by Tom B
Southwest of Amiens 0800 hrs Thursday March 8, 1915
The French artillery commenced fire. Supplementing the large number of 75s were some heavier pieces. Some of these heavier weapons were obsolete relics which lacked a long recoil system and had to be repositioned after each firing. After the disaster on Tuesday it was decided to conduct a thorough bombardment. The Germans took some losses, but when the French infantry still suffered heavy casualties. Here and there they took a piece of trench, only to lose them to the German counterattacks later.
------Addis Ababa 1205 hrs
Ras Mikael burst in on his son, "I beg your pardon, Your Majesty, but messengers have just arrived with important news. Ras Tafari is heading this way with his army."
"Excellent, father, now we can crush the scorpion! How far away is he?"
"His cavalry vanguard is a little more than a hundred miles to the east."
"Only a hundred miles away? Our spies in Harrar must not be very good for his army to get that close."
"Our spies are in general competent but there are delays in relaying the information back here?"
"Might this be merely a reconnaissance in force by only cavalry?"
"No. Our intelligence is that he is bringing most of his infantry and his few artillery pieces."
"Well, father, this is most excellent news! I look forward to seeing Ras Tafari’s head on a stick!"
------London 1945 hrs
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd-George was having dinner with Sir .John Redmond. "Let me guess why you demanded to speak with me in private," said the Welsh Wizard, "You have learned that the government is planning to introduce a conscription bill tomorrow and you want it postponed if not killed entirely."
Redmond attempted a smile without much success, "That was an easy guess, David."
"Yes, it was. I even know what your main argument is going to be—that Ireland will rise up in rebellion if we try to impose conscription there."
"And it bloody will! Let there be no doubt about that!"
"No need to shout, John."
"Sorry, but you are my only hope, David. Bonar Law and Carson are the enemies of my cause, plain and simple. You are the voice of sanity on the War Committee. You can stop this bill. You alone can save Ireland."
Lloyd-George gave his famous reassuring smile but what he said was, "I am deeply flattered by what you just said. I really am. Unfortunately I have come to the conclusion that the British Empire needs conscription to win this war."
Redmond was crestfallen, "Then all hope is lost. Six months ago I was exuberant. Home Rule was on the books. The war would be over by Christmas with Irish lads demonstrating their loyalty to the British Crown. Around now Home Rule would be implemented and…"
Redmond’s voice trailed off. Lloyd-George finished the thought for him And you were damn fool certain that you’d be the leader of the Irish Parliament, eh? Aloud he said, "Sir John, please. Hear me out now and use your astute political instincts. There are many in Parliament deeply opposed to conscription."
Redmond looked confused, "What are you trying to tell me, David? That Parliament will reject conscription? Why then is the government proposing a controversial bill that it knows will be defeated."
He is not normally this dense Lloyd-George reminded himself as he sighed gently, "I did not say that conscription will be defeated. What I am saying is that it will spawn a very intense debate. My instinct is that it will take two maybe three months for it to pass and when it does it will include some key compromises. One of which is that it will not apply to Ireland."
"I am confused by your position, Chancellor. As you saying that you favor conscription but with Ireland exempted. That is not what the bill being introduced tomorrow says."
"You don’t introduce a bill which already incorporates all the compromises you are willing to accept. You know this as well as I do."
"Yes, I admit I have done that on occasion in the past. But this is different. Allowing a conscription bill to be introduced that does not exempt on the assumption that it will eventually be amended is downright reckless. It will send a very bad signal."
-------HMS Arethusa southwest of the Maas light 0155 hrs Thursday April 9, 1915
"The last of the survivors from Mansfield have been recovered, sir"
Commodore Tyrwhitt watched as his flagship and HMS Swift pounded a single German torpedo boat. The boat was down by the bow and burning badly. "That you for that information," he replied dryly.
. The ambush of the German Second Torpedo Boat Flotilla was yet another disappointment. There had been a series of skirmishes but he now believed the flotilla has broken through, except for this one torpedo boat. The HMS Mansfield had been torpedoed during the encounter. It remained afloat for nearly all of her crew to make it off.
Near here the Battle of the Broad Fourteens had been fought. The commodore had expected to die that night when 1st Scouting Group and its screen crashed into the rear of Harwich Force. He ended up losing his flagship, but not his life that fearful night. Since then he had become more cautious.
In the aftermath of the Battle of Utsire the Admiralty took 4th Flotilla away from Harwich, leaving him with Arethusa, Swift, and the 1st Flotilla. The Channel Fleet had ceased to exist. Its Fifth Battle Squadron was now at the Humber as part of the Grand Fleet. Most of its other battleships were now in the Mediterranean. As England lay under the threat of invasion, it front line defenses were the badly weakened Dover Patrol and Harwich Force.
He did not feel like taking risks this night. "Turn off the lights. It is time to go home," Tyrwhitt ordered.
------Admiralstab 1100 hrs
"The S.147 was severely damaged. If the seas were a little rougher she would’ve sunk. Outstanding work by her crew allowed to limp into Ymuiden two hours ago," announced Admiral von Bachmann to the Admiralstab, after summarizing the night battle.
"Will the Dutch intern her?" asked Admiral Tirpitz, "Since the British vessels several hours earlier, it is clear that she was not fleeing pursuit."
"The Dutch authorities have removed the crew. Their government says they are investigating the matter and that if she was not fleeing pursuit they will release her eventually."
"And the rest of Second Torpedo Flotilla?"
"They made it to Dunkirk. Two vessels were damaged lightly in the encounter. Repairs can be performed at Dunkirk and should take no more than 2 weeks."
"The British were waiting for us again!" bellowed Admiral von Igenohl.
"That is not clear, it could merely be an unfortunate enemy patrol," answered admiral Bachmann.
Ingenohl was not satisfied, "There are many things that have never been satisfactorily explained. At Dogger Bank why was strong enemy forces nearby? At North Foreland why did Grand Fleet arrive much quicker than expected? At Utsire why was the Grand Fleet waiting for the rendezvous? And now the same thing occurs once again. Why, why, why?"
Admiral Bachmann had no ready reply. This subject had come up before. Things like spies and the British using fishing boats with wireless. Bachmann found these explanations inadequate. Ingenohl maintained that whatever was the source of the British intelligence, Operation Unicorn was utter folly. Tirpitz believed that Ingenohl was merely looking for an excuse to cancel Operation Unicorn. Tirpitz was present at this meeting and Bachmann cast an inquiring glance in his direction.
"Are you still worried about our wireless security?" asked Tirpitz, "We have been over that many times. The ciphers we use are mathematically proof against code breaking."
"Yes, I know but I have read the expert reports with all the high powered math that makes my head dizzy. But there are two aspects of wireless communication that we have not adequately discussed. First is that even though the British cannot read our wireless messages doesn’t the mere fact of an increase in wireless transmissions before and during a major operation give them a clue that something important is happening?"
Bachmann and Tirpitz exchanged glances again. "There may be something to that Grand Admiral," replied Bachmann in a hesitant voice.
"What is your second point?" asked Tipritz.
Ingenohl licked his lips cautiously, "I have seen some other expert reports about another aspect of wireless communication. Apparently it is theoretically possible to determine the location of a wireless transmission through triangulation. Might the British be ahead of us in developing this procedure? Even if they do not know what we are saying, the ability to determine where we are saying it could be aiding them."
"This is all speculative," said Bachmann as he yet again glanced towards Tirpitz.
"Hmm. There might be something to this as well. I would like to see those papers. But in the meantime what do you suggest—other than postponing Operation Unicorn, that is," said Tirpitz.
"Our lack of security makes Operation Unicorn utter folly!"
Tirpitz became pensive. In the last few days he had his own serious doubts about Operation Unicorn. It was a very ambitious and risky undertaking. If it failed completely it would not lose the war but it would result in the Army relegating OKW to insignificance and drastically reducing the role of the Navy. Hindenburg with Ludendorff at his side would soon take over the General Staff and they would be very hostile towards the navy esp. himself.
