Combat autour de Cracovie ...
Combat around Kraków. The Russians seize an Austrian convoy...
Lithograph with hand colouring through stencils. Publishers: Tolmer & Co. 1914
Given by Sophie Gurney 1994
No. 30 from the series La Grande Guerre.
Here the series returns to the battle on the Eastern Front (see no. 17). Kraków, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now south-west Poland and north-east Austria-Hungary), was in the Galician theatre of war. A series of complex battles between Russia and Austrian forces took place here, both sides suffering heavy losses.
Austrian troops travelled by train over the Carpathian mountains to the fortress region of Lemberg, Przemsyl and Kraków. Russia had been grievously defeated at Tannenberg (26-30 August), but kept the extent of the defeat secret from Britain and France. However Austrian troops moved further forward they began to overrun supply lines. Austrian soldiers, marching in the winter rain, ran seriously low on food and weapons, sometimes going whole days without receiving rations. In light of these facts, this print's portrayal of the taking of a precious food convoy is more significant than at first glance.
This print is unsigned, but stylistically has a lot in common with nos. 27, 28 and 34, suggesting that the publishers, Tolmer & Cie., worked with artists for a period of time. The shading on the train is similar to that among the trees in no. 28.
The French caption with English translation:
COMBAT AUTOUR DE CRACOVIE. LES RUSSES S'EMPARENT D'UN CONVOI AUTRICHIEN.
Pendant les batailles qui se sont livrées autour de Cracovie les anecdotes foisonnèrent. Les Russes se sont montrés étonnants de subtilité et d'adresse. C'est ainsi qu'un détachement de soldats russes s'est emparé d'un convoi autrichien. Les chefs du détachement avaient été prévenus du passage d'un convoi de vivres. Ils s'emparèrent d'abord d'un tunel que le convoi devait traverser et y dissimulèrent leurs hommes. Au lever de soleil le train s'avança à toute vapeur, le mécanicien sans méfiance avait engagé sa machine sous le tunnel, mais les bombes posées sur la voie par les Russes explosèrent, faisant dérailler les premières voitures du convoi. Les soldats russes bondirent alors sur leur ennemis et les réduisirent à l'impuissance.
Combat around Kraków. The Russians seize an Austrian convoy
During the battles that were fought around Kraków, anecdotes abounded. The Russians have shown amazing subtlety and skill. Here a detachment of Russian soldiers seized an Austrian convoy. The leaders of the detachment had been warned of a convoy of food. First they seized a tunnel that the convoy would go through and hid their men there. At sunrise the train went forward at full steam, the unsuspecting mechanic entered the tunnel, but the bombs laid on the track by the Russians exploded, derailing the first cars in the convoy. The Russian soldiers then jumped on their enemies and rendered them powerless.