Entente Turn

After the bloodletting of May, June 1916 should have been a period of quiet recovery. The month began instead with both rivers of conventional blood and with an Entente amphibious attempt to break the stalemate.

In the first days of June, replacements flowed to numerous formations

Britain: 9-12-5, 8-11-5, and 4-7-4 RN rifle XX’s from cadre; 8-6-4 LRSiege Arty III from II; and air group replaced

French: 2x 10*-13-5 rifle XX from cadre; three air groups repaired; 12-4-R LR Hvy Siege III from II; 0-1-4 eng [III] replaced

Prussian: 2x 16-18-5 and 18-20-5 rifle XX from cadre; and 7*-9-5 [XX] from cadre

Bavarian: 13-15-5 rifle XX from cadre

Italian: CauG3 bomber repaired

A combined Entente naval and French ground force invaded s’Gravenhage as June 1916 opened with calm seas and dry ground. Dutch coast defense cruisers and the far away High Seas Fleet refused to intervene, so the invasion came against no naval opposition. Dutch coast defense guns in the target city sank a flotilla of French destroyers, the sum of Entente naval losses due to the invasion. The Central Powers exerted danger zone failed to cause a loss before an Entente minefield rendered the sector safe from that threat. Finally, a Dutch machinegun regiment reacted into the threatened city from the northeast, to bolster the division and coastal battery already defending the place.

In the air over the target city, French and British reconnaissance aircraft with French escorts battled successfully through German interception and flak, at the cost of half a group each of French and Germans. To the southwest, Italian reconnaissance succeeded at the cost of half a group to flak.

The ships began the ground battle with bombardments. Italian ships performed remarkably, bombarding the three Dutch divisions on the coast southwest of the city with six hits. At the target, British and French vessels bombarded all three defending units into badly disrupted status, also leaving the machinegun regiment unsupported.

The Dutch then attempted reaction with the only units capable of getting to the target hex: the three divisions along the coast southwest of the city. One of two disrupted divisions successfully reacted, becoming badly disrupted but dramatically bolstering the defense. The undisrupted division failed its reaction roll too, so the Entente gamble had certainly not failed yet, though when flak missed the lone Dutch air group on defensive air support the odds worsened a bit.

In combat, the Entente enjoyed certain advantages and a respectable result that equaled failure. National will, reconnaissance, and an elite force brought substantial net modifiers when balanced only against entrenchments. Odds of 3.7:1 rolled downward, they obviously had to do so after the combat roll of 6 would have yielded a DL result had the odds NOT rolled downward, and a DX result ruled the day.

French losses: 2x RP and DD flotilla eliminated; air group aborted; 8*-12-7 alpine rifle XX to cadre (isolated)

Italian losses: air group aborted

German losses: air group aborted

Netherlands losses: RP and 5*-8-5 rifle XX eliminated (wholly, to satisfy 11 losses)

The invasion of s’Gravehage thus resulted in a French force of two divisions, a brigade, a cadre, and a regiment besieged by a badly disrupted division and battery of coast defense guns. The standard result of all World War One actions on the Western Front happened again; that is why it was a standard.

Westward along the coast, the British massed for an attack out of Oostende against the Dutch anchored on the coast by the German short-range siege train. The British, with only two reconnaissance air groups in the Western Front war in June 1916, and with one of those groups over s’Gravenhage, unsurprisingly managed to fail their aerial spying attempt. Given a 1-hex to 1-hex attack against canal intensive entrenchments, the British would have attempted the assault had their balloon found targets – to pressure the Dutch simultaneous with the invasion seemed worthwhile – but without spotting it seemed less like pressure and more like suicide.

The French move against Briey continued in early June. After interceptors aborted a balloon group (another “first”), the French managed to fail to achieve aerial reconnaissance and thus definitely did not bombard the defenders. The assault went forward nonetheless, with national will and one of two multi-brigade engineer assaults mostly cancelling an active and adept Falkenhayn, the entrenchments, and the resource center. The French did not bother to waste a slot on their 1-in-6 gas chance and Petain was as useless in 1916 as he would go on to be in 1940. Bloodletting like this is rapidly drying up replacement pools on both sides. Odds of 2.2:1 naturally rolled upward but the negative net DRM left BX the virtually inevitable result.

