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THE FAILURE OF THE ALLIED OFFENSIVE
Effective and timely military co-operation had been denied to the naval attack on the Dardanelles because our available forces had been mortgaged since January to an allied offensive in the West; and the gradual recognition of the fact that the naval enterprise could not succeed without the diversion of troops to that object committed the Entente to the simultaneous prosecution of two major operations which could only converge in case of success. This was but one of the factors in the spring campaign which exhibited Allied strategy at its worst. Even in the West there was inadequate co-operation, and the efforts made were both disjointed and premature. We had yet to learn that alphabet of annihilation without which the art of breaking German lines could not be mastered; and there still lingered the idea that isolated attacks on distant and narrow sectors of the front could rupture the German line and either roll it up or compel a general retreat. Possibly some such plan might have had some chance of success had the forces of the Entente been concentrated upon a single effort, and optimistic critics anticipated a breach to the north of Verdun which might close or at least threaten the neck of the German bottle between Metz and Limburg and precipitate a withdrawal from their carefully prepared positions in northern France and Belgium. But fear of a German counter-offensive threatening the Channel ports, difficulties of transport across lines of communication, and defective unity in ideas and in command condemned the Allied attacks to separate sectors of the front and spheres of operation; even that general supervision which Foch had exercised over all the forces engaged in the October and November battles seems to have disappeared before the spring, and the French offensive began in the Woevre while the British attacked the other flank protecting Lille (see Map, p. 79).
The point selected was Neuve Chapelle, a village at the foot of the Aubers ridge which guarded La Bassée to the south-west and Lille to the north-east. The German line there formed a marked salient, and an attack on the ridge, if completely successful, would shake the security of Lille, and if but moderately successful would cut off La Bassée and straighten the line as far as Givenchy. The moral indicated by the elaborate defences constructed by the Germans during the winter had been at any rate partially learnt, and the infantry attack on the morning of 10 March was preceded by an artillery preparation which set a new standard of destruction and was designed to obliterate trenches, barbed wire, and machine-gun positions. It was effective over the greater part of the front attacked, and in the centre and on our right the Fourth and Indian Corps quickly overcame the dazed and decimated Germans and pushed beyond Neuve Chapelle to the Bois du Biez and slopes of the Aubers ridge beyond. But our left had no such fortune in the north of the village and at the neighbouring Moulin de Piétre. There, for some inexplicable reason, the defences had hardly been touched by the artillery preparation, and the 23rd Brigade in particular suffered dismally as they tore with their hands at the barbed wire and were shot down by the German machine guns. The defences unbroken by artillery were impenetrable by human bodies, and the defenders were also able to enfilade the troops which had got through farther south and were now attacking the second German line. The staff-work, too, was deplorable, and reserves were late or went astray, though it is doubtful whether anything could have retrieved the initial error which left the German defences intact, impeded the whole advance, and enabled the enemy to recover and bring up reserves before the attack was renewed on the two following days. Possibly our high-explosive had been exhausted. In any case there was nothing to do but to count and consolidate our gains. A village and a strip of territory some three miles by one had been secured, and we estimated the German casualties at 20,000, and they themselves at 12,000; our own were nearly 13,000. The chief effect was produced on the German mind by the shock of our artillery: "this," was the childish complaint of the masters of high-explosive, "is not war, it is murder." But German annoyance was poor compensation for the shrinking of our ambitions, and there was cold comfort in the failure of the German counter-attacks here and at St. Eloi farther north; for the Germans were merely out for defence in the West and we for a successful offensive, which had to be tried again.
The French with their larger forces and greater experience were perhaps somewhat more fortunate, but their local successes in the Woevre and Alsace had no more effect upon the general situation. Early in April a series of attacks, spread over five days and hampered by snowstorms, gave them the plateau of Les Éparges on the northern side of the St. Mihiel wedge and enabled them to advance towards Étain on the road from Verdun to Metz. The importance they attached to these operations is shown by their claim on 10 April that at Les Éparges the Germans in two months had had losses amounting to 30,000. Progress was also made along the southern side of the wedge between St. Mihiel and Pont-à-Mousson; but although ground was gained as a result of strenuous combat extending over several weeks, the wedge stood firm; and the effort to drive it out as a preliminary to the larger operations contemplated in Lorraine was presently abandoned. In Alsace Sondernach was taken and an advance was made during April down the Fecht towards Metzeral and Munster, and the summit of the Hartmannsweilerkopf was recovered. But the progress never really disturbed the Germans, and indeed they would probably have viewed greater success in that divergent sphere with comparative equanimity, knowing that it would waste an unfriendly country and would not threaten their main communications or position.
