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.

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