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The Landing In Scotland







From: The Coming Conquest Of England

The ninth and tenth army corps had collected at the inlet of Kid
harbour. The town of Kiel and its environs resounded with the clattering
of arms, the stamping of horses and the joyful songs of the soldiers,
who, full of hope, were expecting great and decisive events. But no one
knew anything for certain about the object of the impending expedition.

From the early hours of the morning of the 13th of July an almost
endless stream of men, horses, and guns poured over the landing-bridges,
which connected the giant steamers of the shipping companies with the
harbour quays. Other divisions of troops were taken on board in boats,
and on the evening of the 14th the whole field army, consisting of
60,000 men, was embarked.

Last of all, the general commanding, accompanied by the Imperial
Chancellor, proceeded in a launch on board the large cruiser Konig
Wilhelm, which lay at anchor in the Bay of Holtenall. Immediately
afterwards, three rockets, mounting brightly against the dark sky, went
up from the flagship. At this signal, the whole squadron started slowly
in the direction of the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal.

The transport fleet consisted of about sixty large steamers, belonging
to the North-German Lloyd, the Hamburg-America, and the Stettin
companies. They were protected by the battleships Baden, Wurttemberg,
Bayern, and Sachsen, the large cruisers Kaiser and Deutschland, the
small cruisers Gazelle, Prinzess Wilhelm, Irene, Komet, and Meteor, and
the torpedo divisions D 5 and D 6, accompanied by their torpedo-boat
divisions.

The last torpedo-boat had long left the harbour, when, about eleven
o'clock in the forenoon of the 15th of July, the dull thunder of the
English ironclads resounded before the fortifications of the inlet of
Kiel, answered by the guns of the German fortress.

Bright sunshine was breaking through the light clouds when the Konig
Wilhelm entered the Elbe at Brunsbuttel. The boats of the torpedo
division, hastening forward, reported the mouth of the river free from
English warships, and a wireless message was received from Heligoland in
confirmation of this.

The squadron proceeded at full speed to the north-west. The torpedo
division D 5 reconnoitred in advance, the small, swift boats being
followed by the cruisers Prinzess Wilhelm and Irene, which from their
high rigging were especially adapted for scouting operations and carried
the necessary apparatus for wireless telegraphy. The rest of the fleet,
whose speed had to be regulated by that of the Konig Wilhelm, followed
at the prescribed intervals.

When the sharp outlines of the red cliffs of Heligoland appeared, the
German cruiser Seeadler came from the island to meet the squadron and
reported that the coast ironclads Aegir and Odin, the cruisers Hansa,
Vineta, Freya, and Hertha, together with the torpedo-boats, had set out
from Wilhelmshaven during the night and had seen nothing of the enemy.
The sea appeared free. All the available English warships of the North
Sea squadron had advanced to attack Antwerp.

Since the transport fleet did not appear to need reinforcements, it
proceeded on its way west-north-west with its attendant warships, the
Wilhelmshaven fleet remaining at Heligoland.

What was its destination?

Only a few among the many thousands could have given an answer, and they
remained silent. The red cliffs of Heligoland had long since disappeared
in the distance. Hours passed, but nothing met the eyes of the eagerly
gazing warriors, save the boundless, gently rippling sea and the
crystal-clear blue vault of heaven, stretched above it like a huge bell.

"What is our destination?"

It could not be the coast of England, which would have been reached
long ago. But where was the landing to take place, if not there? To
what distant shore was the German army being taken, the largest whose
destinies had ever been entrusted to the treacherous waves of the sea?

When daylight again brought a report from the scouts that the enemy's
ships were nowhere to be seen, the Commander-in-Chief of the army could
not help expressing his surprise to the Admiral that the English had
apparently entirely neglected scouting in the North Sea, and further,
that they did not even see any merchant vessels.

"The explanation of this apparently surprising fact is not very remote,
Your Excellency," replied the Admiral. "We should hardly sight
any merchantmen, since maritime trade is now almost entirely at a
standstill, owing to the insecurity of the seas. We have not met a
flotilla of fishing-boats, since in this part of the North Sea there are
no fishing-grounds. We see none of the enemy's ships, since the
English have most likely calculated every other possibility except our
attempting to land in Scotland."

"Your explanation is obvious, Herr Admiral; nevertheless, it seems to me
that our enemy must have neglected to take the necessary precautions in
keeping a look-out."

"Your Excellency must not draw an offhand comparison between operations
on land and on sea. The conditions in the latter are essentially
different. I do not doubt for a moment that there is a sufficient number
of English scouts in the North Sea; if we have really escaped their
notice, the fortune of war has been favourable to us. I may tell Your
Excellency that, even during our manoeuvres in the Baltic, where we know
the course as well as the speed and strength of the marked enemy, he
has sometimes succeeded in making his way through, unseen by our scouts.
Perhaps this will mitigate your judgment of this apparent want of
foresight on the part of the English."

At last, on the evening of the 16th of July, land was reported by the
Konig Wilhelm. The end of the journey was in sight, and the news spread
rapidly that it was the coast of Scotland rising from the waves.

