The Brusilov Offensive (Russian: Брусиловский прорыв Brusilovskiĭ proryv, literally: "Brusilov's breakthrough"), also known as the "June Advance", of June to September 1916 was the Russian Empire's greatest feat of arms during World War I, and among the most lethal offensives in world history. Historian Graydon Tunstall called the Brusilov Offensive the worst crisis of World War I for Austria-Hungary and the Triple Entente's greatest victory, but it came at a tremendous loss of life.
The offensive involved a major Russian attack against the armies of the Central Powers on the Eastern Front. Launched on 4 June 1916, it lasted until late September. It took place in an area of present-day western Ukraine, in the general vicinity of the towns of Lviv, Kovel, and Lutsk. The offensive takes its name after the commander in charge of the Southwestern Front of the Imperial Russian Army, General Aleksei Brusilov.
Under the terms of the Chantilly Agreement of December 1915, Russia, France, Britain and Italy committed to simultaneous attacks against the Central Powers in the summer of 1916. Russia felt obliged to lend troops to fight in France and Salonika (against her own wishes), and to attack on the Eastern Front, in the hope of obtaining munitions from Britain and France.
The Russians also initiated the disastrous Lake Naroch Offensive in the Vilno area, during which the Germans suffered only one-fifth as many casualties as the Russians. This offensive took place at French request, in the hope that the Germans would transfer more units to the East after their attack on Verdun.
General Aleksei Brusilov presented his plan to the Stavka, the Russian high command, proposing a massive offensive by his Southwestern Front against the Austro-Hungarian forces in Galicia. Brusilov's plan aimed to take some of the pressure off French and British armies in France and the Italian Army along the Isonzo Front and, if possible, to knock Austria-Hungary out of the war. As the Austrian army was heavily engaged in Italy, the Russian army enjoyed a significant numerical advantage on the Galician front.
Gen. Alexei Evert, commander of the Russian Western Army Group, favored a defensive strategy and was opposed to Brusilov's offensive. Tsar Nicholas II had taken personal command of the army in September 1915. Evert was a strong supporter of Nicholas and the Romanovs, but the Tsar approved Brusilov's plan. The objectives were to be the cities of Kovel and Lviv, which had been recovered by the Central Powers the previous year. Although Stavka had approved Brusilov's plan, his request for supporting offensives by neighboring fronts was denied.
Mounting pressure from the western Allies caused the Russians to hurry their preparations. Brusilov amassed four armies totaling 40 infantry divisions and 15 cavalry divisions. He faced 39 Austrian infantry divisions and 10 cavalry divisions, formed in a row of three defensive lines, although later German reinforcements were brought up. Brusilov, knowing he would not receive significant reinforcements, moved his reserves up to the front line. He used them to dig entrenchments about 300 by 90 metres (328 yd × 98 yd) along the front line. These provided shelter for the troops and hindered observation by the Austrians. The Russians secretly sapped trenches, and in some places tunnelled, to within 91 metres (100 yd) of the Austrian lines and at some points as close as 69 metres (75 yd). Brusilov prepared for a surprise assault along 480 kilometres (300 mi) of front. Stavka urged Brusilov to shorten his attacking front considerably, to allow for a much heavier concentration of Russian troops, but Brusilov insisted on his plan, and Stavka relented.
On 4 June 1916, the Russians opened the offensive with a massive, accurate but brief artillery barrage against the Austro-Hungarian lines, with the key factor of this effective bombardment being its brevity and accuracy. This was in contrast to the usual, protracted barrages at the time that gave the defenders time to bring up reserves and evacuate forward trenches while damaging the battlefield so badly that it was hard for attackers to advance. The initial attack was successful, and the Austro-Hungarian lines were broken, enabling three of Brusilov's four armies to advance on a wide front (see: Battle of Kostiuchnówka).
The success of the breakthrough was helped in large part by Brusilov's innovation to attack weak points along the Austrian lines to effect a breakthrough, which the main Russian army could then exploit. Brusilov's tactical innovations may have influenced German infiltration tactics used later on the Western Front.
On 8 June forces of the Southwestern Front took Lutsk. The Austrian commander, Archduke Josef Ferdinand, barely escaped the city before the Russians entered, a testament to the speed of the Russian advance. By now the Austrians were in full retreat and the Russians had taken over 200,000 prisoners. Brusilov's forces were becoming overextended and he made it clear that further success of the operation depended on Evert launching his part of the offensive. Evert, however, continued to delay, which gave the German high command time to send reinforcements to the Eastern Front.
