by Tom B
"Therefore it is hereby proclaimed that it is Our official policy to effect a restructuring of nation which will give the Slavic peoples of our realm a status equal to those of the Austrians and the Hungarians. To accomplish this sacred mission a commission will be formed in the coming month…"
------Official Proclamation of Kaiser Franz Josef Monday March 22, 1815
------Viceregal Lodge Dublin 0935 hrs Monday March 22, 1815
"What the hell have you been doing?"
Augustine Birrell, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, wanted oh so very much to say just that. He wanted to scream it so people could here in Country Donegal. But his many years in politics had imposed a discipline of sorts, so what he said instead was, "I see you have been very busy in my absence, Excellency. I must particularly congratulate you for dealing so thoroughly with the grave menace presented by Connolly and the 200 some odd members of the Citizen Army."
Birrell’s sarcasm was obvious but not to the point of being outright impertinent. "A revolt by any faction had the potential of inspiring other dissident elements to rise up as well," answered Curzon.
"The curfews have gone on long enough. I am lifting them both this afternoon," said Birrell in a tone that made it clear this decision was not subject to the Viceroy’s approval. He had in the last few days given serious thought to resigning. But he saw the Unionists making a mess of poor Ireland and decided to carry on for a little while longer in a desperate attempt to keep things from exploding. He reminded himself that while he regarded Lord Curzon as mistaken bordering on naïve when it came to Ireland’s internal political tensions, he was an honorable man trying to adhere to high principles. There were even some issues such as agriculture and education where the Viceroy’s ideas were constructive. .
Lord Curzon was getting ready to lift them anyway, but still he felt defensive, "The curfews were a necessary precaution."
"That’s water under the bridge as far as I’m concerned, Your Excellency. Moving on, I am going to order all the marchers arrested in Belfast be released immediately. After that the RIC did to them it is simply unconscionable to prosecute them."
"I make no excuse for the behavior of the constables, but the fact remains they were still breaking the law!"
"Can’t you see this is a golden propaganda victory for the IRB? We need to make the best of a bad situation. I am releasing everyone in Belfast and except for those involved in the Cork rioting, we should only prosecute one or two leaders per incident."
Curzon reminded himself that the Birrell’s wife had died and he had himself considered releasing some of the people arrested, just not as much. "The Prime Minister has suggested arresting some others to make sure there is no trouble. Clarke and Pearse were seen talking to Connolly a few days before he was arrested," he said.
"I disagree. Neither of those two have any standing with the Citizen Army.. Besides Connolly and Mallin, there are only two people who the Citizen Army would follow into battle—Jim Larkin and Captain Jack White. Last I heard Larkin was in the States, trying to raise money. And White was serving as an ambulance driver in France."
"Captain White abruptly left his ambulance unit. Fortunately Scotland Yard arrested him in a passenger terminal in Millford Haven Saturday. He had purchased a ticket to Rosslare. Larkin was very visible making speeches in New York last Wednesday. His whereabouts since then have not been established."
"Well, that at least is good news. If possible we need to prevent Jim Larkin from returning."
"The case against Mallin and the Countess Markieviscz are not too strong. Mallin clearly poses a threat and the Prime Minister thinks it best if he is deported. We are less clear about the Countess. Should we deport her as well?"
"Your fellow Unionists think deportations will solve all our problems. It would cause too much of a stink to try to deport her, esp. if she ends up in the States. She is a woman after all. Other than making a few noxious speeches to mostly other women what harm can she do?"
-----10 Downing St. 1040 hrs
The Prime Minister was talking with Grey over the telephone. "The latest reports we have out of Abyssinia indicate no substantive change in the situation. Iyasu remains in control of the capital. He has not publicly declared himself to be a Moslem. Zauditu and Ras Tafari have mobilized their forces but still have not worked out an agreement to unite them. Rumors persist that Zauditu is in communication with Iyasu. There are unconfirmed reports of minor skirmishes between forces loyal to Iyasu and those of Ras Tafari," reported the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
"I see, well, I thank you for bringing us up to date on this tricky situation."
"What did the Secretary say?" asked Lloyd-George after the Prime Minister hung up the telephone.
"In a nutshell, that nothing of any significance has changed. I am all in favor of telling Lord Kitchener to go ahead with his plan. What do you say, Edward?"
"As both of you are well know I have not always seen eye to eye with the Field Marshal, but obviously this is a part of the world he knows very well. I am forced to say that this time he has come up with a very sound plan. I discussed this matter in detail with Admiral Oliver and Captain Hall and none of their intelligence concerning this situation—limited that it is—gives me any reason to hesitate."
"Excellent. Well then David, what do you say?"
Lloyd-George hesitated briefly then answered, "It seems basically sound. I wonder if there is a need to make a decision today, though. Perhaps a few more days to think this over."
"If there is something specific that is bothering you, David, we should discuss it today," said Law, "but the sooner we give our approval, the sooner this operation gets underway. We do not want this brazen bastard, Iyasu to get himself too established. So, is there something specific on your mind or are you merely being nostalgic for Asquith style dilly-dallying."
Lloyd-George repressed the urge scowl. He regarded the last comment as completely uncalled for. But it did cause him a disturbing thought Is it possible that we have gone too far with this streamlined War Committee and will make some poor decisions in haste?. "I have nothing specific to discuss, Andrew The sooner Iyasu is toppled the better. I concur as well."
"Right-o, David! If we are all agreed I will call Lord Kitchener right now and tell him to proceed," said the Prime Minster. As he reached for the telephone again, he turned to Carson and said, "David here had me worried there, Edward. For a moment or two I thought he was reverting to being a Liberal."
------HQ Russian Fourth Army Radom (Poland) 1155 hrs
The Pilica River was a long western tributary of the Vistula. For the last few months it marked the boundary between Northwestern Front and Southwestern Front. On the northern bank there was the left wing of the Russian Fifth Army belonging to Northwestern Front while the southern bank was guarded by the right wing of the Fourth Army which reported to Southwestern Front. The front had been very quiet since the line had stabilized just before Christmas. Now and then there was an artillery duel. Because STAVKA sent most of ammunition shipments to the active units, Fourth Army received on a trickle. The commander of the Fourth Army, General Alexei Evert was an firm believer in hoarding. He made sure the gunners’ fondness for artillery duels did not use up shells faster than the scant resupply he was receiving. A modest stockpile had accumulated. To make sure it was not wasted by the local commanders, Evert moved most of it far away from the front line.
Up until mid-February Ninth Army had been on Evert’s left flank. But then Southwestern Front decided to move much of Ninth Army to the Bukovina. Fourth Army’s left flank was extended to the Vistula, which marked the boundary with its new neighbor, Third Army. Evert had a mere 8 infantry divisions in his front line. His reserve consisted of 3 cavalry divisions and an infantry brigade. Behind him lay the huge fortress of Ivangorod which was garrisoned by 2 divisions.
There had been some disturbing intelligence in the last few days. It appeared that artillery and to a lesser degree, infantry were concentrating both near his right flank and near his left. As a precaution he ordered his divisions in those areas to concentrate their men in their forward trenches to make sure the line was held. He now had reports from this morning’s dawn air patrols. The weather had frequently unsuitable for flying the last few days but this morning it was cold but clear with few clouds and a tolerable wind. The concentration of enemy was still visible but the observers reported that the concentration near his right flank was moving to the north so it seemed their attack was intended for Fifth Army. Likewise the concentration near his left wing were mostly heading south and so appeared to more interested in Third Army.
