The Sea Battles for the Dardanelles I

Fort Seddulbahr before the bombardment on 19 February 1915.

Reconstructed Turkish heavy gun site at the Dardanelles Straits before the bombardment by the British and French fleets

Turkey’s entry into the war on the side of the Central Powers did not bring about the strategic advantage for which Germany had hoped. Bulgaria and Romania did not join the alliance with the Central Powers and remained neutral. Thus a direct overland transportation link between these allied states was still missing and this was of decisive importance for delivering essential weapons and ammunition to Turkey. Even Romania insisted on its neutrality and no longer permitted freight from Germany to pass through its territory, which had previously been possible by paying bribes.

In mid-November 1914, based on reports from Istanbul, the Foreign Ministry emphasised in a memorandum to the German High Command that the number of mines in the Dardanelles and the army’s ammunition would hardly suffice for two battles, so that ensuring a transit route to Istanbul through Serbia became one of the most important tasks of German war planning. The document pointed out that should Turkish requirements not be fulfilled due to shortage of ammunition, then the possible negative consequence could be the mobilisation of the entire Balkans against the Central Powers. On the other hand, as a positive effect of a campaign against Serbia, and thus by keeping the Turkish army as an ally, then 700,000 Turks as well as a further 400,000 men of the Bulgarian army could be made ‘usable’ for German purposes. Towards the end of November 1914 Austro-Hungarian troops tried to defeat Serbia but during the first half of December this offensive ended in a severe rout and the Central Powers’ withdrawal from Serbia. The overland route to Turkey remained blocked.

Field Marshal von der Goltz was again posted to Istanbul in November 1914, transferred from a controversial period as military governor of Belgium. This assignment had been engineered on the initiative of Ambassador von Wangenheim, who evidently wanted to be rid of the recalcitrant General Liman von Sanders and hoped that he would be better able to exercise influence on the conciliatory old Field Marshal. When von Sanders learned of Wangenheim’s efforts to bring back von der Goltz, he tried to dissuade the head of the Military Cabinet in Berlin and stated that, in his view, his relationship with the Ambassador was not as bad as was apparently mistakenly assumed. Von Sanders received support through a letter that Lieutenant Colonel Thauvenay, a member of the Military Mission and now quartermaster at Turkish Headquarters, wrote to the Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office. In the letter, Thauvenay tried to excuse the conflicts between the Head of the Military Mission and the Ambassador, indicating that it was due to the General’s military integrity and straightforwardness. He considered von der Goltz was unfit to have an active role in the Turkish military, since he had already ‘sinned enough in the Turkish army’ and what was needed was ‘not a smiling advisor but a firm hand’. This entreaty was unsuccessful however, and von der Goltz arrived in Istanbul on 12 December 1914. But not even von der Goltz himself knew for what purpose he had been assigned to Turkey. He had received no clear instructions or support from either Germany or the Turks. Von der Goltz was not made subordinate to the Military Mission, had no other powers and was therefore not suitable for the German Ambassador’s intention, which was namely that he should act as a replacement for Liman von Sanders. On the contrary – in a telegram on the departure of the Field Marshal from Berlin, it was said that the posting was ‘merely an act of courtesy and has nothing to do with warfare or military operations’. This was understandably unsatisfactory for von der Goltz, who still regarded himself as the figurehead of German-Turkish cooperation and was now bitterly disappointed with his dubious status and lack of recognition:

‘Here I am only to hold a purely honorary position. Not even an adjutant was to be allocated to me. […] Any rights, powers or courses of action to gain influence have not been granted to me. I was not authorized to recruit other officers. All these rights, especially a significant monetary fund, however, were placed at General v. Liman’s disposal, were contractually guaranteed to him, and the Military Cabinet nervously ensured that I was not interfering with these rights.’

Nevertheless, at the beginning of February 1915 the Sultan gave von der Goltz the function of an advisor at the Turkish headquarters and let him take part at General Staff meetings. Although he felt like a ‘spare wheel’ in this position he nonetheless gave expert advice to the Turkish leadership and wrote assessments and reports to Berlin. Thus during these weeks von der Goltz principally viewed his task as explaining to Istanbul the war question against Serbia and in supporting the new Chief of the General Staff, Erich von Falkenhayn, with his assessments. He saw the advantage of a military operation against Serbia as of grand strategic effect, both in Turkey and in the Balkans, and wrote to Falkenhayn:

‘If, on the other hand, we succeed in bringing the Balkan states over to our side through early success in Serbia, our prevalence over Russia would be finally settled. We have Bulgaria and as soon as we or our allies are with strong forces in Niš the rest will follow on. Then the well-equipped Turkish army of six corps, now inactive in Thrace and Constantinople, can be used.’

Von Falkenhayn was not against this line of reasoning, but had to keep his eye on all the theatres of war and thus saw no possibility of carrying out a major offensive against Serbia. Even the Austrian Chief of the General Staff, Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, saw no chance of even a limited operation against Serbia in order to open just a single corridor as a transport route.

Meanwhile, on 3 November 1914, the Allies had launched a first attack on the entrance to the Dardanelles – apparently, however, more with the intention of probing the defence capability or damaging installations than trying to make a breakthrough. Lieutenant Colonel Wehrle reported:

On the morning of the 3rd at 7 o’clock, 10 English[sic] and French ships of the line were lying in two semicircles at the entrance of the strait, and fired at the two forts at Kumkale and Seddulbahr from a position 16,000 metres away, where no Turkish guns could reach. Out of the slight morning mist, muzzle flashes constantly light up, the forts are shrouded in smoke and dust from which continuous tongues of flame rise up. Half an hour later a tremendous white cloud of smoke appears over Seddulbahr, and stayed in the air for minutes. A [sound like] heavy thunder is heard. The ships peel off and disappear in the haze. That was the start, but a bad start. Through an incomprehensible act of carelessness by a coastal battery, many hundreds of hundredweights of old gunpowder had remained piled up in an underground storage area. This storage area was hit by a shell and the whole battery, along with 5 officers and 60 men, were blown to pieces.’

After this attack and during the following weeks it remained quiet in the Dardanelles. This afforded the Turks more time to continue their preparations for defence. An additional Turkish artillery battalion had been assigned in mid-December for the defence of Beşika Bay (just slightly north of Nagara); Lieutenant Colonel Wehrle first of all had to put this unit through some basic training:

‘Simply looking at them, my head was shaking in disbelief and even my Turkish battery commanders, who were used to many things, remained speechless at this pile of military destitution. The battalion was taken in hand and two days were needed to restore order and bearing. First, everything went to the delousing facility, which was set up in a bakery. Meanwhile officers and NCOs of the Howitzer Regiment were tasked to inspect materiel and equipment, any items deficient were noted and indents placed with the quartermaster. Fourteen days later Marshal Liman v. Sanders visited the battalion in its firing position. Chance would have it that just at the time, when we were standing in one of the batteries, a destroyer was approaching the shore. The Marshal gave the order to fire. This battery had never before fired a single live shot. I prompted the battery commander, checked the sighting and the first shot near the target caused the boat to turn off. The battery was praised and was very proud. The following day, a French cruiser appeared and gave us thanks with 60 heavy shells, which it fired – not at the battery but against a dune 200 metres away, which I had set up at night, using tree trunks as a decoy.’

Meanwhile, new calls for help went out from Istanbul to Berlin. On 30 December, Ambassador von Wangenheim announced that, with the continuing geographical isolation of Turkey, ‘the moment could be foreseen where Turkish thirst for action and will to fight may cease’. On 4 January 1915 Falkenhayn was notified about a meeting of the generals and admirals stationed in Istanbul regarding the ammunition situation in Turkey, where they concluded that even with the most economical consumption, ‘the ammunition for the army and navy would only last until mid-March’. Admiral von Usedom, who was responsible for the defence of the Dardanelles, had also stated that ‘he could vouch for the defence capability of the Dardanelles against a first attack, but that he could not give the same guarantee for a repeated attack’.

Churchill had discussed the question of opening the Dardanelles in November 1914 in the context of a new strategic offensive in southern Europe to win over the Romanians, Bulgarians and perhaps the Greeks as allies; however, this plan was not pursued due to a lack of available forces. Only at the beginning of January 1915, in response to a request from Russia, who wished to take the pressure off their Caucasus front, was further planning resumed in London. However, since the British Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, did not want to make troops available for the Orient Front, the commander of the British Mediterranean Fleet, Vice Admiral Sackville Carden, was asked how this task could be achieved. He replied on 5 January that although he could not take the Dardanelles by a surprise rush attack, he could take them with the fleet in a large and extended operation. This statement formed the basis for the decision of the British Military Council on 28 January 1915, which recommended an attack on the Dardanelles solely as a fleet action. Preparations for this attack took several weeks. In mid-February it was believed that the plans for attack were ready. On 19 January, Russia had been informed of the intended operation; in London it was expected that with the operation to force the Dardanelles, Russia would at the same time carry out a naval attack on the Bosphorus and a landing on the Turkish Black Sea coast. This, however, was rejected by Moscow due to insufficient forces being available.

Meanwhile the Allied fleet, lying off the Dardanelles, had been considerably strengthened. In addition to the sixteen large British battleships and cruisers, four French battleships and the Russian protected cruiser Askold arrived in January, so that at least twenty-one large warships were now off the Dardanelles. At first the Allied fleet limited itself to continuous monitoring of the entrance to the Dardanelles. From mid-January 1915, there were signs that the Western powers intended an attack on the Straits. On 15 January a French submarine broke through the defensive anti-submarine net stretched across the Dardanelles. Through the courageous intervention of Navy Lieutenant Prince Reuss, who set course in a small ship towards the submarine and dropped depth charges, the submarine was forced to surface at Nagara and fired on by coastal batteries. The Austro-Hungarian Military Representative in Turkey, Field Marshal Lieutenant (Feldmarschalleutnant) Josef Pomiankowski, reported:

‘As an enemy submarine appeared shortly thereafter, it was immediately fired upon and severely damaged, leaving the commander with no choice but to surrender. The crew was captured, but the boat – it was the French submarine Saphir – was towed to Constantinople, where I had the opportunity to inspect it. Saphir belonged to a very outdated type, and was also much neglected. German naval officers told me that in the German fleet boats of this type no longer existed.’

Beginning on 2 February, individual ships began to shell the outer fortifications. On 19 February the Anglo-French fleet again shelled the outer fortifications of the Dardanelles with twelve warships. Admiral von Usedom described this in detail and thus gave an example of the leadership qualities of the German forces taking part:

‘The French used their heavy artillery, the Englishmen [sic] followed soon thereafter with their medium artillery, so that now broadside salvoes were being fired at three minute intervals against all four forts. The batteries were heavily hit; and clear hits could be made out in the fort at Seddulbahr and in the Kumkale battery. At Fort Orhanié the clouds of smoke from the explosions were right in front of the traverses. The ships came closer and closer to the forts. Apparently they believed the batteries to have been fully destroyed. This now gave Orhanié and Ertugrul the opportunity to counter-fire at 16.45 hrs. At the same time all hell broke loose, in which all the ships now seemed to take part. At intervals of 40 seconds, salvo followed salvo. At times, the forts were completely obscured by the black clouds of the explosions. Nevertheless, Orhanié and Ertugrul continued firing. Towards18.00 hrs, the enemy broke off the bombardment. The battery commander of Orhanié, Lieutenant Hans Woermann, as well as the Turkish interpreter and telephonist, who had been in the second observation station of the battery, were killed at 16.10 hrs by 2 shells of 15 cm calibre, after being forced to abandon the first observation post as a result of it being hit. Deputy Ordnance Technician Joerss, sheltering with others outside the battery, assumed the post of the dead battery commander. Since the phone line was out, he no longer had communications with the other batteries. On his own initiative, when the second enemy ship came into bearing from the left, he opened fire at a distance of 44 hm [4400 metres]. Then the Englishman immediately turned to starboard to increase the range.’

The losses caused by this attack totalled four dead, including two Germans, and nine wounded on the Turkish side. Lieutenant Colonel Kannengiesser wrote about this attack:

‘The first attack on 19 February 1915 was aimed at the outer forts of Seddulbahr and Kumkale at the entrance [of the Dardanelles], which were fired at from long range, and vanished under a dense hail of shells, smoke, dust and splinters. Aircraft directed the fire. How can 30-year old guns with quite outdated traverse and firing methods counter this? As Carden withdrew his ships when darkness falls, the loss of people and materiel is insignificant.’

The destruction was judged to be low in relation to the estimated 800 to 1000 shots fired by the Allied naval guns. At Kumkale, only a 28-cm gun had been permanently knocked out, but Fort Seddulbahr had suffered greater damage. In preparation for the breakthrough and also for landing operations, the forts at Kumkale and Seddulbahr were systematically bombarded almost every day. With field artillery support, the forward Turkish infantry managed to beat off the smaller Allied daylight landings, which were aimed at demolishing gun barrels and ammunition bunkers in the forts. On 25 February 1915 the Allied fleet made another attack on the outer forts, which were almost completely destroyed after a seven-hour bombardment.

These initial experiences of the Allied fleet and their limited visible successes led to new British operational planning. The experience during the British fleet’s 1807 Dardanelles breakthrough was also remembered, in which, after entering the Marmara Sea, fleet re-supply was disrupted by Turkish troops on either side of the Dardanelles. Therefore land forces had to be included in the planning to secure the coastal areas after the breakthrough. The basic decision was made on 16 February 1915, but it was only on 10 March that the total strength of the Expeditionary Force was finalised: four English divisions and one French division. However, the exact operational role for this force had not yet been defined. It should follow the outcome of the fleet operations, which were maintained. Thus there was still no joint or coordinated operational planning for the deployment of Allied naval and land forces.

