Friday, July 31, 2015

July 31st, 1915

- In southern Poland the German and Austro-Hungarian commanders believe that the Russians intend to offer serious resistance on the new defensive line they retreated to yesterday.  As such, Mackensen instructs the German 11th Army to prepare a major assault for tomorrow, while the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army on the left flank and the German Army of the Bug on the right flank continue to advance, so as to be in position to support the main attack tomorrow.  While the latter is able to advance at Strzelce and capture a stretch of the road leading to Cholm, the former is unable to win significant ground in a series of sharp battles.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

July 30th, 1915

- In southern Poland the Russian XVI Corps, now reinforced by the Grenadier Corps, continues to confine the German Landwehr Corps to the narrow bridgehead it secured over the Vistula River yesterday.  General Woyrsch had anticipated sending the German 4th Landwehr and the Austro-Hungarian 1st Cavalry Brigades across the Vistula to reach and break the Warsaw-Ivangorod railway, but due to the confined space in the bridgehead he is forced to cancel the operation.

East of Ivangorod, in the face of the successful attack of the German 11th Army yesterday, and the cutting of the Lublin-Cholm railway, the Russian armies between the Vistula and the Bug Rivers are ordered to fall back to a new defensive position north of the two cities.  Mackensen's army group quickly takes up the pursuit, with cavalry from the Austro-Hungarian IX and XVII Corps occupying Lublin at noon, and by evening are approaching the new Russian line.

- The chief of the Italian naval staff issues a circular today to naval commanders which notes that frequent use of light craft such as torpedo boats and submarines can rapidly wear them out, and given that the war is likely to continue for many months to come, it is important to conserve Italian naval strength so that in the even of a decisive naval battle their full strength can be brought to bear.  In some respects this is a reasonable view, the caution this reflects among Italian naval officers does not exactly endear them to their British and French colleagues.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

July 29th, 1915

- Falkenhayn meets with the chiefs of staff of the German armies on the Western Front at Metz today, and concludes that the situation is sufficiently stable and quiet to permit a further division to be redeployed from the west to the Eastern Front.

- At 130am this morning the German Landwehr Corps launches its crossing of the Vistula along a twenty-four kilometre front downriver from Ivangorod.  The Russian XVI Corps on the opposite bank had been completely ignorant of the arrival of Woyrsch's force yesterday, and thus the attack catches them completely by surprise.  At only two of the ten crossing points do the German infantry encounter significant resistance, and by the time Russian artillery begins to respond at 5am the bulk of the Landwehr Corps is already on the east bank.  Given that the crossing threatens the flank of the Russian 4th Army holding the line southeast of Ivangorod, General Alexeiev orders it and the adjacent 2nd Army to the north to concentrate forces to throw the Germans back across the Vistula.  By evening, though the German bridgehead remains intact, growing Russian resistance prevents a breakout.

To the east, General Mackensen's army group launches the next stage of its offensive, spearheaded once again by the German 11th Army.  The main assault is launched by the German X, X Reserve, and XXII Reserve Corps west of the Wieprz River, and the Russian II Siberian Corps opposite suffers heavy casualties and is forced back.  By the end of the day, German elements have reached the village of Trawniki, thereby cutting the vital Lublin-Cholm railway.  On both flanks, the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army and the German Army of the Bug encounter stubborn Russian resistance and achieve less substantial gains.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28th, 1915

- In southern Poland the German force under General Woyrsch arrives at the mouth of the Radomka River on the west bank of the Vistula, downriver from Ivangorod, having redeployed over the past four days from a position upriver of the Russian fortress.  Here the Landwehr Corps will attempt a crossing of the Vistula tonight to outflank the Russian defensive line running east-southeast from Ivangorod.  In the meantime, Ivangorod itself will be screened to the west by an Austro-Hungarian force under General Kövess consisting of XII Corps plus 7th and 9th Cavalry Divisions.

- In the two months since Italy entered the war, the performance of its armed forces has been a significant disappointment.  On land, the Italy army is bogged down in brutal trench warfare along the Isonzo River in conditions that could hardly be more unfavourable to attackers.  At sea the Italian navy has not only failed to bring the Austro-Hungarian fleet to battle but has suffered losses of its own while being unable to prevent regular enemy naval bombardments along the Adriatic coast of central Italy.  Prime Minister Salandra has demanded an accounting of the fleet's performance from the naval minister, and the latter submits a lengthy defence today.  He argues that the navy has nowhere near enough mines or submarines to prevent bombardments by Austro-Hungarian warships, and that the narrowness of the Adriatic makes it possible for the enemy to cross and escape before the Italian fleet can arrive from its naval bases at Venice or in the south.  As he points out, the far stronger Royal Navy has been unable to stop German raids on the British coast, and the distance across the Adriatic is much shorter than that across the North Sea.  As for the loss of warships, the sinking of Amalfi in particular is blamed on the admiral commanding the operation, but that removing him from command is a political decision best reserved for Salandra and the government, a suggestion that deftly shares responsibility for personnel decisions.

- In the central Adriatic, the Austro-Hungarian navy launches an effort to retake the tiny island of Pelagosa.  A flottila of two light cruisers, six destroyers, and a number of torpedo-boats lands 108 men on the island, but the Austro-Hungarians had underestimated the size of the Italian garrison, and reembark after a brief firefight that results in two Italian and twelve Austro-Hungarian casualties.  It is a small victory, but given the Italian performance in the war to date they need every one they can trumpet.

Monday, July 27, 2015

July 27th, 1915

- As part of the French fall offensive in Champagne and Artois, Joffre and Foch expect the British to undertaking a supporting attack south of La Bassée in the direction of Lens.  An assault here, they hope, will draw off German reserves from the French assault north of Arras, and that if the British seize the high ground near Lens as the French seize Vimy Ridge, the Germans will be compelled to Douai.  The British, however, are extremely reluctant to follow the French script.  General Haig, whose 1st Army would be responsible for undertaking the operation, has strongly recommended against an assault south of La Bassée, believing the broken terrain of the sector advantageous to an already well-entrenched German defence, and that digging approach trenches in the chalky soil would eliminate the element of surprise.  Sir John French shares Haig's concerns, and if the BEF is to be committed to the attack he prefers an operation norther of La Bassée.  The commander of the BEF meets with Foch today and explains the British concerns, but the latter is unconvinced.  While sympathetic to the difficulties of an assault south of La Bassée, Foch argues that an attack to the north would be too far distant to either draw off German reserves or contribute to the French offensive.

- After the heavy losses of the past few days, the commander of the Italian 3rd Army now expects an Austro-Hungarian counterattack, and Cadorna reassigns several divisions to 3rd Army to shore up the front.  The Italians, however, need not have worried: the Austro-Hungarians have also suffered greatly, having lost 29 000 men since the start of the Italian offensive on the 18th.  Given how thinly they were stretched along the Isonzo to begin with, any major counterattack is little more than wishful thinking.

- After much discussion, the Italian government today decides against authorizing a naval operation to seize the island of Lagosta off the Dalmatian coast.  They fear the impact on public opinion if warships are lost in the effort, given the sinking of Amalfi and Garibaldi already in the war.  The decision, however, leaves the garrison of Pelagosa in the air, as its occupation had only ever been intended to complement the seize of Lagosta.

- With the capture of Nasiriyeh on the 25th, the British have occupied the entirety of the Basra department, and hold defensive positions upriver from the city on both the Tigris and Euphrates.  The British have thus achieved their objectives of securing a strong grip on Basra and its environs, which had been the aim of the operations of the past few months.  However, the very success, and the ease by which it has been accomplished, only encourages further advances.  All of the standard tropes of mission creep come into play: the belief that further operations will be as easy as prior operations, that occupying B to protect A now requires the occupation of C to protect B, that further operations are only a slight expansion of the original mandate, that nebulous benefits of prestige and influence will accrue once the additional operation is successful.  Such thoughts are rampant among officials in the Indian government, who see in Mesopotamia a natural sphere for British (and Indian) imperial expansion, and come to focus on the town of Kut-al-Amara, upriver from Amara on the Tigris River.  The Indian viceroy writes to the Secretary of State for India today that 'the occupation of Kut-al-Amarah is considered by us to be a strategic necessity,' justifying the view by asserting that it is a mere four miles beyond the border of the Basra department, that it commands the lower reaches of both the Tigris and Euphrates, given the proximity of the two rivers at Kut-Al-Amara, and that occupying the town would 'facilitate the reinforcement of our position on either river and also enable us to control the powerful Bani Lam tribe and effectively safeguard the oil fields against aggression from the Tigris.'  In what was doubtless a calculated appeal to the concerns of his civilian master, the Viceroy also suggests that once Kut-al-Amara is occupied, 'we could probably reduce materially our garrisons at Nasiriyeh and Amara and thus economize our troops.'  On the tide of such sentiments does mission creep advance, and the British find themselves adrift towards disaster.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

July 26th, 1915

- By today the Germans have pushed eight divisions across the Narew River and Gallwitz is preparing to drive on Warsaw.  General Alexeiev of North-West Front, however, has concentrated significant forces here to counter precisely such a move, in order to buy time for an orderly retreat from western Poland.  Reinforced by several corps, the Russian 1st Army launches a counterattack along a sixty mile stretch of the front, and although they are not able to drive the Germans back across the Narew, the latter find themselves fighting to hold their ground instead of continuing their advance.

