by Tom B
Berlin 1630 hrs Tuesday, Feb 23, 1915
Soon after hearing of the great naval victory General von Falkenhayn proceeded directly to Berlin demanding to see Field Marshal von Moltke. When he did he wasted little time and got straight to the point, "Is the Navy going to again demand a priority on materials in the next few months on account of this victory as they repair their vessels. And is the induction of new soldiers going to suffer additional disruption due to the exemptions for shipyard workers?"
Moltke found it interesting that Falkenhayn was not expecting a speedy end to the war. He wondered if Falkenhayn simply could not accept the concept that a naval battle could be decisive. He expected the question and delivered his prepared response, "That is correct. The recent victory has opened up possibilities that require a rapid exploitation."
"Is that what Tirpitz told you to say? Do those words mean anything? Is there really a concrete course of action under consideration?"
Moltke nodded, "The words are my own, Erich. Possibilities are being weighed carefully."
"More vagueness! After Dogger bank I was told one more clear victory knocks Britain out of the war. Now there such a victory happens however it appears likely that the British will press on irregardless. Ah, but one more naval victory will do the trick so Tirpitz gets every available scrap of German steel. This is complete and utter rubbish. This war will be decided on the ground and as a German General you should know that, Helmuth!"
"It is not rubbish! There is at least an even chance that the British will indeed leave the war. We just need to prepare for the possibility that they do persist."
"Instead of these naval fantasies, what we need to think about is readying an army to send into the Balkans. You have heard about the latest proposal of the Bulgarians, Helmuth? This is what is important. I will need at least 5 more divisions in April."
"I already gave you 4 reserve divisions. As far I can determine neither of the attacks where they are being used is achieving decisive results."
"On the contrary, both operations are making steady progress. Casualties are acceptable"
"Hah! They are making slow progress and casualties are just barely acceptable. Even though you repeatedly deny it was your objective, I think you fantasized that these operations would both succeed wildly and they would force the French to abandon Verdun. Oh, don’t waste your foul breath denying it!"
Faleknhayn ground his teeth. Moltke had indeed guessed his secret thoughts. He felt compelled to deny the charge, "This is pure supposition on your part! You are trying to make me sound like a naïve fool. My plans are firmly based on the reality of our situation. I do acknowledge that I thought greater success could be attained, but I never stated that the capture of Verdun was my objective. Never!"
Moltke waved his right hand and shook his head, "I am not going to argue with you further on that point. I will simply point out that it you terminate these operations and go over to the defensive in those sectors you will free up 4 divisions. Furthermore, next month you are going to start creating new divisions by splitting existing 4 regiment divisions into 3 regiment divisions. This is an idea that fails to impress me—carving a cake into small pieces does not make more cake. But you seem to think so—well then, that alone should give you more than enough divisions for your Balkan expedition."
Falkenhayn’s nostrils flared, "Drop the sarcasm, Generalfeldmarschal. The reorganization of our divisions will increase our overall effectiveness but it will merely serve to hold the line in France. I am willing to cancel von Strantz’s attack in the Woevre Plain but I still want von Mudra to continue in the Argonne. Is the time ripe to remove Tenth Army from Flanders and use it in Serbia? Has the latest naval success at least removed the threat of the enemy landing in Flanders?"
"In the short term, no. During the next 6 weeks nearly all of the High Seas Fleet will be undergoing extensive repairs. During that period Admiral von Tirpitz is very worried the British will conduct a raid using several battalions to destroy facilities esp. near Calais and Dunkirk."
"Why am I not surprised! Every naval victory is another drain on the Army! In that case I simply must get all 4 of the reserve divisions."
Moltke through up his hands in exasperation, "If you want the 4 reserve divisions remaining in the OKW Reserve by April I will give you them if you will agree to giving the Navy priority on men and material—and that you release the 6th Bavarian Division to OKW Reserve by the end of the week. I will remind you that you had agreed to release that unit earlier."
"Yes I did but that was before the British attacked in Picardy. That unit was vital in shoring up Sixth Army’s defenses."
"And so now it is even more depleted. My latest intelligence is that the British have halted their offensive. It is extremely unlikely that they will resume it. Instead they will probably siphon 1 or 2 infantry divisions back to England to counter an invasion—"
"—What? Please tell me that we are not seriously contemplating an invasion of England."
"I did not say we were, Erich. But the British will surely worry that we will do precisely that and for that reason will reduce their force in France. See there are concrete benefits to the naval victory. The amphibious raid on Flanders that Tirpitz is anticipating will be a hit and run operation—not a serious attempt to outflank Sixth Army. The raid may be covered by a diversionary feint, though. These are sound reasons for 6th Bavarian Division to be withdrawn immediately, even if Prince Rupprecht is stubborn."
