First World War Alt-Hist: Operation Heinrich.

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The Duchess of Zeon
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First World War Alt-Hist: Operation Heinrich.

Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-05-29 03:23pm


A collaborative work by Marina O'Leary and Christopher Purnell

17 AUGUST 1914

Prince Karl Max von Lichnowsky, the German Ambassador accredited to the United Kingdom, appeared in a great hurry to see Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary. He scarcely noticed the fine Italianate design of the Foreign Office building; he was to used to it, and to pressed, to admire it, though his nose did remind him of the gentle smell of fine tobacco smoke which hung in the lobby where he waited with but a single aide. At the moment he was in to much of a hurry to even think of smoking, which he somewhat regretted, but this success was more than enough to compensate for his current urgency in delivering it to the British government.

It had been a major diplomatic effort on the part of certain factions in the German government to produce this note, which would itself be a great diplomatic achievement. It was, of course, not of much meaning. Karl Max knew that there were many factions in the German military who still thought that violating the terms of this agreement would be perfectly sensible. But that wasn't the point; the point was that it bought Germany time and manoeuvring room, and time and manoeuvring room was what Germany needed. Great armies were clashing in both the east and the west, and the fate of the Empire hung in the balance.

It was not a personal assurance from the Kaiser, of course. He would never let himself get manoeuvred into risking his word of honour on a matter like this which his diplomats could change under his feet. But it came from the government, and in parliamentary-minded Britain, that would be enough. Worse, the whole thing had been delayed by the weekend and it had only now gotten out; the delay had simply taken to long as it was, with three weeks in which Britain tottered as events in the continent developed uncertainly, and nobody in Germany was prepared to say the necessary words to secure the peace until only now. But there had been a reason for the delay, and it was something that even Von Lichnowsky was somewhat annoyed with.

In one of their previous meetings—on the 6th—Sir Edward had modestly noted that the Royal Navy would be forced to intervene to protect the safety of British neutrality and British shipping if the High Seas Fleet tried to force its way through the English Channel against the French.

That was, of course, an ultimatum of what would be required to make the United Kingdom go to war, and naturally it had thrown the entire process—which had nearly reached the wording of a note as it stood—back to square one, and it had taken from there another ten days to get the German government to agree sufficiently (and, it was rumoured, several exchanges of private letters between Kaiser Wilhelm and King George) to guarantee that German naval units would not operate in the Channel under any circumstance. But at last it had been done; first thing Monday morning the message had been sent out, and immediately Karl Max had moved to make sure that it got into the right hands to end the crisis decisively before it got worse.

At last—and it had only been a few minutes—a liveried attendant came down and bowed formally. “Your Highness. Your party is welcome to meet with His Excellency the Foreign Secretary now. Please follow me.”

“Of course,” Prince von Lichnowsky answered negligently, and followed at once in the wake of the attendant, his aide following him in turn as they navigated through the fine building on a journey with which the Prince was not unfamiliar, but which seemed to be taken with more haste than usual, though the attendant surely kept the same pace as always.

They arrived, and the attendant introduced the Prince: “Your Excellency, His Highness Prince Karl Max von Lichnowsky, the Ambassador of His Majesty Kaiser Wilhelm II.” At that, he bowed and retired.

Prince von Lichnowsky stepped into Sir Edward's office to find the British Foreign Secretary standing. He cut a dashing figure of middle age; very thoughtful eyes, slightly receding hair, a generally modest and healthy figure in his black formal suit. Karl Max admired him greatly, and though he regretted that this message was more hollow than it might seem, yet perhaps it could hold.

“Your Highness,” Sir Edward greeted the German Ambassador cordially, as he always would, no matter his private feelings on the matter of the current war—he viewed the danger of the defeat of France quite acutely. “Please, do have a seat, do have a seat.”

“Thank you, Your Excellency,” Karl Max replied as he sat, and took the diplomatic pouch from his aide, opening it quickly. “I have most excellent news for the British government, which has only just arrived from Berlin.”

Sir Edward looked most interested indeed. He had to, perhaps, even guess what the contents were, but he waited, nonetheless, while the Prince tugged them the copy of the telegraph out of his diplomatic pouch—the original receiver's copy, complete with typos and blotted out words that had been hastily corrected, for Prince von Lichnowsky had proceeded in such haste that he had not spared the time to have it formally composed. It was offered over to Sir Edward without a moment's hesitation, and as he took it up, Karl Max summarized the contents:

“Your Excellency, I am most pleased to report that the German government has agreed to provide an assurance of the territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Belgian. The agreement is binding in all situations save a French violation of Belgian neutrality—and in that case, only a direct request from the King of Belgium for our aide would suffice to render it inoperative. This is endorsed by every level of the German government.”

“And Luxembourg?” Sir Edward asked quietly.

“We will evacuate our troops from Luxembourg on the conclusion of the war and the Sovereign and people of that nation will be free to choose their own destiny. That is the solemn promise of the German government.”

“Then there is a final matter at hand, and that is the most urgent. I trust that the German government in whole fully understands the British position on the importance of the Channel, and how it must be kept free of the dehabilitating effects of a general European war for the sake of British national interests?”

Karl Max here replied in a cool, though still very polite way. “The Government received that note with all its due gravity, and has agreed, after the discussion necessary in a matter of such gravity, to abide entirely by the proposition that Britain intends to secure the neutrality and peace of the waters of the English Channel, and that the German government is hereby fully willing to assure, as outlined in the note, that under no circumstance as part of the hostilities against France or Russia shall German warships enter the English Channel.”

“Very well, then,” Sir Edward replied, showing the usual British stoicism in the face of what appeared to be the certain end of any chance of British involvement in the conflict, for good or ill.

“There are those who will not consider these promises enough,” Sir Edward continued after a moment's quiet reflection. “But they are in the minority, and I must say that in my own view this document is sufficient to insure that no great tragedy shall befall the relations of the Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic peoples.” His own personal view on the matter, of course, was now irrelevant.

“May God see to it!” Prince von Lichnowsky agreed in a far more fervent relief.

Sir Edward knew on his part that war was now impossible, even though it seemed dangerous for France to be left to fight alone. In the past two weeks the issue in Ireland had been growing steadily more threatening, however, and Home Rule was the phrase on everyone's lips, even as the Continent was watched uneasily. Now that the uneasy watching would not transform into anything more was all but guaranteed.

18 AUGUST 1914

Moltke the Younger stood silently, as the pins on the map in front of him were adjusted to represent news of the success of General von Francois' operations with I Corps of 8th Army the day before. It had been very bad news that the action had happened at all, because it meant a most serious concentration of Russian troops in the area of Gumbinnen was advancing, contrary to the expectations of the plan. The Russians should not have mobilized yet! But it was to late to halt Operation Heinrich.

On the positive side, the encounter had gone very well for the German Army. I Corps had engaged the Russians around Stalluponen and sliced through a dispersed corps-sized formation of the Russian Army there. More than three thousand prisoners had been taken and Von Francois, commanding the vanguard corps of 8th army, was now pressing into the heart of a Russian formation believed to be a major army under the commander of their General Rennenkampf; the Russians, in a display of shocking disregard for operational security, had been broadcasting orders in the clear.

More data was pouring in, of course, but the first and most obvious thing was that Francois had dispersed a whole Russian corps and in doing so had torn a gap into the flank of the Russian formation—possibly destroying it entirely. General von Prittwitz was reluctantly following up on this, and Moltke had just dispatched an order demanding that he press home the attack more aggressively. He didn't trust Prittwitz, and it was clear that Francois' action had opened up a very considerable advantage for the German Army, which might soon need it.

That said, it was only 8th army that was currently engaged. 9th Army—the forces from Northern Germany which had been made available since the High Seas Fleet could easily prevent landings by both France and Russia—was yet unengaged on the extreme left of the German advance to the north of Gumbinnen in the area above Schillehnnen. Unfortunately it seemed like the weakest flank of the Army was the one engaged with very considerable Russian forces. In the centre the most tenuous part of the advance—third and fourth armies under Hausen and Albrecht—staging out of Lotzen in the Mausurian lakes was swinging into Russia without having engaged any sort of enemy at all.

On the right flank the situation was different to still another degree. The advance proceeding south from Eylau had not yet engaged in action, but it was clear from radio transmissions and from the reports of cavalry that there was a force massing in front of it. The extreme right flank held the strong 1st Army under Von Kluck, necessary to deal with the breakout of the Warsaw Military District forces which was expected. But here, again, Von Kluck was not yet engaged; on the other hand, 7th Army under Heeringen had cavalry scouts ahead which had reported the mustering of possibly another army-sized force, still in Russian territory around Ostrolenka.

This was not so much of a problem as the offensive of the Russian forces in the north-east posed. That the Russians would defend here was expected, though it was thought that they would be concentrated further west, toward Mlawa. This meant that the weaker of the two armies of the right flank would be engaged against this Russian force: Actively planning for anything more than the engagement at the moment was impossible, for it was impossible to say what sort of forces were opposed to Von Kluck's powerful First Army.

“General, Sir.”

Moltke looked to his chief of staff. “Go ahead.”

“We have a new report in from 8th Army. Von Prittwitz has acknowledged your orders and as a consequence is committing the 3rd Reserve Division under Von Morgen to support I Corps. He also reports that he has solid information that yesterday Von Francois destroyed a Russian division and has consequently now split in two the right-flank corps of the the Russian army facing him. He asks for further instructions in this light.”

“General von Prittwitz shall obey my latest orders with the utmost vigor; these facts do not change their relevance,” Motlke replied after a moment. It was really quite true, after all, and it would not do to get to overconfident; though--if 9th Army continued to remain unengaged, this suggested some interesting possibilities with what appeared to be the flank of the Russian army in the Gumbinnen region having already collapsed after a day of fighting. Very interesting possibilities indeed, particularly since the centre of the German advance was as of yet entirely unengaged, though Moltke did not believe it possible that, with a Russian army apparently facing each of his flanks, that they should not have some sort of covering force in the centre; it must be deeper into Russian territory, and so he prepared another dispatching instructing particular caution on the part of Hausen and Albrecht. It would be a long evening.
Last edited by The Duchess of Zeon on 2007-05-29 03:34pm, edited 1 time in total.
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The Duchess of Zeon
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Chapter one.

Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-05-29 03:28pm


A collaborative work by Marina O’Leary and Christopher Purnell

Zimony, Vojvodina
18 AUGUST 1914

Plan B, the invasion of Serbia, had called for a rapid thrust by 2nd Armee down the Morava River into Serbia with the aim of encircling Belgrade. That plan had gone to hell when, predictably, the Russians had declared war in support of their Serbian cousins. The Germans were making some sort of major offensive into Russia, it was true, but in the meantime the presence of 2nd Armee in Vojvodina instead of Bukovina left Austrian Galicia very vulnerable. And so the Chief of the General Staff, General der Infanterie Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, had ordered the elements of 2nd Armee facing Serbia to entrain for Galicia and reconstitute to protect the right flank of the 3rd Armee. A portion of 2nd Armee had remained in Galicia, grouped around the XII Corps and its commander Hermann von Kövess, but it would be hard pressed to support 3rd Armee until the rest of its parent command arrived.

Having already launched a number of attempts to cross the Danube and take Belgrade, 2nd Armee had thus faced the delicate problem of extricating itself from action, reforming, replacing losses as best it could in a very short amount of time, and then heading northwards over the Austrian rail lines. To make matters worse, the commander of the Southwestern Front, Feldzügmeister Oskar Potiorek, had insisted on continuing to try to invade Serbia with 6th Armee in Bosnia, and 5th Armee across the Sava River. The withdrawal of 2nd Armee would open up the flank of 5th Armee to Serbian counterattack unless Potierek halted his offensive, which was unlikely.
Since the Emperor had been persuaded to give Potierek an independent command to avenge the debacle at Sarajevo, Conrad could not simply order him to stop the attacks until the Russians had been dealt with. Now, fully a week since the withdrawal of 2nd Armee had begun, its last flanking guard force for 5th Armee was about to finally withdraw.

The Austrian VII Corps had spent the first two weeks of August doing nothing beyond guarding the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. Their position allowed them to guard the flank of 5th Armee and to provide protection for the bombardment of Belgrade and Serbian positions just across the border.
The 2nd Armee commander, General der Infanterie Eduard von Böhm-Ermolli, had left them in place while the rest of 2nd Armee withdrew precisely for that reason. But finally, with the other elements of 2nd Armee en-route to Galicia or preparing for entrainment, time had run out; and so orders were sent to Corps headquarters to remove from the line to a marshalling point at Ujvidek. The Chief of Staff for VII Corps then made arrangements to dispatch a rider to find General Otto Meixner to inform him of the long-awaited moment.