"We are going to enter the Firth of Forth," was the general opinion.
Even the brave soldiers, who perhaps heard the name for the first time
in their lives, repeated the word with as important an air as if all the
secrets of the military staff had been all at once revealed to them.

In the red light of the setting sun both shores appeared tinged with
violet from the deep-blue sky and the grey-blue sea, the north shore
being further off than the south. Favoured by a calm sea, the squadron,
extended in close order to a distance of about five knots, made for the
entrance of the Firth of Forth.

Full of expectation, the expeditionary army saw the vast, bold
undertaking develop before its eyes. For nine hundred years no hostile
army had landed on the coast of England. Certainly, in ancient times
Britain had had to fight against invading enemies: Julius Caesar had
entered as a conqueror, Canute the Great, King of Denmark, had subdued
the country. The Angles and Saxons had come over from Germany, to make
themselves masters of the land. Harold the Fairhaired, King of Norway,
had landed in England. But since the time of William of Normandy, who
defeated the Saxons at Hastings and set up the rule of the Normans in
England, not even her most powerful enemies, neither Philip of Spain
nor the great Napoleon, had succeeded in landing their troops on the
sea-girt soil of England.

Would a German army now succeed?

The outlines of the country became clearer and clearer; some even
believed they could see the lofty height of Edinburgh Castle on the
horizon. But soon the distant view was obscured and darkness slowly came
on.

Hitherto not a single hostile ship had been seen. But now, when
the greater part of the squadron had already entered the bay, the
searchlights discovered two English cruisers whose presence had already
been reported by the advance boats of the torpedo division.

In view of our great superiority, these cruisers declined battle, and
by hauling down their flag, signified their readiness to surrender.
From the sea, nothing remained to hinder the landing of the troops. The
transports approached the south shore of the bay, on which Edinburgh
and the harbour town of Leith are situated; and, after casting
anchor, landed the troops in boats by the electric light. The infantry
immediately occupied the positions favourable to meet any attack that
might be made. But nothing happened to prevent the landing. The Scottish
population remained perfectly calm, so that the disembarkation was
completed without disturbance.

The population of Leith and the inhabitants of Edinburgh, who had
hurried up full of curiosity, beheld, to their boundless astonishment,
a spectacle almost incomprehensible to them, carried out with admirable
precision under the bright electric light from the German ships.

The people had taken the keenest interest in the great war of England
against the allied Powers--Germany, France, and Russia--but with a
feeling that it was a matter which chiefly concerned the Government,
the Army, and the Navy. They were painfully aware that things were going
worse and worse for them, but were convinced that the Government would
soon overthrow the enemy. Everyone knew that the Russians had penetrated
into India, but the great mass of the people did not trouble about that.
It could only be a passing misfortune, and trade, which was at present
ruined, would soon revive and be all the more flourishing. But the idea
that an enemy, a continental army, could land on the coast of Great
Britain, that German or French soldiers could ever set foot on British
soil, had seemed to Scotsmen so remote a contingency that they now
appeared completely overcome by the logic of accomplished facts.

About noon on the following day the two army corps were already south of
Leith. A brigade had been pushed forward towards the south; the rest of
the troops had bivouacked, that the men might recuperate after their two
days' sea journey.

The quartermasters had purchased provisions for ready money in the town,
the villages, and the scattered farmhouses. The warships filled their
bunkers from the abundant stock of English coal, guardships being
detached to ensure the safety of the squadron. The Admiral had ordered
that, after coaling, the warships should take up a position at the
entrance to the bay, the transports remaining in the harbour. In the
possible event of the appearance of a superior English squadron the
whole fleet was to leave the Firth of Forth as rapidly as possible and
disperse in all directions. Certainly in that case the army would be
deprived of the means of returning, but the military authorities were
convinced that the appearance of an army of 60,000 German troops on
British soil would practically mean the end of the war, especially as
an equally strong French corps was to land in the south. The military
authorities consequently thought they need not trouble themselves
further about the possibility of the troops having to return.

The garrison of Edinburgh had surrendered without resistance, since it
would have been far too weak to offer any opposition to the invading
army. Accordingly the German officers and soldiers could move about
in the town without hindrance. A number of despatches and fresh war
bulletins were found which threw some light upon the strategic position,
although they were partly obscure, and partly contained obvious
falsehoods.

A great naval battle was said to have taken place off Flushing on the
15th of July, ending in the retreat of the German and French fleets
with heavy losses. It was further reported that the British fleet had
destroyed Flushing and bombarded several of the Antwerp forts. Lastly,
according to the newspapers, the English fleet which had been stationed
before Copenhagen had entered Kid harbour and captured all the German
ships inside, the loss of the English battleships at the Kieler Fohrde
being admitted. The German officers were convinced that only the report
of the loss of the two battleships deserved credit, since the English
would hardly have invented such bad news. Everything else, from the
position of things, bore the stamp of improbability on the face of it.

The trumpets blew, the soldiers grasped their arms, the battalions began
their march. The batteries clattered along with a dull rumble. In four
columns, by four routes, side by side the four divisions started for the
south.





Next: The Battle Of Flushing

Previous: News Of An Old Friend



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