Germans Declare Unrestricted U-boat Warfare

The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that shaped our modern world. Erik Sass is covering the events of the war exactly 100 years after they happened. This is the 166th installment in the series. 

February 4, 1915: Germans Declare Unrestricted U-boat Warfare 

After implementing a naval blockade of Germany and Austria-Hungary in August 1914, as the war dragged on the British Admiralty added more and more products to the list of items considered “war contraband,” and hugely expanded the scope of the blockade by introducing the controversial doctrine of “continuous voyage,” allowing the Royal Navy to interdict neutral shipping headed for neutral countries (for example Holland or Denmark) if the cargo was eventually destined for the Central Powers. Meanwhile the British and French seized thousands of tons of German and Austro-Hungarian shipping, and many German ships were interned in neutral ports for the duration of the war. 

In November 1914 the Admiralty declared the North Sea a war zone, and by February 1915 German civilians were starting to feel the effects of blockade, although some trade continued and the blockade still wasn’t seriously impeding Germany’s war effort. Nonetheless the tightening British blockade prompted calls in Germany for retaliation against the enemy’s home front. U-boat warfare against British merchant shipping was a logical response, but on January 31, 1915 the Admiralty responded by instructing British ships to fly neutral flags in the war zone.

In addition to angering neutral countries like the U.S., who objected to the British using their flags as a war gambit, this move obviously presented the German high command with a dilemma: they could either call off the U-boat attacks, allowing British trade to proceed as before, or escalate the attacks to include all vessels flying neutral flags—inevitably sending a good number of neutral ships to the bottom and risking a major rupture with the U.S. and others. 

Despite warnings from the foreign ministry the German high command made the momentous decision to escalate, publishing the following decree on February 4, 1915: 

All the waters surrounding Great Britain and Ireland, including the whole of the English Channel, are hereby declared to be a war zone. From February 18 onwards every enemy merchant vessel found within this war zone will be destroyed without it always being possible to avoid danger to the crews and passengers. Neutral ships will also be exposed to danger in the war zone, as, in view of the misuse of neutral flags ordered on January 31 by the British Government, and owing to unforeseen incidents to which naval warfare is liable, it is impossible to avoid attacks being made on neutral ships in mistake for those of the enemy. 

Mindful of the need to keep Dutch trade routes open for its own supplies, the German admiralty created a safe zone for shipping to Holland: “Navigation to the north of the Shetlands, in the eastern parts of the North Sea and through a zone at least thirty nautical miles wide along the Dutch coast is not exposed to danger.” 

For their part the British responded by immediately declaring all grain and flour war contraband, meaning basic food supplies were now subject to interdiction as wellanother step towards what became known as the “starvation blockade,” which ended up killing somewhere between 400,000 and 800,000 German civilians by the end of the war.

However the most intense period of the British blockade and retaliatory German U-boat warfare lay in the future. In 1915 the British blockade remained fairly inefficient, enforced by a handful of outdated cruisers patrolling between Scotland and Norway, and the British were still leery of offending neutral opinion, especially in the U.S., by seizing large numbers of their merchant ships. For their part the Germans’ first experiment with unrestricted U-boat warfare came to an end following diplomatic protests by the U.S. after the sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915. It wouldn’t resume again until 1917, when the German U-boat fleet had tripled in size. 

Turks Defeated at Suez Canal

Following the debacle at Sarikamish in January 1915, on February 3-4 the Ottoman Empire’s second major offensive also ended in defeat with the failure of the Fourth Army’s assault on the Suez Canal. 

To be fair it is pretty remarkable this ambitious plan got as far as it did. Under pressure from their German allies, who hoped to cut Britain’s lifeline to India through the Mediterranean and Suez Canal (or at least distract the British with this threat), from November 1914 to January 1915 the Turks assembled the new army in Syria and then marched south to Palestine, with propaganda proclaiming the imminent liberation of Egypt (Egypt had technically been an Ottoman province under British protection until December 1914, when the British finally annexed it). 

Considering the logistical difficulties presented by Palestine, at that time a backwards backwater of the Ottoman Empire with bad roads and almost no rail links, Fourth Army commander Djemal Pasha and his German “colleague” Kress von Kressenstein (“boss” might have been more accurate) were quite successful in marshaling their forces (above, Turkish troops marshaling for the advance). A fair amount of chaos still prevailed, according to Alexander Aaronsohn, a Jewish Zionist settler who witnessed the Turkish preparations in southern Palestine:

Beersheba was swarming with troops. They filled the town and overflowed on to the sands outside, where a great tent-city grew up… From all over the country the finest camels had been “requisitioned” and sent down to Beersheba until, at the time I was there, thousands and thousands of them were collected in the neighborhood… no adequate provision was made for feeding them, and incredible numbers succumbed to starvation and neglect. Their great carcasses dotted the sand in all directions… The soldiers themselves suffered much hardship. The crowding in the tents was unspeakable… All things considered, it is wonderful that the Turkish demonstration against the canal came as near to fulfillment as it did.

