Friday, May 15, 2015

May 15th, 1915

- At 5am this morning Admiral Fisher arrives at his desk in the Admiralty building, where he comes across Churchill's revision to the reinforcements to be sent to the Dardanelles.  Though the change was only to add two submarines, something in Fisher breaks.  It reinforces his belief that Churchill will always want to force the Dardanelles, and will always seek to send more and more reinforcements there, a policy he does not and feels he cannot support.  These two submarines become the straw that breaks the camel's back, and Fisher decides then and there that he must resign.  Though he has threatened resignation several times before, this time he is determined to follow through.  Knowing how persuasive Churchill can be, Fisher concludes that he can only maintain his resolve to resign if he stays out of reach of the First Lord.  Thus Fisher leaves a letter of resignation with Churchill's secretary, and then promptly disappears.

Several hours later Churchill arrives at the Admiralty to discover Fisher's letter of resignation.  Believing it to be just another idle threat, he seeks him out.  To his consternation, however, Fisher is nowhere to be found anywhere in the Admiralty building.  Churchill then rushes to 10 Downing Street to inform the Prime Minister of what has occurred.  Asquith promptly writes a curt note to Fisher: 'In the King's name, I order you to return to your post.'  By disappearing before his resignation could be accepted, Fisher has technically abandoned his post in wartime.  Whatever sympathy there may have existed in political circles for Fisher and his struggles against Churchill (and the latter has more than his share of critics), the manner of his resignation is seen, quite properly, as disgraceful.

After several hours Fisher is discovered in a room at the Charing Cross Hotel.  Responding to Asquith's summons, he goes to the Prime Minister's residence where both Asquith and Lloyd George attempt to change Fisher's mind, but to no avail.  Churchill also writes several letters to Fisher, each pleading for an interview, but the latter remains adamant that he will resign and will not allow himself to be talked out of it.

- Today the American diplomatic note regarding the sinking of Lusitania arrives in Berlin.  The German government now begins to prepare a response, one which Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg hopes will mollify the Americans.

- This evening Foch, as commander of Provisional Group of the North, arrives at the headquarters of General d'Urbal of 10th Army.  Foch states that a week of attacks have not achieved the desired result, and that another attack should only be launched after thorough preparation.  By switching to a more methodical approach, Foch hopes to be able to advance steadily towards Vimy Ridge, which he hopes can be seized within eight to ten days.  General d'Urbal thus cancels orders for an attack tomorrow, and begins to plan for further operations that fit within Foch's framework.

- To the north, the British Expeditionary Force is active once more in attempting to support the French offensive in Artois.  Overnight, a British division replaced a French division south of La Bassée, allowing the latter to redeploy south.  At 1130pm, the British 2nd Division of Haig's 1st Army attacks the German line near Festubert.  Of the three brigades in the operation, one achieves complete surprise and overruns the first German trench line.  The other two, however, are spotted beforehand and, illuminated by star shells and searchlights, suffer heavy casualties.

- The second phase of the Gorlice-Tarnow offensive opens today when the German 11th Army assaults the Russian line at and north of Jaroslau.  Attacks by 1st and 2nd Guard Divisions seize the Russian defensive positions protecting Jaroslau, and by the end of the day the Russians are streaming back through the town towards the east bank of the San River.  To the north, the German X Corps drives to the river, though at seventy yards wide it is too broad to cross without adequate preparations.  For his part Mackensen this afternoon orders X, Guard, and XXXXI Reserve Corps to undertake precisely these preparations, including bringing up substantial amounts of artillery shells, to attack across the San and established bridgeheads tomorrow.

- In east Galicia General Pflanzer-Baltin of the Austro-Hungarian 7th Army orders a counteroffensive by his western wing; here the Russians opposite have been forced to pull back to remain in contact with the Russian 11th Army (in turn having retreated due to the collapse of 3rd Army), and Pflanzer-Baltin hopes to catch the Russians off-guard and force a further withdrawal.  Though several Austro-Hungarian divisions are able to advance initially, Russian counterattacks soon throw them back, and the fighting quickly degenerates into a stalemate.

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