When compared to recent carnage, the scale of replacement activities in early June 1917 demonstrated both the changing face of the Entente war effort and the failing strength of its Central Powers’ opponents. Saxon replacements, half of them from Prussia, rejuvenated a Saxon division’s rifle regiments. German policy from the very beginning of DJ05 continues to be spending half Prussian manpower for all Saxon, Bavarian, and Wurtemburger units so that the latter three armies remain in the field for as long as possible in the face of steep declines in their manpower production.
Entente replacements moved to a wider array of units. Italian pilots ferried planes forward to repair an air group while the mountain recruit training depot emptied for the month by filling a cadre back to division strength. Italian and French sapper trainees in equal numbers renewed a regiment each. French forces repaired three air groups, refilled a rifle division’s cadre with infantrymen, upgraded a flak battalion into a regiment, replaced a field artillery regiment, and “replaced” the final two regiments of heavy artillery placed directly into the pool more than two years earlier. The Royal Air Force repaired an air group while the Royal Tank Corps replaced an engineer tank regiment.
British forces in northwest of Lille assailed grid 0521, just inland from the North Sea coast, in early June. The Royal Air Force made a small effort, faced minimal opposition, and usefully observed the battlefield in its only roll after flak and fighters. British artillery pounded German positions with two 25-point, six 16-point, and one 12-point shots for eleven disruption hits and cut the defense from 72 to 33 points. Reserve commitment and defensive air support lifted the defense to 40 and the British salivated their way to incompetence. Odds of 4.3:1 rolled downward and the worst combat roll brought the usual Both Exchange result.
British losses: 2x RP, one air unit, and four field artillery brigades eliminated; rifle division to cadre; 4.16 morale points
German losses: RP eliminated; air unit aborted; machinegun brigade reduced to remnant; three divisions to cadre; 3.5 morale points
Petain’s French continued their intermittent battering of grid 1919 in early June. A huge air battle, including a British combat air patrol with terrible luck on all three sides allowed successful aerial observation. Two 25-point, 16 16-point, and one 3-point bombardment shots scored a depressing 20 hits and reduced the defense from 110 to 69.75 before defensive bombing bumped it to 73.75. Petain and the Hind/Lud team both failed to usefully govern events. French chemical weapons consumed valuable frontline trenches that could have been better used by almost any other unit type while German gas mortars suffered terrible disruption from the French bombardment and could not attempt their own craft. Entrenchments offset national will but two successful engineer escalades supercharged the assault. The French, with a 3.2:1 attack, rolled downward then squandered their +3 modifier into yet another BX result.
French losses: 3x RP and engineer regiment eliminated; one mountain and four field artillery divisions reduced to cadre; 5 morale points
German losses: RP and field artillery division eliminated; one Saxon rifle, one Prussian trench, and two Bavarian rifle divisions to cadre; 5 morale points
After a month of combat in May, with a whole summer to go, Italy’s General Cadorna already wailed his misfortune at the limits of his mountain recruit training depots. This fortnight emptied the depots without replenishing his elite formations and no more trained men would reach the front until July. By mid-July, Cadorna would be attacking without an elite bonus and probably entirely in mountains where his regulars would suffer an additional disadvantage.
Meanwhile, Cadorna would not pause the offensive while the Austro-Hungarian Army retreated eastward toward its next solid defense line. First on the menu, Italian forces chewed on grid 4606 in an attempt to break through and unhinge the Central Powers’ defensive plan for the Ljubljana Gap. A small air battle preceded successful aerial observation and a normal Italian bombardment (“normal” translates to “embarrassingly weak”) wherein two 16-point and one 12-point shots scored two hits. The subsequent vigorous attack proved the third opportunity missed after national will offset rough terrain, Eugene failed to intervene, Italian elites offset trenches, and a successful engineer assault improved prospects. Odds of 4.5:1 rolled upward and hearts raced at headquarters before the +2 modifier still achieved only a BX result.
Italian losses: RP, engineer and light regiments eliminated; cavalry and mountain divisions to cadre; 3 morale points
Austro-Hungarian losses: air unit aborted, RP eliminated, two rifle divisions to cadre
A pair of Austro-Hungarian units straggled in grid 4406, a salient jutting from the interim defense line and shielding it at great expense when the Italians made their next advance. Italian forces easily achieved the maximum 6:1 mobile combat chart but suffered from wooded rough terrain and amazing defending flak shooting that left national will as the only Italian advantage. The -1 modifier and then rule 9M transformed easy victory into first a Defender Retreat and then a Half Exchange result.