Despite the Entente’s limited success so far, the attacks on the Dardanelles had caused great concern in Istanbul. Although Turkey had already been a Central Powers’ alliance partner for several months, deliveries of much needed supplies from Germany still could not be transported there and unrest began to grow against the background of the imminently anticipated attack on the Dardanelles. On 1 March Enver wrote to von Falkenhayn that the situation was serious, as the Allied fleet was gradually destroying fortifications and could thus force a passage through the Straits. In a second telegram of 8 March, Enver recalled the precarious situation and described the opening-up of an overland transportation route through Serbia as the ‘vital question for Turkey’.300 On 10 March, Admiral von Usedom wrote to von Falkenhayn: ‘Despite the relatively meagre success of the enemy, destruction of all the Dardanelles fortifications cannot be prevented in the long run, if the munitions and mines which have been on order for months do not arrive as soon as possible.’

The Foreign Office warned:

‘Should the Dardanelles and Constantinople fall, this would not only signify a great moral boost for the Entente, with immense repercussions for all of Islam and for Turkey’s existential endangerment, but also a revitalisation of the war effort in Russia and France, thus not only prolonging the war but also driving all the Balkan states (Bulgaria and Romania) into the arms of the Entente.’

The Sea Battles for the Dardanelles II

A naval artillery observation post on land: standing left, Lieutenant Franz Wodrig, right Lieutenant Rolf Carls.

Meanwhile, a major Allied landing operation at Kumkale on 3 March underlined the urgent nature of the munitions question. The almost 400 man strong landing detachment of the Royal Marine Light Infantry was, however, beaten back. The attackers suffered casualties totalling seventy dead and wounded. From the equipment left behind, the Turks concluded that this was not just a temporary landing but was apparently intended to occupy permanently the extreme tip of the Asian side of the Dardanelles.

However, the attacks now beginning to be made against the inner defensive positions only made little progress. To carry these out the fleet had to enter into the waters of the Dardanelles and thus loose its freedom of movement and ‘passive’ protection. In addition to the danger from the guns of the defence emplacements and the minefields in the waterway, the attackers also faced the threat of the mobile 15 cm howitzer batteries on both sides of the coast. The ships were therefore forced to manoeuvre quickly, which consequently reduced their firing accuracy. Thus they succeeded in neither destroying the Turkish batteries nor in clearing the numerous minefields.

On 5 March the batteries at Kilid Bahr, on the opposite side of Canakkale, were shelled by indirect fire. This attack was reciprocated by indirect fire from the Turkish ships of the line, Barbarossa and Torgut. In anticipation of these battles, the German captain of the Barbarossa, Lieutenant Commander Joachim von Arnim, had already been ashore to set up a fire control observation post on the heights of the southern peninsula. Although this post came under fire later, as it had revealed its position by the use of signal ammunition, by a rapid relocation the post could continue support the Turkish ships for effective fire. In the days which followed these observation posts were expanded, surveyed and connected to telephone exchanges. Lieutenant Rolf Carls, the gunnery officer of the Breslau, was commended for his actions in this work.

On the morning of 7 March, two large British warships, the Agamemnon and the Lord Nelson, accompanied by several French vessels, entered Karanlik Bay and began shelling Dardanos and the inside forts. Firing at the same time from Kaba Tepe, the Queen Elizabeth bombarded the forts, while HMS Dublin shelled the Bulair fortifications from the Gulf of Saros. The British warships moved inside the straits to push closer to the forts, but then they came within range of the Turkish coastal artillery. The naval guns fired in quick succession, but the warships withdrew after a short time because of the hefty resistance and without having inflicted (or incurred) any significant damage. During the bombardment it was observed that the Allied ships remained mostly in the Bay of Erenkeui, where they were largely outside the range of the fortress guns. Again and again, the 15-cm howitzers commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Wehrle, expending the then huge tally of 800 shells, had fired on the enemy warships in the Dardanelles, which forced them to keep moving and thus ensured that the ships simply ‘wasted ammunition’.

Even though by night there were entire flotillas of ships, protected by smaller vessels and destroyers, trying to clear the minefields, the Turks were constantly laying new mines. A special line of mines, which had been laid in the turning circle of retiring Allied warships, was to acquire decisive significance. The planning was carried out by Major Nazim Emin, the Chief of the Dardanelles Mine Service, who had a comprehensive knowledge of the currents and depth conditions. The Coastal Inspectorate assigned the minelayer Nusret for this task, while Naval Engineer Lieutenant Commander Arnholdt Reeder, of the German Imperial Navy, represented the SoKo (Special Command) on board. A torpedo specialist, Lieutenant Commander Paul Gehl, was assigned by the Straits Command to be on board Nusret as well.

Lieutenant Commander Reeder submitted his report to the MMD on this operation, which made a major contribution to thwarting the Allied naval attack of 18 March 1915:

‘On 7 March, at 11.30 in the afternoon [sic], I went on board the minelayer Nusret with Hafis Nasimi, the Turkish Mine Captain and Petty Officer Rudolf Bettaque, the German torpedo-man, to make the necessary preparations for minelaying. While I was personally double-checking the engine room and then got the boilers ready for smokeless sailing, the torpedo-man, Bettaque, and the Turkish mine-laying crew cleared the mines ready for launch. Two German NCOs and stokers were at my disposal for the operation of the engines and boiler. This was to guarantee that my commands were executed quickly and correctly. At 5 o’clock in the morning I had the anchor raised. The weather was good for this operation. A light mist lay on the water, which gradually turned into a steady rain. With an average of 140 revolutions, the minelayer made its way from Nagara along the Asian coast.

Since it was still dark and several minefields had to be negotiated, great caution was needed. However, the Turkish Mine Captain knew the critical points exactly, and so Nusret arrived safely at its destination. Throughout the voyage, [engine] revolutions were maintained according to my orders. This enabled me to sail completely smokeless, although the Turkish Eregi coal is very unsuitable for this purpose. At 07.10 hrs I had us turnabout and bound for home; simultaneously, I had the mines laid at 15 second intervals by Hafis Nasimi, the Turkish Mine Captain. Overall, 26 mines were laid in the general direction of SW-NE. Meanwhile the morning was already beginning to turn grey. The enemy guard piquet had apparently already withdrawn; within the Dardanelles no enemy ship could be seen. The visibility towards Canakkale was too low due to the rain and the dark background. With reasonable certainty I can therefore assume that the laying of the mines was not noticed by the enemy. At 8 o’clock in the morning, I was able to anchor again at Canakkale.’

This line, which had been laid with twenty-six Carbonit mines supplied from Germany, remained undetected until the attack on 18 March 1915. Churchill later wrote that ‘the Nusret may have changed the world’, as these mines shattered the dream of reaching Istanbul. This example of effective cooperation between Turkish and German military personnel has unfortunately been wholly ignored since by the Turks and this successful minelaying operation attributed exclusively to the Turkish crew.

The Allied fleet attacks on the Dardanelles, as well as mine clearance, were therefore far less successful than was assumed by the British and French. Nevertheless, rumours were heard in Istanbul that a successful attack by the Entente was imminent, causing unrest and sometimes panic in the city. When an official visit to the fortifications by the Diplomatic Corps was organised, the Austro-Hungarian Military Attaché, Josef Pomiankowski, reported:

‘We left Constantinople on the morning of 14 March. As far as I could tell, Enver Pasha had organised this excursion mainly for the American Ambassador, Mr. Morgenthau, who spread the most alarming rumours among the diplomatic corps, about the hopeless situation of Turkey and the forthcoming appearance of the Anglo-French fleet off Istanbul. […] The greatest interest was aroused by the battery at Dardanos, so named after the still visible ruins of the eponymous city of antiquity. This battery was located at the top of the heights and visible from afar, consisting of a one-metre high earthen breastwork of the ordinary type, behind which cannons were placed so that the barrels could shoot just above the ridge line. To protect the gun crew, they were provided with small steel shields., The enemy ships (especially on 7 March) had already bombarded this battery with a thousand shells, without somehow damaging it. By contrast, the entire area in front, as well as the forward part of the earthworks, were literally ploughed up and turned over by shells. On the protective shields one noticed only two dents, which apparently originated from exploding fragments. The crew serving the guns had suffered no losses; however, on 7 March, a shell had hit the observation post of the battery commander, which was about 15 steps away, and had killed him, along with other soldiers near him. In the afternoon we visited the forts of the European side, then returned aboard the Jürük, which started the journey back in the evening and arrived in Istanbul on the morning of the 16th.’

On 18 March the major Allied naval attack began, aiming to force a passage through the Dardanelles. Sixteen large warships, accompanied by many destroyers and minesweepers, approached the entrance of the Dardanelles. However, their approach had already been discovered in the early morning of that same day during the first flight of the new squadron at Canakkale. Captain Erich Serno, together with Lieutenant Commander Karl Schneider, the 2nd General Staff Officer at von Usedom’s headquarters, had made a reconnaissance flight. They spotted the enemy fleet and immediately afterwards warned of the apparently imminent attack. Schneider reported:

‘Early in the morning, we climbed up […]. We were flying at an altitude of 1,600 metres. The aircraft was at its ceiling. We realised that we had just flown over old Troy. At Tenedos we easily counted forty ships at anchor. All types were represented […]. Six battleships now headed in line towards the mouth of the Dardanelles. The battleship Inflexible led with the admiral’s flag flying.’

Both knew what this gathering of ships meant and flew back immediately to report the impending attack. As far as was possible in the short time available, coastal batteries and artillery units could be forewarned, Six large British battleships, including the Queen Elizabeth, with her 38-cm guns, started to attack the defences at Canakkale and Cape Kephes at around 11.30 am – initially staying out of range of the forts.

The Turkish coastal batteries and the mobile artillery units returned fire at the incoming French squadron, which consisted of four battleships and passed the line of British warships at about noon. All the battleships now came closer to their targets – but also within the range of the defending artillery. At around 2 pm the French squadron, which was under great pressure, was relieved by a squadron of six older British battleships. The battle then took an unexpected turn for the Allies, as the French battleship Bouvet hit a mine at about 2 pm, capsized in just two minutes and dragged almost the entire crew of 600 men down into the depths with it. Some of the other French ships were badly damaged and retired; the Gaulois was heavily damaged by artillery and a mine explosion and had to be beached at Tenedos. At 4 pm the Inflexible hit a mine and was barely able to escape out of coastal artillery range into safe waters. Shortly after, the Irresistible was hit so badly that she was abandoned and sank in the evening. These heavy losses caused the Allied Fleet Commander to break off the attack at 5 pm. When trying to take the Irresistible in tow, the Ocean also hit a mine and later had to be abandoned as well. The remaining nine English warships departed the Dardanelles westwards at full speed.

That date, 18 March 1915, marked an unforgettable day of victory for the defenders of the Dardanelles and is still celebrated every year in Turkey – especially in the Armed Forces – as ‘Canakkale Day’. The attackers had suffered heavy losses and forfeited the initiative, while the defenders had suffered relatively little damage. Admiral Souchon wrote home about the day’s events:

‘Yesterday’s heavy attack by the English [sic] and French on the Dardanelles ended as a great success for us. Here there is a great joy of victory. The French battleship Bouvet ran on to one of the mines laid on 6 March, and sank immediately. The English [sic] battleship Irresistible remained shot up, lay immobilised, the English [sic] battleship Ocean managed to steam away slowly with a heavy list. A destroyer sunk. Minimal loss on the Turkish side. In total, 2 heavy guns are damaged, of us Germans 2 dead, 7 badly, 7 slightly wounded. Hopefully the Englishmen [sic] will come again today and suffer such losses again. If they really want to succeed, they will have to do it before all the damage to the earthworks, telephones, etc. is completely repaired. Patching up will naturally be the case again this morning.’

As recognised later, the losses suffered by the Allies had been achieved to a large extent by the mines laid on 8 March by the Nusret. The Allied fleet had thought this area was already swept clear. In addition, in the days prior to 18 March, there had been no incidents in the area of this particular line of mines. However, it is not clear whether all the ships that sank were all as a result of mines. Von Usedom wrote about this in his report:

‘When Bouvet came into sight of the headquarters observation post at around 14.00 hrs, a strong smoke emission and listing could be observed, which got bigger and bigger. Three minutes later, Bouvet sank. From the speed of its sinking it was concluded that it had run into one of the mines set in the Erenköy Bay on 8 March, especially as it was also in the longitudinal location of this barrier. From later reports by the forward observers and Lieutenant Colonel Wehrle, commanding the howitzer batteries on the European shore, it became clear that the ship had suffered its heavy damage, whilst east of the mines, through artillery fire from Fort Anatoli Hamidié, causing the rapid sinking. It can also be concluded from the behaviour of the other ships that the enemy itself had not reckoned with the presence of mines, for Triumph, Majestic, Suffren, Gaulois and Charlemagne were heading for the scene of the accident. Suffren launched a boat. Motor boats, destroyers and later some mine-sweepers were trying to fish out survivors. In the process, a destroyer sank when hit by shells from the howitzer batteries, and sometime later a mine-sweeper. […] During this time, Dardanos had been able to clear its guns and at 6 o’clock in the evening, opened a lively and effective fire against Irresistible, which was sunk at quarter-past seven in the evening.’

This report puts into better perspective the sometimes over-exaggerated performance and impact of the mines laid down by the Nusret. It also shows the viciousness of this merciless battle, as even vessels that were clearly engaged in saving the lives of shipwrecked sailors and which had already put themselves into the minefield danger zone were nevertheless fired upon. Today this would be a clear violation of international military law, which prevailed at that time. This indictment must be made against the German and Turkish forces that took part in this battle and, in retrospect, casts a shadow on their victory over the Allied fleet.

The losses of the Allied fleet were high. Of eighteen ships, six had sunk or been put out of action for a long time. On the side of the defenders, however, only 114 men, including twenty-two German soldiers, were killed or wounded. Of a total of 176 guns, including those of the mobile howitzer batteries, only nine were destroyed. The forts had not been substantially damaged – even though massive numbers of shells had been fired at the fortifications. Of the ten lines of mines in the Dardanelles, nine were still intact. However, the ammunition situation on the Turkish side was critical after this battle. The medium howitzers and minefield batteries had fired half of their ammunition. The five 35.5-cm guns of the fortress artillery had only rounds left; for the eleven 23-cm guns there were only between thirty and fifty-eight rounds available per gun; while the reserve of high-explosive shells, the only effective munition against the battleships, was almost completely used up. A second, similarly heavy, attack would therefore have been difficult to fend off due to a lack of ammunition; a third attack would probably not have been opposed.

