Factory production in September 1916 presented few surprises. All 18 Central Powers factories produced at their tremendous, full rate, as the Germans still have a surplus of energy and the Germans never put the two captured Belgian factories back into production. All 35 Entente factories also enjoyed ample iron and energy, but three of four factories that had suffered a single bombing hit each failed to produce their quotas, costing 1.2RP and 2.4 equipment points. Eventually, even if the front does not move eastward, the Germans will enjoy enough factory upgrades to deplete then overwhelm their energy surplus, while the Entente simply waits for the United States to contribute its tremendous weight to the struggle.
The Entente began the final fair weather production cycle of 1916 with high hopes, temporarily bristling depots of men and equipment, slim hopes of breaking through a front somewhere, and plausible hopes of seriously damaging the Germanic war machines. Events moved forward in passable fashion toward at least the final item on that list.
British forces repaired one air unit, upgraded one heavy flak II to III, rolled an ANZAC division from reduced to full effectiveness, and replaced an engineer regiment.
Italian forces repaired one air group, upgraded a flame engineer II to a truly formidable II, and upgraded an engineer III to X.
French forces repaired one air unit, upgraded one heavy flak II to III, replaced two engineer III’s, replaced five heavy artillery III’s, rebuilt four divisions from cadres, and disbanded and scrapped four of the new triangular divisions.
In the air, between them, the British and French still do not match the Germans in quality, quantity, or replacements. As always, however, mission of the air forces is primarily to provide or deny adequate aerial observation, not simply to battle enemy aircraft. Even in the face of lengthening odds, the Entente air forces are managing to accomplish the mission with increasing regularity.
A secondary mission of the air forces, exercised almost exclusively by the German zeppelin force, is strategic bombing, first of populations and secondarily of production centers. The influx of Entente flak units during September enabled a shuffling and reinforcement of strategic air defenses in Italy. All Italian major cities began to enjoy potentially effective defenses: at least the five points needed to potentially damage a zeppelin. A couple of cities relatively close to Germany gained even stronger defenses and the northernmost Italian factory town also enjoyed a five-point defense for the first time. British cities, also under attack, remained no more firmly guarded than before because while the cities nearest Germany all have either five-point flak and/or fighter defense, the Midlands region is awash in major cities that the zeppelins can reach (barring bad luck due to weather en route) and that existing assets could not possibly defend without leaving uncovered everything else. Ministry-level work to provide gunfire defenses to numerous cities, factories, naval bases, mines, and the like will significantly enhance the defensive effectiveness of both sides’ strategic targets in 1917, while autumn and winter weather will soon reduce the effect of the bombers seeking to avoid those defenses.
Entente land forces occupied themselves single-mindedly in preparing for one attack on each front. British forces massed against Valenciennes, the tip of the German thrust toward Paris from the long gone days of October 1914. French forces completed their shift away from Briey to the greener fields of grid 1919, just southwest of Metz. Italian forces likewise completed their gradual shift from the eastern Alps to the hills along the middle Isonzo River. On the Istria front, Franco-Russian forces completed their assembly on Cherso Island to attack across the narrow strait to Lisson Island.
The Entente fleets moved first, with their only notable action being to blockade Lisson from just offshore. Austro-Hungarian light forces from Pola missed their chance when the French moved in during the last hours of darkness prior to the ground assault, and later missed their chance when the French moved back out. Austro-Hungarian gunners on Lisson did better, missing one shot in the darkness but sinking DD Squadron -3 with their other opportunity.
French field artillery then roared as the ground assault began from Cherso. Russian and French troops swarmed across the strait in small craft while two regiments of field artillery suppressed the defending troops and coast gunners. The Austro-Hungarians lacked any large stocks of ammunition and the Entente general was so bizarrely confident that he failed to move much ammunition forward, so that quick barrages, brief bursts, and the bayonet decided the issue. The strait quartered the attacking infantry power, but a division and three brigades of them with relatively robust artillery proved too much for the defenders. National will superiority provided the only modifier to the roll and 3:1 on the mobile chart converted, as usual, to half exchange.
Russian losses: 2-3-7 light [X]
Austro-Hungarian losses: 3-2-0 coast artillery [III] and 1*-2-4 Austrian static [X], both isolated for no special replacements and double morale point losses
Entente gains: .875 equipment points captured from the defenders
The second brigade of Russians arrived in Venice in late August, ready to conquer Pola, and presumably to be destroyed in the (positional) attempt.
