December 1914

The Great War Bookshop Diary, December 2014 – 1914

Monday, December 1st

French pilots start testing a device to enable them to shoot through their propellers. The leader of South Africa’s pro-German rebels, Christiaan de Wet, is captured.


Tuesday, December 2nd

Belgian troops north of Ypres repulse Germans trying to attack over the flooded fields with rafts.


Wednesday,   December 3rd

The German military imposes martial law in those parts of Belgium under its control and levies a tax to raise 40,000,000 francs for continuing the war.


Thursday, December 4th

King George visits Belgian Headquarters and confers a medal on King Albert. In London, an official inquiry gathers evidence of German atrocities.


Friday, December 5th

South Africa’s pro-German rebels offer to negotiate; the British demand unconditional surrender.


Saturday, December 6th

The Pope suggests a truce to mark Christmas. Long-range German guns bombard Ostend.


Sunday, December 7th

The Paris stock exchange re-opens for business. The British in Mesopotamia advance into the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.


Monday, December 8th

The biggest naval battle of the war so far takes place off the Falkland Islands. Admiral Sturdee sinks five German ships. Germans killed: 2,100. British killed: 10.


Tuesday, December 9th

Another Germany spy, Nicholas Ahlers, is sentenced to death but reprieved. The archaeologist T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) sails to Egypt for a job in Military Intelligence.


Wednesday,   December 10th

No one is nominated in the ‘Peace’ category when the year’s Nobel Prizes are announced in Stockholm.


Thursday, December 11th

British airmen adopt the French roundel to identify their aircraft because the Union Jack appears too like the German cross at long range.


Friday, December 12th

On the Eastern Front, a new offensive by the Germans and Austrians persuades to Russians to quit the city of Cracow.


Saturday, December 13th

A British submarine sneaks under a mine-field in the Dardanelles and sinks a Turkish battleship — the first success of its kind in naval warfare.


Sunday, December 14th

A counter attack by the Serbian Army forces the Austrians into retreat back and opens the way to Belgrade.


Monday, December 15th

Serbian patrols enter Belgrade as the Austrians retreat.


Tuesday, December 16th

German warships bombard Hartlepool, Scarborough and Whitby at breakfast time: 137 killed; 592 injured.


Wednesday,   December 17th

Britain takes control of Egypt and declares a Protectorate. British insurance companies raise premiums for householders on North Sea coasts.


Thursday, December 18th

The Indian troops who’ve arrived on the Western Front attack German trenches at Givenchy. A new Sultan, Hussein Kemal Pasha, is installed in Egypt.


Friday, December 19th

The Indians at Givenchy yield to German counter-attacks. Allied aircraft bomb zeppelin sheds at Brussels.


Saturday, December 20th

The French open a big offensive against the Germans in Champagne designed to relieve pressure on the Russians in the East.


Sunday, December 21st

British reinforcements are sent to bolster the Indians being pushed back at Givenchy. Lord Kitchener authorises a big expansion of the Royal Flying Corps.


Monday, December 22nd

German efforts break the Indian line at Givenchy are repulsed and the lost trenches regained.


Tuesday, December 23rd

The first Australian and New Zealand troops who left for Europe at the start of the war pitch camp outside Cairo.


Wednesday,   December 24th

Unofficial truces mark Christmas Eve on the Western and Eastern Fronts. Dover becomes the first British city to be bombed by aircraft. No one is hurt.


Thursday, December 25th

Three British seaplane carriers launch air-raids against targets inside Germany. One battleship at anchor is damaged.


Friday, December 26th

The Russians tell the British that they will not be able to resume offensive operations next year unless they get more artillery shells.


Saturday, December 27th

At a meeting with General Joffre, Sir John French is informed of French plans for large offensives in 1915 in which the British will play a supporting role.


Sunday, December 28th

Londoners are warned to take shelter in basements in the event of air-raids. More Australian and New Zealand troops leave for Europe.


Monday, December 29th

Winston Churchill urges cabinet colleagues to consider strategic alternatives to the Western Front where German superiority is forcing the Allies to ‘chew barbed wire’.


Tuesday, December 30th

German aircraft bomb Dunkirk, inflicting nearly 50 civilian casualties.


Wednesday,   December 31st

After five months of fighting, casualties on the Western Front are estimated to be: French, nearly 1,000,000; German, around 680,000; British, about 90,000.


Thursday, January 1st, 2015 -1915

A new medal is approved for junior officers – the Military Cross. This year’s Wimbledon tennis championships are cancelled.


Friday, January 2nd

King Albert rejects the idea of putting his army under the command of Sir John French. The Royal Navy bombards Dar-es-Salaam in German East Africa.


Saturday, January 3rd

The Roman Catholic leader in Belgium, Cardinal Mercier, is arrested for his pastoral letter urging ‘patriotism and endurance’ against German occupation.


Sunday, January 4th

Turkey suffers a heavy defeat in two separate battles against Russian Armies in the Caucasus.