|The situation on the Russian-German front the day before Lodz Operation
PhD. Piotr Marciniak
The subject matter of the fights taking place in the middle Russian-German front during the first months of the I World War has not been fully described to this day. For the German society, as PhD. Markus Pöhlmann claims, battles on the East are still unknown, while Russians completely dropped this topic as a result of further experiences (I mean first period of II World War), too hasty according to me, considering it as useless with the changed tactics.
Meanwhile "The First Blitzkrieg on the East" took part on the Lodz Land. It means instant, as during 6 days German army moved from Wloclawek to Lodz. What is important, 2 days out of these 6 were devoted to direct fights for Wloclawek, and 1 for Kutno. Also there - on the way Pabianice-Lask, the use of vehicles (later called in the history: armored vehicles) took place, first on the Russian-German front. However, before any clashes mentioned above happened, I would like to present you how the military situation on the Russian - German front the day before so called Lodz Operation looked like. The beginning of the campaign on the Eastern front was very unfavourable for Germany. The attack on Eastern Prussia by 1. Russian Army (so called Army of Niemno) under the command of general Pawel Rennenkampf started on 4th August and led to a defeat of the army under the command of general Max Prittwitz, which was maintaining 8. Front in the battles of Goldap and Gabin. It posed a threat of losing all Eastern Prussia, which was attacked from the South by 2. Army (so called Army of Narew) under the command of general Aleksander Samsonow.
High Command of Land Forces (Oberkommando des Heeres, OKH) considered the situation as hopeless and even took into consideration the variant of immediate retreating to the line of Vistula. Finally, the risky decision of continuing the resistance was made. In this way 8. Army was supported at the expense of weakening the Western Front. For this purpose, two corps of infantry and cavalry division were hectically flipped from France. At the same time, it was decided that general Prittwitz would be replaced by retired from 1911, but experienced commander general Paul von Hindenburg. At his request there were also changes in the cast 8th Army Chief of Staff. A position was taken by gen. Erich Ludendorff. What turned out crucial to the control of the situation was not so much a military genius of gen. Hindenburg, or serious strengthening of German Army defending East Prussia, but the awkwardness of gen. Jakow Zyli?ski, who commanded the Russian front, and especially a subordinate commander of the 1st Army of gen. Rennenkampf.
Making the commander of the front aware, Rennenkampf started march in the direction of Königsberg (Kaliningrad), thus moving away from the 2nd Army. He did that instead of leading to the coordination of the actions of the two Russian armies. Realizing the error of Russian command, Germany with all the force raised against Samsonow.
In the period from 26 to 31 August the German army enjoyed a landslide victory over him in the battle fought on the East of Tannenberg (Stebark), where the 2nd Army was completely destroyed. With information about the ongoing battle, gen. Rennenkampf did not even make an attempt to assist 2. Army and retreated behind Niemen. In the face of disaster gen. Samsonov committed suicide, while tens of thousands of Russian soldiers went into captivity.
A week later, between 5 and 15 September, the Germans defeated 1st Army of gen. Rennenkampf during the Battle of the Masurian lakes. Its remnants retreated behind the Neman giving the field to the enemy. In total, the Russians lost about 200,000 soldiers in fights, which was a disaster without precedent in the history of the wars of the Empire.
As a result of both these successes gen. Hindenburg and now inseparably associated with him gen. Ludendorff were hailed as national heroes. The performance of the German propaganda was needed to sustain the society's fading pro-war sentiment. Germans did not expect that the Russians - having lost so much of its armed forces - will be able to rebuild its military forces in the coming months, not to mention going on the offensive. Meanwhile taken by German forces offensive towards Warsaw and Deblin, despite initial success, collapsed.
Resistance of Russian troops proved to be surprisingly effective. Germans, together with the Austro-Hungarian troops were forced to retreat near the border of Silesia, trying as soon as possible and as far to detach from attacking Russian troops. In addition, conflicts occurred between the German and Austro-Hungarian chief commands. They were caused by the approach to the form of retreat. Germans tried to avoid unnecessary fights with the Russians as much as they could during their retreat, and the Austrians tried to stop the Russians in order to prevent them from intrusion by the Carpathians on its territory, and thus retain some authority before the German allies.
