Military Review

In the wilds of barbed wire. H.3

Concluding the conversation about the specifics of positional defense (see In the wilds of barbed wire. H.1 ; In the wilds of barbed wire. H.2) we note that the positional war brought back another relic of the Middle Ages - stone throwers.

Kamnemet was a box with a charge, covered with a thick wooden shield. Stones piled on the shield, and then it was all buried. A pilot cable or wire connected the charge to the position. Kamnemety created at a distance 150-200 steps from their positions. As soon as the enemy approached camouflaged stone throwers, an explosion followed.

Laid and bombs. Their difference from a stone-thrower is that a box with gunpowder was laid with stones at a stone-thrower, while at a land mine it was covered with earth.

Quite often, between hedgehogs and wire barriers scattered hedgehogs. The hedgehogs were made from 3's stakes (length 107 cm each) and were connected with each other so that they stuck out along the 3-m perpendicular directions.

In the wilds of barbed wire. H.3
Gooseberry. Manual on military engineering for all branches of the military. St. Petersburg, 1910.

To make it harder for the enemy to combat artificial obstacles, they were tried to adapt them to the terrain as much as possible, placing them in a wavy or staggered manner. The optimal positions for their placement were considered the folds of the terrain, lowlands, reverse slopes of heights. The defender placed special commands and observation posts equipped with mortars, bombers and machine guns at the wire obstacles.

Artificial obstacles were also built in front of rear defensive lines.

It is clear that the attack (assault) of positional defense was very difficult, with chances of success only under the condition that artificial obstacles were more or less seriously destroyed.

Obstacles gradually weakened the attacker - and his offensive was exhausted. As N. Kapustin noted: “The offensive force of each infantry unit ... is limited. It is impossible to expect that if one regiment crashed against the obstacles encountered, then two or three regiments would achieve the desired success ... Significance of the losses incurred both in the ordinary fighters and in the command staff, mixing of combat units, gradually increasing the disorganization of the unit, reducing its rush to attack; finally, part of it reaches a barrier, to overcome, which it does not have enough strength, it has exhausted itself and is unable to continue the offensive " [Kapustin N. Decree. cit. C. 206-207].

But all artificial obstacles were a serious obstacle, if they were under the cover of the actual fire of the defender, were carefully observed and were well disguised. That is why it was recommended to create the strongest artificial obstacles in vulnerable and passive combat areas, and to leave passages in front of active combat areas, blocked by collapsible obstacles (slingshots, hedgehogs). But active sites should be under especially strong fire of the defender.

Resistance units were covered with obstacles from the front and from the flanks, and redoubts - from all sides.

The destruction of obstacles from afar is a matter of artillery (although part of this work was taken over by wire cutters, sappers, stakes could be cut off by machine-gun fire, etc.). It was difficult for the attacker, who had weak artillery or experienced difficulties with ammunition. The existing standard provided that the 1 light gun punches a meter pass in a wire fence. But the wire nets are often poorly yielded to the shells of even the largest caliber. Therefore, before the attack, the attacker had to send forward special commands for laying (or re-laying) passes in the wire fences. But the actions of such groups were possible only after the destruction of the defenders' machine guns.

Based on the number of passages punched in the barricades, the attacker’s attack columns were also formed.

The strength of defense in positional hostilities was the development of an interconnected defensive system over a wide area - along the front and in depth. In this regard, the exploration of the properties of the terrain and the competent organization of interaction between all elements of the defensive position (including the 2 and 3 lines of defense) were of paramount importance. Each node of resistance, being layered in depth, should have allowed stubborn defense to be carried out under the condition of complete encirclement - the fire connection of the elements of defense allowed to hold for as long as possible. That is why the firing points and shelters tried to place in staggered order. But, by developing fortified positions in depth, it is necessary to provide the troops with the greatest possible convenience for maneuvering.

At the same time, the defense force was also seen in the presence of the required number of powerful shelters in which the dispersed units and units of the defender waited for the enemy’s artillery preparation, avoiding serious losses. When constructing such shelters, priority was given to reinforced concrete structures, but rails, beams, corrugated iron, etc. were used to create the closures. The main advantage of reinforced concrete construction (besides strength) is in the presence of a combined protection system. So, if the advancing one proceeded to active actions in the first days after the concrete was filled with shelters, the concrete that had not yet dried out could not serve as a reliable closure - but the iron parts of the structure served as protection. By the end of the first month after pouring, the concrete became a reliable defense. In addition to the shelters, reinforced-concrete machine gun points (caps), observation points flanking the buildings gave special defense power. The combination of such shelters interspersed into the defense system was often an insurmountable obstacle for the attacker. Only a concentrated fire artillery large calibers on previously identified targets could neutralize such objects.

