WW1 – Germany’s oldest wartime volunteer, Caspar René Gregory, 1846-1917

A while ago I wrote some lines on Twitter about germany’s youngest soldier to be killed in World War 1*. No one seemed to have heard about him. The same probably applies to Caspar René Gregory, its oldest volunteer. As he was a fascinating character I decided to write this short bio. I had to dive into some theological history to write it which was not easy at all (for me). Details on his military service (which is probably the part anyone will read, ignoring the rest) were far easier to find and evaluate. 

*Next post here will be about him

 “When England, mighty England, the country that had murdered Boer women and children, the country that bled India dry and left it starving, when this England declared war, I had no other choice than to take up arms against it

Gregory was born in Philadelphia. His ancestors had been Huguenots, his grandfather had come to the New World following General Lafayette and had fought in the American War of Independence. After finishing school (a private school owned by his father), he studied theology at two Presbyterian seminaries: in 1865-67 at the University of Pennsylvania and at Princeton Theological Seminary (1867–73). In 1873, he decided to continue his studies at the University of Leipzig under Constantin von Tischendorf, to whose work on textual criticism of the New Testament he had been referred by his teacher, Ezra Abbot. He administered the scientific legacy of Tischendorf, who died in 1874, and continued his work.
In 1876, he obtained his PhD. with a dissertation on Gregorè the priest and the revolutionist. The first examiner for it was the historian, Georg Voigt. To earn money he worked as auxiliary to the english protestant community in Leipzig.

As a text critic, his scholarly work was in analyzing the textual variations in the many early manuscripts and early translations of the New Testament in an effort to recreate the original text. Working in a time when hundreds of manuscripts were being discovered, published, and analyzed, he brought a sense of order and structure to all the differing systems of identification. His classification system of these manuscripts (Die griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments, 1908) is the system in use throughout the scholarly world today.

Close to his interest in analyzing the text was his interest in understanding the history of the “canon,” the list of the books regarded as Scripture. In the early years of the Christian church, different regions preferred different collections of apostolic writings for their guidance and edification. Gradually the need for an authoritative list emerged. For centuries that list was only known from a letter of Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, dating to 367. In 1740, however, Ludovico Antonio Muratori published a manuscript from the Ambrosian Library in Milan that included what has come to be called the Muratorian Canon. The list was thought to date from the second century, although that dating has been challenged. But the list is controversial. It includes the Gospels and many of the Epistles now in our Bible, but it does not mention Hebrews, James, or Peter and identifies two additional Epistles as being falsely attributed to Paul.

He completed his post-doctoral work in Leipzig in 1884, and became an associate professor in 1889 and a full honorary professor in 1891. He apparently had several doctorates: Karl Josef Friedrich even mentions five doctorates in his biography of Gregory. At least one doctorate in theology obtained in Leipzig in 1889 is attested.
Together with Rudolph Sohm and Friedrich Naumann he was one of the founders of the National-Social Association, a party based on the principle of Socialist Christianity. The party failed in the elections of 1898 and 1903 and was then dissolved into the Freeminded Union.
Gregory was also a member of the Sängerschaft Arion-Altpreußen (a german student corps) and a Mason (Apollo Lodge in Leipzig).
He loved travelling; in 1886 he travelled to Constantinopel for some theological studies. From there he journeyed back to the USA to marry Lucy Watson Thayer, the daughter of Joseph H. Thayer, during a brief stay of only five days.

One of the reasons he chose Leipzig as residence what its central position within Europe. From there he visited all european capitals and even travelled the Holy Land, which he crossed on a pilgrimage on foot! During these stays he always made brief trips back to germany to teach and to obtain further information for his research trips.

He loved the Germans (and the Saxons in particular) as they had welcomed him as one of their own and when in 1881 he became a german citizen he honored that by becoming more german than them. People loved him, as he was very courteous and full with american temperament and a winning personality. He was highly intelligent and tough, strengthening his body by regular, daily exercise.

His christian charity became legendary. Everyone in Leipzig knew him. He used to travel the city on foot greeting everyone. No matter if it was the poor beggar on the street corner or the rich merchant or industrialist. At one instance he helped a german farmer to catch dozens of escaped chicken all around Leipzig railway station. He kept offering advice and help to a student that mistook him for the library clerk without rectification and once paid the studying fees for a poor student whose family could not afford them anymore.

