Pride Comes Before The Fall – British Trouble in Mesopotamia I THE GREAT WAR – Week 70


Britain had an empire that spanned the globe,
and even though the British army was being stretched to its limit against the Germans,
the British leadership and British people still knew that their army was certainly far
better than any force from the “less civilized” parts of the world, and could easily handle
enemy forces. Well, pride comes before a fall, and this week, far from Britain, a British
army gets into big, big trouble. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War Last week the French had routed the Bulgarians
at Mount Archangel but were unable to pursue them. This meant they were also unable to
reach their Serbian allies at the Babuna Pass, who were forced to withdraw and now had basically
nowhere to go but the Albanian mountains. At Gallipoli, the decision was made to finally
evacuate the disheartened and exhausted troops there, a new war zone opened up in Libya,
and the Italians were unable to push back the Austro-Hungarian forces. That battle was called the Fourth battle of
the Isonzo River, and Italian General Luigi Capello was taking the direct route to Gorizia,
and yet Mount Sabotino was proving as hard to take as it had in the first three battles
of the Isonzo. The Italians, as always, began with massive
artillery bombardments, and then sent waves of infantry up the mountain to be mown down
by Austrian machine guns. However, at Oslavia and Podgora, the Italians did have some success,
but it came at a terrible cost in lives. So by this time, the front line was a little
closer to Podgora, and the Italians had captured the ruins of little Oslavia. Now, General Capello was an interesting character;
he allowed journalists to come to the front, which just about nobody anywhere did at this
point, and this was seriously frowned upon by his superior, Italian army chief of staff
Luigi Cadorna. Still, you could see its effect here, as the press claimed a great victory,
which completely obscured the lack of any serious progress on the Isonzo. The weather
was now clearing up, so Cadorna ordered attacks on Mount Rombon. These were costly and were
repulsed handily by Slovenian troops in the Imperial Austro-Hungarian Army. That army
was forced to evacuate Mori and Rovereto on the 23rd, and asked for German help on the
Isonzo. It was German help that had saved the Empire
from collapse against Russia just seven months ago, and indeed, the Austrians and Germans
were now working together, in the invasion of Serbia. Niš had fallen on November 5th, finally giving
the Central Powers a direct railway link between Berlin and Constantinople. In the two weeks
since then, the pressure on the Serbian armies continued relentlessly. Austrian, German,
and Bulgarian forces were making a huge converging movement to the Kosovo Plain, trying to encircle
the main Serbian armies. The Serbs grew weaker every day, their supply lines cut. They were
running out of both ammunition and food. The invaders grew stronger every day, as their
line contracted and they brought up reinforcements. Early this week, when Novi-Basar fell, the
Serbian forces had been driven entirely from the last corner of Old Serbia. Actually, a week ago, German General August
von Mackensen, commander of the Austro-German forces, had offered peace terms to the Serbian
leadership. If they accepted, all Serbia would lose was Macedonia and a strip of land along
the Bulgarian border. Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pašić said this, “Our way is marked
out. We will be true to the Entente and die honorably.” And at the Morava River, where the Serbs had
blown the bridges and were trying to hold the Bulgarians back, old Serbian King Peter
himself, now in his 70s, walked the lines under fire, encouraging his troops. Now that is something we really don’t see
much; national leaders being under fire to inspire their countrymen. I wonder if that
would make a difference to the war. Many of them did visit their troops; but certainly
not on the front lines under fire, and many remained far from the action. Britain’s King George, for example, almost
couldn’t have been further from the action this week, as in Mesopotamia, the British
march on Baghdad continued, as General Charles Townshend attacked Ctesiphon November 21st.
Ctesiphon is but 40 kilometers from the final goal. Townshend had done well the whole advance
and had good luck at Basra, Qurna, Amara, and Kut, but not here. Of the over 8,000 British
and Indian troops sent into battle, more than half were killed or wounded, and even though
the Ottoman defenders took twice the number of casualties, they did not break but vigorously
counter-attacked. The British were over 600 kilometers from
the sea and could expect zero reinforcements; the Ottomans could, of course, and had all
the resources of Baghdad, only a few hours’ march away. Townshend’s troops were forced
to retreat in humiliation, and began to pull back toward Kut on the 25th, but the retreat
was hell. There were no facilities for the wounded, and the men were exhausted. When
they got to Kut and sent the wounded men on down river, Arab brigands picked them off
with rifles from both banks, as they lay helpless in the boats. So, at Kut the British dug in and prepared
for an Ottoman attack, and that didn’t sound like anything promising, as they knew that
German Field Marshal Wilhelm Colmar von der Goltz was heading their way with 30,000 Turkish
reinforcements. Von der Goltz had retired from active duty in 1911, but had come out
of retirement when the war began. He had been the military governor of occupied Belgium,
but was now a military aide to the Ottomans. A side note about von der Goltz; as the deportations
of Armenians in Anatolia continued, von der Goltz would directly intervene, and said that
he would retire his command if they were not stopped. It says something about his influence
that he, a foreign officer, could even briefly have an effect on Ottoman domestic policy
that his position was considered, though this week, on November 25th, reports state that
to this point 500,000 deportees have passed through the village of Marmura in the Adana District. So, back to Mesopotamia. The British public
had felt that the capture of mighty Baghdad was only a matter of time, and instead they
see that one of their armies might be cut off and trapped. The British War Council advised
Townshend to leave Kut and head down river; he replied that he was already under siege. And here are some notes to round out the week. A dry frost and clear skies at the end of
November gave perfect flying weather on the Western Front, and what might be described
as an epidemic of aerial activity resulted. British, German, French, and Belgian planes
were everywhere, with up to 15 dogfights in a single day. The French introduced a bill
calling up 400,000 young men who would ordinarily not be called for another year or two, and
by the end of November on the Eastern Front, especially in the northern part, winter had
set in and operations came to almost a complete halt. The ground had frozen to a depth of
over a meter in many places, and digging trenches quickly was no longer possible, which meant
making an advance and then digging in to hold that ground was no longer possible. And one
more bizarre note: on the 26th, the Tsar woke up with a bad cold and wrote to the Tsarina
that he was considering spraying his nose cocaine. And that’s the week; an isolated British
army in Mesopotamia under siege with no hope of relief in sight, the Italians making small
gains at a heavy cost, the Serbs being driven from their land, action in the skies in the
west, and the Tsar thinking about not “just saying no”. I’m going to close today with another look
at the Armenians. Here’s a thing I found in Martin Gilbert’s “the First World War”
. A Jewish woman named Sarah Aaronshon set out from Constantinople to her home in
Palestine, and she traveled through the Taurus Mountains. In her biography it reads the following,
“She saw vultures hovering over children who had fallen dead by the roadside. She saw
beings crawling along, maimed, starving, and begging for bread. From time to time she passed
soldiers driving before them with whips and rifle-butts whole families, men, women, and
children, shrieking, pleading, wailing. These were the Armenian people setting out for exile
in the desert from which there was no return”. If you like to learn more about the beginnings of the Armenian genocide, you can check out our episode right here. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Rahul Pandey from India. Thanks to Rahul and people like him we were able to improve the number of specials
on our our show. Thank you very much. Don’t forget to subscribe and see you next time.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