The longer the defender was in the appropriate position - the more powerful the defense he improved became - the strong points were turned into groups of such points, the firing points were concreted and blind, additional machine guns were placed between them, underground lines were deployed, and artificial obstacles increased.

The main rule applied by the defenders was that the work on improving the defensive position should not be stopped, because there are no limits to perfection.

Wait for the attack, constantly on the position - is unthinkable. That is why in positional war, security was of particular importance. It relieved the main forces of the troops occupying the defense from constant tension, and in the event of an attack, it raised the alarm in time. Particular attention was paid to night time - escort used such means as lighting flares, searchlights, etc. The searchlights (mirror diameter 45-90 cm) were the most effective means of lighting, illuminating the terrain on 5-7 km.

Both in the infantry and in the artillery, duty units were envisaged, ready for the first signal to open barrage, which would stop the attacker and give time to the remaining units to take up combat positions.

For observation of the enemy used tethered balloons - in fact, observation towers. Rising to the height of 200 - 1000 m, they allowed to see with binoculars in clear weather at a distance of 10-12 km. Troop movements were recognized at a distance of up to 8 km, fortifications and man-made obstacles were 4-5 km, and parts of engineering structures were from 2-3 km. A hydrogen-dependent balloon could be observed for 4 hours.

As a result, as the Rule Direction rightly noted, the reinforced zone was a formidable force in the presence of 3-x conditions: the greatest vigilance, the ability to keep as many people as possible up to the last minute as long as the number of troops was adequate for the position they defended (with provided that for each infantry division there is a combat sector from 5 to 10 km).

Of course, when organizing defense, the peculiarities of the troops occupying the defense, as well as the front, on which the confrontation took place, were of great importance. So, with the same approach to the organization and saturation of the defense, the German and Austrian practice differed significantly in one. As a member of the Brusilovsky breakthrough, the battalion commander of the 409 Infantry Regiment of Novokhopersky recalled the staff captain (future Marshal of the Soviet Union) A. M. Vasilevsky: The Austrians concentrated their main efforts precisely on the first. Break it and roll the front forward! ” [Vasilevsky A. M. The Matter of Life. Prince 1. M., 1989. C. 27].

In the Russian army, in the organization of defense, not only front-line specifics, the specifics of a particular unit or formation, but also the personality of the commander were of great importance. The front-line commander recalled: “... in one of the corps where I had to serve, the deminers did not use the attention of the authorities and were reduced not to business, but to rest, officers and soldiers. The picture changed dramatically when the General-engineer stood at the head of the corps: entire regiments were brought out to build large redoubts of our Russian type; then the artillery shot these redoubts and their garrisons depicted as targets. The new corps commander who replaced the engineer paid less attention to the demining, but in one respect introduced a fresh stream: he demanded that artificial obstacles in front of the fortifications should be arranged in the German and Austrian style, and all units would take turns practicing how to overcome these obstacles in various ways ... science to strengthen positions, which were not cheaply costing us, far from all bosses ... were received to the same extent: while on the same front, the South-West, by the middle of the campaign, The most serious attention was paid to the correct outline of the trench line, the rapid erection and gradual improvement of it, the thoughtful arrangement of closures, bridgeheads to go on the offensive, etc., on another, Northern Front, even in the spring and even in summer 1917 of the year caused special attention of the authorities, and obvious defects remained inviolable. The Western Front ... occupied the middle between the North and South-West " [Klembovsky V. On Fortified Positions // Military Affairs. - 1918. - No. 16. C. 4].

Different were the approaches to the typology of defensive structures and even to the order of their construction. Thus, engineers closed the fortifications (redoubts, stone manors, etc.) were characterized positively, while such forts were called “brotherly cemeteries” by fighters - it was almost impossible to jump out of such a trap at the right moment.

Engineers of the Western Front set out in the autumn of 1915, and the commander in chief of the front approved the following gradual work while strengthening the position: a) erection of artificial obstacles; b) the construction of trenches; c) clearing the area in front of firing positions; d) construction of roads and crossings. But the troops objected to such a sequence, rightly believing that the first trenches should be erected — without the fire support of the workers, the enemy would not allow artificial obstacles to be erected.

