Sunday, November 30, 2014

November 30th, 1914

- To both sides on the Western Front, the trench system is both unprecedented and unexpected - neither side thought they would be fighting such a static war, and indeed expectations remain that trench warfare is but a phase which will soon pass.  In the meantime, as both sides try to find tactical solutions to the problem of attacking trenches, they first draw on their experience and pre-war training, which suggests that trench warfare is most similar to the conduct of sieges, the latter involving prolonged fighting before extensive defenses.  Thus in the initial months of trench warfare both sides attempt to apply the tactics for conducting sieges to operations on the Western Front.  For example, today Joffre issues a communication to all army commanders instructing them to dig their trenches to within 150 yards of the German lines.  This is precisely what the standard approach to siege warfare is, and Joffre hopes the order will have the same benefit - the closer the infantry are to the enemy when they attack, the less time it will take them to cross the killing zone between the lines and reach the enemy positions.  While the order reflects the fact that generals did look for ways to break the deadlock that did not involve the repetition of the same tactics over and over again, it also is indicative how these same generals were in many ways prisoners of their own experience and training, whereas the conditions of trench warfare required entirely new ways of thinking on the battlefield.

- A British fishing trawler in the North Sea makes a remarkable discovery when it hauls in its catch - a lead-lined chest in amongst the fish.  The chest is from a German minelaying destroyer which had been sunk off the Dutch coast on October 17th, and within the chest is a treasure worth more than gold to the British Admiralty.  It includes secret charts of the North Sea showing the operational grid the Germans use to plot the location of warships, and a codebook intended for communication with warships overseas.  These two finds, in combination with earlier breakthroughs, allow the British to decypher German wireless signals, a vital advantage to the war at sea.

- As the Russian 3rd Army continues to advance westwards towards Krakow, the Austro-Hungarian Chief of Staff issues orders today for another offensive.  Despite the battering 4th Army has taken in recent weeks, Conrad orders it back on to the attack - the movement of the Russian 3rd Army has opened a gap between it and the Russian 8th Army in the Carpathians to the southeast, and his intention is that the southern wing of 4th Army will move into this gap and then pivot northward to hit the southern flank of the Russian 3rd Army.

- The Serbian army completes its evacuation of Belgrade today as elements of the Austro-Hungarian 5th Army approach the city.  General Potiorek has ordered his other units to halt, both to recover from the recent fighting and to resupply.  The retreating Serbs had thoroughly destroyed transportation infrastructure as they retreated through November, and the Austro-Hungarians have outrun their supplies and are encountering all manner of shortages.

- Orders are issued for a detachment of Indian Expeditionary Force D, including two and a half infantry battalions, to embark on four river steamers, where they will be escorted by two warships and two armed steamers up the Shatt al-Arab.  Their orders are to land on the riverbank opposite of Qurna, clear that side of the river of the enemy, and then move on Qurna itself.

- Ayesha sets a course westward into the Indian Ocean and, satisfied that the schooner is leaving for good, the Dutch warship De Zeven Provincian halts its pursuit.  The German crew are sailing to a point in the eastern Indian Ocean where they hope to rendezvous with a German merchant ship.  While at Padang it was impermissible for any of the crew to meet with sailors from the German merchant ships alongside, First Officer Mücke happened to say several times quite loudly that his ship would be at this point in the Indian Ocean for several weeks.  His hope is that one of the German merchant ships, motivated by patriotism, will meet them there and allow Ayesha's crew to transfer to the steamer for the next stage of the journey back to Germany.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

November 29th, 1914

- At French army headquarters the Operations Bureau has been considering the next phase of the war on the Western Front, and submits a report to Joffre today.  It states that the past month has shown that partial and local attacks are ineffective in the new conditions of trench warfare, and that thorough preparation and concentration of forces is essential to success in such conditions.  As such, a general offensive is also discounted as dissipating the strength of the French army along the entire line.  Instead, the preferred course is to focus offensive efforts at particular points of the German front.  Ideally, several such concentrated offensives would occur more or less simultaneously, to overstretch the Germans and force the commitment of reserves that would be unable to meet other attacks.  However, the Bureau also states that the French army lacks sufficient strength, not only in manpower but also in munitions, to undertake operations of such size simultaneously.  The report concludes that the best chance of breaking the German line is in Artois, and argues that a strong attack towards Cambrai would, if successful, force the Germans to retreat to the Meuse River.

The unspoken assumption in this report is that the French should be attacking.  Given the experience of the past few months, which has shown the superiority of the defense, why are the French planning on major offensives?  The reason is rather straightforward - the German army has occupied a good portion of north-eastern France, including Lille, and their present position threatens Rheims and still poses a threat to Paris.  Joffre in particular and the French army in general feels a responsibility to liberate their countrymen and drive the invader from French soil.  Thus the French feel a compulsion to attack that the Germans, on the Western Front, will never feel.

- Grand Duke Nicholas, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian army, General Ivanov of South-West Front, and General Ruszkii of North-West Front meet at the headquarters of the latter to discuss future operations.  Ivanov is eager to keep pushing forward against Austria-Hungary, with 3rd Army moving on Krakow and 8th Army pushing through the Carpathians.  He argues that given the strength of the German army, the 'way to Berlin lies through Austria-Hungary.'  To continue his offensive, Ivanov needs Ruszkii's North-West Front to maintain their position in central Poland - if they retreat, the northern flank of South-West Front would become exposed.  Ruszkii, for his part, wants to do exactly that - 2nd and 5th Armies have suffered a hundred thousand casualties in the fighting around Lodz, and the corps sent from the Western Front by Falkenhayn are now arriving opposite Lodz to reinforce the German 9th Army.  Ruszkii argues that no invasion of Germany can be undertaken until East Prussia is occupied, as otherwise the Germans will always be able to counterattack the northern flank of any Russian advance westward, much as what has happened over the past month around Lodz.  Nicholas is unable to mediate the dispute between two generals who are determined to attack as they see fit, as opposed to co-operating.  The only thing the three are able to agree upon is to fire General Rennenkampf of 1st Army - criticized for being too slow to rescue 2nd Army at Tannenberg, he is now blamed for being too slow to cut off the German units east of Lodz.  The fact he has a Gemran-sounding last name makes him an even more ideal scapegoat.

The Eastern Front from central Poland to Krakow, November 29th, 1914.  Note II and
XXIV Reserve Corps, two of the reinforcements from the Western Front, in the
German line with 9th Army, and the Austro-Hungarians pushed back on Krakow at the
far south.

- A difference of opinion has emerged within the Ottoman leadership over future operations in the Caucasus in the aftermath of the Battle of Köprüköy.  Enver Pasha, Minister of War and arguably the most important figure in the Ottoman government, wants the Ottoman 3rd Army to invade the Russian Caucasus.  He is driven not only by the prospect not only of liberating Muslims from the Russian Empire but also of bringing more Turkic peoples within the Empire, advancing towards his vision of all Turks unified within the Ottoman Empire.  The commander of 3rd Army, however, is conscious of the shortcomings of his soldiers - today he reports that X Corps is short 17 000 overcoats, 17 400 pairs of boots, 23 000 ground sheets, and 13 000 knapsacks.  Enver's response is to dispatch Hafiz Hakki, an acolyte and the young deputy chief of the general staff, to provide a report more to his liking.

- Today the commander of Indian Expeditionary Force D dispatches a telegram to the Viceroy of India, giving his view of the military situation and the next steps he proposes to take.  With the arrival of the final elements of 6th Indian Division, he believes that he has enough military force to take and hold Baghdad, but that such a move is not possible at present - there is insufficient water for an overland advance, while more boats would be required to transport IEF D by river.  For the present, he intends to occupy Qurna just upriver at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

- At 3am, as Ayesha departs Panang, it is hailed by a rowboat just as it enters international waters.  Aboard are two Germans, both reservists who had been in the Dutch East Indies when war began.  The two - an officer and a chief engineer's mate - are eager to join Ayesha's crew, and now that the schooner has departed Dutch waters they are legally able to.  Both are accepted, though in the cramped conditions of the schooner the officer's 'bunk' is under the mess table.  This evening Ayesha begins to be followed by the Dutch warship De Zeven Provincien - evidently the Dutch now want to ensure that Ayesha leaves the West Indies and does not return.

Friday, November 28, 2014

November 28th, 1914

- Nine days after the first attempt, the French 2nd Army launches a second attack on the German lines opposite, this time by two divisions of XIV Corps.  Unlike the last attack, this one does accomplish something - the gain of three hundred metres.

- The Russian 8th Army, under General Brusilov, continues to push into the Carpathian Mountains against the weakening resistance of the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army.  The Russians have already seized the Lupkow-Beskid and Uzsok Passes, and early this morning Russian forces break through the Austro-Hungarian lines holding the Dulka Pass.  The fighting in the Carpathians has been ferocious, with bitter cold and heavy snows adding to the misery of both sides.  The Austro-Hungarians, though, have certainly received the worst of it, and if Brusilov's 8th Army can push all the way through the Carpathians they will be able to invade Hungary and march on Budapest, potentially knocking Austria-Hungary out of the war entirely.  It is a moment of crisis for Austria-Hungary, as its fate hangs in the balance.

- In Serbia, efforts by the Austro-Hungarian 5th Army to cross the Kolubara River where it meets the Sava River have encountered fierce Serbian resistance, and in one counterattack the Serbs inflicted 50% casualties on the enemy.  Nevertheless, given the retreat of his 1st Army General Putnik is concerned that his front line is overstretched, and orders his armies to pull back today.  This retreat will expose Belgrade to attack, and Putnik orders its evacuation.

