THE ALLIED COUNTER-OFFENSIVE
In spite of the disasters she had suffered in 1915 and of her winter campaigns in Galicia and the Caucasus, Russia was the first of the Allies to take the offensive in 1916. She was, indeed, engaged in attacking at some point or other along her vast and various fronts from December till April. In February she again attempted to seize the important bridgehead across the Dniester at Usciesko and carried it on 22 March. Four days before that she had initiated another offensive on the shores of Lake Narotch, and in April she was pressing on Trebizond. The Lake Narotch operation was possibly designed to frustrate a German attack on Riga, and it was only that preventive success that was achieved. It is true that the first and second German lines were carried after artillery preparation by the Russian infantry. But the scanty Russian artillery behaved like a travelling circus; having done its business, it packed up and removed to seek another opening. The Germans discovered the move, blasted the Russian trenches, and on 28-29 April recovered more than they had lost. The campaign in Armenia was more successful, and on 18 April Trebizond passed securely into Russian hands, giving her a shorter route across the Black Sea and a better base for future operations in Asia Minor (see Maps, pp. 146, 182).
These, however, were minor operations compared with the offensive for which Brussilov was preparing in May as the Russian contribution to the combined attack on the Central Empires. It was not timed to take place until the end of June. But the Austrian pressure on Italy from the Trentino seems to have forced an acceleration which the German attack on Verdun failed to extort from the Western Allies; and on 3 June a bombardment began on the whole of the Russian front from the Pripet marshes southwards to the Rumanian border. Ivanov had been recalled to headquarters and the line was under Brussilov, with four generals--Kaledin, Sakharoff, Scherbachev, and Lechitsky--to command his various army-groups. Opposed to them were four Austrian generals and the German Bothmer, who held the front from Zalocze on the upper Sereth to the Dniester. From Kolki northwards the Pripet swamps made progress difficult, and Bothmer offered a stubborn resistance on the Strypa. But in the Volhynian triangle and the Bukovina the attack achieved a surprising success. The infantry advance began on the 4th and by noon the Austrian front was completely broken. In two days the Russians advanced more than twenty miles, and on the 6th they entered Lutsk, the Archduke Joseph Ferdinand's headquarters, capturing enormous booty and many thousands of prisoners. On both sides the breach was widened; to the north Rojitche and to the south Dubno both fell on the 8th, and the Volhynian triangle passed completely into Russian hands. Their triumph continued for another week: their salient was deepened by a further advance to Zaturtsky and Svidniki, within twenty-five miles of Kovel, and broadened by the fall of Kolki to the north and Demidovka and Kozin to the south. In less than a fortnight Kaledin and Sakharoff had covered fifty miles and taken 70,000 prisoners.
Scherbachev was less successful against Bothmer in front of Tarnopol; but his left wing carried Buczacz, farther south, and crossed the Strypa, while beyond the Dniester Lechitsky outdid Kaledin's success at Lutsk. Forcing the passage of the Dniester near Okna on that same 4th of June, he broke the Austrian front and drove one half of it west to Horodenka and the other half south-east towards Czernowitz. The latter portion was now an isolated and disorganized fragment of the Austrian army which could do nothing but escape across the Pruth and the Carpathians leaving Lechitsky to overrun the Bukovina. On the 17th the Russians entered Czernowitz, its capital, and six days later they reached Kimpolung, its most southerly town. Other columns swept west to Sniatyn and Kuty, and by the 23rd the whole of the province had been conquered. The Austrians were in no position to impose a pause upon the frontier of Galicia, and Kolomea fell on the 29th. Tlumacz followed on the 30th and Bothmer's right was seriously threatened. Gathering some German reinforcements he counter-attacked on 2 July, recovered Tlumacz, and checked Lechitsky's right, though his left continued its advance along the Carpathian foothills and captured Delatyn on 8 July, thus cutting the railway to Marmaros Sziget. The Dniester and the Pruth were now flooded with July rains, and a month elapsed before Lechitsky could resume his march.
