THE RUSSIAN FRONT - DEFEAT OF RUSSIA
THE winter, spring, and summer which had passed with so little change on the other fronts, owed their lack of decisive movement not to the comforting delusion of the French official communiqué that Germany's offensive had been broken and her defensive could be broken whenever it was thought desirable, but to the fact that she had reversed her strategy, and reached the conclusion that Russia could be defeated more easily than France. Russia, indeed, had almost limitless man-power, but the war had already shown the importance of munitions, and Germany quickly learnt the lesson. Russia was ill-equipped with munitions and the industrial facilities for their manufacture; nor could the want be supplied by her allies, since, apart from their own needs, their communications with Russia were circuitous, uncertain, and inadequate. The Murmansk railway was not complete, the route to Archangel was icebound from November to May, and the single rail across Siberia was further hampered by indolence and corruption on the part of the railway workers and their staff. Russia was the most isolated of the Allies, and the attempt to open a shorter connexion by a naval attack on the Dardanelles had been frustrated. Without assistance from the West, Russia would be beaten, and without it she could not recover. There were good reasons for the policy which led Germany, during the winter and behind an unpenetrated veil of secrecy, to concentrate her energies upon the production of guns and munitions for the Eastern front.
The strategical position of Russia was no more sound than the state of her armaments. She occupied a vast salient, the southern flank of which was the Carpathians. They formed a substantial protection, since the passes afforded poor facilities for transporting the mass of artillery on which Germany relied for success in her attack. But the safety of the flank depended upon the integrity of the front, and a successful German drive in Galicia would expose the entire position of the Russian armies in Poland. The two reasons subsequently given for the dismissal of the Grand Duke Nicholas from the supreme command were, firstly, that he had in the autumn advanced too precipitately into Silesia, and secondly, that in the spring he exhausted his strength in trying to pierce the Carpathians and thus left his front on the Dunajec too weak to resist Mackensen's furious onslaught. But it is doubtful whether any strategic correctitude could have saved the Russian armies from the effects of German superior armaments. The Germans were playing for high stakes, nothing less than the destruction of Russia's offensive capacity; but they were justified in their game by the cards they held in their hand.
The attack began on 28 April with a forward move on Dmitrieff's left at Gorlice. The pressure compelled him to weaken his centre along the Biala in front of Ciezkowice. Then on 1 May Mackensen's vast volume of fire burst forth; over 700,000 shells are said to have fallen upon the Russian position, and their defences were blown out of existence. Under cover of this fire, to which the Russians could make little reply, the Biala was crossed, Ciezkowice and Gorlice were captured, and Dmitrieff's line was broken; on the 2nd his army was in full retreat to the Wisloka, twenty miles back in his rear, where no trenches had been dug, and there was little hope of checking the Germans. Nevertheless a heroic stand was here made for five days by Caucasian and other reinforcements. On the 7th Mackensen forced a crossing at Jaslo, and next day he pursued his advantage by seizing two bridgeheads across the Wistok farther on, one at Fryslak to the north and the other at Rymanow to the south. Brussilov's army along the Carpathian foothills at Dukla had to beat a precipitate retreat and lost heavily; it was nearly severed from Dmitrieff's centre. But a counterattack from Sanok in the south and a stand by the Russians at Dembica towards the north procured a slight respite, and by the 14th the bulk of the Russian armies were across the San with their right at Jaroslav, their left at Kosziowa, their centre at Przemysl, and their forces in Poland conforming to the retirement.
The latter part of the retreat had been of a more orderly character and began to follow a plan, but the plan involved a great deal more than the surrender of Galicia between the San and the Dunajec. Mackensen's force was overpowering, and the German design was not to lengthen the line by compelling a Russian retreat to the San; it only fell short of complete success because the Russian armies had not so far been isolated and destroyed, but there was still the likelihood of their being driven back until the whole of Galicia was recovered and Poland lost. For the rest of the month Mackensen's huge machine of destruction was moving forward to the second stage of its journey on the San. Its progress was delayed by Russian counter-attacks on the Austrians under Von Woyrsch in Poland and on Mackensen's other wing which was advancing from the Carpathians on to the Dniester. But by the 18th Kosziowa had fallen and the Germans had seized the line of the San from Sieniawa to Jaroslav. Przemysl had not been further fortified by the Russians since its capture; it would clearly meet the same fate as Antwerp from the German howitzers unless the Russian armies in the field could keep the German artillery at a distance. They could only delay matters until the stores and material were removed from the fortress. It was now a salient threatened with encirclement on the north and south. Russian counter-attacks at Sieniawa and Mosciska relieved the pressure for some days, but before the end of May Mackensen's howitzers were at work, and Przemysl was evacuated by the Russians on 1 June.
