Haricot Redoubt | 31 May 1915

A nondescript German cavalryman begins his journey towards fame, the French assault the Haricot, the situation in Sri Lanka is spiralling out of control fast, Gabriele D’Annunzio is being weaponised, deportation orders are beginning to percolate through the Ottoman Empire, and Louis Barthas is shockingly still unhappy.

Haricot Redoubt

The French Empire troops on Gallipoli attack the Haricot on Kereves Spur. They do succeed in taking many of the trenches around it, but the Haricot itself is far too strong to assault without overwhelming artillery support. Even the French soixante-quinze guns aren’t enough. They either need heavy howitzers or naval gunnery, and after recent events they have neither.

Meanwhile, the MEF has had a command reorganisation at Cape Helles. General Hunter-Weston’s reward for presiding over the shambles so far is promotion. The forces at Helles are now of corps strength, and Hunter-Weston is moved up from command of 29th Division. He’s angling for another offensive to follow up the partial success on Kereves Spur. Le sigh.

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German air force

Meanwhile, on the Western Front, the German air force is expanding rapidly. Those in a position to hear news about the Fokker synchronising gear trials are becoming aware that there will soon be plenty of glory to be had in the air. Among them is a dashing Uhlan officer who’s exceptionally cheesed off. For the last six months he’s been serving, dismounted, as a dispatch runner and odd-job man, hardly what he’d hoped for in 1914. Now someone’s trying to transfer him to the logistical corps.

The young man has no desire to spend his war hauling food and ammunition around the rear areas. Instead he’s put in for a transfer to the air force. Despite a rather lackadaisical application form, he’s just found out that he’s been accepted. In a few short days he’ll fly for the first time as navigator to an experienced pilot. His name is Manfred von Richthofen, and in time he will become known as the Red Baron, scourge of French aviators and American beagles.

Sri Lanka Riots

Having ordered men out of Colombo to put down the rioting in Kandy, the Governor realises that the riots have spread past Colombo with no sign of slowing down. Local reservists are now being called to the colours all over the island. In Colombo, the police are forming an emergency auxiliary unit, recruiting from the city’s white population. This is now a serious problem, and to solve it will surely require serious measures.

Gabriele D’Annunzio

General Cadorna is well aware of the propaganda value of D’Annunzio’s relentless blithering, and is determined to keep him onside. He’s given D’Annunzio an officer’s commission in the Novara Lancers and assigned him to Third Army headquarters with a roving brief to talk bollocks and chew gum (and he’s all out of gum). He’s authorised to visit any unit and “witness any action” that he chooses. Hopefully some lucky enemy sniper will manage to shoot him, but I’m not holding out too much hope on that score. The commission has also provided the terminally indebted poet with a useful regular income. He’s also been quick to supplement this by wangling himself a generous retainer from the editor of his preferred organ, the Corriere della Sera.

Armenian Genocide

The first deportation orders are beginning to arrive in villages within a couple of hundred miles of Constantinople. To most, they come as a complete surprise. Many local Turks are less than happy about the loss of friends and neighbours. Some, on the other hand, see a clear opportunity for personal gain. One survivor from the village of Jibin:

They gathered up other influential men in the church, including my father and his brothers, and began beating them in the courtyard. One of my father’s best friends, who used to come to our house several times a week, was beating my dad and saying that he wanted all of his belongings. Right there, a man brought the papers, and my father signed, saying he had sold all his belongings to Ismail Beg.

The “lucky” Armenians have a week, perhaps two, to prepare for their “resettlement”. Others have only 24 or 48 hours.

Louis Barthas

Our pet grognard is poking around Houdain.

At the end of the road was the church, a place of devotion that attracted the faithful every year from 20km around. What brought them were a few scraps of bone which I saw the next day, sealed up in a glass jar on the high altar. These were the bones, it was said, of John the Baptist. I would have liked to have known how, from the banks of the River Jordan, they ended up in this church, but no-one could satisfy my curiosity.

Stretched out in ditches, we patiently awaited word of our assigned lodgings. We had to wait quite a while. Nobody knew where to put these vulgar poilus. For Messieurs les Officiers it was a different story. For each one they found a comfortable bed and a bedroom worthy of welcoming him. Finally we entered the village. Our section was led to a sheepfold, abandoned because it was no longer inhabitable by sheep. Built of straw and wattle, it looked like it would collapse at the slightest puff of wind.

We installed ourselves the best we could. The sheepfold was at one end of a road crisscrossed day and night by trucks of all kinds, parading with a thunderous racket. Sleep was impossible unless you were deaf as a woodcock. But what had we come to Houdain to do? It wasn’t someone’s pious plan to come to venerate the relics of John the Baptist. Had we come for a nice long stretch of rest, to take a little vacation in this charming valley?

Answer tomorrow. I’m a stinker.


General Townshend’s fleet sets off up the Tigris from Qurna, dispensing large amounts of ordnance as it goes. It’s been carefully put together, with barges acting as a platform for machine-guns or artillery. They take on several Ottoman outposts today, and generally shell them to buggery, with only minimal intervention needed from the blokes, who can be quickly landed and taken off again.

Actions in Progress

Gorlice-Tarnow Offensive
Battle of Artois (Second Artois)
Armenian Genocide
Sri Lankan Riots

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.

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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