by Tom B
------New York harbor 0010 hrs GMT Saturday May 22, 1915
A US flagged freighter of 5,400 tons steamed out of the harbor bound for Cork. Her cargo consisted of motor vehicles, mostly trucks but a few buses and cars as well. The majority of the trucks were made by GMC Trucks, a sales company subsidiary of General Motors that combined the formerly separate Rapid Motor Vehicle Company and the Reliance Motor Truck Company. The rest were made Mack Brothers Motor Car Company which was currently owned by the International Motor Truck Corporation.
------HQ Ireland Command Curragh (Kildare) 0015 hrs
Gen. Hamilton was on the telephone with Brigadier Lowe, the commander of the Eastern Region. "General, we still have received no word from Col. Churchill about his pursuit of the remnants of Dublin Brigade," Lowe reported, "I then became deeply concerned. I sent motorcyclists to make try to make contact but they failed to return. I then sent 3 motor cars with constables. One of those cars returned a few minutes ago. The constables in that car claim that they were ambushed by rebels along the Military Road north of Laragh. The other vehicles we sent did not escape the ambush."
"Hmm this is most ominous," replied Hamilton, "Is it possible that Col. Churchill got himself into some trouble. Still I thought that Dublin Brigade had been whittled down to a few hundred and was nearly out of ammunition."
"It is admittedly something of a mystery, sir, and we don’t know for a fact yet that he is serious trouble. It could merely be that Churchill succeeded in destroying most of Dublin Brigade but a small portion escaped and is temporarily disrupting his line of communication."
"That is the most likely scenario but we cannot afford to ignore other possibilities. For one thing the Hussars at Arklow may have come to aid of the rebels."
"Our intelligence estimates that force at Arklow as being one or two squadrons of Hussars, general. Perhaps if they worked in conjunction with the rebels they have bottled up the Royal Scots Fusiliers in the mountains. Should I dispatch one of the Royal Irish Rifles battalions down the Military Road to see if Col. Churchill has gotten himself into trouble?"
"I regard that as a prudent move just in case Sir Winston has managed once again to get himself into trouble."
"I will do so but I must respectfully remind the general that doing so would leave me with only one battalion in Dublin County."
"Yes, only one Army battalion, general. You still have over 800 constables at your disposal. With the Irish Volunteers crushed that should be sufficient to keep a lid on things. Oh, and that reminds me, the Imperial Staff has notified me that they have decided to send over the 4th Grenadier Guards today. It should be arriving at Kingstown before noon. You will have trains standing by to take them to Nenagh immediately. It is your responsibility to ensure that they are entrained as quickly as possible."
"I will see to it, general. It is simply splendid to hear that a battalion of that elite regiment is coming to Ireland. Are there any other reinforcements due to arrive soon?"
Hamilton exchanged glances with Gen. Braithwaite, his chief of staff. They had learned during the night that the High Seas Fleet was returning to Ireland bringing additional reinforcements. They were hoping that this ominous development might persuade the War Committee to send them an additional division immediately but that had not materialized so far. They had both been ordered in the strongest terms not to share this intelligence with their subordinates. "Some replacement troops for both the West Riding and Lowland Divisions, roughly 400 men each, will be arriving around the same time as the Grenadier Guards. You are to send them on their way as quickly as possible along with the supplies that will arriving as well, but the 4th Grenadier Guards are to be awarded top priority. Is that clear?"
"Yes, general. Perfectly clear, sir."
------SMS Stralsund Western Approaches 0055 hrs
The sky out here had few clouds and the moon was now first quarter. Under these conditions Stralsund was able to take a night time prize. This was a 4,900 ton freighter out of Charleston with a cargo of cigarettes. After considerable discussion amongst the senior German officers about this prize they decided to try to keep her.
------Mungret (Limerick) 0105 hrs
During their fairly brief stopover in Croom, Maj. Ritter von Thoma had been gratified that 71 men and 2 women had come forward to join the West Limerick Battalion. It was always a problem integrating new members into the unit but nevertheless it was a problem he was glad to have. His battalion had suffered heavy cumulative losses and was now organized into only two weak companies. He assigned all of the newcomers to his 2nd company. Whenever possible he would try to give them some training. He would try to use that company sparingly and rely mostly on the 1st company, where most of the survivors had become battle hardened.
At sunset his men along with replacement marines for the Naval Division and the supply wagons departed for Limerick. There had been some light rain when they started but it soon tapered off and the clouds began to break up revealing the moon. When they reached Patrickswell they did not take the most direct road to Limerick but instead continued north to Mungret. They had yet to see any signs of the enemy on their trip.
As they entered the village of Mungret the lead company of the West Limerick Battalion were momentarily startled when they were approached by 6 armed women on bicycles, who abruptly emerged out of the shadows and were nearly shot. One woman was clearly in charge and demanded to see the commanding officer. Ritter von Thoma was with the lead company at the time and stepped forward. "I am Maj. Von Thoma, I.R.A. and I am in command of the West Limerick Battalion."
The woman saluted sharply, "Honored to meet you, major. I am Staff Sergeant Donahue from the 5th Kerry Battalion. We were out on patrol. If you are heading for Limerick, you should be warned that we spotted a sizeable enemy patrol to the east of here less than 15 minutes earlier. We dunna think that they spotted us though."
The major snorted almost cynically and shook his head slightly. This woman who claimed to be a staff sergeant was strange but he had encountered many strange things since coming to Ireland and this woman was merely the most recent not the strangest. "And how large is this patrol?" he asked.
"I would estimate them as being somewhere between 40 and 60 men, major."
The major rubbed his chin. He debated with himself whether or not to attack. On the one hand it might alert the enemy to their presence. On the other hand it would be best to try to surprise them now and not risk being ambushed by them later. After a minute he told Donahue, "I am going to take one of my companies and deal with this enemy patrol. Could you give me directions as to where you spotted the enemy patrol."
Mother Superior frowned, "Major, trying to tell you is likely to result in confusion under these conditions. It would be best if we were to lead you there in person."
I had a feeling she was going to say that thought von Thoma shaking his head cynically well maybe because it makes some sense He then ordered the commander of the 2nd company, the one with all the new arrivals, to assist the Ersatz Marines in escorting the vital supply wagons into Limerick. The smaller but more experienced 1st company he led with Sgt. Donahue and her fellow amazons by his side. Under the feeble illumination provided by a setting quarter moon his company fell upon the enemy patrol. The major was only a little bit surprised when the women from 5th Kerry Battalion engaged in the firefight. What was downright unsettling to von Thoma is that they performed rather well, esp. SSgt. Donahue.
Meanwhile the supplies and reinforcements entered Limerick without any trouble. Both were quickly distributed.
------Mullingar (Westmeath) 0150 hrs
The lead company of the Cavan Battalion groped and stumbled its way in the dark into the town of Mullingar. At the edge of the town they ran into roadblock manned by 5 constables whom they soon overwhelmed though one of them escaped to warn the rest inside the town. Cavan Battalion then lurched into town encountering resistance only at the train station and the R.I.C. station. The rebels were unable to take the former but the latter turned out to be inadequately guarded. They were able to overpower the constables coming out of the darkness with men armed with shotguns. Inside the station they found supplies incl. ammunition as well as the highly variegated array of firearms that had been confiscated from both the local company of Irish Volunteers and battalion of Redmond’s National Volunteers.
-------Philadelphia harbor 0155 hrs GMT
Another large collier departed Philadelphia hauling Pennsylvania anthracite to Ireland.
------Meiszagola (Lithuania) 0200 hrs
The Russian infantry tried again to retake the crest of the key hill. This attack was reinforced with 2 poorly trained Territorial battalions where less than half of the men had a rifle. The Germans had brought up searchlights and their illumination was soon supplemented by parachute flares and star shells. Some of the attackers made it through the weak wire barrier into the German trenches but very few had grenades and their trench fighting skills were inferior to the defenders. They inflicted some casualties on the Germans but suffered many more in process and in the end were repelled completely.
------Noyelles-sur-Mer (Picardy) 0225 hrs
Until recently the tenuous line of communication of the British First Army was barely able to handle the minimum nightly flow of supplies. For that reason Gen. Haig had been disinclined to send very many of his wounded back through it lest they clog the key road. Instead less than 300 wounded were evacuated each night by boat at Le Crotoy. This inability to evacuate most of the wounded entailed considerable hardship as First Army was receiving only about half the medical supplies its overcrowded field hospitals so badly needed.
In the last few days the flow of supplies, esp. ammunition, to First Army had been seriously cut. This was because there was no sea traffic between Britain and France. What food and fodder they were receiving was coming from the French. The change from bully beef would’ve been welcomed by the Tommies except that the quantity of French food was insufficient. There had been fears the last night that German warships might shell this road but mercifully nothing had come of that. With the road less crowded Gen. Haig decided to send nearly 5,000 of the wounded belonging to the decimated 4th Infantry Division back down the road across the Somme as a preliminary move to sending the rest of that division south at a later date. The horse drawn ambulances of division’s 3 ambulance companies were supplemented by putting some of the wounded into the supply wagons used by the ASC companies which delivered food and fodder that night. There was too little petrol left in B.E.F. to use its motor ambulances. The horses drawing the ambulances were weak and sickly having been seriously underfed for more than a fortnight.
Any of the wounded who could walk at all did so. Some of the more lightly wounded assisted those comrades who were having trouble keeping up. As usual the certain German batteries registered on the road during the late afternoon then sporadically shelled it throughout the night esp. the sections around Morlay and Noyelles-sur-Mer where the road lay closest to the frontline. As the batteries of I Army Corps were dangerously low on shells they made no attempt to suppress the German batteries this night. There was now another one of these firing episodes with 7.7cm shrapnel shells bursting close enough to the column to cause casualties. In this stretch of the road a series of slit trenches had been dug along the sides of the road for the use of the nightly ASC convoys. Those soldiers that could walk dove into these trenches as soon as the shelling started. The seriously wounded soldiers inside the ambulances did not have that luxury and suffered the worst for it along with the medics who remained with them and the poor draught horses.
The shelling stopped after 3 minutes. Those soldiers that were in the slit trenches returned to the road. As the march restarted so did the German batteries not because they could see what was happening but merely because they had over time learned how to play a cat and mouse game with the British ASC companies during the night. This shelling lasted another 3 minutes causing additional casualties to the wounded and the soldiers who attended them. When this round of shelling ended, the surviving recipients were more hesitant about resuming their march south but eventually did so without further interruption. Several of the ambulances were now hauling corpses.
------Ennis (Clare) 0230 hrs
Gen. Wilson, the commander of VI Army Corps continued to press Gen. Baldock, the commander of the West Riding Division for progress. Discouraged by the results near Sixmilebridge, Baldock decided to make another night time assault on the city of Ennis which anchored the enemy’s left flank. About half of the defenders at Ennis were the rebels of the West Clare and Central Clare Battalions. Gen. Baldock hurled 6 battalions into this assault including the entire 109th Brigade. The attackers suffered heavy losses and were only able to penetrate the defences in one sector guarded by the West Clare Battalion. Even that modest success soon bogged down in vicious house to house fighting.
------vicinity of Shavli (Lithuania) 0300 hrs
The Russian XXXVII and XIX Army Corps made simultaneous night attacks against the Army of the Dvina, with the former from the northwest while the latter hit from ENE. By this time the XXXVII Army Corps which consisted mostly of poorly trained men had already suffered staggering losses in the fighting around Shavli. The attack it now mounted was relatively weak and accomplished very little. The XIX Army Corps had better trained men, many of them with months of combat experience, and had suffered considerably less casualties in the battle so far. Their attack therefore performed better, and was able to advance a kilometer against the 11th Landwehr Division taking a few prisoners in the process but then was able to advance no further.
------Kesh (Fermanagh) 0305 hrs
The Northern Ireland Brigade was on the march again. Col. Heinrici still felt that staying in one spot for too long was to court disaster. He knew that the British force he had engaged at Pettigoe was still nearby. He had taken a good bite out of it but he knew it still remained a threat and suspected that it would likely tail his brigade. Heinrici was not sure of its exact strength and so felt that trying to eliminate it was too risky at this time.
Yesterday afternoon he had considered trying to take Omagh, the county town of Tyrone. He decided it was likely to be at least moderately well defended. If he was able to take it at all it would likely be costly. The men in his brigade told Heinrici that the area around the village of Dromore was overwhelmingly Catholic and took pride in their rebellious history. It was hill country suitable for defense. From there he could cut the important rail line that ran from Omagh into Enniskillen where there was a bridge crossing Lough Erne. He decided that would be his brigade’s next destination.
------south of Neuilly-L’Hôpital (Picardy) 0500 hrs
The bombardment of the British IV Army Corps which had been intermittent through the night now intensified. The British batteries had even less shells than the day before. Gen. Plumer, the commander of Second Army, had strongly ordered them not to attempt to duel with the Germans. This let the German howitzers chew up the British trenches with impunity. During the night small parties of pioneers escorted by a few riflemen had opened a few gaps in the already weak British wire barrier. The German howitzers opened up some more holes.
Part of this bombardment was directed at the Belgian 5th Infantry Division to the east. The Belgians had whittled down their once impressive stockpile of shells in the last 3 weeks. They began to duel with the Germans but once they realized that their trenches were being spared the wrath of the enemy howitzers, they went silent and repositioned themselves.
------Paris 0505 hrs
After the war the execution of de Valera became a popular topic amongst Spanish writers and artists, the most famous example being the painting by Salvador Dali, which is considered by some to be his best work and by others merely his most grotesque.
------Kilmainham Jail (Dublin) 0520 hrs
Ironically in the last few minutes of her life, the Countess Markievicz found herself thinking of Eamon de Valera. She recalled how as commandant of the 3rd Dublin Battalion he refused to let the women assigned to his unit carry arms. At the time that had made her angry but now she merely found it oddly amusing. She wondered what had happened to the dour Mr. de Valera, the math teacher. Last she heard he was in Spain making propaganda speeches on their behalf which did not strike her as being very dangerous. She was much more worried about the fate of Pound. She was well aware that he had fallen head over heels in love with her. She in turn loved Ezra but not in that way. She wondered if the British might be reluctant to execute Pound because he was an American citizen. She hoped so. She also remembered poor James Connolly, who had been unjustly executed with great fondness. If there really was an afterlife she would be joining him soon. She briefly wondered what ever happened to silver tongued Jim Larkin. Would he ever make it back to Ireland?
She also thought of her daughter and realized with regret that she had not been the best of mothers, being more interested in politics than child rearing. The countess hoped she would some day forgive her mother. She tried to not to think at all about Casimir, her cruel ex-husband.
She suddenly heard the distinctive sound of a volley being fired in the distance. This was the second time she had heard that sound this morning. The first time there had been a pair of Capuchin friars in her cell doing their best to spare her agnostic soul the torment of eternal hellfire. She had finally insisted that they go save someone else’s souls, maybe their own.
Two soldiers led by a subaltern now approached her cell. "It is time, Your Excellency," said the officer.
"Yes, it is time for Ireland to cast off the yoke of British oppression," she answered tartly.
They led her out to the entranceway to Stonebreaker Yard. At that point the subaltern moved behind her and began to tie her hands behind her. "Could you possibly dispense with tying my hands?" she asked, "I promise to stand still and not to make any rude gestures."
"Sorry, but it happens to be the standard procedure, Your Excellency," replied the subaltern.
"And is the blindfold mandatory as well?"
"I am afraid so, Your Excellency." After the subaltern placed the hood over her, he then pinned a piece of paper with a target marked over her heart. He found that a bit disturbing to do to a woman and was therefore glad the countess was blindfolded lest he might blush.
"You can’t win you know?" she told him.
The subaltern wasn’t completely sure what the countess was referring to and asked, "I beg your pardon?"
"If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can imagine," she replied not with bravado but a strange stoicism.
The officer shook his head and decided then and there that she was just another romantic Irish loon. Not the first they had executed and certainly not going to be the last. When he was done he nodded to the two guards who moved to her sides and they guided her to a corner of the yard. There a half dozen soldiers with rifles were waiting. Two of them were smoking cigarettes which they now extinguished. The blindfolded countess could smell the smoke from the cigarettes plus a whiff of residual smoke from rifles having been fired a few minutes earlier. There were other smells as well that she thought were familiar but she did not care to identify.
She felt like saying something more in her final moments. She heard the subaltern give orders.
She opened her mouth to speak but before she could
------SMS Kaiser Friedrich III off Ennis 0530 hrs
The 24cm guns of the old predreadnought once again slowly fired HE shells at British positions. Once again there was considerable worry about hitting nearby friendly units, which was justified as this time 3 members of West Clare Battalion were killed and 8 more wounded. However the British suffered 39 casualties and their attack on Ennis lost what little momentum it had left.
------Tipperary town 0540 hrs
The motorcyclist messenger of the 2nd Tipperary Battalion had just returned to Tipperary after a morning trip to the HQ of the Erzherzog Karl Division. He promptly delivered to Maj, Vopel a letter from Feldmlt. Krauss.
You are to attack the town of Crossroads, where there is the important railroad junction, no later than 1300 hrs GMT. You are to remain there until contacted. When you arrive there send this messenger back to me immediately with written confirmation"
------Meiszagola (Lithuania) 0600 hrs
The German VIII Army Corps resumed its attack. The two regiments of the Motorized Heavy Artillery Brigade had been split again last night with the 1st regiment being dispatched to assist the II Bavarian Corps which was marching on Vilna to the south. The 2nd regiment remained near Meiszagola, where its two batteries of 21cm Morser were repositioned during the night. These augmented the 15cm and 10.5cm howitzer batteries of VIII Army Corps in blasting the incomplete Russian entrenchments below them on the hill. After an hour the German infantry of the 16th Infantry Division were able to take the forward Russian trench suffering acceptable losses. Throughout the morning they slowly advanced down the hill in the direction of Vilna.
------Arklow (Wicklow) 0605 hrs
Maj. Rommel had traveled by motor car this morning to confer with Count Tisza. It had been more than 10 days since Rommel had been in communication with Army Detachment François and except for Pearse’s occasional interference ran things exactly as he wished in that period. Now he was no longer completed isolated. That had some very obvious benefits, such as the shipment of weapons and badly needed ammunition he had received yesterday. However it also presented some possible problems, not the least of which was the count’s infamous temper.
