- from The Great War vol. 5, edited by H.W. Wilson, Chapter 85
- 'The Breaking of the Russian Fortress Line
- and the Failures of Mackensen and Hindenburg'
The War in the East
in Kovno, Fort 3 destroyed by German fire
The Kaiser's Anger at Russian Army's EscapeGerman Troops March Five Days Without FoodAlexeiefi Checks Hindenburg's Swoop Over the NarewMackensen Held Up on Wieprz RiverMasterly Manoeuvring by Central Russian Forces Hindenburg Loses 100,000 Men at KovnoThe Terrible Price of the Vistula FortressOsoviec the Russian MafekingThe Vast Movement of Seven Germanic Armies on Brest LitovskRussia's Black Week of MisfortunesMackenscn's Grand Phalanx Becomes Worn OutIts Total Losses Exceed 1,000,000 MenEvert Hangs Too Long on to Grodno FortressHindenburg's Gigantic Scheme to Shatter RussiaThe Battles on the Wings Preparatory to the Blow at the CentreRussky Stands Firm at Riga and Ivanoff Withdraws in the SouthUnexpected Return of Ivanoff in Great StrengthHis Splashing Blows Against Four Austro-German ArmiesHindenburg Leaps at EvertRussky Comes South to Vilna to Help Evert Marvellous Stand by Russian Imperial GuardExtraordinary Achievement of Great German Cavalry ForceRussky and Evert are Nearly SurroundedTremendous Battle of Four Weeks in the Vilna SalientRussky's Deadly Subtlety Leads to Complete Defeat of Hindenburg's Plan.
After the fall of Warsaw, on August 5th, 1915, Kaiser Wilhelm came to the bank of the Vistula with his engineers, and looked at the three bridges which the Russians had blown up in their retreat. The leading generals of the Bavarian army approached him, hoping for glowing congratulations on reaching the goal towards which Hindenburg had been struggling since his victory at Tannenberg in August, 1914.
But the Kaiser remarked bitterly, "There will be no decorations for anybody on this occasion. We have paid too dearly for Warsaw. We have captured only the cage; the bird has flown. So long as the Russian Army is free, the problem of the campaign remains unsolved."
Under the personal impetus of the angry Emperor, all available German and Austrian troops were at once fiercely driven forward across the Vistula, with the aim of bringing off the grand coup. As in the cavalry raid in Belgium at the opening of the war, the advanced forces were flung out with such rapidity that no arrangements for feeding them were made. They were expected to live on the country, but as the Russians destroyed everything as they retired, after removing the civil population, the German vanguards starved. Moreover, the men were marched for five days and five nights, in spurts of three or five hours' length, each followed by twenty minutes' rest. The result was that when they came upon the Russian rearguards there was no fight left in them. All along the retiring Russian front in the great bend of the Bug River, from Novo Georgievsk to a point a few miles east of Cholm, the Teutonic troops nominally engaged in pursuing their enemy were so mishandled that some of them fell out with feet lacerated by incessant marching, and others gave themselves up as prisoners in order to get food. The Kaiser in a fit of bad temper had kicked his generals forward, and the generals, always too much inclined to treat their men as machines, had tasked them beyond the powers of human endurance. So the amazing spectacle was seen of an apparently badly beaten Russian Army, bent only on retreating to a place of safety, being clogged in its movement of retirement by an increasing number of prisoners.
The fact was, of course, that General Alexeieff's forces were in no wise beaten. By this time every Russian soldier thoroughly understood it was only the heavy German and Austrian artillery which compelled the withdrawal into the interior of Russia. The hostile guns and howitzers could not be moved forward more than three miles a day at the most; on many important sectors the rate of movement of the enemy's guns was scarcely half a mile a day. The Russian infantry, therefore, remained in good heart and, instead of being demoralised, was fiercely eager for all opportunities of meeting the enemy on equal terms. The German scheme of sending out advanced troops by forced marches was merely one of the examples of paper strategy by which men were sacrificed without any concrete advantages.
General Alexeieff, on the other hand, fought with a splendid grip on the realities of the situation. His problem was to withdraw a quarter of a million men from Warsaw towards Brest Litovsk, a distance of one hundred and thirty miles, while Hindenburg was pressing on his right flank and Mackensen on his left flank, with the armies of Prince Leopold of Bavaria and General von Woyrsch assailing his retreating front. Mackensen, with the artillery of the Grand Phalanx, was the most dangerous assailant; so Alexeieff joined his left wing with Ivanoffs right wing, and between Ivangorod and Cholm the combined Russian forces made a surprise attack upon Mackensen's group of armies in a battle that lasted till August 9th. Mackensen's left wing was held up along the Wieprz River, while his centre and right wing were severely handled along the Bug River, some twenty-five miles south of the town of Vlodava. There was a Russian railway running from Brest Lifovsk through Vlodava towards Cholm, and it fed the Russian defending forces more quickly than Mackensen could be supplied by the light railway he had built to connect his rear with the Lemberg system. It was not until August ioth»that the army of General von Woyrsch, advancing through the Ivangorod region, got into touch with the Austrian force forming the left wing of Mackensen's army group, and on that day Mackensen's centre was merely some eighteen miles north of the Lublin-Cholm railway, which he had reached on July 29th. It had taken him twelve days to advance nineteen miles with his 2,000 heavy pieces of ordnance and the ordinary artillery corps of a group of armies numbering originally close upon a million men. In other words, Mackensen's advance towards Brest Litovsk was so slow that the grandiose scheme of encircling the central Russian armies completely broke down on this section of the front through the magnificently combined efforts of Alexeieff and Ivanoff.
Hindenburg, however, who was working with another million men, from a point near Warsaw to a point near Riga, proved a very formidable opponent. His troops were fresher and less wasted than those of Mackensen, his siege artillery was less worn, and he had close behind him the double system of East Prussian railways, which had been extended by roughly-built lines across the frontier towards the Narew, Bobr, and Niemen battle-fronts. There were steam tramways for bringing up ammunition and food, with asphalted roads and motor-tractors, and deep beds of concrete were laid from ten to thirteen miles distance from the great Russian fortress towns, in preparation for the great siege-howitzers.
In the open field fighting against Alexeieff's right wing, behind Warsaw, Hindenburg was not successful. He was held up between Lomza and Warsaw by struggles of a terrible kind in the forests and along the river-banks, and being violently impatient to carry out his part of the enveloping movement as punctually as Mackensen had done, he used his infantry without waiting for his siege ordnance. On August 7th, nine days after Mackensen had cut the Lublin-Cholm railway, Hindenburg made a series of superhuman efforts to storm the northern Russian front. Deep, dense columns of infantry were launched against the fortresses of Novo Georgievsk, Osoviec, and Kovno, after clouds of poison gas had been floated over the outer defences of the strongholds. But by this time the Russian troops were expert in meeting poison gas by means of lines of petrol fires, which, by the ascension of hot air, lifted the gas over the trenches. At Kovno the German infantry was smashed by the heavy fortress guns. At Osoviec the attacking column was destroyed on the highway between the marshlands. But it was at Novo Georgievsk that the old German Field-Marshal proved himself once more the most terrible waster of men in history. He tried to cut off the Vistula stronghold by driving in on the west, at the town of Sierok, where the Narew flows into the Bug River, and at the same time the proper German siege army, under General von Beseler, assailed the stronghold from the north along the Mlava railway.
On the north, the Russian fortress guns broke the enemy; but on the west, in the difficult river country, where the Russian field artillery was protected by a couple of broad streams from the longer-ranged German ordnance, the infantry battle was indescribable. The attacking columns were slaughtered like sheep. The Russians held the Narew River line only with weak rearguards. These rearguards fell back immediately the pressure against them became severe. Every German commander brigadier, divisional, army corps, and army generalmisinterpreted the yielding movement of the troops opposed to him. Each thought it was a sign of weakness, and the sign of apparent weakness occurred on the day on which the Kaiser refused to decorate anybody for the Warsaw victory and commanded the pursuit to be carried out with extreme energy.
The German infantry was thrown in great masses across the Narew. The result was that the Russian gunners along the second river line of the Bug were able to use their shrapnel with wholesale murderous effect. Then, as they lifted on the German rear, the large main body of Russian infantry concealed in the riverside forests surged forward and recovered Sierok at the point of the bayonet. Hindenburg was also checked at Ostrov, to the north-west of Sierok, where he attempted a lightning stroke against the Warsaw-Petrograd railway line.
