Tuesday, February 03, 2015

February 3rd, 1915

- In Champagne the left wing of the German 15th Reserve Division and the right wing of the German 21st Reserve Division launches an attack north of Massiges, on the eastern end of the Champagne battlefield.  In addition to its immediate objectives, the Germans hope the attack will draw French reserves from elsewhere.  After a morning of artillery fire, a number of mines under the French line are detonated at noon, followed by the advance of the infantry.  By 1230pm the French position on Hill 191 north of Massiges is in German hands.  In response the French bring up a division and prepare a counterattack.

- In the Carpathians elements of Südarmee have managed to seize the village of Tucholka today, but the situation of the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army to the west continues to deteriorate.  Not only is Szurmay's group falling back from the heights north of the Uszok Pass, but under Russian pressure a gap is opening between between III and VII Corps in the centre of 3rd Army's line.  To reinforce 3rd Army VIII Corps begins to depart from the Balkans today, with its 21st Landwehr Division heading for the Mezolaborcz area and 9th Division bound for the Uszok Pass.

- For the past several months, the Bulgarian government has undertaken negotiations with the Great Powers on both sides of the war regarding the territorial concessions they would be willing to make.  Bulgaria's primary aim is the recovery of the Macedonian territory lost to Serbia in the Second Balkan War, and Germany and Austria-Hungary are better-placed to offer such a bribe than Russia.  Still, the pretence of talks with the Entente have made the Germans and Austro-Hungarians eager to win the friendship of the Bulgarians, and negotiations conclude today for a three million pound loan to the Bulgarian government at a very low interest rate, an agreement that the Bulgarian finance minister refers to as 'extortion.'  In exchange, the Bulgarians only have to agree to remain neutral, which is hardly a concession at all considering that the humiliating failures of the Austro-Hungarian army to conquer Serbia in 1914 has left the Bulgarian government unwilling to countenance entry into the war at present. The successful Bulgarian diplomacy allows the government not only to pay for the deficits run up during the Balkan Wars but also to take its time to decide when and how to enter the war to Bulgaria's greatest advantage.

- The Ottoman attack on the Suez Canal is launched today.  While diversionary attacks are to be made to the north, the main effort to cross the Canal is to occur in the centre, between Tussum and Serapeum.  The operation was originally scheduled to have been undertaken yesterday, but a sandstorm has delayed the attempt until this morning.  The main attack consists of eight separate columns approaching the canal in darkness, each several hundred metres apart and carrying three pontoons.  As surprise is essential, there is to be no preliminary artillery bombardment nor rifle fire as the Ottomans make their crossing.

At 2am the Ottoman engineers on the east bank begin to maneouvre their pontoons into position.  At first surprise is achieved - three pontoon bridges manage to reach the west bank and it is not until 325am that the British post at Tullum realizes that an attack is under way.  From here, however, the operation falls apart.  The diversionary attacks have failed to draw the defenders elsewhere, and with daylight the Indian soldiers on the west bank are able to fire into the pontoon bridges, while the remainder are sunk at 745am by a torpedo boat.  With surprise now lost, the Ottomans begin to use their artillery, and score some hits on shipping in the Canal.  However, with much of the bridging equipment now destroyed, the Ottoman commander calls off the attack.

The Ottoman attack on the Suez Canal, February 3rd, 1915.

- Since the entry of the Ottoman Empire into the war, a significant effort has been made to appeal to Muslims to rise against the British, French, and Russian empires.  Today Enver Pasha casts his eyes south, past Egypt to the sultanate of Darfur, west of Sudan.  Though the sultanate is self-governing, it is also tied to the British colonial administration at Khartoum, as the sultan, Ali Dinar, is required to pay an annual tribute and acknowledge the suzerainty of the British.  Writing to Ali Dinar, Enver calls on the sultan to renounce British hegemony and unite with his fellow Muslims in the war against the Entente: 'Now is the moment to renew and organize the religion and Islamic unity of purpose . . . rise up and fight the infidels.'  Such rhetoric has an appeal to Ali Dinar, who increasingly resents British influence in his sultanate and yearns to assert his independence.  Enver's letter, however, is subject to the near-absolute lack of communication between Darfur and the outside world - it will be a year before the letter arrives, by which time the situation will have already changed.

- After a week's journey Emden's landing party arrives at the city of Sanaa.  The journey was uneventful, though initial progress had been slowed by the unfamiliarity of many of the sailors with riding the mounts provided to them by the Ottomans at Hodeida.  Again and again, the column would have to stop when one of the donkeys or mules bucked off its rider, often to the sound of laughter from the rest of the party.

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