He was a humanist through and through. One of his goals what to unite the german labourers under a christian banner and to give them a sense of unity, nationality and importance. “It’s not 10.000 millionars that make germany strong and powerful, it’s the 60 Million hard-working german labourers.

GERMANY’S OLDEST WARTIME VOLUNTEER

rene

Professor Gregory, 1917

When War broke out in August 1914, the “American-German” Gregory was well-known and respected all over the world for his theological work, a prominent citizen of Leipzig and 67 years old.

It came as a surprise for many that he volunteered to go to war and joined the 1. Reserve-Batallion of Infanterie-Regiment “König Georg” No. 106 as a private on the 11th of August 1914! Asked for his reasons some years later he replied “I could not let them (the workers) go alone, could I? It was my social duty to join. I joined to help my neighbour who was now my comrade.”

He joined to defend germany, which in his view had been pushed into this war against its will, against the “English imperialism, Frenchmen and russian Zarism”. Even if he had a close personal relationship with Britain he wrote: “When England, mighty England, the country that had murdered Boer women and children, the country that bled India dry and left it starving, when this England declared war, I had no other choice than to take up arms against it

The charming and ever smiling professor took part in the actual fighting. Always cared for and protected by his Saxonian comrades he bravely fought at  Dinant, Somme-Py, Lille, Flanders, at the Champagne and Ypres.

 KILLED FOR THE GERMAN CAUSE

Soon Gregory, now a Lieutenant, became famous in germany and his 70th Birthday was celebrated in big style. The Empire awarded him with the Iron Cross 2nd Class while the Kingdom of Saxony gave him the Friedrich-August-Medal in Silver.
On the 13th of October 1916 he was given the post of Burial Officer (officer in charge of military burials and cemetarys) of the 47th Landwehr-Division. His office was now situated in Neufchatel-sur-Aisne.

At the end of March 1917 Gregory had a riding accident when is horse had bolted and thrown him out of the saddle. Confined to bed he was unable to get himself to safety when the village was hit by an allied artillery strike on the 8th of April 1917. Severly wounded Gregory died, in the country of his ancestors, one day later.

A highly honored and interesting character. His memorial can be found in the city of Leipzig up to today.

Gregory Memorial, Leipzig

  • Ernst Barnikol (1966) (in German). “Gregory, Caspar René “. In Neue Deutsche Biographie (NDB). 7. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot. pp. 27–29.
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Bautz (1990). “Caspar René Gregory”. In Bautz, Friedrich Wilhelm (in German). Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). 2. Hamm: Bautz. col. 344. ISBN 3-88309-032-8.
  • Karl Josef Friedrich: Caspar Rene Gregory, in: Sächsische Lebensbilder, Vol. I, Dresden 1930, p. 125-131. (German)
  • Ernst Jünger (Publ.): Caspar René Gregory, in: Die Unvergessenen. München 1928, p. 111ff. (German)
  • Bruno Hartung: Caspar René Gregory, in: Das Jahr des Herrn: Kalender für die evangelischen Gemeinden Leipzigs 5. Jg. (1929), S. 36-38.

After the Battle – Death at Herenthage Park, 23rd of August 1917

herentank1

This fantastic photograph was taken by an officer of Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 145. The original caption reads:

“English Tank, destroyed on the 23rd of August 1917 by the assault company of 34th Infantry-Division. Herenthage Park”

On 23 August at 4:00 a.m. a German attack by the 34. Infanterie-Division, in the 14th Division (II corps) area, from Inverness Copse to Glencorse Wood with bombers (handgrenades) and flame-thrower units, pushed the British back to the line of 22 August between Inverness Copse and Glencorse Wood. Despite a German bombardment falling short on German troops in Inverness Copse, the infantry advanced, reached the western edge, then fell back still under fire from German artillery. Another attempt in the afternoon, under a hail of fire from both artilleries, pushed the British out of the Copse to the western fringe, from the Menin road to the junction of Jargon Drive and a sunken road.

It must have been during this fighting, shortly after the Battle of Langemarck, that this tank was taken out of action.

Sadly I have no details about tank losses in that area, I would love to know what happened to its crew.

