100 years ago, at the end of September 1914, the Warsaw-Ivangorod operation began, one of the largest operations of the First World War. The defeat in the Battle of Galicia brought the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the brink of a military-political catastrophe. Then she came to the aid of Germany, which transferred part of its forces south to Silesia, forming the 9 Army under the command of August von Mackensen. The offensive of the German-Austrian armies on the territory of present-day Poland was led by Paul von Hindenburg, who had already become a national hero of Germany.
The enemy's attack was repelled and the Russian troops of the South-Western Front commanded by the general from N.I.Ivanov’s artillery and by the N.A.Ruzsky’s North-Western Front by the generals from the infantry N. The battle on the Middle Vistula continued until November 8 1914, and ended with a convincing victory for the Russian weapons. True, this victory, like success in the Battle of Galicia (Galician battle; Part of 2; Part of 3; Part 4), was marked by missed opportunities. German-Austrian troops did not achieve their goals, were defeated and were thrown far back. However, Hindenburg escaped the planned decisive defeat and organized the withdrawal of troops. The Russian command showed indecision and short-sightedness, the "Japanese disease" (which led to the defeat in the Russian-Japanese war) and did not organize the pursuit of the enemy and the invasion of German territory, which the Germans themselves feared. Although this would allow the Russian army to intercept a strategic initiative in the war.
General situation before the battle
The situation that preceded the operation was complex and tense, and for both sides. Germany was defeated on the Marne, and led heavy battles with the French and the British (the so-called "Running to the sea"). Despite the huge fresh reserves that were sent to the Western Front, the German command had to abandon plans to quickly crush France and move on to a positional struggle. However, due to the activity of the French and British troops on the Western Front, it was not possible to begin the transfer of the main forces from the Western Front to the Eastern Front.
On the Eastern Front in September, Hindenburg developed an offensive against the 1 of the Russian army, trying to destroy its main forces and finally knock out the Russians from East Prussia. I must say that, despite the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian armies in Galicia and repeated requests for help from Vienna, Berlin was in no hurry to help an ally. East Prussia was more important to Berlin than Galicia. As a result, in Vienna, they even spoke of the need to sacrifice Galicia and conclude a separate peace with Russia in order to avoid a military-political catastrophe (a complete military defeat threatened the “patchwork empire” with a collapse).
Despite the strategic success in Galicia, which posed a threat to Hungary and German Silesia, the organization of the 1 and 2 army corps, which left East Prussia and the formation of the new 10 army on Narew, the Russian command was in doubt. The defeat in East Prussia caused uncertainty. The reinforced 8 th German army (near 8 corps) was a serious threat to the weakened defeats and retreats of the 1 th and 2 th Russian armies and the first echelons of the 10 th army. The command of the North-Western Front, headed by Ruzsky, even thought to withdraw the 2 Army to the Belsk-Brest-Litovsk line. The South-Western Front insisted on continuing the pursuit of the Austrians on the Carpathian direction. At the same time, the Allies demanded a strike on Germany in order to delay German troops from the Western Front to the Eastern. The stake was forced to reckon with the opinions of England and France.
On the other hand, the first months of the war showed that Russia is not ready for such a war. The experience of fighting in East Prussia, as well as in Galicia, showed the high command the enormous shortcomings of the command and staffs in the area of troop control. The “strange”, if not treacherous, activity of the Minister of War Sukhomlinov led to the fact that the troops felt the importance of the problem of material support. Already at that time, shells, cartridges, guns (especially heavy ones), machine guns and rifles became lacking. In 1915, this shortage will result in a catastrophe in the field of military supplies and a heavy retreat of the Russian armies.
