A Better Rifle at Halloween

St Petersburg
  • 3rd September 1914, St Petersburg.

    The young Tsarevich was running towards his sister who was standing by the entrance to the winter palace. He had just returned from a visit to the front with this father, where they had inspected the siegeworks before Konigsburg, Alexai had been there to watch a long range gun being emplaced. That gun had been transported from the state arsenal by railway before being hauled by a team of oxen from the railhead, thousands had laboured to transport it and its pair into position. The gun could fire on the channel which connected Konigsburg to the sea and thus cut of its hopes of supply and reinforcement.
    As he ran to his sister his foot caught on a loose paving stone and he stumbled and fell striking a planter filled with his mother’s favourite flowers. A sickening snap sounded as his arm, which he had put out to protect himself broke. He curled up on himself, cradling the arm and whimpering. His mother, standing with his sisters, dashed to him calling his name and then ordering that they send for Rasputin.
    Another News Report
  • 4th September 1914, New York.

    The newspapers had already largely relegated the European war to the second page, but it bleeds it leads was a truism in publishing for a reason.

    “Royal Navy Wins Battle” screamed the headline.

    The Royal Navy fought its first major battle of this war smashing a German attempt to attack the Belgian port of Zeebrugge. The bloody battle ended with the few German ships to survive entering Dutch waters to evade the victorious Royal Navy. The battle was a bloody one with 2 British and 3 German Battleships sunk along with other minor warships. The death toll was in the thousands with bodies washing up on the Belgian and Dutch Coast.
    The Dutch foreign ministry has protested the German survivors violation of its waters and its ambassador has been recalled from Berlin for Consultations.

    An Editorial had been published at the same time.

    This German attack on the Royal Navy at sea was destroyed but had the British failed, German shells fired by German guns would have spread more destruction on the hapless people of Belgium. They could do nothing but rely on another power for their protection.
    Likewise the Netherlands could do nothing to prevent the flight of the survivors, its navy is too weak and with the German Army engaged in battle on its borders the threat to its safety is too great.
    The German ambition is to conquer Europe, and with that great continent and its empires yoked to the Kaiser, what will be the fate of this United States. We must prepare ourselves to resist.
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    The Sub-Committee Meet
  • 4th September 1914, London

    The meeting of the sub-committee for the prosecution of the war was in full progress, Winston Churchill was leading a long discussion on the progress of the fighting on the Continent. He had touched on the work being done by the Yeomanry in screening the British forces guarding Ghent and the seeming reluctance of the Germans to come to grips with them or the Belgians who were defending Antwerp.
    He also told the story Lt Commander Sampson and his rescue mission and the way they had managed to shoot up a German cavalry squadron. Churchill developed this point, commenting that the development of improved mechanised weapons systems would play to Britain’s strengths in manufacturing.
    He touched briefly on the Ludgate Analytical Engine and its applications, one of the other members of the committee pointed out that as no other nation had a comparable system every effort needed to be made to ensure the security of these systems. Lloyd George commented that it was likely that the Official Secrets act covered everything thus far, they agreed to consult with the Attorney General to ensure that its provisions did cover this eventuality. The Director of Naval Intelligence who was present also said that several the assistants provided to Ludgate were members of his organisation. He expressed some concern that given the problems with Ireland some possibility existed of the plans leaking out via various Irish nationalist groups and that his personnel were endeavouring to mitigate that risk.
    The discussion moved onto recruitment, which was still going very well, over 250,000 men had presented themselves for recruitment into the Army and already 2nd battalions had been formed up for every unit in the British Army, these units would be formed up as equipment was made available to train them. The view was that until the equipment was available there was no point in causing disruption to industry. In addition it had been discussed reforming the Militia as so much of the Territorial Army was being deployed overseas, the need for a local militia was discounted as being ineffective in view of the absolute preponderance of the Royal Navy.
    They then began to discuss the situation of the Royal Navy, the battle of the previous day had been discussed, whilst little was clearly understood at this point, beyond the bare details of the dispatch received from Commodore Tyrwhit. Churchill praised Tyrwhit for his leadership, noting that whilst Rear Admiral Beatty had been in command his early death in the battle with the destruction of HMS Lion had resulted in Tyrwhit being in command for the rest of the battle. When it was suggest that Tyrwhit should have continued the pursuit of the fleeing German ships, Churchill pointed out that by avoiding Dutch waters, the British Government could demonstrate its respect for the Neutrals which was worth more than one Battlecruiser and 2 destroyers.
    Churchill also advised that Tyrwhit was still very keen to undertake the Heligoland raid as soon as the necessary repairs were made to his ships. Churchill supported this as the German defences would be further weakened by the loss of so many light units. It was agreed that this raid would take place as soon as practical, Admiral Scott who was present to advise the committee on the gunnery performance suggested they wait until fire control directors could be made available for all of the Battlecruisers. He advised that this could be done in 4 weeks as the orders for the equipment had been placed some time ago. Churchill also suggested that given his excellent performance it would be appropriate for Commodore Tyrwhit to strike his broad pennant and hoist his flag.
    The destruction of two British battlecruisers could not help but impact on ship design, Churchill suggested that they freeze any battlecruiser construction until the lessons from the battle could be learnt and then be implemented in future ship design. Admiral Fisher was seen to be looking very unhappy at this statement by the First Lord. It was agreed after heated discussion that more needed to be done with the battlecruisers and they weren't much good if they kept blowing up, it was also appreciated that the German Battlecruisers seemed to have the same defect.
    Lloyd George then continued the meeting with a discussion of the economic affairs of the Empire. He noted that foreign sentiment towards the strength of the British Empire was broadly positive and that the bond raising had been successful, in light of that the Bank of England had agreed to continue full convertibility of the Pound.
    He also spoke of the work of the purchasing commissioners and their work with the County Territorial Associations to manage recruitment, it was accepted that men whose skills were of value to the war economy would not be allowed to join the forces. Local employers were submitting lists of men whose skills were vital to war work to the county associations to prevent their enlistment. In addition, the county associations were generating lists of men who could be enlisted without detriment to the war economy, they would be contacted as recruitment inevitably waned for service. The initial focus would be unmarried men between the age of 21 and 27, in addition the Officer Training Corps was expanded with new units being formed to generate a suitable supply of junior officers, whilst shielding those who possessed critical skills. Junior Division candidates would undertake 12 weeks training prior to deployment provided they were over 21 and Senior Division candidates 8 weeks again provided they were over 21. In addition the Junior division was expanded to cover Grammar Schools.
    The survey of industry was going well, limitations on manufacturing had been identified and Lloyd George spoke of a number of them. First and foremost he spoke of skilled manufacturing workers, noting that they lacked the numbers needed. The next major limitation was on machine tools for manufacturing, the discussion centred on the ability of industry to manufacture sufficient machine tools for the expansion of the war economy. It was felt that this subject should be studied and a focus put on looking at ways to improve manufacturing efficiency, but that as much as possible Britain should look to produce more manufacturing equipment at home rather than importing machine tools from the United States.
    Lloyd George then spoke of industrial and civil unrest flowing from war and the need to minimise it. A civilian morale study would be undertaken to keep in touch with the public mood. The next thing that was discussed was the fact that many british firms were unwilling to borrow money to bring their manufacturing processes up to date, they felt that the war would be over quickly and they didn’t want to be in a position to have invested in new equipment they could not use. One suggestion which had been implemented was a series of War Loans to industry which would enable the upgrade of plant and equipment. Companies accepting War loans would be able to keep the equipment at the end of the war but would have to make war material on it for the duration of the war unless ordered otherwise. Another item of discussion was the move towards facilitating group manufacturing by smaller firms in which a number of firms would form a group, each firm would make one or more parts of a thing before the parts were consolidated in one location for final assembly. This was felt to be a good way of bringing many of the smaller firms into the war economy whilst still enabling their survival. The importance of consistency of manufacturing processes and quality was seen as a key limiter to many companies doing war work with the risk of shoddy products being clearly identified. The purchasing commissioners would be responsible for ensuring the specifications of all equipment which was to be purchased would include the quality and testing requirements.

