Military Review

Flight of the Erzerum Eagle

Flight of the Erzerum Eagle
The chronicle of the Caucasian wars keeps in itself quite a few examples of how the servicemen of the Russian imperial army, people brave, determined and strong in spirit, sometimes did such amazing acts during combat operations that they still amaze the human imagination. The greatest number of such unique “records” falls on the period of the world military fire of 1914-1918. Then the operations of the Russian troops in the Asia-Asian theater of military operations in the pre-revolutionary Russian historiography were called the Second Caucasian War.

Instead of a heart a fiery motor

Among those who glorified the banners of a separate Caucasian army, the name of St. George Pilot 4 pilot of the Caucasian Corps Aviation Squadron Ensign Vladimir Petrov, the first in the world to make a record flight over a distance of four hundred miles, conducting air reconnaissance in the most difficult mountain climate of the local theater of operations.

And he began his combat career in the Karsky Aeronautical Company, which included an air line consisting of three airplanes. Our hero went there to volunteer (volunteer) with the outbreak of hostilities as a graduate of the Tiflis Aeroclub.

Flying in the Caucasus had an incredible amount. After all, as it turned out, on the 1200-kilometer front zone, the only acceptable and very effective way of obtaining intelligence, which brought many dividends to the headquarters of the Caucasian troops, was flying over enemy rears. First of all, the fighting situation of the front edge, which from the Russian side was not at all saturated with the human contingent and equipment, was necessary to this.

While in the European theater of military operations of the same length only in the first months of the war the current army consisted of several million active fighters, then on the Caucasian front the number of Russian troops even at the turn of 1916 - 1917 did not exceed ten times smaller.
That is why aerial reconnaissance has become a trump card in the hands of the command of a separate Caucasian army. Moreover, until the middle of summer 1917 in the battle formations of the opposing 3rd Turkish army aviation not observed at all.

Sometimes pilots of the Caucasian corps squadrons were brought in to solve the unusual combat missions of patching holes in the front "fence", "mending" that were not enough ground units. And the thing is that the full line of combat positions stretching from the Black Sea coast to Hamadan (Iran), as such, was completely absent according to the conditions of the mountain-desert terrain. Parts and formations of the Caucasian troops were grouped into consolidated detachments where there were at least elementary wheel roads or pack trails, and interacted with each other at the time of the military operations.

It was necessary for commanders to send to battle the hell out of place, where there was a shortage, if not the absence of any ground forces, unusual air reinforcements. By their very appearance, they brought chaos and frustration into the battle formations of the enemy.

Russian pilots had to fly and fight on obsolete morally and physically models of combat vehicles. With the beginning of the war, two-thirds of the troops of the Caucasian Military District went to the European theater of military operations, taking with them everything that is in the least bit valuable in combat, aircraft equipment as well. The rubbish left by the pilots of the Caucasian Army did not even turn the language around as an airplane. They are not exactly to carry out combat missions assigned by the command, but sometimes it was simply impossible to rise into the air without a certain amount of risk.

The troubles of the Russian pilots were not exhausted there. They had to fly in the high mountains, which was then beyond the power of even completely perfect airplane models at that time, given their still weak tactical and technical characteristics such as payload, altitude ceiling, speed and flight range. And then what about the old stuff that the pilots of the 1 and 4 Caucasian Corps Aviation Squads had on hand? ..

In one of the issues of the illustrated magazine Niva for 1915, a report titled “Pilots over the Caucasus Mountains” on the subject reads: “Aerial reconnaissance must be performed over ridges of more than eight and a half thousand feet (over three thousand meters. Ed. .) - Even in peacetime, air flights over such ridges would have been record-breaking and would have made the world’s press speak about themselves.Now such flights have to be made in wartime conditions, and the pilot will not only risk breaking every minute s rocks, but must fly over enemy chains at a height not exceeding the aiming rifle shot, since it is impossible to rise above the ridges. "

We strive for the flight of our birds

In one of the flights in the 1915 year, making aerial reconnaissance of Turkish mountain positions, the pilot of the 4-th Caucasian corps squadron “volnoper” Petrov flew over enemy trenches at a height of only a few tens of meters. The Turks fired at him not only with rifles, but even with pistols. But Petrov coped brilliantly with his assignment.

Another time, a pilot, on a low-level flight, flew over the enemy guards in the valley of the river Azon-Su, and with his appearance panicked the ranks of the Turkish troops. He calmly and efficiently, despite the fierce machine-gun-rifle fire from the ground, bombed out using small-sized aerial bombs, hand grenades and metal arrows on the combat positions of the Turks. The report from the 19 headquarters of the Caucasian Army on July 1915 on this occasion said: "In the Sarykamysh direction, during aerial reconnaissance, one of our pilots dropped bombs in a large camp of the Turks, bringing them upset."
The command appreciated the military successes of Petrov for which he was awarded the soldier’s St. George awards - a cross and a medal of the IV degree.

But genuine fame came to him during the Erzerum offensive, which ended with the assault on the eponymous Turkish fortress in January 1916. Anticipating the actions of the ground units, the Russian pilots thoroughly examined from the air the entire mountain plateau of Deve Boinu, on which there were eleven long-term Turkish forts that made up a whole fortified area thirty-six kilometers long. Our hero got the most difficult section, the high-mountainous Gurdzhi-Bogazsky passage, through which parts of the 2 of the Turkestan corps fought their way through.