On the same day Stryj fell to Von Linsingen and on 7 June he forced the Dniester at Zurawno. But he had advanced too far ahead of his communications and reserves, and on the 8th Brussilov drove him back over the Dniester with severe losses. The Dniester was indeed the scene of stubborn fighting for many days, and on the 18th the Russian Government announced that the enemy had lost between 120,000 and 150,000 men in their efforts to cross it on a front of forty miles. But the Russian stand on the Dniester only left it to Mackensen's centre and left to turn the Grodek position and ensure the fall of Lemberg. By 20 June the Russian communications north of the Galician capital were severed by a battle at Rawa Ruska, and on the 22nd, after nine months' Russian occupation, it once more fell into Austrian hands. The Russians had not done much to commend their cause to the inhabitants during their stay; the opportunity was seized for proselytizing in the interests of the Orthodox Church, and Sczeptycki the Archbishop of Lemberg, a member of the Uniate Church which had made terms with Roman Catholicism, was treated with a harshness compared with which the indignities inflicted by the Germans upon Cardinal Mercier of Malines were trivial; he was interned in a Russian monastery and deprived of all religious rites save those which were to him heretical.
The fall of Lemberg was followed by the loss of the Dniester line as far as Halicz, and all beyond it including the Bukovina, and the Russians fell back behind the Gnilia Lipa, where Ivanov prolonged a stubborn resistance. But the aims of the Germans in Galicia had been achieved with the capture of Lemberg except in so far as the remnants of the Russian armies remained intact. The city formed a formidable bastion for defence because of its ample lines of communication with the south and west, and inadequate lines to the north and east. A farther German advance across the Russian frontier in that direction would be an eccentric movement, and the front of attack was accordingly swung round from east to north, where the Russian position in Poland had been outflanked. The reconquest of Galicia produced fruits enough in the restoration of Austrian and Hungarian confidence and the repression of pro-Entente tendencies in the Balkans. But it was only a part of the most ambitious and successful campaign the Germans fought in the war. May and June were but the prelude to greater successes in July, August, and September.
The heaviest blows were to be struck in the Polish centre, but diversions had already been made on the extreme German left in the north. Libau had fallen on 9 May, and during that and the following month the German armies under Von Buelow overran the duchy of Courland as far as Windau on the coast and Shavli half-way to Riga. This movement was regarded with comparative indifference as being a divergent operation calculated at worst to do no more than distract Russian forces from more critical points. But it was in keeping with a German design considered grandiose until it nearly succeeded. The bulk of Russia's forces were concentrated in the Polish triangle of which the apex was at Warsaw, the base ran from Kovno by Brest-Litovsk to the Galician frontier, the north-western side in front of the railway from Kovno to Warsaw, and the southern in front of that from Warsaw to Lublin, Cholm, Kovel, Rovno, and Kiev. The German plan was not merely to squeeze the Russians out of the triangle by pressure on the sides and intercept as much of their forces as possible, but also to outflank the whole position by striking behind the base from the north at Vilna; and a naval attack on Riga was part of the projected operations.
The Galician drive had furnished the territorial means for the attack on the southern side of the Polish triangle; and although Ivanov was farther pushed back from the Gnilia Lipa to the Strypa and thence almost to the Sereth, this Eastern advance became irrelevant to the main strategic design, and German reinforcements were collecting mostly under Gallwitz, Scholtz, and Von Eichhorn along the Narew and the Niemen for an onslaught on the north-western side of the triangle. The Austrian Prince Leopold's forces which fronted Warsaw on the Bzura at the apex were comparatively weak, and were only intended to gather the fruits of the real fighting done by the Germans on the flanks. The Germans rode roughshod enough over Austrian susceptibilities when efficiency required it; but they atoned for the brusqueness by conceding a large share in the spectacular aspects of triumph; and just as the Austrians entered Lemberg first and not its real conqueror Mackensen, so Prince Leopold was cast for the part of the victor of Warsaw. But first of all the Galician armies had to face north to take their allotted share in the scheme by driving the Russians back across the railway between Lublin and Kovel.
