Wednesday, April 15, 2015

April 15th, 1915

- The German 4th Army had designated today as the earliest possible date at which the planned gas attack on the Ypres salient could be undertaken by XXVI Reserve Corps and 46th Reserve Division.  However, throughout the day the winds are totally calm, and the attack is postponed.

- At the start of the war the enormous pressure to increase artillery shell production led to a willingness to comprise quality in the name of quantity, by allowing automobile factories to bore out shell casings with a turning-lathe instead of an hydraulic press.  While the new method meant significantly more factories could be switched immediately to shell production, the new shells have a range of problems.  The fuses on some shells fail to fire properly; in January a German officer had calculated that 50% of French shells fired in a given day were duds.  In other cases, faulty shells exploded prematurely; whereas before the war one artillery piece burst for every 500 000 rounds, by this spring one gun bursts for every 3000 rounds.  Thus the issue of munitions production is not simply one of quantity - there is little point in increasing output if the resulting shells are defective.  In response to the defects in French artillery shells, the government today reimposes the pre-war standard regarding the use of forged steel.

- When the morning dawns at Shaiba in Mesopotamia, the Ottoman forces have disappeared completely, and such was their haste to retreat that they left behind their camps and everything from rifles to cooked food.  For his part, the Ottoman commander felt sufficiently disgraced by the defeat that he assembled his officers and promptly shot himself in front of them.  Indeed, the British victory at the Battle of Shaiba results in a growing disinclination among many Arabs to answer the Ottoman call to jihad; indeed, the retreating Ottoman forces are harried by Arabs for a hundred miles up the Euphrates River.  The British, however, are unable to immediately follow up their victory by pursuit, the cavalry unprepared to run down the beaten foe.  Indeed, the battle itself, for a time on the 14th, hung in the balance, as the British were held up by the Ottoman trench line.  Even the British admitted the Ottoman soldiers fought bravely and resolutely, and only a last-minute bayonet charge by the Dorsets had been enough to capture the trench and turn the tide.

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