Battles Of The Narew - Encyclopedia




GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES Spanish Simplified Chinese French German Russian Hindi Arabic Portuguese

"BATTLES OF THE (1915). NAREW - The lower course of the river Narew, with, on the one hand, its affluent the Bobr, and, on the other, the line of the lower Bug into which it runs, forms, against an invasion of Poland from East Prussia, a barrier which played a considerable role in the eastern front campaigns of the World War. This barrier was reinforced by bridgehead fortresses at Osowiec on the Bobr, Lomzha and Rozhan on the Narew, and Zegrze and Novogeorgievsk (or Modlin) on the Bug - the last named, a ring-fortress, bestriding also the Vistula and the Wkra and standing in close relation to the fortress of Warsaw. The course of the Bobr - Narew - Bug water-line is marked throughout by marshes, which, sometimes on one side of the water and sometimes on the other, but generally on both, vary in width from half a mile to 2 M. and at certain points broaden out into wooded marsh-basins, 6 - Io m. in width or breadth.

Between this barrier and the S. frontier of East Prussia, inside which the western Masurian lakes offer lines of defence against Russian invasion, there were constant advances and retreats of each side during the first campaigns of the World War. The first Russian advance culminated in the disaster of Tannenberg (see Masuria, Battles In), and was followed by a gradual advance of minor German forces to the region of Wloclawek on the Vistula, Plonsk, Ciechanow, Przasnysz and Chorzelle, in conjunction with the main campaigns in West Poland. Then, early in 1915, the Russians prepared a great offensive, which was to take the same general direction as that of Aug. 1914. The Germans, however, by seizing the initiative early in Feb. delayed the development of this offensive. Their main effort, the winter battle of Masuria, was made on the E. front of East Prussia, while the S. front was guarded by an army group under General von Gallwitz, who carried out his task offensively, driving southward into the area N. of the Narew, where the Russians were assembling. This move led to very severe fighting, notably at Przasnysz; and Gallwitz, though reinforced by degrees, maintained himself with great difficulty against the onset of the Russian XII. Army. Then, gradually, the battle became stabilized, and, the great Austro-German offensive in West Galicia having from May I transferred the centre of gravity to the other wing, the country between the Narew and the western Masurian lakes was quiet for two months. It is a country of poor communications, sandy soil, low elevations, and numerous N. - S. streams - affluents of the Bobr, Narew or Bug - which occasionally turn into the E. - W. direction and offer partial lines of defence to either side. It is wooded, heavily so in its eastern portion, where the Narew and the Masurian lake zones converge.

Thus the Narew - Masuria battle-field, as it may be called, is triangular in shape, limited on the E. by the woods of the Pissek (or Pissa) region, lying between the Prussian Lake Spirding and the Russian fortress of Lomzha, on the S. and S.E. by the course of the lower Narew and lower Bug, and on the W. practically by the river Wkra and the fortress of Novogeorgievsk. Across this battle-field, in July 1915, the Russians held a front line roughly parallel to the Prussian frontier and therefore oblique to the Narew. It ran from the outlying defences of Lomzha on the right, by Cieriozy and Lipniki to Berdowelonki on the river Omulew, and thence by Cierpienta and Jednorozec on the Orzyc to Mchowko in front of Przasnysz; thence it continued a short distance westward to Grudusk, and at that point turned southwestward to the Vistula. This line was duplicated by rear defences, notably the "Bogate position " between Ciechanow and Krasnosielc; a switch-line connected Ciechanow and Przasnysz, another the centre of the Bogate position, and yet another the right of that position with the bridgehead lines of Pultusk. On the Narew itself, Lomzha, Rozhan and Pultusk (which already possessed works in peace) had been developed into large bridgeheads, and the modern permanent works at Zegrze on the Bug had been extended to include Serock at the Bug - Narew confluence. Novogeorgievsk, already a great ring-fortress in peace, had been surrounded by two enveloping rings of outer defences.

When, after the break-through of the Russian positions at Gorlice - Tarnow, Radymno and Grodek (see Dunajec-San, Battles Of The), Mackensen's armies swung northward to reach the rear of their opponents in Poland by way of the upper Bug, a similar blow upon the N. side was planned by Falkenhayn for the armies under Hindenburg. As to the direction of this blow, there was acute controversy between Falkenhayn on the one hand and Hindenburg and Ludendorff on the other (see Eastern European Front Campaigns, Part III.), and it was only by the pure assertion of authority that Falkenhayn imposed upon them the offensive on the Narew which is here described. Hindenburg and Ludendorff objected that, against so strong a series of positions as those of Przasnysz, Bogate and the Narew, there was no hope of such rapid progress as would enable Gallwitz to come in upon the rear of the Russians in West Poland in time to cut them off. The other arguments for and against a Narew offensive were of a more purely strategic character, and are not here considered, but it must be noted that each of these arguments, taken in itself, was proved by the sequel to be well founded. The view taken by Falkenhayn and that of Hindenburg and Ludendorff as to their relative importance in the ensemble differed fundamentally, Ludendorff's ideal being the cutting-off of the entire Russian army by the pincers closing from N.E. and S.E. on its rear, whereas Falkenhayn's object was more limited - to deliver a blow that would relieve pressure on Mackensen's front and so enable him to penetrate to Brest Litovsk from the south. To achieve this object, the offensive must, according to Falkenhayn, threaten the rear of the Russian positions in Poland at the earliest possible moment, and, therefore, by the nearest and shortest line of operations, since Mackensen was practically unable to start his movement along the upper Bug till the strength of the Russians in front of him had been materially reduced (see Brest Litovsk, Battles Round).

