Sunday, November 09, 2014

November 9th, 1914

- The French 11th Division arrives today south of Ypres, and assists an attack by the French XVI Corps against the enemy lines near the Comines Canal.  This time the French are able to make minor progress, pushing the Germans ever-so-slightly back from Ypres.  Elsewhere the Germans keep up a regular bombardment on the British and French lines, but few infantry attacks are undertaken.  Writing to Lord Kitchener, Field Marshal French states that Joffre has told him that he believes the Germans have already begun to withdraw corps to ship to the Eastern Front, but that Germans might launch two or three more sharp attacks to cover the redeployment.  Once again the BEF commander is precient in a manner not altogether anticipated by himself.

On the German side Plettenberg's Corps comes into the line in preparation for the attack by Army Group Linsingen, along with 4th and 6th Armies, scheduled to begin for 7am tomorrow.

- After having their plans interrupted by the October Battle of the Vistula River, the Russians once again are aiming to invade Germany.  Under the authority of General Ruzski's North-West Front, 2nd and 5th Armies are to advance from central Poland and invade Germany in the general direction of Breslau.  The southern flank of the advance is to be covered by 4th Army, while the northern flank is held by General Rennenkampf's 1st Army.  However, despite being responsible for the invasion of Germany General Ruzski remains concerned about East Prussia, and the potential for a German sortie eastwards or southwards.  He has 10th Army covering the east, and insists that the focus for 1st Army should be covering southern Poland.  The latter thus has only a single corps - V Siberian - on the southern bank of the Vistula River to maintain contact with 2nd Army as it begins its advance.  Due to typical problems with supply, the invasion is scheduled to begin November 14th.

Planning for the operation has rested on the assumption that the German 9th Army remains in the area of Krakow, and the Russians have completely missed the ongoing redeployment of 9th Army to Thorn; today Stavka informs North-West Front that at least five to six German corps remain north of Krakow just inside the Russian border.  Thus the Russians are unaware that 9th Army will shortly be to the northwest of their invasion route, not the southwest.

- This morning the German light cruiser Emden appears off Direction Island, located in the Cocos Islands.  Here is located a key station where telegraph cables from Australia to India and Zanzibar meet, and the captain of the Emden has decided to destroy them.  A heavily-armed landing party of fifty, led by First Officer Helmuth von Mücke is put ashore, where they encounter the civilian workforce of the station, and proceed to destroy the cables.

The luck of the Emden, however, has finally run out.  The head of the cable station had previously established other lines for precisely such a scenario, and used them to send out a distress signal - 'SOS, Emden here.'  By coincidence, the large convoy carrying the volunteers from Australia and New Zealand to Europe is only fifty-five miles north of Direction Island, and they receive the signal.  The Australian light cruiser Sydney is despatched, and comes across Emden.  Sydney is three knots faster, two thousand tons heavier, and has larger armament than Emden, making the outcome a foregone conclusion.  Emden puts up a strong fight, at one point knocking out Sydney's automatic fire-control, which lessened the accuracy of the latter's salvoes.  Nevertheless, after two and a half hours, Emden is a burning wreck, and its captain deliberately runs it aground on the reefs off North Keeling Island.  Over a hundred and fifty sailors had been killed, and the remaining two hundred and thirty became prisoners.

The voyage of the German light cruiser Emden.

As Emden is crushed by Sydney, the landing party under First Officer Mücke can only watch.  As soon as Sydney had appeared, he realized that his ship was doomed and that within the next day or two they would come for his landing party.  One option was simply to surrender, which was unpalatable.  A second was to attempt to hold the island against a British landing, which would be doomed in the long run.  The third alternative sat at anchor near the jetty at Direction Island - the three-masted wooden schooner Ayesha, a civilian merchant ship.  As the battle is concluding, Mücke orders his men to transfer two months' supplies from the island to the schooner, and the fifty men of the landing party cram aboard.  Sydney spends the afternoon taking on the prisoners from Emden, so Ayesha is able to slip out of harbour by nightfall and escape.  The prospects for Mücke's detachment are bleak - not only are the practically surrounded by British colonies with dozens of British warships already at sea in the search for Emden, Mücke discovers that Ayesha does not even have any charts of the area.  He sets course eastwards, hoping to land somewhere in the Dutch East Indies.  Thought Emden's cruise is at an end, the saga of Mücke's detachment is just beginning.

No comments:

Post a Comment