September 02, 2014


Well, it seemed to take forever, but I think everyone has now finally declared war on everyone else (Austria and France were in the last week). Turkey and Italy aren't involved yet, though they're looking like they might join in in a bit.

In terms of the first week of war (the Austria Servia part), if you are an Austrian reservist and don't return to Austria, you get pinged by losing all your property on account of being a deserter. The local response for the most part has been to declare that you're slavs first, and no longer Austrians. Not that attempting to return to Austria was a particularly hopeful option either though. Unless you got on a ship very promptly, it is difficult to see how you'd get anywhere near Austria given the various opposing forces you'd have to get through just to sign up. If you didn't get away promptly, and you're not Dalmatian, chances are you've been interned on Soames island already. It appears to be bad news to be someone who is currently in the wrong country. Civilians in foreign countries are struggling to get home, and finding themselves unable to in some circumstances. Brutal retribution and paranoia are sporadically hitting foreigners from the wrong team. Spies are being arrested in ever increasing numbers. Quite a few are promptly shot. Australian and New Zealand Germans are making very firm oaths to support Britain.

It's odd to read, but NZ is very clearly a dominion, not a separate country. It is part of the country of Britain. (Quebec may not want to be part of Britain, but Quebecois are joining the Canadian army to fight in France.)

Wellington's reaction to the declaration of war (cheerful and orderly). NZ's expeditionary force is 'under canvas' in 3 places around the country, with the Wellington regiment up at Palmerston North. The first 1,000 left on a troop ship. Wellington province's population at the time is 214,193, so that' s 0.5% of the total population already gone. The volunteers include big enough chunks of the local rugby teams, that the championship competition has been abandoned as a result. I was a little shocked to read that gathering NZ troops must bring 'housewives'. They are apparently small sewing kits, and are pronounced something like 'hussiffs'.

Like any decent modern army, they are going with horses, which are being sought, but no greys, duns or light chestnuts. I have no idea what the hair colour has to do with anything.

After a significant bump, economic activity has returned to normal - at least it has in New Zealand. German ships are being captured left and right, but British shipping is (at least according to the newspaper) trundling round the globe pretty happily. (Though getting into port is a little trickier; for example, the Pencarrow lighthouse has been turned off - no ships are allowed into port at night.) The explicit aim of the British navy is to shut down German and Austrian trade routes so the general population doesn't have enough to eat. Spoiler alert! it takes years, but eventually works. The first naval battle has happened in the North sea, with an apparent win by the British.

I say apparent, because censorship has been slapped on everything. The bulk of the world's news runs through the wireless, and the censors of various governments are blocking all sorts of things. The military censors are on the wires and they're overloaded anyway. The cables are easy enough to censor, due to the way they are laid out. One to USA, and two through Oz and Asia. In many cases countries at war will not accept any cables from the other side (even if the cables have not already been cut). There are restrictions on what languages you can use, though messages in Maori to a Maori were allowed again after a gap. (Apparently the post is allowed though, due to the 1907 Peace Conference agreement. It's just that it is all delivered at surface mail speed, so letters will still be being delivered at the end of August which were written before the war started.) Consequently, the news about the progress of the war is pretty much only available through the British government, and it's difficult to tell what is propaganda and what isn't.

Unfortunately, reports of war crimes from the German troops appear to be true (for example: the rape of Louvain). Which is just awful. I am a little shaken by realising how little I understood about what the Belgians went through in WWI.

There are reports of the German troops being marched towards well defended trenches and, unsurprisingly, being killed in large numbers. They are estimated to have lost 2 corps so far. Tactics do seem to change a little though, with more of a staggered line approach being adopted later. In general the reports of the allies troops experiences are upbeat and they any troubles the troops encounter are used to illustrate how stoic and even-tempered the soldiers are. It will be interesting to see whether that changes when the really bloody battles kick off.

Additional minor notes:

The Royals are all related, and all look alike. Winston Churchill doesn't, but does look even more like a newborn than usual.

Just how do you deliver an ultimatum which may plunge all of Europe into war?

What do you do if the Government wants to pass a contentious Budget, you disagree with it, but you've promised to be a unified House in face of war? You walk out.

This op ed by I think an Australian woman, reprinted in The Dominion is a really good summary of at least one experience of women at this early stage in the war. You can still buy mental hats though.

Meanwhile, Mr T. K. Sidney is attempting to get his Daylight Saving Bill passed. Maori are being nominated to the Upper House rather than elected.

Posted by carla at September 2, 2014 11:49 PM