Tuesday, April 07, 2015

April 7th, 1915

- Unaware that Falkenhayn is contemplating a major German operation in the Gorlice-Tarnow region, Conrad today writes the German chief of staff with a new proposal for the Eastern Front.  He calls for the deployment of significant additional German forces in both East Prussia and East Galicia, from which they will launch simultaneous pincer offensives into Russian Poland, aiming to force a wholesale Russian withdrawal east of the Vistula-San-Dniester line.  It is a proposal whose audaciousness is matched only by its insanity.  The Winter Battle of the Masurian Lakes, undertaken by two entire German armies, had shown that an advance on the scale envisioned by Conrad was simply not possible; it would always be vulnerable to counterattacks on its eastern flank.  Once again Conrad is seeking to impose his ambition on the battlefield without regard to such mere details as reality.  Needless to say, Falkenhayn gives Conrad's suggestion the attention it deserves.

- Two days earlier, as the German 25th and 35th Reserve Divisions were successfully counterattacking between Lupkow and the Laborcza valley, 4th Division, the last of Beskid Corps' units to arrive, had entered the line west of the Laborcza valley.  Attacking together, the three German divisions have continued to advance northwards, retaking ground lost by the Austro-Hungarian during the fighting of the prior weeks.  The German success places the wider Austro-Hungarian line in the Carpathians on a more secure footing.

On the Russian side, news of the advance of Beskid Corps has yet to filter back to General Ivanov, commander of South-West Front.  Instead his outlook on the fighting in the Carpathians is buoyed by the news from Grand Duke Nicholas that III Caucasian Corps is to be transferred to his command, and is en route to Lemberg.

- Since the failure of the Entente naval assault on the Dardanelles on March 18th, the Ottomans and Germans have worked to repair the fortifications and augment the minefields, while the completion of repairs to the battlecruiser Goeben adds another element to the defense of the straits.  The situation has sufficiently improved for Admiral Souchon to write today that the only way the Entente could conquer the straits was by landing an army of 200 000 men, which he thought clearly out of the question.

As Souchon muses on the size of the force needed to capture the Straits, the British and French are assembling precisely such an army.  The process of doing so, however, has been complicated by transportation problems.  The ships carrying the British 29th Division from England were loaded haphazardly, which would have made it impossible to unload the force in a combat situation (i.e. the combat equipment of one battalion would be on a different ship from the battalion's soldiers, etc.).  Thus the division had to be initially diverted to Alexandria to be unloaded and reloaded, a process that has taken several weeks.  Today, the first transports carrying 29th Division depart the Egyptian port, bound for Mudros on Lemnos where the Entente expedition is gathering.

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