Saturday, October 31, 2015

October 31st, 1915

- It has become clear to General Putnik that the Austro-Hungarians and Germans intend to isolate and destroy his armies in central Serbia, and that significant aid from the British and French at Salonika cannot hope to arrive in time.  His top priority is the preservation of the Serbian army as a fighting force, an objective that takes precedence even over holding Serbian territory.  The strategic goals of the Serbian government have been reduced to stark simplicity: survival.  Even if it was necessary to go into exile, an independent Serbian government and army needed to exist to keep alive the notion of a sovereign Serbian state.  Putnik thus reluctantly orders his armies to abandon central Serbia - 1st Army is to withdraw through Kraljevo and 3rd Army through Paracin to Grebac, while 2nd Army would attempt to hold its position to cover 3rd Army before itself retreating.  Overall, the Serbian army is to fall back to Kosovo in the southwest of the country, which also holds open the possibility of a further retreat west and southwest into Albania.  The retreat, however, will have to occur in terrible weather conditions and over rough and mountainous terrain - for all of their losses over the past month, their suffering is only beginning.

- Along the Isonzo River the Italian 2nd and 3rd Armies launch only small-scale attacks for the second day while keeping up a steady artillery bombardment.  The Austro-Hungarians, though they have largely held their positions, have suffered heavy losses - several brigades report casualties of over a thousand in the past week of fighting, and overall losses exceed thirty-five thousand.  The lull in the fighting (and the Austro-Hungarians recognize that it is merely a lull) allows for the relief of the most heavily-engaged formations; overnight 43rd Regiment of 20th Honved Brigade, which had held the summit of Mt. San Michele for nine days, is relieved and sent to a reserve camp to recover.  For his part Cadorna hardly intends to abandon the offensive, as he still has several divisions in reserve to throw into the attack, and today he issues orders for a resumption of operations tomorrow.

Friday, October 30, 2015

October 30th, 1915

- Reconnaissance by elements of the German III Corps this morning discover that the formidable Serbian fortifications General Lochow had feared yesterday are nothing more than hastily dug trenches.  Realizing the mistake, both the German III and the Austro-Hungarian VIII Corps are ordered forward, where they find the Serbian line manned only by rear guard formations which quickly fall back.  The main Serbian forces retreated southward overnights, and though the two corps have gained ground they have failed in their primary objective of pinning the Serbian defenders at Kragujevać north of the city.

The German and Austro-Hungarian advance in Serbia, Oct. 30th to Nov. 22nd, 1915.

- Due to the heavy losses sustained over the past two days at Görz, Cadorna realizes that large-scale operations cannot be undertaken for the third straight day; instead, small assaults are ordered on particular points while elsewhere artillery is left to do their work.  Again the Podgora Heights just west of Görz are the scene of heavy fighting on the same pattern as before: several Italian battalions break into the Austro-Hungarian lines, but are unable to withstand enemy counterattacks.  To the south, an Italian attack captures a small stretch of the enemy trench line at Peteano, and manage to hold the ground in the face of several Austro-Hungarian counterattacks.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

October 29th, 1915

- Since the vote of confidence in the Chamber of Deputies on the 12th, Prime Minister René Viviani has been attempting to reconstruct his cabinet to shore up political support.  The tide has turned against Viviani, however, and many leading politicians refuse to join a government led by him.  Abandoning the attempt, he accepts the position of Vice-President of the Council of Ministers (analogous to a Deputy Prime Minister) in a new government led by Aristide Briand.  The minister of war, Alexandre Millerand, is also dismissed, replaced by General Joseph Gallieni, who had played an important part in the Entente victory at the Battle of the Marne.

- North of Kragujevać, the Austro-Hungarian VIII Corps makes little headway today against stiff Serbian resistance, the latter supported by artillery fire.  Seeing the inability of his western neighbour to make progress, General Lochow of the German III Corps believes that the two forces face extensive fixed fortifications, and orders his own corps to advance cautiously.  To the west, the advance of the Austro-Hungarian XIX Corps and the German XXII Reserve Corps is slowed primarily by poor weather, slowing in particular the movement of artillery.  The latter, after hard fighting yesterday, takes Gornji Milanovac today.  On the other side of Kragujevać, the German IV Reserve Corps successfully attacks across the Lepenica River, taking 750 Serbian prisoners.  Nevertheless, the corps is behind schedule - the attack had been originally scheduled for yesterday before swamped roads and high water had delayed the operation.  Also today, patrols from the German X Reserve Corps make contact with elements of the Bulgarian 1st Army, thus linking up the two fronts under Mackensen's overall direction.

The Serbian campaign, Oct. 29th, 1915.

- Though yesterday's attacks around Görz on the Isonzo River failed to achieve any major breakthrough, Cadorna orders further energetic attacks today.  After the exertions of the previous day, however, some of the Italian formations are simply incapable of similar assaults today - opposite Zagora, for instance, a counterattack by the Austro-Hungarian 1st Mountain Brigade throws back the Italian 3rd Division and takes two hundred prisoners, after which Italian activity in the sector noticeably declines.  Opposite Görz only 11th and 12th Divisions of VI Corps attack today, which allows the defenders to concentrate their artillery fire on a narrower length of the front.  Elements of the later again break into the Austro-Hungarian lines on the Podgora Heights, but in hand-to-hand combat lasting into the evening are unable to secure the position.

South of Görz, the Italian XIV Corps launches another effort to seize Mt. San Michele this morning.  Elements of 30th Division manage to fight their way to the northern summit, but a well-timed counterattack by 39th Honved Brigade drives them off the high ground.  To the south of Mt. San Michelle, 28th and 19th Divisions attempt to expand the ground seized yesterday; not only do they fail to do so, but after dark a counterattack by the Austro-Hungarian 17th Division regains the lost ground.

North of Tolmein, after a night of bitter fighting, Austro-Hungarian reserves retake the trenches lost yesterday on the inner wings of 3rd and 14th Mountain Brigades.  Further south, at noon the Italian VIII Corps attempts a crossing of the Isonzo River at Canale using boats and pontoons, but the engineers and their equipment make for obvious targets, and Austro-Hungarian artillery and machine-gun fire rapidly break up the attempt.

- In light of the presence of the German mission in Kabul, the government of British India informs the Emir of Afghanistan that they will increase their subsidy as a sign of their continued friendship and to dissuade any thoughts of siding with the Germans.  Emir Habibullah, however, continues to play the British and Germans off of each other, and decides to send no formal acknowledgement of the increased subsidy, lest the British conclude that his loyalty can be bought so cheaply.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

October 28th, 1915

- By this evening the Austro-Hungarian VIII and German III Corps are within fifteen miles of Kragujevać, while a break in the weather has allowed for renewed aerial reconnaissance that reveals to Mackensen and Seeckt the disposition of the Serbian forces opposing his armies.  They issue orders for the two corps approaching Kragujevać to not only seize the city but also pin down the Serbian defenders.  Simultaneously, the German XXII Reserve and Austro-Hungarian XIX Corps to the west would push south and seize the bridges over the West Morava River, while to the east the German IV Reserve and X Corps would advance south along the Morava River, where they would link up with the Bulgarian 1st Army advancing from the east.  The Bulgarian 2nd Army, meanwhile is to contain the Entente forces at Salonika and cover the southern exits from the Morava River valley.  If executed successfully, the operation will trap the majority of the Serbian 1st and 3rd Armies between the Morava and West Morava Rivers, leading to their destruction.

- After three days to replace losses and bring up supplies, Cadorna orders a resumption of the 3rd Battle of the Isonzo today.  As the initial plan to push forward north and south of Görz prior to an assault on the city itself has been a spectacular failure, for the second phase of the offensive Cadorna decides to forgo the flank attacks and instructs VI Corps of 2nd Army to move directly on Görz.  On either side, XIV Corps of 3rd Army (to the south) and II Corps (to the north) will capture Mt. San Michele and push east from Plava respectively.

Just north of Görz, the Italian 3rd Division launches repeated assaults against Austro-Hungarian trenches at Zagora, just south of Plava.  This position had been so devastated by artillery fire that the defenders had been instructed to fall back to the second trench line, but repeated counterattacks prevented 3rd Division from holding the old Austro-Hungarian trenches.  On the other side of Plava, 32nd Division had similarly failed to gain any ground.  Opposite Görz itself, Italian artillery unleash a heavy bombardment before the infantry goes forward early this morning.  Elements of the Italian 4th Division reach the first trench line at Oslavija, but is repulsed, while 11th Division cannot even reach the trenches opposite.  The Italian 12th Division, however, is able to take advantage of a degree of cover offered by the broken terrain they advance over, and are able to break into the Austro-Hungarian positions on the heights at Podgora this afternoon.  Several detachments of Italian infantry fight their way to the crest of the heights, from which they can see Görz in the distance.  To the sound of bugles, however, five Austro-Hungarian companies counterattack, and by evening have regained the high ground at Podgora.

The heights at Podgora, west of Görz.

To the south of Görz, Italian artillery spend the morning pounding enemy positions before XIV Corps launched a concentrated assault on Mt. San Michele this afternoon.  After hours of bitter fighting infantry from 28th and 19th Division (the latter from the adjacent X Corps) break into trenches just south of Mt. San Michele held by the Austro-Hungarian 17th Division.  Elsewhere, however, the Italian assaults break down under withering enemy artillery and machine-gun fire.

The northern wing of the Italian 2nd Army is also active today, attacking on both sides of Tolmein, and just north of Dolje Italian infantry manage to reach the enemy trench line where the inner wings of the Austro-Hungarian 3rd and 14th Mountain Brigades meet.  Fierce hand-to-hand combat ensues into the night, with small groups of Austro-Hungarian soldiers rushing up from brigade and division reserves to plug the gap.