His northernmost forces operating in the Riga region were likewise violently handled, and driven out of their trenches near the Dwina River. The beginning of the second week in August was thus marked by a series of defeats all along the immense line controlled by Hindenburg. Every other German or Austrian commander had some success to show. Prince Leopold of Bavaria was cutting off the Russian army corps at Novo Georgievsk by a movement on Praga, north of Warsaw. General von Woyrsch was at Garwolin, on the road to Brest Litovsk, and Mackensen was across the Wieprz River, and advancing in the same direction. Hindenburg alone with his army generalsBeseler, Gall-witz, Scholtz, Eichhorn, Below, and Lauenstein could not make any progress whatever, though they had the largest and the best- armed forces. Hindenburg appears to have attributed his disastrous delay in closing down upon Alexeieff's army to the long time required for making the concrete beds of the i6£ in. howitzers needed to batter down the chain of Russian frontier fortresses. As a matter of fact, there was ample room for him to advance between Lomza and Sierok in the south; and in the north, between Lomza and Grodno, only the small bridgehead fort of Osoviec barred his way. He had, in fact, concentrated his main forces between Lomza and Sierok; but on this section of the front Alexeieff clean outfought him by means of the brilliant use of forest cover and river marshlands. Hindenburg was no master of strategy. His early successes amid the Masurian Lakes, which had made him the hero of the German people, had been due largely to the treachery of certain highly-placed Russian officers, who had communicated to the German Staff plans of the Russian Staff. Even at the headquarters of the Grand Duke Nicholas there were persons in the pay of the enmxy, with means of communicating important plans of attack. But during the great retreat some of the principal traitors were discovered and hanged, their names having been strangely obtained from documents found upon dead German officers along the French front, and revealed to the Russian Staff by General Pau. Even if this did not entirely remove all the machinery of treachery at Russian headquarters, the nature of the operations of the retreat considerably disorganised the German spy system; for each army commanderAlexeieff, Ivanoff, Evert, and Russkywas largely thrown on his own resources; and as the plans of the Russian headquarters altered day by day with the sudden change of circumstances, there was little time for the spy to reveal anything. The immediate fighting plan of each army commander was usually not within the range of knowledge of the spies at headquarters; and in particular Hindenburg and his generals, in their struggle against Alexeieff, a close- minded, reticent, hard-thinking man, bitterly suspicious of all German influences, had no help whatever from their intelligence agents, and were thrown back on their own intellectual powers of divination.
These powers were very small. The consequence was that Alexeieff moved southwards through the narrow corridor between the Warsaw-Petrograd railway line and the Garwolin-Lukov fronta distance of from thirty-five to fifty milesin as complete secrecy as aeroplane methods of reconnaissance would allow. He hid his armies in woodlands; he scattered his grey-coated reserves in the tall growth of harvest-fields; and when he had to send a column on the march in daylight, he did not mind if the ranks grew ragged and looked like a stream of fugitives. When night fell and veiled his dispositions, his main manoeuvres for battle were conducted in the darkness. On August gth he withdrew from Novo Georgievsk. leaving much less than an army corps in the fortress and only half the fortress guns, with orders to hold out till the main forts were stormed. The troops, sacrificed to win time, formed his chief rearguard, and their most important duty was to sink every vessel that came up the Vistula.
The enemy was using the river as his great line of communications, and bringing up cartridges, shells, and charges, by means of steam and motor tug boats. For as the railway bridges at Warsaw and Ivangorod were destroyed, and the rails for some miles in front of both towns needed relaying, the Vistula remained the only quick means of supplying the armies of Prince Leopold of Bavaria and General von Woyrsch. fn these circumstances the Russian commander thought it well worth while to sacrifice 25,000 men in Novo Georgievsk, in order to delay the supplies of ammunition and food for the central Austro-German forces.
All these stratagems of General Alexeieff increased the difficulties of his chief opponent, Hindenburg, and as the capture of Warsaw, Ivangorod, Lublin, and Cholm only served to bring out the impotence of the German left wing, Hindenburg lost all sense of measure in his mad efforts to carry out his part of the movement. He was getting far behind the general timetable. Instead of closing down on the Russians well within a fortnight, in cooperation with Mackensen, he was taking five weeks to advance over the critical distance of forty miles. Save on his old field of strategy at Tannenberg, the bull-necked, grim-faced old Field-Marshal had proved himself the most terrible waster of men in modern history; but the troops he had wasted the previous autumn and winter, in front of Warsaw and Ivangorod, were a small drain on his country's resources compared with the numbers he now employed to retrieve his tactical mistakes on the northern front.
It will be remembered that the excuse which the Germans made for opening the Great War by an invasion of Belgium was that the German Staff reckoned it would cost a hundred thousand men to break through the frontier line of French fortresses. In order to avoid this loss they openly challenged the sea-power of Great Britain for the advantage of getting room for a large flanking movement on the Belgian plain. But twelve months after the invasion of Belgium, the most popular of all German generals was reduced to such straits, at a time when Germany seemed to have Russia at her mercy, that he was ready to lose a hundred thousand men in the capture of a single Russian frontier fortress. We have seen that Hindenburg tried to carry by sudden storm, on August 6th, Novo Georgievsk, Osoviec, and Kovno. He returned to the attack on Kovno and Novo Georgievsk on August 8th, and for nearly two weeks his main forces maintained a tremendous struggle round these strongholds.
Some days passed before all the i6£ in. Krupp howitzers were fully brought into action against the steel domes and concrete walls of the Russian forts. In the meantime, the fortress guns and the mobile Russian batteries were able to fight on fairly equal terms against the besieging armies. But Hindenburg wanted a quick decision. It was necessary for him to break through the line of Russian fortresses, and get on the flank of Alexeieff's retiring troops. His first thrust at Ostrov, between the Narew and the Bug Rivers, had proved ineffectual. For at Ostrov the very slowly advancing German spearhead was not directed sufficiently far north to strike the flank of the withdrawing Russian army. By the time Hindenburg's subordinate, General von Gallwitz, broke through Lomza, he was fighting AlexeiefFs front instead of his flank. Therefore, to get a grip round the retreating Russians, Hindenburg had to strike again farther northward; and as the fortress of Grodno was covered by a very strong line of Cossack sharpshooters, fighting with the advantage of ground in the forests, swamps, and lakes west of the Niemen River, the fortified city of Kovno, on the northern bend of the Niemen, was the only possible point at which vast massed German forces could be quickly concentrated for a belated attempt to obtain a decision.
Kovno lies only fifty miles from the Prussian frontier, at the confluence of the Niemen, the Vilia, and some small brooks. Originally it had a girdle of eleven forts, extending about two and a half miles from the old Lithuanian town. In times of peace a railway connected Kovno with the Prussian frontier town of Eydtkuhnen, and though the line had been destroyed, the engineers of General von Eichhorn's army rebuilt the track, and along it brought up a great siege train, including some of the famous i6£ in. howitzers and many 11 in. and 12 in. pieces. The fortress could have been captured at a comparatively small expense of life by allowing the work to be slowly done by the siege train. But Eichhorn's assistant, General Litzmann, who directly controlled the operations at Kovno, was in as great a hurry as Emmich had been at Liege. He began the attack across the Western forest section, extending from the Jessia brook to the village of Piple. His gunners opened fire at midnight with long-range ordnance, in order to draw the fire of the mobile batteries of defence and mark their points by the flames showing in the darkness. This is the manner in which a superior modern artillery always tries to annul the new advantage given in daylight to weaker opposing batteries by the invention of smokeless powder. After a hurricane fire of two hours, the German infantry threw out some skirmishing lines, and behind these came dense storming columns. But the wooded ground over which the assailers charged was full of land-mines and wolf-pits, and behind these devices were the Russian wire entanglements and trenches, concealed in a tangle of trees and bushes. The mobile Russian field-guns, which had reserved their fire during the hostile bombardment, now came fiercely into action, and the German columns were so terribly shattered by shell fire, machine-gun, and rifle fire, that the Russian troops in the advanced trenches were able to make a daring bayonet charge into the enemy's front. By five o'clock in the morning the German infantry was thrown back into the ravines beyond the village.
The German gunners then tried to wipe out the Russian trenches with some hundreds of thousands of shells. The intense bombardment lasted all day on August 8th, and when night fell the enemy columns again charged up from the forest ravines across the flame-lit rim of woodland between the Jessia and the Niemen. After a struggle of two hours they broke into the advanced Russian trenches, only to be blasted out of them by high-explosive shell and hand-bombs. Then, just before dawn, Litzmann sent fresh masses forward, and the new columns managed to get a footing in a few trenches in front of the outer forts near Digry village.
All the force of the attack was concentrated against the western face of the fortress, but the outer defences were still resisting by August 12th, after six days and six nights of horrible slaughter. On Friday, August 13th, Litzmann managed to capture a work in one of the Niemen woods, but his besieging army was broken by its enormous losses. Large forces had to be detached from the northernmost army under Below, to enable the siege operations to continue. There was a lull of some days in the infantry attacks on Kovno, during which the heavy German artillery, fed with shell by the Prussian railway, maintained an unceasing storm of fire on the Russian trenches, redoubts, and forts. Then on Monday, August 16th, the reinforced German infantry resumed its mass attacks. In the evening a small fort on the left bank of the Niemen, which had been put out of action by the enemy's incessant shell fire, was captured, and in the intervening spaces between other forts on the western sector the German columns stormed over the trenches.
The Russian commander at first hoped to be able to close in on the German wedge and cut it off by a double counter-attack, based on the forts which still held out on either side of the section of shattered works. But this scissor-like movement had been foreseen by the director of the siege operations. He answered it by massing all his siege-guns on the works between which his troops were advancing. Fort after fort continued to fall under the overwhelming storm of heavy shell, while the mobile Russian field artillery operating in front of the forts was also overwhelmed. The Russian engineers had designed their cupolas to resist 8 in. shells, but the extraordinary explosive power of the 165 in. Krupp projectiles battered down the armoured domes and put the machinery out of order.
The garrison withdrew over the Jessia brook, using its embankment as a last line of defence. For three days the struggle fiercely raged along the western bank of the Niemen and the Jessia brook. General Litzmann had two thousand pieces of ordnance; of these six hundred guns were ranged in an unbroken semicircle, several rows deep, and they were all massed on a single fort until the work was completely smashed. Then the blast of huge shells was directed upon another single fort. An air fleet of thirty aeroplanes and three large airships circled above the town, dropping bombs, and controlling the gun fire. The front of Kovno Cathedral was wrecked by a big shell, and much damage was done in both the new town and the old. Yet, though the garrison of the fortress was hammered out of the forts, these works, with their supporting field artillery, wrought a terrible amount of slaughter before the guns were put out of action; for General Litzmann 'was too eager to consummate his artillery victory, and continued to throw his infantry forward in repeated storming attacks. The result was that the Russian troops won many opportunities of meeting the German troops on fairly equal terms in hand-to-iiand fighting, and as the defenders of the half-shattered wing of fortresses had the Yilna railway behind them, and large supplies of war material, they fought with exceeding stubbornness. According to an Austrian report, the German casualties at Kovno amounted to one hundred thousand men.