Ingenohl was momentarily hearkened when saw doubt in Tirpitz’s eyes but was disappointed when Tirpitz finally answered, "There is something to both your arguments, Admiral von Ingenohl. My suggestion for Operation Unicorn is that we restrict wireless communication to the bare minimum required—both in the number of messages and their length."
Bachmann was confused, "But doesn’t Operation Unicorn require considerable coordination between Admiral von Spee, and Wilhelmshaven?"
"It does but that can be accomplished with just a few brief messages. Extended radio chatter is not necessary. There is a two day stretch on his journey during which the Sonderverband can and should observe total radio silence. I will explain this to him and General von François. Going forward we should work out a policy where our wireless stations transmit gibberish messages during inactive periods so our traffic alone does not warn our enemy of a sortie. We are too close to Operation Unicorn to implement that immediately."
"Which means it is another good reason to postpone Unicorn!" countered Ingenohl.
Tirpitz stared at Ingenohl with mixed emotions. On two occasions Ingenohl had shown unexpected tactical skill. Nevertheless Tirpitz still regarded the so called ‘German Nelson’ as an overly cautious strategist and a borderline defeatist. Another surprising aspect of Ingenohl—a much less pleasant surprise than his tactical skill—was his recent interest in politics. Tirpitz knew full well of Ingenohl’s interaction with the Majority Socialists over German war aims. Tirpitz did not think Ingenohl was doing this out of ambition—no he was doing it out of fear. It was another manifestation of his underlying pessimism.
Tirpitz acknowledged that there were some in Germany who said some crazy things on the matter of war aims. Kaiser Wilhelm was an excellent example—Tirpitz increasingly thought his monarch was insane. From what Hoffman had told him, Ludendorff went at least a little too far when it came to war aims—another good reason for separating him from Hindenburg. If the war was to be won with the Navy as the decisive instrument it would have to be won in the next six months. Tirpitz regarded Operation Unicorn as the key to doing just that.
Tirpitz gave Ingenohl a look that a few months earlier would’ve made him tremble. Now he seemed impervious. Tirpitz sighed. It was time send the German Nelson out to sea again. At sea he would be much less dangerous. .
------near Zeila (Somaliland) 1405 hrs
The lead battalion of Senegalese had arrived before dawn coming off a hard march from Berbera. The rest showed up shortly after sunrise. Their commander allowed them a few hours of rest and coordinated with the battalion of King’s African Rifles dug in nearby. The mountain artillery battery had lagged a little but it was in position by noon.
The French mountain guns were now shelling the Abyssinian trenches. Col. Samir Rabadi had located his HQ in the hills to southwest. The Ottoman battery with its Krupp 77mm guns were positioned there on reverse slopes. So was the battery of Russian made mountain guns Ras Mikael had left at Djibouti.
Col Rabadi’s second in command was an Abyssinian named Ishmael with the rank of Fitauari. The French mountain artillery had started shelling the Abyssinian trenches on the hour. Ishmael was growing anxious. "We must do something! Can’t our guns fire back at the French?"
Rabadi removed the cigarette, "No. We cannot afford to expend the ammunition." This was partially true but it was not the complete story. His gunners were Arab and he had some doubts about their ability to perform effective counter-battery fire. Rabadi was a quarter Turkish He preferred to think of himself as Ottoman not Arab. Unfortunately very few of his fellow officers did likewise. The Ottoman guns were already registered where he wanted to them registered. So too were the Abyssinian artillery. His men had spent the last week trying to instruct their allies on the technique of indirect fire The learning curve was considerable. Now that they were registered on the avenues of approach they should do some good and not just waste shells.
Rabadi took another deep drag on his cigarette. Upon exhaling he shared one other concern, "The warships offshore are not firing so far. They are waiting our guns give away their positions and then they will open up on them."
Ishmael continued to squirm, "In that case my men must attack immediately. We have superior numbers."
"No," ordered Rabadi in a firm voice. Ishmael continued to fidget. Rabadi had a reputation for being cold and callous. He consciously decided to be warmer than his reputation. He took a final drag on his cigarette and extinguished his cigarette. He then put his right hand reassuringly on Ishmael’s shoulder. "I know you are a brave people. Bravery and wisdom are the ingredients of victory."
Ishmael managed a nervous smile in return. He still did not look happy. He cares deeply for his men thought Rabadi I wish I could say the same for myself. The Ottoman colonel extracted another cigarette from a silver case engraved with extremely fine art work. It was his prized possession.
After a few more minutes the French mountain artillery stopped firing. "Is their infantry going to attack now?" Ishmael asked.
Rabadi surveyed the situation with his binoculars. "I don’t think so," he answered.
A few minutes later the French artillery resumed its bombardment They were soon joined by the guns of the warships offshore—a French armored cruiser, an old British scout cruiser, 2 French and 1 British gunboats. The Abyssinians had been shelled by the warships before but still a few of their men ran from the trenches.
"Their infantry will be coming soon," predicted Rabadi turning to his own staff, "The Ottoman battery will commence firing when it sees the infantry attack underway. The Abyssinian artillery will commence firing once the Ottoman guns firing. Is that clear?"
The warships ceased firing. The Senegalese battalions charged as the French mountain guns fired a few final rounds. Ad they surged forward the Krupp 77s came into action and were soon joined by Abyssinian mountain guns. They took a toll on the attacking mass. The King’s Africa Rifles did not join them but hung back as a flank guard. Rabadi found this surprising. He had 4 Ottoman rifle companies along with nearly 4,000 Abyssinian riflemen—plus 600 of their spearmen in the forward. There was a second trench line dug at Rabadi’s insistence a little more than 2 miles back and it held a reserve of 1,200 Abyssinians. About 900 Oromo horsemen patrolled to the southeast. Worried most about his right flank Rabadi had positioned the Ottoman infantry on his right wing. The Ottoman machinegun company was spread out across the entire line though along with 4 Ethiopian machine guns (incl. the Vickers abandoned by the KAR). The machineguns and to a lesser degree rifle fire tore into the advancing Senegalese. Many fell but some made it into the Abyssinian trenches which lacked wire. The result was savage hand to hand combat.
Rabadi sent messengers to tell the Ottoman rifle companies to shift laterally to the left within the trench, and for half of the reserve troops in the second trench to reinforce the forward position. The savage hand to hand fighting in the trench went on for an hour but when it was done the superior numbers of the Abyssinians prevailed. Over a thousand Senegalese corpses lay on the ground. About 150 were taken prisoner, most of which had been wounded including the 3 French officers. Col. Rabadi had been very insistent that prisoners were not to be killed. He considered making a counterattack but decided against. If his Ottoman troops were Anatolian the temptation would’ve been stronger.
It looked to be a costly victory. It would take some time to produce casualty figures, but Rabadi guessed it would be close to a thousand., maybe more. It was not a perfect victory but it would do. Two of Sheyk’s Hasan Dervishes were present at Rabadi’s HQ as observers. "Not bad," one of them remarked almost sarcastically.
"Our men would have pursued the fleeing enemy," added the other.
"Despite some deficiencies it is still a victory. We must give thanks to Allah."
Col. Rabadi was not particularly religious, but it not wise to offend religious sensibilities. As he opened his silver cigarette case again, he responded, "Yes. Praise be to Allah!"
Suddenly the French warships resumed firing. This time they were aiming in the direction of the artillery. The shells exploded closer to the HQ. Rabadi appeared unconcerned. The shelling did not last long. When it was over Ishmael pointed towards the warships, "Now that their attack has failed, do you thing these ships will be leaving?"
"I hope not."
Ishmael was dumbfounded, "What!? Whatever makes you say that?"
Rabadi removed another cigarette from the silver case. "I want them to stay where they are. Tomorrow night additional reinforcements will try to cross the Red Sea."
