The armies of the Northern Front and the opposing enemy in the context of a promising landing operation. Map. Danilov N.A. Mixed operation in the Gulf of Riga in June-August 1916. L .: Izd. V.-Naval Academy of the Red Army, 1927
Bausk (Bauska) is a city in Latvia (66 km south of Riga), in the direction of which 03 – 09.07.1916, during the summer campaign of 1916, the offensive of the shock group of the 12th Army of the Northern Front was developing.
In the 1916 campaign, the Northern Front was assigned a supporting role. A meeting at Headquarters on April 1, 1916 decided that the main blow would be delivered by the armies of the Western Front with the assistance of the troops of the Northern and Southwestern Fronts.
The western front was to attack in the direction of Vilna. The northern front, having also launched an offensive against Vilna (from the northeast), should have supported the operations of the Western Front. Already at this meeting, from the commander-in-chief of the armies of the Northern Front, General of Infantry A.N. Kuropatkin, a statement followed that, with strongly fortified German positions, it is difficult to hope for a breakthrough of the enemy front, and that large losses are likely, especially in a situation of lack of heavy artillery ammunition.
Northern front and its adversary
At the first, most important stage of the 1916 Offensive (May-June), the Northern Front was inactive. During this period, it served as a reservoir (the ratio of enemy forces in the northern strategic direction allowed for this) for building up the human and material resources of the Southwestern Front – the front was ordered to carry out demonstration actions and be ready to send reinforcements to the south.
At the same time, the Chief of Staff of the Headquarters, General of Infantry MV Alekseev, recommended A. N. Kuropatkin to disturb the enemy on the Riga coast with the help of the forces of the Baltic Fleet. A project began to be developed for a combined or joint (i.e., land-sea) operation of the Northern Front and the Baltic Fleet. The supporters of this idea were the supporter of active offensive actions, the commander of the 12th Army, General of Infantry, R.D. Radko-Dmitriev, and the commander of the Baltic Fleet, Vice-Admiral V.A.Kanin.
Commander of the 12th Army of the Northern Front, General of Infantry R.D. Radko-Dmitriev. The Great War in Images and Pictures. V. 2.M., 1914.
On June 23, the Northern Front received the task of delivering a blow, which forced the Germans to leave the r. Western Dvina. The implementation of the task was entrusted to the 12th army of R.D. Radko-Dmitriev. Accordingly, this army was to deliver the main blow. The army’s task is to strike from the left flank of the Riga bridgehead, break through enemy positions, seizing the Eckau-Neigut line, and reach the Mitava-Jakobstadt railway.
The positions of the army at the beginning of the summer campaign were as follows: the 6th Siberian Army and 43rd Army Corps were stationed on the left bank of the river. Western Dvina (Bersemünde – Lake Kanger); The 37th Army Corps was on the right bank of the river (up to Rinemundshof); in the reserve (Riga) was the 7th Siberian Army Corps, and the Ussuri Cavalry Division was concentrated south of the city of Venden. Thus, the main grouping is aimed at the Tukkum direction.
The 12th Army included 183 battalions, 60 squadrons and hundreds. The enemy (formations and units of the German 8th Army and the army group of General of Artillery F. von Scholz) numbered 50 – 62 battalions and 39 squadrons. The main forces of the opponents were held on the Riga bridgehead (149 battalions and 12 squadrons of the Russians against 38-50 battalions and 38 squadrons of the Germans). But here it should be noted that any serious operation of the Northern Front was associated with a breakthrough in defense in depth. Formally necessary in this, the classic ratio of forces in favor of the advancing 3 to 1, indicated above, theoretically made it possible to hope for success, if not for the lack of heavy weapons and (especially) ammunition for them.
Regiment headquarters on the Dvinsk front. The photo allows us to conclude on what difficult terrain the Russian troops had to operate in the Baltic in the summer of 1916. Chronicle of the war of 1914-15-16.
From a promising combined operation to a strike on Bausk
The start of the offensive was scheduled for July 3rd. During this period, M. V. Alekseev again turned to A. N. Kuropatkin – advising him to use the means offered by the fleet in order to combine a breakthrough at Riga with an amphibious operation to the rear of the German group in Courland.
There were 2 promising directions for the actions of the troops of the Northern Front: 1) from Riga to Tukkum, Mitava or Bausk, and 2) from Dvinsk to Ponevezh or Vilno.
The first option was recognized as the most promising – the operation was inevitably associated with a breakthrough of the defense, but the breakthrough was to be carried out at the left flank of the enemy front. This gave hope – the actions of the landing force landed on the western coast of the Gulf of Riga, would facilitate the success of the breakthrough.
The optimal strike was considered to be in the Mitavsky or Tukkum districts by the troops of the 12th army, reinforced, if necessary, by units of the 1st and 5th armies. A.N. Kuropatkin ordered to attack Bausk – in case of success, Russian troops went to the communications of the 8th Army and Scholz’s group. The problem was the difficulty of breaking through in a trench warfare.
To facilitate the breakthrough, the landing was supposed to be composed of 2 divisions and a cavalry brigade. When breaking through the enemy’s echeloned defense, any weakening of the German grouping by diverting its attention to other directions was expedient.
The most important issue was the question of coordinating the efforts of the landing force and the breaking through troops of the 12th Army.
The direction of the main attack on Bausk chosen by the command of the Northern Front did not favor joint actions (as they were understood by A. N. Kuropatkin) of the strike group and the landing forces.
