9/6/1919 De Valera courts American opinion, but Lloyd George blocks consideration of the Irish question in Paris

In Ireland Sinn Féin politicians elected in December’s general election have chosen not to attend the House of Commons in London; instead they have assembled in Dublin, declaring themselves to be Dáil Éireann, the sovereign parliament of the Irish nation. Making Irish independence a reality is proving however proving difficult. Members of the Irish Republican Army are attempting to wage a guerrilla war against British forces in Ireland, but IRA actions are showing no great sign of forcing the British to evacuate the country. Dáil Éireann meanwhile has so far failed to make itself the actual centre of political power in Ireland, with real authority still lying with the British administration centred in Dublin Castle.

Sinn Féin leaders are attempting to internationalise their struggle, hoping that other nations will pressurise the British to yield to Ireland’s claims. At its first meeting, the Dáil issued a Message to the Free Nations of the World, asking them to support Irish freedom. The Dáil has sent a delegation to Paris, but the conference has declined to hear it.

Irish nationalists have had more success in the United States, where Irish Americans are sympathetic to Ireland’s cause. De Valera, the leader of Sinn Féin, has crossed the Atlantic and is having some success drumming up interest in the Irish question. The Senate recently passed a resolution calling for the Paris Conference to hear the Irish delegation. Leading Irish Americans have travelled to Paris, to lobby Wilson to have the conference hear the Irish delegation. Political concerns oblige Wilson to meet the Irish Americans, but he is non-committal. Lloyd George is too important to risk antagonising over the Irish issue.

Nevertheless, Wilson today sounds Lloyd George on whether the Paris Conference might discuss the Irish question, but the British prime minister is clear that this is something that he could not countenance; any attempt by the conference to discuss Ireland would lead to a political crisis in London, with the likelihood that Lloyd George’s government would fall. This would cause great upset to the conference’s progress, which is now at an advanced stage. Wilson makes clear to Lloyd George that he has no intention of pressing the issue.

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Éamon De Valera after being made an honorary chief of the Chippewa nation (in October 1919) (History Hub: Eamon De Valera – The Chief) (The linked-to page includes an interesting newspaper report of De Valera’s visit to the Chippewa, including excerpts from De Valera’s speech, in which he draws parallels between the experiences of the Irish and the Native Americans)

7/6/1919 Sette Giugno: Unrest in Malta, killings by British troops

Britain is facing unrest in Ireland, India and Egypt. Now little Malta joins the ranks of territories causing problems for their British masters. The island has seen the price of basic foodstuffs climb out of the reach of ordinary people since the war ended. Today Valetta erupts in rioting, with the material complaints of the Maltese crossing over into a political dissatisfaction with the British that sees building flying the Union Jack attacked. Three Maltese are shot by British troops and many others wounded, but the city remains in a chaotic state.

The unrest and the killing of Maltese rioters has the effect of increasing support in Malta for nationalist politicians, some of whom favour a closer relationship with Italy. But for General Plumer, recently appointed as Malta’s governor general, the lesson is clear: the Maltese must be conciliated by being offered a greater share in the administration and governance of their island.

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Student demonstrators at the university (Times of Malta: Malta and Me – colonial politics, Il-Gross and university students)

British soldiers and demonstrators (Maltese History & Heritage: Uprisings & Revolts)

30/5/1919 Admiral Horthy: the new leader of Hungary’s conservatives

Soviet Hungary has been invaded by Romania and Czechoslovakia. However the Hungarian Reds have thrown together an army and defeated the Czechoslovaks, making it look as though the invaders are not about to overthrow Kun‘s communist regime. Instead the internal enemies of the Communists make their own preparations to strike back the revolution. In Szeged, currently occupied by French troops, conservatives meet to form a counter-revolutionary army to take on the Communists. The new army’s leader is Admiral Horthy, the wartime commander of the Austro-Hungarian navy. Like the White armies in Russia or the German Freikorps, Horthy’s army attracts many former officers of the old regime, as well as men from the borderlands that have been lost to Romania and other neighbouring countries. They prepare to wage war on the urban communists of Red Budapest.

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Admiral Horthy (Wikipedia)

New recruits for Horthy’s army
(Magyar Elektronikus Könyvtár: Hadsereg és katonapolitika 1919–1940 között (Hungarian Electronic Library: Army and military policy between 1919 and 1940)

22/5/1919 Riga falls to the Freikorps

German Freikorps volunteer units came to Latvia ostensibly to save the country from invasion by the Red Army. Since then however they have seized power in the country, with Freikorps commander Goltz ruling through a puppet government. The Germans have continued to push back the Soviets and today they evict them from Riga, Latvia’s capital.

