Monday, August 31, 2015

August 31st, 2015

- Having held up the Austro-Hungarian advance southwest of Lutsk, General Brusilov, given that the enemy is clearly attempting to envelop his positions from the north, orders his 8th Army to pull back behind the Styr River running south of the city.  The withdrawal is accomplished without significant interruption, though Lutsk itself is captured by the Austro-Hungarian IX Corps by this evening.  While the Austro-Hungarian armies are advancing, it is not the crushing envelopment Conrad had envisioned.  Hoping to yet win a decisive victory, Conrad today reestablishes 4th Army at the northern end of the line, taking over IX, X, and XIV Corps from 1st Army, and assigns it the primary mission of advancing beyond Lutsk to Rovno.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

August 30th, 1915

- With the growing activity of German submarines in the eastern Mediterranean, the Entente navies have sought to shut down their access to the Austro-Hungarian naval bases they are using in the Adriatic.  Today the British Admiralty issues orders for a first batch of trawlers to depart home waters for the Mediterrean, where they are to be used to establish an anti-submarine barrage across the narrow exit of the Adriatic at the Straits of Otranto.  To do so, the trawlers will drag large anti-submarine nets in their wake across the straits, hoping to entangle German submarines as they transit to and from the Adriatic, and thereby forcing them from the eastern Mediterranean for a lack of suitable naval bases.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

August 29th, 1915

- The German Army of the Bug, driving east from Brest-Litovsk, captures the town of Kobrin today.  To the south, the centre of the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army, advancing southeast between Lutsk and the Bug River, runs into new Russian defensive positions near Swiniuchy and along the Sierna River covering Lutsk, and the army commander informs Conrad that he intends to assault the lines tomorrow once his artillery, delayed by poor roads, can be brought up.  Conrad, however, believes attacking here can have only negligible results, and instead once again emphasizes that the main axis of advance should be towards and north of Lutsk, to execute the envelopment of the Russian 8th Army he so greatly desires.  As a result the Austro-Hungarian X Corps is pulled out of the line today and ordered to march east to swing around Lutsk from the north.

The Austro-Hungarian advance towards Lutsk, Aug. 29th, 1915.

Friday, August 28, 2015

August 28th, 1915

- Falkenhayn today issues new orders for the Eastern Front which emphasize that once ongoing operations have been completed - especially the offensive towards Vilna undertaken by Hindenburg's army group - German forces will halt and construct a long-term defensive position stretching roughly from the upper Bug River to the Baltic Sea in Courland.  In the centre this means that the army groups under Mackensen and Prince Leopold will halt roughly along the line Ratno-Szereszowo, as Falkenhayn sees no strategic purpose in pursuing the retreating Russians into the Pripat Marshes, which would only stretch German logistics even farther than they already are.  Falkenhayn also warns Hindenburg and Ludendorff that once German forces have taken up their new defensive positions, between ten and twelve divisions will be transferred for service on other fronts.  Though Russia has not been knocked out of the war, Falkenhayn believes, with some justification, that both the ability and willingness of the Russian army to undertake offensive operations has been shattered for the foreseeable future, and thus wishes to take advantage of the opportunity to strike against other foes.  Hindenburg and Ludendorff, not surprisingly, disagree, seeing in the weakened Russian foe an opportunity to strike the knockout blow that the German chief of staff believes impossible.

Given his conclusion, Falkenhayn has been issuing orders for the redeployment of some of the German forces on the Eastern Front.  In addition to dispatching forces to the Balkans for an offensive against Serbia, the German chief of staff wishes to send some divisions back to the Western Front, where they can act as reserves while they rest and receive replacements for losses suffered during the campaign in Russia.  Today, orders go out to the Guard Corps, which is detached from Mackensen's army group and instructed to march from Brest-Litovsk to Warsaw, where it will entrain for the west.

- To the south, overnight the Russian 8th Army pulls back from the Bug River eastwards.  Conrad emphasizes to the commander of the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army the importance of quickly seizing Lutsk, and elements of the army are across the Styr River north of the city by noon.

- Despite the recent arrival of U34 and U35 in the eastern Mediterranean, Admiral Souchon has pleaded with his superiors in Berlin to send more submarines, in light of the British landing at Sulva Bay earlier this month.  It is decided to dispatch two submarines, not only for the military impact they may have, but also to given the impression of German strength to the neutral states in the Balkans.  Yesterday U39 departed Germany for the Mediterranean, followed today by U33.

- After the capture of Amara in early June General Townshend of 6th Indian Division had become ill, and departed for India to convalesce,  His soldiers, meanwhile, had endured the summer heat of Mesopotamia, with a number also becoming sick.  The summer low of the Tigris also impaired the resupply of the division, and shortages of all kinds were being felt.  Today, however, Townshend returns to Amara and reassumes command of 6th Indian Division which its soldiers take, correctly, as a sign of a return to action., as accompanying him are orders from General Nixon to advance up the Tigris River and seize Kut.  Townshend himself has concerns over the advance: reinforcements are needed, and advancing another 120 miles up the Tigris will further extend the already tenuous supply line back to Basra.  Nevertheless, he has been reassured by the commander-in-chief of the Indian army that he will not be ordered to advance beyond Kut without additional reinforcements.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

August 27th, 1915

- Though for Conrad's offensive on the southern stretch of the Eastern Front the primary advance is to be undertaken by 1st Army from the north, the massive envelopment the Austro-Hungarian chief of staff desires can only be achieved if the armies to the south - 2nd, Süd, and 7th - also push forward south of the confluence of the Bug and Zlota Lipa Rivers.  Launching their assaults this morning, elements from all three armies are able to secure bridgeheads over the Zlota Ripa by this evening.

Given that Southwest Front is now confronting threats to both of its flanks, General Ivanov orders his forces in the centre - 8th and 11th Armies, along with the northern wing of 9th Army - to fall back to a line between the Bug and Styr Rivers (for the former) and along the Strypa (for the latter two).

The Austro-Hungarian offensive in Galicia and Volhynia, Aug. 27th to Sept. 2nd, 1915.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

August 26th, 1915

- Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg convenes a conference at Pless today to discuss the diplomatic crisis that has ensued from the sinking of the passenger liner Arabic on the 19th.  He argues that there is no point arguing over whether the Americans ought to be outraged or not; the fact is they are, and that war is possible if decisive action is not taken.  His position that the Americans must be appeased by restricting submarine warfare is supported by Falkenhayn, who hopes that the United States can be kept out of the war.  Only the naval officers present insist that unrestricted submarine warfare must be allowed to continue, and that any concessions to the Americans would constitute pandering.  The navy is overruled, and Wilhelm II authorized Bethmann-Hollweg to conclude a diplomatic agreement with the Americans that defers to the latter's wishes regarding submarine warfare.  Admiral Bachmann, chief of the naval staff, asks to be relieved rather than execute a policy he disagrees with, and he is replaced by Admiral Hennig von Holtzendorff, a personal friend of the Chancellor and a skeptic of the ability of unrestricted submarine warfare to bring Britain to its knees.

- On the Eastern Front the German 12th Army finally manages to capture the Russian fortress of Osowiec today, which had repulsed prior assaults.  For several weeks it had served as a northern 'hinge' for the Russian retreat from Poland.  With the Russian armies to the south having pulled back behind the line of the fortress, Osowiec has served its purpose, and the Russians have withdrawn eastwards.

To the south, the fortress of Brest-Litovsk is also seized today; in the predawn hours advance elements of the German 11th Army pierce the inner fortifications and reach the Bug River, where they find the highway bridge in flames, set alight by the retreating Russians.  Despite their best efforts, however, vast quantities of food and supplies fall into German hands with the capture of Brest-Litovsk, including once again a significant stockpile of artillery shells that could have been put to much better use by the armies in the field.  The Russian forces on both flanks of the fortress also retreat, and 11th Army and the Army of the Bug make significant progress today, with the Guard, X Reserve, and XXII Reserve Corps reaching the line Rudka-Pruska northeast of Brest-Litovsk this evening.

German soldiers outside the burning citadel at Brest-Litovsk.

The Eastern Front after the fall of Brest-Litovsk, Aug. 26th, 1915.

