by Tom B
IRISH SOCIALIST PLOT FOILED!
The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, George Curzon, has announced the arrest of 3 Irish radical socialists, who were plotting to launch an armed insurrection against His Majesty’s Government. The ring leader of this treasonous plot is an infamous Socialist demagogue, James Connolly, who has in the past months has publicly expressed seditious sympathy for Germans. Lord Curzon has not yet released the names of the other two leaders and said that the investigation into this plot is on going. A curfew had been imposed on Dublin. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, Augustine Birrell, is currently morning the death of his wife, which occurred last Wednesday and is refusing to make any public statements.
-----Daily Mail Monday March 15, 1915
------German Eighth Army HQ 0040 hrs
General von Below hated the direct telephone line to Ober Ost.
"You need to take more vigorous action against the Russian flanks! Have you given up on encircling the Russians?" Ludendorff’s voice bellowed over the line.
Below sighed. Wednesday and Thursday Ludendorff was been in a state of near panic. Once it became clear late Friday that the Germans had seized the initiative he swung the other way and began fantasizing about encircling and destroying the Russian Twelfth Army. Below cautiously answered "The situation was never favorable for an encirclement. The enemy’s left flank was secure. We were having some success against his right flank but it is now clear that the Russian commander succeeded in reforming it yesterday. Furthermore as the Russians retreat the flanks are shortened. Are you in communication with Max? He should support what I say."
"Unfortunately Max is still in Berlin with that fool Moltke and his pet weasel, Francois. We are keeping him abreast of the situation by frequent telegrams."
"I would be interested in his opinion. In the meantime my thoughts as that we should let Twelfth Army continue its retreat and deal with the Russian Tenth Army. Our air patrols have observed signs of an ominous concentration against my weak left flank. I have made it clear that my forces are now too weak to hold against an attack there."
Ludendorff took his time answering, "I will be frank, Otto. I am sorely disappointed. I think you missed an opportunity to encircle and destroy Twelfth Army—just as we did at Masurian Lakes, Lodz and Sambor."
Below sighed. A few days ago Ludendorff was in a panic. Since then Below had seized the initiative, driven the enemy back, taken over 12,000 prisoners and 28 guns with the German casualties being less than 8,000 men. And for this what is my thanks? Complaints based in unrealistic fantasies. "The circumstances of this war make a successful double envelopment of anything larger than a division much more difficult to accomplish than it was in the previous century."
"Some generals have taken to saying that. I do not agree! Have you forgotten Tannenberg?" yelled Ludendorff.
"I remember Tannenberg well, Erich. I certainly do not recall it being easy. We cannot rely on our enemies always being as stupid as Samsonov."
"Bah! Sometimes I wonder if I am the only senior officer in our Army with any balls," Ludendorff paused for a fewer seconds then continued in a less agitated voice," So, what do you propose to do about the Russian Tenth Army?"
"As we speak 3 divisions are working their way through Johannisburg Forest into the Feste Boyen and from there to attack the left flank of the Russian Tenth Army early tomorrow morning. These divisions are very familiar with that area and can move through the forest quicker than the Russians would expect. If we can achieve even moderate success against their left flank the commander of Tenth Army will almost certainly postpone the planned attack with his right wing." The Feste Boyen was a German fortified in the Masurian Lakes district. It had proven very useful to the Germans during the battle fought there back in September.
"So is merely an excessively strong diversion," objected Ludendorff.
"I prefer to think of it as a spoiling attack. One of the things that causing trouble is delivery of shells is less than expected. So are replacement levies though they are less critical at this moment."
"I know, I know! The root of the problem is that damn OKW! It has made repairing the High Seas Fleet its highest priority and we are suffering for it. I do not see why it is so important to repair the fleet so quickly. It is a travesty I tell you. The feldmarschal needs to do something about it and do it quickly."
------Berlin 0800 hrs
A group of 10 leutnants had been selected by OKW and brought to a special facility in Berlin. The men selected had been chosen on the basis of demonstrating remarkable initiative and intelligence. They had been asked beforehand if they were willing to volunteer for an unusual assignment—no details provided--which carried great potential risk. Only now were they given some idea of what the nature of their mission would be.
They were surprised when General Hermann von François arrived to address them. He was accompanied by 3 men. Two of them were German officers—a Hauptmann and a Major. The other man was small and sickly looking. He appeared to be having trouble understanding what the general was saying. He wore a uniform none of them had ever seen before. It was green but a shade that was definitely not feldgrau. Over the right breast of the tunic there was a strange golden symbol.
The general quickly got to the point, "A mission is being planned by OKW. It is called Operation Unicorn and has not yet officially been approved, but if it is you will be responsible for rapidly training and leading forces of friendly irregulars. You will given a temporary promotion to the rank of major and will either lead a battalion. Last Friday a group of 28 specially selected NCO’s arrived here. Some of them will given a temporary rank of Oberleutnant and will be assigned to command companies. The others are to become training instructors. An additional 20 NCO’s will arrive here in the next 2 days. If Operation Unicorn is approved additional officers and NCO’s will be assigned to this section but you will be the first to see action."
The selected men stared at each other in wonder. Inwardly they speculated about who they would possibly be leading—Poles perhaps?"
The general briefly turned his towards the sickly men in the strange uniform. "One thing that is essential in the next four weeks is that you become fluent in English," he said.
------SMS Prinz Eugen 0915 hrs (GMT)
Admiral Haus was intensely interested in the weather. Unlike the North Sea, the Adriatic usually had good visibility esp. in the southern portion. Today looked to have the weather he needed—good visibility, moderate winds out of the southwest and only partly cloudy.
Prinz Eugen was at the van of the battle line. It was followed closely by Tegetthoff and then Viribus Unitus. A 1,000 yards behind Viribus Unitus were the 3 Radeztsky class semidreadnoughts and then with an equally large gap there were the 3 Erzherzog Karl class predreadnoughts.
The torpedo boats formed a screen. The Sankt Georg was out 5nm ahead of Prinz Eugen with the 4 light cruisers another 5 nm ahead. Admiral Haus had another very important scouting asset as well.
------Mocha Yemen 0955 hrs
The Yemeni port of Mocha was world famous for its coffee. In recent years silting had restricted its use to small craft and Hodiedah to the north became the dominant Ottoman port in the area. The old cruisers and gunboats of the French and British that patrolled the Red Sea were usually more interested in what was going on at Hodiedah, and largely ignored Mocha. An Italian flagged trawler now chugged into Mocha’s harbor. The boat did indeed come from the Italian colony of Eritrea but the ship’s captain was always interested in sources of income other than fishing.
