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The Romanian Front - 1917

Discussions on all aspects of the First World War not covered in the other sections.
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The Romanian Front - 1917

Postby Victor on 31 Aug 2002 08:19

Because I have seen that this subject is not very well known ( I have decided to write a small essay.

During the hard winter of 1917/1918, the equipment from the Western Allies finally started to come in: 150,000 rifles, 2,000 MGs, 1,300,000 grenades, 355 artillery pieces, gas masks etc. The army was reorganized and retrained mostly with the help of the French military mission. It now had only 15 infantry divisions (in 1916 there were 23) and 2 cavalry divisions divided among 5 corps and two armies. There were also 6 observation squadrons, 4 fighter squadrons and 2 bomber squadrons.

So in the spring of 1917, 400,000 Romanian soldiers were ready for action. The front started at Dorna, continued on the line of the mountains, then Putna - Siret - Danube - Black Sea. In the northern part was the 9th Russian Army, then the 2nd Romanian Army in the Marasti-Oituz sector, the 4th Russian Army and 1st Romanian Army on the Putna Valley and the 6th Russian Army on the river Siret.

The operations started on 9 July, when the 2nd Army started its summer offensive, supported by the 4th Russian Army. Using its numerical superiority in infantry and artillery, much more suited for the mountainous terrain in the area, gen. Alexandru Averescu managed to brake through on a 30 km wide front and advance as far as 20 km. His losses were moderate: 1,500 dead and 3,000 wounded. About 2,000 prisoners were taken by the Romanian forces and 500 by the Russians. The offensive forced the Central powers to transfer 5 infantry and 2 cavalry divisions in the area and to change their offensive plans.

The 9th German Army was now suppose to attack in the Focsani - Marasesti - Adjud sector, while the 1st Austro-Hungarian in the Oituz valley. The aim was to encircle the 2nd Army in the newly re-conquered territory.

The success of the Central Powers' offensive in Galitia determined the Russian-Romanian command to transfer the 4th Russian Army and one corps from the 9th Russian Army in the northern sector to attack the right flank of the advancing enemy troops. The 1st Army's reserve (2 infantry divisions) was brought to take over the Oituz sector. The 1st Army takes over the Marasesti sector and of the Russian 8th Corps, while the 6th Russian Army stretched out to occupy the former positions of the 1st Army. So the start of the offensive of the 9th German Army caught the 1st Romanian Army in the middle of redeployment.

On 24 July, the Germans attacked and started to push back over the river Siret the Russian corps in the area. But the intervention of the Romanian 6th Corps prevented the Germans from making any bridgeheads. Also the Romanian 5th Division counter-attacked and stopped the offensive of the 1st German Corps. From now on the Mackensen's offensive evolved from a walk in the park to Iasi (as he imagined it) in a regular pitched battle (Battle of Marasesti) which lasted until 21 August and involved over 20 divisions. The Germans only managed to advance 8 km on a 30 km wide front and suffered 65,000 casualties. The 1st Romanian Army lost 27,000 men.

In the same time as the guns were firing around Marasesti, the 1st Austro-Hungarian Army carried out its own offensive in the Oituz valley, which was defended by the 2nd Army. The 6th and 7th Infantry Divisions which received the shock of the attack, had just taken over the front line from some Russian units a few days before and did not have time to entrench properly. The second battle of Oituz began on 26 July, with the attack of the 8th Austro-Hungarian Corps. The 2nd Army started to pull out gradually from the Marasti bulge in order to reduce its front line and send reinforcements in the Oituz sector. On 30 July, the 2nd Army counter-attacked and regained some ground from the Austro-Hungarians forces. This day was also the first day of war for the Romanian Mountain Battalion which had been formed in October 1916. It had just arrived on the front after a four day march (160 km) and managed to take 400 prisoners, for the price of 2 dead and 19 wounded. The Austro-Hungarians made another attempt to brake through in August, but they were again stopped and the battle ended on 10 August. The only gain was an advance of 2-6 km on a 20 km front.

The fighting continued, but on a small scale up until the armistice in November.
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Postby Durand on 05 Sep 2002 21:22

Hallo Victor,

Thank you for writing that interesting and enlightening essay. I know next to nothing about the Eastern Front in WW I (though happily I know a bit more after reading your post), so please forgive my ignorance in asking the following question. Is the figure of 400,000 Romanian soldiers correct? How large was the Romanian population in 1914 prior to the beginning of the war? Can you recommend any books in English about the fighting on the Eastern Front?

