from the weekly newsmagazine 'The War of the Nations'


By Edgar Wallace


Russian Troops Entering Przemysl




Failure of Russia's First Attempt - Settling Down to a Long Siege - Austria's Desperate Efforts at Relief - What the Fall of the Fortress Means to Russia's Campaign.


The fall of Przemysl was a great blow to Germany. For months strenuous efforts had been made to relieve the fortress. By attacking and engaging the Russians in East Prussia and Poland Germany had hoped to relieve the pressure on Przemysl. The fall of the fortress was as severe a blow to Germany as it was to Austria, because Germany, after her Allies became involved in difficulties during the first three months of the war, had in a large measure assumed the control of the Austro-Hungarian military operations.

The story of Russian strategy which led up to and eventually accomplished the fall of Przemysl exemplifies in a striking manner the ability with which the Russian Generals carried out the campaigns. Without doubt, amongst the many miscalculations of the Germans, not the least was the underestimating of the strategic ability of the Russian Generals and the fighting qualities of the armies of the Czar.

In the early days of the war the Austrian hosts had passed like a wave across Galicia, had swept beyond the River San and had threatened Holy Russia itself. A great Austrian army bivouacked before Lublin, about 80 miles to the north of Przemysl.

I have already described how this Austrian army, after terrific fighting was driven south as far as Rawa Ruska and Jaroslau, 23 miles north of Przemysl. The Russians again, as we know, engaged the enemy in furious battles at both these places; they were forced to retreat from Rawa Ruska, and Jaroslau was destroyed by the end of September. The Austrians were then compelled to fall back as far as Grodek, from which place they were also pitilessly driven out after a tremendous struggle in which both sides lost heavily. Meanwhile, the city of Lemberg, some 50 miles east of Przemysl, had fallen to the victorious Russians.

They pushed on to Sambor in the south-west which they occupied, as well as Chyron, a town lying 20 miles to the south of Przemysl. It was thus Russian strategy succeeded in isolating Przemysl, as a glance at the map on page 203 will show. The huge battles in which probably two and a half million troops had fought had no parallel in fierceness the fighting was of the most desperate and dreadful character, the Russians in the end being everywhere victorious. Their losses were very great, but no less were those of the Austrians, whose disastrous retreat from one position to another left them beaten and broken, and appeals were made to Germany for assistance. The Austrians, out of the army of 1 ¼ millions, probably lost in killed, wounded and prisoners, 500,000 men.

Przemysl by the end of September was thus practically isolated. But Przemysl held out throughout the winter until the end of March, and it is the story of the siege of this fortress that I have now to tell.

North of the Carpathians, in a wind-swept valley, midway between the foot hills of the mountains and the River San, Przemysl, with its encircling forts, stood a menace to all invading armies who aimed at the northern Carpathian slopes. A little distance to the west the great fortress town of Cracow guarded the road to Silesia and the rich Hungarian plains.

It seemed as though Przemysl, the greatest of the Galician fortresses east of Cracow, was to surrender after the shortest defence. In their first attack upon Przemysl the Russians hammered to chaos two of the forts which protected the town on the north side, but they were not to be allowed to continue their efforts without challenge. Von Hindenburg, the German General, who had been successful against the Russians at Tannenberg, recognised the danger which threatened, not from the successful army in Galicia, but from the new and great Russian forces which were gathering behind the Vistula. He determined to deliver a smashing blow at Russian resistance, occupy Warsaw, cross the Vistula again at Ivangorod and arrest, at any rate for the moment, the concentration of further Russian forces in that theatre of war.

A cloud of Russian cavalry feeling cautiously through the country between the Prussian border and the Vistula felt these German solid masses, examined them and found in them too serious an enemy to play with and went back to the Vistula. At the same time the army hammering away at Przemysl withdrew, and the Austrian force, which came up through the Dukla Pass and by the railways which cross the Carpathians at two or three points found themselves hailed as saviours, though, in truth, they had done very little to relieve Przemysl from the hurried attentions of the Russian.

