Second Battle of Heligoland Bight

The Second Battle of Heligoland Bight, also called the Action in the Helgoland Bight was an inconclusive naval engagement fought between British and German squadrons on 17 November 1917 during the First World War.

Following the German Navy’s successful raid on the Scandinavian convoy on 17 October 1917, Admiral Sir David Beatty, Commander-in-Chief of the British Grand Fleet, determined to retaliate. On 17 November 1917 a strong force of cruisers under Vice Admiral Trevylyan Napier was sent to attack German minesweepers, which were clearing a channel through British minefields in the Heligoland Bight. The intentions of the German force had been revealed by British Naval Intelligence, allowing the British to mount an ambush. The German sweepers were escorted by a group of cruisers and torpedo-boats under Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter.

The action began at 7.30 a.m., roughly 65 nautical miles west of Sylt, when HMS Courageous sighted the enemy. She opened fire at 7:37 a.m. Admiral Reuter, the German commander, with four light cruisers and eight destroyers, advanced to engage the Royal Navy units in order to cover the withdrawal of his minesweepers, all of which escaped except for the trawler Kehdingen,(GE) which was sunk. The battle thereafter developed into a stern chase as the German forces, skilfully using smoke-screens, withdrew south-east at their best speed, under fire from the pursuing British ships of the 1st Cruiser Squadron, the 1st and 6th Light Cruiser Squadrons, and, later, HMS Repulse (which had been detached from the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron and came up at high speed to join the battle). Both sides were hampered in their maneuvers by the presence of naval minefields.

The British ships gave up the chase some two hours later, as they reached the edge of known minefields. At about the same time, the light cruisers came under fire from two German Kaiser-class battleships, SMS Kaiser and SMS Kaiserin which had come up in support of Reuter’s ships; HMS Caledon was struck by one 30.5 cm (12.0 in) shell which did minimal damage; shortly thereafter, the British forces withdrew.

All personnel on the bridge of the light cruiser HMS Calypso, including her captain, Herbert Edwards, were killed by a 15 cm (5.9 in) shell. The battle cruiser HMS Repulse, briefly engaged the German ships at about 10:00, scoring a single hit on the light cruiser SMS Königsberg that ignited a major fire on board.

It was during this battle that Able Seaman John Henry Carless of HMS Caledon won a posthumous Victoria Cross for his bravery in manning a gun despite mortal wounds.

(Edited from Wikipedia)

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Battle of Jerusalem

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Advance into Judea as of 16 November 1917 (Source: Wikipedia)

The Battle of Jerusalem occurred during the British Empire’s “Jerusalem Operations” against the Ottoman Empire, when fighting for the city developed from 17 November, continuing after the surrender until 30 December 1917, to secure the final objective of the Southern Palestine Offensive during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign of World War I. Before Jerusalem could be secured, two battles were recognised by the British as being fought in the Judean Hills to the north and east of the Hebron–Junction Station line. These were the Battle of Nebi Samwill from 17 to 24 November and the Defence of Jerusalem from 26 to 30 December 1917. They also recognised within these Jerusalem Operations, the successful second attempt on 21 and 22 December 1917 to advance across the Nahr el Auja, as the Battle of Jaffa, although Jaffa had been occupied as a consequence of the Battle of Mughar Ridge on 16 November.

This series of battles was successfully fought by the British Empire’s XX Corps, XXI Corps, and the Desert Mounted Corps against strong opposition from the Yildirim Army Group’s Seventh Army in the Judean Hills and the Eighth Army north of Jaffa on the Mediterranean coast. The loss of Jaffa and Jerusalem, together with the loss of 50 miles (80 km) of territory during the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) advance from Gaza, after the capture of Beersheba, Gaza, Hareira and Sheria, Tel el Khuweilfe and the Battle of Mughar Ridge, constituted a grave setback for the Ottoman Army and the Ottoman Empire.