There was no further sighting of the airship spotted yesterday.
------Budapest 1405 hrs
The Hungarian Cabinet was in emergency session.
"His Majesty is clearly overreacting to the military situation in Bosnia-Herzegovia, esp. since our latest intelligence is that General Pflanzer-Baltin repulsed the latest round of Russian attacks in the Bukovina yesterday," said the Justice Minister Jens Balogh, "Kaiser Franz Josef fails to take into consideration our great naval victory in Cattaro Gulf."
"Bah, all Admiral Haus succeeded in doing was to weaken the French fleet a little. He still lacks the strength to severe the invader’s line of communication," commented Samuel Hazai the Minister of Defense.
"After all we have done this is ingratitude of the highest order! No one has fought harder than ourselves!" snarled Count Tisza.
"Instead of doing his duty a loyal officer in defeating the British colonials, General Sarkotic being the weasel that he is, used this opportunity to poison the Kaiser’s elderly mind. Shamefu1 and disgraceful!" said Harai.
"What is our best course of action, Prime Minister? Are you going to try to stall by making this commission too ponderous to do anything—like the Delegations?" asked Balogh.
"No! An oblique stalling strategy leaves this stain untouched in the hope it will not grow! I will not stand for it!," yelled Count Tisza smashing his hand on the desk, "I want a full and complete retraction. I leave for Vienna at dawn!"
------Harlem 1605 hrs (GMT)
Cornelius St. James was giving another speech. The Sunday edition of the Journal American had run a medium sized story about him. That was one reason the crowd was bigger. The other was that word had gotten around about what a powerful speaker he. Two other former Buffalo soldiers stood him wearing their uniforms.
:"The man of color has chosen sides in this war! It is not the side of England. It is not the side of France. It is the side of Austrians and the Hungarians. It is the side of the Ottomans and yes, it is the side of the Germans."
The speech went on. As before there were some who walked away completely unconvinced. Others present were persuaded but only to the point that they were ready to cheer on the Abyssinians as if they were a favorite sports team. But a few took his message deeper into their hearts. Some expressed it donating a few coins.
There was one man in the audience that drew Cornelius’ attention while he was speaking. For one thing he was very well dressed. For another the expressions manifested on his light complexioned face were deeply ambivalent. This affluent mulatto showed deep interest but also resistance to what he was hearing. When the speech was done and the crowd started to melt away he approached Cornelius, wondered if he was going to make as well.
"Guten morgen, Herr Saint James. Ich heisse Herr Doktor WEB Dubois," said the well dressed man, extending his hand.
Cornelius was deeply surprised. He seldom had an opportunity to speak German—Jasmine had detested the language. "Ich freue mich, Sie kennenzulemen, Herr Doktor Dubois," he replied haltingly as he shook hands.
Dubois was moderately surprised. They conversed for a while in German while the others around them gazed in astonishment. More than one person could be heard muttering, "What, what the heck are they saying?" Dubois’ German was much better than St. James’ and he deliberately used obscure words to demonstrate his superior proficiency so Cornelius was soon having a hard time understanding what he was saying. One thing that he did pick up was the Dubois had studied for a while at Berlin University. Cornelius was about to switch to English when Dubois did, "Your German needs some work and your accent is simply dreadful, Mr. St. James. You are a much better speaker in English."
Cornelius regarded Dubois with mixed emotion. The man struck him as an arrogant pedant. And he still was unclear what his agenda was. He kept his irritation under control and answered, "I right reckon I need some more practice."
"I heartily agree. Well then how about tonight? We can have dinner together. There are things we need to discuss. There is something I need to decide."
------HQ 1st Australian Division Herzegovina 1659 hrs
General Birdwood was paying a visit. "How did the morning attack go, William," he asked the division commander, General Bridges.
"Reports are still very preliminary, sir, but it does not look good. These Kaiserjaeger blokes have stopped trying to counterattack and merely concentrate on entrenching. Despite a heavy bombardment by my artillery it appears the infantry sustained heavy casualties merely to gain a small section of their trench line."
"That is disappointing. You are going to have to use your artillery less the next few days. I received a wireless from London last night that the next convoy is going to be delayed a few days."
"That is definitely going to make things worse, sir"
"Yes, I imagine so. We already have problems with our supply lines being inefficient when the weather is decent and nonexistent when its not. I am seriously thinking about calling a temporary halt to our advance. Our flanks have already grown long. Moving ahead makes it worse. Trying to eliminate the threat to our flanks means venturing again into the mountains, which is where we experienced so much frustration at the start of this campaign."
"Sounds like you are planning to call a temporary halt to the offensive, sir"
"I do seem to be leaning in that direction. On another matter, have you been receiving any reports of trouble with your rifles?"
"No, sir. Should I have some cause for concern?"
"Not sure. But General Alderson is reporting mounting complaints from his men about their rifles jamming. He believes his failure to hold a section of captured trench yesterday was due to a large number of rifles malfunctioning. I asked Godley yesterday and he is not having trouble either so it is beginning to look like there is something wrong with those Ross rifles."
------Manhattan 2230 hrs
It was nice restaurant—a little more expensive than Cornelius was used, but still catering to a black clientele. He had been surprised to learn that Mr. DuBois was the director of Publications and Research for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and in that capacity he published a magazine called Crisis.
"I am not completely happy with the NAACP," Dubois confided, "many of the white folks involved treat the black man as if he were a child. The paternalism can be downright nauseating at times."
Cornelius had heard a little bit about the NAACP and knew nothing at all about Crisis. "What exactly does the NAACP have to do me?" he asked.
"A direct and honest question, Sergeant St. James. I find you of particular interest for a variety of reasons. To start you are a decorated veteran of our armed forces. You served with distinction in the war with Spain. For a brief while when the Buffalo Soldiers returned home from that war the man of color was allowed to be a hero in this befuddled country. But all too soon the white folks forgot the Buffalo Soldier."
"What you say is very true, Mr. DuBois."
"When this war started most of the members of the NAACP sympathized with the Entente, but did not want to see the United States go to war on their behalf. I on the other hand became intrigued with the notion that this war might given colored people a another chance to demonstrate what they are truly capable of—but this time we would not let them forget I allowed myself the facile assumption that this demonstration would be performed in the service of the Entente."
"But now certain recent events have caused you to rethink your position?"
"Yes, my dear sir. Even before the recent developments there were things about this war that ran contrary to my pro Entente sympathies."
"Hmm. Are you familiar with the Battle of Tanga, sergeant?"
"Well, Hell yes! I’ve mentioned it now and again in some of my speeches. A mixed force of Germans and Africans defeated a much larger force of British and Indian soldiers trying to invade German East Afrika back in November. Our English loving newspapers don’t like to talk about but as far I’ve been able to tell the British got their Limey ass kicked real good that day."
DuBois permitted himself to smile but not too much, "From I have learned that appears to be a fair assessment. It inspired me to do some additional research and found to my utter astonishment that the governor of this German colony, a man named Heinrich Schee is the most progressive colonial governor in Africa.
