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A Defeat Foretold

The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that shaped our modern world. Erik Sass is covering the events of the war exactly 100 years after they happened. This is the 198th installment in the series. 

August 21, 1915: A Defeat Foretold 

“He looked at me sideways with a very odd expression on his face,” Winston Churchill later wrote of his encounter with Secretary of War Lord Kitchener on August 21, 1915, shortly before a momentous cabinet meeting. Churchill continued:

I saw that he had some disclosure of importance to make, and waited. After appreciable hesitation he told me that he had agreed with the French to a great offensive in France. I said at once that there was no chance of success. He said that the scale would restore everything, including of course the Dardanelles. He had an air of suppressed excitement like a man who has taken a great decision of terrible uncertainty, and is about to put it into execution. 

Later Churchill repeated his objections, warning the cabinet that the attack “could only lead to useless slaughter on a gigantic scale. I pointed out that we had neither the ammunition nor the superiority in men necessary to warrant such an assault on the enemy’s fortified line…” His forebodings proved all too accurate. Going into the Battle of Loos on September 25, 1915, everyone seemed to know that – as Kitchener himself admitted to the cabinet –  “the odds were against a great success.” In short, it was a defeat foretold. 

The Shell Crisis 

By mid-1915, a series of defeats and Pyrrhic victories at Neuve Chapelle, Aubers Ridge and Festubert left little doubt that the British Expeditionary Force lacked sufficient heavy artillery and ammunition to batter through German defenses on the Western Front, at least in the near term. The small prewar British Army simply didn’t have the firepower required for modern warfare, and it would take time to catch up. 

The ammunition shortage became public knowledge in the spring of 1915 with the “Shell Crisis,” which forced Prime Minister Herbert Asquith to form a new coalition government, including the Welsh Radical David Lloyd George in the newly created cabinet position of Minister of Munitions. But there was no way the shortfall could possibly be remedied in just a few months, requiring as it did a sweeping overhaul of British manufacturing including construction of new factories, streamlined procurement processes, and the passage of new labor laws and trade union agreements (principally to allow women to work in war factories). 

This situation was known to all, but especially to top officials. On August 21, when the Canadian Prime Minister Robert Borden asked when the British Army would have enough ammunition to resume the offensive, the Conservative politician Bonar Law estimated it would take at least five months, while Churchill said they wouldn’t be ready until the middle of the following year. But the attack would proceed in late September regardless.

Pleas for Help 

The British were moved to action, against their better judgment, by pleas for help from their Russian allies – or more precisely, their French allies pleading on behalf of their Russian allies. 

Actually France’s civilian leaders, stung by defeats at Champagne, St. Mihiel, and Artois, weren’t exactly eager to launch a new offensive either; in fact on August 6, 1915, President Raymond Poincare delivered a speech to the Chamber of Deputies calling for a defensive strategy on the Western Front. However chief of the general staff Joseph Joffre, asserting his authority as France’s top general, dismissed this idea and insisted on a new offensive. 

Joffre drew on a number of arguments: liberating the industrial areas of northern France would greatly increase French war-making capability, and he also feared that a long period of inactivity would undermine Allied morale, sapping the famous French élan. He also noted that the current balance of forces on the Western Front was more favorable than ever, pitting 132 Allied divisions (98 French, 28 British, and 6 Belgian) against 102 German divisions – but this window of opportunity probably wouldn’t last. 

Above all, however, he pointed to the need to help the Russians, currently making enormous sacrifices in the Great Retreat, by forcing the Germans to withdraw some of their forces from the Eastern Front. Privately he warned that in the absence of a new effort on the Western Front, the Russians might feel compelled to make a separate peace with the Central Powers – leaving its Western Allies France and Britain to face Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire alone. 

On August 16 to 19, 1915, Kitchener traveled to France to meet with Joffre and other top Allied commanders, and it was apparently during these meetings that Joffre persuaded Kitchener (who like Churchill and Poincare had previously favored a defensive strategy) that France and Britain had to go on the offensive again (top, Kitchener is in the center, Joffre to his right). Citing the prewar Franco-Russian Alliance, Joffre made it clear that France would attack alone if need be, leaving Kitchener little choice but to commit Britain to join the attack, or risk a grave diplomatic rupture with France. 