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General Sir Edmund Allenby entering the Holy City of Jerusalem on foot 1917 to show respect for the holy place. (Source: Wikipedia)

As a result of these victories, British Empire forces captured Jerusalem and established a new strategically strong fortified line. This line ran from well to the north of Jaffa on the maritime plain, across the Judean Hills to Bireh north of Jerusalem, and continued eastwards of the Mount of Olives. With the capture of the road from Beersheba to Jerusalem via Hebron and Bethlehem, together with substantial Ottoman territory south of Jerusalem, the city was secured. On 11 December, General Edmund Allenby entered the Old City on foot through the Jaffa Gate instead of horse or vehicles to show respect for the holy city. He was the first Christian in many centuries to control Jerusalem, a city held holy by three great religions. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Lloyd George described the capture as “a Christmas present for the British people”. The battle was a great morale boost for the British Empire.

(Edited from Wikipedia)

The First Battle of Monte Grappa

The First Battle of Monte Grappa, also known as First Battle of the Piave in Italy, was a battle fought during World War I between the armies of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Kingdom of Italy for control of the Monte Grappa massif, which covered the left flank of the new Italian Piave front.

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The view from Monte Grappa towards the Alps, Italy (Source: Wikipedia)

The Italian Army was in all-out retreat after the Austrian autumn offensive of 1917. The Italian Chief of the general staff general Luigi Cadorna had ordered to construct fortified defenses around the Monte Grappa summit to make the mountain range an impregnable fortress. When the Austrian offensive routed the Italians, the new Italian chief of staff, Armando Diaz ordered the Fourth Army to stop their retreat and defend these positions between the Roncone and Tomatico mountains.

The Austrians, with help from the German Army’s Alpenkorps, failed to take the mountains summit during the first battle of Monte Grappa from November 11, 1917 to December 23, 1917. The German and Austro-Hungarian supply lines had in fact become overstreched. Even before the Battle in Caporetto in October, Germany was struggling to feed and supply its armies in the field. Erwin Rommel, who, as a junior officer, won the Pour le Mérite for his exploits in the battle, often bemoaned the demands placed upon his “poorly fed troops”. The Allied blockade of the German Empire, which the Kaiserliche Marine had been unable to break, was partly responsible for food shortages and widespread malnutrition in Germany and the Central Powers in general. When inadequate provisioning was combined with the gruelling night marches preceding the Battle of Caporetto, a heavy toll was imposed on the German and Austro-Hungarian forces.

Despite successes up until this point, the area controlled by the combined Central Powers forces had expanded to an extent that strained logistical control. By the time the attack reached the Piave, the soldiers of the Central Powers were running low on supplies and were feeling the physical effects of exhaustion. As the Italians began to counter the pressure put on them at Monte Grappa, the German forces lost momentum and were once again caught up in another round of attrition warfare.

Armando Diaz sent remnants of the defeated Italian Second Army in support of the Fourth Army. He also allowed his local commanders much more room for manoeuvre than his predecessor, which resulted in a more elastic and effective Italian defense. Thus the Italian front along the Piave river was finally stabilized and the Austrians failed to enter the plains beyond and take the city of Venice.

(Edited from Wikipedia)

October Revolution in Russia

The October Revolution, officially known in Soviet literature as the Great October Socialist Revolution and commonly referred to as Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a revolution in Russia led by the Bolsheviks which was instrumental in the larger Russian Revolution of 1917. It took place with an armed insurrection in Petrograd on 3 November (7 November, New Style) 1917.

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Tsar Nicholas II, in a British Royal Navy uniform as an honorary Admiral of the Fleet, 1909 (Source: Wikipedia)

It followed and capitalized on the February Revolution of the same year, which overthrew the Tsarist autocracy and resulted in a provisional government after a transfer of power proclaimed by Grand Duke Michael, brother of Tsar Nicolas II, who declined to take power after the Tsar stepped down. During this time, urban workers began to organize into councils (Russian: Soviet) wherein revolutionaries criticized the provisional government and its actions. After the Congress of Soviets, now the governing body, had its second session, it elected members of the Bolsheviks and other leftist groups such as the Left Socialist Revolutionaries to important positions within the new state of affairs. This immediately initiated the establishment of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, the world’s first self-proclaimed socialist state.

