Wednesday, June 24, 2015

June 24th, 1915

- Since the first weeks of the war, Joffre has struggled with the necessities of coalition warfare, whereby he can implore and plead but cannot order his allies, especially the British.  He feels that if the British and Belgians fighting alongside the French are to make the required contribution to victory, they need to coordinate their actions with the French.  In Joffre's mind, given that the vast majority of the Western Front is held by the French, this coordination of necessity means the British and Belgians need to follow his own instructions.  Joffre expresses his desire for the conduct of the war to be 'centralized' in his headquarters in a letter to the minister of war today.  Doing so will also ensure that France's allies remain focused on the main theatre of the war, and avoid distractions elsewhere.  It is also, perhaps, not a coincidence that Joffre makes the proposal in the immediate aftermath of the first instance of substantial political criticism of his management of the war; recalcitrant allies make for a useful excuse for failure, and places responsibility for securing the necessary coordination on the politicians.

- As a result of the abatement of French attacks in Artois, 3rd Bavarian Division is able to retake today the shattered trenches of the 'Labyrinth' south of Neuville, which the French had won at great expense over the prior weeks.

- After the evident failure of yesterday's artillery bombardment, Cadorna decides to postpone the main infantry attacks along the Isonzo River to give the artillery more time to have a decisive effect.  After a full day of shelling, small reconnaissance parties are again sent forward to observe the extent of the damage, and as yesterday discover the enemy defences largely still intact.

- Tsar Nicholas II meets today with his army commanders today at Baranowicze to discuss the deteriorating situation in Galicia.  Not only has almost all the ground gained in Austria-Hungary been lost over the past six weeks, but there seems to be little prospect of being able to hold the Germans in the near future.  Between them, North-West and South-West Fronts are five hundred thousand men under strength, and the replacements that have arrived have practically no training whatsoever.  There is also the continued difficulties with supply, thousands of infantry having to fight without rifles.  The best the Russians can hope for now is to stall for time and wait for autumn rains to turn the roads into mud and bring movement, especially of heavy artillery, to a halt.  Moreover, the German advance in Galicia has left Russian-occupied central Poland as a large bulge in the front line, and the Russians are not blind to the threat of simultaneous German attacks from the north and south cutting off the armies in the salient and winning a crushing victory.  To prevent this, the Tsar and his generals agree that a gradual retreat from central Poland will be necessary.  However, the Russians cannot simply retreat at full speed, as it would allow the Germans to pursue quickly and invade White Russia.  Instead, the overall plan is for a gradual withdrawal through a series of prepared defensive lines, slowing the Germans and making them work for every mile gained, while important pre-war forts such as Osowiec and Novogeorgievsk will act as anchors as the Russians fall back.  Orders are not immediately issued for the retreat to begin, however; instead, it will depend on the situation and the extent of German pressure.

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