At the age of 20,..
On the 16t of October 1913, at the age of twenty, I was called up for military service and assigned to the First Company of Infantry Regiment 112 which was stationed in Mûlhausen (Alsace). After about half a year we recruits had been trained by the German Army's usual drillto become soldiers ready  for war. In the middle of July 1914 our Regiment was moved to the military training ground in Heuberg on the border between Baden and Wuertemberg in order to take part in a large-scale combat exercise. While we were there"we were often rushed around and drilled in the most mean and nasty way .

We all had to hurry up to get packed, and in the same night we went down to the station in Hausen which was located in the Danube Valley. As there was no train there for us we then had to return to our barracks tillthe following evening. Then they packed us into an overcrowded train – like salt herrings in a barrel – to transport us back to Mùlhausen where we were garrisoned. At six o'clock in the morning on the 1* of August 1914 we arrived there and marched to the barracks. We were supposed to be allowed to rest till midday, but instead I was wakened by some of my comrades at  nine o'clock and we were issued with our combat equipment from the stores – all brand new from
head to foot, together with 120 live bullets each, Aftenrards we had to go to the armoury where our bayonets were sharpened

Then my father and my sister came to see me again, to bring me money and to bid me farewell. Now the order was given that civilians were not allowed in the barracks. I was given permission to talk to my relatives outside the ates. lt was a difficult farewell, because we did not know if we would ever see each other again. All three of us were crying. As he left, my father warned me to always'to take care, and never volunteer for anything. This warning was not strictly necessary as I did not feel particularly patriotic, and the thought of dying a so-called hero's death horrified me.

After this, I and eight other soldiers were ordered to guard duty at the cashie/s office at the station.Others were guarding the station itself, or patrolling in all directions along the track. On the 3'd of August a French plane circled high above the town. All the soldiers tried firing at it. We anticipated that at any minute it would crash to the ground, but instead it continued to circle at a leisurely pece. A number of civllians had gathered outside the station to see what was happening. Suddenly one of them called out "a Bumma!" (a bomb). The crowd quickly dispersed and disappeared into the station and into the surroundlng buildings. I too ran into the station and expected that in any minute a
bomb would go off. Everything remâined silent. Then I risked going out, looked into the sky, and saw an object falling to earth, with something flapping on it. That's not a bomb, I thought to myself. In fâct, it was a beautiful bunch of flowers, consisting mainly of forget-me-notg,,wrapped in a red, white and blue band. lt wâs â greeting from France to the people oT Alsace.

On the 4tr of August two trains filled with German civil servants left Mûlhausen in the direction of Baden. They gave us several bottles of wine, which we made the most of. Then we heard that it was not simply a war between Germany and France, but one involving Germany, Austro-Hungary and Turkey on the one side, and France, Russia, Belgium, England and Serbia on the other. Oh yes, I thought to myself, that witl realty be something. On the 5û of August I marched with a small section to Exbrûcke. We spent two days on the hill called the Kolberg, north of the village. On the 76 of August I saw my first French troops making their way on patrol through the cornfields. We shot at each other, but there were no losses on either side. At the start, the noise of the bullets whistling by made me nervous. Then we got the order to retreat across the Rhine to Neueqburg and we marched off in that direction. We crossed the Rhine Bridge at daybreak. We set up our tents near the cemetery in Neuenburg, and lay down to rest and recover from the march. We spent two days there- till the 9s of August. By then several regiments had gathered there, and it formed an impressive military picture.

On the morning of the 9ft of August, we were told: "Get ready! Form upt" We had to cross back over the Rhine Bridge and into the Hardwald forest. They did not tell tgwhat was up, or where we were heading […]. All the NCOs had to go to the Captain to receive their orders. Then each group leader passed on the order to his group: the French. have occupied the line from Halbsheim – Rixheim- llle Napoleon and so on- This evening we have to attack and drive them back. Our regiment has been given the task of taking the villages of Habsheim and Rixheim and the vine-covered hills between them by force. Suddenly all laughter stopped and nobody felt like joking any more, because none of us felt that he would survive the nigh! and there was heartily little of the famed enthusiasm for battle or victory which you find described in patriotic writings. We had to march on, and at the edge of the road we saw our first corpse – a French dragoon whose chest had been pierced by a lance. lt looked horrible: the bleeding chest, the glazed eyes, the open mouth and the clawed hands. We allmarched silently by.