    Lloyd George then touched on International Finance and the credit ratings of the various countries, noting that the Central powers had been cut out of all financial services provided by London and their attempts to raise money in Switzerland and the United States were failing. He also pointed out that the interest required on Treasury debts had increased but was still manageable and that France and Russia were both able to raise bonds on the London Market, Belgian and Serbian Debt issues had been supported by a Bank of England guarantee and they had both also succeeded. The meeting then moved onto the subject of taxation, with the extent of tax rises needed to cover the war being a thorny subject which occupied the rest of the meeting.
    A Boy is Dead
  • 5th September 1914, St Petersburg.

    The line of Mourners snaked out of the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, the body of the young Tsarevich clothed in white and belted as per Russian custom was guarded by 8 men, 4 of the Preobrazhensky Regiment and 4 Volga Cossacks. A small group of Orthodox priests and monks stood before the body, incense and prayers wafting upwards. The lines of mourners, princes, nobles, notables and commoners alike snaking forward. The Tsarina had come privately that morning, her sorrow unhidden, the failure of her adviser and the death of her beloved son unhinging her.
    The man who she had called for, to heal her boy was not present, he was stuck in a small room with men who didn’t like him very much who were asking him questions he didn’t know the answer to and what answers he gave would be wrong anyway, the Okhrana were like that. As they set to work first with fists but latter with things that were sharp or hot or hot and sharp, his recollection improved, he remembered that he had in fact been hired by the German Intelligence agency to murder the Tsar and his family and he was in league with the socialists to spread disorder and overthrow the Church. Soon the men had sufficient evidence to satisfy a court and they placed the man in a small and dark cell, alone with his terror.
    The Kaiser Speaks
  • 5th September 1914, Berlin.

    The Kaiser was raving, frothing at the mouth, incoherent with rage, “Disaster, nothing but disaster, we are loosing Prussia to those Russian savages and our army does nothing but retreat. Konigsburg will fall to the Cossacks and into destruction and rapine. The Belgians delay us and shoot our soldiers from behind the hedgerows, you promised me victory, that our army would capture Liege in 2 days, that we would sweep into France and onto victory”.
    The Kaiser paused, he looked around the room at von Falkenheim and von Moltke snarling “you have failed me, you have failed Germany, you have betrayed my men by your incompetence” his rage barely subsided and he turned to von Tirpitz “You are just as bad as the Generals, lets raid Ostend you said, we can be in and out before they even know we are there. Instead, what do we have 2 battlecruiser sunk and nothing to show for it, thousands of sailors dead or prisoner and the Dutch furious for our breach of their neutrality. Our navy looks weak and incompetent, I helped you build a navy, I struggled with the politicians who didn’t want to. I gave you my support and this is how you repay me, with destroyed ships, dead men and nothing but humiliation as our prize.
    “This war will not end in Victory, come back with plans to win or do not come back at all.” With that Wilhelm dismissed his cabinet and sat down.
    A Hasty Attack
  • 5th September 1914, Hensies.