In the course of the battle, Major Binhold, a German commander of a field artillery battery, experienced an example of the Turkish custom whereby it was not common practice to pass on bad news. Binhold despatched his Turkish aide-de-camp to find out what had happened to a 15-cm howitzer that was being brought forward. The adjutant found the gun; it had fallen down a slope and the crew were in the process of recapturing the oxen. Returning to his CO, the ADC reported that the howitzer was not far off. Hours later, the aide was sent again to look for the long overdue howitzer. He found that the recovery work was still in progress, but reported back that the howitzer would arrive soon. Not a word of the accident was mentioned as such, as it would surely just lead to trouble. As more time passed by, Binhold set off on horseback himself during a lull in the fighting and saw that the ox-team was finally approaching the position. The circumstances of the delay were eventually explained; because he was familiar with the Turkish mentality, Major Binhold took a lenient view and closed the matter with a simple admonition.

After the 18th, the Commander-in-Chief of the Straits sector, Admiral von Usedom, immediately transferred the remaining ammunition available in the Bosphorus batteries to the Dardanelles. He also had ammunition from the fleet reworked for the calibres in use at the Straits. Mines were brought from Trebizond and Smyrna, even though they were indispensable there too. Although some stocks could be replaced from the modified munition factories in Istanbul, the Turkish government continued to urge Germany finally to provide adequate supplies.

Three days after the Allied naval attack, von Falkenhayn again tried to persuade his Austrian ally to campaign actively against Serbia. Enver Paşa also urged support for the opening of the land route to Germany and said optimistically in a letter to von Falkenhayn on 23 March:

‘I do not want our alliance with Germany and Austria to be a burden for these powers, but I am only anxious to help the allies with all we have at our disposal. This would be done to a much greater degree if Serbia is subjugated, thereby ensuring a reliable Bulgaria, as well as making Romania docile, and establishing an open route between us and Germany-Austria. I hope to be able to make other significant forces available for common purposes. Turkey still has half a million trained soldiers in reserve, who can be deployed immediately if armaments are available.’

This letter underlined the strategic importance of Turkey and strengthened von Falkenhayn in his planning. The resulting demand by the German government to the Austro-Hungarian Chief of Staff, Conrad von Hötzendorff, to carry out the Serbian campaign was answered with requests for troops from Turkey. Austria thought such an advance would be possible if Bulgaria took part, Germany provided four divisions, and Turkey ‘[protects] Bulgaria against Greece and Romania if they intervene and […] as far as possible, with about two corps [participate] under the Bulgarian Supreme Command directly.’ At the beginning of April 1915, von der Goltz was able to deliver a letter from the Kaiser to the Sultan, which announced the start of a Serbian campaign in the ‘near future’. This came after von der Goltz himself had been appointed as mediator to Conrad von Hötzendorff to explain the necessity of the war option against Serbia.

Enver responded to the demand from Vienna for troop dispositions on 12 April. In a letter to von Falkenhayn, Enver agreed to ‘provide two Army Corps to the Bulgarian Army for a joint operation against Serbia’.315 But once again the campaign against Serbia did not materialise, which is why Berlin had to think of different ways of solving the transportation problem for ammunition. It even considered using Zeppelins and large aircraft but, unsurprisingly, these methods were rejected because they were impractical.

The defence against an Allied landing operation at the Dardanelles, which was growing more likely with each day that passed, now had to be planned quickly, taking into account the lack of material support from Germany.

Island Castle of Trakai

The most successful example of exporting the castle-building skills of the Teutonic Order may be seen at the island castle of Trakai in Lithuania. Begun by Grand Duke Kestutis, Trakai was completed by his son Grand Duke Vytautas the Great. Taking advantage of a period of truce between Lithuania and the Order, the Order’s stonemason Radike was sent to supervise the construction. Trakai is like a miniature Marienburg situated on a tiny island.

Town located in a lake region 23 kilometers (14 miles) southwest of Vilnius; 2007 population: 5,400. Trakai is historically significant as the residence of medieval Lithuanian rulers, who often lived there even after the establishment of Vilnius as the country’s capital in the early 14th century. Trakai was the island castle of Grand Duke Kestutis and his son Vytautas and the center of a principality that occupied most of central Lithuania. An early 15th-century account of the town and castle were provided by the Burgundian traveler Ghillebert de Lannoy. In the early 16th century, Trakai lost importance as a political and military center, especially after the construction of the royal residence in Vilnius during the reign of Sigismund II Augustus; the town and castle were substantially destroyed during the Muscovite invasion of 1655-1666. Trakai was part of Poland between 1920 and 1939.

In 1951, restoration of the island castle was begun, and much of the former ducal residence was rebuilt, serving as a site for historical exhibits and artistic performances. The island castle of Trakai and its picturesque environs are visited by hundreds of thousands of domestic and foreign tourists every year. Trakai is also home to one of the last surviving communities of Lithuanian Karaim, also known as Karaites, a people of Turkic language related to the Tatars but practicing a form of Judaism.

KESTUTIS (c. 1300-1382).

Polish: Kiejstut; Russian: Kestovt. Duke of Trakai, c. 1338-1382, and Grand Duke of Lithuania, 1381-1382. Kestutis was the fourth or, according to some sources, fifth son of Gediminas. While little is known of his early life, it is well established that by the time of his father’s death in 1341, Kestutis was the ruler of Samogitia, Trakai, and Grodno. In 1345, he joined his brothers in a coup that removed Gediminas’s ineffectual youngest son Jaunutis from the throne in Vilnius and transferred power to Algirdas (R. 1345-1377). Kestutis was given the task of defending Lithuania’s western border against Polish and, especially, Teutonic Knight attacks. During the nearly four decades of his rule, he cooperated closely with his brother, Grand Duke Algirdas, and some historians consider this period as practically one of joint rule.

Between 1345 and 1380, the chronicles recount almost 100 incursions by the Prussian and Livonian branches of the Teutonic Order into western Lithuania, and 40 campaigns by Kestutis and the Lithuanians against the Knights. In 1361, Kestutis was reportedly captured by the crusaders, but he escaped the following year. Kestutis was also involved in several campaigns against the Poles who competed with the Grand Duchy for the lands of Volhynia and Galicia; in 1362, he also assisted Algirdas in the latter’s victorious battle against the Tatars at the Blue Waters (Russian: Sinye Vody) in present-day Ukraine. In addition to his military campaigns, Kestutis attempted to deflect the Teutonic Order’s attacks by negotiating the Christianization of Lithuania. In 1358, Algirdas and Kestutis offered to accept baptism on the condition that the lands seized by the order since the 13th century be returned to the Lithuanians and that the Knights be transferred to the east to defend Christendom against the Tatars, but these negotiations failed.

With the death of Algirdas in 1377, Kestutis became involved in a struggle for power with his nephew Jogaila. In November 1381, he seized Vilnius and proclaimed himself grand duke, accusing Jogaila of secret dealings with the Teutonic Knights. Jogaila continued the struggle against Kestutis and his son Vytautas, but a full-scale war was averted in July 1382 when a truce was proclaimed as a prelude to negotiations. About mid-July, Kestutis died under mysterious circumstances. Some chroniclers claim he was murdered by Jogaila, who violated a solemn pledge of safe conduct, while others suggest suicide. Kestutis’s death triggered a decade-long civil conflict between Jogaila and Vytautas. Kestutis’s passing marked the end of an era: he was Lithuania’s last non-Christian ruler and the last to be ritually cremated according to ancient custom.

VYTAUTAS (1350-1430).

Russian: Vitovt; Polish: Witold. Grand Duke of Lithuania (1392-1430), often termed Vytautas the Great in Lithuanian historical literature and widely acknowledged as medieval Lithuania’s most important ruler. Vytautas was born about 1350, probably in Trakai, the oldest son of Kestutis. He first achieved prominence as an ally of his father in the struggle for power that followed the death of his uncle, Grand Duke Algirdas. Following the death of his father in 1382, Vytautas was imprisoned in the castle of Kreva by his cousin Jogaila. He escaped and sought refuge with the Teutonic Knights, with whose support he waged a lengthy campaign against Jogaila, who had seized the grand ducal throne. In 1383, Vytautas was baptized and added the Christian name Alexander to his signature. He secretly reached reconciliation with Jogaila in 1384 and turned against the Teutonic Order. Upon his return to Lithuania, Vytautas was given the lands of Grodno, Brest-Litovsk, and Podlachia, later acquiring Volynia as well.

Vytautas was a prominent participant in the signing of the Act of Kreva, Jogaila’s coronation as king of Poland in 1386, and the formal re-Christianization of Lithuania in 1387. However, Jogaila’s decision to appoint his brother Skirgaila as viceroy in Lithuania provoked a fierce rebellion from Vytautas, who once again turned to the Teutonic Knights for assistance, initiating a destructive civil war that ended with the Treaty of Astravas (Russian: Ostrov) in 1392. By this agreement, Vytautas was given the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to rule as Jogaila’s vassal, but he later took the title of grand duke and, in effect, ruled Lithuania without any significant interference from his cousin.

During the 1390s, Vytautas undertook the Grand Duchy’s expansion to the east. His daughter Sophia married Grand Prince Vasili I (R. 1389-1425) of Moscow in 1390. Vytautas then shored up Lithuanian power in Smolensk and extended the Grand Duchy’s influence to Riazan and Tula. But Vytautas’s plans to subdue the Golden Horde were undone when his army suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Tatars at the Battle of Vorksla in 1399. Muscovy took this opportunity to roll back some of Lithuania’s gains in the Russian lands, but Vytautas renewed his campaigns in the east and by 1408 had recovered the territories lost after Vorksla. In order to pursue his ambitions in the east, Vytautas had ceded Samogitia to the Teutonic Order in 1398, but in 1409 a massive rebellion of the Samogitians against the Knights elicited his support and led to a joint Lithuanian-Polish campaign against the order, culminating in the decisive victory over the Knights at Grunwald on 15 July 1410.

In his relations with Poland, Vytautas always sought to rule Lithuania independently. He achieved this by the Act of Radom in 1401, which made Vytautas supreme ruler of Lithuania during his own lifetime, and the Acts of Horodlo in 1413. During the 1420s, Vytautas’s relations with Poland grew more acrimonious as the grand duke began to entertain the idea of acquiring a royal crown, a plan opposed by the Poles. He was married twice to Russian princesses, first to Anna, who bore him Sophia, and in 1418 to Juliana, who was childless.

During the reign of Vytautas, Lithuania reached its greatest territorial expansion and influence, stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. He succeeded in ending the centuries-old Teutonic threat and redefined Lithuania’s relationship with Poland. In domestic affairs, the ethnographically Lithuanian lands began an irreversible Christianization during his reign. Vytautas constructed a number of churches and oversaw the introduction of ecclesiastical administration. He also strengthened the nobility by granting it lands and peasants in return for their loyalty and military service. Vytautas fostered trade and encouraged Jews to settle in Lithuania by granting them extensive privileges. He died on 27 October 1430 amid preparations for his coronation.

THE CASTLE

Trakai is in Lithuania, 17 miles west of Vilnius. Because the town was set within a group of lakes, it was known as the “Town on the Water.” The castle was built on one of the islands of Lake Galva, probably on a previously fortified site, by Witold, Duke of Lithuania (1398-1430), during the struggle of the Lithuanians and Poles with the encroaching Teutonic Knights. The surviving castle dates from the 14th and 15th centuries. Its curtain walls have three large circular towers, and there is an impressive donjon.

The red-brick castles of Prussia share a stylistic unity with certain structures in Lithuania, the state that was for much of the period under question the Order’s deadliest enemy, although sometimes its closest ally. Kaunas is a prime example, but the most successful example of the direct export of the castle-building skills of the Teutonic Order may be seen at the island castle of Trakai in Lithuania. The first foundation at Trakai is the so-called Peninsula Castle, which is mentioned in the records of crusades to Lithuania from about 1384.

The picturesque island castle was begun by Grand Duke Kestutis and completed by his son Grand Duke Vytautas the Great. Taking advantage of a period of truce between Lithuania and the Order, the Order’s stonemason Radike was sent to supervise the construction.

Trakai is like a miniature Marienburg situated on a tiny island opposite the ‘peninsula castle’. The Flemish traveller Gillibert de Lannoy described it in 1414 as follows:

The old castle stands on one side of the lake, in open ground. The other one stands in the middle of a second lake, and is within a cannon shot of the old one. It is completely new, built from bricks following the French pattern.

Ironically, this was four years after Grand Duke Vytautas the Great had marched out of Trakai to begin the campaign that led to the battle of Tannenberg, where he crushed the members of the Teutonic order whose master stonemason had in happier times designed his castle for him.

ARTILLERY

Cannon were first introduced into Lithuania in 1382, being given to Grand Duke Jogailo as a present by the Teutonic Knights during one of their rare detentes. The Lithuanians were using these guns successfully by 1384 at the latest, when they were employed (along with trebuchets) in the siege and capture of the Teutonic Knights’ fortress at Marienwerder. In 1385 Hochmeister Zöllner von Rotbenstein was turned back from a river crossing by Jogailo’s brother Skirgailo ‘with innumerable bombards’, and in 1388 was repulsed from Skirgailo’s fort on the same river by what were presumably the same guns. Vytaurus bad as many as 15 large cannon in his fortress at Trakai, and a cannon foundry at Vilnius, and was probably the first Lithuanian commander to take artillery into the open field, as he did against Timur Kutluk at Worskla in 1399.