[…J ln the vicinity of our posts lay six dead German infantrymen – all on their f"ces. We were given the order to spread out in the woods and advance to the edge of the woods and then lie down flat. I was in the second line of riflemen. In front of us, on the edge of the woods we could see the hangars of the Halbsheim parade ground. So we would have to cross the parade ground which was 1200m broad. I thought to myself: the Frenchmen will blow us away the moment we move. The command came: "On yourfeetl Marchl Marchl" The first line got up and ran out of the wood. A sergeant of the reserve remained lying there. I do not know whether it was cowardice, or whether he had
fainted from fear.

The Battle near Mûlhausen

As soon as the first line of riflemen left the woods they came under fire from the bushes about 1200m away. The bullets flew over us and whistled into the leaves or bounced offthe trees. With thumping hearts we nestled as close as we could to the forest floor untilthe command came: "second line! On your feet! March! March! ". We got up and jumped out of the woods. lmmediately the bullets whizzed past our ears. The first line were now lying down and directing a steady fire at the bushes. Already a number of dead and wounded were to be seen behind the first line. People with lesser wounds ran between us back into the cover of the woods. Our artillery was firing shrapnel into the vineyards between Rixheim and Halbsheim. The whoosh of the shells was a new experience for us. The crashing, crackling and whizzing sounds brought on a nervous excitement. Suddenly we heard two shells whizzing very close to us: two French shells exploded fess than 20m behind us. While still running I took a quick look back and when I saw the smoke ând the tufts of grass flying through the air, I thought to myself: if one of those should land between my legs -oh dearl

We heard the command: "Join the first line". We jumped fonrrard and lay down, filling the gaps in the first line. Now it was our turn to fire on the bushes opposite. How often we had practised attacks like this in peacetime, but then the enemy was marked by red flags. This time it wat unfortunately quite, quite different. The soldiers on either side of me told me that Armbru.sler had fallen. He was a soldier the same age as met. Ping, a bullet shot past me along the ground and kicked up some grass. lf it had been 30cm further left my life would have been over. "Jump up! March! March!" Everyone rushed fonrvards, and once again trouble was crackling in our direction. Once again, individuals were hit and fellto the ground, often with terrible cries. lake position.Startfiring."GroupsL,S,S,Tand9jump,whilegroups2,4,6,S,andl0giverapidfire!" lt alternated in this way from now on. When we were close to the bushes, the French soldiers stopped firing. When we had made our way through them, we could see the last of the French soldiers disappearing in the direction of the station at Habsheim. That was the first time I had seen any Frenchmen during the attack. I only saw two dead people in the bushes

When we now advanced across open country towards Habsheim, we came under heavy fire from the station and from the vineyards on the hill, but only a few of us were hit. When we stormed the station, shouting hurrah, the Frenchmen had cleared out again. There were just too many of us. Our next task was to storm the vineyard on the hill. To start with we had to face heavy fire, but as soon as we got up there, the French troops fled among the vines and disappeared. The French position only consisted of a trench about 50 cm deep, behind which we found a large stock of white bread and a small barrel of wine. Both the bread and the wine were quickly consumed. Even the greatest patriot found that the French white bread was better than the army issue. […] ln the meantime it had grown dark. Amongst the vines we found a young Frenchrnan. He was unconscious. By striking matches, we were able to see that he had been hit on his thigh. A chap from Mannheim wanted to beat him to death. My comrade Ketterer from Mûlhausen and I had some

1 . According to the official records of the 112 RegimenÇ A. a 23 year old joiner was not actually killed on this
day, but he was shot in the chest and severely wounded.

difficulty in stopping the monster from carrying out his plan. As we had to move on, we left the Frenchman lying there.

When we stormed into Rixheim shouting hurrah, the French soldiers had to pull back to avoid being taken into captivity. Despite this, on searching through the houses we found and took some prisoners, who had hidden there because they were afraid. Most of the soldiers were behaving a bit madly and thought they could see Frenchmen hiding everywhere in the dark. People started shooting wildly, hitting trees and everything, even chimneys became târgets. Bullets were flying everywhere, so that nobody was safe. The tallest soldier in the regimen! the 2m tall Hedenus, collapsed and died when he was hit by a bullet. [H. was a 19 year-old High School Pupil. According to
the records he died on the 10'h of August Lgt4 at 10:30, hit by a bullet in the chest.l Some of the houses had caught fire, and lit up the surroundings. The injured of both sides were brought in. The dead were left lying

We had to get together and marched in the direction of Mûlhausen. Then we had to sp€nd the night in a meadow about lKrn from Rixheim. As we were all wet from sweating the cool of the night was unpleasant, and we longed for the comfort of our bunks in the barracks. However, as we were so tired, we soon fell asleep. We were frightened into wakefulness in by the sound of shot and shell. "What's up" we called to each other in the darkness. As the firing which could be seen to our rear in the village of Rixheim, continued to increase in volume even a machine gun joined in and people .,The  said:  French have outflanked us." The chaos was indescribable. The wounded screamed for
help. Our officers ordered us to form a line, to lie down, and to fire at the orilii  of the shots.