Other causes had checked the Russians farther north. Brussilov's offensive may have been merely a vast reconnaissance in force, but its astonishing success had stirred the Germans to prompt action. Ewarts was beginning an attack on the important junction of Baranovitchi north of the Pripet marshes, and presently the line of battle spread down the Shchara and along the Oginski canal. If he succeeded like Brussilov, Brest-Litovsk might be caught between two fires with dire results to the whole German front in Russia and future in the Balkans. It was a peril to which the German prospects at Verdun and forebodings on the Somme were secondary considerations; and both the Western allies profited from Brussilov's campaign. One German corps was hurried from Verdun to Kovel in six days, and others followed at a less exhausting speed. Austrians also came from the Tyrol and the Balkans, and Ludendorff was sent to restore confidence in the command. Kovel was the southern key to Brest-Litovsk; the northern flank could look after itself since Ewarts was making little progress, and Bothmer had barred the way for the time to the other essential points at Lemberg and Stanislau. But Kovel was in serious danger, for the Russians had penetrated to Lokatchi due south of that fortress; and it was for its defence that Ludendorff organized the Austrian counter-offensive in the latter half of June.
Kovel was saved. The Russian line was pressed back from Lokatchi to Zaturtsky, from Svidniki to Rojitche, and behind the Stokhod. But the counter-offensive was spent by the end of the month, and early in July the Russians resumed their advance. North of the Pripet Ewarts was no more successful than he had been in June; German divisions were made of sterner stuff than the Austrian, and Hindenburg knew well enough what was at stake. After heavy losses the Russian attack died away without appreciable gain of ground, and north of the Pripet at least the enemy line was secure. Nor, even south of it, was Brussilov able to do much more than straighten his own, bringing it forward to the point reached by his salient in front of Lutsk. This, however, involved some danger to Lemberg and effected the fall of Stanislau farther south. The chief obstacle was Bothmer in the centre, on whose stubborn resistance the Germans prided themselves although most of his troops were Austrian; and he occupied most of the Russian attention for the rest of the campaign. But the most striking advance was made in the north of Brussilov's command, where summer had dried the low-lying ground south of the Pripet marshes. Here General Lesch, whose Third Russian Army had been brought down from north of the Pripet, broke the Austrian line on the Styr between Kolki and Rafalovka on 4-5 July, and in four days reached the Stokhod. He even crossed it at points, but failed to carry it in its entirety so as to threaten the northern defences of Kovel.
The main offensive was launched in Galicia, doubtless with a view to its reaction upon the attitude of Rumania; and here Bothmer was menaced by Sakharoff in the north and Lechitsky in the south. To disconcert the northern attack the Germans had planned a counter-offensive on the 18th, but Sakharoff got his blow in first three days before. Forcing the Austrians across the Styr in front of Dubno, he advanced along its tributary the Lipa, captured Mikhailovka and Bludov, and then swinging south occupied Berestechko and threatened Brody on the 20th. It was entered after a week's fighting on the 28th. Thence he struck south towards the railway from Krasne to Tarnopol which supplied Bothmer's left, while Bothmer's right was being simultaneously threatened by Lechitsky now that the floods on the Dniester had subsided. On 7 August he recaptured Tlumacz and reached the Dniester near Nijniow; on the 10th he forced his way into Stanislau, while Scherbachev attacked on the north bank of the Dniester. Almost outflanked on the north by Sakharoff and on the south by Scherbachev and Lechitsky, Bothmer had at length to retreat to the Zlota Lipa with his right in front of Halicz, his centre at Brzezany, and his left at Zborov. He was vigorously attacked by Scherbachev, and his right was pushed back on both banks of the Dniester as far as Halicz until it stood upon the Narajovka. But the centre stood firm against Scherbachev's great effort of the 29th, though Potutory was taken and Brzezany reduced to a salient; and the fighting of September and October failed to modify the position anywhere except far south in the Carpathians, where Lechitsky secured Mount Kapul and the Jablonitza and Kirlibaba passes, and advanced as far west as Huta.
