Third Invasion of Serbia
The Austro-German advance into northern Serbia proceeds well. It’s now time to kick the Serbian Army in the nuts while they don’t have any mates around. Today the Bulgarian army carefully stages an exchange of fire with some Serbian border guards. This of course is immediately presented as vile provocation and shameless flouting of Bulgaria’s neutrality (good thing they’ve recently become an armed neutral, eh?). Bulgaria officially declares war and her two armies begin rumbling into action. More soon.
Man, I was really hoping this would be something not totally ridiculous. I’ve got to go talk about the French farce that finishes Third Artois in a minute. And now it turns out that the lead-in involves catching up with Lieutenant-Commander Spicer-Simson and his ridiculous boat-hauling safari.
It probably shouldn’t be surprising that, now that Mimi and Toutou are sailing down the River Lualaba, they’ve found a problem with the river. They’re at the back end of the dry season. Which is a good thing, from one perspective, since they need the ground to be passable for the last railway journey and going anywhere other than inside during the rainy season usually doesn’t end well. On the other hand, it means that the river is at dead low water. The Belgians have sent a steamer, the Constantin de Burlay, to help, but the ship has got stuck well short of the ridiculous expedition’s location.
So now it’s a question of paddling. Fortunately, the implements are equally effective at propelling the boats through water, pushing the boats off the mud, or bopping the native crocodiles firmly on the nose. On one day, the boats run aground on no fewer than fourteen seperate occasions; Spicer-Simson wonders idly if perhaps this might be a record.
So now General Foch finally gets to launch his second push against the top of Vimy Ridge. Hands up anyone who remembers what it is he’s actually trying to achieve by this? Sometimes I wonder if he could remember. Two hours of blind artillery fire is the best the guns can manage. The log in Foch’s headquarters records “progress almost nil, preparation by artillery insufficient, attack conducted by exhausted troops, enemy forewarned and strongly reinforced with artillery”. General d’Urbal, in operational command, cuts his losses as soon as decorum allows.
Foch’s explanation for this failure is simple; preparing for Day 1 his artillery fired 73,000 shells, and preparing for today they fired 21,600. Which is a smaller number. He’ll continue exchanging optimistic letters with General Joffre for a week or so, but this is the end of the Third Battle of Artois, and the end of the French autumn offensive. They will still support Sir John French’s upcoming waste of time and lives with an artillery demonstration at Hill 70, but nobody’s leaving their trenches.
Despite starting the day at the rear, of course Louis Barthas has to be in there at the death of this offensive. It begins, quite bizarrely, with General Niessel apparently attempting to curry favour with the men by handing out packets of pencils. By midday they’re on their way back up the line; and as they go past Neuville, the Germans start dropping shells on the French communication trenches. From the commandant on down, the battalion decides discretion is the better part of valour and scarpers in all directions.
When calm returned, [Quinze-Grammes and Cros-Mayrevieille] sent out their servants (or I should say their orderlies) to gather us up. This wasn’t easy, since we were widely scattered. The attack took place, but two sections of the 281st Regiment who went over the top from the trenches were immediately cut down by machine guns.
In spite of repeated orders from Niessel, no one else wanted to go out.
At seven in the evening, our company went up to reinforce the 281st Regiment. We occupied a communication trench which was badly damaged by shell-fire. We had to spend the night in the open, despite frequent volleys of shells which the Germans haphazardly sent over onto our lines.
The troops, General Foch, are not so much “exhausted” as “seriously fucked off”.
Actions in Progress
Battle of Loos
Third Invasion of Serbia
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