This book looks at a time and place when the Russian infantryman could perform just as well as its German opponents, when they were well equipped and had ample supplies of ammunition. Forczyk has chosen one well-known battle, at Gumbinnen, and two more obscure battles (Göritten and Mahartse), all of which involved a significant number of pre-war regular soldiers on both sides. Gumbinnen was an early fight in the early fighting in East Prussia, but the other two took place after the main focus of attention had moved away to the south.
During these early battles the Russians had good stocks of ammunition, produced before the war. Once these pre-war supplies were used up, Russian industry was unable to cope with the unexpectedly high demand. After this period, with huge numbers of the pre-war well trained soldiers gone from both sides, the Russians struggled to replace them. Even then the Russian army was often able to defeat its Austro-Hungarian opponents. The increasingly shortage of ammo on the Russian side also played a part in the later battles covered here.
The book is split into two main sections, with 35 pages looking at the nature of the two armies, their training, equipment and place in society and 36 pages on the three battles themselves. The last few pages look at the later stages of the East Prussian campaign, the army structures and a short bibliography.
Forczyk had produced a well balanced book that acknowledges the performance of both sides and presents an image of a more impressive Russian army than their later performance and the collapse of the Tsarist regime would lead one to expect. As always the text is supported good maps, which help illustrate the progress of the battles, and a good mix of Russian and German photographs.
The Opposing Sides
Author: Robert Forczyk