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Current History, Vol. VIII, No. 3, June 1918 online

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probable - whether they have remained merely codified day-dreams.




Lithuania's Efforts Toward Autonomy

By A. M. Martus


In the press of the United States on May 4, 1918, there appeared a
notice that President Wilson had given audience to the Lithuanian
delegation, recognizing the Lithuanians as a distinctively separate race
having rights of self-determination.

At the time of the upheavals in Russia, during the Russo-Japanese war in
1905, Lithuanians, irrespective of political affiliations, held a
convention in their capital, Vilna, over 2,000 delegates participating,
where they unanimously asserted their right of self-government; also
expressing a strong desire to form one political body with their
half-brothers, the Letts.

Again in October, 1917, a convention was held in Vilna with about 250
delegates from those parts of Lithuania occupied by German forces, to
press their claim of independence for Lithuania. In January, 1918,
representative Lithuanians assembled in the same city proclaimed
independent Lithuania. Another convention of Lithuanian representatives
from Russia and from Lithuanian communities in the United States,
England, and Argentina, held in the same month in Stockholm, Sweden,
approved the act of their countrymen under German domination. On March
13 and 14 American Lithuanians held a convention in New York City,
giving their unanimous approval to the proclaiming of an Independent
Lithuanian Republic; here a unanimous resolution was passed protesting
against any Polish aspirations or claims to Lithuania, and demanding
the inclusion of the Lithuanian part of East Prussia, with the old
Lithuanian city of Karaliauchus (Königsberg,) in the Lithuanian
Republic.

Lithuanians claim those parts of the neighboring provinces where their
language is spoken and where the inhabitants consider themselves
Lithuanians. They claim the eastern part of East Prussia - about 13,500
square miles, with 700,000 or 800,000 inhabitants - and parts of the
provinces of Minsk and Vitebsk; thus the Lithuanian-Lettish Republic
would stretch over 131,000 square miles and have a population of over
11,500,000, inhabiting five centres - Karaliauchus, (Königsberg,)
Klaipeda, (Memel,) Libau, Windau, and Riga.

The country is very rich for agriculture, though it contains much
undeveloped land, with many rivers, lakes, and large forests. Along the
River Nieman in Druskeniki, Government of Goodns, and in Birchtany,
Government of Vilna, there are salt springs of high healing qualities,
but on account of a corrupt Russian Government they remain undeveloped
and unexploited. The seabeach around Palanga, a little distance above
Germany's border on the Baltic, could be turned into another Atlantic
City, according to the opinion of experts, but the place remains
neglected. Lithuania's soil is very rich in aluminium and in material
for manufacturing glass. During my last visit to Lithuania, in 1914, the
discovery of radium was reported in the vicinity of the mineral springs
at Birchtany, but the war came on very soon and nothing further was
heard of it.




BRITISH LEADERS ON LAND AND SEA


[Illustration: Gen. F. B. Maurice

_Formerly Director of Operations at the British War Office, now holding
a high position abroad_

(_Press Illustrating Service_)]


[Illustration: Maj. Gen. S. C. Mewburn,

_Canadian Minister of Militia and Defense_

(_Press Illustrating Service_)]


[Illustration: Vice Admiral Roger Keyes

_Who directed the British attack on Zeebrugge_

(_Central News_)]


[Illustration: Brig. Gen. Sandeman Carey,

_Who stopped the gap in the British line before Amiens_ (©
_Underwood_)]

[Illustration: A new type of tank made for the French Army

(© _Underwood_)]


[Illustration: First American tank just completed at Boston

(_Paul Thompson_)]

In March, 1918, Lithuanians demanded that Germany recognize their
Provisional Government. The Tevyne of New York, official organ of the
Lithuanian Alliance of America, received the following from its
correspondent in Russia, relayed from Yokohama, March 26:

In Lithuania there has been formed a Provisional Government
consisting of the following: A. Smetona, Premier; P. Dovydailis,
Minister of Education; J. Shaulys, Minister of Foreign Affairs; M.
Smilgevichus, Minister of Finances; M. Birzhishka, Minister of
Justice; J. Vileishis, Minister of Public Works; D. Malinauskas,
Minister of Public Safety. Dr. J. Shlupas, well known among American
Lithuanians, has been appointed Envoy Plenipotentiary to the United
States; J. Aukshtuolis, President of the Lithuanian Committee in
Stockholm, is made Ambassador to the Scandinavian countries; M.
Ychas, member of the last Russian Duma, Ambassador to England and
France; J. Gabrys, manager of the Lithuanian Information Bureau in
Switzerland, Ambassador to the Central Powers. A national army is
being organized. Lithuania's absolute neutrality was proclaimed.
Drafted a political and economic treaty with Sweden.

