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.

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