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designed to wear down the resistance of the French, and to capture their positions piecemeal. From time to time a limited portion of the front was selected for attack, and subjected to violent bombardment, prolonged for a day or more. When the guns were thought to have done their work, a tentative attack was made by a small body of troops, after the manner of a reconnaissance in force, to ascertain the results of the bombardment. If the artillery preparation proved to be satisfactory, the real attack was launched forthwith; if not, the reconnoitring force withdrew, and the bombardment was resumed. Next day we read in the newspaper that an attack had been easily repulsed.* The exact limits of the advance appear to have been defined before the delivery of the real attack; and, as soon as they were reached, the troops proceeded to dig themselves in, and to prepare for the inevitable counter-attack, before which they were often forced to recede. A portion of the front having been pushed forward in this way, the same method was applied to an adjoining section; and thus, by slow degrees, the whole line was advanced. The total gain, as measured on the map, does not amount to much, but the actual results have to be judged by the importance of the positions captured.
The Germans first set themselves to capture the twin heights known as Hill 304 and the Mort Homme, west and east, respectively, of the stream which flows from Esnes to join the Forges brook at Béthincourt. A redoubt in the Avocourt wood, which flanks the western slopes of Hill 304, has also been the objective of numerous unsuccessful attacks. The exact situation at the time of writing (June 25) is not known; but the French appear to hold the summit of Hill 304, while the Germans have gained possession of the crest of the Mort Homme, and of the village of Cumières.
* Similar accounts may have been noticed in the Berlin reports, indicating that (as might be expected) the French employed similar tactics when they planned an attack. The German tactics have been described in articles which appeared in the Morning Post,' by M. Henri Bidou, whose account seems to be borne out by the official statements when read between the lines. According to M. Bidou, this system has been used by the Germans since the commencement of the battle on Feb. 21. This would help to account for the regularity of the advance, for which I sought an explanation when discussing the subject in the April number.
While the enemy were devoting themselves chiefly to the capture of these dominating positions on the left bank of the Meuse, our Allies were engaged in improving their general position on the eastern heights by means of local attacks at various points between the Côte de Poivre and Vaux. But on several occasions the Germans turned their attention to the right bank, in order, apparently, to check the French progress when it threatened the security of their main positions. Thus on March 31, April 17, and May 7 there were engagements of some importance in the region east and west of Douaumont Fort. Ultimately the French took the offensive in force on May 22, carried the German trenches on a front of two kilometres, and recaptured part of the fort. Heavy fighting ensued, in the course of which the enemy, having brought up two divisions of the 1st Bavarian Army Corps from the British front, reoccupied the fort, and made progress at other points. About this time the enemy had possessed themselves of the Mort Homme position; and, having already engaged a considerable force in the battle about Douaumont, they appear to have decided to suspend their operations on the left bank, and to follow up their success on the eastern heights. They occupied Damloup on June 2, and, having captured Fort Vaux five days later, began to press forward towards Fleury and the Souville height, but made little progress in face of the French counter-attacks, till, on June 23 and 24, a violent offensive on a front of about three miles, in which over six divisions were employed, reached the village of Fleury, where they gained a footing in the outskirts. They are here within three and a half miles of Verdun.
Space only admits of a brief allusion to events on the British front, where there has been incessant activity of a minor nature in the form of mining, raids, aerial combats, and artillery actions of varying intensity. On three occasions the Germans took the offensive on a larger scale. An attack on May 21 penetrated our first line trenches on the Vimy heights on a front of 1500 yards. On June 2 a more formidable assault captured 3000 yards of the position south-east of Zillebeke, to a depth, in some places, of 700 yards; but the ground was recovered by the Canadians on June 13. In the third attack the
enemy seized a trench in the ruins of Hooge. These fitful efforts, which at the time gave rise to anticipations of a new battle of Ypres, were probably no more than demonstrations, intended to keep the British armies on the defensive. Minor attacks were also made at various periods in Champagne and at other points on the French front, with the object, apparently, of preventing the local reserves from being utilised to reinforce the army at Verdun.
