Military Review

In the wilds of barbed wire. H.1

28
What were the defensive positions in trench warfare?
This series of articles is about the features of the defensive positions of the Russian Front of the First World War. We can look at the power of positional defense in 1915 - 1917.


Both in a maneuverable and positional war, troops advance or defend. Because in a positional war, the sides stand against each other for a long time, the defensive art is largely transformed and improved.


Germans stretch barbed wire. The great war in the images and paintings. Issue 11. M., 1916.

Under the conditions of a “positional impasse”, the attacker had to break through the enemy's echeloned defense.

The standard defensive position of the positional warfare period included 2 - 3 reinforced lanes, which were located 3 - 4-km distance from each other - so that the enemy could not cover all the lanes with artillery fire at once. Each of the bands included 2-3 trench lines (distance between 100 lines - 300 steps). Accordingly, each line consisted of a continuous series of trenches and flanking (i.e. leading fires along the front of the fortification - to avoid dead spaces) each other’s resistance nodes or strong points located in 1-2 thousand steps from each other. The trenches were covered with wire fences. Resistance centers (strong points) included villages, cemeteries, groves, etc., adapted to the defense, or a whole system of trenches. The joints between the strong points could be strengthened (sometimes directly in the line of the trenches or behind it) by closed field fortifications.


Fortified positions of Russian troops in the presence of three shooting lines. Manual to fight for the fortified bands. Ed. Headquarters Special Army, 1916.

By the end of 1915, the basic requirements for defense in a positional war were as follows. The strength of the defense was seen: a) in a well-organized shelling of the ground in front of a defensive position; b) in safe havens; c) powerful obstacles; d) in the development of a defensive system in front and in depth; e) in creating favorable conditions for maneuvering reserves. The strengthened position had to neutralize the most important advantage of the attacker, freeing the defender from the need to obey the initiative of his active opponent. In addition, the terrain features were played on defense, and the resistance force increased significantly. Being almost completely hidden from the eyes of the enemy, the defender met the enemy with fire of all kinds weapons on a pre-adjusted terrain.


The first rifle line. Manual to fight for the fortified bands. According to the instructions and edited by the commander of the 5 army of the general from the cavalry Gurko.

If the defensive position was held for a long time (a vivid example is the Dvinsk front from the autumn of 1915 to the spring of 1918), then the defender could achieve outstanding results in organizing fire and improving positions - the terrain is carefully targeted by machine gun and artillery fire, each tactically valuable point of the terrain acquires its role in the defensive system.

The highest importance was attached to the heights dominating the surrounding terrain, positions that allowed the enemy to be hit with flank fire, as well as key positions - without which defense would become impossible. They were called strongholds. Moreover, tactical and strategic keys of positions differed. The latter were on the path of retreat or the approach of the defender's reserves. The loss of the strategic key entailed the isolation and destruction of the defending unit or unit. If tactical and strategic keys were combined in one strong point - it acquired an extraordinary importance.

In relation to the front line, the positions were divided into intermediate (located on the defensive line) and flank. The first served to defend against the direct (frontal) offensive of the enemy, the second - to counter the bypass or flank coverage. The strongholds located in front of the position were called forward, located inside the position — second-line (helped the defender, pushed back from the front, to hold on to the internal space of the position), and in the rear — correspondingly rear (their purpose was to repel the enemy who took the main positions and subsequently knock out him with them). The group of such strongholds that were in the fire interconnection was called the node of resistance.

For better lumbago approaches to the position, the terrain in front of the trenches was cleared on 1,5-2 km. Special attention was paid to neutralizing dead spaces in front of the positions.

The basic element of the position is a full profile rifle trenches. Such a trench was intended for firing while standing, and was equipped with parapet, dugouts (“roviki with a roof of poles, over which the ground is poured”) and an internal moat. The shelling from the trench (without the presence of dead spaces) along the front was no less than 200 steps, and the review was no less than 1 thousand steps.


Chronicles of the war 1914 - 15 - 16 No. 87.

The trenches for firing standing and the course of communications were called trenches, and the trenches for firing from the knee or lying - lodgments.


Trench for shooting from the knee.


Trench for shooting standing (with steps). Manual on self-infantry infantry. SPb., 1909.

Since the front edge of the defense was under scrutiny from the enemy's fire weapons, special shelters were built at a distance of up to 100 - 300 steps behind the battle line - they housed free (not involved in advanced trenches) fighters.


The great war in the images and paintings. Issue 5.



