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This is a continuation of the August Weber Diary. I cannot guarantee any of the place names. The diaries were sometimes scrawled, so place names on the Eastern Front, which are difficult enough when typed, are almost impossible in "scrawl".

To return to the August Weber Page with links to his tunics go HERE
To go to the Western Front diary go HERE
To continue to the Eastern Front diary part 2 go HERE

Above: August Weber and his comrades in 1913 while serving in the I.R.88. Weber is in the back row, 6th from the left.

August Weber: With Reserve Infanterie Regiment 258 on the Eastern Front

1914

After my wound had healed I was released from the Vereins Lazarette Lauterecken and declared fit for garrison duty on the 7th of December 1914. I could return to the colors at last.  

9.12.14 I report to the Ersatz Bataillon, Infanterie Regiment 69 in Trier. After a medical check up I was sent to the 3. Kompagnie. There was little to do as there were almost no personnel at hand. Many were on leave. We spent most of the day sorting equipment.  

15.12. I suddenly received orders to join the Feld Infanterie Bataillon 42 on the training ground at Elsenborn. I carried to get the necessary equipment and packed my chest.  

16.12 Arrived in Elsenborn and joined the 1. Kompagnie of the Feldbataillon 42. I was happy to hear that my ex company commander, Hauptmann von Olberg, commanded the 1. Kompagnie. He was happy to see me as well. The service in Elsenborn was more rigid. We exercised from dawn til dusk, Sundays as well. I had a very nice room in the officer’s quarters which allowed me to enjoy my rest hours. It was a nice time in Elsenborn. Dinner was in the Offizierskasino, lunch in the Kasino or the Hotel Borgs.   The training grounds were scenically beautiful but health conditions were an issue. It was damp, foggy January weather and at the same time the ground was rather swampy. In spite of this the men’s health seemed good.   Just before Christmas Hauptmann von Olberg had to have an operation and the day before X-Mas he left the company.  

Christmas. My first Christmas without my family. There was no real Christmas spirit. There was a small celebration in the Kompagnie. Sweets, apples, nuts and beer were distributed. There was of course a Christmas tree. In the candle light we sang a few Christmas carols then the celebration came to an end. I returned to the Offizierskasino where there were 3 Christmas trees. Accompanied by a piano Christmas carols were sung and poems read. To celebrate there was good food and more sweets, fruits and nuts.   On Christmas day I took a transport of 300 men to the station at Sourbrodt (sp?). They were leaving for France. The relatives of many soldiers were there to see them off and we were witness to many emotional goodbyes.   The next day was service as usual.   On New Years Eve there was a special surprise. We were in the Offizierskasino, just about to take our places at the table when an artillery officer arrived, with him was Karl Fischer. We were overjoyed to meet again at such a time. After the meal we sat together and exchanged news into the New Year.

1915
January

1.1.1915 In exchange for the 300 men who had left for the front on Christmas day we were to receive 300 men returning from the front. Most had been in the field since the beginning of hostilities and they were happy to set foot on home ground again. Upon arrival they received new uniforms and equipment. For a time they were freed from duties.  

The Feldbataillon were now formed into regiments. Our Kompagnie became the 9. Kompagnie of the Reserve Infanterie Regiment 258, 78. Reserve Division of the 39. Reserve Korps.

The Unit had been well drilled at Elsenborn and we were finally ready to leave for the front.

6.1. We boarded the train at Sourbrodt.

8.1. We travel to Wahlheim- Kologne – Paderborn- Magdeburg and finally arrive at the training ground Altengrabow. Our regiment was quartered in villages around the training ground. Our company was in Voernitz. We did exercises at Brigade and Divisional level. Duty lasted from Dawn to dusk.

We had lunch and dinner with the Kompagnie commander in the Gasthaus Hohenzollern. We spent most of our free time at the Gasthaus enjoying coffee, beer or punch. There were interesting conversations and newspapers to read.

The rest of the equipment we needed arrived bit by bit. We would soon be ready to take to the field. We were sure we would be going east. Before we left I was to receive some good news. On the Kaisers birthday I was informed that I had been promoted to Leutnant der Reserve as of the 24th of January. On the 30th of January we had the honor of a Kaiser visit. He gave a speech praising our efforts. I saw the Kaiser from close up. He looked very serious. The speech was as follows (Newspaper cutting)  

Koburg: 31st of January.

