Sunday, November 29, 2015

November 29th, 1915

- Conrad orders the Austro-Hungarian navy to institute a permanent patrol of the Albanian coast to disrupt enemy troop transports and supplies crossing the Adriatic to support the retreating Serbian army.  To accomplish this, two Novara-class light cruisers, six Tátra-class destroyers, and six T-74-class torpedo-boats - the fastest and most modern light warships in the Austro-Hungarian navy - are deployed to the naval base of Cattaro near Montenegro.

- Having informed their allies of their intent to retreat to the Adriatic coast of Albania, the Serbian governments issues an urgent request to the Entente governments for them to send food and fodder to San Giovanni di Medua (the nearest port to Scutari) and Durrazo (on the coast just west of Tirana), where the bulk of the Serbian army and accompanying refugees will be arriving.  However, the Italian decision several days earlier to only send supplies to Valona in southern Albania mean that Serbs that reach the northern Albanian coast, already starving, will need to march a hundred miles further south.

- West of Görz Italian attacks concentrate on the enemy line at Oslavija, and this afternoon they manage to capture stretches of the enemy trench north and south of the village's church.  The Austro-Hungarians, however, are able to fall back to a new trench line several hundred yards to the rear, containing the Italian advance.  A major effort is also made once more against Mt. San Michele, and other than a small stretch of trench to the west of St. Martino the Italians are repulsed all along the line.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

November 28th, 1915

- Falkenhayn meets today with German industrialist Walther Rathenau, former head of the Kriegsrohstoffabteilung (War Materials Section), and the latter argues that the war can only be won through a decisive victory on the Western Front, where Germany's most important enemies are to be found.  Moreover, Rathenau believes that an offensive there can succeed, given what he sees as the deficient national character of the French.  In both sentiments Rathenau's views are in general accord with those of Falkenhayn - the German chief of staff is increasingly convinced that a major offensive should be undertaken on the Western Front in 1916, and that in targeting the French the superior morale and resolve of the German soldier, as compared to his French counterpart, will be of vital importance.

- With the Serbian campaign having been brought to a successful conclusion, Mackensen is once again the man of the hour.  Yesterday, Kaiser Wilhelm II telegrammed Mackensen with his congratulations and appointed him proprietary colonel of 129th (Third West Prussian) Infantry Regiment, an honour usually reserved for members of the royal family.  Today, Emperor Franz Joseph conveyed his deep personal gratitude to the German field marshal for his leadership.

- Today the Serbian government, having crossed northern Albania, reaches the city of Scutari, near the Adriatic coast.

- Along the Isonzo River Italian forces once again launch major attacks on Austro-Hungarian positions west of Görz and on either flank of Mt. San Michele, which achieve no more success than the attacks of prior days.  The constant assaults in terrible weather are wearing on the survivors; Austro-Hungarian defenders note an increased willingness of Italian infantry to surrender when counterattacked.  This only exasperates Cadorna's fear of the breakdown of discipline, and today he issues a circular to the Italian army listing four measures to be used at the first sign of cowardice or indiscipline by Italian infantry in battle, which culminate in firing artillery on 'recalcitrant' soldiers.  These measures are also not mere threats - when a number of soldiers from the Pistoia Brigade attempt to surrender in the face of a harsh Austro-Hungarian counterattack today, other Italian soldiers are ordered to shoot them.

Friday, November 27, 2015

November 27th, 1915

- Conrad and Falkenhayn meet at Pless today to discuss next steps in the Balkans with Serbia now defeated, and the Austro-Hungarian chief of staff strongly wants to invade Montenegro and Albania.  Falkenhayn, however, views the offensive in the Balkans as having run its course, with the land link to the Ottoman Empire now opened.  Though he is willing to entertain the idea of attacking Montenegro - its forces had after all fought alongside the Serbs in the recent campaign - he does view Albania as worth the time or effort.

- There is again desperate fighting west of Görz near Oslavija and the heights of Podgora, and in a heavy assault on the latter the Austro-Hungarian defenders, having run out of grenades, resort to hurling rocks at their attackers.  The Italians are repulsed, though the extent to which this can be attributed to the flying stones is unclear.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

November 26th, 1915

- The French retreat from southern Serbia begins today when 122nd Division pulls back across the Tcherna River.

- After several days of lower-intensity fighting, the Italian 2nd Army undertakes another major effort west of Görz.  At Oslavija, Italian infantry advances four times in the morning and twice more in the early evening - on each occasion the Italians fail to reach the Austro-Hungarian line.  A major effort is also undertaken to seize Point 240, the highest on the heights at Podgora, but after a four-hour bombardment the Italians are repulsed in hand-to-hand fighting by the Austro-Hungarian 5th Mountain Brigade.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

November 25th, 1915

- As the Serbian army begins the most arduous stage of its retreat, the high command publishes the following:
The only way out of this grave situation is a retreat to the Adriatic coast.  There our army will be reorganized, furnished with food, arms, munitions, clothing, and all other necessities which our allies will send us, and we shall again be a fact with which our allies must reckon.  The nation has not lost its being, it will continue to exist even though on foreign soil, so long as the ruler, the government, and the army are there, no matter what the strength of the army may be.
The retreating columns of the Serbian army are accompanied by thousands of civilians, including most parliamentary deputies, political party members, and university.  The retreat of the Serbian is far more than a military exercise - in many respects, it is the political and intellectual heart of the Serbian nation that is making its way into the mountains of Albania towards the Adriatic Sea.

A Serbian column crossing a bridge in Albania during the retreat to the Adriatic coast.

- The French naval attaché in Rome reports to his government today that, given the recent sinking of the schooner Gallinara and the steamer Palatino and the proximity of northern Albania to the Austro-Hungarian naval base at Cattaro, the Italian minister of marine has decided that supply convoys crossing the Adriatic Sea should be routed to Valona in southern Albania.  This route will be farther from Austro-Hungarian naval bases and thus convoys here will be less likely to be intercepted.

- On the Italian Front an Austro-Hungarian counterattack early this morning regains the trench on the northern slope of Mt. San Michele lost yesterday, though heavy artillery fire forces the Austro-Hungarian infantry to abandon much of the position in the course of the day.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

November 24th, 1915

- Elements of the German IV Reserve Corps and the Bulgarian 9th Division capture the city of Priština today, and though they take a large number of prisoners, the Serbian army itself is already gone, moving towards Prizren en route to the Albanian coast. Moreover, Mackensen realizes that a large-scale pursuit was simply no longer possible.  The terrible conditions inhibited supply and had already forced some formations to go on half rations, while others found their way blocked by a combination of weather and terrain: the Austro-Hungarian 10th Mountain Brigade finds its way blocked by a 4921-foot mountain with the only track around completely iced over, and thirty men had already frozen to death.  Reluctantly, Mackensen declares an end to the Serbian campaign today.  Bulgarian forces in the area will follow the Serbs towards Prizren, but this effort is half-hearted.

The Germans under Mackensen and Seeckt have accomplished in less than two months what the Austro-Hungarians failed to do in three attempts last year under General Potiorek.  Serbia has been occupied at a cost of approximately 67 000 casualties, a mere pittance compared to the losses endured to gain a mile or two on the Western Front.  Moreover, a solid land link had been opened with the Ottoman Empire, allowing the movement of much-needed supplies in particular to the latter.  The only blemish to the effort has been the escape of the Serbian army itself.  Though barely a viable military force at this point, it still exists, and once the current trial of reaching the Adriatic Sea has past it may yet have the opportunity to recover and return to the fight.

- The Italian 3rd Army continues its efforts to capture Mt. San Michele today, and manages to seize a stretch of the enemy line on the northern slope, while to the south there is back and forth fighting near St. Martino that ultimately results in no ground gained by either side.

- Falkenhayn meets today with Enver Pasha in the Austro-Hungarian city of Orsova, where the Ottoman minister of war offers to provide forces to aid a German offensive either in France or Russia.  While Falkenhayn is impressed with Enver's generosity, he declines the suggestion, believing that the Ottoman army would not be suited to operations in the climate of northern and central Europe.  Falkenhayn's decision may also have been influenced by any Ottoman detachment needing to pass through Bulgaria to reach the Western or Eastern Fronts, a movement that would be problematic at best considering the longstanding enmity between Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire - as recently as three years ago the two countries had been at war.

Monday, November 23, 2015

November 23rd, 1915

- The head of the Directorate of Military Aviation at the War Office in London today authorizes the expansion of the Royal Flying Corps, which currently stands at thirty-one (fourteen in France) squadrons, to sixty, with squadron strength increasing from twelve to eighteen.  In France these squadrons are to be formed into brigades, with the ultimate aim of having one brigade tied to each army of the British Expeditionary Force.

- As the German 11th Army was overrunning Serbia, the Russian high command had struggled to do something to aid its ally, General Alexeiev being cognizant that having complained of French and British inaction during the Great Retreat of the summer, the Russian army could hardly do nothing when the situation was reversed.  Prompted by officials at the foreign ministry, he had deployed a new 7th Army on the Black Sea Coast, intended for amphibious operations against the Black Sea coast.  The Russian navy, however, had vetoed the project, and so today Alexeiev orders 7th Army redeployed to eastern Galicia and begin planning, with 9th Army, for an offensive against the Austro-Hungarian armies opposite.  In addition to 'doing something', there is a vague confidence at Stavka that the Austro-Hungarian army, having shown its inability repeatedly during the war, will collapse, and perhaps a victory here will convince the Romanians to join the war on the side of the Entente.

