Thursday, August 07, 2014

August 7th, 1914

- In the pre-dawn hours, as Goeben and Breslau continue to sail eastwards, a British squadron of four armoured cruisers under Rear Admiral Ernest Troubridge are moving to intercept.  However, Troubridge is troubled at the scenario playing out.  His force will not be in position to attack Goeben and Breslau until after dawn.  Further, Goeben is faster than his ships, and the main guns of Goeben can shoot farther than his own.  His fear is that his squadron would be unable to close to engage Goeben, the latter using its superior speed to keep the range at where the Goeben can fire but the British armoured cruisers cannot.  Despite outnumbering the German force, at 405am Troubridge, fearing annihilation, orders his squadron to abandon the chase.

At dawn, Goeben and Breslau, unaware of how close they had come to battle, sail eastwards, still followed by the light cruiser Gloucester.  Early this afternoon, Admiral Souchon attempts to shake his pursuer by turning to fight, but Gloucester simply turns as well, remaining outside the range of Goeben's guns.  Souchon orders a return to the prior course, needing to rendezvous with his collier if he is to reach the Dardanelles.  At 440pm, Gloucester, almost out of coal, is forced to give up the chase.  The British now lose track of Goeben and Breslau.

- As with the other self-governing dominions of the British Empire - Canada, Australia, and New Zealand - South Africa was automatically at war with Germany when Great Britain declared war on August 4th.  Today the South African government receives a telegram from London asking whether South African forces could seize key points in neighbouring German South-West Africa.  Prime Minister Louis Botha is supportive of the appeal - the conquest of the German colony offers the prospect of the creation of an empire of its own for South Africa.  But the issue is not clear-cut - when Botha brings the request before his cabinet today, four ministers support him, while four are opposed.  The issue raises to the surface the underlying tension in South African society - the Boer population, which politically dominate the dominion, are not altogether supportive of Britain and its war.  It has only been a dozen years since the Boers were forced to surrender their autonomy at the end of the Second Boer War in 1902.  Further, German South-West Africa has been a haven for die-hard Boer rebels, raising the possibility of Boer fighting Boer in an invasion of the German colony.  Finally, the rhetoric of Britain makes many Boers uncomfortable - Britain declares itself to be fighting on behalf of small nations such as Belgium, which stands in uneasy contrast to British policy towards the very small Boer republics prior to 1902.  Thus there is a genuine fear among ministers in Botha's government that a move to openly support Britain through attacking German South-West Africa might destabilize South Africa itself and lead to a rebellion among those Boers who have never completely reconciled themselves to membership in the British Empire.

- As the rest of the French army continues to assemble, General Joffre orders the VII Corps to undertake an offensive into Alsace with the objective of seizing Mulhouse.  This is separate from the main offensives Joffre is planning to launch under Plan XVII, and is designed both to satisfy the desire of the French public to reclaim the 'lost territories' of Alsace-Lorraine and demonstrate to their allies the readiness of the French army.  Undertaken by two infantry divisions and one infantry brigade, this force crosses the border at 5am and begins the twenty-five kilometre march to Mulhouse.

- At Liège, Ludendorff decides that the brigade he has led inside the ring of forts should assault the town itself.  The German force is able to enter the town unopposed, the Belgian 3rd Division having been withdrawn the previous day.  Ludendorff himself drives up to the old Citadel guarding the centre of the town, strides up to the gates, and demands their surrender.  The Belgian soldiers remaining in the Citadel, instead of shooting Ludendorff for his insolence, surrender.  How much better for the Entente would it have been if they had surrendered only after dispatching Ludendorff first?  Regardless, the Germans now control the town of Liège, but there are still the forts around the town to subdue before 1st and 2nd Armies can fully begin their march through Belgium.

- Lord Kitchener issues his first public appeal for volunteers, calling for 100 000 recruits.  Kitchener intends these volunteers to form the seventy-division British army he envisions will be needed to win a war that will last years, not months.

Volunteers for Kitchener's 'New' Army in London, Aug. 7th, 1914.

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