A Briton reports on the fighting at Galicia (1915)

In March 1915 the British government received this report on fighting in Galicia, from a British businessman who had fled the region:

March 26th 1915

Mr LM, who lives at Torquay, returned from Boryslaw, Galicia, via Petrograd on March 17th 1915. Just before war broke out he was in England on leave after two years in Boryslaw, and got back to Boryslaw just as war was declared between England and Germany. When war was declared between England and Austria the British subjects in Boryslaw were registered, but not interfered with…

At Boryslaw they could hear the guns engaged in the fighting near the Turka Pass, where the Germans and Austrians are trying to break through. The Russian positions dominate the pass, and they could clear out the enemy at any time, but prefer to continue the fighting in the mountains. The snow is breast deep and frosts severe, and the Germans feel the cold acutely, whilst the wretchedly-clad Austrians are quite unfitted for warfare under such conditions; hence the Russian tactics of failing to press the advantage they so often gain keeps the enemy in the mountains, where they suffer heavy losses.

The Russians and Germans are splendidly equipped, but the Austrians are in rags. Their long greatcoats have been torn away at the bottom in strips to bind round the legs and feet. Generally they wear boards on their feet, their boots having been worn out long ago.

The Russian troops are magnificent in physique and their fitness and bravery are beyond doubt; but when fighting in open ground their leadership is so bad that they are no match for the Germans – the Austrians they reckon as of no account – and the only way they have of beating the Germans is to advance in overwhelming numbers in close formation. In this way they defeated the Germans and Hungarians at Stanislaw, but, of course, lost heavily in the process. Even the German privates ridicule the Russian officers’ tactics.

The Russian Red Cross organisation in Galicia is practically perfect. On the night following a battle all the wounded are brought in and all the dead buried. The Austrian Red Cross seems non-existent…

No one is allowed to leave Galicia without a permit. [LM] got away in order to join the army. There is still a considerable number of English people at Boryslaw, and the consul at Moscow knows their names.