Battle of the Vistula (1914)

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Battle of the Vistula
Part of: First World War
date September 29 to October 31, 1914
place Area around Warsaw , Poland
output russian victory
Parties to the conflict

German EmpireThe German Imperium German Empire Austria-Hungary

Russian Empire 1914Russian Empire Russia


German EmpireThe German Imperium Paul von Hindenburg Viktor Dankl August Mackensen Remus von Woyrsch Max von Gallwitz
German EmpireThe German Imperium
German EmpireThe German Imperium
German EmpireThe German Imperium

Russian Empire 1914Russian Empire Nikolai Russki Pawel Plehwe Alexei Ewert Platon Letschizki Sergei Scheideman
Russian Empire 1914Russian Empire
Russian Empire 1914Russian Empire
Russian Empire 1914Russian Empire
Russian Empire 1914Russian Empire

Troop strength
German EmpireThe German Imperium 9th Army 1st Army
Russian Empire 1914Russian Empire 4th Army 5th Army 9th Army 2nd Army
Russian Empire 1914Russian Empire
Russian Empire 1914Russian Empire
Russian Empire 1914Russian Empire

42,000 dead and wounded

The Battle of the Vistula , also known as the Battle of Warsaw , took place on the Eastern Front during World War I in the autumn of 1914 . After the Russian Army defeated the Austro-Hungarian Army in the Battle of Lviv and captured most of Galicia , the German Commander- in -Chief on the Eastern Front, Paul von Hindenburg , ordered an offensive against the Russian lines in the area around Warsaw to relieve the Austrians . It ended with a Russian defensive success against the Central Powers and brought no changes.

Overall situation on the Eastern Front in September 1914

On September 11th, the German 8th Army pursuing Goldap in an easterly direction, under the new Commander-in-Chief von Below, was stopped on the Angerapp during the battle of the Masurian Lakes ; they had to deliver strong forces to Silesia and go into defense. After the failure of the Russian invasion of East Prussia , the Commander-in-Chief of the Northwest Front General Jakow Schilinski was replaced on September 16 by General of the Infantry Nikolai Russki . The Russian 1st Army under General von Rennenkampff was quickly refreshed and was again on the move against the German border between Suwałki and Augustów . Russki prepared the double encirclement of German forces at Schirwindt .

In order to protect Lithuania , the formation of the Russian 10th Army under General Vasily Pflug was almost complete; it covered the fortress front between Kovno and Grodno against German advances from East Prussia. On the Narew sector, the Russian army group Narew under General Nikolai Bobyr secured against land storm troops of the German Zastrow corps . The Russian XXVII was in Warsaw. Corps as a crew. In the middle of September, the reorganization of the Russian 2nd Army , which had been smashed near Tannenberg , began in the Pultusk area .

In the crown land of Galicia , the capital Lemberg was lost after the Russian breakthrough at Rawa Ruska . In mid-September 1914, the defeated Austrian army had to give up the Sanlinie before the strong pressure of the Russian south-western front and retreat to the Wisłoka . On September 21, the 3rd Army under General Boroevic gave up the last eastern bridgehead at Jaroslau by the Benigni Brigade . The Przemysl fortress had been completely enclosed by the Russian 3rd Army under Radko Dimitriew until September 26th and was besieged , which gave the chief of the Austro-Hungarian troops General Conrad von Hötzendorf the necessary time to depose his bulk.

The Austro-Hungarian 2nd Army under General von Böhm-Ermolli went back to the Carpathians via Sanok and Lisko before the Russian 8th Army . In the north the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army under Joseph Ferdinand had retreated between Radymno and Medyka behind the San, to the north the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army (Dankl) had returned to the western bank of the San between Leżajsk and Jaroslau. The Silesian Landwehr Corps under General von Woyrsch had conscientiously covered the retreat of the left wing of the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army, had to go back behind the Wisloka and moved back to the northern bank of the Vistula .

On the Vistula between Annopol and the Ivangorod fortress, the Delsalle corps group and strong cavalry formations under General Novikov were on the Russian side . Strong Russian cavalry forces advanced north of the Vistula to the Nida to the west.

