Monday, November 24, 2014

November 24th, 1914

- In the first months of the war the French government had imposed a number of what it had described as temporary moratoriums on a range of financial transactions in order to avoid panicked withdrawals of bank deposits and conserve funds for the war effort.  Today, however, the French government announces that the moratoriums will last for the duration of the war.  While the measures allow for a greater government influence over economic activity, they also deaden commerce and economic activity in the private sector, and measures such as the moratorium on the collection of rents result in the accumulation of large amounts of debts by some.

- East of Lodz the decisive moment arrives for the German XXV Reserve Corps and Guards Division as they attempt to escape encirclement, as the Russian Lovitch detachment of 1st Army stands between them and the rest of the German 9th Army.  The Lovitch detachment, however, is handled with about the same level of professionalism as the other Russian formations that had encircled the two German units.  One of the detachment's two divisions moves too far west and gets tangled up with the Russian defenders of Lodz, and by the time it gets itself sorted out the German Guards Division has broken through and rejoined 9th Army.  Meanwhile, the other Russian division has entrenched behind a railway embankment astride the line of retreat of XXV Reserve Corps, the latter of which consist of second-line soldiers exhausted from days of marching and fighting.  Naturally, the strong Russian defensive position promptly disintegrates, the divisional commander suffers a nervous breakdown, and only 1600 Russian soldiers escape capture as XXV Reserve Corps breaks through, bringing back with them 16 000 Russian prisoners.

The survival of Guards Division and especially of XXV Reserve Corps is a testimony to the prowess of the German army.  Most commanders in such situations would have simply surrendered, but General Reinhard von Scheffer-Boyadel remained awake for seventy-two hours directing the retreat, and the German infantry demonstrated its endurance and resolution.  On the Russian side, the episode serves to reinforce a sense of inherent inferiority vis-a-vis their German counterparts, which seeps into the mindset of Russian commanders, leaving them unwilling to stand against the enemy even when circumstances favour them.

- While the Russians feel themselves inferior to the Germans, they certainly don't harbour any such concerns about the Austro-Hungarians.  Today Conrad calls off the attempted offensive near Krakow by 4th and 1st Army.  Both have failed to make any significant gains, and by today indications are growing that the Russians, far from being about to break, are about to go over to the attack.  Both 4th and 1st Army are ordered to stand on the defensive, and at places along the front pull back to more defensible positions.  The Austro-Hungarians have lost tens of thousands of men for no gain whatsoever, and the only redeeming aspect of the defeat is that the Russians have suffered as well - the regiments of III Caucasian Corps are down to three to four hundred soldiers each.  The failure also means that alternate means will have to be found to save the deteriorating situation in the Carpathians, where the Russian 8th Army continues to push back the weakening Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army.

- After three days of heavy fighting between the Austro-Hungarian 6th Army and the Serbian 1st Army, the latter has been forced to retreat again today.  Potiorek does not order 6th Army to pursue the foe, as the fierce engagements of the past week have disorganized and fatigued his units and he has determined that they require rest.  He remains convinced that he has won a crushing victory - that with the Serbian 1st Army retreating he will be able to turn the flank of the Serbian armies to the north and envelop them.  Reflecting the optimism of his commanders, Emperor Franz Joseph today appoints General Stefan Sarkotic governor of Serbia.

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