Saturday, October 11, 2014

October 11th, 1914

- When General Pau reported to Joffre King Albert's thoughts on the Belgians retiring past Calais, the French Commander-in-Chief was appalled.  He desperately wants the Belgians to take up position along the Entente front line, in order to cover part of the gap that remains north of Arras.  Joffre's concerns, however, are for naught - the Belgian king has had a change of heart.  He feels it is essential both for the Belgian war effort and the morale of the Belgian army for them to hold on to at least a small portion of Belgian territory, to emphasize that they are still an active participant, not only helping their allies but defending their homeland.  Albert thus orders the Belgian army today to retire to the Yser River between Dixmude to the south and Nieuport and the Channel coast to the north.

- Aware now that the bulk of the Belgian army has escaped Antwerp, General Beseler's III Reserve Corps is ordered westward, advancing to Ostend via Ghent and Bruges.  By this afternoon, advance German units are approaching Ghent, prompting the Entente forces defending the town to fall back.  The British are the last to retire from Ghent at 10pm this evening.  The British 3rd Cavalry Division, meanwhile, is in the vicinity of Thourout clearing the route for the Entente forces.

The Entente retreat to the Yser, October 10th to 15th, 1914.

- Today the German 179th Infantry Division of XIX Corps approaches the city of Lille, one of the largest cities in France and a key industrial centre.  It is garrisoned by a territorial brigade, and it had been hoped by Joffre that the ongoing effort to outflank the Germans at and north of Arras would link up with the city.  However, the Germans have arrived in strength first.  XIX Corps has been marching for a week, departing from the vicinity of Rheims with Lille as its objective.  At 9pm, a note is sent to the garrison commander at Lille demanding the city's surrender.  When no response is received, an artillery bombardment begins at 930pm.

- The British II Corps has reached Béthune, its first objective, and have deployed north-to-south.  Tomorrow they are to relieve the French cavalry divisions screening them and advance northeast to a line running roughly between Estaires and la Bassée.  The two British cavalry divisions of the Cavalry Corps are both operating to the north of II Corps, and, having swept aside advance patrols of the German IV Cavalry Corps, entered Hazebrouck.  Further, since yesterday III Corps has been detraining at St. Omer, though delays on the railway result in part of 4th Division not having arrived today.  Nevertheless, 19th Brigade is ordered forward to Hazebrouck thirteen miles to the east to cover the arrival of the rest of III Corps.

- Along the Vistula River, though still opposed to a general advance, permits individual corps to secure bridgeheads across the Vistula River.  The efforts are generally a debacle - though two bridgeheads are gained, German and Austro-Hungarian artillery fire inflicts substantial casualties and the survivors are unable to exploit their crossings.  5th Army is particular inept - they had no bridging equipment immediately at hand, so soldiers attempted to cross in rafts and barges in the face of machine-gun fire.  When bridging equipment finally did arrive, the bridge they erected floated away.  Finally, they were unable to counter enemy artillery fire, as the army staff had forgotten where they had left their field mortars.  Overall, the crossings themselves posed no great threat to the German 9th Army and Austro-Hungarian 1st Army.

- In response to Martiz's declaration of rebellion, Defense Minister Smuts today declares martial law.  This forces the critical choice on the Boers of South Africa - do they rise with Maritz, or under the compulsion of martial law aid in his suppression.

- Though the Admiralty has yet to respond to his message of October 8th, Rear-Admiral Craddock sends another dispatch today, recommending the creation of a second squadron to cover the South Atlantic.  This would allow Craddock to take the full strength of his squadron in pursuit of the German East Asiatic Squadron, without fearing that the Germans could slip past him and wreck havoc in the Atlantic.

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