Thus, although the record of Gallwitz's offensive on the Narew is one of slow frontal advances which aimed at the Russian communications but never reached them till the retreating enemy had passed on - although finally he could only join the German frontal armies in the general pursuit - the battles described below must be considered as successful or otherwise in relation to the object for which they were really fought. In the last analysis, they were, like the battles of the British army in Flanders in 1917, a relief-offensive, which in securing their object might, if fortune so willed it, secure other results as well.

Table of contents

Forces and Positions

The portion of the front selected for attack by Gallwitz was that between the river Orzyc and the village of Grudok, in the middle of which lay Przasnysz; and the date chosen for the attack was July 12, afterwards changed to July 13. As already mentioned, the original cordon of troops along the S. front of East Prussia had grown by reinforcements during the spring battles in the Przasnysz region to the strength of an " army group," and for the July offensives it was given additional forces, though it was not till later that the title XII. Army was assigned to it. It consisted, from left (river Skwa) to right (river Vistula), of the I., Xiii., Xvii., Xi., Xvii. Res. and Dickhuth's Corps. Of these, the Xiii., Xvii., and XI. lay opposite the selected front with their divisions thus disposed. On the XIII. Corps front were the 4th Guard, the 3rd and the 26th Divs., with, on the left astride the Orzyc, a liaison detachment of the I. Corps under von Falk. On the XVII. Corps front, which extended from the Murawka stream to opposite PavlovoKoscienie, were the 36th Div. - its left facing Przasnysz - and the 1st Guard Res. Division. On that of the XI. Corps, which ran from the Russian salient N. of Pavlovo - Koscienie to Grudusk, the 86th Div. (of Landwehr and Ersatz units) and the 38th Division. From Grudusk southwestward, astride the Mlawa - Ciechanow - Novogeorgievsk railway lay the 14th Landwehr Div. and 85th (Iandwehr units) of the XVII. Res. Corps. In army reserve were the 35th Div., Pfeil's Bde. of the 14th Landwehr Div. and (after the first day) the both Res. Div.; later the 83rd Div., Menges's Div. and the 54th Div. were placed at Gallwitz's disposal by Hindenburg.

In the attack sector between Orzyc river and Grudusk the Russians had at the outset only three divisions, and Mackensen's earlier battles had shown that they were probably ill equipped with munitions. Nevertheless, owing to the strength of the positions, the battle was planned purely as a " trench warfare " offensive, with technical equipment on the full scale regarded in 1915 as adequate.

Przasnysz (July 13-14)

On July 13, after a bombardment of 31 to 6 hours, according to the circumstances of each sector, the infantry attacks of the XI., XIII. and XVII. German Corps were launched on either side of Przasnysz, on a total active frontage of about 20 miles. The defences in front of Przasnysz itself were threatened, but not attacked in earnest, by the 36th Div., the intention being to break through on both sides of the strongly fortified point and reduce it by envelopment. Everywhere the first line of the defence was carried. On the right of the XVII. Corps front the ist Guard Res. Div., and on the right of the XI. the 38th Div., attacking the faces of a small salient, cleared the way for the central division, the 86th repeating the same tactics at the second line. East of the Murawka the centre of the XIII. Corps (3rd Div.), after carrying the first line, was, unlike the XI. and XVII. Corps, met by a series of fierce though small counter-attacks, which hampered progress all along the line.

In the afternoon the German effort received a fresh impulse. On the XVII. Corps front the hitherto reserved 35th Div. was put in on the left of the ist Guard Res. Div., and this increment not only enabled the XI. and XVII. Corps to break through the right and the left of the Russian third line between Lysakowo and Choinowko but also to prepare to invest Przasnysz on the S.W. side. In the night of July 13-14 the Russians evacuated the few trench-elements that they still held and retired on the PrzasnyszCiechanow switch-line. To the E. of the Murawka, the whole XIII. Corps front took up the offensive initiated by the 3rd Div., but progress remained slow, and at night only the first line and the western half of the second were in the hands of the Germans.

