Monday, January 9, 2012

19th Royal Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment – Pt 5

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20 Feb 1915 - The Sättele and the Sattelköpfle

On 20 Feb 15 it was initially planned to capture ground later called the Sättele and the Sattelköpfle to the west of the Reichackerkopf, from there advance further in a northerly direction, and on the basis of a line running North-West bordering Moenchberg-Brochacker and the ground to the south of Rosselwasen threaten the enemy’s principle supply route coming from the ‘col de la Schlucht’, whilst also supporting the troops engaged along a line from Kleinkopf-Hohrodberg-Hohrod towards Soultzeren-Eck-Hagel. Although supported by an hour of intense artillery fire on the Moenchberg, Sättele and Sattelköpfle and despite outstanding bravery, particularly by Capt Metzner’s 5th Coy (23rd RIR), the objective was not reached. This was due to the concealed enemy positions on the slopes north west of Klängle which meant the attackers received enemy infantry fire on their flanks and rear. With nightfall, the 5th and 6th Coy’s (23rd RIR) who had advanced the furthest towards the Sättele, were forced to retire and seek shelter close their initial step off point. However, a breakthrough had been announced around midday, Bretzel and Widental, set on fire by Grauvogel’s artillery battery, had since 10.00am been occupied by the 1st Coy (121st Regt) who were now ready to advance in the direction of Stosswihr.
On 21 Feb 15 the 19th RIR had the task of reaching the objective that had been set for the day before. A combat group comprising; 2nd Bn (22nd RIR) commanded by Maj Braun, half of 1st Bn (22nd RIR), and 1st Bn (19th RIR), supported by a vigorous artillery barrage, were ordered to take the Moenchberg. But the density of the vegetation and the rough ground of the Moenchberg confused the overall picture and made command very difficult. Despite every effort when evening arrived only 300m of ground had been captured. The situation was particularly difficult due to the fact that the attack, which started at 2pm, came under rifle fire from enemy hidden in the trees. This fire inflicted heavy casualties, dead and seriously wounded, particularly among the officers; von Falkenhausen, Schilling, Metzner, and Lt. Seit. Capt Scholler was also seriously wounded and it was only through the selflessness and energy of Cpl Voigt (1st Bn, 19th RIR) that he was brought back and saved.
There was little that could be done but to hold the line reached and use the hours of darkness to withdraw the companies who had lost their officers and reorganise the remaining formations. Fortunately this succeeded. Meanwhile the Sattelköpfle had been occupied by the half sections from 5, 6, and 7 Coys (19th RIR) thanks to the observation and determination of WO Wiehl with infantryman Bernstorf from 5th Coy. On 22 Feb 15, 19th RIR’s commanding officer personally took command of the attack on the Moenchberg and from 11.45hrs ordered an intense artillery barrage, by two guns from the Grauvogel battery which had been brought under extremely difficult conditions very close to their intended target, as well as howitzers and mortars of the Holländer detachment, which were subordinated to him. By 14.00hrs no enemy were left hiding in the trees. Indeed Lt Auffhammer’s 2nd Coy, Lt Kollmann’s 3rd Coy and Lt Keim’s machine gun section, which had all volunteered, reached the edge of the Moenchberg on the Brochacker side without loss or a shot being fired.
For the night of the 22 Feb 15, the Brigade had decided that the ruins of Widenthal and Bretzel would be used to quarter the Staff of 1st Bn (19th RIR) along with their 1st Coy and Stosswihr would house the Regimental Staff along with those from 1st and 2nd Bn (18th RIR) and 2nd Bn (22nd Inf Regt), but due to the fact that in this area the battle for Kilbel still raged, as was evidenced by the noise of battle, the commanding officer of the Regiment took the decision to remain in Munster with the Regimental troops. During the night Brigade let it be known that on the 23 Feb 15 a general attack was planned, involving elements of the Regiment, against the Soultzeren-Ampfersbach-Sattel line. To support this attack, commanded by General von Sprösser, the Regiment was required to detach a Battalion to be at Hohrodberg no later than 06.30hrs. The Regiment appointed (?)Lochner as the detachment commander which was to comprise; 1st Bn (19th RIR) located in Bretzel, and 1st Coy (18th RIR) and 3rd Coy (22 Inf Regt) from Munster. After this Battalion set off at 5am, having left 3rd Coy (22 Inf Regt) behind by mistake, the General Staff of the Regiment, who had had very little rest, also left Munster and arrived around 7.30am at the command post, used the day before, on the Reichackerkopf accompanied by the Staff from 1st Coy (18th RIR) and 3rd Coy (22 Inf Regt).

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