- Given the lack of reinforcements, General Sarrail feels that his position in southern Serbia is not tenable, given that the Bulgarians significantly outnumber his force.  Further, the ongoing collapse and retreat of the Serbian army negates the rationale behind his operations in the Vardar River valley.  As such, today he issues orders to the three French divisions in southern Serbia to withdraw south.

- Overnight elements of the Austro-Hungarian 4th Mountain Brigade launch an attack to regain the small stretch of the line that remains in Italian hands after their capture of it on the 20th.  Their assault, however, runs smack into an Italian advance of their own; the two attacking forces mutually repulse each other, both falling back to their starting positions.

- An Austro-Hungarian squadron of the light cruisers Helgoland and Saida plus escorting destroyers sortied towards the Straits of Otranto overnight, aiming to interrupt the Entente transport of supplies across the Adriatic Sea to the Serbs via northern Albania.  They intercept two Italian ships - the motor schooner Gallinara and the small steamer Palatino - carrying flour and sink both.

- The Russian dreadnought Imperatritsa Maria, escorted by the cruiser Pamiat Merkuriya and ten destroyers, bombards the Ottoman port of Zonguldak, the first occasion in which the new Russian warship fires its guns in anger.

The Russian dreadnought Imperatritsa Maria.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

November 22nd, 1915

- The bulk of the Serbian army has managed to keep one step ahead of its pursuers, reaching Mitrovica and Priština.  Poor weather, rough terrain, and few roads have slowed the pace of the German and Austro-Hungarian advance, though the same conditions have of course made things miserable for the Serbs as well.  Aware that the Germans have withdrawn some of their divisions from Serbia, some generals wish to make a last stand in Kosovo, just as their forebearers had done versus the Ottomans in 1389.  General Putnik, however, has a more realistic assessment, understanding that the forces remaining under his command are hardly fit for further major battles.  Instead, Putnik, with the agreement of the king and government, issues orders today to abandon Kosovo and retreat from Serbia altogether.  They will cross the high mountains of Albania towards the Adriatic ports of Scutari, Durazzo, and Alessio, hoping that their Entente allies can evacuate them to a place where they can rest and recover from the past two devastating months.

The front in Serbia, November 22nd, 1915.

- Between 11am and late afternoon elements of the Italian 2nd Army attack the Austro-Hungarian lines on the heights of Podgora, but have no more success than they had achieved over the last two days.  On 3rd Army's front slight progress is made towards St. Martino, though some of the ground gained is lost to counterattacks after nightfall.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

November 21st, 1915

- Senator René Besnard, undersecretary of state of aviation in the War Ministry, publishes today a revised plan for aircraft production, which calls for an air arm of 128 squadrons by spring 1916.  In addition to expanding the French air force, Besnard, proposes significant changes to its composition - fewer bomber units to allow for additional fighter squadrons, and halting production of outdated observation planes and 80-hp to 100-hp engines.  Most significantly, and most controversially, he proposes to construct eight hundred all-purpose twin-engine three-seat aircraft, which to some parliamentary deputies appears to run counter to the trend in aviation towards specialization.

- Italian attacks continue along the Isonzo today.  North of Oslavija, the Italians attack out of the trench seized yesterday, but when they are repulsed an Austro-Hungarian counterattack hits them while they are disorganized and they abandon most of the ground won yesterday.  To the south further assaults are launched today against the heights at Podgora, and again they are defeated in hand-to-hand fighting.  On the front of the Italian 3rd Army, another assault south of Mt. San Michele manages to secure a small stretch of the line at St. Martino, and are able to hold most of the ground in the face of heavy Austro-Hungarian counterattacks.

Given the continued Italian attacks, the commander of the Austro-Hungarian 5th Army orders the recently-arrived 9th Division to replace 28th Division on the southern end of the Isonzo front, pulling the latter out to serve as the army's reserve.

- Given the ongoing diplomatic dispute with the American government regarding the sinking of the Italian liner Ancona on the 7th, the German submarine U38, along with its crew, is entered into the Austro-Hungarian navy's List of Warships.  If the issue does ot arbitration, the Austro-Hungarian government can point to the list to show that U38 is in fact Austro-Hungarian, though of course it is German.

Friday, November 20, 2015

November 20th, 1915

- Colonel Hermann von der Lieth-Thomsen, chief of German field aviation, informs OHL today that the air arm will require a thousand aircraft in 1916, and to accomplish this he requests approval for measures to increase production and exclude additional exemptions for skilled workers in aircraft factories.

- West of Görz the Italian 2nd Army has concentrated three divisions along a two and a half kilometre stretch of the line centred on Oslavija.  On the 18th and 19th they crept forward towards the enemy trenches, and today they launch their attack.  Just north of Oslavija a battalion is able to penetrate the Austro-Hungarian line, but artillery fire prevents a further advance.  To the south, repeated assaults are launched against the heights at Podgora throughout the day, but are unable to make any progress.

To the south, repeated Italian attacks are made on both the northern and southern slopes of Mt. San Michele.  To the north, the Italians manage to secure a stretch of the line and ruins of a former strongpoint by nightfall, but the success brings no significant advantage as otherwise the Austro-Hungarians have held their line.

- French Vice-Admiral Louis Dartige, commander of French naval forces in the Mediterranean, submits a memorandum to Admiral de Robeck, senior British naval officer in the Mediterranean, on the number of warships he sees as necessary for effective anti-submarine patrols.  Based on the belief that one destroyer was needed to patrol every 140 miles of transport routes, increased to one every 40 miles at narrow channels, Dartige calculated that a total of 140 British and French destroyers would be necessary to adequately patrol the Mediterranean.  Added to this was 280 trawlers and small craft, whose responsibility would be to work in groups of two to four searching for German submarines and their supply bases in the narrow passages of the Mediterranean, among the Aegean Islands, and along the Ottoman coast.  This would represent a significant augmentation of Anglo-French naval forces in the Mediterranean - currently there are only 32 British and 53 French destroyers, and of the French number thirteen were in port immobilized by breakdowns of various kinds.

- Today the British 6th Indian Division reaches the town of Lajj, approximately twenty-five miles from Baghdad and less than ten miles from the major Ottoman defensive position at Ctesiphon.  Here General Townshend orders his division to concentrate in preparation for an assault on the enemy defences.

Colonel Nur-ur-din has taken advantage of the almost two months it has taken for the British to resume their advance after the First Battle of Kut-al-Amara to construct formidable defences at Ctesiphon.  The main trench line covers the north bank of the Tigris River, stretching from a bend in the river (meaning an assault there would have to cross the river under fire) north through a dozen redoubts, and is anchored in the north by two redoubts that the British refer to as 'Vital Point', or V.P.  This line also incorporates a number of ancient ruins, including the so-called 'High Wall' which protrudes eastwards and potentially provides cover for flanking fire if the British attack the northern half of the line.  Behind the main Ottoman trench line lay other ruins, including the most famous at Ctesiphon, the Great Arch of Taq Kasra.  Approximately six thousand yards behind the first trench line the Ottomans have also constructed a second line of defences, though these are not as extensive, and trenches have also been constructed on the southern bank.

The Great Arch of Taq Kasra.

The delay in the advance of 6th Indian Division has not only allowed the Ottomans to construct substantial defences at Ctesiphon, but also given time for Ottoman reinforcements ordered to Mesopotamia in early October to arrive on the scene.  In addition to 35th and 38th Divisions, which have spent 1915 in Mesopotamia being repeated thrashed by the British, 45th and 51st Division are also now available to Nur-ur-din, both being well-trained and (the latter especially) with valuable combat experience.  He deploys 45th Division around 'Victory Point' at the northern end of the main trench line, the most important (and potentially vulnerable) position for the Ottomans to hold.  While 38th Division holds the rest of the first trench line north of the Tigris and 35th Division is south of the river, 51st Division is held in reserve.

The Ottoman defences at Ctesiphon, November 1915.

