The First World War (2003) s01e10 Episode Script

Part 10

(Cannon fire) NARRATOR: By summer 1918, the war had been going for four terrible years, and the end seemed nowhere in sight.
Unlss we can look ahead and plan for 1919 we shall be in the same melancholy position next year as we are this Do the means of beating the German armies in 1919 exit? Have we the willpower? Since spring 1918, the Allies on the Western Front had been battered by German offensives.
But in August, the Allies secretly assembled a strike force in northern France.
100,000 men of the Australian and Canadian Corps were backed by 400 tanks, 1,900 planes, 2,000 guns, three cavalry divisions.
General Sir Henry Rawlinson , British commander at the Somme in 1916, had learned from the past.
He embraced new ideas.
The close combination of men and machinery, the importance of achievable goals.
My only difficulty will be to get enough diviions and to keep the thing secret Rawlinson aimed his assault at a weak 12-mile sector of the German line, east of Amiens.
He had the French in support to the south.
General Erich Ludendorff, joint commander in chief of the German Army, neither knew of an attack, nor feared one.
We should wih for nothing better than to see the enemy launch an offensive 100 000 infantry are standing grimly silently All feel to make sure their bayonets are firmly locked The section officer counts the last seconds The speed was terrific Within a few moments of the Huns running from our tanks and infantry our guns were coming up into new forward positions It was glorious to be in the rush of an advance The Allied attack sent the Germans reeling.
By nightfall, Rawlinson's Fourth Army had advanced eight miles.
They killed and seriously wounded 9,000 Germans, and captured 18,000 more.
Ludendorff declared 8 August, ''the Black Day of the German Army''.
General Paul von Hindenburg steadied him, but both knew the Battle of Amiens was the beginning of the end.
Mighty as Germany looked on the map, her armies on the Western Front were near the end of their tether, exhausted, hungry, fed up.
Their generals had given them neither clear aims nor adequate supplies.
The Germans had lost nearly a million men since March.
Ludendorff blamed the home front for spreading defeatism.
I was told of behaviour which I openly confess I should not have thought possible in the German Army Whole bodies of our men had surrendered to single soliers Germany's problems went beyond poor morale.
She had lost a string of vital battles.
The battle of the factories and technology.
Germany had built just 20 tanks.
The Allies, over 4,000.
She'd lost the battle of manpower.
A quarter of a million Americans were pouring into France every month.
She'd lost the battle of command.
The Allies worked together under the leadership of Marshal Ferdinand Foch.
But Ludendorff's generals despaired of his lack of strategic plan, and some feared for his mental health.
Great crisis this morning very nerve-wracking Ludendorff is a bundle of nerves It's never his fault He looks everywhere for scapegoats After Amiens, Foch orchestrated a series of attacks up and down the German lines.
First French, then British, now American .
The Germans fell back under the rain of blows.
While the Allies were pulling together, the Central Powers were tearing apart.
In Austria-Hungary, a third of a million soldiers had deserted.
The people at home were starving.
The multi-ethnic empire was splintering.
Its Poles, Czechs, and Bosnians saw defeat as their chance to pursue independence.
In mid-September, the Austrian Emperor Karl told the Kaiser he wanted to negotiate with the Allies.
The Kaiser begged him not to.
I cannot refrain from expressing to you my astonihment and sorrow that you could even think of doing this You must know how destructive this course of action is But Karl had already sent his proposal for talks to the Allies, and they just threw it back in his face.
Another great empire allied to Germany was dying.
The 600-year-old Ottoman Empire was a spent force.
Britain was driving the Turks out of Mesopotamia, Palestine and Syria.
They were now fighting for their lives, not for Germany.
Then the third link in Germany's alliance chain started to give way.
Germany needed Bulgaria to hold the Balkan Front.
But by September 1918, a huge Allied force had gathered in Macedonia.
If the Bulgarians folded, the Allies' way would be clear to Austria-Hungary.
The Bulgarians were dug into these trenches, their morale cracking.
Crown Prince Boris was almost attacked by his own soldiers when he visited the front.
We are naked, barefoot and hungry An empty knapsack does not guard a frontier The First World War had begun in the Balkans, with Serbia as the tinderbox.
Now, as part of the Allied force, she was in at the kill.
And for the Serbs it was personal.
In 1915, the Bulgarians had helped kick them out of their homeland.
Here was the Serbs' chance for revenge.
The heavy artillry made the Bulgarians crawl deep into their shelters All the excitement made my hair stand on end My blood was up (Explosions) The Allies smashed through the Bulgarian lines, and rolled north.