100 thoughts on “Pride Comes Before The Fall – British Trouble in Mesopotamia I THE GREAT WAR – Week 70”

  1. lacasadipavlov says:

    Finally I'm on the frontline! I watched all the clips!
    Great series and awesome episode!!!

  2. lastwolflord says:

    Who knew Cocaine was good for colds.

  3. spiderlime says:

    will you do a special on emperor franz josef in 1916, the year of his death?

  4. Ben Lyon says:

    Mainly a personal question for Indy.
    As a Briton / American, how easy was it for you to get into, understand, accept and embrace the Swedish culture/language in Stockholm? It's possible my job may take me there soon and I hoped you (Or the other viewers) might have some points that may help.

  5. Gerardd says:

    Truly great episode

  6. Jack Waters says:

    At 1:12 what country/place is that little yellow nameless dot in between France and Spain

  7. Tyler Pluim says:

    Me gusta!

  8. Nicholas Surguladze says:

    Is there going to be a WW2 channel similar to this?

  9. Paris Lioytas says:

    Seriously I just dont get how the British expected an army with no hopes of reinforcements or even resupplying to capture a city such as Baghdad. It is just illogical from a stratigic prespective. Anyone willing to enlighten me?

  10. joey8062 says:

    Man, things have really got darker for the allies now. They are retreating or evacuating everywhere.

  11. Condor Boss says:

    While I have to respect the courage of the Servian Prime Minister, I wish he had accepted the offeered terms. Much misery could have been avoided.

    Possibly, just possibly, an armistice in Serbia might have spread to other theatres.

  12. Condor Boss says:

    The British have a habit of underestimating their opponents. What happened in Mesopotamia is no surprise to anyone who has read British history.

  13. Chuka Amur says:

    there nothing great about war

  14. MrRiccars says:

    Were there any no-mans-lands with a river though the middle of it? How were crossings dealt with during combat?

