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The French Submarine Saphir Sinks in the Dardanelles The Saphir, pictured in Toulon before the war. January 15, Çanakkale—In December, a British submarine entered the Dardanelles and sank a Turkish battleship before effecting a harrowing escape, a feat which won the captain a Victoria Cross and the whole crew medals. On January 15, the skipper of the French submarine Saphir decided he wanted to achieve similar glory and set out into the Dardanelles from his base at Tenedos [an island just outside the Dardanelles that had been occupied by the Greeks since 1912; although technically neutral, the Greeks turned a blind eye to Allied presence on an island that they were technically only occupying]. Just as B11 had done, the Saphir submerged to pass under the minefields in the straits; unfortunately, a leak soon developed and the Saphir was forced to surface quickly, where they found themselves in direct range of Turkish shore batteries. The skipper ordered the code books destroyed and the boat scuttled. The crew attempted to swim the mile to shore, but the waters were cold in January; 14 survivors were pulled from the water by Turkish boats (becoming prisoners of war), while 15 men (including the skipper) perished. Sources include: Randal Gray, Chronicle of the First World War (Volume I).
BEF Has Least Deadly Week of the War Lt. Col. P.R. Robertson, pictured in January 1915’s miserable weather. Image Source. January 16, Ypres—The continuing rainy and miserable winter weather had largely put a halt to any military activity in Flanders. The sole exception on January 16 was at the coast near Nieuport, where heavy French shelling forced the Germans to abandon a few coastal dunes. While the BEF’s commander Sir John French planned new operations in the future, neither the BEF nor the opposing Germans did much along their section of front this week. French in particular was awaiting increased supplies of ammunition or shells, which he had requested a tripled or quadrupled quantity at the end of December. The resulting lull contributed to the (relatively) low numbers of BEF casualties this upcoming week, which would reach their minimum during the war this week—only 29 officers in the whole BEF became casualties this week (I unfortunately do not have equivalent figures for the men). Another contributing factor was still the diminished strength of the BEF, which had seen its effective strength decrease by nearly 70% during the Battle of Ypres in October and November. The BEF was recovering by January, however, as more troops arrived from Britain and other veterans returned to the front lines, and would be up to a strength of over 350,000 men by spring. The quality of the new arrivals were, however, somewhat reduced from the professional army that had entered the war; the minimum height for new recruits had been reduced from 5’8” at the start of the war to 5’3” in November, and to 5’ shortly afterwards. The resulting new forces composed primarily of short men became known as the “Bantam” battalions as a result. Early in 1915, a veteran NCO of the professional army in the Royal Irish Rifles lamented the quality of the new recruits: On the whole, I like all my men, and I think they like me, but I want to get quit of all my old rum-swillers who should never have been enlisted. I have one man who hasn’t a tooth in his head. I confess that with my Company I sincerely hope I shall see little of [the war]. So many of them are far too old and stiff to move quickly; they can’t run, much less make a charge. We all loud and strong curse the War Office, the recruiting officers and the Commanding Officers for sending out drafts of such miserable things.
PLOEGSTEERT, Belgium (AP) — With British and German forces separated only by a no-man's land littered with fallen comrades, sounds of a German Christmas carol suddenly drifted across the frigid air: "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht" ("Silent Night, Holy Night").<p>Then, during that first Christmas Day in …
On a crisp, clear morning 100 years ago, thousands of British, Belgian and French soldiers put down their rifles, stepped out of their trenches and …Pope Benedict XVI