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The Battle of Varnita and Muncel (28th ofAugust-3rd of September 1917)

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Battle of Varnita and Muncelu

(28th of August-3rd of September,1917)

The vulnerable point

The endeavors made by Gerock to breakthrough the Romanian front had not succeeded nor to the right wing of this front ,neither to the left one.Ruiz has not been happier in Vrancea than has Benigni on Oituz.After the defeat of Mackensen at Marasti,the failure of Gerock has strengthen the German Commandment in the idea that they cannot obtain a success by attacking the Romanian positions by the front. A definitive cease of the offensive on the Romanian front has started to enter the in the calculus made by the German Commandment. This eventuality was upsetting and offending ;the offensive on Siret River and conquering of Moldavia have been too loud trumpeted ,as to, giving up,after the bloody fights given with this aim, to not equivalent for everybody with the shameful confess of defeat .That is why, the German Commandment has decided to make a new and last trial. For the success to be more ensured, had to be searched the most vulnerable point of the Romanian –Russian front. The whole stretch of the front,from tirgu Ocna to Siret River,was now occupied by the Romanian troops.,with the exception of the single sector of Muncelu, where it was left the VIII-th Russian Corps, between the II-nd and I-st Romanian Armies.It is a plateau with an average height of 400 meters, cut from North-West to South East by Susita Valley,which in some places narrows like a defile. The Southern shore of Susita is edged by some forested heights:Momiia.Motocu Mare,Perjilor Hill,Obirsia,Porcul Hill,Iresti Hill,of which Southern slopes descend towards Vizantea Valleys and of Putna, in which Iresti Village forms the most populated center .Beyond Susita,on the Northern shore, the heights of the hills are following one after the other until Zabrautu Valley ,continuing towards South-East with Stranoarelor Hills wich descend fast towards Susita and with the Hills of Panciu,which loose unfelt in Siret River field(with shores).In this region, made up of hills, very accident-ated terrain(bad terrain) and forested, the Russian front has been pushed by the German offensive in the first days of August,such that the German line starting South of Iresti Village was going towards North-East,making an angle ,which entered very pronounced into Muncel, from which it bend towards South-East, towards Chicera.

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The VIII-th Russian Corps was occupying the front with 124th Division, from Iresti-where it connected with the 3rd Romanian Division of the II-nd Army-until Muncelu and with the 14th Division, from Muncelu to Chicera-height 334-were it was connected with the 10th Romanian Division of the I-st Army. The 15th Russian Division, which completed the VIII-th Russian Corps, was at Adjud in remaking, and at Domnesti –Ruginesti were the remains of 103rd Russian Division. In this way, the VIII-th Russian Corps,with two divisions in front, was between II-nd Romanian Army, at right, and I-st Romanian Army at left.From the II-nd Romanian Army, the II-nd Corps, neighbour with the Russians, had on the front line the Divisions 3rd and 12th.,and in reserve, units of Divisions 1st and 3rd;at the left flank, in contact with the Russians,was the 30th Muncel Regiment. The I-st Romanian Army had on the front line the 9th and 13th Divisions, retreated for remaking, after the bloody fights in which they took part .The 2nd Romanian Division, which till now had not taken part to the campaign of this summer’s year, has arrived from her remaking zone from the North of Moldavia and was in the reserve of the I-st Army.

The German Commandment decided to retake the fight, applying the blow in Muncelu region over the VIII-th Russian Corps with the intention to get enter more inside the Russian front, break this front and advance in Fitionesti direction until Zabrautu valley. Counting on the weak Russian resistance, the operation seemed sure of victory. The success of it meant the turning of the left wing of the II-nd Romanian Army,and collapsing of the front of this army,which withstood chest to Gerock’s attack. It also meant the veiling of the right wing of the I-st Romanian Army on Marasesti Plateau .It was thus an operation with double effect, practiced in the point of lower resistance of the adverse front, namely in the point of junction of the two armies by the drawing of union made by the Russians .The accomplish of this mission was given to the XVIII-th German Corps, which was strongly strengthened. The 115th German Division has been loosened from the I-st Corps and crossed under the orders of XVIII-th Corps. The Divisions 76th and 216th which have fought South of Marasesti and at Prisaca,have been taken from here and transported on to Muncel u front ,between Galwitz Corps and Alpine Corps. It was also brought to this region the entire heavy artillery of the Ist Corps.In this way,General von Wenninger has concentrated in Muncel sector, an attack group made out of three divisions with a strong artillery.The 216th Division, at the left of the German attack group, was to assault Iresti Village and then to occupy height 554,Porcului Hill, as to the right ,the Alpine Corps had to occupy Muncelu plateau ,height 461.Between them it will superimpose the 76th Division of which mission will be to attack and conquer Porcului Hill .This operation made and the Russian front broken, the neighbor divisions will intervene for exploiting the success in the most favorable direction. The beginning of the action was set for 28th of August.

