Battle of Komarów (1914)

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Battle of Komarow
Part of the Eastern Front during World War I
Date 26 August to 2 September 1914
Location Komarow and Zamość, Russian Poland
Result Austro-Hungarian victory
Belligerents
Austria-Hungary Austria-Hungary Russia Russian Empire
Commanders and leaders
Austria-Hungary Moritz von Auffenberg
Austria-Hungary Franz Graf Conrad von Hötzendorf
Russia Pavel Plehve
Units involved
Austria-Hungary IV. Army Russia V. Army
Strength
200,000 men 200,000 men
Casualties and losses
Unknown 20,000 POW
150 guns

The Battle of Komarow (known in Russia as the Battle of Tomaszów) was a battle on the Eastern Front during World War I. It would prove a victory for the Austro-Hungarian forces, but one they would not be able to reproduce in the coming months of the war.

Background[edit]

The prewar planning for a joint Austro-German war with Russia entailed an immediate offensive. Helmuth von Moltke and Franz Graf Conrad von Hötzendorf had planned on striking into the bulge presented by the incorporation of Poland into the Russian lines by von Hötzendorf's forces advancing into Southern Poland while two German armies advanced on Warsaw from Silesia in the direction of Warsaw. However, in Moltke's reworking of the Schlieffen Plan he poached the two armies designated for this attack in an effort to strengthen his defences in Alsace-Lorraine. In a huge gamble, Moltke pleaded with Hötzendorf to carry out the planned offensive despite the lack of German help. The numbers were not in Conrad's favor, but he had little choice, if he did not act the Russians would likely move into Silesia and the War would be lost. The Austro-Hungarian First Army under Viktor Dankl had started off the operation well with the Battle of Kraśnik and the momentum passed to the IV Army on his right.

Commanders[edit]

Austro-Hungarian[edit]

The Austro-Hungarian IV army was one of the formations designated for Conrad's offensive. It was commanded by Moritz von Auffenberg. Despite his short wartime career, he would later be considered a very skilled tactician. He was 62 years old at the time of the battle and would at first gain praise for his actions only to become a scapegoat for the Battle of Rawa Russka. His superior, the afore mentioned von Hötzendorf, was a skilled general who would serve in high positions throughout the war. Despite brilliant strategic plans, often adopted by the Germans for joint operations, his lack of tactical adaptation, particularly in 1914, would decimate the ranks of the Empire's most dependable soldiers and officers early in the war. He was stubborn and the resulting casualties in Galicia in 1914, and 1915 would label him a typical Great War butcher general, putting him with the likes of Sir Douglas Haig and Field Marshal Luigi Cadorna in the bowels of history.

Russian[edit]

The Russian Fifth Army opposing Auffenberg was commanded by Pavel von Plehve. Plehve was one of many nobles of German origin living in Tsarist Russia. He proved his loyalty in Galicia with timely reactions and a general offensive attitude. He was later transferred north where he was involved with the not so successful Battle of Łódź and the actions around the Masurian Lakes.

Armies[edit]

Austro-Hungarian[edit]

Von Auffenberg's forces included 12 Infantry Divisions, three of which were commanded by the skilled Svetozar Boroevic von Bojna, and 3 Cavalry Divisions. The cavalry, always the most honored branch of the army in Austria, was top notch, and the commanders Auffenberg relegated command to were very capable of deploying them to full effectiveness. Three of the Five Generals under his command were General der Kavallerie. The Infantry were also dependable, led by the professional soldiers brought into the military before the outbreak of the war. It was a dependable army and would prove so in the course of the first months of the war.

Mobilized Russian infantry. Heavy casualties would put paid to the quality of the average Russian soldier.

Russian[edit]

Von Plehve's forces were superior in numbers. In fact all along the front the Russians were in numerical superiority, this made the position on Auffenberg's flanks dangerous. Plehve had the trusty Russian Cossacks, recruited from loyal monarchist families in the Urals and well trained, they could hold their own easily against their counterparts across the front. The infantry, however, was a weak point. While the Austro-Hungarians were properly supplied and trained, even Russian peacetime formations had supply problems from the beginning of mobilization. The Russian strength was in their numbers.

Battle[edit]

The Austro-Hungarians moved forward in good order on 26 August and smashed into the Russian lines. Von Plehve's right flank was already shaken by the defeat of the Russian Fourth Army at the Battle of Kraśnik a few days earlier, and despite his typical quick action, he could do nothing to oppose a superior enemy. By the 31st the Austro-Hungarians had taken approximately 20,000 prisoners, a huge amount for the first month of the war. These prisoners were some of Russia's best soldiers, despite their inferior supply they were loyal. The conscripts that would fill the ranks of Russia's armed forces in the coming years of war would be lacking in proper training and far less willing to fight and by the time of the Kerensky Offensive in 1917 loyal soldiers were few and far between on the Russian line. The first two battles (Kraśnik and Komarow) of Conrad's invasion of Poland had been crushing successes, and it seemed as though the Russian might not be able to prevent a crisis in Poland and conduct their invasion of East Prussia simultaneously, particularly with the conclusion of the Battle of Tannenberg a few days later.

Aftermath[edit]

The Austro-Hungarians received a huge boost to morale, but the advance did little to settle von Höltzendorf's armies into a fluid front. Despite the remaining lack of security in the east the triple victory of Kraśnik-Komarow-Tannenberg and the successful advance in France gave the Germans and Austro-Hungarians their greatest hope of a victorious Schlieffen Plan. It would be proved false hope in a matter of days at the Battle of the Marne and the Battle of Rawa.

However, the damage was done. Russia lost 20,000 of its better soldiers, and the two Austro-Hungarian armies were poised to move farther into Poland. It would be the insecurity of Auffenberg's right flank, positioned in the Pinsk Marshes that would prove a disaster for Conrad. The Second Army he had designated for the invasion of Serbia, thinking Moltke would have three, not one, army on the Eastern Front, was rerouted to the marshes but it arrived too late, presenting an excellent opportunity to the Russians. The gap left open resulted in the Battle of Rawa Russka and eventually the fall of the important railhead at Lemburg. 1914 would not be a good year for Austria-Hungary.

References[edit]