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Operation Unicorn



by Tom B




Volume XXXI


HMS Arethusa WSW of Terschelling 0615 hrs Saturday April 17, 1915

Commodore Tyrwhitt realized raising his binoculars again was an act of frustration in the pea soup fog. He did so anyway. He could see nothing. Was that good or bad? Did he want to see the High Seas Fleet or not? He could not say. He remembered how close Harwich Force had come to destruction in the Broad Fourteens. This morning he had only Arethusa, Swift and 10 destroyers as his country’s first line of defense against invasion. Of course there was the possibility that the German sortie was meant to support an invasion. Maybe they had other goals—like completing the destruction of Harwich Force.

"Submarine on the surface--3 points off the starboard bow!" a lookout shouted.

Tyrwhitt turned in that direction and peered through his binoculars. After a few seconds he reached a conclusion. As he was about to say someone else did, "Look’s to be one of ours, Commodore."

"Flags! Signal the flotilla to hold fire!" ordered Tyrwhitt. This one was still on the surface but others will be submerged as the day wore on. He hoped their captains made sure to establish identity before firing a torpedo.


------west of Hythe 0700 hrs

Men huddled in cold dank trenches flooding with the heavy rain, awaiting a possible enemy attack. What was unusual was these trenches were erected on English. The men here belonged to the 2nd London Division a Territorial Force Division assigned to defend the likely landing areas in Kent. It had placed under a heightened state of readiness last night though no one was provided any details as to why In Suffolk the East Anglian Division manned similar trenches. Despite their discomfort the men did not complain because they knew there was some intelligence hinting at an imminent German invasion.


------Crecy Forest 0900 hrs

The rain made it difficult for the British batteries to register on their targets. There had been some speculation that the attack would be called off—that being strongly recommended by both Plumer and Rawlinson, but instead the attack was merely postponed 2 hours during which the rains grew heavier.

Since the Battle of Crecy Forest back in December, the British Second Army led by General Horace Smith-Dorrien consisted of the II, IV and V Army Corps. In what was a source of great irritation to Smith-Dorrien he did and then again did not have command of the Belgian 5th Division. During Crecy Forest that Belgian division had been instructed to follow the orders of Second Army. During that there were some moderate problems with that situation but afterwards those problems doubled and redoubled. The Belgians insisted that they were a wholly separate army and not a component of the BEF Smith-Dorrien was told that he was not their commander but merely someone they coordinated with as a matter of courtesy. They demanded they be in the front line but were not to be used in offensive without the prior approval of King Albert Smith-Dorrien thought the best place for the ungrateful cheeky bastards would be on his far right flank just above the Somme. For Sir John French disapproved that idea. It would place the Belgians adjacent to the French Second Army—which seemed like a good idea to Smith Dorrien, but London feared that the French would then try to subordinate the Belgians to their own command So General Smith-Dorrien placed the Belgian 5th Division in his line between the II Army Corps on his right flank near St. Riquier and IV Amy Corps to the north where the front curved around the northern perimeter of Crecy Forest. Smith-Dorrien hoped to get another Territorial Force Division in early May and when that happened he would recommend the fractious Belgians be moved to Haig’s First Army.

This morning’s attack was intended largely as a diversion—both the assist the French in their offensive aimed at Amiens and to prepare for First Army’s planned offensive. The 46th (North Midland) Division on the right flank of V Army Corps at the eastern edge of Crecy Forest and 8th Division on the left flank of neighboring IV Army Corps were both involved. The bombardment of the enemy trenches lasted 20 minutes, after which the guns shifted to targets behind the trenches for 15 minutes. There were a handful of 4.7" guns plus additional 60 pounders supporting the 18 pounders and 4.5" howitzers. Only a quarter of the shells were high explosive—the rest were shrapnel. After 5-6 minutes the British artillery brigades came under unexpectedly heavy counter-battery fire. The British gunners by now had become very familiar with the sounds of German shells and knew that at least two batteries of 21cm Morsers were involved. The poor visibility though hampered the German artillery as it had the British.

When the British bombardment lifted from the front line the men of the 139th Brigade and 23rd Brigade stumbled out of half flooded trenches and made their way through the puddles and mud of no man’s land. Initially the poor visibility kept the enemy artillery quiet, but they still had the large uncut wire and the machine guns to deal with.


-------Old Admiralty Building 0930 hrs

Alerted by Carson of the situation Prime Minister, Andrew Bonar Law decided to pay a personal visit to the Admiralty. "Any signs of the blasted Germans?" he asked the First Sea Lord.

"None. Prime Minister," was Callaghan’s terse answer shaking his head.

Bonar Law was a bit annoyed with Carson and chided the First Lord, "I thought it was impossible for the Germans to sortie before the middle of next month."

Carson half expected that remark and merely said, "This may just be a training exercise for whatever ships they have repaired."

Law ignored Carson’s answer and addressed Callaghan, "Er, Admiral. I think it would be best of all concerned that His Majesty not learn that we had intelligence of a German sortie and still kept the Grand Fleet in harbor."

Callaghan nodded grimly, "Understood very well, Prime Minister."


-------SMS Lothringen off Stavanger 1035 hrs

"Admiral, message from the Arkona. She has visual contact with 2nd Scouting Group to the west."

"Acknowledged," replied Admiral von Spee, "Signal 4th Torpedo Boat Flotilla that they are leave for Emden—except for B.98 of course. Also send a wireless message to the Admiralstab that we have rendezvoused with the High Seas Fleet, are on schedule and have detached 4th Flotilla."


------OKW 1057 hrs

From the reception area General Krafft von Dellmesnigen could hear a cello being played. He was not that knowledgeable of chamber music and did not recognize the piece bout thought it to be very somber, but then again it was a cello so it was hard to tell. He had arrived a few minutes early for his scheduled meeting with Feldmarschal von Moltke. They had met very briefly when he first arrived at OKW as François’ replacement. The feldmarschal had not looked well and it was widely thought at OKW that worrying about Operation Unicorn was taking a toll on him.

The music stopped. Less than a minute, the door open and Moltke’s face peered out and looked at Dellmesnigen. He appeared to be somewhat better than before but he still did not look well. "There you are. I hope I didn’t keep you waiting. I find that playing music helps me concentrate. Please come in, General von Dellmensingen.’

Dellmensingen entered Molke’s office. He saw the cello propped on a stand. "Close the door and have a seat," said Moltke. When Dellmensingen was seated he said, "We need to clarify what you will be working while General von François is away on Operation Unicorn."

"I spoke a bit with Graossadmiral von Tirpitz, Feldmarschal and he is very optimistic that Operation Unicorn will knock the British out of the war in about a month."

