Imágenes de páginas

bombardment was to act as preparation, failed. Other bombard. ments were directed against Lake Ilsen and the sector north of it, and against the region south of the village of Vishnieff on the Beresina River. Mining operations of considerable extent were carried out that night near the village of Novo Selki, south of the town of Krevo. On May 8, 1916, artillery fire again roared along the Dvina front, especially against the Uxkull bridgehead. An attack in force was made by German troops against the village of Peraplianka north of Smorgon on the Viliya May 9, 1916. After considerable artillery preparation the Germans rushed up against the Russian barbed-wire obstacles. There, however, they were stopped by concentrated artillery and rifle fire and, after heavy losses, had to withdraw. A Russian attack of a similar nature south of Garbunovka was not any more successful. In the Pripet Marshes, too, artillery operations had by now become possible again and the Russian positions west of the village of Pleshichitsa, southeast of Pinsk, were subjected to a violent bombardment.

Throughout the balance of May not a day passed during which guns of all calibers did not maintain a violent bombardment at many points along the entire front. Especially frequent and severe was the gunfire which the Germans directed against the Dvina sector of the Russian positions. But, just as in the past weeks, the result, though not at all negligible as far as the damage inflicted on men, material, and fortifications was concerned, was practically nil in regard to any change in the location of the front.

Infantry attacks during this period were not lacking, though they were less frequent than artillery bombardments, and were at all times only of local character, and in most cases executed with limited forces. A great deal of this kind of fighting occurred in the region of Olyka where engagements took place almost every day. One of the few more important events was a German attack against the Jacobstadt sector of the Dvina front. For two days, May 10 and 11, 1916, the fighting continued, becoming especially violent to the north of the railway station of Selburg on the Mitau-Kreutzburg railway. There very heavy artillery fire succeeding the infantry attacks had destroyed some small villages for the possession of which the most furious kind of hand-to-hand fighting ensued. Finally the Germans captured by storm about 500 yards of the Russian positions as well as some 300 unwounded soldiers and a few machine guns and mine throwers.

Engagements of a similar character, though not always yielding such definite results to either side, occurred on May 11, 1916, southwest of Lake Medum, on May 12, 1916, at many points along the Oginski Canal and also in the Pripet Marshes, where fighting now had again become a physical possibility. On the latter day a Russian attempt to recapture the positions lost previously near Selburg failed.

Thus the fortunes of war swayed from side to side. One day would bring to the Germans the gain of a trench, the capture of a few hundred men or guns, or the destruction of an enemy battery, to be followed the next day by a proportionate loss. So closely was the entire line guarded, so strongly and elaborately had the trenches and other fortifications been built up, that the fighting developed into a multitude of very short but closely contested engagements. In each one of these the numbers engaged were very small, though the grand total of men fighting on a given day at so many separate points on a front of some 500 miles was, of course, still immense.

Amongst the places which saw the most fighting during this period were many which had been mentioned a great many times before. Again and again there appeared in the official records such names as: Lake Sventen, Krevno, Lake Miadziol, Ostroff, Lake Narotch, Smorgon, Dahlen Island, and many others.

The net result of all the fighting during May, 1916, was that both sides lost considerable in men and material. Both Russians and Germans, however, had succeeded in maintaining their respective lines in practically the same position in which they had been at the beginning of May.





URING the first two days of June, 1916, a lull occurred at

almost all important points of the eastern front. Only one or two engagements of extremely minor importance between scouting parties were reported. In the light of future events this remarkable condition might well be called ominous, especially if one connects with it a decided increase in Russian aeroplane activity, which resulted in two strong attacks on June 1, 1916, against points on the Vilna-Minsk and Sarny-Kovel railways.

On June 2, 1916, a more or less surprising increase in the strength of the Russian artillery fire was noticed, especially along the Bessarabian and Volhynian fronts and in the Ikva sector. So strong did this fire become that the official Austrian statement covering that day says that at several places the artillery duels "assumed the character of artillery battles."

