Sunday, January 25, 2015

January 25th, 1915

- This morning the heavy-damaged battlecruiser Seydlitz limps into the harbour at Wilhelmshaven, and after pumping out six hundred tons of water, it enters dry dock to begin what will be an extensive and lengthy repair.  The devastation wrought by the explosion of the two aft turrets on Seydlitz does have one benefit, as the Germans realize just how potentially destructive a fire in a turret can be.  In particular, they are acutely aware of how narrowly they avoided disaster; if the fire in the turrets had ignited the main magazine as the result of a 'flash fire', as the phenomenon is named, the warship would have ceased to exist.  The conclusion drawn is that the turret must always be isolated from the magazine, even while ammunition is being hoisted from the latter to the former.  To do this, automatic doors are to be installed on all German dreadnoughts and battlecruisers designed to close immediately after a load of ammunition has passed them by.  Through this, it is hoped that the destruction wrought by a 'flash fire' will be limited only to the turret initially struck.  It is a vital insight that the Royal Navy, having no warship damaged by a flash fire, is entirely ignorant, an oversight for which several thousand sailors will pay with their lives in seventeen months time.

The damaged German battlecruiser Seydlitz returning to port after the Battle of Dogger Bank.

- In Britain construction of the battlecruisers Renown and Repulse begins today as the keels are laid down.  The design of the two warships was done at the insistence of Admiral Fisher, who views Renown and Repulse as embodying a further evolution of battlecruiser design; namely, even higher speed with even less armour.  The two will have six 15-inch guns and the remarkable maximum speed of 32 knots, though this is accomplished at the expense of armour - they are more thin-skinned than any other dreadnought or battlecruiser afloat.  Fisher does nothing by moderation, and if he is wants to trade armour and armament for speed, then there is no length to which he is not willing to go.

- Admiral Fisher sends a memorandum relating his views on the proposed attack against the Dardanelles to Prime Minister Asquith today, with a copy to Churchill.  The First Sea Lord argues that any subsidiary operations play into Germany's hands, as the margin of superiority in the North Sea is vital to naval supremacy, and any losses, even of second-rank warships, can have an impact.  Though Fisher asks that his memorandum be circulated to the War Council, Asquith, on Churchill's advice, refuses.

- Though held by the French during the Race to the Sea, the town of Albert is within easy shelling distance of German artillery on the other side of the front line.  Today, a German shell strikes the top of the Basilica of Notre Dame de Brebières in Albert, causing the statue of Mary holding the baby Jesus to lodge in a horizontal position that appeared to defy logic and gravity.  The 'Leaning Virgin', as it will be known, becomes a familiar sight to Entente soldiers marching to the nearby front, and both sides believe that whomever will cause the statue to fall will lose the war.

The Basilica of Notre Dame de Brebières in Albert, with the 'Leaning
Virgin' poised as if in mid-air.

- Falkenhayn issues further instructions to his army commanders on the Western Front regarding the defense of German lines.  While he authorizes the construction of reserve lines and fortifications , he emphasizes that every effort must be expended on holding the first trench line, and the additional defences are only to be utilized in the case that the front trench is penetrated.  Further, any lost ground is to be the target of an immediate counterattack.

- In Galicia the offensive by the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army and Südarmee continues to make little progress.  X Corps of the former has seen its attack on the Russian lines fail and is ordered to cease offensive operations so that the few reserves available to 3rd Army can be sent to the east wing in an effort to find a way forward.

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