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The Great War

News Reports From the Front
100 Years Ago This Month

January 1915

January 2

The British battleship HMS Formidable, of the pre-dreadnought period, which, at the time of her completion, 13 years ago was the largest and most powerful man-of-war in the world, was sunk in the English Channel a torpedo of a German submarine.

Thus, the New Year is ushered in by one of the heaviest blows Great Britain's Navy has suffered thus far in the war. Of the more than 600 men who were supposed to have been on board, only 71 are reported to have been rescued.

The Formidable is the third largest battleship to be lost by Great Britain. The others being the HMS Audacious and HMS Bulwark. The Audacious was sunk by a mine North of Ireland on October 27 and the Bulwark was sunk in the river Thames as a result of an internal explosion.

Petrograd reports that all danger of a German attack upon Warsaw, the chief objective of Field Marshal Von Hindenberg, is now past. The Russians report that during the past two days they had made progress all along the Eastern front, especially in the Carpathian mountains where the Austrians are still retreating, leaving thousands of prisoners in Russian hands. The Russians report their losses are heavy but the German casualties have been much heavier, and at some points the attacks amounted to no less than slaughter of the German soldiers.

January 4

That the campaign of the Germans and Austrians in Russian Poland has been a failure is clearly indicated by the measures under way to reinforce Gen. Von Hindenburg’s army at the expense of the German battlefront in France.

The Czar’s army has captured 22,500 prisoners and 45 machine guns in their campaign against the Austrians in the last two weeks. It is officially estimated at 27 German army Corps are operating against Russia. 400,000 Germans and Austrians have already been taken prisoners and the killed and wounded are three or four times heavier. Despite the furious attacks the Germans are no nearer to Warsaw now than they were a week ago.

January 5

German reinforcements have been rushed to the western battlefront in the Argonne as the advance of the French troops continues. All along that section of the battlefront the fighting has been particularly desperate for several days.

Along the line in Flanders, the situation is calm. The two armies are resting during the heavy rains that are sweeping across the battlefield. Artillery exchanges continue, but there has been little change in the front. The Germans administered a temporary setback to the French when the Kaiser's troops took possession of some German works recently capture by the French. But the Germans were unable to maintain their advantage and were compelled to abandon the positions again to the French.

On the Eastern front the Russians report the Germans have sent troops to aid the Austrians, who have been ordered at all costs to hold the front protecting Kraków.

In Berlin, is reported that the German submarine that sank the British battleship HMS Formidable with two torpedoes was herself sunk three hours later by a mine. It is said that all aboard the German submarine were lost.

January 6

Austria says the Russians are conducting a series of violent frontal attacks East of Kraków, but the attacks have been repulsed with heavy losses, owing to the strength of the Austrian positions.

Meanwhile along an 80-mile battlefront the Russians and Germans again are engaged in a terrible battle. The Germans are on the offensive along the whole front, but the Russians are occupying positions of great strength and reports received from the front state that the German attacks are being repulsed at all points. While the Germans have succeeded in capturing a few of the Russian trenches, they lose them almost immediately in counterattacks by the Russian forces.

Meanwhile reports from the Western front state that the French army has begun another invasion of Alsace. Already the French have made noticeable progress along the battlefront and heavy reinforcements had been sent to that region to strengthen the army of invasion. The fighting in this section of the Western war zone has been particularly fierce. Severe losses had been inflicted by both sides. The French forces are less than 30 miles from the Rhine and the German line of fortresses guarding German soil.

From Austria come reports that two Austrian aeroplanes engaged in a battle in midair with three Russian aeroplanes. Flying at a height of 4,500 feet, the Russian aviators dropped six bombs on the front lines. After the Russians had dropped their bombs the Austrian aeroplanes rose from their hangar and attempted to cut them off. The Russians succeeded in damaging one of the Austrian aeroplanes.

