Defeat of the 13th Soviet Army in Northern Tavria

British tank captured by the Red Army at Kakhovka. 1920

Troubles. 1920 year.100 years ago, on June 6, 1920, the North Tavrian operation began. During the first week of the offensive of Wrangel’s army, the Reds lost almost all of Northern Tavria.

The plans and forces of the parties

Having reorganized the army at the end of April – May 1920, the white command decided that it was time to go on the offensive. The moment was auspicious. The Soviet command, after a series of defeats from the Polish army on the Western Front, postponed the assault on Crimea. The most efficient forces and reserves of the Red Army were diverted to the Ukraine and Belarus. In addition, the white Crimea, downtrodden by refugees, was under the threat of starvation; it was necessary to seize the food resources of Northern Tavria. Wrangel’s Russian army needed resources – people, food, etc. to continue the struggle. For this it was necessary to capture new areas. Maximum plan – Kuban and Don, minimum – Tavria. There were very few cavalry in the army – only 2 thousand sabers (the horse staff was abandoned during the evacuation), guns and machine guns, but there was no other way but to attack.

On the front line, the Wrangelites had about 25-30 thousand fighters, over 120 guns and about 450 machine guns. The Russian army was divided into four corps: the 1st and 2nd army corps under the command of Kutepov and Slashchev, Pisarev’s Consolidated Corps and Abramov’s Don Corps. The advantage of the White Guards was the presence of the White Black Sea Fleet. He supported the defense of the peninsula and made it possible to land troops on the enemy’s flanks. The composition of the white fleet under the command of Vice-Admiral Sablin included 2 battleships – the flagship General Alekseev (formerly Emperor Alexander III) and Rostislav, 3 cruisers, 11 destroyers, 8 gunboats. In total, there are about 50 warships and 150 various auxiliary vessels. In May 1920, the white fleet fired at Mariupol, Temryuk, Genichesk and Taganrog. Near Ochakovo the destroyer Zharkiy made raids. The White Guards threatened communications between Odessa, Kherson and Nikolaev, and planted sabotage groups on the coast.

On June 2, 1920, Wrangel set combat missions for the troops. Slashchev’s corps was removed from the defense, boarded ships in Feodosia and landed in the Kirillovka area, on the right flank. The Slashchevites were supposed to cause panic in the rear of the Perekop enemy group, intercept the Melitopol railway, and pose a threat to Melitopol. In the future, advance together with the Consolidated Corps of Pisarev. Pisarev’s corps struck from Chongar positions on Genichesk. The 1st corps of General Kutepov struck on the left flank, in the Perekop direction, was supposed to reach the Dnieper in the section from the mouth to Kakhovka. The Don corps was in reserve in the Dzhankoy area. If the operation was successful, the Don was supposed to go from the Chongar ferry to Melitopol and further to Nogaysk and Berdyansk. With a decisive success, the Don corps made its way to the Don along the Sea of ​​Azov. Thus, Wrangel delivered the main blow in the general direction of the Don, three corps were concentrated on the right flank.

In front of the front of Wrangel’s army were the troops of the 13th Soviet Army under the command of I. Kh. Pauki (after the success of the Wrangelites he was removed, the army was headed by R. Eideman). The 13th Army in May 1920, before the enemy’s offensive, was strengthened to 19 thousand fighters (including 4 thousand sabers), received the Blinov 2nd Cavalry Division (from the Budyonny Cavalry Army). In the Genichesk area, the 46th division defended, in the Perekop direction – the 52nd, 3rd rifle, Latvian divisions, 85th and 124th rifle brigades. Blinov’s cavalry division and a cavalry brigade were in reserve. There were also separate small units and divisions.