Douglas Haig, commander of the British First Army chosen to attack at Loos, recorded Kitchener’s statements at a meeting on August 19, 1915: 

The Russians, he said, had been severely handled and it was doubtful how much longer their Army could withstand the German blows. Up to the present, he had favoured a policy of active defence in France until such time as all our forces were ready to strike. The situation which had arisen in Russia caused him to modify these views. He now felt the Allies must act vigorously in order to take some of the pressure off Russia, if possible. 

After Kitchener informed the British cabinet of his plans on August 21, overriding Churchill’s concerns, the following day British Expeditionary Force commander Sir John French met with Joffre and Ferdinand Foch, the commander of the French armies in the north, to plan the attack. 

Joffre’s grand strategy called for two simultaneous attacks at opposite ends of the German salient in northern France – smashing through the enemy lines and advancing in a giant pincer movement, thereby threatening the German armies with encirclement and so forcing them to withdraw. 

To the east, in Champagne, the French Second and Fourth Armies would attack the German Third Army (with an assist from the French Third Army) with a total of 27 divisions, in what became known as the Second Battle of Champagne. Meanwhile on the northwestern side of the salient, the British First Army and French Tenth Army would attack the German Sixth Army along a 20-mile front stretching from Arras to La Bassée, centered on the village of Loos. The French were committing 17 French divisions to this attack, also called the Third Battle of Artois, while the British contribution would include six British divisions containing 75,000 infantry, as well as two cavalry corps, for a total of eleven divisions. At the same time the British Second Army would make a secondary attack to tie down German forces near Ypres. 

The plan was doomed from the start. To make up for the shortfall in artillery, the attack at Loos would be preceded by the first British use of poison gas in the war, with 5,500 cylinders releasing 150 tons of chlorine gas against the German lines – but the British, inexperienced in gas warfare, discovered this wasn’t enough to achieve decisive results, and in some cases shifting wind blew the gas back on to British troops.

Even worse, the plan didn’t allow the British generals to choose the ground for the attack, meaning British troops would find themselves advancing across a broad, flat plain in front of German guns – terrain already dismissed by Haig as totally unsuitable for an infantry attack earlier in August. Finally, the attack completely lacked the element of surprise, as the Germans couldn’t fail to notice the huge preparations behind the Allied lines; in fact some British troops recorded Germans putting up mocking notes above their trenches in August and September, asking when the attack would take place. 

The Sinking of the Arabic 

After Secretary of State Robert Lansing’s stern note to Berlin in late July, the argument between the U.S. and Germany over the latter’s campaign of unrestricted U-boat warfare remained unresolved, as the Germans stalled, hoping American indignation over the sinking of the Lusitania would slowly subside. But the controversy took center stage against in late August, following the sinking of a British passenger liner, the Arabic, resulting in 44 deaths including three Americans. 

On August 19, 1915, the German submarine U-24, under Kapitanleutenant Rudolf Schneider, sank the Arabic (below) in the Celtic Sea about 50 miles south of the Irish coast, not far from where the Lusitania was sunk by U-20 in May. Schneider later claimed that he believed the Arabic was trying to ram the sub (a common tactic), prompting him to fire a torpedo without warning. However many in the U.S. believed the attack was deliberate. 

The deaths of three more Americans in a submarine attack, coming just a month after the U.S. note warning that further attacks of this kind would be regarded as “deliberately unfriendly,” finally brought the diplomatic crisis to a head. On August 22, a statement from the White House seemed to imply that President Wilson was considering war against Germany if the sinking proved to be deliberate. The response in Berlin was panic.

See the previous installment or all entries.

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25 Amazing Netflix Hacks to Enhance Your Viewing Experience
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We know you love watching the hottest movies and TV shows on Netflix, but are you getting the most out of the streaming service? If you want to binge-watch like a pro, any—or all—of these amazing hacks can help.

