Battle of the Vistula River

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Battle of the Vistula River
Part of the Eastern Front during World War I
Eastern Front, September 1914.
Date 29 September-31 October 1914
Location Warsaw, present-day Poland
Result Russian victory
 Russian Empire  German Empire
Commanders and leaders
Russian Empire Nikolai Ruzsky
Russian Empire Nikolai Ivanov
Russian Empire Alexei Evert
Russian Empire Pavel Plehve

German Empire Paul von Hindenburg
Austria-Hungary Viktor Dankl
German Empire August von Mackensen

German Empire Remus von Woyrsch
German Empire Max von Gallwitz
Units involved
Russian Empire Second Army
Russian Empire Fourth Army
Russian Empire Fifth Army
Russian Empire Ninth Army
German Empire German Ninth Army
Austria-Hungary Austro-Hungarian First Army
II, IV,V Army - 400 000. IX - unknown[1] IX (German Empire) - 141 000
I (Austria-Hungary)- unknown.[1]
Casualties and losses
Total 145,309 KIA, MIA, WIA[2] German Army 19,029 KIA, MIA, WIA;
Austria-Hungary Army - 50,145 KIA, MIA, WIA[3]
Total 69,174

The Battle of the Vistula River, also known as the Battle of Warsaw, was a Russian victory against the German Empire and Austria-Hungary on the Eastern Front during the First World War.


When the Austro-Hungarian Army was being driven from Galicia in the Battle of Galicia, the German industrial area of Upper Silesia, left undefended by German troops, was threatened with a Russian offensive into the heart of Germany. In order to counter the Russian preparations, as well as to support the shattered Austro-Hungarian Armies, Erich von Falkenhayn, the German commander in chief, ordered the bulk of the German 8th Army from Eastern Prussia to be transferred into the area of Cracow for an offensive against the Russian centre around Warsaw.

The newly formed German 9th Army, commanded by Paul von Hindenburg, consisted of the XVII, XX, XI, Guard Reserve and Landwehr Corps, as well as a mixed Landwehr Division from Silesia and the Saxon 8th Cavalry Division. In early October, the Army was reinforced by the 35th Reserve Division from East Prussia. Thus, Hindenburg had at his disposal 12 Infantry and one Cavalry Divisions. The battle opened on 28 September by the Ninth Army and was joined by 30 September by the Austro-Hungarian First Army.

Engagement of Opatów-Klimontów[edit]

To guard the northward crossing of their 4th and 9th Armies over the Vistula, the Russian command deployed the 75. Reserve Division (IV. Army) at Radom, as well as the group General Delsalle, consisting of the Guard Rifle Brigade, 2nd Rifle Brigade and 80. Reserve Division, at Opatów-Klimontów. Both groups were screened by the Cavalry divisions of the Corps Nowikow.

As Hindenburg suspected two to three corps in the area, he concentrated the German XI., Guard and Austro-Hungarian I. Corps against Delsalle's group. On 3 October, the 3rd and 7th Austrian Cavalry Divisions engaged the Russian Guard cavalry Brigade, supported by Infantry from the 80. Reserve Division at Klimontów, and drove them back. Thus, Hindenburg had no idea of how weak the forces opposing him were in reality.

In response to the Austro-German threat, the Russians were ordered to retreat on their own. While Nowikow's cavalry obeyed the order, General Delsalle believed that he would be able to hold his position. The next day, his group was destroyed by the much superior enemy. The Central Powers captured 7,000 prisoners, only a few Russians managed to escape. The German troops lost 571 men - Austrian casualties are not known.


Russian soldiers crossing the Vistula River in 1914.

Hindenburg reached the Vistula River by 9 October and was only 19 km (12 mi) away from Warsaw. Here, the German offensive began to falter. General Nikolai Ruzsky, commander of the Russian Northwest Front, brought up significant reinforcement against the Ninth Army.

At this time, Hindenburg learned of a planned Russian offensive into Silesia from a captured Russian soldier. However, Hindenburg continued to push the offensive against Warsaw. The Germans were unfamiliar with the land and unable to bring sufficient reinforcements to the Ninth Army, therefore allowing Ruzsky to concentrate his front against Hindenburg. On 17 October, Hindenburg ordered a retreat, and by the 31st the battle was over.


On 1 November, the German Ninth Army was back where it had begun. This was the first of a series of attempts by the Germans to capture Warsaw.

After the battle, Colonel General Hindenburg was appointed commander of the whole Eastern front. The IX. Army was taken over by General August von Mackensen, former commander of the XVII. Corps. Ten days later, Hindenburg made another attempt at Warsaw culminating in the Battle of Łódź. Superior numbers on the Eastern Front had given the Russian army the advantage in the fall of 1914.

