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To see an article on Wahl's wound in Avocourt go HERE

War Diary

R. Wahl
6.10.1915 promoted to Gefreiter
25.02.1916 Promoted to Unteroffizier
Stationed in the field at X-Mas 191? As Feldwebel.

Joined up on the 23rd of March 1915 at Zuffenhausen. Privately quartered with Frau Ziegler in the Olga Street. Ate in the house, food was deplorable. The training took place in difficult (next word crossed out) Burgholzhof, Schlotwiese and the Ludwigburger exercise ground. Our Kaporalschaftsfuehrer name was Beurigs, later Oberfeldwebel. Leutnant Fritz. After 4 weeks transferred to the 3rd Depot (had been in the 2. Depot). Here it was more strenuous. My physical training was supportable. Strobel, a (word crossed out) went overboard, not only did he drill his people till they fell over but they were hit in the ribs, punched in the face and kneed in the back. It was no wonder that 500 men (all over 30 years old) were relieved when, on the 3rd of May, we were told we were to be transferred to Ravensburg. On the 11th of May we were on our way, wearing our prisoner like rags. We arrived without having eaten at 4:30pm, 200 men from Tuebingen joining us along the way. When we arrived in Ravensburg I was greeted by Otto, things seemed to be looking up. He took me with him to the 2. Komp. where he was an Offizier-Stellvertreter under Hauptmann Buhler. Buhler was an extremely friendly, straightforward and caring father of the company.

In his company cursing and hazing was not allowed. The instructors were all Landwehr men. Leutnants John, Ernst, Schuler and Simon. Feldwebels Heine and Fischer. Unteroffizier Hund, Schoenle, Knoerle, Rothfuss, Buhler, Dreger, Haeberle and Weiss. The duty here was very interesting and we learned much. In “Z” it had been much more strict, but had learned nothing about service in the field, which astonished our new officers. Unfortunately Hauptmann Buhler was transferred to Antwerp in the middle of June. He was replaced by Hauptman Schmied, also a straight and fair officer. After he injured himself by falling from a horse we did less field training as he always had to be transported in a cart. Things became a bit boring. Hauptmann Buhler and Schmid had proposed me for an Unteroffizier course in Munsingen. Hauptmann Schmid wanted to promote me to Gefreiter on the 15th of July but it did not happen. A Einjahrfreiwilliger had to wait 6 month, a normal soldier 1 year. On the 5th-6th of August our first contingent left (for Warsaw). Otto was in charge of the transport. He was asked if we wanted me to go along but he said no. He did not know if I wanted to go and I was on leave at that moment. So I stayed where I was and had a great time. I was now acting Gruppenfuehrer, which meant I did not have to wear a pack on the marches. At the shooting range I was also acting Gruppenfuehrer. Hauptman Schmid crowned me “Schuetzenkoenig” as in the competition I had 5 of the groups 7 hits. On the 13th of August came the verbal command that I would join the Unteroffizier training course in Muensingen on the 28th of August. 3 Gefreiter from the Battalion took part, 2 from the 2. Komp. and one from the Depot. The course lasted six and a half weeks, until the 5th of October. It was a difficult six weeks on this barren piece of ground. The shots were called by three Vize-Feldwebel…Wetzel, Mueller and Kullmann. The treatment was terrible! (Menschenunwuerdig). I managed to stand my man and managed to avoid the punishments. Of 86 course members 33 passed with the qualifications to become Unteroffizier. I report card was “Good” in all categories. On the 6th of October I returned to Ravensburg and was promoted to Gefreiter on the spot. I also received 10 days vacation, 8 of which I worked at Find (former employer). Upon my return Hauptmann Schmid informed me he had proposed me for the Machinegun Abteilung. I hinted that I was not of the right physical stature for this and that I was not in the mood for another back breaking course. He agreed and cancelled the posting.