On the subject of Lithuanian artillery, Eric Christiansen observes in The Northern Crusades that since guns ‘could only be transported long distances by water, … the power upriver had the advantage of the power downriver when it came to sieges; the Lithuanians could get their cannon to the Order’s forts quicker than the Order could haul its cannon to Lithuania.’

PENINSULA CASTLE (GREAT CASTLE) RUINS

Trakai Peninsula Castle (the Great castle) stands in the town of Trakai, 100 m to the north of the beginning of Karaimų St at the end of Kęstučio St on a peninsula between Lakes Galvė and Bernardinų in the territory of the Trakai Island and Peninsula Castles Cultural Reserve. On the northern promontory is a small wooded hill called Aukos (Victims’) Hill. In the western and north-western part the castle is cut off from the town by the remains of a defensive ditch or fosse. Fragments of a mid-nineteenth-century park survive on the castle territory.

Construction work on the castle was begun by Prince Kęstutis around 1350-77. It is mentioned in the List of Rus’ian Towns (compiled 1387-1392). This castle was part of a defensive ensemble that guarded Trakai and Vilnius that was attacked by the Teutonic Order and ruined in 1382, 1383 and 1390.

Research on the castle began in 1854 when W. Tyszkiewicz, a member of the Imperial Archaeological Commission excavated Aukos Hill from which, in the opinion of certain researchers, work had begun on building the Peninsula Castle. Unfortunately when 582 m² were excavated in 1962 no earlier finds were made, apart from the ruins of the cellars of the renaissance grand-ducal residence which was built before the seventeenth century.

At present an area of some 3,500 m² has been excavated in the Peninsula castle. During archaeological research it was discovered that work began on building the castle after a wood was felled and great labour was expended on dealing with the soil in the territory of the front bailey. During this stage a fosse 12-14 m broad was dug to separate the castle from the town on the southern and north-western side and another fosse around 15 m wide to separate the southern bailey from Aukos Hill. To flatten the castle bailey its edges were filled with a layer of soil up to 2.3 m deep. On the eastern and western edges of the bailey and around Aukos Hill and the second bailey embankments were filled with gravel and clay. There were wooden defences on top. In the preliminary phase of the castle’s existence it had no towers, apart from an entrance tower in the southern brick wall during the first phase of construction to cut the castle off from the town.

Taking into account defensive needs the embankments with wooden palisades were changed for brick walls with corner towers and fosses strengthened with brick support walls. It seems that when the Teutonic Order besieged the castle in September 1385 it was already built of brick because sources record how the walls were bombarded.

In the early fifteenth century a two-bailey defence complex was built covering around 4 ha and having eleven towers of various sizes. The castle was cut off from the town by a deep moat. The plan and structure of the castle were determined by people’s ability to use difficult natural conditions for their own defence needs.

The front bailey in the southern part of the castle, according to research data, was defended by seven towers. The towers were linked by walls of around 10 m in height. All the towers were quadrangular and built of stones and bricks. The first floor was built of stone with the gaps filled with bricks and crushed stone. Bricks were used to form spaces for windows and doors and build the corners and to decorate the upper storey walls. The bricks are laid in Gothic style. The joists between the storeys were wooden.

The three largest towers formed the most important south-western flank from the town side. The towers measured 15 x 15 m with walls on the first storeys of a width of 3.8 – 3.4 m. The best preserved southern tower is supposed to have been five storeys high. It is the only one in the castle corners to have had buttresses. It is thought that the ruler dwelt on the top floors.

The south-eastern flank separating the southern and eastern parts of the castle has smaller towers measuring 10 x 11 m with walls 2.5 – 2.8 m thick. The present northern tower was built on the ruined and burned foundations of the tower.On the northern flanks there used to be smaller intermediary towers at a distance of 30-40 m from the corner towers. They were 7.8 – 8 m in area with walls that were 2.2-2.4 m thick.

The front part of the castle was separated from the second bailey and Aukos Hill by a defensive moat which had a bridge. Aukos Hill was girt by a defensive ditch with small brick walls. The second bailey and Aukos Hill were protected by the castle walls with three towers.

For a long period the castle bailey was not built up and the garrison lived in the towers.

Research shows that there were three clear stages in constructing the Peninsula Castle:

• the first stage saw the building of a guard-type castle, ca 1375-83, probably;

• the second stage saw the formation of the front castle with seven towers and defensive walls (end 14 cent.)

• during the third stage the front part of the castle was finished and curtained with walls.

Work began on building up Aukos Hill and this stage can be associated with Grand Duke Vytautas reconstruction of the castle before the Treaty of Melno (1422) that ended the wars with the Teutonic Order.

There is not much information about the use of the castle after the death of Vytautas (1430). We do know that building work was interrupted by squabbles over the succession to the throne of the Grand duchy. We know that Grand Duke Žygimantas Kęstutaitis (1432-1440) lived there and that it was in this castle that he was murdered on Palm Sunday (March 20) 1440.

The castle lost its significance. In the early 16 century it was a place where high-ranking prisoners were held and plots of land began to be carved off for donations to noblemen. After 1655 buildings that were seriously damaged during the war with Muscovy were left derelict and unused. In the seventeenth-eighteenth centuries a few single buildings appeared near the walls and at the end of the eighteenth century the castle became home to the Dominicans who began to build their church.

Interest in the castle grew after 1817 when the Vilna Gubernia surveyor, STR. Velikorodov, measured out the southern tower and prepared a sketch of it. The 1827 Atlas of Castles of the Vilna Gubernia presents a plan and sketch of the castle that were made in 1826 when the tsar commanded the old buildings of the Russian gubernias to be surveyed and described. When preparations were under way in 1838 to publish a supplement to the old buildings’ atlas the Trakai surveyor I. Wroblewski made three sketches of the castle. In the second half of the nineteenth century the Peninsula Castle and nearby wooden buildings were sketched by V. Gumiński and in 1872 by the artist E. Andriolis. After the Germans occupied Trakai during the Great War, German specialists came to research the castle and write several articles about how best to preserve it. In 1928 the engineer W. Girdwejn drafted a plan of the Peninsula Castle and under the leadership of J. Borowski he strengthened the northern tower and cleared away the debris from other towers. In 1930 before the visit of the Polish president the castle bailey was tidied but this work did not continue for lonstr. Only on the initiative of the Vilnius conservationist S. Laurenc was the castle declared a national monument in 1933. After Lithuania took the Vilnius District from Poland in 1939 care for the castle was taken over by the Vytautas the Great Cultural Museum (Kaunas) which in 1940 drew up a work agenda for the castle for 1941-49 but after the Soviet Union and Germany went to war this work was not begun. Work continued only in 1953 when the eastern tower was restored partially. In 1953-61 the remains of the castle were recorded, conservation and restoration projects were drawn up and work in these areas began and are still being continued according to the Trakai Island and Peninsula Castles Reserve directed maintenance and use programme as approved by the Lithuanian minister of culture in 2000.

A dossier was drafted on Dec. 10 1996 and Protection Regulation 81 was drawn up on July 5 2002. At present work is under way on drafting a detailed plan for the Trakai island and Peninsula Castles Cultural Reserve. The castle is the property of the Lithuanian Republic and lies in the Trakai Island and Peninsula Castles Cultural reserve.

Turuturu Mokai Pā

This massive pā, still visible today and situated 3 km from the Tawhiti Museum, in the Taranaki region, was built over 400 years ago by Ngatī Tupaea, a hapū (sub-tribe or clan, the basic political unit within Māori culture) of Ngāti Ruanui.

Wherever possible a pa would take advantage of natural defences – steep hills and cliffs, river or coastal perimeter etc. However there was almost always a need to improve defences with strong wooden fences (tuwatawata ) and deep trenches. Turuturu Mokai was not a particularly steep site, so great effort went into triple rows of trenches and palisades.

The site is an extremely large and awe-inspiring set of Maori earthworks built in the 17th century by the Ngāti Tupea, and restored in the 1930s. In pre-European times a battle was fought there between the Ngati Tupea garrison of about 1000 men and a raiding party of Taki Ruahine (a sub-tribe of the Ngāti Ruanui).

A strategem was used during a time of relative peace, and Tūraukawa Poroa, a Ngāti Taki Ruahine rangatira (chief), organised a tohunga-te-moko, or Maori tattoo artist to be placed at the pā, offering to tattoo the warriors of the garrison, in particular on the buttocks and thighs. They accepted. Maori facial and body tattooing is a long and painful operation, after which the tattooed is incapacitated for a few days.

With the Ngāti Tupea so rendered, the Taki Ruahine came and took the pa with great slaughter. They decapitated the Ngāti Tupea dead and impaled their severed and smoke-dried heads on stakes thrust into the ground. Soon afterwards the pa was declared tapu and vacated, a tapu not removed until 1938. The name Turuturu Mokai indicated the stakes on which the heads of the slain enemy were mounted to warn prospective attackers of their likely fate.

Built in a loop of the Tawhiti stream, the main pā was ringed by five adjacent smaller pā – only one of which exists today. One of those was connected to the main pā by a tunnel under the Tawhiti stream.

The pā’s fortifications included a series of ditches and palisades, augmented by watchtowers to provide early warning of attack. Stones were placed ready to hand to drop on invaders.

Two of the smaller Pā beside Turuturu Mokai Pā

Eels (tuna ) were a vital part of an inland pā’s diet, but the streams and swamps also supplied freshwater mussels and crayfish, whitebait, watercress, and a range of freshwater fish.

There were three main methods of storing food and other valued objects – in elevated store houses (pataka ), elevated platforms (whata ), and underground pits (rua ). Some pataka were elaborately carved.

The four main plants cultivated were kumara, gourd, yam, and taro. In Taranaki, sand and gravel were often added to the soil to improve drainage and help raise soil temperature. Fences were built to keep out swamp birds, to act as wind breaks, and to delineate family plots.

Cooking fires and heating meant that dry firewood was in constant demand. With a large population, it would have been necessary to gather wood from increasingly greater distances, as shown here by the people carrying bundles of firewood to the pā.

The bush would supply many foods to supplement cultivated crops – birds, berries, bats, cabbage tree and tree fern pith, fern root, fungi, honey, grubs and insects.

At strategic points in the stockade of a pā, tall towers (taumaihi ) were built to give sentries a clear view of approaching groups of people. They also doubled as a platform to hurl stones and spears at any enemy below.

The typical pā in pre-European times was built on a high prominence, with good sight lines to see anyone who approached. It needed flat, fertile soils nearby to grow food for the community, and bush close by as well to provide wood for firewood and for construction. Ideally, the pā would also have a good water supply within the outer perimeter of the pā.

Watch towers served the double purpose of early warning of people approaching, and served as defence as well, with a plentiful supply of rocks kept there to throw down on attackers, and watchers carried spears to hurl at the invaders from on high.

Since ground water follows, to some extent, the contours of the land above it, the water table under a pa was often able to be reached by a relatively shallow well. This was a very important addition to a pā, and was essential in pre-European times, when the common method of attack was a many months long seige, to starve the inhabitants out of their redoubt.

Structural Changes to the Pā during the time of the Māori Musket Wars, and the time of the Māori – Pākehā Wars

The trench as shown here was formed in a zig zag pattern to prevent the fire of attackers from travelling the length of the trench. In addition, the outer wall was doubled to help prevent accurate or effective fire from outside.

Clear lines of fire were, however, put in place from within the pā to the outside, and the trench wall was high enough to protect the defenders from enemy fire.

Inside a fort at the time of the Musket Wars. By this time barrels for storage were a normal part of traditional Māori life, and were used not just for powder and shot for the muskets, but for general storage of foods, water and so on.

The pā had to have large supplies of food and water, since a common method of conquering a pā was to starve the inhabitants out. Later, the underground rooms were expanded in size and number to provide physical protection when the British began bombing the Māori pā.

The inner defences, the fall-back positions if the outer walls were breached, were also carefully prepared.

This quote is from the time of the Māori – Pākehā wars, Cowan (1922):

The outer wall, the pekerangi, or curtain, was formed of stout timbers, most of them whole trees, sunk deeply in the ground at short intervals, with saplings and split timbers closely set between the larger posts, all bound firmly together with cross-rails and torotoro, or bush-vines.

The smaller timbers did not quite reach the ground; it was through the spaces left that the defenders fired from their shelter in the trench behind the second palisade. The outer defence was completed by the masking of the timber wall with green flax, as at Puketutu.

The stockading was 10 to 15 feet in height; it was covered from a foot above the ground to the height of 8 or 10 feet with a thick mantlet of green flax-leaves tightly bound to the palisades. This padding of harakeke not only afforded considerable protection by deadening the impact of bullets, but masked the real strength of the stockade.

The second line of stockade, the kiri-tangata (‘the warrior’s skin’), was stronger than even the well-constructed pekerangi; every timber was set in the ground to a depth of about 5 feet, and rose above ground to a height corresponding with that of the outer line. Many of the palisades so planted, set close together, were whole puriri trees a foot or 15 inches in diameter—some were even larger—and some when cut and hauled from the forest must have been quite 20 feet in length.

This line of stockade was loopholed; the apertures for the Maori musketry fire were formed by taking a V scarf with the axe out of the two contiguous timbers. These loopholes were on the ground-level; and the Maori musketeer, pointing his gun through the aperture, was thus able to deliver his fire under the foot of the pekerangi without in the least exposing himself. The distance between the two fences was 3 feet. The trench in which the musketeer squatted was 5 to 6 feet deep and 4 or 5 feet wide, with an earth banquette on which the defenders stood to fire, and traverses at intervals of about 2 yards, with a narrow communicating-trench between each, admitting of only one man passing at a time. The venerable Rihara Kou, of Kaikohe, describing it, said: ‘We could travel right round the pa in the trench, winding in and out’ (‘haere kopikopiko ana’).

