The men of the 25th Infantry Division (from Hessen) fought in the Caures forest in the opening phase of the Verdun Offensive. The I. Bataillon of the Infanterie-Leib-Regiment 117 was in the wave of assault troops. The documents to two of the men serving in the battalion and an account of the days fighting follows.
Unteroffizier Robert Olbrich of the 3. Kompagnie was
wounded by a rifle or machine gun bullet in the left arm during the assault. He
was very possibly evacuated with Gefreiter der reserve Hans Fleischhacker who
was wounded by a shell splinter. The two men fought in the same battalion from
the outbreak of the war including the assault on Maurupt (see HERE)
Hans Fleischhacker 10 years
after his wound in the Caures-Wald.
(To make the narrative easier to follow, German
designations are used for the 117. Regt. and English ones for the 115th
On the 22nd of February at 3:00 a.m. the I. Bataillon
left Romagne-sous-les-Cotes and took an already prepared march route to the
east of the Cote de Romagne through the Mont-Aube-Wald, passing through
Ville-devant-Chaumont and reaching the assault positions 1 km to the Southwest
of Ville which had been prepared on the night of the 20th-21st of February. The
Battalion, reinforced by the Festungs Machinen-Gewehr Zug 168, was put under
the command of the divisions Sturmtruppen commander, Oberst von Dassel of the
49th Infanterie Brigade.
At about 8:00 a.m. the artillery fire increased
reaching the infamous "Trommelfeuer" level as heavy artillery and
Minenwerfer hammered the enemy frontline. The assault began at noon. Half an
hour earlier the Leib-Kompagnie (1. Kompagnie under Leutnant Pätzelt) and 2.
Kompagnie (Oberleutnant Sümmermann) had positioned themselves just behind the
left wing of the Leibgarde-Regiment 115 and were able to join the assault right
away. The Leib-Kompagnie (117. Regt) joined the
5th and 7th Companies of the 115th Leib Regt in taking the blockade on the road
from Ville to Vacherauville were 41 prisoners with 2 heavy machineguns were
captured. The three companies then pushed left over the road reaching the
southern border of the Caures-Wald by 2:30 p.m.
The 2. Kompagnie which had followed the Leib Kompagnie
until the crossing of the road had joined the 6th company of the 115th Leib Regt
and had reached the southern border of the Caures-Wald at 2:00 p.m. Here the
troops had to wait for artillery support and the arrival of the neighbours on
the right flank.
The 3. and 4. Komp. under the command of the Bataillon-Kommandeur,
Major Henrici, left the staging area at 1:30 p.m. and followed the Leib Kompagnie
and 2. Kompagnie, all the time hassled by strong enemy artillery fire which
first fell on the German staging area, then moved back to the French second
line of defence. For this reason the attached Flamethrower troops could not
advance with the companies.
Hearing that the enemy still held the C Stellung (3rd
defence line) on the divisions right flank (in front of the I./115) Major
Henrici ordered the 3. Komp. to march in that direction. A field artillery
piece under Leutnant Deinhardt of the Field Artillery Regiment 61 was rushed
forward and gave the assault troops some breathing space. The 3. Komp. under
Leutnant Ellinghaus was on the left wing of the I./115 and two of its sections
(under Leutnant Bender and Feldwebel Lahr) took a number of Blockhouses along
the Ville-Vaucherauville road along with 100 prisoners and three machine guns.
From here they crossed to the Southern border of the Caures-Wald where Lahr's
section took another two blockhouses. The 4. Komp. stayed as the reserve of the
Bataillon-Kommandeur upon reaching the C Stellung. In the meantime it was
about 4:00 p.m.
While the Leibgarde Regiment 115 dug in on the
southern edge of the Caures-Wald the I. Bataillon of the Infanterie Leib
Regiment 117 under Major Henrici pulled back into the Trenches 815-816 behind
the Leibgarde Regiments left flank.
During the Afternoon the 117. Regt. staff, II. and
III. Batl. along with the regimental M.G. Kompagnie moved into the
Mont-Aube-Wald. The II. Batl. then into the staging area that the I. Batl. had
waited in before the assault, to the Southwest of Ville. That evening the 5.
and 8. Kompagnie occupied the Dewitz-Graben (Trench)
The Infanterie Leib Regiments losses for the 22nd of
February 1916 were: I. Batl. 8 Killed, 32 wounded. II. Batl. 19 wounded.
After his recovery Olbrich served as an instructor at
the Feld Rekruten Depot of the 8. Armee. As an afterthought to his
participation in the Verdun
battle he was awarded the Hessen Bravery Medal in May 1917.
The wound badge certificate for Hans Fleischhacker.
While most documents leave us in the dark as to where and when the wound was
suffered, this one very kindly has the date of his departure from the Regiment,
which was the date of the wound.
The Iron Cross 2nd class award document to
Gefreiter d.R. Fleischhacker, awarded and forwarded to him months after his
last action with the Regiment.
The Militärpaß entry for Fleischhacker indicating a
wound by a Garantsplitter. The Paß tells us that after his wound Fleischhacker
served in the Festungsgendarmerie in the Festung Mainz.
The entry in Olbrich’s Militärpaß for his wound on the
22nd of February in the Caures-Wald.
A big thanks to Paul Hederer whose research skills and know how turned up the information I needed on the 117. I.L.R. on the 22nd of Feb in a very short space of time.
Below: The canteen of Ersatz Reservist Scharkopf of the 12. Kompagnie, I.L.R. 117. It was pierced by schrapnel at Verdun and discarded in the forest. (The top hole is a shell splinter hole that goes through both sides of the canteen, the botton hole seens to have been made by an entrenching tool. Scharkopf seems to have survived the war.