Italian losses: light brigade eliminated, .67 morale points
Austro-Hungarian losses: fortress brigade and heavy flak regiment eliminated, 1 morale point
At the conclusion of the combat phase, British engineers deemed the Trieste factory repairable. To Italian outrage, British managers would begin hiring Slovenes in July as building materials and the latest machine tools began to flow to refit the facilities. The Slovenians would deliver ammunition and guns to Entente armies in May 1918.
Italian and German strategic bombing operations continued in their usual pattern but with skewed luck. All nine zeppelin groups found their targets and dodged flak but all missed with their bombs. Two Italian fixed wing groups flew, one to its common disaster at the hands of Stuttgart’s expert flak defenders and the other to hit Vienna for the first time in DJ05.
Air corps generals responded to steadily increasing force levels and aircraft type variety by increasing their counter-air bombing missions during summer 1917. The British and German air arms each suffered a group damaged on the ground during the first week of June.
Many German generals expect, sometime during the summer or autumn of 1917, to evacuate or retreat from their empire’s positions facing Maubeuge and approaching Lille. In support of a shorter line across the base of the salient, Dutch engineers completed the first DJ05 hex devastation and moved to begin work in the next hex. As a longer-term prospect, German engineers began actual construction of the first four improved forts in DJ05, all on the north or east bank of the Rhine River in The Netherlands or Germany.
Replacements continued to trickle toward the front lines throughout the fortnight. French troops accepted new 75’s to rebuild a field artillery division from cadre and French NCOs accepted graduates to do the same for a mountain division. Austro-Hungarians from across the polyglot empire brought two rifle divisions and an air group upward from damaged states. Germany exerted itself to repair three and replace one air group, replace a field artillery division, and rebuild two Bavarian and one Saxon divisions from cadre.
Austro-Hungarian forces evacuated the battlefield of mid-month in favor of a straightened front. In the south, the defense now sits firm with mostly Germans in mountainous Fiume then bristles with German and Austro-Hungarian guns in rough terrain running northward to the wooded hills west of the Ljubljana Gap. The western approach to the Gap is the next obvious Italian target, a final place in which their rifle divisions can fight without much disadvantage. Mountain after mountain for hundreds of miles is a fine description of the front from the Gap to the Swiss border with only some impassable terrain and the fortress of Trient to break the beautiful monotony.
British forces reacted to this continued rearward deployment with surprising vigor to attack the Germans holding rough terrain between Fiume and Ljubljana. Aerial observation passed with bloodless interception and successful picture taking. That and elite status counterbalanced trenches in rough terrain. Exactly 4:1 odds with no modifier produced the almost inevitable BX result.
British losses: RP eliminated, Canadian and British divisions to cadre, 2 morale points
German losses: RP eliminated, two Prussian divisions to cadre, 2 morale points
Notably, the Prussian corps in Austria-Hungary retains too shallow a manpower pool at this instant to refill either of those two drained divisions. Whether or how this will influence the course of the campaign remains unknown.
Cadorna roused himself and his staff to work through a Saturday, normally reserved for staff day at the beach. The weakened Italian mountain corps marched northwestward into the mountains. From their central position they could either countermarch to attack to Ljubljana or press onward to try to burst through and force back the Austro-Hungarian position between the Isonzo and Innsbruck.
On the Western Front proper, German generals desperately shifted units to replenish the front and prepare the next wave of conversions and withdrawals. For the historical Germans, 1917 was a hard year in the West. DJ05’s Germans find the situation the same.
British forces tried to keep up the pressure and massed in reaction to attack Brugge, grid 0521. A meaningful German air patrol intercepted the British observation mission and the ensuing air combat proved bloody. On the ground, Haig declined to commit and air units suffered the only famous casualties from the non-event.
British losses: one air group destroyed, 0.5 morale points
German losses: two air groups destroyed, 1 morale point
Further air action claimed more casualties in several sectors. A zeppelin hit Nottingham for a morale point. A French Voi8 scored possibly the first night bombing hit by a fixed wing aircraft in DJ05, punishing Stuttgart for a morale point. Italian fliers suffered a group damaged by flak while burning half a group of Austro-Hungarian float planes in Fiume harbor. French Sopwiths torched half a group of German fighters on the ground in the Ardennes.
The most superficially interesting situation in DJ05 at the moment is Entente air superiority. The Italians have numbers and the British competitive quality in Istria. French units significantly outnumber and have rough qualitative parity against the Germans between Metz and Neu Breisach. British units slightly both outnumber and outgun the Germans and Dutch around Brugge. Of the Entente, only the French have a single air group in the eliminated pool after the initial phase of Entente II JUN; the Germans and Austro-Hungarians are both already oversubscribed to their ARP income for July. This is mostly tangential to the larger conduct of the war, a very occasional attack missing a +1 modifier and perhaps two decimal points per turn of ground support bombing being available or not, but details matter and player morale is a consideration.