Yeah, you heard me. Afghanistan. There’s very little information available about today’s events in the North-West Frontier of India, but we’ll do the best we can. We’re also in Serbia and Palestine today; the Western Front remains ominously quiet.
First, the Austro-Hungarians have responded to the Serbian counter-attack with a general offensive at the Kolubara. There’s strong local resistance, but the Serbian generals soon decide that they’re dangerously over-extended and in danger of the general offensive turning to general victory. The only option they can see that saves the army and keep fighting is to abandon Belgrade. They will then withdraw into the interior, establishing new positions around Mount Rudnik and the town of Nis, northern terminus of a railway line from Salonika. The general retreat begins as soon as the orders can be sent out.
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The Tochi (or Gambila) river rises near the Afghan border and then runs through North Waziristan, eventually becoming a tributary of the Kurram. The Tochi Valley has seen plenty of sporadic fighting between local tribesmen and British-officered sepoys for the last fifty-odd years, and has been a site of conflict for longer. Recent British policy in this area has been very hands-off, with the white-officered Northern Waziristan Militia keeping a loose eye on the region. Ideally, the Raj would like to forget entirely about the North-West Frontier, and hope it goes away.
The cause of today’s “affair” (for such it’s been called, not being large enough to warrant the title “battle”) is unclear. I’ve seen several vague references to “German agents” attempting to stir up trouble in Afghanistan and the tribal areas, but no more detail than that. Possibly this is accurate. Possibly the Pashtuns (from the city of Khost) have found out about the Indian Army being reduced in strength as it goes off to Europe and Africa. Possibly they’re just trying it on for their own reasons. At any rate, about 2,000 of them have appeared in the Tochi Valley and are heading for Miranshah, the local administrative centre. Major Scott, commanding the Militia, is attempting to concentrate his sepoys at Miranshah Fort. The strength of the militia is nominally just under 2,000 , but they’re widely spread in small units throughout the surrounding area.
Incidentally, guess what just happened in Miranshah, about 10 hours ago? Yeah, the USA just dropped a few drone missiles on it, which is about the most depressing thought possible at this moment in time.
We saw a few days ago that Ottoman patrols have been probing closer and closer to the Suez Canal, and recently clashed with the Bikaner Camel Corps. It’s been decided recently that it would probably be a good idea to stop the in-transit ANZAC force in Egypt for their training, rather than bringing it straight to Britain, and a good thing too. The Ottomans are starting to mass an army at Beersheba for an advance into the Sinai.
Actions in Progress
The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. In today’s paper: Page 4 has an article about the unemployed and the paupers of London, Page 9 indulges in some slight exaggeration about the scale of Russian victories at Lodz (“Generals Killed”, my arse), and on Page 10 William Maxwell describes conditions in the trenches in the manner of a low-rent Jerome K Jerome. There’s also some quality casual racism on page 11.
And it’s Saturday! Time once again to make our acquaintance (page 12) with Mrs Eric Pritchard and A Page for Women! She has some highly useful observations about blouses (apparently collars are back in) and household cooking for wounded soldiers. Tucked away on the far right of the page is something rather more interesting, though; a brief note on “Women’s Work in War”. Worth taking a look at.
There’s an excellent collection of contemporary satirical maps over at madefromhistory.com, most of them German. I particularly like the one where Fritz is sticking a bayonet in Ivan’s nose while trying also to kick Inspector Clouseau in the head. (Also in that map, an apparently pig-shaped Serbia appears to be trying to insert itself into Austria-Hungary’s bottom. Just saying.)