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.

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