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The EK1

Prinz Adalbert of Bavaria was wounded during the failed Marne-Champagne Offensive in July 1918. To see an overview of the offensive see HERE

A French NCO volunteered to man a suicide Machine Gun post see HERE

Right: Prinz Adalbert and his dog on the Champagne front 1918

On the morning of the 14th of July 1918 the fog lay heavy on the ground. That afternoon there was a meeting in the ramshackle HQ of the infantry commander. Our division was to attack in the general direction from Somme-Py to Souain. My task was to take care of the French 4th line of defence, the expected main position. We never got that far. The French knew our plans, they moved their troops back and our guns pulverised their empty frontline positions, their infantry waited for us further to the rear.  

(Prinz Adalbert´s batteries were trained as Infanteriebegleitbatterien, they did not take part in the initial bombardment but would advance with the infantry as close combat support).  

The French also knew when our bombardment was to start as their artillery opened up on our gun positi ns just before the planned starting time of our bombardment. Our guns fired at 1.10am, the muzzle flashes looked like fireworks and the clouds of powder ressidue burned like teargas. From the bunker it sounded like the steady rumble of thunder. It was the same routine as the March offensive but here the Trenches and barbed wire were more difficult to move through. My Begleitbatterien were forced to wait in the open while the Pioniers made a path for them through our defences. A brief rest in the French first line while the infantry crossed the "Butte de Souain". Prisoners and wounded passed us on their way to our rear area.

Above: Prinz Adalbert's wound badge document for the silver wound badge.

It frustrated me to see my batteries shot up without anything being gained, this time, unlike in March, there was no breakthrough. My 1st and 3rd batteries suffered heavy losses due to direct hits, Hallberg was there to direct them out of the fire and shoot the wounded horses. Leutnant Riemerschmied was killed and von Thelemann and Hanka were wounded.

My Abteilung lost killed, 1 officer, 1 NCO, 7 men, 3 accompanying pioniers and 40 horses. Wounded, 3 officers, 5 NCOs, 23 men, 5 pioniers and 18 horses. 3 NCOs were missing... it was all for nothing.  

Amongst the wounded was yours truly, although my wound was negligible. After a long period in which my staff had sat around waiting I was ordered to report to the commander. The firing had died down and I was chatting with Peringer when I felt a thump on the back of my head.  

A large and jagged shell splinter had landed on my head. It bled but was a small wound and I was inclined to ignore it. Peringer insisted that a doctor look at it and I was bandaged and given an anti tetanus vaccination.

I did not want to go but Peringer ordered me to go to the aid station and the divisional commander who happened to be passing made sure Hallberg escorted me there.  

The vaccination hurt more than the wound and the matter did not end there. Dr. Sengler insisted on driving me to Bemont Ferme then against my wishes to the hospital at Vouziers. I wanted to get back to my staff but it was out of my hands.

Left: The terrible effects of an artillery shell during WW1

In this hospital I saw the pain and horror of war in its rawest, most terrible form. Exhausted doctors in white aprons operating as if on a factory production line. One naked soldier after another brought into the operating room, terrible wounds, deformities, stomach wounds, head wounds... Unimaginable horrors.  

Many left their arms or legs... Or both, back in the room. Some left their lives. A terrible odour of medicine, anaesthetic, disinfectant, sweat and filth. To describe the hell would require the pen of Zola. I felt the urge to run out into the fresh air, never to look back. There was however no escape.  

It was all I needed to show me why I hated war. Humbled and shamed at the small wound I had to offer I sat in a corner until my turn came. I apologised to the doctor but he seemed happy for once not to have to saw off an arm or dig around in intestines. With a new, even larger bandage I was released to the officers quarters where the local commander arranged a room for me. The next morning I had the opportunity to wash for the first time in two days. It was the 16th of July. In Siberia the Russian Royal family was being shot by the Bolsheviks.  

From the local commander I heard that the 7th army had made small gains, more than the 1st and 3rd (to which we belonged). My regiment had suffered very heavy losses and I wanted to return as fast as possible.

While the 7th army had succeeded in crossing the Marne in our sector we were still occupying the French 1st line of defence, the enemy holding the second. We had gained barely a couple of kilometres of ground. I had to search for my staff and found them in an old infantry bunker. The French had the whole area under a lively fire.

The 7th battery had been buried in a bunker when artillery fire had collapsed it. 15 men had died. My three batteries were still in their old positions.

On the 22nd of July we were pulled back and in the weeks that followed we participated in the "Abwehrschlacht zwischen Soissons und Rheims", the "Bewegliche Abwehrschlacht zwischen Marne und Vesle", the "Abwehrschlacht zwischen Oise und Aisne" and the rest of the actions of the 1. Bayerische Infanterie Division until the end of the war.

Adalberts Division attacked between the 2. Bayerische Infanterie Division and the 88. Infanterie Division in the 3. Armee sector