Separate peace | 30 Nov 1915

Separate peace

With General von Falkenhayn cautiously optimistic that the Russian Empire might be persuaded to sign a separate peace at some point in the next 12 months, the Entente governments have been moving to prevent that. An Anglo-Franco-Russian agreement to not negotiate individually had been signed in the opening days of September, and over the course of the last month, the Japanese* and Italian governments have now signed up to it.

*Yes, they’re still in the war. Japanese Navy protection of British, French and Russian Empire shipping routes is less important now the major German commerce raiders have been dealt with, but it still allows their allies to concentrate their navies in more useful theatres than the Pacific.

Retreat from Ctesiphon

As it turns out, the Poona Division has only just quit Aziziya in time to avoid its pursuers. The flotilla continues mud-hopping along behind them as they make good time to Umm-at-Tubal, but it’s now seeming likely that General Townshend may have to fight some kind of rearguard action to keep the heat off. Only a few days ago he was confident of holding Kut-al-Amara if besieged there. Now it’s in question whether he’ll ever reach the town…

Fourth Isonzo

We are finally done with this damned battle; or at least as “done” as we can reasonably be. Skirmishing and relatively heavy attacks will continue until mid-December, but as far as it matters to anyone, the Fourth Battle of the Isonzo has now come to its end. I’d do a map to illustrate the Italian “gains”, if there were any point to it. They’ve taken maybe a couple of square kilometres of ground, none of it of any tactical or strategic importance. They’ve taken 50,000 casualties to the Austro-Hungarians’ 32,000. And we are now, finally, finally, done with major actions on the Italian Front for the year.

Since May, the Italian Army has fought four major set-piece battles, occupied a small amount of territory formerly considered Austro-Hungarian, and utterly failed in everything it has attempted to do. 400,000 men are casualties and 66,000 of them are dead. The survivors are exhausted, hungry, and desperately trying to fight off disease. And the entire battlefield now turns new arrivals’ stomachs with the all-pervasive sickly-sweet stench of death and decomposition. We’ll be back here in a while, but thankfully I can now conclude a day on the Isonzo without ending with “More soon”. We’ll see them later.

Gallipoli

The storm is now, mercifully, beginning to blow itself out. Well, the storm at Gallipoli is blowing itself out, in any case. The storm in London over what to do next continues furiously raging, much of the argument bound up with the debacle that Salonika has turned into. Colonel Hankey has been circulating a memo for the Cabinet on that very subject. This situation is now such a hot mess that even the far-sighted author of Hankey’s points is unable to cut through the nonsense. Rather two-facedly, his post-war comment on the memo’s impact was that it had divided the Cabinet still further and delayed a final decision, which was “the last thing I wanted”.

It’s hard to make any other comment on that than “well, what the hell were you expecting?” He set out a number of valid grand-strategic concerns for staying (most importantly, a large number of Ottoman troops would be free to go to Mesopotamia, or the Caucasus, or Egypt), and seems happy to admit that his only consideration of whether the men could physically survive the winter is to add the enormous hedge “…provided that it were possible to stay” to everything he said about why staying would be a good idea. The Cabinet continues kicking the can down the road until both Lord Kitchener and Admiral de Roebeck can report personally.

Flora Sandes

Flora Sandes watches the Second Regiment fighting in the snow.

I floundered through the snow up a httle hill with some of the others to see if we could see anything, but we could not see much through the winter twilight except the flashes from the guns momentarily lighting up the snow banks, and hear the noise of the shells as they whistled overhead. This had been going on for a couple of hours now, and the Greek doctor was getting into a regular funk because they had had no orders to move, though it was all right as we had no wounded in the tent to be carried away, and no one else was worrying about it.

He finally sent a messenger up to the Commandant, as he seemed to think the ambulance had been forgotten. A couple of days afterwards the men told me with much scorn that that afternoon had been too much for him, and that he did a retreat on his own and never came back to the ambulance again.

The soldiers were all retreating across the snow, and I never saw such a depressing sight. The grey November twilight, the endless white expanse of snow, lit up every moment by the flashes of the guns, and the long column of men trailing away into the dusk wailing a sort of dismal dirge. I don’t know what it was they were singing, something between a song and a sob, it sounded like the cry of a Banshee. I have never heard it before or since, but it was a most heartbreaking sound.

