(First and Second East Prussian disasters)
Battle of Stallupenen.
Much has been written about the tragic, for the Russian army, the beginning of the First World War.
In connection with the approaching centenary anniversary of the battles of August the Fourteenth, this topic will inevitably attract the attention of new researchers and readers.
Let us try to consider some of the little-known aspects of the events of those years, using the memories of the participants from both the Russian and German sides. Comparison of different points of view on events is always interesting, because the battles that have occurred are often depicted unilaterally by the parties to the conflict. Everyone wants to highlight their successes and keep silent about the failures and losses.
As you know, 15 (28) June in Sarajevo, in Bosnia, (which was then part of Austria-Hungary), Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were shot dead. The killer was a high school student - Bosnian Serb, Austrian-national Gavrila Princip. This murder, ultimately, served as a REASON to the beginning of World War I, which drastically changed the whole course of the world war. stories.
How and why Russia was drawn into this fateful process will be discussed in the chapter on the activities of Nicholas II, who was the emperor and supreme commander (since August 1915). Here, mainly military-political issues of the invasion of the First and Second Russian armies into East Prussia, its results and the reasons for the defeat of the Russian armies by the Germans will be considered.
So, after the start of mobilization in the Russian Empire, Germany declared war on Russia. In the Russian army, there was a hasty formation of units, formations and formations according to wartime states.
We are interested in the North-Western Front of General Zhilinsky. (The chief of staff of the front, General Oranovsky). He had the following combat composition:
The 1 Army is General Rennenkampf, Chief of Staff General Mileant. The First Army consisted of: Corps - XX General Smirnov (28-I and 29-I infantry divisions), III General Yepanchin (25-I and 27-I infantry division), IV General Bek-Aliyev (30-I, 40- I Infantry Divisions and 5-I Infantry Brigade); Cavalry - 1-I and 2-I Guards, 1-I, 2-I, 3-I cavalry divisions, 1-I separate brigade.
The 2 Army is General Samsonov, Chief of Staff General Postovsky. It consisted of corps - II General Scheidemann (26-I and 43-I infantry divisions), VI General of Blagoveshchensky (4-I and 16-I infantry divisions), XIII General Klyuev (1-I and 36-I infantry divisions) , XV of General Martos (6-I and 8-I infantry divisions), XXIII General Kondratovich (3-I Guards and 2-I infantry divisions); cavalry - 4-I, 6-I and 15-I cavalry divisions.
It was the color of the Russian imperial army, its best personnel regiments.
Almost all the Guards cavalry was part of the First Army.
1-I and 2-I Guards cavalry divisions entered the cavalry detachment of Lieutenant-General Khan G. Nakhichevan.
What brilliant regiments were, what music of epochs, names and names sounded, we recall:
1-I Guards Cavalry Division
1 Brigade: Her Majesty's Empress Maria Feodorovna's Cavalry Guards Regiment, Life Guards Mounted Regiment.
2 Brigade: His Majesty's Life Guard Cuirassier Regiment, Her Majesty The Empress Maria Feodorovna Regiment Life Guards Cuirassier Cuirassier.
The 3 Brigade: His Majesty's Life Guard Cossack regiment, His Imperial Highness Heir Tsesarevich Life Guard Guards Atamansky Regiment, Cossack Cossack Regiment, Life Guard.
In a division, the 1 Division of the Horse Artillery Life Guard Division: His Majesty's 1 Battery, 4 Battery; Life Guard 6-I Don Cossack His Majesty's battery.
2-I Guards Cavalry Division
1 Brigade: Life Guards Horse Grenadier Regiment, Life Guards Ulansky Her Majesty the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna Regiment.
2 Brigade: Life Guards Dragoon Regiment, His Majesty Life Guards Regiment.
In the division - the division of the Life Guards Horse Artillery.
Separate Guards Cavalry Brigade
Life Guards Ulansky His Majesty's regiment, Life Guards Grodno Hussars.