A full-fledged trench had loopholes or visors (to protect against shrapnel bullets) and rear traverses (traverse - a fence covering the shooters from flying debris and from longitudinal fire during frontal shelling, consisting of 2-x rows of boards or wickers). Loopholes defended from machine-gun and rifle bullets (built from sacks of earth, sod logs, etc., loopholes were sometimes replaced with rifle shields), and visors from light debris and shrapnel bullets (2-inch boards were used for this purpose) sprinkled with earth). Visors allowed defenders of the trenches to conduct small-arms fire for a long time over long distances - under constant enemy artillery fire covering the offensive of their own infantry. Since the enemy artillery fired a skew-targeting fire almost to the full approach of its infantry to the Russian trenches, the value of the visors cannot be overestimated. Indeed, in the absence of visors, Russian infantrymen could fire only after the termination of enemy artillery fire - and until that moment the soldiers had to lie down at the bottom of the trench or hide in shelters.



But the visors and loopholes could not protect against a direct hit by a projectile (especially a large caliber), and, moreover, they unmasked the trenches. The instructions prescribed that in order to disguise, before the start of fire fighting, they should be kept plugged (with any material at hand - straw, grass, earth bags, leaves), and during firing (so as not to shine through) with curtains of tents behind them.

To conduct skew-target firing or to increase the number of shooters, even deep trenches, in addition to firing through loopholes, were adapted for firing on top of a visor or a parapet - and supplied with steps or stepladders. In addition, the ladders and steps were especially important when carrying out counterattacks and grenade fights.

To protect against splinters in case of a direct hit by a projectile, the trench was made zigzagging (that is, with corners or kinks — the length of the 12 fracture — 16 steps). Inside the long-term trench sheathed poles or fence.



In order to prevent the penetration of enemy soldiers who broke into positions, along the entrenchment, wooden bulkheads with barbed wire, earthen bags, hedgehogs, slingshots, frames (protected from hand grenades) with a smooth wire net, etc., were stored in special niche rooms.




The construction of the trenches.




Pictures of war. M., 1917.



The parapet (the embankment in front of the trench) was poured in such a way that the fighters, without even aiming, but only putting the rifle in the space provided for it on the parapet, could fire at the approaches to the position. Since the German shells gave a large number of fragments, the Russian instructions ordered to make trenches narrower (the recommended width along the bottom was three quarters of a step) and deep. Deepening the profile of the trench should be carried out by reducing the parapet, at the same time, it improved the masking.


Loopholes of sandbags (plan). Instruction on military engineering. SPb., 1910.


Chronicles of the war 1914 - 15 - 16 No. 87.




Chronicles of the war 1914 - 15 - 16 No. 75.

Between the shelters and the battle line, as well as to the trenches, for the placement of reserves, communication lines were laid - zigzag deep ditches, which served both for the transfer of subunits and units to the front line, and for moving to the rear. The side of the message turned to the enemy was covered with an embankment.


The progress of the message. Manual on self-digging.


The progress of the message.


The message moves.

Blindage is the most powerful trench structure. Blindage could even withstand large-caliber shells. Standardly, it was calculated on 15 - 25 man, had splinter and anti-gas bulkheads, two exits, and was connected by communication with the trench. It is imperative that the mound above the dugout does not exceed the height of the mound of the equestrian trench.

In the trenches there were living quarters (dugouts) and shelter-slits (earthen caves or fox holes designed for 10 - 12 people). Lieutenant K. Popov noted that in many parts the accumulation of officers in one dugout was forbidden - in order to avoid mass death of commanders when hit by a shell. From the inside, the dugout was lined with straw, the floor was laid with boards, and bunk beds were installed.


German bunk dugouts.


Chronicles of the war 1914 - 15 - 16 No. 75.


Chronicles of the war 1914 - 15 - 16 No. 80

The organization of observation posts for various purposes, which were supposed to withstand heavy projectile hits and provided with periscopes for conducting observations and telephone communications, was carefully regulated.


Observation post. Drawing. Guidelines for strengthening positions. Ed. Headquarters of the Supreme Commander, 1916.


Dugouts.

In order for the shelter to reliably protect against heavy projectiles, the required thickness of the overlap is the 3 row of logs (“three rolls”, each barrel had a thickness of 18 - 27 cm) plus the 2,5-meter earth mound. For the greatest strength, stone powder was made in the earthen top layer, causing a premature explosion of the enemy projectile — before the latter penetrated deep into the pillow. To give overlapping spring properties across the bottom row of logs, 18-27 cm thickness was laid out as well.


Niva. No. 45. 1916.


Chronicle of the war 1917. No. 125.