Moltke made what struck Dellmensigen as a forced smile, "I wish I could be as optimistic as Grossadmiral Tirpitz is. I discovered last year to my chagrin that no matter how much work you put into them plans do not always turn out as expected. Admiral von Ingenohl has confided to me that he is much less optimistic about Operation Unicorn than Tirpitz is and tried to get me to cancel the operation. Despite his misgivings I decided to press on—but now I find my soul best with doubts and misgivings."

Dellmesningen did not know what to say. When Hoffman briefed him on Operation Unicorn he found it bold but extremely risky. It involved many matters outside Dellmensigen’s expertise, esp. the naval aspects. The fact that the German Nelson, Admiral von Ingenohl was deeply pessimistic did not augur well.

After some awkward silence Dellmesnigen asked cautiously, "So my role here is to come up with plans in the event that Operation Unicorn fails."

Moltke frowned and shook his mostly bald head, "No! If Operation Unicorn fails this headquarters will either be dissolved or reduced to a ceremonial role—which was Falkenhayn’s original intention. Though since he gave his grudging approval to Unicorn, in that instance I would expect Feldmarschal von Hindenburg would be soon taking over the General Staff. No, you are to proceed on the assumption that Operation Unicorn succeeds and Britain sues for peace in mid-May. Does this compel France and Russia to make peace with us on our terms?"

"I haven’t given the matter much thought, Feldmarschal. I could see where it could either way."

"Exactly!. Now in addition to Operation Unicorn you probably already know we have two other operations scheduled to start soon. Operation Tourniquet is our joint Balkan offensive with out allies. It is expected to open the rail line to the Ottomans within 2 weeks and completely crush the Serbs by the end of June. There is also Operation Fulcrum which-- contrary to some opinions around here-- is intended as something more than the appeasement of Hindenburg. If it succeeds it would give us an excellent jumping off point if we need to conduct a summer offensive against the Russians and a good bargaining chip at a peace conference if not. In addition it is hoped that other nations now neutral will join us However, we should now be thinking further into the future."

Again Dellmensingen took his time replying, "So my role then is to explore ways to achieve a speedy victory over France and Russia in the event they should choose to continue the war without Great Britain?"

"Yes, that is what I want from you. I know this is all very sudden, but it has been my fervent hope that we could end this tragic war before it begins to unravel the very fabric of civilization. So take some time but not too much time. Understood?"

"I understand, Feldmarschal."

Another smile, not as forced as the previous one, appeared on Moltke’s weary face, "Good. Now is there any ideas you would like to discuss at this time?"

Again Dellmensigen paused to think before saying, "Well, Feldmarschal, one thing the German Army has not fully appreciated to date is mountain warfare."


------Cork 1105 hrs

The publicity surrounding James Connolly had caused the membership in the banned organization called the Irish Citizen Army to increase to nearly 400 members—though they pretended to be nothing more than peace loving Irish General Workers and Transport Union. Furthermore several prominent Irish Socialists outside Dublin had expressed interest in the Transport Union after Connolly’s arrest and trial. So the Acting head of the Transport Union the Countess Constance Markievicz decided to go on a tour of the country to establish new chapters of the Transport Union. She also wanted to encourage the development of the women’s auxiliary to the Irish Volunteers.

She arrived in Cork late yesterday. Before she had left Dublin she heard a rumor that Padraig Pearse had been arrested, which she found disturbing. When she had been released Morley sternly warned her that if she caused any trouble the British would likely have her deported She thought her absence from Dublin might make the authorities less apprehensive. It was another reason for going on this trip.

Her itinerary was to spend 3 days in Cork as it was most important city outside Dublin and a fertile area for new recruits. Monday afternoon she should take the train to Limerick. She intended to spend 2 days each in Limerick and Galway and then spend the weekend in her home County Sligo. She would recruit there as well but there was also to be some relaxation. She would like to talk some more with Yeats. After Sligo she would proceed to the most difficult stop on her tour—Belfast.

Back in Dublin the members of the Citizen Army still thought that her tenure as their leader was very temporary. They expected either Jim Larkin or Captain White to show up any day now and take the reins. Before that happened the Countess wanted to show her mettle.

She was now giving a speech to a crowd in Cork, "So great is their arrogance that they think they can intimidate you into submission by hanging James Connolly. They may be able to hang one man but when thousands of Irish men—and women too—will come forward to take his place."


------Old Admiralty Building 1145 hrs

Admiral Oliver was on the telephone line, sitting the First Sea Lord’s office. "What did Captain Hall want? Has there been an intercepted wireless message telling us where the High Seas Fleet is?" asked Admiral Callaghan.

Oliver nodded, "There has indeed been an intercept, but all it says is that the Special Task Force has rendezvoused with the High Seas Fleet and is continuing without problems. No mention of where they are, sir. They did mention sending a flotilla back to Emden."

"And we still have no idea if this ‘Special Task Force’ is an invasion force?"

Callaghan sighed deeply and tuned to stare at the clock on the wall. "We agreed with Admiral Bayly that we’d recall Northern Patrols and the 10th Cruiser Squadron by noon if we hadn’t ruled out that the Germans were heading north.

Oliver nodded again, "I concur with Admiral Bayly’s recommendations. It would be a wise precaution to issue those orders, sir"


-------HQ BEF Second Army 1355 hrs

General Horace Smith-Dorrien was cursing up a storm. He had argued and argued that the attack should be been postponed on account of the wet weather. General French had insisted that it go ahead in order to draw away German forces, claiming it was necessary to help the French regain Amiens. Now reports telling of heavy casualties had filtered their way back to Second Army HQ. Some of the Sherwood Foresters with 139th Brigade as well as the Scottish Rifles of 23rd Brigade had with great skill and heroism managed to squeeze through the enemy wire to seize some sections of the German trench but it appeared that these were not contiguous. It would be difficult to hold them in the face of the nearly certain enemy counterattacks, much advance any further.

The weather was slowly improving. It was going to make reinforcing the attacking units before sunset difficult. General Smith-Dorrien worried about the strength of German artillery encountered this day. "When are those damn fly-boys going to be able to tell me anything?" he growled to staff.


------Dublin 1945 hrs

"Spain? Why in blazes should I go to Spain for?" yelled Eamon De Valera of County Manhattan.

"We have some intelligence that there are elements in Spain who might be helpful to our cause but they need to whip up popular support first," answered Sean McDermott, who finally been able to talk with him in private.

"Sounds like a lot of wishful thinking if you ask me. Just how reliable is this source of information?"

While De Valera had not yet joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood, they regarded him as being closer to their thinking than MacNeill and The O’Rahilly were. It was for that reason they had recommended to command one of the battalions of Dublin Brigade.

"It comes from Devoy. Though if you read the papers you’d notice a few stories about Connolly attracting a great deal of attention in Spain."