Within a few days of the fall of Lemberg they had crossed the Russian frontier, turning the Vistula and advancing in two columns, one under the Archduke Joseph towards Krasnik on the road to Lublin, and the other farther east under Mackensen towards Krasnostav on the way to Cholm. The Russian army in Poland west of the Vistula had gradually to conform to the retreating line and fall back in a north-easterly direction towards the river. By 2 July the Archduke was in Krasnik, but here he was checked by the Russian position defending the railway line; on the 5th the Russians, who had been reinforced, counter-attacked, and in a battle lasting till the 9th drove the Austrians back. Similarly Mackensen found himself held up between Zamosc and Krasnostav, and for a week the struggle for the Lublin-Cholm railway resolved itself into an artillery duel. The attack was resumed on the 16th simultaneously with Von Gallwitz's movement against the other side of the triangle. The Archduke failed after ten assaults to carry the Russian position in front of him at Wilkolaz, but Mackensen was more successful at Krasnostav. He enveloped the Russian right, drove it beyond Krasnostav, and was soon within striking distance of the railway.
Meanwhile, to the north Gallwitz had forced the Russians from Prasnysz towards the Narew on the 14th, and crossed it himself on the 23rd between Pultusk and Rozhan as well as between Ostrolenka and Lomza; and by the 25th he was on the banks of the Bug, within twenty miles of the railway connecting Warsaw with Petrograd. The great line of fortresses along the Narew were now exposed to bombardment by German howitzers; the Russians in front of Warsaw withdrew from their winter defences along the Rawka and Bzura to the inner lines of Blonie; and south of Warsaw they retired from Opatow, then from Radom, and then to the great fortress of Ivangorod on the Vistula. Even that was now threatened by Mackensen's advance to the Lublin line in its rear. It was broken on the 29th, and on the 30th the Germans were in Lublin and Cholm. Warsaw was doomed, and, indeed, the Grand Duke Nicholas had as early as the 15th decided upon its evacuation. The fighting along the Lublin-Cholm line, and the strenuous resistance the Russians offered on the 26th to Gallwitz's renewed attacks on the Narew, were intended not to save Warsaw, but the armies defending and the stores within it. On 4 August the troops abandoned the Blonie lines and marched through the city, blowing up the bridges across the Vistula. Next day Prince Leopold made his triumphal entry, and the first year of the war closed on the Eastern front with an event of greater significance even than that which the Kaiser attached to it. To him the capture of Warsaw was a resounding tribute to the success of German arms: to future generations the import of the Russian departure will doubtless be the term it set to Russian rule in Poland, and it may be deemed one of the ironies of history that Hohenzollern autocracy should have been made the instrument to wreck the Russian domination. In spite of themselves the Germans assisted to achieve the common purposes of the great war of liberation.
Russian autocracy was indeed stricken to death by its own inherent maladies nearer home than Poland. Shallow democrats in the West were deploring the lack of prevision and provision exhibited by their democratic Governments, but no democracy endured a tithe of the sufferings inflicted upon Russian soldiers by the blindness, incompetence, and corruption of the bureaucratic Tsardom. Confident in the successes which the heroism of its troops had won over the discordant forces of the Hapsburg Empire and those which Germany could spare from the Western front, it had neglected to perform any of the promises it had made to conciliate the inhabitants of Poland and Galicia, and had even failed to take the commonest military precautions to safeguard its victories. Nothing had been done in Galicia to put the captured Przemysl into a state of defence, and even the bridge across the San had not been repaired to provide a direct line of supply to the front on the Dunajec. Offers of skilled labour from other countries to improve the inefficient service of Russian railways and the inept direction of industries and munition factories were ignored. The business organization of Russia had been managed mainly by Germans before the war; too much of it was left in their hands after war began, with the result that the Putilov munition works, for instance, were reduced to half-time by German control; and there was no one to take the place of those who departed. Russian generals were among the most skilful of strategists, and men like Ruszky, Alexeiev, Brussilov, and others would have been invincible had Russia's man-power been competently equipped. As it was, every sort of provision was neglected; the artillery of one army was limited to two shells a day; a whole division had on one occasion to face an attack without a rifle among them, and troops were put into trenches relying for weapons on those which fell from the hands of their dead or wounded comrades. These were the organized atrocities of autocratic bureaucracy, and it was little wonder that in time they bred in the breasts of Russian soldiers a fiercer resentment against their rulers who betrayed them than against the enemy whom they fought.
