Kell Martin



EMPIRE OF Graves

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INTRODUCTION

This is a fictional story with an unplanned plot.
It is determined by using a grand strategy wargame
and written down as events unfold.

Its aim is to be a solemn and respectful account
of a generation that was destroyed by the First World War.

It begins as the old stories always do;
With the death of Franz Ferdinand,
and the great unraveling.








 

 
 
 
 

 




June 28 - July 7, 1914

The ASSASSINATION OF Archduke FRANZ FERDINAND

"The times change, and we change with them."

- Latin proverb -


A bomb detonates in front of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife

A bomb detonates in front of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife

Sarajevo, Austria-Hungary

Sarajevo, Austria-Hungary

“We have to leave!”

The door flung open and almost hit the cat. Vlad jumped back in terror.

“Pack your bags, brother. We have to leave right now.”

Bete had no later than locked the door to the apartment before he began stuffing their clothes into the suitcase.

Vlad stood there like a fool trying to find the words to say. He was the very opposite of his big brother: Smaller and more innocent. Whenever Bete would pace around in the apartment, every plank would moan in response. Now it sounded as if a deaf choir was conducting its grand symphony.

“What is wrong?” Vlad finally strung together two words.

Bete stopped dead in his track as if suddenly broken out of a trance.

“He is dead.”

“Who?”

“The Archduke.”

Vlad dropped his hat in shock. Had they succeeded? Would they be free now?

“What?”

“They blew up the whole damn car.” Bete’s voice was cracking. It never did. Not even when the hoodlums had robbed them that night in Belgrade. Bete was a locomotive. A pillar. Vlad would follow him to the ends of the earth. 

“The police is rounding up all the suspects.” He said. “It will not be long before they come for us, brother.”

Vlad’s ears now instinctively turned to the sounds in the streets. He noticed Bete hadn’t been the only one causing commotion. The whole neighborhood was in an uproar. Women wailing and children crying, as angry voices echoed throughout the area, no doubt searching for Serbs.

Serbs like them.

“Open up!” a stern authoritarian voice called out, accompanied by a heavy pounding on the door.

“Open up in the name of the law!”

The cat peeled out of the rear window.

Bete grabbed Vlad by the collar.

London, England

London, England

Captain John Robertson looked down—The medal hung heavy on his chest, staining his uniform. South Africa had been nothing but a disaster for him—First he was awarded a bullet through his shoulder, and then cursed with a medal for all his troubles.

Whenever his wife dragged him to parties it would be an embarrassment. He could still hear her friends ask him about it. 

“I thought we lost that battle” one of them once said.

Nothing stings more than the truth. 

He adjusted his collar and looked at the sign.

OFFICES OF THE CHIEF OF THE IMPERIAL GENERAL STAFF.

John swallowed. Few things scared him more than paperwork—Miles and miles of names and numbers, dates and time. Everything had to be connected, checked and rechecked. It was tiring, not to mention tedious work. But yet, here he was, ready to begin his new life as a bench boy for the empire.

“Looks rather frightening, doesn’t it?” An old voice crackled behind him. John turned around.

“Pardon me?”

“Oh, you are very much pardoned, young man.”

Infront of him stood a short, stout Brigadier-General with a large mustache. 

“Brigadier-General, sir,” John immediately jumped into attention.

“I haven’t been a proper General in many years, chap.” He chuckled. “I’m simply Cecil.”

“Yes, Cecil, Sir.”


The office was a mess: In the middle stood Cecil’s desk overfilled with stacks of paper, with a cramped window leading to the neighboring brick building which barely let any air in. On one side stood two bookshelves filled to the brink, and on the last wall hung a large map of Europe.

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“A beauty isn’t she?”

“Who?” John asked, looking around.

“Europe!” General Cecil exclaimed and laid his hands on it, gently patting it as if it was his favorite horse. “The cradle of civilisation!”

“Sir?”

“Cecil.”

“Cecil,” he braced himself, trying not to seem condescending. “I was transferred here to aid you, sir. To organize your papers, relay your messages...”

“Rubbish” Cecil interrupted, and tapped on John’s medal “Such a terrible ordeal.” He squinted up at him. 

John avoided his stare.

“You’re here because I require someone sane.” He pulled away from John to pop his head out into the hallway “Ms. Coward, please be a darling and fetch us some Scotch.”

“Sir... Cecil. If you want someone to talk to...”

“I require a mind that has been there.” Cecil grunted. “A mind that intimately appreciates what happens to all those bloody pins and markers on that map. A mind that can tell me what Tommy is thinking, what the enemy is thinking.”

John was taken aback. The British Government had long tried telling him how the war went, rather than listening to his version of it. He hung his jacket on the coat hanger and grabbed a seat next to the overfilled desk.

“The enemy?”

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“The Austro-Hungarians are tearing through Sarajevo, punishing every Serb they can lay their fingers on.

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Nedeljko Čabrinović may have died in the terrible blast, but they have uncovered a whole network of conspirators who were involved in this whole ordeal. All apparently fighting for independence for the Serbs.

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The funeral for the unfortunate Franz Ferdinand, and his wife took place 2 days ago in Vienna. Austrian Emperor Joseph I was in attendance, as well as other high ranking members of the government.

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This is shaking up to be a bad one, chap. Yesterday, British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey received a warning from German ambassador Karl Max of likely war in the Balkans. Despite all this Grey seem rather optimistic.

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He says, if Kaiser Wilhelm II went on his annual cruise to Norway, how bad can it be?
Well I believe it’s as bad as it can get. If Austria-Hungary declare war on Serbia, Russia will declare war on Austria-Hungary, and so on, and so forth.
Look here, chap, I’ll draw you up where the nations stand as of today. Look at that. What a sordid mess.”

John scratched his head.

“So what you are telling me, sir, is that Europe is on the brink of war?”

Ms. Coward entered the office carrying two glasses of scotch. Cecil grabbed one of them and took a generous sip.

“I’m saying the world is.”

North of Munich, Germany

North of Munich, Germany

Erich’s sister jumped into his arms as he came home from school. Her red bow brushing against his chin.

“What did you learn today?” Maria asked.

“That Germany is the greatest nation on earth.” Erich professed proudly.

“Didn’t they teach you that yesterday?”

“Well it was also true yesterday.”

Erich was a young man of 17 and Maria had just reached 10. Together they lived at a farm outside of Wangen with their hardworking parents.
He took her hand and walked up to the house where their mother was busy making tea. 

“How was school, dear?” She asked as Erich walked in the front door.

“Same old.” He smiled, displaying his crooked front tooth. “Where’s father?”

She picked out a few plates from the cupboard. “Oh, he’s out back” Reading about the terrible ordeal in the Balkans, I’m sure. He’ll be with us in a moment.”

Maria made faces. Erich ignored her.

“What are they saying, mother? Will there be a war?”

She put the plates down.

“Now don’t you get any funny ideas, Erich.” She said. “We need you at the farm. Besides, Germany has all the soldiers it can handle.”

“Yes, mother.” Erich answered, dreaming of the dashing German uniform he had seen on the soldiers in Munich.

Father opened the back door.

Maria ran away as he entered the room. Father was a righteous man, but a stern one, and one who could easily scare young boys and girls with his demeanor. It had not been many years since Erich himself had stopped fearing him.

“Cursed Balkans.” He muttered to himself while twirling on his mustache. “Nothing but problems there.”

Mother nodded in agreement.

“We should ride down there and teach them a lesson.” Erich said, trying to impress his father.

“What do you know about that?” Father said. “What does a naive little boy, as yourself, know about war?” 

Erich sat there embarrassed.

The kettle whistled. His mother broke the tension.

“Tea, anyone?”

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July 7 - July 14, 1914

The July crisis

"The mistakes that have been committed in foreign policy are not, as a rule, apparent to the public until a generation afterwards."

- Otto von Bismarck -


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Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade, Serbia

“You have my word,” Hartwig said. “We knew of no plot to assassinate the Archduke.”

“And the Serbs?” Baron von Gieslingen asked without a moment of pause.

“I’m close friends with the Prime Minister.” Hartwig replied, as he drew another puff from his cigar. “I’ve always urged him to maintain good relations with your country.”

Baron von Gieslingen squinted for a moment.

