France Turns The Tide At Verdun I THE GREAT WAR Week 118

France Turns The Tide At Verdun I THE GREAT WAR Week 118

France has been fighting the whole war on
its own soil, and that stalemate war of attrition has gone on for over two years. Many of the French – both soldiers and civilians
– have given up to despair by this point that their country will ever be whole again, but
that despair takes a big hit this week, for this week France wins a major victory. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week the British failed again at the
Somme, though the French had some success there, but British Commander in Chief Sir
Douglas Haig vowed to continue the offensive all winter if necessary, in spite of the ghastly
weather conditions. The Serbs pushed the Bulgarians back in the
Balkans, the Romanians stopped the Germans in the Carpathians, the French took control
of the police and censored the newspapers in neutral Greece, and back at home in France,
the French were making the final preparations for their counterattack at Verdun. And that counterattack happened this week
at Fort Douaumont. First came several days of artillery bombardment. On the 21st, the fort’s artillery observation
turret was shattered by a heavy shell, but Douaumont still stood strong, as she had through
all the long months. The 22nd was fairly quiet, but on the 23rd
came a huge crash, a shell had exploded in the sick bay, killing or wounding around 50
German medical personnel. Minutes later, another shell exploded, wiping
out a barracks room. The French were using something heavier than
they ever had before; it was the two 400mm railway guns they’d brought in, blasting
the fort with remarkable accuracy every ten to fifteen minutes. The bakery was gone; the roof collapsed in
the main corridor on the top floor; casemates were obliterated, and Major Rosendahl, the
commandant of the fort, was faced with panic. He evacuated the upper parts of the fort,
but a shell soon penetrated to the bottom, blowing up an arms depot, and Rosendahl gave
the order to abandon the fort, even though every exit was blocked by French gas shells. A suicide squad remained behind to try to
put out the fires, but the fort was soon out of water. The Germans withdrew during the night. So the fort was now empty. Well, except for two German soldiers in the
gallery at the northwest corner of the fort. They hadn’t been disturbed by the 400s,
they hadn’t seen the garrison leaving, and they hadn’t been given any orders to leave,
so they stayed there alone and forgotten for another two days. Poor guys, huh? At 7 AM on the 24th, a group of signalers
and runners from a German artillery unit entered the fort and saw that it was empty, but the
fires were no longer out of control and the captain- Captain Prollius- thought the fort
could still be defended, if he could get the men. He had around 20. He sent a runner to get reinforcements. That morning there was a thick mist and the
Germans thought no one could attack with that little visibility. But remember last week I said that the French
had been training on a replica battlefield with a full-scale Fort Douaumont in it until
they knew the battlefield blindfolded? Yeah, well that came in handy right now, because
the French attacked 6km of German lines in spite of the mist and were in the German first
trench before the German field guns could even get started. Fleury fell within minutes and the Germans
were surrendering with a readiness never before seen, in fact, a French listening post heard
this from a German detachment, “I have only one man left, all the others have run away.” (Verdun) Some Germans told their captors they
hadn’t had food in six days. The French soon attacked the fort itself,
but Captain Prollius’ plea for men had gone unanswered. Early that evening, a French sapper and a
private stumbled into Prollius’ command post in the fort’s cellar. He surrendered to them, and Fort Douaumont-
after eight months- was once again in French hands. Imagine being French General Charles Mangin,
back at command in Fort Souville, seeing his men disappearing into the mist and fog, hearing
the artillery of the creeping barrage, but having no idea how the attack was going. 20 French planes were lost that day flying
low trying to pierce the fog to see the battle. Finally, at around 4:30 in the afternoon,
Douaumont exposed itself to the sunshine, and three Moroccan soldiers were standing
on top of the dome waving their arms in victory. There was no denying that on that one single
day, France had won its greatest victory of the war so far. Mangin’s men took ground that day that the
Germans had taken four and a half months to conquer. The Germans were also losing ground on another