The positions of the 67th Infantry Brigade just south of Zimony, just inside the border of Austria and within artillery range of Belgrade and the Serbian positions near the city, was the most exposed part of the VII Corps. General Meixner had left for them in the morning, to confer with the commander of the 34th Infantry Division on the process of their evacuation, as well as to conduct an inspection of the Corps artillery units and men of the brigade.
The lieutenant sent to locate him found him in a command tent at the edges of the artillery park, safely away from attack by the limited Serbian artillery, and only a short ride to the headquarters established by the 34th Division inside Zimony. He secured his horse by a row of posts outside with other animals reserved for dispatch riders sent out from the command tent, and entered with message held tightly in hand.

Inside there were a collection of wire operators connected to the artillery batteries outside, as if the commander here sought to control their operations at remote. Further to the back of the tent was a large staff table, with a highly detailed map of the topography of the area and positions of Austrian and known Serbian units. General Meixner was at the end of the table, leaning over the map and examining the layout of a line of positions pointed to by the commander of the 67th Brigade. The Feldmarschalleutnant who commanded the 34th Division was peering intently at the same map from the right of General Meixner, and was obviously on the verge of making some comment or another. There were a passel of lower-ranking officers and aides lining the table’s sides or standing off somewhat at a distance, but the lieutenant paid them no attention as he approached the table. One of them, a major, leaned over and spoke quietly to the General, who looked up at the approaching message rider, who stopped suddenly and saluted.

The lieutenant parsed his chapped lips, and then informed them of his mission. “A message from General von Böhm-Ermolli arrived today for General der Infanterie Meixner. Oberst Schilhawsky sent me to deliver it here.”

Meixner returned the salute. “At ease, lieutenant.” He nodded to the Feldmarschalleutnant, who took over the meeting as Meixner walked around the aides to take the message from the rider. The lieutenant handed over the telegraph from Army Headquarters, and watched Meixner open and parse it. The order was no surprise, and preparing for it had been the impetus behind this meeting in the first place. “Stay here,” he ordered the junior officer, “and be ready to take a response back to the Oberst.”

He walked back to inform the rest of the commanders of the final word. “We will have to pull out fully and soon. We have been ordered to leave our heavy artillery regiment to participate in the bombardment of Belgrade, which at least simplifies matters somewhat. A Honvéd infantry division will be here on the 20th, so you need to be out of your positions and on the way to Ujvidek by then. We have discussed the withdrawal and handover at some length, but are there any other questions about what must be done?”

Generalmajor von Launigen, the commander of the 67th Brigade, looked distinctly unhappy. “They are replacing a Corps with a single division.
Madness! That will be no impediment at all to the Serbs if they decide to attack the flanks of 5th Armee.”

His immediate superior, Feldmarschalleutnant Krautwald of the 34th division, shrugged his shoulders. “The Serbs have been tenacious on defense, but they lack the modern arms and doctrine to successfully counterattack General Frank’s command. They wouldn’t dare risk the security of Belgrade on an attack against a superior foe. If they failed, the city would be defenseless against a further advance and would require them to withdraw from their efforts in Bosnia. They will instead continue their defensive posture to delay the fall of the capital and will rely on Russian victories to save their country.”

“We have our orders, at any rate,” Meixner observed. “What happens to Fifth Armee is none of our concern now. The Russians are. Can you meet the deadline, Generalmajor?”

Von Launigen nodded stiffly. “Yes, Herr General. We have been preparing for some time, so it is only a matter of putting those preparations into practice. Infantry regiment 61 will remove itself starting tonight at 2000 hours, and will be followed by the field artillery regiment at 0800 hours in the morning, with infantry regiment 29 ready to hand off control of the sector to the Honvéd as they arrive.”

Krautwald nodded in satisfaction. “Infantry regiment 29 will be the last element of the 34th Division to depart. I will order infantry brigade 68 to pull out with the field howitzer regiment in an hour, with your leave.”

Meixner nodded, and Krautwald then absented himself from the discussion to find his aide and send him back to divisional headquarters. The General der Infanterie scanned the map a bit more, trying to look for vulnerabilities in the plan. “Obviously the possibility of Serbian raids will exist if they realize we are in the process of withdrawing. Doing so at night will provide the cover you require, I think. I will however ask army headquarters to see about securing the services of one of the Grenzjäger companies to provide a screen for regiment 29.”

“Thank you sir,” von Launigen replied with sincere appreciation. “Those troops are good for this sort of work. They’d hurt any small raiding party and provide plenty of warning of any larger attack. Maybe enough warning even to get those lazy artillery crews to work.”

Meixner chuckled a little. “At least the artillerymen have the virtue of not belonging to the cavalry. If there is anything else you need for this withdrawal, ask and I will see about getting it for you.” He held up his hand to forestall a request out of von Launigen. “One minute, though.”

The commander of VII Corps pointed towards the nearly forgotten lieutenant.
“Leutnant! You have paper and pencil with you?” When the junior officer nodded, Meixner continued on. “I want you to take a message back to Corps headquarters. Write this down. Oberst Schilhawsky is directed to send out the orders for withdrawal to 17th Infantry Division and 1st Cavalry Division, and other VII Corps commands. The directions have already been filed with the chief of staff, he knows where they are. And he is to signal our compliance to 2nd Armee headquarters. Have you written all of that down?”

The lieutenant looked up from his message pad. “Yes sir. You will need to sign this, sir.” He offered the pad and short pencil to Meixner, who examined the writing briefly. “Good handwriting,” he said curtly, and then scribbled his signature across the bottom. “Go quickly now,” he ordered.
“There is not much time, and much yet to do.”

Janow, Poland
AUGUST 19, 1914

It was the early, as the sun first began to rise in the sky, when the peasant villagers on farms in the countryside outside of the small town of Janow began their day. Animals needed to be fed, fields needed to be inspected ahead of the harvest, fences needed mending; the list of chores was nearly endless. The backbreaking routine of agriculture had scarcely changed at all since the partitions of Poland, even if the Russians had broken the petty szlatcha in revenge for the uprisings. There was, however, time to get in individual breaks in the morning, to eat a light snack or to smoke the coarse tobacco available to the peasantry.

Jasomir Radtke was taking the last few dregs on his accustomed Russian cigarette, out by the road by his fields, when he saw the first horsemen come over the horizon. Their pale grey uniforms did not stand out much against the sky, but their curious hats, tall and boxy, attracted attention.
The Russians were at war, Jasomir knew; they had ordered his eldest son into the army, but the boy hadn’t left for the regional capital at Lublin yet.
There were only a handful of the cavalry coming onward at a wary trot, and so he put it out of his mind. They wouldn’t bother him, he wouldn’t bother them. Even the Cossacks on the move would generally not break off to harass nominally friendly peasants.

By the time the horsemen were close enough to see clearly Jasomir had returned to work in the fields. They weren’t Russians. His cousin Tadeusz lived on the other side of the border, and Jasomir visited him often enough not to be alarmed at the presence of Austrian cavalry on the road. Thinking about it for a moment, as a minor distraction from toil, he rather hoped they did run the Russians out. That would stop the Tsar from taking away Andrzej to be a soldier before the harvest was done. And then Jasomir threw himself once more into his labor, shutting off his mind as he repeated over and over the same motions he had for decades now.

He was snapped out of his rhythm by the sound of joking voices coming from the road. The first knot of horse had passed by him entirely and dispersed towards the approaches to town, but a second, larger group had followed them. For people who had to be concerned about other people trying to kill them, Jasomir thought, they really were too casual about it. Then he realized they were speaking in Polish.

One of the horsemen in the pike-grey uniforms looked down at Radtke, his attention drawn by the movements of the peasant’s work, and directed his horse to a stop. The cavalryman said something in Ruthenian, then realizing Jasomir didn’t understand him, switched to Polish. “Hullo, good chap. That town up ahead is Jasnow, right?”

Jasomir shrugged his shoulders. “That’s what the sign should say, down the road.”

The cavalryman seemed to be amused by his answer. “Maybe the sign said that yesterday, or the day before. For today, somebody seems to have swiped it.”

“The yids,” Jasomir spat out reflexively.

The cavalryman speaking to him, as well as his comrades in earshot, had a hearty chuckle. “They will steal anything not nailed down, but even a tax-collector Jew would not bother with a road sign.” The cavalryman seemed to get more sober after that jest. “Have any Russians passed by here lately?”

Radtke hesitated, but only for a minute. It wasn’t his fight, and he owed the Russians nothing. “Yes, three days ago. They were riding north on the way to Lublin. I don’t know anything more about it, though.”

The cavalryman looked satisfied with the answer, and exchanged meaningful glances with his fellow soldiers. They switched to another language for a bit, and then the cavalryman who had been talking to Jasomir pulled out a small coin from his uniform blouse and tossed it to the peasant.

“You have the thanks of the 7th Uhlan Regiment,” he said. “And my wishes for a good day to you.”

With that, he spurred his horse back into a trot, and the rest of the clump of horsemen followed. Jasomir reached down greedily at the silver coin, stamped “Fünf Krone” and with the profile of an old man with mutton-chops on the side of his face. He pocketed it without giving his profit, or the encounter that led to it, a second thought, and started his work once more.
He would at least have a story to tell at dinner, though.

As the cavalry detachment advanced further up the road, Rittmeister Mikolaj Borek discussed the encounter with a Leutnant Hanucz of his company. “You see,” he stated, “that is how you handle the peasants. Be kind, with a sense of bonhomie, that sort of thing.”

Hanucz looked dubiously at him. “On my family’s estate in Bukovina we have to stay on top of the peasants if we want their rents. Otherwise they will just work hard enough to feed themselves, and spend their time plastered drunk.”

“That might be true,” Borek conceded, “but those are Ruthenes. Lazy, ignorant beasts, all of them. But we’re advancing into Poland now. These are Polish peasants, hardy and efficient. Good strong yeomanry, and they’re our countrymen. So you must treat them differently than you would your local peasants.”

Hanucz looked thoughtful for a moment; neither noticed the scowl on the face of one of the private soldiers ahead of them, a Ruthene from the area around Lemburg. Finally the lieutenant asked Borek an obvious question. “If they’re our brothers, then why are we invading them?”

His captain chuckled again. “You must not have gotten away from those estates much. We’re fighting the Russians now. We aren’t invading; we are liberating this part of Poland from the Tsar, even if we have to fight for the Habsburgs to do it. If they win, this part of Poland and our Galicia will be united once again, and of the three bastards who split up our Commonwealth, the Habsburgs have given us the freest reign. And afterwards?”

He smiled, calculatingly. “Well, who knows how things will develop? But the Catholic Austrians will tolerate our national development and rights better than the Orthodox Russians, who want to turn us into obedient little slaves.
And the Prussians aren’t too kind to their betters and our brothers in their territory, either. So it’s in the best interests of Poland to secure this land and put an end to Russification, and we can let the next step come to us. We Poles are a patient people, and with patience we will undo what was done to us decades ago.”

As they neared the town, a cavalryman approached them from up the road, one of the scouts sent by earlier, before the dawn. “Stabswachtmeister Poborski reporting, sir”, he stated as he entered earshot.

Borek returned his salute casually. “You may procede.”

“My detachment advanced through Janow before 0600 hours. We have scouted out the nearby area to a distance of two kilometers, with other detachments fanning out in other directions. One of the forward patrols exchanged shots with some sort of enemy unit, but we don’t know what type and the Russians didn’t press them,” he added as if in explanation.

“Good, Stabswachtmeister,” the Rittmeister assured him. “What is the attitude of the inhabitants of the town?”

“Mostly apathetic, sir. They stayed in their houses as we passed through, though the headman or mayor did talk with the small force left to secure the village. He assured us there would be no problem under the circumstances, and offered us assurances of his hatred of the Russians and love for the Emperor.” The sergeant smiled grimly. “And if the Russians push us out of this village tomorrow he’ll probably meet them singing ‘God Bless the Tsar’.”

“Probably,” Borek agreed. “As I said, good work Stabswachtmeister. Return to your detachment and keep up the scouting patrols. I do believe however that I will set up headquarters at Janow, at least for the day. We have advanced far enough ahead of Tenth Corps, and still have not encountered Russians in force. I do not want to get strung out ahead and ground under when the Ivans finally do get their act together.”