The retreat which followed the fall of Warsaw was sympathetically represented as a masterly operation, and the failure of the Germans to envelop and isolate the Russian armies as proof of the breakdown of their strategy. But all retreats in the war, with the exception of the Turks' before Allenby, were similarly described in the appropriate quarters. It was the common characteristic of the victors that they could not win decisive battles in the sense of earlier wars, and of the vanquished that they evaded the expected Sedans and Waterloos. Even the Germans with all their initial advantages of preparation and surprise could not break the Allied armies in their first offensive on the West, and the same inability dogged their still more rapid footsteps in the East. It is a consequence of the reliance of modern armies on the mechanical force of artillery to which the Germans were especially addicted; for while 16-inch howitzers could pulverise any position, they could not pursue with the speed required to encircle and capture armies in the field. Hence salients, which when viewed in the light of older conditions seemed traps which could not be eluded, were in practice evaded because, with Allenby's one exception, cavalry failed to atone for the slower movement of the more powerful arm of artillery. There was nothing therefore miraculous in the Russian escape, and the strategy of the Grand Duke was hardly so brilliant as it was represented. At the beginning of the war Alexeiev, then Ivanov's chief of staff, is said to have counselled a Russian retreat like those which lured Charles XII and Napoleon to their doom; but the temptations of Austrian weakness and German concentration on the West and the plight of France and Belgium led to the adoption of other advice and the premature invasion of Prussia, Galicia, and Hungary; and in August 1915 it was too late for a voluntary and innocuous retreat. The safety of the majority had to be bought at a heavy price in casualties, in loss of guns and material, in suffering for the troops and civilians, and in national dejection. What might have been cheerfully done by choice was despondently done by compulsion.
The evacuation of Warsaw was the first step in the withdrawal from the apex of the Polish triangle which it was hoped the resistance of the sides would enable the Russians to complete without disaster; and a large garrison with adequate guns and ammunition was left at Novo Georgievsk to impede the German advance and hamper communications with their front. The greatest menace was on the north-west along the Narew and beyond in Courland where Von Buelow was preparing to strike behind the base of the triangle. On 10 August Von Scholtz breached the line of fortresses by storming Lomza, but Kovno was a much more critical point. It was the angle of the base, and its fall would not only threaten the base running south to Brest-Litovsk and all the Russian armies west of that line, but would greatly facilitate Von Buelow's sweep round beyond it and Vilna. The bombardment began on the day that Warsaw fell. Kovno was expected to hold out at least to the end of the month, but it fell on the 17th, and the general in command was subsequently sentenced to fifteen years' hard labour for his inadequate defence and absence from his post of duty. On the following day Von Gallwitz cut the line between Kovno and Brest at Bielsk, and on the 19th Novo Georgievsk fell to the howitzers of Von Beseler, the expert of Antwerp. Ossowiec, which had stood so well against the earlier German invasions, followed on the 23rd, and Von Beseler was brought up to give the coup de grâce to Brest. Its loss was perhaps inevitable after the fall of Kovno, but it completed the destruction of the base of the triangle and involved the withdrawal of the whole Russian line beyond the Pripet marshes which would break its continuity; and there was cold comfort in the fact that Ewarts got away with most of his troops and stores and that a Russian mine, exploded two days after their departure, destroyed a thousand Germans and set a precedent for similar machinations on their part when they retreated in the West.
