Civil War in Finland and Ukraine I THE GREAT WAR Week 183

Civil War in Finland and Ukraine I THE GREAT WAR Week 183

You’re a politician and your nation is at
war, and the endless bloodshed appalls you. So when you lose faith in your army’s commander,
what do you do? You try and remove his claws. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week an assassination attempt was made
on Lenin in Russia. The Bolsheviks dissolved the constituent assembly,
extinguishing representative government there. Romania redeployed its forces, the British
were bombing Germans on the Western Front, and trouble was brewing in Finland. Well, that trouble continued brewing. On the last day of the week, the order for
the Finnish White Army to engage the Reds was issued. The Red Order of Revolution will be issued
the 26th, and the Finnish Civil War begins. One war was officially ending though. On the 21st, Germany announced an agreement
with Ukraine that their state of war is at an end, troops on both sides would be withdrawn,
and commerce and diplomacy would begin anew. That might sound good, but Ukraine had a whole
lot of other issues. The All-Ukrainian Congress of Soviets in Kiev
had, after the Bolshevik delegation had left, declared its support last month of the Ukrainian
government and rejected Russian ultimatums. The Kiev Bolsheviks had denounced that congress
and scheduled a new one in Kharkov. That Kharkov congress announced the formation
of the Ukrainian People’s Republic of Soviets and called the Rada – Ukrainian Parliament
– an enemy of the people, and declared war on it back on January 2nd. Now on the 22nd, the Rada broke all ties with
Petrograd and the Ukrainian War of Independence began. Also, all this time Bolshevik troops had been
invading from Russia, capturing Kharkov and Alexandrovsk and converging in Bakhmach before
heading to try and take Kiev. There was naval action this week on the other
side of the Black Sea as well. On the 20th, at the entrance to Dardanelles. The Goeben and the Breslau, well, now technically
known as the Yaviz and Midilli, and Turkish destroyers attacked the British near Imbros. His Majesty’s Monitor “Raglan” and the
smaller monitor M28 were sunk. Breslau was then forced into a minefield and
sunk. Goeben struck a mine and was beached, and
then bombarded all week by the British from the air. That same day, two German destroyers were
sunk by British mines in the North Sea, and a German sub sank the British armed steamer
Louwain, killing 224. This week also saw the first meeting of the
Allied Naval Council in London, as well as machinations from London in France. Let me explain. The British High Command was pretty well aware
of the window of opportunity the Germans had the next few months with Russia out of the
war and the Americans not yet arrived in force. British Chief of Staff Wully Robertson warned
PM David Lloyd George that they had to match German troop concentration on the western
front or they might well lose. Thing is, Lloyd George wasn’t heeding those
warnings. He still thought there was a way to win through
Italy or the Balkans, without the British having to take on the Germans on the Western
Front, with all the carnage that would entail. The big offensives of the Somme and Passchendaele
had horrified him and he had – as we’ve said several times – no confidence in Commander
Sir Douglas Haig. Lloyd George also was, as I’ve also said,
keeping hundreds of thousands of able-bodied soldiers in Britain and not sending them to
the Western Front. In fact, War Office returns for January 1st
show 38,225 officers and 607,403 men in Britain fit for duty, and just 150,000 of them would’ve
brought Haig’s divisions up to full strength (German Spring Offensives). I’ll talk a bit more about that now. The thing that held Lloyd George back from
just dismissing Haig was the political necessity of working together with the conservatives,
part of the coalition government since 1915. They supported Haig, and if Lloyd George tried
to dismiss him it would certainly create a political crisis that might even bring down
the whole administration. So to prevent Haig from launching any more
of those huge bloody offensives, he reduced the number of men available. First, he agreed to the French request that
Britain take over more of the front line. This seems fair at first glance since France
did have 3.5 times as much front as Britain, but on the other hand a large part of France’s
sector was inactive and held with a minimal number of troops. The British line had hot spots like Ypres,
Arras, and the Somme. This month, thanks to Lloyd George, Haig was
forced to take over more territory south of the Somme; so now half the German divisions
on the Western Front were facing British ones. And since Lloyd George was preventing troops
from coming over from Britain, Haig had to reduce the number of battalions in a division