On 28 September, Bulgaria sued for peace.
When he heard this, Ludendorff suffered a fit, collapsing to the floor, foaming at the mouth.
The very next day, he learned the Allies had breached the Hindenburg line along the St Quentin canal, Germany's last fixed line of defence on the Western Front.
Two days later, on 1 October, Ludendorff summoned his senior staff to his headquarters in Spa.
Among them, Colonel Albrecht von Thaer.
Ludendorff stood up His face was pale and full of deep worry He said it was his duty to tell us that our military condition was terribly serious LUDENDORFF: Bulgaria has already been lost Austria and Turkey are both at the end of their strength Any day now our Western Front could be breached Therefore the Supreme Army Command demands that a proposal for bringing about peace be made without delay Ludendorff's stark decision to ask for an armistice, or cease-fire, was a terrible shock.
Generals quietly sobbed.
When Ludendorff left the room, Thaer followed him.
I grabbed his right arm with both hands and said ''Your Excellency can it be true? Is that the last word? Am I awake or dreaming?'' I was compltely beside myself He remained calm and gentle and said to me with a deeply sorrowful smile ''Unfortunately that is how it is and I see no other way out'' To the German people in October 1918, the prospect of an armistice seemed heaven-sent.
A great sigh of relief escapes from the lips of the tormented nation ''This means peace'' you can hear at every corner of the streets and ''peace'' smiles in the eyes of every little shop girl the baker's or grocer's Germany's soldiers had kept her politicians in the dark about the string of military disasters.
So the news that they wanted an armistice came as a bolt from the blue.
The deputies were absolutely broken Ebert turned white as a sheet and didn't utter a single word Stresemann looked as if he'd had an accident Secretary Walow is believed to have left the room saying ''The only thing left to do is to shoot oneself in the head'' But peace talks were still a way off.
First, the terms of the cease-fire would have to be settled.
Germany approached US President Woodrow Wilson, asking him to broker the Armistice with the Allies.
They chose him, because he'd already proposed a peace plan, the Fourteen Points.
French Prime Minister Clemenceau was unimpressed.
Fourteen points? The good Lord has only ten Wilson's points were an idealistic package of liberal principles, including rights to national self-determination, and a League of Nations to watch over it all.
Germany believed Wilson would secure a fair deal for them on this basis.
We are ready to be just to the German people to deal fairly with the German power as with all others To propose anything but justice to Germany would be to renounce and dishonour our own cause But Wilson also insisted Germany had to admit defeat, and democratise.
And Britain and France didn't want to talk about a new world order until the war was over.
While the politicians argued, the fighting raged on.
Germany's U-boats continued to sink Allied ships in the Atlantic.
And as her armies retreated across France, they looted and laid waste.
14-year-old Yves Congar had kept a diary throughout the German occupation of his home town of Sedan.
He longed for freedom, but dreaded the price the French would have to pay for it.
So here it is The great moment we've spent the last four years waiting hoping begging for And yet it brings with it the horror of bombing Gas fire perhaps death We may never see our friends again Many might be killd the entire town destroyed Our one great hope is an armitice The First World War did not go quietly.
The final months were more lethal than the trench war of past years had been.
Men now had to leave the safety of trenches and cross open ground, with little place to hide from sweeping machine-gun and shellfire.
British casualties in autumn 1918 were higher than those exactly a year before, during the terrible battle of Passchendaele the epitome of trench slaughter.
(Distant explosions) And the closer to peace, the harder it was to bear the losses.
It was a slaughterhouse just a mass of mangled flesh and blood Bob's head was hanging off You coulnd't tell which was Harris and which was Kempton What was left of them was in pieces We knew the enemy was beaten After three years in France and the end so near Bob killed Harris who'd left a young bride killed Jimmy Fooks whose time was nearly up killed Kempton who also was due for leave killed General Haig had seemed careless with his men's lives at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
Now he argued for stopping the war without a total defeat of the Germans.
The Britih alone might bring the enemy to his knees but why expend more Britih lives and for what? French General Charles Mangin insisted this would only store up trouble for the future.
No no no! We must go right into the heart of Germany The Germans will not admit they were beaten It is a fatal error and France will pay for it But with winter setting in, any invasion of Germany would have to wait till spring 1919.
By then, the Germans might have renewed their strength.
Marshal Foch believed France would get what she wanted by negotiation.
No need to battle on to Berlin.
So the Allies set out to achieve on paper what their armies had not done in the field obtain Germany's unconditional surrender.
