HotFreeBooks.com
The Story of the Great War, Volume V (of 12) - Neuve Chapelle, Battle of Ypres, Przemysl, Mazurian Lakes
by Francis J. Reynolds, Allen L. Churchill, and Francis Trevelyan
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The periscope was merely a tube in which there were arranged mirrors so that anything reflected in the first mirror, the one above the surface of the water, was again reflected till it showed in a mirror at the bottom of the tube, within the hull of the vessel, where its commander could observe it safely. A crew of about twenty-five men was necessary to operate one of these crafts, and theirs was an unpleasant duty, first because of the danger that accompanied each submergence of their vessel; second because of the discomforts abroad. The explosive engines which drove the craft, whether burning oil or the lighter refinements such as gasoline, gave off gases that caused headaches and throbbing across the forehead; and it was almost impossible to heat the interior of the craft.

Though merchantmen had gone to the bottom as victims of German submarines before, the proclamation of a "war zone" was issued they were individual cases; the first instance of a merchant ship being sunk as a result of the new policy of the German admiralty was the sinking of the British steamer Cambark on the 20th of February, 1915. This ship was bound for Liverpool, from Huelva, Spain. While off the north coast of Wales, on the morning of the 20th, the periscope of a hostile submarine was sighted only 200 yards ahead. The engines of the steamship were immediately reversed, but she had no time to make off, for a torpedo caught her amidships and she started to sink immediately. Her crew managed to get off in small boats, but all of their personal belongings were lost.

The small Irish coasting steamer Downshire was made a victim on the 21st of February, 1915, but instead of sending a torpedo into her hull, the commander of the U-12, the submarine which overhauled her, resorted to boarding. After trying to elude the submarine by steering a zigzag course, the Downshire was finally overtaken. The crew was ordered to take to the small boats, while nineteen men of the submarine, which had come above water, watched the operations from the deck. A crew from the submarine took one of the small boats of the steamship and rowed toward her. They placed a bomb in a vital spot and set it off, sinking the merchantman. In this way the submarine's commander had saved a torpedo. A conversation which took place between the captains of the two craft revealed the methods by which the submarine commanders were able, not only to steal up on their intended victims, but to elude being sighted by the patrolling British warships. Some fishing smacks had been in the vicinity while the Downshire was sunk, and the British captain asked the German captain why they had not been attacked. The latter hinted that his plans worked best if the fishing boats were unmolested. When asked whether he had hidden behind one these little boats he changed the subject, but it was learned later that the commanders of the submarines made a practice of coming to the surface right near fishing boats and bade them act as screens while they lay in wait for victims. By keeping the small boats covered with a deck gun or by putting a boarding crew aboard, it was possible for the commanders of the submarines to keep their periscopes or the hulls of their vessels behind the sails of the fishing boats, unobservable to lookouts on larger ships.

By the 23d of February, 1915, the success of German submarines had been so marked that the insurance rates on merchantmen went up. Lloyd's underwriters announced that the rate on transatlantic passage had gone up nearly one per cent. And on the same day it was announced that the British Government would thereafter regulate steamship traffic in the Irish Sea. Certain areas of the Irish Sea were closed to all kinds of traffic; lines of passage were defined and had to be followed by all merchantmen, and vessels of all descriptions were ordered to keep away from certain parts of the coast from sunset to sunrise.

The comparatively small size of the submarines made it possible for the German admiralty to load them on to trains in sections and transport them where needed, and in this manner some were sent from the German ports on the North Sea to Zeebrugge, there assembled and launched. Others were sent to the Adriatic, arriving at Pola on the 25th of February, 1915. These were intended for use in the Mediterranean as well as in the Adriatic Sea.

Neutral ships, in order to escape attack by German submarines had to resort to unusual methods of self-identification. The use of flags belonging to neutral countries by the merchantmen of belligerent powers made the usual identification by colors almost impossible, the German admiralty claiming that the commanders of submarines were unable to wait long enough, after stopping a vessel, to ascertain whether she had a right to fly one flag or another. Consequently the ships belonging to Dutch and American lines had their names painted with large lettering along their sides. At night, streamers of electric lights were hung over the sides to illuminate these letterings; and on the decks of many of the neutral ships their names and nationalities were painted in large letters so that they might be identified by aircraft. Owing to such precautions the Dutch steamship Prinzes Juliana escaped being sunk by a torpedo on the 3d of March, 1915. A submarine ran a parallel course to that followed by the Dutch ship, but after examining the lettering on her sides the commander of the German craft saw that she was not legitimate game and turned off.

Not always did the German submarines themselves succeed in escaping unharmed in their raiding of allied merchantmen. Rewards were offered in Great Britain for the sinking of German submersibles by the commanders of British merchantmen. Instructions were issued in the British shipping periodicals, showing how a submarine might be sunk by being rammed. It was officially announced on the 5th of March, 1915, by the British admiralty, that the U-8 had been rammed and sunk by a British warship. The crew of twenty-nine was rescued and brought to Dover. For the British this was a stroke of good fortune, for while the U-8 was of an earlier type it was a dangerous craft, having a total displacement of 300 tons, a radius of operation of 1,200 miles, a speed of 13 knots when traveling "light" and a speed of 8 knots when submerged. On the same day the French minister of marine announced that a French warship had come upon a German submarine of the type of the U-2 in the North Sea and that after firing at the hull of the vessel and hitting it three times it was seen to sink and did not reappear.

During the last week of February and the first week of March, 1915, bad weather on the waters surrounding the British Isles hampered the operations of German submarines to an extent which led the British public to believe that the submarine warfare on merchantmen had been abandoned, but they were disillusioned when on the 9th of March, 1915, three British ships were sunk by the underwater craft. The steamship Tangistan was torpedoed off Scarborough, the Blackwood off Hastings and the Princess Victoria near Liverpool. Part of this was believed to be the work of the U-16.

In the three days beginning March 10, 1915, eight ships were made victims of German submarines in the waters about the British Isles. Most novel was the experience of a crowd gathered on the shore of one of the Scilly Islands on March 12, 1915, when two of these eight ships, the Indian City and the Headlands, were torpedoed. At about eight in the morning the islanders on St. Mary's Island saw a German submarine overtake the former and sink her. The German vessel then remained in the adjacent waters to watch for the approach of another victim, while two patrol boats near by put out and opened fire on her. The crowd saw the enemies exchange shots at a distance of ten miles off shore. But neither side put in any effective shots, and the combat ended when the submarine dived and retired.

The steamship Headlands was then sighted by the commander of the submarine and he immediately started to pursue her. The steamship steered a zigzag course, but the submarine got in a position to launch a torpedo, and at about half past ten in the morning the crowd on the shore saw steam escaping from her in large quantities. Some time after they saw a large volume of black smoke and debris fly upward and they knew that another torpedo had found its mark. She then settled, her crew and the men from the Indian City reaching St. Mary's in small boats.

To keep British harbors free from the German submarines the British admiralty had to set their engineers to work to devise some method of trapping the underwater craft automatically, for there seemed to be no sort of patrol which they could not elude. Steel traps, not unlike the gill nets used by fishermen, were finally hit upon as the best thing to use against the submarines, and by March 13, 1915, a number of these were installed at entrances to some of the British harbors. They were made of malleable iron frames, ten feet square, used in sets of threes, so arranged that they might hold a submarine by the sides and have the third of the set buckle against its bottom. They were suspended by buoys about thirty feet below the surface of the water. When a submarine entered one of these it was held fast, for the frame which came up from the bottom caught the propeller and made it impossible for the submarine to work itself loose. The disadvantage to the submarine was that, while traveling under water, it traveled "blind"; the periscopes in use were good only for observation when the top of them were above water; when submerged the commander of a submarine had to steer by chart. By the end of March, 1915, a dozen submarines had been caught in nets of this kind.

By the 18th of March, 1915, three more British ships had been made the victims of German torpedoes. The Atlanta was sunk off the west coast of Ireland only a day before the Fingal was sunk off Northumberland. And the Leeuwarden was sunk by being hit from the deck guns of a German submarine off the coast of Holland. There was no loss of life except during the sinking of the Fingal, some of whose men were drowned when she dragged a lifeboat full of men down with her.