  15. FED L. says:

    The Tsar considers cocaine and doesn't want to just say no.
    Oh Indy, amidst all that chaos and tragedy you actually managed to crack me up.

  16. Rohan PrabhuSarDesai says:

    I suppose those were maratha indian troops who fought in Present day Iran

  17. yohannbiimu says:

    I would like to point out that history is repeating itself in the Middle East, with ISIS and other radical Muslim forces essentially exterminating historically Christian areas within Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, the US and other Western countries are saying and doing nothing about it.

  18. EverythingIsFalse says:

    4:00 Hinting at Douglas MacArthur are we?

  19. Kongou IJN says:

    I'm pretty sure it's Istanbul not Constantinople since the ottomans are turks

  20. Martin Stensvehagen says:

    why focus on Cocain? is that not medicine at this time?

  21. I am forced to have google plus says:

    So I'm up to date with week by week all those special episodes…awesome channel! Jungs, ihr macht es richtig gut 😉

  22. Dean Orvik says:

    Argh…  I've caught up to the current episodes.  No more binge watching…

  23. Νικος Φ says:

    could you please make some specific episodes about the battle tactics and how the battle was fought etc etc especially for major battles like somme or verdun etc (sorry for the orthography) it should be really intresting because i have been searching for a battle analyses and there is none thank you

  24. chewie mackinnon says:

    Why does indy glorify the deaths of 4000 british soldiers? Do americans truly hate us so?

  25. D roest says:

    Why was the British army in Mesopotamia so small in comparison to the other war zones?

  26. Muhammad Maitla says:

    Indy, your channel is awesome. My question is name your top 5 worst generals and why and also what you do if you had those awesome beards?

  27. Slava Mezhdoyan says:

    great episode, thank you guys for your attention on Armenian Genocide issue!
    And by the way what about special episode about Armenians???

  28. joe clay says:

    I feel embarrassed by how snobbish our ancestors behaved

  29. toad1er says:


  30. Beni Habibi says:

    Sarah Aaronsohn was from Zikaron Ya'akov, in Modern day Israel. she was one of the thousands of Jews who fought against the Ottomans when the British promised them their own state, a Promise the British failed to keep.
    in September 1917, Ottoman forces surrounded her home town, and she was arrested along with her Brothers, Aharon, and Iskandar, her sister Rivka, and her brother in Law Avshalom were all arrested.
    according to Lawrence of Arabia: she was tortured for 4 days by the Ottoman police before managing to get a pistol and shoot herself. she didn't die outright though, she lingered on for another 4 days.
    she was one of 6 thousand Young Israelis who died for a lie by the British 🙁

  31. Last Earthbender says:

    "Our way is marked out. We will be true to the Entente and die honorably"

    That is pretty badass. Other countries like Russia entered the war to defend Serbia. The fact that they didn't just crawl up and surrender at the face of imminent defeat just to respect that is commendable.

  32. Patrick3751 says:

    The fronts in Serbia are probably some of my favorites of the war. Surrounded by enemies and at a massive disadvantage and yet it's amazing how long they were able to put up an effective resistance. And King Peter doing what all the out-of-touch politicians of Europe would never do, walking the lines under fire? Seems like the Serbs were the only ones that actually had a valid and noble reason for fighting.

  33. Bullminator says:

    Makaronas always got their asses kicked on slovenian front.

  34. Nostromo says:


  35. ShogunBean says:

    cocain is a terrible drug

  36. Cristero Warrior says:

    We(Orthodox) will never forget Armenia

  37. PowermadNavigator says:

    A nice note about von der Goltz here…
    During the heat of the First Balkan War, Оctober 1912, he said that Lozengrad's defenses can only be overwhelmed after a siege lasting at least six months and only by Germans/Prussians.
    The Bulgarian army took Lozengrad in around two days.

  38. Infernocanuck says:

    I suppose the Czar cocaine thing can be surprising for people who don't know about it's historical use. For quite some time, notably in the late Victorian Era, Cocaine was seen as a freaking wonderdrug.

    Everyone was too high on opiates to realize cocaine's addictive potential 😉

  39. Sean Chen says:

    It's taking a silly amount of fighting to take out Serbia.

  40. getsomegetsomenow says:

    Love you, Indy!

  41. Bulgarian Beyonder says:

    It's NOT Serbian land the Serbs were driven out.

