Military Review

Harnessed theory

“There were so many prisoners that Hussar squadrons drowned among them.”

27 April 1915, the attack of the 3 of the cavalry corps, crushed the enemy's general army. The actions of the Russian cavalry in the First World War were at times of strategic importance, but remain a solid white spot.

By the beginning of the Zadnestrovsky battle, the 9 Army of General of Infantry P. A. Lechitsky had a significant number of cavalry units and formations. The 7,5 Infantry Division accounted for the 6,5 Cavalry Division. Almost half of the army consisted of mobile, mostly selected troops. This circumstance played a significant role in the unfolding battle. The 3 Cavalry Corps was to crush the Austrian front south of the Dniester, breaking through the fortified positions of the enemy. This went against both the theory and the practice of the First World War. The main gravity of the operation rested on the cavalry units.

The regiments of Count F. A. Keller, revealing a fortified enemy position, knocked the enemy out of a triple row of trenches with wire obstacles on the bank of the Dniester. The Russian cavalry broke through to the rear of the Austrians and captured the heights on the right bank of the Onut stream near the villages of Balamutovka, Rzhaventsy and Gromeshti. The most important task was assigned to parts of the 1-th Don Cossack Division. The 10 th Don Cossack regiment, breaking through a heavily fortified position (powerful trenches, wire barriers in the 12 – 15 series), captured about 600 prisoners of the lower ranks and six officers, four machine guns, four guns and six charging boxes. Reserve hundreds in a horse system, having passed the district dug in by trenches, began prosecution of the running enemy. Following the 1 th Don Keller immediately threw into the battle and 10-th cavalry division.

Fights proceeded with varying success. Russian cavalry had to endure the fierce onslaught of the Austrians. The commander of 10 of the Ingermanland Hussars, Colonel V.V. Cheslavsky described the enemy attack in memoirs: “At dawn on April 27, the enemy opened intensive gunfire of all calibres, which intensified by the 9 hours of the morning when he launched an offensive against the right flank of the occupied My regiment positions in the direction of the village Balamutivka. I took one squadron from my reserve ... During this time, the enemy’s chains managed to approach the 600’s steps towards our trenches and, coming under fire from a squadron and eight machine guns, began to suffer heavy losses, which made them lie down and pause. But his new thick chains continuously began to emerge from the forest. It was visible as the soldiers fell, as sheaves, neupayuschie went forward quite bravely and, having reached the front chain, poured into it. ”

The attack was repelled and the regiment, noticing the Austrian retreat had begun, rushed to pursue them in a horse formation. He attacked in the direction of the village of Yurkivtsi and the station of Okna, cutting off all enemy units between Balamutovka and the Dniester. Four hussar squadrons in the vanguard under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Barbovich were the first to enter the enemy infantry. As a result of this attack, more than a thousand prisoners were taken with the commander and brigade headquarters, several machine guns.

The regimental commander wrote: “We overtook entire enemy reserve columns, which were so frightened by the sight of cavalry that were rushing weapon and became crowded in heaps, raising their hands up. Many, for joy that they were not chopped and not stabbed with pikes, threw their helmets up and shouted "Goh." There are so many prisoners left in my rear, that the hussar squads sank positively among them. ”

Having broken through to the rear of the enemy during the swift operation, the divisions of the 3 Cavalry Corps attacked the enemy’s main position and its infantry, protected by several rows of wire obstacles, with a lot of dugouts and message moves. During the battle, selected infantry units of the enemy were overthrown and put to flight.

Crushed and cavalry of the enemy. Two Hungarian hussar regiments were crushed by the Cossacks and partly chopped up, partly taken prisoner. During the First World War, only the Magyars tried to withstand the dashing Cossack attacks, but, as shown история, even such inborn cavalrymen were in most cases bits. Four thousand prisoners, 3 guns and 10 machine guns of the enemy became the trophies of the 17 of the cavalry corps for the day of the battle.