This movement was in sympathy with the Rumanian declaration of war on 27 August, and spoilt the Russian chances of a successful concentration against Bothmer. Russia was not sufficiently furnished with munitions or trained men to provide for two great efforts on that front, and her summer campaign had failed of complete success largely because of the services it rendered to her allies. No fewer than sixteen divisions were withdrawn, between June and September, by the Germans from the Western front and one from the Balkans to meet Brussilov's offensive, and they included some of the best of the Prussian Guards. Austria diverted seven divisions from Italy, and even the Turks sent two. The offensive had cost the Central Empires something like a million casualties, many of them Czecho-Slovak and Jugo-Slav prisoners, who deserted willingly enough and in time did valiant service in strange lands to the cause of the Entente and of their own national independence. But the value of Russia's last great effort in the war was not limited to the front on which it was made. It was an excellent, though almost solitary, example of the advantages of co-ordinated strategy between the Allies, and what progress was made on the Somme, in Italy, and in Macedonia in 1916 was partly due to Russian valour on other fronts.
The British Empire, however, had eyes in the summer of that year for little except its own offensive in the West. It was mainly a British affair, for the German attack on Verdun had succeeded to the extent of making impossible both an independent French offensive and an equivalent French contribution to the joint campaign on the Somme. Like other realities of the war, this fact was hidden from the public, and hopes ran high. The failures of the autumn were recognized as due to their being premature and made on narrow fronts. We had learnt our lesson; there was a new general in command; in guns and munitions we had outstripped the Germans; our men were no longer raw recruits, and we had millions of them; and, unlike Germany, we had no alternative front to exact its toll like the Russian. The one doubt that was harboured rather than expressed related to leadership. Lord Kitchener had lost his life in the Hampshire, sunk by a mine off the west coast of the Orkneys, on 6 June. But Sir William Robertson, his chief of Staff, had acquired a great repute as an organizer, and the question was whether the officers in the field would exhibit qualities of intellect comparable with his administrative capacity or with the valour of their men.
Apart from the urgent need of relieving the pressure on Verdun, a British offensive was due as a contribution to the common task; and the front on which it would be made did not offer a great variety of choice. Whatever attractions other localities may have held out yielded to the Somme, where the French and British lines met by Maricourt, and an advance side by side was the nearest approach the Allies had yet made to unity of command or even of design. The combined effort was to be concentrated on a single front of twenty-five miles from Gommecourt, half-way between Albert and Arras, to Fay, five miles above Chaulnes. If it achieved the success that was hoped, it would roll up the German line north towards the Belgian coast and render untenable in the south and east the great salient of the German front. The retreat which the Germans effected to the Hindenburg lines in the spring of 1917 was the least that was expected from the summer offensive of the year before. But Germans are seldom idle, and for months they had been silently and unobserved preparing to counter the vast storm of explosives about to break on their trenches. That wire-entanglements however extensive, and trenches however intricate, could be obliterated had been proved, and the Germans were ready with their prophylactic on the ground that was chosen for attack. The rolling downs of the Bapaume ridge offered natural attractions to an army sick of the water-logged flats of Flanders, but they also afforded the Germans depth and scope for their vast underground chambers which no artillery could destroy; and these defences more than any other single cause defeated the British thrust at Gommecourt and Serre.
This was officially described as a subsidiary operation, yet upon the assistance it rendered to the main attack farther south depended the whole nature and course of the campaign. Had that thrust eastward towards Bapaume been successful, the Germans facing the Somme would have been taken in the rear, and the painful and costly climb up the slopes to Bapaume, which lasted throughout the summer and autumn, would have been achieved in a couple of days. Places like Pozières, well towards the goal, were indeed given as our objectives for the first day of the battle of the Somme. It began on 1 July. Since the middle of June there had been an intermittent bombardment of the German lines which grew in intensity and extent from the 24th. The attack had been entrusted to the British Fourth Army, under Sir Henry Rawlinson and the French Sixth under Fayolle. It was expected by the Germans between Albert and Arras, though not along the Somme, and their artillery preparation took off some of the edge of our attack. The troops advanced with the utmost dash and determination, and detachments got far ahead of the line into Pendant copse, Thiepval, the Schwaben redoubt, and even the outskirts of Grandcourt. But few of them got back when they found that the line as a whole had held, and the losses of these troops in the fire to the left and the right and in front of them made up the bulk of the British casualties on that day.
