Vive le Roi!
On Wednesday, April 23rd, Charles Maurras staged his coup d’état.
Initially all went well, Raymond Poincaré was arrested and transported to an “undisclosed locality”. The parliament had been summoned routinely for that day, but most Socialists failed to show up, being successfully detained or delayed by the Camelots du Roi. In the session, the right wing majority – a great number of more moderate deputies had been talked, bribed or threatened into accepting Maurras’ ideas – with more than two thirds of the votes accepted the proposed new constitution that made France a monarchy again.
Army and police stood by and watched with sympathy.
Early reactions in most foreign countries were moderate or even welcoming.
But then all hell broke loose.
The socialists and the trade unions called for a general strike. Left newspapers called for public resistance. Committees popped up, called “conseils” – the Russian translation being: Soviets – which forcefully organised civil disobedience and public resistance.
Most rural areas remained completely untouched by this resistance, but all urban centres were heavily affected.
Charles Maurras was too young to remember the horrors of the Paris Commune, but – like every Frenchman – he had heard and read a lot about it, had even talked to participants and eyewitnesses.
He sincerely intended to avoid a repetition of this terrible experience.
About one fifth of the French voters supported his views, another fifth actively supported the Socialists. But his followers were dispersed and inhomogeneous, those of the Socialists concentrated in the urban areas.
Maurras was no pacifist, he didn’t completely disregard the use of force. But a civil war had to be avoided. France was already at the bottom, further violence would utterly wreck her.
The army provided the answer: Not as suppressor of strikes and protest marches, but as supplier of essential services. Not with ultimate expertise and efficiency but generally reliable, soldiers operated power stations, trains, water works and other important facilities.
This was Marshal Pétain’s vital contribution.
Not that the Socialists had any intention to let that happen. Frequently, soldiers were harassed or even attacked. When that didn’t work, sabotage was executed. But all that cost the Socialists sympathies, especially with the three fifth of voters that stood between the extreme wings.
Slowly and painfully, Maurras’ government gained acceptance from the majority of the Frenchmen, who – after all – preferred law, order and personal safety over wild political ideas.
Maurras had no problem in introducing universal suffrage. He had believed since long time that women would vote far more in favour of king and church than most men.
His moderate course of action brought him wide acceptance abroad. Frenchmen that had access to foreign newspapers could see that his government was widely accepted and appreciated in Europe and the world.
Even the US Americans clearly favoured a constitutional monarchy over socialist anarchy.
Behind the scenery, pourparlers between left and right took place all the time. The Socialists gained important commitments regarding social security, old age pensions, hours of work and workers’ participation.
In the end, the French “Royaume Nouveau” – as it was to become known – contained far more socially advanced features than the 3rd Republic had ever possessed.
By the end of May, resistance had died down. Not completely, some districts of Paris, Lyon and Marseille still proved rather virulent, but sufficiently so to invite the Duke of Orléans to France and to schedule the coronation for Sunday, June 8th, 1919.
It would take place at Reims (Rheims for some English), the ancient coronation place of the French Kings. The Arch Bishop of Reims would conduct the spiritual part, representing the French Catholic Church. The crown would be put on Philippe VIII.’s head jointly by the Arch Bishop and Maurras, symbolising the union of church and people in France.
Unavoidably, the event required foreign majesties and statesmen to attend. Reluctantly, Maurras sent invitations to Germany, Great Hungary and their puppets. That was the most disgusting part of it, to have the German Kaiser attend the ceremony…
Last edited by rast; February 5th, 2009 at 05:20 AM..
In early May 1919, the offensives of the White Russian Forces under Generals Yudenich and Denikin commenced.
Both armies had used the winter to multiply their numbers and to train their soldiers and staffs. German advisors had been very helpful. The German obsession with training sometimes really was irritating to Russians, but the results – one had to admit – were convincing.
Yudenich had also received 164 ex-British Mk.IV and 15 ex-British Medium A “Whippet” tanks, all captured by the Germans in France and repaired, refurbished and improved by them before delivery. Unfortunately, they had arrived too late to be integrated into the opening phases of the offensive. The tank crews still sweated and cursed on various training grounds in Estonia, merciless drilled by their German instructors.
Denikin had gained some more armoured cars, also from German capture in France, Italy and Russia, and an impressive number of armoured trains, some from former Austrian stocks, others specially built for him in Germany.
Both armies had excellent air arms now: Deadly Hannover and Junkers ground strafing craft, potent Fokker, Pfalz and Siemens-Schuckert fighters, Gotha bombers, Halberstadt and Albatros reconnaissance and artillery observation planes. Many pilots were German veterans or new Luftwaffe trainees, but also a number of Italian, French, Belgian and British mercenaries, all war veterans, manned the aircraft.
The stockpiles of supplies for both armies were enormous. They had ammunition, clothing, gear and foodstuffs in unending quantity.
Leon Trotsky knew that his Red Army stood no chance against these assailants. Cut off from Ukrainian coal and Caspian oil, weakened by hunger and lack of everything – except human cannon fodder – the Bolshevik forces were no match against the Whites.
Trotsky had done what he could and had achieved a lot, but it would not suffice.
He did not regret Stalin’s death, but the gutting of the Konarmia had been a severe blow for the Bolshevik war effort, as had been the annihilation of the Red Latvian Rifles.
There had been long discussions in the Central Committee all winter long. What should one do?
Defend Petrograd? – Urban combat favoured the defender, even simple riflemen could hold up the attacker for hours. Nevertheless, one had to invest at least as many men as the attacker, and one needed artillery and a lot of ammunition to be really able to cling to built-up areas. If the attacker only encircled and besieged the city, the force would be lost for further operations.
Did Yudenich have sufficient forces to lay siege to Petrograd and continue operations? – It would slow him down considerably, but he had the potential to carry on. If the Fins took over the northern part of the confinement, his force would even be as dangerous as before.
Discussion of all possible courses of action finally revealed that the Bolsheviks had no hope of beating the Whites and retaining control over most of European Russia. They would be annihilated if they didn’t retreat out of their own. One had to trade space for time. And one must not let all the population of European Russia fall into the hands of the Whites.
In March 1919, all over Bolshevik controlled Russia, miserable convoys of peasants and workers, guarded by Red soldiers, started their track to the Volga and beyond. Some were lucky and got a train ride, but – for lack of coal – for most it was horse cart or foot march. The number of victims of this “Great March East” – as it later would become known – remains unknown but most often is estimated at 2 million people.
Consequently, the White offensive met delaying resistance and scorched earth. Wherever the Whites advanced, burning villages and towns, poisoned wells, devastated rail lines and blown up bridges welcomed them.
Cattle that could not be evacuated had been slaughtered and now lay rotting.
Petrograd fell in mid-May, after short but intensive fighting, relatively intact into General Yudenich’s hands. All rail infrastructure was destroyed, as were port installations, but the city itself had only suffered from the fighting.
But behind St.Petersburg, as the town quickly was renamed, Yudenich’s army encountered scorched earth, as had Denikin’s from the start on.
In late July, both armies converged on Moscow. Here, the Bolsheviks had had time enough to do substantial damage. Most houses had been made unusable, whole quarters had burned down, others were without roofs, many booby-trapped.
The Red Army was deeply entrenched and fortified and for the first time offered adamant resistance. The Battle of Moscow ended on August 21st, 1919. The Whites were now in possession of an enormous pile of rubble.
Pursuit of the Red Army continued until early December, but no decisive battle came about. With general exhaustion and over-extended supply lines, the chase ended on the line Astrakhan – Samara – Vyatka.
The Bolsheviks retreated about 100 km further east before they settled down for winter positions.
Excellent posts as always. How far are you thinking of taking this?
One point: it would be called "le nouveau royaume."
Die Religion ist das Opium des Volkes
I had it first as "noveau royaume" but then decided that "royaume noveau" was easier to pronounce.
Frankly, I don't know how far I can carry this because I can't look into the future. One has to see how events develop...
Last edited by rast; February 5th, 2009 at 07:08 AM..
The Afghan invasion of British India started on May 1st, 1919.
Amir Amanullah, who had finally overcome and imprisoned his brother Nasrulla, found it almost impossible to gain acceptance from the conservative elements of the Afghan society. They acutely jeopardised his rule.
