THE RUSSIAN FRONT
General Joffre planned the start of the Chantilly Conference for November 1915 but the date was moved to December 6th to ensure that a Russian, General Yukov Galinsky, could attend. It was important that in a year when events in Russia were to play a part in the strategic thinking of the Allies that Russia should be represented.
There had been a number of setbacks for Russia in 1915. Following a German/Austro- Hungarian offensive in the summer, Russia had withdrawn from Poland to a defensive line that stretched from the Baltic to the Rumania. Russian casualties were counted in millions. By the end of 1915 social unrest was exacerbated by food shortages which rendered the country in the opinion of many as ungovernable.
These were not new issues, but had been tempered by patriotic fervour when war broke out ibn 1914. Crowds had gathered at The Winter Palace to cheer the royal family, and the response to mobilization had been overwhelming. Manpower was never a problem for the Russian Army which when mobilized was over five million men. There were shortages of weapons, ammunition, beds and bedding and some sources suggest only one in three soldiers was equipped with a rifle. The Chief of the Russian High Command wrote to the War Minister in 1914 ‘ Why should we perish of hunger and cold, without boots…..the artillery is silent and we are killed like partridges’ .
The Tsar had been dissuaded from leading the Russian Army into battle in 1914 and accepted that his uncle Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich should be Commander in Chief. This decision was reversed in 1915 which was both a political and military disaster. It allowed the Tsarina to block all reform and enabled critics to place any military failure on the Tsar.
Against this background Haig feared that at some point the Russians might sue for a separate peace with the Germans. This view was not shared by Joffre who saw no likelihood of a Russian collapse. He felt that offensives in the West were essential to draw German Divisions from the East. The Allied offensives in 1915 had led General Erich von Falkenhayn to withdraw only two divisions from the East. As the Germans had consolidated their defensive positions on The Western Front, the prospect of withdrawing further Divisions from the East would seem to be optimistic.
1. Early Life
In my January 2016 talk I briefly mentioned Ignatius Timotheus Trebitsch Lincoln. Even my very well informed audience probably wondered who he was. He was born in Hungary, on 4 July 1879, the second son of Nathan Trebitsch, a merchant, and Julia Trebitsch nee Freund. The baby was named Ignatius Trebitsch. His other two names he took later. He was educated at a Jewish Elementary School, a Budapest Secondary School, and at the Royal Hungarian Academy of Dramatic Art. In 1896 he left Hungary after allegedly stealing a gold watch. He moved to England and then to Germany where some Protestant missionaries befriended him. He became a Protestant and in 1899 took the baptismal name Ignatius Timotheus Trebitsch.
The young convert wanted to become a clergyman and briefly studied at a German Lutheran training college. In 1900 he moved to Montreal in Canada and was a Protestant missionary to the Jews. In July 1901 he married Margarethe Kahlor a German merchant navy captain’s daughter. They were to have four sons. They came to England in 1903 and he was appointed a curate at Appledore in Kent. He failed his examination for the Anglican priesthood in April 1904 and by then had squandered his wife’s inheritance. In October 1904 he changed his surname to Trebitsch-Lincoln by deed poll.
In early 1906 the Quaker chocolate manufacturer Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree engaged Trebitsch-Lincoln as a research assistant for Rowntree’s book Land and Labour: Lessons from Belgium. It was published in 1911 and the research for it involved Trebitsch-Lincoln in many visits to continental Europe. On 5 May 1909 he became a naturalised British citizen. Rowntree’s influence got Trebitsch-Lincoln made the Liberal parliamentary candidate for Darlington.
At the January 1910 general election Trebitsch-Lincoln won Darlington with a 29 majority. He made a fool of himself in the Commons and ran into financial difficulties. MPs were then unpaid. At the December 1910 general election he stood down and in January 1911 at a creditor’s meeting admitted being insolvent. Rowntree paid off his protégé’s relatively small debts and Trebitsch-Lincoln floated a series of companies to exploit Rumanian oil. They all collapsed and lost serious money. By summer 1914 he was bankrupt.
2. At War
In August 1914 Trebitsch-Lincoln offered to become a British naval intelligence double agent. Captain Reginald Hall rejected him. Trebitsch-Lincoln became a German spy and reported on shipping activity in British ports. In 1915 fearing arrest, he abandoned his family, fled to the USA and published exaggerated accounts of his activities. He was arrested, escaped, but was recaptured and was extradited to Britain in 1916.
In July 1916 Trebitsch-Lincoln was tried for fraud at the Old Bailey. He was convicted and sentenced to three years in gaol. He was not tried for spying. Many observers wondered if he knew too much for the authorities to do this. He served his sentence, his British citizenship was revoked and in August 1919 he was deported to Germany.
3. Later Life
On returning to Germany Trebitsch-Lincoln got involved with German nationalists. In March 1920, after Wolfgang Kapp’s right wing coup, Kapp appointed Trebitsch-Lincoln Director of Foreign Press Affairs. This government soon collapsed and Tretbitsch-Lincoln left Germany. He spent two years engaged in intrigues with right wingers in central Europe. He was deported from Austria in 1921 and moved to China. From 1923 to 1925 he was an arms dealer and an adviser to various Chinese warlords.
In 1925 Trebitsch-Lincoln became a Buddhist monk. In 1931 he established a Shanghai Buddhist monastery. He was the abbot and the monks and nuns were other European Buddhist converts. In 1932 he published a very unreliable Autobiography of an Adventurer. During the Second World War he was a Japanese and German agent. On 6 October 1943 he died in a Shanghai hospital of a stomach disorder. It has been claimed that he was poisoned by the Shanghai Gestapo who thought that he would double cross them.
J. P. Lethbridge
WORLD WAR 1 U-BOAT FOUND OFF NORFOLK COAST
This story appeared in a number of newspapers and even made the T.V. News in January 2016. The wreckage of the World War 1 German submarine was found 55 miles east of Caister on Sea at a depth of 30 metres. It had vanished having left Wilhelmshaven on routine patrol on January 13th 1915. A detailed survey of the wreck was carried out involving Dutch Naval divers who thought at one time it was one of their submarines which vanished in 1940. It is now believed, as a result of this survey, that the U31 struck a mine and sank with the loss of all 35 men on board.
The U31 was the first of 11 Type 31 submarines commissioned for the Imperial German Navy between 1912 and 1915. Three surrendered and eight were lost. They had a range of 8,000 nautical miles, and could spend 5 days on patrol but had only 72 hours air supply. Over 200 U Boats were lost in action with the loss of more than 5,000 men.
The wreck was found by divers conducting a survey for a Scottish Power Renewables wind farm. The site is now classified as a maritime war grave and the wreck of the U31 will remain in its final resting place.