THE EVE OF THE FINAL STRUGGLE
Two gleams of light, one of them quickly dimmed and the other distant, relieved the gloom of the last winter of the war. As the Flanders offensive subsided in the mud, Haig was preparing another blow by a different hand in a drier land; and he, too, was working to find an escape from trench-warfare on lines not unlike those of Ludendorff. Both were dissatisfied with the obstacles which intense bombardment, used for initial success, placed in the way of its prosecution; but by one of the ironies of the war, while Ludendorff now relied on the superiority of his human material, Haig looked for success to the greater ingenuity of mechanical contrivance expressed in Tanks. They were under a cloud in Flanders because they could not advance upon mud and water; but on higher ground their improved efficiency and numbers might be used to some effect. The plan adopted contemplated a narrow front but an ambitious objective. It was to break the Hindenburg lines at their nodal point in front of Cambrai. If successful it would disorganize the whole German scheme of defence in the West, and would in any case tend to divert the Germans from their Italian campaign. The objective was not Cambrai itself, but to break through the Hindenburg lines as far as Bourlon and beyond, and then to take them in reverse from Bourlon westwards and northwards to the Sensée and the Scarpe. In other words, it appeared to be an experiment in tactics which might with good fortune develop into a strategical means of achieving from the south of Douai and Lille what the Flanders campaign had failed to secure to the north of them. The German line was thin, and, had it been made of the stuff of the Italian line at Caporetto, Haig might have repeated Ludendorff's unexpected success. There was a third and more sinister explanation of the battle of Cambrai, that it was a practical attempt to answer the gibes in which the Prime Minister had indulged at the tactics of the British Army.
The task was entrusted to the Third Army which had seen little fighting since the battle of Arras died down in the spring, and had been under Sir Julian Byng since Allenby's transference to Egypt. The attack began on 20 November; there was no preliminary bombardment to cut up the ground over which the Tanks, infantry, and cavalry were to advance, and a single gun gave the signal for the start amid a favouring fog and behind a supplementary barrage of smoke which hid the advance from the German guns. The Tanks broke through the wire entanglements and destroyed the nests of machine guns, while the infantry marched forward in their track. By nightfall they had made at points greater progress than on any previous day in the war. Havrincourt, Graincourt, and Anneux--four and a half miles from the morning's front--fell on the left; Ribecourt, Marcoing, Neuf wood, Noyelles, and Masnières in the centre; and La Vacquerie, Bonavis, and Lateau wood on the right. The flies in the ointment of success were a check in front of Flesquières and a serious lack of foresight on the Scheldt canal, where the single bridge was broken at Masnières and the cavalry were held up on a front of several miles. But for the former, Byng might have mastered the vital Bourlon position, and but for the latter have crossed the canal in force, broken the last of the German lines, and taken Rumilly, Crèvecoeur, and possibly Cambrai. For the Germans had been completely surprised and needed two days to bring up any adequate reinforcements. The advance continued at a slower pace on the 21st. Flesquières was taken and then Cantaing and Fontaine-Notre-Dame; but the bid for Bourlon developed into a costly, stubborn, and indecisive struggle for five days while the Germans were being steadily reinforced.