- Conrad discusses negotiations with Russia today with Foreign Minister Burián, but the latter is doubtful that a negotiated peace can be achieved with the Russians, even given the latter's serious defeats on the Eastern Front, and suggests that the key stumbling block would be the fate of the Ukraine.

- For the past two days the Italian 3rd Army has concentrated on seizing Monte San Michele, already won and lost once in the current offensive.  This morning a massive assault by parts of the 28th, 30th, and 31st Divisions is launched, but the preliminary artillery bombardment has failed to cut the enemy barbed-wire line, which entangles the advancing infantry and a bloodbath ensues.  Compounding the Italian difficulties, the brigadier commanding the assault is killed along with many of the staff officers, resulting in confusion among the attackers.  The Austro-Hungarian defenders, however, have already suffered significant casualties over the course of the Italian offensive, and the few available reserves have already been committed to the battle.  By late morning, sheer numerical superiority begins to tell, and the Italians capture the heights at Monte San Michele at 10am.  Their victory, however, is short-lived: Colonel Prince Felix Schwarzenberg rallies remnants of 12th Mountain Brigade and launches a counterattack that retakes the lost ground at noon.  The Austro-Hungarian infantry fires on the Italians retreating in the open, causing further casualties.  Just under three thousand Italian soldiers are lost today in the back-and-forth over Monte San Michele.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

July 25th, 1915

- Joffre approves Castlenau's proposed plan for the fall offensive in Champagne today, with one revision: the French commander-in-chief believes that only seven days' worth of artillery shells will be needed, as opposed to ten.

- In Courland the German Army of the Niemen pushes across the Dubissa River and occupies Poswol and Poniewiez as the Russian 5th Army falls back.

- In Mesopotamia the British follow up their victory east of Nasiriyeh yesterday with the capture of the town today, in an episode reminiscent of the capture of Amara on the Tigris two months earlier.  As the British infantry marched wearily along the river, a gunboat sailed ahead to Nasiriyeh itself, which has descended into chaos, with widespread looting by local Arabs.  The crew of the gunboat are greeted by white flags everywhere but the Ottoman barracks, whose garrison have yet to learn of the defeat of their compatriots yesterday.  The gunboat returns to the British expedition and, joined by a second gunboat, embark a hundred Gurkas and two machine guns.  This small force is landed at Nasiriyeh and take possession of the town, receiving the surrender of the remaining Ottoman soldiers.  Only later does the rest of the infantry, marching through a sandstorm, reach the town.

- Falkenhayn today approves a plan forwarded by the German military attaché in Teheran to fund and arm Persian tribes to augment the efforts of Wassmuss in the south of the country; with £100 000 and a ton of explosives, the attaché believes 50 000 tribesmen can be raised to drive Entente forces out of the country and move on India and Afghanistan.

- In northern Rhodesia the German detachment under the retired major-general Kurt Wahle returns to the British post of Saisi and launches a second attack, but as was the case in June the Rhodesian police and Belgian soldiers hold off the enemy.

German soldiers entrenching near Saisi, July 25th, 1915.

Friday, July 24, 2015

July 24th, 1915

- In Poland the German forces under General Gallwitz launch their offensive along the Narew River today, and seize the towns of Pultusk and Rozan.

To the south, while General Woyrsch's command had been instructed to cross the Vistula upriver from Ivangorod to attack the rear of the eastern wing of the Russian 4th Army.  However, the latter has been retreating northwards as a result of the success of the German 11th Army further east, and thus the intended crossing at Novo Alexandriya would no longer serve its intended purpose.  Conrad and Falkenhayn instead issue orders for Woyrsch's force to move north to cross the Vistula downriver from Ivangorod, leaving an Austro-Hungarian detachment to cover the fortress at Ivangorod itself.

For his part, Mackensen issues orders today for the next step in his offensive.  As has been his tactic to date, he issues instructions for several days of rest to bring up adequate munitions for another major artillery bombardment prior to the infantry going forward on the 29th.  On this occasion, the primary assault will be undertaken by XXII Reserve, X Reserve, and X Corps plus 119th Division and the Guard cavalry, concentrated west of the Wieprz River and directed towards Biskupice.

- On the Italian Front the focal point of the fighting is now on the southwest face of the Karst plateau, which sees continual attacks and counterattacks.  Yesterday the Italian VII Corps seized a stretch of the enemy line between Selz and Vermegliano, but this morning a counterattack by the Austro-Hungarian 61st Division retakes the lost ground.  The victory is short-lived; the fresh Italian 27th Division is brought up and launches a successful assault on the depleted 61st Division, which is forced back.  In the two days of fighting in this sector, the Austro-Hungarian VII Corps has suffered almost three thousand casualties.

- In Mesopotamia a second attack is launched by 12th Indian Division on the Ottoman defensive position east of Nasiriyeh on the Euphrates River.  As with the first attempt on the 14th, the Ottomans put up heavy defensive fire, but unlike the prior effort an entire brigade is sent towards the 'Thornycroft Point' position, and after a charge by the West Kents battalion the British are able to break into the Ottoman lines.  In order to cross the nearby Majinina canal, the steamer Sumana is run aground to provide cover for engineers to erect a temporary bridge, but they find the conditions impossible.  By a stroke of luck, however, Sumana has come to rest where it blocks the mouth of the canal, which blocks the flow of water and the level drops to the point where the British infantry can walk across the canal bottom.  Reaching the opposite bank, a bayonet charge by the Gurkhas drives the Ottomans from their positions and their defences collapse.  They are able to make their escape, however, as having discarded their equipment they can retreat faster than the British can pursue.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

July 23rd, 1915

- For the past ten days the German Army of the Niemen has been advancing in Courland.  Despite the relatively small size of the German force (as compared with the armies advancing under Gallwitz and Mackensen to the south), the Army of the Niemen has been able to take advantage of both the low troop density and Russian disorganization to make significant progress, and today they seize the town of Szawle and defeat a Russian force nearby.

- Along the Isonzo the fighting around Monte San Michelle dies down today, both sides being exhausted after five days of constant combat.  Instead the Italians shift the focus of their attacks southwards, attempting to break through the Austro-Hungarian lines between the villages of Selz and Vermegliano.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

July 22nd, 1915

- Since the beginning of the war, Joffre has dismissed 138 generals whom he feels have not performed up to his expectations, and today General Maurice Sarrail of 3rd Army becomes yet another 'casualty,' and is replaced by General Georges Humbert.  Over the past six weeks German forces opposite 3rd Army have been able to launch successful small-scale assaults in the Argonne, and Joffre has concluded that Sarrail has 'yielded the initiative to the enemy.'

- In receipt of Conrad's memorandum of yesterday, Falkenhayn replies today that he is in complete agreement regarding overtures to Russia regarding a separate peace, and has forwarded the memorandum to Bethmann-Hollweg.  Unlike Hindenburg and Ludendorff, the German chief of staff has long believed that a truly decisive victory over Russia is impossible, given the vast expanse of the country.  Instead, convincing Russia to exit the war is the most reasonable and realistic course of action, in order that German forces can be redeployed to the Western Front to battle Germany's most irreconcilable foes.