Overall, the Ottoman force consists of 18 000 infantry, 400 cavalry, and two regiments of camelry, along with 52 artillery pieces.  To face them, General Townshend has at his disposal 13 700 infantry, eleven squadrons of cavalry, and five batteries of artillery.  A frontal attack is thus out of the question - Townshend must not merely defeat the Ottomans but do so without suffering heavy losses on such a scale as to render impossible the occupation of Baghdad.  Moreover, it is not enough for the Ottomans to be forced back; even a defeated Ottoman detachment could threaten the long supply route of 6th Indian Division as it moves on to Baghdad.  Instead, the Ottomans must be annihilated.  To accomplish this, Townshend intends a repetition of the First Battle of Kut-al-Amara, except this time with the flanking maneouver working as intended.  His plan is to divide his force into four.  Column C is to attack the northern stretch of the main Turkish line, to pin the enemy there.  To its right, Column A will attach and seize VP (Vital Point) while further north Column B will sweep around and attack the rear of the Turkish line.  Finally, a Flying column of cavalry and 76th Punjabi Battalion will drive northwest to destroy the bridge over the Diyala River, which would cut the line of retreat of the Ottoman force.  If successful, the three main columns would envelop the Ottomans while the Flying Column would prevent any survivors from escaping.  It is a bold plan, and one that concentrates the bulk of the British force - 9000 infantry - against just a third of the Ottoman force, achieving local superiority at the decisive point.  To achieve such an advantage, however, requires Townshend to throw everything into the initial attack, and there will be no reserves remaining should the plan misfire.  The attack will be launched in two days time.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

November 19th, 1915

- General Gallieni replies today to General Sarrail's repeated requests for reinforcements for his Army of the Near East, and the minister of war does not mince words: 'Your dispatches or reports have repeated several times your requirement for four army corps, but the government has never consented to or discussed making your army this large . . . [you must] adapt your plans to the personnel at your disposal.'

- On the Italian Front the Italians attack Austro-Hungarian lines on the southern slope of Mt. San Michele again, but are no more successful today than they were yesterday.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

November 18th, 1915

- Given the ongoing stalemate on the Isonzo River, Cadorna informs the government today that he has ordered the bombardment of the city of Görz for the first time in the war.  Cadorna assures his civilian masters that the city's Italian inhabitants have long since fled, and that enemy gunners have positioned artillery in Görz in the belief that the Italians will not shell it, in addition to basing reserves in the city.  As he explains, 'as this is a war of attrition, it is both natural and necessary to do whatever is best to wear down the enemy's strength.'

Mass artillery fire on the city begins at 5am this morning, and continues throughout the day, and is augmented by aerial bombardment in the early afternoon.  The shells are distributed across the city, striking both homes and larger structures including municipal buildings and factors.  However, as most of the Austro-Hungarian reserves have already been committed to the fight, there are actually few units in the city, minimizing the military effectiveness of the bombardment.

To the south, the Italian 3rd Army resumes its efforts to seize Mt. San Michele with a series of assaults from the northwest and southwest throughout the day.  Bitter fighting rages on both slopes of the mountain, and the Austro-Hungarians manages to hold off the Italians, though not without heavy losses - one battalion of 28th Regiment suffers two-thirds casualties today.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

November 17th, 1915

- Today elements of the German 103rd Division capture the town of Kuršumlija on the Toplica River.  However, it is clear that the Serbs have successfully evacuated their forces from the north bank, withdrawing south.  Further, overnight the first major snowstorm has struck, swelling the Ibar and Toplica Rivers while making aerial reconnaissance almost impossible.

- Since November 9th, General Sarrail of the Army of the Near East has sent repeated requests to the government to expand his force to four corps to allow him to not only hold his lines on the Vardar and Tcherna Rivers but also go onto the offensive.  He repeats his arguments to Lord Kitchener in person today when the latter visits Salonika.

- Though heavy snow continues on the Italian Front, Cadorna orders a resumption of offensive operations tomorrow along the Isonzo River, leaving it to his army commanders to decide on particular objectives.

Monday, November 16, 2015

November 16th, 1915

- On the Italian Front, heavy snowstorms restricts visibility and makes movement difficult, leading Cadorna to temporarily suspend offensive operations.

- U.S. Secretary of State Robert Lansing asks the American ambassador in Vienna to ask the Austro-Hungarian government to examine the list of submarines in the Austro-Hungarian navy and report which one sunk the Italian liner Ancona on the 7th.  Such a request is problematic, of course, since U38, the submarine responsible, does not appear on the list.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

November 15th, 1915

- On the western slope of Heights #184 west of Görz an Austro-Hungarian trench has been the scene of particularly desperate fighting in the first days of the 4th Battle of the Isonzo, with the position changing hands almost hourly.  As a result, the Austro-Hungarians have constructed a new trench line two hundred yards to the east at the crest of Heights #184, and over the past two nights have withdrawn to this new position.  The old trench line is conceded to the Italians, and the ground thus gained is both significant (in terms of overall Italian gains in the offensive) and meaningless (the trench line has been thoroughly ruined by artillery fire and does not open up the enemy line).  As such, the 'concession' by the Austro-Hungarians west of Heights #184 is entirely emblematic of the 4th Battle of the Isonzo.

To the south, the Italians make yet another effort today to seize Mt. San Michele, with infantry assaults at 7am following a heavy artillery bombardment.  The focal point of the morning's fighting is a stretch of trench on the northern slope of the mountain, which changes hands several times despite artillery fire having largely obliterated the trench.  Into the evening hours the Italians feed fresh reserves into the fight, and at nightfall the Austro-Hungarians concede a hundred yards of the 'trench'.  The loss, however, is inconsequential.

To date the 4th Battle of the Isonzo has played out as the third - the Italians have made inconsequential gains for heavy losses.  The Austro-Hungarians, however, have also suffered terribly in the fight, and 5th Army is increasingly concerned that its forces are wearing out, and in particular that the army's reserves are units that have not yet recovered from lengthy stints on the front lines.  Concerned with the ability to hold off an Italian offensive that they appear to aim to continue for some time, Conrad orders 9th Division, stationed on the Eastern Front behind Südarmee, to redeploy to the Italian Front.

- In an effort to resolve the crisis in Teheran, the German military attaché attempts to convince the Persian Cossack Brigade, nominally under the control of the Persian government but officered by Russians, to turn against its Russian officers and rally to the shah.  The Russians, however, had gotten wind of the plan, and the brigade was paraded and declared that its loyalty was foremost to the tsar.  Moreover, the Russians threaten to depose Shah Ahmad and replace him with his father Muhammed Ali, who had been deposed as shah in 1909 and found refuge in Russia.  Shah Ahmad is faced with the choice of acquiescence with Entente dominance or side with Germany, and in such a situation the fact that Russian forces are nearby while Germans are not is significant - to side with the Germans would necessitate fighting the Russians with minimal German aid.  By this morning the German embassy and pro-German liberals and nationalists in the Maljis have left Teheran for Qum en route to Isfahan, and Ambassador Reuss has encouraged the shah to follow and establish a government there in alliance with Germany.  Shah Ahmad is to depart Teheran at 9am this morning, but with the Germans and their Persian allies having already departed his resolve is weakened by the Russian and British ambassadors, and at the last moment he decides to remain in Teheran.  This action destroys German influence in the Persian government and police, most of whom remain loyal to the shah, while the departure of the German embassy and their pro-German allies in the Maljis from Teheran effectively removes their ability to influence Persian affairs.  Henceforth, the Entente will have the upper hand in Persia.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

November 14th, 1915

- N-Abt, the intelligence department of OHL, produces a report today on the Entente armies on the Western Front.  They estimate that the current size of the French army, including the class of 1916, to be approximately three million, which was four hundred thousand less than the size of the army at the outbreak of war.  N-Abt further estimates that under normal conditions the French are losing seventy thousand men per month.  At this rate, they estimate that the French will be experiencing severe shortages by September 1916 and will be forced to call up younger classes earlier and earlier to meet shortfalls in manpower - for instance, they anticipate the Class of 1918 being called up in June 1916.

The strength of the British army, however, is more difficult for N-Abt to assess.  They estimate that the British currently deploys approximately forty-two divisions consisting of 1 057 000 men, including 270 000 regulars, 170 000 Territorials, 400 000 in the 'New Armies', 60 000 Indians, and 47 000 Canadians.  However, though it is understood that the British army will grow to about seventy divisions, N-Abt is not able to conclude when this would occur.

Overall, N-Abt's report demonstrates that the Entente are numerically superior to the Germans on the Western Front, and that manpower shortages in the French army will in time be compensated by the growth of the British army.  This assessment of the balance of strength on the Western Front will be at the forefront of Falkenhayn's thoughts as they turn to planning operations on the Western Front in 1916.

- Today the commander of the Italian 2nd Army, Lieutenant-General Pietro Frugoni, orders VI Corps to continue the offensive west of Görz.  Seeing the setback yesterday at Oslavija as emblematic of the exhaustion of his soldiers, Lieutenant-General Luigi Capello, commander of VI Corps, objects to the order, writing to Cadorna that in the miserable conditions his men are little more than walking clumps of mud, and that further attacks would be pointless.  Cadorna sides with Capello, and suspends operations at Görz.  To the south, however, the Italian 3rd army continues its attempt to capture Mt. San Michelle.  In the heaviest fighting of the 4th Battle of the Isonzo to date, attacks are launched from both flanks towards the summit, but by the end of the day all the Italians have gained is a small stretch of the first enemy trench southwest of St. Martino.  Here the Austro-Hungarians simply establish a new trench line two hundred yards east of their old position, and otherwise nothing changes.  However, repulsing the enemy assaults costs the Austro-Hungarian VII Corps over 1700 casualties today, and 5th Army sends forward three battalions from reserves.