"Your Excellency, I am Maj. Irwin Rommel, IRA, commander of Dublin Brigade," Rommel reported speaking in German.
The count returned Rommel’s salute and looked him over for a few minutes before replying, "Hauptmann Schumacher has told me about the so called Irish Brigade that commands IRA battalions. You are not really a major, now are you?"
Rommel’s nostrils flared as he answered, "I do in fact hold a special temporary rank of major, Your Excellency. This has most unfortunately been the cause of considerable confusion."
"I can see how that would arise. For one thing, I do not think that Hauptmann Schumacher would acknowledge you as his superior. However that is moot as I clearly outrank both of you."
Pearse sighed inaudibly. There was no arguing with the count’s point but the fact that he made it so bluntly did not bode well. "Uh, that goes without saying, Your Excellency," Rommel glumly replied.
The count grinned ever so slightly, "I have been told that you were seriously wounded in Dublin but continued to command not only your battalion but all of Dublin Brigade as well performing admirably under most difficult circumstances fighting with poorly trained troops against overwhelming odds. You must have some Magyar blood in you, yes?"
"Uh, not that I am aware of, Your Excellency."
"Hmm and how are you feeling now? Can you continue to command Dublin Brigade effectively? Be honest."
This question had been expected. Rommel’s wound continued to cause him varying degrees of pain and sapped his strength and endurance. He was making a very conscious effort not to show any signs of impairment during this interview. "Yes, Your Excellency, I believe that I can continue to command. I genuinely feel that the worst is behind me." The last statement was only partially true.
The count stared at Rommel for a half minute then shrugged slightly, "I will take your word on that for the time being. You have obviously established an effective rapport with these undisciplined Irishmen producing more from them than I would have thought possible."
"Yes, Your Excellency, just yesterday we trapped and destroyed an entire British battalion that had been pursuing us," boasted Rommel. After a few seconds it occurred to him that it would be best to butter up his new superior a little, "Of course, my victory would not have been possible without the shipment of ammunition you provided us."
"An entire battalion destroyed? I am much impressed but also a little bewildered, major."
"Uh, how so, Your Excellency?"
"If you can destroy an entire battalion, how is that you have been unable to eliminate a small force of R.I.C. inside Wicklow town?"
"Those constables have established strongpoints, Your Excellency. It will take time to deal with them without suffering heavy losses. The battalion I had sent to Wicklow was subsequently needed to cut off the retreat of the British battalion we ambushed yesterday."
"I see," replied Count Tisza sounding less than completely convinced, "My orders from Gen. von François are to hold Arklow and if I am unable to do so then I am to destroy the munitions factory here to prevent it from being used by the British. I need to secure the town of Wicklow as it occupies a key position on the coastal road leading from Dublin to here. It would also be the best spot for the British to land troops unopposed only a short march from me. I have already dispatched one of my squadrons this morning to secure Wicklow but I am ordering you to send at least one of your battalions back to Wicklow as soon as possible to assist them."
"Jawohl, Euer Exzellenz," replied Rommel. He saw no reason to object as the reasoning was sound.
The taciturn face of Count Tisza softened slightly, "Good. Do you know your current strength by unit?"
Rommel had anticipated this request and prepared a typewritten report which he carried in a small valise he brought with him to this meeting. "Yes, Your Excellency, I have it with me." He opened the valise and produced the report.
The count was impressed by Rommel’s preparedness. He looked it over then asked with a hint of skepticism, "And this is taking into account the casualties you took in destroying the British battalion yesterday?"
"Our casualties were fairly light, Your Excellency," Rommel answered. After a few seconds he added, "Uh, Commandant Pearse has learned that a small battalion of Irish Volunteers has been formed here at Arklow. Is that correct?"
"Yes, it is. Why do you ask, major?"
"Well you see, Your Excellency, Pearse believes that unit should be incorporated into Dublin Brigade. I often disagree with him but I believe he is correct this time."
Tisza was mildly surprised by this and took his time before replying, "For the time being I am going to deny that request, major. Despite your reassurances I think you are overwhelmed commanding even the forces you have already and besides I insist Wicklow Battalion manning the defenses here at all times. In fact I am tempted to remove one of your battalions and put them under Hauptmann Schumacher here instead."
Rommel was irritated by this but realized he needed to be cautious with someone as fiery as the count, "I will abide by whatever you decide, Your Excellency. However I must warn you that removing a battalion from Dublin Brigade will surely provoke a storm of protest from Herr Pearse."
Tisza snorted, "Sir Roger warned me that this Pearse might prove to be troublesome."
Sir Roger? thought Rommel before he realized whom the Count was referring to. "Uh, you have met with Casement, Your Excellency? Is he here in Ireland now? Pearse keeps asking me about him. I told him that I do not believe that he came with the first wave."
"Yes, he is here now. He came ashore with my regiment at Waterford. We had a lengthy conversation. I believe that he intended to go to Cork which is the center of action. An interesting fellow. He claims that it was due to his efforts that you and I find ourselves here."
------HQ Army Detachment François Buttevant (Cork) 0615 hrs
Late yesterday Gen. von François had moved his HQ to the captured British Army camp at Buttevant. The battalion of Czechs that had been guarding his HQ had been reduced to a single company with the rest sent off to rejoin the Erherzog Karl Division. The North Cork Battalion also guarded his HQ while it recruited and trained.
The general was now meeting with Major von Rundstedt, who was still his acting chief of staff in Hell’s absence. "The British are clearly falling back on Limerick, Your Excellency, with the possible exception of what remains of the Welsh Division which according to Feldmlt. Krauss is heading more to the northeast," reported von Rundstedt.
"Hmm. Could they be intended to serve as a flank guard for the 11th Division?" asked the general.
"Perhaps, Your Excellency, but if they are doing that then they are permitting a dangerous gap to open up between them and the 11th Division. An alternative hypothesis would be that the Welsh Division has become so severely weakened that the British have decided to withdraw it completely from the battle."
"In that case we must ask if the British will quickly replace it with another division?"
"Quite possible, Your Excellency, but we have no intelligence confirming that hypothesis."
"That is moderately reassuring but we must be on our toes as we approach Limerick, esp. Krauss who has his right flank hanging in the air."
"I would recommend that Brigade Frauenau be used to guard his Krauss’ right flank, Your Excellency. Their ability to harass the British withdrawal will be reduced as the Lowland and 11th Divisions draw closer to Limerick."
"I will relay your orders, Your Excellency, but I must remind you that there are serious delays in communicating with von Frauenau."
"I have not forgotten that. How far have our divisions advanced in their pursuit of the retreating British?"
"A messenger on a motorcycle arrived from the 111th Infantry Division a few minutes ago, Your Excellency. Gen. Sontag claims to have a battalion in Croom already as well with a squadron of dragoons at Patrickswell in addition to harrying the retreat of the Lowland Division, but he feels that he must pause to let his men rest while his artillery and supply train catch up. He does not see any signs so far that the British intend to deny him use of the main road to Limerick."
The general sighed slightly, "Gen. Sontag has made very good progress. I won’t begrudge his men some badly needed rest. What of 6th Bavarian and the Austrians?"
"While Krauss was clearly demonstrated some tactical skill the last two days he has permitted his two brigades to separate more than I think is wise. I want to order him to give up on the pursuit of the Welsh Division and concentrate instead on the 11th Infantry Division. The 6th Bavarian Division and a portion of Brigade Hell are attempting to overwhelm the rear guard of the 11th Division near Lough Gur right now. The terrain in that area is rather rough and is presenting some difficulties. If the Austrians can increase their pressure---and they do see to perform surprisingly well in hills---that should make things easier."
"The Austrians take mountain warfare more seriously than we do and could teach us a thing or two in that art. I learned that back when I was in command of Center Army. That is not to say that even their best officers cannot make a mistake now and then. I concur with your recommendation. Before I forget is the new armored train still expected to be ready to leave Cork at noon?"
"Unfortunately, Your Excellency, the head of the construction team informed us by telegram this morning that there are some last minute problems and that he will need at least one more hour maybe two."
The general frowned, "Send him a telegram back that if its departure is delayed more than two hours there will be serious consequences."
"With pleasure, Your Excellency."
"Oh, and there is one other matter that is looming larger in my mind. See if we can follow up about that rebel battalion we ordered to be sent from Athlone to seize Galway city by coup de main."
------Limerick city 0625 hrs
Capt. Shultz, the commander of the 5th Kerry Battalion was ordered to report to Gen. Jacobsen, the commander of the Naval Division. "I do not have any time to waste today," stated the general, "so I will get straight to the point. I have received reports that there are women attached to your unit. This is admittedly a fairly common occurrence with the I.R.A. battalions and is under certain circumstances excusable. However it is certainly not our policy to use women in combat and I have reports of at least two instances where this policy was violated, with a possible third occurring this morning. Were you aware of these incidents?"
"I am now aware of them, general. I saw nothing---NOTHING!" said Schultz emphatically.
The general arched an eyebrow and gave Capt. Schultz a hard look. He had a vague recollection of Schultz from the preparation phase of Operation Unicorn. A fellow officer had pointed him and jokingly remarked that Schultz was the fattest officer in the Irish Brigade, where lean hungry types were the norm. It looked like Schultz had managed to gain more weight since landing in Ireland, which was remarkable as most of the officers the general dealt with incl. himself, had lost weight. Jacobsen did not know what to do with this man. The 5th Kerry Battalion had played an important role in attacking the rear of the British 31st Brigade which permitted the Naval Division to concentrate on countering the attack of the West Riding Division coming through Clare. That development may have been the decisive difference in the last three critical days, during which it had looked very ominous for the Naval Division. Despite the irregularities concerning women the general was even considering recommending Shultz for a medal.
"So what you are saying that you have no idea what was happening with the men---perhaps I should say ‘men and women’, under your command?" asked the general with some obvious sarcasm.
"Uh, it was dark, general. Some of my orders were not communicated properly. These Irishmen are inadequately trained, in some cases completely untrained. They lack proper discipline."
"Harrumph! Discipline should be the first thing you give them."
"General, I only took over the 5th Kerry Battalion as it was being ordered to march to Limerick. Before then it had been commanded by Lt. McAndrews, an Irish Volunteer who had been badly wounded and was not recovering as quickly as Kerry Brigade HQ had expected. A strange situation arose where he was forced to rely way too much on a female subordinate named Bridget Donahue who to be fair did try to inculcate some discipline. Unfortunately she also established some unorthodox informal policies esp. in regard to how women were to be utilized."
"Hmm, do you think Donahue was provided too much leeway because she and Donahue were, uh…"
Schultz shook his head vigorously, "Oh, no, general. That sort of thing would be very much out of character for Moth---uh I mean, Sgt. Donahue."
The general sighed, "I am bewildered why your battalion has so many women. Here in Limerick we moved all the women along with the men deemed least fit for combat into a company sized support detachment. They perform rear area duties and have been moderately useful in those roles. I was led to believe that Kerry Brigade had implemented a similar policy. Was I misled?"
"No, general, they have a similar policy in Kerry. When I took over command of the battalion I too was surprised that they still had so many women. I was unable to do anything about it right away as we were on the march at that time."
"Yet another mystery, yes? And I thought Limerick city battalion was very strange. As I said before I do not have time to investigate this matter properly. I am much more concerned about the future than trying to decipher the past. For the time being I am going to leave you in command of the 5th Kerry Battalion, but if there are any more irregularities I will not hesitate to relieve you. Is that clear?"
"Good. Now I see no reason not to go ahead and do what Kerry Brigade should have done. As soon as you return to your unit you are to immediately send all of your women to the Limerick support company."
"Might I be permitted to keep Sgt. Donahue for a while longer, general? She is very familiar with many details of the battalion and has been very involved in its day to day routine."
The general thought that over for a few seconds then answered, "You can keep her for two more days, but I will hold you strictly responsible for her actions. All the other women are to leave your battalion immediately."
------Laragh (Wicklow) 0630 hrs
Lt. Col. Sir Winston Churchill was disappointed to find out that he was still alive. His soul had been willing to move on but his body was not cooperating. He was in great pain esp. in his chest and he was wracked with fever. It hurt merely to breathe and he felt incredibly weak. There was a rebel soldier in the room keeping watch over Churchill, who had been provided a private room, albeit a tiny one. When he saw Churchill was conscious he left the room. He soon returned bringing with him a youngish man wearing what Churchill surmised was the official uniform of rebel officers.
"Here commandant, you can now see for yourself that it is just like I told you. The colonel here is now conscious."
Churchill had trouble with his right eye. He squinted with the left. He saw a man looking to be in his mid 20’s dressed in what looked to be a rebel officer’s uniform. Churchill opened his mouth. At first he found it impossible to speak, and was horrified that his wound may have rendered him permanently mute. It hurt to breathe but he forced himself to draw a deep breath and then managed to wheeze, "Are you, are you Maj. Rommel?"
Pearse was startled and replied, "No, colonel, I am Padraig Pearse, commandant of Dublin Brigade and interim head of the independent Irish Republic."
Churchill rolled his eyes and moaned, "Oh. Young man, young man, do you have any idea how much harm you are doing?"
Pearse had been impressed by Churchill’s daring defiance yesterday but he was in no mood to be patronized and lectured. "And do you have any idea how much harm the English have wrought here in Ireland?" he countered.
Churchill wheezed and coughed, then answered in a rasping voice, "I am having trouble breathing much less talking this minute. I would love to have, cough, a lengthy discussion with you about Irish history but I am afraid that I might, cough, expire before reaching even the halfway point." Churchill winced as he spoke. The act of speaking was causing him considerable pain but for him not to speak would be even more painful.
Pearse could see that Churchill was in obvious pain and he became more sympathetic. "Perhaps I should let you rest and come back later," he replied.
Churchill forced a semblance of his grin onto his face, "No, don’t go just yet. If I don’t fall asleep---or die—right away I will feel terribly depressed if I have no one to talk---" He then went into a prolonged fit of coughing, rasping and wheezing.
Pearse became alarmed. He moved forward and grabbed Churchill and shook him. "Sir Winston how are you feeling?" he asked. Churchill tried to respond but could only make incoherent noises. These increased Pearse’s fears that Churchill was dying. He turned to the Irish soldier who had summoned him and ordered, "Go fetch one of the doctors and tell him that Sir Winston is dying. Go now!"
As the soldier left Churchill’s fit of coughing began to subside. He managed to raise his right hand and feebly waved it. Seconds later he finally managed to speak albeit in a weak voice slightly stronger than a whisper, "Ahhh, wheeze, uh, I think the worst of it has passed. Uh, where were we?"
Pearse shrugged and answered, "Nowhere really. You complained that you weren’t up to discussing Irish history but then you went on to complain that you would suffer needlessly if left alone with no one to talk to. When the doctor gets here I think I am going to suggest moving you in with the other wounded prisoners."
Churchill had another coughing fit before he could answer. He then asked, "Is it possible that I could get something to drink?"
"Certainly, I will get you some water. Or a good cup of tea if you prefer."
"Uh, cough, I was thinking of something uh, stronger if you know what I mean."
Pearse nodded, "When the doctor comes I will ask if providing you a small dose of Jameson would be harmful."
"Jameson? By any chance is there a wee bit of Scotch in your inventory?"
"I am afraid you will have to make do with Irish whisky and only if the doctor has no objections."
Churchill had another of coughing and wheezing. Finally he was able to resume speaking, "Have if you ever wondered what would have happened if some event in history had turned out differently?"
"I guess I have on occasion. Like what would’ve happened if the storm had not persisted in Bantry Bay back in the December of 1796."
"Well, yes that is the general idea though I must admit that your premise is not one that appeals to my imagination. I have on occasion thought about the American Civil War and wondered how it might have turned out differently. In the back of my mind is the notion that there might be a clever story that I might write based on that idea," said Churchill who again fell into a prolonged episode of intense choking, wheezing, gasping and coughing.
Pearse waited for this to subside before he responded, "I am not sure I would like your story, Sir Winston because it would be yet another tale where the oppressors prevail. We Irish know too many of those stories already, thank you very much."
Churchill wanted to reply to that but coughing and wheezing grew more serious. Pearse became worried when the former First Lord started to turn blue and even more when he lost consciousness again. Pearse grabbed Churchill’s body and shook him but he remained unconscious. He was breathing but weakly. A minute later the British medical officer arrived and asked what happened while he examined the patient.
"He woke up and we started talking, that is all," Pearse answered.
"How much talking? Only few words or did you try to draw him into an animated political debate? Extended conversation is very taxing for someone in his condition," the doctor chided Pearse, "His lungs are working at only a fraction of their capacity."
Pearse felt a little bit sheepish and answered, "It was more than few words, doctor, but not all that much. And I went out of my way not to agitate him. I just thought some conversation would lighten his spirit,"
"Well you thought wrong. He is still just barely hanging on and you have made things worse."
Pearse was aghast. He had seen all too many men die hideous death since the beginning of the Dublin Rising, but this was different. He had never literally talked anyone to death before.
------Enniscorthy (Wexford) 0655 hrs
The 8th Battalion Devonshire had been ferried to Rosslare yesterday as reinforcements for the newly formed Eastern Region. It had promptly marched to Wexford city where its commander was briefed on the situation within County Wexford, which was that the rebel forces were now concentrated at Enniscorthy. This morning the 8th Devonshire left Wexford city before first light and marched hard to Enniscorthy. There they launched an immediate attack on Wexford Battalion. This bold attempt to storm the town from the south was driven off by the rebels. After that the commander of the 8th Devonshire sent one of his companies to try to outflank the enemy from the west while the rest of his battalion held the attention of the rebels. This flanking maneuver succeeded in panicking Wexford Battalion. The British took more than 100 prisoners and the rest of the Wexford Battalion retreated in disarray to the northeast. The 8th Devonshire eagerly pursued.
------south of Neuilly-L’Hôpital (Picardy) 0700 hrs
The German guns ceased their bombardment of the British trenches. The German assault consisted of 10 Bavarian battalions. By this time not only were the artillery batteries of Second Army desperately short on ammunition but several machineguns in IV Army Corps were down to their last belt. The British batteries remained silent. The inadequate British wire barriers were cut in several places. The no man’s land was short and the attackers were soon in what remained of the shallow forward trench where they eliminated the survivors, many of whom had been dazed by the bombardment, with a copious use of hand grenades. The Bavarian advance continued south taking the hamlet of Plessiel without much difficulty. At the village of Drucat though they were stopped by two stubborn strong points, the stronger one being inside Drucat Castle. There were also problems on the right flank of the advance at Buigny-St. Maclou and on the left flank at well at Millencourt-en-Ponthieu, where Belgians quickly moved 4 Lewis guns into action.