“Yes sir,” replied the sergeant, and he gave a final salute before turning his mount around and galloping back down the road to town.

“It would also be agreeable to spend the night in a decent house, unlike last night,” Hanucz noted. “Maybe we can appropriate the mayor’s? I know his type from Bukovina. He’ll have the best of everything in the town.”

“An excellent idea, Leutnant Hanucz!” Borek responded. “Now, I want you to fall back and collect your section. Bring them up; they are going to reinforce positions in the town. And I,” he stated with relish, “am going to discuss a few things with this mayor.”

19 AUGUST 1914

The band was playing the March of the Defenders of the Sambre and Meuse. The regiment, in blue jackets and red pantaloons, advanced with a splendid order against the Germans around Dieuze, bayonets fixed, coming on crisply at the double-quick. The 276e regiment d'infanterie held the centrepoint of the advance upon Dieu on the right flank of French 2nd Army in Lorraine, racing forward across the flat ground to come to grips with the Germans beyond.

This was not going to be easy, however. Regular troops had already tried to take Dieuze the day before and been driven back by the German defenders. A second attack on a larger scale had been formed at once and sent forward, and the 276e and 131e regiments were attacking the centre of the city alone. Not less than four divisions comprised the right flank of 2nd Army, which had 180,000 men. That they were in fact outnumbered by the force opposing them, thanks to the German disposition which had concentrated troops in the north at the expense of defending Alsace, was as--of yet entirely unknown to them, and would be unknown to the regimental officers regardless.

What was known was that there was a shattered regiment ahead which needed relief and a city of Lorraine which needed liberation, and so the French came on at the quick step. It was a fine and splendid, hot summer day, and the in the fields the tall grass where cattle normally grazed reached up to the thighs of many of the men, slowing their progress, and, sadly, giving them no cover. For the peace only lasted for a few minutes at most, as a section of four German machineguns were laid on to the 131e regiment from a small copse to the regiment's right, and as soon as they were emplaced, commenced to fire down upon them.

The scene was one of the greatest bloodshed. The band of the 131e regiment was struck through with the bullets of two machine guns; they had been playing La Victoire ou la Mort and now they lived it. The surviving members, some wounded, continued to play and advance, and the officers, their sabres drawn, led from the front rank. There were many fatalities among their number, but as they passed the point where the earlier regular regiment had been penned down, men rose out of the tall grass to join the ranks of the two advancing regiments with a loud cheer. They had spent the night cold, hungry, and under constant fire, but they did not think their job done, and the generals watching to the rear congratulated themselves on the splendid élan of the French soldier.

Twice the regiment colours of the 131e regiment fell as the sharpshooters who had kept the 150e regiment of regulars pinned down over the night now turned their attention to picking off men in the ranks of the advancing 131e; twice they were picked up. The regulars rose up with their own colours, soaked in the dew of the morning as they had been held close to the body of the Captain who now commanded the regiment through the night, and advanced in tandem with those of the 131e. In the meanwhile, rows of men toppled under the action of the four German machineguns, raking their way through the formation of the regiment as it advanced crisply in a swirl of red pantaloons and a cacophony of gunfire, music, and the shouts of men—shouts of courage, some, and shouts of pain as crimson blood splashed on blue tunics, the rest. But the shouts of courage drown out the others, in the world and in the hearts of the men, and they continued to advance.

Charles Peguy, commanding the 19th platoon of the 276e Regiment, was all the more pleased by the splendid show. As a poet he was naturally taken with a love for his country; for all the beauty in it; and he had volunteered at once. Since the 11th he had commanded this platoon and now he led it forward on the attack. The terrible slaughter in the neighboring 131e excited his passion to press on, even as the more thinly spread regulars who had attacked the day before also fell in with them here. They were now within a clear field of fire for the German rifles ahead, and such a calvacade was at once directed upon them. The order to fire was promptly given.

“Fire, fire! Faster, now, for France!” Charles cried out, sword thrust forward, and set a pace so fast that the double-quick began nearly a run, anticipating the order a moment later for the men to charge, which the officers, sabres flashing in the sun, provided the example for. The small magazines of their Lebel-Berthiers were expended in a moment, a total of four rounds from each man and then it was down to cold steel. To the right a battery of 75's had been raced forward by their battery horses to a position in front of the advancing 131e regiment, and even as the machineguns tore pitifully into the horses and the men of the batteries they commenced to fire, heaving in shell after shell and putting eighty rounds on the German machine-guns in a heartbeat. The rapid thud of the guns firing could be heard all across the field, the bark of the light shells throwing out shrapnel through the German position to the right.

Ahead, the German fire had begun terribly intense, and Charles felt an abrupt heat above his head; he glanced up for a moment to see that a bullet had crissed his right ear and a bit of blood was showing. He ignored it and twirled his sword once more, as his men paused in a moment's hesitation from the intensity of the German fire. “Reload! Put it them, and then give them cold steel!” It was just like 1870; except that this time, it was France attacking, and Germany defending—and thus would France's humiliation be avenged.

The exchange of fire at close range was very brief. The French rifles were scarcely better than single-shot with such magazines and all of the French officers wanted to get to grips with the bayonet at close range with the Germans. Charles certainly did not hesitate; he pushed forward once more, and only then did he realize that he was the only officer of his company still unwounded and leading the men. Taking the duty in stride with the mad fervour of a Romantic for occasions like these, he ran along the front in clear view of every German rifleman, gesturing with his sword.

“Up and forward! Up and forward!” He shouted, screaming, to be sure that the whole of the company rushed forward as they now did to come to grips with the Germans at the bayonet. To the German defenders this was to much; they were not prepared to contest Dieu with cold steel and they fell back after only brief hand to hand fighting, leaving Lieutenant Peguy's sword unbloodied. Thus did the 276e regiment press on into the town, which the Germans neglected to fight in street to street, with what seemed a genuinely civilized sentiment.

Dieu was taken, but the 131e and 276e regiments had suffered 20% casualties in the attack, and the regiment which had attacked the day before a total of 40% from both of the combats. Other regiments involved in the operation on either flank had generally suffered at least 10% and sometimes 15% casualties. The Germans had retreated in good order, and that was exactly what the Bavarian Prince Rupprecht, the commander of the army against which the French fought, had intended. The situation was untenable in Alsace, and he intended a victory here that would reverse it.

19 AUGUST 1914

As it stood, Russian II Corps was now advancing toward Lyck in East Prussia. It had commenced its advance from the area of the town of Augustow on the southern edge of the Augustow Forest, a nearly impenetrable mire which was crossoed only by two rail-lines, which met at Augustow on its southwestern edge with a third that ran along the south fringe of the forest. This made Augustow a crucial point for the Germans to capture and it was the first objective of 3rd Army. 4th Army was in the meanwhile advancing from the Klaussen area toward Grajevo on the Russian side down one of the rail connections in the area between the German and Russian railroad networks; this force was entirely unopposed. 3rd Army was not.

The commander of Russian II Corps, attached to Rennenkampf's First Army, had succeeded in getting sufficient intelligence out of the morass of the East Prussian wilderness to realize that his advance on Lyck was in serious trouble. He had halted in some forest inside East Prussia, and generally brought his men to the top of a slight rise, anchoring his left flank on the easternmost of the Mausurian lakes. There they entrenched as they had been taught by their experience in the Russo-Japanese war, but the entrenchments were minimal, and they were lacking in wire.

By the afternoon of the 19th it was soon blatantly clear that indeed II Corps was facing the opposition of a whole Army. Around 10 AM that morning there had been an exchange of fire with the cavalry scouts of the force; by 2 PM the troops were in sight and the fighting commenced immediately. Reports soon confirmed that they were facing Saxon troops, and indeed there were two corps engaged against the Russians, Saxon XII and Saxon XIV corps of Hausen's 3rd Army. Neither of the corps were yet fully engaged as XII Corps had difficulty in getting into position against the lake and XIV Corps' frontage extended to the right of II Corps in a nebulous area where Rennenkampf's dispersed position had left but a single detached division for many miles of front with which II Corps was now desperately trying to get in touch.

The Germans attacked under the support of their divisional artillery; the Russians could not count on their corps artillery, for it had been held behind in the poor terrain and by the speed of the advance. They had been surprised to find the enemy here, for their intelligence reports of the day earlier had reported the area entirely deserted, and they hoped he had not been there long and that a stiff attack might dislodge him. They were wrong. For the next four hours the Germans attacked and they were thrown back. Despite lacking their corps-level artillery in the battle the Russians stood their ground doggedly, repulsing each German attack and inflicting a vicious casualty rate upon the Saxons. Thanks to this defensive effort and the confusion on the extreme left of the Russian formation thanks to the German efforts to bring their forces around the lake, 32nd Infantry Division of the XII Corps was entirely disordered and essentially ineffective by the end of the day, and the other divisions of both corps had, with the exception of one, also been badly handled.

Ernst Freiherr von Hoiningen was the commander of XIV Corps and he knew that his force had not done well during the day. But he had received a report from the commander of the 18th Uhlans regiment attached to the 24th division—which was as-of-yet still unengaged and pressing forward through the dense forest on the left--which was very interesting. Immediate duties, however, prevented him from dealing with the report's conclusions at once.

“2nd Sachisches Fußartillerie reports readiness, Sir,” his chief of staff stepped away from the field wireless. In addition to the field wireless, of course, each German Army had at least one full professor of mathematics attached to it to handle coding; though that was scarcely necessary in breaking the enemy codes, for the Russians often transmitted in the clear. The Germans had no such concerns for their own wireless use.

“Orders from General Hausen were clear,” he replied. “We commence firing at once and send orders for the 40th division to initiated the ordered withdraw from the field under the cover of the corps artillery, as planned.” In the distance, Von Hoiningen could hear the corps artillery of XII Saxon just now opening up against the Russian positions as well. A full regiment of 10.5cm howitzers, and they were about to be joined by a second, whereas the Russians had so far not brought any heavy artillery into play on the field—it would have been much worse if they had, and it was already a bloody charnel house out on the field before Von Hoiningen.

“Certainly, Sir. What about the report from the 18th Uhlans?”

“It seems we have a real opportunity there, but I'm worried that if we wait that General Hausen will hold back the 24th Division out of fear that they could become disordered or lost in the forest in the night. I say that we shall take the risk and order them ahead and then I will report the action to General Hausen after we have commenced the withdraw of 40th Division as per our instructions. Now let's get those artillery batteries into action!” The sentence came with a tight look on Hoiningen's face, for he knew how badly the men of the 40th division had suffered that day and he did not want to prolong it further.

“At once, General.” His Chief of Staff could sense the opportunity as much as he could—for the report was clear, the 18th Uhlans had encountered nothing to the left of the Russian formation. The Russians they had been fighting were anchored only by air, and elements of the 24th Division might well already be further east than their defensive line was. It was an opportunity that had to be snatched without hesitation. Hoiningen's Chief of Staff gave the orders for the corps artillery to commence and then at once returned.

“What are the orders I shall send to the commander of the 40th division, then, General?”

“The 40th division shall continue to advance throughout the night—slowly, and with the utmost caution—but without halting. If they encounter enemy forces in the night they must attack at once directly at them; there is to much confusion in a night action to allow for finesse or the division to retire.”

With a crisp nod his Chief of Staff turned away, leaving Hoiningen to look out over the dark black of the primeval forest, much of which had surely not seen men in it for decades, or centuries, and to spots where fires wafted up from some of the ground cover burning; to the sight of the units ahead, and the feel of the sun as it set, casting its heat upon the back of his neck. Then the corps artillery opened up with such a thunderous power and awesome sound as to shake loose even his thoughts, and after a moment of listening to it roll across the forest he turned back to the map laid out on a table in the tent of his field headquarters and, half-shouting over the din of the nearby howitzers, directed the notation of the changing positions of the two divisions upon it. The longer the report to Von Hausen waited, the better.

20 AUGUST 1914

In the early pre-dawn of the morning the nervous Hoiningen, who had scarcely been able to sleep the whole night as he waited for word of the disposition of the 40th division, was rewarded with the arrival of a dispatch rider. He had come from the division, though it had taken him several hours as he had been lost twice in the dense forest, and he had nearly foundered his mount in his effort to make up time. One of the enlisted personnel of the Corps headquarters was walking the horse down as the young lieutenant came to attention and saluted stiffly.

“Sir! A dispatch from 40th division headquarters, Sir!” The bag was handed over with more of the Saxon flair than the usual Prussian efficiency by which the army was stereotyped.