The revolution was led by the Bolsheviks, who used their influence in the Petrograd Soviet to organize the armed forces. Bolshevik Red Guards forces under the Military Revolutionary Committee began the occupation of government buildings on 2 November 1917. The following day, the Winter Palace (the seat of the Provisional government located in Petrograd, then capital of Russia), was captured.

The long-awaited Constituent Assembly elections were held on 12 November 1917. The Bolsheviks only won 175 seats in the 715-seat legislative body, coming in second behind the Socialist Revolutionary party, which won 370 seats. The Constituent Assembly was to first meet on 28 November 1917, but its convocation was delayed until 5 January 1918 by the Bolsheviks. On its first and only day in session, the body rejected Soviet decrees on peace and land, and was dissolved the next day by order of the Congress of Soviets.

As the revolution was not universally recognized, there followed the struggles of the Russian Civil War (1917–22) and the creation of the Soviet Union in 1922.

(Edited from Wikipedia)

Battle of Caporetto

The Battle of Caporetto in 1917 (also known as the Twelfth Battle of the Isonzo, the Battle of Kobarid or the Battle of Karfreit as it was known by the Central Powers), took place from 24 October to 19 November 1917, near the town of Kobarid (now in north-western Slovenia, then part of the Austrian Littoral), on the Austro-Italian front of World War I. The battle was named after the Italian name of the town (also known as Karfreit in German).

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Map of the Italian Front, (Source: Wikipedia)

In August 1917 Paul von Hindenburg decided that to keep the Austro-Hungarians in the war, the Germans had to help them defeat the Italian army. Erich Ludendorff was opposed to this but was overruled. In September three experts from the Imperial General Staff, led by the chemist Otto Hahn, went to the Isonzo front to find a site suitable for a gas attack. They proposed attacking the quiet Caporetto sector, where a good road ran west through a mountain valley to the Venetian plain.

The Austro-Hungarian Army Group Boroević, commanded by Svetozar Boroević, was prepared for the offensive. In addition, a new 14th Army was formed with nine Austrian and six German divisions, commanded by the German Otto von Below. The Italians inadvertently helped by providing weather information over their radio.

Foul weather delayed the attack for two days but on 24 October there was no wind and the front was misted over. At 02:00, 894 metal tubes dug into a reverse slope similar to Livens projectors (Gaswurfminen), were triggered electrically to simultaneously fire canisters containing 600 ml (21 imp fl oz; 20 US fl oz) of chlorine-arsenic agent and diphosgene, smothering the Italian trenches in the valley in a dense cloud of poison gas. Knowing that their gas masks could protect them only for two hours or less, the defenders fled for their lives, though 500–600 were still killed. Then the front was quiet until 06:00 when all the Italian wire and trenches to be attacked were bombarded by mortars.

At 06:41, 2,200 guns opened fire, many targeting the valley road along which reserves were advancing to plug the gap. At 08:00 two large mines were detonated under strong points on the heights bordering the valley and the infantry attacked. Soon they penetrated the almost undefended Italian fortifications in the valley, breaching the defensive line of the Italian Second Army between the IV and XXVII Corps. To protect the attackers’ flanks Alpine Troops infiltrated the strong points and batteries along the crests of the adjoining ridges, Mount Matajur and the Kolovrat Range, playing out their telephone lines as they advanced to maintain contact with their artillery. They made good use of the new German model 08/15 Maxim light machine gun, light trench mortars, mountain guns, flamethrowers and hand grenades.

