Entente forces attacked in numerous sectors in early August, attempting to stretch the Central Powers to the breaking point somewhere. And breakage there was.
A Canadian rifle division remained at reduced effectiveness, so no Commonwealth units acted in the initial phase.
British forces rebuilt one each rifle and light rifle cadres to full strength, replaced an engineer regiment, and repaired a reconnaissance air group.
French forces rebuilt two rifle cadres to full strength, repaired an observation balloon group, and scrapped an already eliminated naval rifle brigade.
Italian forces replaced a light mountain brigade, repaired a reconnaissance air group, and put Battleship Squadron Two into the Venice shipyard to repair three hits at the cost of six-sevenths of Italian accumulated naval repair points.
German forces rebuild five rifle cadres into full divisions, nearly zeroing-out the pool of Prussian manpower.
With heavy artillery finally fully arrayed around the salient at grid 0822/Valenciennes, including a partial corps of overstacked units, the British Empire finally swung its bulk into action in a large battle there. A significant air battle resulted in a solitary German interceptor group suffering 50-percent losses and flak missed all three recon or observation groups, which then contributed positively. The resource center proved unhelpful to the Germans, as did equal national will to either side, leaving the entrenchment to be negated by a two-brigade engineer attack and an overall slight advantage for the Entente. The first British ground bombardment of the war scored ten hits, reducing the defense strength by enough to increase the fractional odds chance by 0.5, which mattered greatly as the British only found enough strength for 2.6:1 odds even after the artillery. Those odds rolled upward, to great Entente relief, but the almost inevitable BX nonetheless resulted in the end.
British Losses: 2x RP and 1-5 eng III eliminated; 6x 10-13-5 divisions to cadre
German Losses: RP eliminated; 4x 13-15-5 divisions to cadre
Calamity, so often averted, reared its ugly head in the usual French attack against the iron fields at Briey/grid 1719. Events began badly for the French as they suffered three points of air losses against one German loss. The resulting reconnaissance mission nonetheless went well and the French bombardment performed well enough, scoring eighteen hits and reducing the defense strength by about 40-percent. French national will offset effective use of the resource center; leaders on both sides failed to influence the fight. French gas engineers failed (5/6 chance to fail for the good Entente gas units…) and the German gas engineers suffered bad disruption in the bombardment and could not attempt their evil labor. German entrenchments thus exactly cancelled the reconnaissance and left the roll at 2.6:1 even. The odds rolled downward and the rare but inevitable AX result yelled for a halt to French attacks until Spring.
French Losses: 2x RP, 6-8-4 field artillery division, and 3-4-4 field artillery [III] eliminated; one African, two Colonial, and FOURTEEN Metropolitan 8-11-5, 8-11-6, or 9-12-5 rifle or light rifle divisions reduced to cadre.
German Losses: RP and 1-3-5 gas engineer III eliminated; one Naval, one Bavarian, one Saxon, and four Prussian rifle divisions reduced to cadre
Terribly daunted, but resigned to necessity, the French continued the effort with an attack against grid 2018, important only because of its German military residents. Flak damaged an air group, but the other successfully spied out the German positions, negating the effect of the entrenchment. French national will balanced the wooded terrain, but siege engineers failed to influence the battle. Two massive engineer escalades both positively pushed the battle’s results, giving the Entente great hope, but the exactly 2:1 odds wound up in the usual BX result nonetheless.
French Losses: 2x RP and 1-5 eng III eliminated; one Colonial, one African, and two Metropolitan divisions reduced to cadre
German Losses: RP eliminated; one each Saxon, Prussian, and Wurtemburger divisions reduced to cadre
In the Alps, the Italians shifted their offensive to strike along the railroad at grid 4207, because it is important to have different scenery in which to achieve identical results. After flak missed three times, reconnaissance and national will offset the Austro-Hungarian’s mountains, while an Italian elite bonus offset fieldworks. Odds of 4.3:1 rolled upward and again Entente hopes soared before the usual BX resulted regardless.
Italian Losses: RP eliminated; one each mountain division and brigade reduced to cadre and remnant.
Austro-Hungarian Losses: RP eliminated; one mountain division reduced to cadre.
As the Franco-Italian-British fleet dribbled reinforcements into Istria, Austro-Hungarian anti-shipping aircraft found them off the beach, dodged flak, and killed some fish as three divisions and two RP went ashore during the initial and movement phases.
French forces then pushed forward into contact with the retreating Austro-Hungarians and put a powerful attack in against a lone static regiment in rough terrain adjacent to Fiume. The French brought enough power that spending prodigious ammunition would be redundant, given that the enemy had none accessible to spend anyway. French national will offset the rough terrain and a rare good combat roll resulted in DE, which also weirdly stayed an DE despite the mobile combat in the west rule.
Austrian Losses: 1*-4 static [III]
French forces then advanced to try to balance their vulnerabilities near the southern coast of the peninsula while isolated Pola by land.
Germanic reaction rolls were a mass of “3” results, with only three armies activating, though all in ideal sectors. Given the battered state of both Germanic armies, they limited themselves to shifting forces for the upcoming initial phase withdrawals and conversions and to begin juggling to rebalance weaker defenses all along the fronts.