Since Hindenburg was ready to make this enormous sacrifice of life at a time when he possessed a terrific superiority in heavy artillery and shell supplies, the wonder is not that he captured Kovno, but that he failed to capture the garrison. The Russian troops however, kept their line of retreat open at Janov, north-east of the town, and at Koshedari, eastward on the line to Vilna. Leaving only a rearguard in the hot forts, they withdrew from Kovno on August 21st. on which day part of their forces were still fighting on the west bank of the Niemen. Undoubtedly the fall of Kovno was an extremely disagreeable surprise to the Russian Staff. It had been expected that this town, which was the chief frontier fortress of Russia, as Verdun was of France, would have resisted for several months, and formed a firm pivoting point for the field armies on either side of it, between Riga and Grodno. Had the Russian armies been fully supplied with ammunition and big guns, Kovno could have been held, as Verdun was, by means of the new system of earthworks, enveloping the forts at a distance of seven to ten miles from the town.
But the supporting Russian field armies were still weak owing to the deficiency of munitions, and when the enemy concentrated against them and smashed up their trenches by hurricane high-explosive fire, they could only escape destruction by continuing their retreat. All the frontier fortresses upon which the Russian engineers had expended great treasure and labour became death-traps. The field armies could not hold them when the German siege trains came fully into action.
Fortresses had to be treated in the same way as temporary earthworks, and abandoned as soon as the maximum amount of loss had been inflicted on the advancing enemy. It is a matter of great credit to the Russian Staff that no fortress, however important, was held too long. But the effect upon the general mind of the Russian people, as stronghold after stronghold fell all along the line of invasion, was extremely disturbing. The week from August 17th to August 25th was the blackest in Russian history. Kovno practically fell on August 17th; Novo Georgievsk was occupied by the enemy on August 20th. The next day Bielsk was captured. Osoviec was abandon3d on August 22nd; the Austrian cavalry entered Kovel on August 24th; and Brest Litovsk was occupied by the Germ ins and Austrians on August 25th. It was more. like a game of ninepins than a contest between the still intact armies of the largest land empire in the world and the forces of the greatest race of technical experts.
Apparently German technical science, on its warlike side, was absolutely triumphant over the grand human resources of the unprogressive peasant State of Russia. Appearances, however, are not always the same thing as realities.
The swift, smashing victories of the Teutons resembled those which the phalanx of the Greek King Pyrrhus won against the Romans. They were as expensive of life as great defeats would have been. The Germans and Austrians had the advantage of moving forward, which enabled them to recover in many cases the weapons of their dead, and capture many of the rifles of the dead and badly-wounded Russians. But the loss of life, especially on Hindenburg's front, told more heavily against the attacking troops than against the garrisons of the Russian forts and of the field armies behind them. The single wasted Russian army corps, locked up in Novo Georgievsk, took as terrible a toll of its victors as the garrison of Kovno; for Hindenburg could not wait for the Vistula fortress to be reduced by gun fire. His need for the command of the river communications was urgent. He was racing against time, and the check to the munition supplies impeded the advance of his two southern armies, under Gallwitz and Scholtz, between Warsaw and Grodno, besides interfering even more seriously with the fighting power of the group of armies under Prince Leopold and Marshal von Mackensen. Hindenburg, therefore, used two armies against Novo Georgievsk, the besieging army under General von Beseler being reinforced by another hundred thousand men.
Gallwitz cut off the fortress on August 9th by his thrust across the Narew River, while Beseler advanced along the Wkra River on the north, using artillery of double the calibre which the Russian forts were designed to resist. The comparatively small garrison had the odds of nearly eight to one against them in the matter of troops, and still more enormous odds against them in the matter of artillery power. But the German commanders lost all their advantages through using their infantry forces with too brutal a violence. As at Kovno, so at Novo Georgievsk, rushing tactics by close-packed columns, vainly screened by lines of skirmishers, were employed within the range of the Russian fortress-guns. Night after night there was a hurricane bombardment, followed by a tremendous infantry attack. The Russians lost trench after trench of their outer defences, but the slaughter they wrought with their machine-guns before they fell back was appalling. It certainly appalled the German troops, and they had to be drugged in order to make them careless of their danger.
By August 14th the approach defences on the north-east sector were broken, and, pushing closer his siege ordnance, Beseler for sixty hours bombarded one of the chief forts and its two neighbouring smaller works. These were completely shattered and at last were carried by storm on August 18th, so as to enable the railway running down from Mlava to be reconstructed closer to the doomed fortress. The Russian troops with their field-guns withdrew across the Wkra River, and fought in the angle between that stream and the larger breadth of water formed by the confluence of the Bug and the Narew, with the still wider expanse of the Vistula protecting them on the south. The Russian wire entanglements were covered with German bodies on both the Narew and the Vistula sectors; for when the fortress guns had been put out of action, the heroic Russian infantry fought on with machine-gun and rifle against the German troops advancing to take the ruins. Beseler, however, brought his siege- guns round to the Vistula section on the night of August 18th, and by another hurricane bombardment, lasting two days, all the outer works were destroyed. After inflicting terrible losses on the hostile attacking columns at Zakroczym, near the Vistula, the remnant of the garrison withdrew on the night of August 19th to the old central forts surrounding the citadel. But, battering down two of the forts with shell fire on August 20th, the German commander again launched his infantry columns, and in a violent hand-to-hand combat Novo Georgievsk fell. As it seems to have cost the enemy nearly the effectives of three army corps to take it, the Russian engineers who built the fortress and the wasted Russian army corps that lost half its remaining men in defending it were well repaid for their labours and self-sacrifice.
After Kovno and Novo Georgievsk had fallen, the little marshland fortress of Osoviec was assailed. Osoviec was the Russian Mafeking. It consisted of a small system of earthworks, with some concealed concrete gun emplacements, lying on the causeway which connected the Prussian town of Lyck with the Russian town of Bielostok. It had been subjected to assault for nearly twelve months. The German Emperor had come to the neighbouring town of Grajevo to watch the storming of the little fort. Several i6£ in. Krupp howitzers were hauled up to blast away the defences of Osoviec, and altogether some two million shells were hurled upon the works. But the men of Osoviec held out when stronger Russian entrenched camps were battered down and stormed. This was due to the fact that no arc of hundreds of pieces of heavy artillery could be ranged against the little bridgehead. The fort was almost entirely surrounded by marshlands, and as the besieging army could only operate along the narrow causeway, the small garrison could hold the enemy back in the manner in which Horatius and his two comrades held the Tiber bridge against the Tuscans.
The garrison at Osoviec killed quite five times their number of German troops before they retired on Bielostok, and linked up with the Grodno army. It was reported that a gas attack of an unusual character at last drove them from the causeway on August 22nd. The Germans it is said, floated large balloons full of poison gas over the fortress, and exploded them. But we are inclined to believe that it was the progress of the German armies over the Narew front which compelled the Russians to evacuate Osoviec. On August 21st the army of General von Gallwitz had advanced to the town of Bielsk, some thirty miles south of Bielostok and more than sixty miles south of Osoviec. So it was high time for the garrison to retire. Moreover, soras ninety miles south of Bielostok the main forces of the Teutonic Empires were then closing round the great Russian entrenched camp of Brest Litovsk. There were seven German and Austrian armies engaged in a vast sweeping movement in the bend of the Bug River and along the forested country between the Bug and Bielostok. These armies were all converging towards the edge of the immense Pripet Marshes, where Brest Litovsk stood, at the junction of the roads and railways leading to Kieff and Moscow.
So long as the Russians held Brest Litovsk, they could keep all their armies united for common action, with an intercommunicating system of railways behind them. But if the great junction fortress were lost, Ivanoff's army would lose touch with Alexeieff's army, and the two forces would be divided by the greatest stretch of difficult ground in Europe, the Pripet or Pinsk Marsh. The marsh formed a vast wedge with its point near Brest, and beyond Pinsk it broadened eastward to a width of more than two hundred miles of roadless bog, heath, and forest, quite impassable for an army. For centuries the Pripet Marsh had been one of the main defences of Russia. Russians had sheltered in it during the Mongolian invasions, and Peter the Great's grand manoeuvre was to wait till the enemy reached the Pripet Marsh, and then drive him in and drown him. Since the age of Peter, some 8,000,000 acres of swamp had been reclaimed between Brest and Pinsk, and a single-line railway had been thrown across the morasses to connect the Moscow and Kieff trunk lines. But, despite the immense labour spent upon it, the primeval marsh, three hundred miles long and two hundred miles broad, broke into two distinct portions any forces advancing on it or retiring by it. Marshal von Mackensen expected that General Alexeieff and General Ivanoff would concentrate for a decisive stand round Brest, rather than allow the Russian front to be split by the immense natural obstacle. A grandiose scheme of attack had been planned soon after the fall of Warsaw, and though Hindenburg's southern wing, consisting of Gallwitz's and Scholtz's armies, did not move quickly enough, Mackensen's forces were able to sweep in a wide movement of envelopment round Brest Litovsk.
