A Better Rifle at Halloween

More industrial organisation
  • 14th August 1914, London.

    Lloyd George was meeting with his purchasing commissioners again; they had started to get an understanding of the state of industrial production in the United Kingdom. They started the meeting with a run down on the state of Munitions, Armaments and Military stores production at that point, all of the manufacturers had received prompt orders from the War Office to continue production at the current rate whilst awaiting further orders. The Admiralty had also done the same, shipyards were ordered to continue building the ships on the blocks at the outbreak of war and to continue design and other work on upcoming construction.

    With that the meeting moved onto manpower, Lloyd George like all of them had be shocked by the surge in volunteering, his commissioners were less happy, they relayed the complaints of manufacturers the length and breadth of the country who were concerned about the loss of skilled workers and apprentices into the army. Already more than 50,000 men had volunteered for service, the army expected that hundreds of thousands more would join up.

    The military member of the commission raised the issue of training, he pointed out that they would not be able to train and equip anything like the number of volunteers expected. It would be better to take the oaths of these men but not send them for training until the training establishments were available and the equipment likewise. The other commissioners agreed, the Registration of Manpower Act was scheduled to go to the Lords for its third reading and then to the King for Royal Assent, this would help reduce the risk of skilled men being lost to the infantry, instead it would empower the local manpower boards which would be made up of the territorial association, local manufacturers’ representatives, and other local representatives to allocate personnel for the many conflicting needs of the war. Another feature of the Registration of Manpower Act was that it would allow the local boards to direct unemployed persons to work in war industries. It was also intended to facilitate the entry of women into unskilled war work of all kinds, this would include access to training necessary to undertake war work. The Act included a mechanism for recording individuals trades and education, and new training facilities were being established in industrial areas to the large number of industrial workers that would be needed.

    Local purchasing and regional purchasing commissions were also being formed to assist with industrial expansion, these commissions would undertake detailed surveys of all local businesses in their areas of operation, they would grade each business as being of one of 5 categories,

    A. Already making warlike materials

    B. Making essential civilian materials (this category includes equipment required for manufacturing, mining and agriculture)

    C. Businesses that can readily convert to A or B if required

    D. Businesses which are undertaking non-critical work not readily converted to war work

    E. Businesses undertaking work which generates significant foreign exchange.

    This categorisation was to be used for the allocation of contracts, workers and material, businesses in category A and B would be able to keep skilled workers rather than have them lost to the forces.

    It was anticipated that this huge plan would be highly disruptive to business and industry and the commissions included representatives of industry, the labour unions and the professional societies to try to ensure the process was as smooth as possible.
    Liege Besieged
  • 2:00 pm 14th August 1914, Liege.

    The Fortresses at Fleron, Evengnee and Barchon had been demolished, but their ruined works had held up the German heavy guns for many days. Those guns were attempting to blast there way through Pontisse and Chaudfontaine, likely they would succeed within a few days.

    General Leman had already lost over 2000 men holding the forts and the entrenchments between them. Morale was patchy it was highest amongst the infantry, though they had taken the worst of the casualties. The fortress gunners held grimly but their spirits were lowered by the inability to fire back at the heavy guns bombarding them. The town was a problem, it ran the full gamut from those who wanted to join the line themselves and who even now laboured to clear rubble, and dig trenches. But for most of the townsfolk morale was worsening, they had been bombed every night by the German Zeppelins, the damage was significant and utterly indiscriminate, several thousand civilians had been killed wounded or made homeless. But the fortress and the town must hold, already Leman had had a pair of drumhead courts martial to deal with three looters within the town and a soldier who had attempted to desert to the Germans with a map showing the fortifications. The looters had been hung, the deserter was shot.

    The frenzy with which the German forces attacked was evidence of the importance of the position, they had pushed waves of infantry into the front line often unsupported by anything in the way of artillery. Three such attacks had been beaten off today, the German casualties lay out in the fields before the entrenchments some still screaming but most dead in the hot summer sun.

    Leman considered requesting a cease fire to allow the Germans to recover their wounded, perhaps in exchange they would allow him to evacuate the women and children. His last attempt two days ago had failed, he knew it would fail again, but it would let him tell the archbishop that he had tried. He would also make sure he mentioned the plight of the town when he next managed to communicate with headquarters, they must know of the suffering their orders to stand fast were causing. Leman just hoped it was worth the sacrifice, that the Army and the French would put all this to good use.
    New York Times
  • 9:00am 15th August 1914, New York.

    Bombed, Shelled, Starved Liege holds. New York Times.

