Rombon and Gallipoli | 29 Aug 1915

Doesn’t “Rombon and Gallipoli” sound like a crappy Sixties working men’s club comedy double act? If only.

Battle of Hill 60 (Gallipoli)

The battle ends with the position as it was yesterday, with British Empire troops installing themselves on the slopes of Hill 60 (Gallipoli), and the summit still in the hands of the Ottoman defenders. Skirmishing will continue for the next few months, but the line will not move again. The August Offensive has come to an end. Here are the new positions, via the ever-popular medium of terrible MSPaint artwork.

As ever, this be a Tube map, not an Ordnance Survey map.
As ever, this be a Tube map, not an Ordnance Survey map.

Great. Over the coming days, minds will slowly turn towards the most pressing question: what the hell do we do now? General Byng is now in theatre, trying to pick up the pieces of IX Corps. With a major autumn offensive planned for the Western Front, Sir Ian Hamilton surely can’t hope for significant reinforcement before October, and by the time they might actually get round to attacking, the wether may well have turned against them.

It’s a knotty problem. The only thing that they can be sure of is that they’re not going anywhere soon. Some thought is now finally being given to providing some kind of half-arsed imitation of proper rest and recreation facilities for the blokes, but the emphasis is very much on the “half-arsed”. What they need is some kind of unforseen miracle coming over the horizon, some sort of bolt from the blue. Morale at all levels is dangerously low.

Second Isonzo

Today is also the final major day of fighting at the Second Battle of the Isonzo. There’s another failed bash at the trincerone on Mount Mrzli. There’s also the culmination of about ten days’ worth of hard slog at Mount Rombon. The Italians here have been marching towards Flitsch six inches at a time in order to get into position to attack what Intelligence tells them is a lightly-garrisoned position atop Rombon. (Even in late August, the summit of Rombon, 7,250 feet high, is thoroughly snowbound.)

The intelligence was accurate about two weeks ago, when the garrison consisted of a few very lonely (and cold) blokes clustered hopefully around an old mountain gun, but by now the full strength of the 2nd Mountain Rifles is present and correct, and they’ve brought some more artillery with them. These men are all local Slovenes; General Boroevic has taken care to keep these local men in sectors where they can feel they’re directly defending their homeland.

The Italian attacks here are more hopeless than most; even the Austro-Hungarian Official History disposes of them in a few short words. A heavy attack near Tolmein is dealt with in much the same way. Time for the Italian army to stop, evaluate, and learn from this utter shambles of a battle. No laughing at the back, please.

It’s not all bad news, amazingly. The Italians have achieved one thing. The Austro-Hungarians have suffered nearly 47,000 casualties; the Italians have only lost 42,000. Yeah, this is what counts as “good news” on this front, folks. The Italian Army has now lost more than 1 in 20 of the men who went to war in May. But it’s not all milk and honey for their opponents, either; between Italy, Serbia, and Russia, they’re in severe danger of becoming terminally overstretched. Conrad von Hotzendorf has just appealed to General von Falkenhayn for some more men to stiffen the defences in the Alps.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Battle of the Isonzo (Second Isonzo)
Battle of Hill 60 (Gallipoli)

Further Reading

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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.)

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