"Yes, I’ve seen those stories," De Valera conceded, "Hadn’t really given it much thought. up until now. We always seemed to think we’d be getting arms from either the States or Germany."

"There are problems with getting arms from the United States in any quantity," McDermott replied, "So we shouldn’t rule out any possibilities." Since De Valera was not part of the IRB he was not going to tell him about the German arms they now believed to be on the way."

"You didn’t mention Germany. Did the Germans find a way to route arms through Spain?"

That idea hadn’t occurred to McDermott, who was at something of a handicap because it wasn’t completely clear just what Devoy and the Germans hoped to accomplish in Spain.

"Well, Spain does have a history of helping the Irish," De Valera said with a sudden softening of his tome.

"Then you’ll do it, Dev?" asked McDermott who had been trying to think of who else to send if De Valera refused.

"I’ll let you know tomorrow. I just can’t run off to Spain on short notice. Need to find a substitute teacher for my class."

"It is important that you leave as soon as possible," said McDermott with some sudden anxiety. The message from Devoy had not been very specific. The German arms for the rising could be arriving in just a few days. It was expected that the rising would start soon after that. DeValera was a battalion commander. While his battalion had a deputy commander it would be best if he was back from Spain in time for the revolution.

"If I do decide go, it won’t be before Wednesday.".


------Gaelic Athletic Association London 2030 hrs

"I need to talk to you tomorrow about something," Michael Collins related to Sam Maguire.

"I am here now, Mick, you can talk to me now."

"No. This place is too public. Can you come over sometime in the early afternoon?"


------Old Admiralty Building 2155 hrs

"Well, Childers, are the bloody Huns going to try to invade?" Captain Hall asked Lt. Erskine Childers VC, the man who had destroyed the Nordholz airship base. Childers was annoyed but tried not to show it. All day long people in the NID had pestered him with that question as if he were clairvoyant. It was just a bloody novel! He told himself I should have stuck to children’s books. No one takes children’s books seriously.

He attempted honesty, "I really don’t know, Captain."

"Oh, come on, sailor. Surely the great expert has a good guess. Don’t be shy! Let us hear it. That’s an order!"

Childers inwardly groaned and shifted the weight on his wooden leg, "Well, sir, my best guess—and I must repeat that it is only a guess—is ‘No’. The Germans will not try to invade—at least not in the next two days."

"Any particular reason why you feel that way?"

"I know the weather was not very good today but still either Harwich Force or our submarines should’ve spotted something by now if they were coming our way with an invasion fleet."

"If they were planning to land near the Wash they would not encounter our patrols."

Childers sighed deeply, "That was in my novel, sir. The Germans did not have control of the Channel Ports in my book. Under our current set of circumstances, it makes more sense for them to come ashore in Kent."

"Well, I certainly hope you are right this time, Lt. Not like you were with the detestable Irish traitor, Jack White."

After Captain Hall had participated in White’s interrogation, he asked Childer’s opinion. Childers said he did not believe that the man was connected with the Germans. After White was deported to Holland, 2 British agents tailed him as he made his way to Berlin, where one of them saw him enter OKW.


------SMS Rostock 0725 hrs Sunday April 18, 1915

The North Germany Lloyd ocean liner George Washington had taken refuge in Bergen during the Battle of Utsire. The lookouts had been alerted to expect her. They now reported her approaching from ENE.


------ Khor Angar 1210 hrs

There were still 2 Ottoman rifle companies loitering around this fishing village. The Afars had delivered 2 wagons late yesterday. One was in extremely bad condition and the Ottomans considered it unsafe to use. Now shouts went out. A dozen stout wagons were approaching from the north. The Ottoman battalion commander led a portion of one rifle company to meet them.

Three men on horseback were in the vanguard of the column. One of them dismounted to greet the Ottomans. "My name is Carmine. I heard you could use some wagons and some food as well."

The battalion commander eyed the Italian. Thinking he was dealing with an opportunist he answered with a sigh, "We do not have money to pay for these."

Carmine made a grand gesture with hands, then replied, "It is not necessary! Friends of yours have already compensated me."


------London flat 1325 hrs

"What is this all about Michael?" asked Maguire as Collins hung up his raincoat.

"Remember that woman the other night, said her name was Clara Benedix---"

"Oh, how could I forget? What a pretty little bird! Did you and she, er, you know?" he asked with a sly wink.

"That’s not what this is about! She’s a spy working for the German government. She claims Joe Plunkett sent her to look me up."

Magure bit his lip and after a pause he asked, "Do you trust her?"

"That’s she’s a German spy? I think I do. Ah, but the real question is do I trust them?"

"You mean the Germans? What does she—I guess I should say they—want?"

"They want me to stay in London and spy on the British, esp. their navy. In fact they want me to form a ring of spies amongst the Irish living n London."

"Does that bother you?"

"What bothers me is we keep hearing how the Germans want to help us. But since they gave us those rifles back in July they’ve done nothing. What bothers me is that they don’t mean to do anything. The bastards are just stringing us along so that we’ll do favors for them like spying on the Royal Navy."

"So you’re not going to do this? Did you tell this Benedix woman you won’t do it?"

"No. I told her I’d give the idea serious consideration. She gave me a way to get in touch with her."

"I thought you were planning on leaving for Dublin at the end of this week?"

"I’ll push that back another week to think this thing over. I don’t see the rising happening before May. The conscription bill is apparently generating a great deal of opposition. Newspapers say it take at least another month to get approved "

"The rising may not wait that .long. If a German arms shipment does arrive soon that alone could spark the rising."

"But in that case it means the Germans really are our allies and then I’d be more than happy to serve as their fuckin’s spymaster."


------SMS Lothringen 1340 hrs

"The High Seas Fleet has turned back. For the rest of the day they should be able to come to our aid if we run into British capital ships, but starting tomorrow we’re on our own," Admiral Spee solemnly announced to General François and Captain Plunkett.

"So tomorrow is our period of greatest danger?" asked a very worried Plunkett.

The Admiral had warmed to Plunkett since they left Kiel. They had attended Mass together this morning and discussed their faith at some length afterwards. Spee tried to be reassuring, "No. Every day puts us in some danger, but I am more worried about Wednesday and Thursday morning."


------SMS Friedrich der Grosse 1500 hrs

All morning Admiral von Ingenohl had expected the Grand Fleet to show up any minute and avenge itself. The High Seas Fleet had been making only 11 knots and zigzagging for more than 24 hours. This had reduced the consumption of coal but still most of the torpedo boats were close to the point where they would need to return home.

It is time! the admiral said to himself then ordered, "Flags. Signal a 16 point turn to port in succession." That was the good news now for the bad. I am going to have even less scouting forces going home. "Signal 2nd Scouting Group that is now part of the Sonderverband," hr ordered with a dry mouth.