Defeat of the 13th Soviet Army in Northern Tavria
The battleship General Alekseev in dry dock. 1919

Slashchev’s landing and a breakthrough in the defense of the 13th Army

The time of the beginning of the operation and the place of landing of the 2nd Army Corps were kept secret. The landing party learned about the landing site already at sea. Prior to this, rumors were actively spreading about the preparation of an amphibious operation in the region of Novorossiysk and Odessa. In addition, on the day of the landing, a demonstration was held on the left flank, in the area of ​​the village of Khorly. There, a detachment of ships fired at the coast, diverting the enemy’s attention. On June 5, 1920, the landing was loaded onto ships (10 thousand soldiers, 50 guns and 2 armored cars) in Feodosia. Through the Kerch Strait, the fleet passed into the Sea of ​​Azov and landed the Slashchevites in the Kirillovka area. The troops landed successfully despite a heavy storm. The Red Command hastily put forward reserves here, but clearly insufficient (about 2 thousand people). Slashchev’s body knocked them over quite easily.

On June 6, 1920, Wrangel’s army launched an offensive along the entire front. After a short artillery preparation, Pisarev’s corps, supported by tanks and armored trains, moved forward. At the same time, the Slushchyovs in the rear of the Reds reached the railway. Attacked from the front and threatened from the rear, the Red Army left the Genichesky fortified area and retreated to Rozhdestvenskoye. The Reds lost several hundred prisoners. The Wrangelites took the city of Genichesk, their armored trains advanced to the Rykovo station.

Meanwhile, Kutepov’s units stormed the Perekop positions. Tanks and armored cars destroyed the barbed wire. Here the Red Army men put up fierce resistance. The Latvian riflemen were especially steadfast. In the area of ​​the villages of Preobrazhenka and Pervokonstantinovka, the red artillerymen damaged several enemy tanks. However, the Wrangelites broke through the enemy’s defenses. The Reds retreated. The 2nd Cavalry Division of General Morozov (about 2 thousand checkers) was sent to the breakthrough.

Recovering after the first defeat, the Reds counterattacked with the forces of two rifle divisions and a cavalry brigade. The Markov division was pushed aside. The corps command threw its reserve into battle – the Drozdovites. Markovskaya and Drozdovskaya divisions restored the situation. At that time, the white cavalry reached Chaplinka, repulsing enemy counterattacks. Red (new forces) went forward again. In the area of ​​Pervokonstantinovka there was a stubborn battle, the whites suffered heavy losses. So, among the Drozdovites, almost all the commanders of the battalion-company level were killed. By nightfall, the First Constantine remained with the Red Army.

On June 7, stubborn battles continued. Slashchevtsy went to the Melitopol railway, captured up to 1 thousand prisoners. Pisarev’s corps continued to move, occupying a number of villages. The Reds tried to counterattack the Consolidated Corps with the help of Blinov’s division (2500 sabers). The Reds recaptured Novo-Mikhailovka, but by evening they were knocked out. After a fierce battle, the Drozdovites again occupied Pervokonstantinovka. The Red Army soldiers retreated to Vladimirovka. The Drozdovskaya division and the 2nd Cavalry Division pursued the enemy and occupied Vladimirovka. Part of the red group was pressed against the Sivash in the Vladimirovka area. After a little resistance, the Reds laid down their arms. 1.5 thousand people were taken prisoner. The White Guards captured 5 guns and 3 armored cars. Meanwhile, the Markov and Kornilov divisions held back the attacks of another part of the Perekop group of the Reds.

Thus, in the course of a two-day battle, Wrangel’s army broke through the enemy’s defenses and entered the operational space. Only Kutepov’s corps took 3.5 thousand prisoners prisoner, captured 25 guns and 6 armored cars. The White Guards suffered significant losses. However, the battle continued. So, on the night of June 7-8, the red cavalry, using the stretched position of the enemy’s 3rd Cavalry Division (on foot), broke through to Novo-Mikhailovka and captured the division headquarters led by its commander A. Revishin.

Source of the card: Kakurin N. Ye., Vatsetis I. I. Civil War. 1918-1921

The capture of Melitopol

On June 9, 1920, Wrangel ordered Slashchev to take Melitopol, then send his cavalry to the northwest, threatening the rear of the red group of forces retreating from Sivash. Pisarev’s corps, reinforced by the 2nd Don Division, was to defeat the enemy in the area of ​​the villages of Rozhdestvenskoye and Petrovskoye. Kutepov’s troops received the task of reaching the area of ​​the mouth of the Dnieper – Alyoshka – Kakhovka. The Don corps moved towards Novo-Alekseevka, remaining in reserve.

