by Tom B
OKW Berlin 0915 hrs Monday, March 1, 1915
"Oberst Bauer is here to see you, Admiral."
"Very good. Send him in and close the door when you leave," ordered Grossadmiral von Tirpitz.
Oberstleutnant Max Bauer entered Tirpitz’s office. They quickly shook hands. Bauer was the artillery expert of the German General Staff. In that capacity he was universally regarded as being highly competent. Moreover Bauer’s interests extended well beyond artillery. In the last week Bauer had a letter delivered to Tirpitz that he desired to work for OKW. Tirpitz began the interview, "I had a telephone conversation with General von Falkenhayn about you Friday night."
"Uh, might I ask what the good general said, sir?"
"Hmmm. Initially he was extremely averse to losing you, as he is most impressed by your ingenuity. I then reminded him of his commitment to Feldmarschal von Moltke to provide us with adequate staff. I also reminded him of some other things—political matters shall we say. He eventually agreed that you could be shared between OKW and the General Staff, but only if you agree as it will mean extreme demands on your time and stamina."
Bauer smiled reassuringly, "I fully understand, Admiral. Rest assured that I am more than willing to bear those hardships in the service of the Fatherland."
"Your patriotic zeal is touching," Tirpitz said in a droll voice that made it almost sound sarcastic, "but I am curious about one thing. Why did you approach me and not the Feldmarschal, huh?"
Bauer’s smile dimmed, "Uh, well it is well known that the Feldmarschal is not in the best of health and I thought things would, uh, would be expedited by your involvement. Which I thoroughly appreciate as your time must be very limited—"
"—it most certainly which is I why I have little time to bask in obsequiousness. And none whatsoever for downright lies!"
Bauer’s smile disappeared completely, "I do not understand, Grand Admiral."
"Oh, yes, you do! The real reason you approached me and not the Feldmarschal is you fear that von Moltke suspects that you are one of the serpents who whispered in the Kaiser’s ears to get him removed from the General Staff. And he does suspect though he is far from being certain. I am certain so I warn you sternly not to try to lie to me any further."
Bauer had opened his mouth on the verge of making just such a denial. He briefly closed it and after some careful consideration answered, "I readily admit that I did make a few humble suggestions to the All-Highest. But my intent was to create the sorely needed apparatus, which is OKW. And due in large part to your prudent efforts and hard work OKW is fulfilling a vital need. It is for precisely that reason that is behind my ardent desire to join OKW."
"Bah, you move from outright lies to quartertruths. OKW was intended as a largely ceremonial headquarters devoid of any real decision making. The Battle of Dogger Bank upset those plans, yes?"
Bauer did not answer. He expected the admiral to throw him of the office any minute. After nearly a minute of awkward silence Tirpitz continued in a less hostile tone of voice, "Falkenhayn thinks I want to you here to advise us on artillery. This is partially true—General von François is indeed very interested in recent developments in artillery."
"I look forward to working with him, sir," answered Bauer glumly. This wasn’t true either. Bauer was friends with Ludendorff and he was fully cognizant of Ludendorff’s deep animosity towards von François.
"Do you believe the war is going to end soon, Oberst Bauer?"
Bauer shrugged, "It is hard to say, Admiral. There are many in Germany, who think your latest victory off Norway—at the risk of being accused of obsequiousness may I commend you and Grand Admiral von Ingenohl on a truly stupendous victory-- will force England to leave the war. And---"
"-with the British removed, the French and Russians will be at our mercy," Tirpitz interrupted, :"I genuinely wish this was true. But last week I assigned it only a one in three chance of happening. But the new British government shows no sign of wanting to leave the war. On the contrary their new prime minister, Mr. Bonar Law delivered a widely reported speech Saturday afternoon where he vigorously denied any intention of ending the war short of a complete British victory. "
"Yes, I have heard of this speech. Some think it is merely political posturing while they open secret negotiations with us."
"They have not yet—so far I know. I grow increasingly dubious. I now give this scenario at best one chance in five. If the British have not opened negotiations through a neutral by the end of the week then it is not going to happen. Germany must be prepared to continue the war. We have not won it yet but can do so by resolute action in the next hundred days. And this is the real reason I want you here at OKW."
Having expected to be rejected, Bauer was pleasantly surprised by what Tirpitz had just said. With cautious optimism he asked, "I am afraid you still have more than a little bit confused, Admiral. Why exactly is this other assignment you have in mind for me?"
Tirpitz looked hard at Bauer. It was now clear the admiral did not particularly like him, but regarded him as a useful instrument. Tirpitz tapped his lips pensively before stating, "I need someone to work closely with the industrialists. Someone who knows where the bodies are buried, if you will. I have been led to believe you are that person."
Once again Bauer smiled, "I would not put it in exactly those words, sir. But you are correct in that assumption. I have good familiarity with the industrialists and would be most effective in working with them."
Tirpitz’s expression softened slightly, "Hmm, can you briefly describe what is on their minds at this time."
Bauer thought that over, "They are unhappy the French and Belgian steel and coal firms were reactivated. They view those firms as competitors."
"We needed the steel. This will help us win the war and then we can annex most of their mines. Your friends need to see the big picture. Is there anything else?"
"Uh, um, well ah, basically they are worried—very worried."
"Worried about what? The war? While it is dangerous to assume we have already won it, clearly we are in a favorable situation."
"It is not the possibility of defeat that worries them. What has them worried is peace."
Tirpitz tapped his lips again. What Bauer was saying did not strike him as outrageous, "Be less dramatic and more specific. What is their concern? Is it they have geared up for military purposes and it will take time to revert to commercial utilization."
Bauer nodded, "That is a large part of their concerns. There are others dealing with demobilization and the unemployment it is expected to bring."
"Why so? It should provide them with cheap labor."
"That is true, but the downside is that those workers without employment will be unable to purchase goods. Also widespread unemployment will cause unrest and strengthen the Socialist menace."
"Hmm. I see you have a good grasp of political economics. As far as the cessation of military purchasing, that applies more to your service than mine. This war will certainly result in another phase of intense naval shipbuilding. With the decisive victory we have attained at sea my policies are thoroughly vindicated. Only a handful of the most extreme Socialists will dare to oppose our next wave of warship construction."
