On the 23rd of June 1916 Bavarian divisions launched
the last major German offensive at Verdun.
The 1st Bavarian Infantry Division forced their way along the Kalte Erde. They
took the strongpoint Thiaumont the 10th Bavarian Infantry regiment continuing
on to the strongpoint Kalte Erde where they were brought to a halt. The
Alpenkorps in the centre took the village
of Fleury and pushed its
way onto the Fleury heights. The Jäger Regiment 2 of the Alpenkorps fought its
way through the Chapitre Wald and was stopped along the length of the
The force of the assault was extremely worrying for
the French high command. General Nivelle gave desperate orders to counter
attack right away without awaiting orders and ignoring the sector limits of the
units. He passed on the Message that "Vous ne les laisserez pas passer mes
camarades!" (You won’t let them pass comrades).
Left: The German advance on the 23rs of June. The 171eme R.I. was rushed into the line to the North of Fort Souville
Petain, who's confident "Ils ne passeront
pas" (They will no pass) in the opening phases of the battle had become
one of the catch phrases of the war was very worried. On the telephone to
General Castelnau on the 24th to June he insisted that the attack on the Somme be
moved forward to take the pressure off his troops at Verdun. He reported that his best troops had
been overrun; Fort
Souville and the
strongpoint Froide Terre (Kalte Erde) were in danger. If the enemy overran them
and reached the "Ligne de La panique" (Fort
Belleville and Fort Saint Michel) he
would have to abandon the East bank of the Maas.
Right: Soldat 2eme Classe Eugene
Guillaume 20 years after the battle.
A typically implacable Joffre called Petain on the
25th and informed him that the Somme barrage
would intensify on the 26th of June, the attack would start on the 29th. He
informed Petain that he should not worry about losses, when the Somme offensive
started the pressure on Verdun
would ease. As a gesture he released four divisions to join the line art Verdun. Joffre had read
the cards right. On the 24th Falkenhayn had telegraphed the Heeresgruppe
Kronprinz that due to the situation on the Western front it seemed best to
limit the material, ammunition and manpower losses at Verdun. He asked for a report how this could
be best achieved while keeping the land gained (strongpoint Thiaumont, Fleury
and ground in front of Fort
Vaux). On the 27th the
Heeresgruppe answered that the Angriffsgruppe West (Attack group on the west
bank) would dig in in the positions they had reached. On the East bank the
attack would be continued with the men and ammunition that they had, with no
requests for further reserves.
The 127eme Division had been brought out of reserve
and rushed to Verdun
relieving the decimated units along the Southern flank of the Bavarian pocket.
The 171eme Regiment d'Infanterie taking over the sector held by the remains of
the 45eme R.I. (52eme D.I.) and the 54eme R.I. (12eme D.I.) in the Ravin des
Fontaines (Souvilleschlucht) towards the Bois Fumin (Fuminwald).
Soldat Georges Feret of the 172eme R.I. of the 127eme
D.I. wrote "On the night of the 27th we relieved the 106eme. The ground
was churned up by shells, shell hole after shell hole. We found our way by the
light of the explosions. I suddenly found myself face to face with a lad of the
106eme. Screaming above the thunder of the explosions I asked him for
information about the positions. He responded with a hoarse voice, his throat
on fire. He was barely able to articulate his words, his thirst enormous. I
offered him a drink from my canteen but he responded "Ah! No, keep it, you
will need it".
The memory has never left me. The brave man who knew
what lay ahead of me and did not want to take what he knew I would soon need.
If ever he reads these lines I would one day love to shake his hand".
Elements of the 127eme D.I. including a parts of the
171eme R.I. counter attacked upon their arrival on the 24th of June. While
divisions on their left flank fought desperately to regain Fleury and
Thiaumont the 127eme attacked trying to regain sections of the Chapitrewald.
The attack was beaten back by the Germans, the battalion commander of the 3eme Batl. was killed, his Adjutant wounded. Each battalion involved lost six
officers. The 1st machinegun company lost three officers and 75% of its men.
On the 25th the Regiment was ordered to straighten its
front. In spite of tremendous efforts it failed, suffering heavy losses. All
along the front opponents stumbled across each other, fighting to the end.
On the 26th another attack was launched by the French
but beaten back.
Left and above: two Croix de Guerre award documents to a member of the 171eme R.I. On the 27th of June Soldat 2eme Classe Eugene
Guillaume of the 5eme Compagnie was wounded at his post. His was awarded the
Croix de Guerre with a citation at Regimental level. It read"A soldier
with remarkable courage and sense of duty. He was wounded at his post of combat
on the 27th of June 1916"
On the 3rd of July the 171eme and 172eme Regiments
were at the "Batterie de Damloup" when it was taken by the German 99.
Infanterie Regiment. On the 4th and 5th they counter attacked in an effort to
retake it but the attacks broke up under German artillery and infantry fire. On
the 6th of June the 127em D.I. was pulled from the line and sent to recover
from their losses and prepare for their part in the Somme