Lithuanians fought in the Russian Army against the Germans, and now
large numbers of them are joining the military and naval forces of the
United States to fight the common foe; some are already in the English
Army. Lithuania has suffered not for her own faults, but because she was
situated between two belligerents. In the Government of Suvalki the
German and Russian Armies chased each other nine times backward and
forward; one may imagine how much is left there. Nothing but
excavations, trenches, heaps of ruins, crumbling chimneys indicate where
previously were large and prosperous villages. The world is yet to hear
more about German requisitions, German devastations, and German rapine
in Lithuania. Not only forests were denuded, but even fruit trees on the
farms were cut down and shipped to Germany. The remaining inhabitants
are forced to raise crops for the invaders, and for their various
products they must accept, under penalty, specially printed money for
local use - money that Germans themselves would not accept.

Notwithstanding reports to the contrary, the Lithuanians were with the
Allies all the time, and will stand by them to the end. They have faith
that the Allies, when the proper time comes, will recognize their just
claims.




Germany to Impose "War Burdens" on Lithuania


Emperor William on May 12, 1918, issued the following proclamation
regarding Lithuania:

We, Wilhelm, by God's grace German Emperor, King of Prussia, &c.,
hereby make known that, whereas the Lithuanian Landsrat, as the
recognized representative of the Lithuanian people, on Dec. 12
announced the restoration of Lithuania as an independent State
allied to the German Empire by an eternal, steadfast alliance, and
by conventions chiefly regarding military matters, traffic, customs,
and coinage, and solicited the help of the German Empire; and,

Whereas, further, Previous political connections in Lithuania are
dissolved, we command our Imperial Chancellor to declare Lithuania
on the basis of the aforementioned declarations of the Lithuanian
Landsrat, in the name of the German Empire, as a free and
independent State, and we are prepared to accord the Lithuanian
State the solicited help and assistance in its restoration.

We assume that the conventions to be concluded will take the
interests of the German Empire into account equally with those of
Lithuania, and that Lithuania will participate in the war burdens of
Germany, which secured her liberation.

The Lithuanian National Council, with headquarters at Washington,
replied to the foregoing proclamation on May 14 as follows:

The assumption that Lithuania "will participate in the war burdens
of Germany" means a contribution of three things: Money, munitions,
and men. The first we have not, as Germany has already impoverished
us; the second, we have no means of supplying, because we lack the
first. Therefore, Germany can have reference only to men. Men from a
self-declared democracy to fight in the ranks of autocracy?
Unthinkable. Lithuania would not consent. Are her citizens to be
dragooned into the ranks of the Kaiser? This would be an abridgment
of the sovereignty which Germany has already recognized, for
Chancellor von Hertling's reply stated, "We hereby recognize
Lithuania as free and independent."

Germany knows that ultimate defeat is unavoidable, but she would
compensate losses in the west with gains in the east, among which
Lithuania is gambled on as an asset. No recognition of Lithuanian
independence can be sincere when coupled with the von Hertling
terms, but if this sop will add to Prussian man power it may
postpone somewhat the inevitable day of reckoning and give her more
time to Germanize in the east with a view of confederating the new
republics under Junker rule.

[Illustration: THE BRITISH CRUISER VINDICTIVE AS IT LOOKED AFTER THE
FIGHT AT ZEEBRUGGE; LATER IT WAS SUNK IN THE HARBOR AT OSTEND TO BLOCK
THE CHANNEL]




The Raid on Zeebrugge and Ostend

British Naval Exploit That Damaged Two German U-Boat Bases on the North
Sea Coast


The little Belgian port of Zeebrugge fell into German hands in the
Autumn of 1914, and, with the neighboring port of Ostend, became a thorn
in the side of the Entente by reason of its increasing use as a base for
enemy destroyers, submarines, and aircraft. The Germans, having seized
the shipbuilding plants at Antwerp, began building submarines and small
war craft, which could be sent by way of Bruges down the canals that
connect the latter city with Zeebrugge and Ostend. Especially useful to
them was the maritime canal whose mouth at Zeebrugge was protected by a
crescent-shaped mole, thirty feet high, inclosing the harbor.