On the right Byng pushed out to Banteux, but the end of our advance on the 29th left us with a rectangular block of territory loosely attached to our original front. The German lines had been breached, but once more it was shown that lines of concrete and wire fortifications do not roll up like lines of mere human material without an amount of pressure which our forces did not permit of applying. The new Government had been at least as deaf as the old to Haig's demands for men, though the use that had been made of reserves in Flanders justified some caution and economy in the supply; and for the success of his major operation Haig had to rely on troops which were too few and had been imperfectly trained. Meanwhile Von Marwitz, the German commander, admitting the British victory, announced his intention of wiping it out, and gathered sixteen fresh divisions to effect his purpose on the 30th. There was ample warning all along the front, but we had not grasped the significance of Von Hutier's tactics at Riga or Von Buelow's at Caporetto, nor had our commanders dreamt that the Germans without our Tanks could follow the example we had just set ourselves and attack without a warning bombardment. Their method was as unexpected as our own, and where it was applied against our right it was almost as successful. From Bonavis south to Vendhuille all our gains were lost, and within an hour and a half the Germans had pierced the line we had held since April and captured Gonnelieu, Villers-Guislain, and Gouzeaucourt. Gouzeaucourt was retaken later in the day, and at Bourlon, where the new tactics were not employed, the gallantry of our troops retained the position. More ground was also recovered next day on our right, and the German counterattack seemed to have been exhausted. But it had left us with an untenable front, and on 4-7 December Haig withdrew from Bourlon and Marcoing to the Flesquières ridge. Out of sixty square miles and fourteen villages captured we retained but sixteen and three respectively, while the Germans had secured seven square miles and two villages held by us before the battle began. The fact that our gains included a seven-mile stretch of the Siegfried line made no appreciable difference to the future course of the war; and we even failed to learn the lesson of our failure. The innate British conservatism, which was counteracted in politics by a democratic suffrage, retained its unchecked supremacy in the British Army; and the German tactics which had robbed us of our gains at Cambrai came no less as a surprise to rob us four months later of things that were much more serious.
The light of Byng's success soon died away and left the gloom to be illumined by a far-off flicker in the East. Even here the effects of the Russian collapse dogged or rather prevented our steps and barred our advance from Baghdad; and without Russian co-operation Maude had to think rather of safeguarding his conquests against Falkenhayn's projects from Aleppo than of striking farther from his narrow base into the almost limitless enemy country. On 29 September he pushed forward his defences on the Euphrates by seizing Ramadie and encircling and compelling the surrender of the entire Turkish force. In October he occupied the positions abandoned by the Russians up to the Persian frontier, and early in November drove the Turks out of Tekrit towards Mosul. After destroying the Turkish base we retired; there was now no enemy either on the Tigris or the Euphrates within a hundred miles of Baghdad, and Maude's work had been rounded off. He died suddenly of cholera on the 18th, leaving a reputation second to none in the British Army. His successor, Sir William Marshall, carried on his work by forcing the Turks east of the Tigris back into the Jebel Hamrin mountains in December and then in March 1918, driving them up the Euphrates out of Hit and Khan Baghdadie to within 250 miles of Aleppo. In May he turned to the Tigris, retook Tekrit, expelled the Turks from Jebel Hamrin, Kifri, and Kirkuk, and forced them back across the Lesser Zab to within 90 miles of Mosul. But by that time the public had little attention to spare for Mesopotamia, the Turks had recovered the whole of the Russian conquests in Asia Minor, and had occupied the Caucasus right across to the Caspian Sea. Marshall's efforts had to be diverted north-east to bar the enemy's way through Persia towards India; and the advance on Aleppo was left to the army of Egypt (see Maps, pp. 177, 352).
Allenby succeeded to its command in June 1917, and had the summer in which to prepare his plans. Frontal attacks on Gaza had failed with too serious losses in March and April for their repetition to be risked, especially in view of the care which had since been taken to add to the Turkish forces and to the strength of their defences; and Allenby discovered the key of the Turkish position at Beersheba, nearly thirty miles south-east of Gaza. It was captured on 31 October with the efficient help of the Imperial Camel Corps, and on 2 November the enemy was distracted by a second blow on our extreme left which resulted in the taking of Sheikh Hasan and the outflanking of Gaza between it and the sea. The whole line between Beersheba and Gaza had, however, been elaborately fortified, and it required a week's strenuous fighting to reduce it. Then on 6-7 November our left advanced once more upon Gaza only to find it practically undefended; and by nightfall on the 7th Allenby had pushed ten miles along the coast beyond Gaza. The advance was now rapid in this direction. On the 9th we occupied Ascalon; on the 14th the Turks were driven from the junction where the branch line to Jerusalem joins the main line running down the coastal plain, and the Holy City was cut off from rail-communication with the Turkish base; and on the 16th Jaffa was captured. Allenby then swung round towards the east to threaten Jerusalem from the north, while his right wing pushed up beyond Hebron along the hills of Judæa. He wished to avoid battle near the city, and the Turks made a determined stand to the north-west of it on the Nebi Samwil ridge. By 9 December their resistance was overcome, and Jerusalem was threatened from the north-west by our left and from the south-east by our right. It surrendered on that day, and Allenby made a quiet official entrance on the 11th. He had succeeded where Richard Coeur-de-Lion had failed; Jerusalem, which for 730 years had been in Mohammedan hands, under first the Saracens and then the Turks, passed under Christian control; and there seemed better ground in the twentieth than in the sixteenth century for the Elizabethan's exalted question to his compatriots, "Are we not set upon Mount Zion to give light to all the world?"