The Kaiser held a speech at Altengrabow to a newly formed unit that included men from Cologne and the Rheinland. He said:

It is a pleasure to greet this newly formed troop before you march out to face the enemy. You have been called, with gods blessing and help, to join your comrades already in the field and to assist them in giving the enemy the final blow.

You well know what the army in the field has achieved. Soon you will be earning new laurels, adding to the glory. I expect the young regiments to support the regiments already in the field, to fight bravely and to add to the unstoppable momentum of the coming offensives. May the dear lord protect you and stand by you, may he help you to victory as he has the troops that are already in the field. May the reports I receive of your achievements equal those I have received from the troops already there. Go with my blessing and win glory for yourselves and your regiments.

Februar

04.02 At last our time had come. At 7.15am our train steamed out of Altengrabow. The journey took us over Berlin, Konitz, Marianburg, Koenigsberg to Insterburg. From here we travelled to Grunheyde. We arrived here at 2am on the 6th of February. It took a while for the vehicle to arrive then we were on our way.

A real winter landscape awaited us. Knee deep in snow we travelled over Berszienen, Dirsen to Medukallen. An ice cold wind blew straight through us. One step after another through the snow. It took us until 6am to cover the 7km to our destination, the village of Medukallen.

After the company was accommodated we officers sought out our quarters. We were lodged in an out of the way farm house. A small building in which we could not even stand up straight, we had to stoop to move around.

The owners were very nice people. Herr Schulz was a real East Prussian. His wife was friendly and cooked well. From the room we could hear the rumble of artillery in the distance.

The owners told us of the brief Russian occupation in the summer. They had been in great danger and saw us as their liberators. They were willing to share their meager supply of food and drink with us.

7.2. 7:30am we leave, over Gerlauken to Kuhnen where we rested. It was Sunday and we sheltered in a barn while the divisions chaplain held a small church service. The main theme of the sermon was “Chin up, keep your spirits up”. We then continued to Ruddecken, here we had another rest.

The teacher whose house we rested in served us hot tea. It really hit the spot. We continued on to Muxlauken. We arrived at the farm at 2pm. The men were quartered in the barn, we officers in the farmhouse. We were invited for coffee, a relief as our field kitchen (Along with our baggage and heavy equipment) was still stuck along the road in the snow. We needed to feed the men so we bought a pig and a soup was cooked in a giant cauldron. At 9pm we wrapped ourselves in our coats and fell asleep on the floor.

We had only covered 20km, no major distance but it had been through knee deep snow and through an ice cold wind. In was an achievement. Compared to marching in normal times, in France for example, it would be fair to compare it to a march 2.5 times longer. In short, our 20km march was like a 50km march under other circumstances.

8.2. Assembly at 3am. March over Gerskullen to Payszelu. Here the Russian artillery sent us an Iron Greeting. We scattered but the shrapnel caused no casualties. They exploded 300 to 500meters ahead of us. The battalion sheltered in some barns. Some of the iron rations were opened and cooked into a soup in a cauldron. I had some coffee and 2 slices of bread. At 5pm the march continued to Klobuen. We had covered 27km on ice and snow covered roads. A good achievement under the circumstances.

As darkness fell we moved forward and occupied a position to the north east of Klein Wersmeningen. Until then it had been occupied by the cavalry. The Russian defenses were 800-1000m ahead. The trenches we were supposed to take over were apparently in good condition. When we arrived we saw no trenches at all! In front of us was a large plateau of snow. Carefully we felt our way forward and finally discovered the trenches. They were hidden under the snow… something like this was only possible with the cavalry.

The order came to dig the trenches free. As the company spread out to occupy the sector the Russians sent us a few salvoes, luckily too high. We then set to work clearing the trenches. We expected the artillery to rain down on us, but they stayed quiet. After an hour of work the order came that each company should occupy their section of trench with half a section, the rest of the company would be accommodated to the rear, in the village. As I was the youngest officer it was of course my section that was ordered into the line.