- At 10am Vice-Admiral Sturdee's squadron departs Abrolhos Rocks for Port Stanley in the Falklands Islands.  They are spread out in a line with twelve miles between each ship so as to maximum the amount of ocean under observation.

- This morning Ayesha, crewed by Emden's landing party, crosses into Dutch territorial waters as it approaches Padang.  Now immune from enemy attack, First Officer Mücke orders the German war flag to be flown from the mast, announcing to all their identity.  Early this afternoon, the Dutch destroyer Lynx appoaches once more; this time Mücke orders the customary salute between warships to be given.  The entire German crew stands at attention on deck, while Mücke and his officers salute; the Dutch respond with the same salute.  Mücke then took one of Ayesha's boats and visited Lynx, meeting with its captain.  Here the German officer plays his hand to the full - he states unequivocally that Ayesha is a German ship of war, and thus is entitled to enter Padang's harbour for twenty-four hours for repairs and resupply.  The thought of the old schooner Ayesha as a ship of war must seem laughable to Lynx's captain; however, he is in no position to dispute the issue, lest he cause a diplomatic crisis.  He informs Mücke that there is nothing preventing Ayesha from anchoring at Padang, but that the civil authorities might intern his ship and crew.  Mücke replies that as a warship Ayesha can leave the port at any time, and adds in jest: 'I hope you and I will not get into a fight when I run out.'  The response of the Dutch captain is not recorded.

After Mücke's return, Ayesha, as it enters the anchorage, is met by a boat carrying the harbour master.  The latter is insistent that Ayesha drop anchor far away from other ships and docks, but Mücke can see that some of the merchants in the port are German and he has every intention of anchoring right beside them.  As Mücke and Padang's harbour master argue, coincidentally the topsails of the schooner refuse to come down, no matter what the crew attempts.  After much work they are finally furled, again coincidentally just as the ship comes up beside the docks and German merchants.  After this 'good fortune' Mücke sends his senior lieutenant ashore to report to the German consul, while the men of the German merchants throw everything from cigarettes to German newspapers to the men aboard Ayesha (by international law, non-combatants are not allowed on combatant warships while in a neutral port).

The Dutch authorities are eager to intern Ayesha, wishing to avoid angering the British or Japanese should Emden's landing party escape again.  Further, the harbour master is Belgian, and thus hardly inclined to give the Germans any benefit of the doubt.  The German consul at Padang had ordered supplies of all kind for Ayesha, but when some arrive at 7pm, they are accompanied by a Dutch neutrality officer, designated to ensure the laws of neutrality were upheld to the letter.  He argues that Mücke should allow himself and his ship to be interned, but the Germans are unanimous in rejecting this advice.  The neutrality officer then informs him that much of the ordered supplies cannot be transferred to Ayesha as they would enhance their fighting ability - this includes not only nautical charts but also clothing and soap.  The Germans are willing to go without in order to continue their voyage.  Finally the neutrality officer insists that nearby Japanese and English cruisers will undoubtedly catch them, and that they had already acquitted themselves honourably in executing their duty to Germany.  Again, Mücke and his crew refuse.  Given the apparent 'unreasonableness' of the Germans and with all arguments exhausted, the re-provisioned Ayesha weighs anchor at 8pm and departs Padang - after an eventful day, the voyage of Emden's landing party continues.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

November 27th, 1914

- West of Krakow the German 47th Reserve Division, dispatched by Ludendorff southwards to assist the beleaguered Austro-Hungarians, begins to detrain today at Oderberg and Oswiecim.

- At Abrolhos Rocks off the Brazilian coast Vice-Admiral Sturdee holds a conference of captains to plan the pursuit of the German East Asiatic Squadron.  He intends to sail to the Falklands Islands and use it as a base should the Germans sail up the middle of the Atlantic, while also sending his light cruisers to inspect the various harbours and bays along the southeastern coast of South America in case the Germans attempted to remain close to shore.  He also announces that the squadron will sail in two days' time.  The captain of Glasgow objects, fearing that the Germans might try to reach the Falklands before the British.  He manages to convince Sturdee to advance the date of departure to tomorrow, a decision, as shall be seen, of vital importance.

- Yesterday the convoy carrying the thousands of volunteers from Australia and New Zealand departed the port of Aden, a British colony on the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula near the mouth of the Red Sea.  Their destination at that time remained England, where they were to encamp and undergo training on Salisbury Plain alongside the Canadian contingent.  The experiences of the Canadians to date, however, show that Salisbury Plain leaves much to be desired.  There are not nearly enough huts to house all of the soldiers, so most sleep under canvass.  Further, the weather is terrible - near constant rain and cold temperatures not only make conditions miserable but impede the training regimen of the Canadians.  The Australian representative at the British War Office, realizing the misery of the Canadians on Salisbury Plain, does not want the same conditions inflicted on the Australians and New Zealanders.  He suggested to Lord Kitchener that the convoy be redirected to Egypt, where they will be able to train in more amenable circumstances.  Kitchener agrees, and word reaches the convoy today that they are to be redirected to Egypt, where the Australians and New Zealanders will encamp just outside Cairo.  At present there is still every intention that once sufficiently prepared they will be dispatched to the Western Front.

- Overnight the Dutch destroyer Lynx returns to continue following the schooner Ayesha as it approaches Padang.  The attention of Lynx is welcome in one sense, as given that the German crew of Ayesha have no charts of Padang they are able to know if their course will take them onto reefs by whether Lynx turns away.  On the other hand, the attention is regretted by First Officer Mücke - it gives the impression, in his words, of a burly policeman bringing in a disreputable scoundrel, while also indicating that perhaps the Dutch have been expecting them.  Twice Mücke signals Lynx as to why they are being followed, but the Dutch give no response.  The Germans take some satisfaction, however, in the sight of their powerful escort forced to limit itself to the speed of one mile per hour so as to not overshoot Ayesha.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

November 26th, 1914

- Near Krakow the Russian 3rd Army, concentrated to the east of the city and south of the Vistula River, forces the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army to fall back westwards towards Krakow.  3rd Army's commander believes, given the apparently-shattered state of the Austro-Hungarian army, that his army may be able to seize the forts at Krakow by a coup de main.  However, his superiors at Stavka are less sure - the bulk of the Russian army to the north is exhausted from the fighting of November, and today they learn of the imminent arrival of three German corps, having been transferred from the west, and for which they have no reserves available to counter.

- At dawn the British battlecruisers Invincible and Inflexible arrive at the Abrolhos Rock, where they meet Rear-Admiral Stoddart's squadron of four armoured cruisers and two light cruisers, the latter including Glasgow.  Vice-Admiral Sturdee aboard Invincible takes overall command of the assembled British warships, and coaling is undertaken in preparation for the pursuit of the German East Asiatic Squadron.

- Sturdee's target meanwhile departs Bahía San Quintín this afternoon.  While they had anchored and coaled at Bahía San Quintín Admiral Spee had received a message from the German Naval Staff, informing him of provisional, though potentially unreliable, arrangements made for colliers in the Atlantic, and gave him discretion in deciding whether to try to break for home.  By today Spee has decided to do just that, but as always the coal situation remains of mind.  He has also heard a report that Port Stanley in the Falklands Islands is undefended, a message that will be of decisive importance in determining the fate of the German East Asiatic Squadron.

- At dawn this morning the crew of the Ayesha sights the port of Padang in the distance, but the wind has died to almost nothing, leaving them practically adrift.  Given that they still sit in international waters and in a major shipping lane, they have no desire to wait lest a hostile cruiser stumble upon them.  In order to make at least some progress, the crew resort to rowing - two lifeboats are lowered into the water and attached to the bow, while spare oars onboard Ayesha itself are used by the remaining crew.  Through these means they are able to approach Padang at one mile per hour.

Later in the morning Ayesha is approached by the Dutch destroyer Lynx.  As the appearance of all fifty of the German crew aboard Ayesha would give the game away, all but First Officer Mücke and the dirtiest, wildest-looking sailor disappear below deck.  Mücke's intention is to give the impression of being just a run-down schooner, hardly worthy of attention.  The Dutch warship passed slowly at a distance of fifty metres, each of its officers inspecting Ayesha through binoculars and carrying on a lively conversation.  The Dutch make no attempt to hail Mücke, but follow Ayesha for several hours as it approaches Padang at an agonizingly-slow speed, before returning to the port itself in the evening.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November 25th, 1914

- The Polish National Committee, supportive of the Russian war effort, is founded in Warsaw today by influential Poles who believe that the best route to Polish independence is a temporary alliance with Russia.  This is in contrast to the Supreme National Committee, established in Krakow by Józef Piłsudski, which supports Germany and Austria-Hungary in the hope they will establish a Polish state if victorious.

- As the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army falls back towards Krakow, its commander has another issue to deal with - the disappearance of two of his regiments.  As it turns out, these units, totaling eight thousand soldiers, have deserted en masse to the Russians, colonels and officers included.  It is symbolic of the deteriorating morale of the Austro-Hungarian army after several months of near-constant defeats and horrendous casualties on the Eastern Front.

Monday, November 24, 2014

November 24th, 1914

- In the first months of the war the French government had imposed a number of what it had described as temporary moratoriums on a range of financial transactions in order to avoid panicked withdrawals of bank deposits and conserve funds for the war effort.  Today, however, the French government announces that the moratoriums will last for the duration of the war.  While the measures allow for a greater government influence over economic activity, they also deaden commerce and economic activity in the private sector, and measures such as the moratorium on the collection of rents result in the accumulation of large amounts of debts by some.