Thank You

J.D.
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Postby Victor on 06 Sep 2002 21:31

Romania entered WWI in 1916. The total number of mobilized troops was 833,000 (including non-combat troops). The total manpool was over 1,200,000. That is 16% of the population and 32% of the men population.

Unfortunately I do not what to recomend you.
Last edited by Victor on 07 Sep 2002 09:02, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby panzzer on 06 Sep 2002 22:07

Nice post Victor
Victor how many russian troops was ?
And how many germans and hungarian troops?
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Postby Victor on 07 Sep 2002 12:52

I do not have to much, just this:

Battle of Marasti
Entente: 56 infantry battalions, 14 cavalry squadrons, 228 guns
Central powers: 21 infantry battalions, 36 cavalry squadrons, 142 guns

Battle of Marasesti
Entente: 8 divisions
Central Powers: 12 divisions, 2 tanks
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Postby Durand on 09 Sep 2002 15:29

Hallo,

For those of you who are interested in additional information regarding the Romanian Front, there is a chapter titled "The Romanian Campaign, 1916-1917" in the book titled The Eastern Front 1914-1917 by Norman Stone.

J.D.
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Postby Juha Tompuri on 16 Sep 2002 20:50

BTW did you know that the Finnish Army supreme commander in WWII, Marshall Mannerheim, was 1917 commanding the Russian 12th cavalry division, operating in Romania. And if I don`t remember very much wrong a certain ltn(?) E. Rommel participated in that campaign too.

JT
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Postby johnny_bi on 17 Sep 2002 13:14

You're right Juha ... It was THAT rommel ... It seemed that he used his skills very successfuly against romanians while repulsing Romanian Army from Transylvania in the summer - autumn of 1916 ... He also saw action in the summer of 1917 when german offensive over the romanian defense lines in Moldavia was not succesful ...

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Postby Juha Tompuri on 17 Sep 2002 21:39

johnny_bi, thanks for the verification. Do you know did the russian 12th cavallery div. and the unit where E.R. fought ever "meet"? Mannerheim against Rommel ?

Best Regards, Juha
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Postby johnny_bi on 18 Sep 2002 09:36

In the summer-autumn of 1916 they couldn't meet because at that time only romanian troups were facing the german and austro-hungarian army at that front ... in the summer of 1917 for the moment I do not know ... Could you tell me in which russian army 12 cavalry division was comprised ? This would help a lot ... :)

BI
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Postby johnny_bi on 18 Sep 2002 10:03

I have a "last hour" information on Rommel .... According to http://www.achtungpanzer.com " :
"In May of 1917, Erwin Rommel was transferred to the Western Front, in
the area of Hilsen Ridge, and in August back to Carpathian Front, where he took part in the assaults on Mount Cosna and Caporetto." I shall try to figure out what mountain was Cosna (? Cozma) and Caporetto sounds like Italian .... hmmmmmmmm :roll:
Anyone, theoretically , an encounter would have been possible ... I shall dig for some information ...


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Postby johnny_bi on 18 Sep 2002 11:19

Yes , I was right ... Caporetto is in Italy ... According to http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/FWWcaporetto.htm
"Cadorna's victory at Gorizia in August 1916 worried the Germans and it was decided to carry out a joint operation against the Italians. In October 1917 nine Austrian and six German divisions launched an attack on a lightly defended stretch of the front at Caporetto."

But Caporetto is in november 1917 ... and in august it seemed that Rommel was on romanian front during the german and austro-hungarian offensive ... So ,I have to find out about Mount Cosna ...
By the way http://www.achtungpanzer.com was wrong ... :o
Rommel saw action against romanians only at Mount Cosno ... Caporetto was in Italy ...

I think that Cosma could be Cusma for romanians ...
I found on http://www.houseofice.com/history/rommel.shtml

"Erwin Rommel: Mt. Cosna

Rommel was very lucky during the first part of the attack. A reconnaisance party came across 75 sleeping Rumanians and 5 heavy machine guns with no fight. The attack was fast and furious from here on. Rommel probed and maneuvered all the way to a front position known to his company as "Headquarters Knoll", the scene of a huge Rommel victory later. Under Rommel's brilliant leadership they captured Mount Cosna, only to receive a great shock; the Russians had counterattacked North of Rommel and were surrounding Rommel. Rommel took up defense at "Headquarters Knoll", which gave impressive sight distance to Rommel and was shielded from Rumanian artillery fire by Mount Cosna itself. On August 13, the Russian/Rumanian attack commenced. By August 19, Rommel had not only repulsed the massive attack, but he had switched to the offensive. On that same day, he recaptured Mount Cosna."


