20/9/1916 Brusilov’s offensive ends in failure

The Brusilov Offensive is over. In its early days, it brought the Austro-Hungarians close to collapse. Their line was only stabilised by the commitment of significant quantities of German reinforcements. The price of this aid has been the German take-over of the Austro-Hungarian army. The ancient Habsburg Empire is now little more than a client state of the arriviste Germans.

Brusilov’s offensive was meant to have been followed by another against the Germans to the north by Evert, with the rolling offensives denying the Central Powers the option of concentrating against any one threat. Unfortunately Evert’s offensive was still-born, thanks to his use of unimaginative human wave assaults. With Evert’s failure the Russians sent more reinforcements to Brusilov, but in an increasingly attritional battle the superior transport links and armaments of the Germans swung the battle in their favour. The offensive’s failure embitters Brusilov, who feels that he has been let down by his fellow officers.

The scale of blood-letting in the fighting is almost unimaginable. Russian casualties are variously estimated as being in the range of 500,000 to 1,000,000, with similar losses for the Austro-Hungarians and Germans. The bloodbath has effectively brought an end to Austro-Hungarian independence, but the offensive’s failure now threatens the credibility of the Tsarist regime in Russia.

image sources:

Maps (Wikipedia)

Soldiers (Metro Postcard)

15/8/1916 Germany takes over the Austro-Hungarian army

In Galicia Brusilov’s offensive against the Austro-Hungarians continues. Brusilov brought Austria-Hungary to the brink of collapse, advancing on a broad front, inflicting a great many casualties and taking vast numbers of prisoners. Now though the going is harder for the Russians. As the battle continues, their soldiers are increasingly worn down by the fighting. Worse, they are facing stronger enemies. The Austro-Hungarians have sent every man they can spare to block the Russian advance. The Germans have also come to the aid of their ally, sending considerable numbers of men to stiffen Austro-Hungarian resistance. Combined with British efforts at the Somme, this has forced Falkenhayn to halt German attempts to take Verdun from the French.

The Russians continue to press their offensive, but the fighting is becoming more attritional, with Russian men fighting against German and Austro-Hungarian guns. This is not the kind of battle Brusilov wanted to fight, but after the failure of Evert’s offensive to the north he has had to continue his efforts.

Germany’s assistance to the Austro-Hungarians does not come without a price. Falkenhayn has insisted that German officers be appointed to command and administer the combined armies on the Eastern Front. The Germans are effectively taking over the Austro-Hungarian army, removing its operational independence and turning it into an adjunct of their own army. The Austro-Hungarians went to war in 1914 to preserve the independence and integrity of their ancient empire. Now it is becoming little more than a client of their neighbour to the north.

image source (MetroPostcard)

25/7/1916 Brusilov’s offensive begins to slow down, Evert’s continues to fail

In Galicia Brusilov’s offensive against the Austro-Hungarians continues. After spectacular successes, the Russians are beginning to run out of steam as exhaustion and casualties make it harder for them to maintain the pressure on the enemy. Meanwhile the ranks of their enemies are being stiffened by Austro-Hungarian and German reinforcements.

Brusilov had always argued that the way to defeat the enemy was to follow his offensive with others elsewhere. That way the Germans would find it hard to concentrate their reserves against one threat. His commanders had accepted this plan and ordered Evert to attack the Germans to Brusilov’s north. However Evert’s efforts have been lacklustre. His men have attacked in the traditional Russian human wave assaults and have suffered terrible casualties for no great gains. What territory has been seized has mostly been lost to German counter-attacks.

Now Evert sends his men forward again, in another attempt to smash through the German defences. But again, despite a great numerical advantage his men make little or no progress but add to their already extensive casualty list.

image source (Imperor)

30/6/1916 Brusilov’s offensive rolls on

In Galicia Brusilov’s offensive rolls on. The Russians have inflicted a crushing defeat on the Austro-Hungarians. In some sectors they have advanced almost a 100 kilometres, an astonishing distance by the standards of this war.

Austro-Hungarian losses are devastating. Since the start of the offensive they have lost some 6,740 officers and 319,500 men. The collapse of Habsburg morale is demonstrated by some 186,850 of these losses being classed as missing, with the Russians having captured vast numbers of prisoners.