The Italian effort at grid 4207 re-opened “The Battle of the Isonzo” with new and greater Italian hopes set against Austro-Hungarian defenses roughly as strong as they had been in the year 1915. One escort and six groups of reconnaissance or observation aircraft or balloons swarmed across the battlefield, overwhelming the lone potential defender air group into providing defensive bombing rather than intercepting vastly superior numbers. No flak on either side contributed to the battle and two groups of Italian bombers eventually also contributed usefully to the fight.
Italian artillery, a bit from long range, a lot from overstack, and some from within the attacking corps began the battle with a bombardment, the first such Italian effort either ever or at least in a very long time. The effort underwhelmed, despite successful aerial spotting, with modified attack strengths of one (three units), 1.25 (one unit), 1.5 (four units), two (eight units), and 2.25 (one unit). It may have been a waste of ammunition, but the poor rolls did not help and in the end only one defending artillery regiment lay badly disrupted, though that result did significantly change the decimal die roll for odds.
The combat effects are usually the main modifiers to sheer chance in this war, it seems, and there were various in this battle. Rough terrain and entrenchments negated two multi-brigade engineering successes. An Italian siege engineer brigade spent explosives prodigiously, only to blow itself up with no damage to the defenders in the first Italian siege engineer effects attempt. Aerial reconnaissance and a majority of elite Italian troops then provided die roll bonuses that actually changed the outcome. The Isonzo itself naturally dominated the battle, halving non-artillery attackers and the odds then rolled downward from 2.4:1. What would have been a standard BX instead became a defender exchange, saving the Italians the reduction of a third division to cadre.
Italian losses: 3x RP, 1-4-5 siege engineer [X], and 1-5 engineer III eliminated; 6*-9-6 mountain and rifle divisions, both with elite brigades attached, to cadre.
Austro-Hungarian losses: RP eliminated; 8*-11-5 Austrian and 9-12-5 Hungarian divisions to cadre.
The British returned to their occasional efforts against the coal mining town of Valenciennes in early September. One escort and six groups of reconnaissance or observation aircraft swarmed over the battlefield to begin the effort, meeting six groups of interceptors, with the Germans losing half a group and the British losing nothing in air combat. Flak then damaged a lone British group before the remainder successfully spotted the defender positions throughout the battle.
British artillery, slightly strengthened from previous efforts, bombarded the Germans with best-ever British results, after the defenders failed to make great use of the resource center. One 25-point shot, one 12-point shot, and seven 16-point shots inflicted a very average 12 bombardment hits. The nearly full German stack suffered severely, with its defense strength reduced to only 60.5 points.
Combat effects mattered relatively little to this battle, but much more to the near future in the British sector. Entrenchments relatively negated aerial observation. One successful single brigade engineer assault added the only net modifier after equal national wills provided no modifier and the British gas engineers failed as dismally as usual. A one-brigade engineer assault also self-immolated, taking half the British combat engineers to the replacement pool even before required losses would take the third quarter of their assets to the pool in this one battle. These results also rendered less relevant the arrival of the first real Entente (British, engineer) tank unit in France, as it would have few engineer compatriots with which to combine until October.
Combat odds played the main role in determining the outcome of this battle of Valenciennes. The river, across which a third of British infantry labored, seriously hindered British efforts. German reserve commitment, with three slots open in the array, was perfect, adding all three possible units to the fight. Odds drooped from possibly 6:1 down to 3.4:1 but rolled upward, as the Entente has done somewhat more often than average. Odds of 4:1 in a big battle are a rarity for the Entente so far in this war and perhaps in shock they rolled a one, bungling the assault but at least scoring a full both exchange result rather than a disastrous attacker exchange as would normally follow such a bad combat roll.
British losses: 3-5-5 engineer [X], 1-5 engineer III, and 2x RP eliminated; 5x 10-13-5 and 1x 11-14-5 rifle divisions to cadre
German losses: RP and 6-8-5 MG [X] eliminated (even the remnant); 2x 13-15-5, 1x 9-12-5, and 1x 8-11-5 Prussian rifle divisions to cadre
In a change, the major French effort was not THE major Entente effort of the fortnight, as the Italians and British both committed nearly as much force to their efforts, though neither could come close to matching French artillery concentrations. The French assault against the entrenched open fields of grid 1919 showcased those concentrations, newly enhanced to include a third overstacked corps, albeit a third of which was merely field guns.
In support of that gun line, the French committed three escort and six reconnaissance or observation groups as against ten groups of intercepting German aircraft. This massive air battle too apparently happened amidst clouds and fog, as casualties amounted to only one destroyed group on each side and one German group damaged, besides which flak missed entirely.
The French bombardment, with aerial observation counterbalancing entrenchments, proved shocking. In fifteen 16-point shots and a 12-point shot, the French scored 19 bombardment hits, badly disrupting every non-divisional unit and disrupting every division in the defending force.
Combat odds appeared set to provide a dramatic aspect to this fight. The one river hexside significantly hindered the French attackers, but less than it might have because the engineers mostly worked there and the best divisions deliberately deployed on the other two sectors of the defending position. German reserve commitment was not perfect, in a rarity, but two divisions did slot themselves into two of three open positions, thereby increasing the defenders’ strength by more than a third. What could have been 5.5:1 odds fell to 4.1:1 and reasonably rolled downward to 4:1.
Again as usual, the French portion of the front hosted the main combat effects units from both sides’ armies. Hindenburg and Ludendorf inspired the defenders, offsetting French national will superiority and making a mockery of Petain’s apparent vacation to a chateau near Vichy. French aerial reconnaissance offset German entrenchments and Entente gas engineers naturally failed to influence the battle, as they have done far more than the average five-times-in-six. In the end, two multi-brigade engineer assaults made the difference, pushing the roll of 5, a very competent assault, upward to a defender exchange result.
French losses: 3x RP (2 for bombardment) and 1-5 engineer III eliminated; 2x 10*-13-5 and 1x 9*-12-5 rifle divisions to cadre
German losses: RP and 3-5-5 engineer X eliminated; 1x 16-18-5 and 2x 9-12-5 Prussian, and 1x 11-13-5 Wurtemburger rifle divisions to cadre
In reaction, while their armies scrambled to repair weaknesses in the line and assemble imminent conversions behind them, zeppelins failed to find Nottingham but did hit Firenze.
In exploitation, while the two Italian cadres fell off the line for rebuilding, Franco-British destroyers and mine warfare ships completed the mine barrage around and adjacent to the Austrian naval fortress of Pola.
Central Powers Turn
During the Central Powers initial phase of I September 1916, both sides continued to repair and upgrade their forces.
Austria-Hungary upgraded a flak II into III while rebuilding both cadres back into divisions.
Britain rebuilt six divisions from cadre.
France rebuilt three divisions from cadre.
Wurtemburg rebuilt one division from cadre.
Prussia rebuilt four divisions from cadre, replaced a rifle brigade for an upcoming conversion, replaced an air group, and repaired an air group. the aforementioned brigade probably entered the replacement pool in very early 1915 and its residual manpower must certainly be disheartened to have been rooted out of their comfortable existence to re-enter the hell of the trenches.
The Kriegsmarine rebuilt a naval rifle division from cadre.
The Netherlands repaired an air group.
On the main front, German forces contented themselves with the usual preparations for their endless conversions while also ceaselessly rebuilding their defensive positions.
Austro-Hungarian forces likewise rebuilt their line, but also continued to extend the scope and strength of their hold on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, their replacement of the Germans in the Trient salient, and their removal of the Austro-Hungarian army from the upper Rhine River.
Units from The Netherlands continued marching southward to form a Dutch army on the upper Rhine.
French forces reacted appropriately to complete the shift of their heavy and long-range artillery from positions facing Briey to facing grid 1919, where later in the month the French will be able to launch yet another most powerful artillery barrage of the war.
The air proved the most exciting arena of events during the Central Powers’ I SEP 1916 turn. The first German fixed-wing bomber group flew a mission and missed Nottingham, doing no better than three zeppelin groups that found the city but failed to hit the houses of any campaign contributor of the local member of parliament. Over Firenze, however, another “first” for the war made headlines: flak defenses missed one group, returned one group, and damaged one group of airships – the first such damaging of airships in a strategic bombing mission! This event is potentially quite important not because air replacement point costs are doubled for airships but because after spending the points there is a 50/50 chance that the airship group will be eliminated (for morale point cost!) rather than put back into service. Given the paucity of airship group reinforcements, over the course of a war losing an airship could significantly change a target country’s morale points and somewhat impact its factory production.
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