Tuesday, October 07, 2014

October 7th, 1914

- The advance of the German I and II Cavalry Corps between Lens and Lille is brought to a halt by the French XXI Corps, which has detrained at Béthune.

The German cavalry sweep north of Arras and Lens, October 1914.

- Early this morning, two German battalions of the 37th Landwehr Brigade succeed in crossing the Schelde River at Schoonaerde, nine miles west of Termonde.  Despite counterattacks by the Belgian 6th Division during the day, the bridgehead hold, and during the evening the rest of the brigade crosses the Schelde.  The distance between Schoonaerde and the Dutch border is a mere twelve miles, through which any forces that wish to escape Antwerp must pass.  The Belgian army decides that it must now pass through the corridor before it closes, and plans on taking up position along the Terneuzen Canal, running from Ghent to the Dutch border.  The Belgian 1st and 5th divisions are sent westwards first, while 3rd and 6th divisions act as a flank guard along the Schelde.  King Albert also moves his headquarters today from Antwerp to Selzaete along the Terneuzen Canal.

The focus of the German effort against Antwerp today is bringing heavy artillery across the Nethe River.  Though the movement is delayed by difficulties with bridging equipment, just before midnight 6-inch howitzers begin the bombardment of the city itself.

Men of the British Naval Brigades in trenches at Antwerp, October 7th, 1914.

- Within Antwerp itself, proclamations are posted throughout the city announcing that German bombardment of the city is imminent, and advised those who wish to leave Antwerp must do so at once.  Appropriate to the mood of the civilian population, Antwerp is covered by a dense cloud of black smoke, emanating from oil-tanks to the west of the city which had been set on fire to prevent their capture by the Germans.  Thousands flock to the docks, attempting to crowd aboard every available ship in the hope of departing the city. Others flee to the nearby Dutch border at Bergen-op-Zoom.  This town of 16 000 inhabitants finds itself in a matter of a few days hosting 200 000 refugees from Antwerp.

Belgian civilians hoping to escape Antwerp at the city docks, October 1914.

- This morning the disembarkation of the British 7th Division is completed at Zeebrugge, and by 5pm, after travelling by train, has arrived in Bruges.  Despite the pleadings of the Belgians, however, the division does not immediately march to Antwerp - prior to departing Britain, the divisional commander was given specific instructions by Kitchener not to allow his force to be shut in and captured at Antwerp.  Further, reports reach 7th Division of large German cavalry concentrations north of Lille, which could potentially threaten the corridor to Antwerp.  Meanwhile, a brigade of French marines is dispatched from Paris by rail towards Antwerp, the one significant French contribution to the defence of the city.

- III Corps of the British Expeditionary Force, having handed over its trenches to the French last night, today begins its march to Compiègne where it will entrain for Flanders.

- Today Lieutenant-Colonel Maritz makes contact with Germans along the border between South Africa and German South-West Africa.  Such contacts may be vital if Maritz goes into rebellion.

- In German Kamerun, the British advance on Jabassi to the northeast of Duala.  Taking advantage of the heavy rains, they mount a 6-inch gun on a boat that could be floated up the river to support the attack.  However, the West African units became disorganized as they moved through the bush adjacent to the river, and when they reached open ground at Jabassi they were cut down by German machine-gun fire.  The attack defeated, the British are forced to retreat back in the direction of Duala.

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