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DEFINITE ACTION.

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DEFINITE ACTION. SIEGE OPERATIONS IN FLANBERS. The PS-ess Bureau on Sunday issued the following descriptive account communi- cated by the Eye-Witness present with the General Headquarters:— 17th. December. There is now some definite action on frur front to report. In conjunction with the French, who are also pressing forward, a movement has been started which has resulted in a small gain of ground. On #he night of the 13th-14th, to the south of Lys, some of the Indian troops rushed two German sapheads and gained possession of them. On Monday, the 14th. on our rigbt tho artillery of both sides, was kept employed. our guns taking the greater share ifl the action, and there was rifle fire all along the line. It was on the left that a some- what more important operation was initiated. Here, after a bombardment of the German position, our infantry pushed forward at a point to the west of Wyts- c-haete. We captured some sections of trench at a loss to the enemy of 120 killed and two officers and 60 men takes, prisoners. Beyond our left the Germans were also forced back eome distance along the line running between St. Eloi to the south- east of Ypres and Zonnebeke, to the north of the Ypres-Menin road. North of Ypres the Germans also withdrew at certain points. That night the enemy fired 250 sheik into Armentieros. Next day (Tuesday) there was no ad- ,Vaz" made by either side. To the north of Lys our artillery action continued and our infantry maintained the gain in ground made the day before. On our immediate left the French were opposed by stubborn resistance, but made no further progress during the night. Near Gi vouch y, an assault was carried out in three bodies against the German gaps. Two of these attacks were Eiuccesa. ful and our troops retained possession of a certain length of each sap. In thi> centre a minor attack against a German trench was also successful. Beyond our right the French gained some ground. On Wednesday, the 16th, the Germans started what looked like an advance in foroe against our right, but it did not develop, and in the centre sapping opera- tions alone occupied each side. On our left we maintained ground won on the 14th. and to the north of us the French made some progress, capturing some 400 yards of trench on the north tIf the Menin-road, from which we were driven by the Prussian Guard on the 11th October. On Thursday, the 17th. nothing hap- pened on our right, but it was notierablc- that the enemy showed signs of being in expectation of an attack by manning his lire trenches in force. In the centre sap- ping continued, and some of our heavy guns obtained several hits upon a German howitzer battery and what appeared to be a headquarters. On our left our action wap confined to that of the artillery, the infantry not advancing beyond the line they had gained on the 14tli. In this quarter of the field two German soldiers, who had crawled out of their trenches to throw hand grenades, were both blown up by a premature burst of one of these missiles. Beyond our left, up in the north, a German counter-attack on the Itight of the 16th—17th near Lombartzyde was re- pulsed and the Germane were slowly forced back east and south of Nienport and lost about 100 sailors and marines captured by the French- From a prisoner captured on the lfth, it has been ascertained that both the Twenty-Third Regiment and the Jagers suffered enormous losses on the 4th November. The same man described the 5th of November as a terrible day. and mentions that he had never before seen such mud as that in which the Germaaa were operating and that the troops were suffering very much from the water in I the trenches. The shelling that he went l through on the 14th of this month, he states, exceeded all his previous experi- ence. We havft reason to believe from pvidencf,, of prisoners that many of the Landwehr are heartily sick of the war, and resent the harsh treatment of tiieir officers. They have been per- puaded that the British ill-treat their prisoners, and but for this some would be willing to surrender. The Germans appear to be discarding their helmets, the Pickleliauben, with which they have for fifty years been associated iu the eyes of the world. Aluo —probably for the purposes of conceal- ment—they are covering the red hands of their forage caps with strips of grey cloth. Many variations in their uniforms are now to be seen, some of the troops wmrin, their peace clothing, which is of brighter colour than the grey service qres. There is evidence that certain of the units facing us are much under strength. The opposition now being encountered resembles to some extent that met with by us in the beginning of October, when we first reached the Franco-Belgian frontier, and before the Germans brought tip their full force and assumed the offensive. It has one great difference, however, and that is that the enemy ia in much greater force, and his positions are much stronger and better organised than they were two months ago. Then an advance by either side implied movement across enclosed and very difficult country, am it does still, and for us it meant thp. attack of skilfully but hastily fortified str-in,- points or villages held to a large extent by cavalry and .lagers with a largp proportion of machine guns. What we have in front of us to-day is Bo longer a succession of isolated points. There are still such points and some are the same, but they are stronger and form part of a practically continuous defensive zone, consisting in sonie cases of several lines of cunningly-sited and carefully-constructed works. This zone really amounts to a maze of fire trencher and obstacles. Every known form of obstacle ip used, the entangle- mentg- to select the most common- varying from loose coils of wire to securely staked networks of from iS I inches to nearly 6ft. in height and of different width. These measures of defence are only such aA are to be ex- pected from troop. who are well trained and have ample resource and time. And there are, of course, ways hi which they can be overcome. But where theae methods are applied the rate of advance is necessarily slow. and when it is reported in laeouic terms that ground has keen gained at a cer- tain point, topographically the gain may amount to only a few yards. Tactically, on the other hand, the pro- gress implied by even such a small step forward may be important, for a trench, < cluster of trenches, the edge of a wood, a building, a village, or a knoll may have been reached, the pos- session of which will facilitate further I operations. Siege approaches, such as saps, help the attacker to advance under co\ er and so to minimise loss, but they do not and cannot obviate liability to surprise recep- tions of the nature indicated, when one,- the enemy's works ere gained. The only certain methods of preventing this is by proionged.bombardment with high explo- sive shells, till the trenches, mines, and machine are reduced t* scrap heaps, or W them and blow theiu into the r..

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