Bavarian officer from the 11th Bavarian Infantry Division fighting
on the Styr and Stochod rivers during the
Brussilow offensive describes the conditions under which the men fought.
Above: The Russian dead after a failed attack.
After fighting at Verdun
(In the forest of
Avocourt) in March to May
of 1916 and loosing 75% of its infantry the 11th Bavarian Infantry
Division reformed and was transported to the Eastern Front.
"Six times in one
day the Russians tried to break through. They came like swarms of locusts,
these Russians, column after column, big, strong defiant men, the best of the
Siberian legion. Up to their breasts in the water and swamp they waded, and for
every one cut down by the machine guns another one took his place... Time after
time they were ordered forward, what the artillery did not destroy with its
rain of splinters was done in bloody hand-to-hand combat using grenades. In
front of us there is a field of bodies...
The silver moonlight shines on the enemy positions, it shines over the gurgling
water of the Stochod reflecting silver and gold. It is cold, already a crust of
ice is forming...in August ! Sometimes a distant crump of a canon, sometimes
the whistle of a bullet, sometimes the chattering of guns in the distance. It
is eerie living herewith the dead. Wherever we dig we find bodies. we wanted to
set up an observation post on the hill but kept stumbling over bodies, there a
torso, then an arm, then a skull, and another one bleached by the sun, then
another, shrunken skin like a mummy, then one still with hair....
Anton Langheinrich of the 13th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment served in the same sector as the officer who wrote the description of the battlefield. He received his Iron Cross for fighting on
the Styr and Stochod and along the Kowel-Rovno
Railway. Like at Verdun the division suffered heavy losses. It was then sent to Romania.
We are exhausted, who is
not on guard falls asleep. No one longer cares that they lay head to head and shoulder-to-shoulder
with corpses , who knew when they themselves would lay dead in the sand? I
stand and look silently into the moonlight... THERE! What is that in the water?
What forms are approaching? They seem to move, then are still. is it the enemy?
Is it the ghosts of the dead coming for us? It is the bodies of Russian
soldiers, men who were stuck in the mud and shot down where they struggled,
they grin at us, mocking us. Movement on the nearby barbed wire. The night wind
is rustling the clothing of the dead still hanging there. Over there an arm is
hanging on the wire, a bit further one with his rifle still over his shoulder.
There they stand as if they were saying "Just wait! Soon you will be here
with us!" "