Perhaps the most impressive achievement was the crossing of the Sinai Peninsula, with 20,000 Turkish troops advancing west across the desert in two main columns in just six daysa feat comparable with Alexander the Great’s crossing from Gaza to Pelusium in seven days, but with more heavy equipment, including artillery and pontoons to cross the canal. Unfortunately this rapid crossing failed to preserve the element of surprise, as the British were aware of Turkish preparations thanks to spies, and moonlight betrayed the final approach of the advance guard Turkish troops carrying pontoons on the night of February 3, 1915.    


Click to enlarge 

Meanwhile the British had reinforced their army in Egypt to a strength of 70,000 with troops from India, Australia, and New Zealand, including 30,000 guarding the 100-mile canal; even worse for the Turks, they had quietly moved a number of battleships into the canal to serve as ersatz artillery. In the early morning hours the British troops opened fire, repelling most of the attacking Turkish units. One squadron managed to deploy its pontoons and succeeded in crossing the canal, but the infantry were simply mowed down by machine guns and rifle fire on the far bank. An Armenian soldier who was present later confided in a Spanish diplomat in Jerusalem, Conde de Ballobar, that “he didn’t even shoot his rifle, since he did not know where he should shoot since he did not see a single Englishman. There were only warships, airplanes, and heavy caliber batteries, and at a range much greater than their cannons.”

By February 4, 1915 the main Turkish force was in retreat, having suffered relatively modest casualties of around 1,500 killed and taken prisoner out of the total force of 20,000. More important than the casualty count, however, was the total failure of the Egyptian Muslim population to rise up in rebellion against the British occupation forces, as the Ottomans had confidently predicted. The “jihad” declared by the Ottoman Sultan in November 1914 had failed to materialize.

See the previous installment or all entries.

Save Up to 80 Percent on Furniture, Home Decor, and Appliances During Wayfair's Way Day 2020 Sale

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14 Burning Facts About Lucifer

Tom Ellis stars as Lucifer Morningstar in Lucifer.
Tom Ellis stars as Lucifer Morningstar in Lucifer.
JOHN P. FLEENOR/NETFLIX © 2020

He's in the details, he makes deals, and he lost an epic fiddle contest in Georgia. Lucifer Morningstar (not a stage name) has played a lot of roles in popular culture, but he had never been a nightclub-owning amateur detective in Los Angeles until he got his own TV show on Fox in 2016.

In Lucifer, Tom Ellis plays the titular demon, who has left hell and the punishment business in order to get a little Earthside R&R in the City of Angels. Just as Dracula went from rotten-skinned monster to debonair seducer in literature, Lucifer’s version of the devil (who comes to us courtesy of Californication creator Tom Kapinos) is all tailored suits, wry smiles, and addictive flirtation. He’s also very, very persuasive and people just have a tendency to tell him their deepest, darkest secrets—which is the next best thing to having a superpower when you're trying to solve mysteries alongside a cynical cop (played by Lauren German) … even if she is immune to those charms.

As you catch up with the hit series on Netflix (season 5 dropped in late August) and prepare for its upcoming sixth and final season, here are some facts to know about Lucifer.

1. Supernatural predicted Lucifer’s arrival.

The long-running, beloved genre show Supernatural welcomed Lucifer into the world with a joke. In "The Devil in the Details," episode 10 of Supernatural's 11th season, their show's Lucifer (played by Mark Pellegrino) joked that if he ever got out of his cage in hell, he'd move to Los Angeles to solve crimes. Fans of Eric Kripke’s series might have been surprised five days later when Lucifer's first episode landed on Fox and showed the titular demon (played here by Tom Ellis) doing exactly that.

2. Though Lucifer isn’t a Supernatural spinoff, both shows exist in a similar universe.

Though Supernatural and Lucifer aren’t officially related, both shows occupy somewhat of a shared universe and feature some of the same mythical characters. They also clearly have a shared affinity, as both shows have made sly nods to each other over the years.

3. Lucifer is a loose adaptation of a Neil Gaiman comic book character.

Tom Ellis and Aimee Garcia in Lucifer.John P. Fleenor/Netflix © 2020

The main character of Lucifer is less an adaptation of the embodiment of evil from religious texts and more an official riff on the Lucifer that Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg created for The Sandman comic book series for DC Comics. Lucifer eventually got his own spin-off comic book series.