Nevertheless, the Russian strength did not yet permit of the large-scale counter-attack which alone could give them back the lost positions; and, rather than prolong, E. of Przasnysz, a thirdline resistance which would be taken in flank and rear as soon as the victorious XVII. Corps should force the Przasnysz-Ciechanow switch-line, they decided to go back to the Bogate position forthwith. Thus the progress of the German XI., XVII. and XIII. Corps met with only rearguard resistance on July 14. Neither Przasnysz nor the switch-line was defended, while, to the W. of the battle-field, the German XVII. Res. Corps was able to advance, with no more than skirmishing, up to the outer defences of Ciechanow. The day's advance brought the infantry, but not the heavy artillery, of the attack group close up to the Bogate position, the eastern half of which the XIII. Corps in vain tried to carry with a rush at nightfall.

Bogate (July rs-17)

In two days the Germans had advanced over nearly half of the 24 m. of ground which separated them from the Narew line, and as yet the Russians had shown no important reserves - indeed, as late as July 1 2 troops were being withdrawn for the Mackensen front. The problem before the Germans was therefore to reach the Narew and master its crossings, if possible, before the enemy's reserves arrived and at the least to absorb these reserves in the defence of the river line. Speed was imperative, and the Bogate position had to be attacked with a minimum of preparation.

The Russian position was carefully laid out. On the right it followed the obstacle formed by the Orzyc from above Krasnosielc to Podos, whence it followed the edge of a wood to Bogate on the Wengierka. From Bogate a N.-S. switch-line, and from Podos a second switch, ran to Karniewo, whence along a convenient stream the barrier continued to the Pultusk works. The W. half of the position - three to four parallel lines close to one another - was strong about Bogate and in the neighbourhood of Opinogora and Ciechanow. In the Opinogora sector, a night attack on July 14-15 gave the German 38th Div. possession of some advanced works and also a foothold in the first line itself near Zalozce Potory, but the advantage could not be exploited, and during the morning of July 15, while the artillery of the attack was still ranging, Gallwitz fixed upon the centre of the E. half - on both sides of Zielona - as the break-through front. Here there were put in, besides the 36th, ist Guard Res. and 86th Divs., the newly arrived 50th Res. Div., while on the right of the 86th Div. Pfeil's Bde. - the only army reserve remaining - was to follow en echelon. The break-through force was to penetrate well to the S., then swing outward on both flanks, so as to force the evacuation of Ciechanow on the one side and to attack the BogateKarniewo switch-line on the other. The attack of the XIII. Corps and of Falk was to be frontal; and from the strength of the Russian position and the relative weakness of the attacking forces (three and one-half divisions as compared with five and one-half W. of Bogate) no more than local gains were expected till a break-through further W. succeeded.

It was not until after midday on July 15 that the attack could be launched after a brief artillery bombardment. But it was successful on the lines intended. The three and one-half divisions on the assault front broke through all the defences, and penetrated so far S. (the 38th and 35th Divs. conforming on the flanks) that the Russians evacuated Ciechanow during the night of July 15-16. Further W., the XVII. Res. Corps and Dickhuth's Corps progressed considerably toward the N. front of Novogeorgievsk, against no great opposition. But the Bogate-Podos-Orzyc river front of the defence held firm, as also did that part of the western position adjacent to Bogate.

On July 16, while the W. half of the break-through force - substantially, the XI. Corps - pushed on southward, driving the Russian rearguards before them to the line Sonsk-Golymin Stary, and the XVII. Res. Corps and Dickhuth's Corps advanced along and W. of the Ciechanow-Novogeorgievsk railway, the XVII. Corps, now comprising the 10th Res., the ist Guard Res., 35th and 36th Divs., wheeled in against the Bogate-Karniewo switchline, while the XIII. Corps and Falk assaulted the B ogate-PovosOrzyc front in earnest. Both front and flank positions were stubbornly held. Local gains by the attack were' nullified by local counter-attacks, and these were followed by new assaults. The 50th Res. Div. had not succeeded by nightfall in coming within several kilometres of Karniewo - the point at which the whole of the Russian position could be turned on their left; and on the other flank Krasnosielc, which equally afforded a gateway to the rear of the defensive system, was too strong to be reduced by direct attack. But between Bogate and Podos the Russian front line was forced along its whole length by the German 26th and part of the 3rd Divs., and the village of Podos, at the reentrant angle of the position on the Orzyc, after changing hands more than once, was finally secured by the Germans about 11 P.M. Further N. the attackers had reached, but not passed, the Orzyc. But on the switch-line Bogate-Karniewo the 36th Div. broke in at Krasne, 21 m. S. of Bogate; and N.E. of Krasnosielc the I. Corps, hitherto passive, was now actively conforming to the advance of the XIII. and Falk, and at the same time condensing its forces on its right. The general idea of the situation formed at Hindenburg's and Gallwitz's headquarters was that the last Russian counter-attacks were meant only to gain time for another evacuation under cover of night - this time to the Narew and the bridgeheads. Accordingly, the German orders for July 17 not only directed the XI. (and part of the XVII. Res.) southward into positions for the attack of Pultusk, but deflected the 50th Res. Div. there as well.

