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The Great War

News Reports From the Front
100 Years Ago This Month

September 1915

September 3

The Russian fortress of Lutsk has been captured. So far it is the most easterly point of the Russian territory reached by the German troops. Its capture marks the fall of the 10th fortress within a month under German attacks, beginning with the taking of Warsaw on August 5.

On the Western front a great artillery duel continues along a large part of the Western front held by the French. The ultimate purpose of this activity is still obscure. Military experts however believe that a concentrated offense of movement on the part of the French and British forces is imminent. Heavy artillery engagements have invariably proceeded an offensive of any size, they been absolutely essential in this war, from a military standpoint, it advances are to be made without frightful losses.

The fighting on the Gallipoli Peninsula continues, almost entirely hand-to-hand, and of a very severe character. The British public has been greatly cheered by the version of the recent heavy fighting at the Dardanelles contained in the official report received today. This report has been awaited eagerly, in view of the affectations of Constantinople that the allies have been repulsed with heavy losses.

In the Turkish report, it is stated that it is impossible to ascertain the total losses of the British colonial forces in the fighting which followed the landing of a fresh expeditionary force August 6 and 7. The losses and dead on the whole Gallipoli front which the allies sustained as a result of the general offensive movement in coordination with the recent landings exceeded 20,000 men. Most of the bodies are still unburied. One battalion, according to the Turks, was annihilated completely.

The Associated Press correspondent saw a score of British prisoners held by the Turks. The faces of the men showed the strain under which they have been. They complained of the quality and quantity of food, which they have received. They said they have only meat, preserves, and one biscuit. The water supply was poor and insufficient and the sanitary services were overtaxed by the number of the wounded, so that may save soldiers were unattended. Some of them, the prisoners said, were abandoned and fell into the hands of the Turks. From the stories of the prisoners it would appear that the great heat and lack of sufficient food and good water is having a depressing effect upon the British forces on the peninsula.

September 10

Czar Nicholas

Grand Duke Nicholas

On September 7th, Emperor Nicholas succeeded Grand Duke Nicholas as supreme commander of all Russian armies.

The text of the Emperorís announcement of his assumption of command is as follows: "Today I have taken supreme command of all my forces on the sea and the land armies operating in the theater of war. With firm faith in the clemency of God and with unshaken assurance of final victory, we shall fulfill our sacred duty to defend our country to the last. We shall not dishonor the Russian land."

The change in supreme command of the army came as a surprise to the general public, although it has been rumored for several days and army circles. The removal of Grand Duke Nicholas came as a great surprise to England, where during the past few weeks he has received constant praise for extracting his armies from the Teutonic grip.

Grand Duke Nicholas has been described as the idol of his men in the field and has-beens said he virtually held the Army in the palm of his hand. But his popularity evidently did not find reflection among Russian officers, particularly those of Iraq. The grand Duke has treated his officers would mark severity. His punishments of them have been swift and heard and he has made no distinction between the lowly commoner or the man of high rank and political influence.

A tireless worker himself, he has demanded much more from the men around him. Anyone who shirked was packed off to the rear. This course brought out a certain amount of bad feelings against the Grand Duke in bureaucratic circles in the nationís capital.

In return the Grand Duke is credited with having just cause for complaint at the manner in which the administration at Petrograd failed to support his men with arms, ammunition, provisions and hospital supplies. It is said that some of his conversations with the Emperor had been frank and direct to a degree seldom heard in Imperial Russian circles.

The Grand Duke is a second cousin of the Emperor. He took an active part in the Russia-Japanese war of 1905, making a distinguished record for himself, and he was made president of the Council of National Defense in 1908. He was appointed commander-in-chief of the Russian armies in the field early in August of last year, virtually coincident with the opening of hostilities.

It Is the general impression that Emperor Nicholas will not determine personally upon the strategic formula to be followed, but will trust the destinies of his armies to the general staff.

It is universally agreed that the Emperor's action dissipates any idea that Russia will listen to proposals for a separate peace, but will puzzles the British press is how to explain the removal of grand Duke Nicholas to another sphere.

The Postís Petrograd Correspondent declares it is no secret that many attempts have been made through Teutonic investigation to remove the Grand Duke from his command by violence, and explains that masterly as the Russian retirement has been, a retreat does not appeal to the public mind. Hence he says, it may be supposed that the Emperor's action was to unite the entire nation and carrying on the war. Moreover, he declares, Russia has exceedingly important interest on her southern front, which, in the all absorbing menace from the West slipped rather into the background, and the Grand Duke is going to the Caucuses at the moment when it is felt a great crisis is approaching there.

