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.

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