Bayerisches Infanterie-Leib-Regiment was the most prestigious Regiment of the
Bavarian Army. Traditionally the men were carefully selected and served not
only as soldiers but also provided the guard details for the Bavarian Royal
Palaces. Commanded by Franz Ritter von Epp the regiment would fight on all
fronts during the war as part of the newly formed Alpenkorps. The officers of
the regiment would win 2 Pour le Mérite and 12 Militär-Max-Joseph-Orden.
Certain men would be
awarded a ring that was unique to the regiment.
Above: Graf von Bothmer was clear on what men wearing the
ring symbolized to him: “The Person in front of you is not a spinner of yarns,
someone who has never smelled gunpowder, but who profits from the fact that the
confusion of war often means we often cannot determine the real service of an
individual. A real man and soldier
stands before you” (Du
hast es hier nicht mit einem Sprüchmacher zu tun, der vielleicht nie Pulver
gerochen hat und nun auf die Unmöglichkeit sündigt, in diesem Weltkrieg rasch
genau die Stelle jedes einzelnen festzustellen; Ein ganzer Mann und Soldat
steht vor dir”)
Approximately 17 500
men served in the field with the Leib-Regiment during the war. Many of them
served in the ranks for a relatively short period before being transferred to
other units, being wounded, getting sick or dying. The official strength of the
Regiment when it marched to war in 1914 was 65 Officers and 2962 NCOs and other
Ranks. By the end of 1918 the Regiment had buried 95 officers and 3304 NCOs and
other Ranks, 450 men were missing (presumed dead) and 533 prisoners of war.
Many fought with bravery and were awarded the Bavarian Militärverdienstkreuz,
the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd class or even the Bavarian
Silver or Gold Bravery medal.
Left: The dates on the obverse “1914-1918” are a bit
confusing as the first rings were awarded in 1917. Examination of an April 1918
awarded ring shows the dates “1914-191 ” implying that the last digit was to be
added by the Regiment to reflect the award year.
There was a “core” of
survivors who, no matter how badly shot up the regiment was, trained and
mentored the replacements and turned them into “Leiber”. This core of
indestructibles took part in some of the worst fighting of the war and in spite
of their exceptional service to the regiment they received the same medals as a
Landwehrman in a reserve regiment who spent the war in a quiet sector on the
As a visible
distinction, a sign of appreciation for their service, Major Graf von Bothmer
suggested a ring, a simple design with a Bavarian shield, crown and an oak leaf
wreath. The Ring would give the regimental commander the possibility to reward
the men of his unit for their service outside of official channels and
according to criteria established by the regiment. A ring could be worn during
service and for many years after.
The design is
relatively innocuous and to date, even in Bavaria, many collectors do not
recognize the ring for what it is. Over the last 20 years I have held two in my
hands and seen photos of two others. The second ring I held had been laying in
a display with regular “Patriotic Rings” which is probably the fate for many of
The officers had a
different ring designed by Professor Schwegerle, it had a lion’s head and
carried a “I.L.R.” monogram on the inside.
The ring, awarded for
the first time on the 24th of July 1917, was given to men of the
Field Regiment who had served in the frontline for 24 months. The commanders
felt that their men deserved something special, something to reward service
that included bloody fighting, extreme weather conditions, long marches,
deprivation and sacrifice. The men of the regiment would wear it with pride,
treating it as their most cherished award. For every “Leiber” who survived at
the front long enough to qualify for the ring, three of his comrades had been
killed in action.
The award criteria
were as follows:
The Leiberring could
be awarded to Officers, Medical officers, Veterinarians, NCO’s and Other Ranks
who had 24 months front service in the
Field Regiment and who were still part of the regiment on the 7th of
Front service was
Service with a weapon
or as a stretcher bearer. Time spent sick or detached from the unit was
subtracted. Vacation and time away from the frontline in quiet areas did not
count. For the wounded only the first 4 months in hospital counted. Service as
a clerk, cook or soldiers attached to the supply columns did not count.
which counted towards the 24 Months for men in functions which did not directly
qualifying for “Combat Days”):
Left: Vizefeldwebel George Ertel of the 3rd
Company was an example of the unfortunate Leiber who slipped through the
cracks. Serving with the regiment from the outbreak of the war he was severely
wounded between Douaumont and Fleury (at Verdun) in June 1916. In spite of
taking part in some of the most famous Leib Regiment actions and serving 23
months in the field, he did not qualify for a ring.
