Thursday, October 02, 2014

October 2nd, 1914

- General Castlenau of 2nd Army informs Joffre today that, under growing German pressure north of Arras, XXI Corps will not be able to detrain as close to Lille as had been planned, implying that the city cannot be held.  Joffre's response is that retreat is not acceptable and Lille must not be yielded.

- At Antwerp the forts of Waelhelm and Boschbeck fall to the Germans this afternoon.  With a substantial gap now having opened in the outer line of fortifications, the Belgian army to the south of the city withdraws to the north bank of the Nethe River, running between the outer and inner forts.  A meeting of Belgian ministers and military leaders decides that given the German advance, the King and government should depart Antwerp tomorrow.  While King Albert agrees, he states he will only leave after the population of the city have been warned.

At 10pm a telegram from the British Minister in Antwerp arrives in London, reporting the decision of the Belgian government to leave the city tomorrow, and also erroneously reporting that the Belgian army was also to abandon Antwerp.  With Prime Minister Asquith in Cardiff at a recruiting rally, it is Sir Edward Grey who receives the telegram, and rushes to Lord Kitchener's house in Carlton Gardens to discuss the note.  They also recall Churchill, who had just boarded a train at London for Dover and Dunkirk, and he races from Victoria Station to Carlton Gardens.  There the three agree that Antwerp must hold out as long as possible - if it falls immediately, the German forces besieging it could sweep through northern France before the Entente line is extended to the Channel.  Thus, even a week's delay in its surrender could be of vital importance.  Churchill recommends the immediate dispatch of the Marine Brigade, two thousand strong, to reinforce the defenses of the city.  He also volunteers to go to Antwerp himself, to encourage the Belgians to hold out as long as possible.  Grey and Kitchener agree, and at midnight Churchill departs London en route to Antwerp.

- In neutral Romania, King Carol I is sympathetic to Germany and Austria-Hungary, and indeed had signed a secret treaty to support the latter if war broke out.  His ministers, however, insisted on remaining out of the war in August, citing the plight of the Romanian population of Austro-Hungarian Transylvania, a territory which many in government covet.  During the first weeks of the war, Romania acquiesced to the German desire to ship supplies by rail to the Ottoman Empire via Austria-Hungary and Romania, though the shipments were limited to eight freight cars per day.  Now, with the King ailing, the government is able to enforce a stricter interpretation of neutrality today by halting all German shipments through its territory.  With the naval blockade in the Mediterranean, the Ottomans are now completely isolated from Germany and Austria-Hungary, and while options such as Zeppelin flights will be considered, ultimately the only way to allow large-scale shipments to reach the Ottomans is through the conquest of Serbia.

- The German East Asiatic Squadron departs Nuku Hiva today, sailing southeast towards Easter Island.  As they leave the tropics behind them, the days are cooler and the seas rougher.

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