The Other Fronts And Campaigns Of The Allies In The First World War

 Dr David Payne

 

NB: Many of the statistics used in this document concerning military strengths, casualties, and even dates of events, differ from source to source. Where ever possible the author has used figures that appear to be closest to the authoritative consensus.

 

Introduction


It is quite natural that the major interest of the Western Europeans in the First World War focuses on the Western Front. It was there that the major fighting raged across France and Belgian for the entire length of the Western European part of the WW1. The Western Front is, of course, the subject of the majority articles in the Western Front Association website.

However, there were other theatres of operations. Some, like the Eastern Front, also involved huge numbers of men and vast amounts of matériel. Others were quite small and relatively insignificant to those who were not directly involved, but nevertheless played an overall part in the evolution of the First World War.

Below are summarised these 'Other' theatres of war that were involved in the period August 1914 to November 1918, identified either as Fronts or Campaigns.

 

The Other Fronts And Campaigns of the First World War


The list, in alphabetical order, gives the other fronts and campaigns using the customary name, the duration of the conflict and the principal (in bold) and supportive belligerent nations:

 

NB: Imperials = indigenous colonial troops and, in Africa, may include very large numbers of non-combattant porters or bearers.

 

  • Arab Front: June 1916 - November 1919. Arabia + Britain + Australia + Egypt versus Turkey.
  • Balkan Front: July 1914 - November 1918. Austria/Hungary + Germany + Bulgaria versus Serbia + Montenegro + France + Britain + Greece.
  • Caucasus Front: November 1914 - August 1916. Russia + Armenia + Persia + Britain versus Turkey + Germany
  • Chinese German Colony Campaign: September - November 1914. Japan + British/India versus Germany.
  • Dardanelles Campaign: February 1915 - January 1916. Turkey + Germany versus Britain + Australia + New Zealand + France.
  • East African Campaign: August 1914 - November 1918. Germany/East African Imperials versus South Africa + Britain/East and West Africa Imperials + India + Belgium + Rhodesia +Portugal
  • Eastern Front: August 1914 - December 1917. Germany + Austria/Hungary versus Russia + Roumania.
  • Italian Front: June 1915 - November 1918. Austria-Hungary + Germany versus Italy + Britain + France + USA
  • Mesopotamian Front: November 1914 - November 1918. Turkey + Germany + Arabs. versus Britain + India.
  • North African Campaign: December 1915 - August 1918. North Africa tribes + Turkey + Germany + Sudan tribes versus Britain/West African Imperials + France + Egypt + Italy. + South Africa.
  • Pacific/Australasian German Colonies Campaign: August - September 1914. Germany /Samoan Imperials versus New Zealand; Germany/ New Guinea Imperials versus Australia and September- November 1914 Germany / Caroline, Marianas and Marshall Islands Imperials versus Japan.
  • Palestine Front. February 1915 - October 1918. Britain + Australia + New Zealand + India + France versus Turkey + Germany.
  • Persian Front: August 1914 - November 1914. Britain + India +Russia versus Germany + Turkey.
  • South West Africa Campaign. January - July 1915. Germany versus South Africa + Britain + Rhodesia.
  • West African Campaign: August 1914 Germany/Togo Imperials versus France/Senegal Imperials + Britain/West Africa Imperials, and August 1914 to March 1916 Germany/Cameroon Imperials versus Britain/West Africa Imperials + France/ West Africa Imperials.

Notes And Observations on the multiple theatres and campaigns involving the Allied during the First World War. 


The complexity of the alliances of the belligerents and the plethora of incidents, battles, offensives and campaigns in which they participated, make any reasonably short account of the First World War on the 'Other' Fronts a rather arbitrary matter. It is hoped that the following gives the reader the gist of what happened in these incredible 51 months of war.

 

The Arab Front during the First World War


In June 1916, the ruler of The Hejaz Region on the Red Sea Coast of Arabia, Sherif Hussein Ibn Ali, and his sons Feisal and Ali, attacked the cities of Medina, Mecca and Jeddah with a force of 30,000 tribal irregulars. In the case of Jeddah, it was with British naval aircraft support.

Soon, all of the Hejaz Region was in Arab hands and the Arab Army was reinforced by defections, volunteers and Egyptian troops transferred from the Sudan.

In October 1916 a British liaison party, which included a junior officer T.E. Lawrence - later to be known as 'Lawrence of Arabia' - held discussions with Feisal. Lawrence was appointed as Feisal's British adviser on the war.

With Lawrence's guidance, Feisal's army launched a guerrilla offensive on the Turks leading to the capture of the port of Aqaba in July 1917. Further actions aided Allenby's advance on the Palestine Front, whilst a series of train-wrecking expeditions seriously effected the logistics of the Turkish Army.

