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life, and again, 'Our wastage in ... the fourth Flanders battle was extraordinarily high. In the West we began to run short of troops.' The Allies, too, particularly the British Army, suffered heavy casualties, but the costly Flanders battles must not be judged merely by their material results; they went far to sap the tenacity and moral cohesion of the German Army. Ludendorff himself says: 'Yet it must be admitted that certain units no longer triumphed over the demoralizing effects of the defensive battle as they had done formerly.'


14. Failure of the Submarine Campaign. The Western Front was not the sole pre-occupation of the German Higher Command in 1917. It must be borne in mind that Ludendorff's strategic conception of the 1917 campaign was based on a defensive policy in the West, coupled with a steady and economical establishment of German ascendancy in the East, while the real decision was to be forced by the submarine war against the tonnage of the Allies; the maintenance of sea transport was recognized as vital to the Alliance against Germany.

Ludendorff tells us that, on the 9th January 1917, when the decision was finally taken to resort to unrestricted submarine warfare: The collapse of Russia was in no way to be foreseen, and indeed did not enter anybody's head. We reckoned that the adoption of the submarine campaign would effect a favourable decision for us, at latest before America's new troops could participate in the war; but without the adoption of this submarine war we reckoned on the collapse of the alliance between the Entente Powers.' The ravages caused by the unrestricted submarine campaign were extremely serious. No less than 25 per cent. of the tonnage bound for British ports during April 1917 was sunk by submarine action. In June 1917, the British Admiralty definitely adopted the policy of convoying merchant vessels, and the situation at once began to improve. The labours of the Anti-Submarine Department of the Admiralty also began to produce definite results; 66 enemy submarines were sunk during 1917, as compared with 25 in the preceding year.


After six months of the submarine campaign Ludendorff had to confess that in its ultimate results it had not achieved what had been expected of it'; he still hoped, however, that the expectations of the Navy would be shortly fulfilled'. By the end of the year the expected decision had still not arrived,

1 War Memories, vol. ii, 492.

but the German Naval Staff was as optimistic as ever. The Higher Command, too, allowed itself the luxury of self-deception.

15. War-weariness in Germany. But others, less convinced of the infallibility of the German General Staff, and less confident in the prowess of the German Army and Navy, were more sceptical. The privations caused by the Blockade were becoming acute, the increasing thunder of the Allied artillery in the West, combined with the continued inactivity of the German armies, produced a feeling of nervous tension and protracted disappointment which soon expressed itself in outspoken war-weariness. The tales brought back by the troops of the mines of Messines and of the shell-craters of Flanders found an equally joyless echo in the misery of their homes.

On the 27th June 1917, Hindenburg wrote to the Kaiser as follows: The most serious trouble at present is the sinking of the nation's spirits. They must be raised, otherwise we shall lose the war. Our allies, too, require to be vigorously bolstered up, otherwise the danger of their defection is imminent.' These were strong words, but they summed up the situation accurately.

Early in July, the Chancellor, Bethmann-Hollweg, practically assented to the Peace resolution policy of the majority parties in the Reichstag. This brought to a head the feud between the Higher Command and the Civil Government which continued until the end of the war, and, indeed, had a vital bearing on its issue. In spite of Ludendorff's efforts, the Reichstag's Peace resolution was published in Vorwärts, and the Chancellor resigned. His successor, Dr. Michaëlis, proved unable to cope with the situation, and was replaced in October by Count von Hertling.

16. War-weariness in Austria-Hungary. If war-weariness and depression were rife in Germany, they had become infinitely more acute among Germany's allies. Although Austria-Hungary was bound hand and foot to Germany, so that independent action on her part was practically impossible, her statesmen were not blind to the abyss into which she was being led. The Russian Revolution of March 1917 seriously alarmed the Austrian bureaucracy. On the 27th March, Count Czernin, the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister, met BethmannHollweg at Vienna, and a secret agreement was reached regarding possible peace conditions.1 At the beginning of April,

1 War Memories, vol. ii, 440-1 sqq., on the status quo ante bellum, it was unknown to G.H.Q.



the Emperor Charles, accompanied by Count Czernin and by his Chief of the General Staff, General von Arz, visited the Kaiser at Hamburg for a personal exchange of views. The Austrian representatives pointed out that the resources of their country in man-power and material were exhausted, and suggested that, in order to provide a basis for peace negotiations, Germany should surrender Alsace-Lorraine to France. In compensation for this loss Austria would hand over Galicia to Poland with a view to their combined annexation by Germany.