Soon after that order was carried out a member of his staff asked, "Should we notify Emden of our expected return, Admiral?"

Ingenohl continued to worry about British direction finding. He definitely did not want them to know he was this far from Germany. "No, we will send that message tomorrow. That will give them ample time to prepare for us."


------Lake Amboseli (BEA) 1605 hrs

The Schutztruppen were under attack! The earth shook as their enemy charged. Shot rang out. One rhinoceros had a foreleg lamed but the other continued to charge. The askaris in its path dispersed in panic. The beast failed to gore or trample anyone and turned around to make another charge. More shots rang out and suddenly it keeled over. After that the first black rhino which had been wounded was finished off as well. When they were sure the beasts were dead some of the soldiers approached and butchered them.

The Nyiri Desert is the result of the rain shadow cast by Mount Kilimanjaro. Within it likes Lake Amboseli which is dry most of the year. But this was the rainy season it had already filled with water. This drew the animals of the desert. The last 2 days the massing Schutztruppen had slaughtered a large amount of game—including 3 elephants. Most of the year the arid saline desert was a forbidding obstacle to cross. The rainy season ameliorated those problems.

The desert was very sparsely populated. Only a few primitive Masai tribesmen. However there were a small band of Masai that served the British and raided the border. The Schutztruppen kept an eye out for them.


------British Second Army HQ 1730 hrs

General French had insisted that the Second Army continue its attack. The morning had seen the 46th and 8th Divisions try to hold on and consolidate their gains, despite fierce German counterattacks supported by very heavy artillery fire. It was ugly fighting but Smith-Dorrien was proud that his men had been able to hold on—at least so far.

This was only one of his concerns. With improved weather he was able to receive reports were air reconnaissance. It was now clear that there was buildup of German forces to the north of Crecy Forest. There was another bit of intelligence he found disturbing. A German deserter had told his interrogators he did not believe—or at least did not want to believe.


------Old Admiralty Building 2145 hrs

"We just received some interesting news, Admiral," Blinker Hall informed Admiral Oliver, "George Washington left its pier at Bergen this morning."

Admiral Oliver arched an eyebrow, "That suggests but by no means proves that the German Fleet went a long way just to escort a single ocean liner home."

"Should we tell the Sea Lords, sir?"

Oliver took his time to think it over, "No."

Hall had learned the hard way not to question Admiral Oliver’s hoarding of intelligence. He did blink more intensely than usual.

Oliver decided to clarify his decision, "If the Sea Lords learn this so will the First Lord, who is going to twist this fact to justify himself. He is going to act that just because the Germans contented themselves with fetching George Washington then they must be as weal as he likes to think."

Hall started to comprehend the Admiral’s logic, "But the fact that they felt strong enough to risk traveling that far away from base suggests that they are stronger than the First Lord is allowing."

It is even somewhat ahead of NID’s own estimates but Oliver is not going to like being reminded of that, thought Hall who then spoke, "And it may be that covering the return of the ocean liner was a secondary objective. If they were willing to go that far north it could be that their primary mission is a battle cruiser raid on 10th Cruiser Squadron."

"Precisely--the First Lord might be tempted to order the 10th Cruiser Squadron to return to station prematurely. The German battle cruisers could inflict dreadful losses on our AMC’s."

"There is also the mystery of just what this ‘special task force’ is, Admiral. We worried that it was an invasion force meant for England but if that were the case, they should have arrived here by now."

"Hmm. It’s hard to say. They could be anything. Perhaps the Germans saw a need for minesweepers? Or maybe they are experimenting with operating submarines in close conjunction with their fleet? We always worried that they might do something along those lines. It could even be seaplane carriers—we do have intelligence that they have run some operational tests with at least one vessel recently"


-------Khor Angar 2345 hrs

There was still one of the Ottoman rifle companies at the coastal village waiting for wagons when the dhows arrived, the other having been sent marching with the wagons. The British and French were now watching Mocha very closely so this group of dhows departed from Sheyk Syed Bay where the Ottomans were renewing the fortification the British had raided back in November. This time they carried mostly supplies though in each boat there was armed quartermaster to ensure the ship’s captain didn’t wander off with the cargo. A small medical detachment was also sent this time as there had been news that the Ottoman expedition had taken fairly heavy casualties in its last battle, overwhelming the small medical detachment they already had available.

The men in the rifle companies eagerly assisted in the offloading of the supplies. This time there was some food and medical supplies in addition to ammunition. Combined with the food brought from Eritrea there was now an abundance so the officers repeatedly yelled at their men not to gorge themselves.


------SMS Lothringen heading NNW 0810 hrs

Spee permitted Plunkett to join him and General von François on the bridge. The crew of his flagship had grown used to the Irishman and most of them no longer stared in curiosity at his unusual uniform. "There is something you should know," the admiral told him, "If we encounter a patrol of British cruisers today, Operation Unicorn is called off and we immediately head back to Germany."

Plunkett did not like that and he asked haltingly in German with both a wheeze and a stammer, "But tomorrow is different, right? We expect cruisers tomorrow and have plans for them, right?"

"That is correct. That’s where Admiral Maas comes in."

That made Plunkett feel a little better but there was something else bothering him "And if we should encounter the Grand Fleet today?"

Spee sighed. He looked at his bridge crew and General von François. What he was going to say they already knew.

"Then we all die."


------Old Admiralty Building 0950 hrs Monday, April 19, 1915

Carson had spent the night in the building. He was now meeting with Admirals Callaghan, Oliver, Jackson and Wilson.

"Initially there was a heavy mist this morning, First Lord," reported Admiral Oliver, "but it has burned off to a large degree. The reports from Harwich Force, Dover Patrol and Humber Patrol as well as our airplanes and submarines are all negative."

"And you’ve intercepted no further messages since we last talked?"

"No, First Lord. No more messages."

"Hmm. It is looking more and more that this was probably just an exercise after all. I am thinking about calling Lord Kitchener and telling him that we are finally ready to let 29th Division sail for France. What say you, Admiral Callaghan?"

"I concur, First Lord."


------Paris 1030 hrs

The news that the Abyssinians had rebuffed the French expedition to Somaliland was not going over very well with the Chamber of Deputies.


------Qurna (Iraq) 1200 hrs

Ottoman artillery began a steady shelling of the positions of the 6th (Poona) Indian Division in and around thus this city on the Tigris.


------Crecy Forest 1405 hrs

The Germans had started a bombardment of British Second Army positions at the outer edge of Crecy Forest at noon. The British soldiers thought they knew the sound of all the different types of German shells, but now they head something that traveled through the air with a noise like a runaway tramcar on badly laid rails. Then there was a huge explosion.