Situation with the Central Powers

The threat to the province of Silesia and the Austrians' call for help forced the newly appointed German Chief of Staff, Erich von Falkenhayn, to intervene quickly. After the still undecided battle of the Aisne , no further reinforcements were to be expected from the western front - where a decision was still being made.

In the Austro-Hungarian headquarters in Neu-Sandez , after Conrad's meeting with General Ludendorff , General Hindenburg's chief of staff, on September 18, the decision was made to push a flank against the Vistula from the Kalisch - Beuthen line , the only way to use Russian pressure To repeal Galicia.

The German 8th Army in East Prussia had to surrender two corps to create a new army in Silesia. The Austro-Hungarian Army Front in Galicia (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Army) had retreated to the western bank of the San with 46 infantry divisions (including 8½ Landsturm divisions ) and 11 cavalry divisions before Russian pressure .

The bulk of the Austrian forces had been compressed to a width of about 150 km between Przemyśl and the Vistula near Sandomir . The front on the Dniester was poorly covered by weaker forces and Landwehr troops. By the beginning of October Conrad was able to bring the severely battered Austro-Hungarian army in Galicia back to a combat strength of at least 477,000 men, 27,000 horsemen and 1,578 artillery pieces.

Deployment of the German 9th Army

The newly established 9th Army was to be under Colonel General von Hindenburg. To strengthen the German advance, the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army under General Viktor Dankl had to relocate north of the Vistula and protect the right flank of the 9th Army. First the Guard Reserve Corps was unloaded west of Katowice , at the same time the XX. Army Corps arrived in Czestochowa with its vanguard , followed by the troops of the XVII. Army Corps . The XI. Army Corps arrived in the area northeast of Krakow and operated closely with the Silesian Landwehr Corps, which was now provided with the still missing artillery. Both corps covered the Vistula line at Sandomir and the area to the north of Kielce until the arrival of the Austrians .

As early as September 19, the main reserve from Posen and Breslau, the 19th and 21st Landwehr Brigade, advanced across the border to Sieradz near Kalisch and was advanced to the Warta . On September 20, the main reserve of Thorn Fortress , the 35th Reserve Division , was transported from the area south of Mlawa to Thorn, in order to proceed from there via Wlozlawek to Lodz .

By September 27, the bulk of the German 9th Army had fully assembled between Beuthen and Kreuzburg . The forces of 9th Army deployed for the advance counted in total: 12 ½ infantry divisions (including 3 ½ Landwehr divisions) and a cavalry division, a total of around 188,000 infantry, 8,000 horsemen and 837 artillery pieces.

Situation with the Russians

Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich, the Russian commander in chief
Pavel Plehwe, Commander in Chief of the Russian 5th Army

Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich , the Russian commander in chief, set up his headquarters in Brest-Litovsk and assumed command of all central troops on the Vistula. Even before the German attack, he recognized that the main focus of operations was now in the Warsaw area , and ordered significant forces to be surrendered to the threatened front in the central sector from both the south-western and northern fronts. On September 19, the Grand Duke met Russki in Białystok , and on September 26, he visited General Nikolai Ivanov in Cholm and discussed the next steps.

As a result of the German advance, the south-western front had to break off its already planned advance in Galicia and free two armies (4th and 5th Army). The Russian XXV was already the vanguard. Corps under General Sujew deployed to regrouping to the Vistula and between Nowo Alexandria and Ivangorod . So far, only strong cavalry under General Novikov had reached the Nida .

In addition, from September 23, the 9th Army under General Letschitzki on the Vistula had to stop its advance towards Cracow and extend its northern flank with two corps (XIV. And XVIII.) To the northern bank of the Vistula to Josefow .

General Delsalle's group with the 75th and 80th Reserve Divisions arrived in the Opatow area , the 1st Don Cossack Division and the 13th Cavalry Division advanced on the Nida. With the 4th Army under General Ewert , the Vistula line north of Ivangorod was extended to Magnuszew .

With the Guards Corps that followed later and the 5th Army under Pawel Plehwe , the front was filled up to the Siedlce area and the forces in the southeastern Warsaw area were reinforced at Gora Kalwarja .

