Saturday, November 08, 2014

November 8th, 1914

- The weather at Ypres today is cloudy with poor visibility, impairing the ability of artillery observers to accurately direct fire on enemy positions.  Despite this, the Germans keep up a steady, if somewhat less accurate, bombardment of the Entente lines.  The Germans also continue to launch infantry assaults to pin and wear down the British and French defenders, the most heaviest of which is launched by elements of the German 5th and 30th Divisions just north of the Menin Road which close up to but are unable to take the grounds of Veldhoek Chateau.

During the morning Field Marshal French and General Haig attend a conference at General Foch's headquarters at Cassel.  Foch is typically optimistic, but both French and Haig emphasize the danger of the German advance near the Comines Canal towards Ypres, which threatens to cut off the British I Corps.  Foch replies that orders have been issued to retake the ground lost over the past few days, but is unable to promise any additional units to support the British lines.  The French launch a number of attacks all along the line, but once again are repulsed by the Germans.  Meanwhile the BEF commander writes to Kitchener today that the pressure on his force can only be alleviated either by French reinforcements or, as he feels is more likely, the redeployment of German forces to the Eastern Front.  The latter reflects the thinking of Joffre as well, in that ongoing pressure from the Russians, as evidenced in the failed German offensive in Poland in October, will compel the Germans to move forces east.  While this is both a reasonable conclusion to draw and one that reflects the pressure that Falkenhayn is under at this time, it also means that the British and French view the primary means of salvation for their position at Ypres to be a decision by their enemies to abandon the attack, as opposed to any successful effort on their part.  It is a potentially dangerous assumption to make if the enemy will further attacks, which is, of course, precisely what the Germans will do.

Behind the German lines, preparations continue for the offensive operation now planned for November 10th.  Winckler's Guard Division and 4th Division are formed into a corps under the command of General Karl von Plettenberg, and his corps plus XV Corps are joined together to form an army group commanded by General Alexander von Linsingen.  Army Group Linsingen is to attack north of the Ypres-Comines Canal, the focal point of the offensive and where the breakthrough is to occur.  Army Group Fabeck is to remain on the ground secured in recent days to the west of the canal, and is to both attack itself and support Army Group Linsingen's attack on its northern flank.  The entirety of 4th and 6th Armies are to also make a maximum effort to assault the British and French lines.  Falkenhayn knows that everything must be poured into this attack for, as he informs the Kaiser today, the army is exhausted and will be unable to undertake another offensive in the near future.

- The German retreat from the Vistula River at the end of October uncovered the northern flank of the Austro-Hungarian armies that had advanced to the San River, and as such they have been falling back to the line they began from.  This has placed the fortress of Przemysl at risk, and today, for the second time in the war, it finds itself cut off and besieged by the Russians.

Over the past week, as the likelihood of Przemysl being isolated has become apparent, the Austro-Hungarians have prepared for a lengthy siege.  For six days trains arrived at Przemysl every fourteen minutes, delivering food and supplies sufficient for six months.  However, as with much of their war effort, the Austro-Hungarians have botched the resupply of Przemysl.  The food and supplies sent to the fortress assumed a garrison of 85 000, when in reality it has swollen to 130 000, and the calculations left out entirely the 30 000 civilians which ought to have been evacuated instead.  Moreover, as the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army retreated past Przemysl, it plundered the garrison's food stocks.  The upshot is that when Przemysl is encircled again today, it is actually in worse shape to withstand a siege than it had been when it had been relieved on October 9th.

- Austro-Hungarian forces attack the Serbian 2nd Army in the foothills of the Cer mountain range, advancing for once under considerable artillery support.  The Serbs fight desperately to hold their positions - as the Austro-Hungarians advance uphill, they resort to rolling down logs and boulders, throwing rocks, and firing flare pistols.  Under the weight of numbers, however, the Serbs are forced back as the weakened condition of the Serbian army begins to show.

At the same time, a conference is held between the Serbian government and its high command.  General Putnik emphasizes the deteriorating state of the army, and raises for the first time the question of a negotiated peace.  Prime Minister Pašić, however, urges continued resistance and threatens resignation if an overture for peace is made.  The resolution of the meeting is to continue resistance to the Austro-Hungarian invaders.

- The battlecruisers Invincible and Inflexible arrive this afternoon at the British naval base at Plymouth.  Both warships are placed in dry docks to have their bottoms cleaned while machinery is repaired and coal, ammunition, and supplies are load not only for themselves, but for the warships they are to join in the South Atlantic.

- Having fled from the Pacific through the Straits of Magellan, Glasgow and Canopus arrive this morning at Port Stanley.  They spend the day coaling, assisted by seventy volunteers from among local fishermen and sheep farmers, and at 6pm depart for the River Plate to rendezvous with Defence.

No comments:

Post a Comment