- East of Lodz the decisive moment arrives for the German XXV Reserve Corps and Guards Division as they attempt to escape encirclement, as the Russian Lovitch detachment of 1st Army stands between them and the rest of the German 9th Army.  The Lovitch detachment, however, is handled with about the same level of professionalism as the other Russian formations that had encircled the two German units.  One of the detachment's two divisions moves too far west and gets tangled up with the Russian defenders of Lodz, and by the time it gets itself sorted out the German Guards Division has broken through and rejoined 9th Army.  Meanwhile, the other Russian division has entrenched behind a railway embankment astride the line of retreat of XXV Reserve Corps, the latter of which consist of second-line soldiers exhausted from days of marching and fighting.  Naturally, the strong Russian defensive position promptly disintegrates, the divisional commander suffers a nervous breakdown, and only 1600 Russian soldiers escape capture as XXV Reserve Corps breaks through, bringing back with them 16 000 Russian prisoners.

The survival of Guards Division and especially of XXV Reserve Corps is a testimony to the prowess of the German army.  Most commanders in such situations would have simply surrendered, but General Reinhard von Scheffer-Boyadel remained awake for seventy-two hours directing the retreat, and the German infantry demonstrated its endurance and resolution.  On the Russian side, the episode serves to reinforce a sense of inherent inferiority vis-a-vis their German counterparts, which seeps into the mindset of Russian commanders, leaving them unwilling to stand against the enemy even when circumstances favour them.

- While the Russians feel themselves inferior to the Germans, they certainly don't harbour any such concerns about the Austro-Hungarians.  Today Conrad calls off the attempted offensive near Krakow by 4th and 1st Army.  Both have failed to make any significant gains, and by today indications are growing that the Russians, far from being about to break, are about to go over to the attack.  Both 4th and 1st Army are ordered to stand on the defensive, and at places along the front pull back to more defensible positions.  The Austro-Hungarians have lost tens of thousands of men for no gain whatsoever, and the only redeeming aspect of the defeat is that the Russians have suffered as well - the regiments of III Caucasian Corps are down to three to four hundred soldiers each.  The failure also means that alternate means will have to be found to save the deteriorating situation in the Carpathians, where the Russian 8th Army continues to push back the weakening Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army.

- After three days of heavy fighting between the Austro-Hungarian 6th Army and the Serbian 1st Army, the latter has been forced to retreat again today.  Potiorek does not order 6th Army to pursue the foe, as the fierce engagements of the past week have disorganized and fatigued his units and he has determined that they require rest.  He remains convinced that he has won a crushing victory - that with the Serbian 1st Army retreating he will be able to turn the flank of the Serbian armies to the north and envelop them.  Reflecting the optimism of his commanders, Emperor Franz Joseph today appoints General Stefan Sarkotic governor of Serbia.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

November 23rd, 1914

- In France four squadrons of Voisin biplanes, totaling eighteen airplanes, are merged together into 1st Bombardment Group, the first French aerial unit devoted to strategic aerial attacks on Germany.

- For several weeks the British and Dutch governments have been negotiating an agreement regarding the importation of goods to the Netherlands deemed contraband by the British.  The concern of the latter is that such goods after arrival in the Netherlands could easily be shipped across the border to Germany, thus allowing the Germans to circumvent the blockade.  The Dutch, for their part, believe that as a neutral power their global trade should not be impeded.  Today the negotiations result in an agreement to create the Netherlands Oversea Trust, a company composed of Dutch private sector merchants who would help individuals wishing to trade in contraband goods.  A pledge would be extracted from such individuals that the contraband goods were for home or Dutch colonial consumption only, and the Netherlands Oversea Trust would then communicate the pledge to the British who would allow the trade based on the guarantee of the Trust's board of directors.  This system solves many of the concerns of both parties - the British gain a means by which Dutch trade in contraband goods can be regulated, while Dutch merchants gain some security that their goods will not be seized.  Moreover, as the Trust is civilian, the Dutch government is not worried about the arrangement appearing to violate their neutrality by leaning too heavily towards the British.

- East of Lodz the German XXV Reserve Corps and Guards Division is now pulling back northwards in an effort to escape from the Russian encirclement, marching over poor, icy roads.  To the west of the German force the Russian defenders at Lodz are too disorganized from the ongoing fighting with the bulk of the German 9th Army to interfere.  To the south, German cavalry covers the German retreat so successfully that the Russian commander there believes he has won an excellent defensive victory.  To the east Russian cavalry mistakes columns of thousands of Russian prisoners accompanying the retreating Germans as additional German soldiers, believe themselves vastly outnumbered, and do not bother to attack.  So far, then, the Russian army is demonstrating their usual level of competence in attempting to destroy the German corps and division.  Still, the Lovitch detachment from the Russian 1st Army has now advanced far enough to sit astride the line of retreat northwards of the German corps and division, leaving the latter still in great danger of envelopment and destruction.

- It is only today that the last units of the Austro-Hungarian army arrive by train opposite central Poland.  The two weeks it has taken the army to redeploy by rail from Galicia to east of Breslau is testimony to the poor state of Austro-Hungarian railways and the dysfunctional logistics that has plagued their armies in the field.

- For the past four days Count István Tisza, Prime Minister of Hungary, has been in Germany discussing the diplomatic relationship with Romania, meeting with Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg, General Falkenhayn, and others.  The Germans have been applying pressure on Austria-Hungary to cede territory to Romania in exchange for its entry into the war on their side, a stance that Tisza strongly opposes - though willing to give some concessions on language and education to Romanians within the Empire, the lands the Germans propose to yield come from the Hungarian portion of the Empire.  However, the entry of the Ottoman Empire into the war and the initial progress made in the current invasion of Serbia have served to calm German fears regarding the situation in the Balkans, and Tisza returns home confident that he has convinced the German leadership to drop any suggestion of territorial concessions.

- A ceremony is held today in Basra today to formalize the British occupation of the city.  The British are eager to win the active support of Arab tribes in the region, and thus desire to show that as the Ottomans are never to return the Arabs need have no fear of Ottoman reprisals.  But if the Ottomans are not to return, what, exactly, is to become of the region.  Are the Arabs to 'enjoy the benefits of liberty', as the commander of Indian Expeditionary Force D proclaims at today's ceremony, or is the region to be annexed by Britain, as the same commander suggests he said to the assembled crowd in his report on the ceremony to the Secretary of State for India.  Neither option has been seriously discussed, and both raise important issues.  For the British it will prove to have been much easier to occupy Basra than decide what to do with it.

There is also the question of what IEF D ought to do next.  Its initial orders said nothing beyond the occupation of Basra, so are they now simply to stay put?  Sir Percy Cox, IEF D's political officer and an Arab expert, believes that Arab support will only be forthcoming if the British continue to advance up the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and demonstrate their complete dominance of the region.  To this end, he recommends in a letter to the Viceroy of India that IEF D advance to Baghdad, a much more significant undertaking that simply securing the Shatt al-Arab.  Even though the term has not yet been coined, the British campaign in Mesopotamia takes a first step towards becoming a textbook definition of mission creep.

- At 10am this morning the schooner Ayesha, carrying First Officer Helmuth von Mücke and his fifty-man detachment that escaped from Direction Island after the sinking of Emden, sights the Sumatra coast in the Dutch East Indies.  Ayesha has had an adventurious journey since they set sail two weeks ago.  Given that the schooner was built for a crew of five, sleeping arrangements were at a premium, and most had to sleep in the hold with scrap iron used for ballast, while two small cabins below deck, originally fitted out for sleeping, had to be abandoned to the huge cockroaches that patrolled them.  The water held in iron tanks aboard was discovered to have fouled, forcing the crew to rely on rainfall to avoid dehydration.  The old sails tore repeatedly, meaning much work was spent mending and patching the canvass.  Much of the wooden hull was rotten, so much so that when it was inspected with a knife they had to quickly desist in fear poking the wood would let in the Indian Ocean.

That the Ayesha has survived the nearly eight hundred mile journey from the Cocos Islands to Sumatra is nothing short of a minor miracle, but their tribulations are hardly at an end.  They have no charts of the Sumatra coast, and there is a constant worry of running aground upon some hidden reef or rock.  There is also a keen awareness that warships of the Entente are almost certainly searching the seas for them, and may anticipate them sailing to the Dutch East Indies.  First Officer Mücke, however, has no intention of being captured.  They still have the four machine guns they had brought with them when they had landed on Direction Island, and hole have been cut in the gunwales to mount them.  Though the aged schooner could hardly have looked less like a warship, Mücke has every intention of fighting if confronted by an enemy vessel.  Meanwhile, his intention is to sail up the Sumatra coast to the port of Padang, where he intends to avail himself of international law that allows warships to enter neutral ports for twenty-four hours, during which time he hopes to reprovision.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

November 22nd, 1914

- The readjustment of the position of the British Expeditionary Force on the line has been completed.  All British units are now together, and hold the front from Wytschaete, south of Ypres, to the La Bassée Canal at Givenchy, a stretch of 21 miles.  For their part the Belgians hold 15 miles of the front adjacent to the English Channel, and the French, responsible for everything else, covers 430 miles.  This graphically illustrates the extent to which the French army has shouldered the overwhelming burden of the fighting on the Western Front.  While the Belgians and the British have made vital contributions, and won deserved acclaim for their successful struggles along the Yser and around Ypres, in the end the great German attack in the west has been halted first and foremost by the French.  In saving themselves, they have preserved the hope of all in the Entente that ultimate victory may yet be achieved.