- As negotiations between the Persian government and the German ambassador continue, Prime Minister Mustaufi ul-Mamalik informs Ambassador Reuss that as Persia's most valuable provinces would likely be seized by the Russians and British if Persia entered the war on the side of Germany, his government will require a monthly subsidy of at least two million marks, plus a loan of a hundred million marks after the war and the reimbursement of all war costs.  Reuss feels that if Germany desires Persian support, they must agree to whatever terms the Persians request.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

October 27th, 1915

- As the Germans and Austro-Hungarians grind southwards towards Kragujevac, the mood is grim at Serbian army headquarters.  General Mišic of 1st Army proposes today a counterattack similar to that which secured victory along the Kolubara River in late 1914.  The Serbian army of 1915, however, is not that of 1914 - counting the Balkan wars, it has been in combat for almost four years, and the infantry are exhausted and reserves are non-existent.  General Putnik declines Mišić's suggestion, realizing that the best they can do is hold on while begging the British and French to advance from Salonika as quickly as possible.

- The Russian Black Seas Fleet undertakes another bombardment of the Bulgarian coast today, but unlike the prior operation on the 10th they are opposed by the German submarines UB-7 and UB-8 now based out of Varna.  As the Russian pre-dreadnoughts Panteleimon (formerly Potemkin, a decade away from silent film fame) and Rostislav bombard Varna from 21 000 yards, they are attacked by the two German submarines, and only rapid evasive action by Panteleimon allows it to avoid enemy torpedoes.

The Russian pre-dreadnought Panteleimon.

Monday, October 26, 2015

October 26th, 1915

- At 1005 am Lieutenant Max Immelmann shoots down a British B.e.2c two-seat reconnaissance biplane, his fifth of the war, making him Germany's first ace of the war.

Lieutenant Max Immelmann after his fifth victory, Oct. 26th, 1915.

- After hard fighting, the German XXII Reserve Corps, with the assistance of a heavy artillery bombardment, has secured the Serbian defensive positions at Arangelovac.  With the way open to the high ground at Rudnik, Mackensen orders the corps, supported by the Austro-Hungarian XIX Corps, push on towards Kraljevo, hoping to block one potential Serbian retreat route to the west.  Meanwhile, the Bulgarian 2nd Army seizes the Kačanik Gorge north of Skopje which, with the earlier occupation of Veleš along with Skopje itself, isolates Salonika from Serbia.

- Lord Kitchener remains skeptical of the Salonika expedition, and feels that, with the fall of Skopje, the opportunity to effectively aid the Serbs may have passed.  However, under continued pressure from the French, he agrees today to permit the British 10th Division, currently at Salonika, to cross the Greco-Serbian border to aid the French in the Vardar River valley.

- The German mission to Afghanistan has its first audience with Emir Habibullah today, where the latter expresses sympathy for the Germans but is unwilling to commit himself or his country to any particular course of action.  The stalling of the emir leads some in the German mission to wonder if they will be able to accomplish their objectives.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

October 25th, 1915

- The growing numbers of German Eindecker fighters over the Western Front are inflicting heavy casualties on the Royal Flying Corps, and with no comparable aircraft to fight back with, pilot morale is on the decline.  To remedy the situation, Brigadier-General Trenchard, commander of the RFC in France, advises the War Office that training programmes for new pilots need to concentrate on aerial combat, so that replacements are prepared for the struggle in the skies over the Western Front.

- After four days of heavy attacks north and south of Görz, the Italian 2nd and 3rd Armies have gained negligible ground; only several small stretches of the first enemy trench line have been captured, and in each case the Austro-Hungarian defenders have simply fallen back to the second trench line.  At no point have the Italians even threatened to achieve a significant victory or breakthrough, and what little has been gained has been won at the cost of 67 000 casualties.  The Italian 3rd Army in particular has suffered heavily and its infantry is exhausted after constant, fruitless combat, and thus Cadorna today orders a pause of several days to the offensive to allow replacements and supplies to reach the front.

Though they have generally held their line, the Austro-Hungarians have also suffered significant losses, and 5th Army, responsible for defending the Isonzo River line, has exhausted almost all of its reserves, with only several battalions of Landsturm immediately at hand.  The break in the Italian offensive thus gives a much-needed opportunity to bring up further reserves and replacements.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

October 24th, 1915

- After a brief stop yesterday to confer with Conrad at Teschen, Falkenhayn arrives at Mackensen's headquarters at Temesvár at 945am.  After discussion it is decided that the German Alpine Corps will be assigned to the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army to relieve part of the German XXII Reserve Corps, the latter not being well equipped for mountain warfare.  Mackensen and Seeckt also brief the German chief of staff on current operations, and afterwards dine with the Kaiser and his entourage.

At the front, the Austro-Hungarian 3rd and German 11th Armies have advanced relatively unimpeded over the past two days; other than rearguard actions, Serbian forces only put up a sustained defensive effort south of Požarevac, which had covered the main road in the Morava River valley.  Revised orders from Mackensen orders the inner wings of the two armies to seize Kragujevać as quickly as possible, hoping to break the Serbian line into several pockets that could be enveloped.  The weather, however, continues to impede operations; on average, it takes German artillery two hours to move one mile.

The Serbian 1st and 3rd Armies, meanwhile, have taken up defensive positions on high ground running approximately from Larazec through Arangelovac and south of Palanka to Petrovac, hoping to block access to the Morava and Mlava River valleys.

- On the northern wing of the Italian 2nd Army, 8th Division and Alpine Group A launch repeated attacks on Austro-Hungarian positions north of Tolmein, advancing up slopes soon covered in the dead and dying.  In the late afternoon, Italian infantry finally manage to break into the enemy trenches, only to be driven from them by counterattacks by the Austro-Hungarian 3rd and 14th Mountain Brigades.

To the south, overnight the Italian 29th Division, after four earlier attempts failed, finally break into the first Austro-Hungarian trench line before Mt. San Michele just before dawn.  In an attempt to follow up this meagre success, the commander of the Italian 3rd Army commits his final reserve formation - 21st Division - to a general assault by XIV Corps designed to push past Mt. San Michele.  After an intensive artillery bombardment, eight regiments attack opposite Mt. San Michele just after 3pm, but all along the front the waves of infantry are repulsed with heavy losses.

Friday, October 23, 2015

October 23rd, 1915

- Reinforced with divisions drawn from reserve, today the Italian XIV and X Corps of 3rd Army, the northern wing and centre of the army respectively, launch repeated heavy attacks on the Austro-Hungarian line between Mt. San Michelle and Mt. dei sei Busi.  Again and again, Italian infantry rush forward, often uphill, into heavy enemy fire, and when they manage to reach the first trenches they are met by bayonets and grenades.  Despite losses, numerical inferiority, and exhaustion, the Austro-Hungarian defenders, some of whom consist of Landsturm reserves barely accustomed to the intensity of modern combat, are able to hold repulse every Italian attack.

- The British transport Marquette, carrying troops from Egypt to Salonika, is torpedoed and sunk today by the German submarine U35 in the Gulf of Salonika, though most of the soldiers are rescued.

The German submarine U35.

- Lord Hardinge, Viceroy of India, informs Austen Chamberlain, secretary of state of India, today that his military advisors believe that 6th Indian Division, on the Tigris River near Kut-al-Amara, has sufficient strength both to advance to Baghdad and occupy it, and hold the city until the two divisions of Indian Expeditionary Force A arrive in Mesopotamia to reinforce it.  Chamberlain replies later today with authorization to launch 6th Indian Division towards Baghdad, a momentous decision that in time will have dire consequences.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

October 22nd, 1915

- Joffre sends a memorandum to his army group commanders today, assessing the strategic situation on the Western Front in the aftermath of the fall offensives in Champagne and Artois.  The French commander-in-chief casts the most favourable light on the recent operations, arguing that the French and British have achieved 'important tactical results', inflicted heavy losses on the Germans, and gained an 'undeniable moral superiority' over the enemy.  Only a lack of artillery had prevented the much-desired breakthrough and decisive victory.  In a more realistic appraisal, he recognizes the exhaustion of the French army, and states that the primary focus in the month ahead will be on resting the infantry and reconstituting units whose ranks have been decimated in the recent fighting.  However, local operations will be necessary to keep the Germans believing major offensives may be imminent, and thus keep them from redeploying units on the Western Front to other theatres.  Other than troops necessary for these minor attacks, the number of soldiers in the front line is to be reduced as low as possible, perhaps for the entire winter.  For the first time since the aftermath of the First Battle of Ypres in November 1914, Joffre is not planning an imminent major offensive designed to break the deadlock on the Western Front.

- Mackensen and Seeckt issue orders today for the next phase of the invasion of Serbia.  The German 11th Army is to advance south on both sides of the Morava River towards Kragujevać, establishing contact with the Bulgarian 1st Army.  The Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army would also push south towards Kraljevo, with the ultimate aim of preventing Serbian forces from retreating to the west.  To the south, elements of the Bulgarian 2nd Army seize Skopje today.

The advance of the German 11th and Austro-Hungarian 3rd Armies, Oct. 22nd to 29th, 1915.

Civilians gather around a Serbian soldier to hear news prior to the evacuation of Skopje, Oct. 22nd, 1915.