Even critical to his former colleagues was the Soviet brigade commander N. G. Korsun, a participant in those long-standing events, in his operational-strategic essay "Erzerum offensive operation on the Caucasus front of the world war", issued by Voenizdat in 1939 year, made the following recognition: "Aviation in winter conditions encountered great difficulties in the choice of airfields and seats ...

The pilot service was very dangerous. The Passinskaya valley had elevations exceeding sea level in 5500 feet (1600 meters), and the belt of forts on the crest of Virgo-Boyun considerably rose above it. In thin air, airplanes hardly took the necessary height, and often during the flight over the ridge Deve-Boyne almost touched the latter. After each flight, the airplane returned with numerous bullet holes. Despite all the difficulties of aviation in these conditions, she gave the command a number of valuable photographs of the Turkish position, and especially the most commander of the surrounding area of ​​Fort Choban-grand. "

The final phase is entirely at the expense of our hero - Petrov. The situation was aggravated by the fact that a strong wind with snow charges blew in the face of the attacking Russian troops, restricting visibility. Worn airplanes with weak engines could hardly be raked in high altitude conditions against powerful and gusty air currents. When viewed from the ground, the illusion was created that they, like large black birds, hover in one place.

Petrov flew not only on aerial reconnaissance, he helped from above to navigate the terrain to the attacking companies and made adjustments to the fire of his artillery. His airplane, hovering over the highland Fort Choobandede, instilled confidence in the actions of the assault groups and became a symbol of the military success of the Russian troops on this sector of the front.

The total number of flight hours in a given area during the period of the Erzerum offensive operation was more than fifty for him, more than for anyone else. He also has the honor of being the first to inform the commander of a separate Caucasian army, General of Infantry N. N. Yudenich, that the Turks had left the fortress as soon as the Russian forces had saddled its advanced fortifications.

After the assault and the capture of the Turkish stronghold, Petrov was nicknamed the Erzerum Eagle, given to him by officers and soldiers of the 2 of the Turkestan Corps. And following the results of the military operation, he was fired by the Caucasian governor of Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich Jr. for 100 No. 8 in March of 1916 volunteering as warrant officers in this first officer rank from 27 September 1915.

Recorder Air Jump

By the beginning of 1917, the Caucasian army finally began to receive samples of modern weapons and allies from the domestic military-industrial complex. By this time, Ensign Petrov had moved to a brand-new French-made Codron F-4 twin-engine. At that time, according to the intelligence information received by Yudenich's headquarters, the Turks began to transfer from the Mesopotam front to the aid of their Caucasian grouping the 2 Army. The latter was crowned with the laurels of the victor of the English. The Turks managed to defeat the British Expeditionary Force in Iraq, capturing its blocked remnants in the city of Kut el Amar along with its commander, General Townsend.

The 2-I Mesopotamian army began to concentrate in the rear of the 3-I Army group of Turks on the line Erzincan-Ognot-Vastan. In this connection, General Yudenich set the commander of the 4 Caucasian Corps Aviation Squadron N.I. Limansky for a combat mission: to carry out, as far as possible, long-range aerial reconnaissance. The distance to which the Russian pilots flew did not exceed two hundred kilometers. At that time, this was not enough.

Candidate performer did not even have to discuss. The choice of the commander unconditionally fell on ensign Petrov. The pilot-observer Lieutenant Boris Mladkovsky flew on a mission with him, among other things, the gunner who combined the position. The same agents warned the Russian side that Turkish reinforcements coming from Mesopotamia had their own aircraft. Not excluded a meeting with enemy fighters.

And so, at dawn 13 August 1917, a Russian reconnaissance aircraft took off from one of the field airfields, lost among the mountain spurs. Daredevils flew into complete suspense. Detailed maps of the area were absent, only one compass from navigation instruments ... The front line flew without any incidents, apart from the fact that the Turks fired at an airplane from a rifle weapons.

Already after an hour of flight, the observer's card was outlined by the notation. It all began with a pack of mountain batteries, which they spotted on the outskirts of an unknown village, near the front line. Then came the caravan of camels with luggage from ammunition and shell boxes and a long ribbon of Turkish infantry gathering dust. In the area of ​​the villages of Ognot and Chilik-Kigi, the pilots were finally convinced of the veracity of intelligence information. All the surroundings were hammered by troops with artillery and carts.

The Turks tried to shoot down a low-flying Russian airplane by opening a mad firing on it. But the Russian pilots did not remain in debt. On a low-level flight, they overtook the fear of the Turkish cavalry of the Suvari, which at first was mistaken for the cavalry of the Kurdish militia. On the way home, faced with a hostile airplane. And although the fuel was running out, Petrov lay down on the combat course, deciding to give the Turk a fight. But the latter did not get involved in the air duel, turning it away.

We landed on our own airfield with empty tanks, one could say on an honest word, barely reaching the strip marked with flags. They did not want to see alive ...

The delivered information was of exceptional importance. In the detachment, the colleagues, having measured the flight route on the map, calculated that it was more than four hundred miles! Nobody has ever made such a super-long air trip, and besides under combat conditions, in the Caucasus! ..
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  1. bf005
    bf005 15 December 2010 14: 51
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  3. Mamka pula
    Mamka pula 25 December 2016 14: 59
    Great article, thanks!