The civil unrest in India that seemed slowly to escalate into full scale civil war provided him with a formidable opportunity to stabilise his hold on power. Wasn’t it time to liberate the kinsmen beyond the ridiculous Durand-Line from British yoke? Wasn’t it time to regain the territories lost to the Englishmen in the past? Weren’t Peshawar and Quetta ancient Afghan cities?
These questions found the conservatives ready – if not eager – to follow his lead.
If Amanullah had any illusions about the quality of his army, the designated chief of the “Afghania” operation, General Mohammed Nadir Khan, soon dispelled them.
Nadir Khan had been trained and fostered by the British, but had come to hate and despise them. He had some own aspirations to royal power, but these would best be served if he successfully ended the war.
The Afghan Army was not an instrument capable to defeat the British. He knew both the British Army and the Indian Army. They were able to make minced meat out of the Afghan Army – even if detracted by widespread civil war. Only if the formations guarding the border were withdrawn for other tasks elsewhere, could the Afghan Army hope to march to Peshawar unharmed.
No, the real asset of Afghan military power were the tribesmen, the tribal warriors. They basically were a strong, well armed and experienced guerilla force – at home on both sides of the border. Some presents and promises would have to be made to the tribal chiefs, certainly, but then a huge guerilla army of perhaps 60,000 fighters could be mobilised.
Planning a campaign with so many guerrillas, which were not used to and would not accept military command and control was a nightmare on its own. To be workable, the plan had to be very simple.
The Afghan Army would slowly proceed along the Khyber Road towards Peshawar – and would leave it to the guerilla forces, led by their own chiefs, to attack side and rear of the enemy, to cut supply lines and communications.
The British would have air superiority. That could not be helped. But it remained to be seen whether the spotters from above were able to identify all the irregulars moving through this difficult terrain.
On May 1st, the attack on the first Khyber forts began. The Afghan army had some nice state of the art Krupp guns, which served them well for this purpose. The forts had been constructed to provide strong points against tribal war bands equipped with nothing more than small arms. They did not withstand modern 75 mm and 105 mm shells.
Slowly and methodically, the army worked its way along the Khyber road, smashing and taking the forts, which were manned by mercenary units paid by the British Raj, one by one.
The British formations near the border still amounted to one composite infantry division plus three regular border brigades and a bag full of frontier militia and mercenary corps. The other formations had already been called away to deal with the mutinies in central India.
The border brigades and the militias were already tied up in a bitter bush war with superior enemy guerilla forces. This left the infantry division to deliver a blow that sent the Afghans running home.
This blow never was delivered.
The British advance quickly bogged down in a maze of ambushes, traps and raids on supply services. Messengers never arrived, patrols were found dead and looted down to the naked skin, motor transport vehicles were stopped by boulders dumped on the road and then riddled with bullets, while the drivers desperately tried to shift to reverse gear. The Brits often inflicted more casualties on the attackers than they suffered, but they nevertheless remained hopelessly outnumbered.
Although wireless communication and aerial reconnaissance still worked, it really didn’t help. Casualties were mounting from multiple pinpricks. Concentration helped, large camps with strong guarding kept off the attackers, but the terrain did not favour concentration.
Finally, the North-West Frontier Force commander, Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Barret, had to acknowledge that every yard of advance only further weakened the force. On May 4th, after furious discussions with the British Indian Government, he ordered general retreat to the Punjab, abandoning the North-West Frontier Province to the Afghans and their Pashtun allies. Better save the force for the showdown in central India than waste it without decisive result in a sideshow. One could deal with the Afghans later.
On May 6th, columns of irregulars descended on Peshawar and Quetta. The warriors were coming to get their reward. But the looting did not escalate into a general bloodshed. The guerrillas knew who was kin and had to be spared. And those Punjabis, Sikhs and other Indians who lived in the towns – and had been unable to get away – knew that generous handing out of merchandise could save their lifes. All Englishmen had wisely evacuated the area together with the force. And abandoned property always had been an invitation for comprehensive looting.
On May 8th, 1919, at Kabul, Amir Amanullah proclaimed the re-unification of Afghanistan complete and offered peace talks and a new border treaty to the British Raj. Subsequently, Nadir Khan was promoted Commander-in-Chief of the Afghan Army. Poor Nasrulla had meanwhile died in prison from “haemorrhagic fever”.
Events in India busted the dams in Britain. The first to learn this was General Sir Herbert Plumer. On May 4th, 1919, he was told that four of his five infantry divisions, which hardly had arrived in Eire, were to embark for India. He was to receive four tank battalions and one armoured car battalion instead.
Plumer needed infantry for area control. Against the enemy he was fighting, tanks and armoured cars were of no help. He told London they should send the tanks and armoured cars to India and leave the infantry in Ireland.
Consequently, tanks, armoured cars and infantry were sent to India.
This left Plumer with one infantry division.
With this small force he could only hope to hold the greater Dublin area. The RIC, after appalling casualties, had already evacuated the Irish expanse. Now the army followed suit.
Ninety percent of Ireland were thus left to the control of the rebels, a completely unacceptable status.
Plumer travelled to London, tried to convince the war minister, the foreign secretary, the prime minister. He needed manpower to control the expanse, that was the only way to contain the rebellion. – They understood his arguments and agreed to his policy, but… The crown of the British Empire was in danger, one had to improvise. Plumer would get volunteer units and Territorial Force brigades, such as could be mobilised from scrap.
Plumer learned that General Sir Charles Monro had been relieved from his position as commander-in-chief of the Indian Army. General Sir Edmund Allenby had already disembarked at Bombay to take his place.
A Royal Navy squadron of ten dreadnoughts and all required ancillary vessels had been sent to the Indian Ocean in order to stop arms supply to the Indian insurgents. – Wouldn’t a blockade of Ireland help as well?
So far, the IRA had only used pistols, revolvers, shotguns and some customary rifles. Explosives had been home made. But Plumer knew that the American Irish were collecting money to buy more sophisticated stuff and ship it to Ireland. And the Germans could be trusted to supply weaponry as well.
Yes, a close blockade of Irish ports, in accordance with international maritime law, might help to avoid escalation.
Plumer also learned that re-introduction of compulsory service was hotly debated. He didn’t think this was a very bright idea. It would rather ruin the staggering economy completely. Why not hire those without jobs, of which more than plenty were available? – Had been tried, he was told, and didn’t work. Most of the unemployed had been in the war, they preferred poverty and misery over another ordeal in arms. One would have to force them to put on an uniform again…
Returned to Dublin, Plumer organised the control of the wider Dublin area. This was not more than a bridgehead on an enemy shore. Absolutely uncontested, the IRA in the meanwhile started to butcher the Protestant militias in eastern Ulster, starting an exodus of Protestants to England and Scotland.
The alternative, moving the remaining forces to the north and abandoning Dublin had been discussed, but finally been rejected. After all, Dublin was the capital. Giving up the capital was like accepting defeat. One would send volunteers to Ulster.
In early June, the first volunteers arrived.
When inspecting them, Plumer despaired. He was used to command soldiers, not armed rabble. These were untrained youngsters from Liverpool and Manchester, lowest lower class, uneducated and primitive. Plumer knew that it took two years of severe drill to turn such fellows into reliable soldiers.
On June 6th, 1919, he asked to be relieved from his position.
On June 8th, 1919, General Henry S. Rawlinson was appointed new Viceroy and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Rawlinson had a reputation for finding unconventional ways to solve a problem. It was hoped that he might be able to square the circle. After arrival in Dublin and seeing the situation, Rawlinson is rumoured to have said: “Why don’t we pull out the plug and scuttle this miserable isle?”
General Prince Nashimoto Morimasa, the commander of the Shiberia Ina Zuma force, and his chief of staff, Lieutenant General Yui Mitsue, were now faced with an opposed river crossing.
Both agreed that this required thorough preparation. The railway line to Vladivostok had to be repaired in order to bring the bridging material forwards, the artillery had to be positioned and – the troops had to be trained in their tasks… It had been soon found out that most of the infantry regiments had no experience in that kind of activity, while the engineers were well versed with operating ferries and building bridges but had hardly ever practised together with infantry or cavalry.
The Amur was no mean river, nobody in the Japanese force had ever tried to forcefully cross such a wide stream.
The Japanese held absolute air superiority and were keeping a close watch on their enemy on the west bank of the Amur. With the help of their British advisors, they were also testing artillery observation by airplane.