Falkenhayn’s lips tightened as he thought this over, "Prince Rupprecht is always stubborn—that at least we can agree on. Let us see if we can reach an agreement on other matters. If I release the 6th Bavarian Division I would want the 4 remaining reserve divisions you have sent to Tenth Army immediately. If Tirpitz is right and there is a raid they will be useful in countering it. In any case they would be available in April either to go to Balkans themselves or to free up other divisions."
"If this is what is needed to gain your support, I am willing to agree."
"Hold on, there is more, Helmuth. I must again revisit a topic which you find distasteful—the use of gas as a weapon. The T-Shell has been a major disappointment so far. At the behest of General von Mudra who believes the concept is sound, I have not terminated that project completely, but it is clearly necessary to consider alternatives. Dr. Haber continues to believe that chlorine released from canisters will prove to be a devastating weapon against enemy entrenchments. I mean to employ this weapon on the Western Front. I know that you are morally opposed to this. For that reason I do not ask that you actively support this idea. What I ask—what must I insist on if you want me to acquiesce on setting priorities—is that you not actively campaign against it.. Remaining silent will suffice. Is this acceptable? If it is not then this meeting is over."
This disgusted Moltke, but it did not surprise him. He had expected this and had his reply ready. His mouth was dry as dust as he spoke the foul words, "If you have no other issues I will reluctantly agree to your conditions."
JAMES CREELMAN DIES
It is with the deepest regret that this newspaper must announce the tragic death of the heroic reporter James Creelman yesterday afternoon in Berlin. He had suddenly collapsed while covering the aftermath of the history making Battle of Utsire in Germany. He was rushed to a nearby hospital where emergency surgery was performed. Unfortunately the operation was not successful and he expired a few hours afterwards. Without a doubt James Creelman was THE GREATEST AMERICAN journalist of this age. He had had covered news the world over and was now on top of the single most important battle of the dreadful conflict underway in Europe. This paper mourns the loss of a truly GREAT MAN.
--NY Journal American Wednesday February 24, 1915
------White House 1430 hrs Wednesday
President Wilson was meeting with Secretary Bryan, Secretary Daniels, Admiral Fiske and Col. House. "If the Entente wants to open negotiations, they should come to us. We are the logical peacemakers," declared the President.
"We should all pray to the Great and Merciful Almighty that they do," replied Bryan, "but there has not been even the slightest hint so far. It will probably be several days after the new government is formalized before that they send out peace feelers."
"And it appears that Bonar Law will be the new prime minister?"
"That is what I am hearing, sir," answered Bryan who then turned to House, "Ed, are you hearing anything different from your British friends."
There was a hint of sarcasm in the way Bryan had said ‘British friends’. Col House chose to ignore it and answered, "That is what I am hearing as well, William. The formal announcement could happen as early as tomorrow."
"So soon? Do you think they intend to fight on? Or are they willing to consider peace?"
"They have agreed not to seek a separate peace. My expectation is that they will honor that commitment. That is what Gaunt keeps telling me."
"That means they will not secretly negotiate with the Germans. There is still the possibility they will try to persuade the French and the Russians to join them in sincere negotiations—that would not dishonor their commitment. I pray to the Almighty and Merciful Lord that this is what will come about and peace come again to the nations of Europe."
House looked uncomfortable for a few seconds. He then shrugged nonchalantly and replied, "As you say Mr. Secretary, it is possible. But from what I know of Mr. Andrew Bonar Law, I have trouble envisioning that as his policy. I could be wrong, of course."
Secretary Daniels jumped in, "For what it’s worth Mr. President, my gut feeling is that the British will see this one through. For one thing the Germans are going to have a heck of time making use of their very temporary edge in sea power. The Entente has certain pronounced geographical advantages when it comes to effectively projecting sea power."
"Hmm, so you rule out a possible German invasion of England?"
Daniels arched his eyebrows and bit his lower lip, "That is a tough call, Mr. President. The Germans do not have much experience in amphibious warfare. It is a very difficult undertaking esp. when then enemy is waiting for you on the beaches."
"If the answer is a simple ‘No’, then why don’t you just come out and say it, Joe?" asked Wilson in an irritated tone of voice, "For the life of me it seems these military matters are always being made more complicated than they really are
Daniels opened his mouth to say something, then had second thoughts and muttered, "Well, as you see it’s not quite that simple—it’s, well it’s like this, uh, well doggone it Mr. President I reckon you are right once again. It is simple—the Germans are incapable of pulling off a successful invasion of England. They probably won’t even try but they do they are going to fail miserably."
