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Romanian Campaign of 1916.The Invasion


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Splendid stuff, Andrei - thank you again for your heroic efforts to make this fascinating story accessible in English. Are you translating it all yourself, 'by hand', or are you using translation software? It is not a 'perfect' translation (as I know you are aware), but your narrative has an epic quality, and, if I may say so, your struggle to convey the story in English somehow mirrors the struggle of your countrymen against their enemies. Keep up the great work !

Mick

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Splendid stuff, Andrei - thank you again for your heroic efforts to make this fascinating story accessible in English. Are you translating it all yourself, 'by hand', or are you using translation software? It is not a 'perfect' translation (as I know you are aware), but your narrative has an epic quality, and, if I may say so, your struggle to convey the story in English somehow mirrors the struggle of your countrymen against their enemies. Keep up the great work !

Mick

Mick,

Thank you.Handmade!Well my English leaves a lot to be desired ,I am aware of this fact.I did had the brilliand ideea ,though, to buy an Oxford Dictionary,but which is very heavy,I must say.

Andrei

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The retreat of the Romanian Army ,after the Battle of Neajlov and Arges ,constitutes the most painful episode from the entire cmpaign so unfortunate of the year 1916.The conditions in which it was efectuated were very tragic and the sufferings imposed to the Army have been almost supernatural.It cost more victims than in the three months of fights preceeding it.

The weather has been exceptionally bad .Cold rains ,which were falling entire days ,one after the other,dug uot the roads ,fermented by thousands of men and by vehicles , transformed them in muddy ways;a winter ,which have rarely been seen ,followed to this unmerciful autumn.The troops in retreat had to go considerable stages daily,for which the physical powers of men and horses ,tired with exhaust ,missgivings and fights ,were not enaugh anymore.The effectives of the men and horses of the units have benn wasted ;the small units dissappeared alltogether;there were Divisions which barely numberd some hundreds of men .The services were lost by the units they belonged to ,so the replenisments were made by chance ,where ever they could.The troops suffered mostly by the lack of shelters ;most of the times they bivuacked under the clear sky,without fire.The horses of cavalry and artillery ,with the saddles not taken off by weeks ,with the backs only wounds ,fell terminated along the roads,where they were left to die.Some of the men were wearing the summer blouse they recieved when they have been mobilized.The marchings were penible ;most of the units were obliged to avoid the big roads ,where they were exposed to attacks of the columns of enemy Cavalry ,and to go straight over the field ,through bushes and ploughed land.The bridges being occupied by the enemy ,they had to cross through fords ,many times entering to chest in to the freezing water.

The Commandments were desorganizing ;the connection between them could not be kept ,and the tranzmitting of orders was made with much difficulty.Many times a troop received an order of operation which did not correspond anymore with the reality and which produced stops on to positions which have been well absolete.And from behind was following close by the enemy ,with high moral by the victory ,which had,next to the infantry units ,five Cavalry Divisions and which attacked continuously,forcing to separate one by the others the groups ,to turn their flanks and to cut their retreat,to capture them.Sometimes bigger or smalle units have been sacrificed ,many times regimentary trains,which could not advance anymore,have been abandoned ;in general the retreat towards the new positions could be made ,avoiding the catastrophe.It was the probe of superhuman endurance and of undefeated energy of the Romanian soldier.

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German desillusions

With all the important gain in territory ,which we were abandoning by our retreat,the Germans were not satisfied.It was obvious,that what preocupied them ,firstly ,were not the geographical objectives ,but the enemy fighting Army.Only the destroying and capturing of this Army would have meant decissive victory.The attention of the enemy Commanders will be now for the using of the critical moment of the detachment of the Romanian Armies by the positions in which they fought until now and by the enemy whith which they have been in fighting contact ,to begin the retreat towards the new positions .It was the most favorable occasion to attack them,surround them and destroy them.

The first desillusion of Falkenhayn was the retreat of the Group from Dragoslave ,in the night of 28-29th of November ."the move was executed with an extraordinary wit",writes Falkenhayn .General Morgen ,unpleasantly surprised in the morning of 29th in the face of the Romanian positions,abandoned over night, has to be thankful with the cheap glory of "conquering" of Cimpulung, evacuated.Our manoeuvre efectuated fast has obstacled the catching of the Romanian Group between Morgen Army and Kraftt Army,which was advancing from Pitesti ."Neither this-adds Falkenhayn-did not succeed ,behind the hasty retreat of the enemy ,to cut his retreat".

Also ,as less it acomplished to Falkenhayn the catching of the I-st Romanian Army in retreat on line Pitesti -Titu,between Kraftt Group ,which was following her on the left flank and the Group of Divisions 41st and 103rd ,of Kuhne Army,which were following her on the right and cut the retreat to Titu ;the I-st Army could pour through the empty space between Tirgoviste-Buftea -Titu over Dimbovita River,towards East.

The greatest deception of the German Commander was the unseccess of the plan of cutting the retreat of Danube Defence Group,in the wake of Neajlov defeat .This mission given to Divisions 11th and 109th ,as well as to Division 7th of Cavalry ,did not succeed because of the determined resistance of the Romanian troops in sectors Mihailesti and Bolintin.

Not even the pursuit over Arges River in direction Sabarului was not happier.Falkenhayn expresses with melancholy:The German Army "was not able to advance as quick as they wanted to.The stubborn resistance of the enemy arierguard on all roads obstacled it,such that it forced us at very often unfoldings of fights".Ludendorff reports the insuccess of this last try in this way:"At 4th of December started a new attack ,which Romanians went around it with much cleverness".

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Awaiting for the end

The Chambers are summoned for the day of 25th of November/8th December at Iasi.The Conservative Party decides not to attend ,because the Constitution says that the Government is in Bucharest ,and Iasi(which became the Capital under occupation) are occupied by a foreign Army (Russians),entered in the country with the violation of the Constitution.

