The 2nd battalion of the Infanterie Regiment
187 was attached to the 1st Bavarian Jäger Regiment for the assault
on the Vulkan pass in the opening stages of the march into Romania in late
An edited version translated from the regimental
On the 21st of September 1916 the ll. Btln.
of the I.R. 187 was enjoying a well earned rest in the village of Livazeny.
That morning they had cleaned their weapons and kit and the orders for the
afternoon were "rest and recuperation".
A muffled protest arose when the orders came instead
to assemble on the road with their assault packs. “Assault packs”, always a
phrase that got the heart beating. The men milled around, trying to guess what
the day had in store for them. In the meantime the four company commanders were
receiving their orders, the ll. Btln. was to join the Gruppe Paulus for an
assault on the Vulkan pass. Oberstleutnant Paulus was commander of the Bayr
Jägerregt. 1, an elite unit of the Alpenkorps.
After a hard two hour road march the battalion swung
off to the left and crossed a field to reach the edge of the forest that ran up
the side of the valley. A 20 minute break was called in which the men stared at
the forest, a sinking feeling in their hearts. They were happy to get moving
again (they had begun to freeze during the halt) but they began to curse as
they entered the forest.
On the steep mountain side the air hung heavily with
the smell of rotting humus which was kept in by the heavy forest canopy, just
as any moonlight was kept out. Physically and mentally it was heavy going,
lungs bursting, stomach muscles aching, the men advanced on hands and knees.
They clambered over fallen trees, over rocks and bushes, unable to see their
hands in front of their faces.
It was past midnight when they arrived at the HQ of
the Res. Jägerbtln. 10.
The infantrymen collapsed into heaps, a six and a half
hour climb behind them. As if their arrival was signal the heavens opened up
and the Battalion was caught in a downpour which the men weathered, laying in
the mud wrapped miserably in their greatcoats and groundsheets.
Right: Soldiers of the Alpenkorps who took part in the assault. see HERE
At 04:00 the order to assemble came and the men set
off for another forced march, this time high above the forest line on a
mountain pass that ran about 100m below the peak. Partially dizzy due toi the
thin air at that height the men were able to look down on the road they had
marched along the day before, from the path it looked like a thin cotton thread
snaking through the valley below.
At 10:00 am a rest behind a ridge was called and the
officers went forward to receive orders.
The heights around the Vulkan pass were to be cleared
of enemy soldiers, the ll./I.R. 187 was to help the 2. and 3. Komp. of the
Bayr. Jägerbtln. 1. to capture the heights 1692-1691.
German and Austrian artillery had already opened a
weak barrage on the enemy positions. Ammunition being hard to transport in the
mountains the artillery had to ration its shots. The men of the 187 were almost
eager for combat as it meant an end to the exhausting march. As the last shot
fell the order to attack was given, the men rushing over the peak with a loud
The surprised Rumanians looked in horror at the
approaching Germans, a second "Hurrah!!"… a scattering of shots....
by the time the Germans reached the lines the Rumanian soldiers had abandoned
their positions and were making for the forest. The Germans followed, taking a
number of defensive lines that had been abandoned in the hasty retreat.
Upon reaching Height 1672 the assault force ran into
difficulty. As they approached they were greeted with well coordinated machine
gun fire and their first serious losses took place. Artillery support was not
possible and the Romanian positions were will prepared. The Germans returned
fire, standing, then kneeling and finally on their bellies hugging the earth.
One by one the German dead and wounded began to pile up; the screams of pain
and the calls for water or a medic began to work on the nerves of the soldiers.
A German machine gun tried to move into position but
the gunner was hit in the forehead, another took his place and fell dead as
Advancing was out of the question, Jägers and
Infantrymen lay in mixed companies under a hail of fire. The shooting did not
abate until the sun went down, only then were the men able to move, their legs
as heavy as lead and their minds numbed. First priority was the wounded, much
too many for the Medics to handle on their own. Everyone lent a hand to get
them back out of the line. Midnight had arrived before the men were able to
prepare their positions, digging into the rocky ground with spade, bayonet and
Above: The Iron Cross document to a member of the II. Batln I.R. 187 that had participated in the attack with the Bavarian Jägers. As can be seen on the map, the rest of the 187. I.D. attacked to the North of the Bavarians.
At 02:00am the Romanians opened fire sending the
Germans diving for cover. The troops lay clutching their rifles, peering into
the darkness wondering if an attack was in the making. Soon the firing died
down and the ll. Btln. continued their digging.
The next couple of days were quieter, the strength of
both sides diminished by their losses and for the ll. Btln. by the fact that
the two Bayr. Jägerbtln 1. Companies had been withdrawn. The 187th
had had to extend their lines to link up with the Bayr. Jägerbtln. 2. on their
flank and they now fell under the command of the Gruppe Bauernschmidt
(Commander of the Jägerbtln. 2.).
High on the isolated mountain peak the men lay in
their shallow foxholes, waiting for the counter attack that was sure to come.
At 05.30 on the morning of the 25th of September the enemy artillery
opened fire on the German lines. They followed with an infantry attack at
infantry assault was thrown back by the men of the ll. Btln., helped by fire
from their flank where the Bayr. Jägerbtln. 2. was dug in. The Romanians
launched 3 attacks that day, all which were beaten back, leaving many men in
front of the German foxholes. The attacks were suicidal; many of the Rumanians
were killed before they had made it out of their own positions. After the last
attack the Germans settled down for another night of random shooting, the
Rumanians were left to prepare for an attack the next day.
Suddenly new orders arrived... the Gruppe
Bauernschmidt was to abandon its positions that night. Masked by the darkness
the companies left their foxholes. A rearguard was left behind to keep up the
random fire on the enemy positions and it was to follow the rest of the group once
the main force had gotten clear. The next morning, after an artillery barrage, the
Rumanians assaulted the empty foxholes. The ll. Btln. was at that moment far
away regrouping at Height 934, having taken, defended and abandoned their
positions at a very heavy cost.
The description of the march, preparation and combat
as seen by the ll./I.R. 187 is a mirror image of the description to be found in
the unit history of the Bayr. Jägerbtln. 2. the one difference being the
Rumanian assaults which were against the positions of the I.R. 187 with the
Bavarians supplying covering fire from the flank. The Alpenkorps certificate
pictured is signed by Oberleutnant Henke, commander of the 4. Kompanie which
lost more men on September 22 at the Vulcan pass than on any other day of the
war. Henke's company lost 17 dead and 83 wounded in the assault.