Saturday, October 04, 2014

October 4th, 1914

- The German advance at Arras continues today.  North of the city the Bavarians push through Lens and, at 10pm, occupy the heights of Vimy Ridge.  The French 70th Division, on the line north of the city, is pushed back almost to the Scarpe River northwest of Arras.  To the south, the Prussian Guards Division shatters the 81th Territorial Division, killing its commander, and a gap begins to open between the territorial divisions and X Corps.  The French at Arras are threatened with encirclement, and General Maud-huy declares that his detachment is facing another 'Sedan', referencing the disastrous envelopment and surrender of a French army in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War.  The Kaiser, meanwhile, arrives at Rupprecht's headquarters at St. Quentin to observe the anticipated victory.

When Castlenau asks Joffre which direction Maud-huy should retreat in, the latter's response is swift.  He has become convinced that Castlenau is plagued by excessive pessimism, and decides on a reorganization.  First, Maud-huy's detachment is formed into a separate command as 10th Army.  Second, Ferdinand Foch is appointed Joffre's 'deputy' with responsibility to co-ordinate the 2nd and 10th armies and the territorial divisions in northern France.  Castlenau thus finds himself under the command of a former subordinate, but on balance is likely pleased to have retained his command at all.  With Foch moving to northern France, his 9th Army along the Aisne is suppressed, its corps being absorbed by the neighbouring 4th and 5th armies.  Joffre also informs Castlenau that under no circumstances is he to retreat, as the reinforcements en route to the north will allow the Entente line to hold.

The German advance at Arras, October 1914.

- The British Royal Marine Brigade arrives in Antwerp at 1am, having landed at Dunkirk yesterday and traveled to the city by train, and later this morning takes up position along the front line to the southeast of Antwerp.  At the same time, the British Cabinet approves the dispatch of the two naval brigades to augment the British contribution to the defense of Antwerp.  The Cabinet also receives a remarkable request from Churchill.  He has remained in Antwerp, and for the past twenty-four hours has taken to directing the defense of the city, touring the trenches, repositioning units, etc..  He has displayed an almost boyish enthusiasm for war - sitting in the open watching the action as artillery shells fall around him.  He feels to be in his element, and at this moment wants nothing more than to continue to have a direct hand in the ongoing struggle for Antwerp.  His request to the Cabinet is that he resign his position as First Lord of the Admiralty and instead be appointed commander of the forces at Antwerp, with the full authority of a general in the field.  The reaction of the Cabinet can be best described as nervous laughter - Churchill has already gained a reputation as a figure whose enthusiasm often outruns his judgement, and the idea that the head of the most important military office in the country should race off to command forces in the field is incomprehensible.  Churchill’s request is politely denied, and he is informed that General Henry Rawlinson will be arriving shortly to assume command of the British contingent.  For now, though, Churchill remains at Antwerp, play-acting the role of general.

Meanwhile, the continuing bombardment of Fort Kessel finally forces the evacuation of its Belgian garrison today.  The Germans also begin to bombard the north bank of the Nethe River, in preparation for an attempt to force a crossing and pierce the line of defense established along the river after the first forts had fallen.

- West of Verdun, General Mudra's XVI Corps launches another offensive against the French lines in the Argonne.  The German attackers make widespread use of Minenwerfers, or trench mortars, for the first time.  Such small mortars, firing a small projectile in a high arc, are well-suited for use against trenches, as the trajectory allows the shell to plunge into trenches before detonation.  The Germans have also prioritized Minenwerfers as they use less powder, an important consideration given the economic blockade of the country.  Despite the use of such weapons, the Germans make little progress, facing fierce French resistance.

- The past few days have seen desperate fighting near Augustow just east of the German-Russian frontier as the Russians attempt to push into the rear of the German 8th Army retreating from the Niemen River.  While the Germans opposing the Russian advance suffer grievous losses, they succeed in slowing the Russians sufficiently to allow the remainder of 8th Army to evacuate Suwalki and withdraw to the border.

- As the German 9th Army continues its movement northeastwards from Krakow, the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army takes up position on the southern flank of 9th Army and joins the advance, with the Austro-Hungarian 4th and 3rd armies to the south moving westward towards the San River.  Despite bad weather and roads being reduced to mud, the Germans are able to maintain a marching rate of thirty miles a day, making using of requisitioned Polish carts better able to cope with the deep mud.  With the withdrawal of three Russian armies from Galicia to Poland to participate in the proposed offensive against German Silesia, the remaining Russian armies in Galicia fall back to avoid being outflanked to the north by the advance of the German 9th Army.

- General Potiorek officially calls off the second invasion of Serbia today.  Though the effort has at least secured a small bridgehead in northwestern Serbia, it has overall been another dismal failure.  Desperate to deflect blame from himself, he argues that a lack of shells has been to blame.

- Under the guise of reinforcing Maritz, Smuts dispatches new units to Upington under the command of Coen Brits, whose loyalty is unquestionable - the latter is said to have told Botha, 'My men are ready; who do we fight - the English or the Germans?'  Brits' force is positioned to fight Maritz if the latter rebels.

- As the German East Asiatic Squadron crosses the Pacific, it hears the signals of the German light cruiser Dresden, which has passed through the Straits of Magellan from the Atlantic and is now off the Chilean coast.  Admiral Spee today signals Dresden to meet his squadron at Easter Island.  This message, however, is intercepted by a British wireless station at Suva in the Fiji Islands, and when relayed to London gives the Admiralty concrete evidence that the German squadron is bound for South America.

- An appeal 'To the Civilized World' is published today in Germany.  Written by Ulrich von Wilamowitz, it contains the signatures of a hundred of Germany's leading artists, scholars, and intellectuals, including such world-renowned figures as the scientists Max Planck and Wilhelm Röntgen.  The document justifies German conduct in the war and seeks to counter the growing international perception of German cruelty, especially with respect to the occupation of Belgium.  In line with the general tone of German propaganda, it seeks to blame the victim:
It is not true that the life and property of a single Belgian citizen have been infringed upon by our soldiers, unless the most desperate self-defense made it necessary . . . the Belgian population shot at our troops from ambush, mutilated the wounded, and murdered doctors while they were performing their healing work.  One can falsify matters no more basely than to remain silent about the crimes of these assassins, to turn the punishments that they have justly suffered into crimes committed by Germans.
It is not true that our troops have wreaked brutal havoc in Louvain.  They were compelled reluctantly to bring a sector of the city under fire, in order to retaliate against raging inhabitants who had treacherously attacked them here. . . .
They also appeal to the sense of European racial superiority to denigrate the enemies of Germany:
Those who have allied themselves with Russians and Serbs, and who present the world with [the] shameful spectacle of inciting Mongolians and Negroes against the white race, have the very least right to portray themselves as the defenders of European civilization.
Finally, they ground the 'Appeal' on self-defense - that the most heinous and cruel of acts are justified in the name of German victory:
Were it not for German militarism, German culture would long ago have been eradicated.  For the protection of German culture, militarism arose in a land that had for centuries been plagued like no other by predation.  The German army and the German people are one and the same.
As much as the 'Appeal' was published to counter Entente propaganda, it was also aimed at the German public, seeking to justify not only the war itself but German conduct of it.  It reflects the widespread and almost universal enthusiasm for the war among intellectuals, common to all of the major combatants.

No comments:

Post a Comment