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„Hauptmann und Batterie Führer Adalbert, Prinz von Bayern, königliche Hoheit“ must break the record for a long title on a simple Iron Cross 2nd document!  

At the outbreak of the war Prinz Adalbert von Bayern took command of the 5. Batterie of the 1. Königliche bayerisches Feldartillerieregiment “Prinzregent Luitpold”  and was awarded the regiments first Iron Cross of the war.  Although it may seem only natural that the “Royals” were awarded the first crosses, as can be seen from the account below, Prinz Adalbert’s cross was earned in battle. The Regiment was part of the 1st Bavarian Infantry Division and on the 20th of August took part in a major push in Lothringen, it was the first and last time in the war that the Bavarian Army attacked as a single unit. The division took Saarburg, beat back a counter attack and continued advancing until it took part in the battle at Nancy- Epinal.

"On the 18th of August 1914 I was in my observation post near Rieding when I saw a French cavalry division ride onto the parade ground at Saarburg. They were dispersed by a few long range shots from our batteries. It was a wonderful sight. The whole day long the shells were flying overhead bursting in the ranks of advancing Infantry and Artillery. There was no doubt that something serious was brewing.  

A blood red sun sank, the night passed and dawn brought an early morning fog. As it cleared the fire started again. We fired at extreme distances at the advancing infantry. My observation post was fired on as was the neighbouring 2nd battery. My battery suffered its first losses, 2 wounded men and 3 dead horses. We kept firing on the Infantry and artillery. The expected night attack did not materialise on the 19th . On the 20th the battle was to begin. At the crack of dawn we opened fire, once again our targets were the Infantry and artillery batteries.

At 10:30 the Bavarian Leibregiment passed through our positions heading for Saarburg and the Parade ground. We had to sit through the enemy artillery fire while waiting to move the batteries to the Rebberg on the eastern edge of Saarburg. General von Schoch (My commander at the war academy and divisional commander) ordered us to open fire on the Saarburg barracks where we had passed the night a few days before when the advance of the 1st Bavarian Infantry Regiment had been stopped. Soon flames were visable. We could advance. In Rieding the dead and wounded were laying between the burning houses. Next to me lay a dead French officer with red trousers and new egg shelled coloured gloves. I can still see him in front of me. We wait until the infantry has crossed the Rebberg then we set off for Saarburg at a Galope. We race across the cobbles sparks flying. I think less about the enemy than I do about my horses as they weave between the wrecked wagons and other obstacles.  

The galloping saved us as the houses in Saarburg turned out to be occupied by French troops. The next battery was fired on out of the windows and were stopped in their tracks. We came through unscathed and made it first onto the Rebberg where we set up and opened fire on a rapidly approaching enemy artillery batterie. The horses and men scattered in confusion and panic. Our Brigade commander von Stein witnessed the action and commended us. For a long while my battery was the only support for the infantry. Above us and next to us was a concerto of bullets and shells whizzing by and exploding. Suddenly we were hit by infantry fire from the houses behind us and by artillery fire from the right. One of the guns was turned to fire to the rear. My bugler and horse holder was wounded in the knee and two horses were hit while the enemy infantry advanced on us. Our guns were out in the open, firing as fast as the gunners could load. In the mean time the other batteries had arrived. The enemy infantry retreats, our infantry hot on their heels. We can no longer differentiate between friend and foe so the bugle sounds the ceasefire. A sense of calm returns to the ranks and my men begin to sing “Wacht am Rhein”. We pass the night, exhausted, in the glow of the burning houses.  

From here we continued over the border at Blamont. From my records I see our progression was marked by the following actions and battles: 10.-13. Aug. Gefecht bei Badonvillers, 14. Aug. Gefecht a.d. Vezouse, 18. – 19. Aug. Gefecht bei Saarburg, 20. – 22. Aug Schlacht in Lothringen, 23. Aug. – 14. Sep. Schlacht von Nancy Epinal.  

On the 9th of September we were marching to the rear. Our commander ordered me to report to him and he awarded me the Iron Cross 2nd class for the action at Saarburg. It was the first Iron Cross of the regiment. As the war progressed it would loose its stature but at the time it was considered a great honour and award for bravery. It attracted attention when we crossed the border at Avricourt on our way back to Germany.

Above: The Bavarians attack on the 20th of August 1914. Prinz Adalbert was serving in the 1.b. (1st Bavarian Division) attacking on the bottom right of the map. The shaded area at the top left is the city of Metz.