A Better Rifle at Halloween

A promising contact
  • 8:00 pm 8th August, London.

    Farquhar was sitting in his club in London, speaking to a fellow scot, the man was describing the dismal scene which he had seen just that morning. “I was with the London Scottish before the war, I went to South Africa as part of the City of London Imperial Volunteers.” “I stayed on till Haldane and I know how to shoot a rifle and what I saw this morning was a shambles” “Oh” said Farquhar his curiosity piqued. “Yes, the rifles kept jamming,” said the other man. “Colonel Malcolm was in a rage, he made them shoot every rifle and most of 3 crates of ammunition and it was the same result jam after jam, the Rifles were misfeeding” continuing he said “He came up to the house to call off the training he was planning and then he called brigade, then division, then someone in the War Office, that chap got a hard time of it, especially when he denied it was a problem and was likely down to the poor training of the territorials”

    Farquhar could see an opportunity at this point and he spoke to the other man with careful consideration. “As you know, I have developed a new rifle”, “Yes that self loading one, thought you had sold it to the Japanese” the other man responded, “The Kingdom of Siam cancelled the order, fortunately I took a hefty deposit so I won’t be out of pocket, but the fact remains that I have 2500 of these rifles and more ammunition than you can poke a stick at.” With that the first man sat up and said “You need to meet Malcolm, he’s the Battalion Commander and a good one, one thing about the London Scottish is they have their own budget, the men subscribe to the Regiment, this year it was £10 a man. They purchased their own machine guns last year, the new Vickers Maxim’s because they were not going to be issued them.”

    This sounds too good to be true thought Farquhar, he managed to calm his racing hopes and said levelly “Can you organise a meeting, I can show him the rifle and perhaps we can demonstrate it to him at your estate” “Yes I can, I shall call on him at the Headquarters tomorrow, give me your card and I will call you with the details.”
    A naval appreciation.
  • 2:00 pm 9th August 1914, London.

    Winston Churchill was holding forth on Heligoland, saying “We can use it as a base for our Submarines and Destroyers, our aircraft can watch the Bight.” The Sub-Committee had just finished hearing a naval appreciation, which had listed the strength of the Imperial German Navy, which had 22 Pre-Dreadnoughts, 14 Dreadnoughts, 4 Battlecruisers and 25 cruisers. In addition, they had 132 large torpedo boats or destroyers, and 40 submarines, 10 diesel and 30 petrol. The German Navy was seen as a significant threat, with the potential to raid the British coast, attack shipping in the North Sea and more widely attack shipping at any point they had the range to reach.

    A minefield was planned to block off the channel to protect the shipping lanes from Dover to Calais. This minefield would be extended to cover critical points on the Belgian Coast to ensure that shipping to Ostend and Zeebrugge could be protected.
    A military appreciation
  • 3:00pm 9th August 1914, London.

    The meeting had moved onto a Military Appreciation, Sir John French was presenting the position of the major powers as currently understood. Germany was thought to have 6 armies in the west, spread between the push into Belgium, currently somewhat bogged down before Liege, some part resisting the French in Alsace Lorraine with the remainder of its troops on the defensive in the East, it was thought that approximately 4 million men were under arms already or being called up. The German army was principally conscript with soldiers serving a 2- or 3-year term depending on specialisation, with further reserve obligations declining with age. There was a small number of professional soldiers and long service NCO’s, the Army Inspectorate is entirely professional.

    The French army has approximately 2 million men under arms now with additional reserves being called up. They were to attack into Alsace Lorraine under plan XVII. The French army like the German consisted largely of conscripts with a 2- or 3-year term of service, this had recently been extended following the German increase in the size of the Army. In addition to a professional General Staff a number of long service regular units like the Foreign Legion existed and they were already being returned to France.

    Belgium was the smallest participant, their army consisted of approximately 220,000 men, with a regular army of 120,000 and a reserve of 60,000. Other potential forces included the Garde Civique of almost 50,000 men. They were poorly equipped and not held in any regard. The majority of Belgian military spending had gone into the National Redoubts and Antwerp, Namur and Liege. Leige was currently besieged with its fortresses surrounded and 1 division and 1 brigade trapped inside the lines, they retained radio communications with Antwerp and were reporting that several German attacks had been rebuffed but that bombs and shells had hit civilian areas with heavy casualties. It was thought that sufficient food and ammunition was in place to hold for at least 1 month, General Leman who had narrowly missed being killed by a German shell was enforcing a draconian rationing on the civilian population and pushing ahead with further entrenchment and earth works.

    Russia, Austria and Serbia were also covered with the Russian plans to attack East Prussia discussed.

    Once the summary of the international situation had been completed the much more detailed discussion of what Britain and its Empire was doing began. General Smith Dorien had just departed for France with his Chief of Staff the just promoted Lieutenant General Henry Wilson, they had completed a series of meetings with the French command and had agreed to deploy GHQ with 4 regular divisions, 1st and 2nd Divisions would form I Corp under the command of Lieutenant General Rawlinson, II corps commanded by Sir Douglas Haig would have the 3rd and 5th divisions. The Cavalry division would be formed from 1st through 4th cavalry brigades and be commanded by Major General Allenby they would come under the command of GHQ.

    The Belgian Force, III corps commanded by Lieutenant General Plumer. Would initially consist of 4th and 6th Divisions, with 5th Cavalry Brigade. In addition Churchill had promised the Royal Marine Brigade would be available for service in Belgium.