    Lt General Byng could hear the shellfire from his command post in a farmhouse near the village of Hensies, he had just been appointed commander of VI Corps after its original commander, Lt General Rundle had been killed the previous day by German shell fire whilst he was inspecting forward positions, Rundle had been the Governor of Malta but had been recalled into command with the decision to deploy the additional Territorial Units.
    Byng had arrived in France several days ago with troops of the British Army in Egypt. With the arrival of a brigade of the Indian Army, a British Regular Battalion had been deployed to France, the 1st Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment had been chosen for that role.
    The Worcester’s were currently being retained at Corps Headquarters as part of the reserve for VI Corps. The German attack had not been very stoutly pressed yet, but it was still very trying for the Territorials who made up the majority of VI Corps, in the privacy of his own mind Byng thought that the territorials needed to have regular troops attached to reinforce them. With only on battalion of regulars to hand, it was to use an American expression he had heard as a young man like trying to “stiffen a bucket of spit with a handful of buckshot.”
    The BEF had the numbers to hold the line firmly as far as Condee, the Cavalry Corps were deployed from Condee towards Saint Amand les Eaux with their backs to the forest. Using them in this kind of defensive role also tied them down and removed the tactical mobility which was the major advantage of cavalry. In addition they were unable to perform the screening and patrolling roles that cavalry traditionally provided.
    Byng was aware of the risk of the Germans getting between his forces and the channel ports. The French were forming an additional Army the 6th which would be used to reinforce towards Lille but nothing anchored the line beyond a few French territorials until they arrived. The Belgian fortresses at Namur were under sustained and continuous artillery attack from heavy guns and the view among the senior officers of the BEF was that Namur could well fall especially if the assault on it was conducted with real aggression. The Germans did not seem to be attacking heavily along the rest of the French lines nor much of the BEF lines they seemed content to mainly use artillery to dominate the battlefield and keep the existing troops stuck in place.
    In Byng’s mind and that of General Smith-Dorien, the reckless advance of the German Army into Belgium was placing it at grave risk, even if they reached the channel ports. The British Third Army was holding Ghent and Ostend and so had a secure base on one flank, not even counting the Belgian defenders of Antwerp who were un-attacked behind the National Redoubt. They continued to improve the defences of the City in preparation for siege. Planning was ongoing for an attack by the Belgian Army to take place from Antwerp towards Leuven. This would be done to distract the Germans from their ongoing attack on Namur.
    The British Third Army was also preparing to attack, the German units which were occupying the positions opposite them were all reservists and they seemed unwilling to attack the British forces. General Plumer was developing a plan in conjunction with the Belgians for an attack towards Dendermonde to directly tie the British forces into the defences of Antwerp. Currently a gap existed and the risk was that the Germans would be able to press into it to cut Antwerp off from the coast. This would also protect the railway line between Antwerp and Ghent which was crucial for supply of the city.
    But for the current time it was the German Army which was on the offensive and his soldiers were bearing the brunt of the fighting. So far, his lines had held but the 2nd London Brigade on his left flank had taken heavy casualties. The commanding officer of the 8th Battalion The London Regiment had been killed this morning with his adjutant badly wounded by the same shell, the divisional commander had detached one of his staff officers to take command of the Battalion. The German units had been shelling his lines heavily but had not made any attacks with infantry yet, his men were returning fire at long range when the Germans exposed themselves but without achieving any success.
    Of more concern were his guns, the 15 pounder guns which equipped his artillery batteries were obsolete, they were unable to effectively answer the German howitzers which seemed to fire from behind cover never exposing themselves to counter battery fire. The best his men could do was dig in and hope for the best, he did have one brigade of 5” howitzers with each of his divisions and a 4 gun battery of 4.7” guns with each division as well. His gunners would have to do their best with what they had, but he expected casualties to be high among their units.
    The main threat to VI Corps and the BEF as a whole, was that if the 2nd London Brigade was pushed back off the canal line, the flank of the Cavalry Corps would then be open to turning and cut off from the rest of the British Expeditionary Force they would be at risk of piecemeal destruction.
    Byng had one brigade of the East Lancashire division in reserve, the Manchester Brigade, he sent orders that it was to deploy to Thivancelle where it would reinforce the 2nd London Division, if the Slag heap and coal workings on the north side of the Mons Conde Canal were not strongly held the Brigade was to conduct a hasty attack to capture them and then dig in, establishing communications back to the Cavalry in Condee. The attack was risky but it would disrupt the German attempts to push his men off the canal line and give him control of the high slag heap from which artillery observers could spot shell fire.
    Thinking about it he considered ordering another attack across the canal to capture the slag heap opposite his headquarters, he could not see any German troops on it and it would also dominate the surrounding terrain.
    The opportunity was limited, the bridge across the canal to the village opposite was still standing, his engineers had not blown it.
    He called his Artillery advisor and the battalion commander of the Worcesters, they could undertake the attack at short notice, the guns would fire on the village and the slag heap while the Worcesters crossed the canal. The attack would commence at the same time as the attack on the other slag heap, in 3 hours. He would let his guns fire for 10 minutes before the attack commenced so the Germans didn’t get any advance warning. Then the Infantry would advance, he sent word back to Army headquarters of his intention. But he felt that holding the high ground overlooking his position would improve his defences, it would also throw any German plans to attack his positions into disarray. These two attacks would strip his corps of all of its reserves, but the risk was worth the reward.
    The Manchesters Attack
  • 5th September 1914, Hensies.

