Puslapio vaizdai

engagements which preceded it, prove in most conclusive fashion that the offensive is not an infallible method of procedure in war; that, as Clausewitz teaches, the defensive is often susceptible of leading to the happiest results; and, lastly, that heavy artillery, fieldfortification, and aviation will henceforth play a part of first importance in war.

As for the Germans, when their headlong rush into France ended in a repulse of which they strove vainly to deny the unparalleled seriousness, they might well be convinced that enveloping attacks are not devoid of the gravest risks. Their effect is irresistible on a single condition that the adver— sary remains inactive in face of the blow which threatens one of his flanks. Schlieffen's attack en tenaille presents the same disadvantages on a more extensive scale. Not only does it require, for complete success, inertia on the part of the enemy; but it is essential also that nothing shall happen to interfere with its execution.


It was in this way that the evolution of present-day doctrines of warfare began in the two armies an evolu

tion brought about by events, and the end of which has certainly not yet been reached. Let us note, first, that, so far as the Germans are concerned, the present status of warfare, which recalls the seventeenth century by virtue of the importance of the part played by fortification and lines of defense, and by the slowness of offensive operations - this status is the very negation of their ambitions and of their earlier theories. Whereas they formerly maintained that they could carry on a war swiftly, by manœuvres of vast extent and by violent offensive, with speedily decisive results, they have found them

selves forced to adopt the siege method with its slow progress, and with the enormous consumption of munitions. and matériel which it entails. Their plan manifestly was to crush France in a week or two, thanks to the strategic surprise resulting from the violation of Belgian territory. Then they would have turned against Russia and would easily have worked their will on that immense body, headless and with feet of clay. Their expectations were absolutely falsified.

Under these conditions, we should not be surprised to find them hesitating between diverse tendencies. Sometimes they hold true to the doctrine of envelopment of the adversary's wings; and again they deal straight frontal blows. Sometimes they attribute to artillery preparation its full present importance; at other times they operate by assaults with great masses of infantry, and do not shrink from the immense slaughter made possible by the slavish discipline of a nation fanaticized by a vision of superhuman grandeur.

Although they have met with little but reverses on the Franco-British front since September, 1914, there is no dissembling the fact that elsewhere, on the Russian front, in Roumania, and very recently in Italy, they have achieved most brilliant successes. But we must not fail to recognize the share that diplomatic and political measures have had in these victories. Manifestly they have often been due to intrigues most skillfully managed with the complicity of traitors or simpletons rather than to purely military calculations and manoeuvres. In this regard the recent Austro-German offensive on the Italian front may stand as a typical example.

On the Western front the Germans have been powerless to resort to the same expedients. After vainly attempting an offensive in the grand style in

Flanders, late in 1914, they have confined themselves to an almost continuous defensive. The assault on Verdun, begun in February, 1916, never had, in truth, so extensive an object as the attack on the line of the Yser. The Germans tried to attain a limited objective, rather of a moral than of a material nature.

Let us make a rapid scrutiny of the battle in Flanders. Our adversaries apparently set out to crush the Allies' left wing, in order to open up the existing passage between their central front and the English Channel. They proposed to isolate England as far as possible, she was their most cordially detested foe, and, very probably, to and, very probably, to make a direct threat at her territory by way of the shore of the Pas de Calais and the North Sea. As the locus of an attack so serious in its proportions and in the consequences which it might bring in its train, the German staff chose the one sector, perhaps, on that vast front, where nature offered insurmountable obstacles to such an attack. Flanders, especially the eastern part, is an almost impracticable country. Though the occasional elevations can almost be called insignificant, the Flemish plain is as difficult for an army as certain mountainous countries. The clayey sub-soil and the abundance of streams make the movement of troops very arduous except on the towingpaths, railroads, canals, and rivers; and all these routes are easy to cut.

Nevertheless, it was through these marshes, these Watergangs, these inundated lands, that the Germans rushed to the assault dense columns, marching in step and singing hymns in praise of their bloody fatherland. They had crushed the defense of Antwerp and taken possession of the city. They had entered Ghent, Bruges, and Ostend. They arrived before the Yser, a narrow stream which flows sluggishly through

a low plain intersected by canals and drainage ditches. There is water everywhere in the air which is incessantly saturated by showers, on the earth, and under the earth. To the north, the town of Nieuport, where the main locks are; to the south, Dixmude and Ypres.

It was this front which the Kaiser gave imperative orders to break through, on October 21, 1914, with Furnes as the objective. Four assaulting columns were formed; two were to attack the front between Nieuport and Dixmude, which was held by the Belgian army. The other two converged upon Dixmude, which was occupied by French Admiral Ronarc'h's naval fusiliers.