We fired for several rninutes, and then word came that they were Germans. "Cease,fire!" We had to sing "Deutschland Deutschland ûber Alles" so that the soldiers in Rixheim would realise that we were Germans. My God, how we sang! Almost all of us pressed our faces into the grass, to get ps much cover as possible. The officers shouted and cursed, but they could not bring the poor people who had been hit back to life. We had lost as many men to the German bullets as we had lost to the French

The next morning we marched towards llle Napoleon. Everywhere you could see individual corpses,Germans and French – a gruesome sight. We marched as far as Sausheim, turned round, and returned by the same route to Mûlhausen, which we entered to the sound of martial music. The inhabitants behaved quietly, and it seemed to me from their expressions, that they did not welcome us back. For the next two days we were given emergency quarters in our barracks and were able to get a rest. Most people claimed that they had carried out God knows what kind of heroic acts and had shot a huge number of Frenchmen dead. The people who were loudest were those who had been most afraid during the fighting.

On the 12ft of August we marched in the direction of Baden, crossed the Rhine at the lsteiner Klotz, and were guartered in bams in the village of Eimeldingen. The next day, we boarded a train […] In Freiburg we were given many gifts by members of the public – mainly chocolate, cigars, cigarettes and fruit. Then we travelled on, but nobody knew where we were going to: All kinds of rumours started to spread: to Northern France, Belgium, Serbia, Russia and so on. But everyone was wrong, because we crossed the Rhine again at Strasbourg and had to leave the train at daybreak in Zabern. Straight away we had to march up from Zabern to PÊalzburg (Lorraine). lt was a splendid clear
summe/s morning, and at sorne points the view across the plain of Alsace was wonderful. We iemained on high alert – we were not even allowed to take our boots off. In the distance, we could hear artillery fire. So, here too, there was action.

ln the evening we headed on towards Saarburg. On a raised piece of ground we had to dig trenches. This was a real sÏuggle, as it was a huge effort to shift the hard dry chalky ground with our small spades. t,..] As night fell, there was a heavy thunderstorm in the area. lt grew very dark, and there was a downpour. We were soaked through. Even our boots had filled with water, so that we were able to pour it out again. We were sitting or standing around in the open and started chattering like geese as a result of the wet. "Everyone head for Rieding, and look for quarters." We made our way across the soaking wet field and eventually reached a street which led to the village. The whole place was so full of soldiers that it took us a long time before we found anywhere to shelter.

Ketterer from Mûlhausen, Gautherat from Menglatt and I stuck toéether. Ketterer said: "ln the Church there's sure to be room." We went there, but it was the same as elsewhere. The soldiers had lit the altar candles, so that the church was fairly welt tit-up. There were soldiers everywhere – on the pews and in the aisles. Even on the altar the soldiers lay or sat around. We left the church and reached a house at the end of the village with a locked door. There were hussars camping in the barn. We rattled the door-handle of the house – nobody came. Ketterer started to bang on the door with the butt of his rifle, first gently, then harder and harder. Eventually someone asked: "Who's out
'Three  there?" I said  soldiers – from Alsace – seeking a billet. We will be happy if we can just sleep on the floor." The door opened. We had to go into the kitchen. My God, said the woman, you are soaking wet. Without our asking, she made us $/arm milk and gave us bread ini  butter, all of which was greatly appreciated. The friendly woman said she had only one free bed. We all undressed and crept into the bed. The good woman took our clothes and dried them on the oven. riVfren we awoke  the following morning, all the other soldiers had left the village. The woman brought us our dry clothes and gave us breakfast. Each of us wanted to give the woman a Mark for her effort [the.."
Soldiers' pay was 53 Ffennigs a dayJ – but she did not want to take anything. We thanked her and said goodbye. We went looking for our Company, and we found them on the hill where we had dug the trench the evening before.