These suggestions met with stern disapproval at Hamburg. The Austrians returned to Vienna empty-handed, but more than ever convinced of the gravity of the situation. On the 12th April, Count Czernin addressed a strongly-worded protest to the Emperor Charles, in which he again pointed out that Austria's military power was rapidly becoming exhausted, and that it would shortly be necessary to negotiate for a separate peace. The young Emperor thereupon wrote to the Kaiser, pressing his point of view still more urgently than before. This appeal only produced another rebuff, but Count Czernin continued throughout the summer to plead with his German


17. Caporetto. The Austro-Hungarian Army was indeed in a bad way. It had only stemmed with great sacrifice the Italian Isonzo offensive of May 1917; the breaking strain had nearly been reached when the Italians renewed their offensive on the Carso plateau towards the end of August. The German Higher Command was at last convinced that the Austro-Hungarian Army would collapse unless it was given some tangible support. An opportunity was afforded by the war-weariness in Italy and by the unpopularity of the war among certain elements of the Italian population. A German Army Staff was at once formed, and six German divisions were made available (two from the West and four from the East). These, with some Jäger battalions and Austrian troops, took advantage of a weak spot in the Italian line near Caporetto in the Julian Alps, broke the Italian front on the 24th October, and rolled it back towards the Piave. The enormous booty which thus fell almost without effort to Austria-Hungary, and the simultaneous collapse of Russia's military resistance, were decisive in bolstering up the wavering resolution of Austria's rulers. The crisis was over, and the Dual Monarchy remained true to the German alliance for another twelve months.

Bulgaria and Turkey, the other allies of Germany, did not cause her so much anxiety during 1917, for, although they were just as anxious for peace as Austria, they were not in a position to break away while Germany's main armies still held their ground in the West and while German mobile reserves were still available. Thus, the loss first of Bagdad and later of Jerusalem, exercised comparatively little effect on Germany. If she could only win in the West, all would eventually be well. The power which bound Germany's allies to her was based on no higher grounds than greed for conquest, coupled with the servility of impotence. Germany's motto, with her allies and her enemies alike, was, 'Let them hate so long as they fear'.

18. Bolshevism and Germany's Russian Policy. But a cloud was gathering on the Russian Front, where events had appeared to be proceeding so planmässig. so planmässig. Its significance was long unsuspected by the German Higher Command. Germany's policy with regard to Russia had been to employ indirect methods to undermine Russia's power of resistance, while economizing her own military effort. To quote Ludendorff: 'What we anticipated took place; the Russian Revolution weakened the fighting strength of the army. The idea of peace seemed to be gaining strength in Russia.' This policy succeeded, but only too well. The German design was to hypnotize Russia into a nerveless and inert mass, which could be moulded to Germany's future aims; but her spells went wrong, and she invoked instead a demon of savage anarchy, which eventually contributed to her own downfall. Ludendorff indeed later confessed to this fatal development of the German plans: 'Looking back, I can see that our decline obviously began with the outbreak of the Revolution in Russia.' But he was blind to it at the time, although he complains elsewhere in his Memories that 'Bethmann-Hollweg and Count Czernin were both completely obsessed by the Russian Revolution. Both feared similar events in their own countries.' The German policy was, however, dictated entirely by the Higher Command. They skilfully used propaganda and fraternization to induce the Russian soldiery to sell their machine guns, and applied the screw when necessary by a short sharp military operation, as at Riga on the 1st September, and in the capture of the Esthonian Islands in the middle of October. It is an interesting fact that this latter combined operation was undertaken partly in order



to improve the discipline of the Fleet; the long-enforced inactivity of the surface vessels had induced an unhealthy leaning towards the doctrines of the Independent Socialists, and mutinies had occurred in August.

19. Brest-Litovsk. It is curious how slow the German Higher Command was to perceive the real trend of events in Russia, in spite of its available channels of information. Russia's military strength had flickered out with the collapse of Brussiloff's last offensive in July, but it was not until November that the Germans ventured to reduce the number of their divisions in Russia to less than 80, one-third of their total strength in all theatres. It was at that time, so Ludendorff tells us, that the idea of an offensive in the West first originated. During November and December, 24 German divisions were transferred from Russia to the West.

After much disorder and confusion, Lenin and Trotsky secured the upper hand in Petrograd in November, and on the 15th December an armistice was signed at Brest-Litovsk between the Central Powers and the Bolshevist leaders. Peace was not finally signed at Brest-Litovsk until the 3rd March 1918, owing to the procrastinations of the Bolshevist negotiators and the dissensions between the Austrian and German plenipotentiaries.1 On the 18th February the Germans had actually terminated the armistice, and their armies had begun to advance on a 1,000-mile front from the Gulf of Finland to the Black Sea; but there was no further military resistance, and Russia could now be regarded as a dead front. Peace had already been concluded with the Ukraine on the 9th February. Peace with Rumania was not finally signed until the 7th May, though little danger was to be feared from the Rumanian army. But these delays were only technical, and the German Higher Command knew that it was free to turn its attention to the 1918 campaign.

At the

20. Conditie of the Belligerents at the close of 1917. close of 1917 the general situation was very different from what it had been twelve months previously. The strain of the almost continuous battles on the Western Front had drained the manpower of all the European belligerents, and most serious efforts were made to refill the depleted ranks during the winter months. The appointment of Georges Clemenceau as Prime Minister of 1 v. fuller account in Chapter VI, Part II.

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