Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March 17th, 1915

- German Army Zeppelins attempt today to bombard London, but not only are they unable to find their target in a heavy fog, they cannot even find England itself.  Instead, Z XII drops bombs on Calais, only to damage itself during landing.

- In Champagne there is heavy fighting for the heights north of Le Mesnil, where a German attack by 16th Reserve Division at 445am is turned back after an inadequate preliminary bombardment.  This evening the commander of 3rd Army orders more through preparations for an assault to retake Hill 196, taken yesterday by the French.

- Joffre today writes to the Minister of War, informing him of the situation on the Western Front.  He states that the fighting in Champagne since January has demonstrated that the commitment of considerable reserves and significant amounts of material were necessary to achieve decisive success in a major operation.  It would take time for such reserves to be formed, but in the interim Joffre intends to conduct offensives of a smaller scale, aiming to maintain morale about the soldiers and keep pressure on the Germans.

- The attack planned for today by the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army between the Vistula River and the western Carpathians, but poor weather has forced its postponement for twenty-four hours.

- With Admiral Robeck having resigned yesterday due to illness, he is replaced as commander of the Dardanelles expedition by Rear Admiral John de Robeck, formerly the second-in-command.  Churchill immediately encourages de Robeck to energetically attack the straits, and the later, accepting Carden's plan, states that with good weather the operation will begin tomorrow.

- As the naval campaign at the Dardanelles reaches its climax, a bizarre sideshow has been ongoing at the nearby Bulgarian port of Degeagatch on the Aegean coast.  For several days two Britons - Griffin Eady, a civil engineer, and Edwin Whittall, a businessman - who had been longtime residents of the Ottoman Empire have been in secret negotiations with a representative of the Ottoman government.  The negotiations had been initiated by Rear-Admiral William R. 'Blinker' Hall, the shadowy Director of Naval Intelligence and head of Room 40, and he had authorized Eady and Whittall to offer a £4 million bribe in exchange for the Ottomans withdrawing from the war.  Whether the Ottoman representative had any actual authority to negotiate, given Enver Pasha's grip on the government, is unknown, and moreover Hall has authorized the negotiations and the bribe entirely on his own initiative, without reference to the Admiralty, Cabinet, or the Foreign Office.  When the First Lord uncovered Hall's plot, he ordered the negotiations terminated, given the apparently imminent victory at the Dardanelles, and Eady and Whittall depart Degeagatch today.

- For the past three days Emden's landing party has been aboard two zambuks, sailing north along the east coast of the Red Sea.  Each of the two ships carries thirty-five men in a space measuring only fourteen metres by four.  Even beyond overcrowding the past few days have been uncomfortable for the Germans: both zambuks are infested with cockroaches, bedbugs, lice, and other insects.  In the words of First Officer Mücke, all clothing not in use had to be tied down, lest it run away, and in the daily 'louse hunts' the record for one shirt was seventy-four lice.

To keep Entente blockade ships at bay, the zambuks have been sailing within the coral reefs of the Farsan Bank.  While the reefs are dangerous for large ships, smaller ones such as the zambuks are still at risk.  Just after 6pm this evening the lead zambuk strikes a coral reef, and only after several efforts is able to reach deeper waters.  The second zambuk, following two hundred yards behind, is not so lucky - in trying to avoid one reef, it strikes another and sinks.  The able-bodied sailors from the stricken zambuk are able to swim to the other, while two dugouts from the surviving zambuk are able to bring back the sick.  In order to fit all aboard without floundering, however, most of the provisions had to be thrown overboard, leaving the Germans with food and water for only three days, in addition to their weapons and ammunition.

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