Musketier Karl Wilhelm Görres was born in September 1897 and joined the army in 1916. Arriving at the front in January 1917 he served a short while at Verdun before the Division moved to the Aisne front. With selected units from the Division he participated in the large raid near Sapigneul le Godet. Here, on the 4th of April 1917 the 10th Reserve Division had mounted a large raid with the intention of interrupting the French preparations for the Nivelle offensive. The Division suffered heavy losses during the French artillery bombardment leading up to the French attack and it was withdrawn from the line at the start of the Nivelle offensive returning to Verdun. Here they took up position on the left bank facing Höhe 304 (Height 304). While here Görres was attached to the Sturmkompanie of the 10. R.D., presumably to be prepared for the coming attack. The attack was to be carried out by picked assault units of all three infantry regiments of the 10. R.D.
Görres is pictured on the right just after being joining the 10th Reserve Division. He is in a 37th Reserve Infantry Regiment uniform, just before joining the 155th Infantry Regiment.
At the end of June 1917 General v. Francois, commander of the Maasgruppe West, had planned a new assault on Höhe 304. The heights had already cost countless lives and Ludendorff only grudgingly approved the plans.
The men of the 10th Reserve Division were amongst the most seasoned fighters of the German army, they were to carry out the assault. There were no illusions as to what awaited them and the Regimental history of the 155th Infantry Regiment writes...
"......The bloody, notorious Höhe 304, endless desolation filled with grief and damnation. Neither trees nor rocks, neither grass nor clods of earth could survive here. Shell hole overlapped shell hole, no more trace of field or meadow. Shells and mines have wiped away everything, leaving nothing but a desert, empty, inhabited only by death. The green cloak of life has been ripped from the earth, brown and naked she lies there, ripped and turned over. Blackened by explosions, yellowed by powder, the earth is covered with splinters, human remains and military equipment. The smell of decay hangs heavily over the field of battle. Here, in this pestilent corner, in their scanty, half destroyed trenches and mud filled bunkers live the companies, engaged in an endless and bitter fight with the enemy... death and destruction wherever one looked."
On the right are French positions on the top of Höhe 304, towards the end of 1917.
Operation "Drahthindernis" (Wire obstacle) would be barried out by the 37. Reserve Infanterie Regiment (Sector Quelle) and the 37. Füsilier Regiment (Sector Hindenburg). Operation "Beobachtung" (Observation) would be carried out separately the the 155. Infanterie Regiment in the sector "Höhe" (Height).
The orders for the division were as follows..
The 10th R.D. will attack and capture the French trenches in front of the sectors Hindenburg and Quelle
The objective is to give a bloody nose to the facing French division, take their positions, thereby thereby taking away observation posts that allow him to see deep into our lines. We will have won useful observation and defensive positions for ourselves.
The orders for the 155. I.R. and operation "Beobachtung" were..
"The 10th R.D. will continue the attack in sector "Höhe" and take positions that assure our observation on the Southern slope of the Höhe 304.
Two hours before the Infantry attack the most dangerous enemy artillery positions will be gassed, and 10 minutes before our main bombardment the enemy Command and observation posts will be engaged.
For one and a half hours the Artillery and Minenwerfer will bombard the positions then seal them off from the rear with a barrage. During the bombardment "Sturmgassen" (Assault paths) will be blown in our own defensive obstacles.
At Y hour the Sturmabteilung will break into the enemy positions and take them. The barrage will last as long as it takes to secure the positions."
The Operation "Drahthindernis" was ordered for the 28th of June, operation "Beobachtung" for the 29th of June.
Commanding the Sturmabteilung were Lt.d.Res Biedermann, Lt.d.R. Pollmeier, Lt.d.Res. Pellner and Lt. Ronke. Coordination the attack were Oblt. Graeter and Lt. Fraedrich. A number of Flamethrowers from Sturmabteilung Rohr would accompany them.
On the 28th of July operation "Drahthindernis" was carried out successfully.
At 4.00 am on the morning of the 29th the Stosstrupps (assault sections) of the 155. I.R. took their place in the first line. They were accompanied by men of the III. Batln. who were to follow with ammunition and supplies and were to prepare the new positions while the Stosstrupps fought back counter attacks.
AM 4:00 Sturmtruppen take up position in the first line 6:45 Artillery supports 2nd Landwehr Division 6:50 2nd Landwehr carries out a diversionary raid 11:30 10.R.D. fixes assault time
PM 6:25 Start of the gas shells 7:30 Start of the bombardment 7:32 Start of Minenwerfer bombarment 7:35 Diversionary bombardment on the "Wespennesst" in the Toter Mann sector 8:05 Flares fired in front of 6th Reserve Division as a diversion (in the Toter Mann sector) 8:10 Artillery and Minenwerfer change to a barrage to seal off the positions 8:10 Sturmtruppen attack
On the right is Görres Pay Book which he carried with him throughout his service period, including on the day he was wounded.
At 6.25pm the gas shells had a notable effect on the French artillery, some batteries continued firing in spite of the gas. At 7:30pm the artillery and soon after the minenwerfer started firing on the enemy positions. The history of the 155th Infantry regiment reports that the fire was so intense that the smoke and dust made observation impossible.
At 8:05pm the assault troops were ready, at 8:10pm they attacked.