- The second phase of Conrad's offensive opens today with the advance of the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army southeast from the line Kowel-Vladimir-Volynski.  Though the pace of the advance is slowed by the vast swamps of the region, which require foot-bridges to cross, the Austro-Hungarians are able to make encouraging progress against light opposition from Russian cavalry.  General Ivanov of Southwest Front, however, had not been ignorant of the potential threat to his northern flank with the withdrawal of 13th Army to the northeast, and had instructed General Brusilov of 8th Army to stretch his northern wing back from the Bug River to cover Lutsk, and the latter had deployed four cavalry divisions to screen his exposed flank.  The Russians have also used the two months of relative quiet along this stretch of the front to reinforce their battered divisions, and their average combat strength has risen from four to seven thousand.  The new recruits, however, are dreadfully inexperienced, and many lack rifles.

- British and French officials confer at Duala today regarding the campaign in German Kamerun, and decide on a joint thrust to Jaunde after the end of the rainy season (October in the east and November in the west).

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

August 25th, 1915

- The German advance both north and south of Brest-Litovsk convinces General Alexeiev that the fortress is in imminent danger of envelopment.  Wanting to avoid a repetition of the debacle at Novogeorgievsk, he orders the abandonment of Brest-Litovsk today, and instructs the Russian armies in central Poland to withdraw to the line Grodno-Kobrin.  The Russian X, XIV, and III Caucasian Corps begin to pull back eastwards, and throughout the day massive explosions continuously rock the fortifications as the Russians attempt to destroy anything of military value.  German and Austro-Hungarian forces push into the ruins, though they continue to suffer casualties due to exploding mines.

Monday, August 24, 2015

August 24th, 1915

- For the past four days, the German 11th Army has attacked Russian positions on both sides of the Bug River northwest of Brest-Litovsk, but have been unable to make significant progress.  When a further assault is launched this morning, however, the enemy trenches are found to be abandoned.  Overnight the southern wing of the Russian 4th Army retreated to avoid being outflanked by the advance of Prince Leopold's army group to the north.  In response the left wing of 11th Army sets off in pursuit - 44th Reserve Division pushes to the village of Kolodno at the confluence of the Bug and Lesna River, the Guard Corps advances east through Niecholsty, and X Reserve Corps drives northeast to reach the next Russian defensive position on the line Kustyn-Barszczewo.

- After only occasional delays caused by the rearguard actions of Russian cavalry, German and Austro-Hungarian cavalry detachments under General Heydebreck occupy the city of Kowel this morning.  The German 5th and Austro-Hungarian 11th Honved Divisions turn north, pursuing the retreating Russian XXXI Corps.  This secures the northern flank for the next phase of Conrad's offensive, and the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army is assembling between Vladimir-Volynski and Kowel for an attack towards the town of Luck, aiming for the gap that has opened between the Russian 13th Army to the north and 8th Army, still along the upper Bug River, to the south.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

August 23rd, 1915

- Having received instructions from Kitchener that the BEF is to attack not only in the location but also the manner desired by Joffre, Sir John French informs Haig that the latter's 1st Army is to mount a full-scale attack against the German line south of La Bassée Canal.

- Over the past four days the left and centre of the German 10th Army has pushed over halfway from Kovno to Vilna.  Along the entire Eastern Front, the only area where the Germans have not pushed significantly eastwards is the old battlefield at the forest of Augustow, where the line remains west of Grodno.

- After the decision in late July to send two ocean-going submarines to the Mediterranean, U34 and U35 had departed Heligoland on August 4th, and after a non-stop voyage both arrive at Cattaro today, which they shall use as a base for operations against Entente shipping in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

August 22nd, 1915

- A centrepiece of Entente propaganda since the spring had been the German use of chlorine gas at the First Battle of Ypres, both as a violation of the rules of war and an affront to Western civilization, and had materially contributed to diminished reputation of Germany in neutral states in particular.  What was undeniable, however, had been the impact of the first use of gas on the Western Front, given the hole it 'blew' in the Entente line at Ypres and the ground subsequently captured.  Given the success the Entente powers have also been strongly tempted since April to make use of chemmical warfare themselves, and while some voices were raised in the British government opposing the use of chlorine gas on both a moral and a technical level (doubts were raised whether British industry could produce sufficient amounts of chlorine gas), the Cabinet had ultimately decided that they could not set aside a weapon that had the apparent potential to break the stalemate on the Western Front.  For several months special detachments of Royal Engineers had been training on the handling and use of chlorine gas, and today demonstrate their capabilities before General Haig and his corps commanders.  Suitably impressed, Haig adds the release of chlorine gas to his planning for the impending attack of his 1st Army south of La Bassée Canal.

- On the Eastern Front the German 8th Army seizes the Russian fortress at Ossoviets today, while a subsequent advance also captures the town of Tykocin on the Narew River.  To the south Prince Leopold's army group launches attacks to drive the Russian defenders opposite into the Bielowiese Forest further east, and though progress is made among the swamps a decisive success eludes the Germans.  On the other side of Brest-Litovsk, the German 1st and 22nd Divisions of the Army of the Bug have reached Oltusz and Radez respectively today, and their advance has forced the Russian II Caucasian Corps to pull back from the Bug River between Wlodawa and Slawatyzce, with 11th Bavarian Division crossing in pursuit.

- After several months convalescence, King Constantine I of Greece has sufficiently recovered to resume his political responsibilities, and today appoints Eleutherios Venizelos, who had emerged victorious in the June elections, Prime Minister.

Friday, August 21, 2015

August 21st, 1915

- The finance ministers of France and Britain, meeting at Boulogne today, agree to float a joint loan in the United States, though it will formally be in Britain's name only.  It was also agreed that proceeds would be shared with Russia, though Russian involvement would be kept private as American investors would be very hesitant to take up a loan backed by a government with such a poor fiscal reputation.  It is hoped that American revulsion at the sinking of the passenger liners Lusitania and, two days ago, Arabic would enhance the willingness of American investors to back the Entente financially, and President Wilson has indicated privately that while he will not endorse the loan, he will not oppose it.

- The Russians opposite Prince Leopold's army group retreat during the night, and during the former's pursuit of the latter today elements of both the German 12th Army and General Woyrsch's command cut the railway linking Brest-Litovsk and Bialystok while cavalry seize the town of Kleszczeli.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

August 20th, 1915

- For several months Kitchener has resisted complying with the request of Joffre for a major British attack to accompany the fall French offensive, preferring the British contribution to be limited to a heavy artillery bombardment that would not waste large numbers of infantry in futile assaults.  A discussion of operations on the Western Front at the Dardanelles Committee today, however, shows that events have conspired to wear down the opposition of the Secretary of State for War.  On the Eastern Front, the recent fall of Warsaw seems to indicate that the Russians face a fresh series of disasters, and a strong effort by Britain and France is needed to prop up Russian morale.  Such a success is not to be found on Gallipoli, however, given the failure of the big push over the past two weeks.  The French themselves, Kitchener suggests to the committee, need to go on the attack to preserve morale, and that the hesitancy of the British to attack is leading the French 'to have grave doubts about us.'  The nightmare scenario of Russia and/or France seeking a separate peace is even raised.  In such circumstances, Kitchener, with the utmost reluctance, now states that the British Expeditionary Force needs to undertake a major attack along the French this fall, even though, as he replies to a colleague, 'the odds were against a great success.'  The circumstances of the war have forced the British hand; as he informs the committee, 'we must make war as we must, not as we should like.'  With such sentiments are thousands of British infantry condemned to die; indeed, it is an appropriate summary of how all sides view the ongoing struggle.

- On the Eastern Front only the German 12th Army is able to make significant progress today, seizing Nurec and Bielsk; the army groups of Prince Leopold and Mackensen are largely held up by strong Russian resistance.  Even where the Russians are pulling back, however, the pace of the German advance is slowing, as casualty lists grow and logistical difficulties multiply; since the beginning of the month, General Gallwitz's 12th Army has suffered 60 000 losses while supplies now have to be hauled 125 kilometres by cart from the nearest railheads.

- Though it had declared war on Austria-Hungary in May, it is only today that the Italian government formally declares war on the Ottoman Empire, and technically remains at peace with Germany.