These operations, combined with the Russian descent of the Carpathians, were announced in "The Times" of 10 April as "the opening of the Allied offensive in the summer campaign of 1915." But the disaster which soon overtook the Russian plans had its effect upon Allied designs in the West, and induced an attempt to menace the Germans in a quarter more likely to disturb their concentration on the East than a campaign against the St. Mihiel wedge or in the mountain frontiers of Alsace. The tender spot on the West was Lille, with its concentration of railways and importance as protecting the right flank of the German front along the Aisne and the left flank of their hold on the Belgian coast. The Germans learnt, divined, or anticipated the design, and sought to parry or break the force of the projected blow by a defensive-offensive against Ypres. The attack was not their real offensive for 1915, but they developed the habit of distracting attention from their main objectives by decking out their subsidiary operations with some new devilry of ingenuity; and just as in 1918 they bombarded Paris with guns having a range of 75 miles when their real objective was the British front, so in 1915, when their main effort was against the Russians, they treated the defenders of Ypres to their first experiments in poison-gas. They had tried the effect on the humbler creation some time before, and had indicated their intentions by accusing their enemies of the practice they had themselves in mind; but it came as a ghastly surprise to the French Territorials and British and Canadian troops along the Yser on 22 April (see Map, p. 288).
The attack had clearly been planned beforehand, because the preparation of the chlorine gas, arrangement of the gas-tubes along the front, and delay for the requisite conditions wind and weather required time; and the absence of any great concentration of troops merely showed that, in view of their commitments in the East, the Germans only sought at Ypres a local and tactical success. It was a mere accident that the gas attack north-east of the city followed upon strenuous fighting for Hill 60 at the south-east re-entrant, and the choice of locality was due to the German knowledge of the facts that the French regulars had been removed from the Yser and our own heavy guns from Ypres in order to take part in offensives farther south. The attack on Hill 60 was begun by us on 17th April, and its object was to acquire a gun position which commanded the German trenches in the Hollebeke district. The struggle lasted for five days and was one of the fiercest local combats in the war; at the end of it we were still on what was left of a mound of earth.
The German offensive on the north-eastern front of Ypres was heralded by a bombardment of the city on the 20th which was designed as a barrage to cut off communications with the front along the roads which all ran through Ypres. On the evening of the 22nd the gas attack developed, and as the clouds of green vapour moved down on the French Territorials, unprovided with any sort of gas-masks and unprepared for the terrifying effects of poison en masse, they broke and fled, exposing the flank of the Canadians on their right from Langemarck to Grafenstafel. Never did troops make a more heroic debut in war under more trying conditions. Less affected by the gas than the French Territorials, the Canadians counter-attacked the German left flank, temporarily recaptured guns, and stayed the advance. The gaping breach on their left was partially filled by reinforcements from the 28th Division on the 23rd, but the Germans were across the canal at Het Sas and Lizerne, and the Canadians between St. Julien and Grafenstafel were fighting on three fronts. A second gas attack followed on the 24th, and presently St. Julien had to be abandoned. Reinforcements were, however, coming up; French regulars brilliantly recaptured Lizerne and Het Sas and secured the west bank of the canal against a German advance; and by the 29th the Canadians, who had saved the situation but had suffered heavily in the effort, were replaced by British troops. There was still desperate fighting to do for many days, and the curve of the Ypres salient had been reduced to a narrow oblong stretching from Ypres to Grafenstafel and the Polygon Wood, and little more than half in breadth what it was in length. A shortening of the line was inevitable, and it was effected with great skill and little loss on 3-4 May. But heavy bombardment continued to take a dreadful toll of life until a final gas attack on the 24th concluded the German effort. Crude respirators had been hastily supplied to our troops and the gas attack was less effective than before, but we were left with a line which ran in a curve a bare three miles from Ypres, and
"an acre sown indeed
But if that soil round Ypres was a tomb of British bodies, it became the grave of German hopes. The shrunken line was enough, and it remained unbroken till the war had ceased. The military gain, if any, lay with the Germans, whose casualties were far less than ours. But the moral advantage lay with us. It was not quite so clear as is commonly thought. The use of poison-gas as a weapon of war was not a German invention; it was suggested by a British chemist to Japan during the Russo-Japanese War. But chemists have nothing to do with international law or morality, and responsibility rests with Governments for their adoption of methods provided by science. Nor is there any clear moral distinction between asphyxiating shells and gas emitted from tubes. All war is torture; and, the morality of torture once admitted, the moral reasons for discrimination between particular degrees of suffering and efficiency cease to be very convincing. The moral advantage to us consisted in the heroism which our troops endured the torture. If they could unprepared withstand the gas attacks at Ypres, there was nothing of which their manhood need be afraid; while the Germans were in the humiliating position of one who, foiled in legitimate combat, had tried to take an unfair advantage and has failed. Poison-gas was an ill-bred attempt at revenge for what they called murder at Neuve Chapelle, just as they found consolation in the sinking of the Lusitania for the ignominous situation of their High Seas Fleet.
