Monday, May 04, 2015

May 4th, 1915

- East of Ypres the British successfully complete the evacuation of the most exposed portion of the salient, pulling back to a more defensible line anchored on the Frezenberg ridge (as with Hill 60, 'ridge' is a generous description) south through Hooge.  The withdrawal has been accomplished without significant interference from the Germans; as battalions retreated, picked riflemen remained behind to maintain appearances, before themselves retreating at the last moment.  Indeed, the Germans are sufficiently unaware of what is transpiring as to shell the old British positions for several hours today before discovering they were no longer inhabited.  Nevertheless, however successful the withdrawal it is still the voluntary yielding of terrain, an occurence of extreme rarity on the Western Front, and reflects the German success in the initial attack of the Second Battle of Ypres.

The line at Ypres after the withdrawal of May 4th, 1915.  The ground
yielded was roughly south of the line Fortuin-Grafenstafel.

- In west Galicia the advance of the German 11th Army continues today.  The farthest penetration is achieved by X Corps, and by the end of the day 11th Bavarian Division is over halfway to the town of Zmigrod.  To the north, the Russian 21st and 52nd Infantry Divisions of III Caucasian come into the fight today.  The former engages advancing German and Austro-Hungarian forces near Bednarka, but by evening has been broken, its remnants retreating eastwards with what little remains of 9th Division.  The latter arrives northeast of Biecz, and gives a better account of itself, managing to at least slow the advance of the German Guards Corps.

Despite this, the intervention of III Caucasian Corps has not saved the position of 3rd Army, and this evening General Dimitriev reports that the entire front of his army facing west amounts to the equivalent of five divisions.  Of great concern is the German drive towards Zmigrod, as a successful breakthrough here leads to Dukla and the supply link to XXIV and XII Corps to the south and southwest.  To avoid encirclement and to reinforce the shattered line, both corps are ordered to abandon their current lines and redeploy northwards, XXIV to the area west and south of Zmigrod and XII to the vital Dukla Pass.

- This afternoon the Italian ambassador in Vienna presents his government's formal denunciation of the Triple Alliance to the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister, Count Burián.  The latter's reaction is muted, and only expresses dismay that Italy would take such a step just as the Austro-Hungarian government is preparing further proposals for discussion.  His imperturbability is based on the fact Austro-Hungarian cryptographers had intercepted and decoded the message from Rome to the Italian ambassador beforehand, allowing Burián to know what the ambassador was going to say before he had said it.

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