Gen. Plumer had prudently ordered V Army Corps not to saturate its forward trench with too many soldiers. This meant that IV Army Corps had sufficient close reserves to commit to at first slowing then stopping the German advance. Gen. Plumer also reluctantly moved some of the ammunition reserves from the batteries of I Army Corps to IV Army Corps using up what little petrol he had left in the process.
------Paris 0715 hrs
Premier Clemenceau had considered calling another meeting of the Council of Ministers but ultimately decided against it. Instead he met in private with his Minister of Marine, Jean Augagneur. "What is the latest news from the Royal Navy," Clemenceau impatiently demanded to know.
"Premier, they have informed us that they have some intelligence that suggests that the Germans have laid mines off the mouth of the Seine and Cherbourg yesterday. Confirming this one of our submarines unsuccessfully attacked what we now believe was a German minelayer off the mouth of the Seine yesterday. The British now believe that the German battle fleet is heading back to Ireland escorting still more reinforcements and supplies."
"Hmm, so much for the battered German fleet limping home to tend to their wounds, but yes? Again I must ask where is the British fleet? Why is it not swooping down and finishing off the Boche?"
"The Royal Navy is telling us nothing about the location and intentions of the Grand Fleet, premier. Our admirals feel that the Royal Navy planning to intercept and destroy the Germans en route to Ireland but they do not trust us with the details."
"If this is indeed the case then our problems are solved, but one must ask what happens if the Germans somehow make it back to Ireland? When we can we expect the resumption of trade, most of all coal which we need so urgently? And for that matter, what about the needs of the B.E.F. which I know for a fact is desperately low on ammunition and would be starving if we were not graciously providing them with food."
"We have been told that sending a limited convoy of freighters to Le Havre is under consideration for tonight."
"Just how limited? Is it going to be only carrying supplies for their army like the last time or will it also contain some colliers?"
"They did not say, premier. I will reiterate that this convoy is merely under consideration and so things are in flux with little in the way of details."
"The British do not seem to realize the seriousness of our situation. The rerouting of colliers originally destined for Italy proved to be an inadequate substitute while it lasted. Things are going to get still worse in a hurry if the British do not resume their exports to us soon."
"We have communicated that already to the Royal Navy, premier. Several times."
"And what was their reply?"
"Premier, our liaisons tell us that they are well aware of our hardships, but maintain that they will have the situation rectified in short order and ask us to be patient. They go on to suggest that in the meantime our army should cease all offensive operations in order to conserve---"
"---what insolent fools!" roared Clemenceau interrupting, "The Boche are on their last legs here in France! They cannot sustain their current level of losses what with their foolish campaigns in Ireland, Serbia and Lithuania. By the end of the month their increasingly undermanned trench line will crumble and we will chase them all the way back to the Rhine! If we call off our attacks now they will have an opportunity to firm up their weakened defenses and make good their losses. The latest news from Serbia is not encouraging. The Germans may be able to terminate their involvement there in early June allowing them to move divisions back to France. Another reason why we must make a maximum effort now but the British, being imbeciles, want us to throw away the opportunity to win the war this year---all because they fear that they might lose a handful of freighters?"
"The British admirals have their own perspective on war, premier. It is obvious that they do not properly appreciate the overriding importance of the ground war as they are not even supporting their own army adequately."
"What you say is all too obviously true. I am going to give the British two more days to restore the trade to at least the minimum level that we require. In case they do not then I want you to present the Council of Ministers and myself with a report Monday on what realistic options we have for using our own warships in the Atlantic to help resolve this predicament.’
------Sligo city 0720 hrs
News of Sligo’s shelling had circulated out into the countryside during the night. Already more than a 100 men had joined the 4th Northern Ireland Battalion, which had suffered 14 casualties from the shelling. The battalion and its support company established a new camp just south of the city. News of the shelling continued to spread throughout Connaught during the day.
------Longford town 0730 hrs
News of a concentration of rebels arriving at the town of Longford caused the commander of the 10th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, which was part of the British forces besieging Athlone, to dispatch his strongest company to investigate with orders to eliminate the enemy if possible. This company skirmished with rebel patrols as it approached Longford routing them easily. When it boldly assaulted the town itself though, it discovered to its dismay that it had underestimated the strength of the enemy, which outnumbered them more than 4 to 1. The company commander terminated the attack before losses became disastrous. He then marched his men back to his battalion bringing disturbing news.
------Old Admiralty Building 0735 hrs
Sir Edward Carson, the First Lord of the Admiralty, had just arrived. "Has there been any further word about the German fleet?" he asked anxiously.
"None, whatsoever, First Lord," replied Adm. Callaghan, the First Sea Lord, "The torpedo boats we sent out from Portsmouth and Devonport at dusk failed to make contact. Nor have our submarines and airplanes, which are still searching. The torpedoboats have been recalled though as it is too hazardous for them during the day."
"Just to clarify I would point out that we have only have only one submarine stationed in the western half of the Channel at this time," Adm. Jackson added, "With two more posted in the Celtic Sea."
"But we have no reason to question our intelligence that they are returning to Ireland?" asked Carson, glancing in the direction of Adm. Oliver.
Callaghan answered, "That is correct, First Lord."
"And what of the Grand Fleet? Is it still anchored at Mull with steam raised?"
"That too is correct, First Lord, though we are considering moving it to a position west of Islay soon. From there Adm. Bayly could counter another attempt to cut our line of communication through the Irish Sea by their battle cruiser squadron."
"I have no objections to that, admiral. There is a good chance that we will be sending another division to Ireland starting tomorrow. It is sure to be a hot topic for the War Committee meeting later this morning. If we do decide to send another division, it will become imperative that the German battlecruisers not be allowed to interfere. In addition to stationing the Grand Fleet over Islay it wouldn’t hurt to have one of our submarines in St. George’s Channel."
"A good idea, First Lord. We shall see to it," replied Adm. Callaghan.
"The key question has become once again, ‘How long does Adm. von Ingenohl intend to remain in Ireland?’" Carson speculated, "For that matter how long can they stay in Ireland?"
"I am still not convinced that Ireland is their main objective, First Lord," spoke Adm. Wilson, "There is a possibility that the additional reinforcements they are escorting back to Ireland will turn out to be rather weak. They are meant to force us to commit additional divisions to Ireland and when we do that the High Seas Fleet will then return to the Pas de Calais to support an invasion of England."
Carson drew a deep breath and arched an eyebrow on hearing that, "What diabolically cruel nightmares you conjure up for us, Adm. Wilson! I may not be able to get to sleep tonight. What do you have to say about this, Adm. Callaghan? Do you agree with Adm. Wilson here that what is underway is one final German diversion before they storm English beaches?"
Callaghan shook his head slightly, "I am afraid that I must admit that it is possible, First Lord, but only remotely so in my opinion. I myself am inclined to a much more cheery interpretation of the facts that may help you get to sleep tonight."
"By all means let’s hear it."
"My theory is that Adm. von Ingenohl firmly believes that his capital ships must be repaired soon from the damage they suffered at Celtic Sea. Tirpitz and Moltke realized that their precious fleet is going to be in the yards for at least a month and so they forced von Ingenohl to bring more supplies plus an additional wave of reinforcements they hurriedly assembled, so that Gen von François would have a decent chance to hold on until such time as their fleet can return."
Carson nodded, "That interpretation of events is much more to my liking but admittedly it is little more than speculation founded on a paucity of actual facts. So I must turn to you, Adm. Oliver, and ask if you can offer us some more facts that might shed some light on this?"
"Ah, not from any new wireless intercepts, First Lord," answered Oliver, "but there is one bit of new information that I think does shed some light. I have learned that the Germans have in the last four days been purchasing a variety of contraband material from neutral countries and shipping them in neutral hulls. This information has unfortunately been delayed in reaching us by the saturation of traffic on the transatlantic cables."
"I am well aware of the problem with the cables capacity, admiral," replied Carson, "It was bad enough before we lost the Waterville station. I do not want to begin to consider what would happen if we were to lose the remaining stations in Kerry. What countries and what type of contraband are we talking about?"
"At first it was merely the United States, First Lord, but we now have reports of rubber being shipped from Brazil and horses from Spain. The first American freighter carried mostly copper but we now have reports of at least one collier being dispatched. Copper and rubber are cargoes that are sorely needed in Germany but not horses and still less coal. At first glance I found this all a bit confusing but I have come up with a theory that the horses are meant for Gen. von François and the coal for Adm. von Ingenohl when he is operating out of Ireland. The stocks of coal at Haulbowline and Queenstown are substantial but not infinite."
"Hmm. An interesting hypothesis but what about the copper and rubber?" asked Carson.
"A fraction of the copper may be used by the German fleet to make electrical spare parts in Ireland, First Lord, but I believe most of it as well as the rubber is ultimately intended for Germany. You see, in addition to using Ireland as a base to prey upon our own commerce I now believe that the Germans hope to use it as a staging area for blockade running. They believe it will be much harder for us to intercept neutral merchantmen carrying contraband before they reach Ireland than it is to stop them entering the North Sea. Once the contraband is unloaded in Ireland they can be transferred to German hulls and periodically escorted back to either Germany or the Pas de Calais. They may even be planning to load high value exports such as dyes on the neutral ships for the return voyage to generate some foreign currency."
"An additional benefit to the Germans would be that every neutral flagged vessel that they employ is one less hull we can use for our own needs," commented Adm. Jackson.
------SMS Schlesien Western Approaches 0805 hrs
A merchantman had slipped through the dispersed fan of 2nd Scouting Group during the night and was now spotted first by Lusitania which Adm. von Spee had positioned 16 km ahead of the battleships to act as a scout. Schlesien was promptly dispatched to overtake what turned out to be a 2,600 ton British flagged freighter hauling canned peaches from Savannah to Belfast. Due to their proximity to Ireland von Spee decided to keep her as a prize, even though she could only sustain 8 knots. As an afterthought the admiral decided to permit a few armed Fenians to augment the prize crew.
------Stavka 0835 hrs
The Grand Duke was meeting with his chief of staff, Gen. Yanushkevich and the
deputy chief of staff, Gen. Danilov. "Before we begin discussing army matters,"
Nikolai announced, "It is my sad duty to report I have just learned this morning
that Adm. Essen, the commander of the Baltic Fleet, died of a lung infection
Thursday. He was a very dynamic naval officer, sometimes to the point of
arousing controversy as he was an outspoken advocate of using our navy much more
aggressively. In particular, there had been some discussion of sending out the
Baltic Fleet while the main German fleet was vacationing in Ireland.
Unfortunately his illness put a damper on that. Our navy could use more men like
him. For that matter so could our army."
"This is very sad news indeed, Your Royal Highness, as there had been no history of serious health problems with Adm. Essen," replied Danilov, "It is a great loss for Mother Russia. Is there any word yet as to who will replace him?"
"Not yet and it may take some time as the Tsar wants to have the final say on the matter," answered the Grand Duke, "His Majesty has made it clear that he does not want another Tsushima."
"Which means that our worthless navy will sit on their fat haunches and complain like they always do while our brave soldiers lay down their lives for Mother Russia," ranted Yanushkevich.
"That is not how I would express it, general, but there is unfortunately some truth in what you say," replied the Grand Duke, "But let us not digress into naval strategy. What is the latest from Northwestern Front?"
"Gen. Alexeev reports that the attack of Fifth Army against the Germans at Shavli is continuing, Your Royal Highness. Fortunately the last train carrying elements of III Army Corps made it to Dvinsk before the German cavalry cut the railway," commented Yanushkevich, "Once III Army Corps is added to the battle, the Germans will be crushed at Shavli and their overly bold strategy will crumble completely."
As usual Grand Duke Nikolai was skeptical about whatever Yanushkevich told him. He turned to Danilov, whose opinion he trusted and asked, "And what is estimation of the situation, general?"
"I believe our eventual victory at Shavli is probable but by no means certain, Your Royal Highness, and that worries me because there is also a chance that the Germans may take Vilna soon. If they can hold on to Vilna the problem of supplying our First, Second and Twelfth Armies at anything close to their current strength will become very difficult."
"Hmm that could ultimately force us to abandon Warsaw," mused the Grand Duke, "For that reason alone it must be prevented at all cost."
"There is nothing to worry about, Your Royal Highness!" protested Yanushkevich, "Fifth Army will quickly prevail, giving us the initiative in East Prussia and cutting the line of communication of their forces in Lithuania. I tell you we are the verge of a great victory---one which might alter the outcome of the war."
"That may well be true, general, it could also lead to very serious problems if Fifth Army fails at Shavli and we lose Vilna," countered Danilov.
"What do we have defending Vilna at this time?" the Grand Duke asked Danilov.
"According to our latest information from Gen. Alexeev it currently consists of 2 second line infantry divisions, 2 cavalry divisions and an independent infantry brigade, Your Royal Highness. Oh, and the usual assortment of impotent Territorial battalions."
"And do we know the German strength there?" asked the Grand Duke.
"Northwestern Front has not yet provided us with that information, Your Royal Highness," answered Danilov.
"Your Royal Highness, Tenth Army should be able to prevent the fall of Vilna until Fifth Army’s attack achieves victory," offered Yanushkevich.
"Tenth Army is struggling to prevent the Germans from overwhelming its right wing and being enveloped," said the Grand Duke, "That greatly limits what they can do to help Vilna."
"Ah, but the most recent report from Alexeev is that the German attack on Tenth Army has stalled," replied Yanushkevich.
"Or is merely taking a temporary pause to regroup in preparation for a resumption," countered Danilov.
"We shall order Gen. Alexeev to take firmer action to defend Vilna. I do not know what more we can do now. As usual we do not have a clear enough picture to order a specific plan of action," said the Grand Duke.
"Northwestern Front has requested both reinforcements and an increased allocation of weapons and ammunition, Your Royal Highness," said Danilov.
"Which would be at the expense of Southwestern Front, which have been steadily losing ground to a mostly Austrian offensive in Galicia while trying to sustain its own offensive in the Bukovina which is encountering stiffening resistance," replied Nikolai.
"That is correct, Your Royal Highness!" interjected Yanushkevich, "Which is precisely why we would should deny that request. Alexeev can and will inflict a crippling blow on the Germans with what he has already."
"Again I feel compelled to remark that I see that scenario as probable but far from certain, general," Danilov commented.
"Bah, you are being overly cautious. That is how the Germans have gotten away with being overextended. Everyone is being far too cautious to take advantage of it," Yanushkevich replied. As an afterthought seconds later he added, "Except maybe for M. Clemenceau. He seems to have the proper spirit."
"The latest report from Southwestern Front indicate that there has not been the usual early morning assault in Galicia today though there is still some fighting around Jaroslaw where the Austrians are trying to establish a bridgehead," Danilov noted, "Perhaps the enemy offensive is losing steam."
"As is our own offensive in the Bukovina," said the Grand Duke ruefully.
"I must respectfully disagree, Your Royal Highness," Yanushkevich protested, "Gen. Ivanov reports that Ninth Army is continuing to advance. The campaign is a great success."
The Grand Duke shook his head, "I have serious doubts about that. For one thing those glowing reports are becoming increasingly imprecise even for Ivanov. For another, no major objective has been taken in the last week and the haul of prisoners gets smaller and smaller. Apparently no Hungarian artillery is being captured. Lastly Ivanov deliberately avoids providing us with his own casualty figures lately, which makes me suspect that they have been getting worse."
------north of Dessie (Abyssinia) 0845 hrs
The heavy rain had tapered off to drizzle shortly after midnight and had stopped completely before dawn. The sky remained overcast though threatened to resume its downpour at any moment. BGen. Noel Lee, the commander of the northern expeditionary force, decided to launch his attack during this respite. His artillery consisted of one battery of 15 pounders and a mountain battery. He did not count the half dozen antique guns that Zauditu’s men possessed as having any military value and did not order them set up.
The British commenced their 15 minute bombardment. After nearly 5 minutes the Abyssinian artillery replied, hesitantly at first, but picking up speed. The Abyssinian artillery was stronger than Gen. Lee had been expecting mostly due to the weapons with modern recoil mechanisms the Italians had sent to Iyasu through Eritrea recently. They had also provided their former enemies with a dozen advisers who instructed the Abyssinians as best they could on how best to use their new weapons. The first few Abyssinian salvos were far off target but their gunners adjusted their aim and eventually more than held their own in the artillery exchange.
The infantry that Gen. Lee had brought down from Egypt had consisted of the 30th Indian brigade which had been detached from the 10th Indian Division reinforced with the 1/8th Battalion Manchester Regiment which had been removed from the 37th (East Lancashire) Division. Upon arriving at Khartoum a King’s African Rifles (KAR) company was added to the expeditionary force. Gen. Lee realized that his artillery had not completely demoralized the enemy as he had hoped but he still thought they had succeeded in softening them up enough for a his men to breakthrough their defenses. He therefore committed the 1/8th Manchester and 2 of the Indian battalions to make the assault and instructed Hapte Giorgis to follow close behind them to be prepared to exploit the breakthrough.
The attacking battalions were forced to charge up a fairly steep gradient. At first the accuracy and rapidity of the Abyssinian rifle fire was marginal and it appeared to the general that his plan might work. However the effectiveness of the enemy rifle fire increased and then a pair of machineguns commenced firing while a portion of the Abyssinian artillery started to tear into the attackers. It now became all too clear that the attack was not going to succeed and the AngloIndian battalions fell back. However the mass of the rebel Abyssinians behind them who were still trying to advance impeded their retreat for a few minutes while casualties mounted with the rebels suffering some casualties as well. Finally signals reached them from Hapte Giorgis to retreat as well.
