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Sieges of Przemysl

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PRZEMYSL, SIEGES OF. In 1914 Przemysl was protected by a ring of forts 36 m. in circumference. Some of the forts were of recent construction, but the fortress as a whole was not strictly up-to-date. To clear the foreground in front of the fortified line no fewer than 18 villages and some five miles of forest were levelled to the ground on mobilization. The armament of the fortress included four large modern howitzers of about i2in. calibre and some gin. and 6in. howitzers of older pattern. There were in all about ',coo guns in the fortress, but more than half of these were old, short-range weapons of little value except for close defence. There were 114 machine-guns, of which two-thirds were mobile.

The eventual garrison left in the fortress when the Austrian armies retreated from the San on Sept. 18, 1914, consisted of : battalions (of which 401 were Landsturm), seven squadrons, four field batteries, 43 fortress artillery companies, 48 Landsturm artillery brigades, eight sapper companies, and various technical and administrative units. The total strength was approximately 130,000 men and 21,000 horses. Provisions were available for three months.

The First Siege.

The Austrian armies withdrew from the San on Sept. 18; by Sept. 24 the investment of the fortress was complete. On the south-west front the garrison held a line a mile or two in advance of the ring of forts ; elsewhere the line of the forts was held. The siege of the fortress was undertaken by Radko Dimitriev's III. Army. While the arrival of the siege artillery material was still delayed by the state of the communications, the Austrians renewed the offensive in the early days of Oct. (see VISTULA-SAN, BATTLES OF THE). In the hope of capturing Przemysl by a coup de main be fore the progress of the enemy offensive compelled the raising of the siege, Radko-Dimitriev carried out several violent as saults between Oct. 5-8 against the Siedliska group of works to the south-east of the town. These assaults broke down with heavy loss, and the approach of the Austrian III. Army necessitated

the withdrawal of the investing forces. The fortress was entered by Austrian infantry of the field armies on Oct. II, on which date Radko-Dimitriev's III. Army retreated to the east bank of the San.

Period Between the First and Second Sieges.

During the Austrian attempts to force the San line, which lasted throughout October, the fortress lay in the centre of the battle line and its garrison took an active part in the operations. Its reserves of sup plies and material were also largely drawn on by the field armies to make good the deficiencies caused by the poor working of the lines of communication. During their retreat the Russians had systematically destroyed the railways and bridges, and the con tinued wet weather had rendered the roads almost impassable. Thus it was natural that the reserves of Przemysl should be used for the benefit of the field armies, from whose operations great results were expected at the time. But when the offensive proved fruitless and Russian pressure necessitated a retirement which would leave the fortress again isolated, special efforts were made hastily to reprovision it. They were so far successful that the fortress was enabled to hold out for 4 months in the second siege.

Second Siege, Nov. 6, 1914–March 22, 1915.

The strength of the garrison was approximately the same as in the first siege, but a detachment of aeroplanes had been added. Kusmanek had now laid out new entrenched positions from one to two miles in ad vance of the line of forts, to give more depth to the defence and to keep the Russian siege artillery at a greater distance. On Nov. 9 the investment of the fortress for the second time was complete. The siege was now undertaken by a specially formed XI. Army under General Selivanov, consisting of four divisions of second line troops. It had been decided to reduce the fortress by blockade rather than by assault. During November and December such fighting as occurred was initiated rather by the sorties of the garri son than by the attacks of the besiegers.

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