On the 23rd of October I was posted with 5 other Gefreiter to a combat company and was to leave with Hauptmann Dillerz for Muensingen. A counter order from the Generalkommando came ordering me to the Machine Gunners in Ulm. The Hauptmann and Feldwebel tried to stop this but the Generalkommando overruled. Here we Unteroffizier qualified Gefreiters had an easy time. We took part in the instruction but had our rest while the 19 year olds were put through their paces. How they were hazed! I could barely watch! An example, a physically weak man named Frank was drilled so hard with the machine gun that collapsed and got heart cramps. These lasted 2 hours until I and two other Gefreiter loaded him in a wagon and pushed him back to quarters. I could not stand watching this, let alone participate in it. Dr Deufel found I had a nervous heart flutter and an eye problem and soon I was on my way back to Ravenburg, inapt for Machine Gun service. On the 5th of November I was back in the 2. Komp. 14 days later came a question from the battalion if the 2. Komp thought I was apt and ready to be promoted to Unteroffizier. The company affirmed this but on the 20th of November came the message that Gefreiter who had front experience would be promoted first and there were only 4 positions. I would have to wait another 3 weeks. From the 20th of November discipline was toughened up in the company. The men had been misbehaving and the Hauptmann had to show his strict disciplinarian side. Extra exercising, arrest and punishment duties (Verschaerfter Dienst). I did not have to suffer any of this although the training personnel were closely observed.

The strict regime lasted almost until Christmas, at least until Oberstleutnant Bauer inspected us on the 15th of December.

I received 12 days leave. My company commander tried to get me three weeks but the battalion did not approve it while I was physically fit for duty. Promotions were not made over X-Mas and into the new year. For me the resolution was … “Wait”. My parents received information that Otto was promoted to Camp Commander at Courtai. Hauptmann Brand had probably organized this for him.  

With that 1915 came to am end.

Above: The Militärpass entry is signed by Lt. Vollmer, the officer captured by Sgt. York.

For myself and the family I can only say, 1915 was a good year, a child was born on the 18th of March. It was a difficult time, but all went well. For my military career I cannot complain either. It was a great achievement for a Landsturm man to be promoted to Gefreiter after half a year, without having served at the front. I was well thought of by my superiors and they had not sent me to the front, although I had not said a word to prevent it. I had been healthy all year, as were wife and child. It was a blessing from God. I ended the year thanking God for what he had done for me and prayed he would keep his protective hand over me in the time to come.  

I would happily go off to war if I could be sure that I could return safely and healthily to my wife and child, to set myself up as an independent businessman and to lead a carefree life looking after my loved ones.  

My personal resolution for 1916 was “With God for Kaiser and Fatherland in 1916, like it was in 1915”. With my best wishes for a German victory I entered the New Year. May God, our judge, be merciful and protect us.  

1916, January

The depressing war continues with the same terrible intensity. We in the garrison do not have the difficulties and physical trials as the men in the field suffer, but we suffer enough. The service was increased and carried out in all weather, especially the long marches. The weather in January was nice, almost like spring. Hauptmann Schmid left for a training company in Muensingen for 14 days and Hauptmann Steiner commanded the company, it was a pleasant time but Steiner was a strange character.  

February 1916

The weather became more winter like and as a result the duty was more difficult. We received news that Lt. Ernst was killed on the 4th of February by an enemy shell. This was depressing news for the company which had grown to love and respect him during his one and a half years there. He had always had a fiery humor. 5th of Feb, Sunday, I was on a weekend pass with my beloved Lina and kiddie, who was growing like crazy. I was missing much with my absence. On the same day Otto’s son was born. On the 16th General von Steidle inspected a section equipped for the field at Kuppelnau. The next day he inspected the 3. Komp at Grossbaumgarten. The rest of the month was filled with regular duties. On the 25th of Feb (Kaisers Birthday) I was promoted to “Ueberzaeligen” (Extra) Unteroffizier. I could not be made a regular Unteroffizier as I did not have one year of service yet. I could now only hope that this would soon come to pass. I then received 8 more days leave.   March 1916 In vacation form the 1st to 8th , then return to Ravensburg. On the 11th I served as Watch Unteroffizier for the first time. On the 13th our beloved Unteroffizier Rothfuss, in whose Korporalschaft I was in, left. We had gotten along famously. He, along with Unteroffizier Hund were joining the Landsturm Bataillon Ravensburg in Friedrichshafen. I was given command of the Korporalschaft. Since the start of the German offensive in the West (Verdun) we can hear the thunder of the guns, especially on the heights. I assume more of this must be from the Vogesen than from Verdun. On Sunday the 19th I was ordered to attend the burial of Leutnant Ernst (6. Komp). With me were Sergeant Buhler, Hauptmann Schmid, Lt. John and 8 men.

