Tuesday, September 29, 2015

September 29th, 1915

- Today reports finally reach the headquarters of the German 6th Army that confirm that the French have not broken through at Givenchy.  Moreover, though elements of the French III Corps on Hill 140 repulse several German counterattacks, they also find themselves exposed to intense German artillery fire, and today they are compelled to abandon the summit, taking up position a hundred yards to the west.  The immediate crisis having past, Rupprecht concentrates on relieving the German infantry who have been battered by the prior four days of fighting.  Overnight, 2nd Guards Division takes over the line between Giesler Hill and Givenchy held by 123rd Saxon Division, while 1st Guards Division is deployed to the heights of Vimy Ridge.  Bit by bit, VI Corps, which has borne the burden of the fighting in Artois and suffered over seven thousand casualties, is pulled out of the line and reassembles at Cambrai.  Falkenhayn also assigns XI Corps, returning from the Eastern Front, to 6th Army, though after its exertions in Russia it needs rest before being committed to battle again.

On the Entente side, General Foch and Field Marshall French meet to discuss another major push in Artois and Flanders, hoping to take advantage of the ground won near Vimy Ridge yesterday.  They agree that the British 1st Army and the French 10th Army will attack together on October 2nd; when Foch appraises Joffre of the plan, the latter agrees to release additional artillery munitions to support the offensive.  To meet the timetable, however, the French 10th Army will need to relieve the southern wing of the British 1st Army as agreed upon yesterday.  This redeployment, intended to be completed today, is delayed by poor weather and deteriorating roads; General d'Urbal reports that it will not be completed until tomorrow.

- In the Champagne, French forces have rushed to exploit the phantom 'breach' in the German second line supposedly won yesterday by 14th Division.  Before dawn VII Corps attacks towards the supposed breakthrough, while VI Corps also advances on its right, but both assaults fail with heavy casualties.  Later today three infantry brigades attempt to pass through the breach, only to encounter German defenders and suffer heavy losses.  Despite the growing debacle, subsequent messages that reached Castlenau reported that the breach had actually been enlarged.  Thinking his armies on the verge of victory, Castlenau informs Joffre that three entire divisions have now passed through the opening.

Only later this afternoon does accurate information actually reach Castlenau's headquarters, which reveal not only that the German second trench line remains unbroken but that the forces that attempted to pass through the 'breach' have suffered horrendous losses and have become thoroughly disorganized.  At midnight Castlenau reluctantly orders de Lange of 4th Army to halt the attack, and devote tomorrow to untangling the divisions that had rushed towards the breach and becoming hopelessly entangled.  Castlenau also instructs Pétain to cancel an attack by 2nd Army scheduled to be launched tomorrow at 930am.

- By today the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army has reached the Putilowka River, across which the Russian 8th Army has halted its retreat, and efforts to cross to the east bank are easily repulsed.  The only success occurs to the north, where the German XXIV Reserve Corps pushes the Russians over the Kormin River and take three thousand prisoners.

Given the utter exhaustion of his armies, combined with the end of OberOst's offensive at Vilna, convince Conrad that further offensive operations would be futile, and orders are issued to 4th and 1st Armies to go over to the defensive.  Conrad's fall offensive against the Russians has been yet another dismal failure; initially referred to as the Black-Yellow Offensive, the operation has been known as the Herbstsau among Conrad's staff, which translates literally as 'autumn swinery' but more loosely, and more accurately, as 'fall fuck-up'.

In the course of the month's fighting, the Austro-Hungarian armies on the Eastern Front have lost over 230 000 men, which comprises almost half of their strength at the start of September.  Included amongst this number were 100 000 soldiers taken prisoner by the Russians, and the poor quality of the Austro-Hungarian units is further evidenced by Austro-Hungarian officers reporting sick at twice the rate of those wounded, an opposite ratio as that found in the German army.  Further, Austria-Hungary simply lacked the means to fully replace casualties - only 120 000 new men had arrived at the front, barely half the number of those lost.  The failure of the 'Herbstsau' offensive has also further damaged the reputation of the Austro-Hungarian army amongst its allies - not only did the offensive on the Eastern Front fail, but the four divisions Conrad had to pull away from the Serbian campaign to reinforce the armies battered by the Russian counteroffensive served to enlighten the new Bulgarian ally of where the real power and influence lay within the Central Powers.

- As of this morning the Ottomans have abandoned their defence positions east of Kut-al-Amara, and aerial reconnaissance informs General Townshend of 6th Indian Division that the Ottomans have abandoned Kut-al-Amara and retreated further upriver.  There is no vigorous pursuit of the defeated Ottomans, however - 6th Indian Division is exhausted, and low water on the Tigris limits the operations of British gunboats.

No comments:

Post a Comment