Autumn came to France and Belgium in late October 1914; General Mud ordered both sides to stand down and the Entente, at least, obeyed her directive. Ecstatic Belgian generals breathed a sigh of relief at their reprieve and ordered two formations scrapped and two heavy artillery units rebuilt in hopes of rebuilding their diplomatic clout as much as their military firepower. French generals celebrated their newly-freed stock of artillery pieces by rebuilding three colonial cadres, a metropolitan cadre, and three artillery regiments. The French Foreign Legion combined the contents of several depots to rebuild one elite regiment. British and German forces remained unchanged as the Entente front ground back into motion.
With the Scheldt-Netherlands line well and truly forced and with the onset of poor weather, the Entente reshuffled its line again in late October 1914. Belgian forces found a larger role for themselves by backstopping the two British frontline hexes, both now field worked, and bringing up two heavy artillery units to guard the seaward approaches to Oostende from any German naval gunfire support for an attack against that vital, British-held port. The British likewise cooperated with the Belgians by bringing down and laying a load of sea mines just outside Dutch coastal waters on the other naval approach to Oostende. Aside from thirty-five miles of front line in Belgium, the French manned the remainder of the front with adjusted but broadly adequate defensive forces. The French know that the Germans can generate useful attack odds at almost any point if they shift forces suddenly by rail, but French forces using constrictive terrain and fieldworks in the mud have a good chanc
e to drive back any German attack that does not simply overrun the defenders. As part of the economized defense, several elite French units and some heavy artillery railed south to just east of Belfort, from whence they might be able to cause some mischief on what is by far the weakest (and least important) sector of the German front at some opportune moment in the future. Interestingly, while several engineer regiments moved into position for future work, no Entente fieldworks were upgraded to entrenchments; it seems that, at least during mud weather, such an upgrade would simply make possible an enemy attack where otherwise any such action would be more likely to result in a disaster for the attacker than in gained ground.
Confounded by mud when they had hoped for unseasonably mild weather, the Germans reacted sluggishly to Entente developments. Only two German armies activated and neither accomplished anything beyond slight shifts and the combining of forces for further conversions.
Entente forces exploited laterally or in the deep rear area to slight advantage in a few places but otherwise remained inactive at the end of October 1914.
Central Powers Turn
In response to the onset of the autumn rains and the lack of Italian adherence to the Triple Alliance, both Germany and Austria-Hungary acted cautiously in late October 1914. Two regiments of imperial rifle troops moved west to join the garrison along the Italian border in Dalmatia. German forces provided artillery and unskilled personnel to Saxon and Wurtemburger field artillery units in Germany. French forces, enjoying the lull, fed rested and healed colonial troops into the cadres of two of the best divisions in the French Army.
Central Powers movement during those weeks was toward one objective only: Antwerp. Entente calculations regarding the strength of their main line positions went un-impeached by German commanders, chary of achieving yet another AQ or a disastrous AR while hospitals across Germany remained choked with wounded and vital resource centers still lay near the front lines. On the other hand, the Generalstab still saw Antwerp as a vital objective both to collapse Belgian resistance and to free-up German forces encircling the fortress. If a great many of the best German formations concentrated against it, they might take the fortress in one fell swoop and without great loss, however the strength of the works and cling of the mud might hinder the effort.
The staff proved themselves correct; Antwerp fell to the Central Powers for little loss in late October 1914. Four corps of German forces with one battalion of Austro-Hungarian siege artillery attached, overwhelmed a weak corps of already dispirited (+1 morale advantage) Belgians in just a few days of fighting. Both sides expended ammunition prodigiously in the struggle for the fortress, though the Germans also captured a stockpile of shell to go with their captured Belgian artillery. German aerial reconnaissance achieved two “firsts” in the battle, with one element being driven away by Belgian anti-aircraft fire while the other successfully plotted the fall of shot for the Alliance siege train. On site German leaders proved too cautious to go forward with their troops (failed influence roll) but the troops themselves executed the plan brilliantly, especially with two successful engineering projects. In the end, 8.6:1 rolled down to 8:1 +1 and achieved a DL. German forces su
ffered 3-4-7 jager and 1-2-5 engineer regiments destroyed. Belgian forces suffered total losses, though they remained unisolated due to the errata allowing a naval element to a line of communication: 9-12-5 rifle XX, 2x 3*-5-4 frt XX, 5*-3-7 hv cav XX, 4-2-0 hv art X, 0-4 cons X, and 1-2-7 mot mg II. German forces added to their laurels by capturing the Antwerp industrial complex intact.
When the Germans seized Antwerp from the Belgians at the end of October 1914, neither the Entente nor the Germans could see any attacks in the near future – and both sides were correct. The next attack of the war did not happen until the end of December 1914, after the arrival of winter and the beginning of Entente entrenching. In the meantime, despite the best efforts of both sides to find someplace, anyplace, where an attack seemed worthwhile, the best efforts of the generals on both sides succeeded only in impotent shadow boxing on the ground and fruitless bombing attempts from the air.
The Entente reaction phase of the German II OCT 14 turn was brilliantly successful, with four armies activating and much shifting of units.
German exploitation after the seizure of Antwerp continued the pattern of preparing for the next turn’s reinforcement activities.