Thursday, June 11, 2015

June 11th, 1915

- Over the past six days the fighting at the village of Neuville has been constant, and the French infantry have managed to literally inch their way forward, advancing their line by five hundred metres on a three hundred metre stretch of the line.  Needless to say, French casualties have been horrendous.  The Germans too, however, have suffered: XIV Corps around Neuville has been completed exhausted, and has had to be replaced by IV Corps.  Crucially, the latter had been designated to undertake a counterattack on the French, which in consequence has been called off.  Futher reinforcements have come from 1st Army (5th Division) and the GHQ reserve (5th Prussian Division), the latter replaced the completely worn out 15th Division today.  Though the French have utterly failed to break through, they are not the only ones being ground down by the fighting.

- At the outbreak of the war, General Cadorna and the leadership of the Italian army had envisioned large-scale advances into Austro-Hungarian territory, insisting for example on Serbian co-operation in the Balkans and what the two armies should do when they link.  The reality of war has sharply narrowed Cadorna's vision, as he discovers that the Italian Front is not immune to the type of positional warfare that has typified the war on other fronts.  Indeed, the mountainous terrain along the frontier between Italy and Austria-Hungary renders offensive operations even more difficult.  Coupled to this has been the hesitancy and incompetence shown by Italian generals, and the result has been minimal gains.  On the key front along the Isonzo River, the Italians have secured two crossings, but these have been contained and elsewhere the Austro-Hungarian defences have proven too strong.  In a communication to his commanders today Cadorna admits that the war of maneouvre they anticipated has not come to pass.  Instead, successful operations will necessitate the concentration of men and artillery, and the use of 'the method suggested by the experience of combat in the other allied theatres of operations, avoiding improvised attacks which although they show the valour of our troops do not allow [us] to achieve results proportional to [our] losses.'

- Once the presence of German submarines off of Gallipoli was apparent, the Russians concluded that their appearance in the Black Sea could not be ruled out.  As such, raids by large warships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, which had been ongoing for several months to interrupt coastal trade, were suspended, but operations by fast destroyers continued.  Today the Russian destroyers Gnyevni and Derski are intercepted during one such raid by the German light cruiser Breslau.  In the ensuing gun battle Gnyevni is crippled, but Breslau breaks off the action without going in for the kill and returns to the Bosphorus.  This enables Derski to take the damaged Gnyevni in tow back to safety, and the incident does not deter the Russians from planning further such raids.

- Oblivious to the signifance of the fall of Garua in northern Kamerun (indeed, ignorant of the very fact of its fall, given the complete absence of adequate communications), the French and British have been concentrating their columns in southern Kamerun, aiming at Jaunde.  Even beyond the fact that these columns are directed at the wrong target, they are proving to be failures.  From Edea in the west two columns - the British to the north and the French to the south - have been struggling along a track through the jungle and swamp.  Despite numbering less than six hundred, the German defenders have made use of the difficult terrain to ambush and delay the Franco-British force, which has been further weakened by disease.  Having suffered 25% casualties since departing Wum Biagas on May 25th, the column has been able to advance at a rate of only 1.5 kilometres per day.  At this snail's pace they will not reach Jaundre before the rainy season renders movement impossible.  The commander of the column has requested permission to abandon the advance, which General Charles Dobell, the senior British commander in German Kamerun, approves today.  A failure to understand the strategic basis of the German defence of the colony is now coupled with operational defeat.

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