Details are horrible and fascinating, its intriguing that the dead soldiers lying in the mud in front of the tank seem to be german. Lots of the equipment scattered around are german aswell, a Gewehr 98, lots of Stick grenades, a steel helmet. On the right there seems to be an Enfield rifle and someone placed a German bayonet and its scabbard at the rear of the tank. One can only guess what horrible scenes took place some hours before this image was taken.

herentank2

According to the “Landships Forum” the tank above should be either B3 “Bystander” or B5 “Bluebird”.

4 Company, B Battalion with 43rd Brigade, 14th Div,  II Corps, 5th Army, 23 August 1917The Tanks at 3rd Ypres. 23rd August 1917

4 Company, B Battalion with 43rd Brigade, 14th Div, II Corps, 5th Army

4 Company had 4 fighting tanks in action on 23rd August 1917 (W22):

1 Section – Capt Groves HBM

B3, 2520, “Blue Bird”, Lt Goodhall AH

B4, 2043, “Bulwark”, 2Lt Chambers PC

B5, 2511, “Bystander”, 2Lt Colley EV

B33, 2707, f, “Bushranger”, 2Lt Lane WI

Notes:

Tank names and commanders from the report on action of tanks (W2a)

B3 and B5 Crew numbers from the summary of battle history sheets. (W22)

2043 is missing from the summary of battle history sheets, presumably because it failed to start.

2707 is not given a crew number in the summary of battle history sheets, it has the crew number B33 in the list in the war diary (W2) , it was possibly with a different crew on this date.

Orders (158/839)

Starting point: J13d.6.8.

Tanks to advance ahead of infantry and deal with strong points in Fitzeclarence Farm and L Shaped Farm ((J.14.b.25.30).

B3 and B4 to start at 4:40am and proceed to L shaped farm, J14b.25.30, demolish it and then turn south and return via the north end of Inverness Copse, dealing with Fitzeclarence Farm if necessary. (158/839)(W1a)

B5 and B33 to start at 4:35am and proceed directly to Fitzeclarence Farm, demolish it then turn north towards L shaped Farm J14b.25.30 (158/839)(W1a)

Account of Operations

B4 broke down, (W1a) was repaired and went forward to the starting point but was then hit and burnt out (158/839).

B3 started at 4.30 am (158/839) and possibly proceeded towards Fitzeclarence Farm. It must have run into the German counter attack which started at 4.30 am (s35.p60). It engaged the enemy near Inverness Copse, inflicting severe casualties on them as they retired. It then suffered a direct hit (W22)(158/839).

B5 and B33 also set off at 4.30 (158/839) as the German counter attack started s35.p60). Both tanks helped drive the enemy back, with heavy loss, into Jap Trench. B5 suffered 3 Direct hits and was abandoned (W22). 2nd Lt Colley was probably wounded as he died of his wounds in August (W2). B33 rallied (W22).

Note: Chris McCarthy appears to date this action to the 24th August. (s35.p60)

The Official History incorrectly states 3 tanks ditched on the way forward and only one came into action and supported the infantry. (OH)

Summary

Intended: 4

At start: 4

Failed to Start: 1

Engaged enemy: 3

Ditched / Broke Down:

Hit and Knocked out: 3

Rallied: 1

Aftermath

2520 – no further record.

2043 – no further record, probably one of the tanks at the tank graveyard near Clapham Junction.

2511 – no further record

2707 – Fought with crew B13 at Cambrai. may have been renamed.

Note:

According to “Following the Tanks” 2511 was in action at Cambrai.

4 Companies OB in ‘Following the Tanks, Cambrai’ is based on the list in the War diary which is incorrectly dated to Cambrai. “Black Prince”, 2005 was hit and burnt out at Messines on 7th June 1917 the list must therefore have been written prior to this date.

5 Companies OB is accurate for the 20th November according to the notes. A “Bushranger II” is listed with crew B37; presumably “Bushranger” did not therefore survive 3rd Ypres in operable condition.

Sources

W2 – War Diary No2 / B Battalion Tank Corps / B Coy HBMGC 1916 – 1919 Transcript from Bovington Tank Museum

W2a – War Diary No2 / B Battalion Tank Corps / B Coy HBMGC 1916 – 1919 Appendices.

