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19 Feb 1915 - The Reichackerkopf
On 19th Feb 15 at 6 o'clock in the morning they took their leave. The Regimental Staff, guided by a young shepherd, reached Eckersbergand via a long rocky road, and after a short pause headed on to Breitenbach where occasional shells, fired from the Reichackerkopf, were falling between the houses. Meanwhile both 1st and 2nd Bn (19th RIR) had crossed the Fecht , either by bridge or wading, at Breitenbach and Sendenbach and had advanced rapidly towards the Reichackerkopf and Sattel by the Katzenköpfel and Stocka. 1st Bn (RIR) with Kollmann’s 3rd Coy in the centre had by 7.30am reached the edge of the forest north of Katzenköpfel without loss. Suddenly they found themselves on a steep forest slope faced by a defensive line of tree trunks and barbed wire and under heavy fire from not only their front but also their right flank. Progress towards Moenchberg had become very difficult. Captain Seitz’s 4th Coy that had come from Oberwidato, to the east of Katzenköpfel, had already taken heavy casualties.
Reserve Lt Bernheimer (4 Coy), Temporary Officer Micheler (3 Coy), the NCO standard bearer Josef Schmid from Kornau near Oberstdorf who died with the flag in his hand beside Maj Veith his Battalion Commander were among the first to fall on the field of honour. 4th Coy did not succeed in advancing any further in spite of the support which it received from the regiment by a section commanded by Temporary Officer Einberger coming from Fronzell. Lt Auffhammer’s 2nd Coy which was advancing on the left wing of the Regiment near Klängle was in a delicate position being fired upon through the branches from in front and the sides. 3rd Coy advancing under fire was able to assault and capture a heavily defended enemy observation post near to road 300 south of the Reichackerkopf. Despite the physical effort and the danger of death the proof of the accuracy of the fire delivered by the hard headed Swabians and Bavarians were the 25 dead Frenchmen from 51st Battalion ‘Chasseurs Alpines’ killed by a bullet through the head whilst still in their firing positions behind their huge tree trunk barricades.
Meanwhile on the right wing of the Regiment the 5th, 6th and 7th Coys from 2nd Bn (19th RIR) left Sendenbach and going via Roth and Obereck had advance to within 300m of the Sattel. Coincident with this favourable gain it was announced that Moenchberg had been taken by 1st Bn (121st Inf Regt) and that the 18th RIR had gained the Altmattkopf. The General Staff of the Regiment (19th RIR) were entitled to expect an imminent victory. The disappointment was all the more bitter when a few hours later it turned out that the claims were false and 2nd Bn (19th RIR) made it known: “Taking the summit of the Sattel is impossible, obstacles are too great, our artillery is totally ineffective, three enemy companies on our left flank, am retiring the Battalion several hundred metres and turning my front left facing west”. Thus the Regimental General Staff found themselves in a difficult position as they had no reserves immediately available.
Having to wait until 7pm for reserves to arrive from Munster and for the strengthening of the artillery fire targeting the Reichackerkopf, Klängle-Sattel and Sattelköpfchen the Staff’s were pleased to receive the good news from 1st Bn (19th RIR): “Detachment Kollmann 3 Coy, Section Schuster 2 Coy, Sections Anodé and Furst 4 Coy, Machine Gun Section Keim and 6 men (8th R.P.R.) took the Reichackerkopf at 6.45pm; the enemy has retired to the north and north-west; the position is held and fortified”. As a result the dominant position between the large and small river Fecht west of Munster had been taken. The spontaneous decision, taken around 4pm, of Lt Col Kollmann together with Lt Col Keim and the commanders of the groups present to continue their attempts and take the same day the hill top, in spite of the combat and the efforts which had preceded, will remain for the commanders and soldiers a glorious page in the history of the 19th RIRR. That the attack was crowned a success was due primarily to Lt Keim’s machine gun section whose action, not only on the physical level, was admirable. The NCO’s Mac and Carty acting as scouts, Rifleman Geyer as a liaison officer and Cpl Albrecht as a guide and with his shooting all distinguished themselves through their determination and skill.
Meanwhile night had fallen cold and wet covering with its black shroud friends and enemies alike. Among those who had lost their lives could be counted 3 officers; Reserve Lt Bernheimer 4 Coy, Temporary Officer Micheler 3 Coy, Adjutant Lt Gabler 7 Coy, 8 NCO’s and 30 men, among the latter Infantryman Josef Müller 5 Coy, who fell trying to rescue his wounded comrade from the barbed wire in front of the Sattelkopf. Among the wounded eventually evacuated were 3 officers; Lt Lindner 3 Coy, Reserve Lt Angerer 5 Coy, Lt Rosskopf 7 Coy, 1 Temporary Officer Merwald and 179 NCO’s and men.
The night of the 19 Feb 15 passed without combat but also without rest. The troops who had taken the positions on the heights had to find shelter from the bitter cold. The next day in the valley at Tiefenbach the concerns for both the Regimental Headquarters and the First Aid Station focused on re-supply and transport for the casualties both of which were a source of great tension. Several new units had arrived by armoured train to support the 19th RIR during the night; Mountain Artillery, heavy machine guns, the 2nd Bn (22nd RIR) commanded by Maj Braun and half of the 1st Bn (22nd RIR) commanded by Major Eisel. With the ceaseless armoured train traffic between Munster and Metzeral and the orders to machine gun the cut-off enemy positions north of both Fronzell and Muhlbach rest was impossible.