------north of Kragujevac Arsenal (Serbia) 0915 hrs
Gen. Alexander Godley, the commander of the New Zealand and Australian Division, summoned his senior officers to a meeting. The general had a reputation for being cold and aloof, but today sadness, disappointment and anxiety was clearly visible on his face. Most but not all of his apprehension stemmed from the recent turn of events here in Serbia. His division had been the spear point of the Serbian counterattack into the gap between the Germans and Austrians which for a while looked like it might be the turning point in the entire campaign. They had captured over 2,500 German prisoners incl. the famous Gen. Ludendorff plus 10 guns. But now it was clear that despite their losses and humiliation the enemy remained too strong for the Serbs to handle even with their assistance. The Austrians and Germans had closed their gap and were again advancing south. There were also some other very disturbing developments he had only learned about today which were the reason for this meeting.
However another component of Godley’s uneasiness was his concern for what was going on in Ireland. While he had been raised in Kent and educated in England, his father was Irish and he thought of himself as being Irish. He had been commissioned into the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and later fought in the Boer Wars after which he was allowed to join the elite Irish Guards. The news of the German invasion of Ireland had been a big shock for Godley. He had hoped that it would be quickly smashed and might prove to be an opportunity for the Irish people, both Protestant and Catholic, to come together. That was not the way things were working out. He had only yesterday learned that the Dublin Rising had finally been crushed, leaving broad portions of the city in ruins. That the rebels had lasted as long as they had was a clear sign that a Catholic rebellion was growing to serious levels which boded ill for Ireland once the war was over. The general also learned that the Germans had reinforced their invasion force meaning the campaign would not end quickly. The sole silver lining in all this was that the Royal Navy claimed to have finally won a victory over the Germans.
The general now addressed his assembled officers, "The reason I have called you here is that I have in communication with our Serbian ally this morning and there have been some very ominous developments in this campaign esp. in the south where a weak Serbian army has been very hard pressed by the Bulgarian Second Army, which includes an Ottoman corps that has taken most of the city of Pristina, a key communication center. As most of you are already well aware we have received less than a quarter of the supplies earmarked for us in the latest convoy that arrived in Albania. What the Serbs made abundantly clear to me this morning is that with the Turks at Pristina that is all we are going to get at least in terms of ammunition. They will provide us with food and fodder as best they can, however they have warned me that they are already experiencing their own shortages."
The general paused to examine the faces of his officers. They appeared concerned but none showed signs of panic. The general continued, "We have been ordered to proceed south as rapidly as possible to participate in a counterattack against the Turks at Pristina. I said previously that the Turks now control most of Pristina. There is a Serbian force bravely holding out in a corner of Pristina. It is our hope that they can continue to hold out until our arrival. The Turks are marginal soldiers at best and compounding their problems the Serbs believe they have outrun their supply line. I have every confidence that we shall defeat them easily. Once we have retaken Pristina restoring the line of communication, we are then to proceed to rejoin the rest of CANZAC back in Herzegovina.
Needless to say our redeployment is going to prove difficult to implement as we are currently engaged with the enemy. What I am going to do is leave the infantry in line until dark. Our cavalry will disengage and begin moving south in the next hour along with the artillery and support units. Serbian units will be arriving late this afternoon to take over our line. The 4th Australian Brigade will start pulling out of line at last light, the New Zealand Brigade at midnight."
Godley paused again. This time one of his officers asked, "General, will we be taking our prisoners along with us? They may slow us down a little."
"We shall only take the officer prisoners along with us. The rest we will turn over to the Serbs."
------10 Downing St. 0935 hrs
The War Committee was again in session. "Lord Kitchener, what is the latest word from General Hamilton," asked the prime minister, "Has he penetrated into Limerick yet?"
"He reports some progress being made at Ennis, prime minister."
"Ennis? I did not ask about Ennis but Limerick, Lord Kitchener."
"Ennis anchors the left end of the German defensive line, prime minister. If it falls Gen. Wilson believes the West Riding Division can then roll up the enemy line and infiltrate the city itself."
"Which makes it sound that at best we shall be inside the city itself later today but then there is the specter of the same type of prolonged house to house fighting, which cost us dearly in Dublin."
"Limerick is much smaller than Dublin, prime minister. Once our men have penetrated inside the city proper, the end should come quickly."
"Not if the German and Austrian forces coming up from the south are able to link up with the Naval Division, field marshal."
"Gen. Wilson is well aware of that, prime minister, and will therefore do what is necessary to prevent that from occurring."
Bonar Law shook his head then said, "Lord Kitchener, the entire Irish campaign is not going well. Not at all. We believed Gen. Wilson’s new strategy would work and while he has taken much of County Clare, he has failed to take his primary objective, the city of Limerick. Meanwhile the forces that were supposed to pen the Germans and Austrians inside Cork have been driven back all the way to Limerick, losing more than half of the 10th Division in the process. Still more German reinforcements are heading back to Ireland with the Grand Fleet too weak to risk intercepting them. And then there is the rebellion which is not falling apart as quickly as we had hoped after the Battle of Dublin. Lord Kitchener we must turn things around in Ireland and quickly."
The prime minister was obviously angry. Kitchener took his time before replying, "Prime Minister, I have discussed this matter at length with the Imperial Staff and we have concluded that we must send another division to Ireland starting this afternoon even though this would weaken our ability to counter a possible German invasion of England. We have even gone so far as to select the 13th Infantry Division and have ordered it to prepare itself for transport."
"Hmm that at least shows some foresight," replied the prime minister huffily, who then turned to Carson, "What do you have to share with us, First Lord?"
"For one thing, prime minister, the Admiralty believes that at most the latest wave of German reinforcements is likely a single infantry division plus a few additional support units. This is because the large ocean liners would not be able to dock at Boulogne and Calais. Interestingly there is some interesting intelligence that Imperator and Vaterland did not even leave Cork. With yesterday’s heavy weather we therefore concluded the Germans could not possibly have loaded two or more divisions even if they were triangular divisions."
"Triangular divisions?" asked Grey.
"Back in March the German Army began increasing the number of divisions they have by creating new divisions with only three regiments of infantry. Most of them also have a reduced artillery strength as well. We are in complete agreement with Gen. Joffre that this is yet another indication of how badly overstretched the Germans are right now," replied Kitchener.
"I see. Thank you for the explanation, Lord Kitchener," remarked Grey, "So it would seem that countering the latest round of German reinforcements with one more of our own divisions should be sufficient"
"Yes and no," commented Bonar Law.
"Uh, would you kindly care to elaborate on that, prime minister?" asked Grey.
Bonar Law nodded, "I have been giving this matter very grave thought over the last two days. We have told ourselves repeatedly that the Irish rebellion would wither away and die once the Dublin Rising was crushed. Here it is Saturday and please correct me if I am wrong but there is no sign as yet of the rebellion evaporating. If anything it has grown worse with a force of some size daring to invade Donegal just yesterday. The continuing rebellion is clearly having a negative impact on the ability of Gen. Hamilton to deal with the Germans."
"What you say is unfortunately true, prime minister," said Kitchener.
I have a good guess where this is leading thought Lloyd-George, who then asked aloud, "Are you going to suggest using the U.V.F. against the rebels, prime minister?"
Bonar Law nodded, "I believe we are left with no satisfactory alternative, chancellor, even though I am well aware of the political consequences and have postponed taking this drastic step. However I want to start by assembling only a portion of the U.V.F., say only 20,000 men. Sir Edward, I am instructing you to present this committee Monday morning with a plan for a mobilization of the U.V.F. limited to that size but with a contingency provision to increase its size later if required." He was looking straight at Carson making it clear which Sir Edward he was addressing.
However it was the other Sir Edward who replied, "Prime Minister, I am well aware of the gravitas of the military situation in Ireland. Nevertheless I feel compelled to warn you that using the U.V.F. against the rebels will provide the enemy propaganda network in the United States with additional ammunition, esp. coming on the heels of the ill conceived executions of de Valera and Markievicz---"
"---not to mention the shelling of Sligo," Lloyd-George interrupted.
"Sligo was shelled?" asked Grey, "Why was that done and more importantly why was I not informed?"
"It has become a rebel stronghold and is therefore a perfectly legitimate military target," answered Carson defensively.
"I heartily concur with that assessment of the situation, First Lord," added Kitchener.
"From a purely military perspective, that may well make sense, Lord Kitchener, but not from a diplomatic one. An already deteriorating relationship with the United States is going to become still worse. Ironically the same can be said about their former enemy, Spain."
"President Wilson will not under any circumstances join the Central Powers, even as a cobelligerent," said Bonar Law, "And it has been clear for some time now that Congress will not allow him to become our ally even if he wanted to do so, which is itself dubious. So I see no reason to fret over how the petulant Yanks will react."
"Prime minister, I feel that I must remind you about just how dependent we are on American imports," said Lloyd-George.
Bonar Law shook his head and pointed his forefinger at Lloyd-George, "I had a hunch you were going to say that, chancellor. Well right now that is not terribly relevant seeing that the Huns have reduced our trade with the Yanks to a mere trickle."
"Only temporarily, prime minister," protested Carson, "we expect to resume full trade---or at least something close to it---over the course of the next few days. We have already resumed departures from the northeast American ports and Canada."
"And that means we can ill afford to ignore American opinion," Lloyd-George commented.
"Well said, chancellor," added Grey, "which is precisely why we must not execute that American poet, Mr. Pound."
"Pound deserves to die as much as the countess!" protested Kitchener.
"I heartily agree with that, Field Marshal, but I think it would best if we waited. Give the Yanks some time to cool their heels," said Carson.
"I am willing to hold off on Pound’s execution for a while but I do not believe we can afford to wait much longer when it comes to using the U.V.F. Leaving aside the possible American reaction and the inevitable eruption of the most vile calumny by Redmond, is there any problem to this partial mobilization I am suggesting? I assume you have enough rifles," asked Bonar Law.
That question was addressed at Carson, who replied, "Hmm we received nearly 25,000 military grade rifles with sufficient ammunition last year. We also have about 2,000 early model Lee-Enfield rifles and if I recall correctly, a few hundred early model French Lebel rifles somewhere. Other than that our arms consist of single shot rifles, mostly Martini-Henry, and shotguns. Unfortunately the rebels had raided our arsenals at Monaghan, Cavan and most recently at Donegal, seizing our weapons and ammunition though admittedly these were all relatively small. Later today I will initiate steps to consolidate our stockpile of first rate rifles. The figure of 20,000 seems feasible, but anything much over that could mean sending many men into battle armed with inferior weapons." He did not mention that the rifles mentioned were overwhelmingly Mauser and Mannlicher weapons sent by the German government hoping to catalyze a Protestant rebellion in Ulster if and when Home Rule was implemented.
"I remain deeply opposed to this idea, Sir Edward," said Grey.
Bonar Law sighed. When Parliament had approved the formation of the War Committee soon after Bonar Law replaced Asquith, the principle had been that the committee was supposed to reach a complete consensus before taking action. When it had been only a triumvirate that had proven relatively easy to accomplish, but now that it had been expanded to five members it was already obvious that it would prove more difficult. Theoretically if the War Committee could not reach a consensus on a war related issue the matter was to be brought before the entire Cabinet. This was something the prime minister very much wanted to avoid.
"We can discuss the U.V.F. later, Sir Edward. Right now I’d like to know if anyone is opposed to sending one more infantry division to Ireland as Lord Kitchener is proposing."
There was silence for a few seconds then Lloyd-George spoke up, "I believe all of us here are in full agreement, prime minister. What I am worried about is how the king is going to react when he learns of this."
Bonar Law shook his head slightly, "I am worried about that as well, chancellor, but at the risk of sounding disrespectful royal disapproval is not my greatest worry right now. Seeing that we are all in agreement with Lord Kitchener, let us move on, shall we? I am becoming deeply concerned about the consequences of continuing to hold all our merchant vessels in port."
"Prime minister, I must point out that the B.E.F. is in desperate need of supplies, esp. ammunition," commented Kitchener, "The Germans have been methodically advancing towards Abbeville because of these shortages. There is a serious risk that the Germans will be able to take that important communication center if we do not get supplies to Second Army soon. "
"And the French claim that unless our exports of coal resume in the next day or two there will be a severe degradation of their war economy," stated Carson, "It is for these reasons that the Admiralty had decided to conduct a convoy from Newhaven to the mouth of the Seine tonight. Most of the merchantmen will be carrying supplies plus some replacement troops for the B.E.F. which they will unload at Le Havre but there will also be 7 colliers which will continue up the Seine to Rouen. The Germans did lay a few mines off the mouth of the Seine yesterday but minesweeping is currently underway and we hope to have a safe channel ready before midnight. As we have good intelligence that the German battle fleet is on its way to Cork they pose no threat whatsoever to this convoy. However some German light forces remain at the Pas de Calais and they do unfortunately do pose a threat. To counter this threat we are moving Harwich Force through the Straits of Dover at dusk to reinforce Dover Patrol. This should prove to be more than adequate protection."
"It would seem so at least for the very near term," said Lloyd-George, "but going forward it seems likely that we will be facing the problem that the German fleet can return to the Channel any time they want sending us into another panic. The ports in and around Wales, which is where most of our colliers are currently located, will remain too dangerous to use for some time."
Carson sighed, "You have as usual cut to the heart of the problem, chancellor. There are those in the Admiralty who continue to believe that the High Seas Fleet cannot remain very long in Cork. They believe that once they rendezvous with von Spee’s squadron, the High Seas Fleet will return to Germany bringing with them the liners which have a substantial amount of copper and other contraband in their cargo holds. For that reason the Sea Lords want to hold off a little longer on doing anything more than tonight’s run."
------ENE of Shavli (Lithuania) 1005 hrs
The German 1st Infantry Division had finally arrived at the outskirts of Shavli after a hard march from the Eighth Army. General von Marwitz immediately ordered it into action on the right where the attacks of the heavily experienced Russian XIX Army Corps against the 11th Landwehr Division were proving troublesome. The addition of 1st Infantry Division plus the fact that the Russian batteries were now almost out of ammunition soon put a halt to the progress of XIX Army Corps.
------Cratloe (Clare) 1030 hrs
The West Riding Division tried one more time to break through the entrenchments of the Naval Division this time much closer to the Shannon. This attack was soon broken up by the 15cm secondary guns of Kaiser Wilhelm II as well as the German 10.5 howitzers positioned behind Woodoeck Hill, which were now well supplied with ammunition,
.------Patrickswell (Limerick) 1045 hrs
Gen. Egerton, the commander of the Lowland Division, had decided that he now wanted to halt his withdrawal and anchor his right flank at Patrickswell. He therefore sent two battalions supported by a battery of 15 pounders to secure that important communication center. These easily chased away the squadron of German dragoons that had occupied the town since just after dawn. The German 76th Infantry Regiment, part of the 111th Infantry Division now attacked without any artillery support. This attack was easily repelled by the Scots.
------SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm Western Approaches 1055 hrs
The AMC Kronprinz Wilhelm now took her only prize of the day, a 4,100 ton freighter out of Buenos Aires bound for Liverpool hauling wheat. The Germans decided to send her to Cork.
------HQ Belgian 5th Division Agenvillers (Picardy) 1155 hrs
King Albert had followed this morning’s German attack with growing alarm. He now assembled all the Belgian generals at the City of Brass. "It appears that the British IV Army Corps to the west is crumbling," he told them, "We have tried to help them as best we could, esp. at Millencourt-en-Ponthieu but all we have accomplished is to delay the inevitable as we know very well that the entire B.E.F. is desperately short on munitions. We already find ourselves occupying a small isolated salient which leaves us cruelly exposed to enfilading fire. This will only grow worse as the Germans continue their inexorable march towards Abbeville. Sooner or later the Boche will pluck us from this exposed position like a grape on the vine. I therefore order a withdrawal to St. Riquier to commence no later than two hours from now. Is our telegraph and telephone links with IV Army Corps and Second Army HQ still down?"
"That is correct, Your Majesty."
"But we can still communicate with II Army Corps by telegraph, but yes?"
"That is also correct, Your Majesty."
"In that case we shall notify II Army Corps of our plans and request that they pass on the information to General Plumer at Second Army. We shall make it as clear as possible that this withdrawal is in no way contingent on their approval."
------Admiralstab (Berlin) 1235 hrs
Admiral Gustav Bachmann, head of the Admiralstab, had just finished having lunch with his deputy, Kontreadmiral Paul Behncke. "I talked with Schichau-Werke this morning, admiral," Behncke related, "And they confirm that Lützow is still on schedule to be commissioned Friday."
"That is all and well but with the need for a proper shakedown means she will not be joining 1st Scouting Group before early September," replied Admiral Bachmann.
"The way it now looks the war will still be going on then, admiral."
"Yes, it certainly does look that way now doesn’t it? Just don’t tell that to the Grossadmiral! And if that turns out to be true we can use every warship."
"And June looks to be a very good month for cruisers, admiral, what with Wiesbaden, Frankfurt and Elbing being completed and Roon, Nurnberg, Leipzig and Rostock returning from the---."
Behncke was suddenly interrupted by a knock on the door. From the other side came the familiar voice of Korvettekapitän Ernst Vanselow, the head of the Admiralstab’s Abteilung N, the Nachrictenstab, "Admiral Bachmann! I have some extremely important news! May I come in, admiral?"
"Yes, enter," commanded Bachmann.
Vanselow entered the room and saluted. After Bachmann returned his salute, Vanselow said, "I am sorry to interrupt but I received this information inside a special parcel brought by motorcycle all the way from Rotterdam station." He then handed Admiral Bachmann a manila folder.
Bachmann took the folder and quickly read its contents. Within seconds his jaw dropped. He was glad that he had finished eating.
"Admiral, what is it?" asked Benhcke with some concern.
"Here, read it for yourself," replied Bachmann looking a little pale. As his deputy was reading, Bachmann asked Vanselow, "Have you confirmed these two wireless messages, yet?"
"Mein Gott! Could this be true?" croaked an ashen Behncke.
"I was going to do that next, admiral. I thought it best to notify you first," replied Vanselow.
"One of them does sound disturbingly familiar to me, but go ahead and get confirmation as soon as possible from the records of the long range wireless station. Make this your highest priority."
"What has Abteilung K got to say about this?" asked Behncke.
"I have not yet shown it to them, admiral."
"They will almost certainly maintain as they always do, that their ciphers are completely secure," ruefully commented Bachmann shaking his head.
"Admiral, it is obvious that they are not yet aware that the Russians captured Magdeburg’s code books intact," Vanselow commented.
"If this indeed turns out to be true, it will finally explain why the Royal Navy was waiting for us at both Dogger Bank and Utsire," said Bachmann.