    The Territorials would be mobilised for deployment as immediate reinforcements, with any men who did not undertake the imperial service commitment being replaced by reservists, returnees and other volunteers. It was anticipated that the first 6 Territorial divisions would be available for service by mid-September, with all of them undertaking as much training as could be done. It was accepted that this would place Britain at risk of raids by the Imperial German Navy, but it was felt that it was a risk that must be borne. The idea that German could successfully invade Britain, after defeating the Royal Navy and whilst fighting France and Russia was in the realm of fantasy. No doubt they may be able to land small parties, but it was felt that even with almost all the regular troops and half the territorial army in France there was little they could do. It was suggested that the former militia might be re-embodied in part to guard strategic points and to reassure the civilian population, this would allow for the eventual release of all the territorials and the regulars for service.

    The Sub-committee discussed the need to be able to preserve the fighting skills of the regular army and to a lesser extent the territorials, the plan was to comb potential leaders from their ranks as the new volunteers were trained up to replace them.

    The meeting continued in this vein as various schemes and plans were discussed.
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    Panoply of War
  • 4:00pm 9th August 1914, London.

    Lloyd-George now took the floor, he began to talk what he saw as the main area’s of weakness. “Gentlemen, we are in a war with two empires which have been arming and preparing for this war for decades” he continued “Our army is a precision instrument, it is not a club or a hammer but more like a sabre but for this war we must grow the army to match our empire.”

    “Our financial position is sound, we can fund the war with bonds as in the past and we have plans to issue a large war loan which we are confident will be oversubscribed”. With that confident speech the meeting briefly discussed options for assisting their allies in their financing of the war and that of the empire. The consensus view, including that of Walter Cunlife who was attending the sub-committee as Governor of the Bank of England, was that “Business as Usual” would not suffice, but that with effort the war could be funded from British holdings. “We have already suspended the payment of gold; we have confiscated the gold we are holding for both the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and we will in due course do the same for any commercial enterprises or nationals of those Empires. We will work to maintain financial stability, and the exchange rate of the pound.”

    The next phase of the meeting was a discussion of what all that money would be spent on, Lloyd George again stood up. “Whilst our finances are sound” and nodding his head to Cunlife he turned back to the committee and said “sadly our industry is neither as modern or as well organised as our finances. We start this war at a distinct disadvantage in steel, coal and many other areas of industrial production and our producers are smaller and less efficient than that of our enemies.”
    “As we have already discussed we have virtually no heavy artillery greater than 4.5” saving fixed coastal guns, while even as we speak German and Austrian Super Heavy Artillery is shelling the fortresses at Liege and the benighted inhabitants of the city caught in the trap.” “As we agreed I have appointed a chief purchasing officer Sir John Brunner, who will report to me directly and thence to you” Lloyd George resumed his seat and invited Sir John to speak.
    “Gentlemen, first let me thank you for the honour you have done me, I was opposed to war as you all know but now that it is upon us, we must win. Our enemies are powerful, and their chemical industries are advanced, my own company has competed with them for many years, Haber their chief chemist is a genius and no doubt he will give us trouble.” He continued to speak for some time touching on the areas of weakness, he was concerned by manpower saying “Many of our chemists and key workers have volunteered or will volunteer, we must make sure that the army gives them back to industry or at least puts them in places where we can use that potential. We will need new factories for munitions and for all the panoply of war we need men who can work in them.”
    Liege Unbowed.
  • 8:00 am 10th August 1914, Leige.

    General Leman was a worried man, his garrison was surrounded, the civilian population was panic stricken and the Germans had attacked several times only beaten off by the concerted efforts of the fortifications and the infantry. Leman knew what the Germans wanted Liege for, they wanted the railways and he was going to deny them. He had two plans, the first was to simply hold his position until relieved, an unlikely event in his mind if not in his conversations and orders where he did everything to preserve morale, the second was to systematically destroy the railway lines and every piece of critical infrastructure.

    He had used the Guard Civique, to round up labourers and railway workers. The labourers: men, women and teenagers dug, filled sandbags, and built breastworks and barricades. He had additional sandbags and earth berms placed at the forts as much as was practicable. Within the town the civilians were used to prepare the town for a siege, food supplies had been secured and would be rationed out to those who worked, a minimum being made available for the old, infirm and children.

    He had sent the Archbishop and a number of town notables out to speak to the German commander in attempt to secure free passage for the civilian population, that had failed, the German going so far as threatening to sack the city if it did not surrender.

    The Railway workers had been advised to devise the best way to render the railways useless, one clever engineer had worked out how to rip up the tracks using a pair of locomotives and a couple of weighted trucks to pull giant plough which tore apart the track ties. The railway workshop was working night and day to fabricate several more so they could be used on all the lines. Where that was not practical the trackworkers pulled the rails from the ties and piled them up to burn. They were also destroying the signalling equipment, blocking culverts, and preparing all of the bridges for destruction. Once that had been completed he would have the water towers demolished and the coal dumps burnt along with the storage sheds and workshops. He was charged with defending Liege, but its destruction would help Belgium and he would gleefully ruin it for that end.

    The 6000 men of the Guard Civique were largely busy ensuring the labourers laboured and the civilians panic didn’t cause problems, the remainder were preparing the city itself for battle, they had deployed additional guards at key points such as the bridges to ensure the could not be captured by coup de main.

    The fortress troops were doing all they could with their obsolete guns to defend the city, whilst enduring heavy bombardment from the Germans. Fort de Barchon, had been heavily attacked with much damage but the infantry dug in nearby and a pair of field guns had driven off the attacking German column with heavy losses.

