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"In a forest near the town of Lyntupy a patrol of thirteen Russian spies hid in an abandoned German dugout in the course of a night march southward to destroy a bridge over the river Viliya with high explosives.
“Desperate for food, they finally intrusted their safety to a Polish forester, ordering him to bring food. The forester promptly gave the Germans information. The Germans surrounded the dugout, throwing in three hand grenades. On entering the dugout they discovered ten Russians killed by grenades and three by bullets.
“The Russian lieutenant had shot two comrades not killed by grenades and then himself, in order to escape execution as spies, for the patrol was not in uniform.
"Another audacity was performed during a Russian attack on the German trenches. From the darkness came a voice calling in perfect German, 'What is the matter with you? Are you soldiers ? Are you Germans? Are you men? Why don't you get forward and attack the Russians? Are you afraid ?'
"Bewildered by these words coming up to them direct from the nearest wire entanglements, the Germans turned a searchlight in the direction, discovering the speaker to be a Russian officer who had taken his life in his hands on the chance of drawing the Germans from the trenches. His audacity cost him his life, for instantly he fell before a volley of bullets.
"The Germans speak well of the marksmanship of considerable bodies of the Russian infantry. Personally, I can say they shoot as well as I have any desire to have men shoot when aiming at me. Twice on Friday I was sent scurrying off exposed ridges by the waspish whisper of bullets coming from a Russian position jutting from the south shore of Lake Miadziol.
"There is not only railroad building, but also much farming going on around Karolinow. The land for a distance of thirty miles has been divided into thirteen farm districts by the Germans and planted to potatoes, rye, oats and summer barley. In many parts the Germans are taking a census, all their methodicalness contributing vastly to the troops' comfort and happiness. Their health is amazing. The records of one division show five
sick men daily, which is not as many as one would find in any town of 20,000 in any part of the world.
“German caution and inventiveness also keep down the casualties marvelously. Records I saw to-day showed thirty-eight wounded in one division in the month of March, though the division was attacked twice during the offensive. The percentage of heavily wounded for all the German troops in this region in the last three months averages seven.
"Despite the horrible roads, Field Marshal von Hindenburg has penetrated to numerous villages on the front in the last few days to greet and thank the troops. Returning to his headquarters Von Hindenburg attended a banquet given by princes, nobles and generals of the empire to mark the fiftieth year of the field marshal's army service. Present amid the notables was a private soldier, in civil life a blacksmith, who was elected with two officers by their comrades to represent Von Hindenburg's old regiment at the banquet. The private was chosen because he had been in all the battles, but never had been wounded and never sick. He wears the Iron Cross of both classes."
RESUMPTION OF AUSTRO-RUSSIAN
UST as was the case along the Russo-German line, consider
able local fighting took place during the early part of March, to the south, along the Austro-Russian front. Here, too, much of it was between scouting parties and advanced outposts who attempted to feel out each other's strength. Occasionally one or the other side would launch an attack, with small forces, which, however, had little influence on general conditions, even though the fighting always was furious and violent.
On March 4, 1916, a detachment of Russian scouts belonging to General Ivanoff's army captured and occupied an advanced
Austrian trench, close to the bridgehead of Michaleze, to the northeast of the town of Uscieszko on the Dniester River. Austrian forces immediately attempted to regain this position, launching three separate attacks against it. But the Russian troops held on to their slight gain. Near by, in the neighborhood of Zamnshin on the Dniester, Russian engineers had constructed elaborate mining works which were exploded on the same day, doing considerable damage to the Austrian defense works, and enabling the Russian forces to occupy some advanced Austrian trenches.
During the next two weeks considerable fighting of this nature occurred at many points along the front from the Pripet Marshes down to the Dniester. At no time, however, were the forces engaged on either side very numerous, nor did the results change the front materially. The various engagements coming so early in the year, quite some time before spring could be expected, signified, however, that there were more important undertakings in the air. The fact that the Russians were especially active in these scouting expeditions—for they really amounted to little more at that time-rather pointed toward an early resumption of the offensive on their part.