Before the war Riga was an important industrial and commercial centre and had a substantial community of ethnic Germans. The intervening years have not been kind to it, with industrial activity having collapsed and the city having lost half its population. Nevertheless, to the Freikorps its capture is a triumph, calling to mind its previous seizure by the German army in 1917, when it still looked like Germany might win the wider war.

The fighting for Riga is however quite brutal. The Freikorps are incensed by the resistance they are offered by Soviet irregulars, particularly those they dub Flintenweiber: young rifle-armed women who snipe at the German troops. The Freikorps launch an orgy of violence against real or suspected Flintenweiber and communist sympathisers.

With Riga now secure the ambitions of the Freikorps are growing. Goltz begins preparations for an invasion of Estonia, intent on expanding his Baltic empire.

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Freikorps officers before the attack on Riga (Wikipedia)

Map of (confusing) Baltic situation following fall of Riga (Pygmy Wars: Latvia 1919)

20/5/1919 Communist Hungary strikes back against Czechoslovakia

The Bavarian Soviet Republic has been overthrown by Freikorps volunteers and troops loyal to the state’s parliamentary government. Communist Hungary meanwhile is facing invasion from both Romania and Czechoslovakia, but Béla Kun‘s regime in Budapest is proving more resilient than that of Leviné in Munich. Kun’s government has successfully appealed to Hungarian patriotism, with the result that volunteers are flocking to join the Hungarian army. And the Hungarian communists are able to purchase arms from Italy, whose leaders support a strong Hungary as a counterweight to Italy’s enemy, Yugoslavia. There are also rumours that the Italians have supplied Hungary with Czechoslovak battle plans, which would be easy enough for them to do as one of the Czechoslovak armies is commanded by Italian officers.

Now the Hungarians are sufficiently emboldened to go on the offensive. They strike back against the Czechoslovaks, separating them from Romanian forces and pushing them back across the border. With one enemy defeated, the Hungarians may now be able to unleash their forces on the Romanians.

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Revolutionary Hungarian sailors (Wikipedia: Revolutions and interventions in Hungary, 1918–20)

19/5/1919 Rising nationalist sentiment in Turkey

The Greek landing at Smyrna has caused disquiet in Turkey. Following on from Italian landings elsewhere and indications that the Allies are planning to create independent Armenian and Kurd states, the occupation of Smyrna has led to fears that the Allies are intent on completely dismembering Turkey, not just detaching it from its empire in the Middle East. As a result, nationalist sentiment is now building throughout the country. This has led to the authorities in Constantinople halting the trials of those accused of massacring Armenians during the war.

Although Turkey was soundly defeated in the recent war, some are preparing to take up arms once more in defence of their country. One of these is General Mustafa Kemal, who became a national hero following his actions in the Gallipoli campaign. The Turkish government has sent Kemal to the Anatolian interior to oversee the demobilisation of Turkish forces in line with Allied demands. However, when he arrives today in Samsun he begins to make contact with other disaffected army officers, seeking out those who are willing to join him in a struggle for Turkish independence, even if it means pitting themselves against the Ottoman Sultan in occupied Constantinople.

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Mustafa Kemal arrives in Samsun (Sabah: Bandırma Vapuru)

13/5/1919 Knocklong: an IRA man rescued

Knocklong Railyway Station
The British authorities in Ireland have been keen to apprehend those responsible for the Soloheadbeg ambush in January, which saw two policemen killed by members of the Irish Republican Army. Substantial rewards have been offered for the capture of the rebels, who as a result have spent the last few months on the run, staying with Republican sympathisers and seldom spending more than one night in the same place.

After attending a dance near Clonoulty, Seán Hogan, one of the ambushers, was captured yesterday by members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (the RIC). His comrades resolved to free him. Today at Knocklong station they strike, boarding a train in which Hogan is being guarded by four RIC men while on his way to Cork. In the fracas that follows, Hogan is freed, but two of the RIC men are killed. Dan Breen and Sean Treacy, both veterans of the Soloheadbeg ambush, are injured, but they will survive to fight again.

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Knocklong Railway Station (Burns Library, Boston College, on Flickr)

Seán Hogan (Wikipedia)