The text that
follows is from four small diaries kept by a Leutnant or Leutnant d. Res. In the I. Batln. Reserve Infanterie Regiment 16, 14. Reserve
spent the whole of 1916 at Verdun Sector.
very kindly helped decipher the Handwriting.
1st of January
The first night of the New Year.
Due to the
situation and the cold I was not able to sleep well. I thought to myself how
different this was to the New Year one year ago. For my family, especially my
dear wife it must have been a difference like day and night.
But getting up and getting dressed was much faster this year. Due to the
situation I slept fully clothed including boots and spurs. There had been no
chance to wash.
A soldier accepts such things and is simply happy to still be alive.
At 07:30 the company assembled and was tasked with shoveling/bailing out the
trenches up to the firing positions. This was necessary to avoid the flooding
of the newly dug bunkers.
A nice way to start the year, but it was OK, it was really OK, it was
absolutely OK. It was a labor of love.
The work was really wet, we were happy when the mud and water did not flow into
We four officers
drew lots to see which two would go eat first. Lt Zilles and I won and were
soon back in our bunker. Our “Batmen” had found something better (to eat) that
morning and it was at least warmed up.
At noon there was a celebration meal. You should have seen our parade boots.
The thick mud from last year was still in evidence.
As a meal we had Bouillon Soup, which was very good. Then goulash, potato and
spinach. The latter was so thin ... we had our suspicions…
Then we had rice with strawberries. The rice was rather hard and had us chewing
long after the meal. There was no beer; beer could be tapped only after 13:30. This bothered me less than it did
In the afternoon we got wet, it rained all the
time during the work. The men worked until 16:00.
At 17:00 the men got their meal. Semolina/Wheat with meat, no potato. In the
evening I did not go to the officers mess to eat, I preferred to stay in the
warm Bunker, making myself at home in my hole in the ground.
I wrote a postcard, my first sign of life this year. Then a surprise, two long
letters from my dear wife. My sister in law Helene also thanked me for my card.
My wife wrote
informing me that she thought about me a lot over Christmas and that the
distance between us would soon do serious damage to her (mental?) health. I
answered her with a long, calming letter.
I played a few nice songs on the mouth organ; well, maybe not that nice as I am
We were able to pass a nice evening; it shows that you can be happy in even the
smallest, poorest abode.
2nd January, Sunday
07:30 am to 16:30 pm
Work in the trenches. Inspected the positions.
Slept better, although still dressed for action. Off to work without washing
again today. The rain spared us in the morning. Was on the second shift for
lunch, bean soup, mutton, peas and compote. We get our ration and pay 1.70
marks extra a day to supplement the menu.
We had time off this afternoon. Spent the time writing to my dear family as I
had little time over the New Year. Unfortunately no mail today. Went to sleep
with the nice thought of mail from my dear wife.
In the night we hear the ceaseless droning of the artillery. It is far away,
but the ground transmits the rumbling of the shells.
Lay in until 08:30am as I did not have duty. Wrote some letters after breakfast
then went into the trench at 12:30. The 155 (Infanterie Regiment) had not
offered to share the kitchen of the Officers Mess so at 16:30 we ate in our
bunker. Our “Batmen” had prepared things as well as possible, rice soup from
the other ranks kitchen then chops with boiled potato, oranges, then coffee
with biscuits. It was very nice. We used a bed sheet as a tablecloth.
Mail call in the evening, a letter with 2 photos from my dear wife. I thought
about her and wrote her a letter. A note to my brother in law Heinrich. All the
time I glanced at the Photos of my wife and daughter.
After a reasonably good sleep I got up at 04:00am, had some coffee then went
out into the trench. At 12:30 lunch in the bunker, Cabbage soup, pork chop and
At 13.30 I went to Unterarzt Bührmann to report my toothache. Will be sent to
the Kriegslazarett at Montmedy.
At 13:45 my section marched to the rear, due to the mud we were relieved after
In the evening 4 letters from my dear wife, I sat down right away to answer
Early to bed, at least there is a bed tonight, although not that comfortable.
Leave for Montmedy to get my teeth done. Leave Crepion Station at 08:15, arrive
in Montmedy at 09:52. On the journey I see a man swimming… he has nerves!.
The castle in Luppy (Louppy) is apparently a site to see. It is just before the
fortress at Montmedy, which had been captured without an Artillery round being
fired. The commander then shot himself. He allowed his position to be taken by
surprise. There is a big military presence in Montmedy. It is a well laid out
town. The dentist practice, elegantly equipped, took me right away and after
half an hour I was finished. I needed work on 2 fillings. In the evening dinner
in the apartment of the Battalion commander (it doubled as a Kasino (Officers
Mess)). He had Herring Salad. It tasted very good, only down side was, it was
not prepared by my wife. After dinner I wrote another letter to my wife, then I
went to bed.
As we were to the rear I got the men working to improve a farm (?). During the
work I found a newspaper “Feldpost No 4”. This was the well known Newspaper
printed in France
and dropped by Balloons with the goal of attacking the morale of our troops.