When the trawler docked the Captain sought out two officials. When he found them he told, "I saw the rocket burst off Obock. There was a second rocket about two hours later."
"What color was each rockets’ bursts?" asked the senior Ottoman official. .
"They were both green—sort of a yellowish green."
The official nodded and said, "You have done well." He then turned to his partner, "Pay our friend."
------FS Courbet 1050 hrs
Admiral Augustin Boue de Lapeyrere, commander of the 1ere Armee Navale put down his binoculars and ground his teeth. A large airship had approached and was now hovering around his fleet. He had never seen one before but was sure it was a Zeppelin.
The 1ere Armee Navale had on this outing Courbet, France, Paris, 5 Danton class Semidreadnoughts in the 1st Squadron , 7 predreadnoughts in the 2nd Squadron, 5 armored cruisers, 6 protected cruisers, 22 destroyers and 3 minesweepers. The number of destroyers was decidedly less than the admiral had wanted. The frequent sorties of the 1ere Armee Navale including the prior 2 convoys had made it necessary to pull some of the destroyers for maintenance.
------Vienna 1100 hrs
"I am here at your request, Your Majesty," Erzherzog Karl said to Kaiser Franz Josef von Hapsburg-Lothringen as he arrived.
"It is good that you are here, Karl. I need to reach a decision about something that could result in political repercussions that are still working themselves out when I am no longer here. These are things that you will need to deal with and I think it is only fair that I hear your opinion on these matters, though the responsibility for making this decision rests on my shoulders," answered the monarch whose reign seemed eternal.
"I am honored that you are taking me into your confidence, Your Majesty. I pray to God and all the Saints in Heaven that I might render you good counsel."
"I have heard this report you just produced---the one dealing with the training program that German general von François instituted at Przemysl is causing quite a stir."
"I expected one or two hornets, Your Majesty, but not an entire nest!" declared Karl with an earnest grin.
"A very apt analogy. Get used to being stung. It comes with this job. Uh, where was I? Oh, the letter. Late Saturday I received this most disturbing letter from General Sarkotic. He replaced General Potoriek as the military governor of Bosnia-Herzegovina back in December."
"Is this about the invasion of the British colonials into his jurisdiction, Your Majesty? If his concerns are purely military, it was highly inappropriate for him to be intruding on Your Majesty. He should be expressing his concerns to General Conrad, instead."
"The military problem there has some political dimensions, Karl. If they are as serious as he says, he is justified in bringing them to my attention."
"Forgive me, Your Majesty but I am not sure that I understand."
Kaiser Franz Josef had a valise lying on his lap. He now opened it and extracted a document. Partially rising from his chair, he leaned forward and slowly handed it to Karl, "Here it is. Read it for yourself. There are some matters of grave import I had hoped could wait until after this dreadful war is over. The general now tells me that we cannot wait that long. I am not sure. Take a few days to think this over and we can discuss this again. In the mean time tell no one—not even your wife—most of all not Count Tisza!"
------OKW 1205 hrs
General von François was meeting with Oberst Bauer, the artillery expert. "What is the status of the improved T-Shells?" asked the general.
"I contacted General von Mudra and discussed his recommendations. Some of them deal with tactics. The most important as far as the shell itself is to reduce the explosive charge so more of the tearing agent can be accommodated. .Of course this makes the charade that it does not violate the treaty because the chemical agent is secondary downright silly."
"Understood. The feldmarschal does not like this but he will accept it. Have you discussed these changes with the manufacturer? If we place the order this afternoon can we get 200 of these shells manufactured and delivered in 4 weeks?"
"I have made a preliminary inquiry. That is a lot to ask for with a new design in a short period in time. I will see what I can do. We will need to give some special incentives in the contract—"
"—Just do what needs to be done. Work everything out today. Tomorrow you and I are going on a trip."
"Oh, and where are we going, general?"
"To Eleventh Army HQ. A motorcar will be waiting to take us first thing in the morning."
When François had mentioned a trip Bauer initially thought he meant a quick jaunt to some nearby facility. This was all the way to the Eastern Front! "How long will we staying there?"
"I hope to leave after 3 days but you should plan on a week."
"An entire week! I will remind the general that I have duties to perform at OHL as well."
"Have no fear. General von Falkenhayn has already been notified. I persuaded him that a trip to the front should be good for you. Give you some relevant first hand experience about what goes on at an actual army HQ." The general did not trust Bauer and was being very parsimonious in what he told him now. When they were on the road together tomorrow he would fill him in on most—but not all—of the important details. Giving Bauer an important role to play in Operation Whisper ironically made it easier to prevent him from compromising that project or—still worse--Unicorn. .
------FS Guichen 1345 hrs
The French protected cruisers were deployed in a widely dispersed formation as the outer part of the screen for the battleships. After the sighting of the Zeppelin their primary worry was approaching U-Boats. In the last few minutes they had observed a large amount of smoke to the NNE. This was very strange. The British squadron and their transports were to the ENE. If the Austrians were coming to take the British bait they should be more to the east.
Lookouts now reported seeing 2 ships to the ENE. A wireless message was hurriedly sent to the flagship, Courbet.
------SMS Novaro 1358 hrs
Linienscchiffkapitan Horthy ordered to close within range of their 10cm guns. Now that they were within range he ordered them to fall back on the fleet.
------FS Courbet 1409 hrs
The reports from his cruisers were provoking sharply mixed emotions in Admiral de Lapeyrere. The positive emotion was elation that the Austrian Fleet was approaching. The negative emotions was this were not going as expected. The Austrians were not heading for the weak British task force set up as bait. No, instead they were heading straight for his own force. Furthermore they had the services of the accursed Zeppelin. They were deliberately heading for what should be an obviously superior force.
Lapeyrere had his dreadnoughts steaming at 20 knots to intercept. The semidreadnoughts were trying to make 19.5 knots. They were already falling a little behind. The 2nd Squadron with its predreadnoughts were falling way behind. Lapeyrere ordered them to make 17 knots, though he knew Suffren could make only slightly more than 16 knots.
------SMS Prinz Eugen 1425 hrs
It is time thought Admiral Haus. "Flags! Signal a 13 point turn to starboard by division."
When the signal flags were hoisted and acknowledged the 3 divisions began to turn simultaneously. The course would bring him to Cattaro in a little more than 5 hours. A concentration of 4 U-Boats—one of them the German U.20-- had been prepared. Part of Haus’ plan was to lead the French towards the submarine trap. The Viribus Unitus class dreadnoughts were much less beautiful in a turn as they were top heavy ships and leaned over alarmingly.