So that Przemysl now accounted itself safe from any further tribulation. For a short interval, communications were again open between Przemysl and Cracow. Its gaily clad Austrian officers had thronged its cafés, its paved streets had echoed to the tramp of Austrian legions, its huge forts with their 30-centimetre guns had been thoroughly over-hauled, ammunition had been stocked, and the underground galleries cleared, “all as a matter of precaution," said an Austrian journalist writing in November, “not that we ever expect to hear another Russian gun in this neighbourhood, for the barbarians are well on the north of the San, flying for their lives."

In time the garrison had been denuded; the majority of the soldiers and officers had disappeared from the town to the trench lines northward. A certain tranquillity, broken only by the activity which is inseparable from a military base, reigned in the Galician town.

What followed Von Hindenburg's attempt to establish himself at Warsaw we know. He was not only driven back to before Thorn, where he recovered and inflicted a defeat upon the Russian. But very shortly after, the Austrians holding the line of the San were decisively beaten by the Russians, fell back about Przemysl and to the Carpathians, and left a Russian force to renew its attack upon the Galician fortress.

Then one day strange things happened. Przemysl became anxious. The sound of gun fire, which had long been unfamiliar to the inhabitants of the town, was again heard. On still nights the incessant growl and rumble of heavy artillery came to the, troubled folk, and woke them from their sleep, and then one morning the broken Austrian columns began straggling back, some through the town, some beyond its environs. The railway junction was choked with Red Cross trains; the dead and the dying lay upon the wide sheltered platform of the principal station; whilst every house and factory which could be requisitioned was employed to give shelter to these pitiable wrecks, who testified to the ferocity of the Russian attack upon the San. Then new trains came up, and the sick and wounded were hurried away. New troops appeared from the direction of the Carpathians, and it was seen that Austria intended to place a vast garrison within the cover of the encircling forts.

It was a new Austria which came to Przemysl. No more did smiling commandants stand upon high balconies and acknowledge the frantic applause which had been theirs when Przemysl was relieved.

The streets were plastered with proclamations in the half-a-dozen languages recognised in the ramshackle Empire, sentries appeared at street corners - the military regime had started.

Then there came a morning when the gun fire was very near indeed, when great columns of dust and smoke sprung up like huge, ugly fountains at the very gates of Przemysl, when the low hills about were laced with the trailing smoke of the Russian batteries ; and ominous notices were posted up in the railway station.

The trains out of Przemysl were crowded with frantic humanity. Men and women fought for seats, were content indeed with cattle trucks, and prepared to leave their hastily gathered worldly goods behind them, in order that they should take themselves to safety. Train after train load of refugees steamed out by the one available line; then, upon an afternoon, a long trainload of people was held at a station, a mile from the borders of the city, and after an unconscionable wait the engine was reversed and the train was pushed slowly back to the central station. There was no way out. The last of the lines had been cut by the Russians and Przemysl was besieged.

In the emotional moments which followed this discovery, something like a panic reigned in Przemysl; but the military had the situation in hand, the too noisy were buffeted to silence, and in a day or two the town had settled down to a condition of Siege, buoyed up with the hope of relief - a faith based largely upon its previous experiences. It was supported, too, with the comfortable feeling that the town and the fortresses sheltered a much larger army than Przemysl had ever known in her previous history.

Something like three corps of Austrians, with divisions of heavy artillery, were sufficient to keep out any invader; so the people were told in many-tongued proclamations, and so they had every reason to believe. Whatever soldiers were on duty in and between the forts, there were plenty of men in the town to help inspire confidence. The streets were thronged with them. Cheerful and confident Hungarians, supercilious Austrians, Croats, Bohemians - dour people with no heart in the war - Roumanians from the Transylvanian provinces, Italian-Austrians from the Littoral - Przemysl might have been the site of Babel.

And if the men created and helped to retain this feeling of confidence, how much more so did the attitude of the Austrian officer ! The Austrian is a fop and a great patron of English tailoring. His well-fitting uniform; his spotless gloves, his polished patent boots, have formed never-failing subject for the caricaturist's satire. And here he was in his element, with his frogged jacket, his speckless coat and his jingling silvered scabbard. He filled the cafés, made himself and his kind an excellent cercle, took his coffee and rolls in the great dining room of the Café Sieber, and the tatterdemalion children of Przemysl could watch him through the, big plate-glass windows open-mouthed and a little awe-stricken, and receive to their shrunken frames a reflection of the luxury an d glory of that far away capital of which they had heard - Vienna.

