Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pyrrhic Victory: French Strategy and Operations in the Great War

Pyrrhic Victory - Robert Doughty


This book deliverers a comprehensive history and review of French strategy during the First World War. However its coverage of the operational aspects remains very much at the higher levels. The French progression from 'l'offensive a outrance' under Joffre to the 'methodical battle' as espoused by Petain is clearly articulated as are the frictions evident within the French high command and between the French and their British and American allies. This book is an absolute must for anyone seriously studying the Great War as it places the French contribution clearly in context. In addition anyone trying to understand the French and their military performance at the start of WW2 would do well to read this book as it clearly outlines the scars left on the French nation by their experience of WW1.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Linge 1915 – Part 1

Up to the time of their offensive, in February 1915, the German army had not established any continuous defensive lines between the Linge and the Schratzmännele. As ordered by General von Eichhorn, who had this dominating sector occupied at the end of 1914, the Germans only held these two peaks and the approaches of the Trois-Epis Road, with small posts and advanced positions on the border of the forest. However, this situation changed during the spring. From the beginning of March 1915, the sector was permanently occupied and the defensive positions significantly reinforced. In March, April and May, reports from the French 3rd Brigade mention feverish activities on the German side, moving vehicles, tree-felling, mine-blowing, digging, all this indicated that a large amount of work was being carried out under cover of the forest. The forest and a good use of camouflage made it impossible for the French to detect anything.

The Linge


By April, the German-occupied Linge was covered with a complete network of main and secondary trenches and shelters, set out along the peaks and reverse-slopes. On these slopes backed in against the rocks were positioned defensive revetments protected with stones or bags of concrete also concrete strongholds reinforced with rails and up to six successive layers of logs. In front of the barbed wire entanglements machine-gun emplacements were set up to provide a deadly cross-fire from the sides. The Rain des Chênes sheltered the all-important German artillery in its casemates. The French detected nothing the forest hid and stifled everything.

On the 20th of June, at the height of the battle for Metzeral the Germans, alerted by the activity of the French patrols and by the premature opening of saps in the Combe Farm sector, started shelling the French positions, extended their own trenches to the border of the woods and reinforced all their auxiliary defence means, barbed wire entanglements, shelters, etc.

Increasingly worried and preoccupied by the French inactivity, dangerous for the morale of the French troops and fully exploited by the Germans to bring up reinforcements, whilst depriving the French of the essential element of surprise, General de Pouydraguin decided to contact General de Maud'huy. His personal reconnaissance in front of the Linge, and the experience acquired in front of Metzeral, especially by the 66th Infantry Division in the woods of Anlass and Winterhagel, led the Commander of the 47th Division to "consider as highly adventurous and ill-omened, an offensive made through several miles of very steep, wooded ground, at high altitude, where the action of our artillery would be made very inaccurate through lack of perspective". This he told General de Maud'huy and continued to press for permission to continue operations in the valley “where our recent success has prevented the Germans from reinforcing their positions".

Caught between the orders issued by the French G.H.Q. and the clearly motivated opinion of his subordinates on the ground, the Commander of the 7th Army suggested and had accepted an alternative. The Linge operation was to be given to a new division, the 129th Infantry Division, commanded by General Nollet, put at the disposal of the 7th Army by General Dubail.

During all this time, the Germans were conscious that a wide-scale offensive was being prepared at the Linge and, consequently, further reinforced their defences and accumulate their artillery at the Rain des Chênes. Initially planned for the 8th, then delayed to the 12th and then the 18th of July, the offensive finally started on the 20th, once General Nollet had be given time to make the necessary reconnaissance and establish his artillery batteries.


Sources:



Thursday, February 16, 2012

British Aerial Photography and Photographic Interpretation on the Western Front (1914-1918)


TIMELINE - British Aerial Photography and Photographic Interpretation on the Western Front (1914-1918)

1914

The first use of a squared map prepared by Lieutenant D. S. Lewis of the RFC was noted in September 1914 during the initial attempts to control artillery fire from the air using wireless.
Sept 1914
On 15 September 1914 Lieutenant G. F. Pretyman, a pilot from 3 Squadron, took five photographs of German artillery positions on the Aisne with his own hand held camera.
By the end of 1914 the squared map system had been accepted and adapted and covered the whole of the British front.
End 1914