------FS Courbet 1431 hrs
Admiral de Lapeyrere had been trying to position 1ere Armee Navale to cross the Austrian ‘T’. Informed of the Austrian retreat he hesitated momentarily in ordering a pursuit. He realized that the Austrians were probably leading him towards U-Boats and possibly a minefield trap was well. Lapeyrere was not quite as worried as Jellicoe had been about a sub trap. The Jean Bart had taken relatively light damage from her torpedo—though that raised the uncomfortable question of why repairs were taking so long. The number of Austrian U-Boats were small and Lapeyrere decided it was an acceptable risk to take in order to destroy the enemy fleet. To reduce the submarine threat he would use his destroyers as a screen and not send them ahead to make a torpedo attack across the Austrian line of retreat. If he turned away now he did not think he could bear to meet with Papa Joffre when he returned to France.
The chase was on.
Lapeyrere wondered if he should involve the British squadron as well. He decided against it. Their predreadnoughts would never catch up in a chase. There was some possibility that the Austrian had detached a small force to make an end around attack the transports while Armee Navale chased the main body. The British squadron would be a safeguard against that possibility. The most important justification was that Lapeyrere wanted the glory of destroying the Austrian battle fleet to be completely French.
------SMS Prinz Eugen 1544 hrs
"Range is down to 19,000 yards, Admiral."
Admiral Haus had some reasons to be concerned. The French had closed somewhat faster than expected. The battle would reach the submarine ambush zone later than expected and the light torpedo boats coming out of Cattaro would take a while to rendezvous. "This squadron will commence firing. Each ship will target the corresponding ship in the enemy line. Also signal an increase in speed to 19 knots."
Soon after Admiral von Bachmann had replaced von Pohl as the head of the Admiralstab, the Kriegsmarine approached Admiral Haus with offers to help make the Imperial and Royal Navy more effective. At that time the Germans were looking for ways to diminish British strength in the North Sea. Their hope was that by making the Austrian Navy more formidable the British would be forced to increase their strength in Mediterranean. With the victory at Dogger Bank the Germans increased their efforts.
The most important German help was the provision of improved range finders. They also made some suggestions which Admiral Haus adopted. At the beginning of the war the magazines for the Austrian 12" turrets only carried 6 fully armor piercing shells per gun. After much arguing the Germans persuaded Haus to increase that to 15.
The Austrians were heading almost due north for Cattaro. The pursuing French were to the SSE. Visibility was good for both sides. Smoke blown from the trailing Austrian ships sometimes presented a problem for the ships ahead of them.
------FS Courbet 1545 hrs
"Admiral the Austrians appear to be opening fire!"
"What? What is the current range to the rear vessel?"
A brief pause and then the answer came, "17,200 yards"
"They are wasting their shells," said the Admiral, trying to convince himself. The French 12" guns had a maximum range of only 13,500 yards due to restricted elevation. "Signal the dreadnoughts to make 21 knots!" he ordered.
------FS France 1553 hrs
The Austrians score their first hit. The 12" semiAP shell struck the 7" battery armor and broke up. At their maximum speed the hulls of French dreadnoughts undulated awkwardly due to the 7" belt armor which extended all the way to their bow and stern.
------FS Courbet 1556 hrs
The flagship took its first hit. The 12" shell penetrated the 30mm upper deck and exploded immediately. It killed 2 sailors and started a modest fire. Meanwhile the stokers were working as hard as possible but could only make 20.75 knots.
------FS France 1558 hrs
An Austrian semiAP shell dove into the water and struck France at the lower edge of its belt. It burst in the wing compartment which it flooded. In several places water leaked into the forward port fire room.
------FS Paris 1605 hrs
The Austro-Hungarian fire was becoming more accurate. A 12" shell plunged through her 30mm upper deck and burst after knifing through some compartment bulkheads. The shrapnel caused a propellant fire in the starboard 5.5" secondary battery, which quickly destroyed 3 guns and killed most of their crews. It caused a large and persistent fire.
------FS France 1624 hrs
The water continued to rise in the forward port fire room. It started to extinguish the boilers. The ship soon slowed to barely 18 knots and she hauled out of line to take position behind Paris.
------FS Courbet 1631 hrs
An Austrian 12" shell struck the forward turret. It failed to penetrate the armor but concussion badly jammed the turret.
------FS Diderot 1639 hrs
The Danton class battleships struggled as best they could to make speed. None of them was able to exceed 19.5 knots. . The Diderot was having the particular difficulty and she now damaged a propeller shaft. She lost speed and was forced to haul out of line.
------FS Courbet 1654 hrs
Admiral de Lapeyrere anxiously watched the splashes from the latest half salvo. This time they were slightly long. The two operational turrets began a steady shelling. Within a few minutes Paris began to shell Viribus Unitus as well. Courbet had already taken 9 hits from 12" shells plus a pair of the semidreadnoughts’ 9.4" shells. Some of these had been defeated by her armor but her forward turret remained inoperative and there were two fires raging. Her own real flooding so far was caused by a severed fire hose. Meanwhile France was slipping further behind and unless the Austrians were slowed the Danton class ships would not get within range with their 12" guns before the Austrians reach Cattaro. So there were effectively 10 French 12" guns on Courbet and Paris dueling with 24 Skoda 12" guns which fired a heavier shell.
------FS Paris 1658 hrs
A 12" shell holed the 7" bow armor near the waterline. The flooding from this hit would soon reduce her speed slightly.
------SMS Prinz Eugen 1659 hrs
Admiral Haus was disappointed that there was no sign of any of the enemy capital ships yet being torpedoed by his submarines. Some other problems were manifesting themselves. The ventilation into the triple turrets on the dreadnoughts was inadequate and it was impairing their rate of fire. On the other hand the German range finders and some serious gunnery practice in the last two months had made an appreciable improvement in the accuracy of his shooting. He had hoped to damage the French dreadnoughts more as they closed the range but their armor was serving them well.
------FS Courbet 1701 hrs
Much of the Austrian gunnery was now concentrating on the Courbet esp. the 9.4" guns of the semidreadnoughts and predreadnoughts. This made the Austrian spotting difficulty but the concentration of fire was also degrading the French gunnery, esp. aboard Courbet. A 12" shell penetrated its port battery armor, destroying 3 of the 5.5" guns and starting a serious fire.
------FS Voltaire 1707 hrs
A torpedo from the Austrian U.5 struck its bow and exploded. Neither the torpedo nor the periscope had not been seen and there was some confusion about whether it was a torpedo or a mine.
------FS Courbet 1709 hrs
A Admiral de Lapeyrere had ordered both Courbet and France to fire on the trailing German dreadnought, hoping to slow it down. He now decided that decision was a mistake as the French gunners were distinguishing the salvoes, "Have this ship switch its guns to the next enemy ship."
