Ypres salient | 21 Jan 1915

The wrangling between General Joffre and Sir John French over strategy continues, and not everyone in Germany is 100% behind recent war developments.

Berliner Tageblatt

The Tageblatt is an important left-leaning voice in Germany. Like the other newspapers, it’s fallen into line behind the war effort. However, its editor is deeply skeptical about the long-term usefulness of air raids against cities, even as his paper today praises the courage of the airmen. At some point soon, he’ll write a leader calling the bombings “senseless”, and worrying about the propaganda value for the enemy of dead civilians.

Incidentally, from what I can make out with Google Translate, the paper also seems today to be suggesting that “English censorship” is preventing the English press from reporting on the extent of the damage. As we’ve seen from the Telegraph, they are in fact taking the exact opposite line. Perhaps this is the classic fallacy of assuming that your opponent sees the situation the same way that you would if you were in their place?

(If any German speakers want to go and see exactly what the Tageblatt is saying, and/or check the exact date on that leader, their full archives are available online. Curse Britain’s ridiculous parochialism when it comes to teaching foreign languages!)

Our Advertising Feature

Basically, they're selling Buckfast as a patent medicine.
Basically, they’re selling Buckfast as a patent medicine.

Ypres salient

General Joffre and Sir John French have finally arrived at some sort of arrangement. It does still favour the Gallic position (once again we run into problems trying to talk about French’s discussions with the French), but there are a few concessions to British sensibilities. The BEF is to take over the Ypres salient as soon as possible; the French troops being relieved will then form a reserve for General Joffre’s next offensive.

Britain still has one division of the pre-war Regular Army still to send to war. It’s the 29th, a scratch division consisting of various units who had been stationed in particularly remote parts of the Empire. Fresh Territorial units are arriving in France in great numbers. These forces will relieve the Ypres salient, and to the south the French will shuffle up a bit in the region of La Bassee.

The BEF will then be back in its position on the French extreme left. In return, they’ll make a major attack to support the French when they renew the attack in Artois. Joffre would like it to be as far south as possible, somewhere on the line of the River Lys, in the general direction of Lille. (Hands up anyone who’s surprised that there’s an important railway junction at Lille?) Presumably the 29th Division, as fresh Regular troops, will have a major part to play there.

First Champagne, part 2

“If at first you don’t succeed…” is the spirit of the upcoming French offensive. They’re planning to renew the drive from Perthes towards Mezieres in about three weeks’ time. Again, it will be supported by feints and pinning attacks elsewhere, at Verdun, St Mihiel, and on Hartmannswillerkopf. More artillery will be provided to General de Langle, who is planning an assault in stages. It won’t be intending to punch a large hole, compared to earlier expectations; some three and a half miles wide and just over a mile deep.

Once that’s been done, he intends to launch attacks from the tip of his new salient at 90-degree angles, taking the Germans on either side in the rear. Then, having dislodged them in this way, reserves can be brought up and thrown in before the Germans can dig in again. It’s a plan with a measure of originality to it. On the other hand, what they have in originality, they lack in artillery ammunition. We’ll see how it goes.

Vimy Ridge

The plan for First Artois had envisaged the French pushing their German opponents off the critical high ground of the Lorette and Vimy Ridge. Behind the hills is the Douai Plain, a coal-mining area. If the French Army can reverse the situation and win the high ground, they’d be in an excellent position to force the enemy a long way back. The next defensible terrain is many miles to the rear, and French industry would be greatly helped by recapturing the many coal mines currently being occupied by the enemy.

Of course, they’ve tried that once already, and they’re still sitting at the foot of the Lorette, outside Carency. Their miners are working as hard as possible to get underneath the Germans and literally blow them out of the village. It makes no sense to attack there before it can be supported with an underground strike…

Aubers Ridge

Some miles to the north of Vimy, opposite the BEF, is another area of high ground looming up in front of Festubert. This is the Aubers Ridge, with the small village of Neuve Chapelle nestled at the bottom, and it’s directly between the British and Lille. Over the next few days, British and French thoughts will both run the same way. If the BEF can drive up onto Aubers Ridge at the same time as the French can take Vimy Ridge and the Lorette

Actions in Progress

Siege of Przemysl

Further Reading

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. In today’s paper: They’re unsurprisingly in high dudgeon over that air raid that the German press thinks is being suppressed. Still, I wonder whether it will still be murder against civilians once British raiders appear over German skies.

Elsewhere, Page 6 roundly mocks a German suggestion that the Admiralty is going to disguise warships as merchants as an anti-submarine measure. Perish the thought! Q-ships? Never heard of them. You may recall that Russia is trying to ban vodka: there’s a write-up on Page 4. Page 9 attempts to explain why progress is slow (but can’t avoid talking about “German Blunders”), and Page 11 has a spurious report of mutiny at Erzurum.

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

Leave a Reply