<– Part 21 – December 20, 1914  | Part 22 – December 27, 1914 |  Part 23 – January 3, 1914 –>

(Lucky) Turks in their winter gear

Fighting between the Allies and the Germans continues at Artois. To the north, across the channel, bombs were dropped on Britain December 21 by German aerial vehicles, perhaps signaling the launch of a new era of warfare. In the Mediterranean, the Austro-Hungarian submarine U-12 torpedoed the French battleship Jean Bart, which has withdrawn to Malta for extensive repairs.


Ottoman soldiers hauling artillery through a mountain pass

On December 22, fighting ended at Givenchy on the Western Front as reinforcements arrived to shore up British defenses. The British received another stroke of fortune in the person of a German deserter, who brought word of an surprise attack an hour and a half before it began. No real changes have occurred in the area other than a few minor German advances.


In the Caucasus, a battle has been launched at Sarikamish, as Ottomans troops have begun an offensive through the Allahuekbar Mountains. The advantage seems clearly to the Russians, who are well-supplied, well-equipped, and in strong defensive lines. By way of contrast, many of the Turkish units have no winter clothing in the snowy mountains, and many have only dried bread and olives for rations. At the same time, the Turks are finding German tactics, which include Napoleonic-style precision marches and extreme focus on units arriving on time, poorly working in the moutnains. Many of the Ottoman soldiers have already been lost to hypothermia and friendly-fire incidents in the fog and snow. The 60,000-strong Russians (half the army was sent to Prussia earlier to assist in the German offensive) are finding it easy to hold the 135,000 Turks at bay. Meanwhile, a minimal Russian cavalry presence is deterring attacks from Persia.

U-12 entering Pola Harbor

Soldiers meeting in no-mans-land

The Polish legions were used again at Łowczówek from December 22-25, reinforced with Hungarian infantry

& Austrian artillery, in another delaying action allowing the Austro-Hungarian army to withdraw and avoid encirclement, before withdrawing themselves The Russian offensive seems to have been halted.

A surprising sight was seen Christmas Day, 1914, as an informal truce was called by the soldiers of the Western front. Although obviously not sanctioned by their commanders, the soldiers left their trenches at met in no-mans-land, where they exchanged gifts, played football, and decorated the few remaining trees together. The tragedy of the war has been highlighted, as well as the adage that politicians start wars, and soldiers have to fight them.

An artist’s impression in a January newspaper of Allied and German soldiers exchanging gifts – here, headgear worn by the armies.

<– Part 20 – December 13, 1914  | Part 21 – December 20, 1914 |  Part 22 – December 27, 1914 –>

A war poster in England, calling upon the memory and seeming-savagery of the raid on Scarborough, in North Yorkshire

Austria-Hungary abandoned Belgrade December 14-15, and the Serbian army entered that day. It is an astonishing victory for Serbia, and a crushing defeat for the Austrians, as all objectives of their Serbian offensive – removing Serbia from the war, convincing Bulgaria to join the Central Powers, and convincing Romania to remain neutral – have failed. The commanders of the two Austro-Hungarian armies have been removed from command. The 400,000-strong Serbians have defeated the 450,000 Austrians, losing 22,000 killed, 91,000 wounded, and 19,000 missing/prisoners to the Austrians’ 30,000 KIA, 173,000 WIA, and 70,000 POW. The Serbian Army is expected to entrench and rebuild for many months, as the invaders have been expelled.

On the morning of December 16, elements of the Imperial German Navy shelled Scarborough, Hartlepool, West Hartlepool, and Whitby, killing 137 and wounding nearly 600 others, many of them civilians – the first deaths on British soil of the war. The German forces – 4 battlecruisers, 1 armored cruiser, 4 light cruisers, and 18 destroyers – split between the towns and shelled them for 50 minutes, exchanging fire with coastal batteries and small, ineffective coastal support vessels. Minimal damage was done to the German vessels. Outrage in Britain has intensified against the Germans for killing civilians, and against the Royal Navy, for failing to intervene. When leaving, the Germans encountered a portion of the Royal Navy, and fearing it to be the advance guard, fled combat. Had they engaged this much smaller, unsupported squadron, the Germans would undoubtedly have been victorious and, furthermore, would have evened the naval balance of power. A true stroke of good fortune for the British.