    The attacks had gone in, the German shelling which had been striking along the canal edge and causing casualties amongst the Territorial Force 15 pounder gunners, lifted and crashed down on the attacking brigade. The attack they had attempted faltered, but then they rallied and rushed the bridges over the canal, crossing the canal at the bridge and over the locks they pushed onwards towards the slag heap. The Manchester Brigade had provided the attacking infantry, with 7th Battalion going into the attack first. The plan that the brigade commander had developed for the attack was simple, the 7th Battalion cross the canal and capture any German positions near the canal. The 6th and 8th Battalions would then cross the canal and push up onto the slag heaps, digging in and consolidating their position. The 5th Battalion would provide a reserve and reinforcement for the attacking battalions.
    A battery of 15 pounders pushed forward with the 7th Battalion almost to the water’s edge, the German infantry, fired on the advancing British troops but the attack was so unexpected that they seemed paralysed into indecision. A single machine gun was emplaced in the upper floor of a farmhouse nearby, it extracted a tithe of the lead battalion, but the supporting gunners spotted the position and managed to suppress the gun before it completely blunted the attack. The German artillery was firing effectively but their focus had been on attacking the British defenders and not repelling an assault on their lines.
    The British first wave albeit with heavy losses had managed to capture the German positions on the far side of the canal, this was the signal for the second part of the attack to go in. The two territorial units had already advanced almost to the canal edge, they used the shallow draining ditches which crisscrossed the flat farmland as cover whilst they waited for the first wave of the attack to go in.
    The subalterns lead their men out of the ditches, they crowded the canal paths and crossed over the canal. As they advanced, they did not stop for the scattered bodies of the men of the 7th battalion, they pushed on, their discipline held. The stretcher bearers of both the attacking Manchester Brigade and the London Brigade holding the canal line would deal with the wounded.
    They reached the limit of the advance of the 7th from here on it would be they who faced the foe, their courage would determine the success or failure of the attack. The few older officers and NCOs who had fought in South Africa gave steadying advice and then the order came. “Battalion will Fix Bayonets” “Fix Bayonets” with that order a glimmering line of sword bayonets sprouted atop the Magazine Lee Enfield rifles which equipped the battalion, nearly a foot of double-edged steel glinting in the sun. The whistles blew and subalterns, men who a short month ago had been solicitors and management trainees, schoolteachers and the like gripped their swords and lead their men into the storm of steel. Their training on drill evenings and annual camps had been limited, but their orders were simple advance to the top of the slag heaps and dig in, hold until relieved.
    The German defenders had responded quickly to the British attack, but they German infantry units had been expecting to go on the attack. They had not expected the British to attempt to storm the high ground north of the canal, the area was a wilderness of slag heaps, coal mounds and mine workings. Only a small number of German troops were occupying it, mainly artillery observers and signallers. Most of the German soldiers were not positioned along the canal line but rather were occupying a number of farmhouses and a light skirmishing line in the ditches behind the canal out of observation of the British frontline. The small number of Machine guns were positioned to attack the British line and support their own offensive, they were not so well placed to defend.
    The British Infantry stormed forward, remembering annual camps and led by their Officers and NCO’s they kept moving forward, seeking the cover of any dead ground and fire and movement they advanced rapidly on the slag heaps, gaining the tops of the heaps, they used the advantage of being in enfilade of the German lines.
    The next hour was one of carnage, the attacking British battalions had managed to do two things, bring up all eight of the maxim guns attached to the brigade and bring up a unit of signallers, who had managed to rig a field telegraph line but who had also brought semaphore flags.
    The Maxim guns were able to fire down onto the German infantry, their hasty cover which had provided adequate protection from observers on the other side of the canal provided no such protection from machine guns placed above them and in line or even rearward of their positions. In addition to the machine gun fire, which was ripping out, the British Territorials were demonstrating the value of the Magazine Lee Enfield Riffle, firing upwards of 10 aimed shots per minute into the disintegrating lines of German infantry. The signallers were attempting to establish communications with the artillery of the London Division, in an attempt to get them into action, but it was proving to be slower than planned for, the combination of signalling errors and the lack of forward observers was hampering effective fire. Eventually a number of enterprising gunner officers made their way forward to direct the heavy battery and the 5” howitzers but by the time they had done this the opportunity for really effective execution had been lost.
    The 15 pounder guns had contributed somewhat mainly by firing shrapnel which hampered the attempts of the Germans to withdraw from the beaten zone of the maxim guns and the rifles.
    The attempt by the Worcester’s was much less successful, they had been held up by more machine guns who had caused severe casualties as soon as the attack commenced. They managed to storm across the canal, but the local German regimental commander responded with a near instantaneous counter attack forcing the battered remnants back over the canal. They withdrew back through the British lines in some disorder, leaving many men dead around the locks and bridges they had attempted to use. More men had retreated as darkness had fallen, with many wounded recovered by searching stretcher bearers, the battalion had lost many of its officers and NCO's.
    Reviewing the reports and his own observations, Byng was surprised by the success of the Manchester Brigade, the men of that brigade had managed to capture their objective and cause a significant disruption to the German attack. On the other hand a near identical objective which was to be attacked by a single battalion of regulars turned into a bloodbath. Losses where higher for the Worcester’s than for the entirety of the Manchester Brigade, 200 dead and 300 wounded, whilst the butchers bill for the Manchester’s in the initial attack was 180 dead, mainly from the 7th battalion, the 6th and 8thbattalions had not suffered as badly in their attack on the slag heap. Although now that they were holding it, they were coming under sustained artillery fire as the Germans would attempt to push them off the position prior to attacking the canal line defences.
    Sir Percy Ponders
  • 6th September 1914, London.

    Admiral Sir Percy Scott was sitting in his office at the Admiralty, he was reviewing the battle damage from the Battle of Thornton Bank. There was significant concern about the value of Battlecruisers, the rapid destruction of two of them along with the loss of thousands of trained sailors had caused much anguish within the Admiralty.
    Shifting his thoughts somewhat, Sir Percy let his mind wander back to the fairly brutal meeting he had had, with Sir John French on the previous day, scheduled before the Battle of Thornton Bank had occurred but impossible to decline or reschedule, owing to the intransigent nature of Sir John. During the meeting, messengers had brought in the first reports of the BEF’s first heavy fighting and the gunnery problems, but Sir John French was more concerned about the fact that the Yeomanry and Territorials seemed to be doing all the fighting and then he randomly spent ten minutes blackening the honour of France. His only other comments were on the unsporting conduct of Sampson machine gunning Cavalry and assuring Admiral Scott that the army had more than enough artillery.
    Percy Scott was of the considered opinion that Sir John French was better suited to political intrigue than war, an opinion he had shared with Earl Roberts that evening at their club.
    Admiral Scott remembered his efforts in the Boer war, there he had mounted Naval Guns on carriages for land service. Sir Percy had his secretary call for the design document from the admiralty archive where it had lain unreviewed since that fracas in South Africa. In addition, he summoned a pair of junior officers, who he felt could undertake the work of updating the design to accept the Mark VII 6” gun. Calling for one of his gunnery officer assistants and a junior constructor serving at the Admiralty, he gave them a thorough briefing on what he expected and gave them two weeks to have a design ready for mounting. He followed this up by sending orders to Chatham Docks to have a building shed ready to begin construction of the guns within two weeks. He then issued another order release the guns from reserve for land service. His last task was to send an order to whale island that a training draft of 600 seamen were to be trained on serving the gun to be ready for land service in four week’s time. At the same time 60 Naval Officers RNR or RNVR were to be trained as gunnery officers, both as battery commanders but also as Forward Observers, to direct naval gunfire more accurately.
    He had all of this then dictated as a minute which he had forward to the Secretary of State for War, who had made a request to the First Lord of the Admiralty for the use of Naval personnel for Land Service. In the note he pointed out that with some 200 guns available in reserve he could provide 50 batteries for service in France. Once the 6” gun was in service he would look at having the same thing done with the 9.2” and 12” guns in reserve. He felt that the use of Bluejackets to provide gunnery support for the Army was entirely in keeping with the traditions of the Service.
    He then went back to pondering the altogether more complex issues of ship design and director firing. He directed another letter to Admiral Jellicoe, this was to request that he release Captain Frederic Dreyer for service with Admiral Scott as his principal Gunnery Officer, Dreyer needed to meet with Percy Ludgate and get to work on the next generation of Gunnery Director.
    HMS Princess Mary had reported that they had been hit by a German 11” shell likely from SMS Von der Tann, this shell had failed to explode and it had been disarmed. The ships gunnery officer who had disarmed the shell had sent a report on the advanced features both of the fuze but also on the general quality of the shell itself, which he felt was superior to the British 12” shells.
    Scott wrote another note to the First Sea Lord with a circular to the First Lord requesting that an attempt be made to raise SMS Von der Tann, failing that for divers to salvage as much of the ship as possible, they should also do the same with the SMS Seydlitz. He also requested that the wrecks of the British battlecruisers be examined for information which would be pertinent in the future.
    Papal Conclave
  • 7th September 1914, Rome.