    Under the cover of darkness, the German invaders have attempted to assault Fort Pontisse, whose heavy gunfire throughout the siege has proven to be damaging to the Germans. The garrison detected the attempt when the attacking force was hung up on the surrounding barbed wire, the attack carried forward to the outworks of the fortress before being driven off with heavy fire from the fortress assisted by the dug-in infantry of the garrison. Star shells were fired to illuminate the attacking columns, learning from the Russo-Japanese war they came on carrying steel shields to protect themselves, with sandbags and shovels to fortify any ground captured. Fort Pontisse is vital to be Belgian defences, protecting both the railroad line to Visa and the Maestricht Canal, important communications links for the invading army.

    Not satisfied with attacking the military positions preventing their invasion, the Germans have also been making war on the civilians of Liege, artillery when it is switched from attempting to destroy the fortresses falls indiscriminately on the town. Night offers no respite with the German Zeppelins bombing the unfortunates with even less accuracy than the shells which fall during the day. Another attempt was made by the Heroic General Leman to seek a ceasefire to enable the Germans to recover their wounded from the battlefield whilst also allowing the evacuation of the trapped and starving women and children, but the German Commander refused. He would let hungry children push for surrender even if his men and guns could not force it by direct action.

    A King among his people.
    The King of the Belgians has been travelling amongst his soldiers since the Germans violated a neutrality they were pledged to uphold, he goes about in a plain uniform, without pomp or ceremony. He has vowed to perish at the head of his army rather than bow the knee to Germany.

    As the king goes so do the local priesthood, a veritable holy war has been declared against the invaders, the Belgian soldiery are exhorted to go forth and die for God and their native land.
    Last edited:
    Diplomatic Initiative
  • 15th August 1914, Constantinople.

    The British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Sir Louis Mallet had managed to get back to Constantinople faster than expected, on the instruction of the Foreign Secretary he had cut his leave short. They had agreed to his precipitate return, given that with Churchill’s provocative seizure of the Reşadiye and the Sultân Osmân-ı Evvel, the Turks would be gravely insulted, and the position of the pro-British faction weakened. Both ships had already been paid for, the insult worsened by the fact that the crew of the later was standing by to take over the ship on the completion of her sea trials.
    Sir Louis had also heard of the arrival of the Goeben and the Breslau, their successful flight making a laughingstock of the world’s most powerful navy. The Germans wanting to improve their already excellent relations, had then donated the ships to the Ottomans by way of adding insult to injury.
    Recognising his work was cut out for him Sir Louis had requested audiences with the Sultan and the Grand Vizier, with them he would apologise and flatter, if that failed, he would deploy that other useful tool to try to restore the harm.
    All he needed to do was preserve Ottoman neutrality, he was prepared to bribe his way to peace. Having already communicated that the British Government was prepared to increase the usage and retention subsidy from 1000 pounds per day, he would try to negotiate an amount that the Ottomans would be satisfied with. He was authorised to go as high as 2500 pounds per day for every day the ship was retained, plus the building of replacement vessels at the end of the war should either ship be damaged. He felt personally that direct payments to a number of key players would also be required and would explore that as well.
    The German crew remained aboard Goeben and Breslau, they were a risk to peace, he would see what he could do to disrupt their smooth relationship with the Turkish people, perhaps a scandal could be brewed.
    Last edited:
    The last man and the last bullet
  • 11pm 16th August 1914, Liege.

    General Leman was at this command post at the Citadel of Liege, this fortress was part of the city itself, unmodernised during the works that had built the Fortified Position of Liege. It remained barracks and communications nexus, it was from here that General Leman watched the Germans slowly crush his position. The casualties continued to mount. Many of the Forts had been blasted to ruin by the German heavy guns, particularly the super heavy 42cm howitzer M-Gerat “Big Bertha” as built by Krupp. But despite the destruction the Garrison fought on, the ruins of concrete and steel still had to be cleared by infantry and the Belgian Garrison contested every position. German machine guns and light howitzers were exacting a heavy toll on the defenders, but the Germans were still having to take ground the hard way with infantry against the surviving Belgian artillery and machine guns.

    Those fortresses which remained unsupressed tried to assist the garrison but in the end it was all down to the men of the Infantry units remaining in the town.

    By this stage of the siege the town was massively damaged, mainly by the fall of heavy shells but also aerial bombing and also by the efforts of people of the town to ensure that the railways were as disrupted as possible. The great railway works had been burnt to the ground 2 days ago, the stacks of railway sleepers moved into the sheds and ignited, the coal stores burnt and the workshops smashed. Even the hand tools and lathes necessary for the repairs had been damaged.

    In the quiet of his own mind Leman would have added the workers to the pyre, if he could have, it was ruthless but he knew that given enough time those skilled men would be fixing German trains just as readily as they had worked on Belgian. Not because they were traitors but simply because that was their jobs and when it came to feeding their families better to be doing that than forced labour somewhere in the German Empire.

