Prinz Adalbert of Bavaria was wounded during the failed Marne-Champagne Offensive in July 1918. To see an overview of the offensive see HERE
A French NCO volunteered to man a suicide Machine Gun post see HERE
Right: Prinz Adalbert and his dog on the Champagne front 1918
On the morning of the 14th of July 1918 the fog lay
heavy on the ground. That afternoon there was a meeting in the ramshackle HQ of
the infantry commander. Our division was to attack in the general direction
from Somme-Py to Souain. My task was to take care of the French 4th line of defence,
the expected main position. We never got that far. The French knew our plans,
they moved their troops back and our guns pulverised their empty frontline
positions, their infantry waited for us further to the rear.
(Prinz Adalbert´s batteries were trained as
Infanteriebegleitbatterien, they did not take part in the initial bombardment
but would advance with the infantry as close combat support).
The French also knew when our bombardment was to start
as their artillery opened up on our gun positi ns just before the planned
starting time of our bombardment. Our guns fired at 1.10am, the muzzle flashes
looked like fireworks and the clouds of powder ressidue burned like teargas. From
the bunker it sounded like the steady rumble of thunder. It was the same
routine as the March offensive but here the Trenches and barbed wire were more
difficult to move through. My Begleitbatterien were forced to wait in the open
while the Pioniers made a path for them through our defences. A brief rest in
the French first line while the infantry crossed the "Butte de
Souain". Prisoners and wounded passed us on their way to our rear area.
Above: Prinz Adalbert's wound badge document for the silver wound badge.
It frustrated me to see my batteries shot up without
anything being gained, this time, unlike in March, there was no breakthrough. My
1st and 3rd batteries suffered heavy losses due to direct hits, Hallberg was
there to direct them out of the fire and shoot the wounded horses. Leutnant
Riemerschmied was killed and von Thelemann and Hanka were wounded.
My Abteilung lost killed, 1 officer, 1 NCO, 7 men, 3
accompanying pioniers and 40 horses. Wounded, 3 officers, 5 NCOs, 23 men, 5
pioniers and 18 horses. 3 NCOs were missing... it was all for nothing.
Amongst the wounded was yours truly, although my wound
was negligible. After a long period in which my staff had sat around waiting I
was ordered to report to the commander. The firing had died down and I was
chatting with Peringer when I felt a thump on the back of my head.
A large and jagged shell splinter had landed on my
head. It bled but was a small wound and I was inclined to ignore it. Peringer
insisted that a doctor look at it and I was bandaged and given an anti tetanus vaccination.
I did not want to go but Peringer ordered me to go to
the aid station and the divisional commander who happened to be passing made
sure Hallberg escorted me there.
The vaccination hurt more than the wound and the
matter did not end there. Dr. Sengler insisted on driving me to Bemont Ferme
then against my wishes to the hospital at Vouziers. I wanted to get back to my
staff but it was out of my hands.
Left: The terrible effects of an artillery shell during WW1
In this hospital I saw the pain and horror of war in its
rawest, most terrible form. Exhausted doctors in white aprons operating as if
on a factory production line. One naked soldier after another brought into the
operating room, terrible wounds, deformities, stomach wounds, head wounds... Unimaginable
Many left their arms or legs... Or both, back in the
room. Some left their lives. A terrible odour of medicine, anaesthetic, disinfectant,
sweat and filth. To describe the hell would require the pen of Zola. I felt the
urge to run out into the fresh air, never to look back. There was however no
It was all I needed to show me why I hated war. Humbled
and shamed at the small wound I had to offer I sat in a corner until my turn
came. I apologised to the doctor but he seemed happy for once not to have to
saw off an arm or dig around in intestines. With a new, even larger bandage I
was released to the officers quarters where the local commander arranged a room
for me. The next morning I had the opportunity to wash for the first time in
two days. It was the 16th of July. In Siberia
the Russian Royal family was being shot by the Bolsheviks.
From the local commander I heard that the 7th army had
made small gains, more than the 1st and 3rd (to which we belonged). My regiment
had suffered very heavy losses and I wanted to return as fast as possible.
While the 7th army had succeeded in crossing the Marne in our sector we were still occupying the French
1st line of defence, the enemy holding the second. We had gained barely a
couple of kilometres of ground. I had to search for my staff and found them in
an old infantry bunker. The French had the whole area under a lively fire.
The 7th battery had been buried in a bunker when
artillery fire had collapsed it. 15 men had died. My three batteries were still
in their old positions.
On the 22nd of July we were pulled back and in the
weeks that followed we participated in the "Abwehrschlacht zwischen Soissons und Rheims",
the "Bewegliche Abwehrschlacht zwischen Marne und Vesle", the
"Abwehrschlacht zwischen Oise und Aisne"
and the rest of the actions of the 1. Bayerische Infanterie Division until the end of the war.
Adalberts Division attacked between the 2. Bayerische Infanterie Division and the 88. Infanterie Division in the 3. Armee sector