- Having successfully evaded Russian patrols in eastern Persia, the German mission to Afghanistan reaches the border at Herat today.  The Germans enter the city in formal dress; the governor of the town is polite but unimpressed, and decides to hold the mission in the town while awaiting instructions from the emir of Afghanistan in Kabul.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

August 19th, 1915

- Recently-promoted Brigadier-General Hugh Trenchard is appointed today to command the Royal Flying Corps on the Western Front.  Having learned to fly in 1912 at the age of thirty-nine and served as second in command of the Central Flying School before the war, Trenchard was a protege of Kitchener, the two being similar in temperament, for better and worse.  With the RFC subordinate to the War Office, Kitchener appreciated Trenchard's opinion that the primary role of the RFC was to support the BEF.  It is an important milestone in the rise of Trenchard, who will become the most important figure in the wartime and postwar RFC.

- Lieutenant Oswald Boelcke gets his first kill today in his new Eindecker fighter.  He and Immelmann, both members of Abteilung 62 based at Douai, regularly fly together, and violate protocol by flying over enemy lines in search of enemy aircraft, instead of waiting for them to cross the front.

- For the past several months, a series of communications have traveled back and forth between Berlin and Washington, attempting to resolve the dispute over unrestricted submarine warfare which had emerged after the sinking of the passenger ship Lusitania in May, and the two sides are approaching agreement on the basis of Bethmann-Hollweg's declaration of June 1st that neutral ships, and passenger ships of all countries, are to be spared.  However, diplomatic discussions and theoretical limitations on the limits to submarine warfare take little account of the practical reality of naval combat in the North Atlantic, and the difficulty U-boat commanders can have reconciling such instructions with the necessity to ensure the safety of their submarine.  Off Kinsale, Ireland today the captain of U-20 encounters precisely this dilemma, and his choice torpedoes the diplomatic efforts since May.  The German U-boat stops the British steamer Durnsley, permitting the crew to enter their lifeboats before detonating bombs in the vessel's hold.  All of this is perfectly 'legitimate' submarine warfare, even in the eyes of the American, but it is what happens next that this problematic.  Durnsley takes a long time to sink, and as it does so the large passenger steamer Arabic of the White Star line appears, bound for New York.  The captain of U-20 recalls that his submarine had been fired upon by a large steamer five days earlier, and decides that Arabic is not just a target but a potential threat.  Rather than remain on the surface, possibly exposing itself to fire from the steamer, the captain orders U-20 to submerge and attack, firing a torpedo that strikes and sinks Arabic.  Forty-four passengers drown, including three Americans.  News of the sinking outrages American public opinion; not only does it make it seem that German submariners are ignoring instructions issued by their own government, but that the German government had been duping the Americans into believing they were making concessions regarding unrestricted submarine warfare that they either never intended to follow through on or could not be enforced.  Either way, the diplomatic progress of the past few months sinks with Arabic.

The British passenger steamer Arabic, torpedoed and sunk today by the German submarine U-20 off Kinsale, Ireland.

- For the past eleven days German artillery, directed by General Beseler, has been systematically reducing the fortifications around Novogeorgievsk.  Their work has been aided by the poor state of the defences - one fort was blown up by a single shell.  The siege ends today with the surrender of the surviving Russian garrison, and while the Russian armies in the field suffer from munition shortages, over a million shells fall unused into German hands, and the fall of Novogeorgievsk provides yet another example of how fortified positions, on their own, are no match for the power and range of modern artillery.

Russian artillery captured by the Germans after the fall of Novogeorgievsk.

German infantry occupying the Russian fortress of Novogeorgievsk after its capture.

- On the Eastern Front, Ludendorff issues orders for the German 10th Army to push its left wing from Kovno towards Vilna, with the Army of the Niemen covering ths northern flank of the advance by pushing towards the Dvina River.  On the southern flank 8th and 12th Armies are instructed to push to the northeast, and the former seizes the town of Bocki today.  Meanwhile, Prince Leopold's army group runs up against a new Russian defensive line running from Tokary to Nurec, and is held up.  Stiff resistance is also encountered west of Brest-Litovsk  by Russian forces on both sides of the Bug River as they attempt to cover the withdrawal of soldiers and wagons still in front of the fortress, and the German 11th Army is able to make only marginal gains today.  Upriver from Brest-Litovsk, however, the German 1st Division on the southern wing of the Army of the Bug is able to break through the Russian defenders along the Bug at Wlodawa and drive eastward to Piszcza by this evening.

The Austro-Hungarian offensive towards Kowel opens today with the advance of the cavalry corps commanded by the German General Ernst von Heydebreck and consisting of the German 5th and the Austro-Hungarian 4th and 11th Honved Cavalry Divisions.  The ground opposite is lightly defended, as the Russian 13th Army has been pulled northwards to maintain contact with 3rd Army and cover the lines of communication with Brest-Litovsk.  The only substantial Russian force in the area is XXXI Corps near Kowel, and it too is in the process of retreating northwards, its rear threatened by the advance of the Army of the Bug.  Otherwise, only cavalry rear guards remain to impede the German and Austro-Hungarian advance, and given the paucity of defenders the cavalry is able to cover significant ground.

- As General Cadorna assesses the failure of the first two offensives along the Isonzo River, his ire is drawn to Italian aviation and the director-general of the air corps, Colonel Maurizio Moris.  A myriad of difficulties has prevented the air corps from adequately supporting Cadorna's attacks: it is short of manpower, poorly organized, and the few Farman aircraft that are available are limited by a low ceiling.  The result has been poor observation of targets, preventing adequate counter-battery fire, and Cadorna writes to the war minister today insisting that the problems had to be fixed, and that Moris ought to go.  While the performance of the air corps has certainly failed to live up to expectations, the same could be said for the entire Italian war effort, and one cannot help but wonder the extent to which Cadorna is attempting to pass on blame that ought to rest on his shoulders.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

August 18th, 1915

- Overnight four German Zeppelin undertake a bombing raid on London.  Two turn back due to engine trouble, and the captain of L11 manages to confuse the village of Ashford with the British capital, dropping his forty-one bombs in farmers' fields.  L10, however, guided by the lights of towns and villages after making landfall on the Suffolk coast, is able to find London.  Even its navigation is imperfect, though, and drops its bombs on what its captain believes is the City but is actually the north-east suburbs of Leyton and Wanstead Flats.  Nevertheless, it is the first time a Zeppelin of the German navy bombs London, and the strike kills ten and damages the Leyton railway station.

- Wilhelm II and Falkenhayn meet with Archduke Friedrich and Conrad at the latter's headquarters at Teschen today, ostensibly to celebrate the birthday of Emperor Franz Joseph, but also to decide further operations on the Eastern Front.  Despite his continuing lack of faith in the fighting ability of the Austro-Hungarian army, Falkenhayn approves Conrad's suggestion of the latter's army conducting an offensive through Kowel.  It is also agreed that the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army will be transferred from the left flank of the German 11th Army in Poland to the southeast, to join the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army in Conrad's offensive.  This will leave 11th Army directly adjacent to the forces under General Worysch, and will help facilitate a clearer division of the Eastern Front between German and Austro-Hungarian sectors.

In central Poland Prince Leopold's army group push forward in pursuit of retreating Russian forces, while 12th Army on its northern flank aims for the railway between Brest-Litovsk and Bialystok.  To the south, Mackensen's army group opens its offensive against Brest-Litovsk itself.  The Army of the Bug has been assigned additional responsibility for the line from the Krzna River west of the fortress southeast to the Bug River, and its 119th Division, alongside XXII Reserve Corps of 11th Army to the north, is to confront the western face of Brest-Litovsk.  This adjustment of responsibility has allowed 11th Army to reinforce its left wing for a drive across the Bug River downstream from Brest-Litovsk to enable the fortress to be enveloped from the northeast.  Here the advance is to be led by X Reserve Corps, followed by the Guard Corps, 103rd Division, and the Guard Cavalry Division.  Today XXII Reserve Corps and 47th Reserve Division of X Reserve Corps, after hard fighting, push forward to the line Kijowiec-Lipnica-Tielesnica to the west of Brest-Litovsk, while elements of 105th Division of X Reserve Corps secures a bridgehead across the Bug River downstream from the Russian fortress.

The German advance towards Brest-Litovsk, August 18th to 26th, 1915.

