Monday, September 21, 2015

September 21st, 1915

- At 7am British artillery begin their preliminary bombardment of the German lines that are to be assaulted on the 25th.  While heavy guns and howitzers concentrate on shelling fixed defences, lighter field artillery targets German wire.  Each battery of field artillery (of four to six guns) is assigned 150 shells per day, and is responsible for cutting 600 yards of German wire.  Despite the concentration of field artillery, it is still not enough to guarantee that suitable paths are cut through the wire - belts of wire are from ten yards to twenty yards deep, and some are situated under cover from direct observation, making it impossible to know before the infantry attack whether the wire has been successfully cut.  Further, even if all shells hit on target it would not be enough to clear all the wire, as a number of the shells are duds.  Finally, the wire belts before the German reserve trench line are beyond the reach of the field artillery, and though howitzers are assigned to the task the dust clouds kicked up by the bombardment make long-range observation of its effectiveness problematic.

- With French artillery continuing to heavily bombard German positions on both sides of Arras, the headquarters of the German 6th Army concludes this morning 'that a major French attempt at a breakthrough seemed to be imminent.'

Meanwhile, Falkenhayn and Wilhelm II depart OHL headquarters at Pless in Silesia for the Western Front, where they will visit the various army headquarters for inspections and assessments of their situation.  This visit is not, however, the result of growing signs of a major Entente offensive on the Western Front - indeed, Falkenhayn himself believes that the artillery bombardments are mere demonstrations, designed to draw German forces from the Eastern Front.  He has concluded that if the French in particular did not attack over the summer months to aid their Russian ally when the crisis on the Eastern Front was at its greatest, they were unlikely to attack now that operations in the east are winding down.

- In June 1913 Greece and Serbia had concluded a military convention whereby each would support the other if attacked by a third party, though only if Serbia deployed 150 000 men to Greece's Macedonian frontier, and it was the absence of these forces that provided justification for Greek neutrality in August 1914.  As the French government contemplates action in the Balkans to aid their Serbian allies, they hope that Greece may yet be convinced to enter the war on the side of the Entente.  However, if Serbia was unable to deploy 150 000 to its border with Greece at the outbreak of war, it can hardly be expected to do so now when it is about to face invasion from the north and east.  Today Greek Prime Minister Eleutherios Venizelos informs the French and British governments that King Constantine has concluded that the Serbs will not fulfill their obligations under the convention, and as a result the Greeks will remain neutral.  Venizelos, given his strong pro-Entente sentiments, does not leave matters there, and offers a very tempting alternative - if the French and British provide 150 000 soldiers instead, his government will consider the Serbian requirement completed, and that Greece will thus enter the war on the terms of the convention.

- According to the Bulgarian constitution the approval of parliament was required before war could be declared.  However, Prime Minister Radoslavov and King Ferdinand are reluctant to formally recall parliament lest the opposition succeed in defeating a vote for war.  Instead, Radoslavov convenes an informal meeting of parliamentary deputies in Sofia today, where he explains that the time is right for Bulgaria to recover the lands lost in 1913, and that this can only be done by allying with Germany and Austria-Hungary.  Despite some dissent, the deputies agree with Radoslavov's argument, and the path to war is clear.  Afterwards the Bulgarian government announces mobilization, and 800 000 men report for induction into the army.

No comments:

Post a Comment