It was, therefore, not at all surprising that, before long, a considerable increase in Russian artillery activity became noticeable. About the middle of March, coincident with a similar increase of artillery attacks along the German-Russian front, the Russian guns in South Poland, Galicia, and the Bukowina began to thunder again as they had not done since the fall of 1915. This was especially done along the Dniester River and the Bessarabian front.
During the night of March 17, 1916, the Austrian position near Uscieszko, which had been attacked before in the early part of March, again was subjected to extensive attacks by means of mines and to a. considerable amount of shelling. This was a strongly fortified position, guarding a bridgehead on the Dniester, which had been held by the Austrians ever since October, 1915. The mining operations were so successfully planned and executed that the Austrians were forced to with
draw a short distance, when the Russians followed the explosion of their mines with a determined attack with hand grenades. In spite of this, however, the Austrians held the major part of this position until March 19, 1916.
How furious the fighting was on both sides is indicated in the official Austrian statement announcing on March 20, 1916, the final withdrawal from this position:
"Yesterday evening, after six months of brave defense, the destroyed bridge and fortifications to the northwest of Uscieszko (on the Dniester) were evacuated. Although the Russians succeeded in the morning in exploding a breach 330 yards in width, the garrison, which was attacked by an eightfold superior force, despite all losses held out for seven hours in a most violent gun and infantry fire.
"Only at 5 o'clock in the afternoon the commandant, Colonel Planckh, determined to evacuate the destroyed fortifications. Smaller detachments and the wounded reached the south bank of the Dniester by means of boats. Soon, however, this means of transport had to be given up, owing to the concentrated fire of the enemy.
"There remained for our brave troops, composed of the Kaiser Dragoons and sappers, only one outlet if they were to evade capture. They had to cut their way through Uscieszko, which was strongly occupied by the enemy, to our troops ensconced on the heights north of Zaleszczyki. The march through the enemy position succeeded. Under cover of night Colonel Planckh led his heroic men toward our advanced posts northwest of Zaleszczyki, where he arrived early this morning."
During the next few days the fire from the Russian batteries increased still more in violence. It did not, however, at any time or place assume the same strength which it had reached by that time at many points along the Russo-German front, north of the Pripet Marshes. Nor, indeed, did the Russians duplicate in the south their attempt at a determined offensive which they were making then in the north.
Considering the relative importance of Russian activities during the month of March, 1916, most of the engagements
which took place in Galicia and Volhynia must be classed as unimportant. On March 21, 1916, it is true, almost the entire Austrian front was subjected to extensive artillery fire. But only at a few points was this followed by infantry attacks, and these were executed with small detachments only. Along the Strypa River Russian forces attempted to advance at various points, without gaining any ground.
Throughout the following days many engagements between individual outposts were again reported. On March 27, 1916, a Russian attempt to capture Austrian positions near Bojan, after destroying some of the fortifications by mines, failed. A similar fate met the attempt made during that night to cross the Strypa River at its junction with the Dniester. Other parts of the front, especially near Olyka and along the Bessarabian border, were again subjected to heavy artillery fire.
Although, generally speaking, the Austrians restricted themselves in most instances to a determined resistance against all Russian attacks, they took the offensive in some places, without, however, making any more headway than their adversaries. By the end of March, 1916, aeroplanes became more active on this part of the front, just as they did further north. On March 28, 1916, both sides report more or less successful bombing expeditions, which on that day seemed to bring better results to the Austrians than to the Russians, though these operations, too, must be considered of minor importance. Increasingly bad weather now began to hamper further undertakings, just as it did in the north, and by March 31, 1916, the Russian activities seemed to have lost most of their energy. Along the entire southeastern front thaw set in and the snows were melting. Although the territory along the Austro-Russian front, south of the Pripet Marshes, is not as difficult as further north, not being equally swampy, the fact that the line ran to a great extent along rivers and through a mountainous, or at least hilly country, resulted in difficulties hardly less serious. Rivers and creeks which only a few weeks before held little water suddenly became torrents and caused a great deal of additional suffering to the troops on both sides by invading their trenches.