Brusilov Offensive begins

Brusilov Offensive begins

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On June 4, 1916, the Battle of Lutsk marks the beginning of the Brusilov Offensive, the largest and most successful Allied offensive of World War I.

When the fortress city of Verdun, France, came under siege by the Germans in February 1916, the French pleaded with the other Allies, Britain and Russia, to mount offensives in other areas to force the diversion of German resources and attention from the struggle at Verdun. While the British plotted the offensive they would launch near the Somme River in early July, the first Russian response came more quickly—a failed offensive in March at Lake Narocz, in which Russian troops were slaughtered en masse by the Germans with no significant effect at Verdun. Still, the Russians plotted another diversionary attack in the northern region of the Eastern Front, near Vilna (now in Poland).

While the Vilna offensive was being planned, General Alexei Brusilov—a 63-year-old former cavalryman and aristocrat given command of the Southwestern Army (the Russians divided their army into three major groups, Northern, Eastern and Southwestern) in March 1916—pressed his superiors at a meeting in April that he be allowed to attack as well, although no action was planned for the southwestern section of the front. At the very least, Brusilov reasoned, his attacks would draw troops away from the other area and ensure the success of their offensive in the north. Though he was given the go-ahead, the other Russian generals had little confidence in Brusilov’s strategy.

Brusilov’s troops began their attacks on the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army at the city of Lutsk (now in Ukraine), on June 4, 1916, with an impressive bombardment from nearly 2,000 guns along a 200-mile-long front stretching from the Pripet marshes to the Bukovina region to the southwest, in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. Though the Austrian troops at Lutsk, led by the over-confident Archduke Joseph Ferdinand, outnumbered the Russians—200,000 men against 150,000—the success of the barrage obliterated this advantage, along with the Austrian front line, as Brusilov’s troops swept forward, taking 26,000 prisoners in one day.

Within two days, the Russians had broken the 4th Army, advancing 75 kilometers along a 20-kilometer-long front, and effectively ending Joseph Ferdinand’s career. Some 130,000 casualties—plus the capture of over 200,000 prisoners—forced the Austrian commander, Conrad von Hötzendorf, to close down an offensive against Italy in the Trentino region to divert guns and divisions back east. On June 15, Conrad told his German counterpart, Erich von Falkenhayn, that they were facing the greatest crisis of the war so far—a fact that took Falkenhayn, who was optimistic about an imminent French surrender at Verdun, completely by surprise. Confronted with the Austrian panic against Russia, he was forced to release four German divisions from the west, a weakness that allowed a successful French counterattack at Verdun on June 23, just one day before the preliminary British artillery bombardment began at the Somme.

Dubbed The Iron General and respected and beloved by his troops, Brusilov relied on absolute preparedness for battle and on the execution of even the most minute detail of his orders. The June 4 attacks began a string of crushing victories against the Austrian army across the southwestern portion of the Eastern Front, forcing Germany to abandon plans for their own 1916 offensive in France in order to bail out their hapless ally—even as they confronted a new British offensive at the Somme in July. By September, Russian resources had began to run out, however, and the Brusilov Offensive reached its limits; it was shut down on September 20, 1916, having cost the Austro-Hungarian army a staggering total of 1.5 million men (including 400,000 taken prisoner) and some 25,000 square kilometers of territory.

Though turmoil and revolution shattered Russia in 1917, disintegrating its army and leading to its subsequent exit from the war—a fact that caused the success of the Brusilov Offensive to be largely forgotten—the offensive permanently secured more enemy territory than any other Allied offensive on either front. Moreover, a permanently debilitated Austria-Hungary never again played a significant role in the war. Its army was reduced to holding trenches against the weaker Italians, and Germany was left to fight virtually alone for the final two years of World War I.

The Brusilov Offensive

The Brusilov Offensive was a military victory for the Russians on the Eastern Front. General Brusilov’s assault regained land lost to the Central Powers in the early phases of the war. A decisive victory, it led to the Hapsburg Empire being dependant upon German support and on the verge of collapse. The offensive lasted until September 1916.

The early stages of the First World War were disastrous for the Russian army. They were defeated at the Battle of Tannenberg in the opening days of the war and suffered further losses at the Battle of the Masurian Lakes. Tsar Nicholas II decided to assume the leadership of the armed forces. He appointed Aleksei A. Brusilov to plan an offensive for the Summer of 1916.


Known also as the Brusilov breakthrough, the Brusilov offensive was one of the most successful ground offensive operations in World War I. Undertaken primarily by the Russian Southwestern Front between 4 June and 13 August 1916, this offensive accomplished simultaneous penetrations to depths of 60 to 150 kilometers (35 to 95 miles) across 550 kilometers (340 miles) of frontage, while shattering major elements of the Austro-Hungarian army.

In accordance with Allied negotiations at Chantilly in February 1916, the Russian high command promised summer offensives against the Central Powers to divert attention from northern Italy and to relieve pressure on the hard-pressed western front in France. Although the Russians had suffered severe losses during the withdrawals of 1915, the eastern front was now stabilized, with approximately 1.7 million troops in twelve armies arrayed across 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) in three army groups, or fronts (Northern, Western, and Southwestern). These fronts faced about 1.1 million Germans and Austro-Hungarians, with Russian manpower advantages of 2:1 north of the Pripet Marshes and 1.2:1 south of the Pripet. Russian troop units were largely at strength, but supporting heavy artillery remained inadequate, and shortages persisted in personnel replacements, rifles, and artillery shells. As Stavka, the headquarters of the Russian Supreme Command, began preparations for the summer, the Germans attacked at Verdun on 21 February, throwing the entire allied timetable into disarray. To relieve pressure in the west, Stavka hurriedly regrouped General Alexei Kuropatkin's Northern Front and General Alexei Evert's Western Front for a combined offensive against the Germans north of the Pripet. Known as the Naroch offensive, this gambit began on 18 March, but soon stalled because of inadequate artillery support, the early onset of the spring thaw, and the piecemeal commitment of reserves. Still, unexpected pressure in the east temporarily halted German operations against Verdun.

Against this backdrop, General Mikhail Alexeyev, the Russian chief of staff, continued to press for a summer offensive, in part to support the allies, and in part to preempt any German shift to the east. Although critics later charged that Stavka "advised much and ordered little," by 14 April it had produced a concept that called for a main offensive effort in the summer by the Western Front, supported on the flanks by its Northern and Southwestern counterparts. In response to Austro-Hungarian pressure against the Italians in the Trentino, Stavka advanced the Southwestern Front's offensive to 4 June, a week before anticipated mutually supporting Russian offensives in the north.

