Thursday, November 06, 2014

November 6th, 1914

- At Ypres German attacks are concentrated along the front on both sides of the Ypres-Comines Canal on the southeastern face of the salient, while elsewhere there was the now-regular steady artillery bombardment.  Taking advantage of a thick morning fog, the Germans attack into the woods west of Hollebeke, pre-empting a French attack scheduled for later today.  In the confusion caused by the fog several French cavalry battalions panic, and the Germans are able to advance almost a mile, seizing the entire woods west of Hollebeke, allowing the Germans to advance to within three thousand yards of Ypres.  On the north side of the Canal, the Germans take the French by surprise and pierce the line in three places, allowing the Germans to seize the village of Zwarteleen a mile southeast of Zillebeke.  It takes a counterattack by the British 7th Cavalry Brigade to restore the line.  Though the Germans have not broken through, they have driven a wedge into the junction of the French and British lines, and Haig is now concerned that his I Corps is at risk of having its southern flank turned.

- The Admiralty issues a public statement today on the Battle of Coronel.  It emphasizes that the engagement appears to have been fought with the most bravery, but that without Canopus Craddock’s squadron would have been significantly outgunned.  It establishes what will be the Admiralty line on Coronel - depicting Craddock as epitomizing the bravery and courage of Royal Navy officers, while simultaneously implying that he alone bears responsibility for the defeat by deciding to accept battle without Canopus present.  This, not coincidentally, absolves the Admiralty leadership themselves of responsibility by denying the very significant role their confused signals to Craddock played in the weeks leading up to Coronel.

- General Oskar Potiorek issues orders today for another attempt at invading Serbia, the third of the war to date.  The continued existance of Serbia, to say nothing of the terrible defeats the Austro-Hungarians have suffered at their hands, have undermined the prestige of the Dual Monarchy, potentially decisive in the ongoing efforts to convince the other Balkan states to join the war on their side.  Potiorek's plan is similar to the first two invasions - 5th and 6th Armies will cross the Drina River in the northwest of Serbia, with the aim of advancing to initially Valjevo and ultimately Niš, dividing Serbia in two.

One advantage the Austro-Hungarians would have is that the condition of the Serbian army was deteriorating.  The soldiers were exhausted, food was in short supply, and munitions were even scarcer, such that most of the time the Serbian infantry was fighting with no artillery support at all.  While Britain and France were eager to aid the Serbian defence, the difficulties of sending supplies to a landlocked combatant prevented significant aid from getting through.  General Putnik's strategy was thus to place 'the Serbian national mud between the enemy's fighting line and his supplies.'  Even before the invasion, he has withdrawn his forces in the northwest of the country to the foothills of the Cer mountain range, so as to be out of range of Austro-Hungarian artillery fire.

The third Austro-Hungarian Invasion of Serbia, November to December 1914.

- The Ottoman frontier with Russia is guarded by 3rd Army, consisting of three corps - IX covers the northern portion of the border and XI the southern, with X in reserve further west.  Today elements of XI Corps assembling at Hasankale and Köprüköy launch a counterattack against the Russian column advancing on the former.  However, given the heavy snow and rain and the lack of reconnaissance, they were unable to turn the Russians back.

- From August the Admiralty has been expressing concern about the security of its oil supply from Persia, which reaches the Persian Gulf by pipeline at Abadan Island and where the major refinery is located.  Abadan Island is on the far western portion of Persia's coast, adjacent to the Ottomen Empire's outlet to the Persian Gulf at the Shatt al-Arab.  In the event of war with the Ottomans, Abadan Island would be an obvious target.  Moreover, concern had also been raised by the India Office regarding the importance of demonstrating British hegemony in the Gulf and not allowing an Ottoman challenge to undermine the authority of British rule over its Muslim subjects.  As such, Indian Expeditionary Force D had been formed, consisting of an infantry brigade, and was dispatched to the Gulf in October, arriving in Bahrein on the 23rd.  As war became increasingly likely, it planned to undertake a landing at the Ottoman fort of Fao on the Shatt al-Arab where it meets the Persian Gulf.

This morning the transports carrying IEF D are off Fao, escorted by the pre-dreadnought Ocean.  The small Ottoman garrison puts up a brief resistance, exchanging fire with Ocean for an hour before, being heavily outnumbered, they withdraw northwards from Fao.  By this afternoon landing parties have secured the village and fort at Fao, the first step in the Mesopotamian Campaign.

The opening moves of the Mesopotamian Campaign, 1914.

- The British landing at Fao is not the only Entente move of concern to Persia.  Today Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Sazonov states that Russia will continue to occupy Persian Azerbaijan, suggesting that the easiest route by which the Ottomans can invade the Russian Caucasus is through Azerbaijan, as opposed to the mountain passes on the Ottoman-Russian frontier.  The war thus makes Russian involvement in Persia even more essential in the view of Petrograd.

- The German East Asiatic Squadron returns to Más Afuera in the Pacific.  While Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Nürnberg had called at Valparaíso, Leipzig had stayed offshore, and had managed to seize a French merchant with 3600 tons of Cardiff coal.  The sailors start working on distributing the coal to each of the warships of the squadron.

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