In the parts of the Guards cavalry served persons of the Imperial family, representatives of the oldest and richest noble families of Russia. Former officer of the Life Guards Hussars, GA von Tal wrote in his memoirs: “The regiment was very expensive, it was distinguished by companionship and spirit that attracted me, and was considered the most brilliant regiment in the Russian Guards cavalry as in its military past. so also because the Emperor, as heir to the throne, served in it ... Several Grand Dukes always served in the regiment. Since 1906, the Grand Duke Boris Vladimirovich and the children of the Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich are the princes Gabriel, Oleg and Igor the Romanovs and the Duke of Leuchtenberg. Also sometimes it was before 10 the aide-de-camp of the Sovereign Emperor, as well as such rich people as Counts Vorontsov-Dashkov, Prince Vyazemsky, Balashov, Naryshkin, Rayevsky ... "
From such magnificence of loud names, titles and traditions, one could expect great feats of arms in dashing, victorious raids and fierce battles ...
Yes, and to the matter of training troops, after the Russian-Japanese war, they tried to approach seriously, taking into account the requirements of the new time. Something in which the Russian infantry, on the eve of the war, has achieved good results. This was especially true of the organization of fire training.
The shooting of individual fighters and units (platoons, companies, battalions) in the Russian army then received a lot of attention.
Excellent results in shooting invariably showed the III Corps of the Russian Army, which was long commanded by General Rennenkampf, then appointed Commander of the Vilna District.
This is how Captain A. Uspensky (organization of military training for 5 years commanded a company of the Ufa regiment) recalled the organization of military training:
“The peaceful camp life of the 27-th division of the division (near the station Podbrodze, Vilnius lips.) Went at its regular pace, according to a schedule approved by the authorities. We got up at 5 o'clock in the morning, because at 6, the shooting part had to open fire on its training targets, and half an hour before the shooting range.
Well trained, beloved by General Rennenkampf, 27 Peh. the division stood high, both in shooting and in combat success.
The desire of the Emperor, that the troops would shoot "excellent", appealed to the strict demand of the Commander of the troops (General Rennenkampf) of the district to knock out at the shooting a lot of "super-excellent". The companies that beat out the super-excellent assessment were praised and their company commanders were promoted, and the competition in shooting between companies generally supported the energy and spirit not only of officers, but also of soldiers ...
Pure physical exhaustion was felt only after the end of the shooting, when it was necessary to return with a company from the shooting range to the camp. ”
As we see, already in 6 in the morning the shooting part was supposed to open fire on the targets !!!
(I recall the organization of firing on 70-80 in the Soviet Army. This was due to the huge reinsurance, the issuance of special orders, the issuance of a few number of cartridges in one hand, the collection of shells, the appointment of numerous "responsible" officers at the firing line, line loading, cordoning off, etc. So learning how to shoot was difficult).
So this is not the whole working day of the then company commander: “In the camp you need to go to the economic part of the regiment, get money, letters, parcels to the companies; then - lunch at the regimental officers' meeting and after lunch - a short, straight, deadly sleep. In 4 h. again, you need to learn a company in the field - regular classes - up to 6-7 h. evenings. (and if there are none, then the night teaching from 11 hours to 2 is 3 hours, nights). In the evening, before you sleep, you need to read the order for the regiment, make the necessary orders for the company to study the next day, and, finally, to have dinner. Previously 11 hours. It was hard to go to bed, and in the morning with 5 - 6 hours, already on my feet.
And winter activities? They were even more tedious, because they had to be carried not only in the air, but also in the stuffy barracks; to invest the whole soul for the training of young soldiers in order to make a warrior - a fighter, a defender of his homeland from a simple village, slow, mentally weakly developed guy.
In winter, usually there were a lot of classes and with a company from 8 to 12 hours and officer tactical lessons from 1 hours to 3 hours, and after classes (from 3 hours to 6 hours) in companies) 7 hours, sometimes up to 10 hours, and listen to a lecture by an officer of the general staff in the garrison meeting; so often the officer for his personal affairs did not have time!