By way of variety the Germans attempted to sink a British ship in the "war zone" with bombs dropped from an airship, the news of which was brought to England by the crew and captain of the Blonde when they reached shore on March 18, 1915. This ship had been German originally, but being in a British port when the war started was taken over and run by a British crew. Two or three mornings before the men landed they had noticed a Taube aeroplane circling over their ship at about 500 feet altitude. It then swept downward and took a close look at the vessel. Two bombs, which fell into the water near the ship, were droppd by the German aviator. The captain of the Blonde ordered that the rudder of his ship be fastened so that she might drive in a circle and her engines were set at full speed, with the intention of making a more difficult target for the airship's bombs. The whistle of the ship was set going and continued to blow in the hope of attracting help from other ships. More bombs were near the vessel, but none of them found its mark. After one more attempt, when only 300 feet above the ship's deck, the aviator let go with his last supply, but again being unsuccessful he veered off to the north and allowed the Blonde to escape.

The naval attack on the Dardanelles is told in another chapter, but the work of the Allies' submarines there included the use of French submarines, which is not narrated elsewhere. On the 19th of March, 1915, Rear Admiral Guepratte of the French navy reported that one of his submarines had attempted, without success, to run through the Dardanelles. The object of the attempt was to sink the Turkish battle cruiser Sultan Selim, formerly the Goeben. The submarine submerged and got as far as Nagara. But she had to travel "blind" and her captain, being unfamiliar with those waters, struck some rocks near the shore and immediately brought her to the surface. She became a target for the land guns of the Turks at once and was sunk, only a few of her men, who were taken prisoners, escaping death.

On the 19th of March, 1915, the British admiralty reported that the three British ships, Hyndford, Bluejacket, and Glenartney had been torpedoed in the "war zone" without warning, with the loss of only one man. Beachy Head in the British Channel had been the scene of most of the operations of German submarines against British ships, and consequently, when on the 21st of March, 1915, the collier Cairntorr was torpedoed in that region, no unusual comment was made by the admiralty. Heretofore the scene of the latest attack had been thought worthy of mention on account of the unusual and unexpected places that submarines chose for action.

A new phase of the submarines' activities was opened on March 21, 1915, when two Dutch ships Batavier V and Zaanstroom were held up and captured. The U-28 had for some days been hiding near the Maas Lightship, and had been taking shots with torpedoes at every ship which came within range. The Batavier V had left the Hook of Holland on March 18, 1915. At about five o'clock that morning she came near the Maas Lightship on her way to England, whence she was carrying provisions and a register of fifty-seven persons, including passengers and crew; among the former there were a number of women and children. Suddenly a submarine appeared off her port bow, and her captain was ordered to stop his ship. This he did readily, for he had been thus stopped before, only to be allowed to proceed. But this time the commander of the submarine, the U-28, shouted to him through a megaphone: "I am going to confiscate your ship and take it to Zeebrugge."

While the two commanders were arguing over the illegality of this, the Zaanstroom was sighted, and was immediately overtaken by the submarine. An officer and a sailor from the submarine had been placed on the Batavier V, and this prevented her escaping while the pursuit of the Zaanstroom was on. A similar detail was now placed on the latter, and her captain was ordered to follow the U-28 which returned to the Batavier V. "Follow me to Zeebrugge" was the order which the commander of the submarine gave the two ships, and their captains obeyed. They arrived at Zeebrugge at noon, and were immediately unloaded. Those of the passengers and crews who were citizens of neutral countries were sent to Ghent and there released, while all those aboard, such as Belgians and Frenchmen, were detained.

When possible, the commanders of the German submarines saved their costly torpedoes and used shell fire instead to sink their victims. This was done in the case of the steamship Vosges, which was sunk on March 28, 1915. For two hours, while the engines of the steamship were run at full speed in an attempt to get away from the submarine, she was under fire from two deck guns on board the submersible. Though the latter made off at the approach of another vessel, her shells did enough damage to cause the Vosges to sink a few hours later.

Up to the middle of March, 1915, all the ships which had become victims of German submarines had been of the slower coasting variety. There had been numerous unconfirmed reports that the faster transatlantic ships had been chased, but no credence had been given to them. On the 27th of March, 1915, however, when the Arabic arrived at Liverpool it was reported by those on board that she had given a submarine a lively chase and had gotten away safely. At about nine o'clock the evening before the submarine was sighted off Holyhead. She was only 200 yards ahead, and while her commander jockeyed for a position from which he could successfully launch a torpedo, the commander of the Arabic gave the order "Full speed ahead." His passengers lined the rail of the ship to watch the maneuvers. Soon the steamship had up a speed of 18 knots, which was a bit too fast for the submarine, and she fell to the rearward. Her chance for launching a torpedo was gone, but she brought her deck guns into action, firing two shots which went wild. The Arabic proceeded to port unmolested.

At times even the cost of shell fire was figured by the commanders of German submarines, and pistol and rifles were used instead. This was done in the case of the Delmira on the 26th of March, 1915. This steamship was sunk off Boulogne. Ten minutes were given by the crew of the submarine to the crew of the steamship for them to get off. The submarine had come up off the bow of the Delmira, and men standing on the deck of the former had fired shots toward the bridge of the latter to make her captain bring her to a stop. The latter ordered his engines started again at full speed, with the intention of ramming the enemy, but his Chinese stokers refused to obey the order, and his ship did not move. The crew of the steamship got into their small boats, and for an hour and a half these were towed by the submarine so that their row to shore would not be so long. Though torpedoed, the Delmira did not sink, and was last seen in a burning condition off the French coast near Cape de la Hogue.

The sinking of the steamship Falaba, which is mentioned, though not narrated in full, in another chapter, was the last act of German submarines during the month of March, 1915. This ship on the 29th of March, 1915, was overtaken by a German submarine in St. George's Channel. She was engaged in the African trade, voyaging between the African ports and Liverpool. On her last journey she carried a crew of 90 men and some 160 passengers, many of the latter being women and children. The commander of the submarine brought his craft to the surface off the bow of the Falaba, and gave the captain of the steamship five minutes in which to put his crew and passengers into lifeboats. A torpedo was sent against her hull and found the engine room, causing a tremendous explosion. One hundred and eleven persons lost their lives because they had not been able to get off in time, or because they were too near the liner when she went down. This was the most important merchantman which had been sent to the bottom by a submarine since the proclamation of February 15, 1915.

The next two victims of this sort of warfare were the steamships Flaminian and the Crown of Castile, one of which was sunk by the U-28, and the other by an unidentified submarine on April 1, 1915. They went down off the west coast of England with no loss of life, though the Crown of Castile was torpedoed before her crew could get off. The Flaminian had tried to get away, but had to stop under fire from deck guns on the submarine. The shells did not hit her in vital spots, however, and it was necessary to send a torpedo into her hull to sink her.

The ease with which submarines had been able to bob up in unexpected places and to sink British merchantmen, in spite of the patrols maintained by British warships, caused the captains of merchant vessels to petition the British Government to be allowed to arm their vessels on April 1, 1915. This was not granted, because their being armed would have made the steamship legitimate prey for the submarines, nor was any attention paid to the demand made by the British press that the crews and officers of captured German submarines be treated, not as prisoners of war, but as pirates. Reprisals on the part of the Germans was feared.

Beachy Head on the 1st of April, 1915, was again the scene of two successful attacks on merchantmen by submarines. On that day the French steamship Emma, after being torpedoed, went to the bottom with all of the nineteen men in her crew. The same submarine sank the British steamer Seven Seas, causing the deaths of eleven of her men.

In order to indicate the amount of harm which the submarine warfare caused British shipping, the admiralty on April 1, 1915, announced that though five merchantmen had been sent to the bottom and one had been only partially damaged by submarines during the week ending March 31, 1915, some 1,559 vessels entered and sailed from British ports during the same period.

Efforts were made to damage the base, from which many of the German submarines had been putting out at Zeebrugge, with aircraft. On the 1st of April, 1915, the British Government's press bureau announced that bombs had been dropped, with unknown success, on two German submarines lying there, and that on the same day a British airman had flown over Hoboken and had seen submarines in building there.

The steamship Lockwood, while off Start Point in Devonshire, was hit abaft the engine room by a German torpedo on the morning of April 2, 1915, and though she went down almost immediately, her crew was able to get off in small boats and were picked up by fishing trawlers.

The U-28, which had done such effective work for the Germans during the month of March, 1915, was relieved of duty near the British Isles during the first week of April by the U-31, which sank the Russian bark Hermes and the British steamship Olivine off the coast of Wales on April 5, 1915.