The offensive at Ypres slackened to meet the Allied attacks elsewhere, and our troops in the salient at least were not insensible to the fact that even the Germans had insufficient artillery or high-explosive to maintain an intense bombardment all along the line. Both the French and ourselves began on 9 May, and the object was to threaten the German position in front of Lens and Lille. Lens was protected by a bulge in the German front which ran round by Grenay, Aix-Noulette, Notre Dame de Lorette, Ablain, and Carency to the north-west of Arras, and then south-eastwards by La Targette, Écurie, and Roclincourt. Between this line and Lens lay the Vimy Ridge, and in front of its southwestern slopes the Germans had constructed elaborate fortifications above and underground known as the White Work and the Labyrinth. For the attack the French had made careful preparations, and their concentration of eleven hundred guns and almost limitless shells exceeded in intensity any previous experiment. They were rewarded by the comparative ease with which their initial successes were secured. Barbed wire and earthen parapets were blown to pieces before the infantry attacked and in an hour and a half coveted two and a half miles. La Targette and the White Work were captured and an entrance forced into Neuville St. Vaast. Farther north a second attack was required, and it was not until the 12th that Carency, Ablain, and the summit of Notre Dame were mastered. The line had been broken, but the fragments resolved themselves into almost impregnable strongholds; it took another fortnight before the Souchez sugar-refinery, half a mile in front of Ablain, fell, and the Labyrinth held out, while behind these defences rose the Vimy Ridge to defy for another two years all attacks upon Lens (see Maps, pp. 79, 302).
The lesson was that of Neuve Chapelle on a larger scale, and all the more impressive because of the careful preparations made for victory. The breach of narrow front was useless, because lines were no longer made of men, but of fortifications which held instead of rolling up, when broken, and seeking safety in retreat. The simultaneous British attacks near Neuve Chapelle repeated the French experience and our own in March. The first was north of Neuve Chapelle towards Fromelles, and broke down through inadequate artillery preparation; the second, made on 16 May in front of Richebourg l'Avoué towards the Bois du Biez and Rue d'Ouvert, was somewhat more successful, and Sir John French wrote encouragingly about the entire first line of the enemy's trenches having been captured on a front of 3000 yards with ten machine guns; but one brigade alone lost 45 officers and 1179 men, and La Bassée and the Aubers ridge were as forbidding as ever. It was not by victories of that compass that the Germans would be diverted from their Galician drive; and the other major operation in the Dardanelles to which the Entente had been committed gave little better cause for satisfaction.
The French had naturally refused to divert a single division from their troops on the Western front, and their contingent consisted of a detachment of some colonial troops, fusiliers marins, and the Foreign Legion. The substantial force took longer to collect, and had to be provided by Britain. Sir Ian Hamilton was placed in command, and he was given the 29th Division, the Naval Division, a Territorial Division, and the Australian and New Zealand Divisions serving in Egypt, which was now considered safe for the summer. The total amounted to three corps, or 120,000 men. The Turks were directed by the German general Liman von Sanders, and he expected the landing to be attempted near Bulair on the flat and narrow isthmus which joined the Gallipoli Peninsula to the mainland. His expectation is perhaps the best justification for Sir Ian's selection of other spots, but there were few that were practicable, and none that did not involve enormous difficulties, for Liman von Sanders' anticipation of an attack at Bulair did not preclude some effective precautions against a landing elsewhere.