The Russian Stavka had to decide: what to do next? It was obvious that the war takes a protracted nature (before the start of the war, everyone hoped for a quick victory), the accumulated resources were already exhausted, and the mobilization of industry, the entire economy, and society was necessary. The Russian command needed again, as before the East Prussian operation, to decide whether to fulfill the wishes of the Allies and strike at Germany or continue the pursuit of the Austro-Hungarian troops towards the Carpathians. Or even fulfill the requirements of Ruzsky and withdraw the troops deep into Poland, refusing to strike at Germany. As a result, all this resulted in a grand Warsaw-Ivangorod operation, in which 6 armies participated on both sides, with a total number of 900 thousand soldiers and officers.
Plans and forces of Germany and Austria-Hungary
The German command noted the obvious weakness of the operational leadership of the Russian armies in Galicia, which saved the Austro-Hungarian army from complete disaster and drew attention to the dispersion of forces of the Russian North-Western Front. In addition, the 1, 2, and 10, Russian armies needed replenishment and rest. This made it possible to shift attention to the more southern sector of the front and organize a strong blow to the Russian army in Poland. Thus, the German command solved the task of assisting an ally - Austria-Hungary, defended Upper Silesia and Cognize from the Russians.
After negotiations, the German and Austro-Hungarian commands 15 September 1914, it was decided to send part of the forces 8 of the German army for a joint offensive with the Austrians from the Krakow region. Of the forces of the 8 Army and the new reinforcements, they decided to form a new 9 Army. The troops urgently transferred by rail to the Silesian-Poznan border. Where did they have to strike the flank and rear of the Russian troops, who were pursuing the Austro-Hungarian forces. Originally it was planned that the 9-I German army would strike Ivangorod from the Krakow and Czestochowa area, and later, as the situation changed, Hindenburg aimed troops at Warsaw. The German troops left against the Russian North-Western Front (the 8 Army under the command of General Schubert) were given the task of acting as decisively as possible in order to divert the reserves of the Russian front.
This plan did not correspond to the plans of the Austro-Hungarian command. The Austrians wanted all German forces transferred from East Prussia (4 corps) to concentrate in the Krakow-Tarnow area and the blow was delivered to the south. In addition, they wanted the German troops to be fully subordinate to the Austro-Hungarian command. However, the Germans insisted on his plan. The commander of the German troops was appointed General Hindenburg, the chief of staff - General Ludendorff.
The German command demanded that the strong Austrian army be deployed on the north bank of the Vistula, since the German troops were planning to advance north. The Austrians protested, but were forced to yield. From their side, Victor Dunkl's 1 Army (3 Corps, two separate infantry divisions and 5 cavalry divisions) and the Landwehr German Voirsch corps, previously subordinate to the Austrian command, took part in the operation. The rest of the Austrian armies (2, 3, and 4) were also made dependent on the German offensive plan; they were to lead an offensive on the San River on the Sandomierz-Przemysl front. As a result, the Austrian troops were to secure the German offensive against Ivangorod and Warsaw from the south, diverting as many Russian forces as possible. Thus, instead of helping the Austro-Hungarian troops, the German command forced them to support them in the offensive, which solved the task of defending Silesia and Poznan.
It must be said that the German command, apparently already in the course of planning, provided for the possibility of the failure of the offensive. As the German troops advanced to the Vistula along the railroads and highways along the bridges, the communications nodes concentrated large quantities of explosives. Later, the Germans used these reserves to destroy communications during the withdrawal of troops.
German-Austrian forces consisted of two armies. The 9 army consisted of 6 corps: 11, 17 and 20 army corps, Guards reserve corps, Frommel's corps and Landshare corps, and two separate brigades from the Thorn fortress and the 8 Cavalry division. In total more than 146 thousand soldiers and officers with 956 guns. The 1 th Austrian army had three corps: 1, 5, 10, 38, and 106, separate divisions, 2, 3, 6, 7. 9 Cavalry Divisions. Total 165 thousand soldiers and officers, more than 650 guns.