The British admiralty decided in April, 1915, to use some other means besides the employment of torpedo boats and destroyers to keep watch for German submarines, and innocent-looking fishing trawlers were used for the purpose. While these could give no fight against a submarine, it was intended that they would carefully make for land to report after sighting one of the hostile craft. The Germans, discovering this strategy, then began to sink trawlers when they found them. On the morning of April 5, 1915, one of these small craft was sighted and chased by the U-20. After a pursuit of an hour or more the German ship was near enough for members of her crew to fire on the trawler with rifles. Her crew got into the small boat and were picked up later by a steamer. The trawler was sent to the bottom.

The U-20 still kept up her raiding. On the 5th of April, 1915, she overtook the steamer Northland, a 2,000-ton ship, and torpedoed her off Beachy Head. The crew of the steamer were able to escape, although their ship went down only ten minutes after the submarine caught up with it.

The use of nets to catch submarines was vindicated, when on the 6th of April, 1915, one of these vessels became entangled in a steel net near Dover and was held fast. The loss of the U-29, which was commanded by the famous Otto von Weddigen, who commanded the U-9 when she sank the Hogue, Cressy, and Aboukir in September, 1914, was confirmed by a report issued by the German admiralty on April 7, 1915, after rumors of her loss had circulated throughout England and France for a number of weeks.

In order to encourage resistance on the part of crews of British vessels attacked by German submarines, the British Government rewarded the crew of the steamship Vosges. It was announced on April 9, 1915, that the captain had been given a commission as a lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve and the Distinguished Service Cross; the remaining officers were given gold watches, and the crew were given $15 per man.

Rumors had reached the outside world that the German submarines were using hidden spots to store fuel and provisions so that they might go about their raiding without having to return to German ports for reprovisioning. Neutral nations, such as the Netherlands and Norway, found it necessary, to maintain their neutrality, to keep watch for such action. On the 9th of April, 1915, Norwegian airmen reported to their Government that such a cache had been discovered by them behind the cliffs in Bergen Bay. Submarines found there were ordered to intern or to leave immediately, and chose to do the latter.

Certain acts of the commanders of German submarines seemed to make it evident that their intention was to sink ships of every description, no matter where found, in order to make the "war zone" a reality, and to make it shunned by neutral as well as belligerent ships. Thus the Dutch steamship Katwyk, which lay at anchor seven miles west of the North Hinder Lightship off the Dutch coast, was sunk. This lightship was maintained by the Netherlands Government and stood at the mouth of the River Scheldt, forty-five miles northwest of Flushing. The Katwyk was stationary there on the night of April 14, 1915, when the crew felt a great shock and saw that their ship was rapidly taking water. They managed to reach the lightship in their lifeboats just as their vessel sank. The same submarine sank the British steamer Ptarmigan only a few hours later.

Among victims flying the flags of neutral nations the next ship was of American register. This was the tank steamship Gulflight, which was torpedoed off the Scilly Islands on the 29th of May, 1915. The hole made in her hull was not large enough to cause her to sink, and she was able to get to port. But during the excitement of the attack her captain died of heart failure and two of her crew jumped into the sea and were drowned. Three days later the French steamship Europe and the British ship Fulgent were sent to the bottom, probably by the same submarine.

The month of May, 1915, had opened with greater activity on the part of German submarines than had been shown for many weeks previous. Between the 1st and the 3d of that month seven ships were torpedoed, four of them being British, one Swedish, and two Norwegian. By the 5th of May, 1915, ten British trawlers had been sunk; some of these were armed for attack on either German submarines or torpedo boats.

* * * * *

CHAPTER XXII

SINKING OF THE "LUSITANIA"

On the 7th of May, 1915, came the most sensational act committed by German submarines since the war had started—the sinking of the Cunard liner Lusitania. The vessel which did this was one of the U-39 class. In her last hours above water the giant liner was nearing Queenstown on a sunny day in a calm sea. When about five miles off shore, near Old Head of Kinsale, on the southeastern coast of Ireland, a few minutes after two o'clock, while many of the passengers were at lunch and a few of them on deck, there came a violent shock.

Five or six persons who had been on deck had noticed, a few moments before, the wake of something that was moving rapidly toward the ship. The moving object was a torpedo, which struck the hull to the forward on the starboard side and passed clean through the ship's engine room. She began to settle by the bows immediately, and the passengers, though cool, made rushes for lifebelts and for the small boats. The list of the boat made the launching of some of these impossible.

The scenes on the decks of the sinking liner were heartrending. Members of families had become separated and ran wildly about seeking their relatives. The women and children were put into the lifeboats—being given preference.

"I was on the deck about two o'clock," narrated one of the survivors, "the weather was fine and bright and the sea calm. Suddenly I heard a terrific explosion, followed by another, and the cry went up that the ship had been torpedoed. She began to list at once, and her angle was so great that many of the boats on the port side could not be launched. A lot of people made a rush for the boats, but I went down to my cabin, took off my coat and vest and donned a lifebelt. On getting up again I found the decks awash and the boat going down fast by the head. I slipped down a rope into the sea and was picked up by one of the lifeboats. Some of the boats, owing to the position of the vessel, got swamped, and I saw one turn over no less than three times, but eventually it was righted."

Not all of the women and children got off the liner into the small boats. "Women and children, under the protection of men, had clustered in lines on the port side of the ship," reported another survivor. "As the ship made her plunge down by the head, she finally took an angle of ninety degrees, and I saw this little army slide down toward the starboard side, dashing themselves against each other as they went, until they were engulfed."

Even under the stress of avoiding death the sight of the sinking hull was one that held the attention of those in the water. One of the sailors said afterward: "Her great hull rose into the air and neared the perpendicular. As the form of the vessel rose she seemed to shorten, and just as a duck dives so she disappeared. She went almost noiselessly. Fortunately her propellers had stopped, for had these been going, the vortex of her four screws would have dragged down many of those whose lives were saved. She seemed to divide the water as smoothly as a knife would do it."

Twenty minutes after the torpedo had struck the ship she had disappeared beneath the surface of the sea. "Above the spot where she had gone down," said one of the men who escaped death, "there was nothing but a nondescript mass of floating wreckage. Everywhere one looked there was a sea of waving hands and arms, belonging to the struggling men and frantic women and children in agonizing efforts to keep afloat. That was the most horrible memory and sight of all."

Fishing boats and coasting steamers picked up many of the survivors some hours after the disaster. The frightened people in the small boats pulled for the shore after picking up as many persons as they dared without swamping their boats. Some floated about in the waters for three and four hours, kept up by their lifebelts. Some, who were good swimmers, managed to keep above water till help came; others became exhausted and sank.

Probably the best story, covering the entire period from the time the ship was hit till the survivors were landed at Queenstown, was told by Dr. Daniel V. Moore, an American physician: "After the explosion," said Dr. Moore, "quiet and order were soon accomplished by assurances from the stewards. I proceeded to the deck promenade for observation, and saw only that the ship was fast leaning to the starboard. I hurried toward my cabin below for a lifebelt, and turned back because of the difficulty in keeping upright. I struggled to D deck and forward to the first-class cabin, where I saw a Catholic priest.

"I could find no belts, and returned again toward E deck and saw a stewardess struggling to dislodge a belt. I helped her with hers and secured one for myself. I then rushed to D deck and noticed one woman perched on the gunwale, watching a lowering lifeboat ten feet away. I pushed her down and into the boat, then I jumped in. The stern of the lifeboat continued to lower, but the bow stuck fast. A stoker cut the bow ropes with a hatchet, and we dropped in a vertical position.

"A girl whom we had heard sing at a concert was struggling, and I caught her by the ankle and pulled her in. A man I grasped by the shoulders and I landed him safe. He was the barber of the first-class cabin, and a more manly man I never met.

"We pushed away hard to avoid the suck, but our boat was fast filling, and we bailed fast with one bucket and the women's hats. The man with the bucket became exhausted, and I relieved him. In a few minutes she was filled level full. Then a keg floated up, and I pitched it about ten feet away and followed it. After reaching the keg I turned to see what had been the fate of our boat. She had capsized. Now a young steward, Freeman, approached me, clinging to a deck chair. I urged him to grab the other side of the keg several times. He grew faint, but harsh speaking roused him. Once he said: 'I am going to go.' But I ridiculed this, and it gave him strength.

"The good boat Brock and her splendid officers and men took us aboard.

