Serbia in trouble | 9 Oct 1915

Italian Front

I’m afraid we’re starting today with pretty much the worst news possible from Italy. General Cadorna has just cancelled all leave from the army. That can mean only one thing; that a Third Isonzo is in the offing.

For once it would be unfair to pour upon him all the blame. With Serbia now under attack, the entire Entente is jumping up and down and shouting at the Italian government to do something, anything that might possibly draw men away from Serbia. It’s a hopeless suggestion, but for diplomatic reasons it can’t very well be refused. We must do something, this is something, we must do this. Ye gods.

Belgrade

Belgrade has been captured, again. This time there is no grandiloquent communique from the victorious generals, laying it at anyone’s feet. There’s still a job to do. Perhaps, if we’re in good humour, we might suppose that General von Mackensen emitted a satisfied Teutonic grunt. I’m not in particularly good humour right now, though. Particularly not as the Bulgarian government has just broken off diplomatic relations with Serbia.

Still, good thing General Bailloud is now in possession of orders to get into Serbia and help, right? Aaah, wrong answer. Early in the morning, Bailloud receives yet another missive. Under no circumstances may he cross the border into Serbia; no offensive action is to be taken until General Sarrail arrives to be responsible for it. Good for Bailloud’s promotion prospects, perhaps. Less good for the Serbians’ ability to, you know, win the war.

Captain Lecluse

Speaking of people who aren’t in good humour, here is Captain Lecluse, who’s just about to finally escape from the hell of the 6th at Second Champagne.

In the middle of this mass grave, my men, undaunted, had dug individual holes where they stoically sat, with the passive resignation of men from Brittany. Not a complaint, not a question, but what expressions on their faces, pale from fatigue and anguish. Their stares told me everything I needed to know.

The order to pull back finally arrived. It was about time! You could feel that officers and men were all at the end of their rope. The infernal bombardment was not yet over, but who cared? We quickly scaled the trench wall and moved out of range.

And all of this took place without our making one move, without seeing the enemy, without firing, or hearing a single shot.

He then goes on a passionate expostulation in which he carefully constructs a method for dealing with all this. He stridently declares that there is no such thing as a useless sacrifice. Every death contributes towards the final victory in its own way. Ordinarily I’d be happy to point and laugh and call it claptrap, but here we have a deeply traumatised man trying to come up with something, anything, to help him deal with sights that nobody should have to see.

That done, he proceeds to the rear to bury his commandant and three of his more intact blokes.

Louis Barthas

While our pet officer suffers, Corporal Louis Barthas (All-Minervois Moaning Champion 1908-1912) has received good news. They’ve been marched to the rear, and have ended up lodging in the grounds of General Niessel’s chateau. For a moment, he is as happy as a pig in shit to be getting a little rest, and then…

This news made us happy. Certainly, we thought, a campsite right under the eyes of the division’s general must be equipped with all the comforts we could desire. But how great was our disappointment when they stuck us in a stable, with a thick layer of manure covering the whole floor! A hundred men would have had trouble lying down in there. They were piling up 250, and we also had to make room for fifty sappers.

In vain I looked all around for a barn, a pig sty, any sort of shelter suitable for spending the night. I found nothing. I was forced to go back to the stable, where we arrayed ourselves as best we could, one on top of another, in every position. We could hardly sleep at all because someone was always coming in or going out, which couldn’t be done without trampling on someone and provoking angry shouts, complaints, and threats from those being stepped upon.

You’ll be shocked to hear that they didn’t get a great night’s sleep.

Bernard Adams

Lieutenant Bernard Adams of the 1st Royal Welch Fusiliers has finally arrived at Battalion Headquarters; he’s assigned as a platoon commander to D Company. Adams notes that the battalion commander is “quite young, by the way”; not surprising since the battalion has been going through commanding offficers like they’re going out of fashion. Lt-Col Cadogan died in its near-annihlation during First Ypres. His successor, Lt-Col Gabbett, also died taking his men over the top at the Battle of Festubert. His successor, Lt-Col Berners, has probably been wounded (the record is unclear, but he disappears for two months before reappearing as colonel of a different battalion in the same regiment). The man Adams met would have been John Minshull-Ford, and for a commanding officer he is indeed quite young at 34. In peacetime, an officer would be lucky to become lieutenant-colonel by 40. Dead man’s shoes are fine as long as you can avoid being the dead man…

Anyway. Lieutenant Adams has arrived; his company is still short of officers and men, but that doesn’t stop them being sent on the first of many working parties.

