January 20th, 1919, was a remarkable day for Elsaß-Lothringen. On that day, the former Reichsland (imperial territory) became a German state with an own constitution that made it a republic.
The Landtag, which had been re-elected in parallel with the Reichtstags elections in July 1918, had needed nearly half a year to finish the new constitution.
The question of autonomy for the French speaking areas had initially caused a lot of discussions. But these had soon died down when it was established that the German laws of 1872 and 1873 already gave de-facto autonomy to the French speakers, allowing French in office and in school in the French speaking areas.
The head of state question had been the next hot topic, that after a time seemed solved, but then revived when the new German states Austria and Tyrolia opted for an arch duke each as head of state.
The question of the military proved to be most difficult. Remembering the “Zabern Affaire”, most deputies were of the opinion that no Prussian soldiers should be stationed in Elsaß-Lothringen any more. And the Bavarians had burned down some villages in Upper Elsaß in 1914, they were not welcome either. But from its own population, the new state could not sustain more than one division.
That was no sufficient garrison for the border lands to France. Lengthy negotiations with the other states and the war ministry in Berlin finally determined that Austrian, Saxonian, Badenian, Württembergian and Hessian contingents would make up the complement of the two army corps in Elsaß-Lothringen.
The Elsaß-Lothringers found it much easier to deal with these southern German countrymen than with the “stiff” and “arrogant” Prussian “Junkers”.
So, on January 20th, 1919, the new constitution was eventually put into effect and Eugen Ricklin was elected as first Prime Minister of the Republic of Elsaß-Lothringen.
The Poles were famous and infamous for their talent to stage unsuccessful revolts. Now, they were going to validate that reputation.
Utterly frustrated by the endless talks without solutions, Polish nationalists, inspired by Roman Dmowski, the head of the Polish National-Democratic Party and the Polish National Committee, went ahead and proclaimed the Polish Republic on January 23rd, 1919.
Dmowski, with whom the Germans refused to talk because he had worked against Germany during the war, was proclaimed provisional prime minister.
In the German Posen Province, the Polish “Supreme People’s Council” joined the commotion and declared that the Posen Province was now “Wielkopolska” (Great Poland) and part of the Polish Republic. Polish soldiers in German units were invited to desert and rally as Polish Army.
In Upper Silesia, the Poles were animated to go on strike. This call proved widely successful and industrial production soon dropped drastically.
The Germans might have stood by and watched the spectacle in the “Polish Kingdom”, but they could hardly be expected to tolerate a revolt in the Posen Province.
But things escalated before the German government could even react.
In Posen, Colonel Max Bauer immediately called up the men he had enlisted in his Freikorps in August 1918 and cracked down hart and fast on the Supreme People’s Council. Stanisław Adamski and Władisłav Seyda, the two Great Polish representatives of the Council were killed, while Stefan Łaszewski and Adam Poszwiński were captured alive.
A Polish unit forming from deserters and voluntary civilians was smashed with great brutality.
Following Bauer’s example, other unit commanders in the Posen Province rallied their German soldiers and formed more Freikorps.
By late afternoon on January 24th, the Posen Province was completely under German control again.
In Silesia, the commander of VI. Army Corps, Lieutenant General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, hero of the African campaign, took the initiative.
In an ultimatum he demanded that the strike should end immediately, otherwise he would let his corps advance on the strikers.
This was in clear violation of the regulation that the German Army was no longer responsible for interior order and was not authorised to proceed against strikers.
But Lettow-Vorbeck’s reputation was such that nobody doubted he would do what he announced.
Seeing the revolt in the Posen Province collapse and trying to avoid bloodshed for no gains, Albert Korfanty and Jósef Rymer, the Silesian representatives of the Supreme People’s Council, called off the strike and fled to Cracow.
In Warsaw, the news of the German brutality in Wielkopolska caused a strong reaction against the Germans in the Polish Kingdom.
General von Beseler, who tried to escape from Warsaw, was ambushed in his car and shot. Some other Germans were killed as well, many more beaten and taken prisoner.
The German embassy came under siege after an attempt to storm it had failed.
In Brest-Litovsk, Lieutenant General Max Hoffmann, tasked with the co-ordination of the German Anti-Bolshevik campaign, decided that events in Poland deserved his attention as well. In Russia, it was cold winter and fighting had died down to a mere trickle.
