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The Great War

News Reports From the Front
100 Years Ago This Month

January 1916

January 7

The slogan "1916 will be our year of victory" - is being echoed in all Allied nations today. From the highest official to the lowest peasantry there is the sincerest optimism despite the Allies will win the war in spite of the Central Powers ascendancy on practically every battlefield.

Greece has protested against the arrest of the consuls of the Central Powers at Soloniki, which it terms a violation of Greece's sovereign rights. The arrests was ordered by the French commander as a result of a German airplane attack upon the city. British and French troops surrounded the consulates, arresting all the members of their staff and seizing their archives.

Soloniki is supposed to be neutral territory, but the presence of the Central Powers consulates at the base of the British and French armies has been a serious menace, according to the British.

The Central Powers have yet to make a decision as to whether action would be pursued against the British and French forces taking refuge on Greek territory. Greece has made it clear it is determined to maintain neutrality. The German ambassador to Greece has told the Greek prime year that the best interest of Greek demanded the removal of the French and British.

The Greek king has questioned why the Allies are remaining at Soloniki. The King said he could understand their presence so long as there was a possibility of aiding Serbia, but now that the objective of that mission has failed, he does not understand why they remain. "No useful military purpose is to be served," said the king, "and it is fairly obvious that if the French and British withdrew, the armies of the Central Powers would also withdraw, ending any threat against Greece."

Meanwhile the Bulgarians have abandoned further pursuit of the remnants of the Serbian army into Albania on account of the wretched conditions they are facing. The Albanians themselves are attending to the completion of the destruction of the Serbian army.

On the Eastern front, the rejuvenated Russian army, equipped with munitions from Japan, America and England, is engaged in a great attack on the Austrian forces in Galicia where the Russians have pierced the Austrian positions in the immediate vicinity of Czernowitz, compelling the Austrians to fall back to their secondary line and assume the defensive.

Russian officers speak of the enormous difficulties Russians have had to surmount the Austrian the trenches, where an entanglements of barb wire are often laid 24 feet deep and charged with powerful electric currents, supplied from stations especially erected for that purpose.

Czernowitz lies in a deep valley. The town itself is not a great strategic value. Its fall is likely to have greater political than military significance, as a success by the Russians at this time would be likely to have a far-reaching effect on the Romanians.

January 14

The Russian offensive still occupies the most important place in the news of the war, with the capture of Czernowitz as the latest achievement reported.

It is not yet clear whether the Russian operation in this theater heralds a big new offensive movement of all the Russian armies from the Baltic to the Romanian border, or merely indicates a diversion of unparalleled magnitude and fierceness designed to weaken the pressure of the Central Powers in the Balkans and on the Italian front.

The fighting has been of the bitterest character, according to both Austrian and Russian reports. Few prisoners are being taken, and the infantry engagements are largely in the nature of hand-to-hand encounters.

The Russian offensive has been well prepared, and the Russians have great reserves of men in artillery, and if successful, the offensive may encourage Romania and Greece to enter the war on the side of the Allies.

The Austrians and Germans appeared to have abandoned hope of the recapture of the territory lost in the fighting with the Russians, and a general evacuation of the forward basis by both Germans and Austrians is proceeding vigorously. For months passed, the Germans and Austrians had been accumulating military stores for a spring offensive. Enormous warehouses have been filled from floor to roof with military stores. These warehouses are now being hastily evacuated to the rear other present front-line.

On Monday, the British announced that the complete evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula had been successfully carried out. The London morning papers comment with satisfaction and relief on the successful evacuation of Gallipoli.

The news of the failure of the Dardanelles expedition aroused enormous joy and satisfaction in Constantinople. Berlin newspapers are full of stories on what this means for the British, besides the enormous losses of men, ships and money. They recall the proud words of Mr. Churchill that through the Dardanelles were the shortest roads to triumph. With the threat posed to Constantinople over, important Turkish troops are now free for action in other fields.

Meanwhile, the announcement of the occupation by Austria of Mount Loveen in Montenegro on Tuesday is serious, owing to the fact that it dominates Cattaro Bay, the principal Austrian naval base.

The question is being anxiously raised as to why the Allies did not long ago sent aid to Montenegro, and in particular, why Italy, which is more acutely affected by this Austrian invasion, had not taken preventative measures. Military critics point out that with the capture of Mount Loveen, Austria gained the domination of the Adriatic coast and will be able to invade northern Albania now with ease.

