by Tom B
"The next day we were subjected to an even more grueling march starting at dawn. Napoleon was a gunner at heart and so probably started out riding in munitions wagons. Later on when he became a general he then had his choice of the finest steeds upon which to ride during which time he could worry himself silly about feeding his élan crazed horde. It is for this reason that he can be forgiven---though only just barely, for his famous trope about an army marching on its stomach. After a whole day of hard marching the men of the 4th American Volunteer Battalion were all too aware what an army really marched on.
In the middle of the afternoon Irish Volunteers of the Great Island Company parted company with us and proceeded east into the small seaport of Youghal which the Germans sometime use to coal their torpedo boats. The East Cork Battalion had been guarding this auxiliary naval base but it had been ordered to march east at dawn with 3 of its 4 rifle companies leaving the 4th company to remain behind at Youghal. I later learned that this company along with the Great Island Company became the kernel of the 2nd East Cork Battalion.
We then headed north in a steady rain to the Youghal Bridge where we crossed over the Blackwater River. If the weather had been better, which in Ireland would be regarded as a small miracle, and we were not so darn tired, we would have thoroughly enjoyed the spectacular view that structure afforded us. We had now crossed into County Waterford. We stopped and camped for the night just outside a small village which was called Kinsalebeg."
---H.L. Mencken, Over There
------HQ Irish Command Curragh (Kildare) 0010 hrs Friday May 28, 1915
The news that worked its way back to General Hamilton’s headquarters in the last few hours were disheartening bordering on ominous. Hamilton and Braithwaite discussed the matter at some length and reached a conclusion they found bitter but necessary. The telephone wires to VI Army Corps had not been cut so far this night. General Hamilton placed a call to General Wilson and quickly got down to business.
"The attack on the Austrian division on which we had such high hopes is clearly a failure," said Hamilton.
"We do not know that for sure, sir," protested Wilson, "General Shaw may have crushed the blacklegs but due to the German cavalry interfering with his line of communication, word has not yet reached us."
"General Braithwaite and I regard that very same lack of communication as being a cause for concern rather than a reason for hope. It is now clear that the German cavalry division has arrived a day earlier than we had expected."
"That division must therefore be incomplete, a desperate ploy on the part of General von François because he is aware of the weakness of his right flank. General Shaw should be able to brush away the minor distraction of the German horsemen while finishing off the Austrians."
"That is remotely possible but we would be ill advised to formulate our plans on that assumption. While this battle is going on what is left of West Riding Division is holding on for dear life at Portumna. If they are either overpowered or outflanked by the Germans then your entire corps will be seriously threatened from behind. General Braithwaite and I have discussed this matter at great length and reluctantly concluded that you must make another withdrawal today. Form a new defensive line running from Birdhill through the Silvermine Mountains then on to Templemore. Whether or not you want to move your own headquarters is up to you."
"Withdraw? General Hamilton! I must ask you to reconsider. We are on the cusp of a great victory!"
"Not bloody likely. My decision stands."
"But, but my headquarters has no communications with 13th Division, general. If the rest of the corps starts a withdrawal without General Shaw being notified it will put his division at risk."
"For that reason you must do whatever is necessary to get your orders to General Shaw as quickly as possible. Send an airplane if you must. In the meantime you can start by moving the Lowland Division as quickly as possible. Soon after dawn the German 10cm guns which we believe to be still inside the foothills of the Slieve Bernagh Mountains will make the withdrawal hazardous."
"I will do as you have ordered, sir," replied Wilson, who after a few seconds added, "Might I ask how the U.V.F. performed today. Athlone must surely be back in our possession."
"No, sad to say it is still in enemy hands."
"What?! How is that possible?"
"We are still trying to figure that out ourselves. General Maurice suspects that the rebels have recently reinforced Athlone."
"Perhaps but surely not enough to hold off 4,000 Ulster Volunteers!"
"The facts speak for themselves, General Wilson. General Maurice felt it is necessary to reinforce his forces at Athlone with another 2,000 U.V.F. from those we had been holding in reserve at Belfast."
-----near Jaroslaw (Galicia) 0015 hrs
The raid had started two hours ago and it was now raining hard. Yesterday afternoon artillery of the Russian Third Army had once again destroyed the Austro-Hungarian pontoon bridge over the San River. Engineers of General von Auffenberg’s Fourth Army had begun working on another replacement soon after dark. The situation inside Jaroslaw remained essentially a stalemate. The KuK IX Corps remained in firm control of the city having repelled several attacks by Third Army, but in turn had made only tiny progress in expanding its bridgehead. The hard rain meant that the San River would be swelling in the next few hours make it more difficult to cross it by fording, which made it even more important to complete the new bridge as quickly as possible.
------HQ German 111th Infantry Division Abbey (Galway) 0020 hrs
General Sontag, the commander of the 111th Infantry Division, was letting most but not all of his division get some badly needed sleep before using them in an attack before first light on the West Riding Division. The exception to this was the units involved in the annihilation of the trapped 109th Brigade in conjunction with most of the 183rd Infantry Brigade. The 3rd Marine Fusiliers Regiment which was still under his command, had finally caught up with his division after dark. Sontag had ordered their commander to replace most of his division’s infantry units which were involved in the elimination of the British 109th Brigade. General Schußler had sent word that much of the West Riding Division was suffering from severe exhaustion so every few minutes one or two German guns would fire a few shells at the British position trying to disrupt the enemy’s sleep.
Another part of his division that was not getting much sleep was the telephone detachment. They had extended his telephone lines connecting him with General von François’ headquarters at Buttevant less than an hour ago. He was now having a telephone call with von François, who asked, "So what are your immediate plans?"
"Your Excellency, in conjunction with the 183rd Brigade, we are in the process of eliminating the roughly 1,000 British soldiers of their 109th Brigade which we have trapped. Then in a few hours we shall again attack the enemy’s entrenched position west of Portumna."
General von François waited half a minute before replying, "No, that is not what I want you to do. Instead I want you to move both your division as well as the 183rd Infantry Brigade which I am officially placing under your command, as quickly as possible to Banagher. Have we secured the bridge there yet?"
"Your Excellency, General Schußler has informed me that he issued orders yesterday for the Marine Cavalry Squadron to try to take that key bridge. I have not yet received word whether or not they have succeeded."
"Plunkett tells me that there are places near there where the Shannon can be forded if necessary. You also have your pontoon train if the enemy has destroyed the stone bridge there. So one way or another I expect a crossing. Keep the 3rd Marine Fusiliers Regiment along with the 1st Seebattalion and the East Clare Battalion near Portumna both to complete the destruction of the 109th Brigade and to pin down the West Riding Division."
General Sontag shook his head and sighed. Untangling his tired men and those of the 183rd Infantry Brigade in the dark was going to be thorny at best. However he realized that despite these difficulties there was some undeniable advantages to what the general wanted to accomplish. There was one problem that he felt necessary to bring to his superior’s attention, "Your Excellency, it is my duty to warn you that I am already worried about my supply line which is dependent upon the railhead at Gort. Likewise the 183rd Infantry Brigade has a supply dump near Galway city but it is a small one and will soon be exhausted. If we both plunge into King’s County it will only get worse."
This time it was von François who sighed. Sontag could hear it over the telephone. He then heard his superior say, "You bring up an important issue, of course. In the short term your railhead will become Ballinasloe instead of Gort. Later on there is a railroad terminus at Banagher itself which would be ideal."
"Your Excellency! General Schußler has informed me that a large enemy force has converged on Athlone. We therefore cannot make use of the track between Athlone and Banagher."
"Which is one reason why we need to reinforce Athlone."
"General Schußler wisely ordered the Roscommon Battalion to march to Athone yesterday afternoon, Your Excellency."
"That was good thinking on his part. However it remains to be seen if that is sufficient. It is imperative that we hold on to Athlone but it would be better still is we could go on the offensive there with the aid of the armored train. Perhaps one or even both of the American Volunteer Battalions could be sent to reinforce Athlone."
"I shall discuss that possibility with General Schußler, Your Excellency."
"Good. I should also point out that once we gain control of Portumna Bridge we will be able to send supplies up the Shannon in boats once again. However the most important thing for you to accept is that we can only afford to send you ammunition. Food you must acquire locally. You now have effective control of most of County Galway to use. We have never had a presence in King’s County. Captain Plunkett believes that you should be able to quickly form a small I.R.A. battalion in the western part of King’s County once you succeed in crossing the Shannon. Use them to help gather food for you. In the short run that is a more important function than their limited combat value."
------British Somaliland 0030 hrs
The fighting in British Somaliland continued with most of it happening by night. Lieutenant Colonel Samir Rabadi, the commander of the combined Ottoman and Abyssinian forces there had succeeded in his goal of diverting the AngloIndian expedition that was trying to batter its way through Sheik Hassan’s forces in the mountains in order to attack Abyssinia from the east. This meant that he was fighting three different types of enemy. The largest component was the Indian expeditionary force which was composed of 3 Indian battalions and 1 British battalion reinforced with one battery of 15 pounders and 2 mountain artillery batteries. Not all of this expedition was committed to fighting Rabadi’s forces as some of it was tied down trying to protect its hard won gains in the mountains near the border. The next largest enemy was the Senegalese tirailleurs which also had a small amount of supporting artillery. Lastly there were the 3 small companies of the King’s African Rifles which had no artillery of their own. The coordination between these 3 groups had been quite poor at first but in the last two days there were some signs of improvement.
This was for the most part an infantry campaign. While both sides possessed a small amount of artillery they both had very limited stockpiles of ammunition causing them to hold back on using their guns. The searing midday sun caused most of the fighting to occur between the evening twilight up until shortly after dawn. Rabadi had constructed a trench system for his troops to fall back on. The enemy had no long trench lines though some of their larger camps were now encircled by a continuous trench. The battle was working itself out as a series of open field night engagements.
There was not a single cloud in the sky this night to obscure the bright moon. This reduced but did not completely eliminate the tendency of night battles to degenerate into chaos. Tonight’s fighting was with two Indian battalions though it had now drawn in a Senegalese battalion. The Friendship Battalion in which Rabadi had combined Ottoman soldiers with Abyssinians was heavily involved in tonight’s combat. It had held its own against the enemy which was encouraging. Rabadi was not an easy man to please. The performance of the purely Abyssinian units, despite the effort he had put into training, continued to disappoint him though he admitted that they did have some value in combat just not as much as he wanted.
A messenger arrived this morning all the way from Addis Ababa, the capital, with a message from Ras Mikael that he had soundly defeated at Dessie a coalition force composed of Zauditu’s followers and an AngloIndian expedition whose size he deliberately inflated to make his accomplishment sound more impressive. He admitted not being able to pursue and destroy his defeated enemies due to logistical problems. The enemy was now fleeing to the west probably all the way back to Gondar. He thanked Rabadi and the Ottoman Empire for helping to keep the AngloIndian expedition in Somaliland bottled up so he could bring most of the Abyssinian Army to deal with the biggest threat. Now that it was defeated Ras Mikael promised to send reinforcements to Djibouti, possibly even some artillery.
Rabadi smoked a cigarette as he read this. He was a stoic at heart and tried to avoid hubris, which he regarded as the nemesis of many senior officers in the Ottoman Army and from what he had read many other armies as well. Nevertheless he could not help but feel some satisfaction from Ras Mikael’s letter. His expedition was making a difference in the war. He then wondered how long the promised reinforcements would take to arrive. Two weeks was his best guess. His superiors at the Ottoman VII Corps back in Yemen had made it clear to him via wireless that there would be no further attempts to send him supplies much less reinforcements during the next week because of the lunar phase. Right now even bringing fresh water to the garrison on Perim Island was proving perilous.
When men and supplies were landed in the northern part of French Somaliland it was taking them at least a week to reach the front inside British Somaliland. So while the letter was very heartening, the cold fact was that he would have to make do with what he already had for at least a fortnight.
------HQ German 7th Cavalry Division Thomastown (Tipperary) 0050 hrs
General von Unger, the commander of the 7th Cavalry Division, resigned himself to the fact that he was not going to get much sleep this night. Unpleasant as that fact was, he liked even less much of what he was currently hearing. The British were exploiting a gap between his left flank and the Tipperary Volunteers near Donohill. There was a substantial risk that his horse artillery could be overrun in the dark so he had just issued orders for them to move 8 km to the southeast which he realized would probably put them completely out the battle come dawn.
While his division had succeeded in eliminating more than half of the 8th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers there remained a sizeable pocket that was stubbornly fighting on. The British Army had its shortcomings but they often demonstrated remarkable bravery and determination. The general decided that the 25th Dragoon Regiment and Brigade Frauenau would be enough to finish off the enemy pocket so he ordered the 26th Dragoon Regiment to immediately disengage from that engagement and move out on horseback to try to plug as quickly as possible the widening gap between his left flank and the Tipperary Volunteers.
------Nolette (Picardy) 0100 hrs
General Plumer, the commander of the British Second Army, had decided not to wait until dawn to try to build upon his limited success 1st Division had at Nolette. With the Germans pressuring Second Army at Abbeville he could not afford to expend a large quantity of artillery shells in a heavy early morning bombardment. He conferred at length with General Munro, the commander of I Army Corps. They decided that their best chance was a night attack without any preliminary bombardment whatsoever.
The sky was only partially covered by clouds thereby permitting some illumination from the nearly full moon. The attack consisted of only 5 battalions of the 1st Division. It was not trying to advance to the northeast as they had yesterday but due north and NNW. In doing so Plumer and Munro were hoping to find the boundary between the Prussian Guards and the German 42nd Infantry Division, a potential weak spot. What few Mills bombs that remained were allocated to these battalions. Earlier in the night small parties incl. some Royal Engineers had been sent forward crawling on their bellies to try to cut some gaps in the German wire. Only half of them returned.
The attack managed to achieve some small measure of surprise and it turned out that there was in fact a small gap between the 1st Guard Division and the 42nd Infantry Division into which the 1st Battalion Norfolk Regiment was able to skillfully infiltrate. The 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment came under rifle fire at the last minute from a battalion of the 131st Infantry Regiment on the left edge of the 42nd Infantry Division. It took some losses but the enemy had no machineguns covering this sector and there were sufficient gaps in the wire that they were into the enemy trenches before their losses became severe. With some help from the 1st Norfolk they were able to overpower the enemy in brutal trench melee slowly rolling up the enemy line.
The other 3 British battalions involved in the attack approached trenches manned by the Prussian Guard and had a more difficult time. Machineguns roared into action as they encountered wire barriers that had been cut in only a few places. The Guard Corps had been the point of von Fabeck’s sword for much of this long battle and while they had accomplished much they had paid a steep price doing so. They had received some replacement troops now and then but that only made up for a fraction of their losses. In addition to their physical losses their indomitable spirit had suffered. Even their senior officers were admitting that they had lost much of their offensive power. Yet they remained a potent force on defense despite their fewer numbers.
The next few minutes were intense as the British infantry squeezed their way through the few gaps in the wire which drew the attention of the German maxims. The British casualties steadily mounted. Of those that managed to make it to the German trench only a few had Mills bombs. The rest were equipped with the cumbersome jam tin bombs. The Prussian Guards were outnumbered but there were enough to hold on while reserves were moved in. The British attack was therefore faltering when one company of the 1st Norfolk started to roll up the German trench line from the right. This turned the tide of the battle and allowed the British to capture most of the trench along with 3 machineguns but their heavy losses prevented from advancing any further.
There had been 4 British battalions being held as reserves to exploit success. However in the confusion of the night battle a clear picture of what was happening did not reach 1st Division’s headquarters until well after dawn. In the meantime they were unaware of the success of 1st Norfolk and most of what they were hearing was that the 3 battalions engaged with the Prussian Guards were taking heavy casualties. The second wave battalions merely waited in their jumping off trench for the orders to advance which never came.
------HQ British 13th (Western) Division Cappawhite (Tipperary) 0125 hrs
Soon after his telephone conversation with General Hamilton, General Wilson dispatched two motorcyclists to carry the same message to General Shaw, the commander of the 13th (Western) Division. One of them tried to use the most direct route and was ambushed by Irish rebels while passing through Hollyford. The other messenger used mostly back roads. It was raining steady and he nearly got stuck in mud twice but eventually made it to the division headquarters at Cappawhite. A few minutes earlier General Shaw had tried to get a little bit of sleep. The latest news he had about the current tactical situation was promising but also confusing. He doubted that he would be able to get a clear picture before dawn but encouraged by the success of the 40th Brigade. He therefore ordered the 9th Battalion Worcestershire to be moved from 39th Brigade to reinforce 40th Brigade in its attack on the German cavalry and the Irish rebels.
The Austro-Hungarians remained passive. Shaw had ordered another attempt be made to take the high ground to the north; this time using 3 battalions of the 38th Brigade.
The duty officer woke General Shaw, who took the letter sent by General Wilson.
Effective immediately all of VI Army Corps is withdrawing to the north. Your division is to cease all offensive operations and move back to a position just south of Templemore in an orderly fashion."
