Military operations on the Caucasus Front from July 1914 to April 26, 1916.
Notebook 11: from March 13 to April
Ruben O. Sahakyan
We consider the publication of the 11th notebook of Tovmas Nazarbekyan’s memoirs to be the completion of the printing of a valuable memoir work presenting the military operations on the Caucasus Front of the First World War from July 1914 to April 1916. The section covering the general’s memoirs from November 1917 to July 1918 was in its time published in Russian original text in the magazine “Bulletin of Armenian Archives” (1992, N 3, pp. 34-153), edited by Academician Hrant Avetisyan. Therefore, only the part covering from April 1916 to November 1917 remained unpublished, which we did not manage to find in the National Archives of Armenia.
The 11th notebook of General T. Nazarbekyan mainly mentions the hostilities on the Caucasus Front in March 1916, when the 2nd Rifle Division led by him had serious clashes with the Turkish 5th Infantry Division and Kurdish armed formations moved from Western Gallipoli to Western Armenia. The commander states with regret that the commander of the 4th Army Corps, General V. de Witt did not take into account the specifics of the mountainous terrain, the low combat readiness of the reservists, the insecurity of the rear and the almost lack of supply in planning these operations. Meanwhile, starting from mid-March 1916, the enemy had concentrated all its forces in the direction of Bitlis, aiming to capture the city.
After analyzing the received reports, General T. Nazarbekyan asked the commander of the 4th Army Corps to send him to the 5th and 6th Rifle Regiments in the reserve, but he did not receive any response. Meanwhile, the intelligence was alerting that the enemy was continuing to accumulate additional forces, especially the Kurds acted actively. By the order of the general, punitive actions were organized against the latter, but they did not give any significant results. After the Russians left, the Kurds each time resumed their attacks.
Therefore, General T. Nazarbekyan again appealed to the corps commander for help, but was clearly refused. After some time, it turned out that V. de Witt wanted to encircle the Turkish-Kurdish forces in the Bitlis region, thereby he did not send reinforcements and pushed the enemy to continue advancing, not realizing that in such a case he posed a serious threat to the forces defending Bitlis. But the corps commander did not even inform T. Nazarbekyan of his dubious idea.
In the current situation, T. Nazarbekyan had to send his last reserve force, three rifle battalions, to Bitlis for help, weakening Mush’s defense. Fortunately, all the enemy’s attention was focused on Bitlis and he did not take any action to retake Mush. The battalions sent by the general were decisive and the Turkish-Kurdish forces were defeated and thrown back to the starting positions.
The Armenian translation of General Tovmas Nazarbekyan’s memoirs is being published for the first time without reductions. Our interventions are presented in straight brackets. The original is preserved in the National Archives of Armenia.