To see an article on Wahl's wound in Avocourt goHERE
R. Wahl 6.10.1915 promoted to Gefreiter 25.02.1916 Promoted to Unteroffizier Stationed in the field at X-Mas 191? As
Joined up on the 23rd of March 1915 at
Zuffenhausen. Privately quartered with Frau Ziegler in the Olga Street. Ate in the house, food was
deplorable. The training took place in difficult (next word crossed out)
Burgholzhof, Schlotwiese and the Ludwigburger exercise ground. Our
Kaporalschaftsfuehrer name was Beurigs, later Oberfeldwebel. Leutnant Fritz.
After 4 weeks transferred to the 3rd Depot (had been in the 2.
Depot). Here it was more strenuous. My physical training was supportable.
Strobel, a (word crossed out) went overboard, not only did he drill his people
till they fell over but they were hit in the ribs, punched in the face and
kneed in the back. It was no wonder that 500 men (all over 30 years old) were
relieved when, on the 3rd of May, we were told we were to be
transferred to Ravensburg. On the 11th of May we were on our way,
wearing our prisoner like rags. We arrived without having eaten at 4:30pm, 200 men from Tuebingen
joining us along the way. When we arrived in Ravensburg I was greeted by Otto,
things seemed to be looking up. He took me with him to the 2. Komp. where he was an Offizier-Stellvertreter under Hauptmann Buhler. Buhler was an extremely friendly, straightforward and
caring father of the company.
In his company cursing and hazing was not
allowed. The instructors were all Landwehr men. Leutnants John, Ernst, Schuler
and Simon. Feldwebels Heine and Fischer. Unteroffizier Hund, Schoenle, Knoerle, Rothfuss, Buhler, Dreger, Haeberle
and Weiss. The duty here was very interesting and we
learned much. In “Z” it had been much more strict, but had learned nothing
about service in the field, which astonished our new officers. Unfortunately
Hauptmann Buhler was transferred to Antwerp
in the middle of June. He was replaced by Hauptman Schmied, also a straight and
fair officer. After he injured himself by falling from a horse we did less
field training as he always had to be transported in a cart. Things became a
bit boring. Hauptmann Buhler and Schmid had proposed me for an Unteroffizier
course in Munsingen. Hauptmann Schmid wanted to promote me to Gefreiter on the
15th of July but it did not happen. A Einjahrfreiwilliger had to
wait 6 month, a normal soldier 1 year. On the 5th-6th of
August our first contingent left (for Warsaw).
Otto was in charge of the transport. He was asked if we wanted me to go along
but he said no. He did not know if I wanted to go and I was on leave at that
moment. So I stayed where I was and had a great time. I was now acting
Gruppenfuehrer, which meant I did not have to wear a pack on the marches. At
the shooting range I was also acting Gruppenfuehrer. Hauptman Schmid crowned me
“Schuetzenkoenig” as in the competition I had 5 of the groups 7 hits. On the 13th
of August came the verbal command that I would join the Unteroffizier training
course in Muensingen on the 28th of August. 3 Gefreiter from the
Battalion took part, 2 from the 2. Komp. and one from the Depot. The course
lasted six and a half weeks, until the 5th of October. It was a
difficult six weeks on this barren piece of ground. The shots were called by
three Vize-Feldwebel…Wetzel, Mueller and Kullmann. The treatment was terrible!
(Menschenunwuerdig). I managed to stand my man and managed to avoid the
punishments. Of 86 course members 33 passed with the qualifications to become
Unteroffizier. I report card was “Good” in all categories. On the 6th
of October I returned to Ravensburg and was promoted to Gefreiter on the spot.
I also received 10 days vacation, 8 of which I worked at Find (former
employer). Upon my return Hauptmann Schmid informed me he had proposed me for
the Machinegun Abteilung. I hinted that I was not of the right physical stature
for this and that I was not in the mood for another back breaking course. He
agreed and cancelled the posting.
On the 23rd of October I was
posted with 5 other Gefreiter to a combat company and was to leave with
Hauptmann Dillerz for Muensingen. A counter order from the Generalkommando came
ordering me to the Machine Gunners in Ulm.
