Chest-deep battle in the swamp

The offensive of the 12th Army’s strike group, although with difficulty, developed (Strike on Bausk).

Under dagger fire

Starting at 17 o’clock the offensive, the Siberians were met with small arms fire of all kinds. And they had to move through the area, which was littered with trees, uprooted by artillery fire. The battle formations of the attackers collapsed.

And in some areas, the shooters had to attack through swampy terrain, moving chest and knee-deep in the quagmire – as a result, many drowned. The situation was aggravated by the flank and crossfire of the Germans, especially destructive at the height. 218.

Subdivisions of the 17th Siberian regiment were shot from heights 211 – 212 with flank fire. The riflemen, having suffered heavy losses, lay down at the Germanic wire barriers.

The companies of the 9th Siberian regiment managed to break into the grove west of the Oval Bog. The riflemen moved slowly along the latter, also suffering serious losses from the flank fire (from height 218).

The 17th Siberian Rifle Regiment was reinforced by 2 battalions of the 18th Siberian Regiment, and the 9th Siberian Rifle Regiment – by 2 battalions of the 11th Siberian Regiment.

10th Siberian Rifle Regiment, headed by the commander Colonel P.M. Ivanov – Mumzhiev (cavalier of the Georgievsky Arms, even during the Russo-Japanese War, 11.04.1917 will be awarded the Order of St. George 4th degree), overcoming the wire barrage, was met with merciless machine-gun fire. And then the enemy counterattacked. The battle was extremely fierce: during it, the regimental commander was wounded (remaining in the ranks) and the commanders of both forward battalions were wounded. 2 battalions of the 12th Siberian Rifle Regiment moved forward to support the 10th Siberian.

By 20 o’clock the 10th Siberian regiment suffered heavy losses (all officers were out of action) and withdrew. The soldiers of the 12th Siberian regiment, despite the injury of the battalion commanders, held on to the occupied lines. Subdivisions of the 10th Siberian regiment were put in order and again approached – they were brought in by the shell-shocked PM Ivanov-Mumzhiev.

In other areas, Russian units dug in at enemy barbed wire. So, parts of the 5th Siberian division lay down 150 steps from the German wire. At the same time, the 3 battalions of the 9th Siberian regiment, which were in the forest northwest of the Oval Bog, could not dig in on the swampy soil – and suffered greatly from flank machine-gun fire (from height 218, on the right).

War heroes: B.V. Ovodov, lieutenant colonel of the 18th Siberian rifle regiment of the 5th Siberian rifle division

By 22 hours 30 minutes, it became clear that it was not possible to capture the fortified positions of the Germans. Despite meticulous reconnaissance, more and more German firing points were constantly identified – and many of the latter did not suffer from Russian artillery fire. Strong shelters withstood the impact of even heavy shells. The Germans systematically erected field fortifications during the battle.

The offensive fades

The offensive was halted, the riflemen began to dig in, and the artillery opened alarming fire.

The second day of the offensive was approaching – July 9th. To attack enemy positions on the front r. Kekkau – Bol. Bolshiye Smerduki decided to form 2 independent shock groups: the left (parts of the 3rd Siberian rifle division, 6th and 7th Latvian rifle battalions) – from the river. Kekkau to the swamp; right (part of the 5th Siberian Rifle Division) – from Kateriningof to Bol. Big Smerduki.

At 5 o’clock artillery preparation began, and at 7 o’clock the fire was transferred to the rear of the Germans. Reconnaissance revealed insufficiently high efficiency of artillery fire, and shelling resumed.

At 16:30 the order of the corps commander was received: to gain a foothold in the occupied positions. The task of making a breakthrough was entrusted to the 4th Siberian Rifle Division of the 2nd Siberian Army Corps – it was supposed to strike along the Bausskoye highway on July 10. The 6th Siberian Army Corps now had to shackle the enemy with vigorous actions.

