Throughout the last day of April, 1916, artillery duels were fought again at many points. Once more the railway station and bridgehead at Uxkull was made the target for a most violent German artillery attack. Along the Dvinsk sector, too, guns of all caliber were busy.
With the beginning of May, the weather became warmer and the rain and watersoaked roads more accessible. In spite of this, however, conditions along the eastern front throughout the entire month of May were very much the same as during April. Continuously the guns on both sides thundered against each other, with a fairly well-maintained intensity which, however, would increase from time to time in some places. Frequently, almost daily, infantry attacks, usually preceded by artillery preparation, would be launched at various points. These, however, were almost all of local character and executed by comparatively small forces. Even smaller detachments, frequently hardly more than scouting parties, often would reach the opponent's lines, but only rarely succeed in capturing trenches, and then usually were soon forced to retire to their own lines in the face of successive counterattacks. Again in May the story of events on the eastern front is lacking in sensational movements, accompanied by equally unsensational success or failure. But, nevertheless, it is on both sides a story of unceasing activity, of unending labor, of unremitting toil, of endless suffering, of unlimited heroism, and of unsurpassed courage, the more so, because much of all that was accomplished was counted only as part of the regular daily routine, and lacked both the incentive and the reward of widespread publicity, which more frequently attaches to military operations of more extensive character. Not for years to come will it be possible to write a detailed history of this phase of the Great War as far as the eastern front is concerned. Not until the regimental histories of the various Russian, German and Austro-Hungarian military units will have been completed will it become practicable to recount all the uncounted deeds of valor accomplished by heroes whose names and deeds now must remain unknown to the world at large, even though both perchance have been for months and months on the lips of equally brave comrades in arms.
The new month was opened by the Germans with another intensive artillery bombardment of the Uxkull bridgehead. Farther to the south, before Dvinsk, and also at many points in the Lake district to the south of this fortress, the Russian positions likewise were raked by violent gunfire. An attempted offensive movement on the extreme northern end of the line before Raggazem, on the Gulf of Riga, broke down before the Russian gunfire, even before it was fully developed. German naval airships successfully bombarded Russian military depots at Perman, while another squadron of sea planes inflicted considerable damage to the Russian aerodrome at Papenholm. A Russian squadron was less successful in an attack on the German naval establishment at Vindau on the east shore of the Baltic Sea.
May 2, 1916, brought a continuation of artillery activity at many points. It was especially intensive in the Jacobstadt and Dvinsk sectors of the Dvina front, as well as in the Ziriu-Baranovitchy sector in the south and along the Oginski Canal, still farther to the south. At two other points the Germans, after extensive artillery preparation, attempted to launch infantry attacks, but were promptly driven back. This occurred near the village of Antony, ten miles northwest of Postavy, where two successive attacks failed, and farther north in the region east of Vidzy.
The following day again was devoted to artillery duels at many points. Aeroplanes, also, became more active. German planes bombarded many places south of Dvinsk, and attacked the railway establishments at Molodetchna, on the Vilna-Minsk railway, at Minsk, and at Luniniets, in the Pripet Marshes, east of Pinsk on the Pinsk-Gomel railway. May 4, 1916, brought especially intensive artillery fire along the entire Dvina front, in the Krevo sector south of the Vilna-Minsk railway, and along the Oginski Canal, particularly in the region of Valistchie.
The Dvina front along its entire length was once more the subject of a violent artillery attack from German batteries on May 5, 1916. Uxkull, so many times before the aim of the German fire, again received special attention. The Friedrichstadt sector, too, came in for its share. All along this front aeroplanes not only guided the gunfire, but supported it extensively by dropping bombs. Between Jacobstadt and Dvinsk a Russian battery succeeded in reaching a German munition depot and with one well-placed hit caused havoc among men and munitions. Southeast of Lake Med a surprise attack, carried out by comparatively small Russian forces, resulted in the capture of some German trenches. Northwest of Krochin strong German forces, after artillery preparation lasting over three hours, attacked the village of Dubrovka. Some ground was gained, only to be lost again shortly after as a result of a ferocious counterattack made by Russian reenforcements which had been brought up quickly.
May 6, 1916, brought a slightly new variation in fighting. Russian torpedo boats appeared in the Gulf of Riga, off the west coast, and bombarded, without success, the two towns of Rojen and Margrafen. Artillery fire of considerable violence marked the next day, May 7, 1916. Russian batteries before Dvinsk caused a fire at Ill, the little town just northwest of Dvinsk on the Dvinsk-Ponevesh railway, and so well was this bombardment maintained that the Germans were unable to extinguish the conflagration before it had reached some of their munition depots. In the early morning hours very violent gunfire was directed south of Illuxt. But an infantry attack, for which this bombardment was to act as preparation, failed. Other bombardments were directed against Lake Ilsen and the sector north of it, and against the region south of the village of Vishnieff on the Beresina River. Mining operations of considerable extent were carried out that night near the village of Novo Selki, south of the town of Krevo. On May 8, 1916, artillery fire again roared along the Dvina front, especially against the Uxkull bridgehead. An attack in force was made by German troops against the village of Peraplianka north of Smorgon on the Viliya May 9, 1916. After considerable artillery preparation the Germans rushed up against the Russian barbed-wire obstacles. There, however, they were stopped by concentrated artillery and rifle fire and, after heavy losses, had to withdraw. A Russian attack of a similar nature south of Garbunovka was not any more successful. In the Pripet Marshes, too, artillery operations had by now become possible again and the Russian positions west of the village of Pleshichitsa, southeast of Pinsk, were subjected to a violent bombardment.
Throughout the balance of May not a day passed during which guns of all calibers did not maintain a violent bombardment at many points along the entire front. Especially frequent and severe was the gunfire which the Germans directed against the Dvina sector of the Russian positions. But, just as in the past weeks, the result, though not at all negligible as far as the damage inflicted on men, material, and fortifications was concerned, was practically nil in regard to any change in the location of the front.
Infantry attacks during this period were not lacking, though they were less frequent than artillery bombardments, and were at all times only of local character, and in most cases executed with limited forces. A great deal of this kind of fighting occurred in the region of Olyka where engagements took place almost every day. One of the few more important events was a German attack against the Jacobstadt sector of the Dvina front. For two days, May 10 and 11, 1916, the fighting continued, becoming especially violent to the north of the railway station of Selburg on the Mitau-Kreutzburg railway. There very heavy artillery fire succeeding the infantry attacks had destroyed some small villages for the possession of which the most furious kind of hand-to-hand fighting ensued. Finally the Germans captured by storm about 500 yards of the Russian positions as well as some 300 unwounded soldiers and a few machine guns and mine throwers.
Engagements of a similar character, though not always yielding such definite results to either side, occurred on May 11, 1916, southwest of Lake Medum, on May 12, 1916, at many points along the Oginski Canal and also in the Pripet Marshes, where fighting now had again become a physical possibility. On the latter day a Russian attempt to recapture the positions lost previously near Selburg failed.
Thus the fortunes of war swayed from side to side. One day would bring to the Germans the gain of a trench, the capture of a few hundred men or guns, or the destruction of an enemy battery, to be followed the next day by a proportionate loss. So closely was the entire line guarded, so strongly and elaborately had the trenches and other fortifications been built up, that the fighting developed into a multitude of very short but closely contested engagements. In each one of these the numbers engaged were very small, though the grand total of men fighting on a given day at so many separate points on a front of some 500 miles was, of course, still immense.
