Jasin | 13 Jan 1915

General Joffre formally suspends First Champagne today. Time for some official French navel-gazing. There’s also business afoot in Africa and Egypt.

First Champagne

Don’t worry, the French are already planning to attack again. In the meantime, General de Langle is assessing the previous month of fuck-all. He’s realised that just because you’ve taken a few lines of trench, that doesn’t mean you can then order all the infantry forward again without further artillery support. He’s clearly moving towards “bite and hold” principles. Small advances, wearing the enemy down by installing yourself in their trenches and forcing them to counter-attack, extensive artillery support at all times.

Joffre will accept these points, and then identify another problem. There’s a difficult balancing act to be made in choosing the breadth of an attack. Attack over too wide a front, and the men and artillery will be too far dispersed to apply pressure anywhere. Attack over too narrow a front, and the enemy can concentrate fire on large bodies of men crowded together.

It also seems that the Chief may have been talking out of both sides of his mouth again, if President Poincare’s memoirs are to be believed. Joffre’s conclusion to de Langle is an exhortation to attack again as soon as possible. He’s strongly advocating that success with existing tactics is still possible as long as they keep hitting the Germans with “incessantly repeated blows”. At about the same time, Poincare reports Joffre telling him that a war of movement will be impossible for a long time. Hmmm.

Now, on a note of terminology. The fighting in Champagne will be renewed after a month’s respite. To me, that’s long enough to say that the First Battle of Champagne ends today, and what came next was something else. However, for some reason, the next round of fighting is generally deemed to also be part of First Champagne. Don’t ask me why.

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Suez Canal

There’s serious rumblings in Egypt. The number of troops being stationed out on the canal itself is being increased. The Ottomans are leaving Beersheba, some 25,000 strong, most of them taking a route straight through rather inhospitable country. They’re accompanied by about 5,000 water-hauling camels, and with some judgement and a little luck, will be able to resupply themselves from wells along the way. It’ll take them the rest of the month to get within spitting distance of the canal.

Jasin

Hopefully, we’ll recall how General Tighe crowned his December operations with a Christmas Day attack on Jasin. This has raised Colonel von Lettow-Vorbeck’s ire; he also fears that it might be the first stage of a march down the coast to Tanga, and he’s going to do something about it. Today a couple of local units arrive at Jasin to snoop around and see what they can see.

The British Empire garrison calls for reinforcements, which arrive promptly from their main Umba Valley camp a few miles away. von Lettow-Vorbeck’s men decide that discretion is the better part of valour and retire, carrying valuable information about how Jasin might respond to an advance. A large force is being gathered south of Jasin; in a little under a week’s time, there’ll be nearly 2,000 men there, more than had been concentrated in Tanga.

Trentino

The politicians who had been so important back in June and July have receded quickly into the background. Foreign ministers are always hardest-affected, since large swathes of their portfolio immediately become the domain of the military. Count Berchtold has been convinced that some cessation of territory in Trentino and Albania to Italy will be necessary to prevent another war front. Shockingly, Conrad von Hotzendorf is rather less worried about the prospects of having a fight with Italy, and he has significant support. This impasse is solved today by throwing Berchtold overboard.

Actions in Progress

Siege of Przemysl
Battle of Champagne (First Champagne)
Battle of Sarikamis
Battle of Ardahan
Battle of Soissons

Further Reading

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. In today’s paper: Russia and Turkey both deny the other’s lies about the battles of Sarikamis and Ardahan. Meanwhile, the really important issues are tucked at the bottom left of Page 4, as someone writes to the War Office to clarify why some Scottish regiments are going to war in khaki kilts instead of tartan.

Elsehwere: the leader on page 8 notes that President Poincare is touring the front, Page 10 preens over yesterday’s Bismarck scoop, Page 12 is again concerned with recent rises in the cost of living, and another small note on that page observes that a Select Committee is considering the arrangements for soldiers’ pensions and dependent arrangements.

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

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