    The communication links back to the Army Headquarters were tenuous, his knowledge of how the rest of war was going was limited to snippets. He knew that the Germans were filtering past his position but it was a key hub and so for the advance to pick up the pace it must be taken, every message from headquarters reiterated that order, hold to the last man and the last bullet.
    Somewhere in England
  • 17th August 1914, On a train.

    The Men of the 4th Battalion the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders were on a train heading south, they had paraded 5 days ago and over 80% had volunteered for foreign service. When the overaged and the underaged were combed out 700 men had boarded the train for the journey from Inverness to the South. It was a strange journey for many of the men, many had never left the highlands before, many spoke English as a second language, St Albans would be a strange place for them, but it was where the Brigade would assemble. One young private soldier announced to the men in his carriage, “tha mi a faiccin am sassain” to which another replied “tha mi a fàileadh am sassain”. This caused laughter amongst the carriage until a more senior NCO pointed out that they were going to be billeted in private houses in St Albans and that using what amounted to a private language in the town would not help with relations with the people of the community. Better to speak English in England and save the purity of Gaelic for their native lands, although he thought it would work wonders for passwords and the like in action.

    *Soldier 1 "I see England", soldier 2 "I smell England"
    Last edited:
  • 17th August 1914, Whale Island.
    Harold Taylor of Thomas Cooke and Sons was demonstrating a new range finder to Admiral Scott. HMS Excellent, which Scott had established was the Royal Navy’s Gunnery school and thus the logical place for this to take place. Previously the navy had preferred optics from Barr and Stroud. With the requirement that director firing be fully implemented Scott was keen to have the improved light gathering capacity of the Cooke instruments, he was also keen to trial the Pollen Aim Correction System.
    He would look at what was required to implement it on the next battleship to be commissioned, so that it could then be trialed against the alternative, and thus the best system fitted.
    His view was that battleships needed to be able to aim accurately at long range to be any use at all. He had seen what the Imperial German Navy was working on, and the old adage of “no captain can do very wrong if he place his ship alongside that of the enemy” was not going to work with 15“ guns. Long range accurate gunfire was the key and Percy Scott would damn anyone who tried to stop him.
    Last edited:
    Plumer and III Corps
  • 17th august 1914, Ostend.

    The men of the 2nd Battalion the Seaforth Highlanders marched down the road, their pipe band leading. They had just arrived in Ostend to join the rest of the 10th Brigade, part of the 4th Division. The rest of the division should be fully deployed to Belgium within 2 days.

    At the same time as the 4th Division was landing in Ostend, the 6th was disembarking in Zeebrugge, their task made more difficult by the poorly developed facilities at Zeebrugge itself. The port was mainly set up for fishing boats and vessels using the canal to Bruges. The ships carrying the 16th Brigade had landed the men alongside the mole but it was difficult to unload heavy equipment. The 16th brigade would advance forward to Bruges and once it was secure it could be used for the remainder of the division. The ongoing siege of Liege was showing the values of using built up areas for defensive positions.

    General Plumer had already met with King Albert 1, and with the Chief of the General Staff General Antonin de Selliers de Moranville. He had also spent time in dealing with Lieutenant General Baix whose command covered Ghent and thus covered Ostend and Zeebrugge. Once his forces were fully deployed his corp would be a powerful and mobile asset which could be used in a variety of ways. Plumers overarching instruction was to defend the Belgian coastline, and ensure he had secure communications back to England. Plumer expected that he would also be reinforced with a pair of Territorial Force Divisions as yet which ones was not known. Likely one of them would be a London Division as both Territorial forces had accepted volunteered in huge numbers and had many men resuming the colours, they would therefore be at full strength. Already permission had been granted for 2nd battalions to form for every territorial battalion that volunteered for overseas service, and those units were to provide trained replacements both for the territorial battalions but also for the regular divisions as well. Men on overseas service would be transferred between battalions but only within their regiment. This had long been army practice for the regular army but it was seen as a way to retain as many valuable regulars as possible but also to share the skills of the regulars with the territorials at the same time. But in the short term whilst the volunteers trained, it would be the regulars and then the territorials who would shoulder the burden.
    Plumer was surprised by how well the Belgians were performing, the men besieged in Liege were still holding. Many of the forts had be knocked out but the ruins and every building had been turned into a strong point needing to be smashed with artillery before it was taken with the bayonet, the city would fall but every day was immensely valuable.
    The time was being used to integrate the Garde Civique with the Army, every former soldier had also been called up, even if often they had had to be equipped with obsolete weapons. These recalled troops would not be able to stand in the line against the German Army but they could hold villages and strong points forcing the invader to deploy to attack them and slowing the advance.
    General Leman, that modern day Carnot was using every means in his power to delay the fall of Liege, he had called up those men who had been in Army and were under 50 they were even now helping to hold the line, their casualties were severe but they helped. Likewise any man who had no experience but who was strong enough to wield a shovel or swing a pick was digging trenches and making strongholds. Again casualties were severe but the heroic struggle of Liege was on the lips of every Belgian from the King down. The rage against the German invader was growing, even the bitter national division which splintered the nation was being healed by the threat from the East.
  • 19th August 1914, Sydney
    The Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force departed Sydney aboard HMS Berrima, the forcewas almost 1500 strong, more men would join the force in Townsville from the Kennedy Regiment. This first Australian force was to go to Rabaul to capture the radio station, this radio was being used by Vice Admiral Von Spee whose naval units threatened Empire communications in the Pacific. A New Zealand unit was being deployed to Samoa, for a similar purpose.
    Charnel House
  • 19th August 1914, Liege