So at last I was fairly lodged in my battalion. I had been directed, dumped, shaken, and carried, in a kindly yet most amazingly haphazard way to my destination. There I found myself quite unexpected, but immediately attached somewhere until I should sort myself out a little and find my feet. In the afternoon I went with Davidson [another company officer] to supervise a working party which was engaged in paving a communication trench with tiles from the neighbouring houses.

More to come as he settles in.

Battle of Loos

In the light of yesterday’s counter-attack, Sir John French presents General Foch with his compliments and a very nice hand-written note from his mother. On account of certain problems that have arisen after the German attack, deeply sorry, completely unavoidable, but Sir John is excused from appearing in M. Foch’s games lesson until his temporarily weakened constitution improves, hopefully in a few days’ time.

Now, it’s true that this attack was never going to succeed, regardless of whether it was done in a coordinated fashion or not. But, hey, taking an entirely heartless attitude such as has to be adopted by a general in a world war, there is at least some small value in launching a hopeless attack in the name of earning some brownie points with your frenemies. Sir John has now managed to ensure, over the past three weeks or so, that absolutely nobody who he has regular contact with likes him. This is not an ideal state of affairs when people are starting to question his fitness for command.

Foch, seized by a fit of Frenchness, attempts to launch his own attack tomorrow anyway, but (and I know you’re going to be shocked to hear this) the weather is so bad that the artillery can’t really see what they’re shooting at for their prepatory bombardment, and the attack is postponed.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Battle of Loos
Battle of Artois (Third Artois)
Fourth Invasion of Serbia

Further Reading

Support the blog! Buy the book! 1914 is now available! 1915 to follow as long as y’all buy 1914!

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. If you prefer Tumblr, I’m also on Tumblr.

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.)

Mills bomb | Belgrade | 8 Oct 1915

A big hello to those of you clicking through from the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog. Enjoy your archive binge!

Battle of Loos

The Germans launch a rather hefty counter-attack all along the line; a four-hour bombardment begins at midday and their men go over the top at 4pm. And, interestingly, once again we see the same flaw that the German Army has been prone to again and again on the Western Front; major attacks are always over a very broad front, with roughly equal pressure applied at all points.

So it is that we find the British wire in front of the now-French trenches guarding Loos uncut, and it’s the turn of the Germans to be cut down like ninepins by shellfire and machine-gun. It’s the same story further north, towards Hulluch. Even an attack out of the Hohenzollern Redoubt doesn’t achieve much, briefly forcing the 3rd Grenadier Guards back, but the situation is soon rectified.

Of note in that last attack is that the Guards have had some rather rude words to say about the performance of the Number 15 Grenade, and a good thing too. When the Guards complain, people listen. Their supply of “cricket balls” has recently been replaced by Number 5 grenades instead, the iconic Mills bomb. The Mills soon wins rave reviews on account of features such as “Explodes properly even when used in slightly damp weather”. Cor blimey, if this continues there’s a real danger that the BEF might soon go into battle properly equipped!

Third invasion of Serbia

The invaders enter Belgrade in the evening, and all through the night they fight running battles, often hand-to-hand. Behind them, engineers are hurrying to build pontoon bridges across the river. This just does not look good at all. Meanwhile, General Bailloud at Salonika has received fresh orders from his government. These ones, in direct opposition to yesterday’s missive, command him to advance into Serbia, gather his men at Strumica station, and secure the vital railway line to Nis against enemy action. Sounds reasonable!

Captain Lecluse

Captain Lecluse is still stuck on the 6th, although it has at least passed midday. Enough men have fallen now that he can walk about the trenches a little and see what’s what.

There was a pile of shredded corpses, heaped one on top of the other like so many discarded puppets. One of them could only be identified by his dog tag. This bloody mess, which no longer resembled a human being, had a name, Viard, just a few hours ago!

One man’s skull had been completely crushed, his head pushed into his shoulders. Another displayed, where his legs had been, a pile of chopped flesh which resembled sausage meat. A third had taken on the air of a macabre carnival. A shell seemed to have lifted his face, and now it lay flat, like a grimacing Mardi Gras mask!

