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.

No comments:

Post a Comment