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The battle at Kowel  

28th of July to 8th of October 1916

As their Austro-Hungarian neighbours were pulling back the Germans were forced to as well, by mid July they had taken up positions on the west bank of the Stochod, the Russians on the east. It was now a question of when the Russian attack on Kowel would take place as the Germans continued to rush reserves forward.

Brussilow was not to keep them waiting long; by the end of the July he was ready to strike again, this time concentrating on the flanks he planned to cross the Stochod and march on Kowel.  

Right: General Linsingen

The Tsar had ordered his other Generals to cooperate with Brussilow and as a result he now had six armies (a total of 700 000 men) and large amounts of artillery under his command. With far more men and artillery than he had had at the outset, Brussilow changed his tactics. Instead of surprise attacks he changed to massed attacks. These tactics would cost many of Brussilows men thier lives.

The German divisions under Litzmann, Falkenhayn and v. Bernhardi were attacked by a force made up of specially picked Russian Infantry and elite Guard Units. The fighting was furious but the German Infantry stood their ground. For all their efforts and heavy losses the Russians only gained minimal ground in the Janowka area by the bend in the Stochod. The Germans managed to fight back attack after attack and bring the Russian offensive to a halt.

It did not take long for the fighting to flare up again, on the 8th of August,  this time in the Swiniuchy area. With no thought to losses the Russians attacked on a front stretching from the Stochod, through Kisielin to the Lipa. Linsingen and his staff waited anxiously to see if the front would hold. It did, in the few areas where the Russians broke through they were met by rapid counter attacks. In this sector the Russians were to loose fantastic amounts of men as well, the gains also being minimal.


On other sectors of the wide offensive Brussilow was meeting with success. In Bukovina he was on the march and the Austrians could do little to stop him. Romania, until now neutral decided at this moment to enter the war. Seeing the potential of easy pickings in the Balkans she entered on the Allied side. At more or less the same time Generalfeldmarschall v. Hindenburg and General Ludendorff left the Eastern Front and the overall command was taken by Prince Leopold von Bayern.

To help assure an easier entry into the war for Romania, Brussliow attacked again, this time he hoped, for the final time. He was sure that the front could no longer hold. The Germans had few men to spare, the battle of the Somme was raging, and a new enemy had appeared in the Balkans. As mid August came it appeared the time was ripe for a breakthrough. 

On the 31st of August it started. The new offensive came as a right hook on the northern wing of the Brussilow offensive as 23 Russian divisions pushed forward towards Kowel. At Szelwow where the Russians had managed to break through the men of the 10. Landwehr Division counter attacked and closed the gap pierced in the line. The Germans continued their forward movement and captured Swiniuchy for a second time. In the second half of September Brussilow launched more attempts in the “Lucker Bogen” area but these to were to fail. The Brussilow offensive ended on the 8th October 1916, the Russians having gained little ground on the German front. To the South Brussilows troops had reached the Carpathian Mountains but this hurdle proved to be too large for them.

The Germans considered the fighting around Kowel to be a tactical victory, but there was no way of denying the larger picture, the Russians had gained much ground in the South, but at a cost of 1,000,000 dead, wounded and missing it was an expensive victory. The losses had an obvious negative effect on Russian moral and would contribute to the troop’s susceptibility to talk of revolution in the coming months. For the Austro-Hungarian army it was a bitter defeat. The Germans would now have to shoulder the eastern front burden from that point on, with Austrian units supporting them. They would fight and regain the ground lost, breaking the Russian army just one year later.

To return to the first page on the offensive please click HERE

To go to the maps of the offensive please click HERE

 
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