Although the hospitals to the rear may have been
spared some of the dangers of war, the horrors of war were still very apparent
as P.C. Ettighoffer describes in "Gespenster am toten Mann". Having
been wounded he and his comrades are told it would be faster to make their way
to the hospital at the rear on their own steam, which they do.
"The entrance to the hospital is large, high and
tiled. It resembles a bathhouse or an abattoir....
We lightly wounded sit around on benches and wait for
the medics who look after us one by one. In front of us, on stretchers, lay the
badly wounded. They lay there under blood soaked covers, moaning, most with
Left: Krankenwärter Leo Zöller who died in the Garnisonslazarett in Mainz
One of them cries "Water! Water! Water!"
"We need to help him," says Bienemann,
"they have forgotten the poor beggar."
He is already taking out his field flask, it was
filled with tea and rum and lots of sugar. We had been given the drink at the
field kitchen in Lens. They had not spared the rum, it was damn strong stuff
and went right to the head.
"Hey comrade," said Bienemann, "what
kind of wound do you have?"
"In the legs."
"Nothing internal? You are allowed to
The soldier assured he had nothing on the body, just
the legs, and the medics refused to give him a drink, although he had been
asking for over 2 hours.
He takes the offered flask and puts it to his mouth. He drinks and
drinks. He empties it to the last drop and them gives it back with a thankful
A half hour later the Sanitäts-Feldwebel comes in and
looks at the soldier. "Man! What have you done! Have you been drinking?
You have surely not been drinking ?"
No…. he has not been drinking the wounded man lies.
The Feldwebel lifts the bloody blanket, then the
shelter half under it. We stare....
"Who gave this man something to drink?" the
Feldwebel asks as with anger flashing in his eyes. Bienemann steps forward. The
Feldwebel disappears and comes back with a Stabsarzt. The doctor’s hands are
covered in blood. His apron is also covered in blood. He has been operating in
the next room, without a jacket or shirt, just a thin vest covers his torso and
his officer’s rank is only recognisable by his hat.
Above: The Iron Cross 2nd class award document to Krankenanwärter Carl Borwitzky, serving in the 406th Field Hospital of the 203rd Infantry Division, fighting on the Marne and in the Siegfriedstellung at the end of 1918.
He looks at Bienemann "You gave him something to
drink? You are the murderer of your comrade, always remember that!"
Bienemann defends himself excitedly. The doctor
listens then turns to the soldier.
"So, it is your own fault... I told you, you
cannot drink anything. You have no chance now, do you hear me? There is now no
force in the world that can save you now, you poor, poor fool."
"Herr Doctor.... please, save me!" moaned
the wounded man, "I don’t want to die, I did not know about the stomach
wound, I only knew about the leg wound. Herr Doctor.... I am only 18,
He tries to stand but is held down by two lightly
wounded at the command of the Feldwebel.
"The syringe..." says the doctor to the
Feldwebel as he leaves the room. The Feldwebel nods and exits coming back with
a large syringe filled with morphine.
"Come old man, this won't hurt, it will be a
relief. It will calm you, come, give me your left arm. There you go..."
Right: A Bavarian Medical NCO.
Half an hour later the man acts strangely, becomes
rigid. He stretches, tries to stand, he does not succeed. He glances around,
wild eyed then pulls the blanket tightly around him, flattening the wrinkles
with his hand. His head jerks to the left. He pulls the blanket over his head
and lays still.
The Feldwebel comes and establishes the death of the
soldier without emotion. "Without your damned drink we could probably have
saved him." he says.
The bearers carry the stretcher away to a wooden hut
on the other side of the square.
The Feldwebel calls our names. We go into the
operating room,.... in the middle are two operation tables. On one of them lays
a Frenchman, shouting through the anesthetic. "Ah, que je suis malheureux"
he screams as his hand is amputated.....
The next night we are put on a Lazarettezug and are
rolling through Belgium
on our way home. They do not want to leave us behind the front as the fighting
on the Loretto heights is intensifying and they will need the space. All
transportable wounded were to be packed off home.
After a journey of 36 hours we arrive. A small town is
waiting for us. The mayor of the town had officially requested that an ersatz
battalion or hospital be stationed in his town. Two dancehalls had been
refitted as hospitals and nuns from the local convent were at hand. Large
amounts of tobacco and mineral water
had been delivered to the town as had 300 army field
beds. In this well prepared town arrived our train, direct from the bloody
Above: The award document for Karl Borwitzky's Hamburg Hanseatic Cross award document.
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