General Alexei Brusilov, commander of the Southwestern Front, insisted on careful preparation for the impending offensive. In contrast with conventional tactical practice, which emphasized massive firepower preparation and the accumulation of large reserves in a few sectors, he stressed surprise and the careful selection of numerous breakthrough sectors. He conducted a thorough reconnaissance, rehearsed, drove many saps (trench extensions) closer to the enemy lines, concentrated his reserves well forward, and limited his artillery to counterbattery fire to protect the assaulting infantry. Initially, he committed more than a half million troops and seventeen hundred guns against Austro-Hungarian forces numbering half his own.

As a result, the Brusilov offensive enjoyed major success before finally stalling from lack of support in the face of stiffening German-reinforced resistance. During the breakthrough phase (4–15 June), four Russian armies penetrated to varying depths, until on 14 June General Alexei Kaledin's 8th Army encountered fierce German counterattacks west of Lutsk. Meanwhile, other Russian armies reached Tarnopol and the Carpathians. General Evert's Western Front, however, lent ineffectual support, with the result that Brusilov's momentum dropped off, even though he continued to develop the breakthrough during his offensive's second phase, 16 June to 8 July. During the third phase, 9 July to 13 August, Stavka belatedly shifted forces to the southwest to support Brusilov's success, but too little came too late, and the offensive literally died out in a series of slugging matches along the Stokhod River. At the cost of half a million casualties, the Russians had succeeded, with assistance from near-simultaneous allied offensives on the Somme in France, in forcing the Germans to assume the overall strategic defensive. To meet the Russian challenge, they shifted more than twenty-four divisions to the east.

Despite varying degrees of tactical and operational success, the Brusilov offensive failed to produce victory or decisive strategic consequences. True, the Italians won a breathing space, and the Russians had relieved pressure on the western front. Romania now belatedly joined the Allied cause, but soon required reinforcement that further drained Russian resources. Ultimately, the price of Brusilov's offensive came high, in terms of both immediate casualties and the longer-term erosion in morale, manpower, and materiel that probably hastened the disintegration of the Russian army in 1917. In the end, much of the blame lay with Stavka's failure to effectively control multifront operations and to allocate sufficient reserves to support success. Nevertheless, the Brusilov offensive did manage to break the combat effectiveness of the Austro-Hungarian army, a circumstance from which that army never recovered.

Brusilov Offensive: This Russian Victory Came at Tremendous Cost in World War I

Russian General Aleksei Brusilov unleashed a spectacular offensive on the Eastern Front in the summer of 1916 that put Austria-Hungary in great peril during World War l.

Here's What You Need to Know: Both the Russian military and the Russian people would soon reach the limit of what they could endure.

The high command of the Imperial Russian Army, known as Stavka, met on April 14, 1916, at Mogilev in Belarus to discuss possible offensive action against the Germans and their Austro-Hungarian allies on the Eastern Front. Stavka Chief of the General Staff General Mikhail Alekseyev was the main speaker at the gathering. Among the other high-ranking officials attending the meeting were General Dmitri Shuvaev, the Russian war minister Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich, inspector general of the artillery and Admiral A.I Ruskin, chief of the naval staff.

Nicholas II was also present, not only as czar and autocrat, but also as supreme commander of all Russian armed forces. Many privately thought his self-appointment to supreme command was an unmitigated disaster, coming as it did after a string of Russian defeats at the hands of the Germans. Nicholas had no military experience or training in war, and his martial exploits were confined to wearing elaborate uniforms and taking the salute in parades and reviews.

Nicholas presided at this meeting but said little and remained so passive he must have seemed a mere cipher. The most important people at the meeting were the three front commanders, because they were the ones who would be tasked with making Stavka’s orders a reality. General Aleksei Kuropatkin commanded the Northern Front, General Aleksei Evert commanded the Northwestern Front, and General Aleksei Brusilov commanded the Southwestern Front.

The atmosphere in the room was one of pessimism and gloom, although no one was willing to have Russia capitulate to Germany. Since the outbreak of war in 1914 Russia had willingly assumed the role of sacrificial lamb, slaughtered on the altar of Allied solidarity. In August 1914 Russia had attacked Germany prematurely before it had had an opportunity to fully mobilize when the French were hard pressed on the Western Front. Their Gallic allies had all but begged them to do so, and the Russians complied with a hasty invasion of East Prussia.

As a result, the Germans were forced to transfer troops to the East, a major factor when they were defeated at the Marne and their offensive ground to a halt. Russia had helped save France, but at a terrible cost. The Russians were utterly defeated at Tannenberg in August, and by some estimates sustained as many as 100,000 casualties.

Worse was to follow. The Germans launched the Gorlice-Tarnow Offensive in 1915, forcing the Russians into what later was termed the “Great Retreat.” Warsaw fell, and Russian Poland was occupied by German troops. As the weeks went on, and defeat piled upon defeat, it seemed nothing could slow the German juggernaut, save topography.

The troops of the Imperial Russian Army, bloodied and battered, were nevertheless optimistic as they trudged ever eastward. Many of them—even the illiterate peasant soldiers who filled the ranks—took comfort in the traditional Russian tactic of trading space for time. In 1812 Napoleon had been lured into the vast Russian hinterland, a movement that planted the seeds of his later destruction.

“The retreat will continue as far—and as long—as necessary,” Nicholas told the French ambassador. “The Russian people are unanimous in their will to conquer as they were in 1812.” A Russian joke said that the czar’s army would retreat to the Urals, on the boundary of Europe and Asia. By that time, distance and attrition would wear enemy armies down to one man each. The Austrian would surrender, according to custom, and the German would be killed.

Nevertheless, a sense of war weariness and futility began to seep into the Russian psyche. This was not 1812 indeed, it would take far more than the Russian winter to dispose of the Germans and their junior partners the Austrians. The Central Powers had inflicted two million casualties on the Russian armies, even though Russia was not yet knocked out of the war. “The Russian bear had escaped our clutches, bleeding no doubt from more than one wound, but still not stricken to death,” said German Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg.

The meeting at Mogilev was colored by the events of this recent past. The mood was somber, and there was probably a sense of déjà vu when General Alekseyev said that Russia had agreed to a spring offensive, largely to support a British drive on the Somme scheduled for the summer of 1916. It would be limited and involve the North and Northwestern Fronts.