Yes, how deep wrong were different. the socialists, then calling us officers, "parasites"!
It remains only to join this opinion of the commander of the 16 th company of the Ufa regiment, Captain A. Uspensky !!!
His opinion of General Rennenkampfe, whom Ouspensky knew well, was also very interesting: “Adjunct General Rennenkampf was then the commander of the district,“ the yellow danger, ”as the officers called him; he wore yellow stripes and a uniform of the Trans-Baikal Cossack army, granted to him for military distinctions; Well, the "dangerous" he was due to his steep nature.
Being still our corps commander, he highly raised the military training of the 3 Army Corps: constant maneuvers, mobilization tests, cavalry contests, live firing with maneuvering even in cold weather, contests in marching movement, etc., and the troops always saw him among himself on horseback, no matter what the weather, beautiful, "dashing", easy to use! Finishing the competition between the companies on the offensive, General Rennenkampf the distinguished commander of the company called the "king of the offensive", and the commander, whose company beat out the highest percentage over the "excellent" - the "king of shooting"!
How much has been done during the camp and winter time of such "attacks" and "defenses" both during the day and at night, and at the exercises and at the shows against the designated enemy! How many times has my company fired at targets, in a situation close to battle, and almost always shot “excellent,” and the last 3s of the year were “excellent”, and there were only 3 such companies in the regiment! ”
Such a "science to win" bore fruit at the beginning of the company, when parts of the PERSONNEL Russian army still existed. The brilliant shooting of the Russian III Corps and determined our victory during the Gumben battle. But more on that later.
28 July The Stake, having counted the forces of the North-Western Front, stated a “double advantage” over the German army (having forgotten that the Germans have well-prepared reserve and landwehr divisions). About the parts of the landsturm (well-proven during the battles in East Prussia), our commanders did not remember at that time, considering them to be inoperative.
(Back in August 1913, at the ninth joint meeting with the French, General Yanushkevich, on behalf of Russia, promised to put 800 thousand soldiers on the thirteenth day of the war against Germany alone. In order to demonstrate allied solidarity, Russia promised an early offensive not in the south, against Austria - Hungary, and in the north, against Germany. This meant that it would be difficult for the Germans to confront the Russian army with the forces of the 5-6 corps. This preponderance in East Prussia satisfied the French. th? On this score expressed serious doubts.
“The commitment to launch decisive actions against Germany on the 15 day of mobilization is in the full sense of the word a fatal decision,” said the famous Russian military historian General N. N. Golovin. “Criminal in its frivolity and strategic ignorance, this commitment was a heavy burden on the 1914 campaign.”)
Being under the influence of the requests of France, and fulfilling the obligation given to her, the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian army, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich ordered General Zhilinsky to cross the border of East Prussia to the 14 day of mobilization. As a result, on August 1, our 1 Army, General Rennenkampf, moved from its areas of concentration to the border. Touched on foot (!!!). The transportation of army corps at the beginning of the war, at least to the border with Germany, was not envisaged by railroad transport by our strategists at all. Three days (!!!), making multi-kilometer foot marches, marched against the enemy The first Russian army.
On the right there was no time to finish concentrating XX Army Corps of General Smirnov, in the center - III General Yepanchin, on the left flank, ledge behind, IV Corps of General Vek-Aliyev. The whole cavalry was assembled on the flanks: the Nakhichevan Khan on the right, General Gurko on the left, and the three corps went forward blindly. The rear of the army was still completely unsettled. (True, this is a traditional disadvantage of the Russian army at all times of its existence).