1915

From early 1915, the Royal Engineers were being trained to use aerial photography to support cartography.
Jan 1915
The first aerial photographic mosaic was completed during January 1915 by Lt Darley.
A RFC experimental photographic section was established and sent to First Wing, by the middle of January 1915.
Within the month (Jan 1915) the experimental photographic section at First Wing was declared a success and following the section’s report recommendation a photographic section was established at the HQ of each of the now three RFC Wings.
By the end of February 1915 the RFC’s First Wing photographed the entire German trench system in front of First Army to a depth that ranged from 700 to 1,500 yards.  The result was a fairly complete picture of the German tactical dispositions.  This tactical picture, which was regularly updated, was used by Haig to plan the Battle of Neuve Chapelle.  Additionally 1,500 copies of a 1:5,000 scale map overlaid with an outline of the German defensive system were specially printed and issued to each of the attacking Corps.
Feb 1915
Lieutenant Colonel J. Charteris used photography in planning for Neuve Chapelle - (diary entry dated February 24 1915)
Between July and September 1915 Topographical Sections were created at Army level.
Summer 1915
During the summer of 1915 Alan Lloyd was appointed as an intelligence officer on the staff of First Corps where he was made responsible for the Corps aerial photographs.
This issue of map currency was appreciated as early as the battle of Loos in 1915 when copies of aerial photographs were circulated so that staff and regimental officers could make hand written amendments to their maps.  During Loos, Romer (First Army Maps and Printing Section 1915) had his section working through the night producing and printing special map sheets showing the new detail derived from that day’s aerial photographs; these sheets were sent by dispatch rider to the affected units.
Sept 1915
The Canadian Corps when formed in September 1915 established a new GSO, Second Grade, to command the intelligence service within the Corps ‘. . . a small force of draughtsmen and assistants working on aeroplane photographs, which were then beginning to be used extensively . . .
Second Lieutenant Laws returned to Britain in September 1915 to establish the RFC’s School of Photography at Farnborough.

Nov 1915
In November 1915 Alan Lloyd gave a lecture on aerial photographs to his Corps Commander.

Dec 1915
Third Army set up a Compilation section under the control of its Topographical section in December 1915.  This Compilation section was headed by Lieutenant Goldsmith.  As well as the study of air photographs, Goldsmith’s stated role was to synthesise and record the counter-battery intelligence from all sources and to disseminate, in INTSUM form, lists of German artillery positions derived from Third Army’s observation and flash spotting sections that he had correlated with the other intelligence sources.
By the end of 1915 Third Army’s Topographical Section, at the request of the Army Staff, had begun to include the German trench system, including barbed wire, and known German artillery battery positions as overlays on the newly created 1:10,000 map sheets.
End 1915

By the end of 1915 a newly created series of 1:10,000 base map sheets overprinted with the tactical detail of the German defensive positions had been produced.

Not until the end of 1915 was the counter-battery role recognised as a separate tactical operation of the artillery requiring special organisation and co-ordinated intelligence support.


1916

From early 1916 counter-battery intelligence was rationalised and coordinated at army level.
Early 1916


Jan 1916
The new RFC brigade formation came into effect on 30 January 1916 and by the start of the Somme there were four RFC brigades, one for each army, and a Headquarters Wing attached directly to GHQ.  Under the new organisation each Corps now had an attached RFC squadron under its control and the Corps staffs were responsible for photographic reconnaissance tasking along the Corps front up to a depth of 5,000 yards.  Beyond this aerial photography was the responsibility of the Army wing.
The Army Topographical sections had expanded and were subsumed within newly created Field Survey Companies (FSC) in February 1916.  Within the organisation of a FSC was a Compilation section that had the role of synthesising the artillery counter-battery intelligence at army level.  Goldsmith described as ‘one of the pioneers in the scientific study of air photographs’ was a compiling officer in Third Army’s Compilation Section.
Feb 1916


Apr 1916
By the spring of 1916 the demand for photographs was overstretching the capabilities of the Wing photographic sections causing unacceptable delays in print delivery to demanding units.  The solution enacted in April 1916 was to decentralise and establish a small photographic section, comprising a non-commissioned officer (NCO) and three men, at each of the Corps squadrons and in each Army reconnaissance squadron.