The attackers in the valley marched almost unopposed along the excellent road toward Italy, some advanced 25 kilometres (16 mi) on the first day. The Italian army beat back the attackers on either side of the sector where the central column attacked, but Below’s successful central penetration threw the entire Italian army into disarray. Forces had to be moved along the Italian front in an attempt to stem von Below’s breakout, but this only weakened other points along the line and invited further attacks. At this point, the entire Italian position was threatened.

The Italian 2nd Army commander Luigi Capello was commanding while bedridden with fever. Realizing that his forces were ill-prepared for this attack and were being routed, Capello requested permission to withdraw back to the Tagliamento. He was overruled by Cadorna who believed that the Italian force could regroup and hold out. Finally, on 30 October 1917, Cadorna ordered the majority of the Italian force to retreat to the other side of the Tagliamento. It took the Italians four full days to cross the river, and by this time the German and Austro-Hungarian armies were on their heels. By 2 November, a German division had established a bridgehead on the Tagliamento. About this time, however, the rapid success of the attack caught up with them. The German and Austro-Hungarian supply lines were stretched to breaking point and consequently they were unable to launch another attack to isolate a part of the Italian army against the Adriatic. Cadorna was able to retreat further and by 10 November had established a position on the Piave River and Monte Grappe, where the last push of the German and Austro-Hungarian forces was met by Italian forces at the First Battle of Monte Grappa.

(Edited from Wikipedia)

Operation Hush!

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Operation Hush and the Yser front in 1917 (Source: Wikipedia)

Operation Hush was a British plan to make amphibious landings on the Belgian coast in 1917 during World War I, supported by an attack from Nieuport and the Yser bridgehead, which were a legacy of the Battle of the Yser (1914). Several plans were considered in 1915 and 1916, then shelved due to operations elsewhere. Operation Hush was intended to begin when the main offensive at Ypres had advanced to Roulers and Thourout, linked by advances by the French and Belgian armies in between. Operation Strandfest was a German spoiling attack, conducted on 10 July by Marinekorps-Flandern, in anticipation of an Allied coastal operation.

The Germans used mustard gas for the first time, supported by a mass of heavy artillery, which captured part of the bridgehead over the Yser and annihilated two British battalions. After several postponements, Operation Hush was cancelled on 14 October 1917, as the advance during the Third Battle of Ypres did not meet the objectives required to begin the attack. In April 1918, the Dover Patrol raided Zeebrugge, to sink block ships in the canal entrance to trap U-Boats, which closed the canal for a short time. From September–October 1918, the Belgian coast was occupied by the Allies, in the Fifth Battle of Ypres.

(Edited from Wikipedia)

The Eleventh Battle of Isonzo

The Eleventh Battle of the Isonzo was a World War I battle fought by the Italian and Austro-Hungarian Armies on the Italian Front between 18 August and 12 September 1917.

The attack was carried forth from a front from Tolmin (in the upper Isonzo valley) to the Adriatic Sea. The Italians crossed the river at several points on temporary bridges, but the main effort was exerted on the Banjšice Plateau, whose capture was to further the offensive and break the Austro-Hungarian lines in two segments, isolating the strongholds of Mount Saint Gabriel and Mount Hermada.

After fierce and deadly fightings, the Italian Second Army, led by General Capello, pushed back Boroević’s Isonzo Armee, conquering the Bainsizza and Mount Santo. Other positions were taken by the Duke of Aosta’s Third Army.

However, Mount Saint Gabriel and Mount Hermada turned out to be impregnable, and the offensive wore out.

After the battle, the Austro-Hungarians were exhausted, and could not have withstood another attack. Fortunately for them (and unfortunately for their opponents), so were the Italians, who could not find the resources necessary for another assault, even though it might have been the decisive one. So the final result of the battle was an inconclusive bloodbath. Moreover, the end of the battle left the Italian Second Army (until then the most successful of the Italian Armies) split in two parts across the Soča (Isonzo), a weak point that proved to be decisive in the subsequent Twelfth Battle of the Isonzo.

(Edited from Wikipedia)