A cavalry officer wrote: “What is the strength of the Russian cavalry and its Cossacks? Firstly, of course, in the wonderful military spirit of the Russian officer and soldier, in unshakable courage, dashingness and bravery of our cavalrymen and Cossacks, who in peacetime on races, felling, flanking and dzhigitovk so fascinated us our fellows. Secondly, in the magnificent upbringing and training of our cavalry, and thirdly, in a beautiful, powerful, unpretentious, equestrian composition, which runs well in the country. And we consider all these three qualities equivalent. ”

The attack at Balamutovka-Rzhaventsev is interesting for its scale: 90 squadrons and hundreds participated in it. Russian units depending on the situation acted as flexibly as possible. The Don Cossack regiments, on foot, breaking through the fortified position of the Austrians, developed this success with a horse attack, which completed the rout of the enemy. The command of the 3 Cavalry Corps used tactics such as massing attacks and building up efforts in the direction of the main attack.

Harnessed theory

In the Zadnestrovsky battle, the Russian cavalry played a strategic role — in the battles of Balamutovka-Rzhaventsev and Gorodenka, the fate of the army operation was decided: the enemy general army was defeated. It must be emphasized that the Russian cavalry acted during the positional period of the war, when active operations were expressed in the form of a breakthrough of the enemy front. And it was possible to develop the advantage only by a quick strike by a strong cavalry group. It is precisely the strategic cavalry, acting by significant masses, that solves the corresponding tasks.

Already after the first combat clashes, the superiority of the Russian cavalry over the enemy was revealed, both as personnel and in combat training. It is not surprising that the Austrians (to a lesser extent) and the Germans (to a greater extent), as a rule, avoided mass horse fights and in most cases preferred fire or foot fighting. At the same time, the history of the First World War abounds in such attacks of the Russian cavalry, and on infantry, machine guns, artillery, and even the fortified positions of the enemy. Many of these attacks were tactical and operational, and some were of strategic importance.

Horse attack - a means of combat is very risky, only determined warlords and hardened fighters can carry it out. Horse fights are usually fleeting, they require high moral tension and excellent training of troops, while firefight is less risky, easier to manage, although more prolonged.

It is not surprising that the cavalry achieved success where there were good commanders. It was once said that her story is made up of the glory of superiors. And this postulate is not outdated - in the conditions of the war of the beginning of the 20th century, the cavalry commander had to possess exceptional personal talents and a certain military talent. Such, as is known, are born rarely. But precisely F. A. Keller represented that type of ideal cavalry commander who was in demand by the world war.

In the battles of Balamutivka-Rzhavenets, large settlements of Zalishchy and Nadvorn were taken, and the 7-I of the Austro-Hungarian army of General K. von Pflanzer-Baltin was driven back over Prut. The breakthrough of the enemy front and the rapid advance of the cavalry in two or three days affected the central sector of the front of the army. The enemy began to hastily leave fortified positions against the Russian 30 and 11 of the army corps and retreat to the south - beyond the Prut and into the mountains.

But the main thing - the course of this unprecedented attack in history has shown: even in the context of a positional war in a network of wire obstacles, when a machine gun dominates the battlefield, the role of cavalry is not lost. The cavalry attack is not only possible, but in the appropriate operational and tactical conditions and with proper leadership, it promises unprecedented success.

Even during the hardest spring-summer campaign of 9, the 3-I Russian army and its 1915-th equestrian corps did not actually have any defeats.
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  1. avg-mgn
    avg-mgn 5 June 2016 07: 13
    An interesting article, to be honest - I didn’t know anything about these events. Thanks to the author! +
  2. Aleksandr72
    Aleksandr72 5 June 2016 07: 15
    "The attack was repulsed and the regiment, noticing the beginning of the withdrawal of the Austrians, rushed to chase them in horse formation. He attacked in the direction of the village of Yurkovtsi and the Okna station, cutting off all enemy units located between Balamutovka and the Dniester."

