Whatever the state of the Germans, as July 1915 opened the Entente armies drank deeply in relief as gushes of manpower and equipment reached the front. French fortress artillery mobilization continues to provide extensive resources for the front, though the flow is soon to be cut off, and both Italian and especially French fortresses this month spewed forth a bounty of poor units and good ammunition. Factories too, and neutral countries, contributed some of their bounty to the effort – and industry is beginning to be a serious player in the equipment game. For the third time in the war, the Entente allocated substantial industrial capability to transferring rail capacity from Britain to France as French, Italian and German rail networks continued their slow march toward oblivion.
Depressingly for the Entente, the United States continued its balanced diplomatic status for the second time.
Portugal is on the clock and will declare war in October 1915, a long while after which it will eventually field a small force in France. They might be holding an entire hex in the Vosges Mountains by late 1916, if the Entente continues to dribble equipment into Lisbon in the meantime.
The Prussian depot in Austria sent manpower to bring a 5*-7-6 mtn rifle cadre back to full divisional size.
In France and Belgium, German activity was more varied on the same theme. Prussian manpower rejuvenated a pair of 4*-6-5 rifle cadres into divisions. Wurtembourgers flooded into a 5*-6-5 rifle cadre and Bavarians into a 6*-7-5 cadre, strengthening the German front by two more divisions.
Italian men brought a 1*-7 remnant back to full brigade size while others met at the artillery park to bring a 3-7 mtn field [III] back to life.
British youth pushed a pair of 4*-6-5 cadres back to the full-strength roll.
French men and guns did the most work during the initial phase. Algerians drew guns and mules sufficient to re-field a 5*-7-6 light cadre while metropolitan men met other equipment to raise 2x 1-5 eng III’s, 2x 2-4-7 mot mg III’s and a 7-5-4 hvy art III from the destroyed roster. Three field artillery battalions near the front received new regimental headquarters and more men and guns, to bring them back to full size after the previous- and in time for the next- wave of French reorganizations. More normally, colonial troops finished bringing a 13*-16-7 light mtn XX back from cadre status and metropolitan men did the same with 3x 10-13-5, 2x 8*-11-5 and 2x 9*-12-5 rifle XX’s.
The resurgent Entente then commenced attempting some serious battery of their Central Powers opponents, with the usual mixed success. Not far from the English Channel, the full-but-fragile British, without superiority of national will and beneath failed aerial reconnaissance, declined to squander insufficient men and never ample powder in a possibly disastrous attack. The Belgians, secure in their small but heavily defended sector and utterly unable to replace the slightest losses likewise declined combat. Not so the French, however, who struck in both the central and southern Ardennes in order to draw down multiple German munitions stockpiles besides maximizing chances for battlefield success.
The central Ardennes focus shifted slightly, as it has repeatedly over the past few months, this time settling at sector 1219. Woodlands and entrenchments shielded the well-stacked Germans, but morale, one of two aerial spies and none of one multi-brigade engineer escalades exactly balanced the scales. Odds of 2.3:1 rolled upward as usual and it mattered not at all – as usual – when a BX would have resulted either way.
French losses: RP, 3 1/3 morale, and 2-4-7 mot mg III eliminated; 2x 10*-13-5 and 9*-12-5 colonial rifle XX’s to 4*-6-5 and 4*-5-5 cadres
German losses: RP and 2 1/3 morale eliminated; 12-14-5 and 16-18-5 Bavarian rifle XX’s to 5*-6-5 and 7*-8-5 cadres
In southernmost Belgium, artists began painting authentic moonscapes as battle raged across the area for the umpteenth time this campaign season. Entrenchments and woodlands protected the German defenders while morale and a pair of paired engineer brigades contributed more than counterbalancing effects. General Falkenhayn failed to intervene and three air groups of French pilots managed to find only old craters. 3.3:1 odds rolled downward in a rare show but normality returned when the result would have been a BX in any case.
French losses: RP, 3 1/3 morale and 0-1-4 eng III eliminated; 2x 9*-12-5 and 10*-13-5 colonial rifle XX’s to 4*-5-5 and 4*-6-5 cadres
German losses: RP, 3 2/3 morale and 3*-4-5 Wurtembourg rifle [X] eliminated; 6*-8-5 Saxon rifle [XX] to 2*-3-5 cadre; 12-14-5 and 13-15-5 Bavarian rifle XX’s to 5*-6-5 and 6*-7-5 cadres
It is worthy of note that the Germans are currently about half way between their February 1915 and 1916 morale markers, with about half of the good weather of 1915 gone past. The Entente is making progress, no doubt, but the Germans are hardly shrinking at a catastrophic rate after having lost six morale points during one “best” Entente combat phase. On the other hand, the Germans are bleeding themselves now against the Italians and the British are becoming increasingly capable of landing hard blows. Italian morale is itself a brittle thing, especially as they must inflict about 100 morale points of damage to Austria before autumn 1918 and they look to pay at least 150 morale points to do the job at the current rate. French morale, on the other hand, soared in February 1915 to such an extent that it is difficult to imagine the French mutiny ever happening in this game.
