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seemed that, if the Russian menace should become imminent while the French campaign was still undecided, the transfer of troops that would inevitably result must so weaken the German army in France as to place it at the mercy of the Allies. It was not supposed that the Russians could be dealt with, and troops be transported back to France, in time to restore the situation. The Germans themselves were probably of this opinion. The feverish activity they displayed during the earlier operations in Belgium and France indicates that they regarded the destruction of the Allied army as a necessary antecedent to offensive operations against Russia. This idea has been falsified by the unforeseen power of resistance provided by the skilfully-designed system of entrenchments evolved by German ingenuity. With one flank
. secured by the sea and the other by the Swiss frontier the German position in Belgium and France appears to be practically impregnable. The Allies have been unable to make any sensible impression on it, while the bulk of the German army has been operating against Russia. The situation resulting from the weakening of their army in France proves to be by no means so critical for the Germans as was expected.
The disadvantage of Germany's central position, referred to above, is accentuated by the character of her Eastern frontier and by certain political and economic conditions. By some mischance Nature has made her frontier strong in the west, where, owing to the concentration of large forces and the prosecution of an offensive campaign, strength is not needed; while her Eastern frontier, where defensive action is required, possesses no natural facilities for defence. In the west the Moselle and the Rhine, with their fortresses, form successive lines of resistance. In the east, marshes, lakes, and forests afford some slight protection to the frontiers of East Prussia and Posen, but Nature has left Silesia quite uncared for. When it is considered that Berlin is within 170 miles of Russian territory, and that Silesia is one of the richest provinces of the Empire and a great industrial centre, it is not surprising that the threat of a Russian invasion should have caused the Germans to hurry troops from the scene of prospective conquest to that of present danger.
Germany's central position is not, however, wholly disadvantageous. It enables her to transport troops from one theatre of war to the other in complete secrecy and perfect security, while the widely-separated Allies are unable to render each other any direct assistance. During the many years of preparation for war she has given special attention to the provision of railway facilities for expediting to the utmost such movements of troops. No fewer than twenty railway bridges span the Rhine between the Swiss and Dutch frontiers. Lines of railway follow both banks of the Rhine; others skirt the Polish frontier, connecting the lines that traverse Germany from east to west, and providing lateral communication for the movement of troops in rear of a field army. Special sidings and platforms for entraining and detraining troops are provided at every point where they are likely to be of service. In short, the entire railway system of Germany has been specially designed to facilitate and expedite the transport of troops in connexion with specific plans formulated by the General Staff for the conduct of the war which has been foreseen and provided for during many years of peace.
The withdrawal of troops from Belgium probably began shortly after the battle at Ypres on Nov. ii. It was effected with the utmost secrecy, the Allies being kept occupied by occasional infantry attacks at various points, and by a sustained and sometimes violent bombardment. At the same time a large number of troops, apparently drafts to replace casualties, were brought into Belgium with some ostentation, their arrival being sedulously advertised through the medium of Amsterdam newspapers.
Rumours of a projected renewal of the offensive in the region of Ypres were also put abroad, which even gained credence in some London newspapers, eager for sensational news. These devices were obviously intended to keep the Allies in a state of uncertainty, and to conceal the transfer of troops to the east. How far the Allies were deceived is uncertain, but they did not assume the offensive in France and Belgium for some time, while the Russians were certainly surprised by the arrival of the German reinforcements in Poland.
The German offensive movement between the Vistula and the Warta, which began to develop about Nov. 12, was directed at the weakest part of the Russian front in Poland. When the German armies, after being defeated on the Vistula in October, retreated beyond the frontier, the Russians, not expecting that they would renew the offensive, appear to have moved the bulk of their armies towards Cracow in pursuance of their original plan. The Austrian army had retired towards Cracow and the Carpathians; and it was reasonable to expect that the Germans would keep touch with their left flank about Cracow, and occupy the entrenched position, which was known to have been prepared behind the Warta, in order to cover Silesia. In moving on Cracow the Russians believed that they would strike at the junction of the German and Austrian armies, a point which is likely to be weak on account of the tendency of allied armies, when separated, to fall back on their respective lines of communication. There were other reasons, not less cogent, for choosing this line of advance. It aimed at the point where the frontiers of Germany and Austria meet, threatening both countries with invasion. The capture or investment of Cracow would be a necessary preliminary to further progress. For the prosecution of the war against Germany the invasion of the rich industrial province of Silesia promised the best results. An advance through Silesia would avoid the forests and marshes which obstruct movement in the province of Posen, and would turn the defences of the Oder. These were probably the chief reasons which decided the Russians to concentrate the greater part of their forces near Cracow.