Hoiningen at once opened the dispatch bag and pulled out the letter. It read:

General, I have brought my division in good order to beyond the Russian lines without opposition. I am now prepared to swing into the rear of the Russian position and attack. We are prepared for the attack and most disorder in the ranks from the night advance has been rectified. The 18th Uhlans are deployed to my left as a screen and I await only your order to execute a right pivot
There was a time when even waiting to consult with one's staff was pointless—with the long ride of the dispatch rider ahead, the timing would work out just fine.. Or it should, at any rate. In a hasty scrawl, Hoiningen wrote out the order that General Thielmann would need:
Right pivot and attack at once.
Von Hoiningen
He folded up the shorter note, put it in the pouch and handed it over to the rider at once. “You know the route you took, Lieutenant, and you can take it back—with all speed!” A pause, and then, in the direction of his staff: “Get this man a fresh horse!”

Abruptly a towering column of dirt appeared perhaps five hundred meters ahead, and the roar of the shell in flight and then of the impact followed each other as twin buffets, and then another, and another. Hoiningen winced. The Russians brought up their corps-level artillery over the night, the bastards. That was a feat rivalling what the 40th Division had just done; it was always run to underestimate the Russians, but now it would surely do them no good. They were firing HE, which was idiotic, but it might have been the only shells they had available, and they killed just as well against an exposed position.

The dispatch rider was already off on the ordered horse when Hoiningen's chief of staff came up and spoke over the noise of the shelling: “Freiharr! Permission to commence counterbattery fire?”

“Granted!” A moment later: “And send a wireless message to General von Hausen, reporting that the 40th Division is in position to attack the Russian rear.”

His Chief of Staff's look was positively feral: “At once, General!”

20 AUGUST 1914

It was evening on the 20th and the fighting that day had considerably intensified. Moltke was far from it, but his thougths were never far from it at all, in fact, they were on the conflict constantly, without wavering, the concentration that he fancied his beliefs had inspired in him. Yet it seemed to do no good; the sun was setting outside, the town around them particularly quiet with the nature of the huge military presence, and wireless and telegraph his means of communication with the armies under his control. Now a decision would have to be made about one of those armies, and he was finally ready to make it.

Moltke took one last look at the estimated position of the units of the Russian 1st Army on his map, and nodded to himself. The time for a decision had come. The northern flank of the Russian army had been entirely collapsed in the attacks which I Corps and the reserve of 8th Army had pressed home since the 17th, and the main frontage of the Russian 1st Army was being badly pressed by the rest of 8th Army in turn; all of which left 9th Army unengaged. Though 9th Army had only one full-strength and two slightly understrength corps it still provided a powerful force, and with reports of the general collapse of the northern portion of the Russian 1st Army, Moltke was regaining his confidence.

He had been badly shaken by the discovery that they were facing at least two fully mobilized Russian Armies. The plan had expected little to no opposition in the sweep through Congress Poland and along the west bank of the Nieman which would ultimately end in a union with the Austrian forces in Galicia and the removal of the great Polish salient from which a dagger could be held into the heart of the Prussian Crownlands. Then the railroads would do their deadly work against the French, if fate and the Kaiser willed it.

But now he was presented with the sort of opportunity that Schlieffen had longed for before his death. Cannae. He had doubted it at first, but it was confirmed. The 9th Army was really in the position for it, and now he could not hesitate any longer or else he would lose the opportunity. He had already issued instructions for his Staff to draw up the orders.

At that moment, however, Colonel Hentsch came in to the room in the hotel where Moltke the Younger had set up his command headquarters in Bossau. “Sir!” He saluted. “We have confirmation from 3rd Army. The 40th Division of XIV Corps and XII Reserve Corps have broken through the Russian lines around Augustow and have carried out a flanking attack with success against the Russian forces there in corps strength; the Russians are now in retreat.”

“And to the north, Colonel?” Moltke asked as his mind raced on how this changed the situation once more.

“Just the last wireless report, that XI Corps is being pushed back by fierce resistance in the woods to the north and that General von Hausen has dispatched the cavalry reserve of his Army to assist that force.”

“Very well. And from the south?”

“Twenty minutes ago Von Kluck sent in confirmation that he had moved his Army headquarters to Mlawa and that 1st Army was continuing to 'advance direction Warsaw'.”

“Any word on that corps spotted by his cavalry screen withdrawing northward?”

“None, Sir.”

“And Fourth and Seventh Armies are still unengaged,” Motlke mused to himself, albeit out loud, and paused for a moment, staring off, then nodded. “Alright. I am issuing orders for 9th Army to pivot right—to the south—against the flank of the Russian 1st Army. While you were gone, Colonel, we've had confirmation that their northernmost units are in total disarray. If we act quickly we might well secure the destruction of the Russian Army in the vicinity of Vilkoviski.”

Colonel Hentsch was quite worried, being a cautious and conservative man, but though he might give advice as a representative of OHL to the commanders of armies, he would not presume to question the decision of the Supreme Commander himself, and so he nodded tightly as Moltke turned to have the necessary dispatch made. Slowly the picture of the battle was becoming clear, and with it, boons for Germany, but Moltke would not dare let himself think of the full magnitude of those possibilities until the situation in the South became clear, for that was the most critical thrust and for the plan to avoid being a total disaster it could not be bogged down; there were the French to worry about in the west, after all, and right now the French were doing distressingly well.

21 AUGUST 1914

The French Army had held Dieuze for little more than a day and now it was in danger of losing it. On the 20th of August, after allowing the French to penetrate deeply into German territory, Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria had launched his counterattack with Sixth Army. First the advancing French had run headlong into prepared defences where the French units had been torn to shreds by massed machine-gun and artillery fire as they advanced in column with the bayonet. But this time the Germans had not fallen back after inflicting casualties on the French.

This time, from the moment the French charges had been halted under the thunder of the guns and the clatter of the maxims, grim men in feldgrau had risen up from behind cover and, firing their excellent Mauser rifles with great rapidity, gone on the counterattack. They were supported against the French light artillery by the action of their own 10.5cm howitzers massed from all the corps and the Army's artillery concentrations, and in counterbattery firing the 105's showed their excellence.

France's commanders had not been expecting this. Mulhouse had fallen to them, and today the horses of the French army had drunk in the Rhine. The Army of Alsace was advancing rapidly against Colmar in the face of a single German division of men raised from the area, which was falling back and not attempting to contest it; the rest of the German forces had already been driven back. At the same time, the vigorous attack of First Army by Dubail was across the River Sarre and threatening to cut a gap between Strasbourg and Rupprecht's own army further west. In that sense the attack came as a total surprise.

It was launched with a fury that sent the French reeling at once. By 1700 hours the French were within a general retreat before the advance of Sixth Army, and particularly in the Dieuze area the Germans were rapidly making up their lost ground. In the same way, the French Fifth and Third armies of Lanrezac and Ruffey had faced unexpectly stiff resistance as they approached Thioville and Metz, and there was a stern and confused fight developing in the forests of southern Luxembourg as Fifth Army under Lanrezac pushed on into that country only to find great masses of German troops concealed among the woods, where their prepared machinegun and artillery emplacements mowed down the French, so visible in the forest in their bright red and blue uniforms.

So whereas the situation in Alsace appeared to be a great victory, and Colmar was surely soon to fall into French hands, in the space of a single morning the situation in Lorraine and Luxembourg had been transformed completely. Joffre was not worried, though: he calmly reviewed the news, and noted the success of Dubail. Even if the other attacks failed, if Dubail broke through the Germans would be outflanked and not merely Alsace-Lorraine would be recovered, but the German position in much of the Rhineland would be threatened. Even by the next morning the danger was not recognized.

The full magnitude of Rupprecht's counteroffensive was not yet at that time clear to anyone except those upon the ground. And there it was far more serious than Joffre by the dawn of the 21st understood. To the men on the ground, however, it was a struggle of life or death as the artillery rained down and the Germans relentlessly advanced in the counterattack, with all of the courage of the French, and considerably more dexterity. Taking cover, rising and charging, machineguns in close support, it all combined. The artillery and the machineguns in particular served to strip the French from their own support.

Peguy's 276e Regiment had been resting after the taking of Dieuze on the 19th. Now it was being pressed into service to defend the area as the regiments which had advanced beyond it retreated in disorder. Charles Peguy himself was now effectively the Captain of a whole Company, when he had been in the service for a very short time. The Germans were coming on, on the counterattack, and after taken Dieuze the day before he intended to hold it; the blood of his men had been invested here and he was not going to see it lost after that had happened. It was French soil, and it would stay French.

No trenches were dug; it was not the French way, and anyway Peguy had not been taught any tactics for entrenchment. Instead he simply had his men lay prone in the tall grass and wait as the vicious shelling dug through their ranks, until the storm of shrapnel down upon them had passed. Then the Germans came on, firing as they did, gray shapes scarcely visible through the grass.

“Company—rapid fire!” Peguy shouted, infurtiated at his own position in cover; but his men were also laying prone, and so he stood it as they fired desperately, reloaded, and continued to fire, as the artillery moved on to smash at other portions of the regimental front.

Countless men in gray fell down before them, dead or wounded, and waves could be seen rising up and advancing, passing elsewhere to get to grips with the French units on the outskirts of the city. Waves rose up against them as well, and the men were shot down in fury as though they did not exist. But they were coming close, and closer, and there were more and more of them and Lieutenant Peguy realized that his men were wavering, that they were not prepared to face that charge.

But I am! His thoughts ran, spasmodically, desperate and intense. If his men faced the Germans at close range, laying down prone, they would flee rather than fight so disadvantaged, not standing on their feet as men; yet if they stood to fire they would be slaughtered. It was natural, then, that he chose the third way, and the absolute madness of it in these circumstances mattered not as he found the resolution in himself to provide the example and give the order.

“Fix bayonets!”

The men along the line wondered, as they saw the Germans coming on, closer and closer, still, at the madness of their exhuberent volunteer of a commander. But they obeyed, and the cold steel was affixed to their Lebels. Still the Germans came on, and the men fired on, not having been told to stop.

From the moment that Charles Peguy was sure that the men were ready, there was nothing more than to put his plan into action. He rose up, in clear view of the Germans, and drew his sword. “Up and forward!” He twirled his sword above his head and thrust the point right at the Germans as bullets flashed all around him, upon every side. “Up and forward, men of France, that you shall prove to your fatherland that you are not cowards!” He ran forward himself, without hesitation, at his own words.

With this example the company rose up as one single whole into the torrent of the fire of the advancing Germans, into the hail of bullets that felled a half-dozen of their number in the first heartbeat. Somehow their madly brave Lieutenant was not felled, and with this example they unhesitatingly charged with the bayonet straight into the mass of the advancing Germans, expending the ammunition in their small magazines as they did so but not halting to reload.

In a moment they met with the Germans. Bayonets plunged into flesh as bullets were fired at such a close range as to singe the clothing of men even as they tore through their bodies. Lieutenant Peguy was himself confronted by a young man; he had to fumble for his pistol, having forgotten to draw it, and the abandoned the effort and defended himself with his sword. The strappling lad cried out in German as he thrust with his bayonet, and the poet, possessed by the fire in his soul, skittered to the side but nonetheless felt the blade tear through cloth—but not flesh. Peguy's sword fell upon the man—no the boy—and he did not feel a trace of regret at the red blood that flowed. This was his sacred duty; the sacred duty of every man stretching back to the warriors of Homer.

Then in a blurred moment of confusion it was over, of bayonet thrusts and rifle-butts bashed into heads, of blood and gut and brain matter released back to the earth, of the passion in the hearts of men quenched forever by the matching fire in their foes. The Germans retired, falling back against their charge of the bayonet. But as the heat and the passion of the event fell and Peguy was overtaken suddenly with a throbbing headache, and immense tiredness, he realized that all around them they were alone, and in the distance, there was only gray. “Fall back to the town!” He ordered, and he was the last to go.