Captain A. Uspensky recalled this march: “... our division in two marching columns, from early morning on August 1, moved through Calvary to the region south of Verzhbolovo. We walked for three days, making 25 - 30 miles a day. Of course, for spare soldiers who had lost the habit of hikes, this path was difficult, especially since many came to bed for the night, many had to stay awake: outposts, posts and patrols ... Finally, in the evening, 3, August They approached the German border and for the first time heard the right, cannonade in the distance. ”
The Russian historian A. Kersnovsky described the first fighting in East Prussia in the following way: “Having completed three reinforced crossings without roads, the 1 army began to cross the border in the morning of August 4. The 3rd Army Corps entered into a stubborn battle at Stallupen with the German Army Corps 1, General Francois, and due to the oversight of his commander, he was almost defeated. The 29 Infantry Division (XX Corps) of the energetic General Rosenshild-Paulina decided the matter, taking the Germans to the flank and forcing them to hastily retreat. There was a gap in the 20 versts between the third building and the late IV. General Yepanchin did not consider it necessary to warn the 27 Infantry Division about this, marching in complete security on the left. The division was subjected to a sudden fire attack and a short strike, and the 105 Infantry Orenburg regiment, caught off guard, was completely defeated. The head of the division, General Adaridi, however, parried a blow. Meanwhile, 25-I infantry division of General Bulgakov took Stallupen, and 29-I division of General Rosenshild-Paulina, hurried to the rescue, decided to do it in the flank. In total, under the Stallupenen, our 42 battalion and 19 batteries fought 18 battalions and 20 enemy batteries. Trophies were 8 guns and 2 machine guns (taken by the Vyazma 115 regiment). Our damage was 63 officer, 6664 lower ranks (half in the Orenburg regiment) and 12 machine guns lost. Germans killed 1500 and 500 captured. The Khan's cavalry Nakhichevan was extremely sluggish. ”
It seems to be good for the first fight. Trophies, of course, are not enough, and the losses are too great. But our troops in this battle were in 2 times more than the Germans. The cavalry "pumped up", but the first terrible signs of inexplicable carelessness and lack of interaction among Russian commanders should have caused concern to the command. It’s not in our traditions to do a thorough analysis of the battle won ... And our historiography regards the battle of Stallupenem as a victory for the Russians.
However, as often happens in a war, unequivocal assessments of a particular battle can be difficult to make. Captain A. Ouspensky hot on the trail vividly described the vicissitudes of the battle: “At that time, a catastrophe occurred with the 105 Orenburg regiment advancing to the left of us on Budvetchen. Having seized Budvetchen, as well as Sanseichen, the gallant commander of the 105 regiment - Colonel Komarov, not having an enemy in front of him, changed the direction of his attack at a great angle in order to help our regiment master Gerriten. The Germans took advantage of this.
They knew (thanks to their excellent intelligence), and Colonel Komarov did not know (through the fault of the Corps Headquarters) that our 40-th adjacent left division was late for the whole transition (20 in.) (!!!) and thus, an emptiness was formed . The Germans moved here, to the flank and rear of the 105 regiment, a detachment of infantry regiment with 5 batteries and 2 squadrons.
The first movement of this detachment, Colonel Komarov, took for the movement of our, which is to be here, the 40-th division; so, it was he who told his adjutant on his report on the movement of the Germans. "What Germans, what are you ?! This is our 40 division!" But when the Germans opened fire from their guns and machine guns to the rear and flank, the 105 th regiment faltered and, under terrible close fire, began to retreat randomly. The regimental commander managed to shout: "a banner! A banner! Save the banner!" and he fell, pierced by machine gun bullets. The banner had time to make, but most of the regiment was surrounded by the Germans, having lost all machine guns (8 pieces) and was captured ...
In a hurry, - in the 3-s day, - mobilization, the 105-th Orenburg regiment received a resupply with local spare from the mountains. Vilna, i.e. got 2500 Jewish. The commander of the regiment before the performance filed a report that his regiment, thanks to this, had become incapacitated and, indeed, these Jews almost all surrendered during the mentioned disaster. 14 officers were killed, even more injured and captured.
The catastrophe with the 105 regiment would have fatal consequences for the outcome of the whole Stalupeny operation, because the panic of the rapidly retreating Orenburg people began to spread throughout the offensive line, the chains broke and under German pressure, they began to retreat in some places, but the Chief of the 27 Infantry Division is general Lt. Adarid quickly localized this failure: the 108-th Saratov regiment ordered in reserve in the village of Pemilauken to restore the position of the left wing, and to focus artillery against the enemy's artillery ...