In a meeting held on the same day Lutsk fell, German Chief of Staff Erich von Falkenhayn persuaded his Austrian counterpart Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf to pull troops away from the Italian Front to counter the Russians in Galicia. Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, Germany's commander in the East (Oberkommando-Ost), was again able to capitalize on good railroads to bring German reinforcements to the front.
Finally, on 18 June a weak and poorly prepared offensive commenced under Evert. On 24 July Alexander von Linsingen counterattacked the Russians south of Kovel and temporarily checked them. On 28 July Brusilov resumed his own offensive, and although his armies were short on supplies he reached the Carpathian Mountains by 20 September. The Russian high command started transferring troops from Evert's front to reinforce Brusilov, a transfer Brusilov strongly opposed because more troops only served to clutter his front.
Brusilov's operation achieved its original goal of forcing Germany to halt its attack on Verdun and transfer considerable forces to the East. It also broke the back of the Austro-Hungarian Army, which suffered the majority of the casualties. Afterward, the Austro-Hungarian army increasingly had to rely on the support of the German army for its military successes. On the other hand, the German army did not suffer much from the operation and retained most of its offensive power afterward.
The early success of the offensive convinced Romania to enter the war on the side of the Entente, though that turned out to be a bad decision since it led to the failure of the 1916 campaign. Russian casualties were considerable, varying between 500,000 and roughly up to a million. Austria-Hungary and Germany lost 600,000 and 350,000, respectively, making a total of a million casualties. The Brusilov Offensive is considered as one of the most lethal offensives in world history.
The Brusilov Offensive was the high point of the Russian effort during World War I, and was a manifestation of good leadership and planning on the part of the Imperial Russian Army coupled with great skill of the lower ranks. According to John Keegan, "the Brusilov Offensive was, on the scale by which success was measured in the foot-by-foot fighting of the First World War, the greatest victory seen on any front since the trench lines had been dug on the Aisne two years before".
The Brusilov offensive commanded by Brusilov himself went very well, but the overall campaign, for which Brusilov's part was only supposed to be a distraction, because of Evert's failures, became tremendously costly for the Imperial army, and after the offensive, it was no longer able to launch another on the same scale. Many historians contend that the casualties that the Russian army suffered in this campaign contributed significantly to its collapse the following year.
The operation was marked by a considerable improvement in the quality of Russian tactics. Brusilov used smaller, specialized units to attack weak points in the Austro-Hungarian trench lines and blow open holes for the rest of the army to advance into. These were a remarkable departure from the human wave attacks that had dominated the strategy of all the major armies until that point during World War I. Evert used conventional tactics that were to prove costly and indecisive, thereby costing Russia its chance for a victory in 1916.
The irony was that other Russian commanders did not realize the potential of the tactics that Brusilov had devised. Similar tactics were proposed separately by French, Germans, and British on the Western Front, and employed at the Battle of Verdun earlier in the year, and would henceforth be used to an even greater degree by the Germans, who utilized stormtroopers and infiltration tactics to great effect in the 1918 Spring Offensive.
Breakthrough tactics were later to play a large role in the early German blitzkrieg offensives of World War II and the later attacks by the Soviet Union and the Western Allies to defeat Germany, and evolved into modern armoured warfare.
https://www.awm.gov.au/exhibitions/1918/battles/hamel/ Australian commander's offensive: Origins of the "Blitzkrieg" warfare.
The 11th Bavarian Infantry Division (11. Bayerische Infanterie-Division) was a unit of the Royal Bavarian Army, part of the Imperial German Army, in World War I. The division was formed on March 24, 1915, and organized over the next few weeks. It was part of a wave of new infantry divisions formed in the spring of 1915. The division was disbanded in 1919 during the demobilization of the German Army after World War I.
