Tuesday, October 14, 2014

October 14th, 1914

- Along the Channel coast, the retreating Belgians reach the Yser River, where they begin to entrench between Nieuport and Dixmude.  To the east, the pursuing German III Reserve Corps occupies Bruges.

- Early today the British 3rd Cavalry Division makes contact with the British Cavalry Corps at Kemmel, linking the British force retreating from Antwerp with the BEF deploying between Béthune and Ypres.  By this evening Rawlinson's 7th Division has taken position just east of Ypres, covering the arrival of the French 87th Territorial Division in the town.  To the south the Cavalry Corps has secured village of Messines, while III Corps takes Bailleul, abandoned early by the Germans.

- As the XXII, XXIII, XXVI, and XXVII Reserve Corps begin their march west from Brussels today, Falkenhayn orders Rupprecht's 6th Army to halt offensive operations, to give time for the reserve corps to reach the front and to avoid giving the Entente indications of the coming attack.  Instead, 6th Army will hold on a line from Menin southwards, and today the XIII and XIX Corps take up position between Menin and Armentières.

- At 7am this morning, the first ships of an important convoy arrive in Plymouth in southwest England.  The ships had departed Quebec City on October 3rd, and contained twenty-five thousand volunteers for military service, as well as a further five hundred from the separate Dominion of Newfoundland.  These soldiers comprised the Canadian Contingent, whose formation and organization had been agreed to in August.  As in most other combatants, the onset of war had seen a rush of volunteers, and it was decided that, in addition to the existing militia, they would be sent to Britain for service on the Western Front.  They will be a part of the British army, and initially Lord Kitchener wanted to scatter the Canadians throughout British divisions as replacements and individual battalions.  This course of action was fiercely opposed by Sam Hughes, the Canadian Minister of Militia and a figure of considerable energy as well as controversy, in a meeting with Kitchener.  After appeals to the British government the Canadians got their way - after several months training in England, the Canadian Contingent will be reformed as the 1st Canadian Division, and will operate as such in France.

- Despite the usefulness of its 75mm artillery pieces, the French army has been hindered in its operations over the first months of the war by an overall relative lack of artillery as compared to the German army.  Today Joffre outlines what will become known as the 'October 14th Programme', which establishes the requirements of the French army with respect to heavy artillery.  Joffre also stipulates that henceforth all artillery rounds use smokeless rather than black powder, as the smoke that results from the latter gives away the position of guns that fire it.  This illustrates that the 'shells crisis' that has and will afflict all of the major combatants in the first phases of the war is not simply about the number of shells available, but also their quality as well as the availability of the most effective types of artillery pieces.

- In Britain, it was the navy that had priority on munitions, given the widespread assumption that in a future war it would be the fleet that would experience the most combat.  Given the contrast between the continued commitment of the British Expeditionary Force to heavy fighting in France and the relative inactivity of the navy, the Admiralty reluctantly agrees to release a thousand tons of cordite from its reserves to the army for use in munitions production.

- In German Kamerun British forces undertake a second attempt to seize Jabassi.  This time, the advancing columns are directing along both sides of the river to divide the German defenders, and the British commander accompanies the advance by boat to supervise their coordination.  The result is the capture of Jabassi after a brief fight.

- A closer bombardment attempt at Tsingtao sees the British pre-dreadnought Triumph struck by a German shore battery.

- In the Pacific Japanese forces have landed on and captured the undefended German islands in the Marshall, Caroline, and Mariana island chains, formerly attached to the German New Guinea colony.  This leaves only Tsingtao as the sole German colony in the Pacific still under their control.  The British position is that the final disposition of these German colonies will be decided after the war; in practice, the Japanese have no intention of yielding them.  Indeed, the islands they secured without casualties or combat in 1914 will cost the Americans thousands of lives to take in the course of the Second World War.

- At Easter Island the German light cruiser Leipzig arrives today to join the German East Asiatic Squadron.  Having been off the west coast of North America upon the outbreak of war, it has brought three colliers with a thousand tons of coal each to the island, and the other German ships begin to top up their coal bunkers.  The squadron is now composed of two armoured cruisers and three light cruisers.

- The Admiralty finally responds today to Rear-Admiral Craddock's two telegrams of October 8th and 11th.  They signal their agreement with his suggestion of forming a separate squadron to cover the South Atlantic, and among the ships to be assigned to the new squadron is the armoured cruiser Defence.  Crucially, this new squadron is to be a separate command, not under the direction of Craddock.  By having the new squadron independent, and by assigning Defence to it rather than Craddock's command, the implication appears clear to the Rear-Admiral - the Admiralty believes that his squadron as presently constituted, and with only the old pre-dreadnought Canopus en route as reinforcement, is sufficient to engage the German East Asiatic Squadron.

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