On July 14, 1915, German troops approached the Novogeorgievskaya fortress. Over the next few days German aviation carried out active aerial reconnaissance of the serf area, and then the approaching troops proceeded to encircle and prepare for the siege. The siege of Novogeorgievsk was led by an experienced military commander, Colonel General Hans Hartwig von Bezeler, who became famous for the subjugation of Antwerp. Under his command was the Bezeller Army Group. It originally consisted of the 14th division of the landver of the XVII reserve corps and the combined corps of Dikhut, as well as the reserve brigade of Pfeil, the 21st and 169th brigades of the landver - only 45 infantry battalions. The Bezeller Army Group had 84 heavy artillery guns. The main striking force of the German siege corps was the famous "Big Berts" - mortars with a caliber of 420 mm and a weight of 42,6 tons, with a firing range of 14 km and a projectile weight of 900 kg. At the beginning of the war, the Berthes were one of the largest siege weapons.
German troops surrounded Novogeorgievsk with cautious and insignificant forces. However, the command of the Russian fortress did not show any activity without disturbing the enemy to surround Novogeorgiyevsk. Taking advantage of this, the German forces systematically, pulling up artillery batteries, surrounded Novogeorgievsk, occupying one by one advanced fortifications. 22 July 1915, the command of the 1 of the Russian army, the decision to undermine the forts Zegrzha, Dembe and Belyamin. However, the lack of pyroxylin and the mess and confusion characteristic of the then Russian army led to the fact that they could not even destroy their forts.
A very sad picture of the situation in the Russian army emerges in the report of the Chief of Staff of the 1 Army, Lieutenant-General I. Z. Odishelidze: “Belyaminov's fort is not prepared for destruction: calculations are made, wells are drilled, a network is laid, but neither pyroxylin nor gunpowder is drilled No blocking. For an explosion of fortifications in Dembe, the troops of the 1 of the Turkestan Corps, which was in the rear guard on the positions between Bugo-Narev and Vistula, were transferred to 500 pyroxylin poods instead of the necessary 800, but those, on instructions from the command, were returned to Novogeorgievsk fortress. Zegrzh did not wait for the explosives.
24 July fell Pultusk, and German troops began to cross the river Narev. At the same time, the Russian command ordered on the night of July 25 to withdraw the 28 army and 1 Turkestan corps. On August 5, General Westergagen, who was subordinate to Bezeleru, was ordered to levy Novogeorgievsk from the south. On the same day, shelling of the forward positions of the Dembe and Zegrzh forts was launched. The defenses of these positions, disarmed before the war, were very small and were abandoned on the night of 6 on 7 of August. The environment of Novogeorgievsk was almost complete. Russian troops crossed the Narew, leaving not only the advanced forts, but the entire right bank of the river. By August 11 German troops occupied the Belian fort.
As a result, Westergagen detachment and 169-I Landwehr Brigade, separated by the Vistula - from the south, Xwex-Landwehr Brigade and Pfeil Brigade - from the north-east, XnUMX-Landwehr Division from the north and Dikhut Corps - from the north-west - to 21 August closed around the Russian fortress ring encirclement. At the same time, the Germans conducted an aerial bombardment of fortifications.
The complete passivity of the Russian command allowed the enemy to take up serious fortifications without much resistance. The forces liberated during the clearing of the advanced fortifications were not used to hinder the enemy in imposing a fortress. There were no counterattacks against the attacking enemy, including night attacks, no artillery ambushes, or other active actions. In fact, only the squadron based in Yablon had opposed the enemy.
The German command, noting the passivity of the Russians, made the risky decision to abandon the correct siege and take the fortress with an accelerated attack, organizing a massive strike in one direction with the support of artillery fire from heavy and superheavy guns. The German command especially relied on the power of artillery, which was to demoralize the passive and few, in the opinion of the German generals, Russian garrison. The direction of the main attack was that the Germans chose the sector formed by the channels of the Vkra and Narev rivers, since the railway branch line running through it provided for the supply of ammunition. The front of the attack was only a kilometer 4 and here the German troops supported the overwhelming fire of 35 batteries. As noted above, the artillery preparation and attack of Novogeorgievsk by the German troops was facilitated by the capture of the defensive fortifications of the Novgeorgievsk fortress after the death of engineer Korotkevich.