And at 24 o’clock a new telegram from the corps commander arrived – that the offensive was canceled. The 6th and 7th Siberian Army Corps should have consolidated their positions.

The tactical properties of the terrain, not only wooded and swampy, but also since October 1915, had been thoroughly fortified by the enemy, had an enormous effect on the effectiveness of the battles. Despite all the difficulties, the 3rd Siberian Division, together with the attached units, captured 2 lines of fortified positions – which were fiercely defended by an active and extremely stubborn enemy. In the course of these extremely difficult battles, 4 German machine guns, a lot of weapons and equipment became Russian trophies. Based on the number of corpses in the captured trenches, the Germans suffered heavy losses (in addition to losses from Russian fire, it is worth noting that the Germans were big fans of counterattacks – during which they themselves turned into offensive ones with all the ensuing consequences). 169 Germans were captured (2 officers and 167 lower ranks).

In the period from July 3 to 9, Russian formations and units suffered the following losses:
in the 3rd Siberian Rifle Division – 22 officers were killed and 91 were wounded and shell-shocked, 972 lower ranks were killed, 5156 lower ranks were wounded and shell-shocked;
in the 1st brigade of the 5th Siberian rifle division – 7 officers were killed and 12 were wounded, 1543 lower ranks were killed and wounded;
in the 6th Latvian rifle battalion – 7 officers were killed, 7 officers were wounded and shell-shocked, lower ranks – 175 were killed and 672 were wounded and shell-shocked;
in the 7th Latvian rifle battalion – 11 officers were wounded and shell-shocked, lower ranks – 25 were killed and 251 were wounded and shell-shocked;
in the 2nd and 3rd companies of the 7th engineer battalion – 3 officers were killed and 4 were wounded, 20 were killed, 103 lower ranks were wounded and shell-shocked;
in the artillery, 10 officers were wounded, 15 were killed, 66 lower ranks were wounded and shell-shocked.

On July 10, 2 more lower ranks were killed, and 27 were wounded.

Thus, the shock group of the 12th Army suffered total losses of almost 9,200 people in a week.

War heroes: Fedotov, ensign of the 10th Siberian Rifle Regiment of the 3rd Siberian Rifle Division.

Units of the 14th Siberian Rifle Division of the 6th Siberian Corps conducted in this period only search and reconnaissance in force. So, on July 7, divisional scouts cut the enemy’s wire barriers and fought with hand grenades.

During an artillery firefight, a platoon of a heavy battery in the Laps forest was injured – an enemy shell caused an explosion and a fire in the gun cellar: 3 people were burned, and 22 were wounded and shell-shocked. On July 8, as a result of the artillery shelling of the enemy by the regimental reserve of the 54th Siberian Rifle Regiment, 38 riflemen were disabled. But in general, in the course of reconnaissance, skirmishes, operations to cut enemy wire barriers, units of the 14th Siberian division, the 2nd and 8th Latvian rifle battalions and artillerymen lost no more than 250 people in the period from July 7 to 10.

In total, the 12th Army lost more than 15 thousand people in the period from 3 to 9 July.

Buried perspective

At the same time, it should be noted that, based on the balance of enemy forces and the importance of the operational direction, the Baltic operations were especially sensitive for the Germans. In addition, the 12th Army managed to pin down significant enemy forces, which limited the latter’s ability to transfer troops to the south – during the crucial period of the struggle against the offensive of the Southwestern Front. The Germans fully admit this. So, M. Hoffman noted the severity of the battles near Riga – moreover, the Russians managed to win space with a strong blow. And the commander of the German Eastern Front so far could do little to help the Austrian allies. True, the powerful Russian attacks near Riga were repulsed, the general notes, but it was impossible to predict whether they would continue or not. Riga, according to M. Hoffmann, was the most sensitive place of the German northern front – if the Russians succeeded in breaking through there, the entire front would have to retreat. Even the reserves in this area were not touched by the Germans.

