“High” ground | Feb 08 1915

Back to the Western Front and to questions of strategy. Sir John French has readily accepted the need for an attack of some sort. The question is, where?

High ground

I’ve talked a lot about the supreme importance of high ground, but there’s another important thing to be remembered. With high ground at such a premium, even the smallest rise can become tactically and strategically vital. And “the smallest rise” is a passable description of the Aubers Ridge. It’s about four miles long, and its highest point is no more than 40 feet above the surrounding area. Nevertheless, it offers observation deep into the Allied rear.

It’s also about four miles on the German side of the front line, which currently sits just in front of Neuve Chapelle and a few other hamlets. The Germans have been obliged to occupy positions on a level with the Allies. It’s the closest thing to a weak spot that you’re likely to find in trench warfare. This is a clear opportunity, and today is the day that Sir John French submits a memo to the War Council, advocating an attack there. Aubers Ridge could be taken after at most two days of fighting. It will require a heavy effort, but it won’t require all of the Army’s strength.

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Neuve Chapelle

Taking it will be excellent for observation, and will also allow for a subsequent advance over flatter ground towards the rail junction at Lille. No less important is that General Joffre approves of an advance in that area, and there have been significant Anglo-French discussions along those lines in the past few weeks. It would take about a month to gather men and ammunition. Indeed, Sir John French is already beginning to move men towards the area in anticipation of approval.

Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes

The Germans are racing into the Russian rear as fast as they can go, advancing ten miles or more in some areas. The Russians have been taken completely by surprise, and still the weather and the atrocious communications are preventing their headquarters from appreciating exactly what’s about to come off in front of them. And the Germans still have more men to order forward when the weather clears…

Actions in Progress

Siege of Przemysl
Battle of the Masurian Lakes (Second Masurian Lakes)

Further Reading

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day.

(If you find the olde-tyme style difficult to get along with, have a look at this reading guide.)

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