Thursday, August 06, 2015

August 6th, 1915

- In Poland the northern flank of the Russian withdrawal is anchored by the fortress at Osowiec, and though the main body of the German 12th and 8th Armies continue to advance to the south, the Germans have been unable to capture Osowiec and potentially envelop the retreating Russian armies from the north.  As was the case in February and March, the terrain surrounding Osowiec is difficult for the German heavy artillery to deploy in, and even the large-scale use of gas in an assault today fails to secure the fortress.  In southern Poland, the armies under Mackensen attack northwards, but apart from local successes near Lubartow (by the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army) and Russka Wola (by the German 11th Army) they are unable to shatter the Russian lines.

- For the past month, the fighting on Gallipoli has been desulatory, reminiscent of the conditions of the Western Front.  On the Entente side, General Sir Ian Hamilton has been waiting on the arrival of reinforcements from Britain before launching another attempt to break the stalemate, and over the past six weeks five divisions have arrived: two territorial divisions - 53rd and 54th - and three 'New Army' divisions - 10th, 11th, and 13th.  While enthusiastic, none of these formations have any battle experience, the latter three in particular being drawn from the thousands of volunteers from the first weeks of the war.  Their commanders also leave much to be desired: the best of the British officer class are on the Western Front, and thus Gallipoli must do with the leftovers which, given the tiny pre-war army, are meagre indeed.  Most notably, the commander of IX Corps, comprising 10th and 11th Divisions, is 61-year-old Lieutenant-General Sir Frederick Stopford, who had retired from the army seven years earlier due to ill health and has no obvious qualifications or experience for such an important command.

Hamilton's plan is centred on a major attack northward out of the ANZAC bridgehead tonight, with four columns undertaking a night march to seize the high ground at Chunuk Bair by tomorrow morning and unhinge the entire Ottoman line containing the ANZACs.  For several months the ANZACs have been deliberately ignoring the northern side of the bridgehead precisely to get the Ottomans to think the sector unimportant, and it has largely worked: reconnaissance has indicated a paucity of Ottoman defences here.  To keep Ottoman attention focused elsewhere, diversionary attacks are to be undertaken today by the ANZACs as well as VIII Corps on Cape Helles to draw Ottoman reserves southwards.  The final element of the offensive is an amphibious landing at Sulva Bay this evening, undertaken by 11th Division of IX Corps.  The objective here is to widen the ANZAC bridgehead to allow for additional reinforcements to land and give maneouvring space as the offensive pushes forward.  The landings at Sulva, however, are in support of the central operation: the 'left hook' by the ANZACs out of their bridgehead.  It is a complicated plan with many moving parts, which need to coordinate together to keep the Ottomans off-balance and maintain the momentum of the offensive.

- Austen Chamberlain, the secretary of state for India since the formation of the coalition government in May, approves the request of Lord Hardinge, the viceroy of India, for a further advance up the Tigris River to seize the town of Kut-al-Amara.

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