Meanwhile, after the retreat, the German army on the Land Lodz reached the boundary of Miechow - Graces - Uniejow, which is also the farthest reach, in this area, of the Russian army during the First World War. Front, admittedly stabilized, but - as it soon turned out - not for long. Russians - as reported to OKH by efficient intelligence - suddenly made preparations to a new strike, the aim of which was to enter into the borders of Germany.
Military situation that has evolved as a result of the collapse of the Warsaw - Deblin operation potentially threatened a big danger to, so involved with variable success in the West, Kaiser's army. Germans' preparations for an armed attack assumed that in the first months of the war Eastern Front would be secondary to their strategic military operations in the West.
They planned that after the defeat of France, they would resort to all its forces against Russia. However, they did not anticipate formed in September - October hazard intrusion "Russian steam roller" on its territory. To prevent this - as Hindenburg writes - "final decision about our new venture is made, or rather plans take final shape."
On November 1st, 1914 High Command "East" (Oberkomando der Ostfront, Ober - Ost) was created, with its registered office in Poznan. It was taken by gen. Hindenburg, with the Chief of Staff - General Ludendorff, who actually was supposed to have command of all operations in the East in the coming months. Ober - Ost since its inception, had a relatively independent position towards the OKH, which allowed it to respond to various complex situations, which have occurred on the eastern front more quickly.
Germans learned about the details of the Russian plan of the intrusion into the Reich. They found out about it from the acquired on 3 November ordnance spark messages, which Russians often did not encrypt due to lack of sufficient number of trained staff. Another message was also achieved this way - that the Russian offensive in the West must be deferred because of the difficulty in supplying troops with equipment. In this state of things gen. Hindenburg, realizing the lack of a sufficient amount of time needed (acquired telegram implied that needed restoration can come at any time), on the advice of gen. Ludendorff decided to strengthen the front, quickly shifting from areas in the region of Silesia to Torun and Inowroclaw created on 15 September - 9th German Army.
I was commanded since November 1st by gen. August von Mackenzen, who had under his command 11 infantry divisions and five cavalry divisions, which gave a total of 143,000 soldiers and 22 500 sabers. Its task was to suddenly hit from the side of Torun on the right flank and rear of the Russian army. Whereas on the border with Silesia in the area of Czestochowa Second Austro - Hungarian Army in the strength of the two bodies - IV. and XII. (total of 4 divisions)under the command of General Remus von Woyrsch was concentrated. After amplification with additional two-division body of cavalry, General Woyrsch was given the task to take over the land above the loop of Warta facing Radom and Piotrkow.
Since neither Hindenburg nor Ludendorff when preparing their plan did not consult it with their ally, Austrian Chief of Staff Conrad von Hötzendorf was forced to subordinate his actions to the German side. Therefore, the second Army, according to his thoughts, had to fill the gap left by the transfer of 9th Army to the area of Torun, liaise with the German army and make a deep strike on the flanks and rear, preparing to attack Poznan, 2nd and 5th Army .
At the same time, crews from Wroclaw and Poznan fortresses created two bodies fortress: "Wroclaw" under the command of General Wilhelm von Menges in the strength of 18,000 troops, centered in Kepnieja and "Poznan" under the command of General Fritz von Koch Herrenhausen in the strength of 23,000 troops, centered in Kalisz region. They were further strengthened by Landwehr and Landsturm troops. Their full combat readiness was set for November 16.
General Hindenburg's plan assumed development of the several divisions prepared for starting positions on the line Lowicz - Leczyca - Dabie to flank impact in the direction of Tomaszow Mazowiecki and Piotrkow Trybunalski. To carry out his intention, gen. Hindenburg made the following rearrangement of forces:
a) I and XXV reserve corps - from the area of Torun through Wloclawek on Lowicz.
b) I cavalry corps, XX body and 3 reserve guard's division of the Inowroclaw region through Kutno to the area of Bzura - Lowicz - Leczyca.
c) XVII body - from the area of Gniezno through Sampolno to the area of Leczyca.
d) XI body - from the area of Wrzesnia through Kolo to the direction of Debie.
In this group there were a total of 11 infantry divisions and two cavalry divisions, which is 70% of all the forces of the 9th Army. In addition, it was strengthened by III. body of cavalry and bodies "Poznan" and "Wroclaw". In addition, Corps "Poznan" and "Wroclaw" were commanded to tie the Russian 5th Army from the front.
The number of German troops taking part in Operation Lodz
9th German Army 165 500
Body "Wroc?aw" 18 000
Body "Poznan" 23 000
Total: 206 500