|Foreword to the 1937 Edition
This book describes numerous World War I battles
which I experienced as an infantry officer. Remarks are appended to many
descriptions in order to extract worthwhile lessons from the particular
The notes, made directly after combat, will show
German youth capable of bearing arms, the unbounded spirit of self-sacrifice
and courage with which the German soldier, especially the infantryman,
fought for Germany during the four-and-a-half-year war. The following examples
are proof of the tremendous combat powers of the German infantry, even
when faced with superior odds in men and equipment; and these sketches
are again proof of the superiority of the junior German commander to his
Finally, this book should make a contribution
towards perpetuating those experiences of the bitter war years; experiences
often gained at the cost of great deprivations and bitter sacrifice.
Chapter I War of Movement Belgium and Northern
Ulm, July 31, 1914—-The danger of war hung ominously
over the German nation. Everywhere, serious, troubled faces! Unbelievable
rumors which spread with the greatest of rapidity filled the air. Since
dawn all public bulletin boards had been surrounded. One extra edition
of the papers followed the other.
At an early hour the 4th Battery of the 49th Field
Artillery Regiment hurried through the old imperial city. Die Wacht am
Rhein resounded in the narrow streets.
I rode as an infantry lieutenant and platoon commander
in the smart Fuchs Battery to which I had-been assigned since March. We
trotted along in the bright morning sunshine, did our normal exercises,
and then returned to our quarters accompanied by an enthusiastic crowd
whose numbers ran into thousands.
During the afternoon, while horses were being
purchased in the barrack yard, I obtained relief from my assignment. Since
the situation appeared most serious, I longed for my own regiment, the
King Wilhelm I, to be back with the men whose last two years of training
I had supervised in the 7th Company, 124th Infantry (6th Württemberger).
Along with Private Hanle, I hurriedly packed my
belongings; and late in the evening we reached Weingarten, our garrison
On August 1, 1914, there was much activity in
the regimental barracks, the big, old cloister building in Weingarten.
Field equipment was being tried on! I reported back to headquarters and
greeted the men of the 7th Company whom I was to accompany into the field.
All the young faces radiated joy, animation, and anticipation. Is there
anything finer than marching against an enemy at the head of such soldiers?
At 1800, regimental inspection. Colonel Haas followed
his thorough inspection of the field-gray clad regiment with a vigorous
talk. Just as we fell out, the mobilization order came. Now the decision
had been made. The shout of German youths eager for battle rang through
the ancient, gray cloister buildings.
The 2d of August, a portentous Sabbath! Regimental
divine services were held in the bright sunlight, £nd in the evening
the proud 6th Württemberger Regiment marched out to resounding band
music and entrained for Ravensburg. An unending stream of troop trains
rolled westward toward the threatened frontier. The regiment left at dusk
to the accompaniment of cheers. To my great disappointment I was obliged
to remain behind for a few days in order to bring up our reserves. I feared
that I was going to miss the first fight.
The trip to the front on August 5, through the
beautiful valleys and dells of our native land and amid the cheers of our
people, was indescribably beautiful. The troops sang and at every stop
were showered with fruit, chocolate, and rolls. Passing through Korn-westheim,
I saw my family for a few brief moments.
We crossed the Rhine during the night. Searchlights
crisscrossed the sky on the lookout for enemy planes or dirigibles. Our
songs had died down. The soldiers slept in all positions. I rode in the
locomotive, looking now into the firebox then out into the rustling, whispering,
sultry summer's night wondering what the next few days would bring.
In the evening of August 6 we arrived at Konigsmachern
near Diedenhofen and were glad to be out of the cramped quarters of the
troop train. We marched through Diedenhofen to Ruxweiler. Diedenhofen was
not a pretty sight with its dirty streets, houses, and taciturn people.
It seemed so different from my home in Swabia.
We continued the march, and at nightfall a torrential
downpour set in. Soon there was not a dry stitch of clothing on our bodies,
and the water-soaked packs began to weigh heavily. A fine beginning! Occasional
shots were heard far in the distance. About midnight our platoon arrived
in Ruxweiler without suffering any losses during the six-hour march. The
company commander, First Lieutenant Bammert, awaited us. Cramped quarters
on straw was our lot.