Thursday, March 05, 2015

March 5th, 1915

- As the major combatants seek to increase the production of war material, one means that comes to the fore is 'dilution', whereby skilled labourers are replaced by unskilled labourers working on industrial machinery.  The advantage of dilution is that it allows for the expansion of the industrial workforce without significant training or prior experience.  For the workers, however, dilution is seen as a means by which employers can replace higher-wage jobs with lower-wage jobs, and those many trade union leaders are extremely reluctant to agree to dilution on any terms.  In Britain today, though the Engineering Employers' Federation and the Amalgamated Society of Engineers agree to accept the principle of dilution, it is only for the duration of the war and only in factories producing munitions.  Moreover, it is an agreement that is not matched in other industries.

- After two days of attack and counterattack, the French have regained the ground on the Lorette Spur lost to the Germans on the 3rd, while the latter have suffered 1800 casualties.

- A French assault at Hartsmannswillerkopf seize a portion of the enemy's first trench line, though the Germans remain in control of the summit of the peak.

- In the Carpathians, VII Corps and the left wing of X Corps of the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army attacks the Russian lines opposite, but suffering a shattering defeat.  The capability of 3rd Army to undertake offensive operations has been crushed; VII Corps alone has lost 60% of its strength over the past five days.  The commander of 3rd Army thus orders his formations to go over on to the defensive, though this calls into question the viability of 2nd Army's offensive and indeed the entire concept of a continued Austro-Hungarian effort to relieve Przemysl.

- Though the Admiralty sent the new dreadnought Queen Elizabeth to the Dardanelles to participate in the operation, they have forbidden it from sailing into the straits themselves, lest it strike a mine and sink.  Instead, Queen Elizabeth today anchors off the Aegean coast of Gallipoli and fires 15-inch shells over the peninsula at the Ottoman forts in the straits.  Though the sudden bombardment from an unexpected direction and from an unseen foe confuses the Ottomans, without accurate spotting the shells fail to hit anything of significance.

- While the Entente focus is on the Dardanelles operation, other operations in the region are also the subject of attention.  One such attack begins today when the pre-dreadnoughts Triumph and Swiftsure and the armoured cruiser Euryalus, accompanied by minesweepers and smaller craft, commence a bombardment of the port of Smyrna, the largest Ottoman port on the Mediterranean.  There were concerns that Smyrna might be used as a base by German or Austro-Hungarian submarines, so its neutralization was seen as desirable.  The task force is to destroy the forts protecting the harbour to facilitate a close blockade and leave the port itself open to attack at any time.  In many respects, it is a miniature version of the Dardanelles operation, and also shares its problems; the pre-dreadnoughts cannot close to destroy the forts until protective minefields have been cleared, but these are protected by mobile guns.  One difference, however, is an attempt to negotiate with the Ottoman governor of Smyrna, who is believed to be synmpathetic to the Entente and potentially willing to surrender his small craft to the British and allow them to sweep the minefields.  Thus the operation beginning today is two-pronged: a military attack on the harbour defences and a diplomatic approach to render such an attack unnecessary.

- Admiral Anton Haus, commander of the Austro-Hungarian navy, writes today to Admiral Souchon at Constantinople, responding to the German desire for naval support for the Ottomans at the Dardanelles.  Haus states that only two Austro-Hungarian submarines have even the potential range to reach the Dardanelles in ideal conditions, while they are required instead to defend the key naval base at Cattaro and remain available should the Italians come into the war on the side of the Entente.  He also pours cold water on the idea of sending a fast light cruiser to the Ottomans to deliver munitions.  Why should his navy, he wonders, sacrifice a valuable warship to deliver, at most, three hundred tons of ammunition.  The letter shows that the Ottomans will not be able to rely on any Austro-Hungarian support against the Entente naval assault on the Dardanelles.

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