Battle of Malazgirt
General Oganovski’s meagre reserves are thrown right into the heat of battle today. Most of them are raw and green and are, through no fault of their own, unequal to their task. They break and run, and now the road is open for the Ottoman Third Army to march on Malazgirt. A fighting withdrawal now begins over the Belican Hills, and Oganovski begins sending desperate messages to General Charpentier to fall back with his cavalry division and help defend the town.
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With the men on Mount San Michele waiting for reinforcements, attention has turned to attacks going in against the “Hotel Cosich” away to the south. Here it’s so hot that just touching a rock or a stone with bare skin can scald. As the men advance, they find No Man’s Land filled with crippling potholes. Some are just the right height to catch a man’s foot and snap his ankle. Others are deeper, wider, deep enough to trap most of a man’s body so that his mates have to pull him out.
And then there’s the shellfire. This is an area where there’s no danger of a high-explosive shell landing in wet mud and sinking without trace. The deadly effect of artillery is being increased by several orders of magnitude. The tough limestone floor of the Carso is excellent for ensuring that the shells actually detonate. And when the shells do go off, they’re kicking up stones, and fragments of stones, and shards of stones, and throwing them hundreds of yards from the blast.
Off to the north there’s been attacks again around Gorizia. These achieve more success; a trench here on Mount Sabotino, a trench there at Podgora. Counter-attacks are inevitable. The idea of attacking Mount San Michele first has come to nothing, except possibly delaying reinforcements to the men who had captured the summit.
The British Empire men in front of Nasiriya have spent the last couple of weeks going nowhere fast. To storm the latest round of Ottoman defences, they need more men and more quipment. However, the brutal desert heat is rapidly lowering the water level everywhere. Major rivers are still perfectly navigable, but the smaller creeks and channels are becoming less and less so by the day. Getting orders and supplies through is becoming harder and harder.
For a few days it seemed as though perhaps the entire attack might have to be called off, as disease and heatstroke sets in. But now, not only have they managed to force reinforcements up (ahaha), they’ve also brought a few aeroplanes. Their reconaissance will prove vital; the opposing forces are about equal in size, and any advantage is critical.
For four days we didn’t have more than two hours’ sleep at a time, and there was a lot of cases of shell shock among the men. Our relief was due at dusk, but the weary hours dragged on towards midnight and there was no sign of it.
Eventually it appears and the Gordons drag themselves backward.
We were still in the danger zone at dawn. We were now entirely dead beat, but we kept plodding along like automatons. I was parched with thirst, and I vividly remember sucking the moisture from the lapel of my great-coat, saturated by the rain. At times I actually fell asleep on the march, and imagining that the files in front of me had performed a right wheel, I would wake with a start to find myself in a ditch and the column going on straight ahead!
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