- North of Görz the Italian II Corps of 2nd Army launches heavy assaults near Plava, the third of which breaks into the Austro-Hungarian trenches at Zagora.  However, 4th Battalion of the Austro-Hungarian 4th Regiment counterattacks before the Italians can consolidate their gains, and retake the lost ground.  The rest of the day here consists of artillery duels, the Italians striking the enemy trenches and the Austro-Hungarians hitting the assembly areas for Italian infantry.

To the south of Görz the Italian 3rd Army continues its attacks, succeeding only in capturing and holding the first enemy trench line west of St. Martino just before noon.  Everywhere else the Austro-Hungarian VII and III Corps hold, and indeed an attack this morning retakes the ground lost yesterday at Heights #121 by 10am.  However, given the heavy enemy pressure most of the available Austro-Hungarian reserves are committed to the fight during the course of the day.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

October 21st, 1915

- Despite the failure of the attack by the Guards Division on the 17th, General Haig of the British 1st Army remains confident that a more methodical approach will secure the ground on the northern flank of the Loos salient he deems essential to establish a good defensive position for his forces over the winter.  Among the tactics Haig implements is the digging of approach trenches as close to the German lines as possible, to minimize the time needed for the attacking infantry to cross No Man's Land.  This work cannot be rushed, however, and Haig does not believe his army will be ready to attack until November 7th.  Today Field Marshal French gives his approval to the proposed local attacks.

- Over the past week the remainder of the French 156th Division has arrived at the Strumica rail station, and in cooperation with Serb forces has repulsed an attack by elements of the Bulgarian 2nd Army.

- This morning the 3rd Battle of the Isonzo opens on the Italian Front as infantry assaults are undertaken by the Italian 2nd and 3rd Armies.  Given the lack of both surprise and sufficient munitions, to say nothing of the terrain, the Italian attacks get nowhere.  North of Plava the Italian 27th Division attempts to cross the Isonzo River at Loga and Ajba before dawn, hoping to catch the enemy by surprise.  The intention of the attackers had long since been betrayed by the noise of their assembly, and the crossing runs into a hail of fire and is shattered.  A second attempt after dusk makes use of a more substantial preliminary bombardment, but is no more successful.  South of Görz, 3rd Army assaults the Karst plateau at 10am.  Only along small sections of the front do Italian infantry manage to even reach the first enemy trench line, and these successes are soon erased by fierce Austro-Hungarian counterattacks.  Only on a two hundred yard stretch of the Austro-Hungarian line north of Mt dei sei Busi are the Italian attackers able to hold captured ground against enemy counterattacks.  By nightfall hundreds of Italian dead lay before Austro-Hungarian positions on Mt S Michelle.  After dark the Italian VII Corps attacks up the slope of Heights #121 east of Monfalcone, and after four failed attempts the fifth managed to reach the enemy trenches just before midnight.

The 3rd Battle of the Isonzo, Oct. 19th to Nov. 4th, 1915.

- Today British and French warships bombard the port of Dedeagach and other points on the Aegean coast of Bulgaria.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

October 20th, 1915

- At OHL Falkenhayn has been observing the progress of the Serbian campaign with apprehension, as he views the progress to date, especially over the past week as the Kossava raged, as insufficient to secure the desired rapid victory.  The German chief of staff decides today to commit the German Alpine Corps, currently in the Tyrol, to the Serbian campaign, and decides to visit Mackensen's headquarters in three days' time.

- Four days ago, the British government offered to cede the island of Cyprus, acquired from the Ottoman Empire in the 19th-century, to Greece in exchange for Greek entry into the war on the side of the Entente.  The inducement is not sufficient to move King Constantine off of his policy of neutrality, and today the Greek government declines the British offer.

- In southern Serbia, Bulgarian forces attack and capture Veleš on the Salonika-Skopje railway forty kilometres north of Krivolak.  The Serbs appeal to General Sarrail to advance further north to maintain the line of communications with Skopje, but he refuses to move beyond Krivolak.  Between Krivolak and the Strumica rail station, he has already committed most of the forces at his disposal - the last elements of the French 57th Division are still disembarking at Salonika even as its lead elements are arriving at Krivolak today, and a third French division is still en route to the port.  Moreover, French forces at the Strumica rail station continue to engage Bulgarian forces, and defeat here would isolate the French forces moving to Krivolak, and reports from Krivolak itself indicate that the railway has already been cut just north of the town.

- As the Italian preliminary artillery bombardment continues, Italian prisoners captured by the Austro-Hungarians indicate that the anticipated infantry assault is to begin tomorrow morning.  Not only the timing but the location of the attack has been ascertained - the pattern of bombardment clearly shows that a major effort will be made against the Austro-Hungarian VII Corps south of Görz, and reserves of the adjacent III Corps are ordered to prepare to move north to aid their neighbour once the enemy attack begins.  Though outnumbered, the Austro-Hungarians are thoroughly prepared to meet the Italian offensive.

Monday, October 19, 2015

October 19th, 1915

- Today Conrad achieves one of the great objectives of the war, one that however has nothing to do with the battlefield; instead it is marriage to his longtime mistress, Gina von Reininghaus.  They first met in 1907, when Conrad had become hopelessly smitten with Gina, who was less than half his age.  That Gina was already married with six children was but a mere inconvenience to Conrad, and he urged her to divorce her husband even as the two became lovers.  Conrad believed that if were victorious in war, his prestige and prominence would sweep aside all obstacles to making Gina his wife.  The current war, of course, has seen an unending succession of debacles, exposing his abysmal strategic judgement and the incompetence of the Austro-Hungarian army - the only victories he has achieved have occurred either due to Italian ineptitude (Cadorna is one of the few who legitimately rivals the Austro-Hungarian chief of staff in stubborness and detachment from the realities of war) or through German leadership.  What he has been unable to accomplish through battlefield glory has been accomplished through legal trickery: having divorced her husband, she has converted to Protestantism through a sham adoption by a sympathetic general, allowing her to skirt the Catholic Church's restrictions on divorce and remarriage.  Today's union legitimizes a relationship that Conrad and Gina had carried on openly and become the subject of mockery in Viennese social circles.  Unfortunately for the suffering Austro-Hungarian army, marital bliss does not confer martial ability on Conrad.

- In Serbia, on the western flank of the German XXII Reserve Corps the advance of 26th Division brings it into contact with the Austro-Hungarian 53rd Division of XIX Corps, held short of Obrenovac since its initial crossing of the Save River.  The arriving Germans turn the flank of the Serbian defenders, who pull back and allow the trapped Austro-Hungarians to finally break out.  To the east, the German 105th Division of IV Reserve Corps breaks through Serbian positions in the hills east of Lucić, suffering heavy casualties to overcome the fierce enemy resistance.  Meanwhile, however, the Germans score a coup when 232rd Reserve Regiment of 107th Division captures a Serbian patrol and an engineer detachment with orders to destroy the railway bridge over the Mlava River to the south.  Intelligence gleaned from the prisoners allow the Germans to capture the bridge intact, which will aid further advances.  To the south, while the Bulgarian 1st Army continues to be held up in the mountain passes east of Niš, to the south the Bulgarian 2nd Army has made much more progress, and today reaches the Vardar River at Veleš and cuts the railway linking Niš and Salonika.

- Both Russia and Italy formally declare war on Bulgaria today.

- The Serbian government has been pressuring General Sarrail to move his forces north from Salonika and concentrate them at Niš, to oppose the Bulgarians attacking from the east.  Sarrail knows that such a movement is impossible with the forces at his disposal, but recognizes that a gesture (beyond the deployment at the Strumica rail station) is needed.  As a result, he orders an infantry regiment and artillery battery, newly arrived at Salonika and from the French 57th Division, to move north to Krivolak, on the Salonika-Skopje railway thirty kilometres north of the Strumica rail station and south of Veleš.

The French advance from Salonika, October 1915.

- The Italian preliminary artillery bombardment along the lower Isonzo River is joined today by Italian aircraft, which this morning strike the Austro-Hungarian airbase at Aisovizza and begin airstrikes on marching columns and railway stations.  These raids are largely unopposed, as the Austro-Hungarian aircraft on the Italian Front are primarily designed for reconnaissance, not aerial combat.

- The government of Japan adheres to the Pact of London today, which had originally been signed on September 5th, 1914 by Russia, France, and Britain and by which they had pledged not to sign a separate peace with Germany.  Japan's agreement to remain in the war until the end does not, however, signal an expansion of the Japanese contribution to the war effort of the Entente.  Instead, the Japanese government hopes that adhering to the pact will secure it a seat at the peace conference at the end of the war and allow Japanese negotiators to secure the permanent transfer of captured German colonies in Asia and the Pacific to Japan.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

October 18th, 1915

- The German III Corps has had a particularly difficult few days as a result of the Kossava, as in addition to the supply difficulties faced by the other German and Austro-Hungarian corps it is being drawn in two directions: 6th Division has been attempting to cross the Ralja River and advance southwards while 25th Division has been moving westward in an attempt to link up with the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army.  After difficult fighting, however, 6th Division is across the Ralja and today routs the Serbs out of a heavily defended position at Mala Krsna, and pursue the retreating enemy into the hills south of the river.

- On the Italian front the preliminary artillery bombardment for the 3rd Battle of the Isonzo begins precisely at 12pm.  Italian fire is concentrated on the frontline trenches of the Austro-Hungarian defenders opposite, but attention is also paid to known concentration of Austro-Hungarian reserves, communication trenches, and headquarters.  Only south of Görz on the Karst plateau, however, is notable damage done to the Austro-Hungarian positions.