"At the scene of the catastrophe the surface of the water seemed dotted with bodies. Only a few of the lifeboats seemed to be doing any good. The cries of 'My God!' 'Save us!' and 'Help!' gradually grew weaker from all sides, and finally a low weeping, wailing, inarticulate sound, mingled with coughing and gargling, made me heartsick. I saw many men die. Some appeared to be sleepy and worn out just before they went down."

Officials of the Cunard Line claimed afterward that three submarines had been engaged in the attack on the liner, but, after all evidence had been sifted, the claim made by the Germans that only one had been present was found to be true. The commander of the submarine had evidently been well informed as to just what route the liner would take. Trouble with her engines, which developed after she had left New York, had brought her speed down to 18 knots, a circumstance which was in favor of the attacking vessel, for it could not have done much damage with a torpedo had she been going at her highest speed; it would have given her a chance to cross the path of the torpedo as it approached. No sign of the submarine was noticed by the lookout or by any of the passengers on the Lusitania until it was too late to maneuver her to a position of safety. A few moments before the white wake of the approaching torpedo was espied, the periscope had been seen as it came to the surface of the water. From that moment onward the liner was doomed.

The German admiralty report of the actual sinking of the ship, which was issued on the 14th of May, 1915, was brief. It read: "A submarine sighted the steamship Lusitania, which showed no flag, May 7, 2.20 Central European time, afternoon, on the southeast coast of Ireland, in fine, clear weather.

"At 3.10 o'clock one torpedo was fired at the Lusitania, which hit her starboard side below the captain's bridge. The detonation of the torpedo was followed immediately by a further explosion of extremely strong effect. The ship quickly listed to starboard and began to sink.

"The second explosion must be traced back to the ignition of quantities of ammunition inside the ship."

One of the effects of the sinking of the Lusitania was to cut down the number of passengers sailing to and from America to Europe on ships flying flags of belligerent nations. Attacks by submarines on neutral ships did not abate, however, for on the 15th of May, 1915, the Danish steamer Martha was torpedoed in broad daylight and in view of crowds ashore off the coast of Aberdeen Bay.

The sinking of ships in the "war zone" continued in spite of rumors that the German admiralty was expected to discontinue operations of the submarines against merchantmen on account of the unfriendly feeling aroused in neutral nations, particularly the United States. On the 19th of May, 1915, came the news that the British steamship Dumcree had been torpedoed off a point in the English Channel. A torpedo fired into her hull failed to sink her immediately, and a Norwegian ship came to her aid, passing her a cable and attempting to tow her to port. But the submarine returned, and fearing attack, the Norwegian ship made off. A second torpedo fired at the Dumcree had better effect than the first one, and she began to settle. When the submarine left the scene the Norwegian steamship again returned to the Dumcree and managed to take off all of her crew and passengers. Three trawlers, one of them French, were sunk in the same neighborhood during the next forty-eight hours.

As soon as Italy entered the war an attempt was made by the Teutonic Powers to establish the same sort of submarine blockade in the Adriatic which obtained in the waters around Great Britain. This was evinced when the captain of the Italian steamship Marsala reported on May 21, 1915, that his ship had been stopped by an Austrian submarine, but the latter not wishing to disclose its location to the Italian navy, allowed his ship to proceed unharmed.

The suspicion that the German admiralty maintained bases for their submarines right on the coasts of Great Britain where the submersible craft could obtain oil for driving their engines, as well as supplies of compressed air and of food for the crew, was confirmed on the 14th of May, 1915, when it was reported that agents of the British admiralty had discovered caches of the kind at various points in the Orkney Islands, in the Bay of Biscay, and on the north and west coasts of Ireland.

In order to damage shipping in the "war zone" by having ships go wrong through having no guiding lights an attack was made by a German submarine on the lighthouse at Fastnet, on the southern coast of Ireland, on the night of May 25, 1915. Shortly after nine in the evening the submarine was sighted in the waters near the lighthouse by persons on shore. She was about ten miles from Fastnet, near Barley Cove. When she came near enough to the lighthouse to use her deck guns, men on shore opened fire on her with rifles, and she submerged, not to reappear in that neighborhood again.

But this same submarine managed to do other damage. The American steamship Nebraskan was in the neighborhood on its way to New York. The sea was calm and the ship was traveling at 12 knots, when some time near nine o'clock in the evening a shock was felt aboard. A second later there came a terrific explosion, and a subsequent investigation showed that a large hole, 20 feet square, had been torn in her starboard bow, not far from the water line. When she began to settle the captain ordered all hands into the small boats. They stayed near the damaged ship for an hour and saw that she was not going to sink. When they got aboard again they found that a bulkhead was keeping out the water sufficiently to allow her to proceed under her own steam. In crippled condition she made for port, being convoyed later by two British warships which answered her calls for help.

In spite of the sharp diplomatic representations which were at the time passing back and forth between Germany and the United States over the matter of the German submarine warfare, the craft kept up as active a campaign against merchant ships as they did before the issues became pointed. On May 28, 1915, there came the news that three more ships had been sent to the bottom. The Spennymoor, a new ship, was chased and torpedoed off Start Point, near the Orkney Islands. Some of her crew were drowned when the lifeboat in which they were getting away capsized, carrying them down. On the same day the large liner Argyllshire was chased and fired upon by the deck guns of a hostile submarine, but she managed to get away. Not so fortunate, however, was the steamship Cadesby. While off the Scilly Islands on the afternoon of May 28, 1915, a German submarine hailed her, firing a shot from a deck gun across her bows as a signal to halt. Time was given for the crew and passengers to get into small boats, and when these were at a distance from the ship the deck guns of the submarine were again brought into action, and after firing thirty shots into her hull they sank her. The third victim was the Swedish ship Roosvall. She was stopped and boarded off Malmoe by the crew of a German submarine. After examining her papers they permitted her to proceed, but later sent a torpedo into her, sinking her.

A new raider, the U-24, made its appearance in the English Channel during the last week in May, 1915. On the twenty-eighth of the month this submarine sank the liner Ethiope. The captain of the steamship attempted some clever maneuvering, which did not accomplish its object. He paid no attention to a shot from the deck guns of the submarine which passed across his bow. The hostile craft then began to circle around the liner, while the rudder of the latter was put at a wide angle in an effort to keep either stern or bow of the ship toward the submarine, thus making a poor target for a torpedo. But the commander of the submarine saw through the movement and ordered fire with his deck guns. After shells had taken away the ship's bridge and had punctured her hull near the stern the crew and passengers were ordered into the small boats. They had hardly gotten twenty feet from their ship when she was rent by a violent explosion and went down.

The transatlantic liner Megantic had better luck, for she managed to escape a pursuing submarine on May 29, 1915, as she was nearing Queenstown, Ireland, homeward bound. A notable change in the methods adopted by the commanders of submarines as a result of orders issued by the German admiralty in answer to the protests throughout the press of the neutral nations after the sinking of the Lusitania was the giving of warning to intended victims. By the end of May, 1915, in almost every instance where a German submarine stopped and sank a merchantman the crew was given time to get off their ship and the submarine did not hesitate to show itself. In fact, warning to stop was generally given when the submarine's deck was above water and the gun mounted there had the victim "covered." This was done in the case of the British steamship Tullochmoor, which was torpedoed off Ushant near the most westerly islands of Brittany, France.

On the 1st of June, 1915, there came the news of the sinking of the British ship Dixiana, near Ushant, by a German submarine which approached by aid of a clever disguise. The crew managed to get off the ship in time; when they landed on shore they reported that the submarine had been seen and on account of sails which she carried was thought to be an innocent fishing boat. The disguise was penetrated too late for the Dixiana to make its escape.

The clear and calm weather which came with June, 1915, made greater activity on the part of German submarines possible. On the 4th of June, 1915, it was reported by the British admiralty that six more ships had been made victims, three of them being those of neutral countries. In the next twenty-four hours the number was increased by eleven, and eight more were added by the 9th of June, 1915.

On that date Mr. Balfour, Secretary of the British admiralty, announced that a German submarine had been sunk, though he did not state what had been the scene of the action. At the same time he announced that Great Britain would henceforth treat the captured crew of submarines in the same manner as were treated other war prisoners, and that the policy of separating these men from the others and of giving them harsher treatment would be abandoned.

On the 20th of June, 1915, the day's reports of losses due to the operations of German submarines, issued by the British Government, contained the news of the sinking of the two British torpedo boats, the No. 10 and the No. 20. No details were made public concerning just how they went down.

