Sunday, May 31, 2015

May 31st, 1915

- Despite the order from the Kaiser on May 10th to avoid the targeting of neutral ships, steamers from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden have been sunk by German submarines over the past few weeks.  Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg realizes that the navy has ignored the imperial instruction, and thus convenes a meeting with the kaiser and the military chiefs today to resolve the matter.  Here the chief of staff of the navy once again asserts that it is impossible to modify unrestricted submarine warfare, and again argued for its continuation.  The Kaiser, not wanting to appear weak before his military chiefs and the German public, now states that the prior order not to target neutral ships could only be published if it was endorsed personally by the chancellor, a qualification Bethmann-Hollweg accepts.

- This evening the French XXXIII Corps attack towards Souchez, and manages to seize the trenches on the northern and sourthern flanks of the sugar factory to the west of the village.

- After the fall of Pralowce yesterday at dusk, the Russians prepared an immediate counterattack.  A heavy artillery barrage opens at 3am, and waves of Russian infantry are able to overwhelm the Austro-Hungarian defenders by mid-morning.  On the northern flank of Przemysl, however, 11th Bavarian Division is able to occupy three important defensive positions after intensive bombardment by heavy mortars forced the Russian defenders to abandon their entrenchments and fall back.

Meanwhile, to the southeast of Przemysl the Austro-Hungarian 27th Division seizes the first Russian trench line on the heights at Gaj.  However, the Russians are able to fall back to prepared reserve positions, and in light of the strength of the enemy defences the commander of the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army postpones further attacks until June 2nd, to give time for the infantry to work their way closer to the Russian line.  Further to the southeast, Südarmee makes progress, capturing the city of Stryj and over nine thousand Russian prisoners.

The advance of Südarmee, May 31st to June 3rd, 1915.

- General Townshend's 6th Indian Division launches its attack on the Ottoman defensive positions north of Qurna at 5am this morning.  On the surface the Ottoman position is strong - seasonal floods has transformed much of the countryside into marsh, meaning the Indian infantry can only attack the enemy defences by front amphibious assaults.  However, in the event the attack is easier than Townshend expected, as the Ottoman defenders break under artillery fire from the British flotilla and surrender in large numbers.  By the end of the day, the landing force has seized their initial objectives and are advancing on the main Ottoman line around Bahran.

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