Stavka envisioned a two-pronged attack along the Divna River, but Generals Evert and Kuropatkin, who would execute the proposal, vehemently objected. They pointed out that scarcely a month before an offensive in the vicinity of Lake Narotch had been a fiasco. No fewer than 300,000 Russians had been unable to get the better of 50,000 Germans, and the effort collapsed in a sea of mud, blood, and freezing temperatures. The Russians suffered upward of 100,000 casualties, including 10,000 who died from exposure.

Alekseyev brushed aside their objections. While conceding that Russian losses had been great, he observed that as many as 800,000 fresh troops would fill the depleted ranks. This gave the Russians more than enough troops to launch a new offensive. Evert and Kuropatkin were not convinced, but they grudgingly agreed to a limited attack.

General Aleksei Brusilov then spoke. The balding sexagenarian, with his intense eyes and a long, thin mustache, still looked like the dashing cavalryman he had once been. He had last seen active duty in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 where he had served with distinction. Four decades is a long time to have been absent from the battlefield, but he made up for it by an open, enquiring mind that displayed brilliance if not genius. Brusilov studied Western European military techniques and knew how to adapt them to a different climate, geography, and even culture.

“I propose that we should launch an offensive on the Southwestern Front to support the plan,” said Brusilov. “We have numerical superiority over the Central Powers why not use it to our advantage, and attack on all fronts simultaneously? I ask only the express permission to attack on my front at the same time as my colleagues.”

After Brusilov finished there was a stunned silence. He was proposing an attack that would stretch for hundreds of miles, and the majority of the officers around the room had little confidence that the Imperial Russian Army could mount such a large-scale attack. Brusilov had another opinion. With meticulous preparation, enough armaments, and a change of tactics, he was sure the Russians could achieve a breakthrough and at the very least knock Austria-Hungary out of the war.

Brusilov knew that the terrible defeats Russia had suffered at the hands of the Germans were not the fault of the common Russian soldier. The Russian Army was composed mainly of conscripted peasants, whose immediate ancestors had been downtrodden serfs. They were stoic, stubbornly brave, and could endure hardships and wounds that might wear down or kill a Western soldier. Granted the peasants were illiterate, but they did not need to read and write to pull off a successful attack. For the millions of men who filled the ranks, a deep and abiding faith in Orthodox Christianity was all they needed. And after God, their faith was in the czar, who would lead them to victory against the Teutonic invaders.

Alekseyev tried to dissuade Brusilov, saying he could expect no artillery support and certainly no reinforcements. Brusilov said he accepted those conditions and still wanted to go ahead. Alekseyev, bowing to the inevitable, gave Brusilov’s plan his conditional approval.

After the meeting, General Nicolai Ivanov, the former commander of the Southwestern Front and at that time an adjutant to Czar Nicholas, made a last-ditch effort to stop the Brusilov by appealing directly to the czar. Nicholas, usually indecisive on such matters, refused to intervene. “I don’t think it is proper for me to alter the War Council’s decisions,” Nicholas said. “Take it up with Alekseyev.”

Russia had begun the war in 1914 ill equipped for a modern conflict. The country was still developing, with its industrial revolution in its adolescent phase, and modern war demands mass production. At that time, Russian factories were producing only 1,300 shells a day, which amounted to 35,000 a month, while Russian artillery was using 45,000 shells a day. The Russian Army outfitted its infantry with the 1891 model Mosin 7.62 mm rifle. It was an adequate weapon, but production lagged the first year. Some recruits literally were sent to the front without weapons under the assumption that they might be able to pick up a weapon from a dead or wounded comrade.

By early 1916 the situation had improved. Russian factories were producing 100,000 rifles a month. Additional arms were obtained from the Allies. Although there were still shortages, Brusilov was confident that precise planning could neutralize the problem. For one thing, artillery barrages just before an offensive tended to be very long. This enabled the enemy to know precisely where the blow would fall. With such knowledge, the enemy could shift reserves to the threatened spot.

BATTLE MAPS: The Brusilov Offensive,1916

The Russian Imperial Army has been portrayed as unfit to wage a modern war. It is best known for a catalogue of disasters at the hands of the Germans, notably at Tannenberg in 1914 and Gorlice-Tarnow in 1915, and then for its sudden collapse in the 1917 revolution.

Yet General Alexsei Brusilov launched one of the most successful offensives of the First World War in June 1916 – an event in sharp contrast to the failed offensives at Verdun and on the Somme.

In 1914, Russian successes against the Austro-Hungarians and a subsequent advance to the Carpathian Mountains, which threatened an invasion of Hungary, were counter-balanced by defeats at Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes at the hands of the Germans.

The stalemate reached at the end of 1914 was broken by the Gorlice-Tarnow offensive of May 1915, which broke through the Russian defences east of Cracow and led to ‘the Great Retreat’ of the Russians along the entire Eastern Front.

This rescued the Austro-Hungarians in the Carpathians, and ended the Russian threat to Hungary and Silesia. But, despite huge losses in men and materiel, the Russian armies survived and established a new line running from Riga in the north to Czernowitz in the south.

Many incompetent commanders were removed or reassigned, notably Nikolai Ivanov, who was replaced as commander of the South-Western Front by Alexei Brusilov in March 1916.

The winter of 1915/1916 allowed the Russians to rally. The Army recovered its strength, the war economy cranked up, and the munitions factories increased the production of shells. By 1916, the Russians were ready to take the offensive again. Brusilov was to play a major part in reversing Russian fortunes.

An Allied conference at Chantilly in December 1915 agreed that offensives would be launched on the French, Italian, and Russian fronts. The aim was to keep the forces of the Central Powers dispersed. The Russians were to attack by early June.

Accordingly, in April 1916, a conference of front commanders at Mogilev chaired by Tsar Nikolai and General Alekseev agreed to launch simultaneous assaults by all three fronts (Northern, Western, and South-Western). These Allied and Russian plans were disrupted by the German offensive at Verdun and the Austrian offensive at Asiago in Italy. This prompted the French and the Italians to increase the pressure for Russian action.

This was the immediate context for Russian attacks at Lake Naroch in March and on Brusilov’s South-Western Front in June. Rather than attacking on a narrow front, Brusilov decided to launch simultaneous assaults with all his armies. This meant dispersion of force, not least artillery.

He was deliberately forsaking the concentrated, sustained artillery bombardment that usually preceded offensives and was designed to pulverise the enemy’s defences on a particular sector of the front. Both the Tsar and Alekseev opposed Brusilov’s plan, arguing for the traditional approach and a concentration of Russia’s limited resources on a narrow front.

