Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

a small containing force. The Serbians now concentrated the bulk of their forces against it, and by Dec. 13 had driven it back towards Belgrade after desperate fighting. The rearguards covering the retreat were annihilated, and the enemy's main body with difficulty effected the passage of the Save and the Danube by pontoon bridges previously constructed. On Dec. 15 the last of the Austrian troops had crossed the frontier, and the Serbian standard again floated over Belgrade,

Of the operations in the western theatre of war there is little to say. After the German offensive subsided in the north-western area, the Allies probably devoted some days to resting and reorganising their troops, interrupted occasionally by local infantry attacks, and exposed to incessant bombardment by the enemy's artillery, over which they ultimately established an ascendancy. On Nov. 28 they began a modified offensive, with the view, apparently, of strengthening their line by capturing points of tactical value, and of straightening it in localities where it had become indented by the violent assaults it had sustained. Since that time the daily record tells of a little progress made here and there, followed by counter-attacks which have sometimes resulted in the enemy regaining their lost ground. On the whole the advantage has been with the Allies, but owing to the resolute attitude of the Germans the losses have been severe. In the Argonne, on the heights of the Meuse, and in the Woevre, the situation, which was discussed at some length last month, has not materially changed.

The opposing armies have settled down definitely to a system of trench-fighting, of which the end cannot be foreseen because there is no apparent way of obtaining any decisive result. The entrenchments are of such strength that frontal attacks on the scale hitherto attempted either fail, or lead to no advantage at all commensurate with the losses entailed. The flanks being secured on one side by the Swiss frontier and on the other by the sea, turning movements are impracticable. The slight progress made is mostly effected by the underground methods of fortress warfare. The procedure of the Germans was described some time ago

[graphic]

Bac'ska

Sztyamás o

Osijek (Esse)

Temes

R. Das

Bečkerek

"Banat

Land

Vinkovce.

Novi Sad be Neusatz)

RO ATTAR SLAV o Karlowitz)

R. Ikeiss (Tisza)

Peterwardein

Karlovci

off Veršec Temesvár

R. säve

[ocr errors]

NA

Ruma

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

Zemuns
(Semlin

Bjelinao

Orsova

[blocks in formation]

R. Danube

Obrenovac

Tuzla

BELGRADE,

Smederevo
(Semendria)

Požarevec

oLožnica

Ubo

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

Cačak

Kraljevo

[blocks in formation]

Knjaževac O Aleksinac

A

Foča

S E

[blocks in formation]

Plevlje.

Nisavo

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Skoplje (Üsküb)

R.Vardan

ALBAN A Tercing

[ocr errors]

Tetovo

Gostivar

So Alessio

Veles

[blocks in formation]

Pronunciation - C-ts, č-tch, 'š=sh, ž = Frenchj.

:

=

(To face page 292.

a

[ocr errors]

or

by the 'Eye-witness,' whose narratives are issued periodically by the Press Bureau. After referring to the loss entailed by attacking across the open for any considerable distance, he writes :

'To shorten the space over which their infantry has to advance they move forward by several narrow end-on approaches, which are either open to the air, or a foot or two below the surface of the ground. Where open, these are zigzagged to avoid being enfiladed. ... At what is considered a possible assaulting distance these approaches, or saps, are joined up by a lateral trench roughly parallel to that being attacked. Here the stormers collect for a fresh rush. .. In some cases, usually at night, a sap is driven right up to the parapet of the hostile trench, which is then blown in by a charge. Amid the confusion caused, and a shower of grenades, the stormers attempt to burst in through the opening and work along the trench. They also assault it in front.'

With regard to life in the trenches, he writes : 'Where bombardment is, or has been, severe, everyone within range of the enemy's guns .. will be found ensconced underground in “dug-outs “ funkholes as they are familiarly called. . . . Behind the firing-line trenches, are

... found the shelters for the men holding the line, and for those forming supports. ... Communication between the firingline and the various shelters in rear, and with the headquarters of units, is kept up along approach-trenches, all zigzagged to prevent their being enfiladed, and liberally partitioned into compartments by traverses, so as to localise the effect of shell-fire. .. Behind the front trenches .. are perfect labyrinths of burrows of various types. The principal feature of the battle-field ... is the absence of any sign of human beings.'

It is hardly necessary to remark that the kind of warfare thus described is altogether out of harmony with the traditions and training of a field army. The value of a field army, apart from the natural soldierly qualities of the individuals of which it is composed, depends mainly on mobility and shooting efficiency; to which must be added, in the case of cavalry, horsemanship and skill in the use of the arme blanche. It is by superiority in these qualities that, other things being equal, one army is able to defeat another army. In a war of entrenchments there is neither scope nor need for these qualities;

.

[graphic]

and, from their disuse, the offensive power of the troops must inevitably deteriorate. The cavalry, that valuable arm which constitutes the eyes and ears of an army, finds no place unless, as happened during the critical period towards the end of October when our force was hopelessly outnumbered in the neighbourhood of Ypres, it is employed dismounted in the trenches. It would be hard to conceive any use to which cavalry could be put that would be more detrimental to efficiency in its proper rôle. The field artillery, designed for speedy manoeuvre and precision in coming into action, cannot find much scope for its proper functions. The physical powers of men and horses must deteriorate from inactivity.

Under present conditions these things are inevitable. They are mentioned here because, from our having become habituated to the existing situation, there is danger of its coming to be regarded as normal. The minor successes, of which so much is made in the daily communiqués and in the newspapers, are apt to engender a feeling of satisfaction. It is necessary to realise that the present situation in France and Belgium is an impasse, from which, at present, there is no visible release ; and not only that, but the troops are deteriorating in those qualities which, when the release comes, must prove the deciding factor. It is no answer to say that the German troops are subject to the same disadvantages, and undergoing similar deterioration.

The process

is levelling-down, and therefore operates to the disadvantage of the army which is superior in the qualities on which depends its value in the field, where the decision must ultimately be fought out. Unless our faith is misplaced, it does not favour the Allies.

It is not good to be either optimistic or pessimistic, but it is well to look facts squarely in the face. T'here is, and since the beginning of the war there has been, a tendency to optimism in the public Press which is not justified. This is largely due to ignorance of what war really is, and to the intention—praiseworthy in itselfto take a cheerful view of things. It is calculated to do harm, because ultimate success in this war of nationsnot of professional armies such as we have been accustomed to-requires that the nation should put forth its utmost efforts. If the nation will exert itself, success

one of

« VorigeDoorgaan »