Wednesday, March 04, 2015

March 4th, 1915

- Today the commander of the German 6th Army submits to Falkenhayn a plan for a major offensive operation in northern France, drawn up by the army's chief of staff.  It called for a breakthrough on both sides of Arras, followed by an advance to the northwest towards the Channel coast between Calais and Boulogne.  To the north, a secondary attack around Mount Kemmel would pin the Entente forces north of the breakthrough, while the southern flank would be protected by forces taking up defensive positions along the line Albert-Doullens-Authis.

Particular focus in the plan is placed on the initial breakthrough, working out in detail how such a success could be achieved given the stalemate on the Western Front.  It argued that the initial attack should be undertaken by six corps along a twenty-six kilometre front, supported by 160 heavy and 374 field batteries.  A further seven corps, plus two cavalry corps, would then follow to exploit the breakthrough.  Special emphasis is placed on the plentiful provisin of artillery ammunition - 6th Army's operations around Ypres in October and November of last year had been hindered by shortages, which could not be repeated if the proposed operation were to be launched.

- This evening the Zeppelin L 8 is ordered to depart the airship base at Gontrode, near Ghent, and return to Düsseldorf.  The commander of L 8 decides to interpret his orders liberally, and departs Gontrode with seventy incendiary bombs, intending to take a circuitous route to Düsseldorf and dropping his payload on the Essex coast.  L 8 flies westward through thick clouds, occasionally descending below the cloud cover to ensure it is following the Channel coast.  At 9pm, it descends to under a thousand feet at Nieuport, firing off recognition signals.  Unfortunately for the Zeppelin, the Belgian trenches extend right to the Channel's edge, and they respond to the sudden appearance of the German airship by riddling it with rifle and machine-gun fire.  L 8 dropped all of its bombs, ballast, and water to rise above the intense fire, and limps back eastward, hydrogen leaking from its air cells.  Just after midnight, it will come down eighty-five miles short of Düsseldorf.

- In the Dover Straits, the British have erected nets with 'indicator' nets in an effort to prevent the movement of German submarines through the English Channel.  Today these nets claim their first victim, U-9, when it becomes entangled and is sunk by gunfire from the destroyer Gurkha.

- Today the growing number of Ottoman soldiers on the Gallipoli peninsula leads to the withdrawal of the last of the Royal Marine landing parties set ashore on the 26th.  Nevertheless, they have accomplished their objective of destroying the remainder of the Ottoman guns at the entrance to the Dardanelles.

Back in London, doubts over the Dardanelles operation continue to gnaw at Admiral Fisher, as he writes to Churchill today: 'The more I consider the Dardanelles the less I like it.'

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