- Meeting in Rome, the Italian cabinet discusses the evolving situation in the Balkans.  Their French allies have requested the deployment of an Italian contingent to Salonika, which Cadorna supports (on the basis that tying down enemy forces here keeps them from the Italian Front).  His political masters, however, have their eyes focused on Albania, both closer and seen by the government as within Italy's sphere of influence.  Cadorna's advice is ignored, and the formation of an expedition to deploy to Albania is agreed upon.

- The German battlecruiser Goeben is attacked by the Russian submarine Morzh off the Bosphorus while escorting transports.  The German warship only narrowly avoids Russian torpedoes, and the decision is made that despite the marked inferiority of the Ottoman navy, Goeben cannot be risked as a mere escort for steamers.

Friday, November 13, 2015

November 13th, 1915

- Lead elements of the German X Reserve Corps, pursuing retreating Serbian forces, seizes the passes located 5200 feet above sea level at Jastrebac Mountain.  To the west, however, XXII Reserve Corps and the Alpine Corps are able to make only slow progress down the Ibar River valley - owing to its narrowness, only one regiment of 44th Reserve Division can be sent forward at a time, while the Alpine Corps has its first fight of the campaign, defeating a rearguard of the Drina 2nd Division.  Such engagements, though hopeless for the Serbs, serve to slow the German pursuit.

- West of Görz, three days of intensive fighting has largely exhausted the Italian infantry, and the pace of their assaults noticeably declines today.  The Austro-Hungarians, however, assault the position lost yesterday near the church as Oslavija, and in a short, sharp fight retake the lost ground and capture five hundred prisoners.  To the south, the Italian 3rd Army repeats the efforts of yesterday to capture Mt. San Michele; after a three-hour preliminary bombardment large attacks from the northwest and southwest of the mountain.  On the northern slope, Italian infantry occupy a six hundred yard stretch of the enemy trench line, but an Austro-Hungarian counterattack after dark regains the lost ground.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

November 12th, 1915

- Over the past nine days, French forces have achieved meagre results in the offensive ordered by General Sarrail: elements of the French 57th and 122nd Divisions have crossed the Tcherna River and advanced five kilometres, but are encountering increasingly severe resistance.  To the southeast, the French 156th Division at the Strumica rail station has successfully counterattacked Bulgarian forces and driven them back across the border.  Nevertheless, Bulgarian forces in the region greatly outnumber the three French divisions Sarrail has available in southern Serbia.

The front in southern Serbia after the offensive of Army of the Near East, November 1915.

- Italian attacks continue today along the Isonzo River.  West of Görz, the morning sees back and forth fighting over a stretch of trench on the west slope of Heights #184 near Podgora, while in the afternoon an Italian assault penetrates the Austro-Hungarian line near the church at Oslavija.  To the south, the Italian 3rd Army abandons the broader assaults of the past two days to launch a two-pronged effort to envelop Mt. San Michele, attacking from Peteano to the northwest and near St. Martino to the southwest.  Three times Italian infantry advance up the northern slope of Mt. San Michele, and three times they fail to gain any ground.  To the south, several regiments attack near Kote, but are repulsed with heavy losses.

- Recent sinkings by German submarines in the Mediterranean, especially of the transport Calvados off Algeria, has sparked concern both in metropolitan France and French North Africa regarding the safety of merchant ships and transports in the Mediterranean.  Under pressure, the French minister of marine instructs Vice-Admiral Louis-René-Marie Charles Dartige du Fournet, commander of French naval forces in the Mediterranean, to reach an agreement with the British regarding a general plans for coordinated naval patrols to prevent submarine attacks.

- In Teheran Shah Ahmad of Persia informs Ambassador Reuss that he must secure the approval of the German government before he will ratify the treaty of alliance offered by the latter.  This effectively postpones for several weeks the final decision of the shah on the treaty.  Meanwhile, the Russian menace to Teheran increases - an advance Russian detachment is encamped forty miles from the capital, while a larger Russian expeditionary force of eight thousand cavalry and six thousand infantry lands at Enzeli today.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

November 11th, 1915

- Writing to Falkenhayn today, Mackensen argues that while the original objectives of the Serbian operation have been accomplished, the campaign remains incomplete as long as the Serbian army has not been destroyed.  This can be best accomplished, in his view, by a vigorous pursuit by the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army down the Ibar River valley towards Kosovo while the German 11th and Bulgarian 1st Armies advance towards Priština.  Here, it is hoped, the Serbian army can be brought to a final battle, made all the more decisive given the historical and cultural significance of the region to Serbian nationalism and identity.  Mackensen's hopes are bouyed by intelligence reports today that the Serbian army has lost over half its strength since the beginning of October.

The front lines in Serbia, November 11th, 1915.

- On the Italian Front the second day of the latest Italian offensive along the Isonzo River hardly differs from the first.  Opposite Görz, the southern wing of the Italian 2nd Army advances between Oslavija and the heights at Podgora, but by the end of the day have only heavy losses to show for their attacks.  To the south, the Italian 3rd Army attempts a repeat of the prior day's operations, with a three-hour artillery bombardment preceding infantry assaults at noon.  However, a similar effort leads to similar results: most of the attacks break down before even reaching the Austro-Hungarian positions, and in those few cases where the infantry manage to enter the first trench line - mainly near Peteano - counterattacks are able to drive them back out.

- The British 6th Indian Division begins its advance towards Baghdad today, over two weeks since General Townshend was ordered to capture the city and more than a month since the victory at the First Battle of Kut-al-Amara.  The significant delay has been the result of severe supply shortages resulting from the difficulties in bringing sufficient food, fodder, and munitions forward along the Tigris River from the main base at Basra far to the southeast.  Even today 6th Indian Division is hardly well-supplied, as soldiers continue to suffer from a range of illnesses related to poor food.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

November 10th, 1915

- As battered as the Serbian army is, it still has not lost all fighting spirit.  Today the Timok 1st, Sumidija 2nd, and Morava 2nd Divisions of the Serbian 2nd Army launch a counterattack against the Bulgarian 1st Division, forcing it back toward Leskovac.  This gives 2nd Army breathing room to resume its retreat.

- Though Cadorna had suspended the offensive of the Italian 2nd and 3rd Armies along the Isonzo River on the 4th, over the past five days Italian artillery has kept up a steady rate of fire on Austro-Hungarian lines, and there have been a number of small-scale attacks against specific points.  Though these actions were designed to give the enemy no rest and no chance to rebuild defences and bring up replacements, they also clearly signaled to Austria-Hungary that further operations were forthcoming, an impression enhanced both by intelligence reports indicating trains were bringing Italian replacements and supplies to the Isonzo front, and by the noise of wagons and motor vehicles behind the Italian line.  Thus the opening attacks of the 4th Battle of the Isonzo today comes as no surprise to the defenders opposite.

Given the onset of winter on the upper Isonzo, Cadorna's plan for this offensive is to attack along a somewhat shorter stretch of the front, with the focus of operations being at and just south of Görz.  The southern wing of the Italian 2nd Army, and specifically VI Corps, is to be against Oslavija just to the northwest of Görz, and it is hoped that seizing this position will outflank the Podgora heights from the north and allow for its capture.  To the south, from 3rd Army XI Corps would advance towards Mt. San Michele with three divisions while XIII Corps would attack between Heights #197 and Kote #111 in the direction of St. Martino.  To both the north and south, diversionary assaults would be undertaken to pin the enemy forces opposite.

After a rainstorm early this morning delayed the start of the offensive, the Italian artillery bombardment on 2nd Army's front reaches a crescendo after 9am that lasts for four hours.  The Italians attempt to maximize the effectiveness of their barrage by concentrating their fire on the specific positions that are about to be assaulted.  Around 1pm the Italian infantry leap forward from their trenches and begin their attacks.  North of Oslavija they reach the enemy barbed wire, and manage to bring up an artillery piece to within fifty meters to blast their way forward.  However, Austro-Hungarian artillery on Mt. Santo behind the front line are able thoroughly pulverize the attacks, who shortly thereafter fall back to their starting trenches.  At Oslavija itself a similar pattern plays out: the Italians cross No Man's Land, only to come under murderous artillery and machine-gun fire, and subsequently fall back.

On 3rd Army's front, three hours of intensive artillery fire preceeds attacks at 11am by six divisions along the front stretching from Mt. San Michele to Mt. dei sei Busi.  Only south of St. Martino are the Italians able to reach the first trench line, and counterattacks later in the day force the attackers to relinquish even these paltry gains.  At 5pm a heavy storm erupts and brings the day's fighting to an end.

The 4th Battle of the Isonzo, Nov. 10th to Dec. 2nd, 1915.

- The Russian demonstration from Kazvin on the 7th highlighted to the German ambassador at Teheran the precariousness of his position and the Persian government if it can be convinced to side with Germany.  With a sense that time is running out, Ambassador Reuss, without reference to Berlin, offers a twenty-year defensive treaty in an effort to win the commitment of the Persians before the Russians can intervene.  He also suggests that the Persian government should abandon Teheran, given its proximity to Russian forces to the north, and relocate to Isfahan to the south.

