Situation in other directions
In the preceding period, neither the Western nor the Northern Fronts could not support Brusilov’s army. The Western Front under the command of the Infantry General A.Ye. Evert conducted June 20 (July 3) - July 12 (25) July 1916, the Baranovichi operation. Evert minimized the offensive by placing a German-Austrian front breakthrough at Baranavichy on the general of infantry A. F. Ragoza (4 Corps) 4 Army, while not all army troops participated in the operation. The Germans discovered the preparation of the offensive, so there was no surprise. In addition, the shelling began a few days before the attack, which also unmasked preparations for the offensive. There was almost no engineering training. Intelligence has not coped with its task. German positions consisted of 2 or 3 reinforced lanes: the second and third lanes with concreted long-term fortifications were not found by the Russian troops. The situation was aggravated by the mistakes of the Russian command during the offensive itself: the troops were thrown into battle in parts, without communication and interaction. Numerical superiority was not used: of the large number of troops collected for the operation, the bulk remained inactive while the attacking units were choking with blood, then the bloodless parts were replaced with fresh pieces and the attacks at the same lines repeated again and again. As a result, the offensive sank in the blood. Our troops lost up to 80 thousand killed and wounded.
Thus, having the command of the Western Front having several months to prepare, having a triple margin in manpower and some superiority in artillery, could not organize a normal operation and the Russian units could not break through the fortified German positional front, having mastered only the first fortified line in certain areas of the offensive. Moreover, by a powerful short counterattack, the German units were able to partially restore their original position. None of the tasks of the Baranovichi operation was completed. The Western Front was unable to improve its position, did not create the conditions for a future offensive, did not distract the enemy’s attention from the South-Western Front. Even at the height of the operation at Baranavichy, the German command continued to withdraw forces from the strip of the Western Front for transfer to the south. Huge losses in the absence of results had a very negative impact on the morale of the Russian troops, in which anti-war moods intensified. Soon, in 1917, this gave the most fertile ground for revolutionary propaganda among the troops and made parts of the Western front more susceptible to the influence of revolutionaries.
The northern front, under the command of General A. N. Kuropatkin, remained inactive throughout May and June, when Brusilov’s armies fought in bloody battles in the south. Kuropatkin confined himself to attempting an attack on Bausk 9 (22) in July by the forces of the 12 Army commanded by General R. D. Radko-Dmitriev. Six-day battles yielded no results, the losses of the 12 Army amounted to about 15 thousand people. Kuropatkin was hastily sent to Turkestan, where he proved himself to be a talented manager, quickly and almost without bloodshed having calmed down unrest among the native population. New commander was N.V. Ruzskoy. He canceled the landing operation planned by the former command in the rear of the enemy.
The plan of attack. Forces of the parties
In July, the Russian Bet transferred to the south guards and strategic reserves of Transbaikalian Cossacks (Guards detachment - 1 and 2-th Guards infantry and Guards cavalry corps), as well as the 4-th Siberian corps, creating a special army of General Bezobrav. At the same time, the 3 Army Corps was transferred from the Northern Front. The left-handed 7 and 9 armies were reinforced by the 3 infantry and 1 cavalry divisions. In early July, the front-right armies of the front were regrouped. The Bezobrav group was advanced between the 3 and 8 armies, and the right-flank corps of the 8 army was handed over to it.
The following tasks were assigned to the South-Western Front: on the whole, the 3, Special and 8 armies must defeat the enemy grouping defending Kovel and take the city. 3-I army was supposed to attack Kovel from the north and east, take the ferry across the river. Stokhod and then act in the rear of the Pinsk group of German troops. The Bezobrav group was to force Stokhod and cover Kovel from the south. 8-I army aimed at Vladimir-Volynsky. 11-I army attacked Brody and Lviv; 7-I army - to Monastyrysku, 9-I army, moving forward, turns to the north, to Stanislav. A general offensive was assigned to 15 (28) in July. 1916. Sakharov's 11 Army should have launched an offensive earlier than other armies.
Thus, the Russian Stavka ordered to strike at the strongest place of the Austro-German front in the Kovel direction. Although this territory was impassable by nature and further strengthened by fortifications. This section of the front was defended by the best German divisions. In addition, when in late May – early June 1916, General Brusilov demanded that the 8 Army advance on Kovel, the operation was significant in helping the Western Front. The front of Evert was to deliver the brunt of the summer offensive. And the offensive of the troops of the Southwestern Front in the Kovel direction was supposed to support the attack of the neighbors. Now, when the Western front was only to bind the enemy, the movement on Kovel lost strategic importance.
