German soldiers in Łódź, December 1914
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The Battle of Łódź, a massive conflict that flared to the west of Warsaw, had begun on 11th November 1914 and quickly escalated into one of the major battles of the Eastern Front for 1914.
The German Ninth Army consisted of a force of 250,000 troops but this was heavily outnumbered by the Russian First, Second and Fifth Armies, with total troop numbers of nearly half a million men.
Although the numbers certainly favoured the Russians, the Germans were relying on the use of surprise and rapid movement, and commanded by Paul von Hindenberg, launched an attack on the Russian First Army on 11th November. Initially this was successful with some 12,000 Russian prisoners taken and a wedge driven between the Russian First and Second Armies.
However over the next week the Russians steadied and on the 18th their 5th Army hit the German flank in appalling weather conditions, with temperatures plummeting down to -12C.
The fighting during this time was described in the Australian newspaper “The Northern Miner” on 28th November 1914.
The Russian wing made a half turn and battled its way towards the German rear, driving the Germans 30 miles in a day. Finally they enveloped the right flank of the Germans in the Łódź district. Meanwhile the Russians broke the German centre north of Lodz, severing the right flank from the main body, who are now striving to make their way northwards, but the chances of their escape are slight. The reserve Army at Wielun was set in motion too late, the Russians being able to check its advance. Captured cannon and prisoners are already pouring into Warsaw, including men of the Prussian Guards. Though they have received their winter clothing, many of the prisoners are maimed and disabled through frostbite.
Threatened with encirclement the Germans fought back and the battle see sawed throughout the week, with neither side able to seize a conclusive advantage.