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Question about Easterm Front Sieges 1915


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#1 MLW

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 04:54 PM

I am researching the battles for the Russian fortresses in 1915. I am having problems determining the order of battle for the German siege batteries (28, 30.5, and 42cm guns). Especially troubling is the lack of information about the failed German attack at Osoweic in February and March 1915 and the recapture of Przemysl in May 1915.

What I know about Osoweic is that there were two batteries of KuK 30.5cm Skoda mortars, one German 28cm battery (SKM Battery 8), one German 30.5cm Beta mortar battery, and one battery of 42cm Gamma howitzers (KMK 1). My sources of information are "Das Erhenbuch der deustchen schweren Artillerie" and the "Weltkrieg Series." Unfortunately, the Weltkrieg series does not contain order of battle information for the heavy siege batteries. The Ehrenbuch states that Schaefer's 28cm Battery, Bauer's 30.5cm battery, and Solf's 42cm battery were present. The problem is that Hauptmann Bauer commanded a 42cm M-Gerat "Big Bertha" battery (KMK 6) and not a 30.5cm battery.

For Przemysl, I know that there were three KuK 30.5cm batteries, one German 28cm battery (SKM Battery 8), and one 42cm M-Gerat "Big Bertha" battery. Unfortunately, I do not know which 42cm battery was there - perhaps KMK 6 which was woth SKM 8 at Osoweic? I am uncertain.

Can anyone help me figure this out?

Thank you in advance.

Regards, Marc

#2 bob lembke

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 06:13 AM

Marc;

I was wondering if there also might have also been an Austrian siege battery commander Baur or Bauer. I have collected about 25-30 pages of material on the Austrian siege gun batteries, so I picked through the material to see if I could find such a battery comnmander. (It is a very common Germanic name.)

The only hit I had was that of the same battery commander. From the Schlachten series, the volume Die Eroberung von Nowo Greorgiewst, in Anlage 1 (an unbound companion sheet): "the German s.=K.=M. Batterie Nr. 6 of one gun, commander Baur;". The longer passage listed both Austrian and German siege batteries at that siege, so the passage was placed in my Austrian time-line. I have not yet checked the original volume, to see if the original also stated Baur or said Bauer; I am familiar with that officer under the spelling Bauer, I have previously tracked his career through about 15-20 Ranglisten and other references.

There still could have been an Austrian battery commander named Baur or Bauer. I only have one Austro-Hungarian Rangliste, of December 1902; I have found several Austrian battery commanders in it, but they had quite unique last names. I could get the Rangliste down and plow through it, despite the common name, to see if I find a young Fuss=Artillerie=Offizier with that name.

Bob Lembke

#3 MLW

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 01:39 PM

Hi Bob,

Thank you for your reply. But I think the 30.5cm battery at Oso0wiec was German because the Ehrenbuch writes: "Im Laufe des 27. Febr. traten de 28cm Kust.-Mrs.-Battr. Schafer, de 30.5cm Kust.-Mrs-Battr Bauer und die 42cm Kz. Mar.-Kan.-Battr. Solf ins Feuer gegen das Centralwerk." (Please excuse mu dropping the umlauts). So, the designation "Kust.-Mrs.-Battr" (SKM for short in English) indicates a German battery. The book is correct about Schafer's 28cm battery and Solf's 42cm battery, however, to my knowledge Hauptmannn Bauer commanded a 42cm M-Gerat Battery, not a 30.5cm Mortar battery.

So the mystery remains (I guess) as to which German 30.5cm battery was at Osowiec.

Regards, Marc

#4 bob lembke

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 08:59 PM

Hi, Marc;

There is a GWF Pal who goes by the handle "Glenn J", who not only is a superb researcher for the Imperial German Army (amazingly, he once found some material for me on my grand-father, from the time in the 1880's when he still was a Prussian Fuss=Artillerie NCO; researching German EM/OR from even 1914-1918 usually is impossible, as you must know). He also has a superb collection of research materials, of sorts that almost no one has (or understandsor knows of). However, I also believe that he has a deep interest in the Austro-Hungarian Army, which is fairly unusual. So I suggest that you might PM him, and ask if he knows of Austrian sources on their big guns. (I could then launch my wife, the "Super-Librarian", to see if she can find it in the US.) He has been active on the Forum only a few days ago, on the "Other" sub-forum, on a thread called "Feldwebel". (On that thread, remarkably, a Pal, Tom W, announced that he has found and bought a photo of my father at Verdun, riding off in a company truck to a flame attack, and he posted links to the photo and related photos.)