Feisal's men and British/Australian troops captured Dera on the 30th September 1915, and the Syrian capital Damascus in 2nd October 1918. Aleppo, the capital of Transjordan fell on the 26th September 1918. Outposts of the Turkish Army held out until November 1919.

Allied casualties were: Wounded = 40,000; Killed 20,000. Details of Turkish and German casualties are not available to the author.

 

The Balkan Front during the First World War


Aptly described as the cockpit of Europe, and the genesis of the First World War, the Balkans was the meeting point of the cultures and religions of: Bulgaria; Greece; Serbia; the autonomous and semi-autonomous states of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; and the sprawling conglomeration of the decadent Ottoman Empire. Added to this foment were the territorial ambitions of Italy (for Albania), Russia (seeking buffer states), France (pursuing expansion into the Near and Middle East) and Roumania (claiming parts of Bulgaria and Hungary).

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary, on 28th July 1914, gave an excuse for the declaration of war by Austria-Hungary on Serbia on the 28th July 1914. The first fighting in The First World War began on 29th July 1914, when the Austro-Hungarians bombarded Belgrade, the capital of Serbia.

A rather fitful invasion of Austria by 200,000 Serbian troops, commanded by Field Marshal Oskar Potiorek, followed. This in turn led to a full-blown attack on the 12th August 1914. The outcome was the defeat at the end of August 1914 of the Austro-Hungarians at the hands of Serbia and its ally Montenegro, led by Field Marshal Radomir Pushnik.

On 6th September 1914 the Serbian Army attacked north of Belgrade. It met and defeated a series of Austro-Hungarian counterattacks and a second invasion and drove them back.

A third Austro-Hungarian invasion began on the 8th November 1914. It also met a similar fate, despite alarums that caused the evacuation of the Serb capital Belgrade on the 2nd December 1914.

The Serbian Army retook Belgrade on 15th December 1914.

A Lloyd George initiative in January 1915 to send British troops to Greek Salonika was eventually supported by the French, but the necessary Greek agreement was not forthcoming.

The failure of the Allies to open a new front via the Dardanelles in 1915, led to Bulgaria joining the Central Powers and increased the interest of Germany in securing free access to its southern allies. German, Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian troops, led by German General August von Mackensen took joint action against the Serb Army in October 1915.

This led to the inevitable, but uncoordinated, compensatory involvement of the Allies. But the initial tranche of troops in October 1916 arrived in Salonika, Macedonia, (Muckeydonia to the British troops), too late to prevent the retreat of the Serbian Army into Albania and Greece. This culminated in the defeat of the Serbs in November 1915, and their exile of the Government on the Greek Island of Corfu.

The contingent of French, British and Russian troops in Salonika continued to increase in 1916 and 1917 and became known as the 'Army of the East' or 'Army of the Orient'. Their commander was French General Maurice Paul Emmanuel Sarrail. Its prime objective was the destruction of the Bulgarian Army.

After suffering enormous casualties from disease (principally malaria), the French and British launched new offensives in April 1917 without significant success. This led to a stalemate in Salonika and what the Germans called 'Europe's biggest interment camp' for the Allies.

Greece finally entered the War on the Allied side on 27th June 1917. The Greek forces were integrated with those of the Allies by the new Commander French General Marie Louis Guillaumat; but he was recalled to the Western Front in July 1918 before his plans came to fruition.

On the 15th September 1918, after the German contingent were withdrawn to the Western Front for the 1918 Spring Offensive, the Serb and French Armies, launched the Vardar Offensive into the hinterland of Bulgaria. They were led by the French General Louis Felix Marie Francois Franchet D'Esperey. The British and Greeks, under the command of British General George Milne, also attacked on the 18th September 1918, in the Lake Dorian Sector.

The Bulgarian Army, still commanded by General von Mackensen, was in retreat and approaching a state of collapse when the Armistice with the Allies was signed on the 30th September 1918.

The armies of Austria-Hungary capitulated on the 4th November 1918.

In the end, large numbers of Allied troops had been deployed on the Balkan Front for very little strategic advantage. Whilst the Allied casualties in action were relatively light, that due to illness was extremely high with over a million cases of hospitalisation due to disease, mainly malaria, and many cases required repatriation.

Both the Austro-Hungarians and the Serbs lost around 200,000 men in the campaign.

 

The Caucasus Front during the First World War


The Caucasus Front was probably the least known European theatre of war in the First World War. Basically, it was the outcome of a long contest between Russia and Turkey for the control of the area southwest of the Caucasian Mountains. This is now modern Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, and it remains an area of conflict in the 21st Century.