The regiment reported
"Upon leaving the trench the Sturmabteilung 1 was right away taken under fire by rifle and machine gun fire from a French "Blockhaus". The first line of defence fought tenaciously. The assault troops had to break into the line then fight their way to the left and right along the trench with hand grenades until they met up with the neighbouring assault troop. The second French line is still under heavy artillery fire from our guns, nevertheless five groups move forward right away. The position had been flattened and was full of dead French soldiers. The Pioneers blew up a "Blockhaus" and two trench mortars but the men of the Sturmabteilung could not hold the position, our own artillery had already killed or wounded 23 of them. They pulled back to the first line where they set up positions.
The Sturmabteilung 2 also made it to the 2nd line but had to pull back to the 1st line due to the shells of the barrage falling in the 2nd line.
The Sturmabteilung 3 broke through without losses and made their way through an abandoned trench at the end of which they found the defenders, ready to engage them with hand grenades... but expecting an attack from north. surprising the defenders from the rear the fight was soon over. The French bunkers could not be destroyed as the attached pioneers had been killed or wounded by our own artillery.
The Sturmabteilung 4 reached her objective without encountering great resistance, a number of losses due to our own artillery."
Left: Avocourt wood in 1917, it is through this portion of the wood that the Sturmabteilungen of the 155th I.R. passed.
Minutes after the Assault troops had moved forward the French had started sealing off no mans land wih a barrage.
At 9:50pm the French artillery begins to pound their old positions, at 10:00 a French counter attack is launched in the Sturmabteilung 2 sector, at 10:30 Sturmabteilung 1 and 3 are attacked, at 11:20 Sturmabteilung 1 is attacked again. the counter attacks are beaten back with hand grenades.
The day came to a close but the night was not finished for the Sturmtruppen.
At some stage during the assault Karl Görres was wounded. His day ended in Feldlaz. 28 (Field hospital 28). He was never to return to the front and strangely the manner of his wound is not entered in his Militaerpass. He spent the rest of the war in hospitals and eye clinics until the end of the war.
The page of his militaerpass showing the entries for the attack at Sapigneul le Godat and the attack from Avocourt to Höhe 304. Also shown is the entry for his Iron Cross and the time spent at the 10th Reserve Division Sturmkomp.
More items relating to this raid can be found HERE
Görres comrades who participated in the raid receive the Iron Cross from the Crown Prince. Gorres was in hospital at the time.
Görres's Iron Cross 2nd class award document. A special print for the 10th Reserve Division.
An unusual feature in Görres Military Pass is that the exact nature of his wound is not mentioned. It is very possible that he was wounded by friendly fire. Ironically the Artillery that gave them an easy victory in the first defensive lines was also the artillery that prevented them from gaining their objectives.
Leutnant Becker of the Reserve Feld Artillerie Regt. 48 was serving as a forward observer and described the 28th of June action in the Regimental history of his unit
" We were to observe from the machine gun nest. Just next to it was a very deep bunker which we shared with the infantry and in which we were relatively safe. It was new to me, this life in underground tunnels with its illumination by candles and its unpleasant odours. The casualness with which the infantry accepted their lot and called it home made a deep impression on me.
At 06.25 our artillery opened up. The first task was to immobilise the French artillery and this was done by a gas barrage. Suddenly the objectives changed and all known command and observation posts were fired upon, them another change as the trenches to be assaulted were targeted by a heavy barrage. There are no words that could to describe the fury of the bombardment. The earth itself shook and shivered as if terrified. Time after time the candles went out until we made no more effort to light them and sat there in the darkness. Two hours the barrage was to rain down on the French front line, then it was to move backwards as the stormtroops rushed forwards.
Although safe in our bunker the enemy lines and barrage was not too distant so I was surprised to see the infantrymen jump up at 08.25 and run up the steps to see the assault. I had assumed the violence of the bombardment would make it impossible to survive in the trenches, but the old hands knew better and soon I was in the trenches with the others (The infantry unit with Becker were holding the line and were not attacking).
I thought I was in hell. To the terrible artillery and minenwerfer fire was added the desperate rattle of machine guns. An indescribable and unimaginable cacophony. Overhead our spotter planes circled and the air was thick with smoke and gunpowder. Behind the silhouette of blackened tree stumps rose a blood red sun. It was a deadly theater play that concentrated all of my senses.
The assault broke loose along the whole front. The Stormtroops advanced so rapidly that they were in the French trenches before the enemy had a chance to take up his positions. Thanks to exact calculation and execution of orders the troops were in the enemy lines at the exact moment that the barrage had jumped away. Coming up just behind the stromtroops were soldiers carrying extra ammunition and all that was needed to fortify the newly captured trench. The men moved like ghostly shadows through a fog of smoke. The French artillery fire was negligible due to our gas attacks.
At many places the Frenchmen clambered out of their bunkers in a daze making their way to us through the chaos of barbed wire and broken trees with their hands up. The men in my trench were overjoyed by the results and pulled over three stocky Frenchmen who were soon sitting in our bunker drinking our coffee and smoking our cigarettes." (Albert Benary, Reserve-Feldartillerie-Regiment 48 im Weltkrieg, Berlin 1934)
A big thanks to Tom Young... this group was a gift from him.