The authorities are taking the last measures of evacuation,instituting as military governor ,the old General Angelescu ,with almost dictatorial powers;he acomplishes very well his role ,of applying drastic measures faced with the spreaders of false news and of panic provokings.The ministers are leaving Bucharests in the day of 3rd of December ,leaving the ministries on the hands of some general secretars ellected amongst the persons with connections,or at least with simpathies for the Germans.It is given to Marghiloman ,being head of the Red Cross ,the fonds -two millions Lei(Romanian currency)-necessary for the well being ,for some while ,of the hospitals with sick and military wounded,as well as for the wage of the City Sergeants ;it was counted on the laws of the Internationa Law,which ensures the protection of the Red Cross in times of war,as well as on the consideration which the Germans had for Marghiloman because of his political attitude ,that the hospitals will not have to suffer.The guard of the Public Order was left to Lupu Costache ,partizan of Carp ,installed as replacement for Internal Minister ,and of the fresh germanofil ,Reserve General Mustata,invested in extremis with the dignity of interimar Mayor of the Capital.It also remained in his place Emil Petrescu ,the Mayor of the city.

Numerous important persons have remained in the Capital to have the same fate and sufferings as the population and to protect her as much as possible ,keeping the moral up ,by their presence;even the prime minister has given the good example,leaving his old mother Pia Bratianu ,respected widow of Ion C. Bratianu ,as well as his three sisters.

The Mayor of the Capital has been given the mission to acomplish the formality of surrendering the city ;to ease his sad mission ,it has been set to his dispozition ministers of Holland and of United States ,with the hope that it will take place without to much frictions,being that Bucharest has been declared unfortified city and undefended by armed forces.

At 4th of December ,the General Head Quarter Prezan was moved from Bragadiru to Urziceni .The road of Bucharest was defended now only by the arierguard which was covering the retreat.

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Occupying Bucharests

At 5th of September ,Mackensen was on Sabarului line ,ahead of Bucharests forts.At 5 in the morning ,he has send as parliamentary Captain Seidlitz ,accompanied by the former profesor of rhe Evanghelic School of Bucharest,Lange,as interpreter ,with the following letter addressed to "the Commander of Bucharest Fortress":"The Romanian Campaign Army is defeated.The value of the Russian help you could Your Excellency appreciate it by yourself,better than anyone else.The allied troops of the Central Powers are on the brink of attacking Bucharest.Nor the Romanian Campaign Army,neither the Russian Detachments of Aid,could not stop her.I presume that Your Excellency are aware of the effects of the heavy artillery of 305 and 420 mm from the seize of Liege ,Namur and Anvers [11].The fortifications of Bucharest cannot stand it.Numerous batteries are installed for bombarding Bucharest .To spear the Capital of Romania and its inhabitants of the might of such an attack and to avoid a blood shed unuseful,I invite Your Excellency to surrender without conditions the Garrison of the City.I guarantee the sparing of the city ,as its surrender would be made imediately and regulated to the German Military Authorities.If this will be refused ,Your Excellency and the city will suffer the consequences ".Signed:Feldmarshal Mackensen and his Chief of General Staff,General Tappen.

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The parliamentary has been escorted to the Geniu Barracks of Cotroceni ,where there were all the authorities tasked with the order,and Generals Commanders of Great Units of Danube Army.The Romanian Commander gave back the letter without opening it ,with the explanation that there is no more "Fortress" of Bucharest ,nor armed forts ,neither troops of campaign to defend open fields.

In the morning of 6th of December ,as Mackensen was receiving his parliamentary with this answer ,the avanguard of Cavalry and Infantry of Schmettow Corps and from the 115th German Division ,coming from North-West ,were arriving at Chitila Fort which,they found deserted alltogether ,they were in a haste to "conquer it".Entushiast telegrams were reeling Berlin and Viena about the fall of the "line of forts".Few Romanian Companies from the remains of the 2/5 Division fought with heroism between Chitila and Mogosoaia ,delaying the advance of the enemy in Bucharest ,to give time to the last of the troops scatterd to retreat from Bucharest .At 12 ,a Cavalry Detachment ,a Company of Prusian Grenadiers and another Infantry Company from Northern Alsacia ,entered Bucharest ,withot fight ,through Calea Grivitei.

In the morning of the day ,the Mayor of the Capital,accompanied by the Minister of United States ,Vopicka ,by the Minister of Holland ,Wredemburch and some other persons ,went to meet the enemy troops on driveway Bucharest-Giurgiu ,to make the surrender of the City.They waited at Bragadiru for three hours in vain,without meeting any enemy patrol.At 12 and a half ,a group of German officers,ahead with Prince de Schaumburg-Lippe,former secretary to the German Legation of Bucharest ,present themselves to the City Hall ,asking in the name of Falkenhayn the surrender of Bucharest .They have been given an address with the following content:"23 XI(c.XII) 916;12 and a half(hour of Vien) p.m.The Supreme Commander of the Allied Troops which advances against Bucharest .Bucharest ,the capital of Romania ,are completely evacuated by troops and will not oppose any resistance whatsoever .The Mayor,Emil C. Petrescu ,in the name of the quiet inhabitants of the Capital city ,asks Your Excellency to take all the measures for the normal life to remain asured ,in the interest of the occupation troops and also for the peaceful inhabitants citizens.The Mayor of the capital Bucharest"

At 2 in the afternoon ,Mackensen enters with the automobile in the city through Calea Rahovei .He had the unpleasantness to notice that his camarad Falkenhayn arrived before him.Bucharests have been occupied by the IX-th German Army .

There were exactly 100 days since the entering of Romania in the War

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The retreat of the II-nd Romanian Army

The retreat of the troops of the II-nd Army towards the new positions of resistance was made very hard.There were extremely delicate technical problems ,which became even harder because of the circumstances in which it had to be executed.The weather was very bad;cold,rain,snowwings.The terrain of the most difficult:hills to climb and valleys to descend ,filled with muds sticking to the boots making heavy the walking.The moral of the troop was ,naturaly,down,because of the retreat.The pursuit of the enemy was very weak at the right wing of the II-nd Army ,in region Buzau-Predeal;it was ,on the contrary,very active at the left wing ,Cimpulung Group-made out of Romanian Divisions 12th and 22nd-which had to go a very long march,to be able to arrive in Ploiesti region where it had to connect with the I-st Romanian Army.