French losses: RP and 0-1-4 eng [III] eliminated; 10-13-7 COL, 10-13-5 COL, 2x 8*-11-5, and 3x 9*-12-5 rifle XX’s to cadre

German losses: RP eliminated; 2x 7*-9-5, 9*-12-4, 6*-9-4 Nvl, 7*-10-4 BAV, and 13-15-5 rifle XX’s to cadre

Not far away, the French also struck against grid 2018 in another attempt to deepen the salient containing Briey and Metz. Sparse French reconnaissance met no aerial opposition, the Germans being somewhat fooled and mostly committed elsewhere. National will, aerial spies, and two successful multi-brigade engineer assaults twice cancelled the effects of woods and entrenchments, so that the Entente briefly hoped to hold the field. When such seems possible, the obvious result is what happened: odds of 2.9:1 rolled downward and a BX naturally resulted.

French losses: RP and 1-5 eng III eliminated; 10-13-5, 9-12-7 alpine, and 8*-11-5 rifle XX’s to cadre

German losses: (no RP consumed as the Briey battle supplied both hexes) 13-15-5 BAV and 11-13-5 SAX XX’s to cadre

In reaction, events went well for the Central Powers. Zeppelins hit Naples, dragging the Italians to less than two morale points from national will two. Several German armies reacted, shifting units off the line so that they could easily rail to and crush the Entente “beachhead.” Most importantly, the lone Dutch army made its reaction roll and dispatched a disrupted division into the besieging force – and rendering that force non-overrunnable even if the French landed their entire accessible force.

In exploitation, British landing craft pulled the entire French force off the beach. German artillery could have joined the besieging force and made the beachhead utterly unsustainable during the ensuing Central Powers movement phase, so waiting to flee would have equaled vastly higher losses for probably no gain at all.

Central Powers Turn

The Central Powers’ half of the first half of June 1916 encompassed a bit of excitement laid over more of the usual pointless attrition.

First, fresh meat had to go into the grinder to sustain the war. French forces rebuilt nine divisions from cadre, including their whole quota of mountain and elite units and a pair of colonial divisions. German forces rebuilt two Bavarian, one Saxon, one naval, and six Prussian divisions from cadre, but also completely replaced four divisional cadres, one each combat engineer and field artillery regiments, and two Wurtembourg rifle brigades. Much of the German activity stemmed from the imminence of yet another vast wave of reorganizations and conversions.

At sea, the German Navy converted another stack of munitions into mines and continued to lay fields along the Dutch coast. In the air, the first ever naval patrol air mission failed to find the minelayers.

After the Germanic powers stood firm, the Entente tried to strike some blows.

In a rare opportunity spawned by the German reorganization, Italian troops surged forward into the high Alps to strike a lonely Austro-Hungarian regiment. After neither side could spend much ammunition and Italian national will came nowhere near matching the power of the mountains and Austro-Hungarian elite troops, the 6:1 attack resulted in a BX that cost the Italians 3-4-7 lt mtn [X] as against 2-6 high mtn III.

In frustration, British forces again attempted to strike the Dutch along the North Sea coast. An Italian attempt to destroy the Dutch ammunition stockpile missed, as has been the case in well over 90% of attempts, and at the cost of an aborted bomber group. The British suffered one each abort and returned results against their two air groups and without any advantages the British cancelled their attack.

The French reacted to mass against sector 1919, but in the face of a partial defending stack that totaled 101 defense, the French decided against attempting suicide. Next time, the French will count even half stacks of Germans, despite knowing in advance that without a massive bombardment there is no chance of making any successful attack on the main front.

The Entente conclusion, reinforced again, is that they must spend 1916 and 1917 making only the most carefully prepared of massive assaults with the benefit of maximum air support, full overstacks of artillery bombarding, eight regiments of combat engineers, and all the best rifle divisions. Doing this, the Entente can have a realistic chance of achieving better than 2:1 odds, therefore potentially rolling the odds column upward, and therefore plausibly scoring a DX result one time in ten. This will not win the war, but it might possibly leave the Entente strong enough to survive until tactical skill and American forces start to change the face of the war and make victory possible in 1918.