------OKW 2015 hrs
At the beginning General Erich Ludendorff had gone up to gates of the fortress at Liege and pounded on them. He demanded that the fortress surrender to him. And it did. He found himself recalling that incident as we strode up another enemy fortress—the offices of Oberkommando Wehrmacht.
He was nearly 3 hours late. Muddy roads had badly slowed his staff car. He ascended the steps ready to do battle. He wondered which swine would dare to confront him first. The pathetic Generalfedlmarschal von Moltke for whom he merely felt disgust and contempt. The deceitful General von François, whom he hated passionately? The talented Oberst Hoffman, whom he now regarded as an errant schoolboy playing hooky? What if it was Grossadmiral von Tirpitz? That thought gave him some pause. Ludendorff’s opinion of Tirpitz was less clear cut. On the one hand there were qualities of Tirpitz he admired—decisiveness, ruthlessness and technical proficiency The German naval victories were indeed most impressive. What Ludendorff did not appreciate was the admiral butting into Army matters, joining forces with Moltke and now apparently Falkenhayn as well. I don’t fear the fork bearded old devil Ludendorff told himself well maybe I do, but only just a little.
"Well, I see you finally made it," pronounced Crown Prince Rupprecht in a loud chiding voice.
General Ludendorff had not expected to see Rupprecht at this meeting. Why is he here? He wondered. He made no reply.
"Come quickly now. I know the weather delayed your arrival. So while I can’t stand wasting my time I won’t yell. But now that you are here I would greatly appreciate it if you don’t dawdle."
Ludendorff suddenly felt dizzy. He had an intuition of unspeakable horror. No! It could not be! Paralyzed with dread he neither moved nor spoke.
"You will acknowledge and obey the wishes of your commander!" snapped Rupprecht.
Ludendorff’s jaw dropped. It took him a few seconds to stammer, "Yes, Your, your Excellency. I am coming."
Moltke now approached. Ludendorff thought he was smirking. "Ah, good. I see you have made your introductions. Well now shall we begin, Your Excellency? Our does General Ludendorff here require some food?"
"He can eat later. Time is precious, Feldmarschal. We will begin immediately."
They proceeded to a conference room. General von François was nowhere to be seen. Moltke wisely decided his presence would antagonize Ludendorff, besides François needed to concentrate on Operation Unicorn. Oberst Max Hoffman was selected to conduct the presentation.
"So this is where you’ve been hiding!" Ludendorff exclaimed when he saw Hoffman.
Hoffman decided to ignore the remark and proceeded with his briefing, "As you are well aware, Bulgarian signed a secret treaty of alliance with us on March 29. One of the provisions of the treaty is that a combined German and Austrian assault against Serbia begin within 30 days. Bulgaria will then declare war and attack within a week. The Ottoman Empire has volunteered a corps of 3 divisions to participate in this offensive. They have already begun to arrive in Sofia."
"This means that all four of the Central Powers will be participating in this offensive," interrupted Moltke enthusiastically, "So this office is clearly allowed a role under our charter.",
"Too bad you didn’t invite the Ethiopian savages as well," Ludendorff commented sarcastically.
Hoffman continued, "Our working plans for the Balkan offensive have been codenamed Operation Tourniquet. An Army Group is to be formed to command all forces involved in the operation. As General von Falkenhayn has chosen Crown Prince Rupprecht to command the army group it will be called Army Group Crown Prince Rupprecht. The German component will be a reformed Tenth Army. The current Tenth Army in Flanders is being disbanded. The portion of its staff dealing with the administration of the occupied territories will be moved to a new command HQ based on a reinforced corps. Much of the former staff will be used as the nucleus for the new Tenth Army."
"Staff officers are important, but what combat units will I be receiving?" asked Rupprecht.
"The XIII Army Corps which is currently in Belgium with Tenth Army, the XIV Army Corps currently with Army Detachment Strantz in Lorraine and the XXXIX Reserve Corps currently under the command of the Austrian Fourth Army in Poland. Also, the Bavarian Cavalry Division currently with Eleventh Army in Poland, Your Excellency,"
"Ah, at least there will be some Bavarians!" commented Rurrpecht.
Ludendorff rolled his eyes, shook his head and snorted. He did not think Rupprecht would notice. He guessed wrong.
"Is there something you would like to say, General Ludendorff?" Rupprecht asked pointedly.
Ludendorff stiffened, "Uh no, uh I mean yes, Your Excellency. The XXXIX Reserve Corps was involved in very heavy fighting until just a few days ago and I worried that they will be sorely under strength when our offensive begins."
"Hmm. You have a point but on the plus side these men, most of them newly trained, now have some good combat experience. I will need to see numbers of what their current effective strength is, of course, but I am not too worried right now. I am more concerned about heavy artillery."
Hoffman paused slightly, "Except for the foot artillery battalions attached to XIII and XIV Army Corps which are obviously going, the heavy artillery situation remains unclear, Your Excellency. General von Falkenhayn is still deciding. The same is true for pioneers, including minenwerfer units."
"Hmmm, It appears that I must talk directly with General Falkenhayn. So be it. What can you tell me about my allied forces?"
"There will be two Austrian armies involved, Your Excellency. The Fifth Army has already been formed under General Sarkotic. It is currently fighting the British and French in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Currently it has 5 infantry and 2 cavalry divisions, but only a single Corps HQ—the XIV. Its structure will be modified in the next two weeks and it is to be reinforced with a newly formed infantry division."
"And the other Austrian Army?"
"A new Third Army is to be created with General Kovess as its commander—the current Austrian Third Army is to be dissolved. The forces currently on the Serbian frontier—essentially a reinforced Corps will be increased to 5 infantry divisions and maybe a cavalry division as well, Your Excellency"
"I will need to know their heavy artillery strength as soon as possible. I would prefer that this office and not myself deal with General Conrad."
"But, of course, Your Excellency," answered Moltke without relishing the prospect.
"I heard you say there was to be 3 Ottoman divisions, Obest Hoffman? Is that correct? And the Bulgarians?"
"Yes, there are 3 Ottoman divisions in their III Corps, Your Excellency. The Bulgarians will only provide 6 infantry divisions, but I would point out that fully mobilized a Bulgarian infantry division has 22 battalions."
"Just proves how utterly stupid and incompetent they are," remarked Ludendorff, "such a formation is totally unwieldy in a battle."
"It does seem to have drawbacks," said the Crown Prince, "but I want to make it perfectly clear right now that I expect my chief of staff to show proper professional courtesy to our allies. Is that clear, General Ludendorff?"
"Yes, Your Excellency."
------Paris 1500 hrs Saturday April 11, 1915
The Cabinet was in session. The Minister of War, Alexandre Millerand, grimly announced, "I received word late this morning that the expedition we sent to remove the Abyssinians from Djibouti has been repulsed in its first encounter with the enemy near Zeila."
"This information will not be made public," added Premier Viviani, "It is merely an initial encounter. We do not want the ill informed to reach speculative conclusions."
"We had hoped to quickly liberate Djibouti without having to call on the British ground forces in Somaliland, which are preparing for an operation designed to eliminate Iyasu. They also have the Mad Mullah to contend with."
"For reasons of national honor that was justified, but with this setback we must consider asking for British assistance."
Aristide Briand, the Justice Minister interjected, "It is painfully obvious that General Joffre sent too small an expedition."
"That is jumping to conclusions," countered Millerand, "General Joffre has his reasons."
"Joffre always has his reasons—but it is plain that many of them stink! Which is why he insists on total control over the information we receive."
"Have you no gratitude, Aristide? It was General Joffre saved France at the Marne Right now he is trying to liberate Amiens. What is more important Amiens or Djibouti?"
"If neither is soon liberated this government is in very serious trouble!" Briand yelled. He expected to see some outrage on the face of his fellow ministers. Instead he saw something else on their faces.
There was a minute of awkward silence, then Viviani spoke, "You are probably right, Aristide."