Nicholas Hartwig had gone to the Austro-Hungarian embassy to smooth things over. War was in the air and diplomats like them would be needed to clean up the mess. Baron von Gieslingen was a general, but also the ambassador to Belgrade. A man of tact and honor.

“And the unfortunate rumor that your embassy held a party in celebration on the evening he died?”

A tiny pearl of sweat appeared on Hartwig forehead.

“A despicable and unfounded rumor.” He said. “Must have been spread by spies.”

Baron von Gieslingen did not seem too satisfied with the answer.

5 years ago, The Russians had sent ambitious Hartwig away. He was deemed too uncontrollable for a minister post, and so they sent him all the way to Serbia.

This had done little to stop the ambitious Hartwig.
He had worked the Balkans like a fiddle. Deals, and threats. Manipulation and information. He believed a strong Russia was a strong Serbia, and with his help the nation now had a web of strong allies. Of course, In the middle of this grand web he had placed himself: Nicholas Hartwig—the Russian ambassador to Serbia.

“Do you believe a war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia can be avoided?” Hartwig asked.

“Ah,” Baron von Gieslingen replied. “I’m confident that a… mutually satisfactory solution will be found. One that accommodates both Austria-Hungary’s and Russia’s regional interests.”

“Wladimir,” Hartwig said. “Whatever you boys are planning up there in Vienna. Remember that a cold head and a steady hand will get you further...”

He took one last puff from the cigar and stood up.
The meeting had not gone as he hoped, but at least they were exchanging information, and hopefully preventing matters from blowing out of proportion.

“I understand, Nicholas.” Baron von Gieslingen said. “I’ll see what I can... Are you feeling well?”

Nicolas Hartwig, the ambitious Russian ambassador collapsed in front of Baron Von Gieslingen.
Dead before he even hit the floor.

London, England

London, England

Captain John Robertson looked over at the large map hanging on the wall in the office. Several thick red strings had been connected, going from one pin to another. All over continental Europe.

“It’s all coming down like a house of cards,” General Cecil declared. “Just like we suspected.”

John wondered what his wife would say to this madness.

“Parliament seem more preoccupied with the Irish,” John blurted out.

Cecil cursed.

“The government will be in crisis soon enough, Captain Robertson.” He paced the room like an old lion. “As soon as they wake up, the Irish will be the last of our worries.”

THE QUESTION OF IRELAND:

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“But the parliament has passed the bill to give them home rule.” John said.

“Ah, took them long enough.” Cecil replied. “They’ve been at it for ages. And now, at long last, a war will keep it out of their hands.”

John looked up at the map: A red string tied Belfast to London, and another tied Dublin to Dunkirk.

“What about Sir Asquith? He’s overseeing the whole ordeal.”

“Asquith’s days are numbered.” Cecil exclaimed. “We need a war leader, not a liberal, pussyfooting about.”

“Sir..” John stood up, quite flustered.

“Ah, I didn’t take you as a liberal chap.” Cecil laughed. “All right, all right. Asquith will have his hands full, and we will see to it that he has the best of help.”

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“The Right Honourable H. H. Asquith, Prime Minister of the British Empire. The man that fate has seen fit to led us through this sordid mess.” 

THE BRITISH EMPIRE:

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“He now leads the largest Empire in history, one on which the sun never sets. Countless of colonies and satellites spanning the globe. To patrol it we have the greatest navy in the world, and factories to supply and uphold it all. However, chap, there is an issue: Mobilization. Can we move thousands of men, not to mention hundreds of ships to Europe, where the hammer will fall?”

THE AFTERMATH IN SARAJEVO:

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“The aftermath in Sarajevo has been quite extreme. Anti-Serb demonstrations have become more violent as the locals are hunting for revenge. Only made worse by the fact that police and local authorities in the city are doing nothing to prevent it. Around 1,000 houses, shops, schools and institutions—such as banks, hotels, printing houses, and what have you—owned by Serbs have been razed or pillaged.”

RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO SERBIA DIES:

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“On July 10, Nicholas Hartwig, Russian Minister to Serbia, died suddenly while visiting Austrian minister Wladimir Giesl von Gieslingen at the Austrian Legation in Belgrade. It appears he died of a massive heart attack. The Serbian press immediately published several inflammatory articles accusing the Austrians of poisoning Hartwig while he was a guest at their legation.”

“Oh, my,” John gasped. “It really is coming to a boil down there.”

“I’m very much afraid that it is, dear boy.” Cecil sighed. “Let us pray the Austrians aren’t daft enough to pull the trigger.”  

Vienna, Austria-Hungary

Vienna, Austria-Hungary

“If Serbia accepts this ultimatum, they would be mad.” Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister Leopold Berchtold declared.

The Imperial Council had gathered again to look over his draft, which were to be presented, first to the Emperor, and with his approval, transmitted to Serbia.

Germany had already given them full support to do what was needed: Strike at the venomous head of the Serbs.

“I take them as quite mad.” Said the Chief of the General Staff, Conrad von Hötzendorf. His thick mustache gave him the appearance of an older Franz Ferdinand. who, coincidentally had pushed for him to be reinstated a few years back.

“They could accept the ultimatum, and then we will look like fools.” He grumbled. Never a man of political zest.

Leopold held his tongue.
As the Foreign Minister, he had focused exclusively on the Balkans, where during the wars he had failed to contain the rising Russian influence and thwart Serbian ambitions for a united Yugoslav state. This had meant diplomatic defeat for Austria-Hungary, but also a reputation of being weak and indecisive for Leopold himself.

“If I may speak.” Hoyos interjected. “If perhaps we add something that undermines their sovereignty.” Hoyos was Leopold’s adviser, and most trusted aide.

“Let us have a say in their military, or better yet, in their justice process.” Hoyos proposed. “That will make it legally impossible for them to accept it.” 

General Conrad von Hötzendorf nodded in agreement.

“Whatever works.” He said. “Gentlemen, mark my words; in 6 weeks, Serbia will fall.”

 

 




July 14 - July 21, 1914

AUSTRIA-HUNGARY DELIVERS ULTIMATUM TO SERBIA

"Point 6: The Serbian government should bring to trial all accessories to the Archduke's assassination and allow Austro-Hungarian law enforcement officers to take part in the investigations."

- Austro-Hungarian letter to Serbia -


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Visegrad, Austria-Hungary

Visegrad, Austria-Hungary

“So this is where I leave you, boys,” Ljubivoje said as they entered the idyllic town of Visegrad.

The houses lay there so tranquil, as if asleep, surrounded by the majestic green hills, accessible through the old bridge stretching across the river Danube.

Vlad could finally breathe a sigh of relief

He and Bete had barely escaped arrest by the police force in Sarajevo a few weeks back. Bete had grabbed him and pushed him out of the rear window only moments before the police kicked in the front door.

With nothing but the clothes on their back they had trekked East, as Bete remembered the address of the crooks that had smuggled them into the country. The brothers then managed to sneak out as the riots turned into a massive manhunt for every Slav left in the city.

This was not enough for the Austro-Hungarians though. They cracked down hard on the radicals and their smuggler routes. Soldiers had showed up mere minutes before Vlad and Bete. They dragged the crooks out into the street, beat them, and threw them in jail.

It had been a torturous walk East after that.

Bete was chancing on the farmers in the neighboring village still being loyal to the cause.
It took them forever to reach it, and by that time the brothers were both starving and dehydrated.

It was by the grace of God that a farmer by the name of Ljubivoje had found the two exhausted Serbs on the side of the road and taken them in.
‘Sons of Kosovo.’ he had called them, while offering them his finest food and a bottle of wine. Then he cried in front of them as he told them the story of what the soldiers had done to his family. Vlad cried too.

Now with the help of Ljubivoje they had made their slow way towards the border of Serbia; back to their homeland.

“We should have been here a week ago.” Bete whispered to Vlad. “The old man took his fucking time.”

Vlad kicked him in the shins in return, still smiling and nodding to Ljubivoje.

“You have been nothing but the best of help.” Vlad said, shaking the farmer’s hand. “I wish you a speedy return.”

“Get home safe, and fight the good fight, boys.” Ljubivoje replied. “There’s a terrible storm coming, and Serbia will need all of her sons.”


London, England

London, England

“Have you slept at all, sir?”

“Cecil.”

John smiled nervously in response, before handing the jittery General a cup of Earl Grey tea.
The man had obviously not been home for the night.

