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The 2nd battalion of the Infanterie Regiment 187 was attached to the 1st Bavarian Jäger Regiment for the assault on the Vulkan pass in the opening stages of the march into Romania in late September 1916.  

An edited version translated from the regimental history follows….  

On the 21st of September 1916 the ll. Btln. of the I.R. 187 was enjoying a well earned rest in the village of Livazeny. That morning they had cleaned their weapons and kit and the orders for the afternoon were "rest and recuperation".  

A muffled protest arose when the orders came instead to assemble on the road with their assault packs. “Assault packs”, always a phrase that got the heart beating. The men milled around, trying to guess what the day had in store for them. In the meantime the four company commanders were receiving their orders, the ll. Btln. was to join the Gruppe Paulus for an assault on the Vulkan pass. Oberstleutnant Paulus was commander of the Bayr Jägerregt. 1, an elite unit of the Alpenkorps.

After a hard two hour road march the battalion swung off to the left and crossed a field to reach the edge of the forest that ran up the side of the valley. A 20 minute break was called in which the men stared at the forest, a sinking feeling in their hearts. They were happy to get moving again (they had begun to freeze during the halt) but they began to curse as they entered the forest.

On the steep mountain side the air hung heavily with the smell of rotting humus which was kept in by the heavy forest canopy, just as any moonlight was kept out. Physically and mentally it was heavy going, lungs bursting, stomach muscles aching, the men advanced on hands and knees. They clambered over fallen trees, over rocks and bushes, unable to see their hands in front of their faces.

It was past midnight when they arrived at the HQ of the Res. Jägerbtln. 10.  

The infantrymen collapsed into heaps, a six and a half hour climb behind them. As if their arrival was signal the heavens opened up and the Battalion was caught in a downpour which the men weathered, laying in the mud wrapped miserably in their greatcoats and groundsheets.

Right: Soldiers of the Alpenkorps who took part in the assault. see HERE

At 04:00 the order to assemble came and the men set off for another forced march, this time high above the forest line on a mountain pass that ran about 100m below the peak. Partially dizzy due toi the thin air at that height the men were able to look down on the road they had marched along the day before, from the path it looked like a thin cotton thread snaking through the valley below.  


At 10:00 am a rest behind a ridge was called and the officers went forward to receive orders.


The heights around the Vulkan pass were to be cleared of enemy soldiers, the ll./I.R. 187 was to help the 2. and 3. Komp. of the Bayr. Jägerbtln. 1. to capture the heights 1692-1691.

German and Austrian artillery had already opened a weak barrage on the enemy positions. Ammunition being hard to transport in the mountains the artillery had to ration its shots. The men of the 187 were almost eager for combat as it meant an end to the exhausting march. As the last shot fell the order to attack was given, the men rushing over the peak with a loud "Hurrah!!"  

The surprised Rumanians looked in horror at the approaching Germans, a second "Hurrah!!"… a scattering of shots.... by the time the Germans reached the lines the Rumanian soldiers had abandoned their positions and were making for the forest. The Germans followed, taking a number of defensive lines that had been abandoned in the hasty retreat.

Upon reaching Height 1672 the assault force ran into difficulty. As they approached they were greeted with well coordinated machine gun fire and their first serious losses took place. Artillery support was not possible and the Romanian positions were will prepared. The Germans returned fire, standing, then kneeling and finally on their bellies hugging the earth. One by one the German dead and wounded began to pile up; the screams of pain and the calls for water or a medic began to work on the nerves of the soldiers.  

A German machine gun tried to move into position but the gunner was hit in the forehead, another took his place and fell dead as well.  

Advancing was out of the question, Jägers and Infantrymen lay in mixed companies under a hail of fire. The shooting did not abate until the sun went down, only then were the men able to move, their legs as heavy as lead and their minds numbed. First priority was the wounded, much too many for the Medics to handle on their own. Everyone lent a hand to get them back out of the line. Midnight had arrived before the men were able to prepare their positions, digging into the rocky ground with spade, bayonet and bare hands.

Above: The Iron Cross document to a member of the II. Batln I.R. 187 that had participated in the attack with the Bavarian Jägers. As can be seen on the map, the rest of the 187. I.D. attacked to the North of the Bavarians.

At 02:00am the Romanians opened fire sending the Germans diving for cover. The troops lay clutching their rifles, peering into the darkness wondering if an attack was in the making. Soon the firing died down and the ll. Btln. continued their digging.  

The next couple of days were quieter, the strength of both sides diminished by their losses and for the ll. Btln. by the fact that the two Bayr. Jägerbtln 1. Companies had been withdrawn. The 187th had had to extend their lines to link up with the Bayr. Jägerbtln. 2. on their flank and they now fell under the command of the Gruppe Bauernschmidt (Commander of the Jägerbtln. 2.).  

High on the isolated mountain peak the men lay in their shallow foxholes, waiting for the counter attack that was sure to come. At 05.30 on the morning of the 25th of September the enemy artillery opened fire on the German lines. They followed with an infantry attack at 08:15am.  

 The massed infantry assault was thrown back by the men of the ll. Btln., helped by fire from their flank where the Bayr. Jägerbtln. 2. was dug in. The Romanians launched 3 attacks that day, all which were beaten back, leaving many men in front of the German foxholes. The attacks were suicidal; many of the Rumanians were killed before they had made it out of their own positions. After the last attack the Germans settled down for another night of random shooting, the Rumanians were left to prepare for an attack the next day.  

Suddenly new orders arrived... the Gruppe Bauernschmidt was to abandon its positions that night. Masked by the darkness the companies left their foxholes. A rearguard was left behind to keep up the random fire on the enemy positions and it was to follow the rest of the group once the main force had gotten clear. The next morning, after an artillery barrage, the Rumanians assaulted the empty foxholes. The ll. Btln. was at that moment far away regrouping at Height 934, having taken, defended and abandoned their positions at a very heavy cost.  

The description of the march, preparation and combat as seen by the ll./I.R. 187 is a mirror image of the description to be found in the unit history of the Bayr. Jägerbtln. 2. the one difference being the Rumanian assaults which were against the positions of the I.R. 187 with the Bavarians supplying covering fire from the flank. The Alpenkorps certificate pictured is signed by Oberleutnant Henke, commander of the 4. Kompanie which lost more men on September 22 at the Vulcan pass than on any other day of the war. Henke's company lost 17 dead and 83 wounded in the assault.

 
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