Shaw scratched his head. He had wondered what was going on with the rest of VI Army Corps. This message strongly hinted that it was not good. There had been no indication so far that the combined attacks of the Welsh Division, the 11th (Northern) Division and his own division were causing the Erzherzog Karl Division to collapse as General Wilson had confidently predicted. Interrogation of the few prisoners they had taken, did not substantiate the prevailing theory that morale of the Erzherzog Karl Division was very poor. If the rest of VI Army Corps was already withdrawing things could soon turn nasty for his division if he failed to do likewise. However realizing that to withdraw now was to give up any hope of rescuing the 8th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, General Shaw hesitated for a few minutes. Eventually he decided with great reluctance that he could not afford to jeopardize his entire division and possibly the entire Irish campaign for one battalion that may already be eradicated. Shaw quickly worked out a withdrawal plan and then issued the necessary orders.
------north of Cappawhite (Tipperary) 0140 hrs
Since arriving at Cork James Joyce had been used mostly by the divisional staff. As a result he had not seen any fighting up close. He had heard both incoming and outgoing artillery on more than one occasion but the former had never detonated close to where he was. Tonight though he was sent to the small mountain in the Hollyford Hills north of Cappawhite. The commander of the Czech battalion stationed there did not speak English, but needed to work with Hollyford Company and the 1st Cork Ersatz Company so Joyce was sent to make sure translation was not a problem. He arrived in time to witness the attack by the British 38th Brigade. He had been issued a rifle and was ordered to take his place in a trench occupied by the Hollyford Company. He introduced himself to the men in the trench.
"James Joyce, eh?" asked one of the Irish Volunteers, "I read a book called Dubliners written by a James Joyce a few months ago. You wouldn’t happen to that fellow."
"Oh, yes, that’s me," Joyce replied enthusiastically, "Might I ask if you liked it?"
The Irish Volunteer shrugged, "I have read worse."
Joyce was taken aback by this faint praise and his jaw dropped. He did not know how to respond. Finally he asked, "Was there anything in it that stood out one way or another?"
"Well you seemed to be making the point that people’s lives all seem to have one big moment---"
"---You two can discuss literature later," the platoon leader chided them, "The British are now making another attack. Wait until I give the word before opening fire."
Joyce wanted very much to discuss his work with this reader even though his life was now in some danger. He realized that attitude was both silly and dangerous but could not dispel it from his mind. He tried to focus on the battle. The moon was obscured by dense clouds but the battlefield was being illuminated by searchlight and flares in a way he found hellish yet strangely beautiful as well.
Swarms of soldiers in British uniforms tried to work their way up the steep gradient. The Austro-Hungarian minenwerfers suddenly commenced firing. Seconds later there were explosions in the midst of the enemy causing some of them to crumple to the ground. Then there came the unmistakable roaring sounds of machineguns. More of the enemy fell to the ground. The small mortars the Austro-Hungarians called priesterwerfers began to fire their small grenades. Joyce had found the name of the weapon amusing. There were some priests he had known that he would very much like to shoot out of a barrel.
"Fire!" yelled the commandant of Hollyford Company and the command was repeated by the platoon leaders. Joyce had received some hurried instruction in how to operate the Lee-Enfield rifles used by the Erzherzog Karl Division after volunteering to join the expedition. He put this to use but with his poor eyesight he doubted that he hit anyone.
There were two strands of barbed wire in front of their position. Even with his bad eyes, Joyce could see that some of the enemy were becoming entangled in the wire. It was also becoming clear that the attackers outnumbered the defenders and he became worried that they might not be able to hold them off indefinitely.
Suddenly the enemy stopped trying to advance. This was because General Shaw’s orders to withdraw had worked its way to the battalions involved in the attack. They scrambled back down the mountainside as best they could. The mountainside was littered with bodies some already dead others soon to be. Particularly ghastly were those trapped in the wire. Some were contorted into shapes he did not think a human body could assume.
"We were discussing your book," said the Irish Volunteer as he lit a cigarette, "I’m trying to remember what I was trying to say. Oh, I think it has to do with your characters all coming to have some sort of, oh what’s the bleedin’ word? Oh, I know---how about ‘revelation’? That’s it! They all come to some of big revelation in all your stories."
Joyce nodded vigorously, "Yes, that was exactly what I was trying to get across."
"What I wonder though is whether or not people do actually have that sort of experience in real life."
Joyce grinned slightly though there was a dark sadness in his eyes, "Oh, yes they do. It’s called an epiphany and I believe I just had one."
------Clonakilty (Cork) 0200 hrs
Two Jäger companies from the 10th Jäger Battalion had arrived at dusk to reinforce the 11th Uhlan Regiment and South Cork Battalion. Having been frustrated in his daylight attack by what he had expected to be a weak thoroughly demoralized enemy, the commander of the 11th Uhlan Regiment decided to try a night attack.
The attack now began with the Germans attacking from the east and southeast while the Irish Volunteers simultaneously attacked from the northwest. There had been some rain earlier in the evening and the heavy cloud cover remained to block out the bright moon. The defenders had expected a night attack but they thought it would most likely occur soon after last light. Some of them were now sleeping. They did not have any barbed wire. The attackers were therefore able to reach their improvised trenches without delay. These trenches turned out to be half flooded. This was due to the high water table this close to the coast as well the rain.
The Germans were well equipped with hand grenades which they put to good use but there was also a great deal of hand to hand combat inside the waterlogged trenches with several soldiers on both sides being killed by drowning. When they realized their position was hopeless some of the defenders tried to escape into the darkness. Some of those were slain in the attempt but a little more than 100 incl. some walking wounded, made it out in small disorganized bands. The rest were overwhelmed. Nearly 400 prisoners were taken, more than half of which were wounded. Once it was light the mounted troop of the 11th Uhlans and the bicycle platoon of the South Cork battalion tried to hunt down the British soldiers who had escaped. Meanwhile the prisoners were marched back towards Cork.
------Athlone (Westmeath) 0230 hrs
The Ulster Volunteers made another attempt to storm Athlone hoping to surprise the rebels while they were sleeping. The Athlone Battalions had learned about night attacks from their prior battles and were prepared. The Cavan and Longford Battalions were less experienced and therefore not as well prepared. However since its arrival Longford Battalion had not been assigned a place on the perimeter but was merely held in reserve. The 1st Athlone Battalion managed to repel the portion of the enemy attack directed at it with ease but the Ulster Volunteers succeeded in breaking into the defenses of Cavan Battalion. Half of Longford Battalion was hurriedly sent as reinforcements. This was enough to stem the progress of the Ulster Volunteers.
------Ballyconnell (Cavan) 0245 hrs
The major of the Highland Light Infantry who had been placed in charge of those Ulster Volunteers which had chased Heinrici’s forces, had been reluctant to attack what appeared to be a very strong defensive position. He was being pressured to make an attack by both the Ulster Volunteers under his command and more importantly General Maurice, the commander of the Northern Region. He decided to attack before first light, hoping that he might catch most of the rebels while they were sleeping.
And in fact most were sleeping, but Colonel Heinrici had established outposts and sentries against this contingency and those that were sleeping were soon wakened. One problem was that his forces had only a total of 3 flare pistols with a very limited supply of parachute flares. In his incursion into Ulster he made securing lanterns one of his priorities. Nevertheless there was insufficient illumination in the battle that ensued. The result was an extremely confused battle with many instances of Irish Volunteers mistakenly firing on Irish Volunteers and Ulster Volunteers firing on Ulster Volunteers. The attackers held only a small advantage in numbers which even in the dark were more than offset by Heinrici’s defenses. The fighting continued well into the twilight. It was only then that the U.V.F. commandants realized that they were getting the worse of the fight and they soon retreated
------ESE of Shavli (Lithuania) 0300 hrs
The German 2nd Infantry Division was continuing its attack on the right flank of the Russian 17th Infantry Division. The German 1st Infantry and 11th Landwehr Division now commenced a frontal attack on XIX Army Corps starting with an artillery bombardment. The 2nd Motorized Heavy Artillery Regiment which von Seeckt had ordered transferred from the Eleventh Army, had arrived during the night except for its single battery of 30.5cm howitzers which had lagged behind. Its four batteries of 15cm ex-naval guns and two batteries of 21cm Mörsers added considerably to the strength of the bombardment. The Russian batteries had very little ammunition left and therefore failed to return fire. The shallow cramped entrenchments of the Russian 17th and 38th Infantry Divisions were hard hit. The single strand of barbed wire in front of the Russian trenches was cut in several places.
The German 1st Infantry Division made the subsequent assault on the Russian 17th Infantry Division which already had its hands full with the attack its right flank. This elite Prussian unit quickly captured the devastated forward trench along with nearly 2,000 prisoners while suffering light casualties. Being hit from front and flank the 17th Infantry Division, which had already been seriously weakened in the unsuccessful attacks earlier in the battle, now began to disintegrate. Even though it was a first line division panic set in. The 2nd Infantry Division began to capture supply dumps and artillery.
The assault by the 11th Landwehr Division to the south had a more difficult time and took serious losses but it eventually managed to secure the forward trench, while pinning the 38th Infantry Division which prevented it from coming to the aid of the beleaguered 17th Infantry Division.
------Vilna (Lithuania) 0330 hrs
There had been street fighting in Vilna throughout the night with the Germans making negligible progress. Now that it was light they tried to advance methodically one city block at a time using medium and heavy minenwerfers to pulverize each block while their howitzers suppressed the Russian batteries. It was not a perfect solution as snipers perched in adjacent blocks remained a menace. It was also very ammunition intensive which meant that the Germans could not sustain it for very long. It also had the drawback of destroying bit by bit a city they hoped to exploit. Some progress was made but it became clear to General von Mackensen that he was not going to eliminate the enemy garrison before the infantry of the Second Army arrived at his cordon.
------Prishtina (Serbia) 0330 hrs GMT
General Godley had decided to let his men get some badly needed sleep after their long hard march instead of making a night attack. The New Zealand and Australian Division now resumed its attack. This time Godley threw the most of 4th Australian Brigade at the enemy from the east while simultaneously attacking them from west with the New Zealand Brigade. Because the New Zealand and Australian Division was running very low on artillery shells the preliminary bombardment lasted only 10 minutes and did little more than warn the Ottoman defenders that another attack was imminent. Being short on shells themselves the batteries of the Ottoman 26th Division decided against trying to counter the enemy artillery.
The battle that ensued was therefore decided by infantry not artillery. Some of the Australian cavalry squadrons made feints on horseback towards the southern portion of the enemy positions before the shelling had stopped. The real attacks were those of the two infantry brigades which General Godley expected to completely crush the pathetic Turks as if they were in a vise. The attackers were greeted by a few machineguns and some very determined rifle fire. Undaunted by horrific losses the Australians pressed on and came to grips with the enemy in some very brutal trench fire. Meanwhile the New Zealand Brigade had come under fire from some of the Ottoman batteries. This did not immediately break up the attack but when the losses from machineguns and rifle fire was added to it the result was that the brigadier in charge of the New Zealanders called off his attack while the Australians were still heavily engaged. When this became evident the commander of the 26th Division committed a battalion he had been holding in reserve inside the city to counterattack the Australians who had overrun a section of the Ottoman forward trench. The counterattack failed to retake the lost section of trench but blunted the Australian momentum and shored up the wavering morale of the mehmetçiks who then reduced the extent of the Australian gains by squeezing it from the flanks.
------Abbeville (Picardy) 0430 hrs
General von Fabeck, the commander of Sixth Army ordered a continuation of the attack on Abbeville but narrowed its scope concentrating on the section east of the city, with cutting the important Rue de Doullens as its primary objective. The German bombardment now began. It involved almost a third less guns than it had the day before. It drew no response from the British batteries most of which concentrated near the coast to support I Army Corps’ attempts to reopen communications with First Army. While less German guns were involved it was concentrated on a smaller target area in a 4.5 kilometer arc running ENE from L’Heure up to the Belgian 5th Division, which was northwest of St. Riquier.
------Galicia 0500 hrs
It was pouring rain east of Przemysl and the meteorologists of the Central Powers were predicting that it would last well into the afternoon. General von Linsingen did not want Center Army to attack in this weather. He also wanted another day to build up his stockpile of artillery shells and to integrate some German replacement troops which had arrived yesterday into II Army Corps. Conrad was not completely happy with this decision and ordered his Fourth and Second Armies to attack despite the weather. General von Auffenberg, the commander of Fourth Army agreed with von Linsingen and so protested the orders but Conrad was adamant.
Both armies began their attack with a lengthy bombardment. The bombardment of the Austro-Hungarian Fourth Army again concentrated on the Russian 31st Infantry Division which lay on the far left of the Russian Third Army. The Second Army likewise bombarded the right wing of General Brusilov’s Eighth Army. Both of these Russian armies remained desperately low on artillery shells with Eighth Army having the added burden of trying to assist General Lechitski’s Ninth Amy in the Bukovina with its left wing so neither army tried to duel but instead waited for the blackleg infantry to appear.
The reduced visibility robbed the Austrian batteries of much of their sting. The subsequent assault by the Austro-Hungarian infantry ran into trouble as they advanced into the mud of no man’s land. The attack of Fourth Army had slightly greater success because the Russian 31st Infantry Division had been so severely hurt yesterday. They were only able to advance one kilometer and paid dearly doing so. Second Army fared even worse and was unable to take any ground whatsoever.
------HQ Armee Abteilung François Buttevant (Cork) 0545 hrs
For several hours the news reaching General von François had been troubling. General von Unger, the commander of the 7th Cavalry Division, had reported that a British counterattack had routed the Tipperary Volunteers and was enveloping his left flank. Feldmarschalleutnant Krauss in turn admitted some uncertainty about being able to hold off renewed attacks from both the north and the east. Likewise General von Gyssling continued to worry about the infantry of the 6th Bavarian Division being worn down to a level where they would be unable to adequately protect their artillery much less conduct offensive operations. General von François had wanted to move his headquarters north to Charleville soon after dawn but delayed that move until the current crisis was resolved.
In the last few minutes though reports that the enemy was withdrawing started to reach his headquarters. The latest confirmation of this came from the observer aboard an airplane that had taken off in the predawn twilight and just landed. Initially it had been unclear whether or not the 13th (Western) Division was participating in the retirement but now there was some evidence that they were withdrawing as well.
"General von Gyssling believes that this is a British ruse to lure us out of our trenches and then pounce upon us in the open," stated Major von Rundstedt who was still General von François’ acting chief of staff, "So far all he has done is to occupy the trenches and strongpoints abandoned by the enemy."
The general shook his head wearily, "General von Gyssling was a skillful aggressive commander for the first three weeks of this campaign but he has lost his boldness of late."
"I think that he has lost his boldness mostly because he has lost so many of his men, Your Excellency. He is rightfully apprehensive about what would happen in an open field infantry battle against a British division close to full strength."
"Yes, that point has some validity but nevertheless I find his caution to be excessive. It was one reason why the Lowland Division escaped total destruction. I would point out that Brigade Hell has suffered its share of losses but it is advancing nonetheless."
"Oberst Hell advanced only four kilometers then stopped Your Excellency. He is reluctant to move any further north until both the Naval Division and 6th Bavarian Division are advancing alongside him."
"Kindly remind me why the Naval Division is not advancing?"
"They are erecting a pontoon bridge over the Mulkear, Your Excellency."
"That river can be forded in some places. It is obvious that General Jacobsen is stalling as well."
"He took heavy losses during the Siege of Limerick, Your Excellency, and is currently missing one of his regiments. Compounding that an inadequate number of draught horses is restricting his mobility."
"He would have more horses if he didn’t eat so many during the siege!"
Major von Rundstedt did not reply to that. He was usually very unemotional in a stiff Prussian way but the general had come to know the subtleties of his mannerisms and realized that his last remark was making him uncomfortable. Perhaps it came across as heartless the general silently conceded to himself I know that things got grim inside Limerick during the last days of the siege. Let’s not belabor this. "I am going to order General Jacobsen via telephone to move at least 2 of his battalions by fording to cover the left flank of the Brigade Hell and to make a full scale pursuit of what’s left of Lowland Division once the pontoon bridge is complete. However what concerns me most is what to do with our Austrian friends. Last we heard Krauss was finally feeling secure about his northern position and moving forces from there to reinforce the key high ground north of Cappawhite."
The major nodded slightly, "The forces he has on that high ground are in the best position to harass the enemy’s withdrawal, Your Excellency."
"I agree with that. Krauss should concentrate his efforts on attacking the 13th Division as it retreats."
"The 7th Cavalry Division should be used to harassing the enemy’s rear and right flank, Your Excellency. With luck they can capture some supply wagons maybe even some artillery."
The general started to nod but then stopped just as he was about to say something. Instead he studied the map while tapping his cheek. The major had also become well acquainted with the general’s mannerisms and knew that something was fermenting inside his skull. After the better part of the minute the general grinned broadly and rubbed his hands together saying, "As usual your tactical doctrine is quite sound, but in this instance it would be better if we think strategically.
Major von Rundstedt had been getting too little sleep for over a week now and was tired though he tried his Junker best not to show it. What the general was driving at escaped him. "What do you have in mind, Your Excellency?"
"General von Unger, if he has not done so already, should see if Cashel has been abandoned. And if he finds it to be occupied but only by a weak enemy force, he should make a serious effort to overwhelm them."
The major’s right eyebrow lifted slightly. He still was unclear about what von François was thinking. "Cashel does have some importance as a communication center, Your Excellency. Does it have some special prestige amongst the Irish that I am not aware of?"
