Week 3 of the Mediakraft Networks YouTube show The Great War, written and presented by Indiana Neidell.
In the previous episode of the Great War the Indy Neidell explained when and why each of the European powers entered the First World War. This video follows on from that by showing us how each country mobilised and deployed its forces in the early weeks of the war.
Mobilising was difficult for the Austrians because of national divisions within the Empire. Rail networks in Austria, Hungary and other smaller national regions were not linked together which held up transport. Furthermore Slavic soldiers in the Austrian army were reluctant to fight fellow Slavs which led to desertions and deffections.
Many of the Austrain commanders had no combat experience and those that did knew a very different kind of warfare to what they were about to encounter. Their commander in Serbia Oskar Potiorek was one such inexperienced officer and he took little interest in new technology or tactics. Adding further complications Austrian enthusiasm for war on Serbia meant huge numbers of men were sent to Serbia, even some who officially were meant for the Russian front.
The Serbians had managed to mobilise half a million men at this point, one eighth of the country’s entire population of 4 million. They were not always able to equip these troops fully but their mountainous home territory gave them an advantage and the nationalist outlook on war with Austria kept morale and confidence high. They were also more experienced in modern warfare than the Austrians, having only recently participated in the Balkan Wars against the Ottoman Empire.
On 7 August war minister Kitchener called for 100,000 volunteers to supplement Britain’s small professional force. On the 12 August the British declared war on Austria and moved 120,000 men into France. They also commenced a blockade of north sea to udnermine German supplies.
Despite the situation in Serbia not being their primary motivation for entering the war the British became increasingly vocal defenders of Slavic independence. Interestingly the British rhetoric championing the Slavic nations’ rights to self government is the very same language which would dissolve its own empire as the twentieth century progressed.
Fighting on the western front as French troops took Mulhouse just over the German border. They were repelled but were soon preparing another attack under Paul Pau. This was the beginning of the battle of the frontiers. On Aug 12 at the same time as the British they declared war on Ausria-Hungary. At this point they had also begun a blockade of the Adriatic.
Although still officially neutral the Ottoman empire allowed German warships to enter Dardanelles. Having briefly lost the border town of Mulhouse the Germans seiftly recaptured it form the French. Successes were seen on the Eastern front too where troops were within 80km of Warsaw. The Germans were still anxious about Russia, however, since the expected Austrian support had in part been partially redirected to Serbia.