Farther south they fared better. The outskirts of La Boisselle and Fricourt were reached; Mametz was taken, and also Montauban by the most striking advance of the day. On our right the French, whose attack had been planned by Foch, had the advantage of a surprise. North of the Somme they reached the edge of Hardecourt and Curlu; south of it they captured Dompierre, Becquincourt, Bussu, and Fay, and with these villages 6000 prisoners. The advance was greatest the farthest it was removed from where the Germans had prepared their resistance; complete success south of the Somme dwindled away to complete failure at Serre. That northern attack was not renewed, but from Ovillers south and eastwards the advantage was stubbornly pressed on the 2nd. Fricourt fell and its surrounding defences, while the French took Frise, Curlu, and Herbecourt. It was clear, however, that the German line had not, and could not be broken in the sense which the public at least attached to the word. A first or even a second and third line of trenches might be taken, but there was an indefinite series behind, and the progress was so slow that anything like a thrust right through the German defences and rout of the German forces was out of the question. It was not until the 5th that La Boiselle in the first German line was mastered, and farther east the initial success of the British was checked by a line of woods which required weeks to clear. On the 7th we took Contalmaison, but were driven out of most of it by a counter-attack. It finally fell on the 10th, but Ovillers held out till the 16th. The woods to the right offered a no less stubborn resistance. Bernafay wood was, indeed, gained on the 4th, but the German flanks in Mametz wood to the west and Trônes wood to the east were only driven in at the cost of five days' ferocious fighting from the 8th to the 13th. The French encountered similar opposition north of the Somme, but south of it they were more fortunate. On the 4th and 5th they extended their gains on their right by the capture of most of Estrées and Belloy, and after disposing of German counter-attacks leapt forward on the 9th past Flaucourt to Biaches, a mile from Péronne.
On 14 July the second stage of the battle of the Somme began with an attack before dawn. It was the national fête-day of France, but the attack was made on the British front from Contalmaison to Trônes wood. The objectives were the wood and two villages of Bazentin, High wood (the Bois des Foureaux), Longueval, and Delville wood, while Trônes wood still remained to be completely cleared. The day was one of the most successful in the four and a half months' battle, and the dash of the British troops carried them as far as all their objectives. Bazentin-le-Grand and le Petit and the wood were taken; aided by an unwonted cavalry charge which raised delusive hopes of breaking through, a great advance was made to High wood; and the Germans were driven out of most of Longueval and the Delville wood. But it was more difficult to retain these conquests; the advanced positions were exposed to enfilading German fire, and counter-attacks drove us back at various points and made the retention of others a matter of desperate conflict for weeks. High wood had to be completely evacuated; for Delville wood the South Africans, and the troops which relieved them on the 20th, had to struggle for thirteen days, and it was not wholly cleared for another month. Much of what was credited to the 14th of July had to be retaken in detailed fighting spread over many days.
On the 16th, however, the fall of Ovillers prepared the way for an attack on Pozières, which was finally captured with the help of the Australians on the 26th, and the taking of Waterlot farm on our right opened up an advance on Guillemont. Much of High wood was recovered on the 20th. On that day the French pushed east of Hardecourt and seized a section of the Combles-Clery railway, while farther south they secured the German defences from Barleux to Vermandovillers. On the 27th the last German outpost in Longueval was taken, and on 4 August the Australians began their advance from Pozières to Mouquet farm and the windmill which commanded the summit of the Bapaume ridge. The ground was contested inch by inch, and it took many weary days to win. Villages and woods all along the front were only captured by fragments, and most of the fragments were lost again more than once before they finally passed into our hands. Well into September there were bits of Delville wood and High wood still in German possession, and a concerted attack of 18 August was a failure except for the seizure of Leipzig redoubt. On the 12th, however, and again on the 16th, the French improved their position north of the Somme and got close to Maurepas, of which they completed the capture on the 24th.
September was a better month for both the Allies. There was a general attack on the 3rd, when Guillemont, which had been disputed for six weeks, was carried at length, and the French rushed Le Forest, Cléry, and the German lines up to the outskirts of Combles. Two days later the British got into Leuze wood between Guillemont and Combles, and captured Falfemont farm to the south, while a new French army extended the line of battle below Chaulnes and took Chilly and Soyécourt; on the 6th they pushed their advance both north and south of the Somme, taking above the river L'Hôpital farm and Anderlu and Marrières woods, and below it parts of Vermandovillers and Berny. The German counter-attacks were unusually unsuccessful, and on 9 September Ginchy was carried by the Irish regiments which had helped to take Guillemont. It looked as though the Allies were at least getting into their stride, or the wasting struggle was beginning to tell on the German reserves and resistance. Over two months had been spent in securing objectives marked down for the first day or two of the battle; but with the fall of Guillemont the last fragment of the German second position had fallen into our hands, their third was more or less improvised, we had a new weapon in reserve, and were half-way from our original lines to Bapaume. Farther afield Rumania had declared war, and Brussilov was still drawing German troops from West to East.
