Hill 60 | 09 Dec 1914

Qurna! Kolubara! Limanowa! And back to the Western Front, to the place known only as “Hill 60”.

Battle of Qurna

The Ottoman garrison surrenders itself to the British. The Mesopotamia campaign has so far been an unqualified success. The Persian oil-fields are now secure from immediate threat. The positions being held are in good supply and seem very defensible. They could probably do with a few more men, but so could everyone at this stage.

Over the next few years, the campaign will suffer from a literal textbook case of mission creep. (It’s taught at military academies as an example of same, not that anyone seems to be paying much attention.) But, here and now, they’ve achieved all their objectives with very light casualties and the outlook is good.

Battle of Kolubara

The Austro-Hungarians are desperately fleeing in rout towards the River Drina. Their compatriots in Belgrade are digging in and putitng up stiff resistance.

Battle of Limanowa

The Russians have now succeeded in fully arresting the Austro-Hungarian advance. They’ve been forced to retire clear of Krakow, and now apply themselves to the task of stabilising the situation. An advance on Budapest, which had seemed temptingly close a month ago, now seems rather unlikely.

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Hill 60

Hill 60 is not even a proper hill. It’s a spoil-pile, created when the Ypres-Comines railway came through, so it doesn’t have a name. Local military maps need to call it something. Hill 60’s reputation will grow to become peculiarly emblematic of the industrial, depersonalised nature of this war. It’s about 150 feet high and 250 yards long, and Hill 60 is possibly the most important strategic location south of Ypres.

Anyone from an area with even vaguely interesting geography will be surprised by this, but it’s so. Small though Hill 60 is, it’s the highest point for miles around. It commands an unrivalled view of the local area and is absolutely invaluable for observation purposes. It’s a few hundred yards south of Zillebeke, and observers atop Hill 60 can see practically the entire Ypres salient.

At the close of First Ypres, it was in the hands of the French, and they’ve been desperately digging into the sodden ground. However, the Germans are fully aware of its tactical importance, and have been preparing a determined assault for some time. It’s not going to be the first fight at Hill 60, and it will by no means be the last.

(N.B. There was another Hill 60 that achieved prominence, just outside Suvla Bay on Gallipoli. It was only fought over once – so, unless explicitly stated, “Hill 60” on this site refers to the hill in Belgium.)

Actions in Progress

Siege of Przemysl
Battle of Kolubara
Battle of Limanowa
Battle of Qurna

Further Reading

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. In today’s paper: Page 7 has a puff piece about the French Navy, the paper puts a brave face on the Russian retreat from Lodz (page 8, and it’s actually justified, for once), and the Belgium Fund is up to £81,000 (over £8 million today). Also, the official communique reports “A very brilliant attack made us master of Vermelles”. (Somewhere in rest billets in Annequin, Louis Barthas is grumbling.)

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

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