"There is a little bit of that according to Plunkett but it is not what I am focusing on. The 7th Cavalry Division should put some effort into harassing the 13th Division as it retreats but only for a few hours while it secures Cashel as jumping off point. After that it is to make a dash to the city of Kilkenny."
------Abbeville (Picardy) 0600 hrs
The German bombardment ended. In the last half hour it had included minenwerfers. They also used the improved T-shell again in the last few minutes of the bombardment and continued using it during the assault which was made by 8 Bavarian battalions. Once again the crowding of the forward British trench resulted in heavy losses for them. They had only been able to put up 2 strands of barbed wire since yesterday in this sector.
At the far left of the German assault they found that the Belgians had once again abandoned their forward trench during the bombardment. The Bavarians captured the abandoned trench with little difficulty but encountered stiff opposition when they tried to advance any further. In the British sector it was a different story. Most of what infantry the battered IV Army Corps had left had been jammed into the forward trench. A quarter of those were dead or dying after the bombardment. Most of the rest were wounded or at least dazed. The few that were still effective put up a determined fight though. The wire had been cut in several places and enough Bavarians squeezed through to eliminate enemy resistance with grenades and bayonets plus the usual assortment of improvised trench fighting weapons. With the forward trench secured the Bavarians continued their advance. On the right near L’Heure they tried to advance down the Rue de Prés heading straight into the heart of Abbeville. After progressing a kilometer they came under very heavy fire from both artillery and machineguns.
It was in the center of the German assault that they achieved the greatest success. Two Bavarian battalions made their way south from Caours and succeeded in cutting the Route de Doullens which connects Abbeville and St. Riquier. Another battalion took the town of Neufmolin. Soon after this the IV Army Corps launched a fierce counterattack. This failed to dislodge the Bavarians from the Route de Doullens though it did retake Neufmolin.
------west of Banagher (Galway) 0605 hrs
The Marine Cavalry Squadron had been ordered to take Banagher Bridge yesterday afternoon but they had encountered determined opposition by 65 constables, who were ensconced inside the Napoleonic era fortifications on the west bank, Fort Eliza, Cromwell’s Castle (which as its name suggests dated back to the 17th century but had been extensively modified in 1817) and a Martello Tower. All of these structures had been abandoned in the late 19th century and were in some disrepair and lacked provisions but nevertheless they still held some value as defensive positions. Cumulative casualties had reduced the Marine Cavalry Squadron to less than a hundred men and this was too few to overcome the fairly well prepared constables.
Just before sunrise the cyclist company of the 183rd Infantry Brigade arrived. They made a combined assault along with the cavalrymen but were easily rebuffed by the R.I.C. The rest of the 183rd Infantry Brigade was now in place incl. its lone field artillery battery. The only elements of the 111th Infantry Division to arrive so far was its two squadrons of dragoons and these were not being used in the current attack.
The 7.7cm guns now opened up on Cromwell’s Castle and Fort Eliza firing Einheitgeschoss which had a quarter kg. bursting charge. This caused some very minor damage to both forts, but it was enough to unnerve the constables inside Cromwell’s Castle who surrendered before long. Fort Eliza did not surrender though their rifle fire was largely suppressed by the shelling. This allowed a German Maxim to be moved far enough forward where it could be used very effectively to further suppress the R.I.C. The Martello Tower remained a nuisance. The 7.7cm field guns that had been shelling Cromwell’s Castle eventually turned their attention to the tower which suppressed them as well.
Once that had been accomplished General Schußler committed two battalions of the 184th Infantry Regiment to fording the Shannon. This took some time and was not easy. Three of his soldiers drowned in the process. An additional 30 constables had arrived in the last half hour. There were antiquated fortifications on the east bank of the Shannon as well but instead of manning those the new arrivals tried instead to cross the bridge in a brave attempt to reinforce the constables already on the west bank. A few had made it across the bridge but others died in the attempt and more still were pinned down by German machineguns and snipers. When they belatedly became aware that a large force of Germans were fording the Shannon, their morale shattered. Some ran away. The rest soon surrendered. The German infantry which had forded the Shannon captured the bridge with ease. The resistance by the constables on the west bank continued for two more hours interfering with the Germans trying to cross the river. The constables had been sent into battle with insufficient ammunition for an extended engagement and when they became excited they tended to fire their Lee-Enfield’s as rapidly as possible with poor accuracy. The men in Fort Eliza soon ran low on bullets and surrendered while the Martello Tower surrendered later when the howitzer batteries of the 111th Infantry Division arrived and began to blast it with their more powerful shells.
As the 183rd Infantry Brigade was eliminating the last of the R.I.C. a band of 80 British soldiers from the 3rd Battalion Leinster Regiment together with a dozen Royal Engineers amply equipped with explosives approached Banagher from the southwest. These had orders to hold the bridge if at all possible and to destroy it if not. When they discover that they were very badly outnumbered they beat a hasty retreat towards the town of Birr.
------Nolette (Picardy) 0615 hrs
Neither the British nor German generals had a clear picture about what had happened during the British night attack at Nolette until after dawn. The Germans did manage to seal the small but dangerous gap between the 1st Guard Division and the 42nd Infantry Division. They also made two medium sized counterattacks which failed to dislodge the British. Finally realizing that the night attack was more successful than first thought General Munro ordered the 4 battalions that had been held in reserve during the night be committed. These orders were now carried out. The problem was that it was now light and the German artillery in this sector had become active. General von Fabeck had been focused on his attack ENE of Abbeville but his attention returned to Nolette once he learned that the British had been more successful than first reported at Nolette.
The British artillery tried to fight the German guns once it became clear they were preventing the 4 battalions from moving forward. There were two problems with this. The first was that the Germans in this sector still held a modest advantage in the number of heavy weapons, esp. heavy howitzers The second and perhaps more serious problem was that the British batteries had used up most of their ammunition yesterday and had too little left to engage their German counterparts in a protracted duel.
------Old Admiralty Building 0725 hrs
Carson had just arrived. "Have there been any significant developments in my absence, Admiral Callaghan?"
The First Sea Lord sighed slightly, "An inbound freighter struck a mine in the Moray Firth last night, First Lord. Fortunately she managed to make it into Inverness under her own power. Sadly two sailors were killed."
Carson shook his head and rolled his eyes in frustration, then replied, "I can’t believe that we have not yet completed the minesweeping of Moray Firth. Is this by any chance a new minefield? Admiral Oliver is there any light you can shed on this?"
"If you are asking whether we have any intelligence about the Germans laying more mines in Moray Firth, then the answer is ‘No’, First Lord," Admiral Oliver answered, "But as to whether or not a new minefield is possible, then I would have to say, ‘Yes it is possible’."
"Fair enough, but is it likely? We are permitting a resumption of sea traffic along the coast of Scotland starting at noon today. I want some reassurance that the risks are minimal."
"We have been over this before, First Lord. When mines are laid over a broad area even after several passes over the area with our minesweepers there is some chance that a few mines get missed. Yes, regrettably another freighter was damaged but many, many more merchantmen are reaching port unmolested. So in my professional opinion while there is obviously some risk to our coasters from mines in the Moray Firth it is small enough to be acceptable," said Callaghan.
Carson thought that over for a few seconds and decided to move on to other topics, "Is Dover Patrol being reinforced as we discussed yesterday?"
"Yes, First Lord. Four destroyers from Firth Patrol and four torpedoboats from Tyne Patrol are on their way to Dover as we speak."
"Hopefully they will help Admiral Bacon weaken the High Seas Fleet long with our mines and submarines."
"That is what we are hoping as well, First Lord."
"Did the convoy leave Malta this morning escorted by the Duncan class battleships as scheduled?"
"Yes, it did, First Lord," replied Callaghan.
"Are we at all worried that with all this recent chatter about Spain possibly joining the Central Powers they might use their navy to attack this convoy?"
Admiral Wilson chose to answer that, "There has been some hypothetical discussion involving possible scenarios, First Lord. The Espana is technically a dreadnought but she is a weak one. We do not think it is likely that the Spanish would risk her in such a risky operation. A night torpedo attack is a little more likely though not under conditions of bright moonlight."
"More likely still is that Prime Minister defuses the Spanish Crisis altogether next week," commented Admiral Callaghan.
"Let us hope so," remarked Admiral Jackson, "If the Spanish embargo lasts much longer it will begin to have a serious impact on our shipbuilding program."
Carson chafed with this talk. In the last 24 hours he had heard many people blather endlessly about what an improvement Balfour was going to be over the now vilified Bonar Law and it was beginning to annoy him. He still felt some loyalty to his friend, Andrew and he worried that Balfour could turn out to be the Tory version of Asquith. The fact that he was going to reinstate the ponderous and intractable meetings of the full Cabinet starting this morning did not bode well. Another serious problem with Balfour was that his Unionism was a bit shaky in Carson’s estimation. This was of course one reason so many Liberals were willing to support him. "We can only hope and pray that this silly little crisis with Spain dissipates quickly," he finally said, "When the Mediterranean convoy arrives at Liverpool what do you intend to do with the escorts?"
"Admiral Bayly believes it may be necessary to attach them to the Grand Fleet for a few months, First Lord.," replied Wilson.
"Really? The Duncan class are rather weakly armored to be serving in the line of battle," asked Carson.
"First Lord, Admiral Bayly has warned us that the battle which destroys the High Seas Fleet will probably result in several of our battleships being sunk with most of the rest being badly damaged and therefore in the yards for several months. He wants to use the Duncan class to pad out the Grand Fleet after the battle."
"If we do not have an urgent need for them elsewhere I am willing to go along with him on this," said Carson.
------Council of Ministers Paris 0805 hrs
"There have been some developments in the crisis with Spain," Premier Clemenceau informed the Council of Ministers, "In a few hours one of our divisions will move into Andorra taking up positions on its southern border. Yesterday I discussed this matter at length with President Poincaré, who is formally one of the cosovereigns of that little anachronism. I reminded him that Andorra is already a declared ally of France in the current war which completely justifies our actions. The president was persuaded to go along with my policy. He was gone so far as to send a public letter to the citizens of Andorra which is now being distributed there in preparation for the occupation."
Most of the ministers were uneasy about this sudden revelation. Besides Clemenceau the only one of them that knew of this was Theophile Delcassé, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Clemenceau had only informed him of his plans to occupy Andorra late yesterday afternoon after talking with the president. Delcassé was not very happy with the idea of occupying Andorra and had raised some objections to its legality which Clemenceau dismissed as legalistic hair splitting. Delcassé then tried to persuade Clemenceau to postpone the occupation until at least Monday giving him more time to resolve the crisis through diplomacy. Clemenceau not only rejected a postponement but also sternly forbade Delcassé from airing his misgivings before the other ministers.
Aristide Briand, the Minister of Justice, looked hard at Delcassé who very deliberately avoided eye contact, which added to Briand’s anxiety. "Isn’t this action at least a little bit premature, prime minister?" he asked, "The British have a new prime minister, M. Balfour. He has been prime minister before and we know that he can be very smooth unlike the abrasive M. Bonar Law. There is considerable speculation in the newspapers that Balfour can end the Spanish crisis with skillful diplomacy. Surely we should wait until he has some time before doing something as provocative as occupying Andorra, n’est ca-pas?" After speaking he turned again to Delcassé again and briefly caught his gaze. What Briand saw etched on his face led him to believe that the prime minister had already heard what he had just said.
"By then the Spanish will have completed their mobilization! They may well seize Andorra as a jumping off point if we do not do so first!" roared Clemenceau while glaring daggers at Briand.
"Even with control of Andorra it will be difficult for them to launch an effective invasion," countered Briand, "What they have gained through mobilization will be lost bashing themselves against our mountain defenses."
"In the meantime they will lay siege to Gibraltar with potentially dire consequences," replied the prime minister.
"Gibraltar is a powerful fortress, prime minister. It should be able to hold out for months, maybe indefinitely."
"Perhaps but dare we take that chance? Or the chance that Spain joining the Central Powers without being quickly punished will encourage Italy to do likewise?"
Briand looked again at Delcassé and asked, "I would like to hear what the Foreign Minister has to say on this matter."
Delcassé took a very deep breath, before replying, "We must be careful to make it clear to the government of Spain that we have no desire to go to war with them so our temporary occupation of Andorra is not in any way misinterpreted."
Briand and some of the other ministers thought that the foreign minister wanted to say much more but was being intimidated by Clemenceau, who now said, "To make things clear I will deliver a speech this afternoon. I will start by saying that France wants to be a good neighbor and a friend to the Spanish people. After that I will proceed to make some deliberately vague remarks about ‘certain elements’ in the Spanish government embarking on a path that is not in the best interests of the Spanish. I will not mention any names. From there I will go on to insist that Spanish government cease its mobilization and resume its trade with all of our allies. I will warn them that failure to do so will have ‘serious consequences’. I will not use the word ‘war’ though. I do not want to be provocative though I do want to demonstrate the firmness of our resolve." Clemenceau did want to tell the ministers that as a precondition giving his consent to the occupation of Andorra, President Poincaré had insisted that they work out together an outline to Clemenceau’s speech. The result was not as strongly worded as Clemenceau had originally intended.
"And what if anything do you intend to say about Andorra?" asked Briand.
"I am still working on the exact words but they will be to the effect that we wished to safeguard them from the horrors of invasion."
"What? So what you are saying is that we are going to invade them to save them from invasion?" countered Briand.
------SMS Seeadler 26° 14’S 10° 33’ E 0835 hrs
The Seeadler had taken her fourth prize this morning, a 1,150 ton sailing vessel out of Capetown hauling wool. As usual Luckner tried to treat the crew of the prize as humanely as possible under the circumstances. They told him that Windhoek had been captured by South African forces recently which made Seeadler’s crew feel sad. However they also learned that Lettow-Vorbeck was still holding on to Nairobi which was very heartening as well as being more germane to their mission.
In the coming week Luckner planned to pass the Cape of Good Hope.
------Banagher (King’s) 0850 hrs
After eliminating the R.I.C. and gaining control of Banagher Bridge the rest of the 183rd Infantry Brigade quickly crossed the Shannon followed by the 111st Infantry Division. Both units were allowed to rest in Banagher where they began to organize and arm a small company of Irish Volunteers. The men and draught animals of 183rd Infantry Brigade were not as exhausted as those of the 111th Infantry Division so they now left Banagher heading for Birr with their cyclist company in the van.
A British warplane suddenly dropped out of the dense clouds. Its observer dropped two small bombs by hand. Some of the German infantrymen fired on the plane. They did not hit it but forced it back up into the clouds.
"We had set our hearts on visiting County Tipperary next. We knew that the British like to sing a song called ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’ when they are marching. We were all amused that while the British soldiers lamented about being a long way from it we were very close to it and would soon be in it. We wondered if the British even sang that song while they were in County Tipperary so we asked some prisoners we had taken both in County Limerick and County Clare. Some of them said that their unit never sang that song while in Ireland while others said that they did even while they were in Tipperary.
To our great surprise then the next county that we visited was not the fabled Tipperary but something called King’s County. We crossed the mighty Shannon River not at Portumna but at town called Banagher. On both sides of the river there were very interesting old fortifications. The British had erected most of these these back when they were afraid that the French might try to exploit the situation in Ireland. We had learned that in the past first the Spanish and then the French had attempted what we were now doing."
------Ernst Junger, Storm of Steel
------10 Downing St. 0905 hrs
Prime Minister Arthur Balfour had summoned his entire Cabinet to a meeting. "Under my predecessor there were only meetings of the War Committee never the full Cabinet, which struck me as excessive," he told them, "Under my tutelage I intend to strike a middle course. The War Committee will continue to make most of those decisions where time is of the essence but the collective wisdom of the Cabinet is an intellectual resource too precious to be ignored. I therefore intend to periodically convene this august body though not as often as Asquith did."
The prime minister paused. He looked at Carson and Lloyd-George. Neither of them seemed to be very happy this instant. He knew that they regarded Cabinet meetings as a waste of time. Balfour then looked at some members of the Cabinet that were not members of the War Committee. Those seemed very pleased to be able to offer ideas once again.
"Before we get started there are two new members of the Cabinet that I need to introduce. The first is Mr. Arthur Henderson, who will serve as a Minister without Portfolio," said Balfour. Henderson stood up briefly and bowed his head in acknowledgement then said, "The Labour Party is happy to serve King and Country in this time of great peril. My party and I will do everything in our power to see this war brought to a satisfactory conclusion."
"Well spoken, Henderson, well spoken," said the prime minister, who then pointed to another man, "The other new face amongst you is Mr. Henry Duke, who is the new Chief Secretary for Ireland replacing the unfortunate Mr. Birrell. He will be leaving for Ireland tomorrow where as you can well imagine he will have his work cut out for him. So we will unfortunately have only today to listen to his ideas in person."
Soon after the Germans landed in Ireland, it was widely accepted in Parliament that Birrell should be sacked. However Bonar Law had been frustrated in finding a suitable replacement who would accept that difficult assignment. Duke had been one of the people he had considered but Duke had hesitated in accepting it. Though he was a Unionist Duke found Bonar Law’s brand of Unionism too severe. He was quickly persuaded to take the post by Balfour, who had once served as the Chief Secretary of Ireland.
"I shall endeavor to do my very best to administer Ireland under these most difficult of circumstances, prime minister," replied Duke.
