circa 1915: French soldiers on the march in the mountains.
(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
During the second week of February fighting along parts of the Western Front intensified markedly with a heavy German bombardment of Reims and Ypres. There was also an escalation of conflict in the Vosges Mountains, involving the French Alpine Chasseurs who were the elite mountain-fighting infantry unit of the French Army. Troops in this unit were expert at fighting in the snow and were trained to attack whilst skiing.
These actions were reported through a communiqué in The Sydney Morning Herald of 16th February:
The enemy bombarded Reims and Ypres, and the trenches and dune at Nieuport. We effectively replied. Two columns of the enemy are advancing along the banks of the Lauch River in Alsace.
A thrilling episode is reported from the Vosges. At Colbonhomme 40 Alpine Chasseurs, who were cut off from the main French body, refused to surrender, and, using skis, dashed down a snow slope, where they had a desperate bayonet struggle in the German trenches. All the chasseurs died, but they killed at least 80 Germans.
With the war now stretching out longer than most thought, the Belgian Government set in motion an urgent endeavour to increase the size of their Army, threatening the likelihood of conscription if not enough volunteers were forthcoming. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on this story in the same issue of 16th February:
The Belgians are endeavouring to raise an army of 200,000. Eighty per cent of the 1914 recruits living near the Dutch and French frontiers have already joined the colours. An urgent appeal has been made to refugees in Holland and Great Britain between 18 and 30 years of age to volunteer, otherwise the Belgian Government will issue a decree making military service compulsory.