Pyrrhic victory of the Kolchak armies on Tobol

Smoot. 1919 year. Kolchak’s army completed only the first stage of the planned operation. Kolchakites defeated the 5-th Red Army, the enemy attack on Petropavlovsk and further Omsk was frustrated. However, Kolchak’s success was partial and the victory, in fact, was Pyrrhic. It was worth such sacrifices that the Reds would soon resume their victorious offensive in Siberia again.

Pyrrhic victory of the Kolchak armies on Tobol

Admiral Kolchak presents combat awards. 1919




The first battle on Tobol


20 August 1919 The Red Army, breaking the resistance of the Kolchakites, crossed Tobol and developed an offensive to the east. After crossing the Tobol 5-I rifle division went into reserve to be sent to the southern fronts. Its place was filled with a stretch to the left with the shelves of the two remaining divisions (26 and 27). This led to a weakening of the striking power of the 5 Army and created an opportune moment for a counterattack of the White Army. At the same time, the 3-I Red Army, crossing also Tobol, marched on Ishim.

In the early days, the Red offensive developed successfully, but after a week the enemy’s resistance intensified and the offensive began to decline. By the end of August, the troops of the 5 Army of Tukhachevsky in places advanced to 180 km and were in 70 km from the river. Ishim and Petropavlovsk. The weakness and decomposition of the White forces delayed the beginning of the planned counterattack. In addition, the mobilization of the Siberian Cossack Corps, which was to become the main striking force of the operation, dragged on. Also, the Kolchak government drafted the Yenisei Cossacks and all capable of wearing into the army weapon Irkutsk Cossacks.

In August and September, the white authorities took desperate measures to strengthen and replenish the army. As previously noted with the replenishment was very bad. The village refused to give soldiers, the men went into the forest and joined the red partisans and, as the red approached, joined the Red Army. Cossack regional chieftains Semenov and Kalmykov) did not want to obey Kolchak, all the more losing the war. On August 9, the call of the urban bourgeoisie and intelligentsia from the age of 18 to 43 was announced, and in early September, the mobilization of the rural bourgeoisie and intelligentsia. However, Kolchak’s supporters had long ago joined the army as volunteers, and the rest of the “dictator” hated, supported the Democrats, Socialist-Revolutionaries, or were indifferent, didn’t want to fight, tried by all means to “slope” (acted out sick, hid, etc.).

They tried to revive the principle of volunteerism. They announced a profitable contract: a period of 6 months, at the end of it a cash bonus of 5 thousand rubles, summer and winter uniforms in the property. But there were very few volunteers. Mostly loafers, unemployed, a dubious element who wanted to sit out at the government rations (in the hope that there would be no fighting in the winter) were recorded, and the contract expired in the spring. They tried to create volunteer squads on a religious basis, like the squad of the Holy Cross, the God-Bearers (from the Old Believers), the Green Crescent (from Muslims). But the effect was almost zero. The garrisons along the Siberian Railway (mainly Czechs) were also not collected. Entente command refused to replace them with foreign contingents. An attempt to draft the Carpathian Russ (Rusyns) into the army failed. During the First World War, prisoners of war of the Carpathians were sent to Siberia, there were many of them in Omsk. Most of them were calm workers, they did not create problems for the authorities and local people, they worked in bakeries and in various kinds of black jobs. The army of Kolchak already had a Carpathian battalion, which showed itself well in battles. Paying attention to this, we decided to mobilize other Rusyns. The result was negative. Forcibly they did not want to serve. Part of them fled, others, embittered by forced mobilization with the help of raids, openly said that at the first opportunity they would go over to the side of the Red Army and reckon with the offenders.

Thus, despite all the measures, calls, prayers, and raids, the mobilization was extremely bad. Kolchakites were able to launch an offensive only on 1 of September 1919, already under Peter and Paul.

Counterattack of the Kolchak army


At the same time, the offensive of Kolchak’s army without Siberian Cossacks began. All the same thinned and weakened regiments. Pepelyaev’s 1 Army was advancing in the north, Kappel’s corps and Izhevsk’s division of Molchanov were the striking force on the southern flank. As the last reserve, the personal convoy of the supreme ruler was thrown to the front. Red Intelligence captured the operational orders of the enemy, but it was too late. The strongly extended 26-I rifle division could not resist and began to roll back to Tobol

In the main direction, Kolchakites were able to create almost one and a half superiority in power. White concentrated on the flanks of the 5 Army attack groups with the aim of defeating the enemy with blows to the flank and rear. Particular attention was paid to the cavalry, which by entering the rear in red, was supposed to complete the defeat of the enemy. The main blow was inflicted on the southern flank of the 5 Army. The White Command sent two infantry divisions and a cavalry group of General Domozhirov (2 thousand sabers) up the Ishim River. Here the Siberian Cossack Corps was supposed to concentrate for a deep detour of Soviet divisions and a raid on the rear of the enemy. The Ufa division and the combined Cossack division of General Mamaev were concentrated on the northern flank of the 5 Army.

