8/2/1919 to 20/2/1919 Reparations and racial equality trouble the Paris Conference while assassins strike and war continues to rage in the East

Unfortunately my commitments to science fiction have obliged me to neglect the First World War. Here are some fascinating events that occurred a hundred years ago since the last episodes I highlighted.

13/2/1919 At the Paris Conference, the Japanese delegation causes a sensation by proposing that the covenant of the League of Nations affirm the equality of all races. European colonial powers are unimpressed, Wilson embarrassed, and Australian & New Zealand leaders extremely hostile.

14/2/1919 Wilson temporarily leaves Paris, heading back to the United States for a short trip, leaving the peace conference deadlocked on the question of German reparations.

15/2/1919 Ukrainian nationalists evict Bolshevik supporters from the town of Proskurov and immediately massacre the town’s Jewish population.

16/2/1919 Austria votes in elections for a constituent assembly. The Social Democratic Workers Party wins the most seats, but not enough to govern alone.

19/2/1919 Consternation in Paris as Clemenceau is shot by an anarchist malcontent. Although injured, the French prime minister survives.

20/2/1919 King Habibullah Khan of Afghanistan is assassinated while on a hunting trip. His policy of neutrality had made him unpopular with the many people in his country who are hostile to the British Empire.

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The Japanese delegation

27/1/1919 to 7/2/1919 The Paris Conference prepares to reorder the world

I continue to apologise to all readers as science fiction commitments are keeping me away from my Great War blogging. These are some of the events that have transpired since the last post.

27/1/1919 At the Paris Conference, the Japanese delegation formally states their claim to the territories Japan seized from Germany in 1914: various Pacific islands and the Shantung Peninsula (including the Tsingtao naval base) in China.

31/1/1919 Much to everyone’s relief, fighting between Poland and Czechoslovakia over disputed Teschen comes to an end.

3/2/1919 Jailbreak! Irish nationalist leader Éamon De Valera is sprung from Lincoln Jail, where he was being held since Sinn Féin leaders were rounded up last year. He now hopes to make his way back to Ireland to take charge of the struggle for Irish independence.

5/2/1919 The Ukrainian capital Kiev falls to the Red Army.

6/2/1919 The German assembly meets for the first time since the recent elections. As Berlin is still considered too dangerous in the aftermath of the Spartacist revolt, the assembly meets in Weimar.
6/2/1919 Assisted by British intelligence officer T.E. Lawrence, Emir Faisal of Mecca states Arab claims to the Paris Conference. Faisal is seeking an Arab kingdom, led by his father, stretching from Syria to the Arabian peninsula, in line with promises previously made by the British.

7/2/1919 The Italian delegation to the Paris Conference presents their claims to the Dalmatian coast. President Wilson chooses today to formally recognise Yugoslavia, suggesting that Italy’s ambitions are unlikely to be satisfied.

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Emir Faisal’s delegation. Lawrence is to his right (Wikipedia)

Events continue to unfold

I continue to be distracted from my First World War blogging endeavours. One day I will return to them, but in the mean time here is a list of things that happened since my last post. I am particularly sorry to have missed the anniversary of the Irish parliament’s first meeting, but it could not be helped.

8/1/1919 Expanding into territory abandoned by the Germans, the Red Army reoccupies Vilnius, which is separately disputed between Poland and Lithuania.

09/1/1919 Fearful of the Red Army, the Latvian government begins to recruit a mercenary force from demobilised German soldiers.

10/1/1919 Fahreddin Pasha surrenders Medina to the Arab followers of King Hussein of Mecca, more than two months after the Turkish armistice. The two and a half year siege is now over.

11/1/1919 Ebert‘s government sends the army and the Freikorps militia into Berlin against the uprising by the far left Spartacists.

11/1/1919 Russia’s Bolshevik government begins draconian grain seizures from peasants in the territories it controls.

12/1/1919 Elections in Bavaria see Kurt Eisner‘s socialist government routed.

12/1/1919 The peace conference in Paris begins with a meeting of Wilson, Lloyd George, Clemenceau and Orlando, together with their foreign ministers.

13/1/1919 Despite their country’s almost non-existent contribution to the Allied war effort, the Japanese delegation to the Paris Conference joins the American, British, French and Italian delegates on the conference’s supreme council.

13/1/1919 Amidst great bloodshed, the Germany army and the Freikorps crush the Spartacist uprising in Berlin.