1. USE CATEGORY CODES TO FIND WHAT YOU REALLY WANT.

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If you feel like you’re seeing the same movies and TV shows on your Netflix homepage again and again, that's because the streaming company caters its recommendations to your taste through a highly specific algorithm. But if you’re in the mood for something different, Netflix breaks down each movie and TV show into more than 76,000 hidden categories, which are as broad as "Action & Adventure” or as detailed as “Critically-Acclaimed Witty Movies from the 1930s."

You can find category codes within the Netflix URL itself: The last four numbers in the web address correspond to each category code. It looks something like this: http://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/1365. So if you want “Exciting B-Horror Movies,” type in “2852” at the end of the URL (replacing the 1365 in the example)

. Do you want to find something in “Feel-Good Sports Movies For Ages 8 to 10?” That’s “855.” “Visually-Striking Movies For Ages 5 to 7?” Type in “2851” to unlock the category.

Check out a very extensive list of Netflix category codes here.

2. GET THE SUPER NETFLIX EXTENSION FOR BETTER VIDEO QUALITY.

If you’re watching Netflix via the Google Chrome browser, there’s a free extension called Super Netflix that can enhance your viewing experience. Once installed, the extension allows you to pick your video streaming quality instead of Netflix automatically doing it for you. This is ideal if you want the best video quality at home on your Wi-Fi connection, or if you want to reduce it on the go to save your data.

Super Netflix can also automatically skip TV show intros, blur plot descriptions and image thumbnails to prevent spoilers, enhance video brightness and color contrast, and speed up the video (just in case you want to binge-watch Stranger Things as quickly as you can).

3. MAKE EXTRA ROOM ON YOUR HOME SCREEN.

From American Vandal to Wormwood, Netflix Originals are highly entertaining and definitely worth watching. But sometimes you want to watch something that isn't produced by the streaming service. No Netflix Originals is a Google Chrome extension that does exactly what its name suggests: removes all Netflix Originals from your home screen, so you can see everything else Netflix has to offer.

4. DISABLE THE DREADED "ARE YOU STILL WATCHING?" PROMPT.

Are you tired of hitting that “Next Episode” button when you’re binge-watching a new TV show? The Never Ending Netflix Chrome extension puts an end to that inconvenience. After you install it, the extension allows you to skip titles sequences, automatically play the next episode, and disables the dreaded “Are You Still Watching?” prompt that pops up every couple of hours. The extension even lets you search Netflix by genre.

5. ADD NOTES TO YOUR FAVORITE TITLES.

Created by the good people at Lifehacker, Flix Plus is a Chrome extension that allows you to completely customize your Netflix viewing experience. It comes with 18 built-in customization settings, such as hiding spoiler descriptions and images, disabling a shrinking screen during end credits, and pinning your “My List” page to the top of the home screen. But the best feature is the ability to add notes to titles. Now you can add the reason why you added Wild Wild Country to your list or add a note about when Disney’s The Jungle Book will expire from the streaming service.

6. SEARCH HIDDEN CATEGORIES RIGHT FROM THE HOME SCREEN.

FindFlix: Netflix Secret Category Finder is a Google Chrome extension or Firefox add-on that allows you to search through all of the hidden category codes without leaving Netflix itself, instead of scrolling through a never-ending list on a separate website. Once installed, just search for a genre or whatever you’re in the mood to watch like “movies starring Sean Connery” or “movies for children between ages 2 and 4 years old.”

7. HOST A NETFLIX PARTY FOR ALL YOUR FRIENDS.

Do you want to watch BoJack Horseman with your significant other, but they are on the other side of the country? Don’t worry, Netflix Party has got your back! It's a handy Chrome extension that allows you to watch Netflix with anyone, even if they’re not in the same room, city, or even state.

