Givenchy | 21 Dec 1914

It’s mostly another “more of the same” day. The French Army continues flinging itself on the German guns. Enver Pasha’s cunning plan is about to swing into action.


Meanwhile, in Africa! Captain Looff has shifted Konigsberg’s berth a little way up the river, and today he throws a Christmas party for his crew, with supplies sent by colonists from all over German East Africa. At the same time, the matelots on board the British ships have been floating lanterns into the delta, with friendly notes for the Germans inside. Sample: “Try our Christmas puddings! Large six inches, small size four point seven.” It’s all very jolly.

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Meanwhile, back at that lovely war, badly-needed British reinforcements have squelched their way forward to give the Indian Corps a hand. The Germans are struggling through the mud created their own shelling and mining efforts. It’s proving exceptionally hard to bring their own reinforcements and supplies forward. When the British counter-attack comes, it restores most of the line to its original position.  Nothing to see here.  Move along, now.

The Indian Corps’ commander does the only thing he can do, and requests immediate relief for his men. It’s granted, and the Indian Corps will soon be able to have some proper rest for the first time in a good couple of months. They’ve taken serious casualties; not just in men, but in NCOs, VCOs and officers. And, unlike a British force, they can’t expect any reinforcement-drafts for a good few months.

To modern eyes, the high performance of the Corps seems obvious. Rushed into battle after a long sea voyage, thousands of miles from home, in completely unfamiliar terrain and conditions. They played a vital role in holding the line at the Battle of Armentieres, and in keeping it stable since then. And their reward, in some quarters, is to be sneered at and be deemed “unreliable”, because after all that, some of them fell back in an undisciplined fashion when they were forced out of their waterlogged trenches after having been blown up from in front, above and below all at once.

Artois & Champagne

It’s another tale of woe. There’s only so many ways I can say “They advanced through knee-deep mud with little artillery support into the teeth of machine-guns and were driven off with heavy losses.” The supporting attacks have already ground to a miserable halt. Now, more and more of the grand offensive is running out of steam, as focus is shifted to bringing heavy force to bear against small points of minor tactical importance.

Actions in Progress

Siege of Przemysl
Battle of Artois (First Artois)
Battle of Champagne (First Champagne)

Further Reading

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. In today’s paper: Funerals begin in Scarborough, Whitby, and Hartlepool (pages 9, 10, 12 and 15). Pages 8, 9, and 10 are extremely self-satisfied about the addition of Egypt to the Empire.

Elsewhere, the engineering column (page 3) asks the vital question “Jig-Making: When Does It Pay?”, Page 9 has Kipling’s latest on the training of Kitchener’s Army, and Page 11 has a column of adverts for foreign holidays. Business as usual all round, apparently.

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

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