He had a good rail line to Warsaw and three regiments of German volunteers at his disposal.
On January 26th, Hoffmann’s vanguard took the rail yard at Praga, the eastern suburb of Warsaw, and during the following night train after train shuttled in the “Hoffmann Division”.
On the morning of January 27th, there was a short skirmish with Polish fighters at the Vistula bridges, thereafter the Germans advanced uncontested, “restored order” and relieved the besieged embassy. Martial law and a curfew from 16.00 in the afternoon to 08:00 in the morning was proclaimed.
Several prominent leaders of the Polish Republic were arrested, but Dmowski had escaped.
It’s All in the Family
On February 3rd, 1919, the Albanian Parliament at Durrës asked Prince Kyrill of Bulgaria to become Mbret (King) of Albania.
This move did not come as a complete surprise. International observers had noticed since some months that Bulgarian diplomats were touring Albania.
The Bulgarian offer was attractive: Unification of part of Fushë Kosovë (Kosovo Polje), the complete Dukagjin (Metohija) and the area around Kalkandelen with Albania proper. Protection against Greek, Italian and Hungarian attempts on Albanian statehood and territory.
The other side of the coin was that Albania now became an adjunct of Bulgaria. Yet the Bulgarians had made it a point that they had no inclination of meddling with inner Albanian affairs. They wanted the roads to the Adriatic coast, the seaports and the resources of Albania for their use and were ready to pay for that. Albania was to become a close ally, but would retain national independence.
Bulgarian support was generally welcome in Albanian lands. The country was poor and had suffered in the war, occupied by Austria-Hungary in the north and Italians and Greek in the south.
There had been some negative voices in the Muslim north of the country. But Tsar Ferdinand’s men knew how to deal with these. Great palavers were held and lavish gifts were handed over, until the criticism died down.
Most of the ethnic Albanian population in the Sanjak of Novi Pazar, now under Hungaro-Croatian rule, had recently moved south into Kosovo Polje in order to escape Croat oppression. This caused severe frictions with the people already living in Kosovo Polje. If Albania could take over here, things could be regulated far better than by the Bulgarians, who had no knowledge of the Albanian ways.
Prince Kyrill had converted to Greek Orthodoxy, which was the predominant religion in the southern half of the country. And he had – quite by chance – learned Albanian, which he spoke still slowly but correctly.
The enthronement took place in Durrës on February 23rd, 1919. Of course, Tsar Ferdinand I. of Bulgaria was present together with Crown Prince Boris. Great Hungary was represented by King IV. Károly, Germany by Crown Prince Wilhelm (the Kaiser was still bed-ridden, suffering from “neural fever” which had befallen him after the August events). From Italy, King Vittorio Emanuele III. had arrived. The Sublime Porte had sent Grand Vizier Mehmet Talat Pasha. King Albert I. of Belgium was there, while Prince Consort Heinrich represented the Netherlands. Great Britain, France, Spain and Portugal had only delegated unimportant diplomats, and Greece had sent no one.
Tsar Ferdinand was quite happy with Queen Sophia at the helm in Athens. Her anglophile stance would keep Greece at distance from Germany. Ferdinand feared that Konstantin I., once recuperated, might try to appease the Germans. He really deplored that that assassin had failed to kill Konstantin.
On February 24th, 1919, the parliaments in Sofia and Durrës ratified the alliance treaty between Bulgaria and Albania. On the same day, ownership of part of Kosovo Polje, all of Metohija and the Kalkandelen areas was transferred to Albania. Of course, Tsar Ferdinand had kept the northern and north-eastern territories of Kosovo Polje with their rich mineral deposits.
The Polish Question remains
Politicians in Berlin were not happy about the events in Posen Province, Silesia and the Polish Kingdom. There was considerable uneasiness over the course of action that the military had chosen. They had acted without political direction and clearly against the law. There was also a lot of uneasiness about the future relations with the Poles. Their actions were considered frustrating all attempts to reach a solution acceptable for both parties.
Public opinion in Germany was enthusiastic about the soldiers. The newspapers celebrated them has heroes. In Hanover, the iconic figure Hindenburg forgot his habitual inertness and publicly congratulated his former subordinates for their dash, courage and decisive action.
In cabinet, war minister von Eichhorn tried to reassure his civilian colleagues.
