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Authors: Max Hastings

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Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War

BOOK: Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War
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For
PENNY
who does the real work

Contents

Title Page

Dedication

List of Illustrations

Maps

Introduction

1914 Chronology

The Organisation of Armies in 1914

Prologue:
SARAJEVO

1. ‘A Feeling that Events are in the Air’

1. CHANGE AND DECAY

2. BATTLE PLANS

2. The Descent to War

1. THE AUSTRIANS THREATEN

2. THE RUSSIANS REACT

3. THE GERMANS MARCH

4. THE BRITISH DECIDE

3. ‘The Superb Spectacle of the World Bursting Into Flames’

1. MIGRATIONS

2. PASSIONS

3. DEPARTURES

4. Disaster on the Drina

5. Death with Flags and Trumpets

1. THE EXECUTION OF PLAN XVII

2. ‘GERMAN BEASTLINESS’

3. LANREZAC ENCOUNTERS SCHLIEFFEN

6. The British Fight

1. MONS

2. LE CATEAU: ‘WHERE THE FUN COMES IN, I DON’T KNOW’

7. The Retreat

8. Tannenberg: ‘Alas, How Many Thousands Lie There Bleeding!’

9. The Hour of Joffre

1. PARIS AT BAY

2. SIR JOHN DESPAIRS

3. SEEDS OF HOPE

10. The Nemesis of Moltke

1. THE MARNE

2. ‘STALEMATE IN OUR FAVOUR’

11. ‘Poor Devils, They Fought Their Ships Like Men’

12. Three Armies in Poland

13. ‘Did You Ever Dance With Him?

1. HOME FRONTS

2. NEWS AND ABUSE

14. Open Country, Open Sky

1. CHURCHILL’S ADVENTURE

2. ‘INVENTIONS OF THE DEVIL’

15. Ypres: ‘Something that was Completely Hopeless’

16. ‘War Becomes the Scourge of Mankind’

1. POLAND

2. THE SERBS’ LAST TRIUMPH

17. Mudlife

18. Silent Night, Holy Night

Picture Section

Footnotes

Bibliography

Acknowledgements

Notes and References

By the Same Author

Copyright

About the Publisher

Illustrations

Images of the campaigns of 1914 are rare. Those professing to portray combat are often posed or faked, and many contemporary captions are wilfully or accidentally inaccurate. The pictures in this book have been chosen with these realities in mind, to give the most vivid possible impression of what the battlefields looked like, while recognising that few can be appropriately placed and dated, while some predate the war.

Kaiser Wilhelm II (Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Poincaré and the Tsar, St Petersburg, July 1914 (© Interfoto/Alamy).

Asquith and Lloyd George (Private collection)

Pasic (Imagno/Getty Images); Berchtold (akg/Imagno); Sazonov (© RA/Lebrecht Music & Arts); Grey (Hulton Archive/Getty Images); Churchill (Hulton Archive/Getty Images); Bethmann Hollweg (DPA/Press Association Images).

Russians solicit divine assistance (Mirrorpix)

Moltke (The Granger Collection/Topfoto); Ludendorff (Hulton Archive/Getty Images); Hindenburg (Hulton Archive/Getty Images); Kitchener (Hulton Archive/Getty Images); Lanrezac (Mary Evans/Epic/Tallandier)

Conrad (© Ullsteinbild/Topfoto); Joffre (© Roger Viollet/Topfoto); French (© Roger Viollet/Topfoto); Haig (© Roger Viollet/Topfoto); Falkenhayn (Hulton Archive/Getty Images); Franchet d’Espèrey (DeAgostini/Getty Images).

Russians in Galicia (Mirrorpix).

Serbian troops advance (© Robert Hunt Library/Mary Evans).

Putnik (© The Art Archive/Alamy);

Potiorek (Getty Images).

Corporal Egon Kisch (© IMAGNO/Lebrecht);

Austrian troops conduct a mass execution of Serbian civilians (© Robert Hunt Library/Mary Evans).

An Austrian siege piece (Photo12/Ann Ronan Picture Library);

Kluck (akg-images);

Bülow (© INTERFOTO/Alamy).

French troops, before the deluge (© Roger-Viollet/Topfoto).

Belgians in action (Underwood Archives/Getty Images)

The legendary French
soixante-quinzes
(Roger-Viollet/Rex Features).

Smith-Dorrien (Mirropix)

Wilson, Foch and Huguet (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Murray (Universal History Archive/UIG/The Bridgeman Art Library)

Germans advance (RA/Lebrecht Music & Arts)

Frenchmen display offensive spirit (Mirrorpix).

Austro-Hungarian cavalry in Galicia (© Robert Hunt Library/Mary Evans

The British deploy on their first battlefield (© IWM (Q 53319))

British troops await the enemy.

Samsonov (DeAgostini/GettyImages)

Russians under attack.

Russian prisoners after Tannenberg (© Robert Hunt Library/Mary Evans).

Rennenkampf (RIA Novosti).

Fortunino Matania’s painting of L Battery’s action at Néry (© David Cohen Fine Art/Mary Evans Picture Library).

The Middlesex under fire (R.C. Money. LC GS 1126. Reproduced with the permission of Leeds University Library)

A Suffolk girl at the handle of a Lowestoft tram (© IWM (Q 31032)

Russian soldiers in bivouac (David King Collection)

A Russian field hospital (David King Collection).