Bauer nodded enthusiastically, "There are many Army officers who do not want to accept that fact. But I am a realist, and wholeheartedly agree with your logic. It is precisely the long term implications that will make the industrialists see that their interests lie with serving the navy."
"Good! As I said before this will be your primary role at OKW, ensuring that the High Seas Fleet is repaired as quickly as possible. However a delicate balance must be struck. While the navy is to get priority, I would not be so foolish as to suggest that the Army should be neglected."
"I understand. I am sure I can implement a satisfactory arrangement. Will I be reporting directly to yourself?" asked Bauer.
"No, I cannot afford to get too involved in the messy details. You will be reporting to Herr Rathenau."
Bauer’s jaw dropped. He blanched and gulped. "Is there something wrong, Oberst? Are you feeling well?" asked Tirpitz.
"Well, uh, let me, uh, come to the point, Grand Admiral. There are certain groups in our Empire whose loyalty is—"
Tirpitz arched an eyebrow then interrupted "—yes, yes, he is a Jew. That caused me some concern at first. However so far he has proven very competent. That is what is most important."
Bauer continued to grimace, "Let me make myself clear, Admiral. There are indeed clever Jews. There is no gainsaying that. On the contrary, the real problem is that there are way too many clever Jews. It is one thing to be clever. It is another to be trustworthy."
Tirpitz snorted derisively shaking his bald head, "Excellent point, my good man! You yourself are such a wonderful example. You are extremely clever men, Herr Bauer, but I for one do not trust you at all."
Bauer looked at Tirpitz and suddenly felt as if he was completely naked. He stammered incoherently for a few seconds then grew mute. He found it difficult to look directly at the admiral.
"Look, Bauer, there is the door. If you feel offended by what I am saying, you can get up now and walk right through it. You can go crawling back to Falkenhayn and tell him you decline to take on this additional duty. It will not be held against you. My agreement with him was that this was to be your decision."
Bauer turned towards the door. Part of him very much wanted to get and walk through it. Anything to get away from this nasty little devil with the forked beard. This impulse collided with Bauer’s near infinite ambition. He came to this office seeking Power. He knew that he had found it. Ambition proved stronger than fear. He gathered his courage and asked, "What if I remain, Admiral?"
Tirpitz got up from desk and strode over to where Bauer was sitting. He leaned over and stared straight into Bauer’s face, "You will work for me. I will try to keep you away from the Fedlmarschal. If he does learn we will tell him it’s only a temporary additional duty. On occasion you will work with General von François even though you are friends with his enemy, Ludendorff. You will work with the utmost enthusiasm with Herr Rathenau, even though he is a filthy Jew. You will see to it that the industrialists deliver what I need. Then we can win this war and plot together how best to rule Germany in the aftermath. If you remain that is what I require of you. Is this clear?"
"Very clear, sir"
"And what is your decision? Do not ask for time to think it over. Stay or go. You will decide now."
Bauer licked his lips nervously. Sweat beaded on his forehead. He continued to be in agitated mix of excitement and fear. The excitement won, "I will stay, Admiral. I am proud to serve you."
Tirpitz tapped a forefinger in the middle of the colonel’s forehead, "Good. Now, my good man, listen to this. I think of you as a silkworm. If you produce enough good silk I will see you are well provided with all the tasty leaves you want. If you do not produce, then you are merely a worm I can easily squash."
------Dublin 1210 hrs
After the meeting with Connolly Padraig Pearse had asked to see Eoin MacNeill, the leader of the Irish Volunteers. All he would say over the phone was that it was very important. MacNeill agreed to have lunch with Pearse at St. Enda’s.
"What is all so important, Patrick?" he demanded to know.
"Tom and I had a little talk with Mr. James Connolly Saturday," answered Pearse.
"And just what is that damn fool up to now?"
"He demands that there be a rising. He threatens to launch one with just the Citizen’s Army, if we do not."
MacNeill slammed his hand down on the table, "Blast that atheist bastard to the very hell which he dares to deny! What a complete loon that man is. Don’t we have enough problems without him threatening to pull some stunt that will bring the Unionists down on all of us. He may be just bluffing but we cannot take any chances. Do you when he plans to do this?"
"He insists that there must be a rising no later than St. Patrick’s Day."
"He insists, now does he? Well I am just going to have to pay him a visit and straighten him out."
"It would be helpful if he could hear from yourself that a rising will indeed happen."
MacNeill scowled and looked hard at Pearse, "Is this what this is all about? Is this just a ploy by Tom and yourself to get me to commit to a rebellion?"
"I don’t deny that I favor a rising—as does Tom and some others. But if what you are implying is that this is that Tom and I instigated this threat by Connolly to manipulate you, then you are wrong—wrong and completely unfair. You have my word on that."
MacNeill sighed deeply, "Let me make this as simple as possible, Patrick. Even though our movement is growing rapidly in numbers it is not growing in terms of weaponry. Devoy has tried mightily to get us weapons from America but President Wilson has taken measures to prevent that. So if a rising is going to have any chance of success we need a large shipment of arms from the Germans. Plunkett is in Germany working with Casement to get us those weapons. If and when they succeed in getting us those arms –and they have to be substantial—then I will consider ordering a rising. But not before then, you hear?"
Pearse nodded biting his lower lip. He saw Connolly and MacNeill as being opposite extremes. The former wanted a rising at any cost without any real hope of success. MacNeill on the other hand was being too pessimistic. Even with Bonar Law as prime minister, he was refusing to make any real commitment to a rising.
-------Imperial Palace Berlin 1930 hrs
Kaiser Wilhelm had invited Admirals von Ingenohl, Graf von Spee and von Hipper to dine with him. "Admiral Graf von Spee, I must warn you now that I am extremely curious about many aspects of your great odyssey. But there is one question above all else is that I must ask. When you arrived in the Norwegian Sea, did you have even the slightest doubt that the High Seas Fleet would succor you home?"