Behind Cimpulung Group was Morgen Corps -Divisions 76th ,12th Bavarian and the 8th Brigade Alpine Austro-Hungarian .This Corps,which did not know until now,in fair fight on the Front of Dragoslave but only defeats,found now,by the retreat of Romanians ,the occassion to show its strength in pursuit.The situation of the Romanian Group was really very dangerous one:completely isolated ,without any cover in the right and left ,had to execute a retreat of almost 93 Miles ,with the enemy tightly connected by its heels.The precipitated retreat of the right wing of the I-st Army which,at 15th of December was at Priboieni was uncovering the left flank of Namaesti Group.This one had to execute a converssion of 90 degrees ,with the left behind ,having enemy troops in front and behind the going around flank .From Cimpulung ,Morgen started the advance fast towards South-West with three goals:to pursue and destroy the Romanian Group of Cimpulung in retreat,to cut the retreat of the Romanian troops from Prahova Valley and to get out in front of the bulk of the I-st Army ,Romanian,which was operating the retreat between Ploiesti and Bucharest.

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An unclever manoeuvre ,in the moment of detaching of the troops by their positions,made the enemy to be able to sneak through Arges Valley towards Suslanesti ,separating in this way the 12th Romanian Division by the 22nd Romanian Division ,and to capture the whole artillery of the 22nd Division ,the carriages with the Archive and the ambulance ,as well.The Romanian Group of Cimpulung,closely followed by superior forces ,arrived in the day of 3rd of December in Ialomitei Valley ,on line Tirgoviste-Pucioasa .In its pursuit ,Morgen attacks Tirgoviste with the entire 12th Bavarian Division and occupies the city ,after a fight given with disperation by the soldiers of the 22nd Division Romanian,which almost entirely without artillery.With its left,made out of the 8th Alpine Austrian-Hungarian Brigade ,Morgen crossed Leaota Mountains and seized Pietrosita,going around the right flank of the 12th Romanian Division.The pursuit continued with direction towards line Cimpina -Ploiesti ;Morgen Group was made now by two Divisions of Infantry ,a Brigade of Alpiners and a new Division of Cavalry,with mounted artillery.

At 4th and 5th of December ,fierce fights at the crossing of Prahova .The bridges at Floresti and Darmanesti have been crossed with the troops of the most trialed Divisions 12th and 22nd ,under enemy bombardment in the midst of flames.The next day,6th of December ,the Bavarians entered Ploiesti ,defeating the resistance of the weak and exhausted Detachments of the 22nd Division.It was the day of seizing of Bucharests.The Cimpulung Group have lost more than three quarters of its effectives .The 22nd Division had only some 1000 combatants;one of her Brigades have remained with 380 soldiers ,of 400 at Dragoslave.The 12th Division numbered 1000 men gathered up;the rests are scattered groups.These remains ,pathetic ,of the glorious Army of Cimpulung gather on the Eastern shore of Cricov.

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In the same time ,has started the retreat of the Central Group Predeal,of the II-nd Army ;at 5th of December Busteni and Sinaia were evacuated .The retreat of the troops of Divisions 4th and 16th is made along Prahova Valley.

Between Cimpina and Ploiesti ,the avanguards of Divisions 4th and 16th ,together with the Divisions of Cimpulung Corps ,with which they made the connection ,have to give lively fights with the enemy troops of Morgen Group,which had closed the way .

As the Divisions of Cimpulung Corps ,as well as the 16th Division ,could sneak through with big losses over Teleajen ,the 4th Division moving slow,saw her retreat cut in region Baicoi-Tintea .All around are enemy troops ,and namely:the 12th Bavarian Division towards South ,the 76th German Division at North,Bavarian Alpine Corps towards South-East and the 8th Alpine Brigade Austro-Hungar in the back.At 6th of December in the evening the Headquarter of the Division is captured.The Division has to attack Cocorastii Mislii to open up the road with force,towards East or to change the direction towards North-East ,to Valenii de Munte ,the only part where the road was still free.The initiative was now in the hands of Brigades Commanders; they don't know,however,to take a commune decission and to execute it with strength.At 7th of December ,the Commander of Feldioara Brigade attacks alone Cocorastii Mislii with what he could gather from his Brigade.The artillery of the Brigade bombards for an hour the enemy positions of the 12th Bavarian Division.But this one is superior in strength ,counterattacks the Romanians ,which have to retreat ;the Brigade is surrounded and captured .The 8th Infantry Brigade -Colonel Berindei-hesitates in chosing the solution ,gives up to attack Cocorastii Mislii ,returns to Recea ,where is attacked by the enemy .Demoralized ,the soldiers do not try to defend anymore and surrender.It was the second day after the capitulation of the glorious Division from Cerna ,at the mouth of Olt River ,but what a difference!The remains of the Division which fought at Porumbacu and Sinca deserved an end not as shameful as the capturing at Cocorastii Mislii ,where was brought by an hesitant and uncautious Commandment.

At 6th of December ,the right wing of the II-nd Army ,Divvisions 3rd and 6th ,which held the positions at Bratocea ,Tabal Butii and Buzau ,evacuate the positions as well, and begin the retreat .The enemy does not pursue here,but the retreat is made on a very bad terrain and difficult ,over rows of mountains and steep hills ,covered with forests ,placed perpendicular on the retreat direction of the troops.

