Wilhelm Wreszinski was an officer in a Kraftfahr
Kolonne and wrote of his experiences in "Der Pionier", a soldier's
At first the roads are frozen but as the day warms up
they become a sea of mud and dirt that we sink into. The trucks have iron
wheels which make driving doubly difficult. All kinds of measures are taken to
keep the trucks moving forward in this mess, including the drivers putting all the
bodily force behind pushing the vehicles forward. Driving a 3-4 ton ironed
wheeled truck on the front line is no small achievement. Cold blood, calm
nerves, a strong will and no suspicion of nervousness are the prerequisites for
a driver. They need to focus their concentration and energy to make a success
of their job.
We move out at midday. We are to deliver troops and
pick up the men they relieve, and deliver artillery shells and Werfer mines.
The heavily shelled Lens-Vimy-Arras Street is luckily behind us and we are
driving through Lievin to the destroyed town of Angres. From the Loretto
heights the enemy can see us approaching. The observers in the observation
balloons see us coming as well and their greeting soon arrives. We make for a
railway embankment but this is given special treatment as the enemy suspects we
have artillery hidden there. We manage to safely deliver the troops. Our first
task is over. It will take time for the relieved troops to arrive so I decide
we will deliver the Werfer mines.
It is no nice feeling to drive through a barrage with
a truckload of ammunition. On the ground there is no one to be seen. They are
all under cover. The load and the barrage make for difficult driving indeed.
For the driver there is no bunker, there is no trench.
Without any cover, seen by the enemy during the day, heard by the enemy at
night, he has to do his duty, driving along roads and paths that the enemy know
already like the back of their hands.
Above: An Iron Cross certificate for Leutnant Adolf Paul Puscheck, serving in the Kraftfahrtruppen of the 4th Army. The truckers o the 4th Army had to contend with the mud of Flanders for the duration of the war.
Dusk has arrived. We deliver the mines in Givency, a
small town. The trucks have difficulty turning, a cm more or less and they
would have landed in one of the ditches, ponds or simply got stuck in the mud.
That must not happen. We still have to pick up the relieved troops and do
another munitions delivery. The British are particularly lively, taking the
whole area under artillery fire with explosives and shrapnel. There is a
vibrant "night life" here at the front,; truck drivers, train and
munitions columns, field kitchens, miners, infantry marching to and from the
front. A truck never returns home empty. Each driver tries to make his truck as
useful as possible.
If he has no particular orders for a leg of his journey he
will load up troops or equipment. But we have specific orders and want to get
out of Givency as fast as possible.
Suddenly there is a loud explosion and fountain of mud
followed by a sickly smell. As leader of the column I am in the back lorry. I
run forward to find out what has happened. Luckily all my people are safe. A
15cm shell has landed leaving horses and carriage drivers in a large pool of
blood. The other horses panic and break loose, taking their wagons with them,
causing a Sanitätswagen coming in the opposite direction to tip over. The
horses are tangled up blocking the road.
Already the truck drivers are arriving, releasing the
horses and leading them from the road, moving the wounded from the road and
binding their wounds, pushing the wagons from the road.
The shell has cratered the road and the men search for
rocks and wood to fill it so we can drive past. Night has fallen, only the
occasional flare lighting up the area for a few seconds making the work more
difficult. Soon we are ready to continue. Once again, the only light is that of
the flares. Ahead of each truck walks a man with a white panel on his back to
check the road. The drivers follow. Any light here would be a death sentence.
What is it like to drive at night, without light where you can barely see your
hand in front of your face? Only those who have tried will know. Other than the
real dangers the mind plays tricks.
The tired men seeing things in their paths that do not
We pick up the infantrymen and bring them to the rear
then drive to pick up ammunition for our second trip. We seldom do only one
trip a night.
It is a routine. If all goes well, there are no
incidents along the way, if no truck sinks in the mud or falls into a
shellhole, which is not uncommon, then we may be lucky enough to arrive home at
6 A.M. after 12,15 or sometimes 18 hours of work. Then 6 hours sleep,
then maintenance of the vehicles until the next orders, the driver had little
It was no easy task to drive a heavy truck on bad
roads under enemy fire. Especially difficult was delivering to new positions at
night; we spent many, many hours crawling on all fours along the ground,
feeling our way to avoid the trucks falling in a trench or hole. And then the
work when a truck DID fall in, or broke down, or broke an axle... Then it was
time for cursing and sweating. The repairs could well be done in sight of the
enemy and the truck be used for target practice by his guns. Often the driver
and co driver would have to unload heavy ammunition from the truck on their own
so at least that was safe, then do the repairs and reload the ammunition.
What would have happened if the trucks had failed and
the ammunition and fresh troops had not arrived on time! Failures or delays had
to be avoided as the outcome of a battle could sometimes depend on minutes.