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In the Vosges - 22 Jan to 2 Jun 1915
The Regimental Staff were quartered at Modenhein, the 1st Bn, 19th RIR at Illzach and the 2nd Bn, 19th RIR at Kingersheim. Despite heavy ground frosts the next few days were devoted to combat fire training. The sounds of the guns from the Cernay direction, the legacy of the fighting in August 1914 in the local area, especially the numerous graves of friends and enemies around the fields, the daily casualties heading towards Mulhouse from the “hole of death” and the French prisoners all foretold the seriousness of the task that awaited us.
4 Feb 1915 - Hartmannswillerkopf (Vieil Armand)
By the 4 Feb 15 orders had been received directing that the 19th Bavarian Infantry Regiment was to be subordinated to the Prussian 42nd Cavalry Brigade commanded by, General Heidborn. The Regimental Staff had left for Feldkirch and the 1st Bn (19th RIR) was to join them by 5 Feb 15. The 2nd Bn (19th RIR) was to follow on the evening of the 5th. The combat position on the southern side of the Hartmannswillerkopf (Vieil Armand) in the region of Rehfelsen, Sandgrubenkopf and Hirtzstein was the first occasion where the young Battalion had to show its courage and endurance in front of the enemy. Because the ground was very steep and rocky the front line, held until now by the 8th Prussian ‘Chasseurs’, 40th Landwehr and the 15th Uhlans, was far from being clearly delineated and defined. In addition the wet winter weather, a very steep sloped approach from Hartmannswiller under artillery fire, the difficulties of re-supply and the French ‘Alpine Chasseurs’ as enemies were the elements challenging the troops that demanded a strong will to overcome.
Major Veith’s 1st Bn (19th RIR) was first engaged during the night of 5/6 Feb 15 without loss. It was as well that vigilance and calm had been demanded as the cyclist Company of the 8th Prussian ‘Chasseurs’ withdrew with their lanterns lit and singing as if everyone was deaf. Major Neuhierl’s 2nd Bn (19th RIR) saw its first action over the next few days; 7th and 8th Companies during the night of 7/8 Feb 15 and 5th and 6th Companies during the night of 9/10 Feb 15. The Company activities had focused on reconnaissance and improving the position of their front lines. The reconnaissance patrols were noted for their success and bravery in particular Corporal Sigelhofer from 4th Company in the action against hill 908 on 7 Feb 15, also Lt Küspert, Lt Rosskopf and Sgt Major Flierl with elements of 4th, 7th and 8th Companies on 8 Feb 15, and Lt Lindner and Lt Rosskopf with men from the 3rd and 7th Companies in the Silberbachgrund area against hill 908 and the French blockhouse in the Wattwiller forest. But these actions were not without losses. Lt Küspert lost two of his men in front of the enemy lines. Lt Lindner, wounded himself, lost his Corporal Hötzl. WO Meiler 5th Companies patrol leader and Infantryman Glas were both killed on a reconnaissance towards Molkenrein on the 12 Feb 15.
However, the layout and strength of the enemy line had been clearly established and the French ‘Chasseurs Alpine’ holding the front line suffered losses as a consequence. The fact that on the 9 Feb 15 posts of 4th Company brought back two wounded French ‘Chasseurs Alpine’, a Sergeant and a Private from the 7th ‘Chasseur à pied’, proved very useful as the information gain from the reconnaissance on the 8 Feb 15 could be verified and our patrols on the 10th and 12th Feb 15 could benefit from invaluable information. The Companies were up to their task and the professionalism and spirit present amongst the officers and soldiers was evident during the patrols and in the individual actions, as illustrated by Lt Lindner who, although wounded in the back and hand, assisted by infantryman Drechsel with covering fire provided by infantryman Ohlinger, both from 3rd Company (1st Bn, 19th RIR), managed to bring back the fatally wounded Corporal Hötzl. On the 12 Feb 15 the Regiment was told that it was to be relieved over the next 2 nights, 12-13th Feb 15. When the Battalions, which had had 5 killed, including 2 officers Capt Bärmann, 8th Company Commander and Lt Lindner from 3rd Company, and many wounded, left the Prussian Brigade its Commander General von Heidborn published the following in his daily orders: “For the departing 19th Regiment which leaves 42nd Cavalry Brigade, I thank all the officers and men for the eminent services that the Regiment has provided in the sector whilst under my command. My best wishes accompany the Regiment and I wish it to be clearly stated in front of the Division and the Brigade so that the senior Regimental Commanders are informed of the value attached to their units contribution.
The 19th RIR was transferred by train from Bollwiller during the night of the 13 Feb 15, and on orders from the General Staff located in their castle at Herlisheim the 1st Bn (19th RIR) was split between Husseren and Eguisheim whilst the 2nd Bn (19th RIR) was split between Herrlisheim and Voegtlingshoffen, a separation that brought the Regiment a few days of rest. However, in the afternoon of the 14 Feb 15 the Adjutant of the Von der Tann Brigade gave the Regiment confidential orders which meant that Army Corps Gaede which included the 8th Bavarian Reserve Division was to be involved in one of the biggest battles in the Vosges.
Next: “14 Feb 1915 – Munster”