On the eastern warfront, fighting on both wings of the Eastern front proceeds with much greater vigor than the struggle in the center, where the invaders apparently are having difficulties in trackless swamps. Only in the northern regions are the Czarís armies showing anything like effective resistance, for in all other sections along the eastern front the retiree movement continues.

The immediate objective of the Austrian and German campaign in Russia becomes clearer with growing indications that the invaders need the Baltic port of Riga, not only as a base for present operations in the direction of Petrograd, but as winter quarters in case the attempt to reach the Russian capital should be postponed until next spring.

As the rainy season comes on it will be more difficult for the invaders to bring up supplies for their advanced forces, and consequently the seizure of Riga as a base becomes more vital to the success of other German plans.

In the south, near the Galician border, fortune fluctuates, first one side, and then the other claiming success. The main offensive, however, still lies with the Austrians and the Germans.

In the middle, the bitter fighting in the swampy grounds east of Brest-Litovsk is nearing an end. The Germans are forging steadily ahead, despite the great difficulties of forcing a passage through the marshes.

According to an Austrian officer, writing from the front, the retreat of the Russian armies is marked by terrifying devastation, "they leave an immense sea of flames behind them. The fuel being houses and crops. The Cossacks have been instructed to leave nothing but ashes," it is declared.

There is no indication where the new Russian lines are, but, from their strong defense, it is evident that they intend if possible to bring the Austrian-German offensive to a standstill not far East of where they are now offering a most ever in resistance.

September 17

The most serious air raid of the war has failed to terrorize the British capital, even though the loss of life was serious. Instead outrage predominates, intensifying the bitter feeling towards the Germans to promoting a determination to conquer the enemy at any cost. The raid, it is believed, will stimulate all civilian war activities.

The Daily Telegraph, in an editorial expressing disappointment at the escape of the seven Raiders and horror at the raids, protest that the Germans gain no military advantage whatsoever and failed even to terrorize civilians. "Indeed, " says the Telegraph, "in many places in London districts the spectacle of a zeppelin high up in the heavens with searchlights and shells bursting all around was regarded, and even enjoyed, as unique and thrilling experience."

The answer of the people London and in the London district to these exercises and frightful mess may be given in an episode mentioned in the Manchester Guardian, says the Spectator, and commenting upon the zeppelin raids," a recruiting sergeant had been addressing crowds from a platform made of debris of ruined houses and the results have been excellent.

The Evening Standard expresses the hope that the British government will announce the determination to hold the head of the German aircraft service personally responsible for the deaths occasioned by the zeppelin raids. The Globe and other newspapers take the view that every air raid on London or other English cities should be followed immediately by attacks on such German cities which are within range of British aircraft.

Meanwhile on the war front, the Russians and Germans are chiefly contending for the mastery of rail lines, the possession of which will make the victors more secure when the time comes to go into winter quarters.

Some of the British military writers believe that the Austrians and Germans have reached the limit of their penetration of Russia so far as this year is concerned, and that they must now look to the defense of their present lines.

The final objective of the Central Powers in this campaign is still a matter of conjecture, but general Ruzsky, commander of the Northern Russian army considers the capture of Petrograd impossible because the military situation of Russia with relation to ammunition, rifles and fresh troops is slowly but surely improving. He pointed out that between the present front and Petrograd the ground offers endless difficulties to a German advance, quite apart from the fact that the approaching winter will hinder the digging of trenches. "Russia, in fact, has gained an opportunity to take a breath," he said, "and having continue the campaign through the winter, will begin the war are fresh in the spring with new armies and new objects of operation."

The Daily News says it was through German treachery that the great Russian ammunition factory at Okhta, a suburb of Petrograd, was blown to pieces some months ago. Okhta was the only munitions factory in Russia. The destruction of the plant caused such an extreme dearth of ammunition that nothing could be done against the German offensive. Russia, quite crippled, had to fight for time, and the striking power of France and Great Britain was checked. All energies of the allies had to be focused on resupplying Russia with munitions, which suddenly had become to her a matter of life and death.

September 24

The Russian city of Vilna has fallen to the Germans. Like other towns evacuated by the Russians, Vilna was reduced to an empty shell.

The conditions under which the Russians are attempting to extract themselves from Vilna furnishes a striking parallel to those which follow the capture Warsaw. They may precipitate one of the greatest, if not the greatest, battle, which has been fought on the eastern front.