The propaganda was not a success; it is all too easy to see through the lies.
We use similar methods to announce our victories to enemy soldiers and
civilians, but at least our articles are based on truth.
At lunch I try the other ranks meal. Cabbage with bacon, it tasted very good.
Later in the Kasino we had soup, roast, Spinach and potato. In the evening,
after dinner I am able (after a long time) to enjoy a fresh draught beer.
That evening the Company got a beer ration. Along with the company of Herr Bath
(Batln Commander ?) and other officers, I also watched card games.
Unfortunately another day without mail from my wife. In the hope I would get
mail in the morning I went to bed at 23:00.
Suddenly an order that two sections of each Company were to move to the front
lines. The 3rd section was to remain in the rest area. Because of our work on
the farm, we were to remain.
I changed my quarters, a positive change. I shared with Lt. Möllman and had a
living room and bed room.
At 14:00 the two sections left and I had an afternoon nap. At 5:00pm I washed
in the bath set up by the bakery column. A wash, soap and a towel cost 50
Now I wait longingly for the mail.
Tonight, for the first time in a long time, Herrings, Potato and butter.
Thought of my dearest during the meal. A pity that we could not eat together.
To my joy I got 2 letters from her.
Got up at 8:00am and had coffee.
Wrote a few letters, otherwise nothing special.
1. Secret orders (23rd January) from the 7. Reserve Armee Korps with 2 tasks.
1. Either to relieve a Corps holding trenches
2: Or to storm/attack positions in our present sector. Preparations in another
Unfortunately no mail. Regiment takes up quarters in X. I write a letter to my
06:45am wake up, 07:10am Coffee
07:30 into the trenches, a quiet day. Looked at the K.M.K.B. No8 (42) (Dicke
Bertha M Gerät) with a range of 9km. Has to be transported in 5 loads. Huge
wheels with “shoes” in order to make them 1m wide. So far in the war there has
never been such a one here.
Unfortunately no mail today, wrote another letter to my dear wife…. I end with
the thoughts I had at the depart in Welsede (25.01.1916 at 03:32am) “Sacred
duty takes me from your arms, but does not take you from my heart”
Tonight we study the just issued cards of the sector we are to attack in…
As we had eaten early in the evening I just ate some bread and had some carrot
juice from home. I had kept the tin ever since packing it by mistake (thought
it was milk) when leaving home on the 15th of August.
To bed at 11:00 pm and thought of my dear wife, kissed her photo, then lay down
Got up at 08:00, had breakfast, went with the Komp. Führer and Leutnant Möllman
through the positions. We had a look at „Namenloser Wald“, our objective in the
This afternoon the earth received a blanket of snow. I had the positions
cleaned a final time, it was supposed to be the end of the work here.
At dinner the battalion commander was informed that one company would not take
part in the assault. This company would remain and pump water out of the
bunkers and keep things in order. Hauptmann Raffloer (?) wanted to give this
task to the company of the oldest commander (Hauptmann Andre, but he refused.
In the end the 1st company was designated “pump-company” as its commander
already had the EK1.
In the evening, thank god, the first letter in 5 days, dated 3rd Feb. From my
dear wife. Wrote Willy a Birthday card for the 11.2.16.
Although we are just a few days before the attack I am quite content. Leutnant
Landzettel told me about the theater play „Taifun“. It was about the Japanese
Colony in Paris
and showed how much they honored and loved their country.
If that kind of spirit is in our troops, our endeavor will succeed.
Made the most of our sleep, we would only enjoy rest 2-3 more times. Goodnight
Today is the second last day in the position. The Unteroffizier are given their
orders. Unteroffizier Bergrath and Schröder are designated patrol leaders. I
was in a very good mood! With Lt Ostermann (Komp. Führer 3/16) I had two
wrestling matches and won both. This evening, a destructive urge, we destroyed
a French gramophone and burnt the pieces, it burned very well. We packed our
affairs as we were to leave at 7:00 for Reveille. From there we would move into
position for the attack. Wrote a letter to my dear wife.
Went to bed early to make the most of the sleep time.
Next day we set up Lt Ostermann’s Trench shield and our “Sturmgepäck”.
Good night my dear XXX and Marga (Wife and daughter?)
A letter from the 4th Feb from Wife,
06:00 wake up, 07:00 march to Reville (aux Bois). The Komp. is in a Hut, officers in a house.
11:30 Church service, the last before the assault. So far a day of rest. After
the service I rest for 2 hours, had not fallen asleep before 02:00am last
Wrote some lines to my dearest then went to bed as I was not in the best of
No duty today, the planned events delayed due to the weather. Wrote a number of
I was happy to receive 2 letters from my dearest, from the 6. and 7.Feb
Answered these right away.
At 5:00 pm roll call with assault kit. Received a letter from August, thought
of my dearest and wrote numerous letters.
Went to bed thinking of my dearest after kissing her photo. Could not sleep due
to snoring of a comrade.
13th Feb Sunday
In bed until 08:30, wrote some lines to my wife.
In the afternoon took a walk to look at the 30.5cm guns. We could not find
them. No mail today.