Foch chose to meet the Germans in Compiégne, 45 miles northeast of Paris, in a secluded forest through which a railway line conveniently ran.
In his train on 8 November, Foch handed the armistice conditions to politician Matthias Erzberger, leader of the German delegation.
Erzberger was visibly shaken by the terms Germany would have to accept just to obtain a cease-fire.
Germany would have to evacuate Belgium and France, surrender her fleet, and pay compensation.
The Allies would continue their blockade, disarm the Germans and occupy the left bank of the Rhine.
Germany was being forced to capitulate.
Meanwhile, the country Erzberger represented was falling apart, its cities swept by revolution.
(Shouting) The German people, exhausted by war and hunger, wanted democracy in, and the Kaiser out.
(Cheering) But it was the German Army which forced the Kaiser to abdicate.
He asked his generals to turn the Army against the people.
But the generals refused.
The Army will return home in good order under its general but not under the command of Your Majesty It no longer stands behind Your Majesty The Prussian dynasty of Frederick the Great was over.
The next day, the Kaiser slipped into exile in Holland.
He would live long enough to hear that Germany had beaten France in 1940.
He never accepted that in 1918 his army had been defeated.
For 30 years the Army was my pride Now after four and a half brilliant years of war with unprecedented victories it was brought down by a stab in the back from the dagger of the revolutionaries at the very moment when peace was within reach Most Germans rejoiced at the news that the Kaiser had gone.
I felt as if a heavy weight had suddenly been lifted from my heart This definitely means the armitice will be signed Back in the forest at Compiégne, Erzberger now found himself representing the German Republic.
At 5am on 11 November, he signed the Armistice.
Hostilities temporarily cease 11:00 today when all offensive action will cease Present outpost line to be maintained and no troops to pass east of it other than road et cetera reconnaisance and working parties No conversation with enemy to be allowed (Silence) MAN The most remarkable feature was the uncanny silence The war was over MAN Peace and safety was a new thing It could not be grasped in a moment MAN A dreadful blow! I was just beginning to enjoy it No more slaughter no more maiming no more mud and blood No more shovelling bits of men's bodies and dumping them into sandbags No more writing those dreadfully difficult letters to the next of kin of the dead A strange and unreal thought was running through my mind I had a future It was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
(Cheering and whistling) A great cheer arose all along the line We could hear the men 1000 yards in front raising holy hell The French behind our position were dancing shouting and waving bottles of wine We were stupefied to see crowds of Boche running over to us between the minefields with their hands up and yelling like mad They were crazy for cigarettes and chocolate We had some burned rice that our boys woulnd't eat and they fell on it like wolves Our soliers were choked with emotion I thought about my family about all the women of France Except those who are alone and who cry One great wave of joy swept round the world and found its way to every nook and cranny No-one was more delighted than our African soliers who cheered themselves hoarse Everybody came out Disabled old men, old women in slippers and housewives leaving lunch on the stove I wept with joy 5 000 Indian soliers lit their torches The hilltops burst into fire with scores of bonfires I found myself arm in arm with soliers I had never seen before I forgot where we went toured the streets and sang and sang The significance of what it means was overwhelming - peace (Cheering) People whose lives were shaped by the war went home.
People the world did not yet know.
Ernest Hemingway, Bertolt Brecht, Harold Macmillan, Vera Brittain, Charles de Gaulle, Josef Tito, Benito Mussolini, David Ben-Gurion, Mustafa Kemal.
And one of the most insignificant of them all for now.
Adolf Hitler.
The German armies in France and Belgium headed home.
How we had looked forward to this moment We used to picture it as the most splendid event of our lives And here we are now humbled our soul torn and bleeding But we can be proud of our performance Never before has a nation a single army had the whole world against it and stood its ground We protected our homeland They never got into Germany In mid-December 1918, the first German troops arrived in Berlin.
The people welcomed them as an army with no cause to feel ashamed.
The men wore green laurel wreaths over their steel helmets The machine guns were garlanded with green branches Many a soldier had a child or a sweetheart on his flower-wreathed horse A feeling of confidence of fresh hope in the future seems to have returned with the troops Germany's new Republican Chancellor Friedrich Ebert reinforced the dangerous illusion that they had not been beaten in this war.
I salute you who return unvanquished from the field of battle The Allies were in no doubt who had beaten whom.
Allied troops moved into Germany and began their watch on the Rhine.
The German fleet was surrendered to Britain.
And the Allies assembled in Paris to dictate the terms of the peace.
(Hooter) US President Woodrow Wilson crossed the Atlantic to put his idealism to the test.