The operations of the Russian Northern and Western Fronts were of particular importance during the crisis in the reserves of the Austro-Germans – when the latter were the last to send everything that could be sent to the south, to Galicia. In this situation, the local success of the Russians could become the last straw that would tip the scales on the Russian front. E. Ludendorff noted that the front was already extremely weakened (there were only separate battalions in reserve). The general noted that he formed battalions even from the composition of recruitment depots, realizing that if the Russians won real success, it would be just a drop in the ocean.

On July 10, R.D. Radko-Dmitriev, refusing to strike in the Bauska direction, proposes to the front command to shift the center of gravity of the operation to the Tukkum direction – in this case, the value of the landing operation grew sharply. Accordingly, the preparations for the joint operation have intensified. The landing party was formed and was finishing the final preparations.

The airborne corps consisted of: 31st battalion (116th Infantry Division, 3 Regiments of the Separate Marine Brigade, 4th Vidzeme Latvian Battalion, 2nd Battalion of the 434th Infantry Cherepovets Regiment), 12 squadrons (20th Dragoon Finnish Regiment, Regiment of the Officer Cavalry School, Revel Border Horse Division, Partisan Detachment), 72 guns (116th Artillery Division, Horse Battery, Naval Fortress Field Brigade Division, 2 batteries of a separate naval battalion, 152-mm howitzer battery), 142 machine guns and 3 sapper companies. The airborne corps was supposed to seize the bridgehead at Roen, crush the approaching enemy and then advance on the connection with the right flank of the 12th Army, “trying to get out to the flank and rear of the enemy operating against it.” The operation was worked out, detailed schedules were drawn up, and preparatory measures were taken. If the combined operation was successful, a turning point could have occurred on the Russian-German front, as the Germans themselves believed.

The offensive of the 12th Army was to be carried out in the direction of Tukkum – Schmarden (division of the 6th Siberian Corps and the 21st Army Corps), the 43rd and 7th Siberian Army Corps were to perform auxiliary tasks. A.N. Kuropatkin supported the commander of the army, but on the day the order was issued (on the start of a combined operation – an offensive in the Tukkum direction and the advance of an airborne corps) he was appointed Turkestan Governor-General – a change of commanders took place. This happened on July 22nd.

The new commander, General of Infantry, N.V. Ruzsky, became the “gravedigger” of the combined operation of the Northern Front and the Baltic Fleet – after the death of the cavalry general P.A.Pleve, the front was catastrophically unlucky for leaders.

The curtailment of the landing operation deprived the positional attacks of the 12th Army’s troops of any prospects, and the real opportunity to achieve a tangible result during the 1916 campaign in the northern sector of the Austro-German front was missed.

Sources of
RGVIA. F. 2515. Op. 1. Д. 147;
RGVIA. F. 2526. Op. 1. Д. 116;
Chronicle of the war. 1914-15-16 No. 99; 100;
Hoffman M. The War of Missed Opportunities. M. – L., 1925;
Hoffman M. Notes and diaries 1914-1918. L., 1929;
Brusilov A.A.My memoirs. M., 1983;
Ludendorff E. My memories of the war of 1914-1918. M. – Mn., 2005.

Strategic sketch of the war 1914-1918 Part 5. The period from October 1915 to September 1916 / comp. V.N.Klembovsky. M., 1920;
Strategic sketch of the war of 1914-1918. Part 6. / comp. A. M. Zayonchkovsky. M., 1923;
Danilov NA Mixed operation in the Gulf of Riga in June-August 1916 L., 1927;
Kuznetsov B. I. Campaign of 1916 on the fronts of the First World Imperialist War. M., 1941;
Kersnovsky A.A. History of the Russian Army. T.T. 3; 4. M., 1994;
Histories of Two Hundred and Fifty-One Divisions of the German Army which Participated in the War (1914-1918). Washington, 1920.

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