At midday we marched to the village of Bûhl, stopped, marched on, stopped again – and so on. From ahead, several regiments of Bavarians – infantry artillery and cavalry marched past us going in the opposite direction. Nobody understood what was going on. Eventually we marched back too, At midday we marched to the village of Bûhl, stopped, marched on, stopped again – and so on. At midday we marched to the village of Bûhl, stopped, marched on, stopped again – and so on. At midday we marched to the village of Bûhl, stopped, marched on, stopped again – and so on. At midday we marched to the village of Bûhl, stopped, marched on, stopped again – and so on. At midday we marched to the village of Bûhl, stopped, marched on, stopped again – and so on. At midday we marched to the village of Bûhl, stopped, marched on, stopped again – and so on. At midday we marched to the village of Bûhl, stopped, marched on, stopped again – and so on. At midday we marched to the village of Bûhl, stopped, marched on, stopped again – and so on. At midday we marched to the village of Bûhl, stopped, marched on, stopped again – and so on. At midday we marched to the village of Bûhl, stopped, marched on, stopped again – and so on. From ahead, several regiments of Bavarians – infantry artillery and cavalry marched past us going in the opposite direction. Nobody understood what was going on. Eventually we marched back too, and had to dig a trench in a muddy hollow at the edge of a wood near the village of Rieding. Wherever you looked you could see soldiers digging trenches. Batteries were mounted and camouflaged. lt was soon clear to us that we would have to stop the French here. Several days passed uneventfully. On the 18h of August, some Frerich shells landed. The ones which landed in the
soft ground in our area failed to explode, while those which hit hard farm land did burst. 


19 August 1914 Battle at Saarburg (Lorraine) ln the night of the 18s to the 19th of August the French troops occupied the villages and the territory next to our lines. ln the early morning, the order was given for a general attack on the French. At a  stroke, all laughter, all humour seemed to have vanished. Everyone had the same serious, tense appearance. What will the day bring? I do not believe that anyone thought of the fatherland, or of any other patriotic swindle. The concern for one's own life pushed everything else into the backgroun.

On the road which led down to the village of Rieding about 500m from our position, we saw the Cycle Company of our Regiment, which consisted of about 89 men, sppeding towards the village.About âs soon as they reached the first houses, people started firing madly. All but four of the Company were killed. Suddenly the German artillery fire started. The French replied. The battle had started. With knapsacks and loaded guns we kneeled in the trench and awaited orders, with our hearts pounding. "The Battalion will creep along the trench towards the road. Pass it onl" We crept fonrrard, keeping as low as we could. Several French shells landed close to the trench, causing us to
throw ourselves on the ground. We reached the road and crept – mainly on all fours – along the ditch at the side of the road. Alltoo soon, the French artillery had seen us. Suddenly we heard a noise above us, there was a flash, and a shrapnel shell had exploded, but nobody was injured. Sst-boom, boom they now came flying over. There were screams here and there. but one ahead of me screamed fell to thê ground, rolled over and cried out wailing for help. That raised the tension.

"Fonrvards! March! Marcht" We all ran fonrvards in the ditch, but the French shells were faster. The
losses increased. "Battalion spread out to the left and form into lines by company with four steps 
between each person. March! March!" In less than two minutes the battalion had spread out and we continued at a trot. Now the French infantry, which we could not see at all, opened a lively fire at us. Our hearts were beating wildly as a result of the excitement and the running. We stormed the station at Rieding. As we outnumbered them, the French troops were forced to retreat. We took some prisoners. We had to lie behind the railway embankment and were able to get our breath back. From all directions we heard the boom of the guns, the bursting and crashing of the shells, and the cracking of the infantry and of the machine guns. Oh, if only we could spend a long time lying
here like this, I thought to myself ! A piece of cakel Another battalion moved in on us from behind. "The first battalion of lnfantry Regiment 112 move under cover to the left." We reached a hollow, then we came to a wood and circled round it for about 2Km in order to attack the village of Bûhl, which was being bravely defended by the French soldiers, from the side. Our first line had hardly left the protection of the wood before the first shells arrived. They were well aimed and the clumps of earth flew about our heads, without, however, causing much damage. We had to cross a flat valley, through which flowed a stream. As the meadow did not afford us any cover, we had no
alternative but to take cover behind the bank on the other side of the stream. We spent nearly two hours up to the waist in water, pressing ourselves close to the bank, while the shrapnel shells tore the alders and willows above our heads to shreds. We were given reinforcements from the woods and had to attack the heights. A crackling infantry fire rattled in our direction. Many a poor soldier fell in the hay. A further advance was impossible. Everyone threw themselves down and tried to dig themselves in with their spades and their hands. Shaking, nestling close to the ground, we lay there, in reality it's only the fearful military discipline, the force, that drives the soldier forwards to his death.


