In 1916, the First World War reached its peak. Mobilizing virtually all human and material resources, suffering enormous losses, none of the opponents achieved success, giving at least some hope of victory. Solid deep-echeloned fronts, abundance of artillery, rapid-fire weapon made defense irresistible. Any active actions doomed to failure, choked with blood. Figuratively speaking, the enemies clung to death to each other, fell to the ground and continued to fight in the stalls. Entente (England, France, Italy, Russia) and its opponents (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Romania, Turkey) were determined to wage war to the bitter end. But for this you need to attack, and everywhere - a positional impasse.
For the Russians, the second year of the war, 1915, was the most difficult. Well prepared enemy oppressed them to the east. Its technical level (the saturation of troops with artillery, machine guns; airplanes, combat gases, etc.) was high, the organization was unprecedented. The German General Staff calculated operations for up to seconds, fought according to all the rules of science. In the course of a heavy retreat, all Russian Poland, the western parts of Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, and most of the Austrian Galicia conquered in 1914 in the year, were lost; the mass of military equipment was lost: at the beginning of 1916, the troops had less artillery and machine guns than in July of the 1914. The main thing is a lot of blood: since the beginning of the war, Russia has lost 4360000 people, including 1740000 prisoners. 54 percent loss accounted for the great retreat from May 1 to November 1 1915. The calculations of the enemy came true, and it was why give up.
Russia and the allies agreed to coordinate the actions of their armies. Against the Germans and the Austrians, the Russians had three fronts — the Northern (General Kuropatkin), the Western (General Evert) and the South-Western (General Brusilov). North and West had a double advantage in manpower over the enemy, which dictated the direction of the main attack. It should have been delivered by the Western, and auxiliary blows by the Northern and South-Western fronts. The plan raised objections from Kuropatkin: “The Germans were so entrenched that they could not count on success.” Evert agreed: "While we do not have much more heavy artillery, it is better to defend ourselves." What is it, cowardice commanders? But they can be understood. They already burned themselves at the bloody March offensive. In the West, such losses were “ordinary”, the German and French generals coolly drove their soldiers to slaughter, while the Russians had a different psychology: “There’s no way out of the positional impasse, which means that we will shed blood in vain.” The idea of keeping the enemy defensive, given the economic and food difficulties of the Germans, was quite reasonable.
General Brusilov saw the exit from the positional impasse. 15 May Austrians inflicted a heavy defeat on the Italians. Standing on the verge of a catastrophe, they asked for help, having delayed the advance of the South-Western Front of the Austro-Hungarian forces. The Russian Stavka agreed, pointing out that it would not be able to allocate additional forces to Brusilov.
Forces of the South-Western Front
By the spring of 1916 Russia recovered. Good weapons went to the front. The troops filled the best-selling three-inch guns, replacing all the worn guns with new ones. Projectiles flowed in a continuous stream, the workers wrote on the boxes: “Beat it, do not regret it!” Hand grenades arrived in large quantities, in the regiments there were detachments of grenadiers who skillfully owned them. 90-mm bomb bombs, backpack flame throwers, rifle-propelled grenade launchers, armored cars, smoke bombs, chemical shells appeared. The success of Russian science and technology is evidenced by the fact that just a year after the first German gas attacks, not only all fighters on the front line, but even all horses were equipped with an effective coal gas mask! Before the 1917, the same French used improvised means (cotton-gauze bandages, bonfires in front of the trenches). The British attache Knox was perplexed: "Russia's martial law improved, which no foreign observer would have predicted during the days of the retreats of last year." And the Russian soldier cheered up: “Well, now we will fight!” For the time being, only heavy artillery was missing. But the number of machine guns in 2 – 3 was more than at the beginning of the war. The troops lowered in the reports the number of captured trophies, leaving the weapon with them. In addition, they were given special teams with machine guns of foreign manufacture. Such an abundance is explained simply: the infantry lacked firepower - escort light artillery, mortars, and trench guns. Machine guns increased the density of fire.
