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Title: The Campaign in Russian Poland
Author: Standing, Percy Cross
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE CAMPAIGN IN RUSSIAN POLAND


       *       *       *       *       *

The Daily Telegraph War Books

THE CAMPAIGN IN RUSSIAN POLAND

At the Front Series

       *       *       *       *       *

Cloth 1/- net each

The Daily Telegraph WAR BOOKS

Post free 1/3 each

  =HOW THE WAR BEGAN.= By W. L. COURTNEY, LL.D., and J. M. KENNEDY.

  =THE FLEETS AT WAR.= By ARCHIBALD HURD.

  =THE CAMPAIGN OF SEDAN.= By GEORGE HOOPER.

  =THE CAMPAIGN ROUND LIÈGE.= By J. M. KENNEDY.

  =IN THE FIRING LINE.= Battle Stories told by British Soldiers at the
  Front. By A. ST. JOHN ADCOCK.

  =GREAT BATTLES OF THE WORLD.= By STEPHEN CRANE, Author of “The Red
  Badge of Courage.”

  =BRITISH REGIMENTS AT THE FRONT.= The glorious story of their Battle
  Honours.

  =THE RED CROSS IN WAR.= By M. F. BILLINGTON.

  =FORTY YEARS AFTER.= The Story of the Franco-German War. By H. C.
  BAILEY and W. L. COURTNEY, LL.D.

  =A SCRAP OF PAPER.= The Inner History of German Diplomacy. By E. J.
  DILLON.

  =HOW THE NATIONS WAGED WAR.= By J. M. KENNEDY.

  =AIR-CRAFT IN WAR.= By ERIC STUART BRUCE.

  =HACKING THROUGH BELGIUM.= By EDMUND DANE.

  =FAMOUS FIGHTS OF INDIAN NATIVE REGIMENTS.= By REGINALD HODDER.

  =THE RETREAT TO PARIS.= By ROGER INGPEN.

  =THE RUSSIAN ADVANCE.= By MARR MURRAY.

  =SUBMARINES, TORPEDOES, AND MINES.= By C. W. DOMVILLE FIFE.

  =MOTOR TRANSPORTS IN WAR.= By HORACE WYATT.

  =THE SLAV NATIONS.=

  =FROM HELIGOLAND TO KEELING ISLAND.= By ARCHIBALD HURD.

  =WITH THE FRENCH EASTERN ARMY.= By W. E. GREY.

  =THE ROYAL ARMY MEDICAL CORPS AT THE FRONT.= By E. C. VIVIAN.

  =THE SCOTTISH REGIMENTS AT THE FRONT.= By E. C. VIVIAN.

  =THE CAMPAIGN IN RUSSIAN POLAND.= By P. C. STANDING.

HODDER & STOUGHTON

       *       *       *       *       *


THE CAMPAIGN IN RUSSIAN POLAND

by

PERCY CROSS STANDING



Hodder and Stoughton
London  New York  Toronto
MCMXIV

Printed in Great Britain by Hazell, Watson & Viney, Ld., London and
Aylesbury.



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER I

                                                             PAGE

  THE SITUATION AFTER LEMBERG                                   1

  CHAPTER II

  THE AUSTRIAN DEBACLE: FROM LEMBERG TO JAROSLAV               16

  CHAPTER III

  RUSSIA’S SUCCESS AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE                        40

  CHAPTER IV

  EBB AND FLOW IN EAST PRUSSIA                                 56

  CHAPTER V

  THE DEFENCE OF THE VISTULA                                   73

  CHAPTER VI

  THE SIEGE OF PRZEMYSL--THE STRUGGLE ON THE SAN              112

  CHAPTER VII

  STORIES FROM THE FIGHTING LINE                              136

  CHAPTER VIII

  THE GERMAN RETREAT AND THE RUSSIAN PURSUIT TO THE FRONTIER  157



CHAPTER I THE SITUATION AFTER LEMBERG


The capture of the important town of Lemberg, the capital of Galicia,
by the forces of the Tsar during the first week of September may be
said to have marked an epoch in the operations of the gigantic armies
contending for the mastery in what had come to be popularly known as
the Eastern Theatre of operations in the world-war. It was a very solid
advantage, and one which gained for the Russian Army a substantial
foothold upon Austrian territory. The struggle of the nations had
endured for some weeks, and the victory of Lemberg was all the more
welcome and popular because it happened at a time when our Russian
Allies needed a really heartening and enlivening success. For it would
be absurd to say that the so-called “Russian steam-roller” had moved on
from triumph to crushing triumph with that irresistible impulse which
the arm-chair critics had so comfortably predicted for it. Indeed,
after the threat to Danzig itself implied in General Rennenkampf’s
brilliant raid into Eastern Prussia, and his victory over the army of
General von Hindenburg in the first decisive engagement of the war
at Gumbinnen, the rushing back of masses of German troops from the
western to the eastern theatre of operations had completely changed the
situation. By admirable generalship, too, Von Hindenburg had turned the
tables on his foe, and had inflicted a signal defeat on the invaders of
East Prussia at Tannenberg.

From this point, then, the Russians became for the moment no longer an
attacking force. If they had inflicted, they had also suffered, immense
losses. General Rennenkampf’s brisk offensive through East Prussia had
been definitively checked, and it behoved the Tsar’s military advisers
to find, and find speedily, what the American soldier-critic described
as “another way round.”

Meanwhile the Austrians had projected an invasion of Russian Poland
which, successful in its initial stages, led up to a succession of
disastrous reverses. A co-operating German force under General Preuske
fared also very well for a while, its advance into Western Poland
causing the abandonment of the important town of Lodz. But it speedily
became evident that in General Russky, commander of the army designated
to checkmate this invasion, Russia possessed a leader of conspicuous
ability. The Germans were pressed back towards the Polish frontier,
while the Austrians, upon whom the heaviest stress of this fighting
fell, presently came in for a series of reverses. Thus, in what is
known as the battle of Przemysl, the Austrian General Bankal was
killed and five thousand prisoners captured. Then, in a further battle
or series of conflicts lasting an entire week (August to September),
Lemberg fell into Russian hands, and the Petrograd bulletins claimed
upwards of sixty thousand Austrian prisoners and 637 guns. It is from
this point that I take up the as yet rather obscure story of this
fluctuating campaign, first premising that the extraordinary severity
of the Russian censorship of news renders the task no light one.

While, during the first half of September, General Russky is gathering
up the fruits of his victory of Lemberg pending a resumption of his
successful advance through Galicia, we may be permitted to take a brief
glance at the personalities of the men on whom the Grand-duke Nicholas,
Russia’s Imperial Commander-in-Chief, could principally depend. In
the recent words of a high military authority: “There are, and always
have been, brilliant soldiers in the upper grades of the Russian Army.
At the beginning of the Great War Russia possessed three leaders of
high reputation--Rennenkampf, a cavalry general, and the commander of
one of the subsidiary armies under Kuropatkin in the Japanese War;
Samsonoff, who had also fought in the Far East, and had the reputation
of a first-class military organiser; and Russky, a scientific soldier,
with a good record as a teacher of the art of war in the Russian Staff
College. All three were among the commanders sent to the western
frontier.”

And what of their not less brilliant opponent, General von Hindenburg,
popularly known in Germany to-day as “the Saviour of East Prussia”?
This distinguished officer--who celebrated his sixty-seventh
birthday shortly after his victory of Tannenberg, when quantities of
“love-offerings” reached him from Berlin, where a street has already
been named after him--was promptly promoted from the command in Eastern
Prussia to that of the field-armies operating in Poland, and was made a
Freeman of three great German cities. Here is a characteristic pæan of
praise taken from one of Berlin’s leading journals:

“Not in contemplative peace and snug homeliness, as is appropriate to
the birthday of a general, of his own early morning coffee, but outside
in the iron field of the new battles, which thunder and lightning
between the Vistula and the Dniester will Hindenburg, Germany’s
brilliant champion, celebrate his sixty-seventh birthday. And from
Königsberg to Strassburg, from Cologne and Aix to Breslau and Przemysl,
from the North Sea to the Adriatic, all Germans and all dwellers in the
Habsburg lands whom Hindenburg now approaches in the guise of a helper
will greet the day with a heartfelt joy.”

In following the record of the operations it must be borne in mind that
the huge Russian land-frontier of some fifteen hundred miles towards
Austria and Germany is for the most part the frontier of Russian
Poland. This province, in its relation to the bulk of the Russian
territory, has been picturesquely likened to “a huge bastion” wedged
between German territory to north and west and Austrian territory
to the south. But it is a political rather than a natural frontier,
“marked out in somewhat arbitrary fashion when, after the turmoil of
the Napoleonic wars, the map of Europe was being resettled at the
Congress of Vienna.” One may say roughly that this mass of Russian
Poland projects between German and Austrian territories for about two
hundred miles from north to south and two hundred and fifty miles from
east to west. Russia has a group of fortresses in the plain of Poland,
three of which are sometimes known as “the Polish Triangle,” with a
fourth fortress acting as a sort of outpost or “triangle” looking
towards the German frontier. Warsaw (one of the world’s greatest
fortresses), Ivangorod, and Brest-Litovski are these three places
of strength constituting a “triangle,” the outpost fortress being
Novo Georgievsk, at the confluence of the Vistula and Narev rivers.
Then, along the latter river and the Niemen runs a chain of fortified
river-crossings, supplying “a defence line for the region north of the
Pripet marshes, and a well-protected concentration line for armies
destined to operate against East Prussia.” Finally, this well-planned
fortress system is completed by a group of fortified towns between the
marsh country and Galicia. It was the effective “screen” of this system
of strong places that enabled the mobilisation of the Tsar’s vast
armies to be carried out so successfully.

With regard to the natural configuration of the wild and mostly
desolate country constituting the wide area of the battle-ground, a few
words of explanation will be useful. There is little high ground until
one comes to the southern border of the great Polish plain, where the
Carpathian range forms a natural rampart. To the north the ground falls
away rapidly to the plain. There are numerous rivers and streams, and
great tracts of forest-clad land. Eastward of the Upper Vistula a low
rise of ground runs first northerly and then trends to the north-east,
forming “the water-parting” between the rivers that flow to the Baltic
and the Black Sea. Still eastward of this we come to the Marshes of
Pripet, or Pinsk, to which I have already referred. Imagine to yourself
some thirty thousand square miles of stream, pool, and swamp, by its
very character utterly unsuited to the marching or fighting operations
of a great army. In the northern region of the plain we find, between
the Vistula, the Narev, and the Baltic Sea more wide-extended tracts
of swamp-covered forest land, pools, lakes, and little rivers.
Altogether, it is one of the worst countries, physically speaking, for
the transport, much less the manœuvring, of masses of men, horses, and
heavy artillery.

This historic battle-ground was once the old kingdom of Poland, the
scene of some of the greatest political and military crimes and
blunders of past ages. “Across the plain,” writes the military critic
whom I have already quoted, “winds the broad, sluggish stream of the
Vistula. The great river is to this eastern land what the Rhine is to
Western Europe.... On its banks, in the midst of the plain, stands
Warsaw, the old capital of Poland and now the political, military, and
business centre of the Russian province. There is only one other large
town in Russian Poland--Lodz, not long ago a country village, now a
busy industrial centre. This paucity of large towns is characteristic,
not only of Russian Poland but of the whole Empire. The last census
shows that in European Russia there are only twenty-four places that
claim a population of over a hundred thousand. Russia is a country of
agricultural villages. There are more than 150,000 of them between the
Vistula and the Ural! The plain of the Vistula is not an absolute dead
level, but there is nothing that can be called a hill. There are wide
stretches of woodland, the refuge of the insurgent bands in the Polish
risings of 1830 and 1863. Between the woods are open lands with many
villages, rich lands with a deep soil somewhat primitively tilled.” So
much for the appointed battle-ground and the “lie of the land.”

The victors of Lemberg did not long rest on their laurels. An order
of the Day, promulgated by the Grand-duke Nicholas and phrased with
all that regard for the cherished Slav ideals and traditions which has
helped to make this war so popular in Russia, complimented General
Russky and the gallant army under his orders. Another Order, addressed
by the Grand-duke to the _Sokols_,[1] the Polish bands of partisans
organised in Galicia, sternly admonished them for the use in warfare of
dum-dum bullets, and informed them that in future they would be liable
to be treated rather as malefactors than as _bona fide_ combatants
according to the usages of war.

The Tsar and Tsaritsa set a fine example by spending much of their
time in visiting the hospitals and devising helpful schemes for the
amelioration of the sufferings of the thousands of sick and wounded. Of
the conduct of the military operations as a whole, the correspondent
of a New York journal wrote home that “the Russians evidently have
their heart in their work. They have profited greatly by the lessons of
their operations in Manchuria, both as regards strategy and tactics.
Every day in the field increases their efficiency, and will perfect the
co-ordination between their invading bodies.”

By a coincidence as dramatic as it must have been intensely
interesting, the announcement in Petrograd of the brilliant victory
of Lemberg synchronised with the Feast Day of Saint Alexander Nevsky,
Russia’s wonderful hero of the thirteenth century, who was also the
first to beat back a Teutonic invasion of his country. Only on the
previous evening, in fact, the people kneeling before the shrines in
the churches had prayed to this saint: “O Alexander the Blessed, come
to the aid of your kindred and give us victory over our enemies.”
And when, on the following day, the victory was celebrated with that
impressive ritual which the Greek Church knows so well how to employ,
doubtless many among the Slavs saw an immediate answer to their
prayers.

FOOTNOTE:

[1] _Sokol_ is a Slav word for “a hawk,” or “a falcon.”



CHAPTER II THE AUSTRIAN DEBACLE: FROM LEMBERG TO JAROSLAV


We shall now proceed to follow the fortunes of the Russo-Austrian
campaign immediately after the capture of Lemberg in the early days of
September. Such a substantial success naturally put the Russians in
good heart. Rewards were judiciously distributed on the recommendation
of the Grand-duke Nicholas, Generals Russky and Brussiloff each
receiving that most coveted of decorations, the Cross of St. George.
It was likewise officially notified that between August 17 and
September 3, a period of rather more than a fortnight, the Tsar’s
forces operating against the Austrian host of General von Auffenburg
had advanced no less a distance than 220 versts, or roughly 150 miles.
During the same period there had been practically no lull in the
fighting, which for sheer sustained fury would appear to have been
little less sanguinary than that between the German and Franco-British
armies in the West.

It was about this time that the _Daily Telegraph_, in an editorial
setting forth the general situation of affairs after some five weeks
of war, called attention to the influence being slowly but none the
less surely exercised by the Russian field-armies. After pointing out
that the crisis of a great war had worked wonders in the way of a more
perfect understanding between the Russian and British peoples, the
writer went on to say:

“The extraordinary prowess of the Russian Army has already begun
to draw the ordinary Briton out of his absorption in the military
situation in France, and to keep him in mind of the fact that the arena
of this war is not any one country, but the Continent of Europe. He
realises more fully than before that every blow struck at the Central
European Powers on their eastern frontier is, in the long run, as
telling as any reverse inflicted upon them in the western theatre of
war. But he ought to realise it more fully yet. The position is that
the long series of Russian successes, culminating in the Austrian
overthrow at Lemberg and Halicz, has cast the whole Austro-German
war-plan into confusion, which may at this moment be affecting the
German operations in France in the most serious degree. The main
Austrian Army in Southern Poland is now being attacked with unsparing
energy. Its situation is rendered desperate by the destruction of the
Second Army at Lemberg, which lays open its right wing to assault by
the victorious troops of General Russky. Should the great battle now
raging end in another such defeat as has already been inflicted there
will be nothing remaining in the field that can stay the Russian march
to Berlin. The rapidity of the Russian mobilisation and of the movement
of the Russian forces to the attack is one of the several absolutely
vital things with which Germany did not reckon. The brilliancy of
their performance in the field has surprised the enemy no less. Deeply
involved as Germany is in the French campaign, dares she provide the
heavy and immediate reinforcements for which her Ally is clamouring?
Dares she, on the other hand, refuse them? That is, put simply, the
fatal dilemma on the horns of which the monstrous ambition of German
militarism is like to perish.”

