Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, January 23, 2015

Some Notable But Forgotten Battles of the Great War

1. Battle of Haelen, 12 August 1914
First large cavalry action of the war, in which a Belgian cavalry division defeated multiple charges of the advancing German cavalry corps by dismounting and massing their rifle fire.

2. Battle of the Jardar River, 16–20 August 1914
After helping start a European war to punish Serbia, Austria's initial invasion was defeated after suffering 40,000 casualties. Poor coordination by the attackers was a precursor to worse
problems for them.

Turkish Soldiers in Winter Gear

3. Battle of Sarikamish, 22 December 1914 – 17 January 1915
A disaster followed for Turkey when Enver Pasha attempted a move against the Russian Empire through the Caucasus. Outnumbered and poorly coordinated, his troops suffered tremendous casualties from the enemy and the winter weather.

4. Cuxhaven Raid, 25 December 1914
The Royal Navy's sea-launched assault on the zeppelin sheds at Cuxhaven is considered history's first carrier-based air strike.

Gen. Jan Smuts
5. Battle of Otavi, 1–9 July 1915
Final battle of the South African campaign to capture the German colony of Southwest Africa (Sudwestafrika). The decisive victory was led by Louis Botha and Jan Smuts.

6. Battle of Naroch Lake, 18–21 March 1916
Answering a call from the Allies for offensive action in the east to take the pressure off Verdun, Russia launched a poorly organized assault in the northern sector of the Eastern Front that used outdated assault tactics and set the stage for the Brusilov Offensive.

7. Battle of Ortigara, 10–19 June, 1917
In a determined offensive on the Trentino Plateau, Italian forces briefly seized strategic Monte Ortigara. It was quickly retaken by the Austrians in the bloodiest Alpine fighting of the war.

8. Battle of Romani, 3–5 August 1917
In August 1915 Turkish forces made a second attempt to seize the Suez Canal. They were defeated by a combined British, New Zealand, and Australian force.

Canadian Charge at Moreuil Wood

9. Battle of Moreuil Wood, 30 March 1918
It was a Canadian cavalry force that finally halted the great advance made by German forces during their first great spring "Ludendorff" offensive of 1918. The Central Powers alliance had begun disintegrating.

10. Battle of Frapelle, 17–20 August 1918
In the only large-scale operation in the Vosges mountains after 1915, the U.S. 5th Division captured the advantageously positioned village of Frapelle and held it despite counterattacks.

11. Battle of the Vardar, 15–29 September 1918
The decisive battle on the Salonika Front, Vardar knocked Bulgaria out of the war and exposed the Austro-Hungarian southeast front.



  2. Re the Battle of Moreuil Wood--the painting is by Sir Alfred Munnings, who did not witness the battle but did see a reenactment of it a short time later. My father took part in what is known as Flowerdew's charge. I did my best to recreate the event in words in my story "Soldier of the Horse".

  3. it is interesting the number of battles overlooked by historians concentrating on the large scale killing fields of Verdun, Somme, and Ypres

  4. There are a lot of – The Last Great Cavalry Charges. Halen included eight different charges by four regiments of German cavalry That left 1000 horses on the field. Flowerdew's charge at Moreuil Wood while both brave and epic, was conducted by what – seventy-five troopers? Chronology aside the word "great" leaves room for debate. A

  5. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.