Wednesday, November 04, 2015

November 4th, 1915

- General Paul Leblois, commander of the French 57th Division, submits a pessimistic report to General Sarrail regarding the prospects of the offensive he has ordered in southern Serbia.  Leblois argues that there are insufficient forces to hold the confluence of the Tcherna and Vardar Rivers while his division pushes across the Tcherna to the southwest.  He fears that without significant reinforcements, his lines of communications will be vulnerable.  Moreover, he describes the region as without roads or water, making resupply difficult.

- This morning Austro-Hungarian survivors on the heights at Podgora slowly but surely push back the Italian infantry who had seized the summit of Heights #184 yesterday, and by noon the Italians continued to hold only a small stretch of trench on the western slope.  To the south, Italian attacks at Mt. San Michele and St. Martino are repulsed in heavy fighting.

This evening Cadorna calls a halt to the 3rd Battle of the Isonzo, citing exhaustion, the need to replace losses, and poor weather.  In the course of the fighting, no ground of any consequence has been gained - for example, though the Italians have been able to push their lines forward towards the Podgora heights, the high ground remains firmly in the control of the Austro-Hungarians.  The broader objectives of the offensive, including the city of Görz, remain as beyond the reac of the Italians as they had been at the start of the offensive.  Accomplishing these meagre gains has cost the Italian army 67 000 casualties, constituting 23% of the attacking, and some of the regiments involved in the heaviest fighting have lost over half their strength in the two weeks of the operation.  The Austro-Hungarians, however, have suffered heavily as well - total losses have numbered 42 000, which includes 23 000 casualties for VII Corps, responsible for the line from north of Mt. San Michele to Mt. dei sei Busi.

Though the 3rd Battle of the Isonzo is at an end, Cadorna is far from finished.  Indeed, in the order this evening cancelling the offensive the Italian chief of staff called on his armies to be prepared to immediately go onto the offensive.  With Austro-Hungarian armies committed to the Russian front and engaged on the Serbian front, he feels that they have little to no reserves available to meet another thrust along the Isonzo.  Further, the Italian parliament is scheduled to resume sitting on December 1st, and both Cadorna and the government are eager to have some tangible success to lay before them to head off criticism of the management of the war.  It is to be a short respite indeed for both the Italian and Austro-Hungarian soldiers along the Isonzo.

- The German submarine U38 torpedoes and sinks the French transport Calvados off the coast of Algeria today.  The steamer was carrying a battalion of Senegalese soldiers from Oran to Marseilles, and as the ship sank panic broke out among the troops, exacerbated by the white officers taking two lifeboats and rowing as quickly as possible to the Algerian coast, abandoning the Africans to their fate.  The loss of life is very heavy, and the French suspend naval traffic between Algeria and southern France for thirty-six hours.

Another German submarine - U35 - arrives at the Senussi-controlled port of Bardia in Italian Libya, just across the border from British Egypt, where it delivers ten Ottoman officers, 120 soldiers, and munitions to support the Senussi uprising against the Italians.  With Entente naval supremacy in the Mediterranean, transport by submarine is the only way for Germany and its allies to provide aid to the Senussi in North Africa.  Such voyages, however, mean overcrowded submarines that are hardly spacious to begin with; Capital Waldemar Kophamel is happy to offload his cargo and depart Bardia.

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