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.

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