“It’s this aggressiveness that has made Prussia and now Germany great. It gave us the victories of Königsgrätz and Metz, it could have given us the victory at the Marne, if Moltke hadn’t lost his nerve. – Follow the sound of the guns and attack, and keep attacking until the enemy is annihilated, that’s the German way of war.
If you take this basic attitude away from the German Army, you make blunt your most precious instrument. Soldiers who wait for orders will lose the war, because often orders do not arrive in time or not at all.
If you want them not to do certain things, this must flow into training. Once it is in the training instructions the army will observe it. It’s not enough to make a law, there must be instruction about it to the soldiers. This takes time. – My suggestion is to praise the actors, and then continue with business as usual.”
“But General Lettow-Vorbeck…”
“The Lion of Africa has actually done nothing, mind you. It was his roar alone that made the Poles run away. Not one order of mobilisation to any of his units went out of corps headquarters.”
Elsewhere in Europe and the world, nobody was really surprised by what had happened. The German reaction was exactly that what one expected from the Germans. Hadn’t they cracked down on the Polish insurgents, one in deed would have been wondering…
Finally, the cabinet agreed to follow Eichhorn’s suggestion. In the Reichstag, Chancellor Ebert held a speech of praise for the suppressors of the Polish revolt.
A civilian, August Winnig (SPD), was appointed new Governor General of Poland. The designation “Polish Kingdom” was officially replaced by “Poland”.
Thereafter, business continued as usual.
For the Polish nationalists, it had been a bitter experience. The German reaction had come so swift that they really had had no time to get organised. Now, heated debates were held whether one should try it again – after meticulous preparation, or whether one should re-enter negotiations with the Germans.
No consensus was reached.
And because the Germans also had no idea how to proceed, the Polish Question remained unsolved.
Last edited by rast; January 30th, 2009 at 04:53 AM..
The White Man’s Burden
On February 5th, 1919, German colonial minister Gustav Noske departed from Bremerhaven for a tour of Germany’s colonies in Africa. He also expected to meet his Belgian colleague, Louis Franck, and the Governor of Belgian Congo, Eugène Henry, at Boma in order to discuss a joint administration for Mittelafrika.
Noske’s tour followed a serious discussion in the German cabinet what to do at all with the remaining colonies.
The initial German idea, when acquiring colonies, had been to divert the stream of emigrants away from the Americas into the colonies. This hadn’t worked, German emigrants still had preferred the USA, Canada, southern Brazil, Uruguay and Argentine over the uncomforting lands in Africa. And in the late 1890ies, emigration had dropped to a minimum while Germany had started importing workers from abroad in the years after 1900.
The next idea had been to use native workers. This hadn’t worked either. Most African men regarded farm work as something fit for women only. In the end, workers from China and India had to be hired for the plantations in German East Africa.
The economic output had been the next disappointment. The Empire always had to spend more for the colonies than these rendered profit. Only little Togo had proved marginally profitable in the end.
And the Hertling government had still enlarged the colonial possessions in Africa…
The SPD had rather distinct views about exploitation in special and human rights in general. They did not feel easy about ruling African natives.
The FVP saw the colonies as a chance to carry out progressive policy.
The Zentrum was less hesitant. Colonies could become profitable, there were resources and there was a potential work force. That work force needed to be christianised and educated.
Eventually, a compromise had been reached. Germany would keep the colonies and try to educate the population even more than this had already been the case before 1914. Not only schools but also universities were required. The goal was a native population with a German mindset and with German industriousness.
This would cost money, a lot of money…
But minister of economy Konstantin Fehrenbach (Zentrum) had a good message for his colleagues: The Empire could afford it. The economy was running extremely well. Exports to France, Britain and Russia were still below pre-war numbers, but this was compensated by the German home market where prosperous citizens were eager to catch up with what they had missed during the war. Exports to the rest of the world were up and rising, German machinery and German chemical products were bestsellers again.
Unfortunately, now the Austrian war bonds had to be reimbursed as well. That meant that the bonus of the colonial sellout had now to be used for this purpose.
But Matthias Erzberger’s reform of the tax system and the fiscal administration produced first fruit, the central government was no longer dependent on the goodwill of the individual states.
Noske had never been in the colonies before. He was curious what was awaiting him. He had seen a lot of pictures and had talked to many men who had been there. But that was not the same thing…
Last edited by rast; January 31st, 2009 at 07:51 PM..