The light was somewhat slow to penetrate elsewhere. Even in Palestine it took Allenby months to substantiate his position. By the end of December he had pushed across the El Auja north of Jaffa and taken Ramah, Beitunia, and Bireh, nine miles north of Jerusalem; but Jericho did not fall until 21 February, and little impression was made during the spring upon Mount Ephraim, where the Turks barred the road to Shechem, or on their positions east of the Jordan, although the Turks were increasingly harassed by Arab raids upon the railway leading to Maan and the Hedjaz. Es Salt was captured on 1 May, but succumbed to counter-attacks in which some British guns were captured. The heat of summer put an end to active operations, while the Turkish recovery at the expense of Russia and the German victories in Europe counselled caution, and helped to postpone till the autumn the full fruition of Allenby's strategy. He and Maude had nevertheless made our Eastern campaign the brightest pages in the sombre history of the war in 1917, and the fall of Baghdad and Jerusalem contributed not a little to the collapse of Turkey, which hastened that of the Central Empires. They were not divergent operations because they converged towards the centre, and weakness at the extremities affected the heart of the Turkish Empire. Germany would not have succumbed when she did but for the fate which had overtaken her allies elsewhere than on the Western front. But it was a far cry from these contributory operations to that policy of concentrating on "the vital junction of Muslimieh" which commended itself to excitable critics, and would have left our Western front at the mercy of the most formidable onslaught it ever had to face.
We needed all the comfort we could extract from our Eastern campaigns; for, with a gigantic German offensive threatening the West in 1918, we could be none too sure that we had dealt satisfactorily with the only serious offensive the Germans had undertaken against us in 1917. That had been their unlimited submarine warfare, which had reached its greatest fury in April, when 25 per cent of the vessels leaving British ports failed to return, but continued through, out the year to sap our strength like an open ulcer. The general public knew little of the truth, and was not competent to measure the value of such facts as were placed before it. The Germans' claim to have sunk 9 1/2 million tons in the first year of unrestricted warfare was regarded as preposterous, but Sir Eric Geddes himself assessed the British loss at 6 millions.[Footnote: The total British loss in the war was 7,731,212 tons. France came next with 900,000 tons. ] Mr. Lloyd George revealed the fact that we had sunk five German submarines on 17 November, but not the fact that our total bag for December barely exceeded that figure; and on the 13th the First Lord of the Admiralty corrected the optimism of the Premier's figure by declaring that the Germans were building submarines faster than they lost them, while we were losing shipping faster than we built it. He was somewhat more cheerful in his estimate of the situation on 1 February 1918, but on 5 March had to deplore a falling-off in our construction, partly at any rate due to the depletion of man-power in that industry. Some consolation was found in the fact that the proportion of our losses to our total shipping did not greatly exceed that in the last ten years of the Napoleonic wars; but the comparison was illusory, because we were far more dependent upon oversea supplies in 1917 than in 1812, though so far as food was concerned the dependence was greatly relieved in 1918 by the efforts of the Board of Agriculture. A source of greater pride, if not of satisfaction, was the fact that our domestic shortage was due less to the sinking of our ships by German submarines, than to their diversion to the service of our Allies. Not only had the British Navy to defend all the coasts of the Entente by bottling up the German High Seas Fleet, but our mercantile marine had to provide for most of the Allies' transport and provisioning; whereas in the Napoleonic wars we had for long no allies to maintain and could concentrate upon our own requirements. The unparalleled strain of the war was due to the unparalleled extent to which the British Empire placed its resources at the disposal of less fortunate countries; and fortunately for Powers, which later on complained of American interference, the United States seemed bent in 1918 on bettering our example.