"I did not know that, Mr. DuBois but unlike yourself, I am not surprised much less astonished. This popular notion that the Germans are a race of bullies is a load of hogwash if you ask me."
"And now there comes news that Abyssinia has in effect joined the Central Powers. The black man in America cannot choose to ignore Africa. Everyday I read predictions in the newspapers about how foolish the Abyssinians are being. My blood verily boils when I read in our scurrilous newspaper how the Entente can swat them effortlessly as if they were some pesky insect! Have they forgotten Adowa so soon? But of course they have! They want to forget Adowa and prove their vaunted superiority over the dark race."
"This is exactly what I’ve been trying to say in my speeches! I am so glad we see eye to eye, Mr. DuBois."
At that DuBois sighed deeply and frowned, "Not completely, sir! There are things about Germany I still do not like—starting with braying jackass Kaiser Wilhelm! Miss Annie Oakley would have done the world a big favor if she had put that cretin out of his misery when she had the chance."
Cornelius had mixed feelings about Kaiser Wilhelm. On the one hand he did not think he was the horrible monster some people made him out to be. But on the other he did seem to have a big mouth not very well connected to his brain. When he made no reply DuBois continued, "It is a damn shame their Congress, the Reichstag is not more powerful. There are many progressive Socialist voices there! Meanwhile over in Ireland our supposedly enlightened friends the British, are preparing to crucify this Mr. Connolly. I find this story that he was going to start a revolution with only 200 men and few women to be utterly preposterous. Clearly this situation is a grotesque sham by their reactionary government to suppress progressive social movements."
"I reckon that I can’t say I know much about Ireland, Mr. DuBois."
-------Poland 0830 hrs Tuesday
The morning was cold and clear with some snow on the ground. A half hour earlier the German 7.7cm and the Austrian 8cm field guns had fired a few rounds in order to register then ceased fire. Their targets were mainly on the flanks of the planned assault. This action provoked some return fire from Russian guns whose positions were duly noted. The light field guns would not be used in the main bombardment which now commenced with a fury. The German 15cm and 10cm field guns concentrated on counter-battery work. The Russian Putilov 3" guns had a long range and some were sited beyond the range of most German artillery—but they were well inside the range of the 15cm guns. On the other hand, the howitzers and minenwerfers, including those from the Austro-Hungarian First Army, targeted the trenches of the 52nd Division to the north of the river and those of the 1st Grenadier Division to the south.
At the same time a similar bombardment commenced to the south where the Vistula River marked the boundary between the left of the Russian Fourth Army and the adjacent Third Army. Here the artillery was primarily Austrian, except for the field artillery regiments of the German XXXIX Reserve Corps. In accord with François’ strong suggestion, Conrad had sent all of his batteries of the new 10.4cm M14 field gun to participate in the bombardment. There were even 2 batteries of the massive Skoda 12" howitzers. As it was with Eleventh Army their targets were the divisions on both sides the river.
Bauer was still there and got to witness the bombardment from an observation post. The Austro-Hungarian artillery took longer than he wanted to register on their targets and he cursed General François for assigning this hopeless assignment. Finally though some shells began to land where he had specified.
------OKW Berlin 0845 hrs
Holding a telegram in his right hand General von François announced to Generalfeldmarschal von Moltke, "General Mackensen has started the main bombardment, Feldmarschal. We should send the cable to General von Falkenhayn immediately."
Moltke sighed deeply. He read yet again the piece of paper he was holding.
DIVERSIONARY ATTACK BY ELEVENTH ARMY HAS UNCOVERED MAJOR WEAKNESS IN RUSSIAN DEFENCES THAT IS WORTH EXPLOITING THEY SHOULD BE GIVEN PRIORITY FOR AMMUNITION ESP. HOWITZER SHELLS FOR THE NEXT THREE DAYS ADDITIONAL AIRPLANES SHOULD BE FLOWN TO THEM IMMEDIATELY.
"This is all very presumptive. For all we know today’s attack will end up being an utter fiasco, esp. the Austrian portion."
"If it fails we are in trouble anyway. If there is only limited success, then we are no worse than Ludendorff who distorts and exaggerates everything. If it succeeds close to expectation then we need this ammunition as soon as possible."
Moltke shook his head, then asked, "Do you think General Falkenhayn will comply quickly?"
"I can’t say for certain but I think he will. For one thing, there are rumors about the Chancellor interceding on behalf of Feldmarschal Hindenburg with the Kaiser—and that General Falkenhayn knows this. So I think his bile is directed elsewhere right now. On a less personal level, the Western Front is relatively inactive. The British have been docile since Utsire. The major French offensive in Champagne has apparently terminated. Joffre is only making very limited attacks at Aubreville, Crete de Combres and Hartsmanwillerskopf. OHL does not need large amount of shells to handle any of these. On the other hand a success in Poland might finally get Tsar Ferdinand to sign the treaty. Until that happens Falkenhayn’s Balkan plans are merely a pipe dream. And if Eleventh Army does it Feldmarschal Hindenburg will not share in the prestige."
------Cairo 0945 hrs
Sir Ronald Graham, Assistant Under Secretary of the Foreign Office was meeting with General Sir John Maxwell, the commander of British forces in Egypt. He took an sip from his teacup while trying to decide which marmalade to spread on his English muffin. "People in London have such short memories," declared Maxwell in disgust. .
"Why do say that, general? Not that it isn’t true, mind you." Graham replied..
"It was what? Six weeks. A measly six weeks ago we had the Turks demonstrating that they could overcome the logistical problems posed by the Sinai. . But before we had finished burying the dead we are told to reinforce the Albanian expedition. Now it is an invasion of Abyssinia. The Suez Canal is the jugular of the Empire!"
"How large a force are you planning to send?"
"I am going to remove one of the brigades from either 10th or 11th Indian Division. and add to it a battalion from East Lancashire Division. A squadron of cavalry should prove useful as well."
"What about artillery?" asked Graham and he began to spread marmalade.
Maxwell’s nostrils flared and he took his time replying, "A single battery of 18 pounders should be enough."
Graham frowned slightly then took a bite of his muffin.
Maxwell did not like what he read on Graham’s face, "What, what? I tell you one field bloody battery is sufficient. You will do well to remember your reason for going down there is to stiffen the resolve of the Abyssinian Christians, not to conquer the entire Horn all by yourselves."
Usually Graham found General Maxwell to be one of the most amiable officers he had the pleasure of working with. But he became a veritable grouch whenever he had his troops transferred to other duties. He was not going to let the general ruin the muffin for him. After swallowing he said, "I thank you for the reminder, general but really it wasn’t necessary. So how soon will these units be leaving?"
Maxwell continued to look cranky, "It takes time to organize these things properly. I’d say Saturday morning if everything goes well."
"Oh. I did get the impression that London is eager to get this expedition underway as soon as possible."
"I know that Ron. But you have to understand military expeditions take time to organize. properly.