The Russian 3rd Army and the Przemysl Blockade Army were considered sufficient for the front in Galicia to keep the defeated Austrians on the San in check. With the vanguard of the 4th Army, Nikolai Nikolajewitsch initially wanted to place the Germans in the Radom - Opatów line, in order to then fight the decisive battle west or south-west of Ivangorod. To the north of the Vistula he was able to gather 19 infantry and 8 cavalry divisions with over 350,000 men by mid-October.

Advance of the Central Powers

Battle of the Vistula, 1914

The German advance eastward began on September 29th. On September 30th the 9th Army with its mass - in the front line XI. Army Corps, Guard Reserve Corps and XX. Army Corps, in the second line behind the XI. Corps, the Landwehr Corps reached the Chmielnik - Kielce area and northwest of these points.

Staggered backwards to protect the northern flank, the XVII. Army corps to the west of Konsk , the Frommel corps to Petrikau and to the west. The latter corps had the main reserve from Posen (the Landwehr Division Bredow ), the 8th Cavalry Division and the 35th Reserve Division , which was approaching from Thorn . These forces were supposed to cover the north wing of the 9th Army on the advance against Lodz.

The less threatened western border area between the right wing of the 9th Army and the Thorn fortress was covered by the Wroclaw Landsturm and the Deputy General Command of the V and II Army Corps, roughly on the border line from Sieradz northwards to the Vistula. The Landwehr Division Bredow from the Kalisch area, the 8th Cavalry Division from Kempen to Petrikau and from the north the 35th Reserve Division advanced to Lodz.

The XVII. Moved from the area of ​​Czestochowa. Army Corps under General August von Mackensen with the 35th and 36th Divisions against Novo-Radomsk , the XX. Army corps under Friedrich von Scholtz with the 37th and 41st divisions, as well as the Guard Reserve Corps under General von Gallwitz north of the Lysa Gora to the east. Initially, the Russians did not offer any resistance and withdrew to the Vistula.

By October 4, the Frommel Corps reached the northern flank of the Opoczno - Rawa line , the XVII. Army Corps was in the area west of Radom , the XX. Corps advanced on Ilza . The Guard Reserve Corps with the 3rd Guard and 1st Guard Reserve Divisions had swiveled to the southeast via Kielce on Ostrowiec . South of the Lysa Gora was the XI. Corps under General Otto von Plüskow with the 22nd and 38th Divisions approaching Opatow .

The kuk army group Kummer , which secured the north bank of the Vistula at the beginning of the attack , had already been disbanded and its units had been transferred to Dankl's army. The Austro-Hungarian 1st Army with the I. Corps under General Karl von Kirchbach gathered south of Pintschow on the Nida at the end of September and had advanced on Klimontow until October 4th . The Silesian Landwehr Corps Woyrsch covered the deployment of Dankl's left wing. The Austrian Cavalry Corps Korda (Imperial and Royal 3rd and 7th Cavalry Divisions) covered the flanks of the Austro-Hungarian I. Corps (5th and 12th Division, 46th Landwehr Division, 35th Landsturm Brigade, Polish ) on both sides Legion ), at Sandomir, and they collided with the Russian rearguard returning to the Vistula.

The 37th Honved Division and the 106th Landsturm Division also marched towards the Vistula as reinforcements. Across from Opatow-Klimontov, the Russian Corps Group defended Delsalle, with the Guard Rifle Brigade, the 2nd Rifle Brigade and the 80th Reserve Division under their control. The kuk V Corps under General Puhallo followed with the 37th Honved Division, the 14th and 33rd Infantry Divisions across the Vistula to the north, the kuk X. Corps initially remained in the front on the south bank of the Vistula, but strengthened from mid-October General Dankl in his new section before Ivangorod.

Until October 8, the German Northern Group under General Mackensen (XVII Army Corps and Corps Frommel) could advance almost unhindered on Warsaw; the southern group under General Gallwitz (XX Army Corps and Guard Reserve Corps) was already involved in heavy fighting on both sides of Ivangorod on the Vistula; The Woyrsch corps then defended the Vistula southwards and kept in touch with the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army.

