Tuesday, January 13, 2015

January 13th, 1915

- An all-day meeting of the War Council is held in London today.  After an exhausting discussion that touched on a wide range of issues, including the ongoing stalemate on the Western Front, just after sunset Churchill presents his plan for a purely naval attack on the Dardanelles.  The mood of the meeting is suddenly transformed - from despair at the futility of operations in France and Belgium to optimism and hope at the prospects in the eastern Mediterranean.  Here Churchill's plan offered the potential for a war-winning operation without the massive casualties that would be necessitated by further efforts to pierce the German lines on the Western Front.  Success at the Dardanelles would allow the British squadron to anchor off Constantinople, and under the threat of bombardment force the surrender of the Ottoman government.  With the Straits in Entente hands, munitions and armaments could flow unimpeded to the Russian, giving them the material necessary to complement their numerical advantage on the Eastern Front.  Such a visible and overwhelming Entente victory would also certainly persuade the Balkan neutrals to enter the war on their side, and would open up a southern front for the invasion and destruction of Austria-Hungary.  Churchill presented the plan with all his oratorical talents, and the Council is caught up in his enthusiasm.  Admiral Fisher is in attendance, but is not asked for, nor does he offer, his opinions - he sees the War Council as a political, not a military, body, and thus the service chiefs are there merely to offer advice if asked, not attempt to persuade.  The Council unanimously agrees that the Admiralty should prepare for an operation to break through the Dardanelles, with Constantinople as its objective.  What will become one of the most controversial campaigns of the First World War has now been set in motion, and the next link in the chain connecting Enver Pasha's decision to invade the Caucasus and the fall of the last Liberal government in Britain is created.

- Along the Aisne French reinforcements are dispatched to the immediate north of Soissons to regain the ground lost yesterday at Crouy.  The French movement, however, is a double failure - not only to they fail to regain the lost trenches around Crouy, buy they are also out of position to respond to the major German attack launched this afternoon just to the west centred on Vregny.  By evening the Germans have pushed through Vregny and reached the northern edge of the wooded slope stretching down to the Aisne River.

- Joffe formally suspends the attacks of 10th Army in Artois and 4th Army in Champagne today, with neither offensive accomplishing more than the most negligible gains.  For his part, General Fernand de Langle de Cary, commander of 4th Army, submits a review of his operation to Joffre which emphasizes the difficulty of breaking through the enemy front through a 'continous' attack.  Instead, he suggests that once initial objectives have been achieved, it is necessary to repeat preparations for subsequent attacks, including digging approach trenches and an intensive preliminary artillery bombardment.  De Langle is arguing in favour of a methodical, step-by-step approach to offensive operations, as opposed to the 'continuous' method which calls for repeated waves of infantry assaults to overwhelm defensive positions.

- In Austria-Hungary today Count Berchtold is replaced as Foreign Minister by Count Stephan Burián, reflecting the triumph of the opponents of territorial concessions to Italy and Romania.  Instead, the Empire will seek to restore its international reputation through battlefield victory.

- In German South-West Africa the South African force that landed at Walvis Bay on December 25th today occupies the town of Swakopmund just to the north, which is also the terminus of the northern rail line running from the coast inland to the colonial capital at Windhoek.  Further south, a thousand Boer rebels, formed into different groups commanded by Maritz and Kemp, cross the frontier into South Africa for a second time after the failure of December.

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