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

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Albion: The War's Most Successful Amphibious Operation

German Troops Approaching the  Baltic Sea Island of Saaremaa

In the fall of 1917, the German Army and Navy conducted an amphibious assault in the Baltic Sea. The operation was code named Albion. The goal of the operation was ambitious—to convince Russia to sue for peace by seizing several islands protecting the Gulf of Riga. Seizure of these islands would pose a direct threat to the Russian capital of Petrograd.

General von Hutier
The Germans had no significant experience with amphibious operations, nor did they have any doctrine for their conduct. In spite of this, the operation was planned in approximately a month, and the German landings and subsequent operations ashore were a tremendous success.

The Germans put the commander of the Eighth Army, General Oskar von Hutier, in charge of organizing the operation. Von Hutier was an extremely shrewd general best known to history for his later involvement in the 1918 offensives on the Western Front. He made the commander of the landing force and the commander of the Special Fleet coequals for planning. If there were any disagreements they could not work out themselves, they could then seek out the general for a decision.

Operation Albion was extremely successful. The Germans secured the islands of Ösel, Moon, and Dagö in little more than a week. For an operation of its size, the booty was immense. The Germans captured more than 20,000 Russian soldiers along with machine guns, artillery, and other impedimenta. The Russian Army had been dealt a blow and the troops’ morale and confidence in their government reached its nadir.

German Troops Boarding a Transport Ship, October 1917

The Bolshevik Revolution occurred only two weeks after the conclusion of Albion. Although negotiations with the Russians would continue into early 1918, it soon became clear that the Russians wanted an end to the war. The Germans began to transfer troops to the Western Front.

Source: Joint Forces Quarterly, Fall 2010


  1. I wonder if Prit Buttar covers Albion in his third book on the eastern front.

  2. Point of info. The Germans shot motion pictures of this operation. I found the description below in the US National Archives' catalog. For your viewing pleasure, the film can be found on YouTube.
    Note: Loosely translated this title means “German Naval Operations: Landing on Osel.” This is a WWII German propaganda film, edited and distributed in early 1941, from motion picture footage originally shot of the landings on 12 October 1917.)
    Men and supplies are loaded onto transport ships; tug boats pull the ships out to sea; sailors work on the deck of a ship as a Friedrichshafen FF 33 floatplane and a Zeppelin airship pass overhead; a German vessel fires at an enemy ship; sailors load the guns; a German raiding party boards the enemy ship and horses and supplies are removed; the transports reach Osel; German troops as they set up camp on the island.

    1. Is this it, ?