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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Monday 22 August 2011

Blood on the Snow

Just finished reading Blood on the Snow: The Carpathian Winter War of 1915 by Graydon Tunstall.

I thought I knew a bit about most WW1 campaigns in SE Europe, but I was not aware of this one. It was fought mostly between Austro-Hungarian and Russian troops in the Carpathian Mountains during winter. I have walked part of these mountains in the summer, the idea of fighting through them in winter is just mind boggling.

But that is exactly what two, million man armies did during the winter of 1915. The campaign was predicated on the need to relieve the Austro-Hungarian garrison of Przemysl consisting of some 135,000 men. The A-H CinC, Conrad, inexplicably decided to launch three offensives through the mountains with troops that were not equipped or trained to fight in such terrain. Supplies of everything were totally inadequate. The Russian's, commanded by Ivanov, were only slightly better prepared. The casualties far exceeded the size of garrison they were attempting to relieve and the A-H army was fatally weakened for the rest of the war.
Blood on the Snow: The Carpathian Winter War of 1915
Words just do not do justice to the horrors of this campaign. Troops lasted on average 5-6 weeks before being killed, wounded, captured or committing suicide. Battles in snow two metres high along the Carpathian ridges and into the valleys.  

The author has extensively researched the campaign, mostly from the A-H perspective. Eye witness accounts add much to the archive material.

This is probably not a book for the general reader. The author assumes a degree of knowledge of the area and each offensive is dealt with in great detail. The maps could also have been better. One for the specialist, but a campaign that fully deserves to be told.


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