Depiction of the James Caird arriving at South Georgia Island
A lot of the news this month is war news. Millions have already died, and millions more will die, in the conflict already being called “The Great War” or “The World War” on battlefields in Europe and elsewhere. In addition to that, rationing, privation, and even the formation of compulsory labor battalions has become a part of the lives of the millions more civilians among the combatant nations. The poor in the larger cities are hit especially hard – in Berlin there were riots over inadequate food and uncontrolled prices in Autumn in 1915 – but farmers also suffer as governments enforce price-controls on their products but not on necessities they need to produce them. A stationary front in the West meant that many thousands of Frenchmen and Belgians now had lived under occupation for a year and a half, while the highly mobile frontline in the East meant that some areas changed hands regularly. Within these areas, resistance movements grew up which often meant harsh reprisals against populations seen as supporting them, with collaborators now at risk of being attacked by their own people. Meanwhile, another kind of resistance is brewing in Ireland…
Specific news for the month of April includes
World War One
Egypt: The Egyptian Expeditionary Force, under the United Kingdom, begins the occupation of the Sinai Peninsula to drive out Ottoman (Turkish) forces on April 11. This action protects the Suez Canal and the power of the British Navy to travel via the Mediterranean to points in their Eastern empire.
China: The troop ship SS Hsin-Yu capsizes with a loss of over 1000 lives, April 22.
France: The Germans make one of the largest-scale attacks using chemical weapons near Hulluch on April 27 and again on April 29, although winds on this second date push the gas back towards their own lines, resulting in heavy casualties on both sides.
Iraq: The Siege of Kut ends with British forces surrendering to the Ottomans on April 29. With inadequate food supplies, the garrison and civilians there had been near starvation, surrounded by enemy forces since December. Their commanding officer, Charles Townshend, would sit out the war in relative security while thousands of his men were killed in forced labor or from disease caused by the starvation, and later denied that there had been any mistreatment of British soldiers by the Ottomans.
Diplomacy: Almost a year after the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, President Woodrow Wilson issues a warning to Germany not to continue unrestricted submarine warfare.
Ireland: Timed to coincide with Easter Week, a coalition of Irish Republican groups stages a major rebellion to demand home rule, deferred by British Parliament until after the War ends. The rising begins on April 25 and continues until its suppression by superior British Army forces on April 29, leaving 500 dead and 2600 wounded – the majority are citizens with no direct ties to the rebellion.
Sports: The first game at Weeghman Park (now known as Wrigley Field), Chicago, April 20. The Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds.
Exploration: In Antarctica, Ernest Shackleton and five companions board the lifeboat James Caird on April 24, making for South Georgia Island in search of rescue after the sinking of the Endurance. While they will make the island May 10, they are unable to reach any of the whaling communities and several survivors must make a difficult overland journey, the first to cross the island successfully.
Births: Gregory Peck, actor (“To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Boys from Brazil”), April 5; Vic Perrin, actor (radio, “Gunsmoke”, television, “The Outer Limits:” “control voice” ), April 26.