The name Manilowa has become a concept. The 85th Infantry Regiment was called the Manilowa Regiment, and it is mentioned in many recollections, and the regiment’s newspaper had the same title. In an earlier post, I described the attack of the 85th on February 28, 1915 against Russian mountain positions. It was a huge blood-sacrifice attack in which both the regiment commander and one of the battalion commanders died. This attack seems as important as, say, the other great action led by Muhr Ottmár in the Carpathians, which also cost the colonel his life, but stopped the Russian incursion at Limanowa. Then, in other places, we can read that, by implementing the bold idea of a sapper officer, the KuK army managed to blow up and occupy Russian positions on this mountain. But the story still doesn’t have a real sequel, a happy ending. The successful attack did not continue. I wonder why.
The name of Mount Manilowa cannot be found today on maps. The 810 meter high mountain is there, south of the small village of Rabe. But it is completely insignificant, also unknown, near the Polish-Slovak Ukrainian triple border on the Polish side. At the top of the mountain today there is a quarry. There’s nothing to indicate a February attack by the 85-ers and then a reckless bombing of the 5th pioneer battalion. A brief description of the military situation makes it understandable why, in the short few days when these events occurred, the place and these events played such an important role.
Przemysl’s fortress had been besieged by the Russians for more than three months by then. In fact, the siege was more of a lockdown. On one occasion, a member of the fort chain was attacked, but the attackers could not keep it permanently and suffered heavy losses. That’s why they never tried again. Defenders tried to break the lockdown, but their breakout attempts failed. In February, the defenders’ reserves were completely depleted. With one last great effort, they tried to establish contact with the 3rd Army, which was defensive in the Carpathians. On February 27 and March 4, the 23rd Honvéd Division attempted the breakthrough. This was the attempt that the 27th Division had to support from the south by breaking out of the highs of the Carpathians. Mount Manilowa prevented this maneuver, therefore it had to be occupied at all costs.
On February 28th, the 85th regiment did that. But the Russians managed to take back their previous positions. Then the 85th was withdrawn. According to the regiment history they lost 900 people dead in the attack. As I mentioned, the officer staff of the regiment commanded the attack personally and was largely also lost. The 27th division had to be replaced by the 13th Landwehr Division. Eventually, they were able to retake and maintain the mountain on March 12. But by this time, the 23rd Division’s breakout attempt had collapsed.
The Manilowa mountain peak was finally taken by the 24th Landwehr regiment. But as it turns out, in the planning and execution of their attack, they relied on the experience of the 85ers who had previously operated here. The 5th Pioneer battalion played a prominent role in the successful attack. On 12 March they blew up Russian positions at the top of Manilowa. This enabled the successful attack of the Landwehr.
Blowing up the mountain peak was an incredibly daring and very lucky undertaking. The mine corridor was made just in front and below Russian positions, incredibly close to the enemy in just half a day. Its length was only 10-11 meters. The charge was about 250 kg of ecrazite. The bombing was scheduled for around 2 p.m. A 30-metre crater was created at the site of the Russian defense post, but the defenders were apparently destroyed by the flying stones on a much larger stretch. The shock that followed the bombing paralyzed the rest, leaving the brave Landwehrs almost without resistance at the summit, where the bodies of the 900 dead 85 soldiers lay all over the place.
It’s easy to be smart in hindsight and say that sacrificing the 85th regiment was unnecessary. Obviously, at the time, this huge sacrifice seemed reasonable, because it was necessary to make contact with the defenders of the fortress. That didn’t happen, the great sacrifice was in vain. Thus, the occupation of the high ground no longer means more than a bold undertaking of a dozen pioneers. The action was also captured by the cap badge of the battalion, which I attached to this post. The 900 heroic dead of the 85th were buried on the side of the mountain.