15/1/1919 Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, leaders of the failed Spartacist uprising, are captured, tortured and murdered. Luxemburg’s body is dumped in a canal.

15/01/1919 21 people suffer a squamous death when Boston’s North End is flooded by molasses.

16/1/1919 Influenza claims a high profile victim, as President Alves of Brazil succumbs to the epidemic.

18/1/1919 The Paris Conference holds its first plenary session, on the anniversary of the 1871 proclamation of the German Empire in Versailles.

19/1/1919 Germans vote in elections to a constituent assembly, with women voting for the first time. The Social Democrats and the Centre Party win a majority for their brand of moderately reformist republicanism.

21/1/1919 Sinn Féin MPs elected to the British House of Commons assemble in Dublin and declare themselves to be Dáil Éireann, the national parliament of an independent Ireland. On the same day members of the Irish Volunteers coincidentally kill two policemen in an ambush in Soloheadbeg in County Tipperary.

23/1/1919 A border dispute between newly independent Czechoslovakia and Poland turns violent as Czechoslovak troops attack Polish forces in Silesia.

24/1/1919 At the Paris Conference, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia present their claims to German overseas territories they have occupied since early in the war.

26/1/1919 Independent Poland holds its first general election. The new parliament will draw up a constitution for the nation.

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Freikorps paramilitaries in Berlin (Wikipedia: Freikorps)

Inaugural plenary meeting of the Paris Conference (Guardian: The Paris peace conference begins – archive, January 1919)

Newspaper report of Dáil Éireann’s first meeting (Dáil100: The inaugural public meeting of Dáil Éireann)

Holding the line

I am a bit tied up with Important Things right now and so am falling a bit behind in this important Great War endeavour. These are some of the things that happened since the my last post, which I hope to return to shortly.

29/12/1918 The Independent Social Democrats leave Ebert‘s coalition in protest at the German Chancellor’s decision to send troops against the People’s Navy Division on Christmas Eve.

31/12/1918 In less than two months flu has claimed the lives of 20% of Western Samoa‘s population.

2/1/1919 Criminal investigations open into atrocities ordered by Turkey’s leaders during the war.

3/1/1919 Emir Faisal reaches an agreement with Zionist leader Chaim Weizman to support Jewish immigration into Palestine.

3/1/1919 The Red Army occupies Riga. In response to the Bolshevik invasion, Latvia’s government seeks to form an armed force of German volunteers.

4/1/1919 A bizarre and ultimately unsuccessful attempt by an American officer to kidnap the Kaiser.

5/1/1919 Demonstrations in Berlin by the far left Spartacists escalate into an armed uprising against Ebert’s government.

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Spartacists (Wikipedia: Spartacist uprising)

28/12/1918 Ireland’s election results: Sinn Féin landslide and the first woman elected to the House of Commons #1918

Ireland voted on 14 December as part of the United Kingdom’s first general election since 1911. Today the votes are finally counted and the results reveal that Sinn Féin has definitively supplanted the Irish Parliamentary Party as the voice of Irish nationalism, with the IPP winning just 6 seats to Sinn Féin’s 73. John Dillon, the IPP’s leader, loses his East Mayo seat to Sinn Féín leader Éamon de Valera, who is currently in prison in England after being arrested earlier this year on suspicion of involvement in an outlandish German plot to invade Ireland. Unionist parties meanwhile dominate in the north east of the country, where many Protestant voters fear the consequences of self-rule in mainly Catholic Ireland. This is also where the Irish Parliamentary Party wins most of its seats; IPP candidates are more used to battling on against adverse circumstances here.

Apart from the north east, the electoral map of Ireland is now a sea of dark green, representing Sinn Féin victories. The only exceptions to the Sinn Féin sweep are Waterford City, where William Redmond is elected to the seat previously held by the late John Redmond, his father and the former leader of the IPP, and Rathmines in Dublin, where Unionist candidate Maurice Dockrell is elected.

Two women ran for Sinn Féin and one of these, Constance Markievicz, is elected. Like De Valera she played a leading role in the 1916 Rising and like him she is also currently in jail in England.

Sinn Féin candidates have secured election on an abstentionist ticket: they have promised not to take their seats in Westminster but instead to assemble as an Irish parliament in Dublin. Now those elected Sinn Féin representatives who are not on the run or in jail prepare to meet in January as the first sitting of a sovereign Irish parliament, to be known in the Irish language as Dáil Éireann.