Three Russian armies on the right wing, on the Kovel direction (3-I, Special and 8-I armies) - were opposed by the Linzingen group of forces: the Gronau, Gower, Fata, Luttwitz Bernhardi groups and the 4-I Austro-Hungarian army. In total, our opponent had 29 infantry and 12 cavalry divisions against our 25,5 Infantry and 7 cavalry divisions. That is, the forces were approximately equal, especially given the strong German fortifications.
In the center, in the direction of Lviv Russian 11-th army - 14,5 infantry and 2 cavalry divisions - opposed subordinates Linzingenu group Georg von der Marwitz and group Boehm Yermolov - 1-I and 2-I Austro-Hungarian army, only 13 infantry and 2,5 cavalry divisions. The Russian 7 Army with the 10 infantry and 2 cavalry divisions was opposed by the South German army - the 11 infantry and 1 cavalry division.
On the left flank of the 9 Russian Army - 11 infantry and 5 cavalry divisions, opposed two enemy armies: 3-I Austrian army in Zadnestrovie and 7-I Austrian army in the Carpathians, total 14,5 infantry and 4 ca. The South German Army, the 3-I and 7-I Austro-Hungarian armies formed the group of troops of the Archduke Charles.
Thus, the 63,5 infantry and 21 cavalry divisions of the Russian army, deployed from Pripyat to Romania, needed to defeat the 63,5 infantry and 145 cavalry Austro-German divisions that were strongly reinforced and had almost widows of the strongest artillery. The South-Western Front received reinforcements, but too late, the enemy also redeployed new divisions and reliably covered the southern strategic direction.
The first 3 (16) of July launched the offensive of the 11-I army of Sakharov. In the battle on 3-4 on July, the 5 Army and the 5 Siberian Corps threw the Marvitsa group over this river, while the 32 Corps strongly pressed the 1 Austrian-Hungarian army into Puhallo. Then four Sakharov's right-flank corps (8, 5, 5 Siberian and 32) 7 (20) in July forced Styr and the next day threw the enemy over the r. Lipu. 12 (25) July 11-I army attacked again. Slonevka was forced and the battle for Brody began.
15 (28) July 1916 of Brusilov’s army launched an offensive on the entire front. At the beginning, the 3 Army advanced somewhat, but on July 19-20, the enemy (the Gronau group) launched a counter-offensive and pressed the 4 Siberian and 3 Army Corps. The offensive bypassing Kovel from the north choked.
Bezobravo’s special army achieved great success, but because of command errors it did not develop. On the right flank of the 30 corps of General Zayonchkovsky forced Stokhod and deeply wedged into the location of the enemy. In the center of 1-th army corps of General Dushkevich and 1-th Guards Corps of Grand Duke Pavel Alexandrovich did not succeed and suffered heavy losses. However, on the left flank of the 2-th Guards Corps of General Rauch broke the group Lutvitsa. On the very first day, the Russian Guards captured more than 20 thousand people and captured 56 guns. But Bezobrazov stopped the successful movement of the 30 corps behind Stokhod, which promised a major victory, and began to equalize the corps and failed to use the victory of the guard under the Trestin. In the following days, the enemy recovered and restored the defense. Von Berngardi's troops with a strong blow to the 1 Army Corps, between the 30 Corps and the 1 Guards Corps, prevented the further advance of our troops. Thus, 21 (August 3) July, the first stage of the Kovel battle was completed. Our troops achieved tactical success, but the enemy front retained its integrity.
In other areas, our troops have achieved greater success. 8-I army Kaledin attacked Vladimir-Volyn. The right-flank 39 and 23 corps, which attacked the positions of the Berngardi group, did not succeed. But the left-flank 40 and 8 corps completely defeated the 4 th Austro-Hungarian army of General Terstiansky in the battle of Koshev. The 8 Corps of Dragomirov, with a Suvorov throw, crushed two enemy divisions from the Shurmai Corps. The arrows of the 40 th “steel” corps supported the initiative and exterminated the other enemy corps - the 10. Moreover, our troops rushed into a rapid attack just after 15 minute fire training! It was for the enemy a complete surprise. In the course of this short but dazzling fight, in the enemy divisions, there remained from 600 to 1800 bayonets. In the Koshevsky battle more than 9 thousand people were captured, 46 guns were captured. In total, the entire Austro-Hungarian army of 38 thousand fighters left 17 thousand people. In a few hours of battle, the Austro-Hungarian army lost its combat capability.
