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11-08-2015, 16:08

191 5:THE ELUSIVE VICTORY

The full year of fighting in 1915 produced a record of frustration and disappointment for the Allied powers. In contrast, the Central Powers fended oQ'one threat after another and drove forward in several direcfions. New countries entered the conflict. Nonetheless, the year ended without having moved the war closer to resolution.

Allied Failures in 1915: The Western Front, Gallipoli, and the Invasion of Serbia

While France failed in its attacks on the western front, the British, losing there as well, were humiliated at Gallipoli. The western front remained primarily a French responsibility as Britain busied itself building up a large army. General Joffre hurled the vast French forces against the German lines in a series of offensives from March until September. The result was a deadlock marked by long, discouraging casualty lists. Whether striking along the northern portion of the front in Artois or further southward in Champagne, the French could do litde more than dent the German line. What ground they took in the face of potent German defenses often fell back into enemy hands following violent German counterattacks. The experience for the British on the western front was the same, although on a smaller scale. From the spring to the fall of 1 9 15, General Sir John French's divisions conducted a series of offensives. No combination of artillery or gas (the latter was introduced by both the Germans and the British on the western front this year) opened the way for the infantry to take—and to keep—much ground. The final major assault, at Loos in September, was a particularly bloody affair due to the ineptitude of the British high command as well as to the success of the German counteroffensives. In the aftermath, French was forced to relinquish his command to General Sir Douglas Haig. Britain's humiliation at Loos was compounded by its failure to seize the Turkish Straits and capture the Turkish capital, Constantinople. Some of the more imaginative members of the government, like Winston Churchill, the navy minister, advocated using Britain's sea power to gain a decisive victory away from the western front. But the effort was marked by muddled planning and poor execution. Starting as a failed naval attack on the forts defending the entrance to the Straits in March 1915, it evolved into an amphibious operation in which British, Australian, and New Zealand troops landed on the Gallipoli peninsula to seize Turkish defenses by land attack. The highly vaunted British navy, undefeated for more than a century, failed in its attack. And, in another reversal of the trends of the nineteenth century, Britain's land forces could not overcome the army of a non-Western power, Ottoman Turkey. By the close of the year, the forces at Gallipoli had to be evacuated. In the Balkans, Serbia was nearly driven out of the war in the fall. Attacked from the north by German and Austrian forces, and from the east by Bulgaria, which joined the war in October in order to help overwhelm the Serbs, the kingdom of Serbia was overrun. Only by a dramatic march westward through Albania to the Adriatic Sea and the assistance of the French navy did a remnant of the Serbian army survive. Like the story at Gallipoli, the Serbian campaign was a disaster limited only by a skilled naval evacuation of the defeated forces.

 

 

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