Thus, the Kolchak command counted on the surprise of the strike, the superiority of forces in the decisive direction, the active actions of the cavalry (primarily the Cossacks), fatigue, isolation of the rear and the extension of the Red Army regiments. So the army rear stretched for 700 km - from Ufa and Perm, the division was from the advanced units on 300 - 400 km. This made it extremely difficult to supply troops, especially given the destruction of the lines of communications. The troops lacked uniforms (especially shoes), ammunition. The worst situation was in the spare shelves. Not at the height was the Soviet command. The command of the Red Eastern Front has just changed - Frunze was replaced by Vladimir Olderogge. It was an experienced commander who fought with the Japanese, and during the World War he led the regiment, brigade and division. Olderogge voluntarily joined the Red Army, commanded the western direction of the Novorzhevskaya, then the Pskov and Lithuanian rifle divisions, fought with the Poles, white and Baltic nationalists. However, he had just entered command, had not yet managed to figure out the situation. Front Command underestimated the enemy. Also overlooked were the enemy’s preparations for a counteroffensive and the command of the 5 and 3 red armies. Army headquarters were located up to 400 km from the advanced forces and could not fully control the troops. Communication with the divisions was carried out via one telegraph wire from Chelyabinsk and Yekaterinburg. It happened that the army command did not know for several days what was happening in the divisions. It is clear that this all affected the situation at the front. The Red Army was lucky that Kolchak’s army had already lost its previous strike capabilities, otherwise the situation could become disastrous.

The heavily extended 26th Infantry Division could not stand the blow and began to roll back. The command of the 5th Red Army organized a counterattack by the forces of the 5th Rifle Division, which was again returned from the reserve to the front, and two brigades of the 35th Division. The 26-I division was to hold the defense along the Peter and Paul highway, the 27-I division transferred the main actions to its right flank and had to counterattack the enemy. That is, the forces of the 5 Army regrouped on the right flank, and an attack group of suitable reinforcements was also formed.

However, the implementation of such a regrouping required time and a certain freedom of action. The forces of the 5 Army were connected by battles with the advancing Kolchak forces, and the white cavalry tried to go behind. 5 — 6 of September The 26 division waged heavy battles, retreated, some of its units were surrounded and broke through with battle. The 27 division was also crowded. On the evening of September 6, the concentration of forces of the strike group ended. The 26 and 27 divisions set the task of supporting the attack of the strike group with offensive actions. On 7 of September the counter-offensive of the strike group began (5-I division and part of the 35-th). 7 — On 8 of September the Reds pressed the enemy. But the units of the 26 and 27 divisions, which had already been defeated, could not support the actions of the strike group. The troops of the 26 division tried to put themselves in order, the 27 division was pushed even further.

On 9 of September, the position of the strike group deteriorated significantly. With a fortnight delay, the regiments of the Siberian Cossack Corps entered the battle. Instead of the promised 20 thousand, the Ivanov-Rinov corps totaled about 7,5 thousand sabers, but, nevertheless, it was a fresh force at the front. Having suddenly appeared on the flank, the Cossacks crushed the red cavalry brigade. The position of the Red strike group has deteriorated sharply. White cavalry deeply gripped the right flank of the Reds, cut off and destroyed individual regiments. By the evening of September 13, units of the strike group and 26 division retreated to Tobol.



It is worth noting the significantly increased combat efficiency and fighting spirit of the Soviet troops. They stubbornly resisted, used the terrain to organize defense (lake defile), did not give in to panic as before, fought even in the environment. This was also noted by whites. On September 15, the commander-in-chief of the White Army, Diterichs, noted that the adversary “stubbornly defends every inch of the earth” and is very active. And the commander of the 3 White Army General Sakharov later recalled: “Here were the best communist divisions, 26 and 27; ... these eighteen Russian red regiments showed a lot of tension, courage and feats in the September days of 1919. ”

Having torn off the counterattack of the right flank of the 5 Army, the white command regrouped its forces and struck the left flank of the Tukhachevsky army. The 27th Division was also pushed west. In the following days, the command of the 5 Army tried to regain the initiative, and counterattacked with new reinforcements (the brigade of the 21 Army transferred from the 3 Army). The fights were with varying success, whites had already depleted their reserves. The Cossack corps was not able to fulfill its main task - a swift breakthrough to the Kurgan and exit into the deep rear of the red Eastern Front. In general, the 5-I army slowly yielded to the enemy and retreated to Tobol. 1 October 1919 Tukhachevsky withdrew his troops beyond the river. Tobol. The Reds took up defense along the water line. White troops were exhausted by battles, had no reserves to continue the offensive, a temporary lull came.


