Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Daily Dissembler, Spring 1903: Your Trusted Source For News From An Imaginary Europe

The Daily Dissembler, Special European Gazette Issue, October 15, 1902


We make sense of a complicated, far-off world so you, dear reader, can enjoy the Gilded Age.



General Sir John Monash, Answering the Call

A second British Army has now landed on the Continent, challenging ideas that England is content to be just a naval power.  The Imperial Expeditionary Force, commanded by Australia’s Sir John Monash, consists of soldiers from Canada, South Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand.   As we go to press, news arrives that they have successfully landed in Oslo and secured Norway, with detachments on their way by dog-sled and elk-drawn sleighs to the northern border with Russia.  While some of these soldiers from warmer climes were surprised to be finding themselves in frigid Norway, they have accepted their duty with the sturdy, simple, dog-like devotion that characterizes the best scions of England’s far-flung domains.   As Colonel Sterling Moose, the commander of the Strathcona Mounted Rifles (Alberta’s Best), some with snow still on their boots, told the Dissembler, “It’s all rather complicated for Colonials to discuss, but it’s much too high and mighty to ignore.  If it’s good enough for England, it’s good enough for us, so we colonial boys are lining up for war."




The Russian government today issued a statement on the recent happenings in Rumania.

"This was a carefully planned relocation of our forces in line with a long standing agreement with Turkey.  As as well known in the world, the Czar never goes back on a promise."

When asked for comments, a number of European governments expressed doubts about the second part of this statement.

The Czar went on to claim that "our forces are being moved further north to deal with the real enemy...."




By “Franz Ferdinand"





All calm in the Balkans!  Our on-location reporter 'Elgar' tells us that all is now quiet in the Balkan territories of the apparently resurgent Ottoman Empire.  According to sources in the Turkish Military, the battle for Romania was sparked off by a "popular uprising" amount the local population who requested the support of the Sultan's Armies in "throwing off the shackles of the Russian occupation."


Several eyewitnesses reported Russian troops "fleeing in terror" as the Sultan's forces advanced almost unapposed.


Russian prisoners of war taken near Bucharest by Turkish forces.





Our Man Ernest Harrison reports.


[Note to Ed – Bill if things don’t turn out this way run my other article ‘Ministry Calls for Inquiry as Navy Lets Italy Down Again!”]


Sources close to the Foreign Ministry [Bill, send £5,000 dollars, establish an account for me with the best Parisian milliners and a set up subscription to the Boston Woman’s Weekly] tell me that a dossier reputing to contain secret negotiations between the Ottoman and Russian Empires recently arrived in Rome.  The aim of these negotiations was supposedly to establish a cease-fire between the Empires, so that the Turks might attack Italy.  


Despite initial consternation (readers will remember that the Foreign Minister suddenly cancelled his visit to the Bey of Tunis), the reports were quickly dismissed by the Admiralty.  One recently retired admiral told this reporter “This is a load of nonsense!  Those dimwits in the War Ministry might believe such things, but we have a good relationship with the Ottomans – I’ve had my share of Turkish Delight, if you know what I mean, narf, narf!”


Bolstered by naval assurances, the dodgy dossier was immediately dispatched to Constantinople.  “You see” my Foreign Ministry source pointed out, “the fact that the Russians have done this plays into our hands: if it’s true, we can show the Sultan that he has been betrayed; if it’s not it just goes to show the Sultan that the Ruskies are a load of bungling bodgers.”


Wider Implications?


 The real concern in the Ministry is who else the Russians might have sent dossiers to, and what they contained.  “We have good reason to believe that London is receiving this stuff, but what about Paris?  If the Czar is behind the deployment of a fresh fleet in Marseilles, it could mean trouble – after all if we and the French start facing off he has less competition in Central Europe.  No, the sooner the Czar stops playing at puppet-master the better!  Someone might just have to go and cut his strings!”





Story filed by the Daily Dissember’s own Miss Amelia Roosevelt, Intrepid Girl Reporter and niece of the Vice President.