Device shelter Scheme. Guidelines for strengthening positions. Ed. Headquarters of the Supreme Commander.

The blockhouse was a solid wooden blockhouse, sprinkled on the outside with earth, with an elbow stop and equipped with loopholes for firing. Often, well-camouflaged lunettes and blockhouses were in front of the position, connecting with communications trenches. Equipped with machine guns and well disguised, they were effective forward firing points protecting the approaches to artificial obstacles. Many blockhouses located behind the trenches of the first line, in the depths of the defense - so that their fire was a surprise for the enemy to break through.


Blockhouse in the defense system. Guidelines for strengthening positions. Ed. Headquarters of the Supreme Commander.

Closures for reserves were created - special moats serving for the hidden concentration of units. The closures were ordered to be built behind the reverse slopes of the heights, equipping them with reliable communication lines and, if possible, making them covered.

Progress messages intended for the accumulation of troops, often equipped with special barriers and extensions. The width of the normal course of the message made it possible to carry a stretcher with the wounded, and the device - to allow to place military equipment and protect from falling. According to the existing 1 standards, the message flow relied on every 100 - 150 meters of trenches. The moves, as well as the trenches, were carried out in a zigzag or snake manner and, if possible, adapted to the defense.


The course of the message and dugout.

For the convenience of carrying out counterattacks, special transitions through trenches were constructed. And for carrying out attacks, searches, for sudden strikes to the rear and the flank, attacking enemy units from the closures for reserves and internal moats of the trenches were climbed (covered passages of messages) - they were well disguised and brought to the neutral strip, to the dead spaces, to the wire barrage. With a large number of such Lazov provided the opportunity to actively pursue the enemy, cut off retreating, to prevent suitable reserves.


Closing for reserves. Manual on self-infantry infantry. SPb., 1909.

Often the key positions were closed fortifications - the so-called. redoubts. Redoubt is a polygonal closed defensive structure, the garrison of which did not exceed, as a rule, one company. Redoubts were created, as a rule, at commanding heights, had their own artificial obstacles and obstacles and were in close fire interconnection. Such an enhanced autonomous defensive position in a key tactical area was an important obstacle to the breakthrough of defense.


Field reinforcement (redoubt). Manual on military engineering for all branches of the military. SPb., 1910.

Particular attention was paid to the defender to disguise fortifications - because when unmasking their positions, a hail of grenades, bombs, mines, and, of course, enemy artillery shells awaited them.


Watching the enemy.


At the loopholes during the lull.

In a positional war, the density standards for rifle defense are up to 3's steps per fighter. Such a sparse system contributed to the overall strength of the fortifications, the long duration of finding the fighters in position and the increased (due to a well-thought system) the effectiveness of the fire.


In a trench during a shootout.




Construction of trenches.


Repair trenches.


Construction of trenches with an excavator.


Chronicles of the war 1914 - 15 - 16 No. 89.
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  1. Square
    Square 10 March 2018 06: 08
    +10
    Serious analysis, in detail.
    The fighters did not have to get bored - build, support fortifications, and also defend properly
    1. Streletskos
      Streletskos 10 March 2018 09: 43
      +23
      Yes, detailed reconstruction
      From the penultimate photo it can be seen that some trenches were dug with the help of excavators. That's the bastard race)
      1. Olgovich
        Olgovich 10 March 2018 10: 33
        +6
        Quote: Streletskos
        From the penultimate photo it can be seen that some trenches were dug with the help of excavators. And so bastard race)

        The great experience of the Second World War was, unfortunately, completely forgotten: instead of trenches at the beginning of the Second World War, it was prescribed to dig separate shooting cells for each soldier. What made the defense unreliable, because the fighter did not know and did not understand what was happening next.

        The construction of the trench with a visor on the instructions presented is remarkable: it protected against damaging elements of blasting shells that destroy all life, even at the bottom of deep trenches.
        In the Great Patriotic War, to protect against them and fragments, "fox holes" were dug in the wall of the trench at and below the bottom of the trench.