It is worth noting that in a positional war the maneuver was not lost - it acquired other forms. For the defender, he consisted in the transfer of forces and means to the breakout zone, as well as in the implementation of regroupings. The main requirements for such a maneuver - stealth and speed. At the tactical level, the activity of the defender was manifested in the production of reconnaissance searches, attacks and counterattacks. The pursuit of a defeated enemy, as a rule, was carried out by fire.

On the Russian front, fortified positions maintained their linear character until the end of the war. This was observed in both the Russians and the Germans with the Austrians. The depth of the fortified band did not exceed 1-2 km, and together with the second rear band the entire depth of the fortified zone was 6-8 km. Such a position could often be mastered with one strike. In 1916, the Germans shot down from the turn of the river. Styr, inevitably had to bounce on the river. Stokhod; Austrians rejected from p. Strypa, had to roll back over the river. Koropets, and then to the Golden Lime. The Germans broke through the Russian positions repeatedly and, as a rule, with the same success.

As a result, the following should be noted.

The offensive nature of 1914 operations led to the widespread use of “self-digging”: each shooter, lying in a chain, tore off for himself a separate hollow, a cell, which he then gradually improved, bringing to the profile of the trench for shooting “from the knee”, sometimes “standing on bottom of the pit. " The form of a “cell” or “nest” trench is widespread. The autumn battles of 1914, led to the fact that from October the Russian command had a turning point in their views on the matter of strengthening their positions and the preparation of well-fortified positions began in advance. Thus, on the South-Western Front, the bridge positions of Sandomir, Gora Kalwaria, Ivangorod, Novo-Alexandria, Solts, Yuzefov, Annopol are being strengthened; on the North-Western Front a number of positions are being built along the river Tsarev: at Zegrze, Serock, Pułtusk, Rožan, Ostroleka, Novogrod, Lomza, Wizna, Tykocin.

At first, these positions are exclusively linear in nature and consist of ordinary rifle trenches alternating with strong points in the form of trench profile redoubts with strongly developed mustaches (influenced by the experience of the Russo-Japanese War), sometimes in the form of groups consisting of ring and ordinary trenches, surrounded from the front and from the flanks with a wire net. The positions of the North-Western Front, while maintaining their linear nature, in most cases are formed from separate groups of rifle trenches, spaced at intervals from one another (sometimes the arrangement of groups is even observed in the 2 series) —Pultus, Serock, position in the area of ​​Ivangorod, on the line Kozienica - Polichno - Janovec.

After the Lodz operation, the command of the North-Western Front ordered the “group character” of the defensive lines created for the positions on the left bank of the Vistula and on the right bank of the Pilica (group type - battalion from scattered trenches with backstroke posts, refuges, 1) steps behind and group reserve in 500 steps; the total length of the group is up to 800 km, the distance between the groups is 1-1 km). Each group position is surrounded by a wire net taken from the trenches under flanking fire. Such are the Warsaw, Groitskaya, Radomskaya and Narevskaya bridgehead positions.

In the first half of 1915, when creating defensive positions, the tendency to a continuous linear arrangement was observed in the North-Western Front, without abruptly allocating tactically more important areas to nodes or groups, but in some places the idea of ​​defensive depth separation is clearly manifested by creating second and even the third lines of trenches associated with previous lines of communications moves.

Chronicles of the War 1916, No. 80.

On the South-Western Front, almost all positions until mid-February 1915 were still solid linear. Later they began to erect positions of a mixed character - they created nodes or groups with intervals up to a kilometer, and this gap was filled with several lines of trenches drawn back.

Diagram of the Russian defensive positions. Guidelines for strengthening positions. Ed. 2. Headquarters of the Supreme Commander, 1916.

On the North-Western Front, the command was able to convert all line military positions into nodal ones.

Strengthened position. Scheme. Manual to fight for the fortified bands. Ed. 6., H. 1, 1917.

In the future, along with layered positions, positions of the former “nodal” or “group” types are also raised. Such are the positions on the Golden Lipa, Stryp, Zbruchu, and the tributaries of the Bug and Dniester, built in 1915. From the end of 1915, a system of reinforced lanes was introduced, which followed one after another at a certain distance and consisted of each of the 3 - 4 trench lines; At the front of the trenches there were at least 3-x strips of wire obstacles (7-10 width each, with gaps between the strips in 15-50 steps). The trenches were abundantly provided with “foxhole” shelters and connected with each other and with the rear mass of the communication lines, most of which were adapted for defense and allowed, together with the trenches located behind them, to take the attacker into a fire bag - this was the first time t. n. "Cut-off system". In addition, there were a large number of flanking structures, which made it possible to base defense positions on the flank and crossfire of machine guns and artillery.