    The Papal Conclave had just concluded and Cardinal Désiré-Joseph Mercier, Archbishop of Mechelen and Primate of Belgium was returning home. He had tried to get Giacomo della Chiesa to commit to condemning German aggression, telling him of the shooting of Priests and Religious by the German Army, but his commitment to neutrality was absolute, he refused. This led Mercier to switch his support to Domenico Serafini, who was subsequently elected after denouncing the waging of aggressive war, quoting St Augustine extensively he spoke of the need to bring the war to a rapid conclusion before it destroyed all of Europe.
    Domenico Serafini was elected as pope choosing the papal name Pius XI out of respect for his predecessor.
    The Grand Duke
  • 7th September 1914, St Petersburg.
    The funeral had been held, the Tsar his family and many Russian notables had been present. One man who had remained away from the funeral was the Tsar’s brother Grand Duke Michael, he had taken command of the Caucasian Native Cavalry. A unit comprising of Muslim recruits from throughout the empire including Chechens, Tartars, and Ingush.
    He was training this unit in the North Caucasus Region and could not return in time. He had telegraphed his brother to express his grief, he also pressed him to change the law to allow the Grand Duchess Olga to be his heir.
    Another man who was absent was the healer, with his failure he had lost the protection of Empress Alexandra. He had first been given over to the attention of the Okhrana, however with the return of the Tsar and the revelations of the depths of the man’s treason their comparatively tender ministration had been replaced by that of Military Intelligence. A cynical Polish born German speaking officer had taken over as lead interrogator, he was ably assisted by several Guards NCO’s. Men drawn from the Tsarevich’s own bodyguard as well as a medical orderly who had tried to save the boy initially before the healer had stepped in and botched it all.
    The healer was hoarse from screaming, he had confessed to such a litany of crimes as to condemn him a dozen times over. As well as the soldiers another man was present, he was a representative of Patriarch of Moscow, his role was to pray with the healer and question him on other matters, matters which impacted on the Orthodox Church.
    Eventually all that could be wrung from the man was extracted, he would never run again, he bore the marks of his questioning on his body, but he was fit to stand trial. A trial at which a subset of his confession would condemn him, that trial would be held in-camera, he would be allowed an appeal to the Tsar, which would be refused and then he would executed by firing squad. The Patriarch had wanted to burn him for heresy, apostasy, and blasphemy. But the Tsar claimed his life for the death of his son.
  • 7th September 1914, Namur.

    The guns had fallen silent for the first time in 7 days, the shell supply situation had been better than expected the railway lines through Liege had been repaired to the extent that trains were able to run close to the front line without needing to be unloaded early, as a result each team could move 2 loads of shells per day.
    The mortar shells were huge, weighing in at almost 300kg, each wagon had a team of 6 horses and could move 12 shells at a time. The stream of wagons moving from the railhead to the siege artillery positions was continuous, with one wagon providing one hour of fire. The eight guns needed 192 wagon loads of shells per day, with 576 horses needed just for the wagons. That didn’t count all the other equipment that need to move, shells for all the other guns, food, fodder and the myriad objects needed to fight a modern war. As it stood the war had already been hard on horse numbers, due to the damage to the railways it had been necessary to work the stock harder than planned and wastage had been higher than anticipated. Already every horse in Belgium that was available had been confiscated, wellbred saddle horses were cavalry remounts and draught horses were pulling guns. The same was true of fodder, part of the reason for the high attrition rate was the shortage of feed, the horses were being worked harder than they were being fed and were losing condition.
    The beneficiaries of this waste were the regimental kitchens, all that wasted horse meat was being turned the rations for the army. This combined with an aggressive requestioning of food from the Belgian populous was reducing the demand for freight for rations. Whilst it was helping now, it was storing up two major problems, the very real risk of an induced famine in Belgium and the other running short of horses in the future. But the needs of the plan and the war demanded the steps be taken now, the future would have to look after itself.
    The silence of the guns only lasted a few seconds, the infantry officers had issued their orders whilst the shelling was going on and with silence came the blast of whistles and the bugles of the Guards regiments. The attacking infantry stormed forward, initially there was little resistance, the defenders who had just endured 5 days of savage bombardment were shocked, slowly though they began to open fire. Individual soldiers manned the trenches and breastworks which they had laboured to construct. The Belgians were generally more poorly equipped than the French, however they did have a small number of Lewis Guns, these were a light machine gun which had been manufactured in Liege under license and soon they were spitting death at the German attackers. The French infantry were also fighting back, their relentless indoctrination in the spirit of the bayonet, meant that they had done less training in defensive fighting than many armies but they settled into their positions and opened a steady fire on the oncoming horde.
    The Germans had learnt from the siege of Liege, they were not attempting to capture the entirety of Namur, they were intent on capturing Fort Cognelee, the siege guns shifted their focus and resumed firing, the shells now falling deeper in the Franco Belgian defences, targeting Artillery positions and troop concentrations which had been identified by aerial reconnaissance. Advaning with the infantry were smaller field guns, these were able to provide additional artillery support against machine guns and other strong points. Effectively shooting the German infantry onto the position, the fortress, its guns dismounted and its defences shattered resisted for a few futile minutes and then the appeared a white flag thrust out of an embrasure.
    An assault party made their way into the fortress to accept its surrender, they rest of the attacking German troops continued to advance rolling over the outlying trenches and causing the defenders to flee in panic back to a secondary defensive line.
    The German army paused, secured its flanks and the bombardment resumed, the next fortress would fall soon.
    Equipping the RNAS Armoured Cars
  • 7th September 1914, Ostend.