A boisterous evening in our house as a number of bottles of wine were emptied.
For the sober amongst us it was infuriating as it was impossible to sleep.
I went to see the 30.5cm artillery. The battery consists of one gun with 150
On the column road to Etraye about 100 stick grenades are found with the
handles screwed off. The I.R. 159 had passed this way on the night from 11.2 –
From 08:00 to 12:00 I watched over road work.
Was not in a good mood this afternoon. Not helped by a letter from my dear wife
which she wrote on the 11.2. She was felling depressed and was not feeling
My mood took a turn for the worse. Was not able to do anything constructive due
No Duty today.
Rifle inspection at 16:30.
The road from Reville to Livry has become a roaring stream.
Wrote letter and card to my wife. I hope they will arrive. Not in a good mood
this afternoon. No mail from my wife, just a card from brother in law.
Today three things from dear wife, Letter and card from 12.2 and letter from
13.2. last one interesting due to birth certificate and promotion to Leutnant.
Sent her letters from yesterday and today.
Afternoon 13:30 to 17:30 supervised road building. Upon return tea with Rum.
Then arrival of above mentioned post. After this my mood was better, wrote her
a few lines.
Morning walk to the company.
12:15 photographs by Dr. Lührmann, all officers of the battalion.
Then Lunch, prepared by Vinzenz, peasoup, roast, asparagus, potato, cherries.
13:00-17:00 roadwork. Hauptmann Andre had given the company extra work,
Vizefeldwebel Skötsch is under pressure.
Letter to Wife, Frau Schachmuth, Lichtenberg, august.
No mail from wife, just a card from Fritz.
Card from the wife 16.2.
08:30-12:30 Work on the access road.
16:00 assault pack inspection.
Did not write to my wife, instead read a book, “Reise zur deutschen Front” by
Ludwig Ganghofer. He describes his trip very nicely. The is no shortage of
quotes from the Kaiser, for example “Soldat und Bürger, die müssen einander
helfen, so gut sie können” (Soldiers and citizens must help each other as much
20th Feb Sunday,
A beautiful day.
08:00 church service with Father Klingenberg
13:00-17:15 work on the access road. Wrote a letter to my dear wife (he also
read parts of 2 books CB)
Going back to the
church service, the words of the priest hit close to home and energized us. If
the service eight days before the assault was the last. As I had left the
church I prayed that I would be able to go to many more church services, now
after 8 days I could hear Gods’ words again. May the Holy Spirit take our fates
in his hand and give us many more church services and church visits.
I played various hymns on my mouth organ. It will be the last night here in
Reville as it seems we will have good weather tomorrow. Wrote another long
letter before sleeping.
21st February, 1st Assault Day.
At 8:00am our Artillery greets us with their fire. It began slowly then after
an hour had become a steady drumfire. It was a steady rumble of thunder. It was
the sign that our Infantry assault would begin that evening. By 5:00pm the
Frenchmen will be crushed. From a height behind Reville I was able to watch the
clouds of smoke from the bombardment. The French artillery returns fire,
Crepion, Etraye and the surrounding area are hit. We are further behind these
towns and are not affected.
At 2:00pm the French artillery has set Damvillers alight. I have seen 11 aero
planes and 5 balloons. This evening, after the drum fire, we will attack. I am
convinced that when the Heeresleitung orders an attack, it will succeed. With
excellent leadership and Command and an enemy taken by surprise. The Infanterie
Regiment 159 has to attack the Haumont-wald in the evening. After the fall of
Haumont, our regiment will take over and continue the push to “Namenlose
Wäldchen” (Nameless Copse) and Namenlose Ravine by daybreak.
As we advance we hear that Haumont is in our possession. We march 12 hours
through the night Etraye – Antonius Kreuz – Moirey Wald.. through our old
trenches. In Etraye the church bell sounded 4:00am.. a strange feeling. Due to
the bad weather we advanced rather slowly.
At 6:00 we reached open ground. Soon bullets were flying past us. Moving
through the Haumont Wald we soon took “Namellose Wald” (II. Batl ran into us),
Barrage gives a bad feeling. French trapped behind it, surrender without
22nd Feb 1916 (2nd Assault Day)
Already one night spend outside.
Spent some hours this morning under heavy artillery fire. Many losses. 4 Dead
and 12 wounded. (Untffz. Hahnefeld, only son of his old mother)
1. Komp. Leutnant Kettler seriously wounded – jaw shot, tongue split in two
2. Offiz.Stellvetr. Hilgers “Blockwurst Anton” Eye shot, serious case.
3. Vizefeldw. Berlin-
shot in the back
The whole area has been churned up by our artillery and has French barbed wire
running through it. Death seemed close at hand when the French artillery fired
their barrages. Shelter in a shell hole or other cover was desperately sought.
More than a few comrades died out here.
When the French artillery died down and it became lighter the battalion
assembled in the ravine.
10:00am assault on the positions 53-54.