The Hauptmann and Feldwebel tried to stop this but the Generalkommando
overruled. Here we Unteroffizier qualified Gefreiters had an easy time. We took
part in the instruction but had our rest while the 19 year olds were put
through their paces. How they were hazed! I could barely watch! An example, a
physically weak man named Frank was drilled so hard with the machine gun that
collapsed and got heart cramps. These lasted 2 hours until I and two other
Gefreiter loaded him in a wagon and pushed him back to quarters. I could not
stand watching this, let alone participate in it. Dr Deufel found I had a
nervous heart flutter and an eye problem and soon I was on my way back to
Ravenburg, inapt for Machine Gun service. On the 5th of November I
was back in the 2. Komp. 14 days later came a question from the battalion if
the 2. Komp thought I was apt and ready to be promoted to
Unteroffizier. The company affirmed this but on the 20th of November
came the message that Gefreiter who had front experience would be promoted
first and there were only 4 positions. I would have to wait another 3 weeks.
From the 20th of November discipline was toughened up in the
company. The men had been misbehaving and the Hauptmann had to show his strict
disciplinarian side. Extra exercising, arrest and punishment duties
(Verschaerfter Dienst). I did not have to suffer any of this although the
training personnel were closely observed.
The strict regime lasted almost until
Christmas, at least until Oberstleutnant Bauer inspected us on the 15th
I received 12 days leave. My company
commander tried to get me three weeks but the battalion did not approve it
while I was physically fit for duty. Promotions were not made over X-Mas and
into the new year. For me the resolution was … “Wait”. My parents received
information that Otto was promoted to Camp Commander
at Courtai. Hauptmann Brand had probably organized this for him.
With that 1915 came to am end.
Above: The Militärpass entry is signed by Lt. Vollmer, the officer captured by Sgt. York.
For myself and the family I can only say,
1915 was a good year, a child was born on the 18th of March. It was
a difficult time, but all went well. For my military career I cannot complain
either. It was a great achievement for a Landsturm man to be promoted to
Gefreiter after half a year, without having served at the front. I was well
thought of by my superiors and they had not sent me to the front, although I
had not said a word to prevent it. I had been healthy all year, as were wife
and child. It was a blessing from God. I ended the year thanking God for what
he had done for me and prayed he would keep his protective hand over me in the
time to come.
I would happily go off to war if I could be
sure that I could return safely and healthily to my wife and child, to set
myself up as an independent businessman and to lead a carefree life looking
after my loved ones.
My personal resolution for 1916 was “With
God for Kaiser and Fatherland in 1916, like it was in 1915”. With my best
wishes for a German victory I entered the New Year. May God, our judge, be
merciful and protect us.
The depressing war continues with the same
terrible intensity. We in the garrison do not have the difficulties and
physical trials as the men in the field suffer, but we suffer enough. The
service was increased and carried out in all weather, especially the long
marches. The weather in January was nice, almost like spring. Hauptmann Schmid
left for a training company in Muensingen for 14 days and Hauptmann Steiner
commanded the company, it was a pleasant time but Steiner was a strange
The weather became more winter like and as
a result the duty was more difficult. We received news that Lt. Ernst was
killed on the 4th of February by an enemy shell. This was depressing
news for the company which had grown to love and respect him during his one and
a half years there. He had always had a fiery humor. 5th of Feb,
Sunday, I was on a weekend pass with my beloved Lina and kiddie, who was growing
like crazy. I was missing much with my absence. On the same day Otto’s son was
born. On the 16th General von Steidle inspected a section equipped
for the field at Kuppelnau. The next day he inspected the 3. Komp at
Grossbaumgarten. The rest of the month was filled with regular duties. On the
25th of Feb (Kaisers Birthday) I was promoted to “Ueberzaeligen”
(Extra) Unteroffizier. I could not be made a regular Unteroffizier as I did not
have one year of service yet. I could now only hope that this would soon come
to pass. I then received 8 more days leave.
In vacation form the 1st to 8th
, then return to Ravensburg. On the 11th I served as Watch
Unteroffizier for the first time. On the 13th our beloved
Unteroffizier Rothfuss, in whose Korporalschaft I was in, left. We had gotten
along famously. He, along with Unteroffizier Hund were joining the Landsturm
Bataillon Ravensburg in Friedrichshafen.
I was given command of the Korporalschaft. Since the start of the German
offensive in the West (Verdun)
we can hear the thunder of the guns, especially on the heights. I assume more
of this must be from the Vogesen than from Verdun. On Sunday the 19th I was
ordered to attend the burial of Leutnant Ernst (6. Komp). With me
were Sergeant Buhler, Hauptmann Schmid, Lt. John and 8 men.