from 12 to 9 to operate. The “spare” battalions were used to re-stock
depleted ranks of others. And this, according to Peter Hart, “…demanded
an enormous shakeup of the BEF: relationships hammered out in the forge of war between regimental
officers and brigade staff officers; established methods of working in a crisis, units with
a proud battalion history – all were torn asunder. And all this while the Germans were preparing
their great assault on the Western Front… meanwhile hundreds of thousands of British
soldiers were still engaged in the futile campaigns in Palestine, Mesopotamia, and Salonika.” Strong words. Lloyd George also saw in the recently formed
Allied Supreme War Council another way to bypass Haig. This council was made up of the Allied Prime
Ministers and one military representative from each nation. Now Lloyd George proposed, and received French
support for, the idea of forming an Allied General Staff, without the involvement of
the national Chiefs of Staff. This would bypass Haig and Robertson, and
Lloyd George’s choice for the British advisor was Lieutenant General Sir Henry Wilson, and
on the 23rd, he became British Chief of Staff of the Allied General Staff in France. But even in the field, Haig was now facing
his most serious organizational crisis. He didn’t have enough men to have strong
defense everywhere, and he didn’t know where the German offensive was going to hit. Or when. He had also switched to a defense-in-depth
system that sort of mimicked the German ones of last year, but that had huge manpower implications. The forward zone was still based on the old
lines, but now with machine guns and barbed wire to cover the gaps between outposts. Behind this was the battle zone, which was
also in lines, but had strong redoubts to break up enemy assaults. Then there was the rear zone, 6-10 km back,
which was to be more of the same, but was really only a theoretical construct at this
point. And he had his work cut out for him thinking
of where attacks might come. His priority was in the north, because the
channel ports and the vital railway junction at Hazebrouck were only a few kilometers behind
the lines. General Sir Herbert Plumer, who would return
from the Italian Front, and his Second Army would have basically zero maneuver room here
and would quite simply have to hold if attacked. To their right, Henry Horne’s First Army
had the heights of Vimy Ridge and Lorette Ridge. Next was Julian Byng’s Third Army at Arras,
and lastly General Sir Hugh Gough’s Fifth Army at the Somme area. In that last sector, there weren’t really
any strategic or tactical objectives within dozens of kilometers of the front lines, so
Haig ignored Gough’s requests for reinforcements. If the attack came there, he would have to
fall back to an emergency line on the Somme River. (SEGUE 4)
As for that attack, German Quartermaster General Erich Ludendorff had been considering options
up and down the Western Front for weeks now, and this week on the 21st at the Aresens Conference
he announced his final decision. He ruled out operation GEORG, which centered
on Hazebrouck, as too dependent on the weather – a late spring could delay the attack until
May, which was too late. He thought MARS, which centered on Arras,
just plain too difficult, and both CASTOR and POLLUX near Verdun he had never really
seriously considered at all. This left operation MICHAEL, on both sides
of St. Quentin. “Here the attack would strike the enemy’s
weakest point, the ground offered no difficulties, and it was feasible for all seasons.” He extended Michael’s northern wing to the
Scarpe River. He planned to have 85-90 divisions in reserve
in the west by the end of March. Thing is, the plan didn’t have a definite
limit. It did have the strategic goal of splitting
the British and French, but his generals all asked for specific ground objectives, to which
he replied, “In Russia, we always merely set an intermediate objective, and then discovered
where to go next.” And that, boys and girls, is the end of the
week. Chaos in Finland and Ukraine, action at sea,
British political moves, and German battle plans coming together. You can understand Lloyd George. I mean, after watching this channel, who would
not be shocked by the staggering loss of life at Arras, the Somme, and Passchendaele? But depriving your defenses of men and maneuvering
generals like chess pieces? Assuming I don’t know what’s going to
happen in the future, one thought leaps out at me – this is not gonna end well. If you want to learn more about Douglas Haig
and why his reputation with Lloyd-George was not ideal, you can click right here for our
episode about him. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Devin
Guthrie who was our first Patreon supporter of 2018 – if you want to join Devin and the
thousands of other people supporting us, just go to – every Dollar
counts. Don’t forget to subscribe, see you next