The northern group of the 9th Army under Mackensen (the XX. And XVII. Corps) reached the Vistula on October 9th and prepared the further advance to the north. Mackensen's troops were only twelve kilometers from the outer fortified belt of Warsaw. The XVII. Army corps moved sharply northwards via Radom, crossed the Pilica and met the enemy at Grojec . The 37th Division pushed the enemy on the west bank at Kalvarja back onto the Vistula. The 41st Division advanced towards the mouth of the Pilica, covered by the Imperial and Royal 3rd Cavalry Division.

The Guard Reserve Corps kept the Russian forces in check at Ivangorod until they were relieved by the Austrians. The German XI. Corps joined the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army at Opole at short notice, which was already exposed to strong Russian pressure. With the opposing forces here, the Wieprz south of Ivangorod formed the army border between the Russian 4th and 9th Armies.

Russian counter-offensive from October 9th

Alexej Ewert, Commander in Chief of the Russian 4th Army
Siberian soldiers in Warsaw

Grand Duke Nikolaj Nikolajewitsch had successfully held the bridgeheads on the left bank of the Vistula in defensive defense; his 5th Army, arriving from Galicia in the area south of Warsaw, now counterattacked the weak north wing of the German 9th Army. From October 9th, in the execution of these orders , very serious fighting broke out on a 160 km wide front between Warka and Annopol . General Russky had freed strong forces in Lithuania and brought together significant reinforcements to protect Warsaw. The associations arrived one after the other on the Narew, in the Pultusk area and in Warsaw.

The defense in the Warsaw area and north of the Vistula to Novo-Georgiewsk took over the 2nd Army under General Sergei Scheideman . Across from the southern border of East Prussia, the Narew group remained , which in turn was replaced in mid-October by the 1st Army brought in from Lithuania under General Paul von Rennenkampff . In the decisive final phase of the Battle of the Vistula, the 5th Army under General Pawel Plehwe was withdrawn from the central Vistula front and took over command between Rawka and Bzura with the front facing south-west.

On October 11, Hindenburg had moved his headquarters from Radom to Kielce. The Guard Reserve Corps, on his right the Landwehr Corps Woyrsch, was already attacking the Russian bridgeheads on the western bank of the Vistula between Ivangorod near Novo-Aleksandria . The 3rd Guard Division and the following 3rd Landwehr Division pushed the enemy back to the Vistula near Kosjenice.

From October 13th, the Russian 5th Army went over to the western bank of the Vistula near Gora Kalvarja and marched on the southwestern apron of Warsaw. On October 15, Mackensen's northern group had extended the left wing to the Bzura and was now violently attacked by the Russian 2nd Army, which was deploying in the Lowicz area . Conrad von Hötzendorf immediately made the 3rd and 7th Cavalry Divisions available to the German 9th Army in order to be able to assert themselves against the superior Russian cavalry masses on the Rawka and in front of Warka .

Central Poland was little known to the Germans, and there were increasing difficulties with the supply, and there was no adequate transport and communication network. Transporting urgently needed reinforcements and supplies to the 9th Army was only feasible with great difficulty and loss of time.

On October 17th, Colonel General Hindenburg recognized that the battle was lost for him. The Russian forces had already reached a threatening superiority. Colonel-General Hindenburg ordered the retreat, but he tried to continue his attack against Warsaw until the decision of the Battle of the San between the Austrians and Ivanov, which was taking place in Galicia at the same time , was decided. The northern group under Mackensen increased the pressure before Blonie again and relieved the Austrians by tying strong Russian forces.

Mackensen had the order to evacuate the positions still held in front of Warsaw on the night of October 19 and to return to the Rawa- Skierniewice -Lowicz front . The Guard Reserve Corps with the Austro-Hungarian 3rd Cavalry Division stood south of Warka between the Pilica and Radomka in such a way that they could support the Austro-Hungarian Dankl army before Ivangorod or the Gallwitz group as required. The attempt of the central Gallwitz group - now essentially from the XX. and XI. Army corps composed - from the area Nowe Miasto across the Pilica against the great road from Warsaw to Skierniewice was doomed in advance to fail.