------SMS Friedrich der Grosse heading south 1800 hrs

Grossadmiral von Ingenohl gazed at the chronometer. It was time. "Send a wireless message to Emden informing them of our expected arrival," he ordered.


------Old Admiralty Building 2015 hrs

Carson was again meeting with Admirals Callaghan, Jackson, Oliver and Wilson. "We finally have a wireless intercept telling us of the High Seas Fleet return to port at 2100 hrs tomorrow w."

"This has been a very long sortie for them," Admiral Wilson noted, "I am surprised their screen has not run out of coal by now."

"They must have been traveling very slow most of the time," surmised Callaghan.

"Are they returning to the Jade or heading for Kiel?" asked Carson.

"Neither, First Lord," answered Oliver, "don’t ask me why but they are heading for the Ems."

"The Ems? Are you sure, Admiral Oliver?" asked Callaghan.


------Royal Palace Madrid 2100 hrs

Leopold had persuaded General Berenguer that Al-Raisuni was no longer an immediate menace and to go with him to Madrid. The general decided to bring along Franco, whom he regarded as a very promising officer who should become better known at the Spanish court.

When they arrived at Madrid, the mysterious Leopold had met with German attaché, Major Arnold Kalle. To Berenguer’s surprise, King Alfonso agreed to grant Leopold and Kalle a secret audience tonight. Berenguer was asked to attend as well. After some brief formalities Alfonso got to the point, "Even though you are most charming, senor," he said to Leopold, "I am afraid that this audience is going to be very brief. You see, you have put in a great deal of effort into a most futile endeavor, my German friend."

"Please, hear out him, Your Majesty." pleaded an anxious Major Kalle.

Leopold though seemed unruffled, "Are you saying that because of your promise to President Poincare that Spain would not attack France, Your Majesty?"

Alfonso’s eyes flashed dark, "How, how do you know that?"

"That would be telling, Your Majesty. And you see it is not important. I did not come here to persuade you to renege on your promise to the French President."

"You have me confused and more than a little annoyed, my German friend. Do not play games with me!"

"I mean no offense, Your Majesty. Let me ask a simple question, which you may choose to answer if you see fir. Did you promise not to declare war on Great Britain?"

. Alfonso took his time before replying in a cautious voice, "No. I did not. promise not to declare war on Great Britain. Just what are you suggesting?"

"Isn’t time the British Empire returned Gibraltar to the people of Spain, Your Majesty?"

"Go on."

"What I propose is in two parts. First, as General Berenguer here can testify I have on the behalf of my government been in contact with the much misunderstood Moroccan leader, Al-Raisuni—"

"A vile and treacherous brigand!" snarled the king.

"Perhaps but nevertheless, my government believes he to be better qualified to be the Sultan of Morocco than the current abomination. Did you know that Al-Raisuni can trace his descent to the Prophet? We have agreed to provide assistance to Al-Raisuni so that he can enter the French controlled territory and lay his claim. We ask merely that the Spanish government not interfere."

Alfonso’s nostrils flared and he asked with very mixed emotions, "And the second part of you scheme is that I demand that the British government agree to recognize Spanish sovereignty over Gibraltar?"

Leopold smiled broadly, "Your Majesty is ahead of me! It makes my job so easy. Yes, precisely! It is extremely unlikely that they will agree to this demand. An ultimatum ensues and before long a siege of the disputed territory."

Alfonso again took his time, "Ah, so even if I do not violate my word and attack the French directly, the mere fact that I declare war on their ally will force them to reinforce the Pyrenees thereby weakening the forces your armies face. You Germans are most clever in your knavery."

Kalle squirmed at the king’s sarcasm but Leopold seemed amused, "Your Majesty is so very perceptive."

"What precisely is Germany offering Spain?"

"As I said we plan to install Al-Raisuni as the new Sultan of Morocco, Your Majesty. I have carefully negotiated an agreement with him. He has agreed that the Spanish protectorate shalll be expanded as far south as Fez—and that Spain is to have sole control of Tangier. In addition the coastal area between Ifni and Rio de Oro will be controlled by Spain as well."

"Am I to believe that Germany has no interest of her own in Morocco?" asked the King in a cynical voice.

"Al-Raisuni has agreed to provide us with a coaling station at Agadir. Other than that our sole interest in Morocco is seeing a friendly ruler as Sultan."

The king rubbed his chin, "I need to give this much thought. Do not expect a quick answer. My advisers tell me that while the Central Powers seem to have some advantage at this time, but there are complications to even the limited participation that you suggest. There are many of my subjects deeply opposed to any Spanish involvement in the war."

Leopold nodded, "Certain events may dissuade those voices, Your Majesty?"

"Such as?"

"Doesn’t Spain have a history of supporting the Irish, Your Majesty?"


-------Bab al Mandab 2320 hrs

Another Ottoman rifle company were being ferried in dhows to Khor Angar. Suddenly a searchlight erupted and caught one of the dhows at the rear of the formation. A voice speaking through a megaphone was heard. The other dhows continued sailing. Suddenly shots could be heard. First a few rifle shots then the steady clatter of a machine gun. Cries of men dying in agony were soon heard. Then there was a louder noise as 3 pounder cannon opened fire. It fired for several minutes and the dhow turned into an inferno. The screams of men burning could be hears. Eventually the ammunition aboard the down—which included some 77mm shells erupted. Still the burning dhow took its painful time to sink.

The rest of the dhows managed to reach Khor Angar, though one dhow grounded in fairly deep water. When they did the soldiers poured over the gunwales in terror even from the one grounded in deep water.


SMS Blucher NNW of Faeroes 0755 hrs Tuesday, April 20, 1915

Admiral Leberecht Maas’ eyes resembled a bird of prey as he hungrily scanned the seas ahead with his binoculars The early morning fog was burning off and visibility was steadily increasing. There still remained a heavy cloud cover which was good because the dense smoke produced by the Sonderverband would be much less noticeable. Today the Sonderverband would attempt to cross the British blockade line. By themselves the AMC’s of the 10th Cruiser Squadron were too weak to defeat the Sonderverband. Their threat was that they might provide the Royal Navy sufficient information about the true nature of the Sonderverband that would cause them to commit a force of dreadnoughts, maybe the entire Grand Fleet.

The 2nd Scouting Group was deployed 45 nm ahead of the predreadnought with the transports and 5 nm behind. It headed southwest at 10 knots. Blucher was in the center with Regensburg 15 nm to the ESE and Rostock a similar distance NNW. The German hope was that these 3 cruisers, esp. the powerful Blucher would cause the AMC’s to disperse. The British Admiralty would likely assume it was another hit and run raid on Northern Patrols

The old protected cruisers Vineta and Freya plus 2 of the U-Boats guarded the flanks of the Sonderverband while the Arkona, B.98 and the third U-Boat kept watch on the rear.


