Eastern Front of the First World War
It is significant that on the Eastern Front the Germans were not so slow in introducing this system (see Uniting Millions). Approaching the question more responsibly.
1. Over the 8th and 9th armies on September 18, 1914, the power of P. Hindenburg was established, appointed to combine the actions of these operational formations, but at the same time continued to maintain command over his army (the 9th Army from September 18 to November 1, 1914).
2. The crisis, which was very sensitive for the Germans, caused by the Russian counter-offensive against Bzura and Warta, prompted the appointment of P. Hindenburg as “commander in chief in the east” (ie, the commander of the German Eastern Front), transferring command of the 9th Army to A. Mackensen. The power of P. Hindenburg extended to the 8th and 9th armies, as well as to the administrations of the 1st, 20th, 17th, 2nd, 5th and 6th districts (East Prussia, Pomerania, Poznan and Silesia), with fortresses located there. The 10th Army, formed in East Prussia on January 26, 1915 (primarily due to corps transferred from Germany and France) under the command of G. von Eichhorn, was also included in this grouping.
H. von Eichhorn
So, the Germans in the east came to an army group much earlier, the commander of which not only united in his hands the control of the army group itself – he becomes the front commander, with the advent of a full-fledged front command apparatus.
But due to the divergence of views that occurred between P. Hindenburg’s headquarters and the Main Apartment, the latter laid its hand on a number of operational aspects of the Eastern Front. In addition, the 11th Army was organized on March 9, 1915 (commanded by M. von Fabek, then A. von Mackensen), independent of P. Hindenburg.
A. von Mackensen
3. The need to conduct an active mobile war on the Eastern Front with large forces led the Germans to the introduction in the summer of 1915 of a series of army groups:
a) On August 5, 1915, the name “Army Group” was assigned to a grouping of 3 armies (10th, 8th and 12th) under the command of P. Hindenburg (Army Group of Hindenburg).
b) The same name “army group” from July 6, 1915 was officially established for the A. Mackensen group (Mackensen army group) formed from the German 11th and Austrian 4th armies in southern Poland, which retained command over the 11th army. Under the new name (Army Group Linsingen), in September 1915, it passed under the command of A. Linzingen, then on March 31, 1918, under the command of G. Eichhorn (Army Group Eichhorn – Kiev), and finally (after the assassination of Eichhorn) – under the command of G. Kirkhbach (Army Group Kiev).
4. Second Army Group A. Mackensen (against Serbia), established in September 1915.
5. The Brusilov breakthrough forced the Germans to create on July 30, 1916, a new association, intermediate between the Army Group and the Main Apartment. This was the “front of the armies of Hindenburg” (Front of Hindenburg), which united three German army groups under the command of one commander: Eichhorn (Eichhorn – Wilno; Eichhorn took command of the Hindenburg army group, continuing to command the 10th Army), and Leopold Bawenaena. The Austrian 2nd Army also joined the association.
A. von Linzingen
Leopold took command of the Eastern Front on August 29, and his army group became the Voyrsh army group, and Voyrsh continued to command the Voyrsh army group. On December 31, 1916, this army group disintegrated.
R. von Weirsch
6. Army Group Belov (in Macedonia), reorganized from the former Mackensen group on October 10, 1916. It was transferred on April 22, 1917 under the command of F. von Scholz.
O. von Belov
7. Third Army Group Mackensen (against Romania), formed on 28 August 1916.
Thus, on the Eastern Front, in the third month of the war, the Germans formed only one special association – entrusting power over the entire German Eastern Front to P. Hindenburg. Then the army groups that appeared, although independent of one another, nevertheless depended on P. Hindenburg as the commander of the Eastern Front – either directly or along the rear and supply lines.
As a result, the power of Hindenburg was formalized in the formation of the “Front of Hindenburg”. The army groups that were part of it did not have special chiefs and staffs – the corresponding functions were implemented by the commander and the apparatus of one of the armies that were part of the group (these army commanders (and at the same time army groups) had advantages over other army commanders, the army groups were also subordinate to them, as well as allied formations or associations).
Since such a commander had high authority, this organization was very solid.