During April and May 1916 the 1st ANZAC INTSUMS provided little more than ‘shopping lists’ of available photographs that could be ordered by subordinate units from First ANZAC Corps intelligence.
From May 1916 with the weekly (Active Hostile Batteries) lists growing longer and taking more time to plot the details were also transposed onto a counter-battery target map and represented graphically.
May 1916

From mid 1916 Recording Officers (RO’s), of Captain/Lieutenant rank, began to be appointed in RFC squadrons.  The RO’s acted as intelligence officers and the squadron Adjutant and were tasked with debriefing aircrew collating the information gathered and forwarding anything of value to headquarters.  In addition the RO’s in the Corps squadrons took on the artillery and infantry liaison role to reduce the burden on the Squadron Commanders.
Jun 1916
From June 1916 onwards every two or three days the INTUMS started to contain textual summaries outlining the activity observed on the photographs taken in the intervening period.  Between June and early November the fidelity of the reporting also changed.

Jul 1916
Early in July 1916 Moore-Brabazon, dissatisfied with the use being made of the RFC photography by the BEF’s intelligence elements, produced and circulated six copies of a photographic interpretation guide.

Aug 1916
August 1916 Francis Law, an Irish Guards infantry officer being given a rest from the front, reported to Headquarters IXth Corps.  His role for two months was as the Corps artillery intelligence officer where one of his jobs was the interpretation of aerial photographs.
A British study of the French intelligence system published in September 1916 highlighted the advantages of integrating an intelligence specialist at squadron level.
Sep 1916

From October 1916 the Army Printing and Stationary Service (AP&SS) had set up a section in Amiens that could produce 5,000 prints a day.  By the end of the Somme each army had its own AP&SS section bulk reproducing prints and specialist products.
Oct 1916
October 1916 Trenchard, now the Major General in command of the RFC in France, proposed that intelligence sections be established at squadrons and wings with reconnaissance and photographic responsibilities ‘where the Intelligence Officer could be in intimate touch with the flying and photographic personnel’.
From late October an experimental intelligence section commanded by Captain G. T. Tait, an attached Intelligence Corps officer, was established at 3 Squadron RFC, the squadron subordinated to First ANZAC Corps during the latter stages of the Somme.
.
Nov 1916
Lloyd’s guide reproduced as the first British photographic interpretation guide ‘S.S. 445 Some Notes on the Interpretation of Aeroplane Photographs’ in November 1916.

From late November 1916 the textual summaries in the 1st ANZAC INTSUMS began to be provided alongside the list of photographs they related to.
Although not officially authorised until January 1917 the first Corps Topographical Sections appeared in Fourth Army in December 1916.
Dec 1916

During December 1916 instructions were issued to form Branch Intelligence Sections (BIS’s) at the headquarters of each corps squadron and each army wing.


Late 1916
Not until late 1916 was photographic interpretation incorporated into the syllabus of the 10 week Intelligence Corps Officer training course run in London near Wellington Barracks.

From late 1916 Intelligence Corps officers, trained to interpret aerial photographs, began to be attached to Divisional Intelligence sections.

From late 1916 the newly appointed Intelligence Corps officers at both Division and the BIS’s had either been trained at the Intelligence Corps training school in London or in the case of reassigned officers, had attended the newly established eight day course on aerial photography run at Army level in France.

1917

As a result of the lessons from the Somme a Counter Battery Office (CBO) commanded by a Counter Battery Staff Officer (CBSO), a Lieutenant Colonel, was formally established by GHQ at each Corps.  The Intelligence officer in the CBO was one of the new War Office sanctioned Royal Artillery Reconnaissance Officers (RARO) also newly established, at Army, Corps, and Corps Heavy Artillery Headquarters, during the winter of 1916/1917.  The intelligence officer’s declared role was ‘. . . to carry out special artillery reconnaissance, to study and collate the information derived from aeroplane photographs and maps so far as it affects the artillery, and to keep in close touch with the Royal Flying Corps.’
Early 1917
From 1917 on, a soldier at platoon level could expect to carry out trench raid mission rehearsals behind the British line in an exact replica, derived from aerial photography, of the German trench system he was going to raid.
In early 1917 Rory Macleod, who had been the liaison officer between Fourth Brigade RFC and Fourth Army’s Counter Battery Intelligence Staff in 1916, produced a book on the interpretation of aerial photographs for Fourth Army’s Artillery School.
The success of the CBO initiative was clearly evident at Vimy Ridge in 1917.
Mar 1917
Vimy Ridge March 1917 the Canadians built a scale model of their assault area based on aerial photographs.
March 1917 the Intelligence Staff at GHQ had taken ownership of the photographic interpretation manuals and had issued S.S. 550 Notes on the Interpretation of Aeroplane Photographs which was distributed down to Battalion, Machine Gun Company and Trench Mortar Battery level.