If this last pertinent question was not destined to be immediately
answered, the military situation now began to be one of increasing
menace for the Austro-German Allies. In war one is bound to get a
vast amount of “claim and counterclaim” on the part of the contending
nations. On September 6 the Tsar’s Government took the step of publicly
characterising as “wilful falsehoods” certain Austrian and German
official reports of recent successes. It was claimed, in disproof of
these statements, that in the region between the rivers Vistula and
Bug the Russians had, up to and including September 4, captured many
Austrian guns, 150 officers, and 12,000 men. It was added that, “having
broken the Austrian resistance,” the Tsar’s army was already continuing
its victorious advance southwards from Lemberg.

The Grand-duke and General Russky had determined that no rest must
be given to the enemy’s army already so badly beaten in front of the
capital of Galicia. Scouting far to the flank, the Cossack cavalry
already found themselves in the passes of the Carpathians. A German
division intended to stiffen the Austrian resistance along this
extended line was understood to have been badly cut up on the left
bank of the Vistula; but details of the affair were vague. To the west
of Krasnostaw, however, a whole Austrian battalion--the 45th of the
line--was cut off and surrounded, being compelled to surrender to the
number of 1,500 men and nearly 50 officers.

The next Russian objective would obviously be the important and
strongly fortified town of Przemysl, fifty-five miles west of Lemberg.
But, before attacking this strong place of arms, it was essential to
get possession of Mikolaiev. This point owes its strategical importance
to the circumstance that it is situated at the junction of the railways
to Lemberg, Jimacheff, and (via Stry) to the Carpathians. Entrenchments
had been thrown up on both banks of the Dniester for the protection
of the bridges crossing that river. With a mixed population of Poles
and Jews of a little over 4,000, it had a garrison of some 10,000 men.
Moreover, it was common knowledge that the Austrian authorities did
not believe in the practicability of Mikolaiev being reduced either by
investment or direct assault, owing to the deep marshes that surround
the place for many miles. But, alas! a similar impregnability has been
claimed for only too many of the fortresses involved in this war, which
have held out for no longer than a few days. Mikolaiev was to prove no
exception to the rule, although we are told that the fortress’s guns
were mounted in “armoured cupolas.”

Apparently the place surrendered at discretion after a very moderate
resistance. The garrison, forty heavy guns, and a great quantity of
ammunition became the prizes of the victors; but the details of what
must have been a brilliant feat of arms are conspicuously meagre. It
is stated, however, that the defences included triple lines of barbed
wire “and other obstacles.”

We have now the spectacle of two separate Austrian armies, that of
Galicia and that which was operating in Southern Poland, striving
desperately to stem the tide that appeared to be setting dead against
them.

By the second week of September public interest in Russia had become
deeply centred in the plight of the latter army. It was by this time
fighting a series of rearguard actions with its wary and well-handled
opponents. Although the majority of well-informed military critics
assumed the ultimate destruction of this army as a fighting force,
the extent of the assistance it might receive from the German side
could not be gauged with accuracy. Thus a special correspondent of the
_Daily Telegraph_ wrote from Petrograd on September 11:

“The theory is put forward that at any rate the greater part of the
300,000 men whom the Germans are known to have withdrawn from their
western front, and who are supposed to have been replaced by the
Landwehr and the Landsturm corps, have been directed to the assistance
of the Austrians, and not to East Prussia. An army paper issued
officially at the front for the information of the troops says that
on September 5 and 6 the battle continued on the Austrian front. The
Russian troops operating between Lublin and the Vistula had occupied
the river Chodel. They had to deal with a well-entrenched enemy, and
therefore the attack developed rather slowly. Moving from Krasnostaw,
the Austrian force attempted to reach the railway line between Lublin
and Cholm, to cut the communications between those two places; but the
plan was frustrated by the battle of September 2 and 3 at Suchodol
and other Russian counter-moves. The position of the Russians was, on
September 6, much stronger, and Krasnostaw was in their hands. There
were then also pretty plain signs of a general Austrian retreat.”

These German reinforcements amounted, at all events, to one or two
army corps, and with their co-operation hard fighting took place on
September 8-9 along the entire front. It is significant that 10 per
cent. of the prisoners taken on those days are said to have been
Germans. The Austrian commander appears to have strengthened his left
wing, now resting on the Vistula, at the expense of his right in
order to attempt to hold the relentless flanking movement of General
Russky. A large Austrian force was thrown for this purpose along a
front running roughly from Lubisch to Komarno, which had formed a
rallying-point for considerable numbers of the army broken up near
Lemberg. Along this line they managed to entrench with some skill
and elaboration, and Russky encountered a stubborn resistance in the
task of turning them out, though it has been claimed on the Russian
side that the enemy as a rule has been generally loth to wait for the
bayonets to cross.

This Austrian conception of a counterstroke of their heavily reinforced
right wing, with the intention of driving Russky back upon Lemberg, was
in the main a good one. It commenced on September 9, when, according
to one who was in the firing-line, the Austrians essayed “repeated
and stubborn attacks with the object of crushing the Russian left wing
and getting round their right. These movements were met by vigorous
counter-attacks, and in order to ease the pressure the army on the
Vistula, and particularly that portion to the south of Lublin, was
ordered to push forward and, if possible, strike at the enemy’s rear.
Accordingly the Russian forces in South Poland pressed on from the line
Solez-Opole-Vichowe-Samostie-Komarow, and, after desperate fighting,
drove the Austrians from their entrenched positions. On September 9 the
enemy’s resistance was overcome, and he retired all along the line,
with the Russians in pursuit. In the battles of that and the preceding
day the Russians took 150 cannon, several machine-guns, and 3,000
prisoners.

“On the 10th, while the chase of the retreating Austrians was
proceeding in this quarter, the Russians in the direction of Lemberg
were called upon to sustain repeated assaults. These were, however,
all repulsed with heavy loss, eight guns and more than four thousand
prisoners being captured. Apparently the Austrians withdrawing from
the Lublin province fought a rearguard action on the 12th, as mention
is made of an obstinate battle on that day which ended with the rout
of the enemy, who was compelled to abandon his wounded. Evidently in
concert with this stand the Austrians to the west of Lemberg delivered
three furious night attacks between the 11th and 12th. From the
impetuosity with which the assaults were pressed home it was evident
that they were a last despairing attempt to sweep back the onflowing
wave of Russians.”

In a word, this series of desperate attacks and counter-attacks
resulted in the total failure of the Austrian army, though stiffened
by its German supports, to “hold” their terrible opponents. But it was
no easy victory. Both sides fought with devoted courage and stubborn
tenacity. Much of the ground was cut up with marshy streams and belts
of treacherous swamp land, and one of the harrowing features of this
battle was that numbers of dead lay unburied among the morasses or half
sunk in the shallow streams and hundreds of wounded wretches died among
these abandoned dead, undiscovered by the peasants of the district
until it was too late.

In the close fighting the Russian losses were necessarily heavy,
but the Petrograd official estimates of the Austro-German casualties
from the capture of Lemberg up to and including this hard-won triumph
on the Vistula simply stagger the imagination, and suggest that the
computation was somewhat loosely made. These were the figures:

  Killed and wounded, 250,000 men.
  Prisoners, 100,000 men.
  Guns captured, 400.

The last of these figures is probably nearest the truth. It would
include the numerous guns secured by the surrender of Mikolaiev, as
well as those taken on the battle-field. In the great battle the
Russian artillery is said to have outnumbered that of the enemy in
the proportion of two to one, and the Austrians had to abandon many
batteries among the marshes when the retreat began. Amongst these were
some of their formidable field-howitzers.

Amongst the Russian corps commanders specially distinguished during
these days of battle, and decorated by the Tsar with the Cross of St.
George for his part in the victory, was the Bilarian Radko Dimitrieff.
He has had a remarkable career. Born in 1859, passed out of the
Military School of Sofia as a lieutenant at the age of twenty, and then
studied for a while in the Staff College at St. Petersburg. He had
rejoined the Bulgarian army as a captain when there came the withdrawal
of the Russian officers who held the higher commands, and the sudden
attack by Servia. Dimitrieff, though only a captain, acted as a general
at the victory of Slivnitza, and there laid the foundation of his
career. The Bulgars called him “little Napoleon,” partly on account
of a certain personal resemblance to the “little Corporal,” partly as
a tribute to his genius for command. He served for ten years in the
Russian army, and on his return to Bulgaria was appointed first chief
of the General Staff, and then to the command of a district. In the war
of the Balkan League he commanded the 3rd Bulgarian Army, won the first
victory at Kirk-Kilisse and shared the after-triumphs of the campaign
in Thrace. On the outbreak of the present war he at once offered his
services once more to Russia.

In the official record of these operations special mention is made of
the uniformly good work of the Cossack and other cavalry, who appear
to have established as thorough a personal ascendancy over the enemy’s
mounted troops as did that of the Franco-British army in the western
theatre of war.

A similar remark may be applied to the achievements of the Russian
air-craft in this region. The Grand-duke seeks out for special
commendation in this connection the work of Air-Scout Tkarchoff. While
returning from a reconnaissance his machine was shot at and a bullet
penetrated the oil-tank. With wonderful nerve and resource, the brave
Tkarchoff managed to plug the bullet-hole with his foot, in that way
stopping the flow of the oil and preventing a collapse. At last he was
able to descend, though under heavy fire from the enemy, and eventually
he saved his aeroplane with the help of two soldiers.

The Russian forward movement was very naturally speeded up by the
quickened retirement of the foe. Having crossed the Lower San River
without encountering any resistance, Russky’s army entered the town
of Gorodek and Mosciske, which brought them within one day’s march of
Jaroslav. When the Austrian Government reorganised the defences of
Galicia more than twenty years ago it was at first intended to make
Jaroslav instead of Przemysl the eastern stronghold of the province.
The fortifications were begun and then left in an unfinished state,
but on the outbreak of the war these incomplete works were taken in
hand and made the basis of a strong system of entrenchments. It is an
important place, some twenty miles north of Przemysl, and covering
the junction of the eastern railways of Galicia with the main line to
Cracow. Strong redoubts, to the number of more than twenty in all, had
been erected on both banks of the San. The reduction of the place
would greatly minimise the value of Przemysl to the Austrians and
enable two railways to be used both in connection with the siege of
that fortress and the operations against Cracow. The progress of the
Russian advance had by this time--the third week of September--given
them possession of other eastern lines of railway with large quantities
of rolling-stock, tanks of naphtha, benzine, and large stores of wood
and other material. On every side, as the advance converged upon
Jaroslav, were seen evidences of the disorder of the recent Austrian
retreat in the amount of arms and material of war abandoned in the
swamps or by the roadside.

Anything like full details of the garrison of Jaroslav and its actual
preparedness at the time of the onslaught are not available. This is
partly owing to the Russian habit of lumping together the numbers of
prisoners and guns captured at various points, and partly because a
portion of the garrison succeeded in escaping. But it seems clear that
a vigorous night-attack took two of the most important works, and that
this rendered inevitable the early fall of the place.

In point of fact, the actual investment lasted only three days. Its
reduction was semi-officially described as “a pleasant surprise,”
for it left open the Cracow road, while the undoubted strength and
importance of a town of 20,000 inhabitants and protected by a score of
well-equipped forts, could not be over-estimated. Moreover, the only
railway to Przemysl now left open to the enemy was a small single line.
The officers deemed to have been most distinguished in the success
of the operation were Generals Ivanoff, Alexieff, and Dragomiroff,
who were all decorated. Between September 11-14 the vast captures
included a general, 535 officers, 83,531 men, 637 guns (38 German), 44
machine-guns, seven flags, and 823 ammunition-wagons.

With Jaroslav in its hands, the Tsar’s army could now close up the ring
of steel with which the greater prize of Przemysl was being encircled.
In summing up the satisfactory results so far achieved, an eminent
Russian critic, Colonel Shumsky, pointed out how utterly the enemy’s
plans had come to grief. “It was supposed,” he said, “that the Austrian
army approaching Ivangorod would have joined up with the Germans
advancing from Posen and Thorn. By this means Western Poland would
have been cut off, and there would have been a final development of the
Austro-German forces on the line from Ivangorod and East Prussia to the
sea, which is nearly a straight line. By moving out from the meridian
of the East Prussian line, the enemy would have had the advantage of
shortening the road of attack. This was very important for reasons of
time. As the Austrian troops were completely beaten, that plan has
broken down. The Austrians are retreating most probably to Cracow, and
are attempting to arrange a new strategic front with the Germans for an
attack in three echelons--the first from Eastern Prussia, the second
from the line Tschensto-chau-Wjelun-Slessin, and the third from the
district of Cracow.”



CHAPTER III RUSSIA’S SUCCESS AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE


The armies of the Tsar had by the middle of September established so
firm a foothold upon Austrian territory, and so remote were the chances
of their being dislodged from it, that little surprise was felt at
the issue of a manifesto addressed by the Grand-duke Nicholas to the
inhabitants of the invaded country. It was circulated in all the nine
languages of that wonderfully polyglot population, and the text of it
was as follows:

  “PEOPLES OF AUSTRIA-HUNGARY,--The Government of Vienna declared
  war on Russia because the great Empire, faithful to its historic
  traditions, could not abandon inoffensive Servia or permit her
  enslavement.

  “Peoples of Austria-Hungary,--In making my entry into the territory
  of Austria-Hungary I declare to you, in the name of the great Tsar,
  that Russia, who has often shed her blood for the emancipation of
  nations from a foreign yoke, seeks only the restoration of right and
  justice. To you peoples of Austria-Hungary Russia also brings liberty
  and the realisation of your national hopes.

  “During long centuries the Austro-Hungarian Government sowed among
  you discord and hostility, for she knew that your quarrels were the
  basis of her empire over you. Russia, on the other hand, only aims
  at enabling each of you to develop and prosper, while preserving the
  precious heritage of your fathers, your language, and your faith, and
  allowing each of you, united to his brethren, to live in peace and
  harmony with his neighbours, respecting their national rights.

  “Being sure that you will all lend your strength to the realisation
  of this end, I appeal to you to welcome the Russian troops as
  faithful friends who are fighting for your best dreams.

  (Signed) “NICHOLAS, Commander-in-Chief and Aide-de-Camp General.”

The present may be a convenient opportunity for pausing to consider
briefly a few of the more picturesque “sidelights” of the war, while
vast armies are mustering to the onslaught in Poland, in East Prussia,
and in Austro-Hungary. A good impression was created throughout
the world, as showing the spirit animating the Russian people and
government in the prosecution of the struggle, by the prohibition of
the sale of vodka “for ever” in the Tsar’s dominions. Russia would
henceforth be a sober country, and in the spirit of clear-minded
cheerfulness and serenity would see this world-contest through to
the bitter end. About the same time another Imperial edict seemed to
imply that the Tsar was so well satisfied with the numbers of troops
already mobilised, and with the steady progress being effected by the
field-armies, that Russia’s last line of men was not to be called to
the colours.