- After the successful Austro-Hungarian bombardment of Pelagosa yesterday, the Italian navy orders the evacuation today of the island, believing that it cannot be held in the face of active enemy opposition.  Covered by a strong cruiser and destroyer force from Brindisi, the Italian withdrawal is accomplished without difficulty.  The evacuation, however, does nothing for the reputation of the Italian navy in the eyes of their allies, as Captain Richmond, the British liasion officer, writes in his diary today:
They have by this admitted that the Austrians have command of the sea in the Adriatic in spite of inferior naval force & without fighting an action!  They have surrendered to them.  They had better sell their Fleet & take up their organs & monkeys again, for, by Heaven, that seems more their profession than sea-fighting.
- Immediately after assuming command of the French Army of the Near East, General Sarrail sent the government a memorandum which outlined a wide range of possible operations, from landings at Salonika in the Balkans to operations along the Anatolian and Syrian coast.  The government forwarded the note to Joffre, who today offers his comments to the minister of war.  Not surprisingly, Joffre is scathing, arguing that Sarrail's operations are 'incomplete, unrealizable, and disastrous,' and that one of the landings in the Near East could only be supplied by 'Arabs and mules.'  Behind the harsh criticism is Joffre's continued opposition to any diversion of French strength from the Western Front.

- A revolution in 1906 had transformed the Persian government into a constitutional monarchy, and an effort by the shah to reverse the reforms ended in his deposition and exile in 1909.  His son, Ahmad, came to the throne as a minor, and was only crowned ruler in his own right in 1914 at the age of 17.  While the unrest weakened the control of the central government over the country, the elected assembly (the Majlis) has become a hotbed of liberal and nationalist sentiment, who see Britain and Russia (quite rightly) as the primary threats to Persian independence, and thus after the outbreak of war Persian liberals and nationalists have seen an alliance with Germany as the means by which the British and Russians can be ejected from the country.  Government instability is endemic, however, with cabinets constantly collapsing, and the Maljis is just one of the interests in the country to be taken into account in the formation of new cabinets.  The past month has seen yet another cabinet crisis, which is resolved today with the formation of a government by Mustaufi ul-Mamalik, whose reliance on support in the Majlis necessitates an approach to Germany.  He informs the German ambassador, Prince Heinrich XXXI Reuss, that his government desires an alliance, a guarantee of independence, gold to pay the police force, and munitions with which to fight.  Though Reuss recognizes the limited ability of the German government to provide material aid to the Persian government, he knows that if such an approach is rejected, a similar opportunity is not likely to arise again, and thus opens negotiations.

Monday, August 17, 2015

August 17th, 1915

- The French government passes the Dalbiez Law today to regulate the industrial workforce.  While allowing for the conscription of unskilled labourers, it also exempts skilled workers from military service, limiting the ability of the army to draft as many soldiers at it desires.  It is a further recognition that in a war of material as well as manpower, some are more valuable in the factory instead of the trench.

- On the Eastern Front General Alexeiev of North-West Front, though responsible for the line from the Baltics to the Bug River south of Brest-Litovsk, his attention has been squarely focussed on the ongoing threat posed by Mackensen's offensive.  Concerned over the German threat in Courland, Stavka decides to split off the northern stretch of the line into a separate Northern Front, and in typical Russian fashion they appoint disgraced General Nicholas Ruzski, who had been dismissed as commander of North-West Front in April.  The appointment is a reflection of both the conservatism and unimaginativeness of the Russian army.

Meanwhile, for the past nine days the Germans have systematically reduced the Russian fortifications at Kovno, which had not been modernized prior to the war.  Further, though the garrison numbered ninety thousand, it was composed of poorly-trained territorial soldiers, and the fire from the defensive batteries was uncoordinated - on one occasion Russian artillery fired on a fort still held by their countrymen, thinking it had already fallen to the Germans.  General Vladimir Grigoriev, the seventy-year-old commander of Kovno, had no experience with modern warfare and was convinced of German superiority, and when the German XL Reserve Corps assaults the last forts today, Grigoriev panics and flees, abandoning the garrison to its fate.  In capturing Kovno the Germans seize over 1300 artillery pieces, 5300 heavy artillery shells, and 800 000 light artillery shells.

Further south, this morning the German XXV Reserve Corps of 9th Army crosses the Bug River northeast of Siedlec, while to the southeast the German X Reserve Corps of 11th Army reaches the Bug near Janow.  Between the two German corps the Austro-Hungarian XVII and VIII Corps of 4th Army have also reached the river.

- The Austro-Hungarian navy bombards the Italian garrison on the island of Pelagosa in the central Adriatic today.  Undertaken by the light cruisers Helgoland and Saida, accompanied by two destroyers, they blanket the island with shells, destroying among other installations the fresh-water cistern before withdrawing unhindered by the Italian navy, which had no warning of the sortie and was thus unable to respond before the Austro-Hungarians had departed.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

August 16th, 1915

- In Poland the right wing of the German 8th Army has advanced past Tykocin, and is in position to threaten the Russian fortress of Ossoviets from the south, while the German 12th Army has pushed beyond Briansk.  To the south elements of the German 9th Army, part of Prince Leopold's army group, have reached the Bug River northeast of Siedlec, while the Army of the Bug now covers a hundred kilometres of its namesake from Koden southwards.  It is only between the two armies that the Russians hold ground west of the Bug, centred on the major Russian fortress at the city of Brest-Litovsk, situated on the river where its flow bends to the northwest after running northwards for several hundred kilometres.  It is into this stretch of the line that the German 11th Army is advancing - X Reserve Corps, its lead formation, is today due west of Brest-Litovsk, while the Guard Corps is approaching the southern edge of the fortifications - and today Mackensen is instructed that the next objective of the German offensive is the envelopment and seizure of Brest-Litovsk.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

August 15th, 1915

- Having slowed the German advance yesterday, Russian forces in southern Poland pull back from their positions along the Slawatycze-Polubicze road, once again withdrawing before Mackensen can concentrate his artillery for an overwhelming blow.  The Germans energetically pursue, and the German X Reserve Corps advances the furthest, its 105th Division reaching the town of Biala late this evening.

- In northern Africa the Senussi have concentrated their efforts on the Italian garrison in Libya, and have driven the latter north to the Mediterranean coast.  The German liaison officer with the Senussi, Otto Mannesmann, is eager, however, to draw the Senussi into fighting the British in Egypt, and today attempts to manufacture an exchange of fire between a Senussi force and a British detachment today.  The Senussi, however, are reluctant to embrace the German vision of a global war and remain focused on ejecting the Italians from Libya.  The British, too, are not eager to engage the Senussi, recognizing that the latter do not presently pose a threat to their rule in Egypt, even if Italian entry into the war makes the Senussi at least their nominal foe.

Friday, August 14, 2015

August 14th, 1915

- In Poland the army group under Prince Leopold is approaching the line of advance of Mackensen's 11th Army attacking from the south, so the former reorientates 9th Army and Woyrsch's command towards the northeast to fall in line with the northern flank of Mackensen's forces.  Though Prince Leopold believes his forces ware facing only Russian rear guards, the latter remain capable of frustrating hopes for a rapid advance: Russian defenders hold the town of Miedzyrzecze against heavy attacks by the Austro-Hungarian 16th and 37th Honved Divisions (the latter on the far left of the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army).  Similarly, the German 11th Army runs into a prepared Russian defensive line along the Slawatycze-Polubicze road, and is able to make only minor progress.

As the Russian salient in Poland is now almost completely flattened, Conrad's attention turns to future operations, and informs Falkenhayn today that he intends launch an offensive north of Vladimir-Volynsky in the direction of Kowel by forces drawn from 1st and 4th Armies.  His intention is to drive a wedge between the Russian North-West and South-West Fronts, and subsequently envelop the Russian 8th Army from the north while 2nd Army and Südarmee attack to the south.  The operation aims to clear the Russians from the last portion of Austro-Hungarian Galicia they still hold, and is a typically Conrad-style offensive, with its broad sweeping envelopments.  Quite understandably, Falkenhayn is skeptical of the ability of the Austro-Hungarian army to pull off such an ambitious operation 'without the aid of German troops in very difficult terrain.'  Still, Falkenhayn does not object to what is a secondary offensive, and notes 'even a partially successful operation would substantially boost the self-confidence and combat potential of our allies.'