The Advance to the Narew (July 17-ar)

The impression of the situation formed by the German headquarters on the evening of July 16 was only partially correct. On the morning of July 17 the whole Krasnosielc-Bogate position and the northern position of the Bogate-Karniewo switch-line were found to be evacuated, or held only by light rearguards. But the German follow-up encountered more resistance than the similar operation on July 15. The Russians had in fact received the first of the expected reinforcements (about three divisions) and stood to fight, not indeed a battle, but a connected and determined rearguard action, on a line which, had it been completed, would have formed a third line of defence, similar to the Przasnysz and Bogate positions. This line had its origin at the point where the Krasnosielc Karniewo switch-line crossed the Orzyc - Wengierka confluence; a little to the E. it followed the high ground of Gora Krzyzewskie, and thence, bordering a series of woods and minor valleys, it ran over the Ruz, past Mamino Nowawies and Prystan, into the woods some 5 m. N. of Ostrolenka. West of the Orzyc, the southwestern portion of the Karniewo switch-line itself belonged to the same general system. On this Karniewo - Prystan line, the German XVII., XIII. and I. Corps were engaged throughout July r7, while the XI. Corps and its western neighbours felt their way southwestward towards Pultusk. Particularly stubborn was the resistance on the Gora Krzyzewskie and at Karniewo. But in the evening the 35th and 36th Divs. broke through the less strongly held line W. of the Orzyc, and crossed that river behind the Russian lines, reaching Makow and threatening the Gora Krzyzewskie in flank and rear. At night, therefore, and in the morning of July r8th, the defenders evacuated the whole of these positions as far E. as the Ruz and fell back into the Pultusk and Rozhan bridgeheads and behind the river between and on both sides of these places. East of the Ruz, in front of the German I. Corps, the Russians held on for yet another day, retiring only on the night of July r8-19.

The Narew itself, at that season, was generally shallow, and fords could be found at most points. Moreover, the watermeadows and marshes were sufficiently dry to allow of infantry passing over them by selected tracks. In general, the defenders' bank dominates the other above Rozhan, while the reverse is the case at Rozhan and from Gnojno, a few miles above Pultusk, downwards. Between these points lies a great marsh basin, called on the defenders' side the Bagno Pulwy, and through this basin the Narew runs in a large bend. The policy of the defence was generally governed by these topographical considerations: - at Rozhan and Pultusk resistance in the bridgeheads of. the right bank; above Rozhan, passive defence behind the river itself; and below Pultusk active counter-attack defence in advance of it, based upon the fortifications of Zegrze - Serock and Novogeorgievsk. In the basin of Bagno Pulwy the river was tactically neutral; crossing was not difficult either in attack or in counterattack, but the absence of good communications made it useless for the Germans to force the passage here without at the same time mastering either Pultusk or Rozhan or both. General von Gallwitz decided that the XI. Corps reinforced (38th, 86th, 50th Res. and 1st Guard Res. Divs.) should storm the Pultusk bridgehead from the N. and N.W.; the XVII. Corps (35th and 36th Divs.) force the Narew between Pultusk and Rozhan at a point as near as possible to the former (substantially, in the region of Gnojno); the XIII. Corps (26th, 3rd and 4th Guard Divs.) storm Rozhan; the I. Corps press the remaining enemy rearguards back to the Ostrolenka portion of the river, and force the passage below Ostrolenka with the aid of a newly arrived division (83rd) which was assigned to it.

Meantime the weak VIII. Army (von Scholtz), starting from the positions about Lipniki and Kolno, facing Novogrod and Lomzha, in which the spring fighting of that front had died away, had conformed to the advance of the I. Corps, and by July 19 had pushed its immediate opponents behind the Narew and into Lomzha. The details of Scholtz's operations fall outside the scope of this article, and it will suffice to say that its " sympathetic " offensives followed the main attack of Gallwitz, stage by stage, up to and over the Narew, culminating in the passage of the river on July 26 near the Skwa mouth and on Aug. 2 between Novogrod and Lomzha.

More important than this cooperation on the E. side was the protection of the southwestern flank of the forces attacking Pultusk against the highly probable counter-attacks emerging from Zegrze - Serock. This duty was assigned to the XVII. Res. Corps,' the advance of which on July 16-17 had conformed to that of the XI. Corps' right wing. But since the first reconnaissances had shown the defences of Pultusk to be too strong to be taken at a rush, the XVII. Res. Corps (85th Div. and Pfeil's Bde.) was brought somewhat more to the E. and included in the attack 1 Dickhuth's Corps was now drawn off to take part in the siege of Novogeorgievsk.

group to strengthen it. Only Pfeil's Bde. remained, facing S. as flank-guard.

During July 19 and on the morning of July 20, the heavy artillery was brought up, with its ammunition, over the sandy roads from Przasnysz, and the super-heavy artillery now assigned to von Gallwitz, even from railheads in East Prussia.

