It’s time for another look at wider French strategy. The Friendly Feldwebel gets a new boss. But the most important thing to note is that Sir Ian Hamilton has settled on a plan for taking control of the Gallipoli peninsula.
It is of course well-known that a picture paints a thousand words. My MSPaint efforts perhaps paint a few hundred, but it will undoubtedly make things clearer, so here we go.
The spearhead of the attack will be 29th Division. Their job will be to land on the toe of the peninsula and establish a beach-head, then as soon as possible to push on and take the small town of Krithia. This success will be followed up by a swift march on Achi Baba, the highest hill on Gallipoli. With Achi Baba in friendly hands, the landing forces will have excellent observation all across the peninsula. The Navy can then make another attempt on the Narrows as the Army marches on Maidos, and it’ll be job done very soon thereafter.
This will be accompanied by three diversionary attacks. The Royal Naval Division will conduct a demonstration at Bulair, possibly landing briefly. The French troops will be landed at Kum Kale for a couple of days. These are both temporary distractions to freeze Ottoman reserves, for what will surely be the critical few days that will allow 29th Division to break out from their beachheads.
Meanwhile, the ANZACs will sail to Gaba Tepe and land in a wide bay just north of the point. Their job will be to establish a beachhead, and then if possible, move as far inland as possible and attempt to interdict or even cut off the Turkish supply lines and lines of retreat. At worst, they can just stay there and occupy the enemy while 29th Division comes up from the toe. For once, Hamilton sounds confident as he recounts the details of his plan at great length. And then…
On maps and charts the scheme may look neat and simple. On land and water, the trouble will begin and only by the closest thought and prevision will we find ourselves in a position to cope with it. To throw so many men ashore in so short a time in the teeth of so rapid a current on to a few cramped beaches; to take the chances of finding drinking water and of a smooth sea; these elemental hazards alone would suffice to give a man grey hairs were we practising a manœuvre exercise on the peaceful Essex coast.
So much thought; so much band-o-bast; so much dove-tailing and welding together of naval and military methods, signals, technical words, etc., and the worst punishment should any link in the composite chain give way. And then, taking success for granted, on the top of all this, comes the Turk; “unspeakable” he used to be, “unknowable” now.
Well, he almost succeeded in sounding like a commander confident of victory for a while there. Never mind.
Eger immediately acted like a brute. On the first day of his command, he ordered out the band. He forced the battalion to drill, goose-stepping along while the shells poured down on them. As each shell whizzed by, the men trembled, but Eger pretended not to notice it. He shouted at them that what they were doing was not a goose-step, but a funeral march. It was only too true, for a shell burst to the left, killing three men. Those standing nearby were covered with blood. Some were wounded, and some fled.
Eger continued the parade as though nothing had happened. He ordered that the men who had been fled should be punished. As to the dead, Eger pronounced their funeral oration. “Take away those pigs who didn’t know enough to fall in battle! And hurry up about it, because our drill isn’t over yet! If you don’t hurry, I’ll run over you with my horse and knock you all in a heap, you band of peasants!”
In this way, Eger celebrated his promotion.
The Feldwebel reports that Major Eger will remain in Champagne for six months more, and then he’ll be killed by a German bullet. Whether this was accidental friendly fire or a deliberate fragging, we’ll never know.
General Joffre has been touring the trenches, and he’s also been rather more garrulous than usual. He’s been openly speaking of a new phase in the war, and he’s been pushing forward plans for yet another offensive. He’s been emboldened by news that the Germans have been pulling units away from the Western Front to send to the Eastern Front. This both invites him to order further attacks, and worries him. Although he doesn’t approve of the plans for Gallipoli, he is aware of the need to take a wider view, and act to support his allies (so long as it’s done in a way that he likes).
It’s clear to him that a combined offensive of all the Entente powers at once, across multiple fronts, would be a desirable thing. He’s about to begin a charm offensive to this effect. He’s already in the process of writing a long letter to Grand Duke Nicholas, the Russian commander-in-chief. He’s already raising the possibility of a joint offensive, possibly involving the Italians if they come into the war in time. He’s also just received a highly promising letter from Major Langlois, who he’s recently sent to Petrograd. It paints a very favourable picture both of the Eastern Front, and of Russian opinions of France. Its only caveat is that Langlois is concerned about “a weakness in the production of munitions”.
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.)