Thus, the Germans decided to take a huge fortress on the move, without a gradual siege. The direction of their attack was obvious - along the railway line, which brought heavy weapon and ammunition. If the garrison of Novogeorgievsk were in combat readiness, and he was headed by a determined commander, the Germans could be in a difficult situation.
At dawn 16 August 1915, the German troops launched a general attack by the fort groups XV “Tsar's Gift” and XVI. A powerful onslaught, supported by overwhelming artillery fire, was crowned with success. Germanic attacking groups penetrated the fortifications of the forts XVa and XVb. At the same time, the Germans were able to beat the success of a rather small force - the 5 and 6 companies of the Saxon Landwehr Regiment took Fort XVa on the right flank of the Tsar's Gift, although they suffered serious losses. That is, two companies Landwehr day attack were able to capture the powerful fort of the fortress.
However, despite the successes of the German troops, the fortress could still resist for a long time. The German infantry in the attempts of point breakthroughs suffered great losses. The balance of power was in favor of the defenders. For three days of fierce fighting, the Germans at the price of great blood took only 2 fort from 33. The constantly growing might of artillery shelling did not cause significant damage to the Russian casemate fortifications, since the fortifications of the enormous fortress could withstand hits of heavy projectiles with a caliber of 420 mm. Apparently, even with such a passive defense, the Russian fortress could still hold on. The German command would have to abandon the tactics of fast attack.
A huge role in this situation was played by the personality of the commandant of the fortress. As noted above, commandant Bobyr was not a warrior. The rapid fall of the two forts had a very strong negative impression on General Bobyr, which even the successful repulsion of the German attack 17 of August could not smooth out. Being at a complete loss, on the night of 18 in August, he gave the order to clear the fort groups XV and XVI. This decision was disastrous. Russian troops left five forts, and retreated to the inner line of the forts. It was no longer possible to eliminate the breach in the outer line of the forts. The Germans were able to pull up artillery and fire at the central forts of Novogeorgievsk. Landver received a bridgehead for the development of the offensive. The retreating forces of the Russian garrison lost the opportunity to organize defense at an intermediate position on the r. Vkra The morale of the entire garrison was very much undermined.
Less than a day after the order to clear the fort groups XV and XVI, Bobyr decides to evacuate the fort groups X-XIII. Although no objective reason to leave these fortifications was not. At dawn of 19, the German troops occupied the 10 of the forts left by the Russians and reached the internal defensive line by noon. From the northern approaches, the core of the fortress, crowded with almost completely demoralized troops, was defended by only three forts (I, II, III). The fall of the fortress became inevitable.
Thus, instead of an active and long-lasting defense of the fortress, and for this there were all the resources - manpower, artillery and powerful fortifications, Bobyr with his treacherous actions, with the full connivance of other senior commanders (among the officers there was a plan to arrest Bobyr and elect another head of defense, but remained a good wish), led to the fall of the fortress of Novgeorge.
In order to prevent the enemy from seizing standards and secret documentation, the pilots organized an evacuation. Brave aviators flew over the territory of the enemy 200 kilometers and descended from Belostok. Sub lieutenant K. K. Vakulovsky, head captain Yu. M. Kozmin, head captain A. N. Livotov, head captain I. I. Masalsky and other brave Russian pilots rescued the banners of a number of units, regalia and some secret documents.
Meanwhile, the German troops continued their offensive and within a few hours took the forts III and II. By the evening of August 19, the Germans reached the inner ring of fortifications. General Bobyr, finding further resistance useless, surrendered, was taken to von Bezeler’s main apartment, where he signed an order to surrender the fortress at night, motivated by the reluctance of "further bloodshed."