I am sent off with 10 men on an officer’s patrol to see to which extent the
positions are still occupied and to check the possibility of occupying heights
As soon as we started cutting the barbed wire French machine gun bullets
whizzed overhead. As we advanced artillery fell in the tree line as well. I
reached the objective with just one man, (Reservist Becker). One man had been
shot in the head and lay on his face.
With Reservist Becker I sent a message back, soon two companies of the
battalion arrived and took height 58-59. We right away dug in to protect
ourselves from the shellfire. The French were firing Shrapnel and explosives.
23.FEB.1916 3rd Assault day
A cold night behind me
Alternating between 15 Minutes sitting, 15 minutes walking. Lt Landzettel and I
warmed each others backs.
09:30 heavy artillery fire during coffee break. A number of wounded. Through
forest – barbed wire – Height – Artillery fire.
Assault on Brabant
Many prisoners approach through barrage on Lamouilly and behind. As we dig in
to protect from artillery fire we are ordered to stand down. Leave for the
Jäger-quelle. Share a bed with Lt Landzettel for an hour.
Leave for Reville.
Arrive very tired
The planned inspection by the Divisions Commander is cancelled
11:00 march over Damvillers-Moirey-Flabas- Caures Wald 500m behind French
frontline, arrive about 05:30 set up tents.
The Headquarters of His majesty the Crown Prince arrive in Automobile through
Damvillers. There was much traffic, too much for the road. I counted 12
Aeroplanes, Flabas surrounded by artillery. Soon after Flabas we pass the long
positions taken by the 155 (I.R.)
On the edge of the Caures Wald the first French positions. Here it was possible
to see the wonders of war.
Our artillery had caused craters 10m wide and 6m deep. The dead lay all around,
including a young Leutnant with his whole group. Here the 87 (I.R.) had been
the brave ones. It is a picture of sorrow that I will never forget. In the
French 2nd line a machine gun had operated until the last moment. This
murderous weapon had made the advance of our 87 (I.R.) very difficult.
It was freezing in the tents tonight; I did not sleep a single minute.
This morning we survey the destruction caused by the assault. The French
cemetery is nothing in comparison to German Military cemeteries.
“Feuerflammen” (Flamethrowers) were used to smoke out here as well
Fetched the battalions Rum, Tea. In the afternoon received stoves and coal. It
is obvious that the high command thinks of everything.
For the officers a high tent with stoves was set up. This evening it was warm
and comfortable. After dark we ate then rested. Leutnant Möllmann hat set up
the officer’s tent.
Arrive in Caures Wald, Lt Landzettel gives me coffee, for which I am grateful.
Then a meal.
Tents are set up.
10:30 shaved by the company barber (55) (years old?)
Then time for the big wash-up, first time in 14 days. Clean clothing, feel like
a different person.
02:00 A Meal,
In the evening Glühwein to celebrate the E.K.s
unfortunately we could not spend the whole night in the warm tent. At 02:15am
the order came to pack the tents, we would march out at 6:00am. At 03:00 new
orders came, depart at 04:00 over Beaumont
Because of the mud and the wagons it was difficult to advance. During a short
rest Hauptmann Groth of IR informs us four of the forts are in our hands. Two
of the bridges in Verdun
have been blown up. The news was good medicine for the morale. The way forward
was littered with the dead, especially at a bend in the road where carriages
-French ambulances-, then an Artillery battery had been caught in the fire.
Just before Vacherauville we turned left, through a ravine, then in groups,
quickly up the slope to the front line positions. The 3rd section and other
three companies were not able to advance through the heavy artillery fire.
We were relieving the 81. I.R. which had to remain until nightfall, it was
impossible to leave the positions by day. During the day we dug new positions
in the forest. My section was the furthest forward. We were under constant
artillery fire and had 6 wounded in the battalion.
In the evening the Captain gave me the order to take an officers patrol and
find the enemy lines in the direction of Bras. The patrol lasted from 06:00pm
to 09:00pm and we came back safe and sound.
Even after our return there was no sign of coffee from the field kitchen. We
had had nothing all day. We had marched off this morning without coffee. At
about 11:00pm, thank God, coffee arrived. One of the men had fetched it from
the field kitchen.
Today one of our comrades, the Battalion Dr. Unterarzt Bührmann was wounded in
Had a night like never before.
As I had left my coat behind when I had gone out on patrol, and my batman had
not come forward with me, I had to spend the night in the trench with just a
I had to squat the whole night, could not go out as we were under constant
artillery fire. So, along with the uncomfortable position and the freezing
cold, we had to accept the fact that each of the incoming shells could have our
name on it. The mud was flung into our trench and faces; the trench itself was
not deep enough as it had been hastily dug.
How long this night was for us it is easy to imagine. Thank God for the dawn
and keeping us alive during the night.
Unfortunately we suffered losses today, a number of brave soldiers wounded and
to our great dismay our Battalion Commander was critically wounded, loosing
both legs and having shell splinters in his throat and head. Unfortunately
there was no Doctor or stretcher bearers available.
A man with First Aid knowledge announced that it was no use bandaging the
wounds. Hauptmann Raffloer was fully conscious and requested that he simply be
carried to the rear. He was carried through the ravine and over the dangerous
height in a Shelter half. We are totally cut off, by day we can not move at
all, and by night just at the risk of our lives.
