Part I here: http://ftr.wot-news.com/2013/12/27/the-legion-part-i/
Part II here: http://ftr.wot-news.com/2013/12/28/the-legion-part-ii/
Just as the first group (advancing near the railway along with the armored train) was engaging the bolsheviks, the flanking units under Lt.Gayer got into a very nasty firefight. The 1st and 3rd Batallion of the Regiment were attacking and the field guns of Lt.Cholyavin and Cpl.Vondra were in support. The situation was tough though – advancing Czechoslovaks had to assault up hill, that was fortified with several machinegun nests. Withering fire from the Maxim machineguns was literally pinning the Czechoslovaks down in the bolshevik artillery storm of fire and shrapnels. In their fortifications above them, the bolsheviks were certain they’d repel the Czechoslovak assault. But there was no stopping the Legion – the onslaught was relentless. Czechoslovaks were slowly advancing towards the fortified positions, inevitable as a sea tide itself – and the bolsheviks were starting to get desperate, throwing everything they had at the advancing legionnaires, including danger close artillery barrage. This time, there was nowhere to run – the town was behind them, the news of the “encirclement” (caused by the marauding Czechoslovak infiltrators) had already reached them and the Russians knew it was a “fight or die” situation for them and so they didn’t retreat, fighting (on some places) to the last man.
The hardest part of the fighting took place near the fortified farm, held by interbrigadists and Russian sailors. The farm was assaulted by the carriage driver company of Cpl.Urban and the training company of Cpl.Skandera. But even when supported by the machinegun platoon of Cpl.Kavan, the soldiers didn’t manage to dislodge the bolsheviks from their fortified positions – in fact, they couldn’t get closer to it than at 700-800 meters because of the strong and precise bolshevik fire.
On the right wing of the flanking group, 3rd and 4th Company didn’t fare much better. They were outnumbered 3 to 1 by the bolsheviks, but they still were attacking. They managed to reach the distance of 250 meters from enemy lines, when the bolsheviks sent for reinforcements – an armored car appeared (probably the same one, that retreated from the Russkie Lipyagy earlier), spitting death at the exhausted Czechoslovaks. However, in a display of incredible skill, Cpl.Vondra – leader of the artillery unit, that just arrived to support the attack – managed to bring his field gun to bear and knock it out with a single shot! Seeing the blazing wreck of the armored car, the legionnaire commander, Cpl.Nohel, stood up and rallied his men, leading the assault against the bolsheviks outnumbering the Legion three to one personally. The attack was however repelled by the concentrated bolshevik fire. Cpl.Nohel rallied the troops immediately again and again he attacked, but the heavy fire already took too great a toll. Several of the men already fell, others were on the ground, wounded by the gunfire. During this attack, even the brave Cpl.Nohel fell to the ground, gravely wounded.
In the meanwhile, panic has struck the bolshevik HQ – the Russians were fearing a defeat the comrades in Samara would surely have no understanding for. A part of the bolshevik officers therefore started to prepare a “contingency” plan and instead of commanding their units, they started gathering money, jewelry and everything else of value they could find, preparing for escape in case the defense was breached by the Czechoslovaks.
At the same time, Lt.Gayer was looking over the entire battlefield of the 2nd group from an artillery observation post on a nearby hill with a frown on his face, worrying about the fate of his men. He did notice immediately that the key to breaking the bolshevik lines is to destroy or capture the fortified farm on the nearby hill, along with the entrenchement around it. He ordered Cpl.Vondra and his artilleryment to start shelling the farm. From that point on, Czechoslovak field guns were shelling the farm with precise bombardment until almost all of their ammo was spent, suppressing the bolsheviks and allowing the carriage driver and the training companies to get close to the building. When nearly all the shells were gone, another artillery unit appeared on the battlefield. Lt.Cholyavin’s field gun battery charged in, the guns being towed by the horses in full gallop. Under the withering bolshevik fire, they got close to the farm, turned their guns towards the enemy and started firing canister shots straight into the bolshevik line. The effect was absolutely devastating – there were pieces of bodies everywhere, torn apart by the point-blank shrapnel barrage. Seeing the guns blasting away at the bolsheviks, Czechoslovak infantry rallied for a bayonet charge and with thunderous “Hurrrraaah” war cry, it swarmed the bolshevik trenches. Along with Lt.Cholyavin’s guns, the infantry caused heavy losses to the bolsheviks. Facing such brutality, many Russians in the trenches just threw away their rifles and gave up.
Fury of the Legion
After this success, Lt.Gayer arrived personally at the frontline only to find out that his men are almost out of ammunition. Many were wounded during the assault on the trenches, they were outnumbered by the bolsheviks, who also had plenty of ammunition and the second line was firing its rifles and machineguns at the Czechoslovaks – clearly, they had plenty of ammunition left. The situation was critical. Outnumbered, outgunned and with the bolsheviks gaining their self-confidence back every second, it was not looking good for the Czechoslovak units. With grim expression, Lt.Gayer ordered everyone to fix their bayonets again. Oblivious to the storm of bullets and shrapnels, the lieutenant rose, turned to his pinned legionnaires and yelled “Okay, boys, let’s go”, waving his signature item, a wooden walking stick towards the enemy.
