Friday, January 09, 2015

January 9th, 1915

- A further attack by the French 4th Army near Perthes, launched at 4pm after a heavy artillery bombardment, are broken up by the German defenders.  Further to the east, French infantry are able to reach and enter a narrow strip of the first German trench line, and are able to hold on despite repeated enemy counterattacks.

- News of Ludendorff's appointment as Chief of Staff to Südarmee does not sit well with Hindenburg.  In a letter sent directly to the Kaiser today, the commander of German forces in the East urges the return of the 'irreplaceable' Ludendorff to his old post as his Chief of Staff.  Hindenburg knows full well that his victories in the East have been accomplished in large part through the planning of Ludendorff, and that their partnership is essential to the success of both.  He also insists that the four new reserve corps forming in Germany need to be sent to the Eastern Front, and in particular to East Prussia for an offensive (planned by Ludendorff) in the neighbourhood of the Masurian Lakes.  He concludes his letter with an assurance that he would be more than happy to retire, a none-too-subtle hint to Wilhelm II of the stakes involved in breaking up the partnership that has achieved Germany's most notable victory to date.

- At the start of the war, Count Berchtold, the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister, had opposed ceding territory to Italy in exchange for it fulfilling its responsibilities as a member of the Triple Alliance.  The steady tide of Austro-Hungarian defeats since August, however, has led Berchtold to change his mind.  He fears that both Italy and Romania may take advantage of the Empire's apparent weakness by attacking it, a catastrophe that might spell the end of Austria-Hungary itself.  To avoid this, Berchtold is now willing to cede territory to Italy and Romania in exchange for their continued neutrality in the war, and today he advises Franz Joseph to surrender Trentino to Italy.

The alternative course of action - namely, to ensure Italian and Romanian neutrality by demonstrating Austro-Hungarian military strength through victory on the battlefield - is supported not only by Conrad, but others within the government, including Count Tisza, the Hungarian Prime Minister, who wishes to avoid seeing Hungarian lands used to bribe Romania.  Most vitally, Emperor Franz Joseph himself is loath to yield an inch of territory to the Italians, whom he sees as the Empire's natural enemy.

- Overnight, as Choising approached Hodeida, its German crew sighted a row of lights in the distance, and assuming them to be the lights of a dock, they direct the steamer towards them.  To their dismay, however, as they approached they realized that the lights were moving, and they were instead bearing down on a French armoured cruiser.  First Officer von Mücke orders its men to the ship's four boats, and they proceed to land on the Arabian coast by dawn.  Once ashore they can see Hodeida in the distance, but they have no idea if they are in friendly or enemy territory.  As they bring their weaponry and remaining supplies ashore, several Arabs observe them from a distance before disappearing.  In case Hodeida was occupied by the enemy, Mücke intends to march inland and hide in the desert by day, and return to Choising at night.  No sooner do they leave the beach then they find themselves confronted by over a hundred Arabs.  There is a linguistic impasse, neither side being able to understand the other.  Amidst the gesticulating and mangling of phrases, a breakthrough is finally achieved when Mücke points to the portrait of the Kaiser on a gold piece, which the Arabs recognize and begin shouting 'Aleman!'  It is finally deduced that Hodeida remains in Ottoman hands, and the Arab force escorts Emden's landing party into the town.

Mücke considers the next step of the journey home in consultation with the local Ottoman officials.  There is no railway, and he is assured that continuing by sea is impossible, given the prevalence of British and French ships in the south Red Sea, some of which are visible from Hodeida itself.  Instead, Mücke decides that his party will travel inland through the mountains to Sanaa and northwards from there.  It will take a fortnight to gather supplies and prepare for the journey; meanwhile, after dark Mücke uses a signal lamp to instruct Choising to make for Massowa in the neutral Italian colony of Eritrea.

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