  42. Giorgos Germanidis says:

    you called southern serbia <<macedonia>>….the name of that state is FYROM or vardaska ….macedonia is one and belong to us (HELLAS)

  43. Giorgos Germanidis says:

    COLMAR VON DER GOLTZ WAS honored with the title of pasha

  44. Fribourg2012 says:

    cool stuff with sub titles Indy ty

  45. mariusstana says:

    Nicola Pasic decides the death of a nation….I am sure he truly loved Serbia and her people…but this kind of statements and decisions are not the right of one man to take !
    And this is a prime example of the nationalism of the the East european nations that I can relate to in my country's case , but I understand that it is quite wrong whean the stakes are so high….

  46. Phoenix Rage says:

    The British forces took heavy losses over 100,000 while the Iraqis led by German and Ottoman Generals took only 40,000 casualties
    The German General Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz said that he was very proud leading the Iraqis for smashing the Brits
    In Kut the British were really humiliated and after the war the Shia leaders in Najaf started the 20th revolution and this revolution would succeed if not for the betrayal of the kurdish minority for their own rule and the sunni minority to rule Iraq over the Shia 70% majority

  47. Nicolas de Fribourg says:

    cool stuff with sub titles Indy ty

  48. Ryan Morgan says:

    Actually the thing that comes before a fall is a haughty spirit. According to the Book of Proverbs in the King James Bible: "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before the fall." #nitpicking

  49. bojansantovac says:

    Also Thasos(Greece). On some maps on your show is depicted as Bulgarian in some as Greek

  50. Praetorian XXIV says:

    the planes shown at 6:40 are westland wapitis, a post war design.

  51. eylam90 says:

    Hi, I was wondering if it would be possible to conduct and submit some research for you for future episodes, the woman you mentioned, Sarah Aaronsohn is a name which will be relevant again when you come to talk about the ** SPOILER SPOILER** Palestine front as she belonged to a pro-british Jewish spy ring which is greatly celebrated in modern day israel, but was ostracized by the wartime Jewish community.
    I'd be glad to gather materials for you, I'm a big history fan and studied film and screen writing, I think its a fascinating story, worthy of being featured here.

  52. Cpl. Gadway USMC says:

    Im thoroughly amused at how fast Britain is crumbling at the slightest sign of pressure to 3rd rate enemies.

  53. Geckuno says:

    It would be nice if you made an episode on the relations between different empires. I remember from school that at the time, in the Ottoman Empire, there was big German influence. Was it like that everywhere or was it something only countries in decline faced?

  54. Dylius01 says:

    Perhaps cocaine could explain many of the decisions made during this war…

  55. KoTu says:

    what's up with switzerland… how they can be in the middle of europe and just be "neutral", why no one took them by force etc?

  56. Lars Petter Simonsen says:

    The last time a British King led troops on the battlefield was George II at Dettingen in 1743.

  57. coviekiller5 says:

    Loved that bit about the Tsar and cocaine. LOL

  58. Pavel says:

    I think, that even if we would discover some kind of "mirror" that we could use to look into past, and record all the evidence for Armenian genocide, that Turkey and Erdogan would still deny it.

  59. Mina Vucurevic says:

    One Serbian soldier was attacked by four enemy soldiers, and for every Serbian cannon, Austro-Hungarians and Germans had nine.German General August von Mackensen said about the Serbs: "we fought against soldiers from fairy tales". Unity, courage, and patriotism of the fighters who fell during the defence of Belgrade inspired von Mackensen. He erected a monument to honour them in Topčider. That was a rare historic example of the victor who honoured his enemy’s army in such a maner. It was written on the monument, in both Serbian and German: „Serbian heroes rest here“. Here it is:

  60. General Scorpion says:

    After the Serbia fell, amazed by their defiance and courage Makenzen erected a monument to the fallen Serbs, written in both Serbian and German it says "Here rest Serbian heroes".

  61. Против Глобал says:

    8:22 These are Serbs, not Armenians.

  62. 1oui3man1 says:

    That comment about the Tsar knocked me sideways

  63. Mario Litano says:

    Indy I am still catching up on episodes but I wanted to mention that David Seville (real name Ross Bagdasarian) creator of Alvin and the Chipmunks was the son of Armenian immigrants fleeing the Ottoman Empire. So if it was not for WWI and the Armenian genocide perhaps the Alvin and thr Chipmunks may have never existed.

  64. Michael Siegler says:

    Wow, Luigi Capello is an odd looking dude.

  65. juan altredo says:

    Im guessing the british at some point start to win some important battles? so far it has been setback after setback with the occasional minor success. Seems weird that undoubtedly a great army and empire had such a torrid time against so many different armies. Just looking at related videos I can see "britain on the run", I mean its defeat after defeat not just against the germans, but the otomans and others too

  66. Chris Holland says:

    The huge losses at the Somme,Passondale and the campaign in Gallipoli called into question time and again the competence of British high command.

