12/3/1918 Turkey recovers Erzurum and presses on towards the Caucasus #1918Live

In eastern Anatolia Turkish forces are advancing to recover the territory lost since the war started and to occupy the three lost provinces promised to them by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The Turks also want to stake their claim to as much of the Russian territory south of the Caucasus as possible. That the Turks should be expending so much effort here when they are under pressure from the British in Palestine might seem strange, but Enver Pasha, Turkey’s war minister and paramount leader, sees this as a chance to restore the prestige of the Ottoman Empire. Enver also wants to rescue Turkic peoples of the Caucasus from the horror of government by Christians.

A good command of logistics has not been a strong point of the Turkish army, so it should be difficult for it to maintain this rapid advance. However Turkish troops are able to sustain themselves on what the Russians have abandoned. Today Turkish forces recapture Erzurum, whose loss in 1916 was a terrible blow. They find the city abundantly stocked with supplies left behind by the Russians, supplies the Turks can now use as they press on towards the pre-war frontier.

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Erzurum after abandonment by the Russians (Wikipedia: Schlacht von Erzurum)

16/2/1916 Disaster for Turkey as Erzurum falls to Russia

Russian forces under General Yudenich are attacking the fortified Turkish town of Erzurum. A flanking attack allowed the Russians to attack unexpectedly from the north, throwing the Turks into disarray. Yesterday they began to flee Erzurum lest they be surrounded. Now Cossacks ride into Erzurum itself, followed by the rest of the Russians. The Russians capture some 5,000 enemy prisoners, with more likely to follow as they pursue the retreating enemy.

Erzurum was the lynchpin of Turkish defences in eastern Anatolia. Its fall is a disaster for the Turks, undermining their whole position in this theatre. The hasty retreat from Erzurum allows the Russians to capture large numbers of guns and other items of military equipment and other supplies. The Russians also capture several Turkish standards. Turkish losses of men are considerable; to the 5,000 men taken prisoner must be added another 10,000 casualties and as many as 10,000 who have deserted from the army.

Not content to rest on his laurels, Yudenich now prepares to press on and exploit the advantage his men have gained.

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Cossacks in Erzurum (Shot in the Dark)

15/2/1916 Erzurum: Yudenich smashes the hapless Turks

The Russian army is attacking the Turks in eastern Anatolia. After capturing the frontline town of Köprüköy, they have pressed on to Erzurum, lynchpin of Turkish defences in the region. Erzurum is heavily fortified and believed to be impregnable, but Russia’s Yudenich has sent his men on a flanking march to attack the town from the less well-protected north.

The Russian attack began on the 11th. Since then they have been picking off Erzurum’s forts one by one. After the first fort fell the Turks became increasingly demoralised, retreating into the town rather than resisting to the end.

Fighting continues around the perimeter, but now aerial reconnaissance reveals to Yudenich that the battle is as good as won. The Turks in Erzurum are packing up and pulling out, hoping to get away before they are surrounded by the Russians.

image source (Wikipedia)

11/2/1916 Erzurum: Russia attacks Turkey’s impregnable fortress

Russian forces under General Yudenich have defeated the Turks at Köprüköy in eastern Anatolia. Now the Russians move against the Turkish town of Erzurum. Erzurum is heavily fortified and believed by many to be impregnable. Yudenich however plans to show the Turks otherwise.

Instead of advancing directly on Erzurum from Köprüköy and attacking the strongest enemy defences, Yudenich sends his men on a flanking march to attack Erzurum from the more mountainous north of the city, where the defences are weaker. Learning from the Turkish disaster of Sarikamish last year, Yudenich has made careful efforts to keep his troops adequately supplied. He has had the railway extended from Sarikamish and has widened the road from Köprüköy to increase the number of motor vehicles it can carry. He has also brought in aircraft to provide aerial reconnaissance, a novelty on the Caucasus front.

Now the Russians attack. The Turks are stunned by the direction of the attack. In bitter hand to hand fighting the Russians seize one of Erzurum’s key outer forts, leaving the way clear for further gains tomorrow.

17/1/1916 Anatolia: Koprukoy falls to the Russians

Russia’s General Yudenich has launched a winter offensive against Turkish forces in eastern Anatolia. After first luring enemy forces away with diversionary attacks he then launched his forces against the important frontline town of Köprüköy. Turkish forces offered a stout resistance but found themselves increasingly in danger of encirclement. Yesterday they withdrew from the town and now the victorious Russians enter Köprüköy.

The Turks fall back on Erzurum, the main target of Yudenich’s offensive. The Turks have been battered in the fighting for Köprüköy, losing some 20,000 of the 65,000 men they have to defend this sector. Erzurum is however heavily fortified and the Turks are confident that they can hold it no matter what Yudenich sends against them. They also hope that the terrible conditions of the Anatolian winter will slow the Russian advance.