"And do not be afraid to give the Lord Lieutenant a swift kick in the pants when he deserves it," Kitchener commented, "You should remind him at least once a day that his role is largely ceremonial."
Balfour was all too aware of the longstanding enmity between Kitchener and Curzon. He knew that this was going be a problem as it had been for Bonar Law. "Uh, try to work with the Viceroy as much as possible," he told Duke, "and of course with General Hamilton as well. Unpleasant as it sounds, Sir Ian is the important personage in Ireland right now. From what I’ve been told Lord Curzon has had some trouble accepting that fact."
"He has been a thorn in General Hamilton’s side, prime minister, and it is only getting worse," grumbled Kitchener, "You should seriously consider replacing him as well."
Balfour sighed slightly before saying, "I will look in the matter when I have the time, Lord Kitchener. If and when I find that the facts are as you say they are, then I shall definitely consider replacing Lord Curzon. However that is not on my very long list of tasks that need to be done as quickly as possible. At the top of the list is what is happening in Ireland and the rescue of First Army in France. Could you kindly bring us up to date about both of those situations?"
Kitchener frowned slightly then answered, "In Ireland General Hamilton has called off an attack against the Austrian division on the right flank of the enemy line---"
"---yes I recall you mentioning that attack yesterday, you said it would roll up the enemy line. So I take it that it did not work out as planned?"
"That is correct, prime minister."
"And what about the situation in County Galway? Did we smash the German and American units landed at Galway Bay?"
"We inflicted heavy losses on them, prime minister, but then the Germans erupted out of Limerick which posed a threat to the West Riding Division which was forced to curtail its attack and retire behind the Shannon."
"Retire behind the Shannon, you say? Won’t that give the enemy effective control of Counties Clare, Galway and Roscommon?"
Kitchener fidgeted slightly and frowned, "Unfortunately that is largely true, prime minister. However I would point that once the U.V.F. liberate Athlone they can at least eradicate the rebels in County Roscommon."
"I thought the Ulster Volunteers were supposed to liberate Athlone yesterday."
Kitchener’s frown transformed itself in a scowl, "The liberation of Athlone from the papists is taking longer than expected, prime minister but I have not the slightest doubt as to the outcome."
"Are religious slurs really necessary, field marshal?" asked the prime minister in a critical voice. This resulted in tense half minute as Kitchener remained silent but glared back at Balfour. Carson who was there realized that the new prime minister was making it clear that while he was a Unionist he was of a different stripe than his predecessor. Carson surmised that the same thought was probably occurring to Kitchener but the field marshal was stubbornly refusing to acknowledge it.
"I asked you a question, Lord Kitchener," said an impatient Balfour.
"I was merely being candid, prime minister,"
"No, Lord Kitchener, you were being disparaging. There is a difference. If we are to have any hope of rescuing Ireland from its current calamity then I strongly suggest that everyone in this room understand that difference. I sincerely hope that I shall not have to repeat myself in this regard," said Balfour who then paused for a few seconds before continuing, "Now then we were discussing the Irish campaign. I am afraid that I still getting the impression that with the failure of our recent attack on the enemy’s right flank we have once again lost the initiative in Ireland. Am I correct in that perception or am I missing something?"
Kitchener’s features were a taut mask of barely repressed anger from being rebuked simply for calling the despicable papists what they were. He answered through clenched teeth, "Your perception is unfortunately correct, prime minister, but General Hamilton should be able to regain the initiative before too long."
"Perhaps but it seems to me that there is a long list of things Sir Ian should have been able to accomplish that he has failed to do."
-----Dundrum (Tipperary) 0920 hrs
When it became clear the enemy was retreating the 1st and 2nd Tipperary Battalions did not immediately pursue. Captain Eamon O’Duibhir was now giving a speech to most of the men of the 1st and 2nd Tipperary Battalions, "A month ago to the day on this very spot the Tipperary Volunteers inflicted a crushing defeat on the Ulstermen from which they and their English friends have never recovered. Some of you were there and remember. Now we have won another great victory over the British. The enemy realizes that he is beaten and is fleeing from our wrath. Soon we will drive the rascals out of County Tipperary altogether."
The last sentence generated an enthusiastic response from the audience. O’Duibhir paused before continuing nodding his head in satisfaction then said, "And when we are done with that we are going to march to Dublin!"
This brought on still more cheering from the crowd. O’Duibhir continued, "After that we are going to march north to Ulster, the heartland of the Orangemen and end their tyranny once and for all!"
This brought audience to its feet with most of them yelling various things incl. "Kill the Orangemen!"
Towards the rear of the crowd Major Weise, the commandant of the 1st Tipperary Battalion and Major Vopel, the commandant of the 2nd Tipperary Battalion were listening to O’Duibhir speak. "Have you heard anything about a march on Dublin or is this merely an Irishman’s dream?" Vopel asked Weise.
"The latter. The Irish have a fertile imagination. For one thing I have learned the correct version of what happened here a month ago. A British battalion was on the verge of exterminating the Tipperary Volunteers when the 16th Uhlan Regiment which was reconnoitering nearby intervened, turning things around."
"Yes I have heard that as well. Despite being saved by the Uhlans here, O’Duibhir later chose to deliberately disobey the orders of their commander. I am surprised you still have him in your unit."
"Removing him completely would create too much controversy. Many of these Tipperary Volunteers look up to him. I was told that Major Rommel had no problems with him and so far neither have I, so maybe he is improving."
"You said you had orders from General Unger," Vopel inquired.
"Yes, he is attacking Cashel as we speak and wants your battalion to march there as quickly as possible to assist."
"Hmm. Cashel. Not what I was expecting though it is a communications center of some importance. It should be at most a secondary objective if the 7th Cavalry Division is to harass and pursue the enemy as it retreats."
"Ah, but it appears that is not its primary mission. The orders are for your battalion after Cashel is taken is to guard the Austrian right flank as they chase after the enemy but I have been warned that the 7th Cavalry Division will not be on your immediate right. So that means more of the responsibility for guarding Krauss’ right flank will fall on your shoulders."
"This is a great responsibility but it is also a bit strange. Sometimes generals do things I cannot begin to fathom. What task have they assigned your battalion?"
"There is an important piece of high ground about six miles south of Thurles called Killough Hill. The Feldmarschalleutnant wants it for an observation post. Using its reverse slope those long range Italian made 75mm guns he has can hit Thurles.
"That is an ambitious mission. Well at least you will have the armored train supporting you."
Weise frowned at that then shook his head, "I wish that it were indeed so, but I have been warned against counting on the armored train.. It appears that the armored train may be going somewhere else."
-------HQ British 13th (Western) Division Thurles (Tipperary) 1015 hrs
The withdrawal of the 13th (Western) Division was not easy but it was going a little bit better than General Shaw, the division’s commander, had feared. He still had heard nothing from the 8th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers and sadly concluded that it had probably been wiped out by the German cavalry. The blacklegs were belatedly emerging from their trenches to pursue him but so far were taking their time. There had been halfhearted skirmishing with some of the Czech soldiers that had emerged from the high ground north of Cappawhite, but that was it. Shaw was glad that the enemy was not pursuing more vigorously as most of his own men were exhausted. While his orders were to pull back all the way to Templemore the general intended to let his men get some badly needed rest holding a temporary line around Thurles.
One benefit of the withdrawal so far was that the 13th (Western) Division had reestablished a secure line of communications to VI Army Corps. That meant they were now getting supplies again. Shaw did not yet have a working telephone line to General Wilson, but there was a functioning telegraph line. One of the soldiers of the signal company now delivered him the following message.
LET ME KNOW IMMEDIATELY AS TO WHETHER YOU BELIEVE YOU CAN KEEP THE ENEMY OUT OF ARTILERY RANGE OF THURLES TRAIN STATION REPEAT LET ME KNOW IMMEDIATELY AS TO WHETHER YOU BELIEVE YOU CAN KEEP THE ENEMY OUT OF ARTILERY RANGE OF THURLES TRAIN STATION STOP IF YOU CAN I INTEND TO MOVE BY RAIL ONE BRIGADE OF INFANTRY AND ANOTHER OF FIELD ARTILLERY FROM YOUR DIVISION TO ROSCREA REPEAT IF YOU CAN I INTEND TO MOVE BY RAIL ONE BRIGADE OF INFANTRY AND ANOTHER OF FIELD ARTILLERY FROM YOUR DIVISION TO ROSCREA STOP
Roscrea? Why Roscrea? A bewildered General Shaw asked himself. He had not yet been informed of the Germans crossing the Shannon at Banagher. He was glad that his men would have even more time to rest near Thurles but he did not like the thought of losing that much of his strength. He sent the immediate reply as ordered then tried to figure out which brigade to part with.
------east of Vilna (Lithuania) 1030 hrs
The first element of the Russian Second Army to try to rescue the besieged garrison at Vilna was the XXXV Army Corps. It had detrained at Molodetchtno. Two of its three divisions were now clumsily assembled for an attack after a grueling march. The corps’ third division had detrained a day later and would not arrive until tomorrow. General Smirnov had ordered the corps commander not to wait for the third division to catch up but to attack as quickly as possible. All of the divisions of the XXXV Army Corps were 2nd line divisions. More than a third of their infantry lacked a rifle and all of them were poorly trained. They were led by officers and NCO’s lacking in both quantity and quality. Their artillerists were better trained than their infantry but not as good as those in 1st line divisions.
The cordon that the Eleventh Army had set up around Vilna consisted of 5 rings of trenches. The outer three rings were weakly held by cavalry divisions while the inner two rings were held by VIII Army Corps and the XXIV Reserve Corps. General Smirnov continued to believe that attacking with great concentration along a very narrow sector was the key to success in trench warfare. He therefore ordered XXXV Army Corps to attack along a 2 verst wide sector of the outermost trench line. This fell completely on the 5th Cavalry Division. General von Mackensen knew that even entrenched it was next to impossible for a cavalry division to fend off 2 infantry divisions. He therefore ordered General von Hydebreck the commander of the 5th Cavalry Division to man his forward trench very thinly with the idea of delaying rather the stopping the enemy.
The Russian XXXV Army Corps commenced its bombardment. Their howitzer battalion had only 2 batteries of 5" howitzers instead of the usual establishment of 3 batteries. Each of the divisions were equipped with 36 Putilov 3" m/02 field guns. Due to the importance Northwestern Front assigned to this operation this corps were better supplied with artillery shells than most Russian 1st line corps. The bombardment lasted 20 minutes and concentrated mostly on the forward trench. The horse artillery of the 5th Cavalry Division held its fire waiting for the Russian infantry. The cavalrymen in the forward trench steadily snaked their way back to the second trench during the bombardment.
The Russian infantry charged forward in a densely packed mass once their guns went silent. The German horse artillery now opened fire on them as the enemy advanced. Their shrapnel shells inflicted some losses as the Russian soldiers struggled to overcome the German wire barrier. Those that made it through discovered an abandoned trench. After that there was some confusion on the part of the regimental commanders as to what they should do next. One of them ordered his entire regiment to continue the advance immediately. Two of his battalions quickly emerged from the captured trench and tried to take the second trench. These soon discovered that most of the 5th Cavalry Division incl. all of its machinegun detachment was ready and waiting in the second trench. They had been reinforced by a brigade of the 9th Cavalry Division which lay on their right flank. Combined with the horse artillery this was too much firepower for them to overcome and they soon retreated back into the trench they had captured.
------Nish (Serbia) 1055 hrs
The Germans had constructed an armored train at Belgrade in the last week hoping to use it to force open the rail line to Nish. When Esat Pasha informed them via wireless of his success the German Tenth Army ordered the armored train which was loaded with provisions to try to reach Nish. It progressed slowly until it reached a spot 25 km from Nish where the Serbs had cut a section of the track. The train carried a railroad repair crew, which were put to good use protected from enemy attack by machineguns and cannon. It now pulled into Nish station where they were greeted enthusiastically by over 1,000 Ottoman soldiers. The ammunition that the train carried was quickly unloaded and distributed.
------Ballinasloe (Galway) 1140 hrs
In the early morning Lieutenant St. James had received orders to move the black sheep squadron from Loughrea to Ballinasloe. The Roscommon Battalion had left Ballinasloe to reinforce the I.R.A. forces at Athlone which were under attack by the U.V.F. The railroad station at Ballinasloe was going to become a very important supply center for both the 111th Infantry Division and the 183rd Infantry Brigade and so the Germans wanted St. James to guard it for the time being. Cornelius would have preferred a more active role but on further reflection appreciated that the Germans trusted him with safeguarding such a vital communication center.
Cornelius had just enough motor vehicles to send his Buffalo Soldier infantry platoon on ahead to Ballinasloe crowded into them along with Dr. Goddard and his rockets. The cavalry troop would ride to Ballinasloe while the U.N.I.A. detachment, the Turks and the Ghaidars would march. Hopefully a long hard march would take some of the wind out of Garvey. The ride was uneventful. St. James used it as an opportunity to test the equestrian skills of Murphy and the three Irish cavalrymen his unit had absorbed. All of them were satisfactory but could still use some improvement and Cornelius gave them some tips and pointers along the way. Two of the Irishmen were very uneasy being around the former Buffalo Soldiers but the third struck up a budding friendship with Murphy who regaled him stories of his Irish mother
Cornelius now entered the town of Ballinasloe. He was greeted by his infantry platoon. With them was an I.R.A. sergeant who was in charge of the dozen Irish Volunteers the Roscommon Battalion had left behind at Ballinasloe. The sergeant got off on the right foot with St. James by saluting him. "It is good that you are here, sir. I have been told that you speak excellent German. There is a German railway official who arrived here by train an hour ago. The only English he knows is a few curse words and the two assistants he brought with him ain’t much better. I was selected to stay behind here in Ballinasloe because I said that I knew some German and I do, but uh, just not that much if you know what I mean. I’ve been havin’ a terrible time trying to communicate with him. So I was happy to learn from your men that you were fluent in German."
"Dr. Goddard was a good knowledge of German," replied St. James, "Did you ask him to help?" Goddard had acquired a decent reading ability in German at Worcester where he found some German scientific articles enlightening. On the voyage from America Cornelius had built on the doctor’s reading ability to give him some conversational skills in the language. Goddard in turn taught St. James some additional German technical terms.
"Uh, I didn’t think to ask Dr. Goddard."
"Oh well, let’s not bother him now. You and I will now go have a chat with this rail master."
The railroad official was in a small administrative building near the train station. He was a barrel bodied German in his early 30’s full of bluster. The Irish sergeant just barely managed to make the introduction in very halting German. The official looked at St. James like he was a Hottentot. It was a look Cornelius had become used to.
"So you are the Schwarzer Leutnant that supposedly speaks decent German, yes?" he asked in a cranky voice.
"Yes, I am Leutnant St. James, I.R.A. and I am temporarily the commanding officer here at Ballinasloe."
"Your accent is not too strong.. Good. Well then my friend, do you know that I have made no progress---none whatsoever---since I was deposited here? Other trains are on their way here bringing supplies and we are completely unready to handle them when they arrive."
"If you just stand there whining and complaining then things are not going to get any better! I have some men available for labor and more are coming. Now that you no longer have the language problem as an excuse, why don’t we sit down and work out what needs to be done."
The official reddened and glared back. One of his assistants then stepped forward and said, "You have no right to speak to us that way, you jungle savage!"
This was too much for Cornelius and he opened his mouth to make an angry retort but then the barrel bodied official addressed his assistant, "I do not like it much either but he has something of a point. Whining and bickering amongst ourselves is not going to do the German Army any good right now. We have work to do."
------Andorra 1205 hrs
The French 52nd Reserve Division had detrained at Foix yesterday from which it had marched hard towards Andorra. There were rumors circulating throughout the division that war with Spain was imminent. When the lead battalion arrived outside the small town of Pas de La Casa on the Andorran border it relieved an independent brigade that had been guarding the border there since Tuesday. The brigade then moved to Bourg-Madame on the Spanish border near Puigcerdà. However two battalions of chasseurs alpins that had been temporarily assigned to the brigade remained with the 52nd Reserve Division.
Meanwhile the commander of the 52nd Reserve Division accompanied by 3 French diplomats were communicating with the Andorrans. They tried to explain that it was necessary for them to occupy Andorra in order to prevent the Spanish from using it to invade Spain. They politely reminded the Andorrans that the president of France was also the sovereign of Andorra. The representative of the Andorrans reminded the French that Andorra was a duumvirate and that the French president shared his sovereignty with the Bishop of Urgell. The French then politely reminded the Andorrans that they were already allied with France in the Great War. The Andorran representative was not persuaded by this argument and refused to let the French military enter until they heard from the Bishop of Urgell.
The French diplomats doubted that the Catalonian bishop would cooperate. They told the general to cross the border. The Andorran militia was still only ten soldiers. Their commander decided that resistance was futile. The French soldiers crossed the border without any trouble. They had been told that the citizens of Andorra would welcome them with open arms but instead of hugs and cheers they were greeted with sullen faces. The division then proceeded towards the capital of Andorra la Vella at a rapid march.
------east of Vilna (Lithuania) 1240 hrs
The Russian XXXV Army Corps finally decided to resume its advance. As it had expended nearly half of its shells in the attack on the first trench line this time the shelling lasted for only 10 minutes. The 5th Cavalry Division had reduced its concentration in the second trench sending roughly half of its horsemen back to the third trench line though it kept all of its machinegun detachment in the second trench. When the Russians attacked in full force, the forces still in the second trench, which had suffered little from the brief shelling, inflicted heavy losses as the attackers struggled to get through the uncut wire.
