A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 183

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THE BATTLE OF TANNENBERG


On the second day a daring Russian aviator, wheeling high in the air above the woods, saw what at first he took to be long columns of transport wagons' moving rapidly along the rear of the German position from centre to left. Venturing closer, lie found that these were not supply or ammunition columns, but long strings of motor-vehicles of all kinds, from motor-buses to taxi-cabs, conveying infantry to the left, and rushing back empty to bring up more. His report was delivered in time to enable the Russian staff to order a reinforcement of the right, and on Ihis flank the fighting that decided the battle began in the after- noon of the second day, Hindenburg weakening his centre in ordertoaccumulateasuperiorforcefortheflankattack. Thf enveloping movement on this side, begun k\ the later hours of the day, was carried on during the night. At sunrise on the third day the Russian right was turned, and the collapse of their line began. Tlii/^ir only way of retreat was by the south, over a tract of lake and marsh, whkh was crossed by a narrow defile of firm ground by Ortelsburg and Johannis- burg to the frontier. On August 30 they were withdrawing everywhere, losing very many men and guns in the swamps and shallow miry lakes. Hindenburg's knowledge of the terrain enabled him to place his guns on solid spots, and the Russians were ancrcilessly shelled. On August 31 Samsonoff made a last desperate attempt to rally his men, but he and General Pestitch, his chief of staff, were killed, and the effort came to nothing. As the Russians gave way from right to left under the con- verging pressure of front and flank attacks they found it a difficult matter to extricate themselves from the wilderness of woods, lakes and marshes in which they had given battle. Three Russian generals had fallen in the final struggle—Sam- soiioff,PestitchandMartos. Tensofthousandsofprisonersand scoresofgunsweretaken. TheGermansclaimedtluitofthefive army corps which formed the enemy's main battle-line they destroyed tliree and a half. The large number of Russian prisoners of war reported as being interned in Germany in September, 1914, came almost entirely from the battlefield of Tannenberg. It was the most complete victory won by the Germans in the opening phase of the war. Its immediate result was the precipitate evacuation of East Prussia by the invaders. Rennenkampf extricated from the dangerous lake region the remnant of tlie army that had fought

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