Sunday, January 04, 2015

January 4th, 1915

- After closing on the outbreak of war in August, the London Stock Exchange reopens today.

- The ability of the French army to increase its stock of artillery shells is hampered by the necessity of supplying ammunition to its allies in order to enhance their fighting ability.  As the French minister of war reports today, at a time when Joffre is demanding the production of 60 000 rounds per day, France is exporting 12 000 per day to Russia, 3000 to Romania, 2000 to Serbia, and between 1000 and 2000 to Belgium.

- At the far southern end of the Western Front, the line runs just inside the German province of Alsace until it reaches the Swiss border.  Here the French have entrenched themselves on the eastern ridges of the Vosges Mountains, giving them observation of the upper Rhine River and allowing bombardment of the German-held plains to the east.  The Vosges are rocky and forested, preventing the construction of continuous trench lines.  Instead, each side entrenches on available high ground and emphasizes strong points.  Nevertheless, the stalemate to the north has replicated itself in the Vosges - indeed, advancing exposed up hillsides, where artillery shells create lethal airborne rock splinters, advances are particularly arduous.

The Western Front in the Vosges.

Winter in the Vosges, 1915.

For the past month, French infantry have been attacking at several points in order to push the line eastward and bring more of the German rear under artillery fire.  In order to bring a halt to the enemy attacks, Army Detachment Gaede, responsible for defending German Alsace, has been reinforced by six battalions and three batteries of artillery and ordered to seize Hartmannswillerkopf (known to the French as Vieil Armand), at 3136 feet one of the highest points in the Vosges and one from which the French have been able to direct artillery fire on the vital railway linking Mulhouse and Colmar.  Today three German regiments of light infantry, grenadiers, and dismounted light cavalry attack Hartmannswillerkopf, but are repulsed by the entrenched French defenders.

- For several months the vital Austro-Hungarian fortress of Przemysl has been besieged by the Russians, who are content to simply starve out the defenders.  Indeed, the food stocks, never high, are continuing to dwindle.  Today, the commander at Przemysl radios Conrad to inquire whether the garrison should attempt to break out around February 1st, or simply hold out until March 7th, the date on which it is expected food supplies (including the slaughter of horses) will run out.  Conrad views the fall of Przemysl not only as a military but also a political catastrophe, as its loss would further undermine the prestige of Austria-Hungary among neutral states, and thus views an early offensive in Galicia to relieve Przemysl to be of vital importance.

- At Sarikamish the shattered remnants of the Ottoman IX Corps, surrounded and attack from Bardiz to the rear, surrender today.  Enver Pasha, who had been with IX Corps, manages to escape through Russian lines to reach XI Corps, which is still attacking in a vain effort to recover the situation.

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