The destruction of the roads and railways seriously impeded the progress of the smaller Russian army which was following up the portion of the German army retreating westwards towards the Warta. The fresh German offensive encountered only cavalry and light advanced troops, which fell back on the main body behind the Bzura. Here desperate fighting ensued, resulting in the Russian line being broken on Nov. 19 in the neighbourhood of Strykow. Then followed perhaps the most extraordinary episode in modern military history. Two German army corps, a force amounting to about 90,000 men, described in the Russian official account as an avalanche,' poured through the gap, and
swinging round to their right, pushed on as far as Tuschin, attacking the right flank and rear of the separated Russian left wing. Although thus enveloped, the Russians maintained their ground till reserves, coming up from the direction of Petrokoff, took the Germans in flank and rear, and drove them back on Breziny and Strykow, where they were intercepted by another Russian force which came up from the direction of Lowicz and Skierniewitz. The greater part of the German force was destroyed or captured; and by Nov. 26 the Russian position had been re-established, and the critical phase of the battle had passed. It should be noted that during this fighting the Russian cavalry made several successful charges against the enemy's infantry, capturing numerous prisoners and guns.
The second phase of the great contest began with the appearance of strong German reinforcements on Nov. 22 between Sieradz and Lask, and, three days later, in the neighbourhood of Lutomiersk, twelve miles west of Lodz. These reinforcements were officially stated by the Russian General Staff to amount to six army corps and five cavalry divisions, some of which had been transported from France. During this phase of the battle the principal fighting occurred about Lowicz and Lodz, the Germans also attacking the Russian left flank in the region of Sczerkow and Petrokoff. In order to improve their position, the Russians on Dec. 6 withdrew from Lodz, which, being in advance of the general line, was difficult to defend.
The third phase (Dec. 7-17) was distinguished by heavy German attacks on the front Ilovo-Glovno, all of which were repulsed. On Dec. 15 German reinforcements arrived at Ilovo, and the Russian right was withdrawn behind the Bzura. Two days later the left fell back to Opocno, the line then being approximately SochaczewRawa—Opocno. With their front thus contracted and reinforced, the Russians maintained a vigorous offensivedefensive till, after Dec. 25, the German attack began to show signs of exhaustion. The principal fighting took place on the Bzura about Sochaczew and Bolimow, and on the Pilitza about Inovolodz.
These operations on the German side were well designed to take advantage both of the general situation Vol. 222.—No. 442,
that existed early in November, and of the scanty means of communication with which West Poland is provided. They suffered in some respects from being badly timed. The column operating from Kalisch arrived too late to confirm the success of the force that broke through the Russian line at Strykoff, as it might have done had it appeared at Lask on Nov. 19 or 20, instead of on the 22nd, when the crisis had passed. Subsequent reinforcements came up at different places on different occasions, enabling the Germans to renew the offensive at one point after it had become exhausted at another. In this respect the operations furnish a lesson in the futility of bringing up reinforcements in driblets. Had the Germans postponed their offensive till all their forces were con centrated, the result might have been different.
Apart from this defect the operations were well planned. The line of advance directly threatened Warsaw, the centre of the railway system of Poland, where three bridges span the Vistula. The possession of Warsaw would have practically secured command of the middle Vistula and a dominating position in the entire area enclosed by the Prussian and Austrian frontiers. The line of communication of the Russian army in South Poland by Radom and Ivangorod would have been in serious jeopardy. The Russians were compelled to concentrate as they best might to oppose the advance. To persist in their offensive against Cracow and Silesia would not have availed, because it could not produce any effect for some time. The Germans could afford to ignore it, the danger being remote, while that presented by their own offensive was imminent The Russians were exposed to the double danger of being defeated on the lower Vistula and of losing Warsaw. By this plan the Germans secured the advantage of the communications. They had, as main lines of supply, the Vistula with its steamers and barges, and the railways Thorn-Kutno—Lowicz, and Kalisch-Lodz—Lowicz, with the branch line Lodz, Koluska—Tomaschoff. It will be observed that these lines governed the directions of their main attacks. There were also three main roads leading to the front: Posen - Kolo - Kutno - Lowicz, Kalisch - Lodz, and Wielun-Petrokoff-Opocno, the last-named facilitating