    The infantry was digging in, they had already stopped several German attacks including a spirited one attempting to force a breach in the lines between the northern fortresses. Their morale was good and they were using their field guns to good effect, the lines still held and new positions to were being prepared as quickly as they could.

    Leman thought that they might be able to hold for another fifteen to twenty days, if, when the city fell it would take the Germans weeks to rebuild the railway lines and he hoped that gave his nation and its allies the time they needed.
    Analytical Engine
  • Dublin 10th August 1914.

    Percy Ludgate, was at the Dublin post office, he had just sent a letter to Professor C.V. Boys with whom he had collaborated in the past. With the coming of the war and the formation of the committees for scientific investigation, Ludgate was keen to offer up his analytical engine for war work. He had continued to work on it after its presentation at the Royal Dublin Society in 1909 and he had taken to heart the advice given by C.V. Boys in the July 1909 edition of Nature “If he will, in the instance, produce his design for a machine of restricted capacity, even if it does no more than an arithmometer, he will, by demonstrating its practicability and advantages, be more likely to be enabled to proceed step by step to the more perfect instrument than he will if, as Babbage did, he imagines his whole machine at once.” Ludgate had done just that perfecting a small series of prototypes which he had kept entirely to himself, before working upwards in complexity and capacity to the latest design. He had sent a complete set of plans along with a detailed description to Professor Boys, with his letter requesting that the device be presented to a suitable authority for its encorporation in the war effort.
    Farquhar meets Lt Col Malcolm
  • 1:30 pm 10th August 1914, London.

    Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm, 14th Battalion the London Regiment (London Scottish) stood as Moubray Farquhar and Arthur Hill were ushered into the private room, already present were several regimental officers and the imposing figure of the Regimental Sergeant Major, the door man at the club had not even attempted to dissuade him from entering the club despite it being strictly officers only. The Secretary having spoken to Farquhar and Colonel Malcolm had allocated them a large private room, it was equipped with a large table, protected by a canvas drop cloth. The officers were seated at the second smaller table on which was a pot of tea and a tray of scones.

    Another man carrying a rifle case came into the room at the same time, he placed the case on the large table and dropped a set of webbing alongside it, he then spoke briefly to Arthur Hill and let himself out of the room.

    Once Farquhar and Hill had been introduced to the other men present, they began their presentation, Farquhar explained the operation of the rifle including a brief history of the evolution of the rifle. He then passed the rifle around to the assembled men, handing it first of all to the Colonel, to the RSM he passed the web gear. Making sure that he could see how clever the design was, he commented that they had had the advice of a number of former senior NCO’s on the design, he hoped that they had done a good job. He pointed out that the web gear was designed to carry the weight of the 9 magazines in 3 pouches on the wide belt and the shoulder harness, the bayonet frog was carried on the left side of the belt.

    Meanwhile the Officers were examining the rifle, they were impressed by the fit and finish of the rifle, the length was shorter than that of the Magazine Lee Enfield with which they had been previously equipped. The bayonet, when liberated from the webbing which the RSM had already donned was found to be very similar to the current sword bayonet and was evidently well made.

    Very shortly it was resolved that the only thing to do was to take the rifle up to the range and see how it performed, Colonel Malcolm had already organised this if he found the meeting satisfactory, he rang ahead to the estate to inform them. Moubray Farquhar anticipating this as well, he had had several additional rifles kept in his vehicle along with several thousand rounds of ammunition. The man who had carried the rifle in was waiting with the car nearby. The club doorman hailed a pair of cabs, and they set off, Farquhar, Hill and Colonel Malcolm in one vehicle, the other officers and the RSM in the other.
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    Purchasing Commission
  • 2:00 pm 10th August 1914, London.

    The first meeting of the Purchasing Commission was in session, the Chief Purchasing Officer Sir John Brunner of the Bruner Mond company and his deputies Eric Geddes of the London and North Eastern Railway and Lieutenant General Sir James Grierson who was deputising for Sir John Cowans Quartermaster General to the Forces. Sir Frederick Tudor as Third Sea Lord represented the needs of the Royal Navy, as former Director of Naval Ordinance and Torpedoes he was well placed to advise on both the needs of the Navy, whilst also being an expert in gunnery in general.

    They began their meeting with Sir John Brunner saying “Gentlemen, we face an enemy which has invaded Belgium with an army a million strong, whose super heavy guns are blowing fortress apart without that they can even reply with their own guns, our own regular army is deploying now to France and Belgium to dispute with this colossus. It is and has since the days of Napoleon, been a flexible instrument, but built, trained and used in the defence of empire, it is not equipped to fight in the cockpit of Europe.” “We gentlemen must remedy those short comings, we shall mobilise British industry and invention, the politicians will get us the money, we must get the material to the army.” With that discussion of the military situation commenced, beginning with the current equipment which was available to the British Army. Sir James Grierson introduced the guns, “Starting with the Royal Garrison Artillery and discounting the various fixed and coastal gun emplacements, we have 16 9.2” Siege guns on order, the first deliveries are expected to take place in December. Moving down from there we have 80 6” Howitzers left in service, but they are heavy and short ranged. We then move onto the 60 Pounder Field Gun, we have 30 available. The Territorials are equipped with the 4.7” Gun which was no dammed use in South Africa and not likely to be any better in France and Belgium.” Taking a drink of water, he continued “The Royal Artillery operates the 4.5” Howitzer and the 18 pounder of which we have 182 and 1200 respectively, the territorials use the 15 pounder BLC” finally he moved onto the Royal Horse Artillery “The RHA are equipped with the 13 pounder, we have 25 batteries at the moment with 11 in India, each battery has 6 guns. The territorial Horse Artillery units use the German QF 15 pounder.” The summary concluded Grierson then made the following statement “We have too little artillery and what we have is far too light, already we are seeing the advantage of heavy guns, the Germans are using it to effect on Liege and it remains to be seen if that city falls before its railroad is wrecked” “Our army is going to have to expand massively, we shall need thousands of guns and to go with those thousands of guns we shall also need shells more shells than we can imagine, remember against the Boers we shot all our war stock out and frantically had to manufacture more. This time it will be vastly worse, every munition factory needs to recruit enough to run 3 shifts, and we must prevent their workers going into the army.” Grierson then summarized all of the other equipment which was required, he made the point that civilian transport was being called up, but much more would be required. The meeting continued in this vein until 7pm and the men planned to resume it on the following day.
    Practice Number 22,
  • 2:30 pm 10th August, Chipping Barnet.

