Friday, January 23, 2015

January 23rd, 1915

- In line with the decisions of the 21st, today Falkenhayn issues orders for the deployment of the new German 10th Army, which is to be sent to the Eastern Front and consists of XXXVIII, XXXIX, and XXXX Reserve Corps as well as XXI Corps drawn from the Western Front (the latter replaced by XXXXI Reserve Corps).

- Admiral Hipper, commander of the battlecruisers of the High Seas Fleet, has been badgering Admiral Ingenohl to approve a sortie of his force to Dogger Bank in the North Sea.  The propensity of the Grand Fleet to appear out of the blue precisely where it needed to be to intercept prior German raids has not gone unnoticed, but as the German navy remains supremely confident in the security of its wireless codes, Hipper has concluded that fishing trawlers around Dogger Bank have been signalling the British navy whenever German warships are at sea.  Hipper's plan is to take his battlecruisers to Dogger Bank at night, intercept any British light forces encountered at dawn, rigourously investigage each fishing trawler, and return the following evening.  Ingenohl yields today to Hipper's pressure, signalling at 1025am that the proposed sortie to Dogger Bank is approved.  The commander of the High Seas Fleet is clear, however, that no assistance from the dreadnoughts will be forthcoming - in addition to the Kaiser's edict, the 3rd Battle Squadron, composed of the newest dreadnoughts, is in the Baltic Sea undertaking gunnery practice.  Hipper promises that he will turn for home at the first sight of any significant British force.  At 545pm Hipper departs the Jade with the battlecruisers Seydlitz, Moltke, and Derfflinger (Von der Tann is in drydock for routine maintenance), the armoured cruiser Blücher, four light cruisers, and nineteen destroyers.

Unfortunately for Hipper, Room 40 has once again woven its magic, and the British Admiralty knows of the German sortie hours before the German warships have even left port.  By 1pm telegrams warning of the German raid are sent to Jellicoe, Beatty, and Tyrwhitt, and orders issued for Beatty's battlecruisers and Tyrwhitt's light warships to rendezvous at Dogger Bank at 7am tomorrow morning.  Jellicoe and the Grand Fleet, meanwhile, was instructed to put to sea and patrol 150 miles to the northwest, in case the High Seas Fleet made an appearance.  At 6pm, just fifteen minutes after Hipper's warships leave the Jade, Beatty's battlecruisers depart Rosyth and begin the voyage overnight to Dogger Bank.

Dogger Bank and the North Sea.

- The Austo-Hungarian offensive in Galicia begins today, constituting the first phase of the Winter Battles of the Carpathians.  In 3rd Army's sector small gains are recoded by elements under the command of General Szurmay, which seize the heights around Uszok Pass, and the 44th Landwehr Division reaches the Chrewt area.  To the east Südarmee is also on the move, with Corps Hofmann, commanded by General Peter Hofmann and consisting of a German infantry division and three Austro-Hungarian infantry brigades, advancing on the roads to Tucholka and Tuchla.

The greatest challenges faced by the attackers is not overcoming Russian resistance, however, but dealing with the weather and terrain.  Infantry find themselves attempting to fight through heavy snow on icy slopes, with no prospect of either prolonged periods of rest or shelter from the elements.  Indeed, many of the soldiers were already exhausted before they even reached the Russian defences, while the weather foiled efforts to evacuate the sick and wounded.  Artillery support was also almost nonexistant - while efforts had been made to supply the 3rd Army and Südarmee with additional shells, it proved practically impossible to move artillery pieces through the deep snow to support advancing infantry.  Most of the infantry in the Austro-Hungarian army had no familiarity with the mountains or how to survive in them, and their formations had already been decimated by the fighting of 1914.  In most cases the soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian army were simply no longer capable of executing the operations dreamt up by Conrad and his subordinates.

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