Jun 1917
By June 1917 S.S. 152 Instructions for the training of the British Armies in France (Provisional) advertised numerous training courses that contained aerial photography in their syllabus.

At Messines in June 1917, aerial photographs of the German defences were taken every day during the preliminary bombardment, and the known artillery positions every two days.

Aug 1917
Haig in his diary entry for the 28 August 1917 recorded:
‘Trenchard reported on the work of the Flying Corps.  Our photographs now show distinctly the ‘shell holes’ which the Enemy has formed turned into a position.  The paths made by men walking in rear of those occupied, first caught our attention.  After a most careful examination of the photo, it would seem that system of defence was exactly on the lines directed in General Sixt von Armin’s pamphlet on ‘The Construction of Defensive Positions’ . . .

End 1917
By the end of 1917 personnel with a remit to carry out photographic interpretation were located on the Intelligence Staff at Infantry Brigade and Battalion level.

1918


Feb 1918
The GHQ issued photographic interpretation manual was updated in February 1918 S.S. 631 Notes on the Interpretation of Aeroplane Photographs.

May 1918
In a lecture given in 1920 H. R. Brooke-Popham stated: ‘As regards photographs, our best day’s work was May 3rd, 1918, when 4,090 new photographs were taken.’

Aug 1918
Amiens in August 1918 saw a proliferation in aerial photographs being made available at company level for study before the attack.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

