SEPTEMBER 15 1914 – AFTERMATH OF THE BATTLE OF LEMBERG

Several major battles between the Russians and Austro-Hungarian armies had been fought in the area of Galicia in the preview few weeks. These were known, collectively, as the Battle of Lemberg.

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While the Austro-Hungarian forces had initially proved successful, two factors eventually proved their downfall: overwhelming Russian numbers, and a poor overall strategy as formulated by the supreme Austrian military commander, Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf.

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While the failed Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia had caused to Germans to look sideways at Hötzendorf’s military thinking, the Battle of Lemberg demonstrated that he was indeed as foolish in his strategies as he was supreme in Austrian military command. When the Germans asked him to attack the Russians (in order to prevent them from concentrating too many of their troops against the Germans), Hötzendorf drew up a plan not only to attack the Russians, but to destroy them and conquer all of Galicia.

He would have done better to simply tempt the Russians into attacking him and thereby cut them up under predictable circumstances. Instead, Hötzendorf insisted upon taking ground whenever possible, and to prevent the Russians from doing so at all costs. Worst of all, the incredible German victory at Tannenberg convinced Conrad that his own campaign in Galicia was capable of producing a similar, smashing success.

Hötzendorf therefore made almost no defensive preparations, and focused entirely on the initiative . . . simply put, he did not respect the dangerous power of his Russian enemies.

The disaster at Rawa Ruska finally convinced him at least of the precarious nature of the campaign, and he ordered one army from the Serbian front to join the forces in Galicia. This was too late, however: by September 15, all of the Austrian forces in the area were retreating, and additional support would prove too little, too late to save the Galician campaign. From this point on, the Germans would increasingly be aware of the need to provide their Austrian allies with assistance.

For the Russians, the victory provided a much needed boost to both military and civilian morale. The disaster at Tannenberg had severely damaged Russian expectations of their military’s abilities, but Lemberg assured them that the Russian military remained strong and capable . . . even if their victory had come at the expense of the semi-incompetent Hötzendorf. Soldiers and civilians alike celebrated the victory.

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