Yet the masses of troops still available by the half-beaten Austrians
were remarkable in the extreme. The calling up of their Landsturm gave
them a million of fresh men with which to recoup the enormous wastage
of the earlier battles. To this new million, an estimate of the astute
Colonel Shumsky adds the further resources of the German allies. He
reminds us that “On the list of the German Minister of War there are
4,300,000 trained men. Supposing that the Germans have lost 800,000 in
the fields of Belgium, France, Eastern Prussia, and Galicia, then they
must have 3,500,000 trained men, of whom 1,000,000 are in France. The
remaining 2,500,000 are not occupied with France, and consequently can
operate on the east front. But it must be remembered that if Austria
and Germany have a population of 110,000,000 from which to derive
their troops, their antagonists have not less than 220,000,000. In the
battles of the present war strategy and tactics are playing a secondary
part. All that counts is the numbers and the spirit of the soldier.”

An Italian estimate of about the same date stated that by the month of
October Russia would have fully three millions of men actively engaged
in this complicated theatre of operations--an overwhelming avalanche
of troops, flushed with victory and confident of the ultimate result.
The general reader derived some idea of what the preparation for fight
of the units of such an embattled host really means from a vivid
account in the _Daily Telegraph_ by Mr. Alan Lethbridge, who had been
deputed by that journal to attend the headquarters of the world’s most
gigantic mobilisation. Mr. Lethbridge records, with many human touches,
the gathering together of 30,000 Cossacks within four days after the
outbreak of hostilities. He makes one realise the significance, to the
mind of the local Muscovite peasant, of what is to him very essentially
a holy war, because his “Little Father” the Tsar orders it. He tells,
with rare lucidity and wealth of detail, how he saw the green-and-gold
vested priests, with their ikons and huge crosses borne before them,
blessing the great masses of men amid the prayers and tears of their
womenkind, and solemnly impressing upon their auditors that this was
no war of aggression into which their Tsar had felt himself forced to
enter. He describes how one Siberian township alone (Omsk) contributed
its quota of 75,000 conscripts, and how in a single day he saw at
least a hundred thousand more being transported over one small section
of the Siberian railway. He emphasises the extreme “teetotal” aspect
of all that he saw and heard, remarking that perhaps nothing brought
home to one as much as this the realities and possibilities of the
true awakening of Russia. Incidentally, he gossips amusingly as to a
rumour of Japanese troops passing through Russian townships _en route_
for “the front”--first cousin, this, to the equally fantastic story of
Cossack soldiers having passed through England. The following brief
extract from this correspondent’s account may serve to illustrate the
quiet, business-like aspect of the mobilisation:

“A galloping Cossack with a red pennon fluttering from his lance
was our first intimation that Russia was at war. From the bridge of
a steamer on the river Irtish we could watch him. His stout little
pony easily kept abreast of our boat, and his method of operating was
clearly visible. He would accost a group of his brethren garnering
their harvest--for this is Cossack territory--there would be some
gesticulation, horses would be seized and mounted, and within
five minutes the harvest-fields of the great Siberian steppe would
be denuded of their manhood. Such action was repeated with almost
monotonous precision during that long summer day, and it was thanks
to this organisation that on our arrival at Semipalatinsk, a steppe
town some 600 miles from railhead, we found no less than 30,000 fully
armed and equipped Cossacks. This within four days of the outbreak of
hostilities.”

Side by side with this may be read the testimony of Professor Pares of
the Liverpool University, whose intimate knowledge of the country and
its language admirably qualified him for the work of a correspondent
with the Tsar’s headquarters. Dr. Pares is just as emphatic as the
correspondent just quoted on the subject of the enthusiasm and
unanimity pervading all classes of the community with whom he came in
contact. He pays a passing tribute to the high efficiency of Russia’s
hospital arrangements, to the fine and self-sacrificing labours of all
from the highest to the lowest, and to the serenity and confidence
manifested on every side. He saw the Grand-duchess Olga, sister of
the Emperor, working as a Sister of Mercy, “under all the ordinary
discipline and conditions,” and heard how hard she had had to labour
after the early battles of the campaign, when hospitals designed for
the accommodation of 200 patients were compelled to accommodate at
least 300 each. “One feels it is a great wave rolling forward with one
spirit driving it.”

Dr. Pares was present when the Tsar in person visited Vilna, riding
through the streets quite unguarded. Vilna has for the most part a
Polish population, and from all sides the Tsar was greeted with
an enthusiasm that must have deeply touched and moved him. In the
hospitals the Professor conversed with many of the wounded belonging
to both sides. On the part of most of the Austrians, he says, he
found a general disposition to believe that they had been thoroughly
overmatched on the battle-field. A Russian lad of nineteen or twenty,
who had been sent back home, not on account of wounds but because of
physical overstrain, remarked almost with tears, “They are firing on my
brother and not on me. That is not right--I ought to be where they all
are.”

A story worth interpolating here on account of its military
significance has reference to a rumour that the German Emperor had
addressed a letter to the Dowager-Empress of Russia, calling her
“cousin,” in an attempt to induce her to use her good offices with the
Tsar in order to bring about peace. This missive eventually reached the
headquarters of the Grand-duke Nicholas, who is said to have returned
it to the Tsar with the laconic comment: “If you do, our armies will
mutiny, and there will be a revolution in all the Russias.” It is only
a soldier’s story, but it explains, especially in the final sentence,
why Russia has beaten the Austrian, German, and Austro-German armies
successively.

Nothing could be more noteworthy as emphasising the Russian record
of initial difficulties triumphed over than the preponderance of
Austro-German railway power in the vast war-area. General Kuropatkin,
the Tsar’s Commander-in-Chief in the war with Japan, had as far back
as 1900 called attention to this marked superiority in the Central
Powers’ means of transport. Doubtless upon his initiative, the Russian
railway lines along the Polish frontier were improved to a certain
extent. But, as Austria and Germany were correspondingly busy,
doubtless much of what Kuropatkin had written more than a dozen years
before remained true in 1914--indeed, the celerity with which the enemy
were enabled to rush masses of troops to all their frontiers must have
been one of the earliest things to impress any student of the struggle.
This is how Kuropatkin phrased his plea for a good deal more energy in
the matters of railway development:

“By the expenditure of vast sums of money, Germany has made ready
in the most comprehensive sense to march rapidly across our borders
with an army of one million men. She has seventeen lines of railway
(twenty-three tracks) leading to our frontiers, which would enable her
to send to the front more than five hundred troop-trains daily. She can
concentrate the greater part of her armed forces on our frontier within
a few days of the declaration of war; while, apart from this question
of speedy mobilisation, she has at her command far greater technical
resources, such as light railways, artillery, ordnance, and engineering
stores, particularly for telegraphs, mobile siege parks, etc., than
we have. She has also made most careful preparation for a determined
defence of her own border provinces, especially those of Eastern
Prussia.

“The first-class fortresses of Thorn, Königsberg, and Posen are
improved yearly, entrenched camps are built at the most important
junctions, and material lies ready stacked for the rapid semi-permanent
fortification of field positions. The crossing-places on the Vistula
have been rapidly placed in a state of defence, as have also the
various towns and large villages. The whole population, indeed, is
making ready for a national struggle.

“In the matter of railway development the Austrians have also left
us far behind. While they, by means of eight lines of rail (ten
tracks), can run two hundred and sixty trains up to the frontier every
twenty-four hours, we can only convey troops up to the same point on
four lines. As any of their troops on the frontier would be in advance
of the Carpathians, this range was formerly looked upon as an obstacle
to retirement, and to communication between Galicia and the rest of
Austria. But in the last ten years it has been pierced by five lines of
railway, and preparations have been made to lay three more.”

It will be perceived that General Kuropatkin cherished no optimistic
illusions as to the ultimate aims and aspirations of Germany, neither
did he believe that the shock could be much longer delayed, having
regard to the immense burden of armaments.



CHAPTER IV EBB AND FLOW IN EAST PRUSSIA


General Rennenkampf’s brilliant raid into East Prussia--which admirably
served its immediate purpose of causing the Germans to transfer great
masses of men from the west to the east, thereby relieving the pressure
upon the Franco-British allies in Northern France--had closed with the
brave Rennenkampf’s heavy defeat of Osterode, or Tannenberg, on the
last day of August. Two days later had happened, as a counterstroke,
General Russky’s capture of the capital of Galicia with its thousands
of prisoners and hundreds of guns, so that, in familiar language,
“honours were easy.”

In point of fact, Rennenkampf, approved soldier in Europe as in
Manchuria, recovered with astonishing rapidity from the severe set-back
suffered by his army in the swamps of Osterode on August 31. While,
as we have seen, that victory was causing General von Hindenburg to
be acclaimed as the popular hero of the hour in Germany, Rennenkampf
had the satisfaction of knowing that his defeat had not appreciably
relieved the pressure upon the Austrian armies in the south.

On September 9 the army victorious at Osterode ten days before (and
believed to consist of eleven corps) commenced a general advance
along the East Prussian front into Russian Poland. For several days
subsequent to his retreat, Rennenkampf had remained stationary along
a line traversing the railway at right angles between Königsberg and
Insterburg. This position he clung to tenaciously until noon of
September 10, when the long-ranging shell-fire of the German fortress
guns which were being used for the purpose, together with a powerful
turning movement around their left flank, obliged the Russians to
continue their retreat. They fell back on the 11th-12th in a northerly
direction slightly east of Wirballen, where a fresh stand was made.
Although the scene of action had now been transferred from German
to Russian territory, the advantage was by no means wholly with the
Teutons. They found themselves operating in a strange and unfriendly
region, and one in which the railway system could not be of much use to
them for the rapid transit of men and material, seeing that the German
and Russian lines have different gauges. Moreover, Austria’s military
misfortunes might now be deemed to have eliminated that Power from the
problem. And Rennenkampf was resolved not to fight another pitched
battle until he could do so under favourable auspices.

Local incidents along this Russian-Polish frontier included the
dropping of German bombs and proclamations into the town of Suwalki. By
these bombs the railway-station and schoolhouse were damaged and one
child was killed. The frontier town of Filipovo also suffered a partial
bombardment. While Rennenkampf’s headquarters were at Insterburg,
certain of the inhabitants of that place were caught red-handed in the
act of signalling movements of troops to their “friend the enemy,”
while in a few cases Russian troops were fired on from houses of the
townspeople. Several of these irregular belligerents were put to death
by sentence of a court-martial. Next morning a German aeroplane dropped
in the Russian lines this audacious message addressed to Rennenkampf:
“Your troops are shooting peaceful citizens. If this is done without
your knowledge, stop it at once! If the troops are carrying out your
orders, then know, General, that the blood of these innocent people
falls on your head, and on yours alone.”

It was not until September 17 that the Russian general’s clever
manœuvring was rewarded by his being able to resume the offensive after
the enemy had not penetrated more than twenty-five miles into Russian
Poland. On the evening of that day the Germans realised that their
attempted outflanking of Rennenkampf’s right was being checkmated by a
vigorous counter-offensive. Very severe fighting took place at or near
the junction of the railways between Kovno and Vilna, and at Stednicki,
where the Niemen is joined by the Dubissa. The Russians held the banks
of the latter tributary in force. By the 18th the enemy were falling
back from Suwalki and four other townships which appear to have been
the high-water mark of their advance. They lost four guns and many
prisoners.

Having regard to the fact that a large proportion of the men of the
German army corps employed here were troops that had been withdrawn
from the western theatre of war, it is interesting to note that they
are accused of having behaved with much lack of discipline along the
line of route. Such accusations are common enough to all warfare,
and the only point of interest here is that they certainly were for
the most part troops drawn from the area of operations where so many
allegations of “atrocities” have been preferred against them.

Roughly speaking, one continuous battle raged along the East Prussian
borderland from September 25 to October 3. This has been styled the
“Battle of Augustoff,” otherwise Suwalki, from the name of the province
or “government” covering the battle-ground. The battle began in the
vast forest that covers miles of country on the Russian side of the
frontier. Through these woodlands Rennenkampf retired, fighting a
series of rearguard actions on a broad front. An episode of the battle
was the attack of the German right on the fortress of Ossovetz, a place
of some importance, as it guards a crossing of the river Bobr in the
midst of a region of marshy forest.

The garrison met the attack by a night sortie against the German
advance, which had got into difficult ground among the swamps and
woods. A correspondent who was with the Russian force gives this
account of the fighting:

“The Germans had not proceeded more than nine miles when they found
that they could not move their guns a yard farther owing to the marshy
nature of the ground. In this predicament they opened fire with
their artillery, and then sent forward their infantry with numerous
machine-guns. The latter got within four miles of the fortress, but
they made no further progress.

“During the night the Russians made a sortie, and, marching by roads
and paths of which the enemy were completely ignorant, they completely
enveloped both the German wings. Imagining that they held all the
practicable roads, the Germans had concentrated their attention on
the fortress and neglected their flanks. When the enveloping movement
became apparent, a fierce engagement ensued, the enemy being completely
at a disadvantage. The fortress guns mowed them down on the open road,
while the Russian infantry poured a devastating fire into their wings.
The battle lasted thirty-six hours, and ended in the complete rout of
the Germans, who fled in disorder along the Graevo road. All the German
guns which had stuck in the marshy ground were captured.”

Retiring through the frontier woods Rennenkampf fell back upon and
recrossed the Niemen. It would have been well for Von Hindenburg if
he had contented himself with having driven the invaders out of East
Prussia. But, flushed with victory, and underrating the fighting power
of his opponent, he endeavoured to force a way across the Niemen. By
this time, however, the Russian mobilisation had long been completed,
and Rennenkampf was reinforced by several army corps when he reached
the right bank of the river. The German attempt to cross it in the face
of superior numbers ended in a disaster. The attack was pushed with
reckless daring, and simultaneously at many points attempts were made
to construct pontoon bridges under the fire of the Russian artillery.
Every attempt ended in failure. Hundreds of dead bodies floated down
the stream, and the efforts of the German gunners to crush out the
fire of the enemy’s batteries were unavailing. At last, after incurring
much useless loss, Von Hindenburg abandoned the attempt under the
pressure of a Russian attack on his flank from the southward.

Once more there was fighting day after day in the forests of Augustovo,
as Von Hindenburg’s army fell back through the woods towards the
borders of East Prussia, pursued by the victorious Russians.

Rennenkampf claimed that during these operations the losses of the
Germans amounted to 60,000 men in killed, wounded, and prisoners. The
scenes of desolation around Suwalki and Augustoff after this sanguinary
fighting were pitiful in the extreme. Practically everything had been
destroyed, so that they resembled towns of the dead. All bridges had
been blown up, and but for embankments and broken telegraph-wires it
was hardly recognisable that there had been a railway at all. Wrote a
_Daily Telegraph_ war correspondent of the unholy scene:

“On the fields one sees the ravages of artillery projectiles--deep,
conical holes five or six feet in diameter. Here, too, one finds
shrapnel cases, splinters of shells, skeletons of horses, fragments of
blood-stained clothing, cartridge-pouches, blue-grey coats of German
soldiers, empty schnapps and beer-bottles. In one trench there was a
particularly large number of empty bottles. It is evident that the
German soldiers invigorate themselves with alcohol before battle. Near
one of these batteries of bottles was a soldiers’ common grave. Along
the road are many burnt houses and plundered farms.