The attempt began on 25 April at six different points. Some way up the outer or north-western shore of the peninsula the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps effected a landing at Gaba Tepe, later called Anzac from the initials of the force. Farther down another was made in front of the village of Krithia, and the remaining four attempts were on beaches stretching round the point of the peninsula from Tekke to Morto Bay. All prospered fairly well except at Sedd-el-Bahr, where a concentration of Turkish fire kept most of the troops from disembarking for thirty-two hours, and near Krithia, where on the 26th a counter-attack drove our forces back into their boats. Zeal carried the Anzacs nearly to the summit of the hills overlooking the Straits, and excess of it led to heavy losses in a Turkish counterattack; nor could the parties of British troops who got within a few hundred yards of Krithia on the 28th maintain their position, and the result of this first attempt was to give us possession of the extremity of the peninsula from a mile above Eski Hissarlik inside the Straits to three miles above Tekke on the Aegean, and of an exposed ridge of cliffs at Anzac. A French force had landed at Kum Kale on the Asiatic mainland, but only to destroy the Turkish batteries there (see Map, p. 107).
The coup de main had obviously failed, and the struggle for Gallipoli resolved itself into a costly attack by inferior forces on land against an almost impregnable position. Never were the difficulties of invasion by sea more strikingly demonstrated, and it was a misfortune that the generals who continued throughout the war to distract the popular mind by depicting a German invasion of England, were not all sent to study the process in the Dardanelles. In front of our narrow footholds the Turks, amounting to 200,000 men, held positions rising to over 700 feet at Achi Baba and Pasha Dagh, and defended by masses of artillery and machine and elaborate systems of trenches upon which the big guns from our ships appeared to have little effect. Two British submarines did gallant work by getting up the Straits under the mine-fields and disturbing the Turkish communications across the Sea of Marmara; but there remained land-routes on either shore, and reserves arrived more quickly on the Turkish than on the British front. From 6-8 May a second attack was made up the Saghir Dere towards Krithia and the Kereves Dere towards Achi Baba, while the Anzacs created as much diversion as possible from Gaba Tepe. But the bombardment from ships and shore-batteries failed to destroy the Turkish trenches, and an advance of a thousand yards, which failed to reach the enemy's main positions, was only achieved at the cost of casualties amounting by the end of May to more than the losses in battle during the whole Boer War. A third attack on 4 June reinforced the lesson that nothing short of an army large enough for a major operation could master the Dardanelles, and meanwhile an elusive German submarine was threatening the naval supports. The Goliath had been sunk by a Turkish torpedo boat on 12 May, and the submarine disposed of the Triumph on the 26th and the Majestic on the following day. Silently the Queen Elizabeth and her more important consorts withdrew to safer waters, and the naval attempt to force the Dardanelles was gradually transformed into a military siege of the peninsula.
The spring offensive of the Allies had gone to pieces everywhere except in the distant spheres of South Africa and Mesopotamia, while the German offensive was carrying all before it in Galicia. The first great disillusionment of the war was at hand, and its promised beginning in May looked uncommonly like a repetition of the previous August. Popular discontent focused itself on the lack of munitions, and especially of high-explosives, which "The Times" military correspondent declared on 14 May to have been a fatal bar to our success. "Some truth there was, but brewed and dashed with lies," as Dryden remarked of Titus Oates' plot. There were other bars as fatal, the lack of guns, men, and generalship; and the ultimate responsibility for the shortage rested with those experts, Allied as well as our own, who thought six Divisions an adequate British force when the war broke out. For the amount of high-explosive required depends upon the number of guns and gunners to use it and the length of line that is held; and experience of South African warfare had led generals to discount the value of heavy guns and high-explosive and to magnify that of mobility and mounted men. It was only when trenches stretching from the Alps to the sea were made impervious by German wire and concrete to assault that the need for unlimited high-explosive dawned on the minds of the higher commands. The French were able, thanks to the protection afforded by the British Navy, to divert labour from naval construction and repair to the production of munitions and even to send naval guns to the trenches. But that very fact added to the paramount claim of the navy in Great Britain for munitions; and a soldier must have been strangely blind to the debt the Empire and the Entente owed to the British Navy before he could urge his own Government to follow the French example.