Making a virtue of their ammunition shortages, on 4 June 1916 the Russian artillery mounted an intense and brief but accurate and effective ‘hurricane’ bombardment of the Austro-Hungarian defences.

Seeking shelter from the bombardment in their deep dugouts, the Austro-Hungarian defenders were unable to fire on the advancing Russians and, once their positions had been overrun, they surrendered in their thousands. By the end of the first day, there was a 20-mile wide by five-mile deep gap in the Austro-Hungarian line.

Brusilov had achieved the breakthrough that most commanders could only dream of during the First World War. As there were no substantial defences behind the first trench line, the Russians were able to advance very quickly during the next three days, capturing more than 200,000 enemy soldiers. The Austro-Hungarian Chief of Staff was forced to seek German assistance and to close down the Asiago offensive as he moved his divisions back to Galicia.

Brusilov lacked the reserves to sustain his breakthrough offensive. The Russian Army was not yet mechanised, still relying on horse-drawn transport, and the creaking Russian infrastructure simply could not deliver the necessary flow of fresh men and munitions needed to power a continuous advance.

The incompetence of most senior Tsarist commanders – many of them court favourites and aristocratic non-entities – remained a crucial failing throughout the war. The high command was also divided by rivalries and personal disagreements which prevented close cooperation at crucial moments.

By the time Brusilov had regrouped, been reinforced by the Guard Army (Aleksandr Bezobrazov), and resumed the offensive on 28 July, the opportunity to exploit the initial success had passed.

In an impressive feat of logistics, the Germans had transferred ten infantry divisions so as to establish a defensive line opposite Brusilov strong enough to repulse renewed Russian attacks with heavy losses. Brusilov launched another offensive between 7 August and 20 September. This reached the Carpathian Mountains, but suffered further heavy losses, then lost momentum.

The offensive finally ran out of steam in October as Brusilov exhausted his supplies and reinforcements. Blaming the Tsarist system for his inability to exploit the initial success of his offensive, Brusilov, like many others, began to think that only revolution would enable Russia to modernise and secure victory.

Dr Simon Innes-Robbins, a graduate of the University of Nottingham and King’s College London, is Senior Archivist at the Imperial War Museums. This is an extract from an article that appeared in issue 71 of Military History Monthly.

Breakthrough [ edit | edit source ]

The Russian general Aleksei Brusilov, 1916.

On June 4 the Russians opened the offensive with a massive, accurate but brief artillery barrage against the Austro-Hungarian lines. The key factor in this was the brevity and accuracy of the bombardment the customary, protracted barrages of the day gave the defenders time to bring up reserves and evacuate forward trenches, while damaging the battlefield so badly that it was hard for attackers to advance. The initial attack was successful and the Austro-Hungarian lines were broken, enabling three of Brusilov's four armies to advance on a wide front (see: Battle of Kostiuchnówka). The success of the breakthrough was helped in large part by Brusilov's innovation of shock troops to attack weak points along the Austrian lines to effect a breakthrough, which the main Russian army could then exploit. Brusilov's tactical innovations laid the foundation for the German infiltration tactics used later in the Western Front.

The Brusilov Offensive

The Brusilov Offensive took place in 1916. The offensive started in June 1916 and ended in August of the same year. The Brusilov Offensive ironically was nearly a major success in a war that had been a disaster for the Russians up to that year.

After the disasters at Tannenburg and the Masurian Lakes, the Russian army had fallen back to a line from Riga in the Baltic through to the Pinsk marshes near the Rumanian frontier – about 500 miles long. It was divided into three sectors:

The North-West Front led by General Kuropatkin

The West Front commanded by General Evert

The South-West Front commanded by General Ivanov

All three commanders were reluctant to take up the offensive against the Germans. This seems to have been a direct result of the disasters that met the Russians at Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes – and in the case of Samsonov resulted in his suicide.

By 1916, the glaring deficiencies in equipment that the Russian soldiers had were gone. Soldiers were being properly trained and rifles were being produced at a rate of 10,000 a month. Most front line units had a full complement of machine guns and were fully stocked with artillery shells. The winter months of 1915-1916 had been relatively quiet for the Russians and the time had been constructively spent in training new recruits. Therefore in 1916 the Russian army was in a much better state than it had been at the start of the war. The one area of shortage was a lack of experienced officers – they had been killed.

This ‘new’ army had its first blooding in the spring of 1916. The massive German attack at Verdun required the Allies to use the Russian military in the effort to get the Germans to withdraw troops from the Western Front to the east. The initial phase of this diversionary Russian attack by the West Front sector was remarkably successful – German records indicate just how surprised the Germans were at the severity of the artillery onslaught they suffered and the success of the Russian advance. The Russians took the advanced lines of the Germans and then, inexplicably though probably as a result of timid leadership, the artillery and aeroplane support given to the infantry were withdrawn leaving the Russian troops on the ground in shallow marsh trenches and exposed to poison gas attack. Unable to withstand gas attack after gas attack (the Battle of Lake Naroch), the West Front army had to withdraw. However, the attack had shown what it was capable of doing. Its subsequent retreat was more a comment on its commanders as opposed to the men on the ground.

To assist the Allies in the Battle of the Somme, the Russians had planned a major attack in the east so that the Germans would have to split their forces between both fronts. Ivanov had been replaced by General Alexey Brusilov who had shown excellent leadership skills in the 1915 retreat. Brusilov was also a champion of the offensive as the only way to win a war.

In April 1916, the offensive was discussed. Both Evert and Kuropatkin argued in favour of a defensive campaign and Brusilov was the only front commander to argue in favour of an attack on all three fronts. He argued that the Germans might be able to cope with an attack on just one front but that they would not cope with an attack on all three fronts. Evert and Kuropatkin were not convinced. In the end it was decided that Brusilov would launch at attack by the South-West Front that would be followed by attacks by the other two fronts.

Brusilov returned to his sector and ordered the generals of the four armies under his control to set-out their own plans of attack. By doing this, Brusilov was convinced that the Germans would not be able to work out where the main attack would come within that sector – though, in fact, there was not to be a specific hammer-blow attack but a widely dispersed attack. Brusilov also ordered all correspondents out of the area and refused to give out any information that was likely to make its way to the tsarina Alexandra.

Brusilov’s men were going to attack a very well defended line. Mines, some electric fences, barbed wire, well-dug trenches etc had all been built by the Austro-Hungarian forces there. However, Brusilov had used his time to produce very detailed maps and he had ordered his officers to study these maps in great detail. His advance trenches – dug for his men for the start of the campaign – were less than 100 metres from the Austro-Hungarian front lines. Because of the nature of the attack – all four armies attacking at the same time – Brusilov had no reserves to call on. In this sense, his attack was all-or-nothing.