The Japanese now also had moved in their tanks, five Mk.Vs and three Whippets, which they had bought from Britain. The Mk.Vs had come too late to see action in the war, they were a vast improvement over the old Mk.IVs, so the British advisors said. The Whippets had seen action in France on March 22nd, 1918, when their battalion had been shredded by German 12th Kanobils, nevertheless, they were fast tanks, considered well suited for pursuit.
The Japanese enjoyed artillery superiority as well, their guns outnumbering those of the Bolsheviks five to one.
Reinforcements had landed at Vladivostok, making good the losses of the previous engagements.
On the west bank of the Amur, Mikhail Tukhachevsky was not thinking that he should waste time with thorough preparations. The Central Committee’s decision to abandon European Russia had given him ample reserves, but the Red Army did not possess all this sophisticated equipment the enemy had. He had rifle units, sometimes even equipped with one or two machine guns. He had cavalry, mainly Cossacks. And he had some few guns without much ammunition. And four armoured cars, of which one was operative.
Some infantry and the guns he had brought into position opposite Khabarovsk, where the Japs apparently intended to cross the river. These units were now the focus of Japanese attention.
Tukhachevsky had noted that the Japanese aircraft didn’t leave the vicinity of Khabarovsk. Obviously, the pilots had fear to be forced to make an emergency landing somewhere in the wilderness, so they stayed close to their Japanese brethren on ground.
On May 22nd, he sent two Cossack corps north. They would cross the Amur some 50 to 60 verst to the northeast of Khabarovsk and afterwards proceed into the back of the Japanese. They didn’t need bridging material, they were Cossacks, they could swim through the river together with their horses.
This amounted to 8,000 Cossacks to disrupt the Japanese supply lines.
The commander of the two Chinese divisions that had moved up north in order to screen Japanese activities and secure integrity of Chinese territory could easily be talked into letting two rifle Red divisions pass through the Chinese turf. – Everything that was bad for the Japanese was good for the Chinese.
The divisions would cross the Ussuri River south of Khabarovsk at night and hide in the woods adjacent to the Ussuri, until ordered to attack.
His main force, Tukhachevsky led up to the northeast in night marches. The men had to carry boats and empty oil drums for constructing rafts.
In two nights, from May 28th to May 30th, the Red force crossed the Amur. Tukhachevsky lost about 600 men in the process, a cheap price.
His Cossack couriers now spread the news to the other components.
In the night from June 2nd to 3rd, the Bolshevik artillery suddenly opened fire on the Japanese concentrations in and around Khabarovsk. At the same time, activities were observed near the destroyed bridge and north of it. Were the Russians about to attack?
While the Japanese bugles still sounded alarm, Bolshevik forces rushed in from all sides for a night time bayonet charge. The main blow fell from north-east, where Tukhachevsky led in person. Twelve Bolshevik rifle divisions charged head on into the rear of the Japanese disposition, while Cossack squadrons clambered down the roads hacking and thrusting at everyone who had the misfortune to be there.
In the south of Khabarovsk, two rifle divisions stormed out of the wood, blocked the Trans-Sib and started to dig in, expecting the Japanese exodus.
Still further south, the two Cossack corps fell on rear Japanese supply dumps and blocked the Trans-Sib for all traffic.
The notion that a headquarters should not be near the front line, now made the Japanese force HQ one of the first installations to be hit. Prince Nashimoto had the satisfaction to bring down two Cossacks with his pistol before a third one rammed his lance into the general’s chest. General Yui only managed to stick his head inquiringly out of the staff tent before it was severed by a Cossack’s sabre.
Most senior officers shared their fates.
The chaos was complete.
Japanese soldiers crawling out of their tents, disoriented and without leaders, were easy prey for the Russian fighters, many of whom had been in the war since 1914.
Nevertheless, the Japanese host was so huge that some units managed to rally.
Early dawn of June 3rd saw a desperate Japanese breakout attempt to the south. About the equivalent of six divisions, mainly led by junior officers, stampeded the positions of the two red rifle divisions.
Casualties were enormous, but about one third of the force got through, overrunning and annihilating the Bolsheviks in their dug outs.
Cautiously, the covering force, another three division equivalents now tried to disengage from the Russians and also move south. A Bolshevik charge failed against numerous Japanese machine guns. The Japanese got away.
Tukhachevsky now controlled the battlefield. The Japanese were beaten. Their artillery, tanks, aeroplanes and supplies were his now. He would pursue them, mainly with his Cossacks, and move quickly to Vladivostok, but keep out of range of the Japanese battleships. May be, the Japanese would try to make a last stand at Vladivostok, may be they had had enough and would go home.
Last edited by rast; February 6th, 2009 at 08:18 AM..
The Prussian and now German War Ministry at the Leipziger Straße in Berlin Central long had ceased to be capable of housing all the departments and staff divisions, but it still housed the central department and the office of the German war minister.
Yet, it was not in this office or in one of the conference rooms where the German senior militaries met on June 17th, 1919, but in the Park that extended to the south of the edifice.
Six chairs had been arranged around a table in the shade of ancient trees.
War minister General Field Marshal Hermann von Eichhorn, now in his 71st year, a tall imposing figure with a white fringe of hair around his bald head and an impressive white moustache, accompanied by the director of the central section of the war ministry, Lieutenant General Wilhelm Groener, already awaited his guests and took time to greet everyone of them with a hand shake and a brief cordial chat.
First arrived Colonel-General Erich Ludendorff, Chief of OKW, bulky and double chinned but still upright and snappy. He appeared to be of good temper, something not often observed with him.
Next came General of Cavalry Ernst von Hoeppner, Chief of LKL, an elegant slim horseman who already during the war had been head of the army air service.
Grand Admiral Reinhard Scheer, Chief of SKL, then made a striking contrast with his elegant navy-blue uniform and his almost civilian comportment.
Last but not least arrived Lieutenant General Max Hoffmann, Chief of OHL, an obese giant with a bald bullet-head and a boyish countenance.
After having spent some more minutes in relaxed conversation and having sipped their drinks, the men took seats and Hermann von Eichhorn opened the monthly commander’ conference.
He stated that things were well on track. From the agreed new peace time strength of 2.5 million men, the armed forces currently had 1.2 million on service. 1.5 were scheduled to be achieved by the end of the year. A faster build-up was impossible because new leaders had to be trained and barracks had to be built first.
New training areas were under procurement as well. To have one major manoeuvre training ground per army corps was a proven approach that would be followed. New barracks would be mainly built in conjunction with the training areas or in order to boost economically weak regions. The Luftwaffe would receive a network of new aerodromes that positioned her to conduct successful defence of German air space. For the navy, there was no big change in stationing, Wilhelmshaven and Kiel would remain the major bases.
Recruitment of officer aspirants and NCO candidates was well up to requirement, as was recruitment of voluntary long time soldiers and seamen.
Erich Ludendorff explained that the OKW, which currently worked from offices dispersed all over Berlin, was to relocate to Wünsdorf, south of Berlin, in summer of 1920. New office complexes were under construction there that eventually would also accommodate OHL, SKL, and LKL in large-scale facilities above and below ground. He did not think that all this could be ready before 1925, but alone the concentration of OKW in the new office building above ground at Wünsdorf would be an enormous progress over current conditions.
In terms of training, he announced that a first joint staff exercise, a Kriegsspiel, was to take place in September, the theme being a landing operation in England launched from the Belgian sea ports. The exercise had been named “Seelöwe”, it would be a staff exercise in which the staffs would be fed with information from deployed lower staffs. Next would come a staff map exercise to be held in February 1920. – This would also be the annual exercise cycle of OKW: Staff exercise with deployed manoeuvre elements in autumn and staff map exercise in winter.
Max Hoffmann stated that army reorganisation was on schedule. In the infantry, the old “Korporalschaften” had been abolished and fixed squads led by an Unteroffizier been introduced also for peace time training. Strength was to be one NCO and ten men, the two extra soldiers being the light machine gunner and his aid. A suitable light machine gun had still to be agreed upon, the old 08/15s were used as interim.
Infantry battalions were to receive six FK 96 n.A. in a new fifth – heavy support – company. The FK 96 had been chosen because it could be manhandled and its ballistic performance was more than sufficient for the purpose of close support. The guns would be towed by small tractors, wheeled and tracked models were currently under test.
The field artillery would switch to howitzers exclusively. Divisions would have a mix of 105 and 150 mm guns. The existing FK 16s would be used up.