- In southern Poland, General Mackensen issues orders today for his 11th Army to hold in its present positions, to give time to resupply and recuperate, as well as reorganize formations that had become mixed together in the advance since the breakthrough at Krasnostaw.  However, Mackensen allows the Army of the Bug and the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army to continue their attacks, as their advance has been slower than 11th Army in the centre.

- On the Russian side, the advance of the German force under General Gallwitz to the Narew River, coupled with the seemingly unstoppable momentum of General Mackensen's army group, convinces General Alexeiev that the time has come to commence the evacuation of Russian Poland.  The Russian 12th, 1st, and 2nd Armies, covering the front north and west of Warsaw, are instructed to fall back, effectively pivoting on the fortress of Osowiec in the north until they reach a line running from Lomza to northeast of Ivangorod.  In southern Poland, 4th, 3rd, and 13th Armies will retreat north of Lublin and Cholm to a line stretching through Opalin and Kowel towards Ivangorod in the west.  This withdrawal, however, is to be gradual rather than precipitate, in order to slow the enemy advance without risking destruction.  Of the major forts in the area to be abandoned only Novogeorgievsk is to be held indefinitely.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

July 21st, 1915

- General Castlenau of the French Army Group of the Centre sends to Joffre his outline for the fall offensive in Champagne.  He proposes to have 2nd and 4th Armies undertake the main attack, with 5th Army (on the left) and 3rd Army (on the right) in supporting roles.  To ensure a 'particularly effective' artillery bombardment, Castlenau states that the operation will require ten days supply of munitions.  For the attack itself he envisions two phases: first, to rupture the German front and push the remnants back to a depth of twelve miles, which would provide reserve forces, in the second phase, sufficient room to maneouver to 'inflict a severe defeat on a significant part of the opposing forces on the Franco-Belgian front.'

- In southern Poland the German and Austro-Hungarian offensive continues.  West of the Vistula, Landwehr under the command of General Woyrsch punches a two kilometre hole in the Russian line at Zwolen this morning and push northward towards the Russian fortifications at Ivangorod, while 4th Landwehr Cavalry Brigade is sent east towards the bridges across the Vistula at Novo Alexandriya.  Further east attacks of the Austro-Hungarian 4th and German 11th Armies achieve only local successes, while the Army of the Bug occupies Hrubieszow on the right flank of the main advance.

- As their forces continue their offensives in Poland, the military leadership of Germany and Austria-Hungary give due consideration to the ultimate purpose of their actions on the Eastern Front.  Today Conrad sends a memorandum to Falkenhayn, copied to the the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister, urging that the military victories accomplished since May should be exploited to achieve a separate peace with Russia; in Conrad's phrase, a 'golden bridge' should be constructed that would allow the Russians to accept a reasonable peace.  Conrad's motive in forwarding the recommendation is partly revealed by a private letter written to General Artur von Bolfras today in which he writes that after peace with Russia, they 'could successfully deal with Italy.'  For the Austro-Hungarian chief of staff, the fight against Russia remains simply a means to an end, a necessary evil that must be finished before he can turn the full strength of the Austro-Hungarian army (such that it is) against the enemy who betrayed (in his eyes) the Dual Monarchy in August 1914.

- At 2am this morning Austro-Hungarian artillery launch a heavy bombardment on the Italian forces on the summit of Monte San Michelle, less than twelve hours after the latter captured the heights, and without time to adequately entrench the Italians suffer significant casualties.  Two hours later, fifteen Austro-Hungarian battalions launch a counterattack to retake San Michelle, and after several hours of hand-to-hand fighting the Italians fall back, yielding the only significant gain of the offensive on the Isonzo River launched on the 18th.  Even in the mountainous terrain of the Italian Front it is possible to gain ground, but it is even more difficult to hold against immediate counterattacks; it is harder to dig trenches in rock than dirt.

Monday, July 20, 2015

July 20th, 1915

- Vice-Admiral Gustav Bachmann appeals directly to the Kaiser today to lift the remaining restrictions on bombing the City of London left in place by Bethmann-Hollweg.  The Chief of the German Naval Staff argues that limiting raids to the weekend is impractical, given how dependent Zeppelins are on good weather, and raises the French bombing of Karlsruhe as showing prior Entente attacks on civilians.  Under pressure the Kaiser relents, asking only that royal palaces be spared.  German Zeppelins now have free reign to attack London and other British targets as they see fit.

- Today the German force under General Gallwitz arrives at the Narew River north and northwest of Warsaw, only to encounter a strong Russian counterattack between Pultusk and Rozan.  Though the German line holds, it delays the crossing of the Narew for several days.  Meanwhile, on Gallwitz's southern flank a force of Landwehr and Landsturm is assembled to beiege the major Russian fortress of Novogeorgievsk, and command is given to General Beseler, famous for the rapid capture of Antwerp in October 1914.

- On the southern face of the Polish salient, the German 11th and Austro-Hungarian 4th Armies have reached the new Russian defensive line just south of the vital Lublin-Cholm railway, and launch energetic today.  Though the Russians lose ground in some sectors, and 4th Army in particular takes six thousand prisoners, neither the Germans nor the Austro-Hungarians are able to break through.

- The Italian 3rd Army today concentrates its offensive power on Monte San Michelle on the northern shoulder of the Karst plateau.  An intensive artillery bombardment blankets not only the main enemy defensive positions but also area to the east of San Michelle, preventing the Austro-Hungarian 93rd Division from reinforcing 17th Honved and 20th Honved Divisions on the mountain itself.  After several hours of heavy fighting, elements of the Italian XI Corps capture the heights at 530pm.  The local Austro-Hungarian commander immediately prepares a counteroffensive to launched in the pre-dawn hours of tomorrow.

Monte San Michelle on the Italian Front.

- In the months leading up to the entry of Italy into the war, Austria-Hungary had feared that Romania would join the ranks of their enemies as well.  Such concern was not without foundation: Romania and Italy had held diplomatic discussions prior to May 1915, and Russia had also applied great pressure on the Romanian government to enter the war.  However, the dramatic victories won by the Germans on the Eastern Front over the past two months has greatly dampened the enthusiasim of the Romanian government for war, and today Prime Minister Bratianu decides that Romania will remain neutral, at least in the foreseeable future.

- After sinking the French steamer Carthage on the 4th, the German submarine U21 spent two weeks evading Entente countermeasures, and after striking a mine limped back to Constantinople on the 16th.  As U21 will be out of action for two weeks, the German admiralty decides today to dispatch two more ocean-going submarines to the Mediterranean, drawn by the opportunity not only to strike at Entente warships off the Dardanelles but also against merchant shipping.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

July 19th, 1915

- On the outbreak of the war, 19-year-old Georges Guynemer, given his love of flight, attempted to enlist in the French air force.  Rejected three times, he is finally accepted as a mechanic at Pau airfield in November.  He convinces his superiors to allow him to enrol in pilot training, where he earns a reputation for recklessness for insisting on flying the more advanced Parasol, usually reserved for experienced pilots, during his training.  Assigned to MS3, he makes a poor initial impression by crash-landing his first aircraft, and his CO threatens to ship him out if he hasn't demonstrated he can make the grade.  Fortunately not only for Guynemer but also the French air force, he soon shows his skill - flying his two-seat Morane aircraft today, he and his gunner Private Charles Guerder intercept and shoot down a German Aviatik aircraft near Soissons, Guynemer's first kill.  When the German crashes behind French lines, Guynemer lands beside it and promptly breaks his propellor.  Success, however, allows such mistakes to be overlooked; Guynemer and Guerder are awarded the Military Medal, and today's kill will be just the first of many for Guynemer.

- Grand Duke Nicholas, chief of staff of the Russian army, visits the headquarters of General Alexeiev of North-West Front today and, given the continued setbacks, gives the latter the authority to order a retreat eastward from the Vistula and to abandon Warsaw, if the situation warrants.  In southern Poland, 3rd Army disengages overnight from the Germans opposite and retreat to a prepared defensive line just south of the vital Lublin-Cholm railway.  The Germans undertake an energetic pursuit, and by nightfall have come up against the new Russian positions.  To the west, on the other side of the Vistula River, the German forces under General Woyrsch continue their advance, reaching the line Przylek-Zwolen-Podgora and taking five thousand prisoners by evening.

