“Attack of the Dead”: how Russian “zombies” turned German soldiers into flight
“Attack of the Dead”: how Russian “zombies” turned German soldiers into flightThere are many examples of genuine heroism and fearlessness of Russian soldiers during the First World War. One of these episodes is associated with the defense of the Osovets fortress on August 6, 1915 and went down in history as the “attack of the dead”.
In the German siege
The ancient fortress of Osovets, 50 kilometers from the Polish city of Bialystok and 23 kilometers from the border with East Prussia, was of great strategic importance, being one of the centers of defense of the so-called Polish Bag. In September 1914, units of the 8th German Army arrived here.
Although the Germans had a considerable numerical superiority and they used heavy artillery, the Russians managed to repel the assault. The second assault began on February 3, 1915. After six days of intense fighting, the Germans managed to take the first Russian defense line. The fortress was subjected to massive shelling.
“The view of the fortress was frightening, the whole fortress was shrouded in smoke, through which in one or another place huge fiery tongues burst from the explosion of projectiles; pillars of earth, water, and whole trees flew upward; the land shook, and it seemed that nothing could withstand such a hurricane of fire, ”wrote one of the leaders of the Red Army Military Engineering Academy and a direct participant in those events, Sergey Khmelkov, in his work“ The Struggle for Osovets ”.
The general headquarters of the Russian army set the task of defense participants to hold out for at least two days. And this time the German assault was repulsed.
But the Germans did not give up. In July 1915, they again launched an offensive. This time the enemy decided to use poisonous substances against the defenders of the fortress. In the area of Osovtsa deployed 30 gas batteries. Early in the morning of August 6, they released a cloud of chlorine.
Gas penetrated to a depth of 20 kilometers. The Russians did not expect a gas attack, and they did not have any protective means against it. This led to heavy losses from the side of the 226th Zemlyansky regiment defending the fortress. About 1600 people were completely disabled.
The Germans did not stop there, they also began to bombard the fortress, with some of the guns firing chemical charges. Then the German infantry, numbering about 7,000 men, rushed to the assault. The first two lines of the Russian defense were busy.
Then the commandant of the fortress, Lieutenant-General Nikolai Brzhozovsky, ordered to conduct a bayonet counterattack. It was headed by the commander of the 13th company of the Zemlyansky regiment, Second Lieutenant Vladimir Kotlinsky, who brought together several dozens of fighters who were least affected by gas.
From the side it seemed that the dead were going into battle: the faces of the soldiers were earthen-colored, wrapped in rags, and they had burns on the skin. Some were cawing blood, and instead of the usual shouts of “Hurray” from the soldiers' sips, a horrible wheeze was heard ...
However, a handful of these goners managed to put numerous German infantry to flight. Lieutenant Kotlinsky was mortally wounded in battle, but by eight o'clock in the morning the breakthrough of the defense was eliminated, and by 11 the attack was completely repulsed.
A few days later, the General Staff ordered the cessation of battles and the evacuation of the military garrison of the fortress - its further defense was inappropriate from the point of view of the overall situation at the front.
In September 1916, Lieutenant Kotlinsky was posthumously awarded the Order of St. George of the 4th degree for the defense of the Osovets Fortress. The names of ordinary members of the defense, alas, are not preserved in history.
Reasons for winning
“Attack of the dead” Osovets first called the already mentioned Sergey Khmelkov in 1939: “This attack of the“ dead ”... struck the Germans so much that they didn’t accept the battle and rushed back, many Germans died on the wire nets before the second line of trenches from serf artillery fire ".
But how did several tens of Russian soldiers manage to defeat several thousand Germans?
First, the German soldiers were convinced that the gas attack would make the Russians completely unable to resist.
Second, the bayonet attack was still opposed not by thousands of German soldiers, but by the 18th regiment of the 70th brigade of the 11th Landwehr division alone.
Third, the colossal psychological effect on the German infantry had only one kind of poisoned "zombies" marching into attack. While the Germans were recovering, the Russian artillery launched an offensive.
Can the "attack of the dead" be called a feat? Certainly yes! After all, the soldiers rushed into the battle of the last forces, poisoned, having almost no chance of throwing the enemy back ... And, as often happened in Russian history, they won.