------Spanish Morocco 1645 hrs
"You are a most exceptional officer, Franco," commented General Damaso Berengeur, "Being promoted to Captain at such a young age is most remarkable. But you fully deserve it for what you did at Beni Salem."
Captain Francisco Franco was meeting with the general in order to discuss strategy in their campaign against Al Raisuni, a local strongman who turned against the Spanish nearly a year ago. "You honor me, general. I can only say that I hope my future actions live up to your expectations."
"I think they will, in fact—"
A lieutenant on the General’s Staff poked his head in, "Pardon me for interrupting , General, but there is this German gentleman named Leopold. He says you know him. he would like to speak with you."
Berengeur took his time replying. Franco could seem from the look in his eyes that he knew the German. "Yes, I know that rascal. He is one of those German adventurers that roam all over the world causing mischief wherever they can."
"Should I send him away, General? Perhaps I should have him arrested?"
"No, I would like to speak with him. Leopold has many faults, but he is never boring. When he has done entertaining me I will decide whether of not to have him arrested."
"As you wish, General," said the lieutenant who promptly departed.
"Do you wish me to leave, senor?" asked Franco.
"No, no, please stay. You will be able to learn a thing or two from this conversation."
The aide soon returned with the German visitor, a deeply tanned man in his mid 40’s.
Berenguer came forward and embraced the German, "Leopold, my good friend. So very good to see you!"
"Yes, Damaso! You were only a colonel when I saw you last."
"Would you care for some refreshment? Some sherry perhaps?"
"Amontillado, please, if have some."
"I always have some amontillado. You know that. But tell me, what brings you to my palace, eh?"
"Thanks," said Leopold as he was handed a glass of sherry, ""There are several things we need to discuss. In private,"
"Leopold, this is Captain Francisco Franco, a very fine officer whom I trust completely. Anything you can say in front of me you can say in front of him."
Leopold had a warm ingratiating demeanor but he now frowned slightly. He took another sip of the sherry, "This is very good amontillado, Count."
"Why thank you, Leopold. Now then what is it that you wish to discuss. Eh?"
Still obviously uncomfortable with Franco’s presence, Leopold too still another sip. Finally he sighed and said in a nearly hushed voice, "I have just come from a meeting with Al Raisuni."
"You know where he is!" interrupted Franco, "You must tell us."
Berenguer glanced at Franco who sheepishly said, "Pardon my interruption, General."
Berenguer did not look offended. Instead he spoke to Leopold, "Captain Franco here is impatient but he is quite right. You must tell us where we can find Al Raisuni."
"That would be premature," answered Leopold cautiously. He took another sip.
"Just what do you mean by that?"
"You and I need to take a trip first."
"A trip? And just where are we going?"
"Why to Madrid, of course."
"Madrid? I cannot leave Morocco while there is an insurrection is going on."
"Al Raisuni and I have come to an understanding. We have reached an agreement. His war with Spain is over."
"Come to an understanding with Al Raisuni? Despite his pretensions the man is little more than a bandit."
"Tsk, tsk. That is no way to speak of the future Sultan of Morocco, Damasco."
------Dublin 2030 hrs
After her release from jail, the Irish Transport and General Workers Union asked the Countess Constance Markievicz to give a speech. She labored hard and long preparing it.
"What are they afraid of? Is it the huge numbers we have? I don’t think so." This produced a few laughs from the audience.
"Os it the might weapons with which we are armed? All those howitzers and machineguns we have in our arsenal?" More laughter from the audience.
"But wait maybe we do have something they fear? Something so powerful they can never defeat. We have the will to be free and that my friends, is something they most certainly fear. To them it is like smallpox. Once it is unleashed it will spread and spread. That is why I was arrested. That is why Michael was exiled. And that is why poor James Connolly is now on trial for his very life."
When the speech was over the audience was silent. For a minute the Countess feared her oratory had been a failure. Suddenly one person arose and then another and soon the entire audience was cheering and clapping wildly.
"Freedom for Ireland and freedom for her workers!" she shouted and the crowd grew even more enthusiastic.
After that refreshments were served. When the crowd finally began to break up three prominent members of the union approached her. They exchanged very serious glances amongst themselves. Finally one nudged another who spoke up. "That was an incredible speech, Countess. Most remarkable. Truly inspiring. And uh, we …"
His voice trailed off nervously. The Countess sensed there was more mere congratulations at stake here. "I thank so very much for saying that. But is there something that be troublin’ you kind gentlemen?"
"Well, uh. You see we’ve been talking it over amongst ourselves. We expect Jim Larkin and Captain White will be returning soon to take over the Transport Union. But, in the meantime, uh…" The voice trailed off again.
Arching an eyebrow the Countess asked, "But in the meantime what?"
It was another of the men who answered, "In the meantime we would like you to lead the Transport Union."
The Countess grinned, "Your mean the Citizen Army don’t you?"
------Khor Angar 2350 hrs (GMT)
This was a small coastal village in the north of French Somaliland. It’s economy was dependent on both fishing and mangoes. There were more fishing boats than usual this night. The additional boats came from Mocha. A local Afar fishermen, who was very supportive of Iyasu guided them in before the moon rose. There was a small collision between two boats as they approached land. One boat was holed but all of it crew and most of the Ottoman soldiers aboard made it safely to the shore.
This convoy carried another rifle company of Rabadi’s regiment. Each soldier carried a second rifle which they had been told would be given over to the Abyssinians. The Ottomans brought no wagons or draught animals. Their allies were expected to provide those items along with food and water. The company did bring some spare ammunition.
They were greeted by a dozen Ottoman soldiers and nearly 40 Oromo horsemen plus a handful of armed Afars. When the fishing boats were unloaded they would not return to Yemen in one group. That would be too suspicious if a British or French warship should happen to come along. Instead they would disperse—some would return quickly to Yemen by different routes. Others will remain awhile and do some actually fishing. One would try to patch its hole. It would be two more nights before another reinforcement would be attempted.
THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN HAS BEGUN
There have ominous signs in recent days that the Germans are making preparations for an invasion of England. These signs include the shelling of the coast of Kent with special long range artillery based at the Cape Gris Nez in France and repeated raids by airplanes as far inland as Miadstone The Germans have also increased their torpedo forces in the Channel Ports in the last few days.
In March the Russians mounted an offensive in East Prussia which caused the Germans to redeploy an estimated 8-10 divisions to the Easter Front. It was widely felt at the time that this development ruled out the possibility of a German invasion of England. However the Russian invasion of East Prussia was halted and at the end of March the Central Powers launched a daring counterattack in Poland which inflicted heavy losses on the Russian Fourth Army. This victory will allow the Germans to release enough divisions to attempt an invasion of England before the end of this month.
------Daily Mail, Sunday April 11, 1915.
------northeast of Anwaz, Persia 0315 hrs Sunday, April 11, 1915
Earlier in the Mesopotamian campaign the Ottoman had sent a weak force, including some friendly Marsh Arbs, to raid the pumping station at Anwaz in Persia. This force had engaged in a guerilla campaign with modest success against a weak British force reinforced with friendly local tribes. On arriving at Baghdad Generalfeldmarschal von der Goltz had met with Col. Al-Askary who outlined several ideas for retaking Basra involving elaborate feints. Der Golz appreciated the colonel’s energy and imagination but also found some of the man’s ideas to be impractical. Together they hammered out a plan. Al-Askary had wanted merely a diversionary force to proceed down the Karun River to threaten Muhammara in the British rear.He also wanted to send another diversionary force to threaten Qurna.
Der Goltz decided to concentrate on Anwaz. He felt a serious threat to oil pipeline would draw a substantial British force north and make it easier to take Basra. He also thought a strong Ottoman presence at Anwaz would send a signal to the Persians. He therefore ordered Al-Askary to try to take Anwaz and if he succeeded immediately entrench. Because of the importance Der Goltz assigned a Major Isaac Katz from his staff to accompany and advise Col. Al-Askary. The Ottoman task force consisted of 2 infantry regiments, an artillery battalion, an engineer company, a cavalry squadron and a machinegun company.