General Paul von Hindenburg
Russian plans and forces
The Russian command promptly discovered the transfer of German troops and rears to the Middle Vistula and was able to reveal the enemy’s plan. 22 and 26 September 1914 held a meeting of the High Command and the Front Command in the Hill. Ruzsky’s proposal to withdraw the 2 Army to the Belsk and Brest-Litovsk lines was rejected, since in fact gave Ivangorod and Warsaw to the enemy. At the same time, they decided to regroup their forces in order to cover the area of the Middle Vistula. The main forces of the South-Western Front (4-th, 5-th and 9-th army) were transferred from the San River to the Middle Vistula, as well as part of the forces of the North-Western Front (2-th army) from the line of the Narev and Neman rivers to the region Warsaw. The exit of the Russian armies to new areas was secretly carried out between October 10 (23) and 1 (14) in October, by marching, and partly by rail.
By September 28, the commander-in-chief’s headquarters already had fairly complete data on the German-Austrian grouping. Taking into account the situation on the front and the demands of the Western allies, who asked for active actions against Germany, the Russian command finally decides to radically regroup its forces in order not only to parry the enemy’s strike, but also to create conditions for a counteroffensive. Russian troops were supposed to deliver a double blow from the front of Ivangorod, Sandomierz (army of the South-Western Front) and from Warsaw (2-I Army of the North-Western Front). The common task of the armies of both fronts, stated in the Bids directive on the preparation of an offensive from 28 September, was a deep invasion of Germany.
The 1 and 10 armies of the North-Western Front were given the task of providing Russian troops on the Vistula from East Prussia. Ruza, after repelling the German strike, was supposed to support a general offensive in Germany. The 3-I and 8-I armies of the South-Western Front continued the siege of Przemysl and were supplied by Russian troops in Poland by Hungary.
In order to ensure a more reliable control of the huge mass of troops that focused on the Middle Vistula, the Supreme Commander General Headquarters united their leadership in the hands of the commander-in-chief of the armies of the South-Western Front, General of Artillery Nikolai Ivanov. The commander of the Southwestern Front, for the convenience of controlling the armies entrusted to him, formed three groups of them: 1) the main forces (2, 4, 9, and 5, 1 cavalry corps) were directly subordinate to Ivanova; 2) The Galician army group (the 3, 8 army and the besieging Przemysl troops — of which the 11 army was formed) was subordinated to the commander of the 8 army, Brusilov; 3) Warsaw fortified area (garrison of the fortress Novogeorgiyevsk, 27 st army corps, 6 th cavalry division, 9 equestrian frontier hundreds) under the command of General of the cavalry N. P. Bobyr.
The main drawback of the Russian plan was the removal of the Stavka from the command of the operation. General Ivanov was an ardent supporter of the attack on the Carpathians, and the commander of the North-Western Front, General Ruzsky, who was to ensure the operation from the north, wanted to withdraw his troops. Therefore, there was no talk of a decisive offensive in order to completely defeat the German forces. But such an attack was not possible without the active participation of the main forces of the North-Western Front.
The Russian Supreme at this time was the Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich (the Younger). Unfortunately, he was neither a strong statesman nor a decisive, talented commander. Nikolai Nikolayevich was very experienced and organized senior officer, he knew how to achieve his goal. With a great king and a talented commander, the grand duke could have been a valuable comrade-in-arms, but Nikolai Nikolayevich did not take place as Supreme Commander. Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich was used to dealing with strictly defined tasks (like most of the military) and was lost in difficult, unexpected situations.
The commander of the North-Western Front, General Ruzsky, was offered to develop a plan for securing the Warsaw District and rendering assistance to the South-Western Front. However, Ruzskaya very categorically expressed the idea that it would not be expedient to involve his armies in operations against the German-Austrian troops on the Middle Vistula. It must be said that each front commander considered his direction to be the main one and allowed himself greater independence in decisions. The Russian high command could not curb the willful commanders. It harmed the common cause. Thus, Ruzsky’s excessive caution did not, as a result, allow the Warsaw-Ivangorod operation to be completed with the complete rout of the Hindenburg troops. You can also recall that Ruzskoy showed willfulness earlier, commanding the 3 Army of the Southwestern Front, when the front command indicated that it was necessary to support the neighboring 5 Army, which was in a difficult situation, but the general persisted in attacking Lviv.