From the hill at Dopenen, I could see how beautifully, solemnly, as if on a parade, the chains of the Saratovsky 108 regiment moved, first with a step, then by rushes, they entered into the general line of our offensive. It was already hours in 5 - 6 evenings.
Soon the fire from both sides intensified along the whole line, the Germans especially stubbornly “dug” separate buildings with their artillery; homesteads and sheds, behind which, according to the old maneuverable habit, some of our groups tried to accumulate and hide. Of course, here they suffered huge losses from the accurate aimed fire of German batteries on these buildings; wounds increased from the mass of fragments and stones flying in all directions during the destruction of these buildings, until they caught fire from a grenade fire. The number of dead and wounded in an open field increased ...
With the beginning of disorder and withdrawal of some chains: our regiment, neighboring: 99-th Ivangorod and 100-th Ostrovsky, commander of the 100 th Ostrovsky regiment Colonel Zarin unexpectedly appeared among the chains. With the help of the closest officers, he managed to stop the retreat that had begun, indicating to these companies a new position, with the front to the north-west and ordered to strengthen in this position - to dig in.
Trenches were quickly dug here, and the enemy who suddenly came from the north to the flank, by force of at least a battalion, in close formation, was met by us with strong rifle fire and repulsed ...
It got dark. Our advance has stopped, and the fire from Gerriten has subsided. Burned around the der. Platen, Budveichen, Pelshlauken and some German estates, lit by artillery fire, and in the distance there was a glow in the direction of Eidkunen.
So, we left Gerriten with such difficulty, but the Germans stopped the fight ...
The regiment’s losses were comparatively small: for example, in my company of soldiers killed there were 6 people, injured 12, but missing 22 ...
An order was received by the commander of 1's army of General Rennenkampf, threatening to bring to the field court those regimental commanders who could not hold the positions already taken in battle, if they did not seize them again today.
The order of the Corps Commander, General Yepanchin, specifically indicated that an offensive be launched immediately and that Gerriten, Döpenin-Budveichen,
So, after lunch, the 27 Division moved forward with all the guards. What was our general amazement and joy when, while moving forward past the places of yesterday's battle, we did not find the enemy! Gone are all places, including Gerriten - the Germans were gone!
A particularly terrible spectacle was the area south of the metro station Yogeln, where yesterday a catastrophe broke out with the 105 regiment! The dead were mixed up, both Russians and Germans. Here were the killed officers of the 105-th regiment, headed by his brave and unhappy commander! Unhappy, thanks to the fault of the highest authorities - the corps headquarters, which - it is precisely established - could not have let know that the 40-I division was lagging behind, and then Colonel Komarov would not accept the Germans as Russians on our left flank.
Who knows? ... Perhaps then this first battle would be much more profitable for us?
By the way, the murdered Colonel Komarov lay without his boots. So, the damned “jackals” have already appeared, who, under the cover of the night, have robbed the dead! ”
You can judge whether a battle can be considered won if, according to the results of the day, the army commander threatens the commanders of the retreating regiments with a field court (!!!), and the Russian army completely “slept through” the enemy’s nighttime withdrawal from their positions.
Already in this (successful!) Battle, the first formidable signs of moral distress in the Russian units are visible. Only in the company of the Assumption 22 "missing" (with a small number of dead and wounded in battle). Surely most of the "missing" - deserters, then surrendered to the enemy. Yes, and boots from the feet of the murdered regimental commander certainly pulled someone from "their" marauders ...
