The Forgotten Front – World War 1 in Libya I THE GREAT WAR – Week 69


I said the other week that there were now
12 war zones in this war. 12. On three continents. But you know what? That’s obviously not
enough because this week yet another war zone opens. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week the Italians had begun the Fourth
Battle of the Isonzo River against Austria-Hungary, the Russians had again stopped the Germans
in the northeast, the Germans and Austrians were rampaging through Serbia, while the Bulgarians
had their hands full trying to stop the French from reaching the Serbs and uniting forces.
Here’s what came next on the world’s battlefields. Let’s take a look first at the Italian front,
where the 4th Battle of the Isonzo River was raging. Now, because of the early arrival of winter,
Italian Chief of Staff Luigi Cadorna’s objectives were somewhat limited. There was heavy snow
in the north so there was no hope of gaining control of the Bovec Basin or destroying the
Austrian Bridgehead at Tolmin. So following short but incredibly intense
artillery barrages, wave after wave of Italian infantry went up the exposed slopes of Hill
383, Mount Sabotino, Mount San Michele, Oslava, and Podgora. The Austrian machine gun emplacements
took a heavy toll on the brave, but freezing and exhausted Italian soldiers. So, Cadorna,
like he had done before, was throwing away the huge advantage he had in men, which was
more than two to one. Now, all the attacks on Hill 383 were repulsed,
but the attack south of Zagora followed what was by now becoming a familiar pattern. The
Italians would advance and push back the enemy until Austrian reserves arrived and held the
line. The Italian Third Army was commanded by Prince Emanuele Filiberto, the Duke of
Aosta, cousin to King Victor Emmanuel III. This army had the nickname “Armata Invitta”-
undefeated army- but, at least here, that may have been a misnomer, for his army made
repeated desperate attacks up the slopes of Monte San Michele which either failed or made
tiny gains that were re-taken by Austrian counter attacks. In its second week, the intensity
of the battle was growing and the casualties were climbing as high as they had in the Third
Battle of the Isonzo last month. And another battle, not too far away, was
also growing in intensity this week. The French had tried and tried to reach the
Serbs last week, battling the Bulgarians up Mount Archangel until Bulgarian reinforcements
arrived and the French advance was stopped. Now the Bulgarians took the offensive. Their
intention was to circle around the French, cut off their retreat by destroying the only
means of crossing the Tcherna River- a wooden bridge- and pin them up against the mountains. Violent battle took place over three days
between the French and the Bulgarians, and at the end of the third day the Bulgarian
lines broke, and they were routed. The fighting over those three days had been a really near
thing, though, several times the Bulgarian infantry got to within a dozen meters of the
French, but couldn’t push past the French machine guns. However, though in the end the
Bulgarians were forced to retreat, the French didn’t have enough men to pursue them and
press their advantage, push their way to the Babuna Pass, and relieve the Serbian forces. Those Serbs held out until November 15th,
hearing the French guns so close, loud and clear, but the French could not do the impossible,
and French General Sarrail did not dare to leave that tiny bridge over the Tcherna, that
single slender line of retreat, too far behind. The Bulgarians had only been defeated, but
not crushed. The Serbs finally fell back from the pass,
and the French, not knowing this, held Mount Archangel till the end of the week when the
Bulgarians returned to fight them again. But the situation of the Serbian army was now
desperate. The Austrian, German, and Bulgarian lines began at Vishegrad, north of Montenegro,
and went across Serbia in a straight line to Nis, curved down to Vranya, then to Veles,
and then down to where the French army stopped it from reaching the Greek border. It was
a dragnet, and if it was contracted, the Serbian forces would be swept toward the Albanian
and Montenegrin mountains, which could not be passed by any organized force, and only
the hardiest of souls in any case. The last chance of breaking this dragnet was the French
breaking through, but once the Serbs withdrew from Babuna Pass, that was it. It was indeed a dire and disheartening situation
for the Serbs, and one other disheartening situation for the allies was at Gallipoli. On November 11th, British Secretary of State
for War Lord Kitchener had traveled to Gallipoli to see the dismal situation there first hand.
And it was dismal; as we’ve seen, the demoralized British and ANZAC troops had no real hopes
left for any kind of a victory, were short on artillery shells, were riddled with disease,
and had insufficient shelter and equipment for the winter that was about to begin. Kitchener’s
generals had urged evacuation, but Kitchener had refused, worried that admitting defeat
would have a negative effect on the Muslim subjects of the British Empire. After seeing
the situation firsthand, he now changed his tune and called for a speedy evacuation. And a side note here; Winston Churchill, one
of the main architects of Gallipoli, who had still been arguing that it could be won, now
basically gave up and went to the Western Front as a Lieutenant-Colonel to command a battalion there. The Bulgarian front, Salonika, the Italian
front, Gallipoli; these were all relatively new fronts that had opened up in the past
six months or so. This week, yet another war zone would open. On November 14th, what is probably the most
forgotten front of the entire war opened, the Libyan Front. Libya was Italian, but before
1912 had been part of the Ottoman Empire and now the Senussi tribesmen rose up against
the Entente, with support from the Turks. The Senussi attacked a British-Egyptian border
post, and would continue harassing attacks. Each time the British army would go into action
against them, the tribesmen would melt into the desert. British Officer Captain Jarvis, stationed
in Egypt, had this to say “In some respects this was the most successful
strategic move made by our enemies of the whole war, for these… Arabs tied up on the
Western Frontier for over a year some 30,000 troops badly required elsewhere”. And here’s a small note from one of the
elsewhere those troops could not go to, the Western Front On November 17th, the French Army committee
of the Senate insists on the future use of asphyxiating gas. The French will join the
Germans and British in gassing each other on the western front. To be fair, it was the
French that used gas the first of them all, at the very beginning of the war, but that
was tear gas, not chlorine, phosgene, or any other new and deadly form of poison. And at the end of the week, Britain sends
submarines to support the Russian fleet in the Baltic. And it was indeed a busy week,
with the Italians bravely trying again and again versus Austria as the winter came on,
the French routing the Bulgarians but unable to press them further as the Serbs are forced
into a dragnet that’s about to close, a decision made to finally evacuate troops at Gallipoli and the opening of the Libyan front in North Africa. It was quiet on the western front this week,
which isn’t surprising after the six weeks of carnage that had recently ended and caused
hundreds of thousands of casualties, but I’m going to end with something from that front,
a quote from Louis Barthas’ book, “Poilu” that shows life on the “quiet” front: “…In certain places the trenches had completely
disappeared under water. Almost all of the dugouts had collapsed. Our section was lucky
enough to have a dugout which was still intact… but one night, when the rain came down in
torrents, the tide invaded our dugout… The next day… at many places on the front line,
the soldiers had to come out of their trenches so as not to drown. The Germans had to do
the same. We therefore had the singular spectacle of two enemy armies facing each other without
firing a shot… Frenchmen and Germans looked at each other, and saw that they were all
men, no different from one another. They smiled… we shared tobacco… a huge devil of a German
stood up on a mound and gave a speech which only the Germans could understand… but everyone
knew what it meant, because he smashed his rifle on a tree stump… applause broke out
on both sides… if only you had been there, mad kings, bloody generals, fanatical ministers,
jingoistic journalists, rear-echelon patriots, to contemplate this sublime spectacle… our
big-shot leaders were in a furor… once the front line was established again… it was
forbidden under penalty of death to leave the trench.” We actually did a whole special episode on
Louis Barthas and his first hand experiences of the war, and you can check that out right
here. You can also buy his book “Poilu” at our Amazon web shop, and if you do, we
actually get some of the proceeds. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Juan
Camilo Rodriguez from Colombia. Gracias Juan! If you want to support our show financially,
so that we can make more awesome stuff in the future, support us on Patreon. Don’t forget to subscribe, see you next