On the night of April 22-23, 1918, a British naval expedition under Vice
Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, commanding at Dover, aided by French
destroyers, undertook to wreck the stone mole at Zeebrugge and to block
the entrances to the canals both at Zeebrugge and at Ostend by sinking
the hulks of old ships in the channels. The episode, marked as it was by
heroic fighting, proved to be one of the most thrilling and picturesque
in the naval operations of the war. To Americans it recalled Hobson's
exploit with the Merrimac at Santiago, while to Englishmen it brought
back memories of Sir Francis Drake and his fireships in the Harbor of
Cadiz.

Though the fighting at Zeebrugge lasted only an hour, the British lost
588 men, officially reported as follows: Officers - Killed, 16; died of
wounds, 3; missing, 2; wounded, 29. Men - Killed, 144; died of wounds,
25; missing, 14; wounded, 355.

Six obsolete British cruisers took part in the attack. They were the
Brilliant, Iphigenia, Sirius, Intrepid, Thetis, and Vindictive. The
first five of these were filled with concrete and were to be sunk in the
entrances of the two ports. The Vindictive, working with the two Mersey
ferryboats Daffodil and Iris, carried storming and demolition parties to
the Zeebrugge mole. The object was to attack the enemy forces and guns
on the mole, along with the destroyer and submarine depots and the large
seaplane base upon it, and thus to divert the enemy's attention from the
work of the block ships. As the attack on the mole accomplished this,
the main object of the operation was successful.

The attacking forces were composed of bluejackets and Royal Marines
picked from the Grand Fleet and from naval and marine depots. Sir Eric
Geddes stated in Parliament the next morning that light forces belonging
to the Dover command and Harwich forces under Admiral Tyrwhitte covered
the operation from the south. A large force of monitors, together with
many motor launches and small, fast craft took part. One of the
essentials of success was the creation of a heavy veil of artificial fog
or smoke. The officer who developed this phase of the attack was killed
in action. The general plan was to attack the guns and works on the
Zeebrugge mole with storming parties, while the concrete-laden cruisers
were being sunk in the channel. Two old and valueless submarines filled
with explosives were to be blown up against the viaduct connecting the
mole with the shore.


STORY OF THE FIGHTING

A detailed narrative of the affair was issued by the British Admiralty
on the 25th, the essential passages of which are as follows:

The night was overcast and there was a drifting haze. Down the coast
a great searchlight swung its beam to and fro in the small wind and
short sea. From the Vindictive's bridge, as she headed in toward
the mole, with the faithful ferryboats at her heels, there was
scarcely a glimmer of light to be seen shoreward. Ahead, as she
drove through the water, rolled the smoke screen, her cloak of
invisibility, wrapped about her by small craft. This was the device
of Wing Commander Brock, without which, acknowledges the Admiral in
command, the operation could not have been conducted.

A northeast wind moved the volume of it shoreward ahead of the
ships. Beyond it was the distant town, its defenders unsuspicious.
It was not until the Vindictive, with bluejackets and marines
standing ready for landing, was close upon the mole that the wind
lulled and came away again from the southeast, sweeping back the
smoke screen and laying her bare to eyes that looked seaward.

There was a moment immediately afterward when it seemed to those on
the ships as if the dim, coast-hidden harbor exploded into light. A
star shell soared aloft, then a score of star shells. The wavering
beams of the searchlights swung around and settled into a glare. A
wild fire of gun flashes leaped against the sky, strings of luminous
green beads shot aloft, hung and sank. The darkness of the night was
supplemented by a nightmare daylight of battle-fired guns and
machine guns along the mole. The batteries ashore awoke to life.


Landing on the Mole

It was in a gale of shelling that the Vindictive laid her nose
against the thirty-foot high concrete side of the mole, let go her
anchor and signaled to the Daffodil to shove her stern in.