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Battle of Iresti

In the morning of 28th of Augus tafter an artillery bombardment ,short, but violent, the Germans Alpiners start to attack against the Russian positions kept by the 124th Russian Division. It was a disaster for the Russians. The soldiers of the Russian Regiments,493rd and 495th went out of their trenches ,without trying the less of resistance and started to run towards North. A big gap of few kilometers wide, produces between the rest of the 124th Division and –Regiments 494th and 496th,which have stayed to defend the positions between Iresti and height 221m-and 14th Russian Division. The runaways of the two regiments could not be stopped until evening, by the Cazacs Detachments,in Zabrautu Valley.

By the gap thus produced ,the enemy have advanced ,slowly and more prudent than they would have been allowed by the Russian run away and the absence of any obstacle ,and they have reached Secuiului Hill and Pietris Hill, three kilometers over Muncelu, at the same level with Fitionesti. The German columns start to go left, where the wing of the 3rd Romanian Division, remained uncovered , is threatened to be turned over. The situation of the third division starts to become critical. The commander of the II-nd Romanian Army forms two detachments of the reserve troops which he had in hand ,to fill in the gap and reconstruct a new front, with the direction South-West North –East which will cover the left flank of this army, on the line Iresti-Varnita-height 461,mounted on Susita Valley.in the same time , the commander of the I-st Army sends the 9th Romanian Division, which was in reserve at Padureni, for remaking, to go to Fitionesti to fill the gap towards North of the broken front, and the 15th Division, Russian, and with the 51st Regiment of the 13th Romanian Division are set to the disposal of the VIII-th Russian Corps.

As the troops called in for help were running to face up the danger ,a new upsetting event produced. The Russian Regiment 496th ,is leaving, as well, in complete disband, the whole line from Iresti to Susita.The German troops of the 216th Division set the foot on Irestilor Hill-height 487-and on the heights North of it. In this way ,the Russians are incapable ,not only to reject the enemy attacks but even to keep the resistance until arriving of helps to replace them. Under the rain of shells of the German artillery the Romanian troops are running to occupy the positions which they had to try to reorganize the new front of resistance .All over the place the Romanian troops intersect with the Russian troops, which does not want to fight. Exclamations are exchanged from group to group:-“Nazad Rumanski tovarosci, nazad!”,are shouting the Russians to Romanians ,terrified and merciful –“Back to the position, back!”,are replying the Romanians ,seeing of their way to the firing line,left by the ally.

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Towards evening ,the Romanians occupy the front on a line which started at Iresti and continue to Mangalaciu ,over Rotunda hills, Marcului Hill ,height 441-Pietris-continuing with the front line occupied by the Russian troops of 14th and 15th Divisions.The front makes a big angle entering into the depth of the positions Romanian-Russians. The peak of the angle is near height 461,and the two sides descend ,the one from West to Iresti,and the one East between Stranoare and Chicera. The Western side is defended by the Romanians ,the Eastern one Russians.

During the night of 28th-29th of August, the 9th Romanian Division has arrived on position. Are the remains of the heroic Division from Marasesti. Positioned at the right of the Russians ,the Romanian troops in union with the Russian ones of 14th and 15th Divisions ,attack from East, at the edge of the forest of North of Muncel and in the Eastern edge of the village.The advance of the Germans is stopped on this line .At the peak of the angle and on the Western side of it, are fighting the Romanian Regiments,18th Gorj and 2nd Hunters, of the Reserve of the II-nd Army. The attack given by the Romanians ,is progressing with difficulty. The enemy artillery is strongly bombarding our positions ,and his infantry is giving counterattacks.18th Gorj Regiment is rejected by a violent attack of the German Alpiners and stops on Marcu Hill and on poiana(opening in the forest) Buduiu Calciu-height 461.A little to the South, the 2nd Hunters Regiment has succeeded to advance on Rotunda Hill, but have to give up advance ,as of the failure of the action of 18th Gorj Regiment at his left ,but especially that the right ,which leans over the Russians becomes more and more unsafe. The last of the Russian troops, which have remained between 2nd Hunters Regiment and the 3rd Romanian Division ,have retreated during the night behind Iresti, without being attacked. With great difficulty and after many insistences ,the Russians have been convinced to retake their positions, by telling them that important Romanian forces will arrive in the morning to retake the offensive.

At dawns, though,the Germans attack the Russian line. They have just started the attack and the Russians are starting a disorderly retreat, spreading through Iresti Village. The left wing of the 3rd Romanian Division remains uncovered. The command post of 30th Muscel Regiment is overwhelmed by the runaway Russian soldiers. With difficulty the regiment liberates ,stretches and bend its wing, collects some of the runaways Russians and manages to remake again the front.

