by Tom B
Center Army HQ Sambor 0620 hrs Saturday Dec 19, 1914
Together with Oberst Hell, his chief of staff, the new commander of Center army, General Alexander von Linsingen went over the plans for attack on the Russian Eleventh Army and the capture of Lemberg. The change of command had postponed the planned assault. Linsingen had kept with François’ basic plan but made some changes. He decided he did not need to use as many Landstrum battalions from Przemysl to make the diversionary move towards the Russian right. This simplified his logistics and communications. For similar reasons—and to keep Kusmanek from complaining to Conrad—he decided not to use units from Przemysl as his close reserve. Instead they would remain just outside the fortress.
The Landsturm battalions would make their diversionary marches in the morning and then in the afternoon the German II Army Corps would make a pinning attack against the Russian center while the KuK VI Corps and his two cavalry divisions would drive into the shrinking gap that still existed between the Russian Eleventh and Eighth Armies. Once enveloped the Eleventh Army would be forced to abandon Lemberg.
Linsingen missed General von François and was shocked at the way Ludendorff and Hindenburg had treated him. But he had his own mission to perform and his own career to advance. Both Conrad and Ludendorff were pressuring him now to get the attack underway. After reviewing the very latest intelligence report, he turned to Hell and said, "Nothing substantial has changed. We still do not know if the Eleventh Army has received further reinforcements. I order that we proceed according to plan."
London bookstore 1155 hrs
"Pardon me, sir, but I am having trouble finding a book that I am looking for, " a customer asked one of the salesmen.
"No, problem at all, sir. What might I ask is the title of this book?" replied the salesman with an assured smile.
"It is called The Riddle of the Sands. It was written by some fellow named Childers, can’t recall his Christian name."
The salesman sighed slightly and his smile dimmed, "Erskine. The author is Erskine Childers. And I am afraid we do not have any copies of The Riddle of the Sands in stock at this time, sir. We are all sold out."
"Oh, are you sure?"
"I am quite sure, sir"
"Oh dear, this is most disappointing and frightfully odd to boot. You see this is the fifth store I have visited this morning. None of the other stores had any copies left either."
Limerick Racetrack 1415 hrs
There were several rallies throughout Ireland this day to demonstrate enthusiasm for Home Rule. The most important was in Limerick where over 9,000 people to hear Sir John Redmond himself speak. He did not disappoint them. He went on and on about what a wonderful thing Home Rule would be. He emphasized over and over that the Home Rule Bill was on the on the books. It was no longer a matter for debate. It required no more voting.
"Home Rule is now a certainty! It will happen the minute the war is over. And with Irishmen fighting the Germans that certainly won’t take long!" he boasted. In response there was a roar of approval laced with laughter. He exulted in their approval, but privately he wondered about his declaration. In Parliament and the newspapers the talk of late was of how the Entente was in for a long war.
Redmond went on with speech. Soon though he became aware of a pronounced shift in the mood of the crowd. The audience was paying less attention to him while vigorously conversing amongst themselves. Here and there Redmond thought he discerned that loathsome name, ‘Carson’.
Redmond moved away from the podium and asked his underlings, "Mother of God, what has Carson gone and done now? I just hope he hasn’t been appointed First Lord." Asquith had reassured Redmond that he was not appointing Carson as the new First Lord of the Admiralty. "Find out what is rattling the crowd."
The assistants departed but very quickly one returned, "Sir, they are talking about Curzon not Carson."
"Lord Curzon? What in blazes does he have to do with Ireland?"
"He is goin’ to be our new Viceroy, sir"
Old Admiralty Building 1510 hrs
The new First Lord of the Admiralty, Reginald McKenna was meeting with Admirals Fisher, Oliver and Wilson.
"Parliament is going to be very favorable towards new construction. What is your thoughts at this time, Admiral Fisher?"
"The two slightly modified Royal Sovereign class battleships which we are building, the Repulse and Renown, should continue but at a faster pace. I had thought at one time to halt their construction and modify them into a new class of powerful battle cruisers but given the loss of 6 of our most powerful battleships, it is imperative that they be completed speedily according to their specifications. As far as new construction, an idea has occurred to me that we no longer need as many spare 13.5" barrels. I suggest therefore that we use the design for Erin to create two more battleships. If we forego modifications to the design and Parliament speedily approves the order we can lay down one immediately after New Years and the other a week later. I believe a 13 month completion time is feasible for these two ships."
"This would mean building them as coal fired vessels," noted McKenna.
"That is correct, First Lord. And together with 13.5" guns that means they will be a step backwards. But they will still be potent warships when they are commissioned. Together with the completion of the Queen Elizabeth and Royal Sovereign classes as well as the appropriated Chilean battleship, our battle squadrons will have overwhelming superiority in firepower. What has me much more concerned is the battle cruiser situation."
McKenna nodded, "If Seydlitz has again survived our enemy will attain equality with us once Lutzow is commissioned. Perhaps one or two copies of Tiger is the way to proceed?"
Fisher frowned, "I would prefer a new design for our next battle cruisers. Before Dogger Bank we were seriously thinking about converting Repulse and Renown into battle cruisers armed with 15" guns. As I just mentioned we are now going to complete those two vessels in accord with the original specification. What I propose is that Parliament order 3 battle cruisers according to the new design. I want the first laid down within a month."
"I will need to review this new battle cruiser design in detail," remarked McKenna, "but while we are discussing battle cruisers Admiral Jellicoe has already sent me a cable that it is vital for all our remaining battle cruisers to come home immediately."
Fisher’s frown became a scowl. Much as he appreciated Jellicoe’s leadership qualities, he was displeased that he went directly to the new First Lord "We should not panic at this time. Hipper’s battle cruisers were damaged at Dogger Bank and now being repaired. So is most of the High Seas Fleet. They will eventually emerge from their docks to challenge us but not for a while. In that time we have other business to address. . I am confident our forces in the Caribbean and South Atlantic will soon destroy Spee’s squadron and remove that problem. Indefatigable must remain in the Mediterranean to guard against a sortie by Goeben. Indomitable however is now heading home and should arrive around Christmas."
. McKenna rocked his head back and forth, "I am not yet persuaded either way on this matter. Perhaps bringing Australia home at this time is warranted. If Captain Hall can provide some intelligence about the current German capabilities, that would be most helpful."
Berlin 1615 hrs
Moltke had departed OHL at Valenciennes. The official change was scheduled to take place noon on Monday but Moltke decided to leave now and let Falkenhayn take over effective command. Postponing the inevitable would accomplish nothing. He was going to return to Berlin where his new command, the still nebulous OKW, was to have its offices. There was already a staff being assembled.