“I read that the bloody Mexicans are at it again.” John said as he lifted his own cup in unison.

THE MEXICAN CIVIL WAR:

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“Ah!” Cecil exlaimed. "The Mexican Revolution is as complex it is heinous.

I honestly don’t have enough information for you, old chap. Not at this present time, but it does appear their President’s days are numbered. 

Revolutionaries such as Poncho Villa have captured several important territories, and they’re making a hard push. Remind me to get you the dossier on this. It might not be of much interest, but you can never be too sure, they did murder the Emperor’s brother.”

“Terrible ordeal,” John announced, and sipped his tea.

ITALY AND THE LIBYAN ISSUE:

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“This one, however, is a tad bit closer to home.”

“North Africa, sir?” John looked up at the map. Libya lay wedged in between French and British territories.

"The war against the Ottoman Empire was not the glorious invasion the Italians expected it to be. Their large army was stalemated for a year by a few thousand Turks and some local lads. 

When they finally did manage to push the Turks out, it left them with a bit of a mess on their hands.”

Cecil picked up his red yarn, and tore off a string. Then he walked over to the map and tied it from Italy to Libya. 

Oh, you know, Captain. Africa is rebellious. Tribesmen in Libya have clashed with the Italian troops for years, and this week they shot and killed 100 Arabs in a battle in the Fezzan Region.”

“Not to mention the general strike in Italy last month.” John interrupted.

“Ah, yes. Leftists fighting in the streets before the Italian Army brought in thousands of men to forcefully restore order.
It’s a new dawn, Captain Robertson. An era of riots and protests.”

THE ROYAL NAVY INSPECTION:

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“With this small chaff out of the way, we can focus on what is really of importance! The home front!
We are rather fortunate that the British fleet mobilized to Spithead for the inspection of His Majesty, this week. I believe that the First Lord of Admiralty, Winston Churchill is using this as an excuse to re-organize and re-deploy the fleet to counter the German threat. We’ll need those heavy hitters to force their fleet to stay at port.”

“In Wilhelmshaven?” John asked.

Cecil ignored him.

IRISH HOME RULE CONFERENCE AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE:

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“Right-o” He slammed a large dossier down on the desk, on the front it read ‘Ireland.’

“Now this one is a bloody ordeal.

His Majesty summoned a conference to discuss the Irish Home Rule situation. Irish Nationalists and Irish Unionists are meeting at the Royal Palace for a three-day peace conference. The Prime Minister is there also, with the Speaker of the House of Commons overseeing it.

A tall list of names, old sport, and as far as I can tell, it’s going absolutely nowhere.

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER RESPONSE TO RUMORS:

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“And at long last, we arrive at the meat of the matter: The Balkans, where the hammer will strike.

Early this week, in response to rumors of an Austro-Hungarian ultimatum, Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pašić told the journalists that he will never accept any measures that will compromise Serbian sovereignty. Oh, how foolish of him.

AUSTRIA-HUNGARY DELIVERS ULTIMATUM:

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This arrived yesterday: The Austro-Hungarian minister at Belgrade, presented the ultimatum to the minister for foreign affairs in Serbia.

We do not know the content of said letter, however we have reasons to believe it very much compromises Serbia’s sovereignty, or at the least is close enough to render it impossible to accept.”

“Oh, dear.” John gasped. “What about the government? What are we doing to prevent this?”

“Hah!” Cecil muttered in his usual manner. “We are running about the place like headless chickens, dear boy.

FOREIGN SECRETARY SIR EDWARD GREY OFFERS TO MEDIATE:

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The British cabinet, after receiving the news, held a meeting in London, the very same that is being devoted to the Irish Rule conference.

In an attempt to stem the tide of emerging war, the Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey offered to Russia and Germany to mediate a discussion that should influence Austria-Hungary to back off on Serbia while allowing each nation to save face.”

John lit up. “Well that’s something!” 

“Grey met with the Russian Ambassador who warned that such a conference might actually break our informal triple alliance, or Entente, as the French call it.”

“Oui, oui,” John jested.

Cecil shot him a stern look.
”However… The Russian Foreign Minister accepted Grey’s proposal for a conference despite his reservations about this.”

“So there is hope.”

He sighed.
“Kaiser Wilhelm was not so kind. He rejected Grey’s ‘condescending orders’. Claiming ignorance of the Austrian ultimatum. Germany regards Austro-Serbian relations as ‘an internal affair of Austria-Hungary’, in which they have no standing to intervene.

Cheeky little liars. Aren’t they?” Cecil picked up a red flag from his box and pierced it into the map. Straight into the heart of Berlin.

“So what are we to do now?” John said.

“Well,” He gazed upon the map. His figure appearing small and fragile. “We wait, and we pray.”


Manchester, England

Manchester, England

The tube scrapped against the back of her throat. Three nurses held her down as the doctor forced the thick rubber inside her.

“Alice, do we have to go through this every single time?” Doctor Franklin said, in a manner akin to that of a tired father lecturing an insolent child.

She made pathetic sounds of terror in response.

The prison had been her home for 6 agonising months now. They had arrested her 5 times on accounts of vandalizing government buildings. There had been three of them: Alice, Marianne, and Martha. Protesters turned inhabitants of the same address: Strangeways Prison.

“This time you best keep it down, Alice.” Doctor Franklin said as he signaled to the nurse to start pumping the food into her stomach.

She closed her eyes and tried to dream of her childhood home, of the garden in the backyard that lead to the swing on the hill. Where the majestic Oak tree stood stretching out into the blue summer skies. Where her sister had once told her about how wonderful men can be, and where babies come from.

She wondered how clean that tube really was and who it had been in before her.

“If you would simply eat the food provided to you. By the prison. Like a reasonable adult. Alice.”
Doctor Franklin complained as he kept preventing the tube from escaping her.

She looked up at him, tears running down her face.

He looked back down at her with pity and disappointment in his eyes.

“I’m doing my job, Alice,” he said. “What on earth are you ladies hoping to achieve with this nonsense?”

 

 




July 21 - July 28, 1914

mobiliSation

"I pity the Tsar. I pity Russia. He is a poor and unhappy sovereign. What did he inherit and what will he leave?"

- Sergei Witte, Ex-Prime Minister, 1896 -


Intro.jpg
St. Petersburg, Russia

St. Petersburg, Russia

The Winter Palace lay on the embankment of the Neva River. Built on a monumental scale to reflect the might and power of Imperial Russia. The capital itself had often lived on the edge of the empire—bordering into Scandinavia—as Peter the Great once chose it as his window to the West. It was here that the Tsar Nicholas Romanov and his family ruled over the Russian people. 

Lesya was a beautiful, young girl working as a personal servant to the House Romanov; an honor she was blessed to have. The hours were long, but she and her family were well taken care of. And she had even been privileged enough to travel the empire wide: Moscow, Tsaritsyn, even the Balkans once. All at the Romanovs side. 

“Hurry along now, child.” The older servant Ms. Sharonova said and sent her out of the kitchen.

The halls were wide and seemed to go on forever, the tall arching walls looking down. They always made her feel so small and insignificant. She moved as fast as she could without running. Her small shoes hitting the hard marble floor in a series of rhythmic clicks as she hurried across the palace. In her hand she balanced a silver plater with a jug of water on top.

“The Austro-Hungarians mobilise as we speak, Your Majesty. The people demand we unsheathe the sword on Serbia’s behalf.” Sazonov declared. The Foreign Minister was a bald man of around 55. His unpretentious beard the mirror opposite of the European autocracy.

“And what about the Germans, cousin?” The Grand Duke questioned, adorned in ceremonial medals and a pristine uniform as he looked across the hall to the Tsar.

“What about them?” The Tsar answered, distantly, gazing out of the window. His figure unassuming, dressed in a spotless, but plain uniform.

Lesya entered the room quietly without the men noticing and approached the Tsar. She bowed before him and placed the jug of water on the table beside him.

“The Germans,” Sazonov continued. “And the Austro Hungarians, take our kindness for a weakness. They have always done this. We give them loaf of bread, and they take the farm, Your Majesty.”

“It is time we take a stand.” The Grand Duke added. “Nicky, we must show strength in this.”

The Tsar placed his hand on the ridge of his nose. The two men stood there silently.