------HQ British Second Army 0805 hrs

General Smith-Dorrien had Sir John French on the telephone line, "So contrary to what this deserter told us there was no use of toxic gases by the Germans last night, am I correct?"

"That is correct, sir," answered Smith-Dorrien, "but the Germans may have postponed it because the wind was not favorable."

"Or maybe this deserter made up this story to impress us and get special treatment—that’s been known to happen. Or maybe he is a German plant to deceive us for some purpose such as delaying First Army’s attack. Even if the story was true a weapon that is so dependent on the wind doesn’t seem very dependable."

"I don’t think we can afford to dismiss the potential threat, sir!"

"How many times do I have tell you not to yell at me over the telephone, Horace! I am not dismissing this bit of intelligence I am just saying we need to put in perspective and not overreact."

"We should have our airplanes concentrate on finding the German canisters. In the last few days when the weather hasn’t had them grounded they have concentrated on bombing raids against the German airfields, which I do not see as very productive given the small bombs they use."

"Er, the Germans raided Harwich a few days ago causing some harm and that has a lot of folks in London steamed right now. These raids you refer to are merely a form of retaliation."

"I can understand that sentiment, sir, but I still think it is a misuse of a limited asset right now."

"I will talk to the aviation section and get them what you need. Frankly I’d be more concerned about the concentration of German artillery than toxic gases."

"I am worried about them as well, sir, esp. in light of my own limited stockpile of artillery shells."

"Complain, complain. You know very well, Horace, that First Army must get priority on artillery shells because Haig is preparing for his offensive. The Albanian expedition also needs shells in great quantity because we expect a major offensive by the Central Powers there very soon."


------HQ Army Group Crown Prince Rupprecht 0855 hrs

"We should postpone Operation Tourniquet until Monday, Your Royal Highness," General Ludendorff recommended, "The pitiful Austrians are behind schedule. At least once an hour I must rebuke an Austrian officer the telephone for incompetence and stupidity."

"Well what did expect, general? Only Prussians can do things right," answered the Crown Prince with icy sarcasm.

"I did not say that, Your Royal Highness!"

"But you did think it, now didn’t you? I received a telephone from Feldmarschal Conrad yesterday afternoon complaining about how you insult our ally constantly. Things will go much smoother in this operation if you can demonstrate some professional courtesy for a change. Am I making myself clear, General?"

"Yes, Your Royal Highness, but it is only—"

"---But nothing! I just gave you an order! I do not want to hear and more of your pathetic excuses!"

"Yes, Your Royal Highness."

"Now as far as moving Operation Tourniquet back another day, my answer is ‘No’. Under the terms of our treaty with Bulgaria we must launch our attack Monday at the latest. I am not going to wait until the last possible minute in case there is a severe problem with weather. I already pushed back our attack by one day."

"But we are not going to be ready by Sunday, General."

"If you were as good as you pretend to be, we will be ready come Sunday morning."


------Old Admiralty Building 0935 hrs

Carson was meeting again with Admirals Callaghan, Jackson, Oliver and Wilson. "Is there anything new about the mysterious ‘Special Task Force, Admiral Oliver?" he asked.

"We have no new information to report, First Lord," answered Oliver.

"And we still believe that the High Seas Fleet is heading back to the Ems?"

"Yes, First Lord."

Carson shook his head, "I find that bit of information completely unfathomable. The Germans must realize that we have agents post on the Dutch bank that will be able to observe their movements. Does anyone here have so much as an educated guess why they are heading for the Ems?"

The admirals all looked at each other, sharing a common thought. Only Admiral Wilson dared to say it, "The Ems puts them closer to England, First Lord."

Carson let that one sink in. He did not like the implications. "So you think their plan is to make another sortie soon—and the next one will be headed our way? I can’t believe that."

Wilson answered cautiously, "It is only a guess, First Lord, but I am hard pressed to explain it otherwise."

Having convinced himself that the concern about the current sortie had turned out to be a false alarm, Carson was upset at Wilson’s reasoning. "What do the rest of you think?"

"Maybe they are worried about our submarine patrols in the Bight and hope to avoid them?" speculated Jackson though he sounded unconvinced by his own thinking.

"That’s possible but not likely in my estimation. I’m afraid I find the proximity to the Ems to be more probable explanation," Callaghan said.

"No!," yelled Carson pounding the desk with his fist, "it makes no sense for the Germans to wander around the North Sea for 4 days and then decide to attack us whether it is a bombardment, an infantry raid or a full scale invasion "

"It might be that the first sortie was an attempt to bring the Grand Fleet to battle where they preferred. That failed and now they intend to do something that will get our attention," replied the First Sea Lord.

"That would imply a bombardment or a raid but not an invasion. I still find it very hard to accept. Admiral Oliver, what is your professional opinion."

"We should refrain from reaching hasty conclusions, First Lord, but stationing the High Seas Fleet at the Ems is disturbing for the very reasons stated by Admiral Wilson and Admiral Callaghan."

Carson’s expression softened somewhat, "I do not want to disregard the opinion of your worthy officers as yourselves, but frankly this is all very speculative. In the absence of any better evidence I am strongly inclined against overreacting."

"As you wish, First Lord," replied Callaghan. There was nearly a minute of silence of then he continued, "We were going to order 10th Cruiser Squadron to put to sea and resume its blockade patrols at noon, sir"

"Have they even raised steam yet?"

"No, they have not, First Lord."

"There was only a small chance of a battle cruiser raid on the AMC’s in the first place—though you were justified in being cautious. But that risk has now disappeared as far as I am concerned. Let’s order them to raise steam now and put to sea as soon as they are ready. We also discussed sending scout cruisers to see if any block runners leaked through."

"Yes, First Lord. There are 3 cruisers standing by at Scapa, which will patrol to the northeast of the Shetlands."

"Only three? Well they’ll have to do. There probably aren’t any bloody blockade runners neither, but we should check it out nonetheless. Oh, before I forget did the convoy for Albania depart Malta on schedule this morning?"

"Yes, First Lord, the freighters put out to sea at dawn without any trouble."


------southern Uganda 0955 hrs

Disturbing reports had reached Kumpala a few days ago. They spoke of some natives professes to be following ‘Ethiopianism’ rising up in some sort of rebellion. At least 3 white households were looted and burned and some whites taken prisoner. A company of the King African Rifles was hurried dispatched to the area marching as best they could through the mud and washed out roads of the rainy season. There was a suspicion that the Germans were in some fashion behind this disturbance as in its new form the Ethiopianists claimed Germans were to be spared their wrath because Germany was helping Ethiopia. This morning the KAR patrols encountered and quickly 2 men they suspected of being part of movement taking shelter from the rain in an outhouse. The main body though was not found and it was suspected that they had retreated over the border.