After you install the extension, you can create a shareable link of what’s on Netflix. The link opens to the exact movie or TV show you’re watching at that moment, so you can watch together at the same time and perfectly synced. It even comes with a group chat feature, so you can comment on the action on the screen. Netflix Party is perfect for people in long-distance relationships, so you’ll never be accused of “Netflix Cheating” again.

In addition, if you’d like to take the party on the road, use Rabbit for Android and iOS. It’s a platform that allows you to watch Netflix, Hulu, Crunchyroll, YouTube, or just about any video streaming platform with your friends via mobile app or Chrome extension. You can even message or video chat with each other while you’re watching an episode of Ozark on the go!

8. AUTOMATICALLY SKIP OVER EVERY SHOW'S INTRO.

Are you sick of clicking the “Skip Intro” button when you’re watching a TV show on Netflix? SkipFlix is a handy Chrome extension that skips all intros automatically, so you don’t have to. Now you can spend more time binge-watching The Crown instead of fiddling with a mouse.

9. WATCH IN THE HIGHEST QUALITY HD POSSIBLE.

While web browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have a lot of useful extensions and add-ons, respectively, they're not the best browsers for streaming Netflix in the highest quality HD possible. Chrome (on Mac and Windows), Firefox, and Opera tap out streaming resolution at 720 pixels, while browsers like Apple’s Safari and Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Edge browsers delivers Netflix in full 1080 pixels.

It’s also important to consider your Wi-Fi connection. Netflix recommends at least 5.0 megabits per second download speed for HD quality. (For more helpful tips, here are some simple ways to boost your home Wi-Fi network.)

10. SEE A MOVIE'S DROP-OFF RATE BEFORE YOU START IT.

Enhancer by Simkl is a wonderful Google Chrome extension that works over multiple streaming platforms, including Netflix, Hulu, and Crunchyroll. Once you install it and register an account, you can hover your computer’s cursor over any title to reveal its IMDb score, TV rank, and even its drop-off rate—which means you can now see how many others stopped watching midway through a movie or TV show. And since it syncs with other streaming services, you can track your viewing habits across multiple services.

11. SORT MOVIES BY YEAR.

While Netflix features the ability to sort movies and TV shows by genre, there’s a simple hack that can also sort chronologically by year (at least in a web browser). Just go to a category page like horror, drama, or comedy and look for a small box with four dots inside on the upper right hand side of the page. It will then expand the “Suggestions for You” dropdown menu, which gives you the option to sort by year of release with the most recent titles at the top of the page and the older ones at the bottom. It can even sort in alphabetical or reverse alphabetical order.  

12. SAVE ON YOUR SUBSCRIPTION FEE WITH DISCOUNT GIFT CARDS.

Did you know you could pay your monthly bill with a Netflix gift card? Raise.com is a service where you can buy or sell gift cards for retailers like Target, CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid at a deep discount. If you buy one for, let’s say Rite Aid, at a 12 percent discount, you could then buy a Netflix gift card in-store to save money on your monthly bill. So if you buy a $100 Netflix gift card from Rite Aid, it would only cost you $88, which you could turnaround to save 12 percent on your Netflix bill, too.

In addition, you can even buy Netflix gift cards directly from Raise.com at a discount, but the savings won’t be as deep as ones from a retailer.

13. GET EASY ACCESS TO NON-NETFLIX REVIEWS.

While Netflix has its own user-generated rating system (thumbs up/thumbs down), you can use a trusty Google Chrome extension called RateFlix to add ratings from other rating aggregates. Once installed, IMDb ratings, “Rotten” or “Fresh” percentages, and Metacritic scores will appear in the movie's description.

14. BROWSE BY MICRO-GENRE, OR WHAT'S EXPIRING SOON.

So now that you know all about Netflix’s secret categories and codes, you have to admit that more than 76,000 micro-genres is far too many to remember. Luckily, Super Browse takes the most popular categories and makes it easy to navigate and scroll through the Netflix interface itself. Just click the genre you’d like to browse and the handy Google Chrome extension will do the rest. You can even browse by what’s new to Netflix and what’s expiring soon.