On the same day the Italian admiralty announced that a cache maintained to supply submarines belonging to the Teutonic Powers and operating in the Mediterranean, had been discovered on a lonely part of the coast near Kalimno, an island off the southwest coast of Asia Minor. Ninety-six barrels of benzine and fifteen hundred barrels of other fuel were found and destroyed. It was believed that this supply had been shipped as kerosene from Saloniki to Piraeus. How submarines belonging to Germany had reached the southern theatre of naval warfare had been a matter of speculation for the outside world. But on the 6th of June, 1915, Captain Otto Hersing made public the manner in which he took the U-51 on a 3,000 mile trip from Wilhelmshaven on the North Sea to Constantinople. He was the commander who managed to torpedo the British battleships Triumph and Majestic.

He received his orders to sail on the 25th of April, 1915, and immediately began to stock his ship with extra amounts of fuel and provisions, allowing only his first officer and chief engineer to know the destination of their craft. He traveled on the surface of the water as soon as he had passed the guard of British warships near the German coast; traveling "light" allowed him to make six or seven knots more in speed. As he passed through the "war zone" he kept watch for merchantmen which might be made victims of his torpedo tubes. His craft was sighted by a British destroyer, however, off the English coast and he had to submerge to escape the fire of the destroyer's guns. He then proceeded cautiously down the coast of France, encountering no hostile ships. When within one hundred miles of Gibraltar he was again discovered by British destroyers, but again managed to escape by submerging his craft.

Passage through the Strait of Gibraltar was made in the early morning hours, while a mist hung near the surface of the water and permitted no one at the fort to see the wake of the U-51's periscope. Once inside the Mediterranean he headed for the south of Greece, escaping attack from a French destroyer and proceeding through the AEgean Sea to the Dardanelles. The journey ended on the 25th of May, just one month after leaving Wilhelmshaven.

The British ships Triumph and Majestic were sighted early in the morning, but attack upon them was difficult on account of the destroyers which circled about them; one of the destroyers passed right over the U-51 while she was submerged. Captain Hersing brought her to the surface soon afterward and let go the torpedo which sank the Triumph. For the next two days the submarine lay submerged, but came up on the following day and found itself right in the midst of the allied fleet. This time the Majestic was taken as the target for a torpedo and she went down. Again submerging his vessel Captain Hersing kept it down for another day, and when he again came to the surface he saw that the fleets had moved away. He then returned to Constantinople.

On the 23d of June, 1915, the British cruiser Roxborough, an older ship, was hit by a torpedo fired by a German submarine in the North Sea, but the damage inflicted was not enough to prevent her from making port under her own steam.

The deaths of a number of Americans occurred on the 28th of June, 1915, when the Leyland liner Armenian, carrying horses for the allied armies, was torpedoed by the U-38, twenty miles west by north of Trevose Head in Cornwall. According to the story of the captain of the vessel, the submarine fired two shots to signal him to stop. When he put on all speed in an attempt to get away from the raider her guns opened on his ship with shrapnel, badly riddling it. She had caught fire and was burning in three places before he signaled that he would surrender. Thirteen men had meanwhile been killed by the shrapnel. Some of the lifeboats had also been riddled by the firing from the submarine's deck guns, making it more difficult for the crew to leave the ship. The German commander gave him ample time to get his boats off.

To offset the advantage which the Germans had with their submarines the British admiralty commissioned ten such craft during the week of June 28, 1915. These vessels were of American build and design and were assembled in Canada. During the week mentioned they were manned by men sent for the purpose from England. Each was manned by four officers and eighteen men, to take them across the Atlantic. Never before in history had so many submarines undertaken a voyage as great. They got under way from Quebec on July 2, 1915, and proceeded in column two abreast, a big auxiliary cruiser, which acted as their escort steaming in the center.

The next large liner which had an encounter with the German submarine U-39 was the Anglo-Californian. She came into Queenstown on the morning of July 5, 1915, with nine dead sailors lying on the deck, nine wounded men in their bunks, and holes in her sides made by shot and shell. She had withstood attack from a German submarine for four hours. Her escape from destruction was accomplished through only the spirit of the captain and his crew, combined with the fact that patrol vessels came to her aid forcing the submarine to submerge.

A variety in the methods used by the commanders of German submarines was revealed in the stopping of the Norwegian ship Vega which was stopped on the 15th of July, while voyaging from Bergen to Newcastle. The submarine came alongside the steamship at night and the commander of the submarine supervised the jettisoning of her cargo of 200 tons of salmon, 800 cases of butter, and 4,000 cases of sardines, which was done at his command under threat of sinking his victim.

The week of July 15, 1915, was unique in that not one British vessel was made the victim of a German submarine during that period, though two Russian vessels had been sunk. Figures compiled by the British admiralty and issued on the 22d of July, 1915, gave out the following information concerning the attacks on merchantmen by German submarines since the German admiralty's proclamation of a "war zone" around Great Britain went into effect on the 18th of February, 1915.

The official figures were as follows:

Week ending Vessels lost Lives lost Feb. 25, 1915 11 9 March 4, " 1 None March 11, " 7 38 March 18, " 6 13 March 25, " 7 2 April 1, " 13 165 April 8, " 8 13 April 15, " 4 None April 22, " 3 10 April 29, " 3 None May 6, " 24 5 May 13, " 2 1,260 May 20, " 7 13 May 27, " 7 7 June 3, " 36 21

Week ending Vessels lost Lives lost June 10, 1915 36 21 June 17, " 19 19 June 24, " 3 1 July 1, " 9 29 July 8, " 15 2 July 15, " 12 13 July 22, " 2 None —— ——— 235 1,641

The first year of the Great War came to an end with the German submarines as active in the "war zone" as they had been during any part of it. On the 28th of July, 1915, the anniversary of the commencement of the war, there was reported the sinking of nine vessels. These were the Swedish steamer Emma, the three Danish schooners Maria, Neptunis, and Lena, the British steamer Mangara, the trawlers Iceni and Salacia, the Westward Ho, and the Swedish bark Sagnadalen. No lives were lost with any of these vessels.

The first year of the war closed with a cloud gathered over the heads of the members of the German admiralty raised by the irritation the submarine attacks in the "war zone" had caused. Germany's enemies protested against the illegality of these attacks; neutral nations protested because they held that their rights had been overridden. But the German press showed the feeling of the German public on the matter—at the end of July, 1915, it was as anxious as ever to have the attacks continued. Conflicting claims were issued in Germany and England. In the former country it was claimed that the attacks had seriously damaged commerce; in the latter it was claimed that the damage was of little account.



PART III—THE EASTERN FRONT—AUSTRO-RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN

* * * * *

CHAPTER XXIII

THE CARPATHIAN CAMPAIGN—REVIEW OF THE SITUATION

In the beginning of 1915 comparative calm reigned over the Austro-Russian theatre of war, so far as actual hostilities were concerned. But it was not altogether the variable climatic conditions of alternate frost and thaw—the latter converting road and valley into impassable quagmires—that caused the lull. It was a short winter pause during which the opposing forces—on one side at least—were preparing and gathering the requisite momentum for the coming storm.

During January, 1915, the Russian armies were in a decidedly favorable position. In their own invaded territory of Poland, as we have seen, they held an advanced position in front of the Vistula, which circumstance enabled them to utilize that river as a line of communication, while barring the way to Warsaw against Von Hindenburg. Lemberg, the capital of Galicia, which they had captured in September, 1914, was still in their hands. Sixty miles away to the west there lay the great fortress of Przemysl, invested by the Russians under General Selivanoff, and completely cut off from the outer world since November 12, 1914. At least 150,000 troops and enormous quantities of stores and munitions were locked up in the town and outlying forts, together with a population of 50,000 inhabitants, mostly Polish. In addition to these material advantages, the Russians held all the Carpathian passes leading from Galicia into the vast plains of Hungary, and a strong advanced position on the Dunajec in the west, which, besides threatening Cracow, the capital of Austrian Poland, served also as a screen to the mountain operations. Finally, to the far east of the range, they had occupied nearly the whole of the Bukowina right up to the Rumanian frontier.