At the entrance, an NCO remained seated in the very place and posture where death struck him down. Hands hanging between legs, helmet tipped over face, you would swear that it was someone taking a nap, lazing in the sun. However, as you drew near and leaned down, you noticed that under the helmet, there was no head.

There is a reason to quote this other than just “look, the horrors of war”. Lecluse’s men are now wearing the Adrian helmet, the first steel helmet to be widely issued to protect the head against shrapnel. Small comfort to that poor NCO, of course.

Bernard Adams

Our new friend Lieutenant Bernard Adams of the 1st Royal Welch Fusiliers is enjoying the delights of trying to get forward to find his battalion. After some ten hours of travel he’s washed up at a chateau occupied by an unspecified headquarters to find out that his transport lorry had the previous night only missed his battalion by some 500 yards or so. By the evening he’s found his brigade, hiding in a wrecked village (reading between the lines, it may well be Annequin), and at 6pm a man with a bicycle arrives to take him forward again.

We were talking along when suddenly there was a scream like a rocket, followed by a big bang and the sound of splinters falling. I expected to see people jump into ditches, but they stood calmly in the street and watched. This was my first experience of being under fire. I hadn’t the least idea what to do. The textbooks, I believe, said ‘throw yourself on the ground’. I looked at my orderly, but he was ducking behind his bicycle, which I am sure is not recommended by any manual of military training. I ducked behind nothing, copying him.

When I saw women opening the doors of their houses and standing calmly, looking at the shells, ducking seemed out of the question, so we both stood and watched. Then, the salvo ceased, and I, thinking I must show some sort of lead, suggested that we proceed. My orderly, wiser by experience, suggested waiting to see if another salvo were forthcoming.

Lieutenant Adams takes the man’s advice, and they wait before proceeding forward to the RWF’s transport and supply headquarters. There he spends the night, listening to the morose quartermaster (who, let’s remember, has spent the last ten days drawing rations for dead men) tell him in great detail about all the losses they’ve been taking at the battle.

So, why this story? Why Bernard Adams, out of the hundreds of subalterns who wrote their story? Well, his book is entitled “Nothing of Importance”, and in the preface, he explains why.

There was one phrase in the daily communiques that used to strike us as rather ‘out there’. It was “Nothing of importance to record on the rest of the front.” I believe that a hundred years hence, this phrase will be repeated in the history books. There will be a passage like this. “Save for the gigantic effort of Germany to break through the French lines at Verdun [spoilers!], nothing of importance occurred on the Western Front between September 1915, and the opening of the Somme offensive.”

And this will be believed, unless men have learnt to read history aright by then.

If there is a better encapsulation of the spirit of this blog, then I am yet to find it. There’s more traditional narrative histories that contain that passage, and variants of it for different times of the war, than you can shake a subaltern’s swagger stick at. Anyway.

The river of history is full of waterfalls that attract the day excursionist – battles, and laws, and the deaths of kings; whereas, the spirit of the river is not in the waterfalls. I have yet to see a waterfall; but I have learned something of the spirit of the deep river in [my time at the front] of “nothing of importance”.

[This book] is the spirit of the war as it came to me. Perhaps it will seem that the first chapters are somewhat light and inclined to gloss over the terrible side of War. But that is just what happens. At first, the interest and adventure are paramount, and it is only after a time, after all the novelty has worn away, that one gets the real proportion.

He finishes by noting, slightly annoyingly, that he has followed the frequent convention of the published memoir by giving pseudonyms to the people that he encounters. More soon.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Battle of Loos
Battle of Artois (Third Artois)
Third invasion of Serbia

Further Reading

Support the blog! Buy the book! 1914 is now available! 1915 to follow as long as y’all buy 1914!

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. If you prefer Tumblr, I’m also on Tumblr.

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.)

von Mackensen | Belgrade | 7 Oct 1915

Oh, I hope you weren’t expecting good news. There’s precious little good news to go around at the moment. Let’s cut to the chase…

Third Invasion of Serbia

It’s a new year, it’s a new commander, it’s a new force, it’s a new plan. The newly-promoted Field Marshal von Mackensen has thrown out any idea of going the long way round through Bosnia. They’ve spent months flooding heavy artillery towards the border between Serbia and Austria-Hungary, and the last two days have seen enormous amounts of ordnance being chucked over the rivers. von Mackensen is determined to kick the front door in, shove his blokes across the Sava and the Danube, and capture Belgrade as soon as possible. The Serbian government has prudently remained at Nis, but that’s not the point. The point is to make a major statement to demoralise the Serbians and to deter the Greeks. (Not that they need much deterring; the King has appointed a new Prime Minister much more to his liking.)

