Sunday, June 15, 2014

02 Tannenberg

I continue my quick journey through some key events of the First World War.

When the First World War started, the Germans hoped to win a quick victory against the French and then transfer their forces east against the Russians before the latter had fully mobilised. But in August 1914 the Russians mobilised faster than expected. And they launched an early invasion of East Prussia while most of Germany's forces were deployed in the west. For a few weeks it looked like the unstoppable Russian juggernaut would soon roll into Berlin.

But it was not to be. The Russians were advancing too quickly and the two Russian armies were not coordinating their movements. German commanders in the east concentrated their forces against one of the Russian armies and launched a devastating counterattack on the 26th of August. By the 30th that Russian army had been destroyed, with 92,000 soldiers captured, 78,000 killed and only 10,000 Russian soldiers escaping. The Germans were now free to take on the other invading army at their leisure.

The victory was given the name Tannenberg, after the nearby site of a mediaeval battle where Slavic forces had defeated the Teutonic knights. The Germany victory meant that the war did not end in September 1914 with an allied victory.

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