Through the streets by day the officers rode and walked. Such as were mounted were astride of those thoroughbred horses which it was Austria's pride to contribute to the world. The war held no more gallant or wonderful sight than Przemysl presented, even in its darkest days. General Kusmanek, commanding the garrison, represented the culminating point of military magnificence. Riding through the streets with his 70 staff officers, a brilliant cavalcade with flashing accoutrements and flawless uniforms, he brought back to war something of its departed glories.

Przemysl spans the San. The egg-shaped line of her fortresses keeps a clear space for the town. There was no danger to Przemysl from enemy gun fire, the nearest fort being five miles from the town itself. So Przemysl might go on hoping, and with some excuse, that the second attempt to take the city would be attended by no greater success than the first, which had proved so abortive to the Russian. Therefore, the people went about their business; the shops were open and conducted their bargainings; public conveyances plied for hire in the streets; and the cafés high and low were crowded by gossiping throngs at all hours of the day and night, discussing the wild rumours which flourish best in the confines of a beleaguered city. What reminder of war there was came in the shape of the ambulance trains which were constantly rumbling from the front five miles away; came from the ceaseless thunder of guns, and now and again was recalled by the little batches of Russian prisoners (too adventurous men, who had been caught in some skirmish) which arrived under escort.

The confidence which the town felt was reflected by the attitude of the soldiery. There was, it was boasted, sufficient food in the town to last twelve months, "by which time the Russians will be either beaten or driven so far into their country as to be negligible." The Austrians had not wasted the time between the two sieges. Perfectly organised trenches had been dug, connecting fort with fort; land mines had been laid under tempting open spaces; the great galleries, with their immense siege guns and their vast reserves of ammunition, had been prepared; and almost every foot of the country within sight of the forts had been surveyed by Austrian engineers, and the results of those surveys placed in map form for the guidance of the gunners.

“Przemysl will not fall; be sure of this," wrote an Austrian artillery officer. 'I wish you could see the calmness and the confidence with which we go about our work. I wish you could see the ease and comfort in which we live. I have a splendidly lighted little room of solid stone; beneath my feet are enough explosives to blow Przemysl to dust; over my head, and a little to my left as I write, are the mountings of our great guns. You would not think of such things in this pleasant room, where I have my writing table, my bed, my wash-stand, etc., and the only reminder that we are near a fort is to be found in the fact that the Commandant has forbidden us to smoke whilst we are in quarters. This may seem to you absurd, but nevertheless it is very wise, because we have so many newspapers, books and other inflammable things about us that a cigar-end might easily cause a terrible catastrophe."

If you looked from the ramparts of the great fort near Tarnawice you glimpsed no Russians waiting expectantly in the manner of besiegers, with which the picture books of youth have made us familiar. Instead you saw the rolling hills covered with dark green firs, a battered house or two still smoking, the upland hills and the twisting course of the San. Of human life there was no sign; yet on that sector alone the Russian had 50,000 men and innumerable guns. All day long, somewhere behind these innocent looking firs and these calm hills, the Russian batteries were massed, and from time to time would give a reminder of their existence.

Throughout November and December the garrison and civil population continued in the supreme faith that on a day which was in the discretion of the Government great forces would come sweeping across the Snowy paths of the Carpathians, would throw back the Russian across the San and deliver Przemysl from a condition of affairs which was irritating rather than distressful.

This faith was strengthened by the half-truth, which was duly announced in official bulletins, that the Russian, in his attempt to carry a sector of the defences by assault, had grievously failed. Moreover, it was known in Przemysl that its huge army could cut a way through the Russian investing line as and when it pleased. All these factors made for comfort, faith, and a certain half-amused, half-contemptuous attitude of mind directed toward an unfortunate enemy whose besieging was more or less of a farce and whose own condition was, by popular account, fairly parlous. News came through to Przemysl regularly day by day. The high masts of the wireless station in the centre of the town made a complete link with the outer world. Przemysl did not lack stories of victory, and every day brought its triumph.

"The Austrians and Germans are having so many successes in other fields," said a Przemysl civilian, “that I wonder they don't send a relieving army here." A frank and intelligent view of the situation, which almost cost the critic his life. He was released from prison when the Russians went in, to his great relief.