In the original
statutes awards at a later date were not excluded for Officers, NCOs and other
ranks under the following conditions:
a) Men who had
fulfilled the above requirements but were no longer part of the field regiment
b) Invalids who were
no longer able to serve due to wounds received while part of the Feld Regiment.
Above: Verdun- The Leiber at Fleury, one of the most famous actions of the regiment.
(The text in the Leib
Regiment History says that after much consideration no awards were made under
the two statutes mentioned above. A bitter pill to swallow for men who had
served the 24 months but who had been later transferred to a different
regiment, or “Leibers” who had gone into the field in 1914 but were amongst the
seriously wounded and never returned to qualify.)
Many of the men in
the last award block (11-01-1919) had been released from service in December
1918 and received their rings in January 1919.
Officers who had been
awarded the Max Joseph Orden and NCOs and other ranks decorated with the
Bavarian Gold Bravery medal or Iron Cross 1st Class qualified for
the ring after 12 Months of front service. Recipients of the Bavarian Silver
Bravery Medal qualified after 16 months.
The awards of the
ring were individually vetted by a commission and confirmed by the Regimental
commander. All in all 61 officers and 1087 Leiber received the ring. Each ring
was engraved with a number.
Award Blocks: Date –
Ring Numbers (Ring Nr.1 was not issued)
(single replacement ring issued)
Right: The ring of Gefreiter Keck -On the rear of the ring there is an „800“ silver stamp
and the award number. The silver stamp is not always in the same position.
The rings were
awarded in blocks, the final block of awards on the 11th of January
1919. Unfortunately the roll of recipients has numerous transcription errors.
For example, in the last block of names for 6th company recipients
there are 3 errors in a space of 10 names. Gefreiter Keck is listed as Leiber
Heck. Gefreiter Wagensonner is listed as Leiber Wagensanner, Hohmann as
Hihmann. Numerous men listed as “Leiber” had in fact been promoted to Gefreiter.
Above: The Alpenkorps Iron Cross award document for Gefreiter
Sebastian Wagensonner. He is listed on the roll as “Leiber Wagensanner”.
“Leiber” was rank used in the Leib Regiment for a Private.
Ring number 898 is
listed on the Ring Roll as belonging to “Leiber” Heck of the 6th
Company. There was no soldier with the name Heck in the Company. It was only
possible to establish that the ring wearer 898 was in fact “Keck” by a thorough
examination of the Leib Regiment rolls and being able to exclude all other
possible variations (Heck, Reck, Hack etc.). By process of elimination, the
only possible recipient is Gefreiter Keck who had almost 50 months of service
in the Field Regiment but is not listed on the Ring Roll.
Johann Keck served in the Infanterie-Regiment „Kaiser
Wilhelm, König von Preußen“ (2. Württembergisches)
Nr. 120 from 1901-03. He was mobilized as a Landwehrmann in August 1914. He
joined the 6th Company of the Leib Regiment on the 3rd of
September 1914 where he served until the end of the war. During this period he
was awarded the Bavarian Militär Verdienstkreuz with swords 3rd
class in January 1917, The Iron Cross 2nd Class in April 1917, and
the Wuerttemberg Silberne Militaer Verdienst Medaille in September 1917. The
Bavarian Dienstauszeichnung followed in March 1918. He was promoted to acting
Gefreiter in September 1916 and full Gefreiter in January 1917. He was present
in every action the regiment took part in and was lucky enough never to be
The Battle calendar
of the Leib Regiment shows a diversity of theaters which includes fighting in
the Alps, Romania, Serbia, Italy, as well as sectors like Verdun, Kemmel and
the Redtower Pass. Keck took part in every battle listed on the Calender.
