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Corporal in the 5th Company of the 21st Bavarian Infantry Regiment Grossherzog Friedrich Franz IV. von Mecklenburg-Schwerin. In peacetime he was a stone mason in Frankenried. He was born on the 12th of September 1895 in Spitzendorf, Niederbayern.

"On the 15.09.1916 a large British attack pushed back the neighbouring Regiment and occupied parts of the Gallwitzriegel. The 2nd Battalion of the 21st Bavarian Infantry Regiment now had an open right flank. In the morning of the 15.09.1916 the British launched a heavy attack which also hit the 5th company, especially for forward Sapp. As the British Grenade party approached Gefreiter Hartinger and a hastily assembled party of soldiers threw them back.

When the British tried another attack that evening they mainly targeted the unprotected right flank of the 5th Company. At this dangerously weak point in the line Hartinger was present with two comrades. In spite of heavy enemy fire and being grossly outnumbered they scorned death and kept the enemy at bay with their hand grenades. When the small team ran out of grenades the British managed to gain a few meters of trench but Hartinger rapidly replenished his grenades and in a dapper attack he threw the advancing enemy back. During this action he took a British NCO prisoner after some hard hand to hand fighting.

His personal bravery saved the right flank of the company and saved the battalion from catastrophe."

Left: Machine Gunners with their MG08 on its sledge

In the warm, moonlit autumn night of the 14th to 15th of September our Machine Gun Company moved into the line. The relatively light enemy fire allowed them to arrive with no casualties and the Prussian comrades gave them a thorough overview of the position. Nine machine guns are in position under Leutnant Brunner and Leutnant d. Res. Brust., three on the right of the Sunken Road to Ginchy, three in the middle of the position and three on the left flank. One remains in Reserve with the battalion commander and two are in the Gallwitzriegel with Offz. Stellv. Dietel. Each gun has a gun commander with three men. There are plenty of reserves men and ammunition. The guns were positioned without sledges and should be fired by just resting them on sandbags, giving greater flexibility. Range was supposed to be about 1000m. The I. and II. Battalion used the night to reinforce the positions. The wounded, including men of the 161. I.R. were brought to the rear and warm food brought to the front. Patrols were sent to make contact with the neighbouring Reserve Infanterie Regiment 28 but reported they could only find British troops in the Birch forest.

As the fog lifted on the morning of the 15th a warm, clear day began. At about 7:00am three Vehicles began to roll towards the 6th Company between Ginchy and Leuze-Wald. Because of the Blue and Red crosses it was initially assumed that they were Ambulances but when the 6th Company suddenly came under fire from machine guns and revolver canons, and began suffering losses, they realised they were confronted with the new war machines…”Tanks”.

They advanced, ignoring the machinegun and rifle fire, crossing shell holes as bullets bounced off their armour. One stopped for a while in front of the 6th Company and raked it and the hollow road with fire. Even hand grenades were ineffective. Only artillery could help! They joined in the battle and destroyed one tank, encouraging the other two to return to their lines. It seems the crews were supposed to recce the area and establish how heavily the “Württemberger Trench” was occupied. At 07:15 a heavy Shell and shrapnel bombardment was aimed at the trench, the Gallwitzriegel and the ruins at Morval. British aircraft flew above the smoke and dust guiding their artillery batteries and strafing our artillery positions with their machine guns. Red flares went up to call to our batteries “Help! Infantry attack immanent!” They did not need the warning, already a barrage began in front of the lines.

Pressed against the side of the trench or flat in their shell holes the men await the enemy attack with rifles clutched in their hands. The machine gunners are ready to jump forward and put their machineguns onto the sandbags… tensions are running high, nerves are at breaking point.

Suddenly at 07:30 the fire lifts. Enemy skirmish lines, 5 or 6 deep begin to advance. Columns advance from Ginchy and Leuze-Wald. At last an enemy we can engage! It becomes lively in our positions. The combatant’s spirit is alive again; all along the front men are ready to launch death into the enemy ranks.

Already we can make out the steel helmets, the bayonets and the bags of hand grenades they carry for close combat. The machine guns begin their furious fire, as does the Shrapnel from our guns. Those who do not have a favourable position on the trench line stand and fire freehanded for better effect. The objective is to kill as many attackers as possible. Terrible gaps are torn by our artillery and infantry fire in the advancing ranks. For a while they advance in spite of the losses… then they begin to dive for cover, moving forward in bounds. Only a few groups get close. We reach for hand grenades to finish the job. A particularly dashing British assault group (Stosstrupp) makes it into the advance Sapp of the 5th Company… but they chose to mess with the wrong man. Max Hartinger, (a stone mason from Spitzendorf) makes a determined counterattack. Throwing grenades he kills a number of enemy soldiers then chases the rest out of the trench into the fire of his comrades…..

By 09:00 the British attack on the Regimental front has been stopped. The enemy lays in thin defensive lines, a few hundred meters ahead of us, and the men hide in Shellholes. Small groups bringing up machine guns and ammunition are taken under fire. Hundreds of dead and wounded British soldiers lay in front of our lines. We have not lost any ground. The men feel triumphant.

Left: In Mid October 1916 Max Hartinger was awarded an Iron Cross 2nd Class for his part in the actions. Two months later it was upgraded to a Bavarian Gold Bravery Medal. The Bayerische goldene Tapferkeitsmedaille was awarded only 998 times during the 1914-18 conflict.