- In British Kenya Governor Sir Charles Belfield has been ambivalent about the war, seeing the conflict as undermining the colonial administration - over half of his officials are now in the army - and distracting from civilian priorities.  However, the realization that German East Africa will not be easily subjugated has drawn the attention of the War Office, which has compelled the Colonial Office to accept the subordination of civilian administration to the military, and the latter instructs Belfield today that he is to cooperate with the army in eastern Africa.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

August 13th, 1915

- President Poincaré, Premier Viviani, and Minister of War Millerand visit Joffre at the latter's headquarters, where they press Joffre to transfer four divisions to General Sarrail's new Army of the Near East.  The French commander-in-chief refuses, saying that nothing can be spared until the completion of the upcoming autumn offensive, and opposes making military decisions to please whom he refers to as 'a factious general.'

- In central Poland, while the German 9th Army crosses the Liwiec River, the units under Woyrsch's command is forced to launch a determined attack on the Russian positions to the east of Lukow, in order to dislodge the enemy and resume the advance.  Though the Russians are pushed back, they are able to retain cohesion and establish a new defensive position on the line Misie-Hadynow.  To the south, the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army finds itself now advancing almost due east as the Russian salient collapses, and like its German counterparts to the east finds itself being squeezed; today XIV Corps is pulled from the line.

- The German submarine UB14, patrolling the route between Alexandria and the Dardanelles, torpedoes the British transport Royal Edward, which sinks with the loss of nine hundred lives.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

August 12th, 1915

- The success of the German 1st Division yesterday evening east of the Cholm-Wlodawa road convinces Alexeiev that the current defensive line in southern Poland is no longer tenable.  Moreover, the withdrawal from central Poland has progressed sufficiently that an envelopment of the retreating armies by Mackensen's offensive from the south is no longer likely.  Thus Alexeiev orders the Russian 3rd Army to fall back to the northeast, and by dawn it has evacuated its positions opposite the German 11th Army and the Army of the Bug.  Alexeiev also convinces Stavka that 13th Army will be unable to hold the line of the Bug River, and permission is given for it to pull back when necessary to cover the communications with the fortress at Brest-Litovsk.

Meanwhile at the front, having held up the advance of the German army group under Prince Leopold, the Russians evacuate the towns of Lukow and Siedlic in central Poland, pulling back to prepared defensive positions just to the east.  To the southeast, the German 11th Army and the Army of the Bug pursue the retreating Russians during the day.  As the Russian salient in Poland contracts, however, the front available for the advancing Germans grows progressively smaller, with the result that today the Austro-Hungarian VI and German XXII Reserve Corps of 11th Army are squeezed out of the line and instead fall in behind respectively the German X Reserve (on the left) and Guard Corps (on the right).  By nightfall lead elements of X Reserve Corps have captured the town of Ostrow, having advanced over a dozen kilometres during the day.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

August 11th, 1915

- Joffre meets today with Generals Foch, Castlenau, and Dubail, who command the three French army groups that cover the Western Front, to discuss the forthcoming French offensive.  Foch advocates a careful and methodical approach to the attack; given that the enemy's second and third lines of defence lay beyond artillery range, a separate effort was needed to pierce each line, which in turn required due preparation and concentration of force.  Such an operation would thus consist of a separate effort for each enemy defensive position.  Castlenau and Dubail, however, entirely disagree; the former argues that since the defender could build new lines as quickly as the attacker could advance, the methodical approach would always face further lines to attack.  Instead, Castlenau calls for what is termed a 'continuous battle;' a surprise attack with a minimal artillery bombardment to forewarn the enemy could advance, he believed, ten to twelve kilometres in the first few days.  While this would not effect a breakthrough, this was not the explicit goal; instead, such a penetration, accompanied by constant pressure, would force nearby defenders to pull back, creating a wedge in the enemy line that could then be exploited by subsequent attacks.  Dubail concurs with Castlenau, arguing that the Germans do not have enough manpower to hold every kilometre of the second and third lines sufficiently, and that by attacking on a broad front the 'empty spaces' in the reserve lines could be found and exploited.  Foch is dismissive of his colleagues' suggestions, arguing that such gaps could be adequately covered by just a couple of machine guns.  Joffre, however, agrees with Castlenau and Dubail, as much for political as military reasons, as he explains to Foch:
If we adopt your system of methodical attack, which will require a month for the attack and a maximum expenditure of munitions, when will we be ready to attack?  Perhaps not in the coming year, perhaps not ever.  But it is necessary to act - for us and for our allies.  As our regulations say, 'Only inaction is shameful.'
- In Poland the pursuit by the army group under Prince Leopold continues, though Russian rearguard actions prevent the capture of the important railway junction at Lukow.  To the south, the German 11th Army launches its attack today against the Russian defensive line in southern Poland.  In bitter fighting, 2nd Guard Division manages to push forward towards the town of Orzechow, but is otherwise unable to break through.  To the east the Army of the Bug undertakes heavy assaults on either side of the Cholm-Wlodawa road in the direction of the latter; despite dogged Russian resistance, the German 1st Division is able to seize the main defensive position to the east of the road by midnight.

Monday, August 10, 2015

August 10th, 1915

- With the new moon overnight, five Zeppelins attempt the first bombing raid on Britain since the restrictions on striking the City were lifted last month.  While L9 dropped bombs on the town of Goole in Yorkshire, mistaking it for the city of Hull, killing sixteen, the four others had intended on striking London.  All, however, lose their way - L13 turns back due to engine trouble, L10 bombs the island of Sheppey, mistaking it for the docks of east London, and L11 drops his payload in the waters off Lowestoft, its captain thinking they were over Harwich.  The captain of L12 is similarly confused, dropping his bombs on Dover thinking he too was over Harwich.  Only three incendiaries fall on land, injuring three, while L12 is struck by antiaircraft fire from a British 3-inch gun.  Two cells of the Zeppelin are ruptured and vent their gas, and the resulting loss of buoyancy causes Z12 to fall into the Channel at 340am.  The crew is rescued by a German torpedo-boat, which drags the wreck to Zeebrugge, arriving at noon.  In the spirit of the night's debacle, three British aircraft attempt to bomb the wreckage of L12 to prevent its salvage, but all miss while one of their number is shot down.

The Zeppelins L10, L11, and L13, as seen from L12, en route to bomb London.
The Zeppelin L12 after crash-landing in the Channel early on the morning of Aug. 10th, 1915.  The collapsed cells at the rear of the
Zeppelin were those struck by antiaircraft fire over Dover.

- Field Marshal Sir John French informs Joffre today of his decision that while the BEF will attack south of La Bassée Canal as the latter desires, it is to take the form of an artillery bombardment as opposed to an infantry assault.  To Joffre such an operation would still be insufficient to provide any significant assistance to the French offensive in Artois, and he asks the minister of war to apply pressure to Kitchener in an effort to convince the latter to overrule the commander of the BEF.

- As part of the redeployment of forces for the French autumn offensive, the stretch of the front held by 2nd Army in Artois has been taken over in part by the BEF and in part by 6th Army, and it has been transferred to Champagne, where it will comprise the right wing of the assault.  General Pétain is also to command 2nd Army, but to mask the French concentration in Champagne he was initially named the assistant to General Castlenau of the Army Group of the Centre, and today is appointed to command what is to be referred to as Pétain Group.

- On the Eastern Front, General Alexeiev orders a further withdrawal of the armies under his command, instructing 12th, 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 3rd Armies to pull back to a line running from Ossoviets in the north to Ciechanowiec on the Bug River, and henceforth southwards along the Bug.  Once the Russian armies have reached this line, the salient in central Poland will have almost ceased to exist.  For the time being, however, 3rd Army is to hold its current line in southern Poland to cover the flank of the retreating armies.

Meanwhile, the Russian evacuation of central Poland continues to open opportunities for the rapid advance of German and Austro-Hungarian forces, and the army group under Prince Leopold and the left wing of the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army make rapid progress today against minimal opposition.  Along the southern face of the salient, Mackensen had expected his 11th Army to launch its assault on the Russian line here today, but unexpected difficulties force him to postpone the advance until tomorrow; the Russians have flooded the valley of the Tysmienica River, necessitating the redeployment of divisions to pass on either side, and great difficulties have been encountered in bringing up sufficient artillery shells.  To the east, the Army of the Bug has ground its way forward, advancing several miles, but is unable to secure a breakthrough.

