Friday, November 07, 2014

November 7th, 1914

- The weather turns for the worse today on the Ypres battlefield, with falling temperatures and heavy mist.  A French counterattack by XVI Corps scheduled for 930am this morning to recapture Zwateleen does not occur until mid-afternoon, and makes no progress.  As a result, Foch fires the commander of XVI Corps, a move after Joffre's heart.  In the British lines Haig  is appalled to learn that a number of I Corps' battalions abandon their forward defences under shellfire, returning only at night, and during the day several dozen soldiers are found behind the lines moving as quickly as possible away from the battlefield.  Though morale in the BEF overall has held, given the constant combat over the past few weeks it is not surprising that for some the breaking point is almost at hand.

Meanwhile the Germans launch several infantry attacks along the line, but are everywhere repulsed.  From the Entente side the attacks appear senseless and uncoordinated, but they are a part of the larger offensive operation, in that attacks now serve to pin down Entente forces so they cannot be redeployed to meet the main attack in a few days.  Where the Germans do not attack they continue their artillery bombardment.  Also today two Guards brigades arrive today, having marched from Arras, and are to be formed into a division named for its commander, General Arnold von Winckler.

- The Austro-Hungarian 5th and 6th Armies secure bridgeheads across the Drina River.  Despite fierce resistance the Serbian 1st and 3rd Armies are forced to fall back.

- Sidney Sonnino, the new Italian Foreign Minister appointed to replace the deceased Antonio di San Giuliano, is favourable to the cause of the Entente, as he reveals today in a conversation with the British Ambassador.

- In Egypt war with the Ottoman Empire is announced today, but because of pre-emptive measures taken in recent weeks there are no widespread pro-Ottoman demonstrations nor any significant organized opposition among nationalists.  Further several hundred Egyptian officials with nationalist leanings have been arrested or exiled, and the parliament has been prorogued.  The British are determined to maintain their control over Egypt.

- At Tsingtao, the Japanese prepare for the final assault on the German defences.  Yesterday they had seized the trenches defending the forts on the three hills above the city, and today they are to capture the forts themselves.  A furious artillery bombardment opens this morning, but after counter-fire from their own batteries the Germans raise the white flag.  Given the Japanese success to date and ammunition shortages, there is no prospect of holding the final forts.  So methodical and effective has been the Japanese advance that a siege the Germans had expected would take six months has been completed in six weeks.  The other combatants would do well to study the Japanese method of conducting offensives in conditions of trench warfare - of course, that would require acknowledging the Japanese as their intellectual equals, which for racial reasons is obviously not in the cards.

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