Sunday, February 22, 2015

February 22nd, 1915

- The French undertake renewed attacks in Champagne today, but fail to make any headway, and the commanders of the German VIII and VIII Reserve Corps opposite believe that the attacks aim merely to cover the failure of the main French offensive.

- Dutch neutrality is seen by the German army as a potential threat, as opposed to one of the last links between Germany and the global economy.  In particular, the army is concerned that the British might invade the Netherlands to outflank the German position in Belgium - a concern undoubtedly based in the knowledge that such a violation of Dutch neutrality is precisely the sort of thing the German General Staff would advocate if the positions were reversed.  4th Army, responsible for the front in Belgium along the Channel coast, has been tasked with developing a contingency plan should such a British invasion occur.  Today, 4th Army HQ informs OHL that if needed two marine brigades, the Guard Cavalry Division, a mixed infantry brigade, and a number of battalions of rear echelon troops will concentrate on the Dutch frontier to oppose a British landing.

- The revised instructions to U-boat captains regarding which targets to fire upon and how they are to determine a vessel's identity have been sufficient to overcome the remaining concerns of the Kaiser, and as such unrestricted submarine warfare begins today against Britain.

- In Augustow Forest, the remnants of the Russian XX Corps surrender, with twelve thousand soldiers marching into German captivity.  Of the rest of the Russian 10th Army, though III Siberian, III, and XXVI Corps have escaped eastwards, they have suffered heavy casualties and rendered combat-ineffective.  Ludendorff claims the Winter Battle of the Masurian Lakes to be another Tannenburg, but in practice the victory is not on the same scale.  The Russian 10th Army has lost 'only' 56 000 casualties over the past few weeks of fighting, and though battered and weakened at least still exists, in contrast to the fate of 2nd Army at Tannenburg.

A German machine-gun position during the Winter Battle of the Masurian Lakes.

The German victory over the Russian 10th Army, however, has not secured to the Germans any broader strategic consequences.  Ludendorff had hoped that victory here would threaten to outflank the Russian position in central Poland, and in consequence the Russians would pull back over the Vistula.  However, the German advance has simply formed a large salient from East Prussia to the Niemen River.  To the north the Russians remain in control of the fortress at Kovno, a threat to the German 10th Army's left flank.  To the south, much of the strength of the German 8th Army has been drawn into a siege of the fortress at Osowiec, where the rivers and marshes, combined with a skilled Russian defence, have prevented the Germans from bringing their siege artillery fully to bear on the fortress' walls.  Finally, today the Russian 12th Army finally begins its delayed advance to the west of Osowiec, and though the German 8th Army is able to contain the Russians, the Germans find themselves pinned into defensive positions, incapable of threatening anyone's flanks.

- To the west, the gap between the German 8th Army near the East Prussian frontier and the German 9th Army on the line of the Bzura River is covered by a scratch force under the command of General Max von Gallwitz.  With the forces to the east stalemated, Gallwitz launches an offensive today, advancing southeast towards the town of Prasnysz with elements of I Reserve and XVII Reserve Corps and 3rd Infantry Division.  Their ultimate objective is the Narew River, and by securing a crossing they hope to outflank the Russian line west of Warsaw and force the enemy to abandon the city.

The German advance towards Prasnysz, February 22nd, 1915.

- With the Boer Rebellion effectively crushed, Prime Minister Botha of South Africa turns his attention to the invasion of German South-West Africa.  Today he lands at Walvis Bay, assumes command over the South African force that occupied Swakopmund on January 13th, and orders an advance inland towards Windhoek along the railway (destroyed by the Germans) connecting the two towns.  Botha views the march to Windhoek, the German colonial capital, as strategically decisive, severing German communications between the north and south of the colony.  However, to prevent a German withdrawal from the south to concentrate against his column he has also ordered offensives from Lüdertiz and across the Orange River.

- The mutiny of soldiers from the 5th Light Infantry battalion at Singapore ends today, as British forces, with assistance from Russian, French, and Japanese sailors, round up the last of the mutineers who had fled to the jungle.  Next will come courts-martial to pass judgement on the one hundred and twenty-six mutineers who have been captured.

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