part of the Western Front, over at the Somme, but it was a bit of a different story there. The results of the British 4th army attack
toward Transloy the 23rd were terrible. Look at 8th Division, for example- the four
attacking battalions took casualties of 59, 39, 51, and 38 percent. But they captured a kilometer of muddy trench
called Zenith and Misty trenches. Incessant rain had by now turned the battlefield
into a swamp. It was all but impossible to transport ammunition,
food, and water to the men. In fact, all traffic supplying the 4th Army
was now confined by the mud to a single road from Longueval to Flers. The Germans soon figured this out and every
two minutes near Flers the road got a burst of German artillery fire. Lord Gort from the General Staff, later commander
of the BEF in WW2, visited the front and wrote to Haig, describing “men living on cold
food and standing up to their knees in mud and water… in too poor a physical condition
to conduct an attack successfully… so all-encompassing was the mud that troops making an attack had
to help each other out of the fire trenches as they cannot get out unaided”. But Haig was determined to resume the offensive
against the Transloy Line, the 7th British attack on the line, and it was set for November
5th. The Germans may be slowly falling back in
the west, but they were advancing in the Southeast. At the beginning of the week, General August
von Mackensen’s new offensive attacked the Romanians on the whole line in Dobrogea, taking
Tuzla. This success threatened the Cernavoda-Constanza
railway line, which was his objective. Constanza fell on the 24th, yielding 6,700
prisoners, and on the 25th the Romanians abandoned Cernavoda and retreated northward. But this was now a problem for Mackensen. The Romanians had blown the bridge at Cernavoda
across the mighty Danube River, and that river was a really effective barrier against Mackensen. In fact, the Romanians might now even be able
to reduce their forces here and still hold off Mackensen while sending more men up to
fight General von Falkenhayn, who they were doing pretty well against in the mountains. For the time being, the river created a deadlock
that favored whoever was playing defense. Still, British war observer Alfred Knox had
this to say (Brusilov), “Unfortunately it is too late to save the situation. The allied line in Dobrogea is now many miles
north of the Constanza railway… as things are, it seems likely that all Wallachia with
its grain and oil will be lost to the enemy.” And Lloyd George, who was now British Secretary
of State for War after Lord Kitchener had drowned in the summer, had a bunch to say
about Romania. He called the possible conquest of Romania
“the biggest blow of the war”, and believed that with Germany taking the Romanian oil
fields and harvest, it would “probably prolong the war for another two years.” But he was well aware no aid could be sent
before Romania had already made peace. And though Russian aid could theoretically
have come, Russia was having big problems at home. All Russian offensives were pretty much called
off, as 200,000 Russian workers were involved in roughly 177 political strikes. Chief of Staff Mikhail Alexeev warned the
Tsar that there were now only enough reserve troops for another five months of fighting. And that was the week, minor British success
for huge casualties at the Somme, the Germans pushing back the Romanians in Dobrogea, weather
putting a stop to operations in the Balkans for the time being, a political assassination
as the Austrian Prime Minister Count Karl von Stürgkh was killed by Doctor Friedrich
Adler for repeatedly refusing to convene Parliament and governing by emergency decree, and a major
French victory at Verdun. Erich von Falkenhayn, the architect of the
Battle of Verdun, claimed that he started it to bleed France to death by attacking a
national treasure the French would be forced to defend to the last. What was his plan then, if France actually
won at Verdun after all that defending? Because retaking Douaumont was a huge deal,
and a major PR coup for France, who had been fighting the whole war on their own soil. Defend to the last? This week it looked like France was just getting
started. There is a lot of controversy over Falkenhayn’s
claims as to why he began the battle of Verdun and we made a whole special about it. You can check that out right here. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Thomas
Morgan. Your support on Patreon is helping us getting
more independent from YouTube’s ad revenue, so please support us on Patreon, every Dollar
counts and you get cool perks in return. You can also follow us on Instagram for more
background infos about photos we use on the show. See you next week.