- With the entry of Bulgaria into the war, German submarines in the Black Sea can now operate out of Bulgarian ports, located closer to the Russian coast than Ottoman bases, and today the first German submarine - UB-8 - arrives at Varna.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

October 17th, 1915

- After the failure of the attack on the 13th, Field Marshal Sir John French had called off the British offensive at Loos, limiting further operations to seizing ground deemed essential to repulsing any potential German counterattack.  Haig's conclusion is that several key positions on the northern flank of the Loos salient, including The Quarries, Fosse 8, and The Dump, will need to be captured.  Today the first attack is undertaken by the Guards Division, aiming to capture German trenches on either flank of the Hohenzollern Redoubt, isolating the position and allowing for a further attack to seize Fosse 8.  The Guards had only come into the line yesterday to replace the battered 46th Division, and its readiness to attack at 5am this morning is a testimony to the experience and skill of the staff officers.  The attack itself, however, is over ground that has been fought over for the past month, and thus is covered with the dead as well as the debris of battle, severely impeding the advance of the infantry.  Moreover, only a short artillery bombardment precedes the attack, which does little more than alert the German defenders that the British are coming.  The broken terrain and heavy German fire conspire to prevent any Guards infantry from reaching their objectives, and Lord Cavan, commander of the division, calls off the attack at 8am, the Guards having suffered 101 dead for no gain.

- Only today does the Kossava abate in Serbia, allowing the flow of men and supplies across the Save and Danube Rivers to resume.  South of Belgrade, with the Germans and Austro-Hungarians pushing across the Avala Hills, General Živojin Mišić, commanding the Serbian 1st Army, orders a retreat southwards to a new line of hills centred on Kosmaj Mountain, covering the Kolubara River and the town of Valjevo.  During the day, the Serbian divisions under his command disengage and pull back seven miles to the new line by nightfall.  The pursuit by the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army is slowed by the poor state of the roads in the aftermath of the Kossava and the destruction of several viaducts cutting the only railway south of Belgrade.  To the east on the front of the German 11th Army, after two days of fighting German forces push through a new Serbian defensive line on the Sapina Hills running through Smoljinac and Makci, with 107th Division seizing the former and X Reserve Corps capturing the latter.

The advance of the German 11th and Austro-Hungarian 3rd Armies, Oct. 17th to 22nd, 1915.

Friday, October 16, 2015

October 16th, 1915

- In Serbia a further advance by the German 44th Reserve Division and the Austro-Hungarian 59th Division of the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army secure today the northern face of the Avala Hills, the main Serbian defensive line south of Belgrade.

- The French government formally declares war on Bulgaria today.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

October 15th, 1915

- Field Marshal Sir John French learns that Joffre has called off the French offensives in Artois and Champagne, which invalidates the strategic premise of the British offensive at Loos.  This, in conjunction with the failure of the attack of the 13th to secure significant gains, compels the commander of the BEF to call off the offensive in Flanders.  Henceforth, the British 1st Army will limit itself strictly to those operations essential to seize ground to protect itself from German counterattacks against the ground captured on the 13th.

Since September 25th the British 1st Army has suffered approximately 50 000 casualties, including almost 16 000 dead, while pushing forward between 800 and 2500 yards on a 6000 yard stretch of the German line north and south of the village of Loos.  As with the French in Champagne, most of this ground was seized in the first hours of the attack on the morning of the 25th, and again in common with the French the British proved unable to sustain the initial momentum and subsequent attacks proved increasingly futile.  In the case of Loos, the failures from the afternoon of the 25th onward have been ascribed by Haig and his supporters as primarily the responsibility of Field Marshal's French's mishandling of the reserves, a dispute that continues to fester in the upper ranks of the British army.  The battle has also proven to be a bitter introduction to the divisions of Kitchener's 'New Armies' to combat on the Western Front, the attack of 21st and 24th Divisions, though driven home with great courage, was an abysmal failure, gaining no ground at the cost of several thousand casualties.  They will not be the only divisions of the 'New Armies' to have such a deadly debut on the Western Front.

- With Bulgaria's entry into the war on the side of Germany with its invasion of Serbia, Great Britain and Montenegro formally declare war on Bulgaria today.

- Today Austen Chamberlain, Secretary of State for India, informs Lord Hardinge, Viceroy of India, that the Cabinet is discussing the withdrawal of the two divisions of Indian Expeditionary Force A from France and dispatching them to Mesopotamia.  This redeployment has two purposes: (1) to facilitate the capture of Baghdad; and (2) to secure the region if an Entente withdrawal from the Dardanelles allows the Ottomans to redeploy divisions there to Mesopotamia.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

October 14th, 1915

- Overnight five German Zeppelins undertake a bombing raid on London.  While L11 turned back near the English coast after coming under fire, dropping his bombload on several small villages, and L16 strikes the town of Hertford, twenty miles north of London, the three others all manage to hit the British capital.  Most notably, L15, watched by members of Parliament who had been debating an emergency taxation measure, drops its bombs from Charing Cross to the Bank of England, with the second bomb exploding in Wellington Street and killing seventeen, the greatest number of deaths caused by a single bomb in a raid to date.  L13, meanwhile, targets pumping and power stations at Hampton as well as Woolwich Arsenal, and L14, after a lengthy diversion to Hythe on the Kent coast where it dropped nine bombs on an army encampment and killed fifteen soldiers, struck the suburb of Croydon where a number of homes were damaged or destroyed.  Though the Zeppelins had trouble with fog on the return voyage, all return safely (though L15 landed three miles short of Nordholz, necessitating repairs).  This raid is one of the deadliest of the war, with 71 killed and 128 injured, including 38 killed and 87 injured in London itself.

- The Kossava continues unabated in Serbia today, and the only craft able to cross the swollen Save and Danube Rivers are boats with motors or steam engines, of which only two are available to transport supply for the entire German III and X Reserve Corps.  For the German and Austro-Hungarian forces on the south banks of the rivers, supply problems continue.

South of Belgrade further attacks by the German XXII Reserve Corps and the Austro-Hungarian VIII Corps succeed in pushing the Serbians back from their forward positions, and elements of the German 43rd and 44th Reserve Divisions advance on either side of the railway running towards Ripanj.  On the front of the German 11th Army, after reconnaissance patrols yesterday established that the Serbs had evacuated Požarevac, the German 3rd Bavarian Regiment occupies the town today.

Meanwhile the Bulgarian 1st and 2nd Armies begin their advance today.  Given that the former is clearly aimed directly at Niš, the Serbs have deployed strong forces, totalling five infantry divisions and one cavalry division, to contain the Bulgarian advance in the mountain passes east of the city.  Given the strong resistance, coupled with the continuing bad weather, the Bulgarian 1st Army makes no progress today.  However, given the continued pressure the Serbs are under on all fronts, they are incapable of being strong everywhere, and only small forces can be spared to hold back the Bulgarian 2nd Army.

The deployment of the Bulgarian 1st and 2nd Armies and the Serbian forces assigned to
contain them, Oct. 14th, 1915.

- French forces begin to arrive at Strumica Station today, where they join seven Serbian battalions.  Given their proximity to the Bulgarian frontier here, however, they quickly come under Bulgarian artillery fire.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

October 13th, 1915

- At noon today British artillery commence a preliminary bombardment of a six-thousand-yard stretch of the German line north of Loos, the target of today's attack.  Most of the fire is concentrated on German trenches, machine-gun posts, and barbed wire, though 114 guns concentrate on German artillery positions identified by aerial reconnaissance over the past several days.  The lengthy preparation has also allowed the British to move up and deploy gas cylinders, which are opened at 150pm.  The wind carries the gas in the desired direction along the entire line except at the north, where the wind direction would have pushed the gas down the British trenches instead of across No Man's Land.  Ten minutes later at 2pm, whistles sound and four divisions of the British 1st Army go on to the attack.  To the north, 2nd Division of I Corps advances north of the Hohenzollern Redoubt against a trench known as Little Willie, while 46th Division of XI Corps, fresh after being redeployed from the Ypres salient, assaults the German redoubt itself.  IV Corp's other division - 12th - is to seize The Quarries to the south of the redoubt, while 1st Division of IV Corps moves against a stretch of the German line on the Lens-La Bassée road.

The British attack north of Loos, October 13th, 1915.

The gas, however, did not have a noticeable effect on the German defenders other than to warn them that an attack was imminent.  Moreover, the preliminary bombardment had not succeeded in knocking out the German artillery, which open fire on the British infantry in the open as they cross No Man's Land.  As a result, the British suffer heavy casualties before they even reach the German line.  On the northern flank, only one officer, a Lieutenant Abercrombie, and one soldier actually make it into the Little Willie trench, and when Abercrombie sends the other soldier back to ask for support, the latter is wounded and the message never arrives.  On his own, Abercrombie wages what amounts to his own private war against the Germans, putting a machine-gun post out of action with his grenades.  With no bombs remaining, Abercrombie manages to return to British lines unscathed, his success notable for its audacity but otherwise without significance on the larger battle.  To the south, 138th Brigade of 46th Division advances over ground partially sheltered from German view, and are able to break into the Hohenzollern Redoubt.  Efforts to secure Fosse Trench beyond, however, fail as the division's other brigade - 137th - fails to get into the Big Willie trench, leaving the forward elements of 138th Brigade exposed to flanking fire.  Further south, 35th Brigade of 12th Division gains a foothold in the southeast corner of The Quarries while elements of 37th Brigade seize 250 yards of Gun Trench, and both brigades are able to hold off German counterattacks.  On the other hand, the attack of 1st Division is an abysmal failure - artillery fire fails to break the German wire, and the attacking infantry, trying to work their way through the few gaps in the wire, come under withering fire and take heavy losses.

British artillery bombards the Hohenzollern  Redoubt as gas drifts towards the German lines, October 13th, 1915.