Instead of half a section I stayed in the line with my full section. The sections were not up to strength, many men were unfit for duty. I had to occupy 300m of trench with 50 men. We continued to clear the snow and I sent a few patrols into nomans land. At midnight a farm burned down, to our left in the direction of the Russian lines. It was a ghastly, but at the same time beautiful sight. The dark forest provided the backdrop, in front was a moonlight white plateau. In the middle was the burning farmhouse, lit up by the flames. We were not sure why it was burning. Our trenches were illuminated by the flames and I assumed the Russians had set it alight. They did not launch an attack; the only incidents that disturbed the night were a few isolated shots from the patrols.

9.2. Dawn arrived. In the East a blood red sun began to rise, suddenly the order came “Get ready! The enemy position will be taken at 8:30am”

Our artillery opened up on the enemy positions that ran along the edge of the forest, they then spread their fire to cover the whole forest. The Russians seemed to have no artillery in front of us. To the right of us Russian shells were falling. It was a relief! I went into a shelter and put on dry socks, bundled my affairs and readied myself or the attack. At 8:30am the infantry all along the line advanced. We were perfect targets on the snow covered fields but we were advancing under the protection of our artillery. We pass through the obstacles and enter the enemy positions. They were empty. Our artillery had chased the Russians back. The positions were very well made. The forest is carefully inspected, it takes hours to push through it. Not a single Russian. We do see plenty of signs of their retreat. Along the paths uniforms and equipment are strewn. Their path is easy to follow, all the buildings in the area have been set alight. All around are pillars of fire and columns of smoke. There are no German civilians and no sign of livestock. Poor East Prussia! How they had suffered!

As darkness fell we arrived at the farm Bagdonen. It had once been a beautiful building but now it was burning. One side was already in ashes. Two large barn had already burned down, the farmhouse was still burning. Only two large animal stalls were still standing. Fire had been set to these as well but we managed to put them out. So, we had fought for our bivouac! The whole battalion fitted into one stall and the rest of the iron rations were broken out. In Kochgeschirren (Mess tins) snow was melted using the burning embers of the buildings. Then meat and vegetables were added. Dead tired we then fell asleep. We had covered about 15km. With little food, the icy cold and physical exhaustion – the men had been on their feet the whole time- we had reached the end of our strength. It was not possible to sleep that night due to the biting cold. I was happy when morning finally arrived.

10/2 Coffee was brewed by melting snow and we ate potatoes found in the smoldering ruins of the house. At 7:45 the march continued through Foersterei and Schillehnen to Skroblienen. Here we setteled into a barn. The march had been terrible; the villages we passed had been destroyed. We had covered 30km without food.

11/2 6:45am we march, over Schillingen to Lauken. We rested from 1:30 to 3:30pm. In these villages there were also no houses left standing. In lauken we received food that had been brought up on sledges. Bread, sausage and tinned vegetables. We stopped in the remains of a farm. Once again we melted snow to make coffee. The Russians had destroyed the wells. After we had eaten we continued, through Grablauken to Eydtkuhnen where we arrived in the evening. Once again there were no houses left standing. All over smoke filled the sky. At the station we found a wealth of booty. A fully laden Russian train.  Each man received a Russian army bread, they weighed about 10 pounds a piece. The Russians must now be hungrier than us. In Eydtkuhnen we came into contact with masses of Russian prisoners making their way west. We continued our march crossing the Russian border just behind Eydtkuhnen. We passed Kibarty then Wirballen. Here we saw the horror of war. In the middle of the road where artillery batteries, ammunition columns etc. which had not been able to pull back fast enough. They had been shot to pieces by our infantry. The horse drawn artillery pieces each had 4 or 6 dead horses as well as the bodies of the gun crews. We had to march over the bodies that lay all along the road until we finally reached our destination. I was exhausted. We had covered 36km. If you take the road conditions and weather into account it was as exhausting as a 80km march. After we had found quarters for the men we officers looked for quarters for ourselves. We saw a small, low building and went over. It was a cobbler. His wife made us tea, it was midnight. I drank extremely much tea then went to sleep. Oberleutnant Thiele and Leutnant Futterleib slept in a bed. Lt. Knorz and I slept on some chairs. We slept in our clothes, but I hung my socks on the oven to dry. I was tired, but still did not sleep well that night.

