Including: Sturm-Abteilung Rohr on the Schratzmännele
The loss of
the Reichackerkopf, the key to the Münster
Valley, was a setback
that the French could not accept. As the Germans did at the beginning of the
year, they tried in the summer of 1915 to retake this position from the South.
They had to pass through Metzeral at the foot of the Ilienkopf. In mid April
they had taken the Schnepenrietkopf and Burgkopfle to the west of Metzeral.
From the 14th of June 1915 there was a continuous push and shove between
French troops and the German 19. Reserve Division, reinforced by the 187.
fighting in the mountains was difficult for the German troops who came largely
from the flatland, but they gave their all and managed to hold their positions.
As the month continued the Germans abandoned Metzeral and Sondernach puling
back to positions that went from Mühlbach, over the heights to the east on
Metzeral, on to Hilsenfirst. Once these positions were occupied they managed to
hold back all further French attacks in this corner of the battlefield.
Right: A French soldier listens for sounds in the fog on the Schratzmännele
For an account of the actions on the "Schratz" on the 12th of October written by a young French Chasseur please click HERE
On the 20th
of July the French made a new attempt to enter the Münstertal, this time
concentrating on the Reichackerkopf and the peaks around the Barrenkopf to the
North. The Reichackerkopf was held by the 8. bayer. Reserve Division, a unit
that had taken and held the position twice earlier that year. Now back from
fighting in Galicia
they were back in positions they knew like the backs of their hands. Although
they suffered heavy losses they held out through artillery fire and fought back
numerous attacks by French Chasseurs. The French
pushed towards the Barrenkopf moving closer and closer in a series if seesaw
actions until in late August they had occupied the heights and a number of the
On the 31st
of August the Bavarians, reinforced with men from the 19. Reserve Division and
the 8. Reserve Jäger Bataillon, counterattacked. The French and German
positions had been so close that the Germans had to pull back to avoid being
caught in their own artillery bombardment. Some French units tried to escape
the artillery by jumping forward into the abandoned German positions. When the
German attack came both sides had to race for the French lines. After
determined resistance by the French Chasseur the Germans managed to retake the
quarry on the Schratzmännele on the 9th of September.
Germans the 14th of October marks the end of the “Second battle for
Munster”. The battle may have been over but in the period afterwards the two
sides kept each other on their toes with constant “Kleinkrieg”, wearing away at
the enemy with local actions.
The town of
within French artillery range and suffered accordingly. By 1918 85% of the town
Sturm-Abteilung Rohr in the battle at Munster
Within a month of having taken over the
Sturm Abteilung from his predecessor Hauptmann Rohr had improved certain ideas
and tossed others out. The first test of his new concept was to be an attack on
In the Vogesen mountains the Peaks Lingekopf, Schratzmännle
and Barrenkopf are to be found to the north of Munster.
The raid on the Schratzmännle was to be carried out by
the 2. Sturm-Kompagnie of the Sturm-Abteilung and parts of the Infanterie
Left: An oil painting of Unteroffizier Friedrich Pöhler, 2. Sturm-Kompagnie, Sturm-Abteilung Rohr.
The company moved to Drei-Ähren on the 6th of October
1915. The company commander (Oberleutnant Krafft) used the days leading up to
the raid to scout the frontline positions. He was able instruct the Section and
Group leaders as well as the men themselves about their specific roles in the coming
attack. Life sized replicas of the German and French positions were built
behind the German lines and the assault troops along with the flamethrowers
were able to practice their roles.
At 5:15 p.m. on the afternoon of the 12th of October
1915 the 6 assault groups stood ready in the saps which stretched from the
German lines out into no mans land in the direction of the French front line. At
5:29 the Flame throwers belched their streams of fire at fixed points in the
French trenches. A minute later the storm troopers rushed forward and forced
their way into the enemy positions. Enemy artillery and a machine gun on the
flank had opened fire almost as soon as the flamethrowers had fired their first
bursts but they were soon suppressed by the German assault guns and Minenwerfer.
As soon as they had occupied the positions the storm
troops began to secure the trench. Sandbags and earth were used to close off
the enemy saps leading to the trench.
German saps were extended forward to reach it. A machine gun was built in. At
8:30 p.m. an enemy counter attack was beaten off. By 9:00 p.m. the Storm troops
were relieved by the 5./187 I.R. and a company of engineers.
Right: A map showing the proximity of the Lingekopf - Schratzmännle - Barrenkopf just to the North of Munster. The Broken red lines show the final French advance in late August 1915. The orange point shows where the attack on the 12th of October took place. For a selection of maps better explaining the Linge - Schratzmännle please click HERE
Sturm-Kompagnie lost 4 men killed in action (Unteroffizier Hermann Dähne,
Pionier Wilhelm Maibuhr, Unteroffizier Friedrich Pöhler, Gefreiter Wilhelm
Wollersen), 11 men were wounded.
These were the first casualties of the Sturm-Abteilung
under the command of Hauptmann Rohr. The next casualties would be three days
later when the 1st company attacked at Hartmannsweilerkopf.
The preparation of the positions for defence was a
factor that had not been thought of before the Schratzmännle raid, it was to
become part of the regular "formula" for a Sturm-Trupp raid.
The assault was a classic example of what future Sturm
tactics would be in the future. Practising on models of the area to be
assaulted, reconnaissance of the area, assault guns brought as close to the
enemy positions as possible, assault troops advancing in columns taking the
enemy positions, helping prepare them for defence, then withdrawing leaving the
infantry to occupy the newly taken section of trench.
To return to the section on the 1st Battle at Münster and some better maps please click HERE
Right: The Death Certificate of Friedrich Pöhler
On the 16th of December 1915 Hauptmann Rohr gave a
presentation to an exhibition of Sturm-Abteilung tactics. A brief summary of
his speech follows.
The raid must be preceded with accurate reconnaissances
of the area and use must be made of aerial photographs. (The early raids had
shown that observation on the ground was not that accurate). Each Sturmtrupp
Führer would receive a map with the zones and enemy blockhouses shown. Exact
goals and objectives are necessary. The positioning of the assault columns had
to be practised so that they would be able to advance in the dark without
problems. The success of the attack depends on careful preparation. Everything
needed to take and hold the position should be put in place beforehand. Each
leader and man should know the exact objectives so he could later act on his
own initiative when needed. Each attack was to be practised on a full scale model.
The barricades and wire should be cut the night before
the assault or blown up with explosives. At the moment of the assault each man
must concentrate his efforts to the extreme. Steal shields are only an
advantage when it is to be reckoned with that the enemy trenches can not be
reached in one bound or that it is supposed that the newly captured trench will
be object to fire from above or from unprotected flanks. After a position is
taken a communication line to the rear must be assured to avoid the troops
being cut off.
The bunkers and barricades in the enemy trenches are
designed to shoot through. The best ways to combat them are hand grenades and
the flame thrower. The saps leading to other enemy positions must be barricaded
at once. Strongpoints can be reduced with satchel charges. The first assault
wave should pass over the position and give cover to the second wave who should
prepare the defences. Machine guns should be positioned to provide defensive
fire from the flanks. All enemy material found should be used to defend the
Rohr went on say that the secret of success was that
the commanders and men believed in the success of the mission and that no
machines or defence was able to stop the right group of determined men.
Above: The Militärpass of Friedrich Barthels, Born on the 15th of April 1898 he joined the Army in September 1914 while just 16 years of age.
Above: 2 Months after his 17th Bithday He was wounded on Height 664 near Metzeral. 3 Months later, on the 17th of October 1915, he was wounded again, this time on the Schratzmännle by a French bullet.