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The Great War

News Reports From the Front
100 Years Ago This Month

November 1916

The Somme offensive grinds to a halt

November 3

The British reported the loss of 107,035 men on the Somme front for October, which brings the British casualties for the four months of the Somme offensive to 414,202. The average daily loss for October is 3,452. The total reported for September was 119,549, or an average daily of 3,800. In August, the total was 127,945, a daily average of 4,127. In July, however, the casualties reported were only 60,000.

As can be seen, British losses have been decreasing since August. British sources stated the losses of the Allies relative to those of Germans were decreasing as a result of increased efficiency of the artillery and aerial services.

The Germans, however, claim that the stiffening of the German defenses on the Somme, which has been credited by them with stopping the Allied push and limiting the advance of the French and British to insignificant gains, is due to the restoration of the parity in artillery between the two armies.

Apparently Germany, in August, was confronted with difficulties in the supply of munitions and the replacement of worn out or damaged guns, which, it was declared, were largely responsible for the success then scored by the Allies. The German experts found that their calculations were outrun by facts and were faced by consumption of guns and shells far beyond which was expected.

On the Romanian front, the Teutonic drive against Romania continues with little diminished velocity. New successes for the Germans all along the front are being announced almost daily. German reports say that on the northern front the Romanians are retreating in haste, leaving their munitions and baggage along the roads.

Austrian and German forces invading Romania from the north have now penetrated deep into Romania, while German forces in the south are now only 80 miles from Bucharest, the Romanian capital. On the Moldavian frontier of Romania, where a more successful stand had been made by the Romanianís against the Teutonic advance, the Russian and Romanian defenses appear to be weakening, compelling the Russian advance post to fall back.

On Sunday, the British steamship Marina was torpedoed without warning. The Marina sank within 10 minutes after being torpedoed. The Marina was torpedoed twice and broke into. The Marina was first struck amidships. A terrific explosion occurred on the starboard side. The second torpedo struck about and the steamship went down into parts. Sailors saw the wake of the torpedo according to reports, but until the ship was struck, it was thought the wake was from a fish.

Only 34 members of the crew of 104 were rescued. There were 50 Americans among the crew of the Marina, when she sailed from Newport News. The Americans were signed on here as horsemen. According to information gained from the owners of the Marina, she was carrying horses to England.

WWI was the last war where horses still played a major role. To supply the seemingly inexhaustible need for horses, the Allies sent agents to America. The time could not have
been less fortunate for American horses, which were quickly losing to the Automobile and
finding themselves without jobs. Unlike these lucky horses, most horses were shipped in
the holds of steamer ships, shut off from the sun. No one knows how many horses drowned
 as a result of the sinking of their transports by German submarines.

At the office of the United States Shipping Company, local agents for the owners said the Marina was not a transport in the service of the British government at the time. Instead, she was one of the regular steamers plying between Newport News and Glasgow. The owners did admit, however, that in the past the ship had been contracted to ship horses from America to England for use of for the British army.

Destruction of the Marina by a German submarine, without warning, the possible losses of American lives, could possibly revive the submarine warfare issue again between the United States and Germany. However, as the report of the destruction of the Marina refers to the ship as the British horse transport, if it turns out that she was in fact in the transport service of the British government, the mixed crew of British and American horse tenders could claim none of the immunity against attack without warning that attaches to a merchant ship.

The question of whether the Marina was armed is also becoming increasingly important. Affidavits from American survivors of the Marina say that the vessel had a 4.7-inch gun mounted astern. The fact that England has been arming more and more of her merchantman has made the question of vital one in Germanyís consideration of a wider submarine campaign. Germany has contended that ships armed even with a small stern gun, for defense only, should not be entitled to ordinary guarantees, but could be sunk on sight as they could be considered naval auxiliaries.

On Wednesday, Germanyís first commercial submarine, the Deutschland, arrived in New London, Connecticut completing her second voyage through the warships of Great Britain and France on both sides of the Atlantic. The submarine tied up at its birth at 2:30 in the morning. The Deutschland arrived with a cargo of 750 tons of dry stuffs, medicine and chemicals. A return cargo for the Deutschland, consisting mainly of crude rubber and surgical supplies, valued at more than $500,000, has been ready on the pier for several weeks.