Little need be said about the Austrian offensive on the Trentino frontier, which, although it seemed at first to threaten the main lines of communication, through Verona and Padua, of the Italian army on the Isonzo, appears, at the time of writing, to have reached its limit.* An increase of activity on the part of the Austrians became noticeable towards the end of March; and from that time onward numerous minor engagements took place at various points between the Chiese and the Isonzo, in which the enemy were the aggressors, These were referred to at the time in one of the Italian communiqués as 'spectacular actions ' intended to seek easy successes.' It is now plain that they were of more serious import, having been designed to divert attention from the preparations which were in progress for an advance in the area between the Adige and the Brenta. In this region, according to a semi-official statement issued at Rome on May 24, eighteen divisions and a large number of batteries were secretly assembled under the command of the Archduke Eugene. On May 15 the storm burst, after a bombardment of unprecedented intensity and violence. The nature of the ground had obliged the Italians to establish their advanced positions in localities within the effective range of the enemy's heavy artillery, which soon made them untenable ; and, being heavily outnumbered, our Allies were obliged ultimately to fall back beyond Arsiero and Astiago, which were occupied by the Austrians on May 31, Our Allies' defence, meanwhile, had been more successful on the flanks, their main
* The strategical and tactical aspects of the Austro-Italian frontier were discussed in the 'Q. R.' for July 1915 (No. 445). For a map see that no., p. 278.
positions in the Val Lagarina (Adige) and Val Sugana (Brenta) being maintained; and the gradual reinforcement of their army in the centre soon placed it on terms of equality with the enemy, who have made little further progress.
It is no discredit to the Italians that they were found unprepared to meet the onset of the formidable force which had been assembled in secrecy behind the screen of the mountains. The defence of a mountain frontier is necessarily organised on the cordon system, which is proverbially weak. The security of each section depends legs on the troops actually present than on the rapid transport of reserves to the scene of action. Therein lies the difficulty ; for in mountainous country, with few and indifferent roads, movement is necessarily slow, especially in the case of heavy artillery, for which it is difficult to find suitable positions that are at all accessible. When, as in the present instance, the attack is made on a wide front, in great force, the problem of bringing up adequate reinforcements assumes alarming proportions.
If the Italians were unprepared for the Archduke's attack from the Trentino, the Austrians were quite as much surprised by the Russian move in Volhynia and Galicia, where General Brusiloff's group of armies took the offensive, on June 4, along the entire front between the Pripet and the Roumanian frontier. The German General Staff, when they acquiesced in the enterprise against Italy, were no doubt satisfied that the Russians, from lack of munitions, would not be ready to undertake serious operations for some time. The weakening of the Austrian army on the Eastern front, by the transfer of troops to the Trentino, gave our Russian Allies an opportunity which they were not slow to seize. Hindenburg's armies north of the Pripet, having been similarly depleted to provide troops for Verdum, were not in a position to render effective aid.
The Eastern front is divided into two separate areas of operations by the Pinsk Marshes, which extend for many miles on either side of the Pripet, their southern limit being roughly defined by the Cholm-KovelRovno railway. Within this region the movement of large forces, except in an unusually dry summer, is
impracticable. The railway which follows the course of the Goryn northwards from Rovno, being held by the Russians, gives them an advantage over the enemy, whose lateral communications lie west of the marshes, through Brest Litovsk. Our Allies could, therefore, operate either north of the Pripet against the Germans, or south of that river against the Austrians, their inner flank being in either case protected to some extent by the marshes, the presence of which, as an obstacle to the transport of troops and material from one side to the other, would inconvenience them less than it would the enemy.
An offensive south of the Pripet offered several obvious advantages. The Austrians are in every way the weaker enemy. The operations would more directly threaten the enemy's territory, Brusiloff's armies being within, or near, the Galician frontier, while those in the north are far from East Prussia. A victory in the south would influence the attitude of the Balkan States more than one gained in the remoter north, and the invasion of hostile territory more than the mere recovery of a lost province. These are probably among the considerations which led our Allies to attack south of the Pinsk Marshes.
The chief scenes of action have lain on the flanks of the advance. By a brilliant onset General Kaledine's troops overthrew the Austrians in the region west of Rovno, driving them in confusion towards Lutsk, which was occupied on June 6. The capture of the Rojitche bridgehead, and of Dubno, followed a day or two later; and the advance was continued to the Stochod on a front of some forty miles, stretching southwards beyond Lokatchi. In the centre, General Sakharoff approached the frontier near Brody; and Bothmer's army was driven back behind the Strypa. On the left the Russians, having captured Zalesczyki on June 11, crossed the Dniester, and, moving towards the Pruth, threatened to cut off the garrison of Czernowitz, with the result that this strongly fortified point d'appui of the AustroGerman flank fell to General Letchitsky's frontal attack on June 17. Pflanzer-Baltin's defeated army fell back hurriedly towards the Carpathians and the Roumanian frontier south-west of Czernowitz. In the course of Vol. 226.–No. 448.