The British Cabinet had begun to appreciate the need in September 1914, and on 21 April 1915 Mr. Lloyd George gave in the House of Commons the rate of our increased output as from 20 in September to 90 in November, 156 in December, 186 in January, 256 in February, and 388 in March, and added that the production of high-explosives had been placed on a footing which relieved us of all anxiety. Even an increase of 2000 per cent was doubtless inadequate to our needs, and Mr. Asquith's frequently misquoted denial that our operations had been hampered by the deficiency, showed that both Ministers had been misled by their technical advisers. But the French, who fired 300,000 shells on 9 May, were, in spite of that fact and their greater forces, not much more successful in front of Lens than we at Neuve Chapelle; and unlimited explosives did not bring us far on the road to victory until more than three years after Mr. Lloyd George had been appointed Minister of Munitions in May 1915 to revolutionize the situation which had inspired him with such confidence in April. We had more to learn in the art of war than the manufacture of munitions, and the dream that a better supply would have enabled us to beat the Germans in the spring of 1915--without any American troops at all and with a British Army about a tenth of the effective strength that was in the end required--was as idle as the German fancy that their similar superiority should have brought us to our knees in the autumn of 1914.
The delusion served, however, to shake Mr. Asquith's Government to its foundations. Lord Kitchener himself, the popular idol for whom the press had clamoured at the beginning of the war, was deposed from his shrine in ultra-patriotic hearts because he had devoted himself to the raising of armies more than to the making of munitions. But the first offensive in the press, as often happened in the field, fell short of its objective: Lord Kitchener received the Garter amid the plaudits of "Punch," and the curious spectacle was exhibited of the most excitable journal in the realm being publicly burnt on the Stock Exchange by the nation's most excitable body of citizens. Another incident supervened upon the munitions outcry; Lord Fisher resigned from the Admiralty on 15 May. He had had notorious differences with Mr. Churchill over the Dardanelles and other questions; and unable to do without either at the Admiralty, Mr. Asquith dispensed with both, and covered up the deficiency by a Coalition. The principal Unionists joined the Cabinet, and the chief Liberal Jonah was Lord Haldane, who knew a great deal about Germany and was therefore accused of being pro-German. He also knew something of science, and might conceivably have been more alive to the need of munitions than Lord Kitchener. But the nation would not have tolerated his presence at the War Office, and even resented it on the Woolsack. He left his seat to successors who did not fill his place.
Apart from this concession to popular prejudice, the Coalition was an advantage from the national though not from the Premier's personal or party point of view. He would have been wiser in his own interests to have resigned and left the responsibility to men whose supporters believed that with a little more energy and foresight the war could be won in a few months or at most a year. Few had as yet realized that the struggle was one between mighty nations which only the perseverance of peoples, and not the merits of Ministers, could decide; and the inevitable deferment of foolish hopes would sooner or later have produced a reaction in favour of the retiring Premier and his party. But it would have been accompanied by a revival of party warfare which would have undoubtedly weakened national unity and impaired the prospects of success; and all parties to the Coalition--Liberal, Unionist, and Labour--were patriotically inspired when they agreed to share a burden which the wiser among their leaders foresaw would tax their united strength.