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But the Germans know where they have to hit. They are fingering all the time to find out where are the places with Russians and attack there to run them away and turn the Romanian positions. A new attack given at the left of 30th Muscel Regiment and the Russians throw their weapons leaving the positions .Now the Germans are pursuing with energy. They have occupied the whole Iresti Hill, enter Iresti village, which they occupy, turn the flank of Muscel Regiment, capturing half of a company with one machinegun. The regiment is forced to retreat on the second line, but cannot maintain it because of the continuous bombardment of the enemy artillery. A new retreat brings the regiment on Porcu Hill.At their left, in the empty space made by the Russians…,the Commander of the II-nd Romanian Army sends all his reserves which he disposed. Two Battalions of the Marching regiment of the 3rd Division are intercalated between 30th Muscel R and 2nd hunters Regiment; they stop the advance of the enemy one kilometer North of Iresti line-Mangalaciu. Other two battalions of the 22nd Regiment and one of 28th Regiment, coming from Poienile Popii, cross over Vranceanu Hill and enters the front in Susita Valley, at Varnita. Some of these troops remain in Varnita, which they clean off the enemy. The other part crosses the river ,then over the snout of Porcu Hill and Porcu Stream to attack together with the Marching Regiment ,poienile(opening in the forest) at the foot of Iresti, strongly occupied by the 216th German Division.

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Battle of Varnita

The night of 29-30th of August has been a very agitated night.On the hills between Putna and Susita and beyond Susita,the troops hurry to occupy the best fightingpositions.Trenches are dug in a hurry,nets of barb wire fence are stretched,the artillery arrives in horses gallop.Rockets break the darkness of night giving the chance to friend or foe to move the troops towards the point of peril..A bloody day is forecast.

The Romaniann Commander has understood the gravity of the situation .The hard days of Marasesti and Oituz have come back,after an apparent relaxation.The offensive between Iresti and Muncel looks like an action in big style,like a restarting of Marasesti Battle.It must be responded with countermeasures of equal importance.

Averescu puts the troops of the 3rd Division-General Margineanu-on the ridges of hills between Momiia,Iresti and Varnita.His effectives ,not beeing many,the troops stretch on a single line,without reserves .His mission is defensive;he has to barrier Susita Valley,at the biginning of the defile that takes over Racoasa towards Vrancea Country,and not to allow the enemy to turn the front of the II-nd Romanian Army.In the same time ,on the Eastern side,on Muncel plateau,arrives the troops of the I-st Romanian Army;Divissions 9th, 11th and 13th,to form up an offensive group,of which Command has been given to GeneralI. Popescu,the Commander of the 13th Division.By unyting with the VIII-th Russian Corps ,the group of Romanian Divisions will attack the enemy in the direction of Fitionesti-Iresti,to regain the lost terrain and reestablish the old front Iresti-Muncelu.The plan of the Romanian Commander dose not acomplish point by point.

The Eastern sector remains ,almost quiet.The German Alpine Corps is happy to consolidate its positions,and the group of Romanian Divisions have to stay with the weapon on foot,because the Commander of the VIII-th Russian Corps ,General Elcianinov,declares that the troops are exhausted,decimated,disorganized,incapable to fight.The planned offensive is postponed for the next day.

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In the Western sector,the troops of the 216th German Division attack with violence the front of the 3rd Romanian Division.A bloody fight starts along this front,on a line North-South,which intersects Susita Valley,near Varnita.The enemy occupies positions on Hills Voloscanilor,Irestilor,Mangalaciu,Muncelu(height 422).In front of him ,can be found,on Porcu Hill,30th Muscel Regiment;at Varnita and on Vrinceanu Hill,the 2nd Hunters Regiment;on Marcului Hill,towards height 461,18th Gorj Regiment.At his left it is 9th Romanian Division in the peak of the angle made by the enemy front;a part of the troops of the 9th Division are behind the left flank of the 3rd Romanian DIvision.

South of Susita,height 554m-Porcu Hill-the dominant height of the region,the tactic key of this region.From this height,like from a node,three ridges of hills are opened.One towards North-West,heading for Momiia,it is Perjilor Hill.Another two start towards South-East,with a valley betwwen them,through flows Porcului Stream.He edges Susita Valley and descends in stairs towards Varnita and Mangalaciu.On it ,has established in haste ,30th Muscel Regiment,the defense lines.

The bombardment of the German artillery,which did not stop all night,is getting stronger towards morning.The sheels and projectiles are wowing and hissing through the old trees of the forest,which covers the back of the Porcu Hill,which fall on to the ground thundered and broken(the trees).The bombardment stretches towards East,towards Susita,up to the Northern heights of Muncel plateau.German detachment have snaked along Susita Valley,behind the edges of hills,infiltrating between the ruins of the little houses of Varnita.Others have sneaked behind Rotunda Hill and advanced between left of 2nd Hunters Regiment and right of 18th Gorj Regiment.The 2nd Hunters Regiment finds himself in the morning,in a critical position ,surrounded almost from three parts by the enemy.At 10,30 in the morning,the German infantry starts the attack,sustained by artillery which intensify more,its fire.At the left,the Germans attack from direction of Obirsia Hill,over Porcu Stream,the positions of the 30th Muscel Regiment on Perjilor and Porcu Hills.At the right side,from the direction of Mangalaciuand Rotunda,the Germans attack the positions of the 2nd Hunters Regiment,looking to turn his left flank and widen the break between this regiment and the neighbour one.