    The relentless pounding of the guns was shattering the nerves of all involved, the screams of the wounded, the burning buildings, the gaunt look of the children, the siege was a vision of hell on earth. General Leman didn’t know how much longer he would be able to hold, his men were still disciplined, the Garde Civique and local volunteers were still holding but their spirit was brittle. The food situation was not yet critical but between the super heavy howitzers demolishing the forts, and the heavy guns shelling the town the situation was becoming untenable.
    With many of the forts smashed and their guns dismounted or destroyed, the German artillery had pushed as far forward as possible, bringing more of the city under fire. The 10.5cm Howitzer batteries were focussing their efforts on the entrenchments and those strong points which were holding up the infantry advance. Trying to identify artillery and other targets of opportunity, three observation balloons were floating above the German lines and connected via telephone to the heavier 15cm howitzers which able to fire deeper into the defences.
    Where they could the forts attempted to return fire, likewise the surviving guns of the infantry battalion would fire on the German infantry as they attacked the Belgian defences. They had not yet run out of ammunition, the decision had been made to distribute the ammunition for the field guns away from the garrison stores. Now small quantities were scattered throughout the town, enough for a gun or a pair of guns to fire a few shrapnel shells or even occasionally a high explosive shell at a target they could see or a brave observer in a church tower could signal to them. The Germans were steadily demolishing all the high places in the town, unfortunately many churches were being used both as observation points but also as improvised hospitals. The charnel horror that occurred when a 15cm high explosive round burst in a stone church filled with the wounded was enough to turn the strongest stomach. The churches weren’t just filled with the wounded, the homeless and the terrified sought shelter within them, their flesh was just easily ruptured by high velocity steel.
    Leman knew that he could halt the ordeal, all he had to do was surrender that would spare the people of Liege, but the cost of their safety would be paid by every other Belgian. The great army that was currently destroying Liege and killing his solders would be free to focus instead on other towns, it would give them the opportunity to move unimpeded by his stoutly defended fortress. Every day he held the French were able to attack, the British to bring their army ashore, the reserves to be called up and all the other things that depended on Liege being a bone in the throat of the German Army. Leman knew he would eventually fail, he knew his defiance would be paid by the innocents, but the King has given him this task and he would sooner die than fail.
  • 19th August 1914, Holyhead.
    Percy Ludgate had arrived at Holyhead, he was carrying his papers on the Analytical Machine including a full set of drawings, in the goods carriage was a working example of the device. Professor Boys met him on the platform as they changed trains for London, as well as the professor a number of other men were with him including William Bragg, and Sir Alfred Ewing they were all introduced. Several unsmiling naval ratings were also on the platform maintaining a discrete bubble around them. Ludgate was startled by the way in which his baggage suddenly appeared and was loaded onto a separate goods car again with further naval personnel taking charge of it, they also were surprisingly gentle with the equipment, clearly they had some knowledge of its importance.
    Ludgate was then ushered onto the London Train, the carriage in which they sat was empty save the ubiquitous matelots and a pair stewards, tea was served, and the stewards withdrew, then the questioning started. The questions were technical in nature and soon the drawings came out the dining table in the carriage was rapidly cleared and the discussion grew animated as Ludgate began explaining the mechanism. The conversation swung back and forth between the mechanics of the design and the underlying logic of how the device worked and what tasks it could be used for. This carried on as the train headed straight into London.
    Collapse of Plan XVII
  • 20th August 1914, Lorraine.
    Plan XVII was the French Plan to recapture the lost territories of the Alsace and Lorraine, it was to be war of movement which would be bloody but one in which the morale and elain of the French Infantry coupled with their superlative field gun the 75mm would drive back the occupying Germans and liberate the lost territories. Plan XVII was informed both by the shocking defeat and national humiliation of the Franco-Prussian war and by the success of the Japanese in the Ruso-Japanese War.
    During the Franco-Prussian war the French Army had failed to make effective use of the railway network and their artillery was obsolescent in the face of the Prussian Guns. In the Russo-Japanese war, the attacking Japanese had finally overcome the Russian defences during the siege of Port Arthur, they had made repeated attacks into the Russian Guns taking savage losses but also finally capturing their objective, with the fall of Port Arthur the Russians had negotiated peace.
    The early parts of Plan XVII had gone relatively well, with initial attacks capturing parts of the contested provinces, however as the First and Second Armies advanced they had become separated, the four corps of First army had further diverged from each other as well. But long range German Artillery and dug in infantry had caused heavy casualties.
    The counterattack came from the 6th Army commanded by Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria supported by the 7thArmy, had just started, in the lead was the 5th Bavarian Division. They had captured the villages of Fremery, Oron and Chicourt by 9:15 in the morning after an attack starting at dawn. This successful attack started to roll up the French units, owing to their becoming separated and the limited communications between units in different corps it was possible for the attacks to deal with each unit in isolation. The German advantage in indirect fire capability with their 10.5cm and 15cm howitzers was decisive, the 2nd army was battered by fire, the artillery was followed by waves of German infantry attacking, and two corps of the second army, XV and XVI broke.
  • 20th August 1914, London.

    Winston Churchill had returned to London, his meetings with Joffre had been illuminating, the General was confident of the success of Plan XVII, though he was somewhat concerned by the casualities taken in the attacks so far. Likewise worrying reports existed on the effectiveness of German Heavy Guns in particular their ability to use indirect fire.
    Naval matters were progressing well, Percy Scott was driving hard to ensure that all Battleships, Battlecruisers and Modern Cruisers were equiped for Director Firing, he was working with both British Optics companies to get the best instruments in the ships. The Royal Navy seemed to have also found themselves a new Calculating Machine, developed by an Irish Accountant of all things, the code breakers and the scientists were busy trying to work out what it could do. But they had been sufficiently interested too near on commandeer a troop train to get the man to London to explain his device. The sixth Queen Elisabeth Class HMS Agincourt would be laid down next week and it was anticipated that it would be in service by 1917 at the latest. The follow on ships the R Class were less satisfactory , they were going to be slow and by the time they were commissioned there was every risk the Imperial Fleet would have more fast battleships, not to mention what the Americans and the Japanese were doing, the Royal Navy had obligations beyond bottling up the High Seas Fleet. The planning for the fleet composition was still ongoing, there was a strong push for more fast battleships to be built something like an improved Queen Elisabeth Class, but perhaps with triple turrets. Lloyd George would no doubt be apoplectic but as he was busy sending every trained soldier he could scrape up to France and Belgium, the Fleet would be the one and only defence for Britain.
    The Siege of Liege was still going on, the heroic General Leman had suffered a severe wound in the battle, he had lost a hand to a shell fragment. His second in command had assumed command and had sworn to fight on inspired by his leaders courage. Churchill wanted nothing more than to meet Leman, he would speak of his courage in resisting the Hun in the House at the next chance he got. The Belgian fortresses had not proven to be particularly effective in and of themselves, but they had provided useful anchors for the rest of the defence. Namur and Antwerp were doing all that they could to strengthen their lines, every spare yard of barbed wire was being shipped over from Britain as quickly as it could be assembled, an order had also been placed with the Americans for as much of their gigantic production as could be had. Likewise sandbags were being produced both in Britain and in Belgium for the building of revetments and breastworks. III corps was still forming up, they had fully secured Bruges and two brigades had advanced to Ghent were they were reinforcing the Belgian defences. The King of the Belgians was very keen for the British army to take part in the defence of Antwerp, this was seen by Leopold as being even more important than the defence of Liege but Churchill and Sir John French did not want the British Army to get sucked into the fighting in that built up area.
    The British army was better used as a strategic reserve, its tactical mobility was facilitated by the greater motorisation compared to the French or the Belgians, the effective firepower of the SMLE rifle and the excellence of the British field artillery would enable them to plug holes in threatened sectors.
    Once the additional territorial divisions arrived and the yeomanry division the channel ports would be well secured and the regulars could then threaten any German moves either against Antwerp or should they attempt to bypass it and wheel into France they would be at risk from a sally by the British from Ghent.
    The BEF was also completing its mobilisation into France, 4 divisions plus a Cavalry division again this force would double once the territorials had come into the line.
    Churchill had also seen a disturbing report on the original SMLE MK1 jamming when being loaded from its magazine with the newer ammunition, this problem was confined to the territorial divisions who still retained the older rifles. One enterprising battalion, The London Scottish had already solved the problem, they had purchased enough of the Farquhar Hill rifle to equip themselves.
    It was felt that this experiment was worth continuing as sufficient rifles existed to equip a further two battalions at this stage. Farquhar and Hill were both working as hard as they could to increase production of their rifle, currently their factory was making 75 rifles per day working 6 days a week, they felt they could have another battalion equipped in 2 weeks. They were also in discussions with Birmingham Small Arms to have them also take on production of the rifle if they were assured of orders. Birmingham Metals were producing ammunition for the rifles at their maximum capacity, willing to risk their company on the success of the new rifle and the need for its unique ammunition.
    Churchill was getting a bit stale, his hours of work were onerous, he felt that he should perhaps go and take a direct look at this new rifle after all as an old soldier and veteran of the Boer War he was well placed to judge what worked. With that he rose from his desk and summoned a car, he would go up to see for himself.
    Action this day
  • 9pm 20th August 1914, London.
    Winston Churchill was beginning to wonder why he had chose Sir John French as his military adviser, the man was no use at all. Churchill had just come back from trialling the Farquhar hill rifle, he loved it, it shot flat accurately and quickly, it was solidly constructed and pragmatic, it was no sporting rifle. Churchill could not wait to see what it would do in the hands of the troops. Sir John French on the other hand was unmoved, he thought it was too long for the cavalry, it would shoot to quickly and the men would run out of ammunition. Churchill had to virtually coach the man on the main problem with the rifle, its obscure cartridge, developed to serve with the rifle but made in precisely one factory. Churchill had spent an hour using the rifle and then a further hour with Moubray Farquhar, he vaguely remembered him from the Boer war, he had a DSO for one thing or other. Farquhar and Hill had explained how the rifle worked and how they had worked with the Siamese to make sure it could handle the tropics and poor service conditions. They needed a substantial order and churchill would give them an order for at least 50,000 rifles, they also provided the army with the original 303 design and prototypes for comparison.
    The next challenge was who to equip with the rifle, the 4th London Brigades was one option providing the rifle to the rest of the brigade, but the other option was to send the London Scottish to join a Highland Brigade, the Seaforths and Camerons Brigade were in St Albans Training. They had the even older Long Lee Enfield, they would be best served with a new rifle. The London Scottish had already sent volunteers to make up numbers in the Camerons and one of the Seaforth Battalions could be reduced to cadre for reinforcements to bring the other two battalions up to strength. Yes that would be a good idea, plus it put the kilted London jocks in a kilted brigade.
    Last edited:
    von Motke
  • 21st August 1914, Coblenz.