The Kaiser addressed Spee but he also turned an adoring smile at Admiral Ingenohl. Hipper was out of his monarch’s vision and rolled his eyes in disgust. He wanted so very much to tell the Kaiser how Ingenohl had resisted undertaking the sortie, and had been on the verge of abandoning Spee. He did not dare speak this to the All-Highest. But he did manage to take Admiral von Spee aside and enlighten him.
Spee was not as outraged as Hipper had expected. Since returning to Germany Spee had been more than little numb though he certainly was glad to have made it home. He had been certain that he was going to perish at the Battle of Utsire. Spee understood that the High Seas Fleet was taking a risk to escort him home. Despite the heartbreaking loss of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, Germany had managed to win a great victory. Spee saw only the mysterious Hand of God in all of this. He thanked Hipper once more for his heroism but backed away from sharing in Hipper’s rancor towards Ingenohl. Spee wished only to give thanks not to judge.
Since returning to Germany Spee was startled to see how much the country had changed. But there were some things that had remained the same—such as the intrigue that went on in the Army and still more in the Navy. It had merely intensified a notch or two. Tirpitz was still Tirpitz. He had been coached along with the others but he decided to speak from his soul, "In war there is always doubt, Your Majesty. Always the nagging fear that this day will be your last. It makes one thankful to the Almighty for each breath."
Kaiser Wilhelm smiled but he also sighed. Admiral von Spee was being too devout for the occasion. There was a time and place for religion but this was not it. At least the admiral was not invoking the Virgin Mary. Wilhelm looked at all his guests but concentrated on Ingenohl. He raised his goblet and proclaimed, "My dear admirals, what we have accomplished is unprecedented. When I assumed the throne the German Empire was merely a land power. All our poor navy could hope to do was exert some control over the Baltic. And many a voice tried to counsel me into accepting the continuation of that sad state of affairs as Germany’s inevitable lot. But I would not! I could not! It was intolerable that our great Empire be denied its proper place in the world due to an inadequate fleet. So I approached Grand Admiral von Tirpitz with a plan. By diligently following my instructions we have achieved our great success."
Tirpitz and Bachmann had spent a great deal of time over the weekend preparing the 3 admirals for this occasion. One thing they repeatedly warned them about was contradicting the monarch—esp. when he was being fatuous. "You are quite right, Your Majesty. You demonstrated a keen foresight in this matter," responded Ingenohl, using a phrase suggested by Tirpitz.
Ingenohl still found it difficult to meet the monarch’s rapt gaze. Wilhelm reminded him of an 8 year boy with a new puppy—and Ingenohl was the pet. It was very disconcerting.
Spee, who was seated to Ingenohl’s left, now nudged him with his elbow. Ingenohl turned to his left. Spee glanced at him making a look with eyes that said, ‘Go ahead." Thus reminded Ingenohl now remembered something. He cleared his throat and muttered, "Ergh, ah, I must hasten to point out, Your Majesty, well uh--that OKW and Feldmarschal von Moltke proved to be a vital element in our great victory."
Kaiser Wilhelm was taken by surprise. Moltke was not high on his list of topics for the evening. After some thought Wilhelm replied, "Oh, yes, he was of some usefulness in getting your warships fixed promptly after Dogger Bank. Creating OKW was another of my great inspirations."
"It certainly was, Your Majesty," answered Ingenohl with largely feigned enthusiasm, "But if you will permit, might I be so bold as to suggest that the authority of OKW should be increased still further."
"Uh, well to be frank my dear Admiral, I fail to see the why. The war is essentially won. My cousin will swallow his damnable pride and come begging to me, at long last giving me the respect I deserve! I know it!"
"I agree wholeheartedly in Your Majesty’s assessment," answered Ingenohl with complete sincerity. He also thought the war was over—at least for the British. But Tirpitz had another intuition. He had drilled Ingenohl on how to deflect the Kaiser and with less sincerity Ingenohl continued, "But it is for that very reason it is best that OKW be enhanced. Von Moltke will take care of the strategy to complete the defeat France and Russia—akin to the end game in chess--leaving Your Majesty free to concentrate on the daunting diplomatic details of the ensuing peace."
Wilhelm furrowed his brow. Finally he commented, "You know, Grand Admiral, there may well be something to what you say. In the last few days I have come to realize that the negotiations, which shall conclude our glorious triumph in this war will not be as simple as I first imagined. Already I find myself arguing heatedly with my own chancellor! In some ways it will more taxing than the war itself and it will all fall on my poor shoulders. Never for an instant think that the life of a sovereign is an easy one. Most difficult of all is to be the sovereign of the world’s greatest nation!"
Ingenohl knew there was more he should be saying. Some of the points Tirpitz and Bachmann had made were now eluding him. In desperation he looked at Hipper for assistance, who returned Ingeohl’s gaze with a sour almost contemptuous look. Unlike Ingenohl Hipper had enthusiastically concurred with Tirpitz’s logic. After a deep sigh Hipper said, "Well said, Your Majesty. To further clarify the Grand Admiral’s sound thinking, there are several delicate problems relating to the economy both in the final phase of the war and the ensuing peace and demobilization that need to be worked out. In the last two months the staff of OKW has become uniquely adept at dealing with issues. Not only did they permit the High Seas Fleet to be repaired speedily after Dogger Bank, but Feldmarschal von Moltke has also efficiently handled the vexing grain situation."
Kaiser Wilhelm scratched his chin pensively with his good hand. When he made his reply he looked at Ingenohl not Hipper, "Well then, this is something I need to take up with the Bundesrat."
Ingenohl said nothing until Spee nudged him again, "Uh, hmmm, I know there are limitless demands on your time, Your Majesty, but prompt action on this matter would be greatly appreciated."
Kaiser Wilhelm sighed while gazing upon Ingenohl with rapt adoration, "For the German Nelson, I shall move quicker than lightning!"
"For that we are deeply grateful, Your Majesty."
"Bah, think nothing of it, Friedrich. You know, I very much like the manner with which you stated your case just then. It demonstrates yet another talent of yours I never suspected. When this war is finally over you should seriously consider entering politics—"
A gagging sound diverted Kaiser Wilhelm’s attention, "Admiral von Hipper, is something wrong?"
"Ugh, uh, some wine went down the wrong pipe, Your Majesty, that is all."
