Saturday, 2 August 2014

Germany Opens Fire on Russia

As the German ultimatum to Russia expired, the SMS Augsburg set sail from Königsburg to carry out her orders. On this day she opened fire on the Russian garrison town and the Naval Base of Liepaja (Libau in German) in what is today Latvia, but was then a province of the Tsarist Empire. In a very brief engagement demonstrating some remarkably accurate gunnery (something we, in Britain, should perhaps have taken more note of) she destroyed batteries, munitions dumps and ships in the harbour, steaming away from the scene unscathed and leaving the city on fire.

It was a taste of things to come on this front, Liepaja being just the first city to get a taste of modern war. Many others on this front and in the west would soon be given the same treatment from both sides of the conflict. There was no distinction to be drawn then between 'civilian' and 'military' targets - everyone was an enemy.

In the West, the Royal Navy was already at its 'War Stations' thanks to Winston Churchill. Parliament had sent its Ultimatum to Germany, as had France. Belgium had cast its lot with France and Britain, and the Dutch, Danish, Norwegians, Swedes and Swiss declared their neutrality. Austria-Hungary, already engaged with the Serbs and the Russians, was not doing well, and Italy, with their eyes on Austria's Aegean territories was hesitating.

The storm in the west was about to break.

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