Meantime reconnaissances were pressed, and artillery registrations carried out, both before Pultusk and before Rozhan, and the XVII. Corps advanced into the southern part of the marshbasin between the two. At Rozhan, on the morning of July zo, a sudden local attack by part of the German 26th Div. carried a salient on the S. front. But before this gain could be exploited, sharp Russian counter-attacks began without warning at several points between Rozhan and Pultusk. At the same time von Gallwitz's headquarters learned that large masses of Russians were arriving below Pultusk, with the evident intention of counter-attacking from the region of Zegrze. Gallwitz at once cancelled his preparations for the storming of the bridgeheads and began a rapid regrouping.

The Russian attack was especially heavy from Rozhan and from Dzbondz, just below that place, where the German forces consisted only of a liaison detachment that stretched across the marshes to join the XIII. and XVII. Corps. Weaker Russian forces crossed the Narew on the front of the latter, and sorties were made from Pultusk against the 50th Res. Div. and 1st Guard Res. Division. The danger S. of Rozhan was met by withdrawing the 36th Div. to bar frontally, and the 35th Div. to attack in flank, the Russian force which had crossed at Dzbondz. At the other points of contact the Russians were repulsed, and eventually the Dzbondz column also was forced to retire over the Narew. But Gallwitz, on the evening of July 20, judged it prudent to take the XVII. Corps out of the Narew bend, and to create a reserve group consisting of the 38th Div., a mixed Guard Ca y. Bde. newly arrived, and the 85th Div. of the XVII. Res. Corps on his right, behind Pfeil's screen. The situation was indeed serious for the German projects, for the Russians were fighting under better conditions than they had had W. of the Narew or could expect E. of it. A battle on the Narew line would not compel the Russian Command to send thither those large forces which it was the primary object of the German scheme to divert from Mackensen's front. Moreover, if Gallwitz were definitely brought to a standstill on the Narew line, the WarsawIvangorod stretch of the Vistula might still he held by the Russian front, without the necessity of further retreat.

The Russian Command had, however, already resolved, owing to losses and to shortage of arms and ammunition, to retire to the short line Kovno - Grodno - Brest; and all resistance, however fierce, in front of that line was intended only to secure time and space for evacuations. The counter-strokes in the Narew bend, therefore, were not continued after the repulse of July 20, and those S. and S.S.W. of Pultusk were not yet mature. Nevertheless, the gain to the Russians was considerable. Caution, and a delay of two to three days in the attack on the bridgeheads, had been imposed on the Germans, who were only able to begin the attack on Pultusk, Rozhan, and the river ten days after launching the attack on Przasnysz - an average progress of no more than 2 -2 2 m. a day. Even before the period of great counter-strokes had arrived on July 22 at Rozhan, and on July 23 at Pultusk, the German attacks, prepared in the manner of Namur and supported by super-heavy artillery, were launched. At that date, the grouping of the Germans, after the re-shuffles of July 20-21, was as follows: XI. and XVII. Res. Corps combined as Pliiskow's group (right to left, Pfeil's Bde., 85th Div., 86th Div., 50th Div., 1st Guard Res. Div.), for the attack of Pultusk; XVII. Corps (35th and 36th Divs. with 38th Div., a Guard ca y. bde., in reserve) on the Narew just above Pultusk; XIII. Corps (26th Div., 3rd Div., 4th Guard Div.), investing Rozhan; I. Corps (2nd and 37th Divs. reinforced by newly arrived 83rd Div.), above the Ruz mouth; fresh reserves (Menges's Div. and S4th Div.) detraining in rear.


Pultusk (July 23-25)

The defences of Pultusk bridgehead consisted of an inner line of trenches - incorporating some oldpattern forts, and following generally the ridge on which the battle of Dec. 26 1806 had been fought - and a more important outer system of well-organized trenches, which rested its right on the Narew at Chmielewo, traversed the Pelta at Szwelice, curved southward at Wojty Trojany, followed an affluent of the Przewodowka stream to Przwedowo, and a line of woods thence to Winnica, where it turned E. to rejoin the Narew 5 m. below the town. Except along the marshes of the Narew itself, the country inside and outside this line is largely wooded, with low sandy heights and small streams.

The weight of the attack was concentrated on two fronts: that adjacent to the Narew, where it was hoped to establish bridges and start an enveloping movement E. of the river as soon as the front Russian defences had been stormed; and that of the N.W. bend, where the super-heavy artillery, limited as it was to the good roads, could best take part. To the first of these attacks the 1st Guard Res. Div. near to the river, and the both Res. Div. above the village of Szlachekie, were assigned; and to the second the Landwehr and Ersatz units of the 86th Div., assisted by an active regiment lent by the 38th Division. The 85th Landwehr Div. and Pfeil's Bde. S.W. of Golymin Stary, was to flank-guard and eventually to take part in rolling up the Russian defence after the breach had been made. On the morning of July 23, after five hours' artillery bombardment, the assault was delivered. The 1st Guard Res. and 50th Res. Divs. carried all their objectives, after heavy fighting and - in some of the units of the both Res. Div. - fearful losses, and by noon had occupied all the area N. of the Pelta river. Here it was expected that the Russians would stand, but in the meantime the successful assault of the Landwehr and Ersatz on Wojty Trojany had broken down the left flank of such a defence, and the Russians were driven back, fighting with their characteristic group-stubbornness and lack of ensemble, to the inner line by nightfall. Here von Pliiskow called a halt, suspending the storm of the forts till dawn on July 24. Meantime the 85th Div. and Pfeil, coming into the battle successively as planned, had made good a line from the right of the 86th Div. at Mosyn, on the Przewodowka brook, within the captured defences, to the Ciechanow-Novogeorgievsk railway near Klukowo, facing S.; and the 1st Guard Res. Div., falling out of the line as soon as the Pelta line had been reached, was crossing the Narew at several points both outside and inside the outer fortified line (Gnojno, Chmielewo, Lida) and forming bridgeheads and pontoon bridges for artillery. This threat of envelopment here induced the Russians to give up all hope of holding their last footing on the right bank, and during the night of July 23-24 they evacuated the inner line and the town, so that soon after dawn on July 24, the pioneers of the both Res. Div., instead of being engaged in wire-cutting before the forts as had been anticipated, were at work on the broken river bridge.

