Battle of Bukoba
General Tighe has managed to assemble a force of some 1,500 rifles (and their much larger entourage of deemed-expendable African porters) for the Battle of Bukoba. 300 of them are from the 2nd Loyal (and homesick) North Lancs, 400 Frontiersmen, 450 King’s African Rifles, and 200 of the 29th Punjabis round out the group.
They’re also to be supported by the motley cavalcade of small craft that have been given guns and used to take control of Lake Victoria. With a half-moon rising above them, the fleet sets out for Bukoba. Suspecting that 5,000 German Empire troops are stationed at most five days’ march away, speed is critical. They can’t afford to be at home to Mr Cock-Up again.
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The French Empire troops on Gallipoli launch their offensive. They’ve concentrated all their guns onto a tiny 650-yard front and brought up the battleship Saint-Louis for long-range counter-battery fire. Here they demonstrate the sheer concentration of gunfire and the painstakingly slow, methodical pace required to achieve success that can’t be easily reversed.
Within the first hour they’ve overrun the Haricot. The Quadrilateral behind it remains stubbornly intact. On the far right, several bloody pushes against the trenches overlooking the Ravin de la Mort (en Anglais, Dead Man’s Gully) finally win the day as the sun begins sinking from the sky.
There’s almost no point in judging the attack on ground taken; the line on my map has barely moved from where it used to be. They have inflicted about 2:1 casualties on the defenders (just under 6,000 vs just under 3,000), and rearranged the geography somewhat. And they have also shown that under the right conditions, ground can be taken and a favourable casualty ratio can be achieved in an attack. The big push is still a couple of months away, but it’s important for Sir Ian Hamilton’s morale to have that demonstrated. (On the other hand, by failing to take the Quadrilateral, the Ottomans still have an excellent position to enfilade any attack up the Krithia road.)
Meanwhile, Kenneth Best has more humanitarian concerns.
Poor chap in 4th East Lancs lost brother. Came broken-hearted to ask me to bury him. On Saturday I asked the boy to identify the corpse being dragged down the trench. He did not reply. I asked second time, sharply. “My brother”, he managed to sob out. I felt a beast. Got back to outer dressing station. More wounded and dead.
Went off to see 6th Battery, who are with Australian Battery. They have worn out their old guns. They tell gruesome tales of French being blown to pieces.
This is a very important point. Over the last nine months, the unprecedented rate of fire required from the artillery hasn’t just taken a toll on the shell supplies. It’s also now beginning to wear out the barrels of the guns themselves. 6th Battery has been savvy enough to notice this, but many more batteries, both here and on the Western Front, will not be…
General Cadorna is now ready to get this dratted first phase of the war over and done with. General orders are being sent out for what will, in the fullness of time, become known as the First Battle of the Isonzo.
It’s a simple enough two-pronged attack. In the north, they’re finally going to push on and take the summit of Mount Mrzli, as well as improving the rest of the position around Gorizia. In the south, they’re going to advance, break the Austro-Hungarian defensive line on the edge of the Carso, and be on the road to Trieste and fighting open warfare very soon thereafter.
These goals are, ahem, slightly over-optimistic. They’re certainly very ill-defined. We’ll be back in a few days when the battle starts to see how they get on. Maybe it’ll work?
More important developments at the Landships Committee. Colonel Swinton has in the past couple of months been quietly and subtly pushing his own ideas within the Army. As luck would have it, he eventually tripped over someone who was well-connected enough to hear odd rumours that Winston Churchill had been doing strange things with motorised vehicles. Official investigations have been made, and after nine months of gruelling trench warfare the War Office is rather less inclined than it was in 1914 to sneer at the idea of landships.
They’re now proposing to set up a joint Army-Navy committee to drive the project forward properly, which the Landships Committee wastes no time in accepting. The first meeting will be set for the 29th, and as he’s well up on progress and now doesn’t have anything better to do with his time, Winston Churchill will chair the joint committee.
Actions in Progress
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.)