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The retreat of the other groups

At South of the II-nd Army ,was retreating the I-st Army .After the defeat at Titu and Arges ,the Front of this Army was stretching between Ploiesti and Buftea ,linking with the II-nd Army ,and towards left with Danube Defence Group.The retreat was made with the Divisions,meaning with what was left of them -13/14 and 8th on the right ,and 1/17 and 11th on the left side and with the 10th Division in the reserve of the Army,in her left flank.The enemy attacks at 6th of December with power the center of the I-st Army at Peris and breaks the Front ;Division 1/17 towards Tincabesti ,where the enemy catches the whole General Staff of the 10th Division ,together with her Commander ,General Costescu ;with this occasion he takes also some 2000 prisoners and all the regimentary trains of the Division.Still,there were in this Division troops which save the honour of the unit and the interest of defending the kingdom. The 33rd Infantry Regiment remains on position and defends fierce until half past eleven in through the night ,although it has lost any link with the neighbour units .During the night,the Regiment which has been surrounded ,has forced the enemy line through Tincabesti .A Battalion with the flag of the Regiment has crossed through the water of Snagov Lake (outskirts of Bucharest),between Tincabesti and Cioc and retreated towards Ialomita ;the other Battalion ,together with the artillery of Division ,escaped towards East ,by Lipia -Bojdani.

At Tiganesti ,Division 1/17 defended the bridge over Ialomita until poured over it all troops and convoys ,after which the bridge has been destroyed.

Istrati group ,former of the Danube Defence Group,having the Divisions most weakened after Arges Battle ,was retreating one side and the other of Bucharests ;beyond Bucharest,Division 2/5 numbered now only 285 fighters !The 2nd Cavalry Division was in an extreme state of tiredness ;for 15 days now they haven't took off the saddles from the horses .Through the villages there was no more food ,such that the horses remained dead on the road of starvation ,cold and exhaust.Divisions 2/5,9/19 and 21st have been united in only one.

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South of Istrati's Army were the Russian troops ,which were retreating towards Mostistei Valley ,pivoting around Urzicenilor ,as center .In the evening of 7th of December all that was left of the II-nd Army ,and General Istrati were gathered in to a single continuous line behind Cricovului ,Prahovei and Ialomitei.The troops stop for a moment ,to breath,reconstitute their units and oppose resistance to the enemy.The retreat made through.With all the clever manoeuvres of the enemy,which had five Divissions in the pursuit , of Cavalry,with all the weakness and demoralization of our troops exhausted by marchings and of fights they had to give every day ,the catastrophe could be avoided.The most important part of her could escape from the grasp of the enemy ,preserving for the pretious day of tomorrow.At 7th of December ,the Great Romanian Headquarter have moved from Bucharest to Buzau.

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Destroying the oil region

The retreat of the Romanian Armies on the whole widness of the country ,between mountains and Danube River, was also accompanied by fatal destructions.In the wake of the request made by the British Government ,sustained also by the other allied governments ,was decided the destruction of all installations of the petrolifer industry in Prahova and neghbouring counties.This destruction was made after a systematic plan and was Conducted by British Colonel Jack Norton Griffiths.The oil wells have been closed down by throwing and stucking of metal objects in to the pits.After that ,it has been set fire to all external instalations :towers,reservoirs,refineries*.All Prahova Valley ,from Cimpina to Ploiesti ,from Ialomitei Valley until Teleajenului Valley ,and from there forth,until Buzau Valley,was a sea of fire.The flames were rising like red tongues and serpent to the sky and stretched to the surface of the Earth,following streams of oil pouring to the valley.Black thick clouds were rising over the flames ;they covered the whole region in black ,so thick ,that it was night all day.Three days in a row Prahova Valley was dived into darkness.Through the dense black you could see from time to time the fire tongues shining of the melting metals ,and thunders and booms were announcing the collaps or blowing up of full tanks.Through the midst of this terrifying tableau of Sodoma were passing with difficulty the trains of military transports ,columns of troops or pittiful convoys of refugees.

In three days ,the most flourishing and rich region ,industrial ,of the kingdom became a pathetic ruin.We have martyred our great end envied stream of wealth .We made it with our heart filled with pain ,but with the conscience that that we bring an imense service to the commune cause of the allies.When the German was advancing conqueror and greedy in this land of plenty,one of his main targets of the plundering War,he remained astouned in the face of this vision of Sodoma and Gomora ,before his eyes .Through the smoking ruins ,through the contorssioned metal covering the dry land of this desolant region ,he will not find for a very long time the pretious liquid to feed his engines of his hellish machines of War.

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However , in more detail has been captured this moment by Mr.Hamilton Fyfe:

from 'the War Illustrated’ 13th April 1918 'Smoke-Clouds of Destruction' by Hamilton Fyfe a Wanderer in War Lands

How a Great Task was Greatly Achieved

from 'the Times History of the War'

What will happen to the Rumanian oil-fields ? Many people would be glad to know, especially those who have money invested in them. Will the Germans try to keep them ? If so, will the property of British investors be confiscated ?

The British, French and Russian Governments agreed, so it was stated in Rumania at the time of the destruction of the wells, to pay compensation for damage done. Now Russia has no Government. Will France and Britain recompence shareholders in oil companies for their whole losses ?

What would those losses amount to if the oil district were annexed ? That I must leave to "someone in the City" to compute. All I know is that the engineers put the value of the property destroyed towards the end of 1916 at thirty million pounds ! A more effective, more creditable piece of work has not been done during the war.

Yet it was, of course, a melancholy business. It had taken many years to build up the Rumanian oil industry. Years of thought and labour, of effort and calculation. Years, at last, of triumph and profitable toil for all concerned.

A "Destroying Angel"

The industry kept a large population busy and prosperous. It provided the world with more than one of the necessaries of life, as we live it to-day — with light and heat, with grease to make the wheels of engines go round, with the driving power for millions of automobiles and other kinds of petrol motors. Hundreds of thousands of people depended upon its continued working for their living, or for part of it. The convenience and comfort of millions have been affected by the lessening of the petrol supply. Yet it was a military act of necessity to destroy. the industry as far as possible.

"What is war," Napoleon asked, "but a game of barbarians ?" Savage and senseless, save from its own distorted view-point, acts of war must always be.

It was on a sunny November, day that I first saw in Bucharest my old acquaintance "Jack" Norton Griffiths — "Empire Jack" his constituents used to call him. He was looking at the ruins of a building wrecked in the early morning air raid. At first I did not recognise him, in uniform with red tabs, but I found that being a Staff colonel had not a whit changed his jolly, kindly, care-free nature, nor diminished his immense energetic capability by any job of "militarism."