In March, Brusilov took command of the 550 km South-West Front, which included four armies (7, 8, 9 and 11): 534 000 bayonets, 60 000 saber, 1770 light and 168 heavy guns. Restoring order to the troops, broken by the retreat, the general went on tough measures: “For surrendering there should be no mercy. To open on them a rifle, machine-gun and cannon fire, even ceasing fire at the enemy. If you need not stop before the shooting of all the people. ” The order was seldom applied, but it caught up with fear in the troops. Countless facts of the atrocities of the enemy in the occupied lands, over the Russian prisoners, were brought to the soldiers. The case of “fraternization”, typically Western Pharisa, which began on the French front, is indicative. At the command of the officers, the opponents met in the neutral zone, exchanged small gifts and dispersed at the command, backing away so that they did not shoot in the back. The Russian soldiers also decided: “We are all for fraternization!” But the “bros” - the Germans began to explain to them: “Your king is bad, your officers are rubbish, pay weapons against them,” and at Easter they simply captured 100 Ivanov send them to congratulate. What kind of "Christian love" could be to the occupier who came to kill you? Brusilov ordered: "All contacts with the enemy are only through a rifle and bayonet!" The personnel on the eve of the battle were eager to finally hit the enemy: "The troops were in brilliant condition, wanting to break the enemy and throw him out of our limits."
"The possibility of success of the Russian excluded!"
Brusilov was confronted by four Austrian and one German army (448000 bayonets, 38000 sabers, 1300 light and 545 heavy guns). A small numerical deficiency the enemy more than compensated for the abundance of equipment and the power of defense. He prepared her 9 months, it consisted of 3 bands at a distance of 5 km one from another. The most powerful was the first depth of 1,5 – 2 km with supporting nodes, pillboxes, cut-off positions, which turned the enemy into a “bag” for extermination. Trenches with concrete canopies, deep dug-outs with reinforced vaults, machine guns under concrete caps. A forest of barbed wire up to 16 rows, a current was passed through it, bombs were suspended, mines were placed. Predpole littered bombs, notches, wolf pits, slingshots. Flamethrowers were waiting for the Russians in Austrian trenches. For the first lane were two more weak.
The Kaiser, visiting the front, was delighted that he had not seen such positions even in the West! Confident in their invulnerability, the enemy demonstrated at the exhibition in Vienna the models of these fortifications as the highest achievement of fortification. A week before the Russian offensive, it was not dangerous to remove several divisions from here in order to defeat Italy as quickly as possible, and they decided: “It’s not dangerous, there’s no way for Ivan to pass,” because his previous failures proved it. They relied heavily on their heavy artillery (174 heavy guns against 76 Russians in the 8 Army, 159 versus 22 in the 11 Army, 62 against 23s in the 7 Army, 150 against 47 in the 9 Army, ). With such superiority, they still complained that a lot of heavy batteries had been transferred to the Italian front. And another thing: the enemy did not believe that after the worst defeats of 1915, the Russians are capable of something serious. The chief of staff of the German army group, General Stoltzman, in a commanding ambush, said bluntly: “The possibility of Russian success is excluded!
And the Russians decided to fight without the minimum necessary superiority of forces (3: 1), having only more soldiers on 18 points, and even gave way to the enemy in technical means of warfare. Brusilov decided to attack each of his armies. This dispersed forces, but the enemy was also deprived of the opportunity to transfer reserves. Depending on the importance of the tasks, these armies had different strengths. A third of the infantry and half of the heavy artillery of the Brusilov front were concentrated in General Kaledin's right-flank 8 Army for a strike on Lutsk and Kovel. The second most powerful left-handed 9-I army of General Lechitsky aimed at Chernivtsi and Kolomyia. Small 7-I and 11-I armies in the center were to forge the enemy. Brusilov gave the commanders the freedom to choose breakthrough sites, where superiority over the enemy in manpower was created 2,5 times and artillery times 1,5.
