Sunday, December 21, 2014

December 21st, 1914

- In Champagne today the French XII Corps of 4th Army launches its attack on the German lines.  However, just as with XVII and I Colonial Corps yesterday, XII Corps is unable to secure any gains; they find that the few gaps that exist in the German barbed wire are covered by enemy machine guns, making them killing zones as French infantry congregate at the gaps trying to get through to the enemy trench line.  After the day's fighting, the commander of 4th Army decides to temporarily suspend infantry assaults and instead have the soldiers conduct mining operations while artillery fire is directed on known German strongpoints.  It is hoped that after bombardment on the points that held up the initial advance, subsequent attacks will meet with greater success.

- For the first time in the war a German aircraft attempts to bombard England, reaching the coast at Dover and attempting to hit the port.  The raid, however, is unsuccessful - the two bombs dropped land just offshore in the Channel.

- Meanwhile the First Lord of the Admiralty gives approval to an operation that not only be the first of its kind against Germany, but the first of its kind in history.  On December 25th, three light cruisers and eight destroyers under the command of Commodore Reginald Tyrwhitt of the Harwich Force will escort three seaplane carriers into the Heligoland Bight,  Here the seaplane carriers, which are converted cross-Channel passenger steamers, will lower their three seaplanes each into the sea, and the aircraft after takeoff are to proceed to the Nordholz airship base eight miles south of the German port of Cuxhaven.  Once over the target each will drop their three bombs on the air base, and especially the massive twin-hangar structure that holds two of the German Navy's four Zeppelins.  By bringing only a small number of warships into the Bight, and by launching the seaplanes before dawn, it is hoped that the aircraft can be recovered and the force depart the Bight before the German navy can respond.  Eleven submarines under Commodore Roger Keyes, who had planned the operation with Tyrwhitt, will also be present to recover the crew of any aircraft that is forced to ditch short of the seaplane carriers.  The raid, if successfully accomplished, will be the first time in history aircraft launched from sea attack a land-based target.

- In Galicia the Russians have halted their retreat and, thanks to reinforcements drawn from elsewhere on the front, are able to go on the counterattack.  While two corps hold the line of the Dunajec River, five more attack along the front between Tarnow in the west to Besko in the east, striking the right wing of the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army and the left and centre of the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army.

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