The third stage of the battle therefore opened with hopes which even the experience of the second had not been able to quench. Gough's Fifth Army had since early in July been formed as an independent command to the left of Rawlinson's Fourth, and its right comprised the 1st Canadian Corps which was to attack Courcelette. The other points of the German third line of defence were Martinpuich, Flers, Lesboeufs, and Morval. Martinpuich was the objective of a Scottish division of the New Army, Flers that of the New Zealanders, Lesboeufs and Morval those of the Guards and another division of the old Regulars. Behind the British lines were collected twenty-four "Tanks," which were to precede them in the attack and prove by this first experiment their value as a weapon of war. On the 14th a brigade of Gough's army stormed the Hohenzollern trench and a redoubt called by the Germans a wunderwerk; apart from this success, the attack diverted German attention from the real offensive, which began on the 15th with an intense bombardment. The Tanks spread terror and devastation among the German lines and the results of the day for once exceeded all expectations. Courcelette fell to the Canadians, Martinpuich to the Scots, Flers to the New Zealanders. High wood was at last enveloped in this advance, and Delville wood passed by the division of the New Army which pushed from Ginchy towards Lesboeufs. That effort on our right was, however, hampered by the Germans in the Quadrilateral and Bouleaux wood to the east of Ginchy, and the Guards were unable to carry out the most important tactical part of the day's work by carrying Lesboeufs and Morval.
The French had no such accumulation of gains on the 15th, but they conquered a larger area between the 13th and 18th. They began on the 13th with the bold capture of Bouchavesnes right across the great road from Péronne to Bapaume, and supplemented it by taking Le Priez farm on the flank of Combles. On the 17th they completed their work in Berny and Vermandovillers south of the Somme, and on the 18th added Deniécourt. On that day the British at last mastered the Quadrilateral east of Ginchy, and thus prepared for the great success which attended the next general attack on the 25th. It was the best day of the whole campaign. Lesboeufs and Morval fell on the north of Combles, while the French took Rancourt on the south-east, and away to the west Gough's army made the surprising seizure of Thiepval. Further fruits were gathered on the morrow; Gueudecourt, which had been taken but abandoned on the 25th, was recovered; the French who had then failed against Frégicourt now took it; and Combles was the prize of their joint success. Then the weather broke; and the Germans, who had already begun to prepare their Hindenburg lines far away in their rear, were enabled to cling to the Bapaume salient until they had taken all the precautions for an orderly and inexpensive retreat.
The rest of the Somme campaign was an affair of local details until Gough's Fifth Army intervened on a larger scale. Eaucourt l'Abbaye was taken on 1 October, lost on the 2nd, and retaken on the 3rd. Le Sars was captured on the 7th, the Stuff and Regina redoubts, between it and Thiepval, on the 21st; and progress was made north towards the Butte de Warlencourt and north-east towards Le Transloy. The French captured Sailly and Saillisel to the east of Morval and pushed far into the St. Pierre Vaast wood and towards Moislains, while south of the Somme they took Ablaincourt, Le Pressoir, Fresnes, Villers-Carbonnel, and Barleux, and seized the west bank of the river opposite Eterpigny above Péronne. On 9 November the weather improved, and though the October rains had made transport almost impossible across the mangled soil of the battlefield on the Somme, the conditions were not so bad north of Thiepval, where our advance had been stayed on 1 July. The situation at Beaumont-Hamel was also changed for the better by the fact that the German stronghold was now a pronounced salient enfiladed by our fire from the captured Hohenzollern, Schwaben, Stuff, and Regina redoubts. But that advantage was less felt farther north at Serre, and there the left wing of our attack on 13 November was no more successful than it had been on 1 July. Better fortune attended our effort between Serre and Beaumont-Hamel, but the farthest advance of the day was that of a New Army division on the extreme right of the attacking line. St. Pierre Divion fell almost at once, and our troops advanced on the southern heights of the Ancre to the Hansa trench half-way to Grandcourt.