1. The division of the Field Army into 2 fronts (into 2 “army groups”), adopted since the beginning of the war: the Northwestern and Southwestern fronts, led already in the first two months of hostilities to unnecessary friction. Some researchers believe that it was this circumstance that served as a noticeable reason for the disaster with the 2nd Army of A.V. Samsonov (there were not so many armies, and in the case of direct leadership of the armies from the Headquarters, there was no need for a virtually useless front-line instance in the person of Ya. Zhilinsky).
The Northwestern Front included only two formations: the 1st and 2nd armies. And the Southwestern Front, even after the formation of the 9th Army, had only 5 formations (3rd, 4th, 5th, 8th and 9th armies).
After P. Hindenburg’s blow in Poland in September – October 1914, reorganization was required. At first almost empty, the Russian advanced theater (Polish balcony) from September 1914 began to fill up with troops from both fronts. Initially, the Headquarters subordinated these troops to the Southwestern Front, but soon handed them over to the Northwestern Front. Meanwhile, the need for a new front was obvious.
2. Near Lodz in November 1914, during the development of the crisis of the operation, something similar appeared from the grouping of troops (1st, 2nd, 5th armies and separate detachments), given to the temporary command of the commander of the 5th Army P A. Plehve.
However, this grouping was subordinated not directly to the General Headquarters, but to the North-Western Front. That largely played a negative role in the outcome of the Lodz operation – P.A.Pleve managed to turn the tide in favor of Russian weapons and surround the enemy’s strike grouping, but further operational decisions by the commander of such a unique Russian “army group” aimed at pursuing and defeating the enemy were blocked by the command of the North-Western Front in the person of N.V. Ruzsky.
Only in August 1915, after the loss of the Advanced Theater and the funnel-shaped expansion of the Eastern Front, a “middle” front – the Western – was formed in the Russian Field Army.
3. Entry into the war on the side of the Entente Romania led to new changes. The Russian formations supporting the Romanian army were part of the Southwestern Front, but after A. Mackensen’s defeat of the Romanian army, the Romanian (Russian-Romanian) front appeared, which was subordinate to the Russian Headquarters, but was under the nominal command of the King of Romania.
During the initial organization of the fronts (army groups), the Russians violated the peacetime order of subordination: the troops of the Vilna military district (Rennenkampf’s army) subordinated the Warsaw military district (in Zhilinsky, the commander-in-chief of the armies of the North-Western Front – Rennenkampf saw the little-authoritative former commander of the Warsaw military district). The desire to have one commander against one enemy (the Germans) prevailed over the inconvenience for the High Command to dispose of only two subordinate instances and over the same inconvenience of making up one of the fronts (North-West) only from 2 units: from the 1st and 2- th armies.
Rennenkampf, like Kluk, had the same motives: not to obey an equal, who supposedly pursues the benefits of the army of his district alone, and not the general whole. The difference in the position of Rennenkampf and Kluk was purely formal – the habit of obeying only the High Command could not disappear so easily among persons of the respective ranks.
Probably, it was better to have at the beginning of the war one front (that is, one army group) – South-West, and two separate armies: Vilna and Warsaw, directly subordinate to the Headquarters. Then the High Command would have three directly subordinate command instances, two of which – separate armies – would have at the ready everything needed to transform into command and control of army groups (in fact, new fronts).
Such an initial organization would not have to be broken or even substantially supplemented. The rate would not look indifferently at Rennenkampf’s incipient movement towards Konigsberg; the confusion at ód would have been avoided and the opposition to the German invasion in 1915 through the sector of the Austrian front would have been more orderly.
Before the Germans, who continued to constantly improve their system of high-level operational formations, the Russians remained until the end of the Great Withdrawal, with a clearly untenable system of two fronts (army groups) in the Eastern European theater of operations.
The situation improved in the second half of the war, and by February 1917 the Russian Army in the field was structured in the form of the Northern, Western, Southwestern, Romanian and Caucasian fronts (the latter included one army).
And we will end the conversation by looking at the situation in relation to the Soviet-Polish war in the next article of the cycle.
The end follows …