    Colonel General Helmuth von Motke was worried, he had just replaced Karl Von Bulow as the commander of the 2nd Army with Paul von Hindenburg. Von Bulow had failed to capture Liege and so the attack into Belgium was still hung up on the fortress. The attempt by Erich Ludendorff to lead a night attack by one of the infantry brigades had been a disaster, thousands of men had died in the failed assault. Ludendorff had not been killed but he had been wounded in the action and it was likely he would take several months to recover from his injuries. Ludendorff had been recommended by von Bulow for the Pour Le Merite, had he succeeded in the action he would have received the award, but his heroics had not delivered the city.
    While von Motke was having to deal with the failure to capture Liege and enable the decisive blow to swing into France, he was faced with a limited Russian offensive into East Prussia. The General there von Prittwitz was not sure that he could hold the Russians and had requested permission to fall back behind the Vistula. Von Motke was adamant that the fortress at Konigsberg be held, he would do to the Russians what the Belgians were doing to him. A defensive posture would have to do in the east, with the attack in the west so far behind schedule and the Allies including the British reinforcing rapidly he would need every man available to win in the West, in the east he could trade space for time.
    Last edited:
    Nontrivial Problem
  • 21st August 1914, London.

    Percy Ludgate was exhausted; he had not stopped since arriving in Holyhead only 2 days ago. He was staying at a hotel in Central London, close to the War Office and Admiralty he had been shuttled between both locations on an almost hourly basis, first they wanted to know if the Analytical Engine could calculate ballistic performance, he replied that it could, if an equation existed which could be entered into the machine. Another man at the admiralty wanted to know how it could be used to calculate better hull shapes, again Ludgate commented that it could. He had demonstrated its ability to rapidly calculate a variety of nontrivial problems, his main concern was not to be a performing monkey showing off the magical counting machine. He needed to be meeting specialists in fabrication so they could start to build multiple machines. At the same time, he needed to be meeting suitable mathematicians who could write the applicable programmes that needed to be run. So far, the people he had met all understood the need for the machine, they knew what they wanted it to do and indeed they kept thinking of knew things that it might be applied to. However, the problem was supply of the machine and its scale, the device which he had assembled and brought over was a somewhat limited proof of concept. It was limited to 10 digits in its calculations, this could impact some calculations as it would reduce precision with very small steps. Ludgate was happy to have initial discussions with the army and navy, he needed their funding and their access to the necessary artificers to make the device, but he also needed to have the machine built. He would discuss this with the professor again, pointing out that without more machines nothing could be done. He thought that he should also suggest a priority list, so that decisions could be made about what area’s would benefit first from having access to their own Analytical Engine. Also as much as Ludgate was enjoying being in London, he did not want to be permanently there, his desire was to return to Dublin to carry on his research, the University had access to good machinists, after all that was how he had developed his prototype. The new versions could be prototyped and tested in Dublin before being approved and sent for series production. Ludgate was, despite his fatigue rather glad, his invention and his single-minded determination to bring it to fruition was paying off. Once the machines started to be produced in large numbers the number of tasks they could be put to perform would increase rapidly, Ludgate was sure that the development of the engine would change the world.
    Hodden Grey
  • 22nd August 1914, St Albans.