On Thursday, the Austrians captured Cettinje, the capital of Montenegro. With Cettinje in the hands of the Austrians, the Montenegrins are hemmed in on almost every side, and, unlike the Serbians, have little opportunity to retreat beyond the borders of their country. It is doubtful whether they would be able to escape into northern Albania, and should they do so they would be opposed by the hostile tribes of that region. Reports have been received of an armistice between Austrian and Montenegro with the purpose of negotiating a separate peace.

The British Army at Kut-el-Amara, in Mesopotamia, has been surrounded by the Turks. The main British army in Mesopotamia, is in retreat, 10,000 men having been left in Kut-El-Amara to cover the movement. The retreat from Kut-el-Amara apparently means the abandonment by the British of any attempt, at an offensive campaign in Mesopotamia.

It was in November of 1914 that a British-Indian force, starting from the Persian Gulf, began marching north and west over the desert following the Tigris and Euphrates River. The fighting was exhausting, but the British pushed northward steadily until, in September, they reached Kut-El-Amara. They defeated the Turks there and advanced to within 18 miles of Baghdad. The Turks sent a large force to save Baghdad and won a victory over the British. The British fell back on Kut-El-Amara, 105 miles Southeast of Baghdad.

A British force which apparently was on the way to reinforce Kut-el-Amara, lost 3,000 men when it attacked Turkey's positions at Sheik Said some twenty miles for Kut-el-Amara. The British force is still halted at Sheik Sadd due to weather conditions and the necessity of removing the wounded by river.

January 21

The Russian offensive, resumed in force after a brief halt, is being pressed with more determination than before. Russian attacks on Austrian positions are increasing in intensity, the Russians repeatedly charging in masses. The Russian losses are said to have been frightful, at one point 1,000 dead having been left before the position of an Austrian brigade.

In Montenegro, the Austrians, following up upon their capture of Cettinje, are pursuing the depleted forces of King Nicholas of Montenegro, and have made additional captures. King Nicholas has issued a proclamation to his people declaring that surrender was necessary in order to prevent the complete ruin of his country

A considerable share of editorial space in the morning newspapers have been devoted to Montenegro's surrender. Which is generally characterized as the work of court influences, with dynastic rather than national aims. This is sorry to the glorious history of Montenegro, which henceforth will only be a vassal state of Austria.

An ultimatum has been given to the Greeks by the French and British, calling for Greece to expel the ambassadors of the Central Powers within 48 hours, failing which, the Allies we'll take necessary measures.

Berlin newspapers are united in stating that the Allies seem to have abandoned all regard for Greek neutrality and sovereignty. The fact that the British are blockading the Greek coast is interpreted by the papers as meaning that the Allies are preparing the overthrow the Greek government. German newspapers point out that the entire Greek army and the majority of the Greek population is on the King’s side and will frustrate all attempts against the king.

The Greek king stated his profound indignation at which he termed the unheard-of high handedness of the Allies towards Greece. The king recited a long list of which he called the Allies encroachment on the sovereignty of Greece.

The king called Great Britain and France hypocrites – citing their talk about the violation of the neutrality of Belgium and Luxembourg by Germany - while they themselves have done that very thing in Greece.

"Just look at the list of Greek territory already occupied by Allied troops, "said the king, "in proportion to all Greece it is as if that part of the United States which was won from Mexico after the Mexican war was occupied by foreign troops - and not so much as – ‘by your leave.’ What matters that they promised to pay for the damage done when the war is over? They cannot pay for the suffering of my people, driven out of their homes. They plead military necessity. Yet it was under the constraint of military necessity that Germany invaded Belgium and occupied Luxembourg."

"The history of the Balkan politics of the Allies is the record of one crass mistake after another," continued the king, "and now, through pique over the failure of every Balkan calculation, they tried to unload the result of their own stupidity. We warned them that the Gallipoli enterprise was bound to fail, that negotiations with Bulgaria would be fruitless, and that Austria and Germany would certainly crush Serbia. They would not believe us, and now, like angry, unreasonable children, the Allies turn upon Greece. They have deliberately thrown away every advantage they ever had of Greek sympathy. At the beginning of the war 80% of the Greeks were favorable to the Allies. Today, not 20% would turn their hand to aid the Allies."

In his closing remarks, the Greek king said that he believed that if Germany were not economically exhausted, the outcome of the war would be a draw.

In Mesopotamia, Turkish cavalry forces are making effective raids in Persian territory and have defeated Russian cavalry forces opposing them. Turkish troops also have entered the so-called new Persian capital, Kermanshah, and were heartily greeted by the population of the town, which was decorated with bunting. Persians from the country around the city are arriving in large numbers to welcome the Turks.