In the north, the army of Gallwitz slowly moved towards the Bielovieska Forest, which is one of the most remarkable tracts of primeval woodland in the Old World. Extending for three hundred and ninety-six square miles between Bielostok and Brest Litovsk, the forest containsor did contain, towards the end of August, 1915 the last herd of wild European bison surviving from the age when Europe was a savage wilderness. The animals are popularly called aurochs, but they are really closely akin to the bison of North America, on which the Red Indians lived. It was not known at the time of writing it the great herd of the Bielovieska Forest had been made into meat by the armed missionaries of " Kultur," but if the last auroch has vanished we must praise the shaggy, humped picturesque bull for his final exploit. A company of some two hundred German soldiers was marching down one of the forest ways when a bull at the head of a small herd charged down on the invaders, and taking them by surprise, trampled and gored nearly all the company. It is said that only twenty of the German troops escaped without injury.
The army group under Prince Leopold of Bavaria, which included General von Woyrsch's forces, advanced from Warsaw and Ivangorod towards Siedlce, on the road to Brest Litovsk. But about midway it turned leftward and crossed the Bug towards Wysoko Litovsk, and there thrust out along the south side of the Bielovieska Forest. The forest was thus hemmed in on the northwest and the north by Gallwitz's troops, and enveloped south-west and south by Prince Leopold's armies. It was barely fifteen miles from the southernmost skirts of the great northern forest to the northern sector of the outer defences of Brest Litovsk. Consequently the mighty fortress was partly encircled near the main line of retreat open to the garrison. Mackensen in person operated with two armies, his own and that of the Archduke Joseph Ferdinand, on the western sector of the great entrenched camp. He also extended his forces northward towards the edge of the Bielovieska Forest, in order to combine with Prince Leopold along the Russian line of retreat. Immediately south of Brest, General von Linsingen, who was supposed to have been retired after his disasters on the Dniester front in Galicia, unexpectedly appeared with another large army. He advanced on the south-western edge of the Pripet Marsh near the town of Vijva, through which ran the railway connecting Brest with Rovno. Then about fifteen miles southeast of Vijva a large force of Linsingen's un-Teutonic and Hungarian cavalry, under expected appearance General Puhallo, was fighting its way to Kovel, along one of the tributaries of the Pripet River. The general design was to do to the Russians what they had done to one of the Swedish armies in 1717. West of Wysoko Litovsk, and across the River Liesna, there was only a corridor of dry firm land between the morasses of the Bielovieska Forest and the vast stretch of the Pripet Marsh. By massing the main forces of both Mackensen's and Prince Leopold's groups of armies at the entrance to the corridor and along the southern edge of the forest as far as Prusharri, it was hoped to deliver a flank attack in overwhelming force on the Russian troops, just as their front was being broken at Brest Litovsk, and thus throw them' into the marshes, where Linsingen's army and Puhallo's forces would press up from the south and complete the work of destruction.
In order- to batter down quickly the defences of Brest Litovsk, the two thousand siege-guns of the Grand Phalanx were hauled up from Lublin on the rebuilt railway running through Lukov to Brest. For three weeks after the fall of Warsaw, fighting of a most furious, incessant, and general character went on in the hilly, water-threaded country stretching for ninety miles between Ivangorod and Brest Litovsk. It was largely owing to the remarkable stubbornness with which the wings of Ivanoff's and Alexeieff's forces contested every hill and stream, that the idea was confirmed that the Grand Duke Nicholas and his Staff were preparing to offer battle. At the beginning of the second week in August, Mackensen's artillery was hammering the Russian field army in front of Brest, while Prince Leopold's troops were making their surprising swerve far to the north of the fortress. But the Russian Staff was fully aware of the fact that Mackensen's giant howitzers, though worn by fifteen weeks' work in which they had discharged an unparalleled number of shells, were still well enough rifled to outrange and overpower the smaller, older guns of the fortress. The Russian Commander-in-Chief therefore treated Brest Litovsk as he had treated Kovno and Novo Georgievsk. The garrison removed about half the artillery, mainly pieces of 6 in. calibre that could be used in field warfare, and left about 20,000 infantrymen to hold out as long as they could in the spaces between the forts, while the gunners inflicted as much punishment as possible upon the attacking German and Austrian columns. Meanwhile the Russian field armies under Alexeieff withdrew northward, in answer to the formidable pressure along the decisive line of attack.
In this way the siege of the greatest of Russian fortresses became a mere incident in the contest of the opposing field armies. Each side tried to deceive the other by attacking and counter-attacking with the utmost violence along the south-western and western sectors of Brest. The German commander wished to force the Russian commander to throw more troops into Brest, so that they might be captured by the turning movement of Prince Leopold's armies. The Russian commander had also to make a brave show around Brest, to prevent Mackensen from abandoning the attempt to carry the stronghold by sudden storming attacks, and combining with Prince Leopold on the north in the far more dangerous turning movement. As in all great military movements of an intricate and far-reaching kind, the result depended almost entirely upon the play of mind of the opposing commanders, for the forces engaged were fairly equal. The Germans had the mechanical advantage of superior artillery; but the Russians, with the magnificent human material of the retreating armies from Cholm, Lublin, Ivangorod, and Warsaw, could balance, by the slaughter they wrought in infantry fighting, the losses they incurred in the bombardment. There was no question of holding on to Brest. Such a course would only have given Mackensen his last great chance to make the best use of his
heavier artillery and of his larger supply of shells. The problem was to continue the retreat along the railway to Minsk and the railway to Pinsk, while so misleading the enemy as to get full opportunity for two smashing blows against Gallwitz, Prince Leopold, and Woyrsch in the north, and ** and the Archduke Joseph Ferdinand on the west and southern fronts.
This object was achieved by the evening of Wednesday, August 25th. Using the remaining guns of the fortress, the reduced garrison of Brest fought one of the most tremendous rearguards actions in the war, while the main Russian forces mowed down Prince Leopold's and Woyrsch's troops, and part of the northern wing of the Mackensen army group, in a battle in the open field by the Liesna River and the edge of the Bielovieska Forest. The army of General von Gallwitz was also met and checked on the north-western side of the same forest, along the narrowing, high- banked waters of the Upper Narew. At Brest the Russians fought until all their guns were put out of action by the enemy's siege ordnance, and so stubbornly did they hold out that when they retired in the darkness towards Pinsk, the victorious Austrian army corps under Field-Marshal von Arz, which first broke through the last line of defences, was appalled by what it saw.
Brest Litovsk had ceased to exist. Everything of value had been removed, excepting the heaviest fortress guns. These had been completely destroyed, and of the town there remained nothing but flaming or smoking ruins. Every bit of war material, food, useful metal, and household material of importance had been transported by road towards Kieff or Moscow. The Russian in the summer of 1915 met the invader with even more resolution than he had done in the summer of 1812. Moscow was not burned down until Napoleon had entered the ancient capital; but Brest Litovsk, which the modern Russian regarded as the supreme rallying-point of the armies defending Kieff and Moscow, was entirely burnt down before the enemy reached it.
In the afternoon of August 25th the army corps of Marshal von Arz, the most brilliant of Austro-Hungarian commanders, stormed two forts on the south-west front of Brest, the Hungarian Landwehr leading the attack by the village of Kobylany. About the same time some of the new levies from Galicia and Silesia rushed a fort on the west front, and in a night attack Prussian regiments from Brandenburg captured the citadel near the railway bridge. The- Hungarians and Austrians carried out the most terrible part of the work, advancing by daylight in the open in dense formations against the shattered forts, round which the Russian troops fought with field artillery, machine - guns, and rifles. When the defence had been broken down by the use of Austrian cannon fodder, the lordly Prussian troops were launched under cover of darkness to win the honour of actually taking the town. There was great exultation in the German Reichstag on August 26th over the news of the fall of Brest Litovsk. The President explained that the capture of the fortress was the crown of the almost incredible achievements of the German and Austrian armies. But it was noteworthy that no claim was made as to the capture of men and material.
As a matter of fact, the proper garrison of the great Russian entrenched camp was 100,000 men. But only a division was left to hold the forts along the Bug River.
The small body of troops held out while the main army retired towards Pinsk. When this movement had been effected, all the fortifications and bridges were blown up, the large railway-station was set on fire, the citadel was destroyed, and the market- place burnt. A very small rearguard checked the Brandenburg regiment during the night attack, and enabled the garrisons of all the forts to rejoin the field army.
Thus ended the march of the Grand Phalanx, which had begun four months before on the river-line of the Dunajec and Biala, in Western Galicia. When Brest fell, Mackensen's enormous artillery train was found to be of no further use against the Russians. His heaviest piece was the famous 42 centimetre Krupp howitzer, which weighed eighty-nine tons, with a carriage of thirty-seven tons. It needed a crew of two hundred men, each shot cost £550, and carried thirteen miles. But for the transport of this gigantic siege-gun twelve railway waggons were required. The Skoda 12 in. gun also needed several railway waggons; and in the muddy soil of Poland and Lithuania concrete beds had to be built to prevent the huge pieces of ordnance from burying themselves in their tremendous recoil. Therefore, when the line of battle moved eastward from the front of the fortresses into the dreary region of immense swamps and tumbled forest land, through which ran only woodland ways and unmetalled roads, the technical resources of Germany were exhausted. Even the great concrete construction trusts and asphalt-paving syndicates could not provide material and men for further road-making. So the Grand Phalanx was broken up. One thousand of the heaviest pieces of ordnance, all somewhat the worse for wear, were slowly hauled back to Warsaw, and thence sent through Berlin to the western front, where they arrived with the Prussian Guard Corps of the 1st and 2nd Divisions about the middle of September. A large number of the 12 in. Skoda howitzers were returned to Austria, and railed down to the Danube for use against the Serbians. Then a part of the Archduke Ferdinand Joseph's army, comprising the troops under the command of General von Kovess, were placed in reserve to refit and rest, preparatory to the new campaign against Serbia, with the general direction of which Field-Marshal von Mackensen was entrusted.
