Learning Lessons From Loos – Bulgaria Enters The War I THE GREAT WAR – Week 64


As we’ve seen over the past 15 months, the
war has grown ever larger as new countries join the fight. You’d think they may be
deterred by the death toll of millions of young men, but you’d be wrong. You’d especially be wrong this week, as this week Bulgaria joins the war. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week, a combined Austro-German force,
almost 400,000 strong, invaded Serbia from the north and occupied Belgrade October 9th.
Further south in Salonika, in neutral Greece, 20,000 French and British troops landed to
help the Serbs. On the Western Front the battles at Loos and Champagne, British and French
offensives, entered their second week, and over on the Eastern Front, the Russians had
begun new offensives in the Dvinsk region after the months of German advances had finally
been halted. Here’s what came next. Well, I already mentioned that Bulgaria joins
the war, so I’ll start with that. I realize that to those of you who regularly
follow our channel Bulgaria’s declaration of war is a bit of an anti-climax, since last
month we talked about the deal Bulgaria made with the Central Powers that she would declare
war on Serbia within 30 days, but that the German and Austro-Hungarian armies would have
to attack Serbia first. That attack came last week, so Bulgaria was now obligated to begin
her own attack. And that began on 11th, as the Bulgarian forces
attacked the Serbs at Byelogradchik. They did not officially declare war on Serbia until
the 14th; within 48 hours of that, both Great Britain and France had declared war on Bulgaria.
The Serbs were in pretty dire straights, since around 400,000 Austro-German troops had just
hit them from the north and captured Belgrade, which was partly destroyed this week. Serbia
had appealed to neutral Greece for help, but Greece refused the appeal. See, those two
countries had a treaty together from 1913 that said that if either one was attacked
by two or more powers, the other one would help out, but the Greeks said, no no no, that
treaty is for purely Balkan aggression, and this was a European war. Still, the French
had landed all those troops last week at Salonika, and this week, on the 14th, the first French
units reached the Serbian-Greek border, and 18,000 more French troops landed at Salonika. Those troops had been pulled from Gallipoli,
where the stalemate continued after nearly six months. It was fairly obvious that without Allied
help, Serbia would fall, but things were also grim at Gallipoli. The Ottoman forces could
look down from the heights with total control of the situation, but General Sir Ian Hamilton
refused to accept defeat or evacuation, but on October 14th he was replaced by Lieutenant
General Sir Charles Munro. When Munro visited Gallipoli he was appalled- the tactical and
logistical situations there were a nightmare. He recommended a quick evacuation but Lord
Kitchener, British secretary of State for War, was hesitant, he didn’t want to cause
any sort of negative reaction in the Muslim parts of the British Empire because evacuation
would be admitting a humiliating defeat by the Turks. And so the men stayed. There were issues in the British High Command
elsewhere this week as well, over on the Western Front where the Battle at Looks had been raging
for the past two weeks. That battle, a British offensive, officially
drew to a close October 14th with the British taking just under 60,000 casualties. The Germans
took only around 26,000, and British Commander John French seemed to be losing support. On
October 9th, General Douglas Haig told Richard Haldane, the former British Secretary of State
for War, that it was French’s mishandling of his reserves that had lost the Battle of
Loos, and the next day told General Henry Rawlinson, that he could no longer be loyal
to French. But, you know, historians may often consider
Loos to be a failure because it did not achieve a breakthrough, but the British High Command
did learn a few valuable lessons. For the first time, a creeping barrage was successful
and the troops could take maximum advantage of the suppression fire provided by a creeping
barrage, which is when you have a curtain of artillery fire just ahead of advancing
infantry, which would constantly creep forward just ahead of the troops. Creeping barrages
weren’t really seriously deployed until later in the war, though as far as I know
the first one was in the Balkan War in 1913 when Bulgaria tried the tactic during the
siege of Adrianople, but you could see at Loos on a small scale how effective they could
be. One costly lesson for the British, though, was that their artillery shells just were
not cutting the German barbed wire defenses and the wire cutters provided to the troops
were too light to cut it. It was also obvious that the British still did not have sufficient
artillery to back up the infantry. The tactics at Loos were, in fact, a variation
of a very old tactic; the wave attack, where each battalion or each unit had three separate
lines, one behind the other. When the first line got pinned down or exhausted, the second
and third lines would pass through the first and continue the assault. Now, back in the
Napoleonic era, these lines were very stiff and precise, but here they were more like
blobs. One unit at Loos, the 9th Scottish Division, used the wave very effectively,
and battered the Germans just like waves hitting the beach. The German front line trenches
were overwhelmed. The problem, as you may imagine, is that you need to keep a certain
distance between the lines so you don’t bunch up and become a huge target for enemy
artillery, and while the 9th Scottish may have succeeded, other units were less successful,
such as the 12th Sherwood Foresters, who went over the top at 11 AM September 27th, and
when they were met with heavy artillery and rifle fire, they grew disorganized and mixed
with other battalions, and suffered heavy casualties. The French were also suffering heavy casualties
at their own ongoing offensive, the second battle of Champagne, which had begun the same
time as Loos, on September 25th. Here’s what I think is an interesting side
note that I found about Champagne. Now, the French Foreign Legion was waiting to go into
action in Champagne. It included the American poet Alan Seeger, and the 19-year-old American
volunteer Edmond Génet, the great grandson of Citizen Génet who was sent by revolutionary
France to America in 1792 as its representative. The Legion’s brigadier was Mussorgsky, cousin
descendent of the famous Russian composer of “Pictures at an Exhibition”. The Legion,
500 strong, had gone into action September 28th at the Battle for Navarin Farm, east
of Reims. More than 300 of them were killed, Seeger and Genet both survived. Another interesting thing I found that hasn’t
really fit anywhere so far is this, from “The Story of the Great War”: The French method of aerial maneuvering is
interesting as well as effective. The air squadrons operate in the following manner:
ten machines rise 6,000 feet along the enemy’s line, ten others rise 9,000. An enemy attempts
to pass are attacked from both above and below. And here are a few British notes to round
out the week: the Armenian Genocide was discussed in the House of Lords this week, with 800,000
reported killed since May. On October 9th, British forces captured Wumbiagas in Cameroon,
and on October 13th, the heaviest zeppelin bombing raid on London of the war so far happened.
Five zeppelins dropped 189 bombs, killing 71 civilians. And we come to the end of yet another week.
The men at Gallipoli still remaining, waiting for God knows how many more desperate battles.
The Battle of Loos coming to an end, with the British losing more than twice as many
men as the Germans. The French still fighting at Champagne, where they were losing even
more men than the British at Loos, Greece refusing to come to Serbia’s aid, even as
Bulgaria declared war. Yep, yet another country joined the war. Bulgaria
wanted land and the Central Powers promised it. Men would die. We know that; I mean, all
major powers who joined the war had lost hundreds of thousands of men, did Bulgaria think it
would be any different? By this time, Bulgaria had mobilized over 600,000 men, nearly a quarter
of the male population of the entire country, including all age groups. The field armies
that invaded Serbia were 300,000 strong, and here’s something I bet you didn’t know,
Bulgaria would eventually mobilize 1.2 million men to fight in this war, and the entire population
of Bulgaria in 1915 was just under 4.3 million people, so Bulgaria would send well over a
quarter of its entire population to war, which was the highest percentage of mobilization
of any country in the First World War. Madness. You might be a little curious what Bulgaria’s background to the First World War was. You can check out our special episode about that right here. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Robert
Beauchamp – thanks to your and Robert’s contribution on Patreon we are able to have
more special episodes in the future. If you also want to support this show, visit our
Patreon page. Don’t forget to subscribe and see you next time.