Tuesday 21st, Battalion march to Wangen in Allgaeu. Wednesday 29th, Otto arrives on vacation. Stierle and Eichler come to 2. Komp. From the 27th I attend the hand gren

April 1916

1st April Otto here on 16 days leave. 11th comes the news that 1 Unteroffizier and 15 men (later another 10 men) were being transferred to a Landwehr Regiment. Lina comes tonight. At 5pm a 2 hour inspection by Major v.d. Asten at Spohn. Lina arrived, we had a walk, went to Otto where we visited a while. We slept in the hotel “Deutsche Kaiser”. Early Tuesday went to confession and communion.  On the 13th at 8am we were ready to march. Had to assemble every two hours, it became tedious and we hoped to leave soon. Lina left at 10am. A terrible parting, the worst in my life.  

On Friday we heard that we would leave on Saturday morning. We leave over Ulm, where we were fed and where more men joined us. Then onwards with a special train. 5 Unteroffiziers (Beil, Bergner, Happ, Hummel and myself) and 50 men. 25 from the 1st Komp., 10 from each the 2nd and 3rd, and 5 from the depot.

We marched off to the station where Emilie brought me flowers. Frau Oppold brought flowers, books and prayer books. Many officers, including Major v.d. Asten were there. We move on to Niederbirge where 50 men from Weingarten join us. With overflowing wagon we continue to Ulm where between 2.30 and 3.30 pm we are fed. Roast Beef, sauce and sauerkraut. We entered snow covered Griesling, the whole town was decorated for the military train. My wife, in laws, my mother and father… all were on the platform. The parting was so painful I could not speak. A lot of waving, then off into the great unknown…. So disappear my wife and my homeland… may we see each other again!

  The snow got heavier as we approached Rastatt, then Ludwigsburg, Bietigheim and to Gemersheim where we got coffee and (very good) sausage. Now, unfortunately at night, we crossed the Rhein at 3am. At 7am we were given coffee (not good) I had slept the night in a wagon filled with straw along with Julius Kiefer. If every night on campaign could be that comfortable, it would not be so bad.

  In Dietenhofen there was a boring backwards and forwards in the shunting yards. Julius Kiefer and his wagon were unhooked. Many ammunition columns leaving from here. Strangely we still do not hear the guns. Many flowers and herbs, beautiful valley. Still thinking constantly of home. Weather is nice today, sunshine, but still cold. Pass French border station at 11.35. The first town (Audon) lays in ruins, shot to pieces. I hear that Chr. Klotz also traveled with us, in Dietenhofen he branched of to the 123. So far we only see old battlefield. Longingen, Montemedy, no stopping. Lavignon at 4pm. Food, Rice soup with meat and coffee. The whole area has stock, no fruit.

Arrive at Stenay at 5.50, HQ of the Kronprinz (Crown Prince). Brieul at 6.30. Two and a half hours march, knee deep in mud, over the fields to Berges. Spend the night in a garden shed, teeth chattering. The aviators greet us, artillery is firing constantly. Rain.

  Monday, 17th of April. Battalion rests until Wednesday, us included. Sent to the 5. Komp, I get the 2nd Korporalschaft. Hauptmann Pfaender, Lts Haiber, Sauber and Goehner. Kompagnie Feldwebel Endriss.  

2nd Korporalschaft: Gefreiter Schank, Wehrmann Fluegel, Fleisch, Buchner, Ersatz  Reservists Kuhn, Nussbaumer, Thier, Gebert, Ball, Graf.  

(On the 20th of March the II. Batln. Had stormed the forest of Avocourt. Only three dead in the assault, more dead in the artillery afterwards.  

Tuesday, 18th. Yesterday and today was rainy, otherwise nothing. At 4pm I see Unteroffizier Link, also from Ravensburg. He is going to the 122nd.   Today, the 19th, at 9.30pm we are to go into position. 4 hours over branches and stones. At 9am had been church service, confession and communion. I had already confessed with in Ravensburg. It was quiet in the church. All deep in thought, some maybe with tears in their eyes. I made a bond with Christ and put myself in his care. My baptism of fire was coming at 1am and it is better to go into war with God next to you. It would be a terrible 4 days in the forward position, terrible weather as well.

Ordered into battle, but my thoughts with my wife and child.  