The North German Lloyd steamer Willehad, which had been in New London for a number of weeks awaiting the arrival of the Deutschland, let her searchlight play on the waters, marking the path by which the Deutschland arrived her wharf. The boat was no sooner moored than she was screened from sight by pontoon carrying a high fence.

Local citizens made plans for a public welcome to the Deutschlandís captain and his crew. The local Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Rogers and a delegation of businessmen, tendered Captain Koenig an invitation to dinner at a date to be set by him.

In an interview, the captain said the weather was awful most of the time and tried his good ship to the utmost. "For hours and for days the decks of our little boat was overrun with heavy seas, which forced the crew to remain under deck with all hatches tight. Even the conning tower was constantly swamped, and the eternally drenched Officer of the Watch, though getting all the fresh air he wanted, did not get a chance to light a cigarette. It was even worse for the rest of the crew, for our undersea boat, although a well behaved creature, is very hot inside."

"But to make up for it all," the captain added, "The American coast greeted us with the fairest weather. Itís fine to be onshore again and meet our American friends once more."

It was reported that in the future all German submarines coming to the United States whether naval or merchantmen will make for either New London or Newport. No more submarines will enter Hampton Roads because of the danger of nets being dropped to trap them off the Virginia Capes.

American submarines are usually operating in the waters off New London and Newport at all times of the year. As a result, British nets dropped there might endanger American vessels and the lives of American sailors. German officials do not believe that the British would take the chance of netting an American submarine. Consequently German submarines will take advantage of the better opportunity for clear paths to and from the Atlantic off the Connecticut and Rhode Island coasts.

November 10

The German Admiralty has furnished to the Associated Press the details of an event in which a British patrol ship, flying American colors, destroyed the German submarine U-41, and then deliberately ran down a rowboat with the only survivor in an endeavor to remove the only witnesses.

The U-41 had halted an apparently innocent merchantman flying the American flag to inspect her, as allowed by the agreement with America. As the submarine approached, on the surface with its crew on the deck, at 300 yards the merchantman suddenly opened concealed ports and began firing from two cannons. The submarine, irreparably damaged, went under, only a single German officer, severely wounded, managed to survive.

The wounded lieutenant was left without the slightest medical attention in a small cage on the steamerís deck. It was not until a week later that the officer was transferred to a hospital. A British surgeon proposed that the wounded officer be transferred to Switzerland, where he could be returned to Germany, as he an invalid, but the British surgeon general, it was declared, vetoed the plan, and the officer was retained in England.

The German Admiralty declares that refusal to transfer the officer was evidence of a guilty conscience on the part of the British who wish to prevent the news that the British are using the American flag to lure in German submarines, from being made known. The German Admiralty also pointed out that the British Admiralty had given orders to take no submarine prisoner but to send them to the bottom.

On the Eastern front, on Sunday, a proclamation by German Emperor Wilhelm and Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph called into existence the ancient Kingdom of Poland. This proclamation was read to an assembly of Polish representatives in the royal palace in Warsaw. Inhabitants of the old Polish capital gathered by the thousands to attend the ceremony as the rebirth of the Polish nation. Crowds cheered at the announcement and the Polish dignitaries gave thanks for the Imperial decree.

The Germans assert that the Poles have been found worthy of liberty. Intense interest is shown by officials in the nature of the various proclamations, the probable boundaries of the new Kingdom, the extent of its independence and the possibility of the recruiting of a Polish army to aid the Teutonic powers.

The recognition by the United States of any new government that may be established in Poland would not be made until the conclusion of the war administrative officials said, as the newly created kingdom is viewed by this government purely as war measures.

Members of the Royal Scots cavalry regiment rest their horses by the side of the road in France. As depicted in the movie War Horse, few of these horses ever saw their original home again.

November 17

The British have opened a new offensive north of the Ancre River in the northern-most section of the Somme front, one of the strongest points of the German defensive line in this region.