Comments
  1. 5:55 Real footage file, what is the army that lost every man in this skirmish? Sad, really how man are now alive and in couple moments not anymore.

  2. I note your Western Front situation map shows that the French occupied German territory near Switzerland. I have never heard about Germans under French occupation. Could you cover that from THE CHAIR OF WISDOM?

  3. There is a popular Serbian proverb that would come out after another World War, and it says: "Whenever you see a war that is looming, fire upon Bulgaria first. You will not make a mistake."

  4. The Bulgarian people wanted to go on a war. The soldiers were mainly volunteers for whom there were not enough uniforms, because nobody have been expecting so many volunteers. These man fought for a cause which was the unification of all lands inhabited by Bulgarians, lands that were stolen by the Greeks, the Serbians, the Romanians and the Turks. Lands that are still in possession of these thieves.

  5. How can Bulgaria and Serbia managed to mobilize around 1/4 of its entire population, while Germany, Austria, Ottomans lost war without reaching near this percentage?

  6. It is not surprising that Bulgaria entered the war. From 200 000 kilometers^2 of Bulgarian territory 80 000 was snitched by Serbs and Greeks in 1913. You should make an episode about the Battle of Doyran and put more detail to the Serbian campaign. Actually, the central powers attack was not that much decisive, because the main forces were occupied fighting Brusilov on the Eastern front and Serbia was never given full attention. This is why the Bulgarian attack was so important and yes Serbs capitulated shortly after it. The defeat was so bad that Serbs (60000 man) were evacuated via Corfu following the so called Albanian Golgotha.

  7. I thought Canada had the largest contribution per capita during the war. Maybe I'm mistaken or getting this figure mixed up with another war.

