was a miller from Pressath who had done his national service in the 11th
Company of the Bavarian Infanterie Leibregiment in 1909-10.
Above: A group of Leiber in April 1915
on the 3rd of August 1914 he rejoined the regiment and was posted to
the 5th Company where he was promoted to Unteroffizier in the 1st
of October 1914.
Promotion was possibly due to an action on the 26th of September in
the Vermandovillers area. Advancing along an alley of Poplar trees the 5th
Company was suddenly confronted with an advancing column of French Light
Infantry. A wild exchange of fire broke out at close range and the men of the 5th
company realized the sun was going down behind them leaving them silhouetted in
front of the barrels of the French rifles. As the men took cover another
problem arose… they could no longer see the enemy. A frustrated Leutnant Basson
ignored the warnings of his men and tried to get a visual on the enemy stating
“I have to see where they are hiding”. At that moment he was killed with a bullet
to the head. During a lull in the firing the company tried to establish where
its men were and establish contact with companies on their flanks. This was
done by simply calling “Leib Regiment” and expecting the same answer. It was
realized that the enemy could just as easily answer with “Leib Regiment” so as
darkness fell the firing died down completely to avoid hitting men of their own
Regiment. The company history reports that “Gefreiter Eichermüller, one of our
bravest” and “Leiber Weiss, who would be the last casualty of this skirmish”
volunteered to advance into the darkness to establish if there were any men of
the Leib Regiment in front of the company lines. Returning from their patrol
they reported that ahead of the company were only Frenchmen. The order was
given that the men could resume firing. There was no response from the enemy so
another pause was ordered. Orders in French were heard in the distance and
another Patrol was sent out who discovered that the French had pulled back.
The act of
courage which would lead to Eichermüller’s Bavarian Golden Bravery Medal took
place near Maricourt in December 1914. The right Flank of the company was
firing on French troops who had broken into the trenches of the neighboring
unit. The French were trying to “roll up” the trench but the men of the 5th
Company were holding them back. Efforts to advance and push the French out of
the positions failed as any man who tried pass the traverse in the trench would
be shot down by the French the moment they turned the corner. Eichermüller
rallied a group of men, exited the trench, bypassed the first line of Frenchmen
then jumped back into the trench attacking them with bayonets and terrifying
screams. The Enemy was caught by surprise and threw their hands up, dropping
their weapons. As the “Stoßtrupp” was clearing the resistance the rest of the
company was able to push forward and advance around the traverse. An officer
wrote “We advanced around the traverse and pushed forward and were suddenly
confronted with advancing Frenchmen. Caught up in the moment I moved to impale
the first one on my bayonet when the cursing of Gefreiter Heim stopped me
“Rindviech, Saudumms, Laß’n doch steh’, der is ja sho g’fanga!” (“Idiots! Dummies!
Leave them be, they are already captured!”) called Heim as he herded his
citation for the medal reads as follows
French attack on the positions of the 5th Company of the Infanterie
Leib Regiment near Montauban on the 17th of December 1914 a French
unit was able to take part of the company’s line near the forest of Favier. The
group carrying out the counter attack were not able to pass the traverse due to
heavy French fire. In that moment Eichermüller acted instinctively with a group
of volunteers. Exiting the trench, they moved past the French occupiers then
entered the Trench again attacking them from behind. In a short but intense
hand to hand combat carried out with Leiber elan they took 20 prisoners and assured
the liaison between the front line and second line of defense.
exploits as a Patrol leader were by then legendary in the company and he was further
praised for his very active participation as patrol leader in actions at
Montauban and at Curlu in March of 1915.
From the 18th
of April the Regiment was in the Hardecourt-Combles sector on the Somme. After
five days rest the backpacks were prepared and the company went forward into
the line again. This time in the “Neutrale Wäldchen” (Neutral Copse).
apparently originated from the time before the front lines had become static.
The Copse changed hands so often, sometimes French, sometimes Bavarian.
A member of
the company wrote …
the treeline (the Copse was in our hands) ran our trench, ending in a sap
(named “Michel”). If a soldier was very careful he could observe the French
lines of communication from there. In the area of the village of Suzanne the
French played football, swam, lay in the sun. In the distance we could even see
an aerodrome behind Suzanne. One had to be very careful indeed as the French
listening posts could observe our lines and the fire was very accurate when
they spotted something to shoot at. In the copse itself we had made ourselves
comfortable. Each section had a little garden in front of their dugouts which
the men tended. Inviting benches were made out of tree trunks and the leaves on
the forest floor reminded of home. On the northern edge of the Copse stood a
small Leib Regiment monument which could be reached by descending 70 steps. To
the South East was a bomb proof bunker occupied by the field kitchen and a
large dugout named “Leiberheim” gave the men a place to relax. All this had
been created in the front line area with the Leiber’s sense of order and taste.
It seems the French were jealous. In our previous positions we had never had
the pleasure of receiving trench mortar fire but in the Copse they sent over
numerous bombs each day as they could not reach us with grenades. Both sides in
this sector actively patrolled no man’s land, each side trying to show who was
boss of no man’s land. During the day rifle grenades were fired to keep the
enemy on his toes.”
who had accompanied Eichemüller as part of the Stoßtrupp at Maricourt wrote in
the 3rd person…
Right: The award document for the Bavarian
Militär Verdienst Kreuz 3rd class with Crown and swords awarded on the 17th
of March 1916.
“In April 1915 orders were given to take out one
of the enemy listening posts. Leiber Ott, along with Unteroffizier Eichemüller
and Leiber Kramer crept up to the enemy barbed wire. As no listening post was found
the Patrol removed the metal posts from a 5m wide segment of the enemy’s barbed
wire defenses and brought them back to their own lines. Upon our return Leutnant
Prinz ordered a 2nd attempt. Reinforcing the original patrol, he
tasked them to return, and this time to go behind the enemy barbed wire in
search of positions. Eichemüller announced to those around him that he had
lived charmed life as Patrol leader, but he sensed he would be wounded on this
one. He told the (Medic) Sanitätsunteroffizier Hadersdorfer to prepare himself
for the return of the patrol. The men left the German lines and began to edge
towards the French lines. By now the French had gotten wind of the activity and
as soon as the men left the trench they had come under fire. One of the first
to be wounded was Unteroffizier Eichemüller.
on the edge of Neutral Copse was the last time Eichermüller would come under
fire. A bullet in the shoulder meant a hospital stay from the 27th
of April until 13th of June 1915, then a posting in München to the 7th
Company of the 1st Ersatz Bataillon of the Leib Regiment. After his
recovery he was released from service in January 1917. In February 1918 he was
called up again and served in a machine gun training unit.
Eichermüller was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class on the 12th
of October 1914, the Bavarian Gold Bravery on the 16th of February
1915 and the Bavarian Militär Verdienst Kreuz 3rd class with Crown
and swords on the 17th of March 1916.
award was very likely made for Eichemüller’s last raid.