Attacking on a front of nearly 5 miles on both sides of the Ancre, in mist and darkness early Tuesday morning, the British breached the original German frontline. Notwithstanding almost continuous rains, the attacking troops made good progress, the mud having partially dried in the last two days.

The Germans were apparently completely surprised by the attacks as evidenced by the fact that the garrison of the trenches were preparing for breakfast at the very moment when the British infantry stormed their positions. The British, after rounding up 700 prisoners, proceeded to eat the prisonerís breakfast telling the captives that they will be fed when they arrived at the British lines.

The majority of the prisoners according to the British officers were inferior fighting material. The German High Command apparently, on the supposedly impregnable character of the old front line and strongly fortified villages, relied on them rather than the strength of the troops. The British officers believed that the Germans withdrew the better troops for service elsewhere on the Somme front where the new and shallower positions of the Germans made a greater resistance power on the part of the infantry necessary.

The majority of the infantry fighting was done with grenades instead of bayonets. The British stormed over the surface between the trench lines and hurled showers of bombs into the German trenches, capturing in quick succession seven parallel rows of trenches. The British bombardment, prior to the assault, had destroyed machine gun emplacements and made resistance to the infantry charge impossible.

For the past few days, the sector attacked had been subject to successive bombardments which rose to a record pitch and resulted in the demolition of a large portion of the defenses. The garrison accepted the morningís deluge of shells as part of their usual daily program and did not fully realize their danger until the British infantry was seen approaching in the darkness.

The British advance on both sides of the Ancre is considered by the British commanders as one of the most important successes of the four months of the offensive. Military critics in Germany, however, declared it merely a local success and in no sense decisive. The German Supreme Command, undoubtedly reckoned upon such developments when it decided to concentrate its efforts in the Romanian theater and leave in the West only the forces absolutely necessary to maintain the defensive.

Dead horses and a broken cart on Somme Front. Horses meant power and agility,
hauling weaponry, equipment, and personnel, and were targeted by enemy troops to
weaken the other side or were captured to be put in use by a different army.

German critics declare that German airplane security is steadily increasing, that the French have been checked, that the Italian offensive has come to a standstill, after losses of 100,000 men, and that while the Saloniki army of the Allies is showing renewed activity, it has had no considerable success. The German critic adds that the Turks, who had introduced real universal service, and has seen its armies steadily increasing, allowing it to assist the Bulgarians, who have checked the British. The critic points out that the Germans are making progress everywhere on the Romanian fronts and that there are good prospects for winter campaign against Moldavia.

The continued degeneration of the Ottoman Empire, a key ally of the Germans and Austrians, was highlighted this week with the formation of the new Kingdom of Arabia, with Grand Shereef Hussein Ben Ali, as monarch, and Mecca as capital. The Arabic nation, itís Foreign Minister said, would henceforth be an active member of the society of nations, and confidently look forward to recognition by the United States. The new kingdom resulted, he said, from a unanimous meeting of the notables and citizens of the country, who definitively threw off the yoke of Constantinople.

Arabia has been seething since Spring, when the Shereef revolted and drove the Turkish garrison out of Mecca. No Turkish force is known to have entered Arabia since then, leaving it practically autonomous. The cession of Arabia, with the holy city of Mecca, the formal and final independence of Egypt, the Russian conquest of Armenia and the cooperation of the Indian and French Mohammedans in Allied armies are expected by students of near Eastern questions to result in an impairment of Turkish power in the Middle East.

November 24

On Sunday, British and Canadian troops advanced down the slopes towards the marshes along the Ancre before daybreak, with a stiff wind that sent flurries of snow into the faces of the soldiers. It was the first snow of the season, following two days and nights of intense dry cold which had solidified the swamp which had become a no manís land after nearly 3 months of constant rainfall, thus giving the attacking infantry a firm foothold on the frozen ground.

They advanced nearly a quarter of a mile on a three-mile front to the German positions south of the village of Grandcourt, where German batteries and machine guns holding the sunken road, checked the British. Elsewhere, German troops were virtually destroyed by the preparatory bombardment, the surviving Germans formally surrendering, through their officers, who met the British as they came over the ruined landscape.

