Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

History

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

History

Article excerpt

Byline: John Sadler

GENERAL Erich Ludendorff probably wasn't looking forward to 1917.

It was the 'Turnip Winter' as the Royal Navy's blockade of Germany really began to bite. Germany's position was precarious.

In three years of war she had suffered several million deaths and no victory in sight.

Fighting a major industrial war on two fronts - the strategic nightmare, meant she'd never seemingly be strong enough to deliver the killer punch on either.

It was equally true that 1916 had been a terrible year for the Allies. France had bled unbearably in the lingering horror of Verdun. The cost had been biblical and this haemorrhaging of the bravest and the best would bear bitter fruit.

We British had achieved our own Calvary on the Somme, by far the bloodiest battle in the very long history of the army perhaps, as the late Sir John Keegan argued, as grievous a blow to Britain as Verdun was for France.

The Kaiser's armies too had bled copiously during both campaigns and he lacked the vast imperial possessions of his enemies which could provide a seemingly unending source of fresh sacrifices.

In the east, Russia had launched the Brusilov offensive which though it began well ended in another bloody stalemate.

The Tsarina's much despised Svengali, the eerily colourful Rasputin, bright enough to realise the war was a disaster, had been bumped off, allegedly by disgruntled aristos, possibly with the active connivance of British Intelligence, suspected of delivering the coup de grace.

The monk may have been mad but he was right about the war. In February 1917, boiling resentment at home and disaffection at the front would bring the House of Romanov crashing down and offer Ludendorff the window he'd need to deal with the western allies.

For all of the German regime's vaunted efficiency, managing the home front seemed beyond them. Starvation threatened, control of foodstuffs and production was alarmingly mismanaged.

Rising prices encouraged farmers to slaughter stock rather than focus on breeding which inevitably compounded the problem. And there was the Royal Navy. …

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