From the Military Attaché, Warsaw,
to the Right Hon. Sir G. Buchanan,
G.C.V.O., G.C.M.G., &c.
Warsaw, 3rd November, 1914.
| I have the honour to send you some
notes on the general situation as requested by your letter of the
20th October which reached me yesterday. I have not sent any information
lately partly because I understood from a Foreign Office telegram
some 6 weeks ago that military information was not required and partly
because it is only on rare occasions that I can send letters safely
from the front.
| In despatch B of the 10th October
I gave a brief account of the German advance from the line Bendin-Chenstokhov
to the Vistula. This movement was a belated attempt to relieve Russian
pressure on Austria. When it was commenced, at the beginning of October,
there was no Russian infantry on the left bank of the Vistula.
| There can be no doubt that the Russian
armies were detained too long in Galicia. The Austrians decamped rapidly
and the Russians were so retarded by difficulties of supply that their
counter-stroke lost much of its effect.
| It is said that the Grand Duke wished
to withdraw earlier but was opposed by Ivanoff on the ground that
reports pointed to the concentration of the Austrian main body south
of Przemysl. So they remained for weeks, few of the troops being actively
engaged and hundreds of the horses dying of starvation.
| At length the 4th army was withdrawn.
When the German advance from the line Bendin-Chenstokhov necessitated
a rapid change of front the question arose whether it would be possible
to carry out the movement on the left bank of the Vistula, and, moreover,
at a distance from that river sufficiently great for it to be safe
to offer battle. The General Officer Commanding the 9th army suggested
taking his four corps across the Vistula at Sandomir and offering
battle on the line Ostroviets-Opatov. Ivanoff insisted on the whole
movement being carried out in rear of the river. This was the safer
course, but it necessitated the abandonment of all trans-Vistula Poland
to the enemy, brought great hardships on the troops who were forced
to retire on a narrow front and on the few roads of the Lublin Government
where the supply arrangements were quite inadequate, entailed the
probability of great loss in the eventual forcing of the river, and,
worst of all, caused delay in the attainment of our eventual object.
| The German advance was delayed as
much as possible by seven divisions of cavalry, and two weak detachments
of infantry were pushed forward in support. Of the latter, the 75th
Division at Radom delayed the enemy for 36 hours, but the Guard Rifle
Brigade at Opatov was severely handled on the 4th October, losing
half its strength, nine guns and 21 machine guns.
| By the 7th October the Germans supported
by Austrians on the right had reached the left bank of the Vistula
from Sandomir to Warsaw. The only permanent bridges are at Warsaw
and Ivangorod and the Russians had destroyed all the temporary bridges
except one at Ivangorod and another at Novo-Alexandria. The approaches
to Warsaw had been defended by hastily constructed entrenchments,
those to Ivangorod were covered by a fort on the left bank that dates
from 1888, and to Novo-Alexandria by defences constructed by working
parties of the Opolchenie. The whole bank from Ivangorod to Novo-Alexandria
was protected by an almost continuous line of trenches.
| A brigade of the Grenadier Corps retired
somewhat precipitately from the bridge head at Novo-Alexandria. An
artillery duel continued for some days across the river from south
of Ivangorod to Zavikhost, the fire of the German heavy guns severing
railway communication between Ivangorod and Novo-Alexandria.
| The German troops concentrated
to the north against the Warsaw bridge head, their place being taken
gradually by the 1st, 5th and 10th Austrian Corps, together with Landwehr
divisions. Warsaw was soon in considerable danger, the menace reaching
its height on the 11th of October when the enemy's advanced troops
were within 7 versts (4 1/2 miles) of the city. The Russians were,
however, able to concentrate troops quickly by means of their strategic
railways, while the Germans had to carry out their lateral movement
by road. Several Russian corps were transferred for the frontier of
East Prussia, while the Moscow railway brought every day 30 to 40
trains of Siberian troops. Scheidemann, who was in command, was able
after a series of hard-fought battles to drive the enemy back to a
| Meanwhile the change of front, a remarkable
performance considering the weather and the roads, was completed and
the 4th 5th and 9th armies were aligned successively along the right
bank from Gora-Kalvaria to Sandomir.
