Battle of Dogger Bank | 24 Jan 1915

So, to recap from yesterday; the German Navy thinks that the British fishing fleet is spying on them. They’re sending a raiding group to the Dogger Bank fishing grounds to pick on some trawlermen. Meanwhile, the Admiralty is intercepting all the German radio messages and has copies of all their codebooks up in Room 40, so has laid an ambush for them.

John Chilembwe

But first, the Chilembwe Uprising in Nyasaland is developing rapidly. During the night a large group of rebels attempts to raid a weapons store in Blantyre, escaping with only a few rifles and some ammunition. Although a general alarm is yet to be raised, the raid has failed to provide the rebels with a decent amount of firepower, and this will prove critical once the authorities respond.

Meanwhile, John Chilembwe himself returns to one of his churches, accompanied by the head of the late Mr Livingstone, where he gives a sermon and then spends most of today praying. An ex-askari from the King’s African Rifles takes effective command and leads a successful ambush on a small group of KAR men near Mbombwe, which is probably the high point of the rebellion.

Meanwhile, the government is mobilising the white militia, and a battalion of KAR is withdrawn from the north to deal with the rebels. They don’t attempt to attack any of the other plantations, and (understandably) make no effort to take control of a stockade five miles away that’s currently unguarded. Instead, the men take up the best defensive positions that they can on the bank of a small river.

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Blockade of Germany

The ongoing naval blockade of Germany is by no means as effective or as damaging as it would later become. However, it’s already causing some problems with the food supply, due in large part to the need to feed the army for a much longer war than had been imagined. The government is not slow to present the blockade as a barbaric act by Britain. Price controls and food rationing are becoming more widespread. Famous ersatz substitutes such as KK-Brot (a bread substitute containing potato flour) are appearing about now.

They’re also mobilising scientists. About now, the nutritionist Paul Eltzbacher will release a pamphlet called “The German People’s Food Supply and the English Starvation Plan”. He’s drawing heavily on history to present the British as unprincipled and ruthless. After all, it’s only fifteen years since the British invented concentration camps during the Boer War, resulting in widespread disease and starvation. It’s all too easy to draw a direct link between the camps of the past and British policy today.

In Prussia particularly, the government has also launched a series of public lectures by academics. Their talks are all on the same theme; British starvation tactics. Fighting land wars against Russia and France is one thing. The war with Britain is starting to take on its own distinctive aspect in propaganda rhetoric.

Battle of Dogger Bank

Right then. For the Germans, we have one German battlecruiser squadron, assorted light cruisers and destroyers, and lashings of torpedo-boats, under Admiral Hipper. For the British, two battlecruiser squadrons, one light cruiser squadron, and the Harwich Force of three more light cruisers and a shitload of destroyers, under Admiral Beatty.

As dawn breaks, Hipper sees smoke on the horizon, realises he’s been had, and attempts to exit stage left. Beatty’s ships have enough of a speed advantage to position themselves favourably before closing to gun range and opening fire at nearly 11.5 miles. (It’s about the distance from High Barnet to Buckingham Palace, or Ypres to Roulers.) However, their fire is not as effective as it could have been. Misunderstandings and miscommunication result in ships firing at the wrong targets, and taking the shell splashes of other ships for their own. This prevents them from correctly ranging their guns.

The critical moment of the battle occurs after a few hours. After scoring several hits, the British flagship Lion is hit and takes serious damage. Meanwhile, the German armoured cruiser Blucher takes damage to her boilers, and soon falls behind the rest of the German fleet. Lion nearly falls victim to a magazine fire before being hit again, taking on water, and dropping back. Her electric generators fail.

Meanwhile meanwhile, Hipper decides his only chance is to leave Blucher behind and keep running for home. As the Germans attempt to flee, Lion sights a submarine periscope. (In fact, no U-boats were in the area.) Admiral Beatty attempts to give orders for his battlecruisers to turn away from the submarine and continue the pursuit. However, without electricity for his radios, this can only be done by hoisting flag signals.

The actual message sent by flag signal is “Course North-East” and “Engage the enemy’s rear”. Unfortunately, north-east happens to be the direction of Blucher, who is most certainly in the enemy’s rear. The fleet breaks off pursuit and rounds on Blucher, sinking her after stubborn resistance, but the rest of the Germans disappear over the horizon. Beatty attempts to hoist more flags, but by the time the misunderstanding is obvious, his ships are too far away to read the signals.

What might have happened without the mishap is, naturally, a Matter of Some Debate. The entire British force clearly outgunned the Germans. However, it’s been theorised that the German ships might nevertheless have done significant damage, based on subsequent events at the Battle of Jutland.

And now Lion, seriously damaged, has to find a way of getting home…

Actions in Progress

Siege of Przemysl
Chilembwe Uprising

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