As he did, he realized to his horror and dismay that he was no longer the commander of a company, even an understrength one. The number of his men who still stood were scarcely greater than a platoon, and thus, in two days, he had gone from a platoon commander and back to one, by the carnage of this battlefield. His men fell back to their positions on the edge of Dieuze, and they held them for another fifteen minutes. Then a dispatch runner arrived, with dreadful news—the regiment was falling back on every side, and if they did not retreat now they would be cut off and lost. Only Peguy's company had held, and they had paid in casualties to more than half their number for the distinction.
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Post by Imperial Overlord » 2007-05-29 03:46pm

Nice. Spotted a typo (bolded).
“Your Excellency, I am most pleased to report that the German government has agreed to provide an assurance of the territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Belgian. The agreement is binding in all situations save a French violation of Belgian neutrality—and in that case, only a direct request from the King of Belgium for our aide would suffice to render it inoperative. This is endorsed by every level of the German government.”
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-05-29 03:49pm

Imperial Overlord wrote:Nice. Spotted a typo (bolded).
“Your Excellency, I am most pleased to report that the German government has agreed to provide an assurance of the territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Belgian. The agreement is binding in all situations save a French violation of Belgian neutrality—and in that case, only a direct request from the King of Belgium for our aide would suffice to render it inoperative. This is endorsed by every level of the German government.”

That was me knowing to much, seriously: The proper title of the King of Belgium is actually the King of the Belgians, even though the place itself is called the Kingdom of Belgium. I managed to combine the two in my brain while typing.
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Post by Dominus » 2007-05-29 05:39pm

Magnificent work, Duchess. I've always wondered what might have transpired had the Germans respected Belgian neutrality at the onset of war in 1914, which was one of the real sticking points that more or less justified the Hawk's entry of Britain into the war. The amateur historian in me can do naught but bow to your superior grasp of knowledge; the writing is excellent, and the attention to detail even more so.

Ah, with Germany remaining defensive on the western front and even more offensive in the east, this is set up to be an interesting reversal of its roles in OTL, though they certainly seem to be enjoying the same successes on the Eastern Front.

Alas, I suspect that we won't be seeing much action from the Highseeflotte, given the agreements more or less tacitly entered with the British government. Oh well, I suppose that's more or less in tune with the historical outcome of the naval aspect of the Great War. And the Russian Baltic Fleet is no match for its German equivalent, alas, and possesses a rather sharp numerical inferiority in both capital ships and screens, if I remember correctly. So no chance for action on that naval front, I suppose.

Ah, but what of the rest of the world? Will the Sublime Porte follow Germany into the war, as it did in OTL, or will the British perhaps not seize the two dreadnoughts that were promised to the Sultan, thus securing Ottoman neutrality? Of course, it would probably take much more than that to keep the Turks pacified, as the Ottoman Empire had been moving into the political orbit of Germany for some time now, IIRC.

This is looking fantastic in any case, and I'll be eagerly watching this thread for updates.

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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-05-29 05:53pm

It should be obvious, I think, that what has developed is a meeting engagement between the German and Russian offensives, very much like the situation in the Battles of the Frontiers between Germany and France historically, except that the Russians are much outnumbered. Neither side was expecting the other in such strength on the offensive.

The POD will be revealed later.
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-05-29 05:59pm

Incidentally, no fictional characters have been introduced so far.
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Post by Pelranius » 2007-05-31 02:39am

Out of curiosity, I assume that this is a revised version cleaned up from the previous edition posted a few years back on the same board?

Where's Christopher Purnell, BTW?

Very excellent quality so far. You've managed to integrate both the strategic maneuvering and the experiences of those on the ground very seamlessly into the same accounts.
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-05-31 04:39am

Pelranius wrote:Out of curiosity, I assume that this is a revised version cleaned up from the previous edition posted a few years back on the same board?

Where's Christopher Purnell, BTW?

Very excellent quality so far. You've managed to integrate both the strategic maneuvering and the experiences of those on the ground very seamlessly into the same accounts.
For the most part, yes, it's a revised version (mostly edit-corrected) of the older copy. The difference is that work is being restarted on it, and so once I've posted all the old, cleaned-up chapters, new chapters will be appearing.
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Post by CJvR » 2007-06-04 10:29am

The Duchess of Zeon wrote:The difference is that work is being restarted on it, and so once I've posted all the old, cleaned-up chapters, new chapters will be appearing.
Wonderful, it was a very intresting story and leaving it adrift in the middle of the mosquito infested Pripjet was cruel...
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Post by CaptainChewbacca » 2007-06-04 03:24pm

Excellent! The promise of new chapters of Heinrich will keep me going.
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-19 04:23pm

I actually posted chapters one and two as chapter one; I'll continue to do compressed double-chapters until the lengths of individual chapters get longer, which happened as we wrote the story.

Operation Heinrich: Chapter Three

A collaborative work by Marina O'Leary and Christopher Purnell

AUGUST 23rd, 1914

Mounds of dirt rapidly grew as the men of the 17th Brigade cut a line of hasty entrenchments out of ground near the village of Sabac, which following the retreat out of the Jadar and Macva region and the disasters along the Drina river in Bosnia was the only foothold left in Serbia to the KuK Armee. The men of infantry regiments 91 and 102 had been told that units in the XIII Korps would be taking over the defense of the area. When that corps had been tied up with Serbian Third Army on the other side of salient, they were told that the 21st Landwehr division would have the front. Now that the 21st had been decisively beaten by elements of the Serbian Second Army, the men of the 9th division were once more committed to block the advance of the enemy. They were tired and attrited by the actions on the Cer ridge, but their backs were to the Sava and any Serbian breakthrough could precipitate a disaster.

Infantry regiment 102 was deployed in the center of the defensive line established by 17th brigade, and maintained contact with infantry regiment 73 of the 18th brigade on its left. It held the road into Sabac and so did not have the advantages of terrain in its defense; in compensation the division had deployed two reserve machine-gun detachments with the regiment, and the field artillery brigade had brought up a division of guns, providing direct support from twelve 8cm field pieces. The machine guns were modern water-cooled Schwarzlose designs, but the field pieces were obsolescent pieces made primarily of brass with only a steel lining in the interior in order to save money. A further division of excellent Skoda field howitzers was available to 9th division but was involved principally in counterbattery fire to suppress the Serbian guns.

Morale among the unit was on a fine knife’s edge. The regiment had suffered heavily in the fighting on the Cer ridge and was looking forward to returning the favor from a good position. The seeming pointlessness and futility of the campaign had however had a negative impact on much of the private soldiers. The surviving NCOs and junior officers looked about nervously as the men grumbled about the high command; that the regiment had as its Oberstinhaber, the titular “commander” for whom it was named, Oskar Potiorek only made the situation worse. But their work left the soldats busy and occupied, and they were accomplishing it with such speed and relish as to reassure everyone of their remaining fighting spirit. The better sergeants and lieutenants nonetheless found themselves encouraging the men to dig in deeper and to prepare for combat, giving rousing speeches or brusque commentaries on how the 102nd Regiment would rout the Serbs. The mainly Czech soldiers responded best to appeals to personal revenge given by the seasoned NCOs, while the speeches on duty and loyalty by the officers largely fell flat.

Hauptmann Eduard Kotulek walked along the section of front assigned to his company, stopping to commend individual soldiers acting with alacrity and to encourage on those of his command lagging behind the rest. They were more individual fighting positions than a line of trenches as such; he looked with relief back from the line, somewhat, where a pile of sandbags provided a shield of sorts for one of the precious machine guns. His riflemen would keep the enemy at bay, but having that weapon to command the approaches to them was worth at least an extra platoon. Some of his fellow commanders had questioned the orders to dig in, objecting that it would make pressing home a counterattack at bayonet point more difficult. The captain had been blasé about the matter, though; their orders called for them to hold Sabac, nothing more, and risking the necessary for the superfluous was what had gotten 5th Army into this Serbian mess to begin with.

Kotulek noticed on his sergeants working with a squad of infantry to construct a more elaborate set of field entrenchments, and was pleased at the initiative so displayed. He approached, though none of the soldiers heard him, wrapped up as they were in satisfying the belligerently expressed demands of the NCO.

“Excellent work, Feldwebel” he praised, and alerting them to the presence of their company commander.

The sergeant turned around immediately and executed a sharp salute. Most of the rest of the squad turned about quickly, dropping shovels and bayonets as they did so. The sergeant delivered a sharp kick to the leg of one soldier beside him who failed to do so. Hauptmann Kotulek returned their salutes casually. “Keep up the good work, soldiers. The enemy is going to approach shortly, and your preparations may mean the difference between victory and defeat. Feldwebel… Smaczeny, isn’t it?”

The sergeant nodded. “Yes sir.”

“If you could spare a few moments…”

The sergeant spoke softly but firmly to the privates near him, and then hoisted himself onto the bank outside the trench line. “How may I be of service, sir?”

Kotulek observed the NCO closely. He was older, probably one of the long service careerists that were the backbone of the army. The captain quickly came to the impression that the sergeant’s observations would be quite worthwhile. “I was wondering where you came up with the idea for organizing your squad to produce this more elaborate structure of entrenchments.”

Smaczeny looked a bit reluctant to speak, at first. Finally he shrugged his shoulders. “I stole it from the Serbs. When we were fighting on the ridges I noticed how they dug in well and good. We captured a few prisoners and I asked one of them about it. He claimed they picked it up from the Russians. Whether it’s true or not, I figured it was a good idea to dig in like they had. It was damned hard to dig them out, after all.”

The Hauptmann smiled in good humor. “Nothing to be ashamed of, Feldwebel. Entrenching like this is mentioned in our tactical manuals, but I haven’t seen it used before. Now that you have reminded me of it, I am going to order the rest of the company to dig in the same manner. Hopefully the Serbs will grant us enough time for that.”

“Begging your pardon, sir,” the sergeant began, “but the Serbs haven’t exactly been in the habit of giving us much of anything except bullets and shells.”

“True, true,” Kotulek conceded. “But this time we will be doing unto them. Fight well, sergeant.”

It was an obvious dismissal, and the sergeant saluted again before jumping back down into his trenches to take over direction of the action once more. Kotulek spent the next hour spreading the word to entrench as groups in continuous lines. The time passed quickly, and the sun rose in the sky to its highest point almost without anyone noticing. The company found time to set up relays to provide hot meals for lunch, sent in relays by squads before returning to their positions. It was the early afternoon before the first Serbian shells began landing near the trench line. Following the instructions of their NCOs the soldiers of the company huddled down in the trenches, secure from all but the most unfortunate of direct hits. One landed in the trenches of a squad from the first platoon, and for a sickening few moments sharp cries of anguish and pain resounded across the company’s front.

The artillery barrage lifted within an hour as Austrian guns began pouring fire across the trenches at unseen Serbian batteries. The company could hear the rapid-fire shelling of the field batteries as the enemy began approaching in earnest. A wave of Serbian infantry in their olive-green uniforms advanced at the double-step on the Austrian positions, seeming to stagger at moments when shells landed among them but otherwise advancing, bayonets gleaming in the sun. At five hundred meters the machine gun behind the company opened fire, its high pitched braaack-braaack-braaack sound of fire breaking through the normal din of artillery and scattered rifle fire. The front rank of advancing Serbians seemed to collapse and the ordered lines of advance broke down to isolated clumps of men. The artillery fire from the Austrian battery in the sector increased in intensity as the Serbians presented them with static targets. The men of Kotulek’s company began firing on them from their positions in the trench line, adding sustained volleys of rifle fire to the murderous scene.

Serbian officers and sergeants, realizing the danger of their position, moved up and urged the clumps of men to advance towards the Austrians. Most followed their officers as they waved the men onward; there was no cover to be had, so they attempted to rush the trenches as quickly as possible. The machine gun and accurate rifle fire exacted a terrible toll on the Serbians, but they kept coming, and their momentum carried them into the line of entrenchments. Fierce fighting occurred between the men of the company and their attackers, and often a shovel or knife proved more useful than the extremely long Mannlichers with their bayonets. Captain Kotulek fired off the available ammunition in his pistol leading a counterattack on part of the trenches with a few scratch reserves, and made use of his sword more than once. As the fighting wore on, though, the Serbians eventually decided that they had had enough. The appearance of the captain and the rallying effect he had on the men of the company was the breaking point, and the Serbian forces cleared out of the trenches and fled.

Afterwards, inquiring of the fate of Sergeant Smaczeny, a Zügführer in his squad was brought before the Captain. He informed the captain that the sergeant had been shot in the head by an enemy rifleman while leading a section of men to chase out a Serbian party in position to enfilade the local trench line. After reorganizing the company and reporting to higher headquarters, he began filling out a recommendation for the posthumous decoration of Smaczeny with the Bronze Tapferkeitmedaille. A pile of other work related to finishing up the affairs of soldiers killed in the engagement awaited his attention.

The attack on his company had been beaten off at a not-unacceptable price. The result for the rest of 9th Division was largely the same, though Corps headquarters had had to release a reserve regiment of the Marschbrigade to counterattack a breach in the lines of the 21st division. The fighting had worn out both sides for the time being, making the retention of a foothold in Serbia by the Austrian military a victory, but far from a decisive one.