Amongst the places which saw the most fighting during this period were many which had been mentioned a great many times before. Again and again there appeared in the official records such names as: Lake Sventen, Krevno, Lake Miadziol, Ostroff, Lake Narotch, Smorgon, Dahlen Island, and many others.
The net result of all the fighting during May, 1916, was that both sides lost considerable in men and material. Both Russians and Germans, however, had succeeded in maintaining their respective lines in practically the same position in which they had been at the beginning of May.
THE GREAT RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE
During the first two days of June, 1916, a lull occurred at almost all important points of the eastern front. Only one or two engagements of extremely minor importance between scouting parties were reported. In the light of future events this remarkable condition might well be called ominous, especially if one connects with it a decided increase in Russian aeroplane activity, which resulted in two strong attacks on June 1, 1916, against points on the Vilna-Minsk and Sarny-Kovel railways.
On June 2, 1916, a more or less surprising increase in the strength of the Russian artillery fire was noticed, especially along the Bessarabian and Volhynian fronts and in the Ikva sector. So strong did this fire become that the official Austrian statement covering that day says that at several places the artillery duels "assumed the character of artillery battles."
More and more the extent and violence of the Russian artillery attack increased. The next day, June 3, 1916, Russian artillery displayed the greatest activity all along the southern half of the eastern front, and covered the Dniester, Strypa, and Ikva sectors, as well as the gap between the last two rivers, northwest of Tarnopol, and the entire Volhynian front. Near Olyka in the region of the three Volhynian fortresses of Rovno, Dubno, and Lutsk, the Russian gunfire was especially intense along a front of about seventeen miles. That this unusually strong artillery activity increased the alarm of the Austro-Hungarian commanders may readily be seen from the concluding sentence of that day's official Austrian statement, which read: "Everywhere there are signs of an impending infantry attack."
The storm began to break the next day, June 4, 1916. That it was entirely unexpected, was not likely, for this new Russian offensive coincided with the Austro-Hungarian offensive against the Italian front which by that time had assumed threatening developments. Undoubtedly it was one of the objects of the Russian offensive to force the Austrians to withdraw troops from the Italian front and at least curtail their offensive efforts against the Italian armies, if not to stop them entirely. At the same time the limits within which the Russian offensive was undertaken indicated that the Russian General Staff had another much more important object in view, the breaking of the German-Austrian front at about the point where the German right touched the Austrian left. Along a front of over 300 miles the Russian forces attacked. From the Pinth in the south—at the Rumanian border to the outrunners of the Pripet Marshes—near Kolki and the bend of the Styr—in the north the battle raged. At many points along this line the Russians achieved important successes, with unusual swiftness they were pushing whatever advantage they were able to gain. But not only swiftness did they employ. Immense masses of men were thrown against the strongly fortified Austrian lines and quantities of munitions of the Russian artillery which transcended everything that had ever been done along this line on the eastern front. Not against one or two points chosen for that particular purpose, but against every important point on the entire line the Russian attacks were hurled. The most bitter struggle developed at Okna, northwest of Tarnopol, at Koklow, at Novo Alexinez, along the entire Ikva, at Sanor, around Olyka and from there north to Dolki. No matter how strong the natural defenses, no matter how skillful the artificial obstacles, on and on rolled the thousands and thousands of Russians. So overwhelming was this onrush that the Austro-Hungarians had to give way in many places in spite of the most valiant resistance, and so quick did it come that as a result of the first day's work the Russians could claim to have captured 13,000 prisoners, many guns and machine guns.
By June 5, 1916, this number had increased to 480 officers, 25,000 men, twenty-seven guns and fifty machine guns. The battle on the northeast front continued on the whole front of 218 miles with undiminished stubbornness. North of Okna, the Austrians had, after stiff and fluctuating battles, to withdraw their shattered first positions to the line prepared three miles to the south. Near Jarlowiec, on the lower Strypa, the Russians attacked after artillery preparation. They were repulsed at some places by hand fighting. At the same time a strong Russian attack west of Trembowla (south of Tarnopol) broke down under Austrian fire. West-northwest of Tarnopol there was bitter fighting. Near Sopanow (southeast of Dubno) there were numerous attacks by the enemy. Between Mlynow, on the Ikva, and the regions northwest of Olyka, the Russians were continually becoming stronger, and the most bitter kind of fighting developed.
Especially heavy fighting developed in the region before Lutsk. There the pressure from the Russian army of General Brussilov had become so strong that the Austrians had found it necessary by June 6, 1916, to withdraw their forces to the plain of Lutsk, just to the east of that fortress and of the river Styr. This represented a gain of at least twenty miles made in two days. The official Russian statement of that day claimed that during the same period General Brussilov's armies had captured 900 officers, more than 40,000 rank and file, seventy-seven guns, 134 machine guns and forty-nine trench mortars, and, in addition, searchlights, telephone, field kitchens, a large quantity of arms and war material, and great reserves of ammunition.
On the other hand, the Austrians were still offering a determined resistance at most points south and north of Lutsk, and Russian attacks were repulsed with sanguinary losses at many places, as for instance at Rafalowka, on the lower Styr, near Berestiany, on the Corzin Brook, near Saponow, on the upper Strypa, near Jazlovice, on the Dniester, and on the Bessarabian frontier. Northwest of Tarnopol were repulsed two attacks. At another point seven attacks were repulsed.
The Russians also suffered heavy losses in the plains of Okna (north of the Bessarabian frontier) and at Debronoutz, where there were bitter hand-to-hand engagements.
It was quite clear by this time that the Russian offensive threatened not only the pushing back of the Austrian line, but 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 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 lines, capturing two guns, eight ammunition wagons, and 200 boxes of ammunition.
Near Boritin, four miles southeast of Lutsk, Russian scouts captured two 4-inch guns, with four officers and 160 men. A 4-inch gun and thirty-five ammunition wagons were captured, near Dobriatin on the Ikva below Mlynow, fourteen miles southeast of Lutsk.
Young troops, just arrived at the front, vied with seasoned Russian regiments in deeds of valor. Some regiments formed of Territorial elements by an impetuous attack drove back the Austrians on the Styr, and pressing close on their heels forced the bridgehead near Rozhishche, thirteen miles north of Lutsk, at the same time taking about 2,500 German and Austrian prisoners, as well as machine guns and much other booty. Other regiments forced a crossing over the Strypa and some advanced detachments even reached the next river, the Zlota Potok, about five miles to the west.
The number of prisoners captured by the Russians continually increased. Exclusive of those already reported—namely, 958 officers, and more than 51,000 Austrian and German soldiers, they captured in the course of the fighting on June 8, 1916, 185 officers and 13,714 men, making the totals so far registered in the present operations 1,143 officers and 64,714 men.
The next day, June 9, 1916, the troops under General Brussilov continued the offensive and the pursuit of the retreating Austrians. Fighting with the latter's rear guards, they crossed the river Styr above and below Lutsk.
In Galicia, northwest of Tarnopol, in the regions of Gliadki and Cebrow, heavy fighting developed for the possession of heights, which changed hands several times. During that day's fighting the Russians captured again large numbers of Austrians, consisting of ninety-seven officers and 5,500 men and eleven guns, making a total up to the present of 1,240 officers and about 71,000 men, ninety-four guns, 167 machine guns, fifty-three mortars, and a large quantity of other war material.