Interestingly, the morale and national will situations are only one measure of the war and may be, in this case, a delayed indicator. Our current thinking about the Germans is that it might be a very good operational plan to withdraw from France and Belgium almost entirely, in favor of dramatically shorter and stronger positions closer to Germany. The Entente might then be actually unable to put together an attack with any chance of a DX and with every chance of an AX or AL, thus effectively ending the game in a Central Powers victory with Germany able to protect the Austrians and run out the clock after the Entente is utterly unable to sustain combat. This is the thinking because while the British are still fragile and the French are hardly deep, the German armies are noticeably wasting away due to lack of manpower and equipment. This may be magnified over Summer 1915 by a German munitions shortage after the Entente suffered the same in Spring and managed nonetheless to continue hammering away. German production, four RP in July that did not transfer, is hopelessly inadequate when Germanic consumption during the Entente combat phase of the turn alone was three RP; the stockpile in the rear areas will not long sustain the deficit. Meanwhile, as the French wear down the British armies are starting to deepen their capabilities and sustainability, particularly with additional corps and divisional artillery and combat engineers.
The Central Powers reacted defensively almost everywhere to Entente attacks in early July 1915, but pressed their advantage in the high Alps where the Italian defenders are every bit as passive. Along the lower Isonzo River, the Austrians shifted a few units to cover for losses in the continuing battle across the valley. The German army nearest the mouth of the Rhine also reacted, likewise by shifting a few units to cover weak points, but also to allow a bit of conversion and reorganization within units. With the exception of the German army near the fortress at Trient, every other Austrian and German army in the west failed to move as the war ground toward the second week of July.
In the Trient Salient, the Germans were poised to take good advantage of any opportunity and attempted to force the pass toward Switzerland at 3914. A solid attack here could be followed by another that might isolate the Italian force along the Swiss-Austrian border and then might even lead to movement that could outflank the Italians northwest of Lake Garda. The two-stage attack began in the face of mountains that negated German morale superiority and the first-ever (partially) successful German gas attack. Two groups of aerial spies failed to see many camouflaged Italians in their fieldworks, Italian reserves likewise failed to react in time and only one of three zeppelin groups attempting to reach the battle from the North Sea coast succeeded in buffeting through mountain winds to contribute successfully. Odds of 2.7:1 rolled up and a solid ‘both exchange’ met German hopes adequately. Italian losses: RP eliminated; 6*-9-5 rifle XX to 2*-4-5 cadre German losses: RP eliminated; 12-15-6 mtn rfl XX to 5*-7-6 cadre The result could have felt like an Italian victory, but for the upcoming second phase.
In exploitation, while the Entente continued its endless shuffle all along the front, in one place the move really showed strongly. A weak corps of Italians in danger of being cut-off by the latest German attack slipped southwestward toward but not to safety. The rifle cadre trooped gratefully away from the line as the other half of their small corps continued to try to staunch the German flood.
Central Powers Turn
The Central Powers initial phase of the first half of July 1915 passed in a flash as men and material rushed to the front. From cadre, many divisions were rebuilt: French: 2x 9*-12-5 rifle, 3x 10*-13-5 rifle and 13*-16-7 mtn chasseur Austro-Hungarian: 4*-6-4 rifle, plus a 3*-7-2 fortress brigade from remnant Prussian: 3x 12-14-5 rifle and 13-15-5 rifle; plus 2-3-7 jgr, 1-2-5 rifle, and 1-2-4 rifle III’s replaced Wurtemburger: 8-11-4 rifle Saxon: 15-17-5 rifle Bavarian: 16-18-5 rifle
In the Italian Theater, the Germans continued their assault toward Switzerland while the Austrians contented themselves with further stiffening of their front along the Isonzo River. The last trickle of Austrians also began to move out of the Trient Salient, the stationary artillery of the fortress being mobilized and the final static brigade marching slowly northward. In sector 3914, the few Italians in their mountain rifle pits faced elite Germans who struck with morale superiority, partially effective gas, successful aerial reconnaissance, and three groups of zeppelin air support. The Italians lacked even ammunition and in their dismay failed both to retreat their cavalry division before combat and to commit the tiny reserve. Odds of 8.5:1 rolled downward but a clean breakthrough was thwarted largely by German tactical overconfidence (roll 1) and a defender exchange turned what should have been a notable victory into a significant disappointment. Italian losses: 6*-4-7 hvy cav XX to 2*-1-7 cadre; 2-3-5 fld art III eliminated German losses: RP, 2x 1-7 mtn fld art II, and 2-4-7 mtn mg [III] eliminated
Along the real Western Front, German forces acted without any trace of aggression in early July. As many German fixed wing and rigid aircraft as possible flew over the Alps against the Italians and the tiny remainder stayed unemployed while the absence of gas engineers and much in the way of ammunition stayed any offensive impulse. In most placed, in fact, the majority of German attention was on solidifying defensive positions while maximizing throughput in the infuriatingly endless stream of conversions and reorganizations to which the German military is subject. The one exception to the general activity was in southernmost Belgium, which the Germans evacuated. The withdrawal was from a salient, thereby effectively shortening both sides’ front lines, but the main attraction of the move was to remove a common battlefield from the French menu – one upon which they had regularly feasted with odds approaching 4:1 and therefore with potentially grievous and endlessly expensive consequences.
The Entente reacted sluggishly to Germanic moves in early July. Eight of nine Entente armies in France and Belgium failed to budge; the exception merely slid a few heavy artillery units either out of the line or along it. Two Italian armies failed to react too, while the British and Italian armies in Italy that did react merely shifted a couple of formations each slightly forward and rearward, respectively.
The only notable activity of the Central Powers’ exploitation phase of early July 1915 was the first-ever Austro-Hungarian bombing raid against a non-unit target: the ammunition stockpile along the Po River remained undamaged.