In mid-February 1919, the Latvians and the Baltic Germans reached an agreement.
The Baltic Germans had realised that the plan for the Baltic Duchy was no longer operative after the changes inside the German Empire.
They now accepted to become citizens of the Latvian Republic. This meant that they had to learn Latvian.
Latvian had been the language of the serfs, the Baltic Germans had never cared about it, they spoke German and Russian, most also French or English, but not Latvian.
Nevertheless, they would keep their German schools and German institutions.
The Landeswehr would become the Latvian National Army with the Baltic German officers in command until a sufficient number of Latvian officers had been trained. Some of the battle hardened German mercenaries, which the Landesrat had hired in order to boost the Landeswehr, would also join the Latvian National Army as instructors, while the majority of them had already transferred to General Yudenich’s force.
On February 20th, the Latvian Republic was officially recognised by Germany, Sweden, Lithuania and Estonia, followed by most other nations around the globe in the next few days.
General Nikolai Yudenich was now firmly installed in Estonia again. He had also taken over the weapons and equipment of those elements of the Czech Legion, which already had been repatriated. About half of them were still in country and awaiting repatriation, but their combat value was now about zero.
Yudenich was hiring men, mostly Russians, and applying them a keen training programme. He intended to conquer St.Petersburg in spring and then to march on Moscow, where he hoped to meet Anton Denikin and his army. The Bolshevik plague had to end in Russia.
Yudenich hoped to liberate the Tsar’s family and to put Tsarevich Alexej on the throne as Tsar Alexej II. But, just in case, he had also established contact with Grand Duke Admiral Kyrill Romanov, who would be the next in the line of succession.
The Estonians were rather supporting. They would contribute an own infantry division to the force. After having witnessed the Bolshevik atrocities in Latvia, they also had a strong interest in seeing Bolshevism perish.
German support was also strong, although his request to get some of these wonderful Kanobils had been turned down. He could have British tanks and French chars, which had been captured in France, but no Kanobils.
A bird in the hand being worth two in the bush, Yudenich had asked for as many captured armoured vehicles as the Germans could supply.
The Polish question approached a solution when Józef Piłsudski was finally released from prison at Magdeburg on February 28th.
Piłsudski really wanted to restore the Polish state to the borders pre-partition. But he was realistic enough to understand that this was not possible opposite a victorious Germany. Only when Russia, Austria-Hungary and Germany, all three of them, had been vanquished, Poland could have had the chance of complete restoration.
On arrival in Warsaw, one day later, he assumed leadership of Poland, which the regency council readily passed to him. It took some hard negotiations to get August Winnig’s and the German government’s agreement.
On March 13th, 1919, Poland waived all claims on territory that was part of the German Empire, the Lithuanian Republic and the Ukrainian Hetmanate. In exchange, the Polish Republic – with yet undefined eastern borders opposite Russia – was officially recognised by Germany.
Last edited by rast; January 30th, 2009 at 07:17 PM..
Still very much enjoying it. Even leaving aside the whole German Tanks issue, this is the most detailed TL about internal German Politics after a CP victory i've seen.
Alexey would naturally become Alexey II rather than Alexander IV.
And being haemophiliac and all...probably won't live all that long.
In March 1919 a book was published in Germany that was to affect people all over Germany. The author was Armin Theophil Wegner, the title was “Der Weg ohne Heimkehr” (The road of no return). It was basically a collection of letters and notes Wegner had written while witnessing the Armenian Genocide when he had served as German medic in Anatolia and Mesopotamia. The book also contained the photographs Wegner and other Germans had taken in 1915/16, which illustrated the suffering of the Armenian people.
To say that the publication produced an immediate outcry in Germany would be an exaggeration. The Germans had just survived a British genocide attempt that had killed more than a million of their countrymen at home. They had suffered horrible losses in terms of killed and wounded in the “shooting” war.
Nevertheless, their attitude towards the Turks changed. Generally, the Turks had been seen as somewhat backward but stout and reliable allies. Their image had been romanticised, not least by some of the books of the popular author Karl May before the war.
Now, they were considered rather as cold-blooded killers. – And there were some voices, which actually called for a review of the relations with the Ottoman Empire.
The initial reactions in other countries that had suffered grievously in the war remained quite similarly subdued. One had other problems but to pity the Armenians.
