SMS Szent István commissioned into the Austro-Hungarian Navy.

November 17th, 2015

The Szent István, a new Dreadnought, was commissioned into the Austro-Hungarian Navy. Like most of these heavy vessels, it would it out the war in harbor, unable to participate in fighting against the superior Allied forces in the region. Its main claim to fame was its first (and last) mission when it was torpedoed and sank. The film footage of the battleship capsizing was the only film taken of a battleship sinking during the Great War.

Queen Elizabeth-class battleships Barham is launched.

October 19th, 2015

The third ship of the Queen Elizabeth class battleship is launched today by Great Britain. The Barham would serve through the Great War mostly waiting for the German fleet to leave harbor, but would become the only Queen Elizabeth class ship sunk during World War Two, when she was torpedoed by a German U-Boat.

She fought at Jutland.

Edith Cavell Executed by Germans in Belgium

October 12th, 2015

During the first month of the war thousands of British, French, and Belgium soldiers, and many more young men of military age, were caught behind the rapidly moving German lines.  The German forces, lacking sufficient rear-area units to control the country side, were unable to capture all of these men, and many found ways to hide out, either taking shelter in the wilderness or finding cover in the houses of Belgium families.  

At the time the legal practices of most countries made it a crime to harbor enemy soldiers or to help them escape to a belligerent country, so when Cavell was arrested on August 3rd, 1914, her actions were accepted by both sides as criminal.  The Germans though, unique among western nations, punished this crime with the death penalty.  The German military staff in occupied Belgium further considered the act treason (one of many acts accepted by nations at war but criminaled with the death penalty by German) on the basis that it would tie up to many soldiers who were fighting at the front to stop the practice without draconian punishements.  

When captured Cavell willingly told her entire story.  She admited to aiding 175 soldiers and young men to escape, that she knew this to be an act that would remove her status as a non-combatant, and that should could be punished.  German authorities though pressed that she also be convicted of treason, which would remove any doubt about sentencing - treason was a death sentence in nearly every country in the world.  The problem with the charge of treason was that it was usually only levied against the citizens of ones own country and Cavell was British.  

During her trial a number of oddities were turned up.  Cavell has been interrogated in French but the transcript was German, and not verbatim.  Many of Cavell's statements had been translated in such as way as to make her seem more a spy than simply a person aiding in the escape of young soldiers.  This was not corrected by German authories.

German authories though were not all of one mind on what to do with Cavell, despite this, she was convicted and given the death sentence, which German authorities in Belgium wanted carried out quickly to avoid it being stopped by Berlin.  An American counsel in Belgium wrote the following account:

American Legation, Brussels
October 12, 1915


Upon learning early yesterday morning through unofficial sources that the trial of Miss Edith Cavell had been finished on Saturday afternoon, and that the prosecuting attorney ("Kriegsgerichtsrat") had asked for a sentence of death against her, telephonic inquiry was immediately made at the Politische Abteilung as to the facts.

It was stated that no sentence had as yet been pronounced and that there would probably be delay of a day or two before a decision was reached.  Mr. Conrad gave positive assurances that the Legation would be fully informed as to developments in this case. 

Despite these assurances, we made repeated inquiries in the course of the day, the last one being at 6.20 p.m. Belgian time.  Mr. Conrad then stated that sentence had not yet been pronounced, and specifically renewed his previous assurances that he would not fail to inform us as soon as there was any news.

At 8.30 it was learned from an outside source that sentence had been passed in the course of the afternoon (before the last conversation with Mr. Conrad), and that the execution would take place during the night.

In conformity with your instructions, I went (accompanied by Mr. de Leval) to look for the Spanish Minister and found him dining at the home of Baron Lambert.  I explained the circumstances to his Excellency and asked that (as you were ill and unable to go yourself) he go with us to see Baron von der Lancken and support as strongly as possible the plea, which I was to make in your name, that execution of the death penalty should be deferred until the Governor could consider your appeal for clemency.

We took with us a note addressed to Baron von der Lancken, and a plea for clemency ("requete en grace") addressed to the Governor-General.  The Spanish Minister willingly agreed to accompany us, and we went together to the Politische Abteilung.

Baron von der Lancken and all the members of his staff were absent for the evening.  We sent a messenger to ask that he return at once to see us in regard to a matter of utmost urgency.

A little after 10 o'clock he arrived, followed shortly after by Count Harrach and Herr von Falkenhausen, members of his staff.  The circumstances of the case were explained to him and your note presented, and he read it aloud in our presence.