The operation was prepared 1,5 month. Digging the ground at night, they came in trenches to the enemy on 100 – 200 m, in order to reach him with one throw. Equipped the main and spare firing positions, gearbox and NP. Carefully explored. Aerial photography of the entire enemy front was made, the pictures were transferred to the map, enlarged, multiplied. Hundreds of observers around the clock revealed firing points, batteries. The data complemented the intelligence agency, interviewing prisoners, defectors. The commanders of all units received plans for their sectors with the exact position of the enemy’s positions, meticulously prepared on the ground, and went to the front line. The artillerymen determined the distance from their future positions to the targets with the help of instruments, outlined guidelines, calculated the data for firing. The sighting was conducted by single shots of individual guns, so as not to alert the enemy. In the rear of all the armies, training camps were equipped with fortifications similar to those to be built, and the soldiers were training hard to overcome them. Of course, it is impossible to hide the training of this magnitude, but Brusilov confused the enemy, not allowing him to determine where the main attack would be. Breakthrough sections were also prepared by corps that were not included in the shock groups, in all 20 sections! Because of the scope of engineering work, it seemed that the Russians were burrowing into the ground for defense. The troops secretly concentrated in the rear, which was checked from their airplanes. The movements were carried out at night, the controllers monitored the blackout measures. The strike groups reached the starting line a few days, the artillery only a day before the strike.
4 June in 3 hour of the night began artillery preparation. Its power was calculated individually, the fire lasted from 6 to 45 hours. So, in Lutsk direction with very strong fortifications, shells tore everything in shreds of 29 hours. Brusilovsky breakthrough spawned the concept of "artillery offensive." No shooting in the squares! The preliminary adjustment was justified. There were enough passages in the wire obstacles, the 1-i defense zone was completely swept away, turned into mountains of debris and torn bodies. Holding the pace of fire, the batteries fired not at the officers ’moves, but as follows: the gunners, holding onto the cords and looking at each other, beat in a queue for a right-flank tool. Having studied the tactics of the enemy’s defense, they inflicted a maximum loss on him even before the attack began, twice falsely stopping the shelling of the 1 line. This usually means attacking the infantry. The Austrians fled from shelters to the trenches, to machine guns, and the firing line was returning. For the third time, the enemy did not dare to leave the shelter, and the infantry came to the rescue and the masses took the people hiding in captivity, which explains their huge number.
There was not a second break between the artillery preparation and the assault. Heavy artillery bore fire into the depths of the enemy’s reserves, the 3 line of defense. Light hit the objects until the last moment, and when the infantry burst into them, some of the batteries cut off counter-attacks from the front and the flanks, and some followed the infantry, piercing its way with projectiles. This was the main tactical novelty - for the first time in World War I, the artillery of the infantry escort appeared and worked perfectly, the independence and survival of which immediately increased. Before she suffered great losses under the fire of the enemy. But when shooting, he inevitably reveals himself - now the guns "extinguished" enemy guns and machine-gun nests after their first shots. The role of accompaniment was performed by mountain three-inch arr. 1909 d. Before the war there were 526 units, Petrograd and Putilov factories produced 1400. Having worked in the Caucasus and in the Carpathians, they were useful in the field forces, like a howitzer, firing flip over their heads. They were one and a half times lighter than the field gun, and the calculation easily moved them behind the attacking infantry. A few words about the quality of ammunition: out of ten Austrian shells fired in a row, not one was at times torn off, the failure of eight was almost an ordinary phenomenon. But Russian missiles made of steel cast iron practically did not produce shells. The fire attack was crowned with complete success thanks to the skillful control and consistent concentration of fire, sector by sector, of the enemy who was overwhelming the defenses, which allowed the infantry to advance almost without loss. The commander of the 4 Infantry (“Iron”) Division, General Denikin, recalled: “For the first time, our artillery completed the task, which until now had been solved at the price of great blood.”