Types of fortified positions. Manual to fight for the fortified bands. Ed. 6., H. 1, 1917.

From February 1916, the positions of the South-Western Front are beginning to acquire the above-mentioned deeply echeloned character, while on the Western Front they continued to build positions that by nature were more likely to be group, and on the Northern - positions were of mixed nature. Since the autumn of 1916, a system of fortified bands with “strong nodes and centers of resistance” has been finally introduced.

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  1. Albatroz
    Albatroz 24 March 2018 06: 08
    Positional defense in all its glory
    Patterns are clear
    Thanks for the detailed analysis!
    1. kipage
      kipage 24 March 2018 09: 31
      Thanks for the detailed analysis!

      good hi
      1. Brutan
        Brutan 24 March 2018 16: 56
  2. Vard
    Vard 24 March 2018 06: 15
    There is a rule in war .. A liter of sweat is equal to a drop of blood ...
  3. Square
    Square 24 March 2018 06: 16
    the trenches should be the first to be erected - without the fire support of the workers, the enemy will not allow to erect artificial obstacles.

    Yes, the element is basic
    As they said in the kintz doom of the empire:
    What a front from him, he’s not accustomed to dig holes
    1. kipage
      kipage 24 March 2018 09: 32
      Gorgeous movie
      With all the flaws
      1. Brutan
        Brutan 24 March 2018 16: 57
        Reviewed many times
  4. XII Legion
    XII Legion 24 March 2018 07: 43
    Very interesting trends.
    Indeed, positional defense is ALMOST impregnable, but
    all artificial obstacles were a serious obstacle if they were under the cover of a real defending fire, were carefully observed and were well camouflaged.

    And with competent tactics, the interaction of the military branches and careful organization were overcome.
    Thank you!
    1. kipage
      kipage 24 March 2018 09: 32
      with competent tactics, the interaction of the military branches and careful organization,

    BRONEVIK 24 March 2018 08: 43
    The process of organizing a positional defense is of course dreary

    But at least some guarantee against the unexpected.
    On the other hand, a new form of hostilities led to new tactics (including assault), the development of the art of using artillery capabilities, and the thorough regulation of the interaction between the combat arms. Previously, special attention was not paid to this, everyone lived their own lives.
    1. kipage
      kipage 24 March 2018 09: 34
      Previously, special attention was not paid to this, everyone lived their own lives.

      Sometimes a cavalry commander could retreat without notifying the infantry.
      And in the positioning verified. Even the fire opened on schedule in accordance with the agreed scheme and schedule.
      1. Brutan
        Brutan 24 March 2018 16: 59
        Not later than 15 minutes barrage
        Or even at the call of the infantry commander.
        Littauer's written. Memoirs of an officer of the imperial cavalry.
  6. Horseman without a head
    Horseman without a head 24 March 2018 09: 53
    The patterns in the organization of positional defense for different fronts are very interesting.
    Everything flows, everything changes
  7. Rotmistr
    Rotmistr 24 March 2018 12: 53
    Yes, separation was gradual
    And gradually it led to those powerful positions that are still preserved in Belarus - at Naroch and Smorgon. And in the Baltic states.
    How much labor and effort to build
    And how much - to break through.
    1. soldier
      soldier 24 March 2018 13: 04
      The longer the defender stayed in the appropriate position, the more powerful the defense improved by him became

      Yes, in those places where the front froze in the autumn of 1915 on the line of Lake. Naroch - Lake Vishnevskoe, etc. and stood for 2,5 years
      1. Rotmistr
        Rotmistr 24 March 2018 15: 52
        In Galicia, the movement was more active
    2. Brutan
      Brutan 24 March 2018 17: 00
      to this day they remain in Belarus - at Naroch and Smorgon. And in the Baltic states.

      I want to go see everything
      1. uladzimir.surko
        uladzimir.surko 25 March 2018 02: 28
        I recommend you will not regret it. You can start at the Narochanka camp site,
        1. Brutan
          Brutan 25 March 2018 09: 10
          Thanks for the recommendation. hi
          At the nearest opportunity, I will follow your advice
      2. BAI
        BAI 26 March 2018 09: 56
        They will have to look.

        Defense fortifications. Baranavichy operation
        Could it be better in Verdun?