    The RSM was a happy man, he had just fired his best ever Practice Number 22, he had fired 45 rounds in the minute and hit the target 45 times, having reloaded from the stripper clips 4 times. His beaming smile directed to the Lt Col Malcolm and the pair of Hill and Farquhar said it all. The inventors then passed out the other rifles and magazines, all of the officers present proceeded to trial the rifle. They all looked suitably impressed. After 30 minutes of shooting and with only handful of jams they were even happier, the mounds of brass glinted dully in the sun.

    Colonel Malcolm, took Farquhar to one side, saying “how many of these rifles do you have.” “I have over 2500 available” he replied, “Ammunition?”, “over 250,000 rounds.” “Web Kit” “5000 sets, bayonets likewise” “The cost, £8 5 4d, with web kit and bayonet and 250 rounds of ammunition.”

    With that Lt Col Malcolm committed himself, he said “I can purchase them out of Battalion funds immediately, and once I demonstrate the problem to brigade I am sure the will get onboard, they are coming tomorrow to see what the old rifle and ammunition do. If you can bring enough rifles for a company and ammunition for the same, we can show them by shooting half company against each other. “One half with the SMLE Mark 1 and the other with your rifles, then we can swap weapons and do it again.” Farquhar's reply was emphatic “absolutely, I will have the rifles here in the morning with the ammunition and web kit”
    Back at Rules
  • 7:00 pm, 10th August 1914, London.

    By this stage the management of Rules had set aside a permanent room for the use of Senior officers and Government Ministers. Winston Churchill was sitting with Percy Girouard, currently managing director of the Elswick Works of Sir W. G. Armstrong, Whitworth and Company Limited. Winston Churchill had requested his presence for two reasons, he remembered his service in South Africa where he had unfankled the chaos of the railways at the start of the Boer War.

    He had additionally served as High Commissioner for Northern Nigeria during which he had railways built. He was also a French Canadian and a Catholic, thus he was outside of the usual circles of advisers to the Government, his successful management of the Elswick Works was icing on the cake as far as Churchill was concerned.

    They began by discussing the Boer war and the work on the railways, Girouard reminisced about the changes he had wrought to get a grip on railway supply. Churchill then asked for his opinion on France and Belgium, Girouard then said, “it is the railways, Belgium’s network is dense and if they can capture the key points, Liege is one of them, they don’t need Antwerp but Liege and Namur are the key.” Churchill noted this saying “The man in Liege has already got people smashing everything, I think when it falls the Germans will get an ash heap and little else”, Girouard looked thoughtful and said, “if the Germans are smart, they will get the most important thing.” “Really” Replied Churchill, “yes, we can replace trains, track and bridges, but trained personnel are invaluable, it takes years to train men to run a complex rail network, those people will still be available if they live, and the Germans will use them to run the railways in Belgium.”

    “On that note, we shall have to preserve our railway men, we can’t have them getting sucked into the army as foot soldiers, you will want them for our military railroads”, Churchills only reply was a kind of non-committal grunt, “You think you will be able to rely on the French railways?” to which Churchill said “yes, they have committed to supporting our efforts, they will run them from the docks to the front line. We just have to supply French speaking liaison officers.” Girouard’s reply was just a laugh.

    The two men continued to eat, each lost in their thoughts, suddenly Girouard said “I shall have to resign, I can’t be seen to work for Armstrong-Whitworth and be your railway adviser, the owners would never stand for it.” “Who said I want you for that role, we have a committee for railway management here in Britain,” “Oh not that committee, you need me in France. You need me in France to organise the transport, from the pier to the frontlines one man needs to be in charge and that man should be me. At least that fool French is safely here in Britain” Churchill bristled at this but said nothing. Continuing Girouard said “Smith-Dorien will do a good job, he doesn’t dream of glory, and he values his men’s lives. He understands that in this war, we will win it, by crushing the Germans with Russian soldiers, French guns and British money. In any case our army shall have to grow as well, we will have to be seen to shedding blood as well, lest our allies think we just want to win on the backs of their dead”

    At this point Churchill looked pensive, “I had not considered this at all, I wanted your advice, Lloyd George has Geddes working on his commission, I wanted you in the War Office to help liaise with the Commission to help filter the requests before we sent them across to the manufacturers.”

