Was World War I
an avoidable debacle ?
February 7 – February 22, 1915
East Prussia – Eastern Front
Allied Powers: Russia - Russian Tenth and Twelfth Armies
Central Powers: Germany - German Eighth and Tenth Armies
Following the sweeping victory at the Battle of Tannenberg and the First Battle of the Masurian Lakes, German General Paul Von Hindenburg planned to launch an offensive against the Russian troops stationed at both Lemberg and Przemysl.
The German Eighth Army, led by General Fritz von Below took on the Russian Tenth Army under the command of General Thadeus von Sievers. Reinforcements arrived from the Western Front in the form of the German Tenth Army led by Colonel-General Hermann von Eichhorn. Farther south in the Masurian region, the Russian Army led by General Pavel Plehve supported the Tenth Army.
The German attack commenced on February 7, 1915, amidst a blizzard. The Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes thus is also referred to as the Winter Battle of the Masurian Lakes. Severe damage was inflicted on the unprepared Russians. The Russian Twentieth Army Corps was rounded up entirely. The Russian Tenth Army, however, fought back bravely ending the battle with a seventy mile encroachment by the Germans.
Like the earlier Battle of the Masurian Lakes, the Second Battle proved costly with Russia recording over 156,000 casualties. Over 100,000 soldiers were taken prisoner by the Germans. The German army, on the other hand, recorded about 16,200 casualties.
Despite the victory, the Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes had failed in its objective of eliminating Russia from World War I and ending the battle on the Eastern Front. All further German operations on the Eastern Front were conducted jointly with Austria-Hungary.