Such, briefly, was the situation on the Austro-Russian front when the second winter campaign opened. For Austria the situation was extremely critical. Her armies, broken and scattered after a series of disastrous reverses, could scarcely hope by their own efforts to stem the threatened invasion of Hungary. General Brussilov, however, made no serious attempt to pour his troops through the passes into the plain below; although what was probably a reconnaissance emerged from the Uzsok Pass and penetrated as far as Munkacs, some thirty miles south, while on several occasions small bands of Cossacks descended from the Dukla and Delatyn (Jablonitza) passes to raid Hungarian villages. General Brussilov evidently regarded it inadvisable to risk an invasion of the plain, especially as he did not hold control of the southern exits from the passes, beyond which he would be exposed to attack from all sides and liable to encounter superior forces. The main Austrian anxiety for the moment was the precarious position of Przemysl, to relieve which it was first essential to dislodge Brussilov or to pierce his line. Again, in the hour of her extremity, Austria's powerful ally came to the rescue.



Under the command of the Archduke Eugene the Austrian troops—all that were available—were formed into three separate armies. For convenience sake we will designate them A, B, and C. Army A, under General Boehm-Ermolli, was ordered to the section from the Dukla Pass to the Uzsog. It was charged with the task of cutting a way through to relieve Przemysl. Army B, under the German General van Linsingen, who also had some German troops with him, was to assail the next section eastward, from the Uzsog to the Wyszkow Pass; and Army C, under the Austrian General von Pflanzer-Baltin, likewise supplied with a good "stiffening" of German soldiers, was accredited to the far-eastern section—the Pruth Valley and the Bukowina. These three armies represented the fighting machine with which Austria hoped to retrieve the misfortunes of war and recover at the same time her military prestige and her invaded territories. We have no reliable information to enable us to estimate the exact strength of these armies, but there is every reason to believe that it was considerable, having regard to the urgency of the situation and the bitter experience of the recent past. Hence the figure of 400,000 men is probably approximately correct. Somewhere about January 23, 1914, after a period of thaw and mud the weather settled down to snow and hard frost. Then the machine began to move. A snow-clad mountain rampart lay spread before; over 200 miles of its length embraced the area of the projected operations. Here we may leave this army for a while in order to review some of the political and strategic considerations underlying the campaign, which is the scope of this chapter.

The Russian occupation of the Bukowina, which was undertaken and accomplished by a force far too small to oppose any serious resistance, appears to have been carried out with the definite political object of favorably impressing Rumania, and to guide her into the arms of the Allies. From her geographical position Rumania commands nearly the whole western frontier of the Dual Monarchy. Her fertile soil supplied the Central Powers with grain, dairy produce, and oil. Furthermore, Rumania's foreign policy leaned to the side of Italy, and the general European impression was, after the death of King Carol, October 10, 1914, that if one of the two countries entered the war, the other would follow suit. As subsequent events have shown, however, that expectation was not realized. Rumania, too, had aspirations in the direction of recovering lost territories, but her grievance in this respect was equally divided between Russia and Austria, for, while the one had despoiled her of Bessarabia, the other had annexed Transylvania (Siebenbuergen). Hence the Russian tentative conquest and occupation of the Bukowina paved the way for Rumania, should she decide on intervention. The road was clear for her to step in and occupy the Bukowina (which Russia was prepared to hand over), and probably Transylvania as well, which latter the proximity of a Russian force might—at the time—have enabled her to do. But the bait failed, no doubt for weighty reasons. Even if Rumania had favored the Triple Entente, which there is strong ground to presume she would, by entering the war, have found herself in as perilous a position as Serbia, with her Black Sea littoral exposed to hostile Turkey and her whole southern boundary flanked by a neighbor—Bulgaria—whose intentions were as yet unknown. However, on January 27, 1915, the Bank of England arranged a $25,000,000 loan to Rumania—an event which further heightened the probability of her entry into the arena.

We may safely take it for granted that these considerations were not overlooked by the German staff, in addition to the patent fact that the Russians were persistently gaining ground against the Austrians. German officers and men were therefore rushed from the eastern and western fronts to the south of the Carpathians to form the three armies we have labeled A, B, and C. The points of attack for which they were intended have already been stated; but the roundabout manner in which they traveled to their respective sections is both interesting and worthy of notice. At this stage a new spirit seemed to dominate Austro-Hungarian military affairs; we suddenly encounter greater precision, sounder strategy, and deeper plans: a master mind appears to have taken matters in hand. It is the cool, calculating, mathematical composite brain of the German General Staff. As the formation and dispatching of three great armies can hardly be kept a secret, especially where hawk-eyed spies abound, a really astute piece of stage management was resorted to. Wild rumors were set afloat to the effect that the Austrian Government had decided to undertake a great offensive—for the third time—against Serbia, and erase her from the map, with the assistance of four German army corps. The concentration one for operations against either Serbia or the Russian front in the Carpathians was naturally in the central plains of Hungary. But to cover the real object of Austro-German concentration active demonstrations were made on the Serb border in the form of bombardments of Belgrade, and occupation of Danube islands. These demonstrations made plausible the Teutonic assertion that the concentration of troops was being carried out with a view to an invasion of Serbia. So successful was the ruse, and so well had the secret been kept that on February 1, 1914, a Petrograd "official" gravely announced to an eagerly listening world: "The statement is confirmed that the new Austro-German southern army, intended for the third invasion of Serbia, consists of six Austrian and two German corps or 400,000 men, under the command of the Archduke Eugene(!)" At the very time this appeared the new Austro-German "southern" army had been already, for quite a week, making its presence severely felt in the eastern and central sections of the Carpathians, and still the Russian authorities had not recognized the identity of the forces operating there.

A brief description of the battle ground will enable the reader to follow more easily the course of the struggle. Imagine that length of the Carpathian chain which forms the boundary between Galicia and Hungary as a huge, elongated arch of, roughly, 300 miles. (The whole of the range stretches as a continuous rampart for a distance of 900 miles, completely shutting in Hungary from the northwest to the east and south, separating it from Moravia [Maehren], Galicia, the Bukowina, and Rumania.) Through the curve of this arch run a number of passes. Beginning as far west as is here necessary, the names of the chief passes eastward leading from Hungary are: into Galicia—Beskid, Tarnow, Tilicz, Dukla, Lupkow, Rostoki, Uzsok, Vereczke (or Tucholka), Beskid[*] (or Volocz), Wyszkow, Jablonitza (or Delatyn); into the Bukowina—Strol, Kirlibaba, Rodna; into Rumania—Borgo. In parts the range is 100 miles in width, and from under 2,000 to 8,000 feet high. The western and central Carpathians are much more accessible than the eastern, and therefore comprise the main and easiest routes across. The Hun and Tartar invasions flooded Europe centuries ago by this way, and the Delatyn is still called the "Magyar route." The passes vary in height from under a thousand to over four thousand feet. The Dukla and Uzsok passes were to be the main objective, as through them lay the straightest roads to Lemberg and Przemysl. The former is crossed by railway from Tokay to Przemysl, and the latter by rail and road from Ungvar to Sambor. A railroad also runs through the Vereczke from Munkacs to Lemberg, and another through Delatyn from Debreczen to Kolomea. So far as concerned means of communication, matters were nearly equal, but geographical advantage lay with the Russians, as the way from Galicia to Hungary is by far an easier one than vice versa.

[Footnote *: There are two passes named Beskid.]

* * * * *

CHAPTER XXIV

BATTLE OF THE PASSES

Before proceeding with the opening of the second winter campaign in the Carpathians, the reader should remember that, as stated in the beginning of this narrative, a Russian army under General Radko Dmitrieff (a Bulgarian), held an advanced position on the Dunajec-Biala line, extending from the Vistula to Zmigrod, northwest of Dukla. This force was consequently beyond the zone of the Austro-German offensive, but, as events proved, it had not been overlooked, for it was here that the heaviest blow was finally to fall. It is also important to bear in mind that the Russian armies occupying Galicia and the northern slopes of the Carpathians were not conducting an isolated campaign on their own account; they formed an integral part of the far-flung battle line that reached from the shores of the Baltic down to the Rumanian frontier, a distance of nearly 800 miles. Dmitrieff's force represented a medial link of the chain—and the weakest.

Over the slushy roads of the valleys and into the snow-laden passes the Germanic armies advanced, each of the widely deployed columns with a definite objective: From Dukla, Lupkow, and Rostoki to relieve Przemysl; from Uzsok through the valley of the Upper San to Sambor; through Beskid and Vereczke northward to Stryj, thence westward also to Sambor; over Wyszkow to Dolina; via Jablonitza to Delatyn; and across Kirlibaba and Dorna Vatra into the Bukowina. Opposed to them were the Russian Generals Brussilov, Ivanoff, and Alexieff, respectively.

