War in the early machine age was unforgiving, a beast hungry for blood and limb. The firepower was there, deadly as no man have seen before. The tactics to cope with it were neither complete nor ubiquitous.
How Germany ended up fighting a two front war is irrelevant for the landsers, jaggers and dragoons I will be commanding. For them there will be death today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. Few will see the end of the campaign. Even less will shake off their minds the nightmare of thousands of Russian rifles taking aim at them, just below the bright morning sun.
|The initial situation at the Stallupönen scenario of East Prussia '14. The German forces are the grey counters with green and blue details.|
From the scenario briefing.
Stallupönen, East Prussia, 17th August 1914.
As the Russian 1st Army advanced into East Prussia, von Francois, the II.Armeekorps commander, was adamantly opposed to giving one meter of ground to the Russians, since the Russian advance was occurring in his own corps district.
He insisted that von Prittwitz, the commander of 8.Armee, should attack the Russians on the frontier. On the 16th of August, contrary to orders from von Prittwitz to fall back to the Angerapp, von Francois refused to move from his screening position on the frontier, some 20 km east of the main German line. On the 17th of August, without orders, von Francois attacked the Russians as they crossed the border into East Prussia. This insubordination infuriated von Prittwitz and he sent a flurry of messages to von Francois demanding that he withdraw at once and stop squandering the lives of his men, to which the latter famously replied: "...von Francois will withdraw when he has defeated the Russians." Von Francois intended on attacking out of Stallupönen with the 1.Infanterie-Division; half of the division was tasked to attack southeast and the other half was to advance northeast with the intent on swinging around and performing a double envelopment of the Russian III Corps. Luckily for the Russian III Corps, part of the XX Corps came to their timely rescue from the northeast, and disaster was averted. Thus formed the catalyst of Rennenkampf's timid advance into East Prussia: an insubordinate German general's corps would meet a force that was numerically superior and inflict four times the casualties as they would get in return, in a sharp engagement which, from that point forward, would cause the Russians to exercise great caution.