Jump to content

WW1 Eastern Front..... zero takers?


Recommended Posts

Anyone notice how noone is interested in the Eastern Front in WW1?

Verdun, the Somme, Flanders, Arras, Ypres... drop those names and right away conversations start...

Look through a list of Eastern front battles.... noone says or thinks diddly.

Of coures, it may hang together with the fact that the average Brit thinks Somme, Flanders, the average Yank St Mihiel, Argonne, Verdun captures everyones imagination....

Of Course, on the western front the horrible champagne battles are very much neglected... it was after all a "French thing"...

But Eastern Front?

Of course, no books in English, confusing names...

And this is with 70% of the smaller fights taken out to save space..

"The Division spent 1914-1915 on the Eastern Front taking part in many major battles. Gumbinnen, Tannenberg, The Masurischen Lakes, Warsaw, Lodz and from Mid December 1914 to the beginning of July 1915 the drawn out battle on the Kawka-Bzura. In mid July it was involved in the breakthrough near Przasnysz. From the 23rd of July to 3rd of August in the Battle on the Narew, the Orz River at Goworowo and much fighting in the battles that followed. In Mid September it was fighting along the Szcara and Jelnia rivers and it ended the month in the Lithuanian swamps"

Will there ever be a serious interest from the side of Westerners? Even from the German side interest seems to be rather lacking...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Anyone notice how noone is interested in the Eastern Front in WW1?

I admit that the interest is not as large as for the Western Front of WWI, but I wouldn't say that no one is interested in the Eastern Front. There is definitely interest among people whose countries were involved in the conflict. In Romania for example names like Mărăşti, Mărăşeşti or Oituz ring a bell for many in relation to WWI.

But there are some aspects that made the battles in the East not as advertised as the ones in the West. The most important I would guess is the fact that the countries there were communist for many decades and according to the official ideology WWI was "only an Imperialist thingy not worth discussing. The only thing worth mentioning was the great, the only, God's gift to peasants and workers (oops, no God in atheism), the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 when everything started. Before it there was nothing." Another aspect is that both parts for some of the battles in the East ended up in the camp of the vanquished. Czarist Russia succumbed, the Bolsheviks sued for peace to the Central Powers who were in turn defeated in the end of WWI.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Chris,

I think the Cold War had a little to do with this lack of general knowledge, which resulted in decreased interest. At least for my generation the Russians were portrayed as the potential the enemy so I would think the governments in the West thought that the less we knew, especially positive information, the easier it was to control our opinions.

There was also a matter of national pride and the West made all of the movies, which is as close as many ever get to historical research. :lol:

I've attached a photo postcard of what the seller described as the 76th Infantry Reserve Division. The shoulder boards do have a 76 on them but I can't read any of the writing on the card.

Here is a list of their engagements:

Eastern Front

Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes 1915

Gorlice-Tarnow Offensive 1915

Romanian Campaign 1916

(I noticed that the exact dates were not available from my source on the internet unlike those of the Western Front - which makes your point, Chris)

Western Front (after Russia withdrew from the war)

Second Battle of the Marne 15 July - 5 Aug. 1918

Aisne-Marne Offensive 18 July - 5 Aug. 1918

Oise-Aisne Offensive 18 Aug. - 16 Sept. 1918

Meuse Argone Offensive (a.k.a. Battle of the Argon Forest) 26 Sept - 11 Nov 1918, which was the last battle of the war.

I hope you like the photo and it is in keeping with your post.

Cheers :cheers:

Brian

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here is the address.

One of the reasons I purchased this postcard was because it was addressed to Hamburg and I live in New Hamburg which is just outside of Kitchener (formally Berlin, Ontario). As if I need an excuse to add to the collection. :rolleyes:

Any help with the translation would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers :cheers:

Brian

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Brian,

a rough transliteration and translation:

Herrn Joseph Koch

u. Cons.

Hamburg

Baupflegekommission

Rathausbr?cke 18/20

Lieber Joseph

Besten Dank f?r Kartengru?

nur deiner Stimmung wegen

wird Landsturm reingegangen.

Ich bin jetzt im Ersatzbataillon.

Besten Gru? an Dich sowie

meine lieben Kollegen (jeden)

... [diverse Unterschriften]

Mr. Joseph Koch

and workmates

Hamburg

construction maintenance commission [?]

Rathausbr?cke 18/20

Dear Joseph

Thank you for postcard greetings

depending on your mood [that could/must be subtly irony]

joining the landsturm

I'm now in the reserve battalion.

Greetings to you and

my dear workmates (everybody)

... [several signatures]

Regards

Uwe

Edited by speedytop
Link to comment
Share on other sites

As awful as the Western Front was, the Eastern Front was also very nasty.

There are a couple of dry but good books on the war in the East-"Handcuffed to a Corpse" and Stones' "The Eastern Front" come to mind.

