~April-June 1900: Shifting tides
April 1900: With the situation in China deteriorating, the eight Great Powers of Austria-Hungary, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US all dispatch extra troops and warships to reinforce their positions in the nation. In response the Dowager Empress orders the Boxers be armed with modern weapons from Chinese arsenals.
April 1900: Former Khedive Abbas attempts to force a crossing of the Suez Canal at Talata, intending to advance on Cairo. The invasion has sparked a rebellion by liberals dissatisfied at the corrupt regime of Khedive Hussein Kamel, leaving British commander General Archibald Hunter with only 6,500 British and Dominion troops, supported by 4,500 Egyptians and 2,000 Bluejackets from the Mediterranean Fleet to oppose him. However, Admiral John 'Jackie' Fisher, commanding the Mediterranean Fleet deploys several warships directly into the canal to support Hunter. Fisher's ships pour fire into the Ottoman army, causing it to break and rout.
April 1900: The success of the US armoured cruisers in the Spanish-American War results in the US 1900 naval program including six new large armoured cruisers and two battleships, repeats of the previous years Virginia class. The program also the purchase of the Holland IV as the USS Holland, their first modern operational submarine, which unlike the earlier French submarines features a petrol motor for surface propulsion and allowing her batteries to be recharged underway. Finally the program orders that surveying work begin for potential locations for major naval bases in Cuba and the Philippines.
April 1900: Seeking a new handgun to replace their M1882 revolver, the Swiss Army adopt the Luger M1900 semi automatic pistol firing the new bottleneck 7.65x21mm Parabellum cartridge from an eight round magazine. Developed by Austrian weapons engineer Georg Luger, the M1900 is technically a refinement of an earlier design, the Borchardt C93 designed by Hugo Borchardt in 1893. However other than retaining the Borchardt's general concept of a toggle lock, virtually nothing of Borchardt's weapons remains, with the Luger being a vast improvement. The adoption of the Luger will make the Swiss the first European nation to adopt a semi automatic service pistol.
May 1900: The Sherman-Pauncefote Treaty is modified to allow the California to Hawai'i telegraph cable to be extended from Hawai'i to Guam and then the Philippines. Once again the treaty is only narrowly ratified by the US Congress due to the acknowledgement of British excellence in undersea telegraphy and continuing guarantees the cables will remain under the control and ownership of the Anglo-American Telegraph Company.
May 1900: Now facing war in both South Africa and the Middle East along with the deteriorating situation in China, the British are facing a crisis of available manpower forcing them to mobilise the Militia and Volunteers. While their terms of service do not require them to serve overseas, they free up the remaining regulars in Britain and many also volunteer for foreign service. In addition the government appeals to the Dominions for further troops This allows the formation of an expeditionary force of 10,000 British regulars, 5,000 Volunteers, 3,000 Dominion and 15,000 Indian troops to be assembled in Egypt. Combined with the 5,000 British regular, 3,000 Egyptian and 7,000 Sudanese troops already available there, this places a force of 50,000 men under General Hunter's command.
May 1900: After the disaster at Talata, the Sultan dispatches Edhem Pasha, the best Ottoman commander in the Greco-Ottoman War to take over command against the British in the Levant and reinforces the area with 20,000 veteran troops armed with modern Mauser rifles. Edhem Pasha falls back from the Sinai and establishes defensive positions at Beersheba and Gaza.
May 1900: Claude MacDonald. Head of the British Legation in Beijing, speaking on behalf of the diplomatic community there, requests additional troops be deployed to protect the Legation Quarter. In response a multi-national force of some 500 troops and naval personnel is dispatched and the Great Powers issue an ultimatum demanding the Boxer be suppressed. The Qing court is deeply divided by this, particularly among the conservatives. The Dowager Empress continues to support the Boxers while other such as army commander in chief Ronglu order Chinese forces to suppress them. Still others stand neutral, taking no action.
