The tragedy of the 8th Army strike group

So, the offensive of the 3rd army in the course of the first Lyubachev battle was choked (see Lyubachev battles, May-June 1915).

Completion of the offensive of the 3rd Army

The enemy was strongly fortified and put up stubborn resistance, which could not be overcome without the support of heavy artillery and without a significant expenditure of ammunition. The weak combat composition of the corps of the 3rd Army did not allow even the tactical success achieved to be developed. The Supreme Commander-in-Chief informed Emperor Nicholas II that on the morning of May 19, Russian troops attacked the enemy on the left bank of the San (Kravtse-Rudnik region) and on the right bank, between the Vishnya and Lyubachevka and Vishnya rivers. It was possible to achieve some successes, but the enemy in many areas retains an advantage in artillery fire and offers stubborn resistance. After the dashing attack of the 42nd Division (the formation managed to break through the enemy’s front on May 20), the offensive of the 3rd Army is developing favorably. On the lower Sana’a we managed to gain a foothold at the front of the village. Kaimow (near the Vistula) – st. Lentovlya (railway Rudnik – Lezhaisk), but on the right bank of the river. Sun fails to develop the offensive.

By May 22, the advancing Russian units were met with strong artillery fire from the depths of the enemy’s defenses. On this day, the offensive of the 3rd Army stopped. The fact that the 8th Army withdrew, leaving Przemysl, had a significant impact on the curtailment of the operation.

On May 23, at 15 hours 15 minutes, the commander of the 3rd Army, General of Infantry L.V. (P) Lesh, gave an order in which he called the consolidation on the lines and consolidation of the position on the front of the San rivers as the main task of the armies of the Southwestern Front. , Dniester and Prut. The 3rd Army, covering the direction from the Tarnobrzeg – Zapalov front to Lublin and Zamost, should have firmly strengthened its position, vigorously strengthened its areas, conducting continuous searches and reconnaissance (with the obligatory daily capture of prisoners) and keep a strong connection with the neighbors – 4- 1st and 8th armies. The neighbor on the left (8th Army), adjoining the 3rd right flank at Zapalov, should provide the Lviv region from the west, covering the direction to Tomashev – Lvov and Komorno from the Zapalov-Susulov front.

The commander ordered the corps to firmly gain a foothold in their positions, to constantly conduct searches and as deep as possible reconnaissance, to strengthen the corps areas. In the event of an enemy offensive, it was forbidden to give up the occupied space, and in order to successfully maneuver in order to counteract breakthroughs and detours, corps commanders and division chiefs were ordered to have (if possible) strong reserves. The 4th Cavalry Corps was to concentrate in the area of ​​Rozvaduv in the army reserve, the 3rd Caucasian Cossack Division was included in the 10th Army Corps (it was forbidden to use it without the permission of the commander), and the 16th Cavalry Division was to concentrate at Tarnograd ( the connection was included in the 3rd Caucasian Army Corps, but it was also forbidden to use the division without the special permission of the commander).

The tragedy of the 8th Army strike group

L. V. (P.) Lesh

LV (P) Lesh, as can be seen from the text of the order, began to pay special attention to the formation of a mobile reserve.

The trophies of the operation were up to 7 thousand prisoners, 6 guns and 30 machine guns taken by units of the 3rd Army.

The 8th Army is in action

The offensive of the shock group of the 8th Army – the 2nd Caucasian and 23rd Army Corps – also had no success. The army commander, cavalry general A.A. Brusilov, did not believe in the success of such an offensive. He later wrote in his memoirs that the 23rd Army and the 2nd Caucasian Army Corps (previously directed at Lyubachev) were transferred to help his army (to fight for Przemysl) – and, therefore, it was a foregone conclusion where these formations were to strike on the enemy, who by this time at Radymno part of the forces crossed to the right bank of the San. A.A. Brusilov proposed his own plan for the use of these corps: secretly enter Przemysl, and together with the garrison of the fortress, carry out a sortie from the western forts to the rear of the enemy troops located on the right bank of the San, as well as those on the left bank – from Yaroslav to Przemysl. But this is on condition that the troops along the entire front would begin a simultaneous battle with the enemy. The 3rd Army, in this case, would have to gather the maximum possible fist to strike south of Lezhaisk. I do not know, the general noted, to what extent, given the lack of ammunition, this plan was feasible, but with such actions there were “some chances of success, the size of which was impossible to determine in advance.”

A. A. Brusilov

The commander reacted to the operation incomprehensible to him accordingly. The chief of staff of the 2nd Caucasian Army Corps wrote that the corps was moving through Lvov to the Lyubachev area, while the 51st Division, being landed in front of the town of Kholm, moved in marching order. After the concentration of the 2nd Caucasian Army Corps, its commander, General of Infantry, S.B.S.B. Mehmandarov, together with the chief of staff, were summoned to the headquarters of the 8th Army (located in Rava Russkaya), where the commander of the army, General Brusilov, designated the area for the attack of the corps – in order to alleviate the situation of the gripped Yaroslav. At dawn, an attack began on the section: Zapalov – Zagrody – Korzhenice – Tukhla. Moreover, the corps again acted alone – and it should have covered the wooded hill fortified with wire near Zagroda from the north and south with both divisions.

S. B. S. B. Mehmandarov

Payback for the commander’s miscalculation. 2nd Caucasian Army Corps near the village. Zagrody

Unprepared by the command of the 8th Army, the offensive of the 2nd Caucasian Army Corps near the village. Zagrody turned into a tragedy for the soldiers and officers of its units.