The river-crossings are mostly achieved without much trouble. Unlike in the heady days of 1914, the Serbian Army can’t be concentrated against this assault. Too many of their men have had to be sent to the Bulgarian border. They need help and they need it now, or more than just Belgrade will be at risk. The responsibility for providing that help rests temporarily with General Bailloud, who’s busy getting blokes off the boats at Salonika and waiting for orders. Today, they arrive! And he’s been instructed in no uncertain terms not to take his men into Serbia. Welp.

Second Champagne

General Castelnau contacts General Joffre with a bald statement. Not only has his attack failed to break through, he sees no way to break through without a bombardment on the scale of the first day of the offensive. There’s no arguing with that, so General Joffre issues the order to terminate the battle as soon as a defensible and coherent front line has been established. We’ll look at things like casualties once the autumn offensive finally expires.

Third Artois

After General d’Urbal’s recent delaying action, they now need a new plan. Sir John French is at least now making promising noises that he’ll be ready to renew the Battle of Loos by the 10th. A new plan is duly drawn up, and it looks suspiciously like the old plan but with different men attacking and fewer artillery shells. One thrust over the top of Vimy Ridge towards Farbus, another assault on Hill 70 to support a BEF push in the region of Hulluch. Good luck with that.

Captain Lecluse

It’s still the 6th for Captain Henri de Lecluse, stuck in the now-cancelled attack of yesterday near Souain. Shells whistle and fly towards them, zipping narrowly overhead, plummeting just short.

Each time we heard the ominous whistling we told ourselves “That is the one!” Then after it had missed us, we added “Not yet.” Those are the hours that count for something. They are unforgettable. Hours where you can feel yourself living with great intensity because each minute appears to be your last. And as a poilu talking about them said so well, “Life is just passing through!”

This can’t go on forever. It doesn’t.

At the entrance to [the next trench], a shell hit dead on, right in the middle of my men. Twelve were dead, and some thirty-three others wounded. In a few moments all the stretchers had been put to work. There was nothing more we could do. The bad news was becoming more frequent. A voice called out, “The chaplain for our commandant!” Was it possible? Our dear commander, our friend, a father to all of us, had already been hit!

Let’s cut through the flowery crap a moment; the important point to remember here is that Commandant Delaire deliberately put himself in an exposed position so that more men could get into the trench.

We heard somebody crying out from our left, “Lieutenant de Bejarry is dead!” “Lieutenant Levylier’s leg has been crushed and he is half buried!” Poor Levylier. When I think that only three days ago, I rebuffed him for saying with a touch of snobbism that he found war to be quite “sporting”. What an ironic turn of events!

The shelling goes on. More tomorrow.

Bernard Adams

Time to introduce yet another new correspondent. John Bernard Pye Adams had followed a well-trodden path from a Classics degree at Cambridge to the Civil Service, but lasted only two years before war broke out. In November 1914 he went for an officer, and must have been considered pretty shit-hot for a new boy, as he became a temporary captain in spring. He’s with the Royal Welch Fusiliers, a regiment whose battalions over the course of the war will host some of the most well-known writers; Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, David Jones, Hedd Wyn, and more. Were it out of copyright I’d probably be leaning heavily on the medic J.C. Dunn’s The War The Infantry Knew.

For my money (and I’m not just saying it because this one is public domain), the best work to come out of the regiment during the war is that of Bernard Adams. We’ll explore why in the next few days. For now, suffice it to say that the 1st Royal Welch Fusiliers, in France since September 1914, have suffered particularly badly (they’ve lost more than half the strength with which they went into the Battle of Loos, and this is not the first time that’s happened) and are in urgent need of reinforcements. Adams has been put back to his substantive rank of lieutenant and packed off to France. He’s now on the way to the front, sitting in the train writing home for the first time. Though he won’t admit it, he’s very concerned about having been sent to the 1st Battalion.

The thought of my arrival among the regulars, with no experience, and not even an acquaintance, far less a friend, was distinctly chilling!

This is a good sign. Science has recently proven that incompetents lack enough knowledge of their jobs to know that they’re incompetent, and so instead are falsely confident. Adams knows enough to know he doesn’t know anything, and so is already better at officering than a lamentably high number of freshly-arrived subalterns. He’s also lost his luggage, which isn’t helping his mood.