The battle was not going well and he was beginning to become desperate. He soon gave an additional order, "Signal First Light Division to close with the enemy van."
------SMS Viribus Unitus 1712 hrs
A 12" AP shell struck the ‘X’ turret. It penetrated a weak section in the armor bursting as it penetrated, wrecking the turret. The remaining rear turret switched to Courbet and began using its AP shells.
------FS Edgar Quinet 1723 hrs
A 9.4" AP shell from Erzherzog Karl penetrated one of the cruiser’s 7.5" turrets. It burst inside. In less than a minute flash reached the magazine and the cruiser blew up.
------FS Courbet 1724 hrs
"My God! Admiral, the Edgar Quinet has just exploded!"
Admiral Lapeyrere grimly recalled what had happened to the Grand Fleet. The British had been plagued by magazine explosions at Dogger Bank and Ustire. Could his fleet have a similar problem? Courbet’s fires were getting steadily worse. The Austrian torpedo boats were approaching to attack his battle line. He would be forced to do at least some evasive maneuvering by the torpedo attack. This would allow the Austrian battle fleet to open the range.
He looked at the trailing Austrian dreadnought. It did appear to be listing somewhat. But not enough. The French battle line was badly strung out. Making matters worse there had been a rash of periscope sightings in the last half hour forcing 2nd Squadron to change its course. His predreadnoughts were now out of the equation. Even if 1st Squadron could somehow close with the enemy fight the short range gun battle he desired it would mean it would result in his fleet at dusk being close to an enemy base with a long dark night ahead. With deep regret he announced his decision. "Signal this squadron to make a 4 turn to starboard in succession." This would bring his broadsides to bear as well for a while but if the Austrians did not match the maneuver they would be able to move out of range again.
"Also signal 1st Cruiser Squadron to retire to the south," he ordered. He recalled his classical mythology. The appropriate myth for this occasion was the torment of Tantalus.
------SMS Prinz Eugen 1728 hrs
Admiral Haus was becoming very worried about Viribus Unitus. It taken a hit which holed its belt a few feet above the water line. It was having some trouble with progressive flooding and there was a real risk of some water reaching a fire room soon.
"Admiral, it appears the French battleships are turning away!"
Admiral Haus took a look with his own binoculars. After nearly a minute he lowered them, "We are going to be exposed to their broadsides for a salvos but with just a little more luck we should be out of range again."
"Once we are out range will we be turning broadside as well, admiral."
"Heaven’s no!. For several reasons, not the least of which is the visibility is now starting to diminish markedly. When we are out of range reduce our speed to 17 knots. The older ships ahead of us do not have turbines and it is dangerous for them to maintain 19 knots."
"And the torpedo attack, admiral?"
"For time being it is to go forward but if the French turn away as I suspect they will, order it broken off immediately. Our goal is to reach Cattaro. When we do I plan to spend a few hours tanking God."
------HMS Vengeance 1738 hrs
"This wireless message for you from Admiral de Lapeyrere has just been decoded, admiral."
Admiral Limpus had been feeling frustrated and even downright jealous in the last few hours. The Frenchies had made it clear that the regarding this battle as their own private party. He expected that they would win a smashing victory though he did fret that submarines and mines posed a danger not to be taken lightly."
ARMEE NAVALE HAS BROKEN OFF PURSUIT ENEMY FLEET CONTINUES TOWARDS CATTARO WILL RENDEZVOUS WITH YOU IN TWO HOURS
Admiral Limpus felt another level of frustration. He turned to the messenger, "Are you sure there was nothing more, son?"
"That was the entire transmission, admiral."
------FS Courbet 1930 hrs
When the Austrians broke off their torpedo attack one of their torpedo boats had missed the signal. It blundered on and was quickly dispatched by French protected cruisers. It was likely it was the only Austrian loss in the frustrating battle.
Voltaire was badly damaged but there was no danger of her sinking even if they encountered rough seas on their way back to Malta. Some mobility had been restored to Courbet’s forward turret but it turned very slowly. France had finally sealed its leaks and the flooded fire room was not dry. There was still a coal bunker burning aboard Courbet. This fire should be eliminated before midnight. All the other fires were put out but all three of his dreadnoughts had suffered considerable damage to their superstructure.
In addition to losing the Edgar Quinet, the Ernest Renan had its machinery badly disabled by a 9.4" shell and eventually became disabled. It was now being towed. Guichen had some moderate superstructure damage from its duel with the Austrian light cruisers—one of which had been damaged in return.
It was going to be a long trip back to Malta.
------SMS Prinz Eugen docked at Cattaro 2100 hrs
Admiral Haus was glad his ordeal was over. A good argument could be made he won a victory against a superior force. In terms of ships sunk he lost a single torpedo boat in exchange for one of the enemy’s most powerful armored cruisers. In terms of ships damaged, the argument was even more persuasive. Viribus Unitus has been badly damaged by fire and flood with a turret destroyed, but Tegethoff had been hit only twice without much harm and could be used in another sortie without repair. Prinz Eugen had not been scratched. Erzherzog Karl has taken some light damage during the engagement with the French armored cruisers. On the other hand all 3 of the French dreadnoughts had shown signs of damage. Haus had just now learned of a semidreadnought being torpedoed—there was a chance that it might eventually sink.
So he had one a victory of sorts. He felt satisfied but only at an abstract level. He had already notifed his superior, Archduke Karl Stefan. That was satisfying. He definitely looked forward to telling the insufferable General Conrad—that was going to be even more satisfying.
However despite this a more instinctive part of him remained more fearful than triumphant. Today events did not make Haus eager to "do it again." On the contrary he yearned to return to a ‘fleet in being’ strategy.
FRENCH NAVY ROUTES AUSTRIAN FLEET
There was an encounter between the French and Austrian battle fleets in the southern portion of the Adriatic yesterday evening. The Austrians fled from the French and a chase ensued. Despite the nominal speed of the French and Austrian dreadnoughts being roughly equivalent the French fleet demonstrated outstanding seamanship to vigorously pursue and close with the enemy. The French eventually brought some Austrian battleships under fire, but the Austrians were saved from certain annihilation by the proximity of their naval base at Cattaro.
