Saturday, August 29, 2015

This Month in World War I

It has been a while since I've posted anything about what was going on one century ago. I don't have any good newspaper front pages to highlight, but I came across this German cartoon the other day and decided to let it be the impetus for this week's Slogback Saturday.

I'm not positive what historical significance 1915 has in terms of this cartoon, other than that it was probably when it happened to be drawn. The Entente Cordiale between France and England was signed in 1904 as France sought to cozy up to an ancient rival, England, because it was more worried about Germany. The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 had ended with Prussian troops marching victoriously through Paris and the various German states uniting into a single nation.

For its part, English leaders had begun to regret a long-standing policy of not getting entangled in continental affairs. The United Kingdom had no allies in the Boer Wars, and continuing expansion of European colonization of Asia, Africa and the Pacific was antithetical to isolationist policy. So the Entente Cordiale settled colonial boundaries between England and France in the Near and Far East (England taking the Egyptian Gulf of Suez), and an Anglo-Russian Entente in 1907 carved up present-day Iran and Afghanistan.

Contrast the German view of Great Britain above with how the Germans depicted their own actions in this propaganda poster:
Dear Homeland, have no fear!
Here, a jolly German soldier is having no difficulty managing against the Triple Entente of Russia, France, and, underfoot, England. Why, Germany doesn't even require the assistance of its own allies.

Of course, the spider motif could be played both ways. This cartoon of Kaiser Wilhelm by the Dutch cartoonist Louis Raemaekers, is also from 1915:

Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy had formed the "Triple Alliance" back in 1882, but Italy broke off from the alliance at the start of World War I, declaring neutrality. In April of 1915, England, France, Russia and Italy signed a secret pact, the Treaty of London, turning Italy against its erstwhile allies. Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary on May 23 and on the Ottoman Empire on August 21.

Italy didn't declare war on Germany until 1916, but here's a telling Italian cartoon of Kaiser Wilhelm from 1915:

Italy was replaced in the Triple Alliance by the Ottoman Empire, prompting this Italian cartoon:

The Ottoman entry into the war is rather baffling; the previous century had been marked by the empire suffering defeats at the hands of Russia on the one hand and Austria-Hungary on the other (and, for that matter, Italy as recently as 1912). But Germany promised certain Greek and Balkan territories to the Ottomans for their closing the passage through Constantinople to the British and Russian navies.

England made its last attempt to seize the Ottoman Gallipoli peninsula from August 6 to 21, part of England's "August offensive." The Battle of Hill 60 on August 26-29 was the final battle of that campaign, ending in a stalemate. So let us close this chapter with one more Raemaekers cartoon:
Turkish General: "What are you firing at? The British evacuated the place twenty-four hours ago!"
"Sorry, sir -- but what a glorious victory!"

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