I can hardly convey the sense of depression these two facts cast over me the next few days. The interest and novelty of my experiences made me forget for short periods; but always there would return the thought of my arrival alone into a line regiment, and with the humiliating necessity of borrowing everything. Unknown and inexperienced I could not help being; but as a fool who lost all his property the first day, I should not cut a brilliant figure.

He’s eventually put off the train and left to march into Bethune, where he marvels at how they can almost totally ignore the war despite being only six miles from it. More from him soon.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Battle of Loos
Battle of Champagne (Second Champagne)
Battle of Artois (Third Artois)
Third invasion of Serbia

Further Reading

Support the blog! Buy the book! 1914 is now available! 1915 to follow as long as y’all buy 1914!

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. If you prefer Tumblr, I’m also on Tumblr.

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.)

North Sea | 15 Dec 1914

Time to go back to sea. Big things are afoot (aship?) in the North Sea. First, we’ll sweep up the last day of the increasingly-misnamed Battle of Kolubara.

Belgrade

Belgrade is liberated today. There’s very little else about this latest Serbian campaign that I haven’t already said. Humiliation, huge casualties on both sides, shockwaves through establishment, Austro-Hungarian military reputation seriously damaged, heads rolling, etc and anon. All this has certainly drawn the attention of Italy, with irredentist eyes fixed firmly on territory currently held by Austria-Hungary.

Since August, the Italian general staff under Luigi Cadorna has been planning for war. Their firebrand Prime Minister, Antonio Salandra, has been ramping up his rhetoric. The crushing military defeat in Serbia can only add to the perception that there will be easy pickings for Italian armies in an Austrian campaign. And the opening of another front against the Central Powers can surely only be good news for the Allies…

Our Advertising Feature

Advert for Danish lager in the Daily Telegraph, December 1914

And what’s wrong with a pint of good British wallop, might I ask?  Harrumph!

North Sea

We’ve got major events afoot. The German Navy is looking to follow up on last month’s Yarmouth raid. Now they’re planning a much larger demonstration, with a major battlecruiser raid against the English coastal towns of Scarborough, Hartlepool, and Whitby. The entire High Seas Fleet will also sortie in support of the raid. Their hope is that they can tempt only a portion of the numerically superior Grand Fleet out of port to drive off the raid, which can then be taken on and destroyed.

The Germans are, of course, unaware that after recent actions, the Admiralty is in possession of a full set of German codebooks, and is aware that something’s about to happen. However, in a classic example of building a calamity on top of a cock-up, the orders only seem to indicate a strong battlecruiser raid. They’re completely unaware that the entire High Seas Fleet will be along for the ride.

Accordingly, orders are issued for the Grand Fleet to detach a battlecruiser squadron, a dreadnought squadron, and a cruiser squadron to join with a few other forces, and ambush the raiders. They’ve taken what in theory should have been a positive (being able to read German communications) and turned it into a gigantic negative. They’ve played directly into the Germans’ hands. If the detached force should encounter the High Seas Fleet, it will be seriously outgunned, and the Germans will have an excellent chance to equalise the balance of naval power.

The forces set sail today. It’s not an exaggeration to say that tomorrow could be one of the most important days of the war. The entire British strategic conception of the war is based on undisputed control of the North Sea. If they were to have only naval parity with (and not superiority over) the High Seas Fleet, then the ripples would come to affect the whole Allied war strategy.

Actions in Progress

Siege of Przemysl
Battle of Kolubara

Further Reading

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. In today’s paper: As you’d expect, plenty about B-11’s exploits in the Dardanelles (page 9). Not a moment too soon, the Home Office is issuing instructions to the population in case of a German raid (page 10).

Meanwhile, Page 4 has a piece on “Thwackings for the Kaiser” courtesy of Mr Punch in Parisian guignol shows, and a small note at the bottom of Page 8 points out that some 64 NCOs have been made officers. Before the war, if five men were commissioned from the ranks, that would have been considered a lot. The demands of war have pushed such niceties aside for the moment.

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

Top Yol | 13 Dec 1914

Today it’s time to return to the Caucasus, and look at the Ottoman plans for a counter-attack in Anatolia.  We’ve also got naval excitement in the Dardanelles.