He had been sent out to see that. The Germans got as little as possible out of Rumania, either in the way of oil or grain. Already it was clear that the Rumanian Army could not save the country from invasion. Help was looked for from Russia, but the Russians could not send it in time. They were most unjustly accused of "betraying Rumania." That is nonsense. General Alexeieff was ready to do all that lay in his power, but he could not work miracles. Only a miracle could have moved sufficient Russian troops to save Rumania from Mackensen's machine- like manipulation of his forces.

By the end of November it was clear that the oil-wells must either be destroyed or presented to the enemy. Already they had been left untouched too long. The Rumanian Government urged that they should be left a little longer. But now Colonel Norton Griffiths had his orders. Off he went to Ploesti, the capital of the oil country. He called together the British engineers and managers who had longest experience and those who were reputed to possess the longest heads.

He got valuable advice also from American oil-men. There was general agreement that the only way to seal up a well, so that it could not be used again, was to drop the dipping machinery into it upside down. Wherever such a thing had happened by accident, it had been found impossible to get the machinery out.

Then the colonel got to work. He is by the way, the founder and head of a very big contracting firm which makes docks, digs canals, builds harbours all over the world. Now he proved that he was no less competent at destruction than at construction. A "destroying angel," the oil people nicknamed him. One mine manager of a poetical turn, described him to me as being "in love with ruin."

A great deal of oil was pumped or run off from the reservoirs into shallow basins, where it was set on fire. It did not explode. It did not blaze up. It burned sullenly, giving off a dense black smoke. All over the country the dense black smoke rolled in sinister, slowly-moving clouds. At a place called Targovistca, twenty miles away, it was thick enough to blot out the daylight and make dark night at four in the afternoon.

As I look back, those days of destruction are like a nightmare in my memory. A nightmare lit up by huge flares of burning petrol, lakes of petrol, rivers of petrol, and always above them dense, black, stinking smoke.

Nothing in the war has made a deeper impression on my mind. The lurid sensationalism of it, the hurry in which it was all done, with the query lurking at the back of everyone's thoughts : "Can we do it in time ?"

With Colonel Norton Griffiths worked several oil-men. The new officers set to work with as many helpers as they could enlist by promise of reward. It was a perilous job they were engaged in. There were dangers of falling roofs or walls, dangers of fire, dangers of suffocation. And added to these, there was danger in the threatening mood of the population.

These unfortunate people had to look on and see their living vanish. They saw the wells and refineries which supported them and their families being choked up and knocked down. "Better that the Germans should have them, and employ as, than that we should have no work and starve." That was how they argued.

The colonel was here, there and everywhere, "the life and soul of the party," as another mine manager put it. This poor fellow had helped to break up his own home. His furniture, piano, a library of books which he had been collecting since he was a boy, all had gone. His job had gone. The oil-field which he had managed so capably, and made to yield its increase in growing volume year after year, was out of action. Yet he joked about it. He was the most cheerful of us all as we sat at our scanty meals.

the destruction of the Rumanian oil-wells as seen by a German magazine - 'Illustrirte Berliner Zeitung'

Just in Time

If the oil would not light up quickly the colonel took bundles of blazing straw and flung them into it. He was seen swinging sledge-hammers against the oil-refining machinery, "He ought to have been killed a hundred times," said an admiring American. "Why he wasn't, I cannot understand." His example made all his assistants work like three men apiece.

Just in time they got their work finished. The sound of the guns, magnified by the mountain echoes, had been coming nearer and nearer. Through the town wounded men and deserters and fugitives were flowing in solid streams. There was no hope now that the enemy could be checked before he had captured Bucharest and the oil region.

The well-to-do part of the frightened population had no thought but to flee. The rest for the most part, took a fatalist view. "Let the Germans come," they said to each other. "They can't harm us more than these foreigners have done."

On a Saturday the destruction was almost completed. It was, known that the Rumanian Headquarters Staff had passed through Ploesti in flight. "Give it up now," the colonel was urged. The bombardment sounded very near.

“No," he said, "we'll make a clean job of it." They went on until the Monday. Then the remains of Avarescu's Army began pouring down from the passes they had held so bravely, and so much longer than they had been expected to hold them.

Only then did Colonel Norton Griffiths give the word to quit. It would, indeed, have been useless to stay longer. There was nothing left to do.

portraits of colonel Griffiths / oil wells ablaze in Rumania

see also : The Fall of Bukarest as Seen by a British Journalist

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*There had been destroyed in counties Dimbovita,Prahova and Buzau : 1 677 wells ,of which 1 047 productive,20 rafineries of petrolium ,reservoirs and rafineries with 827 000 tons of petrol and derivatives of petrol,with all the anexe installations .The damage evaluated in 1922 by a mixt commision Anglo-Franco-Romanian is of 9 980 527 Sterling [12]

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The road of Calvary

The retreat of the Army is precedet and accompanied by destructios of all sorts.The sheds and barns filled with grains cropped with the hard work of the peasant are transformed in piles of ash.There are demolished factories and burned down mills.There are blown up arsenals ,powderies and military deposits .There are collapsed great bridges ,thrown over the waters with so much spending and hard work.It is exterminated the whole wealth of the kingdom.Then it is only desert and pain.

On the muddy roads ,in the humid atmosphere and frozen of this beginning of December ,between smoking ruins and deserted villages ,pass unfinishing columns of the Army in retreat or of the frightened poulation ,which took the road of drifting.Everywhere are seeded the mute witnesses of the defeat and missfortune :piles of weapons abandoned,smashed waggons.dead horses around which swarm the crows.Waggons with oxes ,carriages and military ,furgons convoys of cannons ,automobiles are mixing with the columns of pedestrians and rove in unfinished rows the neverending roads which the rain and the circulation transformed in mud ways,in streams and water holes.Very missfortuned the waggon entered with the wheel in one of these holes ,or the horse stuck ore turned over !Take them aside,make way, make way!In a second the obstacle is taken aside ,and the crowd follows the road ahead like a torrent ,rolling the waves unceaselessly ,looking without care at the smashings aside ,or to the animals giving their soul in the trench of the road.