The heavy artillery, at home on corps level, would have 150 mm long range cannons and the proven 210 mm howitzers, plus a vast array of heavier siege and long range guns.
Wireless was to be introduced army wide.
A turreted model of the Kanobil was currently under test at Senne training ground, there were three competing versions, one from Krupp-Daimler, one from Büssing-Ehrhardt and one from Benz-Lloyd-Röchling.
Major Rohr had proposed an assault infantry version of the Kanobil. The engine would move to the front, the assault squad sit in rear and bail out through a rear door. The vehicle should be armed with a machine gun or a 2 cm gun. The specifications had been given to the industry.
Ernst von Hoeppner voiced discontent with the current state of the Luftwaffe. Premature demobilisation after the war had almost completely disrupted working relations. What he currently had did not suffice to warrant defence of the German air space. His training facilities were completely overcrowded as were those barracks given to his service.
In terms of hardware, he thought that the current mix of Fokker D.VII/E.V, Pfalz D.XII and Siemens-Schuckert D.III/IV fighters was still top of the mark. Replacement models were scheduled for a service start in 1923.
Ground attack units were also fine off with Junkers J4/J10 and Hannover CL III/IV until approximately 1925.
Medium bombers needed immediate replacement, a competition was going on. Reconnaissance and aerial observation still mainly relied on the sturdy Albatrosses and LVGs, these were due to be phased out in about two years, replacement models were presently tested at Schneidemühl.
Regarding Flak, the old establishment again had been cut by demobilisation and he had to start from scratch. But this might also have the advantage of an more structured approach.
Reinhard Scheer looked well tanned. He reported that he just came back from a visit of the German Mediterranean Squadron, which was stationed at Taranto. The old battleships of the Nassau class, SMS Nassau, SMS Westfalen, SMS Rheinland and SMS Posen had been detached to Italy. While the ships would stay down south, crews were rotated in a one year cycle. This was to give German sailors a broader experience than training in the “Wet Triangle” alone had done before the war.
To the same end, a host of light cruisers had been sent on duty all around Africa and two great cruisers, SMS Derfflinger and SMS Hindenburg, together with a chain of ancillary vessels, had been sent to the Chinese Sea. An agreement was in place with the Japanese for port services at Formosa and Kiautschou.
SMS Mackensen was scheduled for commission in March 1920. SMS Prinz Eitel Friedrich would follow in August 1920. Yet it would take until 1922 before all new great cruisers became operational. Battleships SMS Sachsen and SMS Württemberg would join the fleet in mid-1920.
His talented young men had aroused his interest in the “Telemobiloskop” invented by a certain Mister Hülsmeyer before the war. They saw interesting possibilities for detecting ships in this.
His staff was currently working on new specifications for more powerful and efficient submarines, and this would go on until early next year at least. The same had to be said about the aircraft carrier idea, which still required a lot of testing before specifications even could be formulated.
Hermann von Eichhorn closed the meeting with the remark that at present there was no threat to Germany that could cause any serious concern. Therefore, work on optimising the German armed forces could proceed undisturbed. The Reichstag was providing appropriate funding and the ruling parties fully agreed to and endorsed the plans of the military.
With this, the generals and the admiral went for lunch.
Last edited by rast; February 6th, 2009 at 02:28 PM..
One Speech too many
The invitation for the coronation ceremony at Reims finally had driven Kaiser Wilhelm II. out of his “neural fever”, which only consisted of demonstratively ignoring a world that obviously was ignoring him by keeping in bed and refusing all contact.
Wilhelm was not the demonic character the Entente propaganda had painted him before and during the war. He was a little boy that refused to become adult. He was selfish and egoistic, quick witted and rather bright, but incapable of efficient work – and completely overstrained when it came to ruling the German Empire.
He loved the military because of the bright uniforms, the splendid parades and the gruffy comradeship – but he had been deadly afraid of the war during the war. He was a swashbuckler of sorts, but only in words – never in reality, where he had become known as the “tumbler” (Umfaller) everytime a decision to war was to be taken prior to 1914.
In 1914, he had only been talked into accepting the risk of a war because of his grief over Franz Ferdinand’s death, whom he really had considered a friend, and because he had believed that Nicky (Tsar Nicholas II.) would share his view that the Serbian murderers must be punished.
It had been hard work for Chancellor Ebert to convince Wilhelm to go to Reims in civilian attire. Like a goatish child Wilhelm had insisted on wearing uniform. He did not feel comfortable in civilian clothes, he loved his helmets and uniforms with the multitude of ribbons and medals.
Only after Ebert had proven that Philippe VIII. himself would wear dress coat and top-hat as would all other monarchs attending, Wilhelm had caved in grumblingly.
Fortunately, Wilhelm’s role at Reims had not been a speaking one. He had only to be present, look dignified and disappear again. Maurras had seen that Wilhelm’s sojourn on French soil was as short as only could be arranged.
Consequently, the international press reported quite favourably about him. Without speech to be held, Wilhelm had been able to concentrate on playing attitude and gesture of a true emperor – and again had convinced the publicised opinion.
This encouraged the German government to let Wilhelm go to Turkey for the official groundbreaking ceremony for the Baghdad Railway.
The old project had ground to hold in 1914. After the war, Turkey had asked Germany to carry on. After thorough evaluation of the damage caused by the war, a new contract had been signed in spring of 1919.
And now, after meticulous preparations, the construction work was to start on August 16th, 1919. Sultan Mehmet VI. attended the event and was eager to embrace his brother Wilhelm II.
This time, Wilhelm was expected to deliver a speech. The text had been drafted by the foreign ministry, co-ordinated with Wilhelm and endorsed by the chancellor. Foreign minister Richard von Kühlmann was to accompany the emperor.
It was a bright warm day. Wilhelm felt excellent. After some folk lore and some Turkish military ceremonial, Mehmet VI. delivered some words, not very impressively. Then it was Wilhelm’s turn. He stepped to the lectern and started to speak, and was carried away by his own eloquence and bright inspirations...
Some metres away, Richard von Kühlmann slowly collapsed into himself and shook his head.
“I should have known...” he mumbled. “We all should have known.”
Of course, there had been a whole brigade of newspaper men present. The story was in the world wide press six hours later.
Heavy insults against Great Britain, with which Germany officially was at peace. Claiming Almighty assistance for Germany’s victory, declaring himself as the chosen of the Almighty, calling God “my old ally”, telling the Muslims that Allah is only another word for God, thus "Allah is my old ally”. Telling the Turks that only because of the German military missions before the war they had been able to win it. Calling Jews and Arabs “riffraff” that needed to be disciplined by the Ottomans. Declaring the Indian mutiny God’s punishment for England, just as he had prayed for four years long. Et cetera ad nauseam...
It was a very austere group of parlamentarians that came to visit Crown Prince Wilhelm at his estate Cecilienhof near Potsdam on August 18th, 1919. Their message was unpleasant: Either Wilhelm II. abdicated immediately in favour of his eldest son – or the Bundesrat would consider to award the Imperial German Crown to another German royal house.
Last edited by rast; February 7th, 2009 at 05:09 PM..
Great TL. In particular, your depiction of Wilhelm is nicely written.
Kaiser Wilhelm III.
The coronation of Wilhelm III., King of Prussia, took place on Monday, September 1st, 1919, at Königsberg, the traditional coronation place of the Prussian Kings. It was a major European event that also caught worldwide attention. It had been carefully planned and fixed for September 1st because the following day was Sedanstag, the most important German holiday, thus giving the Prussians and the other Germans opportunity to celebrate extensively.
With surprise, Philippe VIII. of France had noticed that the Germans did not hate or cross him but waved and cheered wherever he went or drove. He knew that his people did not reciprocate these feelings. The Kaiser’s visit to Reims had had to be screened by a whole army of policemen, otherwise his compatriots would have thrown stones and foul eggs on Wilhelm II.
Philippe also noted how prosperous Germany was – especially when compared to France, where Maurras’ government still had found no way to stop the galloping inflation.
The reception of Georg V. of Britain by the Germans, Philippe observed, was much more subdued, sometimes even outrightly hostile. It would seem that the Germans still resented the British blockade, while they no longer bore any grudge towards their old “hereditary enemy”. Might it be that the Germans now had found another “hereditary enemy” and were ready to accept the French as their neighbours without sending their army for a visit in each generation?
