Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March 25th, 1915

- The Dutch merchant ship Medea is halted by a U-boat today, and after searching the vessel it is sunk by the Germans.  This is the first time a neutral ship has been sunk by a submarine after being searched since the commencement of unrestricted submarine warfare.

- For two weeks the German XV Corps on the southeastern face of the Ypres salient has been waiting for the right wind and weather conditions to conduct its planned gas attack, but on no day has the wind blown from the east or southeast, resulting in continual delays.  Today the German 4th Army orders that the gas cylinders be moved to the front held by XXVI Reserve Corps and 46th Reserve Division (of XXIII Reserve Corps) between Poelcappelle and Steenstraat on the northeastern face of the Ypres salient, in the hope that a favourable wind from the northeast is more likely to occur.

- The Russian offensive in the Carpathians expands westward overnight, as a sharp attack breaks through the Austro-Hungarian 28th Division on the inner wings of 3rd and 4th Armies, resulting in III Corps falling back to Zboro.  Further, the commander of 2nd Army warns Conrad that his soldiers are reaching the end of their endurance, and V and XVIII Corps in particular are at the breaking point.  To complicate matters, he reports that the intensity of the combat requires the commitment of all reserves as soon as they arrive at the front, preventing the accumulation of any substantial force that could go over onto the attack and wrest the initiative from the Russians.

Meanwhile, in response to Conrad's request of yesterday for German aid, Falkenhayn instead insists that Conrad pressure the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Ministry to conclude negotiations with Italy over territorial concessions that would keep the latter out of the war.  Falkenhayn fears that if the Italians become fully aware of the growing crisis in the Carpathians, they will be tempted to seize the opportunity to attack a crippled Austria-Hungary.

- Though the Mesopotamian expedition was launched initially only to guard the oil pipeline leading to the vital terminal at Abadan, the occupation of the region around Basra has inevitably raised the issue of the permanent annexation of Ottoman territory.  In particular, the British recognition of Russia's claim to Constantinople has opened the issue of the postwar dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, and voices within the India Office are especially strong in favour of Mesopotamian annexations.  Prime Minister Asquith himself remains hesitant; as he explains in a letter to his friend and confidant Venetia Stanley today, 'taking on Mesopotamia, for instance, means spending millions in irrigation & development with no immediate or early return; keeping up quite a large army white & coloured in an unfamiliar country; tackling every kind of tangled administrative question, worse than we have ever had in India, with a hornet's nest of Arab tribes, and even if all that were set right having a perpetual menace to our flank in Kurdistan.'  However, he feels the pressure of immediate wartime necessities pushing the government in the direction of annexation, and that '[Sir Edward] Grey and I are the only two men who doubt and distrust any such settlement.'

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