"Yes the important things are often simple. Well, this news at least is reassuring. The German Army marching into London would be the greatest catastrophe I could dare to imagine. Yet if the Germans are not going to invade then just what they are going to do with their fleet?"
"They would likely use it to break the illegal British blockade of Germany, sir," interjected Bryan.
"The Secretary is opening an old wound. We have argued over this before. The British policy is completely legal under international law," complained Col. House.
"It most certainly is not, and you know it, Ed!" countered Bryan.
"Enough, you two!" ordered Wilson, "I remember all too well having this discussion before—too many times as far as I am concerned. We are not going there again today! Secretary Daniels, my question was meant for you."
"Well, Mr. President, whatever it’s legal status the British interruption on German overseas trade is something the Germans would like very much to neutralize. But doing so is likely to be difficult even with a superior number of dreadnoughts--this point harkens back to what I mentioned before—namely the geographical advantages which the Entente, esp. Britain enjoy over the Central Powers."
"Meaning that the German ports are boxed in by France and Britain?"
"That is the main point, Mr. President, though the British bases in the Western Hemisphere are another advantage they enjoy."
President Wilson silently pondered that. When he was done he shifted the topic, "Besides the disturbing shift of naval power this so called Battle of Utsire has spawned some other ill effects. There is the matter of that poor woman and her baby getting themselves killed. Hearst is making a big stink about that."
"I did counsel against allowing American citizens to travel aboard those ocean liners," Bryan reminded the President.
"Yes, yes, William I remember that you did. However, I still think I was right because to do otherwise would set a bad precedent. How was I to know that the German captain would be so irresponsible? Oh, and then there is the most troubling aspect of the situation—that a bunch of Americans of Irish heritage should end up playing a pivotal role in the battle. It is a blasted recapitulation of the disgraceful Ridgeway incident! I had hoped that the mental disorder popularly known as Fenianism had been reduced to a few senile crackpots like John Devoy. Most unfortunately it is now enjoying an undeserved renaissance, abetted by the unctuous praise Hearst heaps on what I have been told is a disgraced former police officer."
"Some of our more responsible newspapers will be running articles in a few days informing the American public of some of the unsavory aspects of this Harry Calahan’s past," noted House.
"That is reassuring, Ed. The sooner the better, I say, but I worry it may not be enough to get the Fenian genie back into the bottle. Ryan has told me on more than occasion that the prospect of Home Rule has not made most Catholic Irishmen in this country fall in love with the British but merely softened their hatred into paltry disdain. When Curzon became Viceroy the dying embers of Fenianism were stoked a little. We had hoped that would be merely a transient phenomenon. But now with a staunch Unionist becoming the new Prime Minister, the befuddled Irish are likely to become very troublesome."
Both Bryan and House looked liked they wished to comment on that last statement but decided to keep their thoughts to themselves. Instead Daniels spoke up, "As far as Hearst goes, sir, I think our immanent operation in Haiti is going to take his mind off Fenian flapdoodle. I might suggest for this very reason that we should move our timetable ahead a few days."
Wilson grimaced as he answered, "Has it come to that? It is a crying shame that we can’t simply shoot the insufferable William Randolph Hearst and be done with it. But your point is well taken. Haiti is most definitely a topic I am willing to revisit today. But first I want to think through the problem of the Irish in all its ramifications. For one thing, a troubling implication is that if another neutral with a large immigrant population in the our country enters the war on the side of the Central Powers we could find ourselves with another group of hyphenated Americans cheering for the wrong side. Fortunately there aren’t too many Bulgarians in America, but if the Swedes or still worse the Italians join the Central Powers, it will make things difficult."
------Addis Ababa 2205 hrs
Before he had become incapacitated, Emperor Menelik II of Abyssinia had declared his grandson Iyasu as the heir apparent. Iyasu’s father was Ras Mikael, the powerful ruler of the predominantly Muslim province of Wello. Ras Mikael had been pressured into converting from Islam to the Ethiopian Coptic Christian faith.
Upon Menelik’s death Iyasu, still in his teens became the new ruler amidst controversy and for that reason did not receive a coronation.
Ras Mikael had now received word from his son to meet him as quickly as possible. He arrived by motorcar in the capital a few minutes ago.
"Iyasu, my dear boy! What is the cause for this urgent summons?"
"I have wonderful news, father! The German navy has defeated the British! The Central Powers now control the seas."
"Yes, this is good news for we both think the world will be better for our country if the Ottomans and their European allies prevail. Still I see no reason for your urgent summons. A simple message would have sufficed."
"Oh, the summons is certainly justified, father. We have much to plan. I have reached a great decision. Abyssinia is entering the war on the side of the Central Powers!"
Mikael shook his head from side to side, "Much as I would like to see it happen the Council will never go along with it."
