Battle of Łódź (1914)

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Battle of Łódź
Part of the Eastern Front during World War I
EasternFront1914b.jpg
Eastern Front
September 28 – November 1, 1914
Date 11 November - 6 December 1914
Location Łódź, Russian Empire, present day Poland
Result Inconclusive
Belligerents
Russia Russian Empire  German Empire
Commanders and leaders
North-Western front:Nikolai Ruzsky
1st army: Rennenkampf,
2nd army: S.M. Scheidemann,
5th army: Plehve
Erich Ludendorff
August von Mackensen
Units involved
First, Second and Fifth Armies German Ninth Army
Strength
400,000 troops 225,000 troops
Casualties and losses
90,000 killed, wounded or captured[1] 35,000 killed, wounded or captured[1]

The Battle of Łódź took place from November 11 to December 6, 1914, near the city of Łódź in Poland. It was fought between the German Ninth Army and the Russian First, Second, and Fifth Armies, in appalling winter conditions.

Background[edit]

By September 1914 the Russians had defeated the Austro-Hungarian offensive in Galicia at the Battle of Galicia leaving the Austrian fortress of Przemyśl besieged by the Russian Eighth Army. Nikolai Ruzsky had defeated the German's first attempt at capturing Warsaw at the Battle of the Vistula River.

The Russian high command was split over how to capitalize on these recent successes. Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolayevich favored an offensive into East Prussia, while the Chief of Staff, Mikhail Alekseev, favored an offensive into Silesia.

Paul von Hindenburg had recently been appointed commander of the Central Powers along the Eastern Front. Hindenburg had intercepted Russian reports of the proposed invasion into Silesia, and saw an opportunity to repeat his crushing victory at the Battle of Tannenberg, by hitting the Russian flank as it moved into Silesia.

Forces[edit]

Hindenburg moved the German Ninth Army, under General August von Mackensen, to the Polish sector. Conrad von Hotzendorf, the Austrian commander, moved the Austrian Second Army to replace the German Ninth Army's former position.

General Nikolai Ruzski had recently assumed command of the Russian Army Group defending Warsaw. Ruzski had under his command General Paul von Rennenkampf's Russian First Army which was positioned north of the Vistula River, with the exception of one corps that was on the south bank of the river. Ruzski also had the Russian Second Army under General Scheidemann, which was positioned directly in front of Łódź. The Russian Fifth Army, under Pavel Plehve, was ordered to abandon its Silesia offensive, and moved to help counter Hindenburg's new offensive.

Central Powers Forces [2][edit]

[North to South]

  • 9th Army [as of Nov. 11, 1914] – Gen. Mackensen
    • Corps “Thorn” - Gen. Dickhuth-Harrach; (99th Reserve Infantry Brigade of 50th Reserve Infantry Division, 21st Landwehr Infantry Brigade, Brigade “Westernhagen” [Landwehr & Landsturm]);
    • XXV Reserve Corps (49th Reserve Infantry Division & 100th Reserve Infantry Brigade of 50th Reserve Infantry Division);
    • I Reserve Corps (1st & 36th Reserve Infantry Divisions);
    • HHK 1 – Gen. Richtofen (6th & 9th Cavalry Divisions);
    • XX Corps (37th & 41st Infantry Divisions);
    • XVII Corps (35th & 36th Infantry Divisions);
    • XI Corps (22nd & 38th Infantry Divisions);
    • HHK 3 – Gen. Frommel (5th, 8th & Austrian 7th Cavalry Divisions);
    • Landsturm Brigade “Doussin” (part of Corps “Posen“)
    • In reserve: 3rd Guard Infantry Division.
    • Reinforcements:
  • Arrived starting mid-November:
    • Approximately 5 towed foot artillery battalions from the eastern fortresses and the West, with 10 batteries of 21 cm heavy howitzers plus 1 Austro-Hungarian 30.5 cm siege howitzer battery
  • Mid-November:
    • Corps “Posen” (four weak brigades composed of Landwehr, Ersatz and Landsturm troops) Koch
  • End of November:
    • II Corps (3rd & 4th Infantry Divisions) from the west (later one brigade of 3rd Inf. Div. to Corps “Gerok”);
    • 1st Infantry Division from I Corps of 8th Army in East Prussia;
    • Corps “Gerok” (48th Infantry Division) from the west;
    • Corps “Breslau” (Division “Menges” & Brigade “Schmiedecke”) (later added to Corps “Gerok”);
    • 4th Cavalry Division from southern part of the East Prussian front.
  • Beginning of December:
    • Corps “Fabek”(26th Infantry Division & 25th Reserve Infantry Division) from the west;
    • III Reserve Corps (5th & 6th Reserve Infantry Divisions) from the west.
  • Mid-December:
    • 1st Guard Reserve Infantry Division from Army “Woyrsch”.