“Attack by rolls”
The device of many military and false bridgeheads was justified: the enemy everywhere was taken aback. The front burst immediately on the 13 sites, the breakthrough expanded to the flanks and in depth. We took care of the consolidation of the positions taken and the continuity of the offensive, so that the panicked enemy would not organize active countermeasures. For this, the advancing infantry was divided into "attack waves". Each regiment formed 4 waves, one after another at a distance of 150 – 200 steps, an interval between fighters 5 steps. Armed with grenades, machine guns, smoke bombs, scissors for cutting the wire, the first two waves took the first trench, did not linger, attacked the second, where they were fixed. This was done taking into account the tactics of the enemy. He usually opened fire on the Russians who had broken through and stuck in the first trench. Then the heavy batteries cut off the approach of help - and the powerful ones who broke through were exterminated. But now she found a scythe on a stone. Each company had an assault group of the most dexterous soldiers. Going into the head of the attack, they eliminated the firing points with grenades and a massive rifle and machine-gun fire, clearing the way for the advancing comrades. The third and fourth waves quickly rolled over the first two, with fresh forces they took the third trench and artillery positions. This method then became widely used under the name “attack rolls”.
The 6 corps worked perfectly, taking all three lines of trenches straight off, defeating not the Austrians, but the Germans. Everything was done so clearly that they were not saved by the deep shelters that became traps. The Russians were right there, grenades flew down, smoke bombs, there were almost no survivors. The vaunted thoroughness of the German buildings did not help. The soldiers in the surviving shelters surrendered hastily. Having become at the entrance, the Russian “cleaner” in case of refusal to surrender or even delay in metal hand grenades, and there was already no salvation. Quickly realizing this, the enemy quickly climbed up with his hands raised. The prisoners gave the following loss picture: in the 1 line of the trenches - 85 percent of the killed and wounded and 15 percent of the prisoners; in the 2 line, 50 percent of each category; in the 3 line, all 100 percent of prisoners.
The most significant success was achieved by the 8-I army, with its greatest density of attackers, the front of each division was just 2,5 versts. She wedged between the 2 and 4 of the Austrian armies (the latter was routed to June 15), having achieved such success in the first days as none of the allied armies ever: on the front in 80 km, the Austrian positions were broken through to 30 km in depth! Having broken into Lutsk, the soldiers first of all cut down the gallows in the city garden, where the invaders executed the disobedient inhabitants.
The 11 and 7 armies also broke through the front, but the enemy halted their offensive. Brusilov did not begin to withdraw reserves from other directions, but ordered: “Stand to the death! All holes can not be closed. Break through in the right place, while in others the enemy himself will not stand it, he will run. ” The 9 Army crushed the 7 Austrian Army, by June 13 broke through the 50 km, June 18 stormed Chernovitsy, named for impregnability by the “second Verdun”: solid reinforced concrete, jungle barbed wire, missed current, missed, and outgoing artwork, missed outlining, left by line, and left a piece of redundant concrete, missed current, missed current, missed current, missed outlining, and a piece of blackened, missed current, missed current, missed current, outdated, non-drawable, and left to apply, and a piece of barbed wire, missed current, missed current, missed current, missed current, missed current, missed current, missed current, missed current, missed current, missed current, missed current, missed current, and missed outlining. The enemy could have defended for a long time, but he broke down morally. The panic began. Having blown up the bridges across the Prut, the garrison burned and blew up warehouses, trains on the roads, heavy batteries. The city fell, it was hacked the entire southern flank of the Austrian front. Everything hit by the Russian hammer was doomed. The enemy rolled away so hastily that it blew up the bridges, leaving its own on the Russian coast for destruction.