The lead regiment supported by the machinegun company and the cavalry had rendezvoused yesterday morning with the local forces. At that time the expedition commander, Col Suleiman Al-Askary had heard vague reports of a British column of reinforcements marching up the Karun. Al-Askary decided not to wait for his other infantry regiment and the artillery battalion to arrive. Instead he crossed the Karun River and was now making a night attack with 2 battalions.
Mounted Persian irregulars sympathetic to the British had observed the crossing. They believed the intrusion to be merely a hit and run raid by a small force. They assembled and attempted a hastily improvised attack. Only after they were driven off did they send word to the British HQ at Anwaz, which only provided a few minutes of warning before the lead Ottoman battalion reached the outskirts.
A confused night battle resulted. On both sides more than a dozen men were wounded by friendly fire before it was over. The Persian estimate of the size of the Ottoman force had gone from too small to too large by the time it reached the AngloIndian forces. When their outer perimeter was breached they decided to withdraw to the south of the city and await the relief column..
------Moyale Abyssinia 0725 hrs
Yesterday afternoon the ‘A" Squadron of East African Mounted Rifles had reached the border with Abyssinia. It was a hard ride across the many markedly different types of terrain found in British East Africa. The horsemen had struggled with heavy rains after they left Nairobi only to become parched once they reached the Chalbi Desert in the north. After that they reached the dry woodlands of the Mega Escarpment. Across the border there lay the small Abyssinian city of Moyale. On the British side of the border there was little more than an outpost called Lower Moyale. There was a small detachment of border guards. Certain nomadic tribes such as the Gabbra had fled Ethiopia during the reign of Menelik and raids across the border occurred all too frequently.
The commander of the squadron, Captain O’Brien had conferred with the border guard detachment. They provided food and fodder, but nearly exhausted their stock of the latter. O’Brien told them about the expedition following roughly a fortnight behind. They in turn said they would be able to offer General Tighe’s forces little in the way of supplies.
Once they had attended to their horses, O’Brien let the men get a good sleep In the morning final preparations were made. He now addressed his men, "As you all know that once we cross that muddy little stream a mile up the road we will be in Abyssinia. I don’t know what reaction we are going to get. Many of the Abyssinians here are Oromo and the Oromo are Iyasu’s people. So we could be in for a fight. But I must emphasize that our mission is not to start a fight. We are not on a raid into enemy country. Instead we are emissaries of His Majesty’s Government sent to liaison with friendly elements. I will say it again. We are not looking to start a fight today."
Composed as it was of settlers and great white hunters, discipline was a bit lax in the East African Mounted Rifles. One of the men yelled out, "So we can’t shoot the heathen savages until they shoot us first. Is that how it goes, Captain?"
O’Brien scowled, "I don’t like it much either, Corporal Steele. But yes that’s what it means."
Soon after that they saddled up and trotted off to cross the muddy little stream. When they reached the outskirts of Moyale, about 2 armed dozen men scurried forth to meet them. O’Brien noticed that while a few had Winchesters most of these men were armed with mere matchlocks. Still the cavalrymen were anxious in their saddles.
One of the Abyssinians carried only a revolver and seemed to be in command of the group.. "Halt! Halt!" he yelled, "You no belong here!"
"Ah, you speak English! That makes things so much easier" answered an encouraged O’Brien, "we mean you no harm. We want to help you. We merely want to find Ras Tafari and speak with him." There were 2 men in the squadron who spoke the local language well enough to act as interpreters, but O’Brien was glad not to have to use them.
The Abyssinian leader did not seem to understand him though. "English! You go! You go back."
"No, no! Now listen, old fellow. We are not going back. We are here to see Ras Tafari--"
The Abyssinian leader shook his head, "Ras Tafari? Ras Tafari no here! English no belong here. Go! Go back, English!"
It started to dawn on Capt. O’Brien that the Abyssinian leader’s command of English was extremely limited. He turned to one of his interpreters, "Patterson would you mind helping me talk with these blighted savages."
Patterson nudged his horse forward. The horse trotted a bit more rapidly than Patterson wanted and moved ahead of O’Brien’s horse. This infuriated the Abyssinian leader who walked forward slowly and drew his revolver pointing it at Patterson, yelling, "No! No! Go back, English or I shoot!"
At this some of the troopers reached for their rifles. O’Brien became alarmed. "No, no!" he yelled. One of the Abyssinians with a Winchester opened fire. He was dead in 15 seconds.
------OKW 2205 hrs
"It is so good to see you again, Jack," Roger Casement remarked as he gave Capt. Jack White a friendly hug.
"And it’s wonderful to see you as well, Roger," answered Capt. Jack White, "how have you been getting on, old fellow? You do well, uh, look a bit ragged." That was a polite understatement. Casement did not look well at all.
"I’ll admit I’ve seen better days," answered Casement with a sigh, "but the remarkable success I have achieved here is keeping my spirits up."
"Well, that’s smashing, Roger. Just what is this great success, you’ve achieved. Somethin’ to do with Ireland I’d hazard a guess."
Casement hesitated before answering, "It it does. Speaking of Ireland, I was sure you and Larkin would rush back to Dublin once Connolly was arrested."
White noticed that Casement was evading his question. Shaking his head he responded, "I don’t know anything about Jim Larkin but I was arrested on the way to Ireland."
"Arrested, you say? Oh dear--on what grounds?"
"You know, they never did tell me that—except for some vague references to the Defense of the Realm Act. I spent more than a week in the Tower of London. They seemed to think I was planning to replace Connolly and lead the Citizen army in revolt. I told them the truth—that I was on my way to Dublin precisely to prevent a rising. I knew that the Citizen Army would just get itself massacred if it rebelled. Wouldn’t do the slightest bit of bloody good. But my damn interrogators—including some strange naval captain—wouldn’t believe a word of what I told them."
"Hmm. Interesting. Probably this naval captain is connected with intelligence. Was it, er, very rough?" asked Casement with deep sadness in his rheumy eyes.
"Yes it was rough at times. And I think your right about the navy man. He definitely sounded like an intelligence officer."
Casement continued to look sad. There was an awkward silence. Finally White asked, "What is this all about, Roger?"
.Casement looked even sadder and with a deep sigh he asked, "Do you know where you are, Jack?"
"It’s some sort of military headquarters, that’s plain to see."
"This is OKW. It is a supreme command with authority over both the German Army and Navy."
White whistled. He was getting worried though about what he saw etched on Casement’s face "Sounds like you got the ear of some very important Germans, Roger."
"Yes, I did, Jack," Casement replied, "Now look there is something you need to know. The Germans agreed to let you see me when I said we were good friends. But some of them are very worried about you."
"Why? Do they think I might be a spy?"
Casement nodded, "Why yes. Some of them do—despite my assurances. Others though are worried that while you may not be a spy yourself those who are might be able to get some information out of you after you leave They are sure that at least one British agent has tailed you since you landed at Rotterdam."
There was another awkward silence. White realized what Casement was trying to say, "There are not going to let me leave is that it?"
Casement nodded his head glumly. White could see at least one tear rolling down the old man’s cheek. "It would be best if you join us, Jack. We could certainly use a man like you."
"And just what would I be joining Roger?"
Casement attempted a smile, "The Germans have given it a funny codename. They call it Operation Unicorn."
------Old Admiralty Building 1345 hrs
"What is this urgent matter of policy that we need to discuss, Admiral Oliver?" Sir Edward Carson asked soon after he arrived.
. "There is a 6,000 ton Italian merchantman anchored at the entrance of the Suez Canal. It is loaded with Italian rifles, ammunition, some barbed wire and a few machine guns. Its declared destination is Massawa. The Italians claim it is for the Eritrean garrison. The canal authorities are delaying its passage through the canal and requesting guidance."