Overall the British attack has achieved certain tactical successes, capturing and holding toeholds in the German line from the Hohenzollern Redoubt to Gun Trench.  However, these positions remain precarious and further attacks will be needed simply to consolidate the British gain, to say nothing of driving beyond the German lines attacked today.  The four British divisions, meanwhile, have taken significant losses, and the commander of XI Corps decides that 46th Division suffered sufficient casualties as to necessitate its withdrawal from the line, and this evening he orders the Guard Division back to the front in its place.

- To the south near Vimy Ridge, the German Guard Corps, after a series of counterattacks, manages to retake the trenches at the Five Crossroads west of Givenchy today.  Meanwhile, meeting with Joffre today, Foch argues for a resumption of the attack, given that 'only a bound' can gain the crest of Vimy Ridge.  He argues that the attack of the 11th had broken down due to insufficient artillery support - the heavy artillery of 10th Army had fired 73 000 shells prior to the September 25th assault as compared to only 21 600 shells prior to the 11th.  Joffre, however, replies that he does not have the ammunition to give, and moreover that the most recent failure has shown that 10th Army does not have the ability to make another big push.  Joffre thus instructs Foch to halt further major assaults, only attacking to consolidate the gains won west of Vimy of Ridge over the past three weeks.

- Joffre's order to Foch effectively brings the French fall offensive to a close, given that the French commander-in-chief had halted operations in Champagne on the 7th.  The French have gained ground in both Champagne and Artois - up to four kilometres in the former and up to two kilometres in the latter.  However, the ground seized confers no great strategic advantage, and is a far cry from both Joffre's objectives and the possibilities that appeared to exist in the first days of the attack.  Especially in Champagne, the initial French attack broke through the main German defensive position, driving several kilometres in a matter of hours while inflicting heavy losses on the defenders.  The failure to follow up this success and push through the reserve German line after the 25th highlights once again that the true tactical difficulty on the Western Front is not the initial attack but the follow up; that poor communication, delays in reserve forces moving forward over broken ground, and difficulties in coordinating artillery fire in a fluid engagement all combine to impair subsequent assaults.  In both regions the French had fired almost 4.4 million light and over 800 000 thousand heavy artillery shells, but only on the first day, when they had been firing on German defences that were well-known and whose position had been precisely known, had the bombardment had a decisive effect.  In the following days, when the artillery was firing on unfamiliar, and in some cases unknown, German positions, the bombardment had been much less effective.  It points to the necessity of accurate knowledge of enemy defences and where artillery fire is needed during battle, but the delays in communicating by foot across the former No Man's Land renders this exceedingly difficult.  Overall, the small French gains in Champagne and Artois had come at the cost of just over 190 000 casualties, including 30 000 dead, 110 000 wounded, and 50 000 missing in action.

On the German side, 6th Army in Artois lost just over 50 000 while the casualties of 3rd and 5th Armies in Champagne numbered just over 80 000.  The battle had a notable impact on Falkenhayn; in the first days of the fighting, as the battle hung in the balance and French breakthrough appeared possible, he was acutely aware of how he had stripped the Western Front of reserves for his earlier campaign in Russia and the ongoing operation against Serbia.  When Lieutenant-Colonel Gerhard Tappen, OHL's operations officer, met Falkenhayn on the 27th, he found the German chief of staff 'very dejected'.  However, as the German armies have held on over the next three weeks, Falkenhayn draws different conclusions from the course of the fighting.  Despite Entente superiority in manpower and material, the achievement of operational surprise, and the reduction of German reserves, the British and French had been unable to break through the German lines.  It confirms Falkenhayn's emphasis on the importance of constructing multiple trench lines to contain enemy assaults.  More importantly, Falkenhayn concludes that if an attacking can not achieve a breakthough in such propitious circumstances, a breakthrough is not a realistic possibility given the conditions of the war on the Western Front.  This informs not only Falkenhayn's defensive outlook; instead of attempting to break through Entente lines in the future, another strategic objective will have to inform future German offensives.  Moreover, the failure of the French fall offensive serves to reinforce Falkenhayn's poor opinion of the French army, believing it to be approaching the end of its strength.  These two threads, comprising the key lessons Falkenhayn takes from the fall fighting in Champagne and Artois, will figure decisively in the course of the fighting in 1916.

- In Serbia the storm portented in yesterday's weather has engulfed the region.  It is a Kossava, an autumnal weather sytem that comes up from the southeast, bringing heavy rains and high winds.  Though the storm had been expected, its intensity takes the Germans by surprise.  On the Danube and Save Rivers waves reach six feet high and more, and parts of the islands on the rivers flood.  By the end of the day the raging torrents have destroyed or rendered unusable all of the bridges that German and Austro-Hungarian engineers built across the rivers since the offensive began.  This effectively cuts the German and Austro-Hungarian forces on the southern banks off from their supplies and heavy artillery on the northern bank.  Further, the heavy rains turn the dirt roads of the region into impassible mud.  The conditions makes a pause in the offensive to resupply and await better conditions an obvious option, and General Gallwitz of the German 11th Army argues for precisely this course of action.  Mackensen and Seeckt, however, speed is of the utmost priority to prevent the Entente forces recently landed at Salonika from moving north and reinforcing the Serbian army before it can be defeated in battle.  Moreover, despite the successes to date the bridgeheads of the two armies are still almost twenty miles apart, and creating a continuous front will put more pressure on the Serbs.

On the ground, the next objective of the German XXII Reserve Corps and the Austro-Hungarian VIII Corps of the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army are the Avala Hills, but when they advance today they encounter well-developed defensive positions manned by the Serbian 1st Timok, 2nd Timok, and 1st Morava Divisions.  In the poor weather and advancing over difficult terrain, the attackers make minimal progress.  To the west, additional attacks by the Austro-Hungarian XIX Corps failed to secure significant gains yesterday, and today Mackensen orders the corps to leave only enough soldiers to hold the bridgeheads and redeploy the rest east to cross the Save River at Big Zigeuner Island where it can take its intended position on the western wing of the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army.  On the front of the German 3rd Army, despite Gallwitz's reservations, the German 107th Division attacks east of Požarevac, fighting its way through a Serbian defensive line at Kalidol, while X Reserve Corps seizes the high ground at Lipovac.

Meanwhile, the Bulgarian government formally severs diplomatic relations with Serbia today, a prelude to the planned invasion of the country tomorrow.  General Zhekov, chief of the Bulgarian general staff, has deployed two armies - 1st and 2nd - along the country's western frontier with Serbia.  To the north, 1st Army, consisting of 6th, 8th, 9th, and 1st Divisions, is deployed east of its ultimate objective, the de facto Serbian capital at Niš.  To the south, 2nd Army, with 3rd and 7th Divisions, is push westwards into the Vardar River valley and sever the railway linking Niš and Salonika, thus preventing the rapid movement of Entente forces at the latter into Serbia.

Monday, October 12, 2015

October 12th, 1915

- After numerous delays, the next big push by the British 1st Army is scheduled to go in tomorrow afternoon, and this evening BEF commander Field Marshal Sir John French issues new objectives for 1st Army.  To this point, Haig's instructions have remained those issued on September 18th; namely, to reach the line of Haute Deule Canal, which south of Lille runs in a curve towards the front before angling to Douai to the southeast.  Now, however, French abandons the canal as the ultimate objective.  Instead, after the hoped-for success tomorrow in recapturing the Hohenzollern Redoubt and securing its northern flank, 1st Army will conduct subsidiary operations to secure ground from which another major offensive can be launched in the future.  This is a distinctive, and deliberate, reduction in the overall aim of the British offensive - though ground around the village of Loos has been gained, the broader aim of a breakthrough has not been achieved, and French is already looking towards preparations for the next major offensive.

- For several months, discontent with the French war effort has been percolating through political circles in Paris, and these concerns have been amplified in recent weeks with the failure of the autumn offensives in Artois and Champagne, coupled with the imminent entry of Bulgaria into the war.  Today Foreign Minister Théophile Delcassé, whose efforts to keep Bulgaria neutral have failed, resigns, which leads to a vote of confidence in the Chamber of Deputies regarding the government of Prime Minister René Viviani.  Though the government wins the vote 372 to 9, the large number of abstentions indicate that Viviani's grip on power is slipping.

- The postponed attack of the German XXII Reserve Corps and the Austro-Hungarian VIII Corps south of Belgrade goes in today, and the Germans, supported by a carefully planned and precise artillery bombardment, drive the Serbs back several kilometres and seize the Petlovo Hills.  The Austro-Hungarians, however, make significantly less progress, in part due to poor weather preventing support from monitors on the river.  Further east the advance of the German 11th Army continues: today 105th Division of IV Corps moves south of the Leštar Hills and 11th Bavarian Division reaches the outskirts of Požarevac.  On their left, the German X Reserve Corps seizes the Anatema Hills, which pushes the Serbs sufficiently behind the Danube River to allow the corps' heavy equipment to cross on pontoon bridges.  The most important development of the day, however, is beyond the control of the invading forces - the rain preventing river monitors from supporting the Austro-Hungarian attack is growing more intense.