The vast combined movement by Mackensen and Hindenburg had failed. The Russian armies had completely eluded the pair of pincers formed of two army groups, each containing about a million men, with 2,000 heavy siege-guns in addition to their full artillery corps. Hindenburg was mainly responsible for the failure to grip the retiring Russian forces. Yet Mackensen also, though he reached Brest Litovsk in accordance with the revised time-table, had likewise failed in another direction. He had misused his men. Not only was his casualty list enormous, but the men who remained were nearing a condition of utter physical exhaustion. They had been driven harder than they had driven the Russians, with the result that, though the condition of the Russian troops was such as to test these hardy peasants most severely, the state of the German and Austrian soldiers was still more miserable.
Between June 1st, 1915, and August 1st, 1915, the losses of the Austro-Hungarians are said to have exceeded a million men. The troops that suffered these appalling casualties, which we give on the authority of a Hungarian actuary, only formed part of the group of armies over which Field-Marshal von Mackensen exercised a general control. Linsingen's army, for instance, was mainly German, as was also the Grand Phalanx, of which the Prussian Guard was the spearhead, and German units were used in almost every division, from the Bielovieska Forest front to the Dniester front, in order to stiffen the weakening forces of the Southern Empire. Then, since the actuary's date of August 1st, there had been nearly four more weeks of exceedingly violent fighting between the Vistula and the Bug Rivers, during which the Austro- German forces only progressed slowly by terribly costly rushing tactics. In nearly every case the Russian troops were skilfully entrenched on a well-chosen line of positions of great natural strength; and instead of weakening under four months of incessant attack, they increased their force of resistance every week. In Galicia, Mackensen had progressed at the rate of three miles a day. But after the fall of Warsaw and Ivangorod his pace slackened to two miles a day, and ended at scarcely more than one mile a day. By the time he captured Brest Litovsk, and arrived on the edge of the Pripet Marsh, it was close on September, and wanted barely two weeks before the first fall of heavy autumn rain turned the earth-made roads into mud channels and the summer-dried surface of the marshes into yielding death-traps.
All this, of course, was not a happy accident of climate and soil which turned to the advantage of the Russians. Throughout the great retreat the Russian Staff had chiefly been fighting for time, with a view to using the marshes in autumn as a defence against the enemy's heavy artillery. The first design of the Russian Staff was to employ the lakes and morasses round the Niemen against Hindenburg's howitzers, and place the Pripet Marsh in front of Mackensen's siege train, with the Bielovieska Forest as the central link between the two boggy fronts. But the unexpected suddenness of the fall of Kovno, the chief fortress of the Niemen, made the execution of this design impossible. In the north, the Petrograd army of defence under General Russky had to withdraw its left wing from Kovno, and make a fighting retreat to the intricate lake district between Vilna, Smorgon, and Dwinsk. Northward towards Riga, Russky's army still held to the river-line of the Dwina, with another immense stretch of lakeland behind it, which was being fortified by the peasantry of the Vitebsk and Pskov Governments, as the ultimate line of defence for Petrograd. General Russky regarded his position as impregnable. Riga he was ready to lose in case of dire necessity, as his main scheme of defence was based upon the lake district, the rains of autumn, and the frosts of winter. Meanwhile, he held on to Riga in spite of the fact that on September ist, 1915, one of Eichhorn's group of armies, consisting of a very strong force under General von Lauenstein, had approached within fifteen miles of the famous seaport.
All the principal Russian generals, except one, were beginning to feel confident. Russky was gathering increased strength in the north, owing to the progress of munition making in the Petrograd region. On the southern wing General Ivanoff, with his brilliant army leaders, Brussiloff and Lechitsky and Cherbachoff, was growing stronger as the Russian factories increased their output, and products of the munition works of Japan reached his troops. The central Russian army, working north of the Pripet Marsh and defending the Moscow line, was also growing stronger, after escaping at last from the siege trains of both Mackensen and Hindenburg. Its fine commander, General Alexeieff, was taking over the grand position of Chief of Staff, while the Tsar in person prepared to lead all his armies in the critical phase of the titanic struggle with the invaders. General Alexeieff left a man of well-tried genius in command of the central army group, whose escape from the salients of the Vistula, Narew, and Bug constituted the most masterly feat in modern strategy.
But one principal Russian general still remained in a position of extreme difficulty. He was General Evert, the new commander of the Niemen army, which had been operating near the Prussian frontier, in the extension of the Masurian Lakes system, west of the Grodno fortress.
After the fall of Kovno and Brest Litovsk the lines held by General Evert's army formed another salient of great size on the Russian front. Hindenburg thereupon designed to concentrate in immense force against Evert with a view to retrieving his own mistakes and Mackensen's lack of decisive success. It was still the German aim to envelop and annihilate an entire Russian army, and thus force the Tsar to sue for peace. Hindenburg, however, had become quite a megalomaniac; the destruction of one Russian army did not content him, and with his brilliant but overreaching Chief of Staff, Ludendorff, he made a grandiose plan for the destruction of both Evert's and Alexeieff's armies. The main feature of the scheme was a vast cavalry raid on the railway junction of Molodetchno, between Vilna and Minsk, and the larger part of the German and Austrian cavalry, numbering about 40,000 sabres, were collected for the purpose near Kovno, under General von Schmettau, with 600,000 German infantry behind them, ft was foreseen that the thrust against the new Russian centre would be answered with a fierce counter-thrust by the northern Russian army under General Russky. The northern German wing, therefore, entrenched along a line of sandhills and stone-built farmhouses, turning the buildings into machine-gun redoubts, and bringing up more guns and shells to strengthen the fortified line.
While this work was proceeding, the German Staff made two skilful moves to weaken the Russian centre, ft was expected that the Russian Staff would be well acquainted with the fact that Mackensen's chief forces had been redistributed after the fall of Brest Litovsk, leaving the German centre weaker than the Russian. Naturally, the Russian Staff would want to know to what new use Mackensen's troops would be put. Hindenburg, therefore, arranged that it should seem as though the direct, straightforward method of reinforcing the two Austro-German wings was being followed. In other words, it was made to appear that General von Lauenstein and General von Morgon would be strengthened round Riga with the object of an attack on Petrograd, while Bohm Ermolli, Bothmer, and Pflanzer would be reinforced in Galicia, with the object of an attack on Kieff. The idea, of course, was to induce the Russian Commander-in-Chief to strengthen both his wings at the expense of his centre, so that the great German central thrust towards Minsk and Moscow would meet with less resistance.
Undoubtedly, the great project was as well designed as Hindenburg, Ludendorff, and Falkenhayn, with their Staffs, could elaborate it. And the Russian commanders all along the front were at a serious disadvantage in regard to the modern method of reconnaissance, owing to the superior numbers and equipment of the hostile aircraft. The German aeroplane factories were as remarkable as the German ordnance works; in the matter of output and incessant technical improvements they were far superior to the Russian factories. Russia had some remarkable inventors such as Sykorsky, who built the famous gigantic aeroplane, but her manufacturing plant was very small compared with that of the Teutonic Empire. Everything the Germans learned on the western front by woeful experience, regarding the progress of aeroplane design in Britain and France, they rapidly applied in new machines used on the eastern front. The consequence was that the Russian airmen were always outnumbered by the enemy, and generally outclassed in pace and climbing power. For nearly all practical purposes the Germans seem to have temporarily won the mastery of the air during the great retreat, with the result that they could conduct in comparative secrecy their new concentrations of great striking forces.
They opened their misleading attack on the Russian wings by a fierce attack on the fords of the Dwina, below Riga, and by a sudden assault, at the end of August, on the southernmost Russian positions along the Zlota Lipa and the Dniester. The attacks on the Dwina fords, near Kreuzburg, were repulsed, but the armies of Pflanzer and Bothmer carried by storm the Zlota Lipa lines, and forced the passage of the river, throwing Brussiloff's forces eastward towards the Strypa River. At the same time the army under Bohm Ermolli advanced on Zloczow, and crossed the mountains where the Bug and Sereth Rivers rise on the road to Dubno and Rovno. Then at Lutzk, a few marches north of Dubno, Linsingen's army progressed by fierce fighting along the southern edge of the Pripet Marsh, in order to connect with the Austrian armies and menace Kieff. This series of sudden converging strokes against Ivanoffs southern army was calculated to perturb the Russian Staff. It was not effected by any abrupt accession of courage in the troops or skill in their commanders; the result was merely obtained by greatly reinforcing the Austrian lines with Skoda guns from Mackensen's command and reserve troops that were no longer needed by the Archduke Joseph Ferdinand. A division of the Prussian Guard was also railed up through Lemberg for the movement of assault with another German division. Brussiloff's men, though strongly entrenched along a deep, winding river-course, were unexpectedly overwhelmed by a storm of shell fire from heavier artillery than that against which they had hitherto been contending. Their trenches were blown up by 8 in. and 12 in. shells, but though they were forced to retire, they made a desperate stand along a brook between the two rivers, and thus won time to strengthen their second line on the Strypa.