For Russia it was the key to access via the Dardanelles/Bosphorus to the Black Sea; a vital route after the debacle of the Russo-Japanese War of expansion in the Far East in 1905. Plans had already been made in 1914 for a Russian naval intervention in this area. For strategic purposes, Turkey had every reason to want to frustrate Russian ambitions and expand its own territorial gains northwards.

At he outbreak of hostilities in October 1914, Russia had already established a Caucasus Army at forward bases close to the Turkish border. It was also active in fomenting discontent among Armenians in Turkey and was providing them with munitions. Virtually unopposed, these rebel elements subsequently slaughtered over 100,000 non-Armenians, setting a sinister precedent in the ethnically diverse region.

The Turkish Army in the Caucacus was led by Enver Pasha - one of the three 'Young Turks' with dictatorial powers, and the one with the dominant portfolio of war minister.

On the outbreak of war in October 1914, the Turkish Army carried out some unsuccessful incursions into Russian territory.

In December 1914, an invasion force of two Turkish Armies, 150,000 strong, crossed the Russian border and entered Armenia. The Russian Army, led by General Mishlaevski, subsequently routed both Armies at Ardahan and Sarikamish with huge Turkish casualties. The toll was mainly due to disease and the cold - only around 20% of the force survived the retreat to Turkey.

Meanwhile, 30,000 Armenians in the far West proclaimed independence from the Ottoman Empire, provoking the infamous countrywide genocide and deportation in 1915/16 of their countrymen.

The demands of the fighting on the Gallipoli Peninsular in 1915 lessened Enver Pasha's flow of resources, but he managed to launch another offensive on the 16th July 1915 at Malazgirt. It too was crushed by a Russian counterattack led by the new commander General NicholaiYudenich.

The Caucasian Front entered a period of relative calm whilst both sides replenished their resources.

In early 1916, General Yudenich was ready to launch a series of attacks. In February he captured Ezurum, in April Trazabon, and Erizican in July, completely outflanking the Turkish Army. After which, faced with a lack of supplies from an increasingly unsettled homeland, Yudenich restricted himself to holding the Turks at bay in Armenia.

During 1917, the Turks concentrated their major effort on the Palestine and Mesopotamian Fronts, whilst the Russian October Revolution effectively neutered the Russian Army. The region reverted to general disorder and genocide.

The three countries - Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia - formed the short-lived republic of Transcaucasia, in September 1917.

In December 1917, a small, ad hoc force, named Dunsterforce after its commander, was raised in Persia from Allied troops from the Mesopotamian and Western Fronts. It had the objective of seizing the Russian oilfields at Baku on the Caspian Sea before the Turks did so. Dunsterforce reached its objective on the 4th August 1918 but withdrew on the 14th September 1918 when threatened by a vastly superior Turkish Force.

Between-times, Turkey, with German support, had launched another offensive in the Spring of 1918. This recaptured most of the territory lost earlier, including, as mentioned above, the vital port of Baku on the Caspian Sea, which fell in September 1918.

Baku was retaken by British forces in November 1918.

Armenia was divided into regions of Russian and Turkish influence. Azerbaijan and Georgia were absorbed into the Soviet Empire.

Data concerning casualties of both sides is incomplete.

 

The Chinese German Territories Campaign during the First World War


The Japanese declared war on Germany 23rd August 1914. Soon after, in September 1914, at the instigation of the pro-British Japanese Foreign Secretary, Kato Taoaki, a Japanese naval/military task force set off to besiege the fortress of the German colony of Kiachowlong, in north-east China. The task force was 23,000 strong with an attachment of 1,500 British/Indian troops and a British battleship, HMS Triumph. The fortress was located at Tsingtao (Qingdao), and had a naval base at Jiaozhou and a railhead into the Chinese hinterland.

A heavy bombardment of the fortress started on the 31st October 1914.

On the 7th November 1914, Japanese General Kamio's 18th Division and 29th Infantry Brigade, and the British/Indian Brigade, stormed and captured the garrison and its 4,000 troops.

The presence of the British troops and warship was aimed at calming international concerns about Japanese expansionism.

 

Casualties are unknown to the author.

 

The Dardanelles Campaign during the First World War


Turkey entered the war on the side of the Germans on 31st October 1914. One its first acts was to close the Dardanelles Straits to the Allies.

