Belgian National Day | 21 July 1915

Battle of Malazgirt

Yet more Ottoman troops are arriving at the Belican Hills. There’s more hard fighting, and again the Russians manage to hold fast. The continual appearance of extra Ottoman soldiers is proving rather annoying. They shouldn’t be here, and yet they are.

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The story of the loss and recovery of the Panyan Pickle recipe is a story in itself!
The story of the loss and recovery of the Panyan Pickle recipe is a story in itself!

Belgian National Day

Today is the Belgian national holiday. With 95% of their country under German occupation, this is an excellent opportunity for the population to engage in a little civil disobedience. For instance, the German governor of Brussels has distributed notices expressly prohibiting public assembly or the decoration of private buildings. Unsurprisingly, the creativity of the Belgians exceeds his imagination.

Shops, offices, and businesses of all kinds spontaneously give their workers a day’s holiday, and everyone goes into the street dressed in mourning black. There had been no prohibition on selling flowers, and the flower-sellers are doing a roaring trade in red and yellow posies. When combined with black clothes, they’re now representing the three colours of the Belgian flag.

This is just one example of how the people of Brussels have made passive-aggressive resistance into a fine art. One of the Germans’ first acts had been to impose Berlin time on the country (amusingly, “Berlin time” is GMT+1, the time zone now known as CET and used by France and the Low Countries). The population at large, of course, refused to use “l’heure boche” and continued with “l’heure d’allies”. An ordinance insisted that all public clocks must be kept running and must also run to German time. However, a tragic wave of unreliability has struck those clocks, all of them running many hours fast or slow. Only the clock on the Hotel de Ville, directly controlled by the Germans, can be counted on to show the accurate Berlin time.

It’s also said that the Spanish ambassador used his diplomatic talents to avoid offence when setting a time for future meetings. He referred to “l’heure de l’Hotel de Ville”; acceptable to the Germans because it was their time, and acceptable to the Belgians because they’d built the clock…

Second Isonzo

The Duke of Aosta doesn’t want to march his troops at Second Isonzo back down the hill again. They’ve been counter-attacked. And they’ve not been counter-attacked by just anyone. They’ve been counter-attacked by fresh Bosnian reinforcements. Many of them have gone into battle wielding enormous maces for hand-to-hand fighting in the trenches. The Italians have been unable to bring up much supporting artillery, and yesterday’s request for reinforcements is still under consideration.

After a few hours’ fighting, the Italians vacate their positions at the top of Mount San Michele and retire to an intermediate strong-point. They’re neither up nor down. More soon.

Kenneth Best

Still aboard ship, things are beginning to look up for Kenneth Best. He’s finally got over his antipathy towards Lt Edge, and he’s getting more food at last. Apparently he and Edge had gone to the same public school.

How I do like middle-aged Scotsmen. They gave this fellow porridge with sugar! Fancy, for a Jock. On full rations again, and yet temperature not yet down, still 99.4. Told I could get up. Too weak to do so.

[Edge and I] gas on about stories of German who walked in trench in disguise, asked for Officer Commanding Essex Regiment, and shot him dead. Also the artillery officer on our side who, when range was 2,700 yards, fired deliberately at 1,000 into our own trenches. Officer led out men by night. One of their own rockets went up and showed them they were being led into Turkish line. They shot officer.

Naval muddles. A 15cm gun was carefully stowed away with ammunition. It had come in May, but stayed at Lemnos, because no crane to lift her out. Only solution, run her ashore and blow up boat. 4 lighters of ammunition brought ashore, but were delivered to no-one and left. Result? Drifted down to Turkish lines.

It’s impossible to tell how much of this is accurate and how much of this is latrine rumour without easy access to things like battalion war diaries. Either way, it’s valuable, either as an example of bungling or an example of the kind of rumours that circulated freely.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Battle of Malazgirt
Battle of the Isonzo (Second Isonzo)

Further Reading

I have a Twitter account, @makersley, which you can follow to be notified of updates and get all my retweets of weird and wonderful First World War things. If you prefer Tumblr, I’m also on Tumblr.

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. Worth a look. I’m reading the paper every day, and it’s where the content for Our Advertising Feature comes from.

(If you find the olde-tyme style difficult to get along with, have a look at this reading guide.)

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