------Polish plain 1035 hrs
. The bombardment of the trenches by the German Eleventh Army to the north lasted two hours. It was time for the infantry to emerge from the saps they had been vigorously digging at night the last 2 weeks. Advancing immediately north of the Pilica was the 4th Bavarian Division along with the 47th Reserve Division on its left flank.. The 7.7cm guns now commenced firing on positions of the 21st Rifle Division to the north. The former naval 15cm guns continued their counterbattery fire but at a slower more deliberate pace. The attacking infantry encountered relatively light resistance from 52nd Rifle Division. The Russians had erected only a single strand of wire and it was now cut in many places. The defenders who were still alive were usually dazed and/or wounded. More than 3,000 we quickly captured.. Where the Russians put up a fight the trenches the Bavarians cleared the trenches –occasionally with the bayonet but more often with grenades.
South of the river the 3rd Bavarian Division advanced along with the Austrian 33rd Division on its right flank. The Austrian 8cm guns commenced firing against the 2nd Grenadier division on the flank. Because the 1st Grenadier Division was an elite unit they encountered stiffer resistance than the forces north of the river had. Very few of the Russians fled and not many surrendered. In places their machine guns sliced into the attacking formation. But in others the attackers reached the trenches through the many cut lanes in the wire. Not all of the defending artillery had been neutralized, but the short distance from the saps to Russian trenches meant relatively few shells burst amidst the attackers while they were still in no man’s land.
-----Kilmainham Prison 1100 hrs
The guard brought the Countess Markievisz out to meet a visitor. They did not tell her who it was. She did not recognize the elderly gentleman waiting for her in the visiting room. She thought it likely it was another interrogator. Since her arrest she had found herself in a difficult position. Part of her wanted to scream at the top of her lungs that she was 1000% guilty of planning a violent liberation of Ireland from English tyranny. But the plain fact is she had not been involved in James Connolly’s scheme. She was more than a little upset at that. She had thought the free thinking Connolly had moved beyond seeing her merely in terms of traditional women’s roles. Apparently he was not suite as progressive as he pretended.
The guard cast a curious look at her visitor. The matron left the room and left the door slightly open. The visitor got up and extended his hand, "Countess Markieviscz, I am John Viscount Morley."
That name struck her a vaguely familiar. She searched her memory and then asked, "Not the former Chief Secretary of Ireland?"
"Yes, I was, Countess. A long time ago. Well at least it seems that way."
The Countess was genuinely confused. She recalled something about him resigning from a Cabinet position when the war started. "I am glad to meet you, Lord Morley. But I am a wee bit confused why you are here."
"I would like very much to be your barrister, Countess."
To the south the Austro-Hungarian Fourth Army had a much greater stockpile of shells than the German Eleventh Army. Since their gunnery was not as good as the Germans their bombardment went on for twice as long. When it lifted the entire German XXXIX Reserve Corps attacked the Russian 31st Division just south of the Vistula. It encountered light resistance and quickly took nearly 4,000 prisoners along with the first trench line. Soon there were advancing further amidst signs the enemy division was disintegrating. Meanwhile on their left north of the Vistula, the Austro-Hungarian IX Corps attacked the Russian XXV Corps on the left wing of Fourth Army. Things went less smoothly here. The advancing infantry bunched in several places causing some battalions to become clumped inside no man’s land when some of the Russian batteries came into action. But 3 battalions managed to reach the enemy trenches through lanes the artillery had carved into the wire.
------south of Zeila (British Somaliland) 2215 hrs (GMT)
The Abyssinians milled around a few fires. A few of the Mullah’s dervishes had arrived on horseback the afternoon. They were ambivalent in their attitude. In large part they were enthusiastic allies of the Abyssinians but they were also there to make sure that the Abyssinians had no long term ideas about Zeila. During the day the British and French gunboats had been joined off the coast by a French protected cruiser, D'Entrecasteaux. Intermittently it lobbed a few shells around the outskirts of Zeila. Sometimes the French gunboat fired as well. There did not seem to be a clear objective to the shelling, other than to vent anger and frustration. One Abyssinian soldier was killed and two more wounded. Some of the Abyssinians had run away. Now that the sun was down they returned, not knowing where else to find water in this parched land.
The Abyssinian were not unprepared. They knew there was force of about 400 members of the King’s African Rifles Regiment cut off from their supplies to the west. Still the men were not as prepared as they should be. A first quarter moon was out and they thought it likely that an enemy attack if it came at all would occur after it set. So they were now startled when a machine gun began firing at them in the moonlight. It was firing at what would’ve been a long range by day. At night it hit few men and it hosed its stream of bullets back and forth. It was not meant to cause heavy casualties but to disrupt the Abyssinian position and it succeeded in that. As a man here and another man there was hit the others scrambled for what little cover they could find. Suddenly the machinegun ceased firing. In the moonlight they now saw men charging towards them. Soon there was short range rifle fire followed by a confused melee resulted.
The purpose of the attackers was neither to seize territory nor inflict casualties. Instead all they wanted to do was to break through the enemy position and reach the safety that lied in the East. A few were killed and several more were wounded in a confused struggle where both sides suffered casualties from friendly fire. The great majority made it through though but in doing so their formation degenerated into chaotic dispersion. When the sun rose the Abyssinians discovered several abandoned wagons and two machine guns, one of which was still operable.
------OKW 2340 hrs
Generalfeldmarschal von Moltke had just received a telephone call from General von Mackensen. "Overall things are going well," said Mackensen, "Oberst Bauer has already been commended for a very sound artillery plan. The 3rd Bavarian Division is continuing to advance along the Pilica and we hope to take portions of the second trench line before dawn. The 47th Reserve Division is attacking what we believe to be the left flank of their 21st Rifle Division in conjunction with a night frontal assault by 48th Reserve Division. The most stubborn resistance so far is coming from the Grenadier Corps. After hard fighting the Bavarians apparently now control about 5 kilometers of their forward trench line stretching from the river. To east there is still fierce fighting going on in the trenches."
"And how did the Austrian Fourth Army fare in their assault?"
"Our XXXIX Reserve Corps is doing extremely well. It has already reached the second trench line and has captured it in many places. There is signs the enemy artillery there has abandoned the infantry and is withdrawing to the north. . The Austrian IX Corps had some trouble but it secured the first trench line and is trying to reach the second before dawn."
"Really? I am pleasantly surprised by the Austrian success. How many prisoners did you take? Do you have reliable casualty estimates yet?"
"We appear to have taken nearly 12,000 prisoners so far, Feldmarschal. The number of enemy dead we have been able to count is well over 5,000. According to the latest reports German casualties appear to be around 2,000 dead or missing with approximately 4,000 more wounded. One disappointment is that we have only captured 8 guns so far. Austrian casualties appear to be roughly the same but since their reporting process is not anywhere as rapid as our own it could be considerably worse."
General François and Obert Hoffman were sitting in Moltke’s office. The former interrupted impatiently, "Ask him how soon he can bring the cavalry into action."
"Someone talking in the background?" came Mackensen’s voice.
"That was Herman. He wants to know how soon the cavalry can be brought into action."
"Definitely not tomorrow. Maybe Friday for our own cavalry. It’s very hard to tell about the Austrian situation. My main concern right now is artillery shells, esp. for the German howitzer batteries which fired off nearly all their shells this morning."
"This morning General von Falkenhayn has promised us an increased priority effective immediately. But that impacts on what was loaded today so tomorrow you should only expect the scheduled delivery, nothing more."
"I had prayed for more. If we can take a good portion of III Caucasian Corps’ second trench line before dawn we may not need that much howitzer fire tomorrow."