24 AUGUST 1914

Erich von Falkenhayn, the Prussian Minister of War, had the unenviable task of updating Kaiser Wilhelm on the status of the German Armies on all their operational fronts. He had just gotten off the phone with Motlke, and before that he had been speaking to Von Bulow, the commander in the West. Now it was his duty to report on the operations to the Kaiser. One thing, at least, was made easy. The Kaiser was sufficiently excited to receive the report that he had come to the Prussian War Ministry himself.

Von Falkenhayn had been extremely dubious of Von Motlke's change of plans to the east. It had all begun in 1912, when data provided by the Austrians indicated that instead of the predicted thirty-eight days required for Russian mobilization, the Russians would actually require sixty days to mobilize. It would seem that this would guarantee the success of the Schlieffen Plan, but the sheer magnitude of difficulties the Russians had in mobilization made something else tempting appear: The chance that the Schlieffen plan could be executed after Russian Poland had been overrun by the German Army and a firm defensive front established on the line consisting of the Niemen, the Bug, and between them, the fortress of Brest-Litovsk.

As it turned out, their predictions about the mobilization time of the Russian Army had been totally wrong, and now Moltke was forced to improvise, to meet and try to defeat the Russian armies in the field now. So far it was going well; yet Falkenhayn had his doubts that this course would continue. To the Kaiser, however, they would be voiced in only the most subtle of ways.

What Falkenhayn had managed to do is, by getting the meeting held at the Prussian War Ministry, force Admiral Tirpitz to come to him rather than the other way around; the satisfaction of seeing the fork-bearded Admiral striding in behind him somewhat made up for the task of having to manage the Kaiser. On the other hand, it also brings to mind His Majesty's little 'scheme' which has been foisted upon us.

The two officers stood at the table, a small number of aides behind them, in a hardly-companionable silence. There was no point in sitting; the Kaiser, as expected, arrived quite quickly for the meeting. “Admiral, General,” he said graciously enough, an intense expression on his face, so given as it was to vivid gestures and emotion.

He only waited a second before asking an eager question—to Tirpitz. “Admiral, I am very interested in hearing an update on the progress of the Vistula expedition.”

Tirpitz managed to avoid smirking; Falkenhayn was not pleased, though he'd half-expected that the Kaiser would bring up the topic immediately.

“Your Majesty,” Tirpitz offered graciously. “The expedition is, as expected, proceeding most slowly. I would remind Your Majesty that it was stated when you proposed the expedition that the mine threat would force an advance scarcely greater than, and sometimes less than, a walking pace, and that even with the armour of these ships the Russian fortress artillery would present severe dangers.”

“Yes, yes, I recall all of that; yet it's working, is it not? The ships are advancing in supporting order, we have lighters out positioned to screen for mines, and the accompanying flanking parties on the shore of the Vistula have kept up?” The Kaiser's expression was one of the most intense interest, for he fancied himself quite the naval tactician though his actual skill was at best described as lacking.

“That is correct, Your Majesty, in every detail. But even so it is particularly slow-going through the shallow areas. The channels in those areas are very narrow, and the water is at such levels in August—it will go lower, your Majesty, and quite possibly strand the vessels until next spring—that the groundings are frequent even with all these measures taken and constant soundings. And of course the Russians have placed improvised mines in the channel on several occasions, and we must now use lighters to sweep for these, lest another of the ships be damaged and forced to be beached to avoid blocking the channel, as the Hagen was three days ago.”

Falkenhayn listened in distate. The whole crazed expedition had ultimately involved stripping an ersatz landsturm division from the western front and combining it with brigades taken from the garrisons of Posen and Königsberg and some heavy artillery, and combining it with a large number of requisitioned river craft, in an effort to bring the eight old Siegfried coastal defense ships (along with two elderly aviso's chosen solely because of their shallow draft) up the Vistula to attack Warsaw. The Kaiser had insisted on it and then that bastard Tirpitz had gone and supported him, to the point of supporting the note to Britain, all to save his precious battleships from the risk of a close blockade of France (which coincidentally was the only thing they were good for in Falkenhayn's mind).

“Very well,” Wilhelm said at last, seeming somewhat discouraged. “I was hoping the advance would be quicker; our sea power should be just as capable on rivers as a rule. You do not forsee any problems with the ships reaching Warsaw?”

“Your Majesty,” Tirpitz answered after a moment. “I do not think, as I have stated before, that they can be progressed save by great difficulty, and the use of lashed barges to reduce their draft, further than the confluence of the Bug and the Vistula. Fortunately, there is an admirable target for their 240mm rifles there—the Fortress of Novo Georgievsk, the most heavily fortified point in Russian Poland. Should our armies fail to cross the Bug further east I am certain that Novo Georgievsk can be reduced by the ships' arrivals and allow for a quick assault on Warsaw.”

Tirpitz had reasons to encourage the Kaiser, of course—the idiotic expedition was his fig leaf to cooperation with the Army, which had wanted the navy to blockade France and bombard the French coast. Tirpitz did not want to risk his ships to the hordes of French torpedo boats when he still believed they would be needed against Britain. So he had eagerly supported the addition to the note to London affirming that German ships would not transit the English Channel, and then backed the Kaiser's lunatic idea to prove that the navy was participating in the offensive operations. As a matter of fact the ships were, after a week, only at Wloclawek on the Vistula and taking their good time to reduce it before moving on. An expedition undertaken strictly on account of political manoeuvring is never pressed as hard as one which has a practical use.

“What of the reports from Spee, then?”

“He is proceeding against French possessions in the south Pacific, Your Majesty; after the reinforcement of the Bismarcks and New Guinea with two battalions of Chinese colonial troops we have not yet heard of his disposition, though the ultimate purpose of his operations is to take Tahiti, and, if additional troops can be provided, New Caledonia. Ultimately it would be my hope, Your Majesty, to get at least one of our battlecruisers into the Pacific to support him after the raid on the French West Indies is completed.”

“That would be an excellent opportunity to secure a greater colonial Empire. More's the pity about the Togoland,” he added after a moment—it had fallen to French colonial forces a few days ago. “Can we resupply Cameroun?”

“There is a plan being drawn up for resupply to take place via our liners in America carrying necessary freight—including arms for raising more native levies, if possible—escorted by a battlecruiser. It will take some time, however, and we have little control over the defence of Cameroun.”

“Very well. General von Falkenhayn?” The Kaiser's look was considerably less pleased—he had, after all, already heard about the fact that the day before the city of Colmar in Alsace had fallen to the French.

“You are already aware of the fall of Colmar,” Falkenhayn replied, deciding to get that out of the way first. “French forces continue to advance north through Alsace, and there is now nothing more than screening forces between them and Strasbourg—the city's guns will see action, though the Crown Prince's reserves are positioned to form a line which will keep the city from having to stand a siege. Fortunately, the situation elsewhere has changed dramatically.”

Von Falkenhayn smiled grimly, then. “Though Bulow's 2nd Army lost the Guard Corps to Von Kluck, the two ersatz landsturm corps he received in replacement have performed ably enough. His counterattack in the north has thrown the French back in general disarray toward Verdun. Mars-la-Tour and Conflans have been taken and Etain will soon fall. Von Bulow, however, does not intend to press against Verdun; he understands that his offensive is necessarily limited due to the presence of a French reserve Army which is certainly being committed even now.

“His Highness the Crown Prince is however, as stated, in a much more severe position.”

The Kaiser looked on with a first real look of grimness; it was his son's Army, after all. “I know his men have been driven out of Colmar but what is the rest of this situation of which you speak?”

“French First Army is on the verge of breaking through at Sarrebourg. If French First Army succeeds in taking Sarrebourg, the Crown Prince's Army will be cut off around the Fortress of Strasbourg from the rest of the front. Despite the reinforcement of one ersatz corps and ersatz division each to his Army, he remains outnumbered at least two to one and on poor defensive terrain by the forces pressing against him.”

“There are certainly measures being taken to relieve his Army?”

“Yes, Your Majesty. Crown Prince Rupprecht has been counterattacking aggressively against the French Army facing him; they are now retreating toward Nancy. He hoped to take the city but Von Bulow, recognizing the situation, has ordered him to pivot to the east from the gates of Nancy rather than try to press home an assault, and attack into the flank of French First Army. Rupprecht already outnumbered the French forces which were attacking him over the past weeks, and those attacks several attrited them while his own forces have not suffered so great of casualties; he is thus in a prime position to devote a fair position of his strength to a flanking attack on the French First Army in the Vosges, while the rest of his army forms a defensive line inside French soil on the river Meurthe.”

“Crown Prince Rupprecht's flanking maneouvre should be executed immediately.” The Kaiser amended a moment later: “If practical.”

“It will certainly be done as soon as practical,” Falkenhayn agreed, though that means practical for the maximum military advantage, “Now, Your Majesty, to the rest of the Eastern Front situation?”

“Certainly, General.”

“I am pleased to report that our 4th Army has been engaged in a battle around the Polish town of Osowiec against what appears to be the better part of two corps. These have been entirely routed and destroyed; nine thousand prisoners taken along with the artillery, and the rest of the Russians scattered. This forces appears to have been the right wing of the Russian Second Army, and its destruction leaves the path to Bialystok wide open for 4th Army.”

“How are we faring against the rest of Second Army?”

“I fear, Your Majesty, that the task of defeating Second Army has become difficult. 7th Army is pressing it very hard but the Russians are succeeding in retreating across the River Narev, with about three corps holding the Rozan-Ostrolenka area and points further northeast. General von Kluck, however, is pressing hard against the left wing of the Russian Second Army, a force of about the same size as the force that 4th Army destroyed; Moltke believes that a crossing of the Narev might be seized very soon. This will at least again force the retreat of Second Army.”

“What of the north, then, General?”

“Russian First Army has been forced by the flanking attack of our 9th Army to fall back upon the town of Simno, where extensive lakes afford a decent defensive perimeter without having to resort to a retreat behind the Niemen; they are, however, standing firm there. Moltke is trying to bring up 3rd Army from the south to form the right flank of the attack against this position, but there is some difficulty in traversing the Augustow forest even along an established rail-line. To deal with the danger of First Army retreating behind the Niemen he has dispatched the Eastern Front's General Headquarters cavalry reserve in a thrust against Kovno—all four cavalry corps.”

“Eleven divisions of cavalry? Splendid!” The Kaiser was looking very bright again. “Just the sort of thing that cavalry should be used for—grand encirclement from the flanks enmasse. It is a position worthy of my taking personal command.”

Falkenhayn hoped that he hid the instinctive wince at that comment. “Your Majesty, to take command of a mere Army in the field—an ersatz Army which would have to be formed to handle your direction of those cavalry corps, I might add—you would end up under the authority of General von Moltke, which would be unacceptable to the Imperial Dignity.”

“Ah, ah, you are right General von Falkenhayn, but it is still a pleasant thought. Very well. Keep me updated as the situation progresses, gentlemen; that is all.”

AUGUST 24th, 1914

Cavalry patrols were pushing out more aggressively now as First Army groped about trying to find contact with the enemy. Radio interceptions and decryption efforts seemed to indicate that Russian Fourth Army, previously between the First and the key objective of Lublin, was withdrawing to the north. The commander of First Army, General der Kavallerie Viktor Dankl, had insisted on some more tangible confirmation of the Russian movements before he committed to a rapid lunge at Lublin. That meant the 7th Uhlan Regiment, among the other cavalry formations available to First Army, was ordered to push ahead until it ran into Russians, hopefully then to take prisoners.

Dust clouded up behind the command group of Rittmeister Borek’s command group as the mounted unit pushed forward. So far, today, as yesterday, there had been no sign at all they were advancing deep into enemy territory towards a critical rail connection. It had been a fair tour of a fair land and had stoked enthusiasm among the Polish elements of the regiment, but it had also become rather boring. Borek shifted in his saddle uncomfortably; the urge to action, to do something, was even beginning to affect him. The dreams of a united Poland were pleasant, nor did he have any particular reason to be eager to die for the Habsburgs, but the situation was becoming… irksome. He was about ready to order a halt and perhaps spend the rest of the day hunting in some nearby woods when one of the patrols emerged into sight. They were trotting slowly, and as they approached Borek could make out a few bedraggled figures on foot strung out between the horsemen.

