Evacuation of Suvla & ANZAC | Gallipoli | 20 Dec 1915

Evacuation of Gallipoli

Time for the ANZACs to leave ANZAC Cove. Before we get into the details of what they’re doing, first we must take note of the first actually useful attack from Cape Helles since the First Battle of Krithia. It’s an unashamed diversion, of course, and it achieves its purpose of getting the Ottomans to not look at the north of the peninsula, nothing to see there, hoo boy, no way at all.

So, on with the ANZACs. They leave behind them a considerable quantity of food and supplies, several amusing notes to their opponents, and very, very slightly less than 12,000 dead (8,700 Australian and 2,780 New Zealand). They’ve also completed several courses of an extremely important lesson: the British Empire does not necessarily have their best interests at heart. The blokes have also been passing the last few nervous hours with some ingenious constructions. Lance-Corporal William Scurry, 7th Victoria Battalion:

t occurred to me that if we could leave our rifles firing we might get away more surely. The sand of the hourglass was the first germ of the idea. If the sand could be made to trickle from above into a container attached to the trigger, the increased weight would finally release it. Next day I started on the idea but it wouldn’t work. The sand wouldn’t run and the trigger wanted a jerk to pull it. The jerk was easily got over by the cartridge box full of dirt, but water was the only thing that I could think of to replace the sand.

Hundreds of those rifles have been installed in the line. In other places, individuals are wandering up and down a trench, firing off shots and throwing grenades from various positions to give the impression that they’re all occupied. The Ottomans can’t do anything without terrifying the blokes. Everything is potentially the first indication of a surprise night attack. But nothing turns out to be. The last men escape with blankets wrapped round their boots. Mines have been left with a time-delay fuse to explode after everyone’s been taken off.

At Suvla, there’s less comedic ingenuity and contraption building, but also a great deal less worry. I’d quote Lieutenant Clement Attlee (6th South Lancashires) more extensively, but his reminiscence is remarkably dull. Attlee was certainly one of the very last men to leave, reputedly the last but one (just ahead of General Maude, 13th Division’s commander).

Everything was very peaceful, though there were occasional shots to be heard from Anzac. Then we got the order to move. The men hustled up the trench, machine guns going first. I brought up the rear and found at the pier a few military police, General Maude and a few of the staff. We went on board lighters which seemed to go round and round. Flames shot up from the dumps of abandoned stores.

And, before the sun has risen, they’re long gone, having got clean away with barely more than a stubbed toe to show for it. Just to add a full stop, the weather turns in the afternoon and a severe gale blows in. It doesn’t bear thinking about what might have happened if they’d delayed another day.

Schneider CA1

It’s another important day for French tank production; about a year after the Army began investigating the idea, the Schneider company’s tank project has been given official sanction and support. It’s a positive step, but the Schneider CA1 is still six to nine months behind the comparable British effort. Still, better late than never.

Flora Sandes

Private Flora Sandes is currently having her first in-service experience of that great shared military experience, “waiting in the arse end of nowhere for something to happen”.

My company was told off to take up a position by itself on a range of hills, and we went up there in the afternoon by a very bad steep track, through bushes with very big prickly thorns. The hills were covered with bracken, which we cut down to make beds of, and pitched our tents in a little hollow.

We were all by ourselves up there, and had a very quiet four days, as we seemed at last to have shaken off the pursuing Bulgarians, and it seemed sometimes as if everyone had forgotten all about us. We were the only company up there, and were a very funny looking camp, with the men sitting about resting and repairing their clothes, and washing hanging out on all the bushes; in fact, we said ourselves that we looked more like a travelling gipsies’ encampment than the smartest company in the regiment.

Louis Barthas

Things are looking up for Louis Barthas. He appears to actually been given that period of rest that he’s always being promised. But first, the company has to march under the command of Captain Cros-Mayrevielle.

We covered the journey on foot. We had to loosen up our legs, which had stiffened after three months in the trenches. Unfortunately for me, like for many others, the more I walked, the wobblier my legs got, and soon it seemed like I was carrying a load of lead on my shoulders, so heavily was my pack weighing me down. We were marching steadily. It was noon. The time for a break had passed a moment ago. The company, at a fork in the road, had left the column and was proceeding by itself, under the orders of our Kronprinz, perched on his nag.

A few timid cries of “How about a rest break?”—quickly suppressed by the section chiefs—must have reached the big ears of the captain, but he appeared not to hear them. He was serious, lost in thought, careful. His mind was no doubt seeking the solution of some thorny strategic problem, or perhaps, more prosaically, he was thinking about whether he would find a comfortable bed, a well-stocked table, and pretty ladies at the next cantonment.

After the best part of the day, the blokes stagger into Beaudricourt and find holes to crawl into for the night.

Robert Palmer

Robert Palmer, still convalescing at Amarah, is now getting better and hopes to be able to go up with the first expedition to relieve the Siege of Kut.

