Richmond WW1 Diary 18 March 1916

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The Eastern Front

The three major Allied Nations fought against the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey) on many different fronts, including at sea and in the air, and in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East as well as Europe. For Britain and France the bulk of the fighting took place on the Western Front, in France and Belgium.

Meanwhile Russia – whose territory then included Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as Poland and Ukraine – was engaged in massive battles along its borders with Germany and Austria. After being pushed back by the initial German advance in 1914, the Eastern Front had settled down into static trench warfare, as on the Western Front.

On 18 March 1916, a Russian attack towards Vilnius (in Lithuania) sought to push the German and Austrian armies back out of Russian territory. The move was also intended to draw German troops away from the Western Front and the Verdun Offensive.

Known as the Battle of Lake Naroch, the Russian attack sent 1,500,000 men (1.5 million), against 1,000,000 (1 million) Germans and Austrians. Despite the odds, the Russian army was quickly pushed back, with significant losses. In just two weeks, Russian losses were around 100,000 men, compared to 20,000 German and Austro-Hungarian casualties.

The impact on Russian morale was significant and the defeat contributed to growing discontent with the Russian leadership, which would lead to the overthrow of the Tsar the following year. The revolution in Russia and the consequent treaty signed with Germany in March 1918 led to British intervention in Russia, to aid their former allies in the anti-revolutionary forces.

George Leonard Taylor was sent to Russia as part of the North Russian Expeditionary Force. He was killed in action near Archangel port in Russia on 20 June 1919, aged just 19. George was the son of James and Alice Taylor of 6, The Green, Kew and is commemorated on the Richmond War Memorial.

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