“Of entire villages, in some cases only blackened ruins remain. Inside
the houses that have not suffered in this way nothing remains whole.
Pillows and quilts have been ripped open and the down scattered about.
Samovars, dented by heels of heavy boots, are lying about on the floor.
Cupboards and drawers have been rummaged with bayonets.

“What the Prussians could not carry away they have spoilt. Whole
forests have been hewed down or burnt. Wide areas have been cleared for
fields of fire. Peasants’ gardens have been stripped of their produce.
Potatoes, carrots, and other vegetables have been dug up wholesale and
carried off. Local inhabitants, mostly Lithuanians and White Russians,
have been so terrified by the Germans that they hardly realise what has
happened to them.”

The enemy next endeavoured to entrench and maintain himself upon a
line running from Wirballen to Lyck; but on October 8 his flanks were
enveloped after a fierce struggle, and the Russians marched into Lyck.
They were now for the second time establishing themselves upon the soil
of East Prussia--and this time with little likelihood of a somewhat
demoralised foe being able to expel them in a hurry. For the German
offensive along the Niemen had utterly failed.

At the time (October 8) when Rennenkampf followed up this triumph by
driving the enemy out of Lyck, his troops had already been fighting
for seven days and nights without a rest. But they were flushed with
victory. This engagement of the 8th is likely to be known as the battle
of Ratchka, from the name of the village on which the German right
rested. It was ascertained that they had been reinforced with men and
guns (several batteries being captured) from Königsberg. The rapidity
of the advance seems to have had a staggering effect, and the enemy
lost hundreds of his horses in the marshy boglands of the Suwalki
province, leaving his heavy artillery, or much of it, to its fate.

A wounded Russian officer, in a description of the battle of Augustoff
contributed to a Petrograd journal, pays a deserved tribute to the
coolness, intelligence, and enthusiasm of the Slav soldier under fire.
The troops, he says, were simply “chuckling with delight” on receiving
an order to turn the enemy out of a position which could only be
carried by great expenditure of life. With the utmost _sang-froid_ they
put the Germans to rout, then leaving them to the tender mercies of
a particularly vigorous and merciless pursuit by the Cossack cavalry.
Fresh enthusiasm was aroused by the appearance of General Rennenkampf,
who rode on to the position to thank his gallant soldiers for the
extraordinary exertions that had given them the well-worn field. The
music of several bands then joined in the celebration, playing the
beautiful Russian National Hymn to a perfect tornado of cheers from the
weary but satisfied troops.

What a change had come over the scene within one month! A proud
and unbroken enemy no longer retained a foothold upon Russian
territory. Whether regarded as a serious invasion, or as a movement
of co-ordination with the vaster invasion of Russian Poland now about
to be described, the attempt had been signally beaten back in blood.
“Whether,” wrote an English critic of the situation, “the Russians
intend to aim at Berlin or Vienna, is of minor consequence. The great
point is that they seem able to do what they like and to choose their
particular objective as they please. Nothing has been more exhilarating
than the brilliant strategy of Petrograd. The Russian soldiers have
proved not only their steady persistence--a quality which we always
knew to be one of their principal assets--but also a rapidity of
movement and a dashing spirit of attack with which the world was hardly
prepared to credit them.”



CHAPTER V THE DEFENCE OF THE VISTULA


General Rennenkampf received from the Tsar telegrams congratulating him
upon his well-ordered retreat and his victorious counter-attack and
resumed invasion of East Prussia. In this message the Tsar noted that,
during the retreat, the Russian General had not left a single pound’s
weight of supplies to the enemy.

Before passing on to the story of the larger conflict in Central
Poland, we may note some interesting incidents which occurred during
this ebb and flow of the war on the East Prussian borders. One of these
incidents shows that, with all their elaborate war training, the
Germans were liable, from lack of ordinary precautions, to fall very
easily into a dangerous trap. It occurred during the fighting around
Wirballen, the little frontier town well known to all travellers from
Western Europe to Russia as the point at which the railway from Ostend
by Berlin crosses the frontier. The place was held at the time by the
Russians, and was attacked by a German column.

After about an hour and a half’s brisk fusillade, which was but weakly
replied to, the Germans advanced, fearlessly and without further
precautions, under the impression that their enemy had withdrawn. But
on crossing the frontier-line into Russian territory, their feelings
became too much for them, and, preluded by loud shouts of “Hoch!” they
sang with fervour their familiar _Die Wacht am Rhein_. At that moment
the Russians, who had remained carefully sheltered by their trenches
all the time, poured in a deadly rifle-fire, backed by the immediate
charge of a sotnia of Cossacks. Taken at a disadvantage and utterly
surprised, it was said that not a man of the German force survived to
recross the border.

The German Emperor’s beautiful hunting-box at Rominten near Insterburg,
where he had been wont to sojourn every autumn for the shooting of elk
and other big game, fell into Russian hands. The following humorous
extract is from a letter written home by one of the officers who had
the good fortune to be temporarily quartered amid such luxurious
surroundings:

“After a series of terrible battles, we are reposing on William’s
magnificent estate. Undreamt-of beauty is all round us. The place is
splendidly equipped, so that we have at our disposal everything we
could wish for, and we are riding his celebrated horses, and enjoying
delicious dinners prepared by his man cook. Especially beautiful is the
park, with its glorious shady avenues. It swarms with rare animals, and
birds are flying free everywhere. By the way, our soldiers have caught
a William parrot in the park. It speaks excellent German, but our men
are teaching it their own language, and it is learning to address its
Imperial master with compliments I should blush to repeat in company.”

Another isolated but interesting incident of this Prusso-Polish
frontier fighting was the destruction near Mlawa, on September 5, of
the Zeppelin airship Z 5,--the second Zeppelin known to have been
brought down in this region since the commencement of hostilities.
The Z 5 had been cruising in the neighbourhood for several days, and
it was not until the date mentioned that her movements were observed
to be growing very irregular and uncertain. She tried hard to shape a
course for her own frontier, but finally collapsed in some fields. It
was then found that her envelope had been literally riddled by Russian
bullets. Her crew managed, however, to blow up the airship, whose
commander, severely wounded, requested to be placed out of sight behind
a haystack, so that he “might not witness the end of his dear Zeppelin.”

A possible explanation of Von Hindenburg’s advance to the Niemen
was that the German General Staff hoped by a serious threat in this
direction to lead the Russians to diminish the pressure upon Galicia
in order to reinforce their right. At the time of the operations
Colonel Shumsky, perhaps the best-known military writer in Russia,
pointed this out, and at the same time suggested that the menace from
East Prussia could have no serious result. “Will the Germans,” he
asked, “compel us to abandon the operations in the Carpathians and
throw our forces across to the Niemen, or shall we compel the Germans
to restrict their activity on the Niemen, and fling themselves into
Cracow and Galicia to save Austro-Hungary? The advance of the Germans
from East Prussia cannot have any decisive object. A lightning-like
stroke could only be delivered if the Germans were finished with France
and could move all their forces against us.”

It appears that something was done to draw reinforcements from the
western theatre of war for the German armies on the Polish frontier.
Reserve and Landwehr troops organised since the declaration of war were
moved in the same direction, and, according to Russian estimates of a
subsequent date, by the end of September the Germans had concentrated
twelve army corps of about 400,000 men on the frontier in the centre
about Thorn and Posen. It appears, however, that at the time the
Russian Staff did not realise that this formidable concentration was
in progress, and thought that their opponents were putting forth their
chief efforts on the two flanks of the long curved line northwards--for
the struggle in East Prussia, and southwards for the defensive campaign
in Galicia.

The Germans, however, were preparing for a serious stroke in the
centre of the Polish theatre of war, and, despite his failure on the
Niemen, the chief command of this great effort was entrusted to General
Hindenburg. The fame he had acquired by his expulsion of the enemy from
East Prussia had only been slightly overclouded by the defeat on the
Niemen, and it was thought that the German generals in East Prussia
could be safely left to defend against Rennenkampf’s farther advance
through the wilderness of forest, marsh, and lake which forms the
natural barrier along the frontier of the province.

The German plan was to abandon the mere passive defence of their
frontiers, assume the offensive, and strike a blow directly against
Warsaw and the group of fortresses beyond the Vistula that form the
citadel of the Russian power in Poland. The German armies were to
advance from the borders of the provinces of Posen and Silesia in
a converging march upon Warsaw. The left column from Thorn was to
advance along the south bank of the great bend of the Vistula which
runs north-westward from Novo Gorgievsk by Plock. The central column
from the Posen frontier was to march on Lowicz and the great factory
town of Lodz--after Warsaw the largest place in Poland--the third
column, which had already occupied Czenstochowa, just inside the
Russian frontier towards Silesia, was to protect the flank of the
advance and march on the Vistula in the direction of Ivangorod. A
fourth column was to march on Kielce, forming the link with an Austrian
advance through Northern Galicia towards the river San, which was
intended to reoccupy Jaroslav and raise the siege of Przemysl.

The country through which the line of advance lay was the undulating
Polish plain, a district with many clumps and belts of forest, and
almost destitute of good roads. Once the weather broke, at the end
of autumn, much of the ground would be reduced to a marshy condition
that would make it impassable until the first frost of winter hardened
it again. The German Staff hoped to carry through the campaign while
the region was everywhere practicable, and, even if Warsaw were not
captured, to make the Vistula their line of defence, where, having
secured the railways behind them, they might hope to hold their own on
a front shorter by many hundred miles than the long curving frontier of
their own territory.

It was expected that the first movement into the Polish plain would
have the result of forcing the enemy not only to abandon the advance
already begun towards Cracow, but to evacuate a considerable part
of the ground they had overrun in Galicia, and at the same time to
withdraw some of their forces from the East Prussian border. German
reports went to show that the enemy had no large forces in the country
between the middle Vistula and the Posen-Thorn frontier. The first
stage of the German advance would, therefore, not be likely to meet
with any very serious opposition.

Why, it may be asked, had not the Russian military authorities taken
fuller precautions, in the earlier days of the war, for safeguarding
the Polish territory from invasion and spoliation? Why had not the
immensely long and valuable line of the river Vistula in particular
been occupied in heavy force at the time of the mobilisation in
August? A semi-official statement of mid-October replied definitely
to these criticisms. It was pointed out that the consideration was
a purely military one. It was a fundamental rule of warfare to
sacrifice everything of lesser importance to the main issue. Thus,
the first “impudent invasion” from the German side had demanded a
large transfer of troops. Next the Austrian concentration in Galicia,
and their attack in the Lublin district, had needed a big force in
that quarter. Thirdly, the invasion by way of Eastern Prussia had
required substantial means to deal with and crush it. “This temporary
victimisation of the Vistula district is the outcome of a praiseworthy
decision of our strategy. Now the situation is different, and strategic
and other aims coincide upon the Vistula until the enemy has been
finally beaten.”

Intense enthusiasm was aroused throughout Russia by the announcement
that the Tsar would proceed in person to the fighting area. In front
of the Winter Palace at Petrograd, thousands of students and others
paraded and demonstrated in honour of their “Little Father,” as well as
to celebrate news of the victories in Galicia and East Prussia.

The German columns met with little resistance in their advance across
the Polish plain. Lodz was occupied, and the two northern columns
gained touch east of the town and advanced on a wide front between the
northern bend of the Vistula and its tributary, the Pilitza, their
objective being Warsaw. The right moved forward through Kielce and
Radom against Ivangorod. According to German accounts, the advancing
armies were joined by large numbers of the peasants, who welcomed them
as deliverers; but the Russian story is that the people fled in terror
before the invaders.

We have to depend during the war for our news of what is happening in
Poland almost entirely upon Russian accounts official and non-official.
The German wireless reports give only the briefest outline of the
official view of the situation taken at Berlin, and these reports are
often cut down by our own censorship. The few reports from Berlin that
were allowed to be published in England contained, it is true, some
references to a victorious advance of the Austro-German armies into
Poland in the first days of October. But, at the time, these were
treated as fictitious claims of success, for it seemed strange that, in
the numerous telegrams that came from Russian sources, there was not
a word of any important events in the central theatre of war. Official
news told of fighting on the East Prussian border and in Galicia,
and non-official reports were full of detailed statements as to the
complete collapse of the Austrians, an invasion of Hungary through the
Carpathians, attacks upon Przemysl that had reduced the fortress to
desperate straits, and steady progress in the direction of Cracow.

It was, therefore, a surprise to every one when, towards the end of
the second week in October the official bulletin from St. Petersburg
admitted that Von Hindenburg had forced his way up to the left bank
of the middle Vistula and overrun all Western Poland--this, too, at
a time when all the rest of Europe believed that the Germans were
still on the frontiers of Poland and Galicia, and busy preparing the
fortresses of Thorn and Posen for a siege. It was afterwards explained
that the Russian retirement to the Vistula was a deliberate “strategic”
movement intended to lure the Germans to destruction. But it is fairly
certain that the Russians had sent such large masses of men northwards
and southwards for the operations in East Prussia and Galicia, besides
providing for an army they were concentrating on the Black Sea coast
and the Caucasus, that their forces in Central Poland had been
considerably reduced. During Von Hindenburg’s advance they were busily
engaged in reinforcing the army on the middle Vistula and in the Polish
triangle of fortresses, and for this purpose they drew in several army
corps from their left.

Weakened by this withdrawal, the Russian army in Galicia gave way
before the advance of the Austrian armies on the German right.
Jaroslav was abandoned, the siege of Przemysl was temporarily raised,
and General Brussiloff concentrated his forces to protect Lemberg from
recapture.

The right column of the German advance, pushing forward through Radom,
reached the river Vistula near Ivangorod, tried to force a passage
over it below the fortress, and attacked the outlying defences of the
place. The columns of the left and centre, under Von Hindenburg’s
personal command, penetrated to within a few miles of Warsaw, where at
last they met with serious opposition. The Grand-duke Nicholas began
to push a considerable force westward from the city to protect it from
even a temporary occupation, while his main line of defence lay along
the right bank of the Vistula above and below the city. It was early
on the morning of October 11 that the thunder of the guns told the
inhabitants of Warsaw that a great battle had begun at the very gates
of their city.

During the preceding days there had been rumours not only that the
Germans were approaching in great force, but that the Grand-duke was
about to evacuate the city.

The wealthier classes of Warsaw are largely made up of those who hold
government positions, or whose interests are, in one way or another,
closely connected with the existing Russian regime, and there was
something like a panic as the rumour spread that the place might soon
be in the hands of an invader. The alarm was increased by the sight of
German aeroplanes circling high over the houses and dropping bombs into
the streets. One of these aeroplanes had an accident to its engine
and fell on the estate of Count Briansky in the suburbs of Warsaw. The
aviators were murdered by a mob of peasants before they could be taken
prisoners by the troops.

For three days Warsaw could hear the cannon thunder close at hand.
Indeed, at first, it seemed to be coming nearer and nearer on the south
side of the city. The arrival of long trains of wounded men hour after
hour told that the fight was a costly one, and this fighting close to
Warsaw was only part of an engagement stretching out upon an enormous
front along the Vistula. The Grand-duke was, however, holding his own
and using the central position in front of Warsaw as a starting-point
from which to drive a way into the German line, while along the river
the enemy were wasting their forces in desperate attempts to effect
the crossing.

