Monday, January 19, 2015

January 19th, 1915

- Joffre today issues an order for 4th Army to commence planning for a resumption of its offensive in the Champagne.  However, the attack is to wait until dry weather, while General de Langle of 4th Army insists on fourteen days of preparation time.

- After a first attempt by Zeppelins to raid the English coast on January 13th was aborted due to heavy rain, a second attempt this evening by L 3 and L 4 is successful (L 6 was forced to turn back due to engine failure).  The former crossed the north Norfolk coast and made its way to the port of Great Yarmouth, where it dropped six 110-pound explosive bombs and seven incendiary bombs which do only minor damage while killing two civilians.  L 4, meanwhile, also crosses the coast in Norfolk, but its commander believes himself to be near the Humber estuary, almost eighty miles away.  This Zeppelin follows a meandering course over the English countryside, searching for a river that he is nowhere near to, periodically dropping bombs in response to being fired upon.  Notably, one of these bombs on the village of Sandringham, home of the royal home of the same name.  Believing his airship to be north of the Humber, the commander of L 4 drops seven explosive and six incendiary bombs on the town of King's Lynn, killing a woman and a boy.

Damaged property in King's Lynn after the bombing raid of L 4, January 19th, 1915.

- Though Admiral Fisher has acquiesced to the Dardanelles operation, he remains deeply concerned about the potential for naval losses in the effort to force the Straits.  Today he unburdens himself to Jellicoe in his typical forthright manner:

The Cabinet have decided on taking the Dardanelles solely with the navy using fifteen battleships and 32 other vessels, and keeping out there three battlecruisers and a flotilla of destroyers all urgently needed at the decisive theater at home.  There is only one way out and that is to resign.  But you say 'No!' which simply means I am a consenting party to what I absolutely disapprove.  I don't agree with one single step taken . . . The way the war is conducted both ashore and afloat is chaotic!  We have a new plan every week.

Fisher feels trapped by his obligations as First Sea Lord - the decision to attack the Dardanelles is ultimately one made by the politicians, and once agreed upon he is obligated to implement it, regardless of whatever personal misgivings he has.  Resignation is the only way out of the quandary and will remain in Fisher's mind in the months ahead.

- In German East Africa Colonel Lettow-Vorbeck has concentrated nine companies of Schütztruppen against the British garrison at Jasin, which had been occupied on December 25th.  After days of fighting, and outnumbered with no prospect of relief, the four Indian companies surrender today.  In the aftermath of the defeat at Tanga in November, it is yet another blow to British morale and prestige in eastern Africa.  However, it is also a Phyrric victory for Lettow-Vorbeck, as in the fighting he lost 15% of his overall strength, including twenty-three of 265 Europeans killed, and had used 200 000 rounds of ammunition.  Given the unlikelihood of reinforcement from Germany, losses of any kind need to be avoided, and considering that the British garrison at Jasin posed no threat to any position of importance in German East Africa, the offensive was misguided, and a reflection of how Lettow-Vorbeck's instincts, at least in this early phase of the war, were still in favour of frontal attacks as opposed to guerrilla warfare.

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