Austrian explanations, no less than those which were offered by the German General Staff, were very complete, thorough and convincing. Przemysl learned, not with unmixed feelings, one supposes, that the gigantic successes which German and Austrian arms had achieved in other fields were due in the main to the fact that the heroic resistance of Przemysl pinned down before its walls huge Russian forces which could not be employed elsewhere. Przemysl must get what comfort she could from that. And since food, though a little scarce, was not unprocurable, the population endured their misfortune, hoping that every day would bring news more intimately associated with local operations. That something was going forward they all knew. Far away beyond the investing line the guns were going unceasingly. There were stories of disastrous defeats inflicted upon the Russian, a tale in existence that the Grand Duke Michael and the whole of his staff had been captured, and were, in point of fact, incarcerated in Przemysl itself ; and this inland town was asked to take an intelligent interest in innumerable British battleships sunk, and extraordinary triumphs secured by German naval arms.

As time went on, as December became January and January, February, Przemysl became more and more interested in itself and its own future. Despite the size of the occupying army, the casualties which the enemy was inflicting upon the soldiers of the garrison grew in number from day to day; all the public buildings were again converted into hospitals, and on the main street long lines of ambulances could be seen waiting their turn to discharge their maimed occupants. Outside the city, far beyond its boundaries, the Russian General was going systematically to work to piece up every weak link in the investing chain. He knew that the enemy would not be content to remain in Przemysl behind the defences of his guns. There was plenty of work for the Russian Army to do to keep it fully occupied. Przemysl is a junction point through which pass three lines of railways, and new lines had to be laid, new embankments made, new bridges created, to skirt the city on either side and to connect up with the lines which were running down to the Russian front before the Carpathians. Russian engineer and Russian soldier worked like Trojans; and whilst Przemysl was still wondering what the enemy was finding to amuse him at the back of those snow-powdered hills, the Russian had organised a complete railway service, independent of Przemysl itself, and built a new junction, and was busily passing the long troop and supply trains to the south of the city.

The Austrian still held the Carpathians and all its passes, and his main bodies were less than fifty miles distant from Przemysl, but, though they were reinforced with German corps, they had never so established their superiority over the enemy on their front that they were able to push him back or to drive a wedge into his line which would allow the Austrian General to press forward to Przemysl. What might have been happening on that front one may conjecture. Great German forces were massing in the Hungarian plains, ostensibly for an advance upon Serbia, but in reality to cooperate with the Austrian army and bring relief to Przemysl.

But the Russians are past masters in the art of diversion. When the German reinforcements for the Carpathians were practically on the rail, a new Russian army had appeared in Bukovina. Its strength no one knew; it was variously computed as being between half a million and a hundred thousand, and it certainly moved with extraordinary rapidity, driving before it all the weak forces which the Austrian had stationed in that region. It pressed down to the very edge of the Roumanian frontier, and Germany, alarmed for the effect this move would have upon the neutrality of Roumania, switched her new forces southward with all speed, came up to the Russian and, after driving him from that spur of the Carpathians which holds the town of Kirlibaba, pressed him steadily back to the line of the Dneister. Now the truth was that the Russian had no troops to spare for an invasion of Bukovina, and the full strength of the force which was employed in that area was considerably less than a division (20,000 men). Before Germany had discovered this very important fact, her corps had penetrated far into Bukovina and were beyond immediate recall. She had sent reinforcements to the wrong front, and received an unpleasant reminder of this fact when the Russian, assuming the offensive on the northern slopes of the Carpathians, drove the Austrian back pell-mell.

Przemysl heard of the Russian 'retreat’ in Bukovina, and possibly did not associate that retirement with any disadvantage to herself; yet in truth that loudly proclaimed Austro- German triumph on the Roumanian border was to settle the fate of Przemysl. There can be little doubt that large withdrawals were made from the Bukovina front, and that troops were hastily entrained for the Carpathian centre. A new attack was organised, but precious time had been lost, for now Przemysl was tasting, perhaps for the first time, something of the miseries which come to a besieged city.

