Revolutionary Military Council of the 1st Cavalry Army: K. E. Voroshilov, S. M. Budyonny, E. A. Shchadenko
100 years ago, the Red Army defeated the 2nd Polish Army and liberated Rivne. Budyonny’s cavalry in mid-July 1920 broke through into the territory of Western Ukraine. The success of the armies of the Southwestern Front created favorable conditions for the transition to a general offensive of the troops of the Western Front in Belarus.
The Polish command, trying to save the front in Ukraine from complete collapse, transferred all the reserves and part of the troops from Belarus there. This facilitated the offensive of Tukhachevsky’s armies.
Liberation of Novograd-Volynsk
During the Kiev operation, the strategic initiative firmly passed into the hands of the Red Army. After the liberation of Kiev, Soviet troops continued their offensive with the aim of liberating the rest of Ukraine. The defeat of the 3rd Polish army in the Kiev direction forced the Polish command to withdraw the troops of the 6th army back on the southern wing. On June 20, 1920, the troops of the 14th Soviet Army occupied Kalinovka and Zhmerinka. The Southwestern Front entered the line Zhitomir – Berdichev – Kazatin – Vinnitsa.
The 1st Cavalry Army of Budyonny (about 20 thousand bayonets and sabers, about 100 guns and 670 machine guns, a group of armored trains) set the task to continue the offensive in the direction of Novograd-Volynsky and Rovno, in order to pursue the 3rd army of Rydz-Siigly along a parallel route, cut it off from the Southern Bug. Polish troops took up defensive positions at the border of the Uzh, Ubort and Sluch rivers. Directly the Soviet troops were opposed by the group “Sluch” of General Romer: 2 infantry and 1 cavalry divisions (about 24 thousand people, 60 guns and 360 machine guns).
On June 19, 1920, the Novograd-Volyn operation began. Budyonny’s army could not immediately break into the operational space. The red cavalry managed to break the stubborn resistance of the Poles only a week later. At the same time, the Poles successfully retreated to the previously prepared rear lines of defense and constantly counterattacked. Only on June 27, Soviet troops were able to occupy Novograd-Volynsky. Polish troops quickly left for Korets and Shepetovka. The 45th Infantry Division, which was part of the 1st Cavalry Army, occupied Novo-Miropol on the 28th. After a fierce battle on June 27-28, Kotovsky’s cavalry brigade occupied the town of Lyubar, which covered the way to Shepetovka.
The Polish defense crackled again, and between the Polish 6th Army (3 infantry divisions and the Ukrainian group) and the newly created 2nd Army (2 infantry divisions and 2 infantry brigades), covering the Lvov and Rovno directions, a gap of 80 km was formed. The Polish army began to withdraw along the entire front to the west. Other armies of the Soviet Southwestern Front also successfully advanced: the 12th Army liberated Korosten, Mozyr and Ovruch, the 14th Army liberated Zhmerinka.
The breakthrough of the Polish defense in Little Russia and the withdrawal of Polish troops to the west, in turn, exposed the southern flank of the Polish North-Eastern Front. This led to the fact that on June 18, the Polish forces began to withdraw, which stood in front of the Mozyr group of the Soviet Western Front in the area of the city of Rechitsa. Taking advantage of the success of Yegorov’s front, the commander of the Mozyr group, Khvesin, began pursuing the enemy. Our troops crossed the Dnieper and liberated Mozyr on the night of June 29. The offensive of Khvesin’s troops led to the destruction of the integrity of the Polish defense in Belarus. For the initiative shown, Khvesin was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. Developing the offensive, the left flank of the Western Front by the end of the month did not reach the line of the Zhlobin-Mozyr railway.
