|Aleksei Alekseevich Brusilov|
So who was Brusilov? The only General throughout the whole of WW1 to have his name attached to a strategic campaign - a distinction that eluded Joffre, Foch, Haig etc. - he must have been an impressive man.
General Aleksei Brusilov was aged 60 at the outbreak of war in 1914, and by mid 1916 was one of the few people to have been involved in action continuously since that time. Like many senior generals his training had been as a Cavalry officer, but he recognised the central role of infantry tactics in modern warfare. He distinguished himself in the early advances following Lemberg, and again in early 1915 when he led the further advances as far as the Hungarian plain. It was the disaster at Gorlice-Tarnow that forced his reversal, and thereafter he had to lead rearguard actions during the long Russian withdrawals from Galicia and Poland. Favoured by the Tsar after his successes, he gained promotions and decorations and in April 1916 was given control of the southernmost sector of the front. The tactics he introduced for his offensive led to Russia's greatest successes of the war, and were adopted by other combatants as the war ground onwards - notably the German shock troops of late 1917 and 1918. Brusilov is viewed as one of the great fighting commanders of WW1. Following the February Revolution in 1917, he was made Commander in Chief of the Russian army but was relieved of his post before the Bolshevik Revolution in November, during which he was badly injured. He died in 1924, aged 70, and received a state funeral from the Bolsheviks.
|Brusilov's starting point (left) and the double bulge north |
and south (right) created by the advances of Khaledin
Similar dramatic success was achieved in the far south where Lechitski's 9th army advanced rapidly along the Dniester into the Bukovina region of Galicia. However, in the centre the Austrian and German resistance, led by Bothner, was stiffer and progress was slower. This meant that the two leading groups of Brusilov were diverging, and this would prove to be a problem later when German reinforcements arrived. Neither was Brusilov helped by the tardy responses of Ewart's army group to the north, which should have been pressurising the Germans to prevent their re-deployment.
|Gen Alexey Kaledin.|
Blazed the trail for Brusilov
into the Volhynian Triangleh
Thereafter, matters became much more difficult for Brusilov, as German and Austrian reinforcements were pulled all the way from the Western Front and Trentino respectively. Effectively, Kaledin and Lechitski were now fighting separate campaigns, separated by a region where Bothner's Austrian forces were holding on - in one case re-inforced by a German Army Corps that transferred the 1000+ miles from Verdun in only six days. Kaledin and Sakharov made further advances towards their objectives, Kovel and Lemberg, but with heavy losses. Despite the major battle raging on the Somme, the germans were able to mount counter-offensives under another of their outstanding generals, von Linsingen. On one day of such battles, 9th August, the Russians lost 55,000 men. To the south, Lechitski' made valiant efforts to strengthen his grip on Bukovina and to cut off supplies for Bothner's central armies, but by September, Brusilov's offensive had come to an end.
|Gen. Alexander von Linsingen|
Veteran of the Marne and Ypres 1.
Halted Keldin's charge at the Battle of
Kovel, 24th July 1916
Paradoxically, Brusilov's brilliant successes did most for Britain, France and Italy, weakening appreciably the central powers' efforts in Trentino, Verdun and the Somme. Arguably, had Brusilov been better supported by his colleagues in the central and northern army groups, the offensive might have achieved enough to tip the scales of the Somme conflict in favour of the British.