- Today General Sarrail arrives at Salonika to take command of the Army of the Near East, where he receives instructions from the war minister to 'cover the lines of communication between Salonika and Serbia against the advance of Bulgarian forces.'  This means defending, first of all, the railway that connects Salonika and Skopje, running alongside the Vardar River.  Sarrail orders an infantry regiment and an artillery battalion to advance to the Strumica rail railway station a hundred kilometres north of Salonika and thirty kilometres into Serbian territory.  Here, the Bulgarian border is a dozen kilometres from the Salonika-Skopje railway (the village of Strumica itself is just inside Bulgaria), making a defence of the line here essential if the railway is to remain open to Entente forces.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

October 11th, 1915

- Overnight the British 2nd Battalion of the Grenadier Guards assault a German trench south of the Hohenzollern Redoubt known as the Loop, and after successfully capturing the position repulse a determined German counterattack.  Subsequently the battalion endured heavy German shell fire, one of which killed the commander of 1/Grenadier Guards.  Command of the latter is temporarily assumed by Major Harold Alexander of 2nd Battalion, who will rise to the rank of Field Marshal in the next great war and retire with an earldom.

- At 2pm French artillery fire in Artois intensifies prior to the infantry advance scheduled for 415pm.  Poor visibility, however, prevents accurate targeting of German positions while providing ample warning of the impending attack - by 4pm, the German IV, Guard, and Bavarian I Corps opposite the French lines report that their trenches are about to be assaulted.  When the French infantry go over the top, the Germans opposite fire flares into the air, the signal to their artillery batteries in the rear to shell No Man's Land.  The soldiers of the French XXI, XXXIII, and XII Corps suffer heavy casualties, and only between Givenchy and a point known as the Five Crossroads south of Giesler Hill do the French gain any ground whatsoever, and even here there is no possibility of a breakthrough.  After four hours General d'Urbal orders the attacks to cease, though he intends to resume the offensive once his infantry has had a chance to rest and when the Germans are less vigilant.

- South of Belgrade a planned attack by the German XXII Reserve Corps and Austro-Hungarian VIII Corps is postponed due to delays in getting heavy artillery across the Save and Danube Rivers and into position to provide supporting fire.  In Belgrade itself, Mackensen and Seeckt make a public visit to General Kövess of the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army to offer congratulations on the capture of the city.  The visit is typical of Mackensen's management of coalition warfare - he suppressese his annoyance at the dual communiques yesterday and makes a public show of amity with his Austro-Hungarian allies.  To the east, 168th Regiment captures the medieval Ottoman fortress at Semendria, while the rest of the German III Corps crosses the swollen Jezava River and fight their way into the nearby town of the same name as well as Lipe.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

October 10th, 1915

- In reaction to the Bulgarian entry into the war, the Russian Black Seas Fleet bombards the Bulgarian ports of Varna and Evxinograd, encountering no opposition.

- In two days of heavy fighting the Austro-Hungarian XIX Corps remains pinned on the southern shore of the Save River, and due to heavy losses 205th Landsturm Brigade has been relieved south of Boljevci by 21st Landsturm Mountain Brigade.  To the east, the German XXII Reserve Corps and the Austro-Hungarian VIII Corps push out from Belgrade, the former taking the heights at Dedinje and the latter capturing the Vk. Vračar ridge.

Meanwhile General Nikola Zhekov, chief of the Bulgarian General Staff, informs Mackensen today that the offensive of his army, scheduled to begin tomorrow, will be delayed until the 14th.  There is also an entirely predictable spat between the German and Austro-Hungarian high commands today.  After Mackensen yesterday signalled that German and Austro-Hungarian forces had captured Belgrade, both had issued communiques crediting only their soldiers with the success.  Mackensen is quite annoyed at the conflicting stories published by the two high commands, and his operations staff can only explain that both sides had specific victories in the Belgrade fighting that they accomplished on their own - capturing the Konak by the Germans and the Kalemegdan by the Austro-Hungarians.

Friday, October 09, 2015

October 9th, 1915

- Though the German attack at Loos yesterday has forced yet another postponement of the British offensive, Foch is unwilling to delay the attack of the French 10th Army any further, and insists that it go ahead as planned.  Now, however, the weather intervenes: the preliminary artillery bombardment scheduled to begin today is delayed by heavy fog which prevents accurate fire on German positions.  The infantry assault is thus put off until the 11th.

- With German forces approaching from the west and the Austro-Hungarian troops into the city fighting house-to-house, General Mihailo Živkovic, commanding the Serbian defenders at Belgrade, concludes that the city can no longer be held.  Shortly after midnight, he orders his exhausted battalions to abandon the city, retreating south to a line running approximately from Mirijevo east of Belgrade to Zarkova south of the city.  During the day, the German 43rd Reserve Divisions pushes into the city from the west, capturing the Konak, the official residence of King Peter I of Serbia, while 44th Reserve Division covers its southern flank and occupies the summit of Banovo Mountain.  The Austro-Hungarian 59th Division, meanwhile, fights its way through the streets of Belgrade and by this evening have captured the Kalemegdan.  For the second time in the war, Belgrade has fallen to the enemy; this time, however, there will be no miraculous reversal of fortune as there was in December of last year.

Kalemegdan castle after its capture by the Austro-Hungarian 59th Division, October 9th, 1915.

East of Belgrade, the German X Reserve Corps goes onto the attack today after its crossing of the Danube on the 7th, and make gradual progress in hilly terrain.  An attack by IV Reserve Corps, meanwhile, is delayed by morning fog, and when artillery fires prior to the attack, rescheduled for 230pm, a number of shells fall short and strike German positions.  The Serbs, taking advantage of the confusion, launch a counterattack along the entire front of IV Reserve Corps, taking advantage of cornfields to advance unseen.  In heavy fighting, the Serbs are finally driven off with the aid of artillery fire from the north bank and Temesziget Island.  A German counterattack makes slow progress, the Serbian trenches hidden by the same corn that had masked their earlier advance, but by this evening have captured Petka.  11th Bavarian Division has suffered 750 men over the past two days, but the Serbs defenders have lost approximately a thousand, and they are far less able to replace their casualties than the Germans.  Twenty miles to the west, the German III Corps makes its crossing of the Danube today, the last of 11th Army's three corps to do so.  6th Division secures a bridgehead opposite Kevevára, and corps commander General Ewald von Lochow decides to redeploy his other division - 25th Reserve - to follow the route of 6th Division, given the difficulties its lead regiment - 168th - has encountered attempting to cross at Semendria Island.

- As General Sarrail has yet to arrive at Salonika, General Maurice Bailloud, who had formerly commanded the French contingent on Gallipoli, has been in charge.  The orders he has received from his government since the landing show the extent to which the Entente, having committed to aiding the Serbs, had not worked out how precisely this was to be done.  On October 7th, Bailloud received instructions not to cross the border into Serbia.  Yesterday, this order was countered by another message ordering him to advance thirty kilometres into Serbia.  Today, Bailloud is again instructed not to enter Serbian territory.  Not surprising, the net result has been no advance beyond Salonika for the forces that have arrived since the 5th.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

October 8th, 1915

- Near Loos the Germans launch a counterattack that catches the British and French largely by surprise, as poor weather has prevented aerial reconnaissance.  After a three-and-a-half-hour artillery bombardment, five regiments from IV Corps attack towards Loos from the east and the south.  Despite achieving surprise, however, the German infantry are unable to make progress, as heavy fog has prevented accurate preliminary shelling.  The northernmost elements of the French IX Corps, as well as 3rd Brigade of the British 1st Division, pour heavy fire into the German ranks, and they are unable to advance closer than forty yards to the Entente positions.  The Germans suffer three thousand casualties for no gain, but the attack does disrupt British preparations for their own attack.  Moreover, the preliminary attack on Gun Trench to the north still goes in today, but is a dismal failure.  The result is that the British offensive is yet again postponed, this time to October 13th.

- In Serbia attacks by the Austro-Hungarian XIX Corps fail to break out of the bridgehead across the Save River they won yesterday at Obrenovac.  To the east, the German 43rd Reserve Division of XXII Reserve Corps clears Big and Little Zigeuner Island in hard fighting, and crosses to the south bank of the Save River, while this evening 44th Reserve Division pushes eastward and seizes the forward slope of the Banovo Mountain, which overlooks Belgrade to the northeast.  At the Serbian capital itself, the Austro-Hungarian VIII Corps endures another day of hard fighting.  Though Serbian artillery prevents reinforcements from crossing the Danube River during daylight hours, after sunset the remainder of the Austro-Hungarian 59th Division is able to get across.  Two Austro-Hungarian monitors - Leitha and Körös - fire at point-blank range into Serbian houses where defenders have holed up, and with this support the Austro-Hungarian infantry are able to push into Belgrade by this evening, fighting house to house in the streets east of the Kalemegdan.  In the German 11th Army, X Reserve Corps, after its successful crossing yesterday, spends today consolidating its bridgehead before further advances tomorrow.  On its western flank, IV Reserve Corps was not scheduled to cross until tomorrow, but its commander, Lieutenant-General Arnold von Winckler, decides to take advantage of X Reserve Corps' success, and pushes two of his three divisions across the Danube today.  Morning fog obscured the German pontoons as they brought the first wave across, and the forward Serbian positions are quickly overrun.  By this evening, 107th Division has seized the heights at Kostolac and 11th Bavarian Division, despite a fierce Serbian counterattack, is poised to seize the town of Petka.

German cavalry crossing the Danube River during the invasion of Serbia, October 1915.

- Since the end of the 2nd Battle of the Isonzo in early August, General Cadorna has been preparing for another offensive in the same sector, scheduled to be launched on October 21st, and which will become the 3rd Battle of the Isonzo.  His plan aims to capture the city of Görz, which has become a popular war aim among the Italian public.  To accomplish this, Cadorna is concentrating two-thirds of the Italian army on the lower Isonzo.  In the first phase of the offensive, the southern wing of the Italian 2nd Army and the southern wing of the Italian 3rd Army will attack north and south of Görz respectively.  In the second phase, the city itself would be assaulted from three sides and captured.  To support the offensive, Italian forces to the north will undertake diversionary attacks.  Cadorna has assembled 400 000 men for the operation, against less than 130 000 Austro-Hungarian defenders.

