Battle of Bolimov, 31 January 1915

The battle of Bolimov, 31 January 1915, was a minor battle on the eastern front during the First World War. It was a German attack intended to draw Russian attention towards Warsaw and away from East Prussia, where large Germany armies were gathering in preparation for the attack that would lead to the second battle of the Masurian Lakes.

The attack was launched from the west of Warsaw, against Polish positions at Bolimon, on the Rawka river (a tributary of the Bzura, itself a tributary of the Vistula). This was the area held by the German Ninth Army, under General Hoffman. Part of that army had already moved north, to protect the right flank of the upcoming offensive, leaving the rest of the army to launch the diversionary attack.

The battle is most significant as the first use of poisoned gas during the First World War. The Germans had 18,000 shells filled with T-Stoff (xylyl bromide), a form of tear gas. On the morning of the attack, Hoffman climbed the church tower at Bolimov to watch the new secret weapon in action for the first time. He was to be terribly disappointed. Instead of turning into a cloud of gas, the chemical froze. The Russians appear not to have noticed the new German weapon.

Despite the failure of the gas, the attack at Bolimov did achieve its main objective. Russian attention remained focused around Warsaw, and the attack further north was a total success. A second, more successful gas attack would come at Ypres, where on 22 April the Germans would use Chlorine gas, the first of the lethal poisoned gases of the war.

Germany Ascendant – The Eastern Front 1915, Prit Buttar. Covers the key year on the Eastern Front of the First World War, a year that saw the Russians briefly threaten to invade Hungary, but ended with them pushed out of Poland, away from East Prussia and out of most of Austrian Galicia, after a series of battles that also established Germany's dominance over Austria. This was also the year in which the Central Powers successfully invaded Serbia, thus achieving Austro-Hungary's original war aim [read full review]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (28 August 2007), Battle of Bolimov, 31 January 1915, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_bolimov.html

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