Only the Stavka could suppress arbitrary front commanders who tried to show the decisive role of their front and defended their personal interests to the detriment of the common cause. The most important role of the Supreme High Command could play in ensuring the firmness and determination of the generals at the level of armies and corps. To do this, it was necessary to carry out ruthless rotation and send to the rear positions and resign those generals who showed hesitancy, lack of will and took into account the interests of their connections only. Unfortunately, the Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich could not ensure the full-fledged work of the Russian Headquarters.
Another big drawback of the Russian plan was its some lateness. The time factor played on the side of the German army. The Russian command unraveled the enemy’s plan, but did not manage to deliver a preemptive strike. The Germans launched the September 28 attack, while the Russian armies only began regrouping their forces, which was slowing down due to a weak network of communications. Besides, Russian troops were worse off, both financially and technically. Even then there was a shortage of shells and cartridges, there were significant interruptions in the supply of food and fodder. Railways could not cope with the transportation of troops and cargo. Many corps and divisions approached the Vistula with incomplete transports and artillery parks. The period of heavy rains worsened the ability to transport troops. Soldiers, artillery, wagons set aside from their units. The troops had few ferrying means, which made it difficult to force the rivers. However, despite all the problems, the troops still maintained high combat effectiveness and morale. They withstood grueling marches and displayed fierce stubbornness in the hard battles of Ivangorod and Warsaw. Russian soldiers and officers withstood the onslaught of the first-class German army and defeated it.
Supreme Commander Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich
The operation involved:
The 2 Army under the command of Sergey Scheideman: 1, 2, 4, 23, 2, Siberian and 1 Cavalry Corps, Caucasian, Guards and Cossack Cavalry divisions, Xnn. Infantry Divisions (later 79 Siberian Corps). Total 50 infantry and 5 cavalry divisions, 12 thousand people with 5 guns.
The 5 Army under the command of Pavel Plehve: 5 and 19 Army, 1 Siberian Corps, 5 Don Cossack Division and Turkestan Cossack Brigade. Total 6 infantry and 1 1 / 2 cavalry divisions, over 83 thousand people, 337 guns.
The 4 Army under the command of Alexei Evert: The 17 and 16 Army, the 3 Caucasian Corps, the Ural and Trans-Baikal Cossack Divisions. Total 10 infantry and 2 cavalry division, more than 108 thousand people, 605 guns.
The 9 Army under the command of Plato Lechitsky: 25, 18, 14 Army and Guards Corps, 46 and 80 Infantry Divisions, 1-I Don, 2-I Caucasian and 13 I divisions. . A total of 12 infantry and 3 cavalry divisions, about 130 thousand people, and about 600 guns.
Warsaw Fortified Area: 2 infantry and about half of the cavalry division, total 31,5 thousand, 216 guns. Total Russian troops numbered about 520 thousand soldiers and officers, and about 2400 guns.
Source: Kolenkovsky A. The Maneuverable Period of the First World Imperialist War 1914
The regrouping of troops and their location. The beginning of the German offensive
The German corps from the 8 Army began to be transferred on the night from 16 to 17 in September on two railways: 1) Koenigsberg - Krakow and 2) Letzen - Creutzburg. The day transported on 80 trains. By September 28 all the troops were deployed, by October 2 - the rear. Frommel and Voirsha corps joined the transferred corps of the 8 Army. At the same time, the 1-I Austrian army was concentrated along both banks of the Vistula. The rest of the Austrian armies remained on the Vyslok River, putting themselves in order, replenishing and preparing for an offensive on the San River.