It was not without adventure that I made my way from St. Petersburg to London this fall. My first hurdle was a request from the Italian authorities to detain me, since Count de Graspi, who my sources tell me may soon be Italy’s Commander in Chief, had informed the Russians that I was wanted for “extensive close questioning” with regard to “unfinished business”.   However, thanks to my acquaintance with the young wife of the Tsar’s chief of intelligence, Duchess Molotova Smoulderina, I was able to have this request delayed until I was safely on a British steamer.   Apparently the Duchess is more than familiar with Count de Graspi, and her acquaintance with him dates from when she was an actress in Rome.  She was thus able to persuade her husband that the Count’s request had more to do with matters of the heart than with matters of state.

A further hurdle was an encounter with the Russian Fleet as we were making our way through the Baltic.   A Russian destroyer came alongside, and despite our Captain’s protests, insisted on sending a boarding party aboard to make sure that all papers and cargo were in order.  A Royal Navy officer aboard my steamer, Captain Clive Whickker-Baskett, returning to England after his duty as a military attache, told me that he feared relations between England and Russia might be taking a turn for the worse.  It was a relief to arrive in Copenhagen, where the British flag was flying, and to find the city prosperous and orderly.  From Copenhagen an American steamer took me safely to London, where the newspapers are confident in future British successes on the continent.

Sadly the King was unable to meet with me, and expressed his regret.  The Palace did however give me an interview with Lord Lansdowne, the British Foreign Secretary.  He was a most courteous and knowledgeable gentleman.  I thanked him for his time and he told me that “All of England followed my adventures with great interest.  In fact, a popular novelist has published an ongoing series of stories in the weekly papers, loosely based on my adventures and entitled "The Perils of Amelia".   While I do not read themselves myself, due to their somewhat risqué character, they are said to be popular with the working classes."

I asked Lord Lansdowne about the role of the King in the current crisis.

"King Edward VII's main interests are in the fields of foreign affairs and naval and military matters.  He is fluent in French and German, and has made a number of visits abroad.  While he usually takes his annual holidays in Biarritz and Marienbad recently he has been looking at visiting his brother-in-law, King Frederick VIII, in Denmark and his son-in-law, King Haakon VII, in Norway who have recently placed themselves under British protection.   One of his most important foreign trips was an official visit to France in May 1903 as the guest of President Émile Loubet. Later he hopes to visit the Pope in Rome to further create a cordial atmosphere for the European powers and seek an agreement delineating colonies in North Africa, and hopefully ruling out any future war between affected countries.

What of King Edward’s special relationship with the German Kaiser?    King Edward likes to think of himself as the "Uncle of Europe" and has been trying to resolve difficulties faced by his dear nephew, Kaiser Wilhelm.  A key aspect of this has been fleet modernisation and his majesty was most pleased to see the Kaiser embrace the first step in modernising his fleet by the recent scrapping of a number of obsolete battleships in the Baltic.  Some Russian scrap iron dealers, the King understands, have made a late bid for the ships, but are believed to be dismayed that the iron had already been acquired by German munitions factories."

What troubles the King about the current situation?  "The King is troubled by the Russo-Japanese War and its unsettling effect on the colonies, past and present.  This coming so soon after the unpleasant business with the Boers has been resolved is most unfortunate.   The King feels the colonies are often over looked and indeed cannot even be found on the map these days."

A week after my interview with Lord Lansdowne, I was invited by a friend in the War Office to travel to Plymouth, where a large contingent of soldiers from the Colonies were arriving to swell the British forces.    I was thrilled to see many strapping Sikhs, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders arriving, and to note their patriotic reception by the local populace.  As I finish this dispatch, I have been informed that the Commander of the Imperial Expeditionary Force, General Monash, has asked me to join the Force as an “embedded reporter” (I am not sure what that term means, exactly) to come and “see how we colonial boys do things.”  I expect that my next dispatch will be from Scandinavia.


  1. Good gawds Mike, how on earth do you find time to write this stuff!? Fantastically fun though and all too entertaining.

    1. A lot of the content is supplied by the players, Dai. There is a prize for role-playing and the DD contributions count towards that. Some of it I write in my spare time. Today for example I had an hour in a coffee shop while Madame Padre was in an antique store with her sister, and I added the Amelia Roosevelt content to what the English player sent me. Glad you're enjoying it. :) Once the game is over we'll reveal the players - some of them have been writing fantastic stuff for the DD.


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