Fortresses now toppled down like ninepins. On the 26th Augustowo was evacuated and Bialystok captured. On the 27th Olita was abandoned and on 2 September Grodno. The Germans thus gained the whole line from Kovno to Brest, and things were going no better in the south. The fall of Lemberg had given the German right a position far to the east of their left, and Mackensen advancing from Lublin and Cholm had driven the Russians across the Bug at Wlodawa before Brest-Litovsk was taken. The marshes of Pripet were at their driest in August, and Mackensen encountered few obstacles as he pressed on from Brest to Kobrin and thence to Pinsk along the rail to Moscow. In Galicia Ivanov was pushed back to the Strypa and then the Sereth, and on the upper reaches of those rivers Brody was captured and two of the Volhynian fortresses, Dubno and Lutsk. Rovno itself was threatened, and with it the southern stretch of that lateral railway from Riga to Lemberg on which the Germans had set their hearts.
But the most ominous German advance was far to the north, where Von Buelow was profiting by the fall of Kovno, marching on Mitau and Riga, and threatening both to cut the railway between Vilna and Petrograd and confine the Russian retreat to congested and narrow lines of communication along which they could not escape. This northern advance was accompanied by a naval offensive in the Baltic, designed to seize Riga and turn the line of the Dvina on which the Russians hoped to stand in the last resort. Fortunately this part of the campaign broke down before matters had reached their worst on land. It looked like a naval operation planned, or at least attempted, by soldiers professionally incapable of grasping the elementary principles of naval or amphibious warfare. After an unsuccessful attack on the southern inlet to the Gulf of Riga on 10 August, the Germans during a thick fog on the 17th sought to land troops at Pernau in large flat-bottomed barges without having secured command of the sea; and the entire landing-force was captured or destroyed. Simultaneously the Russian Fleet engaged the Germans, who had eight destroyers and two cruisers sunk or put out of action; the only Russian vessel lost was an old gunboat. The Dvina lines were not to be turned by strategy like this, and Russia was henceforth free from naval interference until her sailors played her false.
Von Buelow was still, however, to be reckoned with, and he was the substantial danger. On 28 August he began his movement against the Dvina, which would, if successful, cut off all the Russian armies from direct communication with Petrograd. The blow was struck at Friedrichstadt, where the river is crossed by the only practicable road between Riga and Jacobstadt, but the design was to turn the whole front as far as Dvinsk; and Von Buelow held out to his troops the alluring prospect of winter quarters in Riga and a march on Petrograd in the spring. On 3 September the left bank was cleared for some miles, but all attempts to cross were frustrated. The out-march on the extreme German left had failed, and the critical point moved south towards Vilna. The danger here was serious enough, for the depletion of the Russian forces and length of their line had left a gap between Dvinsk and Vilna, and into this gap the Germans thrust a huge cavalry force which more nearly turned the Russian line than any other movement in the campaign.
The way was prepared by the great ten-days' battle of Meiszagola. The unexpectedly rapid fall of Kovno and Grodno had enabled the Germans to threaten the envelopment of Ewarts' army both on the south and the north, on the Niemen towards Mosty and Lida and farther north towards Vilna. The struggle for Vilna was decided at Meiszagola, a village about fifteen miles north-west of the old Lithuanian capital. It was captured on 12 September, and masses of German cavalry swept round from Vilkomir towards Sventsiany and crossed the Petrograd railway to outflank the retreating Russian troops. The evacuation of Vilna began on the 13th, and two days later the menace from the German cavalry became more apparent. Fresh divisions were apparently brought up from Courland with 140 guns; on the 16th they were at Vidzy and on the 17th at Vileika, nearly seventy miles due east of Vilna and in the rear of the Russians escaping thence. They were thus also close to Molodetchno on the railway along which Ewarts was falling back from Skidel, Mosty, and Lida; and control of that junction would have put two Russian armies at their mercy.