January 7

The Russians have reported that the broken remnants of the Turkish army that invaded the Caucasus are being pursued by the victorious Russian forces. The defeat of the Ottoman forces was a rout. The Russians have reported capturing 35,000 prisoners and vast quantities of munitions and guns. The 9th Turkish Army Corps was annihilated and the 10th Corps was so badly shattered that it was unable to offer any organized resistance.

The Russians have also announced another victory over the Austrians in the Carpathian Mountains. The Russians have gained control of the most valuable Austrian oil field and have thus shut off another source of oil supply, which the Austrian and German armies are said to be so much in need of.

Elsewhere on the Eastern front, the Germans have renewed their activity in the north of Poland with the intent of moving on Warsaw again. By entrenching his troops in central Poland, Field Marshal Von Hindenburg has been able to withdraw at least five Army Corps from the center front and throw them into the new attack on Warsaw from the north. However, the weather is proving a useful ally to the Russians. Much rain has fallen, which has converted the whole country into a vast morass.

January 8

German aviators attempting to attack Dunkirk, the French port opposite Dover, have been put to flight by French batteries. A German zeppelin airship skirted the French seacoast 12 miles southwest of Dunkirk Wednesday morning, and then turn westward towards England. It was rumored the two other zeppelins preceded it.

Thereafter throughout the whole day Dunkirk was subject to two German airplane raids which attempted to drop bombs, but the vigorous fire of the town's guns held them off. At one time six aeroplanes were hovering over the town, but were compelled to retreat, apparently no damage was done.

January 9

The French have admitted that the Germans have had a slight success on the Argonne front, capturing some of the French trenches and forcing the French back 20 yards. The fighting in the Alsace is growing daily in intensity. Houses and trenches have been taken and re-taken at the point of the bayonet, and the casualties on both sides are extremely heavy. About 250,000 men in all are engaged on both sides.

A dispatch from the front gives a good idea of the fierceness of the fighting. It says: "In taking the German trenches on the heights the French had to climb steep slopes, which were slippery with snow and ice, at the same time cutting their way through barbwire entanglements. The German machine guns played on the advancing French with unmerciful accuracy and soon the snow upon the hillside was dyed red. The French soldiers continued their advance under this deadly fire in hand-to-hand fighting with the bayonet followed in the trenches. German sharp shooters had evidently been ordered to pick off the French officers, for the list of killed among the men of rank were unusually high."

Meanwhile reports from the Eastern front say that the renewed German offensive in Poland is continuing and that the Germans are now only 26 miles from Warsaw. The Russians have admitted that the Germans have captured part of the Russian trenches protecting the Polish capital.

January 11

Field Marshal Von Hindenburg is reported to have assembled 1 million men for the new attempt to drive to Warsaw. The Russians however have received fresh troops from all parts of the empire and the German commander will find before him of force at least equal in number.

The Germans have moved Five Army Corps of first line troops, approximately 200,000 men, from Belgian and France to take part in the new attempt to take Warsaw. The battle, which is developing, may prove to be the fiercest struggle yet in Poland. The vile conditions of the roads and the country has made the German movement slow, but at the same time has held the Russians in check.

Russia's tremendous success against the Austrians together with the growing friction between Turkey and Italy, points to the speedy entrance of Romania and Italy into the war. Bulgaria and Greece also are believed to be ready to join the Allies in the war.

A special dispatch announced that a Turkish army, composed of 40,000 men and led by German officers, is now advancing on Egypt. The 8th Turkish Army Corps left Damascus with 6,000 camels for crossing the desert.

January 12

A scare was produced in English coast towns by the appearance over the English Channel of a large fleet of German air machines, including a zeppelin. The Times asserts that 16 German aeroplanes were seen crossing over the English Channel on Sunday. Evidently they contemplated a raid on England, but apparently the pilots found the conditions to bad to continue the journey, for they turned their machines around. English coast towns fear and attack from German airships at any moment. The coast of the channel is now patrolled night and day by fleet of British aeroplanes, piloted by the best aviators of the Royal Flying Corps.