Correspondents with the Teutonic troops in these weeks wrote in wonderment of the scenes of the slowly forward toiling advance into the mountains which they had seen. On every road leading into Galicia there was the same picture of a flood rolling steadily on. Everywhere could be seen the German and Austro-Hungarian troops on the move, men going into the firing line to fight for days, day after day, with the shedding of much blood, among the peaks and valleys, under changing skies.

Here is a word picture of the supply columns winding upward into the Carpathians to the support of the Teutonic troops furnished by a German correspondent:

"Truly fantastic is the appearance of one of these modern supply caravans, stretching in zigzag, with numerous sharp corners and turns, upward to the heights of the passes and down on the opposite side. Here we see in stages, one above the other and moving in opposite directions, the queerest mixture of men, vehicles, machines and animals, all subordinated to a common military purpose and organization by military leadership, moving continually and regularly along. The drivers have been drummed up from all parts of the monarchy, Serbs, Ruthenians, Poles, Croats, Rumanians, Hungarians, Slovaks, Austrians, and turbaned Mohammedans from Bosnia. Everyone is shouting to his animals and cursing in his own language. The whole mix-up is a traveling exhibition of most variegated characteristic costumes, for the most part, of course, extremely the worse for wear. Common to all these are the little wagons adapted to mountain travel, elastic and tough, which carry only half loads and are drawn by little ponylike, ambitious horses. In between are great German draft horses, stamping along with their broad high-wheeled baggage and ammunition wagons, as though they belonged to a nation of giants.

"Gravely, with a kind of sullen dignity, slow-stepping steers drag at their yokes heavily laden sledges. They are a powerful white breed, with broad-spreading horns a yard long. These are followed in endless rows by carefully stepping pack animals, small and large horses, mules and donkeys. On the wooden packsaddles on their backs are the carefully weighed bales of hay or ammunition boxes or other war materials. Walking gingerly by the edges of the mountain ridges they avoid pitfalls and rocks and walk round the stiff, distended bodies of their comrades that have broken down on the way. At times there ambles along a long row of working animals a colt, curious and restlessly sniffing. In the midst of this movement of the legs of animals, of waving arms, of creaking and swaying loaded vehicles of manifold origin, there climbs upward the weighty iron of an Austrian motor battery, with an almost incomprehensible inevitableness, flattening out the broken roads like a steam roller.

"From the first pass the baggage train sinks down into the depths, again to climb upward on the next ridge, to continue striving upward ever toward higher passages, slowly pushing forward toward its objective against the resistance of numberless obstacles.

"The road to the battle field of to-day crosses the battle field of recent weeks and months. Here there once stood a village, but only the stone foundations of the hearths are left as traces of the houses that have been burned down. Sometimes falling shots or the terrors of a brief battle in the streets have reduced to ruins only a part of a village. The roofs of houses have been patched with canvas and boards to some extent, and now serve as quarters for troops or as stables. In the narrow valleys the level places by the sides of streams have been utilized for encampments. Here stand in order wagons of a resting column and the goulash cannons shedding their fragrance far and wide, or the tireless ovens of a field bakery. Frequently barracks, hospital buildings, and shelters for men and animals have been built into the mountain sides. Here and there simple huts have been erected, made of a few poles and fir twigs. Often they are placed in long rows, which, when their inmates are warming themselves by the fire at night turn the dark mountain road into a romantic night encampment, and everywhere fresh crosses, ornamented at times in a manner suggestive of the work of children, remind us of our brothers now forever silenced, who, but a short time before went the same road, withstood just such weather and such hardships, talked perhaps in these same huts of the war, and dreamt of peace.

"The saddest spectacle, however, were the lightly wounded, poor fellows, who might under ordinary conditions have readily walked the distance from the first aid station to the central gathering point, but who here on account of the ice or muddy roads require double and three times the usual time."

* * * * *

CHAPTER XXV

BATTLE OF KOZIOWA—OPERATIONS IN THE BUKOWINA

Owing to the topographical conditions under which fighting must be carried on in the central Carpathians, some weeks might be expected to elapse before a general engagement developed along the entire front. Lateral communication or cooperation between the advancing columns was out of the question; the passes were like so many parallel tunnels, each of which must first be negotiated before a reunion can take place at the northern exits.

We will follow the achievements of the three groups in separate order. Army A, under Boehm-Ermolli, crossed Uzsok and Rostoki, and forced part of the Russian line back upon Baligrod, but Brussilov held it fast on Dukla and Lupkow, strongly supported by Dmitrieff on his right. Here the attack failed with severe losses; the Germanic forces were thrown back into Hungary, and the Russians commanded the southern ends of the passes around Dukla. The Uzsok Pass was of small strategical value to the Austrians now that they had it. It is extremely vulnerable at every point; steep, narrow, and winding roads traverse its course nearly 3,000 feet high, with thickly wooded mountains up to 4,500 feet overlooking the scene from a close circle. Regarded merely as a short cut to Przemysl and Lemberg, the Uzsok was a useful possession provided always that the northern debouchment could be cleared and an exit forced. But the Russians held these debouchments with a firm grip, and the pass was consequently of no use to the Austrians. About February 7, 1915, the Russians attempted to outflank the Austrian position in the Lupkow Pass from the eastern branch of the Dukla by pushing forward in the direction of Mezo-Laborc on the Hungarian side. The movement partially succeeded; they took over 10,000 prisoners, but failed to dislodge the Austrians from the heights east of the pass. Severe fighting raged round this district for over a month, the Russians finally capturing Lupkow, as well as Smolnik at the southern exit of Rostoki. Had the Russians succeeded in getting between Uzsok and the Austrian line of communication, as was undoubtedly their aim, the Austrians would have been compelled to relinquish the pass without even a fight. However, General Boehm-Ermolli's mission proved a failure.

Army B, under Von Linsingen, succeeded in traversing all the passes in its appointed section. Crossing by the railway pass of Beskid and the two roads leading through Vereczke and Wyszkow, they pushed forward in the direction of Stryj and Lemberg, but never reached their destination. Barely through the passes, the Germans struck upon Lysa Gora, over 3,300 feet high. This mountain range is barren of all vegetation—no sheltering trees or shrubs adorn its slopes. The route of the Germans crossed Lysa Gora south and in front of the ridge of Koziowa, where the Russian lines, under General Ivanoff, lay in waiting. Passing down the bald slopes of Lysa Gora toward the valley of the Orava River, the advancing German columns presented a conspicuous target for the Russians on the opposite slopes of Koziowa, screened by thick forests. Here one of the most desperate battles of the campaign ensued on February 6, 1915, between Von Linsingen's Austro-German army and Brussilov's center.

In close formation and with well-drilled precision the Germans attempted to storm the position at the point of the bayonet. Again and again they returned to the charge, only to be repulsed with severe losses. As many as twenty-two furious bayonet charges were made in one day, February 7. Wherever a footing was gained in the Russian lines, there a few minutes ferocious hand-to-hand melee developed—Saxon and Slav at death grips—the intruders were expelled or hacked down. Great masses of Austro-German dead and wounded were strewn over the lower slopes of Koziowa. For five weeks Von Linsingen hammered at the Russian front without being able to break through. So long as the Russians held the heights it was impossible for their enemy to emerge from the passes. These two, Vereczke and Beskid, so close together, may literally be described as twin tunnels. Owing to the highland between them, the two columns moving through could not cooperate; if one side needed reenforcements from the other, they had to be taken back over the range into Hungary to the junction where the roads diverged. It was sound strategy on the Russian side to select Koziowa as the point from which to check the Germanic advance. For the time being, with Dukla and Lupkow in their hands and the exits of Uzsok and Rostoki strongly guarded, the defense of Koziowa held Galicia safe from reconquest. The attacks against Koziowa continued beyond the middle of March, 1915. On the 16th of that month the Russians captured a place called Oravcyk, about four miles westward, from where they could threaten the German left, which had the effect of keeping Von Linsingen still closer to his mountain passages. The fighting in this region represents one of the important phases of the war, for it prevented the relief of Przemysl; temporarily saved Stryj and Lemberg for the Russians; enabled them to send reenforcements into the Bukowina, and, finally, inspired the German General Staff to plan the great and decisive Galician campaign, which was to achieve the task wherein Boehm-Ermolli and Von Linsingen had both failed.