------Aubreville France 0945 hrs Tuesday, March 2, 1915
The Germans had reached the outskirts of the town, having captured the French artillery trenches. They had advanced little beyond the trenches but machinegun fire pinned them down in most places, forcing them to take cover wherever they could. A wave of French infantry swarmed out of the building clustered around the train station to counterattack. The Germans had not yet moved any barbed wire forward but they had a few machine guns ready and waiting. More than half the Frenchmen were mowed down but the rest managed to close with the enemy and fierce hand to hand combat resulted.
The local French superiority of numbers pushed the Germans back to the trenches. That is until German reinforcements arrived after which the battle was nip and tuck for a while. Eventually the French attack retreated back into the town. The Germans made little effort to pursue but concentrated on extending their trenches. Barbed wire reached them in the afternoon.
------Glen Cove, NY 1405 hrs (GMT)
Henry Physick, the butler, answered the doorbell. When he opened the door he immediately recognized the British ambassador, Sir Cecil Spring-Rice. The ambassador was a frequent visitor at the estate, often accompanied by his wife. This time his wife was not with him. Instead there was a man in a military uniform. He was definitely not an American uniform, though Physick had a good hunch he was a British officer, probably naval.
"Good day, Henry," said Spring-Rice, who then gestured towards the officer, "This here is Captain Guy Gaunt, the British naval attaché. Your master is expecting us."
Physick admitted both of them, taking their coats. He brought them to the breakfast room where his master had just finished eating.
"Mr. Morgan, sir, Ambassador Spring-Rice and a Captain Gaunt are here to see you."
Physick was sure this was more than an ordinary social visit. He was told they would be offered refreshments after they had time to talk. The ambassador’s attitude was agitated though formally polite. His master told him to leave the room and close the doors. They were not to be disturbed.
Morgan had met Capt. Gaunt on twice before so Spring-Rice did not make an introduction. When the butler left, JP Morgan asked, "Have you heard anything more from your cousin, Cecil. Is she still being courted by Lord Curzon?"
"I received a letter from her father Thursday. He says they are still seeing each other. He is unclear and more than a little concerned about the Viceroy’s intenstions."
"I would think so. As I understand it George Curzon has something of a reputation with the ladies. I certainly hope he doesn’t ruin hers."
The ambassador was in no mood for small talk, "I hope so, too. Listen, JP, I am sure you did not say it was urgent to see me because you feared for my cousin’s virtue."
The banker frowned and scratched his head, "You are quite right, Cecil. There is something else. The long and short of it is that due to certain unfortunate recent events, it has become more difficult to secure credit for your government."
Gaunt spoke up, "When you say ‘recent events’, I take it you are referring to the Battle of Utsire, Mr. Morgan?"
Morgan nodded, "Yup, I certainly am, Captain. That damn sea battle has everyone spooked over here. Many people—including some who should know better-- think the beastly Germans are going to march into Buckingham Palace any day now."
"Even with the recent setback, a invasion of England would be most difficult to pull off," declared Gaunt.
"Does’ most difficult’ mean utterly impossible?" asked Morgan.
Gaunt pursed his lips and hesitated. Finally he said, "I would like so very much to say that it is impossible. But as I am posted here I have only been provided a broad overview of the situation. I am not privy to the details and therefore cannot render a definitive judgment."
Gaunt’s response did not reassure JP Morgan. Spring-Rice interjected, "I have been in contact with the new government. They firmly believe that there is some risk but not immediately. If the Germans dare to invade it will be in a month or two. So if your question is whether there is a genuine risk, I must answer in the affirmative, even though it makes my blood boil to think about it. But the sole saving grace in this calamity is that we have some time. Which is why it is essential that we be able to buy as much as possible in the time we have remaining."
"Right now most of my fellow bankers have become averse to extending any more credit. I had hoped this skittishness would dissipate after a few days, which is why I waited until yesterday to get in touch. Last week I was forced to assume most of the exposure myself. And the mood is persisting."
Spring-Rice’s voice rose in pitch, "And so? Are you trying to tell us our credit is exhausted? Is it the damn Jews behind this? They appear to have their lot with the Kaiser."
Morgan grimaced awkwardly, "I would not go so far as to say exhausted. But with rumors afoot that your great Empire might be leaving the war—"
"--the PM’s speech Saturday should have dispelled those silly rumors. I can state with beatific satisfaction that I have received unambiguous communication from London to the effect that the new government has no intention of abandoning its allies. In peacetime I would likely be most critical of Mr. Bonar Law but in these trying times I feel confident he has determination we need most of all."
"Hmm. There are some in America who see him as merely posturing. The rumors of a separate peace have not been laid to rest. It is another complication to this situation."
"His Majesty’s government is resolute! There is no substitute for victory. It is precisely for this reason we need more materials from the United States. That is why the credit situation is so essential right now."
"It is going to be tight for a while, Cecil. All those preemptive purchases of metals your government made to keep Spee from getting them—which were only partially successful as we know he was able to buy a hefty amount of copper—stretched your credit."
Spring-Rice’s face reddened, "How dare you criticize our strategy! You Yanks indolently and irresponsibly sit out this sacred war to save civilization and you have the brazen temerity to critic—"
Gaunt moved close Spring-Rice and laid a hand on his shoulder, "--Ambassador, Mr. Morgan is not without some basis in his conjecture. I strongly suggest we not argue about water under the bridge. The more pressing question is what can be done in the immediate future."
Morgan nodded gratefully to Gaunt, "Well said, Captain. I am going to speak with as many as I can this week to reassure them. That will include some individuals I usually regard with antipathy. Meanwhile Col. House will do everything he can to influence the President Wilson to help. The Treasury Department should be—"
"—these measures all sound like they will take some time. The Chancellor cabled me yesterday that there are shipments he wants expedited. Surely as a stopgap measure we can count of your own assets to cover the situation."