Bob

#5 James A Pratt III

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 11:59 PM

Bob
i always thought the russians abandoned Przemysl without a fight during their great 1915 retreat. in part because the Austrians wrecked the defenses and the place was not stocked for a siege.

#6 MLW

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Posted 04 February 2012 - 02:27 PM

James,

The May / June 1915 attack on Przemysl involved one A-H and three German corps and involved a two-day artillery bombardment and a hard fight (including a Russian counter attack) for several forts in the outer ring.

Regards,
Marc

#7 bob lembke

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 02:02 AM

Bob
i always thought the russians abandoned Przemysl without a fight during their great 1915 retreat. in part because the Austrians wrecked the defenses and the place was not stocked for a siege.


James;

I just read the Der Weltkrieg, Band 8 section on this fight. There was a few days fighting, but I noticed that when it fell the Germans only took something like 8000 POWs (that is from memory, do not bet the farm on it), and not too much material. It did not mention it explicitly, but this indicates that the Germans and Austrians did not have the troops and perhaps the intention to fully invest the fortress, so that after the initial fighting the Russians were able to slip away with the bulk of their men and mobile equipment. Not that much usable booty was captured, aside from scrap metal, and this indicates that the Russians knew that they would have to lose it, so they had sent away men and material before the attack. At some fortresses the booty captured was immense; at one 1300 cannon (mostly old stuff, but many modern guns as well) and 900,000 shells. More often than not the Russians did not manage to destroy a lot of their materiel.

Bob

#8 James A Pratt III

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 02:35 AM

The Fortress was Novogeorgievsk and the Russians took a similair loss of guns and shells at Kovno. the accounts of the Russians having a shell shortage ect in 1915 are mostly mith see the book "The Eastern Front 1914-1917" Norman Stone. This book also has some info on the sieges along with "The World Crisis" Volume 6 Winston Churchill. If you did already know this.

#9 James A Pratt III

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 10:16 PM

i recently finished up with the book Breakthrough The Gorlice Tarnow campaign 1915" which does have a few pages dealing with the German recapture of Przemyzsl. They did capture only 8000 POWs and little in the way of material. The main gripes about the book are too short it could have been longer, poor maps, and more information on the Russian side. An OOB for the Russian 3rd army down to division/brigade level. Also note the author leaves out the Russians only had 4 heavy guns 2-4.2 inch (107mm)and 2-6 inch (152mm) to match the Germans and Austrians much larger numbers.
It should also be pointed out that Stavka and the Southwest Front couldn't make up their minds whether to defend or abandon the city. Also while the defenses were in good shape they were no match for the Central powers siege artillery. Add to this the Russian defending force was cobbled together from parts of 6 different divisions. So it should have been no surprise to anyone that the Russians had no choice but to abandon the place.

#10 Jan Szkudlinski

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 06:51 PM

Not that much usable booty was captured, aside from scrap metal, and this indicates that the Russians knew that they would have to lose it, so they had sent away men and material before the attack. At some fortresses the booty captured was immense; at one 1300 cannon (mostly old stuff, but many modern guns as well) and 900,000 shells. More often than not the Russians did not manage to destroy a lot of their materiel.


Przemysl cannot be compared with Nowogieorgijewsk nor Kowno; it was not a fortress, but remains of one. Contrary to DiNardo's suggestions, the Austrians had done a good job in destroying the forts, weaponry and equipment before their surrender in March 1915.

Regards,

Jan Szkudlinski

#11 bob lembke

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 08:36 AM

Przemysl cannot be compared with Nowogieorgijewsk nor Kowno; it was not a fortress, but remains of one. Contrary to DiNardo's suggestions, the Austrians had done a good job in destroying the forts, weaponry and equipment before their surrender in March 1915.

Regards,

Jan Szkudlinski


Jan;

Thanks for your input. So, the Russians had only captured the wreck of a fortress, and was not able to repair it?