------Vardar valley near Greek border (Serbia) 1255 hrs
After leaving Veles the Bulgarian Cavalry Division had encountered only very weak Serbian opposition which slowed its advance only slightly. Now as the lead squadron of the division approached the Greek border, it finally encountered a sizable force of infantry. These were not Serbs though but Greeks and they were at least 5 miles north of the border. The squadron was halted by its commander who promptly dispatched a messenger back to his regimental HQ. He then slowly approached the Greek soldiers with half a troop remaining on horseback. He was not sure what the Greeks were up to but if there was to be an incident here he was not going to be the one who started it.
The Greek soldiers eyed the approaching Bulgarians warily. One of their officers approached the Bulgarian squadron commander, who then halted his horse. The Greek officer spoke Bulgarian with a heavy accent "We have been waiting for you," he said. His tone of voice was guardedly friendly.
"Oh, how so?" replied his Bulgarian counterpart in a similar tone.
"We have some intelligence as to how your battle with the Serbs has been going. We congratulate you on your success. We realize that it is to the benefit of both our nations that this key railroad line resume operations as quickly as possible. We are here therefore to assure you that to accomplish that objective will not require a large Bulgarian force to be stationed here. You should not waste your strength by posting anything more than a token force here."
The Bulgarian officer eyed his counterpart warily. While superficially amicable there was some obvious uneasiness in the Greek officer’s attitude. "I will notify my superiors of your presence and your intentions," he spoke slowly.
"Good. It is best if we can quickly reach a mutual understanding. We have been told that there are Turkish units involved in the invasion of Serbia. Are any of them heading this way?"
"Uh, I am not permitted to give out that information," said the Bulgarian officer who in fact simply did not know.
"Why not tell us? It is not as if we are your enemies."
"No, but you are not our allies either."
------Glanmire Road Train Station (Cork) 1305 hrs
The second wave of Operation Unicorn had included some Festung detachments. The largest of these was eventually assigned to Ft. Carlisle to relieve the 1st Tipperary Battalion which had remained there since it had assisted Rommel in taking that key fort. The 1st Tipperary Battalion spent a full day showing their replacements what they had learned about both the fort and the surrounding area. At first Commandant O’Duibhir had refused to permit an Irish Brigade commander for his battalion but was eventually persuaded to accept Major Weise to lead the battalion and Captain Augberger to command its largest company. In exchange O’Duibhir was able to gain three concessions. First he was made an I.R.A. captain and assigned command of a company. Secondly the battalion was provided with a pair of Maxim machineguns. Lastly the Germans promised to deliver them back into the heart of County Tipperary using the new armored train being built at Cork.
The 1st Tipperary Battalion had arrived at Cork late last night. Weise then removed the 50 members of the battalion he deemed least fit for combat along with the 21 women and relegated them to the support company for Cork city. He had already set up the promised machinegun section. This morning he was told that completion of the armored train was running a little behind schedule but now it was ready for his battalion to board.
------Cappamore (Limerick) 1320 hrs
General von François had placed Brigade Frauenau under the temporary command of Feldmarschalleutnant Krauss who decided to use them in a broad envelopment of the British 11th (Northern) Infantry Division. Unfortunately for the German cavalry what was left of the Welsh Division had regrouped in the foothills of the Slievefeliem Mountains. There they had received an RGA battery equipped with 60 pounders, the first heavy artillery the Imperial Staff had committed to Ireland. As the German cavalry trotted through the town of Cappamore they came within the range of the 60 pounders which had been sited only an hour earlier. These guns now opened fire with shrapnel shells and quickly turned most of the lead squadron of the 2nd Chevauleger Regiment into casualties and dispersed the rest of the regiment. Oberst von Frauenau was lightly wounded in the shelling. His beloved mount was more gravely injured and had to be put down. The regiment of Czech infantry following close behind his brigade were promptly warned and Krauss notified.
------Dessie (Abyssinia) 1345 hrs
General Lee had been very discouraged by the results of the morning attack. He decided to change his strategy. He now chose to mount his next attack with the best of Zauditu’s soldiers in the vanguard believing that Iyasu’s men would not fire on their own countrymen. This cheery hypothesis was quickly disproven. As the bodies of the attacking Abyssinians piled up the rain resumed. For a few minutes it was relatively light but before long it turned into a downpour accompanied by loud thunder and lightning. This effectively halted the fighting.
------south of Ballyneety (Limerick) 1400 hrs
The British 11th (Northern) Infantry Division was being hard pressed. While the Erzherzog Karl Division tried to envelop its left flank at Kilmurry, Brigade Hell and the 6th Bavarian Infantry Division continued to press the front of the division. The division commander, General Hammersley concentrated on dealing with the threat to his flank and treated the attack on his front as little more than a feint. This perception was reinforced when Hell demonstrated with his two Kerry battalions in sight of the British outposts while trying to keep the German units of his brigade hidden behind the hills further south.
The German attack began with an artillery bombardment which included not only all of the 6th Bavarian Artillery Brigade but also all three 15cm howitzer batteries of the foot artillery battalion. Hammersley had positioned 8 of his 12 field artillery batteries and 3 of his 4 howitzer batteries to counter the Austrian envelopment threat. His remaining batteries were quickly overpowered and thoroughly suppressed by the German bombardment. The British had not had time to entrench and suffered horribly from the German shrapnel shells. They were forced back into the village itself where they had a strongpoint. They were pursued by all of Brigade Hell and 3 battalions of the 6th Bavarian Division. Heavy fighting ensued in the village itself.
------4th Scouting Group off Cork 1410 hrs
About 25nm ahead of 1st Scouting Group the small cruisers of the 4th Scouting Group now arrived at a position 15nm south the mouth of Cork harbor. There were again 3 IRN trawlers out sweeping mines; the one that was sunk during the Battle of Celtic Sea having been replaced. Until the cruisers arrived the minesweepers had kept within a few miles of the protective guns at Ft. Templebreedy. They now began to work their way further out. So far they were not finding any mines. Once again the Germans hoped this was good news and not a sign of incompetence.
------Arklow (Wicklow) 1415 hrs
Count Tisza summoned Hauptmann Schumacher to meet with him. "I have received word that Wexford Battalion was attacked and defeated at Enniscorthy this morning," said the count, "What is left of that battalion is fleeing our way with the British in hot pursuit. I am taking most of my regiment to try to help them. I will leave one squadron here. You are in charge in my absence. I do not know of any immediate threat from the north, but see what Rommel is up to with Dublin Brigade. He should have taken Wicklow by now."
"Jawohl, Euer Exzellenz," replied Schumacher.
"As I said there is no sign of any immediate threat by the British but in case I am mistaken you know the standing order of General von François---the British must not be allowed to regain the munitions factory. You are to destroy it if necessary. Understood"
"I understand Your Excellency."
"Good, now other than completing the capture of Wicklow, I do not want Rommel launching any attacks in my absence. Keep a tight rein on him. And keep an eye on Pearse as well."
------Élysée Palais Paris 1430 hrs
Premier Clemenceau reluctantly decided to meet with President Poincaré to discuss recent developments. "What is the latest news about the coal shortage?" asked Poincaré, "have the British resumed their vital trade with us?"
"No, M. President, they still hold their great merchant fleet in port. Complicating matters the German battle fleet is not returning to Germany as we had been expecting. Instead the Germans picked up additional supplies and reinforcements at Calais and Boulogne and are now steaming back to Ireland."
"Back to Ireland? And where might I ask is the British battle fleet? Why is it not swooping down to finish off the Boche, whom they had already defeated a week earlier? This is all very confusing."
"I must confess to being confused as well, M. President. Our so called ally is clearly holding back important information. They call Celtic Sea a victory because they sank a German dreadnought while losing none of their own. However they did admit to losing a damaged predreadnought the next day to a submarine attack. The dreadnought that the Germans lost was their oldest and weakest so the net shift in the naval balance is really quite small. There is also the question of how badly damaged the respective fleets are. We are beginning to suspect that some of the most powerful British dreadnoughts were very badly damaged and this is what is making the British hesitant to fight again right away."
"That is very disturbing speculation, premier. Let us pray that it is not true. And what in heaven do they intend to do with their own army? Field Marshal French must be desperate for supplies by now."
Clemenceau nodded, "He certainly is. We have learned within the last hour that the Royal Navy is planning to send one convoy with supplies for the B.E.F. to Le Havre tonight. This time they will also send a few colliers along as well."
"Excellent! It looks like the problem is being solved."
"No it has not! This is merely a stopgap measure not a long term solution. While they have not told us what they plan to ship tonight I am sure it will be only a fraction of what we need. While a great deal of attention is being paid to the importance of coal there are other imports such as steel and pig iron which are also vital for our war industry. While the British rerouted colliers originally bound for Italy to our southern ports they have done nothing to provide us with pig iron and steel which our war industry needs as well."
"In that case you should pause your grand offensive for a few days until this situation is resolved."
"The Boche are rapidly running out of reserves, M President. My offensive is only days away from breaking the Western Front wide open again. To give the Boche a respite at this time would be a huge mistake."
"Hmm. There seems to be a great deal of supposition in your argument. Has there been any concrete progress lately? Since the impressive early success at Compiègne the inescapable impression has been that we are advancing at a crawl."
Clemenceau glared at the president for several seconds then retorted, "It is necessary to exhaust the enemy’s reserves before real progress can be made. It is very fortunate for us that the Boche have very foolishly stretched themselves thin at this time. They are extremely vulnerable right now."
Part of Poincaré wanted very much to believe this and it did sound logical, but another part of him had grown to feel that from the very beginning of the war there had been too much optimism in the French Army and he worried that this was another manifestation of that phenomenon. "Does General Joffre agree with you on this?" he asked.
Clemenceau’s expression hardened still more. He answered, "We are in agreement on the overall weakness of the Germans at this time. We disagree on some of the details about how best to exploit that weakness?"
"And are you imposing your will when Joffre disagrees with you?"
"I let him present his arguments. In the end the responsibility of making the final decision falls on the shoulders of the War Minister."
"Which means that you feel that you know more about war than he does!"
Clemenceau shrugged, "Sometimes I do. I will not deny it. I never do it lightly but only after I have sought out counsel from other generals such as Gallieni. There are too many deputies who treat Joffre like he was a god."
"And you do not believe in gods."
"I believe in France, M. President."
"Yes, and you say that as if no else does."
"There are too many Frenchmen who do not believe in France. That is one of the causes of our present predicament."
Poincaré rolled his eyes and decided to move on to another topic, "Yesterday I received a plea from King Alphonso to spare the life of M. de Valera. I very seriously considered granting his request."
"I am very glad you did not make that mistake. It is time that we and our allies come down hard on traitors. One of the few things M. Law has done right is his harsh policy towards the Irish traitors. Executing de Valera demonstrated our support for his firmness, but it is not going to end there."
The president did not like the sound of that and asked, "What do you have in mind, premier?"
"Tomorrow I am going to arrest M. Malvy on charges of treason. Other arrests will follow."
"Louis Malvy? Treason? What has he done to warrant such a charge?"
"He is engaged in secret negotiations with the Germans!"
"Oh, in that case I am all in favor of prosecution, but wonder if a charge of treason is excessive."
"It is treason! And it is the worst sort of treason! We should be like the Romans who prohibited any utterance of the word, ‘peace’ during their life and death struggle with Carthage. Cursed are the peacemakers!"
"I would not use that last line in the Chamber of Deputies. Action Francaise still supports you but they have not completely forgotten your quarrel with Pope Benedict."
"Action Francaise believes in victory, M. President. I can handle them. I will avoid provoking them with refutations of their favorite superstitions. If there is any trouble it will come from the Socialists who only pretend to be patriots."
------west of Vilna (Lithuania) 1435 hrs
Both VIII Army Corps and II Bavarian Corp were now converging on Vilna from the northwest and WSW respectively while 2 cavalry divisions guarded their flanks. What was left of the Russian forces at Meiszagola were now in headlong retreat towards Vilna. Russian armored cars though had begun to appear in numbers in the last few hours and these were causing the Germans some problems though some of the armored cars were already breaking down.
One of the batteries 15cm ex-naval guns of the 2nd Motorized Heavy Artillery Regiment had been sited within range of Vilna and it now commenced firing. The other 3 batteries would join in the bombardment in the next 2 hours.
-----SMS Blücher Western Approaches 1450 hrs
Even though the visibility had been fairly good during the day 2nd Scouting Group had been frustrated in its commerce raiding. It had stopped an American freighter hauling mostly canned condensed milk to Liverpool. After the boarding crew confirmed her identity she was allowed to proceed.
Ironically now when some mist was starting to build up did they take a prize. This was merely a 1,100 ton schooner with mixed propulsion. She was out of Trinidad hauling molasses to Bristol. This vessel was not deemed worth keeping as a prize and soon sunk with explosive charges.
------Royal Palace Madrid 1505 hrs
When news of de Valera’s beheading reached Spain there were widespread protests and in both Madrid and Barcelona these degenerated into rioting. Meanwhile King Alphonso summoned Prime Minister Eduardo Dato, War Minister General Ramón Eachagüe and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Salavador Bermúdez de Castro y O’Lawlor, the Duke of Ripalda, to meet with him in private.
"Your Majesty, have you decided to sign the secret treaty of alliance with the Central Powers?" asked Dato.
"We have decided that it would be premature for us to sign it at this time," answered the monarch, "but before you start in again with your arguments, we will admit that we are leaning towards doing that eventually. However before we make that auspicious and dangerous leap, certain preliminary steps must be accomplished."
The ministers had come here hoping that the king had finally been persuaded to enter the war and were now somewhat disappointed. Dato forced a smile and asked, "Uh, but of course, Your Majesty. What are these preliminary steps that you require?"
Alphonso nodded and briefly smiled. He was glad that Dato did not launch headlong into another heated argument. He turned to the War Minister, "General Eachagüe, I want us mobilizing before we enter into any alliance. We are already partially mobilized to conduct our current Moroccan campaign. Monday morning will we will begin mobilizing still more. Initially we proclaim that this is also due to Morocco. Meanwhile we will express our dissatisfaction with the British handling of the rebel revolt in Ireland. Senor Dato, I want the Cortes to pass a resolution implementing a complete trade embargo against the British. How quickly can you expedite passage of that motion?"
Dato took a half minute before he answered, "Maybe Tuesday, Your Majesty, but Wednesday is more likely."
"Wednesday will do, prime minister. In the meantime I will reassure President Poincaré that even though he foolishly ignored my plea and executed senor de Valera, our complaints and even our embargo is directed only against the British. I want to make it clear to you that no arms not so much as a single bullet is to be delivered to that rascal Al-Raisuni in the near term. The army will only draw up contingency plans for doing that should it become necessary later, which I fervently hope and pray it does not."
------OKW 1510 hrs
"What is so important that you needed to see me so suddenly?" a concerned Tirpitz asked Admiral Bachmann, who had just arrived at OKW.
"Admiral, there has been an alarming development. We have received some intelligence today that most if not all of our ciphers have been broken."
Tirpitz was nonplussed for a few seconds. Finally he responded, "How reliable is this intelligence? I have been told repeatedly that our ciphers were unbreakable."
"It comes from a Mr. Michael Collins, admiral, a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood currently residing in London. Capt. Plunkett had recommended that we contact him. This Mr. Collins has agreed to spy for us since the invasion. He has provided us with some other intelligence that appears to be of good quality though not anywhere as important as this. We believe he has recently developed some new source of information within the British Admiralty."
Tirpitz shook his bald head, "Have you considered the possibility that either Collins is a double agent or his new source is? In either case the British could be using this as a ploy to throw us off the scent of the real problem."
"It has occurred to us as well, admiral, but quite frankly we were not on the scent of any promising alternative. We had not even produced a satisfactory explanation for the mysterious ‘Blinker Hall’ Admiral Beatty mentioned before he died. According to Collins it is the nickname for the officer who runs British naval intelligence. As for our codes being unbreakable Mr. Collins says that the key breakthrough for the British was the salvage of the code books aboard the Magdeburg by the Russians---"
"Magdeburg! She was lost way back in August! Do you mean to tell me that the British have been reading our encrypted wireless transmissions for nearly the entire war?"
"Uh, admiral, according to Mr. Collins there was a modest delay before the code books reached the British. I would point out that reading our encrypted messages would explain why the British fleet was on the scene at both Dogger Bank and Utsire. Furthermore Collins has provided us with the exact text of two of our wireless messages that had been intercepted and decrypted by the British. We were able to confirm their accuracy less than an hour ago. That leads us to believe that the chance of this revelation being true is too high for us to ignore. As we speak Abteilung K is working feverishly to create replacement ciphers."
"I am not fully convinced by this intelligence, but its implications are too terrible for us to ignore. Does this mean all our codes have been compromised?"
"Admiral, Mr. Collins says there are still some wireless transmissions that the British cannot read which strongly implies that some of our ciphers remain secure, however we do not know which ones they are. In order to be safe we are working towards replacing all of our current ciphers."
"Hmm it is hard to argue with that logic. The next obvious question is how do we get copies to the High Seas Fleet? The L.11 is not yet complete. Is the L.9 available? Back when we thought the second wave could be sent before the end of April, we considered sending her. I was told that she could make Ireland provided the head winds are not too bad."
"The L.9 is having problems with her engines, admiral. The only suitable base for Zeppelins in Ireland right now is Killarney which means there would be additional delays getting the codebooks to Admiral von Ingenohl in Cork. Admiral Behncke and I believe that sending a U-Boat is the better option. We were preparing the U.40 to go to Ireland anyway. She can leave tonight with several copies of the codebooks."
"Which means she will arrive at Cork Tuesday. Meanwhile Admiral von Ingenohl plans to rendezvous with the Atlantic Squadron Monday."
"That is definitely a potential problem but even if we could get the code books to Admiral von Ingenohl---or delay the rendezvous---the inescapable fact is that he must communicate with Atlantic Squadron using ciphers that Admiral von Spee also possesses which makes the problem insolvable."