First the Kid, now the Greek doctor.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Third Invasion of Serbia
Battle of Krivolak
Kosovo Offensive
Battle of the Isonzo (Fourth Isonzo)
Retreat from Ctesiphon

Further Reading

Support the blog! Buy the book! 1914 is now available! 1915 to follow as long as y’all buy 1914!

I have a Twitter account, @makersley, which you can follow to be notified of updates and get all my retweets of weird and wonderful First World War things. If you prefer Tumblr, I’m also on Tumblr.

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.)

Shaitan | 28 Nov 1915

Retreat from Ctesiphon

It’s a Good News/Bad News day for General Townshend, on the retreat from Ctesiphon. The good news is that his blokes have arrived safely at Aziziya, and his aerial reconaissance indicates that pursuit is far enough away for him to take a little time to re-organise everyone before setting out again towards Kut-al-Amara, where he intends to turn and take on his enemy. The possibility of being besieged there is obvious, but he’s not overly concerned by that. Twenty years before, a young Captain Townshend had made his name on the North-West Frontier of India, where he had successfully defended Chitral Fort for two months before the siege was broken by a relief force. Now he’s going to invite the Ottomans to besiege him, and so pin them in place for the relief force to give them a damn good kicking. We’ll see how that goes.

Ah, there was bad news, wasn’t there? A few miles upstream of Aziziya on the River Tigris, two of Townshend’s heavy vessels have blundered into a particularly difficult sandbank. One of them is soon re-floated, but one of them, Shaitan, refuses to budge. Three other ships take it in turns to tow the ship off, and all of them fail miserably, as more Arab bullets whistle around their ears. That’s pretty crappy. More tomorrow.

Fourth Isonzo

Once again I promise to everyone that yes, we are nearly at the end of this wretched, wretched battle. Today we have a lull at Gorizia and a heavy push against Mount San Michele, where we find the Austro-Hungarian artillery once again using its many excellently-sited observation posts to their full advantage. As so many times before, brief hope (this time on the north slope of Mount San Michele) quickly gives way to hideous agony, as the Italians briefly break into a trench, but the attackers are cut off from support by artillery fire into No Man’s Land, and then either evicted or liquidated by the counter-attack.

Gallipoli

The storm continues on Gallipoli. Early in the morning, a wind blows in front the north, bringing snow and freezing temperatures. The consequences are inevitable. Captain Ashton of the 1st Herefordshires, at Suvla Bay, continues with the sad story.

Overnight our rations had been sent out to us in a lorry. The folk who sent them out, presumably sorry for those unfortunates in the snow, sent with them a double ration of rum. The wagon drivers, who brought the stuff, apparently before we arrived, finding no one to hand over to, had simply dumped the things by the side of the road and gone home. When morning broke men began wandering about, as men will, and unhappily found the dump. Instead of telling somebody, or even eating the food, which would have been sensible, they broke open the rum jars and started in. The effect on empty stomachs and in that cold was simply devastating. Filled with a spurious warmth, they lay on the ground, and in many cases took off coats, boots, even tunics!

Many of the men are now wearing sodden summer clothes that have frozen entirely solid. Frostbite runs rampant, as does hypothermia. Lieutenant Clement Attlee takes desperate measures to keep his men alive.

The CO hustled round getting the Doctor to all the men who were bad, moving them into fairly dry dugouts. I made our men who would stand shivering run about and we had fairly frequent issues of rum. I found one line of dugouts fairly dry and, collecting all the men who had been drowned out, I marked our new dugouts for them on a little hill under the trees and set them digging. I also collected a lot of old tins, issued fuel and some petrol and got braziers going. I then had a foot inspection and made all the men with sodden feet rub them with snow.

In some areas of the line, trenches on both sides have completely flooded, waist deep, chest deep, neck deep. Here the men simply climb out and sit on the parapets, peering quizzically at each other across No Man’s Land. Precious few except the gunners, well to the rear, have any appetite for shooting. And, warm back in London, the Cabinet and the War Committee both continue dithering about exactly what should be done next.

Flora Sandes

The cold weather is, of course, not at all exclusive to Gallipoli, as Flora Sandes is well aware. But it’s not the only danger about.

There was deep snow on the ground, and it was bitterly cold, and the men used to anxiously ask me if I managed to keep warm at night, as they huddled up together, four in one tiny tent, for warmth, and seemed to rather fear that they might find me frozen to death some morning in my wagon, but I was really quite warm enough.