Monday, November 09, 2015

November 9th, 1915

- Though the seizure of Kraljevo on the 6th had raised hopes that the Serbian army could be enveloped, once more they have slipped the noose.  This time, blame can be apportioned between the Bulgarians and Austro-Hungarians - the Bulgarian 1st Army had advanced slowly west from Niš, allowing the Serbs before them to disengage and retreat to the southwest, while General Kövess had permitted most of his army two days of rest after the fall of Kraljevo.  The result is a blistering telegram from Mackensen to Kövess, asking how he had misunderstood the necessity for haste.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

November 8th, 1915

- As the German 11th Army had converged on Kruševac, its front had narrowed considerably, while the few roads in the region limited the amount of men and material that could be moved forward.  Moreover, with the mountains approaching it was time, as per the discussions at Pless on the 6th, to take out of the line those German formations not equipped for mountain warfare.  As a result, from the German 11th Army the German III Corps, along with 25th Reserve and Bavarian 11th Divisions and the headquarters of IV Reserve Corps, are ordered north out of Serbia today.  Further, the German 26th Division in the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army receives similar orders, though this formation is to be replaced by the German Alpine Corps.

- After discussion between senior German army and navy officials in Berlin, the German naval attaché in Athens presents the German reply to the questions posed last week by General Dousmanis and Colonel Metaxas of the Greek General Staff.  While German submarines already doing what they could to interrupt Entente supply lines to their forces at Salonika, there was nothing more they could realistically accomplish - the number available in the Mediterranean were insufficient to close off the Aegean Sea entirely, and using them defensively to protect the Greek coast would greatly limit their effectiveness by keeping them in port.  Moreover, there was no particular need for Greek port facilities, given that German submarines had the range to operate from Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman bases.  Indeed, the best assistance the Greeks could offer at sea would be intelligence regarding Entente ship movements.  On land, the Germans noted that only limited munitions or artillery pieces could be provided, given that there were already commitments to the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria that remained to be fulfilled.  Overall, Greek entry into the war on Germany's side would provide few benefits and greater drawbacks; indeed, at this stage of the war Greek neutrality was more useful from the German perspective than actual intervention.  If nothing else, the German reply offers nothing on which either King Constantine or the Greek General Staff can justify going to war against the Entente.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

November 7th, 1915

- Elements of the German IV Reserve and X Reserve Corps seize the Serbian city of Kruševac.  Over the past two days, the Germans have captured six to seven thousand prisoners, as well as fifty locomotives and 1100 loaded railcars immobilized by the collapse of the Serbian rail network.

- Three days after sinking the French transport Calvados, the German submarine U38 strikes again today, and ignites a diplomatic firestorm.  Off Bizerte it intercepts the Italian passenger liner Ancona en route from Messina to New York.  Initially the liner attempts to escape, but shelling from U38 brings it to a halt.  The captain of U38 gives the crew and passengers of Ancona forty-five minutes to abandon ship, but when he sees smokes on the horizon he decides that Ancona may have summoned a warship to its rescue, and orders a torpedo fired into the liner.  Quickly sinking, over two hundred passengers are lost, several of whom are Americans.

The Italian passenger liner Ancona.

The loss of American life by itself is contentious, given the crises provoked by the sinking of Lusitania and Arabic in earlier this year.  Further complicating matters is that U38 flew the Austro-Hungarian while surfaced, standard practice for German submarines when attacking Italian-flagged ships, given that Germany and Italy are not at war.  This means, of course, that diplomatic protests by the Americans over the sinking of Ancona are directed at Austria-Hungary, not Germany, and the navies of the two allies have to ensure they have their stories straight to appease the Americans.

- As the Persian government of Mustaufi ul-Mamalik negotiates with the German ambassador for an alliance, Russian forces in northern Persia continue to cement their grip on the region.  Since the spring, a Russian detachment has been garrisoned at Kazvin, less than ninety miles northwest of Teheran, and in an effort to dissuade the Persian government from anti-Entente activity demonstrates towards the Persian capital today, sending the message that they could occupy Tehran if they desired to.

Friday, November 06, 2015

November 6th, 1915

- Falkenhayn and Conrad meet at Pless today to discuss the campaign in Serbia.  From the perspective of the German chief of Staff, the capture of Kragujevać and Niš, combined with the defeat of the Serbian army, accomplished the overall objective of the offensive of opening a land route to the Ottoman Empire.  As such, Falkenhayn wishes to wind down operations in the Balkans, shifting forces from this theatre to the Western Front.  Conrad, as usual, has a different opinion: he feels the Entente landing at Salonika needs to be eliminated, and also favours continuing operations to finish off the remnants of the Serbian army and deal with Montenegro.

After a full day of discussion, with the usual acrimony between the two chiefs of staff, it is agreed to continue the campaign for the time being, but that German forces would be withdraw as desired by Falkenhayn.  In particular, as the pursuit of the Serbs entered the mountains, the German chief of staff wants to withdraw those German divisions not suited to warfare in such conditions.  In practice this means a drawdown of Mackensen's forces to four or five divisions, including the German Alpine Corps, which reaches Kragujevać en route to the front.  Further, Serbia was to be occupied by Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria, with the Morava River separating the two zones of occupation.  Finally, the fate of Montenegro and Albania is deferred to a later date.

Mackensen, for his part, still hopes to trap the bulk of the Serbian army.  To accomplish this he issues orders today for Gallwitz's 11th Army to advance on Kruševac while the Bulgarian 1st Army pushes west from Niš.  The key role would be played by the Austro-Hungarian VIII and the German XXII Reserve Corps of the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army, with the former crossing the West Morava River and marching to Brus, and the latter seizing Kraljevo at the confluence of the West Morava and Ibar Rivers.  If this succeeds, they will cut the line of retreat of the Serbian army falling back from the northeast.

The next phase of the offensive gets off to a good start when the German 43rd Reserve Division of XXII Reserve Corps assaults Kraljevo today.  Crucially, 202nd Reserve Regiment manages to capture the bridge over the West Morava River at the northern edge of Kraljevo before the Serbs can completely destroy it.  Using wooden planks, they are able to patch up the bridge, allowing 201st Reserve Regiment to cross and fight into the city itself.  When the railway station is captured, the municipal government surrenders the city.  Again, because of the disruption of the Serbian rail network, the Germans capture trains loaded with artillery pieces and munitions that had nowhere to go.  The seizure of the city also puts the German forces at the northern end of the Ibar River valley, a key retreat route for the Serbian army.

German soldiers marching through the Serbian town of Paracin, November 1915.

- Cadorna and the senior officers of the Italian army have long seen the civilian soldiers under their command as soft and poorly-equipped psychologically for the rigours of modern warfare.  Morale is indeed a problem within the Italian army, though this is primarily due to high casualties, supply shortages, organizational chaos, and obvious command incompetence.  Unrest is now beginning to manifest itself in actions - in Aosta a number of alpine troops riot attack a barracks, open two military prisons, and prevent trains from leaving for the front.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

November 5th, 1915

- As the Serbs pull back to the southwest, Bulgarian forces occupy the de facto Serbian capital of Niš today.

- At Salonika the second British division committed to the expedition beings to unload.

- In Greece the government of Alexandros Zaimas, appointed by Constantine a month ago when the monarch split with the pro-Entente former Prime Minister Eleutherios Venizelos, has been unable to securing a working majority in the Greek parliament, dominated as it is with supporters of Venizelos.  As a result, Zaimas' government tenders its resignation today, and while a new government of 'national unity' (though excluding Venizelos' supporters) under Stephanos Skouloudis is appointed, Constantine also dissolves parliament for new elections.

- On October 30th, the French submarine Turquoise, the first to operate in the Sea of Marmara, had run aground and captured intact.  Admiral Souchon had been shocked by the state of Turquoise, and writes to his wife today 'how the French commander could come into the Marmara in the defective boat is incomprehensible.'  However, aboard the French submarine the Germans had discovered papers that referred to a planned rendezvous today with the British submarine E20.  This allowed the German submarine UB14 to set a trap, and when E20 arrives for the supposed rendezvous it is instead torpedoed and sunk.

The French submarine Turquoise.

- Having left Bardia after delivering its cargo to the Senussi, the German submarine U35 comes across and sinks the British armed steamer Tara, and subsequently tows the lifeboat full of survivors back to Bardia as prisoners for the Senussi.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

November 4th, 1915

- General Paul Leblois, commander of the French 57th Division, submits a pessimistic report to General Sarrail regarding the prospects of the offensive he has ordered in southern Serbia.  Leblois argues that there are insufficient forces to hold the confluence of the Tcherna and Vardar Rivers while his division pushes across the Tcherna to the southwest.  He fears that without significant reinforcements, his lines of communications will be vulnerable.  Moreover, he describes the region as without roads or water, making resupply difficult.

- This morning Austro-Hungarian survivors on the heights at Podgora slowly but surely push back the Italian infantry who had seized the summit of Heights #184 yesterday, and by noon the Italians continued to hold only a small stretch of trench on the western slope.  To the south, Italian attacks at Mt. San Michele and St. Martino are repulsed in heavy fighting.