Other incidents of naval warfare than the German submarine campaign added to the public discomposure. On 17 October two German cruisers sank two British destroyers and nine convoyed Norwegian merchant ships between the Shetlands and the Norwegian coast; on 12 December somewhere in the North Sea four German destroyers sank five neutral vessels, four British armed trawlers, and also one of the two British destroyers accompanying them, the other being disabled, while two British trawlers and two neutral vessels were also sunk off the Tyne; and on the 23rd, three British destroyers were mined or torpedoed off the Dutch coast. On the 26th it was announced that Sir Rosslyn Wemyss had succeeded Jellicoe as First Sea Lord, and other changes were made at the Admiralty. But the unpleasant incidents continued. On 14 January 1918 Yarmouth was, after a long immunity from such attacks, once more bombarded by enemy destroyers; on 15 February a British trawler and seven drifters were sunk by similar means in the Straits of Dover; and on the 24th the safe return was announced of the German raider Wolf after a cruise in which she had sunk eleven vessels in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The extension of submarine warfare to the sinking of hospital ships was more shocking as an exhibition of barbarity than alarming as a proof of naval efficiency, and may even have been designed as a desperate measure to commit Germany beyond recall to the alternative of victory or irredeemable ruin. As an outrage against international morality it was only exceeded by the torpedoing on 6 June of a Dutch vessel on which British delegates were to have gone to The Hague to discuss with Germans the mutual amelioration of the lot of prisoners of war.
Side by side with this brutality at sea there developed a similar offensive in the air. The Zeppelin menace had been almost exorcised in the autumn of 1916 by the effectiveness of explosive bullets fired from aeroplanes which ignited the gas-bags. But on 28 November a solitary aeroplane dropped six bombs on London in full daylight, and thus gave ample warning of what might follow. No adequate steps were, however, taken to meet the danger until in the spring and summer of 1917 it was brought home in a more emphatic form. On 25 May German aeroplanes which had been diverted from their London objective by atmospheric conditions, caused 250 casualties and nearly inflicted serious military damage at Folkestone; and on 13 June the Germans effected their most successful raid by appearing over London shortly before noon and killing 157 and wounding 432 men, women, and children. The object was avowed in the German press by one of the leaders of the expedition to be the demoralization of the civilian population. Its success was due to the lack of counter-preparations; and when the experiment was repeated on 7 July four of the raiders were brought down and the casualties were reduced to 59 killed and 193 injured. After August the daylight aeroplane raids were discontinued, but only to be resumed in moonlight, and on 4 September 11 persons were killed and 62 injured in a London raid at night. These became almost nightly affairs at the end of the month; and while no single aeroplane raid at night caused anything like the loss of life inflicted on 13 June or 7 July, they were sufficiently distracting, though it pleased the patriotic press to pretend that only immigrant aliens, East-End Jews, or at least the poorest of native Britons, sought safety in flight from the risks they involved.
The raids were repeated at irregular intervals, owing to atmospheric conditions, throughout the winter until Whitsunday 19 May, when 44 were killed and 179 injured. Generally they occurred when the moon was nearly full, but on 6 December there was one when it was in its last quarter and on 18 December another when it was only four days old, and on 7 March 20 were killed and 55 injured in a raid on a moonless night. On 19 October these aeroplane raids were varied by a raid on a moonless night by Zeppelins which shut off their engines and drifted across London with a north-west wind, dropping only three bombs but killing 27 and injuring 53 persons. Six of the raiders failed to get home, and this was the last of the Zeppelin so far as London was concerned, though Zeppelin raids were made as late as 12 and 13 March on the north-east coast. Reprisals were adopted as a policy by the British Government in the autumn of 1917, and great store was set upon them in some quarters. But in spite of the vigour with which they were carried out along the Rhine, there is no reason to suppose that our aeroplane raids achieved any greater military effect than that which we had always denied to German raids on England. They certainly did not succeed in curing the Germans of their raiding propensities. That was effected by our improvements in defence, notably in our antiaircraft bullets and "aprons" suspended from balloons; and after Whitsunday, 1918, the Germans concentrated on the French, although they had shown fewer qualms about reprisals. Nor did our supremacy in the air produce the effects which many anticipated on the field of battle. Italian superiority with that arm was of little use at Caporetto, and our superiority did not materially further our advance in Flanders in the autumn of 1917 or retard the German offensive at St. Quentin in the spring of 1918. Aircraft were indispensable as eyes for an army, and to a lesser extent for a navy; but as an independent force they were as limited in their effectiveness as is artillery or cavalry without the fundamental infantry.