In the Autumn of 1914, the British Cabinet had discussed in general terms an intervention in the Dardanelles. It was in response to an appeal from the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Army, Grand Duke Nicholas that the British War Committee undertook more serious discussions about an invasion force. A member of the War Cabinet, Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, had already expressed the conviction that a uniquely naval expedition should be dispatched 'to passage the Dardanelles' and open up a warm water route to Russia. He also considered it would be an ideal way to defend the Suez Canal against a Turkish invasion. Despite many objections that a joint naval and military expedition would be required, Churchill managed to get his way and a joint Anglo-French fleet of mainly ancient and obsolete ('No use in the North Sea') capital warships was gathered.

After a preliminary bombardment of the shore installations, on the 18th March 1918 the ships entered the Dardanelles Straits only to lose six of its elderly battleships to sea-mines: two British and one French sunk, three others badly damaged. The surviving ships withdrew.

Churchill and his few supporters wanted to persevere, but the British Government, goaded by the First Sea Lord, Sir John Arbuthnot Fisher, decided to make a joint naval and military expedition using the newly formed Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF) under the command of General Sir Ian Standish Monteith Hamilton.

The British commander made a bold decision to land his forces on a series of beaches on the southern tip and western flank of the Gallipoli Peninsular, although logic would indicate landings at the waist of the Peninsular would be more efficacious.

The first troops were landed from ships' boats, barges and a specially armoured troopship - The River Clyde - whilst diversionary attacks were made north and south of the landings at Bulair and Besika Bay (on the Asia Minor shore).

The French made a temporary covering landing at Kum Kale on the Asia Minor coast, across the Straits from the landings on the Gallipoli Peninsular.

The first British troops landed on six beaches, S,V,W,X and Y - on the tip on the peninsular, followed by the mainly Australians/ Newzealanders at Z Beach 35km further up the coast at what became to be known as Anzac Cove.

Only two of the six Turkish divisions were on the Peninsular, but, nonetheless, they caused considerable Allied casualties.

The landings on the southern beaches had varying success with only two landings opposed, but the troops who did get ashore at Beach V were repulsed.

To the north the ANZAC made a good, if ill judged, landing, but was soon repulsed back onto the small beach at Anzac Cove by the Turks who were led with great zeal and ruthlessness by Colonel Mustafa Kemal, commander of the 19th Turkish Division. The Fifth Turkish Army on Gallipoli was commanded by German General Otto Liman von Sanders.

The ANZAC was to remain besieged at Anzac Cove for nine months.

The campaign on the Peninsular struggled on with high casualties on both sides, many due to tropical diseases.

On the 6th August 1915, another British landing took place at Sulva Bay north of Anzac Cove. It was co-ordinated with a breakout from Anzac Cove aimed at capturing the commanding heights at Chunuk Bair to the northeast. The objective was to cut the Peninsular in half and entrap the mass of the Turkish forces. The attack finally faltered on the 21st August 1915 in the hinterland behind Sulva Bay with the Turkish Army still unbroken.

The denouement of the whole campaign was the progressive withdrawal of the MEF in late December 1915 to early January 1916, in a series of unopposed evacuations from some of the same beaches used for the landings.

Estimates of casualties vary enormously, but of the around 480,000 Allied troops, wounded = 180,000 and 44,000 died (20,000 British). The Turkish casualty toll is less certain but was probably around 220,000 wounded out of the 450,000 who fought there, and killed = 87,000.

In 1918, the Allies occupied the Gallipoli Peninsular without a shot being fired.

 

The East African Campaign during the First World War


The war-long East African Campaign was for the Germans an ideal 'side-show' as it diverted much more Allied resources from the Western Front and elsewhere than it did their own.

Although not involving a vitally strategic area in the overall picture of the war, a small German led force (at a maximum 3,000 German Officers and NCO's and 12,000 African Askaris) successfully thwarted Allied troops said to number up to one million (mainly black African). For the entire duration of the First World War, this small mobile German Colonial Force - Schutztruppe - became almost entirely self-sufficient (including the production of anti-malarials, mainly for its European contingent): only one supply ship (April 1916) evaded the British naval blockade. The Schutztruppe was led by a charismatic German colonial officer, Colonel Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck (German nickname = Mad Mullah).

The German high-point of the campaign was in November 1914, when it repulsed the 8,000 strong Indian Expeditionary Force 'B' that landed at the port of Tanga on the Tanganyika (now Tanzania) coast near the border with Kenya (British East Africa). The British/Indian force retired to India in ignominy.

Using attack and retreat tactics the Schutztruppe ranged across what is now Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique, ceaselessly harrying the Allied troops and threatening the countries' infrastructure, particularly the British Uganda Railway.

