Sunday, October 04, 2015

October 4th, 1915

- In the Champagne artillery of the French 2nd and 4th Armies commence their preliminary bombardment of the German lines, in support of the infantry attack scheduled for the morning of the 6th.  Once the French soldiers go over the top, 4th Army's artillery will utilize a rolling barrage to support the advance.  Though the French had started using this technique in May, this will be the largest rolling barrage they have yet undertaken in the war.   The rolling barrage is an attempt to avoid the communication issues that plague the modern battlefield, and in particular make it exceedingly difficult for advancing infantry to communicate to artillery batteries in the rear their position and enemy strongpoints that require bombardment.  In a rolling barrage, the artillery fires according to a strict timetable, whereby they would fire on the first enemy trench line right up to the moment the infantry advance, and then shift their fire at precise intervals to enemy positions progressively behind the front.  The timing is intended to always keep the artillery fire just ahead of the advancing infantry, so that enemy positions are hit just before the infantry attack them.  In this way, the infantry always knows, via knowledge of the timetables, exactly where friendly shells will be falling.  In the absence of direct communication, the coordination of infantry and artillery is to be accomplished by scripted synchronization.  It requires, of course, that the infantry advance at the planned speed - they cannot go faster, lest they march into their own artillery fire, and if they are held up, they will find their artillery support shifting to targets further away, leaving the immediate defenders unmolested.  The rolling barrage, if perfectly executed, has the potential to be an elegant solution to the problem of battlefield coordination; the issue, of course, is whether such perfect conditions can ever be found in the chaos and devastation of No Man's Land.

- This evening the Greek parliament debates the imminent Entente landing at Salonika and Greek diplomatic relations with both sides.  Prime Minister Venizelos gives a fiery speech defending his policy, stating that his government would honour the Greco-Serbian convention and protect the southern flank of the Serbian army.  He also denounced his opponents, and in particular argued that it would be unconstitutional for King Constantine to ignore the will of the people (which conveniently, in Venizelos' mind, matches his own aims).  The Greek parliament gives Venizelos' government a vote of confidence by a majority of twenty-seven.

- Since the entry of the Ottoman Empire into the war eleven months ago, the record of its defense of Mesopotamia has been one of dismal failure.  Again and again, British Indian units have managed to best the local Ottoman forces, which after the First Battle of Kut-al-Amara have fallen back towards Baghdad.  Concluding that the reinforcements are required to rescue the situation in Mesopotamia, Enver Pasha has already ordered 45th Division to the theatre, though it arrived too late to participate in the First Battle of Kut-al-Amara.  To augment this division Enver today orders XVIII Corps, consisting of 51st and 52nd Divisions, to Baghdad.  These two divisions have been on the Caucasus front as part of 3rd Army since April, and have significant combat experience fighting in a wide range of climactic and topographical circumstances.  These formations are a far cry from the existing Ottoman forces in Mesopotamia, in particular 35th Division, whose morale has been sapped by a steady diet of defeat and retreat.

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