Brusilov’s attack started on June 4th. Three of his four armies had great success. Precise artillery bombardments and surprise helped this. By June 8th, the Austrians were in full retreat. Brusilov’s main targets were Lutsk and Kovel. Archduke Joseph Ferdinand was celebrating his birthday at Lutsk and such was the accuracy of Russian artillery units on the city that he had to abandon these celebrations. However, Evert failed to start his attack on the 9th and Brusilov was told that the West Front would only start its attack on the 18th June. The Germans in the east, commanded by Luderndorff, managed to get together enough men to support the ailing Austrians in the southern sector and this all but doomed Brusilov’s offensive to failure.

Ironically, the success of the initial attack by Brusilov’s armies meant that they were to experience communication problems as they advanced so quickly west. As a result, Brusilov’s forces advanced on two lines within their sector that went in the opposite direction to the other, thus diminishing their effectiveness. Combined with Evert’s lack of action and the skill of Luderndorff as a commander, Brusilov faced major problems despite his early success.

Evert’s attack did not materialise. Instead, his men were transferred south and put at the disposal of Brusilov. This was exactly what Brusilov did not want as he knew that German intelligence would identify the movement of Evert’s men south and transfer their own men there. Because the Germans had a superior rail network within their area, they could move their men quicker than Evert could. Therefore, Brusilov found that he was facing experienced German troops that had been moved south in considerable numbers by Luderndorff. The spectacular advances west that Brusilov’s men had gained dried up and by August 10th it had come to a halt. By this date, the Russians had lost about 500,000 men and the Austrians 375,000 men.

The Brusilov Offensive – the only campaign in World War One named after an individual commander – came close to success but ultimately has to be deemed a failure in the sense that it did not achieve what it set out to achieve – the transfer of sufficient German troops from the Western Front to facilitate an Allied success at the Somme. However, its failure was not the result of Brusilov’s incompetence – the offensive nature of Brusilov’s military thinking was in stark contrast to the sterile defensive mentality of Evert. If Evert had committed his men to an attack in his sector, Luderndorff would not have been able to transfer his men south and Brusilov would have fought just the Austro-Hungarian forces in the south. In all probability, if Evert had played his part, the campaign in the east would have been very successful. The impact this might have had on the Somme is open to speculation, and in the sense of World War One is irrelevant as it did not happen. However, it could have been very significant and Brusilov’s name may well have been more well known that it is.

The History Book Club discussion

This is the thread dedicated to the Brusilov Offensive and all of its ancillary battles.

Keegan discussed this offensive on pages 303 - 308.

Here is one recent book that covers this battle:

by Timothy Dowling (not read)
Publishers blurb:
In the summer of 1915, the Central Powers launched an offensive on the Eastern Front that they hoped would decide the war. It did not, of course. In June 1916, an Allied army under the command of Aleksei A. Brusilov decimated the Central Powers' gains of 1915. Brusilov's success brought Romania into the war, extinguished the offensive ability of the Habsburg armies, and forced Austria-Hungary into military dependence on and political subservience to Germany. The results were astonishing in military terms, but the political consequences were perhaps even more significant. More than any other action, the Brusilov Offensive brought the Habsburg Empire to the brink of a separate peace, while creating conditions for revolution within the Russian Imperial Army. Timothy C. Dowling tells the story of this important but little-known battle in the military and political history of the Eastern Front.

Who was Aleksei Brusilov?

Aleksei Alekseevich Brusilov (Russian: Алексе́й Алексе́евич Бруси́лов, Aleksey Alekseyevich Brusilov) (19 August [O.S. 31 August:] 1853 – 17 March 1926) was a Russian general most noted for the development of new offensive tactics used in the 1916 offensive which would come to bear his name. The innovative and relatively successful tactics used were later copied by the Germans. His war memoirs were translated into English and published in 1930 as A Soldier's Notebook, 1914–1918.

In July 1914, with the Russian army expanding on mobilization, Brusilov was promoted to command 8th Army, part of South-west Front, operating in Galicia. 8th Army crushed the Austro-Hungarian forces before it, and rapidly advanced nearly 150 kilometers (94 miles). Reverses elsewhere along the Front, including the great defeat at Tannenberg, forced 8th Army to retire in conformance with the general Russian withdrawal. For his victories, Brusilov was awarded the Order of Saint George 4th, and then 3rd Class. By a quirk of fate, several future White Army commanders held senior posts in 8th Army at this time—Brusilov's Quartermaster general was Anton Denikin, while Alexey Kaledin commanded the 12th Cavalry Division and Lavr Kornilov was in command of 48th Infantry Division.

In the early part of 1915, Brusilov again advanced, penetrating the Carpathian passes and entering the Hungarian plain. At this time, Nikolai II visited 8th Army and Brusilov was promoted to the rank of General-Adjutant (in the Imperial Russian Army this was a "four-star" General rank).

Once again, fortunes on other fronts would determine his actions and the Austrian-German breakthrough at Gorlice-Tarnów forced Brusilov to conform to the general retirement. By September, 8th Army had withdrawn 180 kilometers (110 miles) to the Tarnopol region.

The Brusilov Offensive

On 29 March, 1916, Brusilov was appointed Commander-in-Chief of South-west Front, and managed to secure a certain degree of freedom of action. Previous Russian offensives in the War so far had showed a tendency to try to bombard smaller and smaller sections of front with ever-greater quantities of artillery fire and manpower. The narrow penetrations made counterattacks straightforward for German forces, and this approach met with repeated failure. Brusilov determined on a different technique.

Recognising that no amount of artillery, shells or men could secure absolute control of an area that the Russians could then defend, Brusilov decided to distribute his attack over a considerable length of front. He hoped to disorganize the enemy over such a large area that some point would fatally give way. He decided not to waste resources by saturation bombardment of worthless areas, but rather, to target specific areas—command posts, crossroads, etc—and degrade command and control over the whole front. The noted German artillery commander, Georg Bruchmüller, having served opposite Brusilov's Front at this time, would learn from and adapt these tactics when planning the preparatory bombardment for Operation Michael on the Western Front in 1918. Brusilov was not even concerned with securing a great local advantage in manpower, permitting Divisions to be transferred to other Fronts (so long as they attacked in support of his offensive).