------Times of London March 16, 1915
------Imperial Palace Berlin 0105 hrs Tuesday, March 16, 1915
"Give me a woman who loves beer and I will conquer the world!" Kaiser Wilhelm muttered to himself sitting alone in his study. In lieu of such a woman he poured himself another from a pitcher. He was drinking more than he usually did. Something was bothering him a great deal. In the late afternoon he had met with Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg. The Chancellor implored the Kaiser to replace Falkenhayn with Hindenburg. Initially the Kaiser’s reply to the Kaiser was that it did not matter because the war was already won. He found his lips mouthing the words he had said over and over since the High Seas Fleet had returned from the Battle of Utsire. But as he was speaking Kaiser Wilhelm realized that he no longer believed what he was saying. Deep in his heart he had come to the conclusion that he had been wrong after all—though he had not yet admitted it. The British had not tried to open negotiations. The defiant speeches of their new prime minister were not empty political posturing after all. The British were serious about continuing the war. He had begun to guess this over the last few days but only now was he admitting it to himself.
He then redirected his annoyance with himself at the unfortunate Chancellor. He yelled at him mercilessly. In a pique he declared his continued support for his old friend, General von Falkenhayn and summarily dismissed the nearly sobbing Bethmann Hollweg.
Wilhelm took a long draught of beer and stared with scorn at the picture of King George on his desk. With his good hand he pointed a threatening finger at the photograph, "Damn you, George. Never did like me, did you? I know it’s you and your accursed country that is the real force behind this vexing war. Erich agrees with me—he say’s you British are the force that drives the Entente. You mean to deny Germany her place in the sun. It’s all so clear now."
Seeking additional clarity he drank some more. He yelled some more at King George’s picture, "The reason I was wrong about peace is I failed to realize what fools you are! You should be coming to me to make peace, George! Have it you way! I’ll fix you, I’ll…" Consumed with rage Wilhelm grabbed George’s picture and threw it against the wall.
Then he poured himself more beer.
-----10 Downing Street 1015 hrs
The streamlined War Committee was in session again. "There have been 3 big developments in the last few days," announced Bonar Law, "First there is the Abyssinian situation. This young chap Iyasu, who claims to be their emperor seizes the capital and then declares war on France and sends a few thousand men to invade French Somaliland. There are some who think he is trying to mask a simple coup d’etat with this incursion. Likely he was one of those who believed all that idle chatter about the war ending after Utsire. He has not yet declared war on His Majesty, but there is some unclear reports that the borders of our own colony may have been violated as well."
"I would counsel some caution about interpreting that last report," interjected Lloyd George, "it could merely be the activity of that Mad Mullah bloke who has been a pain in our backside for way too long."
"Or perhaps it means the Mad Mullah is in league with Mr. Iyasu?" Carson speculated.
"Hmm. Now that’s a right cheery thought, eh? One of the misfortunes of this war is that it prevented us from putting an end to the Mad Mullah last year. In a similar vein she we be concerned about possible Ottoman involvement as well?" asked Bonar Law.
"At what level? A few clandestine agents? I would say that is nearly certain. Anything more will be extremely difficult given our control of the seas. If the Abyssinians capture Djibouti the Turks may try so sneak some weapons and a perhaps a few advisers into Djibouti. Yesterday the Sea Lords decided to send an additional gunboat to Aden as a precaution. That should be sufficient."
"That sounds about right. For the time being it would not be wise to commit too many warships to the Horn, as we have a great many concerns elsewhere. Lord Grey will brief us on the diplomatic details of this situation tomorrow and I have ordered Lord Kitchener to present to us a plan for a proper military response Saturday morning."
Lloyd-George smiled. The current War Committee was an incredible improvement as far as he was concerned. Things were much more focused that it was under Asquith.
Bonar Law continued, "Well, moving on then there is this strange naval battle in the Adriatic. I am more than a wee bit bewildered by it all. Wasn’t one of our goals when we came up with the idea for the Albanian expedition is that it would entice the Austrians into a sortie and then the French Fleet would be able to destroy them?"
"Your recollection is uncomfortably accurate, Andrew. We did indeed have such a hope. Our ships did not play any role whatsoever in the battle, so we can learn little from Admiral Limpus, who freely confesses to being baffled by the course of events. The French have provided us very little information so far. They admit to the loss of a very fine armored cruiser, but tell us nothing about the damage endured by their major warships."
"And the Austrian losses? Is it really only a single torpedo boat?"
"We have asked them that question several times and they are becoming more than a little bit irritated with us. Their stock phrase is that one of the Austrian dreadnoughts was severely damaged and there is a chance it was ultimately lost. Our own admirals do believe this class of Austrian vessel has stability problems that make it prone to capsizing. And yes, I know very well what both of you are thinking right now—a similar line of reasoning about Heligoland Bight got us in a world of trouble."
Law made an ironic smile, "Spared me the trouble of saying it."
"In this case, whether or not the Austrian ship sinks is not that critical," said Lloyd-George," Even if it survives, it will be out of action for a long time. Austrian shipyards are not very quick—unless you compare them with the Hungarians. But my concern is that if only one Austrian dreadnought requires repairs and all three French dreadnoughts do, will that mean that our next convoy to Albania could have its hands full? "
Law rocked his head from side to side, then asked Carson, "My understanding, Edward, was that the entire force, including the French, were provided enough ammunition to sustain them for a fortnight. Is that correct?"
"Yes, Prime Minister that was what I have been told."
"Well then, seems there is little reason to be fretting about ‘What if this, what if that’ right now. The French have promised to tell us more when their fleet reaches Malta and they have time to thoroughly inspect their damaged warships. We will revisit this topic at that time. I would like to move on and address what is the most important topic on my list—the situation in Dublin involving this Socialist piece of donkey shit, James Connolly."
Resisting the urge to shake his head, David Lloyd George merely raised an eyebrow and inwardly groaned. Of those 3 topics on the prime minister’s list he definitely considered Ireland to be the least important. He had read that this so called Citizen Army Connolly led numbered less than 300 people, poorly armed with little military training. Abyssinia on the other hand had raised an army of nearly 200,000 men against the Italians! They could shift the balance of power in entire African theater. The naval battle in the Adriatic had potential repercussions on the Albanian campaign and the neutral Mediterranean countries. But it was Ireland that these two Unionists regarded as most important. He worried that Ireland could be their downfall.
"George is finally getting the measure of what it takes to be Viceroy. In addition to the timely arrests of James Connolly, Michael Mallin and this Countess Markieviscz, he has ordered an indefinite ban on large outdoor assemblies."
"I am just a tad disappointed he’s not used this as an excuse to arrest Tom Clarke as well. I do find it most strange that an upper class woman, the wife of a Russian cavalry officer as I understand it, is involved in this foul conspiracy, remarked Carson."
"Women are definitely acting strange in this new century. Heaven help us all if that trend continues! We know this Countess was involved with the Citizen Army. Connolly was living at her residence, so that alone makes her a suspect. Smith will brief us on the details in the next few days."