We have used the great words "right" and "justice" and now we are to prove whether or not we understand those words and how they are to be applied But the world had not stood still between the end of the war and the start of the peace talks.
(Cheering) On 22 November 1918, the Belgian King Albert came home in triumph to Brussels.
Occupied lands had been won back.
The French repossessed Alsace-Lorraine.
What a moving welcome! The people were so happy and smiling Some were pale and cried while they greeted us They all speak absolutely pure French They really are French all those locals We were treated like victors, like saviors These scenes confirmed that France and Belgium had been liberated from an evil grip, that this was a victory for the Allies.
And in Eastern Europe, new nations arose out of shattered empires.
They didn't wait for the Peace Conference to bring them self-determination.
They tore down all signs of foreign rule, and put up new frontiers.
Poland carved a vast territory out of Germany and Russia.
Czechoslovakia took land from Austria and Hungary.
And Serbia realised the aim she had started the war over, by founding her own Slav superstate.
The Peace Talks would recognise these new nations.
They did not create them.
27 countries met in Paris to divide the spoils and define the peace.
The losers were not invited.
We are going into these negotiations with our mouths full of fine phrases and our brains seething with dark thoughts The big decisions were made by the Council of Four: Prime Ministers Orlando of Italy, Lloyd George of Britain, Clemenceau of France and US President Wilson.
All liberals, but with very different agendas and forceful personalities.
Arguments between Lloyd George and myself were so violent Wilson had to interpose between us with outstretched arms saying pleasantly ''I have never come across two such unreasonable men'' Clemenceau wanted Germany restrained for the sake of French security.
Orlando wanted more territory for Italy.
Lloyd George looked beyond Europe to safeguard the British Empire.
Wilson wanted his new world order, with justice and democracy for all.
But first there was the little matter of settling the war, and that would force Wilson to compromise his ideals.
The Big Four did not go into the talks planning to pin guilt for the war on Germany.
But when they realised how much the war had cost, they looked for someone to foot the bill.
France owed billions to Britain and America for financing her war.
Britain couldn't afford to waive the debt and America wouldn't.
So the Allies turned to Germany.
But she could only be made to pay up if she accepted blame for the war.
So the Allies included a clause pinning the guilt on Germany.
Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and associated governments and their national have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies On 7 May 1919, the German delegation came to collect the treaty, expecting to find an even-handed settlement infused with Wilson's sense of fair play.
They were horrified by what they read.
440 articles beating Germany into submission.
The Germans protested so vehemently, particularly against the requirement to admit war guilt, that Lloyd George worried that the Allies had gone too far.
A member of his own delegation, the renowned economist John Maynard Keynes, was openly critical.
He felt that forcing Germany to pay reparations could ruin Europe, politically and economically.
The policy of reducing Germany to servitude for a generation of degrading the lives of millions of human beings should be abhorrent and detestable But Clemenceau believed the terms were fully justified and Wilson's line had toughened.
He had wanted to treat Germany fairly, but as a liberal he was apalled, by the way she'd waged war, and as President of the United States, he wanted America's loans repaid.
It is a good thing that the terms should be so hard so that Germany may know what an unjust war means If the Germans won't sign then we must renew the war Germany did sign, on 28 June 1919, in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, five years to the day after the Sarajevo assassination that had triggered the war.
The settlement was far from perfect.
The much-touted principle that people should govern themselves was not applied outside Europe and imperialism was condoned.
But Wilson achieved his great goal, the creation of the first global forum, the League of Nations.
In the event, the Allies wound up with the worst of both worlds.
The Germans paid little in reparations, and the League of Nations proved powerless to force them.
And the Versailles terms left some Germans, like future Nazi Rudolf Hess, smouldering with resentment, with disastrous consequences.
The only thing that keeps me going is the hope for the day of revenge however far off it may be I wonder whether it'll happen in my lifetime Marshal Ferdinand Foch felt the Allies hadn't been tough enough and realised the world would have to go to war again.
This is not peace It is an armitice for 20 years He got it wrong by just 65 days.
Men were killed in the war's final hours, whose last letters did not reach home for weeks.
Men like Marius Saucaz, who wrote to his father in Morocco.
Dear Dad if I were to die in a future attack don't cry There's no point I would only be doing my duty and would die like many others for a noble cause a great ideal I am proud to be your son and I want to tell you today because who knows what the future holds I love you more than I have ever shown you Love and kisses Marius Around ten million soldiers were killed in the war, prompting Lloyd George's sardonic comment.
When I look at the appalling casualty lists I sometimes wish it had not been necessary to win so many great victories The tidy rows of crosses sanitise the deaths.