Brusilov's new techniques were, by First World War standards, highly successful, and over the next three months, South-west Front advanced an average of more than 30 kilometers along a front of more than 400 kilometres (250 miles). 400,000 Austro-Hungarian prisoners were taken. However, the planned supporting attack from West Front (the Army group to Brusilov's north) was not delivered, Germany was able to transfer 17 Divisions from the France and Belgium to stem the tide, and again, the war acquired a positional character.

Brusilov would be awarded the Sword of Saint George with Diamonds for his greatest victory, one of only eight Russian commanders to receive this rare award during the First World War.

On 18 June 1916, an article "Hero of the Hour in Russia, Described Intimately by One Who Knows Him Well"[1:] by Brusilov'a brother-in-law, Chaleles Johnson, appeareared in the New York Times.

To increase the points of sally thereby preventing a concentration of the enemy's strategic reserve. The enemy is to be confused by several points of attack.

To make the width of attack wide, greater than 30 kilometers.

To limit the duration of bombardment, less than 5 hours.

To advance artillery in secrecy and to cooperate with the infantry.

To advance strategic reserve beforehand and to join with the storm troops after a breach of the enemy's front trench has been achieved. Not to avail cavalry.

To get the trench lines as close as possible to the enemy's before the battle.

According to the assessment of British Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, Brusilov was one of the seven outstanding fighting commanders of World War I (the others being Falkenhayn, Ludendorff, Mustapha Kemal, Plumer, Monash and Allenby)

The Brusilov Offensive

The Brusilov Offensive started in June 1916 and ended in August of the same year.

After the disasters of Tannenburg and the Masurian Lakes, the Russian army had fallen back to a line from Riga in the Baltic through to the Pinsk marshes near the Rumanian frontier - around 500 miles long.

The area was divided into three sectors including:

The North-West Front led by General Kuropatkin
The West Front commanded by General Evert
The South-West Front commanded by General Ivanov

All three commanders were reluctant to engage in an offensive against the Germans given the history of the battles that had gone before, but by 1916 the deficiencies in the equipment used by the Russians had been rectified. Soldiers were also receiving proper training and rifles were being produced at a rate of 10,000 per month.

Most of the Russian front lines also benefited from machine guns and artillery shell stocks, which had been built up during the relatively quiet winter months between 1915 and 1916.

This new and improved army saw its first attack in the spring of 1916 when the Russian military was called to aid the Allies during the German attack of Verdun. The Russians were tasked with diverting the Germans to the Eastern Front, and the initial phase of this task was very successful - the Germans were surprised by the severity of the Russian artillery fire and the Russians managed to advance.

However, the timid leadership of the Russian Army led to the withdrawal of the artillery and aeroplane support and soon Russian troops on the ground found themselves being attacked with poison gas. The army had to withdraw but the attack had demonstrated the Russian Army’s new capabilities.

The assist at the Battle of the Somme, the Russians had planned a major attack in the east that would force the Germans to split their forces. Ivanov was replaced by General Alexey Brusoliv who championed the offensive as the best way to win a war.

In April 1916, Brusilov had the chance to argue his case for an offensive attack on three fronts, and ultimately it was decided that he would launch once attack by the South-West Front that would be followed by two further attacks elsewhere.

Brusilov ordered the generals of the four armies under his control to set out their own plans fo attack, which he hoped would ensure the Germans could not work out where the main attack would be. He also reduced to give out any information that he felt could make it back to the Germans.

Brusilov used the time he had to produce detailed maps of the Austro-Hungarian lines and ordered his officers to study them to ensure that they were familiar with the fences, miles and trenches they would face. He also ordered advance trenches to be dug that were less than 100 metres from the enemy lines. With no reserves to call on, he was aware that his attack was all or nothing and so planned accordingly.

The attack began on 4th June with three of four of the armies seeing success aided by artillery bombardments. By 8th June, the Austrains were in full retreat and Brusilov set his sights on his main targets of Lutsk and Kovel. The attack on the former was a success, but the attack on the latter failed to start and Brusilov was told the West Front would only start its attack on 18th June. This allowed the Germans in the east enough time to get together the men they need to support the Austrians and all but doomed Brusilov’s offensive.

Brusilov also struggled with communication issues as his success had left his armies far apart. As a result, the forces advanced on two lines within their sector that went in the opposite direction to each other.

To add to Brusilov’s disappointment, the attack due on the 18th never materialised and men were instead transferred south to be used by Brusilov himself. This is exactly what he had wanted to avoid as it alerted the Germans to their plans. The Germans made use of their superior rail network and soon Brusilov was facing thousands of experienced men.

The major advances he had achieved soon disappeared and by 10th August the Russian advance halted entirely. By this date, the Russians had lost a total of 500,000 men to the Austrian’s 375,000.

The Brusilov Offensive - the only campaign in World War One to be named after a specific commander - came very close to victory but was ultimately deemed a failure as he did not achieve what he had needed to achieve, which was the transfer of German troops from the Western Front.

However, its failure was not due to Brusilov being incompetent and as such many historians have argued that the impact he could have had on the Somme may have been phenomenal.

WI 1916 Brusilov offensive was succesfull

What if the 1916 Brusilov offensive carried out by Alexsei Brusilov succeeded how would this affect WWI.

Btw is it ASB or plausable for this offensive to succeed?


What if the 1916 Brusilov offensive carried out by Alexsei Brusilov succeeded how would this affect WWI.

Btw is it ASB or plausable for this offensive to succeed?

It was successful, they took a decent amount of territory and inflicted a mega body count on the central powers

the only problem was Brusilov took so many losses himself that it made the victory's value much less than it could have been ( this has been Russia's way in many wars I can't speak to how you would change this barring a complete collapse of AH)

Alexius I Kommenos

It was successful, they took a decent amount of territory and inflicted a mega body count on the central powers

the only problem was Brusilov took so many losses himself that it made the victory's value much less than it could have been ( this has been Russia's way in many wars I can't speak to how you would change this barring a complete collapse of AH)



The Brusilov Offensive was launched to distract the Germans from Verdun. It was so successful in this regard that the Germans redeployed forces to the East to stop it. So I think the best way for the Brusilov Offensive to succeed is, paradoxically, to tie the Germans down in the West and prevent them from coming to Austria-Hungary's aid.

What if the British use their forces intended for the Somme offensive at Verdun instead? I doubt it's logistically feasible to get that many troops and their supplies there rather than the Somme, but perhaps a major breakout at Verdun would keep the pressure on the Germans in the West and improve the Brusilov Offensive's chances of success.