The enemy was shocked. The Austro-German command in Galicia had to pull out separate units (regiments and even battalions) directly from the battlefield and throw them under Koshev in cars in order to save the 4 army. If Kaledin continued the victorious breakthrough of the 40 and 8 corps and threw into the 5 cavalry corps, and not just two regiments, the entire Lsingingen front collapsed in the evening of 15 (28). And the front headquarters could transfer the main blow to the Vladimir-Volyn area, which promised decisive success in the whole operation. However, Kaledin's headquarters was too far from the front line and found out about the victory not only later than the headquarters of Terstiansky, the Austrian commander-in-chief Conrad von Hötsendorf, but even later than Hindenburg. As a result, time was lost. Our troops only 17 (30) July continued the offensive. The enemy has already managed to close the gap with the Litzmann 40 German Corps (108 German Division and separate battalions in reserve regiments), which became the core of the soldered 4 Austrian-Hungarian army.
The 11 Army continued the previously launched offensive. At the center of the 17 and 32 corps took Brody, completing the victory of a four-day battle. Our troops captured about 14 thousand people. The 1 th Austro-Hungarian army, Puhallo, and the left flank of the 2 th Austro-Hungarian army, a group of General Kozak, suffered heavy losses in the battle from 11 to 15 in July. The 18 Corps and the Kozak group lost up to half of their membership. Hindenburg had to throw new 3 divisions from the French front to save Lviv. German divisions were General von Eben's 1 Corps. The troops of the 1 th Austro-Hungarian army were attached to the 2 th army. Army control was transferred to Transylvania. General Puhallo was replaced by General von Arz.
However, there was a negative characteristic of the royal army. On the right flank of the 11 Army, the commander of the 5 Corps, General Baluyev, refused to support the attack of the adjacent 8 Corps of the “alien” 8 Army. General Brusilov always urged not to reckon with the "dividing lines" and to support neighbors. But Baluev was not concerned. However, he was not only not punished, but soon he was promoted. Favorite Stakes Baluyev received a special army.
7-I army at that time fought local battles. The offensive developed slowly. The positions of the South German army were too strong, and the commander Shcherbachev waited for the success of his neighbors, the 11 and 9 armies, to weaken the enemy.
On the left flank of the front, the 9-I army of Lechitsky achieved brilliant successes. 15 (28) July The 41 Corps broke through enemy defenses at the junction of the Hodfi and Crevel groups, and the 33 Corps struck a powerful frontal attack. At the same time, the central 12 corps broke through the positions of the 3 of the Austro-Hungarian Army. On the night of the 16, the enemy retreated along the whole front. In the 15 battles of July, 9 Army troops captured 8 thousand people, captured an 21 gun. However, the army headquarters did not use this success. Smashing and dropping the enemy on all fronts, General Lechitsky stopped the offensive. He feared strengthening the enemy in the Carpathians against the weak left flank of the army and stretching the 9 army in two directions - towards Galich and into Transylvania.
Indeed, on July 20 (August 2), Archduke Karl launched a counter-offensive by the X-NUMX Army of Pflancer, reinforced by 7 (then 3) by the German divisions from France. From the German divisions (including the two elite Jaeger) formed the Carpathian Corps under the command of General Comte. The left flank of our army (4 infantry divisions and 2 th cavalry corps) pushed. Persistent battles with more than twice the superior forces of the enemy were six days, but the offensive outburst of the German Carpathian Corps was broken. General Lechitsky demanded reinforcements, as he had to attack in Galicia and hold defenses in Bukovina, having two strong enemy armies in front of him. The headquarters ordered the 3 army to help the 7, and General Shcherbachev sent the 9 division to Lechitsa, controlled by the 37 corps. This strengthened the left flank of the 18 Army and allowed Lechitsky to continue the offensive.
Thus, the first stage of the Kovel battle revealed the hopelessness of a further offensive on the Kovel direction, where the best forces of the Russian army died in the marshes on the Stokhod river. It was necessary to find the best use of selective regiments of the South-Western Front — to develop an offensive in the sectors of the army of Kaledin, Sakharov or Lechitsky. However, nothing of this was done. The stake again ordered to attack Kovel, to attack with the same forces and the same means, although the enemy was already ready to attack the Russian troops in this direction.
To be continued ...