Carson did not like the sound of this. Even if Salandra was still the Italian premier he would be suspicious. The NID had learned a few days that Giolitti had sold artillery to the Central Powers. This ship was extremely suspicious."
"Have you talked with the Foreign Office?" he asked.
Oliver made a sour face, "I have, sir. They say we have no right to refuse her passage, much less seizing her."
"Damn it!" yelled Carson pounding his fist on a desk, "it is plain as the nose on my face that Giolitti is sending these arms to Iyasu. Find some bloody excuse to delay the ship’s passage for at least a full day."
Oliver nodded, "We can get away with a day maybe two but when the Italian ambassador files a complaint, Lord Grey is certain to give way."
------St Enda’s (Dublin) 2105 hrs
Mimi Plunkett was back from the United States, once again carrying messages in her undergarments. "I heard Tom Clarke got deported," she said as she underdressed enough behind a screen to remove the latest letter from Devoy. It was only her and Pearse.
"You heard right. Michael Mallin as well. They are both being sent to the US. Clarke wanted to go to either Holland or Denmark—so he could go to Germany to try and find Casement and your brother, but they insisted he go to somewhere in the Western Hemisphere."
"But the Countess was released, wasn’t she?"
"Aye. But the way she’s been acting since they released her it wouldn’t surprise me if they end up deporting her as well."
"Well aren’t you the one to be talkin’ like that? Don’t you be thinking they just might be wanting to throw your Fenian arse out of Ireland was well?"
Pearse did not answer Mimi’s question. It was a strong possibility that plagued his mind frequently in the last few days. Instead he replied, "Did you know that the Countess is now claiming that she’s in charge of the Citizen Army?"
"Jesus, no! No way they’d let a woman run the Citizen Army even if they are a crazy bunch of socialist loons. And besides isn’t the Citizen Army banned?"
"It is and it isn’t. When Jim Larkin shows up he’ll put an end to this nonsense right quick. Did he happen to be on the ship from New York with you by any chance?"
"No. You are not going to believe me but Larkin seems content to stay in the States for the time being. Devoy is very upset with him," she said then stepped out from behind the curtain and handed him Devoy’s letter. As Pearse opened it she said, "There is something that Devoy ordered me to tell you verbally, even though he says it’s in the letter. The Clan na Gael was given a loan for a large amount of money. Apparently the Germans arranged this. Towards the end of the month American vessels are going to be bringing you supplies for the Revolution."
"What? What was that? Do you mean weapons and ammunition? I thought the American government had forbidden that," answered Pearse as he began to decode Devoy’s letter.
"Don’t get y’er hopes up. The only weapons are going to be 100 shotguns—"
"Shotguns? A measly 100 shotguns? We need 100,000 proper military rifles!"
"Devoy says he will try to purchase the shotguns retail and then hide them amongst the other stuff."
"What other stuff?"
"Oh, how about 2,000 horses? Some motor vehicles too, mostly trucks Oh and a lot of food. Enough for an army!"
"An army without any rifles!" Pearse groaned in frustration.
"Devoy ordered me to tell you that these items are to be stored in 3 counties—Clare, Limerick and Kerry. They are not to be moved outside those counties. Did you hear that?"
"I heard. John is apparently seeing the Western counties as critical to the rising. I will communicate this to Stack to Manahan and they’ll make the necessary arrangements." Pearse answered referring to the respective commandants of Kerry and Limerick Brigades. Pearse then decoded the section that read, "ample arms and other aid will arrive from Germany in either late April or early May." His heart was filled with the greatest possible joy. He smiled like a cherub and hugged Mimi. He even kissed her on the cheek.
------outside Mweraeri (Kenya) 0425 hrs Monday, April 12, 1915
The rain had let up some but was still coming down hard. In the darkness 3 companies of Schutztruppen advanced. The positions they were assaulting were held by a company of the Indian 98th Infantry Battalion. There was no barbed and only at the last minute did a sentry raise an alarm. After a few men were killed, half of the defenders surrendered to the askaris and the rest fled to the northeast.
------Anwaz, Persia 0750 hrs
What neither Al-Askary nor Der Gotz knew was that Major General George Gorringe was leading a column consisting of much of the Indian 12th Division plus 1,000 friendly Marsh Arabs from Muhammara. Learning that the Ottomans had seized the city Gorringe rushed his forces now to attack. His artillery had lagged behind during the long march up the wet river bank and would not be available until the afternoon. His early morning assault consisted of the 7th battalion Rajputs and the Arabs from Muhammara.
The attack was supposed to be simultaneous but the Marsh Arabs were eager to avenge the losses their fellow tribesmen had been suffering in the guerilla war that had been going on around Anwaz. The began their attack while the Rajputs were still assembling. The Ottoman forces in Anwaz had a day to entrench and their machine gun company was well positioned. The engineer company and a battalion from the second regiment arrived before midnight to assist with the defenses but the Ottoman artillery battalion was still en route. Its weary draught animals would only go so fast.
The Marsh Arabs encountered 2 machineguns and a single strand of barbed wire. Their ardor suddenly dissipated and they beat a hasty retreat just as the 7th Rajputs began their attack. They too encountered machine guns and wire but found some gaps and managed to come to grips with the defenders. The Rajputs fought bravely but they were coming off a forced march, trying to overcome a partially entrenched enemy which had superior numbers. The attack faltered and finally fell back.
------Addis Ababa 0940 hrs
Ras Mikael had insisted that Iyasu remain in the capital while he took the army to do battle with Ras Tafari. Iyasu had seriously considered disobeying his father and going along anyway but in the end he decided to remain. His father had promised to bring back Ras Tafari’s severed head. The young Emperor now had two visitors—a member of Ottoman legation and a German. Both had very serious expressions on their faces.
"What is it? What is wrong? Is it about my father?" asked Iyasu.
The Ottoman diplomat glanced at the German then answered, "As far as we know your father is well, Your Majesty. What has us concerned is a message our wireless station received from the Germans within the last hour.
"Oh? A message from Berlin?"
"No, Your Majesty. The message was sent from the German colony to the south."
"Oh, hmm. And what does it say?"
"Perhaps it is best if you read it yourself," said the Ottoman, who then turned to the German and gestured for the man to go forward. The German approached Iyasu slowly and respectfully to show him a piece of paper.
------10 Downing St, 1030 hrs
Lord Kitchener was summoned to meet with the War Committee. He brought along General Henry Wilson, his liaison with the French military.
"The Albanian Expedition is stalled, Prime Minister," declared Kitchener. What everyone could hear even though he did not say it openly was "I told you so."
Carson gave Kitchener a hostile glare then countered, "The current wet weather there is interfering with our advance, Field Marshal."
"And the weather is likely to remain at least as bad if not worse for several weeks, First Lord. When it finally does gets better General Birdwood will have the Bulgarians to worry about."
"The Bulgarians are taking their time. They have not yet begun to mobilize. There may still be a chance that they can be dissuaded. Lord Grey is working feverishly to get Serbia to make concessions to Bulgaria."
Kitchener ignored that last remark and turned to Bonar Law, "General Wilson here has informed me that General Joffre has launched a series of attacks in the last few days with Amiens as their primary objective, Prime Minister."
Shifting his gaze from Kitchener to Wilson, Bonar Law asked, "Reading between the lines, I believe there is a request that the BEF launch a major attack as well. Am I correct, Henry?"
General Wilson cracked a smile, "That is the long and the short of it, Prime Minister."
"This is mad," Carson sniped, "all of here know very well that the BEF is too depleted to mount any thing more than an occasional small attack."
Wilson was very friendly with Carson—as was with Bonar Law—from at least the Curragh Mutiny. He did not want to directly contradict the First Lord and so he turned towards Kitchener, who answered, "I will readily concede that our current forces in France lack the strength to undertake a full scale attack. What I am proposing is that we send the 29th Division and one of the Territorial Force Divisions to First Army."
There was stunned silence for nearly a minute. Finally Bonar Law asked, "Have you read the Daily Mail lately, Lord Kitchener?"
