Chagos Islands | Churchill | 5 Oct 1914

Today is a comedy day. Red noses and trick flowers all around! The Chagos Islands and Antwerp both receive unexpected visitors.

Chagos Islands

No, I won’t make you ask. The Chagos Islands are spang in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The remote (and subsequently infamous) British colony of Diego Garcia receives a rare visit from a naval cruiser. They dutifully roll out the red carpet, and give it all the welcome, honours and pageantry that its station demands.

Unfortunately for them, the cruiser is SMS Emden. The colony is so remote that it has no radio, and therefore no means of communication with the outside world. Nobody’s dropped by to check on them in the last few months. They have no idea that they’re supposed to be at war with the friendly German sailors. For some strange reason, Captain Muller is not in a hurry to correct this impression. Instead, the Chagossians spend a pleasant week repairing Emden’s damage, careening her hull, providing her with coal, and selling odds and sods to the crew.

It’s that man again!

That’s right! You may have noticed that one Winston Churchill is not content with his starring role in a later war, and is insistent on buggering around in this one, too. Never a man to ask anyone to do something he wasn’t prepared to himself, today he pops up in Antwerp, of all places. He’s determined to see in person whether his mildly hare-brained scheme with the Royal Naval Division (still on the train, and if they weren’t ready to kill before, they certainly are now) is going to pay off. And, being Churchill, he isn’t content with just sitting and watching. He writes to London, suggesting that he personally be given an appropriate military rank so that he can take personal command of the British defensive effort.

This suggestion allegedly gained the approval of Lord Kitchener, but the rest of the Cabinet meets it with the gales of laughter that it undoubtedly deserves. The Germans are blissfully unaware of all this hilarity, preoccupied as they are with starting to move their infantry forward through the wreckage of the outer forts. The situation is desperate, and the Belgians are in desperate need of more stentorian reinforcement than one upper-class twit and the prodigious moustaches of the Royal Marines.

Actions in Progress

Siege of Antwerp
Battle of the Vistula

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. In today’s paper: Extensive space given over to reporting of casualties, and surprisingly little is made of the Kaiser’s alleged “contemptible little army” order.

The excellent tumblr Today in World War I is also chuckling about the comedy adventures of Emden at the Chagos Islands.

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