Franz Rudolph Jonkheer de Casembroot was
born on 1 November 1883 at Tschetzkowitz in Silesia.
He entered Feldartillerie-Regiment
von Peucker (1. Schlesisches) Nr. 6 as a Fahnenjunker on 8 November 1906.
Promoted to Fähnrich on 20 July 1907, he was commissioned a Leutnant on 18
When the regiment marched out of barracks
in Breslau at the beginning of the war,
Jonkheer de Casembroot was serving as adjutant of the 2. Abteilung. By the 1st
of July 1915 he was in the same appointment, but by now an Oberleutnant. Some
time between then and June 1916 he was promoted to Hauptmann and took over as
battery commander of the 6. Batterie, 2. Abteilung.
He was in command of the
battery at the start of the battle on the Somme
but was wounded early in the fighting. After his recovery he was reassigned to
the 9. Batterie, 2. Abteilung and took part with his battery in the fighting at Passchendaele.
Hauptmann Jonkheer de Casembroot was still in
that appointment on the 1st of April 1918 but by the 1st of October 1918 had
moved to a different regiment.
Left: The tunic of Hauptmann Jonkheer de Casembroot. The tunic was tailored the month after the fighting at Passchendaele described below.
The following extracts are taken from the
regimental history of Feldartillerie-Regiment Nr. 6. and describe some of the
actions in which de Casembroot participated.
On the Somme
"The 6./6. Feldartillerie Regiment in
the Fuchsbauwäldchen ("Foxhole Copse") north of Belloy had been under
heavy artillery fire since the early morning hours on the 1st of June. When the
enemy attacked from its positions at Fay the rapid fire of the batteries caused
it heavy losses to the north of Fay in the vicinity of Assevillers. Despite the
well-prepared positions of the 6th's batteries they lost two of their guns to
direct hits. Soon there were no more German infantry in front of the battery;
it was late in the afternoon when infantry reserves marched through the
positions of the batteries to form a line of defence to the south of Assevillers.
Hauptmann Jonkheer de Casembroot, the battery commander, led them forward
personally and was wounded. Oberleutnant d.R. Grospietsch took over
Above: German Field Artillery move their gun across the battlefield
The 235th Infantry Division took up
position to the east of Wieltje where it suffered through British bombardment
and then met the British attack on the 31st of July. The troops suffered
heavily and the division was withdrawn from the front the next day.
The 9th Battery
was to serve as a mobile reserve and the men stood ready with their guns
limbered up, waiting for the order to move out.
At about 10 a.m. Hauptmann Jonkheer de
Casembroot was given a rundown on the British breakthrough. He was ordered
forward with a section to take up position on Lübeck Street where enemy tanks were
expected to arrive. He was directed to act according to his own initiative. At
around noon he took up position with his two guns to the north of Grafenstafel
and was very successful in helping beat back the British attack on Almenhof.
The rest of the battery was left in
reserve. The staff of the III./6. in the meantime was looking for new positions
for the support batteries and found two by the "Haus Kirchner", which
they reported back to the regimental HQ.
After the section of the 9./6. had completed
its mission at Grafenstafel it was reunited with the rest of the battery and
along with a section of the 2./6. were assigned to the Nahkampfgruppe
("close combat group") Hummel. From there they were able to support
the counterattack of the 50. Reserve Division. In the Wieltje sector to the
east of the Nahkampfgruppe two further positions were created for
reinforcements. At 6 p.m. the 5th and 6th batteries of Feldartillerie-Regiment
Nr. 78 arrived to occupy them. These batteries, along with 5./6, supported the
221. Infanterie Division's advance on Fortuin and Wiesengut to the east of the
Albrechtstellung ("Position Albrecht"). Replacement guns and
ammunition reserves arriving in the sector were sent forward to the
Nahkamfgruppen so that they were well-supplied on the night of the July
The first large attack of the British (July
31) in the Passchendaele sector had failed. The goal they had set for
themselves (as found in captured papers) had not been achieved. However, the
British Infantry, tanks and cavalry had almost succeeded in wiping out the
infantry of the 235. Infanterie Division. The division's artillery, however,
had stood steadfast in position, the 1./6, 4./6, 5./6 and 9./6, reinforced by
the 7./221, 8./221 and 9./221 were largely responsible for stopping the enemy advance.