On June 27, 1920, the Revolutionary Military Council of the Southwestern Front set new tasks in the development of the offensive. The troops of Voskanov’s 12th Army, together with the 1st Cavalry Army, were to occupy the Rovno region. Uborevich’s 14th Army received the task of occupying Starokonstantinov and Proskurov. If successful, Yegorov’s armies cut the enemy’s front in two, pushing the Poles back to Polesie and Romania. The Red Army was given the opportunity to develop an offensive against Lublin and Lvov. The main blow was delivered by the 1st and 12th armies. Army Budyonny had about 24 thousand fighters, the shock group of the 12th Army numbered 12 thousand people, over 60 guns, more than 760 machine guns and 6 armored trains. They were opposed by the Polish 2nd Army – about 21 thousand people.
Meanwhile, Budyonny’s army was developing an offensive on Rivne without a pause. Polish troops tried to counterattack. On July 2, 1920, a counter battle took place near Rovno. Polish troops were defeated. On July 3, the main forces of Budyonny’s army (3 divisions) took Ostrog, crossed the Goryn River and began to cover Rovno from the south and south-west. One division supported the offensive from the northeast, a rifle division and two cavalry brigades marched on Shepetovka. At the same time, the 12th Soviet Army, having broken the enemy’s resistance, went to the Mozyr region and to the Ubot River. The 14th Army broke through the front of the 6th Polish Army, the 8th Cavalry Division went into the enemy’s rear and on the night of July 4 took Proskurov. The management of the Polish 6th Army was disorganized.
The Polish command was preparing flank counterattacks against Budyonny’s army. From the south, from the area of Starokonstantinov, an infantry division and a brigade, an Uhlan regiment were to attack; from the north – an infantry division supported by tanks and armored trains. However, the Budennovites, with the support of units of the 12th Army, broke the resistance of the Poles and on July 4 took Exactly and thwarted the enemy’s plans. About 1,000 prisoners, 2 armored trains and 2 tanks were captured. This created the threat of a large gap in the Polish defense and a breakthrough for Soviet troops far to the west. The Polish command was forced to begin the withdrawal of troops.
On July 7, 1920, the 11th Cavalry Division occupied Dubno. Meanwhile, the Polish 2nd Army, retreating to the west, was reinforced by 3 infantry divisions and a cavalry regiment at the expense of the 3rd and 6th armies. On July 7-8, Polish troops launched a counteroffensive to defeat the red cavalry. On July 8-9, the Poles even temporarily occupied Rovno, but Budyonny’s cavalry had greater maneuverability. The 4th, 6th, and 14th Cavalry Divisions quickly regrouped, launched a powerful counterattack, and on 10 July drove the enemy out of the city. The Poles retreated again. Pursuing the enemy, Yegorov’s armies reached the Sarny – Rovno – Proskurov – Kamenets-Podolsky line.
Thus, the Soviet troops inflicted a heavy defeat on the 2nd Polish Army. Polish troops withdrew to the west. Conditions were created for the development of an offensive against Lublin and Lvov. Yegorov’s armies began to threaten the southern flank of the Polish North-Eastern Front, which was crumbling under the blows of Tukhachevsky’s Western Front. The victories of the Southwestern Front contributed to the July offensive of the Soviet Western Front, since the Polish high command, trying to stabilize the situation in Ukraine, threw all reserves there and withdrew part of the troops in White Russia. The main role in the operation was played by Budyonny’s cavalry divisions, which operated in significant isolation from the main forces of the front. The actions of the Budyonnovsk cavalry were distinguished by great maneuverability, activity and decisiveness. The absence of a continuous positional front facilitated the actions of large masses of cavalry.
On July 11, 1920, the front command issued new instructions to the troops. The 12th Army was to develop an offensive on Kovel and Brest-Litovsk; 1st Cavalry Army – to Lutsk, Lublin, bypassing the Brest-Litovsk region; The 14th Army covered the offensive of the main forces from the direction of Galicia, advancing on Ternopil and Lvov. As a result, the main forces of the Southwestern Front had to turn to Brest and provide assistance to the offensive of the Western Front. However, in fact, the troops of Budyonny were engaged in battles with a strong enemy group in the area of Dubno, Brody, Kremenets and deviated to the southwestern direction.