23 Feb 1915 - The Soultzeren-Ampfersbach-Sattel line
In the morning the weather was clear and dry and everything was calm with no noise of battle. One had to admire the mountains covered in snow and also note the cunning system of blockhouses, observation posts, obstacles, tree truck barricades and trenches that had been constructed by our enemies in only a few months. The defensive positions followed the edge of the forest north and west of the [Schp. (sic)] to the north-west of Fronzell. An observation post hidden on the south west slope of the Reichackerkopf, near to point 33, allowed an unlimited view of Munster. The view extending from the forge to the Alsace plain struck our spirits particularly.
In the afternoon a little by surprise orders came from Division: Group Jaud – currently 1st Bn without 1st and 4th Coy’s and 2nd Bn (19th RIR), 8th Coy (18th RIR) and 5th Coy (22nd RIR) must without delay join the general Divisional attack against Soultzeren- Ampfersbach. Quickly a Combat Group under the command of Maj Veith was formed with 8th Coy (18th RIR), 5th Coy (22nd RIR), and also 2nd and 3rd Coy’s (19th RIR) who had just relieved 7th and 8th Coys (22nd RIR) on the edge of the forest, and Lt Keim’s machine gun section coming from Tiefenbach, with orders to be ready on the left wing at the crossroads to the north east of Moenchberg to spring from there to gain the basin and the heights to the south east of Looch. During this time the company from 22nd RIR and the machine gun section that were held hidden opposite the Brochacker just south of the forest line were to support this attack with fire directed between Ampfersbach and the slope to the north of the Hagel, while Maj Neuhierl’s 2nd Bn (19th RIR) reinforced with a cyclist company and heavy machine guns were to be ready to repulse any possible enemy counter-attack from the direction of the Sattelkopf towards the Reichackerkopf. The Regimental Staff went to the corner of the forest via a path that skirted the forest edge to the north of point 25. Eventually, after a long delay, a little after 5pm the first assault troops left the forest dropped into the basin and then started to climb the slope. But they did get very far in the Ampfersbach valley which resembled an erupting crater. When the order to stop the attack along the whole front arrived from Division at 7pm everyone sighed in relief. To continue the attacks under the heavy fire from the Sattel and Bichstein against the well fortified enemy infantry positions at Ampfersbach would have involved fruitless heavy losses.
During this time 4th Coy (19th RIR) had taken Kilbel by the afternoon after 3 hours of street and house to house fighting. The section commanded by Lt Küspert had taken 70 French ‘Chasseurs Alpins’ prisoner at the villa belonging to the factory and were just leaving from by the water reservoir to attack Schirbach when the order to cease the attack was received. Captain Seitz took the decision to retire from the positions on the western edge of Kilbel. Although the Divisional objective had not been reached a defensible front had been established which ran from Mittelbühl to the western limits of Kilbel, Sattel up to Stocka, enabling the formations to reform and regroup and provide a little rest to at least some of the exhausted troops.
19th RIR’s sector which extended from Rebberg to Stocka was at once divided into 3 parts. (?) Lochner was placed in command of the right hand sector which ran from Rebberg just to the corner of the Moenchberg forest; Maj Veith commanded the centre which ran on to an included Klänglesssattel; Capt Leuchs (a replacement for the sick Maj Neuhierl) commanded the left which ran on to Stocka. As of 24 Feb 15, 1st Bn (19th RIR) once again found themselves occupying the Reichackerkopf. The Regimental Staff which after the battle at Ampfersbach was located at Stosswihr found themselves targeted by artillery fire, by the evening they had packed up and moved to the hamlet of Weier which they found in total disorder and full of rubbish after a rather long occupation by French troops.
On the 27 Feb 15 the position that was still alongside the main road towards Soultzeren was advanced without difficulty towards the reservoir and to the west of the church in Kilbel. On the 28 Feb 15 at 2pm the Brigade Commander Freiherr von Pechmann, accompanied by his adjutant Frh. Von der Tann, personally visited the Division to order a general night attack against the Sulzeren-Schirbach-Ampfersbach-Brochacker line. This attack was to start on 1 Mar 15 at 1am sharp and all watches had to be synchronised. The time necessary to transmit and carry out this order was extremely short due to the short days and the difficulties related to the rough ground. Although the Commander of the Regiment expressed his concerns none of the plan was changed. By 3pm verbal instructions had been passed to all the commanders and by 7pm detailed written orders had been passed to the three Battalions.Next: “1 Mar 1915 - TheSulzeren-Schirbach-Ampfersbach-Brochacker line”