Monday, February 16, 2015

February 16th, 1915

- For several months the British 29th Division, composed of regular army battalions scattered throughout the Empire on the outbreak of war, has been assembling in the Home Islands.  Though initially intended to go to France for deployment with the British Expeditionary Force, Lord Kitchener decides today to assign the division to the Aegean to support the Dardanelles operation, either in seizing the peninsula of Gallipoli after it has been evacuated by the Ottomans or to occupy Constantinople should the navy push through to the enemy capital.  Kitchener also decides to allocate the volunteers from Australia and New Zealand, currently training in Egypt, to the Dardanelles operation.  This decision calms the fears of those who have argued that the navy alone would not suffice to force the straits and compel the Ottomans to leave the war.  On the other hand, authorizing the use of ground forces before the naval attack has even begun makes it easier for the navy to abandon the attack at the first sign of difficulty, given an alternative will already be at hand.

- After a delay of four days due to a snowstorm, the French 4th Army launches its major offensive in Champagne.  Along the five-kilometre front, XVII and I Corps are able to seize several hundred metres of the German first trench line, but are unable to advance further than five hundred metres, only a third of the advance they were scheduled to achieve today.  IV Corps, 4th Army's reserve, is thus withheld from the battle, with no breakthrough for it to exploit.

The front during the First Battle of Champagne, February to March 1915.

- As the French go over to the attack again in the Champagne, Joffre writes Sir John French today to emphasize the need for continued attacks, given intelligence reports suggesting that the Germans are massing against the Russians: 'it is important to . . . take the offensive in our theater of operations, less to profit from our numerical superiority than to hold the maximum [number] of enemy forces before us.'  The requirements of coalition warfare, then, are an impetus to striking the Germans on the Western Front.  Joffre urges the BEF to attack north and south of the Lys River, with its left advancing south of Ypres and its right moving on La Bassée.

- Advance elements of the German XXI Corps of 10th Army, already penetrating the Augustow Forest, encounter Russian forces retreating eastwards.  In pitched, close-quarters fighting, the Russians, attacking with bayonets on empty rifles, prevail, taking some prisoners while continuing their escape.

- On the far eastern wing of the Carpathian front, to the right of Südarmee, an Austro-Hungarian army group named for and under the command of General Karl von Pflanzer-Baltin has been holding the line and grappling with the Russians opposite.  As preparations continue for a resumption of the main offensive by 3rd and the redeployed 2nd Armies to the west, Pflanzer-Baltin's forces have been able to secure local victories - today, the town of Kolomea is recaptured.

The line in the eastern Carpathians just prior to the recapture of Kolomea.

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