“Is partial mobilisation good enough?” He asked after a long pause. “And I‘ll reach out to Willy.”

The Grand Duke nodded “Yes, Your Majesty.”

“We will show strength and determination.” The Tsar announced. “But we will not be the aggressor here.”

He raised his hand again, this time to end the meeting. The two men bowed in response and reversed out the door.

Nicholas II closed his eyes, leaned back, and took a deep breath.

“The world has gone mad.” He sighed.

“Lesya!” 

She was still kneeling in front of him. “Stand up, girl.” he laughed. “I want to see your face when I speak to you.”

She looked up at him and he smiled tenderly in return. His wrinkles showing his age and weariness. 

“Is the family well?” he asked with heartfelt interest, and she nodded back in her usual shy manners. “Good.” 

Nicolas had seen it all during his reign as Tsar. Riots, wars, famines, and assassination attempts. 

“This talk of war makes me tired, Lesya.” He stretched and rubbed his neck. “Would you be so kind and fetch my little boy?”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

Lesya reversed out the room. Rhythmic clicks echoed as she hurried through the palace. The tall arching walls looking down at her.
They always made her feel so small and insignificant.


London, England

London, England

Early dawn always sent a shiver through John’s bones. He wondered if other people had the same sensation, or if it was a result of having a bullet lodged in his body.

He exited the cab and spotted Cecil standing at the entrance. Next to him was their superior: General Charles Douglas.

John lit a cigarette and leaned against the wall. He had crossed paths with Douglas once in South Africa. When he had been a young man, fighting for the good of the empire. Or believing he did. A lifetime ago.

His dear Margaret had spent last night arguing. He had explained to her that if war broke out in Europe, then he would be bound to leave for France. She told him that his old injuries alone should prevent it, and that she almost lost him once and that was enough.

“What an ungodly hour to be awake at.”
Cecil hobbled over. The General nowhere to be seen.

“I take it General Douglas is in good spirit, sir?” John threw the cigarette on the ground and stepped on it.

“Perhaps his spirit, but his body is old.” Cecil answered. “We have grown accustomed to fighting local tribes on the fringe. This new century shall wake us all up. General Douglas is on his way out. I give him 6 months at the most.”

The map greeted them in its usual intimidating fashion. The red pins clustered together in Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Serbia. John grabbed a seat as Ms. Coward entered the office carrying two cups of tea, she seemed as chipper as always.

“Good morning, gentlemen.”

John nodded in return and dreamed of coffee.

TOUR DE FRANCE:

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“You know what the French are doing? Riding around on bloody bicycles.” 

“Excuse me, sir?”

“Cecil.” He grumbled. “The winner of Tour de France was announced 2 days ago. Belgium cyclist Philippe Thys won by close margins.”

“Good job?” John questioned.

“Good job?” General Cecil was flabbergasted. “These French nincompoops...” He picked up a newspaper and threw it—with full force—at the wall. Ms. Coward let out a yelp and ran out the room.

“These French fools, Captain John Robertson, shall be facing the might of the German army, and they are, dare I say, preoccupied with faffing about.”

John gulped down.

“It might send the wrong signals, sir. If they mobilise in the hour of diplomacy.”

“Oh, don’t get me started on mobilisation.

THE MEXICAN REVOLUTION:

Mexico.jpg

The world is unraveling. Look to the Americas where Mexico is now in the midst of a grand revolution. There are 5 factions and counting. The Mexican president himself had to flee to Kingston, Jamaica a few days ago. Who can say where they will be a year from now?

IRISH HOME RULE CONFERENCE ENDS:

Ireland.jpg

Not surprisingly, The conference we discussed last week ended without any solid agreement on the solution to the Irish Home Rule. All sides, however, stated that it was a useful engagement, with Unionists and Nationalists for the first time having meaningful discussions on how to alleviate their fears about the other.

IRISH GUN SMUGGLING:

Ireland2.jpg

And as we attempt to repair the British Empire here at home, these traitors will have it set aflame,” Cecil tossed a picture down on the table in front of John. It was of Erskine Childers in a sail boat.

“Two days ago his personal yacht, The Asgard unloaded 1500 Mauser rifles outside of Dublin. In the middle of the bloody day, attracting quite the crowd. The police and military of course showed up, but a riot ensued with many policemen refusing to obey orders, and the weapons evaded us. As the soldiers returned to barracks, they were accosted by civilians who threw stones and exchanged insults. The soldiers then shot into the crowd and bayoneted one man, resulting in the deaths of four civilians and wounding of at least 38.”

“Good Lord!” John gasped.

“I blame it all on that Childers fellow, stirring up trouble.”

“But bayonetting civilians, sir.” A knot appeared in John’s stomach.

“Don’t be soft, boyo.” Cecil said icily. “Attacking soldiers is a capital crime.”

John shut his mouth and thought of the Boer children.


THE ROYAL NAVY RE-ORGANISES:

Navy.jpg

“Thankfully, the situation is moving in the right direction. The Royal Navy sailed to Scapa Flow after the King’s inspection. Once there it was re-organised by the meticulous hands of Lord Churchill and Admiral Fisher.

They have sent the smaller ships to protect transport ferries. Established a Submarine Fleet which was also sent to Dover.
The Grand Fleet will now be captained by Jellicoe and Beatty. It’s a rather large fleet. And it’s job will be to keep the bloody Germans in their ports

BRITISH BLOCKADE PLANS:

Navy2.jpg

At the moment of war the Royal Navy will enact a blockade of all ships heading or leaving Germany. We shall starve out the Germans, Captain. With France and Russia surrounding her, she will solely be able to supply herself through the south. And we are in the process of organising a Mediterranean blockage as well. Let us see how fast the Germans beg for mercy.”

John thought of the Boer children.

SERBIA MOBILISES FOR WAR:

Serbia.jpg

“Expecting a declaration against them, Serbia mobilised for war while Austria-Hungary broke off diplomatic relations. The British Ambassador to Austria-Hungary reported to us: 'War is thought imminent. Wildest enthusiasm prevails in Vienna."

“Another Balkan war it is, then, sir?”

RUSSIA PARTIALLY MOBILISES:

Russia.jpg

“If only it were that simple, Captain. Russia in response has partially mobilised. I believe they attempt to call Austria-Hungary’s bluff.”

“Will they stand down, sir?”

AUSTRIA-HUNGARY MOBILISES:

Austria-Hungary.jpg

“Emperor Franz Joseph I signed a mobilisation order for eight army corps to begin operations against Serbia, while their ambassador von Gieslingen simply packed up and left Belgrade.

Not to mention the government in Paris canceled all leave for French troops as of 2 days ago, and ordered the majority of their troops in Morocco to return home.”

“And what is our government doing about it?”

BRITAIN WILL STAND WITH FRANCE AND RUSSIA:

Entente.jpg

“In his talks with The German Ambassador, Our foreign minister Grey drew a sharp distinction between an Austro-Serbian war—which does not concern Britain—and an Austro-Russian war—which very much does.

Grey sent another peace proposal asking for Germany to use its influence to save the peace. He warned that if Austria continues with its aggression against Serbia, and Germany with its policy of supporting Austria, then Britain would have no other choice but to side with France and Russia.”

“Is there no possible way out of this? This is madness, sir.”

“The French Foreign Minister informed the German Ambassador in Paris, that France is eager to find a peaceful solution, and will be prepared to do her utmost to influence St. Petersburg, if Germany will caution moderation in Austria, since Serbia had fulfilled nearly every bloody point of the ultimatum”.

Cecil looked out of the window. The sun was shining and children playing in the park. 

“I fear we’ll have to draw up a new map soon.” 


Paris, France

Paris, France

“The War of 1870 was a national disgrace,” Patrice complained, his gray thick brows living a life of its own. “Now the Germans want more! Always more!”

Maxence tried to calm him down. The other guests of Le Café du Croissant seemed only to pay attention for mere seconds before going back to their busy lives.

“Patrice, we are in the beginning of a revolution. A wonderful revolution.”

“Are we, Maxence? For all I can see is squabbling. All these parties jumping over each other, chasing false idols. Meanwhile, across the border our enemy grows in strength. I do not think we need another fumbling revolution, no?”

Patrice had seen plenty of compromises that had gone nowhere. Union strikes, and dubious deals made behind closed doors. The years had not been kind on him. Once well respected, but lately his star had faded.