The artillery bombardment of the fortress continued after the commandant Bobyr ran across and signed a criminal order to surrender the fortress on the night of 19 on 20 in August. Before that, the commandant ordered the garrison troops to assemble in the square and surrender their weapons. Only five officers did not obey this order (история retained the names of only four of them - Fedorenko, Stefanov, Ber and Berg). They left the fortress and, having overcome a loose environment, which indicates the weakness of the German siege corps, 18 days made their way to the rear of the enemy. Having passed about 400 kilometers, the officers, according to one data, got to Vilna, and according to others - they went to the location of the Russian units near Minsk. For this feat, all five were awarded the Order of Vladimir 4 -th degree with swords and bow.
This incident showed that the encirclement ring was loose and, with morale, part of the garrison could break through to its own. There have been a lot of cases of successful breakthrough of large parts and formations of troops from the environment. So repeatedly the Germans acted, and the Russians. But in the whole huge garrison there were all five brave men who decided on such a step! This is a good example of the fall in the combat capability of the tsarist army.
In the evening of the same day Kaiser Wilhelm II himself arrived in Novogeorgiyevsk - he arrived, as befits a triumphant, accompanied by the highest command officials of the German army. The German emperor Wilhelm telegraphed to the Greek queen that after the capture of the fortress German troops captured 90 thousand prisoners and 1500 guns. Germans somewhat exaggerated the number of prisoners and trophies. It is known that 1680 guns were in service with the fortress, part of which was confiscated by field troops. Military historian Kersnovsky gives the following figures: "The 1096 fortress and 108 field guns are lost in the fortress, 1204 in total is lost." At the same time, the Germans transferred part of the artillery park of the fortress to the Western Front, and they eventually again became trophies, but already the former allies of Russia in the Entente. After the end of the war, the French put these Russian guns in Paris.
The Russian army suffered great damage in manpower. In the historical literature that addresses this issue, there are exaggerated numbers - up to 100-120 thousand people. The most common in the domestic literature is the number in 80 thousand prisoners. The list of the garrison Novogeorgievsk numbered 1547 officers, 490 doctors and officials, 119335 lower ranks. To them you can add the remnants of the retreating Russian parts. But it is necessary to subtract a certain number of deserters who are behind the retreating units. In the New George Fortress surrendered the regiments of the 58, 63, 114, 119 infantry divisions, the entire 16 regiments of the whole. A 23 general fell into captivity to the Germans!
Thus, the losses of the tsarist army by prisoners in Novogeorgievsk were 1,4 times higher than the total losses of captives in the entire Russian-Japanese war 1904-1905, and the number of captive generals in Novogeorgiyevsk was the largest loss for the Russian army during the First World War. The fall of the most powerful fortress of the Russian Empire was the tragic apotheosis of the Great 1915 retreat.
Summary of the Great Retreat
22 August Russian troops left the fortress Osovets. On August 26, Brest-Litovsk and Olita were evacuated, and on September 2 they left Grodno with fights. The front stabilized on the Riga-Dvinsk-Baranovichi-Pinsk-Dubno-Tarnopol line. Russia lost 15% territory, 30% industry and about 10% railways.
The fall of Novogeorgiyevsk had a number of consequences both for the situation at the front and for the state as a whole. The German command liberated the 3 divisions, which were reinforced by the 10 army. The Russian High Command, depressed by the fall of Novogeorgievsk and Kovno, decided to evacuate Brest-Litovsk. Although, in the opinion of its commandant V. A. Layming, with reasonable expenditure of food, the fortress was able to defend from six months to 8 months. As a result, a chain of military disasters occurred - the fall and surrender of the strongest fortresses of Kovno, Grodno, Brest - Litovsk, the capture of many tens of thousands of Russian soldiers. If in June 1915, the Russian army suffered terrible losses as a result of fierce and stubborn fighting, in August - as a result of mass surrender.