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The artillery of the 3rd Division respounds with a lot of effect;the rows of the eney are thined.The attack waves are renewing themselves ,the attack are given more and more furiously,but the resistance of our soldiers is as stuborn as the atack itself.Five times have the Germans renewed their attacks ,under the protection of bombardment started from all calibers.All attacks become body against body fights,at hand grenades and bayonet.Badly sheltered in the trenches dug in haste,during the night,without good protection against the artillery,our soldiers fought bravely and resisted with heroism.Violent counterattacks have thrown back the enemy which got to close to our positions.The enemy bites the Earth in front of Varnita position,defended by the Hunters of Grivita(1877 Independence War with Turks) and Marasti.Ahead of his company,which Commands at counterattack,has fallen Captain Petre Stefanescu of the 2nd Hunters Regiment.A brave soldier and a poet.Soldier,has been wounded before at his leg,one clock before,but he stayed in the fight.In the campaign of autumn 1916 he has been badly wounded when crossing Olt River,at Halmeag,and at the assault of Marasti has been also ahead of the company.Poet,he has written in "Lterary Discussions"(Convorbiri Literare) under the pseudoname Petre Stefan Vultur.His notebook,broken by the deadly nail ,closed a treasure of verses full of feeling and elan:

Beloved children of my loved country

Romanian soldiers and hunters

Look how our contry is breaking

Her celebration clothes

As widowed of boys and ground

To us is coming her singing voice

Together haste escape thy country

Thou sons which have remained,still!(something like that)

The Romanian front has been broken for a moment between 2nd Hunters Regiment and 18th Gorj Regiment.Two battalions of the 34th Regiment of the 9th Romanian Division are running,counterattacks strongly the enemy who has set foot on Muncelu Hill and reestablishes the front.

The last of the enemy attacks is given in the evening ,arroun wtches six.It is rejected like all the others.Our troops have kept their positions.Varnita village is reoccupied and cleaned off the enemy elements,which have nested in it.Night arrives and stops the fighting furies.The enemy did not succeed in any of the pointsThe line of hills is intact in our hands,from height 554 down to 441.The noise of the fight has ceased over the night,but nobody rests..Another kind of work begins.At the back of the front are dug the duggings in which are put in silence,one by one ,the mucenics (any one of the Forty Martyrs,in Orthodox Church)which have bought back ,with their lives, the today.And the carriages which transport towards the little Musinoaelor Monastery,the dead bodies of dead officers and the tormented bodies of the wounded,are intersecting with the long convoys which are bringing to the front the barb wire fences.And with all exaustion and great losses over the day,the soldiers workall through the night at strenghtening the position,deepening the trenches and setting the wire fences.It is a sure thing ,that the enemy which has worked the same ,ahead,on Obirsia and Rotunda Hills ,will not give up.He is only waiting for the refalling of the day, to restart the attack

But the Heavens have been more clement than the people.All day of 31st,a torential rain has forbidden the operations.Neither on the front of Porcu Hill-Varnita,nor on the front of Muncel had not been possible an action of importance,whatsoever.Only in the afternoon of the day the enemy has strongly bombarded our positions and tried towards the evening an attack in direction of Porcu Hill,but has been bloody rejected.The troops could rest and remake themselves for the next day,which with all the signs,would be a hard one.The Group of the Romanian Divisions was in the fighting line,and his strong artillery was in firing position and adjusted her aimings.

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Porcului Hill

The day of 1st of september had to be the decisive day of the battle.The two adversaries will give attacks in the zones fixed by each one,such that the action of the war will spread ,in this day,on the whole front of Muncelu.On our side ,the Eastern sector of the front is occupied by the VIII-th Russian Corps.The northern sector is occupied by the Group of Divisions,General I.Popescu,having Divisions 13th and 9th in the first lineand the 11th DIvision in reserve.The Western sector is occupied by the 3rd Romanian Division,having in the fighting linethe Regiments,2nd Hunters,22nd Dimbovita,30th Muscel completed with troops of the Marching Regiments of the Division and with some other small units intercalated between them.Popescu Group will take the offensive,which has been planed for 30th of August,in Fitionesti direction-Iresti.The left side of the 3rd Romanian Division will cooperate ,making a conversion move towards right,from Varnita towards Mangalaciu,in tight connection with the right wing of the Divisions Group.

Our action sins by the lack of unity in the tactical conducting of the battle.The Group of Divisions belongs ,organiclly and operativ to the I-st Army;the 3rdDIvision belongs to the II-nd Army;VIII-th Russian Corps has its own Commandment.The battle was given in a critical point of the front,in the junction zone of three armies.It is a clear disadvantage.No matter how coordinated the action would be,of the bosses it cannot replace the concentration of the commanding in the hand of only one man.Wenninger maintains in defensive in the sector of the Romanian Divisions Group.On the contrary,he has decided to risk everything,to break the Romanian front of the 3rd Romanian Division,where his trial in the eve has been defeatedHe has also brought in the fighting zone the 76th German Division,which he intercalates between 216th German Division and the Alpine Corps.The offensive will be given on the German side,by the troops of the 216th Division and half of the 76th DIvision;the principal objective,to wich the forcings will concentrate ,will be Porcu Hill,with height 554.Will be the day of hard thought for 30 Muscel Regiment.