I want to be there very much, to look after them, poor dears: but I must say that Tommy Atkins’s view that a place like Kut is desirable to be in never fails to amaze me, familiar though it now is. I had another instance of it last night. About twelve of my draft were left behind on various duties when the Coy. went up-river in such a hurry. Hearing that my knee was so much better they sent me a deputy to ask me to make every effort to take them with me if I went up-river.

I agreed, of course, but what, as usual, struck me was that the motives I can understand—that one’s duty is with the Company when there’s trouble around, or even that it’s nicer to be with one’s pals at Kut than lonely at Amarah—didn’t appear at all. The two things he kept harping on were (1) it’s so dull to miss a “scrap” and (2) there may be a special clasp given for Kut, and we don’t want to miss it. They evidently regard the Coy. at Kut as lucky dogs having a treat: the “treat” when analysed (which they don’t) consisting of 20lb. kits in December, half-rations, more or less regular bombardment, no proper billets, no shops, no letters, and very hard work!

My leg is very decidedly better now. I can walk half-a-mile without feeling any aches, and soon hope to do a mile. There is an obstinate little puffy patch which won’t disappear just beside the knee-cap: but the M.O. says I may increase my walk each day up to the point where it begins to ache.

We have had no rain here for nearly a month; but there are light clouds about which make the most gorgeous sunsets I ever saw.

I do find it interesting that he seems to regard the blokes’ attitude as having spontaneously manifested, rather than having been deliberately cultivated. Up-river, the siege continues.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Siege of Kut

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.

(If you find the olde-tyme style difficult to get along with, have a look at this reading guide.)

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.)

Isonzo goes ever on and on | 5 Nov 1915

Third Isonzo

The battle has been suspended. Time to pick up the pieces. That first of all means looking at the casualties. For the Italians, 67,000. For the Austro-Hungarians, 40,400. The vast majority of them are wounded, sick, or totally exhausted; only 11,000 Italians and 9,000 Austro-Hungarians are dead.

And now, much as I don’t want to, we have to ask the question “what next?” The situation still appears to the Italian GHQ to be a question of Italian numbers vs enemy morale. I have no idea where this comes from. Perhaps it’s an attempt to justify continuing with their current tactics. “If we just keep punching them it won’t matter that we can’t take any of their trenches, they’ll just lose heart from how we won’t go away!”

In any case, General Cadorna has 24,000 fresh men available, and he’s managed to convince himself that these 24,000 can achieve what they’ve been failing at since May. Fourth Isonzo begins in one week. I’m looking forward to it already.

Serbia

The invaders capture Nis and Kraljevo both. They’re showing no signs of exhaustion, and their supply lines are secure. The French are still trying to swim upstream from the south of the country. The Serbians are fast running out of options.

Gallipoli

Lord Kitchener’s ham-fisted handling of the whole affair continues. In meetings with General Gallieni and Admiral Lacaze (the new Minister of the Marine), he’s being heavily leaned on to send more men to Serbia, and on the same terms as those currently there, to operate as guards for General Sarrail’s extending supply lines. In that light, quality is far less important to the French than quantity, and by the time they’re done Kitchener has swung back towards thinking that Gallipoli might be saved after all.

So now he starts working on a plan to shuffle some garrison troops from Egypt onto Gallipoli as a skeleton force to hold it until next spring, while sending three exhausted divisions over to Serbia. This might just have been a half-decent idea except for the tiny snag that Serbia is now slowly (and through no fault of their own) deflating, like a space hopper being sat on by an elephant. In any case, it’s given him enough hope to send a cable to Birdwood revoking his earlier revocation, and a cable to Admiral Keyes asking for him to travel with Kitchener back to Mudros so they can hammer out the details of forcing the Dardanelles. And you thought Gallipoli was safe from bullshit when Monro sent his report in! Ha ha ha, no.

Louis Barthas

Now comes the moment of truth for Louis Barthas. Will his men get him out of his run-in with the captain?

Around 10 o’clock the commandant and our captain, booted up to their bellies, came to pay us a visit. The captain looked at me with a suspicious eye. “So this is what you’ve done since last evening,” he said to me, “with forty men!” He didn’t press the matter further, and that’s how I got out of this scrape.

The steady rain brought on landslides which uncovered many French cadavers alongside our trench, which had been taken on September 25. They had been tossed out of the trench and insufficiently covered with a bit of dirt. It wasn’t unusual to be grabbed, while passing, by a skeletal hand or a foot sticking out of the trench wall. We were so blasé about it that we paid it no more attention than to a root we might trip upon in our path.

Indeed so. Tomorrow he’ll be relieved and sent back out of the line for a week of nothing much.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Third Invasion of Serbia
Battle of Krivolak

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.)