Again they were attacked all along the front from the Dneister to the southern fringe of the Pripet Marsh, during the last two days in August and the first two days in September. Lutzk was lost, and Brody and Dubno, and the line of the Strypa River, and the enemy began to press strongly against the Galician railway junction of Tarnopol and the main Russian southern fortress of Rovno. Had Tarnopol fallen, the Russians would have completely lost their footing in Eastern Galicia, and their chance of still connecting with Rumania along the Austro-Rumanian frontier. Had Rovno fallen, the road to Kieff and Odessa, the Black Sea, and Constantinople would have been open. The menace was thus a very serious one, and it seems to have been backed by a large part of the men and guns, in Mackensen's group of armies, The railway from Brest Litovsk to Lemberg had enabled the central Austro- German forces to be rapidly moved against Ivanoffs southern army group.
It is extremely probable that Mackensen delayed his Serbian adventure in order to direct in person, with the bulk of the new Danube army reinforcing Pflanzer's, Bothmer's, Bohm Ermolli's, and Linsingen's forces, the sudden and very violent movement against Ivanoff's armies; for if Mackensen had succeeded in this drive towards Kieff and Odessa, he would have been able to exert a pressure on Rumania, on both sides of her frontier, calculated to force King Ferdinand, the new Hohenzollern ruler of the Rumanian nation, to resume the alliance with the Central Empires into which his uncle, King Carol, had entered. Then, with both Rumania and Bulgaria fighting on the side of Germany and Austria, the pro-German King of Greece, and his pro-German General Staff and pro-German Government, would have been able to quell the Venizelos movement, and swing Greece also into the Teutonic camp.
Thus the violent attack on the southern Russian armies was a campaign of as high importance as the advance against the Serbians which followed it. The march towards Kieff and the Black Sea ports promised large results more speedily than the subsequent attempt to burst through the Serbian mountains. Indeed, Serbia was not seriously threatened until the greater movement was fought to a standstill. Meanwhile, General Ivanoff was not the kind of man to respond passively to hostile pressure. For some months his forces in Galicia and the Russian province of Volhynia had stood quietly on the defensive, guarding Southern Russia, and drawing on the local factories and troop depots for small quantities of ammunition and small drafts. After the fall of Brest Litovsk, the huge wedge of the Pripet Marsh practically transformed Ivanoff's command into the independent army of Southern Russia. Until the end of August Ivanoff's men lived on the resources of the Kieff and Odessa regions, with the Volhynian triangle of fortressesLutzk, Dubno, and Rovno strengthening their flank near the Pripet Marsh. But when Mackensen's guns and men returned to Galicia and were allotted to the forces of Linsingen, Bohm Ermolli, Bothmer, and Pflanzer, General Ivanoff appealed to his Commander-in-Chief for heavy artillery and more rifles and ammunition. A large part of the supplies of munitions obtained from Japan reached him by the beginning of September, 1915, soon after the southern Teutonic forces had revealed their full strength of attack.
When Ivanoff was in a position to strike back, he had to skilfully select the most telling point for his counter-stroke. He chose Tarnopol. It was his railhead in Galicia, by which he was directly connected with Odessa and Kieff. Tamopol was more important to him than Rovno. It was a source of political prestige, as it lay in Austrian territory, and it was a great military base, by reason of its direct railway communications with the chief cities of Southern Russia. There was also the advantage of quickness of movement from Tarnopol, as the fresh supply of munitions poured by railway directly into the town, and no delay in distribution was occasioned. So Ivanoff answered the unexpected, staggering blow by Mackensen, which had been delivered south-east of Lemberg at Brzezanj*, by an equally unexpected and still more staggering counter-blow delivered from the region of Tamopol.
For the first time on the eastern theatre of war the German and Austrian troops were forced to submit to the inhuman ordeal which they had been for many months imposing on the Russian infantry. A fierce, intense, storm of heavy high- explosive shell swept the trenches and gun positions of the overconfident enemy. He was more than surprised; he was dumbfounded. His view of life was shattered, for he had come to regard it as the foundation of his national faith that only the countrymen of Krupp and Skoda were able to kill men in scores of thousands by using massed siege-guns in open field battles. Least of all did he dream of the unprogressive Slav soldiers dealing with him as he had dealt with them.
And the worst of it was that the Russian did not treat the German and Austrian as they had treated him. When the Russian gunner had obtained the famous hurricane fire effect, the Russian infantryman and Cossack horseman displayed a terrifying eagerness to use bayonet and sabre. They did not wait with Teutonic cautiousness to pick up the fragments of the front broken by the artillery. All they wanted was for their guns to break a path for their charge, and keep down the enemy's shrapnel fire, while they went to it with flashing steel and hand-bombs. Since the Dunajec and San River battles, Ivanoff's men had spent five months in wild, desperate longing for equal artillery conditions, enabling them to meet the enemy with bayoneted rifle, in a manly hand-to-hand struggle. Now they had their desire, and their furious joy of it was exalted to frenzy by the long, terrible ordeal of unequal combat with a decivilised foe.
To add to the difficulties of the enemy, the weather became very rainy at the beginning of September, with the result that the rough country roads in Eastern Galicia were churned by the motor traffic into bottomless swamps. All the mechanical means of transport, on which the Germans relied for quickness of manoeuvre, were put out of action. It needed six horses to drag one motor-vehicle, and the labour knocked up the ordinary army horses in a few days. Everywhere supply columns were stuck in hopeless mire, and the task of providing the troops with food and munitions was terribly difficult. The condition of the ground grew worse on the north of General Ivanoff's front, which extended into the Pripet Marsh along the lines of the Styr and Goryn Rivers, guarding the railway embankment running across the swamps and linking Pinsk with Rovno. There were many morasses
between the Styr and the Goryn, and the swamps were overtopped by hills, on which the Russian forces entrenched with field-guns. General Ivanoff did not rely upon the Volhynian triangle of fortressesLutzk, Dubno, and Rovnobut based his northern wing on the more northerly village of Derajno, from which branched three small lines of light railways, connecting with the munitioning centre of Rovno. With the light railways he was able to waste Linsingen's forces by constantly moving to and fro between the Styr and the Goryn; for with his three light railways he could concentrate rapidly on a wide marshy front, and destroy the German troops mired between the rivers. In their attacks the Russians seldom went in pursuit farther than Kolki on the Styr, which was about twelve miles from the central light railway-head. It was by this method that Rovno was defended and Lutzk for a time recaptured.
Tarnopol, in Galicia, however, remained the grand striking point for the southern Russian army, and it was against Tarnopol that Mackensen directed his main effort. In the first week of September the German commander brought up hundreds of his heaviest siege-guns by the railway running from Lemberg to Zloczov, and thence to Zborov towards Tarnopol. A division of the Prussian Guard the 3rd Divisionwith the 48th Reserve Division, and an Austrian brigade, advanced from Zborov on the night of September 7th, for an assault on Tarnopol. Then, eighteen miles farther south, near the little riverside town of Trembovla, an Austrian army, with Skoda siege-guns, also advanced to break the Russian line on the Sereth, hoping thus to destroy entirely Ivanoff's forces in Galicia.
However, Ivanoff was not only a great general, but he had in his lieutenants, Brussiloff, Lechitsky, and Cherbachoff, three of the most skilful and deadly fighters in the modern world. These three local commanders observed the enemy's preparations for an attack in the Grand Phalanx style, and having fought the Grand Phalanx when it was at its full strength between the Dunajec and the Bug, Generals Lechitsky and Cherbachoff knew how to deal with it in its decline.
The two Russian armies moved out from their trenches in the darkness of the September night, followed by a strong force of Cossack cavalry, and the famous " Rushing Victories." The latter were merely a squadron of armoured motor-cars carrying Maxim guns; but they were used along the road from Tarnopol to Zloczov in a very adventurous and daring manner. When the German and Austrian siege-guns began the usual hurricane fire on the Russian trenches, these were empty. The troops were already breaking through the German and Austrian lines of advanced infantry, and groping for the columns behind the skirmishing screens, and massing machine-guns on their flanks. As soon as the infantry struggle so mixed the troops up that the artillery on either side could not fire into the field of carnage, the new heavy Russian guns, lifted on the enemy's arc of siege artillery, producing one of the grand surprises of the war. The Russian infantry and cavalry, with their daring motorcar crews, then gave both the German army and the Austrian army a lesson in attacking tactics. The Austrian and Hungarian troops in the Tarnopol section surrendered; the German Reserve Division was half destroyed, and twenty thousand of the Prussian Guard, after trying to maintain their traditions by making a stand, were outflanked, ridden down, bayoneted, and knocked over in hundreds by the machine-guns. The German line was . broken, and the troops put to flight; but the arc of siege-guns was not reached by the Cossack cavalry until daylight on September 8th. Then, by massed shrapnel fire, the great guns and howitzers broke up the first charging squadrons of cavalry. The Cossacks, nevertheless, captured 14 siege-guns and 16 field-guns, with 200 officers and 8,000 men. At Trembovla, 3 guns and 36 machine-guns were taken, with 150 officers and 7,000 men. The enemy fled in a panic haste to the Strypa River. The Russians followed them up, and by September 12th the prisoners numbered 40,000 and the spoil included 14 siege- guns, 35 field-guns, and 70 machine-guns. In the following week 40,000 more prisoners, with 2 guns and 79 Maxims, were taken in the more northerly sector round Ltuzk,
The total losses of the enemy, including prisoners, could not have been less than a quarter of a million, and were probably morefor 80,000 prisoners usually means 80,000 dead and 160,000 wounded. In other words, the Russian armies on the Sereth line, when supplied with all the shell they needed, were able to put out of action fully half the effectives opposed to them. So shattering was their double blow that when Mackensen, in consequence of it, decided it would be easier to pierce through Serbia than to get round to the Black Sea, he had to delay his Danube adventure in order to obtain fresh forces therefor.