The Siberian Army Corps, now in action for the first time in Europe,
proved themselves fighting men. Their attack turned the scale in the
centre. The great wedge pushed forward from Moscow began to tell upon
the German resistance, and as it gained more and more ground new masses
of troops were brought across the river to extend the region of the
close fighting. The weather had broken, and the battle was fought out
under cloudy skies and amid driving showers of sleety rain.

On October 14 Warsaw heard the cannon thunder less loudly. The enemy’s
centre was being driven steadily back with the loss of thousands of
prisoners and many guns. Higher up the Vistula towards Ivangorod the
German attempts to gain a footing on the east bank had also failed.

According to the _Utro Rossii_, elaborate attempts to cross the Vistula
on rafts (after aeroplane reconnaissance) took place at two points,
between Ivangorod and Sandomir and between Ivangorod and Warsaw. In
the first of these attempts the Russians carefully waited until two
battalions had crossed and then fell on them with the bayonet, while
the rafts were cruelly raked with rifle-fire. In the second instance,
the enemy were similarly uninterrupted while throwing their pontoons
across. Then a burst of shrapnel fell upon the masses as they were in
the act of crossing. The river ran red with blood, hundreds of corpses
floated down the stream, and but few escaped. On the following day a
tremendous artillery duel lasted for several hours. The Russians got
the range and established their superiority, as was evidenced by the
smoke and flames beginning to rise from the miserable villages within
the enemy’s position, and by the slackening of his fire. The scene was
one of sublime horror. The sky for miles was lit up by the blaze of the
burning buildings and by the myriads of bursting projectiles. It was
the beginning of the end of the invasion of Russian Poland.

Warsaw itself “returned to the normal” on October 14. The frightened
people had been a good deal dispirited and disheartened by what had
appeared to them like a falling-back of their defending army, and many
of them had, indeed, already fled from the threatened city. They were
further discouraged by the dissemination of a German proclamation
announcing that the enemy would be in Warsaw “by the 18th”--instead
of which, by the date named the Kaiser’s army was in full retreat.
Now, however, the aspect was brighter. Numbers of ragged and dejected
prisoners (but many of them Poles) were being brought into Warsaw
daily. Institutions and shops that had been shut up were reopened. The
utmost animation prevailed where yesterday there had been pessimism and
dejection. Cheering crowds gave cigarettes, apples, milk, and bread
to the Russian troops as they marched past with faces set towards the
German frontier. The agony of Warsaw had endured for five or six days.
All that time the outside world had watched and waited without being
satisfied, so rigid was the Russian censorship of news.

If the policy of “waiting for the enemy” had so far been crowned with
substantial success, much remained to be achieved. In the densely
wooded country stretching away from the Polish capital to Petrikau,
the fighting had been particularly deadly, several villages being
taken and retaken. As far as could be ascertained, the German troops
suffering the most heavily in this quarter were the 17th and 20th
Corps. One Russian regiment alone lost three commanding officers in
rapid succession. The behaviour of the Siberian troops under fire was
especially gallant and noteworthy. With trenches full of water and
the conditions generally depressing, these fine troops held on to one
position during eight days of fighting, sometimes hand to hand, and
always decimated by shell-fire. This place was swampy ground on the
left bank of the Vistula. It was known from the prisoners that the
German army detailed for the great movement upon Warsaw contained
many of the Kaiser’s finest battalions. It was hoped to smash in the
Russian centre while simultaneously dealing heavy blows both against
Ivangorod and in Galicia. Apart from its great strategical value, due
consideration was given to the moral results of the capture of Warsaw.

We have seen in part how this plan miscarried. I propose now to
piece together a few missing links with the assistance of one of the
longest and most remarkable despatches sent during the whole war--by
Mr. Granville Fortescue to the _Daily Telegraph_. Mr. Fortescue
suggests, as a starting-point for the phase when the Germans’ offensive
“exhausted itself” and their complete defeat became inevitable, October
19-20. Close pressure upon the enemy’s left wing caused the huge
front to swing round, running westerly instead of north and south. A
comparison is made of the “luring” of the enemy towards Warsaw with the
“luring” of Napoleon’s legions towards Moscow a century before. For,
says this writer, “the Russians do not play by the German rules--they
look on Nature as their first and strongest ally. With the elements on
their side, batteries of 17-in. howitzers dwindle into insignificance.”
There were stories also of friction between the high commanders on the
Austro-German side; but as to this the correspondent could of course
say nothing very definite, particularly as his information would of
necessity be derived from prejudiced sources. Mr Fortescue continues:

“On October 20, when the battle of the Vistula was at its height, the
German Austrian line of communications stretched across 150 miles of
Russian territory. On that day the German attack exhausted itself. The
tide of battle ebbed. The Russian right swept round, discouraged the
enemy, and rolled him away from the Vistula. Warsaw no longer trembled
under the salvos of the enemy’s artillery. The Russian cheers of
victory echoed sixty miles away.

“The Germans, battling for the railroad bridges across the Vistula at
Ivangorod, paused in their fight. In that pause they could almost hear
the tread of the oncoming Russian legions. At Radom the Crown Prince
and his staff hastily ordered up reserves to meet this new menace.

“For four days victory hung in the balance. Then the German resistance
began to crumble. The force of numbers began to tell. At Radom steam
was up on the engine that pulled the Crown Prince’s private car.
Already the German army which had threatened Warsaw was in full retreat
along the south margin of the river Pilitza. Under the threat of attack
from this flank the Germans and Austrians holding the Kosenitze and
Ivangorod front fell back, after offering a most desperate resistance.
When the troops of the Kosenitze-Ivangorod line were smashed the
German-Austrian position south along the Vistula, from Nowa Alexandria
to Sandomir, could no longer hold. On November 5 the main body of the
Austrians began to fall back precipitately. A final effort made here to
dam the Russian tide was in a manner an heroic waste of force.”

This account is supplemented by the Russian official report, which
conveniently divides the two later phases of the German overthrow into
October 23-27, and October 28 to November 2. In the first of these
phases the enemy battling in the Kosenizy-Ivangorod zone retreated on
finding himself being outflanked by way of the river Pilitza. In the
second, the German resistance along a line Novaya-Alexandria similarly
broke down utterly.

This further retirement found them, a day or two later, endeavouring to
hold on to the town of Kielce along a forty-mile line of entrenchments.
The Russians reconnoitred this position by night and attacked at
dawn. A frightful conflict, often hand to hand, lasted the whole of
a day and night. At last the defenders were routed with a loss of
2,400 men and 40 officers captured, with a howitzer, 10 light guns,
and 11 machine-guns. These prisoners belonged to the 20th Corps, the
Landwehr, the Guard Reserve Corps, and the 1st and 2nd Austrian Corps.
Here Austrian and Prussian fought shoulder to shoulder.

Throughout November 2 the Austrians were fighting hard for the
retention of the important town of Sandomir on the Vistula, which they
had occupied and protected with a triple line of entrenchments and wire
entanglements “carrying alternating electrical current.” The Russians
stormed all three lines by irresistible bayonet charges. Nevertheless,
in the hope of recovering the works the defenders brought up heavy
reserves that night; but all in vain--attack and counter-attack ending
in their total discomfiture with awful losses. They left all their sick
and wounded behind them, whom the Russians found, together with much
booty of all descriptions, on their victorious entry into Sandomir. In
two days they captured from the Austrians nearly 5,000 prisoners, 18
field-guns, and 24 machine-guns.

The main German army was now in such rapid retreat that it was obvious
to all that the scene of operations would shortly be shifted to their
own territory. It was only possible to guess at the losses in the three
weeks’ Titanic struggle for the possession of the capital of Russian
Poland and the long line of the Vistula--losses which, if vast on
the Russian side, must be reckoned as simply colossal on that of the
Austro-German allies, _plus_ in their case thousands on thousands of
prisoners and the hundreds of guns taken.

The scheme of the onslaught upon the Vistula was generally condemned
by critics not only of Russian, but of European repute, it being
pointed out that if the conception of that offensive had been the
avoidance of a battle around Cracow and on the plains of Silesia, such
a conflict had merely been postponed--to take place under circumstances
far less favourable to the German plans. Rightly or wrongly, General
von Hindenburg came in for not a little of this adverse criticism, it
being pointed out that, although the report might be correct that the
Crown Prince had been nominally in command, Von Hindenburg was in all
probability the guiding spirit of the move.

On the other hand, not one but several of Russia’s military
leaders had enormously increased their reputations. These included
General Russky--who had led the masterly advance along the river
Pilitza--General Ivanoff, and, most of all, of course, the Grand-duke
Nicholas himself. As Mr. Granville Fortescue phrases it, Nicholas
Nicolavitch is a Russian of the old school. He is known to be a
strict disciplinarian, but “when one carries the responsibility of
one-sixth of the world on his shoulders one cannot listen to excuses.
In the army he is the law and the word.” While the prolonged agony
of the Warsaw battles was taking place the Tsar conferred upon the
Grand-duke that prized decoration the Order of St. George. Lesser
grades in the same decoration went to his skilful Chief-of-the-Staff,
General Yanuskevitch, and to Quartermaster-General Daniloff. The Tsar
also similarly rewarded Captain Martinoff for acts of deep devotion
and gallantry. While not yet recovered from a wound, this brave man
insisted upon taking over the command of Turret Hill in the defence
of the fortress of Ossovetz, where he remained for three days in an
exposed position of the utmost danger and under a continuous hail of
fire. When a shell dropped close to the magazine and threatened to blow
it up, Martinoff personally headed a party to the scene of the danger
and extinguished the flames.

During the time of crisis Warsaw did not entirely escape the
bomb-throwing from aeroplanes which has been such a feature of the
German aggressive in both theatres of war. One such messenger of death
(October 19), or, rather, several such, killed nine and wounded no
fewer than fifty-six of the civilian population, including several
women and children. Then was witnessed the novel spectacle of the
people mounting the roofs of their houses and taking “pot-shots” at the
deadly Taube machines, one of which had been instrumental in killing
or maiming upwards of sixty non-combatants.

It was only natural that victory for the Russian arms should have
enhanced the already high enthusiasm and patriotism of the Tsar’s
peoples. It was known that there had long existed in German minds a
profound contempt for the Muscovite military organisation, Potsdam
professors of war having clung to the belief that they were opposed
to a system which was faulty and calculated to break down, especially
after the adverse verdict of the war with Japan in 1904-5. But such
critics had not reckoned with the complete reorganisation of the
Russian military “machine” carried out in 1910, nor yet allowed for
the vastly improved personnel of the Russian rank and file. Of this
last-mentioned point, one of the war correspondents wrote:

“The Russian ‘Tommy,’ or, as he is called here, Ivan, son of Ivan, is a
most impressive-looking soldier. Nearly all over 5 ft. 6 in. in height,
and of splendid build, they recall certain Irish regiments in size
and swagger. For as soon as the peasant has donned the long, light,
terra-cotta-coloured overcoat and learned to set his cap at a jaunty
angle, he assumes the martial swagger. The Russian military overcoat is
the best bit of soldiers’ wearing apparel I have seen in any army. Not
only is it smart in cut and colour, but eminently practical. No better
protection against the winter cold could be devised. I used to think
that the English military overcoat was the best made; but the Russian
is better. It is not necessary to emphasise the importance of having a
good covering in Russia in winter.”

It was stated, apparently with authority, that some of the German
prisoners arriving at Vilna were lads of sixteen years of age. Among
stories of “atrocities” vouched for was one to the effect that an
enemy patrol, having captured a Cossack trooper, flung the poor wretch
on to a fire and literally roasted him alive! It was averred that a
Russian officer, doubting the reliability of the horrible story, caused
the charred remains of the Cossack to be disinterred. But there were
counter-charges of atrocities preferred against the Russians, and
on both sides some very wild talk on the subject. In a war of such
inveterate bitterness as this had now become one must perforce suspend
judgment.

The official _communiqué_ upon the defence of the Vistula and the
complete defeat of the invasion of Russian Poland closed with these
impressive words: “We owe thanks for our victory to the unfailing grace
which God has shown to the superhuman heroism of our warriors, of whom
Russia may be justly proud. The victory which has been achieved makes
it possible for our troops to set about the solution of fresh problems,
the grappling with which commences a new period of the war.”

At Radom--now in Russian hands again after a month’s occupation by
the enemy, and where his invasion plan is supposed to have been
perfected--the following proclamation to the Polish inhabitants was
issued by the commander of a Russian army corps: “Poles! Our wounded
officers and soldiers, and also our prisoners who had fallen into the
hands of the enemy and had passed through the town and province of
Radom, speak with deep gratitude of your cordial treatment of them.
You have tended the wounded, fed the starving, and sheltered from the
enemy those escaping from captivity. You have given them money, and
guided them to our lines. Accept from me, and from all ranks of the
army entrusted to me, warm and hearty thanks for all your kindness, for
your Slavonic sympathy and goodness.”



CHAPTER VI THE SIEGE OF PRZEMYSL--THE STRUGGLE ON THE SAN


“When Przemysl falls,” wrote Mr. Granville Fortescue in the _Daily
Telegraph_, “the name of Radko Dimitrieff will ring around the world.”
It was not, however, the immediate object of General Dimitrieff and his
coadjutors to bring about a hurried capitulation of this commanding
fortress and its 30,000 defenders. The Russian headquarters in Galicia
could well afford to play a waiting game and let the grim business of
starvation do its work.

In our second chapter we brought down the record of events on the
Galician theatre of war to the important capture of Jaroslav by the
Russians on September 21, after only three days’ investment. The
Colonel Shumsky from whom I have already quoted points out the enormous
significance of this capture when taken in conjunction with the
all-round breakdown of the Austro-German conception. That plan assumed,
he opines that Western Poland would have been cut off, and there would
have been a last development of the Austro-German forces from Jaroslav
over Ivangorod and East Prussia seawards. From “the Baltic to the
Carpathians” was certainly the grandest of grand conceptions--instead
of which, we have the well-nigh incredible estimate of _a million_
Austrian troops put out of action in less than two months of war, and
the frank statement by one of their general officers that “the enemy is
too much for us.”

It would appear that the Austrian forces operating along the line
Lublin-Holm in August to September included the 3rd, 11th, 12th, and
portions of the 7th, 13th, and 14th Army Corps, with five cavalry
divisions. But in one day’s fighting alone they are known to have
had 20,000 casualties, the mobility and rapidity of the Russian
offensive seeming quite to have paralysed them. After Lemberg, the
capture of Halicz and later still of Jaroslav rendered their position
still more unenviable. As Professor Pares points out, “the chief
harm which Germany and Austria could inflict in a war against Russia
was to conquer Russian Poland, whose frontier made defence extremely
difficult. Regarding this protuberance as a head, Germany and Austria
could make a simultaneous amputating operation at its neck, attacking
the one from East Prussia and the other from Galicia. But the German
policy, which had other and more primary objects, precipitated war
with France and threw the bulk of the German forces westward. Thus the
German army in East Prussia kept the defensive, and Austria was left to
make her advance from Galicia without support.” We have seen in part
how that forlorn advance was destined to be beaten back in blood.

Perhaps never in the history of war have more lies, false rumours, and
unintelligent anticipations got into print than in connection with the
momentous event happening in Galicia consequent upon the “pleasant
surprise” of the capture of Jaroslav on September 21. As that important
success, taken in conjunction with the huge battles in East Prussia and
Russian Poland, certainly implied the imminent danger of Przemysl,
we heard all sorts of things about the fate of that great fortress.
It was on the eve of capture, it was on fire, most of the forts were
taken--the garrison was driven to the inner defences, etc., etc. In
short, Przemysl was by the many-headed held to have been captured, or
at all events isolated, quite early in September. But the powerful
German advance into Poland, with the co-operating Austrian movement
on their right in Galicia, had put the fortress for the moment out of
danger. Jaroslav’s fall was a decided nail in the coffin of Przemysl,
but no more.