In the air, Zeppelins found mixed success. All three groups passed the Alps without trouble, reaching Naples, dodging flak, and scoring a hit against Italian morale. The best of three Zeppelin groups bombing England failed to breast the winds over Nottingham and the two, obsolete groups that reached the city did no significant damage. British defenses have stiffened forward so that Nottingham is the nearest safe target, but it is inconveniently far from northern Germany. Over Italy, Naples is the nearest city without flak dangerous to Zeppelins, but it is very far indeed from Bavaria.
Truly, early August 1916 was calamitous for the Entente, both in events and in more complete understandings. Twenty-one divisions of French falling to cadre, plus some equipment losses, made this a calamitous turn for the Entente even disregarding other events. Entente losses in the air continue to outstrip repair point accrual and aggravate the imbalance aloft. Neither the British nor the French can come close to maintaining their engineer power; the British cannot conduct a single large attempt and the French will be only barely able to maximize engineers in one battle for the next couple of turns – before they cannot do even that. Italian engineers would be an even worse problem if they ever attacked entrenchments, and upcoming conversions to make Italian engineers more expensive to rebuild without improving their offensive value in any way will only make things worse. The pool of Entente units awaiting equipment in order to enter the war stands far over one hundred points, though Italian artillery is so useless (four regiments contributed 0.625 total attack strength to the battle in the Alps) that a third of those units may never be built from the replacement pool where they were placed to enter the war.
On the other hand, the German line is actually about to start weakening as they no longer enjoy enough divisions to keep particularly vulnerable positions fully garrisoned. The Prussian manpower situation is grown truly desperate, with many cadres occupying non-divisional positions and no prospect of ever rebuilding most of them to full strength. The Austro-Hungarians, who have an army on the upper Rhine River (whereas the Germans hold the Trient salient), are not bereft of replacement riflemen, but this summer their manpower expenses in the West have exceeded their income and now that the Italians have enough mountain units to conduct multi-corps attacks in the Alps the Austro-Hungarian position will continue to suffer blows. Meanwhile, thirty miles of new front in Istria is stretching the army thinner, as has the beginning of necessary efforts to garrison key points on the Dalmatian coastline.
To take advantage of Central Powers weakness, the French are resolved to begin wholesale disbanding of their second line rifle divisions. Equipment from the second line divisions can pay for withdrawals to other theaters, to rebuild siege engineers and machinegun units, and especially to field nearly twenty regiments of French artillery still in the replacement pool. Manpower from the second line will be essential in endlessly rebuilding the cadres of the best French divisions as they batter themselves against superior German units. Unfortunately, most of the French third line cannot be disbanded, but those terribly weak formations can creditably defend many positions in severe terrain.
The Austro-Hungarians and Germans cannot respond in the same way, for different reasons. The Austro-Hungarian army in the West is simply too small to disband units, even when and if their need for manpower becomes overwhelming, because it already is only about equal to its frontage. The Germans, by contrast, could happily disband numerous divisions and still maintain their front, because their army in the West fields so many divisions, but far too many of those divisions are already at cadre strength so that disbanding them would not provide significant riflemen. As a poor and partial fallback position, it seems likely that German machinegun and artillery units, and cadres, will soon become a significant part of the mix of losses suffered in each battle, because while they lack riflemen the Central Powers at least have a small surplus of equipment.
If this sounds dire for the Central Powers, it is nonetheless still true that the Entente struggles to find a couple of combats per turn with only a small chance of an AX and sometimes a very small chance of an DX. The Entente therefore cannot put rapid and overwhelming pressure on and cripple the Germanic armies before the onset of mud in a few fortnights.
Central Powers Turn
During the initial phase of the second half of the I AUG turn, numerous replacement activities consumed accumulated resources on both sides.
Austria-Hungary rebuilt a division from cadre and replaced a fortress brigade-group.
Prussia repaired three air groups, upgraded a siege artillery regiment into a brigade, and rebuilt three divisions from cadres.
Saxony rebuilt a division from cadre.
Bavaria rebuilt two divisions from cadres.
The Netherlands replaced a cadre.
Britain rebuilt six divisions from cadres.
France rebuilt six metropolitan, two Army of Africa, and two Colonial divisions from cadre.
All twenty Prussian manpower points in Austria-Hungary transferred back to Germany, together with both Prussian units from the southwest Europe replacement pool.
On the main front, German forces continued to reorganize their battered line and withdraw forces for the new Rumanian front while a few Austro-Hungarian units departed the upper Rhine valley, en route back to their homeland.
While the front in the Alps and on the Isonzo remained static, Germanic forces retreated completely out of Istria, to the Fiume – karst – karst – Trieste line. The Austrian fortress of Pola, with its resident coast defense system, remained an exception, and the shipyard continued work on naval equipment imported and exported by ship. The Austro-Hungarians garrison on Lussin Island, connected to Istria by two narrow straits and another island, held open the sea route to Pola.
On the Italian Front, the Entente failed entirely to react, while on the main front reaction simply hastened some future moves. In their one attempted attack, three French escort fighters missed entirely, two German fighters damaged one recon air group sent another scurrying, and flak dismissed the third recon group. The French looked at probable 3:2 +1 and decided not to pursue the matter. The British also aborted battle after suffering two groups of recon aircraft damaged in exchange for damaging a Dutch air group, and having the remaining recon aircraft fail to find the battlefield: 3:2 -1 or -2 is disastrously unwise.
The Zeppelin arm continued to carry Germany’s offensive burden in early August. Two groups found Naples and hit its citizens for the final terror bombing hit of August. Two groups failed to find French factories and a third found but missed Nottingham.