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.

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