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.

image source:

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.

image source:

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.

images:

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.

image source:

Spartacists (Wikipedia: Spartacist uprising)

25/11/1918 Germany’s last field army surrenders as Lettow-Vorbeck lays down his arms #1918Live

The Western Front armistice also obliged Lettow-Vorbeck‘s army in east Africa to lay down its arms. Lettow-Vorbeck had been unable to prevent much larger Allied forces from overrunning German East Africa but the Allies in turn have been unable to eliminate Lettow-Vorbeck’s force (which consists of mostly African troops (known as Askaris) led by European officers). Lettow-Vorbeck’s men have retreated into the interior of the colony, striking back against the Allies where they can but always retreating away from enemy forces strong enough to destroy them. Lettow-Vorbeck has also carried the war into enemy territory, launching raids into Portuguese Mozambique and more recently the British colony of Northern Rhodesia.

It is easy to romanticise Lettow-Vorbeck’s army as a plucky David taking on the Allied Goliath, but the reality is a bit less appealing. The Germans are supporting themselves by looting food from the local civilian population, so his army leaves famine and devastation in its wake. Ludwig Deppe, a doctor serving with Lettow-Vorbeck, ruefully notes: “We are no longer the agents of culture; our track is marked by death, plundering and evacuated villages, just like the progress of our own and enemy armies in the Thirty Years War”; hundreds of thousands of civilians may have died from famine and disease. The Allies meanwhile have press-ganged enormous numbers of African porters to support their armies, under-feeding them and bringing them to areas where they have no resistance to the local diseases, with the result that the porters have been dying at a higher rate than soldiers on the Western Front; at 45,000 men (soldiers and porters) killed, losses from British East Africa amount to some 12% of the adult male population.

While the armistice obliged Lettow-Vorbeck to surrender, there was the problem of how to let him know the war was over. Lettow-Vorbeck is completely cut off from Germany and has no radio with which to communicate with Berlin. However Lettow-Vorbeck learns of the armistice when an Allied dispatch is captured. Initially the Germans think that the war in Europe must have ended with German victory but gradually the harsh reality of defeat dawns on them. Finally today at Abercorn in Northern Rhodesia, Lettow-Vorbeck and his men surrender to the British. His army is now tiny, just 155 Germans, 1,168 Askaris and several thousand more porters. The German officers are allowed keep their swords and pistols pending transportation back to Europe.

Lettow-Vorbeck’s surrender, by an anonymous Tanzanian artist (Wikipedia: Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck)

Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck (Badass of the Week)

The war against German East Africa (Wikipedia: German East Africa)

25/11/1918 After 50 years, France recovers Strasbourg #1918Live

Since the Western Front armistice came into effect the Germans have been retreating and the Allies advancing to recover the lost territory. This leads to emotional scenes as places that have been under German occupation since the war’s start are now liberated. King Albert of Belgium returned to Brussels a few days ago, seeing his capital for the first time since 1914, and is greeted by cheering crowds. French troops today arrive in Strasbourg, capital of Alsace, which, like nearby Lorraine, was lost to France after the war of 1870. The return of the Tricolour to the streets of Strasbourg gives rise to more emotional scenes, but patriotic joy here may not be entirely universal, as one of the first acts of the French soldiers is to suppress a revolutionary council that had established itself in the town.

images:

The King and Queen of Belgium in Brussels (The Cross of Laeken: The King Returns to Brussels, 1918)

The French army returns to Strasbourg (The Blue Line – the Vosges Frontier from 1871 to 1914: The Kaiser’s Birthday, place Kléber, Strasbourg)

see also:

November 1918 in Alsace-Lorraine (Wikipedia)

Alsace-Lorraine (1914-1918 Online)

21/11/1918 The German fleet sails into captivity

Under the terms of the armistice the German fleet is to be interned by the Allies. The U-boats have already sailed to Harwich in England and now today the German surface fleet sails to the Firth of Forth in Scotland, from there to travel on to the main British naval base at Scapa Flow in the Orkneys. Unlike the U-boats, whose crews were returned to Germany, the surface ships will retain their German crews while they are in Scapa Flow; although effectively under British confinement they will not be prisoners-of-war as such and the sailors will remain under their own command.
The German fleet sails under the command of Rear-Admiral Ludwig von Reuter; Admiral Hipper, the fleet’s commander-in-chief, delegated the distasteful task of leading the fleet into captivity. The German ships are escorted by the main British battle fleet, making this the largest gathering of warships the world has ever seen. The two fleets clashed just once at the inconclusive Battle of Jutland in 1916 but since then the British navy has grown further in size and now it is joined by French and American warships, meaning that the Allies now have 23 battleships to the Germans’ nine and nine battlecruisers to the Germans’ five. The whole exercise is a spectacular show of strength by the British, with the German fleet sailing between two lines of Allied ships, either of which would be a match for them.
The British fleet is commanded by Admiral David Beatty, who had commanded the battlecruisers at Jutland. His ships are prepared for any last minute tricks by the Germans: all guns are ready for action, with gun crews in place and ammunition ready to be loaded. But there is no need. The German navy knows it has been beaten and its sailors are not in the mood for suicidal gestures. Without a shot being fired the goal that eluded Beatty at Jutland is now being achieved: the neutralisation of the German fleet.
images:

HMS Cardiff leading the German ships (Wikipedia)

HMS Queen Elizabeth leads the 2nd British Battle Squadron; Diagram (BBC News: The day the entire German fleet surrendered)

The German fleet at sunset (Spitfires of the Sea (@seaspitfires) on Twitter)

See also fascinating Twitter thread from Spitfires of the Sea