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von der Marwitz
|Johannes Georg von der Marwitz was born in 1856 in Stolp, Pomerania. Prior to the war, Marwitz was appointed Generalinspekteur der Kavallerie. He began the war as a regimental commander, and succeeded in penetrating the Belgian lines with his fast-moving independent cavalry.
The Kaiser Expects Victory!
In early October, eight cavalry divisions (the Bavarian Cavalry Division had arrived and joined the others), in three corps, the I. and II. under von der Marwitz, and the IV. under Glt. von Hollen, were to cover the right flank of the offensive and sweep across Flanders towards the coast. Genera von der Marwitz had the I. Cavalry Corps, consisting of the Guard and 4th Cavalry Divisions, and the II. Cavalry Corps, with the 2nd, 7th, and 9th Cavalry Divisions. Hollen had the IV. Cavalry Corps, with the 3rd, 6th, and Bavarian Cavalry Divisions. The Kaiser sent von der Marwitz a message on 3rd October, “His Majesty wishes to see the cavalry corps in the rear of the enemy tomorrow.”
The two groups started on 2 and 4 October, respectively. The progress of this cavalry action must have been disappointing to those who had prepared it; certainly, the outcome was. The operation was a complete failure, for the I. and II. Cavalry Corps advanced between Lens and Lille,met some opposition, and by evening felt compelled to retire behind the Lorette heights. They held their ground against a show of force on 7 October, for the spearhead of the French XXI. Corps were now moving against them. Then, the British established a rolling front of infantry, and the French dropped additional cavalry from the Bethune railhead, all of which compelled the Germans to withdraw from the St. Omer-Bethune Front from 11 October through the 17th; the German reinforcements arrived too late to establish a proper line of artillery on the undulating ground of Flanders, and their retreat above Ypres was strategic rather than tactical.
There is More to Accomplish in the East
On 28 December 1914, he was appointed commanding General of the 38. Reserve Corps. This was to become the famous Beskidenkorps in General von Linsingen's Südarmee. He was awarded the Pour le Merit on 7 March 1915 for his leadership in difficult circumstances.
In mid-March 1915, Marwitz arrived in Miskolcz, Hungary, with his entire German Army Corps, which was renamed the "Beskiden Korps" on account of the pass and the range called the Beskid. His Corps was among the reserves called in from all over Europe to be thrown into the fiery cauldron that was the Mezö Laborcz sector. Marwitz assembled his forces south of the ruined town and threw them into battle on 6 April 1915. It was part of a general counter-offensive to repulse the Russians' ferocious attempt to break into Hungary while the Austrians were demoralised following the fall of Przemysl (and of course, while their own troops were high in spirits). Marwitz succeeded in driving the Russians from the Wirawa gorge and took some 6,000 prisoners on the first day. But nine days later the Russians reentered Wirawa and inflicted severe casualties on the Beskiden Korps, all while struggling through fresh snow more than six feet deep in most places. Marwitz could make no response before the Russians called off their offensive on 20 April.
Marwitz was assigned to Gallwitz's forces ranged against Serbia in October 1915, but he was struck with illness and was on furlow for the period of 18 October until 6 November 1915.
From the time of his return until mid-December 1916, Marwitz was stationed in Macedonia first with the Bulgarians and then took part in the invasion of Roumania's Dobrudja along with Bulgarian and Turkish elements under the command of FM August Mackensen. Meanwhile, on 6 October 1916, Marwitz was appointed a Generaladjudant to His Majesty Kaiser Wilhelm. With the triumphant conclusion of the Dobrudja campaign, Marwitz was appointed commander of the German II. Army, a position he held until 21 September 1918. During August 1918, his sector on the Western Front suffered a complete breakthrough by the Entente forces, and 30,000+ casualties were inflicted within days. This was the greatest disaster to German arms in the whole World War, and was the first time the German Army suffered a breakdown in order. Following this debacle, Marwitz was then transferred to command the V. Army on 22 September, which he led until the Armistice.
Georg von der Marwitz died on 27 October 1929.
GWS, 3/02 [rev. 8/03]