Belgrade

But first, there’s time to quickly note that today is when the Austro-Hungarians decide that they can no longer hold Belgrade. They will retreat back into Hungary across the Danube and the Sava, and so the humiliation will be complete.

Dardanelles

One of the major concerns here is preventing a breakout into the Mediterranean by Goeben and Breslau.  The naval force that’s keeping watch includes some British submarines. Today, B-11 has been given the slightly gung-ho mission of getting past the Ottoman submarine defences, and then looking for trouble. The story seems ripped from a gung-ho patriotic movie. After five hours of tense underwater sailing, battling powerful (and uncharted) underwater currents and dodging minefields all the way, the submarine surfaces in Sari Siglar Bay.

Anchored 800 yards away is the Ottoman pre-dreadnought Mesudiye. Her role is similar to that given to Canopus at the Falklands; she’s more of a floating gun battery than anything else. She’s also an absolute sitting duck, and it only takes one well-aimed torpedo to sink the ship. The Hollywood feel then continues, as B-11 attempts to escape while under heavy fire from Ottoman shore batteries. Her compass isn’t working, and I like to imagine her subsequent movements as being not unlike those of Marlin and Dory in Finding Nemo with the turtles. Somehow she stumbles and blunders her way back out again, frequently in water too shallow to entirely conceal the submarine.

In the grand scheme of things it’s not that important, but we can certainly expect wild patriotic ejaculations from the newspapers. The ship’s commander, Lieutenant-Commander Norman Holbrook, won the Victoria Cross.

Our Advertising Feature

Recruiting advert from the Daily Telegraph, December 1914

Play up, play up! And play the game!

Top Yol

Enver Pasha has arrived at Koprukoy, to present his cunning plan to his army commanders. It’s certainly a bold move. As already mentioned, Enver would like to capture Sarikamis, terminus of an important railway. However, the city is heavily defended by the Russians. There’s only one main road from Koprukoy to Sarikamis, and the Russian right is anchored on the forbidding heights of the Cakir Baba.

Enter the Top Yol. The translation is “Cannon Road”. It’s a small mountain pass along the top of Cakir Baba, running from the village of Kose, and then along a forbidding desert plateau about 6,000 feet above sea level. It’s impassable to wheeled traffic, but men and mules can usually traverse it even in the depths of winter. And, in times past, mules have travelled it with mountain artillery pieces on their backs, broken down into manageable individual loads.

A force of three divisions and their mountain artillery batteries will take to the Top Yol, which will bring them straight to Sarikamis and entirely avoid the defensive positions in front of the city. While they do so, another force will head for Sarikamis by a different route, and a third will advance into the Pasin Valley, to pin the Russian forces there in place and prevent them reinforcing Sarikamis.

It’s a daring and highly complicated plan that will require timing and coordination between units hundreds of miles apart and completely out of communication with each other. The reaction to Enver’s plan is overwhelmingly negative, and a spirited argument breaks out between Enver and his generals.

Actions in Progress

Siege of Przemysl
Battle of Kolubara
Battle of Limanowa

Further Reading

No Daily Telegraph on Sundays. In its place, yesterday’s “News of the Week” editorial from The Spectator. “In the light of the Russian official despatches, which have never erred on the side of an unwise optimism, the position is perfectly sound.” Jaysus, they don’t half love Russia, do they? Between this and wanting to cede Constantinople to them…

The magazine is also pleased to see that there’s been a clampdown on seditious literature in Ireland, and gets extremely sniffy about the villainous Hun allowing his soldiers to pillage and bombard empty French and Belgian villages. This of course is one of those irregular verbs: “I take what I need from abandoned houses, you have been arrested for looting, they pillage and plunder like barbarians.” And a story about new super-heavy German artillery closes with these words.

Death comes from the air, and from beneath the ground, and from under the sea. The only thing beyond dispute is that human endurance surmounts everything, and that he was a short-sighted prophet who said that war would become too terrible to continue.

The man in the trenches does not perhaps argue it out philosophically with himself, but he knows by an heroic and steadying instinct that the worst that can happen to him is death; and that death, whatever it may be, and however it may come, is no more than death.

There may well be a few blokes in the PBI who are currently living waist deep in water, liberally garlanded with mud and the contents of an overflowing latrine, and in the company of an unhealthy helping of rotting corpses, who might take issue with that last sentence. Still, they’ll be off in search of a nicer hole soon enough.