Wednesday, October 01, 2014

October 1st, 1914

- Three German corps - from south to north the Guard, IV, and I Bavarian Reserve - arrive east of Arras today, and encounter Maud-huy's forces still preparing for their own offensive.  Rupprecht's objective is to fix Maud-huy's forces in front of Arras while outflanking them to the north.

- Though his artillery is progressing as expected in the destruction of the Belgian forts south of Antwerp, General Bessler believes that the fall of Antwerp needs to be hastened - he does not want the British or French to either reinforce the city or, of greater concern, push forces from the west against his eastern flank.  Thus at 4pm today assaults are ordered by German infantry on the southern forts, and by nightfall the ruins of Fort Wavre are in German hands, though resistance continues elsewhere.  At midnight the British military representative at Antwerp sends a telegram to his government emphasizing the seriousness of the situation and stating that the arrival of even a small detachment of British forces would raise Belgian morale.

- The German 8th Army is attacked heavily by the pursuing Russian armies as it pulls back to the German border.  Rennenkampf's strategy is to pin the Germans with his centre and right, while attempting to outflank with his left.  The latter, having advanced through difficult woods for several days, seizes the town of Augustow today, which threatens to turn the southern flank of the German 8th Army.  For a brief moment, victory beckons for the Russians.

- As Germany becomes increasingly isolated from the world market by the British naval blockade, perhaps the most important industrial shortage was fixed nitrogen, produced from saltpetre, vital not only for the production of explosives but also for agricultural fertilizers key to the maintenance of Germany's domestic food supply.  Pre-war, saltpetre had been imported from Chile, but this supply was interrupted by the war, and there was no available alternative.  Thus, if Germany wanted to be able to fight a war of any significant duration, it was essential to develop processes to produce artificial fixed nitrogen.  Today, Emil Fischer, Germany's leading chemist, discusses the issue at the War Ministry, where he explains two recently developed methods for producing nitrogen - lime nitrogen, a byproduct of gasworks and coking plants, and synthesized ammonia.  Both methods had evolved out of Germany's chemical industry, which was the most advanced in the world, and Fischer's meeting will jump-start the production of artifical nitrogen, illustrative of the vital links between the academic community, industry, and the military in the conduct of modern war.  As a result of this relationship, Germany will produce two and a half times as much nitrogen in wartime as it had produced in peacetime - the war will not be lost for a lack of explosives.

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