20th of August L9L4
An NCO and ten of us were sent to Bûhl to fetch ammunition to replace what had been used up. Near the village a wooden crucifix which had stood in a field had been hit by a shell. The horizontal spar was missing and the vertical spar had been cut off at knee height, leaving the figure of Jesus undamaged, with his hands outstretched. lt was a horrifying image, and we went on without speakin.


At about ten o'clock in the morning the order was given: "Get ready to advance". Now, once again we had to advance abreast on the French in multiple firing lines. Soon we came under shellfire and one of them hit a farmhouse, which almost immediately started to burn brightly. Nobody thought of putting it out. Ahead of us I saw a horse standing in a barley field with its head hanging down. On reaching it we saw that he was standing near the body of his rider, a French cavalryman, and that he had been seriously injured in hiss stomach and on his rear leg. I shot him through the head to put an end to his suffering. He fell down dead. A few steps further on I stood on something soft in among the barley. lt was a severed hand, to which some scraps of the sleeves of a shirt were still attached. Nearby, near a shell hole lay the torn-up corpse of a French infantryman with a missing hand.

As we continued to advance we came under heavy shellfire. We ran at the double to the shelter of a hill which was about the height of a house. Now the shells either hit the top of the hill or shot past us. Then they changed to shrapnel shells, which burst directly overhead. O theietursed 75mm field-guns. The shells flew at us as fast as the devil. You didn't even have time to throw yourself to the ground. Within one second they were fired, zoomed towards us and left us dying. Out of fear, we held our packs over our heads, but still several people were hit. Our major, by the name of Mûller, was remarkably unafraid. Smoking a cigar, he walked among us, ignoring the exploding shrapnel^.. shells, up and down, encouraging us not to be afraid. Behind us, to the left, a German battery was brought up. Within a few minutes it had been taken out by the French artillery. Only a few of the artillerymen were able to escape by running away. Gradually the firing ceased, we advanced and spent the night in the woods near the village of Hatten.


21st of August 1914 – Battle near Lôrchingen

ln the morning the advance continued in a valley, heading towards the town of Lôrchingen. As our captain had been injured, Lieutenant Vogel, a morose, ugly, hoarse human being had sole command of the company in our advance on Lôrchingen. On reaching the village, the patrols which had been sent on ahead reported: "Up on the height to the left of the village, almost in our backs, French infantry is withdrawing ". We entered the village in double time and occupied a market garden which was surrounded by a strong wall. The Frenchmen were about 400m from us, and were advancing unsuspectingly towards us when they were suddenly ovenrhelmed by a fearful wave of fire. Many fell, while others lay down and fired back, but they were unable to do us any harrn, as we were protected by the wall. Then they started to hold their rifle buttvin the air as a sign that they wanted to surrender. We stopped shooting. Then several of the Frenchmen jumped up and tried to escape. They were shot down. I felt sorry for the poor people. I could not bring myself to shoot at them. "Forwards, March! March!" shouted Lieutenant Vogel "we want to catch the rest of the gang!" We all climbed over the wall and ran towards the Frenchmen. They were not firing any more. Then suddenly from behind us we heard a whistling sound. Boom. A large shrapnel shell exploded directly overhead. As if they had been hit by lightning, several men fell to the ground. We all wanted to run back and find cover, as we were being shelled by our own artillery. Lieutenant Vogel shouted "Advance!" When some of the soldiers hesitated, he shot four of them down without further ado. Two were dead, two were wounded. A good comrade of mine, by the name of Sand, was one of the wounded, {Lieutenant Vogel was shot dead by his own soldiers in northern France two months later.)2
Now the French soldiers, shaking with fear, came running towards us with their hands up. We took them back to Lôrchingen at a trot and found cover in cellars and places like that. In the evening ræ went back to the village of Hessen, taking our prisoners with us, where we spent the night sleeping in a garden of fruit trees.

According to the regimental records, the 23 year old sugar factor worker Sand was wounded on his right shin. on the 21$ of August 1914 in Lôrchingen. Lieutenant Vogel, whose civilian role was that of a senior postal assistant, was not shot dead at the end of 1914. Two days after the battle he was sent behind the lines to Belgium, where he remained until 1917


Page 12 of 51
/24 August L9t4
Early in the morning. Alarm. Drink coffee. March to the front. Damn, I though! every day we have to go hunting for death. I cannot describe how reluctantly I moved off. After marching for a few kilometres we reached the French border. The post marking the German border with the eagle on it had been broken by the Frenchmen. I thought that they might expect us to shout hurrah as we  crossed the border, but we crossed silently. Everyone was probably wondering if he would ever cross back again. We marched on till after dark and camped in an open field.