The task of the centre was to take the fortress of Beaumont-Hamel, including the forked ravine to the south which required a prolonged and desperate struggle. The work was done by Highland Territorials before the early November sunset; and meanwhile the Naval Division on their right drove the Germans out of their first two lines on the northern bank of the Ancre towards Beaucourt. One battalion penetrated almost to the village, but was held up in a perilous position owing to the resistance of a strong German redoubt on its flank and almost in its rear. It stood its ground throughout the day, and at night the surrender of the German redoubt to a couple of tanks opened the way for a general attack on Beaucourt on the 14th. It was stormed by the battalion which had been waiting outside it since the previous morning. German counter-attacks on the 15th were repulsed, and on the 17th a further advance was made to the Bois d'Hollande north of Grandcourt, while Canadians from the Regina trench established themselves near its western outskirts. Another avenue towards Bapaume had been opened up, but winter postponed any further advance, and the Somme campaign had come to an end.
It had proved a sort of inverted Verdun, and the comfort we had derived from that successful defence was now extracted by the Germans from their defence of Bapaume. The parallel was not exact, because while the German gains at Verdun narrowed down to a point, ours on the Somme expanded in a circle. Yet the arguments were substantially the same: the French at Verdun were willing to sell any number of acres for armies, and the Germans professed an equal content on the Somme. Each side contended in turn that the offensive was the more costly form of warfare, and then repudiated the contention when it came to attack itself; and there was not a great deal to choose between them so far as logic was concerned. It is also clear that the Germans would have been at least as successful at Verdun as we were on the Somme but for the relief afforded by counter-offensives elsewhere, and that we should have profited no more from the Somme than the Germans did from Verdun had our Somme campaign been interrupted by German offensives on other fronts. Nor was there much to choose in the way of casualties: our estimate of the German losses as approximating 600,000 was a reasonable guess, but our own casualties were well over 400,000. The French losses were lighter, but the two together cannot have been less than the German. The Germans on the Somme, like the French at Verdun, withdrew divisions to refit before they were hopelessly broken; but what was considered wisdom in the French was reckoned weakness in the Germans and the Prussian Guards, whose return to Berlin, concealed in furniture-vans to hide their pitiable plight, was graphically described in the English press by an imaginative American journalist, were really sent as a contribution to that immense effort in the East by which, in spite of the Somme campaign, Germany first closed the gaps in the crumbling Austrian front and then overran Rumania.
There was thus a good deal of justice in the German comparison between Verdun and the Somme. The fallacy lay in the facts that our offensive was not brought to a stand by a German counter-attack but by the advent of winter, that the moves elsewhere in the West were the French ripostes at Verdun in October and December and not German counter-offensives, and that their campaign in Rumania, in spite of its painful success, had no effect upon the vital situation in the West. That episode was against us, but the tendencies were in our favour; our losses might equal the German, but equal attrition would leave us paramount in the end, barring collapse on the part of a principal ally. It was the fundamental situation which led to the German proposals for peace at Christmas, and the superficial impression which provoked the simultaneous fall of the Asquith Government.
So, too, there was something superficial and unjust in the lay criticism of Sir Douglas Haig's generalship. "Tactics of the Stone Age," was Mr. Lloyd George's later comment, which should not have been made in public at the expense of a general for whose retention in the command he was himself responsible. Even Foch controlled the group of French armies which co-operated with us on the Somme without producing results of a different character; and it is idle to compare the achievements of the generalissimo of 1918 with those of the British commander on the Somme in 1916. Haig controlled the British forces in France and Flanders, but he had no jurisdiction beyond a mere fragment of the thousands of miles of front on which the war was waged. Neither he nor any other Entente general therefore enjoyed the strategical opportunities of a Falkenhayn, Hindenburg, or Ludendorff, who could direct their blows east or west as they pleased; and responsibility for the strategical conduct of the war rested not with the Entente generals but with the heterogeneous Governments which employed them. Each commander had to work in his own compartment and could not escape its limitations. Nor was the diversity merely one of military commands; there was also the Navy, upon which the whole Allied strategy hung, to be considered; and not only in the Entente, but in each of its several Governments there was, and there could be, no such unity of direction as was possible in the militarist Central Empires.
