prompt rejection by the Allies of the Kaiser's peace proposal at the end of 1916, had somewhat damped the spirits of the German nation. On the other hand, the appointment of Hindenburg and Ludendorff to the Higher Command proved an enormous access of moral strength. The belief of the army and the people in the ability of these two soldiers was unbounded, and the German nation looked forward with confidence in the coming year to the promised blessings of a victorious peace: to the successful resistance of their armies in the West, to the replenishment of their economic resources from Russia and the East, and to the isolation and decisive defeat of Britain by means of ruthless submarine warfare.

10. Unrestricted Submarine War and America's Entry. It was the psychological result of adopting this latter weapon which introduced the final and decisive factor into the situation. A storm of mutual recrimination has raged between the military chiefs and the Imperial Chancellor as to the actual responsibility for resorting to the intensified submarine campaign. Hindenburg excuses himself on the score that the Chancellor never warned him of the effect which it might have on America, Bethmann-Hollweg pleads that he could but follow the advice of his military and naval advisers, and adopt the most effective means of winning the war.

This controversy takes us back to that still greater one regarding the responsibility for the War. Whatever be the verdict of history regarding the contributory causes which led up to the great conflagration of 1914, the main impulse which set the wheels of war in motion was undoubtedly the military policy of the German Empire. The shibboleth of ‘militarism so often appealed to by the Entente propagandists, proved in one sense a two-edged weapon, owing to the vagueness of the


term and its liability to be applied to any organism or dominion founded on military strength. In its original and generally accepted significance, however, the term 'militarism' is specially applicable to that combination of ruthless political lust and organized physical strength which has characterized the development of Imperial Germany both in peace and in war. This doctrine, to which Germany's diplomatic policy was subordinated, definitely involved the United States of America in the War, and thus cast the die which ultimately decided its issue. During the 1917 campaign, the actual military assistance which America could lend was negligible, although her moral and financial aid were indirectly of great value, and her intervention also made additional shipping available for the Allies.

11. Effects of Russia's Collapse. The course of events in 1917 failed to develop in accordance with the plans of either belligerent party. The general and simultaneous offensive, contemplated by the Allies at the Conferences of Chantilly and Calais, did not materialize. As already described the Russian effort collapsed entirely, and Germany was thereby enabled to advance far into Russia and to obtain undisputed command of the Baltic and Black Seas. The economic results, in particular the occupation of Wallachia, enabled Germany to survive the pressure of the Allied Blockade during 1917, and the collapse of Russia hindered in another way the execution of the Allied plan of campaign. Although the German forces in West and East remained between January and November 1917 in approximately the same relative numerical proportions, namely, about 150 divisions in the West to 80 in Russia, yet the Russian débâcle enabled Germany to transfer to the West some 40 fresh divisions from her Eastern Front, in exchange for an equivalent number of divisions exhausted in battle or of inferior fighting value. The Russian front thus acted as a reservoir from which the German Higher Command could draw fresh troops in case of need.

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12. The Campaign of 1917. In the middle of March 1917, the withdrawal of the First and Second German Armies to the Siegfried Line' was begun and carried out more or less according to plan'. This measure, which the German Higher Command had only resorted to as the result of earnest deliberation and under the menace of the coming Allied offensive, still further handicapped the Franco-British operations.

In spite, however, of the drawbacks involved by the Russian collapse, and some modifications of the original plan caused by the situation in the West, the Franco-British offensive opened in April; the Italian Army was not ready in time to co-operate so early. The British Army gained an initial victory on the Arras-Vimy front; the French attack, however, was a failure and resulted in heavy losses. General Pétain then replaced General Nivelle in command of the French Army, and General Foch was appointed Chief of the General Staff in Paris. The French Army, however, had been badly handled, and its moral had suffered in consequence, so that the task of hammering the German defences throughout 1917 devolved largely on the British Army. Had these operations not been continued, the main German armies would have been free to turn on the other Allies. Successful offensives of limited scope were also undertaken by the French during the summer at various points on the Western Front. At the end of July began that more ambitious Allied offensive in Flanders, which is known as the Third Battle of Ypres. The fighting that ensued was of a very stubborn character, and involved both the British and German Armies in great expenditure of man-power and material, but beyond this no definite strategic results were obtained. Towards the end of November the British attack at Cambrai came nearer to gaining a strategic success, but the opportunity was missed.

13. Results of the 1917 Campaign in the West. By the end of 1917 Germany had succeeded in parrying all the blows of her enemies on the Western Front, but only at great cost; 70,000 prisoners fell into the hands of the British alone, in spite of the stubborn fighting, and the German armies are estimated to have suffered nearly 2,000,000 casualties on the Western Front during the year.

Ludendorff's verdict on the state of affairs at the end of August is as follows: 'The state of affairs in the West appeared to prevent the execution of our plans elsewhere. Our wastage had been so high as to cause grave misgiving, and had exceeded all expectation." The resumption of the Flanders battle in October caused the German Higher Command still further anxiety, and all but succeeded in breaking down the resistance of the German Army. Ludendorff describes the British attack of the 4th October on the Passchendaele Ridge as being exceptionally severe, and only resisted at the cost of another enormous sacrifice of 1 War Memories, 1919, vol. ii, 480.

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