Map source: Kakurin N.E., Vatsetis I.I. Civil war. 1918 — 1921


Fighting on the northern flank


On the northern flank of the 1-I White Army did not achieve much success. Until September 14, the 3-I Mezheninov’s Red Army continued its offensive with its center and left flank. Blucher’s 51 Division was advancing on Tobolsk. Kolchakites stubbornly resisted. At this time, a caravan of ships from Arkhangelsk with weapons and supplies was supposed to approach Tobolsk from the north along the Ob. However, in a stubborn battle the White Guards were defeated, on 4 of September the Reds occupied Tobolsk. At the same time, another part of the 51-th division continued to move to Ishim. However, as soon as the Kolchak’s offensive against the 5 Army began, the situation changed. The front command ordered the creation of an attack group on the right flank of the 3 Army to support the troops of Tukhachevsky. Such a group was formed from the regiments of the 30 division, it transferred the offensive to the southeast and this supported the 5 army. The neighboring 29 division also changed its direction of movement from east to southeast. Part of the white forces was diverted to parry the blow of the 30 and 29 divisions. Kolchakites stopped the Reds, but the position of the 5 Army was eased.

9 — 13 of September The 2 and 1 White armies attacked the 3 Red Army. Red troops began to slowly retreat. In the north, using the river system of the Irtysh basin, the Kolchak flotilla was able to go behind enemy lines and disrupted communication between regiments and brigades of the 51-th Soviet division. At the same time, the white cavalry of the 51 army began to enter the flank and rear of the 2 division from the south. A difficult situation has developed on the left flank of the 3 Red Army. Kolchakites, having gathered considerable forces from Tobolsk, hoped to throw part of the Reds south and cut off part of the 51th Division, which was advancing on Ishim. The whites believed that Blucher’s troops would start a retreat from Ishim to Tyumen by the shortest route, get stuck in swamps, be surrounded and destroyed. However, the red troops, which covered the road from Tobolsk to Tyumen, showed desperate resistance and stopped the enemy’s movement to the south. And Blucher's regiments did not begin to move from Ishim to Tyumen, but to Tobolsk, which the enemy did not expect. Soon the Red Army went to Tobolsk and the battle began to boil again. After a stubborn four-hour battle, the Blucherites made their way, passed Tobolsk and themselves hit the rear of the White Guard troops, which went south along the river. The Reds took up again and paved their way. Kolchak on ships returned to Tobolsk.

In the center, Kolchakites tried to surround the regiments of the 29 division, which operated in the strip of the Yalutorovsk-Ishim railway. However, White’s attempts were unsuccessful. Thus, the White failed to defeat the main forces of the 3 Red Army. At the beginning of October, the 3 Army maintained its position on the eastern coast of Tobol and held these lines until a new offensive. The 2-I and 1-I White Army and here could not achieve a decisive victory.


The commander of the 51 division Vasily Blucher. 1919


Pyrrhic victory of Kolchakites


Thus, Kolchak’s army completed only the first stage of the planned operation. Kolchakites defeated the 5 Red Army, four Soviet divisions suffered heavy losses (about 15 thousand people, total losses of the Red Army - about 20 thousand people). The Red Army's offensive on Petropavlovsk and further Omsk was foiled, the Reds retreated to 150 — 200 km, having lost almost all the space conquered at the beginning of the battle. The Red troops were thrown back to Tobol, where the White began to restore defensive positions. Also, Kolchakites disrupted the sending of part of the forces of the Eastern Front of the Red Army to the South, against Denikin. They had to be returned to the Eastern Front.

However, the success of Kolchak’s army was partial and the victory, in fact, was Pyrrhic. The White Guards won only space. The victory was worth such sacrifices to the whites that when the red ones recover, they will easily break into the defense of the White Guards. 5-I red army was defeated, but was not defeated, its fighting ability will be restored very quickly. The 3 White Army, delivering the main blow, suffered heavy losses - about 18 thousand people. Some divisions - Izhevskaya, 4-I Ufa and others, lost up to half of their composition in two weeks of fighting. All the remaining forces absorbed this "victory". The 2-I and 3-I White armies could not develop the offensive. Attempts by the White High Command to replenish losses and create reserves failed.

The Siberian Corps launched the offensive with a serious delay; it could not break into the rear of the enemy. The Siberian Cossacks, after the defeat of the strike group of the Reds, were to go to the Kurgan, cut the communications of the 5 Army. Despite the fact that the Cossack cavalry escaped to the operational space, the rear of the enemy at that time was open, the corps did not fulfill its task. Ivanov-Rinov was afraid to get involved in battle for a large railway junction, through which there was communication with the Urals and the supply of the Reds. He preferred to divert the cavalry to the side, to pursue the broken parts, to seize the wagons and other light prey. The passion for looting once again failed the Cossacks. The corps commander received six orders from Dieterichs and Kolchak to immediately turn to Kurgan, and ignored them. As a result, the Siberian Cossacks did not live up to the hopes of the Kolchak command. Moreover, two regiments raised a riot. The corps had to be disbanded: one division was left at the front, two were withdrawn to the rear to restore order and training. After the operation, Ivanov-Rinov was heavily criticized, accused of inaction and the failure of the Tobolsk offensive, was removed from command.

It is possible that the Minister of War of the White Budberg was right, who argued that the bloodless White Guard units were incapable of a successful offensive and offered to confine themselves to creating a long-term defense on the Ishim and Tobol rivers. To delay the Reds before winter, gain time.
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