The chief of the General Staff of Germany, Erich von Falkenhayn, after the end of the Gorlitsky breakthrough wanted to complete the offensive. The goal was achieved, the Russian troops were rejected from the Carpathians. However, the commander of the shock Austro-German grouping Mackensen and his chief of staff, von Sect, persuaded the German headquarters to continue the operation. They say that it is necessary to use the moment when the Russian South-Western Front is defeated and has not received reinforcements.
Mackensen regrouped his strike fist to Yaroslav. I did not even have time to greatly weakened by heavy 2-weekly battles of the 3-I army to withdraw to the river. San, like 17 in May, German troops crossed over to Yaroslav on the right bank of the r. San and new breakthroughs began to wedge into the location of our army. At the same time, they launched an attack south of Przemysl, against Mosciscu. The approaches to Yaroslav were covered by the 24 Corps, in which there was only one bloodless 49 Division. The avalanches of the German troops rejected the Russian division for San and took the city. The German Guards Corps forced the San and captured the bridgehead.
Russian troops almost did not respond with artillery fire on the volleys of the enemy. In the period of 18 — 24 in May, Mackensen undertook a strong pressure on Russian positions in the r. San, between Yaroslav and Peremyshl, and finally established itself on the right bank of the river, rejecting Russian troops along the r. Lyubachovka. 8-I army, despite all the difficulties, held a blow. The headquarters strengthened Brusilov’s army, sending the 5 Caucasian Corps from the reserve. On the left flank, the 9-I and 11-I armies inflicted a strong counter-attack on the enemy and did not allow the enemy to break through the Dniester. However, north of Przemysl, the Germans continued to push the weak 3 th army. Straighten the position of counterstrikes did not work. The Germans joined several bridgeheads, regrouped their forces, and the 24 of May continued the offensive.
The army of Brusilov was reinforced with two corps of 2-m Caucasian and 23-m, which the Headquarters transferred from the North-Western Front. The front command organized a counter-strike between pp. Lyubachovka and Cherry. The blow was frontal, to the top of the ledge of the German springboard. Brusilov objected, saying that it was unreasonable, or rather to beat from the flanks, under the base. But the front headquarters insisted on it and was mistaken. Despite the organized counter-attack of 3 by the Russian corps, the German army could not be discarded. Russian fresh units went into a frontal attack and were raised by machine-gun and artillery fire. Russian troops could not advance, only wasted people.
As a result, the fortress of Przemysl found itself in an outgoing corner of Russian location and from three sides was covered by enemy troops. From Przemysl to the east led by a single railway. The Germans set their sights from the north and south to reach the station of Mosciska (Mostiska) in order to intercept the highway and surround the fortress garrison.
More recently, at the end of March, the powerful fortress of Przemysl, as a result of an almost six-month siege and stubborn fighting, finally became Russian. And so she had to give so quickly. Denikin wrote about the Battle of Przemysl: “The 11 days of the brutal battle of the 4 Iron Division ... The 11 days of the terrible rumble of German artillery, literally tearing down the entire ranks of the trenches along with their defenders ... And the silence of my batteries ... We almost did not respond - there is nothing. Even cartridges for guns were given the most limited number. The regiments, exhausted to the last degree, fought off one attack after another - with bayonets or shooting at close range; blood flowed, rows thinned, grave mounds grew .. When, after three days of silence with our only 6-inch battery, she was given 50 projectiles, the phone was immediately reported to all the shelves and all companies; and all the arrows breathed with joy and relief. " "For the first and only time, I saw the brave of their brave Markov in a state of near despair." Markov was removing the remnants of the 13 regiment from under enemy fire, and the commander of the 14 was walking alongside. The shell bombs knocked his head off. The torso, from which gushing blood, stood a few more moments. And Markov, drenched in the blood of his comrade, walked on.