A French aircraft wakened us from our slumbers by dropping a couple of bombs. Fortunately nobody was hurt. There was no sign of the field kitchen, so we went bungry. There was a village nearby. We were hoping that we would be able to find some food there, but we had to march close by without entering it. We pulled out some yellow turnips from where they had been planted and managed to shake some small plums from the trees. That was our breakfast. However, hunger is the best cook – that was a lesson we would often learn. The consequence of this food was that we suffered from diarrhoea – and howl More than half of the troops were suffering. As a result lots of
people reported sick in the hope of being transferred to the field hospital instead of running around playing the hero. Oh yes, field hospital! All you got was a drop of opium on a lump of sugar from the battalion doctor and then – march – get the enemy! Oh how we would now love to be drilled back in the barracks! And the beds! Oh you straw mattresses, how happy we would  be, to be able to lgw 
stretch our warm dry legs on you! Carry on, without a break

At midday we stopped in a village. A real hunt for chickens began. Rabbits were fetchêd from boxes and stalls, together with wine from the cellars and bacon and ham from the fireplaces. I went looking for eggs, and emptied the contents of about six to eight of them. Then I went into a housç. In the living room on a shelf I discovered rows of milk jugs. I reached up and found one filled with cream. lt tasted excellent, sweet and cooll While I was enjoying drinking, I noticed an elderly lady standing pale and trembling in the doonray. Although I had not committed a crime, I was ashamed to take the cream with me without paying. I offered her half a mark, but she did not want it, and
gave me a big piece of bread as well. The woman was the only civilian I saw in the village. The inhabitants had either crept into hiding or run away. Form up. On you go. Several companies went forwards in loose formation, while we formed the reserve. Bang bang it started up again ahead of us. lt was the French rearguard, who put up a limited resistance. Our company did not have to take part. As we continued forwards we saw several dead Germans lying around. We went on and spent the night in a large mountain wood. We could tell from the restlessness and excitement of the officers that something was in the offing for the following day.


Page 13 of 51
25th of August  – 
1914  the crossing of the Meurthe
In the early morning the German batteries started uninterrupted shelling. You could hear the shells landing on the other side. We stood at the ready in the woods and waited. The company commanders now got us to spread out. My company was in the second firing line. "Forwards,marcht" Everyone started moving. Ahead of us sunlight shone brightly through the trees, this was the edge of the woods. Almost as soon as the first line showed itself at the edge of the woods, the French infantry opened sweeping rapid fire. The French artillery shelled the woods with shells ând shrapnel. These things started bursting between and above us. We ran like mad from place to place. Quite close to me a soldier had his arm torn off while another one had half of his throat cut open. He collapsed, gurgled once or twice, and then the blood shot from his mouth. He was dead. A pine tree which had been hit in the middle collapsed to the ground. We didn't know where to hide. "Second Line Fonrardsl" Arriving at the edge of the woods I was able to see a fairly deep valley through which passed a river, a road and a railway line – the valley of the Meurthe. The village and the hills on the other side of the river were heavily occupied by the French. You could only see a few individuals, as they had taken cover. Everywhere you could see the clouds of smoke shooting skywards from the German shells. On both sides of us German troops advanced in lines out of the woods and the French artillery shells flew over and found their victims. In the explosions and rattling it was almost impossible to hear commands. We rushed down the hill and were able to find cover at the side of the road. As we moved further forward we all headed for thebridge, and the French poured down a hail of shrapnel, infantry and machine gun fire on it. Masses of the attackers were hit and fellto the ground. There was no prospect of getting across. I lay shaking.without cover on the meadow next to the road near the river. I thought my last hour had come, and I didn't want to die. I prayed to God for help, as one can only do when one's life is in danger. lt was a fearful, quivering plea from the bottom of my heart, a deep, painful plea to him. How different a prayer like this is, coming as it does from a situation of extreme need, compared with others which one carries out as a matter of routine or thoughtless repetition.

Bang, close to me a shell had exploded. Crackling splinters and lumps of earth fell around. ln one jump I was in the shell-holel Bump – another soldier also seeking cover had landed on top of me. But I was underneath and I was not going to give up my position. "Forwards, attack across the river." We heard the commands through the din, Everyone jumped up, without taking to long to think about it and jumped into the river heading for the cover of the opposite bank. The water was chest-high but nobody minded. Several people were hit by shrapnel and washed away. Nobody helped them; each of us was fully occupied with his own survival.