- Bulgarian Lieutenant-Colonel Petur Ganchev returns to Sofia today where he relays his discussions with Falkenhayn to Minister President Radoslavov.  It is clear to the latter that the Germany are prepared to meet Bulgaria's terms for entry to the war.  Moreover, the events of the past week - the fall of Warsaw and the failure of the British landing at Sulva Bay - provide further evidence that the Germans are winning the war, which appears to minimize the risk to Bulgaria of joining the war on the German side.  With Ferdinand's support, Radoslavov concludes that the time has come to move off the fence.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

August 9th, 1915

- The first year of the war has seen several large fortress complexes destroyed by the power of modern heavy artillery, most prominently those at Liège and Antwerp in 1914 but also more recently the Russian capture of Przemysl.  From these episodes Joffre has taken the entirely reasonable lesson that pre-war fortifications cannot provide prolonged resistance in the face of a sustained enemy effort to seize them, and concludes that those pre-war forts that remain - most prominently the fortifications around Verdun - are no longer of vital importance.  Writing to his army group commanders today, Joffre states that forts like those at Verdun no longer have an independent role on the modern battlefield, and were only useful to the extent to which they could contribute to the trench lines established by the army in the field.  The logic of this downgrading of the importance of Verdun is that much of the considerable amount of fixed artillery in the forts around Verdun could better be employed as mobile artillery, able to be shifted to those parts of the front either under threat or where offensive operations are to be undertaken.  This reduction in the defensive capability of Verdun makes sense as long as it is just another stretch of the front line; if it ever becomes the target of a major offensive, however, Joffre's instructions could prove problematic.

- In southern Poland the left wing of the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army makes rapid progress today, given that with the Russian retreat they face only cavalry patrols, and is able to reach the north bank of the Wieprz River by this evening.  The army's right wing, however, gets nowhere, given that here the Russians are holding their line as the withdrawal from central Poland continues.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

August 8th, 1915

- In Poland the German advance continues.  To the north, the Germans have closed up to the major fortress at Kovno on the Niemen River, and heavy artillery begins to bombard the western defences.  East of the lower Narew the German offensive brings 12th Army to the town of Wyszkow, which it captures today, while to the southwest Novogeorgievsk is completely surrounded by German forces.  This fortress, the most substantial in Russian Poland, is the one the Russians have decided to hold indefinitely, but the preparation for a siege has been singularly inept.  The garrison of the fortress is composed of two second divisions with perhaps the worst combat record in the entire Russian army - no small accomplishment - and the remnants of 11th Siberian Division which has already been shattered by the Germans.  The fortifications, meanwhile, appear impressive at first glance, with 1600 artillery pieces and over a million shells, but in practice they are fatally flawed: the forts themselves are not distant enough from the main citadel to keep German heavy artillery from firing on it, while a new belt of modern forts has been left unfinished.  Finally, as the siege begins today, the chief engineer of Novogeorgievsk, touring the defences, is captured by the Germans with a complete map of the fortifications on his person.  General Beseler, commanding the siege, could hardly have hoped for more auspicious circumstances in which to begin.

In central Poland, Russian forces pull back over the Vistula River, preempting an offensive by Prince Leopold's army group scheduled for tomorrow.  Instead, the Germans set off in pursuit, and elements of 9th Army are themselves across the Vistula by this evening.  Linked with the Russian withdrawal, the remaining Russian forces at Ivangorod demolish the remaining fortifications on the east bank of the Vistula and retreat, allowing the Austro-Hungarian 16th Division to occupy the ruins.

Along the southern face of the remaining Russian salient in Poland, Russian forces west of Lupartow pull back overnight to the north bank of the Wieprz River, leaving only rear guards to contest the advance of the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army.  East of Lupartow the Russians have also pulled back this morning, but only by several kilometres to a prepared defensive line running through Ostrow and Kolacze.  Aerial reconnaissance has indicated that this is the main Russian defensive position and where they intend to hold the Germans while the retreat from central Poland continues.  As the Germans close up to these new positions today, Mackensen intends to break through the new Russian line via an advance on Parczew by the German 11th Army and a move on Wlodawa by the Army of the Bug.

- To support the Entente landings at Sulva Bay, the submarines E11 and E14 had passed through the Dardanelles to intercept Ottoman shipping to Gallipoli.  The former achieves a notable success today when it torpedoes and sinks the Ottoman pre-dreadnought Barbaros Hayreddin in the Sea of Marmara today.

The Ottoman pre-dreadnought Barbaros Hayreddin.

Friday, August 07, 2015

August 7th, 1915

- Realizing that efforts to dissuade the French from insisting that the British Expeditionary Force attack south of La Bassée Canal are futile, Field Marshal Sir John French is now willing to accept a British attack in the sector desired by the French.  The commander of the BEF, however, is still unwilling to order an assault on the scale desired by the French; in his instructions to General Haig of 1st Army, Sir John French informs his subordinate that 'the attack of the First Army is to be made chiefly with artillery, and a large force of infantry is not to be launched to the attack of objectives which are so strongly held as to be liable to result in the sacrifice of many lives.'

- Though from April 1st to June 18th the Royal Flying Corps dropped 4062 bombs on enemy targets on the Western Front during 483 operations, dissatisfaction is expressed at what is perceived to be inadequate results at a meeting of British and French aviation representatives today.  Numerous obstacles remain to more effective aerial bombing, including the heavy maintenance needs of existing aircraft, high casualties among aircrew, and continuing suspicion of the value of airpower by the army (artillery battery commanders, for example, still have a tendency to ignore air reports of potential targets or damage inflicted that do not correspond to what they think should be/is happening).  In an effort to address the shortcoming, RFC headquarters has instructed its squadrons to only strike targets in the immediate vicinity of the front lines, where it is easier to confirm potential targets and damage inflicted.

- In southern Poland several divisions of the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army break through the Russian line west of Lubartow, and the town itself is captured early this afternoon.  By evening lead elements of the Austro-Hungarian XVII Corps have advanced fifteen kilometres through a twenty kilometre gap in the Russian front.  On paper the advance looks quite impressive; in practice, it is less so.  As the Russians pull back from central Poland, their forces in southern Poland will peal back west to east to keep in line with the general retreat.  Thus the enemy in front of 4th Army, western-most of Mackensen's army, is precisely those most willing to give ground, in contrast to those to the east who need to hold off the Germans to allow time for the withdrawal from central Poland.  The Austro-Hungarians are thus pushing on an open door.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

August 6th, 1915

- In Poland the northern flank of the Russian withdrawal is anchored by the fortress at Osowiec, and though the main body of the German 12th and 8th Armies continue to advance to the south, the Germans have been unable to capture Osowiec and potentially envelop the retreating Russian armies from the north.  As was the case in February and March, the terrain surrounding Osowiec is difficult for the German heavy artillery to deploy in, and even the large-scale use of gas in an assault today fails to secure the fortress.  In southern Poland, the armies under Mackensen attack northwards, but apart from local successes near Lubartow (by the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army) and Russka Wola (by the German 11th Army) they are unable to shatter the Russian lines.

- For the past month, the fighting on Gallipoli has been desulatory, reminiscent of the conditions of the Western Front.  On the Entente side, General Sir Ian Hamilton has been waiting on the arrival of reinforcements from Britain before launching another attempt to break the stalemate, and over the past six weeks five divisions have arrived: two territorial divisions - 53rd and 54th - and three 'New Army' divisions - 10th, 11th, and 13th.  While enthusiastic, none of these formations have any battle experience, the latter three in particular being drawn from the thousands of volunteers from the first weeks of the war.  Their commanders also leave much to be desired: the best of the British officer class are on the Western Front, and thus Gallipoli must do with the leftovers which, given the tiny pre-war army, are meagre indeed.  Most notably, the commander of IX Corps, comprising 10th and 11th Divisions, is 61-year-old Lieutenant-General Sir Frederick Stopford, who had retired from the army seven years earlier due to ill health and has no obvious qualifications or experience for such an important command.