Pilica River 0230 hrs Wednesday March 24, 1915
A formation of small river boats proceeded steadily down the river, which was still swollen from melting snow during a few warmer days. The boats carried a special unit General François had created soon after he arrived at OKW. It consisted of only 2 rifle companies plus a small special platoon armed with a half dozen Madsen automatic rifles. They had received some special training in using small boats for either coastal or river operations. It was also trained to operate independently. It had the prosaic name of Flussboot Lehr Abteilung (FL Abt)..
. The moon had set and clouds had moved in making for a dark night. The men stared apprehensively at the shores of the river. They could see and hear signs of fighting on both sides. They worried that any minute a searchlight sweep across the waters bringing machine gun fire or even some artillery to bear on them. The fighting was definitely closer to them on the right bank. Gun flashed and an occasional flare lit up the night. A few times riflemen on that side could be seen firing in their direction but it was desultory. A single member of their unit was lighted wounded by this rifle fire. Despite the danger it held for them the rest of the men of the FL Abt found their voyage down the river to be strangely beautiful. .
------Djibouti 0725 hrs
The Abyssinians had brought up a battery of mountain guns yesterday and shelled Camp Lemonier. The bombardment was not particularly accurate but it had still caused a few casualties. More importantly it caused a quarter of the Somalis serving the French to surrender. Ras Mikael learned from the new prisoners that the garrison had at most 4 days worth of water remaining This night he made no attack. Instead he began sending a portion of his forces back to Abyssinia in 3 columns—one of cavalry, one of able bodied infantry and the last consisting of walking wounded. He had previously sent the most seriously wounded back home in some wagons.
Col Rabadi had arrived at Ras Mikael’s camp sitting on a camel just a few minutes ago He had been escorted by 10 Oromo horsemen.. The two leaders now had a chance to converse face to face. The spoke in Arabic. Rabadi briefly recounted the ordeals his men underwent to arrive at Obock. "Since the incident where some of my men drowned when an overloaded fishing boat foundered, I have received only a few tons of supplies—mostly ammunition brought by fishing boats from Mocha. A few of my quartermasters were aboard the boats and they confirmed that there would be no more attempts to cross at night until it gets close to the next new moon," said Col Rabadi.
Ras Mikael was disappointed that the Ottoman expedition was not larger—he had been promised a complete regiment. He bit his lip and decided to be thankful for what he did receive. "How soon will your men arrive here?" he asked.
"I left a company at Obock along with the wireless station. You should know that have only received about half the draught animals we require. We were only able is bring a handful from Yemen. We were told that your men and the Afars would provide us with such animals. This has only been partially true. The shortage of draught animals has made it difficult to move my artillery through the narrow path in the mountains along the Gulf. Fortunately the Germans made their field guns each to transport. The Afars also provided some useful advice about traveling through the mountains. From what they tell me the guns have made it through the worst of the rough terrain. Two of my rifle companies should make it here late Friday. The rest of my force including the artillery won’t arrive here before Sunday morning."
Ras Mikael nodded, then answered, "My apologies about the shortage of animals. I will see what I can do about that in the next few hours, but the fact is that I need to return to the capital soon. Our enemies have dawdled but I do not think they will do so indefinitely. The advent of the rainy season will give them a reason for haste. When I leave later today I am going to place all my forces in what was formerly the French territory under your command. That includes the troops guarding our coast at Zeila in the English territory, but not the forces further east in Somlailand--those I have placed under the authority of Sheik Hasan. If you must deal with the Sheik take care not to offend him."
Col Rabadi had expected negotiating his position and role amongst the Abyssinians would be vexing. He was therefore pleasantly surprised by this development, "I am deeply honored Ras Mikael."
"You can demonstrate your gratitude by training and leading my men, well."
"I will do my best, Ras Mikael. God is Great."
------Polish Plains 0800 hrs
The morning saw a rise in temperature but it was still below freezing. Clouds had moved in. The attack of Eleventh Army had experienced varying degrees of success during the night. North of the Pilica River the Bavarians had found the second trench line of 52rd Rifle Division to be shallow, poorly manned and best of all completely devoid of barbed wire. Before first light the trench had been taken except for a single strong-points holding out defiantly. Just before dawn two batteries of Russian 3" guns commenced a bombardment of the captured second trench. This was followed by a counterattack by 2 rifle battalion. The Bavarians were not able to call in artillery fire but they had brought 4 machine guns forward during the night and made good use of them. The few Russians who made it into the trench proved insufficient to overpower the Bavarians.
Meanwhile the FLA at first light had landed behind the line of the battered Russian 52nd Rifle Division. Moving quickly they thoroughly disrupted the rear area forces and soon took an artillery battery from the rear and captured the headquarters of the left hand rifle brigade. Later in the morning the Bavarians advanced with some artillery support and the left half of 52nd Rifle Division completely disintegrated. The remnants of the right half of the division were saved only by the arrival of the 4th Don Cossack Cavalry Division just before noon.
This action was the most dramatic success of the Eleventh Army that day. Elsewhere things were proving more difficult. On the left flank of II Bavarian Corps the XXIV Reserve Corps had during the night advanced nearly 3 kilometers into the left flank of 21st Rifle Division in bitter trench fighting which continued during the morning. South of the Pilica progress was even slower. Here the Bavarians reached the second trench line soon after midnight but were only able to capture little more than a kilometer near the river before dawn. Bitter fighting in the trenches continued after sunrise. Meanwhile over on their right the KuK 33rd Division continued to have a difficult time fending off determined counterattacks by the Russian Grenadiers. .A regiment of the adjacent KuK 14th Division was sent to reinforce them, while the rest of that division made a pinning attack on the right wing of the 2nd Grenadier Division.
To the south the Austro-Hungarian Fourth Army continued its attack as well. North of the Vistula the KuK IX Corps made slow but steady progress against the Russian XXV Corps, even though a Russian cavalry division arrived mid-morning to reinforce the defenses. The German XXXIX Reserve Corps achieved more spectacular results against what was left of the Russian 31st Rifle Division then proceeded to manhandle the Russian cavalry division that arrived around noon.
------Southwestern Front HQ 1015 hrs
"We have just received word from General Radko Dmitriev that he had taken German soldiers prisoners,’ General Mikhail Alexeez, the Front chief of staff, announced to General Ivanov, the commander, "This proves that the Austrian Fourth Army was reinforced with German units for this offensive."
Ivanov looked at him for a few seconds and then pointed a figure at Alexeev, "Ah-hah! I was right yesterday, wasn’t I? The enemy’s main target is Third Army. Everything else yesterday is a diversion. Contrary to what you said there is a serious threat to Third Army."
I knew you would say that you smug cretin, thought Alexev, but he retained his professional demeanor, "I did not rule out that possibility, general! I merely said that the situation was unclear. Even now I continue to regard the situation is far from clear, general. The reports we received from General Evert an hour ago indicate that the enemy attack is continuing on both his left and right wings."
"Yes, yes. I saw those reports. I will remind you one more time this he has the Grenadier Corps on his right wing. Even if the German attack there is intended as more than a feint the Grenadiers will stop them. As far as his left flank is concerned the attackers there are entirely Austrian. Their objective is merely to prevent Fourth Army from enfilading the flank of the mostly German attack on Third Army."