At dawn of June 10, 1916, Russian troops entered Buczacz on the west bank of the Strypa and, developing the offensive along the Dniester, carried the village of Scianka, eight miles west of the Strypa. In the village of Potok Zloty, four miles west of the Strypa, they seized a large artillery park and large quantities of shells.
In the north the Germans again attempted to relieve the pressure on their allies by attacking in force at many points. Artillery duels were fought along the Dvina front and on the Oginski Canal.
Without let up, however, the Russian advance continued. So furious and swift was the onslaught of the czar's armies that the Austrians lost thousands upon thousands of prisoners and vast masses of war material of every kind. For instance, in one sector alone the Austrians were forced to retreat so rapidly that the Russians were able to gather in, according to official reports, twenty-one searchlights, two supply trains, twenty-nine field kitchens, forty-seven machine guns, 193 tons of barbed wire, 1,000 concrete girders, 7,000,000 concrete cubes, 160 tons of coal, enormous stores of ammunition, and a great quantity of arms and other war material. In another sector they captured 30,000 rounds of rifle ammunition, 300 boxes of machine-gun ammunition, 200 boxes of hand grenades, 1,000 rifles in good condition, four machine guns, two optical range finders, and even a brand-new Norton well, a portable contrivance for the supply of drinking water.
The prisoners captured during June 10, 1916, comprised one general, 409 officers, and 35,100 soldiers. The material booty included thirty guns, thirteen machine guns, and five trench mortars. The total Russian captures in the course of about a week thus amount to one general, 1,649 officers, more than 106,000 soldiers, 124 guns of all sorts, 180 machine guns, and fifty-eight trench mortars.
This was now the seventh day of the new Russian offensive, and on it another valuable prize fell into the hands of General Brussilov, the town and fortress of Dubno. This brought his forces within twenty-five miles of the Galician border and put the czar's forces again in the possession of the Volhynian fortress triangle, consisting of Lutsk, Dubno, and Rovno.
Dubno, which had been in the hands of the Austrians since September 7, 1916, lies on the Rovno-Brody-Lemberg railway, and is about eighty-two miles from the Galician capital, Lemberg. The town has about 14,000 inhabitants, mostly Jews, engaged in the grain, tobacco, and brickmaking industry. It was in existence as early as the eleventh century.
So powerful was the Russian onrush on Dubno that the attackers swept westward apparently without meeting any resistance, for on the same day on which the fortress fell, some detachments crossed the Ikva. One part of these forces even swept as far westward as the region of the village of Demidovka, on the Mlynow-Berestetchko road, thirteen miles southwest of the Styr at Mlynow, compelling the enemy garrison of the Mlynow to surrender. Demidovka is twenty-five miles due west of Dubno. Thus the Russians have in Volhynia alone pushed the Austro-Hungarian lines back thirty-two miles.
THE RUSSIAN RECONQUEST OF THE BUKOWINA
Simultaneously with the drive in Volhynia, the extreme left wing of the Russian southern army under General Lechitsky forced the Austro-Hungarians to withdraw their whole line in the northeastern Bukowina, invaded the crownland with strong forces and advanced to within fourteen miles of the capital, Czernowitz. On the Strypa the Austrians had to fall back from their principal position north of Buczacz. In spite of the most desperate resistance and in the face of a violent flanking fire, and even curtain fire, and the explosions of whole sets of mines, General Lechitsky's troops captured the Austrian positions south of Dobronowce, fourteen miles northeast of Czernowitz. In that region alone the Russians claimed to have captured 18,000 soldiers, one general, 347 officers, and ten guns. Southeast of Zaleszcyki on the Dniester the Russians again were victorious and forced the withdrawal of the Austrian lines. Fourteen miles north of Czernowitz the Austrian troops tried to stem the tide by blowing up the railroad station of Jurkoutz. At the same time they made their first important counterattack in the Lutsk region. Making a sudden stand, after being driven over the river Styr, north of Lutsk, they turned on the Russians with the aid of German detachments rushed to them by General von Hindenburg, drove the Muscovite troops back over the Styr and took 1,508 prisoners, including eight officers. At other points, too, the Austrian resistance stiffened perceptibly, especially in the region of Torgovitsa, and on the Styr below Lutsk.
Dubno, a modern fortress, built, like Lutsk, mainly in support of Rovno, to ward off possible aggression, now supplied an excellent starting point for a Russian drive into the heart of Galicia. Proceeding on both sides of the Rovno-Dubno-Brody-Lemberg railway the Russians should be able to cover the eighty-two miles which still separates them from the Galician capital within a comparatively short time, provided that Austrian resistance in this region continues as weak as it has been up to date.
A greater danger than the capture of Lemberg was, however, presented by the Russian advance into the Bukowina. If these two Russian drives—to Lemberg and to Czernowitz—would prove successful the whole southeastern Austro-Hungarian army would find itself squeezed between two Russian armies, and its only escape would be into the difficult Carpathian Mountain passes, where the Russians, this time well equipped and greatly superior in numbers, could be expected to be more successful than in their first Carpathian campaign.
Still the Russian advance continued, although on June 11, 1916, there was a slight slowing down on account of extensive storms that prevailed along the southern part of the front.
In Galicia, in the region of the villages of Gliadki and Verobieyka, north of Tarnopol, the Austrians attacked repeatedly and furiously, but were repulsed on the morning of the 11th. Farther south, however, near the town of Bobulintze, on the Strypa, fifteen miles north of Buczacz, the Austro-Hungarians, strongly reenforced by Germans, scored a substantial success. They launched a furious counterattack, bringing the Russian assaults to a standstill and even forcing the Muscovite troops to retreat a short distance. According to the German War Office more than 1,300 Russian prisoners were taken.
Simultaneously with this partial relief in the south Field Marshal von Hindenburg began an attack at several points against the Russian right wing and part of the center. He penetrated the czar's lines at two points near Jacobstadt, halfway between Riga and Dvinsk, and at Kochany between Lake Narotch and Dvinsk. At the three other points, in the Riga zone, south of Lake Drisviaty and on the Lassjolda, his attacks broke down under the Russian fire.
Lemberg, Galicia's capital, was now threatened from three sides. Czernowitz, the capital of the Bukowina, was even in a more precarious position. It had been masked by the extreme left wing of the Russian armies and, unless some unexpected turn came to the assistance of the Austrians, its fall was sure to be only a matter of days, or possibly even of hours. All of southern Volhynia had been overrun by the Russians who were then, on the ninth day of their offensive, forty-two miles west of the point from where it had begun in that province.
Northwest of Rojitche, in northwestern Volhynia, after dislodging the Germans, General Brussilov on June 12, 1916, approached the river Stokhod. West of Lutsk he occupied Torchin and continued to press the enemy back.
On the Dniester sector and farther General Lechitsky's troops, having crossed the river after fighting, captured many fortified points and also the town of Zaleszcyky, twenty-five miles northwest of Czernowitz. The village of Jorodenka, ten miles farther, northwest of Zaleszcyky, also was captured.
On the Pruth sector, between Doyan and Niepokoloutz, the Russian troops approached the left bank of the river, near the bridgehead of Czernowitz.
The only point at which the Austrian line held was near Kolki in northern Volhynia, south of the Styr. There attempts by the Russians to cross that river failed and some 2,000 men were captured by the Austro-Hungarians. In the north Field Marshal von Hindenburg's efforts to divert the Russian activities in the south by a general offensive along the Dvina line had not developed beyond increased artillery bombardments which apparently exerted no influence on the movements of the Russian armies in Volhynia, Galicia and the Bukowina.
