Leutnant Leiding of 5. bayerische Fußartillery wrote:
"The Gunner could take refuge in the thought that he was firing back, the driver could not. The driver went out conscious of the fact that he was defenceless in the face of enemy fire. For this reason his courage deserves special recognition."
One of the drivers serving at Verdun was Landsturmmann Martin Kreutz. As a member of the bayerische Bespannte Abteilung Nr.5 he and his comrades were on loan to the Batteriekolonne of the 3. Batterie, bayerische Fußartillerie Batl. Nr.12 from February 1916 until the end of September 1917. The unit served on the Woevre plain, at Verdun and then in the Champagne. (For an explanation on how the Ammunition supply units were organized and to return to the main page on supply/Train units, click HERE)
(Bespannte Abteilung were towing units used to move heavy Fußartillery units that did not have their transport. As the Heavy artillery did not move much on the Verdun front Kreutz's unit carried ammunition)
Above: Martin Kreutz's Iron Cross 2nd class award document.
In an article published in 1927 the Bavarian General Beer paid tribute to the munitions columns behind the front at Verdun, a tribute that could apply to columns serving on all fronts.
"During the battle for Verdun there was an essential artillery position in the valley stretching from Beaumont to Vacherauville (a length of four kilometres). On the eastern slopes of the valley there were approximately twenty batteries dug in out of view. The enemy on the facing heights was able to observe and fire accurately into the valley. Movement by day was impossible, all food and ammunition had to be moved by night.
At dusk the French started to fire at random into the valley. The supply columns had to progress as follows:
Until they reached the Northern entrance of the valley they travelled in formation - as no shells fell here. From this point single wagons sped down the valley in the direction of the batteries where the gunners jumped onto the wagons and unloaded them as they moved. Then a quick turn about and a gallop back up to the entrance of the valley. All done without light, four kilometres there and four kilometres back. Not one return trip, but up to five hundred trips a night would be done by the wagons of the supply column. It was a ride through hell. For men who fell from their wagons or horses, for horses that stumbled, wagons that overturned or were hit by a shell... there was no hope. What fell along the way was lost, and this unfortunately happened often. The valley with its churned up surface became a hideous sight to see and was christened the “Death ravine” ("Todesschlucht"). The "Death ride" was made not just once, but every night for half a year. Not once did a battery suffer shortages of food or ammunition due to the failure of a supply column."
A page from Kreutz's military pass book showing his service up until the end of April 1917.