100 thoughts on “France Turns The Tide At Verdun I THE GREAT WAR Week 118


  2. @The Great War: Will you guys be covering the Red vs White period on 1918-1920 in Eastern Europe? That period gets way too little attention, yet is instrumental in the actual post-war settlements (see for example Romania and Transylvania), and I'd love to see it brought into the limelight.

  3. Man, I love your videos. I have been following your vids for quite a time now and they are really good. It would be great if you can make a video about the contribution and sacrifices Indian soldiers made for the British Empire. About 1 million Indian soldiers fought for the British and abt 62000 died. We don't see much about them in documentaries and to an extend, they are forgotten. So yeah, please make a video with all those awesome facts we didnt know about.

  4. This is a great channel ! I know its only half way through but would love to see a series exactly like this but based on something else like WW2, The Napoleonic Wars, Or the many wars that took place during the cold war like Vietnam and Afghanistan.

  5. Have you played Battlefield 1 yet.. are you pissed off at how shit the campaign is.. no trenches, no Verdun, no Somme! What a loads of shit

  6. I think from Falkenhaynes point of view, it makes little difference whether France retakes Ft Douamont or not as the men and supplies have already been spent and their support denied to the British.

  7. I´m curious, I´m spanish and I would ike to know what Spain was doing at that time. Thanks for your time and sorry if there are spelling mistakes.

  8. Hi Indy and crew ! I had an ancestor that worked in French Secret Services (Renseignements Généraux) during the war and as you can guess , I wasn't able to find much information about his job. I only found photos of weapons , pieces of papers with strange codes and his letter of assignation as a Corporal at Verdun. Could you tells us more about spying , what it consisted in and how did spies work ? Funny fact i might learn more about this from you than from my family archives !:D Love your great work and I hope you shall come soon in France for a special episode 😉

  9. Hi Indy, excelent show! and many thanks to the crew behind the camera and to you, I just recently found this channel and I'm watching evry video :), and I have a question for out of the trenches: Did Argentina join the war on any side?, or did it favor any of the sides?

  10. where can i type a question for the out of the trenches?

  11. Those Serbs fighting the Bulgarians, are they the rehabilitated forces from Corfu or some remnant that never left Serbia?

  12. I would love an episode about the ones who was against the war, and working for a peace. As for an example John French's sister and E.D. Morel (though he is more credited to exposing the terror king Leopold II of Belgium did in Congo). Adam Hochschild's book To end all wars is a good source on this.
    Even though war is interesting, it's murder of innocent.

  13. Do you think Hague may have pushed his men the way he did due to a perceived rivalry with France and not wanting to look bad compared to the French army?

  14. Great War please make an episode on Montgomery. He fought in the first world War and played a large roll in the second world war.

  15. An interesting fellow, Friedrich Adler. He was a close friend and former colleague of Abert Einstein at the Swiss Technnology Institute in Zürich. During the last days of the war Emperor Charles had him released from custody, Adler became a member of the National Coucil for the Social Democrats, and also exposed revolutionary plans by the Communist International.

  16. "The conquest of Romania will extend the war by two years." Well he just gave the best estimate so far on when the war will end.

  17. I have a question. If Netherlands was sensible enough, they would draw German troops to fight them so the allies could break through German lines at the somme.

  18. Question for oott: When troops were in training, how long could the training last for, and how good was the training in say france compared to other contrys. Thanks for the content, it realy helps with homework! Greetings from South shields-England

  19. Dear Team of The Great War,
    As you know, the german version of this, was cancelled. I'm from Germany and have problems with the english language. So I have to ask: Can you send me the script in english that I can translate for me (without writing everything in english again because thats a lot of work) Could you please do this?
    I love your channel and you're doing a great job.

  20. Hi Great War and Team; Again thanks for all that your doing loving the show more and more, I have a question for you;Is there a chance that as of 2018- 1918 that you will follow the story of the famous Whippet Tank Musical Box? It's considered the greatest Mechanical Cavalry charge of the war??

  21. The Russians are about done. Rasputin is a short timer. The empress is in charge and the emperor already gave up. Churchill said all the Russians needed to do was hang on till 1917 and then they would have lasted till the end. The French head of intelligence said after the war that the Russian catastrophes were important elements of final victory.

  22. Wow, David George really called this one.  He said the loss of Romania would prolong the war for 2 years, and sure enough, it did indeed last 2 years more.

  23. Dang, another Austrian politician was assassinated?  I'm surprised he didn't get as much recognition as the first one.

  24. Hey, Indy, great channel. something I am not clear on, we are less than five months from the "February Revolution", yet nothing really seems to indicate that Russia is about to collapse into civil war and revolution. Are we not seeing why the political events happened? I know Rasputin get assassinated in December.