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The violent bombardment ,started by the German artillery in the evening of the day in the eve,continued weakly and with intermitents ,during the night ,to unleash then like storm in the morning of 1st of Septembe.Heavy batteries were taking part in the bombardment.Projectiles of great caliber cut the trees on the thick forest ,on the back of Porcu Hill,pulverising the works of defense,not giving a moment of breath to the defenders ,dizzied ,to recolect and straight something.When the destroing work has been counted complete,the advance started to assault in waves.Two Regiments ,42nd and 354th of the 216th Division,cross Porcu Stream and start to climb the southern ridge of Porcu Hill,on a dug out terrain of projectiles,under the protection of the heavy artillery fire.When the Romanian defenders observed the attack,the Germans were in front of the wire nets,ripped off by explosions and near their demolished trenches.A desperate fight with grenade and bayonet is given along the whole stretch of Porcului Hill.The enemy adds to the fight,at the right side,the 8th Regiment of Hunters then the 59th Infantry Regiment of the 76th Division.The forces of the four infantry regiments are sustained by 126 machineguns and more than 100 mouths of fire(cannons).The fight has cooked along the whole front of the 3rd DIvision,Romanian.The soldiers of the 30th Muscel Regiment,to which is given the principal attack,are undefeated under the rain of projectiles.The waves of enemy attack are advancing in order,in long rows ,aligned just at the instruction field.The machineguns and grenades of our soldiers break the lines and the wave never gets to close in by the edges of the hil,where our trenches are.When small groups acomplish that,closing in,the bayonet puts them down.At the left side of Muscelen-ers is brought a Battalion made up of the remains of the 496th Russian Regiment,tu sustain the resistance.Three times is renewed the enemy attack,and three times is rejected with bloddy losses.The Romanian Regiment has had also great losses ,but could not be withdrew from the position,which has remained all over untouched.The night arrives and puts an end to the slaughter.It is only a break imposed by the physical exhaust of both sides,because just as the dawns appear,and the fight starts again,furious and savage.

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The whole day,the two artilleries thunder,one against the other,and the attacks and counterattacks of infantry follow without interuption.At the 12th attack,at 5 in the evening,the Germans,which are renewing all the time the assault waves from the reserves of the four regiments with which they attack,acomplish to defeat the resistance of the handfulof men which,drained out of powers,was barely keeping the position,after five days of unstopped fights,in which time could not be replaced.A Romanian Company and a Russian one have to retreat a little,giving up to the enemy few hundred meters of terrain.This one advances,taking some prisoners and a machinegun section.Height 554 m,the key of the position,and a part of the back of Porcu Hill are in the hands of the enemy.But the German success is efemer.From Vrinceanu Hill the Romanian artillery shortens her aiming and the projectiles fall even on Porcu Hill,where the Germans are trying to organise their positions,as the rejected troops are coming bac to counterattack.It is the therteen attack ,given since morning.Muncel-ers are not alone anymore.Their remains have been strenghtened wit a Battalion of the 4th Arges Regiment and with two companies of 45/60.The Romanians throw themselves fit furry over the enemy,send him back,away the enemy on the slope of the hill ,towards Porcu Stream and reconquer the height 554,Porcu Peak.

To the left,a little,on the back of the said hill,the counterattack is given by the Russians.A Russian Captain present himself to the commander of the 22nd Romanian Regiment,and ask permission to conduct the counterattack.He is named Skakun,decorated with ST.Gheorghe and hass arived in the eve from Petrograd.The Captain gathers some 500 Russian soldiers,from the runaways of the 496th Regiment,rise up their moral with a flaming speech,rise up his moral as well,poring half a bottle of rum which then puts in the pocket,makes the Sign of the Cross and,led by the Romanian officer of liaison,throws,crazy,ahead of his troops,to the enemy.On the ridge of the hill,where the enemy positioned himself,it is a terrible slaughter.The height is ripped from the enemy,the enemy is away and the Captain comes back triumfant at the Command post of the 22nd Regiment with two captured machineguns and with an empty bottle.Porcu Hill is now again back in our hands.The Germans are in retreat;the fires of our artillery and machineguns pursue them.

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Towards evening,arround 6,30,a new bombardment,of a violence which overtakes the one in the morning,is heading again over Porcu Hill.He increases until 8,becoming storm of fires.At the same hour,the firing range begins to elongate,sign that the attack of the enemy infantry is eminent.Our troops awaits it with great aprehenssion.But the attack does not produce,and the artillery weakens her fury,until it completle stops.The explanation has been given later,by the German prisoners.The assault troops had refused to start,the second day.At Iresti the execution platoons have punished with death the rebbels

In this way,the bloddy fight of Porcu Hill is ending with two most unusual episodes;an access of heroism on the cout of the Russians and one of exhaust and indiscipline on the count of Germans.

