The Prussian Machine  -  Battles

back to  Battles | home    





* Dates:  11 Nov - 6 Dec 1914 

* Background: Following the German Eighth Army's victories at Tannenberg and Masurian Lakes in August and September, 1914, Generals Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff were charged with commanding the newly-formed Ninth Army. In October, the Ninth attempted an advance on Warsaw, Poland in order to cut the Russians off from their planned invasion of Silesia. They also saw the need to relieve pressure on the inept Austro-Hungarian Army which was being pummeled by the Russians in Galicia. In mid-October, Hindenburg came within 12 miles of Warsaw but, outnumbered 3 to 1, was eventually pushed back to the starting point of the attack. By November, Hindenburg was made Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Front and relinquished command of the Ninth to the very capable Hussar, General August von Mackensen. He immediately rushed his troops in about 800 trains northward to the cities of Posen and Thorn in order to launch a renewed attack on Poland, this time to punch through the Russian First and Second Armies and march on the industrial city of Lodz.

* The Germans: During the Battle of Lodz, Ninth Army commander Mackensen had the following corps commanders fighting for him:  Plueskow (XIth), Pannewitz (XVIIth), Scholtz (XXth), Scheffer-Boyadel (XXVth Reserves), Morgen (Ist Reserves), Frommel (IIIrd Cavalry), and Manfred von Richthofen (Ist Cavalry), a distant relative  of the pilot by the same name - the Red Baron.


Ninth Army

  Generaloberst August von Mackensen
   XI. Corps   Gen.d.Inf. Otto von Plueskow
   XVII. Corps   Gen.d.Inf. Guenther von Pannewitz
   XX. Corps   Gen.d.Inf. Friedrich von Scholtz
   I. Reserves   GenLt. Kurt von Morgen
   XXV. Reserves   Gen.d.Inf. Reinhard von Scheffer-Boyadel
   H.K.K. 1   GenLt. Manfred von Richthofen
   H.K.K. 3   Gen.d.Kav. Rudolf Ritter von Frommel


* The Battle:  German intelligence had detected a weakness in the Russian line just north of Lodz. The plan was to break through the Russian First and Second Armies, swinging south to encircle the Second, as had been done at Tannenberg. Czar Nicholas II's immediate subordinate, Grand Duke Nicholas, had been concentrating his forces near Lodz in order to invade Germany, specifically the important industrialized area of Silesia. They were unprepared, however, for Mackensen's first strike. In four days, the Germans covered over 50 miles of ground, pushing southward in the snowy weather (the temperature hovered around the -10 degree centigrade during the battle), and forcing the Russians from Kutno. They pushed further on toward Lodz, tearing a 35-mile gap between the two Russian armies. Rennenkampf's First Army was utterly crushed. Threatened with a double envelopment,  the Second Army reacted more quickly and competently than the Germans expected and halted the advance, aided by a counterattack from the Fifth Army coming up from the south and from a mixed Russian force out of the north.

v. Scheffer-Boyadel


On 21 November, Scheffer's XXVth Reserves, the 3rd Guard Division and the Ist Cav Corps had penetrated so deeply behind Russian lines that they themselves had become completely encircled. At this point, the Russians ordered several trains to come and transport their soon-to-be prisoners back to Russia. With close to 60,000 men, Scheffer had no intention of giving up, though, and continued his advance on the city. By 25 November, not only had he brilliantly fought his way back to the German line, but he had also captured 16,000 prisoners and 64 heavy artillery pieces in the process. Meanwhile, the Ist Reserves were driven back north of Lowicz, and the front gradually stabilized, the Russian High Command given up on Lodz in order to defend Warsaw (the Germans did not capture Warsaw until July 1915).

This engagement was a costly tactical victory for the Russians, given that they halted Hindenburg's initial march on Poland. The Battle of Lodz is nonetheless considered to be a strategic victory for Germany as the stalemate forced the Russians into abandoning their designs on Silesia, never again to threaten the German homeland. Estimated casualties for the Germans were approximately 35,000, with Russians casualties probably three times higher.

* click to enlarge