There was need enough for unity during the summer of 1915 when the Allied offensive in the West had broken down, little progress was being made in the Dardanelles, and the Germans were driving the Russians like chaff before them. The one gleam of light was the intervention of Italy, which might distract Austrian forces from the Galician front and in any case meant some accession of strength to the Allied cause. Italy had already rendered inestimable services to the Entente by proclaiming that Germany's action was offensive in character, and therefore dispensed Italy from an obligation to support her partners in the Triple Alliance; and her neutrality during August and intervention in May disproved the gibe of the French diplomatist that she would rush to the rescue of the conqueror. The question throughout the winter was whether she would complete her breach of the Triple Alliance by attacking her former Allies. The grievance upon which diplomacy fixed was the reciprocal compensation which Austria and Italy had promised each other in case either were forced to disturb the status quo in the Balkans. Austria pleaded that her invasion of Serbia involved no permanent disturbance, because no permanent annexation was intended; to which Baron Sonnino retorted that Austria had declared, during the Turkish-Italian war, that an Italian bombardment of the Dardanelles or even the use of searchlights against the Turkish coast would constitute a breach of the agreement. In March Baron Burian accepted the principle that compensation was due to Italy, and discussion arose as to its nature and extent. The Italian Government pressed its advantage, and demanded not only the whole of Italia irredenta, that unredeemed territory peopled by Italians in the Trentino and across the Adriatic, which had been left under Hapsburg dominion after the wars of Italian liberation, but practically the whole north-eastern coasts of the Adriatic which were inhabited by a predominantly Slav population.
Austria, under German pressure, travelled far on the path of concession, but no conclusion could be reached that way. For concessions at the expense of the Jugo-Slavs would not be recognized by the Entente if it won the war; and if the Central Empires were successful, they were not likely to regard these promises extracted from them in their hour of need as more binding than other scraps of paper. The negotiations were, indeed, no more than a diplomatic method of forcing the issue and setting a standard for the concessions to be demanded from the Entente as the price of Italy's intervention. We could not afford, it was thought, to offer less than Austria, and we probably underestimated Italy's fears and difficulties. She was really bound to intervene, because if she stood out, she would lose whichever side won. There was a triangular duel for the control of the Adriatic; if the Central Empires were victorious the Adriatic would become a Teutonic lake; if the Entente succeeded, its north-eastern shores would become Jugo-Slav. Italy could only avoid that dilemma by intervention in favour of the winning side, and thus establishing a claim to share in the fruits of victory. Her ambitions were considerable: not only did she insist that control of the eastern shores of the Adriatic was essential to the safety of her own exposed and harbourless coasts, but she regarded herself as the heir of Venice, which "once did hold the gorgeous East in fee"; and she hoped to retain the Greek islands of the Dodecanese which she had seized during the Turkish War, and to acquire a foothold in Asia Minor and on the Illyrian coast along the Straits of Otranto. It would not be easy to harmonize her claims with those of Serbia who was already our ally, nor those of Greece whose adhesion was expected. But Italy's sword seemed worth the risk and the price in the spring of 1915, and the Treaty of London was concluded on 26 April which promised her most of what she desired, and produced some of the hardest tasks for the ultimate Congress of Peace.
The compact was from the first more honoured in the breach than the observance. Italy undertook to wage war by all means at her disposal in union with France, Great Britain, and Russia against the Powers at war with them. But for another year she remained at peace with Germany. War was, indeed, declared upon Austria on 22 May, but the union with the Allies was limited almost exclusively to the prosecution of Italy's territorial ambitions, and the forces employed hardly produced effects to correspond with the facts that the population of Italy was almost equal to that of France and that the bulk of the Austrian armies were involved in the struggle with Russia. Italy had, indeed, peculiar disadvantages; she was more divided in mind about the war than any of the great protagonists, and the splendid qualities of her Bersaglieri and Alpini were not shared by all her troops. Her war strength was put at a million men, and she still had to cope with Turkish forces in Tripoli which only surrendered at the end of the war as a condition of the armistice concluded between Great Britain and Turkey. She was further hampered by lack of coal and inadequate industrial equipment, and her northern frontier had been so drawn in the Alps as to give Austria every advantage of the passes both for offence and defence. To these drawbacks were added a defective strategy dictated by political idiosyncrasies. The capture of Trieste rather than the defeat of the enemy was made the great objective of the campaign. It had the advantage that it might not involve German troops in its defence, and the defect that it was a divergent operation which even if successful would have no material influence on the general course of the war. Soon, too, it became evident that Trieste was not likely to fall until Austria was defeated on other fields or fell into impotence through domestic disruption (see Map, p. 298).