| From the 14th these armies commenced
to cross to the left bank, the 5th and 4th leading on the line Gora
Kalvaria-Kozenitsze. In this operation the 3rd Caucasian corps lost
| By the 20th the enemy had been driven
back from Warsaw, and it was known that he was preparing to retreat
all along the line.
| The Guard crossed at Ivangorod on
the 21st and 22nd and was followed at Novo-Alexandria by the 25th
corps on the night of the 22nd-23rd and by the 14th corps, also at
Novo-Alexandria, on the night of the 23rd-24th.
| It is difficult to ascertain to what
extent the Germans were punished in their retirement from before Warsaw.
The Military Governor here says that they retired in panic, abandoning
transport and in many cases guns and machine guns. He estimates that
their promenade cost them from 60,00 to 70,000 men killed, wounded
and prisoners. I believe this is an exaggeration. No estimate places
the number of prisoners at a larger figure than 4,000. I think that
the Germans retired rapidly but in complete order, without serious
damage from the overwhelming mass of Russian cavalry on their northern
| I crossed with the Guards corps at
Ivangored. The difficulty of the marshy and wooded country through
which we debouched, the fine fight put up by the Austrian rearguard
which gave the corps commander an exaggerated opinion of their strength,
together with misunderstandings with the IIIrd Caucasian corps on
our right, caused progress to be slow. The corps staff only reached
Zvolen on the 27th. The Guards Corps lost 2,700 men in four days'
fighting. On the left the 25th corps had an equal number of casualties
in a single reserve division. from the 26th large parties of Hungarians
and Slovaks surrendered, and by the following night the Guard, 25th
and 14th corps had taken about 12,000 prisoners. All local reports
agree regarding the contrast between the disorganization of the Austrian
rear services and the order which reigns in the German army. Hundreds
of wounded Austrians were found at Zvolen who had not been fed for
days or had their wounds looked to.
| In spite of their faulty organization,
the Austrians, as the Germans, were punished less than they should
have been. The Russian armies are now advancing west on a wide front,
but their want of mobility has robbed them of the brilliant success
that at one time seemed probable.
| The operations on the Eydtkuhnen-Suwalki
line seem to have developed since the Russian victory at Augustovo
into a war of position. Rennenkampf's army was very nearly cut off
in its retirement from East Prussia. He lost 20,000 men and 120 guns.
| The Russians consider the Austrian
army broken, for they have captured 200,000 prisoners and 1,000 guns.
On the other hand they think Austria has still 16 regular and five
or six reserve corps in the field, though, of course, they are all
of a lower establishment or filled by older classes of reservists.
Brousilov on our extreme left has large Austrian forces opposed to
him, and Radko-Dmitriev is making little progress south of Sandomir.
| Probably a Russian corps is more than
a match for an Austrian corps, but a wide margin of strength is necessary
in fighting against German troops.
| There are thus about 40 corps on the
western frontier and from 20 to 25 divisions of cavalry, the distribution
of which is not accurately known. Several, possibly 10, of the corps
contain 3rd divisions.
| The armies are grouped in two fronts;
the area of operations being divided for the present by the Pilitsa,
a stream which joins the Vistula half way between Warsaw and Ivangorod.
The "north-west front" (10th, 1st and 2nd armies) is directed
by General Ruzski, who has succeeded Jilinski. His Chief of Staff
is General Oranovski. The "south-west front" is still commanded
by General Ivanov, with General Alexyeev as Chief of Staff.
| The XIIIth and XVth Army Corps, which
were destroyed north of Neidenburg, are re-forming at Gomel (in Central
| The 6th army, based on Petrograd,
consists entirely of 2nd line troops. It is commanded by General van
der Fliet and its task is the defence of the Finland and Baltic coast.
| The 8th army - for the defence of
the Black Sea littoral - is based on Odessa and commanded by General
Nikitin. It also contains only reserve troops.