  8. I thought Canada had the largest contribution per capita during the war. Maybe I'm mistaken or getting this figure mixed up with another war.

  9. Many people are often very critical of the generals in WW1 but one thing to keep in mind is that they were very well educated in military matters and it turned out what they were taught simply didn't work. It's very hard if you're taught one way of thinking and switching it while you're actually doing it. The military hates using unproven tactics but that's what they did and they had to improvise and take huge risks. Also the fact that hundreds of thousands of soldiers would die if they made a mistake made it even more difficult for them to gamble with new ideas that might end in disaster. They had to throw away thousands of lives to find out if an idea would work or not. The fruits of that can be seen towards the end of the war.
    We know what will work in such a situation but they did not. The American Civil war didn't really come up with a way to break the deadlock since it was a war of attrition that the North won. The Russo-Japanese war was very short and didn't really come up with an effective solution either.

    I actually also feel for those generals who have studied tactics all their life and were experts at their craft and then find that what they believed just doesn't work. The entire weight of the country is on them as are the lives of their soldiers. They don't know what to do but they know they have to do something. If they come up with an idea they don't know if it will work and if it does not it may doom their country and they will be responsible for it.

  10. I can rap like eminem

    ASdftyuihgfdxgujkopiuytrdsfgthyujiodfszxghjuiklop['ghfcduidefjhregfcouwebfvcuyvruofvhreiyucfhbjkrwnvgiurebjvkberjb flio4enwfiln34i oh t9435h t0p938jbfvbreijhbfvbreubigibfcawzesxcftgvybhunijmesxftviojnbhugvybhjknihgvyftcdresxzdrbhjklmojbhugvcftdsxzAWZbhunjikmol,p;kmojbghucftdeszAWZhjl;,kjhgfdsaRTFGHJKLHKGFDXHJKLO;KJLHGFCGJKL;JHGFCDXGHJKHUGFHDXGJNKL;'KMHJBLM;KJHGVKL;PKJHGVFBJKL;JHGVCFXHVBJKLOP;KIJFGHCBHJKLJHGVCFVGJKLHGFCXB

  11. I wish I could determine which of the sources in the video description is behind those sharp caricatures at 3:01…
    So British, so well done, so smart, and so calligraphic.

  12. some  clown said war is politics by other means.  war is planned by politicians and generals at national command levels but fought by privates and lieutenants in platoons and squads. too bad people elevate politicians and generals and swill the propaganda,  drinking the Kool-Aid…

  13. One thing you have to admire about Bulgaria is Boris III not turning Jews over to Hitler. Ferdinand ' s son showed courage that other countries did not.

  14. Obviously Bulgaria didn't mobilize women so saying 'over a quarter of it's population' isn't technically a misnomer but I don't think it fully displays the sacrifice of the male population. One out of four, is nothing to scoff at, but If you assume that the gender parity was 50%, you're looking at over one out of two of the male population. Risking half your male population on a purely offensive action is psychotic.

  15. "A nation with a population of less than five million and a military
    budget of less than two million pounds per annum placed in the field
    within fourteen days of mobilization an army of 400,000 men, and in the
    course of four weeks moved that army over 160 miles in hostile
    territory, captured one fortress and invested another, fought and won
    two great battles against the available armed strength of a nation of
    twenty million inhabitants, and stopped only at the gates of the hostile
    capital. With the exception of the Japanese and Gurkhas, the Bulgarians alone of all troops go into battle with the fixed intention of killing at least one enemy."

  16. Could you do an episode that details the reactions of any particular soldiers who served in WW1 and their reaction to the outbreak of WW2?

  17. best soldiers at that time were Bulgarians
    Bulgaria lost two world but in the battle……. they are ameizing
    interesting fact is that in Bulgarian museums can see flags of all nations that has beat vs Bulgaria but you cant find in any museum in the world captive Bulgarian flag
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJoEW31hQOM

  18. After the occupation, Bulgaria enlisted Macedonians and some of the Serbs into their army.By force. that's how you get to 1.2 mil.

  19. 8:50 wow, our population hasn't moved a whole lot since then. Also, we sure doubled down pretty hard….damn shame.

  20. I love this show but it gets a little repetitive when we always end on the tragity over the amount of death

  21. When it comes to rapid mobilization Bulgaria is pretty famous throughout the centuries of its existence. Until the 20th century it was basically a military state that is the army had a really central role in the way things were in terms of politics. This of course lead to many victories but also to many downfalls since a military state is no good before and after a time of war leaving the state weak as [email protected] and open for the taking.

  22. How many of the Sherwood Foresters had switched from the longbow and quarterstaff to the rifle and grenades at this point?