Snake Featherston


The Offensive was relatively successful. I attempted at a TL involving a larger Brusilov offensive but I didnt have the time. Its ultimate hops was not to take Vienna but instead was intended on breaking the will of the Hungarians and shatter the nation before Ausgleich was to be reuped in 1917.

And it was not the Brusilov Offensive that was to relieve pressure on Verdun. The Lake Naroch Offensive was meant to do that, and the massive failure forced the Grand Offensive (of which OTL offensive was just the southern portion) to be scaled down.


One of the main reasons why the original offensive(s) were so succesful was that Brusillov was forced to make his offensives but was not given any additional resources to do it with

So extreme care was taken in the preparations and the hiding of those preparations from the A-H's. Effectively tactical surprise was achieved and the A-H forces did not have sufficient reserves to cover the resulting tactical breakthroughs, resulting in an almost general collaspse of the front (this is remarkably similar to the British 3rd and 5th armies facing off against the spring 1918 German offensive). Once the general breakthrough was produced it is not until the Russians start to divert their actions against the reinforced German wing of the central powers line that they started to receive massive casualties and a peetering out of the offensive itself.

The latter sub-offensives reverted to the usual ww1 Russian obsession with massed infantry assaults against prepared defences which obviously failed to obtain any satisfactory result - why Brusillov allowed/ordered such a reversion is a mystery.

Brusilov Offensive begins - HISTORY

1916 : The Blood Letting

January 1916 - President Woodrow Wilson begins an effort to organize a peace conference in Europe.

February 18, 1916 - In West Africa, the German colony of Cameroon falls to the French and British following 17 months of fighting. This leaves only one German colony remaining in Africa, known as German East Africa. There, 10,000 troops skillfully commanded by General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck prove to be an elusive but deadly target, as they are pursued by a British-led force ten times larger.

Battle of Verdun
February 21-December 18, 1916

February 21, 1916 - On the Western Front, the German 5th Army attacks the French 2nd Army north of the historic city of Verdun, following a nine-hour artillery bombardment. The Germans under Chief of the General Staff, Erich Falkenhayn, seek to "bleed" the French Army to death by targeting the cherished city. At first, the Germans make rapid gains along the east bank of the Meuse River, overrunning bombed out French trenches, and capture lightly defended Fort Douaumont four days later without firing a shot. However, the German offensive soon stalls as the French rush in massive reinforcements and strengthen their defenses, under the new command of Henri Petain, who is determined to save Verdun. An early spring thaw also turns the entire battlefield into mud, hampering offensive maneuvers.

March 6, 1916 - Germans renew their Verdun offensive, this time attacking along the west bank of the Meuse River, targeting two strategic hills northwest of Verdun that form the main French position. However, by the end of March, the heavily defended hills are only partially in German hands.

March 18, 1916 - On the Eastern Front, the Russians oblige a French request to wage an offensive to divert German resources from Verdun. Although the Russians greatly outnumber the Germans in the northern sector of the Eastern Front, their poorly coordinated offensive around Vilna and at Lake Naroch is swiftly defeated by the Germans with 70,000 Russian casualties.

April 9, 1916 - The Germans attack again at Verdun, now along a 20-mile-wide front on both the east and west banks of the Meuse River. Once again the attack only yields partial gains in the face of stiff French resistance.

April 18, 1916 - President Woodrow Wilson threatens to sever diplomatic ties between the United States and Germany following the sinking of the passenger ferry Sussex by a U-Boat in the English Channel. The attack marked the beginning of a new U-Boat campaign around the British Isles. But in response to Wilson, the Germans call off the U-Boats.

April 29, 1916 - In the Middle East, the five-month siege at Kut-al-Amara in Mesopotamia ends as 13,000 British and Indian soldiers, now on the verge of starvation, surrender to the Turks. The largest-ever surrender by the British Army comes after four failed attempts by British relief troops to break through to the surrounded garrison.

May 3, 1916 - At Verdun, the Germans begin another attack on the west bank of the Meuse. This time they gain the advantage and within three days capture the two French hills they had been striving for since early March, thus achieving a solid position northwest of Verdun.

May 15, 1916 - Austrian troops attack Italian mountain positions in the Trentino. The Italians withdraw southward, forcing the Austrians to stretch their supply lines over the difficult terrain. The arrival of Italian reinforcements and a successful counter-attack then halts the Austrian offensive completely.

May 25, 1916 - The era of the all-volunteer British Army ends as universal conscription takes effect requiring all eligible British men between the ages of 19 and 40 to report , excluding men working in agriculture, mining or the railroads.

Battle of Jutland

May 31, 1916 - The main German and British naval fleets clash in the Battle of Jutland in the North Sea, as both sides try, but fail, to score a decisive victory. Forward battle cruisers from the British Grand Fleet are initially lured southward toward the German High Seas Fleet, but then turn completely around, luring the entire German fleet northward. As they get near, the British blast away at the German forward ships. The Germans return fire and the two fleets fire furiously at each other. However, the Germans, aware they are outgunned by the larger British fleet, disengage by abruptly turning away. In the dead of the night the Germans withdraw entirely. The British do not risk a pursuit and instead head home. Both sides claim victory. Although the Germans sink 14 of the 151 British ships while losing 11 of 99 ships, the British Navy retains its dominance of the North Sea and the naval blockade of Germany will remain intact for the war's duration.

June 1, 1916 - Germans at Verdun try to continue their offensive success along the Meuse River and now attack the French on the east bank, targeting Fort Vaux and the fortification at Thiaumont. Eight days later, both objectives are taken as the French suffer heavy casualties. The Germans now push onward toward a ridge that overlooks Verdun and edge toward the Meuse bridges. The entire nation of France now rallies behind their troops in the defense of Verdun as French generals vow it will not be taken.

June 4, 1916 - Four Russian armies on the Eastern Front, under their innovative new commander, General Alexei Brusilov, begin a general offensive in the southwest along a 300-mile front. Brusilov avoids the style of predictable narrow frontline attacks used previously, in favor of a sweeping offensive over hundreds of miles that is harder to pin down. Thinly stretched Austro-Hungarian troops defending this portion of the Front are taken by surprise. Realizing their distress, the Germans pull four divisions from Verdun and send them east. By the end of summer, the Germans will send 20 more divisions and merge the surviving Austro-Hungarian troops into the Germany Army.

June 22, 1916 - Germans resume their offensive near Verdun, targeting Fort Souville which overlooks the city and the Meuse bridges. Using poisonous phosgene gas at the start of the attack, they initially take the village of Fleury just two miles north of Verdun, but further advance southward is halted by a strong French counter-attack. Verdun has now become a battle of attrition for both sides with a death toll already approaching 500,000 men.

