Tuesday, November 03, 2015

November 3rd, 1915

- At the outbreak of the First World War, the British Royal Flying Corps had been a small unit whose pilots were drawn from the upper classes.  To date applications to join the RFC have outpaced positions, allowing it to be selective in who it admits, with the result that the RFC have continued to draw from the same social classes as before the war.  There is a strong and ingrained belief among the pilots of the RFC that 'gentlemen' officers, graduates of prestigious public schools and Oxbridge, make the pilots.  Given this makeup, it is not surprising that British pilots at this stage of the war approach it as a sport and a grand adventure in the skies, one that stands in sharp contrast to the masses in the mud below.  Character and background count for more than skill, and thus when the The Aeroplane magazine suggests today that pilots should enter the RFC as noncommissioned officers and be promoted on the basis of merit, the notion is rejected out of hand.  To the current pilots of the RFC, its social exclusivity is not accidental but rather a deliberate approach to recruitment designed to ensure that future pilots meet the 'proper' standards - social as much as anything else - to be an officer of the RFC.

- Prime Minister Aristide Briand addresses the Chamber of Deputies today for the first time since the appointment of his government on the 29th, during which he pledges not to abandon Serbia.  This promise, however, is particularly ill-timed, given that at this very moment the Serbian army is itself abandoning Serbia, falling back to the southwest while the French Army of the Near East has been unable to either break through the Bulgarian 2nd Army to relieve the Serbs or distract the enemy to allow the Serbs time to rest and regroup.

- At Salonika, the third French division - 122nd - began landing on the 1st, and with its first brigade now available for servicee General Sarrail now feels that he has sufficient forces to go on the attack.  North of Krivolak, Bulgarian forces have crossed the Vardar River and are advancing southwest with the Tcherna River on their left.  Sarrail orders the French 57th Division along with the first brigade of 122nd Division to cross the Tcherna and hit the Bulgarians in their flank.  To the southeast, however, Bulgarian forces launch heavy attacks on French forces at the Strumica rail station.

- Along the Isonzo River the Italian II Corps launches eight separate attacks at Plava from noon until dark.  The Austro-Hungarian defenders suffer heavy losses - the four most heavily engaged battalions have lost up to 40% of their strenght - but several reserve battalions are brought forward to hold the line.  As a result, the Italians are unable to break through.

At Görz, the Austro-Hungarian 37th Landsturm Brigade, the last available reserve, counterattacks the Italian 11th Division at Oslavija this evening and drives the enemy back out of the village, regaining the trenches lost yesterday and capturing several hundred prisoners.  A further series of assaults are launched by the Italians against the heights at Podgora, and after several attempts elements of 12th Division gain the summit of Heights 184.  By this point, fighting here had devolved into small-unit fighting, with hardly any higher commanders able to influence the course of events, and infantry fought over shell holes filled with up to a metre of mud into the night.

South of Görz, the Austro-Hungarian 39th Brigade on the northern slope of Mt. San Michele is relieved overnight by three battalions from 6th Division.  During the transfer, however, one of the battalions became separated from its guides, and unfamiliar with the ground stumbled past the position it was to occupy and walked right into the Italian line.  Taking fire from three sides, the battalion takes severe losses before extricating itself.  As a result, the Austro-Hungarians are forced to evacuate a small stretch of their own line due to the soldiers who would have guarded having been killed on the Italian line.  Still, the Austro-Hungarians are able to form a new defensive line a mere fifty yards to the rear, and Italian attacks against this new position today fail to make any progress.  A general Italian assault by VII Corps north and south of St. Martino also fails completely.

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