The Brusilov Offensive (Брусиловский прорыв) was the Russian Empire's greatest feat of arms during World War I, and among the most lethal battles in world history. Brusilov amassed four armies totaling 40 infantry divisions and 15 cavalry divisions.
He faced 39 Austrian infantry divisions and 10 cavalry divisions formed
in a row of three defensive lines, although later German reinforcements
were brought up. Brusilov knowing he would not receive significant
reinforcements moved his reserves up to the front line. He used his
reserves to dig places d'armee about 300 meters long and 90 meters wide
all along the front line. These provided shelter for the troops and
hindered observation by the Austrians. The Russians secretly crept
to within 100 yards (91 m) of the Austrian lines and at some points as
close as 75 yards (69 m). Brusilov prepared for a surprise assault
along a 300-mile (480 km) front.
On June 4, the Russians opened the offensive with a massive, accurate, but brief artillery barrage against the Austro-Hungarian lines. The key point of this was the brevity and accuracy of the bombardment,
in marked contrast to the customary protracted barrages of the day
which gave the defenders time to bring up reserves and evacuate forward
trenches, and damaged the battlefield so badly that it was hard for the
attackers to advance. The initial attack was successful and the
Austro-Hungarian lines were broken.
The operation was marked by a considerable improvement in the quality of Russian tactics. Brusilov used smaller specialized units of soldiers to attack weak points
in the Austro-Hungarian trench lines and blow open holes for the rest
of the Russian Army to advance into. These shock tactics were a
remarkable departure from the "human wave" tactics that were
prevalent until that point during World War I by all the major armies
at the time. The irony was, the Russians themselves did not realize the
potential of the tactics Brusilov produced. It would be Germany that
seized on the model and utilized "storm troopers" to great effect in the 1918 offensive on the Western Front.
The Battle of Scimitar Hill (Yusufçuk Tepe) was the last
offensive mounted by the British at Suvla during the Battle of
Gallipoli in World War I. It was also the largest single-day attack
ever mounted by the Allies at Gallipoli. Paralysis had set in to the
British campaign in the Dardanelles after repeated failures to advance
at Helles on the tip of the peninsula since the original 25 April landings.
In August a new offensive, known as the Battle of Sari Bair, was opened
at Suvla in an attempt to regain the initiative from the Turks. The
plan for 21 August was to attack Scimitar Hill with the 29th Division
and the W Hills with the 11th Division, keeping the yeomanry in reserve
near the beach. As was so often the case at Gallipoli, the preliminary artillery barrage looked impressive but achieved little.
The British had no sight of their targets, which were obscured by mist
and smoke, whereas the Turkish artillery had a clear view of the entire
Suvla battlefield and ample opportunity to register their targets.
The 11th Division's attempt to capture the W Hills collapsed in confusion when confronted by a Turkish strongpoint and artillery fire.
As a consequence when the 1st Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling
Fusiliers managed to capture the summit of Scimitar Hill, they found
themselves under fire from the defenders higher up the Anafarta Spur to
the east and from the W Hills to the south. The Irish retreated from
the summit while the undergrowth around them was set ablaze by the
shellfire, incinerating the wounded as they lay helpless. In one day of
fighting the British suffered 5,300 casualties out of the 14,300 soldiers who participated.
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