The Iris went ahead and endeavored to get alongside likewise. The
fire was intense, while the ships plunged and rolled beside the mole
in the seas, the Vindictive with her greater draught jarring against
the foundations of the mole with every lunge. They were swept
diagonally by machine-gun fire from both ends of the mole and by the
heavy batteries on shore.

Commander (now Captain) Carpenter conned the Vindictive from the
open bridge until her stern was laid in, when he took up his
position in the flame thrower hut on the port side. It is marvelous
that any occupant should have survived a minute in this hut, so
riddled and shattered is it.

The officers of the Iris, which was in trouble ahead of the
Vindictive, describe Captain Carpenter as handling her like a picket
boat. The Vindictive was fitted along her port side with a high
false deck, from which ran eighteen brows or gangways by which the
storming and demolition parties were to land.

[Illustration: MAP SHOWING RELATION OF ZEEBRUGGE AND OSTEND TO THE
ENGLISH COAST]

The men gathered in readiness on the main lower decks, while
Colonel Elliott, who was to lead the marines, waited on the false
deck just abaft the bridge. Captain Halahan, who commanded the
bluejackets, was amidships. The gangways were lowered, and they
scraped and rebounded upon the high parapet of the mole as the
Vindictive rolled in the sea-way.

The word for the assault had not yet been given when both leaders
were killed, Colonel Elliott by a shell and Captain Halahan by
machine-gun fire which swept the decks. The same shell that killed
Colonel Elliott also did fearful execution in the forward Stokes
mortar battery. The men were magnificent; every officer bears the
same testimony.

The mere landing on the mole was a perilous business. It involved a
passage across the crashing and splintering gangways, a drop over
the parapet into the field of fire of the German machine guns which
swept its length, and a further drop of some sixteen feet to the
surface of the mole itself. Many were killed and more wounded as
they crowded up the gangways, but nothing hindered the orderly and
speedy landing by every gangway.

Lieutenant H. T. C. Walker had his arm shot away by shell on the
upper deck, and lay in darkness while the storming parties trod him
under. He was recognized and dragged aside by the commander. He
raised his remaining arm in greetings. "Good luck to you," he called
as the rest of the stormers hastened by. "Good luck."

The lower deck was a shambles as the commander made the rounds of
the ship, yet those wounded and dying raised themselves to cheer as
he made his tour. * * *


Heroic Work on the Iris

The Iris had troubles of her own. Her first attempts to make fast to
the mole ahead of the Vindictive failed, as her grapnels were not
large enough to span the parapet. Two officers, Lieut. Commander
Bradford and Lieutenant Hawkins, climbed ashore and sat astride the
parapet trying to make the grapnels fast till each was killed and
fell down between the ship and the wall. Commander Valentine Gibbs
had both legs shot away and died next morning. Lieutenant Spencer,
though wounded, took command and refused to be relieved.

The Iris was obliged at last to change her position and fall in
astern of the Vindictive, and suffered very heavily from fire. A
single big shell plunged through the upper deck and burst below at a
point where fifty-six marines were waiting for the order to go to
the gangways. Forty-nine were killed. The remaining seven were
wounded. Another shell in the ward-room, which was serving as a sick
bay, killed four officers and twenty-six men. Her total casualties
were eight officers and sixty-nine men killed and three officers and
103 men wounded.

Storming and demolition parties upon the mole met with no resistance
from the Germans other than intense and unremitting fire. One after
another buildings burst into flame or split and crumbled as dynamite
went off. A bombing party working up toward the mole extension in
search of the enemy destroyed several machine-gun emplacements, but
not a single prisoner rewarded them. It appears that upon the
approach of the ships and with the opening of fire the enemy simply
retired and contented themselves with bringing machine guns to the
short end of the mole.


BLOCKING THE CANAL

Describing operations of the three
block ships, the official narrative says:

The Thetis came first, steaming into a tornado of shells from great
batteries ashore. All her crew, save a remnant who remained to
steam her in and sink her, already had been taken off her by a
ubiquitous motor launch, but the remnant spared hands enough to keep
her four guns going. It was hers to show the road to the Intrepid
and the Iphigenia, which followed. She cleared a string of armed
barges which defends the channel from the tip of the mole, but had
the ill-fortune to foul one of her propellers upon a net defense
which flanks it on the shore side.