Bob

#12 James A Pratt III

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 10:43 PM

Checking "Breakthrough" again The Austrians did destroy some guns and blow up their ammo before they surrendered. However it later states the Russians found the defenses lightly damaged and put the civilian population to work repairing them. They also managed to get some of the fortresses guns to work which did do some damage to the Germans. Unfortunetly for the Russians the forts around the Przemysl were not proof against the Germans and Austrians heavy siege guns. Besides the 8000 POWs and a number of Russian guns the Germans did recapture a number of Austrian guns captured when the fortress surrendered in March.

#13 ph0ebus

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 10:57 PM

Just came across this thread, and found it quite interesting!

My grandfather was with Reserve-Feldartillerie-Regiment Nr. 57, and between February 28 and March 3, 1915 he and his unit were engaged in some positional warfare near Lomsha-Osowiec. Is that helpful?

-Daniel

#14 bob lembke

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 06:56 AM

My grandfather was with Reserve-Feldartillerie-Regiment Nr. 57, and between February 28 and March 3, 1915 he and his unit were engaged in some positional warfare near Lomsha-Osowiec. Is that helpful?

-Daniel


Daniel;

It is 3 AM and I am about to "hit the rack", so I don't want to check maps etc. now, but from memory there was another siege at Osowiec, which I think was well to the north. I can check this for you, I think I accumulated info on that siege. Could accumulate info on your g-f's activity. I'll look at my material tomorrow.

Bob

#15 Jan Szkudlinski

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 07:31 PM

Checking "Breakthrough" again The Austrians did destroy some guns and blow up their ammo before they surrendered. However it later states the Russians found the defenses lightly damaged and put the civilian population to work repairing them. They also managed to get some of the fortresses guns to work which did do some damage to the Germans. Unfortunetly for the Russians the forts around the Przemysl were not proof against the Germans and Austrians heavy siege guns. Besides the 8000 POWs and a number of Russian guns the Germans did recapture a number of Austrian guns captured when the fortress surrendered in March.


And, as I have written above, DiNardo is wrong in this respect. His bibliography lacks the best German-language book on Przemysl, namely "Przemyśl : Österreich - Ungarns bedeutendste Festung" by Franz Forstner. Naturally DiNardo has not consulted any of the books written by Tomasz Idzikowski, a native of Przemysl and an expert on Przemysl fortifications; Idzikowski's books have never been translated into English, as far as I know.

The Russians might have had repaired some earthworks, even dig new trenches, but the key parts of the forts (panzer batteries, guns, caponiers) had been blown up, and repairing them was out of the question. The scale of the destruction is indeed impressive, even after nearly a hundred years (I have seen three of the forts). By no means can it be described as "light damage".

But even a fort with all the defensive installations blown up remains useful as a shelter for infantry. And that's basically how the Russians utilized them. The forts indeed were vulnerable to heaviest guns, especially since their exact location was no secret to the attackers. In the main corridor of Fort XII "Werner" there is a huge (patched-up after the war) hole in the vault and a matching one in the floor - traces of a 420mm hit. A memorable sight indeed.

As far as I have read, Kusmanek's (commandant of the fortress) performance is unifromly praised; I have never seen any reference to negiligence during the surrender of Przemysl; otherwise - the destruction of fortress' combat value has always been considered as well planned and executed. I'd rather discount the information about the undamaged guns captured by the Russians in the fortress as yet another example of German effort to downplay the value of Austro-Hungarian army.

but from memory there was another siege at Osowiec


indeed, there were two sieges of Osowiec. Both failed. There best reference book is a monograph of Osowiec, based on extensive research in Russian (and other) archives:
Boguslaw Perzyk, Twierdza Osowiec 1882-1915, Warsaw 2004.

Perzyk writes on pp. 190-192, that during the second siege the following German batteries were employed:
Kusten-Morser Batterie Nr 8 (1x28 cm)
Kusten-Morser Batterie Nr 6 (1x30,5 cm) (commanded by Hptm. Baur)
Kusten-Morser Batterie Nr 1 (2x42 cm)

his reference book is: H. Schirmer, "Das Geraet der schweren Artillerie (in) A. Muther, Das Geraet der Artillerie vor, in und nach dem Weltkrieg, Teil 5, Berlin 1937.

Apart from the above, also 7th and 8th Austro-Hungarian Heavy Mortar Batteries were used (both had two 30,5 cm mortars).