Russian Stake was at a loss. General Alekseev, who came to GHQ in September 1914, was “struck by the disorder reigning there, confusion and despondency. Both Nikolai Nikolayevich and Yanushkevich were taken aback by the failures of the North-Western Front and do not know what to do. ” The Supreme Commander Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich did not cope with his task. In such circumstances, Tsar Nicholas II decided to remove the Grand Duke and himself stand at the head of the army. As Kersnovsky wrote: “This was the only way out of the current critical situation. Every hour of delay threatened death. The supreme commander and his staff could not cope with the situation any more - they had to be replaced immediately. And in the absence of a commander in Russia, only the Sovereign could replace the Supreme. ”
It is worth noting that in the same period, the rate plan for the "revival of the atmosphere of the 1812 national war of the year" failed. The decision of the Supreme Command Headquarters on organizing the evacuation of the population of the western regions deep into Russia sharply worsened the already unfavorable socio-economic and national situation in Russia. All the roads of Lithuania and Belarusian Polesie were instantly filled with endless chains of carts and crowds of refugees. They mingled with the retreating troops, greatly hindering their movement, and created an atmosphere of demoralization and doom. A huge wave of impoverished, embittered refugees: Russians, Jews and Poles swept the central provinces of Russia. The total number of refugees to Central Russia reached 1915 by the end of 10, millions of people. The guerrilla movement in the rear of the German army along the lines of the 1812 failed. But the authorities organized a huge migration wave, which will be one of the prerequisites of the 1917 state disaster of the year.
“The stake did not realize that,” noted the historian Anton Kersnovsky, “that, having raised all this four millionth mass of women, children and old people, it should also take care of their food. ... Many half-starved people, especially children, died of cholera and typhoid. The survivors, turned into a poor, declassed proletariat, were transported deep into Russia. One of the sources of replenishment of the future red guard was ready. "
“Of all the grave consequences of the war,” Alexander Krivoshein, chief commander of agriculture (one of P. Stolypin’s associates), said at a government meeting on August 12 of the year, urging people to evacuate is the most unexpected, the most terrible and most irreparable phenomenon. And worst of all - it is not caused by real need or popular impulse, but invented by wise strategists to intimidate the enemy. Good way to fight! Curses, diseases, grief and poverty are spreading throughout Russia. Hungry and ragged mobs everywhere instill panic, the last remnants of the rise of the first months of the war quench. They walk in a solid wall, trample on bread, spoil the meadows - the peasantry is beginning to grumble more and more loudly. ... I think that the Germans are not without pleasure watching this "repetition of the 1915 of the year". "
Severe defeats of the Russian army caused delight in the German press and society. German burghers staged solemn demonstrations and processions with banners, posters and shouting cries: “Russland Kaput!” The Russian defeat was rapidly rejoicing in Turkey. However, in fact, the German victories did not lead to a strategic turning point in the war. During the summer of 1915, the Russian army left Galicia, Lithuania and Poland, that is, not only lost all acquisitions of the 1914 campaign, but also lost its own lands. But the strategic plan to defeat the Russian army failed. Russia continued to fight. The Russian army avoided a large-scale encirclement and in the fall of 1915, responded with a number of counterstrikes. The position of Germany and its allies deteriorated every month. The resources of the Central Powers were more scarce than those of the Entente, the protracted war inevitably led Berlin, Vienna and Istanbul to defeat.
The German army failed to achieve a decisive victory and in September 1915 of the year stopped the offensive. Several factors have played their role: 1) fierce resistance of the Russian army, which led to heavy losses of the German and Austro-Hungarian troops. The Germans and the Austrians paid for their victories on the Eastern Front at a very high price. For example, the Prussian Guards Corps suffered only losses in the 1915 of the year on the Eastern Front in 175% of personnel, that is, it was almost destroyed twice. German troops were tired and could not build on success.
2) The apparent reluctance of a part of the German generals to advance further into Russia. Many were afraid to repeat the experience of Napoleon and Charles XII. The German army could get bogged down on the colossal expanses of Russia and be defeated on the Western Front.
3) The ever-increasing length of communications to supply the German army, the deterioration of the road network in the depths of Russia and the approaching autumn season of rains and winter, which sharply worsened the possibilities for movement and active combat operations. From each week of the offensive, the German infantry officers assessed the Russian positions as more and more difficult to attack and demanded more and more lengthy artillery preparation.
4) It became clear that the strategic plan to encircle and destroy the main forces of the Russian army failed. A new plan was required.
Retreating Russian troops
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