The points for the landing also caused controversy. Theoretically, the landing site was supposed to withdraw the landed troops to the flank and rear of the left-flank group of German troops. The command of the Northern Front saw the Kestercem region as such a point. But this aroused vigorous objections from the naval command, which indicated that the landing in this area was difficult due to the presence of strong enemy coastal batteries and minefields on the coast. It was not possible to clear out the obstacle, which was under the cover of coastal batteries, in a short time – and this excluded the landing of troops.
The Commander of the Baltic Fleet proposed to land at Roen: “as a coastal point with small, but port facilities, which will greatly facilitate the landing process and allow in the future to firmly establish the supply … the landing at Roen … is preferable to other places on the coast also because, being distant from the northern flank of the enemy’s location, it allows the possibility of an offensive by troops both to the south and west, across the routes from Vindava and the coast to Tukum. “
Commander of the Baltic Fleet V.A.Kanin
In fact, the command of the Baltic Fleet proposed expanding the significance of the tactical amphibious operation to the framework of a strategic scale – that is, to operate deep behind the German left flank, in the direction from Roen to Vindava.
Thus, the genesis of the landing operation took place – from a demonstrative sortie aimed at making the Germans disperse their forces along the entire Riga coast and thereby weaken themselves in the direction of the main attack of the 12th Army, to the idea of a strategic landing. It became obvious that not a naval demonstration, but only a full-fledged landing operation could adequately contribute to the efforts of the 12th Army.
But, given the fact that the points of application of the main efforts of the army and the landing force turned out to be too remote, the command of the army and navy actually refused to coordinate the tactical actions of the landing force and the 12th army. The main blame for this lies with A. N. Kuropatkin, who did not believe in the success of the landing, and with the High Command, who had withdrawn from the combined operation. A. N. Kuropatkin did not see an opportunity for interaction between the troops making a breakthrough east of Mitava and the landing at Roen. The front commander even suggested that the landing be carried out as an independent operation – in this case, the very idea of a joint operation was lost.
As a result, it was only stipulated that the landing force should adjust its actions to the tactical achievements of the advancing troops.
It turned out to be a vicious circle – the breakthrough of the infantry was difficult without the diversion of the enemy forces by the landing, and if the breakthrough failed, the landing was killed.
However, the landing force began preparations for the operation. It should be noted that it was the attack on Roen that gave the landing operations an important operational and tactical significance – not always (which the “old defeatist” A. N. Kuropatkin did not understand) shoulder interaction of troops is necessary to achieve success. The presence of a bridgehead on the flank of the German group, or even the threat of such a bridgehead, should have had a significant effect on the operations of the 12th Army.
But the planned operation was never carried out. Initially, due to the unavailability of the forces intended for the landing. Later – due to a change in the command of the front and a shift in the attention of the High Command to the southwestern and Romanian strategic directions.
The main blow during the July offensive of the 12th army on Bausk was to be delivered by the 3rd Siberian rifle division of the 6th Siberian army corps (the actions of the 1st brigade of Major General V.V. Ivashkevich were given key importance), supported by the 1st brigade The 5th Siberian Rifle Division (commander Major General G. G. Khilchenko) of the 2nd Siberian Army Corps, and the 6th and 7th Latvian Rifle Battalions. A. N. Kuropatkin, a weak tactician and strategist, was an excellent administrator – he personally came to the command post of the army and oversaw the supply of ammunition to the advancing troops and the provision of the operation with reserves.
The beginning of the offensive
On July 3, after three hours of artillery preparation, which did not give positive results, the offensive began. In the tactical zone of defense of the German troops, heavy positional battles began. Attacks by Russian riflemen were interspersed with renewed artillery barrage. The Germans constantly counterattacked. The General Headquarters report said: “On the right flank of the Riga position, with the assistance of ground artillery and naval fire, our troops advanced somewhat forward in the area west of Kemmern.” Quartermaster General of the German Eastern Front M. Hoffmann wrote in his diary dated July 5: “Yesterday the Russians and ours were advancing in the direction of Mitava. Until now, everything has been repulsed. “
By the 7th, the shock group managed to reach the border of the r. Kekkau – high. 218.
During the period of positional combat operations, the method of organizing a breakthrough was of particular importance. Thus, the artillery preparation in the offensive zone of the strike group on July 8 included: 1) 4-hour (from 12:00 to 16:00) methodical artillery fire from both heavy and light artillery, designed to destroy enemy defensive structures (trenches, blockhouses, dugouts), and also to punch passages in wire fences; 2) hourly (from 4 pm to 5 pm) harassing fire on defensive structures; under the cover of this fire, demolition workers who mined the barbed wire, as well as scouts operated; 3) barrage fire (started after 17 o’clock); the infantry attacked under his cover. The infantry attack was echeloned in the form of waves of chains. The advancing regiment had 2 battalions in the 1st line, and 2 other battalions in the second. Special attention was paid to the issue of consolidating the captured positions.
The actions of the enemy, who had extensive experience in trench warfare, significantly complicated the already difficult situation. So, during the pauses during the offensive and at night, the Germans built new blockhouses and trenches.
We previously wrote about the severity of an offensive during a trench warfare in a difficult terrain. And the events under consideration serve as an excellent example of this. So, on July 8, the Russian artillery managed to break through 7 passes in the barbed wire, but the enemy’s trenches and blockhouses did not suffer much. It was necessary here and there to destroy the barbed wire. Moreover, the demolition engineers suffered heavy losses from enemy fire. The actions of the shooters of the 9th Siberian regiment were especially hampered by the dugouts, which were camouflaged near the swamp.
The end follows …