Maori Forts – Pa

17th-18th Century Lines

Long, fortified lines were constructed in Europe during this period to connect forts and fortified cities, and enhance defenses for positional warfare. The most important crossed the United Provinces for 100 miles, from the Meuse to the Atlantic, in places connecting pre-existing canals and rivers as natural defenses against the French, supplemented by artificial barriers that included deepened ditches and high earthworks lined with firing steps and gun emplacements. Under Louis XIV the French built several new lines in Flanders. They built more in the Rhineland once Louis went on the defensive during the latter part of the Nine Years’ War (1688-1697). Members of the Grand Alliance erected defensive lines facing the French lines in Flanders and again along the Rhine frontier. The forward lines constructed for Louis were the Lines of Brabant, built to protect older gains and his newly claimed northern frontier as ostensible protector of the Spanish Netherlands from Allied raids and crossings-in-force during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714). In 1711 the French completed still more formidable inner defensive lines known as the Ne Plus Ultra.

Like entrenchments of World War I, 18th-century lines were comprised of communications and support trenches as well as the main fighting trenches. They differed in that the armies that manned them seldom possessed enough troops to cover the whole system. This permitted breaching by surprise concentrations and forced marches, supported by good intelligence on where the defenders actually were.

Ne Plus Ultra lines.

An inner set of lines along France’s northern frontier. About 200 miles long, they were begun by maréchal Villars over the winter of 1710-1711 following the bloody fight at Malplaquet (August 31/September 11, 1709). They were made to guard France itself from invasion, following repeated defeats in Flanders in the last years of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714). They were more substantial than the Lines of Brabant and reflected the fact that the Allies had already breached that forward line and the double lines of the old pré carré. Construction began after agreement to the London Preliminaries (October 8, 1711). The Lines were dubbed “ne plus ultra” (literally, “no more beyond”) by Villars to suggest that Allied armies would never advance beyond them. They ran from the coast past Arras and Cambrai to the Sambre River, then along it to Namur, incorporating some of the old Lines of Brabant.

Marlborough crossed the Ne Plus Ultra lines in their first year of existence. He bluffed Villars out of Arleux by ordering General William Cadogan to dissemble in his defense of the causeway there, before doubling back to take it a second time. Marlborough used this screen and time gained to march between Arras and Vimy Ridge (of course, unaware of how those names and places would later haunt British military history). Now in front of the surprised Villars, Marlborough broke through the Ne Plus Ultra lines without resistance or casualties, and took Bouchain on September 13/24, 1711. This directly threatened Paris. Marlborough was unable to exploit this achievement, however, as he was removed from command by Queen Anne and the Tories in January 1712, to clear the path to peace.

Lines of Brabant.

The first of a series of French defensive lines covering the northern frontier with the Spanish Netherlands. The lines of Brabant stretched for 130 miles from the Channel, passing in front of Antwerp and ending on the Meuse just below Namur and the junction with the Sambre. The Lines of Brabant presented a series of linked canal and riverine barriers intended to slow if not stop enemy advances. These were linked in continuous line with deep entrenchments, palisades, and strongpoints. However, after 1701 the French did not have enough troops to defend the whole system. The Lines were attacked by the Allies in late 1702. They were attacked again and partially forced by William Cadogan for Marlborough on July 17-18, 1705. That September, Allied military engineers razed a 20-mile section of the Lines around Zoutleeuw. This was not repaired while the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) lasted. Another Allied army razed a smaller section of the Lines near Antwerp. In 1706 Louis sent maréchal Villeroi and a large army to retake the lost ground at Zoutleeuw. That led directly to an even greater disaster for the French at Ramillies (May 12/23, 1706).

Lines of Stollhofen.

Short Allied lines in Germany built in 1703 at the start of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), and greatly strengthened in following years. They were about 10 miles long, running from the Rhine at Stollhofen to an impenetrable wood in the hills east of Bühl. They were heavily entrenched and palisaded, well gunned, and well defended. Replicating a pattern familiar in Flanders, Dutch engineers who worked on them incorporated flooded zones to impede assault. Prince Eugene of Savoy remained in the Lines of Stollhofen while Marlborough marched on the Danube, forcing French troops to cover. Eugene then left the Lines with his cavalry and some infantry, joining Marlborough to fight at Blenheim (August 2/13, 1704). Villars assaulted the Lines of Stollenhofen in May 1707 with an army of 30,000. He drew out defenders by making multiple feints across one flank along the Rhine while his main force crossed on the other. He attacked and crossed at several points at once on the night of May 22-23, while preparing his main blow the next morning at Bühl. When he arrived at Bühl, he found the Lines abandoned. The Lines of Stollhofen thus fell without the French suffering any losses. Villars proceeded to occupy and hold them.

pré carré.

The term meant “dueling field,” but became famous in reference to the open space formed between a double line of regular fortifications, part of an elaborate defense system that Vauban developed along the northern frontier of France after he broached the idea in a 1673 letter to Louis XIV. It imitated the two lines formed by infantry in battle. The pré carré on the frontier with the Spanish Netherlands linked artillery fortresses from Dunkirk through Ypres, Lille, Tournai, Valenciennes, Maubeuge, and Dinant. Among the main fortresses of the second, interior line were Gravelines, St. Omer, Aire, Arras, Douai, Cambrai, Landrecies, Rocroi, and Carleville. Its establishment involved Louis in a long-term strategy that aimed at rationalizing and straightening France’s frontiers, whether by diplomacy or, as Vauban put it, by “a good war.” The outer line was breached by the successful Allied siege of Lille (August 14-December 10, 1708). Taking the inner line was the main aim of Marlborough’ s campaign of 1710. After signing the London Preliminaries, the French began work on a new set of lines, the Ne Plus Ultra. In the last campaign of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), Villars retook the lines of the pré carré, thus helping to ensure the general peace later agreed at Utrecht.

Lines of Lauterbourg.

A set of defensive lines constructed on the Rhine frontier near Strasbourg.

Lines of the Var.

These lines were constructed in 1708 in the Var Valley of Provence to hold back an anticipated Allied invasion of southern France.

IJssel line.

A Dutch set of defensive lines based on the IJssel branch of the Rhine. They were in a state of disrepair when French forces quickly outflanked and subsequently overran them at the start of the Dutch War (1672-1678).

Forts Maxim Gorky I & II

Armored Coastal Battery-30 and Armored Coastal Battery-35

German soldiers take cover on the battered concrete face of Fort Maxim Gorky below the burning armored cupola with its two 12-inch naval guns, now crippled and askew. At battle’s end, shattered chunks of the fort’s concrete bulwark testify to the fierceness of the attack. When resistance ended, the Germans found only fifty Russian survivors, all severely wounded, in the bowels of the stronghold.

The fortress of Sevastopol on the Crimea with its ring of forts and coastal batteries covered a circumference of about 10 to 12 km. Six heavy coastal batteries, two located north of Severnaja Bay, reinforced other coastal positions such as three old coastal forts on the north side of the position and three on the south side. Coastal Battery Shiskov, completed in 1912, mounted four 120-mm guns on pivots mounted on concrete platforms. Naval Battery Mamaschai (Coast Battery #10), completed in 1930 and one of the newer positions, mounted four 203-mm guns with gun shields on an open concrete platform similar to most of the other coastal batteries. Coast Battery #18, completed in 1917, and Coast Battery #19, completed in 1924, mounted four 152-mm guns each, and Coast Battery #3, two 130-mm guns. Fourteen new or reconditioned old forts, most of them north of the bay, and 3,600 concrete and earthen positions supported by about 350 km of trenches and thousands of land mines, completed the fortress in early 1942. Trenches and tunnels linked many of the positions. In the Sapun Mountains, at the base of the peninsula where Sevastapol was located, natural and man-made caves in the high, almost perpendicular, bluffs of the Tshornaya River were turned into formidable defenses.             

In addition, the Maxim Gorky I and II (Coast Batteries #30 and #35), each had a pair of gun turrets: the first with twin gun turrets located east of Ljabimorka (north of the bay) and the second with a set of similar turrets situated on the south-western end of the peninsula where Sevastopol stood. Battery Strelitzka mounted six 254-mm guns. Fort Stalin and Fort Lenin included a battery of four 76.2 anti-aircraft guns. Other forts, such as Fort Volga, served as infantry positions. Finally, the old strong point of Malakoff was turned into an artillery and infantry position with two 130-mm guns with shields. Besides the normal anti-infantry and anti-tank obstacles, the Soviets employed a “flame ditch,” a concrete lined ditch where fuel funneled through a pipe was ignited, creating a fire barrier.      

Although it was not actually a coastal defense sector, the isthmus linking the Crimea to the mainland was defended by the Perekop Line, consisting of permanent works forming two continuous lines. In the low lying treeless plain, every rise over 10 meters dominated the area. The 15 km wide northern belt included the outpost of Perekop. The main defensive area, the 400 year old Tartar Trench, cut through the isthmus and served as a moat supported by two dams. The ditch was about 9.0 meters deep, 20 meters wide and was filled with water. The southern position, which crossed the isthmus taking advantage of the local lakes and canals, was supported further to the south by the Tshetarlyk River. Numerous bunkers covered barriers of steel anti-tank rail obstacles, tank traps, and mine fields. Unlike many of the positions on the border, these were already camouflaged and difficult to detect.

Coast Artillery:   Range (meters)

355.6-mm (14´´) 31,000

305-mm (12´´) 24,600 to 42,000

234-mm 24,000

203-mm (8´´) (German) 33,500

181-mm*152-mm (6´´) 14,000 to 18,000

130-mm* (5.1´´) 19,600 to 25,400

105-mm and 152-mm (old weapons) 15,000 to 18.000

75-mm (3´´)(French Canet) 8,000

*These may be the weapons identified as 185-mm and 132-mm weapons by Germans.

Fortifications     

152-mm Howitzer 1938 12,400

122-mm Howitzer 1938 12,100

107-mm Cannon 1940 M-60 17,450

76.2-mm Cannon 1936 13,500

45-mm Anti-Tank 1932, 1937 4,670 to 8,800

120-mm 1938 5,700 to 6,000

82-mm Mortar 1936 3,100

50-mm Mortar 1940 800                

7.62-mm Light Machine Gun(Maxim 1910)                                               

76.2-mm Light Machine Gun (Degtiarev 1928)         

*Sources are inconsistent with regard to the figures and the type of shell used

According to German documents, the so-called 76.2-mm Fortress Cannon on a special ball mount in a gun casemate, replaced the older 76.2-mm gun used in fortifications and had a faster rate of fire. The mount included a funnel that carried the used shell into the fossé in front of the gun position. The older gun positions on the Stalin Line did not have this type of funnel, but included an embrasure cover that dropped in front of the gun.   

The mortars and most of the artillery were placed in field fortifications made of earth and logs. Many of these positions were probably not prepared until after the invasion in 1941.             

In addition to these weapons, there were also small flame throwers, static weapons buried into the ground with only their nozzles exposed and ignited electrically or by trip wire. They were placed in front of the defensive position or among the obstacles. According to German sources, the Soviets used a 1941 design, which means that it is not likely that they were in the Stalin Line. However, they may have been placed in other positions such as the Minsk to Moscow highway or the Mozhaisk Line.

World War II      

The Germans, who invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, were not fully aware of the defensive positions that faced them. They estimated that 40% were completed, but had no drawings showing exact locations or composition of Russian installations, except for those located right on the border. 

The staff of the German 8th and 29th Divisions had little knowledge of the condition or existence of Russian fortifications behind the Popily and Niemen Rivers. They planned to deal with any fortifications they encountered with massed artillery bombardment from twenty-nine heavy batteries, including eleven 210-mm mortar batteries.

The Germans easily overran the first bunkers, which were empty, poorly camouflaged, exposed in open terrain, and devoid of obstacles. The Germans smashed the bunker embrasures with anti-tank guns and destroyed many with flame throwers and demolition charges. The 8th Division quickly overcame most opposition on its front with these methods. Grodno fell on June 23 after all the bunkers in front of it had been eliminated. The 28th Division simply bypassed many Russian fortifications at Dorgun on the first day and moved to the Niemen. This division was later ordered to take the strongest border defenses in the area, the Sopockinie fortifications, which it had previously bypassed. After bitter fighting, Sopockinie was taken on June 24. Troops in a three-level bunker resisted for seven hours in the face of the German troops and engineers who detonated several hundred kilograms of explosives. The Germans attributed their success to insufficient Soviet troops in the area and to the incomplete state of the defenses, which lacked obstacles, minefields, and camouflage.               

The old fortress of Brest-Litovsk, located on four islands with wide moats and old walls, was put back into service by the Russians soon after they occupied it in 1939. The German 45th Division attacked it, supported by huge 210-mm howitzers and two 600-min mortars. After a river assault, the German troops encircled it, but it took them seven days of intense fighting to take the citadel, since they had under-estimated the strength of the old works.     

Further to the south, the Germans attacked the Sokal defenses on the Bug River where the Soviets had completed and camouflaged many of the bunkers. On the first day, the Germans methodically eliminated each position, leaving an engineer battalion behind to complete the work the next day. On June 25 twenty two- and three-level bunkers, which were still incomplete, went back into action. Even though they lacked camouflage, they managed to resist for a considerable time. One of the bunkers with a cloche proved particularly difficult to disable. The Germans used demolition charges to eliminate many of them. The procedure required engineers to advance under cover of flame-throwers and place demolition charges in the ventilation shafts, blasting the entrances.    

The URs of Kiev gave stiff resistance from July to August 1941 with the city of Kiev holding off several assaults until August. Further north on other parts of the Stalin Line, many of the URs such as Slutsk, were little more than skeletons, of little use to the Soviets despite Zhukov’s pre-invasion efforts.             

The defenses on the Dniestr extended up to 10 km in depth. Along the east bank of the Dniestr the Germans encountered elements of the old Stalin Line. The defenses near the river lacked an outpost line. Two- and three-embrasure light bunkers for machine guns and a few gun emplacements, stood 400 to 2,000 meters apart in the Yampol sector (UR of Novogrod-Volynski) and were reinforced by field fortifications.             

