Yes, that’s right, it’s time to make yet another colossal effort to move his dining table six centimetres closer to Berlin. Apparently the official directions for General de Langle specify that a “brutal” attack should be made. Which raises the staggeringly obvious question, what the hell were all the other attacks if not “brutal”? Joffre’s also got rather tired of de Langle’s nascent bite and hold tactics, and insists on continuous pressure in the hope of finally reaching some first-day objectives after three weeks of fighting.
All this will also surely prove a useful distraction for the concurrent British offensive. If all goes well, they should be arriving on the Aubers Ridge at about the time that the “brutal” attack goes in. We’ll see.
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Eren Keui Bay
Today, Queen Elizabeth is going into the Dardanelles for the Navy’s last, best shot at destroying the forts at the Narrows in a vaguely timely manner. Ammunition is starting to run low. They can’t keep just potting away to no effect. If this fails, the entire strategy (such as it is) will have to be reconsidered.
She’s accompanied by four battleship escorts. Vengeance, Canopus, Cornwallis, and Irresistible provide reasonably effective counter-battery fire against the field guns so that the pride of the fleet can do her work in peace. Her pattern is the same as the ships yesterday; firing a broadside and then turning away into Eren Keui Bay to come round for another pass.
The British Official History has what it says is an excerpt from an Ottoman communication about the effects of the recent bombardments. “No damage of military importance, and no casualties.” The weather is again poor, low cloud grounding the spotter seaplanes and limiting the visibility even of nearby reference points. Admiral Carden is well aware that he’s doing little more than wasting ammunition. He needs either better spotting, or to fire at closer range, or preferably both. With that in mind, he’s postponing any further shooting until the mines guarding the Narrows can be swept.
The fleet’s been at it for two weeks now and achieved virtually fuck-all nothing. (They’ve kept the outer forts subdued, for all the good that’s done them.) Carden writes home asking nicely for some better spotting capabilities. Fortunately, Lieutenant Lewis of the RFC has persuaded some far-sighted gunner to let him spot for them at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, and if that goes well Carden can probably expect some radio-equipped planes as soon as possible.
The minesweepers go in again tonight, but nothing new happens. However, something else is afoot. The Ottoman observers have noticed that the British ships have all been turning through Eren Keui Bay after firing. A minelayer is quietly sent out, and she succeeds in mining the bay without anyone else noticing…
Battle of Neuve Chapelle
Back to Neuve Chapelle. Actually, it’s more a question of “back to the rear areas”. The heaviest guns still haven’t arrived. They’re still all on trains, heading forward from the base as quickly as possible. (Which, objectively speaking, isn’t terribly fast at all, but is at least better than walking.)
Meanwhile, aerial photography has been advancing in leaps and bounds since the first trials. It’s now become advanced enough for a plane to take large numbers of photos in quick succession, which can then be put together in a “mosaic”. The practical upshot of all this is a staggeringly accurate aerial record of the German defences. Anyone who’s tried to take a photo from a moving vehicle will appreciate what a huge technological leap forward this is. Taking a photo of the ground worth having while travelling at about 100mph a few thousand feet above the photographed area is no mean feat.
Officers who will take part in the attack are being issued with extremely accurate trench maps of the positions that they’ll be assaulting. The attacks themselves have been planned with careful reference to the maps. With only one more full day until the battle starts, final preparations are in high gear. Jumping-off trenches are being completed, not just in front of Neuve Chapelle, but for miles to either side of it, in front of sections of line that will only be conducting demonstrations instead of attacking.
Actions in Progress
The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. Today, the archivist invites us to compare the casualty report on page 4 (nearly a full page again) with the similarly-sized list from the London Gazette of all the new officers’ commissions…
(If you find the olde-tyme style difficult to get along with, have a look at this reading guide.)