Wednesday, February 15, 2012

19th Royal Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment – Pt 10

Back to Part 9
28 April 1915 - Steinabrück - Anlasswasen - Sondernach line
That same evening orders arrived outlining a reorganisation of 15th Brigade, this was carried out at night between 26 – 28 Apr 15. The result was that the Braunkopf sector - 830 - Sommerlitt was occupied by 18th RIR, Steinabrück - Anlasswasen - Sondernach by 19th RIR, and Landersbach - Hilsenfirst by 14th ‘Chasseurs’ Battalion. For the Regiment this change brought better weeks as the enemy activity on their new front was minimal and the arrival of spring in their Alpine site, still largely untouched by war, was magnificent and softened the atmosphere and boosted confidence. Dark forests of fir trees alternated with flowered meadows, crossed clear brooks leaping towards the valley. The stay at Sondernach – Landersbach, both occupied by a population with its fundamentally German nature and habits, in well arranged shelters was to some extent a holiday, moderated however by the gravity of the present situation and the concern for the future.
1st Bn (19th RIR) had the responsibility for defending the steep slope east of the Wurmsa brook up to height 955 [3], which also included the top of the Anlass. 2nd Bn (19thRIR) had the side passing by Pfliegle-Winterhagel up to but not including Ahwäldle. But on the peak 3rd Coy and 5th Coy (19th RIR) rotated frequently. The General Staff of 1st and 2nd Bn’s (19th RIR) joined their districts at Metzeral and Sondernach. The Commanding officer of the Regiment was housed at this last location in a none-descript house on the main street. The splendid Immer villa had been reserved to him, but taking into account its location, the fact that it had been previously occupied by the commander in chief of the subdivision who at nightfall had habitually lit up the house with electric lights without closing the shutters, which meant that on all the neighbouring heights the guns aimed at Sondernach were attracted like a magnet to the villa, led him to chose more modest quartering. This choice was justified when a few days later shells burst on the villa.
Another no less important measure, taken during the night of 29 Apr 15, was a movement forwards by the left wing of 6th Coy and all of 8th Coy (19th RIR) out of the bottom of the valley towards the western edge of Winterhagel. This movement stopped the enemy from getting undetected within 150m of the road by using the cover of the trees and then appearing suddenly in Sondernach. This concern had obviously gone unnoticed by our predecessors, the valorous skiers, and was for a long time the subject of much amusement to us. This stay in the Metzeral-Sondernach sector lasted until the 16th May 15, during which time an enormous amount of work was put into consolidating the defensive line that passed hills and valleys through rocky ground and dense trees and kept our patrols intensely busy. The Regiment remembered especially the 3 May 15 when at 10pm the great victory on the eastern front was celebrated with music, chiming bells, artillery fire and three cheers by all the troops occupied or at rest from 6th Division, the Landwehr Battalion and the 8th Reserve Bavarian Division; the 4 May 15 in the morning when out of the fog in-front of 1 Coy (19th RIR) came an important enemy supply column with 9 mules that was swept with heavy fire; the next three days when heavy shells fell on Steinabrück and mainly destroyed the factory which was there; but above all the morning of the 7 May 15 when the French bombarded height 830 with large calibre shells for several hours, and from 14.00hrs also shelled height 955 [3] and the positions above Pfliegle, followed at 18.00hrs by an infantry attack which was pushed back by 4th Coy (19th RIR) along with 18 ‘Chasseurs’ from 14th Battalion and 3rd Coy (19th RIR) with heavy enemy losses.
On the 11 May 15 at 20.00hrs the advanced listening post of 3rd Coy (19th RIR), 80m above the front line towards height 1025 that since 7 May 15 had been occupied by the French, was to be retaken following a light preparatory bombardment by the Danzer Artillery Battery and a rocket launcher. Lt Wichmann from 2nd Coy (19th RIR) was given command of the attacking troops which comprised 3 groups of infantry and 7 pioneers. Due probably to a listening post, the enemy trenches when attacked were very strongly held and despite the bravery of Lt Wichmann and his men the operation failed. Taking into account the amount of enemy fire which lasted without weakening from 20.00 to 23.30hrs and extended from Sillackerwasen to height 830 the loss of 1 dead WO and 5 infantrymen and 1 wounded pioneer were surprisingly light. Although this operation had been known about since the day before one of our Companies required its resupply column of 6 beasts of burden to join them at Anlasswasen by 18.00hrs. On arriving at its objective the column found itself right in the middle of the fire fight that had broken out. Naturally the columns guides and handlers immediately took cover leaving the mules resting quietly in place. That only one of the animals was injured, being shot in the leg, during the whole three and a half hours was nothing short of a miracle.
16 May 1915 - Relief
During the early morning of the 15 May 15 the Commanders and Officers of the 39th Rudolf Reserve Prussian Infantry Brigade and the 73rd RIR arrived by foot and car. During the night of the 16 May 15 between midnight and 06.00hrs these units relieved practically all the troops from the 8th Bavarian Reserve Division committed in the Fecht valley surprisingly without a single loss. Except for Lt Grau’s machine gun section which remained in position and certain Officers who remained in the rear the 19th RIR arrived during the morning of the 17th May 15 at their quarters in Horbourg, Bischwihr and Fortschwihr. Thus finished a four month campaign, not only rich in work, emotions, deprivations and combat, but also in success. It would be unforgivable to forget the enormous efforts demanded by this four month stay in this mountainous terrain, partially in snow and ice, by all those who belonged to the Regiment; the medical officers and nurses, the two chaplains Pasteur Eichler and father Rupert Mayer, and finally the equipment and supply officers (Ebert and Grauvogel) as well as their warrant officers and troops. It was certainly their energy, their devotion and spirit of friendship under the fire of the shells in the night and the fog, the storm and the rain, which made it possible for the front line troops to hold.
Next: “Part 2: 1 Jul 1915 to 12 Jul 1916”

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