This evening Cadorna calls a halt to the 3rd Battle of the Isonzo, citing exhaustion, the need to replace losses, and poor weather.  In the course of the fighting, no ground of any consequence has been gained - for example, though the Italians have been able to push their lines forward towards the Podgora heights, the high ground remains firmly in the control of the Austro-Hungarians.  The broader objectives of the offensive, including the city of Görz, remain as beyond the reac of the Italians as they had been at the start of the offensive.  Accomplishing these meagre gains has cost the Italian army 67 000 casualties, constituting 23% of the attacking, and some of the regiments involved in the heaviest fighting have lost over half their strength in the two weeks of the operation.  The Austro-Hungarians, however, have suffered heavily as well - total losses have numbered 42 000, which includes 23 000 casualties for VII Corps, responsible for the line from north of Mt. San Michele to Mt. dei sei Busi.

Though the 3rd Battle of the Isonzo is at an end, Cadorna is far from finished.  Indeed, in the order this evening cancelling the offensive the Italian chief of staff called on his armies to be prepared to immediately go onto the offensive.  With Austro-Hungarian armies committed to the Russian front and engaged on the Serbian front, he feels that they have little to no reserves available to meet another thrust along the Isonzo.  Further, the Italian parliament is scheduled to resume sitting on December 1st, and both Cadorna and the government are eager to have some tangible success to lay before them to head off criticism of the management of the war.  It is to be a short respite indeed for both the Italian and Austro-Hungarian soldiers along the Isonzo.

- The German submarine U38 torpedoes and sinks the French transport Calvados off the coast of Algeria today.  The steamer was carrying a battalion of Senegalese soldiers from Oran to Marseilles, and as the ship sank panic broke out among the troops, exacerbated by the white officers taking two lifeboats and rowing as quickly as possible to the Algerian coast, abandoning the Africans to their fate.  The loss of life is very heavy, and the French suspend naval traffic between Algeria and southern France for thirty-six hours.

Another German submarine - U35 - arrives at the Senussi-controlled port of Bardia in Italian Libya, just across the border from British Egypt, where it delivers ten Ottoman officers, 120 soldiers, and munitions to support the Senussi uprising against the Italians.  With Entente naval supremacy in the Mediterranean, transport by submarine is the only way for Germany and its allies to provide aid to the Senussi in North Africa.  Such voyages, however, mean overcrowded submarines that are hardly spacious to begin with; Capital Waldemar Kophamel is happy to offload his cargo and depart Bardia.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

November 3rd, 1915

- At the outbreak of the First World War, the British Royal Flying Corps had been a small unit whose pilots were drawn from the upper classes.  To date applications to join the RFC have outpaced positions, allowing it to be selective in who it admits, with the result that the RFC have continued to draw from the same social classes as before the war.  There is a strong and ingrained belief among the pilots of the RFC that 'gentlemen' officers, graduates of prestigious public schools and Oxbridge, make the pilots.  Given this makeup, it is not surprising that British pilots at this stage of the war approach it as a sport and a grand adventure in the skies, one that stands in sharp contrast to the masses in the mud below.  Character and background count for more than skill, and thus when the The Aeroplane magazine suggests today that pilots should enter the RFC as noncommissioned officers and be promoted on the basis of merit, the notion is rejected out of hand.  To the current pilots of the RFC, its social exclusivity is not accidental but rather a deliberate approach to recruitment designed to ensure that future pilots meet the 'proper' standards - social as much as anything else - to be an officer of the RFC.

- Prime Minister Aristide Briand addresses the Chamber of Deputies today for the first time since the appointment of his government on the 29th, during which he pledges not to abandon Serbia.  This promise, however, is particularly ill-timed, given that at this very moment the Serbian army is itself abandoning Serbia, falling back to the southwest while the French Army of the Near East has been unable to either break through the Bulgarian 2nd Army to relieve the Serbs or distract the enemy to allow the Serbs time to rest and regroup.

- At Salonika, the third French division - 122nd - began landing on the 1st, and with its first brigade now available for servicee General Sarrail now feels that he has sufficient forces to go on the attack.  North of Krivolak, Bulgarian forces have crossed the Vardar River and are advancing southwest with the Tcherna River on their left.  Sarrail orders the French 57th Division along with the first brigade of 122nd Division to cross the Tcherna and hit the Bulgarians in their flank.  To the southeast, however, Bulgarian forces launch heavy attacks on French forces at the Strumica rail station.

- Along the Isonzo River the Italian II Corps launches eight separate attacks at Plava from noon until dark.  The Austro-Hungarian defenders suffer heavy losses - the four most heavily engaged battalions have lost up to 40% of their strenght - but several reserve battalions are brought forward to hold the line.  As a result, the Italians are unable to break through.

At Görz, the Austro-Hungarian 37th Landsturm Brigade, the last available reserve, counterattacks the Italian 11th Division at Oslavija this evening and drives the enemy back out of the village, regaining the trenches lost yesterday and capturing several hundred prisoners.  A further series of assaults are launched by the Italians against the heights at Podgora, and after several attempts elements of 12th Division gain the summit of Heights 184.  By this point, fighting here had devolved into small-unit fighting, with hardly any higher commanders able to influence the course of events, and infantry fought over shell holes filled with up to a metre of mud into the night.

South of Görz, the Austro-Hungarian 39th Brigade on the northern slope of Mt. San Michele is relieved overnight by three battalions from 6th Division.  During the transfer, however, one of the battalions became separated from its guides, and unfamiliar with the ground stumbled past the position it was to occupy and walked right into the Italian line.  Taking fire from three sides, the battalion takes severe losses before extricating itself.  As a result, the Austro-Hungarians are forced to evacuate a small stretch of their own line due to the soldiers who would have guarded having been killed on the Italian line.  Still, the Austro-Hungarians are able to form a new defensive line a mere fifty yards to the rear, and Italian attacks against this new position today fail to make any progress.  A general Italian assault by VII Corps north and south of St. Martino also fails completely.

Monday, November 02, 2015

November 2nd, 1915

- South of Plava, just after dark a counterattack by the Austro-Hungarian 18th Division retakes another portion of the ground at Zagora lost yesterday morning.  To the south, heavy Italian attacks once again are directed to the heights at Podgora just west of Görz, and after several attempts Italian infantry reach the first Austro-Hungarian trench line, rendered unrecognizable by artillery fire.  Into the evening, Italian and Austro-Hungarian infantry engage in desperate combat in the ruined landscape between what once was the first and second trench lines.  After dark, an Austro-Hungarian counterattack by two battalions rushed forward from the divisional reserve manages to regain much of the lost ground.  The 11th Italian Division, meanwhile, is able to push into Oslavija, seizing the enemy trenches anchored by the village church.  On 3rd Army's portion of the line, heavy artillery fire begins at 7am and continues into the late afternoon, after which infantry attacks break to the positions of the Austro-Hungarian 17th Division in three places south of St. Martino.  General Elder von Gelb, the divisional commander, assembles the last available reserves - the remnants of 33rd and 111st Landsturm Brigades - and prevent further Italian advances here.  On either flank, Italian assaults were unable to make any headway.

- Speaking in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Asquith praises the British advance in Mesopotamia by stating that 'I do not think that in the whole war there has been a series of operations more carefully contrived, more brilliantly conducted, and with a better prospect of final success.'  However true this may have been of the campaign to date, the reality is that it is about to go badly off the rails.

- Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, commander of German forces in the colony of German East Africa, receives a message from Berlin, originally dispatched in May, reporting revolution in Sudan.  Given the British commitment to Europe and the likelihood of defeat at Gallipoli, this information reinforces Lettow-Vorbeck's belief that the forces under his command are at least the equal of those in British East Africa to the north.  As such, planning begins for a major offensive aimed at Mombasa.  Lettow-Vorbeck's objective at this stage of the war is not simply survival, but victory, to crush enemy forces in British East Africa in a decisive battle.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

November 1st, 1915

- At Kragujevać Serbian forces, after destroying the arsenal, have withdrawn south of the city, and a municipal delegation arrives today at the headquarters of General Lochow of the German III Corps, offering the surrender of the city.  Kragujevać is subsequently occupied by the German 168th Regiment of 25th Reserve Division, supported by elements of the Austro-Hungarian 57th Division.  Because the railway connection had been severed, the Serbians were forced to leave behind large amounts of war material, as well as 2100 wounded soldiers.

The victory, however, is at best partial, as Mackensen's two armies have failed to envelop the Serbian 1st and 3rd Armies before them.  The failure of the German III and Austro-Hungarian VIII Corps to pin the Serbs north of the city allowed them to withdraw to the south, while the western flank of the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army has been slowed by poor weather - while the Austro-Hungarian XIX Corps today reaches the West Morava River at Čačak, while the German XXII Reserve Corps has yet to reach the Čačak-Kragujevać road.  Instead of the army's western flank pushing ahead of the corps opposite Kragujevać, they are still in line with them.  Mackensen and Seeckt, however, still hoping to destroy the Serbian armies in the field, orders their increasingly exhausted forces forward - the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army is to push south to Kraljevo while the German 11th Army is to capture the confluence of the Morava and West Morava Rivers.