Report on action of tanks on the morning of 23rd August – PRO WO 95 – 113

W22 – War Diary 2nd Tank Brigade – Relevant Appendices and Battlegraphs

OH – Official History, 1917, Vol 2, Pg.204

158/839 – PRO WO158 /839

S35 – Chris McCarthy (1995) Passchendaele. The Day by Day Account

S37 – Jean-Luc Gibot and Phillippe Gorczynski (1999) Following the Tanks, Cambrai. OOB excerpt.

Saxon Warrior – Today 97 years ago. KIA 27th of June 1916

My last blog entry in 2012! This fantastic photograph is in the collection of a friend of mine. He bought it with a lot of other WW1 photographs on a boot fair in Dresden a while ago. It was taken on the 31st of December 1915. Today – 97 years ago.

Karl Heinrich Berthold Schönert

Karl Heinrich Berthold Schönert

It shows a heavily armed soldier of Landwehr-Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 133 on the Eastern Front clad in full winter gear. The soldiers name, which is noted on the backside is : Karl Heinrich Berthold Schönert

Karl is mentioned in the book:

Erinnerung an die Gefallenen und Vermissten des LIR 133: Zusammengestellt Anfang August 1914 in Leipzig, Döbeln und Wurzen.*** (before anyone else asks, compiled 1914 but each year a new chapter was added)

From that we know that he was born on the 22nd of January 1885 in Dresden where he had worked as a industrial machine operator before the war started.
Serving in 12th coy of LIR133, he was killed in the Battles at Styr-Stochod by a headshot on the 27th of June 1916, about half a year after this photo was taken. Stochod and Styr are two of the four major rivers of Ukraine, Russia.

He was married to Gertrud Pfefferkorn with whom he had three children. After recieving in military training in Posen he was was transfered to the front on the 15th of October 1915. From the 28th of October to 1st of May 1916 he took part in the fighting on the upper Schtschara-Serwetsch and from the 7th of June 1916 up to his death he fought in the area Styr-Stochod. On the day of his death he was hit by a rifle bullet that pierced his helmet and killed him instantly. He was buried (with other comrades) “below three oaktrees next to the road to Linievka”. His brother Karl Peter, was killed on the same day.

It is very rare to get so much detail about a private soldier. Today I remember, Karl Heinrich Berthold Schönert

“Language problems” – German soldiers in Russia, WW1 1914/15

This image shows a group of fierce looking german soldiers of an unknown regiment in Russia. Image was probably taken in 1914 or 1915. I first thought they were posing with a border sign or some military sign. As I can not speak or read russian I found a kind person on Twitter (@outskywalker), who translated it for me.

The sign reads: “General primary school in Voynov, 1st class.”

Quite funny, the double headed eagle and the cyrillic writing certainly looks seriously enough to fit the scene and to impress the families at home. I am quite sure they had no idea what the writing said.

russiansign

Prayer before Battle – FATHER, I call Thee! – German prayer by Theodor Körner

prayer1

“Father I call on thee” – German Field-Postcard, 1915

FATHER, I call Thee!
Smoke clouds enwrap me and cannons are crashing,
Round me the terrible lightnings are flashing.
Wars great Dispenser, I call Thee!
Father, oh guide me!

Father, oh guide me!
Guide me to victory and to death lead me:
Lord, Thy commandments I know and I heed Thee;
Lord, as Thou willest, so guide me!
My God, I heed Thee!

My God, I heed Thee!
Once amid murmur of leaves I could hear Thee,
Now in the thunder of war I am near Thee.
Fountain of mercy, I heed Thee.
Father, oh bless me!

Father, oh bless me!
Into Thy hand my life I surrender:
Thou hast bestowed it, so take it, Defender!
Living or dying, oh bless me!
Father, I praise Thee!

Father, I praise Thee!
Not for the goods of this earth we are fighting:
To guard the holiest, our swords are smiting.
Falling in triumph, I praise Thee.
My God, I trust Thee!

My God, I trust Thee!
When all the thunders of death are roaring,
When from my veins the blood is pouring:
My life, God, I trust to Thee!
Father, I call Thee!