At the edge ofthe village several houses had been set on fire by the shooting; driven by the heat the French were forced in places to give up the defence of the village. We now had to attack with bayonets and the French were forced to give way. Prisoners were taken. Soaked through and exhausted we sought cover behind the houses to get some rest. Gradually the shooting came to a complete stop. Towards evening we had to attack the wooded hill to the left of the village. We returned to Thiaville to spend the night. I lay with a large number of comrades in a barn with soft hay. lt was a stormy night. The rain poured down on the tiles on the roof. As a result of the noise of
the collapsing houses, which had been set on fire by the shelling, it was difficult to sleep êven though we were exhausted. Many cattle were stilltied up in the burning stalls and were bellowing

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loudly from the fear of death. lt was dreadful! Eventually I fell asleep. After midnight I heard a call: '"The Heuchele Group should come here immediately! " That was my group. We climbed down. Our wet clothes were still sticking to our bodies. We eight soldiers and the NCO had to do sentry drrty a few hundred metres from the village. We stood or crouched there in the pouring rain and stared and listened out into the blackest of nights. Eventually the morning câme grey in the east. What would the next day bring?

25th August 1914 The Fight in the Woods near Thiaville

As it grew ligh! we expected to be relieved, but no-one came. A few steps ahead of us we could see a small house which we had not been able to see in the dark. ln a hedge nearby lay the body of a dead German infantryman which had been soaked through by the rain. ln the yard of the little house lay two French infantrymen. Next to one of them lay a purse. I picked it up. lt contained two 20 Franc pieces in gold. However, I was not interested in money, so I threw it away. Probably one of the Frenchmen had been hoping to be spared by giving away his money. A section of dragoons rode up to us from the village and went on past us along the road towards the woods which were about
400m away. They were followed by companies of infantry. We had to join our company and follow them. We followed on behind in our wet clothes. Nobody asked us if we had had anything to eat or drink. Ahead of us in the woods, shots rang out. Damn, the same thing again! The dragoons who came galloping back out of the woods told our brigadier, Major-General Stenger that they had encountered the French. The general now issued the following order, to the company commanders3, who read it to their companies

"Today, no prisoners are to be taken. Wounded and captured Frenchmen should be executed."

Most of the soldiers were struck speechless, while some of the others were pleased by this despicable breach of international law. "Spread out. Forwards, march!" Carrying our guns, we headed towards the wood and entered it, with my company in the second row.' Ro shot fell. We were already hoping that the French troops had withdrawn, as they had been fired on by the dragoons. Bang, bang, bang it started. Some bullets reached us and loudly collided with the trees. In the early morning our company had been allocated some raw recruits to make up our losses. These soldiers, who had never heard the whistle of a bullet, had questioning fearful faces. As the intenqity of the fire increased, we had to move up to join the front line. Using every tree and every bush for cover, we moved forwards. We were followed by several further lines of troops. To start with, although the French mountain troops fought bravely, they were forced to give way. They kept on taking up new positions behind trees and ditches and firing on us. The losses increased. The wounded Frenchmen were left to lie and became our prisoners. To my horror, there were some monsters among us who either bayoneted or shot these poor defenceless men while they pleaded for mercy. An older regular NCO from my Company, by the name of Schirk, sneeringly shot a wounded Frenchman lying in his blood in the backide. The he held his gun to the head of the poor unfortunate man who was pleading for his life and shot him dead. But I will never forget the man's distraught expression as he faced his death. A few steps further on lay another wounded man, a handsome young fellow, in a ditch in the wood. NCO Schirk ran towards him, and I followed. Schirk wanted to bayonet him. I parried the blow and shouted out: "if you touch him, you're deadl" He looked at me with a baffled expression, and since he did not know what to expect from my threatening attitude he mumbled something and followed the other soldiers. I threw my gun to the ground, and kneeled down beside the wounded man. He started to cry, took hold of my hands, and kissed them. As I did not know any French, I pointed to myself and said "a comrade from Alsace". By making signs I managed to explain to him that I wanted to bandage him up. He did not have any bandages. Both his calves had been shot through. I removed his puttees, cut open his red trouser

There is no trace of this in the military records

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with my pocket knife and bandaged up his wounds using my first-aid kit. Then I stayed, lying beside him, partially from sympathy and partially because the ditch gave me cover. I raised my head slightly but was unable to see the advancing troops any more. Bullets continued to whiz through the woods. They snapped off twigs and bored into trunks and branches.