Defeat of the Austrians at Ivangorod

General Viktor Dankl, Commander in Chief of the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army
Leopold Freiherr von Hauer as general
Battle of Ivangorod, withdrawal of the Austrians on October 26, 1914

By October 19, the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army had the German XI, standing on the Vistula. Army Corps and the Landwehr Corps south of Ivangorod and should begin the offensive against the Russian 4th Army with two corps to support the German 9th Army. Following the right wing of the V Corps (General Puhallo) destined to attack Ivangorod, the Austrian Landsturm, the 35th Brigade and the 106th Division secured security on the Vistula.

The attack scheduled for October 22nd was quickly thrown back by a Russian counterattack. The kuk I. Corps (General Kirchbach with the 43rd, 12th, 46th and 5th Divisions) and the V Corps (General Puhallo with the 33rd, 14th and 37th Divisions) began the attack on a broad front: no opponent was found on the right wing, the center initially gained some ground, on the left wing the Austro-Hungarian 12th Division encountered strong Russian resistance at Jedlnia early in the morning. On this day the attack of the Russian XVII. and III. Caucasian Corps can be caught by the Imperial and Royal I. Corps. In view of the critical situation with the Austrians and with regard to the Russian Grenadier Corps in the Golwachev area, General von Gallwitz saw the need to withdraw the Guard Reserve Corps to the left bank of the Radomka immediately at night. On October 23, General Dankl tried to use his right wing, the V Corps, to launch another strong attack in the direction of the Vistula via Zwolen. General Letschizki had the Russian Guard Division transferred to the western bank at Nowo Alexandria and strengthened the 9th Army visibly. Dankl's southernmost corps, the Austro-Hungarian Xth Corps (106th, 2nd and 24th Divisions) could not take part in the attacks at all and found themselves trying to cross the Vistula at Sandomir, solely through the artillery deployed on the other bank Russian 9th Army stopped. The high command of the Russian 4th Army (General Ewert) let on October 24th and 25th with the XVI., XVII. and the III. Caucasian Corps cross the Vistula, below Ivangorod the Russian 9th Army advanced with the XIV., XV., and XVIII. Corps and the Guard Corps across the Vistula section. Meanwhile, south of the Vistula, the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army had to break off its own attacks against the Russian 3rd Army in the Battle of the San with great losses.

On October 26th General Dankl was exposed to the attacks of five Russian corps and had to withdraw the 1st and 5th Corps immediately to the line between Radom-Skaryszew-Kazanow. The general retreat of the Austrians behind the Opatowka by October 31 was successfully covered against Russian encirclement attempts by the cavalry corps of General Hauer (2nd, 3rd and 9th Cavalry Divisions) and the German Guard Reserve Corps.

Effect of the battle

Russian counter-offensive in the Battle of the Vistula, 1914

The withdrawal of the German 9th Army, initiated on October 17th, ended on October 31st in the starting positions on the Silesian border. At the beginning of November the 9th Army had reached about where it had started at the beginning of the month; 42,000 soldiers were killed or wounded. The Austro-Hungarian 1st Army had lost over a third of its troops.

Hindenburg's first attempt to prevent the Russians from continuing their advance into Galicia by attacking Warsaw had failed completely. Even after the withdrawal of strong Russian forces, the Austrian San Line in Galicia collapsed, the Austro-Hungarian Army was pushed back into the Cracow - Neu-Sandez-Carpathian Passes by the Russian 3rd and 8th Army. The Russian south-western front prepared the attack on the Krakow fortress, the Przemysl fortress, briefly horrified on October 8, was enclosed again, and the Russian invasion of northern Hungary was imminent.

Colonel-General von Hindenburg was appointed Commander-in-Chief East on November 1, 1914, and General Mackensen took over command of the 9th Army. As early as November 3rd, the move of the bulk of the German 9th Army (XI., XVII. And XX. Army Corps) to the Hohensalza area was ordered. To secure Upper Silesia and the left flank of the Austrians, the Guard Reserve Corps, the 35th Reserve Division and the Landwehr Corps were left in the Czestochowa area.