One against all
Pursuing a randomly retreating enemy, the South-Western Front entered the operational field. You had to strike while the iron was hot, but it was not supported by other fronts. General Evert, lingering with the “main strike” prescribed by the Stake, was finally delivered on July 3, but very poorly, with heavy losses, and the South-Western Front did not help. The offensive of the Northern Front also failed. Nevertheless, July 4 Brusilov went to Kovel - the most important transportation hub. In order to contain it, a stronger enemy moved Austrian divisions from Italian, German from Western Europe, other Eastern sectors and even Turkish from the Greek front, all 31 infantry and 3 cavalry divisions (400 thousands of bayonets and saber) to Galicia. It was already a struggle not with the "lowered" Austrians, but with the Germans, who, with initiative commanders and technical superiority, fought with Russian smaller forces. At first, they ironically called Brusilov’s actions “broad intelligence without concentrating the necessary kulak,” but the Austrians were so stunned by the state that they realized that without German support, Austria was doomed, the Russian breakthrough further west would be the beginning of the end for Germany. German forces were already running out (“We’ve had a cavalry brigade in reserve for 1000 kilometers”), and they used a system of private support, rushing to breakthrough sites, cementing defenses, holding back running Austrians, slowing down the onslaught of exhausted Brusilovs. But, plugging holes, they entered the battle separately, and the Russians beat them one by one.
Gradually, the pace of attack was lost. Fighting against the fresh German divisions, not receiving reinforcements, the South-Western Front reached a natural obstacle - the Carpathians, by the middle of September was forced to stop and gain a foothold on the achieved lines. Brusilov did not have the very forces that were gathered on the Western Front to attack in favor of the French allies.
The “allies” considered themselves the main force opposing aggressive Germany. Sometimes they did no better than the enemy. Under the predatory percentage, giving Russia credits for the purchase of weapons, at the same time demanded “free” to shed the blood of Russian soldiers when it was necessary to unload their front. In contrast to the Ivanov, who fulfilled allied obligations by all means, the Allies acted as they were to their advantage. They did not lift a finger in the difficult for Russia months of the Great 1915 retreat of the year. In 1916, they demanded a Russian offensive in order to distract the Germans from the French Verdun (the British refused to do this). Having no time to prepare, the Northern and Western fronts went ahead without artillery support, in the spring of mudslide, they choked on blood, having lost 150000 people killed and wounded. The Germans lost less in 9, but for the whole 2 week they suspended their attack on Verdun. This allowed the French to regroup, tighten up the reserves: “Russian soldiers hung bloodied rags on German wire, but saved the French thousands of lives. By April 1916, the year for Verdun was one and a half times more Russians than the French. ” And the Tsar Stavka always, treacherously in relation to its country, agreed with the actions of the "allies". Surprisingly, the Russian army could have fought 3 of the year with such a guide! Brusilovsky's breakthrough reminded of the irresistible Russian “steam rink” that neither enemies nor “friends” need. They wondered: “The first successful offensive in a positional war!” By the way, where do Russians have such a general, because they are stupid mediocrity? "And they lied:" Brusilov is an Englishman in the Russian service. " The West has swept over another “bout of love” to Russia, however, ordinary citizens and front-line soldiers were enthusiastic. And the military-political elite was very preoccupied with the strengthening of the Russians, frankly rejoicing at their failures.
But Russia greeted the news of Brusilov’s victories with sincere jubilation: “Peasants, workers, aristocracy, clergy, intellectuals, students — all told me in endless telegraph tape that they were Russian people, and their hearts were beating for their Motherland but a victorious army. ” Congratulated the emperor. Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich was laconic: "Congratulations, kisses, hugs, blessings." The Italian ambassador bowed in the Duma "who saved us to the intrepid Russian troops."
The Brusilov offensive was extremely significant for the further course of the war.
Already the first 10 days knocked out the enemy in a knockout. His 4 and 7 armies were virtually destroyed (not killed or wounded were captured), and the rest suffered the hardest defeat. Austria-Hungary was on the verge of complete collapse and out of the war.