Seeing his nearly suicidal bravery, the Czechoslovaks rose to their feet and begun their charge towards the enemy. Running towards the Russians, loud “HURRRAAAH” sounded all along the battle lines. In order to reach the Russian possitions, the Legion had to overcome 800 meters of clear field with no cover, raked by the machinegun fire. At first, the bolsheviks were taken by surprise by the insane bravery of the Legion, but the fire intensified almost immediately and the Russian artillery started firing too. Many Czechoslovak soldiers found their death on that field, but the units pushed ever onwards, soldiers running for their lives. The air smelled of smoke, blood and death. When the Legion was about 150 meters away from the bolshevik positions, some Russians lost their nerve and started to run away.
But then a disaster struck. Lieutenand Gayer, running at the forefront of the assault, was hit by a machinegun fire in both legs, immediately falling down into the mud, blood spilling from his wounds. His men run to him immediately to help, but he sends them away refusing their help, waving his walking stick towards the enemy and pushing the Czechoslovaks forward yelling “Go on, boys, drive away the filth!”. Soon, all the soldiers along the battleline learn of the fate of their commander and the Czechoslovak “HURRRAH” sounds once more.
The loss of the popular commander has pushed the Czechoslovak into a state of unrestrained rage. Men of the 4th regiment, furious about the loss, showed no mercy to the enemy and killed ruthlessly everyone they found in every trench. The trenches were now full of soldiers, locked in melee combat – swinging with their empty rifles, stabbing with bayonets and trench knives. The sun was now shining – it was a clear day and the June heat exhausted the soldiers. Cursing of the living and cries of the wounded could be heard all along the battlefield. Many bolsheviks were beaten to death and were just lying there, silent.
The worst fighting took place in the sector, defended by the sailors and the interbrigadists. Knowing what fate would await them (interbrigadists were shown no mercy and unlike the Russian soldiers (often pressed into service), they were almost always executed), they refused to give up and fought bitterly to the last man. They wouldn’t yield and were firing at Czechoslovaks even as they were as close as five meters from them. Later, the legionnaires were surprised to even find one woman amongst them, a mistress to one of the interbrigadists. The fight only ended when all the defenders were lying on the ground, dead.
Ever since 9 AM, when the tide turned against the bolsheviks, the supreme commander, comissar Kadamtsev, stopped reporting to his superiors in Samara. He was afraid of punishment and refused to reply on many queries, sent throughout the day from the city. When the headquarters was finally captured by the Czechoslovaks (Petřík’s group), Petřík tried to use the HQ phone line to call Samara. When the Russian telephone man on the other end picked up and asked how the situation is in Lipyagy, Petřík only replied “The situation is good – this is a Czechoslovak officer speaking”. That gave the headquarters in Samara an idea, what kind of fate befell the best bolshevik units in the entire area. The access to Samara was open.
The remnants of the bolshevik forces tried to escape the battle – a part of them was trying to fight its way through, but the blocking infiltrator forces under Petřík held them off. The rest tried to escape to Russkie Lipyagy, only to be repelled by the 2nd Batallion. Seeing the hopeless situation, the bolsheviks, desperate to escape, turned to the only way open left, into the bog, surrounding Lipyagy. In the end however, only 150 Russian sailors escaped this way, the rest of the bolsheviks either drowned in the swamp and in the Lopatina river, or – realizing the futility of an escape attempt – threw away their rifles and surrendered, literally begging the Czechoslovaks for mercy on their knees. It took a lot of restraing from the Czechoslovak forces not to avenge their commander by killing them all. In the end, most of the bolsheviks were taken prisoner. The battle was now finally over.
The town of Lipyagy was finally captured and firmly in Czechoslovak hands. Wounded and dead Czechoslovaks were carried into the local lazarat from all around the battlefield, including Lt.Gayer, who was brought by a carriage. He lost a lot of blood, but he was happy to hear about the victory. Even Lt.Čeček, the force commander, arrived to talk to Lt.Gayer. However, Lt.Gayer lost too much blood and succumbed to his wounds soon after that.
During the battle of Lipyagy, 26 Czechoslovaks died (including the popular commander of 4th Regiment, Lt.Gayer). 86 more were wounded, including 4 officers. Two men were missing and were considered as fallen.
Of nearly 4000 bolsheviks taking part in the battle, 1500 were killed (including their commander, comissar Kadomtsev and his deputy, Oberleutnant Schmidt). 300 more drowned when trying to cross the bog. 1800 bolsheviks were captured by the Czechoslovaks.
Local Russian population – not fond of bolsheviks in any way – viewed the Czechoslovaks as their liberators. A grand funeral was made for the fallen, presided over by the local orthodox priest. Fallen bolsheviks were dumped in mass graves.
By capturing Lipyagy, a lot of military matieriel has fallen into Czechoslovak hands, including: 6 bolshevik trais full of supplies including the engines, 1 hospital train full of medical supplies, 13 field guns, 180 machineguns, many automatic rifles of unknown type, 10 mortars, around 5000 rifles, 2 armored cars, 2 civillian cars, 4 trucks, 50 horse carriages, 60 riding horses, 3 wagons full of military explosives, many boxes of grenades, many train wagons with food and clothing, 6 field kitchens and the entire bolshevik regimental cash register with 96 thousand Rubles. Military intelligence also captured many valuable documents from the HQ, including the exact plan of defense for Samara, written by (now deceased) Oberleutnant Schmidt. Amongst the other things captured was also one Russian regimental banner.
This crushing defeat of the bolsheviks caused panic amongst the Samara defenders, because they knew they would be next…
And so ends the account of the battle of Lipyagy. If you are interested, I can continue writing about the Legion’s performance in the battle of Samara and perhaps other historical stories, for example the capture of Tsar’s gold, the great journey east, the defense of the Siberian railway tunnels and many more… up to you.