In mid-November Mackensen began a new attack to relieve the Austrians, which culminated in the Battle of Łódź . Only the defensive success in the Battle of Krakow in mid-November and the Austrian counter-offensive between Limanowa-Lapanow were able to stabilize the front in western Galicia until mid-December 1914.

Forces involved

Central Powers

German 9th Army under Colonel General Paul von Hindenburg, from November 2nd von Mackensen

kuk 1st Army under General of the Cavalry Viktor Dankl

  • Korda Cavalry Corps (3rd and 7th Cavalry Divisions) - to the Mackensen group in mid-October
  • I. Corps under Karl von Kirchbach (5th and 12th Infantry Division, 46th Landwehr Division, 35th Landsturm Brigade, Polish Legion)
  • V Corps under Paul Puhallo (14th and 33rd Infantry Divisions, 1st Landsturm Brigade)
  • X. Corps under Hugo Meixner von Zweienstamm (2nd and 24th Infantry Division, 45th Landwehr Division)
  • Beginning of October: 43rd Landwehr Division
  • In mid-October from the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army: 37th Honved Division, 106th Landsturm Division, 100th and 110th Landsturm Brigade
  • From October 23: Hauer Cavalry Corps (9th and 11th Cavalry Division)

Russian Empire

Northwest Front General of the Infantry Nikolai Russky

Army Group Narew under General Nikolai Pavlovich Bobyr

  • Novo-Georgievsk Fortress (79th Reserve Division)
  • Warsaw fortification area - XXVII. Corps under General of the Infantry Dmitri Wassiljewitsch Balanin (63rd and 77th Reserve Divisions)
  • 6th Cavalry Division, Caucasian Cavalry Division, Cossack Division Kaznakov

2nd Army under General of Infantry Sergei Scheideman at the end of September consisting of:

  • I. Corps under Lieutenant General Alexander Dushkievich (22nd and 24th Divisions)
  • 1st Siberian Corps under General of the Cavalry Michail Pleschkow (1st and 2nd Siberian Rifle Division)

on October 3rd reinforced by units from the 1st Army:

  • II Corps under Infantry General Alexei Tschurin (26th and 43rd Divisions)
  • XXIII. Corps under Lieutenant General Vladimir Olochow (3rd Guard Division, a brigade of the 2nd Division, 1st Rifle Brigade)

on October 8th reinforced by units from the 10th Army

on October 10th by the 50th division coming from Petersburg: on October 14th reinforced by units from the 1st Army:

  • IV Corps under Artillery General Eris Giray Aliyev (30th and 40th Divisions)
  • 6th Siberian Corps under General Wasiliev (13th and 14th Siberian Rifle Divisions)

on October 16 reinforced by units of the 4th Army: Cavalry Corps Nowikow (see below)

5th Army under General of the Infantry Pawel Plehwe

Southwest Front General of the Infantry Nikolai Ivanov

4th Army under General of the Infantry Alexei Ewert

  • Grenadier Corps under Artillery General Josif Mrozowski (1st and 2nd Grenadier Division)
  • Delsalle Group (75th and 80th Reserve Divisions, 1st Don Kosaken Division)
  • Ivangorod Fortress (81st Reserve Division)
  • XVI. Corps under General of the Infantry Platon Geisman, from October 13th General Wladislaw Klembowski (41st and 47th Divisions)
  • 3rd Caucasian Corps under Infantry General Vladimir Irmanov (21st and 52nd Divisions)
  • Novikov Cavalry Corps under Lieutenant General Alexander Novikov (until October 14th) (5th, 8th and 14th Cavalry Divisions, Turkestan Cossack Brigade and 4th and 5th Don Cossack Division)

9th Army under Infantry General Platon Lechitsky


  • Spencer Tucker: The Great War: 1914-18. 1998.
  • Austria-Hungary's Last War Volume 1: The War Year 1914 Verlag der Militärwissenschaftlichen Mitteilungen, Vienna 1930 pp. 349–356, pp. 450–467.
  • Friedrich von Bernhardi: Germany's Heldenkampf Lehmann Verlag, Munich 1922, pp. 116-122.
  • Reichsarchiv V. Volume: The Autumn Campaign 1914 Mittler & Sohn, Berlin 1929, pp. 414–500.