The only hopeful sign for the fate of the threatened Austro-Hungarian armies was the fact that the daily number of prisoners taken by the Russians gradually seemed to decrease, indicating that the Austrians found it possible by now, if not to withstand the Russian onslaught, at least to save the largest part of their armies. Even at that the Russian General Staff claimed to have captured by June 12, 1916, a total of 1,700 officers and 114,000 men. Inasmuch as it was estimated that the total Austrian forces on the southwestern front at the beginning of the operations were 670,000, of which, according to Russian claims, the losses cannot be less than 200,000, including an estimated 80,000 killed and wounded, the total losses now constituted 30 per cent of the enemy's effectives.
How the news of the continued Russian successes was received in the empire's capital and what, at that time, was expected as the immediate results of this remarkable drive, secondary only to the Austro-German drive of the summer and fall of 1915, are vividly described in the following letter, written from Petrograd on June 13, 1916, by a special correspondent of the London "Times":
"As the successive bulletins recording our unprecedented victories on the southwestern fronts come to hand, the pride and joy of the Russian people are becoming too great for adequate expression. There is an utter absence of noisy demonstrations. The whole nation realizes that the victory is the result of the combined efforts of all classes, which have given the soldiers abundant munitions, and of an admirable organization.
"The remarkable progress in training the reserves since the beginning of this year was primarily responsible for the enormous increase in the efficiency of our armies and the heightening of their morale. The strategy of our southwestern offensive has been seconded by a remarkable improvement in the railways and communications. Last, but not least, it must be noted that the Russian high command long ago recognized that the essential condition of the overthrow of the Austro-German league, so far as this front is concerned, was the completion of the work of disintegration in the Austrian armies, in which Russia has already achieved such wonderful results. At the rate at which they are at present being exterminated it would require many weeks completely to exhaust the military resources of the Dual Empire and to turn the flank of the German position in Poland.
"The consensus of military opinion is inclined to the belief that the Germans will not venture to transfer large reenforcements to the Galician front, as it would require too much time and give the Allies a distinct advantage in other theaters. But as the Germans were obviously bound to do something to save the Austrian army, they are endeavoring to create a diversion north of the Pripet in various directions. The points selected for these efforts are almost equidistant on the right flank of the Riga front, near Jacobstadt, and south of Lake Drisviaty, where the enemy's maximum activity synchronized with General Lechitsky's greatest successes on the southern front....
"On the southwestern front all eyes are now focused on General Lechitsky's rapid advance on Zaleszcyky and Czernowitz. As the official reports show, the Austrians have already blown up a bridge across the Pruth at Mahala, thus indicating that they entertain scant hope of being able to hold Czernowitz, and they may even now be evacuating the city. General Lechitsky's gallant army, which some months ago stormed the important stronghold of Uscieszko on the Dniester, has performed prodigies of valor in its advance during the last few days. The precipitous banks of the Dniester had been converted into one continuous stronghold which appeared impregnable and last December defied all our efforts to overcome the enemy's resistance. In the first few days of the offensive we took one of the principal positions between Okna and Dobronowce, southeast of Zaleszcyky. Dobronowce and the surrounding mountains, which are thickly covered with forests, were regarded by the enemy as a reliable protection against any advance on Czernowitz. The country beyond offers no such opportunities for defense.
"General Brussilov's operations on the flanks of the Austro-German army under Von Linsingen are proceeding with wonderful rapidity. All the efforts of German reenforcements to drive in a counterwedge at Kolki, Rozhishshe and Targowica, at the wings and apex of our Rovno salient, proved ineffectual. On the other hand, we have scored most important successes west of Dubno, capturing the highly important point of Demidovka, marking an advance of twenty miles to the west. Demidovka places us in command of the important forest region of Dubno, which, as its name indicates, is famous for its oak trees. These forests form a natural stronghold, of which the Ikva and the Styr may be compared to immense moats protecting it on two sides. The possession of this valuable base will enable General Brussilov to checkmate any further effort on the part of the enemy to counter our offensive at Targowica, which is situated fifteen miles to the north.
"The valiant troops of our Eighth Army, who have altogether advanced nearly thirty miles into the enemy's position in the direction of Kovel, will doubtless be in a position powerfully to assist the thrust of the troops beyond Tarnopol and join hands with them in the possible event of an advance on Lemberg."
On June 13, 1914, the progress of the Russian armies continued along the entire 250-mile front from the Pripet River to the Rumanian border. The capture of twenty officers, 6,000 men, six cannon, and ten machine guns brought the total, captured by the Russian troops, up to about 120,000 men, 1,720 officers, 130 cannon and 260 machine guns, besides immense quantities of material and munitions.
South of Kovel the Austrians, reenforced by German troops, offered the most determined resistance near the village of Zaturzi halfway between Lutsk and Vladimir-Volynski. Southwest of Dubno, in the direction of Brody and Lemberg, Kozin was stormed by the Russians, who were now only ten miles from the Galician border. To the north of Buczacz, on the right bank of the Strypa, a strong counterattack launched by the Austrians could not prevent the Russians from occupying the western heights in the region of Gaivivonka and Bobulintze, where only two days before the Austrians had been able to drive back their opponents. But the most furious battle of all raged for the possession of Czernowitz. A serious blow was struck to the Austro-Hungarian defenders when the Russians captured the town of Sniatyn, on the Pruth, about twenty miles northwest of Czernowitz, on the Czernowitz-Kolomea-Lemberg railway. This seriously threatened the brave garrison which held the capital of the Bukowina, as it put the Russians in a position where they could sweep southward and cut off the defenders of Czernowitz, if they should hold out to the last. In fact the entire Austro-Hungarian army in the Bukowina was now facing this peril.
The first massed attack against Von Hindenburg's lines since the offensive in the south began was delivered on June 13, 1916, when, after a systematic artillery preparation by the heaviest guns at the Russians' disposal, troops in dense formation launched a furious assault against the Austro-German positions north of Baranovitchy. The attack was repeated six times, but each broke down under the Teuton fire with serious losses to the attackers, who in their retreat were placed under the fire of their own artillery.
Baranovitchy is an important railway intersection of great strategical value and saw some of the fiercest fighting during the Russian retreat in the fall of 1915. It is the converging point of the Brest-Litovsk-Moscow and Vilna-Rovno railways. Sixty-one miles to the west lies Lida, one of the commanding points of the entire railway systems of western Russia.
Again, on June 14, 1916, the number of prisoners in the hands of the Russians was increased by 100 officers and 14,000 men, bringing the grand total up to over 150,000. All along the entire front the Russians pressed their advance, gaining considerable ground, without, however, achieving any success of great importance.
Closer and closer the lines were drawn about Czernowitz, though on June 16, 1916, the city was still reported as held by the Austrians. On that day furious fighting also took place south of Buczacz, where the Russians in vain attempted to cross the Dniester in order to join hands with their forces which were advancing from the north against Czernowitz with Horodenka, on the south bank of the Dniester as a base. To the west of Lutsk in the direction toward Kovel, now apparently the main objective of General Brussilov, the Austro-Hungarians had received strong German reenforcements under General von Linsingen and successfully denied to the Russians a crossing over the Stokhod and Styr Rivers.
June 17, 1916, was a banner day in the calendar of the Russian troops. It brought them once more into possession of the Bukowinian capital, Czernowitz.