This crossing of the 1st Guard Res. Div., and its entrenchment of a large bridgehead in the Szygowiec loop, was only part of a large programme. To the left of it the 38th and 36th Divs. of the XVII. Corps effected passages at Zambski, Kalinowo and Rowy, without any great difficulty save at the first named, where the direct effort failed and the defence had to be dislodged by a flank movement from the Kalinowo crossing-place. The construction of artillery bridges was put in hand at once, in spite of the interdictive fire of the Russian artillery, for it was urgently necessary, from the defensive and the offensive standpoints alike, to push the XVII. Corps and 1st Guard Res. Div. southeastward so as to seize the line of the little river Prut which makes a barrier from the E. end of the Bagno Pulwy to the lower Narew, and incidentally to cut off as many of the defenders of Pultusk as possible. By the night of July 23, the 38th and 36th Div., like the 1st Guard Res. Div., had been able only to establish their bridgeheads firmly, but by that of July 24 the artillery bridges were mostly completed, and the German outposts to the right of the Bagno Pulwy stood on the line Rzonsnik-Sadykierz (38th Div.)-woods E. of Bartodzieje (part 50th Res. Div.)-E. of Gladczyn (1st Guard Res. Div.)-N. of Drwaly (86th Div.), whence the protective line of the 85th Div. and Pfeil, W. of the river, ran to near Nasielsk. East of Pultusk in reserve was the newly arrived Menges Division. Meantime, on the German left the 36th Div., from its crossings at Kalinowo and Rowy, had proceeded due eastward, in concert with an advance of the 35th Div. along the N. of the Narew, and by the evening of July 24th these units, guarded on their right by the Guard Ca y. Bde. in the Bagno Pulwy, stood E. of the Narew between Adamowo and Ostrykol inclusive.

On July 25 the German forces E. of Pultusk advanced to the line of the Prut, while the Guard Ca y. Bde. spread across the Bagno Pulwy, and the two divisions of the XVII. Corps pushed forward their bridgehead position of Adamowo-Ostrykol somewhat; on the left of these, the 26th Div. of the XIII. Corps extended the line to the Orz river. But at all points resistance to the advance became ever stronger, and it was evident that for further progress yet another break-through battle would be necessary. The Germans therefore halted, to gain time for their artillery and their transport to overtake the fighting line.

Rozhan and Kamionka (July 22-25)

The bridgehead of Rozhan possessed an inner line of permanent forts, more modern than those of Pultusk, and an outer line which, beginning at the river edge N. of Dysobaba, followed a sinuous trace by Miluny, the wood N.W. of Podbora, and Point 132 S. of Podbora, and rejoined the river opposite Prystan. But it differed radically from Pultusk in being smaller and also segmented internally by several switch-lines. The German XIII. Corps headquarters, therefore, in spite of the need of rapid action, decided to take the segments by successive efforts in each of which the whole artillery could be employed. Already, on July 20, the first of these efforts had carried the salient of Hill 132, as recorded above, before the Russian counter-attack suspended operations. On July 22, after a day's delay, the 4th Guard Div. made the next effort against the Miluny works, which, with the village behind them, were carried by assault before night. On July 23 it was the turn of the woods N.E. of Podbora, which fell to assault by the 3rd Division. Thus on the morning of July 24 all the outer segments were in the hands of the Germans, and the assault of the main line (lying in front of the fort-line) was prepared. But here also the Russians evacuated the bridgehead without standing an assault, and fell back into the woods lying E. of the Narew. Thenceforward the line from Prystan to Chelzy - continued thence northward by the dominant heights of the left bank to Ostrolenka and beyond - formed a position in which the Russians meant to make a prolonged defence.