- Along the Isonzo River Italian infantry attacks expand to include actions against the Austro-Hungarian bridgehead on the west bank of the river at Görz.  Despite heavy fighting, however, all of these assaults are thrown back, and after the first two days of the offensive nothing of any significance has been gained.  In holding off the Italians, however, the Austro-Hungarians have suffered heavy casualties - VII Corps on the Karst plateau has already lost 5500 men, and 20th Honved Division in particular is down to one-third strength.  To reinforce VII Corps, 93rd Division is transferred from reserve to reinforce the front.

- In the Italian colony of Libya, the garrison continues to be under pressure from the uprising of the Senussi of the interior.  Lacking sufficient numbers to hold the entire colony, the Italians have been abandoning posts to the south, and today retire from Ghadames in western Libya on the border with French Tunis.  Most of the colony is essentially under the control of the Senussi, with the Italians only able to cling to the coast.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

July 18th, 1915

- In central Poland the Russians fall back after the German breakthrough at Sienno yesterday, burning the bridges over the Vistula River at Solec and attempting to form a new defensive line along the Ilzanka River.  Before they can entrench, however, the German Landwehr under General Worysch is upon them, and by this evening have crossed the Ilzanka and seized the villages of Ciepielow and Kazanow.  In addition to disrupting the Russian positions west of the Vistula, the advance of Woyrsch's force benefits his eastern neighbour on the other side of the Vistula, the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army.  Their main attack towards Lublin has stalled in the face of staunch Russian resistance, but the retreat of the Russians to the west has uncovered their flank and forced them to fall back northwards as well.

Further east, the advance of the German 11th Army has prompted General Alexeiev of North-West Front to assign his reserves - the Guard and II Siberian Corps - to 3rd Army to halt the enemy offensive.  In particular, II Siberian Corps is deployed to the west of the Wieprz River, but are unable to halt the momentum of the German Guard and XXII Reserve Corps, which gains substantial ground again today and by nightfall have captured the villages of Czestoborowice and Olszanka.  Over the past two days of fighting, these two German corps have taken fifteen thousand prisoners while blasting a hole 32 kilometres wide and 12 kilometres deep in the Russian line.

- This morning the Italian 3rd Army opens the 2nd Battle of the Isonzo with heavy attacks on enemy lines south of Görz.  The Italians have at least learnt the value of coordinating their artillery fire, concentrating on the Austro-Hungarian positions on the Karst plateau before the infantry assaults begin at 11am.  However, the Italians are repulsed all along the line, and the only 'success' they are able to achieve today is to force two companies of 20th Honved Division to fall back two hundred yards.

The Italian offensive on the lower Isonzo River, part of the 2nd Battle of the Isonzo.

- On June 5th, an Italian squadron had shelled the railway between Ragusa and the Austro-Hungarian naval base of Cattaro on the Dalmatian coast.  Learning that repairs have been completed, the Italian navy undertakes a second bombardment raid, but the warships were spotted by an enemy airplane yesterday evening as they departed Brindisi, and the Austro-Hungarian submarine U4 has been sent to intercept.  The Italian squadron sails right past U4, and the latter torpedoes and sinks the armoured cruiser Garibaldi this morning.  The remaining Italian warships promptly depart the scene at high speed, their mission abandoned.  Despite the success, the head of the Austro-Hungarian navy is not pleased; not content with one sinking, he argues U4 had the time to torpedo several enemy warships, a criticism that the head of the submarine service does not take kindly to.

The Italian armoured cruiser Garibaldi, torpedoed and sunk of the Dalmation coast, July 18th, 1915.

- The German light cruiser Breslau stumbles into a minefield laid by the Russians off the Black Sea coast of Anatolia today.  Striking a mine, it is able to limp back to Constantinople, but repairs will take several months.

Friday, July 17, 2015

July 17th, 1915

- Two days ago General Foch had informed General d'Urbal of 10th Army that Joffre intended to launch offensives in Champagne and Artois in the fall, though the former would be the primary operation.  D'Urbal, however, is very concerned about the ability of his army to undertake another attack towards Vimy Ridge; even though the crest of the heights were barely a kilometre beyond his advanced positions, he had less manpower to undertake the operation than had been the case in the spring.  Replying to Foch today, d'Urbal requests three additional infantry divisions, and that even with reinforcements 'the task remains the same, an arduous effort against an enemy warned and on guard; this will necessitate considerable and prolonged efforts and will result in great losses among the attacking infantry.'  Joffre, however, turns down d'Urbal's request, as given his primary focus on Champagne he does not want, as he writes on d'Urbal's memorandum, 'to sacrifice the infantry uselessly.'

- Northwest of Warsaw, the German forces under General Gallwitz have advanced only five miles since their offensive was launched on the 13th.  However, the response of the Russian army commanders on the scene has been to emphasize a forward defence by their infantry, which has meant in practice that the Russian soldiers have suffered terribly under German artillery fire; seventy percent of the Russian forces opposite the German advance on the 13th are casualties by today.  In this way the Germans are achieving their objective of grinding down the Russian army.  Faced with such enormous losses, Alexeiev of North-West Front orders 1st and 12th Armies to pull back behind the Narew to the southeast, and make a new stand along the river line.  Gallwitz, as well as Falkenhayn, conclude that the heavy Russian casualties will now allow for a breakthrough of the Russian line here and a rapid advance to and the capture of Warsaw.

Notably, the southernmost corps under Gallwitz have now reached the outer defensive lines of the Russian fortress at Novogeorgievsk, near the confluence of the Narew and Vistula Rivers.  A massive defensive complex that included 1680 artillery pieces and over a million shells, Novogeorgievsk was seen as a lynchpin of the Russian defensive position in Poland.  Moreover, it was only the most prominent of a string of Russian forts that had been constructed near the border in Poland for precisely the emergency that the Russian army now faced: having to retreat and needing points which could impede the enemy advance and on which the Russian army could rally.  These forts, however, as with the prewar fortifications in France and Belgium, had been designed and constructed to counter artillery of an earlier age, and it remains to be seen whether Novogeorgievsk will be another Przemysl or Antwerp.

- To the south, the forces under General Woyrsch in southeastern Poland west of the Vistula River, launch their attack after a twenty-four hour artillery bombardment which has concentrated in the final hours on the Russian positions at Sienno.  Here the German 3rd Landwehr Division, spearheading Woyrsch's attack, smashes through the enemy trenches and advancing six kilometres to reach the Krepianka River between Krepa and Rzeczniow.  The assault has blown a hole ten kilometres wide in the Russian line, and Woyrsch issues orders to exploit the advantage with a rapid advance towards the Ilzanka River tomorrow.

The advance of the German force under General Woyrsch, July 17th to 31st, 1915.

- Further east the offensive of the German 11th Army continues, and this evening the Guards Corps breaks through the Russian line at Krasnostaw and secures a bridgehead on the east bank of Wieprz River, turning the flank of the Russian III Caucasian Corps to the south.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

July 16th, 1915

- The main German offensive in southern Poland opens today under the direction of General Mackensen, who in addition to directly commanding the German 11th Army has operational control over the Army of the Bug and the Austro-Hungarian 4th and 1st Armies.  Once again it will be the Germans making the primary advance, spearheaded by 11th Army, driving north on both sides of the Wieprz River and breaking the Russian defensive line between the Vistula and the Bug Rivers.  To teh east, the Army of the Bug will attack towards Cholm, while to the west 4th Army has as its objective the high ground west of Lublin. Simultaneously, General Woyrsch's command will attack on the west bank of the Vistula towards the fortress of Ivangorod while the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army covers the eastern flank along the Bug River.  Overall, Mackensen's powerful force comprises 41 1/2 infantry and 5 cavalry divisions.

Opposite the German and Austro-Hungarians, the Russian defensive positions are held by 4th Army to the west straddling the Vistula, 3rd Army in the centre, and 13th Army to the east, with the Guard and II Siberian Corps, recently pulled from northwestern Poland, in reserve.  Overall the Russians number 33 1/2 infantry and 6 1/2 cavalry divisions, most of which are deployed between the Vistula and the Bug Rivers.  Here it is vital that the Russian forces hold, as losing control of the Ivangorod-Lublin-Cholm rail line in particular would inhibit the evacuation of Russian forces still west of the Vistula.