In fact, a powerful fortress (the whole fortified area, which had to be taken by the Russian army) was no longer there. The forts were disarmed, many of the fortifications were destroyed, most of the guns and supplies were removed. In Przemysl only part of the artillery and several thousand guards remained. To keep the fortress in such conditions, with an acute shortage of shells, there was not the slightest possibility. Przemysl was not ready for a long siege, there was no combat-ready garrison, fortifications were not restored, there were no necessary reserves. However, the capture of Przemysl in March 1915 was used for a widespread propaganda campaign. And now it was necessary to give the fortress. The resonance was great: the enemies received an excellent propaganda excuse, the prestige of the Russian army was undermined by the allies, the Russian liberal public received an excuse to shout about the shortcomings of the regime and the army.
As a result, military issues were associated with big politics. Therefore, the commandant of Przemysl then received an order to ship the remaining artillery and supplies to the trains, then return to the position. Commandant Delevich asked to give a clear order: to fight or evacuate? About the same requested and Brusilov. But the front command responded evasively: either "look at Przemysl only as a section of the front, and not at a fortress," or "hold, but not defend at all costs." By the arrival of the enemy in Peremyshl, there were no more or less capable troops left, only a few companies of militiamen with warrant officers-ensigns instead of commanders. Therefore, in fact, there was no battle for the city. Enemy units began to infiltrate the city, and on the night of June 3 Brusilov ordered the abandonment of the fortress. Sapyor blew up the most powerful forts.
3 June 1915, the troops of General Mackensen, almost without meeting resistance, entered the fortress. Meanwhile, at the same time, on the left wing of the South-Western Front, the 11-I army slowly, with gradual, stubborn rear-guard battles, was withdrawing beyond the r. The Dniester, to the Mikolaev-Galich sector, to the left of its location the 9 Army with its right flank is at Tysmenitsa, while the left flank remained in place at the Romanian border.
The resonance from the fall of Przemysl was great. The Russian public was indignant, the allies "sympathized", and the German and Austrian newspapers trumpeted a colossal victory. Although the same Brusilov believed that the army only got rid of a heavy and unnecessary burden. The fortress was not ready for a long siege, it was necessary to leave it in order not to destroy the troops. The front was reduced to 30 kilometers, Brusilov now had enough troops, and he planned to stop the enemy.
However, the front headquarters thought otherwise. Ivanov and his headquarters believed that the campaign was lost, the enemy was about to break into Ukraine, and Kiev had to be prepared for defense. It should be noted that Ivanov and his headquarters simply repeated the thoughts of Dragomirov, who on May 7 wrote in an official note to the commander-in-chief: “Our strategic position is hopeless. Our line of defense is very long, we cannot move troops with the necessary speed, and the very weakness of our troops makes them less mobile; we lose the ability to fight. Przemysl should be handed over - along with all of Galicia. The Germans will inevitably rush into Ukraine. Kiev should be strengthened. Russia must stop all military activity until it regains its strength. ” Then Dragomirov was driven out of the front headquarters for such thoughts, transferred to the General Headquarters, at the disposal of the Supreme Commander.
The High Command was confident that on the southern flank the enemy was collecting an even more powerful strike force, waiting for a “main attack” from the south. It was believed that from the south, German and Austrian troops would try to encircle the entire front. Brusilov began to take away troops. They pointed out that Przemysl fell, so this direction becomes secondary. The 5 body of the Caucasus was transferred to the 3 army, the 21 body was transferred to the front reserve. The 2-th Caucasian and 23-th corps were transferred to the 9-th army, where they were waiting for a new strike by the enemy. Then the remnants of the 3 Army were transferred to the North-Western Front. Brusilov protested, pointing out that a weakened army would not keep Lviv. But he did not listen. The enemy immediately took advantage of the weakening of Brusilov’s army and increased the pressure on the Lvov direction.
Departure from Galicia
With the loss of the Sana and Peremyshl line, the Russian armies of the South-Western Front were forced to move to their own borders in divergent directions with further withdrawal. There was no predetermined defensive position in the rear where the enemy could be detained. A state of the troops and the constant pressure of the enemy did not allow to keep the eastern part of Galicia. The front command, headed by Ivanov, was in moral decay and lost control of the armies. The High Command did not dare to withdraw from the management of the royal pet. Only transferred first 4 th army, and then 3 th army in the North-Western Front, as they were now more connected with the front Alekseeva. Comfronte Ivanov formed a special group of troops from five corps under the command of General Olohovo in the interval between the 3 and 8 armies, in the area of Lyubachuv. But this measure did not lead to success. Olohova’s poorly organized group was unable to rectify the situation.