This in turn was only possible due to the sacrifices of the other batteries
(esp. the 7./6 and 8./6) who had helped to thin the ranks of attackers.
In spite of the heavy losses in men and
material, it was one of the most glorious days of the regiment's history.
The 9./6 under Hptm. Jonkheer de Casembroot
had been standing ready to intervene wherever they were needed. After the order
arrived at 10 a.m. to advance, he left the 2nd section under Leutnant d.R.
Tschauner with Nahkampfgruppe Hummel and moved forward with his men.
Ignoring the incoming enemy artillery fire
the section moved forward. Shellhole touched shellhole, the road no longer
Over and over the order was given "Gunners! To the wheels!"
The groaning horses could not manage on their own. Passing over the dead,
destroyed wagons, horse cadavers... all around was the horror of war.
The battery arrived in position and set up,
right away opening fire on the advancing British troops at a range of 1500 meters.
A tank appeared, coming closer and closer... it took eight shots to bring the
monster to a standstill. The British were now 1000 meters away. The battery
tore holes in their line but these closed again and again as if by magic. Rapid
fire began to deplete the stocks of ammunition, and soon it became evident that
the gunners would have to change position. A messenger was sent back to a copse
where the horses and gun carriages waited but he came back with bad news. Two
drivers were badly wounded and the horses were either dead or had run away in
panic. Gunners were sent to carry the drivers to the next first-aid position
and a rider was sent to inform the Nahkampfgruppe of the situation. In the
meantime the firing continued, every shell had to count! The enemy was 800
meters away. At 1.30 p.m. the guns reported only four rounds per gun were left!
The horses lost, the ammunition running out, the enemy just in front... the
situation was critical.
No panic, the British were not in the
position yet, the gunners had to try and save their guns. The chances were
slim, the one and only street (Lübeckerstrasse) was under heavy fire but it had
to be tried, the enemy should not be allowed to take the guns! Six more shots
were fired, each gun kept one shot for a final stand.
And now, along the road! The gunners
strained at the wheels, first the one gun, then the other... 50 meters covered.
Then the first gun again... A way was cut through a wire barricade, then a
trench had to be crossed, luckily flattened by two shells.... at 2:30 pm they
reached the road. Here the going was no easier and the gunners groaned as they
pushed the guns forward, meter by meter...
Suddenly a light at the end of the tunnel!
German infantry (the 221. I.D.) was counterattacking. The spirits of the
gunners rose and they continued their struggle. Suddenly there was a roar
overhead and a heavy artillery shell exploded just 10 meters ahead of the lead
gun tearing a large hole in the road. Did it have to land there!! Spades and
picks were taken in hand and the hole was filled... Then onwards! Ahead on the
road was an ambulance blocking the way; it had taken a direct hit which had
scattered the occupants on both sides of the road. It was a sobering sight for
the gunners as they cleared a path... then once again they put their shoulders
to the wheel and began to push the guns.
From behind came a loud honking and a shout
of "Passing left!"; one of the men had salvaged the klaxon from the
ambulance... the bit of humour brightened up the situation.
Suddenly a loud howl and a heavy shell
crashes into the soft earth just 2 meters to the side of the road at the level
of the first gun. The crew is thrown to the ground. One by one they get up,
shocked and astounded... they had all survived! The soft earth had absorbed the
Once again the men of the 2nd gun sounded
the klaxon, and in good spirits the men continued their journey...
The road sloped upwards, and with a last
effort the men pushed the guns up the hill past a ruined house. A few meters
further and they were over the crest of the hill and out of sight of the enemy
It had taken three hours of back-breaking effort.
Hptm. Jonkheer de Casembroot reported to
the commander of the Nahkampfgruppe who greeted and congratulated him. He was
informed that his section had long been written off!
Within an hour the battery took over new
positions and had opened fire on the enemy once again.