Saturday, November 29, 2014

November 29th, 1914

- At French army headquarters the Operations Bureau has been considering the next phase of the war on the Western Front, and submits a report to Joffre today.  It states that the past month has shown that partial and local attacks are ineffective in the new conditions of trench warfare, and that thorough preparation and concentration of forces is essential to success in such conditions.  As such, a general offensive is also discounted as dissipating the strength of the French army along the entire line.  Instead, the preferred course is to focus offensive efforts at particular points of the German front.  Ideally, several such concentrated offensives would occur more or less simultaneously, to overstretch the Germans and force the commitment of reserves that would be unable to meet other attacks.  However, the Bureau also states that the French army lacks sufficient strength, not only in manpower but also in munitions, to undertake operations of such size simultaneously.  The report concludes that the best chance of breaking the German line is in Artois, and argues that a strong attack towards Cambrai would, if successful, force the Germans to retreat to the Meuse River.

The unspoken assumption in this report is that the French should be attacking.  Given the experience of the past few months, which has shown the superiority of the defense, why are the French planning on major offensives?  The reason is rather straightforward - the German army has occupied a good portion of north-eastern France, including Lille, and their present position threatens Rheims and still poses a threat to Paris.  Joffre in particular and the French army in general feels a responsibility to liberate their countrymen and drive the invader from French soil.  Thus the French feel a compulsion to attack that the Germans, on the Western Front, will never feel.

- Grand Duke Nicholas, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian army, General Ivanov of South-West Front, and General Ruszkii of North-West Front meet at the headquarters of the latter to discuss future operations.  Ivanov is eager to keep pushing forward against Austria-Hungary, with 3rd Army moving on Krakow and 8th Army pushing through the Carpathians.  He argues that given the strength of the German army, the 'way to Berlin lies through Austria-Hungary.'  To continue his offensive, Ivanov needs Ruszkii's North-West Front to maintain their position in central Poland - if they retreat, the northern flank of South-West Front would become exposed.  Ruszkii, for his part, wants to do exactly that - 2nd and 5th Armies have suffered a hundred thousand casualties in the fighting around Lodz, and the corps sent from the Western Front by Falkenhayn are now arriving opposite Lodz to reinforce the German 9th Army.  Ruszkii argues that no invasion of Germany can be undertaken until East Prussia is occupied, as otherwise the Germans will always be able to counterattack the northern flank of any Russian advance westward, much as what has happened over the past month around Lodz.  Nicholas is unable to mediate the dispute between two generals who are determined to attack as they see fit, as opposed to co-operating.  The only thing the three are able to agree upon is to fire General Rennenkampf of 1st Army - criticized for being too slow to rescue 2nd Army at Tannenberg, he is now blamed for being too slow to cut off the German units east of Lodz.  The fact he has a Gemran-sounding last name makes him an even more ideal scapegoat.

The Eastern Front from central Poland to Krakow, November 29th, 1914.  Note II and
XXIV Reserve Corps, two of the reinforcements from the Western Front, in the
German line with 9th Army, and the Austro-Hungarians pushed back on Krakow at the
far south.

- A difference of opinion has emerged within the Ottoman leadership over future operations in the Caucasus in the aftermath of the Battle of Köprüköy.  Enver Pasha, Minister of War and arguably the most important figure in the Ottoman government, wants the Ottoman 3rd Army to invade the Russian Caucasus.  He is driven not only by the prospect not only of liberating Muslims from the Russian Empire but also of bringing more Turkic peoples within the Empire, advancing towards his vision of all Turks unified within the Ottoman Empire.  The commander of 3rd Army, however, is conscious of the shortcomings of his soldiers - today he reports that X Corps is short 17 000 overcoats, 17 400 pairs of boots, 23 000 ground sheets, and 13 000 knapsacks.  Enver's response is to dispatch Hafiz Hakki, an acolyte and the young deputy chief of the general staff, to provide a report more to his liking.

- Today the commander of Indian Expeditionary Force D dispatches a telegram to the Viceroy of India, giving his view of the military situation and the next steps he proposes to take.  With the arrival of the final elements of 6th Indian Division, he believes that he has enough military force to take and hold Baghdad, but that such a move is not possible at present - there is insufficient water for an overland advance, while more boats would be required to transport IEF D by river.  For the present, he intends to occupy Qurna just upriver at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

- At 3am, as Ayesha departs Panang, it is hailed by a rowboat just as it enters international waters.  Aboard are two Germans, both reservists who had been in the Dutch East Indies when war began.  The two - an officer and a chief engineer's mate - are eager to join Ayesha's crew, and now that the schooner has departed Dutch waters they are legally able to.  Both are accepted, though in the cramped conditions of the schooner the officer's 'bunk' is under the mess table.  This evening Ayesha begins to be followed by the Dutch warship De Zeven Provincien - evidently the Dutch now want to ensure that Ayesha leaves the West Indies and does not return.

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