Wednesday, January 07, 2015

January 7th, 1915

- Joffre meets today with President Poincaré and the French Council of Ministers today, and when operations in the Balkans are discussed, he voices his adamant opposition.  For the Commander-in-Chief, the decisive theatre of the war is and always will be the Western Front - any transfer of units from France to elsewhere risks disaster in the homeland, while victory in the war necessitates the defeat of Germany, France's strongest opponent, whose army is massed in occupied Belgium and France.  Victory can only come by crushing the German army, and since the German army is on the Western Front, that is where the war must be fought.  Joffre also highlights the logistical difficulties of deploying and supplying a large force in the Balkans; as he emphasizes, the Serbs have difficulties keeping their army of only a hundred thousand supplied.  When the Minister of War supports Joffre's objections, the Balkans operation is set aside - the prestige of the victor of the Marne is still sufficient to ensure that he is able to dictate grand strategy to the politicians who are, at least nominally, his masters.

- In a circular to the German armies on the Western Front, Falkenhayn observes that Entente offensives have been directing artillery fire behind the first German trench line to prevent them from bringing up additional infantry to the front during infantry attacks.  To combat this, Falkenhayn emphasizes the importance of constructing protective trenches behind the first line of defence to provide cover for infantry during enemy bombardments.  This reflects the continued learning process on the Western Front, as both attackers and defenders adapt to trench warfare and a new tactic implemented by one side leads to a counter-tactic devised by the other in a constant struggle for supremacy between the offensive and defensive.

- Conrad replies to Falkenhayn's message of yesterday, arguing that there is nothing that Austria-Hungary could provide that would satisfy Italy's appetite, writes that the 'entire political situation particularly in the East and in the Balkans is entirely dependent on the military situation with Russia.  Without a decisive success against Russia, even a major success in Serbia will be ineffective.'

- The German merchant steamer Choising, carrying the landing party from Emden, arrives today at the Straits of Perim between the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, where the Red Sea empties into the Indian Ocean.  The steamer has had an uneventful journey across the Indian Ocean, only sighting other merchant ships along the way, and now the German crew seeks to enter the Red Sea, in order reach Ottoman territory.  Choising waits until sunset before entering the Straits, in order to avoid any British patrol ships in the narrows.

The southern Red Sea during the First World War.

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