He expressed disbelief in the report that sentence had actually been passed, and manifested some surprise that we should give credence to any report not emanating from official sources.  He was quite insistent on knowing the exact source of our information, but this I did not feel at liberty to communicate to him.

Baron von der Lancken stated that it was quite improbable that sentence had been pronounced, that even if so, it would not be executed within so short a time, and that in any event it would be quite impossible to take any action before morning.  It was, of course, pointed out to him that if the facts were as we believed them to be, action would be useless unless taken at once.  We urged him to ascertain the facts immediately, and this, after some hesitancy, he agreed to do.

He telephoned to the presiding judge of the court-martial and returned in a short time to say that the facts were as we had represented them, and that it was intended to carry out the sentence before morning.

We then presented, as earnestly as possible, your plea for delay.  So far as I am able to judge, we neglected to present no phase of the matter which might have had any effect, emphasizing the horror of executing a woman, no matter what her offence, pointing out that the death sentence had heretofore been imposed only for actual cases of espionage, and that Miss Cavell was not even accused by the German authorities of anything so serious.

I further called attention to the failure to comply with Mr. Conrad's promise to inform the Legation of the sentence.  I urged that inasmuch as the offences charged against Miss Cavell were long since accomplished, and that as she had been for some weeks in prison, a delay in carrying out the sentence could entail no danger to the German cause.

I even went so far as to point out the fearful effect of a summary execution of this sort upon public opinion, both here and abroad, and, although I had no authority for doing so, called attention to the possibility that it might bring about reprisals.

The Spanish Minister forcibly supported all our representations and made an earnest plea for clemency.

Baron von der Lancken stated that the Military Governor was the supreme authority ("Gerichtsherr") in matters of this sort; that appeal from his decision could be carried only to the Emperor, the Governor-General having no authority to intervene in such cases.

He added that under the provisions of German martial law the Military Governor had discretionary power to accept or to refuse acceptance of an appeal for clemency.  After some discussion he agreed to call the Military Governor on to the telephone and learn whether he had already ratified the sentence, and whether there was any chance for clemency.

He returned in about half an hour, and stated that he had been to confer personally with the Military Governor, who said that he had acted in the case of Miss Cavell only after mature deliberation; that the circumstances in her case were of such a character that he considered the infliction of the death penalty imperative; and that in view of the circumstances of this case lie must decline to accept your plea for clemency, or any representation in regard to the matter. - Hugh Gibson


In order to forstall appeal Cavell was executed at 7a on 12 October by firing squad, nearly a day before her execution order was signed.


Cavell would become a cause that unified the Allied war effort and did considerable harm to German reputations in countries such as the United States and Brazil.  


Edith Cavell Killed

October 12th, 2015

Edith Cavell, a pioneering nurses well known for helping soldiers on both sides of the conflict, is executed by the German Army for helping wounded British soldiers escape imprisionment.  

Belgrade Surrenders to the Central Powers

October 8th, 2015

In 1914 the Serbian army was a force of 400,000 soldiers.  Despite strong morale and experience from recent fighting, the army was ill-equipped and lacked heavy ammunition, rifles, and artillery.  Its main backer, Russia, was unable to provide supplies to Serbia (and itself was under-supplied and crippled by corruption).  

Austro-Hungary at the start of the war saw Serbia as the cause of the conflict (a not unreasonable assumption considering it was the Serbian murder of an Austro-Hungarian noble and heir to the empire's throne that touched the war off) and established the taking of Belgrade as a major goal for their forces.  Imperials had in fact actually taken Belgrade in November of 1914, but were unable to hold it, and lost the city with huge casualties (including nearly 40,000 captured soldiers) a few weeks later.

The weakness of Austro-Hungay and the loss of Belgrade had caused the Germans to move forces into the Balkans, and by 1915 a combined Imperial and German force, spearheaded by the German XXII corps, had significantly weakened the Serbian army.

The Allies, realizing that a Serbian collapse would free up Central Powers forces to reinforce the Western and Eastern Front, landed units in Greece (a neutral county) with the hopes of establishing supply routes into Serbia, but hesitated for fear that a general collapse would leave them surrounded in unfriendly territory, especially since much of the Balkan countryside did not support Serbia.  On October 6th the combined Austro-Hungarian and German forces, spearheaded by the German XXII corps and supported by river monitors were able attack the city, capturing it on October the 8th.  

Serbian forces, pushed away from their bases and popular support, and blocked from a retreat to Greece, would retreat into the Albanian mountains where they would be of limited value for the rest of the war.  Serbia though would become known for its sacrifices, with the highest casualty rate of any military force.