Vater

This prayer/poem was written by Theodor Körner during the Napoleonic Wars and stayed very popular in Germany for over 200 years, up to the Second World War. It could be found in soldiers prayer books and was taught in school (as were all of Körners poems). Every child in germany would grew up with these lines in etched into the memory. It was only natural that is was used in propaganda, posters and postcards like the one shown above. The translation above is by Margarete Münsterberg, and was published in A Harvest of German Verse.  in 1906. In my personal opinion this version is closest to the original german text. 

Karl Theodor Körner (23 September 1791 – 26 August 1813) was a German poet and soldier. After some time in Vienna, where he wrote some light comedies and other works for the Burgtheater, he became a soldier and joined the Lützow Free Corps in theGerman uprising against Napoleon. During these times, he displayed personal courage in many fights, and encouraged his comrades by fiery patriotic lyrics he composed, one of these being “Schwertlied” (Sword Song), composed during a lull in fighting only a few hours before his death and set to music by Franz Schubert. He was often called the “German Tyrtaeus.” 

Prayer2

Another version of this popular card, 1915

Vater, ich rufe dich!
Brüllend umwölkt mich der Dampf der Geschütze,
sprühend umzucken mich rasselnde Blitze.
Lenker der Schlachten, ich rufe dich!
Vater, du führe mich!

Vater, du führe mich!
Führ mich zum Siege, führ mich zum Tode.
Herr, ich erkenne deine Gebote.
Herr, wie du willst, so führe mich!
Gott, ich erkenne dich!

Gott, ich erkenne dich!
So im herbstlichen Rauschen der Blätter,
als im Schlachten-Donnerwetter,
Urquell der Gnade, erkenn ich dich.
Vater, du segne mich!

Vater, du segne mich!
In deine Hand befehl ich mein Leben,
du kannst es nehmen, du hast es gegeben;
zum Leben, zum Sterben segne mich.
Vater, ich preise dich!

Vater, ich preise dich!
‘s ist ja kein Kampf für die Güter der Erde;
das Heiligste schützen wir mit dem Schwerte,
drum fallend und siegend preis’ ich dich.
Gott, dir ergeb ich mich!

Gott, dir ergeb ich mich!
Wenn mich die Donner des Todes begrüßen,
wenn meine Adern geöffnet fließen:
dir, mein Gott, dir ergeb ich mich!
Vater, ich rufe dich.

World War One – Then and now, British POWs in Moorsele, Wevelgem – Belgium 1917

The pair of photographs you see below was taken in Moorsele, Belgium (today a part of Wevelgem) in 1917. I at once fell in love with these two shots as the  quality of the images and their setting is wonderful. The Prisoners look relaxed and on the second photograph many of them are smiling aswell. BritishPOWs2 British POWs1

The villa was used as Divisional HQ for the german 34th Infantry Division in August 1917. Thanks to some detective work of my dutch friend Alex Tijhuis, who was able to pinpoint the location of the house, I was able to play around a little and even if its not as professional as the works of some photographic artists out there I am quite proud of it:

Sint-Maartensplein 1917-today

Perspective of the WW1 photo is not 100% identical to the modern photo, still quite ok I think – Click to enlarge

If any of my readers live in the area I would be grateful for some more photographs of the house so I can do another version with a better resolution.

“The Battle of Flanders is the worst I can remember” – Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 162 in the Great War.

In front of me a small collection of photographs taken by a member of Infanterie-Regiment „Lübeck“ (3. Hanseatisches) Nr. 162 or better (and shorter) I.R.162. I.R.162 was a “Hanseatic” Regiment, the officers and men being citizens of the Hanseatic Free City of Lübeck.  There is not many photographs in it, but it has some rare images taken shortly after combat and these just need to be shared. 

Some photos were taken from the regimental history published in the late 1920s.

Epaulettes of I.R.162

I.R.162 was a so-called “Young Regiment” (A regiment without any merits / battle-honors). It was one of 33 “young” regiments raised in January 1896. During the Great War it fought on Western Front, where in 1914 it received its baptism of fire in the Battle of Noyon (15.09.-18.09.1914).