  25. Hi Indy….I know you are quite used to having viewers praise the efforts of the Great War Team, so allow me to add one more voice to that chorus! In describing the horrors of the war in art, film and literature, I recommend a serious listen to a musical description of the war from the Zombies great 1967 album "Odessey & Oracle." The song is called Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914) and no matter how many times I have heard this piece, my skin crawls and my mind is horrified at the lyrics and that haunting, driving, alarmist church organ that is used to create both irony and terror! I would love to hear your take on that piece from the Summer of Love! I can just hear your voice at the end of the song as it fades saying calmly and profoundly "This is modern war".

  26. The more episodes you do about Haig's oblivion towards his men's conditions at the Somme, the more convinced I become that "Blackadder Goes Forth" was in fact a nonfiction documentary ….

  27. Indy
    In looking through the Book "The French Air Service War Chronology" F. Bailey and C Cony the French never lost 20 aircraft in one day during this period. There biggest loss day was 23 Oct 16 where they lost 10 aircraft on the entire front do to all causes of them only 3 possibly 4 were in the Verdun area.

  28. Your war maps are pathetic. Fire whoever is milking that position and get someone who would passionately volunteer to do it for free. This show is great don't get me wrong but it's unfinished when it comes to visualizing anything that is going on strategically

  29. Hi, guys. First and foremost, congratulations for your epic series. Can you give me the source of the quote by Alfred Knox (from 7:22)?

  30. Hey Indy !!
    Russian Revolutions are incoming ?? How are you going to tackle with those events, events as big and important as the whole war ?
    In my opinion you should branch and do a second serries on the events in Russia from February 1917 till the end of the Russian civil war, a monthly video much more longer for example.

  31. Just wondering if you're going to do anything on Q ships. I have a friend who's great uncle, William Williams (us Welsh have no imagination when it comes to naming our kids), won a VC (along with a DSM and bar) whilst serving on Q ships. I've been reading up on the ships he served on through Wikipedia and it struck me that a lot of medals seemed to go to those serving on these vessels. They must have been crazy as hell on these ships – trying to maintain cover for as long as possible, often while under fire from U boats. Incidentally, it turns out that William Williams won his bar whilst serving on HMS Farnborough during an action in sinking a U boat. This action involved the first successful use of depth charges. After reading up on these battles I'm just surprised that the Germans fell for the "panic boat" ploy time after time.

  32. hi to all.If you want a brief message to the men who fought at verdun, just see " verdun france's Stalingrad part 5 ".At the end you have to see a verdun's veteran arguing about friendship in this  mess.A very big lesson for all of us

  33. 3:41 i wonder what is the story behind that German prisoner surprise and laughter. He saw a friend he thought dead ? A big wine barrel was being tapped ?

  34. Flo! Indy!

    You guys really wanna know what would sell like hotcakes??

    6:26 That hat.

    Why not a hat with that plaque on it? Think about it….

  35. can i ask which south american country was involved in the great war? and do i remeber it right that one nation was with central powers?

  36. How interesting. They tell the Czar that they only have 5 months of troops left and then in March (5 months later) the Car is ousted.

  37. I'm disappointed Indy! Here I am watching thinking the studio renovation or what not was gonna be some awesome shit new map and nope, just flip flopped everything from one side of the room to the other lol. Should have added some more books to your shelf

  38. France seems to be more successful in the war than the British so far. They seem a bit more competent and don't have disasters against the Ottomans like the British have.

  39. It's utterly amazing to me that there's all this fighting and I don't think any nation involved had any final objective other than killing people. WWI has to be the most insane war ever fought.

  40. 2:41 … I can think of so many people those two soldiers could have been:

    1.Laurel and hardy
    2.Those two idiots from pirates of the carribean
    3. Lenny and Karl from the simpsons
    4. Spongebob and Patrick (and their commander squidbert must have left them on purpose)
    5. Batman and robin

  41. "So what happened to your fort, General?"
    "…. It blew up and collapsed, just like every other fort faced with big guns."
    "Well, there was no way to predict this. Do better next time, and here's another million men to send eastwards."

  42. I came here from the out of the trenches episode about Ethiopia, unfortunately indy forgot to talk about the battle of Segale.

  43. Love your channel!
    Could you, rather, than say "This Week" followed by the events of the week; begin to say "This xth Week of month/year" followed by the events? It would make it easier to randomly pull up your videos and know where in time the history took place.
    Nice job none the less!

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