At the Army Hedquarter, the IX-th German,von Eben,the defeated of Marasesti is forced to admit himself defeated.In the weekly raport addressed to Makensen,he writes:"The Commander of the IX-th Army as reached the conclusion that a continuation of the attack,in this difficult terrain it is extremely hard and favorabil to defense,which has been defended with stuborness bu strong enemy forces,does not promise an imediate success".Signed by the enemy on the official raport of the defeat.The last trial of enemy offensive has fallen.

The 3rd Romanian Division has had in these two bloody days of fights596(not sure if it is 1596 or 596?) dead,823 wounded ,253 missing.It is the blood sacrifice with which was payed the victory of Porcu Hill.

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The Romanan Hecatombs

As the 3rd Romanian DIvision was keeping the heroic resistance on the line Porcu Hill-Varnita,the Group of Romanian Divisions,General I.Popescu was unfolding the offensive movement from North to South,on Muncelu plateau.The Group of Divisions has fixed,like through lens,a line which passed Muncelu,and as a second objective,Mangalaciu line-Podisu Hill-South of Muncelu Village.The action will be conducted by Divisions 9th and 13th,Romanians,intercalated between VIII-th Russian Corps which was on the left side and Division 3rd,Romanian,which was on the right side.The 2nd Romanian Division was in reserve.

In the day of 1st of September,in the morning,the artillery of the two Romanian DIvisions started the bombardment of the enemy positions.One hour,after the stop of the bombardment,the infantry starts to attack.At the right is the 9th Division,and on the left the 13th Division,each one with four battalions in the first line,forming a continuous line of attack.,The other units stay in the second line and in reserve.The attack does not evolve after the expectations.The troops of the 9th Division are weakened and tierd.It is the shadow of the beautiful division,glorious,which has sacrificed herself at Marasesti.Her units have only been sumar completed.They attack the enemy position at height 461-meadow Buduiu Calciu-formidably strongholded,which have not suffered a thing ,after the bombardment.It noticed imediately,that our artillery,made up of Romanian and Russian batteries ,with mixed commandments,has executed an insuficient prepeare,and that the connection between the action of the infantry and that of the artillery,during the execution of the attack,has not been acomplished.The enemy resists vigorously from his positions,well strongholded and preserved intact at the edge of the forest,where he massed nomerous nests of machineguns.the troops of the 9th Division cannot advance but only a hundred meters at the right side and 1-400 meters at the left side,on Secului Hill,where they connect with the troops of the 13th Romanian Division.

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At the left side,the Brigade 26-th of 13th Division(Regiments 47 and 50),starts to attack,but because the defectuous connection between units,the attacks stop before they can evolve.Exactly at 7 in the evening the attack starts ,unitar and vigorous.The troops are descending with great elan Zabrautu Valley and begin to climb the western slopes of the valley towards Secului Hill and Muncelu.A violent barrier enemy fire ,brings to a stop the lines of Romanain soldiers ,200 meters away from German trenches.The Romanians succed to occupy an isolated forest,North of Muncelu Village,but from the houses,trees and fences at the edge of the village,a stone rain of machinegun bullets falls over the Romanian lines and completely stops them,in their advance.It is impossible to make a move forward ;on the whole front of the Division,the fires of enemy artillery and machineguns makes a curtain which cannot be crossed.The losses of our troops are very grave.The Commander has to give the order to cease the fight.The troops remain on the line to which they advanced ,digging trenches at 100-200m ahead of the enemy lines.

The failure of the offensive made on Muncel front ,had repercusions as well over the front of the 3rd Division;the left wing of this Division,which was supposed to advance from Varnita,following the offensive move of the 9th Division,has been left on stop.

The bloody losses of the day of 1st of September,have weakened the troops ,such that,the next day,2nd of September,it was suspended the continuation of the fight,to bring new units to the front anf regroup them ,such thatin the following day,3rd of September,to retake the attack with better chances.The decimated troops have been taken out of the first line and brought in reserve.Of the 9th DIvision were left on the front only four battalions,which have been pushed a little to South-East,on Marcului Hill,in the place of 18th Gorj Regiment,till one kilometer North -West of Varnita.Between Divisions 9th and 13th,up to Secului Hill,the sector has been occupied by a brigade of the 2nd Romanian Division.It was the Division which in 1916,carried the burden of heavy fights in Jiu Mountains and which,now was receiving the baptize of fire of 1917 campaign.The two Divisions,9th and 11th,constituted the Northern Sector,under the Command of General Brosteanu,the Commander of the 11th Romanian Division.

The Eastern sector,made up of the troops of 13th Romanian Division,under the direct Command of general I. Popescu.the Commander of the Group of the Three Divisions,had each four regiments on the attack front,with two battalions each ,in the first line and with one battalion in the second line.The mission of this division was to attack the enemy from East to West,to conquer Muncelu Village and Podisu Hill.The Group of General Brosteanu,was to keep ,at the biginning in defensive,fixing the enemy on the terrain,an in the case in which the offensive of the 13th Division would have succeeded,to intervine in the fight to conquer at the action.In the reserve of the Group of Divisions,there was a brigade of 11th Division and few battalons of the 9th Division.the rest of the 124th Russian Division,reconstituted,as well as 14th Russian Division,retreated from the front because of the heavy losses,were also reserves at the disposal of the Romanian Commander of the Group of Divisions.It was obvious thet the enemy,reduced at the Alpine Corps and half of the 76th DIvision,was inferior numericaly,that he could not had offensive velleities and that he will resume at putting up resistance from the very well strongholded positions and sustained by numerous machineguns.