Reports of the enemy offensive had reached Southwestern Front yesterday afternoon. They still knew nothing of the attack on Fifth army since Fifth Army was part of Northwestern Front. Ivanov and Alexeev disagreed about the significance of the attacks and the only concrete action that had taken was to notify Stavka demanding they be given priority for supplies and reinforcements.
"I am less sure than you are, sir. We still have received no casualty figures from either Third or Fourth Army."
"Ah, but I see no reason to wait for them. There is a clear threat to Third Army. I am going to send a telegram to General Radko Dmitriev that he is to move his right wing behind the San if he cannot halt the Germans today. That should hold off the Germans."
"If Third Army pulls its flank back behind the San, Fourth Army will need to reposition its flank as well."
"What? Oh, yes, that is fairly obvious."
-------Nairobi 1140 hrs
The sky was dark and it was raining heavy. Having been stationed in India, Brigadier General Michael Tighe understood very well the concept of rainy season. It was starting in East Africa and would get worse in the weeks ahead. He had just arrived by train at Nairobi, along with his staff and 2 companies of the 2nd battalion Loyal Lancashire Regiment. He was met at the station by an aide and 4 servants, who promptly escorted the Brigadier and his staff to General Wapshare’s headquarters.
After the fiasco at Tanga back in November, the commander of the Indian Expeditionary Force ‘B’, Major General Aitken had been recalled in disgrace to London, where he was reduced in rank to colonel. Meanwhile Brigadier General Richard Wapshare who had commanded the Bangalore Brigade, received a temporary promotion to Major General, thus making him the ranking officer in British East Africa. Soon after arriving at the headquarters, General Tighe and his staff met with General Wapshare, his adjutant, Major O’Grady and Captain O’Brien who commanded ‘A" squadron of the East African Mounted Rifles. General Wapshare got quickly to point, "The advent of the long rainy season creates a need for urgency. As the weather will get steadily worse in the weeks ahead, the expedition to Abyssinia must depart as quickly as possible. Once you get to the arid country to the north the weather should actually work in your favor. In the dry season supplying an expedition of this size with the necessary water would be most difficult."
"That is most true, sir. Speaking of size, have you reached a decision concerning the composition of my expedition?"
. "Yes, I have Michael. The main force will consist of the 2nd Lancashire, 101st Grenadiers, 13th Rajputs, 29th Punjabi, 63rd Palamcottah Light Infantry, 2nd Kashmiri Rifles, 61st King George’s Own Pioneers battalions and the 28th Indian Mountain Artillery Battalion. I would have liked to provide you with more artillery, but it is going to deucedly awful just moving a single battery of mountain 10 pounders once the rains get serious."
"This is a substantial force, nonetheless, sir. A least a battalion larger than I expected to tell the truth.. How long is going to take to assemble all these units?" asked Tighe.
O’Grady answered that one, "Some of these units were already close to here. We have expectations that you will be able to depart with 2 columns on Saturday. One will leave Thika before noon with 2 battalions, the artillery battery and most of your support units.. The other will leave here at first light with 3 battalions. The remaining battalion—the 101st Grenadiers—is scheduled arrive at Thika by rail early Sunday. It can catch up."
Casting a brief glance in the direction of Captain O’Brien, Tighe asked, "An impressive bit of staff work, to arrange all that on short notice, Henry. Will I be receiving any cavalry units?"
"Yes, 3 squadrons of the East African Mounted Rifles will accompany your expedition. In addition Captain O’Brien here has been ordered to proceed on ahead with his squadron to make contact with Ras Tafari. Weather permitting he will be riding out at first light tomorrow," answered Wapshare.
Tighe turned to Captain O’Brien, "Are your men eager to be off on this grand adventure, Captain?"
O’Brien had raised an eyebrow but then he grinned eagerly, "That they are, general, that they are. Though they were mighty surprised to hear where they are going."
"Surprised? Surely word has reached here of the Abyssinian situation?"
It was Major O’Grady who answered, "They are trying to keep that bit of news under wraps around here, General. As I understand certain less than pleasant things happened around here when this town was started. There are still some locals who hold a grudge. Many of the natives look towards Abyssinia as something of a role model. I am not sure, if you heard about it, sir, but there was disturbing incident about 2 months ago in Nyasaland. An educated African named John Chilembwe recently concocted a grotesque religion he ironically called ‘Ethiopianism’. It looked to Ethiopia for inspiration and was very hostile to Europeans being in Africa. He led his more than 500 of his followers in an uprising. One of the first targets was an estate belonging to a grandson of Dr. Livingstone, where they brutally murdered the 3 white men present and took the women and children prisoner. Fortunately one of the women managed to escape and spread the alarm."
Tighe was outraged, "Sweet Jesus! This is the first I heard of this. What happened? Has this movement been suppressed or was it allowed to grow?"
Wapshare answered, "It appears that it has been extinguished. Local forces organized a resistance to Chilembwe’s horde. In one township they even managed to persuade a wounded German lieutenant they had captured to organize their defense. Another group managed to rescue the captured women and children. A double company of King’s African Regiment arrived after an incredibly rapid forced march and the uprising was throttled. This madman Chilembwe had been killed in the fighting and 20 of his lieutenants were hanged afterwards. The rest of his followers have been imprisoned."
"Hmm. Ethiopianism," mused Tighe, "well then, the moral of this grim tale appears to be that my line of communication will need to be adequately guarded."
"Precisely! The Gwalior half battalion arrive here just before you leave. Along with a company of East Africa Regiment, they will protect Nairobi to guard your communications during the initial phase of your long march. Meanwhile, there is word from London that the 4th King’s African Rifles battalion is to be relieved at Kumpala by a Belgian force eventually and when that happens, it will proceed here by rail. When they arrive the Gwaliors will head north to guard your line of communications."
"This is very well thought out, sir. I am a little bit worried about supplies getting to Nairobi from Mombasa. As I understand it Col. Lettow-Vorbeck had tried to take Mombasa once before we got here and has made repeated attempts to cut the Uganda Railroad in the vicinity of Kilimanjaro. In that we are in to rush to make it to the northern arid lands before the rains become insufferable, I will be leaving with threadbare supplies. Will you have enough forces left to prevent him from disrupting the rail link?"
Wapshare nodded, "I think so. A battalion of the Rhodesian Regiment will be arriving at Mombasa in a few days. More importantly the rainy season should work in our favor. The Germans are very unlikely to make a move until it’s over."
------Lahej, Aden Protecorate 1410 hrs
This crossroads town lay north of the British naval base at Aden. It was manned by only by police. These now fled to the south as a large column of Ottoman troops approached.
------Vienna 1630 hrs
Count Tisza was meeting with Kaiser Franz Josef. The Hungarian prime minister had requested that they meet completely in private. The Kaiser insisted on a single aide being present. Count Tisza made the minimal formal courtesies then proceeded straight to the point, "Your Majesty, it is not my intention to be disrespectful but I must insist in the strongest possible terms that that you retract your recent proclamation about restructuring our great nation!"
"I knew you were going to say that," replied the aged monarch with an glint of hardness in rheumy eyes, "I knew it before I issued it. Nonetheless I made my decision anyway. I assume you are now going to make some threats."
