The Germans and Austro-Hungarians continue making steady progress. The course of the rivers Sava and Danube form a large pocket around Belgrade, and the Serbian Army might have hoped to confine the enemy to that pocket, at least for a while. The Serbians are now trying to dig another defensive line right at the edge of the pocket. They need a rest. They need time.
Meanwhile, off to the south, the Bulgarians stroll cautiously north-west on an end run around the left flank of the French and the Serbians at Strumica, and they manage to occupy Krivolak without much of a fight. Again, Krivolak is on the railway line. The French are now cut off from the main body of the Serbian Army. There’ll be some hard fighting to do if they’re to achieve anything.
And things are far from smooth. Their British allies are still disinclined to leave Salonika. (They have to guard it in case someone tries to steal the port.) They’ve brought cavalry with them, but the rough ground and the general lack of food is going to seriously restrict their reconaissance capabilities. Most of the men are having to move forward by foot, with only so much railway capacity available; but the available roads are extremely poor and in terrible condition. This is playing particular havoc with artillery arrangements. Many units have had their soixante-quinze guns replaced by 65mm mountain guns with only half the range of the soixante-quinze. (Though, in any given situation, the best gun is the one you have with you, not the one that’s stuck in a ditch ten miles away.)
Meanwhile, on the Western Front, the priest Galaup continues his quest for a German saw-toothed bayonet; Louis Barthas watches with a distinctly long-suffering air. With the new binoculars, Galaup has spied a dead German hanging on the barbed wire not too far away, and he has the special bayonet on his rifle.
You’d have to be crazy to want to go out, even at night, to look for a weapon like this, risking nine chances out of ten to be killed for a bayonet, even a sawtoothed one. Probably no man in the regiment would have attempted it. Well, this priest tried it. He crept out, succeeded in getting his fascinating bayonet, and came back without arousing the attention of the Germans. But while he was coming back he lost his way and stumbled upon a listening post of a neighboring company, where two sentinels fired on him but missed. At the very moment that he got away from this post, a 105mm shell fell right onto it, killing the two sentinels.
The abbé Galaup offered profound thanks to Providence, which favored him in this rash enterprise and kept him safe from such serious dangers.
Meanwhile, Sublieutenant Malvezy cast envious eyes upon my new binoculars, and brazenly proposed that I exchange them for his own, which weren’t worth forty sous. I refused. He insisted; I refused even more emphatically. He didn’t waste much time exacting petty vengeance on me.
It is a few days away, though.
Lieutenant Bernard Adams of the 1st Royal Welch Fusiliers knows what will happen 100 years from today. He is well aware that there will be history books that write today off as a long period of nothing important. He also knows that one day his story will be retold on the internet, and therefore he must pander to the internet’s special interests, which he does when describing a trench headquarters down an old cellar.
I soon learned used to get used to smoke. On one occasion the smoke from our brazier became so thick that Gray, the cook, threatened to resign. All the smoke gathers at the top of a dugout, and seems impossibly suffocating to anyone first entering. Yet it is often practically clear two or three feet from the ground, so that when lying or sitting one does not notice the smoke at all, but a newcomer gets his eyes so stung that it seems impossible how anyone can live there at all! (Gray, by the way, was not allowed to resign.)
That old cellar was really a delightful headquarters. The first time we were in it, we found a cat there. On the second occasion, the same cat appeared with three lusty kittens! These used to keep the place clear of rats, and get sat on every half-hour or so.
If in doubt, throw in a cat. He might have been born yesterday! Anyway, if this carries on, he’s in severe danger of starting to enjoy himself; although nothing of importance has happened.
Sir Ian Hamilton
And, speaking of “nothing of importance”, Sir Ian Hamilton leaves our story for good today.
The adieu was a melancholy affair. There was no make-belief, that’s a sure thing. Whatever the British Officer may be his forte has never lain in his acting. So, by 2.30, I made my last salute to the last of the old lot and boarded the Triad. A baddish wrench parting from de Robeck and Keyes with whom I have been close friends for so long. Keyes himself is following me in a day or two, to implore the Cabinet to let us at least strike one more blow before we haul down our flag, so there will be two of us at the task.
I wrung their hands. The Bo’sun’s whistle sounded. The curtain was falling so I wrung their hands once again and said good-bye. A bitter moment and hard to carry through.
Boarded the and went below to put my cabin straight. The anchor came up, the screws went round. I wondered whether I could stand the strain of seeing Imbros, Kephalos, the camp, fade into the region of dreams,—I was hesitating when a message came from the Captain to say the Admiral begged me to run up on to the quarter deck. So I ran, and found the Chatham steering a corkscrew course—threading in and out amongst the warships at anchor. Each as we passed manned ship and sent us on our way with the cheers of brave men ringing in our ears.
I shall miss his talismanic optimism and his determined double-think. I shall not miss having to write about the latest disaster under his command. Swings and roundabouts. The war continues.
Actions in Progress
Third Invasion of Serbia
Ovce Pole Offensive
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