"Pardon me, Andrew, but isn’t tomorrow when they have all those parades all over Ireland? Won’t the ban on assembly cause some resentment?" asked Lloyd-George.
"There is a war on, David, and sacrifices are required. The plain fact is that these Citizen Army anarchists would likely use the parades as a pretext to assemble their forces for an attack."
"An attack by a little more than 200 poorly armed irregulars! Holy God, does that that represents the greatest threat our Empire faces at this time? And they are only in Dublin according to the newspapers. So why is this ban extended to all of Ireland?"
"There could well be sympathetic elements lurking elsewhere in Ireland. Lord Curzon made the right decision," said Carson with a hint of irritation.
"I do not concur. It is plain—"
Bonar Law’s nostrils flared as he interrupted in rough voice, "—what is plain is that you do not understand Ireland, David. Certain ideas can become very dangerous if allowed to fester. We need to make an example."
------HQ 1st Canadian Division (somewhere in Herzegovina) 1355 hrs
"When will the Frenchies get into action, sir?" asked General Alderson, the division commander.
"Well their fleet apparently saw some action yesterday. But as for their troops, I’d say weather permitting some of their battalions should reach the front line late Friday."
"Oh, so there really was a naval battle yesterday. I thought it might be just another of those wild rumors that gets widely circulated in military outfits without any relationship whatsoever to the truth, sir. Well then, did the Frenchies destroy the Austrian navy?"
"Not exactly. No one has shared much in the way of details with me. From what I know the Austrian fleet bumped into the French then scurried away like frightened rabbits. A chase ensued and while some warships on both sides got damaged in varying degrees the unfortunately the Austrians were able to escape."
"Don’t rightly know to make of all that, sir. We had been hoping our expedition would lure the Austrian battle fleet to their destruction. I am a bit worried that the supply lines are going to become a nightmare now there is another division using them. It’s vexing enough with just the 3 divisions even when the weather is good."
"Yes, the roads here leave much to be desired. Look here, I have my staff working around the clock trying to a figure out ways to improve the line of communication problems and I’m confident we should be able to work something out before too long. But enough with that. I am much more interested in your engagement this morning."
"Well, sir, this latest batch of Austrians are a tougher bunch than we’ve encountered before. Damn fine shooters. We took some prisoners this morning. They call themselves the Kaiserjaegers. Claim they are an elite unit."
Birdwood whistled, "Kaiserjaeger! Are you sure? Now that certainly is interesting. They are supposedly the elite units in the entire Imperial and Royal Army."
"I had heard of them, sir. They gave us a damn good fight for a while this morning Our 18 pounders had to fire off most of their ammo but in the end we prevailed."
"Smashing! We met their best and soundly thrashed them. My confidence in the ultimate success of this expedition is vindicated," Birdwood exulted. He then noticed Alderson frowning, "What is it, Edwin? Is something wrong? Spit it out, man!"
"Well, sir, there is something that is causing me some concern. I have been an increasing number of complaints coming up the chain of command about the reliability of our rifles.
------Harlem 1935 hrs (GMT)
Cornelius St. James addressed a crowd of 50 odd blacks—mostly male, "Now what country exemplifies the dignity of the man of color? What country is Africa is a country of Africans for Africans? What country stood up to the Italians and defeated them?"
"Abyssinia! Abyssinia!" first one person in the crowd then another shouted out.
Cornelius pointed towards where the answer originated, "That’s right, that’s right. Abyssinia. And now is Abyssinia on the side of the Entente—France and the British Empire, in this terrible war that rages on?"
"No, no," muttered a few people.
"That’s right. That’s right. The flower of the black race has chosen another side to this conflict. Now for a while it remained neutral, like we are here in these United States are—or at least that is what we like to pretend that we are. But Abyssinia has now ended its neutrality by declaring war on France. The nation that is the hope and inspiration for all members of our suffering race has decided to fight against the Entente—on the side of the Central Powers!"
Cornelius studied the faces in the crowd. He saw a great range of responses. Some either did not understand what he was trying to say or else didn’t care. But others seemed to buy what was saying. It was a start.
------Obock, French Somaliland 0635 hrs Wednesday March 17, 1915
Colonel Samir Rabadi watched with anxiety the hints of dawn in the sky. His forces had departed Yemen in 2 groups. Yesterday at dusk a half dozen trawlers departed Mocha with his regimental staff and a rifle company from his 1st battalion. Things were very cramped aboard the boats—one soldier was lost falling overboard. There was no room for supplies. The soldiers carried their rifle, a day’s ration of food and some ammo The ships’ captains were certain their boats would founder from the excessive weight—and one boat almost did at one point when the Red Sea got choppy for a while. One of the Ottoman soldiers was lost overboard while trying to defecate. The other menace was of course the British and French warships that made sporadic patrols of the Red Sea. The moonless night hid the Ottoman trawlers, though on two occasions the ships’ crews thought they could make out another vessel—but were never completely sure. The trawlers passed through the Bab al Mandab without incident and reached Obock, where Oromo cavalry and some friendly Afars were awaiting them. .
Col. Rabadi had been seasick for most of the trip. He had recovered quickly when he made it ashore. Interfacing with the Orormo and the Afars was proving to be both gratifying and aggravating. He was now delighted to see a 1,400 ton coastal freighter steaming towards Obock, even though she was flying a French flag. That was merely a desperate ruse la guerre. In reality she carried an Ottoman artillery battery armed with 4 Krupp 77mm field guns, a machine gun company and roughly half of the regimental support units. Its signal unit was upgraded to include a short range wireless station. It also carried some supplies plus 500 rifles for the Abyssinians. It carried only a few draught animals as they had been told their hosts had promised to provide them.
A British gunboat had been sighted off Hodiedah just before noon yesterday but had wandered off. The Entente warships were mostly interested in Hodiedah, which was the major port, or Sheikh Syed Bay where Ottoman fortifications had been wrecked in a raid by Indian battalions and HMS Duke of Edinburgh back in November. They largely ignored Mocha where a steady silting had created a sandbar limiting the harbor to only shallow draught vessels. The Ottomans realized they were taking a risk but they thought their chances were best now at the beginning of the Abyssinian offensive before the Entente had time to react. Before too long the naval forces around the Bab al Mandab would assuredly be reinforced making the risk of interception much greater. The current new moon was yet another reason not to wait.
So they decided it was best to risk sending the freighter and the precious machineguns and artillery it carried Another small freighter would try to depart Hodadieh this evening carrying the regiment’s 3rd battalion. After that his superiors thought it would be too risky to make any further use Hodadieh. Trawlers would try ferry the rest of the regiment one company at time from Mocha to Obock and even that would halt when the moon got too bright.
