Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March 31st, 1915

- After the directive of the 29th regarding the defensive of current positions, today OHL issues a second directive regarding the training of reserves which emphasizes the importance of offensive training.  To do so, successful operations, such as the Battle of Soissons, are to be studied in detail, while training camps are to be established which include mock fortified positions on which units can practice assaults.  The directive also states that the mission of the first line in an attack is to break through the enemy line; it will be the responsibility of subsequent waves of infantry to exploit the breakthrough.

- The Russian air force has lagged behind its opponents in innovation, with one very notable exception: the Il'ia Muromets bomber, a creation of the young and very talented designer Igor Sikorskii.  This massive aircraft was an unparalleled marvel of technical engineering; propelled by four engines, it is capable of carrying a crew of three for a five-hour flight with two machine-guns and a half-ton of bombs.  In a reconnaissance flight conducted today, one Muromets flies 533 kilometres at between 3200 and 3600 metres altitude.

Perhaps not surprising given the Russian war performance to date, the Muromets has been criminally underappreciated by army headquarters, including a ban on further production issued in October 1914.  Only by circumventing the army was Sikorskii able to have a squadron of Muromets formed under the patronage of the owner of the Russko-Baltiiskii aircraft company, allowing for the true value of the Muromets to be demonstrated.

The Russian Il'ya Muromets bomber.

- In the Carpathians, the main Russian attack over the past two days has fallen on the centre and right of the Austro-Hungarian 2nd Army.  Crucially, they have broken through the front of XIX Corps, forcing 41st and 37th Honved Divisions to fall back (the former having suffered 60% casualties, the latter reduced to two thousand riflemen).  The situation of 2nd Army is perilous - only fifteen hundred reserves remain available to plug holes in the line - and its commander orders preliminary planning for a withdrawal southwards out of the Carpathians if necessary.

- When Emden's landing party stops at a watering hole at 11am this morning, they are met by an Ottoman patrol of eighteen sent from Djidda to escort them the remaining distance to the town.  At 4pm they depart, the path carrying them away from the sea and through numberless flat sand drifts topped with grass.  After nightfall, a group of Bedouins, numbering about twelve or fifteen, are sighted in the distance before disappearing, which the Ottoman escort takes for robbers.  This causes little concern to the Germans, given that their party numbers fifty and carries with them four machine guns.

- Munitions production in Canada has been hindered by the lack of a pre-war armaments industry which could have been expanded once hostilities began.  To circumvent this limitation, a shell committee has been established by Sam Hughes, the minister of militia, to place orders not for complete shells, but rather individual components, allowing manufacturers to focus on those components which they already have some skill in producing.  The result is that by today 155 factories employing 25 000 are engaged in shell production in Canada.

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