Hypothetical situation: the East Prussian operation ends in success
As shown in the previous section, the defeat of the North-Western Front was not predetermined. Moreover, the initial chances of the Russian army were higher. Consider a hypothetical situation in which the East Prussian operation ended in success.
What is success for Russia? The minimum program is the siege of Konigsberg and the occupation of the territory up to the Vistula. The maximum is an attack on Berlin.
Such an event could take place according to two scenarios:
1. General Pritwitz immediately withdraws the field troops beyond the Vistula, returning the garrison to Königsberg and possibly reinforcing it with Landwehr brigades.
2. Hindenburg does the same if he fails to defeat Samsonov, or if Renenkampf manages to advance towards the 2nd Army, threatening to take the 8th German Army in the pincers.
But if you understand it well, it doesn’t matter which scenario will be chosen. In both the first and second cases, the balance of forces will change little, if at all.
The result will be a siege, blown up bridges, powerful German fortresses, making the crossing of the Vistula an almost hopeless business, and rare troops on both banks in order to prevent each other if someone decides to build a pontoon crossing for an unexpected sortie.
This means the transfer of the next phase of hostilities to the south to the line from the German Thorn to the Russian Lodz.
Modeling the course of a battle is an unproductive task. But on the other hand, based on the results of the Warsaw-Ivangorod operation, it is possible to predict the possible outcome with high reliability.
The main question is what forces the sides will have in the Warsaw area. It is clear that in this case the battle will take place with a different sign. Russian troops will attack, German troops will defend.
What is the Königsberg blockade? How big is this event?
The main fortress position consisted of a belt of 12 large forts, 3 small and 24 infantry and artillery shelters. The position is removed from the outskirts of the city by an average of 5 kilometers, has a diameter of up to 13 km, and the total bypass is about 40 km. The distance between large forts, depending on local conditions, is within 2 – 4 km. By its size, quantity and quality of fortifications, Königsberg is similar to Austrian Przemysl. Plus, during the war, the fortress was supplemented with a line of field fortifications along the banks of the Pregel and Deima rivers, and from the sea side it could be supported by the fleet.
Near Przemysl, the blocking forces numbered up to 280 thousand people, although the second-rate army of General Selivanov, numbering 70-80 thousand people, was directly involved in the siege. The siege lasted 6 months, and the fortress was taken after the 3rd assault. In fairness, it should be said that the Austrians have repeatedly made attempts to release the blockade, distracting the besieging army.
What forces would have been left at Königsberg? I would venture to suggest that it would have been Samsonov’s 2nd Army, since it alone had three divisions of heavy artillery – 36 guns. But the numerous and useless cavalry in the siege was part of the 1st Army.
Based on this, it is worth considering the forces of the parties for the Lodz offensive operation.
Throw to the west
Can the Germans transfer additional reserves from the Western Front, in addition to the well-known two corps and a cavalry division? In theory, yes. But in this case, it would be necessary to finally bury the plans for the capture of Paris and the withdrawal of France from the war. And on September 5, the Battle of the Marne began. If they start filming, then the Miracle on the Marne will be much more wonderful than in real history. Germans tend to panic when plans are violated. But not to the same extent.
In real history, by September 15 in front of Warsaw there were the German 9th army (135,600 bayonets, 10,400 sabers, 956 guns, including the garrison of the Thorn fortress) and the Austrian 1st army (155,000 bayonets, 10,000 sabers, 666 guns). Total 311 thousand bayonets and sabers.
They were opposed by the 2,4,5 and 9 armies – 470,000 infantry, 50,000 cavalry. Total 520,000 bayonets and sabers.
Moreover, part of the 9th German army consisted of corps from the 8A, namely the 17th and 20th. That is, in the event of the abandonment of East Prussia, the remnants of the 8th army should be added to the German forces. But not all, since Pritwitz (or Hindenburg) will be forced to leave the Landwehr divisions in the Fortress and on the banks of the Vistula. I guess Pritwitz will add 2 army corps (1 and 1 reserve).
However, there will be no Axis offensive in the considered option. Therefore, from further calculations it will be quite correct to remove 1 Austrian army, as well as the opposing Russian 9 army and 2 infantry divisions of the Warsaw fortified region. That is, the Russian offensive will already be opposed by about 200 thousand bayonets and sabers. And if the Austrians try to help the allies, then due to the gap of one and a half hundred kilometers it will be an independent battle.
The following could participate in the offensive against Germany:
– 1 A, reinforced by 2 AK, 2 Siberian corps, 79th and 50th infantry divisions, 1st cavalry corps, Caucasian, guards and Cossack divisions, which in real history were part of the 2nd army in the Warsaw area. That is, we can conditionally accept that 1A would be equal in strength to September 2A from real history;
– 4th and 5th armies from real history.
But in the situation under consideration, Russia has an ace up its sleeve called the 10th Army. What is the 10th Army? These are 11 infantry and 2 cavalry divisions. Approximately 130,000 bayonets and sabers.
In total, this gives up to 460,000 bayonets and sabers from Russia.
In real history, the Warsaw-Ivangorod operation had a ratio of forces of 1.6 to 1 (520 to 311) in favor of Russia. In our case, it will be 2.3 to 1 (460 to 200).
If we assume that the 8th army fought, then the number of troops on both sides will slightly decrease, but the ratio of 2.3 to 1 will remain, because in the course of direct clashes, the Russians and the Germans suffered equal losses. Therefore, for calculating the balance of forces, the way in which the 8th army came out, with or without battles, does not matter in principle.
The Warsaw-Ivangorod operation had the following result:
Russia. The number of 520 thousand. Losses of 110 thousand, or 21%.
Germany + Austria-Hungary. The number of 311 thousand. Losses 148 thousand, or 47%.
If the ratio of forces is not 1.6 to 1 (520 to 311) but 2.1 to 1 (460 to 200), the losses will be different.
It can be expected that during the time of the Thornsko-Lodz operation (10 days), during which the Russian troops will not defend, but attack, the losses of the armies may amount to:
Russia – 70-80 thousand people, and will not exceed 20% of the original number, which means the preservation of the offensive potential.
Germany may lose up to 130 thousand people. Those. not 47% as in RI, but more than 60% of the original composition. This is already a rout.
As a result, the path to Silesia is open, the cavalry of Khan of Nakhichevan gets the opportunity to justify its existence and rush along the left bank of the Vistula to Danzig, bypassing the fortresses near the Vistula. The Germans will have to hastily withdraw troops from the Western Front to build a defense line along the Oder.
There is no point in fantasizing further. There are a lot of development options.
Weak point of the script
The weak point of the painted picture is the willingness of the French and the British to sit on the Germans’ heels and rush after them to the Rhine. The Battle of the Marne ended on 12 September and the French fizzled out during it. But do not forget that the trench war has not yet begun. German barriers to rely on trench lines and barbed wire are not trained, and there is no time. The dash opportunity appears. Will they use it? If they use it, then after the French and British leave to the Rhine, it will be quite possible to begin negotiations on an honorable surrender. And then the war would have a chance to end before the white flies.
Why all these calculations? And to the fact that the sad outcome of the war for Russia was not at all predetermined. And you shouldn’t imagine Russia as a weak link. Especially knowing the role of Great Britain in unleashing the world massacre.
But that would be a completely different story.