Crisis in Serbia | 14 Oct 1915

Bulgaria

The Bulgarian government has its allies, and its fig leaf casus belli of two days ago. Today they declare war on Serbia and come piling across the border. Their plan is simple, and brutally effective. They have two armies. Second Army, to the north, is under the supreme command of General von Mackensen. Their job is to drive west towards Nis, the provisional capital, and keystone of the main Serbian railway line. At worst they’ll be able to distract and tie up half the Serbian Army while the Germans and Austro-Hungarians march on Nis from the north by way of Kragujevac. This component is known as the Morava Offensive.

Away to the south, General Georgi Todorov has an independent command of First Army. Again, they will march west into Serbia, making for that railway line, this time through the valley of the River Vardar. Ideally, they’ll be able to stop the Franco-British relief force reaching Skopje for onward travel into the Serbian interior. At worst, by threatening the relief force’s only reasonable supply line, they’ll be able to keep it tied up in the south of the country, where it can’t directly aid the Serbian Army against von Mackensen’s forces. This is the Ovce Pole Offensive.

Meanwhile, away to the north, the combined invasion force has now reached Pozarevac, and shows very little sign that it might be in danger of stopping any time soon. This is a large crisis; and it needs a solution larger than two pencils and a pair of underpants. (Two pencils and a pair of lacy French knickers?)

General Sarrail

General Sarrail has now finally arrived in theatre to take over command of the French force, now 20,000 strong and increasing daily. When news of the Bulgarian invasion makes it back to Paris, he’s soon given orders to “cover the lines of communication between Salonika and Serbia”. He has a quick look at the map and sees that the first important railway station in Serbia on the railway line to Skopje is at Strumica, only a single hard day’s march from the Bulgarian border; a small force sets off to help defend it, with the rest of the blokes to follow as and when they land.

Battle of Loos

The battle is usually reckoned as ending today, although as ever, the odd local action will continue for the next week or so as both sides attempt to straighten out their line and improve their position. General Haig and Sir John French will for the rest of the month exchange an enthusiastic and masturbatory correspondence about the chances of attacking again, but this is the final end.

The autumn offensive is over, and a GQG assessment will soon sum up the problem. Although considerable tactical successes have been made, the line advanced a few miles in numerous areas, etc. the offensive has been an unmitigated strategic failure. The French Army has now spent the better part of a year battering away at the German line, trying to force the enemy to quit Noyon. However, our German artillery friend Herbert Sulzbach is even today enjoying a nice day off in Noyon (of which more in a moment). He made a brief note of the autumn offensive in his diary when it started, but other than that academic note, it hasn’t affected him one tiny bit.

Now we must turn to casualties, and this is where the scale of the failure becomes truly stark. The BEF committed six divisions to attack three German divisions at the Battle of Loos. The Germans (depending on how you add up; again, the figures are disputable) have lost about 25,000 men killed, wounded, and captured. The BEF has lost 48,367 at Loos itself, a further 10,880 (including Captain Bagot-Chester) on Aubers Ridge in the subsidiary attack, and a firm shake more in the demonstration at Ypres, for what’s as near as damned 60,000 casualties. A two-to-one superiority in men has achieved nothing except the possession of one thoroughly wrecked village and sustaining more than double the amount of the enemy’s casualties.

The French story is no better. At Third Artois, they too had a two-to-one superiority in men; once again, the Germans have lost about 25,000 and the French nearly 50,000 men. Second Champagne sees the same story; double the amount of men, and 145,000 French casualties against a disputed German figure that swings wildly between 72,000 and 97,000 depending on who you ask. The only crumb of comfort on this score is that the French have seen a major drop in the number of dead among their casualties, and a compensatory rise in the number of wounded. It’s surely no coincidence that autumn 1915 was the first time that significant numbers of French poilus went into battle wearing the steel Adrian helmet, of which more later, instead of a fabric kepi.

Bernard Adams

Bernard Adams continues musing on life in rest billets.

In the afternoons you will see groups of Tommies doing nothing most religiously, smoking cigarettes, writing letters home. From six to eight the estaminets are open, and everyone flocks to them to get bad beer.

I often wonder if these peasants think much. They must have done at the beginning when their men were hastily called up. But now, after fifteen months of war? It is the children who are interested in the aeroplanes against the sky, or the boom from the battery across the street. But for the mothers and grandparents, these things have settled into their lives. They are all one with the canal and the poplar trees. If a squad starts drilling on their lettuces, they are tremendously alert. As for these other things, they are not interested, only unutterably tired of them.

His mildly patronising thoughts are cut off by being sent back up the line.

Herbert Sulzbach

As quickly as he’d started, Herbert Sulzbach concludes this little flurry of diary activity before going quiet again for another while.

Jolly old Lt Becker continues being the friend of all the war volunteers, and he invited me to Noyon. The French girls there are nice and pro-German, in every way.

Nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more. I hope the German army tests for venereal diseases.

Actions in Progress

Armenian Genocide
Battle of Loos
Third Invasion of Serbia
Morava Offensive
Ovce Pole Offensive

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.)