Felix Graf von Bothmer, 1852-1937

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Felix Graf von Bothmer was a German general who helped to slow the momentum of the Brusilov offensive in the summer of 1916. He was born in 1852, the son of an army general and member of the Saxon nobility. In 1871 Bothmer joined the Bavarian Army. He spent the next forty years serving in the Bavarian War Ministry or on the Bavarian General Staff, with three years in Berlin with the General Staff. During this time he rose through the ranks, reaching general of infantry in 1910.

On 30 November 1914 he was appointed to command the 6th Bavarian Reserve Division at Ypres, arriving after the fighting there had died down. The next month he was promoted to command the II Bavarian Reserve Corps, remaining with that formation until March 1915.

On 22 March 1915 he was moved to command Corps Bothmer, a unit raised to help defend the passes of the Carpathian Mountains against Russian attacks that directly threatened Hungary. He was thus in the right place to take part in the great German advance after the breakthrough at Gorlice-Tarnow in May 1915. His performance during this period saw him promoted again. On 6 July 1915 he was appointed to command the German South Army, replacing General von Linsingen who had been promoted to command an army group.

Despite the name most of Bothmer’s men were Austro-Hungarians. Of his five divisions, only one was German. Despite this, Army Group South was one of the few units to stand firm against the Brusilov Offensive of June 1916. He was attacked by General Sakharov’s Eleventh Army, and although his right flank (made up of Austro-Hungarian troops) did collapse, his left and centre held firm. A month into the battle, his army was strong enough to prepare for a counterattack, planned for 18 July. Unfortunately for Bothmer, Brusilov learnt of the plans and on 15 July launched a pre-emptive strike that took 13,000 prisoners and destroyed three ammunition dumps. The attack had to be called off. Despite this, Bothmer was able to hold his ground until the Russian attacks of 9 August. These forced back the armies on his flanks, and Bothmer was forced to pull back to the Zlota Lipa River, on the edge of the Carpathians to avoid being outflanked. By that point the Russian offensive was beginning to lose its momentum, and Bothmer was able to hold his new position.

In December 1917 the Bolsheviks sued for peace. With Russia out of the war, on 3 February 1918 Bothmer’s German South Army was dissolved. He was appointed to command the 19th Army in Lorraine, one of the few quiet sectors on the Western Front during 1918. He remained there until 8 November 1918, while to his north the German front crumbled. On that day he was moved to command Home Defences South in Bavaria, with orders to prepare for a last stand, but by that time armistice negotiations were close to completion, and only three days after his appointment the war came to an end. Bothmer retired from the army later in November, surviving until 1937.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (4 November 2007), Felix Graf von Bothmer, 1852-1937 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_bothmer_felix.html

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