4. Lucifer star Tom Ellis had no idea the show was a loose adaptation of a Neil Gaiman comic book character.

When asked if he used the Gaiman comics as research for his character in Lucifer, Ellis admitted that he wasn’t even aware the show was adapted from a comic book series. "It is a loose adaptation," he told Digital Spy in 2016. “I hadn't used anything from the comic to start with. But since then Neil Gaiman, who was behind the original incarnation, has got in touch with me. He told me he really enjoyed the pilot, so that was nice—it was almost like one of the parents giving us their blessing.”

5. Watch Lucifer carefully and you’ll spot some Neil Gaiman Easter eggs.

To honor its original creator, Lucifer has featured nods to some of Gaiman’s other work. Most notably, Chloe (Lauren German) reads Gaiman's Coraline to her daughter Trixie (Scarlett Estevez), and references Trixie conning her father into reading her "the book about the sneezing panda," which is a reference to Gaiman's book Chu's Day.

6. There was a petition to stop Lucifer from airing before it ever even premiered.

Tom Ellis stars in Lucifer.John P. Fleenor/Netflix

Before a single episode of Lucifer had ever even aired, the conservative group One Million Moms rallied to get the show canceled. They garnered 11,000 signatures on a petition that objected to the series because they felt it would glamorize the devil. The incident was a bit of déjà vu for Gaiman, since Sandman faced similar calls for cancellation when it was published.

7. There was also a petition to save Lucifer from cancellation.

When Lucifer was canceled after three seasons (due to low ratings), fans fought back and kept the series alive with the social media hashtag #SaveLucifer. Fox sold the series to Netflix, which produced a fourth season with a penultimate episode titled "Save Lucifer." Netflix then renewed the series for a fifth season, which premiered on August 21, 2020 and was initially scheduled to be its last. However, in June—just two months ahead of the season 5 premiere—Netflix surprised and delighted the show’s massive fan base by announcing that they had greenlit a sixth and (this time definitely) final season.

8. Lucifer's Tom Ellis comes from a family of pastors.

Irony works in mysterious ways. While appearing on The Rich Eisen Show, Ellis explained that while he's playing the Lord of Hell, his father, sister, and uncle are all pastors. They're all also big fans of his acting work.

9. There are no Christmas episodes of Lucifer.

That may not be surprising given the main character's predilections, but it's surprising considering that Christmas-themed shows are a staple of the TV industry in search of extra nudges to entice their viewership. Refusing to make Christmas-themed episodes is a big diversion from the norm. It's a bold choice, but it falls in line with the show never mentioning Jesus Christ (not even when someone stubs a toe).

10. Lucifer never smokes on the show.

Tom Ellis as Lucifer Morningstar, D.B. Woodside as Amenadiel, and Lauren German as Chloe Decker in Lucifer.John P. Fleenor/Netflix © 2020

Beginning with the very first episode, there are several times where Lucifer can be seen just as he's about to light a cigarette, stubbing one out, or tapping ash into an ashtray, but you'll never see him actually take a drag and inhale. Still, even the fact that he's got them raises the important question: Why does the devil need to smoke?

11. Lauren German describes Chloe and Lucifer's relationship as "sad fireworks."

There's no better way to say it. Since the beginning, their reluctant partnership and blooming intimacy has been an exploration of conflicting emotions. That includes the looming revelation of something Lucifer has been telling Chloe since the beginning: That he's the devil. While describing their relationship as "sad fireworks," German also told TV Guide, “There's a lot of love and respect there, and her vulnerability is more present than ever before—but that can often be the most intoxicating element in a relationship. Someone that keeps you on your toes can be thrilling.”

12. Lucifer's nightclub has a fitting name.

Lucifer means "light bringer" in Latin so it's perfect that his club, Lux, is also the SI standard unit for measuring luminescence. Plus, Club Hell was already taken.

13. Lucifer star Tom Ellis has got some serious air piano chops.

D.B. Woodside and Tom Ellis in Lucifer.John P. Fleenor/Netflix © 2020

One of the perks of owning your own nightclub is that you can play piano whenever you want. And if you're immortal, you've got all the time in the universe to take lessons. (Just ask Groundhog Day’s Phil Connors.) Lucifer plays and sings a lot on the show, and while it's Ellis doing the singing, it's not him at the keys. “I’m very good at air piano, let me put it that way!" Ellis told TV Insider about his talent for faking it.

14. Lucifer drives a 1962 Chevrolet Corvette C1.

If you're wondering the make and model of Lucifer's automotive object of desire, now you know. The classic is sleek, a little dangerous, and has a mix of sharp angles and softer edges, matching the main character nicely. Plus, it's the last of its kind: 1962 was the final year the C1 chassis was available on the Corvette.