“Then why come here?” Maxence asked him, hoping to reach the old liberal. “We are 2 minutes from L’Humanité.  People from Le Bonnet Rouge are sitting right over there.”

“You know that we can hear you, no?” Mr. Dolié laughed from the neighboring table.

Patrice ignored him. “I’ve been coming here for many years, Maxence. I believe in a strong France, and I believe in strong coffee. I will not be chased from either.”

A picture of a little girl was placed in front of him.
Patrice and Maxence looked up to see Mr. Dolié standing there with a smile on his face.

“Mr. Thibault, this is my daughter. We all wish for a strong France.” He laid his hand on the old man’s shoulder. “But it must be a kind France, an honorable France. for what is strength without compassion? What is France without love?”

Patrice grunted. “You stole that from the newspaper you write for, no?”

“Perhaps.”

Maxence studied the picture of the little girl. She was holding a poppy flower. Her smile had the same joyful innocence as her father’s. A pair of missing front teeth made her all the more precious.

“Only love the Germans know is at the wrong end of a bayonet.” Patrice declared. “When we get back Alsace-Lorraine, then we can talk about compassion.”

Mr. Dolié turned towards Maxence and shrugged his shoulders. “Be careful life does not make you this jaded, Mr. Brisson.”

Maxence, embarrassed, awkwardly smiled. 

“I won’t.”

“And perhaps it is best we keep him away from Mr. Jaurece, no?”

 

 




July 28 - AUGUST 4, 1914

ON THE EVE OF war

"The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."

- Foreign Minister Edward Grey, 1914 -


1x.jpg
Newcastle, England

Newcastle, England

“These treacherous Brits.” General Reşid hissed. “They have given us nothing but excuses.”

Admiral Orbay brushed his mustache and looked out over the port. There rose the Dreadnought Reshadieh in all her splendor. A titan of steel. State-of-the art. 27 guns in all. Now the British were having second doubts in handing her over to the Ottomans.

“Churchill?”

“We believe so” General Reşid replied. “They received our last payment, and now we wait for a ship that never come.”

“Have you heard back from Admiral Djemal?”

“No, it is too early. A decision must be made now. By us”

“Do you trust me, Reşid?”

“The Hero of Hamidiye? Until the end, brother.”

“The payment has been made in full, the hour of transfer has come and gone. I believe the ships are now legally ours.”

“Bold.”

“I believe there is an opportunity for our men to board the ships unseen in the dark of night.”

“The Sultan Osman I aswell?”

“I will command the Sultan Osman I.” Admiral Orbay replied. “Once we are onboard, we will message the shipyard and the port authority of our departure.”

“Fearless, Rauf. But what if they arrest us? Or worse?”

“It will cause an international crisis, and I would like to see Churchill weasel his way out of declaring war on two Ottoman ships headed for home.”

General Reşid looked upon the mighty Reshadieh. The Greeks and Russians had been a thorn in their side for years. Soon their old Empire would rise again.

“General Enver might disown us, The Sultan surely will. It will be our heads on the chopping block whether we succeed or not.”

Admiral Orbay knew he was right. They could very likely face a court martial for this.

“A war is coming, brother. If we fail, we fail only in our attempt to preserve the Turkish nation. If we succseed, we will arrive in Istanbul with a navy to rival our enemies. we will be national heroes. However...”

He stopped.

“...Allah alone knows all.” Reşid said.

“Allah alone knows all.” Orbay replied.


London, England

London, England

“Do you plan to go to France?” General Cecil asked.

“Not sure yet, sir.” John replied. Doubt fogging up most of his life at the moment. “I’m not exactly a spring chicken anymore.”

“Rubbish!” He exclaimed. “The empire needs men to lead these young boys.”

“You raise a fair point, sir.”

“Cecil.” He sat down next to him.

“Have you spoken to the missus?”

“She’s aware she married an army man.”

Cecil nodded in respect and took another sip of his tea. They were sitting next to each other with the great European map looking down at them.

TRANSPORT FLEET C TO ALEXANDRIA:

Alexandria.jpg

“The transport fleets we spoke of are now organised into 3 squadrons with supporting firepower. A, B, and C.

A and B will be in the channel to support traffic from and to France. Transport fleet C, however, has set sail for Alexandria. There it will help transport troops from and to Africa, not to mention act as an extension to the far east. I fear our colonies will need much attention in the upcoming months.

THE QUESTION OF ITALY:

Italy.jpg

The Italians are technically in an alliance with Germany, and Austria-Hungary. But they have now issued a statement in where they declare this alliance only a defensive one. Truth is, the Italians have had enough of the German sentiment for a while, and are flirting with the other side. We are attempting to convince them to join us.

POLITICAL ASSASSINATION IN PARIS:

Jean.jpg

It seems that not a day goes by without a bloody assassination. Did you know Dear Queen Victoria herself had eight attempts on her life? Yes, eight!

Well, a few days ago the leader of the French Socialist Party was murdered at the hands of Raoul Villain, a 29-year-old French nationalist. I see the look you’re giving me. I wish death on no man, regardless of how I feel towards his political leanings. The Socialist Party was staunchly against a war with Germany. They were due to attend a conference on August 9, in an attempt to dissuade France from going ahead with the war. Now it appears little is left to prevent France from gearing up.

THE ESCAPE OF THE OTTOMAN DREADNOUGHTS:

Ottoman.jpg

Heads will roll, whoever we have to blame for this blunder.

The Ottoman Admiral Rauf, along with 500 Turkish troops, arrived in Newcastle to sail the 2 dreadnoughts the British sold to them home. With the increasing tension in Europe, last thing Churchill wishes to do is to arm the enemy.

However, someone did not receive the memo. For the dreadnoughts set sail without full permission, leaving the ports before the Royal Navy knew quite what to do.

Gibraltar and the Mediterranean fleet have been put on alert. By the time they reach either points the diplomatic landscape should be more clear on what course of action we should take.

RUSSIAN GENERAL MOBILISATION:

Russia.jpg

A few days ago, what was first thought to be a partial mobilisation in fact evolved into a general mobilisation. Bound by treaty to defend Serbia, Nicholas II of Russia ordered the Russian Imperial Army against the Austria-Hungarian, and German border. The message to Austria-Hungary is now very clear: Invade Serbia and be invaded.

GERMANY MOBILISES IN RESPONSE:

Germany.jpg

Perceiving the Russian mobilisation as aggression and a threat towards their sovereignty. The German Empire mobilised their own soldiers against them. However, they also moved forces towards the French and Belgium border.”

“An invasion through the Lowlands?”

“That is the leading theory” Cecil said, and sat back down next to the Captain.

“John…” He paused for a moment, looking for the right words to say. “I do not wish to order you. You were sent to me as an assistant. keeper-of-the-books, so to speak.”

John looked down at his service ribbons on his chest.

“You want me in France.”

“I fear General Douglas’ days of good health is behind him. General Kitchener will be made Secretary of War in a few days.”

John thought of the Boer children and clinched his fist.

“You want me in France.”

“We want you in France. On a special assignment. Officially you’ll be just another Captain, but you’ll report directly to Kitchener and myself.

Only if you want the job. This is not an order, John. But I need a man I can trust to report back what is really going on down there.”

John stood up, and walked to the window.

“Think it over with the missus,” Cecil said cautiously. “And respond tomorrow. Thing will happen very fast from here on out.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Cecil.”


Paris, France

Paris, France

“Ah! Mr Bisson!” Mr. Dolié laughed, ignoring Patrice standing next to him.

Maxence smiled and shook his hands.

“These are the bright minds of France, no?” Mr. Dolié said, extending his arms as if introducing Le Café du Croissant.

“Crowded today.” Patrice complained.

“Mr. Jean Jaurès is here now, very exciting.” Mr. Dolié whispered.

There next to the window he sat. The socialist party leader himself: Jean Jaurès. He was with a few other acquaintances. Passionately he spoke to them. Occasionally interrupted by guests walking up to shake his hand, but he always indulged them.

“Damn traitor.” Patrice muttered.

“Pardon me?” Maxence replied.

“You heard me. He is a coward. We must beat back the Germans and reclaim our land. And this man.” Patrice pointed at Jaurès. “And his pacifist party want nothing more but to hide, and runaway, and, and…”

“Hello Gentlemen.”