Near by there were some bilberry branches, which were laden with ripe berries, so I picked and ate them. That was the first food for more than thirty hours. Then I heard steps behind me. lt was the Company Sergeant Penquitt, a man who had been a dangerous pest in the barracks who stuttered 'Y-y-ou  every time he started to speak:  lazy bugger, make your way to the front!" What could I do? | took my gun and went. After going a short distance I hid behind a tree to see whether he was going to attack the wounded man. I was determined to shoot him down if he tried to kill the Frenchman. He took a look at him, and then went on. Now I rushed on to stay ahead of hirn and forced my way through a thick bramble bush. ln the bush there were six to eight Frenchmen all lying face downwards. I immediately noticed that they were only pretending to be dead. They were no longer able to flee as the German lines had advanced beyond them. I touched one of them with my bayonet and said "Comrade". He looked at me fearfully. I indicated to him that he should continue to lie there, which he agreed to do, nodding his head keenly. Corpses and wounded men lay spread throughout the woods. The rattling and banging kept on and on. Injured soldiers ran backwards past me. I crept fonrvards, always seeking cover, to reach the front line. Once again, shouting hurrah, we
continued to attack, and the losses mounted. [-..] On advancing further we reached a broad ravine. The Frenchmen were reffeating up the opposite bank. Many of them were shot {pwn like rabbits. Some of them rolled back down the slope. When we had crossed the ravine we suddenly came under fearful fire from a hill which had been planted with young pine trees. We all toqk cover or threw ourselves to the ground. Some fled. Major Mûller waved his dagger, shouted "fonrvards children!" – and dropped down deada. Now, up among the young pine trees, thing started to get moving. A host of mountain troops started running towards us with fixed bayonets. We turned atld headed back as quickly as possible. I was running together with about six men. Four of them fell screaming to the ground. I didn't take the time to look round to see how they were. Almost all our wounded were left lying. While continuing to run, I undid my pack and threw it away. When I had got further back, I heard someone calling my name, two or three times. On looking round I saw my good barrack- room cornrade Schnur, who was the son of a frrmer from Wangen on Lake Constance. He was lying on a tent which had been fastened to poles by ambulance-men. The ambulance-me left him lying and ran away. I got three other comrades to come and help. We put the poles on our
shoulders and retreated at a trot. This was a realtorture for poor Schnur. The strings on the tent pulled together. Schnur was sitting with his bottom in the lowest part of the tent, with his legs and his head peeking out the top. ln the process the tent swung backwards and fonrards between us. "Stop! For God's sake slow downt" he groaned, but we ran on to get out of range of the bullets. Now the officers stopped all the retreating soldiers and got them to form a line to drive off the French troops. The four of us were allowed to carry the wounded man to a field dressing station which had been set up in a smallfarm at the edge of the woods. The farm was so full of wounded that we had
to lay down Schnur in the yard. He had been shot in the back and was greatly weakened by loss of blood. As it started to rain again, I went looking around and found a space for him in the kitchen. We carried him in. God, what it looked like in this house! Blood, groans, moans, prayersl Wishing my

Malor M., born in 1863, fell in this battle after 31 years of service.

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comrade a speedy recovery, I left this house of suffering. (Three months later, Schnur died in a military hospital in Strasbourg5. (…)

As I had not eaten anything more than a few bilberries for about thirty hours, I now was feeling very hungry. As it was not possible to get anything to eat at the farm, I went back into the woods to look for bilberries. There I found a dead Frenchman. I opened his pack and took out a tin of meat and a packet of cigarettes. A short distance away lay a dead German. I removed his pack and used it to replace the one I had thrown away. In this pack I found iron rations and a clean shirt. t pulled off my dirty sweaty shirt and replaced it with this one. Then I ravenously ate the Frenchman's tin of food. The shooting in the woods died down. Gradually it became evening. The companies regrouped at the edge of the wood. My Company now consisted of about forty people. More than a hundred were missingl My comrades Gautherat and Ketterer had also survived. They had been more cunning than me and had hidden in the bushes right at the start of the battle. We spent the night on the  slope of a hill in the pouring rain. We lounged around with deadened senses, dog-tired and half-despairin

According to military records Schnur was injured in the upper thigh on the 26th of August 1914 and died on the 2nd of December 1914 as a consequence of his inJury, amputation and blood-poisonin