Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

day before and successfully bombarded the railroad stations at Vileika, Molodetchna, and Zalyessie.

The well-known English journalist, Mr. Stanley Washburn, acted at this time as special correspondent of the London “Times" at Russian headquarters and naturally had exceptional opportunities for observing conditions at the front. Some of his descriptions of the territory across which the Russians' advance was carried out, as well as of actual fighting which he observed at close quarters, therefore, give us a most vivid picture of the difficulties under which the Russian victories were achieved and of the tenacity and courage which the Austro-German troops showed in their resistance.

Of the Volhynian fortress of Lutsk, as it appeared in the second half of June, 1916, he says:

“This town to-day is a veritable maelstrom of war. From not many miles away, by night and by day, comes an almost uninterrupted roar of heavy gunfire, and all day long the main street is filled with the rumble and clatter of caissons, guns, and transports going forward on one side, while on the other side is an unending line of empty caissons returning, mingled with wounded coming back in every conceivable form of vehicle, and in among these at breakneck speed dart motorcycles carrying dispatches from the front.

“The weather is dry and hot, and the lines of the road are visible for miles by the clouds of dust from the plodding feet of the soldiery and the transport. As the retreat from Warsaw was a review of the Russian armies in reverse, so is Lutsk to-day a similar spectacle of the Muscovite armies advancing; but now all filled with high hopes and their morale is at the highest pitch.

"Along the entire front the contending armies are locked in a fierce, ceaseless struggle. No hour of the day passes when there is not somewhere an attack or a counterattack going forward with a bitterness and ferocity unknown since the beginning of the war. The troops coming from Germany are rendering the Russian advance difficult, and the general nature of the fighting is defense by vigorous counterattacks."

Of the fighting along the Kovel front he says: “The story of the fighting on the Kovel front is a narrative of a heroic advance which at the point of the bayonet steadily forced back through barrier after barrier the stubborn resistance of the Austrians, intermingled occasionally with German units, till at one point the advance measured forty-eight miles.

"After two days spent on the front I can state without any reservation that I believe that the Russians are engaged in the fiercest and most courageous fight of their entire war, hanging on to their hardly won positions and often facing troops concentrated on the strategic points of the line outnumbering them sometimes by three to one.

"I spent Thursday at an advanced position on the Styr, where the Russian troops earlier forced a crossing of the river, facing a terrific fire, and turning the enemy out of his positions at the point of the bayonet. In hurriedly dug positions offering the most meager kind of shelter, the Russians in one morning drove back four consecutive Austrian counterattacks. Each left the field thickly studded with Austrian dead, besides hundreds of their wounded who had been left.

“From an observation point in the village I studied the ground of the day's fighting, and though familiar with Russian courage and tenacity, I found it difficult to realize that human beings had been able to carry the positions which the Russians carried here.

I was obliged to curtail my study of the enemy's lines and of the position on account of the extremely local artillery fire, the shells endeavoring to locate our observation point, which was evidently approximately known. At any rate, two shells bursting over us and one narrowly missing our waiting carriage, besides three others falling in the mud almost at our feet, prompted our withdrawal. Fortunately the last three had fallen in the mud and did not explode.

"Along this front the Russians are holding against heavy odds, but they are certainly inflicting greater losses than they are receiving.

“The next day I spent at the Corps and Divisional Headquarters west of the Kovel road. The forward units of this corps represent the maximum point of our advance, and the Russians' most vital menace to the enemy, as is obvious from the numbers of Germans who are attacking here in dense masses, without so far seriously impairing the Russian resistance.

“After spending three days on this front motoring hundreds of versts, and inspecting the positions taken by the Russians, their achievement becomes increasingly impressive. The first line taken which I have inspected represents the latest practice in field works, in many ways comparing with the lines which I saw on the French front. The front line is protected by five or six series of barbed wire, with heavy front line trenches, studded with redoubts, machine-gun positions, and underground shelters twenty feet deep, while the reserve positions extend in many places from half a mile to a mile in series behind the first line, studded with communication trenches, shelters, and bombproofs.