Horses were not the only innocent animal subject to the horrors or warfare.
Dogs were used for many duties including stringing communications lines and
carrying food. Here, a dog-handler reads a message brought by a messenger dog,
who had just swum across a canal in France

Saturdayís successes gave the British command of several villages, fortified farms and other strong German points in the Ancre Valley. In the opinion of a staff officer, the German position south of the Ancre is now virtually untenable as the Germans are unable to bring up supplies and reinforcements, while the only available road is under bombardment.

The Germans are working hard in improving the original second line, apparently anticipating further British attacks, which may necessitate a forced and sudden abandonment of other portions of the first line. The perfunctory character of the German counter bombardment and infantry resistance along the Ancre give the impression that the Germans have little intention of offering serious opposition.

Prisoners taken, who were suffering from cold and exposure because of the lack of food due to the line of communications having been cut by the British guns, said they had received better food on the frontline, when it was possible to get supplies, then when they were resting, because of the policy of the German staff of trying to make duty in the front trenches the attractive end.

German press claims the attacks on the Ancre prove that the allies original plan to break through the German front on the Peronne-Hapaime sector of the Somme front is in ruins. The Germans point out that after146 heavy and bloody days of battle, which caused more than 600,000 casualties to the Allies, they are not yet masters of this small sector on the Somme. Moreover, they are compelled to make secure the flanks of their advanced positions, the furthermost points of which were obtained with enormous waste of material before considering a plan for further events.

According to the Germans, the war theater in Romania is to be the scene of the decision in the war, not the Russian front, nor Verdun, nor even the Somme. They note that progress is being made steadily in that fighting area, although slowly, because of the difficulties of mountain warfare and conquest of the numerous passes leading to the Romanian planes, where even a vastly superior force has trouble swiftly following up advances gained.

The unrelenting pressure in southern Romania is now making itself felt in neighboring sectors, namely, in the northern Romanian front. The Romanians have been compelled to confine themselves to the defensive, but the demands of even this form of warfare is now almost too much to be supplied by the forces of their command. The Romanian lines are being continuously drawn back into the center.

By bold and rapid strokes the Teutonic invaders apparently have conquered a large section of Northwestern Romania. The converging attacks by Austro-German forces moving south and eastward have compelled the Romanians to withdraw and execute a rapid retreat from the northwestern portion of the country to prevent their armies from being cut off.

Whether the rapid retreat has been made in time is rendered doubtful by the German announcement that said Teutonic troops are now before Sariova. The railroad running from Sariova to Bucharest offers the only convenient line of retirement for the Romanian armies. The loss of Sariova, therefore, would effectively bar their way eastward except across open country.

German advances in Western Romania have resulted in the conquest of 11,000 km≤ of fertile wheat soil. The occupation of Sariova is also of high strategic importance. Two railroads from the Danube converge there, and the communications of all the remaining troops in western Romania must run through it, as well as any reinforcements from the allies. On the other hand, with Sariova in the hands of the Teutonic allies, the German troops can easily be transported to other fronts as needed through the network of roads that radiate from Sariova to all of western and central Romania. As it is, Sariova is an excellent base for new operations eastward and eventual occupation of Romania.

The death of Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph, in his 86th year and after 68 years on the throne, was announced on November 22. The cause of his death was pneumonia of the right lung. Archduke Charles Francis Joseph will assume the throne of the Polyglot kingdoms of Austria and Hungary at the age of 29. He has been fighting with the armies of the dual monarchy and is popular with all the people who compose it.

The young Archduke is not possessed of any experience in statecraft, but is said to have the faculty of getting along well with everyone. The Archduke is a devout Catholic, and was educated by the Benedictine monks who conduct the most liberal seminary in Austria. There he mingled freely with his sons are professors and businessmen of the empire. After completing his studies he entered the Army as Lieutenant. Later he served in the infantry and artillery, and when the Great War began he was well grounded in the art of fighting. Since then he has held important commands in the actions on the Eastern front. Recently he has been a nominal command of the Austrian forces in the Carpathians.

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