BriedisKārlis Lobe, 1963—David Guild, 1993


2 | Counter-attack

Briedis too appeared at the burial of the first riflemen to fall to give his own and his company's salute.

It was then that he informed his battalion commander that the next day, that is, 29 October, it was envisaged that the company would be fighting the enemy, for he had decided to throw back the German units which had crossed the Misa. It would not be possible to do this in daylight, but he would carry out a night attack. He had already done a detailed reconnaissance, drawn up a plan which the divisional commander had acceded to. Bangerskis also agreed and helped him to obtain from the Organising Committee a number of white overalls, as had been laid down in Briedis' plan. The plan had emerged in this way:

After the commander of the 12th Siberian Division had ordered Briedis and his company to scout out the newly established German trenches on the right bank of the Misa near Plakani, Briedis over a period of three or four nights, had systematically, either himself with some officers and instructors or by sending out patrols, investigated the area in detail and the German position. At the same time selected men had been set to observe during the lighter hours of the night and to ascertain what was the most favourable time to carry out the operation.

Already the first results of the reconnaissance had encouraged Briedis to attack and to throw the Germans back across the river before they had dug themselves in in a position which would be very bad and threatening to the Russians. For the present the Germans on the north bank of the Misa had managed to put out only a thin layer of barbed wire; the trenches had been started only on the right 20  flank, while on the left there was still only a fence of wire. It would not be difficult then to break into the unfortified left flank, and it would be impossible for the Germans to support the units they had pushed forward from the main position, especially, if they were forced to keep their heads down by a supporting barrage of artillery and machine-guns.

The attack was to be launched in silence, without preliminary artillery preparation to break up the barbed wire entanglements at the place where the completed entanglements finished. One assault group (the larger) was to move along the trenches after fighting their way in with hand grenades. The other group would turn in the direction of a bridge, protecting the main group from the south and threatening the enemy's rear. Special groups with machine-guns were detailed as flank protection; on command they would open fire on the German bridgehead and prevent the enemy from sending help to his own men in the front areas, by moving along the trenches from the main position. For this purpose, as has already been said, artillery fire was to be directed on the immediate German rear, to the south of Plakāni.

It was not only the commanders who were informed of the plan, but also those who were to carry it out, so that everyone should know his task. Consequently the task in hand, which had been worked out in such detail and so boldly executed, was an unexpectedly brilliant success despite the fact that the soldiers were under fire for the first time. On 29 October snow had fallen, and movement forward had to be made on all fours, for the grey figures (the white overalls were only for the wire-cutters) stood out too clearly against the white snow. The wire-cutting was carried out in silence but the Germans immediately noticed something for they opened fire with shrapnel over the heads of the attackers and on the immediate Russian rear.

Also the German machine-gunners started firing short bursts as if not wishing to make an unreasonable noise. So the break into the trenches and the machine-gun fire on the German flanks took the Germans unawares; in the few minutes before they grasped what was really happening and from where the attack was coming, everything was over. One machine-gun, 35 rifles and 28 prisoners fell as trophies into the hands of the young soldiers. The remaining Germans were either killed or fled across the Misa. The German bridge-head was now in our hands, and was immediately transformed into a breastwork against the Germans.

 21  From the interrogation of the prisoners it became known that Briedis and his company had vanquished a battalion of the 376th German infantry regiment. Briedis' company's losses: four killed, 11 wounded. This attack was also brought to the notice of the High Command and it became known all along the Russian front.

It was not only over the Germans that Briedis had gained a brilliant victory: it was also really only now in his own company, battalion and in Latvian society as a whole that he had become noted, and admired, as a young, extremely gifted and brave officer and also one who would take every detail into account. Briedis' reputation grew and continued to grow. Two weeks later, on 12 November, he had to present himself before the Emperor.

Patrolling continued. On the night of the of 3 November a unit of Briedis' company crept up unnoticed to a German company, surprised it sleeping, entered into combat and defeated it. Fairly heavy losses were inflicted on the enemy, but on our side the casualties were only one dead and four wounded.

However, Briedis did not always have successes - especially if the operations were planned and led by others. On 6 November the 1st and 4th companies with a training detachment and a machine-gun platoon under Briedis' command were to support the attack of the 48th Siberian regiment on Olaines muiža, so as to throw the Germans back across the Misa and further to the west. Our units had to attack to the south of Kutnieki, in daytime and across the open marsh. The Russian battalion had to attack in the direction of Olaines muiža. The Russians gave way under a German counter-attack and retreated. So the Latvian units on their own had to bear the full weight of the attack. The enterprise ended in failure with very severe losses: 21 dead, 64 wounded and 19 missing.

Under Swedish copyright law, "Briedis," including all derivative works, remains under copyright by the original rights holder until 2067, regardless of copyright by Taylor and Francis of David Guild's translation. Our corrected and annotated version of that translation is reproduced by express permission of the late author's wife, Heather Guild. Without prejudice to other rights accorded, "Briedis" is presented here for informational, educational, and research purposes under §20. and §21. of Latvian copyright law and as a protected derivative work under §5. The Goppers archive resides in the Latvian National Library.

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