As was Prussian custom, Wilhelm crowned himself in the castle church – no arch bishop required. Then he put the queen’s crown on his wife’s head. That was it. With this, he automatically had become German Emperor as well.
The Germans now would celebrate Kaisers Geburtstag (emperor’s birthday), the second highest national holiday, on May 6th.
The reception in Königsberg Castle would later be remembered as the “Torturous Sardine Can Meeting”. The number of guests exceeded the available space by a factor of three. Fortunately, the inner yard provided ample outdoor evasion capacity. So, all guests were reported to have survived the ordeal.
The heads of state had, of course, no problems in this regard. They met to a dinner in the Moskowitersaal, the largest room in the castle, just above the castle church.
Wilhelm III. made an excellent appearance. A slender man with gracious motions, he was exquisitely polite to everyone and completely devoid of his father’s infamous jokes, like nipping guests in the butt.
It was therefore without fear that Ferdinand I. of Bulgaria, a famous victim of butt nipping, approached him after dinner when the cigars were handed out and the ladies had disappeared into an adjacent room.
“Congratulations, my dear, my wholehearted felicitations. – I suppose you did not have a pleasant time convincing your father to abdicate – because of his bad health...”
“Well, no, it was not easy. You know him. – But the prospect that a Bavarian or a Saxon might become next emperor finally made the difference. My mother was very helpful too. You know she really is ill and prefers a quiet life over the wandering circus my father habitually entertained.”
“What will he do now?”
“Move to Corfu and live in the Achilleion, if not enjoying a Mediterranean cruise with the “Hohenzollern”, which he will retain.”
“That’s in Greece...”
“Yes, it is. But we are at peace with Greece now. You know, Germany acceded to your treaty with them.”
“Yes, I know. – Well, relations between my country and Greece are somewhat strained...”
“Obviously. Now, our countries are friends and allies, I don’t think that Greek irredenta stands any chance.”
“French irredenta also stood no chance, they tried it nevertheless.”
“And failed, as Greece will fail, if they try – which at least Uncle Konstantin will try to prevent.”
With this, Wilhelm bowed courteously and went ahead to engage Grand Duke Kyrill, in absence of Tsarevich Alexej now Regent of Russia.
Wilhelm III. was not completely indisputable for the Germans. He had been the responsible army commander at Verdun, which carnage was permanently prominent in all German minds – far superseding the Somme or Flanders. And he was known to have entertained “ladies” at his HQ while his soldiers kicked the bucket at Verdun and in the Argonne. He also had been allied with the extreme right during the war.
Many would have preferred his younger brother Eitel Friedrich over him, who was a war hero with untarnished reputation, although even more reactionary than Wilhelm.
It was generally hoped that the war experience had purified Wilhelm and that he would become a prudent and wise emperor.
The Japanese had absolutely no intention of giving up Vladivostok and their Outer Manchuria project. Immediately after they had captured the port, they had started to fortify it towards the land side. Two hands full of Korean labour battalions had been set to work, as had Japanese army engineers and private Japanese companies.
The perimeter was set in a way that the outer ring of field positions was still well within the range of the Japanese ship artillery. Multiple layers of wire obstacles, fortified field positions, concrete block houses, subterranean shelters for reserve troops, artillery positions etc. were installed with greatest haste. Whole forests were razed in order to create cleared fields of fire.
At second layer of defences was installed at the base of the peninsula on which the town of Vladivostok was situated. The form of the coastline would also allow the Japanese to move forces by ship from one area to another – or reinforce certain sectors by ship borne troops.
When the defeat at Khabarovsk occurred, Vladivostok was already so strong that Tukhachevsky’s force stood no chance even if they had followed the retreating Japanese on their heels.
Lieutenant General Prince Kuni Kuniyoshi, who had spent a long time with the German army before the war, had been entrusted with the defence of Vladivostok. He had three infantry divisions and six engineer battalions for that task, plus numerous units of fortress artillery imported from Japan and Korea.
Now he was reinforced by the remnants of Nashimoto’s force, which – after some rest and refit – amounted to another four divisions. Senior officers were shuttled in from Japan to take over the formations, while some of the most active junior leaders, who had distinguished themselves during break out and retreat, were promoted to lead battalions and regiments.
Kuni and his chief of staff, Colonel Takashi Hishikari, agreed that the situation was not at all serious. The Bolsheviks stood no chance of breaking the defences. The railway bridge at Khabarovsk was still down, so Bolshevik supply and reinforcement faced serious difficulties.
One had to admit that the Imperial Japanese Army had suffered a shameful defeat, but after further reinforcements arrived a new offensive would doubtlessly re-establish Japanese control of the Sikhot-Alin area.
Mikhail Tukhachevsky, at his HQ at Nikolsk-Ussuriysky, had arrived at quite the same conclusion concerning an attack on Vladivostok. Although he could think of several ways to intrude into the Japanese perimeter, there was no way to avoid annihilation by the Japanese ship artillery. However successful he penetrated the outer defences, his forces were doomed as soon as the Japanese battleships opened fire.
In regard of a Japanese counter offensive, however, Tukhachevsky had a differing opinion. Although the Trans-Sib had been cut at Khabarovsk, he sat – here at Nikolsk-Ussuriysky – at the end of the Chinese Eastern Railway, built with Russian funds as shortcut to the Trans-Sib before the war. And while the CER certainly was closed to the Japanese, it wasn’t to the Bolsheviks.
The Chinese, following the golden rule that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, despite their dislike for communist ideology, had no problems of opening the CER to Tukhachevsky’s reinforcements and supplies. To not arouse Japanese suspicions, the traffic was conducted at night, when the Japanese airplanes stayed down. Japanese spies on the ground had not to be feared, thanks to the Cossacks - and to the Chinese who had no interest in providing the Japanese an excuse for aggression and therefore handled the affair with utter care for secrecy.
So, expecting the Japanese counter blow well before winter, Tukhachevsky was preparing his own fortress in the wilderness. There was no need to fell millions of trees in order to create a good field of fire. Forest aisles served the same purpose without telling the enemy what was going on.
Undetected by the Japanese, the Bolsheviks were preparing a big trap for the invader.
If the Japanese denied the Bolsheviks access to the seas by occupying Vladivostok, the Bolsheviks could still deny the Japanese any progress beyond the town.
Tukhachevsky had also detailed a detachment of Cossacks and local militias to Nikolayevsk on the mouth of the Amur River. The Japanese force up there hadn’t moved at all since coming ashore. Time to chase them back into the sea. Maybe that would also trigger a Japanese advance out of Vladivostok...
Last edited by rast; February 8th, 2009 at 12:46 PM..
The Empire Strikes Back
Returning from the coronation ceremony in Germany, Enver Pasha summoned his colleagues, Talat and Çemal, for a review of the situation in the Ottoman Empire.
They agreed that the interior situation was favourable, more favourable than it had been since decades. The Turkish population, feeling to be the victors of the war, backed the current regime. There was a strong movement towards more education. With German help, the Istanbul Naval Engineers’ School was to be expanded into Istanbul Technical University, while the Istanbul General University was broadening its educational range. Two new universities were planned, one at Edirne, the other at Smyrna.
It had already been decided to adopt the German education system. German experts were swarming all over the Turkish part of the empire, helping to establish a modern school system.
Germans were also busy in the Taurus Mountains, trying to complete the Baghdad Railway – which now would be extended to Basorah, something the British had had prevented before the war, but were to weak now to repeat. – More railways were needed nevertheless. The traffic conditions in the eastern provinces were terrible, this being the major reason why Turkey had lost the race towards Baku.
That couldn’t be helped. The Germans were now firmly established in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, which countries had treaties of protection and technical assistance with the German Empire. The German chemical industry had founded the “Energieversorgungsgesellschaft” (energy supply company) EVEG, which was now exploiting the Baku oilfields (and also those in Romania that the Germans had gotten for 99 years in the Treaty of Bucharest). The Germans were about to build a pipeline from Baku to Poti and upgrading the railway connection from Baku to Rostov on Don, the Ukraine and Germany proper.
Right now, the Ottoman Empire had no own source of oil. The Turkish Petroleum Company was dead, a victim of the war. Experts thought that Mesopotamia, which had the same geological features as the area in Persia, where the British had found oil in 1908, might yield oil, but until today none had been found.
