Monday, December 15, 2014

December 15th, 1914

- At 3am this morning, the German battlecruiser Seydlitz, Admiral Hipper's flagship, sails from Wilhelmshaven, followed by four additional battlecruisers, four light cruisers, and eighteen destroyers.  As Hipper's force sails across the North Sea towards the British coast, the High Seas Fleet leaves port, and at eighty-five warships it is the most powerful German naval force to ever put to sea.  Ingenohl intends his fleet to arrive at Dogger Bank at daybreak, the same time Hipper's force is to conduct its bombardment of Scarborough and Hartlepool.

The Germans are not the only ones at sea today, however.  Just two and a half hours after Hipper's departure, Admiral Warrender's 2nd Battle Squadron, along with four light cruisers, sails from Scapa Flow.  A half hour later, Beatty's four battlecruisers and eight destroyers departs Cromarty, and at 11am the two forces meet of Moray Firth.  Their objective is a point about 100 miles southeast of Scarborough, which they expect to reach at 730am tomorrow.  They are not attempting to prevent Hipper's battlecruisers from bombarding the British coast; instead, they plan on catching the German force unawares as they return later in the morning.  By placing Beatty's and Warrender's force between Hipper and home, they hope to annihilate the Germans.  This means that Hipper will be able to bombard the British coast unimpeded, but to the Admiralty this is a fair price to pay for the opportunity to deal the Germans a crushing defeat in the North Sea.

- The retreat of the Austro-Hungarian 5th Army is completed this morning when the last rear guard units cross over the Sava at 11am, after which the Serbs reoccupy their capital.

The liberation of Belgrade brings the third Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia to a close.  Yet again 5th and 6th Armies have suffered devastating losses since the beginning of operations in early November - total casualties are estimated at 225 000, which includes 40 000 prisoners.  The Serbian army has also suffered - approximately 170 000 casualties - leaving it incapable of exploiting its victory to invade Austro-Hungarian territory again, as it had done after the failure of the second invasion.

- In the Indian Ocean the weather continues to deteriorate into a heavy storm, and by daybreak the crews of Ayesha and Choising realize that they will not be able to bring the two ships alongside each other.  Instead, they change direction towards several small islands nearby, where they hope to be sheltered from the weather.

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