The general assault was set for the 24th, at nine in the evening. It took place at the precise hour fixed. The first two columns crossed the Yser and advanced toward the canal which runs alongside that stream. In spite of their vigorous resistance the Belgians were forced back to the line Ramscapelle-Perwyse-Dixmude, where they were joined by considerable French reinforcements. Thanks to them, the Allies took the offensive on the 25th, and drove back into the canal the German battalions, no longer supported by their artillery, which was mired in the swamps. It was a complete disaster. All who were unable to recross the canal were killed or drowned.

At the same time Admiral Ronarc'h's fusiliers covered themselves with glory in the defense of Dixmude. Their resistance lasted from October 20, the day when the bombardment began, to November 10, when the Germans entered the town. From 6000 men they were reduced to 2000. Of the 50,000 of the enemy who attacked them, 10,000 lay thickly strewn about the surrounding plain.

This magnificent episode was but one

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incident of the battle of Flanders. On October 26, after the disaster of the 25th, the Kaiser had arrived at Thielt, and had given orders to make a fresh attempt toward the South, in the direction of Ypres. During the five following days, five army corps more than 150,000 men attacked the 40kilometre front between that city and La Bassée. British and French vied with one another in tenacity. The last general assault took place on November 10. That was the day when the ruins of Dixmude were wrenched from our grasp. On the 11th there was a fresh effort, this time directed against Ypres alone. The Prussian Guard was engaged and suffered very heavy casualties. On the 15th the German offensive was shattered for good and all. The Kaiser had perforce to renounce the 'To Calais!' with which he had inflamed the ardor of his troops. Thereafter the war took on the form of a siege, on the whole Western front, but a siege in which millions of the Allies were engaged against Fort Deutschland.

Another example of offensive fighting in which our enemy was much more fortunate, was the battle of the Vistula in July and August, 1915. We can see therein the application, on a very vast theatre, of the strategic theories of Field-Marshal von Schlieffen.

The battle of the Donawetz, which began on May 2, 1915, had broken communications between the Russian forces echeloned before the Carpathians and those in Poland. That victory, due mainly to an overwhelming superiority in artillery, had brought about a twofold withdrawal of our allies. They had fallen back, on the one hand, toward the affluents of the Dniester, on the other hand, into the district between the Vistula and the Bug.

Meanwhile, the armies facing each other to the west of the Narew and the

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were at the loop of the Vistula, to the west and southwest of Warsaw; the right - Archduke Joseph and Von Mackensen - between the Upper Vistula and the Bug. These last-named armies, which alone had been in action up to this time, had halted on July 2 half-way between the Galician frontier and the Lublin-Cholm front, which the Russians still held.

At that time the line of the opposing forces between the Bobi and the Bug had the shape of a parabolic curve, with its peak on the Bzoura, west of Warsaw. The German armies were deployed on the outer side of this curve, in the most favorable positions for an offensive en tenaille. The Russians had the advantage of 'interior lines,' and of a closely knit formation comparatively well-developed. It does not appear that they were able to make the most of these advantages as they should have done.

The German plan was as follows: to join to the eastward of Warsaw the jaws of the vise formed by the four armies on the two wings, while the centre remained stationary. On July 12, 1915, everything was set in motion on the Narew and to the south, between the Bug and the Vistula. On the 25th the German left forced a passage across the Narew from Rojan to Pultusk, thus most seriously threatening the line of the Vistula, at right angles with the former of those streams. The Russians still placed their reliance on the three fortified places-Novo-Georgievsk, at the junction of the Bug and the Narew, Warsaw, and Ivangorod to the south. Those fortifications soon showed them

selves powerless to resist the heavy artillery. It may be, too, that other causes came into play—the Russians were unfamiliar with the military art.

On July 30 Archduke Joseph entered Lublin, while Mackensen was making rapid progress on the extreme right. At the same time, on the other flank, Von Gallwitz was marching between the Narew and Bug. He even made his way as far as the latter stream. On both flanks the Germans were pushing forward toward the axis of the Russian line of communication - WarsawWarsaw Brest-Litovsk. Mackensen appeared in front of the latter fortress while the Russian forces in the Bzoura had more than twice the distance to go before reaching it.

It was not, however, until August 3 that our allies' centre began a long and difficult retreat, which was destined not to come to an end finally until it reached the Dvina, more than 400 kilometres from the starting-point. Contrary to all anticipations the movement was carried out without excessive losses. If, as seemed likely, the Germans had planned 'to repeat the day of Sedan, on a great scale,' their expectation was defeated. The Russians succeeded in reaching the Niemen and the Upper Bug, near Kovno, Grodno, and Brest-Litovsk. It was from that region that they finally fell back on the defensive positions which they held, with various fluctuations of fortune, until the fall of the Tsar had given over their ill-fated country to a state of anarchy, the deplorable consequences of which are becoming more manifest from day to day.