Having an insignificant superiority before the start of the operation, breaking through the defenses created by 9 months, the Russians had already destroyed more than 3 percent of the opposing enemy grouping forces in 50 weeks. In total, her losses amounted to 1 325 000 people, including Austria-Hungary 975 000 (of which 416 924 prisoners) and Germany 350 000 killed, wounded, prisoners. The southwestern front captures 580 guns, 448 bombers and mortars, 1795 machine guns; advanced to a depth of km 120, freed almost all of Volyn, Bukovina, part of Galicia, and completed active operations in late October. Before him again stood over 1000000 Austro-Germans and Turks. Consequently, Brusilovs took over up to 2,5 million enemy soldiers!
The front-line operation yielded strategic results: Italy was saved, the French managed to save Verdun, the British managed to survive on the Somme. Germany had to throw its limited reserves, then to the west, then to the east - and it was overwhelming, the forces were exhausted. In the Reich there were only 560000 men fit for military service who were not yet called to the front. The balance of forces has changed in favor of the Entente, a strategic initiative has passed to it.
The losses of the South-Western Front during the offensive amounted to 498867 people: 376910 injured, 62155 killed and dead from injuries, 59802 missing and captured. Where does the Internet "dill" about the "million killed"? In addition to the deliberate lies of the authors who carry out the order of the enemy, there is a distortion as data is rewritten. During the life of Brusilov, they wrote: "I lost almost half a million," then: "I put half a million," then the "floor" was removed - and 62155 was turned into a million dead. So the enemy rewrites history. Today, his people in the Russian media and historical science gloat: "This offensive was a harbinger of the death of Russia, its death knell." Aspiring are burying Russia for the thousandth time. In the "scientific" works.
"The phenomenon of Brusilov"
In an interview with the front-line correspondent, Brusilov said: "I am not a prophet, but I can say that in the 1917 year we will defeat the Germans."
The general had every reason to make such a statement. Such a quantity and quality of weapons and supplies, as in 1917, the Russian army did not have the entire war. But the moral factor of victory correlates with the material in the proportion of 3: 1.
The success of the Brusilovsky breakthrough depended significantly on its initiator, organizer and performer - Alexey Alekseevich Brusilov. His front was assigned a passive role. Going against all, he, in front of the emperor himself and the higher generals, achieved a reconsideration of the decision, “defeating his own people” - worthless bosses and careerists. There are few examples in history when a person with such perseverance sought to complicate his own task. And the “parquet generals” always put pressure on people like Brusilov. The "worm" was at the top. But the reasoning about the low qualities of the commanders of the Russian army is a lie. It is enough to compare its losses with the losses of the enemy and allies in the First World War, as well as with the losses of the Red Army in 1941 – 1945. In contrast to many, Brusilov was a “suvorovets”: “To fight not by number, but by skill!” The preparation was exemplary, everything was thought out and timely done. Success was helped by the absence of the direction of the main attack as such. In 1916, the Russian army defeated a stronger enemy, far surpassing all that the Western allies did. Brusilov could claim the laurels of the commander-in-chief of the victory in the “Second World War”, as then called the First World War. Other people's mistakes cannot diminish his merits and the values of the achievement of the soldiers entrusted to him. On the day of his funeral, the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR laid a wreath on the coffin with the inscription: "To an honest representative of the older generation, who gave his combat experience to the service of the USSR and the Red Army."
The support of Brusilovsky’s breakthrough with all the forces of the Entente would have led to the quick defeat of the enemy. Unfortunately, this did not happen ... The war ended only in 1918, with the defeat of Germany and Austria-Hungary. And among their winners, Russia was no longer there.
From our dossier
To fight for air supremacy on the Southwestern Front, a frontline fighter was first formed aviation Group. The aircraft bombed and fired machine guns at enemy targets in the rear and on the battlefield.
For 3 years exclusively of hard struggle, the Russian army took in 6 times more prisoners than all other allies combined: 2200000 people and 3850 tools, incl 1850000 Austrians and 2650 guns 250000 Germans and 550 guns 100000 Turks and 650.. guns. At the same time, France took 160000 prisoners and 900 guns, England - 90000 prisoners and 450 guns, Italy - 110000 prisoners and 150 guns.