After a preliminary artillery bombardment made marginally less effective by morning haze preventing accurate targetting, the Guard and XXII Reserve Corps launch the primary assault west of the Wieprz River near Krasnostaw.  Here the entirely of the first Russian line is captured along with six thousand prisoners, and by nightfall the Germans have penetrated to the reserve Russian trenches.  East of the Wieprz, parts of the Austro-Hungarian VI Corps cross the swamps of the Wolica river and come up against the main Russian positions.  To the west, the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army attacks at 11am, but are largely held up in bitter fighting.

The German offensive in southern Poland, July 16th to 31st, 1915.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

July 15th, 1915

- The last component of Mackensen's offensive in southern Poland has been the redeployment of the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army from west of the Vistula River to the right of the Army of the Bug, straddling the pre-war frontier between Austria-Hungary and Russia.  Tasked with covering the eastern flank of the German advance northward, most of 1st Army's formations have reached the front along the Bug River, though several divisions are still in transit.  The delays are symptomatic of the inferior quality of Austro-Hungarian logistics in comparison with their German allies, and the German offensive cannot wait for the last stragglers to arrive - the Army of the Bug, accompanied by the German 81st Reserve Division of 1st Army, launch their preliminary attacks today, seizing ground near the villages of Werbkowice and Zaborce.

- Though the first offensive against the Austro-Hungarian positions along the Isonzo River was suspended barely a week ago, Cadorna issues orders today for a second major operation, scheduled to begin on the 18th.  The primary effort will be undertaken by the Italian 3rd Army, whose first attacks will be launched against Mounts S. Michelle (by XI Corps) and dei sei Busi (by VII Corps), the capture of which would then allow for the seizure of the Görz bridgehead on the west bank of the Isonzo.  Further north, 2nd Army is to launch diversionary assaults on the enemy lines, to prevent reinforcements, and in particular artillery, from being transferred south to oppose 3rd Army.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

July 14th, 1915

- As German forces under General Gallwitz grind forward towards the Narew River, they seize the town of Przasnysz today.

- In southern Poland the German Army of the Bug, consisting of the Beskid Corps, XXIV Reserve Corps, and 1st Division, has completed its deployment on the eastern flank of the German 11th Army.  Because its position in the line is slightly to the south of its western neighbour, the Army of the Bug will start its attack tomorrow so that it will be level with 11th Army when the latter opens Mackensen's main offensive in southern Poland on the 16th.

- The main Ottoman defensive position east of Nasiriyeh lies on a bend in the Euphrates River the British have christened 'Thornycroft Point,' and with its flanks covered by creeks on either side and fronted by mud and swamps, it is a formidable obstacle to the British advance.  Today 12th Indian Division launches its first attack on Thornycroft Point, spearheaded by the 24th Punjabis advancing in the centre.  Reaching within two hundred yards of the Ottoman line, the Punjabis then come under heavy and accurate rifle fire, and repeated charges are repulsed.

Monday, July 13, 2015

July 13th, 1915

- The German offensive on the Eastern Front opens today with simultaneous advances in Courland and central Poland.  While the Army of the Niemen pushes northeast in the direction of Riga against a disorganized Russian defence, the main effort is to the south, where an army group under the command of General Max von Gallwitz has been concentrated northwest of the Narew River in Poland.  Here the Germans have assembled ten and a half divisions, supported by over one thousand artillery pieces supplied with 400 000 shells, and the plan is to reproduce, on a somewhat smaller scale, the tactics of the Gorlice-Tarnow offensive.  After an overwhelming preliminary bombardment designed by Colonel Georg Brüchmuller, a rising star for his effective and innovative use of artillery, Gallwitz's force is to batter its way through the Russian line, and while a breakthrough is desirable, the primary aim is to inflict as much damage as possible on the Russian defenders opposite.

German tactics are not the only similarity with Gorlice-Tarnow, as once again Russian incompetence has a role to play.  The German attack falls on the boundary of two Russian armies - 1st and 12th - and the two commanders show a distinct unwillingness to cooperate.  Further, two corps - II Siberian and the Guards - had been removed from this front to reinforce the crumbling line in southern Poland, and reserves recently assigned to the sector were too far from the front to be of much use.  Further, the trenches themselves had been poorly sited and constructed, and secondary lines barely existed.  The seven divisions opposite the Germans had at their disposal only 377 artillery guns, which were limited to forty rounds per day due to ongoing shortages of ammunition.

Thus when the German attack is launched today, it meets with success.  The preliminary bombardment is overwhelming and crushes the Russian defenders - one Siberian division that attempts to retreat in the open loses half its strength in thirty minutes.  By the end of the day the Germans have punched a two mile gap between the Russian 1st and 12th Armies near Przasnysz, and in the confusion little effort is made by the defenders to coordinate counterattacks or deploy what reserves are available.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

July 12th, 1915

- Having received feedback from his subordinates and staff, and with the Chantilly conference at an end, Joffre issues an order today sketching in broad terms the autumn offensive the French army will undertake.  In line with Castlenau's views, the primary attack will occur in Champagne by twenty-seven infantry divisions and two cavalry corps, which will attack along a front of forty-kilometres, far greater than prior operations.  A secondary attack will be undertaken in Artois by twelve infantry and two cavalry divisions, directed towards Vimy Ridge.  The objective is to 'rupture' the German line and squeeze off the Noyon salient by collapsing its flanks and forcing the Germans to retire eastward.

- After the successful assaults on both flanks of the front line on Cape Helles in late June, the British and French have decided to launch an attack in the centre using the same tactics of a concentrated artillery barrage coupled with modest objectives for the infantry.  The British 52nd Division, as well as the French on its right, attack this morning and gain the first two Ottoman trench lines, followed by intense counterattacks that see the British and French barely holding on to their gains.

- One of the few locations in southern Persia still under British influence is Bushire, and today German consul Wilhelm Wassmuss with several hundred tribal allies approaches the port city.  A British detachment advances to meet them, and in the resulting skirmish two British officers are killed.

- Since the fall the German light cruiser Königsberg has been blockaded in the Rufiji River in German East Africa, though the uncharted channels at the river estuary and the dense foliage has prevented the British from attacking it.  After attempts to bombard by air and by the old pre-dreadnought Goliath failed, the shallow-draught monitors Mersey and Severn had been dispatched from Britain.  Capable of sailing up the delta of the Rufiji, they are able to get within range of Königsberg today and in an exchange of fire sinks the German warship.  It is the last German warship still active outside of European waters, and marks the end of the surface threat to Entente shipping overseas.  In practice Königsberg had made little contribution to this campaign, its exploits paling in comparison to the far more successful Emden.  However, simply by existing in an inaccessible location it has tied down disproportionate British resources for months, and even after its sinking its contribution to the war effort is not at an end; its crew is able to salvage the main guns from the light cruiser and transform them into artillery pieces for the defence of the colony.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

July 11th, 1915

- In the centre of the Adriatic, equidistant from the Italian and Austro-Hungarian shores, sits the tiny island of Pelagosa, barely more than one kilometre wide and 330 metres wide.  For several months, stretching back even prior to the Italian entry into the war, the Italian navy had examined plans to occupy not only Pelagosa but also Lagosta, a larger island further east near the eastern Adriatic coast.  The objective of the operation was to establish signal stations on both islands that could alert the Italian mainland of enemy warships at sea if weather conditions prevented radio communications.  Within the Italian navy, however, there had also been significant reservations over the operations, as in particular a landing on Lagosta would expose Italian warships to enemy interdiction, especially from submarines.  After much debate, the navy decides on a typically indecisive course of action by landing a small garrison on only Pelagosa today, and postponing a decision on Lagosta into the future.  Ninety soldiers land on the undefended island, the most significant structure of which is a lighthouse.  By only occupyin Pelagosa, the Italians have forgone the benefit of observer posts covering the width of the Adriatic (which would require occupying Lagosta as well), while still taking on the risk of Austro-Hungarian countermeasures against a small garrison that requires the active support of the Italian navy if it is to be held indefinitely.