The Brits were clinging heavily to southern Persia, where the Anglo-Persian Oil Company was active. Since the American oil companies were only selling oil to the British for advance cash payment, the Masjed Soleiman oilfield and the Burmese oil were the only affordable sources of oil for the Royal Navy. And in Burma, the Indian Insurgency had now arrived in force.
Yes, the British had a lot of problems, and they had no money. They weren’t paying for their use of Al Kowayt and Cyprus. The Cyprus-Kowayt-Treaty, which had been concluded following the Treaty of Copenhagen, regulated that Britain had to pay monthly fees to the Sublime Porte. The money could be substituted by oil or coal. But right now, neither money nor oil nor coal was coming forth.
That provided Turkey with a good title for fully re-possessing Al Kowayt and Cyprus. Kowayt was the easier part and would come first. The allies, Germany, Hungary and Bulgaria, had already agreed to this course of action. Even the US had signalled “green light” – they were also irritated by the British refusal to re-pay their war debts – and had agreed to send some ships of war to the Persian Gulf in order to observe a regulated hand over to the Sublime Porte.
Cyprus was another case because of the Greek majority of the population. They might stage a rebellion, which wasn’t a real problem but would paint a negative picture of the empire. One had still to suffer from a hostile stance of international public opinion because of the alleged “Armenian Genocide”, why add a “Cyprus Massacre”? The Germans had agreed to take over the Famagusta naval station from the British, as well as administration of the island. The secret Accord of Königsberg, which Enver had just brought home, regulated a slow set piece handover of the administration to the Sublime Porte, while Germany would keep Famagusta naval station for 12 years. The Germans would undertake to restructure the administration of the island in a way that both ethnic groups were represented and achieved internal self-governance before the Ottoman Empire took over formal dominion, respecting local representation and self-governance.
The fear was that this example might bring about demands for representation and local self-governance in the other provinces of the empire. The “Three Pashas” were not yet clear how to react to that. They knew that a certain change was unavoidable and that without public participation the empire was doomed in the long run. But how to manage that change without losing power was still an enigma for them.
Mustafa Kemal Pasha’s campaign in Arabia was an outright success. Luckily, Bedouins died lonely in the wilderness. There was no exodus, no refugees, nothing to stir foreign public opinion. Some tribes had submitted to Ottoman rule, others – such as the Saudis – had perished.
Kemal’s troops had had a short brush with the Brits near Aden. But one had no intention to act with force down there. When the British hold slackened because they needed their troops in India, one might stage a rebellion to overthrow British rule and voluntarily join the Ottoman Empire.
It was only a question of buying the right people at the right time…
Persian Azerbaijan and Kurdistan were now tightly controlled by the Turks, despite the horrible infrastructure. There was an uneasy truce with the British, who still held Hamadan in order to screen their oil wells further south.
The Caspian Sea thus provided excellent access to the Turkish speaking areas in the Transcaspian territories. Ottoman support for the Savaşçı (which the Russians derogatively called “Basmachi” - bandits) was forthcoming as good as possible. Turkish volunteers supported the Savaşçı and their leader Mohammed Alim Khan, Amir of Bukhara. Enver’s Pan-Turan ideas were now bearing some nice fruits – and the Ottoman Empire did support the struggle against the Bolsheviks, something the German allies noted with gratification.
Last edited by rast; February 9th, 2009 at 07:43 AM..
Britain against the Wall
If the Ottoman leaders believed that Britain would tolerate any of their schemes, they were thoroughly erring. The situation in India and Ireland only caused the Britons to rally in support of the conservative government. Socialists or Liberals who dared to speak against the policy of Andrew Bonar Law risked to be publicly insulted or even beaten. The Northcliffe press was working furiously for attuning the populace with the national cause.
When by the end of September 1919 it became known that the Germans and their Belgian allies had exercised an invasion of south-east England, those who always had believed that Germany was behind everything had their field day. Since their turnaround, the Belgians already had joined the Germans as favourite objects of hate and infamy, but now publicised opinion went as far as to demand a preventive strike of the Royal Navy against the Belgian sea ports.
On October 1st, 1919, general conscription was re-introduced.
The volunteer militias in Ireland had proven to be worthless and detrimental for Britain. Many of their members had gotten drunk and remained so for days or weeks in sequence. Women and girls had been harassed, dozens of them raped and in some cases even killed afterwards. Shops had been robbed. Weapons had been used for no apparent reason against innocent passer-bys. Finally, General Rawlinson had been forced to send out his infantry to arrest the militias and transport them back to England for basic training and education.
Now, Rawlinson could expect five new divisions, which would help him to regain control over the Emerald Isle.
The main effort, however, was for India, where matters had completely slipped out of control. For all practical reasons, the Indian Army had ceased to exist. Only most Ghurkha regiments had remained loyal to the British Raj, all other native formations had broken apart, individuals or whole units joining the insurgents. This left only the British Army in India. The British units at present controlled Karachi, Bombay and Calcutta, where also most of the British nationals had fled to (if they got away), while the rest of the country had fallen to the rebels. The British observed, however, that various fractions were now fighting each other and that religious affairs increasingly segregated the insurgents. Several Maharajas had been killed, some had joined the rebels, most had left the country. The old Indian order of things had collapsed, but there was yet little indication what would come up instead.
While British nationalism soared high, the value of the British Pound entered free fall. British economy, already ailing from the war, received its death blow with the re-introduction of conscription. Even the weak Pound did not help to vitalise exports. International customers cancelled orders when it became clear that timelines would not be met or the expected quality would not be achieved. The London stock exchange now ultimately lost its world leading role to the Wall Street.
The Dominions, however, remained faithful to Britain. Despite the appalling loses suffered in the war, Canada fielded a voluntary division for India. Australia agreed to send four divisions to India. The Australian Corps in the war had fought in the last ditch defence east of Calais, had finally been encircled and gone into captivity without suffering the awful losses of the Canadians.
New Zealand revived the New Zealand Division for India, and South Africa mobilised an army corps of three divisions.
When, in early October 1919, the Sublime Porte voiced its intentions about Kowayt and Cyprus, the British reply was a clear “No”. The Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Squadron left Malta and steamed for Cyprus. British units from Persia were moved into Kuwait.
The British government declared that under the present national emergency no payments could be made and that all available oil and coal was required for the Royal Navy. This did, however, not mean that Britain did not honour its obligations from the Cyprus-Kowayt-Treaty. Deliveries would be resumed after the end of the emergency and missed rates made good for.
This somehow weakened the Ottoman case and placated the American hawks, so that President Wilson and his Anglophiles got the upper hand again, steering a course of benevolent neutrality opposite Britain.
In Britain it was noted that the Germans again had been involved, adding to the rampant Germanophobia that now also increasingly saw Germany behind the Indian Insurgency.
The picture of “Ye good ol’ Hun” was revived in newspapers and magazines. And a new series of “Little Willy” cartoons was published, delving into the alleged amorous adventures of the then Crown Prince during the war – and before and after the war...
When in mid-October the IRA managed to run a speedboat loaded with explosives into a British destroyer on blockade duty off Cork, taking the lifes of 67 seamen, voices became loud which demanded a remote blockade.
When few days later another speedboat attack sunk a second destroyer and killed further 39 sailors, the remote blockade was officially proclaimed, barring Ireland from all international sea traffic, on October 22nd, 1919.
This unavoidably led to international protests – and in the US to a new sway towards the anti-British hawks. While Irish American propaganda painted the picture of starving Irish babies, a strong movement for freedom of the seas demanded American diplomatic intervention.
President Wilson finally decided to sent his “grey eminence”, Colonel House, to Britain and Europe in order to find a solution that did not bring the USA in confrontation with Britain.
Colonel Edward M. House arrived in Britain on November 1st, 1919. November is a month of darkness and bad weather everywhere in Northern Europe, but House was really alerted when he saw this “grey country with its grey people”, as he later would describe it.
The Britain he had known before and during the war, the Britain that dominated a worldwide empire and was certain to win the war was gone.
This was a country that had lost a major war, a country fallen into poverty, a country fearing to lose its empire. House was shocked by the hatred that he met everywhere. Hatred against the Germans, who were seen as the architects of British decline, and their “puppets”, hatred against the French, who had deserted the Entente and capitulated to the Germans, hatred against the Irish, the Indians, the Turks, the Americans… Yes, even against the Americans who insisted that Britain paid back her war debts, instead of writing them off as contribution to the common cause.