There was also something naive in the popular clamour for a general as a Deus ex machina. For, in spite of apparent exceptions, the tendency of the transition from heroic to democratic ages is to transfer both in war and in politics the decisive influence from the individual to the mass, from the protagonist to the private; and modern warfare, with its complexity and its science, has become mainly a matter of mechanics. Its hero is the mob, and its generals fight far away in the rear of the line of battle; even the telescope has given place to the telephone. Individual valour counts for little compared with accurate range-tests and spotting by waves of sound. Man has mastered nature only to become more dependent upon his servants, and the vast machinery which the modern general controls envelops him in its toils. He reaches his goal in a motor, and the race is won by the best machine. Generalship was but one of a vast number of factors which gave us control of the Bapaume Ridge but also prevented the Somme campaign from saving Rumania or spoiling the German defence against Russia.
The battle of the Somme did not, however, quite exhaust the Entente offensive for 1916. As it died down amid the autumn rains, the French struck back at Verdun on 24 October. Here Nivelle, who had taken over the command from Pétain in April, entrusted the attack to Mangin. The Germans were not taken by surprise, but they were unprepared for the strength of the blow, and from Fleury to Fort Douaumont positions which had taken the Germans months to win were recovered within a few hours. On the right the struggle was more protracted, but on 2 November Fort Vaux and on the 3rd the villages of Vaux and Damloup were regained. A greater success followed on 15 December. The attack extended from Vacherauville on the Meuse to Bezonvaux on the east, and all along the line the French won their objectives. Besides Vacherauville they retook Poivre hill, Haudromont wood, and Louvemont on the left, captured Chambrettes farm and Caurières wood in the centre, and seized Hardaumont wood and Bezonvaux on their right. Towards the north-east the Germans had almost been thrust back to the line from which they started in February, though to the north they still retained some ground, and the French counter-offensive did not extend to the west of the Meuse. It was a characteristic exaggeration of the press to represent these gains as a complete reconquest of all that the Germans had won in the spring; but enough had been done to give the Germans unpleasant anticipations for 1917 and to counsel them to draw in their horns in the material sense of retreat from their threatened position on the Somme and in the metaphorical sense of seeking peace (see Map, p. 194).
Italy, too, had been making her contribution to the Allied offensive during these months. Brussilov's onslaught in June had trod on the tail on* the Austrian invasion from the Trentino, and it was patriotic pride which led an Italian journal to describe Cadorna's recovery as the quickest and greatest reaction of the war. Italy's allies at least were not surprised when during the latter half of June her armies regained the ground evacuated by the Austrians in a skilful retreat, including Posina, Monte Cimone, Arsiero, Asiago, and the whole of the Sette Communi. Having thus protected his flank, Cadorna reverted to his frontal attack along the Isonzo and on the Carso. The Austrians still held nearly the whole of the east bank of the river and Oslavia and Podgora on the west bank in front of Gorizia. Gorizia itself was protected by two mountain strongholds, Sabatino to the north and San Michele to the south. Early in August Cadorna had completed his transfer of guns and troops from the Trentino front, and on the 4th he feinted an attack across the Isonzo at Monfalcone. On the 6th a heavy bombardment battered the whole front from Mount Sabatino to Mount San Michele; both the key-positions were taken by assault in a battle which lasted two days, and on the 9th Gorizia fell. During the next few days the advance was pushed across the Doberdo plateau, south of Gorizia, and beyond the Vallone on to the western end of the forbidding and formidable Carso. By the 15th the Italian line ran from Tivoli, north-east of Gorizia, down the river Vertoibizza, across the Vippacco and along the Carso east of Nad Logem, Opacchiasella, and Villanova. No such victory had yet been won by unaided Italian troops against their hereditary foes, and it did much to stimulate Italian confidence and enthusiasm for the war. Some further progress on the Carso was made during the autumn, and great Italian victories were announced in September, October, and November; but the Italians were never within measurable distance of capturing the key of the Carso at the Hermada, and Trieste was a very distant prospect until other causes had brought about the collapse of the Hapsburg Empire. When at the end of August Italy at last declared war on Germany, the course of the war remained unaffected, and greater store was set on the simultaneous intervention of the kindred Latin people of Rumanias (see Map, p. 298).