Tuesday, May 19, 2015

May 19th, 1915

- Continuing his desperate bid to remain First Lord of the Admiralty, Churchill contacts Fisher through an intermediary and offers to meet whatever demands the latter has for rescinding his resignation.  Fisher's response is to forward the letter to Bonar Law, having added his own note: 'I rejected the 30 pieces of silver to betray my country.'  Churchill also writes Bonar Law directly today, forwarding documents that he argues prove his tenure as First Lord has been a success and should be continued.  The Conservative leader's reply is that Churchill's removal from office is 'inevitable.'

Fisher, meanwhile, believes that with Churchill doomed his hour has come, and gives full vent to his megalomania in a letter to Asquith laying out the conditions under which he would remain as First Sea Lord: Churchill must be excluded from the cabinet and the First Lord limited to parliamentary matters, while he would have unlimited and sole authority over the disposition of warships, the appointment of officers, and decisions regarding naval instruction.  It hardly needs saying that Asquith declines Fisher's 'offer'.  Indeed, as Fisher has not yet had his resignation accepted by the Prime Minister (pending a decision on his replacement), Fisher has for all practical purposes abandoned his post for the past four days, and his actions have won him no friends.  Arthur Balfour, a former Conservative Prime Minister, writes that Fisher 'is really a little mad,' while Asquith himself confides to Maurice Hankey 'that Fisher, strictly speaking, ought to be shot for leaving his post.'

- With the pressure of the Russian 4th Army now being brought to bear on the south wing of Woyrsch's army group in central Poland, the Russians opposite the Austro-Hungarian 25th Division disengages this afternoon and pull back towards Iwaniska.  The gap between 1st Army and Woyrsch's army group is also covered today when the Austro-Hungarian 84th Regiment makes contact with German Landwehr under the command of General Anatol von Bredow.

- By dawn this morning the Russian counterattack by the Combined Corps against the southeastern face of the German bridgehead across the San River has completely collapsed, and diversionary attacks elsewhere against the German 11th Army have similarly failed to make any progress.  The losses of the past two and a half weeks of both men and material have practically eliminated the offensive capability of the Russian formations opposing 11th Army - it is reported today that some of the Russian infantry attacking the German XXXXI Reserve Corps are armed with only grenades or even clubs.

Meanwhile, on the northeastern face of the German bridgehead the advance of the German X Corps creates a gap between the Russian XXIV and III Caucasian Corps.  Fearing a German breakout, General Dimitriev of the Russian 3rd Army orders several cavalry divisions into the gap, but also requests permission from General Ivanov of South-West Front for a further withdrawal.  This request is denied.

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