<– Part 83 – February 20, 1916  | Part 84 – February 27, 1916 |  Part 85 – March 5, 1916 –>

Lines of the German advance at Verdun. The dates are indicated on the lines. Douaumont is in the lower right, and Verdun is not visible off the bottom of the map. (Click to enlarge).

After a ten hour artillery bombardment, in which one million shells were fired, a massive German offensive was launched February 21 towards the city of Verdun. Having been delayed 8 days by winter weather, the German troops, expecting to easily brush aside French opposition, instead found that that time had been put to use establishing strong and multi-layered defensive lines. Nonetheless, the Germans charged forward with troops armed with “flamethrowers”, devices that shoot liquid flame, followed immediately by “storm troopers” armed with rifles and hand grenades. Despite the stronger than expected lines, a complete penetration of French lines was successful for over 3 miles, with minimal casualties. After brushing aside counterattacks and continuing their own assault for several days, the Germans captured the severely-undermanned Douaumont fortress, the first on their way to capturing the city of Verdun. Finally, after nearly a week of advance, the German assault seems to have run out of steam, and no progress has been made today in the face of a thaw turning the ground to a swamp, exhausted soldiers, and French reinforcements.

Douaumont fortress before the battle.

In North Africa, the British army finally caught the Senussi at Agagia on February 27. The attack began at 9:30, and after their trenches were captured, the Senussi began evacuating mid-afternoon. A cavalry contingent sent to cut off their retreat was successful, and after advancing on the rearguard firing from horseback, the British cavalry charged the final 50 yards with drawn sabers, upon which the Senussi broke. All told, though nearly equivalent in manpower forces (1,500 Senussi to 1,400 British) the Senussi suffered 500 losses, to the British 275 (mainly wounded).

In Persia, several towns fell to the Russian advance on February 26. There are rumors that the highest levels of the United States military have begun examining plans in case of a “complete rupture” with Germany. In the Balkans, Serbian troops await evacuation on Allied transports.

Serbian soldiers on the beaches of Corfu.

<– Part 82 – February 13, 1916  | Part 83 – February 20, 1916 |  Part 84 – February 27, 1916 –>

Ernst von Raben, commander of the defense at Mora.

The Erzurum campaign came to an end February 16 as the Cossack vanguard of the Russian Caucasus Army entered the city of Erzurum. The second-most heavily fortified city in the Ottoman empire (second only to the capital Constantinople[1]), Erzurum was surrounded by two rings of fortresses. With the Russians advancing over “impassible” ridges, and the Ottoman defenders too spread to support each other, the forts were abandoned February 15, and the entire city soon after. Although aware of Turkish movements due to aerial reconnaissance, the Russian forces failed to follow up on their victory. Altogether, the Russian troops lost 9,000 of their 325,000 troops, while the Ottoman Third Army lost 10,000 of their 134,000, with an additional 5,000 taken prisoner. Many of the casualties were to frostbite and other winter-related hardships.

The German Kamerun colony has finally fallen. Although the majority of the territory was de facto surrendered to the Allied forces with the evacuation of all German forces, the mountain of Mora, under siege since the beginning of the war 17 months ago has finally fallen with 155 of the 204 original defenders. The German commander, Ernst von Raben, secured the transportation of his askaris (African colonial troops) to their homelands, with £2,000 given to him to pay the troops. The German soldiers are being delivered to England for imprisonment. With this, the German Kamerun colonies has been jointly-occupied by the British and French.




[1] OOC: Istanbul did not come into vogue as the proper name of the city until the 1920’s, and was still referred to as Constantinople by English-speakers beyond that time.

<– Part 81 – February 6, 1916  | Part 82 – February 13, 1916 |  Part 83 – February 20, 1916 –>

Spicer-Simson aboard the Belgian boat Netta.

Action escalated in German East Africa this past week, as the warship Hedwig sailed from her port on Lake Tanganyika February 8 in search of the missing Kingani, presumed sunk but actually captured by the British. Spotting the Mimi and Fifi, the three ships began a circling dance on the lake as each attempted to bring her bow artillery piece to bear upon her enemy. After a half hour of maneuvering (including Fifi’s recoil stopping her in the water and spending 20 minutes clearing a jam), Fifi scored a hit on the Hedwig with her next to last shell. This shell entered the engine room of Hedwig, killed half a dozen sailors, and destroyed her boiler. After placing charges and abandoning the ship, Hedwig was sunk. The British captured 20 sailors and Hedwig’s naval ensign – the first one of the way. The following day, the German ship Götzen sailed the coastline searching for Hedwig. The British did not engage, as the commander, Geoffrey Spicer-Simson, did not feel any of his ships were adequate for such an engagement.

A land engagement February 12 in the same colony at Salaita Hill brought about a British defeat, as inadequate intelligence led to an engagement with an enemy nearly six times the size reported. Additionally, artillery fire was directed upon the German secondary line of trenches rather than the front line, allowing the Germans time to prepare for the assault. Finally, a German flanking attack drove the British back. An interesting story developed, as this battle included British, African, white South African, and Indian troops. The South African troops, after speaking disparagingly of the Indians, fled in the face of a German counter-attack while the Indians stood firm. The Indians returned one of the machine guns abandoned by the South Africans to them with the following note: “With the compilments of the 130th Baluchis. May we request that you no longer refer to our people as ‘coolies'”

The seaplane carrier HMS Ben-me-Chree

The British conscription law has gone into effect February 10. In North Africa, seaplanes from the carrier HMS Ben-my-Chree (Manx for “Woman of my heart”) have spotted the Senussi force at Agagia.


<– Part 80 – January 30, 1916  | Part 81 – February 6, 1916 |  Part 82 – February 13, 1916 –>

In the United States, neutral though definitely pro-Allied leaning, President Woodrow Wilson delivered the last of his speeches on “Preparedness” in St. Louis on February 3.

The the fighting for Erzerum tipping towards the Russian Caucasus Army more and more every day, a combined naval & land operation was launched February 5 for the northern Turkish city of Trebizond, on the Black Sea. Perhaps this operation will be better-fated than last year’s Gallipoli Offensive.