"Yes, I know. I will dissolve the Council and declare war on France and Great Britain on my own authority."
"Surely you realize that will plunge the country into civil war, my son."
"You have repeated told me you could raise an army of at least 80,000 men. I will need that army, father."
"Yes, that is true and if the Oromo outside my province support us I can raise still more. However our enemies will eventually be able to raise a still larger army. A long struggle will be very difficult to win and even if we do win it will at great cost to our country. In light of that fact what are your plans, my son?"
"Your army will divide into two groups. The larger portion will rush here to prevent my enemies from deposing me. The other portion will proceed to capture the port of Djibouti, which the Germans can then use as a naval base. When the German warships arrive they will bring most excellent weapons for us to use and allow Ottoman forces to reach us. With the aid of the Germans and the Ottomans we will prevail against the Christians. The European will be ending soon. I shall be able to travel to the peace conference as the undisputed ruler of one of the victors! At the conference I shall publicly declare my faith and our nation will become a partner to the great Ottomans and their clever friends, the Germans."
Mikael sighed. He knew his impetuous son had not fully thought through the consequences. Both of them were risking death. And even if they succeeded they could wind up presiding over a devastated nation. Mikael favored the Central Powers but his trust in their benevolence had serious limits. For a minute he thought about trying to dissuade his son, or at least counsel him to wait a while. But the ardor he saw in his Iyasu’s eyes dispelled his own nagging doubts. Looking into those hope filled eyes Mikael felt young again. This brought tears of joy to his own eyes.
"God is great, my son."
------OKW Berlin 1145 hrs Thursday February 25, 1915
Joseph Mary Plunkett had a deep interest in military history. For many years he had dreamed that one day he would be involved in the planning of a major military operation. In the early morning Sir Roger Casement had brought him to meet with Zimmerman. News of the recent German naval victory off Norway had given both Plunkett and Casement renewed hope that Germany would now be able to help Ireland. This time Zimmerman mentioned that some powerful people had grown very interested in their cause and asked that both of him accompany him.
"Mr. Casement and Mr. Plunkett, this is Generalfeldmarschal von Moltke, and this is Grossadmiral von Tirpitz. They tell me there is something they want very much to discuss with you two."
Sometimes dreams do come true.
------STAVKA 1405 hrs
Tsar Nicholas II decided to pay a visit to his uncle, Grand Duke Nikolai, commander in chief of the Russian army and navy. After some partially sincere personal conversation, the Tsar got quickly to the point, "I am very much concerned over the recent naval battle. I fear that the British—once they replace their ineffectual premier—will secretly negotiate with the Germans. If they leave the war there is a very serious possibility that our enemies will ultimately prevail."
The Grand Duke nodded, "That is indeed a worrisome prospect, Your Majesty. Have you come here to ask me about our diplomatic strategy?"
"No, Nikolai. Until now I have avoided interfering in questions of strategy and asked only for concise summations. I have respected your initiative and curbed the impulse within myself to interfere."
"That is most true, Your Majesty."
"The urgency of the current situation compels me to become more involved. What is required at this time is a firm demonstration of our fighting spirit. This will inspire those brave Englishmen who still yearn to fight and will shame those who dare to think about making a separate peace."
The Grand Duke did not like the sound of this. Cautiously he asked, "Is Your Majesty suggesting that we launch a new offensive. Rest assured that in a little more than a week Southwestern Front will launch a new offensive using the Third, Eleventh and Eighth Armies. We will drive the Austrians out of the Bukovina and encircle their fortress at Przemysl once more."
"This is very good news, Nikolai. But what of Northwestern Front?"
Nikolai repressed the urge to fidget but he bit lip nervously, "Northwestern Front is to remain on the defensive, Your Majesty."
"That is not good news, uncle. Are we so terrified of the Germans that we will never again dare to attack them? How then will we ever win this war?"
The question stung the Grand Duke. He answered as best he could, "Your Majesty, it is not a question of bravery. The winter weather hampers offensive operations. This is especially true for Northwestern Front as its weather is currently more severe. Meanwhile Southwestern Front has some temporary advantages due to the British expedition to Albania and the Transylvania revolt. It is there that our best opportunities lie. Strange as it sounds the easiest road to Berlin passes through Hungary."
The Tsar was not satisfied with the Grand Duke’s answer, "What is your intelligence about the German formations?"
"Our current estimate is that the number of German divisions deployed against us have either remained the same or increased slightly, Your Majesty. This means the total number of German soldiers has increased as they have been able to replace their losses in these divisions."
The Tsar frowned then said, "I do not agree with that assessment. I have intelligence to the effect that the Germans have moved troops from this front to the West. "
"I am not aware of this intelligence. Is there a written report I may be permitted to see?"
