About 95% of Belgium is under German occupation. Its army is in no mood to be satisfied with standing on the defensive until their Allies can liberate them. Especially in light of General Joffre’s resistance to operations in the Ypres salient. So, today, they catch the Germans by surprise with an offensive over the Yser, just south of the flooded area, which then turns north towards Dixmude.
They don’t have enough force to follow up with a push for the town, but they do establish a solid bridgehead outside the town, and this will force the Germans to use time and manpower digging better positions here. In military terms, it’s a horrible, exposed position. Were it anywhere else, it would have been immediately counter-attacked and the Belgians removed.
But its very uselesness is what keeps it intact. After the surprise wears off, the German commanders will rather like the idea of having the Belgians there. Any movement of men and supplies up to the outpost will be blatantly obvious. Most of what the Belgians are doing in their trenches will also be blatantly obvious. So, why not allow it to continue in existence and use it as a meat-grinder?
You can visit one of the preserved Belgian positions, if you go to Dixmude (follow the signs for Diksmuide). It still even has its original name. The Belgian men who had to serve in it called it the “Trench of Death”.
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The retreating Russians come under attack again at Oltu. They have artillery, but it’s only enough to cover their further retirement to Avcali. By midday, the Ottomans have entered Oltu, and the blokes take the opportunity to conduct some informal resupply exercises in the town. When Enver Pasha arrives, this is arguably the high-water mark for the entire Ottoman offensive. In due course, order is restored, and IX Corps is sent off up the Top Yol.
Even at Carency and Perthes, the offensives have completely degenerated into shelling and sniping. The weather and the ground simply isn’t good enough for men to advance over it. A problem we’ve encountered before is rearing its head again. The entire battlefield is littered with dead bodies. They’re beginning to rot and smell. They’re attracting rats. And they’re everywhere, on both sides. Something needs to be done.
Actions in Progress
I’m away from home (and most of my books, sob) for Christmas. There are a few things that I may have to pencil-sketch and then come back to later for a proper filling-in. Normal service resumes on January 4th.
The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. In today’s paper: Fiery rhetoric about the Germans on the Eastern Front on page 9, and on page 10 Hilare Belloc is pontificating stridently about the war. Belloc’s style entirely failed to endear itself to the BEF, and was a common target of scorn and parody in the trench newspapers that will soon start appearing.
Also, by the grace of God (page 2), “Money Very Abundant” in the money markets! (Still not over it.) Page 3 has the rather strange court case of two kleptomaniacs, and Page 6 questions what should be done with the recently-captured South African rebels.
(If you find the olde-tyme style difficult to get along with, have a look at this reading guide.)