        Good article! hi
      2. Curious
        Curious 11 March 2018 00: 22
        +2
        In the photo, a trench excavator of the American company "Parsons" model "K". The production of their own similar equipment has not been established.
        1. Rotmistr
          Rotmistr 11 March 2018 08: 59
          +16
          But applied hi
          1. Curious
            Curious 11 March 2018 10: 57
            +2
            In total, in 1915 and 1916, the GVTU discharged 22 Parsons crawler excavators from America. The first six cars assembled in Moscow in the summer of 1916 were sent to the Northern Front as part of the newly formed tractor-excavator sections. By the end of 1916, 12 excavators had arrived in Russia. Four vehicles remained in the Luga at the disposal of the Northern Front, one was directed to Drissa on the Western Front and four to Kiev on the South-Western Front. Three excavators were assembled and had to be ready by April 1917. The remaining ten excavators discharged from the USA during the war partly arrived in boxes in Arkhangelsk, but were not collected, and some were completely lost somewhere along the way.
  2. Amurets
    Amurets 10 March 2018 06: 37
    +9
    Under the conditions of a “positional impasse”, the attacker had to break through the enemy's echeloned defense.
    Thanks, thanks. After reading your article, you clearly understand why chemical weapons, tanks, mortars appeared. It took a lot of manpower and means to break through such fortified strips.
  3. bionik
    bionik 10 March 2018 07: 49
    +5
    The author is big +.
    In the wilds of barbed wire.
    As far as I remember, the "thorn" was originally used as a fence for livestock.
    1. thinker
      thinker 10 March 2018 09: 18
      +2
      America, the 19th century, as they say now, the advertising slogan is "Cheaper than dirt, lighter than air, more reliable than steel." There, already two museums of "thorns".
      1. Streletskos
        Streletskos 10 March 2018 09: 44
        +16
        Spike for everything use
        Recently, the "egozoi" country fence
        And he gave the trunk to the car, and pricked his hands
  4. XII Legion
    XII Legion 10 March 2018 08: 42
    +20
    although elements of long-term positional defense appeared earlier (for example, in the Russo-Japanese), they did not particularly count on this and did not prepare.
    They thought that the world war would be short-term and maneuverable.
    I had to learn in the process, under fire and onslaught of the enemy.
    Therefore, the art of positional defense did not come immediately - this is evident even from the trenches. What they were at first and what they later became - lined, in the height of a person, with a maze of shelters and communications. A whole complex has remained in Belarus - a powerful impression. We worked hard for the glory - the benefit is that the front froze for 2 years.
    Thank you!
  5. Huumi
    Huumi 10 March 2018 09: 38
    +3
    Cool photos, thanks.
    1. Streletskos
      Streletskos 10 March 2018 09: 44
      +18
      And the text is super.
      In details
      Statutory norms and further practice are analyzed.
  6. 27091965
    27091965 10 March 2018 09: 38
    +7
    Preparing to repel an attack. In the background is an observer. Austria-Hungary.
  7. 27091965
    27091965 10 March 2018 09: 41
    +5
    Throwing grenades from the trench. Austria-Hungary.
    1. Streletskos
      Streletskos 10 March 2018 09: 46
      +18
      The Austrians liked to tackle trenches with brushwood
      And on the northern sections of the front, ours and the Germans - with boards and forest. Especially relevant in slush
      1. 27091965
        27091965 10 March 2018 10: 12
        +5
        Quote: Streletskos
        And on the northern sections of the front, ours and the Germans - with boards and forest. Especially relevant in slush


        This depended primarily on the area where the defensive position was equipped.
        1. Streletskos
          Streletskos 10 March 2018 10: 22
          +17
          Of course
          I talked about the general trend
      2. Serge Gorely
        Serge Gorely 10 March 2018 10: 43
        +1
        Handled in the outhouse. Make up.
        1. Streletskos
          Streletskos 10 March 2018 11: 02
          +18
          In the outhouse
          1. Bouncer
            Bouncer 10 March 2018 11: 09
            +20
            I quote the phrase of Lieutenant Popov ("Memoirs of the Caucasian Grenadier" M., 2007. P.61.)
            Probably the officer who himself held the defense in those positions knew better what was called than the Russians - experts in the Russian language.
            So, Konstantin Popov wrote: "The inside of the dugout was DECREATED with straw, the purpose of which was to protect the tenant from dampness."
            So the question is settled
            1. BRONEVIK
              BRONEVIK 10 March 2018 13: 00
              +20
              Yes, the enemy fortifications were so improved that they were considered "impregnable."
              For example, before the advance of the Southwestern Front in 1916 (Brusilovsky Breakthrough), Kaiser Wilhelm, visiting the positions of the Southern German Army located in Galicia, said that he did not see such fortifications on the Western Front either. A mock-up was shown at Berlin.
              Our positions have also been developed and improved.
              For example, the entrance to the dugout