Friday, July 10, 2015

July 10th, 1915

- The intensity of Russian attacks against the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army in southern Poland declines markedly today, as the infantry of the Russian XXV and VI Siberian Corps are worn out after several days of heavy assaults.  They have, nevertheless, accomplished their objectives: the threat to the vital railway linking Ivangorod, Lublin, and Cholm has been been thwarted and substantial casualties have been inflicted on the enemy - several Austro-Hungarian corps have been reduced to the size of Russian regiments - breaking what little offensive power the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army possessed.  It is a notable Russian victory, but one which does nothing to counter the vastly-greater threat of the Germans, whose own offensive is mere days away.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

July 9th, 1915

- Even though the Kaiser had given permission on May 5th for Zeppelin raids on London east of the Tower, this has been insufficient for those within the German navy who desire a more thorough and intensive bombing campaign against Britain, one which specifically targets the City of London, the financial heart of the British Empire and home to the Stock Exchange, the Bank of England, and the headquarters of numerous mercantile firms.  Desiring to have the restriction lifted, Vice-Admiral Gustav Bachmann uses the recent French bombing of Karlsruhe in approaching Bethmann-Holweg today to argue for free reign for the navy's Zeppelins.  The Chancellor agrees to permit bombing raids on the City, provided that they be undertaken only on weekends (to prevent significant civilian casualties) and that historic buildings such as St. Paul's Cathedral and the Tower be spared.  While such limits may sound good in theory, they are hopelessly impractical for Zeppelin crews struggling to identify targets in darkness and while under fire.  Bachmann is thus not satisfied with Bethmann-Hollweg's concession.

- The Russian 3rd Army attacks all along the front in southern Poland today, and the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army is able to hold its positions only by the slenderest of margins after bitter hand-to-hand fighting and several counterattacks to recover lost ground.  Reports from the Austro-Hungarian corps commanders, however, emphasize the exhaustion of the infantry, especially in light of the oppressive heat and lack of water.  Fearing that the Russians may be able to break through by tomorrow afternoon, 4th Army commander requests additional reinforcements; in response Conrad reassigns 4th Division, formerly of 1st Army and en route to the Bug River, to 4th Army.

- In March 1915 the Austro-Hungarian navy, realizing that the war would be lengthy, decided to order the construction of four submarines based on the design of the Havmanden-class, three of which had been built for Denmark before the war by the Whiteyard in Fiume.  This being Austria-Hungary, of course, internal politics naturally had their role to play: the Hungarian government demanded a significant share of production be allocated to Hungarian firms.  To achieve this, the contract signed today provides for the submarines to be partially built in Linz and Pola, after which the parts will be transferred to Pola or Fiume for completion.  Such unnecessary duplication of effort has been endemic to the Dual Monarchy both before and during the war, and is one of the key impediments to an adequate mobilization of the economy to support the war effort.

- Prime Minister Botha of South Africa accepts the surrender of the German colony of South West Africa today, the latter becoming the second of Germany's four colonies (the first being Togoland) to submit to the Entente since the outbreak of the war.  In the course of this campaign the South Africans suffered a mere 113 dead through enemy action and 153 through disease or accident; a further 263 had been wounded; indeed, the South Africans had suffered greater losses suppressing the Boer Rebellion than in the fight for German South West Africa.  Central both to the low casualty total and indeed the campaign itself has been mobility; repeatedly as the main South African column advanced inland from the coast, it used mobility to outflank German positions and force the latter to fall back.  More than half of the soldiers under Botha's command were mounted, a ratio not only in complete contrast to the fighting in Europe but largely unseen since the sixteenth century.  Coupled with the timeless use of horses and mules, however, was a modern innovation: the internal combustion engine, as the rapid advances were only sustainable because trucks carried water over deserts.

German casualties were also light; only 103 were killed and 195 wounded, while 890 were made prisoner.  The preponderance of POWs among the German total reflected the unwillingness of the defenders to fight to the bitter end.  Further, the remaining German force in the field upon surrender numbered 4730 men, and included thirty-seven field guns, eight thousand rifles, and two million rounds of ammunition.  The Germans had the manpower and material to continue resistance through a guerilla campaign, but lacked the willingness.  Of crucial import was that the white officers and soldiers were also colonists.  Not only would a guerilla campaign destroy the economy and infrastructure of the colony they had created, but the social dislocation that would have ensued would have undermined the racial hierarchy that was the very basis of the colonial project.  For many Germans in the colony, the maintenance of white rule was a greater priority than the maintenance of German rule.

Further, this concern was shared by the South Africans:  the terms of the armistice allowed Germans reservists to return to their homes, German schools to function, and the German civilian administration to remain in place.  What Botha and the South Africans aspired to was to rule German South West Africa as a colony, and in this endeavour white rule would be as crucial as it was in South Africa itself.  Thus, once military resistance had ceased, it was in the interests of South Africa to cooperate with the white German colonial population to maintain minority rule over the majority indigenous population.  Though the campaign in German South West Africa had been triggered by the outbreak of war in Europe, how the campaign was fought and the settlement which followed were of a piece with the nature of European imperialism and colonial rule in Africa.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

July 8th, 1915

- While Joffre was asking for and receiving recommendations regarding future operations from his commanders in the field, his staff at French army headquarters has been preparing its own assessment, and submits its conclusions to the commander-in-chief today.  They identify Champage as the preferred region in which to launch the next major offensive, and that it should take place along at least a thirty kilometre stretch of the front, to ensure any push into the German line is sufficiently broad to be sustainable.  In selecting Champagne, they argue that its terrain is the most suitable for such an effort and that a successful advance to Mézières would sever German lateral rail connections and greatly impair their ability to counter future attacks.  Further, the concentration of German infantry and artillery in north of Arras, a legacy of the 1st Battle of Artois, makes another advance on Vimy Ridge problematic.  They do call, however, for preliminary attacks to be undertaken in Artois by the French and to the north by the British to draw German reserves away from Champagne before the major attack is launched.

- In southern Poland the Russian VI Siberian Corps drives south, colliding with the Austro-Hungarian 106th and 8th Divisions of IX Corps.  Though the former holds, the Russians break through the latter, aided by a number of Czech soldiers in 21st Infantry Regiment deserting instead of fighting.  By mid-day 8th Division, straddling the Bystrzyca River, has fallen back three miles, and in the afternoon a second Russian attack drives back their eastern neighbours as well.  The Austro-Hungarian formations suffer heavy losses, and 4th Army has no reserves remaining to reinforce the line.  An appeal to the German 11th Army is turned down, however; Mackensen does not wish to dilute his army's strength on the eve of its next major offensive, scheduled for the 13th, and the success of this offensive ought to remedy any setback on his left.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

July 7th, 1915

- The first major conference of the Entente powers is held today at Chantilly, the headquarters of General Joffre, as representatives of Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Serbia, and Belgium meet to discuss strategy.  Given that the Entente powers are arranged almost in a circle around their main antagonists - Germany and Austria-Hungary - the focal point of discussion is the coordination of multiple simultaneous offensives, utilizing their numerical superiority to force their enemies to fight on all fronts.  In such a scenario, the Germans and Austro-Hungarians would not be able to defend everywhere in sufficient depth, and eventually one of the fronts would collapse.  Joffre particularly emphasizes operations on what he calls the 'larger' fronts - Western, Eastern, and Italian/Balkan - and that only attacks here can have a decisive effect.  Missing from Joffre's formulation are operations against the Ottoman Empire, implying the British would be more useful if they abandoned the Gallipoli campaign and refocused all of their strength on the Western Front.  Though details are avoided, the Entente countries (minus Russia, given the deteriorating situation on the Eastern Front) agree to launch major operations this fall.

A corollary of the co-ordination of offensives is that it is not necessary for any particular offensive to actually work; even if an attack fails to gain any ground, it will have contributed to the overall victory of the Entente if, by simply pinning enemy reserves and inflicting casualties, it contributes to the success of an offensive elsewhere.  This is a potent rationalization of failure, and is is particularly well-suited to the Italian Front, given the Italian army has shown no ability to win a battle on its own anyway; at least this will give the appearance of 'purpose' behind the throwing away of thousands of lives along the Isonzo River.

- General Castlenau, commander of the Army Group of the Centre, replies to Joffre's inquiry regarding future offensives by identifying two sectors he believes that such an operation can be undertaken.  The first is a ten-kilometre stretch of the line about twenty kilometres west of Reims, near the Chemin des Dames and the Aisne River, while the second, centred on Perthes in Champagne, lay in 4th Army's sector.  Both regions have already been the setting for major battles in the war: in the former the Battle of the Aisne River in September 1914, and in the latter the 1st Battle of Champagne over the winter.