January 13

Great Britain is now sending thousands of men into France every week, and, according to reports from Berlin, Germany, aware of this, is making great military preparations for countermovement. All the German reserves are being called to the colors and German generals are gathering up the reins to assume active directions of all campaigns, that is to say, the Austro-Hungarian fight against Serbia and Russia, and the Turkish campaign against the Russians and Great Britain.

On the Eastern front, the Russians have admitted that the Germans have captured the strategic city of Plock, which lies 58 miles Northwest of Warsaw. While this great battle rages in northern Poland, another of greater importance is progressing 30 miles west of Warsaw. The Germans are now storming the strongest lines of defense between them and Warsaw. This is virtually the last barrier in the way of the Kaiser in his invasion, and his troops are sacrificing great numbers in an effort to reduce it.

January 15

The allies suffered the most severe reverse since the German drive to Belgium to gain the sea coast of France was halted when the Germans administered a defeat to the French forces in the Argonne forest. The Germans hurled great numbers of troops against trenches captured by the French just a few days ago. The battle raged violently for two days. The Germans finally launched a night attack that swept back the French. Both sides have suffered heavily in killed and wounded.

With Emperor William personally directing the onslaught, the Germans battled desperately for possession of the field. The battle came after French troops had gained much ground in that part of the front and had driven the Germans from many of their trenches and threatened their lines of communication from their base in Germany.

January 16

A big German army of first-line troops, said to be 500,000 men, has been concentrated along the Aisne battlefront. The fighting, only 38 miles from the outlying fortifications of Paris, and 50 miles from the capital itself, is still raging. The Germans declared that all the French troops in that vicinity have been driven back across the Aisne and that they have captured 6 towns along the river. It is stated that the French lost heavily in the retreat and abandon these towns to the Germans.

January 18

The Russians reported that the 11th Turkish Army Corps which was sent to relieve the broken 10th Corps has been destroyed, with a total loss of 40,000 men. In a separate report the Russians claimed that the 52nd Turkish regiment was annihilated in a bayonet attack. All the survivors, including the commander, were made prisoners.

The allies meanwhile report that the German maneuvers in the Argonne have been brought to a complete halt by the reorganization of the French forces after their retirement to the south bank of the river Aisne.

British aviators have carried out a successful raid on the Kaiser's military positions at Ostead. Many bombs were dropped on the railway station and the barracks. Considerable damage was done. Nine British aviators took part in the attack.

Tension is becoming more severe in Italy as war fever is growing. According to a dispatch from Rome the Austrian and German ambassadors are ready to leave Italy on short notice.

The Canard liner Orduna, which left from New York for Liverpool on Monday, had two 14-inch guns lashed to her deck, while the aft deck held the gun carriages. These big guns are believed destined for some new British dreadnought now under construction. Each of the weapons weighed 15,000 pounds and were 53 feet long.

Constantinople reports that the French submarine Sapphire, while trying to enter the Dardanelles, was sunk by Turkish artillery. Part of the submarine's crew was rescued.

January 19

Verdun, the great French fortress on the Meuse, has been encircled by German troops. It is been asserted that the success came as a result of a German advance in the Argonne. Some experts believe a French army has been bottled up and will be forced to surrender, just like they had been forced to do in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian war, which led to the French surrender in that war.

London believes that the Germans have adopted what is virtually a defensive role on the eastern front and that these defensive tactics synchronized with the movement of many thousands of German troops from Poland to the Argonne, have allowed the Germans to regain the momentum on the Western front.

January 20

The Germans delivered their long feared zeppelin attack against England last night. A fleet of five air cruisers swooped across the North Sea to the Norfolk coast, bombarded Yarmouth, and sailed into the interior and dropped bombs.

At least four persons were struck dead and many are believed to have been injured by the devastating missiles, which exploded with horrible force. Not all the zeppelins escaped. At least one was brought to earth and captured, together with the officers and crew.

January 21

Comments of the British press today on last night's airship attacks is bitter in tone. The Pall Mall Gazette says that the only fitting answer is the sending of fresh armies to the continent. The Westminster Gazette characterizes the raid as a violation of the rules of warfare. The London Globe urges retaliation in kind, urging that there are several German towns within easy reach of British aviators.

There is still a difference of opinion as to whether the aerial raiders where zeppelin balloons or aeroplanes. The small size of the bombs and the few missiles dropped support the theory that they were not zeppelin's, as those air vessels could carry a much more formidable cargo of explosives.

The raiding aviators showed excellent ability to pilot their vessels, as well as good marksmanship. In spite of the darkness of the night, they seem to find their way over the country with remarkable directness and the accuracy of their aim with bombs was greater than generally had believed possible.

January 22

Destruction of a big German ammo depot, from which German forces operating near Rheims got their supplies, was reported in the official dispatches this afternoon. The explosion of huge supplies of powder resulted in many deaths.

French aviators located the ammo dump and furnished the range to allied gunners. The guns had scarcely been trained in its direction when a shell burst through the roof. A tremendous explosion shook the earth for miles around.

Before the depot was blown up French artillery succeeded in demolishing German field works in the same vicinity. Immediately following the explosion an infantry charge was ordered and the French took several of the enemy trenches.

January 23

England's view that Germany expects to ultimately be defeated is what is driving her to take the most desperate war measures to date. Torpedoing the British merchantman Durward, via submarine was generally accepted as the first move in the policy announced by the German Grand Admiral Von Tirpitz, who declared all merchant ships fair targets.

This is the second of what British official believes are the Kaiser's "last effort" expedients. The zeppelin raids on Tuesday night were regarded as the first. Ever since the war began it was believed that the zeppelin aerial fleet was being held as the Kaiser's ‘last cartridge.’ The British view is that the Kaiser, blocked on land and sea, has now decided to use this aerial arm.

The sinking of the Durward is the first time a German underseaboat has apparently deliberately sunk a merchantman. Admiral Von Tirpitz’s threat to torpedo British merchant vessels was made as follows: "America has not raised her voice in protest and has taken little or no action against England's closing of the North Sea to neutral shipping. What will America say if Germany declares war on all of her enemy’s merchant ships? Why not? England wants to starve us. We can play the same game. We can bottle her up and torpedo every English or allied ship which nears any harbor in Great Britain. Thereby cutting off her large food supplies."

January 25

Violent battles are progressing today in the Argonne Forest. On these battlefields there has been no cessation of conflict for the last 60 hours, the Germans launching one desperate attack after another in an attempt to pierce the French lines.

The struggle in the Argonne represents a new and strongly organized attempt of the Kaiser’s troops to regain roadways leading towards Verdun. The fighting there is unusually violent and trenches had been lost and retaken by both side several times within the last 48 hours.

January 26

A new attack on the Russian armies has been initiated by Austria, in conjunction with the German forces in accordance with a plan believed to have been adopted by the Teutonic allies. Austrian forces have struck all along the 300-mile front. Desperate fighting at close quarters is in progress in central Poland, where many men have died from cold, but has not yet resulted in breaking the deadlock.

On the western battlefields severe encounters continue in the Alsace and in the Argonne. Neither the French nor the German official statements of today claim mark success, although the Germans admit losing one trench.

January 27

The German armies of the West have again taken the offensive delivering violent attacks simultaneously at several points. Positions of the British just south of the Belgian border are said to have been taken by storm and held in the face of counterattacks.

On the Eastern front, a Russian base in south Poland has been occupied by Austria-German forces. Austrian now assumes that Romania will hesitate to join Russia in the war now that Russian forces are retreating.

January 28

Dispatches from Cairo state that a great Turkish army is on the march towards the Suez Canal. Troops and warships are being assembled in all civilians or leaving the vicinity of the Canal. Is reported that three Turkish Army Corps are marching on Egypt.

January 29

The official reports of the war are in such complete conflict that the outcome of recent hostilities, particularly in the West, is left in doubt. The French War Office states that every German attack was repulsed and that every French attack made progress. The German however says the French were defeated in every battle and that several trenches of the allies were captured.

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