  23. At 7:41 good sir please refrain from fornicating with the splintered tree!  That's not a "knot"hole it's a yes hole!

  24. Something that always comes off is Greece being presented as "neutral." A country that hosts armed forces of another country with the intent of providing them territory to operate against a third country (in this case, the Anglo-French forces) is a violation of international law. Greece stopped being a neutral country the moment it allowed Entente troops to use its territory to wage war. One of the greatest blunders of Bulgaria's chiefs of staff was that they allowed to be mislead and their noses pulled by the Germans. Had the Bulgarian army advanced quickly southward and cut off the Anglo-French force while it was still fairly small, and take Solun (Thessalonika) the war would have turned vastly different for Bulgaria.

  25. The idea of Bulgaria joining the war at this time and under the conditions they set wasn't as insane as a year ago. With German officers in charge of pretty much every unit and the fact that German and AH troops had to invade first and that Serbia had been suffereing from disease and other hardships for over a year now it looked like it might be an easier victory than when the AH were fighting under their own idion Generals.

  26. The Bulgarian army was one of the most terrifying things to encounter on a battlefield. Nowhere else a nation transforms itself into a mass army in days. The Bulgarian nation is a nation that celebrates each time it enters a war. Yes, indeed a madness, acording to the widely-accepted understanding of things. My great-grandfather was one of these 1 200 000 men, he fought on two fronts – first in Macedonia, after that against the Russians and Romanians in Dobrudja. The stories he told me could make so some people's hair to turn white.

  27. When you talk about Bulgaria and Serbia you always make it sound like Serbia is the good guy and Bulgaria is the bad guy. With phrases like "Little Serbia", and "Bulgaria entered the war because it wanted land". Actually this whole war started with the rise of serbian nationalism after the second Balkan war where the kingdom of Serbia was expanded by 100%, yeah, they doubled their territory. Black hand and other organizations with the help of the government were already leading a guerrilla war in Macedonia against IMRO. So the assassination of Franz Ferdinand is just the result of their increasing nationalism. The serbians were definitely NOT innocent in all of this

  28. My great grandfathers all took part in that war. As they were mobilized and leaving my father's grandfather went to the nearby church and demanded from the priest to receive from him his Last rites even though he was still alive. He was leaving with the clear notion he was going to die on an unnamed battlefield. He did it because he had a duty to his country and he wanted to contribute to the motherland.
    From all 1300+ man that left the town that day only 406 came back in the end of the war. My grandfather among them with multiple gun wounds on the chest and shoulders and a peace of shrapnel in his leg that he took with him to the grave.
    My father has his infantry shovel at home. The shovel his grandfather used to dig in during cannonades and get in close quarter combat when rushing enemy trenches.
    Back then Bulgarians had an ideal. The ideal of finally uniting all the lands where Bulgarians were living. It was a common saying back then, that Bulgaria was a country that bordered with it self.
    To be honest I don't think we can even hold candle to the courage of our forefathers.

  29. 4:35 I know about this tactic. In Adrianople my grand grand father was sent with others to cut the barbed wire so that it could not halt the infantry. It was a suicidal mission and he and probably everyone with him were killed.

  30. Mussorgski is my favorite. That's interesting his cousin was in the war,being that he died years before. Besides that we can wonder if he was inclined to music himself.

  31. this video is full propaganda Bulgarian army in ww1 is 1 000 000 soldiers and officers troops who help Serbia is not 20 000 250 000 french and british troops

  32. Dude at 2:56 was actin goofy waving his arms around but straightened up real quick when he saw he was being filmed

  33. For the sake of your own sanity don't read this comment section as well as any other one including the balkans.

  34. All these great nations with great armies, were so brave an great until the Ottoman Turks. Ottoman Turks simply run over these great armies in few days. Great is subjective term, so there was greater armies.

  35. Thanks for the great ref to Alan Seeger, learning more about history since reading a whole lot of B Tucuman and now literature. Thanks for the great work.. Get you folks some money soon.

  36. My great uncle died of wounds received at the Battle of Loos serving with the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), part of the 15th (Scottish) Division. Observers after the battle, where the Black Watch were tasked with capturing massive coal mine slag heaps, said the slopes looked like they had been carpeted in tartan. It was the kilts of the dead.

  37. 2:57 – the soldier swinging his arms turns, and a look comes over his face as if he's just been busted by his parents for lighting a joint.

  38. I knew an old Bulgarian named Kris Petcoff who deserted the Bulgarian Army in WWI. Stowed away to America. He was 14 when drafted. Lived a bachelor life in hills of E. Oklahoma. Tough as shoe leather and a fascinating character.

  39. The "Wave Tactic" sounds a lot like the way the Romans used to fight. They would cycle their troops as the battle went on.

  40. 5:05 a very ancient tactic indeed : it was basically the stapple tactic of the roman amy since the Republic : three lines, the triplex acies.

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