The commanders enjoy the victory, but it is tempered with concern. Our weak left flank had been held by the brave men of our 2nd company but the 7th Bavarian Infantry regiment on the right flank had been overrun and pushed out of their 1st and 2nd defensive lines. Soon from the “Württemberger Graben” British troops began to push towards our 5th Company. Others occupy a Sapp right on our flank and man it with a machine gun and trench mortar. British Infantrymen appear in the 2nd Defensive line of the 7th Bavarian Infantry regiment. Leutnant d. Res. Herold, commanding the company on the flank does not give in to pressure. He makes sure that the Trenches are barricaded and positions one of his sections facing the danger. He places the hand grenade Trupp in readiness in the danger area. At 9:30 he reported “The men are in good spirits, the 5./21 will hold no matter what”. At 12:00 “Our men feel they have the upper hand, company positions in our hands, the men in good spirits,” at 14:15 “A large number of British troops on the high ground along the road from Ginchy-Lesboeufs. My right flank is in danger as they have no support to their right or to the rear. I am on the right flank with all available troops. Positions in our hands, men in good spirits,”.  

Hauptman Nagel relayed this report to the Regimental commander with the additional note that the right flank was in desperate need of reinforcement and he had nothing to reinforce it with. He further noted that the position would be held to the last man. The regimental commander sent two machine guns to support the flank, later that evening their flanking fire would tear terrible holes in the lines of enemy troops advancing against the new positions of the 7th Bavarian Infantry Regiment.  

In the mean time the British had recognised that the 21st Bavarian Infantry Regiment still held its lines and they took up a heavy bombardment. All day long airplanes directed the artillery fire which kept up a heavy drumfire, only letting up in sections where the British Infantry tried to push forward. On the right flank British assault groups tried another breakthrough. Once again Max Hartinger was there with his hand grenades. The Gefreiter Rößler and Görner were at his side. They had already distinguished themselves while barricading the Trench. Five comrades had been killed, but the three insisted on finishing the task themselves, refusing to be relieved while under fire from various positions.  

The three greeted the advancing assault group with a storm of Grenades, convincing them to retreat. Chasing after them Hartinger was able to take a particularly tough NCO from the Durham Regiment as his prisoner. For his bravery that day he would later be awarded the Bavarian Gold Bravery Medal. Görner and Rößler were awarded the Silver Bravery Medal.  

Between 15:00 and 16:00 the 6th and 7th Companies are attacked. Without success. On the left flank the British suffer heavy losses caused by our machine guns and the rifles of the men of the 2nd company.

Group after Group is beaten off. They advance towards Lesboeufs, bypassing our right flank in Skirmish lines and columns. Company after company go through the Leuzewald. A number of communiqués from the frontline reached the II. Batl commander as well as panicked reports from wounded men going to the rear. An impenetrable barrage isolates the II. Batl from its sister battalion in the Gallwitzgraben and the Regimental HQ in Morval. In spite of the efforts of the runners even the communication between the II. Batln and its own companies is sometimes impossible. The entrance to the battalion commander’s bunker had collapsed under shellfire a number of times. Pillars of earth blot out the sun for most of the day. At 21:00 the bombardment lifts and moves to the rear. On both flanks small army fire and hand grenades are heard. Is it a new attack? The 6th company reports that a large portion of their line had been flattened and Hauptmann Nagel gathered his Telephonists and Messengers to plug the gap. The expected attack did not come… slowly the fury of the day subsided. Here and there a flare flickered across the night sky….

Neue Tabelle
Gefreiter der 5. Komp. 21. b. Inf. Regt. Großherzog Friedrich Franz IV. von Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Im Frieden Steinhauer in Frankenried. geboren 12.09.1895 zu Spitzendorf in Niederbayern.

Die Engländer hatten am 15.09.1916 in schwerem Maffenstoß das rechte Nachbarregiment des 21. b. Inf. Rgts. weit zurückgedrängt und Teile des Gallwitzriegels besetzt. Das anschließende II. Batl. 21. b. Inf. Rgts. war nun in der rechten Flanke ohne Schutz. Am Vormittag der 15.09. griffen die Engländer mit starken Kräften auch die 5. Kompagnie an und richteten ihren hauptstoß gegen eine vorgeschobene Sappe. Als sie mit handgranatenwürfen schon nahe herankommen, warf sich ihnen der Kriegsfrw., Gefreiter Hartinger mit einigen Leuten kurz entschlossen entgegen und trieb sie unter starken Verlusten zurück.

Als die Engländer am Abend des gleichen Tages wieder angriffen, gingen sie hauptsächlich gegen den in der Luft hängenden rechten Flügel der 5. Komp. vor. An diesem gefährdeten Punkt der ganzen Stellung stand wiederum Hartinger mit 2 tapferen Kameraden. Gemeinsam hielten sie trotz des schweren feindl. Feuers einer großen Überlegenheit todesmutig stand und verhinderten durch kräftiges Handgranatenfeuer ein Eindringen des Feindes. Als der kleinen Schar die Handgranaten ausgegangen waren, gelang es den Engländern, einige Meter Boden in Graben zu gewinnen. Kaum aber hatte Hartinger seine Handgranaten ergänzt, trieb er auch schon in schneidigem Vorgehen die Eingedrungenen Feinde zurück. Hierbei glückte es Ihm, einen englischen Unteroffizier in hartem kämpfe gefangen zu nehmen.

Seine persönliche Unerschrockenheit hat den rechten Flügel der Kompagnie gerettet und das Bataillon vor einer Katastrophe bewahrt.
 
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