By evening, Slashchev’s units reached Melitopol. Pisarev’s corps moved slowly forward, Kutepov’s troops pursued the defeated enemy. On June 10, parts of Slashchev took the capital of Northern Tavria – Melitopol. However, then for several days there were stubborn battles for the city. The Soviet command pulled up reserves from Aleksandrovka and tried with all its might to recapture the city. Slashchevites had a hard time. The Consolidated Corps fought with the Red 2nd Cavalry Division near the village of Rozhdestvenskoye. On June 11, the Reds counterattacked again and threw the Kuban back to Novo-Alekseevka. Then the Wrangelites went on the attack, threw the enemy back to the north and in the evening occupied Rozhdestvenskoye. On June 12, Pisarev’s corps occupied Petrovskoe. At the same time, the Kuban and Don people arbitrarily acquired horses, requisitioning them from local peasants. The orders of the commander and commanders did not work on them, the robberies did not stop. In a battle, the command could not resort to stricter measures. But the White Army spontaneously received cavalry, which brought positive results on the front line.

Retreating from Perekop to Kakhovka, the troops of the 13th Army were replenished with troops that were going to the Polish front. The Soviet command deployed them to save the 13th Army. On June 10, regiments of the 15th Infantry Division (4.5 thousand bayonets and 800 sabers) moved to the area of ​​the village of Chernaya Dolina. The Latvian and 52nd divisions, with the support of the fresh 15th division, again launched a counterattack, dropping the white cavalry. The Drozdovskaya and Kornilovskaya divisions withstood the attacks of the Reds and began to cover the enemy, who wedged into their positions. The White Command pulled up the Markov Division and the 1st Cavalry Division. On the morning of June 11, the White Guards struck with all their might. The Reds could not stand it and rolled back to the Dnieper. By evening, White reached the approaches to Kakhovka and Alyoshki. On June 12, the 1st corps reached the Dnieper and took Kakhovka with a quick blow. 1.5 thousand Red Army soldiers were taken prisoner. However, the main forces of the Reds managed to leave for the Dnieper and destroyed the crossings. By June 13, White took up positions along the Dnieper from the mouth to Kakhovka.

At the same time, stubborn battles continued in the Melitopol region. Slashchev held out until the rest of the corps developed an offensive, and the Reds, who overlaid the Whites in Melitopol from three sides, were forced to retreat. Kutepov sent the Drozdovskaya division and the 2nd Cavalry Division to the northeast to take positions west of Melitopol. Consolidated and Don corps developed an offensive to the east. The defeated troops of the Soviet 3rd and 46th Infantry, 2nd Cavalry Divisions retreated to the Orekhov area. On June 19, 1920, Wrangel’s army entered the Berdyansk – Orekhov – Dnepr line. Wrangel’s headquarters was moved to Melitopol.

Thus, in the week of the offensive of the Russian army of Wrangel, the Reds lost almost all of Northern Tavria. The 13th Soviet Army suffered a heavy defeat (some units lost up to 75% of their strength), losing only 7-8 thousand prisoners, about 30 guns and 2 armored trains. The White Guards captured army reserves in the Perekop area. A breakthrough into the rich Northern Tavria provided the White Army with provisions, horse strength and other resources.

However, the Wrangelites failed to break through further. The white army was forced to stop. It was necessary to replenish losses (Kutepov’s corps lost a quarter of its composition), to tighten up the rear and to consolidate the occupied areas. Affected by the lack of strategic reserves and powerful cavalry. There was nothing to develop the first success. It was not possible to completely destroy the 13th Army. At this time, the Soviet command hastily restored and strengthened the 13th Army, the number of which was brought to 41 thousand soldiers (including 11 thousand cavalry). Three new divisions, two brigades and the Redneck’s cavalry corps were sent against Wrangel. A counteroffensive was being prepared with the aim of clearing Tavria and Crimea from the Whites. IP Uborevich was appointed the new commander of the 13th Army.

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