Battle Of Rovno - Encyclopedia


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"BATTLE OF. ROVNO - The Rovno operations played an important part in the Russian campaign of 1915 on the eastern front (see Eastern European Front Campaigns).

In consideration of Austro-Hungarian troops having been set free by the rally of Mackensen's group of armies in their victorious march on Brest Litovsk, and of the connexion between the Russian N.W. and S.W. fronts having been broken by the withdrawal of the former N. of the Polyesie, the Austro-Hungarian army Higher Command decided, on Aug. 27 1915, to take the offensive with the army front which had been inactive on the Zlota Lipa and the Bug. The objects in view were Rovno (Rowne) and the liberation of the east portion of East Galicia.

The S. wing of the II. Army under Bohm-Ermolli, and the N. wing of the Southern Army under Bothmer, made a successful attempt to break through Shtcherbachev's XI. Army in the battle at Gologory and on the Zlota Lipa. Bothmer's S. wing and the N. wing of the VII. Army engaged Lechitski's IX. Army; Puhallo advanced with the main body of the I. Army towards the bent back N. wing of Brussilov's VIII. Army to throw it back on Dubno; and Field-Marshal Roth-Limanowa pushed forward on the Kovel (Kowel) - Luck road in order to capture from the Russians the command of the northern flank. Puhallo's advance decided Ivanov to break off the battles and to withdraw Brussilov during the night, and Shtcherbachev and Lechitski's N. wing on the 28th and 29th to a position behind the Sierna, on the watershed between the Bug and the Styr, on the Zloczow heights and behind the Strypa. The S. wing and centre of the Austro-Hungarian front followed immediately in pursuit, and in consequence two battles developed, after the occupation of the Russian position: one, on the 30th on the Strypa, from whose bridgeheads Shtcherbachev and Lechitski delivered mighty blows against Bothmer's S. wing and Pflanzer-Baltin's N. wing; the other, on the 29th at Zloczow, where Bohm-Ermolli attempted to break through.

Puhallo only arrived before Brussilov's front on the 29th and had to put off attacking until the 31st. Roth, having encountered opposition at Rozyszcze on the 29th, had advanced with the main body across the Styr at Sokul, and that day began a forced march towards Luck. The XXXIX. Corps, brought up by train, flung itself upon him but was defeated on the 30th.

Ivanov made Brussilov withdraw in the night behind the Putilowka and go into position at Olyka, Mlynow, Kozin and the source of the Ikwa. Luck was surrendered. Shtcherbachev held the Zloczow heights until the morning of Sept. I, although he was surrounded on the N. and his front was broken through in places. He then retired to the position Radziwillow - Podkamien - Zalozce.

Lechitski was still holding out on the 1st, in spite of the failure of his counter-assaults, and Pflanzer-Baltin therefore delivered an assault with his group, established N. of the Dniester close to the mouth of the Sereth. During the night the Russians fell back on to the strongly fortified Sereth position, which was provided with several bridgeheads.

Ivanov hoped that his N. wing, which had been bent back a long way and was difficult to envelop owing to the adjacent marsh area, and had, further, been reinforced by fortress artillery from Rovno, would be able with the aid of flank attacks from the region of dense forests and impassable swamps known as Polyesie (" the Woods ") to hold out until the S. wing, opposed by far weaker forces, should have lifted the whole front off its hinges by a victorious assault.

The Austro-Hungarian army Higher Command arranged for the N. wing, now divided into two armies under Archduke Joseph Ferdinand, to deliver a decisive blow by means of assaults on Rovno and Dubno; for Bohm-Ermolli to break through in the centre of the Russian front; and for Bothmer and PflanzerBaltin to contain the Russian forces by an attack on the Sereth position. Lechitski wanted to employ the time until his N. and Shtcherbachev's S. wing should be ready, by removing the threat to his flank offered by Pflanzer-Baltin's troops, who had advanced on both sides of the Lower Sereth. These battles on the 4th and 5th, combined with a simultaneous attack on the Bukovina, failed in their object.

While Bothmer was grouping his army for a break-through S. of Tarnopol, and Pflanzer-Baltin's N. wing was waiting to attack simultaneously with him on the 7th, the Russians, on the afternoon of the 6th, opened the battle of the Sereth (the battle of Tarnopol) with a great mass assault from the Trembowla area. On the same day Bohm-Ermolli finished the battle at Podkamien, begun on the 2nd, with a victory that resulted in Shtcherbachev's N. wing retiring as far as Butyn on the Goryn, while Brussilov's S. wing, abandoning Dubno, fell back behind the Middle Ikwa.

Archduke Joseph Ferdinand's I. and IV. Armies, which had come up in front of the Russian positions on the 2nd, defended themselves against numerous counter-assaults, by which Brussilov was trying to prevent the diversion of troops to the N.

wing. The pressure on the flank from Polyesie grew, and it became imperative to bring up all cavalry divisions within reach. These became entangled in difficult minor combats in the midst of forest and marsh. On Sept. 8 Archduke Joseph Ferdinand delivered at Cuman the blow which decided the battle of Olyka. Brussilov escaped by retreating behind the Stubla.

