Monday, January 2, 2012

19th Royal Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment – Pt 3


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14 Feb 1915 - Munster
Dug in all around Munster from the Schnepfenriedkopf to Hörnleskopf the French were applying pressure on the key access door down the Fecht valley towards the middle of Alsace. The centre of the French position, as Stegemann had illustrated perfectly, was the Reichackerkopf, a hill that dominated the climb up to the ‘col de la Schlucht’ and all the westerly routes that from Munster gave access to the valleys and mountains. Particularly well fortified and defended this 771m summit, connected to the Moenchberg, Altmatt and Sattelkopf, formed a natural fortress that seemed invulnerable to attack. The 19th RIR was given the task of tearing the hill from the French ‘Chasseurs Alpins’ commanded by General Batailles as part of general offensive against the French that extended between Kaysersberg and the Lauch valley. On the 14 Feb 15 the 18th RIR, under the command of Lt Col Danner, launched an attack in the Lauch valley towards Hilsen and Obersengern and quickly took Ranspach. The 19th RIR made contact with a Territorial Wurtemberg Battalion (1st Bn, 121st Regt) positioned on the slopes to the south of Munster, and through liaison with its commander gained valuable information concerning the enemy’s lines and access roads to ensure the attack was launched from a sound base. Patrols on the 15 Feb 15 by 4th Coy (Lt Küspert) and 7th Coy (Lt Rosskopf) with the support of a local forester Warrant Officer Junt also rendered great service.
With the intention of starting the attack on the 17th Feb 15, 1st and 2nd Bn (19th RIR) were to transfer their headquarters to Wasserbourg and Soultzbach on the 16th. But the attack was postponed unexpectedly until the 19th and only 1st Bn (19th RIR) had set of, ready for combat, during the morning of the 16th, towards Wasserbourg via Wintzenheim and Soultzbach. 2nd Bn and the Regimental Staff did not follow to Soultzbach until the 17th. Each Battalion was assigned 20 mules, abundant quantities of ammunition, winter and mountain clothing, and trench digging equipment, that was carried with the aid of 5 lorries to Wasserbourg-Soultzbach on the 16 Feb 15.
On the 18 Feb 15 the Divisional attack order was transmitted to the formations which had been attached to the Regiment namely a part of the 8th Reserve Engineer Company (1st Bn, 121st Inf Regt), the 2nd Battery of mountain guns, and the 8th Reserve Medical Company. The attack order stated that at 06:30hrs 19 Feb 15 the 1st Bn, 121st Inf Regt, supported by a unit of heavy machine guns, would attack in Company strength the Moenchberg by the Steinkreuz and Fronzell. The 19th RIR and a quarter of the Reserve Engineer Company were to cross the Fecht at Tiefenbach, 2nd Bn (19th RIR) were to cross near to Sendenbach, and without delay each Battalion was to assault the Reichackerkopf and Sattel.
The 18th RIR reinforced by the 8th Reserve Cycle Company and half of the Reserve Engineer Company, coming from Landersbach and Sondernach, was to cross the Fecht at Metzeral and conquer the Altmattkopf and Sattelkopf. Meanwhile the 1st Bn (22nd RIR) with a platoon of machine gunners from a Ski Company, a quarter of the 8th Reserve Engineer Company, and two platoons of heavy machine guns following behind the 18th RIR had to block and hold the roads leading from Metzeral south and west, and conduct reconnaissance in the direction of the Hohneck. On the right Brigadier General Sonntag, commanding the Bavarian Reserve Infantry Brigade, the 23rd RIR and two Territorial Wurtemberg Battalions (121st Inf Regt), was at 6am to attack, via the Hörnleskopf and Barrenkopf, and take the French positions near Soultzeren and Stosswihr and stop the French along the his whole front until the attack by the 15th Reserve Infantry Brigade (Freiherr von Pechmann) had achieve its objective. Everything had been done to achieve effective support from both the mountain and heavy field artillery. Telephone communication had been established along with observations being provided by balloon and aircraft. The 2nd and 3rd Riedel Mountain Batteries from Krähenberg were to support 19th RIR’s line of attack along with Artillery Group Rettig from the direction of the slopes located at the south and south-east opposite the Reichackerkopf. In the difficult terrain success was only possible as a result of the surprise. All the formations involved in the attack had received orders to reduce movement during daylight hours, and to minimise construction and excavation activity in the area of the intended attacks.
On the 18 Feb 15, leaving behind all but their essential equipment, the two Battalions left Wasserbourg and Soultzbach towards the crossroads southeast of Reid. At the crossroads waiting for their arrival were 200 pieces of trenching equipment, carried there by the 1st Bn (19th RIR) in the morning, and the Regiments two intelligence officers Lt Küspert and Lt Roskopf. The weather was dry although there was a strong wind blowing from the northeast. With nightfall and on crossing the ridge icy patches were found on the north facing slopes. Whole groups especially those with machineguns, stretcher bearers, pack animals and horses often fell some severely. By 7pm is was so dark that you could not see your hand it front of your face. In short, the march proved extremely difficult and although the 1st Bn (19th RIR) did not reach the Stemlisberg until 9.10pm and the 2nd Bn (19th RIR) the Oberbreitenbach until 0.15am, arriving at all was regarded as an achievement. The Regimental Staff rejoined the 1st Bn (19th RIR) and found in their cold and inhospitable surroundings a most welcome home at Stemlisberg.

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