The British force was led in turn by British General Smith-Dorrien, South African General Smuts and British General Hoskins,

A unique factor of the Campaign was the need for thousands of native porters/bearers to carry tons of kit, material and munitions across vast distances of roadless and tsetse fly infested bush country: around four porters were required for each soldier. Without the logistic support provided by these tropical disease immune Black Africans the prosecution of the war would have been impossible.

The final elements of von Lettow-Vorbeck's Schutztruppe (155 Germans, 1,160 Askaris and 1,600 porters) only surrendered on the 25th November 1918, 14 days after the Armistice in Europe.

Disease was a major factor in invalidity in the war for both the European and African soldiers and the African porters; see below. Alone, over 12,000 South African (white) soldiers were repatriated by the end of 1916 due to malaria. Dysentery was a also major cause of disability, as was the ever-present chigger flea that produced lameness in many of the African porters.

The casualty rate amongst British and Empire troops, excluding the Africans, was: Died = 6,000 and Wounded = 3,000. The rough estimated casualty figure for the African troops on both sides was about the same. Notable is the unusual disparity between the Died and Wounded in both the British Empire White and Black troops. More troops died from diseases than did from enemy action and illness accounted for 70% of the total casualties. The death rates of the African porters on both sides is unknown. But a rate as high as 99% is given by one authoritative source, although around 70% seems more likely,

 

The Eastern Front during the First World War


This was a war of three Emperors: Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany; Kaiser Franz Josef of Autsria-Hungary and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. The first named was avid for war. The second allowed himself to be talked into it. The third was reluctant and vainly endeavoured to stop it at the last moment

The wartime strength of the Russian Army alone on the Eastern Front was 3 million (maximum front-line strength in 1916 = 2.5 million) and matched the total strength of German and Austro-Hungarian Armies put together. On the Eastern Front the Russians out-numbered the Germans and Austro-Hungarians by 2 to 1.

The zone of operations was vast and stretched from the Baltic Coast to the Black Sea.

In 1914, when compared with the German Army, the Russian Army was poorly equipped and had much obsolete material. The reserves of material and munitions were not sufficient for a protracted conflict. Its officer corps was small and elitist and the NCO cadre weak. The Russian Central Command - the STAVKA - under Grand Duke Nikolai, was out-of-touch and relatively inactive. Some improvement occurred with the replacement of Nikolai by Tsar Nicholas II in September 1915.

The Russian cavalry was proportionally too numerous.

Following its Plan 19, but precipitously, Russia struck first on 13th August 1914, with six armies of 74 divisions, in German East Prussia and Austro-Hungarian Galicia, forcing the Germans to reschedule their Schlieffen Plan.

From 24th August 1914, the German Eighth Army was under the direction of General Paul von Beneckendorf und von Hindenburg and General Erich Ludendorff as his chief of Staff. On the 1st November 1914 von Hindenburg was made Commander on the Eastern Front and a Field Marshal on the 15th November 1915.

The principal events were:

 

August 1914: A two pronged Russian invasion East Prussia of by First and Second Armies.

August 1914: The Austro-Hungarian invasion of Galicia, Poland with First and Fourth Armies.

August 1914: Defeat of Russian Second Army at Tannenburg with 150,000 Russian casualties against 15,000 German.

September 1914: The First Battle at the Masurian Lakes with 100,000 Russian casualties against 10,000 German.

October 1914: Unsuccessful German invasion of Russian Poland.

January 1915: Relief attempted of the Austro-Hungarian fortress of Przemysl.

February 1915: Defeat of Russian Tenth Army at the Mansurian Lakes and unsuccessful Russian advance into Carpathian Mountains.

March 1915: Przemysl fortress in Galicia surrendered to Austro-Hungarians who suffered 200,000 casualties in the campaign.

May 1915: German success in the Gorlice-Tarnow Sector of Galicia.

August 1915: Germans/Austro-Hungarians captured Warsaw.

September 1915: Russians evacuated Russian Poland and Galicia in the Great Retreat.

March 1916: Russians lose Battle of Lake Naroch in Lithuania with 100,000 casualties.

June 1916: Russian Brusilov Offensive on Austro-Hungarian and German Armies in Lutsk, Sopanov, Jazlowiec and Okna Sectors. Bukovina and large areas of Galicia captured; cost, 1 million Russian casualties.

August 1916: Roumania declared war on Central Powers and attacked Hungary

December 1916: Roumania occupied by Central Powers; Roumanian casualties were 350,000 (64%).

March 1917: Russian Revolution - self-demobilisation by large numbers of Russian Army.

July 1917: Russia attacked Galicia with the unsuccessful Kerensky (Provisional Government) Liberty Offensive. Russian casualties were100,000 against 20,000 German

September 1917: German attack on Riga and defeat of Russian Twelfth Army.