In the former enemy and neutral countries, the Armenian Genocide had been well observed and described by the press during the war, here Wegner’s book was seen as a grim confirmation but hardly as new information.
Things got a new quality when it became known that the German and the Austro-Hungarian governments had known about the genocide but had refrained from any protests at the Sublime Porte in order not to alienate this precious ally.
Discussion now turned to inner-German affairs and experienced an escalation. Pacifists and communists fielded evidence for the harsh fate of Russian and Romanian PoWs in Germany and for the forced deportation of Belgian workers to Germany.
Finally, even the behaviour of the Germans in Belgium in 1914 and unrestricted submarine warfare came under scrutiny.
While the right foamed about this “defilement of national honour”, the centre-progressive-left majority instituted a parliamentary board of enquiry. Chaired by Dr. Eduard David (SPD) the board was to investigate all charges and finally issue a detailed report to the Reichstag and the German public.
“If national or international laws have been violated or rules of war been broken, the perpetrators will be asked to explain their actions and motives before the board. The board reserves the right to transfer cases to the courts of justice. We will not tolerate that German reputation is befouled by criminal acts of few. Punishable acts must be punished and victims must be recompensed.” Dr. David explained in a press interview. “The board will not focus on the Armenian Genocide. This is beyond German jurisdiction. We will focus on German actions during the war. – We are not going to stage a witch hunt, but some persons then in charge will have to answer our questions. The enquiry will not be open to the public, only the findings will be released.”
It soon became known that former chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg and former foreign secretary Gottlieb von Jagow would be the first persons to be interviewed.
When the quick suppression of the Polish insurgency had not startled Europe, the news about the enquiry did. This was something that nobody had expected.
Last edited by rast; February 2nd, 2009 at 05:10 AM..
On March 5th, 1919, Bölükbaşı (company commander) Kadir Muharip led his force of two squadrons into the territory of the British Aden Protectorate. Muharip had only recently been promoted to his position because of his energy and his outstanding ability to lead and inspire men. His task was to eliminate a band of Arab insurgents that had fled to the Aden territory in order to evade Turkish pursuit.
Muharip’s scouts soon had traced the camp of the Arabs. In a surprise attack it was surrounded and the insurgents were annihilated. Yet three of them managed to escape.
Muharip wanted all of them.
His scouts were able to find the track of the escapees. They led to a small village. Apparently, the villagers had accepted them as guests.
That complicated Muharip’s task. – The villagers could not be expected to surrender their guests, they would defend them.
Muharip saw two alternatives:
- Remain in the area, wait until the Arabs quit the village and get them.
- Attack the village, finish off the Arabs.
The first course of action was quite promising, but would require time, which Muharip did not have on British territory. The second course of action was risky but would provide a quick solution.
In a dawn attack, the Turks stampeded the village, rounded up all males, isolated the insurgents and shot them.
While Muharip was still negotiating with the village men, a British patrol was sighted, approaching from the east.
Muharip now thought it was time to depart and get back to Ottoman territory.
Unfortunately, the British were in a position to cut his way back – and did not hesitate to do so.
The British force was much weaker than Muharip’s, but they had picked an advantageous position to check the Turks. The British leader, through an Arab interpreter, challenged the Turks to surrender their weapons and to follow the British to the south, where they would be interned.
This was not acceptable. Muharip ordered attack.
The British had made the mistake not to dismount. Their horses now provided them only unstable bases. Nevertheless, their rifles took a heavy toll from the Turks. But after the Turks had closed in, their greater number decided the outcome.
The British force, mostly natives in British service, was dispersed, about one third of them got killed, one of these the British leader, an English lieutenant. The remainder fled in several directions. Muharip saw no possibility to get them all. He ordered retreat to Ottoman territory, his wounded soldiers needed medical treatment.
24 hours later the story was in the British press and received head lines like: “Turkey challenges Britain!” or “Ottomans advance on Aden!”
On the island of Sakhalin, or Karafuto as it was known to the Japanese, Bolshevik forces landed on March 10th, 1919, and took over the administration of the Russian part of the isle from the hitherto operative governor at Alexandrovsk who had served already under the Tsar and the Provisional Government.
For the Japanese, this changed a lot.
They had a treaty with Russia, not with some internationalists and revolutionaries that called themselves Bolsheviks and which Japan did not recognise as legitimate Russian government.
