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their very existence. Unless the Austrians either succeeded in repulsing the Russians decidedly or else found some other way of reducing immediately the strength of this extensive offensive movement, it was inevitable that many of the important conquests which the Central Powers had made in the fall of 1915 would be lost again. In spite of this and in spite of the quite apparent strength of the Russian forces, it caused considerable surprise when it was announced officially on June 8, 1916, that the fortress of Lutsk had been captured by the Russians on June 7, 1916.
The fortress lies halfway between Rovno and Kovel, on the important railway line that runs from Brest-Litovsk to the region southwest of Kiev. It is this railway sector, between Rovno and Kovel, that has been the objective of the Russian attacks ever since the Teuton offensive came to a standstill eight months ago, for its control would give the Russians a free hand to operate southward against the lines in Galicia.
Lutsk is a minor fortress, the most westerly of the Volhynian triangle formed by Rovno, Dubno, and Lutsk. The town is the center of an important grain trade, and the districts of which it is the center contained before the war a considerable German colony. It is supposed to have been founded in the seventh century. In 1791 it was taken by Russia. It is the seat of a Roman Catholic bishop and at the outbreak of the war had a population of about 18,000. During the war it suffered a varied fate. On September 1, 1915, it was captured by the combined German and Austro-Hungarian forces which had accomplished a month before the capture of Warsaw and had forced the Russian legions to a full retreat. Twenty-three days later it was evacuated by the forces of the Central Powers and recaptured by the Russians on September 24, 1915. Four days later, September 28, 1915, the Russians were forced to withdraw again, and on October 1, 1915, it fell once more into the hands of the Austrians. During the winter the Russians had made a dash for its recapture, but had not succeeded, and ever since the front had been along a line about twenty miles to the east. The capture of the fortress was due primarily to the immensity of the
An Austrian 30.5 centimeter mortar in position. The gunner is ready and the officer is just giving the command to
fire. Meantime, another great 12-inch shell is being brought up for the next loading
Russian artillery, which maintained a violent, continuous fire, smashing the successive rows of wire entanglements, breastworks, and trenches. The town was surrounded with nineteen rows of entanglements. The laconic order to attack was given at dawn on June 7, 1916. Up to noon the issue hung in the balance, but at 1 o'clock the Russians made a breach in the enemy's position near the village of Podgauzy. They repulsed a fierce Austrian counterattack and captured 3,000 prisoners and many guns. Almost simultaneously another Russian force advanced on Lutsk along the Dubno and stormed the trenches of the village of Krupov, taking several thousand prisoners. General Brussilov seemed to have at his disposal an immense infantry force, which he sent forward in rapid, successive waves after artillery preparation. Reserves were brought up so quickly that the enemy was given no time to recover from one assault before another was delivered.
Fifty-eight officers, 11,000 men and large quantities of guns, machine guns, and ammunition fell in the hands of the victorious Russian armies. On the same day on which Lutsk was captured other forces stormed strong Austrian positions on the lower Strypa in Galicia between Trybuchovice and Jazlovice and crossed both the Ikva and the Styr. Along the northern part of the front, north of the Pripet River, comparative quiet reigned throughout the early stages of the Russian offensive. During the evening of June 7, 1916, however, German artillery violently bombarded the region northeast of Krevo and south of Smorgon, southeast of Vilna. The bombardment soon extended farther north, and during the night of June 8, 1916, the Germans took the offensive there with considerable forces.
In the neighborhood of Molodetchna station (farther east) on the Vilna-Minsk railway, a German aeroplane dropped four bombs.
Five German aeroplanes carried out a raid on the small town of Jogishin, north of Pinsk, dropping about fifty bombs.
The battle in Volhynia and Galicia continued with undiminished force on June 8, 1916. Near Sussk, to the east of Lutsk, a squadron of Cossacks attacked the enemy behind his fortified
K-War St. 5