Walvis Bay | 11 Feb 1914

We’re still mostly in Africa today. With the Boer rebellion in South Africa now thoroughly suppressed, they’re ready to start thinking about helping the war effort.

Walvis Bay

Walvis Bay is the kind of oddity that Empire throws up. It’s a very useful port for ships making their way round the Cape of Good Hope, the only one on the Namibian coast. During the Scramble for Africa, Walvis Bay was occupied by the Cape Colony and annexed to what would become South Africa, even as the Germans moved in and turned the rest of the surrounding country into German South-West Africa.

Now, Walvis Bay is an extremely useful strategic location. On the outbreak of war it had been protected in force, and now the Prime Minister of South Africa is arriving at Walvis Bay to take personal command of the rapidly-expanding garrison.

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German South-West Africa

Louis Botha, a truly fascinating figure if you’re interested in the doings of racists and the story of how apartheid came to be a thing, had made his name in the Second Boer War. Then, he’d fought against British forces. Now, he’s firmly on the side of the Empire, and the strength with which he’s put down the latest rebellion has allayed any lingering fears about his loyalty.

He’s planning a grand pincer movement. His right-hand man General Smuts (a similarly fascinating man under those terms) will lead a force over the land border from the south, and at the same time he will break out from Walvis Bay and march up the River Swakop towards Windhoek, the capital. It’ll take another month or so to properly concentrate his forces. If he can pull it off, South Africa’s borders will be secure, and their men can be used elsewhere in the war.

Second Masurian Lakes

Russian headquarters have finally noticed that something big is going off in Prussia. Unfortunately, what little information they have points to the main force of the attack being against their centre, and they remain completely unaware that their right wing is gone. They have reinforcements available, in the shape of the newly-formed 12th Army. Even as the Germans are beginning to slowly wheel around to begin an encirclement, they’re making plans to counter-attack in exactly the wrong direction. 12th Army is ordered to reinforce the centre of their line.

Kenneth Best

Kenneth Best is spending most of today visiting the wounded in hospital. He has a close encounter with an Australian, which does not impress him much.

Australian half-seas over with drawn knife follows French sister into hospital. Grapples with officer just recovering from enteric. At last he is overcome and ejected. General Maxwell desires not to be left alone with Aussie troops. Source of anxiety to medics, despair to officers, and menace to Egypt. Yet papers are full of their loyalty and efficiency. Why not put them in the front line, as David did to Uriah?

The story of David and Uriah is a rather odd little tale from the second book of Samuel, which is worth recounting, since the padre brought it up. David (a King) is knocking off Uriah’s wife, and gets her pregnant. Uriah needs to be got out of the way, so David sends him to the front line of a battle in the hope that he’ll get killed.

So Uriah duly dies and David marries his widow, which offends Bonkers Old Testament God greatly. He sends a prophet to David to give him a bollocking. Apparently the appropriate punishment for someone who does this is to have his wives raped in public. And for his son by Uriah’s widow to be struck down. Why does there always have to be smiting?

Anyway, idle speculation about Best’s theology aside, this is interesting further evidence of the Australians’ ways offending the British stiff upper lips. Good thing they won’t be on the front line of any really murderous battles any time soon, huh? That would just be disgustingly ironic. (Incidentally, from what I can make out, Best died unmarried, childless, and having lost his faith.)

Actions in Progress

Siege of Przemysl
Battle of the Masurian Lakes (Second Masurian Lakes)

Further Reading

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day.

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

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