The government at Tokyo took not long to reach a decision.
On March 17th, a small fleet of five troop transports, eight destroyers and the battle cruiser “Haruna” departed from Kure and set course to Karafuto Chō (South Sakhalin).
On March 21st and 22nd, 1919, Japanese troops occupied the northern part of the island.
The Japanese government announced that they still stood on the ground of the Treaty of Portsmouth and would hand back the northern part to a responsible Russian government. But for the time being, Japan would safeguard the island against criminal forces.
In Ireland the situation was deteriorating. The IRA had a guerilla and terror campaign going, mainly against the Royal Irish Constabulary, shooting individual officers and bombing or setting on fire RIC barracks. A secondary campaign was wielded against the British administration, which was paralysed by civil disobedience and strikes.
Now, on March 24th, 1919, a RIC barracks in rural Connacht was outrightly attacked by Irish gun men, the garrison overwhelmed and transported away while the buildings went up in flames. Two days later the dead bodies of the officers were found.
This was too much for Sir Herbert Plumer. He took the telephone and asked for the regular troops the Prime Minister had promised him.
The arrival of the British soldiers was a major boost for the anti-British press campaign in the USA that was financed and entertained by the Irish Americans.
Last edited by rast; February 2nd, 2009 at 05:13 AM..
Because the US American population had been massively manipulated to support the war effort, there was a widespread disappointment at first when the war came to an end before the American Expeditionary Force could even become effective in France.
But American losses were very light, almost negligible when compared to French, British or German casualties. So no real bitter feeling – but also no hero worshipping – originated from the war’s end, which the Americans did not see as an American defeat. The allies – foremost Britain and France – had been defeated before American help could become a decisive factor. The AEF was unbeaten in the field.
The moderate peace treaties that the Central Powers concluded with the vanquished did a lot to mollify American public opinion as did the voluntary German cessation of unrestricted submarine warfare.
With arrangement of the armistice, Germany became a major customer again, buying huge quantities of foodstuffs and cotton – and paying cash for them.
Soon, the Americans of German origin were no longer seen as potential enemies, thus German lore and customs revived and many Germans that had anglicised their names returned to the German version – or a version that comforted both languages. American “patriotic associations” quickly fell apart.
The democratic switch in Germany was seen very positively. After all, the “War to make the World safe for Democracy” had led to a smooth democratisation of the wartime “Host of Autocracy and Militarism”. The example of German universal suffrage was a major argument that led to the decision to let women vote in the 1920 presidential elections.
Although the ruling elites of the USA and Great Britain still remained rather close, wider public opinion started to regard Great Britain more questioning after the civil war in Ireland began. The very vociferous American Irish community entertained a pro-Irish – and therefore automatically anti-British – propaganda and raised considerable funds in support of the Irish “Freedom Fighters”. After the British had deployed regular army troops to Eire, public sentiment became sceptical and sometimes even slightly hostile towards Britain.
President Wilson was a “lame duck” now, serving his term until the end but unable to influence the public any more. He had been re-elected because he had kept the USA out of the war in Europe. Then he had led the nation into just that war. But then the war ended before the American effort could make the difference. And quite apparently, Europe did not need America to institute democracy and national self-determination. Isolationism was on the rise, Europe became rather remote again. Like before the Wilson era, American foreign interest focused on the Americas and the Pacific Ocean. American intervention into the civil war in Russia was no issue – until the Japanese occupied northern Sakhalin…
The “Red Scare” had died down quickly after the armistice, Wilson had even been unable to get his Sedition Act past congress. The economy had smoothly switched to peace time production. The agricultural sector now went for automation and mechanisation, as had done industrial production before. Prosperity seemed to lie ahead.
That the former Entente nations did not repay their war debts was a minor nuisance but no real issue for the largest economy of the world.
The purchase of the West Samoan Islands – not quite a cheap deal, but better so than to have the Japanese for neighbours – had incited a new hunger for colonial expansion. Attempts to gain some former British or French real estate in exchange for redemption of the war debts had been turned down. Neither the conservative British nor the ultra conservative French government had the slightest intention to relinquish any territory.
Weren’t there still some Portuguese colonies around? East Timor? Cape Verde in the Atlantic Ocean? Macao in China?