The obvious stalemate which marked the situation during the first half of the fourth year of the war imposed upon the belligerents a reconsideration of the political and military means of bringing it to an end. Dissatisfaction was naturally more apparent in Germany during the spring and summer and in Entente countries during the autumn of 1917; and in July the Reichstag passed its famous resolution against annexations and indemnities. Its idea of peace was that Germany should forgo annexations, and the Entente its claims to indemnities; but the chief anxiety of the Reichstag was to make capital for the cause of constitutional reform out of the dissatisfaction with Germany's military situation, and that was immediately improved by the collapse of the last Russian offensive. Bethmann-Hollweg fell for failing to control the Reichstag, but his successor Michaelis was a mere Prussian bureaucrat who only accepted the Reichstag resolution "as he understood it," and the fate of Russia soon made it clear that his understanding of "no annexations and no indemnities" did not preclude the "liberation" of large parts of Russia and their subjection to German influence, nor the insistence upon "guarantees" which would reduce Belgium and Serbia to a similar plight. The Vatican followed the German lead with a peace note in August which revealed no clear distinction between its and the German point of view; and in October, amid subdued celebrations of the fourth centenary of Luther's Ninety-Five Theses, Count Hertling succeeded Michaelis as Imperial Chancellor and became the first Roman Catholic minister-president of Prussia since the Reformation.
There was, indeed, a fundamental unity in this apparently discordant combination between the Protestant and the Ultramontane; for the Hohenzollern State and the Roman Catholic Church were both systems organized on that principle of autocracy which was more and more coming out as the underlying issue of the war, and it coincided with the fitness of things that the answer to the Vatican note was returned by the President of the United States. There was, in fact, no basis of accommodation, and any desire for it in Germany disappeared with the temporary improvement in her military prospects. When the failure of our campaign in Flanders was coupled with the Italian disaster at Caporetto and the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, the Reichstag resolution was spurned, constitutional reform was smothered, and the Junkers under Ludendorff's able leadership girded themselves for a final quest of peace by victory with illimitable annexations and indemnities. The Kaiser foreshadowed the coming offensive in the West by proclaiming that the only way to peace was one hewn through the ranks of those who would not make it.
In spite of this brave show, the Entente exhibited a truer confidence by expressing its dissatisfaction not in the form of seeking a compromise with the enemy, but in criticism of the conduct of the war. There had, indeed, been some political hesitation at the time of the Stockholm Conference in the summer when the Russian revolutionists invited socialists of all countries to consider a peace without annexations or indemnities. Even Mr. Lloyd George was subsequently said by his Labour colleague in the Cabinet to have contemplated British participation; and there were legitimate grounds for anxiety lest the officially countenanced if not inspired presence of German socialists at Stockholm might not give them a political advantage over unrepresented Entente countries. But the danger passed away as gleams of returning prosperity in the autumn revealed once more the true mentality of the German Government and exposed the insincerity of its pacific professions; and precipitate pacifism only revealed itself in Great Britain in a cautiously worded but dangerously doubting letter by Lord Lansdowne, published in the "Daily Telegraph" on 29 November. Once more President Wilson expressed, in his message of 4 December, the real mind of Germany's most sober and serious enemies. He branded German autocracy as "a thing without conscience or honour or capacity for covenanted peace," and declared that peace could only come "when the German people have spokesmen whose word we can believe, and when those spokesmen are ready in the name of their people to accept the common judgment of the nations as to what shall henceforth be the bases of law and of covenant for the life of the world." Our conception of those bases was elaborated in a memorandum adopted by the Labour party later in the month which was substantially accepted by Mr. Lloyd George, after consultation with Mr. Asquith, Viscount Grey, and representatives of the Dominions, on 5 January 1918; and then three days later President Wilson defined the famous Fourteen Points which ultimately became the basis of the peace.
