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The genesis of Sturm Bataillon 16 on the Kaiserstuhl

One of the most important books on the Sturmbataillon is "Deutsche Sturmbataillone 1915-1918" by Werner Lacoste. Although limited in its scope it offers a wealth of information that can not be found elsewhere. I have used it extensively for the following article.  

The "Sturmabteilung", a unit based on a concept originally initially formulated by General von Gaede, left its home turf in the Vogesen to join the ranks of the 5. Armee at the beginning of February 1916. Renamed "Sturm-Bataillon" in April 1916 the unit became famous for its actions at Verdun.

Spalte 2
(Above) Heinrich Gustav Albert Barthels was born in Lübeck on the 15th of April 1898 and joined the army on the 24th of September 1914, aged 16 and a half. One day after his 17th Birthday (15th April 1915) he was transferred to a combat unit, the 13. Komp. I.R. 162 (which became the 9. Komp I.R. 187)  
On the 1st of July 1915 he was wounded by a bullet on Height 664 to the east of Metzeral. On the 17th of September 1915 he was wounded by artillery on the Schratzmännle. A week later he was promoted to Gefreiter.  
On the 8th of March 1916 Barthels was sent to "Sturm Abteilung Rottweil" (The unit seems to have mixed up Oberrotweil with Rottweil), he stayed until the 7th of May 1916 when he returned to his unit. The I.R. 187 fought in the Munster Valley at the Schratzmännle, Metzeral, Height 664, Barrenkopf etc from June 1915 until August 1916.
In July 1916 he was awarded the Lübeck Hanseatenkreuz, became a very young Unteroffizier in December 1916 and received the Iron Cross 2nd Class in September 1917.

While the bulk of the Sturmabteilung were sent to Verdun a portion remained in Oberrotweil. Lacoste has a theory that this was due to the fact that a portion of the units material remained behind. Realistically the material left behind could have been secured in a barn with a big lock and a small guard detachment. I find it unlikely that 3 Officers and 86 men would be required to guard it. Far more likely, in my opinion, was the need for instructors and cadre for the continuing training courses run by the Armee Abteilung Gaede with the objective of training Sturm Trupps for each of the Divisions in the sector. The training or "Lehrkommando" were formed into a unit named "Sturm Abteilung Oberrotweil". The unit remained under the command of Major Rohr who visited and commended them on the 19th of March 1916 for their training courses. Realising that he would not be returning to Gaede's sector with the main body of the Sturmbataillon Rohr requested that the responsibility for the Lehrkommando be transferred to the A.A. Gaede as up until then the costs for the Abteilung in Oberrotweil had been covered by the budget for the Sturmbataillon. Rohr continued to provide the Oberrotweil Abteilung with instructions for training Programs.  

The Armee Abteilung Gaede did not intend to keep the Abteilung Oberrotweil around indefinitely, rather they were to train Cadres from the Divisions stationed on the sector, who would then return to their parent divisions to form Divisional Sturmabteilung. These men would in turn continue training the men in their divisions. 

The reasoning behind this decision was that instructors at Divisional level could adapt their training courses to suit the terrain that their division operated in, at the same time they could right away adapt their training program to counter tactics used by local enemy units. Lacoste says that this was not necessarily a critique of the centralised training programs run by Sturm-Abteilung Rohr, as these also concentrated on using combined arms of service. The extra cost caused by Divisions having to set up their own training grounds would have been evened out by the fact that within a division the Sturmabteilungs would have had access to the weapons they needed when they conducted raids and attacks.

Above: An assault course in the Vogesen (Lacoste)

Once the divisions had agreed on this the Abteilung Rottweil was dissolved on the 8th of May 1916. Men who had been detached to reinforce the Abteilung were returned to their units while those who had been part of the unit under Rohr were sent to the 12th Landwehr Division to form a "Sturm-Lehr-Abteilung". This Abteilung seems to have been "unofficial". i.e. it existed as part of the A.A. Gaede, but was not officially recognised as part of the German Army.  

Lacoste lists the material left behind by the Rohr's Abteilung when they left for Verdun and which was taken over by the 12th Landwehr Division  

- 1 Russian 7.62cm Field Artillery pieces
- 2 Lanz Minenwerfer
- 9 Mauser Pistols
- 19 British Trench Clubs
- 1 100 Trench Shields with straps
- 300 Picks
- 300 Spades
- 16 Axes

Lacoste believes this amount of material was probably the main reason the detachment had been left behind in Oberrotweil, but realistically 10 Landwehr Men and a locked Barn should have been enough to guard this round the clock. It is (once again, simply my opinion) far more likely that Gaede had insisted that he not loose all his trained Sturm trained Cadre. Interesting also to notice that already by February 1916 Rohr seems to have abandoned the Infantry/Trench shields.

Left: Militärpass of Heinrich Gustav Albert Barthels, attached to the short lived Sturm Abteilung Oberrotweil
Other than the 12th Landwehr Division Sturm units were also formed for the 8th Landwehr Division (4 Officers and 70 men who had been trained at berrotweil), the 7th (württ.) Landwehr Division (In October 1916 5 officers and 137 men). The 6th (Bavarain) Landwehr Division had a Cadre of 3 Officers 2 NCOs and 10 men who ran 3 week training courses for 12 Officers, 12 NCOS and 144 men. The 8th (Bavarian) Reserve Division reported that they had formed the cadre of the Sturm-Abteilung with the men of the 8th Radfahr (Bicycle) Kompanie. The Armee Abteilung Gaede was renamed Armee Abteilung B in September 1916, in October 1916 it announced that each of its Divisions had a Sturmabteilung of 100-150 men, roughly the equivelent of a Sturm-Bataillon.

These divisional Sturm units were by the end of the year to evolve into the Sturm-Bataillon Nr. 16 of Armee Abteilung B. The Abteilung were renamed as Sturm-Kompanie and were distributed as follows  

- 1. (bayer.) Sturm Kompagnie (6th bavarian Res. Div) based at Ammerschweier in Alsace

- 2. (württ.) Sturm Kompagnie (7th württ. Ldw. Div.) based at Zillsheim in Alsace

- 3. (preuß.) Sturm Kompagie (8th Ldw. Div.) based at Lixdorf/Ligsdorf) in Alsace

- 4. (preuß.) Sturm Kompagnie (12th Ldw. Div.) based at Königschaffhausen am Kaiserstuhl

Major Ludwig von Breuning, originall from the Landwehr Infanterie Regiment 126 was trained by the (now known as) Sturm-Bataillon Nr. 5 (Rohr) in January 1917 and assumed command of the newly created Sturm-Bataillon Nr. 16.

For articles about Sturm unit operations in the Vogesen please the the Sturm Abteiling on the Schratzmännle HERE or the Flamethrowers attached to Sturm bataillon 16 on the hartmannsweilerkopf HERE

While attached to the Abterilung Barthels seems to have trained as a MG 08/15 gunner
Above: The Iron Cross 2nd Class certificate of Barthels