Thursday, July 09, 2015

July 9th, 1915

- Even though the Kaiser had given permission on May 5th for Zeppelin raids on London east of the Tower, this has been insufficient for those within the German navy who desire a more thorough and intensive bombing campaign against Britain, one which specifically targets the City of London, the financial heart of the British Empire and home to the Stock Exchange, the Bank of England, and the headquarters of numerous mercantile firms.  Desiring to have the restriction lifted, Vice-Admiral Gustav Bachmann uses the recent French bombing of Karlsruhe in approaching Bethmann-Holweg today to argue for free reign for the navy's Zeppelins.  The Chancellor agrees to permit bombing raids on the City, provided that they be undertaken only on weekends (to prevent significant civilian casualties) and that historic buildings such as St. Paul's Cathedral and the Tower be spared.  While such limits may sound good in theory, they are hopelessly impractical for Zeppelin crews struggling to identify targets in darkness and while under fire.  Bachmann is thus not satisfied with Bethmann-Hollweg's concession.

- The Russian 3rd Army attacks all along the front in southern Poland today, and the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army is able to hold its positions only by the slenderest of margins after bitter hand-to-hand fighting and several counterattacks to recover lost ground.  Reports from the Austro-Hungarian corps commanders, however, emphasize the exhaustion of the infantry, especially in light of the oppressive heat and lack of water.  Fearing that the Russians may be able to break through by tomorrow afternoon, 4th Army commander requests additional reinforcements; in response Conrad reassigns 4th Division, formerly of 1st Army and en route to the Bug River, to 4th Army.

- In March 1915 the Austro-Hungarian navy, realizing that the war would be lengthy, decided to order the construction of four submarines based on the design of the Havmanden-class, three of which had been built for Denmark before the war by the Whiteyard in Fiume.  This being Austria-Hungary, of course, internal politics naturally had their role to play: the Hungarian government demanded a significant share of production be allocated to Hungarian firms.  To achieve this, the contract signed today provides for the submarines to be partially built in Linz and Pola, after which the parts will be transferred to Pola or Fiume for completion.  Such unnecessary duplication of effort has been endemic to the Dual Monarchy both before and during the war, and is one of the key impediments to an adequate mobilization of the economy to support the war effort.

- Prime Minister Botha of South Africa accepts the surrender of the German colony of South West Africa today, the latter becoming the second of Germany's four colonies (the first being Togoland) to submit to the Entente since the outbreak of the war.  In the course of this campaign the South Africans suffered a mere 113 dead through enemy action and 153 through disease or accident; a further 263 had been wounded; indeed, the South Africans had suffered greater losses suppressing the Boer Rebellion than in the fight for German South West Africa.  Central both to the low casualty total and indeed the campaign itself has been mobility; repeatedly as the main South African column advanced inland from the coast, it used mobility to outflank German positions and force the latter to fall back.  More than half of the soldiers under Botha's command were mounted, a ratio not only in complete contrast to the fighting in Europe but largely unseen since the sixteenth century.  Coupled with the timeless use of horses and mules, however, was a modern innovation: the internal combustion engine, as the rapid advances were only sustainable because trucks carried water over deserts.

German casualties were also light; only 103 were killed and 195 wounded, while 890 were made prisoner.  The preponderance of POWs among the German total reflected the unwillingness of the defenders to fight to the bitter end.  Further, the remaining German force in the field upon surrender numbered 4730 men, and included thirty-seven field guns, eight thousand rifles, and two million rounds of ammunition.  The Germans had the manpower and material to continue resistance through a guerilla campaign, but lacked the willingness.  Of crucial import was that the white officers and soldiers were also colonists.  Not only would a guerilla campaign destroy the economy and infrastructure of the colony they had created, but the social dislocation that would have ensued would have undermined the racial hierarchy that was the very basis of the colonial project.  For many Germans in the colony, the maintenance of white rule was a greater priority than the maintenance of German rule.

Further, this concern was shared by the South Africans:  the terms of the armistice allowed Germans reservists to return to their homes, German schools to function, and the German civilian administration to remain in place.  What Botha and the South Africans aspired to was to rule German South West Africa as a colony, and in this endeavour white rule would be as crucial as it was in South Africa itself.  Thus, once military resistance had ceased, it was in the interests of South Africa to cooperate with the white German colonial population to maintain minority rule over the majority indigenous population.  Though the campaign in German South West Africa had been triggered by the outbreak of war in Europe, how the campaign was fought and the settlement which followed were of a piece with the nature of European imperialism and colonial rule in Africa.

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