    The three original infantry battalions of the Seaforth and Cameron Highlanders as well as the Artillery, Engineers and other personnel of the Brigade were drawn up on the new parade ground adjacent to St Albans School. The brigade was headquartered at the school and the soldiers were locally billeted. As the men stood to attention, a battalion in kilts of Hodden Grey marched onto the parade ground, the Pipes and Drums of the London Scottish playing Highland Laddie as the marched to form the fourth side of the hollow square.
    The London Scottish had previously been attached to the 2nd London Division but with the decision to allow them to retain the FQH Mk 1 Rifle, they had been transferred to the Seaforth and Cameron Highlanders Brigade. The Cameron Highlanders Battalion had been reinforced to full strength with London Scots who had re-joined the colours and the two Seaforths battalions had subsumed most of the third battalion, which would then be fleshed out with new recruits and act as training cadre. This parade was a chance for the Brigadier General commanding the brigade to meet and formally accept the new battalion into his command. He was already highly impressed by the soldierly bearing of the men of the Battalion, they clearly were a fine body of soldiers and would bring his brigade up to full strength.
    His brigade would be handing in their older Long Lee Enfield rifles and receiving the new FQH Mk 1 in exchange, how he wished that they could also be rid of the divisional artillery, a mixture of useless 5” Howitzers, 4.7” Guns and 15 pounder guns, all of them obsolete but all that was available.
    The moral of the brigade was excellent, they would be training hard to ready for their deployment to France. It was not yet certain as to when the 51st Division would go to France or Belgium. Already the Territorial Force had begun deployed three divisions to the continent, two divisions had commenced deployment to France, the 1st London Division and the North Midland Division they would assemble with the rest of the army between Mauberge and Le Cateau, the Wessex Division had gone to Belgium and had already begun landing in Bruges. It was expected that these first three divisions would take a further week to be fully deployed and then would be the turn of the next three divisions. The Territorial Force divisions would be added to each of the 3 Corps already present, once the 2nd trio of territorials arrived then the Corps would form an army and each territorial division would pair with a regular division. When the initial reinforcement was complete there would be 3 armies present each with 2 corps of 3 divisions. This would give a total of 18 divisions in the BEF, with 6 Divisions deployed to Belgium and 12 divisions in France. The splitting of the BEF was seen as a risk, should Belgium collapse rapidly, the possibility of the Germans reaching the coast and then rolling up the British army was a real possibility. Flanders was not a place filled with glory for British arms even the great Wellington had struggled in that place. Thus far though the Belgian resistance was proving stronger than anticipated, the Siege of Liege was ongoing with thousands dying on both sides the fortress and town were still holding on. The Belgian army was using the time well, they had called up all of their reservists and were digging ever greater fortifications around Antwerp. The Garrison at Namur had been reinforced with a French Infantry brigade and 3 French Artillery Batteries.
    The Belgian division based in Ghent had moved up to screen Brussels, German Cavalry and Infantry units were filtering past Liege but without the road, canal and railways which passed through the town their movements were very slow.
    The Brigadier General ceased his reverie and began to address the assembled Brigade.
    The Fall of Liege
  • 24th August 1914, Liege.

