16/5/1915 Western Front: the Allies keep plugging away

In London the resignation of Admiral Fisher and newspaper reports on the army being dangerously short of shells have combined to create a political crisis. In France, however, British commander Sir John French is more satisfied with how things are going. The recent attack on Aubers Ridge was a disastrous failure, but better progress is experienced today in an attack near the village of Festubert, south of Neuve Chapelle.

Despite newspaper reports of a shell crisis, this time the British are able to blast the enemy for 60 continuous hours before attacking. The assault (which begins just before midnight) carries the German frontline. Over the course of the day further progress is made, though the attackers suffer considerable casualties.

The attack is limited in scope: there is no plan this time to break completely through the enemy lines or even to make major gains. Instead the aim is a minor local adjustment in favour of the British forces. Notwithstanding the great losses of the British forces deployed (many of whom are colonial troops from India), French is pleased to report that his men have advanced an average of 600 yards.

A bit further south the French army has been fighting the Germans in the Artois region. The initial successes of the 9th of May have been followed by German counterattacks in which much of the captured ground was lost, followed in their turn by more attacks and counter-attacks. Now the fighting is in a lull, as the exhausted French troops wait for bad weather to lift so that they can attack again.

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