Wednesday, August 06, 2014

August 6th, 1914

- Oskar Potiorek, the military governor of Bosnia, is appointed to command all Austro-Hungarian forces on the Serbian Front.  He has a special incentive to take the war to the Serbs as thoroughly as possible - as governor of Bosnia he had been responsible for the security arrangements for the visit of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28th, and in some quarters has been assigned some of the blame for the assassination.  Potiorek had also aspired to the post of Chief of Staff, but had been passed over on Conrad's appointment.  Thus professional jealousy will also cloud operations against Serbia.

Upon his appointment Potiorek is informed by Conrad that he will only have use of the 2nd Army until August 18th, at which point it was to entrain for the Russian front.  As such, the 2nd Army could only support the operations of Potiorek's other two armies - 5th and 6th - and was not to cross into Serbian territory.  Needless to say, Potiorek is less than pleased with this arrangement.

- General I. G. Zhilinskii, a former Chief of Staff of the Russian Army, is appointed commander of the North-West Front.  Facing the Germans in East Prussia, he has two armies under his authority - 1st Army, under General Paul Rennenkampf, and 2nd Army, under General Alexander Samsonov.  At the direction of Grand Duke Nicholas, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Army, North-West Front was to launch an invasion of East Prussia as soon as possible, in order to support their French allies by compelling the Germans to move forces from the West to the East.  The coordination of the operations of 1st and 2nd Armies will be hindered, however, by the bitter professional rivalry of Rennenkampf and Samsonov.

- At Liège the Germans have their first success, in large part due to the actions of General Erich Ludendorff, a former operations officer on the General Staff who was now the liasion officer between 2nd Army and Emmich's task force.  When the advance of the 14th Brigade stalled, Ludendorff rode up to ascertain the cause.  Learning that the commander of the 14th Brigade has been killed, Ludendorff assumes command, and directs the brigade to attack into a gap between two of the Belgian forts.  In fierce fighting the brigade breaks through, and by 2pm is on the east bank of the Meuse River overlooking Liège and its citadel.  Ludendorff demanded the surrender of the Belgian commander of the town, but was refused.  In reply, the Zeppelin L-Z drops thirteen bombs on Liège, killing nine civilians - it is the first time a European city has been bombarded from the air.

- Though the Belgian commander is determined to continue resistance, the German advance between two of his forts is worrying - it raises the possibility of each fort being isolated in turn.  He decides to send the Belgian 3rd Division, which had been supporting the defense of the forts, back to the main concentration of the Belgian army to avoid it being surrounded and forced to surrender.

- Three French cavalry divisions are ordered into Belgium to reconnoiter German strength north of the Ardennes Forest.  However, General Joffre has no intention whatsoever of sending a significant French force to aid the Belgians - his focus is solely on the execution of Plan XVII and the offensives into Alsace and Lorraine.  He does not believe that the Germans are committing significant forces to the advance through Belgium, and does not want to dilute his imminent offensives by redirecting divisions northwards.

- A second meeting of the War Council in Britain finally reaches a decision on the deployment of the British Expeditionary Force.  At Kitchener's insistence, instead of the full six infantry divisions of the regular army being sent to France, only four, plus the cavalry division, will depart at once, while the fifth may follow in the near future, but the sixth is to remain home.  It is a precarious balance between those, like General Wilson, who want a full commitment to France, and those, like both Kitchener (training of an expanded army) and Asquith (public order) who have other concerns.  Under pressure from Joffre, the deployment area of the BEF will remain Maubeuge, in line with pre-war planning.  Joffre wants the BEF forward at the extreme left of the Entente line - though the left is not a priority under Plan XVII, it does need to be covered, and the BEF can fulfill that role while the important fighting is done by the French in Alsace and Lorraine.  It is worth noting that Field Marshal Sir John French, Commander of the BEF, preferred it to be deployed either in Belgium directly or Amiens.  With deployment at Maubeuge, French is being required to carry out a strategy he does not agree with.

Departure of the 1/5th Seaforth Highlanders from Wick, Scotland,
Aug. 6th, 1914

- Goeben and Breslau depart Messina this afternoon, sailing southwards.  The British light cruiser Gloucester, watching the southern exit of Messina Strait, observes the two German warships, and falls in behind them.  By nightfall Goeben and Breslau have turned southeastward, and by 11pm it is clear that they are heading not for the French troopships or the Adriatic, but the Aegean.  The British battlecruisers are hopelessly out of position, and Gloucester by herself would be easily sunk by Goeben.  However, there is a British squadron of four old armoured cruisers steaming south of Corfu.  Receiving word of the direction of Goeben and Breslau, they move to intercept.

- China formally declares its neutrality in the war.  In practice this does not mean much - the Great Powers have enclaves and zones of influence in the country, particularly at water's edge, and they will act as they deem necessary in the circumstances.

- The tiny country of Montenegro declares war on Austria-Hungary, in solidarity with its Serbian allies, and places its small army under Serbian control.

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