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The EK1

19th of February - 20th March 1915

A Bavarian Gold Bravery Medal won on the Reichackerkopf

Coming from the West the valleys running past Soultzeren (Sulzern/Sultzeren) in the North and Metzeral in the South enclose the Reichackerkopf and join together to form the Münstertal, a valley also known as the „Tal der Fecht“ after the Fecht River that runs through it. From the town of Munster the valley runs to the North East, like a highway to Turckheim, then into the Rhein valley at Colmar.  

At the beginning of February 1915 the French had decided to maintain their positions in the sector, holding fast on the Hartmannswillerkopf to assure the Germans did not advance along the Vallee de la Tour, and at the same time trying to progress into the Munster valley.

Above: The Reichackerkopf seem from the north (From Hohrod, see map below). The orange point is the summit, the front lines ran to the right of it.

In the sector were the still green troops of the 8. bayer. Reserve Division and the 6. Württembergischen Landwehr Division.  

On the 19th of February 1915 the Germans made the first move. In the early morning artillery opened up firing on the Reichackerkopf and on the Col Du Sattel signaling the start of an offensive action. This was not long in coming, at 08:00am the Germans attacked gaining a foothold at the foot of the Reichackerkopf. The fighting is intense and lasts all day, many losses suffered in the ranks of the Bavarians and Württembergers. The French Chasseur are at home on the slopes, sharpshooters firing from up in the trees. The bay. Reserve Infanterie Regiment 19 takes the Reichackerkopf,  The Commander of the French 47eme Division judges the situation to be grave and calls up his reserves who are resting in Geradmer. The reserves have an 8 hour march to reach the front. They arrive exhausted and are right away thrown into the fray.

On the 20th of February the French counter attack and in spite of the enthusiasm of the Chasseur they do not succeed in taking the peak of the Reichackerkopf. At 17:00 they are hanging on to the western slope when a German attack throws them back to the Col du Sattel. A few isolated pockets of Chasseur remain in the treeline to the west and North of the Reichackerkopf.  

The Germans continue to push and on the 21st of Feb they take the Barrenkopf and push the remaining French elements from the Reichackerkopf to the Col du Sattel.  

Stosswihr was now endangered and the tree line to the east and the chateau fall to the Germans that evening. Two Compagnies of the 14th French Chasseur Battalion manage to take the Chateau back that evening with the help of a company of Territorials.  

On the night of the 22nd-23rd of Feb the French abandon Stosswihr and pull back to Sultzeren.  

By now the German troops were exhausted. They contented themselves with a ragged bombardment of the French lines. Both sides used the next few days to reorganize. On the 1st of March 2 battalions of the 22nd Bavarian R.I.R. attacked and managed to take the houses on the outskirts of Sultzeren but a French counter attack pushed them back causing relatively heavy losses in the German ranks.

Right: The Bavarian Gold Class Bravery Medal awarded to Franz Riethmann for his bravery during the actions on the Reichackerkopf. To continue to the page with his awards go HERE

On the 6th of March the French 47. Division mounted a powerful attack. The objective was to gain ground to the East of Sultzeren, to retake the Reichackerkopf and if possible retake the village of Stosswihr.  

The 23e Bataillon de Chasseur were to attack the Reichackerkopf, which they managed in 45 minutes of fighting. The French artillery, which had been successful in preparing the way for the attack now failed to adjust their fire and the Chasseur were not able to pursue the retreating German troops. The French troops managed to defend the peak in spite of numerous counter attacks.  

The 8. bayer Reserve Division was in Munster when the 6th of March offensive began. They were rushed forward and counter attacked, each attack broken up by fire out of the dark depths of the forest. To retake the Hill a concentrated effort would be needed.  

To the east of Sultzeren and in the direction of Stosswihr the progress is modest. The advancing French troops were hit by Flanking German machine Gun fire.  

On the 20th of March artillery and Minenwerfer fire sends columns of smoke and dust rising up from the hill. The Bavarians attack but the attack falters under the small arms fire of the Chasseur. Gefreiter Lutz of the bay. Reserve Infanterie Regiment 19 grabs some comrades and drives forward on one flank while Lt. d. Res Doser of the 1. Komp. Bay. R.I.R. 22 attacks the highest point of the peak with his men. The German attack throws the French off the Reichackerkopf and into the Col du Sattel. The French counter attack on the 22nd and 23rd of march but the attacks fail
and they return to their trenches.

In certain places only 20m separate the French and German lines and as a result artillery support is nullified. Both sides now dug in for the duration. There would still be fighting in the sector, but no movement for a long time.

Below: The citation for Franz Riethmann

On the 21st of Feb 1915 the Bayer. Reserve Infanterie Regiment 22 was to storm the Reichackerkopf. At 9:00 am the I. Batln. began the assault and right away suffered heavy losses as they came under a withering enemy fire. The 7. Komp (II. Batln.) lay in a tree line to the left of the I. Batln. They were to support the attack and received the order to join them to continue the attack. Arriving at the level of the Battalion the (then) Unteroffizier Riethmann saw two men jump up and run forward. They did not get further than 30m before being shot down. He then saw a badly wounded man about 70m in front of their position, laying doubled up in pain. He right away turned to Infantryman Vogt and asked him to help him save the wounded man. Under extremely heavy enemy fire they made their way forward to where Hauptmann Holler was laying and they managed to carry him back to the aid station 200m behind their lines.

Above: Reichackerkopf/Reichsackerkopf as seen from the South (From Metzeral)
Above: The "col du Sattel" mentioned in the text is the depression between the Reichackerkopf and Sattelkopf.
The Munster Valley seen from the East. The Orange square shows the Reichackerkopf.

To continue to the section dealing with the second battle at Munster and an action by the Sturm-Abteilung Rohr go HERE