Morgan pursed his lips and made a brief artificial; cough, "Ahem, you see, Cecil, there are limits you need to take into consideration. I am already taking on a level of risk that exceed sound business practice---"
"—Sound business practice? Level of RISK!!!" yelled an irate Spring-Rice, "the bosom of civilization lies bare to the barbarian’s blade. The breast that once nurtured these young lands with the milk of spiritual and cultural sustenance! Oh ungrateful child to speak to us with a miser’s tongue—"
Gaunt tightened his grip on Spring-Rice’s shoulder, "Mr. Ambassador, please! Mr. Morgan here has already made heroic sacrifices to our just cause. It is we who should be expressing gratitude. We need to work constructively with him in handling this dilemma."
Durazzo Bay 0135 hrs Thursday March 4, 1915
It was a clear numbingly cold night. There was a bright moon out. Aided by its brilliance a pair of French minesweepers methodically continued their hunt for Austrian mines. They did not find many. The Austrians had laid a very small number of mines off Durazzo and a somewhat larger number off San Giovani de Medua. The convoy carrying supplies from Malta and the ANZAC Division from Alexandria had arrived late yesterday afternoon. An Austrian mine that slipped its mooring had been spotted before any ship had been struck. The British commander, Admiral Arthur Limpus decided to be safe and delaying the offloading while the French methodically swept the approach to the harbor.
The convoy had seen two Austrian seaplanes as they enetered Durazzo Bay. The planes banked to check out the fleet but made no attempt to bomb. The British and French destroyers screening the fleet spotted periscopes on two occasions but there were no attacks this time.
As the transports waited for the minesweeping to finish, the destroyers guarded against an Austrian night torpedo attack, though the bright moonlight made that unlikely. Now the lookouts on one of French destroyers spotted something and raised an alarm. It turned out to be a Croatian trawler. The French warships quickly boarded and seized the ship and its catch of bluefin tuna and broadbill swordfish.
Meanwhile further away in the Adriatic aboard the flagship FS Courbet, Admiral Augustin de Boue de Lapeyrere went over with the staff of the 1ere Armee Navale their plans in case the Austrian battle fleet arrived. Being deployed further to the south the French did not think the Austrian seaplanes had spotted them. Once again they hoped to use the convoy and Admiral Limpus’ predreadnoughts as bait to lure the Austrians.
------Admiralstab 0935 hrs
"The new antisubmarine weapon, the so called depth charge, has moved beyond the research and development phase," Admiral von Bachmann announced to Grand Admiral von Tirpitz, "The first production order for 50 of them was approved yesterday."
"This is good news. How soon can we expect delivery?"
"It is supposed to be within 30 days. However with all the complaints I have heard about resources being tight that is likely to prove optimistic."
"Hmm. You may have noticed I am spending most of my time lately at OKW. It is proving useful in handling bottlenecks. I want us to insist at least half the order is delivered on schedule. Someone I just hired at OKW should prove useful in this regard. I would suggest we place an order now for another 50—make that 60-- to be delivered before the end of April. How are you going to deploy the new weapon?"
"Nothing fancy, sir. The weapon will be dropped off the stern of torpedo boats using a rail, sir. As a start we will install such a rail with 3 depth charges on one torpedo boat in each half-flotilla assigned to the High Seas Fleet."
"Hmm. This installation can be combined with the repairs currently be carried out on more than half our torpedo boats."
"Yes, precisely. It makes things easier."
"The problem remains we still have no way to detect submarines underwater—except for the rare instance when they are visible in clear water. Until the repairs on the High Seas Fleet are complete, our need for airship reconnaissance is reduced. So let us assign one or two Zeppelins to work with the first flotilla we equip with this new weapon. The Zeppelin will try to spot British submarines patrolling near the Bight while they are on the surface. When one is spotted the airship will summon the flotilla by wireless. The enemy submarine will submerge once it sees the torpedo boats approach. One of the torpedo boats with depth charges will drop a pair near the spot where it submerged."
Tirpitz’s official role was still only advisory, so this was not an order. Bachmann usually did not oppose him though, and so he replied, "That is an excellent suggestion, sir, I will see to it immediately."
------Aubreville 0955 hrs
The French were making a determined effort to drive the Germans back from outskirts of the town. There had been an artillery bombardment by 75mm guns at the beginning of the attack. There was some confusion between the artillery batteries and the infantry regiments involved in the assault. The result was a large gap between the end of the shelling and the start of the infantry attack. This gave the Germans too much time to recover from the shelling. The German wire was thicker than the French expected, the Germans having brought up more the previous night. The shelling had merely bounced it around a bit.
Shrapnel from German 77mm shells thinned out the French swarm and then the machine guns opened up. Soon rifle fire added to the carnage. The French attack was a disaster. When it end a hastily German improvised German counterattack seized two strong points, bringing them still closer to the train station.
------Przemysl Fortress 1045 hrs
When General von François had been sacked as the commander of Center Army, Feldmarschalleutnant Artur Arz von Straussenburg remained in charge of the training program for the Hungarian Landsturm battalions at Przemysl, which used a mix of German and Austrian instructors. The new commander of Center Army, General von Linsingen was not opposed to the program but his zeal was considerably less than François’. and so he was less resolute in countering the repeated attempts of the Fortress Commander, General Kusmanek, to sharply reduce its scope of the programs and prevent the creation of Landsturm Division Przemysl. Arz believed more ardently in the project and saw it through. Division Przemysl had been created and used in the Bukovina campaign where its performance exceeded expectations in helping stop a Russian counterattack.
After that Kusmanek had argued in favor of ending the program. Arz instead lobbied for its continuation with a new batch of Landsturm battalions. Arz had wanted the program expanded, but Linsingen merely approved a continuation at the same level as before. To deflect the machinations of Kusmanek, Linsingen renounced any intention of forming the latest batch of trainees into another temporary division using artillery removed from the fortress.
The situation had stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy with the staff of the Austro-Hungarian Army. General Conrad’s assessment fluctuated between mild support and deep ambivalence. Then a personage of some importance took an unexpected interest in the program and volunteered to personally lead a small commission to look into the matter.
The recommendation was accepted. The commission had arrived late yesterday. Arz was now showing them the training sessions in progress. The leader of the commission was impressed with what he was seeing. He was a very young Oberst. His name was Karl Franz Josef von Habsburg-Lothringen.
"What was he like, sir?" the Erzherzog enthusiastically asked Arz, "General von François, I mean."