15. ROTATE THE VIDEO SO THAT BINGE-WATCHING IN BED ISN'T A LITERAL PAIN IN THE NECK.

This one is a game-changer! Instead of craning your neck to binge-watch Marvel’s Daredevil while lying down, Netflix Flip is a Chrome extension that will flip the video 90 degrees on your computer screen, so you can comfortably watch Netflix in bed. No more turning your laptop on its side to get a better viewing angle—Netflix Flip will do it for you.

16. BINGE-WATCH WHILE YOU WORK.

Sometimes you just want something playing in the background while you’re working on a spreadsheet, but it’s tough to always have video playing when there are other windows taking up space on your desktop. However, there’s a way to always have Netflix running in its own window that’s floating above everything else, if you watch it in a Helium web browser on a Mac.

Helium is a browser that keeps media playing in a transparent “floating” window that will never get lost behind other windows, even during task-switching. You can still click, double-click, drag, and scroll behind Helium and never interact with the micro-browser itself. It’s ideal for watching Netflix while working ... not that you would ever do that, of course.

17. FOCUS ON "WHAT'S NEW."

When it comes to new and old titles, Netflix is always adding to and subtracting from its catalog. To stay updated, you should take advantage of services like JustWatch or WhatsNewonNetflix.com to see all the great movies and TV shows that will appear or go away on Netflix.

18. VOLUNTEER TO TEST NEW FEATURES BEFORE THEY BECOME PUBLIC.

Do you want to be the first to try out new features from Netflix? The streaming service allows you to opt-in with “test participation,” which is where new features—such as new interfaces, new rating systems, and pre-roll trailers—are first rolled out. If you want to give it a shot, go to “Accounts,” then “Settings,” and look for the “Test Participation” toggle. Turn it on if you want to try the latest and greatest features from Netflix before everyone else.

19. ENABLE AUDIO DESCRIPTIONS SO THAT YOU DON'T MISS A THING.

If you can’t keep your eyes on a TV screen or mobile device, but still want to enjoy Netflix, there’s a handy little category hidden deep inside of the streaming service called “Audio Description” that offers narration explaining what the characters are doing on the screen. This hidden feature essentially turns your favorite movies and TV shows into an audiobook or a podcast.

It's chiefly seen on Netflix originals, but it’s perfect for anyone who wants to follow along with the latest episode of 13 Reasons Why or Grace and Frankie while taking a walk in the park.

20. CLEAR OUT YOUR “CONTINUE WATCHING” QUEUE.

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Over time, your “Continue Watching” queue can get overrun with half-watched Adam Sandler movies and episodes of The Ranch. (We're not judging.) You know you’re never going to finish Bright, so clear out your queue to make it cleaner and easier to navigate.

Go to “Account,” and then under “My Profiles” you’ll see an option for “Viewing Activity.” This is where Netflix stores everything you’ve ever watched on the streaming service. Simply click the “X” on anything you’d like to leave behind and Netflix will adjust your queue accordingly. And now you have more time for the things you actually want to watch.

This is also the method to use if you want to delete your Saturday afternoon binge-watching session of Fuller House before the other people on your Netflix account find out. (Again, we're not judging.)

21. STREAM IN 4K.

Streaming video in 1080p is so 2017; Netflix makes it possible to stream in full 4K resolution (2160p) with the streaming service adding new titles available in Ultra HD. If you meet all the requirements, like owning an Ultra HD TV, high-speed Internet (about 25 megabits per second downloads), and Premium subscription ($13.99 a month), you can access all of Netflix’s 4K content. Just type 4K or UltraHD into the search box to see all the titles available.

Please note, not every title on Netflix is presented in 4K, but it does offer more than 200 popular titles, including Alias Grace, Ugly Delicious, Chef’s Table, Okja, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Just be aware that this can eat through your data plan: Netflix estimates that UltraHD uses 7 GB an hour.

22. CREATE DIFFERENT PROFILES FOR YOUR MANY CONTENT-CONSUMING PERSONALITIES.

Every Netflix account comes with five profiles for your friends and family to use, but if you don’t want to give out your password, you could always use those spare profiles for any occasion. Since Netflix recommends things you might like based on each specific profile's viewing habits, you can “train” it for your mood or special event.