The sudden cessation of resistance at Rozhan seems to have taken the Germans unawares, for, although the place was occupied in the early hours of the morning, no real effort was made to win a passage until late in the day, in spite of the command of the right bank over the left and the presence of three divisions of victorious infantry. The 26th Div., hitherto investing the S. front of Rozhan, was ordered to cross the Narew between Dzbondz and Bruzie Wielkie, but, being repulsed with heavy loss in an attempt at Dzbondz, it crossed further down at Bruzie Wielkie and so passed away into the scope of the XVII. Corps operations, divided from those of the XIII. by the marshes of the Orz-Narew confluence. The 3rd Div., pursuing through Rozhan, found, late in the day, a Russian bridge S. of Dysobaba, and began passing small forces over towards the wooded heights S. of Dombrowka. But it was not till daylight on July 25th that three battalions had been assembled on the other side, and a sharp action was necessary before the line Prystan-Dombrowka was secured at nightfall. The 4th Guard Div., after fruitless attempts on the afternoon of July 24 to cross at Dysobaba and at Sielun, passed small detachments over during the night of July 24-25, and gradually made good the line Dombrowka-Point 121 with an artillery bridge at Sielun, before daylight on July 26.


Above the Rozhan battle-field, on the front of the German I. Corps, the wide extent of the front (Sielun-Ostrolenka), and the commanding positions on the wooded left bank, made a crossing on a broad front impossible. The Germans had reached the river on July 20, unaffected by the Russian counter-stroke of that day, which did not extend N. of Rozhan, and after reconnaissance fixed upon a bend above Kamionka as the main crossing-place. Here the 2nd Div. was to make the venture, while the 83rd below and the 37th above were to make feints as far up as Ostrolenka. But the Russians were on the alert all along the line. In the night of July 23-24 the leading troops of the German 2nd Div., covered by an intense artillery fire, waded the Narew, under fire from the hostile machine-guns, by an imperfectly known ford. At the cost of heavy losses they secured a foothold on the further heights, but no reinforcements or supplies could reach them. The Russians - high-quality Siberian troopscounter-attacked fiercely, but, being armed in the main only with hand grenades, they were beaten down, time after time, by the rifle-fire of the small German force, though one reckless onset was nearly successful. In the night of July 24-25 more German forces were got across piecemeal, till in all there were six decimated battalions in a bridgehead r,50o yd. wide and 500 yd. deep, unable to advance or retreat. The feint-crossings on the fronts of the other divisions had been discontinued, though at Modzele a small foothold had been gained by part of the 83rd Div.

Next day, July 26, while at Kamionka the isolated struggle went on as before, the long-expected Russian counter-attack in force broke out along the whole line from the Novogeorgievsk railway to Chelsty above Rozhan.

Battle of the Orz, or Goworowo (July 26-Aug. 3). - In accordance with orders from " General Headquarters, East," von Gallwitz had planned, for July 26, a general offensive against the line Wyszkow-Ostrow, while continuing to hold the line S. of Pultusk defensively. He intended that the XVII. Res. Corps (86th and 1st Guard Res. Divs.) and XI. Corps (50th Res. and 38th Divs.) should break out over the Prut, along the S. side of the Bagno Pulwy, while the XVII. Corps (38th and 39th Divs.) pushed E. from their Ostrykol bridgehead, and the 26th Div. by a flank movement from the S. assisted the rest of the XIII. Corps to clear the woods E. of Rozhan. Menges's Div. was in reserve and the S4th Div. due to arrive from France. The I. Corps' attacks - increasingly important in the general scheme of battle in proportion as the Russians in West Poland gave ground - were to be intensified by adding to them the expected S4th Division. But when, on the morning of July 26th, these movements had not reached the stage of infantry activity, some 16-18 Russian divisions rushed to the assault, covered by a fire which was made possible by a hitherto husbanded ammunition supply. On the Prut front, delivered by forces probably not greatly exceeding those of the Germans, the assault failed to penetrate except momentarily at Pniewo on the Pultusk-Wyszkow highroad; and on the dangerous W. flank of Gallwitz's Army, the line KarniewekBlendostwo-Nasielsk, held only by the 85th Landwehr Div. and Pfeil's Landwehr Bde., the onset of three Siberian and Turkestan divisions was checked after a crisis near Blendostwo. The " sympathetic " attack of a division against the German 86th Div. on the lower Prut was equally heavy and equally unsuccessful. But the effort of the battle, and especially the risk of its renewal on the front W. of the Narew, made the Germans postpone their offensive from the Prut front for two days.

Against the front of the German XI. Corps and 26th Div. some two and one-half to three Russian divisions, attacking regardless of losses, promptly brought to an end the forward movement begun from the Ostrykol bridgehead, and prevented the German 26th Div. from intervening in the flank of the woods E. of Rozhan. There, so far from being able to progress eastward, the Germans were repulsed by the onset of three to four divisions assembled W. of Goworowo and were in danger of being thrown back on to their bridges, only 1 z m. behind the line of battle. An accidental reinforcement from the I. Corps, viz. the arrival of part of the 83rd Div. seeking a way round to the rear of Kamionka by using the 4th Guard. Div.'s bridge at Sielun, enabled the German XIII. Corps to regain the lost ground at Dombrowo and Kaszewic and the Russian attack died away. At the bridgehead of Kamionka, infantry counter-attacks were less vehement, but artillery effect upon the gradually increasing mass of Germans in a confined space was terrible, and the Higher Command decided to discontinue the effort to push eastward from so unpromising a base. Already the commander of the 83rd Div. had - as noted above - sought a way round, and prepara tions were made to profit by this initiative by passing the uncommitted forces of the 2nd and 37th Divs. over a bridge to be thrown near Kolaki as soon as the 83rd Div. should have passed that point. Meanwhile, the newly arrived 54th Div. was to attempt another passage at Ostrolenka, while, further up, the VIII. Army was to force a crossing near the Skwa mouth, preparatory to an advance against the Lomzha-Bialystok region.

