The following account is courtesy of Jack Sheldon. It
is from his book “The German Army at Passchendaele”, which is now coming out in
A MG 08/15 Machine Gunner Team
This is an account by a member of the Grenadier Regiment
9 which was reinforcing the Reserve Infanterie Regiment 94 during the period for
which Arno Löscher’s commendation certificate was awarded. If you want a better
understanding of the “bravery and tenacity” please read the article below….
Right: The battlefield at Passchendaele.
Jack Sheldon : The German Army at Passchendaele
Elements of Grenadier Regiment 9, which was part of
3rd Guards Division, had been forwarded to the Keiberg area to reinforce the
front line of the Reserve Infanterie Regiment 94 from the evening of 12
October. The conditions were simply appalling. They occupied a random series of
water filled craters.
There were no trees to be seen, not a patch of green, no
sign of a trench just rain, rain and more rain. The grenadiers stretched their
groundsheets over the craters in an effort to keep dry, but it was hopeless.
They were up to their waists in filthy water and mud. Some men tried vainly to
bale out the holes using mess tins or steel helmets, but soon gave up on the
Shells continued to rain down and the casualties went on
mounting. One of the platoon commanders of the 1st Battalion wrote
up his impressions of the conditions and the state of the fighting as the First
battle of Passchendaele died away. He could have been acting as a spokesman for
the forward troops.
“If you wished to find one single sentence to
encapsulate what it meant to endure the worst drumfire imaginable, to hang on
in ploughed-up terrain which made a mockery of every attempt at orientation,
where there was a lack of food, where life was lived out in shell holes and
mine craters, where it was impossible to distinguish the clay from the water,
where all appeared to have been reduced once more to the primeval swamp from which
our planet developed millions of years ago, this was the best attempt that
could be made. Yes, we were in the Carpathians and took part in the
breakthrough in Galicia; we
were there on the Somme, we have got to know
the worst of the Eastern and Western Fronts, but here…. And words failed
When we emerged from our holes, we looked like animals
whose natural camouflage made them indistinguishable from the surrounding
earth, even for the sharpest eye. Our grey uniforms were coated with mud and
earth and it appeared as though every man was encased in terracotta from his
steel helmet to the nails of his boots. Here we endured to the uttermost limit
of that which was humanely possible; our daily entertainment an endless stream
of shells, most of them heavy calibre, which crashed down everywhere that the
enemy suspected we earthworms were lurking.
Over there is the crew of a light machine gun, in
their “Dugout”, which comprises a medium sized shell hole, featuring a sheet of
corrugated iron spread across the portion nearest the enemy as protection
against the endless Flanders drizzle for the
weapon that the five man crew treat as sacred. The wet conditions gradually
turn outer and underclothes into an unpleasant leathery substance sticking to
the limbs. A shell impacts two meters in front of this austere shelter. The
corrugated iron sheet flies up in a great arc, to land more than 10 meters
away. One member of the crew is killed and two other seriously wounded. The
remaining pair clean the fallen mud and clay off their gun, mount it on the lip
of their crater once more and soon it is chattering away at lines of enemy
infantrymen who have been careless enough to expose themselves to it. That is a
typical example of defence when the enemy acts as though all life has been extinguished
and our men demonstrate that they are still there.
Yes, they stick it out in their thin, wavy defensive
lines; on their own or in twos and threes. Self-absorbed, their voices barely
able to make themselves understood t their neighbour above the hellish racket.
They are fully aware that in Flanders they are
right at the focus of the fighting throughout the full length of the Western
Front, of the war itself and that the outcome is entirely up to them. Suddenly
all falls silent… does it mean an attack all along the line? Hands grip rifle
butts tighter, the security screws on grenades are checked. Yes, it is an
attack! It is the moment of liberating relief! Rifle and machine gun fire is
poured into the enemy and our artillery brings down violent concentrations.
Over-keen Tommies, who have already pushed forward in front of the crater, are
dealt with using grenades. It lasts half an hour then the attack is beaten off,
with casualties amongst both the courageous Pomeranian soldiers and the enemy,
whose losses are even higher.
The attack is renewed after two or three hours. The
images and the result are the same. The next day the official Army Communiqué
reports that the Pomeranian Grenadier Regiment has smashed every enemy assault”
A commendation certificate of the I. Bataillon, Reserve
Infanterie Regiment 94 (22nd Reserve Division). It was awarded to Gefreiter Arno Löscher, a MG 08/15 Machine Gunner
in the 1st Company for the fighting at Passchandaele during the
period 4th to 16th of October 1917. The reason for the
award was his Brave and Tenacious fighting as a Machingunner in the Flanders