He wondered a great deal if his new position would have any substance at all to it. There had been numerous memoranda about it having a planning and coordinating function. He regarded these documents as describing vapors and mists. But then again maybe the position would have some real power. Why else would Admiral Tirpitz have been so insistent about meeting him?
"Good afternoon, Feldmarshal, " said Tirpitz, "I am so glad you were available to meet with me on such notice what with the demands on your time getting your new headquarters set up properly."
Moltke wondered if the Admiral was being sarcastic. It was not obvious from the tone of voice. "I have time," he answered tersely in detached voice.
"Well that is very good. There is a very important issue that requires a decision in a short time frame."
Again Moltke wondered if the Grand Admiral was being sarcastic. He considered the possibility there would actually be something useful for him to decide. "Is this connected to that most impressive victory you won the other day? You have my congratulations to go along with the appreciation of all of Germany for that fantastic achievement. Relay my personal admiration to Grand Admiral von Ingenohl."
"I will relay your most kind comments to the Grand Admiral," answered Tirpitz. He was still awkward with the fact that the Kaiser had promoted Ingenohl to his own rank. "However great as this victory was I worry it may not prove sufficient to force the British into exiting this war they so foolishly decided to enter. "
"I have heard that the Kaiser believes they will enter into secret negotiations with us before New Years, " remarked Moltke, "I take it then you think that unlikely?"
"I do not wish to dispute the profound intuitions of the All-Highest, but I merely point out that it has not yet happened so as a dedicated naval officer I must plan for further action on the assumption that the British will persist in their folly."
Moltke gave the matter some thought, then with dawning realization he finally mused aloud, "There is something you want and you expect opposition from the General Staff. That is why you came to me."
Tirpitz nodded, "That was blunt but largely accurate. The British are building warships much faster than we are and it is certain that Dogger Bank will accelerate their program still further. If we can repair our damaged ships as quickly as possible then we can challenge them on even terms. We should be able to fight an engagement under favorable conditions. If we win that engagement decisively it is my belief that they will then make a satisfactory peace with us."
"Yes, I see some logic in that. How is it that the Army is a stumbling block?"
Tirpitz licked his lips, "The lesser problem is raw materials, such as steel. The more serious problem is workers. Due to conscription there is now insufficient shipyard workers to perform all the needed repairs as quickly as we need."
It took Moltke the better part of a minute to surmise where the admiral was heading, "You want soldiers with shipyard occupations released from the Army! So that is what this is all about."
Tirpitz answered warily, "Well, while I would welcome other realistic options for addressing this problem, I think at least a partial release is going to be necessary to get the High Seas Fleet ready for battle at the optimum time."
Moltke grinned ironically, "You know full well what General von Falkenhayn would say about this."
"I can imagine. But I was hoping that given the nature of your new position, you would be able to take a higher perspective."
"You seem to think this new office I now head will have some genuine authority. Surely you must have figured out by now that this office is merely an elaborate charade that allows Falkenhayn and Hindenburg to do as they please."
"I have had suspicions along those lines. If you resign yourself to that fate then assuredly it will happen. But I am offering you an opportunity to define your new position making it more than Falkenhayn imagined. If you prepare a report addressing my concerns we can arrange an audience with the Kaiser. If he approves it will set a valuable precedent. With the recent great victory the Navy’s role in this war was been suddenly expanded. The Kaiser is enthralled. If you are my ally I can assure you that you will play a key role in setting policy."
"Hmm. I remain dubious but will do my best. How soon do you want to arrange this meeting with the Kaiser—before New Year’s I take it?"
"No, no. This needs to be resolved before Christmas. The two of us in concert should be able to arrange an audience on Wednesday."
"Wednesday! This is absurd. My enemies have seen to it that I have just enough of a staff that their real intention is camouflaged. My paltry staff and myself cannot have this matter adequately digested by then."
"The situation is urgent and critical. Delay is too dangerous. I have confidence in your ability to reach a conclusion speedily, Feldmarshal"
10 Downing Street 2025 hrs
The Chief Secretary for Ireland, Augustine Birrell had just personally handed Prime Minister Asquith his letter of resignation.
Even though he had expected this, Asquith sighed deeply. "I am going to ask to seriously reconsider this, Gus. For sake of the British Empire—and Ireland is well. This is just what Bonar Law is hoping for!"
Birrell was a good natured man, though his wife’s terminal ordeal with brain cancer was taking a serious toll on his amiability. "How could you, Prime Minster? George Curzon! Oh, pardon me! Lord George Nathaniel Curzon. The former Emperor of India is now going to be given Ireland to dominate. Curzon has done everything in his power to block the Home Rule Bill in Lords! How can I have a shred of credibility once he is in the Vicereagal Lodge?"
"I know full well Lord Curzon’s reputation. His insufferable admiration for his own intellect. His brazen temerity. Many in his own party can barely stand him. I believe one reason Bonar Law wants him in Ireland and not in the Cabinet is to keep him from fighting with Chamberlain. But what could I do—make Carson the First Lord?"
"Heaven’s no! That would send an equally bad signal! It is ruinous enough that Carson is Attorney General"
"Precisely. I was genuinely convinced he meant to bring down the government. This dreadful naval battle—Dogger Bank is what the admirals have begun to call it—had me staring at a vote of ‘no confidence’. The latest word from France is that our Second Army is completely halted. So even that bit of promising news is now evaporating. If I did not make a deal, a Conservative could very well become Prime Minster. Maybe Balfour and maybe even Bonar Law. In either case there would be a Unionist in your position and someone like Landsowne as Lord Lieutenant."
Birrell’s anger subsided some as pondered these grim thoughts. "Bonar Law as PM and Landsowne as Viceroy! If that should ever come to pass I think an Irish uprising is guaranteed. Perhaps I was too judgmental a moment ago. This blasted naval battle has made the entire nation ill-tempered. I concede that you did what you thought was necessary—but I need to do what I regard as necessary. You have my letter."
Asquith frowned, "I see no reason for haste. Why don’t you meet with Lord Curzon? Just the two of you in private conversation. If after your meeting you still regard the situation as intolerable then I will accept this letter. Surely this is a fair request?"
Asquith merely stared at him like a disappointed school teacher. Birrell pouted and then with a heavy sigh relented, "Oh, what the bloody hell. I will have a talk with Lord Know-it-All, who don’t know sod about Ireland. When is he to be officially installed?"
"Uh, tentatively it is scheduled for January 5th. It may get pushed back a day or two, but Bonar Law will not let us stall for too long. Well, I am so glad you are doing the right thing."
"Let me be absolutely clear. All I have agreed to do is talk. If indeed he is the strutting tyrant I expect, I will resign!"
"Understood. All I ask is you that you keep your mind open to the possibility that he is not a monster."
