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.

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