Another and perhaps more serious problem for the Russians was that most of the artillery of the VIII Army Corps including the 15cm howitzers of the foot artillery battalion had been moved to positions just behind the corps’ forward trench which corresponded to the fourth trench line in the entire system. These were now well within range of the new no man’s land in front of the second trench line. These magnified the effective firepower of 5th Cavalry Division’s horse artillery battalion by several orders of magnitude. This caused some panic in the poorly trained Russian 2nd line infantry which had become bunched up looking for a way through the German wire. The inadequate number of officers and NCO’s contributed to the confusion. Some persistent Russian soldiers did make it through the wire. Most of those were mowed down by machinegun fire. A few did make it to the German trench. While the Russians had developed some satisfactory grenades prewar based on their experience at Port Arthur these were like all Russian munitions currently in short supply. Most of these soldiers had either one rifle grenade or one hand grenade but not both and little training in how to use their weapon effectively though the Russians did design their grenades to be as easy to use as possible.
General von Heydrebreck had been prepared to order the second trench to be abandoned as well if it looked like the enemy was going to overrun them. In that he was facing an entire corps of infantry he had expected to have to give this order. At one point he came very close to doing that but then it became clear that the enemy was in fact withdrawing.
------Rosbercon (Kilkenny) 1250 hrs
The lead company of the 3rd Tipperary Battalion was entering the village of Rosbercon on the west bank of the Barrow River across from the much larger town of New Ross in County Wexford. Commandant McElroy was with them. Yesterday he had received revised orders instructing him to proceed directly to New Ross instead of Waterford city. Yesterday morning Waterford Battalion had been reorganized into 5 companies and then split into the 1st Waterford Battalion with the 3 best trained companies and the 2nd Waterford Battalion with the rest. In the afternoon the 1st Waterford Battalion had crossed the Barrow River and spent the night at New Ross while leaving the 2nd Waterford Battalion to guard Waterford city.
Major Heinz Wendel, the commandant of the 1st Waterford Battalion now advanced to meet McElroy, who did not salute him as he was supposed to. Wendel had been warned about the infamous McElroy though and had more important things to discuss, "You are late commandant! Your orders stated that you were to be here no later than noon!"
McElroy continued to see the Germans as a necessary evil and a royal pain in the arse. He had half expected to be yelled at for not saluting. "Give me a break, eh, major? We are only a little a wee bit late."
"Hmm How long before the rest of your battalion gets here?"
"I don’t know exactly, major. Thirty maybe forty minutes."
"Sounds like more than a ‘wee’ bit late to me, McElroy."
"Now you listen here, major, we had to fight our way here."
"Fight? Whom did you fight?"
"The R.I.C. that’s who. We ran into them at Clonmel, Carrick-on-Suir and then late yesterday at Mullinavat. And add to that we had to scrounge for food constantly."
"If you put a little less effort into filling your Irish bellies you would have made it here on time."
McElroy’s nostrils flared, "I am not going to starve my men just to meet your bleedin’ deadlines."
Wendel was been warned that the Tipperary Volunteers had an ambiguous relationship with German authority. So shooting McElroy was not an option. Simply removing him from command was likely to cause serious dissension within the Tipperary Volunteers and right now he needed them. The enemy had reestablished control of most of County Wexford and to march clear across it with only 510 Irish Volunteers was too risky. "How many of these overfed men do you have with you?" he asked.
:"Not counting the wounded I have 848 men and 9 women."
Wendel arched an eyebrow, "That is somewhat more than I was expecting."
"We have been acquiring new members like crazy the last two days. We gained nearly 50 new members in our overnight stay at Mullinavat."
Wendel nodded, "We have been experiencing much of the same in Waterford. Many of those who are joining recently talk about their outrage over the U.V.F. being mobilized though some also talk about the Countess Markievicz being executed."
"I think you’re right, major. Though I do think part of the reason I did so well in Mullinavat is that we have yet to have any real presence in County Kilkenny."
Wendel nodded slightly, "That could well be true. We get a few volunteers from the southern parts of County Kilkenny who work their way south but I am sure we would do better if we had a sustained presence there. With so many men how are you doing in regards to weapons and ammunition?"
McEloy’s ire was beginning to subside somewhat and more rifles was definitely a topic he wanted to discuss so he softened his tone of voice saying, "Yes we are currently short at least a hundred rifles."
"Hmm On account of the recent surge in new recruits I did not have as big a surplus as I once had. I brought along exactly 100 extra Moisin-Nagant rifles. I would be willing to release all of them to your battalion provided you do exactly as I order."
McElroy ground his teeth. As he had expected the primary topic of this conversation was really about power and authority. Yet he could not deny that he could sure us those extra rifles. "What do you have in mind?" he asked.
"First I want you to select those 30 men you have in your battalion that are the least fit for combat. You are going to send them along with your women to escort your wounded to Waterford city. Next you are going to detach 50 of your men to guard the bridge here. The rest of your battalion will accompany my battalion. We are going to Enniscorthy where a sizable British force has been reported. Depending on what the outcome is there our next objective would be to march into County Wicklow to aid both Count Tisza and Major Rommel."
------Portumna (Galway) 1300 hrs
General Baldock, the commander of the West Riding Division had learned in the late morning that the Germans had taken Banagher Bridge but only in the last half hour did he get any intelligence on how large an enemy force had crossed the Shannon. Baldock understood that his battered division remained in grave danger, and needed to completely cross the Shannon. He had hoped that he could wait until after dark to perform this difficult task but the latest intelligence convinced him that he did not have enough time left to do that. He had at least been able to give his men and draught animals some badly needed rest. He had also received some desperately needed supplies from the railhead at Nenagh. In turn Baldock had sent some of his wounded back to the corps’ hospitals at Nenagh.
He started the withdrawal slowly. He had no idea how much artillery the enemy had nearby though he was heartened by the fact there had been no shelling whatsoever all morning. Fortunately for him the enemy had only a single battery of 7.7cm field guns in the area with only a limited amount of ammunition. Baldock started by moving one of batteries still on the west bank over to the east bank. When that was accomplished without any trouble he proceeded to withdraw all of his artillery still on the west bank over to the east bank. This too was accomplished without trouble which was reassuring. Now came the hard part which was to siphon off the 4 battalions of infantry he still had on the west bank. His men had dug communication trenches back to a second incomplete trench line. They now used them to keep from rising up from their trenches until after they were out of rifle range. The general started this withdrawal slowly but realized there would inevitably come a tipping point when he would need to do things rapidly.
The German forces arrayed against the British perimeter at Portumna had been reinforced with the 2nd American Volunteer Battalion at midday. Half of one company was detailed to escort the British prisoners that could walk all the way back to Gort. The rest of the battalion was not committed to the forward trench but instead was positioned as a close reserve.
"I tell you that the British are scared to death of us Yanks," Jimmy Cagney told Jack and Fred. Their company was not the one detailed to escorting prisoners. "From the moment they have learned that we had arrived they have been running from us. And when they can’t run the fuckin’ cowards surrender. I’ve been thinking while we were marching and concluded that it must be due to the licking we gave the Brits during the Revolution---and during that other war whose blasted name I can never remember."
"You must mean the War of 1812, Jimmy," replied Fred, "and from what little I can recall of it from my history we didn’t do all that well in that war---"
"---bah! What the hell are you talkin’ about? Of course we did well. After all we did win that war so of course we must have kicked their fat British behinds something good."
"Whether or not we won that war is a matter of debate, Jimmy."
"Oh, for Chris’ake what are you talking about Fred? Of course America won that war. America always wins. Everyone knows that."
Jack Moran rolled his eyes and kept out of the argument. Jack could talk up a storm. He was Irish after all. But when they were in any proximity to combat he would become very very quiet.
------OKW Berlin 1305 hrs
Kaiser Wilhelm decided to pay a visit to OKW. He was accompanied by Admiral Georg von Müller, the head of the Naval Cabinet and General Moriz von Lyncker, the head of the Prussian Military Cabinet. They met with Admiral von Tirpitz and Generalfeldmarschal von Moltke. "How is my brilliant strategic idea, Operation Unicorn, progressing?" asked Kaiser Wilhelm.
All of those in the room were all too familiar with the Kaiser’s personality. They detected in his facial expression the usual mixture of outward swagger overlaying an inner apprehension and uncertainty. Admiral von Tirpitz replied before von Moltke could speak, "We have received some excellent news from General von François today, Your Majesty. Our forces in Galway have crossed the Shannon seriously outflanking the enemy."
Wilhelm was surprised not by the news but who said it. He had expected von Moltke to be the one to update him on the ground war on Ireland. "And what of the High Seas Fleet, admiral?" he asked, "Surely the German Nelson is looking for a way to avenge the loss of the Nassau?"
It suddenly occurred to von Moltke that fork bearded admiral preferred to talk about the ground operations of Operation Unicorn rather than the naval ones. "We are, uh, considering various options in that regard, Your Majesty," replied Admiral von Tirpitz.
"Such as?" asked Admiral von Müller.
"Uh, we have concluded that it is best to get the High Seas Fleet back to Germany first and then lay a trap," replied Admiral von Tirpitz.
"Ah, when is this likely to happen then? In late July or early August when all of our capital ships have been repaired?"
"No, except for Markgraf I think we can hold off on repairs. We believe that several powerful British dreadnoughts were very badly damaged at Celtic Sea and will be out of action for at least two months. Giving the enemy time to repair those warships is a very bad idea."
"Does Armee Abteilung François have enough ammunition to last until our repairs are complete?" asked General von Lyncker.
"No they do not. Their artillery will run out of ammunition in about two weeks," von Moltke answered, "Their infantry will run out of bullets around the end of June."
"So unless he has completely destroyed the British forces in Ireland in the next two weeks General von François will need more ammunition which means that the High Seas Fleet will need to make another trip to Ireland?" von Lyncker inquired.
"Yes, your logic is correct which is why can only afford to relegate only most damaged dreadnoughts---maybe only Markgraf---to the shipyards in the near term," replied Admiral von Tirpitz.
"I had such hope for Operation Unicorn," sighed Kaiser Wilhelm, "It seemed the perfect way to finally get some respect from my cousin George. With a naval base in Ireland threatening the Western Approaches the already weakened British fleet would be forced to do battle. We destroy their fleet after which we can destroy their commerce at our leisure. I know that we overestimated the size of the Irish rebellion which is at least partially excusable as the Irish are in many ways an inscrutable race. That we failed to do better at the Battle of the Celtic Sea completely mystifies me though."
"It is something of a mystery to us as well, Your Majesty," replied von Tirpitz, "I don’t think we will have a clear picture of what happened at Celtic Sea until the High Seas Fleet returns home and we have an opportunity to debrief Admiral von Ingenohl in detail."
"I intend to do that as well," said Wilhelm, "though I also think a thorough physical examination of the German Nelson is in order. I strongly suspect that an illness may be partially responsible for his disappointing performance at Celtic Sea."
This was not the first time that Admiral von Tirpitz had heard the monarch’s theory that a physical illness was responsible the High Seas Fleet not crushing the Grand Fleet at the Battle of the Celtic Sea. It was not the strangest idea to come out of the Kaiser’s mouth. "Of course, Your Majesty, a thorough physical examination is called for."
"I understand that some new codebooks have been issued recently," said Admiral von Müller, "Is there any particular reason why this has happened?"
There was considerable embarrassment at the Admiralty that they had not discovered that their ciphers had been compromised for several months. "It has been one possible explanation for why the British navy was waiting for us at Utsire. We could not rule it so we decided to change the codebooks now just to be safe," Tirpitz replied. He cast von Moltke a stern glance.
He does not want Müller and the Kaiser to know that but for the efforts of Mr. Collins we would probably still be in the dark about our codes being broken von Moltke realized.
"I see, but I do find the timing to be a bit strange, yes?" asked von Müller, "If you had suspected that our codes were compromised you should have changed the codes before Operation Unicorn was launched."
"Uh, we, uh, were pursuing alternative explanations back then. When those hypotheses failed to prove out we decided we had to seriously consider the possibility of codes being compromised. Mind you, I still think that it is unlikely that our codes were broken, it is just that we could no longer ignore the possibility."
"You were being prudent and cautious, Alfred," said Wilhelm who seemed satisfied with the explanation. Admiral von Müller continued to look suspicious. How can such a little man have so many lies in him? von Moltke asked himself while shaking his head slightly.
------Birr (King’s) 1340 hrs
The 183rd Infantry Brigade reached the market town of Birr. Its bicycle company had probed its outskirts around noon and came under fire. They waited for the rest of the brigade to arrive. The defenders were the small force of British soldiers and engineers that had been driven away from Banagher earlier in the day plus 30 constables. The British soldiers put up a stubborn resistance that stymied the Germans for more than two hours. The 183rd Infantry Brigade was forced to use its sole artillery battery against the enemy. This caused the almost immediate surrender of the constables but the British soldiers continued to fight on bravely.
While this fighting was going on the Germans contacted the local Irish Volunteers and armed them. As General von François had ordered these were soon assigned the task of securing food.
General Sontag had permitted the 111th Infantry Division to rest at Banagher until noon with the exception of the 4th squadron 22nd Dragoon Regiment which he sent northeast to the town of Cloghan. Once there they quickly eliminated a dozen constables then armed another small company of Irish Volunteers. The 111th Infantry Division was now at Taylor’s Cross where instead of continuing SSE towards Birr they were turning onto the road SSW to attack the rear of the West Riding Division near Portumna.
------ESE of Shavli (Lithuania) 1400 hrs
The 1st Don Cossack Division lay on the left wing of the Russian XIX Army Corps where it faced the German 1st Cavalry Division. General von Marwitz, the commander of the Army of the Dvina, had moved the 8th Cavalry Division to right of the 1st Cavalry Division. He also moved the 2nd Motorized Heavy Artillery Regiment south to greatly amplify the firepower of his cavalry. The weather had improved allowing the Germans to once again use an army airship as a wireless observation post.
The 1st Don Cossacks Division was only partially entrenched. Like most Cossack formations it was very efficient at scouting and raiding but reluctant to engage in direct combat esp. when the enemy had heavy artillery. Before the bombardment ended it was pulling back to the east. The frontal assault of the German 1st Cavalry Division was dismounted at first but once it became clear that the enemy was retreating, it quickly turned into a mounted pursuit. The attack of the 8th Cavalry Division was made on horseback from the very beginning. Pressured from the flank by the 8th Cavalry Division after being hit hard by artillery, the withdrawal of the 1st Don Cossack Division became more and more disorderly with some of its squadrons starting to panic.
Meanwhile to the north the German I Army Corps continued to hit the 17th Infantry Division from front and rear causing some of its fleeing units to retreat into the rear area of the 38th Infantry Division. The increasingly chaotic retreat of the 1st Don Cossack Division eventually exposed the left flank of the 38th Infantry Division. This permitted the 5th Cuirassier Regiment to overrun one of one its artillery batteries. With his left flank and rear threatened the commander of the 38th Infantry Division ordered a withdrawal to the northeast. This was an experienced 1st line division so the retreat was done in reasonably decent order.
------Clonakilty (Cork) 1410 hrs
After their victory over the remnants of the 10th (Irish) Division, there was some uncertainty over what the German and I.R.A. units involved in the battle should do next. The commander of the 11th Uhlan Regiment sent word back to Kinsale of their success then let most of his men get some sleep. He did send out his one mounted troop at dawn to try to hunt down those enemy soldiers which had escaped. Later he assigned the bicycle company of the 10th Jäger Battalion to assist in that task. Some of the members of the South Cork Battalion who were very familiar with the area were assigned to assist in the hunt as well, pointing out likely hiding places. About half of those who had escaped last night were soon hunted down and either killed or captured. Other members of the South Cork Battalion was assigned the chore of helping the crew of the President Lincoln trying to offload the cargo hold which was proving difficult because it was flooded.
Just before noon another Jäger company showed up. Oberstleutnant Paul Kurzbach, the commander of the 10th Jäger Battalion arrived at Clonakilty in a motor car a few minutes ago and was now meeting with the commander of the 11th Uhlan Regiment. "Before I left Cork I was on the telephone with Major von Rundstedt, the acting chief of staff for the Armee Abteilung. He said that General von François now wants most of your regiment to return to Cork immediately. The new situation in County Galway means the shortage of horses will be easing soon. The trains that we are sending north with ammunition are returning with horses and British prisoners."
"You said ‘most’ of my regiment."
"That is correct. I have been instructed to form an ad hoc regiment. It will include the South Cork Battalion, the 3rd American Volunteer Battalion, which will arrive here tomorrow, and eventually the West Cork Battalion in addition to my Jägers, the rest of which will make it here this evening. I have been told that you have one troop that already has mounts. It will be included in my regiment as well. Oh, and there is one other unit. Have you ever heard of the Sealgairs?"
The Uhlan oberst hesitated then nodded slightly, "A little. Depending on who is telling the story they are either the most elite unit in all of Ireland or a bunch of depraved hooligans. According to one version that I heard their leader---an Irishman named Flynn was killed and they disbanded."