I had pictured terrible roads and paths, but nothing this bad. 4 hours march in the rain, Up to the knees in swamp and mud, over fields, through destroyed Cheppywald.(?) Then 45 minutes in the communication trench, water pouring over the tops of our boots. The positions are in a terrible state, no bunkers and right in the mud.  

Wednesday night at midnight we take over the position. Very early on Friday morning Badent of my Korporalschaft is wounded in the head and hand by hand grenade. A terrible chatter of small arms started, then stopped half an hour later. At 7am the French throw grenades and unfortunately my good friend Heinrich Nasse was killed with a bullet in the head. Zuegler is also wounded in the head.  

It almost broke my heart to see Nasse laying there in the trench, not distressed, almost peacefully. His friend Weilers was sitting next to him, unwounded. Such moments make you weak in the knees, but soldiers have to be gruff and hardy, so… head high and back to work, placing your trust in god.  

Easter Sunday began with more misery. Once again a comrade from my old Korporalschaft, and on top of that a Ravensburger! Otto Buchner, a butcher. He was wounded in the back by a shell splinter. It happened at 11am. His last words, in the presence of a priest were “God have mercy on my soul”.   We had another man killed that day, a 26 year old pionier who had just arrived. He was shot in the head while clearing a collapsed section of trench.  

We were overjoyed when at 3am on Easter Monday the relief came and after 4 days in position we were able to leave, marching back to Sierges (sous Montfaufon), arriving half dead at 8am. I thanked God for protecting me in this first sejour at the front and hoped for his continued guidance.  

From the 24th to 1st of May we rested at the castle at Sierges. Wonderful weather, did nothing but cleaning. My first Unteroffizier pay, RM13. There is nothing to buy here except wine, I am forced to send many begging letters (home for food). Aviators visit us every night. Tuesday the 25th, his Majesty Phillip Albrecht, son of Herzog Albrecht visited Sierges and was in the castle for a few hours. There was music.  

Sierges is a small village, not a single nice or new building to be found. Everything lay in ruins, neglected.  No civilians to be seen anywhere. The quarters are not great. Houses have low doors; no windows have the same size, often no baths.  

27April Had guard duty guarding the village. 12 man guard. Kuffner in hospital with jaundice and gall bladder.  

Post commander Oberstleutnant Stuck Vat. Commander Hauptmann Gruber  

29th, Friday, met Grieb from Moehringen. First parcel from my parents. Butter, Herb cheese and Apples.

Transport with 20 men arrives from Ravensburg. Food and Socks arrive from Lina.

30th visit support section of 11th Komp. 122nd. Hitzel not there, 3 weeks hospital.

We are to leave today, destination unknown. At Sierges there is a monument to the 58th Division for the battle at Montfier (sp?), on the heights 500 Germans and 1000 Frenchmen are buried. At 4pm we leave Sierges and with 70 men occupy a camp in the woods at Franzenhof, about 45 minutes from Sierges.  

May 1916

1st of May, the regimental band plays. In the evening we are to go into position at Baierhorn, into the line with God! (I had been to church the night before).

In position at Baierhorn from the 1st to 5th. Uffz. Wahl, Karl, Fell, Hohmann, Haustein, Seitz, Guber, Finkbohner. Gebert collapsed at the assembly, Schankl fell out during the march. Stuhlbeiner and Fleisch had been ordered elsewhere. No officers!!

  11.30pm on Tuesday the 1st, march over XXXX, 5 hours. In the beautiful May weather we had to spend 4 full days in a stinking bunker while outside the sun was shining. I was platoon leader in this bunker, 39 men in a place made for 20-25. The bunker had bad air supply and it added to the feeling of Angst, the hours are counted, we wait for the relief. There were 3 telephones in the Bunker.  

Friday from 5pm to 10pm there was a terrible bombardment by the French, Our bunker was targeted without being damaged. They were terrible hours, terrified in a bunker with no security, shell after shell and the light in the bunker often going out. A short round of our own artillery kills a man and wounds 2 more. My whole section spent the rest of the night repairing the trench.  

The French bombardment had been to distract us. Yesterday we (The Germans) had attacked Hoehe 304 (Hill 304), today, the 6th of May, the French counter attack at 1am. We tensely await our 3am relief and the return to Baiereck.  

More to follow....

 
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