A combined French-British assault at Artois was launched December 17, but little progress has been made, and stalemate is expected.

Indian reinforcements at Givenchy

December 20 saw a flurry of activity around Europe, as the French sub Curiereturning from a raid on the Austrian Adriatic port of Pola, was caught in an anti-submarine net and forced to surface. She was fired upon and sunk by the Austrian destroyer SMS Magnet and torpedo boat Tb 63T, losing 3 crewmembers. On the Western front, minor skirmishing broke out at Perthes, in Ardennes; a second French offensive was launched at Champagne, making small gains; and the Germans launched an assault towards Givenchy, capturing the trenches around the town and advancing nearly 1 mile.

It would seem all armies are attempting to make gains before the winter season brings a lull to combat.


<– Part 19 – December 6, 1914  | Part 20 – December 13, 1914 |  Part 21 – December 20, 1914 –>

The Battle of the Falklands

Following a humiliating defeat November 1 at Coronel, the British fleet has hunted down the German East Asia Squadron, and the forces met December 8 at the Battle of the Falkland Islands. As the Germans attempted a raid on the British base at Stanley, a much larger British squadron had arrived just one day earlier. Unable to escape, the German armoured cruisers engaged the British in an attempt to allow the light cruisers to escape – and were sunk. The light cruisers themselves were overtaken. Only one German light cruiser and one auxiliary vessel escaped. The Germans suffered nearly 1,900 killed, 200 captured, and 6 ships sunk, the British 10 killed, and 19 wounded. Admiral Graf Spee went down with his ship, SMS Scharnhorst. Only Seeadler and Cormoran remain as independent convoy raiders.

HMS Inflexible rescuing German sailors from SMS Gneisenau

On December 9, the Battle of Qurna ended with unconditional surrender by the Turks, who were surrounded the previous night. The Ottoman commander, Subhi Bey, and the Governor of Basra, has been captured. 1,000 Turks have been taken prisoners, to 281 British casualties (mostly wounded).

At Ypres, Hill 60 captured by the Germans on December 10, giving them a strategic highpoint, overlooking Ypres itself.

The Austro-Hungarians declared victory at Limanowa on December 13. With 2 Russian armies in retreat, the Russians have halted their advance deeper into Hungary. 30,000 Russians fell against 12,000 Austro-Hungarians.

Hill 60, at Ypres

However, not all is well with the Austro-Hungarians. The Serbian offensive at Kolubara continues, with the unprepared Austrians forced back from one hastily- and poorly-prepared defensive position to another. With forces at Belgrade nearly surrounded, and assaults at all points, the order was issued a short time ago, ordering a retreat from Belgrade, and the Austrians are expected to withdraw soon.

<– Part 18 – November 29, 1914  | Part 19 – December 6, 1914 |  Part 20 – December 13, 1914 –>

The Mesopotamian front. Qurna is in the center

The Russian withdrawal from Lodz began November 30, and the Germans took the city December 6. In the offensive, the Germans lost 35,000 men to the Russian 70,000 casualties, 25,000 prisoners, plus heavy artillery.

To the south, fighting between Austria-Hungary and Serbia continues at Kolubara. The capital of Serbia, Belgrade, was evacuated the night of November 29/30, and the Austrians occupied it the next day, while the Serbian army and citizenry retreated 12 miles to Mount Rudnik, near the railroad bringing much needed supplies from the Allies. Due to perceived overextension, and seeing as December 2 was the 66th anniversary of Austro-Hungarian emperor Franz Josef’s coronation, the Austro-Hungarian empire halted and began organizing a victory parade in Belgrade – only to be caught off-guard by a Serbian counterattack, which has been widely successful the last few days. Although the city is still in enemy hands, the Serbians have successfully pushed back the flanks and front lines of the Austrians by several miles.

December 1 also saw the Austrians engaged at Limanowa, in the Austrian province of Galicia, against the advancing Russians. The Russian advance, however, seems to be stalling, as the 125,000 Russian troops have stalled against 90,000 Austro-Hungarians.

The British advance in Mesopotamia against fleeing Ottomans has come to the city of Qurna, where the Euphrates and Tigris rivers meet. Although gunboats assisted the Allied troop advance, they stalled as they neared the city, even as reinforcements arrived, boosting the British force to over 2,000, twice the number of Turkish defenders.