Czernowitz is one of the towns whose people have suffered most severely from the fluctuating tide of war.
Its cosmopolitan population, the greater part of whom are Germans, have seen it change hands no less than five times in twenty-one months. The first sweep of the Russian offensive in September, 1914, carried beyond it, but they had to capture it again two months later, when they proceeded to drive the Austrians out of the whole of the Bukowina. By the following February, however, the Austrians, with German troops to help them, were again at its gates, and they forced the Russians to retire beyond the Pruth. For a week the battle raged about the small town of Sudagora, opposite Czernowitz, the seat of a famous dynasty of miracle-working rabbis, but the forces of the Central Powers were in overwhelming numbers, and with the loss of Kolomea—the railway junction forty-five miles to the west, which the Russians were again rapidly approaching—the whole region became untenable and the Russians retired to the frontier.
Czernowitz is a clean and pleasant town of recent date. A century ago it was an insignificant village of 5,000 people. To-day it has several fine buildings, the most conspicuous of which is the Episcopal Palace, with a magnificent reception hall. In one of the squares stands the monument erected in 1875 to commemorate the Austrian occupation of the Bukowina.
The population consists for the most part of Germans, Ruthenes, Rumanians, and Poles. Among these are 21,000 Jews and there are also a number of Armenians and gypsies. With all these diverse elements, therefore, the town presents a very varied appearance, and on market days the modern streets are crowded with peasants, attired in their national dress, who mingle with people turned out in the latest fashions of Paris and Vienna.
How violently the Russians assaulted Czernowitz is vividly described in a letter from a correspondent of a German newspaper who was at Czernowitz during this attack.
"The attack began on June 11, 1916. Shells fell incessantly, mostly in the lower quarter of the town and the neighborhood of the station. They caused a terrible panic. Incendiary shells started many fires.
"Austrian artillery replied vigorously. The Russians during the night of June 12, 1916, attempted a surprise attack against the northeast corner defenses, launching a tremendous artillery fire against them and then sending storming columns forward. These were stopped, however, by the defenders, who prevented a crossing of the Pruth, inflicting severe losses upon the Russians.
"The Russian artillery attack on the morning of June 16, 1916, was terrific. It resembled a thousand volcanoes belching fire. The whole town shook. Austrian guns replied with equal intensity. The Russians advanced in sixteen waves and were mown down and defeated. Hundreds were drowned. Russian columns were continually pushed back from the Pruth beyond Sudagora."
Serious, though, this loss was to the Central Powers, they had one consolation left. Before the fall of Czernowitz the Austro-Hungarian forces were able to withdraw and only about 1,000 men fell into Russian captivity. In one respect then the Russians had not gained their point. The Austrian army in the Bukowina was still in the field.
Slowly but steadily the force of Von Hindenburg's offensive in the north increased. On the day on which Czernowitz fell attacks were delivered at many points along the 150-mile line between Dvinsk in the north and Krevo in the south. Some local successes were gained by the Germans, but generally speaking this offensive movement failed in its chief purpose, namely, to lessen the strength of the Russian attack against the Austrian lines.
A more substantial gain was made by the combined German and Austro-Hungarian forces, opposing the Russians west of Lutsk, in order to stop their advance against Kovel. There the Germans drove back the center of General Brussilov's front and captured 3,500 men, 11 officers, some cannon, and 10 machine guns.
On the day of Czernowitz's fall the official English newspaper representative with the Russian armies of General Brussilov secured a highly interesting statement from this Russian general who, by his remarkable success, had so suddenly become one of the most famous figures of the great war.
"The sweeping successes attained by my armies are not the product of chance, or of Austrian weakness, but represent the application of all the lessons which we have learned in two years of bitter warfare against the Germans. In every movement, great or small, that we have made this winter, we have been studying the best methods of handling the new problems which modern warfare presents.
"At the beginning of the war, and especially last summer, we lacked the preparations which the Germans have been making for the past fifty years. Personally I was not discouraged, for my faith in Russian troops and Russian character is an enduring one. I was convinced that, given the munitions, we should do exactly as we have done in the past two weeks.
"The main element of our success was due to the absolute coordination of all the armies involved and the carefully planned harmony with which the various branches of the service supported each other.
"On our entire front the attack began at the same hour and it was impossible for the enemy to shift his troops from one quarter to another, as our attacks were being pressed equally at all points.
"The most important fighting has been in the sector between Rovno, and here we have made our greatest advances, which are striking more seriously at the strategy of the whole enemy front in the east.
"If we are able to take Kovel there is reason to believe that the whole eastern front will be obliged to fall back, as Kovel represents a railway center which has been extraordinarily useful for the intercommunications of the Germans and Austrians.
"That this menace is fully realized by the enemy is obvious from the fact that the Germans are supporting this sector with all the available troops that can be rushed up. Some are coming from the west and some from points on the eastern front to the north of us.
"In all of this fighting the Russian infantry has proved itself superb, with a morale which is superior even to that of 1914, when we were sweeping through Galicia for the first time. This is largely due to the fact that the army now represents the feeling of the whole people of Russia, who are united in their desire to carry the war to its final and successful conclusion."
To the question how he had been able to make such huge captures of prisoners the Russian general replied:
"The nature of modern trenches, which makes them with their deep tunnels and maze of communications, so difficult to destroy, renders them a menace to their own defenders once their position is taken in rear or flank, for it is impossible to escape quickly from these elaborate networks of defenses.
"Besides, we have for the first time had sufficient ammunition to enable us to use curtain fire for preventing the enemy from retiring from his positions, save through a scathing zone of shrapnel fire, which renders surrender imperative."
IN CONQUERED EAST GALICIA
Another very interesting account of conditions along the southeastern front can be found in a letter from the Petrograd correspondent of a London daily newspaper, who spent considerable time in Tarnopol, a city which had been in the hands of the Russians ever since the early part of the war:
"We are in Austria here, but no one who was plumped down into Tarnopol, say from an aeroplane, would ever guess it. Not only are the streets full of Russian soldiers: all the names on the shop fronts are in Russian characters. The hotels have changed their styles and titles. The notices posted up in public places are Russian. Everywhere Russian (of a kind) is talked. German, the official language of Austria, is neither heard nor seen.
"It is true that this part of Galicia has been in the possession of Russia since the early days of the war. Even so, it is a surprise to find a population so accommodating.
"The people in this part of Austria are Poles, Ruthenes and Jews. Polish belongs to the same family of languages as Russian, and the Poles are Slavs. So are the Ruthenes, whose speech is almost identical with that of southwestern Russia. They are very like the 'Little' Russians, so called to distinguish them from the people of 'Great' Russia on the north. They live in the same neat, thatched and whitewashed cottages. They have the same gayly colored national costumes still in wear, and the same fairy tales, the same merry lilting songs, so different from the melancholy strains of northern folk music. Almost the same religion.
"The finest churches in Tarnopol belong to the Poles, who are Roman Catholics. The Russian soldiers, many of them, seem to find the Roman mass quite as comforting as their Orthodox rite. They stand and listen to it humbly, crossing themselves in eastern fashion, only caring to know that God is being worshiped in more or less the same fashion as that to which they are accustomed. But in the Ruthenian churches they find exactly the same ritual as their own. With their blood relations they are upon family terms. There was an interesting exhibition in Petrograd last year illustrating the Russian racial traits in the Ruthenian population. Down here one recognizes these at once.
