Once more unto the breach, dear friends. Once more, or close the wall up with Italian dead. General Cadorna has at least restricted the areas of operation once more. A big push against the hills around Gorizia, a hopeful poke around Monte Sei Busi to expand the recent capture of a bit of an enemy trench, another series of charges up Mount San Michele.
And there is a little worrying going on over the other side of the hill. They’re well aware from the racket opposite and reports from deserters that more attacks are imminent. General Boroevic has been told in no uncertain terms not to expect more than minimal replacements for his losses. Estimates of enemy strength are telling him that his blokes are going to be outnumbered at least two to one, if not three to one depending on exact deployments.
Happily for the defenders, they’re still occupying deep, well-constructed trenches on high ground with excellent view of the enemy’s scattered holes. No Man’s Land is still plenty wide enough and without sufficient cover that defensive artillery fire can still call down the fires of hell on the attackers. So it is that the sole Italian success on the first full day of the battle is the capture of one low-lying trench just to the south of Podgora, where it’s time for the maces to come out.
Meanwhile, attacks on the Carso are mostly being broken up even before they can start. The Austro-Hungarians now have a small but active allocation of recon planes, which they’ve used to map the Italians’ rear areas, and particularly the places where men gather when they’re not on the move. These places are now being heavily shelled, and whole battalions are arriving at the “trenches” in no condition to attack.
Oh yeah. The weather still sucks, with intermittent rainstorms drenching the battlefield.
The Serbians are moving the government again, now fast running out of country to move it to. Raska is to be left behind in favour of Mitrovica. There’s some difficult decisions to be made in the next few days if a miracle fails to save them, and with General Sarrail’s French force still wallowing around to the south, stymied by sharp but cautious Bulgarian opposition and foul weather, we can pretty safely rule that out.
Meanwhile, Flora Sandes isn’t the kind of woman to allow such trifling concerns as Serbia being completely militarily fucked to keep her away from the sharp end. She’s arrived at Bitol, still under the impression that it might be possible to get as far as Nis or Valjevo.
I at once made inquiries about the next step farther, and found that Prilip, about twenty-five miles farther on, was still in the hands of the Serbians, though its evacuation was ex pected any minute, and even now the road from Bitol to Prilip was not considered safe on account of marauding Bulgarian comitadjes, or irregulars. However, the English Consul had to go out there, and he said he would take us with him to see how the land lay, and whether we were needed in the hospital there.
I spent the afternoon prowling round Bitol, mostly in the Turkish quarter.
She’s not a travel writer, so this is all we hear of the delights of the Turkish quarter of Bitol in 1915. More tomorrow.
It’s still quiet on this front. Lt Reinhardt sometimes invites guests to his officers’ dugout, sometimes even the CO of the regiment, and some of us war volunteers also attend these evenings. War Volunteer Wollweber always gives us a treat on the piano. It’s a real matey atmosphere from the Colonel down to the war volunteer.
Winter is coming on. Except for a few bursts of fire from the French, nothing happens of any importance. Just the iron spirit of wartime duty: stick it out, firm as a rock.
Aaaand let’s end it there, before he tells us any more about what’s sticking out, firm as a rock.
Herbert Asquith finally announces the five official members of the War Committee during Lord Kitchener’s absence. Himself, Balfour, Bonar Law, Lloyd-George and McKenna. All well and good, but let’s just take a moment to review the actual situation. When Kitchener returns, nobody’s going to be making way for him, so that will make six members of a five-man committee. Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary, also considers that he deserves a place on the committee and will be an ever-present going forward. As mentioned the other day, the First Sea Lord and Chief of the Imperial General Staff will also turn up regularly , because why not? Add in Hankey as secretary and an assistant, and the svelte, agile five-man body has taken one week to swell and mutate into a vast eleven-headed monster. Before too much longer, meetings will also be attended by Lord Curzon (overseeing the Merchant Marine) and Austen Chamberlain; that’s unlucky 13. Nice job, Britain.
Oh, and one of the problems exercising them most in these next few days will be “how to get rid of Lord Kitchener”. Isn’t that just swell?
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(If you find the olde-tyme style difficult to get along with, have a look at this reading guide.)