Elements of the German Eleventh Army in pursuit of Soviet troops retreating from the Pruth River, encountered these works in mid-July. Two infantry divisions attacked across the defended river crossings on July 18 at Cosauti and General Poetash. The Germans successfully forced a crossing at both points. Assault engineers eliminated the bunkers at Porohy with the use of flame-throwers and pole charges placed against the embrasures. Heavy explosive charges reduced the remaining bunkers. Russian troops continued to fight desperately even when out flanked and in a hopeless position, not knowing that the high command had already sacrificed them before the invasion began. German reports indicate that the Soviets reoccupied abandoned positions in places where local resistance was strong. In some instances, however, the troops turned out to be raw recruits forced to defend bunkers unfamiliar to them and they surrendered quickly.         

A heavily fortified area of the Stalin Line at Dubossary, containing many bunkers, artillery batteries, and other supporting positions, finally fell at the end of July. German engineers and infantrymen, supported by anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, engaged in close combat, finally overcoming Soviet resistance.     

In September, the Germans penetrated the position they called the Leningrad Line and struggled on. The Mozhaisk Line, the defenses in front of Moscow, was still incomplete and fell quickly in October. For the most part, the Soviets failed to use effectively the fortifications between the border and Moscow, partly because most were incomplete and not fully manned. Odessa, which had only field fortifications and no permanent landward fortifications, resisted until November 1941.   

After the Germans overran the Perekop Line on the isthmus leading into the Crimea in October 1941, it was only a matter of time before Sevastopol fell. It held out for twenty-eight days in a battle that ended in July 1942. At Sevastopol the Germans deployed their super heavy artillery, including the 800-mm rail gun Dora, to destroy key points like Maxim Gorky I. On June 6, heavy German guns and mortars fired on Maxim Gorky I and scored direct hits that destroyed one of the gun turrets and damaged the other. Additional artillery fire and air bombardment failed to eliminate the Maxim Gorky damaged turret, which was finally put out of action by assault engineers on June 17. The battle for the battery continued as the Russians fought from its battered positions until July 1. The 800-mm monster rail gun inflicted little damage beside landing three rounds on Fort Stalin on June 5, and fifteen rounds on Fort Molotov on the next day. German heavy artillery concentrated on Fort Stalin on June 11-12. The four 76.2-mm guns of the fort had special shelters and remained in action until June 13 when an infantry assault finally took the fort. By early July, the Germans had fired over a million rounds. They had taken over 3,500 fortified positions, 7 armored forts, 38 bunkers built into the rock, 118 bunkers of reinforced concrete, and another 740 built of earth and stone. On July 4, after taking the Sapun positions, and the final assault that took Maxim Gorky II, the campaign against the last major pre-war fortified position came to a close. Soviet methods of fortifications began to change as the war progressed.

The German Siege 1942

Between 2 and 6 June, the Eleventh Army fired a total of 42,595 rounds equivalent to 2,449 tons of munitions. Some nine per cent of Eleventh Army’s ammunition stockpile was expended in the preparation phase. German divisional artillery fired 19,750 rounds of 105mm and 5,300 rounds of 150mm ammunition in the five-day bombardment. Infantry guns fired another 4,200 rounds of 75mm and 150mm ammunition, plus 5,300 81mm mortar rounds. The corps-level Nebelwerfer battalions remained silent during this phase, not firing a single rocket. Two-thirds of the super heavy artillery rounds fired in the prep phase were from the four 240mm H39 howitzers and 16 305mm Skoda mortars.

The heaviest weapons, the Karl mortars and ‘Dora’, only played a minor role in the opening bombardment. One Karl mortar fired two registration rounds on 2 June, but the battalion then was not committed until 6 June. After an immense engineering effort, ‘Dora’ was finally installed at Bakhchysaray 25km north-east of Sevastopol and was ready for firing on 5 June. At 0535hrs, ‘Dora’ fired one of its 7-ton shells at Fort Maxim Gorky I’s Bastion I, and then proceeded to lob eight rounds at the minor Coastal Battery 2 near the harbour entrance. Accuracy was poor, with most rounds missing by 300m or more. Six rounds were then fired at Fort Stalin, with the closest round landing within 35-40m of the target and most impacting 130-260m away. On 6 June, ‘Dora’ opened fire in the evening and fired seven rounds at Fort Molotov; one round struck within 80m of the target, three rounds within 165-210m, one round within 310m, one round 500m off and one round 615m off. ‘Dora’ was then directed against a cleverly camouflaged ammunition dump named White Cliff on the northern side of Severnaya Bay and fired nine rounds with no effect.

It was more difficult for the Germans to employ the clumsy and shortrange Karl system, but on the late afternoon of 6 June the men of the 1st Battery/833rd Heavy Artillery Battalion were able to manoeuvre the 600mm mortar known as ‘Thor’ up onto a hill just 1,200m from the nearest Soviet positions of the 95th Rifle Division. From this location, ‘Thor’ had a clear line of sight to Fort Maxim Gorky I 3,700m to the south, and at 1700hrs it started lobbing 16 of its 2-ton concrete-piercing shells at the target. One of the shells hit Turret No. 2, severely damaging the weapon and causing casualties among the crew. ‘Thor’ was less effective against Bastion I, which contained the fort’s communications and range-finding equipment, but a Stuka attack succeeded in knocking out the cable trunk. All told, Coastal Battery 30 suffered about 40 casualties among its 290 naval gunners during the air and artillery bombardment, but neither ‘Thor’ nor ‘Dora’ had succeeded in destroying the installation.

Although the use of super-heavy weapons such as the Karl mortars and ‘Dora’ may have undermined the morale of the Soviet troops on the receiving end of multi-ton shells, these weapons actually failed to make a significant contribution commensurate with their cost. Primary responsibility must rest with General der Artillerie Zuckertort, the commander of the 306th Army Artillery Command, who violated the cardinal rule of artillery support in that he allowed these expensive weapons to fire too few rounds at too many targets, resulting in none of them actually being destroyed. ‘Dora’ had only 48 rounds available but Zuckertort used them against eight different targets, including only nine rounds against the primary target of Fort Maxim Gorky I. Furthermore, the super-heavy artillery of 420mm or larger all ran out of ammunition early in the offensive and it was the less-celebrated Czech-made 305mm mortars and 240mm howitzers that made the greater contribution and continued to fire from the first day of the offensive to the last.

The Soviets held back most of their artillery during the period 2-6 June because of limited ammunition supplies and concern about exposing their few heavy weapons to enemy counterbattery fire or Stuka attack. At the start of June, the SOR had about 200-300 rounds for each of its howitzers and 600-700 rounds for each mortar. Yet Soviet observers were vigilant and when they could confirm the location of a German artillery unit, they would call upon a few designated ‘sniper batteries’ that could shoot and then re-position. During the period 2-6 June, the Soviets destroyed three German artillery pieces, including a precious 280mm howitzer.

On 7 June 1942, after five days of bombardment, the Soviets expected an imminent ground assault. On the evening of 6 June around 2300hrs, Soviet artillery supporting Defensive Sectors III and IV began shooting harassing fires against suspected German troop assembly areas. In spite of this, at 0315hrs the 306th Army Artillery Command began a massive one-hour ‘destruction fire’, concentrating on the area between Haccius Ridge and Trapez. Both ‘Odin’ and ‘Thor’ joined the bombardment, firing a total of 54 rounds against Coastal Battery 30’s turrets [ Maxim Gorky I] and Bastion I, as well as against targets around Belbek. Infantry guns and mortars fired for effect against the front-line trenches in the Belbek Valley, while Nebelwerfer hit the second-line positions and 305mm mortars worked over key targets such as the Olberg. Unlike the previous five days, the German artillery fired at nearly maximum rates of fire and did not pause to assess damage. The effect on the forward Soviet positions around the Stellenberg (Hill 124) was stunning as infantry fighting positions were pounded mercilessly. Long-range guns went after targets in the Soviet rear, particularly reserves and known artillery positions. The Soviet 7th Naval Infantry Brigade, sitting in reserve well behind the line, was particularly hard hit and lost most of the 200 replacements that had just arrived to a combined air and artillery attack. However, ‘Dora’ continued to waste rounds firing against the White Cliff ammunition dump – which prompted an angry rebuke directly from Hitler to stop misusing the weapon against such targets. Although the Germans claimed that ‘Dora’ destroyed the dump – a claim that may be exaggerated – it is clear that it had failed to neutralize Fort Maxim Gorky I, which continued to fire periodically throughout 7 June.

1761 Colberg I

At Colberg 1761, the Swedish and Russian enemy’s interminable delay had given the defenders time to prepare their positions. Eugene of Württemberg had erected great entrenchments between the fortress and the enemy, now distant only some eight miles from Colberg. The defenders had also constructed a second wall round the first, but, although the landward defenses were being capably handled, the approaches from the seaside had been curiously neglected to a large degree. This is rather odd, as the Swedish and Russian fleets had controlled the Baltic ever since the defeat of the little Prussian squadron in 1759. And so it went.

Lt.-Gen. Peter Rumyantsev’s Russian force encountered a small Prussian force over by Belgard under cover of the darkness of June 14–15. A short attack was met by a blistering fire from the bluecoats, who were not prone to leave their post. The Russians fell back, but the timely arrival of reinforcements caused the attackers to be unleashed a second and then a third time. Over the course of the surprisingly vigorous little skirmish, the Russian force gradually built-up to over 700 strong.

This detail finally muscled the bluecoats back, and Rumyantsev’s progress continued. The first inkling Eugene of Württemberg had of the newly arriving Russian force was at the village of Varckmin, where one of his outposts was surprised and overwhelmed by a force of Russian Cossacks.

Rumyantsev’s force gradually linked up with the established detachment of Totleben. This rendezvous immediately formed a formidable core of greencoats in Eastern Pomerania. This body most directly threatened the bluecoat hold on Colberg. Rumyantsev promptly forwarded a note to General Jacob Albrecht von Langtinghausen, with the Swedes over in Western Pomerania, which suggested that the Swedes and the Russians should work together with a united purpose. A nice concept, indeed. Nothing came out of this, though, for Langtinghausen accountably declined to lend any assistance to the greencoats. There is no doubt this was due to the various flaws under which the Swedish army during this period always operated in the field: weak provision arrangements; poor supplies; no engineering and/or bridging equipment, etc.

Rumyantsev’s position was still further complicated, almost compromised, by the treachery of Colonel Gottlob Heinrich Friedrich Totleben, which was finally betrayed to the general light of day through a courier of the latter’s, Sabatko. Totleben was ordered home, and Buturlin dispatched some reinforcements from camps at Posen to help strengthen Rumyantsev with as much brevity as possible. The newcomers totaled a little over 4,000 strong, under General Nieviadomskii. The overall quality of this latter force was only marginal for the most part, but joining all of the Russian forces in the region together did provide a potent strike force to wield in the name of the Empress, nearly 18,000 strong.

Still, Rumyantsev did not deign proceed with a siege of Colberg itself until he had the support of the naval forces. This in the form of a powerful little Russian fleet, under the charge of Admiral Polanski, hailing out of Danzig (July 11–12). The ensemble numbered 23 warships and 44 transport/support ships carrying nearly 8,000 men, 42 guns, and ample stores of provisions of all kinds. The Russians were making their best effort to seize Colberg from its Prussian garrison. This included making sure that Rumyantsev’s men had everything they required to seize Colberg from the foe.

Polanski put his cargo and passengers ashore at and about Rügenwalde at the end of July, and the section of men brought by water advanced to form a juncture with Rumyantsev’s soldiers; which had, of course, advanced themselves by land.

August 17, six Russian ships-of-war arrived off the port, three had moved in towards Colberg and shelled some of the men working outside of the fortress on the entrenchments, with no more than nil success. But one thing was clear: the seaward approaches were now open to the Allied fleets. By August 24, the two allies had an impressive 54 ships anchored offshore, 42 of these being frigates, the rest Sail-of-the-Line. That evening a bombardment was commenced against the Prussian works from the ships’ batteries and the long-range land guns of Rumyantsev. It was an awesome display of power all right (for the total number of shells spent numbered over 3,000), but in truth the damage actually inflicted was likely minimal at best, and certainly nowhere near commensurate with the effort expended. A prolonged effort did serve to keep the garrison always on the alert and thus off-balance around the clock. So there was a psychological aspect to it all.

Meanwhile, Rumyantsev began creeping closer against the enemy works. August 18, after a questionable degree of preparation, Rumyantsev’s men, divided into two separate formations to expedite movement, pressed from Nosowko and Massow towards the enemy lines over near Colberg. Colonel Drewitz and his dragoons pointed the way in this latest endeavor. Colonel Bibkoff, at the moment, rolled towards Wyganowoff, while, at the van of the second column, Colonel Gruzdavtsiev moved on Körlin. Prussian resistance to this enterprise was spotty at best, so the greencoats were able to wrestle Körlin and Belgard away from their foe by August 19. Two days after, Russian spotters made it to Degow. Prussian resistance to the intruders gradually stiffened at this point, and the Russians, while pausing for a moment or two at Stockau, now resolved to put Colberg under yet another siege.

Rumyantsev was nonplused; by September 4, he had Eugene’s entrenched encampment under siege and was starting to shell Colberg from big ordnance on his end of the line. On September 5, shelling very early in the morning commenced. A total of “236 shells were lobbed at Colberg; 62 [of which] landed and exploded there.” About September 11, word filtered through to the garrison that Bevern (from Stettin) had gathered a force to move to Colberg’s relief and that this formation was already on its way. Learning that the newcomers were scheduled to be at Treptow on September 13, preparations were put in place to meet them. The Duke of Württemberg decided to send one of his best to the rescue, Werner with his 6th Hussars—one of the largest cavalry units, boasting 1,500 men and 120 non-commissioned officers. Under cover of the night of September 11–12, Werner pressed a small force towards Treptow. The last time that Werner had been unleashed against the rear of the Russian army, during the previous year’s campaign, he had brought their siege of Colberg to utter ruin. For a time, it looked like he might be able to do a repeat performance. But only for a while this go round.

