Wednesday, September 09, 2015

September 9th, 1915

- After the success of the German army Zeppelins in attacking London on the night of September 7th-8th, the German navy sends four of its Zeppelins against Britain overnight.  L11 and L14 are forced to turn back due to engine trouble, while L9 narrowly misses the benzol works at Skinningrove on the Yorkshire coast.  L13 makes landfall on the Norfolk coast, and by the time it approaches Cambridge the lights of London are already visible on the horizon, guiding the Zeppelin to its target.  The captain of L13 remains patient as his Zeppelin crosses over London, and waits until it reaches the heart of the British capital where it does considerable damage - most notably, several bombs strikes the textile warehouses north of St. Paul's Cathedral, leaving Wood Street, Silver Street, Addle Street, and Aldermanbury ablaze and destroying many valuable buildings.  Four bombs are also dropped on Liverpool Street Station, and though only a few feet of track are destroyed, two of them score direct hits on nearby motor-buses, which raises the night's deathtoll to twenty-two.  It is a great success for L13, and indeed, by monetary loss, it will be the single most destructive raid of the war against the British capital.

Bomb damage outside Liverpool Street Station in London, Sept. 9th, 1915.

- Having concentrated twenty-eight infantry and five cavalry divisions along the 110 kilometres of the front opposite Vilna held by General Max Eichorn's 10th Army, Ludendorff launches his offensive today, consisting of an attack against Vilna itself and an attempt to outflank the city from the north.  The former runs into strong Russian defensive positions and gets nowhere, but the latter, undertaken by three infantry and three cavalry divisions, is far more successful, as the Russian line is weakest north of Vilna.  The Russian 10th Army, formerly responsible for the defence of Grodno, has been drawn into the fighting at and south of Vilna.  Its northern neighbour - 5th Army - has been focused on holding Riga and the lower Dvina River, leaving its southern flank weakened.  The German attack north of Vilna is directed right into the gap between the two Russian armies, which is only covered by a scratch force of six hundred Latvian cavalry under the oldest cavalry commander in the Russian army (considering the average age of a Russian general, this is no small accomplishment).  This force is scattered, and the Germans push forward.  The initial reaction on the Russian side is that the frontal attack on Vilna is the main German advance, and that the action to the north is of no great importance: reports of the German force as dismissed as exaggerations and that any German success here is only the result of incompetence by officers on the ground - true enough, but it is a significant underestimation of the threat of the German advance.

The advance of the German 10th Army against Vilna, in what will become known as the Sventsiany Offensive.

- Though the northern wing of the Russian 8th Army repulsed the Austro-Hungarian attack along the Putilowka River yesterday, its southern wing had been pulled back in response to the enemy advance at Podkamien on the 6th.  As a result, to maintain a cohesive defensive line the northern wing pulls back from the Putilowka a short distance to the Stubien, the next river on the way to Rovno.  To the south, the Russian withdrawal allows the Austro-Hungarians to occupy Dubno today as they pull up to the new Russian line along the Ilka River.  The Russian 8th Army, however, remains intact and capable of offering stiff resistance to further Austro-Hungarian advances.

The withdrawal of the Russian 8th Army to the Subiel River, Sept. 9th, 1915

To the south, where it is the Russians who are now attacking, the same cannot be said for the Austro-Hungarians.  The latter's 2nd Army attempts a counterattack north of the breakthrough in the direction of Zbaraz north of Tarnopol, in an attempt to turn the flank of the advancing Russians.  Poor weather, however, hindered the Austro-Hungarian attack, and it is repulsed.  Instead, the Russians continue to advance, with XI Corps of 9th Army advancing southwest from the line Laskowce-Ziniacz on the southern face of the breakthrough.  The Austro-Hungarian  36th and 15th Divisions of XIII Corps are forced back through Kossow this morning, and by noon have lost touch with 131st Brigade to the northwest.  After further attacks this afternoon the battered XIII Corps, which has lost 17 000 men (more than half its strength) already this month, is ordered by the commander of 7th Army to fall back further, to Buczacz on the Strypa River and the line Joazlowiec-Koszylowce to the southeast, which expands the length of the Russian breakthrough.

The expansion of the Russian breakthrough at Trembowla, Sept. 9th to 12th, 1915.

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