A stunning beauty appeared in front of them.

Maxence was speechless, Patrice lost his train of thought. Her eyes were oceans to fall into and be lost forever. Her smile radiated a warmth and kindness.

“This is Mrs. Dolié.” Mr. Dolié said. Maxence tried to hide his infatuation.

He laughed, “It is okay, Maxence. She is a beautiful girl.” He winked. “Not sure what she sees in me.”

“Silly man.” She replied and smiled. “Now, you promised to go see Mr. Jaurès.”

“Ah yes! Gentlemen.” He excused himself.

“Mr. Jaurès?” Mr. Dolié held out his photograph. “This is my little girl.”

“May I see it?" Jaurès asked with a kind smile, and received the photograph to examine it.

“A wonderful child” He said. “How old is she?”

“6 years, Mr. Jaurès. The future of France.”

Mr. Jaurès kindly smiled and nodded “Congratulations to you and your wife, and to the future of France.”

The guests raised a toast.

“To the future of France.”

A woman cried out.

“Jaurès was killed! Jaurès was killed!”

Jaurès fell like a sledgehammer to his left; people in the restaurant were standing, shouting, gesticulating, rushing around. It was a moment of confusion. Mr. Dolié stood there frozen in time. drops of blood on his face. Maxence looked over at Mrs. Dolié. Her face had lost all of it’s love and warmth.

“The shots came from outside!” Patrice yelled as he made a dash for the door.

On the table a photograph drowned in a puddle of blood.

Maxence could have sworn he heard the distant sound of marching drums. 

 

 




AUGUST 4 - AUGUST 11, 1914

WAR!

"On the idle hill of summer,
Sleepy with the flow of streams,
Far I hear the steady drummer
Drumming like a noise in dreams.."

- A.E Housman, 1896 -


1.jpg
2.jpg
London, England

London, England

“Do you know how much I love you?” Margarete said, still clutching his hand.

“I will be safe away from the frontline, dear.” John lied. “General Cecil requires me for my intelligence, not for my youthful athleticism.”

She laughed.
A tear landed on his hand.

“Why must we have war? Whatever good will come of this?”

“One day we will have peace, my dear.” he replied. “Our sons and daughters will grow up spoiled at the prosperity we leave behind.”

“Empty words.”

“I know.”

“Come back to me.”

“Yes, my dear.”

She wrapped her arms around him in a very unlike British manner and cried on his pristine uniform.


London2.jpg

“Field Marshall Kitchener, sir.” 

“General Cecil. At ease.”

Kitchener entered the office. His steely eyes and imposing height radiated an authority few could match.

“How is France, sir?” Cecil said as he picked up a large dossier from his desk.

“A right sordid mess, Cecil, a right sordid mess.” Kitchener replied as he sat down. “So let’s get to work, shall we?”

AUSTRIA-HUNGARY INVADES SERBIA:

3.jpg

“Yes, sir.” Cecil pointed at the Kingdom of Serbia. “The Austria-Hungarians launched their invasion on the 8th, a rather fumbling affair, if I may say so myself. A few smaller skirmishes have been waged on their borders. Roughly a thousand casualties, 60% being Serbians. It appears the Austro-Hungarians are having some issues transporting their troops fast enough.”

“Terrible terrains as well.”

“Most certainly, sir. Plenty of hilltops and mountains.

GERMANY DECLARES WAR ON RUSSIA:

4.jpg

And it didn’t take the Germans long to declare war.”

“I’ve read the newspapers.”

“Of course, sir” Cecil replied. “Well, yesterday the Germans won the battle of Czestochowa, a thousand Russian casualties, sir. They are scrambling about like mad.”

“If only that was the extent of the Russian disaster.”

“Oh, whatever do you mean, Sir?”

THE BATTLE OF POMERANIAN BAY:

13.jpg

Kitchener threw a stack of papers down on the desk. A list of names with red lines etched across them.

“The madmen are attempting to lose their own navy. Or whatever is left of it.”

“Good Lord..”

- Armored cruiser - Pallada - SUNK
- Pre-dreadnought battleship - Tsarevich - SUNK

“Yesterday the German Grand Fleet went hunting for a fight in the Baltic seas. Our North Sea blockade is now fully operational, so I’m surprised we did not catch wind of this operation. In any case, The German High Seas Fleet intercepted a Russian squadron, and engaged them. Heavy losses on both sides, but the Germans came out of it with 1000 seamen lost. The Russians are looking at closer to three times that. As reinforcement closed in, the German fleet broke off, and disappeared.”

“So the Russians are losing on land, and sea?”

“Very much so, Cecil.”

THE NAVY BLOCKADE:

14.jpg

“But we have our own Grand Fleet patrolling the North Sea, sir. And it is costing an awful lot of oil. We were hoping to lure out the High Sea Fleet, but they’ve proven to be a tad bit more clever than we gave them credit for.”

“That might be so” Kitchener replied. “But we’ve also commandeered 9 merchant ships headed for Germany. The blockade is working wonderfully in preventing supplies from reaching their docks.”

GERMANY INVADES BELGIUM:

5.jpg

“Well, in other news, sir: Following the declaration of war, Germany began an invasion of Belgium, as they denied their troops military access in order to reach France.”

“Again, Cecil, this was in the last briefing.” 

“Ah, yes sir.” Cecil replied. “But they seem to be stuck in Liege. The fortifications there have slowed the German advancements to a halt. It’s rather remarkable. Marvellous bastards, the Belgians. It is giving us plenty of time.”

BRITAIN DECLARES WAR:

6.jpg

“August 8th, In response to the attack on Belgium, our government declared war on the Germans and their allies. The General Mobilisation has gone far better than we could ever imagine, Sir. The men are lining up, ready to do their duty, just as you hoped.”

“We’ll see where we are next year.” Kitchener said gravely.

THE BRITISH EXPEDITIONARY FORCE IN FRANCE:

WesternFront.jpg

“The BEF has been separated into 2 corps” He continued as he threw a map of France down on the desk. “General Haig is located at Dunkirk, while II Corps and our HQ, under General French’s command has been tasked with moving into Lille and setting up operations.”

“And what of the French? I see plenty of movement”

“The French are madder than the Russians.” Kitchener grunted. “Belgium is lost, and if we pull in to save it we will be lost as well.”

“And the last 8 divisions from Britain?”

“They will reinforce when needed.”

“What sort of war are you fighting, Sir?”

“A long one.” Kitchener answered cryptically.

THE EMPIRE BEGIN MOBILISATION:

9.jpg

“Does Asquith know about your plans?”

Kitchener’s steely eyes pierced through Cecil’s soul.

“Cecil. Are you questioning my decisions?” He asked with a reserved tone.

Cecil coughed, flabbergasted. “Of course not, sir, of course not.” He hurried over to the large map on the wall and shifted Kitchener’s focus away from France. By pointing down at Africa.

“We have begun mobilising the rest of the empire, sir. We have looked at the numbers, and there is a tremendous potential of manpower…”

“South-Africa?” Kitchener grumbled. “What could you possibly do with South-Africa that will not cause another rebellion?”

AFRICA:

11.jpg

“Well, it’s not just South-Africa, sir” Cecil pointed at the other British colonies in Africa. “We have several militias and garrisons we can move into minimally defended German colonies. We also have the French troops to aid us, as well as preventing any German reinforcements by cutting off the Mediterranean sea.”

CLAIMING GERMAN PAPUA NEW GUINEA:

10.jpg

“Ah,” Kitchener replied. “That reminds me. Certain measures have been made in the Pacific to seize German positions.”

“Oh?” Cecil replied. “What sort of measures?”

“Nothing drastic.” Kitchener answered. “A small garrison from New Zealand has been tasked with securing Papua New Guinea. Nothing the Germans shall ever be able to contest.

A NEW, BETTER CHINA FLEET:

8.jpg

Also, the East Indies Squadron has been sent to link up with the China Fleet in Hong Kong. The Germans are only dangerous one place in the Pacific, and that is Tsingtao… or Qingdao, or whatever the hell they call it now. Churchill and his boys want to lay siege on it.”

“Well, that’s good and all, sir, but it’s in France the war will be won.” Cecil said.

“You’re very much on the money, Cecil. And we’ll need every last man.”

“Millions, sir?”

“Every last drop of blood, I fear.”


Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade, Serbia

A large explosion hit the building. The world trembled as grey clouds of dust filled the air. Vlad fell over and cowered under a cafe table.

“We have to keep moving!!” Bete yelled at the top of his lungs. 

The Austro-Hungarians had begun shelling the capital from afar. Every hit was random but aimed to disrupt and cause chaos in the city.

“I’m so tired, brother…” Vlad laid on the street amongst the rubble. “So tired..”

Bete grabbed the younger brother by the arm and threw him over his shoulder. 

“We are getting out of here.”

As they begun walking they spotted three Serbian soldiers running down the street.

“What the hell are you two doing out of your uniforms” one of them barked.

“We just arrived.” Vlad answered quite confused, attempting to stand on his own.

“That’s sir to you.” The man barked before turning to one of the other soldiers. "Marko, find these clowns some uniforms.”

“Yes, sir.” Marko replied.

“Do you know how to fire a rifle?” The man asked, before correcting himself. “Ah, never mind, we don’t even have enough rifles for ourselves. I’m Captain Pavlović. Now fuck off and don’t let me see you two in my company without a uniform. We’re moving out in an hour.”

“What? Where?”

“North, we’re going to kick Franz Joseph in the ass.”

 

 




AUGUST 11 - AUGUST 18, 1914

THE MASSACRE IN THE NORTH SEA

"SHIP IS SINKING. ESCAPE IMPROBABLE. THE BOYS FIGHT ON.”

- Admiral William Pakenham, last transmission, 1914 -


Coverchapter2.jpg
Manchester, England

Manchester, England

The sounds of the chains echoed through the gray and long hallways. Alice wondered if they feared that she would try to escape, or more ridiculous, attack them. What sort of men lock up a young lady like a Zoo animal?

“Do you know why I have called you in here today, Miss. Osborne?” The Warden asked. Hidden behind his large wooden desk filled with trinkets and stacks of paperwork.

“I’m afraid not, warden.” Alice replied, looking down at her chains.

“For goodness sakes, man, remove her shackles.” The warden ordered, visibly distraught at her condition. 
“Miss. Osborne, I am to inform you that a truce with the protestors has been established. All WSPU prisoners are to be released immediately. In return your... colleagues… have promised that there will be no more protests.
There’s a war going on, Miss Osborne. Both sides agree this takes precedents.”

“.... I understand, warden...” Alice replied. Trying to understand the ramifications. She was free to go, the cause was in limbo. Now she would have to travel back to her hometown in Whitby. To her sister, to stay with her, while her husband is out at sea. In this terrible war.


London, England

London, England

“What’s Kitchener’s lap dog doing here?” Admiral Fisher asked, eyeballing Cecil.

“He’s here to tell us what the German army is carrying on, gentlemen.” Churchill declared. “Or would you rather read it in tomorrow’s newspaper? Filled with half-truths, and downright lies.”

Cecil put on his best face walking into the room filled with the Royal Navy’s elite leaders. He had been in important meetings before, shook hands with prominent figures. But never in such a solemn and perilous situation.

“Gentlemen.” He nodded and took a seat.

Admiral Fisher grunted in return.

“Continue, Admiral Hall.” Churchill said, looking across the table filled with rolled up maps, to a man standing in front of them, nervously rubbing his hands.

“Yes… Yes, sir.” He replied and signaled to another officer to hold up one of the maps.

THE BATTLE OF GERMAN BIGHT:

BattleGermanBight2.jpg

“The Grand Fleet operating to uphold the blockade made contact with the High Seas Fleet at 5:00, 12th August in the German Bight. Admiral Scheer sailed out to fight us straight on. Sir… They’re saying it’s the largest navy battle in the world’s history.”

“Good Lord.” Cecil whispered. Churchill shot him a quick look.

“And our boys did us proud.”

“Y, Yes.. Sir” Admiral Hall replied.

BattleGermanBight.jpg

Cecil looked down on the table. Cold hard numbers stared back at him.

German casualties - 8 000
British casualties - 2 617
German ships sunk:
Kaiser class battleship - SMS Kaiserin - SUNK 
Pre-dreadnought battleship - SMS Schwaben - SUNK
Light cruiser - SMS Thetis - SUNK
Light cruiser - SMS Strassburg - SUNK
Light cruiser - SMS Stralsund - SUNK
3 Destroyers - SUNK

“We reckon there were around 8 000 German casualties sir.” Admiral Hall announced.

“Not to mention the sinking of Kaiserin, and Schwaben. Terrible blows to the German Navy” Admiral Fisher added.

“Splendid.” Churchill replied. “Make sure the newspapers keep printing that, we will need those numbers to survive this bloody mess.”

SHIPS TO REPAIR:

Repair.jpg

Our own Grand Fleet took a severe beating.” Admiral Fisher said. “We lost no ships, but plenty of them are in dire need of repair. The HMS Liverpool for example is in tatters.”

Cecil picked up the report.

Ships docked for repair:
Pre-dreadnought battleship - HMS Queen
Pre-dreadnought battleship - HMS Venerable
Light cruiser - HMS Liverpool
Light cruiser - HMS lowestoft
Armoured cruiser - HMS Antrim
Armoured cruiser - HMS Roxburgh
Armoured cruiser - HMS Cressy

“And why was HMS Queen, and HMS Venerable apart of this operation?” Churchill asked.

“Those were the ships Admiral von Battenberg assigned to the grand fleet, sir.”

“They are still fine ships.” Admiral Von Battenberg’s voice finally arose from the corner. He was sharp and stylish, a dashing man of royal linage. “I leave it up to the discretion of the Fleet commander to assign them accordingly.”

“Well, they’re hardly fine ships any longer.” Churchill replied.

“We have underestimated the German Navy every step of the way.” Admiral Fisher said.

“There we agree, Jackie.” Churchill muttered. “Brief us on the Russian situation, Admiral Hall.”

“W, Will do, sir.”


THE SECOND BATTLE OF POMERANIAN BAY:

Baltic-Sea.jpg

16:00 on the same day, the Russian fleet was attacked.” Hall pointed to a map of the Baltic sea.

“The bastards are mad.” Fisher declared. “They have split their fleet into three and attacked every side at once.”

“We’ll get there, Jackie.” Churchill interrupted. “Continue.”

“Sir, the Russians suffered terrible loses.”

German casualties - 150
Russian casualties - 1 358
Russian Ships sunk

Armored cruiser - Rossia - SUNK
Protected cruiser - Aurora - SUNK
Protected cruiser - Diana - SUNK 

THE SACKING IN DANZIG BAY:

Baltic-Sea2.jpg

German casualties - 200
Russian casualties - 2 327
Russian Ships sunk
Pre-dreadnought battleship - Imperator Pavel I - SUNK
Pre-dreadnought battleship - Slava - SUNK
Pre-dreadnought battleship - Andrei Pervozvanny - SUNK
Armored cruiser - Bayan II - SUNK
Armored cruiser - Rurik - SUNK
Protected cruiser - Oleg - SUNK
Protected cruiser - Bogatyr - SUNK

“That’s half of the Russian Fleet.” Fisher noted. 

Cecil jaw dropped. The list of ships destroyed, years of craftmanship, tons of steel and metal for the defense of the nation, lost forever, at the bottom of the sea.

“We could divert our submarines,” von Battenberg said. “The waters in the Baltic is suitable for them.”

Churchill poured himself a glass of whiskey. “Don’t mind me, gentlemen.
Admiral Hall, I now have to burden you with the task of messenger-of-terrible-news, as it seems fate has chosen you to deliver it.”

He took a swig of the glass.

“Let’s get on with it.”

THE MASSACRE AT VIKING BANK:

Massacre.jpg

“Yes.. Yes, Sir.” Admiral Hall grabbed another map and rolled it out on the table.

“When the Grand Fleet engaged in combat in the German Bight, there…” He paused. “There was another fleet…”

“Hipper.” Fisher shuttered. “We let Admiral Hipper sneak past the Grand Fleet. While we greedily attacked Admiral Scheer.”

North-Sea.jpg

“Yesterday, sir, at dawn, off the coast of Bergen, this German fleet engaged with our patrol fleet.” Admiral Hall said. “They’re not supposed to be in any direct battle, sir… They don’t have the range, nor the armor. It was a shooting gallery out there.”