The division was formed primarily from the excess infantry regiments of existing divisions that were being triangularized. The division's 21st Bavarian Infantry Brigade was formerly the 4th Bavarian Infantry Brigade of the 2nd Bavarian Infantry Division. The 3rd Bavarian Infantry Regiment also came from the 2nd Bavarian Infantry Division; the 22nd Bavarian Infantry Regiment came from the 3rd Bavarian Infantry Division; and the 13th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment came from the 5th Bavarian Reserve Division.12th Army (Austria-Hungary)
The 12th Army was a field army-level command of the Austro-Hungarian Army that existed only for one month during World War I, led by Archduke Karl Franz Joseph. It had been formed in response to the success of the Russian Empire's Brusilov Offensive, and was dissolved upon the formation of by Army Group Archduke Karl.1916 in Russia
Events from the year 1916 in Russia19th Division (German Empire)
The 19th Division (19. Division) was a unit of the Prussian/German Army. It was formed on October 11, 1866, and was headquartered in Hannover. The division was subordinated in peacetime to the X Army Corps (X. Armeekorps). The division was disbanded in 1919, during the demobilization of the German Army after World War I.20th Division (German Empire)
The 20th Division (20. Division) was a unit of the Prussian/German Army. It was formed on October 11, 1866, and was headquartered in Hannover. The division was subordinated in peacetime to the X Army Corps (X. Armeekorps). The division was disbanded in 1919 during the demobilization of the German Army after World War I.3rd Infantry Division (Russian Empire)
The 3rd Infantry Division (Russian: 3-я пехотная дивизия, 3-ya Pekhotnaya Diviziya) was an infantry formation of the Russian Imperial Army that existed in various formations from 1806 until the end of World War I and the Russian Revolution. From before 1903 to the end of its existence the division was based in Kaluga.7th Army (Russian Empire)
The Russian 7th Army was a World War I Russian field army that fought on the Eastern theatre of war.
Field management was established in July 1914 at the headquarters of the Odessa Military District.
The initial task of the Army was to guard the Black Sea coast and the border with Romania.
In October 1914 it was moved west and became part of the Southwestern Front.
The 7th army participated in the Brusilov Offensive in 1916, and Kerensky Offensive in 1917.
It was disbanded in early 1918.Aleksei Brusilov
Aleksei Alekseyevich Brusilov (Russian: Алексе́й Алексе́евич Бруси́лов; 31 August [O.S. 19 August] 1853 – 17 March 1926) was a Russian general most noted for the development of new offensive tactics used in the 1916 Brusilov Offensive, which was his greatest achievement. The innovative and relatively successful tactics used were later copied by the Germans. Born into the aristocracy to a father who was also a general, Brusilov trained as a cavalry officer, but by 1914 he realized that cavalry was obsolete in the new style of warfare because of its vulnerability to machine gun and artillery. Historians portray him as the only WWI Russian general capable of winning major battles. However, his heavy casualties seriously weakened the Russian army, which was unable to replace its losses. During the offensive, he had a small numerical advantage (600,000 to 500,000), but in 72 hours advanced 50 miles, took 200,000 prisoners, and seized 700 heavy guns.
Despite his prominent role in the Imperial Russian Army, he ultimately joined with the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War and aided in the early organization of the Red Army.Aleksei Evert
Aleksei Ermolaevich Evert (Russian: Алексей Ермолаевич Эверт; German: Alexei Ewert; 4 March 1857 – 12 November 1918 or 10 May 1926) was an Imperial Russian General of Orthodox German extraction.Army Group Mackensen (Poland)
The Army Group Mackensen (German: Heeresgruppe Mackensen, HGr. Mackensen) which operated in Poland between 22 April 1915 and 8 September 1915 during World War I under the command of Field Marshal August von Mackensen, was an army group of the Imperial German Army.
It was renamed on 8 September 1915 to Army Group Linsingen when Alexander von Linsingen became its new commander. In June 1916, the Army Group faced the Brusilov Offensive. After an initial retreat, it checked the Russian advance at the Battle of Kowel. After the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918, the Army Group occupied the Ukraine.
On 31 March 1918, von Linsingen was replaced by Hermann von Eichhorn and the Army Group was renamed Army Group Eichhorn-Kiev (German: Heeresgruppe Eichhorn-Kiew). It was again renamed on 3 April to Army Group Eichhorn and a last time on 13 August to Army Group Kiev after the murder of General Eichhorn. His successor was Günther von Kirchbach. The Army Group was disbanded on 7 February 1919.Attaque à outrance
Attaque à outrance (French: Attack to excess) was the expression of a military philosophy common to many armies in the period before and during the earlier parts of World War I.
This philosophy was a response to the increasing weight of defensive firepower that accrued to armies in the nineteenth century, as a result of several technological innovations, notably breech-loading rifled guns, machine guns, and light field artillery firing high-explosive shells. It held that the victor would be the side with the strongest will, courage, and dash/energy (élan), and that every attack must therefore be pushed to the limit. The lethality of artillery, combined with the lack of mobility of infantry, as well as the subsequent development of trench warfare, rendered this tactic extremely costly and usually ineffective.
The philosophy is particularly associated with the French, due to its adoption by Noël de Castelnau in the First Battle of Champagne (1914), and by Robert Nivelle in the Nivelle Offensive (1917). Joseph Joffre, French chief of general staff from 1911 on, had originally adopted the doctrine for the French military and purged the army of 'defensively-minded' commanders. However, all sides launched large, costly and futile frontal offensives in this style: the British at the Battle of the Somme (1916), the Germans in the First Battle of Ypres (1914), the Russians in the Brusilov Offensive (1916), and so on.