"Your Majesty, this is uncalled for. No people have been more loyal to you in this struggle than the Magyars! We have been willing to do what it takes out of our love for you and this great nation. And to be repaid for our blood in a such a way---"
"If you were willing to do what it takes why has Hungary not raised taxes, Istvan? Why is the battleship Szent Istvan still unfinished in a Hungarian shipyard? Is she had been ready for Admiral Haus’ bold sortie the problem in the Adriatic could well have been solved? And why does Hungary resist a centralized distribution of grain, which is so vital during a protracted war?"
Tisza had anticipated stubbornness from the Kaiser, but the specific nature of these barbs hit a sore spot. He struggled to maintain his composure, but his temper could not be checked "You go too far, Your Majesty! No one—not even you-- has the right to impugn Hungarian honor. I have fought duels over lesser slights to Hungarian honor!"
Franz Josef felt strangely relieved. His greatest fear in this encounter was that he would cave into this overgrown bully. "How typical! I present concrete facts and you counter with swagger and bluster. Long ago I learned that the Magyar is a hound with more bark than bite."
Count Tisza moved a step closer to the monarch. The aide—who the Count noticed was considerably larger than most approached. The Count edged back. Franz Josef turned to the aide, and shook his head. Tisza glared at both of them grinding his teeth.. "You will regret those words, Your Majesty! Just as you will regret that foolish proclamation. You now very well what I can do!"
Kaiser Franz Josef was momentarily taken back. Finally he responded, "So what are you threatening now, Istvan? To leave at once and make a separate peace? British colonials lead Montenegrins and Serbs into Herzegovina while the Russians send a large army in the Bukovina just so they can stir up a rebellion in Transylvania. Do you really think this is a war you can simply walk away from? When you hold a wolf by the ears it is hard to let go! Istvan, Istvan, act like an adult for once and we can negotiate in candor the composition of the commission I will appoint. If you want to make sure it has sufficient members sensitive to Hungarian interests, I can be accommodating. But do not dare to order me! Do not dare to threaten me! I may be old but I am still your sovereign!"
Count Tisza muttered something under his breath neither the Kaiser nor the aide could discern. Then in a louder voice he said, "I will do what my people need. Whatever it takes!"
------Tower of London 1945 hrs
After being arrested Capt. Jack White found himself hustled off to the Tower. Since arriving he had been repeated interrogated. There were usually two interrogators. One of them was a very middle aged man who appeared to be unstable. He was always verbally abusive and sometimes physically as well. In his more restrained moods he kept telling Jack what a disgrace he was to his family, that his father would die of shame when he learned of his son’s treason. Jack very quickly came to think of him as the Nasty Detective.
The other detective was a complete opposite, and would often try to keep his berserker partner under some semblance of control. He would even give Jacks candies which he accepted and cigarettes which he declined. Jack thought of him as the Nice Detective.
Those two were almost always present but sometimes there were others. They others were usually unpleasant but in a colder more professional way that the Nasty One. They kept telling him that Connolly had made a full confession and the only chance he had to save his neck was if he made a full confession as well. His interrogators were utterly convinced Jack had intended to lead the Citizen Army in a rising when he returned to Dublin. He told them over and over that he had been trying to return to Dublin in order to prevent what was certain to be a massacre. They had not believed him—not even the Nice Detective. He had even admitted to the Nice Detective that he might have tried to lead a strike if a death sentence was imposed on Connolly. It made no difference. Everyone was sure he was one of the rebel leaders—except he learned Connolly had been moved to the Tower as well.
They asked him many questions about his involvement with Connolly. They wanted to know about Mallin and the Countess Markieviscz as well. The Nasty Detective kept asking him over and over if Connolly was shagging the Countess. They seemed awfully eager to hear that the Countess was intimately involved with all of Connolly’s plans. Jack had been alternately sullen and truthful with this line of questioning. Since he himself was not involved in any plot there was no way he would know if either Mallin or Markiewiscz were involved. It was a silly question as Jack was concerned but that did not prevent his interrogators from asking it over and over. Sometimes they did Jack to say things he wished he hadn’t. Like when they asked about the Citizen Army having expanded beyond Dublin, esp. Cork and he quipped, "Oh how I wish that were true."
Now there was another new interrogator. He wore the officer of a naval captain. He had some sort off strange facial tic and he blinked a great deal. ‘I am Captain Hall’ he said but not in a friendly way, "there are things I need to learn from you, Captain White. The most important is what Sir Roger Casement is doing in Germany?"
"I didn’t know Sir Roger was in Germany," answered White honestly. The revelation came as a bit of a shock actually.
"Oh, and I bet you didn’t know Sir Roger was a degenerate, either," sneered the Nasty Detective, "A bleeding homosexual. Likes to stick his thing up young boy’s behinds. Oh, you never heard that either I imagine. Then again maybe you like that too, Jack. Tell me know what you like better giving or receiving?"
Jack had heard that sort of rumor about Sir Roger.. Sometimes that sort of rumor was true and sometimes it’s not. You learned that tidbit of wisdom quickly in the Army. It had bothered him a little when he first heard it, but did not let it ruin his friendship with Casement. He made reply.
The captain with the facial tic continued, "Casement it is now obvious has many moral failings. We are certain that he is currently in Germany trying to secure their assistance in a Irish rising. We also think Joe Plunkett is over there as well and that John Devoy in the United States is involved as well."
"And we all think you are involved the Germans as well," said the Nasty One.
"How could I possibly be involved with the Germans when I was driving an ambulance at the front?" objected White.
"You tell us," said Captain Hall.
"This is crazy. This is the first time I heard that Casement was in Germany. If he is in Germany I do not know why. His health is not that good so it could be medical."
"What a pile of crap, that is! Casement had to go all the way to Berlin to find a doctor," said the Nasty Detective.
"Sir Roger does have medical problems," conceded Captain Hall, "but is not why he is in Berlin. We strongly suspect you were his connection with Connolly. Is there to be a German arms shipment."
"Connolly was all for the workingman! He had no sympathies for any ruling class—be they English or German."
"Oh. Is that so? Are you aware then he wrote and performed publicly a song recently entitled Germany is Winning the War, Me boys?"
The last few days Captain Jack White had grown very bitter. He looked Captain Hall straight in the eye, "Well then it seems Connolly’s real crime is telling the truth. Or have you forgotten Utsire or Dogger Bank for that matter?"
Queen Mary had been destroyed at Dogger Bank. Her former captain turned red with rage and slapped White as hard as he could. "No, I have not forgotten, you piece of shit!" he hissed and raised his arm to deliver another blow.
The Nice Detective finally intervened by putting a hand on Hall’s shoulder, "Captain Hall, that is enough, if you please."
"Go ahead, Captain, slap him again! This traitorous scum here sure and hell deserves it," the Nasty Detective gleefully smirked.
White realized that what he had just said would merely confirm their silly suspicions. Nevertheless he was glad he had said it. It was time he paid them back for what they were putting him through.
------German Eleventh Army HQ 2105 hrs
The afternoon reports filtering back to his HQ were very encouraging to General Mackensen. The area on both sides of the Pilica controlled by the German had expanded, despite additional Russian cavalry arriving on both sides of the river.
