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The EK1

“Tears? Now that we were happy to finally quit our garrison, put drills and exercises behind us and march merrily of to war? And who knew, maybe within a few weeks, possibly even before Christmas, the Regiment would already be back in its quarters, victorious and covered in Glory!”

Leaving for the front...
The 18. bayerisches Infanterie Regiment, stationed in Landau, received the order to mobilize in the night of the 1st August 1914. On the 2nd August, the 1st day of mobilization, reserves reported for duty while weapons, uniforms and equipment were issued as the men readied for war.
In the evening of the 6th of August the Regiment reported that Mobilization had been completed. In the street outside of the barracks, a crowd had formed. Curious civilians as well as the mothers, wives and sweethearts of the soldiers did their best to get a last look at their loved ones. As was to be expected, tears flowed freely, but the regimental history writes, maybe ironically, of the spirit of the time…

“Tears? Now that we were happy to finally quit our garrison, put drills and exercises behind us and march merrily to war? And who knew, maybe within a few weeks, maybe even before Christmas, the Regiment would already be back in its quarters, victorious and covered in Glory!”

In a few short weeks the tears shed would prove to have been justified.

Above: Young men of the 18th Bavarian Infantry Regiment who had finished their military service in early 1914... in August they would have mobilized with their regiment which suffered 30% losses in August 1914

The Regiment travelled to the border in three trains, the men content and excited to be headed for a confrontation which they could not yet imagine. By the 9th of August the Regiment was in position at Chateau Salins and Amelcourt, their advanced positions on the Telegraphenberg (Heights) 1500m to the North West of Chateau Salins.
From the Telegraphenberg occasional shots could be heard in the distance. French positions were suspected between Gremecey, Chambrey and Vic-sur-Seille but so far there had not yet been contact. Patrols were sent out at night but confusion reigned and shots were exchanged between friendly troops. The 18. b.I.R. first casualty of the war, Infantrist Hermann of the 7. Komp. was killed by Friendly fire.

The Grenzschütz (Border Protection) was not particularly fulfilling, positions were manned and fortified while the rest of the regiment was billeted to the rear.

In the evening of the 13th of August the II. Batl. was in forward positions on the Telegraphenberg when the first bloody skirmish with the enemy happened. To ascertain if enemy troops were to be found on the northern banks of the Seille river Officer patrols were sent to do a reconnaissance in the valley below. In the forest to the North West of Chateau Salins the 7. Komp. under Hauptmann Jägerhuber was kept ready to intervene if necessary. The Officer patrols came under fire from the village of Gremecey and the 7. Komp. was ordered to advance to provide cover. The company was met with heavy fire but initially suffered no casualties during their advance. Once in the valley the Company commander was hit and panic broke out causing the company to about face and pull back. Hauptmann Jägerhuber was reported missing but a patrol send out found his body along with that of an Unteroffizier and Infanterist.

The Regimental history mentions that Leutnant Eckmaier of the 7. Komp. had displayed extraordinary bravery on this day and was recommended for an award.

In anticipation of an attack the all the elements in the front line were placed on high alert, but no attack came.

Gremecey remained a thorn in the side of the Bavarians. Patrols reported observing civilians firing from the village as well as possible troop movements and as a result the Regiment received authorization to mount an operation against the village. The men of the 7. Komp. were still smarting from their earlier brush with the enemy and to avenge their commander they were to be allowed to carry out the action. On the night of the 14-15th the Bavarians rushed the village. Pioniers blew up the School where occupation troops were suspected to be hiding before the company pulled back without loss.

Right: The Picklehaube of Leutnant Eckmaier, killed on the 20th of August 1914 at Mörchingen


On the 16th of August the men awoke to a surprise. Instead of relieving their comrades in the forward positions, the whole regiment pulled back through Mörchingen towards Berg. On the 17th of August the men remained in their new bivouacs, grumbling and wondering why they were not advancing.

Unknown to the men, initially an advance in the sector was not part of the German strategic plan, rather, the plan called for a weak German front to entice the French to attack in the sector, employing valuable reserves while the right wing of the German offensive circled through Belgium with the intention of encircling Paris from the West. All this was unknown to the men of the 18th b.I.R. who thought they were losing their opportunity to engage the enemy.

As the men grumbled in their bivouacs the Staff of the 6. Armee reached the realization that the French were not advancing as hoped and Crown Prince Rupprecht decided that offensive action was called for.

On the 18th of August the division advanced to staging areas for the Crown Prince’s offensive. The 18. b.I.R. took up positions to the South East of Mörchingen. News arrived that the French were entering Chateau Salins and occupying the Telegraphenberg and the sound of fighting could be heard in the distance. That night it rained heavily and the Regiment bivouacked in the Infantry Barracks in Mörchingen, except for the II. Batl which remained in the field on alert.

On the 19th of August the II. Batl was relieved and pulled back between Mörchingen and Rakringen (Racrange). At midday reports arrived that the enemy was approaching, the troops dropped their spades and reached for their rifles. At 3:00pm the enemy were observed to be swarming out to the left of the 18. B.I.R., towards the Heights to the south of Liedersingen (Lidrezing). At 4:30 enemy troops were in the 18. B.I.R sector, spotted as small black points on the road from Reich (Riche/Niverlach) to Conthil. They were too far away for rifle fire but the Bavarian Field Artillery engaged and soon the French Field Artillery was replying. As darkness fell the artillery quietened down for the night.

The men prepared for battle the next morning

At 2:00am on the morning of the 20th of August orders arrived for all the units of the 6. Armee. In the early morning of the 20th the whole 6th Army would launch a surprise offensive along the length of its front. A brutal attack meant to break the enemy; the orders were greeted with great enthusiasm all along the line.

