Today there’s a sharp battle between the British Empire forces and a 30-strong group (that’s not a misprint) of askari under the enthusiastic command of a German lieutenant, who’s fortified a hillock outside Ngombeni. After a few hours of speculative firing, the lieutenant is gently persuaded that honour is satisfied and he can now surrender.
The Ottomans have sent a small fleet to Trebizond, hoping to land men and supplies that can be sent into the mountains and somehow reverse their fortunes at Sarikamis and Ardahan. Unfortunately, the Russians are on to them, and the fleet is intercepted by a strong squadron. Even the presence of Goeben is insufficient to prevent the Russians sinking most of the transports. They’ll spend the next little while chasing the remainder of the fleet, Goeben well and truly included, back to the Bosphorus.
Meanwhile, Enver Pasha packs up and leaves Erzurum to return to Constantinople. He’ll have plenty of time on the long train journey to think up excuses and a damage control strategy for when he returns.
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- Sail a shitload of old-but-powerful ships up the Dardanelles, bombarding the fuck out of all their forts on the way.
- Land parties of Royal Marines at the forts to kill the gunners and collect their underpants.
Once the plan’s accepted, Churchill will send messages to Russia. The Black Sea Fleet will be on standby to launch operations near the Bosphorus to keep the Turkish fleet away from the Dardanelles, and there’ll be a Russian force waiting at Sevastopol to sail to Constantinople. (At least the violently pro-Russian Spectator will be happy.)
Now, I may have been slightly faecetious in describing the plan, but there is a point to be made here. Nobody seems to have considered how the Ottomans might react to a large number of ships appearing in the Dardanelles. How will they ensure that the forts remain silent once they’ve been captured? What will stop the Ottomans marching an army in and re-occupying them, especially if the navy is expected to do anything in the meantime other than sit in the Dardanelles and rust gently?
Nevertheless, the plan meets with general approval. The ships are so old that they’re effectively useless for operations against Germany, and were mostly due to be scrapped. Even heavy losses will be relatively tolerable to push the attack home properly. Some bright spark has a Good Idea. The Queen Elizabeth is even now on her way to the Mediterranean for gunnery trials. Why not attach her to the fleet? Her guns have more than enough range for her to sit quite comfortably out of range of the Turkish forts and still give them the beans.
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Elsewhere, Page 4 proclaims boldly that the French are nearing the Rhine, prompting sarcastic mutterings from the public gallery. On Page 6, the Ulster Volunteers are guarding the Irish coast in case some tricky Huns should attempt to steal it. Page 8 reports on Turkish fears of a danger to the Dardanelles (good thing the Navy isn’t planning to attack there, hey?) And apparently Page 14 is blaming a Mr Subsidence for the recent flooding in the Thames Valley…
(If you find the olde-tyme style difficult to get along with, have a look at this reading guide.)