Keep in mind that up until about 15 years ago, the Russian Front, 1941-45, was considered a "sideshow', mostly because of the difficulty in doing Russian scholarship and the reluctance of Germans to talk about what happened. That has changed, with "Ivan's War", admittedly a bit of a popular social-history type of book actually making the best seller lists a couple of years ago (and going into 12 paperback printings!!).

I have been wondering recently if Kev and Glenn would be up for doing a Lynn MacDonald-style book on the Romanian campaign. It was a masterpiece of German military efficiency and set the stage for 1940.

There is NOTHING in English that is accessible (i.e. readable) out there.It is ripe for study-and scholarship.

By the way Chris- I read your web site weekly. It is brilliant!! So do many others.

Edited by Ulsterman
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I have been wondering recently if Kev and Glenn would be up for doing a Lynn MacDonald-style book on the Romanian campaign. It was a masterpiece of German military efficiency and set the stage for 1940.

There is NOTHING in English that is accessible (i.e. readable) out there.It is ripe for study-and scholarship.

By the way Chris- I read your web site weekly. It is brilliant!! So do many others. "

Hi,

It is as PaulH1 pointed out to me last week.... the problem is... the money is On the Somme and in Flanders... The amount of takers for an Eastern Front book would be minimal... and in a way it is far more complicated as there was a lot of mobile warfare with pages and pages of place names that mean nothing to noone.

Russian names, their German equivalents, translated into English... and at the end of the day, a 234th book on the Somme would find many more takers.

Glad you like the site, I am trying to add some simple stuff about the Eastern front, it is needed for the guys who collect docs... just to add to the basic understanding.

Averaging about 150 visits a day... so I hope some folks are finding it useful :-)))

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I very much agree that the Eastern Front in WW1 is a most fascinating subject! Unfortunately my own talents don't stretch to authoring a history of that campaign! I am neither a trained historian nor a writer.

It is unfortunate that the only two (as far as I am aware) tomes in English (Stone and Holger Herwig) do not really do justice to the subject. Stone drones on about ammunition expenditure and the like ad nauseam (in my opinion), states that everyone is useless and then the whole thing peters out before the end of hostilities.

What is possible and Chris is already a leading light in this respect are relatively short summaries of individual unit actions. This is of course not ideal for a modern overview of what happened on the Eastern front from 1914-1917.

There is much to be recommended in learning to read German!

Regards

Glenn

Link to comment
Share on other sites

two points:

1. Interesting and good writers make history, well, interesting and exciting. I offer as proof Glenn and Rick, who single-handedly through the aegis of the WWW over the past decade have "recruited" dozens, nay perhaps several hundred collectors into the imperial field -and I might add, the result has been a frightening rise in prices. I weep at the thought of those three and four medal NCOs bars I passed by because they were "over $100".

That was a mere six years ago:more fool me.

If you want a best seller than write a book entitled "The Vampire Virgin of the SS" and start with an opening sentence like, "Gretchen's scarlet robe slipped off her perfect cream shoulders and fell to the floor with a soft whisper. She stood, magnificent in her nakedness and then slowly ....etc. etc.

:cheeky:

2. The Rumanian campaign was short, sweet and the records are still around in Romania and Germany/Austria.

A good 250 page book, lavishly illustrated etc. would do well.

But I think that if you REALLY want to do a best-seller, that will spark a lot of secondary inquiries, than do a book on Romanian campaign type medal bars, with docs and medal bars illustrating various aspects of the campaign-like Chris B' does for the EK. Accessible medal books go for astronomical sums compared to other minor collecting subjects. As one local second-hand book seller told me, "I never lose money on an Angolia volume", (despite the errors and misinformation).

The point I should have made is that medal/militeria collectors/wargamers (uniform historians) have much clout in military history publishing-far more than most people realize. One topic usually catalyzes others.

Edited by Ulsterman
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh -and one final thought. When Ed Haynes book eventually does come out-watch the prices for Indian subcontinent medals skyrocket (esp. as India's economy blooms). 90% of military historians have only a vague notion of the India-Pakistani wars and the other things that have gone over there since 1947. That is going to change very soon and you'll eventually see Osprey books on the subject and people like Atkinson (who can turn a good phrase) writing about the wars.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Brian,

a rough transliteration and translation:

Herrn Joseph Koch

u. Cons.

Hamburg

Baupflegekommission

Rathausbr?cke 18/20

Lieber Joseph

Besten Dank f?r Kartengru?

nur deiner Stimmung wegen

wird Landsturm reingegangen.

Ich bin jetzt im Ersatzbataillon.

Besten Gru? an Dich sowie

meine lieben Kollegen (jeden)

... [diverse Unterschriften]

Mr. Joseph Koch

and workmates

Hamburg

construction maintenance commission [?]

