Lake Naroch Offensive

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Lake Naroch Offensive
Part of the Eastern Front during World War I
Date 18–30 March 1916
Location Lake Narach, present-day Belarus
Result German victory
Belligerents
Russian Empire Russian Empire German Empire German Empire
Commanders and leaders
Alexei Kuropatkin
Alexei Evert
Hermann von Eichhorn
Strength
Second Army
372,932 men
887 guns1
Tenth Army
81,975 men
720 guns2
Casualties and losses

German estimate: 110,0003

Russian estimate: 76,409, of which 12,000 suffered or died from hypothermia3

German estimate: 20,00033

Russian estimate: 40,0003

The Lake Naroch Offensive in 1916 was an unsuccessful Russian offensive on the Eastern Front in the World War I. It was launched at the request of Marshal Joseph Joffre and intended to relieve the German pressure on French forces.4 Due to lack of reconnaissance, Russian artillery support failed to overcome and neutralise the well-fortified German defenses and artillery positions, leading to costly and unproductive direct attacks, hindered by the weather.5 On March 30, General Evert ordered to stop the offensive.6

Background

Under the terms of the Chantilly Agreement of December 1915 Russia, France, Great Britain and Italy were committed to simultaneous attacks against the Central Powers in the summer of 1916. Russia felt the need 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.7

The Lake Naroch Offensive was launched at the request of France, in the hope that the Germans would transfer more units to the East after their attack on Verdun.8 Nicholas II acceded to the French request, choosing the Lake Narach area in what is now the Republic of Belarus because there the Imperial Russian Army had a significant numerical superiority over the German forces under the command of General Eichhorn.

Comparison of strength

The Russian Second Army was made up of 16 infantry and 4 cavalry divisions, 253 battalions, 133 squadrons and had 887 artillery pieces, whereas the German forces numbered 9 infantry and 3 cavalry divisions, 89 battalions, 72 squadrons and 720 guns of various calibres.9

Battle

The Russian initial artillery bombardment was quite long (it lasted two days), but inaccurate, leaving most of the German artillery intact, and the Russian troops, who made the mistake of crossing no man's land in groups rather than scattered about, were easy targets for German machine guns. The attackers gained 10 kilometers, but did not inflict any serious damage to the German defenses — which were well-organized and fortified — although the Russians greatly outnumbered their adversaries.

The territory gained by the Russians was lost to subsequent German counterattacks. A secondary attack mounted near Riga on March 21 had no better luck.

Results

The whole operation turned out to be an utter failure, as it abated the Russians' morale without providing any help to the French, and has become a shining example of the use of a widely-known WWI method of war, the human wave attack. Huge masses of people were continuously sent into the battle over and over again in the same place of the enemy front. Eventually, the attack on the German positions was brought to a halt because, as General Evert noted in his order issued on March 30, it had not led to "decisive results" and "the onset of warm weather and abundant rains" had turned much of the area into swamps.10

Literature

  • Holstein, Günther. Nacht am Narocz [Night at Lake Narach] text set to music by Siegfried Wagner for tenor and piano in 1919.
  • Keegan, J. (2001). Der erste Weltkrieg. Eine europäische Tragödie [The First World War. A European Tragedy]. (in German) Rowohlt-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Reinbek bei Hamburg, ISBN 3-499-61194-5
  • Podorozhniy N. E. (1938). Narochskaya operatsiya v marte 1916 g. na russkom fronte mirovoy voyni [The Naroch Offensive in March 1916 on the Russian Front of the World War] (in Russian) Moscow: Voenizdat. 1938
  • Stone, N. (1998). The Eastern Front 1914–1917. Penguin Books Ltd., London, ISBN 0-14-026725-5
  • Zabecki, D. T., editor (2014). Germany at War: 400 Years of Military History. ABC-CLIO, ISBN 978-1-59884-980-6
  • Zentner, C. (2000). Der erste Weltkrieg. Daten, Fakten, Kommentare. Moewig, Rastatt 2000, ISBN 3-8118-1652-7

References

  1. ^ Podorozhniy, 1938, p. 47
  2. ^ Podorozhniy, 1938, p. 47
  3. ^ a b c d e Podorozhniy, 1938, p. 152
  4. ^ Zabecki, 2014, p. 735
  5. ^ Zabecki, 2014, p. 735
  6. ^ Podorozhniy, 1938, p. 149
  7. ^ Stone, 1998, p. 221, 252
  8. ^ Keegan 2001, p. 325
  9. ^ Podorozhniy, 1938, p. 47
  10. ^ Podorozhniy, 1938, p. 149

External links