und Batterie Führer Adalbert, Prinz von Bayern, königliche Hoheit“ must break
the record for a long title on a simple Iron Cross 2nd document!
At the outbreak of the war Prinz Adalbert von
Bayern took command of the 5. Batterie of the 1. Königliche bayerisches Feldartillerieregiment “Prinzregent Luitpold” and was awarded the regiments first Iron
Cross of the war. Although it may seem
only natural that the “Royals” were awarded the first crosses, as can be seen
from the account below, Prinz Adalbert’s cross was earned in battle. The
Regiment was part of the 1st Bavarian Infantry Division and on the
20th of August took part in a major push in Lothringen, it was the
first and last time in the war that the Bavarian Army attacked as a single
unit. The division took Saarburg, beat back a counter attack and continued
advancing until it took part in the battle at Nancy- Epinal.
"On the 18th of August 1914 I was in my observation
post near Rieding when I saw a French cavalry division ride onto the parade
ground at Saarburg. They were dispersed by a few long range shots from our
batteries. It was a wonderful sight. The whole day long the shells were flying
overhead bursting in the ranks of advancing Infantry and Artillery. There was
no doubt that something serious was brewing.
A blood red sun sank, the night passed and dawn
brought an early morning fog. As it cleared the fire started again. We fired at
extreme distances at the advancing infantry. My observation post was fired on
as was the neighbouring 2nd battery. My battery suffered its first
losses, 2 wounded men and 3 dead horses. We kept firing on the Infantry and
artillery. The expected night attack did not materialise on the 19th .
On the 20th the battle was to begin. At the crack of dawn we opened
fire, once again our targets were the Infantry and artillery batteries.
At 10:30 the Bavarian Leibregiment passed through our
positions heading for Saarburg and the Parade ground. We had to sit through the
enemy artillery fire while waiting to move the batteries to the Rebberg on the
eastern edge of Saarburg. General von Schoch (My commander at the war academy
and divisional commander) ordered us to open fire on the Saarburg barracks
where we had passed the night a few days before when the advance of the 1st
Bavarian Infantry Regiment had been stopped. Soon flames were visable. We could
advance. In Rieding the dead and wounded were laying between the burning
houses. Next to me lay a dead French officer with red trousers and new egg shelled
coloured gloves. I can still see him in front of me. We wait until the infantry
has crossed the Rebberg then we set off for Saarburg at a Galope. We race
across the cobbles sparks flying. I think less about the enemy than I do about
my horses as they weave between the wrecked wagons and other obstacles.
The galloping saved us as the houses in Saarburg
turned out to be occupied by French troops. The next battery was fired on out
of the windows and were stopped in their tracks. We came through unscathed and
made it first onto the Rebberg where we set up and opened fire on a rapidly
approaching enemy artillery batterie. The horses and men scattered in confusion
and panic. Our Brigade commander von Stein witnessed the action and commended
us. For a long while my battery was the only support for the infantry. Above us
and next to us was a concerto of bullets and shells whizzing by and exploding.
Suddenly we were hit by infantry fire from the houses behind us and by
artillery fire from the right. One of the guns was turned to fire to the rear. My
bugler and horse holder was wounded in the knee and two horses were hit while
the enemy infantry advanced on us. Our guns were out in the open, firing as
fast as the gunners could load. In the mean time the other batteries had
arrived. The enemy infantry retreats, our infantry hot on their heels. We can
no longer differentiate between friend and foe so the bugle sounds the
ceasefire. A sense of calm returns to the ranks and my men begin to sing “Wacht
am Rhein”. We pass the night, exhausted, in the glow of the burning houses.
From here we continued over the border at Blamont. From
my records I see our progression was marked by the following actions and
battles: 10.-13. Aug.
Gefecht bei Badonvillers, 14. Aug. Gefecht a.d. Vezouse, 18. – 19. Aug. Gefecht
bei Saarburg, 20. – 22. Aug Schlacht in Lothringen, 23. Aug. – 14. Sep.
Schlacht von Nancy Epinal.
On the 9th of September we were marching to the rear. Our
commander ordered me to report to him and he awarded me the Iron Cross 2nd
class for the action at Saarburg. It was the first Iron Cross of the regiment.
As the war progressed it would loose its stature but at the time it was considered
a great honour and award for bravery. It attracted attention when we crossed
the border at Avricourt on our way back to Germany.
Above: The Bavarians attack on the 20th of August 1914. Prinz Adalbert was serving in the 1.b. (1st Bavarian Division) attacking on the bottom right of the map. The shaded area at the top left is the city of Metz.