Automatically, American eyes shifted also in direction of China. The Germans were no longer present there, and Russian influence had vanished. So, China would be an affair between the USA, Japan and Great Britain. The British might cling to what they had but were hardly in a position to advance. Then Japan would be the co-competitor.
The fleet building programme was still up and running. The USS Idaho had just been commissioned. The Tennessee Class ships were the next batch to become ready.
A navy “second to none” was the American aim.
The Germans had all but stopped their naval expansion, but the British were still in the game as were the Japanese. The Brits, after their army had been devoured by the Germans, now projected and concentrated their national pride on the Royal Navy, which was seen as saviour from German and all other foreign domination – on of course as the instrument of British world power.
Well, as far as America was concerned, Britannia would rule no waves on which US ships sailed.
The Japanese were eager to catch up, at least to the German standard. Weren’t the Japanese still British allies?
The US Army had quickly been reduced to pre-war size, but kept a keen eye on technical development such as the Kanobils, aircraft and poison gas.
In March 1919, the British Raj in India passed the Rowlatt Act, indefinitely extending the “emergency measures” that had been put in effect during the war.
This was a slap into the face of the Indians who expected British return service for their contribution to the war effort. More than 800,000 Indian troops had fought in the war, of which more than 47,000 had been killed or were missing and at least another 65,000 wounded. The contribution to the British Empire’s war effort had pushed India’s economy to near bankruptcy, inflation was soaring and taxation depressing. Even worse, approximately 7 million Indians had just perished due to the American Flu, which in India was widely seen as caused by the war.
Now, the Rowlatt Act sparked massive outrage all over India.
The British, on the other hand, were well aware of the widespread Indian movement for either home rule or complete independence. There were connections to the Irish rebels and to the Bolsheviks. During the war, the Germans and the Turks had tried to inspire Afghan and Indian rebellions, which had been prevented due to superior British intelligence and draconian control measures.
In Afghanistan, a succession crises was just taking place, with two sons of the deceased Amir contending for the throne. This might lead to further instability, as the border to Afghanistan, the infamous Durand Line, had been drawn right through the centre of the tribal area of the most important Afghan tribe, the Pashtuns. Thus, any unrest in Afghanistan could easily spill over into British India.
The Indian Army was only a shadow of the formidable force it had been in 1914. Many units were still abroad, in Egypt, Al Kowayt, Persia and Africa – or just in the process of coming home. Territorial units of dubious value had taken their places on the sub-continent.
The conservative British government, in alliance with the numerous Rajas and Maharajas who had no intention to abate or waive their privileges, was hostile to change. In 1918, it had already turned down the Montagu-Chelmsford Report that had proposed introduction of limited self-government in India and protection of minorities. The motto was: India must remain the crown of the British Empire. – Hadn’t the Indians rallied loyally in 1914 in support of Britain? Once the revolutionary elements were weeded out, wouldn’t the mass of the people return to their traditional way of life?
In response to the Rowlatt Act, the Indian National Congress in alliance with the All Indian Muslim League called for protests against it. The response of the population was overwhelming: Protest and civil unrest were spreading all over the country, with the Punjab becoming a special hot spot.
In the first week of April 1919, immense crowds of protesters clogged the streets in Lahore, capital of the Punjab. Railway and telegraph communication were temporarily disrupted, civil services broke down.
On April 10th, riots broke out in Amritsar, also in the Punjab. Soldiers fired into the crowd. Now, violence escalated and several banks, government buildings and the railway station went up in flames. At least five Europeans were reported to have been killed. Soldiers repeatedly fired into crowds, killing some twenty people.
For the next few days, Amritsar remained calm, but riots and violence continued to rock the Punjab region. Several more Europeans got killed in the turmoil.
On April 13th, the British Raj declared martial law for the Punjab.
On April 17th, several thousand people gathered in Amritsar, in a garden near the Golden Temple, in order to celebrate “Vaisakhi”, the most important holiday of the Sikhs. Many people had travelled for days in order to attend the celebration. They were not going to heed the ban on assembly imposed by martial law.
Some 90 soldiers of the Indian Army, accompanied by two armoured cars, approached the garden. The ACs had to be left behind at the garden entrance. Under the command of Brigadier General Reginald Dyer, the riflemen opened fire on the crowd.
The British Raj later admitted 379 dead and 200 injured, rumours soon knew of 1,000 dead and 2,000 wounded.