Tsar Nicholas had no such report. He did not want to admit to his uncle that he was relying largely on the opinion of the Tsarina, "Is my word insufficient for you?"
"I meant no disrespect, Your Majesty. Your word is more than sufficient," answered Nikolai though inwardly he remained suspicious.
"It should be obvious that the Germans have seriously weakened their position on this front. The aggressive Field Marshal von Hindenburg has remained on the defensive for more than two months. Meanwhile the Germans recently launched not one but two attacks in France despite being pressed by both the French and the British. They could only pull this off by withdrawing forces from the East. They are counting on us remaining passive."
"There is something to what Your Majesty says," replied the Grand Duke with pronounced equivocation.
"Yes, yes! The more I think about the more convinced I become that this must be the case. The question is no longer whether there is a weakness in the German line but where?"
The Grand Duke was far from being persuaded by the Tsar’s line of reasoning, "We will need to conduct a thorough reconnaissance to determine that, Your Majesty."
"But that will take precious time! We may not have time. We need to light a bonfire to impress the British! Back in the fall when the Germans were massing in Poland we achieved some measure of success invading Masuria did we not?"
"Your Majesty’s memory is most accurate. We did have some initial success at the edge of Augustowo Forest. The Germans did eventually manage to halt our advance, though"
"Well then, my hunch is that the Germans are repeating that mistake—they are again focused on Warsaw and left themselves weak to the north. If this hunch is true then the opportunity is priceless—we can advance through Masuria and threaten Konigsberg. That will be bonfire the whole world will notice."
"That would indeed be wonderful, Your Majesty. I would strongly advise taking our time to properly prepare for this offensive."
"No, Nikolai. How many times must I repeat we need to take quick action in order to impress the British?"
"I understand that, Your Majesty. But I must warn that a hasty operation that results in failure would create a contrary impression. There are some inadequacies in our armies that should be addressed ere we commit them to an attack."
"And I reiterate for the last time that we cannot afford to wait. Didn’t Voltaire say ‘Perfection was the enemy of the good?’ You go to war with the army you have."
Off Mt Lovcen 1250 hrs Friday February 26, 1915
In the morning the Austrians conducted vigorous air patrols. Now escorted by 2 torpedo boats the battleship SMS Radetzky made a pass along the coast. Its 12" guns opened fire on the positions of the Canadians and Montenegrins. The Montenegrins had experienced this before and were not surprised. The Canadian soldiers had not and were startled. A handful of soldiers panicked, but most did not. The bombardment did not last long. Only a single Canadian soldier was killed and another 3 Canadians as well as 2 Montenegrins were wounded. A draught horse was badly wounded as well, and had to be put down. The AustroHungarian warships returned to Cattaro.
General Birdwood had been warned that this might happened. It had been made clear to him that due to numerous reasons including the threat of Austrian submarines, the French fleet would not be maintaining a continuous presence in the Adriatic. The French artillery detachment at Mount Lovcen been shelled by Radtezky a few times before and had been forced to deploy further away from Cattaro.
------10 Downing Street 1635 hrs
The new streamlined War Committee of Bonar Law, Lloyd-George and Carson was meeting. "How did it go at the Admiralty today?" the new prime minister inquired of Carson.
"We made good progress. Admiral Fisher accepts that he will be soon replaced, but is work as vigorously as the doctors permit."
"Are you still leaning towards Admiral Callaghan as First Sea Lord?" asked Lloyd-George, "or are you considering returning Callaghan to the Grand Fleet?"
."My opinion has not shifted. I think Callaghan would be the best choice for First Sea Lord. As far as the new head of the Grand Fleet, I am shocked to admit it but after talking with Admiral Oliver I find myself agreeing with Lord Northcliffe. Makes me feel downright dirty to admit that."
"Lewis Bayly? How sure are you about this? I have always heard he was a bit controversial with the other admirals," asked Bonar Law.
"I am well aware of that It seems his personality is rather aloof and he can be downright pedantic at times. But he is the commander of Channel Fleet. The engagement off North Foreland was deftly handled though Northcliffe’s papers have been exaggerating what happened there."
"If we go ahead and let Bayly assume command of the Grand Fleet, who would take over the Channel Fleet?" wondered Lloyd-George.
"No one. Admiral Jellicoe has proposed consolidating Channel Fleet into the Grand Fleet. As Oliver described the proposal to me, our remaining dreadnoughts can now be safely anchored at Rosyth. The predreadnoughts of the Third Battle Squadron will be brought together with Fifth Battle Squadron and based at the Humber."
"So Scapa Flow and Cromarty Firth are to be abandoned?" asked Law.
"Not completely. Northern Patrols would still make some use of Scapa Flow."