I.R.162 – Reservists 1902/1904

The states which made up the German Empire each had their own separate armies. Within the German Confederation, formed after the Napoleonic Wars, each state was responsible for maintaining certain units to be put at the disposal of the Confederation in case of conflict. When operating together, these units were known as the Federal Army (Bundesheer). The Federal Army system functioned during various conflicts of the 19th century, such as the First Schleswig War in 1848-50, but by the time of the Second Schleswig War of 1864, strains were showing, mainly between the major powers of the confederation, the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. The end of the German Confederation was sealed by the Austro-Prussian War of 1866.

Regiment leaving Lübeck in 1914

After this war, a victorious and much enlarged Prussia formed a new confederation, the North German Confederation, which included the states of northern Germany. The treaty which formed the North German Federation provided for the maintenance of a Federal Army and a Federal Navy (Bundesmarine or Bundeskriegsmarine). Further laws on military duty also used these terms. Conventions (some later amended) were entered into between the North German Confederation and its member states (including Lübeck), effectively subordinating their armies to Prussia’s in time of war, and giving the Prussian Army control over training, doctrine and equipment. According to §9of this Convention every conscript citizen of the city of Lübeck could choose if he wanted to serve in the Lübeck Infantry or in the Prussian infantry. Men unfit for infantry service in the Lübeck infantry could still be drafted into other branches of the prussian military (baggage train, cavalry, artillery etc).

Officers of I.R.162 (1917)

I.R.162 – Ypres

Now to some dry facts. When war broke out in 1914 the “Lübeck” Regiment was attached to 17. Reserve-Division (XI. Reserve-Korps) and was part of 1. Armee.  By the end of September 1915 XI. Reserve-Korps was transfered to 6. Armee “Kronprinz Rupprecht”, belonging to Armeegruppe Gallwitz. After the Battle of the Somme, in October 1916, it was put under the command of 4. Armee (commanded by Herzog Albrecht von Württemberg). During the Battle of Arras it again fought as part 6. Armee. On the 14th of November 17. Reserve-Division was put under the command of Gruppe Wytschaete. It

I.R.162 – Somme

fought in the Battle of Ypres, this time under control of XVIII. Reserve-Korps (General Sieger). During the March Offensive the Division was part of I. Reserve-Korps (18. Armee under General von Hutier). In September 1918 it was part of the reserves for Gruppe Combres and Gruppe Mihiel. It was disbanded on the 25th of October 1918.

I.R.162 – Wytschaete

After the Battle of Noyons the regiment crossed the border into France reaching Hamel on the 19th of September. Up to October 1915 remained locked in the trench-war between Roye and Noyon. In Winter 1915/1916 the 162s fortified their positions on the heights of Givenchy before commencing their successful assault to take the Gießler-Heights near Angres. In Spring 1916 the regiment saw action on Vimy-Ridge, Lens St.-Pierre and Loos. On the 18th of June most soldiers of the regiment were witness of the fatal crash of the legendary Max Immelmann between Sallaumines and Avion.

Oberstleutnant Hauß. Last commander of I.R.162

From July to November the regiment went through the hell that was the Battle of the Somme only seeing a short break when it was sent to fight near the La Bassée Canal and at Liévin. Allied intelligence classed the regiment as “Regiment of the first rank”. Winter 1916/1917 was spent near Ypres in St. Julien. This position would later become the frontline during the Third Battle of Ypres. From the 16th of January to the 20th of February the regiment was sent of leave to Brügge, returning just in time to participate in the Battle of Arras (9 April to 16 May 1917) and the defence of the Siegfridstellung in November 1917.

From 8 to 10 a.m. there is cease-fire to see to the wounded in no-mans-land and to pick up the fallen to transport them away. The tommy (the english) is precisely on time. The railway embankment close to Miraumont looks the worst. Overturned ambulance carts, destroyed wagons, wounded men make their way back to our lines on foot; some of them drowning in shell-holes. In pairs we use the time to look for damaged telephone cables. Everything is in shambles. A single cable is destroyed in 8 places – Diary of a soldier of I.R.162
 

Photo of the actual event

Corpses on the Kemmel – Messines Ridge 1917

By the end 1917 the Division was moved to Flanders. Shortly before the start of the Battle of Cambrai the Division was pulled out and moved back to the Siegfriedline. I.R.162 stayed, this time under the command of Gruppe Wytschaete near Gheluvelt.