Rathausbr?cke 18/20

Dear Joseph

Thank you for postcard greetings

depending on your mood [that could/must be subtly irony]

joining the landsturm

I'm now in the reserve battalion.

Greetings to you and

may dear workmates (everybody)

... [several signatures]

Regards

Uwe

Hi Uwe,

Thank you very much for the translation.

Cheers :beer:

Brian

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh Chris,

You've brought up a theme near and dear to my heart.

I was the proud owner of the "Great War in the East Discussion Group," for a year. We had almost 100 members by the end of the first year, and in one of theose weird internet related twists we had less and less posts as we got more and more members. After a year I decided on the somewhat unpopular course of closing the languishing group.

The main problem was this: The knowledge base was a very small pond with a few fish. Someone would ask a question and it would most of the time go unanswered. Or, someone would bring up something and everybody would jump on it as it was something covered by Stone, lets's say.

I've been fascinated by the Eastern Front since I read Chruchill's book, "The Unknown War," when I was a teenager (excellent book, by the way). I then moved on to wargames and played the excellent SPI, "Great War in the East and Tannenberg," series until the maps were almost worn out.

I'll throw this out as well to chew on, beyond the Eastern Front, many aspects of the war remain in the literary backwaters.

Chris, you brought up Verdun, a subject we both are passionate about. Hold on one mo' though. Name one good in-depth English language military history or analysis of the Battle of Verdun? Horne's book is the best on the subject, but it was written almost 50 years ago, and it's an overview of the battle, at best.

To take it step further no translations of even existing good German works on Verdun have been done. Wendt's in-depth study on Verdun remains a hidden gem. Werth's book, the result of actually interviewing and taping many German Verdun veterans simply begs to be translated in its entirety into English. I tried to get that project started and couldn't find a publisher even interested enough to humour me.

I'm not surprised at the lack of Eastern Front books. There is so little to work on from in English that most English-speaking authors would be scared off the subject. It's one thing to translate a few pages from a German regimental history, another to take a subject, try to write an analysis, using ALL foreign language sources. Throw in the Russian bit and wow, you've got a difficult task.

The money is on the Somme and Ypres. Stray away from the Anglo-centric battles and your potential market falls faster than the value of the dollar against the euro! Even friend Jack Sheldon's books I suspect are used by many readers as a way to bounce the experiences and history of British units off the German units they faced.

As someone pointed out the sources for the front are out there, especially in German--I see them all the time during my research. I could probably walk down to the Wiesbaden library right now, and come home with twenty interesting and informative books on the War in the East.

Stone's book is dated and it doesn't even cover the entire war in the East. A new and in-depth book on the subject have been due for well over thrity years.

It's worth thinking about:

30 years for Stone's book

46 years for Horne's book

There's a reason why these have stood alone for so long and you can't walk through Border's without tripping on another Somme book.

Paul

Edited by Paul H1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've no great interest in Eastern Front - I suppose it's because the Western Front's so much closer to home for me & my father, grandfathers etc all fought on the Western Front in the main.

I've got a photo album of a WWI Eastern Front German squaddie, I've probably got a number of WWI Feldpost cards which I collected decades ago for the postmarks, & I've just bought a passbook to a German infantry man who was captured near Warsaw but who escaped.

I'll dig out the photo album - mainly domestic type shots but also of Russians & Germans meeting under a flag of truce, the obligatory dead bodies & a field piece next to a shattered tree stump, labelled "Batterie Wotan".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Access was probably the insurmountable problem.

Michelin put out Guides to the Battlefields starting in... 1918.

All the combatants maintained permanent cemeteries, and there was, from 1918 on... battlefield TOURISM in the West.

That never happened in the East, where wars that led into the Great War had already ignited in 1911 and 1912 and 1913 and would not actually end until 1920 or 1922 or 1923-- nor did anyone who had lived through all THAT know if it would not flare up all over again any day.

No one ran trainloads of nostalgic veterans to the River Beresina or Monastir or the Rumanian passes.

Then came the Second War and many of the same places were fought through again--often by the same soldiers and access was COMPLETELY shut off until they were all dead.

Grandpa served in the Hapsburg army, Junior in the army of an interwar Republic, and grandson found himself in the garb of one or another Worker's Paradise, so that the final public personal historical linkages were broken in a code of silence.

Access IS everything.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Access was probably the insurmountable problem.

I beg to disagree, Rick. As I said before, in my opinion it is the post-WWII attitude towards WWI that led to a decrease in the interest for the events of the Eastern Front. And this worsened as time took its toll from among the WWI veterans.

All the combatants maintained permanent cemeteries, and there was, from 1918 on... battlefield TOURISM in the West.

That never happened in the East, where wars that led into the Great War had already ignited in 1911 and 1912 and 1913 and would not actually end until 1920 or 1922 or 1923-- nor did anyone who had lived through all THAT know if it would not flare up all over again any day.