- The chief of the Greek General Staff, General Victor Dousmanis, and the assistant chief, Colonel Ioannis Metaxas, are staunchly monarchist, and side with King Constantine's policy of neutrality as opposed to the dismissed Venizelos' pro-Entente stance.  Given the substantial Entente presence at Salonika, the possibility exists that circumstances may draw Greece into the war on the side of Germany - for example, if the French forces in southern  Serbia cross back into Greece, the latter, as a neutral, by international law ought to disarm them, but the Greek General Staff is under no illusions what would follow such an act.  With Constantine's blessing, the pair, while emphasizing that continued neutrality is their preferred policy, approach the German military attaché in Athens regarding the extent and nature of German support in the event of war.  Metaxas is particularly concerned about naval support - with its long coastline and many islands it is particularly vulnerable to British seapower, while sea transport, especially of food from southern Greece to northern, is essential to Greek survival.  Metaxas inquires of the German military attaché whether German submarines would be able to protect coastal trade and limit Entente access to the Aegean Sea.  He also requests, in the event of war, artillery batteries and munitions for coastal defence.

- After a two-day lull, the Isonzo front from Plava in the north to Mt. dei sei Busi in the south is again the scene of heavy fighting as Italian infantry again fling themselves against the Austro-Hungarian defences. At Zagora the Italians launch a attack at dawn without a preliminary bombardment and under cover of rain and fog which catches the Austro-Hungarians by surprise; the Italians take the enemy position and capture many prisoners.  This evening two Austro-Hungarian battalions counterattack, forcing the Italians to abandon part of the thoroughly-ruined village.

Opposite Görz itself, after a heavy bombardment Italian infantry advance at 7am.  A brigade of 10th Division attempts to seize the summit of Mt. Sabotino, but is repulsed by the Austro-Hungarian 60th Brigade.  To the south, the inner wings of 11th and 12th Divisions make initial headway on the Podgora and Hill 184, but the rapid deployment of Austro-Hungarian reserves allows for most of the lost trenches to be regained this evening.

To the south, the Italian 3rd Army has received 22nd Division from reserves, and heavy attacks are launched from north of Mt. San Michelle to Mt. dei sei Busi.  South of St. Martino, regiments from 28th and 19th Divisions break into the Austro-Hungarian trenches, but counterattacks force them to relinquish most of the ground gained.  Elsewhere, the attacks of 3rd Army accomplish nothing.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

October 31st, 1915

- It has become clear to General Putnik that the Austro-Hungarians and Germans intend to isolate and destroy his armies in central Serbia, and that significant aid from the British and French at Salonika cannot hope to arrive in time.  His top priority is the preservation of the Serbian army as a fighting force, an objective that takes precedence even over holding Serbian territory.  The strategic goals of the Serbian government have been reduced to stark simplicity: survival.  Even if it was necessary to go into exile, an independent Serbian government and army needed to exist to keep alive the notion of a sovereign Serbian state.  Putnik thus reluctantly orders his armies to abandon central Serbia - 1st Army is to withdraw through Kraljevo and 3rd Army through Paracin to Grebac, while 2nd Army would attempt to hold its position to cover 3rd Army before itself retreating.  Overall, the Serbian army is to fall back to Kosovo in the southwest of the country, which also holds open the possibility of a further retreat west and southwest into Albania.  The retreat, however, will have to occur in terrible weather conditions and over rough and mountainous terrain - for all of their losses over the past month, their suffering is only beginning.

- Along the Isonzo River the Italian 2nd and 3rd Armies launch only small-scale attacks for the second day while keeping up a steady artillery bombardment.  The Austro-Hungarians, though they have largely held their positions, have suffered heavy losses - several brigades report casualties of over a thousand in the past week of fighting, and overall losses exceed thirty-five thousand.  The lull in the fighting (and the Austro-Hungarians recognize that it is merely a lull) allows for the relief of the most heavily-engaged formations; overnight 43rd Regiment of 20th Honved Brigade, which had held the summit of Mt. San Michele for nine days, is relieved and sent to a reserve camp to recover.  For his part Cadorna hardly intends to abandon the offensive, as he still has several divisions in reserve to throw into the attack, and today he issues orders for a resumption of operations tomorrow.

Friday, October 30, 2015

October 30th, 1915

- Reconnaissance by elements of the German III Corps this morning discover that the formidable Serbian fortifications General Lochow had feared yesterday are nothing more than hastily dug trenches.  Realizing the mistake, both the German III and the Austro-Hungarian VIII Corps are ordered forward, where they find the Serbian line manned only by rear guard formations which quickly fall back.  The main Serbian forces retreated southward overnights, and though the two corps have gained ground they have failed in their primary objective of pinning the Serbian defenders at Kragujevać north of the city.

The German and Austro-Hungarian advance in Serbia, Oct. 30th to Nov. 22nd, 1915.

- Due to the heavy losses sustained over the past two days at Görz, Cadorna realizes that large-scale operations cannot be undertaken for the third straight day; instead, small assaults are ordered on particular points while elsewhere artillery is left to do their work.  Again the Podgora Heights just west of Görz are the scene of heavy fighting on the same pattern as before: several Italian battalions break into the Austro-Hungarian lines, but are unable to withstand enemy counterattacks.  To the south, an Italian attack captures a small stretch of the enemy trench line at Peteano, and manage to hold the ground in the face of several Austro-Hungarian counterattacks.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

October 29th, 1915

- Since the vote of confidence in the Chamber of Deputies on the 12th, Prime Minister René Viviani has been attempting to reconstruct his cabinet to shore up political support.  The tide has turned against Viviani, however, and many leading politicians refuse to join a government led by him.  Abandoning the attempt, he accepts the position of Vice-President of the Council of Ministers (analogous to a Deputy Prime Minister) in a new government led by Aristide Briand.  The minister of war, Alexandre Millerand, is also dismissed, replaced by General Joseph Gallieni, who had played an important part in the Entente victory at the Battle of the Marne.

- North of Kragujevać, the Austro-Hungarian VIII Corps makes little headway today against stiff Serbian resistance, the latter supported by artillery fire.  Seeing the inability of his western neighbour to make progress, General Lochow of the German III Corps believes that the two forces face extensive fixed fortifications, and orders his own corps to advance cautiously.  To the west, the advance of the Austro-Hungarian XIX Corps and the German XXII Reserve Corps is slowed primarily by poor weather, slowing in particular the movement of artillery.  The latter, after hard fighting yesterday, takes Gornji Milanovac today.  On the other side of Kragujevać, the German IV Reserve Corps successfully attacks across the Lepenica River, taking 750 Serbian prisoners.  Nevertheless, the corps is behind schedule - the attack had been originally scheduled for yesterday before swamped roads and high water had delayed the operation.  Also today, patrols from the German X Reserve Corps make contact with elements of the Bulgarian 1st Army, thus linking up the two fronts under Mackensen's overall direction.

The Serbian campaign, Oct. 29th, 1915.

- Though yesterday's attacks around Görz on the Isonzo River failed to achieve any major breakthrough, Cadorna orders further energetic attacks today.  After the exertions of the previous day, however, some of the Italian formations are simply incapable of similar assaults today - opposite Zagora, for instance, a counterattack by the Austro-Hungarian 1st Mountain Brigade throws back the Italian 3rd Division and takes two hundred prisoners, after which Italian activity in the sector noticeably declines.  Opposite Görz only 11th and 12th Divisions of VI Corps attack today, which allows the defenders to concentrate their artillery fire on a narrower length of the front.  Elements of the later again break into the Austro-Hungarian lines on the Podgora Heights, but in hand-to-hand combat lasting into the evening are unable to secure the position.

South of Görz, the Italian XIV Corps launches another effort to seize Mt. San Michele this morning.  Elements of 30th Division manage to fight their way to the northern summit, but a well-timed counterattack by 39th Honved Brigade drives them off the high ground.  To the south of Mt. San Michelle, 28th and 19th Divisions attempt to expand the ground seized yesterday; not only do they fail to do so, but after dark a counterattack by the Austro-Hungarian 17th Division regains the lost ground.

North of Tolmein, after a night of bitter fighting, Austro-Hungarian reserves retake the trenches lost yesterday on the inner wings of 3rd and 14th Mountain Brigades.  Further south, at noon the Italian VIII Corps attempts a crossing of the Isonzo River at Canale using boats and pontoons, but the engineers and their equipment make for obvious targets, and Austro-Hungarian artillery and machine-gun fire rapidly break up the attempt.

- In light of the presence of the German mission in Kabul, the government of British India informs the Emir of Afghanistan that they will increase their subsidy as a sign of their continued friendship and to dissuade any thoughts of siding with the Germans.  Emir Habibullah, however, continues to play the British and Germans off of each other, and decides to send no formal acknowledgement of the increased subsidy, lest the British conclude that his loyalty can be bought so cheaply.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

October 28th, 1915

- By this evening the Austro-Hungarian VIII and German III Corps are within fifteen miles of Kragujevać, while a break in the weather has allowed for renewed aerial reconnaissance that reveals to Mackensen and Seeckt the disposition of the Serbian forces opposing his armies.  They issue orders for the two corps approaching Kragujevać to not only seize the city but also pin down the Serbian defenders.  Simultaneously, the German XXII Reserve and Austro-Hungarian XIX Corps to the west would push south and seize the bridges over the West Morava River, while to the east the German IV Reserve and X Corps would advance south along the Morava River, where they would link up with the Bulgarian 1st Army advancing from the east.  The Bulgarian 2nd Army, meanwhile is to contain the Entente forces at Salonika and cover the southern exits from the Morava River valley.  If executed successfully, the operation will trap the majority of the Serbian 1st and 3rd Armies between the Morava and West Morava Rivers, leading to their destruction.

