Chapter 18 - Massacre Time: Siberian front, August – September 1919
To decide once every few years which members of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people through parliament — this is the real essence of bourgeois parliamentarism.
Recap: The summer has seen two major Red offensives on the Siberian front. Operation cauldron resulted in the encirclement of Grichin-Almazov's entire army. During Operation Red Flood several Red corps managed to find holes in the White river blockade of the Volga and conquered Uralsk and Samara.
In August 1919, the situation on the Eastern front looked brighter than ever before. Trotzky, Kork and Gritties were keeping Grichin-Almazov trapped in a pocket west of Simbirsk. In the meantime, Chapaev, Parsky and Ghai-Khan had crossed the Volga and rapidly conquered White territory. To the South, Zinoviev was still holding in his isolated position at Aralsk.
Now it was time to bring more troops across the Volga and exploit the progress made by the first wave of Operation Red Flood. In early August, two more corps under Frunze and Timoshenko made it successfully to the eastern bank. They had used little trodden paths and crossed the river in remote places the Siberians hadn't guarded.
Around Samara the Red forces were reorganized: Solodukhin's corps was utterly exhausted after the Battle of Buguruslan and retreated to Samara where it would join Ghai-Khan's army which was further reinforced with Timoshenko's corps.
In the meantime Parsky and Chapaev struck north. Their target was Bugulma. It was the only stop along the railway from Samara to Ufa. More importantly, it was in the rear of Tseretely's corps which would then be threaten by encirclement.
On 10 August 1919, Chapaev's men attacked the city. An armoured train as well as an armoured car detachment were destroyed, but Tseretely must have sensed the danger because he evacuated his troops back to Ufa by railway before the Reds could reach Bugulma.
However the Siberian retreat wouldn't continue. Admiral Kolchak, wasn't yet ready to accept the loss of the Volga line. He had already ordered the French general Janin to abandon his positions outside Kazan and transfer his troops to the sector between Ufa and Samara. But due to the lack of a north-south railway, Janin had had to take an extended journey through the Siberian hinterland.
Janin's army together with Tseretely's corps that was already at Ufa gave Kolchak more than 40.000 men for a counter-offensive. Kolchak's orders were to attack along the whole front. Tseretely was dispatched to retake Bugulma from Parsky's army while Janin received orders to recapture Buguruslan.
Tseretely reached his objective first, only to find it occupied by almost 50.000 Communist who had dug trenches behind a small river. Tseretely on the other hand had hardly 20.000 soldiers under his command. His only advantage was that Chapaev's 25th Fusilier Division was still fairly exhausted but this wasn't enough to prevent the disaster. What happened next was later referred to as the “Duck Shooting of Bugulma” in Soviet military history books. Tseretely's officers bravely led their men into the water in order to reach enemy lines. With their rifles over their heads the Siberians weren't able to shoot back as Parsky's men fired salvo after salvo at them. It was surprising that a few regiments actually made it across. A Cossack cavalry regiment was the first unit to reach the Red trenches but its charge ended abruptly in a wall of red bayonets.
Soon the attack was called off and the lucky survivors stumbled back to the Siberian side of the river. Behind them, the river had turned Red with the blood of 12.500 of their comrades. Voitsekhovski's and Onchokov's divisions had been all but wiped out. Half of Tseretely's cannon had been destroyed. His tachankas had been lost and all of his elite regiments of mountain infantry had been annihilated.
But the Red leadership hadn't been entirely passive either. Ghai-Khan was ready to move east again. He left Solodukhin at Samara in order to protect it from the Green pests (sorry, rebels) while he and Timoshenko left for Buguruslan by train. It proved to be a wise decision. For on 24 August, Janin's army arrived at the city after a long railway voyage from Kazan. Now the French general found his objective occupied by 47.700 Bolsheviks who had even had the time to dig some light entrenchments. Janin's force on the other hand had half the number of men (22.400). But it held two important advantages: brand new British tanks and a small edge in artillery. It wasn't enough, though.
The Reds waited calmly in their trenches for the Siberians to charge. Then they tore the wave of White soldiers to shreds with concentrated rifle and artillery fire. Diterikhs a highly talented Czech, who had chosen to stay behind in Russia and continue the fight against Communism, was appalled. He screamed for his signal officer to sound the retreat, but the man only shook his head and crumbled: “No need to bother, they are all dead.” And indeed Diterikhs' 3rd Czech Division – at this point Czech only by name – had ceased to exist as a combat formation. All that was left were a handful of staffers. Gaida's Division had suffered almost as badly. Only Zinevich's 1st Siberian Division had gotten off more lightly. In total, Janin's army had lost more than 50% of its soldiers during the Second Battle of Buguruslan. 13.100 Siberians had fallen and the treasured British tanks were nothing but scrap metal. The Soviets on the other hand had lost only 3.400 men.