The Western Front on November 22nd, 1914, showing the position of
the BEF and the Belgian army; everything else is held by the French.

Though all three of the major combatants at Ypres consider the battle to have ended on different days, the British place its conclusion today with the end of their redeployment, which suffices as a moment to review the fighting in Flanders (incidentally, the French see the 13th and the Germans the 30th as the end).  Despite later claims by the Germans, the First Battle of Ypres has been a victory for the Entente.  The Germans had significant, sometimes near-overwhelming, numerical superiority in almost every phase of the fighting, but consistently failed to break through the British and French lines.  The failure to convert their numbers advantage into victory has been due not only to the strength of the defence in the context of the military technology of 1914, such as the machine gun, as they consistently repeated several tactical errors during the battle.  First, major German attacks were undertaken against long stretches of the Entente line in an effort to probe for weakness, as opposed to concentrating overwhelming force to break through at a place of their choosing.  Second, they consistently overestimated the size of the enemy confronting them, not realizing at several key moments how close they were to breaking through.  Third, they would use all available infantry in their attacks, leaving no reserves that could be sent to exploit the successes they achieved on several occasions.  Fourth, when they did break the British lines, in particular on October 31st and November 11th, the unit that did so did not advance further, being exhausted from their efforts and unaware of what they had accomplished, giving time for British reserves to arrive and counterattack.  Some of these mistakes could be rectified in future battles, but they pointed to one of the greatest difficulties attackers faced in the First World War - it would be consistently easier for the defender to send reserves to restore their lines than it was for the attacker to exploit any breakthrough they could achieve.

The conclusion of the First Battle of Ypres signals the end of the movement phase of the first months of the war.  Both sides are now committed to entrenching, and the rudimentary trenches dug hastily during the fighting are increasingly converted to more substantial trench systems.  The fighting at Ypres itself reflected the transition from mobile to static fighting.  Artillery did not yet dominate the battlefield as it would do so in future - foot soldiers played a vital role and the climactic moments were decided by infantry charges, not artillery bombardments.  First Ypres was also a battle still largely decided by junior officers responding to sudden circumstances, as with the British brigade commanders who ordered forward reserves at the critical moments, as opposed to the increasingly orchestrated and detailed assault plans of later set-piece battles.  Cavalry also had a role to play at Ypres, fighting in the front line and using their horses to rapidly redeploy on the battlefield.  On the other hand, First Ypres clearly indicated that small defensive forces could hold off attackers even when overwhelmingly outnumbered, and the Kindermord in particular demonstrated that no amount of spirit or elan among advancing infantry could allow them to carry a position in the face of sustained rifle and especially machine gun fire.

An exact accounting of the losses suffered by both sides is impossible, given the incompleteness of records, especially on the German side.  At minimum, the Germans suffered 134 000 casualties in the First Battle of Ypres, but possibly much more.  Of the four reserve corps thrown into the fighting in late October, each lost about half of their infantry.  French casualties were between 50 000 and 80 000, which comprised a majority of the 104 000 losses sustained by the entire French army in October and November 1914.  For the Belgians, approximately a third of those who escaped Antwerp before its fall on October 10th were lost by the end of October in the fighting along the Yser River.  British losses were calculated after the war to have been 58155, of whom 7960 were dead and 17 873 missing, most of the latter consisting of fallen soldiers whose bodies could not be recovered to verify their death.

Given that the First Battle of Ypres signals the end of the war of movement, an accounting can also be made of the losses suffered by the two sides since the outbreak of war itself.  The numbers are staggering - total French casualties are nearly one million, and include approximately 265 000 dead, while the comparable German numbers are over 700 000 losses, among which are about 241 000 dead.  The titanic and climactic battles that both sides expected have been fought, especially at the Marne, but the clashes have not brought the decisive outcome that all anticipated.  Instead, the casualty lists are merely the first installment of the ever-growing butcher's bill.

Total casualties for the British Expeditionary Force in the war to date have been 89 864.  Remarkably, the original strength of the first seven divisions to have been deployed in France had been only 84 000 - the BEF is only able to remain in the field due to replacements sent from home.  For all intents and purposes, the original British Expeditionary Force dispatched to France in early August had ceased to exist.  In most regiments an average of a single officer and thirty other ranks have survived since the first fighting at Mons on August 23rd.  The future of the BEF rests with soldiers recruited since the outbreak of the war, as the last of the BEF's original strength had been expended in the Ypres salient, fighting beyond the point of exhaustion to prevent a German breakthrough that might have had decisive results.  Ypres thus takes on an emotive significance to the British, the area becoming known as the 'Immortal Salient'.  The land is seen as consecrated by their dead, and no British commander can countenance yielding ground that had been so dearly bought.  It reflects another of the paradoxes of the First World War that will appear in future - sacrifices made on an earlier occasion become the justification for further losses to preserve what had been gained by the earlier casualties.

The lessons drawn from the battle by the British leadership, and General Haig in particular, will also have future reverberations.  Haig is well aware how close the Germans came to shattering his lines at Gheluvelt and Nonneboschen, and concludes that the Germans failed because they did not persevere in their attacks when just one more big push would have brought decisive victory.  Haig is determined that when the roles are reversed, no British attack he commands will ever fail because it was not pushed hard enough and long enough to achieve success.  It is, of course, the absolute wrong lesson to be drawn from First Ypres, and thousands of soldiers in the years to come will pay for this error with their lives.

Finally there is the contrast between the original BEF, the 'Old Contemptibles' as they referred to themselves, and the German volunteers of the reserve corps.  Both had made a conscious decision to join the army, as opposed to being forced to fight by conscription, and both were largely destroyed at Ypres.  Here, though, the similarity ends.  The German volunteers of August 1914 were motivated primarily by nationalist enthusiasm - they fought and died in the belief their service and sacrifice would benefit the German people for all time.  The soldiers of the old BEF were not driven by such high ideals - instead, each had made a deliberate and much more mundane choice to pursue, for whatever reason, a career in the army.  They had spent years, in some cases decades, honing their skills; the army was their livelihood, and when the day came for them to put their training to work they did not shirk their responsibilities and were equal to the task.  At Ypres the German volunteers died for their nation; the British soldiers because it was their job.

- Though the German effort to seize Ypres has been called off, the suffering of the town is only beginning.  It has been the target of enemy artillery fire before, but today the Germans deliberately target the magnificent Cloth Hall, symbol of the town's rich medieval heritage.  The bombardment begins at 6am, and by 9am shells are falling on the Cloth Hall, the first striking the tower and the third destroying the clock.  Within two hours the entire building is in flames and ruins.  The Germans claim that the British and French were using the Hall's tower to direct artillery fire, arguing later that 'German life is more precious than the finest Gothic architecture.'  The Germans are wrong - their lines are hidden from the tower's sights by various hills and valleys - and the destruction of the Cloth Hall is seen in much of the world as yet another example of German barbarity, that having been defeated in their efforts to take the town, they destroy it out of spite.  Its ruins become one of the iconic symbols of the destruction wrought by the First World War.

Ypres' Cloth Hall prior to the First World War.

The Cloth Hall burning under German artillery bombardment, November 22nd, 1914.

The ruins of the Cloth Hall later in the war.

- At Lodz the situation continues to deteriorate for the German 9th Army.  Its supply lines stretched to the breaking point, German units are running out of shells for their artillery.  To the east, General Rennenkampf of the Russian 1st Army has sent a force consisting of one and a half infantry and two cavalry divisions and named the Lovitch detachment southwestward towards the northern escape route for the German XXV Reserve Corps and Guards Division.  When an element of the Lovitch detachment occupies Brzeziny today, it appears the German corps and division are doomed - the Russian General Staff orders trains brought to Lodz to take the expected fifty thousand prisoners back to camps in Russia.

- The Yugoslav Committee is formed today in Florence by Ante Trumbic, a Croatian deputy in the Austrian Parliament.  The aim of the Committee is to unite all South Slavs, inside and outside Austria-Hungary, into a single independent state.

- In the Caucasus the Ottoman 3rd Army, suffering from ammunition shortages and command confusion, breaks off its operations against the Russian I Turkestan Corps and concentrates at Köprüköy.  Nevertheless, 3rd Army's attacks have stymied the Russian advance, giving the engagement the impression of being a notable Ottoman victory.  Enver Pasha in particular draws an out-sized belief in the fighting ability of 3rd Army, which will have fatal ramifications in the coming months.

- In Mesopotamia the main force of Indian Expeditionary Force D arrives at Basra shortly after midday.  They secure British control over the city and put an end to the looting of the past two days.  The trials of IEF D do not end, however - the bridges in Basra have to be reinforced before they can be used by any significant detachment of infantry, and the 'indescribably filthy condition of the town,' in the words of IEF D's commander, means the British have to set up camp outside Basra.

Friday, November 21, 2014

November 21st, 1914

- Today a flight of British Avro 504 aircraft take off from an airfield near Belfort, located in southeast France near the Swiss border.  The aircraft fly 125 miles across Bavaria to the city of Friedrichshaffen, the location of the Zeppelin works.  They drop several 20lb bombs that damages some machinery, though missing a new Zeppelin under construction.

