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The Great War

News Reports From the Front
100 Years Ago This Month

April 1916 Ė The Irish Easter Uprising

April 7

One of the five zeppelins, which visited the Eastern counties of England Saturday night, was damaged presumably by British anti-aircraft guns, and came down in the Thames estuary. On being approached by a patrol boat, she surrendered. The crew was taken off her and she was taken in tow, but she suddenly broke up and sank.

An exceptional feature of the raid was the fact that the weather was fine and clear: there was no moon, but the stars were bright. Toward midnight, a slight haze came up, but it was not sufficient to secure the landscape from the view of aviators or any aircraft gunners. It was such a night, that experts thought it would oblige the airships to keep at a very high altitude, if they hope to escape damage.

An eyewitness of the zeppelins in flight and its encounter with antiaircraft guns describes the scene as the most thrilling one. The zeppelin, which appeared to be a larger type than that of previous visits, flew at considerable height. The glitter on its surface as it passed overhead attracted the attention of hundreds of persons, who came outside to gaze upwards despite the instructions given to remain undercover. The searchlights that played on the radar illuminated it effectively and shells from the guns that opened fire could be seen bursting all around it.

Although no formal warning was issued to the population, the usual signs of an approaching air raid were manifested in London by the darkening of the streets and by the stopping of the train service above grounds. Thousands of persons were unable to reach their homes, and for the greater part of the night the police stations were crowded with wayfarers seeking shelter.

A remarkable feature of the situation was the good-natured way in which the people acted in the dark and stalled trains, showing no signs of panic - they seemed to take their inconvenience as a matter of course. In villages in many parts of England it is the custom to give the inhabitants amble warning. Special constables go from door to door, informing the villagers that raiders are on their way. The inhabitants assemble in one house, in the street or in a public building, making the visit something in the nature of a social event.

Holland closes border with Germany

Holland has closed her frontier with Germany and moved all her available forces there. "I do not for a moment suggest there is a possibility that Great Britain intends to land her armies on the Dutch coast." said the Dutch Foreign Minister today in an interview regarding recent mysterious military preparations in Holland. "We have the assurance of Britain, but she will respect our neutrality and we rely on that assurance. The question is: will Germany respect our neutrality? If the Germans began seriously to be afraid of such a contingency, namely, of the landing of British troops in Holland, what influence will that have on Germany's attitude toward us? We must assume that she is acquainted with our defensive capabilities. If she judges that capacity to be inadequate and considers that a British interruption into Germany through Holland is to be feared, would it then be strange if we were approached from the German side proposals to which we cannot submit, because they would mean the abandonment of our neutrality toward the allies?"

"I know that against this it may be said that the British will not make a landing at Holland and that if they tried we are quite capable of stopping a British invasion. That is not relevant. The question is not what we think, but what the Germans think." The Dutch foreign minister added that there was an increasing possibility of conflict on both sides, and while awaiting attitude might be adopted toward Great Britain, something should be done with regards to Germany. He suggested the strengthening of the Dutch forces in order to make clear to Germany that Holland has the power and intention to preserve her neutrality.

German Chancellor views of post war Europe

In the Reichstag, the Imperial Chancellor reviewed the military and political situation and the use of various means of warfare in German-American relations. He protested vigorously against reports, but Germany, now or in the future, contemplated aggression against the United States. He said: "The latest offspring of the accumulating campaign directed against us are reports that we will, after the end of the war, rush against the American continent and that we shall attempt to conquer Canada."

"It is even reported that some apprehensive souls in America foresee from a victorious Germany an attempt to break down the Monroe doctrine, plant its flags in South or Central America, or even design to leap upon the United States, and crush them in order to attain mastery of both continents. I need hardly assure you such reports, which from time to time had been set afloat by enemies of Germany our evident intention of stirring feelings against us. Germany has never placed itself in opposition to the American principle of the Monroe document."

"Again I would ask Americans to remember the attitude of Germany during the Mexican crisis. Although extensive German commercial interests were involved, and although there was a strong demand for independent action to protect those interests during a protracted disorder, the Imperial Government at all times left the United States a free hand in its policy toward Mexico. The Washington government was not at any time left in doubt as to the attitude of Germany."

"We shall have quite enough to do at home to safeguard our own positions in Europe, heal the wounds of the war, restore our industry and business life at home and re-build our foreign trade, without reversing our traditional policy in regard to the American continent and taking on a new and powerful enemy across the Atlantic."

