The battle of Lake Naroch, 18-26 March 1916, was an unsuccessful Russian offensive launched around Lake Naroch in the hope of recapturing Vilna, one of the most important towns in the Russian Baltic provinces. The Russians had been planning a major offensive to be launched in the summer of 1916 as part of a wider Allied plan, but their plans changed after the German attack at Verdun.
In the first weeks of the offensive at Verdun, the French called on all of their allies to launch their own attacks, hoping to draw German troops away from the Western Front. The Russian response was an attack by the Second Army around Lake Naroch on their northern front. In this area there were over 300,000 Russians and perhaps only half as many Germans. The Russians also gathered a massive amount of artillery – 5,000 guns and 5,000,000 shells.
The initial attacks made some limited progress, especially along the shore of the lake, but the attacks had been made on very narrow fronts north and south of the lake. The attack soon became bogged down, and the Russian troops in the salients came under fire from three sides. The Russians suffered some 15,000 casualties on the first day of the battle.
The Russian offensive continued until 26 March in ever worsening conditions. The spring thaw began just before the battle, and by the time the fighting ended was in full effect. During April local German counterattacks took back most of the lost ground. The Russians suffered 100,000 casualties, and failed to pull any German troops away from the Western Front.
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