A special place in the battle of the First World War belonged to the rifle arms - a machine gun that could develop a concentrated and accurate fire on a relatively narrow front in the shortest possible time, exerting a moral impact on the enemy and inflicting considerable losses on his personnel.
In 1914, the Russian infantry regiment had a machine-gun crew equipped with eight machine guns. This corresponded to the general European trend. The Russian machine gun of the Maxim system had a firing rate of about 600 rounds per minute and excellent penetrating ability.
Successful in attack
Even before the war, the statutory documents of the Russian imperial army practiced various types of machine-gun fire: for sighting and shooting, shooting with and without dispersal, at open and closed targets. Special attention was paid to the tactics of actions: from open and closed positions, by area and to defeat, at night, from various distances, with maneuvering. Of great importance was the massaging of machine-gun fire.
Competitions were held, the best shooters were rewarded and strongly encouraged. Machine-gun teams, especially those who retained the cadre, were the elite of the Russian infantry during the First World War.
In the offensive machine guns were used mainly in the middle and close ranges. Their task is to assist the attacking infantry and cavalry, especially in those moments when it is necessary to quickly and powerfully increase the fire impact. Machine guns that are in the combat order of the advancing troops concentrate their fire on the attacked site of the enemy’s position and, acting from short distances, sweep away both the defenders of the enemy’s position and suitable reserves, contributing to the rapid achievement of tactical success.
Special importance was given to machine guns while retaining the achieved lines and strongholds of the enemy - they served as the basis for the stability of units and divisions in repelling counterattacks and fixing on the captured positions. One of the participants in the war later recalled: “Potatoes well masked machine guns from the eyes of the enemy. One long throw from a beam ran out of a long blue chain of people and began to move in my direction. The distance finder relentlessly followed their movements and in a low voice, as if aware of the importance of his post, handed me sights. According to the charter, machine gun non-commissioned officers held their hands up, letting them know that the machine guns were ready. Following the first, the second chain of Austrians appeared from the beam. As far as I thought then, I commanded in a calm voice: “Fire!”. As if the machine guns were waiting for this, they simultaneously stumbled together, sending hundreds of bullets to the enemy who had not expected anything. The effect was amazing. The ricochets from the bullets lay in the location of the chain itself and a minute later both chains left numerous killed and wounded, pursued by continuous machine-gun fire, disappeared back into the beam from which they had recently appeared. ”
In the event of an unsuccessful attack, the machine guns covered the infantrymen’s retreat, preventing the enemy from going into a counterattack or pursuing.
Reliable in defense
For the units whose combat mission demanded special stability and were at such positions, from where it was possible to fire at the nearest approaches to support points and artificial obstacles with flank or crossfire, machine guns were irreplaceable. They could paralyze the actions of even a significantly superior opponent.
The machine guns remaining in reserve are a powerful fire and maneuvering means in the hands of the unit commander. Taking into account the special attention of enemy artillery to our nests, the creation of spare machine-gun positions and their dispersal was envisaged. The front-line commander recalled: “We did not have time to stop shooting, as several enemy shrapnels exploded over my machine guns. Apparently, their whereabouts were open, and in order to avoid unnecessary losses, I ordered to move a little to the right. ”
When the enemy's attack was repulsed, and the defenders were preparing to go on the counterattack, part of the machine guns accompanied the advancing units, shooting down the enemy who was delaying and not letting them gain a foothold. But the other part necessarily remained in position to cover and parry tactical surprises.
The most effective was the cross machine-gun fire. And the best results were achieved when shooting at a distance of a kilometer. Lt. Col. Yu. Buchinsky, a participant in the battles in East Prussia in 1914, wrote: “It was clear that German chains and columns were thinning and falling on the opening of our machine gun fire, and the German cavalry’s attack on the 6 Infantry Infantry Regiment wing".
The machine-gun fire of the Russian infantry was a powerful factor in the effective fight against the enemy and the cause of his high losses, even in tactically successful battles for him. This was largely determined by the quality of the combat training of Russian machine gunners.
For example, in a battle near the village of Piaseczno 27 August 1914, two machine guns of the 3 Siberian Rifle Regiment beat off nine enemy infantry attacks, inflicting heavy losses. And in the farm Zabrodye-Rymashevsky in August of the 1915-th also two machine guns not only covered the withdrawal of parts of the 20-nd Galician Infantry Regiment, but also distracted the enemy’s fire.
The archives retained the statement of the Galician battle participant: “When it was captured (235 heights), the machine gun platoon of the senior noncommissioned officer Yudin, who destroyed one enemy company with its fire from the reserve to the counterattack, was particularly distinguished (123 killed and wounded were counted) .
