Intended to divert German resources away from the French in Verdun, the Lake Naroch offensive began with a two-day artillery bombardment (17–18 March) on the German positions. This area was chosen because there were 350,000 Russians facing 75,000 Germans. The bombardment failed to hit its target and made little impact on the German defences. The Russian army corps were stuck in springtime mud as they crossed into no man’s land, becoming easy targets for German machine guns. The Russians did make small territorial gains, but these were lost in counterattacks. It is thought that one of the reasons for the Russian failure, despite superior manpower and firepower, was poor leadership and a lack of reconnaissance. The assumption was that, with four Russian army corps against two German divisions, it would be an easy victory. The Russians lost 100,000 men and the Germans, 20,000.
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