Hamilton's plan is centred on a major attack northward out of the ANZAC bridgehead tonight, with four columns undertaking a night march to seize the high ground at Chunuk Bair by tomorrow morning and unhinge the entire Ottoman line containing the ANZACs.  For several months the ANZACs have been deliberately ignoring the northern side of the bridgehead precisely to get the Ottomans to think the sector unimportant, and it has largely worked: reconnaissance has indicated a paucity of Ottoman defences here.  To keep Ottoman attention focused elsewhere, diversionary attacks are to be undertaken today by the ANZACs as well as VIII Corps on Cape Helles to draw Ottoman reserves southwards.  The final element of the offensive is an amphibious landing at Sulva Bay this evening, undertaken by 11th Division of IX Corps.  The objective here is to widen the ANZAC bridgehead to allow for additional reinforcements to land and give maneouvring space as the offensive pushes forward.  The landings at Sulva, however, are in support of the central operation: the 'left hook' by the ANZACs out of their bridgehead.  It is a complicated plan with many moving parts, which need to coordinate together to keep the Ottomans off-balance and maintain the momentum of the offensive.

- Austen Chamberlain, the secretary of state for India since the formation of the coalition government in May, approves the request of Lord Hardinge, the viceroy of India, for a further advance up the Tigris River to seize the town of Kut-al-Amara.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

August 5th, 1915

- In Russian Poland, the primary axes of the German advance have been from the northwest across the Narew River, and from the south between the Vistula and Bug Rivers.  The line to the east, at the 'apex' of the Russian salient, has been covered by the German 9th Army and a German force under the command of General Woyrsch.  As the German focus has been elsewhere, 9th Army in particular has been reduced over the past few months, and now consists of only three infantry and one cavalry divisions.  The Russian evacuation of the west bank of the Vistula River, however, necessitates a vigorous pursuit by 9th Army and Woyrsch's command to pin the Russians while their flanks to the northwest and south are pushed in.  To ensure their movements are coordinated, the two forces are formed into a single army group under the command of Prince Leopold of Bavaria, with instructions to drive to the east.

There is, however, another purpose behind Falkenhayn's formation of this army group, as the German chief of staff has placed Prince Leopold's command directly subordinate to OHL, as opposed to placing it under OberOst.  While ostensibly this is to ensure that its advance is in line with the flank attacks, it also reduces the role of Hindenburg and Ludendorff in deciding strategy on the Eastern Front; now there is a formation in the east that reports only to Falkenhayn.  It is another episode in the ongoing rivalry between the German chief of staff and the command duo at OberOst.

- After the failed Austro-Hungarian landing on the tiny island of Pelagosa in the central Adriatic on July 28th, the Italians had assigned the submarine Nereide to the island to deter the enemy from making a second attempt.  The crew is lackadaisical as it slowly patrols the waters off Pelagosa, making no attempt to obscure themselves, assuming that they are the hunters, not the hunted.  It is a fatal mistake -  when they fly the Italian flag from their signal mast this morning, it is spotted by the Austro-Hungarian submarine U5, allowing the latter to torpedo and sink Nereide.  U5 is commanded by First Lieutenant Georg von Trapp (yes, that von Trapp), who has already made a name for himself in the war after sinking the French armoured cruiser Léon Gambetta on April 27th.

- Since his dismissal as commander of the French 3rd Army on July 22nd, the question of General Maurice Sarrail's further employment has been a delicate one, given his position as the most prominent republican general in an army whose enthusiasm for the Third Republic has always been something less than wholesale.  An alternative command on the Western Front is out of the question, given that it would greatly offend Joffre and undermine his authority.  Instead, the government has looked further afield, and has decided to appoint Sarrail commander of the Expeditionary Corps of the Near East, currently stalemated on Cape Helles on Gallipoli.  Sarrail initially refused the offer, asserting that a corps command would in effect be a demotion, and so the French government today renames the formation to the Army of the Near East and assures Sarrail that he will not be subordinate to British generals.  Sarrail accepts with the further promise from the government of reinforcements, which makes a clash between Joffre's focus on the Western Front inevitable.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

August 4th, 1915

- The next phase of the German offensive in central Poland opens today, undertaken by the southern wing of the German 8th Army and the northern wing of the German 12th Army (the latter the designation for General Gallwitz's force), concentrated east of the Narew River between Ostrolenka and the Bug River.  Their objective is the line Lomza-Wyszkow, and the main focus today is an advance along the Ostrolenka-Sniadowo railway, pushing back the Russian 12th Army.  To the south Warsaw, abandoned by the retreating Russians is captured.  The capital of Russian Poland, its fall is a major blow to the prestige of the Russian Empire, though given the course of the fighting on the Eastern Front since May its loss is hardly a surprise.  Further south along the Vistula at Ivangorod, the Russians evacuate the fortifications on the west bank of the river.

Gunners of the German 3rd Battery, 108th Field Artillery Regiment in their position on the Narew River, August 4th, 1915.

Meanwhile, realizing that the Russians are pulling back from the Vistula River, Mackensen orders the Austro-Hungarian 4th and German 11th Armies to drive north towards Kock and Parczew respectively, with their eastern flank covered by the Army of the Bug and the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army.  His ultimate objective is the railway connecting Warsaw and Brest-Litovsk, the capture of which would severely disrupt the Russian withdrawal.  By nightfall the Austro-Hungarian IX and XVII Corps are approaching Lubartow, and elements of the German 11th Army have penetrated the Russian line running through Rozkopaczow and Gorbatowka north of the Wieprz and Swinka Rivers.

- With the Russian withdrawal in central Poland, Conrad writes to Falkenhayn today to propose that the armies under Mackensen's command shift the direction of their advance from northwards to northeastwards; Conrad remains seduced by the vision of a massive encirclement of the Russian army, an ambition that was the basis of his disastrous operations in the first months of the war.  Falkenhayn remains unmoved, confident that such grand maneouvers are simply no longer practical.  Mackensen's advance to date has been accomplished by lavish supply and overwhelming concentration of force, not speed.  Not only would shifting the strategic objective to a breakthrough disrupt Mackensen's current plans, but its most likely outcome would be for the Russians to simply retreat further and the Germans to outrun their supply lines.

Monday, August 03, 2015

August 3rd, 1915

- Joffre's staff at GQG submits a memorandum today on the probable future moves of the Germans and Austro-Hungarians, which suggests that the German concentration on the Eastern Front will shortly come to an end, and will be followed by a 'vast effort' on either the Balkan or Western Fronts.  France's response, the memorandum concludes that 'the simplest method is the attack.'  It is an argument reflective of Joffre's own views, who remains convinced that the French army must remain on the attack if the war is to be won.  The memorandum is also suggestive of the tendency of Joffre's staff to reinforce the inclinations of their commander-in-chief, instead of challenging them and offering alternatives.  Given Joffre's almost monomaniacal focus on the attack, this is not a healthy combination.

- Expanding on yesterday's orders to 2nd Army to evacuate the west bank of the Vistula River, General Alexeiev of North-West Front issues instructions for a broader withdrawal from the Polish salient, pulling his armies back to a line running roughly from Lomza south to a point southwest of Siedlec, then bending southeast to the Bug River between Cholm and Wlodawa.  This involves the retreat of the 12th, 1st, 2nd, and 4th Armies in central Poland, effectively 'flattening' the salient.  Again, however, this is not to be a rushed retreat, but rather 'gradual and orderly' - the concept is still to slow the pace of the German advance and make them fight for the terrain they do capture.  Thus east of the Narew River the German force under General Gallwitz find the Russians before them withdrawing to the east, and are able to occupy Ostrolenka today.

To the south, the Russian 3rd and 13th Armies opposite Mackensen's army group once again retreat to new defensive positions to the north this morning, as they implement Alexeiev's orders to slow the German advance but not risk the annihilation that would certainly ensue if they stood and endured the set-piece bombardments and assaults that have been the standard German tactic for the past few months.  The gradual retreat has had its desired effect - when the Germans reach a new Russian defensive position, they pause to gather artillery and prepare an assault, only to find the Russians gone when they are ready to strike.  Once they discover the latest Russian withdrawal the Germans quickly pursue, and by this afternoon come up against the next line of Russian defensives and prepare for a major assault tomorrow.