Meanwhile, what had Von Pflanzer-Baltin accomplished with Army C—the third column? His path lay through Jablonitza, Kirlibaba, and Dorna Vatra; his task was to clear the Russians out of the Bukowina, and either to force them back across their own frontiers, or to turn the extreme end of their left flank. We have seen that the Russian occupation of the Bukowina was more in the nature of a political experiment than a serious military undertaking, and that their forces in the province were not strong enough to indulge in great strategical operations. Hence we may expect the Austrian general's progress to be less difficult than that of his colleagues in the western and central Carpathians. To some extent this presumption is correct, for on February 18, 1915, after launching out from the southern corner of the Bukowina at Kimpolung and via the Jablonitza Pass down the Pruth Valley, they captured Czernowitz, and after that Kolomea, whence the railway runs to Lemberg. Within three days they reached Stanislawow, another important railway center, defended by a small Russian force, and a big battle ensued. Altogether, the Germanic troops in the Bukowina were reported at 50,000 in number, though these were split up into two columns, one of which was making but slow progress farther east.

Russian reenforcements were thrown into the town, and the struggle for the railway, which lasted a week, appears to have been of a seesaw nature, for no official reports of the fighting were issued by either side. Still the Austrians pushed westward in the hope of reaching the railways which supplied those Russian armies which were barring the advance through the central passes. The Russians were forced to withdraw from Stanislawow, and their opponents now held possession of the line running to Stryj and Przemysl—a serious menace to the Russian main communications. This meant that Von Pflanzer-Baltin had succeeded in getting to the rear of the Russians. But assistance came unexpectedly from the center, whence Ivanoff was able to send reenforcements to his colleague, General Alexeieff, who was continually falling back before the Austrians. Furious counterattacks were delivered by the Russians at Halicz and Jezupol, the bridgeheads of the southern bank of the Dniester. If the Austrians could not force a victory at these points, their position in Stanislawow would be untenable, since the Russians still had a clear road to pour reenforcements into the fighting area between the Dniester and the Carpathians. On March 1, 1915, the Austrians were defeated at Halicz in a pitched battle, and on the 4th the Russians reentered Stanislawow. According to their official communique the Russians captured nearly 19,000 prisoners, 5 guns, 62 machine guns, and a quantity of stores and munitions. About March 16 the opposing forces came again into touch southeast of Stanislawow on the road to Ottynia, but nothing of importance appears to have happened. To sum up the results of the Germanic offensive, we must remember what the objectives were. Of the latter, none was attained. The Russians had not been expelled from Galicia; Przemysl was no nearer to relief than before, and Lemberg had not been retaken. With the exception of Dukla and Lupkow, all the passes were in Austrian hands; but the Russians dominated the northern debouchments of all of them excepting Jablonitza.



* * * * *

CHAPTER XXVI

FALL OF PRZEMYSL

The town and fortress of Przemysl formally surrendered to the Russian General Selivanoff on Monday, March 22, 1915. The first investment began at the early stages of the war in September, 1914. On the 27th of that month the Russian generalissimo announced that all communications had been cut off. By October 15, 1914, the Russian investment had been broken again, and for a matter of three weeks, while the road was open, more troops, provisions, arms, and munitions were rushed to the spot. As we have seen, however, the Russians recovered their lost advantage, for, after the fall of Jaroslav, the fortress to the north of Przemysl, their troops were hurried up from east, north, and west, and within a few days the Austrians were sent back along the whole front. From the region of Przemysl three railroads cross the Carpathians to Budapest, along all of which the Russians had pushed vigorously, besides advancing on the west. As regarded railroad communications, the fate of Przemysl was sealed by the capture of Chyrow, an important junction about twenty miles south of the fortress. Przemysl itself was important as a road junction and as a connecting link with the Uzsok and Lupkow passes. The garrison prepared to make a stubborn resistance with the object of checking the Russian pursuit. A week later the Russians had broken up their heavy artillery and had begun a steady bombardment. By November 12, 1914, Przemysl was once more completely besieged by General Selivanoff with not more than 100,000 troops.

Przemysl is one of the oldest towns of Galicia, said to have been founded in the eighth century. It was once the capital of a large independent principality. In the fourteenth century Casimir the Great and other Polish princes endowed it with special civic privileges, and the town attained a high degree of commercial prosperity. In the seventeenth century its importance was destroyed by inroads of Tatars, Cossacks, and Swedes. Przemysl is situated on the River San, and was considered one of the strongest fortresses of Europe.

The original strategic idea embodied in the purpose of the fortress was purely defensive; in the event of war with Russia only the line of the San and Dniester was intended to be held at all costs, while the whole northeastern portion of Galicia was to be abandoned. With the fortress of Cracow guarding the west, Przemysl was meant to be the first defense between the two rivers and to hold the easiest roads to Hungary through the Dukla, Lupkow, and Uzsok passes. Within the last ten years, however, the Austrian War Staff altered its plans and decided upon a vigorous offensive against Russia should occasion offer, and that Eastern Galicia was not to be sacrificed. Hence a network of strategic railways was constructed with a view to attacking the prospective enemy on a wide front extending from the Vistula near Cracow on the west to the Bug on the east, where the latter flows into Austrian territory and cuts off a corner of eastern Galicia. The plan does not appear to have worked successfully, for, before the war was many days old, the Russians had taken Lemberg, swept across the Dniester at Halicz, across the San at Jaroslav, just north of Przemysl, and had already besieged the fortress, which at no time imposed any serious obstacle in the path of their progress. Perhaps the only useful purpose that Przemysl served was that it restrained the Russians from attempting an invasion of Hungary on a big scale, by holding out for nearly seven months. Not having sufficient siege artillery at their disposal, the Russians made no attempt to storm the place. General Selivanoff surrounded the forts with a wide circle of counterdefenses, which were so strongly fortified that the garrison would have found it an almost hopeless task to attempt a rush through the enemy's lines. The Austrian artillery was naturally well acquainted with the range of every point and position that lay within reach of their guns; and Selivanoff wisely offered them little opportunity for effective practice. Considering it too expensive to attack by the overland route, he worked his way gradually toward the forts by means of underground operations. To sap a position is slow work, but much more economical in the expenditure of lives and munitions. The weakness of Przemysl lay in the fact that its garrison was far too large for its needs, and that provisions were running short. In the early part of the campaign the Germanic armies operating in the San region had drawn freely on Przemysl for supplies, and before these could be adequately replaced the Russians had again forged an iron ring around the place. The Russian commander, moreover, was aware that a coming scarcity threatened the town, and that he had only to bide his time to starve it into submission. Whilst he was simply waiting and ever strengthening his lines, the Austrians found it incumbent on them to assume the offensive. Several desperate sorties were made by the garrison to break through the wall, only to end in complete disaster. General Herman von Kusmanek, the commander in chief of the fortress, organized a special force, composed largely of Hungarians, for "sortie duty," under the command of a Hungarian, General von Tamassy. These sorties had been carried out during November and December, 1914, especially during the latter month, when the Austro-German armies were pouring across the mountains. So critical was the Russian position at the time that the relief of Przemysl was hourly expected. According to an officer of General Selivanoff's staff, "The Austrians in the fortress were already conversing with the Austrians on the Carpathians by means of their searchlights. The guns of Przemysl could be heard by the Austrian field artillery. The situation was serious, and General Selivanoff took prompt measures. He brought up fresh troops to the point of danger and drove the sortie detachments back to the fortress." It is stated from the Austrian side that one of the sortie detachments had succeeded in breaking through the Russian lines and marching to a point fifteen miles beyond the outer lines of the forts. A Russian official announcement states that during two months of the siege the Austrian captures amounted only to 4 machine guns and about 60 prisoners, which occurred in an engagement where two Honved regiments fell on a Russian company which had advanced too far to be reenforced in time. On their part in repulsing sorties by the garrison, frequently made by considerable forces, the Russians made prisoners 27 officers and 1,906 soldiers, and captured 7 machine guns, 1,500,000 cartridges, and a large quantity of arms. In two sorties the garrison in the region of Bircza had more than 2,000 killed and wounded, among them being many officers. No further sorties were undertaken in that particular region. During January and February, 1915, very little fighting took place around Przemysl; sorties were useless as there was no Austro-German force anywhere near the fortress, and the Russians were tightening the pressure around it. The only means of communication with the outer world was by aeroplane, so that, despite the rigid investment, the Austro-German war staff were kept fully informed of the straits in which Przemysl found itself. General Boehm-Ermolli, with Army A, was making desperate efforts to extricate himself from the Russian grip round Uzsok, Lupkow, and Dukla; he did not get beyond Baligrod, as the crow flies, thirty miles south of Przemysl.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse