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Battle of Łódź

The Battle of Łódź began on November 11th, as the newly formed German 9th Army, under the command of General August von Mackensen, was sent to attack the Russian armies, in part to prevent a Russian attack on Central Germany and in part to bring aid to the Austrians.

Meanwhile, the Russian 1st Army, under the command of Paul von Rennekampf, was advancing “in conjunction with the Second Army, and was [spreading] on a long line facing East Prussia” (Source). They intended to attack the German Second, Fourth, Fifth, and Ninth German armies west into the industrial region of Silesia.

But the Germans had long since been intercepting Russian plans via radio transmissions. So, to counter the Russian’s counterattack, the German Generals Paul von Hiddenburg and Erich Ludendorff planned to attack right between the Russian First and Second armies met.

Initially, the Germans were very successful. Not only did they crush the First and nearly surround the Second, but they also managed to take some 12,000 Russian prisoners. The Germans pushed the Russians back 50 miles.

But as the week wore on, the Germans’ luck waned while the Russians’ seemed to pick up. On the 14th, the Russians began their advance on Silesia. “But, by the 16th, the Russian general staff, realizing the dangerous position of the First and Second Armies, halted the offensive” (Source). But, of course, the Russians weren’t merely giving up.

No actually, the Russians instead brought in back up. On November 18th, the Second Army was joined by the Russian 5th Army. But, by the time they hit the German flank, the weather was appalling, “with temperatures plummeting down to -12C” (Source).

[Below: Germans marching into Poland]

In the ensuing battle, the Russians drove the Germans back some 30 miles in just one day. Before too long, they completely enveloped the Germans in Łódź. Meanwhile, the Germans that were struggling to escape to the north were cut off just north of the city. Captured German prisoners were rapidly “pouring into Warsaw, including men of the Prussian Guards.” (Source). Worse met, many of these men were suffering severely from frostbit, many of the maimed and disabled. By December 6th, the Russians had completely evacuated Łódź and many parts of western Poland.

But the Germans fought back and throughout the next week, neither side was able to take the advantage, despite all of the Russian advances. “While the battle was technically a Russian victory, the Germans achieved their aim, and the Russians withdrew, never again to come so close to German soil” (Source).

All in all, the Germans took some 136,000 prisoners but suffered 35,000 casualties of their own. Meanwhile, the Russians suffered 90,000 casualties. Additionally, General von Rennenkampf was “relieved of his command of the First Army” (Source).

[Below: Łódź in Russian Poland]

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First Battle of Masurian Lakes

A very short article about an early WWI battle, but since there is a 2nd Battle of Masurian Lakes, it seemed important to include the first.

After their victory over the Russian 2nd Army at Tannenberg, the German 8th Army, under the command of Paul von Hindenburg, turned their attention to defeating the Russian 1st, under the command of Paul von Rennenkampf.

Their plan was to completely surround the Russians. The Russians lines went “from the Baltic Sea coast on the north to the Russian/German border on the south. The southern half of the line fell along the Masurian Lakes, where the Russian line ended on the north side of a large lake, and continued on the south side with two reserve divisions. Further south, an isolated army corps held the line near the border” (Source). Hindenburg – with the aid of Erich Ludendorff – would attack the two isolated armies.

To start off with, the Hindenburg ordered his troops to advance through a gap between Konigsberg and the Masurian Lakes. However, the Russian 2nd Army received word of their advance, and Rennenkampf ordered his men to retreat to a better position. Following this, a preliminary attack began on January 7th, launched from either side of the two lakes. They hoped to push the Russians back towards the coast, likely making it easier on the Germans. Unfortunately, they outnumbered by 3-to-1.

The official offensive started two days later, on September 9th, with the Germans attacking these two armies. In response, Rennenkampf ordered his men to retreat all while preparing for a counterattack.

“The Germans, despite, now outnumbering the Russians, were unable to encircle them in the broken terrain of the Masurian Lake lands, and Rennenkampf was able to extract his army intact, and even launch his own counterattack on 25 September which regained much of the land lost during the battle” – during the Battle of Niemen (Source). While this may have been true, the Russians did, in fact, lose the battle of Masurian Lakes – and this after their loss at Tannenburg.

Worse yet, the Russians had lost any footing they yet had in East Prussia. With all these losses, the Russian army group commander, Yakov Zhilinski, was dismissed. Hindenburg, meanwhile, was hailed a hero back in Germany after back-to-back victories against the Russians.

It may seem like a relatively small battle, yet casualties were high. The Russians suffered 125,000 losses and the Germans 40,000. Additionally, some 5,000 Russian soldiers were taken as German POW’s.

      Image result for sept 1914 battle of masurian lakes

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