"That is only partially true. Commandant Flynn is indeed dead but his battalion remains. After Flynn died most of them remained at Fort Westmoreland which they had captured under his leadership though a few had tagged along with Major Rommel---I assume you have heard of him?"
"While they were useful on occasion these Sealgairs---their name means ‘Jäger’ in Irish which I find presumptuous bordering on blasphemous---"
The Uhlan grinned slightly and chuckled, "---I can imagine."
"Well it appears that the Sealgairs have grown bored with guarding that fort. They have begun to proselytize their credo amongst the Cork City Battalions. Even though Kerns, their current commandant is not the depraved rascal Flynn was, both General von François and Major von Rundstedt consider them to be a disruptive influence. Since they believe ordering them to disband could backfire they have decided to get them far away from Cork."
"This strange little regiment you are assembling is going to attack the British forces operating out of the Beara Peninsula, yes?" the Uhlan guessed.
Kurzbach blinked in surprised for a few seconds then grinned, "I suppose it was fairly obvious once I mentioned incorporating the West Cork Battalion who have been struggling with the enemy there for some time now. Most of these ‘Sealgairs’ come from the western portion of County Cork and are therefore familiar with its terrain and features. They may actually prove to be of some use."
"If they behave themselves."
------Laragh (Wicklow) 1510 hrs
Major Rommel had sent Tom Ashe’s 5th Dublin Battalion to conduct hit and run operations in the northern part of County Wicklow. Rommel considered Ashe to be the best of the Dublin Brigade commandants with a special talent for fluid hit and run tactics while the other commandants usually wanted to tie themselves down defending a piece of real estate. This reminded him of all too many flawed senior officers he had encountered on the Western Front. Rommel had wanted to switch Ashe to one of the larger battalions but Pearse refused to go along with it. He gave Rommel some argument about the 5th Dublin Battalion and its commandant having a special relationship with North Dublin that Pearse did not want to spoil. Rommel did not find this argument at all persuasive. Instead he saw it as yet another sign of what he regarded as Pearse’s rampant sentimentalism.
A messenger from the 5th Dublin Battalion mounted on a bicycle now showed up at Rommel’s headquarters. He had pedaled furiously for more than 8 miles and was out of breath. Despite his exhaustion he delivered a letter from Commandant Ashe.
My battalion encountered a large column of Ulster Volunteers near the Sally Gap. Those we saw numbered well over 1,000. We ambushed the vanguard with some initial success but they were too numerous for us to hold off for too long. We have disengaged. Several hundred of them are pursuing us but a greater number are now heading south on the Military Road."
------Bois de Mort Hare (Woëvre) 1530 hrs
For more than a week General von Falkenhayn had wanted to launch an attack against the French. His logic was that Clemenceau was throwing everything into his grand offensive and in the process had made himself weak elsewhere. He also knew that there was growing evidence that French arms production was being impacted by the disruption of their key imports from Britain. General von Falkenhayn wanted to test the French and test them quickly but there was only a limited amount of reserves he could spare at this moment.
Late Monday he decided to make his attack in the Woëvre Plain. General von Strantz had been conducting some very limited small attacks there in the last two months. The last of these allowed him to get a foothold on Les Ésparges. This in turn had resulted in the General Dubail concentrating his forces in and around Les Ésparges. General von Falkenhayn appreciated the importance of Les Ésparges but felt the section of the plain to the south now looked to be inadequately defended. He therefore ordered von Strantz to put temporarily suspend his operations at Les Ésparges and instead make another attempt to reach the Meuse and cut the remaining major rail line supplying Verdun thereby neutralizing the current French offensive emanating from Verdun. To support this von Falkenhayn quickly reinforced Armee Abteilung Strantz with the 121st Infantry Division, the 37th Landwehr Brigade, 7 batteries of heavy artillery and 3 minenwerfer companies plus an increased allocation of artillery shells. The attack was scheduled to begin early tomorrow morning.
Even before General von Falkenhayn had reached his decision, he had approved plans to use 110 ton of chlorine gas to capture the town of Flirey. Most of the canisters were deployed in the Bois de Mort Hare where they would be hidden from French warplanes. In the expanded offensive envisioned by von Falkenhayn this attack would allow a southern advance that would cover the left flank of the main attack which would try to advance WSW. Because this secondary attack depended on the direction of the wind it was agreed that it could go forward early if there was a favorable wind.
With a wind now coming out the northwest von Strantz ordered the attack to begin while the German artillery and minenwerfers commenced a 40 minute shelling. The German firepower was much stronger than what the French had available in the area. After 20 minutes the canisters were opened. A pale green cloud was soon drifting on the breeze out of the woods. The French had just started to produce their first respirators and none had been issued to any units in First Army. All they had for protection was some cotton pads and small bottles of a neutralizing solution to pour over the pads. The defenders in this sector belonged to the 16th Division of VIII Corps. Many of them soon began to fall back from the gas cloud their hands clutching their throats and rubbing their inflamed eyes. In addition to the chlorine gas some of the 15cm howitzer batteries involved in the attack were firing the improved T-Shell which they used to neutralize most of the defender’s artillery.
The Ersatz Corps had been part of Armee Abteilung Strantz. The headquarters of the Ersatz Corps had eventually been subsumed into that of the Armee Abteilung with its divisions reporting directly to General von Strantz. In preparation for this operation the Ersatz Corps HQ had been resurrected. Battalions of the Guard Ersatz Division and the 8th Ersatz Division had been selected for the assault. These entered no man’s land and encountered relatively little resistance except on the right where those battalions of the Guard Ersatz Division that tried to enter the town of Flirey were repelled because the gas had not entered there in significant quantity. Eventually the German attackers had problems with the wind changing direction and blowing some of the chlorine back into their faces. Despite these problems the Germans were able to take the small village of Limey, but were stopped at the outskirts of the larger village of Lironville by French units that had rallied after fleeing the gas cloud. Likewise most of the French batteries that had been neutralized by the tear gas of the T-shells were also recovering. The German attackers therefore halted their advance between Limey and Lironville and dug in. They continued to look for a way to pry the French out of Flirey by trying to use their gains to the east to outflank it.
-----west of Portumna (Galway) 1545 hrs
The withdrawal of the West Riding Division across the Shannon was now in its final phase. Only two battalions of the Duke of Wellington Regiment remained .manning a curved trench line nearly 3 miles long. These were now starting to worm their way back through the communications trenches and then out the communication trench to the rear. This process had been observed been observed by the Germans and reported to the oberst commanding the 3rd Marine Fusilier Regiment. He was as usual very reluctant to attack. Instead he moved his lone battery of 7.7cm field guns closer to the enemy line. They were now in range of the entrance to the bridge but were beyond the reach of the 15 pounders on the west bank. They now commenced a painstakingly slow but steady shelling of the area immediately in front of the bridge making it very dangerous to try to cross it. However with the lead battalion of the 111st Infantry Division less than 9 miles from the Portumna Bridge it was just as dangerous to remain on the west bank.
General Baldock had wanted to pull what remained of his division as far south as Borrisokane. General Wilson who had moved his own headquarters to Ballybrophy had surprised General Baldock by raising no objections to this plan. He could not afford to wait until the last minute. If the Germans could get just one regiment to the village Carrigahorig they would cut off the escape of the West Riding Division, trapping it against the Shannon. He agonized over his decision for several minutes. He began sending those elements of his division on the east bank south on the road to Borrisokane that ran through Carrigahorig. He sent word to the men on west bank that they should try to withdraw as best they could.
------Killough Hill south of Thurles (Tipperary) 1635 hrs
General Shaw had decided to send the 39th Brigade and the LXVI Artillery Brigade by train to Roscrea. General Wilson had warned him that the last of the trains needed to perform this transfer would not arrive until after dark even though the transfer was being given priority which was interfering with the delivery of supplies to VI Army Corps. As his division was undergoing its extended stay near Thurles Shaw tried his best to arrange his division’s defenses. He was the most worried about his flanks. He fully expected the 7th Cavalry Division to try to envelop his left. He was both bewildered and relieved when it did not. In fact after some early morning pursuit what the 7th Cavalry Division was doing was something of a mystery to General Shaw. Around noon a British aviator had spotted a concentration of cavalry east of Cashel riding east towards Killenaule. Shaw considered the possibility that the 7th Cavalry Division was trying swing around his division completely to try to attack them from the rear. That would take a long time to accomplish and Shaw doubted that they could pull it off before he abandoned Thurles and withdrew to Templemore. Just to be safe though he positioned 2 battalions north and northeast of Thurles.
As for the Austrians Shaw’s main worry was his right flank and he positioned the 38th Brigade to deal with that threat. This worry proved to have some validity and there was some fighting in the early afternoon near Upperchurch and Drumbane where the blacklegs were stopped. This left the center where General Shaw was less worried. The armored train was a concern though so during the morning retreat he had the Royal Engineers tear up one section of track and then mine another with explosives. The armored train had disappeared though. None of the British warplanes had seen the armored train in 8 hours.
A new threat now manifested itself in the form of 2 Czech battalions that approached the village of Hoycross from the southwest. This was countered by the division’s pioneer battalion, the 8th Welsh Regiment with support from 2 batteries of 18 pounders. While this was going the 1st Tipperary Battalion approached Killough Hill from the south. Many of the Tipperary Volunteers were very familiar with Killough Hill which was famous in much of Munster for the wide variety of herbs that grew there. The 13th (Western) Division had established an observation post there in the morning defended by an entire company of the 8th Welsh Regiment. The Czech attack at Holycross caused the commander of the 8th Welsh to remove all but one platoon of the company guarding Killough Hill. The platoon that was left behind together with the handful of signal engineers gave the Irish attackers a hard time and it was only on their second attempt that they were ejected from the crest of the hill. Soon afterwards a Slovak battalion arrived and together with the Tipperary Volunteers began to dig in on the forward slope of the hill.
------Madrid 1655 hrs
Prime Minister Eduardo Dato, the Minister of War, Ramón Echagüe and the Minister of State, Salvador Bermúdez de Castro, the Duke of Ripalda, had been summoned by King Alphonso. "What is going on in Andorra?" the king demanded to know.
"We have reports that the French Army entered Andorra in the early afternoon, Your Majesty," replied Dato, "We have also received word from the Bishop of Urgell that the Andorrans had contacted him saying that President Poincaré, the co-sovereign of Andorra had approved the occupation in order to prevent us from using Andorra as a gateway to invade France. The Andorrans asked the bishop if he agreed to this occupation to which he replied ‘no’, but he also instructed them to offer no resistance."
"As I recall the Andorrans have only a ludicrously small militia so the bishop’s counsel was sensible," said the king, "Do we have any idea as to the size of the French invasion force?"
"Your Majesty, we have some intelligence that we have received in the last hour from a few tourists that have fled Andorra who claim that it is several thousand soldiers. This leads us to believe that it is at least a regiment but it could be more," replied Echagüe
"Hmm. Any indication that they are moving artillery into Andorra?"
"Not so far, Your Majesty. However you must remember that these were panicked tourists who fled in a motor car at the first sight of French soldiers. If the French are in fact moving artillery into Andorra it would likely be well behind their lead battalion and therefore not readily visible."
"I see. So there could be a great deal of artillery moving into Andorra for all we know."
"That is correct, Your Majesty. There could one or more French divisions with artillery moving into Andorra."
"How much of a threat does this pose to us?"
"The Gran Valira Valley is a possible invasion route. It is however a fairly narrow one boxed in by mountains. It will require one of our divisions to guard it properly but it should be able to hold off as many as three French divisions without much trouble."
"Do we have a division currently guarding the Gran Valira Valley?"
"Only a portion of one, Your Majesty. We will move the rest of the division into place in the next 24 hours."
"Do that but do not move them too close to the border. I do not want there to be an unfortunate incident. I would like to think this action is merely a grandiose bluff on the part of Clemenceau but you need to assume that this is not a bluff.," said Alphonso, who then turned to de Castro, "What have you heard from the French ambassador?"
"He called me less than an hour ago, Your Majesty," replied the Duke of Ripalda, "He admitted that French troops were occupying Andorra and kept reiterating that this should not be misconstrued as a bellicose act but was merely a precautionary act on the part of the French government."
"Precaution against what?" thundered the king, "We gave President Poincaré our solemn word last year that we would not attack France. Is the word of a monarch not good enough for the French republicans?"
"We must respond to this blatant provocation, Your Majesty," declared Dato, "First we must make it clear to the French that we regard this act as unlawful. Secondly we should threaten to extend our embargo to the French if they do not withdraw from Andorra. Lastly and most importantly we should further increase our mobilization."
"There is no need to reach a hasty decision on any of these matters," said Alphonso, "Tonight we must get a clear picture on not only what is happening in Andorra but also look for indications of a French military buildup elsewhere on our borders. We must press their diplomats for a coherent response. In the meantime prepare plans tonight for further increasing our mobilization. As for extending the embargo to France prepare a statement for me to be delivered midday tomorrow. We shall give them 48 hours to withdraw from Andorra. If they do not we shall ask the Cortes Monday to enlarge the embargo."
------HQ Armee Abteilung François Charleville (Cork) 1710 hrs
"I have decided to disband Brigade Hell again early tomorrow morning," General von François informed Major von Rundstedt, "I am going to place the 1st Kerry Battalion under the Bavarian Jäger Regiment which in turn will be placed under the temporary command of the 6th Bavarian Division. The 2nd Seebattalion and the Foot Guards will be temporarily assigned to the Naval Division. Oberst Hell will be returning here tomorrow morning and resume his duties as chief of staff."
The general thought he could detect a faint trace of relief appearing on the tired face of the stoic Junker major, who after a few seconds replied, "As you wish, Your Excellency. It will be good to have Oberst Hell back here. Have you given any further thought to assigning the Limerick City Battalion to the Naval Division as well?"
The general nodded, "Yes, I have and I think it is a good idea. We know that battalion has some offensive punch even against an entrenched adversary. Notify Major White that his battalion is to march out at first light. If there is anyone in his battalion whom he feels should be transferred to the support company he should do so tonight."
"I will do so, Your Excellency. Are we still going to permit him to keep that controversial Irishwoman on his staff?"
"Hmm, it is very irregular but as long as there is no scandal I will indulge him as Major White has served us very well so far."
"How about the 1st Cork City Battalion, Your Excellency? Right now it is guarding the important railroad junction at Mallow. With the enemy in retreat a single company should suffice and we could use the rest of that battalion elsewhere."
The general shook his head vigorously, "No, if anything I am worried that they may not be enough?"
The major raised his right eyebrow and confessed, "I am afraid that I am not following your logic, Your Excellency."
"The High Seas Fleet is returning to Germany tonight, major. Once the British become aware that they have left, they will be free to mount an amphibious landing anywhere on our very long coast where there is a decent beach. And where is the most logical place for them to land now that we are concentrated in Tipperary?"
Confirming von François’ suspicion that his acting chief of staff was suffering from exhaustion, it took a few seconds for von Rundstedt to conclude, "Somewhere near Cork, Your Excellency. There is a good chance they will land near Cork and try to take the city and Haulbowline by coup de main."
"Yes! About three weeks ago I was very worried about the possibility of a German landing in Kerry which was our rear at that time. That threat forced me to keep some of the Kerrymen in reserve. Fortunately for us that threat never materialized. My guess is that was because up until the Battle of Rathmore the British thought they had the 6th Bavarian Division trapped without having to resort to an amphibious operation. After Rathmore things changed too rapidly with the revolt in first Cork and then Dublin. However it would be a serious mistake on our part to assume that they will not try it this time. For that reason I intend to keep the 1st Cork City Brigade at Mallow while the 2nd Cork City Battalion, the 5th American Volunteer Battalion as well as the OKW Landsturm battalion will remain inside Cork. And when we finally get enough draught animals for the two new batteries equipped with captured British guns, I still want one of them kept at Cork."
"Hmm In that case, Your Excellency, the 2nd East Battalion and Fermoy Battalion could also be used to reinforce our garrison at Cork in the event of an enemy landing."
"Yes, that is true. Hopefully this recent surge in new membership we are experiencing will continue a while longer. Apparently the use of the U.V.F. is causing some of the fence sitters to finally decide to join us.
"So Captain Plunkett has told me, Your Excellency. So have you changed your mind about the British using the Beara Peninsula as a jumping off point for a counteroffensive? Should we remove South Cork Battalion from Regiment Kurzbach?"
The general nodded slightly, "I had considered that, but we cannot afford to ignore the menace posed by the enemy in the Beara Peninsula. We have a little bit of time we must not squander. The earliest I could see a British amphibious landing near Cork happening is Tuesday morning. We would have even more time if Admiral von Ingenohl had delayed his departure a day or two as I repeatedly suggested to him but he would not listen to me. He simply hates being in Ireland and cannot wait to get back to Germany."
-----HQ Russian Fifth Army Janiszki (Lithuania) 1725 hrs
Wednesday morning General A.E. Churin, the commander of the Russian Fifth Army thought that he was on the verge of a major victory. Then things began to unravel. First III Army Corps was hit hard on its flanks and soon forced to beat a hasty retreat to the northeast. This morning came word that was it was now XIX Army Corps that was in trouble. Churin was now becoming very worried that the Germans were attempting a double envelopment of XIX Army Corps. He had an hour ago ordered III Army Corps to reenter the battle and come to the assistance of XIX Army Corps.
