The second half of February 1915 began with the usual and the unusual. German forces rebuilt two cadres; British Indians and French Africans and Metropolitans rebuilt one each. French forces replaced one field artillery regiment. The Canadian heavy cavalry brigade again refused to leave its reduced effectiveness status. Far more importantly, an unexpected thaw transformed plastic mud into liquid mud and opened the way for a potential Entente attack against weakly-held, newly entrenched German positions at several salient in the front lines.
In late February 1915, for only the second time in the war to date, the Entente conducted major offensive activity. In order to free up an increasing quantity and quality of French formations, the Belgians shifted their frontline position to 0723, a hex with thirty-miles of river in front of it, while slightly buffing up their share of the second-line trenches. British forces took total ownership of the section of the front running Oostende through 0622 and also occupied forty miles of second line trenches. French forces broadly completed their reordering of the extreme southern sector of the line and managed to mass enough elite forces to go on the attack in the far southwestern fringes of the Ardennes Forest.
The freshly entrenched German salient at 1121 provided the target for the historic change of offensive tide on the Western Front (for “The Great World War One, 1914-1917”). Two German divisions, 33 points, defended wooded entrenchments facing fifteen miles of river and thirty-five miles of distant French trenches. French forces, with significant heavy artillery already in place along this sector of the front and powerful forces moving up rapidly, assumed a sudden offensive posture when they sensed the change in weather. Good French divisions and various moderate quality brigades and regiments exchanged positions with the crème de la crème of French formations: 10*-13-5 divisions and various elite divisions, brigades, and regiments. Eight regiments of field artillery slipped into firing positions under cover of woods to join the party.
In the face of such quality, what could even the liberally equipped, stronger German divisions do to defend themselves? 132.5 attack strength of French enjoyed +1’s for national will and elite status while facing -1’s for woods, entrenchment, and positional mud. Two groups of reconnaissance aircraft provided a +1 to the French and eight regiments of engineers combined into two, two brigade successful engineering attempts for +2 more. 4:1 with a combat roll of 6 resulted in DL and a forced change in the front line!
A Saxon 15-17-5 division dropped to cadre in trade for the French loss of 1-5 engineer regiment and the reduction of 4*-5-7 light brigade to remnant. Each side spent RP, Germans lost 1 1/3 and French 5/6 morale points.
Large French forces advanced after combat into the contested hex and suffered right about 50% disruption for their troubles. It would take a very bold German to counterattack this hex on the mobile table, with the French enjoying -5 protection from woods, elite, national will, and mud.
In reaction, only one German army activated to conduct a few, unimportant shifts.
Exploitation, in this unusual turn, kept to the unusual pattern. Several disrupted formations moved out of the contested hex. To replace them, undisrupted formations moved into the hex and again managed to find significant safe, clear locations to assemble a defense. By the end of the turn, three of four French divisions and two of four regiments or brigades in the embattled forest were not disrupted and German chances of a successful counterattack had dropped to nearly nil.
Central Powers Turn
The Central Powers initial phase of February II 1915 passed with little activity to note: German forces rebuilt one cadre.
Central Powers movement in late February 1915 was a real reaction to newly exhibited Entente strength. Many previously ‘safe’ positions received reinforcements to counteract Entente prowess. Several brand-new entrenchments underwent renovation, resulting in handsome new fieldworks that would keep the Entente on the mobile table where the -2 for mud would make 3 and 4:1 attacks unsafe. Too, the Germans continued to conform in their tactics and operations to their attritional strategy, this time by massing against the French in 2520.
25 defense points in 2520 stood in fieldworks amid muddy mountains, semi-confident that their national will advantage would keep them safe from German attack. Three corps of Germans proved them wrong in a small but hard fought battle in which the Germans, but not the French, spent an RP. The French decision sent 6:1 odds spiraling up to 9:1 and transformed a sure BX into a likely DX, as indeed turned out to be the case. French forces reduced 6*-9-5 division to cadre and suffered 4-5-5 field artillery regiment destroyed for 1 1/3 morale points lost. German forces suffered 7*-8-5 cadre destroyed for 1/3 morale point lost.
It may be worth noting that with most 0-move artillery and the German siege train now disbanded the stockpiles of equipment points on both sides will no longer be quite so flush and that artillery and cadre losses may start to hurt more than has been the case in the past four months.
At the end of February 1915, Entente forces roused themselves to action in hopes of keeping the pressure on in their successful February offensive in the Ardennes. Three French armies activated for the purposes of shifting ever more of the best units of the French Army into the Ardennes sector and pulling increasing numbers of lower-rated formations southward out of that portion of the front. One British army likewise activated, pulling all but a non-overrunnable crust of forces from the frontline British trenches. Boringly, the offensively-poised French armies did not activate, so the phase passed without combat.
German exploitation at the end of February 1915 proved utterly unremarkable, with only the usual minor shifting of details.