The Chancellor, whose address was delivered to a crowded house, also spoke of the Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian and Belgian in Flemish problems. He insisted upon the necessity of guaranteeing the peace of Europe after the war, and also securing these results, by giving opportunities of a free evolution along the lines of the national individualities and mother tongues of these races.

The chancellor began his address with a review of the military situation. He stated that since his last speech the Dardanelles enterprise had ended as a failure, that the Serbian campaign, with the assistance of Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria have been brought to a victorious conclusion, and that Montenegro and Albania likewise are now in the hands of Germany's allies. The British attempt to relieve Kut-el-Arama in Mesopotamia has been rebuffed and the Russians have found their southward push checked by strong Turkish forces.

The Chancellorís outline of what Germany wished Europe to be in the future has attracted great interest. "This new world," he said, "in many respects cannot resemble the past. The peace must be a lasting peace. It must not bear the seeds of a future world war, but must provide for all peaceful arrangements of European questions."

April 14

The Germans are again bombarding the French lines at Verdun, apparently with a view to an early return to the policy of delivering a series of short, sharp blows at different points of the line.

The object of this method of warfare is considered by military authorities to be too disorganized. It consists of the system of reserves by the defending forces gradually wearing down the defenders in order to prepare for an opportune moment for a general assault.

Heavy masses of German troops are being hurled against the defenses of Verdun, which are being tested to the limits of vital points. The French are offering tenacious resistance, and have succeeded, pressing back the German troops where sledgehammer blows have badly dented the French lines within the past few days.

For three days the only action on the east bank of the Meuse has been heavily concentrated artillery fire, with a finishing touch in the form of a couple of hours of heavy shelling with suffocating and tear producing projectiles.

In their attacks, the Germans approach within 100 yards of French trenches and seem insensible to the fact that hundreds of their men were falling by the way. When the attacking columns were thinned out by artillery and machine gun fire the order to retire was given. Twice were they obliged to fill up the gaps in their ranks, but none of the onslaughts shook the French lines.

After bombardment with high explosives lasting eight hours and the use of gas for another hour or two, the Germans would attack in two columns. The whole front, beaten by gas projectiles, is overhung by a yellowish cloud of chlorine vapor that seemed to be suspended from the sky. When the clouds lift the Germans bound forward seemingly indifferent to the thick death-dealing curtain of fire from the French artillery. Some of them get through it, but only find that the French have abandoned the first-line trenches to allow the gas cloud to dissipate.

German reinforcements are then sent out to fortify the trenches, but before they reached the line, the French came back with resistible counterattack and in a few moments drive out the Germans. There was no visible diminution in the courage of the Germans, nor do the French show the slightest fatigue. The resultant consequence is that the unprecedented carnage of Verdun goes on.

The French losses in killed and wounded in the fighting around Verdun are computed to have reached up to the present time a total of 150,000 men. The French calculate the German losses at 200,000.

April 21

On Wednesday President Wilson personally addressed Congress on the subject of the submarine issue with Germany. He went to the capital yesterday afternoon and addressed the House and Senate in joint session in the hall of the House of Representatives.

The president outlined the issue with Germany over the sinking of merchantmen by German submarines, covering a whole range of tragedies, from the sinking of the Lusitania to the latest instances, climaxing in the destruction of the Sussex, without going into details.

The President disclosed the nature of the latest note to Germany, sent to Berlin on Tuesday night. It conveyed a distinct warning in violation of international law, that unless attacks without warning on merchantmen carrying Americans are stopped, diplomatic relations will be severed. The United States demands that Germany modify this method of summary warfare. This note, though practically an ultimatum, does not contain a time limit. The United States has insisted that Germany reply immediately to its demands.

A break in diplomatic relations of the United States with Germany within two weeks was forecasted by men on the inside of the administration who generally know what they are talking about. The only thing that will prevent this break is Germany's unequivocal promise, in clear and distinct words, that she will promise that vessels will not be torpedoed until after warning that must be seen and understood by commanders of the vessels.

The communication is substantially an indictment of Germany, like that level of a man about to be tried in the courts of the United States. And that is what President Wilson wishes to communicate. The communication is expected to be framed for all publication to the world, although usual efforts will be made to guard its contents from becoming known in advance.

