Monday, September 14, 2015

September 14th, 1915

- In the gap between the northern wing of the Russian 10th Army at Vilna and the southern wing of the Russian 5th Army at Dvinsk, German cavalry have found the space to make use of their mobility.  Surging southeast from Sventsiany, they reach the railway running east from Vilna near Smorgon and Vileika.  The German advance here seriously threatens the northern wing of the Russian 10th Army, which as of yet is still defending Vilna against frontal attacks by the bulk of the German 10th Army.

- This morning Falkenhayn arrives at Conrad's headquarters for discussions regarding the Eastern Front, where the German chief of staff suggests that the battered Austro-Hungarian armies should fall back to the line of the Zlota Lipa River to rest and recover.  This Conrad rejects out of hand as having a devastating impact on the morale of Austro-Hungarian soldiers (not that they haven't already had plenty of defeats to be demoralized over) and potentially sour diplomatic relations with Romania.  Instead, he intends to make a stand along the Ikwa and Strypa Rivers, and decides that the Austro-Hungarian XVII Corps, instead of being deployed to the Serbian Front, would instead be sent to eastern Galicia.  Conrad further implores Falkenhayn to ensure that the offensive of OberOst against Vilna continue, in the hope that it will divert Russian forces from the southern end of the Eastern Front.  Falkenhayn himself has little faith in Ludendorff's offensive, believing its more grandeois objective of massive envelopment of the Russian armies in the north is utterly impossible, but agrees that the Austro-Hungarian armies ought to try to hold on where they - if nothing else, if they are to be defeated, it is better that it not be preceded by a demoralizing retreat.

- At the front, the Russian XI Corps attacks the line held by an Austro-Hungarian corps commanded by General Peter Hofmann on the southern wing of Südarmee, and breaks through the Austro-Hungarian 55th Division at Burkanow to reach the Strypa River.  The Russian advance threatens the rear of the rest of Hofmann's corps, which is forced to retreat west across the Strypa.  General Felix Bothmer, the German commander of Südarmee, despairs at the quality of his Austro-Hungarian infantry.  Not only have they suffered horrendous losses - 75th Honved Brigade is down to a mere four hundred riflemen - but there are growing signs of disaffection; as Bothmer reports to Conrad today, a large number of Czech officers and soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian 19th Division had simply surrendered rather than fight the Russians.

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