"He was a remarkable officer, Your Highness. I regard it as a privilege to have served under him.—even though it was for too brief a period."
"As you must be well aware, sir, he remains a controversial figure. Did you know that he disobeyed a direct order at Tannenberg.?"
"Yes, he told me. Actually he disobeyed two direct orders."
The heir to the throne gasped in astonishment, "Twice! I could scarcely believe once! Is there so little discipline in the German Army—contrary to their reputation?"
Arz shrugged, "It was a complex tactical situation, Your Highness. I do not pass judgment."
"Yes, as Our Lord told us, ‘Do not judge, for ye shall be shall judged.’ "
Arz nodded, though as he did, he found it hard not to pass judgment—not on his former commander but rather of his future monarch. The Erzherzog was enthusiastic and obviously bright but—dare he say it to himself—he seemed a bit naïve. Too sheltered in his upbringing and too outwardly pious in his Catholicism. There was potential in the man but Arz was glad he was not yet sitting on the throne. "General von François maintains his insubordination in both instances was crucial to the German victory. With the lull in the fighting I have had some time to do a bit of research. The admittedly sketchy details of the battle I have been able to acquire appear to substantiate the general’s claims, Your Highness."
Erzherzog Karl shook his head slightly, "So the ends justify the means, eh? I am never happy with that line of reasoning. It is too Jesuitical. Still I must confess that I am fascinated with this General von François. I too have done some research. His role in reversing the initiative when things looked grim back in November was critical. This great fortress might still be under siege—or even captured—but for his bold action. Too many of my fellow officers fail to appreciate that. Instead they gripe about him letting the Russian Eighth Army escape at Sambor."
Arz rolled his eyes and sighed. That again. "I was at Sambor, Your Highness. It was a victory for our great nation—even though we had hoped for more. The general’s enemies distort the facts to serve their ends."
"Enemies? Well it is very obvious that Hindenburg and still more his crass chief of staff, Ludendorff deeply disapprove of François. I have also been told our chief of staff, General Conrad had mixed opinions concerning him."
Arz wanted to make a direct response, but hesitated. There was some danger here. What he said to Karl would easily make its way back to Conrad, who would likely respond unfavorably to any criticism of himself esp. since the young prince was unlikely to properly prune, shade and nuance what he had heard. Cautiously he answered. "That is true. The Chief of Staff and General François had a stormy relationship. It had both ups and downs."
Karl moved closer to Arz. In a voice barely more than a whisper he said to Arz, "What I am about to say, stays here. Understood?"
Arz was surprised by this. Still cautious he answered, "Understood completely, Your Highness."
Karl moved still closer and whispered his Arz’s ear, "There are several things about Conrad I do not like. Did you know that he is an atheist? "
"I have heard that, Your Highness."
"How can the fate of our great Empire be entrusted to one who denies the very existence of God? And there are other things as well. It is a complicated topic but his reputation as a strategist is exaggerated in my estimation."
Once again Arz felt it prudent to censor his response, "Strategy is indeed a complicated matter, Your Highness."
Erzherzog Karl felt relieved at finally being able to express his troubled thoughts. He moved further away and spoke louder, "While I have some reservations about his character, there are many things about General von François that impress me. As you say he is a most remarkable man. I would like one day to meet him."
"God willing, you shall, Your Highness," answered Arz. While he was interested in the heir’s opinion of Conrad, this conversation had a significant element of political peril to make him uneasy. He was glad the talk had moved back to safer topics.
"I take it you have had no further communication with him since his departed?"
"On the contrary, I received a telegram from him just yesterday. He is very interested in this training program. He asked that I submit a report by messenger as to what we have learned about what is effective and what is not in a rapid training program for men with little prior training."
"Hmm. This is fascinating news. I do not think this is connected in any way with my mission here.. He must be planning to use a similar program to train Germans."
"Yes, Your Highness. That was my thoughts as well. What else could this possibly be for?"
------Rome 1405 hrs
A Liberal member of the parliament was speaking, "And why is this government so unconcerned with the British intrusion into Albania? Was this not a slap in the face? Is our government’s blithe insensitivity to insult indicative of something deeper or is it mere stupidity? I do not rule the latter but I fear it is the former. This government is intent on joining the Entente—but in light of the general direction of the war—and esp. the naval battle off Norway—one must wonder if this merely another form of stupidity?"
This was not the first time the British expedition to Albania was mentioned critically in the Italian Parliament. This time however, several Socialist members picked up the refrain that the government had turned a blind eye towards the situation in Albania because it was already committed to joining the Entente. The debate became more and more heated until the end of the day.
------Southwestern Front HQ 1545 hrs
"So everything is ready for tomorrow, Mikhail?" General Ivanov asked his chief of staff, General Alexeev.
Alexeev nodded but he also frowned, "Yes and no, sir. Since Monday our shipment of artillery shells has been cut by at least a third on account of this hastily planned offensive which Northwestern Front is now scheduled to launch Saturday."
"You always worry about artillery shells, Mikhail. Our gunners and their guns are much better than the Austrians. That should make up for the small stockpile of shells. That and cold steel in the belly!"
"It would be better if we postponed the attack one day, sir. Two divisions of Ninth Army are being force marched to the front. A delay would let them recuperate, familiarize themselves with the terrain and position their guns better."
"Eh, those divisions are scheduled to be used only in the exploitation not the initial assault. I told STAVKA we are attacking tomorrow morning. That is precisely what we are going to do. Our Third Army will make a limited attack on the Austrian Third Army. This intended merely to pin the Austrians there. Meanwhile General Brusilov will be making two attacks with Eighth Army —one against Second Army in order to pin it. His other attack will be one prong of our two prong attack on the Austrian Seventh Army with the other prong being Ninth Army. Did I forget something?"
After the Brusilov’s attack on Pflanzer-Baltin’s Seventh Army had petered out, Alexeev had suggested moving most of General Lechistski’s Ninth Army to the eastern portion of the Bukovina taking over the right flank of Eight Army which shifted a little to the west. Most of the largely Cossack units of Dniester Group came under Lechitski’s command. One of their objectives was to use Ninth Army as well as a portion of Eight Army to overwhelm the Austrian Seventh Army and drive it from the Bukovina. This is one objective STAVKA had assigned them. It was hoped this would rekindle the Transylvanian rebellion and deter Bulgaria from joining the Central Powers.