Even though German Ambassador Von Bernstorff will be handed this passport if the issue is not resolved, it was believed that the president will issue a statement that the action of the United States does not mean a declaration of war against Germany, but does mean the United States feels that it can no longer associate in the brotherhood of nations with Germany. The president's objections will be a moral lesson to the world, and to Germany, putting on notice to all nations that the United States will consort on terms of friendliness only with nations that comply with international law and hold always in view of the rights of humanity generally.

High officials of the administration do not believe that the prospective break will mean that this country will ever participate to an important degree in the war. Whether the United States takes any step hostile to Germany at all will depend, it is suggested, upon Germany's submarine war after the break comes. Should she pursue her present course, it is thought the United States would consider sending war vessels to foreign water to guard vessels upon which Americans are traveling.

Count von Bernstorff went to the state Department on Thursday and conferred with Secretary Lansing on the situation. After the conference, it was learned that the German diplomats regard the receipt of a reply from Germany within two or three days as physically impossible. It was thought a reply would not be received here before 10 days. It was pointed out that Easter Monday is a holiday in Germany and that necessary consultations of officials would cause almost another week to elapse before the German decision could be transmitted here.

The Ambassador was understood to have informed the Secretary of the details of the message he sent yesterday to his government, making certain recommendations, which he believed if acceptable to his government, would be satisfactory to the United States.

The Ambassador appeared hopeful that some way would be found to prevent a break of relations. Disregarding the hope held by German officials here for an amiable settlement, one official described the prospect of resolution as a "toss-up."

April 28

On Easter Sunday, serious disturbances broke out in Dublin. A large party of men identified with the Sinn Fein party, occupied Stephenís Green and took forcible possession of the post office, where they cut the telegraph and telephone wires. Houses were also occupied on Abbey Street and along the harbor.

London reports that Sir Roger Casement, leader of the separatist faction in Ireland, was arrested on Saturday in connection with an abortive attempt to land arms in Ireland from a German vessel. Casement had gone to Berlin and conferred with the German authorities. Assurance was given by Sir Roger that should German troops land in Ireland Sir Roger's followers would give every aid to the Germans.

The English press suggests the possibility that Sir Roger, if convicted of high treason, may be beheaded. Under the existing law a person found guilty of this offense made be given the penalty of beheading instead of hanging.

The Germans may have been calculating," said the London Times, "that the rising in Ireland would influence certain kinds of American opinion in their favor at a time when relations with the United States are critical. German and Irish societies in America have been working hand in glove to prejudiced opinion against Great Britain. They doubtlessly will claim that the issue is now about Ireland's struggle for freedom."

"Before Germany took the trouble to send arms to Ireland," says the Times, "she must have been satisfied of the existence of agents in that country who are prepared to receive and use them in her interest."

Following the revolt, martial law was declared throughout all of Ireland. Premier Asquith announced in the House of Commons that the rebels continue to hold important public buildings in Dublin and that street encounters were still in progress. The Premier announced that Maj. Gen. John Maxwell has been given powers under martial law over the whole country.

Indications are that the revolt is spreading to other parts of Ireland, especially in the West. It was on the West coast that Sir Roger Casementís expedition, consisting of a submarine and a steamer, was intending to land munitions when captured. In the north of Ireland, so far as it is known, there have been no disturbances.

According to New York papers, the revolt in Ireland far exceeds the extent of the admission of the British government. According to information received by Irish circles in the city, a force of about 10,000 rebels is opposing the British government authorities in Dublin and in neighboring Irish counties.

"Sinn Fein," an expression seen every day now in print since the development of the troubles in Ireland means in Gaelic "For Ourselves," and the two words pretty well describe the policy and purpose of the organization.

The Sinn Feininers demand Ireland stand alone and work out her own salvation by her own efforts, absolutely boycotting the British government, which it declares to be the only enemy of Ireland and the cause of all its evils and ills. It is an imitation of the policy adopted by Ferencz Deak, who in a contest with Austria for Hungarian independence, waged from 1849 to 1867, encouraged passive resistance and boycotts.

In 1903 a young newspaperman named Arthur Griffin conceived the idea of applying the Hungarian policy to Ireland and boycotting the British government. At first, it was understood that the Sinn Feiners, like the members of the Gaelic League, would abstain from politics, but the refusal of politicians to join with or assist them, provoked animosities. In retaliation, the Sinn Feiners were placed under the ban by Irish parliamentar, and it soon became an armed political party bent on Irish independence from England.

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