[Illustration: PLAN ILLUSTRATING THE FIGHT AT THE ZEEBRUGGE MOLE, THE
BLOCKING OF THE BRUGES CANAL, AND THE LOCATION OF SUNKEN SHIPS]

The propeller gathered in the net, and it rendered her practically
unmanageable. Shore batteries found her and pounded her
unremittingly. She bumped into the bank, edged off, and found
herself in the channel again still some hundreds of yards from the
mouth of the canal in practically a sinking condition. As she lay
she signaled invaluable directions to others, and her commander, R.
S. Sneyd, also accordingly blew charges and sank her. Motor launches
under Lieutenant H. Littleton raced alongside and took off her crew.
Her losses were five killed and five wounded.

The Intrepid, smoking like a volcano and with all her guns blazing,
followed. Her motor launch had failed to get alongside outside the
harbor, and she had men enough for anything. Straight into the canal
she steered, her smoke blowing back from her into the Iphigenia's
eyes, so that the latter was blinded, and, going a little wild,
rammed a dredger, with her barge moored beside it, which lay at the
western arm of the canal. She was not clear, though, and entered the
canal pushing the barge before her. It was then that a shell hit the
steam connections of her whistle, and the escape of steam which
followed drove off some of the smoke and let her see what she was
doing.

[Illustration: PERSPECTIVE MAP OF OSTEND HARBOR, WITH ZEEBRUGGE IN THE
DISTANCE]


Main Object Attained

Lieutenant Stuart Bonham Carter, commanding the Intrepid, placed the
nose of his ship neatly on the mud of the western bank, ordered his
crew away, and blew up his ship by switches in the chart room. Four
dull bumps were all that could be heard, and immediately afterward
there arrived on deck the engineer, who had been in the engine room
during the explosion, and reported that all was as it should be.

Lieutenant E. W. Bullyard Leake, commanding the Iphigenia, beached
her according to arrangement on the eastern side, blew her up, saw
her drop nicely across the canal, and left her with her engines
still going, to hold her in position till she should have bedded
well down on the bottom. According to the latest reports from air
observation, two old ships, with their holds full of concrete, are
lying across the canal in a V position, and it is probable that the
work they set out to do has been accomplished and that the canal is
effectively blocked. A motor launch, under Lieutenant P. T. Deane,
had followed them in to bring away the crews and waited further up
the canal toward the mouth against the western bank.

Lieutenant Bonham Carter, having sent away his boats, was reduced to
a Carley float, an apparatus like an exaggerated lifebuoy with the
floor of a grating. Upon contact with the water it ignited a calcium
flare and he was adrift in the uncanny illumination with a German
machine gun a few hundred yards away giving him its undivided
attention. What saved him was possibly the fact that the defunct
Intrepid still was emitting huge clouds of smoke which it had been
worth nobody's while to turn. He managed to catch a rope, as the
motor launch started, and was towed for awhile till he was observed
and taken on board.


THE VINDICTIVE'S STORY

Commander Alfred F. B. Carpenter, who commanded the Vindictive and who
was made Captain for his successful work, gave an Associated Press
correspondent an interesting description of the episode. During the
attack he was at the end of the bridge in a small steel box or cabin
which had been specially constructed to house a flame thrower. The
Captain, with his arm in a sling, standing on the shell-battered deck of
the Vindictive, said:

Exactly according to plan we ran alongside the mole, approached it
on the port side, where we were equipped with specially built
buffers of wood two feet wide. As there was nothing for us to tie up
to, we merely dropped anchor there, while the Daffodil kept us
against the mole with her nose against the opposite side of our
ship. In the fairly heavy sea two of our three gangways were
smashed, but the third held, and 500 men swarmed up this on to the
mole. This gangway was two feet wide and thirty feet long. The men
who went up it included 300 marines and 150 storming seamen from the
Vindictive, and fifty or so from the Daffodil. They swarmed up the
steel gangway, carrying hand grenades and Lewis guns. No Germans
succeeded in approaching the gangway, but a hard hand-to-hand fight
took place about 200 yards up the mole toward the shore.

The Vindictive's bow was pointed toward the shore, so the bridge got
the full effect of enemy fire from the shore batteries. One shell
exploded against the pilot house, killing nearly all its ten



Online LibraryVariousCurrent History, Vol. VIII, No. 3, June 1918 → online text (page 14 of 30)