House, who had thought that the Treaty of Copenhagen was extremely lenient, learned that this was only German treachery in order to appease the international community. The real German war aim was the downfall of Britain and Germany’s emergence as leading world power. To that end, the Germans had – somehow – managed to incite the Irish rebellion and the Indian insurgency.
Did one have proof for that?
No, of course not, the Germans were much too cunning to leave traces. But wasn’t it obvious?
Didn’t Germany have a democratic government now?
Well, the old militarists were still in power. Hadn’t he seen the gigantic armament programme that the Germans were executing?
But hadn’t they stopped their naval construction programme, hadn’t they? – They were currently constructing eight new battle cruisers and two battleships, while Britain was building nothing for lack of funds. They had acquired naval bases in Belgium and Italy, their Turkish friends were threatening Cyprus, Kuwait and Aden. They were experimenting with more effective submarines and had engaged in developing aircraft carriers. Did he really think all this was mere happenstance?
What were the British plans for Ireland? Wasn’t it possible to grant self-rule? – One could think about many ways to grant more autonomy to the Irish, even independence might become possible some day. But one would not cave in to terrorists and rebels.
And India? – India was the crown of the British Empire, one would regain it. The present chaos amply demonstrated that the Indians were not yet capable of self-government. One would have to coach them carefully. Perhaps in two or thee generations they would be capable of self-rule.
House was astonished that even Liberals, like Alfred Milner and Herbert Asquith shared these views. After one week of talks with British statesmen, House travelled on to Germany.
In Germany, November was as dark and rainy as in Britain, but here House found no “grey country with grey people”. Germany now united all Germans in Central Europe, except those in Switzerland, it was a bustling and busy prosperous country. In Berlin, House encountered Friedrich Ebert who took some hours to talk with him.
House was surprised that Ebert didn’t even mention Great Britain in his analysis of the current situation. Ebert completely concentrated on continental European themes, the war against the Bolsheviks and the yet unsolved – or only half solved – Polish question.
What about the growth of the German Army? – Well, the pre-war regime had kept the army small for reasons of not watering down its qualities, which also meant use against interior foes of the regime. This small size had invited the Entente for aggression. – Now, that every German could proudly serve in the armed forces, which no longer had any other task but defence against external foes, Germany would not repeat this mistake of an army too small to deter.
And the navy? – The Tirpitz Programme was definitely finished, only the ships that had already been started before or during the war would be completed. The High Seas Fleet had demonstrated that its size was sufficient to control the German Bight and the Baltic. More was not required.
But the German ships in the Mediterranean? – Italy was an ally now, as were Bulgaria and Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. Why shouldn’t German ships not cruise in the Mediterranean with so many friendly ports to be visited?
And the Ottoman demand on Cyprus and Kuwait? – Britain had recognised Ottoman sovereignty over Cyprus and Kuwait in the Treaty of Copenhagen. It had also agreed to pay royalties to the Ottomans for the continued use of both countries. If these royalties weren’t remitted, the Sublime Porte had a right to demand that Britain evacuated the countries. Germany had been asked by Turkey to temporarily administer Cyprus because it was feared that the Greek majority population of the island might not welcome Turkish rule. His government had agreed to this request after consultation with King Konstantin’s government in Greece. Prime Minister Lambros had expressedly welcomed the initiative.
What about Ireland? What was the German position? – An internal British affair, Germany had no intention to recognize an independent Ireland as long as Britain did not agree to Irish independence.
And India? – Ebert only shrugged his shoulders, certainly a tragedy, but Germany was neither involved nor interested.
House left Germany with the perception that a great disparity existed between the British worldview and the German one. He had also seen the German newspapers and read German magazines (with the help of his interpreter). The Germans were neither interested in the Irish question nor did they care much about the Indian Insurgency. The Polish question, the Russian question and the fate of Bolshevism were much more important in German public opinion. The Germans generally disliked Britain because of the blockade, but Britain ranged very low in German priorities.
During the war, House had sided with the British, believing their arguments about a struggle between democracy and Prussian militarism and autocracy. He now had to admit that the German democracy was obviously more liberal and advanced than what he had seen in Britain.
He returned to Britain with the intention to soften the British stance and achieve a more liberal handling of affairs, especially in Ireland.
Ordeal by Battle
China was infested with Japanese spies, there was no way to keep the news of Chinese support for the Bolsheviks secret from them. It took only few days and recently promoted General Prince Kuni Kuniyoshi and his chief of staff, Colonel Takashi Hishikari, were perfectly informed not only about the fact itself but also about the number of troops and the kind of supplies that had reached Tukhachevsky via the CER.
This changed their plans considerably. Requests for additional support went out to Japan. It took until early October to assemble everything. Prince Kuni was already getting impatient, winter was drawing close, October was the last month to wield a decent campaign.
Finally, on October 8th, 1919, the Japanese advance started.
Immediately outside the range of the Japanese ship artillery, Bolshevik forces were encountered, pickets which forced the Japanese to deploy and then fell back, Cossacks which tried to find weak spots in the Japanese array.
The Bolsheviks also undertook night attacks on the resting Japanese force, but were repulsed by strong alarm posts with machine guns prepared for night fighting.
On October 12th, the Japanese made contact with Tukhachevsky’s main defence line. They conducted reconnaissance by force, but then retreated after they had identified the Bolshevik positions.
On October 13th, Japanese artillery started shelling these positions, while strong forces swung out to the sides in order to find a way around the Bolshevik defences.
On October 14th, a strong Cossack detachment, estimated 6-7,000, attacked the rear of the Japanese. These had, however, expected such a move and were prepared to meet it. The Cossacks were bloodily repulsed, leaving about half of their number on the battlefield.
The units operating to the left and the right reported that they had run into Bolshevik emplacements as well.
On October 17th, after four days of shelling, the Japanese attacked – and were mowed down in clusters by Bolshevik machine guns.
The shelling was now resumed and lasted four more days.
One Japanese corps had been detailed to manoeuvre around the left flank of the Bolsheviks. By careful reconnaissance the corps commander, Lieutenant General Yamanashi Hanzō, had not only identified the end of the Bolshevik field fortifications, he had also found the force that Tukhachevsky had assembled to fall into the Japanese flank.
When on October 20th the Japanese guns shifted their fire to the Bolshevik rear and Japanese infantry advanced against his positions, Mikhail Tukhachevsky unleashed the troops that were to fall onto the Japanese right flank.
While the Japanese this time broke into the Bolshevik trenches and started to roll them up left and right, Tukhachevsky’s attack formation ran into difficulties. The captured tanks that were to support the infantry quickly fell victim to well positioned field cannons. The infantry ran into heavy small arms fire and stalled, then the Japanese artillery concentrated on them. The Cossacks on the extreme left of the attackers encountered numerical superior Japanese cavalry and were dispersed suffering heavy losses.
Finally, Yamanashi’s corps counter attacked and annihilated the Bolshevik infantry.
In the centre, three Japanese divisions had now penetrated the enemy front line and had made contact with the second line of Bolshevik field fortifications.
This didn’t look like an easy victory…
Mikhail Tukhachevsky had to admit that the battle was not running as he had planned. The Japanese so far had spoilt all his moves. His first line of defence was taken, his counter attack force beaten, his artillery out of ammunition…
A Japanese corps was marching on his rear.
With faint regret, Tukhachevsky committed his last reserves.
Lieutenant General Yamanashi had not expected another Bolshevik attack so soon and had ordered his divisions to advance quickly in order to get in the enemy’s rear as fast as possible.
Therefore the battle became a classic meeting engagement when Japanese and Bolshevik units ran into one another. It was the superior drill and fire discipline of the Japanese soldiers that finally told. Japanese losses were grievous, but the Bolshevik force ceased to exist.
Yamanashi’s corps now counted hardly more than a weak division, but they sat astride the Trans-Sib in the rear of Tukhachevsky’s troops.
The second Bolshevik line was not as strong as the first one had been. In several places the Japanese achieved break-ins on their first assault. Bolshevik morale was faltering and the number of prisoners of war was steadily rising.
Mikhail Tukhachevsky knew that the battle was lost. While he ordered his second line of defence to hold on as long as possible, he concentrated his remaining troops – the complement of the third line, the gunners, what was left of his Cossacks – for an attack on Yamanashi’s corps.