Field Marshal von Hindenburg's troops have flung a loop about the Russians around the Vilna front of some 200 miles. It is pointed out that von Hindenburgís cavalry has penetrated so deeply into hostile country as to create a salient open to sudden attack, if the Russians should be able to command reinforcements at the proper time and place, but it is not believed here that the Russians are in a position, to deal such a blow effectively.

German Cavalry

There is a great deal of speculation as to the German objective. Opinion is divided whether von Hindenburg will seek merely to close his loop, thus capturing the Russian army within the net, or, not content with this, we'll pressed eastward towards Minsk in an effort to reproduce the encircling movement on a more gigantic scale, and again try for decisive victory. A similar tactics attempted after Warsaw met with failure.

Next to Warsaw, Vilna is the most important town in western Russia. It's a railway junction of great military importance. It was from Vilna that Napoleon fled in disguise in 1812, during the retreat from Moscow.

Undiminished confidence in high military circles that the Russians will make a successful retreat from Vilna is reported by the Petrograd correspondent of the Times. The Germans he says are making most desperate efforts to bag some of the remaining Russian armies before the withdrawal is completed, but the heaviest transport trains are already beyond the danger zone.

In spite of German cavalry, as brilliant as the famous Stuart and Sheridan in the American Civil War, which have swarmed about both flanks of the retreating Russians and stood astride their main lines of communications, it appears the better part of the defenders of Vilna have escaped, causing Russia to draw a deep breath of relief.

Commenting on Field Marshal von Hindenburg's latest coupe, the military correspondent of the Times suggests that since the recent changes in Russian high command, the wise strategy of Grand Duke Nicholas seems to have lost favor, and instead of continuing their orderly retreat, the Russians held on for too long. This gave the German commander an opportunity of which he availed himself fully, and almost resulted in his capturing of the whole Russian Army

Meanwhile, reports from Siberia indicate active operations have begun along the frontiers of the Balkan states. The Austrian and German have moved half a million men from the Russian campaign to the Balkans, with the intent of opening a route from Bucharest to Constantinople.

The German newspapers interpret the news from the Serbian frontier as the beginning of a series of an offensive movement against Serbia and the final reckoning with the state which is regarded here as having been responsible for bringing on the world war.

Austrian and German artillery have begun bombarding Serbian positions south of the river frontier. The action undoubtedly is intended as a cover to the throwing of a force across the river and the seizure of a bridgehead whence the new steamroller can be started.

Just where a crossing will be attempted as unknown. The shortest route to Bulgaria would lead through the northeastern corner of Serbia, where barely 30 miles of Serbian territory intervenes between the Bulgarian and Hungarian borders. The difficult mountainous country, the absence of railroads and the proximity of the Romanian frontier, however speak in favor of the old route of the Crusaders, further to the west, in the broad and fertile Morava Valley.

Bulgaria had demanded from Serbia the ceding of Macedonia as an essential condition to Bulgaria's joining the other Balkan States and cooperating with the allies. The latter took up Bulgaria's claims and presented them to Serbia in joint notes. Serbia, after mature consideration, yielded to the desire of the allies they conceded virtually 9/10 of the territory in Macedonia demanded by Bulgaria. But these concessions a Macedonian territory were made in order that Bulgaria give something in return, namely, her cooperation with the Balkan states and the allies.

On the receipt of the news that Bulgaria had ordered a general mobilization of her troops, King Constantine of Greece ordered a mobilization of Greek troops.

On the western front after artillery preparation of great intensity, which at some points lasted 50 hours, the long expected English and French offensive on the Western front appears to have begun.

The Allied armies are probably now in better position for a great offensive than at any other time since the beginning of the war. In addition to the increased number of men - estimated at 2 million - the woeful shortage is of munitions which seriously handicap the British and their activities in the earlier months of the war has been largely remedied and British artillery is now able to keep up on hammering of the enemy lines which was formally practically impossible.

Everything now is favorable for a drive, and critics are confident that the Germans must give way. But in giving way, it is admitted that the Germans will inflict terrible losses upon the Allied armies. It is agreed among officials, however, that these losses will be absolutely necessary if the deadlock in the West is broken and Belgium and France soil freed of the enemy.

It is believed in London that the new move in the West will bring the Germans face-to-face with the necessity of making a choice between the two fronts, as was the case earlier in the war.

According to the Germans, it is possible that the new offensive on the western front movement was inspired more by political than by military reasons, and the desire to influence the Balkan states, particularly Greece and Romania to remain on the side of the allies.

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