Friday, May 22, 2015

May 22nd, 1915

- For the past several days, Churchill has been bombarding Asquith with letters begging to remain as First Lord of the Admiralty, using every rhetorical device in his considerable arsenal.  It is to no avail, for the price of coalition is Churchill's scalp.  Today Churchill meets with the Prime Minister, and the latter confirms his dismissal.  As inadequate compensation, Asquith offers the ministerial post of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.  The most junior Cabinet position, and with no practical responsibilities, it is most often given to those without talent for anything more or to ease an elderly colleague into retirement.  It is far beneath Churchill's abilities, but as it is better than nothing and Asquith also promises a seat at the War Council, Churchill accepts.

As Churchill has his interview with Asquith, Admiral Fisher realizes that his hope to return to office with his powers greatly enhanced is nothing but a pipe dream.  He finally departs London by train, heading north to Scotland, and during a stopover at Crewe receives a letter from Asquith formally accepting his resignation as First Sea Lord.  The stormy relationship between the elderly admiral and the young politician ends in mutual destruction.

- At 830pm the German 15th Division at Neuville in Artois launches attacks the French line, hoping to disrupt the ongoing French offensive.  However, the preliminary artillery bombardment had been largely unsuccessful; in particular, poor weather prevented the assigned trench mortar battalion from accurately hitting its targets.  As a result, the German infantry are unable to penetrate the French trenches.

The failure of today's bombardment, however, masks the growing concentration of German artillery behind the line: over the past two weeks, the number of heavy guns in Artois have doubled.  The Germans have also been prodigious in their use, having fired over six hundred thousand shells in the first ten days of the French offensive.  Despite this expenditure, OHL has been able to maintain a steady supply of munitions to the front, such that the German batteries are not hampered by a shortage.

- The Italian cabinet approves a mobilization order for the army, and it is published immediately.  In practice, however, the Italian army has been slowly mobilizing for over two months; indeed, since before the Treaty of London had even been signed, indicating the extent to which Prime Minister Salandra and Foreign Minister Sonnino had always intended to have Italy join the Entente come what may.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Sonnino wires the declaration of war against Austria-Hungary to the Italian ambassador at Vienna, with instructions to deliver it tomorrow.  However, through wiretapping and codebreaking the Austro-Hungarian government is able to identify the specific telegram containing the actual declaration of war, and are able to delay its delivery.

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