Now there was another piece of bad news for the general to digest. One of his warplanes had spotted Division Breugel. The airborne observer correctly reported that they would be able to join the battle tomorrow morning but he incorrectly estimated their size to be a corps. This was the last straw for General Churin who now saw his army as being in grave danger. For several days Northwestern Front had promised him another 2nd line division and it had finally begun detraining at Riga in the late morning. General Churin ordered XXXVII Army Corps to begin falling back towards Riga immediately, while XIX Army Corps was ordered to retreat as best it could with whatever assistance III Army Corps could provide.
------HQ British Second Army Toeufles (Picardy) 1745 hrs
Field Marshal French paid a visit to General Plumer, the commander of Second Army. Instead of being his usual ornery self French looked downbeat and depressed. "I have come to the conclusion that First Army is doomed," he confessed to Plumer, "Your attack this morning was a complete failure. We are not going to reopen the road to First Army. General Foch blathers about trying to increase the landing of supplies by sea at la Crotoy The best night so far saw only 80 tons delivered there and First Army needs nearly five times that daily! For the time being the Germans seem content to let Haig rot on the vine probably to minimize their own losses but the end is coming soon. Unless the campaign in Ireland takes a sudden turn for the better---I have for some time distrusted the rosy accounts of Sir Ian’s performance that the War Office feeds me daily---then First Army is doomed. And once the Huns are done with First Army then will turn their sights on your army. And unless you receive reinforcements from either Ireland, England or the French Army---none of which seems bloody damn likely at this time---the Germans will thrash what’s left of your army and take Abbeville. After that we may be forced to retreat all the way to Dieppe and leave France completely."
Dieppe? Leave France completely? Plumer’s jaw dropped momentarily but then he chided himself for being surprised. Sir John’s mood swings were infamous. He was now in one of his overly pessimistic moods. Plumer took time to choose his words carefully, "Uh, with all due respect, sir, while there is no denying that our current situation is very serious, I am not as bleak about it as you seem to be. From what little I know about the situation in Ireland it does seem that there is little hope of receiving any of General Hamilton’s units in the near term. However surely there is more that the French can do to help us. Surely they must realize that our defeat would have severe consequences for them as well."
"You would think so. However the French, esp. Clemenceau, are very unhappy with us at the present moment. I am unsure as to why. Something to do with diminished trade between our two nations. Or so I’ve been told. Hard to tell just what the truth is anymore. This damn war has made everything convoluted. Oh and complicating matters there is some bleeding mountain out a molehill crisis between France and Spain going on right now. Something to do with some loudmouth Irish troublemaker the Frenchies decapitated. Which is further corroboration of what I just said about this nightmare of a war becoming convoluted. So Foch is telling me that they don’t really have any divisions to spare right now."
"Uh, I don’t want to call General Foch a liar, sir, but if this so called Clemenceau Offensive would merely take a breather at least two or three divisions and what is even more important, some heavy artillery, would become available immediately."
French nodded, "I tried to make that very same point but Foch fed me some folderol about the offensive being absolutely essential to eliminate the German threat to Paris. He is looking in to providing General d’Oissel with some heavy artillery but that is like to be a battery or two of obsolete de Bange weapons."
"That is not going to make much of a difference, sir. Is there any chance of any significant reinforcement from Britain soon?"
"Lord Kitchener has promised us 3 more RGA batteries but says that they won’t arrive until late Monday."
"Late Monday? Why will they take that long to get here, sir?"
"I wondered the same thing myself. No reason was given. He did say that there is some discussion about possibly sending us one more infantry division, probably one of the New Army divisions this time. He says a decision won’t be reached before Monday though so it will be late Tuesday at the earliest before it makes it here."
Plumer took a deep breath then said, "So it appears that for the next few days we are left to our devices, sir. In that case I feel that I must suggest a fairly desperate course of action."
"What do you have in mind, Plumer?"
"I want to start by withdrawing II Army Corps and the Belgians from St. Riquier to Buigny-L’Abbe through Bussus-Bussuel to the French Tenth Army."
French shook his head, "Somehow I knew you were going to say that. The Germans cutting the Route de Doullens this morning is admittedly an inconvenience but the A.S.C. can still get supplies to II Army Corps they just have to take a longer dogleg route."
"Hear me please, field marshal. There is more than the lengthened supply route to consider. We are also shortening the line we have to defend. What I propose to do is pull the 5th Division out of II Army Corps and rush it over to reinforce I Army Corps in a renewed attack to reopen the road to First Army. With the shortened line there will be less for 3rd Division and the Belgians to defend."
"The feckless Belgians have not been defending anything of late from the reports that have reached me. As soon as the Germans start shelling they quickly abandon their forward trench line."
"That may present a problem, sir. We may need to talk to King Albert again. However losing one trench line would not be catastrophic. It would be a small price to pay if we succeed in saving First Army."
"Hmm losing one trench line would be catastrophic if it were your only trench line."
"We will have two lines of trenches ready at the new position by late afternoon, sir. I intend to remove elements of the 5th Division during the afternoon accelerating the pace during the night."
"What?! There is no way you could finish digging by then."
Plumer paused and licked his lips nervously then said, "II Army Corps began digging these trenches yesterday, field marshal."
"What? The Germans did not cut the Route de Doullens until this morning."
"Uh, you see, sir, yesterday I felt that there was unfortunately a good chance that the Germans would cut that road sooner or later so I ordered work started on the trench system as a precautionary measure."
"Which you did not see fit to mention to me!"
Plumer considered possible replies to that but decided instead to remain silent. French glowered at him for more than a minute then relaxed a little and said in a relatively calm voice, "General Foch is going to be upset about our relinquishing more of their ‘sacred’ soil to the Boche."
"I understand that, sir, but with First Army in grave peril I feel that it is a clear cut case of it being the lesser of two evils. I am sort of hoping that you might be able to persuade General Foch to order Tenth Army to take over a small portion of II Army Corps’ sector, say one mile. Surely the threat of the Germans taking Abbeville should be enough to persuade them."
French snorted derisively and shook his head, "You would think so but our liaison with them has been anything but easy of late. Quite frankly I get the impression that Clemenceau believes that the B.E.F. should be subordinate to his western army group. The B.E.F. taking orders from General Foch? That will be the day!"
------Thurles (Tipperary) 1820 hrs
The Erzherzog Karl Division had moved a battery of the Italian made 75mm Déport field guns into position on the reverse slope of Killough Hill. Directed by an observation post they established on top of the hill this battery commenced firing on the train at Thurles station which was in the process of loading a battery of 18 pounders. The shelling caused considerable confusion esp. among the draught horses. Before the train could leave the station shrapnel damaged the locomotive’s engine and eventually perforated its steam pipe, which immobilized the train. The men, horses, guns and ammunition of the battery which had been loaded aboard the train were quickly unloaded. There was considerable worry that their own ammunition might be set off by the enemy shelling but to their relief that did not happen.
------Admiralstab Berlin 1855 hrs
Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz paid a visit to the Admiral Gustav Bachmann, the head of the Admiralstab. "Have arrangements been made with the Norwegians for the colliers?" asked von Tirpitz.
"Yes, they have, admiral. We have not yet told them they will be going to the Shetlands. We will only do that at the last possible minute."
"That is a wise precaution. I was tempted to dispense with them altogether. With the liners Admiral von Spee brought back with him from the United States Admiral von Ingenohl will not need them to coal his flotillas."
"True, but the process will go quicker if we use them."
"Yes but how much quicker? And is it worth the security risk?"
Bachmann hesitated slightly before answering, "In my estimation and that of Admiral Behncke, it is enough to be worth the small risk, admiral."
The meeting with the Kaiser had put Admiral von Tirpitz in an ill humor. He waited a few seconds then groused, "That was not a very precise response!"
Bachmann was taken aback and remained silent for several seconds then regained his composure and replied, "It is not a situation that is easily quantified precisely, admiral. It is my professional judgment as well as Admiral Behncke’s."
Admiral von Tirpitz stared hard at Bachmann then shook his bald head and changed the subject, "Was Lützow commissioned today as planned?"
"Yes she was, admiral. That means more workers will be available to repair the High Seas Fleet when it returns."
"Which is several days away. I do not want them idle until then. General von Falkenhayn is already complaining that we are underutilizing our shipyard workers, whom he longs to turn into cannon fodder. See if extra workers could be helpful on the Bayern. Because of von Ingenohl’s damnable timidity this war is not ending as quickly as we had planned. It could easily go into next year which is why Bayern must be completed before the end of January, preferably the middle of January."
------north of Roscrea (Tipperary) 1905 hrs
General Schußler, the commander of the German 183rd Infantry Brigade had orders to try to take the extremely important communication center at Roscrea by coup de main and if that failed to at least get his lone battery of 7.7cm field guns within effective range of its train station. About 3 miles north of Rocrea the 183rd Infantry Regiment now ran into the 9th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment and the 7th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment. The British battalions had not had time to entrench but had managed to secure favorable cover and had all 8 of their Vickers machineguns well positioned. They were able to drive off the 183rd Infantry Regiment without much trouble. General Schußler then gave orders for the 184th Infantry Regiment to try to outflank the British positions. However he soon countermanded those orders. He did this for multiple reasons. The first was that a battery of British 18 pounders had commenced firing on his brigade. Not only did this pose serious problems to Schußler’s attack but it also hinted that the enemy forces at Roscrea could be as large as an entire division. Furthermore the supply line of the 183rd Infantry Brigade was dangerously long and fragile. He was supposed to be receiving all of his food from the I.R.A. but in the last days that amounted to less than half of his needs. Furthermore he had heard nothing from the 111th Infantry Division on his right for nearly 3 hours adding to his fears that his brigade had become dangerously isolated.
General Schußler therefore not only ordered his brigade to fall back a little to a line running from Shinrone to Coolderry. Deeply worried about his wide open left flank the general sent his bicycle company to scout in the area around Kinnitty.
------London 1915 hrs
Sir Edward Carson and David Lloyd-George were having dinner together. "I had almost forgotten how tedious Cabinet meetings could be," complained Lloyd-George, "The endless debates and the inability to reach a decision about anything whatsoever."
Carson nodded slightly, "You won’t get an argument out of me, David. The new prime minister seemed to lap it up though."
"Balfour is fond of symposia. He loves exchanging ideas almost as much as he loves power."
"Which has me worried. The war is at a dangerous point right now. We need decisiveness not endless discussion."
"As you well know, many in Commons have grumbled and complained that Andrew made snap decisions without due deliberation."
"Yes I am well aware but it is utter poppycock! With the Germans afoot in Ireland quick decision making was absolutely necessary."
"Aye that it was. But we must admit that things have gone awry in Ireland. Face the facts, Sir Edward Andrew’s hard line against the rebels has backfired badly. The rebellion is clearly raging out of control."
Carson had grown fond of Lloyd-George in the last six months even though he was a Liberal but this last remark annoyed him, and he waved his hand dismissively as he responded, "I thinking you are exaggerating. The rebellion has clearly peaked, David. What is left of it will be soon eliminated by the U.V.F."
"Oh? If that is indeed true then why have they not retaken Athlone?"
"I will readily concede that Lord Kitchener’s enthusiasm about the U.V.F. has been a bit overstated at times, but nevertheless I have the utmost confidence that they will eliminate the rebels everywhere, and that includes Athlone."
Lloyd-George leaned forward and patted the First Lord on the shoulders, saying, "My dear chap, please don’t take it personally but the simple truth of the matter is that I am not as sure about that as you are."
Carson scowled for half a minute but then his face became less severe and responded in an almost friendly voice, "In that case you should persuade the prime minister to activate the extra 4,000 Ulster Volunteers which was an option in my plan."
Lloyd-George snorted briefly, "Touché! I would in fact make such an argument if I thought it would do any good. As you probably already know Balfour is not completely comfortable with our decision to use the U.V.F."
"Yes, regrettably so, but once the facts are clear he will see that we were right and agree to adding the extra 4,000, maybe even adding some more to that."
"As well as sending over another division even if it is only the 3rd Cavalry Division. Unfortunately I cannot see Arthur agreeing to either before Monday at the earliest. Compounding our problems he is dining with the king tomorrow night and we both know all too well His Majesty’s obsessive concern about the Germans invading England."
"Which will only get worse if the German fleet makes it home. That is one more reason why I want Admiral Bayly to finish them off before they reach Germany!"
"Hmm I do not profess to be an expert on naval matters, Sir Edward, but from what you’ve told me several of our most powerful warships were badly damaged at Celtic Sea and are now in the yards being repaired. Might it not be prudent to wait until they are back in service?"
Carson’s features hardened again, "That is an argument I hear all too often! To subscribe to it means giving the Huns control of the seas for at least two months."
"I understand that, but it would be better than giving them control for the rest of the year which could happen if an unready Grand Fleet were to suffer another serious defeat. Britain might well be forced to seek peace with the Kaiser if that were to happen."
Carson flinched slightly at that then said, "Admiral Bayly is still being given complete freedom of action. More than I would like in fact. I for one believe that he should not have continued to fight at Celtic Sea instead of withdrawing but the Sea Lords do not agree with me. I am not like Churchill who was prone to imposing his whimsies on the Admiralty."
"Whatever to poor Winston by the way? Last I heard he was an officer in the army."
"That’s what I have heard as well. Not sure where he is and what’s he doing though if it was known that he had died the newspapers would be running obituaries."
------Lironville (Woëvre) 1925 hrs
After a brief but intense bombardment the Guard Ersatz Division was able to capture the village of Lironville. In doing so it had penetrated the final French trench line. The German artillery continued to completely dominate the French batteries in this sector. This allowed the Guard Ersatz Division to advance as far south as Martincourt. Flirey on the other hand continued to be a problem though. A German attempt to capture it from the southeast achieved some limited surprise and captured one French rifle company but the rest of the 2 enemy battalions inside the town reacted quickly and managed to repel the Guard Ersatz Division but in turn found themselves cut off from the rest of their division.
To the east the 8th Ersatz Division was having a more difficult time. It had taken the first French trench line without much trouble but was now involved in a brutal seesaw struggle to take the second trench line as French reserves were being committed to the fracas which continued into the night. The Germans held onto one narrow section of the second trench but with growing pressure on their left flank were unable to advance any further. With the 8th Ersatz Division stalled on his own left flank, General von Twardowski, the commander of the Guard Ersatz Division, became reluctant to push on any further and so ordered his men to start digging.
------Ashford (Wicklow) 1950 hrs
Less than a hour after arriving in Dublin the Ulster Vounteers were practically begging General Lowe, the commander of the Eastern Region, to be granted permission to head down into County Wicklow to destroy what was left of the Dublin Brigade and then liberate the Kynochs munitions factory at Arklow. At first the brigadier resisted but early this morning he relented and permitted 1,500 of the Ulster Volunteers to go along with a single company of the Royal Irish Rifles whose commanding officer, a mere captain, was placed in charge of the entire expedition. Lowe reminded the captain that Colonel Churchill had led his battalion of well trained Scots into the mountains of Wicklow and disappeared from the face of the earth.
This expeditionary force marched south on the Military Road, the Ulster Volunteers brimming with gleeful confidence. The Royal Irish Riflemen accompanying them, who had several months ago been part of the Ulster Volunteer Force as well, were a different story. They had fought the rebels at the Battle of Dublin and later in the rough terrain of County Wicklow. In the course of those campaigns most of them had learned the hard way that it was dangerous to underestimate the rebels. On top of that some of them had developed an almost superstitious fear of the one they called the Green Fox. Some of them whispered that Rommel had been killed at one point during the Battle of Dublin but the devil feared what he might do in Hell so he sent him back to torment the living.
At Sally Gap the cockiness of the U.V.F. was trimmed a bit when the 5th Dublin Battalion under Commandant Ashe ambushed the vanguard of their marching column. However this setback was only temporary. Ashe regarded a protracted battle as way too dangerous. His tactic was pure hit and run and soon he was fading back to into the wooded hills to the east. Despite their losses the Ulster Volunteers saw the enemy’s retreat as a vindication of their own superiority. The captain dispatched near 500 of the U.V.F. to chase the 5th Dublin Battalion. The main body soon continued south on the Military Road.
When Rommel learned of the enemy’s approach one of his first concerns was what was the enemy’s objective. Were they heading to the vicinity of Laragh this time or would they take one of the direct routes to Wicklow town? Rommel had moved the unwounded and lightly wounded British prisoner’s to Arklow but the most of the badly wounded British prisoners such as Churchill as well as most of the wounded Irish Volunteers were located near Laragh. So was Pearse and his so called Headquarters Company. Though Hauptmann Schumacher, the commandant of Wicklow Battalion, frequently disagreed with Rommel, he had been persuaded to position one of his three rifle companies nearly halfway to Wicklow with the understanding that he would place it under Rommel’s temporary command if there was a serious threat coming from the north. This company was now contacted and moved to the village of Ashford where it joined the 3rd Kerry Battalion and Greystones Company. These had information from their scouts that the enemy had left the Military Road and were now heading east towards Wicklow which would take them through Ashford.