The hills looked so tempting that I went for a stroll and wandered on farther than I intended. I was out of sight of the camp, when suddenly I heard voices behind some trees, though I could not see anybody, and I knew that none of our men were camping near. Discretion conquering curiosity, I beat a dignified retreat at a brisk walk, as I was quite unarmed at the time, and they told me when I got back it was a good thing I did. I took no more constitutionals over the hills while in that neighbourhood, anyhow, for I had no wish to cut off my career with the Army by suddenly disappearing, as nobody would know what had become of me.

Orders have just arrived for the rear-guard to start retreating along with everyone else.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Third Invasion of Serbia
Battle of Krivolak
Kosovo Offensive
Battle of the Isonzo (Fourth Isonzo)
Retreat from Ctesiphon

Further Reading

Support the blog! Buy the book! 1914 is now available! 1915 to follow as long as y’all buy 1914!

I have a Twitter account, @makersley, which you can follow to be notified of updates and get all my retweets of weird and wonderful First World War things. If you prefer Tumblr, I’m also on Tumblr.

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.)

Mrzli | Gorizia | 26 Nov 1915

Fourth Isonzo

First we go to Mount Mrzli, where they’re now suffering from a shortage of kitchen sinks to throw in. The line rocks and reels wildly throughout the day, advancing to within touching distance of the summit, then tumbling all the way back down to the trincerone, the Big Trench, often literally. Another attack gets to within ten yards of the enemy barbed wire, still stubbonly intact. First the defenders throw hand grenades. Then rocks. Then boulders. Then barrels. Then snowballs. Finally, full tin cans, fresh from the latrines.

Meanwhile, another attack at Gorizia fails, and the fighting at Mount San Michele slacks off somewhat, which the Austro-Hungarians quickly take advantage of to shuffle some fresh troops into the line. Poor buggers.

Retreat from Ctesiphon

Getting the regatta up the Tigris had been a difficult job, with the river becoming steadily narrower, shallower, and harder to navigate. (They of course have no proper maritime charts, except for what can be bodged together with ad-hoc soundings at short notice.) The process of General Townshend’s boats back towards Aziziya is less a case of sailing, and more a case of ungainly lurching between various sandbanks. The river is tricky enough that when one boat runs aground, everyone else stops for fear of doing the same, and in any case nobody particularly wants to split up at this point.

So then the offending ship needs to be hauled off whatever obstruction it’s hit this time. This generally involves using the heaviest ships as impromptu tugs. The task is considerably enlivened by the presence of unfriendly local tribesmen, who pass the time by loitering on the edge of rifle range and taking pot-shots at all and sundry. The retreat continues.

Flora Sandes

Speaking of which, the Second Regiment appears to have been given orders to protect the army’s line of retreat; they’re still strung out between Bitol and Prilip. And Flora Sandes learns another important lesson about life in the field; she’s lost a friend. However, she’s doing her best to keep morale up.

The Kid went back to Bitol to fetch some clothes, and I never saw her again, though I believe she did want to come back to us later on.

I used to sit over the camp fires in the evenings with the soldiers, and we used to exchange cigarettes and discuss the war by the hour. I was picking up a few more words of Serbian every day, and they used to take endless trouble to make me understand, though our conversations were very largely made up of signs, but I understood what they meant if I couldn’t always understand what they said. It was heartbreaking the way they used to ask me every evening, “Did I think the English were coming to help them?”

I used to cheer them up as best I could, and said I was sure that they would come, and that even if they did not they must not think that the English had deserted them, as I supposed they had big plans in their head that we knew nothing about, and that though we might have to retreat now everything would come right in the end. It was touching the faith they had in the English, whom they all described as going ” slowly but surely.”

Louis Barthas

You need to be lucky in order to be unpopular in the Army, and Louis Barthas is certainly unpopular with his bosses. Now, in the wake of the recent “attack” on the listening post, someone is trying to stitch him up.

I alone encountered unpleasant results. The famous Sergeant Faure said loudly to the captain, “It’s not astonishing that this forward post was surprised. Corporal Barthas must have been sleeping.” This nasty insinuation gave the captain the idea of launching an inquiry. What luck, if they could profit from this opportunity to get rid of me by sending me before a court-martial!