    Girouard replied again, “that is important, but the army should supply the men for that role and make sure they don’t stay in post for too long, send them back to the front regularly. To make sure they actually know what the army needs, otherwise we will have some dammed fool ordering equipment because that’s what they wanted at Omdurman.” Warming to his task he continued “you need to make sure that the men doing the work know their business. Perhaps you should make sure you have junior officers involved, those who have been wounded and need a convalescent role, they would bring a bit of clarity as well, hell you might as well be shot for a sheep as a lamb and include some NCO’s at least they will be cynical about what they are testing. They can’t all be Guardsmen either, make sure you get men from the Artillery and the Engineers, all the Corps come to think of it”

    Whilst you are at it the army needs to stop recruiting mathematicians and engineers and chemists into the fighting arms, we will need all of them doing research. You need to have men who can look at a page of numbers and make sense of it. My transport commission will be looking for statisticians and transport specialists, the big grocers’ companies will have some of what I want” by this stage Girouard had assumed that he would be writing his own command so he might as well push for everything he wanted. Churchill was struggling to keep up with the vision, but he knew that if they could implement half of what Girouard demanded then at least some of the chaos which seemed to happen whenever the British empire went to war would abate. He thought back to South Africa, where the start of the war had been a series of bloody defeats, he would make sure that in this war he did everything he could to replace blood and tears with sweat.

    Girouard finished saying “I will need suitable rank, I think I shall need to be a Lieutenant General, that will match me with the Corps Commanders, I imagine if the war is as long and bloody as I expect you will make me a General before it is over”

    With that he turned back to his meal, a rather delicious saddle of venison, he knew Churchill would agree to his ambit claim. It would just take a couple of days whilst the Secretary of State for War convinced himself that it was his idea.
    A training accident occurs
  • “The Government released the news today that Minister of Militia The Honourable Sam Hughes was killed on Saturday during a live fire exercise at Long Branch Rifle Range. The exercise was intended to test the combat viability of the “Shield shovel”, a combination digging tool and protective device championed by Hughes. Upon testing the device while nailed to wooden planks the officers involved declared that the shield was insufficient to stop a full power rifle bullet at combat ranges, and refused to move forward to a live test with a soldier behind the shield. Visibly enraged, Hughes demanded that the testing continue and went so far as to offer to be the subject himself. The officer in control of the range refused to allow such a test and ended the demonstration but was then called away before escorting the Minister and his staff on their way from the firing range, detailing that duty to a soldier in his command. Undeterred, Hughes immediately seized one of the testing shields, a Ross rifle and a Lee-Enfield that had been used to test the shields resistance to rifle fire. He then thrust the Lee-Enfield into the hands of the young soldier and told him that he was to shoot the shield, with Hughes behind it, or Hughes would use the Ross to shoot the soldier. Visibly cowed, the soldier complied to stand where directed while Hughes took the shovel and rifle out to the end of the range and laid down in the trench behind the shovel, putting the Ross barrel through the hole of the shovel and yelling at the soldier to fire. Though young and untested, the soldier is question had been seconded to the testing committee partially due to his high rifle scores, and, being suitably motivated by the Ministers threat of force, shot true.

    Minister Hughes is survived by his wife Mary, and their three children. One, his son Colonel Garnet Hughes, is currently serving with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Prime Minister Borden, though refusing to comment on the incident in question, is quoted expressing his admiration for Hughes efforts to improve the military preparedness of our fair Dominion and states that his help will be missed in the conflict at hand"
    The Permanent Active Militia Mobilise
  • 7:30 am 11th August 1914, Dublin.

    Percy Ludgate was sitting in his parlour enjoying his breakfast, bacon, eggs and a potato farl. His copy of the Irish Times was spread out in front of him, he was reading with interest a small article on page 13 of the death of the Canadian minister of Militia, Samuel Hughes who had apparently died of misadventure during the testing of some experimental equipment. It was noted that the Minister would be given a State Funeral. There was a small comment by Sir Willoughby Gwatkin Chief of the General Staff Canadian Militia “Samuel Hughes was a great man, his death is a tragedy, but was an accident of war. His efforts to improve Canada’s militia will be long remembered, along with his service in the Boer War. To that end the full power of the Permanent Active Militia along with the Non Permanent Active Militia is to be mobilised, with all NPAM units called up for immediate service in Canada and potentially abroad, volunteers will be allocated for overseas service with the Active Militia units as trained.”
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    Royal Mail Efficiency
  • 2:00 pm 11th August 1914.

    Professor Boys was sitting at his desk in his office, the administrative assistant had just given him a letter received in the afternoon post. Boys noticed it was postmarked Dublin, wondering who might have sent it, he opened the letter.

    Dear Professor Boys

    I have resolved to do all I can to demonstrate Irish Loyalty to the empire and to that end I wish to make available to the Government, my new Analytical Machine. Since we last corresponded, I have worked diligently on it, improving its function, and reducing the complexity.
    It can now multiply a 10 digit number with another 10 digit number in mere seconds. I have enclosed updated plans for the Multiplier Accumulator. I am able to visit you in London to demonstrate the machine which I believe will be invaluable for a variety of purposes in the coming war. Should you wish to see the machine I can travel one week from today.
    I remain Sir, your humble and obedient servant
    Percyl Ludgate.

    Boys was astounded, he had heard very little from Ludgate in the intervening period since the 1909 paper in Nature. He was pleased that he had continued with the project and impressed that he had resolved to build it on a smaller and more manageable scale in the first instance. That would both simplify transport and reduce manufacturing difficulties. Boys was aware that committees had been established to undertake research into technology which had military or naval applications, he knew members of both the Military Board it’s president being Sir J J Thomson, whilst the Navy Board had William Bragg and Geoffrey Ingram Taylor. He knew all of them from the Royal Society and thought that a direct approach to Thomson was the best one. He wrote up a telegram message to Ludgate which said “Letter received, prepare self, plans, equipment. Details to follow.” With that he went off to make a number of phone calls.
  • 3:00pm 11th August 1914, Chipping Barnet.