The origins of this doctrine are traced back to the increasingly militarized 'Warrior Culture' that most European nations developed during the 19th century, where the ideal citizen was the soldier in the employ of his homeland. This predisposed officers and soldiers towards narrow ideals focusing on blind courage in the face of war's adversity.Battle of Kostiuchnówka
The Battle of Kostiuchnówka was a World War I battle that took place July 4–6, 1916, near the village of Kostiuchnówka (Kostyukhnivka) and the Styr River in the Volhynia region of modern Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire. It was a major clash between the Russian Army and the Polish Legions (part of the Austro-Hungarian Army) during the opening phase of the Brusilov Offensive.
Polish forces, numbering 5,500–7,300, faced Russian forces numbering over half of the 46th Corps of 26,000. The Polish forces were eventually forced to retreat, but delayed the Russians long enough for the other Austro-Hungarian units in the area to retreat in an organized manner. Polish casualties were approximately 2,000 fatalities and wounded. The battle is considered one of the largest and most vicious of those involving the Polish Legions in World War I.Battle of Lutsk
The Battle of Lutsk took place during World War I, from June 4 to June 6, 1916. This was the opening attack of the Brusilov Offensive under the overall command of Alexei Brusilov. The Russian 8th Army made a decisive breakthrough in the defenses of the Austro-Hungarian Fourth Army.Battle of the Somme
The Battle of the Somme (French: Bataille de la Somme; German: Schlacht an der Somme), also known as the Somme Offensive, was a battle of the First World War fought by the armies of the British Empire and French Third Republic against the German Empire. It took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on both sides of the upper reaches of the River Somme in France. The battle was intended to hasten a victory for the Allies and was the largest battle of the First World War on the Western Front. More than three million men fought in the battle and one million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history. The Battle of the Somme was fought in the traditional style of World War I battles: trench warfare. The trench warfare gave the Germans an advantage because they dug their trenches deeper than the allied forces which gave them a better line of sight for warfare. The Battle of the Somme also has the distinction of being the first battle fought with tanks. However, the tanks were still in the early stages of development, and as a result, many broke down after maxing out at their top speed of 4 miles per hour.
The French and British had committed themselves to an offensive on the Somme during Allied discussions at Chantilly, Oise, in December 1915. The Allies agreed upon a strategy of combined offensives against the Central Powers in 1916, by the French, Russian, British and Italian armies, with the Somme offensive as the Franco-British contribution. Initial plans called for the French army to undertake the main part of the Somme offensive, supported on the northern flank by the Fourth Army of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). When the Imperial German Army began the Battle of Verdun on the Meuse on 21 February 1916, French commanders diverted many of the divisions intended for the Somme and the "supporting" attack by the British became the principal effort.
The first day on the Somme (1 July) saw a serious defeat for the German Second Army, which was forced out of its first position by the French Sixth Army, from Foucaucourt-en-Santerre south of the Somme to Maricourt on the north bank, and by the Fourth Army from Maricourt to the vicinity of the Albert–Bapaume road. The first day on the Somme was, in terms of casualties, also the worst day in the history of the British army, which suffered 57,470 casualties. These occurred mainly on the front between the Albert–Bapaume road and Gommecourt, where the attack was defeated and few British troops reached the German front line. The British troops on the Somme comprised a mixture of the remains of the pre-war regular army; the Territorial Force; and Kitchener's Army, a force of volunteer recruits including many Pals' Battalions, recruited from the same places and occupations.
The battle is notable for the importance of air power and the first use of the tank. At the end of the battle, British and French forces had penetrated 10 km (6 mi) into German-occupied territory, taking more ground than in any of their offensives since the Battle of the Marne in 1914. The Anglo-French armies failed to capture Péronne and halted 5 km (3 mi) from Bapaume, where the German armies maintained their positions over the winter. British attacks in the Ancre valley resumed in January 1917 and forced the Germans into local withdrawals to reserve lines in February, before the scheduled retirement to the Siegfriedstellung (Hindenburg Line) began in March. Debate continues over the necessity, significance and effect of the battle.Brusilov
Brusilov (Russian: Брусилов) or Brusilova (feminine; Брусилова) is a Russian surname originating from the verb brusit meaning mumble. Notable people with the surname include:
Aleksei Brusilov (1853–1926), Russian cavalry general
Brusilov Offensive, Russian offensive during World War I
Georgy Brusilov (1884–c.1914), Russian naval officer and Arctic explorer
Brusilov Expedition in 1912–1914
Brusilov Nunataks in Antarctica
Lev Brusilov (1857–1909), Russian vice admiral and brother of AlekseiEastern Front (World War I)
The Eastern Front or Eastern Theater of World War I (German: Ostfront, Russian: Восточный фронт, Vostochnıy front) was a theatre of operations that encompassed at its greatest extent the entire frontier between the Russian Empire and Romania on one side and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire and the German Empire on the other. It stretched from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south, included most of Eastern Europe and stretched deep into Central Europe as well. The term contrasts with "Western Front", which was being fought in Belgium and France.