        Verdun battle "wounds" are still visible
        1. Brutan
          Brutan 26 March 2018 10: 48
          Baranovichi, okay.
          As I understand it, the trenches and the remains of the defensive positions at Naroch and Smorgon are preserved.
          Verdun is certainly good, but there is more hemorrhoid (Belarus is all right at hand), and foreigners are after all. More interested in ours.
  8. soldier
    soldier 24 March 2018 13: 06
    as the Headquarters Directive rightly noted, the fortified lane was an insurmountable force in the presence of 3 conditions: the greatest vigilance, the ability to keep as many people as possible ready for close combat and if the number of troops corresponded to the length of the position they defended

    You can’t say better
    1. Brutan
      Brutan 24 March 2018 17: 01
      Always in the instructions and charters clearly and concisely.
      Nothing extra
      And personal)
  9. hohol95
    hohol95 24 March 2018 15: 55
    Particular attention was paid to night time - the protection used such means as lighting rockets, searchlights, etc. Searchlights (mirror diameter 45-90 cm) were the most effective lighting means, illuminating the area for 5-7 km.

    Good phrase. Lighting rockets, spotlights ...
    But were they in sufficient quantities these very means of illumination?
    Did the servicemen purchase their personal funds?
    1. Brutan
      Brutan 24 March 2018 17: 10
      Yes no, what are you.
      There were even spotlight units.
      I imagine - their fighters to fold on the purchase of searchlights.
      This is the same as pilots taking off to buy airplanes, and armored car crews buying armored cars.

      The technique of the Russian army
      1. kipage
        kipage 24 March 2018 18: 16
        The fact that the officers purchased flashlights to their taste - I read. Well, so a revolver or flashlight at the request of the owner - ento one.
        But a spotlight is an expensive thing. It was then necessary to equip the searchlight teams with fighters from the richest noble families (unless of course they remained) - so that they could master it. Yes, and then I doubt it.
        1. soldier
          soldier 24 March 2018 19: 56
          Photo to the floodlight theme guys
      2. hohol95
        hohol95 24 March 2018 23: 07
        And missiles were enough?
        And they did not make them from the ancient Smith-Wesson revolvers in the amount of hundreds of pieces?
        And did not convert the damaged rifles into signal clippings?
        1. Brutan
          Brutan 24 March 2018 23: 18
          But who will answer this question with accuracy - how many cuts, etc.?
          Always in the army, especially at the front, something is missing. And it is impossible to foresee everything. They didn’t know what it would be, a positional war — and, accordingly, did not think about rocket launchers and signal cutoffs.
          Yes, and you never know what shabbiness in the army involved.
          Here too. Did the fighters in Gallipoli know that a positional front would be established there (!) And the trenches would be close to each other - as a result, mortars and hand grenades would be sharply needed.
          Well, I also had to deal with handicraft as in the photo below - in the field, equip grenades. And in quantity, as I understand it, in excess of a hundred pieces.
  10. Brutan
    Brutan 24 March 2018 17: 02
    I liked the cycle
    Saturated with figures, facts, illustrations.
    It’s a pity that ended
    1. kipage
      kipage 24 March 2018 18: 17
      Well, God willing - others will begin
      1. kipage
        kipage 24 March 2018 18: 17
        No less interesting
  11. Some kind of compote
    Some kind of compote 24 March 2018 19: 18
    An interesting cycle.
    Fine good
  12. Serge72
    Serge72 24 March 2018 19: 46
    A wonderful article, a series of articles on positional defense and its features on the Russian front of WWI.
    And here are some interesting photos on positional defense and trench business on the Western Front of WWI.
    I hope it will be interesting hi

  13. Serge72
    Serge72 24 March 2018 19: 48

    Here are some more pictures
  14. Serge72
    Serge72 24 March 2018 19: 49

    Schemes and drawings
  15. Serge72
    Serge72 24 March 2018 19: 50

    And the last
    1. soldier
      soldier 24 March 2018 20: 00
      I take your initiative)
      Something on our front

  16. soldier
    soldier 24 March 2018 20: 03
    Still interesting
  17. alatanas
    alatanas 26 March 2018 14: 30

    Lunch at the position, 1918

    Dismantling of barbed wire after the retreat of the English, 1917 Krush planina (Mount Krush)
  18. alatanas
    alatanas 26 March 2018 14: 58
    Here's more:

    1917 r The fortified position of the Bulgarian infantry (southern front).

    Positions of the 23 th Shipchen regiment 1916 g, southern front.
  19. Gorbunov Artem
    Gorbunov Artem 29 March 2018 16: 53
    Barrage facilities improved this fact. All parts of this article have mainly described the experience of positional wars. Undoubtedly, experience was used in the construction of all defensive lines (It is possible ...). I wanted an educator about modern research in this area.