    The attack went in at 6:00am, it was the first of the day, but it had been proceeded by 48 hours of heavy and continuous shelling, the infantry attacking the city had to pick their way through the shattered rubble of the defences, the odd shot was still fired at them and the occasional man was killed or wounded. They were briefly held up by an occasional section of riflemen or a machine gun, but for the most part the fight seemed to have gone out of the defenders. They had held for almost three weeks but the with the suppression of the forts in the last two days the shelling of the other defences had only intensified, great shells that could rupture concrete and cast iron now ploughed huge holes in the infantry lines. Trenches that had been sufficient against shrapnel and rifle fire provided illusory protection against 15cm howitzers and the even greater siege guns arrayed against them.
    The defenders were sickened too by the casualties they had taken, thousands dead, even more wounded, it was rumoured that the commandant had had men shot for advocating surrender, certainly civilians had been executed for looting. It was not morale which had collapsed but the physical and mental capacity to endure, nerves shattered by explosions which had risen to a titanic and continuous roar as guns packed hub to hub fired as quickly as they could be loaded.
    The Germans driven by the lashing goad of their new Army commander had laboured to bring as many guns as were available to this point, they would blast a hole in the city and capture it this day. The orders had flowed out from the new commander to the corps commanders down to divisions and then to brigades regiments and companies. The men knew their orders, to fail was to lose the war, Liege the Gateway to Belgium and the French Flank must fall.
    The first assault eventually halted on the rubble of the city itself, few defenders remained but those that did were fanatical in their defence. The ruined buildings made for an ideal last redoubt, none of the Belgian artillery had survived until this final attack, aerial reconnaissance by heavier and lighter than aircraft had identified every gun, every howitzer, every prepared fall back position, they had been shelled to oblivion at that point.
    The flyers had not been able to discern a few bricks knocked out of a ruined house behind which a machine gun lurked, or which empty staring window concealed a man with a little fight left in him. These scattered remnants, regulars, conscripts, reservists, garde civique and those surviving members of the impressed levee of the townsfolk who still wanted to fight, to die, to deny the Kaiser that which he wanted, needed, they would do all they could to slow down the juggernaught which was advancing on them.
    Tragically they were not the only ones who would die this day, not even the largest part of that gruesome harvest, the civilians of the city those who had not been killed or wounded by the destruction rained on their homes would now be harrowed, hiding in cellars, basements and churches they would try to shelter from the coming storm. For them death would come in many ways, blown apart by shells aimed at points of resistance, shot by scared young men who thought they were the enemy, shot by enraged young men who identified the defiant resistance of this city as an affront to their honour and sense of national purpose. Killed by falling masonry, by fire, by suffocation, by flooding death came to many innocents that day, in every tragic horrifying way that modern war could bring. Even worse, despite the strict orders and Prussian traditions of discipline sack and rape came with the fall of the town. Some of those same young soldiers who captured this place felt compelled to take out their fears on the civilian population by a means as old as warfare. Their officers knew the harm this would do to the Empires cause tried every means to stop it but for many of the people of Liege the day would end in the worst ways possible.
    The Citadel was one of the last places to fall, the commander General Leman, missing his hand and delirious with pain led a last futile counterattack with this staff, they were gunned down, with few survivors. With the fall of the citadel the fighting sputtered to a close, the survivors realised that all they could do now was prolong their agony, they emerged gaunt, haggard, exhausted, wounded, like wraiths, bearing scraps of white they stacked their arms, surrendering.
    Liege had fallen, the gateway was open.
  • 25th August 1914, Hannut.

    Laneways and roads were crammed with people, men pushing handcarts children leading pets, whole families walking. They were fleeing Brussels and the other towns and cities now exposed to the potential for siege. The Belgian civilians knew the cost of siege, they knew that they be put on short rations, their homes bombed, artillery would smash their churches and schools. They didn’t want any part of it.
    The Generals celebrated the delay to the German Army, but even as it had choked on Liege, Uhlans and other cavalry units had spread out and terror had come with them. The problem for Belgium was that they had three foreign armies contending for mastery in their land.
    Last edited:
    At sea
  • 26th August 1914, North Sea.

    HMS Laertes and Lysander were at sea, they were patrolling the southern North Sea, ensuring that German Naval vessels could not interfere with the steady flow of troopships into Ostend, Zeebruge and the ports of Northern France. The threats were seen principally as mines and attacks by torpedo boats and submarines, with attacks by groups of German Cruisers also considered to be a risk. A major sortie by the High Seas Fleet was seen as unlikely but possible, that was to be countered by the Grand Fleet operating from Scapa Flow.
    The mine threat had already claimed HMS Amphion, the German minelayer Königin Luise had been lost in the action but her efforts had been well rewarded with the destruction of the Scout Cruiser.
    The Harwich Force was stung by this loss and it was aggressive in its patrolling, the importance of the force was further strengthened by the need to guard the supply lines to Belgium, far longer than the channel crossing and hard up against the Netherlands they were vulnerable to German attack. This vulnerability however was a double edged sword, if the Germans attacked with insufficient force then they ran the risk of being decisively defeated.
    To further strengthen the power of the Harwich force, two battlecruisers were to be added to its strength, they were HMS Invincible and HMS New Zealand. These two ships would strengthen the ability of the force to fend of raids of anything short of the High Seas Fleet. They would also enable the Harwich force to aggressively patrol into the Central North Sea, increasing the threat posed to the German Navy in that area.