"The attack by our cavalry corps is to go forward tomorrow," he ordered.
The reports from the Austro-Hungarian Fourth Army were encouraging as well, so Mackensen would leave it to its commander, Archduke Josef Ferdinand to decide when to commit the Austrian Cavalry Corps.
------Simla India 0715 hrs (GMT) Thursday March 25, 1915
The Viceroy of India, Lord Hardinge of Penshurst and his political advisor, Sir Percy Cox were waiting for General Harry Beauchamp Duff, the Commander in Chief, India to arrive. While they were waiting they discussed something they had discussed many times previously, "Is it a matter of time before Bonar Law finds an excuse to sack me as well, Percy," asked the Viceroy.
"As I have said before, Excellency, it is hard to say. This frightful war has turned London’s political situation upside down and inside out. Yet despite all that I remain optimistic. If they meant to replace you they would’ve done so when Bonar law became Prime Minister. You keep fretting, because they replaced the Viceroy of Ireland. But I must remind you that Ireland and India are completely different situations. The Unionists clearly have a different agenda for Ireland than Asquith had."
"So they see eye to eye with us on India? I finding that highly unlucky."
"There are differences in policy, Excellency, but they are both more subtle and much less urgent. With some many things in flux and the war going so badly astray, I think Bonar Law appreciates stability and continuity. That is provided—"
"—provided we don’t bollocks things up. Well, then. Look here comes the general."
"I do hope I haven’t kept you waiting too long, Excellency," remarked General Duff as he entered the room.
"Not too, long, general. Well then, shall we get started? This meeting is to discuss our response to Lord Kitchener’s request for an Expedition ‘E’ to be sent to Berbera to counter the Abyssinian threat to Somaliland."
"Uh, the request was not very precise, Excellency," answered the general, "Initially Lord Kitchener defined its primary mission as defending our colony in Somaliland. But he also mentions guarding Djibouti and eventually a thrust into Abyssinia."
"I regarded it as more an a little ambiguous myself, general" commented Cox.
"As did I," said Hardinge, "As best I can figure, his objectives are sequential. First, to guard, Berbera. Then to secure Djibouti and only after those objectives are taken care of is there to be an invasion of Abyssinia."
"It can be interpreted that way," the general cautiously remarked.
"On the contrary, it is the only way that makes sense at all given our current situation. I know full well that our resources are stretched already."
"That they are, Excellency. I take it then they you do not want this interfere with our operations in Mesopotamia?"
"Absolutely! Baghdad is much more important than Djibouti. The telegrams mentioned two other expeditions into Abyssinia—one from Egypt through the Sudan and they other coming up from East Africa, They are obviously the main offensive efforts—likely to be mostly Indian troops in both of them. So this Expedition ‘E" is clearly defensive in nature."
"In that case, I would think 3 battalions would be more than enough. Hmm, perhaps a cavalry squadron as well. We would not need to send any artillery, which is good as we are already woefully short of that previous commodity. Given some time I can find 3 battalions we send off."
"Just how much time do you require general? London definitely sounded impatient," asked Hardinge
"Even if we are talking 3 battalions, it is not something I can do willy-nilly. For one think I will need to confer with General Lake. It will be at least a good week before I have these ready for embarkation."
------North of the Pilica River1345 hrs
The Guard Cossack Cavalry Division had made both mounted and dismounted attacks on the German 5th Cavalry Division in the late morning. They had failed. It now tried merely to hold the Germans while the hard marching 70th Rifle Division could arrive. Overhead they could see an airship. For a while they were nervous that it might drop bombs on them but it made no attempt to do so.
The Cossacks had not had time to entrench. They merely huddled behind what cover they could find. Suddenly they came under heavy artillery fire. The shells bursting were much more destructive than any horse artillery. Heavy casualties were soon taken including their own horse artillery. The Cossacks soon saddled up and withdrew to the north and 70th Rifle Division.
What had been a major weakness of the cavalry so far in this war was inadequate firepower. Then General Moltke had recognized this back in November and proposed giving each cavalry brigade its own machine gun detachment. This proposal was assigned a low priority when Falkenhayn took over the General Staff. OKW managed from the resources it had available formed 2 additional machine gun detachments which it now gave to the 5th Cavalry Division so each of its brigades have a machinegun detachment. The 19th and 20th Reserve Jaeger battalions had been withdrawn from XXIV Reserve Corps to reinforce the cavalry.
However what was the much significant innovation in the German cavalry corps deployed this day was the regiment of motorized artillery assigned to it. This regiment consisted of 3 battalions. Two of the battalions each consisted of 3 batteries of the former naval 15cm guns. One of these battalions used Czech Tatra trucks with 4 wheel drive. The third battalion consisted of 2 batteries of 21cm Morsers.
While they were in transport the artillery was vulnerable esp. to Russian cavalry. The role of the German cavalry was to screen the motorized artillery and its ammunition column. Another novel feature was an army airship was assigned to it to provide additional reconnaissance and spotting for the artillery regiment which had a motorized short range wireless station.
------Paris 1500 hrs
The French Premier Rene Viviani had asked Interior Minister Louis Malvy to meet with him in private. "I am well aware that the Radical Socialists are unhappy with Joffre’s dismissal of General Sarrail," said the Premier, "but yesterday I heard that your colleagues have a new cause for disgruntle. Something that happened in Ireland of all places. Can you please explain."
Malvy answered, "It is about this man, James Connolly who was arrested for planning an uprising in Dublin."
"Yes, I recall reading about it in the newspapers. At the time I recall thinking that it was good they had taken firm action beforehand, but then lost interest in the matter. Why is that minor event causing a problem here?"
Malby licked her lips nervously, "Initially the story did not get much attention here. But then the British publisher Northcliffe kept running stories about how this man, Connolly was a Socialist and his rebellion was the work of a vast Socialist conspiracy that extended far beyond Dublin. This began to annoy certain Socialists not only here, but in Spain and Italy as well. On Tuesday a Spanish Socialist newspaper published an article which made certain sensationalist allegations."
"Well to start it said that the story being given out by the British government was ludicrous at face value."
"In what way?"
"Well, it has been reported that Mr. Connolly was planning to start his rebellion with a little more than 200 poorly armed men. The Irish are not always the most realistic of people but even by their low standards this sounds insane."
"Hmm. As I said I barely noticed that story when it was first reported and ignored it completely afterwards. Now thinking on the matter it does sound bizarre. So go on, what else did the Spanish newspaper say?"
"It goes on to a series of speculations. It denies that Connolly was planning an uprising. It claims Connolly’s arrest was the first step in a campaign by the new British government to persecute Socialists and destroy the Labor unions."
"What utter rubbish! The delirious fabrications of an overactive imagination possibly stimulated by German currency. And now you are going to tell me that there are actually Socialists here in France that give that shit credence? Sacre Bleu! What is our country coming to?"
"There is growing sympathy for Connolly amongst the more intense Socialists here as well as those in Spain and Italy. This morning I heard that strikes are already being planned if the British sentence Connolly to death."
------Russian Third Army HQ 2305 hrs
General Radko Dmitriev, the commander of Third Army, was a Bulgarian general now in Russian service. He grinly studied his latest reports. He found very little in them that was good. The reinforcements he had sent to his right wing had merely slowed the German advance