The borders of the sector assigned to the 6. bayerisches Infanterie Brigade stretched along the road from Mörchingen to Pewingen (Pevange) and from Height 274 (1.5km south of Rakringen) to Conthil. The 18. b.I.R. had Pewingen and Height 250 (800m to the South East) as its Objective. Oberst Weiß-Jonak had the II. / 17. b.I.R. at his disposition. The II. and III. / 18. b.I.R. were initially held as a Brigade Reserve. Today the objective Height 250 is the site of the French Military cemetery of Riche.

On the left Flank the 23. b.I.R. and 1. Jäg batl would attack Großmühle and Conthil.

At 5:15am the German Artillery opened fire on the enemy frontline. The assault was planned for 6:00am. The 6. Brigade was to advance in lockstep with the neighboring 5. bayerisches Infanterie Brigade but when it was apparent that the 5th was behind schedule the 6th was ordered to advance without heeding the progression of the 5th into account. At 7:00am the infantry advanced, ecstatic, cheering, finally facing their enemy.

The first wave were the 1. and 4. Komp. (Under Hptm. Goldfuß and Hptm. Ritter), their objective was height 250. The 3. Komp was to advance in support. Originally it was planned to wait the advance of the neighboring I./ 17. b.I.R. but the men of the 18 b.I.R. were not to be held back as the advance swarmed down Height 261, crossing the Mörchingen-Conthil road, across the fields, over ditches and hedges and aiming for the steep sides of Height 250. There was jubilation in the ranks as the men tasted victory.

But attacking troops are never alone on the battlefield.

From the moment the first infantryman of the 18. b.I.R. descended the slopes of Height 261 the enemy machine guns began their murderous fire. The French bullets flew the length of the open fields, dangerous to any man not under cover. The men advanced bravely, but soon they began to fall, one crying out as he was hit rushing forward, another falling silently backwards, another staring at the warm blood seeping through his tunic. In spite of the losses all able bodied men advanced, closing the ranks and climbing up height 250 and throwing themselves at the French who defended their newly prepared positions tenaciously.

The Battalion now began to pay for the brave but unfortunate decision to attack without waiting for the 17. b.I.R. to advance on its right flank. The intact French positions to the right joined in the battle, cleverly hidden machine guns in the area which the 17. b.I.R.  was supposed to have captured opened up with flanking fire on the men of the 18. b.I.R.

The 2. Komp and 9. Komp (Hptm. Fischer) were ordered forward to help the 1., 3., and 4. Komp. Once the men assembled, they had enough force to capture the positions on the Height 250.

To the right the 17. b.I.R. had caught up, but it was not yet over, the French were sure to counterattack. Heavy French Artillery fire swept the positions causing heavy casualties, especially amongst the officers who were difficult to replace at short notice. Almost all Company commanders were by now out of action. The position was precarious, digging in difficult on the heights, so the men began to pull back under the artillery fire. Suddenly, in the last minute, help arrived. The 6. Battery 5. Bayerische Feldartillerie Regiment arrived under the command of Hptm Mois. Taking position on Height 250 they engaged the French batteries and soon the enemy fire waned. The positioning of the Battery Mois directly in the front line was thanks to the engagement of Colonel Weiß-Jonak who had personally done a reconnaissance finding a route for Mois to advance with his guns. The bravery of the colonel was listed as one of the factors leading to the award of the Max Joseph Orden.

Strong reinforcements began to arrive. The elements of the II. Batl. (Major Zenns) not yet engaged arrived at the Regimental command post at the very moment the Staff received notice of the critical situation under which the 1st wave found itself. At 10:00am the 8. Komp (Hptm. Störk) went forward to strengthen the left wing. As the news from the front worsened the 6. And 7. Komp (Oblt. Hagl) were sent forward.

Then the III. Batl. under Major Gisele was ordered forward. As with the II. Batl. Gisele’s men were under heavy artillery and infantry fire as they crossed the fields. His vanguard had just arrived in the depression at Bellvue just as the line on Hill 250 began to waver. On his own initiative Gisele sent the 12. and parts of the 11. Komp. (Hptm. Höpffner) forward. In open formation they advanced, still taking casualties, until they reached the front line to reinforce it along with a newly arrived company of the 23. bIR.

The strengthening of the front line rejuvenated the offensive spirit and the men rushed forward, retaking the positions which had taken then lost earlier that morning. Amongst the French dead and prisoners, two machine guns were captured.

By now the French artillery had ceased to fire. The enemy was beaten and columns streamed westwards through Pewingen, Habudingen, Reich and Conthil. Stragglers sought refuge in the fields and ditches, but the bulk of the enemy was on the move. Then the chase began. The 5. b.F.A.R. fired from its position on Height 250 sending shells into the fleeing French ranks, then elements of the Brigade which had not suffered heavy losses advanced to keep the pressure on the French columns.
Height 250 can be found at the green square

The 18. b.I.R. was in no condition to join the chase. During the battle it had lost 26 officers and 900 men. In the hours following the battle the stretcher bearers and Regimental band carried the wounded to the rear. The battlefield was littered with the dead. The elements of the regiment were in disarray and the I. and II. Batl were sent to Habudingen as Divisions reserve so the companies could reform. The III. Was tasked with cleaning the battlefield and the 5. Komp guarded the prisoners on the parade ground in Mörchingen.

The victory at Mörchingen had been achieved at a heavy price, the Regiment had lost over 1/3rd of its effectives. There was little time to recover, on the 21st of August the regiment was advancing, on the 22nd the II. Batl was back in the fight, this time at Crevic.

An interesting Photograph showing the immediate burial ground, in certain graves both French and Bavarian soldiers are entoumbed together with the epitaph "brave warriors". The Grave of Hauptmann goldfuß can be seen in the forground.