Kolchak's great counter-offensive had turned into an utter fiasco. Of the 42.000 Siberians who had participated only 25.000 were still alive. Turning the tide of the Red Flood would be even harder in the future.
In the meantime, Frunze had begun operations against Orenburg. Rather than attack the city directly, he chose to conquer Ilestk first. The plan worked nicely. On 30 August, Bolshevik forces marched into the city on the one end, while their Siberian foes struck a hasty retreat out the other end. But Frunze was too aggressive to let his enemy escape. The pursuers caught up with their prey a day later. 3 White regiments perished and a fully stocked supply train changed hands. Next Frunze marched to Orenburg and started a siege. However it took several more weeks before the city fell. Some say Frunze's chronic ulcer caused so much pain, that Frunze was unable to control operations.
Further west, Operation Cauldron was still continuing. In August, the 1st Ural Corps – if a ragged column of starving men deserves such a grandiloquent name - had managed to escape and reached Siberian lines east of Kazan.
But Janin's transfer to the Ufa sector had left a weak spot east of Kazan. Molchanov had been left behind with some 10.000 men. Vatzetis promptly took advantage of the opportunity and attacked on 8 September. The Siberians hastily retreated but not before they had lost 2.400 men.
Despite the escape of Khanzhin's former corps, the main Siberian army was still trapped. In August and early September, several new attempts of Grichin-Almazov to get his starving troops through Red lines to safety had failed. The Siberian field army was in a pitiful state. Its units had dissolved into a trek of exhausted men. The side of the road was littered with abandoned cannons, discarded rifles and soldiers too weak to walk.
On 15 September, Trotzky ordered his subordinates, Kork and Grittis, to crush the pocket. Grittis' army arrived at Buinsk first. At this point Grichin-Almazov had still 23.400 men left. On paper, the Soviets were outnumbered, but it doesn't take many well fed soldiers to kill a starving mob.
The butchery started on 21 September 1919 and lasted for three days. On the second day Grittis was joined by Kork and the killing reached its climax. On the third day only a handful of Siberians were still fighting. But even those last survivors weren't spared. After three bloody days, Grichin-Almazov's army had perished to the last men. The Soviets had captured some valuable war materials: two supply trains and two entire batteries of artillery were incorporated into the Red Army.
The Siberian front lay in shatters, but not all was lost. Freshly raised reinforcements were arriving from behind the Ural while White gunboats delayed Red reinforcements. Besides, the stranded admiral could always count on the incompetence of Red generals.
Next update: A Southern White offensive against Kharkov.
 Durk had only four gunboats, this suffices to block most of the river. But one or two small holes remained.
 I thought the attack north was a clever move, but Durk and I have played a lot of PBEMs, he must have smelled the trap and outwitted me. I am not sure why he didn't retreat the armoured car and train, though. These are expensive units. It is possible that the train was still under construction?
 The railway lines in this area all lead east-west. Janin had to travel all the way back to Ekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk before he could head west again.
 Attacking in two places was definitively a bad idea. But Durk wasn't able to unify both forces into one stack prior to the attack. Janin had not yet reached Ufa but was still in the Ural Mountains at the beginning of the turn. The smart thing would have been not to attack at all. But my friend Durk is an optimist and his aggression got the better of him.
 This hadn't been intended as a trap but rather as a cautious advance. Durk however, saw the opening and probably presumed I would leave Ghai-Khan at Samara for another turn. This mistake backfired badly.
 I chose this indirect approach for two reasons: Firstly, I had no scouts near Orenburg. And thus had no idea how strong its garrison was. Secondly, Frunze's stack wouldn't have made it all the way to Orenburg in a single turn anyway.
 Frunze was inactive for two turns. But in the end, Orenburg fell.
 Historically, Frunze suffered from a chronic ulcer. In fact, he was to die from it. In 1925, his doctors overdosed him with enough anaesthetics to kill an elephant during an operation supposed to cure him from his disease. Coincidentally, Stalin had pressed the hesitant Frunze hard to have the operation. Weirdly enough none of his four doctors lived a happy and fulfilled life, either. - They all died in 1934. It shouldn't surprise that a vicious rumour pins responsibility for Frunze's death – who had been a potential rival for Lenin's succession – on Stalin's spotless white vest.
 This were the survivors of Khanzhin's corps that had been send on a flanking march against Nizhny Novgorod in the early spring of 1919. I have no idea how Durk managed to keep a few of them alive until September.
 The Siberian army couldn't retreat any more since all surrounding regions were 100% under Red control.
 Half of this units were captured on the last day when there was no more infantry left to defend them.
 A really bad spell of inactive commanders lay in waiting for the Red Army.