Friday, December 12, 2014

December 12th, 1914

- With the counterattacks of the 10th having failed, and Austro-Hungarian pressure continuing through the 11th, General Ivanov of South-West Front recognizes that the present Russian positions south of the Vistula are not sustainable, and issues for a withdrawal.  VIII Corps, at the threatened point of the line, is pulled back northwestwards across the Lasosina River, abandoning Neusandez to the forces of General Szurmay.  As the Russian forces just south of the Vistula hold their line, the commander of the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army orders his left and centre to hold while Roth's group pursues.  The Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army would also continue to advance northwards against the depleted Russian 8th Army.

The Battle of Limanowa-Lapanow is thus a notable, though not a decisive, Austro-Hungarian victory; they are pushing back the Russians, not breaking through their lines.  It also needs to be recalled that as early as the conference of November 29th Grand Duke Nicholas, General Ruszkii, and General Ivanov had agreed that South-West Front needed to pull back to avoid overstretching itself.  Considering Ivanov's subsequent change of mind, the battle might be said to have convinced him of what his colleagues had been unable to do - namely, retreat.  Instead, the most notable aspect of Limanowa-Lapanow is that it is a victory planned and directed by Austro-Hungarian generals from Conrad down, and achieved almost exclusively by Austro-Hungarian soldiers.  This is the last time in the war such a battle will occur.

- The positive news in the north is more than outweighed by the growing disaster in Serbia.  Today what is left of the Austro-Hungarian 6th army reaches Sabac on the Sava River, and cross over to safety on the north bank.  The Serbian 1st Army has not pursued the defeated enemy with any great vigour, concluding that they should not incur any unnecessary losses fighting 6th Army when it was clear that they were retreating as fast and as far as possible.

Meanwhile south of Belgrade the Serbian 2nd and 3rd Armies were advancing against the lines of the Austro-Hungarian 5th Army.  During the day Serbian units manage to break through at several places, and this evening the commander of 5th Army orders a retreat towards a shorter defensive line closer to Belgrade.

The retreat of the Austro-Hungarian 5th Army at Belgrade, December 12th to 14th, 1914.

The collapse of the Austro-Hungarian position in Serbia has come as a great shock to the government, it coming so quickly on the heels of the euphoria over the capture of Belgrade.  Today Baron Arthur Bolfras, the Emperor's Adjutant-General, writes to Potiorek that 'His Majesty is not pleased' - in the refined language of the Hapsburg court, as harsh a condemnation as possible.  Potiorek's response is to beg for another chance - with reinforcements, he argues, he will be able to launch a fourth invasion of Serbia in four weeks' time, which the Serbs cannot possibly resist this time.  Potiorek's plea for a fourth invasion is greeted with the healthy scepticism it deserves.

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