I cannot speak for other countries, but this is not true with respect to Romania. After WWI there were many cemeteries established and maintained in Romania for the soldiers of many nationalities fallen in WWI. You can take a look on ONCE for a list (though still incomplete). Kevin had also posted images from the smaller cemeteries in Transylvania.

With respect to battlefield tourism, a major problem in the interwar period, if not the most important, was the affluence of the veterans. Many soldiers that fought on the Eastern Front were peasants who could not afford, both in terms of money and time, a trip to the old battlefields. But ceremonies were organised regularly by the authorities.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A book on the subject would be tremendous. I just finished Holger Herwig's book and it was the first time I learned that much about the East. I never knew how much of a steam roller the German Army was on the Eastern Front and the fact that it was primarily mobile fighting as about the trench warfare is very interesting. It's almost a forgotten theater here in the States but was actually a huge aspect of the war. I'd like learn more about it!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I beg to disagree, Rick. As I said before, in my opinion it is the post-WWII attitude towards WWI that led to a decrease in the interest for the events of the Eastern Front. And this worsened as time took its toll from among the WWI veterans.

I have to agree with Rick...

Flanders and the Somme are a jump from the English channel.... they are wiiiidely visited and covered by the British WW1 Buffs.

Americans can make it to France in one jump.... The Argonne and St Mihiel are easily reachable....

Another point comes in here... people are Usually interested in the sectors their countries fought in....

The Brits in Flanders and Somme, the Yanks in Meuse-Argonne, the French in Verdun, Champagne, Alsace, etc.

Few if any western nations have an interest in the east as few (other than the Germans and Austrians) had anyone who fought there.

The Eastern front is and will always remain a "side show" as there is just not the interest to see/read about it :-(

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another thought....

Maybe the very nature of the Western front makes it easier to research? The lines stay static and you cam pour over maps and documents that you can commit to memory.

See how much more complicated when you try and follow the western front from March to september-October 1918.... a lot more movement and a lot harder to follow.

Now... take this to the Eastern front, mobile warfare, great distances to cover, places that all sound the same and you cannot even begin to pronounce....

Visit the Somme and everything is "There".... years of fighting in a contained space means looking for things of military interest is like shooting fish in a barrel..... visit the eastern front and you can cover hundreds of miles looking for anything of remote interest... and even when you reach a town where they fought for 2-3 days... there is nothing to see, no trace of the war....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And a challenge.........

I have asked before... I don't need experts...

If anyone feels like writing something, does not have to be a doctorate, even a simple 1-3 page summary of anything (Battles, tactics whatever) they read on the Eastern front... how about sending it to me for the Kaiserscross project...

WE the imperial collectors are responsible for generating interest in our field of interest. A short summary of Tannenberg, fall of Warsaw... ANYTHING... will help add to the site...

Thanks

Chris

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have to agree with Rick...

Flanders and the Somme are a jump from the English channel.... they are wiiiidely visited and covered by the British WW1 Buffs.

Americans can make it to France in one jump.... The Argonne and St Mihiel are easily reachable....

Another point comes in here... people are Usually interested in the sectors their countries fought in....

The Brits in Flanders and Somme, the Yanks in Meuse-Argonne, the French in Verdun, Champagne, Alsace, etc.

I thought you meant interest in a broad sense, not limited to Britain and US. Then I agree that there is virtually no public interest in battles that had other actors. Only the specialists or the enthusiasts would venture into the 'uncharted territories'. And this is valid the other way as well. You would be surprised (or maybe not) that interest in the Western front among nations in the East is as little or even less than that of Western nations in battles in the East. :(

Few if any western nations have an interest in the east as few (other than the Germans and Austrians) had anyone who fought there.

Western nations did fight in the East, even if not on the same scale as in the West. The most important contribution (in Romania at least) was the French military mission led by Gen. Berthelot, but I have also found reports of Brits taking part in the fights.

The Eastern front is and will always remain a "side show" as there is just not the interest to see/read about it :-(

I wonder how much is genuine interest and how much is publicity-driven interest. If one is continuously bombarded with books and articles on a particular topic, then the chances of stumbling upon something else decrease to ... nil.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If anyone feels like writing something, does not have to be a doctorate, even a simple 1-3 page summary of anything (Battles, tactics whatever) they read on the Eastern front... how about sending it to me for the Kaiserscross project...

Chris, try to contact the guys that wrote the articles on the site below for permission to use (parts of) their text for your project.

Romania in WWI

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chris, try to contact the guys that wrote the articles on the site below for permission to use (parts of) their text for your project.

Romania in WWI

I've always been fascinated by Romania and Bulgaria in WW1 but there's not very much in English available. I'd be very happy to find a book on the Romanian campaigns.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...