Fight in settlements
Villages are natural strongholds - with an increase in their size, their tactical importance also increases. But if you turn villages into main battle sites, they quickly absorb large forces — often without any influence on the fate of the battle. When the offensive came, it was recommended that the main forces bypass the village, entrusting its seizure to special units.
But it was not always possible - and then we had to fight in the village. The infantry burst into the village simultaneously from several directions - and cold weapons, hand grenades, mortars and bombers made their way to the opposite outskirts. Entering into the business of artillery and mortars was often necessary - in order to facilitate the attack of houses and courtyards with fire. Thus, in the Avgustov forests, the avant-garde of the 20 Army Corps (108 Infantry Regiment of Saratov) on February 5 of 1915 had to knock out a German guard company, part of which was seated in a small stone house. Two 76-mm guns, advanced on the edge of a glade of steps to 200 - 300 from the house, with a few shots forced the enemy to leave the house and hastily retreat.
The garrison of the village bayoneted rejected the enemy who had broken into the village. If this did not succeed, then they proceeded to the stubborn defense of every home, every quarter. It was the bayonet that became the most important weapon in the struggle for the settlement. Thus, during the Lodz 1914 operation, a German source transmitted the severity of the Wloclaw battle in the following way: “With the onset of darkness, in the western suburbs of Włocławsk, there was an extremely fierce battle, bayonets and butts did their work” [Wolfen K. von. Lodz battle (breakthrough Brezin). PB., 1921. C. 17.]. And in the battle of Chelmno "... the right flank of the battalion 3, despite the deadly fire, came close to Chelmno, reaching the outskirts of the village. Leading a few remnants of the 10-th company, the first of the regiment bravely broke into the streets of the village lieutenant reserve Fromm. Under a strong hail of bullets penetrated into the village. But with a wild cry from all the houses, Russians are attacking the brave men. ” [Ibid. C. 19].
1. Meeting of Russian and German infantry in the Polish countryside. Fig. I. Vladimirov. Niva. 1915. No. 14.
Already at the very beginning of the war, fierce battles for settlements took place. So, 14 August 1914, at the front of the 2 Army in Hohenstein, it came to a very tough battle inside the city: “The terrible sight was partly still burning city, in which a bloody street fight broke out, half-burned corpses in masses lay between smoking fragments; in the same house the hall and the room were littered with corpses — hand to hand combat raged here. ”
The participant of the Battle of Galicia B. M. Shaposhnikov, conveying his impressions of the heavy fighting of the 72 Infantry Regiment of Tula for the town of Sandomir 30 - 31 in August 1914, recalled how in the night silence the regiment turned into battle formation. The 2 battalion marched in the first line, guarded by a patrol chain, and two companies of the third battalion headed for the reserve — a ledge behind the flanks of the 1 line. Having approached the fortified position of the Austrians, the Tula people rushed forward in complete silence - smashing with rifle butts, shovels, small axes and dragging the wire barriers with their hands. In the blink of an eye, the attackers were in the 1 line of the trenches - destroying the Austrians who did not have time to recover. By sweeping away everything on the way, the Tula team took a powerful blow at 2-trench lines and, rushing into the city, fought at the church. The impulse was so strong that the enemy almost did not resist, rolling under assault bayonets. But by the morning 7 31 August reserve was no longer there - he was put into battle. The neighbor on the left — the 8-I cavalry division — only fought with the enemy, the neighbor on the right — the border guards — remained in place. And the wounded regimental commander gave the order to gain a foothold in the captured position. At this time, the Austrians pulled up reserves and counterattacked the left flank of the regiment. In the 8 hour, their thick chains appeared in a dispersing fog. Fighting off machine-gun fire, the 72 th regiment waited in vain for fire support - but the attached field battery was late, and the 8 cavalry artillery did not open fire. Unpunished fire by enemy artillery inflicted heavy losses, and the Tula began to retreat. Having lost almost all the officers, the remnants of the 72 regiment consisted of only 600 fighters - from the 2200 people who launched the attack [Shaposhnikov B.M. Memoirs. Military scientific works. M., 1982. C. 305-306.]. Thus, the effective night attack did not receive development due to the lack of fire support.
In August, during the defense of the fortress Novogeorgievsk, 1915, the Russian units adapted the village of Der. Studyanka. Parts of the German 10-th Landvehr Regiment were to be thrown into a bayonet attack several times - and only when the defenders were swept from the rear, did the Germans succeed.
