Battle of Zborov (1917)


Battle of Zborov (1917)

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Zborov


caption=Memorial devoted to Battle of Zborov in Blansko, Czech Republic
partof=Kerensky Offensive
date=July 1, 1917 - July 2, 1917
place=Zborov, now Ukraine
result=Czechoslovak victory
combatant1=flagicon|Bohemia Czechoslovak Legions
combatant2=flagicon|Austria-Hungary Austro-Hungarian Empire
commander1=Colonel V.P. Trojanov
commander2=
strength1=3,500
strength2=5,500
casualties1=167 killed, 17 wounded dying later, 11 missing and around 700 injured
casualties2=3,300 soldiers (62 officers) captured, 20 cannons and large amounts of military material seized

Battle of Zborov ("bitva u Zborova" in Czech and Slovak language) was a small part of the Kerensky Offensive (the last Russian offensive in World War I, taking place in July 1917). The battle was the first significant action of the Czechoslovak Legions (volunteers fighting against the Central Powers) on the Eastern Front and only one successful action of the failed offensive.

Background

As reliability of many Russian military formations was in doubt it was decided to attack only with those units that volunteer to the task. Among those who did was the "Czechoslovak Riflemen Brigade" ("Československá střelecká brigáda") formed of three regiments of Czechs and Slovaks. The brigade (about 3,500 men) was low on equipment and training. Moreover this should be the first common action of the brigade because the Russian command used only smaller units of volunteers so far, mostly in reconnaissance actions. The brigade was commanded by Russian colonel V.P. Trojanov, however the assault plan was prepared by Czech officers, with the respect to the actual fighting experiences of the men.

The brigade was deployed near Zborov, a town in today's Ukraine, in a section of secondary importance. The 4th Finnish division protected it from the north, the 6th Finnish division from the south. The enemy, army of Austria-Hungary, had well entrenched and well equipped battalions No. 35, 75 and 86 (about 5,500 men) in place.

Battle

At 5:15 of July 2 (second day of the offensive), after initial artillery bombardment, small groups of legionnaires equipped with grenades attacked the enemy (see: Shock troops tactic). After they breached through barbed wire defenses followup units continued with the attack. Until 15:00 the Legion advanced 4-5.5 km into enemy territory, breaking all enemy's entrechment lines. 3,300 enemy soldiers (62 officers) were taken into captivity; 20 cannons and a large amount of military material was seized. The Czechoslovak losses were 167 killed, 17 wounded dying later, 11 missing and around 700 injured.

Aftermath

This success had no effect on the doomed offensive. During the retreat the Legion fought a defensive battle near Tarnopol with 320 killed. The battle, however, gave propaganda and political capital to the leaders of Czechoslovak resistance and convinced Russian government to put down any limits on forming new units from Czech and Slovak soldiers captured during the war. Moreover, the battle was the first armed action of the Czech exterior resistance which came to be known among Czech people in Austria-Hungary. By this time, any reference about Czech volunteers fighting at the side of Entente was suppressed by censorship. But the surprising victory of smaller Czechoslovak forces incited some Austrian politicians to demand the interrogation of the alleged betrayal of Czech units in Austro-Hungarian Army and this made the victorious legionaries famous across Empire.

After the war the battle became symbol of the heroic military cult around the Legions who formed a cornerstone of the new Czechoslovak state. During the German occupation of Czechoslovakia (1939-1945) and also later, when communist party took all power (1948) the event was depreciated or ignored.

ources

* Rudolf Medek, Vojtěch Holeček: "Bitva u Zborova a československý odboj" ("Battle of Zborov and Czechoslovak resistance"), 1922
* Jan Galandauer: "2.7.1917 Bitva u Zborova - Česká legenda" ("June 2, 1917 Battle of Zborov - the Czech legend"), 2002, ISBN 80-86515-16-8

External links

* [http://www.valka.cz/newdesign/v900/clanek.php?id=10381 Overview of the battle] (in Czech)


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