The campaign began with scattered Italian offensives all along the northern frontier, designed to wrest from the Austrians their control of the Alpine heights and passes, and to secure the flank of the main attack across the Isonzo towards Trieste. Slight successes were gained at various points, and the enemy was pressed back almost to the head of Lake Garda. But no serious impression was made on his positions except along the lower reaches of the Isonzo. Here the west bank from Tolmino down to Monfalcone and the sea fell into Italian hands. Gradisca was captured on 10 June and the river was crossed at different points. On the 20th the Italians announced their firm establishment on the slopes of Monte Nero above Tolmino and Caporetto, and on 26 July a similar success on Monte San Michele and Monte dei Sei Busi farther south near Gorizia. On 4 August they were even said to be making progress on the Carso to the south-east. But all these gains were illusory. Gorizia itself remained in Austrian hands for another year, the heights east of it were not mastered until 1917, and neither Tolmino nor the Carso fell to the Italians until the war had been lost and won. There was nothing here to disturb the Austrian concentration of effort against their Russian foes or to call for German assistance to their Austrian allies. Italy did, however, on 20 August declare war upon Turkey, with which she had not yet made a definitive peace since the outbreak of hostilities in 1911; and it was even announced that she would send an expedition to the Eastern Mediterranean. This was taken to mean a descent upon Adalia in Asia Minor, where Italy desired to stake out her claims in the expectation of an early dissolution of the Turkish Empire. But the Turks showed unexpected signs of animation under German stimulants, and the "eastern Mediterranean" expedition was reduced to the nearer and more practical exploit of seizing Avlona which there were not even Turkish troops to defend. Italy was not alone to blame, for the first use the Serbs made of Italy's committal to the Entente cause was to dash across to the Adriatic coast where their rival claims conflicted.
The Gallipoli campaign therefore dragged its weary length along throughout the torrid heat of summer without an Italian diversion, serving mainly as a demonstration of practical though ineffective sympathy with our Russian allies. Another attack on Krithia, launched on 28 June, gave us control of the Saghir Dere and led to considerable Turkish losses in the counter-attacks which Enver, defying Liman's wiser advice, had ordered; and the French under Gouraud made a corresponding advance on the eastern shore of the peninsula. Gouraud received a wound which required the amputation of his leg and his retirement to France, where he later rendered more brilliant and far more effective service. On 12 July yet another effort was made to capture Krithia without substantial success; and the much-tried armies on that forbidding and barren field then sat down to await the reinforcements demanded and the new plan which was maturing for the solution of the problem.
Stagnation also set in along the Western front, and the summer campaign was marked by as little movement as the winter. An attack was made in the Argonne on 20 June more in the interests of the Crown Prince's reputation than in those of strategy; and the advance which attained the depth of a mile was reduced by counter-attacks on 14 July to 400 yards. Another at Hooge in front of Ypres on 30 July was marked by the first employment in battle of one of our new divisions recruited since the war began, and on the German side by the use of liquid fire. It was successful in making an awkward dent in our line, but again a counterattack on 9 August restored the situation. That, however, was one which suited the Germans, for they were simply out to hold their lines in the West, while behind those lines they commandeered French and Belgian labour and worked French and Belgian mines to eke out their own munitions of war and supply the needs of their campaign on the other side of Europe. Towards stopping that our checks to their local attacks in the West and offensive operations of our own did nothing. Important and sweeping French successes continued to be announced from time to time in the press, and occasionally positions were captured and retained, as at Buval near Souchez, Hébuterne, and Quenneviéres. The Germans, too, failed in their attacks on Les Éparges, while the French succeeded in capturing Metzeral in Alsace. But the great offensive in Artois had subsided into stubborn hand-to-hand fighting in the Labyrinth, which was as costly as a first-class battle without producing its results.
So spring passed into summer and the days began to wane, with the Germans reaping the fruits of their foresight and preparations in the East, while we pinned our faith to the silver lining of the clouds and looked day by day for that offensive which was to relieve our hard-pressed Allies but did not come. The truth was hidden from the public eye, and possibly with prudence; for there are times in which without illusions the weight of gloom would be intolerable. The difficulty is that illusion also dims the sense of danger and of duty; our belated provision for war was still retarded by strikes, profiteering, and perversity, and the King's example of total abstinence failed to prevent the nation from spending more on drink in war than in peace. An imperfectly educated people is slow to grasp a novel situation; and it was only by stealth and caution that it could be led along the path of preparation for the part we had to play by national service, national thrift, and national control.
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