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Through the sad villages ,the rare ihabitants have terrified glances towards the convoys pouring and frightened towards the horizon from where it is guessed the closing in of the enemy .On the faces of the onlookers can be very clerly read the concerns and fights tormenting their souls.From time to time,one or two of them,get out from the column .The sad eyes caress once more the panorama of their farm ,the house ,the yard,the sheds ,the herds ,the woman ,children.A bag in the head of a stick ,a ferwell ,the sign of the cross ,and they thick the rows of the convoys that go with the destination towards unknown.

Through train stations ,a colorful crowd and agitated ,militars mixed with civilians ,fight for a place and await nervously ,hours after hours ,the leaving of the trains stuck by the problems with the rails .The trains start with wheels high pitched noise hard and go slowly ,with often and long stops ,carrying the people which fill the corridors ,on stairs ,on bumpers ,on roofs.Not even a word of compassion accompanies now the fall of the unknown person,which asleep,has sliped from the roof or smashed his head at the entering of the train on the bridge ,or of which tired hand let lose the metal bar giving him the chance to stand.All this crowd taken out of the bed for the military duty or by the horror of the enemy,is spirited by only one thought :Moldavia .Is the hope of safe shelter ,glimpsed through the fog of the thin rain ,cold,which surrounds like a dressing the drifters groups.

Long and scattered are stretching the rows of the soldiers ,which crouched under the heavy of their backpacks and of concerns ,finished by exhaust and discouraged ,ferment with their boots the muds and waters of the roads.From time to time ,the voice of the cannon sounds close by.Groups of enemy horsemen appear on the neighbouring hill edges ,with the lance in hand ,ready to attack .Then,orders run along the columns .The soldier close in their ranks ,invigorate ,form up for fight.The noise and turmoil of fight cuts the monotony of the retreat ,the machineguns begin their furious rattle ,death reaches her unseen hand ,giving rest and quiet to some hard trialed bodies.

The cold gets colder.The snow begins to fall .The wind becomes blizzard .The thick snow covers the roads .The convoys advance all the time on the road of defeat and missery ,always thinner.Who cares about the fall of the men next to you?Ahead,always ahead,towards Siret,to Moldavia ,to Holly Ereasing !

It is hard and difficult the blood road of Calvary ,but at its end ,Golgota is not only the place of martyr ,but also the symbol of victory.Nations have to suffer just like individuals.Through Faith ,sufferings and martyr,we gain our right to stand with heds up in the hour of reward,to conquer the forgiveness of our brothers and wholing of the nation.

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The battle at Cricov

8-11th of December

At 8th of December ,the units of the Romanian Army in retreat arrived to connect between them ,such that they formed a tight and continuous Front.This Front was stretching along Cricov,continuing then on the shore of Prahova River and on the one of Ialomita River,until the region of Urziceni.The right wing was formed by the II-nd Romanian Army ,from the mountains until the line of metal road(railway) Ploiesti-Buzau,from which then ,continued the I-st Army and Istrati's Army. At South of Urziceni were the Russians ,which constituting the going around wing ,were retreating much quicker.They were strengthened by numerous units ,brought also from Dobrogea ,which evacuation was decided by the Russians ,an also as numerous troops ,fresh,which were arriving continuously from Russia through Galati.The Front line Romanian -Russian was leaning over to the right on the mountains ,and with the left on Danube River.It could only be attacked now by the enemy frontal.

The enemy was advancing with the two Armies of his.The IX-th Army hd as axis of advance the railway Ploiesti-Buzau.On the left of her,in the mountaineous region,has constituted a Group Kraftt,composed of all the elements Alpine Germans and Austro-Hungarians;then followed Morgen Group ,increased as number of Divisions ,and at the right was Kuhne Army.The Cavalry of Schmettow and the Danube Army ,Kosch ,were in Ialomita sector ,with direction Urziceni.The Kosch Army has strengthened with numerous Bulgarian Detachments,which made till then the guard of the Danube River,and now have crossed the Danube at Calarasi and Fetesti ,to increase the bulk of Bulgarian troops.This right wing ,moving parallel with the left one through the heart of Baragan(Romanian Great Wheat Field),in direction Braila ,had a much longer way to make than the left one.

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The resistance of the II-nd Romanian Army on Cricov has lasted for three days .It was not about repelling the enemy now,but to delay him by offensive actions such that ,behind the Front,to permit the Russians to make their concentration on the resistance line Rimnicu-Sarat -Viziru-Dunare(or Danube River).

The II-nd Army was organizing the resistance position with the following dispozitive:in the right side was the III-rd Corps ,having Divisions 6th and 3rd on the plateau between Buzau River and its afluent Bisca Chiojdului,at Cislau and Bisceni ,and the 16th Division have occupied the shore of Cricov ,having the 12th Division at Loloiasca ,the 23rd Division at Tomsani and the 22nd Division at Ionesti .The Front of the II-nd Army continued with the one of the I-st Army ,which was occupying the shore of Cricovului between Cioceni and Baraitaru.

In the day of 8th of December ,the II-nd Army begun the fight .As the II-rd Corps was resisting to the attacks of the Bavarian Alpine Corps in the mountaineous region of North,the 12th Division ,supported by artillery ,attacks the enemy Corps of Morgen which occupied line of Villages Loloiasca -Ionesti,reoccupies the villages ,captures few machineguns and repells the enemy ,throwing him beyond Cricov.The next day,9th of December,the action must continue.Behind the Romanian Front has arrived the strong Group of Russian Cavalry of General Count Keller .There are three Divisions of Cavalry ,representing an imposant military force.But Keller has stopped at Rimnicu Sarat and declares that he needs two days of rest ,to mend his horses shoes of the cavalerists ,which makes Primeminister Bratianu to ask the Russian General:"Would the German Cavalry which,ever since has entered in the country at Jiu ,in uninterrupted marchings of almost a month now,has shod her horses?"In the awaiting of the intervention of the Russian Cavalry ,the Romanian Commander wants to push ahead towards Teleajen and to strengthen the line of Cricov.

