The Battle of Ivangorod 1914Posted: January 20, 2014
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!