JAPANESE FLEET INVADES CARIBBEAN
"Japanese warships have entered the Caribbean in strength after the American government naively granted them passage through the Panama Canal. US Government officials believe the story put forth the Japanese that are merely there to assist the British in the hunt for German raiders. The American public is not so gullible and is rightfully concerned about the true motives of the Japanese."
New York Journal Sunday Dec 20, 1914
Scapa Flow 0710 hrs
Jellicoe read the telegram that just arrived from the Admiralty.
GOOD INFORMATION JUST RECEIVED SHOWS THAT THE GERMAN FIRST AND SECOND CRUISER SQUADRONS WITH DESTROYERS LEAVE JADE RIVER TONIGHT. EXPECTED RETURN IS NOT KNOWN. NO INFORMATION AVAILABLE ABOUT GERMAN BATTLESHIPS. FROM OUR INFORMATION FIRST CRUISER SQUADRON NOW CONSISTS of THREE BATTLE CRUISERS. GRAND FLEET IS TO TAKE POSITION OFF MIDLANDS WHICH WE BELIEVE TO BE MOST LIKELY TARGET. HARWICH FORCE WILL JOIN YOU IN WHITBY GAP.
He shook his head with dismay. He suddenly chuckled with grim irony. He had tried very hard yesterday to get Fisher and McKenna to bring all the battle cruisers home. In return he was told that Indomitable would arrive as a Christmas gift and he should be satisfied with that. He had also been told more than once that the German battle cruisers were out of action due to battle damage. Now this message arrives to confirm his fears He recalled the NID had claimed that the High Seas Fleet was not putting to sea. Their error was costly. Were they right this time? He also wondered if the Midlands were really the German destination. Might they just as easily attack Suffolk or the Thames Estuary or even the English Channel?
He ordered the Grand Fleet to raise steam.
Limburg, Germany 1610 hrs
Sir Roger Casement returned to the prisoner of war camp where Germans had segregated the Irish prisoners. In the morning the first batch of Irish sailors captured in the Battle of Dogger Bank arrived at the camp. The prisoners had previously been told of the battle but it was felt they were rejecting the news. It was thought that hearing it from their own men who dispel the doubts.
"Britain no longer rules the ocean!" announced Casement to the prisoners he was trying to recruit into his Irish Brigade, "The biggest impediment to the liberation of Ireland has been removed."
The attitude of the prisoners had changed ere last he saw them. Their previous hostility was replaced by shock and confusion. The jeering he received this time sounded hollow, almost perfunctory. This time when it was over two prisoners came forward. It was a start.
Center Army HQ 1915 hrs
General Linsingen and Oberst Hell reviewed the latest reports from Feldmarshalleutnat Arz, commander of the KuK VI Corps. The Russians had reacted quicker than expected to the flanking movement of VI Corps by pouring cavalry into the gap between Eleventh and Eighth Armies. The two cavalry divisions of Center Army were too badly depleted by their losses in previous battles to counteract the Russian horsemen. Arz had kept his own flanks well protected but the Russian cavalry had slowed his advance.
"If the Austrians move much further the Russian cavalry will be able to cut their line of communication," remarked Hell, "meanwhile our aviators report a sizable force of Russian infantry—quite possibly an entire division-- hard marching from the north towards them."
Linsingen nodded grimly. François had wanted the 2nd Bavarian Jaeger battalion supporting the German cavalry. That was another part of the plan Linsingen had changed. He wondered briefly if it would have made a difference. He was not one of those who dwell too long on such thoughts. Criticism has its place but regrets are nearly useless.
"The flanking movement is failing," he concluded, "order the Austrians to hold their position. They have drawn Russian strength away from Lemberg. We should now be able to overpower the center. Order II Army Corps to attack with maximum vigor "
Heligoland Bight 2200 hrs
The Germans sortie consisted of Derfflinger, Moltke, Von der Tann, Blucher, Gruadenz, Koln, Stralsund and an under strength flotilla of 7 torpedo boats. With Seydlitz back in the docks Admiral Hipper’s flag was aboard Derfflinger. Admiral Maas’ flagship was the Koln. They steamed north.
HMS Iron Duke off Whitby 1230 hrs Monday December 21, 1914
Admiral Jellicoe waited eagerly for some news of the German battle cruiser raid. So far there was nothing.
just north of Crecy, France 1105 hrs Monday December 21, 1914
General Horace Smith-Dorrien, commander of the BEF Second Army had come to the trenches to witness the fighting personally. This was most unusual as British commanders at even the division level almost never attended the fighting. Smith-Dorrien was sending the full force of the 27th and North Midlands Divisions simultaneously against the 6th Bavarian Infantry Division. Before the war two against one in a frontal assault were considered a good prospect. The Battle of the Aisne and the Battle of the Somme had demonstrated otherwise once the enemy had even a brief opportunity to entrench. So the general had not been enthusiastic about the attack but General French had insisted. He was determined to see with own eyes what happened, accompanying the Territorial force soldiers of the North Midlands Division.
After a preparatory bombardment preparatory bombardment which was inadequate due to a paucity of shells –few of which were high explosive--he witnessed the 1/6th battalion Sherwood Foresters bravely surge over the top. Almost immediately they were mowed down in no man’s land by artillery and machineguns with the survivors pinned down hopelessly in front of the untouched wire. On their immediate right though, another battalion of Sherwood Foresters had discovered a gap in the wire and one of its mangled rifle companies managed to reach the trenches.
Smith-Dorrien could not see the ensuing fighting inside the trenches. It was probably best that he did not. The Bavarians had honed their close quarter fighting skills in the last few months. The fighting was fierce and savage with windpipes crushed, skulls smashed open and stomachs slashed. Eventually a gallant messenger made it back across no man land, limping on account of a small piece of shrapnel in his left calf. Just from the look in the private’s eyes, Smith-Dorrien knew that the attack had failed. It was time for him to see if the Regular infantry of 27th Division were doing any better.
HMS Iron Duke off Whitby 1230 hrs
Admiral John Jellicoe waited eagerly for some news of the German battle cruiser raid. So far there was nothing. Harwich Force had arrived an hour ago to reinforce Grand Fleet. Jellicoe wondered where the hell Hipper was and still more importantly where he was headed.
Bucharest 1500 hrs
"I have wonderful news, Your Majesty," declared an exuberant Prime Minister Ion Bratianu, "the Romanian rebels in Transylvania have set New Year’s Day for their rising. I strongly recommend that we immediately begin preparing our army to take advantage. We should also consult with the British and French ambassadors."
An unimpressed King Ferdinand arched a suspicious eyebrow, "Are you trying to tell me that this is an auspicious time for our great nation to join the Entente?"
"Oh, it would be rash to actually sign anything until this revolt actually materializes. All I am suggesting is that we take preliminary steps so when the time comes we can capitalize on this priceless opportunity."
"Humph, price opportunity indeed! I have repeatedly told you Ion that I would keep abreast of this war in all its facets. Recent events are raising serious doubts in my mind about joining the Entente at this time."
"I am not sure what you are referring to, Your Majesty." replied Bratianu, "The Russians have halted both the Germans and the Austrians. They expect to regain the initiative and go back on the offensive within a few weeks once reinforcements reach the front lines. Their Eighth Army remains concentrated in and around the Bukovina, which is advantageous to us. Meanwhile the valiant Serbs continue to frustrate and humiliate the Habsburg forces. In France both the British and French have made significant gains in Champagne and Picardy." He was genuinely confused about the source of king’s concerns. Perhaps it was the Turkish offensive in the Caucuses. The prime minister had sensed Russian reluctance to discuss that situation.
"So you are trying to tell me everything is shifting in favor of the Entente?"
"Well, uh, most of the important things are, Your Majesty."
"Such as the Battle of Dogger Bank?"
"What? Oh, Your Majesty must be referring to that unfortunate naval battle. Yes, yes, our British alli—uh, I mean to say friends and possible future allies-- suffered something of an embarrassment. There is no denying that. . But they are such a powerful nation when it comes to sea power, that this battle will have only a small impact for a brief period of time. This war is a land war. It will not be decided by a naval battle."
SMS Derfflinger heading NNW 1815 hrs
"I think it is time, " Admiral Hipper remarked, removing a cigar which he snuffed out.
"To send the torpedo boats back to Wilhelmshaven, sir?" speculated Raeder, his chief of staff.
"Yes. Let’s pray we don’t need them from now on. Our only screen from now on will be Second Scouting Group." During the day they had encountered only a single British merchantmen, which lacked wireless. They quickly captured her and sent her back to Germany with a prize crew. They had also encountered some Norwegian trawlers. They did not appear to have wireless either and were left alone.
One of Hipper’s considerations in mounting this sortie had been the elimination at the Battle of Dogger Bank of what he believed to be all British battle cruisers in home waters. But another was the winter solstice.
Center Army HQ 0920 hrs Tuesday December 22, 1914
General von Linsingen reviewed the latest reports. The attack of German II Army Corps had captured portions of the Russian trenches and a few strongpoints but it had failed to achieve a complete rupture and had taken less than a 1,000 prisoners. It had suffered serious casualties and it had been seriously under strength before the attack. Most of its stockpile of shells had been fired off. These were very good reasons for breaking off the attack, but Linsingen did not feel like quitting.
"The attack will continue! Commit the Bavarian Landwehr Brigade as reinforcements " he ordered.
HMS Iron Duke off Whitby 1505 hrs
Admiral Jellicoe was having doubts about the reliability of Room 40 and its intelligence. Where the hell was Hipper? Maybe he blundered into a minefield.
The destroyers screening the Grand Fleet would soon be running low on fuel. There had been 3 sightings of periscopes this day. Jellicoe’s favorite theory about Dogger Bank was that the Germans had sprung a submarine ambush on poor Warrender.
"Signal Tyrwhitt to return immediately to Harwich. Send a wireless message to the Admiralty that the Grand Fleet is returning to Scapa Flow.
expensive restaurant London 2015 hrs
A certain infamous bit of doggerel kept running through Birrell’s mind,
"My name is George Nathaniel Curzon,
I am a most superior person,
My cheek is pink,
My hair is sleek,
I dine at Blenheim once a week "
They were not dining at Blenheim Palace but a very fine establishment nonetheless. "There is a world of difference between Ireland and India," the Chief Secretary declared after washing down some very excellent lamb with some equally superb wine. He tried not to sound sarcastic but if the obviousness of the remark sounded that way, well so be it.
"Quite so, one is European and small. The other is Asiatic and huge. One can be understood after a period of devoted study, the other cannot," answered Lord George Curzon.
Birrell was sure that Ireland had just been subtly derogated, and countered, "Fortunately then for the Viceroy of Ireland, that his job does not require any understanding whatsoever."
Birrell contemplated the man before him. It was not that he had never seen the famous Lord Curzon before but rather never before had he been this close to him. He was in some ways like his reputation with the dome like head and sharp eyes. The man in front of Birrell was not as young he used to be. So are we all but in Curzon Birrell saw a man who was aging faster than most.
"That is what everyone has been telling me. Truth be told, I was very resistant to my appointment at first. I actually feared I might not be qualified. Silly me."
"There is however one thing that a Viceroy does need to understand at this time. The Home Rule Bill is on the books," said Birrell gazing hard into Curzon’s intense eyes.
"I am a member of Parliament. I do know the status of legislation."
"That is reassuring. Once the war is the finished the Viceroy must oversee its implementation."
Curzon took his time responding. He had an inkling that his response could provoke Birrell’s resignation. He knew that Bonar Law, Carson and Landsowne would want him to do precisely that. Curzon preferred that Birrell did not resign. Despite some political differences, Birrrell was regarded as learned and competent when it came Ireland. These were qualities George Curzon appreciated. On the other hand he knew that Birrell wanted a weak figurehead Lord-Lieutenant and George Curzon did not intend to be weak.
"There is in the Empire no greater zealot for the rule of law than myself, Mr. Birrell."
Birrell bit his lip. Lord Curzon was trying to be conciliatory. He decided to switch the topic. There was something unrelated to Ireland he was deeply curious about, "King Albert is currently staying at your country estate. What is he like? How is taking the German occupation of his country?"
"Hmm. While King Albert’s family is residing at Hackwood, the king himself is seldom there. He has been going around the country making speeches to various patriotic organizations. He also spends considerable time at the camps where the remnants of the Belgian Army are stationed."
"So you have never met with him?"
"Oh, we have met twice. He is a most fascinating person. Despite his popular image of being the fierce Soldier King, I have found him to be mild mannered and scholarly. He does manifest a great sorrow over the cruel fate, which has befallen his country. It is perfectly understandable, of course, but deeply disturbing nevertheless," answered Curzon. What he was going to share with Birrell was that he now suspected it was effect of King Albert’s personality with its poignant combination of heroism and tragic melancholia that had inspired him to accept what he regarded as the ill suited position of Lord-Lieutenant.
"There is much sadness in the world, much too much sadness" a misty eyed Birrell lamented.
Thinking that Birrell referred to the war, Curzon opened his mouth to make a comment to that point. But before he could speak he had a sudden intuition that Birrell was focused on something besides the war.
"Yes there is. If I might presume to ask, how is your wife doing?"
Birrell sighed deeply. He could not look Curzon in the eye, "She gets worse and worse each day. She no longer recognizes me but…" His voice trailed off. He let one sob escape then regained his composure—well some of it.
Curzon remained silent. Birrell turned his wet eyes towards accusingly, "You have no idea what I am going through, no idea"
Birrell suddenly stopped. There was a tear on Curzon’s left cheek and in his eyes that look men manifest when a very painful memory is reawakened. He suddenly remembered how Curzon’s wife, Mary had died after a protracted illness. Maybe the bastard did know something about what Birrell was going through. Maybe he wasn’t such a monstrous freak after all.
HMS Mantua NNW of the Faeroes 1045 hrs Wednesday December 23, 1914
Not too long ago she had once been a cruise ship with the Pacific & Oriental Steam Navigation Company. She had been requisitioned by the Admiralty at the beginning of the war and in September commissioned as an Armed Merchant Cruiser. She was assigned to the 10th Cruiser Squadron, which enforced the British blockade. Until today her greatest challenge were the rough waters of the North Sea. The old Edgar class cruisers that been assigned to the 10th Cruiser Squadron had been so badly battered that they were now being paid off.
Lookouts spotted a ship to the head heading southwest. As she turned to investigate the lookouts realized the ship was a German light cruiser. Mantua was armed with 6" guns and continued heading towards the cruiser, while sending a wireless message to the Alsatian, the squadron flagship.
The German cruiser turned away but only at 12 knots. The Mantua was capable of 16 knots and her captain ordered the flank bell to be run. In a few minutes she was to commence firing. Soon after that another German warship emerged from the mist. Within a few seconds it commenced firing.
Berlin 1500 hrs
Feldmarshal von Moltke was ready to make his presentation to Kaiser Wilhelm. In attendance were Grand Admiral von Tirpitz and Admiral von Muller. Moltke had found Rathenau to be extremely helpful and invited him to assist in the presentation.
"Your Majesty, I know how precious your time is and will therefore get to the point. As you are well aware, the High Seas Fleet recently won an extremely impressive victory—"
Kaiser Wilhelm interrupted, "—Am I aware of it? Generalfeldmarshal I can think of little else. I repeatedly insist that my servants pinch me because I think I must be dreaming. But please go on with what you were saying."
"Well, Your Majesty, in the aftermath of this great victory, Grand Admiral von Tirpitz has impressed on me how important it that repairs be completed on the High Seas Fleet as quickly as possible. While we hope that the British are now willing to make peace, we must be prepared to follow up on our success as quickly as possible."
"Yes, while I am confident that the British will soon make known to me their renewed interest in peace, I can see a need to prepare for contingencies. "
"Well put, Your Majesty. Now the problem, which Admiral Tirpitz presented to me, is twofold in nature. One aspect of the problem is the securing of the materials needed to repair the damaged warships. I shall present a proposed set of policies dealing with that topic later with the assistance of Herr Rathenau, whose office the KRA is to play a key role. It is the other aspect of the problem—labor—that I wish to deal with first. The problem there is aggravated by the conscription of able bodied workers from our shipyards into the Army. Because of the dockyards lack the men needed to facilitate repairs as quickly as possible."
Moltke paused to sip some water. Kaiser Wilhelm tried to digest what was said then asked, "This is an unfortunate set of circumstances. I hope you have some realistic proposals for dealing with it?"
Moltke nodded, "I believe I do, Your Majesty. Let me start with the most important proposal. At the end of this month 9 new reserve divisions will become ready for duty. In January 4 newly formed Landwehr divisions will also become ready. One of my proposals is that these divisions be held back from the front in a strategic reserve under the command of OKW. The men in these divisions who are experienced workers in shipyard occupations will be released from their units and allocated to military shipyards. In addition men who have no experience as shipyard workers but who have similar skills—say from working in construction—and could be very quickly adapted to a shipyard will also be released. Herr Rathenau believes his staff can identify the occupations that fall in the last category. He has worked out a preliminary estimate that between 6 and 7 percent of the soldiers would be released under this scheme."
"But can the Army afford to do without reinforcements?" asked Wilhelm, scratching his chin with his good hand.
"It can as long as it remains purely on the defensive, Your Majesty. The winter months are a poor time for anyone to go on a major offensive. The British and French attacks are now discovering that to their dismay. Replacements will be found for the released workers. In the mean time I do not intend for these units to be idle. There will be a vigorous program of supplemental training. And if there is a crisis on either front the divisions are immediately available, just at less than full strength. In addition to these newly formed divisions I also propose to release the shipyard workers from the units in Tenth Army, which since the fall of Belgium has been an inactive formation."
"I recall that there are still some Prussian Guard units in the Tenth Army. Surely you would not turn Prussian Guards into laborers?" asked Kaiser Wilhelm with some irritation.
"As usual you’re memory is excellent, Your Majesty. The Prussian Guard regiments would be exempted from my proposal. Another aspect of this is that I propose that all men now being trained in the Ersatz battalions coming from shipyard occupations should also be released immediately. Furthermore for the next three months shipyard workers should be exempted from conscription."
Kaiser Wilhelm remained unsure, "What does General von Falkenhayn have to say about these proposals?"
"He is extremely occupied with the details of taking command of the General Staff. Given the urgency of this matter, so there has not been time to coordinate with him."
Tirpitz interjected, "With the need for at least a preliminary decision on certain matters before Christmas, so we cannot afford to wait for General von Falkenhayn’s contribution. Since Feldmarshal von Moltke was in charge of the General Staff until a few days ago, his knowledge of the Army’s requirements are at least as comprehensive."
"yes, that is is fairly obvious. I take it then that you are in full agreement with Helmuth’s proposals?"
"Completely, Your Majesty. It is remarkable, nay I should say, incredible, what he has put together these ideas with such a short time. I can see now this OKW is going to be Godsend to the Navy."
The Kaiser bit his lip ambivalently and turning back to Moltke, "I see some merit in these proposals but they are fairly drastic. Are there no other options?"
"There are, Your Majesty, but they are merely supplements and not a substitute—at least in the near term."
"Hmm, I would still like to know what they are?"
"One of them is to postpone laying down the keel for the Mackensen by six weeks. It is currently planned for the end of January. In our current situation, beginning new projects has become a lower priority."
Tirpitz’s jaw dropped. This was not a suggestion Moltke had shared him previously. Having just praised Moltke’s wisdom, he realized he could not now fully express his outrage. Kaiser Wilhelm noticed the grand admiral’s alarmed expression, "Is something wrong, Alfred?"
"Uh, only that six weeks delay should be regarded as a worst case, Your Majesty. It is more likely that four weeks will prove sufficient." Tirpitz extemporized through clenched teeth.
Seeing that Tirpitz had not detonated, Rathenau spoke up, "If I might interject, Your Majesty, the delay on beginning the Mackensen is connected the materials shortage as well as the labor bottleneck "
The Kaiser nodded, "Any other suggestions regarding the labor situation, Feldmarshal?"
"Yes, Your Majesty. There are three more suggestions. The first is that we contact our ally, the Austrians and see if they have German speaking workers in their shipyards that they can spare. Our information is that they have postponed several of their own projects so it is likely that there is considerable underutilization. Of course, there is the usual problem that the Austrians are utterly incapable of doing anything in a hurry. It is going to be while before these workers arrive in appreciable numbers."
:"Yes, unfortunately that is quite so. It was for their sake that we entered this dreadful conflict yet it is we not they who are fully committed."
"I could not have said it any better myself, Your Majesty. In a similar vein I suggest that we can get some guest workers for our shipyards from Holland. Their language is quite similar to our own and many in their country speak German as a second language. This however will also take some time to implement. Lastly, Herr Rathenau has convinced me that we can have some of the less strenuous occupations performed by women—"
"Women! Did I hear you correctly, Feldmarshal? You want to put German women to work in shipyards?"
Moltke looked to both Tirpitz and Rathenau for support but both turned away. He gulped and tried to answer, "Only in a limited number of occupations, Your Majesty---"
"---Limited will mean none at all! As I have said before the proper role for German women is threefold—Church, kitchen and children. Women building and repairing warships, who ever heard of such a silly thing? I hope this isn’t some bizarre notion you have picked up from Rudolf Steiner."
HMS Iron Duke SSE of the Shetlands heading northeast 1845 hrs
Admiral Jellicoe was upset. The German battle cruisers with their light cruisers acting as scouts, had attacked the 10th Cruiser Squadron between Iceland and the Faeroes, sinking four AMC’s. The Grand Fleet had been off Cromarty Firth when it received the news. Jellicoe was now trying to intercept the Germans on their way home. He was doing so without the Grand Fleet’s two destroyer flotillas, which had had run low on coal from the wasted voyage south. The remainder of the 10th Cruiser Squadron had been withdrawn from their patrol areas.
"Do you think this is hit and run?" he asked Admiral Madden, his chief of staff.
"It is the most probable course of action, sir. Hipper is probably running hard for home right now."
"There are other possibilities. He could swing around to the south of the Faeroes during the night and continue his attack on the 10th Cruiser Squadron there tomorrow. For that reason the rest of the AMC’s are fleeing to Loch Ewe. An even more troubling prospect is that he could be heading out into the Atlantic to raid. I fret about those possibilities through the night but I shall stick with my current plan. We are going to try to intercept him tomorrow morning but I am not hopeful. Even it we cut his route home he has superior speed. He will run away and then try to slip past us tomorrow night. The weakness of our scouting forces combined with the short period of daylight, make our chances in this endeavor very poor."
Madden tried to be more optimistic, "Maybe we can surprise him in poor visibility or trap him against the Norwegian coast, sir?"
Jellicoe unconvincingly attempted a smile, "Yes, yes, you are right. They are both possible. And I am damn well going to try."
Teschen 0830 hrs Thursday December 24, 1914
General Conrad von Hötzendorf reviewed the overnight reports. The one that had him the most concerned came from General Linsingen in charge of the mixed Center Army. Its attack on the Russian Eleventh Army at Lemberg was clearly failing. Linsingen was willing to continue fighting Christmas Day but it struck Conrad as pointless. His only consolation in this situation was that it once again demonstrated that German military prowess was not what they pretended.
Otherwise the Eastern Front was now relatively quiet, except for Serbia, which Conrad tried very hard not to think about lest he bite his tongue off. The Germans Guard Division was entraining at Cracow this day to return to Germany. Ludendorff had informed him that this being done to comply with the wishes of Kaiser Wilhelm, but Conrad found that line of argument disingenuous. When the German generals had a strong consensus about a needed course of action they felt little if any misgivings about ignoring their Kaiser.
Conrad had learned about the restructuring of the German General Staff. He had concluded that Moltke was been relegated to a largely ceremonial role. Conrad had become very hostile with Moltke in the early weeks of the war, but recently his ire had softened a notch. He was glad that German help had turned the tide during the critical weeks of November. He was relieved Przemysl was no longer invested. But lasting gratitude was not part of Conrad’s nature. He felt neither sympathy nor pity for the Feldmarshal. He only wondered what Falhenhayn and Ludendorff intended for the Eastern Front.
Berlin 1035 hrs
Tirpitz and Moltke were meeting in private. "I do not understand why are so happy, Alfred. All we were able to accomplish yesterday was the Kaiser’s very provisional approval of some of my suggestions. There is to be another meeting next Tuesday afternoon where everything will be rehashed again before an expanded audience."
"What you say is undeniably true," conceded Tirpitz, "but what is very important is that we have established a precedent. We have in effect seized the initiative in this situation. With the help of Rathenau we will already have the organization and plans in place with implementation underway by the time of the next meeting. Momentum will be working for us. The Christmas season often leads to passivity and inertia. It could easily have worked against us but instead we are making it work for us."
Moltke shook his head a little. Tirpitz had always been more skillful at political maneuvering than he was. The Grand Admiral seemed to enjoy the political game while Moltke had merely played it out of necessity. He commented, "Falkenhayn and Ludendorff will both find out soon. They will both oppose the plan. They both erroneously think that the war can be won with a winter offensive; they merely disagree about where the schwerpunkt should be."
Tirpitz nodded, "This is my intuition as well. In the long run, though I am doubtful they can remain allies. There was already a campaign to make Hindenburg Chief of the General Staff. It took a brief nap whilst Falkenhayn worked his clever intrigue, but now that you have been removed I expect it to reawake with renewed vigor. This is something we can exploit."
HMS Iron Duke 40nm west of Norway 1155 hrs
Admiral Jellicoe watched the approach of the Fourth Destroyer Flotilla with considerable relief. Even this far north he was uncomfortable when the Grand Fleet was sailing without a screen. He felt this way even though the destroyers were taking a pounding in the rough seas. He was still unhappy with his lack of cruisers suitable for scouting. He thought that was likely the reason why he had failed to make any contact with the German battle cruisers. He wondered if Hipper had already slipped by him. The Third Battle Squadron with the King Edward VIII class predreadnoughts were deployed off to the southwest to guard against that possibility.
SMS Derfflinger 1400 hrs
Contrary to Jellicoe’s expectations, First Scouting had spent most of the last day steaming ENE at a leisurely 12 knots. After gazing at the chronometer Hipper turned to Raeder and said, "It is time, Erich. Bring all ships to a due south bearing at 20 knots."
HMS Iron Duke 40nm west of Norway 0305 hrs Friday December 25, 1914
"Admiral, sir, sorry to wake you but a wireless message has just arrived from the Admiralty."
Admiral Jellicoe had been trying to sleep with only partial success. He rose from his cot and took the message.
THERE IS GOOD INTELLIGENCE THAT GERMAN FIRST CRUISER SQUADRON PLANS TO RENDEZVOUS WITH DESTROYERS AT 56N 4W AT 1400 HRS.
Jellicoe had become strongly ambivalent about what was coming out of the Naval Intelligence Division. Sometimes it was not completely accurate such as saying that the High Seas Fleet would not supporting the German battle cruisers during the raid that precipitated the disastrous Battle of Dogger Bank. Even when it was accurate, it was so often tantalizingly incomplete. Jellicoe dispelled his sleepiness and tried to concentrate. This could mean that Hipper had already slipped past him or more likely was doing so during the night. But where? He had guessed the area off the Norwegian coast and that is where he had positioned the Grand Fleet. But now that the moon had set the night was very dark.
Jellicoe walked over a map and wondered.
SMS Koln off the Shetland Islands 0410 hrs
Admiral Hipper made his brazen dash for home to the east of the Shetlands. The cruisers of 2nd Scouting Group were acting as a screen. It was they who encountered the 4 old ‘C’ class destroyers of Shetlands Patrol. The Cheerful was trapped in Koln’s searchlights, and being pummeled by 4.1" shells. Her attempt to get off a wireless message was jammed. Admiral Maas wanted to engage with all of his cruisers but Hipper did not want to be distracted and delayed. Maas wasn’t even allowed to finish off Cheerful. The German warships continued on.
So Cheerful was left dead in the water, down by the bow and burning. Another RN destroyer tried to tow her to Lerwick, but the combination of battle damage and heavy seas proved too much and she foundered.
The Third Battle Squadron was approx 20 nm ENE of this encounter. When their commander, Vice Admiral Sir Edward Bradford learned of it, he proceeded to area at flank speed but when he arrived Hipper has long gone.
trenches southeast of Etaples 0905 hrs
"Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht…"
"That Fritz has right fine voice, that he does," commented Corporal Jenkins. The no mans land was short in this sector of the front. .The British troops here belonged to First Army had had not participated in the recent Battle of Picardy. The British and German trenches were close enough to each other that they could each other singing. On occasion the soldiers on one side would applaud an especially fine rendition by their enemy The previous night the Germans had begun singing Christmas carols. General French had given orders for the BEF to be extra vigilant Christmas Day and New years as he expected the Germans to use it as an opportunity to mount a surprise. General French had his headquarters in a cozy chateau. The soldiers suffered in the dank cold overcrowded trenches with the sight and smell of the unburied dead in no mans land. Some sweet music on Christmas Day was a welcome relief.
:"Leftenant! Come take a look, sir---"
Some German soldiers had gotten up out of the their trenches. They just stood and were carrying no weapons. "Tommy! Tommy! Please don’t shoot! We are unarmed. It is Christmas!" yelled one of them.
Some of the British soldiers had their Lee-Enfields readied and we taking aim. "What should we do sir?" asked on of them.
"Hold your fire."
HMS Arethusa south of the Dogger Bank 1350 hrs
Commodore Tyrwhitt was not thinking much about Christmas. The Admiralty had informed him that the German battle cruisers had slipped passed the Grand Fleet during the long night and would probably rendezvous with two flotillas. Harwich Force was ordered to make a torpedo attack on the German battle cruisers during the night.
Tyrwhitt regarded these orders with some ambivalence. He had recalled how Harwich Force had been badly mauled by the First Scouting Group and its accompanying cruisers and destroyers at the Broad Fourteens. He had been lucky to escape that without more severe losses including his own death. Was this an opportunity for revenge or merely a second chance for Hipper to destroy Harwich Force.
A crucial element in the tactical situation was the Moon. The previous night had been First Quarter. The cloud cover was merely partial. The Battle of the Broad Fourteens had made made the Commodore leery of engaging the Germans in strong moonlight. Tyrwhitt knew that the Grand Fleet was in pursuit of First Scouting Group. He thought it likely that Hipper would take the most direct route to the Jade Bay. He therefore planned his ambush the Germans off their port bow just before moonset. He hoped the clouds would allow him a glimpse of the Germans silhouetted against the setting moon.
Everyman’s Land southeast of Etaples
The British chaplain read the 23rd Psalm aloud:
"The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me besides the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me. thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies, thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."
Standing next to him was a German divinity student who read the same Psalm aloud in German. A truce had been informally arranged during the day. The dead bodies that that rotted between the trench lines were finally buried. The enemies were now gathered together is a common burial service. During the day the British and German soldiers had communicated with each other as if they were lifelong friends despite the language barrier. They both knew that tomorrow the killing would resume.
east of the Dogger Bank 0105 hrs Saturday December 26, 1914
Hipper had decided to return home through the Horns Reef Channel and so his course was more easterly than Tyrwhitt had anticipated. The gaps in the clouds for the moonlight to penetrate had been tantalizingly few. So it was only his easternmost division of Harwich Force’s destroyers that now brushed against the German screen. HMS Lucifer was caught in German searchlights and soon set ablaze. When notified of the encounter Hipper turned his battle cruisers to a due east course. Tyrwhitt when notified regrouped his forces. There were some brief encounters and exchanges of shellfire in the next half hour, including instances where both Germans and British warships fired on their own vessels. Only a handful of hits were scored and none caused serious damage. Lucifer however soon turned into a hellish furnace. She was abandoned an hour later and soon afterwards there were a series of secondary explosions, which tore her apart.
Berlin 0830 hrs
The Leader of U-Boats, Korvettekapitan Herman Bauer was meeting with the commanders of three of his submarines. "Karl, will you be ready to leave before nightfall?" he asked one of them.
"A final inspection is being conducted as we speak, sir. I will notify you immediately if there is any problem. Just what, might I ask, is our mission, sir?"
"As you may have already heard, First Scouting Group has just conducted a successful raid on the British AMC’s which have been conducting the illegal British distant blockade of Germany. All three of you are to proceed directly to the waters around the Faeroes. Part of your mission is to inflict further losses on the British forces involved in the blockade. Furthermore there is a good chance that the British will reinforce their forces in that area with a combination of armored cruisers and their older battleships. They will probably be operating without a destroyer screen as the weather up there this time of the year would be very hard on destroyers."
"The British are likely to doubt that we can operate effectively under those conditions," remarked one of the U-Boat captains.
"My thoughts as well, Otto. And with our earlier class of submarines they would be correct. However, all you command the newest vessels and I have confidence in the high quality of your seamanship. The British have been extremely cautious about risking major warships in the Hoofden and the eastern portion of the English Channel since we sank those two battleships. Admiral Hipper has persuaded the Admiralstab that our submarines will find better targets off the Faeroes. I agree."
"What has happened to your proposal for a submarine war against British commerce?"
Bauer frowned slightly. He still thought that his proposal could be decisive in winning the war. He shrugged, "I expect that memo can be revisited at a later date. Obviously the great victory recently won by the High Seas Fleet has altered the naval balance in the North Sea. The Admiralstab has decided that there are better uses for our submarines. I am an officer. I obey my superiors."
Old Admiralty Building 0930 hrs
Admiral Jackie Fisher looked at the First Lord and guessed what he was going to say.
"I am now inclined to agree with Admiral Jellicoe," remarked McKenna, fulfilling Fisher’s expectations, "the battle cruisers should all come home as soon as possible."
"I would counsel against overreacting to this raid, First Lord," answered Fisher,"I say bring Australia and Newcastle to Bermuda for a few days. If there is no sign that Spee is heading for the Caribbean we should bring those vessels back home. But Sturdee’s squadron should continue their hunt."
McKenna paused to ponder Fisher’s proposal, "No, you’ve become obsessed with Spee, who has now become the lesser evil. Hipper has just demonstrated that the AMC’s patrolling north of the Faeroes are vulnerable to hit and run raids by the German battle cruisers. He could make another raid as soon as he finishes coaling. Indomitable by herself will be insufficient. I have been summoned to Buckingham Palace this afternoon. His Majesty will want assurances that we are doing everything possible to avoid a successful repetition of this raid. Sturdee must be recalled."
Fisher felt his temper rising. He had hoped after Dogger Bank that the new First Lord would be someone who would not dare interfere with his plans. He knew that while McKenna deeply respected him and was not prone to wild schemes like Churchill, neither was he one to relinquish all decision making. "I must ask that you reconsider, First Lord." Fisher spoke in a voice that tried to be disapproving but respectful, "And if we do recall Admiral Sturdee, we should at least let him linger in the vicinity of the Cape Verde Islands for a few days. It is quite possible that Spee will now break for home and Admiral Oliver has some intelligence that coal has already been purchased for him in the Canary Islands, and if Sturdee is off Cape Verde he would have a reasonably chance at interception."
McKenna tapped his lips with a finger. He had been worried that the First Sea Lord would be adamantly opposed the recall of the battle cruisers. While Fisher still opposed the idea he was proving more tractable than usual. McKenna decided it would best to be conciliatory, "Hmm, yes a few days off Cape Verde seems reasonable."
"Are you planning to bring Indefatigable home as well? One thing to consider is it would send the wrong signal to the Italians."
"Yes, I plan to bring Indefatigable home soon as well. I know she is due for an overhaul next month but it is better if that is done locally and not at Malta. If we reinforce the Mediterranean with two or three predreadnoughts that should negate any political ramifications. We should send the reinforcements out before noon tomorrow. When they reach Malta Indefatigable will proceed to Scapa Flow immediately. What would ships would you suggest?"
Fisher mulled it over for nearly a minute then answered, "Vengeance and Cornwallis would be my recommendation, First Lord"
McKenna sighed deeply, now realizing he should have brought up another topic sooner, "Ahem, I concur with Vengeance, but I am afraid I have other plans for Cornwallis. I am sending the entire Sixth Battle Squadron to the Northern Patrols. I want them patrolling off the Faeroes to defend 10th Cruiser Squadron in case the German battle cruisers attempt another raid."
Fisher’s nostrils flared and his complexion darkened. Being asked his professional judgment and then immediately being overruled infuriated him. He was very seriously considering making a threat to resign.
Pernambucco, Brazil 1605 hrs
Underneath her parasol the beautiful Jannayna smiled at the dashing Vizadmiral von Spee who returned an appreciative smile. After a few pleasant seconds he turned away. There were things more important than women on his mind. He had brought Scharnhorst, Emden and Dresden into this busy port of the northeast corner of Brazil to coal and stock up on other supplies such as fresh food. There was a good chance British intelligence would discover this very soon. According to the Hague Treaty the German warships were permitted to remain in the neutral port for a mere 24 hours. The Brazilian authorities had been quite firm that he must obey that provision. He was seriously considering leaving early even though the coaling would not be completed.
The Admiral proceeded at a brisk walk to a tavern. The Germans had been able to rent it for their exclusive use during their stay. When he entered he asked the Leutnant in charge, "Has Kapitan Moller arrived yet?"
"Yes, Admiral, he arrived a few minutes ago. I will take you to him."
The junior officer led to admiral to an office. Inside the officer, Kapitan Augustus Moller, the German naval attaché for Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Chile was waiting for him. They quickly introduced themselves and got down to business.
"The latest message from the Admiralstab still recommends that I try to return home soon," said Spee, "but there has been a shift in their policy. They now ask me to consider going to America first and liberating some of our liners sheltering there, instead of returning more directly through the Canary Islands. I am undecided. I need to know what are my possible resources in the Caribbean?"
Moller took his time responding, "Dogger Bank has impressed
the Brazilian government. As you are probably aware there is a sizable number of
Germans living in southern Brazil. They are very influential. Did you know that
the Brazilian foreign minister is German?"
"Yes, I do. Lauro Muller is his name, if I recall correctly."
Moller nodded, "That is correct, however, this is a complicated situation that requires delicacy. You see, the affluence and power of the German Brazilians has spawned considerable resentment amongst other Brazilians. For that reason Muller cannot afford to appear overly sympathetic to our cause."
"I will bear that in mind. How about the other nearby countries?"
"Well, Gomez has become rather friendly of late, surprisingly so given our history with Venezuela. Even though it is outside my territory that man’s lack of character is well known. I would not trust him."
"Hmm, Venezuela has other drawbacks as well. A big one is the British naval base at Trinidad right off their coast. Anything else?"
Moller again hesitated, before responding, "One possibility to consider is Haiti. There is a small but very powerful group of our countrymen in Haiti. That backward country is now going through another period of turmoil. There are several factions struggling to gain control. We have approached one of them, a general named Vilbrun Guillaume Sam and in exchange for our backing he can arrange for your fleet to be supplied surreptitiously."
"Hmm, Haiti? I do not like the idea of trying to use Port-au-Prince as a base. Yes, I remember that our fleet used it on a few occasions before the war. However the main British naval base in the Caribbean is Kingston, which is not that far off. It would be too easy for the British to trap us in the bay."
Moller nodded, "Oh, I agree that Port-au-Prince is far too risky. I am thinking about another place."