The Western Front, winter 1914 (© SZ Photo/Scherl/The Bridgeman Art Library)

Dorothie Feilding (Warwickshire County Record Office collections: CR2017/F246/326); Edouard Cœurdevey (Personal archives of Jean Cœurdevey); Jacques Rivière (All rights reserved. Private collection); Richard Hentsch (bpk/Studio Niermann/Emil Bieber); Paul Lintier (From
Avec une batterie de 75. Le Tube 1233. Souvenirs d’un chef de pièce (1915–1916)
by Paul Lintier, Paris 1917); Vladimir Littauer (From
Russian Hussar
by Vladimir S. Littauer, J.A. Allen & Co., London, 1965); Constantin Schneider (Constantin Schneider als Oberleutnant; Foto: Privatbesitz; Reproduktion: Salzburger Landesarchiv; aus: Veröffentlichungen der Kommission für Neuere Geschichte Österreichs, Bd. 95, Wien [u.a.] Böhlau, 2003); Lionel Tennyson (Tennyson Research Centre, Lincolnshire County Council); Venetia Stanley (© Illustrated London News Ltd/ Mary Evans); Louis Spears (Patrick Aylmer); Helene Schweida and Wilhelm Kaisen (State Archive of Bremen); Louis Barthas (From
Les Carnets de guerre de Louis Barthas, tonnelier, 1914–1918
© Editions de la Découverte. Paris. English edition to be published in 2013 by Yale University Press); François Mayer (© IWM Q 111149)

A family flees a battlefield (Mirrorpix)

British soldiers in Belgium, winter 1914 (K.W. Brewster/The Liddle Collection/Leeds University Library. Photograph LC GS 0195)

While every effort has been made to trace the copyright holders of photographs, in some cases this has not proved possible. The author and publishers would welcome any information that would enable such omissions to be rectified in future editions.

Maps

Author’s note: The movements of the vast armies in 1914 were so complex that it is impossible to depict them cartographically in detail. In these maps I have striven for clarity for non-specialist readers, for instance by omitting divisional numbers except where essential. They are generally based upon the maps in Arthur Banks’s
A Military Atlas of the First World War
(Heinemann, 1975).

Rival concentrations on the Western Front, August 1914

Serbia, 1914

Frontier battles in Lorraine, 10–28 August 1914

The German advance through Belgium, August 1914

The Battle of Mons, 23 August 1914

The British at Le Cateau, 26 August 1914

The allied retirement, 23 August–6 September 1914

A View of the Eastern Front

The Russian advance into East Prussia

The Battle of Tannenberg, 24–29 August 1914: the pre-battle situation

The Battle of Tannenberg: the final act

German advance, 17 August–5 September 1914

The Battle of the Marne, 5–6 September 1914

The Battle of the Marne, 7–8 September 1914

The Battle of the Marne, 9 September 1914

The German armies in retreat towards the Aisne

The Galician theatre

The allied withdrawal to the Yser–Lys position, 9–15 October 1914

The First Battle of Ypres: the first moves

The First Battle of Ypres: final positions

Approximate positions on the Eastern and Western Fronts, December 1914

As commandant of the British Army’s staff college in 1910, Brigadier-General Henry Wilson asserted the likelihood of a European war, and argued that Britain’s only prudent option was to ally itself with France against the Germans. A student ventured to argue, saying that only ‘inconceivable stupidity on the part of statesmen’ could precipitate a general conflagration. This provoked Wilson’s derision: ‘Haw! Haw! Haw!!! Inconceivable stupidity is just what you’re going to get.’

‘We are readying ourselves to enter a long tunnel full of blood and darkness’
ANDRÉ GIDE
, 28 July 1914

A bantering Russian foreign ministry official said to the British military attaché on 16 August: ‘You soldiers ought to be very pleased that we have arranged such a nice war for you.’ The officer answered: ‘We must wait and see whether it will be such a nice war after all.’

Introduction

Winston Churchill wrote afterwards: ‘No part of the Great War compares in interest with its opening. The measured, silent drawing together of gigantic forces, the uncertainty of their movements and positions, the number of unknown and unknowable facts made the first collision a drama never surpassed. Nor was there any other period in the War when the general battle was waged on so great a scale, when the slaughter was so swift or the stakes so high. Moreover, in the beginning our faculties of wonder, horror and excitement had not been cauterized and deadened by the furnace fires of years.’ All this was so, though few of Churchill’s fellow participants in those vast events embraced them with such eager appetite.

In our own twenty-first century, the popular vision of the war is dominated by images of trenches, mud, wire and poets. It is widely supposed that the first day of the 1916 Battle of the Somme was the bloodiest of the entire conflict. This is not so. In August 1914 the French army, advancing under brilliant sunshine across a virgin pastoral landscape, in dense masses clad in blue overcoats and red trousers, led by officers riding chargers, with colours flying and bands playing, fought battles utterly unlike those that came later, and at even more terrible daily cost. Though French losses are disputed, the best estimates suggest that they suffered well over a million casualties
fn1
in 1914’s five months of war, including 329,000 dead. One soldier whose company entered its first battle with eighty-two men had just three left alive and unwounded by the end of August.

BOOK: Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War
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