Just in time Ruszky was restored to the command of the northern group of Russian armies, and the victor of Rawa Ruska and Prasnysz was not doomed now to break his uniform record of success. The situation was not unlike that at Prasnysz, and it was relieved in a similar way by a Russian counter-offensive from Dvinsk against the flank of the German cavalry. Vidzy was recaptured on the 20th, and farther south the pressure slackened along the Vilna-Vileika railway; Smorgon was retaken by a brilliant bayonet charge on the 21st. The door had been kept from closing on Russian armies seeking to escape from the salient between Lida and Molodetchno, while the Germans were squeezed out of that which they had made to the north. They were driven out of Vileika, and gradually the lines were straightened and stabilized so as to run almost due south from Dvinsk by Postavy, Lake Narotch, and Smorgon. Other factors than Ruszky's brilliant strategy contributed to this dramatic defeat of the final German effort of the campaign to annihilate the Russian forces. The Germans had lost in men and impetus during their long advance. Superb though their organization was, lengthening lines of communication across a country ill-supplied with roads and railways, and the necessity of guarding against a hostile population told upon their armies in the fighting-line. The heaviest blow will spend itself in time against an elusive foe, and the longest arm will find the limit of its reach. The Germans had not planned a march on Moscow, but they had hoped to overrun the Russian armies and occupy the winter quarters of their choice. These were denied them on the Dvina, and they had not secured the coveted Riga-Rovno line.
They were indeed left farther from it in the south than in the north. Their defeat east of Vilna enabled Ewarts to escape from the encirclement threatened by the advance from Kovno and Grodno; and although he had to leave Lida and was subsequently pushed behind the junction of Baranowitchi, thus surrendering to the Germans the control of the railway from Vilna to that point, it remained in Russian hands to Rovno. Mackensen was unable to advance from Pinsk, which he occupied on 16 September, to the railway at Luninetz, while Ivanov reacted successfully against the German attacks along the Kovel-Sarny line and recovered a good deal of the ground lost in the Volhynian triangle and eastern extremity of Galicia. Mackensen's army may have been weakened by calls from the north and from the south for a campaign which was already planned but not yet suspected; at any rate it was too weak to achieve its objectives, the capture of Sarny, Rovno, and Tarnopol, which would have completed the hold of the Germans on the Vilna-Kovno line and given them a base for a farther advance in the spring on Odessa and for the isolation of Rumania. On 7 September, as Mackensen's forces were moving on Rovno and the Sereth at Tarnopol and Trembowla, Ivanov counter-attacked from Rovno and Brussilov and Lechitzky on the Sereth. By the 9th the two latter had captured 17,000 prisoners and a considerable number of guns; and Ivanov followed up this success by retaking Lutsk and Dubno by the 23rd. Kovel was even threatened, but the pressure was not maintained. Sarny, Rovno, and Tarnopol were saved, but Lutsk and Dubno reverted to the Germans, and the line in the east was stabilized with the Volhynian triangle and the railway from Vilna to Rovno divided between the antagonists.
The success of Ruszky in the north and of Ivanov in the south in setting a term to the terrifying sweep of the German advance produced a temporary optimism in Russia comparable with that which followed the victory on the Marne; and in neither case did the Allies realize the extent of the advantage gained by the Germans or foresee the years that would pass before the loss could be recovered. The Grand Duke Nicholas was relieved of his command and sent to take over that in the Caucasus. He was succeeded by the Tsar himself, who was unlikely to interfere with the military measures of Alexeiev, his chief of staff; and the Duma seconded the Tsar's attempt to express the determination of the Russian peoples to withstand the Germans until victory was secured. Nevertheless, the profound effects of the Russian defeat could not be removed by any laudable efforts at keeping up appearances. It was a resounding disaster which condemned Europe to three more years of war, and Russia to a convulsion which would permanently alter the whole course of her history and position in the world. Miliukov raised in the Duma the question of responsible government, and if the debacle of 1915 was slower than Sedan in producing the downfall of the system to which it was due, it was not because the disaster was less, but because Russia was a less organized country than France, and her illiterate population reacted more slowly than the French.