This fortress--whose remarkable orthography was the subject of a sly
little joke by Mr. Lloyd George in a speech on the war--is stated to
have been insufficiently garrisoned (30,000). It has not a large
civil population, and after September 21 the extreme step was taken by
the Commandant of expelling all persons who had not provisions for a
siege of three months. The retreating Austrians did not have time to
destroy the bridges over the San, and the almost complete isolation
of Przemysl was rendered more acute by the announcement that, “as the
crow flies,” the Russian advance-guard was not more than 135 miles from
Cracow itself! The general line of the Austrian retreat was mainly
towards that famous and historic city, where the hospitals and houses
were already crowded with their thousands of wounded. Such a retreat
would link them up to the right wing of their German allies, when they
would become a more component part of the Kaiser’s forces. Comparisons
were freely bandied about, in which the energetic Russian pursuit
was likened to Kutusoff’s chase of Napoleon’s Grand Army in 1812, and
to Lee’s pursuit by Grant in the American Civil War in 1864. In any
event, the crumbling away of the Austrian defence of Galicia was now so
significant as to dwarf minor considerations.

The retreat towards Cracow was marked by a good deal of demoralisation
and by the plundering of the estates of some of the Polish aristocracy.
The capture of the railway junctions of Debica and Chyrov by the
conquering foe further isolated the threatened fortress, while the
passage of the Carpathians by way of the Uszok Pass was planting the
Russian army firmly upon Hungarian soil, where there were no great
places of strength to be reduced. The tables had been turned with a
vengeance, and the invasion of Austro-Hungary was an accomplished
fact. What would Germany do in face of these changed conditions? became
for a week or so the burning topic among strategists and lookers-on at
the great game.

Coincident, presumably, with the expulsion of most of the civil
population, the garrison of Przemysl were placed upon three-quarter
rations. If one thing was humanly more certain than another it was
that, except by a miracle, relief could not reach them--they gleaned as
much from their wireless communications with the retreating arm, the
Russians not having yet succeeded in destroying the wireless station.

Late September and the first part of October was occupied by the
Russians in the two main directions of pressing with great masses of
troops the Austrian retreat towards Cracow, and in completing with
slow but sure tenacity the investment of Przemysl, where the thousands
of mouths to feed were now placed upon half instead of three-quarter
rations. A series of sanguinary combats went on almost uninterruptedly
with the beaten Austrians, who always fought bravely enough, but
invariably continued their retirement with heavy losses in men and
material of war. The great events in Russian Poland already narrated
were naturally exercising their indirect influence in this quarter.

Professor Pares was privileged to visit the Galician battle-fields in
October, and his impressions are of all the more interest from the fact
that we have little else save scrappy official reports to go upon. Mr.
Pares visited Galich, Stryl, and Rava-Ruska, and of the latter place he
writes:

“Our visit to Rava-Ruska presented much greater military interest; we
drove round the south, east, and north front of the Russian attack on
this little town and very valuable explanations were given by an able
officer of the General Staff. On the southern front near the station of
Kamionka Woloska, where there were lines of trenches, the deep holes
made by bursting Russian shells, and sometimes filled with water, lay
thick together.

“The eastern front was more interesting. Here there were many lines
of rifle-pits, Austrian, Russian, or Austrian converted into Russian.
The Austrian rifle-pits were much shallower and less finished than the
Russian, which were generally squarer, deeper, and with higher cover.
An officer’s rifle-pit just behind those of his men showed their care
and work, as was indicated in letters written just after the battle.
Casques of cuirassiers, many Hungarian knapsacks, broken rifles,
fragments of shrapnel, potatoes pulled up, and even such oddments as an
Austrian picture postcard, were to be found in or near the rifle-pits.

“These wide plains, practically without cover, were reminiscent of
Wagram. A high landmark was a crucifix, on which one of the arms of the
figure was shot away; underneath it was a ‘brothers’ grave,’ containing
the bodies of 120 Austrians and twenty-one Russians. Another cross of
fresh-cut wood marked the Russian soldiers’ tribute to an officer:
‘God’s servant, Gregory.’ Close to one line of trenches stood a village
absolutely untouched, and in the fields between stood a picturesque
group of villagers at their field-work, one in an Austrian uniform and
two boys in Austrian shakos.”

He noted that cavalry had played but an inconspicuous part in this
desperate fighting. The Russians, he says, were always attacking. They
felt the supremest confidence in the power of their artillery (“though
the proportion of field-guns to a unit is less numerous on the Russian
side than on the German or Austrian”), and, when questioned as to the
enemy’s rifle-fire, they would reply, in characteristic Tommy Atkins
fashion, “Oh, nothing striking.” Many men told Mr. Pares that they did
not believe the Austro-German liked fighting at close quarters with
the bayonet as much as the Russians did. The one thing for which the
latter felt respect was the hostile heavy artillery, though claiming
that their own field-artillery was superior. Their extraordinary
endurance in the trenches, and their calm resolution and unswerving
belief in their own prowess and the justness of their cause impressed
him profoundly.

This commentator felt compelled, however reluctantly, to bear witness
to the brutality of the retreating Austrians to the Polish peasantry.
Of this he saw numerous examples, as also instances of the people’s
retaliation upon the enemy, such as the wholesale destruction of the
Austrian General Desveaux’s beautiful chateau. Little things will stick
in the mind, and Mr. Pares noted amid the ruins of this noble house a
map of the Austrian army manœuvres of 1893, “twenty years after.” The
Russians deemed themselves among friends when they mingled with the
Ruthenian inhabitants of Galicia, speaking their language and treating
them with all good fellowship. The invaders’ relations with the Jewish
population were scarcely so amicable in all cases.

Another correspondent of a great newspaper who had the harrowing
experience of traversing some of the battle-fields of Galicia after the
Austrian breakdown presents the following vivid and touching picture:

“In the very centre of this zone of misery two roads intersect, and
at the angle stands a huge wooden cross on which hangs the carved
figure of the Saviour. For a hundred years, no doubt, this monument
to brotherly love has hung above the cross-roads so that the pious
might pause in their journey to cross themselves and mutter a prayer.
Nothing could be more incongruous than to see this sacred emblem: the
mute evidence of a religious people. The top of the wooden upright
is shattered by a bullet, while one arm of the figure of Jesus has
been carried away by a shrapnel shell. What, indeed, must have been
the thoughts of the patient Austrians lying in their exposed position
and dying in hundreds as they beheld the shot and shell bursting about
the carved figure of Him whose work on earth was to spread peace and
brotherly love! The patient face of the Christ looks down upon a newly
made grave wherein lie the shattered remains of 124 men who died almost
at the foot of the sacred figure.”

For the defence of Przemysl many thousands of workmen were impressed to
assist in the work of strengthening the fortifications, being called
in from the neighbouring villages under threat of extreme penalties.
The quantity of ammunition in the place was enormous, but the shortage
of provisions is claimed by the Russians as being due to the swiftness
of their initiative, whereby great quantities of stores intended for
the defending force had been captured. The investing army had now a
large number of batteries in position, and though they could well
afford to take things easily so as to avoid needless wastage of life,
the progress made was steady. German, and not Austrian, leadership was
directing the defence of the stronghold. Every effort was made by them
to hearten their men into the belief that the combined Austro-German
operations proceeding towards the river San might, and in all
likelihood would, culminate in the relief of the place. On this point,
and of the operations in Galicia generally, Colonel Shumsky wrote
during the second week of October:

“All the attempts of the enemy to cross the San have ended in a
miserable fiasco. The Austro-German forces are making their attempts
at various points of the river. First the artillery deluges the right
shore with shells, and then infantry detachments approach the river;
but Russian shrapnel causes them enormous losses. Dead bodies are
washed down the San to the Vistula, and on to Sandomir and Ivangorod.

“Before this fortress the battle continues day and night without a
moment’s intermission. The Germans are giving the defence a very
energetic character. To all appearances the fortress is well supplied
with ammunition. Our troops are making a gradual but persistent attack.
Sometimes a regiment becomes impatient with the slowness of the
progress and storms the nearest line of works. Sometimes a sharp blow,
delivered in the night, brings about the fall of a strong fort. In this
way several works have been taken.

“These unexpected blows clearly greatly excite the garrison. Right
through the night projectors search the battle-field, and their long
white rays rest tremulously on every fold of the ground. At times
something alarms the forts, and the air is instantly filled with the
thunder of roused Austrian guns. The fire is then kept up for thirty
minutes to an hour before it again subsides.”

He adds that “the tremendous strategic front becomes elongated just
as it does in France.” This immense battle-line was now beginning to
be known to the strategists as the line “Cracow-Przemysl-Thorn,” as
it began to be growingly obvious that Austrian Cracow and Silesian
Thorn would presently be the scene of the biggest operations of the
conflicting Empires.

On October 13-14 great Austro-German columns were in touch with their
enemy south-east of Sandomir and west of Przemysl. On the first of
the dates named an Austrian force deploying by way of Samok-Lisko
upon Sambor was hurled back with the loss of 7 officers and 500 men
captured, and next day they lost several hundred more prisoners.
Hitherto the success of the Russian arms in Galicia had been so
continuous that the official despatches and the newspaper reports in
the Petrograd papers were fairly representative of the facts, patriotic
feeling experiencing no temptation to practise a diplomatic “economy of
the truth.” But now we find it hard to reconcile the Petrograd reports
with reliable information from other sources as to what was happening
in the region of the San.

The news that came from Petrograd, directly or through Rome and Paris,
told of repeated victories over the Austrians on the San. But it would
seem that these reports were only repetitions of news already sent, and
referred to the opening stage of the fighting with the Austrian advance
on Von Hindenburg’s extreme right.

There appears to be no doubt that the peril of Warsaw and the need
of drawing heavy reinforcements from Galicia to assist in repelling
the German invasion of Poland and then in following up the enemy’s
retirement, led to the army on the San being so weakened for the
moment that all it could do was to hold its own for a while about
Sandomir, near the junction of the San and the Vistula. In doing this
it rendered a solid service to the Grand-duke Nicholas, as it prevented
the line of the Vistula being turned above Ivangorod.

But something had to be sacrificed to secure this result. Jaroslav
was abandoned for the moment, and reoccupied by the Austrians, and
the siege of Przemysl was raised. There was a day of enthusiastic
rejoicing when the relieving column marched into the hard-pressed
and half-starved city. Received at the gates by the civil and
ecclesiastical authorities, the troops marched amidst cheering crowds
to the town hall, where General von Kusmanek, the commander of the
fortress, stood waiting to greet them.

Even more welcome than the battle-grimed soldiers was the long convoy
of supply wagons that they escorted. The garrison and the people could
again enjoy an unstinted meal, and looked forward to a long respite
from the trials they had endured. But the military authorities had
no illusions in the outlook. Przemysl had hardly been relieved when
bad news came from the scene of the great battles in Central Poland,
and the pressure of the Russian forces began to be felt at once, for
on the news of the Grand-duke’s success against Von Hindenburg they
at once abandoned their attitude of stubborn defence for a vigorous
offensive. It was realised that Przemysl might soon be once more
ringed round with fire and steel, so steps were taken to prepare for
a new siege. Supplies of all kinds were poured into the place by day
and by night, the control of the junction at Jaroslav facilitating
this revictualling operation. At the same time some thousands of the
non-combatant population were sent away so as to reduce the number of
“useless mouths” to a minimum. In a week Przemysl was ready to defend
itself again, and to face a siege under greatly improved conditions.

The work had indeed to be interrupted before Von Kusmanek had done
all he hoped to accomplish. For the retreat of Von Hindenburg in the
centre was at once followed by the column that had attacked Ivangorod
returning through Radom. The whole invasion was collapsing and the
Austrian position on the San had become untenable. Petrograd could
now resume a true record of Galician victories, as the retiring enemy
fought a series of rearguard actions each of which ended in the
capture of Austrian prisoners by the pursuing columns of the Russian
left.

But before telling of the closing scenes of Von Hindenburg’s ambitious
effort to overrun the country of the Vistula and clear Galicia of the
Russian armies, as a result of his hoped-for success, we must note
some characteristic aspects of the campaign that reveal the special
characteristics of the Russian soldier and his leaders. These will
bring out something of the human interest of the war better even than
the story of marches and battles and strategical combinations.



CHAPTER VII STORIES FROM THE FIGHTING LINE


The Austrian Army in these Polish campaigns suffered under the serious
disadvantage that, amongst the various nationalities serving in it,
there were many men whose sympathies were with the enemy, or whose
hearts were not on the Austrian side. The Slav soldiers felt they were
fighting against their brother Slavs of Russia, and there were also
in the Austrian army in Galicia Italian regiments from the Venetian
border about Trieste and Fiume. It was a sagacious move on the part
of the Tsar’s Government to make an offer in the first stage of the
campaign to Italy “as an evidence of his friendship and sympathy,” to
liberate and send to Italy all prisoners of Italian nationality taken
in Galicia, on condition that the Italian Government would engage not
to send them back to Austria. To this the Italian Prime Minister,
Signor Salandra, formally replied that the rules of international law
prohibited his acceptance of the offer. Commenting upon this, the Rome
semi-official _Messaggero_ remarked that, “Whatever Signor Salandra’s
answer may be, the Italian people are grateful to the Tsar, whose
generous humanitarian proposal contains also the official, solemn, and
precise affirmation that Russia recognises the right of Italy to the
Italian provinces that are still under Austrian rule.”

General Rennenkampf took with him into East Prussia, as a kind of
mascot or symbol that should be prophetic of the signal success
ultimately destined to crown the Muscovite arms, the identical flag
carried by the celebrated Skobelev on his momentous campaign of 1877. A
small thing in itself, this was well calculated to make a direct appeal
to the impressionable Slav temperament, to the young men who had heard
from their fathers of the wonderful “White General” who in the great
days of Plevna and the Balkans was perhaps more responsible than any
other single factor for the triumph of the Cross over the Crescent.

It was an incident characteristic of the pervading spirit, and one
well calculated to stimulate it. But there were thousands of incidents
and scenes that have perforce to be dismissed in a line, or even
not referred to at all. Among the many gallant spirits marked out
for special distinction of the Tsar was the Captain Pleshkoff whose
superb horsemanship had been acclaimed year after year at the Olympia
Horse Show in London, where as recently as 1914 he carried off the
King Edward VII Cup. Captain Pleshkoff received a nasty wound in one
of the cavalry combats around Warsaw. He is a Cossack by descent,
a pupil of the famous General Brussiloff, and is noted among his
admiring countrymen as the “inventor” of a new system of riding. The
captain shared the fate of most reformers when he attempted to bring
his riding method to the notice of his colonel, an old-fashioned
martinet commanding the Tsar’s Life Guard Cuirassiers. In fact, it led
to Pleshkoff’s temporary severance from his beloved regiment when he
became adjutant to one of the Grand-duke’s; but on the outbreak of the
present struggle he returned to the Life Guard Cuirassiers.

But there are so many men of Pleshkoff’s stamp among the Tsar’s eight
millions of fighters that his Imperial master might well be tempted
to say, with a great leader of the past, “If I made all my brave
soldiers generals, there wouldn’t be any privates left.” Such a one
was the wounded warrior who averred, with crystalline sincerity and
self-confidence, that if he had not been laid aside by a bullet the
campaign for Russian Poland would have been a much more brief affair!