Russian Forces [3][edit]

NW FRONT Gen. Ruzsky

  • 1st Army Gen. Rennenkampf (from 2 Dec. Gen. Litvinov)
    • 4th Don Cossack Division
    • I Turkestan Corps (1st & 2nd Turkestan Rifle Brigades, 11th Siberia Rifle Division)
    • Ussuri Mounted Brigade
    • 6th Cavalry Division
    • VI Corps (4th & 16th Infantry Divisions)
    • Combined Cossack Division
    • VI Siberia Corps (13th & 14th Siberia Rifle Divisions)
    • V Siberia Corps (50th & 79th Infantry Divisions)
    • Guard Cossack Division
    • Reinforcements:
      • II Corps from 2nd Army (see below);
      • 6th Siberia Rifle Division from 10th Army;
      • ½ 63rd Reserve Division & the Rifle Officers’ School Regiment from Warsaw fortified area;
      • 3rd Turkestan Rifle Brigade;
      • 55th & 67th Infantry Divisions from army reserve;


  • 2nd Army - Gen. Schiedemann
    • Caucasus Cavalry Division;
    • II Corps (26th & 43rd Infantry Divisions);
    • Cavalry Corps “Novikov” (5th, 8th & 14th Cavalry Divisions);
    • XXIII Corps (3rd Guard Infantry Division, one brigade of 2nd Infantry Division, 1st Rifle Brigade);
    • II Siberia Corps (4th & 5th Siberia Rifle Divisions);
    • IV Corps (30th & 40th Infantry Divisions);
    • I Corps (22nd & 24th Infantry Divisions);
    • Reinforcements in Dec:
      • 2nd Cavalry Division from 10th Army;
      • 62nd Reserve Division from army reserve;


  • 5th Army - Gen. Plehve
    • I Siberia Corps (1st & 2nd Siberia Rifle Divisions);
    • XIX Corps (17th & 38th Infantry Divisions);
    • V Corps (5th & 10th Infantry Divisions);
    • 5th Don Cossack Division;
    • Turkmen Cossack Brigade.

The battle[edit]

German soldiers in Łódź, December 1914.
German soldiers in Łódź, December 1914.

On November 11, Mackensen's German Ninth Army struck the V Siberia Corps of Rennenkampf's First Army which was isolated south of the Vistula and routed it, capturing 12,000 prisoners. The rout left a gap between the Russian First and Second Armies and the two forces lost contact with one another.

In the meantime Scheidemann's Russian Second Army was being flanked and began retreating towards Łódź. The Russians were beginning to realize the seriousness of the situation in Poland. The Second Army was now being threatened with encirclement.

The Grand Duke was primarily concerned with saving this army and avoiding a repeat of Tannenberg. Wenzel von Plehve and the Russian Fifth Army had been ordered from Silesia to the Łódź sector and covered 70 miles in only two days. Von Plehve smashed into Mackensen's right flank on November 18 under appalling winter conditions (at times the temperature dropped as low as 10 °F (−12 °C)).[4]

At the same time from the east, along the banks of the Vistula, Germans were attacked by the columns of Rennenkampf's Army. The Germans were now threatened with encirclement, but fought their way out by November 26, taking with them the prisoners from the Russian First Army. Pressure on Łódź continued until December but the Germans were unable to break the Russian lines. Short on ammunition, the Russians withdrew to form a new and stronger line closer to Warsaw.

Results[edit]

The results of the Battle of Łódź were inconclusive, both sides having achieved their most important objectives. The Russians had repulsed the Germans and saved Warsaw, which had been the objective of the original German offensive. The Germans, for their part, had caused the Russians to abandon their offensive into Silesia.

The Russian high command had had enough of Rennenkampf and relieved him of his command, replacing him with General Litvinov.

External links[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • Tucker, Spencer The Great War: 1914–18 (1998)
  1. ^ a b Alan D. Axelrod, The Complete Idiot's Guide to World War I, 2001, p. 108
  2. ^ 6 Weltkrieg 459 ff.
  3. ^ 6 Weltkrieg 459 ff.; Корольков Г.К., Лодзинская операция 2 ноября - 19 декабря 1914 г. М. 1934, Приложение 2, 3 [Korol'kov GK Lodz operation November 2 - December 19, 1914 (Moscow, 1934)], Annexes 2 & 3; available at: http://www.grwar.ru/library/Korolkoff-Lodz/LO_11.html
  4. ^ Gilbert, Martin (1994). The First World War: A Complete History. New York: Henry Holt and Company. p. 107. ISBN 080501540X.