As the precious freighter moved closer to the port, the colonel constantly gazed at the horizon with his binoculars terrified he would see a British or French warship approaching. Samir had been chosen for this expedition for it was felt that he was cunning and resourceful, despite his reputation for being cynical and insolent.. He prayed to Allah that they were correct in their evaluations. Here in a strange land with unfamiliar allies and a thin thread of a supply line he would need those traits.
------HQ German Eleventh Army 1045 hrs
"The digging of the forward saps at night is going well. General Dankl and Archduke Josef Ferdinand say that the same is true for their units," General von Mackensen informed General von François. Mackensen was the commander of the Eleventh Army and in the last few days he had been made the commander of Army Group Mackensen, which also included the Austro-Hungarian First Army. There were four other officers present, including Major Bauer the artillery expert.
"That is very good. The digging of the saps can also be done when there is a thick morning fog or a heavy snow. Let’s move on to the topic of artillery. The fifth of the 15cm gun batteries should have arrived yesterday afternoon," commented François.
"Yes, it did. When can I expect the others?"
"Two more should arrive tomorrow and the other two on Sunday. All of these will be motorized batteries." Soon after the Battle of Utsire OKW decided it could afford to make some heavy artillery batteries out naval 15cm guns. Most of these had been promised to Falkenhayn for use on the Western Front. Eventually François decided they were better used in Operation Whisper and OKW dissembled when Falkenhayn asked when they would be available for deployment.
"It is remarkable that you were able to get 9 batteries of these guns ready so soon. I am amazed you were able to enough unused motorized tractors for 6 of them"
"It was not easy. We had to buy some of the tractors from Holland and Denmark. The other artillery OKW is sending should have arrived by now."
"I have received 6 batteries of 10.5 cm howitzers, 3 batteries of 10cm field guns and a battery each of 15cm howitzers and 21cm Morsers."
"Yes, that is the complete list of what OKW removed from 6th Bavarian Division and the Naval Division. Another battery of 21cm Morsers is being transferred by rail from Center Army and should arrive late Saturday."
Mackensen smiled, "Against Russian entrenchments, this level of firepower combined with what I already have plus the 15cm howitzers from the Austrian 1st Army should more than enough. I am still worried about the quantity of ammunition, though."
François nodded with a grim expression, "As well you should be. The stockpile is going to be tight at best, esp. for the German howitzer batteries. We cannot afford to squander shells. Max is here to see you make the best use of what you have. He is thoroughly familiar with what has been learned on the Western Front where battles have become very artillery intensive."
Mackensen turned to Bauer, "You have your work cut out for you, young man! You will also have to work with the Archduke to prepare his portion of the attack.—an even greater challenge! I certainly hope you are as good as your reputation."
Outwardly Bauer brimmed with confidence, "You have me personal assurance, General von Mackensen, that I will whip them into shape." Inwardly Bauer was cringing. Working with the Austrians! What a waste of my precious time! One thing did give him a measure of hope. General François had said that Moltke would likely inform Falkenhayn of Operation Whisper today. Bauer thought it very likely this foolish operation would be terminated immediately soon and he’d be returning to Berlin anon.
------OHL Valenciennes 1105 hrs
General Erich von Falkenhayn was in an extremely foul mood. Early this morning someone had told him of a rumor that the Chancellor had interceded with the Kaiser to put Hindenburg in charge of the general staff. Falkenhayn was furious not only with the Chancellor but also Hindenburg and Ludendorff, whom he knew to be waging a political campaign against him.
"I have been in touch with General Conrad the last few days. He believes there is a weak spot in the Russian lines at the boundary between their Fourth and Third Armies. He is planning to attack them there. He requested that our Eleventh Army to make a diversionary attack first."
"Hmm. Oh this is too much. Conrad is being sorely pressed by 3 enemy attacks—one near Przemysl, another in the Bukovina and finally the British colonials in Herzegovina. Only the first attack has been stopped and that is because Center Army is part German. The other two have not been halted so obviously he feels it is time to go on the offensive. The man once against demonstrates his capacity for foolishness."
"That was my initial reaction as well, but then I had General von François and Oberst Hoffman look at his plans and they find considerable merit in the idea."
"Really? Well then I am surprised, but without knowing the details I will not challenge their professional. Even if they are correct I must ask why you are coming to me? Eleventh Army comes under the authority of Ober Ost."
"Not any more."
"What, what? I demand that you clarify what you just said, Helmuth!"
"I have negotiated an agreement with General Conrad. General Mackensen is now the commander of an army group which includes the Austrian First and Fourth Armies as well as his Eleventh Army. This Army Group Mackensen now reports to General Conrad, not Feldmarschal von Hindenburg."
"What! This is outrageous! How dare you make such an arrangement! You have absolutely no authority—"
"—but I do have the authority. If you would care to read the charter you will that this office was empowered to ‘coordinate with allies’. This is exactly what I did!"
Falkenhayn had written nearly all of the charter himself. ‘Coordination with allies’ was meant as a vague liaison capacity not this. But the phrasing was sufficiently vague that Moltke could point to it as justification if Falkenhayn complained to the Military Cabinet. "This is outrageous!" he thundered.
"You can file a complaint through the proper channels. But before you take that step I ask that you consider the current situation in its fullness. Tsar Ferdinand is continuing to stall—even though my office was able to get the Ottomans to commit 3 divisions. Until he signs the treaty the Balkan campaign you favor is not going to happen. The operation General Conrad has proposed should achieve sufficient success to dispel the remaining Bulgarian misgivings. Also I had thought the idea of reducing the dominion of Feldmarschal von Hindenburg a peg might appeal to you."
Does Helmuth know of the Chancellor’s intervention? Dare I ask him? wondered Falkenhayn. Isn’t this a bad time to confront Moltke? Behind Moltke is Tirpitz who is immensely popular with both the Kaiser and the Reichstag right now. Damn it, the fucking bastard has a valid point about reducing Hindenburg’s authority—and about persuading the Bulgarians as well.
Seething with barely controlled rage Falkenhayn remained painfully silent in frustration. "Erich, are you still on the line?" came Moltke’s voice eventually..
"Yes, yes, I am still on the line," growled Falkenhayn.
"Good, even though its attack is only going to be a diversion, Eleventh Army is still going to need additional ammunition to ensure it does not get badly hurt."
Falkenhayn resisted the temptation to smash the telephone receiver into little pieces. He made a few incoherent noises then with the greatest disgust found himself agreeing with Moltke.
