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The EK1

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 Division.  

The Division spent the whole of 1916 at Verdun Sector.  

Uwe “Speedytop” very kindly helped decipher the Handwriting.

1st of January 1916
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 our boots. 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 the others.
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 still learning.
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.

3rd January
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.   4th January
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 coffee.

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 4 days.
In the evening 4 letters from my dear wife, I sat down right away to answer them.
Early to bed, at least there is a bed tonight, although not that comfortable.

5th January
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.

6th January
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.

7th January
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 Pfennig.
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.

7th Feb.
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 book.
Unfortunately no mail. Regiment takes up quarters in X. I write a letter to my dear wife.

8th Feb
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 to sleep.

9th Feb
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 coming attack.
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 my dears!

10th Feb
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?)   11th Feb
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 night.
Wrote some lines to my dearest then went to bed as I was not in the best of moods

12th Feb
No duty today, the planned events delayed due to the weather. Wrote a number of letters.
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.

14th Feb
I went to see the 30.5cm artillery. The battery consists of one gun with 150 men.
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 – 12.2.

15th Feb
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 well.
My mood took a turn for the worse. Was not able to do anything constructive due to this.

16th Feb
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.

17th Feb
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.

18th feb
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.

19th Feb,
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 as possible).

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 bayonet attack.

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 58-59.
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   28.2.16
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 to Vacherauville.

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 the leg.

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 blanket.
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 Postordonnanz.
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 cold drinks.

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 injured.


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.   3.3.16
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 mother-in-law.
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 battlefield.

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 easier.
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 splinters.
To may great delight I received 3 letters from my wife. 25.02, one without date and 1.03

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 wife.  
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 wagons.
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 material.
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 patrol.
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.
III./16 relieves.
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 splinters.
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 he survived.
As the balloon disappeared a men joked that he was looking in his wallet to pay the trip.
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 return.
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 explodes.
Visit from Lt. Schöne, J. Pionier. Play songs on the Harmonium, write some letters home.
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 (Pionier J).
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 horses.

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 singing.
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 of Vacherauville.
During the relief the company suffered no losses, the 3. Komp. suffered a number in the Kain Ravine (Schlucht) ·         1. Komp Cote Talu, 2. Komp. ·         4. Komp 1 Zug 2./16 (2./16 2 Officers/16 men) between Vacherauville and Bras ·         I.R.F.A 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....