- Having failed to break through at any point, the Italian offensive along the Isonso River is called off today, bringing the 1st Battle of the Isonzo to an end.  Overall, the Italians have suffered 15 000 casualties, which pale in comparison to future battles on the Isonzo, but already the pattern of attack, failure, and attack again is being set; Cadorna is already preparing for his next offensive in the sector.  Austro-Hungarian losses, meanwhile, number almost 10 000, but confidence has grown that the meagre forces defending the Isonzo may actually be able to hold off the Italians.

- Shortly after the Italian entry into the war, they had deployed a squadron of four Pisa-class armoured cruisers to Venice to support hit-and-run operations against the Adriatic coast, and also to ameliorate concern from the army over a lack of naval support for the advance across the Isonzo River (such that it was).  The British and French liaison officers to the Italian fleet see the move as pointless, as the armoured cruisers would lack the speed to catch their most likely opponent, the Austro-Hungarian Novara-class light cruisers, and otherwise are too far to support the main Italian fleet at Taranto.  Today Amalfi, one of the Pisa-class armoured cruisers, puts to sea to support a sweep by Italian destroyers while escorted by only two torpedo-boats itself, and is torpedoed and sunk by UB14.  Of note, the identity of the submarine is a matter of some uncertainty.  It was a German boat, commanded by a German and with a German crew, and after shipment overland it had been assembled at the main Austro-Hungarian naval base of Pola and was en route to the Aegean to combat.  The potential issue, of course, is that Germany and Italy are not at war, so a German submarine theoretically has no business attacking an Italian armoured cruiser.  This technicality is evaded by the presence of an Austro-Hungarian naval officer on UB14 as a pilot, thereby allowing the Austro-Hungarians to claim that the submarine was under their 'direction' while in the Adriatic.

- For several months the Ottoman authorities have been pursuing a campaign of genocide against the Armenian population, the victims being either murdered outright or expelled from their homes and force-marched to the deserts of Syria.  The Ottoman government has presented this as an operation based on military necessity, in that the Armenian population in eastern Anatolia is fundamentally disloyal and needs to be removed from regions near the front lines in the Caucasus.  This invented justification is notably the excuse conveyed to their German allies, and German officials in the Ottoman Empire initially accepted that the deportations were necessary limited.  Over the past several weeks, however, the true intentions of the Ottoman leadership have become clear to Hans Wangenheim, German ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, who writes to Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg today that deportations are occurring 'even in those parts of the country . . . not threatened by any enemy invasion' and that 'the government is indeed pursuing its purpose of eradicating the Armenian race from the Turkish[sic] Empire.'

Monday, July 06, 2015

July 6th, 1915

- Before the Entente conference at Chantilly scheduled for tomorrow, British and French political and military leaders meet at Calais today to discuss strategy.  Joffre calls for another major offensive on the Western Front, and advances two lines of thinking beyond the necessity of liberating occupied French territory.  First, the Entente needs to attack on the Western Front while the German defence has been relatively weakened due to troop transfers to the east.  If they wait instead, it would give the Germans, victorious in the east, the opportunity to shift forces back to the west and themselves go on the offensive.  Second, an attack is necessary to prevent even greater disasters on the Eastern Front should the Germans be able to send further reinforcements east.  Joffre calls on the British to send as many divisions as possible to France and participate in the forthcoming offensive.

Lord Kitchener, however, has his reservations.  He doubts whether a truly decisive victory is possible on the Western Front, as evidenced in his support of the Dardanelles operation.  Further, Kitchener is extremely hesitant to send the 'New Armies', composed of the hundreds of thousands of men who have volunteered since the outbreak of the war, into combat until they are fully trained and equipped.  These are the divisions that Joffre speaks of, and Kitchener is very reluctant to let him have them; the meeting concludes without a firm British commitment.

- In southern Poland the Austro-Hungarian VIII, X, and XVII Corps of 4th Army secure further small gains today.  Given that the fighting of the past week has exhausted the ammunition supply, however, 4th Army headquarters issues orders this evening to suspend offensive operations for two days.  The Austro-Hungarians envision that once the supply issue has been addressed, they will be able to resume the offensive on the 9th.

The Russians, however, have other plans, as the counterattack of yesterday was only the prelude to a much larger operation.  The Russian 3rd Army has concentrated the fresh troops of XXV and VI Siberian Corps on either side of the Bystrzyca River on the front line northeast of Kraśnik opposite the centre of the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army, and the attack is to begin in the predawn hours of tomorrow.

- North of the upper Isonzo three Alpini battalions of the Italian army attempt to advance near Mt. Krn, but are repulsed.  To the south, however, VI and X Corps make only half-hearted efforts to renew the attacks of yesterday.

- Having successfully passed the barrage at Akaika on June 29th, the Indian expedition up the Euphrates River reaches Suk-es-Shuyukh today, which they seize as a base of operations for the advance towards Nasiryeh.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

July 5th, 1915

- General Alexeiev of North-West Front meets with Grand Duke Nicholas, the Russian chief of staff, today at Siedlec to discuss the situation on the Eastern Front.  Both recognize the very real danger that a continued German thrust northwards between the Vistula and Bug Rivers poses to the Russian position in central Poland.  Alexeiev requests, and is given, permission to withdraw the armies still west of the Vistula to the east at his discretion.  He intends, however, to hold off retreating until it is necessary, in order to slow any potential German advance and make them fight for any territory they are able to capture.

- In southern Poland the Russian 3rd Grenadier and Ural Cossack Divisions launch a counterattack early this morning against the lines of the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army near Urzedow.  Though X Corps is initially forced back, reinforcements are sent to the threatened sector, and the Russian advance is contained.  The apparent failure of the Russian attack today, combined with a further advance of the right wing of 4th Army, convinces its commander that the Russians opposite remain a beaten force, and orders are issued to continue the pursuit tomorrow.

- Today the Italian army introduces a new cipher for encoding radio transmissions.  Intended to enhance signal security, it has the opposite effect: even before it is introduced the code had already been acquired by Austro-Hungarian intelligence and broken, meaning the Austro-Hungarians can read Italian signals as soon as the cipher is implemented.

- Meanwhile, at the front today sees the crescendo of the Italian offensive along the Isonzo River, as VI Corps launches what is intended to be an overwhelming attack between Mt. Sabotino and Lucinico towards the city of Görz.  Despite being outnumbered six to one, the Austro-Hungarian defenders hold, in no small part due to the disorganization of the Italian assaults, and the latter suffer several thousand casualties.  To the south the Italian X Corps, reinforced be half of 22nd Division from XI Corps, advances against the Karst plateau, though after heavy fighting the attack is defeated.  Though the Austro-Hungarians have held, they have suffered significant losses as well, most battalions on the Karst plateau have now lost over half their strength.  General Borevic of the Austro-Hungarian 5th Army rushes reinforcements to the front to reinforce the hard-pressed defenders.

- For the past week Ottoman forces at Cape Helles have been counterattacking the British positions seized on Gully Spur on June 28th.  Despite thousands of casualties, the Ottomans have been unsuccessful, and today the assaults are called off.  The operation is an undoubted British victory, but one barren of strategic consequence; advancing the front line several hundred yards is insufficient to give the Entente control of Gallipoli and allow the fleet to pass through the Dardanelles.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

July 4th, 1915

- Mackensen's orders to the Austro-Hungarin 4th Army to halt do not reach its headquarters until early this morning, too late to stop the day's operations.  In the course of the day the centre and right of the army are able to advance northwards up to fifteen kilometres, a notable success that encourages the commander of 4th Army to order a further advance tomorrow.  However, the infantry have been in constant combat since June 29th, and General Alexeiev of North-West Front is concentrating reserves near Lublin for a counterattack.

- This morning the lead elements of the Austro-Hungarian 46th Landwehr Division of 1st Army arrive northeast of Lemberg, though delays on the railways are slowing down the transport of the rest of the army.  As a result, Falkenhayn proposes to Conrad today that a new army be formed on the right of the German 11th Army to ensure its eastern flank remains covered.  General Linsingen is appointed to lead the Army of the Bug, and is replaced as Südarmee commander by General Felix Bothmer.  Under Linsingen will be the German XLI Reserve Corps, the Beskid Corps, and the German 1st, 107th, 11th Bavarian, and 5th Cavalry Divisions.