The combat regulations of machine-gun infantry teams noted: “Thanks to their mobility and power of fire, machine guns are a very valuable tool for changing the course of a firefight both at the front and especially on the flanks, which can be achieved with skillful use of decisive results. The moral impression from the action of machine-gun fire as a result of the mass losses inflicted by it in a short time is very strong and increases even more in cases of a sudden opening of fire. ”
Sometimes even a single machine gun could decide the fate of the battle of any level. A vivid illustration is the battle of the lifeguards of the Finnish regiment 20 July 1915, near the village of Kulik.
Finnish battalions occupied the forest and the village — 2, 3 and 4 were in positions, and 1 was in the regimental reserve. When, after a powerful artillery preparation in 14 hours, the attack of the German infantry began, the Germans broke through the positions of the 4 battalion and, overcoming the Russian trenches, rushed forward. Combat staff captain A. F. Moller transmitted the heat of battle in this way: “Machine gun, machine gun! Where is the machine gun? - I shouted. “Shoot a machine gun!” I ran along the trench and ordered me to pull out a machine gun. The ensign Wielkopolski with machine-gunners of the 13 th company quickly raised the machine gun to the traverse of the trench, and he had already shot through the heads of the right-flank trench 13 in the trenches 15. “Where is the other machine gun?” I shouted, straining. It turned out that he was not acting because he was overwhelmed. But it was relieved from the heart, as the 15-th company taken by shelling along the trenches began to be cleared by Germans popping up and throwing whole groups back, and suddenly, with delays and interruptions, the second 13-company gun also started working on them. ”
The wounded, but not out of position, Moller personally supervised the actions of the machine-gunners: he ordered the only surviving machine gun to be pulled out and, setting it inside the trench, open fire on the Germans bypassing the battalion’s flank. One of the soldiers of the communications team rushed to transfer the order, but was immediately killed, and the next was wounded. Then the senior non-commissioned officer of the 13 Company of Soldiers alone (although the combat service of the Maxim assumed the presence of three people) pulled out a machine gun and opened the disastrous flank fire on the Germans. They could not stand it and lay down, and then rushed back in whole groups. Two or three minutes later, the hero got into the stomach with a glass of shrapnel, but lying on the ground, covered with blood all over, Soldatov tried to shoot a machine gun. “He had a gaping wound with torn clothes, mixed with intestines and blood and a piece of a still sticking large fragment of a grenade ... He was unbuttoned the gate, and he made some semi-convulsive gestures with his right hand, apparently wanting to cross himself. Because of the pain in my chest, I could not see that he was trying to say something, bend down and therefore sat down to him, tried to guess rather than hear, his words. Someone from bending over him helped his hand, and he reached out for the block with the crosses of St. George (he already had two and several St. George medals) and began to shoot it, which he immediately helped to do. Overcoming the pain and trying to smile, he handed them to me and, very tense, suddenly said clearly: “Your highness! Pass to parents. Tell me - honestly dying. " He said something else, already in a half-whisper, but neither I nor the ensign Wielkopolska could make out the words. Seeing the tears in the eyes of the brave old man of Wielkopolska and feeling that they are speaking out for me, I hurried to cross him, kiss his head and stand at the moment when his head was thrown back, supported carefully by his weeping friend, senior noncommissioned officer Andrei Salodovnikov. ”
The counterattack of the 4 fighters of the battalion decided the fate of the battle, but it was the fire of the senior non-commissioned officer Soldatov that was the key factor in repelling the onslaught of the enemy, already wedged in by the Finns.
Military examples of the successful use of Russian machine guns are not counted. But the most valuable recognition of their effectiveness comes from the enemy - mention of this is present in the writings of most eyewitnesses and participants in the war on the Russian front. For example: “In almost all the corps, the infantry was stopped by the Russian machine guns that resumed fire after the transfer of artillery fire. The units encountered everywhere with heavy machine-gun fire from convenient positions suffered heavy losses. ” This is said about the Gorlitsky breakthrough, during which the German troops, surpassing the Russians in heavy artillery in 40 times, practically equalized the Russian rifle positions with the ground.
The fact that some Russian officers were lovers of machine-gun fire is evidenced by the incident that took place with the commander of the 3 battalion of the 11 Turkestan rifle regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Gorny. He personally fired a machine gun, repelling a German attack near the village of Severinki on the River Narev. A good lieutenant colonel silenced several enemy machine guns. The Germans noticed a successful firing point, and when the officer, getting up from behind a machine gun, moved to prepare the battalion for the upcoming attack, a German soldier hiding in rye approached him and reported in Russian that he was being taken prisoner. When Gorn approached him, the "prisoner" rushed to the ground and fired from a rocket launcher into the air. At this point, a German machine gun was launched at the indicated point - and the lieutenant colonel was killed.
Machine guns that were in combat formations of the Russian troops were a powerful tactical factor, often (especially because of a lack of projectiles) to compensate for the weakness of field artillery guns.