"No clearer proof could be found of the gentle, kindly character of the Russians than the attitude toward them of the Austrian Slavs generally. At a point close to the firing line, early this morning, I saw three Austrian prisoners who had been 'captured' during the night. They had, in point of fact, given themselves up. They were Serbs from Bosnia, and they were quite happy to be in Russian hands. I saw them again later in the day on their way to the rear, sitting by the roadside smoking cigarettes which their escort had given them. Captives and guardians were on the best of terms.
"The only official evidences of occupation which I noticed are notices announcing that restaurants and cafes close at 11, and that there must be no loud talking or playing of instruments in hotels after 10—an edict for which I feel profoundly grateful. Signs of peaceful penetration are to be found everywhere. The samovar (urn for making tea) has become an institution in Galician hotels. The main street is pervaded by small boys selling Russian newspapers or making a good thing out of cleaning the high Russian military 'sapogee' (top boots). They get five cents for a penny paper and ninepence or a shilling for boot-blacking, but considering the mud of Galicia (I have been up to my boot tops—that is, up to my knees—in it), the charge is not too heavy, especially if the unusual dearness of living be taken into account.
"Very gay this main street is of an afternoon, crowded with officers, who come in from the trenches to enjoy life. A very pleasant lot of young fellows they are, and very easily pleased. One I met invited me to midday tea in his bombproof shelter in a forward trench. I accepted gratefully and found him a charmingly gay host. He took a childlike pleasure in showing me all the conveniences he had fitted up, and kept on saying, 'Ah, how comfortable and peaceful it is here,' with the sound of rifle shots and hand grenade and mine explosions in our ears all the time.
"From highest to lowest, almost all the Russian officers I have met are friendly and unassuming. The younger ones are delightful. There is no drink to be had here, and therefore no foolish, tipsy loudness or quarreling among them."
On June 18, 1916, further progress and additional large captures of Austro-Hungarian and German prisoners were reported by the Russian armies fighting in Volhynia, Galicia, and the Bukowina. However, both the amount of ground gained and the number of prisoners taken were very much slighter than had been the case during the earlier part of the Russian offensive. This was due to the fact that the armies of the Central Powers had received strong reenforcements and had apparently succeeded in strengthening their new positions and in stiffening their resistance. Powerful counterattacks were launched at many points.
One of these, according to the Russian official statement, was of special vigor. It was directed against General Brussilov's armies which were attempting to advance toward Lemberg, in the region of the village of Rogovitz to the southwest of Lokatchi, about four miles to the south of the main road from Lutsk to Vladimir-Volynski. There the Austro-Hungarian forces in large numbers attacked in massed formation and succeeded in breaking through the Russian front, capturing three guns after all the men and officers in charge of them had been killed. The Russians, however, brought up strong reenforcements and made it necessary for the Austro-Hungarians to withdraw, capturing at the same time some hundred prisoners, one cannon, and two machine guns.
At another point of this sector in the region of Korytynitzky, southeast of Svinioukhi, a Russian regiment, strongly supported by machine-gun batteries, inflicted heavy losses on the Austro-Hungarian troops and captured four officers, a hundred soldiers, and four machine guns.
South of this region, just to the east of Borohoff, a desperate fight developed for the possession of a dense wood near the village of Bojeff, which, after the most furious resistance, had to be cleared finally by the Austro-Hungarian forces, which, during this engagement, suffered large losses in killed and wounded, and furthermore lost one thousand prisoners and four machine guns.
At still another point on this part of the front, just south of Radziviloff, a Russian attack was resisted most vigorously and heavy losses were inflicted on the attacking regiments. Here, as well as in other places, the Austro-Hungarian-German forces employed all possible means to stem the Russian onrush, and a large part of the losses suffered by General Brussilov's regiments was due to the extensive use of liquid fire.
The troops of General Lechitsky's command, after the occupation of Czernowitz, crossed the river Pruth at many points and came frequently in close touch with the rear guard of the retreating Austro-Hungarian army. During the process of these engagements, about fifty officers and more than fifteen hundred men, as well as ten guns, were captured. Near Koutchournare, four hundred more men and some guns of heavy caliber, as well as large amounts of munitions fell into the hands of the Russian forces. The latter claimed also at this point the capture of immense amounts of provisions and forage, loaded on almost one thousand wagons. At various other points west and north of Czernowitz, large quantities of engineering material had to be left behind at railroad stations by the retreating Austro-Hungarian army and thus easily became the booty of the victorious Russians.
Farther to the north, along the Styr, to the west of Kolki, in the region of the Kovel-Rovno Railway, General von Linsingen's Austro-German army group successfully resisted Russian attacks at some points, launched strong counterattacks at other points, but had to fall back before superior Russian forces at still other points.
In the northern sector of the eastern front, along the Dvina, activity was restricted to extensive artillery duels during this day.
THE GERMAN COUNTEROFFENSIVE BEFORE KOVEL
An extensive offensive movement was developed on June 19, 1916, by General von Linsingen. The object of this movement apparently was not only to secure the safety of Kovel, but also to threaten General Brussilov's army by an enveloping movement which, if it had succeeded, would not only have pushed the Russian center back beyond Lutsk and even possibly Dubno, but would also have exposed the entire Russian forces, fighting in Galicia and the Bukowina, to the danger of being cut off from the troops battling in Volhynia. This movement developed in the triangle formed by the Kovel-Rafalovka railroad in the north, the Kovel-Rozishtchy railroad in the south, and the Styr River between these two places. The severest fighting in this sector occurred along the Styr between Kolki and Sokal.
On the other hand Russians scored a decided success in the southern corner of the Bukowina where a crossing of the Sereth River was successfully negotiated.
Artillery duels again were fought along the Dvina front as well as along the Dvina-Vilia sector. In the latter region a number of engagements took place south of Smorgon, near Kary and Tanoczyn, where German troops captured some hundreds of Russians as well as four machine guns and four mine throwers. A Russian aeroplane was compelled to land west of Kolodont, south of Lake Narotch, while German aeroplanes successfully bombarded the railroad station at Vileika on the Molodetchna-Polotsk railway.
With ever increasing fury the battle raged along the Styr River on the following day, June 20, 1916. Both sides won local successes at various points, but the outstanding feature of that day's fighting was the fact that in spite of the most heroic efforts the Russian troops were unable to advance any farther toward Kovel. Ten miles west of Kolki the Russians succeeded in cross- [see TN] of Gruziatin, two miles north of Godomitchy, the small German garrison of which, consisting of some five hundred officers and men, fell into Russian captivity. Only a short time later, on the same day, heavy German batteries concentrated such a furious fire on the Russian troops occupying the village that they had to withdraw and permit the Germans once more to occupy Gruziatin. How furious the fighting in this one small section must have been that day may readily be seen from the fact that the German official statement claimed a total of over twenty thousand men to have been lost by the Russians.
Hardly less severe was the fighting which developed along the Stokhod River. This is a southern tributary of the Pripet River, joining it about thirty miles west of the mouth of the Styr. It is cut by both the Kovel-Rovno and the Kovel-Rafalovka railways, and forms a strong natural line of defense west of Kovel. In spite of the most desperate efforts on the part of large Russian forces to cross this river, near the village of Vorontchin northeast of Kieslin, the German resistance was so tenacious that the Russians were unable to make any progress. Large numbers of guns of all calibers had been massed here and inflicted heavy losses to the czar's regiments. Another furious engagement in this region occurred during the night near the village of Rayniesto on the Stokhod River.