-----Drucat (Picardy) 1530 hrs
After German artillery had pounded Drucat Castle into rubble the III Bavarian Corps tried to resume its advance towards Abbeville in a cold light rain. The Bavarians soon discovered that their left flank was no longer being pressured by the Belgians. In fact patrols soon reported back that the enemy positions to the east appeared to be abandoned. After 15 minutes of heavy shelling the Bavarian infantry advanced south and southeast. The initial resistance was fairly moderate making their losses acceptable but they came under very heavy rifle and machinegun fire as they approached the Scardon River. Normally this tributary of the Somme would be a weak water obstacle but it was now swollen from the recent heavy rains. Furthermore there was another well sited strongpoint on the Rue du Levant just outside Caours. The British artillery which had been held back fueling German speculation that their enemy was completely out of shells, now suddenly opened up. German casualties rapidly mounted and their advance was halted. Meanwhile the rain intensified.
------Dromore (Tyrone) 1540 hrs
Within a half hour of its arrival at Dromore 33 men had joined the North Ireland Brigade. These were assigned to the 2nd North Ireland Battalion which hunkered down inside the town itself. To the west the 1st North Ireland Battalion, which Heinrici regarded as his best unit had fighting a series of skirmishes with the 1/7th Battalion Highland Light Infantry which had trailed them as Heinrici had expected. The rebels had gotten the worse of these skirmishes but had inflicted enough casualties on their pursuers to make them cautious.
Heinrici had posted the 3rd North Ireland Battalion north of Dromore to guard against a possible attack issuing out of Omagh, the county seat. This attack now materialized in the form of the 3rd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. This was a regimental reserve battalion whose primary function was to provide replacement troops for the other battalions in the regiment. As such it had a current strength of roughly 400 men. It had no machinegun section and was short on supply wagons. The unit had been at Omagh when the war started. It had been reassigned to guard the entranceway to the naval anchorage at Lough Swilly but General Maurice had hurriedly moved it back to Omagh.
The Ulstermen as usual were more than eager to smite the Papist traitors. They easily chased off the rebel cavalry troop and overwhelmed an outpost which bolstered their confidence. They attempted to storm the 3rd North Ireland Battalion which Heinrici had carefully positioned in the hills north of the village. The attackers quickly took more than 100 casualties in a hail of gunfire, which included 3 machineguns. When the survivors retreated Heinrici felt better about the north and turned his attention to the southwest where the Highland Light Infantry were increasing their pressure. He committed half of the 2nd North Ireland Battalion plus their entire machinegun section to reinforcing the 1st North Ireland Battalion. The other half remained in Dromore to absorb the stream of new recruits, many of them disenchanted National Volunteers, which continued to pour in.
------SMS Kronprinzessin Cecilie Celtic Sea 1605 hrs
The ocean liner Kronprinzessin Cecilie had been converted into a lightly armed troopship for Operation Unicorn. She was now carrying roughly half of the 7th Cavalry Division. Along with Kaiser Wilhelm II and Hohenzollern she travelled a few miles behind 1st Scouting Group. A British submarine had spotted the German battlecruisers but was unable to get into a good firing position on them. The submarine did get into position for a shot at the troopships and fired one torpedo at Kronprinzessin Cecilie then another at Kaiser Wilhelm II.
The first torpedo struck Kronprinzessin Cecilie on the starboard side near the bow and exploded. This torpedo had run shallow. This reduced the destructiveness of its blast somewhat but it still managed to kill 5 of the cavalrymen plus 2 sailors and injured 8 more. The liner’s watertight compartments contained the flooding so while she was down by the bow she was in no immediate danger of foundering. She was forced to slow from 18 to 15 knots. The concussion of the torpedo had started a nasty fire in one of her galleys. Her crew worked feverishly to at first contain and then extinguish this stubborn blaze. They did not want it reaching the ammunition in her cargo hold.
Alerted by the torpedo hit on the Kronprinzessin Cecilie the captain of the Kaiser Wilhelm II ordered helm to turn hard to port. The lookouts observed this torpedo missing the bow by only a few meters. This torpedo was also running shallow and porpoised soon after it passed the liner.
------Loughrea (Galway) 1620 hrs
The Roscommon Battalion had marched out of Athlone and proceeded at a not very demanding pace to first Ballinasloe and now Loughrea. After leaving Ballinasloe they were joined first by the Athlone cyclist company and then later by the Marine Cavalry Squadron which had been most of the German presence at Athlone. This contributed to a sense that they were on an important mission.
The Roscommon Battalion had already acquired 86 new members since departing Athlone. Loughrea was guarded by 22 constables and a roughly equal number of a lightly armed militia. These fought on the edge of town but when the constables realized how badly outnumbered they were the survivors tried to flee in motor vehicles. Unfortunately they discovered that the German cavalry and Irish cyclists had blocked the roads as well as cutting the telegraph and telephone lines. The constables soon surrendered as had the militiamen they had abandoned.
Loughrea was another town where the weapons confiscated from the Irish Volunteers and Rdmond’s National Volunteers were kept in the local R.I.C. station. The Roscommon Battalion was still seriously short on firearms and ammunition, so these were distributed along with the weapons and ammo taken from the constables and the militia. Roscommon Battalion was told that it would spend the night in Loughrea. Some of its soldiers were assigned to prepare defenses while the rest, esp. its newest members, received some hurried training.
------Military Road north of Laragh (Wicklow) 1635 hrs
A dozen Irish Volunteers belonging to the 1st Dublin Battalion occupied a partially concealed outpost overlooking the Military Road about 2 miles north of Laragh. They could now see a lone constable strolling down the road with his rifle on his shoulder apparently unaware of their presence. When he came within reasonably close range he suddenly became aware of them and waved at them. Three of the Irish Volunteers started firing their bolt action rifles. The sergeant who was in charge of them suspected that the constable was trying to surrender. "Cease fire! Cease fire!" he yelled frantically. However as he spoke the constable was hit in the right calf. He stooped over and screamed in pain clutching hiscalf.
The sergeant pointed, "You and you go down there and take that constable prisoner."
As the two Irish Volunteers approached the wounded constable he yelled at them, "You shot me! I cannot believe that you fuckin’ idiots shot me!"
The Irish Volunteers looked at each other and shook their heads in unison at the strange arrogance of this constable. They pointed their rifles at him threateningly. "Get your hands up, sir," one of them ordered.
The wounded constable glared at them at them for 3 seconds then raised his hands saying, "Oh, Hell. Do you know who I am? I happen to be Tom Barry. Surely you have heard of me. I am a sealgair! Maybe the last real one left as that bunch back in Cork no longer deserve that name."
Both of the Irish Volunteers shook their heads. "I have not heard of you, Mr. Barry," said one of them, "And what in bloody blazes is a sealgair?."
"I think that’s the Irish word for hunter," replied his partner as he carefully disarmed Barry to whom he said, "Your wound does not look to be all that bad, Mr. Barry."
"That’s easy for you to say," replied Barry while grimacing, "It hurts like fuckin’ Hell! I find it hard to believe that neither of you have heard of me nor the Sealgairs, but the fact is I am a friend and I have some very important information to pass on to your superiors, preferably Pearse or Rommel."
"Come this way Mr. Barry. I think our battalion commandant will want to talk you sooner or later. If what you have to say is as important as you claim he will pass it on."
------Crossroads (Tipperary) 1645 hrs
The new armored train arrived at the town of Crossroads, whose name was due to it being an important road and railroad juncture. Most of the 1st Tipperary Battalion remained aboard the train, but as 200 Moisin-Nagant rifles and 30,000 rounds of ammunition were unloaded, Major Weise, the commander of the 1st Tipperary Battalion, had a quick meeting with Captain Vopel the commander of the 2nd Tipperary Battalion which controlled the town incl. the very important rail switching station.
"There is an enemy force, mostly soldiers with some constables, that attacked us at Caher, major," reported Vopel, "With some help from 3rd Tipperary Battalion, we were able to were able to repel their attack. Our latest intelligence has them digging in at Cashel, which provides them an excellent defensive position. The only other enemy forces we have encountered are the usual small to medium sized packets of R.I.C."
"Is there anything in particular you can tell us about Thurles? That is where we are headed."
"We received 2 members from there this morning, major. They both claim it guarded by a R.I.C. detachment which one estimates at less than 30 but the other believes to be about 50."
"Even if the larger number is correct, with the support of our armored train they should not present us with too much difficulty. Changing topics, how is Commandant McElroy behaving? Captain O’Duibhir worries that he may do some foolish things maybe even commit atrocities."
"That is possible, major. He is certainly one of those Irishmen who does not like to take orders from Germans."
"Hmm I believe you may have heard about a certain Herr Flynn who made a name for himself in Cork."
Vopel nodded, "Oh, I certainly have, major, though I am not sure that I completely believe all of them. As for whether or another Commandant McElroy is another Flynn, I cannot say for sure. We shall see, yes?"
"Indeed. It looks like the next few days are going to be very interesting for the Tipperary battalions."
"The world grows dark
The world grows dark
The world grows ever darker
I cannot sleep
I dare not sleep
Oh dear Pallas, why, oh why?
Didst Thou choose to incarnate
In a great bog that so hates Daylight?
I cannot sleep
I dare not sleep
Lest I wake up mad
Or still worse a Shropshire lad."
---"Kilmainham IV" Ezra Pound 1915
------U.27 St. George’s Channel 1705 hrs
When he had finally arrived at Haulbowline Thursday, Kapitänleutnant Bernd Wegener, the skipper of U.27, had been sorely disappointed to learn that there were no torpedoes available to replace those he had fired at Thunderer and London. He wondered how he was going to operate out of Ireland without torpedoes and was told torpedoes would be among the supplies that the High Seas Fleet would be escorting back to Ireland.
There was some diesel fuel currently available at Haulbowline and Wegener was at least able to top off his fuel tanks. He was also provided some food. He departed Cork at first light with orders to patrol St. George’s Channel. The Germans did know as yet that the Grand Fleet had moved from Devonport to the Isle of Mull but worried that British light forces might be massing in St. George’s Channel in order to make a night torpedo attack on the High Seas Fleet. Admiral von Ingenohl was worried about British minelayers and submarines. Wegener saw no signs of any of these threats. In fact he found nothing whatsoever despite decent visibility for most of the day.
Meanwhile the small coastal submarine UB.17 patrolled off Bantry Bay where the British still held Berehaven naval base which Admiral von Ingenohl worried might be a base from which British light forces coud emerge to attempt a night torpedo attack. Her commanding officer, Kapitänleutnant Wenninger had spotted a British armed trawler in the early afternoon but did not feel it was worth a torpedo and draining much of his battery capacity to get into position. It was virtually certain that Berehaven would have defensive minefields and possibly antisubmarine nets as well so Wenninger did not try to sneak into the bay itself. While on this patrol she encountered one of the prize ships that was making her way to Cork.
------HQ British Second Army Toeufles (Picardy) 1715 hrs
It was now raining hard with occasional thunder and lightning. With German artillery within easy range of Abbeville, Gen. Plumer, the commander of Second Army, felt compelled to move his HQ further south to the small town of Toeufles. His new telephone lines were now working and he with some reluctance now took a call from Field Marshal French. "Just what in blazes are the Belgians up to?" French demanded to know.
"Field Marshal, King Albert and his generals concluded that their position had become too exposed to enfilading fire as a result of the recent German advance. The king decided to withdraw all the way south to St. Riquier. Compounding our problems he did not notify this HQ of his decision directly but instead routed the message through II Army Corps."
"Why all the insufferable gall! How badly did this irresponsible behavior of that royal brat hurt IV Army Corps?"
"Had the Germans made their effort just a wee bit more to east, sir, it could have unraveled my defenses completely. As it was it meant there was no pressure being applied to the left flank of the German advance this afternoon which made things easier for them."
"Are you still holding on the Scardon?"
"Yes, Field Marshal. The fighting has died down there though there is still some fighting going on just north of Caours. We are holding there as well, sir---at least for the time being."
"And just what is that last comment supposed to mean?"
"Well, sir, I expect the enemy to resume his attack in full force early tomorrow morning. If we do not receive any shells by then, I do not see how we can prevent them from reaching at least the outskirts of the city."
"I have some good news. The Royal Navy informed me about an hour ago that they are going to attempt another convoy across the Channel tonight. You should be receiving supplies including artillery shells tomorrow but it will be late in the day, possibly even after dark. I know that the Abbeville rail station cannot be used by day at this time. Is there any chance that it could be safely used by night?"
"No, field marshal, the Huns are too close to risk using it even on dark nights. The supplies are going to have to detrain further away which is going to delay their delivery to the front. Is there any way that we can persuade the Admiralty to send the transports sooner, sir? Three or four hours could make a big difference as to whether or not we will be able to hold on to Abbeville."
"The Admiralty is rather worried about mines they believe the Germans laid off the mouth of the Seine. They want as much time as possible to conduct sweeping operations and as an additional countermeasure the convoy is not going to take the most direct route to Le Havre. This will add some time to the transit."
"I do not pretend to know about naval warfare than the Admiralty but I get the distinct impression that they are still not fully aware of just how desperate our current situation really is and therefore are not weighing our needs properly against their own risks."
"If a mine blows up one of ammunition ships it will hurt us more than them, general. Instead of bleating about the Admiralty’s decision, I would strongly suggest that your time would be better spent trying to devise the best way to hold on to Abbeville even with the delay. The French XXXVI Corps are not dependent on the Admiralty for their supplies and so are fairly well stocked with ammunition. I want you and General d’Oissel to do what is necessary tonight to shift his corps so it can used to attack the right flank of the German advance tomorrow."
Plumer sighed gently, which he hoped would be inaudible over the telephone. He had half expected Sir John French to make this suggestion as it was an option he himself had considered earlier but had ultimately rejected on account of very serious problems in the details. "Sir, I must remind you that while General d’Oissel has shown himself to be a man of good character, Joffre has provided him a rather weak unit to command. I would respectfully remind you, sir, that the XXXVI Army Corps has demonstrated very little effectiveness in offensive action so far. It has no heavy artillery---"
"---and one of its two divisions is territorial and we all know all too well how bleeding lousy French territorial divisions can be," interrupted French with obvious irritation, "Listen I am not expecting a miracle to happen tomorrow but if they can manage to distract the Huns for just a few hours it could end up saving Abbeville."
"But, sir, this will---"
"---but sir, nothing, general! No more of your arguments. I have given you an order and expect it to be carried out!"
------Zeppelin L.10 west of Dingle Peninsula 1720 hrs
The airship had finally repaired the problems with her steering gear which had kept her grounded at Killarney for two days. She now cruised at an uncomfortably low level off the coast of Kerry on account of the low cloud cover. This time she was not assisting the commerce raiders by locating merchantmen but rather she was on the lookout for British warships that might be heading to intercept the High Seas Fleet. Admiral von Ingenohl was particularly worried about possible night torpedo attack. She now spotted an armed trawler off Tralee Bay but that was it.
------Patrickswell (Limerick) 1800 hrs
The German 111th Infantry Division now resumed its attack on the right wing of the Lowland Division in the vicinity of Patrickswell preceded by a rather short but spirited artillery duel. The artillery of the Lowland Division consisted of obsolescent 15 pounder field guns and 5" howitzers. Moreover its gun crews were not as experienced as those of the Germans which had a battery of 15cm howitzers at their disposal. The Germans prevailed in the artillery duel but the Scots held on stubbornly inside Patrickswell against a German direct assault which they drove off with fairly heavy losses. However when the Germans succeeded in turning their flank at Elm Park, General Egerton decided his position was untenable and pivoted his right flank back to the tiny hamlet of Ashfort while continuing to hold on to the village of Crecora so as to retain firm contact with the 11th (Northern) Division to its east.
------northeast of Nish (Serbia) 1810 hrs
As part of Operation Tourniquet the weak German 90th Infantry Division had made a diversionary attack crossing the Danube at Orşova just above the Iron Gates. This attack had encountered little resistance. It soon became apparent that the diversion was not fooling the Serbs who chose to ignore it. Kronprinz Rupprecht has been uncertain what to do with the division but eventually ordered it to join up with the Bulgarian First Army that was trying to secure the important vital railway junction at Nish, which was the sole remaining obstacle to finally opening a rail line to the Ottomans that did not pass through Romania. One reason that Rupprecht did this was that the 90th Field Artillery Regiment was equipped with captured Russian 7.62 cm guns and 12.2 cm howitzers, for which the Bulgarians had suitable ammunition..
Arriving at the right wing of First Army the commander of the 90th Infantry Division soon found his unit the object of derision from their Bulgarian ally. With only 6 battalions it was the same size as the reserve brigade of a Bulgarian division. The unit has been labeled a division primarily in the hope of deceiving the Serbs into thinking that the diversionary attack was stronger than it actually was. Despite their scorn at the unit’s designation, the staff of the Bulgarian First Army was nonetheless glad to have some German assistance. They faced the Serbian Second Army on their left wing and a Serbian formation called Timok Army on their right wing. The rugged terrain combined with the dogged tenacity of the Serbs had made this a difficult campaign for the Bulgarian First Army. Rupprecht had repeatedly expressed disappointment with their rate of progress. The Bulgarians were now concentrating on trying to envelop the open left flank of Timok Army and committed the 90th Infantry Division to this operation as soon as it arrived.
-----Galveston (Texas) 1845 hrs
An American tanker of 4,600 tons left Galveston harbor carrying diesel fuel bought by the Germans. Her destination was Cork.
------Claremorris (Mayo) 1905 hrs
The original armored train returned to the town of Claremorris. Aboard the train was a company of the 2nd Athlone Battalion, whose commandant had orders to reinforce South Mayo Battalion. While the commandant of the South Mayo Battalion was glad to have reinforcements he was disappointed to learn that they did not bring any additional weapons with them. In fact a sixth of the men in the new company were armed with a shotgun instead of a rifle. Furthermore they had brought along very little ammunition.
The battalion commandant had tried to emphasize the positive when he met the company commandant, "I am glad to see that our friends at Athlone realize our importance out here. Now that I have your company added to my unit I can return to Castlebar. This time things will turn out differently."
The company commandant shook his head and produced a letter, "You will not be returning to Castlebar anytime soon, sir. I was told to deliver these orders to you."
------London 1915 hrs
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd-George, was having dinner with the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Sir Edward Grey. "I must confess that I never did like Bonar Law very much and feel decidedly uncomfortable serving under him," said Grey, "When he took over I seriously considered resigning my post and going into opposition. I did not do so because you and others in our party persuaded me that in a time of crisis such as we find ourselves, a true statesman must transcend normal political considerations. So I stayed on for King and Country but nearly every day now I wonder if I had made a serious mistake."