The Stabswachtmeister in charge of the patrol had evidently been directed to the location of the captain’s group, and so Borek pushed aside the prospect of finding deer or boar to deal with the matter at hand. He indicated the group should meet the patrol, and started off at a measured trot. The two groups met halfway, where the patrol halted and assumed a salute. Borek returned the gesture with studied ease. “Stabswachtmeister Poborski, I trust you have important news.”

The sergeant pointed at the men on foot, whom Borek looked over cautiously. Their light green uniforms were coated over in a layer of dust, and their faces and hands were streaked with grime. The cut of the uniform was obviously Russian. “Indeed so, sir. We bagged ourselves a couple of prisoners. They were among a group of stragglers on the side of the road we ran down.”

Borek whetted his lips. This was rather more like it. “Did you make contact with a main body of Russian forces?” There was eagerness in his voice, now.

Poborski shook his head reluctantly. “We didn’t, sir. This group had dropped off behind the rearguard, and they may have been deserters. These two were Poles and shouted their surrender after we had hacked down the rest of their unit, or group. I felt it was more important to get them to higher headquarters than to continue the pursuit.”

His Rittmeister mulled over the situation a bit before reaching a reluctant conclusion. “You were correct, Poborski. And you have my congratulations. Let us see what these men have to say.”

With that, he turned his gaze from the sergeant to his captives, and switched his tongue from the army standard German to aristocratic Polish. “Your war is over, gentlemen. Why don’t you tell us what we need to know, and you will pass on to a prisoner of war camp. There will be comfortable beds and full provisions for you. If you are truly Poles, you owe the Tsar nothing.”

One of the men looked suspiciously at Borek, apparently put on edge by his accent. “We owe the Germans nothing either, whatever you high and mighty nobles say. You turned your coats during the partition and left us commoners to rot, and now fight among yourselves for the oppressors whose boots you lick. The only true path to the development of the Polish people is through the proletariat.”

The man’s attitude angered Borek, so he leaned over from his saddle and slapped the insolent prisoner hard across his face. “Another one of those yid Communards working in a steel factory before the Russians conscripted you, eh?” He sneered openly now at the socialist. “You will find that true Poles pay no attention to the mendacious drivel you vermin spout.” Borek challenged the second man with a glance. “What about you? Are you another Jew-loving atheist bastard?”

The second prisoner shrugged. “Sir, I am an honest carpenter from Zamosc. The Russians conscripted me at the beginning of August. I just want to go home.”

Borek nodded in satisfaction with the man’s attitude. “You don’t need to worry about getting killed for the Russians now. You’ll be taken to a prisoner of war camp. After we finish off the Kacep you will probably be paroled. What unit were you with and what were you last doing.”

“I was in Ivanov’s company,” the prisoner replied, “and that was part of some regiment or other. I don’t really know much about that. We were in a Fourteenth Corps. Our last orders were to march rapidly on the road to Lublin and north. The pace was killing me, so I guess I didn’t risk much by take leave.”

“No, I suppose you didn’t,” Borek responded drolly. Behind his carefully controlled expression he placed the information. Fourteenth Corps was part of the Russian Fourth Army. The prisoner more or less confirmed the information that General Dankl was seeking. He decided then and there to send the Stabswachtmeister on to headquarters, and pulled out a pad to scribble orders on.

“I want you to take these prisoners to the Oberst as quickly as you can, Stabswachtmeister,” he ordered, as he finished writing up his dispatch. He handed the page to Poborski. “Quickly now. We need you out in the field as soon as you can get back.”

The sergeant saluted, and spurred his horse into a gentle trot. The prisoners, and the rest of the patrol, began moving as his horse set a faster past. It would be a hard grind for the prisoners on foot, but nothing they could not handle. It allowed Borek to claim credit for delivering the first prisoners to confirm the situation to Dankl, though only by a few hours. By the end of the day, First Army had new orders; they were to push to Lublin as rapidly as possible.

Operation Heinrich: Chapter Four.

A collaborative work by Marina O'Leary and Christopher Purnell.

25 AUGUST 1914

Heavy artillery rained down upon the fortress of Pultusk. Here, and to points north and east, the better part of Von Kluck's 1st Army. 1st Army had entered Russia first, on the 16th of August, and in nine days it had advanced as far as this famed town on the Narev, defended by a reasonably modern fortress. It was naturally the place to whence the efforts of Von Kluck's army should be directed, and besides that, naturally the place to whence Artamanov would retire with I Corps and the 15th Division which he had control over as a matter of necessity, and it was these forces, one corps and one division, which must hold the whole 320,000 men of Von Kluck's First Army.

They had the fortress of Pultusk as their aide, and little else. The Narev River was fordable here, and Pultusk had risen up to control the trade across the ford, and with it the fortress to defend the place militarily. The full might of the largest Army of the forces of the German Empire might be held here for only as long as the guns of the fort covered the ford, and this Von Kluck well understood. There had been of course no time for the Russians to prepare the fortress at all. It was very old, having been modernized several times, and equipped with obsolescent blackpowder artillery of Russo-Turkish war vintage, but in great quantities.

Von Kluck could wait to attack until the heavy artillery attached to 1st Army was brought up, and thereby reduce the fort of Pultusk. But that would take precious time, and he did not think he had it. Even now, 7th Army was viciously engaged all along the Narev with Samsonov's Second Army, which was holding at Ostrolenka and Rozan and thus preventing 7th Army from effecting a crossing of the river even as vigorous rear-guard actions were fought by some units still on the north bank to allow the rest of his force to escape, as it was so far succeeding in doing against the 7th Army, being as it was scarcely 35% of the strength of 1st army.

Artamanov was a paranoid, timid general and his main preoccupation had been avoiding getting his forces put under the commander of Samsonov, the commander of 2nd Army, but in this he had been finally overruled and Samsonov had seen to it that his position along the Narev was good, though there had simply been no time to prepare serious fortifications. I Corps had advanced far enough that the retreat across the Narev had been a desperate affair and there had been scarcely enough time to blow the bridge with the Prussian Uhlans nipping at the heels of the corps.

Pultusk, both the fort and the town of rather more than 20,000 people, was on an island in the middle of the Narev where it broadened and became shallow; there was thus extensive room to launch an assault on the island from every angle on the northern bank of the river, and thence to cross over from it to the far shore where the Russians, trusting in the fortress and the defences of the island, had made their defensive priorities the least, strengthening the other parts of the river where a crossing might be made first of all. To Von Kluck it was a matter which must be struck head-on and swiftly; so that is exactly what he did. The Prussian Guard Corps was ordered to take Pultusk by coup de main.

Artillery was hauled up through the night, both light field-pieces and howitzers. The artillery of four corps was focused on Pultusk; four regiments of 10.5cm howitzers blasted down upon the island—plus more divisional batteries in turn--and even more of the lighter 77mm pieces were arrayed on the shore of the Narev, pounding at the island as the Prussian Guards pushed their way along the river. A total of 80 x 15cm and 144 x 10.5cm howitzers and 432 7.7cm field guns were concentrated on Pultusk. The majority of the Prussian Guard on the attack were marching across the ford, with some commandeered boats providing an improvised diversion in the north. These had already been intercepted by a battalion of Russian field artillery and torn apart, though in unmasking itself the Russian battalion had guaranteed its own doom as the howitzers concentrated upon it. Despite all of that, a small force of men had landed from the boats and were now pinned down on the beach on the northeast part of the island, where they clung to life under a fierce and constant fire.

Artamanov's forces were in many cases understrength and lacking in their regulation numbers of machineguns and artillery. They still provided a valiant resistance as the Prussian Guards forged through the shallows of the Narev, chopping through the proud men of the Prussian Guard such that the Narev ran red with blood. Still they forged on, uniquely suited to their task: For the Prussian Guard, by an old regulation of Frederick the Great, allowed into its ranks only men who were at least six feet in height, and by this unexpected advantage it was guaranteed that at least none of the men drown under the weight of their packs, or were forced to swim, as they pressed across the river, even in the deeper spots (for the Narev was quite shallow in August).

For a while it seemed as though the attack might fail. The Prussian Guards were not dissuaded by the river, advancing in formation despite the current, pickelhaube'd heads gleaming in the pleasant summer sun as they strode through the water which was rarely more than thigh-deep. Even with the great severity of their casualties they pressed home the attack in perfect order and without a moment's hesitation. The river seemed to be a charnel house but it was not one which had stopped the Guards from carrying out their mission.

Despite all that, having gotten across the river they had to now press up into the town against the heavy fire of the defending Russians. Though these Russians were themselves under the heaviest of fire from the German 10.5cm howitzers (the field guns were now concentrating solely on the fortress, as their own troops had entered their fields of fire on the taking of the shore), they directed machine-gun fire from concealed positions and massed riflery. In this fashion they were held to the beach for twenty minutes as their numbers piled up behind them and it looked like they might be repulsed, a great mass of men in a small confined space taking extreme casualties.

The situation called for the heights of bravery, and so it was that the commander of the 5th Regiment of the Prussian Guards personally led a bayonet charge by his regiment into the town and into the teeth of the Russian machineguns. He was killed, but the attack tore a gap in the Russian defences just to the north of the fortress of Pultusk, and it was here that a young lieutenant, Otto von der Linde, who had just survived the charge, saw that the rear of the fortress was unprepared and vulnerable. At this moment he realized he must act, and he did, without hesitation and even as his men were still recovering from the shock of the charge and the close-combat.

His platoon had lost half its men killed or wounded in the crossing of the Narev and the bayonet charge of the 5th Regiment, but he did not hesitate despite his grievious numerical inferiority. The houses were cleared away from the fortress, of course, and there was open ground—it could be fatal, but as far as he could tell there were no machine-gun emplacements guarding the rear of the fort. Indeed, it seemed the greatest danger was from their own artillery pounding the fortress with such an intense fury from the massed howitzers.

“Follow me!” He shouted in a snap, and dashed forward at once, out of the cover of the town and toward the fortress, followed by his men. Other men saw that the platoon was advancing on the fortress and followed with the instinctive courage of the Prussian Guard. It was miraculous; they were not fired upon at all until the latest moment, safe when several of their own shells exploded in the area and caused casualties among the charging men. In total twenty-three men reached the fortress and it was only several old reservists, clerks or supply officers, who fired down on them with pistols most ineffectually as they charged up. The rear-facing guns of the fort, of which there were few, did not fire, and they were amongst these few pathetic defenders in a moment, who threw down their arms. With nineteen men following him and two guarding the prisoners and a wounded comrade, Lieutenant von der Linde charged on through the gun casements.

Those facing toward the town were empty. The Russians had simply not had enough time or personnel to man them. Ahead, the ancient artillery—rifled bronze pieces, poor imitations of the Krupp weapons of the 1870s—was still firing back at the crossing, trying to interdict it by the best efforts of the reservist fortress troops who manned them in limited numbers. They had no rifles to speak of; just a dozen for patrol purposes, and they were not skilled in their use. The casements of the fort had already suffered heavy damage and when Lieutenant von der Linde arrived with his men they raced through the gun batteries, seizing the men of the fort at point of bayonet. It was a magnificent thing, an incredible thing, and everyone was shouting in a confused din of many languages and contrary commands as they progressively took the fort. Fear spread, and any chance at a counterattack ceased.

“Throw down your arms! Thrown down your arms!” He shouted again and again, sometimes firing his pistol when men resisted, sword drawn as a symbol of authority, forcing the reservists in the fort to throw down their weapons even when only a few men followed him, even as the fort shuddered under the howitzer fire of their own guns. The Russians surrendered with a fear that reflected the bloodlust in Von der Linde's eyes which he did not even realize that he manifested until later reflection.

Even when the guns had ceased firing, though, the massed German artillery continued to pound the fortress. A shell unfortunately crashed down where part of Lieutenant von der Linde's party now was; two men were killed by it as it broke through the old brickwork there. Otto now raced to take the Russian flag, and indeed it was cut down in a particular haste. “Give me a flag!” He shouted; but there were no flags to be had. They had not taken any with them.

In desperation they scavenged for any kind of fabric which could be found, and in another three minutes they had hoisted up their own crude signal—a German flag made of a white shirt, a black coat, and a red pair of pants strung through in the right order and hastily raised. The firing continued for another few minutes and then slackened and died. All throughout the town the Prussian guards were now advancing, and Otto, from his vantage in the fort he had captured with less than thirty men, saw with surprise that the Life Guard Hussars Regiment was now plunging through the water of the Narev upon their horses, even as a few shots from stray pockets still holding onto the southern back cracked over their heads.