- As the German advance on the Eastern Front continues, Falkenhayn writes to Conrad today about the future direction of the campaign.  His aim is to drive the Russians behind the Bug River in the south and a line running from Brest-Litovsk to Grodno in the north.  Once this has been accomplished, Falkenhayn intends to withdraw significant forces from the Eastern Front, while leaving only enough strength to hold the territory gained.  Again this reflects Falkenhayn's limited perspective on the Eastern Front: Russia can never be crushed, and if it cannot be convinced to agree to a separate peace the aim should be to contain the Russians to allow redeployments to seek the decisive victories that are possible on other fronts.  Such views, of course, stand in stark contrast to those of Hindenburg and Ludendorff, who continue to believe that the Russian army can be annihilated, and seek the decisive envelopment campaign - Tannenberg on a massive scale - that can deliver victory.

- After the failure of a final set of Italian attacks along the Isonzo River today, Cadorna formally calls off the offensive today.  Over the two weeks of fighting, the 2nd Battle of the Isonzo has cost the Italians 42 000 losses while gaining no significant ground whatsoever.  Moreover, the Italian army has been ravaged by disease; 21 000 soldiers caught cholera or typhus, and 4300 died.  The only redeeming aspect of the battle was that the Austro-Hungarians suffered 47 000 casualties which, given the Italian numerical superiority on the Italian Front, means the Austro-Hungarians lost a significantly greater proportion of their forces than the Italians.

- The advance of the German armies on the Eastern Front over the past several months has had a significant impact on the attitude of neutral states in the Balkans: not only has Romania decided on neutrality for the time being, but the Bulgarian government of Minister President Vasil Radoslavov under King Ferdinand has shifted towards Germany, concluding that its primary foreign policy objective of annexing Macedonia can only be achieved through German aid.  To learn of the German position and discuss the potential terms of a Bulgarian entry into the war, Radoslavov had dispatched to Germany Lieutenant-Colonel Petur Ganchev, a former adjutant to Ferdinand and military attaché to Germany.  He brings with him Radoslavov's terms for Bulgaria's entry into the war: in addition to the territorial acquisitions, Germany is to extend a loan of two hundred million francs and guarantee support for Bulgaria against any potential intervention by Greece and Romania and assistance in defending Bulgaria's Black Sea coast from the Russian navy.

Today Ganchev arrives at Pless, headquarters of the German OHL, where he finds a receptive audience in Falkenhayn.  The German chief of staff has long intended to follow the offensive on the Eastern Front with an operation to conquer Serbia and open a land link with the Ottoman Empire, and a coordinated Bulgarian attack from the east would outflank the main Serbian line facing the Austro-Hungarian frontier to the north.  In response to Ganchev's proposal, Falkenhayn states that Bulgaria would need to deploy five divisions to participate in an offensive against Serbia within six weeks of agreeing to the terms of an alliance, and would need to exert diplomatic pressure on Romania to adopt a more pro-German stance.  Though there are differences between the two proposals, they are not substantive, and negotiations proceed accordingly.

- Having failed to take the British post at Saisi in northern Rhodesia on July 25th, and with ongoing difficulty with water supplies, retired major-general Wahle orders his small force to fall back across the frontier into German East Africa today.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

August 2nd, 1915

- General Alexeiev of North-West Front orders the Russian 2nd Army, holding the 'point' of the remaining Russian salient in Poland, to evacuate the west bank of the Vistula River opposite Warsaw.  To the south, the left wing of the German 11th Army pushes through the Russian defences at Puchaczow and advance towards Leczna, while to the west the left wing of the Army of the Bug also makes progress.

- Having failed to break through the Austro-Hungarian lines along the Isonzo River and seize Görz as planned, Cadorna is looking to assign blame, and naturally finds it elsewhere.  As he writes to Prime Minister Salandra, he has not been given the artillery ammunition he was promised, which has fatally compromised his offensive.  Moreover, the inactivity of the Serbs has allowed the Austro-Hungarians to reinforce the Italian Front, while the collapse of the Russian army on the Eastern Front may result in further enemy redeployments to the Isonzo.  If the enemy is sufficiently reinforced while the Italian army remains, in his eyes, undersupplied, Cadorna fears that the Italians may have to go over to the defensive, and in such a case the public should be forewarned 'so that the inevitable repercussions do not hit an unprepared public.'  The subtext, of course, is that the 'forewarned' public will know that any reverses are not his fault.  While his performance on the battlefield leaves much to be desired, he is at least skilled in playing the political game; this letter to Salandra implies that should Cadorna not receive the support he deems necessary, blame will fall on politicians, not generals, making it a political crisis that Salandra as Prime Minister would have to manage.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

August 1st, 1915

- After the Morane fighter of Frenchman Roland Garros crash-landed behind German lines on April 18th, aircraft designer Anthony Fokker had examined its pioneering firing mechanism, in which the bullets of its forward-firing machine gun were deflected away from the propeller.  Fokker adapted and improved Garros' device through the addition of a mechanical interrupter gear, which stopped a machine gun from firing at the precise moment that the propeller blade was directly in front of the muzzle.  The device was added to his newly-designed monoplane E-plane, or Eindecker, which in itself was a major advancement in aerial technology, being much lighter and more maneouvrable than earlier aircraft.  Initial reaction to the Eindecker was mixed: mechanical difficulties with the interrupter gear still occasionally shot off the propellor, and several German pilots, used to flying more stable aircraft, accidentally crashed, leading to suggestions that the Eindecker should be grounded.  Moreover, production of the aircraft was slow - by mid-July, only eleven were at the front.

Despite the difficulties, skilled pilots capable of flying the Eindecker realize its potential to revolutionize aerial combat by allowing them to fly and aim their machine gun simultaneously.  One of the first is Second Lieutenant Max Immelmann, who today achieves his first kill flying the Eindecker when he downs an unarmed British reconnaissance craft after firing five hundred rounds over ten minutes.  The rise of the Eindecker and talented pilots able to press the aircraft's advantages herald a new era in the skies over the Western Front.  No longer is air-to-air combat limited to pilots or observers firing pistols and either unmounted or side-mounted machine guns; instead, the first recognizable fighter has appeared, dedicated solely to shooting down enemy aircraft.  Moreover, the Entente has nothing remotely comparable to the Eindecker, and its appearance is a very rude shock to British and French pilots who now must confront what they refer to as the 'Fokker scourge'.

Lieutenant Immelmann in the cockpit of his Eindecker fighter.  Note the machine gun mounted directly behind the propeller.

- The Russian fortress at Ivangorod, on the east bank of the Vistula River, also include strong fortifications on the west bank, which have been covered for the past few days by Austro-Hungarian forces under General Kövess.  Having brought up several heavy artillery batteries, the Austro-Hungarian 35th Division launches the first attack on the forward Russian position at Slowiki Nowe after a four-hour preliminary bombardment.  In bitter fighting the Austro-Hungarian infantry manage to break through, forcing the Russians to withdraw to the second ring of fortifications.

To the east, Mackensen's planned attack on the Russian positions opposite 11th Army is foiled when the Russian pull back to the north during the night, retiring to prepared defensive positions south of Wlodawa-Ostrow.  The German 11th Army and the Army of the Bug set off in pursuit, with 4th Division of the latter seizing the city of Cholm at 10am.  By this evening the advancing Germans are encountering increasing resistance by nightfall.  On the left flank the Russians hold their positions in front of the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army, and the latter is unable to make significant progress.

- Over the past few days Italian forces along the Isonzo south of Görz have undertaken local attacks under cover of darkness, but have been unable to secure additional ground.  They have succeeded, however, in inflicting casualties on the defenders - the Austro-Hungarian VII Corps has lost four thousand men during the past few days, mainly from the artillery bombardments that preceded the Italian attacks.

- Captain Herbert Richmond is the British liaison officer to the Italian fleet, and is among those disenchanted with the lack of Italian naval activity in the war to date.  His written reports to his superior Rear-Admiral Cecil Thursby, commander of the British battleship squadron attached to the Italian fleet, are so scathing in their criticism that the latter feels they cannot be sent on to London.  In private Richmond is even more dismissive of the Italians, as he writes in his diary today: 'These folk deserve to lose, for by heaven they do nothing towards trying to win.  What the deuce is the use of a superior Fleet if you don't use it.'  The Italians have certainly earned their reputation for hesitancy, but it is also worth comparing the situation in the Adriatic to that in the North Sea; there the superior navy is the Grand Fleet, whose commander well understands that there can be value in 'doing nothing.'