20th March 1915 (Saturday)

War – the ethics of foreign policy

Italy’s price for joining the Triple Alliance: After a long delay the Allies respond to Italy’s terms that they cannot accept complete Italian control of the Adriatic (because of Russia’s continuing support for Serbia). As the wrangling continues, the British political class confide in each other their private opinions of Italy and its people: “greedy and slippery” (Prime Minister Asquith); “the harlot of Europe” (Navy Minister Winston Churchill); “mere organ grinders” (Admiral Fisher); and “the most contemptible nation” (David Lloyd George).  [ Mark Thompson: “The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915-1919”]

Britain’s price for a Russian Bosphorous: Meanwhile, also today, Britain and Russia sign a separate agreement where Britain will take control of oil rich Ottoman provinces in Mesopotamia in return for Russia taking control of its Black Sea route to the Mediterranean through the Bosphorous and the Dardanelles. [UK government national archives online]



The “Spectator” offers its opinion on “Russia’s prize” –  “It is quite clear that France as well as Britain will now welcome Russia’s entry into the warm water, and that winter will no longer mean for Russia the sealing up of all her chief ports. Russia will unquestionably get a great accession of strength by the possession of Constantinople, but no reasonable section of public opinion either here or in France will envy her. She has made great sacrifices for the common cause and deserves great rewards.”


29th September 1914 (Tuesday)


~ in Woodridge, Manitoba, Canada – Joseph Patrice Ephreme (“Andy”) Desjarlais, Métis fiddler.


~ In Natal, South Africa – Diederik Johannes Opperman, Professor of Afrikaans Literature at
the University of Stellenbosch, 1960 – 1979, and “one of South Africa’s most important poets and literary men”.



In the Middle East: the British gunboat HMS ESpiegle arrives from Ceylon (Sti Lanka) and takes up a position at the head of the Arabian/Persian Gulf with the task of protecting the British interests in the Anglo-Persian oil company, including the refinery on the Persian  island of Abadan. [“Eden to Armageddon: World War 1 in the Middle East”].

On the (english) Home Front, the Worcestershire Hunt (the organisation for hunting foxes in the County of Worcestershire) debates whether the hunt should continue in wartime:

“Masters of Foxhounds all over the country had been ‘robbed of their brood’ and, in many cases, few horses had been left except old cobs. Mr Jones said the Hunt should really go in for killing more foxes than usual because it was reported that there was a scarcity of foreign eggs. Major Baldwin strongly supported the policy of continuing the Hunt. Some of the subscribers had lost friends and others of them were busy and could not hunt, but they wanted to see the sport kept alive.” [Quoted on the Worcestershire World War 1 web-site].


22nd September 1914 (Tuesday)

BORN TODAY: in Erlangen, Germany – Fritz Scheller, olympic cyclist at the 1936 summer olympics.



In the North Sea, German U-boat U-9 torpedoes and sinks three British cruisers: Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy. Hogue and Cressy are each destroyed while rescuing survivors. 1400 seamen perish.

In the Indian Ocean, German light cruiser SMS Emden shells the facilities at the Burmah Oil Company in Madras (now Chennai), India, destroying fifty thousand tons of oil.

In the Pacific, off the Island of Tahiti, German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau bombard the town of Papeete, the Capital of French Polynesia.

In Germany – British planes bomb Zeppelin sheds in Cologne and Dusseldorf.

[Burg and Purcell: “Almanac of World War 1”]

31st August 1914 (Monday)

BORN TODAY: in Zanesville, Ohio – Richard Basehart, American actor whose film career started with a repeat performance and ended in ancient Rome.



Western Front:

~ In Paris, where the government are feverishly debating whether to abandon the city to the Germans (ie move the French government elsewhere) – German planes return for a second evening of light, but frightening (and for an unlucky few, fatal), bombing.

~ In London, the Government meets (“in cabinet”) after Kitchener realises that Sir John French, the commander of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) has effectively withdrawn the British forces from the defences in France against the German advance. The cabinet is described as “perturbed” by the news, and its apparent desertion of its ally. Kitchener waits until after midnight for clarification by telegram from Sir John, before leaving for France at 2.30AM. [Tuchman – the Guns of August].

~ From Berlin, “In preparation for the greatest moment in Teutonic history, the Germans with admirable efficiency [have] already struck off, and distributed to staff officers for ultimate presentation to the troops, a bronze medal confidently inscribed ‘Einzug d. Deutschen Truppen in Paris’ (arrival of German troops in Paris)”. [Tuchman].


At the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, Scotland – William Purvis, a foreman at the Seafiled Oil Works in Linlithgowshire, dies from injuries sustained in an industrial accident in June.


21st May, 1914 (Thursday)

BORN TODAY: In Hibbing, Minnesota (motto” “We’re ore, and more”) – to Andrew Anderson and Carl Eric Wickman, Greyhound, now the World’s larget bus company.


Transportation: In Britain, the “Commercial Motor” magazine reports on the way that, in London and other cities, the “electric-tramcar undertaking is being so hardly pressed in competition with petrol motorbuses”.


20th May 1914 (Wednesday)

BORN TODAY:  in Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire (England) – John ‘Ted’ Edward Dickinson, left-handed cricketer.


World Affairs: In Athens, the Ottoman Ambassador to Greece proposes to the Greek Premier Venizelos a “population exhange” whereby the muslim communities of Macedonia (including Salonica – now Thessaloniki) will be “swapped” for the Greek communities  in and around Smyrna (now Izmir) on the Anatolian coast.


Global oil: The British government and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) sign an agreement for the British Government to become a majority (51%) shareholder in APOC. The agreement gives the British government the right to appoint two directors on the Board who have the power of veto on any questions relating to British national interests. Also on the same day, a contract is signed between APOC and the British Admiralty by which APOC guarantees the supply of oil to the British Admiralty for 30 years at fixed prices.


Exploration: In St Petersburg (later Petrograd, then Leningrad, now St Petersburg again) Sergei Fedorovich Oldenburg leaves for his second Russian Turkestan expedition, accomapnied by the  artist V. S. Bikenberg, topographer N. A. Smirnov, photographers Dudian and Romberg, seven Kazakh guards, and a Chinese interpreter. The expediton will take 3 months to reach its final destination  –  the ‘caves of a thousand Buddhas’ at Mogao, near Dunhuang.


Society and culture: In a village south of Lyon in France, Monsieur Falour accepts a wager to eat 50 eggs and a pound of bread at a single sitting. Sadly, he drops dead after the 45th egg.

Men, eh?