Mafia | 08 Jan 1915

No, not the Cosa Nostra. The Mafia we’re interested in is a small island off the coast of German East Africa.


More specifically, it’s about ten miles off the Rufiji delta. Despite being small, dull, and malarial, it’s still in an excellent position to be a short-range base for operations against the Konigsberg. Never the most patient of men, General Tighe has become more and more bullish since the New Year, and his superior General Wapshare has approved an operation to capture Mafia. With luck, it’ll raise morale and shut Tighe up for a while. Four companies of King’s African Rifles and one of the 101st Grenadiers are currently steaming there from Mombasa.


With everyone who can still escape the Russian noose now making for Erzurum by any way possible, Enver Pasha quits Koprukoy to head there. He won’t be staying on for long. His mind is already turning to damage control.

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Advert in the Daily Telegraph, January 1915


The Germans defy the French artillery barrage. Over the course of the last three weeks, the poilus have pushed themselves forward into a salient west of Perthes. Now, the Germans take them by surprise with a night attack, and force them back a few hundred metres. In the morning, they regather themselves and counter-attack; by midday, they’re back in their salient.

The First Battle of Champagne will be officially suspended in five days; this is the last action of any note before then.

Alex Letyford

It’s a bad day for Alex Letyford of the Engineers.

8.1.15 Again at work on the reserve trenches. At nightfall I remain with eight men and make the bridge again, it having been knocked into the stream. It rains nearly all the time, and the enemy torment us with their Very lights and sniping. Return at 9pm.

I wrote something about the use of Very lights (flares, to us) a while ago. Of all the horrific experiences I can think of, being in sight of the enemy when a Very light goes up is definitely up there.

Actions in Progress

Siege of Przemysl
Battle of Champagne (First Champagne)
Battle of Sarikamis
Battle of Ardahan

Further Reading

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. In today’s paper: More hand-wringing about the recent arrest of one Cardinal Mercier in Belgium. (He wrote a rather pompous pastoral letter and had it distributed to all churches in Belgium, urging them not to cooperate with the German occupiers.) At a hundred years’ remove, it’s rather hard to see why they thought it worth getting up in arms about an occupying power during a major war imprisoning a dissident. Of course, Britain could never be accused of interning anyone the Establishment didn’t like the look of, under the label “enemy alien”. Perish the thought. C’est la guerre.

Sarcasm aside. Page 4 worries about a cheese shortage due to the Army’s voracious appetite for it. On Page 5, President Poincare prohibits the provision of psychoactive plonk to poilus. (Ahem. The French have banned the sale of absinthe, is what I’m trying to say.) On Page 6, “Allies Maintain the Offensive Role” (are you sure?) and we’re apparently in the Fourth Phase of the War, which is good to know. The flooding in the Thames valley is apparently receding (Page 9), and there’s news on Page 12 of Armenian refugees arriving in Russia.

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

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