A few hours later the Hauptmann was dead. A dapper and brave soldier.
His batman had taken a direct hit and was of course killed outright.
He too was a fine
man, 34 years old, happily married with a 5 year old son. It is difficult to
comprehend how rapidly their lives were snuffed out. After this the enemy
artillery fire died down, ours was relatively quiet as well.
Suddenly we received orders, the enemy was about to attack, we were ready, but they
did not come.
Last night we were told that the enemy was to attack. We stood ready, but were
then able to stand down. We had arranged ground sheets over the simple trenches
and could at least rest sitting down.
At 11:00 the soup arrived, already cold, as was the tea with rum, the only
ration we see.
We are happy to get anything at all to drink, even if cold.
This evening the artillery was not as strong as yesterday night.
Last night was relatively quiet and I was able to get an hours sleep.
Today we got the first mail in 5 day<s and I was able to mail off a card.
Wife, one card from 22.2 and 2 letters 22.2. and 24.2. 1 card from Friederich
24.2 and one from Offz. Stellv. Lichtenberg 25.2. From August (brother) a food
parcel which pleased me no end. Wrote a card to wife and gave it to the
Wrote a letter to wife to answer hers.
No coffee this morning. We are happy enough just to have water. Such is war. At
home when you have a cold you should not drink cold liquids, in war there is only
In our present position food has to be fetched from the field kitchen after
dark, it is half an hour away. By the time the soup or coffee arrives, it is
cold. The kitchen and food wagons are under artillery fire on the road, the
French know that we must go out at night to fetch rations and lively artillery
fire is the result.
This afternoon at 3:00 we have some lively artillery fire. 1 dead and 3 badly
wounded. The other companies also have wounded. The men were wounded just next
to me. Between the dead and wounded lay one man who escaped without a scratch.
He had been a bit more sheltered by the trench. We also established at an
Ersatz Reservist Kuckuck had been killed here by artillery on the 28.2.
And so the French artillery wiped out human life. That night we dug in deeper.
One does what one can to preserve ones life. After dark tonight we had heavy
artillery fire again, on top of that we shivered in the frost.
The men fetching the rations were caught in the heavy fire, luckily none were
Last night was terribly cold and uncomfortable, lack of place meant men lay
half on each other. Slept maybe an hour. One wonders how 5 nights without sleep
are possible, but we thank God for allowing us to live through it. Every 12 hours
I pray and thank him.
It is a relief to be able to move each morning.
This morning there was no coffee again, the field kitchen had to move to the
rear to fetch water. That we had not been able to wash, take off our boots or
change underwear for 8-14 days is nothing new. That is a bagatelle, main thing
is to be healthy and with the troops.
Today from 10:00 – 16:00 heavy French and German artillery fire. The shells
exploded just in front and behind our positions with terrible detonations. It
gave me a headache. Towards evening, thank God, it quieted down. That improved
the spirits. In spite of the heavy fire, no one was injured.
Tonight a letter from Heinrich, at 22:00 the soup and a flask of coffee
arrives. This is for the whole day as rations arrive just once a day.
Send a letter to my wife. Was rather down tonight and thought a lot of home.
Hopefully I will get some sleep.
Relatively quiet and managed to sleep a few hours. In the early morning the
trenches are still narrow and cold. Leutnant Hitzegrad 2./R.16 is wounded in
the foot and carried to the aid post on a stretcher.
Had our trenches/positions cleaned up.
Wrote a letter to Heinrich. Was named battalion Trench officer, responsible for
upkeep and improvement as well as ideas for drainage.
Heavy Artillery in the afternoon, thank god no losses.
As darkness fell the lines of communication come under fire, the ration and
ammunition columns suffer heavy losses and cannot get through. There was
nothing warm to eat today.
2 Letters from dear wife received, from 23. and 27.02. My dear is well again.
This makes me happy. My dear wife says she will do what she can to please her
Leutnant Zillaer returns to the Company back from his Officers course. Leutnant
Büsche was lightly wounded on the return march and did not even see the
Last night heavy artillery fire. At 06:00 am we had soup as my Batman had been
stuck at the kitchen during the night. Unfortunately the Company got nothing.
The company prolonged the battalion trench, tonight as much of it as possible
will be manned. A screen was set up to hide our rear area from the Frenchmen.
Had shooting bays dug in the trench walls, the men standing in them would be
better protected from the artillery and passage through the trench would be
A French patrol had managed to slip between our Schützenschleier (Forward
posts) and the trench. When challenged, a Frenchman answered in broken German.
An Unteroffizier called out to them in French, they should surrender or we fire.
They did not respond and disappeared in the night.