Kitchener’s nostrils flared as he replied, "I make it a point never to read a Northcliffe newspaper, Prime Minister. That man is a disgrace to the Empire!"
Lying on the Prime Minster’s desk was a copy of the Sunday Daily Mail. He held it aloft, "Having made a mountain out of a molehill with Connolly, Northcliffe’s latest fit of journalistic hysteria is to announce to our poor frightened citizens, that the Germans have begun that they have labeled the Battle of Britain."
"Just as the fear of invasion was starting to subside in England, Northcliffe has found a way to ratchet it up to a still higher level," Lloyd-George noted, while shaking his head.
Bonar Law looked at Carson, "Well, Edward, you have the one who insists that there is no way the Germans will attempt an invasion before the latter half of May. Can we catch them napping if we struck now?"
"Yes, Andrew I firmly stand by my prediction that the Germans will not attempt to invade before late May. This is not a wild guess but is firmly based on the minimum German repair times. Late May is the earliest possibility. By that time the first group of Lord Kitchener’s New Army divisions should be ready to assist in repelling an invasion.. Early June is more likely and even then I see an invasion as probable. Much more likely still is a hit and run infantry raid intended to intimidate our citizenry and goad our remaining fleet into another ambush."
"Paradoxically I find your logic both reassuring and disturbing," mused Bonar Law.
"Yes. I am optimistic about an invasion, but apprehensive but other German stratagems," Carson said to prime minister, then he turned to Kitchener, "So my concern with your request, Lord Kitchener in not that it makes us vulnerable to invasion. Rather what worries me is that I am reminded of December and February and how in each case we were led to believe that with additional reinforcements to the BEF we would be able to breakthrough the German Sixth Army. In December we hoped to roll up the entire German line and resume mobile warfare. Our Second Army did manage to advance through Crecy Forest but after that was then unable to advance any further. In February our hopes were more modest—we merely wanted to take Boulogne. First Army enjoyed some small initial success only to soon falter with the arrival of German reinforcements. We didn’t even capture Etaples. In both attacks we suffered very serious losses."
"And just what is your point, First Lord?" asked Kitchener in icy voice.
Carson looked ready to explode. Bonar Law jumped in before he did, "The point, Lord Kitchener, is that we have established a pattern of first having high hopes rewarded with a teasing whiff of initial success soon followed by bitter disappointment. The First Lord and myself worry that we are going through yet another recapitulation."
Kitchener remained silent for nearly a minute before answering, "I understand your concerns, Prime Minister. There has definitely been a pattern of disappointment in this war. Yet the performance of the British Army has not been that shoddy in comparison with some of the disasters we have suffered—"
Carson was outraged, "--Lord Kitchener, are you deliberately disparaging the Royal Navy?"
Before Kitchener could answer, Wilson interjected, "Of course not, First Lord. It is merely obviously that the Entente has suffered many unexpected setbacks and reversals in this strange war. In light of that the accomplishments of the relatively small BEF are rather impressive. Admittedly this has led to excessive optimism on occasion."
"If there is a decent chance this offensive can take both Boulogne and Calais it would greatly reduce the threat of invasion. We would thereby win what Northcliffe is calling the Battle of Britain in France," remarked Lloyd-George.
"There is an aspect to this situation I feel obliged to mention," said Wilson.
"Which is?" asked Carson.
"I do not know if it is that evident over hear, but Viviani’s government is teetering. The humiliating loss of Djibouti to the Abyssinians along with reports that Cattaro Gulf was not the victory the government originally said it was, have caused mounting criticism of Viviani in the Chamber of Deputies. There are other issues as well such as the removal of General Sarrail."
"And Connolly as well from what I hear," added Lloyd-George.
Wilson’s expression darkened, "We should not let anyone dissuade us from hanging that Republican swine!"
"Hear, hear," said Carson, "But if I understand you, Henry, you are saying Viviani’s government could fall if the French do not attain a clear cut success very soon."
"I am not sure a new French government would be all that disastrous," mused Bonar Law, "someone like Clemenceau might be just what they need right now."
"Perhaps but we cannot be sure who will replace Viviani. Given our other troubles right now, I would see a change of government in France as sending the wrong signal," Lloyd-George commented.
The prime minister tapped his cheek pensively then asked Kitchener, "Hmm. Perhaps you are right, David. Lord Kitchener, assuming we agree to this proposal, how soon does General Joffre expect us to mount this offensive?"
"He would like it as quickly as possible, prime minister. But General Haig has made it abundantly clear he requires at least a fortnight to prepare the attack properly."
"So we are looking at the end of the month?" asked Carson.
"Yes, First Lord. In the meantime Second Army will make a small diversionary attack."
------Anwaz, Persia 1415 hrs
The failure of the morning attack enraged General Gorringe. He now sent in 2 more Indian rifle battalions to assist 7th Rajputs in making another assault. This there was some brief artillery support from 2 batteries. When the Indians attacked they discovered that the Ottomans had now readied some of their own artillery sited on the west bank of the river.
------Berlin 1530 hrs
Jack White was now officially promoted to Major, but t was not a British uniform he was now wearing. Joseph Plunkett was wearing a similar uniform except Plunkett was only a Captain. White was not surprised to learn of Plunkett’s involvement in Operation Unicorn Plunkett introduced Jack to the other officers in the Irish Brigade. "And this is Captain Harry Calahan—yes The Harry Calahan. The man responsible for the defeat of the Grand Fleet at Utsire. Harry, this is Major Jack White. He’s one of us."
The former NY police officer wore an Iron Cross with his IRA officer’s uniform. As Jack was learning the so called Irish Brigade was composed of 3 parts. The first was Irish prisoners of war that Casement had recruited at the Limburg camp. These now numbered nearly 80 men. The Germans were not at all happy with the quality of these soldiers. They felt at least half of men in this group were slackers and drunkards. There were only 2 officers in this group—a Captain the Germans regarded as completely worthless and a Lt. that they found barely acceptable and promoted to Captain in the IRA. Amongst the enlisted men there were 3 sergeants the Germans thought had enough potential and became 2nd Lt’s in the Irish Brigade. The rest of the enlisted men the Germans selected were promoted. Privates became corporals while corporals became sergeants.
The second group of men in the Irish Brigade were the 80 some odd American Fenians who came to Germany on the ocean liners liberated by Admiral von Spee. Only 2 of these had true military experience but 8 of them like Harry Calahan had been police officers at one time. Calahan had been made a Captain merely as a reward for what he did at Utsire. The Germans who tried to work with him found him extremely ill disciplined though they conceded he was an excellent marksman with a pistol.
Extending his hand White said, "Glad to finally meet you, Captain Calahan. I have heard so much about you."
Calahan looked closely at White’s rank while giving a firm handshake. "And I am certainly glad to finally meet someone higher than a Captain who doesn’t speak with a damned German accent."
The third group in the Irish Brigade was German junior officers and senior NCO’s. The junior officers were given a brevet rank of major and were intended to be used as battalion commanders. The NCO’s were usually made brevet captains to serve as company commanders though a few became merely sergeant majors. Quite a few were in earshot.
Plunkett had warned White about certain flaws in Calahan, esp. in regards to courtesy. Plunkett gulped now and said, "Ahem, Jack here was previously a Captain in the British Army, Harry. Jack served in the Boer Wars. That is why he was made a major, Harry."
"The Boer Wars? So you mean you were one of the Irish prisoners who then served in the Irish Brigade?" asked Calahan.
"No, I was never taken prisoner and so I never served in the Irish Brigade," replied White. He felt very strange about what he had done the last few days. He had never expected that he would end up joining what he knew was merely an auxiliary unit of the Imperial German Army. This Fenian berserker from the States was aggravating this feeling of being disconnected from reality.
"Hmm. Well then pardon me from saying that White is not the most Irish of names and your accent is downright British."
