Friday, September 26, 2014

September 26th, 1914

- Though fighting continues south of Péronne, Rupprecht decides to use his II Bavarian Corps to outflank the French line from the north.  The Bavarians, having entrained at Metz on the 18th and marched from the railhead at Valenciennes, seize Bapaume today, but collide with the French XX Corps moving in the opposite direction, and heavy fighting ensues.

Falkenhayn has also ordered attacks to be undertaken along the Aisne River to pin the Entente armies there and prevent the further movement of units north.  Launched primarily by 7th Army, the attacks fail to make significant progress while suffering heavy casualties, especially in fighting with the British Expeditionary Force, and have no substantial impact on Joffre's redeployments.

- Winston Churchill today visits the headquarters of the British Expeditionary, and while there the First Lord of Admiralty discuss future operations with Sir John French.  Churchill assures the Field Marshal that should the BEF be redeployed to Flanders and Belgium, it would be supported by the Royal Navy via the Channel.  This assurance calms French's fears, and he now agrees that the BEF should be moved north.

- West of Verdun, the offensive of General Mudra's XVI Corps comes to a halt, having advanced approximately eight kilometres along a twenty kilometre stretch of the front over the past week.  The Germans have captured the main town of the region - Varennes-en-Argonne - and more importantly have seized the heights at Vauqois.  From this position artillery observers are able to keep watch on the Verdun to Paris railway line, and guns in the rear are now close enough to hit a portion of the tracks.  Once observers have pinpointed the coordinates, it becomes possible for German artillery to hit trains attempting to pass to Verdun.  This limits train movement to night, and only when the track has been repaired after prior bombardments.  This effectively severs the last rail line to Verdun - though it can be reached by road from Bar-le-Duc, it strains the supply situation at the most important French fortifications on the Western Front.

- The Lahore Division of Indian Expeditionary Force A arrive in Marseilles today, having sailed from India via the Arabian Sea and the Suez Canal.  IEF A also includes a second division - the Meerkut Division - and a cavalry brigade, which are scheduled to arrive in France in several weeks, their delay resulting from the presence of the German light cruisers Emden and Königsberg in the Indian Ocean.  Each division consists of three infantry brigades, which in turn contain one British and three Indian battalions.  These units are drawn from the peacetime Indian Army, and are being deployed to France to serve with the British Expeditionary Force.

Indian soldiers parade in Marseilles, September 26th, 1914.
- At Duala in German Kamerun, the small German garrison abandons the city and retreats inland.  They well understand that holding the port in the face of British naval power is impossible, but they do not intend to retreat far, in order to continue to pose a threat to the anticipated British occupation of Duala and force the British to continue to maintain a significant presence to hold it.

- Along the Orange River on the southern border of German South-West Africa, an advance guard of Force A has crossed the river at Sandfontein, consisting of three hundred men and two artillery pieces.  Though the South African government has learned that the main German force is not opposing the recent landing at Lüderitz but rather moving on the Orange River, but has not informed General Henry Lukin, commander of Force A.  Thus his advance guard is unsupported, and the Germans today sweep down and, having encircled the South Africans, capture the entire force after a brief firefight.

The defeat reflects the hasty improvisations necessary to put the three forces into the field at an early date, and the lack of adequate communications between them.  This is overshadowed, however, by Lukin's insistence that Force B ought to have advanced simultaneously, in order to divide the German defenders.  General Maritz of Force B insists that his force is still unready to move, being insufficiently trained.  Such disobedience does not reflect well on his loyalty to the South African government, despite the collapse on the 15th of the first acts of insubordination.  Defense Minister Smuts now faces the prospect of dealing with a recalcitrant general with a body of soldiers under his command.

- The German East Asiatic Squadron today arrives at the island of Nuku Hiva in the French Marquesas Islands.  With its lack of defenders and isolated position, Admiral Spee has his ships stop to coal and take on fresh provisions.

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