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.

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