The Eastern Front differed from the Western in that armies moved great distances during their campaigns. A Russian army of seven and a half million men faced Austria and Germany in autumn 1914. The Allies called it ‘the Russian steamroller’ and thought that it would move unstoppably forward. However Russian advance was held by men drawn from the Western Front, and German commanders Hindenburg and Ludendorff were helped in their defensive plans because they could easily decode Russian messages.
In spite of their vast numbers of soldiers the Russian armies failed. Their military tactics and equipment were unable to match up to modern warfare. In 1915, the Central Powers (Germany, Austria and their allies) attacked deep into Russia. There were great distances to be covered and the armies were spread more thinly than in Europe’s front line. Food was short and the weather was bad. Many Russians surrendered rather than fight in the terrible conditions, and some men shot off their own sub-zero temperatures.
Russia’s fortunes changed briefly in June 1916 when General Brusilov successfully counter-attacked the Austrians and captured many prisoners. He was let down in the end by poor railway links, which meant that he could not get reinforcements fast enough. Germany was able to plug the gap made in the defences, and Austria was able to recover. By early 1917 German troops were deep in Russia. Gallipoli: There was a deadlock on the Western Front in 1915, and a search began to find other battle fronts.
Churchill was certain that a naval force was all that was needed. On 18th March, 1915, British and French ships moved into the Dardanelles. They dealt with the shore defences, but at the end of the first day three ships had been sunk. It was not known until much later that they had been sunk by mines. On 18th April, 1915, armies attempted to land on the Gallipoli peninsula by attacking various bays. The Turks were expecting an attack, and thousands of the Allied troops were killed before reaching the shore. The sea turned red with blood.
Hamilton commanded his men from a ship, which meant he could not coordinate the action in every bay. * All Allied troops had been pulled out of Gallipoli by the end of January 1915. Over half the total force of half a million had become casualties, and nothing had been gained. Worldwide: The large German military presence in South-west Africa surrendered unconditionally to General Botha, which meant an end to the threat of danger from that part of the world. * Italy, which remained neutral in 1914, signed a secret treaty in London in 1915.
It promised to help Britain and France in return for large areas of the Austrian empire. The Italians made little progress. In October 1917, the Austrians began an advance at Caporetto. The Italians were confused. They panicked and retreated seventy miles in seven days. In the Middle East, Britain was helped by the Arabs, who were glad to fight against their Turkish rulers. In 1917 and 1918, the fall of such famous towns as Baghdad, Jerusalem and Damascus thrilled people in Britain.