"Let me reassure you that you did the right thing, Sir Edward."
"That is easy for you to say, David. You and the prime minister have become rather chummy much to the amazement of many within the party, myself included."
"I find much to admire in Andrew and I am not ashamed to admit it. However he does have certain deficiencies. In particular his ardent Unionism has played into the hands of the Germans. It shall prove to be his undoing."
"Then you believe as I do that a vote of no confidence is not far off."
Lloyd-George nodded, "Very probably sometime this week. Andrew has only lasted this long on account of the Grand Fleet’s narrow victory in the Celtic Sea. His only real hope to make it into June is that General Hamilton finally succeeds in retaking Limerick soon and that along with the addition of the 13th Infantry Division and limited use of the U.V.F. will dramatically alter the course of the Irish campaign."
"Perhaps so, but I still have grave reservations about this limited employment of the U.V.F. It will surely incite still more of Redmond’s followers into joining the rebels."
Lloyd-George shrugged slightly and shook his head, "I am not so sure about that. If both the Germans and the rebels soon suffer a series of defeats, the morale of the rising could collapse, esp. if Pearse is either killed or captured soon. I am unequivocally in agreement with the prime minister that things have so deteriorated that the use of the U.V.F. is now fully warranted. There were good reasons to hold off but the situation there has grown far too grave."
Grey took a few seconds to absorb this before responding, "Perhaps the decision on this matter should be postponed until we have a new prime minister."
Lloyd-George shook his head, "That would not be wise. Not at all. The new prime minister is almost certain to be Balfour, who unfortunately shares some of Asquith’s shortcomings. One of them is a marked tendency towards excessive deliberation and with it a concomitant procrastination, which is a luxury we can ill afford at this critical juncture."
"Are you absolutely sure that it will end up being Balfour? Long has been garnering some attention of late. He has been vociferous in his support of Bonar Law’s harsh policy towards the Irish rebels while just as strongly criticized the prime minister for not ordering still more dreadnoughts."
"The first point is a bit tricky. Long is clearly playing to those Unionists who suspect that Balfour will soften the current policy towards the rebels. I must confess that I initially backed the prime minister when we thought the rebellion was less than a thousand Irishmen working directly with the invaders. The situation has changed since then but Andrew stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the need to adjust our policy. I am very hopeful that Balfour does realize the need for a, shall we say, a more nuanced policy towards the rebels."
"But not Long."
"Ah yes, that goes without saying. Not that Long is incapable of changing his spots---he can be quite the chameleon when spurred on by ambition, but in the current context he has painted himself into a corner with the most anti-Catholic elements."
"Yes, I agree with that evaluation, but his speeches about the need to build a still stronger battleship class is appealing to even members of our own party."
Lloyd-George sighed deeply shaking his head, "His demagoguery on that issue is truly irresponsible though I must say it is hardly atypical of that man. Starting a whole new class of larger battleships is the last thing the Royal Navy needs right now. What is most important for us now is to repair our damaged capital ships with utmost speed and complete as quickly as possible those dreadnoughts which are already in the water. I know for a fact that our new construction is already interfering with that. Laying down still more new hulls will only serve to exacerbate that problem. And where do we have spare slips for these new superduperdreadnoughts that Long wants? Maybe--- I say maybe--- at Harland & Wolff but Belfast, esp. its heavy industry, is having some serious difficulties right now. Of course Long is telling any and all that he will solve Belfast’s problem within a day or two. At best he is fooling three or four of the dumbest Unionists in Parliament on that score in the hope to persuade them to vote for him instead of Balfour."
"You seem very confident that Long’s strategy will fail, chancellor, and that Balfour will be our next prime minister. I wished I could share your confidence. The thought of Walter Long possibly residing at 10 Downing fills me with unspeakable dread and not just because of his diehard Unionism."
"I heartily agree with your misgivings. Long possesses numerous defects not the least of which is compulsive deviousness. It am less worried about him than you though, as I see very little chance that he will succeed. All that he is accomplishing with his demagoguery and intrigue is to delay Andrew’s downfall a few days and for that I am grateful."
"Why did you say that, David? I believe that I will regard Balfour as something of an improvement."
"Because I fear than many of the problems we had with Asquith will reappear with Balfour, who is even less decisive and prone to academic abstraction."
"I do not see a more deliberative process as necessarily a bad thing, chancellor. At the risk of sounding blunt, some of the decisions of the ‘triumvirate’ have to my mind and that of many other Liberal colleagues, come across as being hasty and impetuous bordering on downright reckless."
.Lloyd-George was irritated by this though he had half expected it, but took care to hide his annoyance. The word ‘triumvirate’ had come into wide usage as a disparaging term for the War Committee in its initial 3 member form. It had become a popular term with the Irish Nationalists and the Labour Party as well as many Liberals and even a few Tories such as Long. "I could argue that point, Sir Edward, but instead I shall point out that it has now become moot with the addition of Lord Kitchener and yourself to the War Committee. I have very recently spoken with Balfour and has told me that he intends to make very few changes to the Cabinet and intends to keep you, me, Carson and Kitchener in the War Committee. However he does intend to make Henderson a Minister without Portfolio and add him to the War Committee. As you well know Henderson has steadfastly refused to serve under Andrew but apparently is willing to do so with Balfour."
"Excellent. That should serve to take some of the foul wind out of MacDonald’s sails."
"That is indubitably true, but it unfortunately it poses some problems as well. For one, I see the War Committee finding it more and more difficult to reach a consensus on important issues and Balfour will be very inclined to refer these matters to the entire Cabinet a la Asquith, resulting in an inability to reach timely decisions on urgent matters. It is for that reason I beseech you not to oppose the partial mobilization of the U.V.F. come Monday. If the matter is not resolved before Balfour becomes prime minister I fear it will never be approved but will only serve to bog down the Cabinet in endless debate."
Grey sighed deeply, "You are put me in a difficult spot, David. Many in our party will be shocked if we take this drastic step. Is this desperate action really necessary to achieve our ultimate victory in Ireland? If it is merely a matter of speeding things up the destruction of the rebellion by two or three days, I say it is definitely not worth the political price it would entail."
"The rebellion is not dissipating as rapidly as we had hoped after our costly victory at Dublin, Sir Edward. We do not know what has happened to Pearse. If he has escaped he might be able to rally the rebels esp. as the Germans clearly have the initiative in Munster right now."
"Which they will lose when the 13th Infantry Division arrives at the front, even if the Germans hold out longer at Limerick than General Hamilton is anticipating."
Lloyd-George shook his head, "While I certainly hope that will happen I think it will merely counterbalance the additional reinforcements the Germans are bringing to Ireland in the next few hours. I do sincerely believe General Hamilton will ultimately prevail against the invaders but barring a small miracle I do not see that being accomplished before the end of the month. While our army concentrates on defeating the invasion force there is a very real danger of the Irish rebellion growing and spreading. Lord Kitchener does not come out and admit it but the plain fact is that most of Munster and Connaught is already in chaos."
Grey frowned deeply and took his time before answering, "I do not wish to be obstructive. You make a compelling argument but I am not yet completely persuaded. There is much that needs to be considered and I have until Monday morning to reach my decision. Perhaps we shall see a sharp turn of events in Ireland by then like the liberation of Limerick. In that case using the U.V.F. would be completely unnecessary and unwarranted."
"Perhaps, though I would still regard it as desirable. If you do find yourself opposed I do ask that you be content with going on record as being opposed but do not take the next step of insisting that we bring the matter before the full Cabinet as that would not only make it impossible for the policy to be implemented before Balfour takes the reins, but it will also waste huge amounts of time we need for other issues."
"So much for War Committee operating by consensus, eh chancellor? Still I may end up doing as you suggest just to avoid political paralysis."
------Laragh (Wicklow) 1920 hrs
After being notified by Commandant Heuston of Barry’s presence at 1st Dublin Battalion, Major Rommel decided to interrogate him personally. "It is good to see that you are still alive, Mr. Barry," said Rommel though his tone of voice was devoid of any enthusiasm.
"It is good to see you as well, major, even though your poorly trained men went off half cocked and shot me before I had a chance to surrender. I insist that you conduct a thorough investigation and discipline whatever idiot is responsible."
"When I have some free time I might get around to doing that. In the meantime I consider this incident as a demonstration of some of the risks involved in impersonating the enemy---tactics I find deeply immoral."
"Oh, and wasn’t it is just such deeply immoral tactics that resulted in your escape when you were captured at Bandon?"
Rommel ground his teeth then said, "Did you come all the way here just to rub that embarrassing fact in my face yet again?"
"Oh well maybe a little, major, but there are some other some things I really think you should know that you might not yet be aware of."
Barry’s expression grew more serious, "Have you heard that the Countess was executed early this morning?"
Rommel’s jaw dropped and he shook his head slightly, "No, I have not. Are you sure about this? Could it be another of those wild rumors you Irish so relish?"
Barry started to shake his head but then he shrugged, "I don’t think it is so, but can I rightfully say that I am absolutely certain? No, it wasn’t like I saw it with me own two eyes. But I think I have developed a good ability to separate fact from fancy by now and this appears to be the former, supposedly based on an official announcement. The Irish Times resumed printing yesterday though under heavy government censorship. You can probably confirm her execution from their next edition but seeing as they dunna publish on Sundays you will have to wait for the Monday edition."
"Unfortunately the British for some obscure reason do not see fit to deliver their newspapers to us."
"Aye, but they do make their way to some communities in the northern portion of this county. If you send a reconnaissance party north Monday and you should be able to get a hold of a copy or two."
Rommel’s expression changed from grumpy to melancholic, "I want so very much not to believe your story. The Countess was---how should I put it---an exceptional woman. While I do not agree with some of her bizarre ideas about the proper role for women, as well her radical socialism, the indisputable fact remains that she did save my life and for that I am deeply grateful. I do regret that she ended up being one of those who was left behind in Dublin. I hope and pray that you are wrong and she is still alive. We recently captured Sir Winston Churchill, who was not that long ago, a major political figure. Pearse had some hope that if he recovered from his wounds, which is far from certain as they are very serious, we might be able to arrange to exchange him for the Countess. That may be moot now."
Barry sighed, "Truth be told, I hope that it turns out that I am wrong about that as well. I grew to admire her as well despite all her eccentricities. However I have some other news that you might not be aware of. The British have greatly reduced their strength in Dublin after you sneaked out. According to the Irish Times there is a big battle being waged in the northernmost portion of County Cork. I bet you didn’t know that there are now Austrian units in Ireland fighting beside the Germans."
Rommel snorted then grinned slightly, "Oh, that I did know. There are Hungarian Hussars in Arklow now, led by none other than Count Tisza."
"Uh, Count who?"
"Surely you must have heard of Count Tisza, who until recently was the forceful prime minister of Hungary."
Barry for a few seconds continued to look baffled then suddenly he said, "Oh, that Count Tisza, why of course, everyone knows him."
Rommel shook his head some more but realized whether or not Barry had previously heard of Tisza was unimportant. "How thorough is your knowledge of how much British strength remains in Dublin County?" he asked unsure about how reliable this was.
"I can’t say anything about Fingal and I only briefly entered the eastern edge of Phoenix Park but as far as the rest of the city and all points south incl. Kingstown, I saw nary a sign of any British artillery. I am not going to pretend that I can give you an exact figure as to how much infantry they still have there but I am certain that it is at most a third of what it was right after you left. That’s soldiers mind you, there looks to be about the same number of R.I.C. Minus the two constables I ambushed and killed yesterday that is."
Rommel had developed a deeply ambivalent opinion of Barry. He would have much preferred it if had been Barry who had been caught and executed instead of the Countess. Yet at times this undisciplined whelp had demonstrated some cleverness and even bravery. Rommel was unsure of what to make of this latest intelligence. "One of my patrols has reported another British force of some size marching quickly down the Military Road. They will reach us tonight if they don’t stop to camp for the night. Do you know anything about this?"
Barry looked momentarily baffled, then answered with a feeble semblance of a grin, "Oh yeah, that bunch. I was getting around to that."
Rommel shook his head and snorted softly. "Heh, what’s so fuckin’ funny, major?" Barry protested, "I told you that I did them coming this way."
Rommel said nothing. It was plainly obvious that not everything Barry said was true. What else is new? he thought to himself cynically So maybe he is wrong after all about the Countess being executed. However I cannot discount the possibility that some of what he is saying is true as it hints of a possible opportunity we cannot afford to ignore.
------HQ Army of Dvina Shavli (Lithuania) 1930 hrs
General von Marwitz, the commander of the Army of the Dvina, was meeting with General Kosch the commander of the newly arrived I Army Corps and General von Scheffer-Boyadel, the commander of XXV Reserve Corps. "According to your latest reports you are holding your positions against the Russian attacks," declared von Marwitz.
"Yes we certainly are, Your Excellency," replied von Scheffer-Boyadel with confidence, "I strongly recommend that we switch over to the offensive tomorrow morning."
General von Marwitz shook his head, "No, general, I do not occur with your suggestion. Our airplanes have spotted additional enemy units, both cavalry and infantry, heading here rapidly. Some of them, incl. a few armored cars, should be here early tomorrow morning. We shall remain on the defensive for the time being."
"Your Excellency, I must respectfully ask you to reconsider," protested von Scheffer-Boyadel, "A well planned counterattack can further weaken the units we already face before the enemy reinforcements can arrive."
"Perhaps but as long as they continue to attack at their current intensity we can weaken them just as easily on defense as offense," replied von Marwitz, "My orders stand."
------OHL Valenciennes 1955 hrs
General von Falkenhayn had General von Fabeck, the commander of Sixth Army, on the telephone. "In two more days we shall be inside the city of Abbeville," von Fabeck predicted hoping to impress his superior.
He was quickly disappointed. "That is encouraging, but I would be much happier if you could finally finish cutting the line of communication of British First Army," replied von Falkenhayn, "that remains your primary objective."
"I have not lost sight of that objective, sir," protested von Fabeck, "In the last two nights I have been moving the 42nd Infantry Division into place to reinforce the Guard Corps. That deployment will be completed tonight. Meanwhile the last of the chlorine canisters are scheduled to be sited before midnight. After that we wait for a favorable wind. That is unfortunately one of the more serious shortcomings of this new weapon."
"I am well aware of that. My comments are not intended to make you do anything hasty, far from it. It is merely that I want to make it clear that taking Abbeville is a secondary objective which can wait until June if need be."
"I understand completely what you are saying."
"Good. In that case you must be worried that the British will finally realize their vulnerability and withdraw all of First Army across the Somme."
"Well yes, my staff and I have considered that possibility even going so far as to wonder why they have not done so already. We have concluded that they realize that cannot withdraw all of First Army in a single night and worry too much about the vulnerability of the last division that will move across the Somme."
"Good. In that case there is nothing further that I feel that needs discussing. Is there anything else you wish to talk about?"
"No, Your Excellency."
"In that case, auf wiederhören," said von Falkenhayn as he hung up the telephone and gazed at the clock in his office. He had rushed that telephone call for a reason. In about half a minute Oberst Tappen, chief of the Operations Section and Major Nicolai the chief of Section III B, which handled military intelligence, showed up as scheduled.
"I just got off the telephone with General von Fabeck," von Falkenhayn told them, "I once again emphasized the importance of finishing off the British First Army before the month is over. That is the necessary first step if we are to have any chance of rolling up the enemy line in June. He stared at Tappen as he said this. While von Falkenhayn was in general reasonably satisfied with his operations chief he had reluctantly concluded that Tappen still did not fully understand the difficulties involved in carrying out successful offensive campaigns against a well entrenched enemy.
"The British have repeatedly proven to be tenacious fighters with a morale as strong as our own, Your Excellency, but I am confident that the portion of First Army north of the Somme is doomed," commented Tappen, "it is merely a matter of time."
"Your optimism is uh, commendable," stated von Falkenhayn with an undertone of ambivalence, "but I am a bit more guarded. What we had once thought would be a relatively straightforward endgame has proven to be much more complicated. It would behoove us to anticipate further complications which could delay or even deny our satisfaction. In either case we need to consider what we are going to do about the French. The British are holding their merchantmen in port right now and the French are being deprived of key imports needed by their war industry, esp. coal. Even their own newspapers freely admit this! Which gives us reason to believe that there soon be a sharp reduction in the quantity of munitions and weapons reaching the French divisions. This should present us with an opportunity to launch an attack of some size against the French as well as the B.E.F. This operation could serve to make it more difficult for the French to come to the aid of General Haig or if General von Fabeck should end up disappointing me again, then it could lay the foundation for an alternative strategy on the Western Front. The key question therefore becomes which sector of the line would be best suited for our attack. Major Nicolai please summarize what is currently known about where the French Army is currently concentrated."
"Your Excellency, the greatest French concentration is with their Second Army which is continuing the offensive against our First Army begun at Compiegne. There is every indication that Premier Clemenceau is obsessed with driving us as far away as possible from Paris. This is therefore the schwerpunkt of what is now being called the Clemenceau Offensive. However there are two secondary French attacks currently underway as well. The first is directed against our Third Army in the Montagne de Rheims region. At this time it appears to be more than a feint but whether its ultimate objective is to take Rheims is not yet clear to my section. The other current French offensive is by their Third Army attacking out of Verdun. There too it seems that the French have more than a feint in mind."
"Yes, the Kronprinz and von Knobelsdorf have been worried about this eventuality for some time now," replied von Falkenhayn, "but for the time being they seem to be limiting the French to very small gains while enjoying a very favorable ratio in casualties."
"Your Excellency, it is the opinion of General. von Kluck that with 2 more divisions and 3 more battalions of foot artillery he can seize the initiative and at a minimum retake Compiegne," volunteered Tappen.
General von Falkenhayn briefly rolled his eyes, then answered, "Such a counterattack into the teeth of the enemy’s strength is dangerously premature at this time. Before long it would require us to commit much more than von Kluck is currently requesting and therefore rob us of the strength we will need to roll up the front. My objective is the exact reverse. I want to sharply prick the French somewhere where Clemenceau and Joffre will feel obliged to respond with sizable reinforcements but where we can then quickly assume a strong defensive position. What other options do we have?"