Cadorna has ordered the stockpiling of munitions to ensure an adequate preliminary bombardment, scheduled to begin on October 18th.  Italian production of artillery shells has remained woefully inadequate, however, and remain in short supply. Today the commander of the Italian army issues orders to limit fire to sixty rounds a day for light artillery, thirty for medium artillery, and twenty for heavy artillery.  Crucially, these restrictions will remain in force even after the battle begins.  As this will be insufficient to break the enemy's barbed wire defences, the infantry will have to cut the wire themselves.

Also today Italian aircraft undertake extensive aerial reconnaissance over enemy lines and drop bombs on the headquarters of the Austro-Hungarian III and VII Corps.  Perhaps the most significant impact of these raids are to confirm the opinion of Austro-Hungarian commanders that an offensive along the Isonzo River is imminent, which had been based on wireless intercepts of Italian officers and the heavy traffic seen behind Italian lines by observation posts on the mountains east of the Isonzo.  Surprise is something the Italians will definitely not have.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

October 7th, 1915

- Foch and d'Urbal meet today to discuss the resumption of the offensive in Artois.  Despite the withdrawal of III Corps Foch insists that 10th Army go on to the attack on October 10th alongside the planned British advance.  They agree that three corps in the centre of 10th Army will advance towards the crest of Vimy Ridge, still agonizingly out of reach, while IX Corps will assault Hill 70 in close coordination with the British to the north.

- With the most recent attack in the Champagne having failed to gain significant ground, and given Castlenau's reports that his armies would require time to prepare a further assault, Joffre reluctantly terminates the offensive late today.  The offensive that appeared to hold such promise after the first day on September 25th has thus ended in yet another failure.

- In the early morning hours the invasion of Serbia begins when lead units of the Austro-Hungarian 3rd and German 11th Armies begin their crossing of the Save and Danube Rivers.  First into action is the German 208th Reserve Regiment, of 44th Reserve Division/XXII Reserve Corps, when it puts fifteen pontoons, each carrying ten soldiers, in the water at 330am.  Their objective is the cigar-shaped Big Zigeuner Island and the Serbian shore of the Save River west of Belgrade.  By dawn elements of four corps have swung into action, including all of the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army: in addition to the German XXII Reserve Corps west of Belgrade, the Austro-Hungarian XIX Corps crosses further west and the Austro-Hungarian VIII Corps moves against Belgrade itself.  Of the German 11th Army, X Reserve Corps, easternmost of the army's three corps, crosses at Ram, the seizure of which is deemed a necessary precondition for the assault of the army's two other corps on October 9th.

The assaulting forces achieve mixed results over the course of the day's fighting.  Furthest west, infantry of the Austro-Hungarian XIX Corps is able to cross at Progar and Boljevci almost unopposed, but the swampy ground on the southern shore hinders the movement of the Austro-Hungarian infantry and the Serbian II Drina Division is able to halt their advance short of the town of Obrenovac, their initial objective.  The German XXII Reserve Corps is able to capture the western end of Big Zigeuner Island and push a regiment across to the southern shore of the Save, where heavy German artillery fire prevents a Serbian counterattack against the bridgehead.  However, the limited number of pontoons, plus the inevitable losses to mines and enemy fire, slows the pace of the crossings, while 43rd Reserve Division is tasked with clearing both Big and Little Zigeuner Island.  East of Belgrade the German X Reserve Corps has the easiest day - Serbian resistance is negligible at Ram, and by 10am two regiments of 103rd Division have secured the Gorica Hills, overlooking the corps' crossing points.  By this afternoon most of 101st and 103rd Divisions is on the southern shore, and a Serbian counterattack is repulsed with heavy losses to the attackers.

The German and Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia, Oct. 7th to 17th, 1915.

At Belgrade the Austro-Hungarian VIII Corps has a difficult day; the Serbs have committed significant forces, including artillery to holding the city, and a light rain prevents spotter aircraft from observing friendly artillery fire.  After 4am pontoons carrying infantry from 74th, 84th, and 87th Regiments push towards the Belgrade shoreline, but are quickly illuminated by Serbian searchlights and come under heavy fire.  Only the latter regiment is able to get across largely intact while the commander of the former is awarded the Knight's Cross of the Military Order of Maria Theresa for extreme bravery in leading his soldiers in hand-to-hand fighting to gain a lodgement on the southern shore.  Over the course of the day's fighting two-thirds of the pontoons are sunk and by nightfall the surviving Austro-Hungarian infantry are clinging to the shoreline from the western edge of Belgrade to the confluence of the Save and Danube just below the old Ottoman fortress of Kalemegdan.

The German and Austro-Hungarian assault at Belgrade, Oct. 7th to 10th, 1915.

By nightfall the two German corps have achieved the most significant success, while the Austro-Hungarian VIII Corps in particular is clinging to its bridgehead at Belgrade.  Nevertheless, the first day of the Serbian campaign is a success for Mackensen's two armies - the amphibious crossings were the most dangerous part of the initial invasion, and each has been successful to varying degrees.

- Over the past two days 12 000 French and 3 000 British have disembarked at Salonika, but they lack transportation and supply units.  Moreover, it is becoming apparent that cavalry will not be able to operate in the region, given the mountainous terrain and lack of fodder.  Further, in places the narrow roads are insufficient to allow movement of the standard French 75mm artillery guns, necessitating their replacement by smaller and lighter 65mm guns.

- Fourteen Italian reconnaissance aircraft drop twenty-seven bombs totaling 350 kilograms on the town of Castagnevizza today, the first 'mass' bombing raid undertaken by the Italian airforce.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

October 6th, 1915

- For several days Foch has been pleading with the British, to no avail, to accelerate their preparations for a further attack near Loos, to be coordinated with a further French assault in Artois.  Now, however, his subordinate General d'Urbal of 10th Army has imposed another delay.  For several days, III Corps has been involved in heavy fighting, and believing it to be exhausted d'Urbal ordered its withdrawal from the front overnight. Doing so postpones the next attack, given that it will take time for III Corps' replacements to familiarize themselves with the German defences and position themselves for an assault.  D'Urbal only informs Foch of his order a few hours before it occurs, and Foch is furious, writing a letter of reprimand that the withdrawal of III Corps was 'absolutely contrary' to the directions d'Urbal had received from his superior.  The damage is done, however, and Foch postpones the next push in Artois yet again.

- After two days of preliminary bombardment, the infantry of the French 2nd and 4th Armies begin their assault at 520am.  Their objective is to rupture the German second line which has held up their advance since the afternoon of the 25th, and push forward three kilometres and driving the Germans north of the Py River.  Though the Germans have made great strides in improving the defences of the reserve trench line since late-September, they are still not as strong as those of the first line which the French pierced on September 25th.  On the other hand, the attacking infantry have had less time to study the German defences, meaning the French are advancing over unfamiliar terrain with little knowledge of the enemy positions they seek to storm.  In places the French are able to push forward: in 4th Army, two brigades from the French II Colonial Corps are able to drive forward a kilometres, seize numerous prisoners, and destroy a German artillery battery.  Reserves from the German 20th Division are quickly sent forward, however, and are able to retake the lost trenches.  In the French 2nd Army, a division of XVI Corps is able to advance five hundred meters and seize the height at Tahure.  Here the French are able to hold the captured ground, repulsing counterattacks by elements from 53rd Saxon Reserve and 50th Divisions.  Everywhere else, however, the French attacks get nowhere, and the small gains do nothing to unhinge the German defence.  Afterwards the commander of XIV Corps reports to Pétain that the German wire remains intact, and that it will take five or six days to make another assault, which includes four or five days to dig approach trenches to lessen the time his infantry are exposed before reaching the German line.  Pétain in turn reports to Castlenau that his corps are exhausted and only two are able to continue the attack at present.  While the commander of the Army Group of the Centre wants assaults to continue tomorrow, Castlenau yields to his subordinates' judgement and orders them to secure their positions and only attack where necessary to straighten the line.  Finally he reports to Joffre that 'the operation . . . has not succeeded.  It can be resumed only after a new preparation, more complete than that which was accomplished on October 4th and 5th.'

- Overnight the last reconnaissance trips are made by German and Austro-Hungarian soldiers to test the state of the Serbian defences on the southern banks of the Save and Danube Rivers and see if any new minefields had been laid.  This afternoon artillery from both the Austro-Hungarian 3rd and German 11th Armies open fire on the enemy.  With spotter aircraft aloft to mark the accuracy of the shelling, the heavy artillery fire slowly and deliberately, taking the time after each shot to ensure that it had struck the desired target.  Known Serbian artillery batteries and defensive positions are targeted, while Belgrade also suffers a heavy bombardment - its commander estimating fifteen thousand shells fall today and the naval guns sent by Russia and France are destroyed.  After dark, the Austro-Hungarian and German infantry move to the northern shore and prepare for the crossings.

- After his dismissal of Venizelos yesterday, King Constantine meets today with the British ambassador to Greece today.  The monarch is keen to impress on the Entente that the change of government does not imply a pro-German policy - he does not want to fight Germany, but neither wants to fight alongside Germany.  As such, Greece will not resist the Entente landing at Salonika, but at the same time the mobilization of the Greek army will continue.