"Is Admiral Oliver is favor of this proposal?" asked Lloyd-George.
"He is tentatively favorable to the idea. He is very busy at this time with the inquiry in the battle."
"He most certainly should be!" snarled Law, "I would like to know his theory about what went wrong off Norway."
"Hmm, he thinks it was an ill combination of different elements. The fact that Invincible, Agincourt, Benbow and Warrior were destroyed by magazine explosions is a cause for grave concern. Apparently the same thing happened to Queen Mary at Dogger Bank—and now there is some speculation it may have happened to some of the battleships in Second Battle Squadron as well."
"Good Lord, that is most disturbing indeed! You must see to it that the Admiralty gets to the bottom of it as quickly as possible," ordered Bonar Law.
"I certainly intend to, Andrew. There are other things we will need to look at as well. The importance of scouting and screening forces is something I heard mentioned several times today. They were not adequate off Ustire and contributed mightily to the defeat."
"What are you and the admirals planning to do about that?" asked Lloyd-George.
"The cruiser situation should be remedied rather quickly. Second Cruiser Squadron is back and soon additional light cruisers will be commissioned. Unfortunately the strength of the flotillas will remain problematic for sometime. For that reason, Oliver and Wilson believe it will be necessary to withdraw one of the flotillas from Harwich Force to reinforce the Grand Fleet."
"Hmm. If the Germans try to invade Kent, our front line would be Dover Patrol, Channel Fleet and Harwich Force. The Germans badly weakened Dover Patrol and now we are going to eliminate Channel Fleet and seriously weaken Harwich Force?" commented Lloyd-George with a worried look.
"The threat of invasion, particularly in the next month, is vastly overrated," answered Carson, "Nothing I learned today has altered that assessment. In fact it reinforces that conclusion!"
"Well that at least is reassuring. Is this anything else about the Battle of Utsire worth mentioning?" asked Bonar Law.
"Well, there is some concern that our shells are not up to standard. Jellicoe firmly believes the hits we scored should have hurt the Germans more seriously than they did."
"Do you think he’s just looking for excuses to cover his own incompetence?"
"Hmm. Yes and no. Fisher’s attitude current attitude towards Jellicoe is nearly unfathomable. One minute he makes excuses for Jellicoe, then he launches into a bitter almost incoherent rant against the man, only later to tell he how sorry he feels for his ruined reputation. Truth be told, I am as much concerned about the state of Admiral Fisher’s mind as his heart. When he was defending Jellicoe, Fisher did express concern about the quality of our shells and Oliver largely echoed the sentiment."
"Sounds like you had a busy day, Edward," said Law, "you’d be interested to know I had a long talk with Lord Kitchener. Despite his obstinacy I made it clear that we are pressing forward with the operation in Albania. The third division—the combined Australian New Zealand one—will leave Alexandria before dawn."
"That is wonderful news, Prime Minister, I hope it wasn’t too painful."
Bonar Law smiled, "Not too bad. I can be just as stubborn as the Field Marshal. He will soon realize he’s not dealing with a jellyfish like Herbert. And you will also be delighted to here some related news. I called Grey about asking the French again to participate—"
"—and what did he say?"
"He told me that the French have recently informed him on their own initiative that they are now willing to commit one division very quickly to Albania, and strongly hint that additional troops could become available later.. He says that Kitchener knew of this, but the Field Marshal made no mention of it."
------Mount Lovcen 0915 hrs Saturday February 27, 1915
General Birdwood had summoned Major General Alderson, commander of the 1st Canadian Division and Major General Bridges the commander of 1st Australian Division to discuss strategy. "I have received two wireless messages from Lord Kitchener last night," announced Birdwood, "Our operation is to resume in accord with previous plans. The ANZAC Division left Alexandria during the night and is on its way."
"This is damn good news, " opined Bridges, "How soon will the boys be arriving here?"
"I was told the transports should be arriving at Durazzo Wednesday. The Admiralty feels that Durazzo is the safer port to use now that the Austrians are alert."
"Any chance of our getting resupplied before then, sir?" asked Alderson.
"None. Our supplies will arrive with the ANZAC’s. After a few initial problems were resolved the Montenegrins have been supplying us with food and fodder."
"Ahem. Some of the food is a wee bit unusual, sir," replied Bridges.
"What? Are the blokes missing their bully beef?"
Bridges made a wry grin at Birdwood’s jibe, "I wouldn’t go so far as to say that, sir." The generals chuckled briefly.
"So the men and the horses are reasonably well fed. However, what we cannot get from the Montenegrins is ammunition—they do not have enough for their own troops. Now we haven’t used much—mostly on that one attack using the road to Cattaro. Since then we’ve let the artillery brigades fire off a few rounds to harass the enemy and register their weapons. It sounds like we have a comfortable stockpile. My inclination therefore is to attack now and not wait .for the ships to arrive."