At 06:30 the Pioniers arrive to dig hand grenade bays. During the night Lt
Hardt was killed and Lt Specht wounded. At 10:00 it looked as if the enemy
wanted to launch a counter attack but a patrol of ours broke into the French
trench in front of us, captured 40 men and pushed the others back. The patrol
then pushed further and captured 100 men and 20 officers, then waited here in
the trench until the artillery died down, and then move on. That is the
offensive spirit of the French! An enemy patrol under an Aspirant approaches
our position. Our patrol throws a grenade and kills the leader. The other 16
men abandon their weapons and run away. Artillery fire all day long. Today we
put out barbed wire in front of the forward positions as we are expecting a
counter attack early tomorrow morning. Leutnant Wolf of Pionier Battalion 7
puts out the barbed wire, I showed him around. The French field artillery in
the form of the so called „Kurze Gustav“ (Short Gustav) followed our movements.
The shells arrived so fast that one had no time to take cover, with other
artillery there was about 7 seconds between the shot and the arrival of the
shell. The shells did not cause major damage but exploded causing many
To may great delight I received 3 letters from my wife. 25.02, one without date
Rather quiet today.
Communications trenches dug as well as new flanking trenches.
Preparation for relief in the evening (6th Company). The relief was to take
place after nightfall. At 4:00 the companies of the II Batl arrive. It was hard
to carry out a good relief in the dark. The II. Zug (Section) was the last to
be relieved. There was a need to hurry as they had to cross the heights before
daybreak as the French artillery was very active.
Wrote a letter to my
Relieved last night at 04:00 by II./16
From 28.II 07:00am until now there were 4 dead and 8 wounded in the company.
Other Companies had more (losses). (Hauptmann Raffloer.)
Last night no Glühwein, no red wine. (Today) drank a bottle of red wine.
Pleasantly warm. Sleeping quarters, slept well but acid reflux in the morning.
06:00 orders to get ready. Depart at 11:00. Only 1 day of rest. 10:00 mealtime,
11:00 depart for the Regimentsschlucht. Upon reaching Beaumont distribution of hand grenades and
bullets. Exchanged a Kalipatrone (?). Everyone is heavily laden. Right turn
along the Kolonenweg, over the heights. In the forest a shell explodes 5m in
front of the company. Two wounded. Hadeln in the eye, Barusch in the abdomen.
Cover in the ravine. Then over the heights. All high ground and depressions
covered in shell hole after shell hole.
Under fire again. In ravine our 21cm Mörser fire. Hear and see. “Marsch.Marsch”
(Double time) over the crossing. Terrible sights, countless dead horses and
03:00 the Regimentsschlucht under French Artillery fire. The planned assault is
delayed by a day.
16 Artillery pieces captured at Douaumont.
A warm place found at the 7th Pioniers, the company digs in.
By the 5.II 115 Artillery pieces and 161 machine guns captured.
Five strong French attacks beaten off with heavy losses. Many prisoners, much
Letter from dear wife, 5.III.16
Little sleep. Cold. Infantry and machine gun fire.
At dusk the field kitchen brings coffee.
At 12:00 ready to march. Attack postponed as Left wing not far enough forward.
In the night heavy artillery. 2. Komp has 3 dead, Pioniers 8 wounded. They are
in a more dangerous position than we are.
It is a terrible chaos. It is memories and hope that keep us alive.
At least some warm soup. Field Kitchen under fire. As it is cramped everyone
has to lie on their side.
04:00 orders, 04:45 ready for combat, then stand-down.
Rations arrive at dusk, thank God. I drink coffee.
Wrapped my feet, lay down.
02:00 pm in position, trenches filthy
1 Card from wife.
In the evening heavy artillery fire
Hauptmann Feierabend badly wounded, Blank lightly wounded.
Bursche and a number of others killed.
04:30 man the trench. 2. and 3. Company back.
Hauptmann Andre acting Battalion commander (Bataillonsführer)
Evening in positions, freezing, heavy artillery and mortar fire because of our
Ordered the men to dig/improve positions.
06:00 hand grenade attack by R/16. Unfortunately no great success. More dead
and 30 – 40 wounded due to heavy artillery.
Bösel, father of 3, killed.
At 08:00am relieved by 1/16, filthy from head to toe.
Report about the Leutnant Möhlmann pump affaire.
Our field kitchen with 4 horses runs away due to artillery fire, not yet found.
Field kitchen found safe and sound in Fay Wäldchen (Copse)
Leutnant d. Res Ruhstadt joins Company.
04:00 am, 2 Company relieved. II Section is left flank of Regt.
Beautiful weather, wrote a number f letters.
Minenwerfer to our left is firing, getting the range. Afterwards the quiet
moment was over. French artillery is searching for our Minenwerfer. They did
not find them, but fired on our left flank. Have never before seen such intense
fire. Unteroffizier Barras and his group in the advanced lookout Sap white with
shock. A never before experienced intensity.
10 German planes in the air at once.
A dogfight as the dashing lads chase each other.
Towards evening it quieted down. If the Minenwerfer had not fired the day would
have been calm. The night stayed calm and we could recover from the long hours
of the day. Thank God all went well. A shell had landed 1m away from me. It
half buried some people (none wounded), but I was just showered with clods and
At 03:00 checked the positions.
At 06:00am relieved by the 1/16. covered from top to bottom with mud. Rest,
nice weather. A few letters to the wife, Heinrich and Friedrich, Card to August.