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    S Ryan

    So they said that the Solonika, Palestine and Mesopotamia fronts were pointless. I can understand Solonika, but what made them say that about Palestine and Mesopotamia? Surely they were the most successful allied fronts in the war. They have captured so much Ottoman land as well as several major cities.

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    Simply Bumfuzzled

    Hey Indy, after the whole Great War thing comes to an end, and you pretty much have reviewed the entire war to a certain extent, you should really do a World War 2 channel. Who knows, you might even be able to do a "Week by Week 100 Years Later" with WWII.

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    So when will Iran finally get its own extra episode? The Dunster Force extras were the most we've gotten about Iran. It was a major country, and active front in the war, and it was doubly occupied in both WWI and WWII, but it almost never gets covered in anything about the World Wars. If Brazil gets an episode, so should Iran. Iranian history before the war is really interesting, and no-one knows about it.

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    Komunisti _44

    Our house almost got burned down in the finnish civil war but my grandgranddad knew the reds and they burned our storage house not our house.

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    Josep Mª Vilaseca Espasa

    Corrector inglés de ortografía y de gramática inglés
    Dear Indy and team the time is coming for you to sing the Makhnovtchina (Махновщинa), I've been years waiting for this. I know… maybe it's not WWI… but you're there. Finally we reach this moment. I think Ucraine deserve its own special episode, even the Insurrectional Ucranian army deserves it's own special. And now it comes to my mind also you didn't cover slav WWI literature so far. There are amazing books covering this period: Sholojov's Tiji Don, Bulgakov's White Guard, Soljenitsin works… Best wishes, keep on working, and dead to the ones who stand against the freedom for the working class.

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    Exhaustiv 24

    Indy I know its a bit early but I thought I should recommand as part of Congress of Paris 1918-1920 could follow every nations requests especially Romanians which i find very interesting considerring hunagrian oposition ,new-formed Ukrainian and Soviet attacks on romania and poland , process of splitting Banat between Serbia Romania and Hungary and Crisana between Romania and Hungary and Maramuresc between Cehoslovakia and Romania.

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    Stuart Paul

    Great series, Bravo!
    Perhaps an interesting theme for a special would be the theatre and art produced concerning the Great War, The soldier's songs etc, plus were there plays about it? There's a ballet called 'The Green Table' but I believe that dates rom 1920 something. It has the , I believe oddity, of being written out entirely in labanotation. Equally, obviously Madama Butterfly' could be considered as a serious critique of american imperialism. although of course it predates the war..Is there an opera set in the war?
    What did the high command do for entertainment?
    What were these guys into?
    Just a suggestion for a theme.
    Keep up the good work.

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    Viktor Samoja

    Lloyd George may have made a big mistake here, true, but i see his position, we see week after week, offensive after offensive, how 10s and 100ds of thousands of men die for little gain, this guy Hague never thinks things trough, like many others (Luigi Cadorna i am looking at you) he thinks the best way to solve a problem is to throw soldiers on it until it goes away, i understand Lloyd not wanting to feed any more men to his meat grinder.

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    Peter Kryvdyuk

    Please mentions in he next week about the battle of Krytu in Ukraine how ukrainian students tried to defend the capital of Ukraine Kyiv and also about how Ukraine raised a ukrainian flag on soviet ships in Black Sea. Thank you

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    The Finnish Civil War was a real tragedy. The Finnish Bolsheviks, owing to their mass support in the industrial centers that accounted for a large part of the Finish population, felt that they could achieve their goals by working in a parliamentary way. Because of this, they allowed the opportunity to seize power decisively to pass by and gave the ruling class time to reorganize and acquire weapons and reinforcements from Germany.

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    Glenn Pettersson

    Could recent events in Russia have been weighing on Lloyd Georges mind, I think the British were down to drafting 18 year olds at this point.

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    Anglo Historian

    Lloyd George also couldn't dismiss Haig because there was literally no-one else who could take the job. No British commander had any experience commanding an army of the size that was by now deployed in France, and whilst Haig's relentless offensive mind did lead to waste, the Allies could ill afford a campaign of passivity. The spat between LG and Haig shows the danger of politicians with little military understanding attempting to take over in a situation from which they are far removed; it's easy to criticise Haig with hindsight, but he really did the best that could be expected of him in the circumstances – no-one understood what this war would be when it started, or could really envisage how to win it. Haig worked from the training model he knew, he made mistakes along the way (with catastrophic consequences – they could be nothing but, given the number of men he was commanding) but ultimately helped secure an allied victory. He was seen after the war as a hero, and his reputation only began to corrode with the publication of LG's caustic and self-promoting memoirs.