"Attack where, sir?" asked Alderson, "Here, or further north?"
."Well, we certainly are not going to try to use that python shaped road again, if that’s what you are worried about. We could try to infiltrate through the mountains at night but that is bound to be slow going. The Montenegrins have warned that the enemy has gotten to know the local terrain quite well and have some skill at mountain fighting. We would be relying heavily on our Montenegrin guides—very few of whom speak English."
Alderson scowled as this reminded with some embarrassment that earlier the Montenegrins had assumed that most of the Canadian units had at least some men fluent in French and assigned French speaking guides. "There is more than a few problems with that approach, sir," he said, "and then we need to be more concerned with what happened yesterday."
"You mean the Austrian battleship? Yes, that shelling would definitely cause more harm if it occurred while we had an attack underway."
"It is only a factor if we attack near the coast," reasoned Bridges, "if we attack further inland, it ceases to be relevant."
"Yes, that is one of the two alternatives I am considering. Striking to the north so we can swing around and take Cattaro from behind. The ground is less rugged but unfortunately the roads are something of a bad joke in that direction."
"And so what then is the other alternative?"
"That would be to simply forget about Cattaro—at least in the short run-- and to advance further north into Bosnia were there are some decent roads, though it much of it is quite mountainous. One drawback to that strategy is the only truly important objective in that area would be Sarajevo and that would take us very far to the north.
------Dublin 1105 hrs
"So now he have none other than Mr. Andrew Bonar Law, an adamant opponent of Home Rule as the new Prime Minister! And to gild the lily, Carson is First Lord of the Admiralty. The pathetic Redmondites must finally realize their folly and see that revolution is the only way," spoke James Connolly, "We must make plans, but first we must set a date. How does a week from Monday sound to you gents?"
Connolly was meeting with Padraig Pearse and Tom Clarke. Pearse made a deeply ambivalent facial expression. It was Clarke who answered, "Listen to me, Jim, I am all in favor of a rising, but that is way too soon. There are a great many details to work out. First and foremost is our very serious lack of weapons. We have been over this before—esp. in the western counties our arsenal is pitiful. We really need additional arms from Germany, hopefully including machine guns and some artillery. Maybe even a few senior officers to lead us. Plunkett is in Germany right now working with Casement to get us this help. Even before the naval battle, Devoy told us there had been some encouraging developments in Berlin. With this latest victory it will be even easier for the Germans to aid us. Plunkett should be back from Germany in a little more than a week. We must wait until he returns."
"Wait, James, wait, wait, and wait some more. We Irish do love to procrastinate. Well this here is one Irishman who is bloody damn sick of waitin’ and that’s the fuckin’ truth of it me darlings. Because the way it is going the war will suddenly end with no Irish rising. There will be a peace conference and no one will be there to speak for Ireland because we waited and waited."
Pearse sighed deeply and spoke, "I want to see a rising happen just as much as you do, Jim. You cannot begin to imagine how much my soul yearns for it. So the possibility that the English will secretly negotiate their way of the war before we’ve had our day of glory deeply troubles me as well. But Tom makes a good point—German arms could well spell the difference between success and failure "
"Plus we will need a good month to organize, plan and train," add Clarke.
Connolly thought over what they said, breathing deeply. Finally he answered, "Maybe a week from Monday is too soon."
Clarke breathed a sigh a relief—until Connolly continued, "But there is no way I am going to wait an entire month! It must be no later than St. Patty’s Day. And that’s final."
Clarke threw up his hands in exasperation, "Be reasonable James. Once Plunkett gets back it will take time to organize—"
"NO! If I listen to you any more it will be June and the war is over and still all there’ll be is talk about something that is never ever going to happen. Except James Connolly is goin’ to make it happen!"
Clarke decided to take a different tack, "And just what are you going to do, James? You dunna run the Volunteers, me laddy."
"But I do command the Citizen’s Army! They will follow me and they will light the spark that sets the poor workingmen of Ireland free.. Come to think it will be better that way. Then we can make a clean sweep without all the capitalist bourgeois trash dirtying it with their greedy fingers."
Clarke rolled his eyes and looked at Pearse, "I give up, Padraig—maybe you can talk some sense into this socialist fool!"
Pearse walked over and stood inches from Connolly reddened face. He gave the man his cherubic smile, "James, James, we can work something out. There is no need to make silly threats about going it alone with just the Citizen’s Army. You know that if you did it would ruin things for everyone. I want the soul of Ireland liberated as much as you—as much as any Irishman has ever wanted it. So I need for you to work with us not against us."
