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The 110th Grenadiers at Verdun, 1917

After the French offensive in December 1916 the front line on the East bank at Verdun ran from Beaumont to the high ground between Ornes and Bezonvaux.

The 28. Inf. Div. arrived in the Verdun sector in January 1917 to participate in what the history of the Grenadier Regiment 110 called one of “the most enjoyable periods” of the war.

For maps and photographs of the area in which the grenadiers fought, please go HERE

Below Right: Shoulder Strap Of Emil Engert's shredded Waffenrock with a sheet of iron from one of the bunkers in the sector where he was killed.

“The Caurrieres Wald was in enemy hands, the dominating Height 432 to the North of Bezonvaux and 431 (Vaux Kreuz Heights) were held after heavy fighting. This had left its traces all over the battlefield, there were few bomb proof bunkers, the lines of communication were dangerous and the positions to the rear at the Rauchlager and Mangiennes were rudimentary. The cold made itself felt as there were not enough ovens. There were no cooking facilities in the trenches so the field kitchens had to make their way forward from Ornes everyday. In spite of these difficult circumstances, made even harder once the French took the Chaume Wald, the Regiment spend one of the most enjoyable periods of the war here. The Regiment was able to show its warrior spirit. In winter weather conditions, the positions in terrible condition, no barbed wire or bunkers, the men braved heavy enemy fire to prepare new positions and in places push forward and take new ground. There were numerous patrol actions in which the men showed their bravery and took numerous prisoners. It is a period that the men can look backwards on with pride.”

Below: Looking back to Ornes on the way to the forward positions.

A report made by the Regt. upon arrival in January 1917 read

“The main Trench line is on average just 1.20m deep and offers just rudimentary cover as the enemy has positions on the Vaux Kreuz heights, affording him a view into our rear area. Bunkers and dugouts are insufficient in number and size. Sections of barbed wire are missing and need to be renewed. The only connection to the rear (Ornes Schlucht) is the Bayern Graben which is straight, without protective zig-zags”.

The immediate tasks for the regiment consisted of improving the positions, when possible advancing them, and informing the high command about the actions of the French Units in the sector.

At the beginning of March the Division pushed the French off the Vaux Kreuz heights, in certain areas back to the Caurieres-Wald. The II. Batl was in the 3rd wave of the assault and right away set about securing the territory gained and improving the defensive positions.

In the Month that followed then men dug in, actively patrolled and were under constant heavy artillery fire. Digging in was made difficult by the rocky ground and the men had to resort to using hand grenades to loosen the earth.

On the 6th of June 1916 mine fired from a French trench mortar shredded the the Jacket of Gefreiter Engert. He found the result so impressive that he mailed the jacket home. (For more detailed Photos, please click HERE)

On the 9th of June two assault groups of the company, along with a group from the 7th company attacked the French positions in front of their lines. Both sides suffered 3 dead, the French also had 16 wounded and one man missing, who, according to the German history was taken prisoner.

At the beginning of August signs of a new French offensive became apparent. Increased artillery fire targeting areas until now ignored led the Germans to believe that the French artillery was ranging in their heavy artillery. Fresh French troops were reported in the area, a sure sign of a coming attack.

The Germans moved to counter the French preperations. Artillery was reinforced and a plan was made to make a preemptive attack, taking away the enemy front line positions and destroying his prepared staging areas.

The attack was practiced along with elements of the Sturmbataillon Nr. 5 (Rohr).

New enemy artillery arrived and the fire was intense enough to force the Germans to move their reserves from the forest encampments in “Deutsch Eck” back to Mangiennes. The whole sector was under heavy artillery and trench mortar fire.

Trying to get a clear picture of what the French were planning a raid (Unternehmen Flandern) was carried out at 05:00am on the 13th of August by four Stosstrupps (two of them from the 6. Komp). The French frontline was empty and the raiders had to pull back under heavy fire. For the duration of that day the positions were under very heavy fire, this continued on the 14th and 15th of August.

In the evening of the 15th the regiment was on high alert. The II. Batl under Hauptmann Saunier took over as “Kampf” Bataillon, the III. Batl. (Hauptmann Frhr. Von Preuschen) along with the 3. Komp took over the 2nd line and the I. batl. (Hauptmann Kotzenberg) became the Reserve battalion, taking up position in the Ornes Schlucht.

The Regiment was thus prepared to repel an enemy attack, or launch an attack of its own. Orders came down from the division for the 16th of August. Unternehmen (Operation) Baden was a preemptive strike that was to disrupt the French offensive preparations.

The organization for the attack was made difficult by the churned up battlefield. Hauptmann Saunier reported that the front line could not be used as a staging area as it was only knee deep. They would have to attack from the German second line. The preparations were only shielded from the French observers due to bad weather during the evening that kept the French aero planes at great height.

At 7:56pm a heavy 4 minute bombardment was fired on the French positions and at 8:00pm the assault troops advanced. The attackers were fom the II./Gren. Regt 110, supported by men from the I./R.I.R. 83 and Sturmbataillon Nr.5 (Rohr).