For example: You can create a profile that’s entirely filled with horror movies and TV shows for a Halloween party, and another with rom-coms for date night for some real “Netflix and Chill.”

23. SET PARENTAL CONTROLS.

If you have children and want them to enjoy Netflix, but not its mature content, you can set up a special four-digit PIN code that will restrict what they can and cannot access. Go to “Account” (which should open up a web browser) and under “Setting,” you’ll find “Parental Controls.” Once you click the link, you’ll be prompted to enter the account's password and then be asked to create a special PIN code.

Afterwards, you’ll be asked to set the age restriction for “Little Kids” all the way up to “Adults.” If your child tries to access something that’s too mature, a prompt will appear on the screen asking for the PIN code. And since the child wouldn’t know the code, he or she won't be able to watch Disjointed or Hot Girls Wanted.

24. DOWNLOAD TITLES FOR OFFLINE VIEWING.

If you want to watch Netflix, but know that you'll be offline for a good period of time—like on a cross-country flight—you can simply download the title to your Android, iOS, or Windows 10 device and watch it offline with the download feature. You can even download movies and TV shows in standard or high definition.

However, not every title available on the streaming service is available for download. Netflix has a category called “Available for Download,” which is located under the menu option, where you can see all of the titles that are available to watch offline. Just look for the download icon and remember to download the desired titles before you lose your internet connection. Also, if you have an Android device, you can download more titles with the extra space provided on an SD card.

25. REQUEST THAT YOUR FAVORITE (CURRENTLY UNAVAILABLE) TITLES BE ADDED.

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Netflix doesn’t have every title ever produced, and the titles they do have can leave on short notice as licensing deals expire. But if there’s something you want to watch and it never seems to be part of the streaming service’s ever-changing lineup, just ask Netflix directly for a movie or TV show and they might add it.

It might be a long shot, but you can actually request a new title for streaming. You can even call or start a live chat with Netflix to make a request. It just goes to show that the company is always on the lookout for more streaming content.

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Everything That's Leaving Netflix in June
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There’s a whole slew of new movies, TV shows, and specials arriving to Netflix in June, which means that it’s time to get rid of some beloved-but-aging titles. If you’ve been dying to binge-watch Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, you’d better hurry: seasons one through eight will disappear on June 16. Men in Black, My Left Foot, While You Were Sleeping, The Great Gatsby, and On Golden Pond will be waving bye-bye as well, so you’d better hurry up and start streaming. Here’s a list of everything that’s leaving Netflix in June.

JUNE 1, 2018

50 First Dates
8 Mile
Gridiron Gang
J. Edgar
Men in Black
My Left Foot
Neerja
Out of the Dark
Princess Kaiulani
The Angry Birds Movie
The Brothers Grimm
The Spy Next Door
The Young Victoria
Training Day
Untraceable
Vice
What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy
While You Were Sleeping

JUNE 2, 2018

Shark Men: Season 3

JUNE 8, 2018

Grace of Monaco

JUNE 9, 2018

The Trials of Muhammad Ali

JUNE 10, 2018

Bonnie and Clyde

JUNE 15, 2018

Drillbit Taylor
Naz & Maalik
The Giver
The Great Gatsby
Underdogs

JUNE 16, 2018

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown: Seasons 1-8
Backstreet Boys: Show 'Em What You're Made Of
Curious George
Super

JUNE 18, 2018

Cedar Cove: Seasons 1-3

JUNE 20, 2018

Cake

JUNE 21, 2018

Baby Daddy: Seasons 1-6

JUNE 22, 2018

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

JUNE 23, 2018

Curious George 3: Back to the Jungle

JUNE 25, 2018

Marvel Studios' Captain America: Civil War

JUNE 26, 2018

Alpha and Omega

JUNE 29, 2018

Bad Grandpa .5

JUNE 30, 2018

On Golden Pond

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