Wednesday, March 11, 2015

March 11th, 1915

- In direct response to the German declaration of a war zone around Britain and the commencement of unrestricted submarine warfare, the British declare a total blockade of Germany today.  Henceforth, Entente navies would prevent all cargoes, not just contraband, from reaching German ports.

- The Zeppelins belonging to the German army are today authorized to conduct aerial bombardments of London.

- In Canada, recruiting for a second contingent began even while the first was still training on Salisbury Plain.  Today, Lord Kitchener informs the Canadian government that the transportation of the first elements of the second contingent across the Atlantic will commence in late April.

- Overnight, German forces have constructed a new defensive line across the breach open yesterday at Neuve Chapelle, while also deploying additional artillery batteries.  In the morning mist the new positions go unseen, such that when a British attack is launched at 7am, it runs into a hail of machine gun and artillery fire from elements of the German 14th Division.  A second attack in the evening is similarly dispatched as further German reinforcements, this time from 6th Bavarian Division, arrive on the battlefield.

- In Champagne the major assault of the French XVI Corps is scheduled to begin tomorrow, and this evening its commander issues his final orders to his subordinates.  He instructs that every soldier is to participate in the advance, with none left to occupy trenches, and that every piece of ground seized is to be immediately consolidated and used as a launching pad for further attacks.

- The results of the reorganization of the German army, to incorporate the newest cohort of recruits while creating a large reserve of experienced divisions, are not as promising as Falkenhayn had originally hoped.  Instead of the anticipated twenty-four new divisions, it is now apparent that, due to losses and other requirements, only fourteen new divisions can be created.  This is less than the force envisioned in 6th Army's proposed operation for an offensive north of the Somme.  Despite this setback, Falkenhayn remains committed to undertaking an attack in the West - writing today to Colonel Seeckt, 11th Army's Chief of Staff, he emphasizes that he still plans to force a return to a war of movement on the Western Front through a major breakthrough that culminates in victory over the Entente.

- Since the beginning of March, the German 10th Army has been gradually falling back towards the line it held prior to the Winter Battle of the Masurian Lakes, as the position it had won in the battle had been rendered untenable due to Russian pressure on the flanks.  It has been cautiously followed by the Russian 10th Army, but two days ago the Germans turned the tables on their pursuers, and after several furious days of fighting the Russians have been halted.  The Germans are thus able to assume defensive positions and stalemate returns to the front.  Despite the victory last month at Masurian Lakes, in terms of territory the Germans find themselves right back where they started.

- After four days of fighting the offensive of the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army has stalled, unable to maintain the early momentum towards Gorlize and Staszkowka, at a cost of six thousand casualties.

Meanwhile, the garrison of the besieged fortress of Przemysl reports today that after the slaughter of all horses and a thorough search for all available food it will be able to hold out until March 24th, at which point surrender will be necessary to avoid starvation.  The winter battles in the Carpathians are approaching their climax; the Austro-Hungarians must break through immediately if Przemysl is to be relieved before it falls.

The Russians, however, have other ideas.  General Brusilov has been concerned that the advance of the left wing of the Austro-Hungarian 2nd Army, particularly near Lupkow, threatens the flank of the Russian forces facing 3rd Army to the west.  To negate this possibility, Russian forces attack today near Lupkow, and the Austro-Hungarian 29th Division is forced to yield the ground it had conquered over the past few days.

- At the Dardanelles the minesweepers are sent into the straits unescorted tonight, hoping to catch the Ottomans by surprise.  The result was about what one would expect, as Keyes related:
The less said about that night the better.  To put it briefly, the sweepers turned tail and fled as soon as they were fired upon.  I was furious and told the officers . . . that it did not matter if we lost all seven sweepers, there were twenty-eight more, and the mines had got to be swept up.  How could they talk about being stopped by heavy fire if they were not hit?
- At the Admiralty, Churchill has received reports of Ottoman ammunition shortages at the Dardanelles, and sends orders to Carden to abandon his methodical attempts to bombardment the forts and sweep the minefields, and instead press forward with maximum force.  In Churchill's views, any losses that may occur would be amply compensated by the strategic consequences of victory at the Dardanelles.

- The landing party of the German light cruiser Emden arrives today back at Hodeida, from which it had departed a month earlier.  Intending to continue their journey by sea, they must secure new vessels, as Choising, the merchant ship upon which they had crossed the Indian Ocean, had been sent away upon their arrival at Hodeida.  As there are no steamships to be had, First Officer Mücke acquires two zambuks, small sailboats fourteen meters long and four meters wide, used along the Arabian coast.  The party intends to sail from Yabana, a small bay north of Hodeida, on the fourteenth, while to deflect unwanted attention Mücke spreads the rumour that they will instead sail from Isa Bay on the thirteenth.

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