- Yesterday the German submarine U-21, after resupplying at Constantinople, sortied through the Dardanelles on its second mission against Entente shipping.  It did not have to wait long to find suitable prey: for several days the large French steamer Carthage has been off the south-west tip of Gallipoli, used to resupply French forces on the peninsula.  It makes a very inviting target, and upon sighting the steamer U21 promptly puts a torpedo into Carthage, which rapidly sinks.  Its loss is of little surprise to British naval officers off the Dardanelles; Commodore Keyes suggests afterwards that given its location and size its sinking was only a matter of time, and the French would have been better off using smaller but faster and more agile craft for resupply purposes.

Friday, July 03, 2015

July 3rd, 1915

- This afternoon the centre of the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army launches a major attack in southern Poland, with IX and XIV Corps (the latter brought up from reserve) seizing a 14km stretch of the Russian trecnch line.  To the west 24th Division of X Corps seizes and holds Kraśnik.  Greater Russian resistance is encountered by the left and right wings of 4th Army, limiting gains to the centre.  To the east reports reach Mackensen of Russian reserves assembling along the eastern flank of the German 11th Army.  Given ongoing concern over the exposure of this flank, Mackensen issues orders to 11th Army as well as 4th Army to halt further attacks until the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army arrives northeast of Lemberg to hold the flank.

- In German South-West Africa the colonial governor Theodor Seitz and the military commander Colonel Victor Franke meet today to discuss the defence of the colony.  The remaining German forces have been pushed into the northeast of the colony and are increasingly under-supplied, the South African advance will shortly push the Germans off of the last remaining rail line under German control.  Moreover, the rapid defeat at Otavi on the 1st shows that morale among the askaris has collapsed.  Seitz insists that resistance should continue to maintain a German claim to the colony, and suggested the defenders scatter into the jungle.  Franke, however, is more realistic.  He understands that further resistance will result in additional casualties without materially effecting the outcome of the campaign, and that the fate of South-West Africa will ultimately hinge on the war in Europe: if Germany wins, the colony may be restored, whereas if Germany loses, holding out longer will make no difference.  Franke is able to impose his views on his civilian counterpart, and a message is sent to Louis Botha today asks for terms.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

July 2nd, 1915

- In Britain the Munitions of War Act comes into effect today, providing the legislative machinery for government control of armaments production by the new Ministry of Munitions under David Lloyd George.  Under the legislation any business involved in war production can be designated a 'controlled establishment', in which case a series of government restrictions would be imposed in the name of productivity.  Critically, these restrictions were primarily directed not at employers, but at employees: strikes are prohibited, arbitration made compulsory, and restrictions on the ability to change jobs.  In exchange, workers in 'controlled establishments' are given badges that effectively exempted them from military service.

- Though yesterday Foch expressed a desire to conduct another offensive by the French 10th Army against Vimy Ridge, General d'Urbal reports today that the infantry of 10th Army are exhausted after fifty days of near-constant combat, and are in no condition to undertake major operations.  Joffre is sympathetic to d'Urbal's concerns, and orders 10th Army to focus on establishing strong defensive positions only.

- Falkenhayn meets with Hindenburg and Ludendorff today at Posen in the presence of the kaiser to discuss future operations on the Eastern Front.  When the German chief of staff had originally committed 11th Army to the east in April, he had envisioned its deployment lasting until the liberation of Austro-Hungarian Galicia.  Once this had been accomplished, Falkenhayn reasoned, the threat to Austria-Hungary from Rusia would be removed, and 11th Army could return to the Western Front for operations there.  Though the purpose of the Gorlice-Tarnow offensive have been achieved, Falkenhayn has reconsidered his views.  He had been concerned with Entente superiority on the Western Front, but the 2nd Battle of Artois has demonstrated the ability of the German army in the west to successfully stand on the defensive even when substantially outnumbered.  Further, Falkenhayn has concluded that more damage can yet be inflicted on the Russian army.  Crucially, however, he does not foresee a decisive, war-winning victory as possible, given the space in Russia and the ability of the Russians to retreat from any grand envelopment.  Instead, Falkenhayn's desires to inflict further hammer blows on the Russian army in the vein of Gorlice-Tarnow to wear the Russians out and convince them to agree to a peace amenable to Germany.  This is a logical extension of the views expressed by Falkenhayn since the fall; namely, that Germany must reduce the number of its enemies through negotiation in order to concentrate on the others.

Thus at today's meeting Falkenhayn rejects Ludendorff's proposal for a major offensive to be undertaken in Courland by the Army of the Niemen, which the latter proposes can advance through Kovno and Vilna to join with Mackensen's 11th Army in encircling the entire Russian army in Poland.  Falkenhayn views such an operation as widely optimistic, and that such sweeping envelopments are simply not possible in the conditions of modern warfare, which in particular limit the ability of cavalry to exploit breakthroughs and surround opposing forces.  Instead, Falkenhayn proposes to stick to the Gorlice-Tarnow formula in which the Russian army would be worn out through a series of step-by-step offensives relying on the power of artillery.  Wilhelm II sides with Falkenhayn, and his more moderate plans are approved.  In the north, the army under General Gallwitz, stretching from the Vistula River towards the Masurian Lakes, will undertake the primary attack, advancing towards Warsaw.  Further, the forces under General Worysch in central Poland will pin the Russians opposite to prevent reserves being redeployed from this stretch of the line.  Finally, 11th Army will undertake a major offensive northwards between the Vistula and Bug Rivers, and to allow for it to concentrate on its advance as opposed to flank protection, the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army is to be withdrawn from west of the Vistula in southwestern Poland and inserted into the line northeast of Lemberg between 11th Army to the north and the Austro-Hungarian 2nd Army in the south.  To allow time for the redeployments to be completed and munitions stockpiled, the offensives are planned to begin July 13th.

The Eastern Front in early July, 1915.

- Meanwhile in southern Poland the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army wins several local successes, seizing several villages, but fails to secure a decisive breakthrough.

The 2nd Battle of Kraśnik, July 2nd to 10th, 1915.

- For the past two days the Italian 3rd Army has been concentrating its efforts against the Karst plateau southwest of Görz along the Isonzo River, but a series of infantry attacks have failed to secure any significant ground.

- The influence of German consul Wilhelm Wassmuss in southern Persia continues to grow, securing alliances with numerous tribes in the region that, as opposed to the central government, are the real power.  Through Wassmuss the interior of southern Persia is essentially under German control, and British influence has been confined to a few coastal enclaves - Wassmuss has even been able to erect a wireless station to communicate with Germany proper.  The growing German influence has attracted the attention of British officials in India, who fear losing control over the Northwest Frontier.  Today, the Indian viceroy tells British consuls in Persia to seek out tribal allies that can be used to directly confront German influence in the country.

- In German South-West Africa German forces holding the line east of Otavifontein defending Grootfontein fall back on Gaub today, given the appearance of South African forces before them and the retreat of the defenders at Otavi uncovering their western flank.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

July 1st, 1915

- Foch responds today to Joffre's inquiry regarding the next major offensive operation to be undertaken by the French army, and the commander of Army Group North calls for another operation in Artois aimed at Vimy Ridge, the seizure of which Foch believes would force the Germans to evacuate the Noyon salient.  In contrast, he argues that no comparable success in Champagne could force a similar German withdrawal.  To support another offensive directed at Vimy Ridge, Foch suggests major attacks by the French 2nd Army south of Arras and by the British to the north.

- In southern Poland the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army closes up to the lines of the Russian 3rd Army along the Wyznica and Por River by this evening.   Efforts of VIII and X Corps to cross the former are thwarted by heavy Russian fire from the northern bank, while three companies of X Corps that had occupied Kraśnik during the day were forced to withdraw by nightfall under pressure from larger Russian forces.  Despite the Russian resistance encountered today, the commander of 4th Army believes the Russians opposite are still retreating, and orders the entire army to attack tomorrow.

- In German South-West Africa two South African mounted brigades, numbering about 3500 men, approach Otavi today.  Opposite them are about a thousand German soldiers, but because of fears of a South African enveloping maneouver they have been deployed in depth, leaving the hills protecting Otavi and Otavifontein only thinly held.  Botha pushes his South Africans forward on the left, and the thin German line is quickly forced back.  By early afternoon the Germans are withdrawing to the northeast towards Gaub, and the speed at which the German defensive position collapsed is reflected in German casualties numbering only thirty-one.  If the Germans had held the line at Otavi for just two days, the South Africans would have been forced to retreat due to a lack of water.  Instead, the ease of the South African success suggests that morale among the German Schutztruppe has collapsed.