The French and British armies had not for their adversaries, like the Germans on the Eastern front, forces undermined by treachery, by revolutionary propaganda, and too often lacking the most essential supplies. They were confronted by German troops, sup

plied with a matériel which was at first greatly superior to theirs, but inferior in numbers and, since the battles of the Marne and of Flanders, somewhat impaired in morale.


Thereupon the conflict assumed the shape of siege warfare. There was no alternative but to submit to it, for lack of resources, and especially of munitions. Indeed, we may well believe that this siege warfare on the Franco-British front will be prolonged until the hour, perhaps still far distant, when the demoralization of the German forces shall have gone so far as to result in a complete loss of equilibrium.

In the course of the year 1915 certain undertakings in Champagne and Artois had important results on several occasions, but they were purchased by much bloodshed for lack of sufficient preparation. We were not as yet provided, either with the due proportion of heavy artillery and trench machines, or with a sufficient quantity of munitions. Moreover, the dispositions for conducting the assaults were not always well-judged. Experience led to the establishment of new rules, which differed from those in force on the first day of the war. They were contained in two sheets issued to the armies by Grand Headquarters: 'A Study of the Question of the Attack at the Present Stage of the War: Impressions and Reflections of a Company Commander'; and 'Notes concerning the Attack: Impressions of a Battalion Commander.' The first is founded especially on the enlightenment furnished by the offensive in Artois in May; the second on that by the September battle in Champagne. Here are their most salient ideas.

Of all the phases of infantry attack studied in times of peace, trench-war

fare makes little use of any except the last the assault. The infantry begins its part of the battle by assault, and its action thereafter is simply a succession of 'waves.' But an essential condition is that the units concerned be brought up to the parallèles de départ,1 in close formation and full numbers, fresh, supplied with what is necessary, well informed as to their objective, and well under the control of their officers. Then it is a question of urging them on with a rush to an objective, where they must establish themselves immovably, and which will serve, in its turn, as a starting-point for a second similar onrush.

In order that a body of infantry may fulfill such a mission, it must carry out its forward movement under much more difficult conditions than formerly. In fact, the men must march in Indian file from the last comparatively sheltered zone to the point of assault, through kilometres of narrow and involved passages. The preparation of the locus of the assault is therefore absolutely indispensable. The end sought is to ensure the outflow at a fixed hour of unfatigued men; the support in due season of sufficient and really fresh reinforcements; abundant supplies of provisions, water, and munitions, and the opportune arrival of troops destined to make the most of the success of the assault.

appear to-day most inadequate. The most trivial successes were often very costly.

The programme of this preparation was at that time as follows:- to destroy the barbed-wire entanglements; to isolate or wipe out the trenchdefenders; to prevent enemy artillery from coming into action; to bar the way to the reserves; and to destroy the machine-guns as soon as their location was revealed.

The chief part of this task fell to the 'seventy-fives' and the trench-guns. But the resort of the Germans to deeper and deeper shelters and to concrete blockhouses and cupolas for machineguns, was already leading to the intensive use of heavy artillery-a use which has become well-nigh universal since, assuming proportions which had but lately seemed beyond all likelihood.

In the autumn of 1915, the German defensive dispositions presented the following aspect, generally speaking: a continuous line, along the whole front, consisting of two or three trenches one behind the other, at intervals of one hundred to three hundred metres, connected by numerous communication trenches; in many cases each was protected by barbed-wire entanglements; centres of resistance, formed by villages, farmhouses, woods, or even by vast outworks outlined by a tangle of trenches, with machine-guns under cupolas, and light-artillery pieces; a second line of defense, which was not always continuous.

The possibility of fulfilling these various conditions depends, too, upon a preliminary operation-artillery preparation. Since the outbreak of the war The attack on such a position took this preparation has taken on con- the following course: a first line was stantly increasing importance. In made up, comprising several assault1915, in default of heavy artillery and ing columns; a second line, as strong of munitions as well, we were fain to as the first, accompanied by batteries be content with results which would after the first trench was carried; a reserve, without a special initial assignment, which was to provide reinforcements where necessary and overcome stubborn resistance. In the last line

1 Certain front lines from which, on the occasion of an important offensive, the assaulting troops can start under the protection of the artillery barrage.

VOL. 121 - NO. 3

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