The Russian assault


By 10 December, the diminished defenders had retreated to the Jabloniec Ridge. Although the Russians only launched minor onslaughts, their artillery was constantly firing their positions. Over the night, the Austro-Hungarian military leadership decided to deploy half of the arrived reinforcements into the line of defence and attempt to encircle the attacking Russian division with the other half. They were not, and could not have been, aware of the Russian command’s decision to order retreat the previous day. Arriving from the Carpathians, the Szurmay Group threatened tsarist forces attacking Limanowa with encirclement. General Belkovych, however, received the order to fall back with delay and therefore launched mass attacks against the Jabloniec Ridge as late as the 11th to earn victory.

At 5 a.m., the Russian infantry broke into defenders’ positions and attempted to push them off the hill. In the bloody hand-to-hand fighting that evolved, Hungarian hussars fought with anything they stumbled upon. Lacking bayonets, they immersed themselves in battle with gunstocks, the spurs of their boots, spades and their bare hands. Following cavalry tradition, their commanders inspirited their men, who had already demonstrated outstanding courage in the days before, fighting in the first lines of battle. To the luck of the defenders, two companies of the 9th Hussar Regiment had just arrived to offer replacement as the Russians launched their attack. Their colonel, Ottmár Muhr, ordered an immediate raid and they saw off the attackers within an hour, subsequently beating back another three Russian sieges.

Folding up at around noon, Russian attacks also inflicted severe losses upon the defenders. Several officers fell in battle, including Colonel Ottmár Muhr and a previous Olympic champion, Captain Jenő Szántay.