And here is how the German general General Max Hoffmann (at that time - lieutenant colonel, officer of the 8 Army headquarters stationed in V. Prussia) described the first battles in the book “The War of Missed Opportunities” (“Der Krieg der versaumten Gelegenheiten”): “Our Army the task was to defend East and West Prussia from the attack of the Russians. At the same time, she had to try, in the case of an attack by superior forces, not to let herself be finally broken and not to be allowed to push herself back into the Konigsberg fortress. In the event of such an attack in the operational plan there was an instruction to clear Prussia east of the Vistula and withdraw the army across the river. ” This is an important point. The withdrawal of the German army, if necessary beyond the Vistula, was provided for by the operational plan and was not something extraordinary. This must be borne in mind when considering the course of further events.
“The first exchange of opinions between me and the chief of staff on the task ahead for our army touched upon the following questions: we were not bothered many times by the possibility of cavalry attacks by large masses of the enemy. They would manage the troops guarding the border. It was even desirable for us that the Russians would in fact undertake such an attack and at the same time immediately fail. (!!!) "
Needless to say, it was precisely this offensive by the great masses of cavalry (which the Germans expected) and was undertaken by our generals ?!
Here is what A. Kersnovsky writes about this: “August 5 General Rennenkampf, fulfilling the directive of the front headquarters (cut off the Germans from Koenigsberg and cover their left flank), moved the main forces north from the Rominten forest, sending the cavalry of Khan Nakhichevansky to Insterburg. However, strategic reconnaissance turned out to be Khan and the cavalry commanders subordinate to him completely out of the way - and the 70 squadrons of the best cavalry in the world decidedly gave nothing to their army. General Rennenkampf remained after Stallupen in complete ignorance of the enemy.
On the 6 of Kaushen, the Nakhichevan Hans' cavalry corps got involved in a battle with the Prussian landwehr brigade, failing to destroy it. Against the 6 battalions and 2 batteries of the Germans, we had 70 squadrons and 8 batteries. However, Khan of Nakhichevan did not think to take advantage of the maneuverable superiority of the cavalry and the quadruple fire advantage. Both guards cavalry divisions dismounted and began a frontal battle with minimal chances of success and in vain suffered losses. Guards horse artillery shot poorly, and the head of the 3 th cavalry division, General Bellegarde, sent around the German brigade, did not dare to attack.
The battle was decided by the Life Guards cavalry regiment captain Baron Wrangel, famously attacking with his squadron the enemy artillery and taking 2 guns. Our losses are 46 officers and 329 lower ranks. The Germans have lost 1200 people. Khan did not pursue.
After this useless and inept battle, Khan retired his cavalry to the deep rear, not bothering to warn the infantry and army headquarters. The consequence of this truly criminal withdrawal was the exposure of the right flank of the 1 Army, in particular the advancing 28 Infantry Division. ”
Let us return to the story of M. Hoffman: “... the Vilna army, as it was always supposed, came out before the Warsaw. In addition, information from the pilots still confirmed that there was no movement on the tracks from the south. The command decided to place the main forces of the army to attack the Vilnius army.
On August 17, Major-General Count Waldersee, to his great surprise, received a report from the chief of staff of 1. Corps that General Francois did not fulfill the order given to him, went with most of his forces to the offensive and joined the battle under Stalupenen. The command of the army ordered by telephone and telegraph to stop the battle. Quartermaster-General Grünert was sent by car to General Francois to personally hand over the order to the latter ...
In the case of General Francois, it was nevertheless possible in time to withdraw the corps from the sphere of fire.
Thus terminated, the battle at Stalupenene was in itself a complete success, won by 1. case. Excellent Russian forces were thrown back, several thousand were captured. However, due to the overall situation, this was a mistake. 1 th arm. the corps, although victorious, still suffered losses in men and equipment and, most importantly, squandered physical forces that should be saved for the main battle. In addition, it was not at all in our interest to impede the advancement of the Vilna army. On the contrary, the sooner it moved, the more easily we could break it up before the Warsaw army arrived from the south.
In the meantime, the systematic deployment of the army on the r. Angerap.
As you can see, the Germans rightly believed that they won in the battle of Stalupenen.
In the photo: the captain Baron Wrangel with his wife (sister of mercy), who distinguished himself in battle near Stalupenen.