They often cover mass graves, with a man represented only by the part of him that could be found and identified.
Verdun in France has a huge vault, full of bones.
Some of the millions posted missing in the war, the place and circumstance of their death unknown.
No-one is certain how many civilians died, women, children and elderly caught in the mayhem of the Eastern Front: in the flight of the Serb nation in 1915, in the Armenian massacres, in occupied France and Belgium.
Then, in 1918, influenza broke out, eventually killing 20 million soldiers and civilians around the world.
20 million men were wounded by the war, of whom several million were badly mutilated.
The French called one category the ''gueules cassées'' - the ''broken faces''.
Some were given human masks to hide their wounds.
New faces, new legs, new arms New minds were more difficult.
No-one really knew what to do with the victims of shell shock.
Soldiers with a range of disorders were filmed, including 19-year-old Private Preston, his memory blank, responsive only to the word ''bombs''.
Over the decades which followed, the suffering and the dying and the sense of futile waste, central themes in the war's poetry, came to dominate our perceptions.
Come back, come back, You didn't want to die, And all this war's a sham, a stinking lie, And the glory that our fathers laud so well, A crowd of corpses freed from pangs of hell.
But in its immediate aftermath, when the memorials went up around the world, the First World War was not seen solely in terms of senseless slaughter.
Their designs and inscriptions defined the war in positive terms.
For defence against aggression For love of one's country For glory So much hardship so much heroism and now such overwhelming glory Anything after this can be no more than an anticlimax Germany, too, celebrated victory where she could.
A gigantic monument was built in 1927 at Tannenberg, to commemorate Germany's triumph over the Russians in 1914.
It was inaugurated by Field Marshal Hindenburg.
The war may have been lost, but the dead were proclaimed as heroes, the struggle itself honoured.
Though the aim for which I fought was not to be achieved we learned once and for all to stand for a cause and if necessary to fall as befitted men Many Allied memorials spelt out the values felt to be at stake during the war.
In the stained-glass window in Canterbury University, New Zealand, the Central Powers are depicted as the dragon of Brutality & lgnorance.
The Allied troops have Humanity and Justice on their side, and are naturally victorious.
The years after the war were defined by the search for significance in the loss.
National symbols, like the Cenotaph and the Unknown Warrior, helped answer the question in so many people's minds, ''What did all the suffering mean?'' In 1920, the body of an unidentified British soldier was exhumed in France and transported home.
On 11 November, the Unknown Warrior was brought to Whitehall.
He did not seem an Unknown Warrior He was known to us all He was one of our boys To some women he was their own boy who went mising To many men wearing ribbons and badges he was one of their comrades It was the steel helmet the old ''tin hat'' lying there on the crimson of the flag which revealed him instantly Herbert Thompson had lost his eyesight in the war.
He could not see the proceedings, but he could feel them.
There was ineffable sadness and melancholy yet a message of inspiration and hope as if the spirit of the Unknown Solier had whispered ''Courage brother hope on'' I felt with my comrades almost ashamed that I had given so little while he who was sleeping by us had given all Vera Brittain had served in France as a nurse during the war.
She lost her fiancé, two close friends, her only brother.
She went back in 1921.
At Amiens we stood in the dimness of the once-threatened cathedral We looked up with reminicent melancholy at the still-boarded stained-glass windows smashed by German shells realising with sudden surprie that in my own mind the anger and resentment had died long ago leaving only an everlasting sorrow and a passionate pity The First World War had achieved its basic aim of containing German and Austrian militarism.
At least for the moment.
It moved Europe from the age of empires, to the era of nation states.
It gave Eastern European peoples their independence.
It gave a sense of national identity to Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
It helped Russia become the world's first communist state, and launched America as a world power.
The ideas for which men fought have proved lasting.
Democracy and liberalism, religious faith and nationalism.
(Explosions) But the First World War solved few of the grievances over which it was fought.
We live with its unresolved consequences in the Middle East, the Balkans, Ireland.
It wasn't the war to end all wars, not just because it left dangerous loose ends, but because it bequeathed the world a terrible message.
That war can effect change.
That war can fulfil ambitions.
that war can work The battlefields were tidied up, or ploughed over or just abandoned.
But they held their grip on the soldiers who had fought on them, on those who dared go back.
I saw again with a pang of anguish the trenches damp and muddy and was surpried to have lived there for four years So moving because of the endlss silence the gloomy barren deserted look Old churches pierced chipped ripped open And barbed wire everywhere Life resumes things remain the same We are the only ones who have changed (Somber Music)