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.

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