Battle of the Somme
July 1-November 18, 1916

June 24, 1916 - The Allies begin a week-long artillery bombardment of German defensive positions on the Somme River in northern France, in preparation for a major British-led offensive. Over 1.5 million shells are fired along a 15-mile front to pulverize the intricate German trench system and to blow apart rows of barbed wire protecting the trenches. British Commander Douglas Haig believes this will allow an unhindered infantry advance and a rapid breakthrough of the German Front on the first day of battle.

July 1, 1916 - The British Army suffers the worst single-day death toll in its history as 18,800 soldiers are killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The losses come as 13 attacking divisions encounter German defenses that are still intact despite the seven-day bombardment designed to knock them out. The British also attack in broad daylight, advancing in lines shoulder-to-shoulder only to be systematically mowed down by German machine-gunners. The Somme offensive quickly becomes a battle of attrition as British and French troops make marginal gains against the Germans but repeatedly fail to break through the entire Front as planned.

July 10, 1916 - The Germans attack again at Verdun, using poison gas, and advance toward Fort Souville. Four days later, the French counter-attack and halt the Germans.

July 13, 1916 - The British launch a night attack against German positions along a 3.5-mile portion of the Somme Front. After advancing nearly 1,000 yards, the advance is halted as the Germans regroup their defenses. Two days later, the British once again penetrate the German line and advance to High Wood but are then pushed back.

August 27, 1916 - Romania declares war on the Central Powers and begins an invasion of Austria-Hungary through the Carpathian Mountains. The Romanians face little opposition initially and advance 50 miles into Transylvania.

August 28, 1916 - Kaiser Wilhelm appoints Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg as Germany's new Chief of the General Staff, replacing Erich Falkenhayn following the disappointment at Verdun and recent setbacks on the Eastern Front.

August 28, 1916 - Italy declares war on Germany, thus expanding the scope of its military activities beyond the Italian-Austrian Front.

August 29, 1916 - Germany's entire economy is placed under the Hindenburg Plan allowing the military to exercise dictatorial-style powers to control the labor force, munitions production, food distribution and most aspects of daily life.

September 1, 1916 - Romania is invaded by the newly formed Danube Army, consisting of Germans, Turks and Bulgarians under the command of German General August von Mackensen. This marks the start of a multi-pronged invasion of Romania in response to its aggression against Austria-Hungary.

September 15, 1916 - The first-ever appearance of tanks on a battlefield occurs as British troops renew the Somme offensive and attack German positions along a five-mile front, advancing 2,000 yards with tank support. The British-developed tanks feature two small side-cannons and four machine-guns, operated by an eight-man crew. As the infantry advances, individual tanks provide support by blasting and rolling over the German barbed wire, piercing the frontline defense, and then roll along the length of the trench, raking the German soldiers with machine-gun fire.

September 20, 1916 - On the Eastern Front, the Brusilov Offensive grinds to a halt. Since its launch in early June, four Russian armies under the command of General Alexei Brusilov had swept eastward up to 60 miles deep along a 300-mile front while capturing 350,000 Austro-Hungarian troops. But by the end of summer, the Germans brought in 24 divisions from the Western Front and placed the surviving Austro-Hungarian troops under German command. The Russian attack withered after the loss of nearly a million men amid insufficient reserves. The humiliating withdrawal from the hard-won areas wrecks Russian troop morale, fueling political and social unrest in Russia.

September 25, 1916 - British and French troops renew their attacks in the Somme, capturing several villages north of the Somme River, including Thiepval, where the British successfully use tanks again. Following these successes, however, heavy rain turns the entire battlefield to mud, preventing effective maneuvers.

October 8, 1916 - The German Air Force (Luftstreikrafte) is founded as various aerial fighting groups are merged.

October 10, 1916 - Romanian troops return home after being pushed out of Hungary by two Austro-German armies. The Austro-German 9th Army then invades Romania and heads toward Bucharest.

October 24, 1916 - At Verdun, the French under General Robert Nivelle, begin an ambitious offensive designed to end the German threat there by targeting Fort Douaumont and other German-occupied sites on the east bank of the Meuse River. The attack is preceded by the heaviest artillery bombardment to-date by the French. Additionally, French infantry use an effective new tactic in which they slowly advance in stages, step-by-step behind encroaching waves of artillery fire. Using this creeping barrage tactic, they seize Fort Douaumont, then take Fort Vaux further east, nine days later.

November 7, 1916 - American voters re-elect President Woodrow Wilson who had campaigned on the slogan, "He kept us out of war."

November 13, 1916 - British troops stage a surprise attack and capture the towns of Beaumont Hamel and Beaucourt at the northern end of the Somme Front.

November 18, 1916 - The Battle of the Somme ends upon the first snowfall as the British and French decide to cease the offensive. By now, the Germans have been pushed back just a few miles along the entire 15-mile front, but the major breakthrough the Allies had planned never occurred. Both sides each suffered over 600,000 casualties during the five-month battle. Among the injured German soldiers is Corporal Adolf Hitler, wounded by shrapnel.

November 20, 1916 - Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary dies at age 86. He is succeeded by Archduke Charles who wants to take Austria-Hungary out of the war.

December 6, 1916 - Bucharest, capital of Romania, falls to the Austro-Germans. This effectively ends Romanian resistance to the Austro-German invasion and places the country's entire agricultural and industrial resources, including the Ploesti oil fields, in German hands.

December 7, 1916 - LLoyd George becomes Britain's new Prime Minister. His new War Cabinet immediately begins to organize the country for "total war."

December 12, 1916 - Joseph Joffre resigns under pressure from his position as Commander-in-Chief of the French Army, replaced by General Robert Nivelle.

December 15, 1916 - The last offensive in the Battle of Verdun begins as the French push the Germans out of Louvemont and Bezonvaux on the east bank of the Meuse River. Combined with other ground losses, the German withdrawal ends the immediate threat to Verdun and both sides now focus their efforts on battles elsewhere along the Western Front. Overall, the French and Germans suffered nearly a million casualties combined during the ten month battle in which the Germans failed to capture the city of Verdun.

December 18, 1916 - President Woodrow Wilson caps off a year-long effort to organize a peace conference in Europe by asking the combatants to outline their peace terms.

British in a Destroyed Village

Massive German Supply Line

Battle of Jutland Illustration

Wounded British in a Trench

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  1. Dempster

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