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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.