But this time they didn’t succeed. Sublieutenant Malvezy, making his rounds, had stopped to chat with me a moment before the “attack” occurred. Sergeant Marc and my grenadier Sergeant Lasserre had likewise spoken with me between four and five that morning. They attested to it spontaneously, vigorously, at the risk of alienating the captain and the commandant, who then had to leave me alone.

And he also provides a welcome note of caution to any historian who has ever, say, relied on a battalion war diary to figure out what was going on.

This affair of the grenade attack was the object of dispatches and reports which, from hand to hand, must have arrived under the eyes of Joffre himself. They were written according to our bosses’ imagination, because neither my comrades nor I, who commanded at the forward post, were ever asked to give anything like accurate information. That’s how the history of this war will be written.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Third Invasion of Serbia
Battle of Krivolak
Kosovo Offensive
Battle of the Isonzo (Fourth Isonzo)
Retreat from Ctesiphon

Further Reading

Support the blog! Buy the book! 1914 is now available! 1915 to follow as long as y’all buy 1914!

I have a Twitter account, @makersley, which you can follow to be notified of updates and get all my retweets of weird and wonderful First World War things. If you prefer Tumblr, I’m also on Tumblr.

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.)

Senussi Campaign | 25 Nov 1915

Senussi Campaign

Let’s begin today by looking at something I’ve been shoving onto the back burner for the last little while for lack of space. The Senussi Campaign isn’t exactly the best-known part of the First World War, and for once this is not entirely unjustified. It genuinely doesn’t have much impact on the wider war, and it’s probably better-served and more understandable if it’s viewed as part of the history of European colonial efforts in North Africa, rather than as part of the First World War.

Nevertheless, it is part of the First World War, so. The Senussi are a difficult-to-describe cross between a Sufi Islamic religious order and a desert tribe. In the early 20th century they lived in various regions of north Africa, in parts of what is now Sudan and Libya. They first came to the attention of European powers when the French Empire began spreading north towards them, but they were mostly left alone until the 1911-1912 Italo-Turkish War, when Italy landed men on various places among the Libyan coast and the Senussi (with Ottoman encouragement and British indifference) began fighting them.

The fighting’s been sputtering intermittently for the past few years; since the First World War broke out, the Ottomans (with German support) have been trying to encourage or bribe the Senussi into attacking Egypt from the west. This will immediately set eyebrows twitching all over the British Empire, and at worst, it’ll force London to commit more and more troops to defending the Suez Canal. At best, it’ll allow a successful Ottoman attack on the canal from the east, as had been attempted rather half-arsedly in spring 1915.

This, incidentally, is one of the major reasons why General Maxwell, the British military commander in Egypt, has been so resistant to the idea of reducing his garrison to send men to Gallipoli (or the Middle East, or Salonika, or anywhere else). Anyway: the situation at the moment is that the Ottomans have finally convinced the Senussi to have a pop, and over the course of November they’ve been conducting raids on various places in western Egypt. The War Office has now been forced to sit up and take notice, but all that can be done for now is have the local garrisons fall back while they sort out how best to deal with this new problem. More to come.

Battle of Ctesiphon

Having miraculously discovered a deep-seated conviction that political concerns should be of only secondary importance to him, General Townshend and his battered regatta is now leaving Ctesiphon at a rate of knots. They’re making for Azizya, and are aided in their departure by the fog of war. The Ottomans at first think that the apparent enemy withdrawal might be some cunning ruse, and so have allowed them nearly a day’s head start.

Robert Palmer

Orders have now filtered back to Amara, and Robert Palmer is in the thick of them. Or at least, he should have been.

As luck would have it, orders came round at 1 p.m. yesterday for half the Battalion (including A. Coy.) to move up-stream at once: and after an afternoon and evening of many flusters and changes of plan, they have just gone off this morning. My wretched leg prevents my going with them: but it is much better to-day and I hope to be able to go by the next boat. Destination is unknown but it can only be Kut-al-Amara or Baghdad: and I infer the latter from the facts (1) that Headquarters have gone, which means that the other half Battalion is likely to follow shortly: and (2) that they won’t want a whole Battalion at Kut.

Winces, groans, dramatic chords, dramatic irony etc. Mate, they’re going to be wanting just a bit more than a whole battalion at Kut. On the other hand, this is a reasonable assumption; he’s heard only that the Battle of Ctesiphon had begun and everyone was very confident about it. He’s therefore based his expectations on the formula used for determining the size of a garrison based on its population; Kut-al-Amara is only big enough to warrant a garrison of two companies. If the whole battalion is moving up then the only place they can go is Baghdad, with enough population to be garrisoned by at least two brigades.