In early June, the 1915 of Mr. Mackensen eased the pressure on the Russian army. This was due to the need to establish rear communications and, in part, with the declaration of the war of Austria-Hungary by the Italy’s 24 in May. The Austro-Hungarian command initially wanted to regroup and transfer significant contingents to the Italian border, leaving the Germans to continue the struggle against the Russians in Galicia. However, the Italians were bad soldiers, could not use the surprise attack and a large numerical superiority. As a result, even minor numerically weaker Austro-Hungarian divisions stopped the Italian advance. The need for a significant redeployment of forces disappeared. Although Vienna and removed some of the forces from the Russian and Serbian fronts, but not as radically as planned at first.
June 3 in Silesia, in the castle of Pless, a military meeting of the German and Austrian leaders was held. The meeting was attended by Kaiser Wilhelm II, Chief of the German General Staff Falkenhayn, Field Marshal Hindenburg, Generals Ludendorff, Hoffmann, Mackensen, Chief of the Austro-Hungarian General Staff General von Götzentorf. The German High Command hesitated: Hindenburg successfully developed the operation against Riga, the Allies began to stir on the Western Front, so the German High Command was afraid to get bogged down deeply on the Russian front between the territory of Poland and Volyn. Falkenhayn noted: "Russians can retreat to the great depth of their country, but we cannot persecute them endlessly." On the other hand, she was tempted to inflict a decisive defeat on the Russian army by transferring significant forces from Galicia to the Brest-Litovsk sector, and this maneuver, together with the armies of Hindenburg, advancing from the north to close the ring around the Russian armies in Poland. Hindenburg argued that there is a real opportunity to surround the Russian army in the "Polish bag". As a result, hope to deliver the final blow to Russia took up. Although in the end, Falkenhain turned out to be right: it would not be possible to surround the Russian armies, the war would drag out.
From mid-June, Mackensen's troops resumed the offensive. The vise of three armies was compressed around Lvov: the 11-I German army of General Mackensen was advancing from the north, the 3-I was Austro-Hungarian from the west, the 2-I was Austro-Hungarian from the south. From the city began evacuation of rear institutions. On June 22, the enemy intercepted the railways to Warsaw and Mikolaev, only the roads to Dubno and Galich remained. Our troops left Lviv. After the loss of Lvov, Ivanov issued a directive on the withdrawal of the 3 Army with a group of Olohovo to Russian Poland - to the front of Lublin - Vladimir-Volynsky, 8-I and 11-I army retreated towards the Kiev district, 9-I army had to relate front with the position of the 11 Army.
The situation remained grave. The front commander Ivanov was out of place. But he was a favorite of the king, had great connections with the court. Loved him and the public. Therefore, he was left at his post. The troops were demoralized. Defeat, retreat, loss of cities and territories, which were so busy were occupied, lack of ammunition and heavy losses undermined the spirit of the soldiers. Someone started to panic, believing the rumors about the enemy’s rounds. Some units, completely exhausted and demoralized, surrendered. Others at the first onslaught of the enemy, shelling fell into panic, throwing positions and fled. The shortage of rifles was added to the projectile famine. While attacking, there were enough rifles, they picked up weapon killed and wounded, captured trophies. During the retreat, there was nothing to replace the losses. Marching replenishment arrived with bare hands, which further strengthened the negative attitude in the army. When the shelves appeared whole teams of unarmed soldiers.
Brusilov was forced to give the order, which resembled similar instructions during the future Great Patriotic War. The general wrote that the front approached the borders of Russia, it is impossible to retreat further. “It’s time to stop and finally consider the enemy properly, completely forgetting the pitiful words about the might of enemy artillery, superior forces, tirelessness, invincibility and the like, and therefore I order: for the faint-hearted who leave the ranks or surrender, there should be no mercy; both the rifle and the machine-gun fire must be directed at those who give up, even if with a cease-fire at the enemy, at retreating or fleeing to act in the same way ... ”.