Plunkett inwardly groaned, "Harry, please! Jack here personally trained the Citizen Army. Worked with Sir Roger, Jim Larkin, poor Jim Connolly and the Countess Markievicz. So don’t you go impugning his Irishness!"
Trying desperately not to feel out of place, White tried to change the subject, "Uh, Captain Calahan. Joseph says that you and he have been making some suggestions to the German General Staff about how to fight the war."
Calahan finished his whiskey, "Joe’s damn right about that. Joe here is the strategist. I ain’t much of a help there. But I do know a thing or thing about tactics. Now admittedly the Krauts have come up with some good ideas about trench warfare—like using grenades. I sure wish I had a grenade back when I was on the force. Things sure would’ve been different! But still it seems to me the very best weapon for fighting in a trench would have to be a pump action shotgun. I keep trying to explain this simple fact to these thick headed German know-it-alls and they won’t listen. They keep telling me it’s against the rules of warfare. Rules of warfare! What a load of bull shit! The only rule of warfare is to do unto your enemy before he does it unto you."
White tried not to look too appalled. Plunkett again tried to reign in Calahan’s ranting, "Now, now, Harry that is not being fair. Why I know for a fact that General von François has expressed an interest in your ideas. One restraint of course is that so far only the United States makes pump action shotguns."
"Yeah, yeah, OK. You got half a point there, Joe. General von Frenchie did tell me that he’s trying get some shotguns from the United States."
------Anwaz, Persia 1920 hrs
. Major Katz returned to Al-Askary’s HQ after visiting the front lines. His report was pessimistic, "The enemy has captured two key sections of the trench and from there they can eliminate the section in between. After they do that they can then advance into the city itself. They have already seized some buildings on the outer edge."
"What happened to the counterattacks I ordered?" asked Al-Askary.
Katz shook his head, "Total failures. I strongly advise against ordering any more."
"Then what do you suggest?"
"Once it is completely dark evacuate the east bank of the city. In each battalion one company is assigned to hold the enemy and the rest move back. The holding forces are allowed to retreat slowly if pressed by the enemy. Inside the city we can use the houses as a series of strong points greatly slowing the enemy advance. Once we cross the Karun the engineers will destroy the bridges. The river is swollen now and makes a decent water obstacle. We can make a stand on the west bank"
."But the pipeline is to the east. We must hold here through the night. I am going to pull a battalion from the west bank."
Katz shook his head violently, "If you bring the battalion from the west bank you should be able to hold through the night but that only means tomorrow will be a disaster. Evacuating is going to be much more difficult after sunrise. Furthermore we don’t know if the enemy has significant forces coming up on the west bank. If they do and you withdraw that battalion, you’ll end up losing your artillery."
"I cannot believe my mission has failed!"
"Listen, your main mission is to act as a diversion. Everything else including the pipeline is secondary. So you succeeded. We already have drawn a large enemy force away from Basra. It’s just that they arrived earlier than we anticipated. Despite that we managed to give them a bloody nose here today. What is important now is that we keep them here which means we move to the west bank and hold on. There is nothing more we can hope to accomplish."
------Nairobi 2125 hrs
Captain Meinetrzhagen wanted very so much to say, ‘I told you so." He had felt like Cassandra the last few days.
General Wapshare spoke instead, "The 98th Infantry has rallied and regrouped according to my latest information. Two companies of 2nd battalion Rhodesian Regiment should be reinforcing them as we speak."
"That is good but we have some intelligence you need to consider, general. This morning we intercepted a wireless message from Lettow-Vorbeck to the Abyssinians."
"Hmm. Didn’t realize that the Abyssinians had wireless. What did the message say?"
"Here read it for yourself," the intelligence officer said handing a slip of paper.
WE HAVE GOOD INTELLIGENCE THAT A BRITISH FORCE FROM EAST AFRICA IS HEADING TO ETHIOPIA IT NUMBERS SEVERAL THOUSAND MEN AND MAY INCLUDE A FEW GUNS IT SHOULD CROSS THE BORDER IN TWO WEEKS
"How the Hell did he learn that?" asked the alarmed general.
"That is hard to tell, sir. As it is a bit vague, it may be that he pieced it together from some indirect sources."
"Whatever that means," groused the general.
Meinetrzhagen knew the general was often disinterested in the often dreary details of intelligence gathering. "Since Lettow-Vorbeck knows we’ve lost a good portion of our strength he may be seeing this as an opportunity to attack despite it being the rainy season."
"Is he really that brazen? Stupid is more like it."
"This morning’s attack did pretty well for him."
"You know as well as I do that the Indians they sent us are a sorry lot. Fortunately for us that the Rhodesian battalion just arrived. Now tell me what you think the Germans can hope to accomplish in their daring rainy season offensive?"
Meinetrzhagen nervously bit a lip. He answered hesitantly, "Well, general. Lettow-Vorbeck did try once before to take Mombasa."
Wapshare shook his head and whistled, "Is his balls really that big, Captain?"
I don’t know! Meinetrzhagen readily admitted to himself. It certainly did sound crazy. He answered cautiously, "They might be. Then again he may be trying merely to blow up a section of the railroad. I have no direct intelligence about his objective, so I cannot offer much more than an educated guess. This morning’s attack does point in that direction."
Wapshare continued to shake his head and Meinetrzhagen feared he would be chewed out shortly. However the general’s expression softened somewhat and he said, "Listen Captain I understand that part of your job is to warn your superior of worst case scenarios. It does appear that the damn fool Germans are trying to doing something during the rainy season. Just to be safe I am going to keep the Rhodesians in the east and I am going to concentrate East Africa Regiment and what little artillery we have left along the approaches to Mombasa. So even if the Indians prove totally worthless we have enough strength to keep the Germans away from Mombasa."
"Quite a few of the men in the East Africa Regiment have returned to their homes, general." The East Africa Regiment had been formed from settlers in the colony volunteering at the outset of the war.
"Enough remain that it is still a potent force. Man for man they’re better than the natives in the King’s African Rifles or the Indians. I am going to send the 2 companies stationed near here off to Mombasa by rail tomorrow."
Meinetrzhagen had been at Tanga and as a result shared the general’s low opinion of the Indian units. He did think the general was undervaluing the King’s African Rifles though and maybe even overrating the under strength settler companies a little. Still it was good that the general was taking his advice seriously for once. "I think this redeployment will frustrate the German plans, sir. Might I suggest one other precaution?"
Wapshare’s look grew stern again. "What?" he asked in a testy voice.
"Could we see if the Navy would be willing to anchor Goliath off Mombasa? That way her guns would be readily available for a last ditch defense if somehow the Germans penetrate our lines, general"
Wapshare arched an eyebrow then tapped his lips pensively. After a few seconds he smiled slightly. "Now that’s an interesting idea. Definitely has some merit. The sailor boys have been hinting about moving Goliath off to Somaliland. This gives me an additional argument for keeping her here."
------HQ 12th Indian Division south of Anwaz 2205 hrs
General Gorringe reviewed the latest casualty reports—the Indian forces had over 900 casualties. Before the night was over he expected them to go over a thousand. This did not include the losses suffered by the Marsh Arab allies during the morning--those numbers were not yet provided. He thought about yelling at them for that omission—not because he cared much to know that but simply because they had failed to conform to his ideas of proper procedure.
The enemy had shown more teeth than Gorringe had expected. But the latest reports were encouraging—nearly 400 prisoners had been taken and their trench line was breached. Indian units were advancing but they were being slowed in house to house fighting. Meanwhile another battalion had crossed the Karun and was advancing as rapidly as possible up the west bank. They should be able to attack before dawn. He expected them both to overrun the enemy artillery as well preventing the enemy to escape to the west.
Today had been a day of frustration. Gorringe was confident tomorrow would be a day of glory
------Khor Angar 2325 hrs
Again the trawlers came from Mocha before the moon rose carrying Ottomans. This time it was an engineer company They still relied on the Afars for wagons and animals but they brought with them a few tons of explosives.