To the north heavy fighting again developed south of Smorgon, where, with the coming of night, the Germans directed a very intense bombardment against the Russian lines. Again and again this was followed up with infantry attacks, which in some instances resulted in the penetrating of the Russian trenches, while in others it led to sanguinary hand-to-hand fighting. However, the Russian batteries likewise hurled their death-dealing missiles in large numbers and exacted a terrific toll from the ranks of the attacking Germans. Along the balance of the northern half of the front a serious artillery duel again was fought, which was especially intense in the region of the Uxkull bridgehead, in the northern sector of the Jacobstadt positions and along the Oginsky Canal.
German aeroplane squadrons repeated their activity of the 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 bomb-proofs.
"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."
PROGRESS OF THE BUKOWINIAN CONQUEST
On 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.
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 Austro-Hungarian 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 twenty-five miles southwest of Czernowitz.
In spite of these successes, however, it became clear by this time that the Russian attempt to cut off the Austrian army fighting in the Bukowina had miscarried. Each day yielded a smaller number of prisoners than the preceding day. The main part of the Austro-Hungarian forces had safely reached the foot-hills of the Carpathians, while other parts farther to the north had succeeded in joining the army of General von Bothmer.
In Galicia and Volhynia the Teutonic forces continued to resist successfully all Russian attempts to advance, even though there was not the slightest let-up in the violence of the Russian attack.
Along many other points of the front, more or less important engagements took place, especially so along the Oginsky Canal, where the Russians suffered heavy losses. Von Hindenburg's troops in the north also were active again, both in the Lake district south of Dvinsk, and along the Dvina sector from Dvinsk to Riga.
Once more a Russian success was reported in the Bukowina on June 23, 1916. West of Sniatyn the Russian troops advanced to the Rybnitza River, occupying the heights along its banks. Still further west, about twenty miles south of the Pruth River, the town of Kuty, well up in the Carpathian Mountains, was captured. Kuty is about forty miles west of Czernowitz, just across the Galician border and only twenty miles almost due south from the important railroad center Kolomea, itself about one-third the distance from Czernowitz to Lemberg on the main railway between these two cities.
A slight success was also gained on the Rovno-Dubno-Brody-Lemberg railway. A few miles northeast of Brody, just east of the Galician-Russian border, near the village of Radziviloff, Russian troops gained a footing in the Austro-Hungarian trenches and captured a few hundred prisoners. Later that day, however, a concentrated artillery bombardment forced them to give up this advantage and to retire to their own trenches.
In Volhynia the German counterattacks against General Brussilov's army extended now along the front of almost eighty miles, stretching from Kolki on the Styr River to within a few miles of the Galician border near Gorochoff. Along part of this line, General von Linsingen's forces advanced on June 23, 1916, to and beyond the line of Zubilno-Vatyn-Zvinatcze, and repulsed a series of most fierce counterattacks launched by the Russians which caused the latter serious losses in killed, wounded, and prisoners. The country covered by these engagements is extremely difficult, impeded by woods and swamps, and a great deal of the fighting, therefore, was at close quarters, especially so near the town of Tortchyn, about fifteen miles due west of Lutsk. Other equally severe engagements occurred near Zubilno and southeast of Sviniusky, near the village of Pustonyty.
In the north, the Russians took the offensive in the region of Illuxt, on the Dvina, and in the region of Vidzy, north of the Disna River. Although successful in some places, the German resistance was strong enough to prevent any material gain. German aeroplanes attacked and bombarded the railway stations at Kolozany, southwest of Molodetchna, and of Puniniez.
West of Sniatyn, Russian troops, fighting as they advanced, occupied the villages of Kilikhoff and Toulokhoff on June 24, 1916.
Late on the preceding evening, June 23, 1916, the town of Kimpolung was taken after intense fighting. Sixty officers and 2,000 men were made prisoners and seven machine guns were captured. In the railway station whole trains were captured.
With the capture of the towns of Kimpolung, Kuty and Viznic, the whole Bukowina was now in the hands of the Russians. So hurried had been the retirement of the Austro-Hungarian forces that they left behind eighty-eight empty wagons, seventeen wagons of maize, and about 2,500 tons of anthracite, besides structural material, great reserves of fodder and other material.
On the Styr, two miles south of Sminy, in the region of Czartorysk, the Russians, by a sudden attack, took the redoubt of a fort whose garrison, after a stubborn resistance, were all put to the bayonet.
North of the village of Zatouritzky, the German-Austrian forces assumed the offensive, but were pushed back by a counterattack, both sides suffering heavily in the hand-grenade fighting.
North of Poustomyty, southeast of Sviusky (southwest of Lutsk), the Germans attacked Russian lines, but were received by concentrated fire, and penetrated as far as the Russian trenches in only a few points, where the trenches had been virtually destroyed by the preparatory artillery fire.
German artillery violently bombarded numerous sectors of the Riga positions. A strong party of Germans attempted to approach Russian trenches near the western extremity of Lake Babit, but without result.
On the Dvina, between Jacobstadt and Dvinsk, German artillery was also violently active. German aeroplanes dropped twenty bombs on the station at Polochany southwest of Molodetchna.
On June 25, 1916, there was again intense artillery fire in many sectors in the regions of Jacobstadt and Dvinsk.
Along the balance of the front many stubborn engagements were fought between comparatively small detachments. Thus for instance, in the region east of Horodyshchy north of Baranovitchy, after a violent bombardment of the Russian trenches near the Scroboff farm on Sunday night, the German troops took the offensive, but were repulsed. At the same time, on the road to Slutsk, a German attempt to approach the Russian trenches on the Shara River was repulsed by heavy fire.
In the region northwest of Lake Vygonovskoye, at noon the Germans attacked the farm situated five versts southwest of Lipsk. At first they were repulsed; but nevertheless they renewed the attack afterward on a greatly extended front under cover of heavy and light artillery.
Especially heavy fighting again developed along the Kovel sector of the Styr front. From Kolki to Sokal the Germans bombarded the Russian trenches with heavy artillery and made many local attacks, most of which were successfully repulsed.
Repeated attacks in mass formation in the region of Linievka on the Stokhod, resulted also in some successes to the German troops. West of Sokal they stormed Russian positions over a length of some 3,000 meters and repulsed all counterattacks.
On the reaches of the Dniester, south of Buczacz, Don Cossacks, having crossed the river fighting and overthrowing elements of the Austro-Hungarian advance guards, occupied the villages of Siekerghine and Petruve, capturing five officers and 350 men. Russian cavalry, after a fight, occupied positions near Pezoritt, a few miles west of Kimpolung.
Additional large depots of wood and thirty-one abandoned wagons were captured at Molit and Frumos stations on the Gurahumora-Rascka railway.
On the other hand the number of prisoners and the amount of booty taken by General von Linsingen's army alone in Volhynia since June 16, 1916, increased to sixty-one officers, 11,097 men, two cannon and fifty-four guns.
TEMPORARY LULL IN THE RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE
So strong had the combined Austro-Hungarian-German resistance become by this time, that by June 26, 1916, the Russian advance seemed to have been halted all along the line. The resistance had stiffened, especially in front of Kovel, where the Central Powers seemed to have assembled their strongest forces and were not only successful in keeping the Russians from reaching Kovel but even regained some of the ground lost in Volhynia.