During the battles of Volya Shidlovskaya in January 1915, the Russian troops also had to participate in the battles for the town. The cavalry general, V. I. Gurko, commander of the 6 Army Corps, wrote: “After a long artillery bombardment and at the cost of repeated attacks on the positions of two of my divisions on a front of about six kilometers, the Germans only managed to seize the manor house and distillery, forcing our units to retreat no further than a thousand steps, forming only a shallow ledge in the line of defense. ... we put ourselves in an extremely disadvantageous position, persisting in defending the stone distillery, capital barns and similar structures belonging to the local pan. The fact is that in this case, our soldiers received numerous wounds not only from fragments of shells fired from German heavy guns, but also from numerous fragments of stones and bricks, pulled out of the walls by explosions. On the contrary, the position of the Germans who occupied our previous positions was completely different, because at that time there was not a single heavy weapon in my entire corps, and the light field artillery was too weak to destroy stone buildings. ” [Gurko V.I. War and revolution in Russia. Memoirs of the commander of the Western Front. 1914-1917. M., 2007. C. 119.].
Comcor spoke of the severity of these battles as follows: “... the Germans managed to covertly install a large number of new machine guns on the estate. The estate, thanks to the surrounding ditches, already resembled a natural fort. They concentrated their machine guns at one point ... the stock of artillery ammunition was so meager that it made sense to withdraw only a small part of the artillery arriving with new divisions. ... batteries firing at the enemy were forced to strictly save ammunition " [Ibid. C. 120].
The classic offensive street fight is the battle for der. Kurkau.
The 1 th Turkestan army corps at the end of October 1914 acted on the territory of East Prussia. In preparation for the upcoming offensive, the 11-I Siberian Rifle Division, which was part of its structure, began fighting with Soldau from October 28.
Behind the river, in 2 km from the city, there was a large village. Kurkau - strongly fortified by the enemy and in the path of the Siberians. On the night of October 29, the 43 Siberian Rifle Regiment was to take it.
At 3 at one o'clock in the morning, the 1 Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel B. I. Tolvinsky, moved to the village. The rifle companies were so quiet that they were discovered by the enemy only in 250 - 300 m from their trenches, which were located in front of the village. The field guards, the Germans, confronted with the Russian patrols and opened indiscriminate fire, quickly retreated to the village. A few minutes later, the Siberian arrows were already in 150 steps from the village: the enemy opened heavy fire at them from the trenches. The gunners lay down and fired back, aiming at the outbreaks of German shots. After 5 minutes, a loud command of the battalion commander "forward" sounded, the whistles of company commanders who stopped shooting were heard, and the whole mass of shooters, inspired by their example, rushed to the attack with a thunder shout of "Hurray." The psychological effect of this night attack was so significant that the Germans, who had taken a strong position in advance from several lines of trenches, could not hold on for even a quarter of an hour. They were knocked out by a friendly bayonet strike and fled - partly across the bridge - to the city, but (mostly) to the village - and sat down in the last houses and sheds.
On the shoulders of the enemy, a company of riflemen broke into the village - a stubborn battle ensued on the streets and in the houses. German infantrymen put up fierce resistance, opening deadly, albeit indiscriminate fire from the houses. When the Russian soldiers approached the houses, the Germans threw their hand grenades on them. But to stop this shooters could not - with the incessant "cheers", with bayonets and grenades, they unanimously beat the enemy, entrenched in the village. Every hut, every yard and shed was hidden by 2 - 3, and sometimes several dozen people. In this battle, the great advantage of the Russian shooters was the fact that groups of German infantrymen acted without general leadership, isolated, and could not provide organized resistance. They bravely, but in isolation, defended themselves, and one by one died under the onslaught of Russian fighters, guided by an experienced hand. The Russian arrows acted in an organized manner, consisting of companies and half-beats, led by officers.
In the chaos of the night, in the midst of shooting and rumbling of exploding grenades, in battles near houses and sheds - in a huge area of more than 50 yards, it was easy for Russian units to shuffle and scatter. In this situation, an excellent combat training of the 43 regiment, an excellent internal discipline and the influence of the cold-blooded personality of the valiant regimental commander Colonel A. A. Berezin - who personally led the battle (less than a month later, the colonel will die the death of the brave all under the same city of Soldau and will be posthumously awarded swords to the Order of St. Vladimir 3 degree). Each company knew its place in the regiment's maneuver and its task.