Tough measures helped. Brusilov's 8 Army stopped, the first at the front. The enemy could no longer advance. On the southern flank, the 11-I and 9-I armies moved to the line of the Dniester and its tributaries. Russian troops entrenched at the turn of the Hill - Vladimir-Volynsky, 20 km west of Brod, 15 km west of Buchach. The German and Austrian troops tried several times to break through the Russian positions in one or the other direction, but without success. Completely clear the possessions of Austria-Hungary from the Russian troops Germans and Austrians could not.
Ammunition and rifles left by Russian troops during the retreat
The Russian army suffered a strategic defeat, losing most of Galicia, Przemysl and Lviv. For two months of almost continuous fighting, our troops left the territory from 100 to 300 km. The 3 Army, which took the first, most terrible blow, lost 140 thousand men killed wounded and captured. In the divisions of the 8 Army, there are thousands of soldiers left for the 3-4. In just two months of fighting only by prisoners, the Russian army lost about 500 thousand people with 344 guns. However, for the enemy it was not a “triumphal march”. Only the Mackensen army of the original 136 thousand people lost two-thirds of the composition - 90 thousand people.
During the 2 month of heavy fighting, all previous successes of the Russian army were negated. Now the Russian high command had to solve the task of withdrawing troops from Russian Poland, since this region lost the role of a possible springboard for attacking Germany and threatened to destroy the army there.
Militarily, the main reason for the defeat of the Russian army was not only the superiority of the Austro-German troops in forces and assets in the main line, but also the major mistakes of the Russian Headquarters, the command of the South-Western Front and the commander of 3 Army Radko-Dmitriev. The Russian high command incorrectly assessed the situation before the battle, which predetermined the defeat of the front. Since early April, it was known that the enemy is preparing a strike on the 3 Army, but the Stavka and the front persistently neglect this information and continue the offensive in the Carpathians, instead of going over to defense and regroup their forces and means. The command of the front and the army failed to organize the preparation and occupation of defensive lines in depth. As a result, when the Germans and the Austrians launched an offensive, one and a half Russian armies (8 and part of 3) turned out to be deeply stuck in the Carpathians, and could not quickly withdraw, regroup and stop the enemy. Moreover, instead of withdrawing the troops, taking them out from under the blow of the enemy, who has enormous superiority in heavy artillery, temporarily go on the defensive, transfer reserves and inflict a powerful flank counterattack, the Supreme Commander and Front Command require the command of the 3 Army go to the counter attack. The arriving reserves were used in parts, as they were approached, therefore weak frontal counterattacks did not reach the goal, and led to unjustifiably high losses. Reserves were substituted for the frontal blows of the enemy and wasted. Later, the Russian command could not organize a strike group on the flank of the advancing Mackensen ram, which could disrupt further advancement of the enemy.
Thus, the mistakes of command (at the level of the Headquarters, the front and the army) led to a severe defeat for the Russian army, leaving our troops to the whole of Galicia they had won. As a result of the Gorlitsky breakthrough, the successes of the Russian troops in the 1914 campaign of the year and in the Carpathian operation were frustrated, and the threat of encirclement of our armies in Poland arose.
In Vienna, Ottokar Chernin, a prominent politician and future Foreign Minister of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, suggested that the difficult military and political situation in Russia makes it possible to start separate negotiations with Petrograd. The politician believed that peace between the Central Powers and Russia is possible on the basis of an equal refusal of interested parties from all territorial acquisitions and claims. Chernin believed that the “most favorable chance” had come for the peace agreement. However, his proposal did not find support in Berlin. Kaiser Wilhelm and his entourage still counted on the complete collapse of the Russian army in the "Polish bag", after which it would be possible to negotiate with Petrograd from the position of the winner. The chance to start peace negotiations has been lost.
The western allies of Russia finally understood the danger of the situation on the Russian front. The performance of Italy could not balance the strike of the Austro-German troops in the East. However, neither the French army nor the English army at that time were able to launch a quick and powerful offensive against Germany.
Russian infantry armed with a three-line rifle of the 1891 model of the year (Mosin rifle)