Second battle of Warsaw, 7-25 November 1914

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The second battle of Warsaw, 7-25 November 1914, was a German offensive launched to prevent a Russian invasion of Silesia in eastern Germany. In the early months of the First World War the Russians had launched invasions of East Prussia and of Galicia. The attack in East Prussia had failed, but the attack in Galicia had ended with a great Russian victory (battles of Lemberg), which saw the Austro-Hungarian armies forced back to the Carpathian Mountains. This disaster left eastern Germany vulnerable to a Russian invasion. Hindenburg and Ludendorff responded by shifting their Ninth Army from East Prussia to Silesia, and launching an invasion of south west Poland (first battle of Warsaw, 19-30 October). The Russians had moved their armies from the Carpathian front north towards Warsaw and repulsed the German attack. At the end of October the Russians had three armies in the west of Russian Poland and were preparing to advance towards Germany.

On 3 November Hindenburg decided to move the Ninth Army north from Silesia to the line between Posen and Thorn. From this new position it would once again invade Poland, heading towards Warsaw, and strike the advancing Russian armies on their right flank.

The Germans were in place by 10 November. The Silesian border was defended by Army Section Woyrsch, a mix of Landwehr and Austrian troops. Their job was to delay the Russian advance as much as possible to give the Ninth Army time to launch its attack. On 10 November the Russian Second and Fifth Armies were advancing towards Silesia, unaware of the German movements. The initial German assault, commanded by General Mackensen, disrupted the Russian right wing, and captured 12,000 prisoners.

The decisive moment of the overall battle came on 15-16 November (this phase of the fighting is also known as the battle of Lodz). The advancing Germans split open the Russian lines north of Lodz. The Russian First Army was isolated along the Vistula, while the Germans threatened to cut off the Russian Second Army around Lodz. The German XXV Reserve Corps, under General Scheffer, was east of Lodz by the end of 18 November. The Russian Second Army was now cut off to the west, north and east. Yet another mass surrender beckoned.

The situation was saved by Grand Duke Nicholas, the Russian commander-in-chief. On 17 November he recognised the danger at Lodz, and abandoned the invasion of Silesia. The Russian Fifth Army, to the south, was ordered to turn to its right and march to the aid of the Second Army. On 21 November they reached Lodz, and attacked the German XXV Reserve corps. A third Russian force, the Lovitch Force, was detached from the First Army and marched south. It too reached Lodz on 21 November, attacking XXV Reserve corps from the north.

Scheffer’s corps was now surrounded. On 22 November it stayed on the defensive, fighting on four fronts, but on 23 November it marched north, hitting the 6th Siberian Division from the Lovitch Force. The Siberians held out during 23 November, but no reinforcements arrived, and the next day the division collapsed. Only 1,500 men remained, most of the rest having escaped while they could. Scheffer had escaped from the trap, and was able to resume his place in the German line.

In the aftermath of the battle the Russians pulled back to a new line based on Warsaw, while the Germans occupied Lodz. The fighting on this front then died down over the winter. The threat of a Russian invasion of Silesia was removed. The Russians turned south, resuming the attack on the Austro-Hungarian Empire, suffering another defeat at Limanowa-Lapanów, 6-12 December 1914.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (6 September 2007), Second battle of Warsaw, 7-25 November 1914 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_warsawII_1914.html

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