  67. sharadowasdr says:

    Have you read any books about India in world war 1 ? Here is one suggested reading : 'If I Die Here, Who Will Remember Me?' India and the First World War – Vedica Kant

  68. mattianoob99 says:

    Podgora… the mountain after which my town is named after…

  69. JCZFootball says:

    Joining a few years late, but i just noticed you said that the Italians were "moaned" down instead of mowed down! Thought it was funny. Absolutely great show/episodes. I also agree with the guy that says you should do WWII. Just hoping you don't wait a few more decades.

  70. Junaid says:

    how did Iran get involved in WW1?

  71. El Bandito says:

    5:18 Colmar von der Goltz should be mentioned more, as he was very influential in the Ottoman Empire, and had trained an entire generation of Ottoman officers, many of them were in the Young Turks. And he was well aware of how the face of warfare had changed at the turn of the century.

  72. Dreaded88 says:

    @03:18: "…old King Peter…walking the lines to inspire the Troops…I wonder if the other leaders [did this] would it make a difference in the war?…"
    Try to remember: The troops everywhere else were fighting some king's squabble with another king. Serbia was fighting for it's life!

  73. Luiz Alex Phoenix says:

    Man, I would be pissed at my President/King/Prime Minister if he refused peace after so much bloodshed and having no sight of victory. Getting your own people killed only really helps invaders to clear the land. If every man dies, the invaders can just take their lands and family. No one left to defend it.

  74. Olivier Labrèche says:

    Gotta love Pasic's beard 😀

  75. quineloe says:

    15 dong fights… ?

  76. 221 b says:

    I´m gonna ask my doctor for cocaine the next time I have a cold. 🙂

  77. Iconoclasm_ says:

    C'mon Serbia, hang in there…

  78. Cristian Jasso says:

    Spartans vs Serbians how could win in a battle

  79. Jim Woodward says:

    Our Secretary of State visited a war zone under sniper fire "dodging" bullets right and left . . .

  80. Noetic Fool says:

    Easy to have balls when you send others to die for you.

  81. Sk8nRock says:

    Germany: Just give back Bulgaria the lands you stole from them just 2 years ago and we will leave you alone.
    Serbia: No way! The entire Balkans belong to me! I would rather lose my entire male population than lose a small province with mainly Bulgarian citizens.

    Such heroism!

    Seriously all the sympathy towards Serbia is very unjustified. The war started because of them in the first place. They have always been very militaristic (with little success), so I can't feel bad for them for getting what they asked for.

  82. Liberty Mapping says:


  83. TrinityWarrior45 says:

    The end brought a tear to my eye.

  84. TrinityWarrior45 says:

    What is the piano piece at the end called?

  85. bombus says:

    666th comment 😶

  86. In Cognito says:

    Dude your classic steamer trunk desk is AWESOME!

  87. Matthew Sack says:

    Sarah Aaronsohn was also a part of a Jewish spring called the Nili. It's super interesting stuff

  88. Ali Irhuoma says:


  89. mr me says:

    6:41 ww1 weather reporting with the great war channel

  90. Мустафа иракский says:

    Britain couldn't control IRAQ for even 2 years they got defeated by Iraqis quickly and forced to establish the Kingdom of Iraq .

  91. 17soga says:

    Just say not

  92. Werd Lert says:

    I am sorry for all the Serbian king Peter fans out here, but while walking the front lines under fire is impressive, commanding your whole army to die when there is absolutely no hope of victory does not impress me but rather seems like a colossal waste of lives.

  93. colinmcom14 says:

    Seriously, how does Germany lose this war? They're doing so well!

  94. Mike Yerke says:

    That whacky Tzar.

  95. Deja Voodoo says:

    Is it true that historians are trying to resurrect Gen Haig’s image?

  96. kulensky says:

    Speaking of monarch in the front, bulgarian crown prince (larer known as Tsar Boris III) was on the fron too, not just encouraging but fighting with his people.

  97. coolMguy says:

    Some Anzac soldier watching his friends eaten by rats at Gallipoli: Say, why are we doing this?
    Commander: We have to help the British keep those Jerries out of Belgium.
    Anzac: Breh

  98. Mr R says:

    A German officer standing up for the rights of ethnic minorities? where was he in 20 years?

  99. BlackShadow gy says:


    Aye,boy have you gatherd the forces to retake Constantinople?

  100. Rendarth1 says:

    "We will die honorably." That's something you'd think you'd only hear in the movies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *