by Tom B
Berlin Sunday December 27, 1914
The German Under Secretary of State, Arthur Zimmerman, signed the secret treaty. Then Sir Roger Casement did likewise. Under its terms the Irish prisoners of war who voluntarily joined the Brigade would be equipped and provisioned by the German Army. If and when they fought it would be under an Irish flag and led by Irish officers. The Germans pledged to send the Brigade "to Ireland with sufficient military support, and with an ample supply of arms and ammunition for the Volunteers in an attempt to recover Irish freedom by force of arms."
"You understand, of course, that this will not published until you have recruited a sufficiently large expeditionary force. How is it coming with the prisoners, Sir Roger?" spoke Zimmerman.
"I am making progress," replied Casement evasively without enthusiasm.
"Hmm. From your tome of voice it sounds like it will take some time. That is understandable."
Casement nodded mutely as he mulled his situation over. While a few prisoners were starting to join the Irish Brigade he doubted if it would ever be large enough. "I would like very much to speak with General von Moltke," he requested haltingly.
"Ah, it is Field Marshal von Moltke, now."
"Oh, pardon me, I meant no offense. I would like very much to speak with Field Marshal von Moltke, bitte."
Zimmerman’s sighed and lips began to form the wood, "No". Being a seasoned diplomat, he stopped himself and attempted a reassuring smile, "I will see what I can do. You must understand that the Field Marshal is an extremely busy man, and it will be very hard for him to schedule time for this purpose. But I will try. In the meantime you should carry on with the recruitment of the prisoners."
------London Monday 1050 hrs December 28, 1914
The Chief Secretary for Ireland looked over a report that he had just received from the Foreign Office. Turning to his assistant, Sir Matthew Nathan, he commented almost light heartedly, "Some more information here about what Casement is up to."
Nathan regarded Casement more seriously than Birrell, "Anything cause for concern, sir?"
Birrell moved his head from side to side and shrugged, "Well, yes and no. What I liked best was the part about Casement having a strain of madness and vanity’. I think it sums him up very nicely."
"That may well be true, sir, but madmen can still be dangerous," answered Nathan, "just what exactly is he up to now?"
"Oh he is up to some mischief, that’s for sure. Here read for yourself."
Nathan took the report and soon whistled, "In addition to the Germans, he is in communication with John Devoy in New York. And he has been talking to Irish prisoners of war. I would say that this should not be taken lightly. We should pass this flimsy on to the Viceroy-Elect."
"Heaven’s no, Matthew. Lord Curzon would blow this out of all proportion. Casement is nothing more than a deluded fool. John Devoy is a stubborn old man clinging to the fading shadow of Fenianism. Now the Germans are admittedly a ruthless lot but this time their infernal cleverness is all for naught. We are not sharing this with Curzon! I hope that is clear."
Nathan wasn’t completely convinced, but on reflection he realized that sharing this report on Casement with Lord Curzon would be opening Pandora’s Box. "Perfectly clear, sir"
Soon afterwards Birrell wrote about this report in his journal, "It is all very vague about numbers and nationalities. Are they coming as open enemies—to storm our coasts and seize our Irish castles—or as secret agents of the Kaiser? However, we must be ready for either dread contingency! The weather will upset their stomachs if not their plans!"
------Wilhelmshaven 1135 hrs
Admiral Bachmann, the head of the Admiralstab had arrived at Wilhelmshaven. He debriefed Admiral Hipper about First Scouting Group’s sortie against the British blockading forces.
"Von der Tann’s machinery again experienced problems maintaining speed, sir" noted Hipper.
"That is disturbing, especially in this operation as the speed was counted on to avoid being intercepted and engaged by the Grand Fleet. Von der Tann just completed an overhaul of its machinery, to rectify that problem," replied Bachmann, "Could this be due to battle damage she incurred at Dogger Bank?"
Hipper winced. He knew that Bachmann had been unhappy with the idea of taking damaged warships out on a sortie. It was only the enthusiasm of Tirpitz that had overcome his reluctance. Hipper shook his head, "That is clearly not the case, Admiral. Nothing heavier than 7.5" shells hit Von der Tann at Dogger Bank, and none of those got close to her machinery. Only her superstructure was damaged. It is obvious that the overhaul was not completely effective at remedying the problem."
"Well, while her damaged superstructure is being repaired, the engineers will try again to rectify the problems with her propulsion. Next Monday morning the Admiralstab will discuss the options we have for operations in the coming month. With both First Scouting Group and High Seas Fleet out of the picture due to repairs, these options appear to be extremely limited. Do you have any suggestions?"
Bachmann expected Hipper to take time to cogitate. Hipper had thought about this topic during his latest sortie so he was able to surprise Bachmann with a quick response, "We should detach one of the torpedo flotillas assigned to the High Seas Fleet and move it to either Calais or Boulogne. Our bases there are now ready for them. We need to increase our pressure on the Straits of Dover and the east portion of the Channel. I view this as an ongoing campaign of considerable importance. Once the High Seas Fleet is ready for a major fleet action the flotilla can be returned."
Bachmann mulled that over for a few seconds then said, "That proposal has some merit. Disrupting the line of communication for the BEF was the main reason for capturing the Channel Ports in the first place. Anything else?"
"No further proposals at this time, sir. This is one matter I am very curious about, though. Has Intelligence Section been able to glean anything useful from Admiral Beatty’s dying words?"
Bachmann shook his head slightly, "Not so far. I saw something very preliminary just yesterday. Our analysts originally thought Admiral Beatty that was talking about buildings called Captain’s Hall and Blinker Hall. This line of inquiry is proving unproductive. There are now some who think he was referring to two individuals perhaps brothers, but Blinker is a very unusual Christian name. There is of course a very real possibility that Beatty was merely rambling without any reference to reality due to his injuries and therefore is of no significance."
"That is a distinct possibility, sir. Yet one thing that continues to haunt me about the Battle of Dogger Bank. Why did the British station their forces where they did that particular morning? It seems as if they were anticipating our raid."
Bachmann raised a eyebrow. This was something he had not considered in the giddy days of triumph after the great victory. "I will tell Intelligence Section to continue their investigation."
------off Recife Brazil 1710 hrs
With reports from Naval Intelligence Division that Spee had provisioned in the port, Sturdee’s squadron had been hurriedly dispatched to its vicinity. The orders from the Admiralty gave Sturdee 24 hours to hunt for Spee’s warships. If there was no contact at the end of that period, he was then to continue on to the Cape Verde Islands. So far there was no trace of the German cruisers.
Meanwhile Admiral Gough-Calthorpe was proceeding from Kingston to Trinidad with the 2nd Cruiser Squadron reinforced with HMS Glory, 2 French cruisers and the Japanese warships, making for a very multinational task force. There had been concerns that the East Indian population in Trinidad and Guyana might rise up in revolt if the German warships reached them. A radical political organization of East Indians called the Ghadar Party had been formed in 1913 to promote armed rebellion. Its world headquarters was in San Francisco and it was known to have an influential branch in Trinidad.
Old Admiralty Building 0930 hrs Tuesday 2230 hrs December 29, 1914
Admiral Fisher was meeting with Admirals Oliver and Wilson. He very quickly came to the point, "I have become deeply concerned that the Germans seem to have seized the initiative at sea. It can be argued that since Heligoland everything we have done has been in reaction to a German move. Oh, I know we have shelled a few coastal targets now and then. Nor have I forgotten the submarines we sent to the Baltic. But it is time to do something more. Does either of you two geniuses have any sparkling ideas you’d care to share?"
Wilson had been involved in some of Churchill’s more daring schemes, such as seizing Borkum or Helgoland. He did not think that was what Fisher was looking for at this time. So he remained silent. Instead it was Henry Oliver, who spoke up, "I might suggest, sir, that we now go ahead the seaplane raid launched from carriers on the airship sheds at Cuxhaven,. We had planned that raid for Christmas Day but our recent calamity caused it to be called off."
Fisher had not been pleased with Oliver since Dogger Bank, but he brightened at this idea, "I have been thinking about resurrecting that operation as well, Henry. Commodore Tyrwhitt thinks it was a wireless scouting report from that accursed Zeppelin, which spoiled his planned night ambush of Hipper’s battle cruisers. Let’s go ahead and get working on this raid. I say hit them New Year’s Day. There is a chance the Germans will be less than fully alert for the holiday—that had been our reason for choosing Christmas. How many carriers would we have available for Friday?"
"Four, sir," answered Oliver, "Hermes, Empress, Riviera and Engadine."
"Very good. I know this is short notice but ready them for an early morning attack on Friday. Harwich Force will provide close support while Grand Fleet will position itself close enough to pounce on any German capital ships, which make an appearance."
"Are you going to clear this with the First Lord?" asked Wilson.
Fisher scowled and sniffed, "If I find time I might inform the First Lord. I am running this Navy, not him."
------Berlin 2230 hrs
The afternoon meetings to discuss Moltke’s plans for allocating materials and releasing some soldiers temporarily back to the shipyards had been acrimonious and confusing. Falkenhayn and Ludendorff were among the attendees. Both were highly critical of many elements in the plan. Ludendorff was been particularly vociferous, so much so that he greatly annoyed Kaiser Wilhelm who already had a deep seated antipathy towards the man. However one counter proposal of Ludendorff—the creation of an Economic Section underneath the Quartermaster General to oversee the efficient utilization of the economic resources of the conquered territory did meet with general approval. While Falkenhayn was very negative, he carefully avoided the bombast of Ludendorff. Another key German General, von Stein, the Quartermaster General, was more equivocal and generally supported Moltke’s proposals but with some qualification. On the other hand Albert Ballin was brimming with unboaunded enthusiasm for the proposals..
The meeting ended without a clear consensus being reached. Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg had been present but had merely asked a few questions. At the end he opined that the proposals required more discussion and that a compromise was probably the best course. Tirpitz was fairly content with day’s events, telling an anxious Moltke that this meant what they had set in motion would continue. However Kaiser Wilhelm insisted that Moltke and Falkenhayn try to work out their differences.
So it was now just the two of them in a small room. Falkenhayn intended to take the train back to OHL at Valenciennes early the next morning. They made no attempt whatsoever at small talk. "I see you have found a role for yourself, Generalfeldmarshal," remarked Falkenhayn caustically, "but surely you must realize that Tirpitz is merely using you as an instrument for his own glory."
"I expected this sort of blind resistance from Hindenburg and Ludendorff, but I had hoped that you at least might understand, Erich. I have heard you say more than once that you were convinced that the British are the linchpin of the Entente. We have been handed a priceless unexpected opportunity to beat them at their own game—sea power. If we can unravel that thread the whole tapestry of the Entente comes apart."
"Perhaps, but not very likely. You see, I know something of the naval situation as well. Let us assume that your plan works and all needed repairs are done by the middle of March. The High Seas Fleet is now ready for the big fleet action that Tirpitz keeps talking about. Admiral Ingenohl,--did you know that the American publisher Hearst is calling him the German Nelson--gets his big chance. And he does well. He sinks 3 British dreadnoughts and loses only one. Waiting for him at the docks is the Kaiser with another medal. There is a big parade. But does the war end? I think not. Only if the naval victory is accompanied by decisive action in France will the British come to their senses and make peace. Otherwise they will simply wait for their massive ship building program to reach fruition."
"If that happens, the Army has the entire summer to make its impact. It can wait and it should wait, because winter is a bad time to go on the offensive. It is precisely because of the British building program that the Navy needs to have its decisive battle as quickly as possible."
"Hah! I knew it! This plan of yours is just a backhanded way for you to prevent winter offensives. Once again I must reiterate that only on the Eastern Front are winter offensives foolish. If we plan them properly there is no reason to be pessimistic about their prospects in France."
Moltke shrugged slightly, "You are twisting things, Erich. Yes, it was one factor in my decision, but it was not the primary one. Let me come to the point. I am willing to make some commitments now in exchange for your support for my plan."
Falkenhayn eyed Moltke warily. After a pause he shrugged as well, "Go ahead, Feldmarshal. I am a reasonable man. Let me hear what you have to offer."
"Early in February at least 5 of the 9 new reserve divisions will have received trained replacements for the soldiers released to the shipyards. In exchange for your agreement over the next two months I would be willing to guarantee that those divisions will be released to the Western Front. However I must insist that the 6th Bavarian Division be rotated into my strategic reserve so it can be rested and replenished. Crown Prince Rupprecht has overused that outstanding formation. It must been preserved."
Again Falkenhayn took his time responding. "I agree with you the Crown Prince misusing his finest division. Your proposal is a start."
"A start, a start? What more do you want? The Landwehr divisions in the strategic reserve? Well I can promise that three are sent to France by mid-March."
Well what do I want? thought Falkenhayn. I would really like all the divisions but I know that Hindenburg will insist on getting at least some of them. Ah, but I have other concerns that need to be assuaged.
"I understand that you are meeting with the Bulgarian delegation due to arrive tomorrow."
Moltke’s eyes narrowed, "Yes, that is correct. This is very sensitive information. We hope to bring them into this war as our allies. For your information, our naval success is one of the reasons they are entering into these negotiations."
"I did not deny that there might be favorable consequences stemming from our victory at Dogger Bank. I am glad they are here. My unease is that you may not fully appreciate their importance."
"Just what are you trying to say, Erich?"
"I just want you make sure you realize how important crushing Serbia and opening a land route to the Ottomans are. If a commitment to providing several German divisions for the operation is required, you must not hesitate. When last we discussed a possible Balkan campaign, you said that it could backfire by further encouraging Enver Pasha’s recklessness."
"I may very well have said that, but that was before we were approached by Bulgaria. The possibility of gaining a new ally is fully appreciated by me. Have I reassured you on this matter?"
"In part, yes. However I want it understood that if substantial German forces are sent to the Balkans, that theatre comes under my authority, not Hindenburg’s and definitely not Conrad’s."
Moltke thought that over and answered, "Agreed, I will consider the Balkans as being South rather than East so it will not be part of Hindenburg’s command. Are you satisfied now?"
Falkenhayn shook his head emphatically, "No, there is another topic. As you know I firmly believe that noxious gases have a great potential as a weapon.."
Moltke’s face darkened and he answered warily, "Yes, I remember you talked me into a project to explore the use of tear gas in artillery shells. Initial tests have not been encouraging as I recall. I only let you persuade me because the French have used tear gas in rifle grenades—not with any real success."
"I am increasing the pace and scope of the development program. I have approved the use of the tear gas containing T-Shell in an offensive Ludendorff wants to conduct in Poland before the end of January. What I insist on now is that no second guessing of this decision will emanate from your office."
"What is this? You just told me that winter offensives are senseless on the Eastern Front."
"I did, but I am willing to make an exception to see how this new weapon performs. It could be just what we need to open the Western Front again."
"I have serious doubts."
"You always do. In the event it proves disappointing we have still other options. I have very recently spoke with Dr. Haber concerning the use of gas as a weapon. He was very enthusiastic about the potential of chlorine."
"I know something of chemistry--chlorine is a lethal gas. Its use clearly contravenes the terms of the Hague and it will bring us international condemnation."
Falkenhayn raised a finger, "Uh-uh. Dr. Haber has pointed out to me that only the use of such gases in shells is prohibited. He proposes instead to release it from canisters, which does not violate the treaty at all."
"Hairsplitting! Quibbling of the worst sort. There is a standard of decency that must be followed in warfare. What you proposes falls outside its boundaries."
"Oh stop it with the pretense of virtue, Helmuth. The survival of the Reich is at stake in this war. I am willing to do what it takes to ensure that Germany survives. You are not. So be it. But if you oppose me on this I will fight you tooth and nail over the allocation of resources and the release of soldiers to the shipyards."
The eyes of the two men were locked. Each wished to force the other to his will. Falkenhayn was in part bluffing. He was far from sure that he could derail much of Moltke’s program given the momentum it now had and the lack of a clear consensus. Moltke was not prepared to challenge Falkenhayn’s bluff. The Feldmarshal threw up his hands in disgust.
"This must be your last demand. And if I agree to this I had a few demands of my own."
Falkenhayn relaxed slightly, "Oh, and what are they?"
"That I get the men I need for my staff. It is a fraction of what I need and you know it."
If your job remaind limited to what I had wanted, your staff is more than double what you need, thought Falkenhayn, who lied, "You are being unfair. There has been .no sinister conspiracy to deprive you of staff. It has been merely due to the fact that qualified staff officers are in short supply. If you need more staff I will be happy to assist."
:"Good! There is one person I am most in interested in acquiring. Feldmarshal von Hindenburg relieved General von François of the command of Center Army soon after he was given supreme command of the Eastern Front. This was a decision I heartily disagreed with."
"Hmm, Feldmarshal von Hindenburg has his reasons. François is willful and insubordinate. He had the Russian Eighth Army in his grasp and let it escape. A similar thing happened at Masurian Lakes."
"What utter nonsense! I am sick of everyone pretending that the Sambor was a defeat just because we had such high expectations. Ludendorff clearly has personal animosity towards François, and that is what really is at work here."
Falkenhayn sighed and decided to take another tact, "Further argument on this point is irrelevant as Hindenburg clearly is entitled to make this decision. I have no authority to override him."
"Yes, that is true. My point is that if neither you nor Hindenburg wants him commanding an army, I want him as my deputy."
"Uh, pardon me but did not the Kaiser himself select Grand Admiral Tirpitz to be your deputy?"
"That is certainly true, but I require a general as a deputy as well."
Falkenhayn scratched his chin. Part of his agreement with Hindenburg was to deny François a key position. Well he could pretend that being Moltke’s deputy was not a key position. Did they not agree that OKW would be largely ceremonial? That’s the ticket."
"You can have François. On further reflection I think a staff position is a good place for him. Have you and I reached an understanding?"
Moltke tried not to focus on the chlorine. He felt disgusted with himself but he nodded, "Yes, Erich we have an understanding." .
Heligoland Bight 0805 hrs Friday January 1, 1915
"Your book has become very popular, sir," remarked the pilot of the Sopwith Type 807 seaplane to the observer, "I hear that the book stores are all sold out and the libraries have long waiting lists. You’d be surprised how many people are reading it."
"So I have been told Jeremy," answered Lt Childers of County Wicklow. He had written many books but he was sure his pilot was referring to Riddle of the Sands.
."I say, what with the royalties you must be getting you going to be bloody rich when this war is over. I think you will own your own airplane. Maybe I can be your personal pilot. Kind of like being a chauffeur, if you get my drift, sir."
Childers grimaced. Jeremy was a good pilot and a basically decent chap but he liked to talk. With the noise of the wind and the engine he needed to practically shout, but he didn’t seem to mind. It was bad enough when they were on a training mission, but now they were on a combat mission, Childers found it distracting. His role was to be the observer and how could he observe properly with all the damn small talk buzzing in his ear? So he made no reply to his pilot’s last question. That didn’t bother the pilot who after a few minutes of silence continued, "Well sir, did you think the Huns try to do it?"
"Huh? Do what, Jeremy?"
"You know, sir, try to invade England. Like in your novel, sir?"
Childers shook his head and sighed deeply. Ever since the Battle of Dogger Bank people had been asking him about a German invasion of England as if he was the world’s greatest expert on the subject. However since he had been asked so often, he did have some opinions on the matter, which he now shared, "I really do not know Jeremy. But if it does happen, it would be different from what I wrote in my novel. For one thing they control Calais and Boulogne and would probably use them as their embarkation ports. They would likely come ashore in Kent and try to take Folkestone, Dover and Ramsgate as quickly as possible."
"And not that East Holland area in Lincolnshire you take about of the end of the book?"
"Don’t think so, Jeremy, not when they have bases so close to Kent."
"Well, I guess that makes sense. Still a friend of mine tells me the Army has entire division guarding that stretch of coastline around the Wash on account of your book."
Childers made no reply trying to concentrate on the landmarks. The visibility this morning was marginal on account of the haze and some residual fog. The coastal geography in this area was very complex.
"So what do you think of Lord Curzon becoming the new Lord-Lieutenant?"
Childers ground his teeth. I try not to. Childers had fervently supported the concept of Home Rule, but was deeply worried about the Edward Carson and his well armed Ulster Volunteers. For that reason in late July Patrick Pearse had persuaded Childers to use his own yacht, the Asgard, to unload rifles and ammunition from a German freighter Gladiator and surreptitiously land them at Howth near Dublin, where he delivered them to The O’Rahilly. This he had accomplished at considerable risk to not only himself but to his dear wife who had been part of his crew. They had encountered a fierce storm on the way home and only his expert seamanship had kept his overloaded yacht from foundering. He recalled know how he had lashed himself to the helm to prevent being swept overboard.
At that time his intent was merely to fetch the weapons for MacNeill to use against the Ulster Volunteers of Sir Edward Carson. It was the Ulstermen who Childers regarded as the problem, not the Englishmen because Home Rule was on the books. Home Rule would begin when the war with Germany ended. So as a Reserve Officer he dedicated himself to winning the war as quickly as possible, even though it was the Germans who had loaded boxes of rifles on Asgard back in July. But now he had some serious doubts about the inevitability of Home Rule. Two of Home Rule’s greatest enemies were now in the Cabinet and another was going to become Ireland’s new Viceroy in a few days.
"We are too far south. Head north," ordered Childers as he got his bearing. The research that had gone into The Riddle of the Sands had made him very familiar with this German coastal area.
"Aye, aye, sir."
The seaplane banked to its left. After a few minutes Childers yelled, "There! Two points on the left. That has to be the Zeppelin shed. Take us lower I don’t want our bombs to miss."
Indeed it was the Nordholz Zeppelin shed. It was a large building with two hangars inside built on a roundtable device to let its hangars open into favorable winds. The seaplane flew manually dropped 3 small bombs with a bursting charge of little more than 3 pounds. After they had made their bombing run Childers told the pilot, "Turn around and fly over them again. I want to assess the damage."
The seaplane banked and turned. Childers was soon pleased to see one of the sheds burning fiercely. He was sure he had set a Zeppelin inside it on fire. Soon after the aircraft passed over the building there was a loud explosion with a billowing fireball blooming into the sky. The blast from the explosion knocked the seaplane into a spin. Only quick reflexes by Jeremy saved them from crashing.
"I am having trouble with the controls, " yelled Jeremy.
The plane flew erratically and was having trouble gaining altitude. Its engine sputtered and coughed threatening to stall They soon found themselves over Schillig Roads where they could see several berthed warships below. Minutes before they arrived another seaplane from the air strike had attacked the warships. They came under fire from men armed with rifles and machine guns on the warships.
A few rounds tore into the wings and fuselage. Childers screamed in agony as a bullet smashed into his left kneecap.
------HMS Iron Duke 100nm north of Helgoland 1305 hrs
Admiral John Jellicoe had just received the good news about the destruction of the Zeppelin shed at Nordholz. There had been no indication of a German sortie. This was not unexpected. He realized that most of the High Seas Fleet was undergoing repairs due to the damage sustained at Dogger Bank. This fact emboldened Jellicoe only a little. There was still the hazards of mines and U-Boats to worry him. Still another concern remained the weakness of his scouting forces. While he now had Indomitable to reinforce the 1st Cruiser Squadron, that was only one battle cruiser and the Germans had used 3 in their raid off the Faeroes. For that reason Jellicoe had ordered 1st Cruiser Squadron not to get further than 25 nm beyond the Grand Fleet.
The operation had not been without problems. HMS Empress had developed boiler problems and lagged behind. She came under attack first by a Zeppelin and then a pair of German seaplanes. One of the seaplanes hit her with a small but it’s damage was to lightly wound a seaman.
Two of the 11 RN seaplanes involved in the air strike had mechanical problems and were unable to get off the water. Of the remainder most had gotten badly lost in the morning haze and fog. Four of the attacking seaplanes had failed to make it back to the recovery point north of Nordeney and were initially presumed lost. But within the last hour Jellicoe had learned that 3 of the missing airplanes had run low on fuel and landed near the patrolling British submarines, which towed them to safety. One of the aircraft was heavily damaged and had included the wounded Lt. Childers.
With the aircraft recovered Jellicoe decided to head back before dusk.
Old Admiralty Building 1525 hrs Saturday January 2, 1915
The Admiralty War Group consisting of Admirals Fisher, Oliver, Jackson and Wilson had been talking for over an hour when the First Lord joined them.
"Well I see we finally have some good news—very good news, I must say. My congratulations to all for a really splendid bit of work-- I feel that we have turned a corner with this operation."
Oliver briefly made eye contact with Fisher, who spoke up, "Begging your pardon, First Lord, but not all the news is good."
"Oh, I know we lost one plane as well as Childers losing his most of his left leg. Poor chap. We need a hero right now, my dear admirals. I am thinking seriously about recommending him for a VC."
All of the admirals thought a Victoria Cross was excessive despite the glorious success of the operation but did not want to dispute the matter just then. Instead Admiral Wilson remarked, "Perhaps when he is released for the hospital we can find a place for Lt. Childers here in the Admiralty."
"Yes, that sounds good to me. Though we would also want him to do some public speaking. " answered McKenna.
Fisher glared at Oliver, who understood what the First Sea Lord was trying to express, "Ah, First Lord, I’m afraid that the bad news today is not limited to Childers loss of limb. If you have not yet heard the Foreign office this morning received a communiqué from the Russians."
"No, Henry, I have not heard of this. What did they say?"
"The Russians complain that they are sorely pressed on many fronts. In particular they are greatly agitated by a daring Turkish offensive currently underway in the Caucasian Mountains. They strongly request we do something to distract the Turks."
------Limburg Germany 2140 hrs
Sir Roger Casement had returned to the camp where the Germans had segregated the Irish prisoners. Again he had delivered his speech exhorting them to join his Irish Brigade in the cause of liberating Ireland from English tyranny. This time he was able to mention that the new Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland would be the infamous Lord Curzon. This announcement produced a mixed reaction. Some of the prisoners cheered while others looked appalled. When he called for volunteers, three soldiers came forward.
Casement was now alone in the room the Germans had provided him. Despite his slow progress in gathering recruits, he knew the Irish Brigade would never be a strong force. He still felt the best way for his mission to succeed would be to talk with Field Marshal von Moltke. Zimmerman had promised to try to arrange a meeting but Casement did not expect to happen..
Casement opened his briefcase. It contained newspaper clippings relating to the Field Marshal. In desperation he had gathered them hoping to find a way to get to see him. He looked again at one article that he thought held out some small measure of hope.
Berlin 0900 hrs Sunday January 3, 1915
News of the disaster at Nordholz caused Grand Admiral von Tirpitz to insist that planned Monday meeting of the Admiralstab be moved up a day. Admiral Bachmann knew it would be an unpleasant session. "I should point out that the destruction at Nordholz was not total. The turntable mechanism underneath suffered only minor damage as the force of the explosive vented upward. We can rebuild the hangars," he commented guardedly.
"That news is good, nevertheless this situation is unacceptable! We must take every precaution to prevent its recurrence," demanded a livid Tirpitz, "There are guns designed for the destruction of balloons. They should be effective against fixed wing aircraft as well. We need to acquire them for Nordholz, Hamburg and the facility we are constructing at St. Omer."
"Understood, Grand Admiral, " was all Bachmann felt like saying.
"In addition to defensive guns, we should be prepared to sortie against the seaplane carriers. Is this the same navy that so decisively trounced the British in the Bight back in August? I do not think so. Admiral Hipper and Admiral Maas should be involved in planning a more aggressive defense."
"Grand Admiral, I must point out that due to the large number of our warships being in the docks for repairs right now it Admiral von Ingenohl and myself felt that it is prudent not to let the British goad us into a fleet action with only a fraction of our strength ready for battle. We had some imprecise intelligence regarding an enemy operation, but thought it best to rely on submarines, aircraft, mines and coastal artillery on account of our current weakness."
"All of which proved inadequate!"
"What do you suggest?"
"First, I propose that we postpone our planned airship raids on London. These would only provoke a repetition of this raid before High Seas Fleet is sufficiently repaired to firmly deal with it. Our remaining airships are too valuable as reconnaissance assets. Furthermore we should learn from our enemies. Without resorting to using carriers we can and should conduct raids on Dover and Sheerness. This is not to say we should not neglect our own experiments with carriers. What is the status of Glyndwyr? "
"She was recommissioned just before Christmas. Operational tests are scheduled to begin towards the end of the month."
"Good, but see if we can move that up a few days. As far as the airships I want our construction program accelerated. I want the L.10 class coming into service as quickly as possible. This will probably involve more meetings with Moltke and Rathenau."
After making those remarks Tirpitz remained silent for over a minute. Bachmann decided it was best to move on to a new topic, "Admiral Hipper has recommended temporarily detaching a torpedo flotilla from the High Seas Fleet and moving it to either Calais or Boulogne. Grand Admiral von Ingenohl has no objection as long as the flotilla is returned when the High Seas Fleet is sufficiently repaired."
"Hmm. Are you satisfied with the defenses at either of those ports?"
Bachmann shrugged slightly, "Not completely, Grand Admiral. The events of the last two weeks have diverted our efforts."
"Well they should not have. Move one flotilla immediately to Zeebrugge while you lay some more mines off Calais and Boulogne, then bring the flotilla forward. I will see what Feldmarshal von Moltke can do about providing additional coastal artillery."
Bachmann gave this some thought. Unlike his predecessor Admiral von Pohl he usually went along with Tirpitz’s suggestions. Rather than reach an immediate decision he changed the topic, "I have thinking about Spee’s return home."
"What of it?"
"Well, in the last few days I have concluded that he should postpone his return to Germany until the High Seas Fleet is repaired and able to sortie."
------Teschen 1410 hrs
"Yes, Prime Minister, I understand your concerns. No, sir, I genuinely mean it. What? That is an unfair accusation. I am not taking this situation lightly. I fully appreciate the importance of Hungary. You have my word, sir. Firm and decisive action shell be taken with lightning speed. Huh? Oh, yes it has been nice to talk with you Prime Minister. Have a good evening."
Conrad von Hotzendorf hung up the telephone. He did not do it gently. With a supreme effort he resisted the desire to throw the infernal instrument clear across the room. He had just concluded an most disagreeable conversation with the Hungarian Prime Minister, Count Tisza, who was extremely concerned about an insurrection which had erupted New Year’s Day amongst the Romanian population of Transylvania. The Count believed this development was a direct result of Conrad weakening his forces in the Bukovina during the Battle of Sambor. He reminded Conrad that he was to deliver on his promise to destroy the Russian Eighth Army on that occasion.
What was particularly galling to Conrad was the prime minister had a point. The insurrection in Transylvania would certainly give the Romanians a strong incentive for entering the war on the side of the Entente. If Rumania entered the war against them, it might encourage Italy as well. That would make Austria-Hungary’s situation precarious. He also knew there were talks now underway with the Bulgarians in Berlin. Conrad had not been overly enthusiastic about securing the alliance with Bulgaria. They would probably want too much of Serbia and thereby become a potential new problem for the Dual Monarchy after the current war ended. But if Rumania and Italy entered the war on the side of the Entente, the Bulgarians and the Greeks might jump on that bandwagon as well.
It was obvious to Conrad that this situation was now his highest priority in the coming month. He already knew the basic shape of his plan. He would strength the Pflanzer-Baltin Group turning it into the Imperial and Royal Seventh Army. The Russian Eight Army was currently concentrated to around Stanislav. Conrad would send the strengthened Seventh Army out of the eastern Carpathians to attack what he expected to be weak defenses consisting mostly of Cossacks around Kolomea. The Russians called this formation Dniestr Group. The Seventh Army would drive this Dniestr Group out the Bukovina. This would cut off Russian supplies to the rebellion in Transylvania, threaten the left flank of the Russian Eighth Army and hopefully intimidate the Romanians into continuing their prudent neutrality.
This operation was vital. So much so that Conrad strongly considered asking Ludendorff for a German division to reinforce Seventh Army.
London 2035 hrs Monday January 4, 1915
Andrew Bonar Law, Lord George Curzon, Sir Edward Carson and General Henry Wilson had just finished dining together. The occasion was not social. Law and Carson had quickly become disgusted with how the War Council was functioning. They were unhappy with the course of British strategy. They felt strongly that with Curzon’s geopolitical insight and General Wilson’s military expertise, they could devise an alternative strategy that would win the war and win it quickly.
:"You have no idea how bad it is, George" remarked Bonar Law to Curzon, who was not a member of the War Council, "The talk is endless. It is bad enough when we are reacting to a German operation. But it is far worse when any sort of initiative on our part is being suggested. Ideas range from the sensible to the downright silly. At least since Churchill has been eliminated the silliest ideas are now quickly laid to rest, but everything else is subjected to tedious discussion after which the Prime Minister assigns some officers to write detailed reports and plans. Once these documents are prepared the War Council discusses them some more and the usual results is additional documents are required. Am I telling Lord Curzon, the honest truth, Edward? Am I exaggerating in the slightest?"
Carson shook his head is disgust, "Not at all. If anything you are seriously understating the problem. I have a theory that once the Cabinet accepted the proposition that this is going to be a long war, their prevailing attitude has been that there is no need to rush anything. Which in effect means they think they can take as long as they bloody well like. The favorite phrase of late is that ‘1916 will be the Year of Decision’. I interpret this to mean they plan to do nothing of any substance as this year is 1915 the Year of Indecision."
Curzon chuckled briefly as Carson’s sarcasm was too grim to warrant a strong laugh.
"Bloody Liberals are a feckless bunch," remarked General Wilson.
"I would of course agree with assessment," said Carson, "though in all fairness I might allow one or two exceptions to that rule."
"You mean Lloyd-George?" asked Bonar Law, "he does seem more sensible than the others sometimes. Before this war I would have never said that, mind you."
"My sentiments exactly, Andrew," answered Carson, who then turned towards General Wilson, "Henry, it is so fortunate for us that you are London at this time. You are one of the few great strategic thinkers our Empire has. As you are currently our liaison with the French might I ask how they are reacting to current developments, esp. the naval catastrophe."
"For a few days after Dogger Bank a handful of the less intelligent Frenchmen wondered if we would enter in secret negotiations with the Germans. His Majesty did a wonderful job of reassuring President Poincare on that matter. Our resolve to persevere is no longer questioned. Though the regrettable decision by certain officers under Haig’s command to permit an impromptu truce with the Germans on Christmas Day was definitely not appreciated by the French, who tolerated no such fraternization in their sector. Joffre, however, remains deeply worried though that we are now going to revert to a predominantly naval strategy. He fears that our government will not be able to fund both its increased shipbuilding program and provide the greatly expanded BEF that will provide him the preponderance of divisions he needs to overcome the German entrenchments."
"His concern is not without some justification I must concede," remarked Law, "At least twice a day someone in Commons says something to the effect that Navy must take priority over the Army in the near term."
"Perhaps we should get started," said Carson, "Henry must return to France tomorrow while George hear must back his belongings and head off for the Viceregal Lodge in Dublin, where he is due to be formally installed Thursday."
Wilson turned to Curzon, "Well, George I have complete confidence you can completely derail the pitiful putrid nonsense which is called Home Rule. Rome Rule is more like it. Just make sure you hound that Liberal cur, Birrell into resigning as quickly as possible"
Curzon shifted uneasily as he met the hard stare of General Wilson, "Uh, it is not the prerogative of a Viceroy to thwart the will of Parliament, General. As far as Birrell I was forced to use my charm to dissuade him from tendering his resignation."
The others looked askance at Lord Curzon, esp. General Wilson who looked like he was about to explode. Bonar Law noticed that and placed a hand on the general’s shoulder, "Well, well. We can discuss Ireland later. Let us concentrate now on the other war. Is everyone here familiar with the message the Russians sent us over the weekend?"
Hackwood 1140 hrs Tuesday January 5, 1915
"So now you are leaving for Ireland, Lord Curzon," remarked King Albert in a heavy accent, "it is a shame we have not had more time to get to know each other better. We were just starting to become good friends."
George Curzon nearly blushed, "You flatter me, Your Majesty. I too wish we could have conversed more often, even though I know full well your many serious obligations."
King Albert’s warm expression turned into a frown and with a deep sigh and a shrug he replied, "Many obligations yes, but I would call few of them ‘serious’. I am starting to feel that all this public appearances I am making are little more than a form of amateur theatre. What do they really accomplish? There is also another obligation that I have—the leading of my country’s remaining armed forces. Let me be candid with you, my friend. I have carefully reviewed the reports concerning my soldiers’ participation in the recent Battle of Picardy. I know very well that the men writing these reports have been instructed by your Foreign office to be diplomatic in their assessment. When I remove the embellishment I do not like what I see. Underneath the sugar coating it is all disappointment and failure."
Curzon bit his lip. His diplomatic skills were being tested. He considered and quickly rejected several options, then answered, "Give your men some time, Your Majesty. They will find their heart."
King Albert grinned "Yes, you are correct, my friend. Still this is a cold inhuman war, which freezes the human soul. It is all too easy for men to lose heart cowering in dismal wet trenches, when their home country has been completely overrun. Still I have hope that your words are as true as they are kind."
Curzon was gladdened to see something resembling a smile on the Belgian King’s face. It was so frightfully rare on that face. Curzon knew most of the details of the evacuation of Belgium. He realized that it had made good military sense to the British and French officers involved and it was not perfidy of any sort. But neither was it anything to be proud of. It left a foul taste in his mouth whenever he thought about it.
------west of the Faeroes 1320 hrs
Duncan, Exmouth and Cornwallis were patrolling WSW of the Faeroes. Their only screen was the old light cruiser Topaze. Suddenly there was loud underwater explosion as a torpedo struck Exmouth in the bow. Most of her crew made it off before she went down.
Berlin 1430 hrs Wednesday January 6, 1915
General von François had arrived in Berlin late Monday evening. He met with Feldmarshal von Moltke early the next day. He had been given a brief overview of the projects with which he would be involved. Moltke in particular wanted him to supervise the supplemental training for the divisions he was holding in the OKW Reserve.
Now he was meeting again with Moltke and discussing so his initial ideas about the training program. "There is one idea I have that is more out of the ordinary," said François in a cautious voice, "so much so I am hesitant to bring it up, sir."
Moltke smiled, "Your ideas so far have been sensible, Herman. I would like to hear it."
"Well, it concerns the 1st Naval Division. Actually since 2nd Naval Division has been reduced to a brigade, I should just say the Naval Division. They are mostly sailors who have been given some rudimentary training as soldiers."
"That is correct. Are you saying they should be trained some more? That was part of my plan as well. Was that not clear when you read it last night?"
"Oh no, that was very clear, sir. What I am suggesting is that their regimen of instruction should be different from the other units. In particular I am going to suggest that they be given training in amphibious warfare."
Motlke arched an eyebrow at that, "Oh please, I hope you haven’t been reading that English adventure novel, I think it’s called Riddle in the Sands or something?"
"Is that the one about a German invasion of England? Heavens no, that is not what I am thinking about. What I am thinking about is your plans for a decisive summer offensive in the East—"
"—plans which are in serious jeopardy because Ludendorff and Conrad will not wait and Falkenhayn prefers to waste men in France."
"That is unfortunately true, Feldmarshal. But if we can get your basic strategy implemented, there could be advantages in capturing certain Baltic Islands—such as Osel, Dago and Moon, which would facilitate our control of the Gulf of Riga. Or perhaps the Aland Islands in an effort to bring Sweden into the war. The reason that I would want to use the Naval Division is that many of its men have experience at sea and this would give them an advantage over other soldiers."
Moltke scratched his chin, "Hmm. I’ll have to think about this. Admiral Tirpitz suggested giving the two Seebattalions some amphibious training. He thinks battalion sized raids could be useful in provoking the Grand Fleet into a fleet action under conditions favorable to the High Seas Fleet."
10 Downing Street 1005 hrs Thursday January 7, 1915
"Sir Edward, I have been informed that you would like to present some ideas about a novel strategy that you offer for our consideration. You may do so now," said Prime Minster Asquith to Carson. Before the War Council had convened Bonar law had met briefly with him and explained that Carson had come up a proposal that Bonar Law found very exciting. Law demanded that Asquith make sure the War Council give this plan a full and impartial hearing this session. Asquith was annoyed with Law making demands but the request was not unreasonable.
"Thank you, Prime Minister," said Carson. He enthusiastically moved to the front of the room where there was an easel. When he got there he resumed speaking to the Cabinet, "I would start by briefly reviewing certain facts of our current situation. The first fact I shall mention is that the enemy entrenchments in France remain a formidable obstacle. We had placed a great deal of hope that our army might achieve a decisive breakthrough in Picardy, which would allow us to liberate the channel Ports. After a promising start our recent offensive there stalled. Likewise the French with their larger force achieved some brief success in taking Suippes but since then appear to be only very slowly gnawing at the German trenches. The dominance of defense over attack in a densely packed theatre without flanks becomes more and more obvious."
"That is a dangerous oversimplification," grumbled Lord Kitchener.
"Field Marshal, please, let the Attorney General continue his presentation without interruption. There will be plenty of time for discussion afterwards. There always is," snapped Lloyd-George.
Carson continued, "Thank you, Chancellor. Now the next pertinent fact is the recent message we received from the Russians strongly requesting our assistance. We had discussed this message briefly on Monday. We all agreed that it was imperative that the pressure on the Russians be relieved. It would be disastrous if they were compelled into a separate peace with the Central Powers. Now the Russian message specifically mentions doing something to distract the Turks. Some interesting ideas on how to do this were aired previously, but those that were feasible in the near term looked to be nothing more than mere pinpricks. Now I would suggest that perhaps we should not fixate on the Ottomans when considering ways to assist the Tsar."
The last remark drew a few murmurs. Carson continued, "Now the next fact for consideration is the alarming intelligence reports that a delegation from Bulgaria has arrived in Berlin to discuss the possibility of their country joining the Central Powers. This is strongly linked to yet another fact, which is that Serbia—with some assistance from Montenegro—has completely frustrated the invasions of the Austrians to date. But if Bulgaria should enter the war its situation will quickly become perilous. The next fact to consider is that up to early November the Russians had pulled off a series of impressive victories against the Austrians, whose army appeared to be on the verge of collapse. However due to the timely arrival of German reinforcements the Austrians not only managed to regroup but they seized the initiative as well. The Russians were forced to retreat. The siege of Przemysl was lifted and for a while we feared that a second Tanenberg was in the making at Sambor. However the Russians managed to avoid such a disaster and recently repulsed an attack on Lemberg. So while they have managed to halt further gains by the Austrian counterthrust they still remain under heavy pressure.
And now one further fact to ponder. Since New Year’s Day a rebellion by ethnic Romanians has been underway in Transylvania. We not know the full extent of the rebellion but it does seem sufficiently large that it could entice Romania into entering the war on our side. Their prime minister is an enthusiastic advocate for our cause, but he serves a cautious monarch."
Carson took a sip of water and looked around the room. Bonar Law knew what he was going to propose. Yesterday they had discussed it first with Chamberlain, who offered a few small modifications, and then cursorily with Lloyd-George, who was very favorable. The others in the room had no inkling—unless Lloyd-George had told them contrary to his promises of last evening. Law had wanted the presentation to be Carson’s show in order to give the Liberal Minister the impression Carson was a brilliant strategist—just the sort of person who should be First Lord of the Admiralty. Carson removed a map from his briefcase and propped it up on the easel. The map showed the area around the Adriatic Sea. Carson now wielded a pointer.
"My proposal is that before the end of the month we land 4 infantry and 1 cavalry division at the Albanian ports of San Giovanni and Durrago. This force will quickly move north into Montenego. It will rendezvous with Montenegrin forces bringing them weapons and badly needed supplies. Back in October the French had managed to position some artillery on Mount Lovĉen, which overlooks the important Austrian naval base at Cattaro. They were eventually driven off by Austrian naval gunfire. That artillery position will now be reestablished and strengthened. With the assistance of the Montenegrins and perhaps some Serbs as well our expedition will then capture Cattaro."
Carson paused in his narration. He scanned his audience to see how well they were comprehending his exposition. One of this appearing to be having difficulty was the prime minister, who now turned to Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary. "Sir Edward, I feel I must ask what must sound like a silly question. Did Albania enter the war as our ally? I cannot recall they’re doing so for the life of me."
Grey bit his lip before replying cautiously, "The situation in Albania is very complicated, prime minister. Prince Wilhelm von Wied fled the country back in September. It is now essentially in a state of anarchy. The strongest faction is the Toptani clan headed by Essad Pasha, which control the central city of Tirana. Despite being a former Turkish officer, their leader, Essad Pasha has been leaning towards the Entente, provided that we are willing to make him King of Albania after the war."
"So Prince Wied has abdicated?"
"No, prime minister, he has not. He clearly hopes to reclaim the throne after the war is over."
"So this plan being proposed would mean inserting our troops into a neutral?"
The question was addressed to Grey but it was Carson who answered, "Technically speaking that is true, prime minister. But in this difficult struggle we face, I would say we must not let ourselves be constrained by formal abstractions."
At this point some of the ministers asked themselves if the neutrality of Belgium was likewise merely a "formal abstraction" but none dared uttered such a borderline seditious thought. Carson could read it in their faces and hoping to keep the initiative in the debate he continued, "The beauty of this plan is its political impact. Essad Pasha will rally to our cause and Albania will immediately become an ally. King Ferdinand of Romania will be persuaded at last to join the Entnente. Bulgaria on the other hand will see the folly of joining the Central Powers and ultimately as events cascade, careful negotiations will make them allies as well. The Greek population has deep sympathy for our cause due in large part to their historic hatred of the Turks. This impulse has been frustrated by their wily proGerman monarch, but our Dalmation expedition will make the popular impulse irresistible. Lastly the Italians will be impressed. They have in fact already occupied the southern Albanian port of Vallona with their own troops. If we agree to their demands concerning Tyrol, they should be soon entering the war as our allies as well."
Carson paused again to let his thoughts sink in. The look on Lord Kitchener’s face was not favorable. Before the Field Marshal could interject, Carson concluded, "And this is the real fruit of the plan. Within six weeks Albania, Romania, Greece, Italy and Bulgaria would become our allies. With a few more of our divisions as reinforcements—plus a few French divisions as well, we would attack the soft underbelly of the Central Powers. The Turks could be quickly knocked out of the war and then our great alliance would march north into Austria-Hungary. They would be unable to handle this coalition and the Russians as well. German reinforcements rushed from France will only delay the inevitable collapse of the Habsburgs."
I dare say if we act quickly by July the Germans will be all alone in this war and suing for peace. But the key is speed. If we delay or decision this priceless opportunity will be missed."
"And why is that?" asked Asquith who was never comfortable with the notion of reaching any decision in haste.
"A good question, prime minister. If we wait too long in this undertaking this endeavor, several risks arise. To name the most serious there is the prospect that Bulgaria might join the Central Powers causing the situation of the Serbs to deteriorate rapidly. The cascading effect of which I spoke could then easily turn against us." This provoked some murmuring amongst the ministers.
Lord Kitchener stared hard at Carson. He believed he could perceive standing behind the Attorney General the spectral form of an old nemesis—Lord Curzon—who he suspected was behind this patchwork of errant nonsense. It was time to smash. Kitchener rose, "Since haste is deemed an urgent necessity, mght I ask just how just when do you plan for this operation to begin?"
Carson returned Kitchener’s hard stare without flinching, "Before the end of the month, Lord Kitchener."
This provoked more murmuring. "Absolutely impossible! " roared Kitchener, "Before the end of the month I cannot release one infantry division from the Western Front much less four."
Carson sighed. He had been warned by Wilson and Curzon that the Secretary of State for War would likely prove difficult, "With all due respect, Field Marshal, I believe you can. If we remain on the defensive, we can immediately send 3 infantry and 1 cavalry division by rail to Marseilles and from there on to Malta. The 28th Division is expected to be ready for deployment to France later this month and should be more than sufficient as a replacement provided we remain on the defensive."
Asquith jumped in, "If we make that assumption for the sake of argument, that is only 3infantry divisions and you spoke earlier of 4."
Carson smiled, "Yes, your question is most perceptive, prime minister. As for the other two division I propose we take the 1st Australian Division which is currently in Egypt and move it to Malta where they rendezvous with the units embarking from Marseilles. If we reach a decision quickly on this matter—"
"This is insane!" thundered Kitchener, "The Germans mean to go back on the offensive in France and the BEF is in a key sector they will assuredly attack. We cannot afford to weaken our line. As for the Australians they require more training before they will be ready to face the Germans."
"But the whole idea is that they will be facing the ill performing Austrians not the Germans!" replied an irate. .
"Please, Lord Kitchener," Asquith pleaded, "and you too, Sir Edward, before this heated disputation over available divisions gets much worse, we should address the naval aspect of the operation. Admiral Fisher, do you feel that this operation would place too great a strain on the Royal Navy, which is recuperating from the recent disaster at Dogger Bank?"
Fisher took his time responding to the question. Carson waited nervously for his opinion. Carson had expected Kitchener’s opposition, and he was prepared to deal with it, though its ferocity was surprising On the other hand Carson held Admiral Fisher in the highest esteem. If the First Sea Lord rendered a negative verdict, Carson was fully prepared to back down and withdraw his proposal.
Unbeknownst to Carson, Fisher had in the last few days made a bold proposal of his own involving using 75,000 British troops withdrawn from France, 25,000 from India and the involvement of the Greeks and Bulgarians to attack the Ottomans in the Dardanelles. Both Kitchener and McKenna had quickly dismissed his idea. Fisher now felt considerable resentment towards both of them. Listening to Carson’s plan he perceived some semblance to his own inspiration, though not as brilliant, of course.
"Overall I say this plan has considerable merit and should not be rejected out of hand. We dare not remove dreadnoughts from the Grand Fleet to support this operation. The main protection for this undertaking must therefore be provided by the French Fleet. They have been searching for a way to compel the Austrian to do battle. This proposal has an excellent chance of accomplishing that. Since the French are almost certain to prevail in a fleet action, that is additional justification for this project."
Carson exhaled in relief. He did not notice that McKenna looked uncomfortable.
"Are you saying that our warships will not be needed at all? " asked Asquith.
"No, prime minister. We will need to provide some ships. I think a half dozen of the older predreadnought battleships, plus some of the older cruisers and destroyers. These forces would provide fire support and protect our transports against light forces. But if the Austrian battle fleet sorties from Pola, they would be forced to fall back on the French Fleet for support."
The War Council argued vehemently well into the night.
------Viceregal Lodge Dublin 1930 hrs
The lavish formal ball that celebrated Lord Curzon’s installation as the new Viceroy of Ireland was in full swing. There was one element that had been arranged at the last minute. Ringing a bell to get everyone’s attention, Curzon announced, "As most of you have probably heard the Royal Navy earlier this week amply demonstrated its ingenuity by using airplanes to attack and destroy the Zeppelin shed at Nordholz. The hero of that raid was none other than the famous author, Erskine Childers, who while born in London was raised in County Wicklow. Lt. Childers demonstrated a most inspiring heroism in this raid. Indeed I must sadly report he was badly wounded in the mission and lost a portion of one leg as a result. I therefore propose a toast this brave Irishmen, to Lt. Erskine Childers."
The toast was warmly received by all the guests.
Curzon continued, "Furthermore I propose another toast—to all the brave Irish soldiers fighting for the Crown in its time of need."
Curzon noticed a few of the guests frowning at the second toast, while others cheered with great enthusiasm.
"Unfortunately Lt. Childers is recovering in a military hospital and unable to be with us here tonight. However his devoted wife, Molly, is here and I humbly ask her now to come forward and give us all a few words of inspiration."
Molly Childers was sitting a table nearby. She said something to her 9 year old son, also named Erksine, and arose. She walked towards the podium slowly and awkwardly, having fractured her hips as a child. He husband’s maiming bothered her, but like many another soldier’s wife she tried to console herself with the bittersweet refrain, Well at least he’s alive and he won’t be seeing any more action.
As she neared the podium there was a sharp round of applause and a few cheers. Molly delivered her speech, "My dear husband cannot be here today. He is recovering from his awful wound. Many wonderful people have sent me kind letters in the last few days about what a hero he is. I won’t be denying that he is a hero. He most certainly is a hero. But how many other heroes have there been whose heroism has gone unnoticed? More than I can count. Many of them are Irish. They fight for the Crown but what they really fight for is Ireland, the day when this awful war is ended and Home Rule lets the Irish be Irish. That is all that they want."
There was some applause at this point, but it was not unanimous. Curzon himself applauded but merely as a perfunctory courtesy. He noticed that Lord Lansdowne did not applaud at all. Carson was not here on account of the War Council meeting. Curzon imagined that he would scowl and pout in disgust if he was here.
Afterwards Curzon made a point of engaging Molly in conversation. He knew she was an American as had been his deceased wife, Mary. He sought her opinion on the likelihood of America joining the Entente.
:"I wish they would, My Lord, but in all candor I do not see it happening. We Americans—yes I still sometimes think of myself as one—have a history of not wanting to get involved in European wars. As a further complication there are many in America whose background makes them ill disposed towards the British Empire."
"Yes, there is a large population of German immigrants. I have some personal experience in this regard. You see my late wife, Mary, was an American of German descent."
A woman in her mid-30’s worked her way close to Molly. Curzon remembered that she had been seated at the same table as Molly. Curzon gestured in this woman’s direction and asked, "Is this a friend of yours, Mrs. Childers?"
"Why yes, Your Lordship. Let me present to you my dear friend, Miss Mary Spring-Rice."
Curzon turned to Mary and extended his hand, "Spring-Rice? Are you by any chance--
"Yes, I am his daughter, Viceroy."
Curzon raised his left forefinger, "Ah, What a strange coincidence. We were just discussing the United States and if I am not mistaken our ambassador to that amazing country is your cousin."
Mary returned an endearing grin, "That is correct, M’Lord."
Curzon took a deep interest in Miss Spring-Rice for the remainder of the evening. Since her father was an Anglo Irish peer Curzon was surprised to find that like Mrs. Childers she too was an ardent supporter of Home Rule. She was intelligent woman with a sparkling personality. After two glasses of champagne she candidly admitted to being deeply concerned about the Unionist position of the new Viceroy. Curzon was far from being displeased with her candor—at least she wasn’t talking about woman’s suffrage. He saw in Mary a précis of his most critical problem in dealing with the enigma that was Ireland. That was one reason he took a deep interest in her.
He had others as well.
Dornach Switzerland 1210 hrs Friday January 8, 1915
Sir Roger Casement stepped off the trolley that had brought him from Basel to this modest outlying community calledf Dornach. In Basel Casement noted that the Swiss were edgy. They realized full well that with the continuous front in France both sides would be sorely tempted to try to outflank the other by going through Switzerland. They were fully prepared to repulse intrusion from either side.
Casement wondered if his latest plan was completely silly. Nevertheless he felt that he needed to do something drastic. If it did not work out the only ill consequence was a few days lost. As the countryside was so wonderful he would consider it as the vacation he rightfully deserved.
He now saw some men erecting a large wooden building. It was a very unusual looking building. Casement believed he knew what it was. If so. the men working there should be able to help him find who he was looking for.
off Dunkirk 1510 hrs Saturday January 9, 1915
One of Dover Patrol’s missions was to make it difficult for the Germans to use the Channel Ports as U-Boat bases. Their usual tactic was the destroyers of Dover Patrol to approach close to the ports at dawn and dusk or when there was heavy fog to try to pounce on surfaced U-boats. The tactic had some limited success. One U-boat had been sunk by ramming, but the old ‘B’ class destroyer, which had done the ramming verily damaged her own bow. She was unable to return home and abandoned. There were also two instances of U-Boats damaged by gunfire, but in both cases the U-boats managed to escape destruction.
There were several risks involved with these tactics. A French destroyer had struck a mine and sank. Now and then a German coastal battery was able to open fire and sometimes this resulted in some damage. Now and then a U-boat would fire a torpedo at the destroyers. Lately there was an increase in attacks by German airplanes.
Today a new threat emerged. A flotilla of 8 German destroyers sortied forth out of Zeebrugge and attacked a division of 4 old ‘C’ class destroyers silhouetted in the twilight. The Germans had superior visibility and firepower. They quickly sank a pair of destroyers then scurried back to Zeebrugge.
Isle of Tortuga Haiti 1145 hrs Sunday January 10, 1915
As the priest went to the pulpit to give his sermon, he could not help but notice some new faces. Some very white faces. Wearing military uniforms. The priest’s eyes were drawn to one of the newcomers, who was taller than the rest. He seemed to be the leader of the newcomers.
When Mass was over there a German civilian waiting outside. Standing next to him was a Haitian dressed better than any of the parishioners.
He extended his hand, "Admiral von Spee? I am Jacob Perlmutter."
"You two should return to your ships," Spee ordered his sons, then to Perlmutter, "There are things we need to discuss."
"Indeed there are. Let me introduce my invaluable assistant, Claude Jean Valjean Langlois. His father was fond of Victor Hugo."
The Haitian stepped forward and offered his hand.. "It is a pleasure to meet me, Vice Admiral von Spee," he said in fluent German with only a trace of an accent.
In his travels Spee had encountered many stranger things. He shook hands with Claude, "It is good to meet you. Claude"
"Claude here appreciates German culture more than most Germans. He can go on for hours about Goethe or Schiller if you let him."
Spee had other things to discuss just then, "Can you continue to provide us with coal?"
Perlmutter nodded, "Yes, we will send two small ships with every day from Port-au-Prince. We will try to scrounge up some of those tools and materials you say you need to perform needed maintenance. Food you will be able to obtain on the island."
"I understand that you are furnishing a local trawler with wireless and positioning them to warn us if warships approach from Jamaica."
"That is correct. The installation is nearly finished. It will set sail tomorrow morning."
Spee’s tone now became very serious, "Are you sure we can this General Sam?"
Perlmutter nodded but he also bit lip, "I would say so. This country is in a state of chaos. He is not the not the most moral of men but he respects money. He also respects power. He has been told that your fleet would wreak vengeance on him if he tries anything."
"He believes that? It would be too risky."
"Yes, it is a bluff but not one that I think he would dare to call. You know, of course, that the Entente is not the only concern. If the United States thinks you trying to install a puppet they will swoop down on Haiti in an instant. In fact, I think they are looking for any excuse to do so. They have their own interests at stake here."
Spee nodded, "Understood. I plan to be Henry Morgan for a week at most. Probably less. Then it is time to move on."