There was more heartburning over the conduct of the war. In France, M. Ribot's Government fell in September and was reconstituted under M. Painlevé. It succumbed in November to the effects of Caporetto, and France, like Italy, had to find a new Prime Minister. Her choice fell upon M. Clémenceau, a vigorous veteran of seventy-six. His supreme quality was an audacity from which friends as well as foes occasionally suffered, and his great service was the war he waged upon the half-hearted and the double-minded of his compatriots. England escaped a change of Ministry, but not without misgivings or the sacrifice of subordinates on account of a situation for which Ministers were equally if not more to blame. There were sweeping changes at the Admiralty, and the mutterings of a Press campaign against Sir William Robertson and Sir Douglas Haig, for which the Prime Minister had given some ground, if not the signal, by his reference to the tactics of the Stone Age. The ultimate cause of his embarrassment lay in the extravagant anticipations he had encouraged of the results to follow from his own accession to power. He had attributed the responsibility for earlier failures to end the war to his predecessors, and on his own line of argument he was himself responsible for the ill-success of 1917. In both cases the reasoning was absurd, and individual Ministers counted for little in the titanic conflict of forces. Mr. Lloyd George suffered from the Russian revolution, but he had a windfall in American intervention; the "Victory Loan" of January would not have saved the Entente from grave financial difficulties had it not been for American assistance; and the war seemed at least as far from an end after a year of the new administration as it seemed when Mr. Lloyd George came in on a promise of speedy success.
Nor was his preparation for the coming crisis marked by greater foresight than the measures of his predecessors. That it was coming in the spring was sufficiently obvious in the autumn; intelligent outsiders predicted in November that there would be a great German offensive in the West, and even drew attention to the unmistakable design of the Germans to weaken our front in France by the Italian diversion. Yet no serious steps were taken to strengthen that front in time. The Prime Minister announced in December that the Russian collapse and Italian defeat imposed fresh obligations on Great Britain, but his legislative proposals for increasing our man-power were postponed till the following session and were quite inadequate in their scope. Meanwhile the British front which was doomed to attack was being weakened by being extended from St. Quentin to Barisis in order to shorten and therefore strengthen the French front which was not the German objective. Steps were, indeed, taken to establish an Allied military council at Versailles; but the unity was more apparent than real, and the council had no authority over the individual governments or their staffs, and each continued to feel responsible and anxious mainly, if not exclusively, for its own particular front. Matters did not improve in the early months of 1918. In January Sir Henry Wilson, our military representative at Versailles, reported his opinion that the impending German offensive would be launched against the British front between St. Quentin and Cambrai. He failed to persuade his French colleagues, and if he convinced his own Government, it failed to act upon his advice. Possibly it felt bound to abide by the collective view, if any was expressed, by the Versailles Council; in that case the collective Council proved less sagacious than the British representative, and on 16 February it was announced that Sir William Robertson had resigned.
Meanwhile, American preparations were being delayed by an exceptional winter and by the inherent and enormous difficulty of converting a vast community inured to peace to the organized purposes of war. In spite of invidious comparisons by super-patriots between British sloth and Transatlantic promptitude, America took four times as many months as the British had taken weeks to put a hundred thousand men into the firing-line; and the Germans were transferring divisions very much faster from the Eastern to the Western front. The Bolsheviks had relieved them of all anxiety on that score. Immediately after their coup d'etat on 7 November they had issued an invitation to all belligerents to negotiate for peace. The Germans naturally accepted, and on 29 November Count Hertling announced in the Reichstag their readiness to treat. On 3 December Krilenko obtained the surrender at Mohilev of the Russian General Staff, and Dukhonin, his predecessor, was barbarously murdered, though Kornilov escaped. On the 5th an armistice was signed to last till the 17th, and on the 15th a truce for another month. Cossack rebellions under Kaledin and Kornilov broke out on the Don and under Dutoff in the Urals; and Scherbachev collected a mixed anti-Bolshevik force on the borders of the Ukraine. But peace negotiations began between the Germans and Bolsheviks at Brest-Litovsk on the 22nd. The plausible German Foreign Secretary, Von Kühlmann, presided, and Austria was represented by Count Czernin. On the 25th, which was Christmas Day for the Germans but not by the unreformed Russian calendar, Von Kühlmann announced Germany's adhesion to the Russian programme of no annexations and no indemnities on condition that the Entente accepted the same principle; and an adjournment was made until 4 January to wait for its reply.