Tuesday 21st, Battalion march to
Wangen in Allgaeu. Wednesday 29th, Otto arrives on vacation. Stierle
and Eichler come to 2. Komp. From the 27th I attend the hand gren
1st April Otto here on 16 days
leave. 11th comes the news that 1 Unteroffizier and 15 men (later
another 10 men) were being transferred to a Landwehr Regiment. Lina comes
tonight. At 5pm a 2 hour
inspection by Major v.d. Asten at Spohn. Lina arrived, we had a walk, went to Otto
where we visited a while. We slept in the hotel “Deutsche Kaiser”. Early
Tuesday went to confession and communion.
On the 13th at 8am
we were ready to march. Had to assemble every two hours, it became tedious and
we hoped to leave soon. Lina left at 10am.
A terrible parting, the worst in my life.
On Friday we heard that we would leave on
Saturday morning. We leave over Ulm,
where we were fed and where more men joined us. Then onwards with a special
train. 5 Unteroffiziers (Beil, Bergner, Happ, Hummel and myself) and 50 men. 25
from the 1st Komp., 10 from each the 2nd and 3rd,
and 5 from the depot.
We marched off to the station where Emilie
brought me flowers. Frau Oppold brought flowers, books and prayer books. Many
officers, including Major v.d. Asten were there. We move on to Niederbirge
where 50 men from Weingarten join us. With overflowing wagon we continue to Ulm where between 2.30 and
3.30 pm we are fed. Roast
Beef, sauce and sauerkraut. We entered snow covered Griesling, the whole town
was decorated for the military train. My wife, in laws, my mother and father…
all were on the platform. The parting was so painful I could not speak. A lot
of waving, then off into the great unknown…. So disappear my wife and my
homeland… may we see each other again!
The snow got heavier as we approached
Rastatt, then Ludwigsburg,
Bietigheim and to Gemersheim where we got coffee and (very good) sausage. Now,
unfortunately at night, we crossed the Rhein at 3am. At 7am
we were given coffee (not good) I had slept the night in a wagon filled with
straw along with Julius Kiefer. If every night on campaign could be that
comfortable, it would not be so bad.
In Dietenhofen there was a boring backwards
and forwards in the shunting yards. Julius Kiefer and his wagon were unhooked.
Many ammunition columns leaving from here. Strangely we still do not hear the
guns. Many flowers and herbs, beautiful valley. Still thinking constantly of
home. Weather is nice today, sunshine, but still cold. Pass French border
station at 11.35. The first town (Audon) lays in ruins, shot to pieces. I hear
that Chr. Klotz also traveled with us, in Dietenhofen he branched of to the
123. So far we only see old battlefield. Longingen, Montemedy, no stopping.
Lavignon at 4pm. Food,
Rice soup with meat and coffee. The whole area has stock, no fruit.
Arrive at Stenay at 5.50, HQ of the
Kronprinz (Crown Prince). Brieul at 6.30. Two and a half hours march, knee deep
in mud, over the fields to Berges. Spend the night in a garden shed, teeth
chattering. The aviators greet us, artillery is firing constantly. Rain.
Monday, 17th of April. Battalion
rests until Wednesday, us included. Sent to the 5. Komp, I get the 2nd
Korporalschaft. Hauptmann Pfaender,
Lts Haiber, Sauber and Goehner. Kompagnie Feldwebel Endriss.
(On the 20th of March the II. Batln. Had stormed
the forest of Avocourt. Only three dead in the
assault, more dead in the artillery afterwards.
Tuesday, 18th. Yesterday and
today was rainy, otherwise nothing. At 4pm
I see Unteroffizier Link, also from Ravensburg. He is going to the 122nd.
Today, the 19th, at 9.30pm we are to go into position. 4
hours over branches and stones. At 9am
had been church service, confession and communion. I had already confessed with
in Ravensburg. It was quiet in the church. All deep in thought, some maybe with
tears in their eyes. I made a bond with Christ and put myself in his care. My
baptism of fire was coming at 1am
and it is better to go into war with God next to you. It would be a terrible 4
days in the forward position, terrible weather as well.
Ordered into battle, but my thoughts with
my wife and child.
