Soldiers Attack Russian Police; Protests Far from Front.
Wounded Soldiers Riot.
Special to The Great War Project
(22-24 September) There is growing trouble in Russia, and it threatens to undermine Russia’s continued ability to hold the line on the Eastern Front.
“In Russia,” writes historian Martin Gilbert, “discontent in the army found an outlet in whatever cause of protest was open to it.”
One episode is especially disturbing. According to Gilbert, on September 24th a century ago, “five hundred reservists attacked the police at a railway station in Petrograd in protest against the suspension of the Russian parliament, the Duma.”
This is not the only challenge to the Russian Tsar’s control over the Russian state. “Other protests,” reports Gilbert, “took place far behind the lines, in Rostov-on-Don and Astrakhan.”
Soon after that, Gilbert reports that rioting breaks out among 2,500 convalescing soldiers. “Even the wounded were raising their voices against the war, to which once mended, they would be returned.”
The effects of these protests reach far beyond the Russian front. Elsewhere in the East, reports Gilbert, “news of the disturbances casts a pall.”
Florence Farmborough, a British nurse with the Russian army on the front in Western Russia, writes in her diary on these days a century ago, “The news which reached us from Russia was far from good; rumors of internal disturbances were wafted to us as on an ill wind.”
She goes on with especially worrisome news.
“Bread, it was said, was growing scarce; in some parts famine already threatened to engulf the masses.”
“The thousands of refugees swarming into the cities and towns were followed by pestilence and crime.”
Developments elsewhere: great losses in the war at sea on both sides. The use of submarines on the German side usually produces the greatest losses. But at this time one hundred years ago, the heaviest naval toll comes with the death of 672 German sailors on the Prinz Albert. A British submarine sinks the German warship, leaving only three survivors.
On the Western Front the build-up for a major offensive continues. It’s not difficult to see all the signs, on both the Allied side and the German. According to war historian John Keegan, the Allies are building new roads, positions for supplies, determining the best spots for the deployment of troops and artillery batteries.
In response the Germans are reinforcing their defenses.
One development is especially ominous. Among the ordnance both the British and the French position near the French towns of Artois and Loos are thousands of chlorine gas shells.