British newspapers are pointing out that the reported invasion of Persia by Turkish regular forces is another step in the German thrust eastward. Kermanshah is known to be the headquarters of German intriguers in Persia and has been for some time under German control. It is an important point to hold, because the roads from the Turkish frontier meet there. Last December there were reports of an impending march by the Turks and the Germans across the country on India.

London meanwhile reports that Turkish forces have fallen back to within 6 miles of Kut-el-Amara. The Turks retreated, as a result of another British victory. This is the second defeat for the Turks in Mesopotamia in the last few days, as given in British official reports. It was announced in London on Wednesday that the Turks were beaten at Orah, on the Tigris, 25 miles below Kut-el-Amara, and were in retreat.

January 28

On the field of war in Asia further success had been gained by the Russians against the Turks in the Caucasus campaign, the latest Russian official statement declares that the Turkish army in the vicinity of Erzerum had been defeated and was retreating precipitously to the protection of forts.

Russian columns operating in Persia have pushed to and occupy the town of Sultanabad, 150 miles southwest of Teheran and about an equal distance northwest of Ispahan.

Petrograd attaches great importance to the defeat of the Center of the Turkish army along a 60-mile front between Lake Tortum and the Gelia River, with the result and capture other fortifications of Keupri Keui, which was defended by nearly an army corps.

The importance of Keupri Keui is due to the fact that it is the last natural stronghold on the road to Erzeru, 30 miles to the west, to which the Turks are retiring. It is considered possible that the victory will have influence on the situation in Mesopotamia and oblige the Turks to withdraw forces for the defense of Erzerum.

The Russian Caucasus campaign began towards the end of summer. During autumn three Turkish divisions were thrown back at Olti, while in the district of Lake Van a division of Turks was defeated. The operation towards Urumiah ended with the defeat of the Persians, Turks, and Germans, thus guaranteeing the safety of the Russian flanks.

In December the Russians began an active attack against the Turkish center, and on January 3 broke the lines of the Turkish 11th Corps, so that these forces were obliged to retire in disorder. Not until three days after the beginning of the retreat of the main Turkish army was an attempt made to threaten the Russian right along the sea. This offensive was quickly stopped. After a breach had been forced in the positions of the Turkish 11th Corps the retreat became a rout, the Turkish forces falling back upon the Erzerum fortress, leaving dead, wounded and equipment behind.

News of the Russian success is causing great optimism in London, for it would appear that the Allied War Council plan of stretching the military wall between the Turks and British and Russian Asiatic territory is about to succeed.

Reports come from Constantinople that the famous German Field Marshal, Baron von der Goltz, has been appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Turkish forces in the Caucasus. The Field Marshal, who was sent from Germany several years ago to reorganize the Turkish army, is one of the most remarkable of Turkey's military leaders and his appointment doubtlessly highlights the successes of the Russians in that theater. The Field Marshal will be opposed by Grand Duke Nicholas, who, with his reinforced army, has won recently a series of victories in that theater.

British possession of territory protecting the Suez Canal at its southern end is imperiled by attacks made by large bodies of Arabs and Turks on the British forces in southwestern Arabia. The British have been driven from all the territory they held in that section of the country and has suffered extremely heavy losses in the fighting. It is reported that the British have lost 15,000 killed and 20,000 wounded. The implications of the attacks is that the British army in Egypt is now virtually cooped up in Aden, near the entrance to the Red Sea, which must be held if the southerly approach to the Suez Canal is to be protected.

At the beginning of the war the British were in possession of 250,000 km˛ in southern and southwestern Arabia, all which has been lost. All the Arab chiefs join the Turks and are now using successfully against the British the arms supply to them.

Aden, in southwestern Arabia, has been heavily fortified by the British and is referred to as the Gibraltar of the East. Several times since the beginning of the war Turkish forces have threatened the city, but there have been no previous reports of heavy fighting, and London has professed confidence in the ability of the British troops to repel all attacks.

The American Ambassador to Germany report on the conditions of British civilians interned by the Germans has brought an outcry in London circles. According to the report, the Ambassador criticized the British citizens for their laziness. "The British citizens," said the Ambassador, " are adverse to doing any manual labor whatever, but instead sit in deck chairs and listen to concerts, attend the cinema and theater, play tennis, golf or cricket, and enjoy themselves at private clubs. In short," said the ambassador, "they are having a jolly good time at the expense of England while English soldiers are freezing too death in trenches." "To make matters worse," continued the report, "British prisoners are made to do all the fatiguing work to keep up the standard of living of the civilians." The ambassador's report notes that the British government is distributing about 60,000 Marks monthly to the interned citizens to maintain their carefree lifestyle.

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