The bombardment of our artillry has kept in the morning of 3rd of September,two hours,from 6 to 8.The infantry attack was begun by the troops of the 26th Brigade of the 13th Division,over Muncel Village,and the surroundings,followed then by the 57th Regiment of the 11th Division,situated in the reserve of the Group.A little to the right ,the troops of the 25th Brigade attack on Secului Hill,to retain the enemy and forbid him to fall in the flank of the neighbour brigade.

.....

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.....

The attack evolves with difficulty.The terrain climbs in a incline and the ground is dug out by projectiles;the rain of the last days ahs filled with water and mud all the holes in the ground.The advance of the troops is made with dificulty.The enemy artillery is firing with all calibers a crushing barrier fire,and from the houses at the edge of the village ,transformed in nests of machineguns,are send bu;;ets over the attackes which advance in the open terrain.Wave after wave fall the Romanians ,harvested .The thined rows remain powerless in front of the wire nets,behind which the unseen enemy spits death to their face.

A new artillery prepare is made in the afternoon.Again waves of infantry start and again the ground is covered with bodies wich stiff or torment.In Muncel Village the soldiers,getting over the dead bodies ,have succeeded to occupy the first houses at the Eastern edge of the village,in which they baricaded ,but could no go any further.At the right ,the 57th Regiment closed in the edge of Muncelu Forest,but remained imobilised in front of the nets.

Neither Brosteanu's Group,which was supposed to attack after the 13th Division would have realised a beginning of success,could not gain terrain.The Group was missed of heavy artillery,and the enemy strongholds were to powerful to be destroied with the existing means of 11th Division.The trial of veiling the enemy position on Buduiu Calciu,has been stopped by the numerous fires of the machineguns nests ,which filled the meadow.The night has come to put end to the steril and bloody forcings.The attack Group has suffered very great losses.Only in the day of 3rd of September,the Group had lost 35 Officers and 2700 Soldiers,dead,wounded or missing.

The Germans,which kept themselves in the most rigorous defensive,had also important losses.The most significant and painful was the death of the Commander of the XVIII-th Corps,General von Wenninger,killed by the explosion of a Romanian projectile,when he was inspecting the advanced positions,German.The unforgiving cutter of death ,which in the autumn of 1916 hit us hard,kiddnaping General Dragalina and General Praporgescu(both killed in action),was also hitting the Great German Commandment from Romania,putting to the ground one of their mostimportant Chiefs.It was after General Pecht,killed at Dragoslave,the second German General which fell in the Romanian campaign.

....

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Ecaterina Teodoroiu(the woman soldier)

In the bloody day of 3rd of September,1917,in a trench on the rib which slopes down from Secului Hill towards Zbraucioru Stream,the Officers and Sldiers of Regiment 43/59 are numbering and counting the loss of life in ferocious fight over the day.Further,towards the enemy,in a small shelter,few men have remained to guard,with the weapons aimed towards the enemy.Isolated,the men are in danger,under the crossing of fires which exchange always between the two adversaries.From a trench behind,an officer stands up and calls with insistence the brave soldiers.But the sharp voice of the young officer attracts the atention of the enemy.A rattel of machinegun fire,three bullets breakthrough the body which falls inert in the back of the trench.And ,a few minutes later,on the arms of soldiers,descends a small and firav body from which the breath of life flew away,as along the trenches runs from mouth to mouth ,the sad news,which turmoils the souls and fills with tears the tough faces of the fighters."-The lady Lieutenant(Second Lieutenant) Ecaterina Teodoroiu has died!"

Three bullets of machinegun came just in time,to set on the forehead of the girl of Jiu the imortality flowers.Because the Panthenon of heroes of our war would be sver and somber without this exquisit flower,rosed in the turmoil of fights,to be taken by the storming of the last fight.The Earth of Gorj,place of Romanian energies ,has made the wonderful soul of hero girl ,mixture of feminine candour and fighter vigor.In the wounded hospital in Tirgu Jiu,the Scout Ecaterina Teodoroiu tightens the great wound with her delicate fingers and diminishes the pains with clever infirmier care and with kind words of loving sister.Arrives ,though,days of great dangers.The enemy has stepped on to Gorj fields.The Oltenian(Gorj) pride is revolting at the unclean touch of the enemy.The fire of love for the land ignites in all chests..There are not only soldiers now to fight.Men,women,children have taken the weapon.The soul of the young infirmier has found the second thing in life.The firav girl is not at ambulance,but in the middle of the fighters;she gives them courage,carries bullets and puts her hand on the killing weapon,with which she fires on to the enemy.Now the revellation is made.Just as the maiden of Orleans,unther the inspiration of ST.Madona,she has taken the road of sacrifice which was supposed to take her to unslaving of her country.Brave in the fight ,undefeated at exhaust.At Barbatest,during the disperate fight ,she is made prisoner,but escapes from the hand of the enemy and through the darkness and rain she finds her Company.At Filiasi,she is badly wounded at both legs by a shell;transported in an ambulance train,she keeps her weapon close ,which will be a mate during fights.