------HQ German Sixth Army 1015 hrs

General von Falkenhayn had arrived to confer with the army commander, General von Fabeck. "We were ready to attack last night but the wind was unfavorable to use the gas," admitted Fabeck.

Falkenhayn was disappointed. "Try to us it tonight. If the wind is unfavorable tonight, then you try again tomorrow night and then again then next night. If you have not been able to use the gas by dawn on Friday then you must—I repeat must—make a morning attack on their V Corps using your powerful artillery. Then hopefully to can use the gas on their IV Corps later in the day. What is critical is that there must be a genuine full scale attack on the BEF before noon on Friday, preferably sooner. A small feint is not enough. Is that clear?"

"Perfectly clear, General."


------Ahwaz, Persia 1105 hrs

The battalion of reinforcements General Gorringe had requested from General Nixon arrived. The men were exhausted and dehydrated from a grueling march up the west bank of the Karun in steamy weather. The artillery battery sent up from Basra along with a decent supply of shells had not been able to keep up with the infantry and would not arrive until after dark. Impatient to finish off the Ottomans on the west bank portion of Ahwaz, Gorringe ordered an all out attack. He had barely 10 rounds per gun –their replenishment was back with the reinforcement battery, and fired them all off in flurry then attacked the Ottoman defenses.


-----outside Shaiba (Mesopotamia) 1140 hrs (GMT)

Colonel Mustafa Kemal personally lead the reconnaissance patrol to scout the enemy defenses. They were now on a small hill within sight of the enemy garrison. Kemal made carefully observations of the approaches and possible obstacles which his men carefully recorded. "I am finished," he announced as he stood up and started to walk down the hill. Suddenly a shot ricocheted off a large rock.

Kemal took only a brief notice and did not take cover, but he did move down the hill more rapidly. "Come quickly now! We must get back to camp and make our final preparations," he ordered.


------Tug Argan Gap (Somaliland) 1210 hrs

On of the 2 battalions Indian Expedition to Somaliland had arrived at the Tag Argan Gap 3 days ago. This was a key piece of high ground on the road from Hargeisa to Berbera. Initially there were content merely to defend making only a few halfhearted attempts at reconnaissance. This morning they decided to take certain key hills occupied by the Dervishes of Sheik Hassan---who had insisted that the Abyssinian forces under his command remain at Hargeisa. This deprived him of their mountain artillery but fighting now in the hills. The first Indian attack was by a single company. When it encountered stiffer than expected resistance trying to capture a key hill the attackers quickly retired.

The battalion commander now committed 3 companies to storm the hill.. The Dervishes inflicted substantial losses on their attackers then melted away to another hill where additional forces were already waiting.


-------Qurna (Mesopotamia) 1300 hrs

The Ottoman forces continued their sporadic shelling of the position of the 6th (Poona) Indian Division, but also made a series of infantry attacks as well all of which the defenders repulsed.


------Gaelic American office 1350 hrs (GMT)

"So Tom, the damn mother violating Unionists kicked your sorry arse out of Ireland," said John Devou as he shook hands with Tom Clarke who had arrived in New York yesterday evening. They had none each for a long time. Clarke had lived in the United States for a while and learned to make bombs while living on Staten Island. He had even become a naturalized American citizen but nonetheless he eventually returned to Ireland.

"You haven’t changed a bit, John," answered Clarke, "Still as sweet and lovable as always. Though what’s the story behind that funny looking helmet you’re wearing."

"Do you like it?" asked Devoy pointing to the green steel helmet he was wearing, "Some of the Germans think it will reduce shrapnel injuries to the head. And they decided to let the Irish Republican Army field test it for them."

"They will be sending these helmets along with their weapons?"

"I don’t know actually. What I was referring to is that I send over nearly 2,000 of these helmets and about as many horses and some trucks. Oh, and a lot of food including some for the horses. The only weapons were 100 shotguns my men bought in stores and hid amidst the rest of the cargo."

"Jesus! Where in hell did you get the money to buy all that—oh let me guess—the Germans must have given it to you."

Devoy shook his old head from side to side, "Actually they arranged a very large loan for the Clan na Gael with some big shot Mr. Money Bags Jew banker."

"A loan? And how many centuries is it going to take the Clan na Gael to pay it off."

Devoy waved his left hand dismissively, "Eh, the German ambassador said they would take care of it once the war was over. For the time being it was less conspicuous than giving us the money outright."

"Well then it looks like you have another reason to hope they win this war."


------10 Downing St.1405 hrs

"Well it seems that the Germans gave us all a bit of scare the last few days," Prime Minister admitted to Bonar Law to David Lloyd-George and Sir Edward Carson.

"Did we ever find out what their sortie was about?" Lloyd-George asked.

"No. It remains very much a mystery," answered Carson, "with the most likely hypothesis being it was a training exercise of some sort." The First Lord of the Admiralty had decided to hold off on telling Bonar Law and Lloyd-George about the German Fleet returning to the Ems and its disturbing implications until more information was available.

"Keep us posted of any further developments," ordered the Prime Minister.

"But of course, Prime Minister."

"Good. Now that that distraction is over and done with we can get back down to business. David, I am dismayed by the intensity of Liberal opposition to the conscription bill. Isn’t there something you can do to get them to understand how we need conscription to prevail in this war."

"Well, I could tell them that the bill has been amended to exempt Ireland," replied the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

"No. We are not going to that at this point. If the bill is still stalled a month from now and the only way to get it passed is to exempt Ireland well then we’ll have to bite the bullet much as it galls me. Right now I am standing by the notion that there is no reason to treat Ireland any different. It is just as much a part of the Britain as London is."

"I couldn’t agree with you more, Andrew," Carson remarked, "I would much prefer compromising on other provisions of the bill if need be."

Lloyd-George frowned slightly as he answered, "There are several MP’s who have no qualms with conscription per se but feel that extending it to Ireland is merely intended as a provocation designed to cause a disturbance and thereby undermine Home Rule. And it is not just the Liberals, there are some in your own party that express similar concerns."

"That is utter rubbish!" yelled the Prime Minister, "If we wanted to provoke the damn Irish Catholics in a disturbance, I would not be in the process of deporting the worst troublemakers. Speaking of which, I am more than a little annoyed that Birrell has yet to apprehend Pearse."

"Hear, hear," said Carson, "I’ve been thinking that perhaps we should tell Curzon his position should be that if Birrell can’t find Pearse soon he should deport one of the other rascals high on our list."

"I like that idea. I find it so very frustrating that we’ve failed to find a suitable replacement for Birrell to date," said Law.


