Roumania’s Ordeal

Battle Pending near Craiova

Large Forces Reported on the Way

IN saying that the position in Little Wallachia remains obscure it must not be thought any attempt is being made to belittle the very important success which Falkenhayn announces.

The oilfields, it is true, lie much further east in the Prahova Valley between Bucharest and the Carpathians, and it may also be believed that Craiova’s immense stores of grain were either removed or destroyed before the town was evacuated, but the fact remains (accepting the German claim of occupation to be correct) that the enemy have advanced nearly 80 miles south of the Vulcan Pass, that the dash into the Roumanian plain has been remarkably swift, that the enemy’s right wing forces are well into the fertile area and over the edge of the great corn belt.

Craiova lies some 120 miles west of Bucharest, but there is also the fact that the railway from Austria which passes through it is the main artery of traffic in Wallachia, crossing transversely on the way to Bucharest the numerous streams which flow from the Carpathians to the Danube.

Of these rivers the Aluta, or Alt, which in its higher reaches is the scene of another fierce Austro-German offensive, is the chief. Here the invading army is still more than 30 miles from the railway, and its progress is stubbornly contested.

Craiova is, however, the key to the whole of Western Wallachia, and as it is the meeting place of the railway lines from Orsova and from Calafat it may be that both these places have been, or will have to be evacuated, thus throwing open the Danube for Austro-German transport to Bulgaria via Vidin and giving the enemy a new line of invasion from the Bulgarian bank.

All this is grave enough, and the facts certainly appear to be as stated. How then can the position be described as obscure? Not because Bucharest is silent, for Petrograd yesterday admitted that “in the Jiu Valley the Roumanians, under the pressure of the superior enemy forces, retired to the region of Filiash,” and Filiash is only 23 miles north-west of Craiova, and itself a junction of the railways running from Targu Jiu and Orsova.

The position is obscure in the sense that, from the information available, we do not actually know either the strength of the advancing enemy, the full extent of his achievement, or what dispositions have been made to prevent his further progress. It is in this obscurity, and in that alone, that we find encouragement to hope that the news of last night and this morning is presented in its worst possible guise.

We know, happily, that Roumania is a perfect gridiron of valleys and mountain ranges running north and west, making Falkenhayn’s path eastwards an uninterrupted series of natural obstacles. We know, too, that any attempt by the enemy to advance from Craiova towards Piatra, 25 miles distant, the point of junction with the Alt Valley railway, would be one of enormous difficulty.