Friday, April 17, 2015

April 17th, 1915

- In March Sir John French had refused Joffre's request for the British Expeditionary Force to take over the defence of the Ypres salient, citing a lack of manpower.  By the beginning of April, two new divisions have arrived in France, including 1st Canadian Division, and the BEF commander has decided that he now has the strength to extend the British line northwards.  For the past two weeks, the three divisions of the British V Corps have replaced three French divisions, a process that ends today when 1st Canadian Division comes into the line.  The Ypres salient is now held, north to south, by the French 47th Colonial Division (from the Ypres Canal to east of Langamarck), 1st Canadian Division (from east of Langmarck to north of Broodseinde) 28th British Division (from north of Broodseinde to Polygon Wood) and 27th British Division (from POlygon Wood to south of Zillebeke).

- As the British finish taking over much of the Ypres Salient, they also launched an attack just to the south, from a section of the line the BEF has held since the fall.  In the flat terrain of Flanders, any rise in the land, however slight, becomes of great importance, given whoever holds in the ability to observe into and behind enemy lines and direct artillery fire accordingly.  Thus it is with the optimistically-named Hill 60, which in reality is nothing more than a pile of earth taken from cuttings during the construction of the Ypres-Lille railway in the previous century.  The Germans have held the 'hill' since the end of the 1st Battle of Ypres, and today, in an effort to dislodge them, the British explode seven mines under the hill this evening.  Large craters are formed as a section of the German trench line is destroyed, and an immediate attack by 1st Battalion, Royal West Kent and 2nd Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers regiments manages to seize the hill and the craters from the stunned German defenders.

The Ypres Salient after the British take over most of the line, April 1915.  Hill 60 is visible at the bottom of the map.

- The first units of the German 11th Army begin their redeployment by rail to the Eastern Front in preparation for the Gorlice-Tarnow offensive.

- With yesterday's rejection of Italy's demands, the Austro-Hungarian foreign minster glumly informs Conrad today that negotiations will be continued only in the hope of delaying an Italian declaration of war as long as possible.

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