A parallel story to one coming from the western theatre of war--of the
young girl who, by assuming masculine attire, managed to be accepted
for service with the Flying Corps--is that of a young Russian lady
who managed to smuggle herself into a cavalry regiment leaving for
the front. Not only so, but this young Amazon, in addition to bearing
herself bravely in the field--she was a fine horsewoman--assisted a
trooper in rescuing a wounded comrade. The secret of her sex was only
discovered when, a few days later, she herself was wounded. Again, two
lads about fifteen years of age escaped from their parents’ home in
Moscow, and, following the fortunes of a regiment belonging to that
ancient city, were present at half a dozen battles of Rennenkampf’s
campaign in East Prussia, “crawling on their stomachs with reserves
of ammunition to the firing line.” Apparently these adventurous boys
escaped unscathed.

A story with a delightful flavour of the hoax running through it was
communicated during October by the Petrograd correspondent of the
_Daily Telegraph_. It betrays a sense of Slavonic humour which, it is
to be hoped, was not entirely lost upon the victims of the ruse:

“A Russian airman, accompanied by an observation officer, was
flying over the enemy’s territory, when he was obliged to descend,
owing to engine trouble. The pilot and the officer were wearing
leather clothes, without any distinctive mark. They were working on
the motor when suddenly seven Austrian soldiers, in charge of an
under-officer, appeared over the crest of a little hill and approached
them. Resistance was impossible, for the Russians had no weapons but
revolvers. Fortunately, the officer knew German. Calling loudly to
the Austrian officer, he ordered him, in a peremptory manner, to come
and help him mend the motor. The Austrian, believing he was in the
presence of a superior officer, hastened with his men to obey, and
soon the engine had been put right. The aeroplane started off, and
as it ascended in spirals to the clouds a paper fell at the feet of
the gaping Austrians. It contained a short message of thanks to the
officer and his men for giving such timely aid to Russian aviators.”

At the time of General Rennenkampf’s severe reverse near Soldau after
his first brilliant incursion into East Prussia, it had been generally
inferred that the brave General Samsonoff and other leading officers
had been killed in the practical surrounding of a large Russian force
of two army corps. A gleam came out of the fog of war when it was
semi-officially announced that this was not the case. It was the deadly
explosion of a chance shell that killed General Samsonoff, General
Martos, and other officers of the Staff. The former was particularly
beloved by his men, but he had a fatal facility for exposing his life
unduly and recklessly. In reply to all remonstrances he would simply
say, “My place is where my soldiers are”--and to this trait, not less
than to his care for the comfort of his men, was due the remarkable
popularity that he enjoyed among the rank and file. No officer was more
universally regretted on the Russian side.

The Tsar took the unusual but intensely popular course of conferring
all four Classes of the Order of St. George, the Russian Victoria
Cross, upon a humble trooper of Hussars. This man--a type of the many
who honestly cannot see that they have done anything out of the common
in performing a deed of the purest and most unselfish heroism--was
orderly to an officer. The latter fell dangerously wounded, when
this brave fellow rescued him from a storm of shot and carried him a
distance of _four miles_. During that long and wearisome tramp with his
helpless burden the soldier had to dodge the enemy’s patrols a number
of times. Not only so, but in their path lay several canals, all of
which he swam, supporting his officer in the water as best he could.

Another soldier, brought into the field-hospital at Druskeniki, had
received _twenty-four bullets_ in his legs. He was not aware that many
of them had even struck him--an intensely interesting point this, and
not wholly unreminiscent of Mr. Winston Churchill’s testimony of his
and others’ experience in the great Dervish rush at Omdurman, when they
were scarcely conscious of wounds or of tumult. Well, when this Russian
soldier recovered consciousness after having one of his feet torn off,
he found himself lying in a depression of the ground, with shrapnel and
rifle-bullets whistling over him. The undulating ground unquestionably
saved him from death, as six bullets passed through his pail and
four through his water-bottle! He lay thus for some twenty-four hours
before being discovered and carried into safety, having spent this
agonising period in praying for a passing projectile to put an end to
his sufferings.

A visitor to the scene of the desperately sustained struggle for the
line of the river San points to the melancholy fact that at one point
alone where 200,000 men were locked in a death-grapple for upwards
of a week (numbers larger than those engaged either at Gettysburg or
Waterloo), the name of the wretched little village would not be known
to one in a thousand who looked at the map. Yet the reaper Death
found fearful employment during those seven or eight days of pitiless
slaughter. “At the summit of and just beyond the crest of the hill
is the line where stood the Austrian artillery in their efforts to
encounter the hell of heavier fire let loose on them by the Russians.
The heaps of brass cartridge-cases show how stubbornly the Austrians
contested this ridge. Here and there one sees where a big shell landed
true. Splinters and bits of wheels scattered in every direction spell
the end of this particular gun-crew. Behind this the Austrians seem to
have had a cavalry support of some kind, for in a little hollow just
over the ridge we come upon a mass of cavalry accoutrements. The large
metal helmets of the Austrian dragoons are scattered everywhere, some
of them twisted by bits of shell, others punctured with the single
bullet-hole which, coupled with the deep brown stain on the inside,
tells what happened to the unfortunate who owned it. We find one on
which the name and regiment of the wearer is written, a name no doubt
that when published as among the dead will bring misery and suffering
to some home in the beautiful valley of the Danube, where even now
perhaps the wife or mother anxiously awaits news of this very one who
sleeps now in a great trench with hundreds of his fellows.”

It is a relief to turn momentarily from such scenes of horror and
bloodshed to the humorous aspect--grimly so, perhaps, but none the less
humorous--of war. Thus, for example, there is something of a Gilbertian
touch about the “interchange” of the Kaiser’s hunting-box and the
Tsar’s hunting-box (the latter’s at Spala, near Tomascheff) in the
two Polands. The Russians appear to have seized upon the one and the
Germans upon the other, and to have thoroughly despoiled them. Still
on the grimly humorous side (“the hostilities in Poland are taking on
a very embittered and cruel form,” he says), the _Daily Telegraph’s_
Petrograd correspondent tells of the form of receipt(!) that the German
troops would leave with the ignorant peasantry after commandeering all
sorts of supplies. Two such written acknowledgments which were shown
to the correspondent ran: “I am much obliged to you for your beautiful
horse,” and “Whoever presents this at the end of the war will be
hanged.”

This same _Telegraph_ correspondent states in definite terms of the
Russians that “looting and licence are unknown, and everything taken is
paid for in hard cash. They are welcomed as deliverers by the Polish
peasantry, who bring them refreshments and cigarettes, for which
payment is refused.”

A hundred German cavalry entered the town of Turburg on September 29.
They quartered themselves at the mansion of a prominent member of the
Duma, M. Vasilchikoff, ill-treated his servants, and demanded 250
buckets(!) of brandy, beer, and schnapps. They then cleared the little
town of all food and clothing, leaving slips of paper on which was
scribbled, “The Russian Government will pay.” They wound up by carrying
off a priest and the local Rabbi as hostages of war.

Another hundred German cavalry encountered twenty Russian cavalry,
who incontinently fled with the loss of one wounded. As he lay on the
ground, still able to use his carbine, he took careful aim and picked
off three of the pursuing Prussians. The peasantry would have carried
the wounded trooper to safety, but he resolutely replied, “No! I will
never hide from Germans.” For this he paid with his life, for the
enemy, who had abandoned their pursuit of his comrades because his
good shooting had made them suspect an ambush, returned and promptly
shot him dead. It is only fair to add that on an occasion when the
Russians discovered that a number of peasants had been hanged by the
enemy, they retaliated by hanging from trees three German officers
and nineteen men. Of such acts of savage reprisal there are doubtless
numerous unrecorded instances.

An “iron vineyard” is the slightly decorative description applied
to a German position during the holocaust of Russian Poland, by a
Russian War Correspondent who was not permitted to indicate the precise
spot from which he was writing. He adds the grisly comment that the
“vintage” of that iron vineyard was the blood of 6,000 German soldiers.
The surrounding forests had been razed as if shaved by a gigantic
razor. A large village that had occupied the scene of this unnamed
battle had totally disappeared, as having proved an obstacle to the
Russian advance and a support for the German retreat.

One of the episodes inseparable from a warfare in which members of the
Royal Families of every one of the great Powers are playing a soldier’s
part, took place on October 11. On that day Prince Olaf, son of the
Grand-duke Constantine, received a wound in the leg “in a successful
skirmish with a German patrol.” At first it was regarded hopefully as
being but a trifling injury, but an operation became necessary and the
young Prince died, pneumonia doubtless supervening. He passed away in
the presence of the Grand-duke and Duchess and of his brother, Prince
Igor. It is one of the bitterest ironies of war that this gifted young
man’s leanings and aspirations had always been rather literary and
musical than martial. At the Lyceum, which he left only in 1913, he
enjoyed such a brilliant career as a student that his tutors did their
best to dissuade him from overtaxing a constitution never too robust.
He published an essay on the works of Pushkin which was acclaimed as a
model of discerning and discriminating criticism. Prince Olaf’s natural
inclinations were of the simplest kind, and he hated the rigidity of
etiquette.

An author much admired by him, the Polish novelist Sinciewitz, took
service with the Tsar’s Army. Apparently he was wounded and taken
prisoner, though there seems still some confusion as to what really
happened to him.

Had the Austrians in Galicia fared better or worse than their
opponents believed they would at the outset? A difficult question to
answer off-hand, but at all events the Russians had the best of reasons
to be thoroughly delighted with the progress of the Tsar’s arms in
three months of war, in the earlier stages of which the plucky Serbian
resistance to the legions of Francis Joseph had proved of considerable
utility. Says a well-informed critic of the Russo-Austrian campaign:

“Success at the outset of a campaign has an influence of the highest
value upon the armies engaged. In this case the Russians had the
prospect of securing fairly easy victories at the outset, and, at the
very least, the certainty of being able to march far into hostile
territory without having any very serious obstacle to overcome. It
was not likely that the German armies, weakened as they were by the
very conditions under which the war opened, would attempt any stubborn
resistance in advance of the line of fortresses along the lower
Vistula and at the extremities of the Frisches Haff. And it was quite
certain that the Austrians would not make any prolonged resistance in
Eastern Galicia. Their first serious stand would not be met until the
neighbourhood of Przemysl was reached.”

A caustic criticism of British as compared with Russian effort in the
world-war came from Petrograd about the end of October. It was pointed
out that, although the Muscovite Empire might represent about one-sixth
the area of the whole world, and although the Russian census papers
were circulated in seventy languages, Great Britain reckoned three
times as many subjects as her Ally. Yet what had Great Britain done
by comparison? Her fighting force in the field represented not more
than 5 per cent. of the total battling against the might of Germany and
Austria. “This may be Government of a kind,” added the critic, whose
subsequent remarks appeared to have proved too strong for the censor.
He went on to complain of the colossal ignorance of Russia and Russian
ideals possessed by this country, and entered an earnest plea for a
more intelligent comprehension of existing conditions than at present
obtaining. It is unquestionably true that Englishmen of all classes
have still a great deal to unlearn concerning the Empire but for whose
energetic and magnificently self-sacrificing initiative the crushing of
German militarism would not have become a practically assured result.

Russia, it is added, has much to teach us; but _not the Russia known in
England_.



CHAPTER VIII THE GERMAN RETREAT AND THE RUSSIAN PURSUIT TO THE FRONTIER


At the beginning of November, just three months after the declaration
of war, it seemed that the German invasion of Poland had ended in
complete failure and that the battle before Warsaw would be decisive of
the whole conflict in Eastern Europe.

In August, while the Russian mobilisation was still incomplete,
Rennenkampf had made his daring raid into East Prussia, with the view
of helping the Allies in the west by forcing Germany to retain a
large army for her own defence in the east. Though the invaders had
been defeated by Von Hindenburg in the great battle of Tannenberg, or
Osterode, and expelled from the invaded province, the indirect object
of the raid had been obtained.

September had brought victory for Russia on both wings of the long
battle-line. On the right, or northern wing, Rennenkampf, after
fighting a series of rearguard actions in the frontier forest about
Augustovo, had retired behind the Niemen, where he was largely
reinforced, and repulsed the rash attempt of the Germans to follow
him up and force the crossing of the Niemen. After this Rennenkampf
had driven the Germans back to their own frontier, and was again
threatening East Prussia with invasion. On the left, or southern wing,
the Austrian defence of Eastern Galicia had collapsed and her army had
been driven from the Vistula. Lemberg, the capital of Galicia, had
been occupied, the line of the river San had been forced, Jaroslav
captured, and Przemysl besieged. On the extreme Russian left raids had
been made through the passes of the Carpathians into Northern Hungary,
and from the left bank of the San an army was advancing to attack
Cracow.

At the beginning of October two-thirds of Galicia had been overrun. In
Central Poland the Russian armies were advancing in three directions.
North of the Vistula an army was moving towards Thorn. On the other
bank of the great river a central column moving towards the frontiers
of the province of Posen had reached the valley of the Warthe. On the
left centre a third force on the Upper Warthe was approaching the
frontiers of Silesia; but subsequent events during this same month
showed, as we have seen, that the forces thus pushed forward from the
Russian centre towards the German frontier line were little more than
a strong screen or outpost line, while the main mass of the central
forces was still concentrated on the Middle Vistula, and in the
triangle of fortresses above Warsaw.

In the second week of October came Von Hindenburg’s great invasion of
Russian Poland. The dash for Warsaw was evidently intended to relieve
the pressure of the enemy on Eastern Prussia and on Galicia by forcing
him to draw in troops from the wings to strengthen the centre at this
critical moment.

As we have seen, the Germans partly obtained this result. Their
advancing force drove in the Russian detachments in Western Poland,
and the Grand-duke Nicholas withdrew part of the army operating in
Galicia to assist in the defence of the Upper Vistula near Ivangorod.
The result was that the Austrians were able to reoccupy Jaroslav and
to raise the siege of Przemysl for a while. Then came the days of hard
fighting along the San and the Vistula, in which the Russians not only
held their own, but, making a counter-attack in force near Warsaw,
broke through the German centre and compelled a general retreat of the
invaders.

This movement began in the third week of October, and it is quite
evident that, though defeated, the German armies and their Austrian
Allies were neither demoralised by their failure nor broken up by the
Russian counter-attack. From day to day they showed an energy and
tenacity to which it would be unfair to refuse the fullest praise. The
retreat was a slow retirement, in which each day there was a series of
hard-fought rearguard actions. The great battle-line was now surging
westward across the Polish plain, but every step of the way was to
be disputed. On October 24 stern fighting that gradually assumed the
character and dimensions of another continuous battle or series of
sanguinary combats was proceeding for the possession of this frontier.
The front extended roughly for about a hundred versts, or sixty-six
miles, from Rawa to the south of the river Iljanke. The roads leading
to Radom and Petrikau were the scene of particularly close and bloody
fighting. North of Rawa the Russian infantry established a marked
superiority with the bayonet. In one miserable village (Motchidlo) they
buried seven hundred German dead. Four hundred more were accounted for
(captured) south-east of Rawa, and two batteries of quick-firers were
taken at bayonet-point in the vicinity of Kazimerjefu.