#16 bob lembke

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 08:05 AM

Jan;

Thank you for that detailed information. I have never attempted to use Russian sources on the fighting on the Eastern Front, I have only fragmentary conversational Russian, and Russian Cyrillic is another barrier. I only have a poor grasp of Serbian Cyrillic, which I have barely used for 30 years, and which I think is a bit different than Russian Cyrillic.

The existance of Polish sources in encouraging; I could probably poke through Polish if I arm myself with a decent dictionary, certainly much more easily than in Russian, which I have barely attempted to read. Is there much Polish interest in WW I? (You seem to demonstrate it.)

Do you have interest in these batteries? I have collected info on them. My grand-father was with them in Russian Poland in 1915, until he was disabled by malaria contracted in the swamps. (The same year my father contracted malaria in Turkey.)

Bob

#17 bob lembke

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 08:31 AM

Marc;

The answer to the question you pose might be that there was two battery commanders, a Bauer, and also a Baur. But of course the two forms of the name might have left to typos and other mistakes. I can attempt to figure that out. I have built a spread sheet of many of the Foot Artillery officers who had some involvement with the siege guns; if I examine it and a few Ranglisten I might puzzle it out. I think that I remember that there seemed to be some uncertainty about battery commanders with that name.

Bob

PS: Yes, I just looked at my spread-sheet, and it includes listings for one Baur, plus three Bauers, the latter entries possibly representing only two men. It might take a few hours to definitively sort that out. Glancing over the data, my info spans from the 1926 Ehrenrangliste back to the 1895 preuss. Rangliste, and one of the Bauers might have been a Saxon officer, another possible source of confusion.

#18 Jan Szkudlinski

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 08:29 PM

The existance of Polish sources in encouraging; I could probably poke through Polish if I arm myself with a decent dictionary, certainly much more easily than in Russian, which I have barely attempted to read. Is there much Polish interest in WW I? (You seem to demonstrate it.)


Bob,

Polish is a complicated language, with lots of peculiarities in declension and inflection, so the task might be daunting. I can give you a hand from time to time.

In Poland, like basically everywhere else, the Second World War has mostly eclipsed the memory of WWI. However, most of 1914-1915 fortresses lie currently within borders of Poland, and that sparks a lot of local interest. There are also hundreds of small cemeteries, which mark the ferocity of 1914-1915 fighting, but othewise the battlefields are not known.

I am rather interested in the operational level of the war in the East, not in particular units.

Regards,

Jan

#19 bob lembke

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 10:27 PM

Bob,

Polish is a complicated language, with lots of peculiarities in declension and inflection, so the task might be daunting. I can give you a hand from time to time.

I am rather interested in the operational level of the war in the East, not in particular units.

Regards,

Jan


I work in a few languages in my WW I studies, and I do not have an elegant grasp of any of them, I am afraid. My last language class was in May 1955. Your offer is very kind.

By "operational level", do you mean the broad sweep of events at the level of, say, armies, or at a very micro-level, individual tactics?

Regards,

Jan

#20 Jan Szkudlinski

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 06:06 PM

By "operational level", do you mean the broad sweep of events at the level of, say, armies, or at a very micro-level, individual tactics?


Operational level of warfare is the level between tactics and strategy; of course there boundaries between these levels are fluid, so I shall use the following example: the initial German decision to employ six active and three reserve divisons on the Eastern Front in 1914 is a strategic decision. Concentration of these nine divisions against the 2nd Russian Army in late August 1914 is an operational decision, as well as the decisions leading to encirclement of said Army. But the engagements at Waplitz or Usdau during the encirclement belong to the tactical level of warfare.

Regards,

Jan

#21 bob lembke

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 06:40 AM

Jan;

Thank you.

Bob

#22 Paul Hederer

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 06:59 PM

Hello,

Coming into this about 10 months late, I know--but I just saw this today. A Hauptmann Baur did command Schwere Kuestenmoerser-Batterie Nr. 6, which deployed one 30.5 cm How L/17. On page 44 of "Das Geraet der Artillerie vor, in und nach dem Weltkrieg" by Schirmer there is even a picture of his battery (identifed with his name as well) at Osoweic.

Paul

edit: had to drop the umlauts



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