12/2 We did not leave in the early morning (thank God!). We used one of the captured field kitchens to cook a good soup. It was good we ate so early. We soon marched on and had to leave the field kitchen behind. By midday we had reached Ostankino then Podborek, Budwiecie, Uzbole then Bartiuki. 24km on pure ice. Leutnant Futtreleib and I found ourselves at the head of the company. We  often fell down. We also had to keep out of the way of the artillery whose guns were often stuck It was a terrible day. I was happy when we reached our destination at 9pm. The men were totally exhausted. Noone even asked for food. They just wanted rest and sleep. A Major, Abteilungs Kommandeur in the 21st Fussartillerie Abteilung 21, was kind enough to let us use his quarters. He did not have to ask twice. It was a nice house with plush furniture. The Major introduced us to his staff and suddenly we had wine offered to us. The first wine we had seen in Russia. We soon had cooked ham and bread on the table. It tasted wonderful. Later we were given bread and butter. We were no longer used to such food. In spite of our exhaustion we managed to stay awake quite long, going to bed at around midnight.

13/2 Assembly at 5:15am. March to Subowo, here we were involved in combat. We continued on to a nearby village. The company was given a barn to occupy, the officers and battalion doctors moved into a house.


  Here I would see how “Polish Farming” functioned.

It was dark. In front of us was a wooden hut with two tiny windows. The inhabitants were already sleeping as there was no light. Oberleutnant Thiele and I looked for a door. We found it at last and had to bend over to enter. We stood in a kind of store room. To the right was a door. We opened it and entered. We were in a large room that served as a Living room-Bedroom-Dining room-Kitchen-Chicken stall and Rabbit hutch. Our entry awoke the Polish family and the farmer lighted a lamp.  We saw the ménage in all its glory. A large fire place with the bed (or Fleapit) in front of it. A table with stools around it. The floor was out of compacted mud. The blanket was a filthy black. In the bed lay a woman and a large group of children, all fully dressed. The bed linen was simply some old blankets. The farmer had to fetch us straw to sleep on and to light the fire. We made ourselves comfortable. We made tea and ate the Russian bread with some bacon. After this opulent meal we lay on the straw. As I fell asleep I saw the farmer share the rest of the tea with his family. We had meant to drink it for breakfast. The next morning bread and bacon was missing. I awoke at 11. The Oberarzt (Battalions doctor) was swearing like a trooper. The farmers wife was standing there holding up her youngest. The baby was doing his business right in front of the oven! Cute! I had to laugh. I suddenly felt something soft and pulled out a rabbit. Not far away sat a cat. How idyllic! We could only be in Poland. We were woken early by the chickens.  

Left: August Weber as an Lt. d. Res. in R.I.R.258

  14/2 (Sunday) At 8am we had to leave our hosts. It was Sunday, and to celebrate we had a very long march. For the first time we passed through one of the big forests. It was more picturesque than the snowy plains we had been crossing up until now. The path was difficult, it had to be done in single file. We arrived at 11:15pm, totally exhausted. We had covered 45km to reach Krasnopol. Oberleutnant Thiel and I had quarters with the battalion staff. Parts of the XXI Armee Korps had captured much material here, they had cut off the retreat of the main Russian supply columns.

15/2 We leave at 11am for Pertanie, 8km from Krasnopol. We were to stop a Russian breakthrough. To do this we were supposed to build a defensive line. We dug trenches and fortified barns. In one place we could not dig in the frozen ground and we piled up tree trunks and packed the gaps with dung. We blocked the roads with wagons and fences. Our positions were not fully occupied. Part of the Kompagnie was resting in houses, barns and stalls. We officers had a room of our own. The house was large and clean. When we arrived the inhabitants took off on a sledge. There was a lot of honey in the village. The bee hives were very interesting, they were followed out logs, some standing, some laying on their sides. The Russians left us alone.

16/2 At midday we marched off to Czerwony-Kryz which lay 15km away. The path was difficult, it went through a forest. The artillery had to st up pretty often to cover our advance. My section was designated to protect the artillery. Later the other two sections in the company joined us in this task. At 7pm I arrived with my section, there was no sign of the company. The village was filled with troops. I found the best possible lodgings for my section and squeezed into an already overflowing room. I still had a piece of bread and some roast chicken. I ate this, then had a messtin lid of pea soup. The screaming of young children disturbed me often that night. The mothers tried to calm them with songs but it did not help. The singing was in a way more irritating than the screaming..

