Monday, January 27, 2014

The Importance of the Kleinkopf

On my first visit to the Linge battlefield I confined my walk to a circuit that took in the Linge spur and museum, the Schratzmännele (1045m) and associated quarries, and the French and German cemeteries at Wettstein and Hohrod respectively. On my latest visit (2013) I decided to investigate the southern end of the battlefield between Hohrodberg and the Schratzmännele. My route started in the car park on the D581 just north of Hohrodberg.

Car Park on the D581 just North of Hohrodberg.
Post 1915 German Concrete Bunker

From here I took a path marked by a post 1915 German concrete bunker and climbed slowly north along the lower west facing slopes of the Kleinkopf and Barrenkopf heading to a farmhouse at Glasborn on the western edge of the shell cratered ‘prairie’ meadow. The ‘prairie’ area was used as a step-off point for many of the French attacks directed at the southern half of the German Linge-Kleinkopf line in 1915. On the upper slopes of the Kleinkopf within the long grass it was possible to discern the remains of the German front line.

At the farmhouse I headed east across the still cratered ‘prairie’ to a tree line at a point known in 1915 as ‘La Courtine’. Here along the tree line you can see the outline of the French and German front line trenches, no more than 10 metres apart at this point.

‘La Courtine’
View West across the meadow (prairie)

From ‘La Courtine’ I turned left (north east) and followed the path taking the left fork to climb the Schratzmännele via the west facing ‘small’ Schratz quarry.

Steep slope to the small Schratzmännele quarry
The small Schratzmännele quarry
Bunker at the top of the small Schratzmännele quarry

From the top of the ‘small’ Schratz quarry the path climbs through the trees, skirting the ‘large’ Schratz quarry on the right (south east) and a German trench line on the right, to the summit of the Schratzmännele.

Top of the ‘large’ Schratzmännele quarry
German trench line on the Schratzmännele

At the summit of the Schratzmännele it is possible to turn north and follow a path down to the Collet du Linge, the route taken in the opposite direction by the French (54th B.C.A.) on 20 July 1915 during their initial assault on the Linge – Kleinkopf line. I continued north east and descended to the German military cemetery (Hohrod) located at Baerenstall.

Hohrod German cemetery
Hohrod German cemetery

After visiting the cemetery I retraced the path west back towards the Schratzmännele taking the left fork to skirt around its southern slopes back to ‘La Courtine’. From here I followed the path south across the Barrenkopf weaving my way through shell cratered woodland replete with German trench lines, bunkers and observation posts.

Barrenkopf trench architecture
Barrenkopf trench architecture
Continuing south through the trees, passed the remains of the Kleinkopf bunker complex and observation posts, the path narrows and skirts around the last promontory on the Kleinkopf spur before opening onto the pasture land first visible from the bunker at the start of the walk.

Kleinkopf bunkers and observation post
Kleinkopf bunkers and observation post
Only when standing on the open hillside of the Kleinkopf (940m) did I really begin to appreciate the importance to both the French and Germans of the Linge – Kleinkopf line. The Kleinkopf dominates the approaches to Munster from the Northern side of the Feche valley and if captured by the French, much like the Reichsackerkopf (778m) to the West, would have unhinged the German defences around Munster in 1915.

Overlooking Munster from the Kleinkopf
Looking up at the Kleinkopf from Munster