    Colonel Malcolm and Moubray Farquhar were both somewhat irritated though both men made every attempt to keep it suppressed, Malcolm for reasons of Military Decorum and Farquhar from commercial advantage. They along with the men of C company (The London Scottish) had been waiting for the arrival of Brigadier General F.J Heyworth, he had finally arrived. Bringing with him another Brigadier General The Hon. C.S. Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby, the commander of 6 Brigade. Several minutes after the arrival of the two Brigadier Generals, another staff car with motor cycle escort arrived, the men of the London Scottish already drawn up for inspection by the brigade commanders were impassive as out of the staff car stepped Major General Francis Lloyd. who was the Major General Brigade of Guards and General Officer Commanding London District. With him was their own Divisional Commander Major General Thomas Morland. The four generals then inspected the men and officers. They then drew off to one side where a small pavilion had been set up, taking their seats they waited for the demonstration.

    Colonel Malcolm spoke to them prior to the start of proceedings addressing General Lloyd directly. “Sir, as you are aware, we discovered the problem with the rifles on Saturday, they will not feed the new ammunition properly. As you are also no doubt aware Lord Wemyss, whose father was the commander of the London Scottish from its founding, is the owner of the land on which we are standing, he has provided it to us for training purposes.” Acknowledging Weymss he carried on “Lord Weymss happens to also know Lieutenant Colonel Farquhar, whose previous service with the Scottish horse I was unaware of until today.” “Lord Wemyss and Col Farquhar were discussing the issue of the Colonel’s rifle when Wemyss made the connection between my problem and Col Farquhar’s problem” saying “You have a problem with a rifle that won’t shoot and Farquhar has a problem with a rifle that hasn’t sold, I think together you and Farquhar can give that problem to the Kaiser”

    “With that I would like to commence the demonstration, which will consist of one section firing at a time alternating between the SMLE Mk 1 and the Farquhar Hill Rifle. They will be undertaking the Practice Number 22 and aiming to achieve a qualifying score”

    With that the demonstration began, the first section began shooting deliberately loading each round aiming and firing then ejecting the round before reloading. The senior officers present began muttering, clearly irritated that the men were firing deliberately. When the first section had finished and without any of the men achieving the minimum, General Lloyd was furious, saying “Malcolm, my time and that of these Gentlemen is precious, I didn’t come here to see individual fire your men have magazines, they should use them.” With that command the men disengaged the magazine cut off and began firing again, the results were poor multiple jams for each man with rates of fire even worse than before.

    General Lloyd was still furious, “Dammed Territorials, can’t even use a rifle” With that Colonel Malcolm pointed to his RSM saying “Sir it was the RSM who first had the problem and he is as finest shot as any man in the army,” continuing “if I may request the second section to shoot” “Yes” snapped Lloyd.

    With that the second section took positions to fire the practice.

    The tempo of firing was completely different, what had been irregular hesitant and liable to whole seconds of silence was replaced by a crescendo of noise. With each man firing between 36 and 50 rounds in the space of one minute. The targets were recovered after the firing had ceased and presented to the senior officers. They were a testament to the improved rifle, almost all of the rounds fired by the Farquhar Hill Rifle were centred within the 24” ring of the second class figure target. The first sections efforts with the SMLE were substantially worse, even allowing for the fact that the targets had not been recovered between their two efforts, they had a wider spread of shots with many more outside the outer ring.

    The Rifles were now inspected, the Generals were highly experienced officers and knew what to look for in a recently fired rifle. They had little to concern themselves with the Farquhar Hill rifle beyond noting it was slightly longer than the SMLE Mk 1, no fouling was visible beyond the little you, would expect with rifles that had fired 50 rounds without a pull through being run through the bore. They then inspected the SMLE’s, the problems with the magazines were evident to them with the rounds not presenting properly to be loaded.

    A short discussion was held by the four senior officers, it was concluded when General Lloyd said, “I want to try this new rifle, I heard of your success at Bisley this year and I think this may be a solution.”

    With that the four generals received a rifle each, a short brief by the RSM who was acting as the Range Officer was given and they proceeded to undertake the same firing practice as the Soldiers.

    Senior Officers of the British Army in 1914 were almost all combat veterans, all four had seen service in Africa where the power of accurate rifle fire had been demonstrated. Both against an attacker such as at Omdurman but also on the receiving end such as against the Boers who armed with their Mausers had caused such problems in South Africa.

    With that they then shot, the course of fire each. Each man managed to easily achieve the 15 round standard of the Practice 22, with all of them exceeding 24 rounds in the minute. Again their accuracy was impressive and they were genuinely pleased, General Lloyd was delighted, he had shot 45 rounds holding the vast majority inside the inner ring and most on the centre target. Moubray Farquhar who had been watching will considerable trepidation looked almost as happy as he saw the Generals face commenting “she is a fun rifle to shoot isn’t she.”

    General Lloyd schooled his expression into the formality which was expected and replied “it is a fine rifle from what I have seen, however I should like to see how it performs over some time” with that he and the other three generals retired back to the pavilion to watch the remainder of the demonstration.
    Two Telegrams
  • 6:00 pm 11th August 1914, Dublin.

    Percy Ludgate had just arrived home to find two telegrams had been left for him, the first simply said “Letter received, prepare self, plans, equipment. Details to follow” the second, “Ticket booked, Train departs 7am 18th ticket at station, meet at Holyhead, bring engine and plan, letter to follow. Whilst the information was scant Percy was happy that he would showing his work to someone, his labours had been lonely and consumed much of his spare income. He expected he would receive the letter with more details in the next 2 or 3 days.