- At and west of Lodz the German 9th Army has spent several days grappling with the Russian 2nd and 5th Armies without making any progress.  The situation to the east of Lodz, however, is completely different.  This was the one part of the line where the Germans arrived before the retreating Russians.  Here there was the German 25th Reserve Corps and Guards Division, and finding no significant resistance before them they had moved to implement Ludendorff's original plan - i.e. isolate Lodz to cut off the two Russian armies.  Thus over the past few days the German corps and division have marched first south past Lodz, and then west, believing themselves to be enveloping the Russian defenders.  In reality, it was the Germans who were being enveloped.  Today the westward movement of 25th Reserve Corps and Guards Division is halted by Russian reinforcements rushed from west of Lodz, while their path south and east were blocked by other Russian units.  Further, there were no German units to their north, which meant that the Russian 1st Army, sweeping south from the Vistula River, might be able to block the escape of the two German units.  After a promising beginning to his offensive, Ludendorff is now confronted with the potential envelopment and destruction of a significant part of 9th Army.

The Battle of Lodz, November 21st to 24th, 1914.
- Over four days of bitter fighting near Krakow, the Austro-Hungarian 4th and 1st Armies have failed to achieve any significant success.  Conrad, however, remains optimistic - the local victories that have occurred have been interpreted as signs of imminent strategic success, and radio intercepts appear to suggest the Russian commanders opposite are desparate for reinforcements.  Further, it was generally believed that the German advance on Lodz would force the Russian armies at Krakow to retreat.  Thus at 330pm Conrad issues orders to 4th and 1st Armies for continued vigorous attacks and a ruthless pursuit of the anticipated Russian retreat.  Again this is an instance of seeing what one wants to see - Conrad believes victory is at hand near Krakow because he must win this battle as quickly as possible.  To the southeast, the Russian 3rd Army is marching westwards south of the Vistula, and the Russian 8th Army has advanced into the Carpathian Mountains, and is on the cusp of seizing several key passes that would allow a Russian offensive into Hungary itself.  A rapid victory at Krakow is essential to allow for the redeployment of forces to the Carpathians to prevent a Russian march on Budapest.  Conrad is seeing at Krakow what he needs to happen to allow him to save the Carpathian passes - not unusually, his powers of perception are failing him.

- The French ambassador to Russia has an audience with the Tsar today, during which he elaborates on the war aims of France.  The recovery of Alsace-Lorraine is naturally essential, but the ambassador declares that France must extend its influence over the Rhineland, to ensure that Germany can never again pose a deadly threat to France.

- Though the news of the Ottoman abandonment of Basra reached Indian Expeditionary Force D yesterday evening, the occupation of Basra remains no easy task: the infantry have a thirty-mile march ahead of them, while movement by water is hindered by a number of ships sunk by the Ottomans in the Shatt al-Arab to block British vessels.  As several British ships attempt to manoeuvre past the obstructions, they are met by a steam launch carrying the leading citizens of Basra as well as British residents, both representing the large commercial community of the port.  They plead with the British vessels to occupy Basra as quickly as possible, as from the moment the Ottomans withdrew yesterday the inhabitants of Basra have been enthusiastically looting their stores.  Thus the initial occupation of Basra is as much to defend private property as for any other reason.  Several British sloops are able to make their way through the sunken Ottoman ships and anchor off Basra, sending landing parties ashore to dismantle the Ottoman field guns left behind and clear looters from the port area.  The initial landing has a limited effect - once the population realizes that the occupying force is only a few groups of sailors, not a large army, they eagerly resume looting.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

November 20th, 1914

- Reconnaissance today gives to French and British commanders in Flanders the first indications of German units transferring from the Western Front eastwards.

- In the North Sea the armoured cruisers of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron have been suffering as they continued the work of enforcing the naval blockade of Germany.  In many respects these warships are unsuited for the task - outdated, they are prone to breakdown and could not hope to catch a fast modern vessel should one try to break the blockade line.  Today the Admiralty decides to replace these armoured cruisers with merchant ships pressed into government service and armed with light guns.  These vessels are better-suited to the poor weather of the North Sea, and their numbers can be more easily augmented as compared to armoured cruisers.

- The day prior to the fighting at Sahil, the British cabinet had designated the capture of the Ottoman city of Basra as the main objective of Indian Expeditionary Force D, though Lord Crewe, Secretary of State for India, had clarified the instructions such that a move against Basra ought to be undertaken only if doing so was practical under the circumstances.  Today the commander of IEF D reports that continuing problems and delays with the landing of horses, ammunition, and supplies rendered an immediate advance unlikely.  However, the Ottoman commander of 38th Division, tasked with the defence of Basra and the surrounding region, decides today to make the situation much easier for his British counterpart by hastily and precipitously abandoning Basra and withdrawing northwards along the Shatt al-Arab.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

November 19th, 1914

- Flanders sees the first serious snowfall of the year, adding to the misery of the soldiers dug in along the front line.  Though German shelling continues, Entente commanders notice a sharp decline in the frequency and intensity of German infantry assaults.

- Today the French XI Corps of 2nd Army, on the front near the Somme River, attacks the German line in an effort to pin enemy reserves to this sector and demonstrate the continued vitality of the French army.  The operation accomplishes absolutely nothing.

- Desperate fighting has continued along the front in Serbia since the 17th, as the Austro-Hungarians seek to break the Serbian defensive line.  They achieve their first success today, forcing the Serbian 1st Army backwards and taking high ground on the opposite bank of the Kolubara River.  General Potiorek's plan is for his 6th Army to occupy the Serbian forces while 5th Army drives on and enters Belgrade to the north.

- On November 8th the Prime Minister of Hungary published correspondence between himself and Romanian religious figures, in which he pledged a series of concessions to the Romanian population of the Hungarian portion of Austria-Hungary, including language rights and electoral reform.  These reforms were designed not only to mollify the Romanian population within Hungary, but also the Romanian government, whose neutrality the Hungarian Prime Minister was eager to maintain.  Given the multiethnic composition of the Empire, however, concessions to one group are eagerly highlighted by other groups - today the newspaper of the Slovak committee of the Social Democratic Party publishes a call for the same concessions to be extended to the Slovak population of Hungary.  This highlights the possible lethality of any effort to reform Austria-Hungary - concessions to one group lead other groups to demand the same, a vicious circle that has the potential to destroy the Empire itself.  And yet, in a war for survival in which each ethnic group is represented among the soldiers of the Habsburg army, is a policy of repression, not reform, any more viable?

- The German East Asiatic Squadron today sails into the Gulf of Penas on the Chilean coast three hundred miles north of the Straits of Magellan, and anchors in Bahía San Quintín.  Here they coal once again, while Admiral Spee names and congratulates three hundred of his officers and men who have been awarded the Iron Cross, Second Class by the Kaiser, ecstatic at their victory at Coronel (the medals themselves await the recipients in Germany).

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

November 18th, 1914

- The decision of Duke Albrecht yesterday to suspend offensive operations at Ypres is approved today by Falkenhayn.  For several weeks he has been increasingly aware of the growing fatigue within the German army, and clearly even the more limited objectives set in early November, such as Mount Kemmel, could not be seized under present circumstances.  Instead, the German army on the Western Front is to go over on to the defensive - the hope for a rapid and decisive victory over the French is finally abandoned.

As the pre-war strategy has failed to deliver the promised victory in wartime, Falkenhayn and the German General Staff is left searching for alternatives.  Given the results in the west, a shift to the east appears logical, especially as by standing on the defensive reduces the amount of units needed on the Western Front.  Falkenhayn thus informs Hindenburg today that several corps will be shifted from the west to the east, including III Reserve Corps, XIII Corps, II Corps, and XXIV Reserve Corps, the former three coming from Flanders.

There is, however, a crucial difference between Falkenhayn and Hindenburg over what these reinforcements are to accomplish.  Hindenburg and Ludendorff believe that a decisive victory over the Russians is possible, one that will allow Germany to impose its peace terms on Russia.  Falkenhayn is less optimistic - taking his cue from the campaigns of Napoleon, he feels that the most that can be accomplished in the east are local victories.  This, however, is not problematic for Falkenhayn, as he has come to believe that Germany can no longer win a total victory over all of its enemies.  Instead, enough damage should be done to Russia to convince it to agree to a compromise peace based on no annexations, which will allow Germany to focus all of its military might against France and Britain.  If Russia cannot be convinced to sign a separate peace, Germany will inevitably be ground down by a war of attrition against enemies it can not hope to match in numbers.

Falkenhayn's views on a compromise peace, expressed today in a letter to Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg, falls on deaf ears.   The Chancellor still believes that an absolute victory can be achieved in the east, and in this he has the agreement of Hindenburg and Ludendorff.  The prestige of the latter two grows as victories on the Eastern Front (however embellished by Ludendorff) are contrasted with failures, for which Falkenhayn is blamed, on the Western Front.  Falkenhayn's advice regarding the future direction of the war are rejected, though because of the personal support of the Kaiser there is no question at this time of replacing Falkenhayn.  Instead, the German Chief of the General Staff is left to continue to develop plans to achieve a total victory he no longer feels is within Germany's grasp.

- The German 9th Army arrives today just north of Lodz, but discover the city well-defended.  In something of a miracle, considering the Russian army's well-earned reputation for sluggishness, both 2nd and 5th Army have managed to retreat to the city before the Germans could arrive to seize it.  For 5th Army in particular it is a significant achievement, accomplished by non-stop marching over the past three days.  The result is that the four corps of the German 9th Army at Lodz find themselves facing seven Russian corps, and, as the latter is the supply centre for 2nd and 5th Army, for once it is the Russians who are better-supplied.  Ludendorff, however, orders Mackensen to continue the offensive - he has misinterpreted the Russian move back to Lodz as yet another panicked retreat, not an orderly redeployment.  It is a case of Ludendorff seeing what he wants to sees in the information arriving from the front.  Thus the Germans, despite being outnumbered, attack into the Russian lines.