              Impressive)
            2. Curious
              Curious 10 March 2018 16: 56
              +3
              Maybe someone will consider that the lieutenant may not understand the intricacies of spelling and hesitates.
              "The white sultan and the bay trotter stopped at the rich entrance, with a canopy and glass doors, with a shiny copper lining." Lermontov, Princess Ligovskaya.
              At that time, the word "lining" was used to mean "finishing"
              Now this word is a technical term for permanent fixation, cladding of an underground structure, forming its inner surface and holding the soil from collapse.
  8. Curious
    Curious 10 March 2018 17: 10
    +6
    "The great experience of the Second World War was, unfortunately, completely forgotten: instead of trenches at the beginning of the Second World War, it was prescribed to dig separate shooting cells for each soldier. This made the defense unreliable, because the soldier did not know and did not understand what was happening next."
    Absolute incompetence. There is still such a term - "nonsense." Documentary evidence of this "nonsense".

    Excerpt from the specified document.
    380. The engineering equipment of the area is made, depending on the situation, in the following order.

    First Stage Works:

    a) forces of the troops - clearing of the survey and shelling, construction of trenches full profiles for shooters, machine guns, grenade launchers, mortars and guns with slots for shelter and emergency positions; the installation of anti-personnel obstacles, the adaptation of local objects to defense, the construction of hiding firing points for easel machine guns and infantry artillery, providing sheltered communications in critical areas;
    b) engineering units — the arrangement of the most important command and observation posts, anti-tank obstacles, the installation of searchlights, the provision of troops with water, the construction of field roads necessary for the combat and economic supply of troops, and the correction of existing ones.

    Work of the second stage:

    a) by forces of the troops - arrangement of communication routes with the rear, construction of emergency trenches, development of work of the first stage;
    b) engineering units — the construction of various kinds of shelters and reserve command and observation posts.

    Work of the third stage - the development of work of the first and second phases.

    All engineering work is carried out under conditions of careful camouflage of both the process of work and the erected buildings. Defense camouflage as a whole is verified by control shots from the ground and air.
    It is evident that Mr. Olgovich in childhood was not introduced to the doctrine that lying is not good.
  9. Some kind of compote
    Some kind of compote 10 March 2018 18: 56
    +15
    We look forward to continuing an interesting cycle good
  10. serge siberian
    serge siberian 10 March 2018 21: 17
    +3
    A very interesting article. A huge gap in the engineering and fortification knowledge is covered. But I remember my "MK" school in the suburbs in the winter of 85-86, in the snow, only similarity of such structures was dug in the snow. Snow was granulated near-hemisphere and crumbled like sand, it’s easier lying on his back with his feet away from him, it was more effective. But no one complied with the standard. Nobody tried to do the same with 3 platoons, they just trampled down passages, dugouts, and trenches for familiarization. RPK-74 didn’t reach the ground on an elongated guys with a height of 197 cm were soaked in their hands. But everything was wet from sweat and snow. And when we analyzed the “flights”, our outerwear also covered with an ice crust, below -20 * C and the wind in the field. And the snow melted in the felt boots. Brrr remembered the chill at the stove It became. But what was it was.
  11. demiurg
    demiurg 11 March 2018 04: 41
    +1
    Quote: Olgovich
    Quote: Streletskos
    From the penultimate photo it can be seen that some trenches were dug with the help of excavators. And so bastard race)

    The great experience of the Second World War was, unfortunately, completely forgotten: instead of trenches at the beginning of the Second World War, it was prescribed to dig separate shooting cells for each soldier. What made the defense unreliable, because the fighter did not know and did not understand what was happening next.

    The construction of the trench with a visor on the instructions presented is remarkable: it protected against damaging elements of blasting shells that destroy all life, even at the bottom of deep trenches.
    In the Great Patriotic War, to protect against them and fragments, "fox holes" were dug in the wall of the trench at and below the bottom of the trench.

    Good article! hi


    Such defensive positions have been prepared for more than one day. Once in a maneuver war, dig trenches. First the cells, then the cells are connected into the trenches (if possible). Then the rows of trenches are connected by passages, dugouts and bunkers are equipped.
    War is not to shoot. War is a lot to dig and walk. Periodically sit under shelling and bombing.
    1. Rotmistr
      Rotmistr 11 March 2018 08: 58
      +16
      Such defensive positions have been prepared for more than one day.

      Ideally, of course
      Once in a maneuver war, dig trenches.

      Digging. It also happened. For example, during the Battle of Gumbinnen, Russian troops defeated the Germans by digging themselves in very quickly.
      And here is the Russian advanced trench at Lublin, July 1915. Although there was still a maneuver war.

      War is not to shoot. War is a lot to dig and walk. Periodically sit under shelling and bombing.

      You can’t argue with that hi