Once joined with the new arrivals, Werner planned to attack one of Rumyantsev’s entrenched works—which had been prepared on that side of the line. On September 12, his Prussians reached Treptow, but unfortunately the enemy were waiting for Werner; at dawn, his men were suddenly attacked by the Russians as they were decamping. The bluecoats made a good show of the matter, but Werner was captured while leading a charge in which his horse was shot from under him. However, with the greencoats “distracted” by Werner, the incoming convoy and reinforcements got rerouted and so successfully—and belatedly—reached Colberg. But the loss of Werner was still a serious blow to his country.

In the meantime, Swedish General Stackelberg and his force, deployed about Neubrandenburg, had outposts in close proximity to the bluecoats of Belling. Prussian scouts overran the forward posts, very early on August 22. This served to alert the Swedes of the nearness of Belling’s men. The Swedish Plathen now embarked upon a timely attack which pressed against Belling. Initially, the Prussian horse thereabouts faltered, but this actually proved to be more of a trap than anything else. In the event, a prolonged advance by the onrushing cavalry came crashing to an abrupt halt when they met a solid wall of prepared Prussian infantry, backed up by gunners with well-sited batteries. The resulting effect was immediate.

As the combined fire of the bluecoat infantry and artillery shredded the formation of the startled Swedish riders, the reformed Prussian hussars slammed into the by now wavering enemy cavalry, sending them reeling. It was over in mere minutes. For some 50 casualties, Belling had cost the enemy some 300 casualties and inflicted yet another severe check upon the Swedish designs for a prolonged offensive.

With the threat of a Swedish advance temporarily nullified, Belling withdrew on Woldekg, while Ehrensvard continued a program to slowly build up his forces on the Northern Front to make any renewed offensive effort more viable. Meanwhile, having been reinforced from Stettin, Belling descended again upon Neubrandenburg (August 28), but found it evacuated by the enemy. Next, pursuing Stackelberg, the Prussians moved on Treptow, but the Swedes were too well dug in to attack thereabouts.

Belling, with his options basically reduced to one until he could receive reinforcements, withdrew posthaste to Teetzleben (August 29), but the arrival of the new formations of Stutterheim, getting to the scene of action on September 1, fundamentally shifted the bluecoats over into launching a counteroffensive against Ehrensvard’s forces. This effectively surrendered the initiative to the Prussians for the balance of the main campaign.

The Russians, for their part, were not prepared to let up before Colberg. Encouraged by the success of his force in capturing Werner, Rumyantsev on September 19 suddenly attacked the most accessible of the Prussian works (known as the Green Redoubt) about 0200 hours. The surprise stroke was at first successful, the Russians carrying the redoubt initially, but a determined counterattack at length repelled the intruders with the loss of 3,000 men of all arms, including some 800 dead. The Prussians lost 71 dead, 281 wounded, and 187 prisoners. This repulse induced the Russians to give up trying to take Colberg by a direct assault. Events beyond Colberg impacted the proceedings. After the adventure at Gotsyn, General Platen had detached Thadden to take the captured booty and the prisoners, not to mention the wounded, back to the Prussian lines.

Platen had unbuckled the busy Ruesch Hussars to proceed as quickly as possible to Posen, under the charge of Colonel von Naczimsky, to overturn the Russian supply arrangements thereabouts as completely as possible. The enemy reaction had been low key, although a Russian force under Major-General Gustav Berg was alerted to the possible arrival of Platen’s force hard about Driesen. When that scenario failed to materialize, Russian scouts probed for and finally located Platen’s men—between Neustadt and Landsberg (September 19). Berg sent a force of some 250 men under Suvarov to Landsberg (September 21). By this time, the bluecoats of Platen had ridden to Birnhaum and had even detected the movements of the enemy force towards Czerpowa. Platen finally entered Landsberg on September 22 with little fanfare, and, after a brief altercation with Suvarov’s men, and with no practical way to wreak further havoc upon the Russian supply lines, sped off for Colberg. Berg tried to launch a pursuit, but could not catch up with the wily Platen. Platen was able to throttle the enemy pursuit before he reached Arenswalde (September 26).

So, meanwhile, the defenders of Colberg received an unexpected, but timely, reinforcement. September 27, General Platen marched to join Eugene of Württemberg, raising Prussian strength to 15,000 men; although Buturlin similarly stiffened the besiegers with reinforcements (under the command of Dolgoruki), bringing them to 40,000 men. With the campaign in Silesia having gone sour again, Buturlin brought his main force to be in closer proximity to the fortress/port.

As soon as he reached the area, Buturlin reiterated the belief that Colberg could not be taken by direct assault, even though the task may have been manageable with the large influx of Russian troops in the vicinity occasioned by Buturlin. There was just no chance from a psychological perspective. With his army low on provisions and the expedition to Silesia a snub, the Russian commander turned about and, on November 2, headed for home.

It was a decision for which Buturlin would face tough scrutiny from an upset Elizabeth, who fired off a testy communiqué to the marshal. She and her court, upon receiving word of Buturlin’s backward hitch, wrote him “that the news of your retreat has caused us more sorrow than the loss of a battle would have done.” Elizabeth followed up, not mincing words, by ordering the marshal to march towards Berlin without delay and perforce levy a large contribution to help defray the campaign costs for the Russian army in this campaign, while, at the same time, seeking out an engagement with the enemy, should they threaten to intervene. As it turned out, Buturlin did not pounce upon the Prussian capital, but continued his progression back into Poland; basically ignoring the by now dying Empress. Rumyantsev was left with his force to finish the job before Colberg. An additional force of 15,000 Russians under Fermor was left to keep the roads from Stettin to Colberg closed and to prevent a repetition of the reinforcements just sent from Bevern at Stettin.

As for Platen, he continued to operate in the area beyond Colberg, riding into and decimating a Russian detachment at Cörlin (September 30), after which the Prussian commander made for Spie and Colberg. The enemy, not oblivious to his march, made a futile effort to bar Platen from the port, but the latter, yet again, was just too fast moving to be intercepted.

Frederick, far away near Strehlen in Silesia, ordered Bevern to prepare additional troops to be sent to the relief of Colberg. Could the blocked roads be opened, though? Prussian attempts to do just that read like an exercise in futility. October 13, “Green” Kleist and his dragoons tried to break through, but got repulsed. With this situation very bleak, the bluecoats forthwith dispatched Platen to try to bring some supplies in for Colberg.

General Platen had a full 42 squadrons of horse with just eight full battalions of infantry with him. He pressed off from Prettmin (about 0700 hours on October 17), with about 4,000 men. Prettmin was right near Spie, where General Knobloch was in charge of a small detachment. Platen, as was usual with the man’s character, made quick work of a march. His men rolled into Gollnow on October 18, and by the next day they were at Schwentdehagen.

Lt.-Col. Courbière was unleashed (October 20) with his force consisting of the Free Battalion Courbière, the Grenadier Battalion 28/32 of Arnhim, the III./ Belling Hussars, along with the apparently tireless Ruesch Hussars, and six pieces of ordnance, including one 7-pounder howitzer; a total of some 1,350 men. Courbière immediately proceeded with his mission. He was instructed to probe at the enemy positions in the immediate vicinity and to do all in his power to gather badly needed supplies for the hard-pressed garrison of Colberg. His men pushed across the Wolczenica River, and immediately occupied Zarnglaff.

The greencoats were close by in strength, over by Naugard, around 5,000 strong, including about 3,500 horse, led by General Berg. This generous allotment of cavalry allowed for a number of reconnaissance parties. It did not take long for the presence of Courbière’s Prussians to be discovered, and Berg drew up a scheme to deal with the intruders.

Early the next morning, the Russians pushed off, heading for a showdown in short order with Courbière. The latter sent off word to Platen that he needed some help against the much more numerous greencoats of Berg. The warning was correct, but it was far too late to send a rescue. The Russian wave advanced and in a very short fight, lasting less than 3/4 of an hour, compelled the bluecoats to lay down their arms, except for a small force of about 400 cavalry which did manage to wiggle free from the enemy’s grasp.

Platen, moving out from Colberg again, attempted in his own right to break up enemy concentrations from his side, while Kleist and General Thadden endeavored to do the same from the opposite end. Both attempts were unsuccessful. The Russians were making an effort to bag the whole of Platen’s corps. They were simply too inadequate to corner Platen. His troopers slipped past the greencoats through the Kautrek Forest, and rolled into Gollnow, despite their foe’s best efforts. Reinforced by a detachment under our old friend Fermor, Berg attacked and wrestled Gollnow from the unpleasantly startled Prussians. The bluecoats, nothing daunted, then marched, and countermarched, up and back the country roads and lanes north and northeast of Stettin, with no real chance to break through the enemy web by now encasing Colberg. These were the last undertakings at sending in supplies and reinforcements, and they were all abject failures, in spite of every well-intentioned goal having been made in advance, Eugene rose and, moving rapidly around and through the country between his lines and Rumyantsev’s, managed to evade the Russians by a series of skillful maneuvers.

The Russians, for their part, were making progress as well. Dolgoruki came rolling across the Persante (October 20), following which, his men occupied Gammin. Meanwhile, the Prussians were also settling in. Knobloch had pulled his forces back to consolidate at the vantage point of Treptow. While this was going on, Russian scouting parties laid hold of Przecmin and Sellno; at the latter, small bluecoat patrols in the area roamed around, while more significant bodies of Prussians were present just across the Persante.

The greencoat forces of General Brandt, deployed to Sellno to provide an anchor of sorts for their arms in that vicinity, could work in conjunction with Dolgoruki. Knobloch was left at Treptow, near where an enemy force appeared just after dusk on October 21, issuing from Gammin and vicinity. Prussian scouts calmly—and promptly—informed General Knobloch about the arrival of the Russian forces, and, nearly simultaneously, of the appearance of another greencoat detachment, hailing from Gabin. Before another 24 hours had elapsed, Rumyantsev himself was standing before Treptow, preparing, if necessary, to put the place and thus Knobloch’s command under siege.

1761 Colberg II

The capture of the Prussian fortress of Kolberg on 16 December 1761 (Third Silesian War/Seven Years’ War) by Russian troops

Treptow was dotted with few real obstacles, like its low “walls” and gates, but did boast a river abutting on every side but the West. The Russian scheme was actually rather basic; this involved deploying batteries on the various banks of the Rega River in order to pound the bluecoats into finally beating la chamade. The result of this was quickly demonstrated in clear display. Afternoon of October 25, General Knobloch, having failed in the meantime to secure “free withdrawal” for his men, was left no choice but to surrender as the Russian artillery by then had nearly decimated Treptow. Their ordnance consisted on this occasion of three of Shuvalov’s 40-pound unicorn guns, and two 12-pounders of the Shuvalov unicorns. The Prussians lost 1,445 men and 65 officers, although possibly a few might have slipped away down the road to Greiffenberg—where a Russian guard force under Renekampf was standing post to prevent the bluecoats from escaping by that way. The bluecoats were now in a world of trouble, for the Duke of Brunswick-Bevern at Stettin could no longer be in direct touch with the increasingly pressed garrison of Colberg.

Simultaneously, the king sent Platen orders to proceed towards the Prussian capital via Stargard and Pyritz. At the latter, Platen was confronted by a Russian force which sought to seal him off, this while sending scouts out to probe for near-by signs of the foe. Platen, in his turn, was not idle, either. But he could only do so much with the forces at his disposal.

Meanwhile, back at Colberg, the situation and the overall prospects were growing even more dim. Provisions of all kinds were running at critically low levels, including ammunition for the defender’s weapons, as well as foodstuffs. It did not take long for Prince Eugene to determine he had to break out and, at the least, try to save his corps. In the best case scenario, he could bring in badly needed supplies for Colberg and possibly rescue the garrison under Heyde and the inhabitants. First things first.

Platen, temporarily paused at Pyritz, was joined by a reinforcement under General Schenckendorff which had been sent from the king’s army to help, consisting of approximately 4,000 infantry with a handful of cavalry to reconnoiter and clear the way. This influx raised the manpower available to Platen at nearly 10,000 once more (November 9). Before a further twenty-four hours had elapsed, the latter had moved to Arenswalde, and thereabouts took up a temporary post to prepare to move at the enemy web encasing Colberg. At the latter place, conditions were very grave; one account says the horses were receiving only half a bundle of straw per day, and, to supply the dearth of wood to heat with, several of Colberg’s houses were torn down and used as fuel for fires. And the provisions were critically short. Surely this was the chief reason why Eugene and Platen resolved to hazard all by operating beyond Colberg. The presence of their men and horses within the walls could not materially aid Colberg’s defense more than if they were operating beyond the town’s gates, besides which they would use up the limited provisions that much sooner. But the roaming Prussian detachments had delayed the Russian onslaught upon Colberg. And the delay in capturing Colberg really did the Russians little good, since by now it would be too late to send in supplies via the port for Buturlin’s army with winter coming on anyway.

Nevertheless, Prince Eugene, knowing full well he must do something immediately, hesitated no longer. Under cover of the dark of the night of November 13–14, he prepared his men to march, hopefully without tipping off the enemy as to what was occurring. Only a minimal force was to be left to hold Colberg’s defenses, including pickets to man their posts until the last minute to maintain “normalcy.” Just about daylight the next morning, Eugene’s men pressed off, moving down the road towards Colberger Deep, as covertly as possible, while Prussian engineers went ahead to put down a pontoon bridge across the Rega River. To the Prussians, getting away by boat was almost forlorn. Within Colberg, only ten fishing boats and seven 6-man craft were available, unquestionably inadequate to any break by water. Besides which the overland trip was no picnic. It took 11⁄2 days for the bluecoat column to traverse the distance to the Colberg Deep; this was directly on the Baltic coast near Camp See (west of Colberg by about 61⁄2 miles).