"It must not be thought that the Austrians offered only a feeble resistance, for I inspected one series of trenches where, I was informed, the Russians in a few versts of front buried 4,000 Austrian dead on the first lines alone. This indicates the nature and tenacity of the enemy resistance. I am told also that far fewer Slavs and Poles have been found among the Austrians than in any other big action. It is believed that most of these have been sent to the Italian front on account of their tendency to surrender to the Russians.

"Another interesting point about their advance is the fact that the Russians practically in no place used guns of the heaviest caliber, and that the preliminary artillery fire in no place lasted above thirty hours, and in many places not more than twelve hours.

“Last summer's experience is not forgotten by the Russians and there has probably been the most economic use of ammunition on any of the fronts in this war commensurate with the results during these advances. Rarely was a hurricane fire directed on any positions preceding an assault, but the artillery checked each shell and its target, which was rendered possible by the nearness of our front lines.

"In this way avenues were cut through the barbed wire at frequent intervals along the line through which the attacks were pressed home and the flanking trenches and the labyrinths were taken in the rear or on the flanks before the Austrians were able to effect their escape. The line once broken was moved steadily forward, taking Lutsk six days after the first attack, and one division reaching its maximum advance of forty-eight miles just ten days after the first offensive movement."

CHAPTER XXIV

PROGRESS

OF THE BUKOWINIAN
CONQUEST

ON

N June 21, 1916, the Russians gained another important

victory by the capture of the city of Radautz, in the southern Bukowina, eleven miles southwest of the Sereth River, and less than ten miles west of the Rumanian frontier. This river Sereth must not be confused with a river of the same name further to the north in Galicia. The latter is a tributary of the Dniester, while the Bukowinian Sereth is a tributary of the Danube, which latter it joins near the city of Galatz, in Rumania, after flowing in a southeasterly direction through this country for almost two hundred miles.

The fall of Radautz was an important success for various reasons, In the first place, it brought the Russian advance that much nearer to the Carpathian Mountains. In the second place, it gave the invading armies full control of an important railway running in a northwesterly direction through the Bukowina. This railway was of special importance, because it is the northern continuation of one of the principal railroad lines of Rumania which, during its course in the latter country, runs along the west bank of the Sereth River.

In Galicia, General von Bothmer's army successfully resisted strong Russian attacks along the Hajvoronka-Bobulinze line, north of Przevloka.

[ocr errors]

Without cessation the furious fighting in the Kolki-Sokal sector on the Styr River continued. There General von Linsingen's German reenforcements had strengthened the AustroHungarian resistance to such an extent that it held against all Russian attempts to break through their line in their advance toward Kovel.

The same condition existed on the Sokal-Linievka line, where the Russian forces had been trying for the best part of a week to force a crossing of the Stokhod River, the only natural obstacle between them and Kovel. Further south, west of Lutsk, from the southern sector of the Turiya River down to the Galician border near the town of Gorochoff, the Teutonic forces likewise succeeded in resisting the Russian advance. This increased resistance of the Teutonic forces found expression, also, in a considerable decrease in the number of prisoners taken by the Russians.

Along the northern half of the front, Field Marshal von Hindenburg renewed his attacks south of Dvinsk. South of Lake Vishnieff, near Dubatovka, German troops, after intense artillery preparation, stormed a portion of the Russian trenches, but could not maintain their new positions against repeated ferocious counterattacks carried out by Russian reenforcements. Near Krevo, the Germans forced a crossing over the River Krevlianka, but were again thrown back to its west bank by valiant Russian artillery attacks.

The Russian advance in the Bukowina progressed rapidly on June 22, 1916. Three important railroad towns fell into their hands, on that day, of the left wing of the Russian army, Gurahumora in the south, Straza in the center, and Vidnitz in the northwest. Gurahumora lies fifty miles south of Czernowitz, and is situated on the only railway in the southern part of the crownland. The town is ten miles from the Russian border. Straza lies a few miles east of the western terminal of the Radautz-Frasin railway. Its fall indicates a Russian advance of eighteen miles since the capture of Radautz. Vidnitz is on the Galician border, a few miles south of Kuty, and twentyfive miles southwest of Czernowitz.

« AnteriorContinuar »