Monday, May 11, 2015

May 11th, 1915

- For months the First Sea Lord, Admiral Fisher, has held deep misgivings about the Dardanelles operation, fearing heavy losses for negligible gain.  When Admiral de Robeck's signal arrives at the Admiralty suggesting another naval attempt to force the straits, Fisher erupts in anger, writing to Churchill: 'I cannot under any circumstances be a party to any order to Admiral de Robeck to make any attempt to pass the Dardanelles until the shores have been effectively occupied.'  Churchill, in contrast, is willing to at least allow a limited attack to clear the minefield off Kephez.  The vast divergence of opinion between the two over the Dardanelles operation is now in the open, and Fisher has laid down the gauntlet: if the naval operation proceeds he will no longer serve as First Sea Lord.  Another fuse is lit . . .

- General d'Urbal orders further attacks today in Artois, and sends additional divisions to XXXIII and XX Corps as reinforcements.  After a two hour artillery bombardment, the infantry advance, but are repeatedly repulsed by strong German defences; Pétain reports his attacks are broken up by heavy machine gun fire on his flanks and increased enemy artillery fire.  On the German side OHL releases 117th Division as a further reinforcement to 6th Army, and it arrives southwest of Lens.  With additional reinforcements it is hoped to be able to hold the threatened villages of Carency and Ablain.

- Today President Wilson presents to his cabinet the draft of a note he intends to send to the German government regarding the sinking of Lusitania.  While he states that he does not believe the German government directly ordered the sinking, he sees it as the natural consequence of conducting unrestricted submarine warfare:
The government of the United States desires to call the attention of the Imperial German Government . . . to . . . the practical impossibility of employing submarines in the destruction of commerce without disregarding those rules of fairness, reason, justice, and humanity which all modern opinion regards as imperative.  It is practically impossible for the officers of a submarine at sea to visit a merchantman at sea and examine her papers and cargo.  It is practically impossible for them to make a prize of her; and if they cannot put a prize crew on board her, they cannot sink her without leaving her crew and all aboard to the mercy of the sea in her small boats.  . . . Manifestly, submarines cannot be used against merchantmen . . . without an inevitable violation of many sacred principles of justice and humanity.
Within cabinet, Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan sees the note as too pro-British; have not the British also violated international law in their conduct of their naval blockade of Germany?  Bryan also opposes Americans travelling on ships belonging to combatants.  His views are opposed by State Department Counselor Robert Lansing, who argues that the American government, having permitted American citizens to sail on British steamships to date, cannot now disavow such activity, and must insist on a German pledge to never conduct such an attack again.  Bryan's objections are overruled, and Wilson's original note will be conveyed to the German government as is.

- In Galicia the Russian 3rd and 8th Armies begin their retreat eastward towards the San River, pursued by (from northwest to southeast) the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army, the German 11th Army, the Austro-Hungarian 3rd and 2nd Armies, and Südarmee.  In places the battered Russians are able to disengage entirely, while in others their retreat is hastened by yet further fighting.

- Only in far eastern Galicia are the Russian still on the advance, continuing their offensive into the Bukovina.  Today the Russian XXXIII Corps enlarged its bridgehead across the Dniester River yesterday, and today an attack to the west against the right wing of the Austro-Hungarian 15th Division forces the latter back.  This retreat threatens the flank of the forces bottling up XXXIII Corps, and as a result the Austro-Hungarians are forced to withdraw to a new defensive line to the south, running through Horodenka and Obertyn.

- In Italy King Victor Emmanuel meets with Prime Minister Salandra this afternoon.  The monarch is in a better mood than in prior days; yesterday's meeting with Giolitti has reassured him that the former prime minister will not attempt to return to power and provoke a grave constitutional crisis.  Salandra, however, is still concerned about the extent of Giolitti's support in parliament, as the latter has voiced the belief that a vote of four-fifths against intervention would be sufficient to annul any otherwise binding commitment made to the Entente.

- In Mesopotamia General Nixon, commanding the Indian forces at and around Basra, formally instructs General Townshend of 6th Indian Division to clear the positions held by the Ottomans around Qurna, advance upriver, and occupy Amara.

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