It is a tragic fact that the first to feel the pinch of want in Przemysl were the soldiers themselves. The civilian population, which had already sampled the discomforts of a complete isolation, had beyond doubt prepared themselves for the Siege with more thoroughness than had the Army chiefs. The scarcity of food, which drove the very poorest to slaughter their domestic pets, brought no very great distress to the middle- class inhabitants. To the officers of the garrison it did not so much as reduce one single dish or remove one luxury from the expected bill of fare which was put before the foppish soldiers who gathered nightly in the great cafés. But for the famished men of the army, these 130,000 badly provisioned troops, the cutting off of supplies, and the failure of their comrades to bring relief, brought a condition of affairs which was akin to semi-starvation. First the superfluous horses of Przemysl were commandeered and slaughtered, and the tough, stringy meat served out in the smallest portions to the hungry men. Such grain as there was, was retained in the larger part for the officers, and only very sparingly issued to the bakers who supplied the army with bread.

Upon these diminished rations the Austrian soldier was called upon not only to repulse Russian attacks, which after one comparative failure were very few and far between, but to engage himself in sorties with the object of cutting and bending back a sector of the Russian circle, and allowing the garrison to escape to the main body. For now the general commanding the doomed city was shorn of all illusions. He knew, better than any, the futility of waiting for succour.

The big Austrian offensive which was to have brought relief had failed, and he was advised to get away as best he could. The sorties, made in the desperation of despair, failed. Under a terrific hail of rifle and machine-gun fire the attacking Austrian divisions wilted away and a whole series of sorties followed. The Austrian soldiers, weighted down with their heavy kits, came tramping through the snow between the forts, deployed across the rolling ground, and sought, under a frantic bombardment of their field artillery, to force the encircling line. Again and again the Russian regiments drove home with the bayonet, sweeping irresistibly through their fleeing foemen, and what were left of the sortie party made the best of their way homeward.

Something of the optimism which had animated the people of Przemysl had been hitherto observable in the Austrian General Staff. It was thought that the moment would arrive when the Austrian force in the Carpathians would be sufficiently strengthened to enable them to take an offensive which would drive the Russian beyond the San. That such an attempt had been made and had failed in no sense diminished the confidence in Austria, and it was only when the Austrian Staff gave a false value to the Russian advance in Bukovina that the sorties were renewed with greater vigour. At first these had been intended to harass the besiegers, but afterwards, when the situation in other fields rendered it imperative that the large Austrian force shut up in Przemysl should join hands with the Carpathian army, these sorties had a deeper significance.

In the beginning of March desperate attacks were delivered against the Russian advance from Niemen to the Vistula, and in the Carpathians the Austrian attempted to take the oftensive with an energy and a vigour which suggested that his strength in that region had been very considerably augmented. The Russian general commanding the front between the Dukla and the Uzsok Pass felt the pressure of new, strong bodies of the enemy, and realised that the great attempt which had been promised for the relief of Przemysl had now begun.

It would be churlish to deny to the Austrian the desperate valour which marked his fighting. Across these frozen passes, down the ice smooth glacis of the gaunt hills, the Austrian troops poured like an avalanche, carrying ridge after ridge by sheer weight of numbers. Most of this fighting was conducted amidst those terrible blizzards which accompany winter in the Carpathians.

"Snow men were fighting snow men, and dead and wounded alike were white mounds five minutes after they fell. The cold was so intense that the bayonets shivered like glass, and a Russian company which counter-attacked and regained a ridge they had lost had not a whole bayonet between them."

But the Austrians had a purpose and an inspiring object in view. They knew they were being sent to the relief of Przemysl, and that by their energies they might save a whole Austrian army from capture. They deemed themselves the saviours of their comrades, and, more than this, they scented a decision - the decision which, their officers told them, would bring the war to an almost immediate end. The Russian soldier was no psychologist and thought of very little beyond his business of storming forts; he knew only that Holy Russia had been attacked and he was her instrument to punish the attacker. We may be sure that Ivan Ivanovitch did not balance the niceties of patriotism and expediency. It was enough for him that he must oppose every effort that the Austrian made, must drive him back with bullet, bayonet and butt, and must die in his place rather than that the hereditary enemies of his race should triumph.

