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The EK1

From the diary of Leutnant d.R. Wilhelm Egly, killed in action on the 27th October 1917. At the time of the action described below he was fighting in front of the Toter Mann.

"We could no longer wait; we had to go through the wall of fire that seemed to have no end.

"The mill!" Said someone quietly and the others felt a cold shudder....

A splintered stretcher lays on the lip of a shellhole, a badly wounded man underneath it. Next to him lays a torn off arm with a redcross armband, the stretcher bearers lay dead in the shellhole. Four men have been killed trying to save one. More stretcher bearers are clambering down the side of the hill. The heart beats, seemingly close to explosion but they move calmly with their heavy load, as if they were walking down the cool corridors of a hospital and not through a night in hell. They put the stretcher down and pull the badly wounded man out of the mud. They lay him on the stretcher next to the other, two men on one stretcher. Wounded men are heavy, impossibly heavy... Out of the hell around the mill they walk, carrying both men. They leave one of the wounded in the safety of a bunker in the old German defensive line on the southern edge of the Forgeswald. They would come back for him after they had carried the other wounded soldier to the Hauptverbandplatz. Night after night these loyal stretcher-bearers made the journey well aware that they were walking into the valley of death."

Stretcher bearer Josef Nagel was serving in the Sanitäts Kompagnie Nr.1 of XVI Armeekorps when he received the Iron Cross 2nd class. The Korps was in the Argonne, bordering on the Verdun Sector.

The pain and suffering of the wounded was the same whether a soldier wore field grey or horizon blue and the notes of a French doctor could just as accurately describe a German field hospital.

"The bloody bandages are dropped on the floor; we have no time to dispose of them. They form a carpet that is ankle high on the floor. An artilleryman is brought in, he is in terrible condition. His wounds are horrible; he has bled a lot, his face like white marble. Both his legs are smashed, attached with just a few strands of meat and sinew. He is still bleeding heavily. While he is being given a morphine injection a doctor examines him. The splintered bones stick in all directions, the wound is full of hanging bits of flesh, remains of his trousers and underwear. Carefully we try and bandage the wounds. This means moving the leg... there is a fountain of blood that shoots out, like liquid pouring out of a keg it soaks the doctor. The poor man lets out a low moan and dies, it happens so fast we are not prepared for it, we almost don't notice it. New screaming at the entrance, this time a wounded man with a chest full of bullet holes, all bleeding badly. He is bandaged, gets a morphine injection is sent into a deep sleep with ether... he is then carried out...

The Wound Badge award document for stretcher bearer Alfons Rösch. Serving in the 35th Sanitätskompagnie of the 28th Infantry Division. He was attached to the Badische Leib Grenadier Regiment Nr. 109 at the time the document was issued.
"Big black patches marked the places where the stretchers stood before the wounded were carried into the surgery. Leaning against the wall were the empty stretchers, their canvas covers stained black with crusts of blood.

The bearers stand around with haggard faces, tortured looks, as if sentenced to death. Behind the barn the sight is terrible. Wounded who had died on the way, or during bandaging had been pushed aside to make way for those who were still living. There they lay, piled up on each other, open torsos, missing limbs, terrible to see. The faces carry grimaces of anger, pain or desperation while the bodies lay in grotesque positions.

On a ground lay the remains of a captain, three ribs and half a face wrapped in a tunic. Next to it lays a similar package with a paper name tag. The pile of bloody corpses is the stuff nightmares are made of. At night the rats add to the horror, eating away the faces and eyes, leaving bloody skulls staring out of empty sockets. Bury them? There are simply too many. We have to live amongst them, eat amongst them and sleep amongst them...."

The Iron Cross award document awarded to Alfons Rösch. At the time of the award the division was serving on the Somme where they lost very heavily.

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