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    Hans Günsche

    Why do you still keep using the incorrect finnish border of that time ? I am starting to dislike that, because it seems like just don't  do anyting about.

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    Burak Alkan

    I gotta ask, instead of holding man in Britain, why did Lloyd George simply not give any permission to Haig to launch new offensives at western front? From the previous episodes it is clear that even to plan new offensives Haig needs to have specific permissions from the administration? Why not be direct in this case? why go around of it?

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    Allen Kneale

    I can imagine some very mixed feelings on the part of the British soldiers held up across the channel. First and basing this on my own experiences in the U.S. Army, you probably don't know the real reason for the delay and the rumors and uninformed talk just confuse matters. There would be some who are happy to stay put although with the knowledge and dread that it won't last forever. Some will be anxious to get on with it and some will be thinking it's some sort of key plan, but not sure what. Regardless, bordem occurs and morale suffers. For those in Belgium and France, the morale suffers and many will be angered and frustrated at organizational mess created by the meddling of Lloyd George. I understand where Lloyd George is coming from and appreciate the political challenges posed by replacing Haig, but I can't see the logic of holding back when you know the Germans are coming. Lloyd George really needed to send forces, but stand up to high command if they wanted a new offensive. I don't think Lloyd George was willing to do it and maybe surmised he could not win that political battle. The argument of a preventive attack on German positions might well have been very convincing (maybe a good idea). In any event, the lack of leadership from Lloyd George is troubling as opposing a future offensive is one thing, but not securing the lines is another.

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    Peter Gray

    David Lloyd George thought that he could wim WW1 through Italy and the Balkans, and Winaton Churchill had the same damn idea a generation later. Anything BUT a direct confrontation.

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    When all this is over in november 18, I'm going to have to rewatch all these weekly episodes once more, just to capture the vast amount of information.

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    Thank you very much for referring to Ukraine as “Ukraine” and not “the Ukraine”. It is how the country is called on all its legal documents and in all English speaking official documents. Those of us who respect Ukraine take offense to it when “the” is added to the name of Ukraine because that is how anti-Ukrainian individuals love referring to it because it is diminutive and insulting.

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    Yellow Jackboots

    I honestly think WW2 has been done to death, and a week by week account of that conflict would be more depressing than interesting. Or is it already in the pipeline? A US Civil War series would be something worth doing.

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    John K Lindgren

    "The Finnish Civil War" in the headline – but less than a minute. Too short and why is General Mannerheim not mentioned? Wikipedia: "Baron Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim was a Finnish military leader and statesman. Mannerheim served as the military leader of the Whites in the Finnish Civil War, Regent of Finland (1918–1919), commander-in-chief of Finland's defense forces during World War II, Marshal of Finland, and the sixth president of Suomi- Finland Bangkok-Jomppa suoraan Thaimaasta

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    Amitabha Kusari

    Nobody could have anticipated that the Haig would suddenly learn how not to charge madly against machine guns, and how to forget dreaming about cavalry.
    Whatever comes next, it's still Haig's fault for being wrong 99% of time.

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    Tommy Stiller

    I like how the title is "Civil war in finland and ukraine" and the guy talks about it for 3 minutes of the 10 minute video

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    Cody Granrud

    So, Castor and Pollox Troy (characters in the film Face/Off) appear to be named after German offensives in 1918 during WW1.

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    There is very interesting book written in Finland called: "Jägers – for Finland or for Germany". The book took juridical perspective to Jäger Movement (about 2 000 Finnish "volunteers" trained, equipped and armed by German military during 1915-1918). They broke the law and committed treachery, serious crime. As author wrote Jägers were not really as popular as their post war narrative claimed. Until 1917 they had serious problems to recruit new soldiers and finally some 1/4 of them were "politically unreliable" (too left wing) and were kept in Germany until late 1918.

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    Christopher Morton

    Love how you stated that Indy…"this will not end well." What if Ludendorff has a more detailed objective? The war might well have ended.

    Haig might have "wasted" men, but he had to either be replaced or supported. Doing neither is doubly wrong. And of course when it does go badly…he lies about the troop levels. I used to love LG…not so much anymore.

    Glad you mentioned what this was doing to division and brigade organization. Anyone familiar with how those units work together (at the battalion level up) should have known the chaos this created would be amplified by chaos of an all-out attack. But then LG didn't know anything about how armies work. Or else support of Neville, Russian and Italian ideas would never have come up.

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