19th Royal Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment – Pt 10


Back to Part 9
28 April 1915 - Steinabrück - Anlasswasen - Sondernach line
That same evening orders arrived outlining a reorganisation of 15th Brigade, this was carried out at night between 26 – 28 Apr 15. The result was that the Braunkopf sector - 830 - Sommerlitt was occupied by 18th RIR, Steinabrück - Anlasswasen - Sondernach by 19th RIR, and Landersbach - Hilsenfirst by 14th ‘Chasseurs’ Battalion. For the Regiment this change brought better weeks as the enemy activity on their new front was minimal and the arrival of spring in their Alpine site, still largely untouched by war, was magnificent and softened the atmosphere and boosted confidence. Dark forests of fir trees alternated with flowered meadows, crossed clear brooks leaping towards the valley. The stay at Sondernach – Landersbach, both occupied by a population with its fundamentally German nature and habits, in well arranged shelters was to some extent a holiday, moderated however by the gravity of the present situation and the concern for the future.
1st Bn (19th RIR) had the responsibility for defending the steep slope east of the Wurmsa brook up to height 955 [3], which also included the top of the Anlass. 2nd Bn (19thRIR) had the side passing by Pfliegle-Winterhagel up to but not including Ahwäldle. But on the peak 3rd Coy and 5th Coy (19th RIR) rotated frequently. The General Staff of 1st and 2nd Bn’s (19th RIR) joined their districts at Metzeral and Sondernach. The Commanding officer of the Regiment was housed at this last location in a none-descript house on the main street. The splendid Immer villa had been reserved to him, but taking into account its location, the fact that it had been previously occupied by the commander in chief of the subdivision who at nightfall had habitually lit up the house with electric lights without closing the shutters, which meant that on all the neighbouring heights the guns aimed at Sondernach were attracted like a magnet to the villa, led him to chose more modest quartering. This choice was justified when a few days later shells burst on the villa.
Another no less important measure, taken during the night of 29 Apr 15, was a movement forwards by the left wing of 6th Coy and all of 8th Coy (19th RIR) out of the bottom of the valley towards the western edge of Winterhagel. This movement stopped the enemy from getting undetected within 150m of the road by using the cover of the trees and then appearing suddenly in Sondernach. This concern had obviously gone unnoticed by our predecessors, the valorous skiers, and was for a long time the subject of much amusement to us. This stay in the Metzeral-Sondernach sector lasted until the 16th May 15, during which time an enormous amount of work was put into consolidating the defensive line that passed hills and valleys through rocky ground and dense trees and kept our patrols intensely busy. The Regiment remembered especially the 3 May 15 when at 10pm the great victory on the eastern front was celebrated with music, chiming bells, artillery fire and three cheers by all the troops occupied or at rest from 6th Division, the Landwehr Battalion and the 8th Reserve Bavarian Division; the 4 May 15 in the morning when out of the fog in-front of 1 Coy (19th RIR) came an important enemy supply column with 9 mules that was swept with heavy fire; the next three days when heavy shells fell on Steinabrück and mainly destroyed the factory which was there; but above all the morning of the 7 May 15 when the French bombarded height 830 with large calibre shells for several hours, and from 14.00hrs also shelled height 955 [3] and the positions above Pfliegle, followed at 18.00hrs by an infantry attack which was pushed back by 4th Coy (19th RIR) along with 18 ‘Chasseurs’ from 14th Battalion and 3rd Coy (19th RIR) with heavy enemy losses.
On the 11 May 15 at 20.00hrs the advanced listening post of 3rd Coy (19th RIR), 80m above the front line towards height 1025 that since 7 May 15 had been occupied by the French, was to be retaken following a light preparatory bombardment by the Danzer Artillery Battery and a rocket launcher. Lt Wichmann from 2nd Coy (19th RIR) was given command of the attacking troops which comprised 3 groups of infantry and 7 pioneers. Due probably to a listening post, the enemy trenches when attacked were very strongly held and despite the bravery of Lt Wichmann and his men the operation failed. Taking into account the amount of enemy fire which lasted without weakening from 20.00 to 23.30hrs and extended from Sillackerwasen to height 830 the loss of 1 dead WO and 5 infantrymen and 1 wounded pioneer were surprisingly light. Although this operation had been known about since the day before one of our Companies required its resupply column of 6 beasts of burden to join them at Anlasswasen by 18.00hrs. On arriving at its objective the column found itself right in the middle of the fire fight that had broken out. Naturally the columns guides and handlers immediately took cover leaving the mules resting quietly in place. That only one of the animals was injured, being shot in the leg, during the whole three and a half hours was nothing short of a miracle.
16 May 1915 - Relief
During the early morning of the 15 May 15 the Commanders and Officers of the 39th Rudolf Reserve Prussian Infantry Brigade and the 73rd RIR arrived by foot and car. During the night of the 16 May 15 between midnight and 06.00hrs these units relieved practically all the troops from the 8th Bavarian Reserve Division committed in the Fecht valley surprisingly without a single loss. Except for Lt Grau’s machine gun section which remained in position and certain Officers who remained in the rear the 19th RIR arrived during the morning of the 17th May 15 at their quarters in Horbourg, Bischwihr and Fortschwihr. Thus finished a four month campaign, not only rich in work, emotions, deprivations and combat, but also in success. It would be unforgivable to forget the enormous efforts demanded by this four month stay in this mountainous terrain, partially in snow and ice, by all those who belonged to the Regiment; the medical officers and nurses, the two chaplains Pasteur Eichler and father Rupert Mayer, and finally the equipment and supply officers (Ebert and Grauvogel) as well as their warrant officers and troops. It was certainly their energy, their devotion and spirit of friendship under the fire of the shells in the night and the fog, the storm and the rain, which made it possible for the front line troops to hold.
Next: “Part 2: 1 Jul 1915 to 12 Jul 1916”

