Wednesday, September 17, 2014

September 17th, 1914

- The French 6th Army attacks today along its front, reclaiming the ground lost to the Germans in recent days.  6th Army also undertakes the first attempt to outflank the German line from the north, as IV and XIII Corps are pushed northwards along the Oise River in the direction of Noyon.  They soon run into the German IX Reserve Corps, just arrived from Belgium to cover the exposed flank of 1st Army, and their advance slows.

To the east, General Bülow launches the attack agreed to yesterday by Falkenhayn.  Though the right of the BEF is able to hold, the Germans are able to push the French 5th Army southwards, capturing the high ground at Brimont, just 9000 yards north of Rheims.

Machine gun position of the 1st Battalion, The Cameronians outside a wood
 at Venizel on the Aisne, September 17th, 1914.

- Though most of the German 6th Army is to be redeployed to northern France, some units are to remain to hold the line in Lorraine.  Today, those units are formed into Army Detachment Falkenhausen, named for its commander, General Freiherr von Falkenhausen, formerly commander of the Ersatz Corps.  In this context, an 'army detachment' is precisely that - a detached portion of an army under a separate commander and assigned different tasks.  It reflects Falkenhayn's intention that the front south of Nancy is to be largely quiet, as units are transferring to the open northern flank.

- In Galicia, though the armies of Austria-Hungary have retreated to the San River, they find it provides no security.  With superior numbers, the Russians are still able to move on the Austro-Hungarian flanks (8th Army from the south and 9th Army from the north), and have crossed the San River in multiple places.  Given the deteriorating situation, Conrad today orders the retreat of his four armies in Galicia to continue.  In doing so, he is breaking contact with Przemysl, the largest Austro-Hungarian fortified zone in Eastern Europe and comparable to Verdun in France.  With its large garrison, it now awaits the approach of the Russians.

- The governor of German New Guinea has been facing an increasingly impossible situation in his defense of the colony since the landing of the Australians six days earlier.  In addition to being overwhelming outnumbered and without any prospect of reinforcement, he feels he can no longer rely on the loyalty of his indigenous soldiers, and his German soldiers are increasingly waylaid by dysentry and malaria.  As such, the German governor surrenders New Guinea to the commander of the Australian expedition, delivering the entirety of the colony, both its islands and the mainland, to Australian occupation.

- In Australia, Labour party leader Andrew Fisher becomes Prime Minister after his party emerged victorious from the recent election which had been called just before the outbreak of war in Europe.  Fisher is fully committed to supporting the British war effort - in a campaign speech on July 31st, he had famously declared that Australia will defend Britain 'to our last man and our last shilling'.

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