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The attack unfolds favorable in the beginning ;at 10,30 in the morning the 12th Division is at Albesti and the 23rd Division beyond Tomsani.In this moment,though,Morgen,which was helding the enemy Front with three Divisions ,12th,76th and 216th,pronounce a strong counterattack on the two wings of the Romanian Group of Attack ,threatening to turn them;one column attacks at North from Urlati the positions of 16th Romanian Division ,and another at South from Cioceni the positions of 22nd Romanian Division.Another column,in the strength of three Battalions ,with numerous machineguns ,strongly supported by artillery ,attacks the Romanian center ,along the railway ,overwhelms the right of the 23rd Division and breaksthrough the Romanian Front .The 12th Division loses Loloiasca .Threatened with going around the wings ,the II-nd Romanian Corps gives up the terrain and retreats on line Ceptura -trainstop Ionesti-Degerati ,followed by the adversary;in the evening ,this one attacks again and occupies Ionesti,Colceag and Degerati.

At 10th of December ,General Averescu takes measures that at least line Ceptura -Degerati to be held with any price ,in awaiting for the Russian Cavalry ,which did not finish the shoing of her horses.The Great Romanian Headquarter prescribes to the Commander of the II-nd Romanian Army to avoid the engaging of a general battle ;the mission of her remains prolonging the resistance ,to permit the Russians the gathering up on line Rimnicu Sarat-Viziru.

Early in the morning ,the enemy attacks the entire line of the II-nd Romanian Army with Kraftt and Morgen Corps .At the right side ,the Alpiners of Kraft force the 3rd Hunters Regiment to leave Patirlagele ,after a lively resistance.Cricov Detachment ,from the 3rd Romanian Division ,made out of Regiments 22nd and 24th ,hold on position with great sacrifices ,but is forced to retreat ,abandoning some terrain ,after losing 40 procents of its effectives ;the 22nd Regiment remained with 400 men ,and the 24th Regiment with 800.

At the center ,the troops of the much wekened Divisions 22nd and 23rd counterattack the line they lost in the eve in the evening and succeed to reconquer at 8.30 Ionesti and at 10,30 Colceag ,capturing prisoners and machineguns .But the enemy takes the offensive with great forces .One side and the other of the driveway Ploiesti-Mizil he attacks with four columns ,made each of four Battalions .A strong field and heavy artillery sustains the attack .The troops of Divisions 12th and 16th have to retreat ,abandoning the gained terrain .Still,the II-nd Corps Romanian resists with stubborness ;for the next day ,11th of December ,announced the intervention,Keller's Cavalry Corps ,strengthened with the 14th Division of Infantry Russian .At 11th of December ,the pressure of the enemy has become very strong.Kraftt and Morgen have put in to the fighting line the whole forces of the six Divisions they Command.The Romanian Front is brokethrough in several points.The right wing of the I-st Army neighbour has been pushed and retreats towards Vintileanca.The II-nd Army is threatened with going around her left flank.At North,the advance of Kraftt towards Cislau threatens the going around of the right flank of the Army.Averescu obtains the authorization to break up the fight and retreat step by step towards line Rimnicu Sarat-Viziru.Just now intervenes the Russian Cavalry ,which attacks weak and without any effect.After few evolutions ,the Russians cavalry-men retreat in cantoonament at the cellars of wine great deposit of Mares ,at Mizil.The troops of Groups Buzau and Niscov ,forming up a Group under the Command of General Vaitoianu ,have kept the resistance in the following days on line Mizil ,then on line Ulmeni and then at Buzau ,continuously attacked and overwhelmed by the imense superiority of the enemy.More and more,though,the Romanian troops were retreated on to the second line ,being replaced on the first line by Russians .At 12th of September ,the Germans occupy Mizil ,and at 13th of December Buzau,by a veiling move ,executed by North,by Lipia Village ,against the 15th Russian Division and of the 3rd Division of Cossacks.

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The retreat behind Ialomita.Looting and murders

Before Ialomita ,the enemy has been detained several days.His trials of crossing have been repelled by the troops of Istrati Group ;his heavy convoys and heavy artillery have suffered much in the lowered and dug out by rains region at South of Ialomita.At 10th of December ,a Regiment of Russian Ulans ,leaving the position and retreating without order towards North ,the German Cavalry occupied Coserenii.After,by the retreat of Romanian troops from Cricov line and from Mizil ,the Romanian -Russian troops from Urziceni were threatened in the back;that is why it has been ordered the retreat ,much that the Russian Commander has announced that he will make the concentration of the 4th Russian Corps on the Northern Shore of Ialomita ,on line Mateleu-Rosiori -Tandarei-Piua Petrii.The Germans have crossed Ialomita River and occupied Ursiceni,Manasia,Silistea ,at 12th of December.

In front of Bulgarians and of the Turks ,which have crossed the Danube River at calarasi and at Fetesti,the Russian troops ,which were occupying the flat of Baragan(Wheat Fields) ,had to retreat at North ,over Ialomita.In their retreat they have plundered the villages ,looting and burning everything in their way,the Bulgarians and Turks have completed their masterpiece ,committing the most abominable atrocities over the population unarmed.They were concoursing in plunders and cruelties on the back of our poor country.Not only the Bulgarians and the Turks ,but even the Germans the "civilized" and "disciplined" committed exceses of this kind ,as Falkenhayn himself sees forced to notice them in his memoirs :"During the advancement happened manifestations which proved a great weakness of the discipline.The number of pretended lost of their troops ,which swarmed this way and that way,was multiplying in a frightening way,with all my severe measures.On all the advance roads I have organized small arierguards ,formed with men of trust ,to follow th columns few hours distance ,to garher the hidden ones to resend them to their posts...But a measure like this helps little ,as the Army is in marching.Even under the eyes of their most brave Chieftains ,which,ofcourse were not lacking energy,were committed lootings in great measure;such in Ploiesti and Buzau.On the roads of stages ,the murders and plunderings was a daily routine.On these roads and in their vecinity ,the shooting after herds ,pigs did not stop.Im many of the places the circulation became very endangered".