Friday, February 10, 2012

19th Royal Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment – Pt 9


Back to Part 8
23 Mar 1915 - The Sattelköpfle and the Klängle
The enemy did not make any serious attempt to retake the lost ground, on the other hand their mountain artillery and rocket launchers targeted our positions daily. On 23 Mar 15 in particular the artillery attack on the Sattelköpfle and the Klängle were so heavy the 2nd Bn (19th RIR) then under the command of Maj Veith sent: “We are under attack and can hardly hold on, assistance essential”. The situation was all the more precarious because at Tiefenbach and in the local area there was only one company in reserve, in addition our artillery was resolutely silent. During the confusion and with mounting concern that the positions could again be lost the the Corps Commander of the 19th RIR gathered all the available manpower, from the General Staff, the Supply depot, and the Pioneers depot, approximately 35 men. Around midday these men set off in haste from Tiefenbach via Obereck up the slopes to save what could be saved. After about 35 minutes out of breath and close to the Augsburger hut they received a message which despite the irritation and disappointment was found amusing: “All in perfect order, no question of retirement, relatively few losses – 9 dead, 25 wounded”.
5 - 27 April 1915 - Muhlbach
On the 5 Apr 15 the Regiment was moved to the left into the sector previously held by 18th RIR (in the basin to the north of Stocka-Röspelwald up to and including the Braunkopf) and again found it necessary to consolidate, construct and in particular to simplify many of the long trench systems, for example opposite Klitzerstein and above the water reservoir in Muhlbach. Even thought the new positions were on the whole quiet they had the disadvantage of being overlooked by the Altmattkopf and were vulnerable to an attack in the rear from the mountains in south-west.
The Regiment, with its General Staff Headquarters at Tiefenbach and with 1st and 2nd Bn’s (19th RIR) alternating between the front and Muhlbach, stayed in this sector until the 27 Apr 15 and were able to take advantage of the relative peace in the spring sun to rest and recover from their trials on the Reichackerkopf.
April 1915 - The French attack in the higher Fecht
In the sector to the west of 18th RIR on height 830 between Steinabrück and Sillackerwasen and to the south of Anlasswasen, slowly unfolded an un-planned or provoked conflict the immediate consequence of which was the loss of the Schnepfenriedkopf, the Burgköpfle and the Herrenberg in the north and the south-west of Eselsbrücke in the high valley of large Fecht. After 15 calm days heavy and continuous artillery fire coming from Tännle and Altmattkopf aimed in the direction of Sillackerwasen started at 11.00hrs. Added to this at 13.00hrs heavy infantry fire was aimed at our positions from the Sattelkpof, Klitzerstein and Altmattkopf. At 15.00hrs the bombardment of the Schnepfenriedkopf transformed into a creeping barrage and the hearts of the onlookers in the valley tightened as the shells fell one after another blackening the white snow topped mountain slowly revealing what remained of the ‘Chasseurs’ (Colmar) picket post, that had been buried superficially in the snow, and as it descended towards Anlasswasen was being followed by a small number of French troops.
Could the two guns of the Grauvogel battery, whose towing units had been returned to Munster, be saved? Yes they could. With exceptional energy and audacity WO Heitmayer, 8th Coy (19th RIR), who having ensured with two groups that the guns were covered, gathered his men, several skiers from the Steinitzer Battalion plus several men from the 14th ‘Chasseurs’ and ran to meet the French attack and with their fire stopped the attack saving not only the guns but also Anlasswasen. This action was rewarded with a bravery medal. At 16.00hrs, after a heavy bombardment, an infantry attack also took place against hill 830. Reserve Lt Werr along with 7th Coy (19th RIR) resisted heroically and despite significant losses the brave men held their ground.
The appalling situation which reigned up there, particularly in the zone to the north-west of height 830 - baptized Winterberg – where over the following days was sent one after another detachments from 3, 4, and 5 Coy’s (19th RIR). Lt Küspert (3rd Coy), Reserve Lt Schneider, Second Lt Schmidleitner (4th Coy) and Chief Sgt’s Amodé and Jall (5th Coy) all gave evidence of their bravery. Things only calmed down on the 25 Apr 15 when in the afternoon a violent rumble of thunder coming from the south east announced the great German victory at the Vieil Armand (Hartmannswillerkopf).