- After three days to replace losses and bring up supplies, Cadorna orders a resumption of the 3rd Battle of the Isonzo today.  As the initial plan to push forward north and south of Görz prior to an assault on the city itself has been a spectacular failure, for the second phase of the offensive Cadorna decides to forgo the flank attacks and instructs VI Corps of 2nd Army to move directly on Görz.  On either side, XIV Corps of 3rd Army (to the south) and II Corps (to the north) will capture Mt. San Michele and push east from Plava respectively.

Just north of Görz, the Italian 3rd Division launches repeated assaults against Austro-Hungarian trenches at Zagora, just south of Plava.  This position had been so devastated by artillery fire that the defenders had been instructed to fall back to the second trench line, but repeated counterattacks prevented 3rd Division from holding the old Austro-Hungarian trenches.  On the other side of Plava, 32nd Division had similarly failed to gain any ground.  Opposite Görz itself, Italian artillery unleash a heavy bombardment before the infantry goes forward early this morning.  Elements of the Italian 4th Division reach the first trench line at Oslavija, but is repulsed, while 11th Division cannot even reach the trenches opposite.  The Italian 12th Division, however, is able to take advantage of a degree of cover offered by the broken terrain they advance over, and are able to break into the Austro-Hungarian positions on the heights at Podgora this afternoon.  Several detachments of Italian infantry fight their way to the crest of the heights, from which they can see Görz in the distance.  To the sound of bugles, however, five Austro-Hungarian companies counterattack, and by evening have regained the high ground at Podgora.

The heights at Podgora, west of Görz.

To the south of Görz, Italian artillery spend the morning pounding enemy positions before XIV Corps launched a concentrated assault on Mt. San Michele this afternoon.  After hours of bitter fighting infantry from 28th and 19th Division (the latter from the adjacent X Corps) break into trenches just south of Mt. San Michele held by the Austro-Hungarian 17th Division.  Elsewhere, however, the Italian assaults break down under withering enemy artillery and machine-gun fire.

The northern wing of the Italian 2nd Army is also active today, attacking on both sides of Tolmein, and just north of Dolje Italian infantry manage to reach the enemy trench line where the inner wings of the Austro-Hungarian 3rd and 14th Mountain Brigades meet.  Fierce hand-to-hand combat ensues into the night, with small groups of Austro-Hungarian soldiers rushing up from brigade and division reserves to plug the gap.

- As negotiations between the Persian government and the German ambassador continue, Prime Minister Mustaufi ul-Mamalik informs Ambassador Reuss that as Persia's most valuable provinces would likely be seized by the Russians and British if Persia entered the war on the side of Germany, his government will require a monthly subsidy of at least two million marks, plus a loan of a hundred million marks after the war and the reimbursement of all war costs.  Reuss feels that if Germany desires Persian support, they must agree to whatever terms the Persians request.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

October 27th, 1915

- As the Germans and Austro-Hungarians grind southwards towards Kragujevac, the mood is grim at Serbian army headquarters.  General Mišic of 1st Army proposes today a counterattack similar to that which secured victory along the Kolubara River in late 1914.  The Serbian army of 1915, however, is not that of 1914 - counting the Balkan wars, it has been in combat for almost four years, and the infantry are exhausted and reserves are non-existent.  General Putnik declines Mišić's suggestion, realizing that the best they can do is hold on while begging the British and French to advance from Salonika as quickly as possible.

- The Russian Black Seas Fleet undertakes another bombardment of the Bulgarian coast today, but unlike the prior operation on the 10th they are opposed by the German submarines UB-7 and UB-8 now based out of Varna.  As the Russian pre-dreadnoughts Panteleimon (formerly Potemkin, a decade away from silent film fame) and Rostislav bombard Varna from 21 000 yards, they are attacked by the two German submarines, and only rapid evasive action by Panteleimon allows it to avoid enemy torpedoes.

The Russian pre-dreadnought Panteleimon.

Monday, October 26, 2015

October 26th, 1915

- At 1005 am Lieutenant Max Immelmann shoots down a British B.e.2c two-seat reconnaissance biplane, his fifth of the war, making him Germany's first ace of the war.

Lieutenant Max Immelmann after his fifth victory, Oct. 26th, 1915.

- After hard fighting, the German XXII Reserve Corps, with the assistance of a heavy artillery bombardment, has secured the Serbian defensive positions at Arangelovac.  With the way open to the high ground at Rudnik, Mackensen orders the corps, supported by the Austro-Hungarian XIX Corps, push on towards Kraljevo, hoping to block one potential Serbian retreat route to the west.  Meanwhile, the Bulgarian 2nd Army seizes the Kačanik Gorge north of Skopje which, with the earlier occupation of Veleš along with Skopje itself, isolates Salonika from Serbia.

- Lord Kitchener remains skeptical of the Salonika expedition, and feels that, with the fall of Skopje, the opportunity to effectively aid the Serbs may have passed.  However, under continued pressure from the French, he agrees today to permit the British 10th Division, currently at Salonika, to cross the Greco-Serbian border to aid the French in the Vardar River valley.

- The German mission to Afghanistan has its first audience with Emir Habibullah today, where the latter expresses sympathy for the Germans but is unwilling to commit himself or his country to any particular course of action.  The stalling of the emir leads some in the German mission to wonder if they will be able to accomplish their objectives.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

October 25th, 1915

- The growing numbers of German Eindecker fighters over the Western Front are inflicting heavy casualties on the Royal Flying Corps, and with no comparable aircraft to fight back with, pilot morale is on the decline.  To remedy the situation, Brigadier-General Trenchard, commander of the RFC in France, advises the War Office that training programmes for new pilots need to concentrate on aerial combat, so that replacements are prepared for the struggle in the skies over the Western Front.

- After four days of heavy attacks north and south of Görz, the Italian 2nd and 3rd Armies have gained negligible ground; only several small stretches of the first enemy trench line have been captured, and in each case the Austro-Hungarian defenders have simply fallen back to the second trench line.  At no point have the Italians even threatened to achieve a significant victory or breakthrough, and what little has been gained has been won at the cost of 67 000 casualties.  The Italian 3rd Army in particular has suffered heavily and its infantry is exhausted after constant, fruitless combat, and thus Cadorna today orders a pause of several days to the offensive to allow replacements and supplies to reach the front.

Though they have generally held their line, the Austro-Hungarians have also suffered significant losses, and 5th Army, responsible for defending the Isonzo River line, has exhausted almost all of its reserves, with only several battalions of Landsturm immediately at hand.  The break in the Italian offensive thus gives a much-needed opportunity to bring up further reserves and replacements.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

October 24th, 1915

- After a brief stop yesterday to confer with Conrad at Teschen, Falkenhayn arrives at Mackensen's headquarters at Temesvár at 945am.  After discussion it is decided that the German Alpine Corps will be assigned to the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army to relieve part of the German XXII Reserve Corps, the latter not being well equipped for mountain warfare.  Mackensen and Seeckt also brief the German chief of staff on current operations, and afterwards dine with the Kaiser and his entourage.

At the front, the Austro-Hungarian 3rd and German 11th Armies have advanced relatively unimpeded over the past two days; other than rearguard actions, Serbian forces only put up a sustained defensive effort south of Požarevac, which had covered the main road in the Morava River valley.  Revised orders from Mackensen orders the inner wings of the two armies to seize Kragujevać as quickly as possible, hoping to break the Serbian line into several pockets that could be enveloped.  The weather, however, continues to impede operations; on average, it takes German artillery two hours to move one mile.

The Serbian 1st and 3rd Armies, meanwhile, have taken up defensive positions on high ground running approximately from Larazec through Arangelovac and south of Palanka to Petrovac, hoping to block access to the Morava and Mlava River valleys.

- On the northern wing of the Italian 2nd Army, 8th Division and Alpine Group A launch repeated attacks on Austro-Hungarian positions north of Tolmein, advancing up slopes soon covered in the dead and dying.  In the late afternoon, Italian infantry finally manage to break into the enemy trenches, only to be driven from them by counterattacks by the Austro-Hungarian 3rd and 14th Mountain Brigades.

To the south, overnight the Italian 29th Division, after four earlier attempts failed, finally break into the first Austro-Hungarian trench line before Mt. San Michele just before dawn.  In an attempt to follow up this meagre success, the commander of the Italian 3rd Army commits his final reserve formation - 21st Division - to a general assault by XIV Corps designed to push past Mt. San Michele.  After an intensive artillery bombardment, eight regiments attack opposite Mt. San Michele just after 3pm, but all along the front the waves of infantry are repulsed with heavy losses.