Tuesday, June 23, 2015

June 23rd, 1915

- Given the growing concerns in political circles regarding the management of the war effort, President Poincaré, Premier Viviani, and Minister of War Millerand attend a meeting today between Joffre and his army commanders.  When they criticize Joffre for failing to deliver the promised breakthrough in Artois, Joffre denies ever having made such a pledge in the first place, a statement that does not go over well with the politicians.  As the meeting progresses the government leaders observe that while there may be differences in the timing and location of future French offensives (Foch wants only a brief delay before attacking again, while Castlenau and Dubail argue for several months), all of the military chiefs accept the basic premise that France must continue offensive operations.  Standing on the defensive, it is suggested, would simply expose the French army to incessant German attacks, and it is a moral necessity to liberate the territories occupied by the enemy as quickly as possible.

- With the fall of Lemberg yesterday, General Mackensen issues orders for the next phase of the offensive.  With the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army on its left, the German 11th Army is to advance northwards in pursuit of the retreating Russians.  To allow time for adequate munitions and supplies to be stockpiled, the operation is scheduled to begin on the 26th.  Meanwhile, in an effort to lessen pressure on the Eastern Front, the Russian government today asks Serbia to undertake an invasion of Syrmia.

- The Italian army begins its first set-piece offensive operation today along the Isonzo River on the eastern edge of the Italian Front.  The Italian VII and X Corps of 3rd Army is to seize the plateau between Montafalcone and Sagrado, while II Corps of 2nd Army to the north is to seize Monte Kuk.  The plan, as devised by Cadorna, calls for a methodical artillery bombardment to precede the advance of the infantry, and accordingly the Italian artillery opens fire early this morning and fires throughout the day.  The Italian bombardment, however, suffers from several deficiencies.  First, there is a lack of medium and heavy artillery pieces, needed to destroy fixed defensive positions.  Second, the Italian army suffers from a distinct shortage of artillery shells, limiting the intensity of the bombardment.  Finally, the Italians have no concept of how to conduct a bombardment effectively; instead of concentrating their fire on particular positions, the Italians attempt to blanket the enemy areas with shells.  The result is that the artillery is nowhere near strong or effective enough to significantly disrupt the Austro-Hungarian defence.  This evening 3rd Army sends small parties forward to test the effectiveness of the bombardment, and discover that the enemy positions are completely intact.  The only ground the Italian army is able to seize today is that which is voluntarily abandoned by Austro-Hungarian advance guards as they pull back to their main defensive positions.  It is an inauspicious beginning entirely in line with how the war will progress for the Italians along the Isonzo River.

The Italian front along the Isonzo River, June 23rd, 1915.

- In German East Africa a British force crosses Lake Victoria and raids the village of Bukoba, on the western shore in the northwestern corner of the German colony.  As the village is undefended, the British are able to seize Bukoba and destroy its wireless station, the target of the raid.  The expedition was also undertaken to give the colonial force something constructive to do, given that the war to this point in eastern Africa has consisted of inaction interspersed with humiliating defeats.  Indeed, Bukoba becomes an outlet for the frustrations of the war to date, as looting and rape is both widespread and at least implicitly sanctioned.  As it turns out, by destroying the wireless station the British deny themselves the station's transmissions which had been regularly intercepted.  Overall, a thoroughly pointless 'victory'.

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