By September 28, the German-Austrian troops took their starting position and on the same day launched an offensive. Frommel Corps and 8-I cavalry division attacked Tomashov; The 17 Army Corps is on Opoczno; 20 Corps - on Konsk; Guards reserve corps - on Skarzisk; the corps of Voirsch and the 6 th Austrian cavalry division - on the Kielce and the 11 corps - on Andreev and Pinchoff. The left wing of the German army provided two separate brigades that marched from Thorn. The left wing of the 1 of the Austrian army — the 1 corps, two separate infantry divisions, the 2 and 3 cavalry divisions — were advancing along the left bank of the Vistula, in the general direction to Sandomierz; the right wing, the 5 and 10 corps, the 9 Cavalry Division, moved along the right bank of the Vistula to the Sana estuary.
October 1 German troops, without meeting resistance, went to the line Lask - Tomashov - Kielce - Pinchov. The Austrians forced the river. Dunajec at the mouth. The Russian cavalry corps under Novikov did not offer much resistance and, due to the difficulty of centralized control, divided into two groups. The northern group (4 and 5 and the Don Cossack divisions and the Turkestan separate brigade) moved to Radom and Ivangorod, the southern group (5, 8 and 14), and Opatov. With a more decisive leadership, the Russian cavalry could bring the enemy serious trouble. Thus, it only in certain points gave a decisive rebuff to the German and Austrian cavalry. This forced the enemy cavalry to cling to the infantry and abandon the deep raids.
Meanwhile, straining all forces, the Russian army rushed to take new positions. It was necessary to take positions with the Vistula. By the evening of October 1, the distance from the main German group to the Vistula was reduced to the 2-3 transitions. In addition, it was already clear to the German-Austrian command that the Russians had revealed their plan and an unexpected strike on the flank against the Russian armies, which were crushing the Austrians, did not work. The Germans intercepted radiograms and had a good intelligence network in the Russian rear, which allowed them to have data on the entire enemy grouping.
By the beginning of the German-Austrian offensive, the Russians had on the left bank of the Vistula, on a huge front in 250 km, only one cavalry corps, a guards cavalry brigade, 2 rifle brigades (all three brigades were at Opatow) and the 80 th infantry division at Sandomir. Some Russian generals, in particular Evert, offered to seriously strengthen the covering units and transfer troops not along the right, but along the left bank of the Vistula. However, Ivanov rejected this idea. Apparently, he was right, part of the cover could not resist the superior forces of the enemy and the main forces moving along the left bank could be hit by the enemy’s flank attack. It was dangerous.
It should be noted that the Russian command before the war made a mistake. Not intending to defend the left-bank Poland, the Russians began to destroy the fortresses of Ivangorod, Warsaw and damage the communication lines. Now I had to urgently restore them.
First, the 4 Army was transferred from the r. San to Ivangorod district. Troops made 23 September. The liberated front of the 4 Army was occupied by the formations of the 5 and 9 armies. Following the 4 th army began the march from the west bank. San 9-I army Lechitsky. She started off from September 26 on the right bank of the Vistula and was to occupy the area from Zavikhosts to Kazimierz. From 28 September, the X-NUMX movement of Plehve began. She had to go to the area of Lublin, Krasnik, and from there she was transferred by rail to the area north of Ivangorod. Only infantry and artillery were transported by rail, carts followed the marching order. The army arrived at its destination only by October 5. The slowest of all, due to Ruzsky's unwillingness to support the offensive, was moving the 14-I army. Only 2 of October to Warsaw, where the weak 1-corps stood, advanced parts of the 27-Siberian corps began to arrive.
In fact, there was competition. The German-Austrian troops of Hindenburg immediately tried to take Warsaw and Ivangorod, preempt the enemy and attack the Russian army in the process of their regrouping. Russian troops were in a hurry to take up areas of concentration in order to repel the enemy's strike and, at the approach of all troops, go over to the counteroffensive in order to defeat the weaker German-Austrian forces.
Crossing the Vistula
To be continued ...