    This decision of the command was the reason for the success of the Russian cavalry and Cossacks in these battles. If the cavalry acted in accordance with the requirements of the pre-war combat regulations of 1912, the result of the battle could be deplorable for the Russian cavalry.
    Shortly before the war, in 1912, the army received a new cavalry charter, in which for the first time foot and horse combat were recognized as equivalent. The drill cavalry charter of 1912 defined the main task of the cavalry in "assisting other arms of the army in achieving a common goal." This Charter was the first to speak of mobility of large forces in battle - maneuver by groups on the battlefield as a means of preparing the last strike with an equestrian mass - “shock”.
    However, this charter, as well as its complementary “Instructions for the Cavalry Classes” of 1912, stated that a cavalry unit was considered prepared if it was able to fulfill all the tasks ahead of it in wartime. Among these tasks, the following skills were especially distinguished: attack in a horse formation all kinds of enemy troops;
    2.prepare the success of a horse attack by fire;
    3.Free to maneuver in any terrain, without violating the order of movement, overcoming obstacles and applying to the terrain;
    4. act in a hurry offensively and defensively;
    5. to make hiking movements, both day and night;
    6. carry out a security and reconnaissance service, both on a campaign and on a bivouac.
    De facto, this charter provided for an attack on machine guns and artillery of the enemy in an equestrian system. The result of such an attack is easy to imagine. Ultimately, the transition to a positional trench warfare reduced the role of cavalry at the front to almost zero. This was especially characteristic of the Western Front - not without reason the Germans practically transferred all their cavalry formations and units against the Russians - they could still be used on the Eastern Front. Although here, the cavalry gradually turned into a traveling infantry.
    Source: Oskin M.V. The collapse of the equestrian blitzkrieg. Cavalry in the First World War. M., Yauza: Eksmo, 2009
    1. Army soldier2
      Army soldier2 6 June 2016 11: 50
      You, dear, did not understand the provisions of the charter.
      Indeed, in the WWI, in most cases, the cavalry used the horse as a means of transportation. This is a consequence of a change in the methods of conducting defense and offensive in a positional war.
      The charter did not at all require attacking in a horse formation the fortified (unsuppressed) enemy defenses.
      A modern combat charter, for example, provides for an offensive both on foot and on an infantry fighting vehicle (APC), provided that the enemy’s defense is suppressed.
  3. V.ic
    V.ic 5 June 2016 08: 22
    It would be a sin not to use the quantitative and qualitative superiority of the Russian cavalry over the enemy! The surname Barbovich, unfortunately without initials, is announced. It seems to me that this is Barbovich Ivan Gavrilovich, the future ally of A.I. Denikin, one of the heroes of the white movement.
  4. Basil50
    Basil50 5 June 2016 08: 55
    Glory to the RUSSIAN WARRIORS. Thank you for not forgetting about WWI and those who fought. It would be nice if the editorial staff prepared an article about the RUSSIAN MILITIES who fought in France.
    1. V.ic
      V.ic 5 June 2016 15: 14
      Quote: Vasily50
      It would be nice if the editorial staff prepared an article about the RUSSIAN MILITIES who fought in France.

      Read the book by R.Ya. Malinovsky "Soldiers of Russia". You will not regret! You can download almost everything now ...
      1. Basil50
        Basil50 6 June 2016 10: 31
        I read, there are only those who have not even heard about it.
  5. russkiy redut
    russkiy redut 5 June 2016 15: 44
    Glorious pages of Russian weapons and Russian soldiers !!
    DJDJ GORA 6 June 2016 22: 00
    Class! I live here nearby and how happy the article is. In the Rzhavantsy, a scout Elizaveta Yulievna Zarubina was born.
  7. Cherkasy
    Cherkasy 6 June 2016 23: 52
    Very interesting article, thanks to the author.
  8. soldier
    soldier 4 January 2017 19: 26
    thanks to the author for a great article