“Gather yourself, man” Fisher replied.

“Yes, sir.” Admiral Hall replied. “Admiral Hood was ordered to separate from the Grand Fleet and head straight for Viking Bank. But….. It was too late, sir.”

German casualties - 0
British casualties - 5 600
British Ships sunk
Protected cruiser - HMS Venus - SUNK
Protected cruiser - HMS Minerva - SUNK
Protected cruiser - HMS Isis - SUNK
Protected cruiser - HMS Heseus - SUNK
Protected cruiser - HMS Theseus - SUNK
Protected cruiser - HMS Doris - SUNK
Protected cruiser - HMS Diana - SUNK
Protected cruiser - HMS Eclipse - SUNK
Protected cruiser - HMS Hawke - SUNK
Protected cruiser - HMS Talbot - SUNK
Protected cruiser - HMS Juno - SUNK
Protected cruiser - HMS Charybdis - SUNK
Cruiser - HMS Pelorus - SUNK
Cruiser - HMS Royal Arthur - SUNK
20 destroyers (4 Squadrons) - SUNK

“That’s the entire Patrol fleet…” Fisher said.

“And 8000 brave seamen in defense of His King’s Navy.” Churchill replied.

INTERCEPTION:

North-Sea-2X.jpg

“Admiral Jellico has hastily put together a plan.” Churchill added. “One that you support, von Battenberg?”

“I think it might be rather hazardous.” von Battenberg replied. 

“hazardous?!” Fisher barked. “You’ve incompetently lost 35 ships! You are responsible for the greatest maritime disaster since bloody Scilly!” Papers flew through the air. “Jellico is the only man out there able to save what’s left of our support fleet!”

“Ah, so I am to be the scapegoat, then.” von Battenberg replied.


WHO IS TO BLAME:

Fisher.jpg

“Gentlemen” Churchill interrupted. “The battle is still being waged, and resolutely so. I am to hold a speech in the House of Commons tomorrow, concerning this… This catastrophe. And seeing as how it might play out, there is still a chance that we might salvage it. Hipper is now surrounded by a numeric superior. von Battenberg’s concerns for the operation has been duly noted. But today belongs to Admiral Jellicoe.”

Now, get on with it, Admiral.”

Hall nodded.

THE BATTLE OF GUINEA BASIN:

Africa.jpg

“We’ve also have had some… issues outside of the North sea, sir. Yesterday our squadron fleet from Freetown in Africa met a formidable German squadron in the gulf of Guinea”

“It’s our Achille’s heel.” Fisher complained. “The sheer size of our empire.”

“Yes, sir.” Hall nodded. “We took significant casualties, sir.”

German casualties - 700
British casualties - 1 001
German Ship sunk
1 Destroyer - SUNK

 

NEW SHIPS READY:

Undaunted.jpg

“This is no doubt macabre of me to say.” von Battenberg broke the silence. “But these ships... The Germans have only sunk aged and obsolete equipment… Aside from the terrible losses of our dear men.” He sank down into a shadow, contemplating his words. “But, these ships were old. We have 2 state-of-the-art light-cruisers ready today, and a long list of ships that will be finished in a few months. If the Germans wish to trade a Kaiser-class Battleship for a cruiser from the last century, are we to stop them making that mistake?


OUR NAVY BLOCKADE:

Blockade.jpg

Not to mention.” He stood up and walked over to the table. “The blockade still stands, and it is proving mighty effective. The Germans cannot supply anything through the north. Their attack has been a clear sign of their distress. Germany wants those ports open, and even in light of this battle, they remain locked.”

“He is correct.” Churchill noted. “As far as the public is concerned, this has been one large battle. One that we have won.”

“If Jellicoe finishes the job.” Admiral Fisher corrected.

“Indeed, Jackie. Indeed.”

INVESTIGATING SINKING OF CONVOYS:

Convoy.jpg

“Sir,” Hall spoke in a low questioning tone.

“Speak up, young man.” Churchill replied.

“Last, on our report, sir. The merchant fleet has reported the disappearance of 2 ships in the Atlantic.” 

“We have dispatched part of the patrol fleet to that location,” Fisher added. “If the Germans are up to anything we will catch them.”

“Right,” Churchill mumbled. “Well, it’s your turn, General Cecil. Give these men a quick briefing on how the army is buggering it up on land.”

“I do not believe we can do much worse than the Russians, sir.” Cecil declared and bounced up. “Right-o, chaps, move out the way.” He marched up towards the end of the table with his own stack of maps and papers. 

“Chaps, we’re proper buggered.

THE EASTERN FRONT:

EasternFront.jpg

If the Russian army’s movement seem chaotic, it is so primely due to them being in a state of utter panic, some are even being routed into the arms of the enemy. They have lost 25 000 soldiers as we speak.” Silence in the room.
“They have lost 25 000 soldiers, gentlemen.”
Cecil continued. “Heavy fighting across the entire border. One division is even about to be encircled near Breslau.” 

GermanRussian.jpg

“My God.” Admiral Hall said.

“The soldiers are putting up quite the fight.” Cecil replied. “But they require orders, and the leadership is sorely lacking. There is hope however. A counter-attack in Austria seems promising. 22 Russian divisions are currently raining down on Tarnopol. If they can punch a hole in the enemy’s lines, Germany will be surely forced to send reinforcements there.” 

“And our own men?” Fisher asked. “The BEF?”

THE WESTERN FRONT:

WesternFront.jpg

“Ah!” Cecil let out. “The Expeditionary Force! It has arrived, admiral, and it’s digging in.”

“Outside of Belgium.” von Battenberg pointed out.

“Ah, well. We’re being cautious.” Cecil replied. “We’ve barely reached Lille, and the Germans have broken through at Liege. They’re invading Brussels as of now.”

Belgium.jpg

“So it is true, you have given up Belgium then? Just as you gave up Luxembourg.” von Battenberg said with an ice cold tone.

“Well, we haven’t thrown our men foolishly into the unknown. seeing as their equipment is neither aged nor obsolete.” Cecil replied callously.

von Battenberg sneered.

THE BATTLE OF LONGWY

Battle.jpg

“The French have little help to offer them as well. Great battles are now raging in Longwy. 47 divisions are now involved in the fighting. Over 350 000 German soldiers are marching in. The French, in response, have begun transporting in reinforcements to ease the pressure, but we must do our part.”

“To sit idly by?”

“To cover our side of the flank, von Battenberg! The time will soon come for our men, don’t you worry.”

THE BALKAN FRONT:

SerbianFront.jpg

“Thankfully, the Balkans look a bit better.” Hall added, looking down at the maps.

“Ah! yes, admiral Hall,” Cecil replied. “And with Montenegro joining our side there is now even the possibility of reinforcing that front. Perhaps send forces through the Balkans to Russia, or punch our way into Austria-Hungary, with our colonial troops.”

“First things first.” Fisher interrupted. “How are the Serbians holding out?”

Petrovgrad.jpg

“Surprisingly well.” Cecil replied “The Serbians are winning a battle in Petrovgrad. They’re actually advancing on an invading enemy.”

“Hard people.” Churchill noted. 

“Indeed.” Cecil replied. “We expect them to lose—especially if Bulgaria joins the conflict—however, every week they hold out is a gift to us. Fighting a war on three fronts is suicide for the Prussian alliance.”

“And do you share Kitchener’s belief that this will be a long and grueling war?” Churchill asked.

“I don’t know, sir.” Cecil answered. “But I know we have not seen the worst of it. Not by a long shot.”


Czestochowa, Russia

Czestochowa, Russia

Paul Mueller had murdered two men this morning. The first he had fired at from 130 feet away. His battalion had met resistance in the forest during their great push into Czestochowa. He had planted a bullet through the man’s chest and quickly moved on. For such is the nature of war.

The second man had not gone down so quickly, however. This man had snuck up on Paul while he was busy reloading and kicked him hard in the face.

It had been a tough fight after that. In the mud, where swift movements slow to a crawl. Paul had—after a long, torturous struggle—ended the Russian man’s life by stabbing him rapidly in the side of the neck. The Russian had then crawled up into fetal position like a pathetic dog.

Now he lay dead in front of him.

Paul sat on a rock, looking out at the aftermath of the battle. He wondered what his fellow soldiers would say if they knew how many more he had murdered in the past.