Tuesday, February 17, 2015

February 17th, 1915

- As the French 4th Army continues to struggle in Champagne, failing to achieve a breakthrough, its commander General de Langle asks Joffre for reinforcements.  He wants to avoid repeated small-scale assaults and instead mass forces for one powerful attack that can overwhelm the Germans.

- The woods of the Argonne west of Verdun have been the scene of regular skirmishing between the Germans and French over the past several months, but today the French launch a major attack.  Since the German successes of January in carving out a salient towards Four-de-Paris, General Sarrail of 3rd Army has been eager to go onto the offensive in order to restore the morale of his solders.  The targeted sector is the western 'shoulder' of the German salient, between the ravines of Fontaine-aux-Charmes and Fontaine-de-Madame northeast of La Harazee.  Here the attack is highlighted by the explosion of three mines dug underneath the German line.  The detonation of the mines at 8am stuns the Germans, and the French are able to seize the first trench line.  Over the rest of the day there is fierce fighting as both sides struggle for the ruins of the German trench.  Gradually the French run out of ammunition, the intensity of the fire preventing resupply over the ruins of No Man's Land - indeed, for a period some French soldiers fight using captured German arms.  By 430pm the position has been regained by the Germans, the French suffering 40% casualties.

- In the pre-dawn hours the German 8th Army occupies the town of Augustow, on the western edge of the forest which bears its name.

- In the eastern Carpathians Austro-Hungarian cavalry recaptures the city of Czernowitz, while the main body of Pflanzer-Baltin's army group is directed northwest towards Dolina.  It is hoped that the latter drive into the flank of the Russians facing Südarmee, allowing the latter to advance.

- In Singapore the British authorities are gaining the upper hand on the Indian mutineers of the 5th Light Infantry.  Warships from Russia, France, and Japan have docked at the naval base, and added several hundred sailors to the colony's defenders.  Further, the mutiny is riven with internal tensions; only the Rajput half of the battalion  rebelled, while the Pathans remained loyal.

- For the past two weeks the landing party of the Emden has been at the Yemenese city of Sanaa, where they have found the climate not as inviting as they had hoped.  Because of the altitude the region is quite cold, and within several days of arrival 80% of the Germans had taken sick with fever.  Moreover, First Officer Mücke learns today that the difficulties of continuing the journey northwards by land are much greater than he had originally been informed.  Reluctantly, he concludes that they shall have to return to Hodeida and attempt to continue their voyage by sea, though this will need to wait until the sick are sufficiently recovered to travel again.

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