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