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20 thoughts on “The Forgotten Front – World War 1 in Libya I THE GREAT WAR – Week 69”

  1. FRODO LIVES says:

    What is the little yellow country between France and Spain

  2. William Lemmond says:

    Hi, Indy, and helpers,
    I can handle listening to but not always looking) at, your videos. But for health reasons, I have to avoid reading anything but happy fun books. I know the ones in your store are important, even today, and I'm glad you're all getting the word out. But I'll have to limit myself to suppoerting you in the small way I can afford, through Patreon. And I'll keep going through your videos, trying to catch ll the playlists.

  3. Dabacon BossBro says:

    Waaaa why aren't they killing each other!!!!

    But General! Why not just have US kill them if they leave the trench

    Goddamnit. Im watching via playlist and accidentally posted this on the next video

  4. Christopher Eason says:

    I love the Big German! Thank you Guys

  5. Copyrightbreaker22 says:

    Why haven’t I found this channel earlier? I love it!

  6. Mr. CU NT says:

    Maybe the Italians woulda done better if their Chief of Staff was Mario and not Luigi

  7. Donnoha says:

    Never knew French fought Bulgarians.

  8. Yellow Jackboots says:

    The story of the flooded trenches and the big bosche smashing his rifle; it fair brings a lump to the throat.

  9. Marko Lomovic says:

    2:10 that dude is like "they are going to kill me"

  10. Marmocet says:

    A little tidbit of trivia about armies at the time: roughly speaking, the maximum distance from the nearest railhead at which armies could carry out sustained combat operations was ~90 miles. Beyond that distance, horse-drawn wagons couldn't bring supplies of food, equipment and ammunition fast enough over the road networks of the time to keep an army in the field in fighting condition.

  11. Michael Castro says:

    That ending quote was beautiful, makes me wish things turned out differently.

  12. Toast says:

    'Poilu' is filled with (well written) little moments like the excerpt you quoted but the part you mentioned pretty much summarises the entire book also. :oD forgotten that part, and thank you.

  13. Duncan Forbes says:

    Week 69….Nice. But mostly horrible.

  14. mikiroony says:

    Liked for excellent pronunciation of "Juan" 😀

  15. Shawn Gilliland says:

    Even week 69 of the war brings no relief to the warring nations . . .
    Great quote from Louis Barthas' book.

  16. Stern Daler says:

    "The French were only using – bromide – tear gas?" A treaty forbid chemicals.
    Germany was justified to use CL2 or anything in retaliation..

  17. Marc Schlee says:

    Indy Neidell is the Barbara Tuchmann of the hoi pollois. Thanks on behalf of all of us whose interest in the Great War will unfortunately always surpasses our actual knowledge.

  18. Barn Van die Bos says:

    If you hear this how could Germany have lost the war?

  19. Ryan Martinka says:

    Also on November 14-30 Russian forces from the Caucasus occupied Tehran

  20. Ressuu says:

    War fronts everywhere except in Spain. How come such a large country managed to stay out of BOTH WW 1 and 2? Portugal too. Surely they were being courted by both sides?

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