Remus von Woyrsch, 1847-1920

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Remus von Woyrsch was a German general of the First World War who fought on the Silesian border and in southern Poland. Woyrsch was born at Pilsntiz near Breslau in Silesia. He entered the army in 1860, and fought in the war with Austria of 1860 and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. He rose through the ranks, reaching major general in 1987, lieutenant general in 1901 and general of infantry in 1905, at which time he commanded VI Army Corps at Breslau. He retired in 1911.

He was reactivated on 1 August 1914, and given command of the Silesian Landwehr Corps, a force in part formed from the garrisons of the German fortresses in Silesia. His initial orders were to form up opposite Chenstokhov in the south west of Russian Poland (now Czestochowa, southern Poland) and then on 13 August to invade Russia, advancing north east towards Radom, while keeping in touch with the Austrians on his right.

This involved him in the battle of Krasnik (23-24 August 1941), a minor victory won by the Austrian First Army during their advance from Galicia (battles of Lemberg). This moderate success was soon negated by the dramatic Russian victory at Rava Ruska (3-11 September 1914), which forced the Austro-Hungarians into a rapid and increasingly chaotic retreat back to the Carpathians. Woyrsch’s Landwehr Corps played in covering the retreat of the Austrian First Army, helping to maintain a connection between the Austrian and German forces.

In October Woyrsch’s corps returned to German control. He was given command of Army Section Woyrsch, and held the right of the German line in Silesia. The Austro-Hungarian retreat left Silesia vulnerable to Russian invasion. Hindenburg and Ludendorff made two attempts to ward off this threat. The first, in October, was an invasion of Poland from the south west (First battle of Warsaw, 19-30 October 1914), involving forces from the German Ninth Army, transferred from East Prussia. This invasion ended in a retreat in the face of vastly superior Russian forces, and still left Silesia vulnerable.

Hindenburg and Ludendorff decided to move the Ninth Army back to the north, and use it to attack the right flank of the Russian invasion. Woyrsch was left on the southern front, holding the line north from Chenstokhov. His Army Section, which now included the Austrian Second Army, was able to hold the Russians east of the Silesian border for long enough to allow the main counterattack to take place around Thorn (Second battle of Warsaw, 7-25 November 1914 and battle of Lodz, 11-25 November). Woyrsch’s force took some part in the fighting around Lodz, on the far right of the German lines.

Woyrsch was award the Pour le mérite for his part in the fighting in Poland, and was promoted to colonel general. Army Section Woyrsch took part in the German advance through Poland after the breakthrough victory at Gorlice-Tarnow (2-10 May 1915), advancing 250 miles in one month. On 21/22 July his troops captured Ivangorod (south east of Poland) and in June reached Baranovichi (now in Belarus), on the railway between Warsaw and Moscow.

Once the great advance was over, Woyrsch was promoted to command Army Group Woyrsch, which took part in the occupation of Southern Poland. On 31 December 1917 the Army Group was disbanded during the reorganisation of the German armies in the east that followed the collapse of Russia. At this point Woyrsch retired for a second time, with the rank of Field Marshal. He returned to active duty once more after the war, as commander of the southern wing of the small force of border guards allowed to Germany on her eastern borders. He died at Pilsntiz on 6 August 1920.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (5 September 2007), Remus von Woyrsch, 1847-1920 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_woyrsch.html

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