Orders received, we will be relieved by I.R. 159 after 1 month in the mud. We
will go to Champneuville. If it will be restful, we shall see.
Our relief (9./
I.R. 159) is here, but we have no orders to leave so we spend the 8th to 14th
June in the Regiments Schlucht.
Return Oberleutnant von Pelzer von Mühlheim.
II. Batl before us had 65 casualties. A Small Cemetery
started. III: Batl. has 200 casualties.
Thought of my dear wife
At last at 10 past midnight order for 4th Comp to follow rest of Battalion
(Movement by whole Batl instead of Company). Big detour and many delays. Via
crossing on height 344. Under Fire, further delays. Losses in 2. Komp. Everyone
moves as fast as possible to get out of fire zone, exhausting (Sweaty) work.
Arrival Champneuville at 4:00 am more artillery fire. Battalion Führer Lt.
Schröder leaves us at Kottett (?)-Mühle. (Men from ?) 2. and 3. Komp get
Billets. Our Führer/guides did not appear, had to find our way alone. At 04:15
we find the place, mostly burned down. Quarters in the cellars, II. Züg
(Section) in bomb proof bunker. After a while at least the officers had beds.
At 05:00 am we are able to lay down. Aaah what a difference, yesterday in a
trench, today a French bed.
In Bed, 10:00am Coffee, at 11:00am a Korporal from my section gives me
Reibekuchen to eat.
There was no point getting up as we were not allowed out by day due to Ariel
observation, and the bed was an attractive place to be.
As security 1 Unteroffizier and 8 men along the canal. In the frontline the III.
/16 under Major Buchholz.
Not much to tell about yesterday, a French balloon broke from its moorings and
the observer had to jump with a parachute, a risky business, I do not know if
As the balloon disappeared a men joked that he was looking in his wallet to pay
In the afternoon haircut and shave.
A shell lands near the entrance and stones flew around me. Luckily no injuries.
Have my hair cut and shave, then lay down to enjoy the bed again.
Get up at 10:00am, good wash with warn water. Get the Bunker squared away and
harmonious. Lt Zilles plays such good music that we pass the hat around. My
dear wife writes she has been depressed for 2 days as she has had no news from
me. Someone seems to have said that I had been killed.
Marga (daughter?) is very cute and this makes her even more depressed.
It reminds me of our wonderful time together and makes me think of the golden
future for us three. Hopefully I will return safely !!
Today I look around the village. The Farming tools lying around remind me of
home. In the ruins there are potatoes, hay and grain. Looking along the road,
one gets an eerie feeling. Dreary and deserted. We could not go out due to the
Enemy airplanes (artillery observers). We are prisoners in our bunker, made
worse by the pleasant weather.
Tactically we are under the command of Major Buchholz. Today we have to fetch
wooden beams from the quarry at Brabant for
the III. Batl. We have dinner and leave at 10.45 PM. We go along the canal. The
moonlight would be wonderful if it were not for the French shells. Lots of
trees lay across the canal as both sides had trees planted along them. It made
me think of doing my rounds in Mühlheim, accompanied by my wife.
At one minute past midnight Lt. Ruhstadt is congratulated for his birthday.
What a pity there was not a brewery instead of a woodpile. At 04:20 am we
We could sleep peacefully. The Jäger bataillon 5 lost 1 Hauptmann and 30 men to
one shell on the march to Chivry.
Today Champneuville is under fire, a French munitions dump in the area
Visit from Lt. Schöne, J. Pionier. Play songs on the Harmonium, write some
The men search the village for items, They find all kinds of items, often
leaving them so that the others can find something as well.
Oberleutnant Grothe (?)
18.III.16 Fathers Birthday
After Coffee we get mail.
1 Package with cake
1 Letter from wife and Heinrich
Cake baked for Aunt Lina’s birthday, I enjoy it for father’s birthday. An Uffz.
from my section picks the first flowers of the year. Got red wine, toasted the
birthday boy. Played more music on the requisitioned Harmonium. All happened by
coincidence on my fathers birthday.
Also a toast to Aunt Lina as I had been happy to quench my thirst during the
heavy fighting on her birthday (?)
Of course, I also enjoyed a cigar to celebrate the day. Visit by
Oberarzt Dr. Aus dem Brusch, Assitenzarzt Dr. Büsche and Leutnant Schöne
It was relatively quiet today.
Dr. Aus dem Brusch informs that the III. Batl has had 200 losses in the
Regimentsschlucht. Our company lost just one man, we had arrived last, but had
the safest area. Emil Buchholz (A batman) made pork roast. It lacked spices,
but still tasted very good. Unfortunately made with salted meat, so rather
salty. Although I like soup, I did appreciate the change. The potatoes were
very good as well. Luckily there was enough coffee as it made one thirsty.
From 10:30 pm to 03:00 we dig new positions. Wonderful moonlight, makes me
think of my dear wife. At 03:00 I go to bed with a warm glow, thinking of my
wife. Good night my dear!
