In February 1915, Germany’s industrial war machine was supplying her army with the necessary guns, rifles, ammunition and explosives. The allies were barely supplying the equipment needed to sustain their war effort. Germany had been preparing for war, whilst the allies did virtually nothing until war became inevitable.
Egypt, at one time, was formally part of the Otterman Empire, but from December 1914, it operated as a British Protectorate. The protectorate, designed to defend the Suez Canal, which was vital to Britain in order to maintain the shortest route to her Eastern Empire. On the 5th August 1914, Egypt was at war with the enemies of Britain. Turkish Muslims proclaimed Jihad (holy war) against British and Western involvement in the Middle East. The Turks planned to invade Egypt, and on the 28th January 1915, British observers identified a large column of Turkish troops approaching across the Sinai desert. British and French ships entered the canal and opened fire on the approaching Turkish forces. Patrols clashed on the 2nd February 1915 but a sandstorm halted any further action until the following day.
On the 3rd February 1915, Allied and Indian army defending the canal opposed the Turkish infantry approaching the Suez Canal from Palestine to the East. Indian machine guns decimated the Turkish troops on the Eastern banks of the canal and those who were crossing in small craft. The Turkish army retreated but the attack resumed the following day with additional diversions launched north of the main action. Guns from the British and French naval ships plus staunch resistance from the defenders halted any further Turkish advance. The entire Turkish army withdrew back across the Sinai desert.
On the 4th February 1915, Germany declared a naval blockade of Britain. This warned all neutral countries that shipping around the UK would risk attack, by German submarines, without any warning.
Alfred von Tirpitz opposed the plan, but Hugo von Pohl, Chief of Marine Staff, issued the declaration. Chancellor Theopold Bethman-Hollweg was also in favour of the declaration. The United States of America protested, owing to the commercial shipping she sent to Britain, and the Kaiser withdrew the declaration.
“German Declaration of Naval Blockade Against Shipping to Britain”
The waters round Great Britain and Ireland, including the English Channel, are hereby proclaimed a war region.
On and after February 18th every enemy merchant vessel found in this region will be destroyed, without it always being possible to warn the crews or passengers of the dangers threatening.
Neutral ships will also incur danger in the war region, where, in view of the misuse of neutral flags ordered by the British Government, and incidents inevitable in sea warfare, attacks intended for hostile ships may affect neutral ships also.
The sea passage to the north of the Shetland Islands, and the eastern region of the North Sea in a zone of at least 30 miles along the Netherlands coast, are not menaced by any danger.
(Signed) Berlin, February 4th,
Chief of Marine Staff
The Winter Battle of the Masurian Lakes opened on the 9th February 1915. At Masuria the Russians still held the strip of East Prussia that had been taken during the Battle of Augustov at the end of September 1914. Germany wanted the territory back and faced the Russians with 2 armies, the existing 8th Army and the newly formed 10th Army. The Russians were entrenched in primitive positions and poorly supported by their artillery. The artillery Commanders appeared more concerned in saving their guns rather than the infantry. Attacked from both North and South of the Lake the Russians were threatened by advancing German troops and in danger of being encircled. Poor Russian intelligence underestimated the German strength, whose superior numbers forced the Russians into the constricted area of the Augustov Forest. By the 16th February 1915, another “Tannenberg” type of defeat was threatening. When the attacks began they were so ferocious Europe’s last wild bison were wiped out. The German pincer surrounded the Russians on the 21st February 1915, the Russian Army surrendered. This battle was not another “Tannenberg” but never again would East Prussia be threatened by invasion from Russia in the Great War.
Having survived attacks from Austria/Hungary in 1914 Serbia was aware of an imminent major attack. On 15th February 1915, the Allied Governments of Britain, France and Russia suggested to the Greek Government, that Greece should come to support Serbia. Despite having entered into an alliance with Serbia, Greece declined. Greece suggested the Allied powers supply the troops required despite territorial concessions agreed by the British in return for help to Serbia. In desperation the Allied powers agreed and Greece gave Britain and France permission to use Salonika to support Serbia. A small number of allied troops were dispatched to Serbia but not enough to make any great difference.
19th February 1915, saw British and French ships attacking the Turkish positions at the Dardanelles entrance. The Dardanelles being the narrow strait separating Europe from Asia and the only waterway linking the Mediterranean Sea to the Black Sea. First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill was convinced the naval attack would be successful without the use of infantry. Churchill hoped to take Constantinople and knock Turkey out of the war and thereby open a route to Russia.
The Turkish military were aware of the possibility of an attack and therefore fortified their defensive positions supported by their German allies. The navy used long-range guns but were largely unsuccessful. The naval attack was subsequently abandoned and later replaced with a land invasion of the Gallipoli peninsular.
February 1915. The Campaign in Mesopotamia.
British and Indian troops had been dispatched and landed in the Arabian Gulf in November 1914, in what is now Iraq. They were sent to protect the pipeline carrying oil from British dominated Persia. February saw the advance of British and Indian forces into what was the Southern tip of the Otterman Empire. The allies took Basra and Kurma, but the Turkish forces launched a counter-attack. The reinforced British and Indians responded by advancing along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers up to the town of Kut (Kut-el-Amara). The cavalry of the British General Charles Townshend cut through and scattered the Turkish forces. The good news of the success of the capture of Kut went some way into redressing the deadlock at Gallipoli. Townshend sought an even greater victory by the taking of Baghdad. This campaign continued.
First Period of German Submarine Warfare.
When the Great War started in August 1914, the American President Woodrow Wilson pledged American neutrality. However, Britain was one of America’s closest trading partners, which created tensions for the Germans, as trade was encouraged between Britain and America. On 18th February 1915 German Admiral von Pohl wanted neutral shipping in the so-called “war zone” to be attacked. The “war zone” being all the water around the United Kingdom and the whole of the Irish coastline. Germany announced they would begin a commerce war against any nation trading with Britain. America reacted by sending a forceful note to Germany to say Germany would be held responsible for any sinking of American ships. Owing to American neutrality, Germany could not afford to provoke America into getting involved in the war. German Chancellor Bethman-Hollweg persuaded senior naval officers to exclude the sinking of neutral shipping, especially those from America. The U-boat commerce war actually started on the 22nd February 1915, but because Germany did not have sufficient U-boats to patrol the “war zone”. Neutral commercial shipping continued arriving in Britain with their cargoes intact. This type of U-boat warfare continued until September 1915 when the Germans changed tactics.