    Wing Commander Samson’s head hurt, he had wet his swab with some of the officers of HMS Cressy and HMS Aboukir, in particular the First Lieutenants of both vessels, he had served with them on the china station in the past and they had shared happy memories of a wild run ashore. He had been discussing his action against the German cavalry, discussing the effectiveness of mounting a machine gun aboard the scout car. As the pink gins flowed, they had discussed improvements to the cars with ever more outlandish suggestions, the Gunnery Lieutenant of Cressy had promised him a pair of 1-pounder guns, something like a Maxim gun but on an altogether grander scale. This had led the First Lieutenant of HMS Aboukir promise him a pair of his 1-pounders and to suggest a spare 6-pounder gun, but it was felt that this was much too heavy to mount onto a Rolls Royce car. The suggestion then came that perhaps a truck could be modified to carry the 6-pounder gun, this would give the armoured car detachment some additional punch should they encounter artillery.
    He had already taken receipt of 4 Rolls Royce Silver Ghosts shipped over from Britain with his orders and his promotion, he had also been issued a pair of Thornycroft J Type trucks as well. He had not intended to armour the trucks but simply use them for cargo carrying, but perhaps a six-pounder could be carried. As Samson nursed his head a team of Artificers were fitting the cars with ½” of boiler plate over the vulnerable sections, the Rolls Royce had been chosen as a number were available to the RNAS and they had the power to carry the armour and a gun.
    Once the cars were finished, they could set to work on the Lorries, his plan was to take the cars out on another fighting patrol as soon as they were ready.
    There were reports of German cavalry advancing towards the coast, they were working along the open flank of the British Forces in Belgium. The RNAS were still short of aircraft, and so he and his pilots were somewhat idle, so Samson felt that he could do valuable work with his cars, with one he had shot up a cavalry squadron, four cars would let him smash a regiment.
    Regimental Attack
  • 8th September 1914, Namur.
    The heavy guns had fallen silent again, the attacking infantry had crept as close to the falling shells as strict Prussian discipline and the traditions of the Guards would bring them. Fort De Congnelee had fallen the previous day, a fresh regiment was leading the attack on Fort D’ Emines. The German’s were using their artillery in the same manner as the previous attack, very heavy bombardment was being used to suppress the fortress position. Lighter guns working over the trenches and breastworks surrounding the Fortresses.
    The fire from the guns ceased, the infantry swept forward, the French who were manning the breastworks and entrenchments near the Fort rapidly regained their defences. They had managed to secure additional machine guns, all of them were the St Etienne Mle 1907, these guns swept out a steady drum beat of fire. The lines of attacking Germans wavered, bugles and whistles blew, the line rallied, advanced, wavered, rallied and came on, countless dead and dying men stretching back to the jumping off point, the German line was close to the front by this point, already in their mind they had come so far forward that to retreat was more dangerous than to advance.
    From the French line the whistles blew and men who had been sheltering behind the breastworks and below the lip of the rudimentary trenches clambered out, there bayonets glinting they counter-attacked. The attackers already wearied and bloodied by their ordeal, retreated their retreat became a rout, as Poilus bayonets fixed added volleys of close-range gun fire to the already overwhelming fire of the machine guns.
    The French 75’s their numbers depleted by the fire of the heavy artillery finally began to rain shrapnel on the now retreating German, but in this they were too late with the vast majority of the rounds wasting on the empty space between the routed infantry and the defensive line. One round either a misfire or faulty fuse detonated behind the breastwork, its deadly cargo sleeted forward and down, killing a company commander and his senior NCO. With angry curses for the gunners the rest of the French regained the dubious safety of their defences while a futile attempt was made to signal the gunners they were firing short. More shells flailed the front line, the casualties slowly mounting until finally the shelling ceased.
    This respite was short-lived, but sufficient to evacuate some of the wounded and bring up more ammunition, then the hammer blows from the Krupps guns resumed and the defenders hunkered down to await another attack.
    A Union Suppressed
  • 8th September 1914, Butte Montana.

    The Sergeant of the guard had grown tired of the three prisoners in his care, their singing, chanting and constant demands for release had tried his patience. In addition, he had spent the previous night drinking whiskey with a fella who had explained that the union and the mine owners would be real glad if the prisoners had a hard time of it.
    He had picked his detail this morning with care, the corporal who he put in charge was a real hard case, he should not have even been in the National Guard, but they needed numbers and so were not as picky as they should be. As for the rest of the detail no one selected had much going for them except violent tempers and a willingness to look the other way.
    The singing resumed, this time it was that socialist anthem The Internationale, the corporal bellowed for silence only for the next chorus to ring out. “Tis the final conflict; Let each stand in his place. The International working class, shall be the human race!” With that the guardsmen rushed into the cells, billy clubs smacked and rifle butts clubbed, within moments all three of the prisoners were down on the cell house floor, that didn’t seem to satisfy the attackers who continued to brutally beat the prisoners. Finally, they realised that they may have taken the attack too far, two men were choking and gasping but one man the former president of the rouge union would never harangue a crowd again, nor man a picket line his head was twisted at an unnatural angle a boot print outlined on his face.
    The corporal knew with that that he had gone to far, the testimony of the survivors would see him hang. He was a brutal man but not stupid, a solution was obvious, he cried out “stop or I will shoot”, with that he fired his revolver three times hitting the two injured men in the chest, the dead man he shot in the head.
    With that he turned to his men and said, “I warned them didn’t I boys” they agreed, “the was fixin to escape, for sure” said one young soldier a cowboy from Texas who had somehow ended up in the Montana National Guard.
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    Cavalry Movements
  • 8th September 1914, Roeselare.

    II Cavalry Corps had not charged for the coast, instead their advance had been methodical. They had probed each village and town, suppressing resistance effectively and where it was offered by civilians with a brutal finality. Their role was to guard the flank of the First Army and unhinge the Entente defences. The commander of the Cavalry Corps General von der Marwitz had formerly been the inspector general of cavalry for the German Army, his initial deployments had been conventional, almost traditional cavalry tactics, reliant on shock and speed to overcome lightly held positions. His forces had been bloodied during the advance on Brussels after the fall of Liege, a short but brutal engagement to capture the town of Diest had cost his corps the best part of 750 casualties. They had advanced with lance and sabre against dug in Belgian cyclists and dismounted cavalry, the effective rifle and machine gun fire combined with the destruction of a key bridge had resulted in a tactical defeat.
    Since then, his men had for the most part been much more cautious, they had been blooded several times by ambushes, by both Belgian and also more ominously British troops. He had even received reports that the British had shot up a column using machine guns mounted in automobiles. Having learnt of the risk of just charging anything that looked like a threat the General had issued his orders, his three constituent divisions would advance towards the coast, but they would remain in contact with each other.
    Roeselare had fallen without much fighting, his men had surrounded the town before dawn and invited it to surrender. The small number of defenders surrendered and the town had been spared any damage beyond a by now brutal gleaning for food and supplies, a small garrison of reservists and Landswehr would take control of the city and the advance would continue. The General was intent on reaching the coast at Nieuwport, by doing this he would be separating the British forces in Belgium from those in France.
    Tourcoing is captured
  • 9th September 1914, Tourcoing.
    The spearheads of 1st Army had reached Tourcoing a city of 80,000 on the just inside the French border. His army was moving towards Paris, more slowly and much closer to the coast than the original plan, the stubborn defence of Liege and the ongoing defence of Namur had required the deviation from the original plan. The advance of the 1st Army was still largely unchallenged, the Belgians had provided almost no resistance, the British Army split between the Belgian coast and the troops holding the Mons Canal line seemed oblivious to the risk of being outflanked. Tourcoing had been defended by poorly equipped and elderly reservists, men of the territorial army, they had fought bravely but their resistance had been futile and short lived.
    The advance to capture Lille would begin in the morning, IV corps would turn the flank of the BEF which was fully occupied with defending against attacks by 2nd Army. They would do this by advancing on Orchies, this would also cut on of the critical railway lines connecting the BEF to their supply bases on the coast.
    The II and III Corps would capture Liege itself whilst IX corps would support the Cavalry in their attempt to capture Nieuwport.
    An early munitions review
  • 9th September 1914, Portsmouth.