During 1910, Russian General Yuri Danilov developed "Plan 19" under which four armies would invade East Prussia. This plan was criticised as Austria-Hungary could be a greater threat than the German Empire. So instead of four armies invading East Prussia, the Russians planned to send two armies to East Prussia, and two Armies to defend against Austro-Hungarian forces invading from Galicia. In the opening months of the war, the Imperial Russian Army attempted an invasion of eastern Prussia in the northwestern theater, only to be beaten back by the Germans after some initial success. At the same time, in the south, they successfully invaded Galicia, defeating the Austro-Hungarian forces there. In Russian Poland, the Germans failed to take Warsaw. But by 1915, the German and Austro-Hungarian armies were on the advance, dealing the Russians heavy casualties in Galicia and in Poland, forcing it to retreat. Grand Duke Nicholas was sacked from his position as the commander-in-chief and replaced by the Tsar himself. Several offensives against the Germans in 1916 failed, including Lake Naroch Offensive and the Baranovichi Offensive. However, General Aleksei Brusilov oversaw a highly successful operation against Austria-Hungary that became known as the Brusilov Offensive, which saw the Russian Army make large gains.The Kingdom of Romania entered the war in August 1916. The Entente promised the region of Transylvania (which was part of Austria-Hungary) in return for Romanian support. The Romanian Army invaded Transylvania and had initial successes, but was forced to stop and was pushed back by the Germans and Austro-Hungarians when Bulgaria attacked them in the south. Meanwhile, a revolution occurred in Russia in February 1917 (one of the several causes being the hardships of the war). Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate and a Russian Provisional Government was founded, with Georgy Lvov as its first leader, who was eventually replaced by Alexander Kerensky.
The newly formed Russian Republic continued to fight the war alongside Romania and the rest of the Entente until it was overthrown by the Bolsheviks in October 1917. Kerensky oversaw the July Offensive, which was largely a failure and caused a collapse in the Russian Army. The new government established by the Bolsheviks signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Central Powers, taking it out of the war and making large territorial concessions. Romania was also forced to surrender and signed a similar treaty, though both of the treaties were nullified with the surrender of the Central Powers in November 1918.Erich von Falkenhayn
General Erich Georg Sebastian Anton von Falkenhayn (11 September 1861 – 8 April 1922) was the Chief of the German General Staff during the First World War from September 1914 until 29 August 1916. He was removed in the late summer of 1916 after the failure at the battle of Verdun, the opening of the Allied offensive on the Somme, the Brusilov Offensive and the entry of Romania into the war. He was later given important field commands in Romania and Syria. His reputation as a war leader was attacked in Germany during and after the war, especially by the faction which supported Paul von Hindenburg. Falkenhayn held that Germany could not win the war by a decisive battle but would have to reach a compromise peace; his enemies said he lacked the resolve necessary to win a decisive victory. Falkenhayn's relations with the Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg were troubled and undercut Falkenhayn's plans.Kostiukhnivka
Kostyukhnivka (Ukrainian: Костюхнівка, Polish: Kostiuchnówka) is a village in Volyn Oblast, Manevytskyi Raion of Ukraine.
In 1916, it was the site of the Battle of Kostiuchnówka between the Russian Army and the Polish Legions in the opening phase of the Brusilov Offensive of World War I.Southwestern Front (Russian Empire)
The Southwestern Front (Russian: Юго-Западный фронт) was an army group of the Imperial Russian Army during World War I. During the conflict it was responsible for managing operations along a front line that stretched 615 kilometers, from what is now southern Belarus to northern Romania, and took part in such operations as the Battle of Galicia and the Brusilov Offensive. It was established in August 1914 and lasted throughout the war until the unrest caused by the Russian Revolution, at which point it was demobilized along with the rest of the Russian Army in early 1918. In total some two million troops had been under its command.