Much of this fighting took place over marshy forest-lands, and in
weather so bad that the guns often sank to their axles. The forest of
Nemglovo was occupied by the Russian advanced troops. More artillery
and prisoners were gathered in along the shocking roads leading to Novo
Alexandrovo. Indeed, a Russian official report claimed the substantial
acquisition, during this stern forest-fighting on October 24-26,
of 3,000 men and 50 officers as prisoners, and 8 guns and numerous
quick-firers.

Many gallant counter-attacks along the ever-widening front were
repulsed with heavy slaughter. At any given point, the Russians appear
generally to have possessed a preponderance of numbers, while the sense
of victory kept the men in thoroughly good heart. The last days of
October and first days of November saw nothing save the same succession
of hard-fought rearguard actions. On November 7 Russian Poland had been
almost cleared of the invaders, and at more than one point the Tsar’s
vanguards had crossed the German frontier. On the right Rennenkampf
was again entering the East Prussian lake region near Lyck. On the
right centre north of the Vistula, from Lomza to within a few miles
of the fortress of Thorn, the Russians were close up to the frontier,
driving the German left before them through the marshy forest region of
Northern Poland. In the centre the frontier of the Prussian province of
Posen had been passed by the Cossacks south of Thorn. In South-western
Poland the Germans and Austrians were still retiring through Russian
territory; but they had abandoned Lodz and Kielce, and it was generally
expected that their retreat would only stop at Cracow and on the Upper
Oder about Breslau. On the extreme Russian left the Austrians had been
forced back half way to Cracow, Jaroslav had been reoccupied by General
Brussiloff, and Przemysl was again besieged.

During the retreat through Poland the Germans, under cover of their
fighting rear-guards, had very thoroughly wrecked the railways, and
done considerable damage to the few paved highways of the district.
This work of destruction was evidently carried out deliberately by
order of Von Hindenburg and the Headquarter Staff. A large force of
engineers must have been used to effect it, and an enormous quantity
of explosives employed in the work. Along the railways every station
had been thoroughly wrecked. The buildings were burned, the rails torn
up at all the junctions, curves, and crossings--the points at which the
relaying of the line would require special material--the water-towers
for the locomotives had been blown up, and all signals thrown down
and telegraph apparatus destroyed or removed. On both railways and
roads every bridge had been blown up, and the roads themselves had
been very seriously damaged in a way that showed that a very large
number of men must have been employed in the work of destruction. The
metalled or paved surface of the roads had been broken up with the help
of explosives, the surface being destroyed, not always from side to
side of the road, but checker-fashion. Patches of the pavement being
alternately destroyed on the left and the right side of the roadway,
where explosives had been freely used, the road had thus become a kind
of zig-zag line of yawning craters. This wrecking of the roads and
railways seriously delayed the Russian pursuit, for the country, twice
traversed by large armies, had been exhausted of what supplies it could
afford, and the Grand-duke had to feed his troops during the pursuit
by bringing up everything he needed from Warsaw and the Middle Vistula
region.

At the time the impression given by this wholesale destruction of the
means of communication in Western Poland was that Von Hindenburg and
the German Staff had definitely abandoned all hope of renewing the
invasion. It was argued that, if they intended to make another attempt
to seize Warsaw, they might indeed have done such partial damage to the
railways as would delay the Russian pursuit, but they would not have
thus thoroughly destroyed them at the cost of an enormous expenditure
of time and labour. If they meant to invade the country again in any
force the railways would be a necessity to them. The destruction of the
lines seemed therefore to be a counsel of despair, and it was expected
that the next phase of the campaign would be the defence by the Germans
of their fortified frontier-line.

So persuaded was the Russian Headquarter Staff that the German
offensive had definitely come to an end, that preparations were made in
the first days of November for the attack on the frontier fortresses of
Germany. The programme for the next phase of the campaign was that on
the left the advance in Galicia was to be pressed up to Cracow, and,
once that place was invested, there was to be a march from the left
and left centre into Silesia. The invasion of that province, one of
the great industrial regions of Germany, would be a heavy blow to the
Kaiser, and at the same time a menace to his Austrian Ally, for through
Silesia lies the easiest way from Russian Poland to Vienna itself.
Between the western end of the Carpathians and the mass of hills that
form the mountain-lands of Northern Moravia and Bohemia there is a
stretch of lower ground forming a wide hollow running south-westward
from the Upper Oder region towards Vienna. This valley has often in the
past seen the march of armies towards the Austrian capital. Thus, for
instance, it was by this line that the Russian armies, then allied
with Austria, marched south-westward in 1805. The object of the march
was to occupy Vienna, then held by Napoleon, and the adventure ended
unsuccessfully at Austerlitz.

On the right the Russian armies were to continue the new invasion of
East Prussia, and in the centre there was to be a direct menace to
Berlin by an attempt to break through the frontier fortress-line. The
railways were being partly repaired, and a siege-train was about to be
moved up from Warsaw against Thorn, the point selected for the first
attack, because the possession of it would give the Russians command of
the Lower Vistula.

The fortress of Thorn is situated within five miles of the frontier on
both banks of the river and is the junction for five railway lines.
Thus the Germans could operate on both sides of the great river. It
may be said to dominate all the highways between East Prussia and the
rest of Germany. In conjunction with the lesser, but still imposing
fortresses of Kulm, Fordan, and Graudenz, it forms the pivot for an
army acting on the defensive on the line of the Vistula. Since the
opening weeks of the war six thousand labourers had been engaged night
and day in strengthening Thorn’s defences.

A thousand fortress-guns and nine great forts, the latter named after
Teutonic rulers and leaders, constitute its main armament. They are
thus described by the Russian Colonel Shumsky:

“The defence works of Thorn comprise nine main forts--Scharnhorst,
Yorck, Bülow, Wilhelm II., Heinrich von Zalzie, Grosser Kurfürst,
Hertzog, Albrecht, Friedrich der Grosse, and Dohna. Between these forts
there are seven intermediate works, which are separated by distances
of from half to three-quarters of a mile. In consequence of the short
distances separating the forts, a most destructive cross-fire can be
obtained from them.

“The forts are distant between three-quarters of a mile and a mile from
the outskirts of the town, which is accordingly within easy reach of
the shells of the attacking force. The forts are connected in their
rear by a circular highway, on which are sixteen infantry barracks and
twenty-eight subterranean magazines. To this road there radiate from
the town numerous sunk ways, masked with turf.

“The advanced positions before Thorn are a mile from the forts on the
right bank of the river. The armament of the fortress, according to
the usual German standard, will include twenty-seven long-range guns
and twenty smaller pieces for repelling assaults on each of the main
forts. Thus on the nine forts there will be altogether 414 guns. The
seven intermediate works will each mount ten of the larger and eleven
of the smaller guns: altogether 154. In the central enceinte there are
understood to be 140 guns. If the reserve is added we get an aggregate
of 1,000 guns, of which 60 per cent. are of long range.

“The minimum infantry garrison of Thorn is estimated at four battalions
for the forts and two for the central area. The fortress is divided
into four sections, for each of which there must be a reserve of three
battalions. The artillery garrison, reckoning eight men per gun, must
be 8,000 strong, and there must be not less than one battalion of
engineers. The total garrison cannot therefore be less than 35,000 men.”

While preparations were being made for the attack on the frontier
fortresses, the Tsar and Tsaritsa, accompanied by their daughters
the Grand-duchesses Olga and Tatiana, took the highly popular step
of paying a visit to the garrison and hospitals of the fortress of
Ivangorod, so recently the scene of such desperate German attempts
to break through on this part of the line of the Vistula after the
smashing defeat of their rush for Warsaw. The Imperial party came from
Lublin, and were received on arrival by the Commandant of Ivangorod,
the Grand-duke Nicholas Michailovitch, and by General Schwarz. The
Tsar gave public expression to the feeling of national exhilaration
in the following brief but eloquent words: “With faith in the help
and blessing of the All-Highest, and in the power of the mighty arms
of united Russia, our great country will conclude no peace until the
resistance of the enemy has been finally broken, and the realisation of
the tasks bequeathed to us by our ancestors has been accomplished.”

In Galicia more solid Russian successes and a notable weakening in the
power and solidarity of the resistance marked the growing pressure of
the invaders of Austrian territory. South of Przemysl, in one day’s
fighting early in November, a thousand prisoners and some guns were
taken. Przemysl was quite cut off, though replying energetically to a
severe bombardment by Dimitrieff’s siege-train. A sortie was beaten
back with much loss of life. On the 10th Krasno was occupied, forty
miles west of the fortress, and on the same day--a busy one in this
particular war-zone--the Austrians were driven into the Carpathians
after a further defeat on the San which enabled their relentless enemy
to occupy Sanok and Turka.

Meanwhile the main invading army was pressing on towards Cracow, with
a view to carrying on the siege of the place simultaneously with the
investment of Przemysl. The occupation of Tarnow, an important railway
centre, brought the Russians within forty-five miles of Cracow on the
east side, while the passage of the river Schrenwaja from the Polish
frontier advanced them almost within range of its guns.

In fact Cracow, defended by an Austro-German garrison now estimated at
100,000 men, had been steadily preparing for the worst. A fire-zone
with a radius of eight miles had been cleared of all buildings, and
steel cupolas had been provided for the main belt of its forts. On the
Raba, a stream which empties itself into the Vistula twenty-five miles
east of the city, a series of field-works was constructed, and the
little town of Bochnia was also fortified.

“You may be surprised,” wrote Mr. Granville Fortescue in the _Daily
Telegraph_, “at the rapidity of the advance on Cracow. It resulted
from the precipitate retirement of the German and the Austrian forces
through South-west Poland. I am told that this withdrawal was so rapid
that the Russian pursuing cavalry almost lost touch with their foes.
The enemy did not stop until he was under the walls of Cracow. The
force which is to attack it from the north had an almost free passage.
Another Russian force coming from Tarnow had to fight for every inch
of the ground occupied. The Austrian force, which has been retreating
stubbornly along the Rzeszow-Neu Sandec Railway, has given considerable
trouble.”

The same journal, commenting upon the extraordinary extent of
the battle-zone and the probability of the final fight for the
Russo-Austro-German frontier extending over weeks rather than days,
rightly remarked that the average workaday intellect failed to grasp
the magnitude of the giant conflict in point of mere numbers alone. It
hazarded the conjecture that over five hundred miles of front three
and a half millions of Russians would be giving battle to a couple of
millions of Austrians and Germans!

A tide of refugees, estimated at not less than a hundred thousand in a
few days, was flying towards the city of Berlin from the East Prussian
and Silesian borders. What a change from the “To Paris--to London!” of
a few weeks previously. It was no longer practicable to conceal from
the mass of the people the news of the total breakdown of the Polish
invasion and the Austrian debacle. Events would still be slow-moving,
since the mighty military machine of All the Russians, however well
oiled, could only proceed at a certain regulated pace. Reports told
of a new conception whereby the Germans hoped, northwards of Thorn,
to concentrate masses of troops flanked by the river Vistula on the
one hand and the river Warthe on the other. Here they would have the
advantage of a battle-ground on a slightly raised platform as compared
with the marshy wildernesses of the recent Polish operations; but the
Masurian Lakes of East Prussia were by this time in Russian hands. The
pace was quickening.

Mr. Fortescue, writing from Petrograd in praise of the bearing
and discipline of the Tsar’s millions moving ever westward, could
not refrain from an expression of his appreciation of the marked
improvement discernible after the lapse of a decade in the Muscovite
“Tommy Atkins”:

“A draft of recruits, headed by a band, passed through the square
in front of Saint Isaac’s Cathedral. I watched critically. They
wore their ordinary clothes; the only uniforms seen were those of
the non-commissioned officers. The astrakan cap was the distinctive
head-covering, and every other man carried a tea-kettle. If I were
a battalion commander I could not ask for a better-looking batch
of recruits. All were over 5 ft. 6 in. in height. In carriage and a
certain indefinable air they reminded me of the Guides from Manitoba.
The more I see of these troops the more apparent the vast improvement
of the Russian forces since the Russo-Japanese War becomes. That war
was a liberal education for this Army, and as teachers of the art of
war the Japanese are not to be despised. It is curious to note how this
erstwhile enemy is now welcomed as an Ally. Japanese flags are always
prominent in the colours of the nations fighting Germany. At all public
occasions when the hymns of the different nations are played the solemn
notes of the Japanese Anthem are loudly applauded. In the cause of
humanity it may be said that Japan stands shoulder to shoulder with
Russia. Russia need fear no enemy in her rear while Japan is her Ally.”

There is no doubt that the Russian Army had been in many ways improved
since the war with Japan. The greatest advance had been in the matter
of the working of the General Staff. The most remarkable feature of
this Polish campaign was the methodical way in which the huge armies
engaged on the Russian side had been concentrated and were now moved
and supplied in a difficult country and on a front of many hundred
miles. It was evident that the Grand-duke Nicholas and his subordinates
were so confident in the reorganised army that they were even venturing
to take very serious risks. It is possible that they did this with
complete knowledge of the peril they were incurring. It is remarkable
that at this stage of the campaign, instead of concentrating their
efforts on any one point, they were using the enormous numbers at
their disposal to operate in at least five different directions--in
East Prussia, on the Vistula towards Thorn, in the centre towards
Posen, on the left centre by Lodz towards Silesia, and on the left in
Galicia. These Galician operations were again being carried on on three
subordinate lines. There was an attack on the line of the Carpathians
from Eastern Galicia menacing Hungary, the siege of Przemysl, and the
advance on Cracow; and, besides all this, subsequent events showed
that two additional armies were concentrated in Southern Russia, in
view of a possible rupture with Turkey. One of these armies was in the
Caucasus, the other was kept waiting about Odessa as a reserve that
might be used for a descent upon the Turkish coasts. There were further
large garrisons kept about Petrograd, and as a reserve for the Polish
campaign in the triangle of fortresses on the Central Vistula.

This division of force between so many different objectives certainly
implied some risk of the German and Austrian Allies using their
elaborately organised railway system to concentrate a superior force
against some part of the far-extended line. The risk was taken in
order, by menacing the whole of the eastern frontiers of Germany, to
create such a state of alarm as would lead to German troops being
withdrawn from the western theatre of war. There is evidence that
movements of this kind actually took place, though perhaps not to
the extent that was reported in the French and English Press. The
movements in the end of October and during November would seem to
have been chiefly the transfer by rail of cavalry divisions with
their batteries of artillery from west to east. The war of entrenched
positions then in progress all along the western front made mounted
troops, comparatively speaking, useless. They were therefore sent
eastward. Cavalry and horse artillery require a large number of trains
for even a force of very moderate numbers, and the movement of these
trains would easily give the impression that immense numbers of men
were being sent eastward.

In the second week of November there were the first signs that the
Germans, instead of standing passively upon the defensive, were once
more venturing upon a counter-attack based upon their eastern fortress
line. This led to a second invasion of Poland from Germany, but its
story belongs to a new phase of the war. The first campaign in Poland
had closed with success for the Russian arms all along the enormous
frontier of nearly fifteen hundred miles in length, and after more
than three months of war there were no enemies on Russian territory.
The concentration of the armies of the Tsar had been completed, and
the Grand-duke Nicholas had under his command the greatest array of
combatants that had ever been assembled by any State since the history
of warfare began.

_Printed in Great Britain by Hazell, Watson & Viney, Ld., London and
Aylesbury._



       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber’s note:

The one footnote has been moved to the end of its chapter.

Punctuation has been made consistent.

Variations in spelling and hyphenation were retained as they appear in
the original publication, except that obvious typographical errors
have been corrected.

The following change was made:

p. 80: “through” added (advance through the)





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