Lieutenant K. Popov, an officer of the 13th Life Grenadier Erivan Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich Regiment (Caucasian Grenadier Division of the 2nd Caucasian Army Corps), in his memoirs conveyed the impressions of the offensive of his unit near Lyubachev. The lieutenant recalled how on May 17 the regiment set out from Lyubachev – with a wide and long protective tape. The regiment has been brought to a complete set – in Popov’s company there were 203 grenadiers with 2 officers. By the evening of May 18, the Life-Erivans walked along the railway embankment. It was decided that the 5th company would advance along the embankment in the direction of the village. Zagrody, 6th, 7th and 8th companies – advancing to the left of the 5th company. The 3rd battalion was supposed to advance to the left, and the 4th and 1st battalions were to remain in reserve. The company commanders explained the task in detail and gave the necessary orders. Each platoon had 4 hand grenades of the Novitsky system.

Lieutenant K. S. Popov

But the order to attack was canceled – the attack was postponed to 7 o’clock in the morning, after the artillery barrage. To attack a fortified position during the day, according to a participant in these events, with artillery barrage, which they knew the price (shells were available in very limited quantities), “did not smile.”

On the morning of May 19, artillery preparation began, then moved forward. The Germans were waiting, and as soon as the lieutenant got out of the trench to rouse the company to attack, several shrapnel whistled. The company went at a brisk pace, led by officers, and immediately began to suffer losses. Not even 50 steps were passed when a junior officer and a sergeant-major of the company were wounded. The advance was going “in some kind of hell”, a German machine gun hit in the face. Two grenadiers fell next to the lieutenant – one received 8, and the other 6 machine-gun bullets. I had to step back 40 steps and dig in the rye.

If the German artillery had continued to shoot at the place where the grenadiers lay down, they would have been destroyed. But an hour later, single trenches with a depth of a man’s height were already ready. The 7th company, located behind, lost the company commander to the killed and also lay down. Popov’s company lost 130 people killed and wounded.

At 23 o’clock it was ordered to attack the Zagrody for the second time. But the small number of people remaining in the company played a role. After passing 400 paces, the lieutenant, together with his soldiers, went to a weakly defended place – directly to the barbed wire. They managed to pull apart the slingshots with wire, but there were only 6 grenadiers near Popov – and it was impossible to do something serious.

The regiment lost over 2,000 grenadiers in killed and wounded in a day (that is, 50% of the regiment’s personnel). On the morning of May 21, the 14th Georgian Grenadier General Kotlyarevsky regiment attacked in the same sector, and the 2nd brigade advanced to the right of the canvas – also unsuccessfully.

The regiment commander, Colonel E. Ye. Vyshinsky, recalled how his grenadiers, who went on the attack with good fellows, reached the barbed wire – despite the fact that the Germans mowed them down with machine-gun, shrapnel and rifle fire in whole ranks. And by dawn on May 20, they lay down under the barbed wire. It was not possible to advance further. After lying down for the day, at night they moved back to their original position. Nothing was done, and the losses were huge: officers – 5 killed, 7 wounded, 1 shell-shocked, lower ranks – killed and died from wounds up to 600, wounded up to 900.

EE Vyshinsky

Another officer of the regiment conveyed his impressions in this way. On the morning of May 19, artillery preparation began – moreover, the companies of the 2nd and 3rd battalions, which were preparing to attack, covered their own fire. Soon, as an eyewitness notes, “it was possible to stop this outrage” and the artillery, after a considerable pause, opened fire again. After 20-25 minutes of firing, she fell silent, and two battalions of Life-Erivans were ordered to move into the attack. Evening came. By 12 at night, it was ordered to form companies in platoon columns – with rows open at a pace. Companies of the 1st and 4th battalions approached the line of the forward battalions. There were Georgians in reserve, and the 15th Grenadier Tiflis of His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich’s regiment, located to the right, was also to attack. Despite the failure of the day’s assault, the uplifting of the soldiers did not have time to cool down, and the regiment rushed forward in unison.

The picture of the night attack by the entire regiment of the enemy’s fortified position, when on a small section along the front (about a mile) from a close distance, a huge mass of people (more than 3000 people) rushed forward, as noted by an eyewitness, was majestic and unforgettable. Daytime hell repeated, but with different effects. During the day everything was smoking, covered with dust and fog, and now fireworks of all kinds of fires was observed: leaving the light of a falling comet, shrapnel was torn in the air, on the ground, throwing up sheaves of fire, shells and hand grenades burst with a deafening roar, bright stars marked the line of shooting infantry, machine guns with fiery tongues, and hundreds of rockets soared above it all, illuminating the battlefield with flashing phosphoric light.

And only a “miracle” saved the Germans from inevitable death.

The barbed wire, untouched by the Russian artillery, became such a “miracle”!

The grenadiers, approaching the wire, were already throwing hand grenades into the German trenches, but it was impossible to break and smash the barbed wire with their bare hands in a few minutes, or even seconds, which the attacker had in such cases. The remains of the mouths, only dozens of people, began to lay down, fleeing the deadly fire. Whoever could, he dug in (here and there, hummocks of earth grew), and the wounded lay not daring to move – for from a close distance they were immediately finished off.

After this battle, the remnants of the Caucasian Grenadier Division near the village of Tukhly were replaced by the Life Guards Kexholm Regiment of the 3rd Guards Infantry Division of the 23rd Army Corps.

To be continued…

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