    He went to speak to his brother saying, “off to London in a week, taking the engine to show the professor.” With that he returned to his workroom to begin sorting the most important documents which would need to go with him.
    Order Placed and a New Hire.
  • 8pm 11th August 1914, London.

    Malcolm and Farquhar were back in their club, by this stage they were becoming fast friends, they had agreed that the Battalion would purchase 1100 of the Farquhar Hill Rifles, for immediate delivery with a 20% discount on the original price but with as much ammunition as was available. The Brigadier was happy enough to have them to carry the equipment as it would allow the SMLE MK 1 Rifles, to be provided to another battalion of the London Regiment, which was still equipped with long Lee Enfield rifles, this would get him credit with the Divisional commander and GOC London. The additional ammunition over normal battalion allotment would be carried with brigade stores for resupply purposes, it was felt this would reduce the risk of carrying unique ammunition. The ammunition plant would be requested to work double shifts on production as well, this would be reinforced by a chit drawn on London District for authorisation and payment.

    Farquhar had agreed with Hill on the need to have the factory work 2 shifts to increase production as well as hiring a William Morris and one of his engineers as consultants. Hill had met Morris at the talk given by Taylor on scientific management and could see that he was clearly a man who had what it took to achieve efficient production.
    The Siege of Liege continues
  • 12th August 1914, Liege.

    The siege continued, the infantry division had already suffered heavy casualties, however the small number of Machine Guns which they had been equipped with had proved to be very useful indeed. The Germans had been beaten back twice from major assaults to the north of the city, in the east things were fairing less well. The Germans had brought up their super heavy guns. With shells striking some of the fortresses, however the need to also penetrate the infantry lines which were relatively well dug in thanks to the efforts both of the Soldiers, the Guard Civique and the impressed labour of the locals, (saving those working on the destruction of the railway infrastructure work that was continuing apace) meant that the German fire was not able to be purely concentrated on the fortresses but must also be used to suppress the soldiers manning the defensive lines.

    Leman was concerned about two forts, Fort Barchon was largely ruined but holding, but it was that the Fort d'Évegnée was at risk of falling soon. It was under the heaviest attack and had also been attacked by German infantry trying to get around to the rear of the fortress. They had come under fire from the men of the 15th brigade who were entrenched between the fortresses. As much barbed wire as war available in the stores and every other form of obstacle had been used to try to slow the German Assaults. But the garrison was massively outnumbered, the fortress guns were completely outranged, the soldiers ill equipped. It was the cold ferocity of Leman and his determination to fight to the last man and the last bullet that was holding the city, his rage against the destruction of his nation was the keystone of its defence.

    The first Zeppelin raid had been followed by several others which had worsened conditions in the city but had little daunted the civilian population. His sole link via radio with Antwerp was still working and he was able to keep the King informed of the progress of the siege.

    The King had commended him and the people of the city for their resolution, he did not promise that relief would come, given the disparity of forces it could only have been a lie and Leman was glad not have to repeat a lie. What he did promise was that every day they held on was one more day the Meuse was closed to their enemy, one more day for Belgium to remain free. It was also one more day for France, and now with the landing of the first brigade for Britain to Honour their pledge that Belgian Neutrality be upheld. To that end the King commanded that Leman hold, that Liege hold.
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  • 13th August 1914, Limoges.

    General Louis Bonneau, was travelling to Limoges, he had been dismissed from his command of VII Corps, his troops had managed to capture Mulhouse, the battles had been bloody but Audace toujours l’audace, had carried his men forward. But it had proved to be impossible to hold the city. The German counter-attack had pushed his men back to Belfort, he had lost 2500 men in this retreat and 8 guns.
    The interview with Joffre had been humiliating, had he been shouted at it may have been better. Instead Joffre had simply said, “You failed, to Limoges with you” and hung up, with that a 46 year career simply ended.
  • 13th August 1914, Vitry-le-Francois.

    The troop of Cuirassiers escorting the Staff Cars were gorgeously equipped and attired, their brass and steel equipment burnished to a gleam, the only note that they were at war was the dull brown covers worn over their breastplates.

    The staff car was driven by a corporal of the Army Service Corps, in the rear of the vehicle were two men, Winston Churchill Secretary of State for War and First Lord of the Admiralty and his principal military adviser Sir John French.

    They were met by General Joffre along with President Poincare at his headquarters, Churchill began by inquiring how the battle progressed, Joffre replied in French "I wanted more artillery and shells and the fools refused" and soon Churchill, Joffre and Poincare were in an involved discussion as Joffre spoke of the success then failure in the Alsace along with his removal of the General in Command and his appointment of General Pau to the Army of the Alsace.

    Joffre then said that the attack into the Lorraine would commence the following day, whilst this conversation was going on Sir John French stood there, clearly only partially understanding and constantly asking Churchill what was being said, Churchill’s patience was being worn down by this and he snapped to one of the liaison officers, “Translate for Sir John,” his frustration evident.

    Churchill spoke of his fear that the war would be long and only end in the exhaustion of the combatants. He ran through the planning and preparation which had been made and legislated through the Defence of the Realm Act, which empowered the Purchasing Commissioners. The Registration of Manpower Act which was being rushed through Westminster under the eye of Lloyd George to ensure that skilled personnel were not sucked out of industry into the Army and Navy, but which ensured that those who the Army needed would be made available.