- Yesterday a Russian squadron of five pre-dreadnoughts, three cruisers, and thirteen destroyers bombarded the Turkish Black Sea port of Trebizond.  On hearing of the attack Admiral Souchon decided to sortie with his 'Turkish' warships Goeben and Breslau in an effort to catch a portion of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.  In thick fog the two squadrons stumble into each other twenty miles off Cape Sarych on the Crimean coast just after midday.  Because of the poor visibility, Goeben does not sight the Russian squadron until it is already within range of the main guns of the latter's pre-dreadnoughts.  This nullifies the advantage Goeben would normally have over pre-dreadnoughts - i.e. that its main armament can fire longer distances.

The Battle of Cape Sarych, November 18th, 1914.  This map gives the Turkish names for Goeben (Yavuz) and Breslau (Midilli).

The Russian flagship Evstafiy hits Goeben with its first salvo, killing twelve Germans and one Turk.  Though Goeben in turn is able to land five hits on Evstafiy, killing thirty-four, Admiral Souchon quickly realizes that the short range - about seven thousand yards - means his ships are heavily outgunned, and he decides to use his superior speed to break off the engagement.  The battle lasts only fourteen minutes, and most of the warships present never fire a shot.  From this battle the Russians draw the conclusion that all of its large warships must operate together to avoid defeat in detail at the hands of Goeben, while for Souchon the engagement reinforces the isolation of his battlecruiser - as a light cruiser, Breslau is of little aid in a large naval battle, and the other warships of the Ottoman navy are of no value whatsoever (had they been present at Cape Sarych they would have lacked the speed to escape).

The Russian pre-dreadnought Estafiy.

- In Russia five Bolshevik Duma representatives are arrested for distributing Vladimir Lenin's Theses on the War calling for the transformation of the 'imperialist war' into a 'civil war' to bring about revolution.  At this point, however, most on the left still support the war effort.

Monday, November 17, 2014

November 17th, 1914

- At Ypres the German 4th Division launch a heavy infantry attack against the British 3rd Division today, but they are repulsed with heavy losses.  With this failure, and considering the deteriorating weather and exhaustion of his soldiers, Duke Albrecht, commander of the German 4th Army, concludes that further attacks would be futile and suspends offensive operations.  Instead he orders 4th Army to focus on the construction of trenches and defensive positions, and begin to rotate units out of the line to provide for rest.

- Today sees the first serious fighting near Krakow as a result of the Austro-Hungarian offensive.  The entirety of both 1st and 4th Armies are committed to the attack today, but make very little progress, the Russians having had sufficient time to construct defensive positions.  By the end of the day the conditions of trench warfare prevailed along the entire front of the two Austro-Hungarian armies.

- Yesterday the Austro-Hungarian 5th and 6th Armies reached the Kolubara River, and today assault the Serbian defensive positions on the east bank.  The two sides fight in appalling weather, with heavy rain and snowfall - visibility is reduced and significant numbers of soldiers dying of frostbite and exposure.

- In an effort to secure its support in the war, the British government offers Bulgaria the entirety of Macedonia, part of which currently belongs to Serbia.  Though the British pledge to compensate Serbia with territory elsewhere, Russia objects to forcing its Balkan ally to hand over territory.

- At 515am this morning the two brigades of Indian Expeditionary Force D begin an advance upriver from its base camp at Saihan, and by 830am encounter an Ottoman force of several thousand who seek to block their way.  The initial attack of the Indian brigades accomplishes little - a sudden rainstorm turns the battlefield into mud, and their artillery rather unhelpfully fires on mirages.  Fortunately for the British, the Ottomans opposite are in even worse shape.  Mesopotamia is an isolated backwater of the Ottoman Empire, starved of supplies and soldiers - most of the Ottoman infantry here are composed of Arab levies who desert at an alarmingly high rate.  When several British gunboats move up the Shatt al-Arab and begin to fire into the Ottoman positions, the Ottoman forces break and retreat, handing victory to IEF D.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

November 16th, 1914

- There is no significant combat today at Ypres, outside of the usual shelling of each others' lines.  This allows the British and French to continue to redeploy their units - the French IX Corps stretches south to cover the trenches to the Menin Road, permitting the British 1st Division to move into reserve.

- Near Krakow the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army is scheduled to begin its attack at 6am this morning.  However, the nighttime march to its starting line is hopelessly confused, with numerous traffic jams inhibiting progress.  It is not until early afternoon that 4th Army is actually in position to attack the Russian 9th Army opposite, which has had time to dig a defensive position that stymies the attacks of 4th Army.  Meanwhile, X Corps of 1st Army had been ordered to advance in the afternoon, on the assumption that 4th Army struck the Russians in the morning.  Again, the divisions are significantly delayed, and by nightfall have not yet reached Russian positions.  Thus ends the first day of Conrad's grand 'pincer movement'.

The line near Krakow at the start of the Austro-Hungarian offensive, November 16th, 1914.

- In South Africa a rebel commando commanded by C. F. Beyers is attacked by superior Government forces near Bultfontein and is defeated.  Beyers and the remnants of his unit flee eastwards.  The rebels have not been able to attract enough support among the Boer populace, given that the leading figures in the South African government - men such as Botha and Smuts - are Boers themselves who were active leaders in the Boer War, and thus could draw on considerable personal loyalty in raising government units to combat the rebels.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

November 15th, 1914

- Though German shelling continues there are no significant infantry actions today in Flanders.  The reorganization of the Entente line pursuent to the agreement on the 13th between Foch and French begins, and a reconstituted British IV Corps, consisting of 7th and 8th Divisions and again commanded by General Rawlinson, enters the line today between III and Indian Corps.  The German army, meanwhile, begins to lay the groundwork for a public explanation of its failure in Flanders, issuing a communique today stating that bad weather has impeded operations over the past few days.

- In Poland only today does General Ruzski of the Russian North-West Front realize that the advance of the German 9th Army is not only the main German offensive, as opposed to a diversion, but that it is poised to seize Lodz and drive into the rear of 2nd and 5th Armies.  He issues orders today for both armies to retreat eastwards and fall back on Lodz.  The battle is now a race between the German 9th Army and the Russian 2nd and 5th Armies to see which can reach Lodz first.

Meanwhile, Conrad is planning an offensive of his own.  In the retreat after the Battle of the Vistula River over the past several weeks, the Austro-Hungarian 1st and 4th Armies have fallen back upon the fortress of Krakow, the former just to the north and the latter just to the northeast.  Conrad orders call for 4th Army to lead with an attack on the Russian 9th Army opposite, to be followed almost immediately by 1st Army advancing into the Russian flank.  Should everything go according to plan, the Austro-Hungarian advance will form a southern pincer that will meet with the German 9th Army east of Lodz to isolate three entire Russian armies.  Like many of Conrad's plans, it ambitious and hopelessly unrealistic.

Further, for the past nine days the Austro-Hungarian 2nd Army has been transferring from the front in Galicia to Prussian Silesia.  The ostensible reason for this redeployment, as Conrad told Hindenburg, was to aid the German 9th Army in its offensive.  In reality, Conrad did not want the Germans to undertake their offensive by themselves, as it would allow Hindenburg and Ludendorff to act without reference to Conrad; instead, if the Austro-Hungarian 2nd Army aided the German 9th Army, Conrad could assert the right to have a say in the progress of the fighting.

The transfer of 2nd Army, however, has been painfully slow, a reflection both of poor Austro-Hungarian staff work and the lack of sufficient railways in Galicia.  Just 12 trains per day are bringing one of 2nd Army's two corps north, while the trains carrying the other have to detour through Budapest.  This stands in stark contrast to the rapid redeployment of the German 9th Army achieved earlier in November, and such logistics are yet another way in which the Austro-Hungarian army is significantly weaker than its ally.

Of crucial importance to the Battle of Lodz is that the slow arrival of the Austro-Hungarian 2nd Army means that it has not come to grips with the Russian 5th Army, which is what allows the latter to disengage and retreat eastward relatively unhindered.  At the same time, the removal of 2nd Army from the Galician front means that Conrad's offensive at Krakow is under a time constraint - he needs to defeat the Russian 4th and 9th Armies before the Russian armies to the east can reach the Carpathians and seize the mountain passes through it, which would give the Russians access to central Hungary.

The line in northern Poland, November 15th, 1914.  Note the advance of the German 9th Army southeastwards between
Lodz and the Vistula, and the Austro-Hungarian 2nd Army slowly coming into the line north of Army Group Woyrsch,
a small German formation designed to cover the gap between 9th Army and the Austro-Hungarians to the south.

- Socialist Benito Mussolini starts a campaign agitating for Italy's entry to the war on the side of the Entente through his newspaper Il Populo d'Italia.  His call for war is based on his belief that it is necessary to fulfill 'Italy's national destiny.'

- Austro-Hungarian forces reach the town of Valjevo in northwestern Serbia today, resulting in celebrations in Vienna.  The successful advance to date, in contrast to the two prior failures, lead General Potiorek to believe that the Serbian army has been thoroughly crushed and no longer posed a significant threat.

The reality is that while it has retreated and suffered losses, the Serbian army is far from finished.  As the withdrawal had been planned in advance, losses were lighter than if the Serbs had fought to the end to hold their advanced position.  Further, the defensive positions on the Kolubara River, which the Serbian army has now retreat to, had been under preparation for several months, and they constituted a formidable obstacle to a further Austro-Hungarian advance.