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Regrouping of the II-nd Army

The Battle at Cricov has been tha last military action of the Romanian Army as an independent organism during the retreat of 1916.After the retreat on Cricov,the Romanian units which constituted the I-st Army and the Group of Danube Defence have been retreated from the fight and send in the remaking zones in North of Moldavia ,being replaced with Russians.Have remained on the Front only the units of the II-nd Army ,to which has been attached some of the ones belonging to the disolved armies.Strengthened in this way,the II-nd Army ,Romanian,under the Command of General Averescu ,was now intercalated between IX-th Russian Army ,which was stretching at the left of her until the shores of Danube River.

At 14th of December ,the II-nd Romanian Army was separated into two sectors.The Sector in the left was made out of Rimnic Group ,Commanded by General Vaitoianu ,occupying the montaineous region of Rimnicu Sarat County ,from Racoviteni -at West of Rimnicu Sarat-where it connected with the Russians ,until Furu Mountain ,at West of Dumitresti .Rimnic Group had in the first line of the Front ,Divisions 3rd ,1st and 6th,and in reserve Divisions 12th and 7th ;Divisions 3rd and 6th considered as the best which remained to the Romanian Army,because being in more quiet sectors they haven't suffered so much losses.

The Sector in the right was made out of the Vrancea-Oituz Group ,under the Command of General Cristescu .In Vrancea region was the 7th Mixt Brigade ,under the Command of Colonel Sturza ,connecting to Furu Mountain with the right of Rimnic Group.In Oituz Rregion was the 15th Division ,under the Command of General Eremia Grigorescu,connecting in the right with IX-th Russian Army,at Slanic.

Few units ,Russian, are intercalated amongst the Romanian ones ,being set from the operative point of view under the Command of the II-nd Army.In this way,at 18th of December ,arrives at Dumitresti ,behind the right wing of Rimnic Group also the Cavalry Division Zamurskaia ,formed of 24 Escadrons with 20 machineguns and 12 cannons.After a few days is attached to Rimnicu Sarat Group also the Cavalry Division Tuzemna ,and to the 7th Brigade Mixt,the 12th Russian Cavalry Division.

For 10 days ,in the sector of the II-nd Romanian Army has been relatively quiet .The Romanian troops have occupied themselves with the organization of their positions in the bad terrain regions ,which they occupy.There were undoubtful signs that the enemy prepares to attack line Rimnicu-Sarat -Viziru.

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The crisis of the Romanian Commandment

Penible matters of Commandment were agitated at the Great Headquarter of the Romanian Army,which from 7th of December has moved to Birlad .Transporting of numerous Russian troops in Romania and taking out of the Front the Romanian troops ,decimated by fights ,have modified the composition of the allied Armies.The numerical value of the two components had been changed .The Russians were predominant now.They have started to manifest veleities over commune Commandment of the two Armies.At 10th of December ,Beleaev asked very determined,for General Zaharov ,the Supreme Command of the Allied Armies ,the suspending of the Great Romanian Headquarter and comprising it in to the Russian Headquarter.The Romanian Government opposed energic to this pretention.Whatever the momentarily situation of the military operations ,it must not be forgotten that Romania is an independent state ,with a National Army.Not even at 1877,when Romania was a "vasal" sate ,she did not enter the War until Russia guaranteed her individual line of operations and own communication lines.Much less she could today abdicate from these rights ,after 40 years of independence and three months and a half of fierce fights with the enemy.Matters of law were also in contradiction with this disolvation ,in fact ,of the independent Romanian Army .After the Constitution ,the King was the head of the Army,which he Commanded directly.Then,the law of the state of siege gives the right to the Great Headquarter to have say in matters of administration and police for the ministers of the country.To pass this authority to the Russian Army,means to put the authorities of the country(kingdoom) under the orders of a foreign military organ,which would mean the non existence of our sovereignity on own territory .The only thing that the Government could aproove to ,was that under the direct orders of the King ,a Russian General to function as a Chief of Romanian General Staff and the Romanian Army to remain independent as organization and Commandment.It has been addmitted that ,for the time being ,the Russian-Romanian troops from the operation zone to be put under the Command of General Zaharov.

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At 14th of December an important change was made in the High Romanian Commandment .General M.Iliescu ,Sub-Chief of the Great General Staff which,in the absence of a titular chief *,conducted the operations of the Romanian Armies for three months and a half ,has been replaced from this Commandment by General C. Prezan.The dizgration was the result of hostility of a great part of the public opinion and of the chiefs of opposition political parties ,which atributed to General Iliescu the unsuccess of the campaign ,started under such promissing circumstances.It has been imputted to him mistakes of strategical conceptions ,of conduct of the operations and especially that he had surrounded himself by a personal clientel ,giving important Commandments to mediocre Generals ,siding or neglecting the best officers of our Army.In the hard moment of leaving the high post,full of the greatest responsibilities ,which he has occupied till now,Iliescu has disculped in front of the Supreme Commandment ,showing that he has worked with the staff from the General Staff which he has found when accepting the post ,without changing anyone ,that the campaign plans have been studied and approved by the Generals in Command of the Armies,that he has worked with faith and devotion ,taking in the hours of crisis such measures ,to avoid the dangers and diminish the threatening proportions of the dezastre ,that the defeats are owed to ,in the most part, outside causes and that anyone ,in the same situations,could not have done better or more.This is how greart was the ferocity with which General Iliescu was attacked ,that the Supreme Commander of the Army(the King) thought that is not able to retain the General not even in the post of Sub-Chief of the Great Headquarter,not even to give him the Command of a Division.He has only been given a mission next to the allied Commandments.

*The titular Chief of the Great General Staff ,General Al . Zottu ,being very ill ,with nerves ,could not take part to the works of the Commandment ;he commited suicide during November 1916.

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