The Battle of Ivangorod 1914

Yesterday I took part in a re-fight of the 1914 Battle of Ivangorod. The original battle took place in the aftermath of the Battle of Tannenberg and was fought by the Russians against a mainly Austro-Hungarian force that had taken over part of the front-line previously occupied by the Germans. There were some German troops involved in the battle, but the majority of the fighting was done by the Austro-Hungarian Army.

The wargame used Richard Brooks’ OP14 tactical rules and Ian Drury’s ‘pin-board and map’ strategic movement system, and was organised by Ian Drury. A number of members of the ‘Jockey’s Field Irregulars’ took part, and I took the role of General Evert, the commander of the Russian 4th Army.

When I arrived I was briefed by Ian and given a pin-board and map that showed the positions of the three Corps that were under my command (XVI, III (Caucasian), and XVII Corps).

I knew that two of my Corps (XVI and III (Caucasian)) were facing a line of trenches occupied by Austro-Hungarian troops, and that my third Corps (XVII Corps) was poised to cross the River Vistula within the next 24 hours.

The battle started at 7.00am on 22nd October 1914, and my first orders to the commanders of XVII and III (Caucasian) Corps was to attack the trenches immediately in front of them. This was to be done without an opening artillery barrage as I hoped that this would surprise the Austrians. These orders were passed to the umpire, who then took them to the tabletop battlefield that had been set up in another room. (Normally the orders would have been passed to a player or players who were taking on the roles of Corps commanders, but a shortage of players meant that on this occasion my orders were enacted by one of the umpires.)

At 3.00pm on 22nd I requested an update from each of my Corps commanders as their current positions and the level of casualties their Corps had suffered. I also communicated with the commander of 9th Army (which was located on my left-wing) and informed him that I understood that the Guard Corps was moving in the direction of the position I had allocated for occupation by the advancing XVII Corps. I followed this with a suggestion that we set a boundary between our two armies to ensure that our troops would not interfere with each other, and this was agreed by the commander of 9th Army.

By the evening of 22nd October I began to receive reports that the attacks mounted by XVI and III (Caucasian) Corps had failed to break through the enemy trench line, and I ordered them to withdraw to their trenches and await the inevitable counter-attack. It transpired that a brigade from each Corps had actually managed to advance their positions into the no-mans-land between the two trench systems, and I revised my orders to take this into account. Whilst this was happening XVII Corps had crossed the River Vistula and had taken up a position from where they could reinforce any success achieved by the Guard Corps or move up to support XVI and III (Caucasian) Corps.

During the morning of 23rd October I received news that III (Caucasian) Corps was on the verge of collapse, and at 1.00pm I ordered XVII Corps to move forward and relieve them. I informed the commander of 9th Army of this move, but as I received no reply I assumed that he was also having difficulties.

At this point the umpires decided that I could take direct command of the 4th Army, and I moved into the room where the tabletop battlefield was located. The situation I found looked like this:

The trenches occupied by XVI (top left of the photograph) and III (Caucasian) Corps (centre of the photograph). Facing them were two Austro-Hungarian Corps. III (Caucasian) Corps was almost at the point where they will collapse and run.

On the left flank of 4th Army 9th Army was having difficulties, and Guard Corps (seen in the centre of the photograph) was almost a spent force.

The Guard Corps.

I moved my reserve Corps (XVII Corps) forward to relieve III (Caucasian) Corps …

… but this was almost too late as a German Corps began to flank the trench line occupied by III (Caucasian) Corps.

The advancing German Corps. The Zeppelin acted as an artillery spotter for the German Corps’ artillery.

Night fell before the Germans could mount an attack … which is just as well as III (Caucasian) Corps had given way. I was able to move XVII Corps forward to cover this collapse and to form a defensive line with which to counter a German attack.

The German attack was mounted early on the morning of 24th October …

… but it was initially repelled, although both sides suffered casualties during the fighting.

At this point the umpires called a halt to the battle, and each of us was given the opportunity to tell our version of events. My German opponent was quite confident that he had my Army on the run – which on the face of it was not an unreasonable assessment of the situation – but he was unaware that a further Corps – the Grenadier Corps – was about to cross the River Vistula behind him and would be in a position to attack on 25th October.

This was a very enjoyable wargame to take part in, and provided even more proof – were it needed – that Richard Brooks’ OP14 tactical rules and Ian Drury’s ‘pin-board and map’ strategic movement system do reproduce the ‘feel’ of how a World War I battle was fought. On this occasion the result of this battle was not the same as the one fought in 1914, but that was due to the failings of the Russian players and not to the rules!

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10 Comments on “The Battle of Ivangorod 1914”

  1. Phil says:

    Nice batrep, great pictures!

  2. Phil,

    Thanks for your kind comment.

    I am pleased that you enjoyed reading this blog entry. I certainly enjoyed taking part in this battle … and I hope to take part in more in the future.

    All the best,

    Bob

  3. John Leahy says:

    Wow, I really enjoyed reading this. I am a fan of Op 14 already. However, using the map seemed to really add fog of war to the game! I loved it.

    Thanks,

    John

  4. Chris says:

    Howdy,

    Excellent AAR, as always.

    I did a search for “OP14” and did not find very much. Are they available somewhere?

    Chris

  5. Something very different here! It is remarkable how such a large-scale operation can lend itself to a subjective narrative presenting a very limited point of view – the effect of the fog of war. It lends a whole different flavour and experience, I believe, to the usual war gaming, and the resulting AAR the more engaging for that.

  6. John Leahy,

    I am pleased that you enjoyed reading this battle report.

    OP14 is an excellent set of rules for fighting this sort of large battle (and a Napoleonic version is under development) and the pin-board map system is a simple and effective way to simulate the fog of war and problems of commanding large forces in a pre-radio age.

    All the best,

    Bob

  7. Chris,

    Howdy to you!

    OP14 have been published in THE NUGGET, and you should be able to find a copy if you look through the back issues. They can be found here.

    All the best,

    Bob

  8. Archduke Piccolo,

    I am very pleased to read that you enjoyed this battle report. It will form part of the offside report I shall write about the battle for THE NUGGET.

    I always enjoy this sort of wargame because they give the participants an interesting – and very individual – experience.

    I don't think that it is a style of wargame that will appeal for everyone because you do not have a 'helicopter' view of the battlefield and you are not pushing toy soldiers around on a tabletop.

    All the best,

    Bob

  9. Conrad Kinch says:

    That looks very interesting. I'd be curious to see it in action.

  10. Conrad Kinch,

    You could always give it a go, although I think that the Napoleonic version might be more to your taste.

    All the best,

    Bob


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