The general looked at Major Nicolai who answered, "Your Excellency, back in March the French Tenth Army made another unsuccessful attempt to take Amiens. We believe that while some of their heavy artillery has been moved to Second Army as part of the Clemenceau Offensive they still retain some strength. Further east the French had been showing signs in April of preparing for a renewed offensive in the Champagne, but these efforts were halted soon after Clemenceau took over not only as premier but the War Minister as well. We have good intelligence from several sources that Clemenceau is not intimidated by General Joffre and has in fact overruled him on occasion."
"So you think Clemenceau cancelled an offensive in Champagne being planned by Joffre?" asked von Falkenhayn.
Nicolai nodded, "Yes, Your Excellency, but it is only an educated guess on my part."
"Understood but I regard it as a reasonable guess. The more pertinent question is how strong are the French in Champagne right now," inquired von Falkenhayn.
"Our airplane reconnaissance does not see the quantity and quality of artillery indicative of an imminent enemy attack, Your Excellency."
The general was not satisfied with that answer, "That only partially answers my question, major. Do we have an idea as to how many divisions we face there?"
"I am afraid not, Your Excellency. Except for the incomplete preparations I have mentioned it has been an inactive sector the last few months."
"That is not a satisfactory response. We need to know more. Order Fourth Army to conduct trench multiple raids each of the next three nights."
"Jawohl, Euer Exzellenz."
"You are thinking about trying to retake Suippes, Your Excellency?" asked Tappen.
"That is one fairly obvious possibility. Another more ambitious objective could be Ste. Menehould, which would surely grab the attention of Joffre and Clemenceau. But let us move on to consider other possibilities. Do we know whether the French are still concentrated near Aubreville?"
"Uh, yes they are, Your Excellency," replied Nicolai, "General von Mudra reported repelling a modest French attack on his position north of the town just last Monday."
"In which case it may have been a feint meant to deceive us into believing that they are stronger than they really are."
"That would be most unlike the French, Your Excellency," Major Nicolai started to say but when von Falkenhayn gave him a sharp look he added, "but just in case we shall instruct General von Mudra to conduct more trench raids as well."
Falkenhayn nodded slightly but he resisted the urge to grin, "Moving further east I already know about Knobeldorf’s suggestion about trying to pinch off the northwest corner of Verdun taking a key piece of high ground. I am not ruling that out but with the recent strengthening of the French Third Army I worry that plan could run into some trouble. How about a renewed offensive by Army Detachment Strantz in the Woevre instead?"
"Operations are already underway to take Les Eparges, Your Excellency," said Tappen.
"Yes, I am well aware of that, oberst, thank you very much," replied von Falkenhayn testily, "I was thinking instead of trying to advance southwest again with the objective of cutting the rail line to Verdun. That would go a long way towards making Knobeldorf’s plan less risky. I do know that General von Strantz has taken some steps towards improving the inadequate roads inside the Woevre."
"The ongoing fighting at Les Eparges has drawn considerable French strength there, Your Excellency," replied Nicolai, "Further south though there are signs that the French defenses remain relatively weak."
"The enemy may be assuming that they can fall back on protection of the Meuse forts if need be," speculated Tappen.
The general nodded, "That is quite possible. For our purposes it may be sufficient merely to seriously threaten those key forts. I want you two to work out with General von Strantz in the next 48 hours what our realistic options are there. What about the Vosges and the Belfort Gap?"
"Your Excellency, there is some intelligence that the French are building up for an eventual attack in the southern portion of the Vosges," replied Nicolai.
"Do you any idea of how soon and where it will fall?" asked von Falkenhayn.
The head of intelligence shrugged slightly, "Most likely it would be directed towards Münster though a secondary operation attempting to retake Hartmannsweilerkopf cannot be ruled out. As to when it we do not think it is imminent. In fact once the shortage of munitions is felt it is very likely to be cancelled."
"Yes, that would make sense, but the implication is that the French will likely be stronger than usual in that sector in the near future. This could also complicate any attack we make to drive the French out of Alsace and then threaten Belfort, which would certainly force Clemenceau to respond," spoke von Falkenhayn, who paused a few seconds then continued, "As you both already know, General Krafft von Dellmensingen, the second ranking Army officer at OKW since General von Françis was dispatched to Ireland, is paying us a visit Monday. It is of course another sign that von Moltke wants to continue meddling in operational matters. At first I thought I would politely avoid meeting von Dellmensingen altogether and let you two handle him. This would be a way of expressing my displeasure with OKW. Now I wonder if that would be counterproductive. He is very knowledgeable about mountain warfare, which is unfortunately a rare skill amongst our senior officers. I think I would like to hear his opinions about the Vosges and in particular how they would impact an offensive into the Belfort Gap. There is also the matter of the winding down of Operation Tourniquet, which after giving us a scare for a while is now making some progress. How soon the divisions of Ninth Army can be released and where they are sent is something where OKW is unfortunately going to have a voice, because it involves coordination with our allies."
------Dessie (Abyssinia) 2005 hrs
The rain continued to pour. Inside a tent General Lee briefed Sir Ronald Graham on the day’s battle. "For one thing the enemy is in larger numbers than expected, Sir Ronald," reported the general as he tried to dry himself off with towels, "The expeditions out of Kenya and Somaliland have not drawn off their strength as we had planned."
The diplomat was unhappy with what he was hearing, "I told General Maxwell from the very beginning that a single battery of field guns plus another of mountain guns was completely inadequate for this mission. It seems that I have been fully vindicated in my protests. How bad are our losses?"
"Hapte Giorgis has not yet provided us with even a rough estimate of his losses. My staff believes that they are serious but far from catastrophic. As for our own casualties they are a little less than 800. "
"And do you intend to do next, general? Mount another attack or retreat all the way back to Gondar?"
The general shook his head, "When the weather clears I am going to pull back but not too rapidly. I am hoping that if Iyasu thinks we are beaten he will abandon his defenses on the high ground to chase us. We can then turn around and meet him on something close to open ground. I still believe that enemy morale is poor even if it as not as completely brittle as we had been counting on."
Graham looked somewhat skeptical, "I don’t know about that, general, but I suppose it is at least worth a try. What do you intend to do if this plan fails as well?"
General Lee spent a few seconds looking uncomfortable, before replying, "I must warn you, Sir Ronald, that it may take some time tomorrow before we know if it is successful, esp. if the weather again interferes."
"I can understand that but please stop evading my question, general. What if it does not work?"
"In that case we must make an orderly withdrawal most of the way back to Gondar while requesting reinforcements from General Maxwell. Hopefully Iyasu’s concentrating his efforts here will mean easy success for the other two expeditions."
------SMS Nautilus off Cork 2045 hrs
While the I.R.N. minesweepers continued to hunt for British mines without finding any, the German minelayer Nautilus carefully laid another defensive minefield outside the mouth of Cork harbor.
------HQ Army Detachment François Buttevant (Cork) 2105 hrs
Oberst Hell continued to lead his ad hoc mixed German and Irish temporary brigade, with Major von Rundstedt still filling in for him as General von François’ chief of staff. The general had been disappointed with the lack of progress made by General von Gyssling at Ballyneety but otherwise was in a good mood. A motor car was now waiting for him to take him to Haulbowline. The general gave detailed instructions to von Rundstedt as to what needed to be done in his absence. When he was done the major asked, "Your Excellency, what are the odds that Admiral von Ingenohl will like our plan?"
"Oh about one in a thousand," replied von François.
"In that case, it sounds like you are going to have your hands full. I wish you luck."
------north of Laragh (Wicklow) 2125 hrs
The 8th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles had been dispatched by General Lowe, commander of the Eastern Region, to try to reestablish contact with the missing 1/5th Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers. They had marched hard all day and in the last few hours had been thoroughly by a hard rain. On the way down the Military Road they had been spotted by patrols of Dublin Brigade.
In complete darkness their lead company now encountered the 1st Dublin Battalion, the 3rd Kerry Battalion and the 5th Dublin Battalion on the Military Road north of Laragh. Rommel was there in person to direct the ambush. Dublin Brigade had a small number of flare pistols which suddenly blossomed to illuminate the sky. Three machineguns erupted along with his riflemen. The fighting was one sided and brief. The lead company realized they were in serious trouble and beat a hasty retreat. The combination of the rain and fog fortunately allowed a little more than half of its men to escape unharmed.
The commander of the 8th Royal Irish Rifles did not immediately give up. He sent out vigorous patrols which skirmished with the rebels. Those who made it back finally convinced him that further fighting was too risky. He ordered the battalion to pull back to the north and make camp so his men could get some badly needed sleep. He also sent a messenger back to Dublin to inform General Lowe of this setback with its ominous implications as to the fate of the 1/5th Royal Scots Fusiliers.
------Ballyneety (Limerick) 2200 hrs
Brigade Hell and the 6th Bavarian Infantry Division had spent the late afternoon trying to blast and pry the 11th (Northern) Infantry Division out of the town of Ballyneety. The commander of the 6th Bavarian Infantry Division, General von Gyssling, was very worried about the weakness of his rifle battalions and had erred on the side of caution in pressing home his attacks. He had hoped that his British counterpart could be persuaded to withdraw by a combination of 15cm howitzer fire and Austrian pressure on his left flank. However the British once again demonstrated their stubborn streak which from a certain point of view could be regarded as heroic and refused to budge despite the losses they were suffering from the German shelling. In truth General Hammersley, the commander of the 11th (Northern) Division, had wanted to withdraw from Ballyneety but his superior, General Wilson had adamantly denied his request.
General von Gyssling conferred with Oberst Hell at dusk and they decided to use Brigade Hell in a night attack to try to bust through the British line west of Ballyneety. In patchy fog and pouring rain the assault was made by the Bavarian Jäger Reserve Battalion and the 2nd Kerry Battalion. The former tried to attack along 2 small dirt roads that had been turned into rivulets of mud and soon came under heavy fire from the machinegun section of the 6th Battalion Border Regiment. The Irish attack had struck further east where there were no roads whatsoever. Having no wagons only a single cart per company due to the shortage of horses, the 2nd Kerry Battalion was less tied down to roads than the Bavarians. The battle hardened Kerrymen, a fifth of whom were armed with shotguns instead f rifles, emerged out of the fog and overwhelmed a weakly held position of the 6th Border which was unprotected by any wire. The German commandant of the 2nd Kerry Battalion was pleased by his success. He dispatched a messenger back to the HQ of the Bavarian Jäger Regiment. Meanwhile he expanded his breach of the British position while bringing up his own machinegun section which was also carried in carts not wagons and took some time. Only one was in place when the first counterattack arrived but together with the Irish rifle fire it was more than enough.
------Dessie (Abyssinia) 2205 hrs
It was pouring rain at Dessie as well. "The enemy has demonstrated their pathetic weakness today, father!" ranted Lij Iyasu, who was meeting with Ras Mikael, "We must go on the attack early tomorrow and crush them completely."
"Your Majesty, the forces of nature are more powerful than either side right now. If the rain stops or at least tapers off tomorrow then we can see about launching a counterattack," replied Mikael.
As if to validate what had just been said, there was a very loud peal of thunder. Iyasu was not impressed. "I respect you, father, but I must insist that you attack soon. I do not hate the British but I cannot begin to express my contempt for my treacherous relative, Zauditu. We must make an example of her and that cunning Shoan viper Hapte Giorgis!"
------Kinsale (Cork) 2215 hrs
The fire aboard the Kronprinzessin Cecilie was eventually extinguished but she was experiencing some progressive flooding from her torpedo hit despite her supposedly watertight compartments. She was even more down the bow now and had developed a modest list to starboard. This caused Admiral von Ingenohl to worry about her becoming a block ship if she foundered inside Cork harbor. He therefore ordered her to proceed to Kinsale instead along with one of his torpedoboat flotillas which was to begin coaling there immediately. The wounded liner now began to transfer the cavalrymen, starting with the 9th Hussar Regiment, to small boats which then ferried the men ashore. Meanwhile the 1st Torpedoboat Flotilla which had remained behind at Cork, now emerged to reinforce the screen of the High Seas Fleet.
------‘County’ Kilburn (London) 2250 hrs
Once again gangs of inebriated youths from the lower classes gathered in the predominantly Irish neighborhoods of London. Once again they taunted the local inhabitants and vandalized the businesses. This time there was a more rapid response by the Bobbies who arrived in force long before the property damage could reach last week’s level. However before they arrived another difference manifested itself. Bands of Irish Catholic youth had assembled to challenge the hooligans. These were armed mostly with blunt instruments, which they liked to call shillelaghs no matter the size or shape but some of them carried knives as well. Fights broke out between the marauders and them, which the police then had to quell. There were more than 40 serious injuries resulting from the melee. Two stab wounds and a crushed windpipe resulted in deaths. When it was over the Irish vigilantes felt with some justification that the police had come down harder on them than the vandals.
------Broadford (Clare) 2300 hrs
General Wilson, the commander of VI Army Corps, continued to pressure General Baldock, the commander of the West Riding Division to find a way into Limerick. Baldock realized that the most direct route through the area around Sixmilebridge had become too heavily entrenched for him to breach esp. since the German batteries had received additional ammunition. He decided to attack instead through the Glenomra Valley in the Broadford Gap between the Slieve Brenagh Mountains and the rolling hills to the southwest. This attack could not be made or even assembled during the day on account of the battalion of German 10cm guns positioned in the Slieve Brenagh Mountains overlooking the valley. So he waited until nightfall to shift his forces at a quick march and was glad to see a thick cloud cover completely blocking out the moon even though it was steadily raining.
The British attack consisted of 3 battalions, all barely half strength as a result of cumulative casualties. They fell upon a single battalion of German Marines also roughly half strength and not as well entrenched as the Marines around Sixmilebridge. The attackers were able to overpower the defenders suffering acceptable losses and for a few minutes had a relatively open albeit muddy route leading into Limerick city. However the attackers had become confused and disorganized in the darkness. As the senior officers tried to restore order and cohesion they were engaged by a company of the East Clare Battalion emerging from the mountains with which they were very familiar. Their attack was eventually driven off but it caused the British battalions in Glenomra Valley to fret about a threat to their flank. Then one of the batteries of 10cm guns in the mountains to the east began firing star shells and after that a few rounds of shrapnel shells, despite worries about hitting friendly forces.
Meanwhile Gen. Jacobsen, the commander of the Naval Division learned of this threat. What was left of his battalion which had been overpowered at Broadford had been rallied by its commander and reinforced with another battalion and a machinegun company equipped with the somewhat lighter and more mobile MG 08/15. The Naval Division had been provided 2 companies armed with this new weapon for Operation Unicorn because of the need to capture Limerick quickly. When the British finally attempted to resume their advance the Matrosen were ready for them and the lead battalion, the 1/5th Duke of Wellington was handled roughly. After that the British probed in the dark for a while. Worried about being badly exposed to the 10cm batteries come dawn the British started to withdraw around midnight
------IRT Eion MacNeill 2305 hrs
The former British armed trawler which had been captured at Haulbowline, was now with a mostly Irish crew and flying a green flag with emblazoned with a gold harp. She now slowly steamed out of Cork harbor. Ultimately her mission would be commerce raiding but for the next 12 hours her orders were to act as a picket ship off Cork. As such she would be guarding the minesweeping trawlers which flew the same flag.
------Dromore (Tyrone) 2310 hrs
New recruits continued to arrive at Dromore. Colonel Heinrici was pleased that 213 men and 8 women had joined the Northern Ireland Brigade so far this day. They brought very little in the way of firearms with them, only 3 rifles, 8 shotguns and 19 pistols. About half carried machetes, sledgehammers, pitchforks or an improvised pike. Heinrici assigned them all to the 2nd Northern Ireland Battalion with the sole exception being one man who arrived at Dromore riding atop a fine horse. He quickly demonstrated equestrian skills and upon being provided a captured Lee-Enfield decent marksmanship as well so Heinrici assigned him to the cavalry troop. Most of the new arrivals did have the foresight to bring some food with them. A dozen even brought carts laden with food drawn by either a mule or a pony.
The British forces to his north and southwest had sent out strong patrols during the night but as far as Heinrici could tell neither were making another full scale attack. Heinrici worried about the possibility of yet another British force might come at him from the east and so sent out 3 patrols deep in that direction but so far they reported nothing. He knew that he could not stay at Dromore too long but decided against marching out before dawn. He had established a reasonably good defensive position and was cutting the important rail line between Omagh and Enniskillen. He thought he could goad the British into another costly attack while absorbing more new members.
------Thurles (Tipperary) 2330 hrs
The new armored train had arrived at Thurles five hrs ago and thoroughly intimidated the local constables. After two were killed a few surrendered while the rest skedaddled in motor vehicles. The railroad station was quickly secured by the 1st Tipperary Battalion. Inside the abandoned R.I.C. stationhouse the Tipperary Volunteers captured 2,700 rounds of .303 as well as some food and petrol. They also found the hodgepodge collection of firearms the constables had confiscated from the local Irish Volunteers and National Volunteers companies. However as the rebels had brought 700 Moisin-Nagant rifles with them in the armored train, these weapons did not seem important. In the local jail they found and released 3 incarcerated Tipperary Volunteers leaders who immediately joined the 1st Tipperary Battalion and assisted in rousing and collecting the local Tipperary Volunteers.
So far 78 men and 3 women had come forward to join them, roughly half of them of Tipperary Volunteers who had not answered the previous call to arms in late April. Most of the rest were disaffected National Volunteers. In either case the new arrivals were assigned to the battalion’s 3rd company where they would begin receiving intensive training at first light.
The armored train remained at Thurles for the night as it was more difficult to spot problems on the tracks in the darkness.
------SMS Friedrich der Grosse 2350 hrs
Grossadmiral von Ingenohl continued to worry about British mines even though none had been discovered so far by the three I.R.N. minesweeping trawlers. However he also fretted about a possible night torpedo attack and so did not want to linger off the mouth of Cork harbor too long. He had already ordered 4th Scouting Group and a torpedoboat flotilla to enter the harbor and none of them encountered mines which together with vessels leaving without incident relieved most but not all of his worries. He now sent orders to Admiral von Hipper by searchlight to send the remaining troopships into Cork and if they did not strike mines to enter with 1st Scouting Group. If there were still no mine strikes the German battle squadrons would follow them in single file followed by 5th Scouting Group and the remaining flotillas.