-----SMS Blucher 1610 hrs

"Still nothing from Regensburg or Rostock?" an extremely frustrated Admiral Maas asked of his staff with undisguised ire. He had wanted so very much to rip the infernal British blockading squadron to shreds today. Visibility had been good for most of the day but was now starting to deteriorate with mist developing. The 2nd Scouting Group had failed to find a single AMC—or any vessel of any kind for that matter.

"Nothing from either ship, Admiral."


------Shaiba 1700 hrs (GMT)

The 68 guns of the Ottoman artillery had commenced firing just before sunset. Having registered on their targets the bombardment had continued after nightfall. Now the men of the 19th Infantry Division made their attack. There were other Ottoman forces plus several thousand Marsh Arab irregulars in the force de Goltz has assigned to Kemal with orders to capture Shaiba and then Basra. Kemal only trusted his own men to carry own the difficult initial assault at night. Later he would carefully reinforce them using his other Ottoman regiments. The Marsh Arabs and some Ottoman cavalry he was using to make a feint towards Old Basra, which der Goltz had strongly recommended.


------Ahwaz 1805 hrs

"There have been some setbacks, including losing 2 key strongpoint, but we prevented them from sweeping behind us and now seem to be holding our perimeter currently," commented Major Katz to Col Al-Askary, "We made the enemy pay enough of a price today they have become cautious again."

"What of the morning?" asked Al-Askary.

"Hard to say, colonel. My best guess is that it will depend in large part on the size of their stockpile of artillery shells. Today’s very brief bombardment leads me to believe they are scarping the barrel. If they have indeed run out of shells I am fairly optimistic we can hold in the morning. We still have a small ration available for our own guns."

"And if they should have ample shells come dawn?"

Katz grimaced, then shrugged, "In that case we could be in serious trouble. I strongly recommend being ready to evacuate the city on short notice and retire to northwest."


------SMS Lothringen 1910 hrs

"Very, very strange and more than a little disturbing," commented Admiral von Spee to the German general and the IRA captain as they were having supper, "we have gone all day and not encountered a single vessel. This was supposed to be where the British blockade line was."

"Didn’t you cross the blockade line when you returned with Asiatic Squadron, admiral?" asked Plunkett. He had been told that Spee’s experience was a prime reason Tirpiz picked him to command the Sonderverband.

Spee nodded, "Yes but we did it at night. We had fewer and faster ships plus a longer night with no moon. One cruiser thought they saw something in the vicinity of the patrol line. Maybe they did, maybe they did not."

"Are you worried that British already knew we were coming and that’s why they removed their AMC’s?" asked François.

Spee nodded again, "Yes, I am."

"Are you go to turn back, Admiral?" asked a worried Plunkett.

This time Spee shook his head, "No. We effectively crossed the Rubicon today. Going back now is more dangerous than going forward, Captain Plunkett. At first light tomorrow, B.98 will scout to the rear to see if we are being tailed"

"When do you plan to send a wireless report back to Germany, Admiral?" asked the general.

"Originally it was to be about now. The report would have included the number of AMC’s we destroyed. Admiral von Ingenohl as you know is deeply worried that the British can determine the location from which a wireless message emanates esp. if the message is lengthy. So the next wireless transmission won’t be until dusk tomorrow and it will be very brief—just long enough to provide Admiral Ingenohl and General Falkenhayn what they need for their diversion."


------Fenit (Ireland) 1950 hrs

Austen Stack, the commandant of the Kerry Brigade of Irish Volunteers arrived at the docks with nearly two dozen of his men. He found a party of 10 longshoremen plus a customs official waiting for him where an American flagged merchantman was docked. Accompanied by the official and one of longshoreman Stack boarded the vessel, leaving his men on the docks. After a few minutes he returned he addressed his men, "I didn’t believe it when the fellahs in Dublin first told me, but now I see with me own eyes. There is indeed an awful lot of horses aboard this here vessel. I instructed all of you on just what needs to be done. We have a long night ahead of us. We had better get started."


------SMS Friedrich der Grosse 2030 hrs

The High Seas Fleet was approaching the mouth of the EMS. "Signal all ships that coaling is to commence immediately upon docking. Priority shall be given to the torpedo boats and the shorter range light cruisers. This fleet is to be ready to sortie again in 48 hours."


------Ottoman 19th Divisional HQ (Shaiba) 2050 hrs

"Kemal Bey, more reports have arrived from the battalion commanders leading the assault. They report heavy casualties. None have penetrated into the garrison itself."

"Let me look at those," ordered Kemal. After he had done so he shouted, "The attack will continue," he ordered in a loud firm voice.


------CANZAC HQ Herzegovina, 2105 hrs

Initially General Birdwood had dealt with the Montenegrins since arriving in Albania, though some of the excess weapons and ammunition they brought with them went on the Serbs. When the CANZAC was starting to make some progress some small bands of Serbs arrived to try to exploit the political tension in Bosnia-Herzegovina and encourage the southern Slavs to join them. It the last few days there a new manifestation of Serbian interest and it resulted in a visit this evening by two Serbians, a general and a colonel.

"If they wait until the Bulgarians complete their mobilization we have about 2 more weeks," said the Serbian Colonel, who spoke English fluently with only a slight accent.

"But Germans and Austrians may not wait until then. For one thing Tsar Ferdinand may insist they start attack a few days before he declares war and launches his own attack," said the Serb General, who was less comfortable with English, speaking slower with a thick accent.

"We also received some disturbing intelligence in the last few days that at least 2 possibly 3 Turkish divisions are going to be involved as well," added the colonel.

"So the Turks are getting into this donnybrook as well, eh>"answered General Birdwood, "I am a wee bit surprised but it doesn’t worry me that much as they are next to worthless as soldiers. And for what it’s worth the Bulgarians are overrated to my thinking."

The two Serb officer looked at each other and after a few seconds the general replied, "I do not completely agree with that opinion. It is—how you say—overly optimistic, yes? "

"Yes, that is the correct phrasing, though I am surprised to hear you say that. What is it that you want for my men to do to help you? Though he have made little progress of late due to the weather we are exerting as much pressure as we can on the enemy."

The Serb General glanced at the colonel who answered, "We do not believe that the enemy’s main effort will fall in your sector. They will likely launch only one or two fairly small feints against you. Their main effort will concentrate on the north, taking Belgrade and opening the rail line to Istanbul."

"I could see where that would make sense. Is there something specific you need from me?"

"We like, er, we would like one division," the Serb general replied.

Birdwood’s expression made it readily apparent that he was both shocked and confused. Seeing that the Serbian Colonel explained, "We believe you can easily hold here with only 3 divisions and the Montenegrins. The terrain here gives advantages to the defender. You can spare one division which we would like to use against the main line of the enemy thrust."

Birdwood took his time replying, "We will need to work out some of the details—command, supply and other things. I am not ruling this out but will need at least a full day before I can make a commitment."


On to Volume XXXII


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