AUGUST 29 1914 – AUSTRIANS IN THE EAST, GERMANS IN THE WEST, AND WOMEN IN BRITAIN

On the Eastern Front, August 29 formed part of the action of the Battle of Gnila Lipa, fought August 26-30 between the Austrians and Russians. Germany had pleaded Austria to throw some of their forces at the Russians in an attempt to avoid the full power of the combined Russian armies, and so Austria consented to invade Russian Poland across the Galician border. Austrian military leaders knew that they should intend merely to check the Russians, not destroy them . . . the Austrian armies were simply far too small in proportion to Russia’s to hope for anything more. Yet even this goal was based on two erroneous assumptions by the Austrians.

First, the Austrians believed that even in late August, the Russians would not have mobilized the majority of their troops. In fact, the Russians had mostly finished their mobilization, and the majority of their forces were either ready for movement orders, or already engaged against an enemy army.

Second, the Austrians believed that the Russians would attack Austria-Hungary from the North, and that there forces would have concentrated far behind the Polish borders. In reality, the Russian armies were much closer than they had expected, and were ready for an invasion from the West and Northwest.

Near Gnila Lipa, a Northern tributary of the Dniester River, Eight Russian army corps would fight against only three corps of Austrians.

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The confrontation began on August 26, when the Austrians attacked what their reports had said was a small number of Russians who had crossed the Easter border, headed towards Tarnopol. The Austrians were shocked by the amount of resistance they encountered, and retreated in chaos, only stopping to form another line of defense much farther back, behind the Gnila Lipa.

The Russians followed them cautiously, slowly, and did not make significant contact with them again until August 30. The Russians attacked and again overwhelmed the greatly outnumbered Austrians, forcing them back into Lemberg, where they were soon besieged.

. . .

On the Western Front, the German right wing, led by German armies under Bülow and Kluck, were running wild through northern France. Supreme French commander Joseph Joffre needed time to throw together some forces, any forces capable of halting their advance. The British Expeditionary force was in retreat, and the French Fifth army was detached from any other army, and could therefore be easily flanked. Nevertheless, he ordered the French fifth army, under Lanrezac, to put up a fight near St. Quentin.

Joffre directed Lanrezac to move northwest, hoping that the ensuing conflict with the Germans would tie up enough of their troops long enough for the French Sixth army to finish its formation to the southwest, near Paris. Douglas Haig, commander of the British I Corps, even offered assistance to Lanrezac.

What hope this plan had, however, was soon dashed: Haig’s offer was countermanded by his superior, Sir John French, commander of the British Expeditionary Force. Worse, the French plans fell into German hands, with the result that Bülow was expecting and fully prepared for the French attack when it came.

Guise

On August 29th, the French made some gains near the center of their lines, taking ground close to Guise and the Oise River. Unfortunately, Lanrezac’s army had taken a beating, and the strength of the German counterattacks convinced him that his position was untenable. Joffre authorized him to withdraw, and Lanrezac took care to destroy the Oise bridges as he pulled out the next morning.

Tactically another defeat, Lanrezac did succeed in forcing Bülow to deploy his troops and fight them for at least a day and a half, buying time which Joffre sorely needing in order to prepare some way of ultimately stopping the Germans.

. . .

August 29, 1914, was also the day when the Women’s Defense Relief Corps was formed in Britain. It was made up of two divisions, one which intended to place women into jobs which men had vacated when they left for war, and another which drilled and trained women to fight in the event that Britain was invaded.

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