While this was unfolding, Platen’s forward elements rolled into Naugard (November 14), near which his bluecoats encountered and forced back the leading elements of General Berg’s command; the latter reeled back promptly upon Freienwalde with little fuss. Next day, Platen’s men overlapped Greiffenberg, probing where to link up with Prince Eugene. Platen had the first inkling of Eugene’s march from locals at Koldemanz, but the Greiffenberg post was much more advantageous. At the latter spot, the Russians had deployed a force of some 4,000 men (including nearly a thousand, well-mounted cavalry) under Jakovlev to take refuge in the nearby fortified camp. Prussian artillery raked the position all right, but Platen and Schenckendorff did not linger long enough in the vicinity, for orders arrived about the same time for General Platen—from Prince Eugene—to swing over to Plathe, where the two Prussian forces were looking to join forces.

November 16, Platen finally rendezvoused with Prince Eugene’s men, and, by the next day, the bluecoats were holding fast to Greiffenberg, while the Russians abruptly appeared with determination. Berg’s force unleashed artillery fire upon the Greiffenberg post, but did not launch a full-blown attack.

Eugene, after linking up with Platen, had some 14,500 men at his disposal, including nearly 3,000 horse. The harried commander backed away towards Stettin, reaching Falkenburg (November 18), while one of his patrols got into a losing altercation with one of Berg’s patrols. The main body of the latter by then was at Zabrowo.

But, while the drama continued to unfold in the area beyond the walls of Colberg, Rumyantsev would not allow himself to be deterred from his primary mission of wrestling the Colberg compound away from its desperate Prussian garrison. Russian flying parties nipped at the Prussian positions. Meanwhile, Prince Eugene occupied his time with trying to affect either a supply and/or a rescue of the people still stranded within Colberg. To help head off any such attempt, Russian general Brandt took up a blocking position astride the Persante River opposite to Colberg leaning over at Spie, with other greencoat forces round about, including Jakovlev now taking up post at Colberger Deep (as we have observed), and Berg taking vantage himself at Lepnin.

Other forces were deployed in a number of posts. General Olac had a force of men hard-by Poblat, while Dolgoruki himself took post at Gross Jestin, facing the enemy close by. It did not take long for the concentration of force to make its presence felt. Early on November 26, a Prussian detachment stationed at Fierhof was suddenly attacked by a Russian force under Shetniev. A bloody tussle ensued, without clear decision. Platen and Prince Eugene did all that they could to prevent the overall situation from unraveling, even as the odds against them continued to lengthen. For the Prussian forces beyond the immediate confines of Colberg itself, the priorities were different. The Russian emphasis was in taking Colberg, while that of the bluecoats was to do all they could to successfully relieve the place if at all possible. With that express purpose in mind, Eugene and Platen rolled into Neugarten, where they awaited the arrival of a long-anticipated supply convoy from Stettin.

The total of wagons was nearly a thousand in this train, but there had been the feel of utter desperation about the whole matter of the provision convoy. Prince Eugene kept the train, upon its arrival, overnight at Treptow, where scouts kept a look out for signs of the enemy. Daylight of December 11, Eugene’s men pushed off from the relative security of Treptow, hopefully bound for the relief of Colberg. The movement was to be expedited by the use of two columns, one under Prince Eugene and the second charged to General Schenckendorff. Both of the groups had a plethora of cavalry, and these were kept busy scouting for Russian block forces. The Prussians were moving forward in two separate columns.

Proceeding from Glansee, through Drenow, the first was led by Prince Eugene, with Platen’s cavalry running interference. The second procession, under the charge of General Schenckendorff, progressed by Zamow, and Zorben to pause. Platen’s cavalry screen, including both the Malachowski Hussars and the Ruesch Hussars, along with the 7th Dragoons (Plettenburg), was confronted hard about Neumühl on the Kreyerbach, where a Russian block force under General Berg, some 5,000 strong, was posted. Prussian scouts reported a sizeable enemy force at hand, but Eugene quickly decided to await the arrival of Schenckendorff’s caravan. As for Berg, he initially thought of standing fast, but then thought better of the idea when his lookouts reported on the imminent arrival of the second Prussian column, which would mean overwhelming numbers. With this development, General Berg fell back without hesitation upon Spie and Nehmer.

While the Russians resolved to stand their ground, Berg sent a courier galloping to General Rumyantsev, stating that Berg required some assistance against a body of bluecoats that had just arrived on the scene. Eugene, with his full force by then at hand, had some 12,500 infantry and about 2,600 cavalry, forthwith moved on Spie. At the latter, Eugene planned to have his rescue force of men and wagons rupture the barrier of the Spiebach.

Prussian patrols took up post on rises overlooking Prettmin, behind which Platen in particular tried to press the Prussian wagon train to Sellno to bring in much needed provisions for Colberg. Freshly falling snow would make the effort that much more difficult. Patrols were launched over towards Garin, where Prince Eugene assumed Rumyantsev and his main body of greencoats were still present thereabouts. Surveyors returned with word there was visible evidence of the main Russian army thereabouts. Eugene was, for the moment, blissfully unaware of a large Russian relief column which was about to embark on a rescue of Berg’s men. In the meanwhile, the latter were deployed in as long a line of battle as practical between Spie and Nehmer. Jakovlev was unleashed, while a large greencoat reserve was posted for good measure about Sellno.

Events opened with a prolonged artillery exchange, during which Schenckendorff’s men erupted against an enemy force ensconced hard about the Green Redoubt; at the latter, Captain Stackelberg led some 550 Russians with a modest artillery accompaniment. The initial Prussian attack against the Green Redoubt, although pressed with some degree of determination, was a failure, as the bluecoats were harshly repulsed from the equally determined Russians. Another strike, this time launched from two Prussian forces, was more furious. The 25th Infantry (Ramin) led the fierce onslaught, straight at the Green Redoubt, being led by Colonel Kalckreuth, at a charge, probably startling at least some of the Russian defenders in the process, as their lines were enveloped and surrounded by the Prussians. However, the fury of the charge was somewhat blunted by inadequate numbers; at Spie, for instance, the 10th Dragoons (Lt.-Gen. Friedrich Ludwig, Count Finck von Finckenstein) numbered a bare 200 riders or less. Nevertheless, the bluecoats pressed forward their advantage, with the 16th Infantry of Dohna unloading its fire from the left flank into the greencoats at the redoubt. Stackelberg’s men broke in a few minutes, flying from their lines straight into the Werner Hussars and the 7th Dragoons (Plettenburg) who promptly bagged the captain and 272 of his men as captives.

But the sojourn at the Green Redoubt by the bluecoats was fated to be brief indeed. Rumyantsev’s reinforcements of a full corps of Russian troops appeared almost immediately after making its way from the rises by Prettmin. The newly arriving greencoats set up their artillery, and unleashed such a fire upon Prince Eugene’s men that the latter soon recoiled from the confines of the hard-won redoubt and fell back. Russian Cossacks struck at Drenow, where the 29/31 Grenadier Battalion under Captain Krahne, was doing its best to cover the retreat of the bluecoats. Prussian reinforcements arrived, compelling the enemy to retire, leaving the way of retreat for Prince Eugene’s forces open. This ended the last serious relief effort of Colberg and its hard pressed garrison. Eugene issued orders for his relief force to retreat; his mission a failure. Prussian losses at Spie had amounted to approximately 58 killed, and 563 wounded. The Plettenburg Dragoons alone suffered the loss of one officer, 136 men, and 154 horses. Russian losses at Spie amounted to approximately 399 men.

The siege of Colberg continued unabated. By late on November 15, 1761 the greencoats holding positions before the port were apprised of the departure of Prince Eugene’s forces, which substantially reduced the total number of men available to defend Colberg. Conversely, this greatly increased the options at Rumyantsev’s disposal, as he tried his best to close out a successful siege of Colberg. The seriousness of the persecution of that endeavor was displayed by the appointment of an energetic engineer, Colonel Gerbel, who, as expected, promptly pressed matters further.

Russian ordnance was almost immediately unleashed on the Wolfsberg (November 17), while vigorous infantry assaults carried part of Colberg’s extensive redoubts. Following this, additional Russian batteries were deployed in part of those same bastions, which only put more pressure upon the hard-pressed garrison. As these latter batteries proceeded to ply their deadly trade, additional guns were sited and put to work joining the crescendo. November 19, two Prussian supply ships tried to slip into Colberg, but the greencoats intercepted what would turn out to be one of the last of the many attempts to secure at least some relief for the embattled defenders of the place. Through all of this, Rumyantsev’s heavy guns continued to pummel the defensive posts.

Under cover of darkness on November 20–21, Russians laborers set up and sited another battery, this one of five 12-pounder guns, near the Sankt Nicolaus Church overlooking the Persante River. Russian forces were now comfortably ensconced in the Münde Gate region near Colberg. November 21, Commandant Heyde dispatched a task force to demolish the nearby bridge. It may have been about this same time when a combination of a rather generous supply of French brandy (of all things) and desperate men combined to rear an opportunistic head. The garrison of Colberg had a great quantity of the precious liquid; which they did not want falling into Russian hands. So the staff were allowed to imbibe, in “moderation.” Despite the attempts to moderate its use, many of the Prussian soldiers, trying to steel their resolve against the dual edged sword of the bitter cold weather and meager rations, so indulged in the ready provision of the brandy “they swallowed every drop, quite a number drinking themselves to death [in the process].” Meanwhile, the fire from the six different batteries that the greencoats were utilizing here continued only with some periods of pause. The Prussian position grew increasingly desperate as a result.

As for the greencoats, they continued to make satisfactory progress towards finishing the affair with success. Patrols drove the bluecoats from the Laufgraben (November 22). Later that same day, Chief Engineer Gerbel received very specific instructions from Rumyantsev to seize the aforementioned church, hard by which the attackers were only too glad to erect yet another battery, consisting of three of the lighter 6-pounder guns, which were more effective here because of their vantage point.

Russian engineers, within the space of twenty-four hours, had another larger battery erected at a new redoubt facing the glacis of Colberg. This latter had two howitzers, with an additional four 12-pounder guns. Russian artillery intensified their efforts, as a fire more intense than ever was being directed at Colberg. As a result, many of the structures within the port town were either damaged or destroyed. After a most vigorous shelling, Rumyantsev, mindful of the ever growing lateness of the campaigning season, as well as possible rescue attempts, tried to secure the surrender of the city. Under a flag of truce, he sent in Captain Bockhe with an offer to parley for the purposes of securing Colberg’s fall. But Commandant Heyde turned out to be more resilient than expected. He refused to be party to any negotiations that surrendered Colberg to the Russians.

As a result, the shelling was resumed, while the greencoats stormed the Geldern, forcing the Prussians to recoil from yet another of their bastions. But time was still pressing. On December 1, Rumyantsev once more summoned Colberg’s garrison, without result. Left with little choice but to try to hasten the conclusion of the siege, the highly stressed Gerbel supervised the building of a much larger battery, this one from the glacis over to the Münde works, which took a full five days to complete. The entity housed 22 guns, all ready to go. The chief advantage of this newest battery was its close proximity to the intended target.

The bluecoats were trying their best to retain control of Colberg, principally by sending in supply ships to make a desperate try to bring in provisions. Yet again, the ever vigilant coastal patrols nabbed the supply ships, while the Prussians’ worst fears about the fate of Eugene’s enterprise were confirmed on December 12 (after the desperate affair at Spie), when locals informed the bluecoats in Colberg that there would be no relief overland either. That night, intense cold gripped the region, utterly freezing the rivers and increasing the misery for Heyde’s men. The commander and his force were nearing the end of their rope. Heyde had no choice in the end. On the next day, he sent word to the enemy he was ready to negotiate a peace. Captain Bockhe forthwith returned to Colberg along with Major von Schladen and Lieutenant von Tiez, bringing with them, in 28 separate points,31 the Russian demands.

Meanwhile, Eugene had been reduced to extremities, as Commandant Heyde’s guns were almost out of ammunition and his garrison was teetering on the brink of starvation. But immediately Rumyantsev occupied Eugene’s entrenched camp, while the latter, unfortunately, while succeeding in linking up with Platen, could no longer get through the Russian lines into Colberg.

Heyde’s men, in desperation, poured water on the walls of the fortress to make them freeze in the cold weather. The besiegers again tried to take the place by storm, but once more, the Russians failed to break the determination of the besieged. Heyde, in fact, snubbed all of Rumyantsev’s offers of surrender terms. Russian attacks continued to engage the attentions of the garrison as much as possible. In fact, these assaults were large scale affairs. In fierce fighting, just from December 11 through the 13, the bluecoats suffered the following casualties: 164 men and three officers killed; 306 men wounded; 786 captured.

Friedrich II. Eugen von Württemberg (1732-1797)

Frederick, meanwhile, had ordered Eugene to make another try at breaking through the Russian lines, not that this was impractical. December 6, Eugene marched; gliding through the thick woods, he reappeared a week later. A successful, surprise, assault carried a single redoubt, defended by a force of 500 men, but then Eugene, finding the enemy thoroughly entrenched between Colberg and his relief force, was forced to retire (December 12–13). Eugene lost 102 men from the bitter elements on this particular march. Learning to his chagrin that Eugene was departing, along with the last hope to save Colberg, Commandant Heyde, with his men out of provisions and prospects dim, surrendered Colberg to the enemy—on December 16. Heyde and his entire garrison became P.O.W.s. Total Prussian losses were: 1,221 men and 13 officers among the infantry; and 111 officers and men and 111 horses. Following this triumph, the greencoats immediately settled into their winter quarters. Greencoat forces spread out all the way from Neu Stettin, to Rügenwalde, Belgard, on over to Cöslin. This capturing of Colberg was the Russian equivalent of the Austrian storming of Schweidnitz and was by far the most important accomplishment of the Russians not only during this campaign but probably the entire war. It was also destined to be of almost no lasting value at all to the victors. For circumstances entirely beyond the scope of Colberg itself.

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