------New York City 1535 hrs
Jim Larkin had been James Connolly’s friend and mentor. At the beginning of the war Larkin came to the United States ostensibly to raise funds. Larkin was disgruntled with Ireland though. His main organization, the Irish Transport and General Workers Union had suffered what he could not deny was a crippling defeat in 1913 Dublin lockout, a nasty affair which saw some people killed on both sides. In the end the workers had given up and gone back to work. The union had been broken financially and its membership fell drastically.
Larkin was more of an internationalist in his Marxism than Connolly. One reason he had come to America was to see if it was a better hatchery for Socialism than Ireland. Connolly on the other hand firmly tied the liberation of the Irish worker to the independence of the Irish nation.
Now Connolly had gotten himself arrested for trying to plot an insurrection. Larkin was furious when he read it in the newspapers. Larkin was extremely possessive about his organization. Connolly had no right to plan an insurrection with clearing it with him.
But today was St. Patrick’s Day. The holiday had a religious subtext Larkin did not appreciate, but it was nevertheless it was a good day for propaganda. He was famous as an orator and in his great voice he addressed the crowd of Irish Americans, "Now at last the English oppressors show their true colors! The illusion and lies which they call Home Rule has gone by the boards. What they are interested in is what they’ve always been interested in. Power and Money. That’s why they arrested James Connolly. He was a threat to their power—a threat to their exploitation of the workingman—and not just the Irish workingman but all workingmen."
When the speech was over there was a great round of applause. John Devoy was in the crowd and when Larkin left the podium they had lunch together.
"That was a very fine speech. You really do have a way with words, Jim, but"
"but what, John? That I was too socialist and not enough nationalist for you."
Devoy wanted to say something nasty, but uncharacteristically he bit his tongue. He took a bite of his sandwich and washed it down with some beer. Finally he said, "You only made one reference to the parades being banned in Ireland. You should’ve emphasized that more."
"There are more important things in this world than parades celebrating fairly tales like St. Patrick chasing the snakes out of Ireland. One mention was plenty."
In the past Devoy had argued religion many a time with Larkin. Today he was more interested in other topics, so he said "Damn shame about Connolly. Great things are happening. It looks like we’ll be getting German aid! Connolly didn’t want to wait, that’s all. Perfectly understandable---"
"—perfectly stupid is what it was! The man is a fuckin’ idiot," groused Larkin.
Devoy sighed, "Well it is a mess. There is no gainsayin’ that. I reckon you will be traipsing back to Dublin to take over the Transport Union and the Citizen Army."
"I’m thinking about it," said Larkin devoid of any enthusiasm.
Devoy had not appreciated Larkin’s attitude for several minutes now and this last comment exhausted his very limited ration of civility, "You had better be thinking about it real hard, you hear me! I don’t like the sound of what I’m hearin’. Not one fuckin’ bit! You with your Godless soc’lism!. What matters most of all is Ireland and what Ireland sorely needs—"
"Don’t take that tone with me you senile old coot!"
------Imperial Palace Berlin 1630 hrs
The day before Kaiser Wilhelm II had requested that Feldmarschal von Moltke and Grossadmiral von TIrpitz meet with him as quickly as possible.
"It has become obvious to me—painfully obvious—that despite our great naval victory, Great Britain remains unwilling to make peace Their obstinacy galls me no end. You were right Grand Admiral to see to the repair of your ships! There are voices which have complained to me that giving those repairs priority is a mistake. It is they who are mistaken. We need to take firm and decisive action against our greatest enemy."
Moltke and Tirpitz exchanged glances. They decided it was best to let their sovereign continue ranting, "I want the contemptible English insects smashed! We need a plan-- something that will ruin the British and guarantee us victory. Now the obvious stratagem would be to invade England, but I’ve discussed that option with both Admiral von Muller and General von Falkenhayn and they both say that it is unworkable for many reasons, not the least of which is that it would require too many divisions. I suppose they are correct? Has OKW by any chance looked into this possibility?"
Tirpitz was about to speak then glanced in the direction of Moltke who then answered, "Yes we have, Your Majesty and agree completely with the opinion of General Falkenhayn and Admiral Muller."
Kaiser Wilhelm sighed deeply, "But we need something to hit the British hard! There must be something we can do!"
Again Tirpitz and Moltke exchanged glances. They had been wondering for some time how they broach this topic with the Kaiser. Moltke nodded at Tirpitz who smiled and answered, "Yes, our Majesty, there most certainly is something we can do."
------STAVKA 1805 hrs
"Ruszki reports that General Sievers has postponed the attack with his right wing until he has dealt with the German attack against his left wing, Your Excellency. I am thinking we should make it clear that we still favor an attack by Tenth Army simultaneous with Twelfth Army," General Yuri Danilov, the Stavka Chief of Staff said to Archduke Nicholas, the commander in chief.
"I disagree. You were always more optimistic about the East Prussian operation than I. As I feared the German railway system is bedeviling us. I am going to order Northwestern Front to halt its offensive completely. We can then concentrate our resources on Southwestern Front’s offensives."
"As usual the reports from Southwestern Front are lacking in clarity, Your Excellency. But as best as I can decipher them Ninth Army is encountering stiffer resistance in the Bukovina and Eleventh Army has been stopped cold near Przemysl."
"Conrad has likely reinforced his Seventh Army. I remain much more optimistic about our chances there."
Danilov frowned, "General Ruszki worries that his front line is too long if Northwestern Front is to switch back to a purely defensive posture. In that case he would like to make major withdrawals."
"No, that is excessive. He may make small tactical withdrawals to improve his defensive position. But no strategic withdrawals.. It is important that Twelfth Army retain Ortelsburg for that gives us at least some significant objective achieved in East Prussia to show His Majesty. And it is even more important that Fifth Army hold its position otherwise we undermine the flank of Southwestern Front."
------Kilmainham Prison Dublin 2050 hrs
When he was being arrested Connolly had tried to use his revolver. One of the arresting constables was able to grab his arm before he could fire. With the help of another constable Connolly was overpowered with both his right forearm and a rib broken. He was then shuffled off to Dublin Castle for interrogation. It was several painful hours before a physician was allowed to look at Connolly’ injuries. By this time he had been moved from Dublin Castle to here.
Initially Connolly said nothing to his interrogators. He thought about denying the charges and taking a chance they lacked enough evidence to convict him. As time went by Connolly saw that was more very likely that had enough evidence. And even if they did not have enough to either hang him or send him to prison for a long time, they would probably just deport him.
"If you gents would be so kind as to fetch me pen and paper, I would be willing to make a statement that might interest you."