On July 27 the Russian attacks, instead of increasing in violence, began to break down into local and spasmodic efforts, though these efforts continued S., S.E. and E. of Pultusk till July 29. On this front the German Command decided, on July 27, to stand henceforth on the defensive, for Ludendorff, ever pressing for maximum results, was striving to keep the centre of gravity of the offensive well N. of the Bug, in spite of the smallness of the tactical gains that had been secured at Ostrykol, Lomzha and above. On this and the following days there was little change in the situation at Ostrykol bridgehead, but E. of Lomzha the Germans reacted with great vigour. In the centre the 3rd Div., on the left the 4th Guard Div. supported by part of the 83rd Div. of the I. Corps, and on the right the 26th Div. working its way N.E. from the Ostrykol line to rejoin its corps, swept the Russians back to the line Josefowo-Goworowo-Rembisze by nightfall on. July 27, while the main portion of the 83rd Div. struck out northward according to its original purpose, and reached Cisk, Lipianka and even the S. edge of Kamionka village, thus opening the passage at Kolaki for the mixed forces of the 2nd and 37th Divs. gathered there, and freeing the worn-out troops in the Kamionka bridgehead.

From that point the battle N. of the Bagno Pulwy became, in the main, the slow driving of an enemy who, although his fighting energy was becoming exhausted by disaster, was holding ground to gain time for the safe passage of his retreating frontal armies. Besides this resistance, difficulties of communication and supply made the follow-up much slower than it had been from Przasnysz to the Narew. On July 28 the 54th Div. made its attempt at Ostrolenka and failed, and it was brought round next day to the Kolaki bridge, over which the mixed elements of the 2nd and 37th Divs. were then streaming to join the 83rd. On July 30, after the last Russian counter-attacks on the S. front had died away, Gallwitz withdrew the 1st Guard Res. Div. which was sent to join the forces N.E. of Rozhan. By July 31 there were between the Ostrykol and the Kamionka bridgeheads, on a line passing through Josefowo-Goworowo-Cisk-Narew below Kordowo, ten divisions against not more than four of the Russians. But some of these ten divisions were worn out; and a Russian counter-stroke on July 31, which at Cisk fell upon and broke the Landsturm and Ersatz units of the 83rd Div., which had already lost over 3,000 men, imperilled the whole German offensive for a time. Nor was it till the evening of this day that the Russians finally gave up the pressure on the Kamionka bridgehead.

This, however, was the last offensive effort of the Russians on the Narew front; and a continuance of the German movement northeastward led, on Aug. 3, to their giving up the defence at Ostrolenka, which was the less tenable as von Scholtz's VIII. Army had by this time crossed the Narew in two places higher up.

The final situation (Aug. 4) of the Germans after the Goworowo battle, which was also the initial situation of the battle of Ostrow, was as follows: - XVII. Res. Corps (Pfeil, 85th, 86th Divs.), Nasielsk-Pniewo; XI. Corps (38th Div. and Menges's Div.), Pniewo-Bagno Pulwy; Guard Ca y. Bde., Bagno Pulwy; XVII. Corps (35th and 36th Divs.), 2 m. W. of Wyszkow-Ostrolenka railway, from Siezychy to Kobylin; XIII. and I. Corps (26th, 3rd, 4th Guard, 1st Guard Res., 50th Res., S4th, 83rd, 2nd and 37th Divs.), on the line Josefowo-Czernie-Nogawki-TroszynKurpie Dworskie on the Ostrolenka-Bialystok railway. The left, on the Ruz, was in touch with the right of Scholtz's Army.

In the three weeks of the German Narew offensive (July 13Aug. 3), the Gallwitz Army Group captured in all about 50,000 prisoners, and with them only 14 guns and 150 machine-guns - an unusual disproportion, which clearly indicates the way in which the Russians, in the summer of 1915, conducted their defence. (C. F. A.)

Custom Search

Encyclopedia Alphabetically

A * B * C * D * E * F * G * H * I * J * K * L * M * N * O * P * Q * R * S * T * U * V * W * X * Y * Z

Advertise Here

Feedback





- Please bookmark this page (add it to your favorites)
- If you wish to link to this page, you can do so by referring to the URL address below.

https://theodora.com/encyclopedia/n/battles_of_the_narew.html

This page was last modified 29-SEP-18
Copyright © 2018 ITA all rights reserved.