Southwest of Sokal they stormed Russian lines and took several hundred prisoners. Russian counterattacks were nowhere successful. This was especially due to the fact that both on the Kolki front and on the middle Strypa the Germans bombarded all Russian positions with heavy guns.
To the north of Kuty and west of Novo Posaive Russian attacks were repulsed likewise with heavy losses.
The fighting in the north, along the Dvina front and south of Dvinsk in the lake district, had settled down to a series of local engagements between small detachments and to artillery duels. German detachments which penetrated Russian positions south of Kekkau brought back twenty-six prisoners, one machine gun and one mine thrower. Another detachment which entered Russian positions brought back north of Miadziol one officer, 188 men, six machine guns and four mine throwers. Numerous bombs were again dropped on the railway freight station at Dvinsk. In the Baltic, however, three Russian hydroplanes in the Irben Strait engaged four German machines, bringing down one. On the Riga front and near Uxkull bridgehead there was an artillery duel. Against the Dvinsk positions, too, the Germans opened a violent artillery fire at different points, and attempted to take the offensive north of Lake Sventen, but without success.
In the region north of Lake Miadziol, south of Dvinsk, the Germans bombarded with heavy and light artillery Russian trenches between lakes Dolja and Voltchino. They then started an offensive which was stopped by heavy artillery fire. A second German offensive also failed, the attacking troops being again driven back to their own trenches.
In the region of the Slutsk road, southeast of Baranovitchy, the Germans after a short artillery preparation attempted to take the offensive, but were repulsed by heavy fire.
The Germans also resumed the offensive in the vicinity of a farm southwest of Lipsk, northeast of Lake Vygonovskoe, and succeeded in reaching the east bank of the Shara, but soon afterward were dislodged from it and fell back.
The Russian official statement of that day, June 26, 1916, announced that General Brussilov had captured between June 4th and 23d, 4,413 officers and doctors, 194,941 men, 219 guns, 644 machine guns and 195 bomb throwers.
Again, during the night of June 26, 1916, southeast of Riga, the Germans, after bombarding the Russian positions and emitting clouds of gas, attacked in great force in the direction of Pulkarn. Reenforcements, having been brought up quickly by the Russians, they succeeded with the assistance of their artillery, in repulsing the Germans, who suffered heavy losses.
On the Dvina and in the Jacobstadt region there was an artillery and rifle duel. German aeroplanes were making frequent raids on the Russian lines. They dropped sixty-eight bombs during a nocturnal raid on the town of Dvinsk on June 27, 1916. The damage both to property and life was considerable.
An attempt on the part of German troops to take the offensive south of Krevo was repulsed by gunfire. On the rest of the front as far as the region of the Pripet Marshes there was an exchange of fire.
On the same day General von Linsingen's forces stormed and captured the village of Linievka, west of Sokal and about three miles east of the Svidniki bridgehead on the Stokhod, and the Russian positions south of it. West of Torchin, near the apex of the Lutsk salient, a strong Russian attack collapsed under German artillery and infantry fire.
In Galicia, southwest of Novo Pochaieff, east of Brody, Austro-Hungarian outposts repulsed five Russian night attacks.
Gradually the Russians were closing in on the important position of Kolomea, near the northern Bukowina border. On the east they were only twelve miles off, on the north they had crossed the Dniester twenty-four miles away, and in a few days they reported having driven the Austrians across a river thirteen miles to the southeast, while at Kuty, twenty miles almost due south, one attack followed another.
On the following day, June 28, 1916, strong offensive movements again developed both in East Galicia and in Volhynia. In the former region the Russians were the aggressors; in the latter, the Germans.
In East Galicia General Lechitsky, commander of Brussilov's center, began a mighty onrush against the Austro-Hungarian lines, between the Dniester and the region around Kuty, in an effort to push his opponents beyond the important railway city of Kolomea, strategically the most valuable point of southern Galicia.
He succeeded in inflicting a crushing defeat upon the Austro-Hungarians, taking three lines of trenches and 10,506 prisoners. This success was achieved in the northern part of the area of attack, between the Dniester and the region around the Pruth. The fall of Kolomea looked inevitable because of this new advance.
Persistent fighting took place on the line of the River Tchertovetz, a tributary of the Pruth, and also in the region of the town of Kuty. Both sides again suffered heavy losses at these points.
East of Kolomea the Russians again attacked in massed formations on a front of twenty-five miles. At numerous points, at a great sacrifice, Russian reserves were thrown against the Austrian lines, and succeeded in advancing in hand-to-hand fighting, but during the evening were forced to evacuate a portion of their front near Kolomea and to the south. On the Dniester line superior Russian forces were repulsed north of Obertyn. All Russian attempts to dislodge the Austrians west of Novo Peczaje failed. At many other points in Galicia and the Bukowina there were artillery duels.
In Volhynia, especially in the region of Linievka, and at other points on the Stokhod, the desperate fighting which had been in progress for quite a few days continued without abatement.
Russian attacks made by some companies between Dubatowska and Smorgon failed in the face of terrific German fire.
Near Guessitschi, southeast of Ljubtscha, a German division stormed an enemy point of support east of the Niemen, taking some prisoners and capturing two machine guns and two mine throwers.
On the Dvina front German artillery bombarded the region of Sakowitche, Seltze and Bogouschinsk Wood, northwest of Krevo. Strong forces then proceeded to attack, but were repulsed by Russian machine guns and infantry fire.
On June 29, 1916, the fighting northwest of Kuty continued. As a result of pressure on the part of the superior forces of the Russians the Austro-Hungarians were forced to withdraw their lines west and southwest of Kolomea. The town of Obertyn was taken after a stubborn fight, as well as villages in the neighborhood, north and south. In the region south of the Dniester, the Russians were pursuing the Austrians, who were forced to leave behind a large number of convoys and military material.
Near the village of Solivine, between the rivers Stokhod and Styr, to the west of Sokal, the Germans attempted to take the offensive. Their attack was repulsed, but an artillery duel continued until late in the day.
In the morning German aviators dropped thirty bombs on Lutsk. Light and heavy German artillery opened a violent fire on the Russian trenches in the Niemen sector, northeast of Novo Grodek. Under cover of this fire German forces crossed the Niemen and occupied the woods east of the village of Guessitschi.
On the Dvina front German artillery bombarded Russian positions southeast of Riga and the bridgehead above Uxkull. North of Illuxt the Germans attempted to move forward, but were thrown back by Russian gunfire.
ADVANCE AGAINST LEMBERG AND KOVEL
Late that day, June 29, 1916, General Lechitsky captured Kolomea, the important railway junction for the possession of which the battle had been raging furiously for days past. This was a severe blow to the Central Powers. It meant a serious danger to the remainder of General Pflanzer's army and likewise threatened the safety of General von Bothmer's forces to the north.
Still the Russian advances continued. On the last day of June their left wing drove back the retreating Austro-Hungarians over a front situated south of the Dniester and occupied many places south of Kolomea.
Northwest of Kolomea, Russian troops, after a violent engagement, drove back their opponents in the direction of the heights near the village of Brezova, and as the result of a brilliant attack, took part of the heights.
The number of prisoners taken by General Lechitsky during the last days of June, 1916, was 305 officers and 14,574 men. Four guns and thirty machine guns were captured. The total number of prisoners taken from June 4 to June 30, 1916, inclusive, was claimed to have reached the immense total of 217,000 officers and men.
During June, in the region south of Griciaty, 158 officers and 2,307 men, as well as cannon and nineteen machine guns, fell into the hands of the Central Powers.