IR162 – Flanders

It is simply impossible to keep the line of communication operating both t the front and towards the rear. All of them are just shredded again and again. As soon as we repair a cut cable it gets broken, again and again. On several occasions, I work my way towards the regimental lines under raging shellfire. There should be some comrades detached to search for damaged cables. No sight of them. I am surprised to find them sleeping in their little bunker and to hear them admit that they wont carry out any patrols under such hail of gunfire, and that they won’t do any night patrols anyway. I am out working day and night. Our uniforms and boots are cut to shreds by the barbed wire which is everywhere, and our feet are constantly wet. Things are so bad that even our corporal has to come out with us one night to patrol for breaks. One night he fell into a shell-hole and ended up to his belly in water completely soaked through. The Division eventually has to accept that it’s not possible to keep all communication lines operational, we are ordered to make sure that just one line is kept operational, the so-called rear link to the I.R.31. That alone is quite a job! It leads to West-Roosebeke railway station, a really dangerous spot.
The Battle of Flanders is the worst I can remember. We have never before come under a continuous hail of such large-caliber artillery (38cm) as in Houthulst wood. I am simply amazed that I come out of this hell unharmed! Diary of a signals soldier of I.R.162:

Kemmel in 1918

In January 1918 the regiment was on R&R in Kortrijk before being moved to Houthem, centre of the Battle of Messines Ridge. On the 6th of April 1918 the regiment fought with distinction in the 4th Battle of Ypres (Battle of the Lys – Battles of the Kemmelberg) where it attacked and took the Meesen and later Wijtschaete.

Defence on the Kemmelberg

I.R.162 – March Offensive

Down in strength the regiment was refreshed by soldiers transferred from the former Eastern-Front (which had ceased to exist) near Knocke. During the Kaiserschlacht (Kaisers Battle) it took part in the March-Offensive where it took and held positions near Lataule, Ressons and Canny-sur-Matz. As Korps reserve it was posted to Ligny en Cambresis near Cambrai to Briey near Metz (close to the battlegrounds of St. Mihiel) and finally to Thielt in Flanders. From here it was sent to defend the Hermannstellung which was the final line of defence after the fall of the Siegfriedstellung. Close to Le Câteau the regiment prepared for the defence. This was to be its final battle before being moved back into germany, where it was disbanded.

85 officers and 1755 men of I.R.162 were killed in battle in World War 1. A much larger number was badly wounded and scarred for life (physically and mentally).

The fallen of the regiment are commemorated on the regimental memorial which can be found in the city of Lübeck:

Photos of an unknown soldier of I.R.162 – As far as available I have used the original captions.

Iron Crosses. Felix Schanz on the far right

No caption on this one – might be the owner of the album

Fallen in front of the English postions – Arras 1917

Englishmen killed by handgrenades – Arras 1917

1917

After the attack

Englishmen and Scots after the battle

Resting – Minutes after the battle

After Battle – 1917

English Tanks

Sources and further reading:

  1. Otto Dziobek: Geschichte des Infanterie-Regiments Lübeck (3. Hanseatisches) Nr. 162; erste Auflage 1922
    aus dem Vorwort:
    … Besonders dankbar sei des Herrn Oberleutnant Sander gedacht, der mit regstem Interesse die Arbeit gefördert hat. Mit […] hat er nicht nur […], sondern durch das mühsame Anfertigen der Karten und Skizzen sowie das Umzeichnen vieler Bilder sich hohe Verdienste um die Regimentsgeschichte erworben hat …
  2. Antjekathrin Graßmann: Lübeckische Geschichte, Verlag Schmidt-Römhild, 3. verbesserte und ergänzte Auflage 1997, ISBN 3-7950-3215-6
  3. Harboe Kardel: Das Reserve-Feldartillerie Regiment Nr. 17; Band 30 von Erinnerungsblätter deutscher Regimenter. Ehemals preuß. Truppenteile, mit 4 Karten, Verlag Gerhard Stalling, 1922 Oldenburg i. D., erste Auflage, 99 Seiten
  4. Kriegsbilder des Infanterie-Regiments Lübeck. 3. Hanseatisches Nr. 162; Lübeck, Offizier-Verein 1925
  5. Hugo Gropp: Hanseaten im Kampf; Klindworth & Neuenhaus, Hamburg 1932, 377 Seiten, Verein ehem. Angehöriger Reserve 76 e. V.
  6. Lübeckisches Adressbuch, Verlag Max Schmidt, div.
  7. Lyder Ramstad: Unter dem Banner der “Barbaren”; Verlag Ferdinand Hirt, übersetzt von Cecile Wedel (Gräfin), 1934, 167 Seiten

British Steel – Mk IV Tank in Berlin, Germany 1919

This image has been lying on my desk for quite a while. So time for a quick article about it. It is a rare one, showing a british Mk IV tank captured by the german army in WW1 now used by Freikorps units during the supression of the Spartacist uprising in Berlin, in January 1919. 