If anything was needed to escalate matters further, the Amritsar Massacre provided it. Riots and violence paralysed all of India. Moderate voices went unheard. Independently, several groups decided to adopt Irish methods of dealing with the Brits. British government officials, business men and officers were shot or stabbed all over the country. Indian soldiers were prompted to desert, which several hundreds did, carrying their weapons with them.
The crown of the British Empire was aflame.
The occupation of Sakhalin had proven that the Bolsheviks in far east Russia were weak. This raised the question of Outer Manchuria. Who would impede Japan to acquire Outer Manchuria under the same pretence that had served her well in the case of Sakhalin? Would there be something like a new Triple Intervention?
The German ambassador, Wilhelm Solf (FVP), soon signalised that his government would not oppose a Japanese “safeguarding” of Outer Manchuria. Germany was interested in quelling the Bolshevik danger. Japanese intervention would be seen as supporting that goal.
The US attitude turned out to be not so positive. Ambassador Roland S. Morris made clear that the US administration did not mind action against the Bolsheviks. But continued Japanese presence in Outer Manchuria, which had been part of China before the Russians had taken possession, would be seen quite critical.
“We think that once you have Outer Manchuria, the question of Inner Manchuria would be next on your list.” He explained to Japanese foreign minister Count Uchida Yasuya. “And you know that the US are opposed to territorial expansion of foreign powers in China. We want an open door for everyone, no new colonies.”
The British government had no objections. Protective safeguarding of Russian territory against the Bolsheviks was acceptable.
Now pressure mounted on Prime Minister Hara Takashi for an intervention in Outer Manchuria. Hara was just engaged in de-fusing the situation in Korea after the March Rebellion and under parliamentary pressure because he was stalling the introduction of universal suffrage. He very soon gave in to the demands of the military, better keep them busy in Russia than have them meddling in Korea.
Army and navy had already drawn preliminary plans for “Shiberia Ina Zuma” (Siberian Lightning). Ten infantry divisions were to be deployed plus an independent cavalry brigade of six regiments.
Of special importance was the early capture of Vladivostok. Here naval landing forces would have to assist. A secondary landing would take place at the mouth of the Amur River.
The Japanese battle fleet would cover the sea side of the operation and provide fire support, if required.
On April 21st, 1919, the Taishō Emperor gave his formal consent.
On April 28th, the invasion fleet hoisted anchors. On April 30th, the landings started.
Bolshevik resistance was weak at best and completely disorganised. The initial Japanese force landed almost uncontested. The Bolsheviks soon fell back, but rather effectively managed to destroy the rail infrastructure during their retreat.
On May 7th, the Japanese approached Khabarovsk. Here the Bolsheviks offered serious resistance, now organised and led by Mikhail Tukhachevsky, the Bolshevik far east commander.
When the Japanese had landed, Tukhachevsky had just been busy in eliminating the “Provisional Government of Autonomous Siberia” at Omsk, which had dared to interrupt traffic on the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Now, he was back and ready to teach the Japanese dogs some new tricks.
For the lack of any other infrastructure, the Japanese advanced along the embankment of the Trans-Sib and the parallel mud track, only to be attacked by two armoured trains, which smashed the Japanese vanguard with deadly cannon and machine gun fire. Until Japanese field guns were ready for action, the trains were gone again, leaving behind several hundred dead and wounded Japanese soldiers.
The Japanese advance became more cautious now, field guns were kept in supervising positions while moves forward occurred. But now the Bolsheviks had prepared booby traps. Repeatedly, Japanese platoons were annihilated when detonation charges sent stones, sleepers, pieces of track and human bodies swirling through the air. Snipers, undetected in the wilderness, constantly harassed the force, preferably killing officers, gunners and engineers. Cossacks, out of the nowhere, attacked supply trains and rear area installations.
The Japanese pressed on, regardless of casualties. From May 9th to 15th, urban combat wrecked Khabarovsk and killed and wounded as much as 25,000 Japanese and 15,000 Bolsheviks. In the early morning of May 16th, the Bolsheviks fell back to the west bank of the Amur, utterly destroying the rail bridge behind them.
The Japanese were now in possession of the eastern part of Outer Manchuria, while the Bolsheviks firmly held the west bank of the Amur River and grew stronger by the hour, regiment after regiment being shuttled in by the Trans-Sib.
Last edited by rast; February 5th, 2009 at 09:47 AM..