I have to check the story from the romanian side :wink: . But Rommel and russians appeared to meet each other ... :)

BI
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Postby Juha Tompuri on 18 Sep 2002 21:58

johnny_bi
Just amazing how you dig up facts :D
Would it be possible that 12th cav div was under command of Romanian 2nd Army, gen Avarescu? I`v had that sort of info (or Russian 4th Army). I don`t know about the dates, but know following: Germans(!!!) attacked Putna railwaystation defended by a Romanian brigade commanded by col Sturdza. It was put under Mannerheims command ( Avarescu-Mannerheim-Sturdza: Romanian-Finnish co-operation at it`s best!). The Germans tried to advance towads Seretin valley. Heavy battles followed, two Russian divs and four Romanian divs+ a regiment were sent as reinforcements. 12th cav div fought there ( Transilvanian Alps?) a month. After that they went to Kishinev, Bessarabia.
Please write what you can find out and correct the names and names of places I`v used.
This forum has taught me a lot. Specially you Romanian members have done a great PR-job for your country.

BEST regards, Juha
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Postby johnny_bi on 19 Sep 2002 07:24

Basically, in the summer of 1917 there were three major battles on romanian front :

1)Marasti
2)Marasesti
3)Oituz

1) First , Marasti was an offensive action of romanian and russian troups ...Even if at the beginning the offensive was succesful , the romanian and russian HQ canceled the offensive ... preparing for defence ... the german HQ was preparing an major ofensive that had to broke the romanian and russian defence lines and to force Romania to surrender ...

2) The offensive started at the end of July during the replacement of russian 4th army by the 1st romanian army ... The aim of this was to broke the defence and reach the Siretin Valley and river (in romanian Siret). The battle you mention was fought during Marasesti campaign ... so then 12th Cavalry division I think was under the command of the 4th russian army ... (romanian 2nd army was in a northern position )
The 4th russian army was replaced by 1st romanian army because as you said the 4th russian army had to go to north in Bukovina (there was a critical situatio because the austro-hungarian offensive pulled back the russian armies) ... But the 4th russian army was caught in the fight ... includind Mannerheim ... :)

On the romanian front the defense included from south to north the following armies :

6th russian army
1st romanian army
4th russian army
2nd romanian army
9th russian army

However after all the fight the romanian and russians managed to stop the german offensive ...

3) Rommel fought at the Battle of Oituz ... so it was no posibility for Rommel and Mannerhim to meet in combat ...Oituz was the second direction of the german offensive (first was Marasesti ) ... They were concomitently .. The 70th austro-hungarian division and 7th austro-hungarian cavalry div attacked at the joction of the 9th russian army and 2nd romanian army (this attack was northern than Marasesti) ... These 2 div attacked 7th romanian inf. div... Basically there 2 major obstacles , 2 mounts before Trotus Valley could be reached ..(Ciresoaia and Cosna - in german Koschna) ... The austro -u div managed to pull back the romanians and conquer those 2 mounts. Romanian HQ sent in hte help of romanian 7 the inf. div the 1st cavalry div. , 2 guard batalions, 1 alpin batalion - all romanian and 1 inf regiment - this was russian ... But this regiment was infantry ... not cavalry ... The romanians managed to reconquer Mount Ciresoaia and a part of Mount Cosna ... This is the moment the german 117th inf. divisiona entered the battle (Rommel's division )... attacking Cosna ... They managed to conquer again the Mount Cosna ... After that the romanians and rusians counterattacked ...
But one thing was sure that the german offensive was stoped ...
It seemd that the germans owned the western half of the mountain and romanians the eastern half ... The peak had changed the ownership few times ... It is interesting to note that the fight in this sector was until 9th August ... After 13th August (The date of rommel action at Cosna) ... Mount Cosna was a "local battleground" ... because german swifted their attacks back to Marasesti .. more precisely to Panciu area ...
So , rommel's actions was not so glorious as it seemed to be...

BI
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Postby johnny_bi on 19 Sep 2002 07:46

The battles were fought in Eastern Carpathes Mountains ... The name of the romanian general is Averescu and he was the commander of the romaian 2nd army ... and it was Siret Valley ... Yes , high level romanian - finnish coopertaion ... against their future allied .... :)
Unfortunatelly, as Victor said there are few works about these battles ... and few people knows about them ...

BI
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