The sad days of epidemy comes,the hopeful days of remaking,days of enthusiasm of victory.At Codaesti,in the recovery zone,the soul of the 11th Division-the Division from Jiu-is an officer small in high,delicat and skinny at face,with short black hair,but a vulcan of feeling and elan.The infirmier of Tirgu Jiu,uneexhausted scout of Jiu Bridge,the heroic voluntary of Barbatesti,has become "the honorific Lieutenant Ecaterina Teodoroiu",chief of a platoon of the 7th Company of Regiment 43/59.This is how she wanted to serve her country and her steel will,her burning passion had imposed and defeated the laws and regulations made by people forpeace times.The King put on her chest the "Military Virtue",has given her the rang of Officer and let her to keep the weapon whith which she has fought at Jiu and from which she did not want to be parted,not even for the glory of giving it to military museum!The flaming patriotic feeling which rose from her soul,imposed to the soldiers and inspired a complete confidence in victory.The small officer was the great animator of her troops.The soldiers followed her in battle in the most dangerous situatins.

......

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......

The 11th Division could not enter the spin of great and decisive battles.But when the Russian front has been broken-for how many times?-at Muncel and the Division was started to fill the gap,ther was not a quicker foot to step through the muds of Zabrautu Hill,like that of Lieutenant Ecaterina Teodoroiu,neither troops to follow with greater heart their Chief,as her platoon.And it was given to her ,in the last hor of the great battle of Moldavia ,to give her soul in a gesture which embodyed the two qualities of this exceptional self:love for people and fighting the danger.

The child of Jiu fields,blossomed from the rase which has given Tudor Vladimirescu has drew with her short life a trace of light on the dark paths of our war calvar,starting with Jiu,where she rose and finishing with Muncelu,where she set.She brought back to live the legends of Ioana d'Arc and of the girl of Cozia,leving the memory of mission not understood and filled our heart with charm,of pride and faith in the vigor of the soul of Romanian people.

The end of the Battle

The Battle of Varnita and Muncel,has been started by the Germans with the hope that finding and exployting the weak point,which was made by the Russian sector in the Romanian front,will bring back the victory wich they lost at Marasesti.The hope collapsed ,though,in the assaults on Porcului Hill(or Porcu Hill) and the battle changed its aspect.The Germans had to keep to defensive,to resist the assaults of which the Romanians,crossing to offensive,heve given on Muncelu plateau.Not even this has brought success;insuficiently prepared ,they burned out,after heavy losses,and the batlle had ended by noticing that none of the adversaries cannot break the tactical equilibrium established between the two armies.

The German army has made,in this battle,the last efort,of which she was capable.Exhausted,she has to close down the operations on the Moldavian front and to renaunce whatever offensive.This renunciation,elocvent confessing of defeat,is explained in the raport of the Commander of the IX-th German Army,by Marshal Mackensen:

"The DIvisions 216th and 76th,in the wake of the heavy fightings she carried at 6th of August,almost without stop,had only a weak fighting power,and fresh troops for continuation of the attack,were not available.Face with the strong massing of the enemy in front of the left wing of IX-th Army,has to be counted every minute that he will strike to attack.For this,must,before anything,insurring the maintaining of the terrain already won,in heavy fights.That is why,it is ordered to XVIII-th Corps to cease attack,as well as getting the left wing of the Army in stabilising position on the conquered line".

At 3rd of September,von Eben ordered the stopping of the offensive of the XVIII-th Corps,moving the whole Army in stabilising position,and completion of two lines of defense behind the new front.The Alpine Corps has been retreated in Jaristea zone-Odibesti,and the 216th German DIvision,moved in Serbesti-Clipocesti-Vitanesti.

From the Varnita Muncelu Battle,has remained to the Germans the memory of an ilusion and deception.And on the map,a very arched line ,shows the track of a front breaking,quickly dam,in which the Romanian division were set as an iron circle arround the ram that broke the wall defended by Russians.

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Grigore

Andrei,

 

Could you provide the source for this excellent account of the battle of Varnita and Muncelu?  Thanks, Grigore

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DavidOwen
9 hours ago, Grigore said:

Andrei,

 

Could you provide the source for this excellent account of the battle of Varnita and Muncelu?  Thanks, Grigore

Grigore

Welcome to the forum!

Andrei hasn't logged in since April 2018. However if you reply to this post you will have the necessary number of posts to be able to access the private message system. Click on Andrei's profile name and select "message". Once you send your message Andrei will receive an email to his registered address alerting him to it and hopefully may respond.

Regards

David

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Grigore

David,

 

Many thanks for this suggestion.  Grigore

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