A considerable body of Austrian troops was available, as it was possible to detach Woyrsch's army from Prince Leopold of Bavaria's group, north of the Pripet Marsh. But the German Staff pointed out with extraordinary insolence, in an official communiqué relating to the actions at Tarnopol and Trembovla, that the enormous number of prisoners taken by the Russians were all Austrians and Hungarians, and the guns lost were also Austro-Hungarian. In an answering communiqué, the Russian Staff maliciously pretended to agree with the untrue German statement, for General Alexeieff, the new Chief of Staff to the Tsar, was not unwilling to accentuate the bitter feeling between the Teutonic allies. The plain meaning of the German communiqué was that it publicly condemned the Austrians as cowards, in spite of the probability that the large number of Austrians taken was due to the fact that the angry victorious Russian troops slew their cruellest foes out of hand, but spared Austrian and Hungarian regiments likely to contain Galician Poles and Russians, Catholic Serbs and Bohemians. Many of the guns, such as those taken from the Prussian Guard and Linsingen's troops, were clearly German.
In any case, Mackensen, after the Battle of the Sereth River, would not conduct a campaign against Serbia unless he had at least one army of German troops. As things stood on the eastern and western fronts, no German army was immediately available; and Mackensen had to wait until Hindenburg had completed his great coup against General Evert, which was expected to release one or two German armies. It seems to have been calculated in advance that fully two German armies would be released by the decisive victory near Vilna; and the Bulgars were therefore promised a co-operating force of about 400,000 troops for the combined attack against the Serbians. In the event, however, only General von Gallwitz's army was detached from Hindenburg's command; and for reasons that will soon be apparent to the reader, this solitary German force which was given to Mackensen arrived on the Danube in a sad condition of wastage. Meanwhile, the fact that Mackensen was left in the middle of September with no troops of his own is a telling instance of the grim expenditure of life during the five months' campaign of the Grand Phalanx and its supporting forces.
Even allowing for the fact that some divisions were at last sent, with a thousand heavy guns, to the western front, to prepare against the Franco - British offensive movement, the dissolution of Mackensen's huge army group was of grave significance. Something like a million, men had been put out of action, and, after this fearful drain upon the resources of the Teutonic Empires, the armies of the Tsar, though severely shaken, were now beginning to increase in power as their supplies of munitions augmented. Never in his wildest and most sanguinary period had Napoleon I. expended the lives of trained men so recklessly as Mackensen and Hindenburg had done. All the military caste could show the populace, in return for a gigantic sacrifice of life without parallel in history, was a line of fallen Russian frontier fortresses and the occupation of Russian Poland.
After the comparative failure -of Mackensen, who was undoubtedly the best of its commanders, the German Staff had one source of hope left; for Hindenburg promised at last to make good. The new Russian Army general, Evert, had hung too long on to the last great frontier fortress of Grodno. Grodno did not fall until the afternoon of September 3rd, 1915, when an amazing Russian rearguard recaptured the town, and then retired with a hundred and fifty German prisoners and eight machine-guns. General Evert stayed in Grodno till he had cleared it of everything and blown up all the works, bridges, railways, and buildings useful for military purposes. While he did so, the Vilna army with General Russky's southern wing held up a great German turning movement along the Vilia River, at a distance of nearly a hundred miles northwest of Grodno. But this far-stretched Russian operation of retirement was in the circumstances daring to the point of national peril. Had General Evert been fully aware that Hindenburg was holding in reserve for a terrible lightning stroke a force of 40,000 cavalry with a hundred and forty pieces of horse artillery, and a large supporting army of infantry, he would not have waited to strip Grodno of every gun and shell.
Evert's army was not harried in the first days of its retreat. A little pressure-was exerted against it at Otany, where the great Trans-European railway line passed through the Grodno-Vilna section, on the route to Petrograd.
It was, however, not at Evert's army that Hindenburg was immediately striking. For, as we have seen, the envelopment of the forces of a single Russian command did not content the old Field-Marshal. This was merely the sort of thing he had accomplished the year before at Tannenberg. What he now aimed at was a tremendous stroke, crashing right through Russia, the success of which would exalt him above the older Moltke and Napoleon I. and the strategists in the grand style. He designed to capture Evert's army by the way, making a double turning movement against the northern army under Russky and against the central army under Alexeieffs successor. His point of attack was an extraordinary one. It was the railway junction at Molodetchno, nearly one hundred and fifty miles in the rear of Grodno. He intended to reach it by breaking through Russky's southern wing in a hurricane of shell fire followed by the greatest cavalry charge in modern history. All this part of the work was to be done by Litzmann's army with Kovno as its base and Schmettau's cavalry as its advanced guard. On the Niemen front, facing the rearguards of Evert's army, was the army of Scholtz, whose southern wing curled round Grodno and linked with the army of Gallwitz, which was advancing north of the Bielovieska Forest towards the town of Lida. Still farther south, on the road to Slonim, was the army of Prince Leopold of Bavaria, connecting in turn southward with a large mixed force of Landsturm and Landwehr troops, operating very slowly along the Pripet Marsh. The southernmost inferior force did little more than hold the Russians by marsh entrenchments bristling with machine-guns. The hammer blow against Alexeieff's old army and the former Lublin and Cholm army was designed to fall on their northern flank, when Prince Leopold reached the railway junction of Baranovitschi. But all this part of the front was, for the time, of little importance.
The critical sector was that between Sventsiany, on the Petrograd railway, half-way from Vilna and Dvinsk, and Baranovitschi, the railway junction between Minsk and Pinsk. It was Russky who foresaw the extreme peril of the situation. He came down from the Riga-Dvinsk sector on September 1st, and hurried Evert out of Grodno. Evert worked downwards in a north-easternly direction towards Baranovitschi and Pinsk, to counter the upward thrust of Gallwitz's and Prince Leopold's armies. This part of the operation was just straightforward hard fighting and incessant manoeuvring all along the northern curve of the huge salient, from Skidel, near Grodno, and thence along the Upper Niemen, past the towns of Lida, Slonim, and Novo Grodek to the critical railway junction at Baranovitschi. The northern wing of Alexeieff's former army group co-operated with Evert's retreating forces and greatly assisted in the defence of the southern dent in the salient. There was never any immediate danger at this point, for the German troops were held and violently punished.
All the desperate difficulties of the great Russian retreat from the last and most dangerous salient fell upon General Russky. Coming down from the north, with part of the Petrograd army of defence, he boldly threw a considerable portion of his forces into the salient, bringing up the number of troops enclosed in it to about 400,000. He reckoned that he would be half-encircled by 600,000 German troops, and his estimate was correct. But he does not seem to have been fully aware of the existence of the 40,000 horsemen, with 140 guns, under Schmettau, who moved his men by night northward towards Sventsiany, as Russky pushed his men northwards towards Vilna.
There was a curious beginning to the grand German attempt to obtain a smashing decision against Russia by the envelopment of two or three army groups, followed by an advance to Smolensk. A throng of refugee farmers from the Niemen region came into Orany, on the Warsaw-Petrograd railway line, between Grodno and Vilna. They had their cattle, sheep, horses, and waggons piled with household stuff. But the Russian troops in the town remarked the absence of children in the procession of fugitives, and some of their officers stopped the carts. A fierce street fight at once broke out, for beneath a covering of ordinary articles, the farm waggons were filled with machine-guns and ammunition, and the peasants and their wives were all German soldiers. But the absence of children, who were the most characteristic feature of a genuine stream of fugitive farming folk, had made the Russians suspicious, and they were prepared for the fight that ensued. The Germans were badly beaten, and the survivors fled from Orany.
This episode did not lead General Russky to alter his plan of operations. He fixed on the angle between the Sventa and Vilia Rivers, between Kovno and Vilna, as the region of the German turning movement.
On September ist he placed two divisions of the Russian Imperial Guard on a hill, some seven hundred feet high, by the village of Meiszagola. The position was eighteen miles north-west of Vilna, on the road to Vilkomir. It completely barred the turning movement with infantry forces which General Litzmann, the conqueror of Kovno, had been ordered to carry out, for the famous Imperial Guard, a body of 24,000 bayonets, with a considerable number of field batteries, fought with magnificent skill and tenacity. "Even the ranks of Tuscany could scarce forebear to cheer." Indeed, German war correspondents, basing their remarks on the testimony of German officers, were eloquent in praise of the army corps of Russian Guardsmen.
Day and night the battle went on, and the assailing German forces, as the Germans themselves related, "melted away as in a September storm. Regiments dwindled into companies, and companies vanished." For ten days and ten nights the battle lasted in a narrow valley at the foot of the hill, below the trenches of the Guardsmen, whose well-designed earthworks became afterwards the object of admiration of German soldiers. "They learned something in trench-making from the Japanese," said the hostile officers. "The position, even when we stormed the hill above, remained almost impregnable." Three times the Guards retook the hill. The Germans had at last to haul up their siege-guns from Kovno, and after the trenches were flattened out by a storm of big shells on September 12th, the Guardsmen, reduced to the number of a single division, made a slow rearguard fight across the low, rolling hill country, trenching on every line of crests. Their machine-guns were terrible, and six days' more fighting had to be done before the enemy got into Vilna, on September 18th, and found the city emptied.