The Austrian masses shattered before the steel wall which opposed them. Their fury, their elan, their very exultation, availed them nothing against the stolid, immovable wall which these snow-covered Russian soldiers presented. Up and down those mountain slopes, through gorges, on high, almost pinnacled crests, along the razor backed ridges, for fifty miles the battle went on, whilst hill and valley trembled to the roar of great guns, and the white hillside was speckled with the red flame of bursting shell. Picture this great tangle of wood and bare outcrop, the folds of the buttressed spurs filled with "drift," with the dark figures of men struggling painfully forward step by step, thigh deep in the snows. You may visualise tiny woods wherein great presses of men fought breast to breast for the possession of some slight vantage place, and the horrible scenes of carnage which followed.

“I cannot tell you how many men I killed," said a soldier of the Czar, and he was not speaking boastfully, for he was answering a question put to him by one of the doctors in the hospital of Sanok. Moreover, he was describing one day's fighting.

"The first man I saw was an Austrian sergeant, who was crossing from the shelter of one tree to another. I shot him and he was dead when I came up to him. Then I killed an Austrian officer who was waving his sword. Then, in the wood through which we advanced, a line of the barbarians came up to us and one struck at me with his bayonet, cutting my arm open. I stabbed him through the throat. Then I bayoneted an officer who had shot my captain. I bayoneted him several times because it seemed impossible to kill him. Later in the day, when our regiment charged the machine-guns, I killed an Austrian corporal and a man; and before night fell I had killed two others."

The narrator of this story had himself been wounded in six places, so severely that he died a few days after his admission to the hospital. Here, as elsewhere, it was the bayonet which decided for the Russian, and decided beyond question. Back across the snowy crests went the mass of Austria's soldiery. Over the broad roads of the Dukla the Russians were streaming, infantry and artillery and the long battle line wriggled slowly forward until it held fast in one place to the southern slopes of the Carpathians, and through the breaks in the blizzard the Russian soldier again looked toward the Hungarian plains.

"Our brave troops are fighting in the Carpathians and soon we shall be relieved. Have courage,” was one of the orders issued by the commander of the Przemysl garrison. He alone knew of the scarcity of provisions, and even as he boasted the wireless aerials were still sending off urgent and pressing warnings of the garrison's famine. A German professor who saw an opportunity for an experiment, sent two aeroplanes to Przemysl laden with compressed food. An unsympathetic Russian battery, oblivious to the injury it was doing to applied science shot down the aeroplanes and confiscated their cargo. "Medicine for the garrison” was the report on this, and it was due to such a misconception that the rumour arose that plague had broken out and that the garrison was decimated by sickness.

In truth, food was the "medicine" which Przemysl mostly desired, and we may suppose that the wasted soldiery cast envious eyes upon the thousands of thoroughbred horses which their officers rode, which had been spared when the massacre of equine innocents had been undertaken.

From the military point of view Przemysl's position was still unassailable and well nigh perfect. The Russian batteries might hammer monotonously at certain sectors without doing any great damage, because the Austrian had not put his faith in concrete, but in splendid earthworks which smothered the explosive shells aimed against them, and in a veritable tangle of barbed-wire entanglements through which the Russian infantry, even by superhuman energy, could not penetrate. More than this, the only place from which the Russian could deliver a close quarter artillery assault was as strongly held as any of the forts. This was Hill 403 to the north-west of the city. It must be remembered that the line of forts which were marked on the big military maps did not represent the furthermost extent of the defensive line. For instance the outer line ran from Hill 408 to Hill 384, north-east of 408 and opposite the Fort of Ujkowice, and then north-east again to Hill 264 and down to Hill 192, eastward to 194, then southward to Hill 311, near Bykow, then westward again to 290, to 395 and so to 403. These hills, which will be found in most of the maps of the region, represent roughly the line which the Austrian held at some time or other in the course of the siege. Of these the most important was Hill 403, which is due north of Zalesie. Against this position the Russian had made several attacks without success. Here the Austrian massed his troops in considerable numbers, knowing how very important this eminence was to himself and how disastrous it would be if by any chance it fell into the hands of the enemy. For Hill 403 was to all intents and purposes the key of the Przemysl position. From its height it was possible to drop howitzer shells into the town itself.