On guiding their horses up the bank of the river's northern branch, they raced passed the fortress at a full gallop before plunging into the narrow streets of the city beyond, and down a broad avenue in particular. It was here that Otto realized what they were doing; the bridge across the south branch of the Narev had not been blown to give the troops on the island a chance to retreat, and this gamble of a cavalry charge right through the crowded streets of the city was an effort to take it before it could be blown. The Hussars charged right into the press of the fleeing Russians, and as the desperate men ran for their lives and the Hussars galloped up to their rear there was naturally a compression into a dense mass in the streets. The Hussars, having no choice, began to hack their way through.

On blood-slicked cobblestone streets the Life Guard Hussars cleaved their way through the mob of the fleeing and broken Russians, until they had reached the bridge where the engineers tried to hold out long enough to let the engineers across, waiting for orders to blow it. They were to late; with the Russian troops now scattering in every direction to avoid the cold steel of the Hussars, a charge was once again possible and this swept down and over the bridge and took prisoner the engineering party in time. Immediately four regiments of Hussars and one regiment of the Guard Uhlans were sent across the bridge to bite into Artamanov's corps as great numbers of troops began to work their way across the ford of the Narev, even while the engineering battalions began to erect a series of pontoon bridges around the city and repair the bridge with its blown centre span across the northern channel of the river.

For the action of the Prussian Guard Corps on the 25th of August at Pultusk there were awarded twelve Iron Crosses, four of the First Class and eight of the Second; the Pour le Merite was awarded three times, to the commanders of the Fifth Regiment of the Guards, the commander of the Life Guard Hussars, and Lieutenant Otto von der Linde. One out of every five men involved in the attack was killed or wounded. Artamanov, on the arrival of the German cavalry, immediately began to withdraw toward Ostrow, and was pursued by Von Kluck with the utmost vigor. The Russian 15th Division, cut off from I Corps, appeared to fall back upon Wyszkow on the River Bug.

25 AUGUST 1914

Massed rifle-fire crackled sudden and hot out of the woods on the northern edge of the Augustow Forest. A half-dozen Cossacks of the sotnia toppled from their saddles as the hail of 8mm Mauser fire swept over them. Then came the Hussars and Uhlans of the 3rd Army, driving a half-dozen Cossack sotnias before them with a mix of rifle-fire and steady charges of horse.

The cossacks did not stay long. They retreated to the north, their job being only to scout. They sent one sotnia quickly with the news and the rest made a quick fighting retreat. They raced to the rear on their horses, and then rapidly dismounted and met the advance of the German cavalry with a few volleys of fire, then swiftly mounted up again with the usual Cossack dexterity and once again made another retreat. In this way did the German pursuers, who had themselves sent word back of their discovery, gradually fall behind out of wariness.

At one point through the forest a railroad had been cleared. It was single-track, but with several passing sidings and broad paths and either side of it where the construction equipment had gone through, making natural roads. Otherwise the Augustow Forest was, like all the forests of the area, dense, black, impregnable. The German cavalry—the regiment in particular advancing down the railhead was the 3rd Saxon Hussars—soon encountered a more serious obstacle. The railroad tracks had been ripped up for a space of several hundred yards and dirt and chopped-down trees and rock piled up, along with trenches dug.

There was a long straight stretch of track here, indeed, a good quarter-mile long; for this was on the northern edge of the Augustow Forest and the forest here was thinning. It was the last really densely wooded place, and combined with the straight stretch of track it was perfect for the Russians to dig in. There was a single infantry regiment there, 97th General-Field Marshal Graf Sheremetev's Livonia Infantry Regiment. It was dug in well, and it actually had wire. It was supported by two batteries of 76.2mm field pieces, but only four machine-guns.

This was the furthest south and west that Rennenkampf's army still stood after the destruction of II Corps, and some of the survivors of II Corps were also dug in here; most had surrendered or simply fled through the vastness of Augustow Forest, lost. The rest of the force consisted of nine Cossack sotnias, six out screening, which were now falling back, and three in reserve. The commander of the 1st Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division was present in person, and on getting word of the Cossacks falling back, he prepared his guns.

The Cossacks soon reached a point where they could rely on the support of the artillery, and so the Russian guns opened up on the advancing 3rd Saxon Hussars. Under the barrage of twelve rapid-fire light guns the Hussars fell back at once, suffering casualties as a hundred shells rained down a minute. At this the three reserve sotnias were ordered to counterattack, and soon a confused cavalry battle along the railroad and in the dense forest and the meadows interspersed through it here on the verge of the blackness was raging, little bands of men fighting all over on their horses with no discernable front line. Other German cavalry regiments were soon drawn in all along the line.

Before the situation became hopelessly confused, though, the 3rd Hussars had gotten a party from their headquarters back off to the rear, equipped with a signal torpedo which they lay in the track about a mile further back after a hard ride alongside the rails at full gallop. They had done it not a moment to soon, for the first of the commandeered Russian trains from the marshalling yard at Augustow was coming up, boxcars packed with soldiers and handled by the engineers of 3rd Army.

The signal torpedo exploded as the train passed over it and at once the crew began emergency braking, the soldiers cramming to peer out the doors as they looked on in nervousness and curiousity at what was happening. The commander of the regiment on this train stepped out from the first of the boxcars. “Lieutenant!” He shouted to the beardless youth who had led the signalling party. “Report!”

“Sir,” the lieutenant saluted. “We're in a hard cavalry engagement with cossacks a klick and a half ahead, and another third of a klick beyond that the Russians are dug in, regiment strength to be sure with artillery.”

“Very good. There is a train carrying three batteries twenty minutes behind us—do you have a second torpedo?”


“Plant it a quarter of a mile beyond us, and when you've stopped that train, tell them to de-train their batteries and bring them forward along the rails with the greatest haste—on the authority of the Oberst commanding the Saxon Life Guard Grenadiers Regiment!”

The lieutenant did not even think of the state of his horses as he saluted once more, filled with glorious eagerness. “At once, Sir!” He then turned to his small party: “Fall in!--at the gallop!”

As the detachment rode off, the Colonel grabbed up a few members of staff and the colour guard. “Unmask the colours!” He ordered, and then he drew his sword, running back along the train with the colour-bearer at his side, ordering each company to dismount from the cars in turn and personally insuring that they were organized into marching order. By the time he had succeeded in getting it done, the artillery train to the rear had stopped, and on his orders, was offloading. In another hour, the Saxon Life Guard Grenadiers were advancing at the double-quick down the rails, boots tramping out 160 paces a minute. From the moment the teams were hitched the guns on the train behind they pounded ahead at a full gallop, the wheels of the caissons rattling over the packed dirt and gravel.

The Cossacks were having the better of the German cavalry when, coming out of the woods as if they were ghosts were men in grey uniforms, one line firing ten rounds rapid as the second line pushed forward, and then the first advancing while the second put fire down. They came on with gaudy flags and banners of the long military tradition of Saxony, and one prominent in particular: the banner which showed they were the Life Guard Grenadiers of the Kingdom of Saxony, carried in the front rank. Under the uncertain shade of the Augustow forest in the noonday sun the Hussars and Uhlans retreated behind the infantry as they advanced sternly, driving the Cossacks before them.

Soon they reached the point where the Russian artillery was dialed in; it had already opened fire, and pressing on would mean driving into the teeth of shrapnel and machine-gun fire without the support of their own guns. The Oberst of the regiment ordered his men to prone positions where the cover of the forest was most dense, and then waited. In another hour the guns came rolling up, and fifteen minutes after that they were almost positioned to engage the Russian batteries when the Russians saw them and commenced to fire.

The artillery crews redoubled their efforts under the pounding of the twelve Russian guns, and soon the eighteen German pieces were coming into action, one after the other, firing as rapidly as they could in a counterbattery action. With the guns concentrated on each other the Oberst of the regiment did not wait any longer.

“Fix bayonets!” And with that one order, the Saxon Life Guard Grenadiers were led forward in skirmish order through the forest, the battaliosn spreading out to either side of the railroad track as artillery roared over their heads, staying clear of that straight line of death—though that applied to both sides, as the Germans proved when some Cossacks showed their heads on the line to be met by a vigorous machine-gun fire which struck down eight before the rest retreated, the twitching bodies of the pitifully dying horses left visible over the mangled corpses of their riders.

The Russians shifted their machine-guns to meet the advance, and through the confused tangle of the woods they fired them at anything which might be a man advance. The dense carpet of the woods was soon laced with the red stains pooling from the bodies of the Saxon falling, and men instinctively shifted to avoid any clearings, after the first few times they were proven to be nothing more than charnel houses papered over with soft grass.

It was perhaps another ten minutes before the Saxons had pressed forward to the point that they might come to grips with the main Russian lines at close range, and it was here that they rushed forward in the open, disdainful of loss for sake of covering the last few yards. They suffered for in in terms of corpses sent sprawling over the rotting old timbers on the forest floor, of men stacked with an almost supernatural neatness in death, of men hung up on the wire strung through the forest and on the saplings which struggled to survive in the dense tangle, and blasted through with massed rifles there, all of them who were dead, having once been alive, and with the aspirations of the living, now left to sink back into the primordial soup of the dense eastern forests of Europe.

Despite that hellacious pounding, the Saxon Life Guard Grenadiers carried home the attack, and at point of bayonet drove the 97th General-Field Marshal Graf Sheremetev's Livonia Infantry Regiment out of their entrenchments in several places. Quickly the fighting devolved into a confused tangle of groups of men pushing against each other through the woods and brief, intense struggles at point-blank range, with the cavalry of both sides fighting on the flanks and often being shot at by their own infantry, or vice-versa.

Slowly, and at cost, the Russians were made to yield. This did not, however, speak of the full magnitude of the situation, for the Saxon Life Guard Grenadiers were simply the vanguard of the whole of 3rd Army, which was now beginning to deploy and press on ahead against the southern flank of Rennenkampf's First Army that was concentrated around Sereje. And so it was that Rennenkampf's battle for survival began here, even as the battle of the Livonia regiment and the Saxon Grenadiers was ending with the setting of the sun on the end of the 25th of August.
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The Duchess of Zeon
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-19 05:02pm



Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, with His Majesty Kaiser Wilhelm II, German Emperor, during German Army Manoeuvres in 1909.


His Apostolic Majesty Emperor Franz-Josef of Austria and King of Hungary.


His Majesty Nicholas II, Avtocrator of all the Russias.


Helmuth von Moltke the Younger, Chief of Staff of the German General Headquarters.


Grand Admiral Tirpitz.


Grand Duke Nicholas Romanov, Commander in Chief of the Russian Army.


Prince Karl Max von Lichnowsky.


General of Cavalry Alexander Samsonov, commander of Russian Second Army.


General Pavel Rennenkampf, commander of Russian First Army.


General Erich von Falkenhayn, Prussian Minister of War.


Conrad von Hotzendorf, Chief of Staff of the Austro-Hungarian Army General Staff.

Feldzeugmeister Oskar Potoriek of the Austro-Hungarian Army, independent commander of operations against Serbia.


H.H. Asquith, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.


Crown Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, Fifth Army Commander, with his staff.


General Joffre, supreme commander of the French Army.


Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, commander of German Sixth Army.

Admiral Graf von Spee, commander of the German Pacific Squadron.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.

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Alan Bolte
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Post by Alan Bolte » 2007-06-19 06:49pm

... too dense for me. I think I need accompanying maps at the very least.
Any job worth doing with a laser is worth doing with many, many lasers. -Khrima
There's just no arguing with some people once they've made their minds up about something, and I accept that. That's why I kill them. -Othar
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The Duchess of Zeon
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-19 06:53pm

Alan Bolte wrote:... too dense for me. I think I need accompanying maps at the very least.
Consider it done. An hour's time, please...
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In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.

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Post by Dominus » 2007-06-19 07:33pm

Very nice work. I think you two have captured the personalities of the various historical personages most faithfully. The Kaiser is a particular delight, though Falkenhayn and Tirpitz were a riot if nothing else. Though I would second the notion for more maps; one can never have too many visual aids, after all.

Alas that the Hochseeflotte won't be doing much of anything for the moment, but I suppose that's more or less in keeping with history -- everyone was quite unwilling to risk their expensive dreadnoughts, as I recall, hence the reason why they spent most of the war rusting in port in OTL.

In any case, here's to hoping that the German monarchy survives this time around, though I might be getting a little ahead of myself, here.

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The Duchess of Zeon
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-19 07:49pm


I'll work on the map for the Ostfront next.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.

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