    Admiral Scott was back at Whale Island, he had caught an express down from London that morning, the trains were running better than he had expected, the initial war time mobilisation rush was abating as the Sub Committee for the war and the various railway companies brought order to the system. The Railway companies had formed along with the Army and Royal Navy, a rail prioritisation system that enabled over 70% of the normal railway movements to take place, whenever possible trains were not exclusively military or civilian but were loaded and dispatched in such a manner as to maximise through put. At the same time most railway workers and those who worked for the great locomotive building companies were not allowed to volunteer for foreign service. A small number of railway men had been allowed to volunteer, they had gone to France and Belgium where they were working with the French and Belgian systems to ensure that goods were moved rapidly and efficiently for the BEF. Lt General Percy Girouard had responsibility for the management of the Network in France and he and his liaison officers were working miracles to move supplies from the ports up to the BEF in the field.
    Admiral Scott was aware of the demands the Royal Navy faced to ensure that the sea lanes remained secure to ensure that the Armies in France and in Belgium were able to rely on a steady stream of reinforcements, resupply and casualty evacuation. It was the success of the Navy in defending that vital artery which had brought him to Whale Island today, he had come to look at a number of German shells which had been recovered and discuss what needed to improve the shells of the Royal Navy.
    He met with Captain Dreyer who had arrived the day before, they shared breakfast whilst they waited for the days conference to begin. In addition to the two senior naval officers, engineers from Woolwich Arsenal and the Naval Ordinance Department, along with representatives from the Elswick Ordinance Company, Vickers and Wm Beardmore. The purpose of the conference was to discuss fuzes and shell design, both to review the existing stock and types available and also to commence development of new designs which would be cheaper to manufacture whilst retaining acceptable accuracy, range and performance.
    In addition the meeting was to undertake a review of the German Naval shells which had struck the ships of the Royal Navy in the recent battle off the Belgian coast. A number of shells had been recovered by divers from the wreck of SMS Von der Tann and they were causing something of a stir, the German shells appeared to be superior to those used by the Royal Navy. Captain Dreyer, Admiral Scott and Admiral Jellicoe were all adamant that the quality of shells provided to the navy would improve.
    Five areas would be focussed on, Shell Design, Metallurgy and Quality, Filling, Fuzing and finally Manufacture.
    New shell designs would be developed immediately with improved ballistic performance to be a primary consideration. The hardness of the shells would be further investigated, it was apparent from the damage to Von der Tann that a large number of the shells which had struck her had failed to detonate, detonated on the armour or had simply shattered without penetrating, this would require rectification.
    Improved filling moving away from Lyddite to a less sensitive explosive which would not detonate immediately on impact with armour, likewise the fuzes needed to be improved so that shells which did get through armour detonated.
    The last challenge was to do everything to optimise the shell, fuze and filler designs for ease of manufacture, countless shells would be required during the war and making them cheaper and quicker to produce would only be for the good.
    A Ludgate device would be made available at Woolwich to improve the calculation efficiency for the design team. In addition a 9.2” gun would be moved up to the new test range for firing trials on the prototype shells, this size of gun was felt to be sufficiently large to be suitable for testing shell designs for the Battleships and Battlecruisers. It would be joined by a number of smaller guns for testing of the same designs in other calibres. As much as possible it was felt important to ensure that the design improvements trickled down to all of the Ordinance of the Navy. In addition Admiral Scott agreed that he would share all of the results with the Army, to make sure that they gained similar benefit.
    A request was made that all examples of both Entente and Central Powers shells and fuzes be provided to the research and design teams, after all it would not do to duplicate efforts where it could be avoided. The representatives of the Manufactures agreed to collaborate on design to ensure that equipment was built to the same design and specifications, in addition they would work to ensure a minimum amount of fettling was required to fit barrels from one manufacturer into mounts built by another. The manufacturers again pressed the importance of maintaining their skilled workforce and ensuring as they underwent breakneck expansion they continued to have access to new apprentices and workers.
    The meeting concluded and the members dispersed, Percy Scott and Frederick Dreyer continued a discussion that had petered out earlier with a representative from Vickers, they had been discussing placing orders with American firms. It was agreed that this should be avoided so as to reduce the risk that secret information would leak back to the Germans, the other advantage was that maximising their own production Britains precious gold reserve would not be imperilled to pay for American materials unless impossible to avoid.
    Fort D’ Emines
  • 10th September 1914, Namur.
    Dawn arrived slowly, the German commanders had surveyed the shattered remnant of the failed attack two days prior and decided on a change of plan. The attack would commence as soon as there was sufficient light for the attacking division to pick its way through the shattered and blasted landscape. The high explosive shells fired by the German guns had dug massive craters all through the attack zone, where they struck the trenches and breastworks used by the French and Belgian defenders, they shattered them or blasted great holes in the defences. But for every shell that hit a trench or a breastwork two or three went long or short, wasting their power blasting great gouts of soil into the air, destroying trees, ploughing through fences, pulverising drains, it was as if a delinquent giant had taken to the area with a hoe, with no thought but destruction in mind.
    The whistles sounded again, the infantry had once again infiltrated as far forward as they could, in fact from the steady stream of casualties that trickled back from the attacking regiments showed that they had evaluated the risk of being killed by their own artillery as less than having to cover another 50 or 100 yards under rifle and machine gun fire. The decision was a prudent one, the guns ceased firing and the infantry were up and moving forward quickly, the defenders scrambled through their own shattered defences to man their guns. They won the race, the machine guns fired, stuttering out death in steady bursts, they played the stream of bullets over the attacking Germans, at the same time the riflemen began firing adding more whistling death to the steadily brightening dawn.
    The attacking infantry, shook of the deaths of their comrades, scarcely flinching as a heavy tithe was taken of their ranks, they rapidly gained the first line of trenches, bayonets flashed as outnumbered French defenders were rapidly pushed out from the first line. The attackers paused but only briefly, they redressed their lines and continued the attack. The second line of defences around the fortress was weaker than the first, the attack gained the second line with greater ease, there were fewer machine guns in this line and the defenders had clearly expected the first line to have greater effect and with the failure of the first line, the second shattered like cast iron hit with a hammer.
    The final objective was the thoroughly ruined defences of the Fort itself; the defenders were Belgian and they had been equally unsettled by the failure of their infantry defenders, but they were fighting for their homes and they were filled both with hatred for the invader and a desire live up to the heroic standard of Liege. The fortress would hold for hours, but eventually the weight of infantry and the destructive power of the guns would prevail, Fort D’ Emines had also fallen, now the way into Namur had opened saving for hasty trenches which ringed the town.
    A New Advisor
  • 10th September 1914, London.

