Time for some lovely crunchy French politics. Rene Viviani’s last, desperate play to save himself as Prime Minister was to select a new minister of war, someone who might conceivably be able to stand up to General Joffre when required. However, Viviani had been painfully aware that he lacked the support to appoint such a person without the approval of Joffre himself.
Re-enter General Joseph Gallieni! For the past year he’s been mouldering away into irrelevance as the military commander of Paris. Having at first thought that this appointment would have been his ticket to becoming a national hero, he’s now watched Joffre walk away with the laurels for the Battle of the Marne, and the front lines march a safe distance from the French capital. He’s occupied himself by occasionally lobbying for a different job, or for some pet scheme or other. In this role he’d been a strong supporter of going to Salonika.
For his part, having successfully sidelined Gallieni after the Marne, Joffre has consented to his appointment, satisfied that he can keep Gallieni from sticking his nose into what Joffre considers is his business. And, unfortunately for some, none of this has been sufficient to save Rene Viviani. One new minister of war does not a government make. Today, President Poincare appoints Aristide Briand to form a government; as a firm supporter of efforts outwith the Western Front, Briand is only too happy to keep Gallieni on. More to come once he gets his feet under the table.
The British force is finally arriving on General Sarrail’s lines of communication and supply; accordingly, he’s finally able to plan for an advance against the Bulgarian Second Army. But he can’t move anywhere. Yet. Meanwhile, the Serbian Army is forced to destroy its main arsenal in Kragujevac before retiring to defend the government’s temporary home at Kraljevo. I’m really beginning to run out of synonyms and variations for “This sucks, Beavis”.
Oh, for God’s sake. Hill 124 is still standing firm. However, sheer weight of bodies is threatening to break through just to the south of Mount San Michele. They’ve shoved into an enemy trench in an area with a little more cover than usual in No Man’s Land, and they’re feeding in enough reinforcements to blunt repeated enemy counter-attacks, although not to significantly improve their position.
And, just as we’ve seen up on the mountains, attrition is now starting to take its toll on the defenders. The corps reserve in the area has been used; now they’re starting to pull from Army reserves to keep holding the line. It’s more of the same at Gorizia; and speaking of the mountains, on Mrzli those last Austro-Hungarian reserves go into action and throw the Italians back down into the trincerone below the summit, sometimes literally.
Anxious not to waste time with Lord Kitchener constantly requesting his report, General Monro takes only a single day to tour Gallipoli. His whistle-stop schedule nevertheless squeezes in visits to positions at Cape Helles, ANZAC Cove, and Suvla Bay; and he’s up most of the night writing up his report. His main priority has been to meet each divisional commander in turn with the same questions for each of them. Can your men launch another offensive? Can your men stand up to an enemy offensive this winter without reinforcements?
To a man, the responses are identical; “we’ll do our best”. Only General Birdwood is even slightly optimistic about their chances. This is, ahem, not exactly a ringing endorsement. More soon.
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The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. Worth a look. I’m reading the paper every day, and it’s where the content for Our Advertising Feature comes from.
(If you find the olde-tyme style difficult to get along with, have a look at this reading guide.)