I had pictured terrible roads and paths,
but nothing this bad. 4 hours march in the rain, Up to the knees in swamp and
mud, over fields, through destroyed Cheppywald.(?) Then 45 minutes in the
communication trench, water pouring over the tops of our boots. The positions
are in a terrible state, no bunkers and right in the mud.
Wednesday night at midnight we take over the position. Very early on
Friday morning Badent of my Korporalschaft is wounded in the head and hand by hand
grenade. A terrible chatter of small arms started, then stopped half an hour
later. At 7am the French
throw grenades and unfortunately my good friend Heinrich Nasse was killed with
a bullet in the head. Zuegler is also wounded in the head.
It almost broke my heart to see Nasse
laying there in the trench, not distressed, almost peacefully. His friend
Weilers was sitting next to him, unwounded. Such moments make you weak in the
knees, but soldiers have to be gruff and hardy, so… head high and back to work,
placing your trust in god.
Easter Sunday began with more misery. Once
again a comrade from my old Korporalschaft, and on top of that a Ravensburger!
Otto Buchner, a butcher. He was wounded in the back by a shell splinter. It
happened at 11am. His last
words, in the presence of a priest were “God have mercy on my soul”.
We had another man killed that day, a 26
year old pionier who had just arrived. He was shot in the head while clearing a
collapsed section of trench.
We were overjoyed when at 3am on Easter Monday the relief came
and after 4 days in position we were able to leave, marching back to Sierges
(sous Montfaufon), arriving half dead at 8am.
I thanked God for protecting me in this first sejour at the front and hoped for
his continued guidance.
From the 24th to 1st
of May we rested at the castle at Sierges. Wonderful weather, did nothing but
cleaning. My first Unteroffizier pay, RM13. There is nothing to buy here except
wine, I am forced to send many begging letters (home for food). Aviators visit
us every night. Tuesday the 25th, his Majesty Phillip Albrecht, son
of Herzog Albrecht visited Sierges and was in the castle for a few hours. There
Sierges is a small village, not a single
nice or new building to be found. Everything lay in ruins, neglected. No civilians to be seen anywhere. The quarters
are not great. Houses have low doors; no windows have the same size, often no
27April Had guard duty guarding the
village. 12 man guard. Kuffner in hospital with jaundice and gall bladder.
Post commander Oberstleutnant Stuck
Vat. Commander Hauptmann Gruber
29th, Friday, met Grieb from
Moehringen. First parcel from my parents. Butter, Herb cheese and Apples.
Transport with 20 men arrives from
Ravensburg. Food and Socks arrive from Lina.
30th visit support section of 11th
Komp. 122nd. Hitzel not there, 3 weeks hospital.
We are to leave today, destination unknown.
At Sierges there is a monument to the 58th Division for the battle
at Montfier (sp?), on the heights 500 Germans and 1000 Frenchmen are buried. At
4pm we leave Sierges and
with 70 men occupy a camp in the woods at Franzenhof, about 45 minutes from
1st of May, the regimental band
plays. In the evening we are to go into position at Baierhorn, into the line
with God! (I had been to church the night before).
In position at Baierhorn from the 1st
to 5th. Uffz. Wahl, Karl, Fell, Hohmann, Haustein, Seitz, Guber,
Finkbohner. Gebert collapsed at the assembly, Schankl fell out during the
march. Stuhlbeiner and Fleisch had been ordered elsewhere. No officers!!
11.30pm on Tuesday the 1st,
march over XXXX, 5 hours. In the beautiful May weather we had to spend 4 full
days in a stinking bunker while outside the sun was shining. I was platoon
leader in this bunker, 39 men in a place made for 20-25. The bunker had bad air
supply and it added to the feeling of Angst, the hours are counted, we wait for
the relief. There were 3 telephones in the Bunker.
Friday from 5pm to 10pm there was a terrible bombardment by the
French, Our bunker was targeted without being damaged. They were terrible hours,
terrified in a bunker with no security, shell after shell and the light in the
bunker often going out. A short round of our own artillery kills a man and
wounds 2 more. My whole section spent the rest of the night repairing the
The French bombardment had been to distract
us. Yesterday we (The Germans) had attacked Hoehe 304 (Hill 304), today, the 6th
of May, the French counter attack at 1am.
We tensely await our 3am
relief and the return to Baiereck.