Being a production phase, the Entente initial phase of I MAR15 consumed considerable time and mattered a great deal to the course of the war. The contested hex at 1121 went Entente-owned, with the resident entrenchment downgrading to fieldworks and any tiny chance of German counterattack now gone unless the hex be upgraded back to entrenchment or the weather should turn clear. A new wave of Entente manpower, equipment, and ammunition production sent a wave of optimism through the ranks as the replacement depots filled to new highs and almost the last un-fielded or shattered formations received their human and artillery requirements. French forces rebuild one each cadre and remnant to full strength and replaced one engineer and three field artillery regiments. In the air events turned less well for the Entente, with superior aircraft in both French and British service withdrawing in favor of lesser models, though the French did also acquire their first observation balloon and
bomber aerial units. In another depressing situation, Canadian cavalrymen continue to refuse to go to full effectiveness. Finally, the British funded at cost of a valuable RP the transfer of three regimentsâ€™ worth of rail cars from Britain to the French rail system; continuing degradation is reducing the French net to dangerously low levels.
During Entente movement of early March 1915, the French continued to mass in the Ardennes Forest while the British and Belgians continued to try to help them do that. By mid-month, Belgian forces substantively occupied the first eighty miles of second line trenches, measured from the Channel coast southward. British forces replaced Belgian front line forces to occupy the first sixty-five miles of front running southward from the coast; another weak corps of British forces is en route to the front and should enable the British to relieve still more Frenchmen in the St. Niklaas sector. For their part, in the face of continued mud and reinforced German forces, the French shifted their aim to strike at the martyred fortress of Maubeuge.
As the month dawned, French artillery began to beat the drum of an abortive attack against Maubeuge. Eight brigades of heavy artillery, already in position, opened fire in a two week bombardment to soften the defense for the best non-salient attack the French Army could muster. Unfortunately, after the expenditure of a resource point and the massing of the best light and rifle forces of in the country, the attack failed to go off. The drum fell silent after German anti-aircraft aborted one French reconnaissance air unit and two others failed to usefully spot the fall of so much shot. After die roll modifiers for mud and fortress, eight brigades failed to roll even one hit and the French, unwilling to risk a 1.9:1 attack if German anti-aircraft should hit the unproven bomber air unit, cancelled the follow-up ground attack. In mud, at least, 55 defense factors of Germans – an easy feat at any point on the line â€“ can be sufficient to prevent the French from conducting their b
es t possible two-hex, positional attack (far less than 55 will prevent any mobile attack).
In German reaction at the end of ENT IMAR15, Sixth and First Armies activated to conduct minor shifting. Fifth and Second Armies might have conducted attacks, had they activated, but the situation did not arise and calculation remained unnecessary.
Entente exploitation in mid-March 1915 proved likewise unexciting.
After a 21 month delay, DJ05 is again rolling forward. In brief, the German advance into France stalled after a series of battles at the fortress of Maubeuge gradually inflicted serious damage on both French and Germans before finally taking the place on a brutal AX result. British forces currently hold Oostende and a front running about 80 miles southwest from there. Belgian and British forces backstop the British sector as well as a short segment of the French front. French forces hold the front from southwest of Maubeuge, a salient in the Belgian Ardennes, and all the way to Switzerland far enough forward that none of the French “border fortresses” are even on the front. The key German ore fields in Luxembourg and north of Metz, the fortress at Metz, and the fortress at Neu Breisach are all on the German front line. Casualties on both sides in 1914 were light enough, despite being brutal for a series of German attacks on Maubeuge during the autumn and winter, that the front is, in poor weather, almost unassailable almost everywhere to both sides (meaning that the likeliest combat results are AQ and AX when we compute odds, and that isn’t a recipe for winning wars). Belgium collapsed and then recovered with 50 morale points, so it can never be forced out of the war. Britain is not far below a national will of five; the Germans are substantially further but have a long way to go before reaching three. The French are solidly holding their national will of five. We look forward to Italian entry into the war and the return of clear weather, speculating that this may somehow make widespread attacking more plausible.
Central Powers Turn
In the Central Powers half of I MAR 15, the impenetrable front only became more pronounced, despite a modest battle in the southern mountains. With mud everywhere, German forces replaced a cadre and an engineer regiment, further plowing half of the huge wave of new soldiers (better than 100 assorted German infantry replacements arrived this month) into rebuilding five divisions; Entente forces found no cadres available. Falkenhayn, having returned from the front to Berlin for consultation in late February, brought to the West with him in March a plan to attack a weak French salient in the southern mountains near Neu Breisach. A trio of French fortress brigades and a solitary division held the low peaks, confident in their morale superiority, the terrain, the weather, and their fieldworks to beat off even the most serious German assault. With minor other shifting, largely to strengthen the front even further by pulling out the last cadres and inserting the newly rebuilt divisions, the Germans duly massed their mountain and Bavarian forces for their only plausible attack – on that same French salient. Three corps of attackers could not muster enough mountain troops for an elite bonus and Falkenhayn could not adequately control his forces in the mountains as mudslides repeatedly cut telegraph wires, but aerial reconnaissance did assist local commanders in a few instances. The liberal provision of ammunition to the attackers further assisted the effort, as French commanders deliberately starved their troops of shells, letting the odds move from 8:1 to 9:1. None of this mattered much, however, as the extremely difficult conditions brought the assault to an expensive, grinding halt with no permanent gains in geography. The DX result reduced the French 6*-9-5 division to cadre but also sent one each Bavarian and Prussian 3-4-7 mountain regiments into the replacement pool. French morale suffered more: one point as against two-thirds of a point lost for the Germans. The Entente came out ahead in other ways, losing three and a third infantry points as against six German infantry points and a resource point. It will be interesting to find out, in a couple of years of game time, which side regrets the battle more.
In the Entente reaction phase, three French armies in the central portion of the front activated, mounting no attacks but continuing the process of shifting higher quality forces toward Maubeuge and the Ardennes and lower quality forces southward. The French have to make a serious push somewhere in Spring 1915 and everything from Luxembourg southward is likely to remain impenetrable for reasons of garrison size, vertical terrain, and rivers.