The houses here were different to the one we had slept in in Lubowo. The fire place was like a backing oven stretching into the living area. The fire place took up much place but the poles were practical , they simply slept on top of it. It was never cold up there. This system we were to find in almost all the quarters we were to occupy.

17/2 4:45am we march off. We cross through forests heading in the direction Makarce. Our company at the head. The village had been heavily fortified. Yesterday the unsuspecting XXI Armee Korps had stumbled across the village and had suffered bloody losses. They had to pull back due to the losses, now we were to take it. Leutnant Futterleib was sent with 20 men to do a reconnaissance. He managed to surprise the Russian sentries and capture them without firing a shot. He was able to enter the enemy positions unopposed. We pulled forward to within 500m. The enemy did not see us, they were to busy working on their trenches. If we had attacked then it would have been easy to surprise them. Unfortunately we received orders to stop the attack, we were to cool our heals while other detachments tried to work their way around the flanks. The companies got into position for the attack then advanced to the treeline. In our company my section along with the section of Lt Knorz was in the front line. Futterleib’s section was in support. We reached the start of the forest; the Russians had still not noticed us. Quietly we gave our orders. The Russians were surprised by a salvo of fire. They disappeared into their trenches. Whenever a head appeared over the edge we fired at it. My section was behind a natural roll in the ground at the edge of the forest. We were protected. Section Knorz had to dig themselves in. Luckily they were finished in time as Russian machine guns opened up. The shots went high but as the fire died down we could see the effect on the pine trees behind us. 40cm trees were pierced and splintered their tops broken off. We captured some deserters but had to rapidly take cover when the machine guns started up again. We were supposed to attack when darkness fell. We had just received the order to fix bayonets and were waiting for the whistle which signaled the start of the attack when the Russian machinegun opened fire again. This time however, they were shooting well. We pressed ourselves to the ground and the bullets whizzed just over our heads.

Now, the assault! The order could come at any moment. It would have been murder; no mouse would have made it through this inferno of machine gun fire without being hit, never mind a man.

I was responsible for my section. To waste so many precious lives? Why attack now suddenly? It would have been possible this afternoon, but now! No!

I gave the order to my section “When the whistle blows do not advance!”

I do not know how long we lay there waiting for the whistle, unable to move under the fury of the fire. It seemed like an eternity. Suddenly the machine gun fire died down. We soon heard German voices in the enemy trenches. It was the detachments who had been on the flanks.

We gave a sigh of relief. Unfortunately we had not gotten to grips with the Russians. Under the cover of the terrible machinegun fire the Russian soldiers had pulled back in the darkness. They were also able to save their machine guns. That evening we advanced to the village Leruetka. We arrived at 1:30am. We had covered 26 km that day.

18/2 March to Makarce, following the road the XXI A.K. had taken on the 16th. Terrible sights were to seen along the road. I had seen many battlefields but none was as terrible as this. I still have the sights in my head, but they are too terrible to describe.

We continued on to Wojeilek (at Augustow). Here we had a short rest. We ate from the field kitchen of the X. Jaegerkompagnie. We also received the happy news that the offensive had been a success. 100 000 Russian prisoners, 150 artillery pieces and mountains of equipment. It was a pleasure to hear.

Our Korps was order back to prepare for a new operation. At 3pm we marched back over Makarce, Giby and Rosse. We arrived late at night. We had covered 57km over terrible roads

19/2 Oberleutnant Thiel received orders to ride to Krasnopol to fetch the main baggage column. Leutnant Knorz was posted to the 12th Company as they had no Leutnant’s anymore. Leutnant Futterlieb had gone on to Polkoty to prepare quarters. That afternoon I took the company to Polkoty which lay 5km away. The men soon had their places and Futterlieb and I made ourselves comfortable. To our joy the long awaited baggage column arrived, including ammunition wagons and field kitchens.

20/2 Day of rest. There was much work within the company and the stragglers were arriving. The sections had to be restructured and the Divisional Chaplain held a service for the men.