Before it was received Germany declared that Poland, Lithuania, Courland, and parts of Esthonia and Livonia--i.e. the conquered provinces of Russia--had already expressed their "self-determination" in favour of separation from Russia and protection by Germany; and on 2 January Trotzky indignantly denounced these "hypocritical peace proposals." On the 10th, however, he consented to reopen the discussions at Brest without reference to the Entente, and to recognize the independent status of the Ukraine. He was not yet prepared to accept the German terms, and after the forcible suppression of the Constituent Assembly, which had been elected in the autumn and endeavoured to meet at Petrograd on 18 January, he accused the Germans of demanding "a most monstrous annexation." He was still relying on the result of Bolshevik propaganda in Germany, and the strikes which broke out at the end of the month and the prohibition of the Vorwärts showed that it was not without effect. But their suppression by the Government deprived him of his only weapon, and on 10 February he announced that, while the Bolsheviks refused to sign an unjust peace, the state of war was ended between Germany and Russia. This chaotic suggestion did not commend itself to the Germans, and they took prompt measures to bring Trotzky to a less ambiguous frame of mind. On the 18th they occupied Dvinsk and Lutsk, and before the end of the month they were in Hapsal, Dorpat, Reval, Pskov, and Minsk, and within striking distance of Petrograd (see Map, p. 274). On the 24th the Bolsheviks intimated their willingness to accept the new German terms, far more severe than their original proposals, which included the abandonment of the whole of the Baltic Provinces, Poland, Lithuania, and the Ukraine, and the surrender of Armenia and the Caucasus to the Turks. Peace was signed on these conditions on 2 March, and confirmed by a majority of more than two to one at a congress of Soviets at Moscow on the 14th.
Shameful as this surrender was, the Bolsheviks found some compensation in the domestic triumphs of their party and their creed. Cossack resistance succumbed to their arms and propaganda. Alexeiev, who had succeeded Kaledin in the command of the Cossack forces, was defeated on 13 February; Kaledin committed suicide; and Bolshevik authority spread to the Black Sea, the Caucasus, and all across Siberia. Germany hastened to make a German peace with Finland and the Ukraine, which attempted to sow as many seeds of discord as was possible; but the bourgeois parties with whom they treated had but a slender hold on the countries they professed to represent, and Finland and the Ukraine were soon involved in civil wars in which their Governments were only able to make headway against the Bolshevik Red Guards by the help of German troops. The anarchy suited the Germans except in so far as it detained German forces from the West and impeded those supplies they sought from the Ukraine and farther afield; and by the middle of March they were in Odessa and pushing their outposts and their intrigues towards the Caucasus, the Caspian, and Central Asia. The most pitiable situation was that of Rumania, threatened as she was by the Bolsheviks on account of her monarchy and social order, and by the Central Empires on account of her alliance with the Entente. Completely cut off from those allies, she was compelled in March to sign the humiliating Treaty of Bukarest, which surrendered the Dobrudja, the Carpathian passes, and her supplies of corn and oil to the enemy, while leaving Mackensen in control of her capital and the greater part of the kingdom.
There have been few disasters in modern history comparable with the fall of Russia, and none which shows more vividly that the strength of a State depends not upon the vastness of its territory, the size of its armies, or the skill of its diplomacy, but upon the moral, the education, and contentment of its people. Of all the causes of German success in the war and of suffering to the world at large and little nations in particular, none was more potent than the blindness of Russian governments which had refused in the past to set their house in order, and by reform in time to prepare their people for the storm. Russia herself suffered most, but all her allies felt in different degrees the effects of her collapse, and in the spring of 1918 it was to put the general cause of civilization to its severest test upon the Western front. The perilous situation in which the Entente stood in March was due to other reasons than the conduct of the British War Cabinet, but there was a grim irony in its somewhat novel publication of an official advertisement and report of its preparations for victory on the eve of the greatest defeat encountered by British arms during the war.