Umba Valley | Givenchy | 19 Dec 1914

First Artois continues to no great effect; tomorrow the French Army is going to launch their offensive in Champagne. Meanwhile, developments in Africa, in the Umba Valley.


The Indian Corps launches its attack on the Germans towards La Bassee. Aided by the surprise of a night attack and minimal bombardment, they somehow squelch across No Man’s Land in enough force to remove the Germans from their front line, and some supporting trenches as well. In the afternoon comes the counter-attack, and by evening the Indians are back where they started.

First Artois

The French Army continues ineffectually battering away at Carency. The artillery’s ammunition supplies are starting to run low again; the mud is knee-deep. Occasionally, isolated companies succeed in capturing the odd trench, which they’re soon evicted from with extreme prejudice.

Louis Barthas

Another attack order arrives for Louis Barthas’s battalion, and is sent straight back with a brusque request for the responsible general (whose name Barthas withholds) to come down and see the conditions for himself. Somewhat surprisingly, the general does actually appear to tour the trenches. By the time he’s finished, he’s been persuaded that Captain Hudelle’s tactic of advancing by digging themselves closer to the enemy is good enough. The battalion settles back down to dig for their lives.

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Umba Valley

The Umba Valley is a large area of German East Africa (Tanzania), east of Tanga. It borders Kenya, Uganda and the Belgian Congo; and over the past couple of months, Colonel von Lettow-Vorbeck has been maintaining a number of small guerilla raiding parties in the area. They’ve been conducting a number of highly annoying raids, particularly against the Uganda Railway, and now is the time to do something about it.

With General Aitken quietly shuffled out of the way after the disaster at Tanga, his former subordinate General Tighe (he of the bullet through the arse) has been given the job of clearing the Umba Valley of the enemy. He’s taken a force of just under 2,000 men (half of which are askaris of the King’s African Rifles) and 5,000 African porters, and launches a series of attacks in enough force to overwhelm any individual German raiding group.

It’ll take until the end of the year for Tighe to report success, but he will indeed achieve it. His use of the KAR in the Umba Valley will prove conclusively that African troops can be relied on for serious work. So, going forward, they’ll get to join the war in full force alongside the Indians and the white soldiers. Lucky them.

Actions in Progress

Siege of Przemysl
Battle of Artois (First Artois)

Further Reading

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. In today’s paper: The fallout from Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby continues (pages 10 and 7), and Kipling’s latest article on the training of Kitchener’s Army is finally published, after having been held over for a couple of days.

Also: Page 3 is particularly interesting, with two court-martial reports and a “Bogus Nurse Story”. On Page 4, a law has just taken effect that all automobiles should be forced to carry rear lights. Page 7 has the first example I’ve seen of the soon-common trench prank of hanging one’s own flag on the enemy’s barbed wire. (Soon enough, the flags will be booby-trapped with grenades to stop the enemy taking them down.) Page 12 has some more realistic eyewitness accounts of conditions at the Front, including a funny story about a colonel getting stuck in the mud and having to be dug out. And, A Page for Women (custodian Mrs Eric Pritchard) is concerning itself with the latest word in party-frocks on Page 14.

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

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