Right: An assualt troop of the 110th Grenadiers

On the left flank there was an attack by assault groups from the I.R. 109 and I.R. 40.

The objectives were the French trenches in the Caurrieres Wald. The 1st and 2nd German assault waves made it all the way to the French 3rd line of defense. The French had been taken totally by surprise and their attempts to organize a defense were rapidly brushed aside.

The French Artillery fire was uncoordinated. The men in the front line, unless killed or managing to flee, were captured by the Germans. Lt. d. Res. Boyens (commanding the 7. Komp.) Personally had a hand in cleaning out the French Battalion H.Q. and captured the battalion commander de Brocca.

A good spirited message was sent back to Hauptmann Saunier, roughly..”Sent from the French Battalion H.Q., Assault was a success, minimal own losses, Enemy individually hunted down, the wine by the French is outstanding!”

Numerous French bunkers and Trench mortar positions were destroyed and at 00:15am the attackers pulled back as planned. By 3:45 the battalion was back in its own positions with the exception of a section on the left flank where they kept a section of captured trench.

Patrols stayed out until 05:30am , but the French did not counter attack. Brought back were….

7 Officers
2 Doctors
1 Chaplain
370 Men
4 Heavy Machine Guns
26 Light Machine Guns
1 Trench Mortar
Numerous Maps and Documents (From Btln. HQ)

In addition the enemy had suffered heavy losses from the German artillery bombardment.

German losses were light, Offz. Stellv. Achilles of the 5. Komp and 7 Soldiers had been killed. Lt. d. Res Heinrich, Kürsten, and Eberhard, Vizefeldw. Reinhard and 46 other ranks wounded, and 2 other ranks missing.

It was, according to German sources, a sweet victory which had an effect on the French offensive on the 20th of August.

The Tunic of Emil Engert with a Pigs tail found in the Trenches attacked by the 110th Grenadiers

The French Regiment that was attacked wrote in their diary… (See the MAPS to follow the progression)

Heavy enemy Artillery and trench artillery fire during the morning causing much damage to our Trenches and communications trenches (“Boyaux”) in the 1st line, especially in the “2 Bois” sector. Relatively calm in the afternoon.
At 17:00 (our artillery) fires a rolling barrage on our left flank as per orders from the 42. D.I., it does not produce the expected result.
At 19:00 a very heavy enemy bombardment, including heavy artillery falls on the “2 Bois” sector. It hits the front lines, the ravine “des Rousses” and to our right the ravines “de la Vauche” and “d’Hassoule”. At the same time, covered by this formidable fire, the enemy launches an attack on the 247e R.I. to our right (Trenches Vercingetorix, des Avernes and Sabathe). They break through the lines in a number of places, descend into the Ravin “des Rousses” then advance towards the “Fontaine des Fontenaux”. Here they are stopped by elements of the 1st Company who defended tenaciously from the trench “Bonnet”.
Under cover of the smoke and dust the Germans enter the Boyaux “de la Vaux”, “Ferrucci” and “Paraire” and advanced to the Command post in the Sector “2 Bois”. Some even reach the Artillery positions in the trench “Collomb” and boyau “des Tirailleurs.

Left: A French "Mine" of the sort that shredded Emil Engert's jacket. This one found in the Caurrieres Wald Sector

Engagements began with grenades and bayonets, but the Germans, using flaming liquids, outnumber us and our right flank companies (2nd, 1st and CM) were crushed by the incredible bombardment that preceded the attack. As soon as the first alert was sounded the reserve battalion (3rd) took up position in the "boyau Loumede", the trench “Dournis”, the trench "Collomb". The battalions of the 247. R.I. reinforce us at 20h55 (one company) and occupy the "réduit de Chemnitz" with half a company; the rest of the battalion relieves (upon arrival 21h00 to 22h00), the 3rd battalion of the 162nd in the "boyaux Loumede”, “Dournis" and “Collomb”. Patrols from the battalion “Roy” regain contact at 23h00 with the 3rd company (Dauphinée and Caurrières trenches) and with the elements of the 1st company that hadn't moved from the Bonnet trench. Finally, between 03h00 and 04h00 on the morning of the 17th the 9th company reoccupy the rear position of the 2nd; the 11th retakes the Bonnet trench; the 10th is at the "fontaines de Fontenaux”. Our line is completely reestablished as far as the "2 Bois" quarter is concerned, but the Roy battalion receives the order to push its counter attack further than the "boyau de la Vaux", towards the Cavernes trenches and the "boyau Ebener", to meet up with the 247th R.I.

Above: The Crown Prince says goodbye. A parade by the 110th Grenadiers before they leave Verdun in September 1917
Above: Emil Engert did not leave with his Regt. His grave is the light coloured one, just to the left of the tree in the bottom left corner.

To See Photos of Emil Engert's tunic in more detail, please go HERE

 
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