Reinforcements are being rushed to Galicia, both Austro-Hungarian troops from the Italian front but also German troops. But on the Western Front the British and French are preparing their Somme offensive, while the Italians are preparing now for another attack along the Isonzo. The Allied hope is that these combined assaults will swamp the enemy, forcing the Germans and Austro-Hungarians to spread their reserves too widely to be effective. This might just be the summer of Allied victory.

image source:

Russian troops attack (Europe Between East And West)

17/6/1916 Brusilov’s successes lead to Austrian collapse at the front and paranoia in Vienna

Expectations had been low for Brusilov’s offensive against the Austro-Hungarians. Brusilov’s fellow Russian generals had assumed that it would be another bloody failure, one that would humble the over-confident commander. Given the lack of success enjoyed by previous Russian efforts, the most their Italian allies had hoped for was for some distraction of the Habsburgs from their Trentino offensive. But Brusilov’s careful planning and innovative tactics have paid off. His men are continuing to advance and the Austro-Hungarians in the east are in a state of near collapse.

The scale of the Austro-Hungarian disaster is revealed by the number of prisoners the Russians have captured. The Russians have taken nearly 200,000 prisoners since the start of the offensive, a third of the Austro-Hungarian army in the east. Combined with those killed and wounded the Austro-Hungarian losses come to around half of their total Eastern Front complement.

That so many men have surrendered has led to rumours in Vienna of treachery at the front. Czech and other Slavic units are suspected of having given up at the first sign of the enemy. There are also rumours of mass desertions by Jewish troops, acting under the influence of British Zionists; these reports are particularly nonsensical, given the harsh treatment meted out to Jews by the Russians during their last invasion of Galicia. In fact supposedly reliable German Austrian troops are as likely to have surrendered as the suspect nationalities. The real cause of the disaster is the failure of the Austro-Hungarian commanders in the face of Brusilov’s challenge.

In a desperate effort to stem the Russian tide, Conrad has halted his Trentino offensive and is sending men east. But he knows that the Russians will not be halted until German troops arrive in considerable numbers.

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Austro-Hungarian prisoners (First World War.com)

9/6/1916 Brusilov’s offensive continues; Evert’s fails to materialise

Brusilov’s offensive in Galicia continues to make gains, inflicting staggering losses on the Austro-Hungarians. One of the armies facing Brusilov has lost some 60,000 men. Another Habsburg army to the south initially resisted the Russians more effectively, but now it is being broken in two by the implacable enemy, suffering similar or greater casualties to its neighbour.

Brusilov commands Russia’s south western army group. His attacks on the Austro-Hungarians are meant to be a prelude to an attack by the central army group against the Germans. The aim of this rolling series of offensives is to prevent the enemy from concentrating reserves in any single threatened area, using Russia’s great advantage in manpower to overwhelm the Germans and Austro-Hungarians. But Evert, the central army group’s commander, does not share Brusilov’s offensive spirit. He fears the professional consequences of a failed attack.

Evert was originally scheduled to attack today. But now Brusilov learns that his comrade’s caution has got the better of him. Evert declares his armies to be as yet unready for an offensive. Brusilov’s men must continue to engage the enemy on their own.

8/6/1916 Austria’s embattled Conrad begs Falkenhayn for German reinforcements

Not long ago it must have seemed to Austria-Hungary’s Conrad that he was on the brink of a great military triumph. His Trentino Offensive was pushing back the Italians and threatening to surge down from the mountains to the coast, cutting off the Italian army. But now his army is the one in crisis. Brusilov’s offensive in Galicia has smashed his forces there, netting the Russians a huge bag of prisoners and leaving the Eastern Front close to collapse.

Conrad has no option but to divert men from the Trentino Offensive, sending them east in a desperate attempt to plug the gaps in his line. But the Italians sense his weakness and begin to counter-attack in earnest, recapturing lost ground. And Conrad knows that the collapse in Galicia is so total that the men he is sending there will not be able to hold back the Russian onslaught. He accepts the inevitable, travelling to Berlin to beg Falkenhayn for German reinforcements. Falkenhayn had always seen the Trentino Offensive as a waste of time; now he insists that Conrad bring it to a halt as the price for German assistance.

image sources:

Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf (World War One – 100 Years Ago)

Erich von Falkenhayn (The Great War Blog)