The Irish Volunteers had already erected crude but effective fortifications at Ashford which were now manned. The vanguard of the Ulster Volunteers now arrived and almost immediately charged. The Wicklow Battalion and Greystones Company were inexperienced units but the 3rd Kerry Battalion was Rommel’s original command. It had served under him at Killarney, Waterville, Cork and Dublin. It had lost many brave men but those that survived were now very experienced, very battle hardened and very deadly. Ironically it was the Orangemen who now faced them that were green. The two machineguns that were with the Kerrymen did not have many ammo belts left so they held their fire longer than they would have normally. When they finally opened fire they merely contributed to a slaughter well underway. Part of the rebel defenses consisted of trebuchets which Ziethen and his pioneers had constructed. These launched satchels containing explosives from the munitions factory at Arklow. They were a marginal substitute for real artillery though they had a larger bursting charge than most artillery shells which shocked the Ulster Volunteers.
Meanwhile Rommel had left one platoon of the 1st Dublin Battalion behind at Laragh to help the weak Headquarters Company guard both the improvised field hospitals and Pearse. The rest of the battalion he marched hard to the east looking to attack either the enemy’s right flank or rear. He arrived just as the initial attack of the Ulster Volunteers was being terminated with extreme prejudice. The captain in charge of the expedition now insisted that the U.V.F. look for away to turn the rebel right flank at Ashford. As they were starting to do this, Rommel attacked with the 1st Dublin Battalion. Taken in flank the Ulster Volunteers, who were already unnerved by their failed attack, soon panicked. The better disciplined Royal Irish Riflemen did not and this caused Rommel’s men some trouble but they were not numerous enough to turn the battle around completely esp. when the Kerrymen emerged from their breastworks and joined in the attack. Nearly half of the enemy managed to escape though to the north through what was called The Devil’s Glen. Rommel did not have enough men to pursue the fleeing enemy properly and finish them off. He had taken more than 300 prisoners in this engagement. He felt that he would have taken more but some of the Irish Volunteers were killing U.V.F. who had surrendered.
Rommel had captured all of the enemy supply wagons and carts. He was sorely disappointed to find not a single ammunition belt for machineguns. The U.V.F. had been armed with a mixture of Mannlicher and Mauser rifles while the Royal Irish Riflemen had carried Lee-Enfields. The ammunition the rebels had captured was in rough proportion to the weapons the enemy carried. So while the capture of the enemy’s supplies helped to ease Rommel’s ammunition problem it also made it more complicated. He never expected that he would be capturing Mauser rounds from the enemy. All of the handful of Germans in his command had switched to using the Lee-Enfield. Rommel briefly considered asking them to switch back to Mauser rifles but then realized that the weak company of Bavarians Schumacher had with him at Arklow still used Mausers. Rommel would give the Mauser ammunition to Schumacher as a way of thanking him for the use of one of his companies.
------Carrigahorrig (Tipperary) 2010 hrs
Supported by 2 batteries of 7.7cm guns the 73rd Fusiliers Regiment fought its way through the rear guards of what was left of the West Riding Division to take the key town of Carrigahorrig. This effectively trapped those elements of the West Riding Division still to the northwest. This turned out to be 5 badly depleted Duke of Wellington companies, 4 machineguns, half of an A.S.C. company and a few ambulances. Some of these units were still on the other side of the Shannon. The rest of the 111th Infantry Division was moving in to mop up the trapped units. The British machineguns caused some trouble for the Germans but in the end they merely delayed the inevitable.
------Ballyconnell (Cavan) 2030 hrs
After their unsuccessful predawn attack the U.V.F. made no further major attacks on the Northern Ireland Regiment during the day. They did send out two patrols that resulted in brief skirmishes with the enemy. After that the fighting was dominated by snipers. Colonel Heinrici had identified those men he considered to be his best marksmen and provided them with some speedy training in sniper tactics. These were now put to good use though as the day wore on the Ulster Volunteers slowly began to adapt but declined to dig any trenches. Heinrici saw this as a sign that the U.V.F. blithely assumed that they had complete control of the initiative and need not take any other serious measures to counter a possible attack. He personally led a patrol and found that the enemy was already concentrating in once sector in preparation for another night attack. This left one section with wagons and carts containing supplies dangerously close to the front line watched over by a weak contingent that looked very unprepared.
Major Schirmer had instructed the men of the 1st Northern Ireland Battalion in bayonet tactics. Heinrici ordered Schimer to make a bayonet charge against the Ulster Volunteers watching the wagons. Had the enemy been real British soldiers he would not have ordered this but he believed that they could pull it off against the Ulster Volunteers. Just before Schirmer initiated his charge Heinrici had 4 of his machineguns lay down covering fire where the enemy had concentrated even though it was further away than what is normally considered effective rifle range. This kept most of the enemy distracted while the 1st Northern Ireland Battalion charged putting most of the enemy guarding the wagons to flight. Those that did not flee were either killed or captured---mostly the former as the rebels remained disinclined to take Orangemen as prisoners despite the admonitions of Heinrici and the battalion commandants.
Capturing the carts and wagons turned out to be easier than getting them back to the rebel position. The major of the Highland Light Infantry who was in overall command soon realized what was happening. He sent one company of the Highland Light Infantry which he had in reserve along with about 800 of the U.V.F to counterattack. This move was not completely unexpected by Heinrici who had the 3rd Northern Ireland Battalion standing by to help if necessary. These now joined the battle which quickly became an intense firefight. The rebels fought their way back to where they could get effective support from their machineguns then turned to fight. They had a modest numerical advantage over their pursuers and within these 2 battalions most of rebels had some combat experience. The Ulstermen were eventually forced to realize that this was not a reenactment of the Battle of the Boyne. They were instead getting the worst of the engagement and were forced to retreat.
The supplies that the rebels captured disappointed Heinrici somewhat. It was mostly food. If the current battle went for a long time food was definitely going to be a factor but he regarded ammunition as being still more important and there were only very modest quantities of that---nearly two thirds of it being rounds for 8mm rounds for Austrian Mannlicher rifles, the rest being 7.92mm Mauser bullets.
------east of Vilna (Lithuania) 2100 hrs
Even though it was going to be a full moon this night General von Mackensen, the commander of the Eleventh Army worried that his 4 cavalry divisions could not hold against a determined night attack. He therefore ordered all of them to pull back to the third trench line at dusk. General Smirnov did indeed order XXXV Army Corps to make a night attack without a preliminary bombardment. In the bright moonlight the attacking battalions came under heavy German artillery fire just as they reached the German wire barrier. Once again the Russian attackers were clumped in a dense formation so while the German shelling was not as accurate as it had been during the day it could still inflict heavy losses. It also caused considerable confusion. Some of the assaulting battalions retreated in panic and disarray but 4 battalions made their way into the abandoned second trench. There was even more confusion about whether or not they should try to advance any further. In the end the Russians simply remained in their captured trench where they were sporadically blasted by the howitzers of VIII Army Corps. This chaotic situation persisted through the rest of the night.
------Thurles (Tipperary) 2145 hrs
Now that it was dark the British resumed using the train station at Thurles as there were 1 battalion and 2 more batteries that they still intended to move to Roscrea by rail using the other track. Nothing untoward happened when the artillery battery which had tried to board the previous train now nervously loaded on to its replacement. When the train was fully loaded it left without incident. The rail transfer continued now being more than three hours behind the original schedule. General Shaw had originally planned to withdraw from Thurles back to Templemore around midnight but now he was going to let his men sleep to almost first light and then pull back towards Templemore.
------west of Portumna (Galway) 2205 hrs
The overly cautious commander of the 3rd Marine Fusiliers Regiment was reluctant to attack the British position on the west bank of the Shannon in daylight. If the sky was clear he would have hesitated to attack under the light of a full moon but there was a heavy cloud producing intervals of rain, some of it heavy. He was on the verge of committing two battalions to assaulting a narrow section of the enemy trench line soon after last light when word arrived that elements of the 111th Infantry Division had captured Portumna Bridge from the east. The bridge was a swivel bridge with the moving section over a small island in the middle of the Shannon. The station which controlled the swiveling had been captured by the 111th Infantry Division. Realizing that the British soldiers on the west bank would be distracted by the threat to their rear the commander of the 3rd Marine Fusiliers Regiment now ordered his two battalions to begin their postponed attack. He also ordered the 2nd American Volunteer Battalion which he had been holding as close reserve to be thrown into the assault as well.
"Come on, come on, hurry up!" yelled James Cagney Jr. to Fred Austerlitz and Jack Moran as he rushed forward with rifle hoping to bayonet a British soldier. He was several paces ahead of most of the men of his company.
Even though it was a full moon the heavy cloud cover made it a dark night. It had rained heavily early in the evening but that had tapered off now to a cold drizzle. Parachute flares had periodically lit up the battlefield but at this momant the only flare was well to the east and barely visible.
"Jimmy look out!" yelled Fred who was closer to Cagney than Jack was, "Look out for the---"
"AHHHH!!!!" yelled Cagney as he plowed headlong into the barbed wire.
There were some other soldiers in the company who found themselves in a similar predicament. There was also rifle fire coming from the enemy but it was fairly light and not very accurate in the dark. Still here and there a handful of Americans were getting hit.
"ARGHHH! Jesus fuckin’ Christ this shit hurts," wailed Cagney. When he could see Fred approaching him he added, "Don’t just stand there grinning like a damn monkey. Get me the fuck out of here! I am stuck dammit! AWWW! And where the hell is Jack?"
Fred sighed in perplexity. He wasn’t exactly sure how to get his friend out of the wire. He was worried that if he tried to help he might up end up getting stuck himself. Jack did finally arrive looking very nervous. Instead of standing he crouched down low. "Do you know how to get James here out of the wire?" Fred asked.
Jack remained silent at first but then he produced a pair of wire cutters. "Where did you get those, Jack?" Fred asked.
"I have had them for a while. They come in handy sometimes," replied Jack.
Fred knew that there were some gaps in what Jack was telling them about his past though he did admit to being part of the infamous Hudson Dusters. "Can you free Jimmy here? And maybe let us all get through the wire while you’re at it. We are supposed to be killing the enemy on the other side of it."
"Fred’s right you know, Jack. So why don’t you hurry up and cut me out of this infernal stuff."
Still in a crouch Fred scampered over to the barbed wire. He began snipping the wire.
"You ever do this before, Jack?" asked Fred who decided to crouch down low as well to reduce his chances of being hit.
"Yeah, well sort of. Nobody was shooting at me though while I was doing it."
"So you should be doing it a lot faster this time, right?" quipped Cagney.
Suddenly a few explosions could be heard that sounded like they were rather close. "What’s that?" asked Jack who now seemed even more nervous.
"I don’t know Jack. I don’t think it is artillery," answered Fred.
"All I know is it’s another fuckin’ reason for you to hurry up," said Jimmy.
Despite his anxiety Jack soon managed to free Jimmy who was covered in blood from multiple lacerations. "Are you alright, James?" asked Fred.
"No! It hurts like a son of a bitch. But it looks worse than it really is. Really. I’m going to be alright so why don’t you and Jack here get y’er lazy asses moving and go kill some Limeys. I will catch up with you guys in a little bit."
Before either Jack or Fred could move two other members of their company slipped through the gap Jack had just created in the British wire. They left Jimmy and slipped through as well. To their relief it seemed that fewer and fewer shots were being fired at them. German soldiers from the 111th Infantry Division had cleared out the trench from the rear and it had involved some hand grenades being used. One of the Germans leveled his rifle and pointed it at Fred who yelled out in German, "Don’t shoot, don’t shoot! I am an American."
------north of Prishtina (Serbia) 2215 hrs
The New Zealand and Australian Division had launched several attacks against the hedgehog defenses of the Ottoman 26th Infantry Division at Prishtina. These had dented the enemy lines in a few places and even captured some prisoners but it had come at a sizable cost in terms of casualties and ammunition expended. General Godley continued to expect a sudden collapse in the morale of Johnny Turk, who were surrounded but so far there was no evidence of that. In the afternoon first an Austrian then later a German warplane appeared in the skies over the city. The Austrian plane merely observed while the observer aboard German aircraft tossed 3 very small bombs by hand on one of his artillery batteries which wounded one gunner.
General Godley was continuing to have a difficult time interfacing with the local Serbian units which were reluctant to assist in his attack. For one thing what little artillery the Serbs had in the area was completely out of ammunition. The Serbs refused to participate in any daylight attacks and only reluctantly joined in his night attacks which were now underway. Unfortunately the sky was only partially cloudy here allowing the full moon to illuminate the battlefield. The night attacks were not doing much better than the daytime assaults.
Now some additional bad news made its way to General Godley’s HQ. A patrol of New Zealand cavalry had spotted a mass of Bulgarian infantry marching hard towards Prishtina from the south. The scouts estimated that the Bulgarians would reach Prishtina tomorrow afternoon.
------SMS Seydlitz leaving Cork harbor 2250 hrs
It was raining hard with occasional flashes of lightning. The seas were choppy but not severe enough to be a threat to the 3rd Torpedoboat Flotilla which had left the harbor earlier. It was followed by the 2nd Scouting Group. The return of Admiral Graf von Spee’s Atlantic had caused some reorganization of the scouting groups. Blücher was now returned to the 1st Scouting Group. The reformed 2nd Scouting Group, still commanded by Admiral Maas, now consisted of Pillau, Graudenz, Regensburg and Stralsund. The 4th Scouting Group was now composed of Kolberg, Cöln, and Dresden. The 3rd Scouting Group was also back in operation and it followed 1st Scouting Group. Sufficient repairs had been made on the heavily damaged Yorck at Haulbowline to permit her to return to Germany but she could only sustain a speed of 14 knots. Prinz Heinrich had been out commerce raiding but had been ordered to return to Haulbowline late last night. In addition to taking on coal she finally received the new codebooks. After considerable debate with his staff, Admiral von Ingenohl decided to let the AMC Kronprinz Wilhelm continue her commerce raiding.
After the 3rd Scouting Group the ocean liners would be the next formation to emerge from Cork harbor. Admiral von Ingenohl had insisted on this. He claimed this was because some of the liners could only make 14 knots while von Ingenohl intended to steam the HSF at 15 knots so he would give them a head start and overtake them midmorning. Admiral von Hipper suspected that one unstated reason for von Ingenohl’s decision was a fear that there were British mines somewhere off Cork and he intended to use the ocean liners similar to the way coal miners used canaries. So far these canaries were still unharmed. For the time being they would all travel together at 14 knots. Once it was light those that could do 20 knots or more would be split off into a separate group. Some of the liners carried British prisoners and the wounded. General von François wanted to keep in Ireland only those lightly wounded soldiers that could be expected to return to duty soon. Unfortunately because of the British cavalry raiding in southern and western Cork General von François was unable to move the roughly 7,000 British prisoners held at Killarney to Cork.
------Ballyconnell (Cavan) 2300 hrs
One purpose of Heinrici’s hit and run attack was to act as a spoiling attack to upset the enemy’s preparations for their own attack. He did not succeed in getting the U.V.F. to cancel their planned night attack entirely but it was delayed one hour allowing the attackers time to regroup. The end result was largely a reprise of the predawn battle except that it was even more confused and went on somewhat longer. There were even more instances of rebels firing on rebels and Ulter Volunteers firing on Ulster Volunteers. There was light rain when the battle started which intensified before it was over with some thunder and lightning for a while. One of Heinrici’s advantages was that his men were better rested than the enemy and in the end it was exhaustion as much as the unfavorable casualties which caused the enemy to terminate their attack.
------Clifden (Galway) 2325 hrs
Now that his battalion was at long last decently armed, the commandant of the Connemara Battalion, decided to attempt something more ambitious than pinprick guerilla raids and ambushes. South of the town of Clifden, Marconi had constructed the first transatlantic wireless station in 1907. The station was known to be well guarded by the R.I.C. which had been reinforced by a dozen Royal Marines. The R.I.C. at Clifden had been repeatedly committed to patrolling the western portion of the Connemara. Those patrols had been successfully ambushed by the Connemara Battalion on two occasions, one of which was yesterday.
Despite on and off rain for most of the afternoon the Connemara Battalion managed to assemble east of the wireless station at dusk. This was the first time that the entire battalion had ever assembled as previously when they were short of weapons they had operated only in small groups. This had caused the R.I.C. in the Connemara to badly underestimate the size of the enemy. The R.I.C. had laid down some barbed wire around the wireless station but it was merely a single strand. They possessed only a single searchlight of fairly modest strength. They had guards posted but most of the garrison incl. all of the Royal Marines were sleeping at this time. The rain had been coming down hard for a while but it the last few minutes it had stopped. The battalion commandant decided to attack during a lull in the storm.
The charge was not a thing of beauty. Several of the rebels slipped and fell on the wet ground. Others proved that even a single strand of wire could painfully entangle a soldier. The guards sounded the alert and the other constables and the Royal Marines came a running. Initially the guards try to fight their attackers outside but before long it became obvious that they were too badly outnumbered. The fight shifted to keeping the rebels out of the main building. They succeeded in keeping them out for over an hour. The rebels almost gave up when the rain resumed with another downpour but their commandant demanded that they stay. It was in the midst of the downpour that the Irish Volunteers finally managed to break into the main building. The battle was still not won as the enemy fought practically room by room. Some of the Irish Volunteers were armed with a shotgun instead of a rifle and in close quarters these men proved invaluable.
Te wireless station fell just before first light. The Connemara Battalion had paid a heavy price for it in casualties only to discover that they had no idea what to do with it.
To be continued...