21/2 Rest during the day. At 6:15pm orders were given and we left at 8pm over Subacze to Kopciowo. We arrived at 3am. The road was terrible and we had covered 18km. Cremer, Furrerlieb and I were housed with our “Burschen” (Servents).

22/2 As a treat our “Burschen” prepared potato pancakes for us. Unfortunately we were interrupted  during the meal. At 12:45 the march continued over Wojujuntzy then Motzewitsche to Szwjentojansk.

From Motzewitsche  onwards we advanced in line through the forest to reach point 112 then continued on to Memel. We passed superb Russian Field positions which were hidden in the forest. The progression through the forest was difficult. The ground was swampy and crisscrossed with small streams. We were knee deep in swamp, sometimes we sank up to our bellies. But once again, we made it through. At last, we were close to Szwjentojansk. It was discovered that there were strong Russian defensive positions on the other bank of the Memel. It was also reported that the Russians wanted to cross the Memel here in force. We were to prevent this from happening and began to prepare positions on our side of the river. The companies were given sectors and Leutnant Kremer, Futterlieb and I looked for the best terrain to build defenses on. We then fetched our sections and the digging began. The sandy bottom was easy to dig into, but the trench walls collapsed easily. We worked till just before dawn when we were greeted with rifle fire from the Russians on the other bank. We were not hit but an advanced position which was over the river, on a destroyed bridge was. Unteroffizier Luecke had been hit in the stomache and died a few days later. The rest of the men in the post were not hit and looked for cover near the bridge. They managed to reach us that afternoon. During the day we fired at the Russian positions. That afternoon our artillery joined it, with good results it seemed as it was reported the Russians had fled from their trenches.

In the meantime the Pioniers had brought up ferries and drivers. At 5pm we boarded to cross the Memel. The trenches had been almost obliterated by our artillery and we took a number of prisoners while searching them.

After this we continued and took a defensive position that stretched from point 84 on the Memel to the outskirts of Szwjentojensk. The 12. Kompagnie was on the Memel, then came us. To the right was the II. Bataillon.

We worked on our trenches and made good progress. We then posted sentries and rested in the trenches. The next morning I was totally stiff. I could not move a limb. I had myself lifted out of the trench. Bit by bit my blood began to flow back into my limbs. I was soon able to move again. At 7am a firefight began in the woods to our left. Shots fell on our trenches as well. The enemy in front of pulled back soon afterwards but the fighting continued in the woods. From our positions we were unable to join in.

At 1pm we crossed back over the Memel and occupied our old trenches. We now started to build bunkers. When darkness fell we were fed from the field kitchen. We spent the night in the trenches again.

25/2 Before daybreak we were fed from the field kitchen again. Exchanges of shots with the Russians who had also occupied their old positions.

At 7:30 pm we are relieved by the 3. Kompagnie and return to Motzewitsche. I reached there at 9:15pm with my section. Leutnant Kremer and Futterlieb had gotten lost and arrived at about 11pm. I had already gotten comfortable and had eaten huge amounts of pea soup. In the warm room I was happy with my lot.

26/2 For the first time in ages I feel comfortable. Our “Burschen” prepare us treats. Potato pancakes in the morning. For lunch we had minced meat, baked potatoes and cabbage. That afternoon our baggage arrived and I was able to get stuff out of my chest. That afternoon my battalion commander Major Neuhof gave me the Iron Cross.

(Weber used the words “Ueberreichte mir” which corresponds to “Handed over”. This is technically more correct than “Awarded me” as the actual “Award” was made when the issuing authority signed the approval for the award.)

27/2 Another good breakfast. Afterwards assembly and then drill. A great lunch follows. At 4:45 we return to the trenches to relieve the 1. Bataillon. That night I sleep very well in one of the bunkers wearing my sheepskin jacket.

28/2 Improved the trenches and bunkers. I had a window put in and had the roof reinforced. The usual shooting was taking place. Food came from the Feldkuche. My company commander, Lt. Cremer and Lt Futterlieb were to the left in a village. It had been fortified and they  were both in warm rooms with plenty to eat and drink. I invited myself to go and visit them and decided from then on to eat lunch there. The Russians of course had something to say about this and they fired at me from the moment I left my bunker until I reached the safety of the village. The bullets passed me by but on the same path Vizefeldwebel Beutuer and Hornist Grab were killed.

 
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