(WORLD WAR and The WAR to DECEMBER 1916 – continued)
With Britain as one of the belligerents, the war spread across the globe. The first task of the British navy was to clear the seas of German warships, while German warships began hitting the British where they could. On August 8th, British ships bombarded Dar-es-Salam, the port for German East Africa (Tanganyika). From their African colonies, British, French and Belgian forces – largely African men – launched assaults against Germany's colonies. In the French colony of Gabon, the famous Dr. Schweitzer found his African patients wondering about Europeans. They had been told of Christian ethics and the superior standards of white civilization, and now they saw Europeans killing each other. Then they saw French authorities arrest the harmless Schweitzer and ship him to France as a prisoner of war.
To protect Hong Kong and combat German warships, the British requested help from their ally, Japan. On August 23, 1914, Japan declared war on Germany and sent a force of 30,000 men to overrun the Germans in China's Shandong province. The Japanese used aerial bombardments against the Germans, the Germans being the first victims of this kind of warfare. And on November 7 the Germans in Shandong surrendered.
Canada, New Zealand and Australia entered the war on the side of Britain. New Zealand took possession of what had been German Samoa. Australia took control of German colonial holdings in the Bismarck Archipelago (just north and northeast of New Guinea), and Japan took over Germany's colonial holdings in the Caroline Islands (east of the Philippines) and the Marshall Islands (east of the Carolines).
German submarines, meanwhile, had begun attacking the shipping of war supplies to Britain. A German submarine sank the first British merchant vessel on October 20 off the coast of Norway, after having surfaced to warn the British crew.
Then the Turks cooperated with two German warships in the bombardment of two Russian seaports on the Black Sea: Odessa and Nikolayev. Russia responded three days later, on November 2, 1914. Tsar Nicholas expressed satisfaction with the opportunity of making war against the Turks. His proclamation read:
It is with complete serenity and faith in the assistance of God that Russia takes on the appearance of this new enemy, this ancient oppressor of the Christian faith and all Slavic nations. It will not be the first time that Russia's valiant arms overcome the Turkish hordes and chastise this insolent enemy of our motherland. Together with all Russian nations we believe without fail that Turkey's reckless intervention in the present conflict will only accelerate her submission to fate and open up Russia's path towards the realization of the historic task of her ancestors along the shores of the Black Sea. note10
France and Britain declared war on the Turks on November 5. And Britain found this an opportune time to annex Cyprus and Egypt – lands that had been nominally a part of the Ottoman Empire while being administered by the British.
The Ottoman Empire had not yet recovered from its wars of 1911 to 1913, and its treasury was empty. But its leader, a thirty-three year-old military officer and national hero, Enver Pasha, was viewing the war in Europe as an opportunity to take back Islamic lands that decades before had been absorbed by the Russian Empire. Enver dreamed of reinvigorating the Ottoman Empire. He feared that if Britain, France and Russia won against Germany and Austria-Hungary they might deprive the empire of more of its territory. So he favored taking the empire into the war on the side of Germany.
The Turks closed the straits between the Mediterranean and Black Seas, preventing Russia from exporting its wheat or receiving shipments of materials from its allies. Britain moved a military force up the Persian Gulf to Iraq to protect its oil wells and began engaging Turkish forces. And in December, the Turks began an assault into Russia's Caucasus Mountains.
Copyright © 1998-2014 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.