Friday, December 19, 2014

December 19th, 1914

- The British undertake another attack in Flanders today, this time by the Indian Corps, which currently holds the line between Cuinchy just south of the La Bassée-Bethune Canal north to a position just west of the village of Neuve Chapelle.  Elements from both divisions of the Indian Corps participate in the attacks, which begin at 430am.  Initial successes are achieved, and the Sirhind Brigade of Lahore Division manages to occupy two German trench lines.  However, these successes cannot be maintained, as the units that have advanced find themselves attempting to hold small salients in the German lines, which allow the enemy to counterattack from three directions.  By nightfall, all of the day's gains have been given back.

- Falkenhayn and Conrad meet today at the railway station in Oppeln to discuss strategy on the Eastern Front.  The German Chief of Staff continues to believe that a decisive victory in the East is impossible because the Russian army will always be able to retreat into the interior of the country.  Thus Falkenhayn's plan is to advance to the Vistula River in order to secure a strong defensive position in Poland, which would then allow for the redeployment of significant forces to the Western Front for a decisive operation against the French in February.  Needless to say, Conrad could not disagree more, as he still argues that a massive envelopment maneouvre, with the pincers originating in East Prussia and Galicia, can surround and annihilate the Russian army.  This would knock Russia out of the war, and lead to victory in the Balkans and the West.  With such thoroughly divergent
opinions, it is not surprising that the two generals depart without having agreed to anything.

- Nine days ago Enver Pasha received a report from his acolyte Hafiz Hakki, whom he had sent out to the Ottoman 3rd Army in the Caucasus to report on its condition.  Hakki told Enver exactly what he wanted to hear - that the supply problems were overblown and that an advance to Kars is possible.  Today Enver decides to take matters into his own hands, dismissing the cautious commander of 3rd Army and appointing himself as his replacement.  He intends to launch the three corps of 3rd Army in an invasion across the Russian frontier towards Sarikamish and Kars, winning a decisive victory that will both demonstrate the continued vitality of the Ottoman Empire and rally all Turkic peoples to the Ottoman banner.  By taking command of the army himself, Enver has raised the profile of and the stakes for the coming invasion; while victory would be widely celebrated, defeat may call into question the entire strategy and war aims of the Young Turks who dominate the Ottoman government, and the viability of the call to jihad against the Entente.

- In Egypt the British are taking steps to formalize their control of the country, which they have informally occupied since 1882.  Yesterday they declared the former Ottoman province to be a British protectorate, and today they depose the pro-Ottoman Khedive Abbas Hilmi, now in Constantinople, and replace him as Khedive with his uncle Hussein Kamil.

- The British battlecruiser Inflexible, which had been hunting for the German light cruiser Dresden along the Chilean coast, is recalled to home waters today.  With Invincible having already departed for home, it leaves the search for Dresden in the hands of the armoured and light cruisers that had contributed to the destruction of the German East Asiatic Squadron on December 8th.  For its part Dresden has been living a fugitive existence, hiding among the fjords and channels along Tierra del Fuego.

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