December 1917: Russia and Roumania negiotiate Armistice.

As will be seen, Russian casualty figures on Eastern Front were extremely high: three million by mid-1915 and around 7 million overall, if Prisoners of War are included.

The Central Powers lost around 500,000 killed and 2.25 million wounded.

The Eastern Front engaged large numbers of troops that would otherwise have been deployed on the Western Front. It was only the release of large numbers of German troops from the Eastern and Caucasus Fronts to the Western Front in late 1917 that made the German Kaiserschlacht Offensive possible in the Spring of 1918.

 

The Italian Front during the First World War


For the first year of the war Italy, with no treaties to honour, bargained with the British/French/Russians alliance (The Entente) against the Germans/Austro-Hungarians/Bulgarians/Turks (The Central Powers), as to which side it would take. It used the putative post-war territorial gains it wanted to get as the bargaining chips. Germany only offered The Trentino and lost out.

Italy joined the Entente on 5th May 1915, declaring war on Austria-Hungary on 23rd May 1915. It only declared war on Germany on the 28th August 1916.

This was basically a two-sided campaign - Italians versus Austro-Hungarians - although outside help was provided to both sides in late 1917. The two belligerents fought a series of battles largely concentrated in the foothills of the Alps in the Trentino and Isonso Sectors with the Austro-Hungarians usually occupying the higher ground. In the Isonso River Sector alone, over the course of the war, the Italians, under the command of General Luigi Cardorna, launched 11 offensives; by some counts it was 12.

Neither side was well equipped for the trench warfare that emerged, or the extreme climatic conditions of the mountainous terrain; for the first time, avalanches became a deliberate weapon of war. Cardorna had two notable successes: stopping an offensive at Trentino in June 1916 and the capture of Goriza in August 1916,

The Austro/Hungarian riposte came on the 24th October 1917 in the Caporetta Sector of the Isonzo Front (sometimes called the 12th Isonzo Offensive) with strong German support amounting to six divisions. The Second Italian Army collapsed and the Italians retreated to the Piave River, where they in turn were bolstered by 11 divisions of Anglo/French troops, and a regiment of Australians, commanded by British General Herbert Charles Onslow Plumer; all had been sent from the Western Front.

At the Battle of Piave in June 1918, the reinforced Italians, under their new commander, General Armando Diaz, stopped a new Austro-Hungarian/German offensive.

On the 23rd October 1918, another offensive was launched along the Piave by the Italian Fourth and Eighth Armies, supported by the British and French, without success until an Anglo-French cross-river initiative drove back the Austro-Hungarians.

After the battle of Vittorio Veneto in October 1918, the Austro-Hungarian Army collapsed and an Armistice was signed on the 3rd November 1918.

Casualties on both sides were extraordinarily high even by Western Front standards and totalled, overall, well over two million in three years of fighting. Italy alone lost 500,000 killed and one million wounded and the British and French suffered about 10,000 casualties. The Austro/Hungarians lost 150,000 killed and 600,000 wounded.

 

The Mesopotamia Front during the First World War


Before the 4th August 1914, a British/Indian 'presence' - the so-called 'Force D' comprising of one weak division - had been in place in the Persian Gulf. Its objective was to watch over the Royal Navy's Persian oil supply and keep a general eye on the local Arab chiefs and their dealings with the Ottoman Empire.

On the 7th November 1914, a British/Indian force, led by General Sir John Nixon, invaded Mesopotamia and on the 23rd November entered Basrah north of the junction of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers,

 

In April 1915, an ambitious invasion of the remainder of Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), then part of the Ottoman Empire, via the Tigris/Euphrates River system, was agreed upon by the British and Indian Governments. Khut Al Amara was the objective and this was attained on the 8th September 1915.

An advance on to Baghdad, the capital, was eventually authorised, and Major General Charles Townshend's 6th Indian Division advanced to Ctesiphon, south of Baghdad.

On the 25th November 1915, the 6th Indian Division, unable to make progress against fierce Turkish resistance, retreated to Khut Al Amara that it had captured earlier in the campaign.

After the disastrous and humiliating defeat of the British by the Turks at the Siege of Khut Al Amara - 7th December 1915 to 29th April 1916 - when the entire garrison of 13,000 British and Indian troops surrendered (many to die on a 'March to Captivity'), the British reorganised and raised the number of available troops to 250,000.

A new British offensive began in December 1916, under the command of General Sir Stanley Maude, with a force of 166,000 men. On the 24th February 1917, Khut Al Amara fell to the joint British/Indian force. Baghdad also fell on 11th March 1917.