10.-13.8.14 – Gefechte bei Badonviller
14.8.14 – Gefecht an der Vezouse
18.- 19.8.14 – Gefecht bei Saarburg
20. – 22.8.14 Schlacht in Lothringen
23.8. – 14.9.14. – Schlacht bei Nancy Epinal
23.9. – 6.10.14 – Schlacht an der Somme
7. – 10.10.14 – Stellungskämpfe westl. St. Quentin
11.10.14 – 19.5.15 Stellungskämpfe an der Somme
26.5. – 16.10.15 Kämpfe in Tirol
30.10. – 28.11.15 – Feldzug in Serbien
1.12.15 – 3.3.16 Aufmarsch an der griesch. Grenze
Right: An unknown "Leiber" with the Bavarian Military Service cross 3rd class and the Iron Cross 2nd Class
4. – 19.3.16 – kämpfe an der griesch. Grenze
1.4. – 2.5.16 – Stellungskämpfe in d. Champagne
5.6. – 17.8.16 – Schlacht bei Verdun
15.6. – 21.7.16 - kämpfe u. Fleury u. die M-Räume südl.
23.6.16 – Erstürmung von Fleury
11.7.16 – Wegnahme der M-Räume südl. Fleury
5. – 11.8.16 – kämpfe um Zwischenwerk Thiaumont
18.8. – 8.9.16 – Stellungskampf in den Argonnen 11.9.16 – 10.4.17 – Feldzug gegen Rumänien
26. – 29.9.16 – Schlacht bei Hermannstadt
30.9. – 24.11.16 – Grenzkämpfe am Roten Turmpaß
25. – 30.11.16 – Verfolg. Kämpfe bei Curtea de
1. -3.12.16 – Schlacht a. Arges
4. – 8.12.16 – Verfolgung nach der Schlacht am Arges
9. – 20.12.16 – Verfolg. Kämpfe am Jalomitaprakova und
21. – 27.12.16 – Schlacht bei Rimnicul-Sarat
28.12.16 – 3.1.17 – Verfolg. Kämpfe nach der Schlacht bei
4. – 8.1.17 – Schlacht an der Putna
9.1. - 10.4.17 – Stellungskrieg a Putna u Sereth
21.5. – 29.7.17 Stellungskampf im Oberelsaß
6.8. – 3.9.17 Durchbruchsschlacht an Putna und Susita
28.8.17 Einnahme von Munceuil
4. – 11.9.17 Stellungskrieg am Sereth und Susita
3. – 15.10.17 Aufmarsch hinter der Isonzo Front
16. – 23.10.17 Stellungskämpfe am Isonzo
24. – 27.10.17 Durchbruch durch die Jilischen Alpen
24.10.17 Erstürmung des Hevnik und der Höhe 1114
25.10.17 Erstürmung des Kuk und Eroberung des Luicopasses
27.10.17 Einnahme von Cividale
28.10. – 3.11.17 Schlacht bei Udine
1.11.17 Gefecht bei Bonzicco
4.- 11.11.17 Verfolgung vom Tagliamento bis zur Piave
12.11.17 – 22.1.18 Gebirgskämpfe in der Venezianischen
29.1. – 6.3.18 Stellungskämpfe in Löthringen und in den
7.3.18 – 9.4.18 Stellungskämpfe in Löthringen
9. – 14.4.18 Schlacht bei Armentiers
23. – 29.4.18 Schlacht um den Kemmel
29.4. – 6.5.18 Stellungskrieg in Flandern
11.8. – 23.9.18 Kämpfe an der Somme
10.10. – 1.11.Rückzug in Serbien
Tirol to Fleury, The Leiber fought from on icy
mountain passes in the Alps and in the hottest spots on the western front. A
Leib Regiment Sharpshooter in the Alps and Leibers manning a trench at Fleury
The above Article has previously appeared in the March 2015 edition of "International Militaria Collector"
Although the "Leiberring" was an award made during the war a prewar "Leibering" exists as well. This was made for members or ex-members of the regiment and could be bought from the firm Deschler & Sons. It was purely "private purchase" and was not an award.