    Winston Churchill was furious, he had had to listen Sir John French pouring scorn on the French Army again. The French and Belgian Army were on the defensive, General Joffre had accepted the total failure of Plan XVII, Joffre had been desperately trying to reinforce his troops holding back the German tide. Plan XVII had called for swift attack into Alsace and Lorraine but it had been defeated, thousands of French soldiers had died and no real ground had been gained, if anything the Germans had captured ground in the disputed regions from France. Hundreds of thousands were dead, wounded or captured and the German steam roller was swinging into France, it had been delayed by the stout defence of Liege but the Germans were advancing. They were threatening Lille, a vital rail hub through which much of the supplies for the BEF flowed. The defenders drawn from the 82nd Territorial Division, reinforced with men from the garrison of Dunkirk and any other available troops numbered approximately 20,000 men.
    Sir John was demanding that the BEF disengage from the fighting it was doing on the Mons-Condee Canal and retire towards Mauberge or St Quesnoy, “The damned French are beaten, Namur will fall and the BEF will be captured” was his plaintive complaint, Sir John was aware that a retreat such as this would expose the French Army which was desperately holding Namur to possible envelopment and certainly require them to retreat themselves to avoid this, the fall of Namur would further unhinge the defences along the Meuse potentially causing the loss of much of northern France.
    Churchill was nothing if not decisive, “Sir John, we cannot win this war without risk. We cannot win this war without France, you advise that we betray our gallant ally, I accept your resignation as my principle military advisor, you may leave now”
    Sir John spluttered impotently, his mouth opening and closing, Churchill snapped “just get out, I have work to do”, with that Sir John Turned on his heel and retreated. Churchill picked up the phone on his desk and instructed the voice on the other end “Get me General Grierson”
    Back at Rules
  • 10TH September 1914, London.

    Winston Churchill was back at Rules, his usual table in private room, with him was his new advisor General Grierson, they were discussing the progress of the war. Churchill was quizzing Grierson on how he thought the war should be fought. “Guns, its guns that will win it, Liege fell because the Germans blasted their way in, infantry against unsuppressed machine guns is a blood bath, when we go on the attack our guns will have to smash the German defences and pin down their reserves. As it stands, we don’t have the guns to do that, our 4.5” Howitzer and 60 pounder gun, fire a useful high explosive shell, but we have few of them. Our 18 pounder guns are next to useless, we have plenty of shrapnel shells they can smash up an attack but can’t cut barbed wire or damage trenches or breastworks.” He paused took a sip of the water that was by his hand and carried on, “the other thing we don’t have anywhere enough shells, neither shrapnel of which we have more or high explosive of which we have nothing like sufficient.”
    A waiter arrived to take their order, Churchill was surprised to notice that Sir James Grierson ordered plainly grilled steak with steamed vegetables, Churchill commented recalling that Sir James was a well-known gourmand, the General merely grunted “Doctors orders”
    Churchill knew something of the limitations of the artillery, he had spent a lot of time with Admiral Scott who could only curse the artillery limitations of the Royal Navy and the unwillingness of Sir John French to accept the offer of additional guns from old naval reserves. Grierson was keen to bring into service as many of the artillery pieces as possible and had agreed to send territorial artillerymen and new recruits for training as soon as the improvised gun carriages were ready.
    “Lille is likely to fall, the French garrison occupies the old citadel and the later defences but they are old and will not stand much artillery, especially the super heavy guns which the Germans seem to have in abundance. We must secure the ports on the coast, we must send more men to France.” What do we have available, Churchill asked, he was as aware of the status of the territorial forces, but he needed to hear what Grierson would say. “We have another 8 divisions of the territorial force here in Britain. Several of those divisions are to be deployed to the empire to take over for Regular units. They will leave most of their artillery and transport units here but the infantry will go out to replace the regulars. Only in Egypt, India and South Africa do we have formed brigades to replace but there are regular battalions deployed all over the world that can return to Britain for service in France. This will take time, the Indian Army units will be in France in October and they will be most welcome but they also lack the heavy guns we need.
    The Welsh, West Riding, Highland and Lowland divisions are all available, the Highland division has been suffering a measles epidemic and have almost 400 men in hospital, ideally the Highlanders will stay here until their men are recovered and they can make up for the training they have missed.”
    Churchill was pleased by the succinct way in which Grierson had given his summary of the current position, he was glad the man was available to him. It had been mentioned that he had fallen somewhat afoul of Sir John French, this fact alone not to mention that he had been a keen student of the German Army had suggested him for the role when Churchill had finally decided on the need to replace Sir John.
    Churchill mentioned to Grierson the existence of the Royal Naval Division, Sir John snorted “they will be keen no doubt but most are naval ratings, they didn’t volunteer to be foot soldiers, they don’t have enough artillery or machine guns, keep them in Britain, you will need them soon enough if this war goes for as long as I think it will. The Royal Marines on the other hand they might be useful, Ostend and Zeebrugge have a solid garrison but German Cavalry are advancing on Nieuwport, the Royal Marine Brigade could go ashore there and guard it. They can hold off Cavalry easily enough and secure more of the coastline for us. Orders can be issued to two more territorial divisions to go to France, if they land in Calais they can deploy to Hazebrouck and hold that that it will secure the railway junction and protect the coast. But the French must hold Lille, they must hold.” The two men continued their lunch and their discussions, more British Troops would deploy to France.