All too often you do forget something! thought Alexeev, who replied, "Your summary is complete, sir. Is it still your intention to have Eleventh Army attack Monday in a bid to encircle Przemysl once again?"
"Yes, I remain more optimistic about its prospects than yourself. The attack by Northwestern Front should be helpful—even though it drew off some of those precious artillery shells. This is because the damn Germans will have their hands full in Masuria and so will not be able to reinforce Conrad. Likewise that British expedition in Albania should be siphoning away a good portion of Conrad’s reserves."
Alexeev sighed inaudibly. He had favored not strengthening Eleventh Army as much as they had –it now had 9 infantry and 2 cavalry divisions plus some heavy artillery—and concentrate first on defeating the largely Hungarian Seventh Army in the Bukovina and only after that had been accomplished go after Przemysl. In addition to the shortage of shells the shortage of rifles continued to worsen. Many of the replacement troops reaching the front had minimal training—some none whatsoever. Alexeev had done his duty and respectfully stated his professional opinion several times in the last 3 days. Ivanov chose otherwise.
------10 Downing St 0940 hrs Friday March 5, 1915
Carson was little bit late for the meeting of the War Committee. "David, here tells me that Henderson is probably going to resign," Prime Minister Bonar Law informed him as he was getting seated.
"I am neither surprised nor disheartened by this news," answered the First Lord, "He has been threatening to do so ever since we took over."
"He has agreed to meet with me for lunch where I will attempt my very best to dissuade him," said Lloyd-George.
"You can usually charm the birds right out of the trees, David, but this time I won’t hold it against you if you failed," declared Carson, "this country has problems enough without having to placate Socialists in the government. Don’t you agree, Andrew?"
"Hmm. His Majesty has stated that it is best if they have a presence in our Coalition. He’s worried more people will start listening to that despicable traitor MacDonald if Labour does not participate. So for that reason I feel compelled to encourage David to make every effort, but I must confess I will shed no tears if he fails. But that’s enough about pathetic Henderson. We have more important things to discuss this morning."
"Starting with most important of all. What are we going to propose to Parliament in the way of new naval construction? What are your recommendations, First Lord?" said the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
"I have put a lot of time into considering this subject the last 3 days. I have gone over this with the admirals and believe I have come to a conclusion. The two of you will be shocked to hear it but I think a good case can be made for not ordering any new capital ships at this time," announced Carson.
"What?!" yelled Bonar Law, "I certainly am shocked. Our navy is reeling from the two worst defeats it has ever suffered and you see no reason to start building new warships?"
"How did you reach this interesting conclusion, Edward?" asked Lloyd-George in a more restrained voice than the prime minister.
"Yes, I know it sounds irrational, but what is critical at this point is to complete those ships already begun as quickly as possible—not to lay down additional warships. Once the Queen Elizabeth and Royal Sovereign classes are completed there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that we will have complete control of the seas. The German program is completely inadequate to counter them. So the money spent for new construction would be better spent on equipping our New Army divisions. Once we have firm control of the seas then we will need to concentrate on winning the war in the trenches."
Bonar Law looked unconvinced. As he played with his moustache Lloyd-George commented, "I agree with your military logic, Sir Edward, but surely you must see that the primary consideration remains political. As we both are well aware, there is a great concern amongst our citizens about a German invasion—"
"—that’s an understatement, David. It currently borders on outright panic," interrupted the prime minister.
"Yes, that pretty much sums it up, Andrew. Now Edward, I have heard you argue most persuasively that an invasion is bloody unlikely before May and will damned difficult for the Germans to pull off even then. The problem, however, is that we have already told Commons that we would be presenting our proposals for new warship construction next Tuesday. If we show up and tell them that everything is already taken care of and not to worry—well the uproar it would be too much. Northcliffe for one would eat us alive."
"David’s reasoning is spot on, Edward. Declining to order new construction is simply not an option at this time."
Carson sighed and mulled this over. Finally he answered, "Well, I did not say I wanted no new construction. What I meant is no new capital ship construction. Additional destroyers, submarines and other light ships that can be completed quickly make eminent good sense. It was additional capital ships that I wished to postpone until after the war."
Bonar Law shook his head, "I cannot concur with you on this. Dreadnought battleships are what everyone thinks about when they talk about naval power. If we order merely destroyers and submarines there will be pandemonium on the floor of Commons. And I strongly suspect His Majesty will be sorely upset as well."
"Hmm. Point well taken. Well how about this, then? We are down to two commissioned battle cruisers Now I maintain the Germans lost at least one of their own battle cruisers at Ustire, but even if they did we still find ourselves short in that important category. So let us lay down a third sister ship in the battle cruiser class Fisher had requested after Dogger Bank. Mind you there are many in the Admiralty who are less than thrilled with that design. In light of the recent battle, it now appears that ‘Speed is not Armor’ after all."
"Understood. Some modifications can be made before these ships are completed. But a single additional battle cruiser will not be enough to reassure the public. I say we ask for two more Royal Sovereign class battleships, " recommended Lloyd-George.
"Hmm. I must hasten to mention that there are those in the Admiralty who would like to see some alterations to those designs as well. For one thing, torpedoes proved very damaging to the Grand Fleet at Utsire and let’s not forget that a single mine is believed to have sunk Audacious. Many admirals feel that protective bulges should be installed on all of the Royal Sovereign class."
"Won’t this delay their completion?" asked Bonar Law.
"Hmm. Well, yes, but hopefully by only a few days."
"Is commissioning the only thing being slowed by these bulges?" asked Lloyd-George, "won’t the ships themselves be reduced in speed?"
"Yes, but it is felt that this loss in speed will amount to a single knot at most."
"I will trust you and the admirals will make the right decision about these bulges. As far as the authorization we will seek from Parliament I am inclined to agree with David’s suggestion. The Empire can never have too many battleships."