As a matter of fact, Litzmann's army was practically defeated. Unaided, it could not have entered Vilna, even with the aid of its siege ordnance. The Imperial Guard at last retired before the shattered German army, because of a startling event that happened some fifty miles farther north. Here, near the town of Sventsiany, on the night of September 14th, the great hostile cavalry force under General Schmettau found a gap in the overstretched line of Russky's armies.
It would be rash to say that Russky had been overconfident and negligent, for Russky was a man with a quiet, subtle, and far-reaching mind. The German cavalry had been seriously menacing him in the Riga region. It inconvenienced him there, and it was like him to have left a gap at the spot where he wanted to deal with it. He did somewhat the same thing with two army corps under Mackensen, near the Piontek Marshes, by Lodz, in the previous autumn. He left a gate open, let the enemy penetrate far towards his rear, and then pushed the gate to, and sent for Rennenkampf to close down behind the too adventurous German force. With anybody except Russky one would decide that he made a mistake of omission at Sventsiany and afterwards nobly retrieved it. But with Russky it is hazardous to make such a statement, unless and until the Russian Staff history of the war confirms it.
For Russky, the conqueror of Galicia and the destroyer of the first-line Austrian army, under General Auffenberg, in Poland, had become a passionate believer in the war of attrition. He was in a salient enclosing 400,000 men at the most, with the odds of three to two against him in men, and the odds of three or four to one against him in guns and shell supplies. His immediate problem was to reduce rapidly a force of 640,000 Germans to 300,000 effectives, or less. After that, he would rely on autumnal rains and winter froststhe first frost being due in a month's time in the northern Russian climateto accelerate further the exhaustion of the human material of Germany and Austria. It was more than two hundred miles to Smolensk, and even Smolensk was not Petrograd or Moscow. Therefore, with winter approaching and the Russian roads sticky with deep mud, he could afford to give ground to the enemy east of Vilna, if the enemy would pay his price. Hindenburg and his lieutenantsEichhorn, Litzmann, Schmettau, Scholtz, and Leopold of Bavaria were ready to risk anything for a fighting chance of a great decisive victory. So General Russky had only to leave the gate open at Sventsiany, in order to get a vast, furious medley of battles between the Vilia and Upper Niemen Rivers and along the lake district from Dvinsk to Smorgon.
The mighty German cavalry raid through Sventsiany on to the Russian rear at Smorgon was marked by characteristic episodes. At a village near Sventsiany the German horsemen burnt a church and hanged the priest, because he would notor could notinform them the position of the Russian troops. The country people, taken by surprise, were terribly treated in places, but happily at the beginning of the eruptive movement the raiders were in a great hurry. They wanted to drive down strongly and swiftly to Smorgon, along the river line of the Vilia, entrench there, advance, with Smorgon as their base of operations, and cut the railways to Minsk and to Polozk and Petrograd at the junction of Molodetchno.
This they accomplished, in a movement of magnificent speed and force, by September 17th. They broke apart Russky's Dvinsk and Vilna wings and penetrated his centre at Molodetchno, which is sixty miles south-eastwards of Vilna. And Vilna at the time had not been evacuated. The Imperial Guard was still defending the city, the earthwork defences of which were being bombarded uninterruptedly day and night. Meanwhile, south of the Vilia, a large German army was fighting on the Merechanka River, while still stronger hostile forces were making deeper turning movements south-eastward towards Lida and Slonim.
To all appearance, the Russians had not been in so perilous a position since Radko Dimitrieff was broken between Tamov and Gorlice, near the Carpathian line. Indeed, with 40,000 German horsemen sixty miles behind him, with one hundred and forty guns, and huge infantry supports coming to reinforce them, the situation of Russky seemed darkened by the shadow of impending doom.
There were few critics in the Quadruple Entente who were not anxious as to the position if Russky were shattered. If Russky's side of the salient were suddenly driven in near the base, Evert's side of the salient would be quickly subjected to a similar cutting thrust. Then. with both Russky and Evert's forces partly enveloped and partly outflanked, the position of the central Russian armies round Pinsk and the Pripet Marsh would also be disastrous. Russia would be in the same tragic situation as France was after the encircling operation at Sedan.
There was an incontestable majesty of design about Hindenburg's project. In Imperial manoeuvres it might have won the author the rank of Chief of Staff. Doubtless Falkenhayn had something to do with it. But its defect was that it had been prepared with Germanic thoroughness. For many years the aspirants to positions on the German General Staff and the Staff officers themselves had elaborated plans for a campaign against Russia. Both novices and masters in strategy began with the determination to avoid Napoleon's capital mistake in regard to the Russian weather. Never did meteorologists go into the problems of weather- lore with the energy of the German Russian campaign planners. They tabulated all the data concerning rainfall, frost, and thaw, and the effects thereof on the muddy Russian roads and swamps, and after the most scientific study arrived at the correct conclusion that September was the best month for operations in the Russian marsh regions. The full drying effect of the August sun was necessary to make the lake morasses and the immense river swamps passable.
All this, however, was but a sound deduction from the law of averages. The summer of 1915 had been an exception to the general rule; for it was a wet summer, and instead of drying the Russian roads and bogs, it soaked them. But the Germans, with their reliance upon the knowledge they had patiently organised, did not allow fully for the new facts beneath their eyes. They used knowledge instead of thought. The result was that the raid of Schmettau's cavalry horde failed for want of infantry support. It was possible, in spite of the adverse weather conditions, for the raiders to operate according to the time-table, and by riding their horses to exhaustion they reached the railway junction, and tore up the line to Minsk and the line to Moscow. But the huge force of infantry, with many guns, limbers, and ammunition waggons, which was to follow the cavalry with the aim of occupying in great strength the line the horsemen won, was held up by mud and morass. Some 20,000 cavalry of the reserve were hurried forth to support Schmettau's raiders, bringing his forces up to 60,000 men. But these men were extended along a front of eighty miles, from Sventsiany to Molodetchno Junction, and many of them were needed to form a powerful advance guard at Widsy, below Dvinsk, to stave off a possible flank attack from Russky's Dwina troops. The raiding cavalry, therefore, had scarcely seven hundred men to the mile along the great line of their thrust. Owing to this weakness, which continually increased through the delay in the advance of the German infantry and artillery. Schmettau's menace to Russky was nothing so great as Russky's menace to Schmettau.
For the Russian Imperial Guard, with the sharpshooters of Pskov and other famous fighting corps, were retreating alongside the line of the Vilia River, which the German cavalry had crossed. Instead of the cavalry raiders getting a driving blow against the rear of the retreating Russian armies, the overstretched string of horsemen was half enveloped. The Russian troops, retreating from Vilna, held them firmly south of the Vilia River, while a sudden irruption of Russian cavalry forces, coming down the Polozk-Molodetchno railway line, struck them on the head and began to smash in their northern flank. There was a long and extremely violent struggle at the little town of Vileika on the railway line, and at Widsy, farther north. Both battles ended in a Russian victory and a German rout, in which the enemy lost several batteries of light guns and field-howitzers, showing that his line had been completely penetrated. Nearly half the huge Teutonic cavalry force was destroyed before the German infantry succeeded in getting to Smorgon two weeks after the retreat from Yilna began.
After fighting for fourteen days in the salient, Russky preserved in his rear a passage eighty miles wide, from Molodetchno Junction to the Lebeda River between Grodno and Lida. It was a wide enough gate for the largest army to pass through; it had two main roads and two lines of railway. It was indeed so broad and secure that, instead of rapidly retreating through it, General Russky entrenched on a line of hills and streams from Lida to Molodetchno, with a little cross-country railway running immediately behind his line, and provisioning and munitioning his army. The Germans in front of him had no railway communications, therefore they could not bring up their siege-guns, and even their light artillery was badly supplied, owing to the roads being waist-deep in mud. Yet the German commanders had to attack incessantly and with the utmost possible driving power.
For, according to their own plan, they were engaged in the greatest enveloping movement in history, and the desired decision was only to be obtained by speedy progress. As soon as the march-worn German infantry arrived near the Russian lines, it was flung forth in wide waves and packed columns, through the Russian curtains of shrapnel fire, against the Russian hill-trenches.
It is impossible to describe in detail the battles that went on, day and night, till the end of September on the gradually flattening curve of flame, thunder, and slaughter, stretching from a point near Slonim in the south to the lake region above Sventsiany in the north. The description will run into volumes in the great scientific Staff histories, and the pages will be full of long, outlandish names of Lithuanian hamlets which cannot be traced on any ordinary map. Russky's men were, like Ivanoff's, well provided with munitions, and the Russian machine-guns, hundreds of them captured from the enemy with cartridge supplies, were used with murderous effect. The Russian cannon, with few German siege-guns to beat them down, were able to open a way for those fierce bayonet charges, in which the slow, sombre passion of the Russian peasant flames into terrible fury. Here and there a Russian regiment got into a tight corner. Some Cossacks were surrounded, but escaped by a stratagem, while another battalion cut its way out with the loss of half its men. But the act of heroism that most pleased the Russians themselves was that of an Army nurse, Myra Ivanova, who was attending to the wounded in the fighting-line on September 22nd. Her brother was the surgeon of the regiment, and she was serving as a Red Cross sister with his men. The battalion was suffering terribly from rifle and Maxim fire, and all the company officers were either killed or wounded, and the men began to retire. But Sister Ivanova saw that they would all be slaughtered if they tried to flee, and she collected them together and led the charge against the hostile trench, falling mortally wounded just as her men broke the defence of the German force.
By September 28th General Russky was still holding out, well inside the salient on the Smorgoni line, having fought Hindenburg to a standstill. The movement of envelopment had entirely failed after four weeks' fighting and a German loss of half a million men.
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