12 April 1916
12:00 – 08:00 Afternoon, observation officer
Very bad weather today. In our sector very quiet and both sides recover from
the attacks in the last few days. In the are of the Toten Mannes (Mort-Homme)
there is lively Artillery fire and infantry attacks.
13. April 16
Same as usual
14. April 16
In the night 12:30 relieved by 6/16 and we become Brigade Reserve. As we pass
Samogneux it is heavily shelled, as is the road. Take up the same quarters as
we had last time. Lots of mail today. Wifey, Father, Aunt Line, 2 parcels. Of
course I wrote a letter to my beloved and so the day passed quite well.
15. April 16
Nothing special to report.
I gave orders to assemble captured material. In the old French positions
(Height 344) a lot of leather equipment, backpacks, rifles and ammunition. Also
had the Empty tins collected.
18. April 16
Today, apparently 40 batteries each fired 600 shells on the positions Douaumont
– Pfeffer Rücken, which in the afternoon was attacked by the 13th
Div and a Div of the 10. Res. Korps. 1.5km was gained and 3 000 prisoners and a
number of machine Guns were captured.
At 04:00 the Protestant men marched to Flabas for a religious service.
(Division Chaplain Klingenburg had a nice sermon). Afterwards he asked me to
take some Leaves and rushes with for Easter.
Some lively enemy artillery fire in our ravine today, one dead man and two dead
Today at 05:30 we leave for delousing at Crepion. Leutnant Schmitz (Commandant
of the village) looks after us rather well. Unterartzt Bührmann is there and in
the afternoon he reports back to the battalion, recovered from his leg wound.
Had lunch with Lt. Schmitz, better than the field kitchen food.
The bath does me very well. When we march back we are able to examine the old
battlefield. We observe how very well the Haumont Wald had been prepared by the
French, but then totally churned up by German shells.
The Catholic Soldiers then have a service.
In Crepion there are different field hospitals, mainly head wounds, stomach
wounds, chest wounds, kept here until they can be transported.
A young volunteer has a bad head wound, the poor lad is crying bitterly. He is
being comforted by a doctor who strokes his cheek and tells him all will be
well. Later he says that he cannot be saved and will be dead within 24 hours.
Here in the hospital they let wounds heal openly. The wounds were not bandaged,
instead covered with a net (and plaster of Paris and Gauze). Many of the
wounded were smoking cigarettes.
It is worth mentioning, on the march back, after seeing the terrible sights,
including another hospital on the Southern edge of Haumont, there was no
Under the pouring rain the French Artillery were pounding the Toten Mann.
Terrible for men to be wounded in such bad weather.
A doctor tells me that 40% of such head wounds could be avoided if helmets were
worn instead of caps. I also saw 2 horses that had been Killed in front of
their wagon while I was at Crepion.
I found the events of the day very depressing.
Today the sector of the 2. and 3. company were fired on and they suffered
numerous losses. At 11:00pm we marched into the line at Bras. Taking detours
along the canal we only arrive at 01:30am. It was, thank God, a quiet night. I
enjoyed the fact that I was responsible for securing the line right under the
nose of the enemy. I personally made connection with the I./159 to our left in
our old positions on the Pfefferrücken. I was very tired as I had had to carry
my own pack. Once the position was secure, another officer (Lt. Zilles) took
over and I followed the communication trench back to the officers bunker in a
cellar in the flattened village
During the relief the company suffered no losses, the 3. Komp.
suffered a number in the Kain Ravine (Schlucht)
Komp Cote Talu, 2. Komp.
Komp 1 Zug 2./16 (2./16 2 Officers/16 men) between Vacherauville and Bras
14, a Marine-Kanonengeschütz 3,7 Kaliber, can fire 80 grenades a minute, so
better than a machine gun. The commander (Lt. Klein) is quartered with us.
Today heavy artillery fire on Vacherauville. In the evening by the kitchen one
of the new Ersatz (Replacements) is killed by a shell. As the cauldron was
caught in the blast we had to wait until 02.00am for our bean soup.
An officer from the 10./16 tells us that an Unteroffizier Patrol was captured
by the French. They simply called in German “Halt, Hände Hoch”. One man who was
a bit behind the others could escape.
Today securing the Meuse/Maas, 1 Uffz. (Reimers) and 3 men badly wounded by a
shell on their way back. There are no guards on the Meuse
during the day.
At the kitchen5 men are wounded, one killed.
As we could not move all day, stuck in the cellar with no warm food and cold
coffee, the mood was not too good, even when thinking of home.
I wrote a letter to my dearest, and my mother, but could barely find the words.
The big Easter meal will take place tomorrow at 1:00am
Unteroffizier Reimers bleeds to death without regaining consciousness. He had
lost a foot and had a bad knee injury.
The Driver of the provisions wagon arrives and informs that the field kitchen
(30Ltr) is stuck in a shellhole a half an hour away in the Cotletter Mühle.
And there we leave our Brave Leutnant.... ration wagon stuck in a shellhole...
on the edge of maybe the worst battlefield of the year....
Maybe someone can figure out who he was, and where he went from here....