Tuesday, November 04, 2014

November 4th, 1914

- At Ypres the day is cold and wet, mist turning to rain in the afternoon.  The British and French notice a distant lessening in the frequency of German infantry attacks, though German artillery bombardments continue, while French attacks, as in prior days, effect no change to the front line.  General Haig informs Field Marshal French today that 1st and 7th Division of I Corps desperately need to be relieved, as so heavy have been the losses, particularly for the latter, that they simply cannot hold a continuous trench line.

On the German side, Falkenhayn officially orders 6th Army to make one last push at Ypres, focusing on the line north of the Ypres-Comines Canal.  He hopes that with reinforcements a final attack will finally achieve the success that has eluded him on prior occasions.

- The raid on Yarmouth yesterday has an unfortunate coda for the Germans today.  A portion of the High Seas Fleet had left port and patrolled the Heligoland Bight yesterday in case they were needed to support or rescue Hipper's battlecruisers.  Overnight, however, there was a dense fog that prevented the warships from re-entering Wilhelmshaven.  At dawn today the armoured cruiser Yorck receives permission to proceed to Wilhelmshaven for repairs to its fresh-water tanks.  The fog is still so thick that it is impossible for the warships to see each other, however, and a change of current takes the unsuspecting Yorck into a defensive minefield.  It strikes two mines within a minute and rapidly sinks, and two hundred and thirty-five men drown.

The German armoured cruiser Yorck, lost today in a friendly minefield.

- The German occupation of almost all of Belgium has put an immense strain on the food supply of the latter's civilian population, as prior to the war three-quarters of all food consumed in Belgium had to be imported.  The perspective of the German government is that Belgium should continue to rely on imported food - why should they have to take responsibility for feeding them?  The counterargument of the British is that by conquering the country the Germans had assumed responsibility of the civilian population, and if food was allowed to be imported Belgium there was no guarantee that it would not be diverted to the German population.

The solution to the impasse was the formation of the Committee for the Relief of Belgium.  Headed by American mining magnate Herbert Hoover, the Committee took over responsibility for the feeding of the Belgian population by supervising the importation and distribution of food, ensuring that such supplies were not expropriated by the Germans.  Today the first food supplied by the Committee arrives in Brussels, helping to stave off starvation over the coming winter.  The Committee also makes the international reputation of Hoover, and propels him to the American Presidency.

- In London the first reports of the Battle of Coronel reach the Admiralty this morning, through sparse accounts that appear in the German press.  Though the Royal Navy makes no public comment, orders are immediately dispatched to British warships in the South Atlantic to converge, in preparation for the German East Asiatic Squadron moving around Cape Horn.  As a result, Rear Admiral A. C. Stoddart, who had been send to command the new squadron formed in the South Atlantic in October (as stated in the Admiralty's October 14th message to Craddock), will have four armoured cruisers, a force roughly equal in strength to Admiral Spee's.  However, after the humiliation of Coronel, no one at the Admiralty is interested in a fair fight.

- Without any sign from the Ottoman government repudiating the attacks undertaken by Admiral Souchon's warships on October 29th, Russia formally declares war on the Ottomans.

- At noon today Indian Expeditionary Force B begins its advance overland from its landing beaches to the town of Tanga.  The advance is as badly managed as everything else to do with this expedition.  Its commander had decided not to unload his artillery believing he could rely on the light cruiser Fox, but its captain, still fearful of mines, refused to approach close enough to Tanga to provide fire support.  The day is hot, and units lose touch with each other in the dense bush, only to stumble onto German positions at ranges under fifty yards.

The right of IEF B, comprised of its best units, manages to fight its way into Tanga itself, but the left comes under heavy fire and is halted.  One battalion on the left breaks and flees, and the rest on the left move northwards towards the more-successful right.  Thus despite British forces in the town itself, Colonel Lettow-Vorbeck is optimistic that his plan will work, and at 430pm orders his reserve company to hit the British southern flank.  The striking power of the maneouvre is muted, however, when a second company simply follows the first into the British position, instead of extending the German envelopment of IEF B even further westwards.

By nightfall confusion reigns on the battlefield.  In an effort to regain control of their units, German company commanders order their buglers to sound a recall.  The British commander, however, misinterprets this as signalling an imminent German charge, and believing himself defeated, withdraws his force back towards the landing beaches, even as the Germans also pull back to reorganize.

The British approach to Tanga and the German flanking maneouvre, November 4th, 1914.
- At the start of the war, the German light cruiser Karlsruhe was in the Caribbean, and since that time has attacking Entente shipping, capturing eighteen merchants.  Its run of good fortune comes to a sudden end today, when near Barbadoes Karlsruhe is blown in half by an internal explosion, most likely caused by unstable ammunition.  Its fate remains unconfirmed for months, until the survivors return to Germany, and for many weeks ahead the Admiralty continues to fear and plan around the existance of Karlsruhe.

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