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Sinn Féin election poster (RTÉ: Election 1918 – what you need to know about how Ireland voted)

Constance Markievicz (Wikipedia: Constance Markievicz)

28/12/1918 Britain’s votes are counted: Lloyd George’s coalition wins a landslide victory #1918Live

Two weeks ago the United Kingdom held its first election since 1911. Because of the large numbers of postal ballots from men serving overseas with the armed forces, the votes are only counted today. And the result is a landslide victory for the Conservatives and Prime Minister Lloyd George‘s faction of the Liberals. Lloyd George has just led the country to victory against Germany, so it is perhaps not too surprising that voters have rallied to him and his Conservative allies.

Asquith‘s faction of the Liberals win an impressive number of votes (only slightly less than Lloyd George’s) but lose most of their seats; Asquith himself fails to secure re-election. Aside from the coalition’s popularity, Asquith suffers from his own association with the less successful early years of the war. His long opposition to votes for women may also have counted against him now that women are voting for the first time. Labour meanwhile win more seats than the Asquith Liberals and substantially more votes than Lloyd George’s Liberals; although they are only the fourth largest party in parliament, their power is clearly on the rise.

Although women now have the vote, the election is not a particularly successful one for women candidates. Christabel Pankhurst, a leading suffragette, narrowly fails to secure election and is defeated by John Davison of Labour. The only one of the sixteen women’s candidates elected is Constance Markievicz of Sinn Féin. Markievicz stood on an abstentionist ticket and is currently in jail, so she will not be taking her seat in the House of Commons.

Markievicz was elected in Ireland. The results there have followed an entirely different pattern to the rest of the United Kingdom.

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David Lloyd George (Wikipedia: David Lloyd George)

Constance Markievicz (Badass of the Week)

Results map (Wikipedia: 1918 United Kingdom general election)

24/12/1918 Berlin’s Christmas Eve Battle #1918Live

It is Christmas Eve. Across Europe people are preparing for the season of goodwill to all men. But not in Berlin, where rival groups of men are today trading gunshots.

The German revolution first stopped the German navy from launching a suicidal attack on the British fleet, before overthrowing the Kaiser and hastening the end of the war. Now Friedrich Ebert leads a coalition government of his own Social Democrats (the SPD) and the slightly more radical Independent Social Democrats (the USPD). Preparations are underway for fully democratic elections to be held early next year.

No one really knows whether the German revolution is now essentially over, with the future being one of gradual reforms improving the lives of the SPD’s working class supporters, or if this is just a transitional phase akin to the rule of Kerensky‘s Provisional Government in Russia. Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg of the Spartacist League hope that Ebert’s government will soon be replaced by a government based on workers’ councils, as supposedly is the case in Soviet Russia. Ebert meanwhile fears that any sign of unrest has been whipped up the Spartacists as a prelude to a coup attempt by them.

The Volksmarinedivision (People’s Navy Division) is a unit of revolutionary marines that were stationed in Berlin in the early days of the revolution, currently billeted in the former royal palace. Now a dispute has arisen between them and the commander of the city garrison, Otto Wels. Wels held back the marines’ pay; in return they have now mutinied, abducting him and roughing him up.

Ebert fears that the marines are preparing to spearhead a Spartacist putsch. He may also be coming under pressure from Groener, the army’s quartermaster-general, to do something about the unruly marines. So he orders regular troops to attack the palace and suppress the marines.

The assault on the palace begins with an artillery bombardment and then a fire fight erupts between the two sides. However the attack turns into something of a fiasco. The marines easily repel the army’s assault. They find themselves being assisted by armed civilians and members of the police force. There are even reports of soldiers switching sides and joining the Volksmarinedivision.

At the end of the day Ebert’s attempt to crush the marines has proved an embarrassing failure. His coalition partners in the USPD meanwhile are furious, as he launched the attack without consulting them. But the Volksmarinedivision makes no move to overthrow Ebert’s government; perhaps they are not actually in league with the Spartacists after all?

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Soldiers of the People’s Navy Division (LeMo – Lebendiges Museum Online: Die Weihnachtskämpfe 1918)

Members of the Volksmarinedivision defending the Neptune Fountain (Wikipedia: Skirmish of the Berlin Schloss)