Similar success was achieved at Ramadi on the Euphrates on 28th September 1918.

General Maude died of cholera on the 18th November 1917. He was succeeded by General Lieutenant General Sir William Marshall who continued the 'River War'.

In October 1918, the Mosul oil fields were taken by Marshall's troops ahead of the imminent Turkish collapse that led to an agreement of an Armistice with Turkey on the 30th.

 

General Maude was only one of 13,000 British/Indian troops who died of disease out of a total of British/Indian casualties of around 100,000. Of these, 40,000 were killed. Of the casualties, 75% were Indian. The Turkish casualty roll was double that of the Allies at around 200,000.

Doubts remain as to whether such an enormous military effort was justified. All it did was allay what was only a potential threat to the oil supplies from the Gulf, and to offset a bad case of loss of prestige by the British in the whole of the Middle East after the Khut Siege fiasco.

 

The North African Campaign during the First World War


From December 1915, a small group of North African tribes led by the Sennusis of Cyrenaica (now Libya), and supported by Turkey and Germany, made a series of raids in Egypt and the French colonies in North Africa. The Sennusis movement established its main base in the Siwa Oasis in the Eastern Desert of Egypt, where it obtained the support of Taureg tribesmen. British Royal Navy sailors captured from a torpedoed patrol boat, The Tara, were imprisoned in a remote desert Sennusis camp at Bir Hakeim in the Libian Desert.

Another short-lived Turkish sponsored tribal uprising took place in 1916 in Darfur, Sudan.

In February 1917, the British Western Desert Force cleared the Siwa Oasis outpost. The 92 distressed POWs at Bir Hakeim were rescued on the 17th March 1917. by a special armoured car unit from the WDF.

By April 1917 the French had eliminated all of the Taureg strong points in their areas to the West.

 

Pacific/Australasia German Colonies Campaign during the First World War


The Samoan and New Guinea attacks were very small scale mopping up operations, carried out in August and September 1914, by the Australian and New Zealand Military and Naval Expeditionary Forces. Ostensibly they were aimed at eliminating German influence in the area and removing any potential shelter or replenishment for German warships and commercial vessels. But the Australian and New Zealand Governments were possibly encouraged to undertake the expeditions by the British to engender a sense of early participation in the war by these patriotic countries of the British Empire in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Japanese operations in October 1914 of the Marianas, Marshall and Caroline Islands were opportunistic operations of occupation and neutralisation by a new member of the Allies.

 

Palestine Front during the First World War


The genesis of the long campaign in Palestine was the unsuccessful invasion of Egypt on the 3rd February 1915 by a 22,000 strong Ottoman Suez Expeditionary Force, led by Djemal Pasha, and supported by German military advisers. The objective was the Suez Canal; an objective earlier predicted by Winston Churchill.

After failing to raise the indigenous population in a Jehad - or holy war against the infidels (non-Muslims) - this invasion was repelled by an Indian, Australian and New Zealand Force that was stationed along the Suez Canal for its protection.

The threat of a second major attack caused the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF), commanded by General Sir Archibald Murray, to be redirected from Gallipoli to protect the Suez Canal in early 1916 and as a reserve of troops for the Western Front.

A second Turkish attack on the Suez Canal was made, on 3rd August 1916, and repelled. The British forces were moved east to Al Arish in the Sinai Desert, closer to Turkish Palestine.

With the British position in the Sinai secured by the Battle Magruntein on the 9th January 1917, a British attack on Palestine, commanded by General Murray, was made on the Turkish defence line between Gaza and Beersheba. This was followed by two attacks on Gaza itself in 26th March and 17th April 1917 - Gaza I and II. Both were repulsed with heavy casualties.

A new approach was called for, and General Sir Edmund Allenby was withdrawn from the Western Front. He arrived in Egypt in June 1917 as commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force.

Immediately, Allenby transferred the British Headquarters, and all of its staff, from 'The Fleshpots of Cairo' to a tented battlefield headquarters. After a robust campaign of reorganisation, training and reanimation of his assorted 95,000 front-line troops (now including French and Italians), he successfully attacked the Gaza-Beersheba Line on the 31st October 1917 (Gaza III). The Turkish 7th and 8th Armies retreated to Jerusalem and up the Mediterranean coast respectively.

On 9th December 1917, Jerusalem fell, and after a diversion to Transjordan, Allenby achieved a decisive victory at Megiddo on 19th September 1918.

By October 1918, all of Palestine was affected by the Arab Revolt, and Turkey signed an Armistice on the 31st October 1918.