More and more the extent and violence of the Russian artillery attack increased. The next day, June 3, 1916, Russian artillery displayed the greatest activity all along the southern half of the eastern front, and covered the Dniester, Strypa, and Ikva sectors, as well as the gap between the last two rivers, northwest of Tarnopol, and the entire Volhynian front. Near Olyka in the region of the three Volhynian fortresses of Rovno, Dubno, and Lutsk, the Russian gunfire was especially intense along a front of about seventeen miles. That this unusually strong artillery activity increased the alarm of the Austro-Hungarian commanders may readily be seen from the concluding sentence of that day's official Austrian statement, which read: "Everywhere there are signs of an impending infantry attack."

The storm began to break the next day, June 4, 1916. That it was entirely unexpected, was not likely, for this new Russian offensive coincided with the Austro-Hungarian offensive against the Italian front which by that time had assumed threatening developments. Undoubtedly it was one of the objects of the Russian offensive to force the Austrians to withdraw troops from the Italian front and at least curtail their offensive efforts against the Italian armies, if not to stop them entirely. At the same time the limits within which the Russian offensive was undertaken indicated that the Russian General Staff had another much more important object in view, the breaking of the German-Austrian front at about the point where the German right touched the Austrian left. Along a front of over 300 miles the Russian forces attacked. From the Pinth in the south-at the Rumanian border to the outrunners of the Pripet Marshes—near Kolki and the bend of the Styr—in the north the battle raged. At many points along this line the Russians achieved important successes, with unusual swiftness they were pushing whatever advantage they were able to gain. But not only swiftness did they employ. Immense masses of men were thrown against the strongly fortified Austrian lines and quantities of munitions of the Russian artillery which transcended everything that had ever been done along this line on the eastern front. · Not against one or two points chosen for that particular purpose, but against every important point on the entire line the Russian attacks were hurled. The most bitter struggle developed at Okna, northwest of Tarnopol, at Koklow, at Novo Alexinez, along the entire Ikva, at Sanor, around Olyka and from there north to Dolki. No matter how strong the natural defenses, no matter how skillful the artificial obstacles, on and on rolled the thousands and thousands of Russians. So overwhelming was this onrush that the Austro-Hungarians had to give way in many places in spite of the most valiant resistance, and so quick did it come that as a result of the first day's work the Russians could claim to have captured 13,000 prisoners, many guns and machine guns.

By June 5, 1916, this number had increased to 480 officers, 25,000 men, twenty-seven guns and fifty machine guns. The battle on the northeast front continued on the whole front of 218 miles with undiminished stubbornness. North of Okna, the Austrians had, after stiff and fluctuating battles, to withdraw their shattered first positions to the line prepared three miles to the south. Near Jarlowiec, on the lower Strypa, the Russians attacked after artillery preparation. They were repulsed at some places by hand fighting. At the same time a strong Russian attack west of Trembowla (south of Tarnopol) broke down under Austrian fire. West-northwest of Tarnopol there was bitter fighting. Near Sopanow (southeast of Dubno) there were numerous attacks by the enemy. Between Mlynow, on the Ikva, and the regions northwest of Olyka, the Russians were continually becoming stronger, and the most bitter kind of fighting developed.

Especially heavy fighting developed in the region before Lutsk. There the pressure from the Russian army of General Brussilov had become so strong that the Austrians had found it necessary by June 6, 1916, to withdraw their forces to the plain of Lutsk, just to the east of that fortress and of the river Styr. This represented a gain of at least twenty miles made in two days. The official Russian statement of that day claimed that during the same period General Brussilov's armies had captured 900 officers, more than 40,000 rank and file, seventy-seven guns, 134 machine guns and forty-nine trench mortars, and, in addition, searchlights, telephone, field kitchens, a large quantity of arms and war material, and great reserves of ammunition.

On the other hand, the Austrians were still offering a determined resistance at most points south and north of Lutsk, and Russian attacks were repulsed with sanguinary losses at many places, as for instance at Rafalowka, on the lower Styr, near Berestiany, on the Corzin Brook, near Saponow, on the apper Strypa, near Jazlovice, on the Dniester, and on the Bessarabian frontier. Northwest of Tarnopol were repulsed two attacks. At another point seven attacks were repulsed.

The Russians also suffered heavy losses in the plains of Okna (north of the Bessarabian frontier) and at Debronoutz, where there were bitter hand-to-hand engagements.

It was quite clear by this time that the Russian offensive threatened not only the pushing back of the Austrian line, but

« AnteriorContinuar »