Fourth Isonzo

Mount San Michele sees heavy Austro-Hungarian counter-attacks on the north slope of Mount San Michele, evicting the Italians from recently won strong-points; however, soon afterwards, concentrated artillery fire forces the positions to be abandoned again. To the south there’s a push by the Italians towards the summit, but say it with me: repulsed with heavy casualties. And, up in the mountains, they’re building up the pressure on Mount Mrzli for one last crack at the summit.

Louis Barthas

Still up the line on Vimy Ridge, Louis Barthas has a little unwelcome excitement this morning.

Just when I reached the listening post, two grenade detonations almost knocked me over. They had just gone off, right at my feet. I was surrounded by smoke and flames, but I escaped with just the ends of my moustache singed. But the two sentries, Vialle and Roques, weren’t so lucky; gravely wounded, they cried out that they were going to die. Hustled immediately to the first-aid station, they were stabilized and evacuated.

But who had thrown these two grenades? Our own belief was that they had exploded in the hands of the two sentries, who had mishandled them imprudently. Besides, in the daylight, we could see when we cleaned up the debris that the fragments were from the same model of grenades that we had at the forward post. Nevertheless we decided, with one accord, to say that we had been attacked by German grenades. They were already charged with so many crimes that one more on their record wouldn’t blacken them any worse than they already were.

That made everyone happy: the wounded, who were treated as heroes instead of being punished for their clumsiness; all our bosses, from the grenadier-sergeant all the way up to crazy General Niessel, happy in the knowledge that his elite men didn’t fall back one inch in the face of an avalanche of German grenades; finally, the headquarters and Joffre himself could delight in being able to adorn their meager next-day’s dispatch with the lines “In the Neuville-Saint-Vaast sector, grenade attacks on our forward posts were repulsed.”

He also tells us about Private Pestel from Paris, who escapes with a slightly burned nose and is returned (to his extreme disappointment) to duty after the swiftest of visits at the aid post, only to find himself being written up as having heroically refused to be evacuated by the doctor.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Third Invasion of Serbia
Battle of Krivolak
Kosovo Offensive
Battle of the Isonzo (Fourth Isonzo)
Battle of Ctesiphon

Further Reading

Support the blog! Buy the book! 1914 is now available! 1915 to follow as long as y’all buy 1914!

I have a Twitter account, @makersley, which you can follow to be notified of updates and get all my retweets of weird and wonderful First World War things. If you prefer Tumblr, I’m also on Tumblr.

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.)

Baghdad | 4 October 1915

Mesopotamia

In the wake of capturing Kut-al-Amara, General Nixon would dearly love to push on towards Baghdad as soon as possible. General Townshend has already outlined a plan. His ships are having extreme trouble navigating the River Tigris above Kut; the river has quickly turned against him, full of difficult shoals and mud-banks. They can’t simply sail on up the river, so instead Townshend proposes sailing as far as is possible (this will prove to be Aziziya, 60 miles above Kut) and then marching another 60 miles. This will bring them to the ruins of the ancient Mesopotamian city Ctesiphon, reputedly once the biggest city in the world. Captured prisoners and other intelligence have told them that this is where the Ottomans will make their major defensive stand.

Townshend will, after the war, claim that he was beginning to have second thoughts about the advisability of this latest phase of operations. It is kind of hard to have any other reaction to that than “Well, you would say that now, wouldn’t you?” But that aside, it is certainly true that there are several things that should have worried anyone with half a brain.

To begin with, let’s consider the supply line, singular. They’re now about 500 miles above Basra. There is no other way to get supplies up to them than by taking them by river, on a journey that could take weeks or months. The only medical facility worth the name in the entire theatre is a single hospital ship, which has been kept back at Basra. The Battle of Es Sinn caused less than 100 dead, but over 1,000 wounded. There simply aren’t enough boats to take them back down the river. This is, to gravely understate the situation, not good for morale.

And now, a familiar problem. The Ottomans have, of course, throughout this entire campaign been falling back closer to their heartlands, their supply centres, their sources of reinforcement. They’ll soon have a new commander; the former governor of Belgium, Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz, has been knocking around Constantinople for the last little while, annoying both Liman von Sanders and Enver Pasha in equal measure. Earlier in his career, von der Goltz served twelve years with the Ottoman Army, charged with reorganising and modernising it, and his name is well and fondly remembered among many officers who are now in mid-ranking or senior positions. Enver now has an excellent excuse to get rid of this pain in his arse, and has put him in command of the defence of Baghdad.