Total Allied casualties were 60,000 of which 20,000 were killed; 15,000 were British. The Turkish casualties are unknown to the author, but are likely to have exceeded that of the Allies.

 

The Persian Front during the First World War


In 1914, both the British and the Russians had an armed presence in Persia (now Iran): the British Persian Rifles and the Russian Cossack Brigade.

To guard their interests in Persian oil fields, in October 1914 the British occupied the communications centre in Bushire on the Persian Gulf and, later, the oil pumping station at Ahwaz.

 

Meanwhile the Germans increased their interest in the field of Persian commerce, particularly banking.

The Russians, in November 1915, having seen that Germany had taken control of the Gendarmarie, sent a division of troops to the capital, Teheran, and slowly drove the Gendarmarie out of Persia. The British also involved themselves in reducing the influence of the Germans in the south of the country.

 

A 1917 revolt in the north was suppressed by the British 'Dunster Force' (also see Mesopotamian Front).

The Shah did not appreciate these British initiatives, and the British-led Persian Rifles were pushed out of Persia in April1918.

The number of troops involved in Persia was small with corresponding low numbers of casualties.

 

Southwest African Front during the First World War


In August 1914, a South African Army of 50,000 troops, with Royal Navy and Rhodesian support, invaded South West Africa (now Namibia) by sea and over their common borders.

On the 18th September 1914 about 2,000 South Africans landed at the strategically important port of Luderichbucht. Whilst the Rhodesians occupied the Caprivi Strip in the extreme north-east.

The Royal Naval (Cape) Division occupied the strategically important the British enclave of Walvis Bay in December 1914, and the port of Swakopmund, just north Walvis Bay, on the 13th January 1914.

After a hiatus caused by the Afrikaner Rebellion (22nd October - 24th January I915), in February 1915, the invasion continued into the 80,000sq. km of largely dry plateau and coastal desert. The Germans began a fighting retreat across the desert until the capital, Windhoek, was lost on the 20th May 1915.

By early July the South Africans had completely subdued the Schutztruppe's 3,000 German troops and it, and their indigenous volunteers, surrendered to the South Africans at Tsumeb, Owamboland - 220km north of the capital Windhoek - on the 9th July 1915.

Casualties on both sides were relatively light: South African/British/Rhodesian 216 killed, Germans 1,331.

 

The West African Front during the First World War


In Togoland, after the rejection of its request for neutral status, a joint French and British operation was launched in August 1914 respectively from Dahomey (now Benin) and the Gold Coast (now Ghana). It quickly neutralised the tiny police/defence force of the country. A principal objective of the campaign was to close down the German shipping radio station at Kamina, 200km inland. The British feared it would be used to co-ordinate the activities of the German commerce raider ships that roamed the South Atlantic and monitor their own naval radio communications.

The Togoland campaign ended on the 28th August 1914, with the surrender of the colonists.

The problem for the Allies in Cameroon (German = Kamerun) was more acute as no serious planning had been made for confrontation with the German colonies, whilst the Germans had done so for the British and French.

In early August 1914, whilst some dithering took place about a joint Anglo-French offensive on the principal port of Douala, using mainly colonial troops, the French and British both launched local cross border invasions. The French colonials attacked in the northeast, and later the southwest, across the French Equatorial Africa/Cameroon border, whilst a British attack by the West African Frontier Force (WAFF) was made across on the Nigeria/Cameroon border. The British attack was repulsed but the French made progress in both sectors.

After some initial difficulties, the joint British led force was landed at Douala on the 27th September 1914 and was successful: the radio-station much feared by the British was put off the air. The Germans colonists' Schutztruppen of 1,000 German and 3,000 African troops retreated into the hinterland without putting up a fight for the port.

The German colonists, after a prolonged fighting retreat, concentrated at Yaounda where the combined Anglo-French forces brought about its fall on the 1st January 1916. Nearly 1,000 Germans escaped to the Spanish colony of Rio Muni and were repatriated to Spain. The Africans were taken to the off-shore island of Fernando Po, now Bioko.

Due to the high incidence of tropical diseases, casualties in the 18,000 British/French/ Imperial troops were high with over 4,000 deaths. The German troops and their indigenous comrades suffered even greater losses.

 

Postscriptum


Many learned historians have written books and articles covering the 'Other' fronts and campaigns of the First World War - a comprehensive list would probably exceed the length of this article. The above is intended for the more amateur historian and (hopefully) is lacking in the detailed complexity of the professional treatment of the subject. It is, therefore, perhaps easier to absorb and comprehend.

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure accuracy of the information derived from the many sources that were used, any errors and omissions are entirely those of the author. And he would be pleased to hear about them.

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