This time, Yamanashi had been expecting an attack. Some Bolsheviks escaped into the woods, many more died, quite a number surrendered. Mikhail Tukhachevsky’s force had perished.
It was a very pleased Yamanashi that ordered the captured Bolshevik commander to an interview.
General of Artillery Friedrich Freiherr Kreß von Kressenstein watched the exercising Askaris with satisfaction. These men had pride and spirit! They had beaten the English and their auxiliaries, hadn’t they?
Kreß had been given the assignment because it was thought that a Bavarian would more easily get along with the natives than a Prussian. But Kreß thought that his Prussian predecessor, Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, had done an excellent job that hardly anyone could hope to better.
As commander of the Belgo-German African Army Kreß now reported to the Plenipotentiary. The old and often calamitous double tracked split of responsibility between civilian administration and military command thus had been overcome. The former Governor of German East Africa, Heinrich von Schnee, he had been nobilised last year, was now Belgo-German Plenipotentiary for Middle Africa.
The Belgians had finally come along. Their initial approach to have the Germans pay for the infrastructure while they pocketed the profits of the Katanga copper, had soon given way to a more realistic approach. Middle Africa was now under control of the Belgo-German Middle Africa Company, in which the Belgians held 35 percent of the shares. The supervisory body consisted of the colonial and finance ministers of both countries plus one representative each of the Reichsbank and the Belgian state bank. The executive head of the company was Prince Eitel Friedrich of Prussia who was represented in country by Heinrich von Schnee.
It was Kreß’ task to form the African Army. He had some two hundred German and Belgian officers, but the real task was to train and educate native officers. Ten former black sergeants had already been promoted to lieutenants for bravery in combat. They enjoyed an enormous social prestige with their people. Black officers!
There were many candidates, but the German way was to go to school and then to higher school, and only then one could apply. One could also join the cadet school at Daressalam, visiting school and higher school in a military environment and having warranted commission.
While Kreß had two hundred officers, von Schnee had two thousand teachers. Their task was to educate black teachers, to organise an university and to start a general educational offensive. This move was supported by the Christian churches; their missionaries doubled as teachers as well.
Linguists were busy to record the native languages and to bring them in a written form. The lingua franca of Middle Africa was to be German, but native tongues and native lore had to be conserved and respected.
The Askaris had finished their assault exercise and gathered for the review. When Kreß approached them, the black lieutenant cried: “Attention!” and then reported: “Sir, Second Company gathering for review of assault exercise.” Kreß told him to carry on.
The former Shaush (Sergeant), now Lieutenant, was a formidable appearance. He had become famous for an action in combat when he stood up in heavy enemy fire to have a better aim at the English. Told to lie down again, he had exclaimed: “The Kaiser has paid my pay for 25 years now, I shall be allowed to die for him once!” and had continued firing upright at the English.
Decorated with the Iron Cross first and second class, he was huge Bantu with wide shoulders and hands like frying pans. He now turned to his soldiers and started his review.
Kreß was taken aback when he learned what German cuss this man knew. He was absolutely unsatisfied with the performance of his men (which had looked quite acceptable for Kreß); and he could easily account for all the mistakes the soldiers had made.
At the end of his words, he turned to Kreß again. “Request permission to repeat exercise.”
“Granted. Carry on.”
With a loud roar, the lieutenant chased his company back to the starting positions.
“Were they really so bad? I thought they were quite good.” remarked Kreß.
“Well, Sir, it was tolerable, but they can do better. – And my men always must be the best, so I will drill them until they really become excellent. – But excuse me, Sir, I now need to direct the exercise.”
Kreß gave him a salute and moved along.
Private companies looked for the infrastructure. A railway line was under construction that would link Daressalam to Boma and Duala, with a main branch terminal line to the Katanga deposits. The syndicate, headed by Hugo Stinnes, also comprised US and Italian companies – and the Hungarian state railway company, which was to provide the steel bridges. The connection Boma – Duala was thought to be complete in three years, the Katanga line might work for the first time in 1925, but the link to Daressalam could hardly be ready before 1928.
Following this main artery, a large number of secondary rail links had been chartered out.
Railway lines were also under construction in Groß Togoland and German South-West, the already existing spurs would be supplemented and extended.
Kreß now approached a group of black rail workers, which were receiving instruction from a Saxon engineer. Kreß had severe problems to determine what the man was speaking about in his awful Saxon dialect, he wondered what the negroes might carry away from that lesson…
A group of navy seamen crossed Kreß’ path. They saluted nicely and went on. The armoured cruiser “Roon” and the small cruisers “Straßburg” and “Graudenz” were in port right now. The navy really enjoyed to be relieved from duty in Wilhelmshaven and Kiel alone. No need anymore to be on guard opposite the Royal Navy, one could travel and see the world…
In the night from November 16th to 17th, 1919, a fast steamship under Brazilian flag, but manned exclusively by Irish American volunteers, dodged the British blockade and entered Sligo port in north-west Eire. It carried small arms, pistols, revolvers, shotguns, ammunition, explosives, hand grenades, fuses, telescopic sights, all what was needed for a guerrilla war against the British.
Under the influence of Michael Collins the IRA would continue its underground war against the Brits. There was no hope of winning an open battle, one must continue with thousand pinpricks.
One could use the opportunity of British weakness with only one division around Dublin to organise the Irish state and direct taxes away from Britain. When the Brits returned in force – they would need at least three months to have their new divisions ready – they would enter a foreign land that no longer followed their rule. The Protestant militias in Ulster had already been eliminated, and the Protestant inhabitants were increasingly following “advice” to leave for England or Scotland.
In the night November 21st /22nd, another blockade runner reached Ireland, this time at Tralee, chased by a British light cruiser who finally gave up the hunt because of the speedboat peril.
A third attempt in the early morning of November 25th near Galway ended with the blockade runner exploding after being hit by a gun of the British cruiser HMS Chatham. 25 Irish Americans and two Mexicans died when the explosives carried on board ignited and blew up the ship “Merida”.
HMS Chatham had correctly fired a warning shot, which had not been heeded, and then had directed one six inch round at the blockade runner. The devastating result of this one shot came as a complete surprise for the British sailors.
The incident caused an uproar in the US. “Limeys slaughter US citizens!” was one of the milder headlines. President Wilson came now under the pressure of both the public and the congress to do something to protect US citizens from “British Piratry”.
At the same time, Colonel House returned from Britain. His message was that Britain had slipped from liberal democracy to suppressive conservatism. British leaders were bound and determined to perpetuate the British Empire in its pre-1914 shape by hook or by crook. They would burke the Irish independence movement and forcibly reconquer India. – When looking for a liberal democracy, one should rather address Germany.
While Wilson remained suspicious regarding German democracy, he accepted House’s chracterisation of Britain as this met his own perception.
On November 28th, 1919, holding a press conference at the White House, he demanded that Britain either returned to a close blockade as prescribed by international law – or lifted the blockade at all.
A formal British answer did not occur, but it soon became clear that the wide blockade was kept up.
On December 2nd, the Irish Dáil Éireann sent out a request for help. Ireland was starving under the British blockade. The US were urgently asked to provide foodstuffs.
This was not entirely sincere because the Irish food situation was tense but not as desperate as the message conveyed. Nevertheless, the Irish Americans started a big campaign, raising funds and collecting donations. Finally, five ships were charged with grain, tinned food and instant products.
On December 16th, the little convoy, escorted by two cruisers and three destroyers of the US Navy, lifted anchor for Cork in Ireland.
This was an unwelcome evolution for the British government. It was one thing to try to stifle Germany, which could do no harm to the British Empire in 1914, but it was quite another thing to confront the USA, which could do enormous damage to Britain and her empire.
It was with clenched teeth therefore that the British watched the US convoy dock at Cork on December 21st.
The raving British press finally made the difference. After he had been mortally offended, insulted and vilified personally, Woodrow Wilson formally recognised Irish independence on Christmas Day 1919. The Vatican, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, and most of the South and Central American countries followed suit. On January 2nd, 1920, after consultation with the US, Germany and her allies and wards accredited Irish sovereignty, soon followed by the Netherlands and Denmark. Only Norway, France, Portugal and Greece dragged their feet.
On January 6th, 1920, President Wilson formally demanded that Britain ended the illegal blockade of the free country of Ireland and withdrew her armed forces from the soil of this sovereign nation.