Connolly stared hard into Pearse’s eyes. He blinked and gulped and for a few seconds Pearse thought he was coming to his senses. Connolly spoke in a gentler voice but his tone was firm, "The Citizen’s Army will rise up no later than St. Patrick’s Day, whether the Volunteers do or do not. That’s my will in this matter and no one is going to stop me. Do you hear me?"
------Calais 0920 hrs Sunday February 28, 1915
The small coastal submarine UB.1 sailed into Calais harbor. Its shakedown cruise had been cut short by a week. Under pressure from Tirpitz, Admiral Bachmann had decided to increase the U-Boats operating out of the Channel ports. At the last minute the UB.1’s destination had been changed from Boulogne to Calais due to reports of British minelaying off Boulogne since the Battle of Utsire.
------Argonne Forest 1350 hrs
General Bruno von Mudra’s offensive in the Argonne was behind schedule. It had suffered no disasters but its successes had all been more limited than expected. Fierce resistance by the French had managed to halt his advance about 500 meters north of the important crossroads town of Neuvilly-en-Argonne. Mudra’s supply of artillery shells had improved in the last few days because the British offensive in Picardy had ended and Falkenhayn had decided to suspend Strantz’s offensive in the Woevre.
Mudra decided to make a more intense effort this day. He deployed an entire division—the 78th Reserve-- along a 3 kilometer front. It was the first time he had used either of the divisions Falkenhayn had provided at the beginning of the February in an attack—much to Falkenhayn’s disappointment. Instead he had used them to man the inactive sections of his front freeing up the more experienced units for the offensive. Meanwhile the new divisions received intensive training in trench warfare. Mudra was enthusiastic about using grenades to clear trenches and had insisted that the training concentrate on their use.
The divisional artillery brigade was reinforced by a concentration of heavy artillery and minenwerfers. The bombardment was intense but fairly brief. Supported by additional companies of pioneers including one with some of the new flamethrowers the 3 regiments of the 78th Reserve Division stormed forward. The French defenses had been badly weakened by the bombardment and the wire was cut in several places. Some of the dreaded French 75’s and a few Maxims inflicted losses but the wire was not thick and had been cut in several places. The infantry made their way to the trenches in several places and they soon captured nearly 3,000 dazed defenders. Where they encountered determined resistance their training with grenades proved very useful. Despite their awkwardness the flame throwers also proved effective in clearing the French trenches.
The Germans had gained control by the town by noon, though 2 French strongpoints held out. The forest proved helpful because it reduced the risk from the French artillery to the machine gun companies and the light minenwerfer units being brought forward. The usual fierce French counterattacks were beginning to materialize but the Germans held on to their gains. When night fell they would try to advance still further.
------Ober Ost 1710 hrs
"There is more bad news, sir" Luddendorff announced to Hindenburg, "Conrad has just informed that Bulgaria appears to be on the verge of signing a secret treaty of alliance with the Central Powers."
Hindenburg arched an eyebrow and asked, "Kindly tell this old man just why that happens to be bad news, Erich?"
"It may seem fortuitous but it really means another invasion of Serbia and this time some German divisions will be involved as well."
"Oh, now this old man understands. Moltke’s prediction of a third front is finally coming true. This will be yet another excuse to deny us the reinforcements we need to complete the destruction of the Russians."
"Already there are signs that Tirpitz is going to use the latest naval victory as an excuse to demand more men and materials."
"I would wager my life’s savings that he will try. There is no surprise there. Quite possibly Moltke will go along with him again. Wretched Helmuth seems to think that only by serving Tirpitz can he have even a semblance of power in his new position. How pathetic! But I do find it extremely difficult to believe that Falkenhayn will go along with this rubbish this time. On the previous occasion he apparently made a deal so as to permit his two current offensives in France--"
"--both of which are accomplishing little of strategic value," Ludendorff noted, "while our soldiers sit idle!"
"Yes, yes. But the point is Falkenhayn now has what he wanted. He simply must defend the needs of the Army against the fantasies of Tirpitz. We are well aware of his shortcomings as a strategist but if he lets Tirpitz gets what he wants I will question his integrity."
"You are too kind, sir! I never held his character in high regard."
"Hmm. We must make plans for the worst possibility. I wonder if we can use Conrad for our purposes—distasteful as that is. Has he no goals other than the destruction of Serbia?"
"As you are probably guessing, sir, he has many others—in particular to retake Lemberg. He has a low opinion of the Bulgarians, but the Romanian rebellion and unexpected British incursion into Albania has made him cautious."
"Conrad never stays cautious long. When he recovers his temerity we will use him to buttress our own position should Falkenhayn choose to dishonor his uniform."