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.

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