May 1900: The Schruman Report has resulted in a split in the rebel movements in both Cuba and the Philippines, with many insurgents led by Tomás Palma in Cuba and Pedro Paterno in the Philippines, switching sides to support the US. These are organised into the Cuban Rifles and Philippines Scouts to support US operations.
May 1900: King Alexander of Serbia announces his engagement to Draga Mašin, the widow of an obscure Serbian engineer. Mašin is ten years older than the king and widely believed to be infertile, and the match provokes massive opposition in Serbian society. Both former King Milan and Serbian Prime Minister Vladan Đorđević resign and are exiled by the King. Despite this opposition, the marriage goes ahead in August.
June 1900: After having recovered from their initial setbacks, the British under Field Marshal Roberts moved over to the offensive in South Africa at the end end of February. The Transvaal capital of Bloemfontein was captured unopposed in March, and despite some supply issues, the Orange Free State capital of Pretoria was taken at the end of May, again without serious opposition. The overwhelming strength of the Imperial forces during this offensive greatly demoralised the Boers, and approximately 25,000 of their 50,000 strong army have surrendered. With both Boer capitals now in British hands and around half their army captured, the British formally annex both the Transvaal and Orange Free State as the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies.
June 1900: General Hunter begins work on constructing a railway across the Sinai Peninsula to support an offensive into the Ottoman Levant. At the same time planning is begun on an amphibious landing at Gaza to seize a base for further operations.
June 1900: German soldiers capture a young Boxer and their Minister to Beijing Clemens von Ketteler orders his execution. In response thousands of Boxers storm into Beijing, killing Christians and burning churches. Joined by regular Chinese troops, the begin a siege of the Legation Quarter. In response the Great Powers for the Eight Nation Alliance and organise a 2,000 strong multi-national force in Tianjin under British Admiral Edward Seymour to relieve the siege. Seymour's advance is initially virtually unopposed, with General Nie Shicheng's army, which has been brutally suppressing the Boxers under Ronglu's orders, standing aside. However The Dowager Empress orders General Dong Fuxiang's Muslim army of Kensu Braves to halt the expedition. Fuxiang, supported by large numbers of Boxers, attacks Seymour's force at Langfang. While the multi-national forces successfully holds off the Chinese assault, Seymour, facing the likelihood of further attacks, is forced to retreat due to lack of supplies. His retreat is seen as a humiliation and greatly encourages support for the Boxers. Perhaps mostly significantly it leads the Dowager Empress to issue a declaration of war against all eight Great Powers, along with Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain. This action results Zhang Zhidong, in Li Hongzhang, Liu Kunyi, Yu Yingkui and and Yuan Shikai, the Viceroys of Hunguang, Liangiang, Liangguang, Min-zhe, Shandong, form the Mutual Pact for the Defence of the Southeastern Provinces. They openly declare their refusal to implement the Dowager Empress instructions and call for the reinstatement of the Guangxu Emperor.
June 1900: The summer monsoon arrives in India, ending the ongoing famine. Despite expectations, only another £1,500,000 in famine relief has been required, with roughly two thirds provided by the Indian Provincial governments and the remainder from charitable donations. Against the worst predictions it estimated the famine has resulted in less than one million deaths, with virtually none in territory under direct British control. The fact the vast majority of deaths occurred in the effected Princely States will lead to the British taking a more active role in their administration to prevent such events in future.
June 1900: The Boer War has generated a great deal deal of sympathy for the Boers in Europe and corresponding hostility toward Britain. Taking advantage of this, Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz is able to get the Reichstag to pass a Second Naval Law calling for further expansion of the German Navy in line with his Risikoflotte strategy. The law calls for the German navy to be doubled from twenty to forty battleships over the next seventeen years, making Germany the second strongest naval power after the British. While the 1897 law caused no undue concern in Britain, this new law results in considerable alarm as it poses a direct threat to British security, and many in Britain calling for an immediate response to maintain the Royal Navy's dominance.