    He touched briefly on the planning going on to support the Belgians directly, two of the six regular divisions and a brigade of cavalry would be going directly to Ostend, they would be followed by 2 Territorial Division and a Yeomanry Division, hurriedly being embodied, and reinforced from those who had taken the Imperial Service Obligation.

    Switching to English for Sir John, Churchill bade him to cover what support would be going direct to France, namely 4 Infantry Divisions and a Cavalry Division, with it to be reinforced by 4 Territorial Divisions and 2 Yeomanry Divisions as they became available.

    The home army would be stripped to the bone for initial reinforcements, along with the special reserve. Many of the regulars would be returned to Britain as the Territorial Divisions became available. They would form training cadre, with their place taken by individual territorials transferring to regular regiments for the duration of the war. The territorial soldiers who had refused to take the Imperial Service Obligation would be transferred to training Battalions which would feed reinforcements to BEF. Training and recruitment was to be undertaken by the territorials, special reservists and other returned soldiers, however as many of those with front line experience as possible would be used for the final polish prior to deployment.

    The numerous volunteers were registered and then released back to their civilian occupations, they would be called up for training and dispatched to France as individual reinforcements. The home establishment would only attempt to train as many men as could be practicably equipped and trained at any one time. Most volunteers would not expect to be called up for service for at least 3-6 months, whilst the training establishment was built up and the equipment to supply them was procured.

    It was understood that the Territorials would have to stand in the line until more volunteers came on stream, they would also be re-equipped as a matter of priority, much of their equipment was obsolete and whilst it would be needed to begin with it would be first priority for replacement. The six initial territorial divisions planned for deployment were undergoing rapid training and hardening and already significant issues were being identified. The other divisions would be reinforced with new volunteers prior to deployment.

    Joffre was unhappy with this, but somewhat mollified by Sir Johns passionate vow that Britain’s army would do all that could be done by mortal men. Both Churchill and Sir John French were adamant that untried divisions would not be thrown into the line. The British Army would grow but its growth would be managed whilst the vital resource that was its regular and territorial forces would have to be used as the nucleus of that growth was preserved as much as the hazards of war allowed.

    The Indian Army would also be arriving with two Regular Divisions and one of Cavalry, they would supplement the Regular Army and the Territorial Force, likewise the dominions had already pledged forces and they would be available within six months.

    Both Churchill and Poincare then resumed their discussions in French and touched on industrial preparations. They also agreed to form a pair of liaison committees which would facilitate sharing of resources as practical. It was at this point that Churchill informed Poincare, Joffre and Sir John French that Lieutenant General Girouard would be Quarter Master General and General Officer Commanding Lines of Communications for the BEF. Noting that he was already in discussions with General Smith Dorien as to how this role was to be carried out.

    It was agreed that liaison officers would be supplied by both sides to the research committees, it was also agreed that for the duration of the war both parties would share such industrial and military technology as was available.
    HMS Vernon
  • 13th August 1914, Portsmouth.

    Admiral Percy Scott was back in Portsmouth, he had been summoned by the First Lord of the Admiralty for a meeting with Admirals Prince Louis of Battenberg and John Fisher. His role was to drive naval innovation, Churchill was unhappy with the slow progress of the fitting of director firing equipment on the Fleet’s dreadnoughts and battlecruisers. Prince Louis had looked uncomfortable when this slow progress was raised, and his unhappiness increased when the risks posed by the German submarines was mentioned. Scott’s second task was to take in hand antisubmarine warfare both against submarines on the surface and below.

    Admiral Scott had spent the last 4 days dealing with director firing, he had instructed Sir John Jellicoe that he was to prepare a schedule for each ship to be equipped for director firing. This had been done with a considerable amount of complaint, he had pointed out that the First Lord had ordered it be done 2 years prior and so it would happen now, or men would be leaving their commands.

    He had also managed to ensure that the building of the sixth Queen Elizabeth Class battleship continued, he pointed out that she would be finished in 1917 by which time the war would be won, in which case a fast battleship would be useful, especially one not worn down by wartime service. Or if the war continued the presence of an additional fast battle ship would strengthen the fleet, he had requested a design revision to look at modifying the bridge and the director positions to ensure that they were not blinded by smoke.

    His current task however was to inspect HMS Vernon the School of Torpedo and Mine Warfare. As a gunnery expert Scott had a more than passing familiarity with HMS Vernon, his belief in the value of long range gunnery was driven in part by the need to kill torpedo carrying ships beyond the range of their weapons. His goal today was to familiarise himself with the School, the latest developments and to ensure that the right men were in the right jobs and the equipment being developed was useful.

    He began with an interview with Captain Nicholson, commander of the School, asking “Captain, how do we stand for mine developments” Nicholson answered his questions promptly and clearly. He agreed that more work needed to be done on Mines especially on mines that could be tethered in deep water and to make them simpler to produce in large numbers. They then moved onto the subject of minelaying, discussing the need for fast minelayers to establish the minefields needed to hem in the Imperial German Navy and to assist with a distant blockade. The last part of the discussion related to antisubmarine warfare, Scott asked about the development of a high explosive dropping mine that could be used to attack a submarine, set to explode at a set depth by way of a pressure sensitive fuse. Captain Nicholson summoned the officer responsible for the ongoing development, Admiral Scott spoke to them both saying, “whatever support you need to develop the dropping mine you shall have, you can call my office directly and I will make sure that you get it. I want you to send me an update every fortnight on your progress, what is working in the design and what parts don’t. I am sure we will need this device soon and you must get it ready.”