March 19, 1915

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

The war news presented the appearance of a lull in the fighting (a bitter irony to those at the fronts). The Oregon Statesman, in its daily “Synopsis of the War Situation” summarized what readers would find in the headlines:

While there is a lull in the western war zone, heavy fighting is going on in Russian Poland and eastern Galicia. The Russian official dispatches report the capture of several villages and heights to the northeast of Przasnyez, in territory where some of the fiercest fighting of the war has occurred. Also near the border town of Tauroggen and in east Prussia, close to Memel, battles are being fought, which indicate the intention of the Russians of again forcing their way, if possible, into the country of the Germans.

Although the opposing forces in the Carpathians and east Galicia are struggling to their utmost in the deep snow and under the most trying conditions, no change worthy of note has taken place in the situation.

Austria is reported to be continuing work on fortifications all along the Italian frontier and the garrisons have been reinforced by artillery and infantry.

A large quantity of shells bound from Germany for Turkey has been held up by the Rumanian government, according to a dispatch from the Balkan agency.

Switzerland advices say that the Germans are building two strategical positions on the Alsace-Lorraine frontier in order to strengthen the Strasbourg system of fortifications.

A Zeppelin has attacked Calais, dropping bombs with the object of destroying the railway station. This met with no success but seven persons were killed.

Another British steamer, the Glenartney, from Bangkok for London, loaded with rice, has been torpedoed by a German submarine off Beachy Head in the English channel. Only one of the crew was drowned.

The entire Sudan, including Khartum and also parts of Nubia are held by he Dervishes, according to the story told by a German merchant who has returned to Berlin from Egypt. The British General Hawley and almost 3000 of his men are said to have been killed near Fashoda in December, while earlier in November Senussi tribesmen are reported to have killed 200 Australians near the Pyramids. Railroad and telegraph lines were destroyed.

Advices received by the British foreign office are to the effect that Turkish soldiers in the Urumiah district of Persia recently killed several hundred citizens and looted and burned villages.

Three steamers carrying American meat products, which had been detained by the British government for examination have been permitted to proceed. They are the Norwegian Elsa, the Swedish Grekland and the American A.A. Raven.

The German reichstag has adopted, without debate, the war estimates and also passed the foreign estimates.

The French chamber of deputies has unanimously passed a bill authorizing the government to raise the limit for the issue of treasury bonds for defense from $700 million to $900 million.

Owing to the precarious health conditions in Serbia, an American sanitary commission, under the auspices of the American Red Cross and the Rockefeller foundation, will shortly begin work to stamp out typhus fever and prevent an outbreak of cholera.

Documents which are alleged to show that German consular officials in Persia and agents of German firms have been promoting a Turkish invasion of Persia and a rising against Great Britain it is announced to have been received by the India office.

The headline in the Capital Journal reads “Leader of English Suffragettes Now Supports Government.” Emmeline Pankhurst, a driving force behind the suffrage movement in Britain was often in an adversarial relationship with the government, largely because of her less than ladylike tactics in the male-dominated society of the time (there as well as here).

The government began the war with German and Austria with two major issues at home – Ireland and votes for women. The setbacks Britain faced during the early months of the war required a marshaling of resources to a degree not experience in the past. Armies alone were no longer at war; the nation was at war.

War in 1914 began, not with a bang as in 1941 or 2001, but with events on a horizon both distant and seemingly trivial. The brutality and carnage of the war’s first year swept over the belligerents, much as would an epidemic. With nations at war, the “enemy” came to encompass all who identified with the flag of a country at war. There was no room for the passive observer. A unity of purpose meant putting into abeyance all other disagreements. Public or private acts that distracted from the war effort could be interpreted as contributing to the enemy.

Each belligerent came to believe that their national identity was threatened. This led to a polarization in which the other side came to pose a existential threat:

Conquest of the world by imperial Germany and a “Germanization” of women, would deal a heavy blow to civilization, Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst, militant suffragette leader, declared today, in an interview with the United Press.

Mrs. Pankhurst was discussing with me the appeal of President Walter Runciman of the board of trade for an organization of English women to aid the government in the war. The militant suffragettes, she said, welcomed the chance to show that women may be an important asset.

“But what is the position of the German women in the war?” I asked.

“It would be a terrible disaster if the Germans conquered the world, was the decisive response. “The Germans, we must admit, take good care of their women. But they regard them – I don’t like to use the word – as breeders. They consider them solely a means of maintaining the race. On the other hand, a conquest of Germany by the allies would mean not only the liberation of civilization, but the liberation of German men and women from German ideas.”

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About whclarc

We are devoted to providing information fresh from the Archives, Library and Collections of the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon. We specialize in the history of Marion County and the greater Salem area.
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