2. A. A. Berezin.
The left-handed 2-i company was supposed to seize the southern part of the village. In the course of the bayonet, the company, despite the darkness and resistance of the enemy, quickly accomplished the combat mission: one half-company energetically beat out and destroyed the Germans in the houses and sheds of the southern part of the village, and the second pursued the Germans, retreating from the trenches west of the village - to the river.
The 3-company under the command of Captain Savitsky pursued the enemy along the Kurkau, clearing the middle part of the village, and the 1-company I, led by the captain Voznesensky, acted in the northern part of the village, where the enemy put up the strongest resistance. The defense of the Germans gradually weakened, more and more of them surrendered. Thus, in the northern part of the village, in one of the houses, an 2 officer immediately surrendered, confused, letting the control staff out of their hands.
The 1 Company fighters broke into one of the houses, finding several dozen German soldiers in it, led by a major. The latter, with the help of a translator, demanded a senior Russian commander. But the conversation with the approached captain Voznesensky was very brief.
The major asked how many Russians there are. Hearing that one battalion, said that the Germans are much more - and therefore the Russians must surrender. To which Voznesensky said that the Germans must surrender - and without conditions. The Germans grabbed their weapons, but were late: an accurate shot of the gunner Pichugin killed the major, and the German soldier who was near the last one fell from the bullet of Voznesensky. In the ensuing battle, all the other Germans were jabbed, while they had hurt several shooters.
Kurkau was captured, and the remnants of the German part fled so quickly that they did not have time to destroy the bridge - and it was useful for the subsequent offensive.
Fight for der. Kurkau had a very important tactical value. After all, the Siberian riflemen succeeded in a powerful blow to quickly dislodge from the fortified settlement much superior to them in the enemy forces - and with heavy losses for the defenders. Germans left up to 200 prisoners and a significantly larger number of dead and wounded. Russians lost 8 people killed and 19 wounded (including officer).
This fight is an example of how effectively a great warhead can operate led by an experienced commander. And to act in tactically one of the most difficult types of combat - night street combat.
3. Siberian arrows. The great war in the images and paintings. Issue 3. Ed. Makovsky D. Ya. M., 1915.
4. The great war in the images and paintings. Issue 8. M., 1915.
The main advantage of the night battle is that: “Actions at night contribute to an unintentional attack and approach to the enemy without loss from fire; make it impossible for the enemy to judge our forces " [Charter Field Service. C. 213.]. Night combat contributes to the secrecy of action, but also requires a higher level of organization on the part of the commanding staff and the presence of special skills in the lower ranks.
After all, “at night the troops are extremely impressionable, it is difficult to direct the battle and navigate, maneuvering is impossible and assisting artillery to attack is permissible only in special cases and, moreover, it is very limited” [Ibid]. It was quite rightly pointed out that “the plan of the night fight must be simple and its execution carefully prepared.”
At night, the losses from the fire of the defenders are reduced, the darkness provides surprise and does not allow the enemy to easily determine the direction of the main attack, eases the camouflage of the troops, increases the moral shock of the enemy during the attack, and in some cases balances the balance of forces and allows you to get out of a difficult situation.
The terrain on which to act must be studied not only in daylight, but also in night conditions. Recommendations and instructions advised to conduct a night fight with small forces, but if the forces are significant, then in the dark you need to get close to the enemy, and attack - at dawn. Particular attention was paid to the use of searchlights - primarily in a defensive night battle. But the searchlight can also be useful in an offensive battle (highlighting the target of the attack), as well as be used for signaling. The enemy's floodlights were recommended to be destroyed with artillery fire.
The main role in the night battle belongs to the infantry, cavalry and artillery are recommended to be used mainly at dawn. Moreover, cavalry units will be able to effectively act on the flanks and rear of the enemy.
When deployed in battle order and when moving troops, there is complete silence, no signals are applied, commands are given in a low voice, it is forbidden to smoke and light the lights. If the troops fall under the spotlight, ordered immediately go to bed.
The combat order of infantry in the night battle - build porotno at close intervals and distances. The companies move in conquer formation in platoon columns or in deployed convoys.
Special importance was attached to the coherence of the combat order, reserves, guard and patrol service. Moreover, the composition of outposts and patrols was prescribed to include people with acute eyesight and good hearing.
To be continued