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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Christmas Hauptmann von Olberg had to have an operation and the day before X-Mas
he left the company.
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.
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.
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.
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.
had been well drilled at Elsenborn and we were finally ready to leave for the
boarded the train at Sourbrodt.
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.
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)
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.
know what the army in the field has achieved. Soon you will be earning new
laurels, adding to the glory.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
continued to Ruddecken, here we had another rest.
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.
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
Assembly at 3am. March over Gerskullen to Payszelu.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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”
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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”
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Russians left us alone.
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..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.)
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.
the trenches and bunkers. I had a window put in and had the roof reinforced.
The usual shooting was taking place.
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.