- Near the Shatt al-Arab several battalions of Indian Expeditionary Force D sortie from their camp at Sanniya and attack an Ottoman force of approximately two thousand that had approached to within four miles of the British camp.  Attacking early in the morning, the Ottoman force is dispersed, the British suffering sixty-two casualties while inflicting one hundred and sixty and taking twenty-five prisoners.  The battle, the first significant engagement with Ottoman forces in Mesopotamia, gives IEF D time to finish disembarking its reinforcements unmolested while also teaching valuable lessons on combat in a desert environment.

- The German East Asiatic Squadron departs Más Afuera today, heading south.  Admiral Spee has decided not to break up his squadron to raid Entente merchant shipping, feeling that to do so would waste valuable coal.  Instead, the five ships of the squadron will stay together as they sail down the Chilean coast.

Friday, November 14, 2014

November 14th, 1914

- Early this afternoon at Ypres an attack is made by the Guards' Regiments of Winckler's Division and 4th Division on the British lines opposite.  In several places German soldiers managed to reach British trenches, but any occupation of them was shortlived in the face of timely counterattacks.  Thus the second assault of Plettenberg's Corps never posed the same risk to the Entente line as the first three days earlier.  Elsewhere, the French lost a few hundred yards of no real consequence north of Ypres, while the French XVI Corps took nearly a thousand German prisoners in attacks near Wytschaete.

The frequency and intensity of German attacks at Ypres are clearly in decline, and they are also facing a shortage of artillery shells - Falkenhayn today concludes that there are enough shells for only four more days of fighting around the Ypres salient.

- Lord Roberts, one of the great military and imperial figures of pre-war Britain, dies at St. Omer this evening at 8pm.  Roberts had had a long and distinguished career, serving as Commander-in-Chief in India (1885-93), commander of British forces in the Boer War (1899-1900), and Commander-in-Chief of the British Army (1900-04).  After retirement he was president of the National Service League, which advocated for peacetime conscription in Britain.  Though he was unable to convince the governments of the day of conscription, he was consistent in warning of the German threat and the necessity of Britain committing a large army to the fight against Germany.  He lived long enough to see the war he long prophesized begin, and the first battles of the army he had once led.  He had arrived in France three days ago to visit the troops, but caught a cold which led to his passing.

- In Poland the German 9th Army is making excellent speed in its advance southeastward towards Lodz, as the first winter frost has frozen the mud which had slowed prior campaigns.  After the virtual destruction of the Russian V Siberian Corps, General Mackensen has deployed one corps along the Vistula to guard against the Russian 1st Army; given the sluggishness of Rennenkampf, this is more than sufficient.  The other four corps of 9th Army continue the push towards Lodz against little opposition.  General S. M. Scheidemann of the Russian 2nd Army, which is immediately west of Lodz, is the first Russian commander to realize the threat of the German offensive, and begins to reorientate his army from facing westward for the invasion of Germany to facing northward to confront the German 9th Army.  The rest of the Russian command leadership remains in the dark - Grand Duke Nicholas remains focused on the invasion of Germany, discounting any threat from the northwest to the line of advance westward.

- In Constantinople today the Sheikh-ul-Islam, the highest religious authority in Islam, proclaims a holy war, or jihad, in the presence of the Ottoman Sultan.  All Muslims throughout the world were called upon to fight Britain, France, Russia, Serbia, and Montenegro.  In particular, the Muslim inhabitants of the Asian and African colonies of the first three were called upon to rise up and make common cause with the Ottoman Empire.

This is a proclamation that threatens wholesale rebellions throughout the empires of Britain, France, and Russia, and the three Entente powers take the announcement very seriously.  The efficacy of the call for jihad is limited, however, by a number of factors.  First, it was not a call for all Muslims to rise up against all imperial powers - despite their recent occupation of Libya, there is no mention of Italy, a neutral that Germany and Austria-Hungary do not wish to offend.  Thus the jihad is to be limited, not universal.  Second, the call is clearly linked to the secular and imperial interests of the Ottoman Empire, and in particular Muslims in the Caucasus were not being asked to rise against Russia for freedom, but rather to trade Russian imperialism for Ottoman imperialism.  Finally, because the call for jihad is so clearly linked to the Ottoman Empire, its credibility is linked to the effectiveness of Ottoman arms on the battlefield.  Thus the Young Turks in the Ottoman government who have driven the empire to war need early victories to demonstrate to Muslims outside the empire that the Ottomans are worthy of its claimed position as the leader and protector of global Islam.

- The Muslim group that most enthusiastically embraces the call to jihad is the Senussi, a puritan sect of Islam with between 1.5 and 2.5 million adherents in the Sahara and equatorial Africa.  In 1912 the Ottoman province of Libya was conquered by Italy, and since that time the Senussi have led the resistance to the imposition of Italian rule, and by 1914 they have ten thousand under arms in eastern Cyrenaica near the Egyptian border.  Despite the proclamation of jihad not actually applying to the Senussi, given their presence in an Italian colony, their doctrine does not allow certain non-believers to be exempted from a call to jihad.  Thus the banner of holy war is raised by the Senussi in Fezzan in southern Libya, and the ongoing fight of the Senussi will become increasingly linked to the broader world war.

- Additional elements of the Indian 6th Division arrive at the British camp at Sanniya on the Shatt al-Arab this morning to reinforce Indian Expeditionary Force D.  They bring with them new orders from the Viceroy of India that if they have sufficent force, they are to advance and occupy the city of Basra.  The orders come from India, not London, as the expedition is being undertaken not only to protect British oil interests in Persia, but as a form of 'active defense' of the western frontier of India.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

November 13th, 1914

- At Ypres the Germans launch several attacks today.  In the morning an attack by elements of XXVI and XXVII Reserve Corps assault the French 18th Division of IX Corps, and though they are able to gain a portion of the French trench they are halted.  After a heavy bombardment during the morning the German 4th Division advances against a portion of the British line south of the Menin Road, but are repulsed with heavy losses.

Meanwhile an agreement is reached today between General Foch and Field Marshal French to reorganize the units on the front line at Ypres.  The fighting of the last month has resulted in French units being interspersed among British units, and the desire is to consolidate the BEF so that it holds just one stretch of the front line.  To do so the northernmost units of the BEF are to move southwards towards the line already held by Indian Corps, while the French take over most of the Ypres salient.   For his part General Joffre approves of such a reorganization as he believes that the German offensive in Flanders has run its course.

The strength of the BEF is also reinforced today with the arrival of 8th Division from England, it being composed of Regular Army battalions that had been in India and elsewhere in the Empire on the outbreak of war.

- Denmark, Norway, and Sweden today issue a joint protest against the blockade policy of Britain, and in particular the recent declaration of the North Sea as a war zone.  They assert that this has impacted their overseas trade, and violates their rights as neutrals.  The protest demonstrates how Britain's blockade of Germany, and the means by which they enforce it, inevitably impacts neutral states.  The Foreign Office is concerned not only to avoid pushing the neutrals into a more pro-Germany stance, but also to ensure that the substantial British trade with these neutrals can continue unimpeded.  To this end, the Foreign Office is continuing negotiations with the Scandinavian neutrals to find means by which neutral trade can continue but Germany remains blockaded.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

November 12th, 1914

- Though the German breakthroughs of yesterday have been contained, there is still great concern among British commanders early this morning.  The German Guards regiments still hold the old British trench line between Polygon Wood and the Menin Road, and an attempt in the pre-dawn hours to launch a counterattack is abandoned after Brigadier-General Charles Fitzclarence of 1st Brigade is killed reconnoitring the enemy position.  General Haig informs Field Marshal French that his position is extremely precarious, I Corps current manpower being more than 80% below peacetime establishment.  The BEF commander is able to send 1st Cavalry Division to assist, given the lack of German effort yesterday in the area around Messines.

Though the British situation is dire, it is if anything worse on the German side.  The attacking units of yesterday suffered appalling losses - 1st Guard Regiment, for example, suffered in excess of eight hundred casualties alone.  The fresh divisions of Plettenberg's Corps, having launched the most determined assaults, have suffered the greatest losses.  The attacking power of Army Group Linsingen has been irretrievably broken - Winckler's Division spends today entrenching as opposed to resuming yesterday's attacks.  The British lines are not attacked today, and though on the northeast portion of the Ypres salient a surprise attack by the Germans on the French IX Corps forces the latter back six hundred yards, there is never any real risk of a German breakthrough here.

- Joffre issues instructions today to his army commanders, emphasizing the importance of constructing strong trench lines and defenses.  This was not, however, an acceptance by Joffre that the French army was to go over to the defensive; instead, stronger defenses meant fewer soldiers were needed to man the trenches, which freed up units to be placed in reserve to counter a German attack, or for use in future offensive operations.  Again, the emphasis on trench construction is meant to facilitate, not impede, a return to a war of movement.

- A conference advocating the complete prohibition of alcohol during wartime is held today at Caxton Hall, London, presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The call is based in part on the belief that drunk workers do not make good munitions workers.  There is, however, also a gender component - it is feared that as more working-class women enter the factory to replace men gone off to war, they are more likely to succumb to the temptation of alcohol, long a staple of male working-class culture.  The fear here is that these women will become less feminine, a common concern when normative gender roles are in flux due to the war, and the desire is to minimize the disruption - women may be needed to work like men, but heaven forbid they start drinking like men.