These successes barred the advance of the Sereth front, which by 7 P.M. had forced back Bothmer's and PflanzerBaltin's inner wings as far as the Strypa. Bohm-Ermolli's S. wing executed a relief attack E. of the Sereth towards Zbaraz. Ivanov, in his anxiety for his N. wing, ordered the S. wing reserve to be diverted and sent to its relief. This wing was for the moment endeavouring to cover the flanks of the attack-group which had advanced a great distance, but could overpower neither Bothmer's N. wing in the direction of Tarnopol nor the troops in the foreground of the Zaleszczyki bridgehead. On the Toth the Archduke Joseph Ferdinand began the battle of the Stubla, which he hoped to bring to a decision by sending the N. wing to cross the Goryn below the mouth of the Stubla, and then make an advance on Rovno simultaneously with that of Puhallo's army coming from Dubno. By the 12th the road to the Goryn had been made clear, one division brought across the river, and the groups which threatened the N. wing driven back a considerable distance.

The arrival of Russian reinforcements opposite to BOhmErmolli's sparsely occupied front, as well as the arming for a continuation of the Sereth front's advance, showed that Ivanov was planning a great offensive on both sides of the TarnopolLernberg line. The Austro-Hungarian army Higher Command stopped Puhallo's advance, drew back Bothmer's N. wing to the level of the Strypa front and dispatched thither the VI. Corps which had been intended for use against Serbia.

On the 13th the counter-offensive set in with the battle of Krzemieniec-Gontowa, and won some initial successes. The N. wing's attack was now also stopped. On the 14th the Russians broke through the Strypa front and reached the W. bank. The VI. Corp's attack, together with an advance by Bothmer's N. wing and a group of Bohm-Ermolli's posted W. of the Sereth on the N. flank, caused the Russians to retire again in the night of the 16th-17th to their Sereth position. During this time Bohm-Ermolli had repulsed the assault, and used the reenforcements sent by the Archduke for an attack. But a calamity had overtaken the N. wing. Keeping the attention of the weakened group of armies on the Stubla cleverly riveted, Brussilov with the XXX. Corps on the i 5th threw back the N. wing behind the Putilowka and forced the Archduke, by continuous envelopment, to retreat behind the Styr and the Ikwa on the evening of the 17th. The bridgehead at Luck could not hold out, and on the 23rd the Russians stood on the E. bank of the river. On the same day Shtcherbachev and Brussilov's S. wing advanced to the attack on the II. Army and Puhallo's I. Army, now under command of Bohm-Ermolli, from the Upper Sereth to the mouth of the Ikwa. This second battle of Krzemieniec ended on the 25th with the failure of the Russians. At the same time Brussilov received the news that German troops had taken part in the storming of the bridgehead at Kolki on the Styr. Recognizing the intentions of the allies, he at once ordered a retreat to the Putilowka position, while concentrating a powerful group to the N. of the Kormin brook to fall on the enemy's flank.

Linsingen, the new commander of the IV. Army and of the troops in Polyesie, was in fact planning a blow on the Russian flank and rear by way of Kolki-Sokul, using for this purpose the German XXIV. Reserve Corps (brought up from the German front through Polyesie after Gyllenschmidt's forced retreat behind the Wiesiolucha and the Styr) and the Austro-Hungarian XVII. Corps which was to have been sent against Serbia. Gerok's group, the XXIV. Reserve and the XVII. Corps, had now to do with nothing but rearguards, who by the 27th had been overthrown. On the 28th, when Shtcherbachev at the battle of Nowo Aleksiniec again attacked Bohm-Ermolli in order to keep his forces engaged, the main body of the N. wing arrived at the Putilowka. Linsingen guessed Brussilov's scheme, made Gerok wheel to the N.E., and intercepted the Russian blow. The allies' decision to grant the much-exhausted troops some rest in a permanent position brought the battle of the Putilowka to an end on the evening of the 30th.

The Russian command refused to be satisfied with this close to a campaign which had not brought them much gratification. On Oct. 3 Gyllenschmidt delivered a flank blow from Rafalowka, W. of the Styr, but was driven completely back by the 6th. The attack against Serbia was a spur to renewed exertions. On the 6th a fresh battle set in on the Putilowka, which on the 7th spread over the whole front up to the Rumanian frontier, lasting until the Loth - until the 13th on the Strypa - without a change in the situation. On the 15th Ivanov once more delivered a blow on the N. flank in the bend of the Styr at Czartorysk, which at first made great progress. But Linsingen's clever concentric placing of the hurriedly brought-up reinforcements drove the Russians back with heavy fighting behind the Styr by Nov. 14. During the crisis Shtcherbachev had attacked the II. Army in vain from Oct. 21 to 23 in the second battle of Nowo Aleksiniec. More dangerous still were the Russian attempts to break through on the Strypa from Oct. 30 to Nov. 8, which culminated in the struggle for the village of Siemikowce. Finally in the middle of Nov. a prolonged lull fell upon this theatre of war. (M. H.)

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