Monday, February 6, 2012

19th Royal Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment – Pt 8


Back to Part 7
20 Mar 1915 - The Reichackerkopf
The execution of this order on the eastern and southern front was entrusted by the Brigade to the Commander of 19th RIR, which began to move with the support of a number of pioneers from 8th Reserve Pioneer Company. 2nd and 3rd Coy’s (19th RIR) and Lt Keim’s machine gun section went towards the Reichackerkopf, 3rd Bn (75th Inf Regt) towards the Klänglesattel and 2nd Bn (19th RIR) towards the Sattelköpfle. According to the plan at 13.30hrs the detachments on the left wing in attack columns were in turn to assault the enemy trenches on the Reichackerkopf without pausing to fire, an average distance of hardly 20m, and on gaining their objective were hand in hand with the 22nd and 23rd RIR, coming from the north, to clear the whole enemy line.
At 13.00hrs precisely the artillery fire stopped, the heavy rocket launchers dug-in in the basin to the south east of the target fell silent. The troops jumped from their trenches, each man not only armed with grenades and a rifle but also a ‘riot’ shield. The Commander of 19th RIR with the Commander of 1st Bn (19th RIR) Maj Veith waited apprehensively in their Command Post some 200m south of the summit for the agreed signal “Attention” which would announce the success of the operation. Instead what was heard was continual enemy machine gun fire and at 13.30hrs from the three companies came the news: “Heavy machine gun fire on our flanks; we are unable to advance any further”. It was a desperate situation and it was clear that to commit the reserves, 1st and 4th Coy’s (19th RIR) and 4th Coy (23rd RIR) held on the “chemin des chasseurs alpines”, would not guarantee success and would only add more casualties.
With a decision still outstanding at approximately 14.00hrs Cpl Heinrich Lutz glimpsed several raised hands in the nearby enemy trenches. Interpreting this as a desire by the enemy to surrender he shouted loudly “Hurray they are leaving”; to the left and right the cry was taken up and repeated. The Reichackerkopf was taken a few moments later followed by the Klänglesattel and all the range to the west of this. This instant was for all the participants’ one of the highlights of their military lives when coming down from the peaks were the weathered and courageous French ‘Chasseurs Alpins’, numerous officers and 250 men, escorted by our brave men. None of the participants could escape from a spontaneous feeling of happiness and recognition. Unfortunately this good mood did not last long. Around 16.00hrs the troops on the occupied peak who were openly moving around collecting and making safe the captured enemy equipment came under enemy artillery fire that killed or seriously wounded 20 previously happy men. Among the casualties were Lt Fürst 2nd Coy (19th RIR) and Adjutant Lukaseder (23rd RIR). Fire also fell on Adjutant Schlederer’s rocket launcher position sending 3 rocket launchers and 50 small projectiles into the air; by some miracle no one was injured.
That same day in the Divisional orders it was announced:
“After 15 days of hard fighting we achieved success and captured the Reichackerkopf, we will not yield it again. It is now our duty to keep all that we have taken. I express my thanks and my recognition to all my troops and their commanders who today gained glory for their young division. Demonstrating exemplary co-operation the valiant pioneers facilitated the advance of my brave and courageous infantry, while the artillery could always hold the enemy artillery at bay and delivered the ‘coup de grâce’ to the enemy.
I am proud of my division.
Freiherr v. Stein”
During this timeframe a significant engagement had taken place to the north of Stosswihr in Rebberg and involved Capt Friederizi’s 2nd Bn (40th Inf Regt) and 1st and 2nd Coy’s (19th RIR) commanded by Lt’s Lindner and Auffhammer respectively. During the early hours of 7 Mar 15 these units evicted the French from their trenches and re-established the previous front line, they went on to hold these positions against a counter attack by French ‘Chasseurs Alpins‘ coming down from the Eichwald. The sections commanded by Temporary Officer’s Schuster, Weber and Schneider in particular distinguished themselves through their bravery. The enemy left behind a machine gun and nearly 100 dead or wounded ‘Chasseurs Alpins‘. The two 19th RIR Coy’s were withdrawn from General von Sprösser’s Brigade on 11 Mar 15 and after a short stay at Eckersberg had on 12 Mar 15 relieved 2nd Bn (40th Inf Regt) on the Reichackerkopf. The actions of these two companies were also recognised by the Divisional Commander when he thanked them for saving Stosswihr.
The following nights and days were devoted to consolidating and securing the re-captured positions. During this period the Engineer companies commanded by (?) Offenbourg and later (?) Rastatt that had been detached to the Regiment rendered considerable service as they had during the previous hard weeks. In order to maintain the freshness of the troops daily reliefs took place. The Jaud sector included not only his Regiment (19th RIR) but also the Hanseatic 3rd Bn (75th Inf Regt), elements of the Landsturm Bruchsal and Mannheim Infantry Battalions, the 14th ‘Chasseurs’ from Colmar and companies from the 18th and 23rd RIR. On the evening of 21 Mar 15 the courageous Hanseatic’s along with their valiant Regimental Commander Eggers left this formation.