Order of battle on 1st October 1914[edit]

Russian forces[edit]

Russian North-Western Front. Commander-in-chief – Nikolai Ruzsky

  • Prinarevskaya (Narew) Group. Commander - Bobyrev
    • Warsaw fortifications XXVII. Corps (63rd & 77th Infantry Divisions)
    • Novogeorgiyevsk Fortress garrison (79th Infantry Division & one brigade of 2nd Infantry Division)
    • 6th Cavalry & Caucasus Cavalry Divisions, Guards Cossack Brigade (Cossack Division “Kasnakov”), 1st Astrakhan Cossack Regiment
  • 2nd Army. Commander - Sergei Scheidemann
    • End of Sept. consisted of:
    • I. Corps (22nd & 24th Infantry Divisions)
    • XXIII. Corps (3rd Guards Infantry Division, one brigade of 2nd Infantry Division, 1st Rifle Brigade)
    • 2nd Army Reinforcements:
    • II. Corps (26th & 43rd Infantry Divisions) transferred Oct 3 from 1st Army
    • I. Siberian Corps (1st & 2nd Siberian Rifle Divisions) Arrived in Warsaw September 27 - October 1 from the interior
    • II. Siberian Corps (4th & 5th Siberian Rifle Divisions) diverted to Warsaw from 10th Army; arrived Oct 8
    • 50th Infantry Division Oct 10 arrived in Warsaw from St. Petersburg
    • IV. Corps (30th & 40th Infantry Divisions) mid-Oct: Arrived in Warsaw from 1st Army
    • VI. Siberian Corps (13th & 14th Siberian Rifle Divisions) late Sept: the divisions arrived in the Warsaw area from the interior and initially operated independently; by mid-Oct they were controlled by VI Siberian Corps staff.
    • Units of Cavalry Corps Novikov (see below) mid-Oct arrived in Warsaw
  • 4th Army. Commander - Alexei Evert
    • Grenadier Corps (1st & 2nd Grenadier Divisions)
    • III. Caucasus Corps (21st & 52nd Infantry Divisions)
    • XVI. Corps (41st & 47th Infantry Divisions)
    • Ivangorod Fortress garrison (75th & 81st Infantry Divisions)
    • Ural Cossack Division
    • Cavalry Corps Novikov (5th, 8th & 14th Cavalry Divisions, Turkestan Cossack Brigade and 4th & 5th Don Cossack Divisions) [Oct 8: 8th Cavalry Division & Turkestan Cossack Brigade attached to 5th Army; rest of corps sent to Warsaw, arriving Oct 14].
  • 9th Army. Commander - Platon Letschitzky
    • Guard Corps (1st & 2nd Guard Infantry Divisions, Guards Rifle Brigade)
    • XVIII. Corps (23rd & 37th Infantry Divisions)
    • XIV. Corps (18th & 45th Infantry Divisions, 2nd Rifle Brigade)
    • 13th Cavalry Division, Guards Separate Cavalry Brigade (Mannheim)
  • 5th Army. Commander - Pavel Plehve
    • XVII. Corps (3rd & 35th Infantry Divisions)
    • XXV. Corps (3rd Grenadier & 46th Infantry Divisions)
    • V. Corps (7th & 10th Infantry Divisions)
    • 80th Infantry Division
    • 1st Don Cossack Division

Central Powers Forces[edit]

  • 9th Army (German) Commander - Paul von Hindenburg (all units are German unless otherwise indicated)
    • Guard Reserve Corps (3rd Guard Infantry & 1st Guard Reserve Divisions)
    • XI. Corps (22nd & 38th Infantry Divisions)
    • XVII. Corps (35th & 36th Infantry Divisions)
    • XX. Corps (37th & 41st Infantry Divisions; mid-Oct: reinforced with Austrian 3rd Cavalry Division))
    • Landwehr Corps “Woyrsch” (3rd & 4th Landwehr Infantry Divisions)
    • Combined Corps “Frommel” (8th Cavalry Division, 35th Reserve Division, Landwehr Division “Bredow”, 21st Landwehr Brigade; mid-Oct: reinforced with Austrian 7th Cavalry Division)
    • Landsturm Brigades Rintelen, Hoffman & Westernhagen
  • 1st Army (Austria-Hungary) Commander - Viktor Dankl (all units are Austro-Hungarian)
    • I. Corps (5th & 12th Infantry Divisions, 46th Landwehr Division, 35th Austrian Landsturm Brigade, Polish Legion)
    • V. Corps (14th & 33rd Infantry Divisions, 1st Austrian Landsturm Brigade - mid-Oct: Brigade transferred to 4th Army)
    • X. Corps (2nd & 24th Infantry Divisions, 45th Landwehr Division)
    • 37th Honved Infantry Division & 106th Austrian Landstrum Division, 100th Hungarian, 101st Hungarian & 110th Hungarian Landstrum Brigades (mid-Oct: 110th Landsturm Brigade transferred to 4th Army).
    • Cavalry Corps “Korda” (3rd & 7th Cavalry Divisions; mid-Oct: both divisions transferred to 9th Army)
    • Reinforcements:
    • Early Oct: 43rd Landwehr Division
    • Cavalry Corps “Hauer” (2nd & 9th Cavalry Divisions)
    • October 23: 11th Cavalry Division


  1. ^ a b C. Г. Нелипович, Варшавское сражение, октябрь 1914.(2006), p. 9-10
  2. ^ Нелипович С.Г., Кровавый октябрь 1914 года, (2013), p. 276-292
  3. ^ Нелипович С.Г., 2013, p. 276-292
  • Tucker, Spencer The Great War: 1914-18 (1998)
  • Glaise-Horstenau, Edmund Österreich-Ungarns letzter Krieg 1914-1918. Erster Band. Das Kriegsjahr 1914 (1931)
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