At the moment the best face was put on affairs; and although one correspondent was allowed to report that the heart of the Russian people had grown cold to the Allies who had watched their misfortunes without raising a finger in the shape of a serious offensive to help, public opinion was fed on the comfort in which a facile optimism is so fertile. German casualties were multiplied at will, despondent diaries of individual German officers killed or captured were given unlimited publicity, and roseate pictures were painted of the colossal drain of man-power involved in winter trench-warfare in Russia and in holding vast tracts of hostile country. It was assumed that the Germans would suffer more than the Russians, although again and again whole Russian battalions in those trenches were wiped out by German artillery and machine guns to which the Russians had not the wherewithal to reply except with fresh masses of human flesh; and little was said of the millions of Russian prisoners and civilians who were put to far more effective use in making munitions and producing food for their enemies than they ever had been for Russia or themselves, and without whose labour Germany's man-power would have been exhausted one or two years before the end of the war. It was considered a triumph that the Germans had not reached Petrograd or Moscow, but it might have been well if they had. They had, however, no such ambitions. Just as the reconquest of Galicia had been mainly designed as providing the base for a flank attack upon Russia, so the conquest of Poland was to be used as providing protection for Germany against Russian interference with her plans in the Balkans. Sofia and Constantinople opened up more alluring prospects and a path that led farther than Moscow or Petrograd; and while public opinion in England and France was dreaming of a repetition of 1812, public opinion in Germany was feasting on visions of Cairo, Baghdad, and Teheran, and the possibility of evading the British blockade through outlets to the Indian Ocean.
All eyes that could see were turned to the Dardanelles. There British troops were making the one serious counter-offensive to the German attack on Russia, and success would redeem the Russian failure and foil the hopes the Germans were building upon their victory. The immediate future of the Balkans, the Black Sea, and Asia Minor, and it might be the more distant future of Egypt and the East, hung upon the issue at Gallipoli. During July the reinforcements for which Sir Ian Hamilton had asked were gathering in Egypt and in Gallipoli; and on 6 August the new plan of attack was begun. There were to be four distinct items; a feint was to be made of landing north of Bulair, the attack on Krithia was to be renewed in order to hold the Turkish troops there and draw others in that direction, and a similar advance was planned for the Anzacs with a similar motive, but also to co-operate with the real and fresh offensive. This took the form of a landing at Suvla Bay, the extreme north-westerly point of the peninsula between Anzac and Bulair. The diversions were reasonably successful, as successful, indeed, as previous attacks had been in those localities when they were the principal efforts. The chief of them was a threefold advance north-east, east, and south-east from Anzac Cove on Sari Bair with its highest point at Koja-Chemen. Conspicuous gallantry was shown in the three days' fighting; and while, as earlier at Krithia, the summits defied the greatest valour, enough progress was made in these subsidiary attacks to justify the hope of general success if the principal effort at Suvla Bay went well (see Map, p. 107).
It began without any great mishap, and General Stopford's 9th Corps was successfully landed on the shores of Suvla Bay during the night of 6-7 August and deployed next morning in the plain without serious resistance. The surprise had been effected, but it would be useless unless the attack was pressed with energy and without delay. Yet torpor crept over the enterprise during that torrid afternoon; many of the troops were in action for the first time in their lives, and, understanding that water was obtainable from the lake close by, they had drained their water-bottles by eight o'clock in the morning. A thunderstorm mended matters a little, and Chocolate Hill was carried on the right. But all next day an inferior Turkish force, assisted by a planned or accidental conflagration of the scrub, managed by skilful use of a screen of sharpshooters to hold up our advance all along the line. Sir Ian Hamilton himself arrived that night and strove by persuasion to infuse some energy into the attack. But by the 9th it was already too late, for the Turks had had time to bring up reinforcements, and an attack on the Anafarta ridge on the 10th was repulsed. Five days later General Stopford relinquished the command of the 9th Corps, to which he had been somewhat reluctantly appointed by Lord Kitchener, and the 29th Division was brought up from Cape Helles to renew the attack on 21 August. It might have succeeded had it been originally employed in place of the inexperienced troops; but by this time there could be nothing but a frontal attack on a watchful foe, and it ended like the similar efforts in May and June. Some ground was gained, contact was established with the Anzacs, and a continuous line of six miles was secured from the north of Suvla Bay to the south of Anzac Cove. But before the Turks could be expelled from the peninsula and a passage cleared through the Dardanelles there would be a long and weary struggle, in which progress would be as slow and beset by as many obstacles as it was on the Western front. Russia was to obtain no relief that way; as a counter-offensive to the German campaign of 1915, the attack on the Dardanelles had failed; and the failure produced a deeper impression upon the Balkans than if the attempt had never been made. The way was clear for the next move of German diplomacy and war.