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.

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