In January 1919 all remaining armoured cars and vehicles of the german army were regrouped in Berlin under the command of Reichswehrgruppenkommando 1, forming three Abteilungen. One of these Abteilungen was designated Schwere (heavy) Kampfwagenabteilung and consisted of two british Mark IV tanks and one german A7V tank (Heidi) formerly beloning to Freikorps Maerker. They stayed in use until Summer 1919, when all armoured vehicles had to be surrendered to the allies as dictated by the Treaty of Versailles. 

The Spartacist uprising (German: Spartakusaufstand), also known as the January uprising (Januaraufstand), was a general strike (and the armed battles accompanying it) in Germany from January 4 to January 15, 1919.

Its suppression marked the end of the German Revolution. The name “Spartacist uprising” is generally used for the event even though neither the ‘Spartacist League’ of Rosa Luxemburg fame (aka Spartakusbund) nor the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) planned, initiated nor led this uprising; each participated only after popular resistance had begun. This Uprising contributed to German disillusionment with the Weimar Government. Their leaders were Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. Several workers spontaneously seized the editorial office of one newspaper in the Kochstraße in Berlin and erected barricades on the streets. This attracted more workers who blocked further streets in the newspaper quarter- including the office of Germany’s Social Democrat SPD organ “Forward” (Vorwärts).

This Social Democrat paper had printed articles hostile to the Spartacists since the beginning of September. The leaders of the USPD and the KPD/Communist Party decided to support this worker-action, appealling for a general strike in Berlin on January 7. The strike garnered about 500,000 participants who surged into downtown Berlin that weekend. In the following two days however the strike leadership (known as the ad-hoc Revolution Committee) failed to resolve the classic dichotomy between militarized revolutionaries committed to genuinedly new societies and reformists advocating deliberations with Ebert. Meanwhile the strikers in the occupied quarter obtained weapons. Within the Communist Party there was further dissent. Karl Liebknecht, unlike Rosa Luxemburg, supported a militant coup over Ebert’s government, else the KPD would be alienated from worker elements planning the coup. At the same time some KPD leaders tried persuading state military regiments in Berlin, especially the Volksmarinedivision, to their side.

Their armed presence was supposed to instigate fighting. This was unsuccessful because most soldiers had either gone home or because their loyalty to the “Rat der Volksbeauftragten” (ie., the flag of the regiment). On January 8, the KPD left the Revolution Committee after USPD representatives had invited Friedrich Ebert for talks. While these took place, the workers found out about a flyer published by Vorwärts titled “Die Stunde der Abrechnung naht!” (The hour of vengeance is coming soon!) and about the Freikorps (anti-Republican paramilitary organizations, who fought the Weimar Republic and the November Revolution), whom the SPD administration had hired to suppress the workers. Ebert had ordered defense minister Gustav Noske, also a member of the SPD, to do so on January 6. Then the Revolution Committee stopped talks with the SPD. The Spartacist League then called for its members to take part in armed combat.

A7V tank at Roye, France 1918 (Bundesarchiv)

On the same day, Ebert ordered the Freikorps to attack the workers. The former soldiers still had weapons and military equipment from World War I, which gave them a formidable advantage. They quickly re-conquered the blocked streets and buildings; many of the workers surrendered. Around 100 civilians and 17 Freikorps soldiers died during the fighting. Liebknecht and Luxemburg were captured by Freikorps soldiers and killed.

Rider of the Apocalypse, 1917

This image is not unknown, I found it in two different albums so far (in different sizes), so I guess it was traded and maybe sold aswell. Still it is unkown to many and it does not need many words as its powerful enough to speak for itself.

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

Apocalypse