General Brusiloff had aimed all the time at securing this position. It was after the last sortie, when the Russians had punished their enemy more severely than ever he had been punished before in the course of the Siege, that the general deemed it an expedient moment to take advantage of the weariness of the garrison, and especially of the troops who were engaged in holding Hill 403. An assault carried out by the full strength of the Russian army on that sector was delivered against this seemingly impregnable position. The Austrians, seeking by counter-attacks to recover the earlier ground which the Russian had won, found themselves subjected to a terrific fire upon their flank, and fell back to their main position on the hill, greatly weakened and in no condition to resist the grand assault which followed, which made the Russian master of Hill 403.

From the moment when the Russian standard was planted in the frozen ground, the fall of Przemysl was inevitable. The general commanding the Austrian Army recognised as much, and sent all his papers by aeroplane with orders to the aviator to reach the Austrian Headquarters at all costs. The aeroplane was shot down and the papers captured. From their contents the Grand Duke Nicholas, who was immediately informed of the occurrence, knew that the end was very near.

The Austrian general set to work to destroy methodically all his vast stores of ammunition and to blow up the guns of the forts. More than this, he destroyed every bridge across the San which would facilitate the entry of the Russian army into Przemysl, and incidentally delayed the relief which the Russians brought with them to the starving soldiers of Austria. The city crashed with explosions, great mushroom- shaped columns of smoke arose from the destroyed munitions stores. Yet another remarkable sight was being witnessed elsewhere. Determined that their handsome thoroughbreds should not fall into the hands of the enemy, the Austrians slaughtered these beautiful creatures, and such were the terrible conditions under which the soldiers were living that no sooner were the chargers dead, than the famished men fell ravenously upon the carcases.

The actual ceremony of surrender was as simple as could be imagined. A motor-car conveyed the Austrian general with his staff officers through the Russian lines to the headquarters of the investing army. Here the surrender was given and accepted, and a few moments later a motor-car containing a Russian officer returned to Przemysl.

"What is difficult to understand," wrote one who arrived in the city within a few hours of its surrender, "is the supreme indifference of the Austrian officers to the humiliation which this surrender has brought upon them. There can be little doubt that, had they conserved their food and had they taken even ordinary care of their men's comfort, the resistance of Przemysl could have been extended for a very long time. These dandified officers accepted their position with remarkable equanimity. Had they been Russian officers, they would have hung their heads for shame, but apparently they saw nothing at all to be ashamed of."

The Russians found a very great difficulty in succouring the starving garrison - a difficulty which the Austrian general had made all the greater by his destruction of the bridges. In all, 120,000 Austrians surrendered, and by their surrender nearly a quarter of a million Russian troops were released to operate in another field.

The second siege of Przemysl lasted from November 11 to March 22, and its capitulation had a more distressing effect upon German public opinion than was at first apparent. For the German had pinned his faith to these eastern forts, and especially did he depend upon Cracow guarding the entry of the Russian Army to Silesia. Przemysl, which is by far the stronger of the two fortresses, uncovered the way to an attack upon Cracow.

How might Cracow resist where Przemysl had fallen? And if Cracow did not resist, what would happen when the Russian armies returned in force, or when the irresistible onsweep of the Russian forces across the Carpathians had driven the Austrian back to the Hungarian plains; how then might Germany bar the Moravian gate to this indefatigable enemy?

Though no immediate alteration or readjustment of the German line was seen, the fall of Przemysl brought about an immediate change in the German plan - a change which was decided upon at a great council of war over which the Emperor William presided. The decision which Germany had sought in the East had not been found: the advance from the Carpathians had developed into a retreat along a sector of fifty miles.

The Russian was across some of the passes and was gradually broadening his front on the southern slopes. All this was happening whilst the days were growing longer, and the snow line on the Carpathians was moving slowly upward, and when the tender green of young growing things was showing in the rich agricultural lands of Hungary. Well might the Emperor come from such a conference "looking very grave" ; for, at the moment Austria and Germany were failing in the East, the Allies in the West were making preparations for a new offensive, fresh and considerable forces were coming into play, and the great supply bases of northern France were being organised with a view to feeding the hundreds of thousands of men of the new British Armies, whose hour to strike was at hand.


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