This week in 1917, the Bolsheviks began negotiating with the Germans and Austro-Hungarians for a peace treaty.
To make it clear that Russia was ‘‘under new management’’, the Bolsheviks started to publish secret treaties and agreements made by the Tsar’s Government.
As the Allied Powers had negotiated secret agreements with almost every power in the Great War, the revelations were awkward and embarrassing. Even President Woodrow Wilson, famed in his Fourteen Points supporting ‘‘transparent treaties after transparent negotiations’’, found the Bolshevik reality unpleasant and threatening.
Here was Germany’s opportunity to win the Great War.
A generous treaty with the Bolsheviks would have freed well over two million troops to move to the Western Front.
The Germans could have crushed the British and French before the overwhelming capacity of the United States could be brought to bear.
In April 1918, even the transfer of 48 Divisions (about 768000 men) from the East was enough to break the Western Front wide open during Operation Michael.
Instead, General Ludendorff would demand the creation of a new and vast German Empire from Russian territory. This would require two million troops to remain in the East after April 1918 to police it.
This week, despite Haig’s white-lipped fury, a Supreme War Council came into being.
Haig had promoted the idea of a council, believing he would be its leader. The Prime Minister distrusted Haig. He appointed General H. H. Wilson as the British member instead.
Worst of all, French General Ferdinand Foch was appointed its leader.
Meanwhile this week, the Sydney to Melbourne Motorcycle Reliability Rally stated it expected contestants with smaller motorbikes of less than 560cc to maintain a speed of 32km/h on the sections from Wangaratta to Benalla and from Benalla to Seymour.
Contestants with motorbikes of more than 560cc were expected to maintain 35km/h in the same sections. Failure to do so would mean the reduction in points for every minute late.
The Catholic Bishop of Sandhurst confirmed 162 children in Devenish and Benalla this week.
The Footscray Advertiser announced that Frederick Gorwell, a 24-year-old draper from Samaria Rd, Benalla had been awarded the Military Medal for bravery.
He and three other stretcher bearers had brought in two severely wounded Australians.
Fred had then gone back, searching for a third wounded man lying in no-man’s land. He had found the wounded soldier and, with help from an infantryman, had brought him to safety.
This was during the Battle of the Somme in July 1916. The area had been under intense artillery fire the whole time. The stress of war service and a gunshot wound received in 1915 would lead to Fred being invalided home in late 1918.
— John Barry, ANZAC Commemorative Working Party, Coo-ee — Honouring our WWI heroes