XXIV Neues Palais 3/I/1902.
Neues Palais 3/I/1902
These lines are to wish you a merry Xmas and a happy new Year.1 May God bless and protect you and wife and children and keep you all sound in body and soul. May your work for the Peace of the world2 be successful and well as the plans you are maturing for the wellfare of your country.
I send you as Xmas present an officers dirk3 corresponding to the model I introduced into our navy by order dated from the "Variag"; which I beg you to accept as a souvenir of the kind visit you paid me off Danzig and of the merry hours we spent together.
This new sidearm is so popular among our officers that I believe they even go to bed with it.
My fleet Henry and I are allready looking forward to the day we shall be able to repay your visit4 this year, and I shall be most glad to know when you expect us and where?
As you take such interest in our navy, it will interest you to hear, that the new armoured cruiser "Prince Henry" is rapidly nearing completion and has allready tried her engines on the spot with most satisfactory results. She is expected to join the fleet after her trials end of the winter. The new Line-of Battleship, "Charlemagne" the 5th of the "Kaiser Class" will it is hoped be ready for her trials at sea end of next week, and Henry hopes he will join him in a month.
The "Wittelsbach" Class is beeing pushed forward with all speed and it is hoped will be able to join Henry's Flag after the maneuvres. This means an addition of 5 Line of Battleships, which will enable him to dispose of a fully homogenous fleet of "Peacemakers" which no doubt will make themselves most agreeably felt and useful in helping you to keep the world quiet. The 5 new Line of Battleships have all been contracted for and have been begun, they constitute the first Division of the second Squadron.
By the bye I see by the papers that the "historical" "Variag" has arrived at "Koweit".5 That is a very wise thing that your flag is shown there. For it does not seem impossible that another Power6 was in the act of repeating the very successful experiment it made on the Nile, to haul down the Sultans flag, land some men and guns, hoist some flag or other under a pretext and then say: "J'y suis, j'y reste"! In this case it would have ment paramount rule of all the trade routes of Persia leading to the Gulf, by this of Persia itself and by that "Ta-Ta" to your proposed establishment of Russian Commerce, which is very ably begun by the conclusion of the "'Zollverein" with Persia7 by you. The behaviour of the Foreign Power at "Koweit" sets into a strong relief, the enormous advantage of an overwhelming fleet which rules the approaches from the sea to places that have no means of communication over land, but which we others cannot approach because our fleets are too weak and without them our transports at the mercy of the enemy. This shows once more how very necessary the Bagdad Railway8 is which I intend German Capital to build. If that most excellent Sultan had not been dawdling for years with this question the Line might have been begun years ago and would now have offered you the opportunity of despatching a few Regiments from Odessa straight down to "Koweit" and then that would have turned the tables on the other Power by reason of the Russian Troops having the command of the inner Lines on shore against which even the greatest fleet is powerless for many reasons. The main one -- according to an adaptation of the Commander of Cronstadts answer to Peter the Great for not saluting him -- "D'abord, parceque les vaisseaux ne peuvent pas marche sur terre",9 whereas you may say "celà suffit"! The original answer of the gallant Admiral: "D'abord parceque je n'ai plus de poudrel0 was vouchsafed the day before St. Nicholas to Henry by the Captain of the "Askold". My squadron has received orders to feast your namesday, by a rich display of bunting and of a Royal salute. But when Henry enquired from the Captain v. Reitzenstein at what a clock the ceremony was to take place, the latter declared he would do nothing of the sort, and even after Serge had sent word to him, flatly refused to hoist his pennant and to salute his Emperor, notwithstanding, that she is in commission and has her whole crew on board. My Squadron was deeply disappointed and much -- if I may venture to say so disgusted -- at the behaviour of this man! I am sending you beside the dirk a most interesting book about the South African war, written by an Englishman, who wholly condemns the way it was entered into and the ends for which it was begun. It is very lucid to the point and shows that the Author maintains his impartiality to the last moment; a most gratifying exception to the rule now at work in England. The parallel he draws between this war and the war against American Colonies, 1775-83, is most surprising and striking. The bearer of my gifts is my Aide-de-Camp, Captain von Usedom11 -- years ago for a time Henry's adjutant -- he was in Command of the "Hertha" during the China affair, and it is he who saved the Seymour Expedition and brought it safe back to Tientsin. He was in fact the Admiral's Chief of the Staff and to him was given the now "historical" order of which my "bluejackets" are so proud "Germans to the Front", when the British Sailors refused to go on any farther. He was not present at Danzig, having injured his leg by a fall from his horse, so I thought you would like to hear from his own lips the record of what men composing that illstarred expedition suffered. Now dearest Nicky, Goodbye, best love to Alix, Micha and your Mama from
most aff-ate and devoted Cousin and friend
1. The Russian New Year was thirteen days later, according to the old style.
2. The Czar proposed a conference of the Powers for the preservation of peace by disarmament on August 24th, 1898. A second proposal was issued in January 1899, and the first Hague conference sat from May to August of that year.
3. The Kaiser and the Czar were on the Russian cruiser "Variag" on September 30th, attending the German naval maneuvres, when the German Emperor issued an order directing that all German naval officers, following the example of the Russian officers, should wear the dirk of a naval ensign.
4. The Kaiser and Czar met at Reval, August 6-8, I902.
5. It was announced on December 20th, 1901, that the Sultan had sent for the Sheik Mabarouk of Koweit, to come to Constantinople. Mabarouk appealed to Great Britain for protection. A Bombay telegram of that date stated that a Russian cruiser "Variag" had just arrived in dock, where her four funnels and six searchlights had greatly impressed the natives. The situation was complicated by a report that a Turkish flag, which had been hoisted over Mabarouk's residence, had been hauled down by the commander of a British gunboat, who had it replaced by Marabouk's own flag in token of the Sheik's independence.
6. Obviously Great Britain.
7. A financial agreement was concluded between Russia and Persia on January 30th, 1900. The Russo-Persian commercial agreement was not ratified by the Czar until February 14th, 1903.
8. The Baghdad Railway Concession was granted to a German syndicate at the end of November, 1899.
9. First, because ships do not proceed on land.
10. First, because I have no more powder.
11. He was in command of the German troops which accompanied Admiral Seymour in his attempt to relieve Peking in June, 1900. In the published official diary of the Captain, the following entry was made: "June 22nd, 1900. At 1 a.m. we continued our march, Seymour ordering 'Germans to the front,' but were delayed by junks running aground.... The Germans had to go to the support of the English marines, who were hard pressed." Admiral Seymour, in a letter to the "London Morning Post" of January 10th, 1920, gave his version of the "Germans to the front" order. The Admiral writes: "Owing perhaps to the ex-Kaiser's occasional uncertain memory, the statement about the Germans is not correct. I do not believe I ever gave the order stated, but if so it was only as a tactical arrangement for the moment of one day. Our own men were the most numerous body, and therefore took the chief part throughout; while the other seven nationalities all behaved well. Captain von Usedom was a fine officer and loyal to me, but I only made him Chief of my Stafl after Captain Jellicoe (now Admiral of the fleet) had been severely wounded and because the Germans were next in numbers below ours."