And he’s sent more than just one man. The existing commander, Nureddin, has been expecting two divisions’ worth of reinforcements for some time. (They’re still on the march from Van Province, but now only a month or so away.) He’s also used all the local Jandarma he can scrape together to raise an extra division, which has been training at Baghdad for the last few months.

The Ottomans aren’t the only ones expecting reinforcements, but all that Townshend can expect immediately is two hastily-formed brigades from India. Nixon is now raising the possibility of getting the Indian Corps out of the Western Front; once Kitchener’s Army begins arriving in greater numbers after the end of the Battle of Loos, this idea will be looked at more seriously. But the fact remains that the Ottomans are bringing far more men into the theatre than the British Empire.

This doesn’t necessarily worry General Nixon, though. After all, hasn’t the enemy fled at almost every previous turn? Why should they not do so again? There are plenty of promising signs that, with a little massaging, can form the basis of his latest round of cables to the Colonial Office and to the Viceroy. More soon.

Gallipoli

With General Bailloud and the French Empire troops now gone to Salonika, Sir Ian Hamilton might be forgiven for feeling a little lonely. He’s just received a deeply ominous telegram from Lord Kitchener. Kitchener speaks darkly of a flow of unofficial reports washing around London about the campaign. He talks in his usual roundabout way, but it comes to something very simple. The campaign’s reputation has been badly damaged. A sacrifice is required. Kitchener therefore suggests recalling General Braithwaite, Sir Ian’s chief of staff, and replacing him with Launcelot Kiggell, of whom more soon. The implication to the implication is obvious; if it’s not to be Braithwaite, there is only one other senior head to be taken off.

I am grateful to old K. He is trying to save me. He picked out Braithwaite himself. Not so long ago he cabled me in his eagerness to promote him to Major-General; he would not suggest substituting the industrious Kiggell if he didn’t fear for me and for the whole of this enterprise.

Hold that thought about Kiggell. Lord Kitchener has just effectively sent Sir Ian Hamilton a death warrant for General Braithwaite, and the Chief has responded by erasing Braithwaite’s name and inserting his own.

Western Front

Sir John French is now asking for another delay past the 6th before he’ll be ready to attack with the French. The problem is the Hohenzollern Redoubt. It must be retaken before they can do anything else; any large force moving up to the front near Hulluch can and will be easily spotted. And this, of course, will not be easy, with artillery shell stocks starting to run low (and not having been fantastically useful to begin with). They’re going to bring up more gas to support the attacks, but of course that creates further delays as the cylinders are installed and fresh gas-masks are issued…

Meanwhile, at Second Champagne, the preliminary bombardment for the last push towards Somme-Py has begun. Once again the weather has worked against the French, turning foul at the wrong time and seriously interfering with artillery spotting and aerial reconaissance.

Captain Lecluse

Our new friend, Captain Henri de Lecluse, continues describing the situation at Trou Bricot, just behind the new French front line at Second Champagne.

The German mortars tried hard to find us, but without great success. The paltry fir trees of Champagne, whose vegetation we had often mocked, were sufficient to conceal us. The only victims of our sojourn were the numerous rabbits which our men had ferreted out.

There were a series of officers’ huts luxuriously arranged. Messieurs le Boches were as skilled in creating comfortable quarters as they were in razing a village! The rooms had parquet floors, ceilings, well-appointed with perfectly made furniture, armchairs, angled sofas, or rocking-chairs. At the back of the main room, a sliding door exposed a staircase of twelve to fifteen steps leading to an underground shelter allocated to each hut. Outside, some kiosks allowed us to enjoy the cool night air.

I’m sure that Louis Barthas would want us to shake the good captain firmly by the lapels and yell “yes, but what about the poilus? In how much luxury do they live, you enormous clot?”

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Battle of Loos
Battle of Champagne (Second Champagne)
Battle of Artois (Third Artois)

Further Reading

Support the blog! Buy the book! 1914 is now available! 1915 to follow as long as y’all buy 1914!

I have a Twitter account, @makersley, which you can follow to be notified of updates and get all my retweets of weird and wonderful First World War things. If you prefer Tumblr, I’m also on Tumblr.

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.)