Tuesday, September 22, 2015

September 22nd, 1915

- Three wings of the Royal Flying Corps, comprising twelve squadrons, begins an aerial bombing campaign today in support of the forthcoming British offensive at Loos.  The first large-scale air offensive undertaken by the RFC, its aircraft target German transport infrastructure, including railway lines and stations, sidings, and bridges, up to thirty-six kilometres behind the front lines.  To counter the bombing threat, the Germans camouflage trains and site anti-aircraft guns and machine guns along railway lines.  For the first time the British aircraft also encounter the Eindecker monoplane fighter with its forward-firing machine gun; though superior to anything the British have, the Eindecker is present in too few numbers to yet have a decisive impact.  Over the next six days, the RFC will drop 5.5 tons of bombs on German targets.

- The entirety of the artillery assigned to the French 10th Army has now joined in the preliminary bombardment of the enemy lines, and the German 6th Army opposite now finds itself under a heavy barrage from La Bassée in the north through Arras in the south.  The commander of 6th Army requests reinforcements from OHL, and is assigned today four howitzer and one mortar battery, while 4th Army to the north makes available a battery of 13cm guns.

- In Champagne, the French 2nd and 4th Armies commence their preliminary bombardment today. Directed by a number of aircraft, the French artillery blanket the defensives of the centre and eastern wings of the German 3rd Army and the western wing of the German 5th Army.  Over the next three days the French will fire 3.4 million shells, including 600 000 heavy shells, on the German defenders, and the intensity of the bombardment will have a significant impact.  Many German defensive positions are destroyed, with stretches of trench become little more than indentations in the ground, and much of the German wire is also destroyed.  Though German infantry were protected by shelters dug deep underground, their entrances remain exposed, and when hit by shells trap the soldiers underground.  The French bombardment also ranges beyond the German first trench line, hitting communication trenches and reserve positions both to inhibit the arrival of German reinforcements and to help maintain the momentum of attacks that capture the first trench line.  For the next three days, the bombardment shall be so intense that dust kicked up by French shells will block out the sun over the positions of the German 3rd Army.

Given the intensity of the bombardment, OHL assigns the Saxon 183rd Brigade, currently north of Rethel, to 3rd Army in the event of a French assault.

- As the retreating Austro-Hungarian 4th Army reaches the Styr River, the pursuing Russians offer them no respite.  At 930pm a Russian attack overwhelms the Austro-Hungarian XIV Corps just north of Lutsk, and 24th Division, which has yet to recover from its defeat on the Stubiel River, is shattered.  To make matters worse, infantry of the Austro-Hungarian 62nd Division had prematurely destroyed the bridge across the river at Zydyczyn, trapping part of 24th Division on the east bank, and after a short resistance is overwhelmed by the Russians.  Conversely, the rest of 24th Division crosses the bridge at Wyszkow in such haste that they fail to destroy the bridge, leaving it available to be used by the pursuing Russians.

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