Friday, April 03, 2015

April 3rd, 1915

- On the southern face of the St.-Mihiel salient, the French XII Corps, on the left of 73rd Division, joins the attack of the latter on the German lines.

- For the past several months. the elderly German General Colmar Freiheer von der Goltz has been serving in Constantinople as a senior military advisor to the Ottoman sultan, but for the past several days has been meeting with Falkenhayn in Germany regarding the strategic situation in the Balkans.  Goltz is an advocate of an operation to crush Serbia and open a land link to the Ottoman Empire, a proposition that Falkenhayn is generally supportive of - indeed, Falkenhayn prefers a Serbian campaign to the commitment of further German forces in the Carpathians.  However, assembling the forces necessary for such an attack is impossible at present, given the Austro-Hungarian emergency on the Eastern Front and the continued neutrality of Bulgaria, whose armies and geographical position are seen as critical to success.  Nevertheless, when Goltz departs German army headquarters today, he carries with him a letter from the Kaiser to the Sultan promising that an offensive against Serbia will be launched 'in the near future.'

- Since striking a mine in late December, the Ottoman/German battlecruiser Goeben has been out of service as repairs were undertaken.  Despite there being no drydock in Constantinople large enough to accomodate the damaged vessel, engineers sent from Germany have managed to complete repairs via the construction of two large cofferdams and sealing the leaks with concrete.  These repairs have sufficiently progressed to allow Goeben to participate in an Ottoman naval operation in the Black Sea today, the objective of which is the destruction of a number of Russian transports assembled at Odessa, lest they be used to land a Russian force near Constantinople.  The attack on Odessa is tasked to the elderly Ottoman protected cruisers Medjidieh and Hamidieh, supported by four torpedo-boats, while Goeben and Breslau are to be off Sevastopol to cover the operation.

The operation comes apart, however, when Medjidieh strikes a mine off Odessa this morning and sinks in shallow water.  Though the torpedo boats are able to rescue the crew, they are unable to destroy the wreck, which falls into the hands of the Russians.  As for Goeben and Breslau, they sink two Russian merchant vessels before the Russian Black Sea Fleet appears.  The latter gives chase throughout the day, but Goeben and Breslau are able to use their superior speed to escape.

The Ottoman protected cruisers Medjidieh and Hamidieh.

- For the past two days Emden's landing party have been besieged by a large Arab force in the desert near Djidda, the latter evidently encouraged by the English to do so.  Though several Germans have been wounded, and one seaman has died, the greatest problem the party faces is the water supply, which is expected to run out within twenty-four hours.  First Officer Mücke prepares orders for the party to break out and attempt to reach Djidda, leaving those who fall behind, but just before noon another emissary comes from the enemy force, and this time the demands have been reduced to only twenty-two thousand pounds in gold.  Mücke deduces from this that an Ottoman relief force from Djidda must be en route, and thus replies that he has water for four weeks and would like nothing more than to continue fighting in the desert.  After the emissary's departure Arab firing briefly resumes before halting entirely.  Peering over their makeshift defenses, the Germans see an empty desert around them.  An hour and a half later, a force of seventy led by Abdullah, second son of the Emir of Mecca, appears, offering water and escort to Djidda.  Departing, the two forces make for a curious sight as they cross the desert, the Germans marching behind a giant red banner emblazened with verses from the Koran.

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