- With the occupation of Kut-al-Amara by General Townshend's 6th Indian Division after yet another defeat of Ottoman forces in Mesopotamia, attention has turned to the next, and biggest, prize: Baghdad.  Lord Hardinge, Viceroy of India, writes to Austen Chamberlain, secretary of state for India, today recommending that Baghdad be captured, primarily on the prestige benefits that would ensue:
. . . from a political point of view, the capture of Baghdad would create an immense impression in the Middle East, especially in Persia, Afghanistan, and on our frontier, and would counteract the unfortunate impression created by the want of success in the Dardanelles.  It would also isolate the German parties in Persia, and frustrate the German plans of raising Afghanistan and the tribes, while the impression throughout Arabia would be striking.  The effect in India would undoubtedly be good.  These are considerations to which I attach great importance.
Launching 6th Indian Division further up the Tigris to capture Baghdad primarily for prestige and because other operations (i.e. the Dardanelles) have failed, of course, is not the best grounds on which to base such a crucial decision.  Indeed, Hardinge's letter reflects the mission creep that has been endemic to the Mesopotamian campaign: once a given point is seized, it is very easy to argue that the advance should continue to the next, both because of the apparent momentum and to protect the earlier point captured.  There is an assumption exhibited by the British leaders not on the scene that because past victories have been achieved easily, future conquests will be achieved with similar ease.  In fact, the further 6th Indian Division advances, the more tenuous its supply lines become, and there is a chronic lack of shipping and animal transport.  The result has been increasing cases of scurvy, given the lack of any fresh meat or vegetables, and 6th Indian Division paused after the First Battle of Kut-al-Amara in an attempt to stockpile enough supplies just to meet daily requirements.  Moreover, the further up the Tigris the division goes, the further wounded and (the far more numerous) ill have to travel to get back to Basra and medical care.  Though Townshend is aware of these issues, his superiors have no real comprehension of the situation on the ground, and thus are willing to advocate a continuation of the campaign.

Monday, October 05, 2015

October 5th, 1915

- Overnight a reconstituted British XI Corps, with 12th and 46th Divisions (the former a New Army formation and the latter a Territorial unit; both had formerly been in the Ypres salient) replacing the shattered 21st and 24th alongside the Guards Division, has been reinserted into the frontline opposite the Hohenzollern Redoubt.  Haig believes that the ground lost here over the past week must be recaptured prior to any further advance eastward, and thus has ordered the Guards Division to recapture the Redoubt and 12th Division to seize The Quarries.  All of the artillery belonging to the British 1st Army will support this attack, which will also be accompanied by the release of chlorine gas from 480 cylinders.  Such a maximum effort, however, takes time to prepare for, especially with respect to the deployment of the drums of gas, and as such Haig has scheduled this assault to take place on October 9th, with the subsequent attack eastward scheduled for the following.  News of the delay, however, is disappointing to Joffre, who had hoped that the British attack at Loos would coincide with the renewed French assaults in Artois and Champagne, and despite a visit by Foch to Sir John French's headquarters the British refuse to be rushed.  Though terrible weather has postponed the attack in Artois, the preliminary bombardment in Champagne has already begun, and Joffre feels he has no choice but to abandon the concept of simultaneous assaults, ordering the French 2nd and 4th Armies to attack tomorrow as scheduled.

- With the growing French artillery bombardment, it has become clear to the German defenders in Champagne that the enemy is preparing to make another big push to break through their line.  General Einem of 3rd Army reports to Falkenhayn today that sufficient reserves are now available to halt any French assault in the coming days, though if the French attack for more than several days further reinforcements may be necessary.  Further, given that the reserve line German troops now inhabit was not as well-developed as the old first trench line, French artillery fire is having a particularly severe effect on soldiers who lack dugouts to shelter in.  Moreover, while the placement of much of the reserve line on the reverse side of various hills prevent the French from observing the fall of their shells, it also prevents the Germans from observing French preparations to attack.

- Joffre and Kitchener meet at Calais to discuss the expedition to Salonika and operations in the Balkans.  In addition to the infantry division and cavalry regiment already en route, Joffre has agreed to send an infantry brigade shortly and an infantry and two cavalry divisions once the fall offensive in Champagne is concluded.  The current French commitment to the operations thus stands at 64 000 men.  During today's meeting Kitchener promises to augment the British division on the way to Salonika with an infantry and cavalry division, while agreeing to send a further three infantry divisions when the Champagne battle is over.  Notably, these forces will come up about 20 000 short of the 150 000 requested by Venizelos, but when Joffre asks Kitchener to make up the difference, the latter states that this could only be accomplished by withdrawing further divisions from the British Expeditionary Force in France (from which the three infantry divisions mentioned above are to be taken).  Moreover, Kitchener remains unconvinced of the soundness of intervention in the Balkans.  The idea of sending forces into Serbia with winter imminent does not strike him as sound, and believes that even if the Entente force is augmented to 150 000 men it will not be sufficient to alter the balance of forces in the Balkans without Greek intervention.  Kitchener informs Joffre that the British contingent will not advance beyond Salonika unless the Greeks enter the war.  As a result, the two agree that the British will be responsible for defending Salonika itself while the French would undertake an advance northward to aid the Serbs.

- Though yesterday both the British and French governments had signaled their concurrence with the Russian ultimatum of the 1st, the Bulgarian government formally rejects the ultimatum today, unwilling to be dissuaded from entering the war.  The Entente interprets the rejection as the last straw, and instructions go out to the Entente ambassadors in Sofia to leave the country.

Meanwhile the German and Austro-Hungarian offensive against Serbia is about to begin - artillery today fires registration shots, aircraft tracking the fall of shells, so that when the main bombardment opens the Germans can be reasonably sure their shells are falling on the targets they intend to target.  On the other side the Serbian army has been preparing for the imminent attack, and General Radomir Putnik has deployed the Serbian 1st and 3rd Armies to defend the line of the Save and Danube Rivers.  After repulsing three separate Austro-Hungarian attempts to conquer Serbia in 1914, both Putnik and the Serbian soldier have earned well-deserved reputations for toughness and tenacity.  However, the Serbian army of late 1915 is not the same as that of late 1914.  First, a series of epidemics had decimated Serbia earlier this year, striking down thousands and crippling many more.  The army was not immune, and disease has thinned its ranks.  Second, the mobilization of 1914 had drafted almost every able-bodied male into the army, and while this contributed to victory in 1914 it means that there are practically no replacements for the 120 000 casualties the Serbians have suffered in the war to date.  Quite literally, this is the last Serbian army - should it be defeated, it would be impossible to raise another.  Third, the supply situation has worsened.  Prewar ammunition stocks, already low from the two Balkan wars, had been largely depleted by the fighting in 1914, and while the minimal Serbian armaments industry has proved wholely inadequate to the demands of modern war, supplies from France, while vital, can hardly make up the shortfall.  The Serbians thus face a severe shortage of weaponry and munitions at the moment they are needed most.  Fourth, the obvious agreement of Bulgaria to enter the war means that the Serbs cannot deploy their entire army to face the Germans and Austro-Hungarians attacking from the north; instead, 2nd Army and smaller forces have to be deployed along the eastern frontier to prevent a Bulgarian offensive from cutting behind the Serbian forces to the north.  Finally, Putnik himself is ill, suffering from influenza, and his role in directing the Serbian army is necessarily reduced.  Thus the German and Austro-Hungarian offensive will face a Serbian army in significantly more dire straits than it had been in 1914, which should be kept in mind when comparing the results of the 1915 campaign with that of 1914.

- Despite the vote in parliament yesterday, significant domestic opposition in Greece remains to the policy of the government: the idea of foreign troops arriving unimpeded at Salonika is seen as a gross affront of Greek sovereignty by the opposition press, which over the past few days has been giving vent to its frustrations.  Further, the leadership of the Greek army is opposed to intervention in the war.  Most importantly, Venizelos has been entirely unable to assuage the concerns of King Constantine regarding Greek entry into the war.  Unwilling to accede any longer to Venizelo's pro-Entente policy, he dismisses Venizelos as Prime Minister, and appoints as his replacement Alexandros Zaimis, an adherent of Constantine's policy of strict neutrality.  In choosing this course of action, Constantine has set the course of Greek politics on a fateful path to what will become known as the 'Great Schism' - Venizelos has no intention of going quietly into retirement.

Regardless of the dismissal of the Greek government, the Entente landing at Salonika begins today as the first elements of two brigades and an artillery battalion from the French 156th Division start to disembark.

French infantry at Salonika, October 1915.

- After yesterday's order dispatching the Ottoman XVIII Corps to Baghdad, Enver Pasha orders the formation of a new 6th Army to take command of all Ottoman forces in Mesopotamia.  His hope is that a unified command for the region with new leadership will stabilize the front and keep the British away from Baghdad.  To command 6th Army Enver assigned German Field Marshal Colmar von der Goltz, currently in command of 1st Army in Thrace.  Goltz's responsibilities, however, go beyond Mesopotamia: 6th Army includes Persia within its zone of operations.  His appointment meets the request of the Persian government for a senior German officer to be made responsible for Persia, and in addition to meeting the British advance in Mesopotamia Goltz is to win Persia to the side of the Germans, ideally to open the way to a land attack on India.

It will, however, take a number of weeks for the elderly Goltz to reach Baghdad, given the poor transportation system, and in the meantime command of 6th Army will reside in Colonel Nur-ud-din, who has led Ottoman forces in the region since mid-June.  Despite the record of defeat, Nur-ud-din is an experienced officer with lengthy service in the Ottoman army, and his defensive efforts have largely been let down by poor morale.  With reinforcements en route, however, Nur-ud-din hopes to be able to hold the British at Ctesiphon.