------Scutari 1030 hrs
General Birdwood held a conference with his divisional commanders—General Alderson, General Bridges and now General Alexander Godley, commander of the newly arrived New Zealand and Australian Division. "How are the horses doing? Have they found their legs after their voyage?" Birdwood asked Godley, "I am particularly interested in the riding horses as you have nearly all of my cavalry."
"The New Zealand Mounted Rifles came ashore yesterday morning and that unit can saddle up right now if need be. The Australian Light Horse did not offload until after dark and their mounts are still a bit wobbly. I recommend holding off on mounting them until tomorrow. As far as the draught horses most of them are ready to do their bit but I would not push them too far on their first day."
"And the locals are supplying fodder?"
"Yes, they have. Is there a good reason I should be concerned, sir?""
Birdwood frowned slightly as he answered, "Well, yes I’m afraid there is. You see, the Albanians have not been as enthusiastic about our presence than I had been led to expect before we landed. Some of them are very supportive but the majority are decidedly blasé and there is great deal of corruption and incompetence in what passes for a government in Albania. There are also a few Albanians who are definitely hostile. There have been 3 sniping incidents and a stabbing to date with one of our men killed and another 3 men badly wounded. There has also been some acts of petty sabotage—communication wires being cut, that sort of thing. And that’s not counting the acts of thievery."
"I will tell my chaps to make sure they keep their eyes peeled. Stringent security measures will be implemented."
"In that connection, one of the roles I have for your division will be to take over guarding the line of communication. You will need to detach one battalion to relieve the Australian battalion at Durazzo and another to relieve the Canadians in the north. Also assign a squadron to patrol the countryside."
"I will see to it right away, sir."
"When the rest of your division gets to Montenegro, you will find that the natives are much more friendly."
"But even up here thievery is a problem," groused Bridges.
"That is good to know, sir. I am still a bit unclear about where my the bulk of my division is headed.," said Godley.
"Yes, I was more than a little bit vague, yesterday. Truth be told, I hadn’t reached a bloody decision until well after midnight. As you know we tried to take Cattaro by coup de main and came up short. Since then we have been struggling to find the best strategy. In the last we days the Canadians and Australians have been conducting aggressive patrols near Mount Lovcen. There has been some skirmishing with the enemy. Our boys need to get the hang of this mountain fighting business. Very tricky stuff mind you and our enemy is much more familiar with the local terrain than we are."
"Pardon me, sir, but my understanding was that the Montenegrins would compensate for that problem," interrupted Godley.
"Hmm. That supposition has turned out to be something of a half-truth. They have been very helpful when they can but making it work has been vexing for all."
"Extremely few of them can speak English, for one thing," volunteered Alderson.
"Hmm, most unfortunate. I can see where that would present some difficulty."
"There are others as well," continued Birdwood, "It turns out this is not the best time of year to attack in the mountains. A few days ago there was a snowfall. The next day it warmed up and some of it melted. Then the temperature plummeted and there is ice everywhere. We have taken more casualties from men slipping and falling than from enemy action since then."
"Yes, I can see where that would cause immense trouble. What then is your conclusion, sir?"
Alderson and Bridges were in the dark as well, so they both leaned forward in anticipation.
"I received a wireless message from Lord Kitchener yesterday that we need to do something conspicuous as soon as possible. The Russians are going back on the offensive today and if we can do something quickly to draw off some of the Austrian reserves it will help them immensely. Concentrating on that simplified things. We don’t have enough time to turn our men into experts at mountain warfare. To the north the local mountains drop down to a plateau. The so called roads there are marginal best but I think we can burst through into Hercegovina there and that will get their attention. With some luck your cavalry can raid deep into the enemy’s rear areas."
"I think that is a wise choice, sir," commented Alderson.
"I concur as well," said Bridges.
Suddenly Birdwood cuffed his own forehead, "Sweet heaven! There was something extremely important in Kitchener’s message I haven’t shared with any of you as yet. The Frenchies will be joining us soon. A whole division and maybe more later."
------Addis Ababa 1210 hrs
A group of Shoan nobles had assembled. "I have word from reliable agents that Ras Mikael has raised an army of Oromo. They are marching now on the capital," announced one of them.
There was excited murmuring amongst the nobles. Another spoke up, "Iyasu has left the city! He is probably gone to join with his father."
"Together they will lead the army into the city."
"How soon can they get here?"
"Their vanguard should be here before sundown tomorrow. The main body can make it here before noon on Sunday" More excited murmuring.
"Can we stop them? The palace guards?"
"No. The guards are too few in number—"
"—and some of them are loyal to Iyasu!"
"Can we get help in time?"
"No. It will take a week to gather enough men." Still more murmuring, a notch more agitated.
"We must flee the city tonight! We must go to Zauditu! She will lead us."
"No We should rally around Ras Tafari not Zauditu!"
"Why is Iyasu doing this? Can it be that the rumor is true!"
"Yes, yes! He must have converted to Islam. This is the only way to prevent us from deposing him."
"The Ottomans have poisoned his mind!"
"Yes the insidious Ottomans and their German friends!"
"In that case we must turn to the British and French for help."
"What we have feared since the great Menelik sickened and died has come to pass. God have mercy on our country!"
------GQG Chantilly 2105 hrs
General Joffre had never liked the commander of the French Third Army, General Maurice Sarrail. There were very few senior officers in the French Army who identified with the Socialists. General Sarrail did and made sure it was very widely known. He was the hero of French Socialists. Joffre had during the German offensive at the beginning of the war given Sarrail command of the Third Army. At one point Joffre had been ready to abandon Verdun but Sarrail had talked him out of it. Sarrail’s performance in countering the German attempt to encircle Third Army during the Battle of Revigny had seemed fairly competent.
But Sarrail’s handling of the Third Army’s flank in the Argonne Forest was not satisfactory General von Mudra always seemed to have the upper hand in the Argonne. The reports of yesterday’s disastrous counterattack at Aubreville angered the usually imperturbable Joffre. The Germans were now disrupting the direct communications between Paris and Verdun. The slow but steady German advance in the Argonne was a threat to the right flank of any further French efforts in Champagne.
Joffre was now convinced Sarrail was incompetent after all. He would not do anything this night—he did not want this matter disturbing his sleep. But tomorrow he would review suitable replacements and make the change.