- Throughout the 19th-century, a cornerstone of Russian foreign policy was the acquisition of Constantinople and the straits of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles, so as to have year-round access to the world's oceans, which Russia did not have from its Baltic or Pacific ports.  Equally, the British in the 19th-century consistently opposed the Russian claim on the basis that it would disrupt the balance of power, and thus Britain spent much of the last century propping up the Ottoman Empire.  Naturally, with the Ottomans now included among their enemies, the British feel no great desire to prolong their existence.  More important now is keeping the Russians onside, and the promise of the Straits is surely extra motivation to continue in the war.  Besides, there are plenty of other parts of the Ottoman Empire that the British have their eyes on, so a concession here can be balanced by an acquisition there.  Thus today the British government informs the Russians that they support the claim of the latter to the Straits in any postwar settlement.

- In South Africa Christian de Wet has raised a commando of about 3500 in the Orange Free State, but more have flocked to the Government.  Prime Minister Botha leads one commando of several that attempt to surround de Wet's force in Mushroom Valley.  Due to a miscommunication between the Government units the rebel commando is able to escape, but leaves behind a number of dead and wounded as well as 250 prisoners.  De Wet is determined to continue the rebellion - his son Danie had been killed in a skirmish with government soldiers on the 9th.  However, Botha today issues a promise of a pardon to any rebel who surrenders by the 21st, which begins to thin the ranks of the rebels.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

November 11th, 1914

- The pre-dawn hours at Ypres give no hint of the impending German attack, while the first rays of light reveal a think grey fog covering the battlefield.  However, at 630am the German artillery opened fire - they had been stockpiling shells for today, and the resulting bombardment was the most intensive of the war to date.  At 9am the fire reaches its crescendo, which clearly indicates to the British defenders that an infantry attack is imminent.  Along much of the British line, many of the defenders had withdrawn from the front line to support positions to avoid the worst of the bombardment, as the primitive state of the trenches offered no real protection from such intensive artillery fire.  It was only when the bombardment shifted to the support positions that the British infantry would rush back forward to repel the German attack.

In theory the German attack was to extend from Zonnebeke to Messines, and include the forces of Army Groups Fabeck and Linsingen, as well as 54th Reserve Division of XXVII Reserve Corps to the north of Plettenberg's Corps of Army Group Linsingen.  In practice, the intensity of the infantry attacks were related to the amount of time they had already spent in the line at Ypres.  Opposite Messines 26th Division and 11th Landswehr Brigade of Army Group Fabeck never even left their trenches - the German history excuses this by noting the intensity of British artillery fire.  On the other end of the line, 54th Reserve Division made no attempt to advance either, which had, as will be seen, a significant impact on the operations of its neighbour to the south.

South of the Comines Canal, five German divisions assault the line held by most of four French divisions, but despite heavy fighting are able to make no progress whatsoever.  North of the Canal, the French line is pushed back to Hill 60 at noon by 30th Division.  The retreat threatened the rear of the British I Corps and French IX Corps, but a counterattack by a regiment of cavalry advancing on foot manages to re-establish the line by 630pm.  East of the French position six British battalions grouped under Lord Cavan defended against twelve German battalions, primarily of 39th Division.  Twice the Germans managed to close up to the British line, and twice counterattacks drove them off, and the line held.

The Battle of Ypres, November 10th and 11th, 1914.

As Winckler's Division and 4th Division of Plettenberg's Corps had arrived in the line less than forty-eight hours ago, they launch their attacks with resolution and determination.  The advance of 4th Division meets very heavy British fire, and the ranks of the attackers are swept away by rifle, machine-gun, and artillery fire.  The German line breaks, and subsequent efforts to reform and advance again are repeatedly halted by British fire, and a final effort at 4pm makes no headway.

Thus the burden of the offensive falls on the four Guards regiments of Winckler's Division - north to south, 3rd Guard, 1st Guard, 2nd Grenadier Guards, and 4th Grenadier Guards Regiments.  They advance along the Menin Road, the first three to the north and the last just to the south.  The British line is held by various battalions and companies thrown together in the fighting of the past several weeks under 1st Division, I Corps.  In the thick mist the Guards advance jogging in neat rows, officers at the front with swords unsheathed.  4th Guards almost reaches the British position, but at the last momemt a British artillery observer, following his broken telephone line back to his battery, orders shrapnel fire, which cuts through the German ranks and forces 4th Guards to retire.  2nd Guards, however, manages to squeeze through a gap in the British line, as they reach the British trench almost simultaneously with the British infantry returning from support positions after the German artillery bombardment.  The British retreat into the woods west of the village of Veldhoek.  A German Fusilier battalion pursues them into the trees, but as it now has no support on either flank, it comes under attack from three sides and is annhilated.  A further counterattack recovers the reserve trenches, though 2nd Guards is able to hold the original British front line.

The most serious situation occurs to north.  When 1st and 3rd Guards attack at 9am, they are able to reach the British trench line before it can be fully manned, and within ten minutes they have overrun the three British battalions opposing them and have opened a thousand-yard gap in the British line.  As 3rd Guard pushes forward, however, it comes under heavy fire from Polygon Wood on its northern flank, which was supposed to have been cleared by the attack of 54th Reserve Division.  The failure of the latter means that 3rd Guard finds itself pulled northward as it attempts to dislodge the British.  Having suffered heavy losses, 1st Guard pushes forward into Nonnebosschen (Nun's Wood), as much as to escape the fire of the British in Polygon Wood as to outflank it.

The German Guards have broken through the British line and are in position to threaten the position of I Corps and indeed the entire Entente position in the Ypres salient.  At the moment 1st Guards enters Nonnebosschen, the only British between them and Ypres are several artillery batteries and a divisional headquarters.  As news of the breakthrough spreads, Haig orders what little reserves he has forward.  In the rear headquarters staff and cooks are handed weapons and move into makeshift defensive positions in the expectation of the Germans sweeping forward.  The commander of 2nd Division sends forward 2nd Battalion, Oxford and Bucks, his last reserve, and it is ordered to recover Nonnebosschen.  Just after 2pm its four companies sprint forward and crash into the woods.

Just under a thousand survivors of 1st Guards were in Nonnebosschen when the British counterattacked.  Once again, the Germans had been unaware of what they had actually accomplished - almost every officer and NCO had been killed, infantry milling about Nonneboschen in confusion, and German prisoners taken from 1st Guards are aghast when they learn how close they had been shattering the entire line.  Instead, the counterattack of 2nd Battalion, Oxford and Bucks finds 1st Guards surprised and leaderless, and the latter immediately break and retreat out of Nonnebosschen.  Further, 3rd Guards has broken on the British line in Polygon Wood - in the dense mist the defenders see a bank of grey in the distance, and expect a further German attack, only to find when the mist clears that it is hundreds of German corpses cut down by their fire.  By late afternoon the British have recovered the support line east of Nonnebosschen, though similar to the situation just to the south the Germans hold the original British trench line.  The most serious breach of the day has been closed, and the German attacks have failed.

The attack of the German Guards regiments, November 11th, 1914.  The thick red line is the front at nightfall;
Nonneboschen, captured and lost by 1st Guards during the day, is to the west (left) of the inverted 'U'.

- The German 9th Army begins its advance southeast from the line Thorn-Poznan towards Lodz.  Advancing to the south of the Vistula River, three of 9th Army's corps collide with the V Siberian Corps of the Russian 1st Army.  Outnumbered five to one in artillery, the latter is shattered, with two-thirds of its men becoming prisoners.  The remnants of V Siberian Corps retreats along the Vistula, and the German 9th Army advances through a thirty kilometre gap it has blasted between the river and the Russian 2nd Army.  The Russian command structure, meanwhile, has no idea what has happened - General Ruzski of North-West Front, believing V Siberian Corps to be a second-rate formation anyway, ascribes its defeat to a mere two German divisions, and still believes 9th Army to be to the southwest, not northwest, of the main advance of 2nd and 5th Armies.

The Battle of Lodz, November 11th to 16th, 1914.

- In the Caucasus the Ottoman 3rd Army launches a second counterattack against the Russian I Turkestan Corps.  This operation is better-directed than the earlier advance of the 6th, and Russian artillery is unable to elevate sufficiently to hit Ottoman positions higher in the mountains.  By the end of the day the Russians have been driven back from Köprüköy to a line Horsan-Sanamer, still inside Ottoman territory.

The Battle of Köprüköy, November 1914.

- On the Shatt al-Arab an Ottoman force of about three hundred attacks the main British encampment at Sanniya.  The enemy advance is easily held, and a counterattack inflicts eighty casualties on the Ottomans for ten British and Indian killed or wounded.  Despite the victory, the British commander decides to hold his current position until reinforcements can arrive from India.

- Glasgow today arrives at the River Plate, where it is met by the armoured cruiser Defence, and together the two sail for Abrolhos Rocks, off the Brazilian coast, where British warships in the South Atlantic are to rendezvous.  The pre-dreadnought Canopus is not with them, however - it broke down again after leaving the Falkland Islands, and the First Sea Lord ordered it to return to Port Stanley and run itself aground in shallow water at the eastern end of the harbour, so that it could serve as a stationary gun platform to protect the Falklands.

The British pre-dreadnought Canopus grounded at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands, November 1914.

Meanwhile, at 4pm the battlecruisers Invincible and Inflexible depart Plymouth for the South Atlantic.  Initially the head of the dockyard wanted to hold the ships until the 13th for further maintenance work, but Admiral Fisher was having none of that, ordering them prepared to sail today.  Work continued right up to departure, and Inflexible takes with it several dozen workmen whose tasks have not yet been completed.  The two battlecruisers are commanded by Vice-Admiral Sir Frederick Doveton Sturdee, formerly Chief of Staff of the Admiralty.  He has also been appointed Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic and Pacific, with orders to find and sink the German East Asiatic Squadron above all else.