Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June 30th, 1915

- Over the past two days, the German 11th Army has been able to advance northwards into southern Russian Poland without encountering significant resistance, given the retreat of Russian forces opposite.  By today, the greatest impediment to 11th Army's movement is the length of its eastern flank: the further north it goes, the longer the eastern flank becomes, which in turns requires greater forces to hold.  By today, of the six corps belonging to 11th Army in the line, only two are still advancing to the north, while the remaining four hold the flank to prevent a Russian counterattack hitting a gap between it and the Austro-Hungarian 2nd Army to the south.  The result is that a greater portion of responsibility for the actual advance falls on the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army to the west, the entirety of which can be committed to the advance.

Meanwhile the Russian 3rd Army takes up new defensive positions along the Wyznica and Por River, the former falling on the Kraśnik battle from August of the year before.  It is clear to the Russians that the Germans intend to continue to advance between the Vistula and Bug Rivers, and reinforcements are ordered to assemble at Brest-Litovsk, including VI Siberian Corps and a division drawn from each of 5th and 10th Armies.

- After a week of artillery fire and probing attacks, the Italian 2nd and 3rd Armies along the Isonzo River begin their main attacks today, with the heaviest fighting undertaken by VII Corps moving against the Karst plateau.  The Italians outnumber the Austro-Hungarians by a margin of more than two to one, but otherwise all of the advantages lay with the latter, even beyond the usual enjoyed by defenders in the First World War.  The mountainous terrain of the region very much favours the defence; Italian infantry has to navigate barbed wire and shell holes while advancing (in some cases climbing) uphill.  The Italians also lack the equipment of modern warfare that combat on other fronts has shown to be essential - not only is there a shortage of wire-cutters, but the infantry lacks even steel helmets.  There was also no effort to co-ordinate or even plan the infantry advance; artillery bombardments would end minutes before assaults would begin, and soldiers were simply ordered to charge the enemy positions in tight formations that could hardly be more vulnerable to machine gune fire.  Italian officers go into battle in colourful peacetime uniforms and badges of rank that made them obvious targets for snipers, and carried with them swords that are ludicrously out of place on the modern battlefield.  These attacks have a predictable result, and Austro-Hungarian infantry report that the enemy infantry made easier targets of themselves than dummies on pre-war firing ranges.  It takes a special level of ineptitude to make the Austro-Hungarian army look proficient, but the Italians are just getting started at the effort.  Needless to say, today's attacks get nowhere while suffering heavy losses.

- The position of Romania has long been a concern of Prime Minister Tisza of Hungary, given that the Hungarian portion of the Dual Monarchy contains a significant Romanian neutrality.  Earlier in the war, he had been concerned that Italian entry, coupled with defeats in the Carpathians, might trigger Romanian intervention.  With Italian intervention being  shown to be of no great significance and with the Russians continuing to retreat on the Eastern Front, Tisza's attention has returned to Romania, but this time with the mindset of coercing Romania into adopting a pro-Austro-Hungarian line.  Today Tisza sends a memorandum to Conrad urging that after the completion of the campaign on the Eastern Front, forces earmarked for redeployment to the Western and Italian Fronts should first be concentrated on the Romanian frontier, at which point the Romanian government would be presented with an ultimatum to allow free transit of men and supplies to the Ottoman Empire or face invasion and annihilation.

- On Gallipoli the French undertake another small attack on the right flank of the line at Cape Helles.  After another concentrated artillery bombardment which destroys the Ottoman trenches, French infantry sweep over a defensive position known as the Quadrilateral while suffering minimal casualties, though efforts to advance further are stymied.  To the north, it is the Ottomans going on the attack, launching a surprise attack on the ANZAC lines just after midnight.  The preparations for the attack do not go unnoticed, however, and as soon as the Ottoman infantry leave their trenches they come under murderous fire by the Australian 8th (Victoria) Light Horse, and are slaughtered for no gain.

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