Unfortunately I did not keep a record about the origin of the following description of troops being driven to the front at Verdun. I assume it will be enjoyable in spite of this.
At last the trucks arrive. We are to be spared the
15km march to the front, it would be too much to expect before an assault. Like
the General's men, we will be driven, although our transport will have simple
iron wheels, rubber being now scarce.
One Sturmzug is crammed into each truck. We cannot
fall down as we stand packed, man against man, 40 or 50 per truck and trailer.
Standing room only. Our commander, Vizefeldwebel Kientz stands in the middle
and smokes. I begin to count. About 50 men in truck and trailer, 600 hand
grenades, 300 rifle grenades, 100 Granatwerfer rounds, 10 000 small arms
rounds. A tidy sum indeed, and it would only take a fraction of that to blow us
all into unrecognisable clumps of meat. If just one shell was to land near us,
or just one splinter was to hit the bag of grenades around a soldiers
neck...better not think about it...
We drive and drive, the clapped out old trucks
coughing as their straining motors pull us across the cratered road. We are
being badly shaken "Watch out for your hand grenades" calls the Vice.
Right: Trucks on the road at Verdun.
Someone starts a song. It is Gefreiter Quint, the
joker of the Zug. He soon gives up, his voice drowned out by the churning
wheels. We are swallowed by the forest of Epincourt. We are passing between the
trees and through thick undergrowth. On the other end of the wood lies Azannes
and close to that the front.....
Above: The Iron Cross award document of Friedrich Bauer who drove trucks behind the 5th Army front, including the Verdun sector.
Night has already fallen, and occasionally the moon
peers through the forest. Here is the start of the danger zone. We are now
within range of the enemy fieldguns. Something must be up already as there is
thundering to the right and left of us...is it German guns firing or enemy
The engines drown out the sound. 100 meters in front
of us and 100 meters behind us are trucks filled with heavily armed men. The
last trucks would be leaving the rest areas about now. The trucks form a 15km
long military worm loaded with weapons and ammunition. As I said... just one
The worm wriggles through the enemy Strungsfeuer which
is now increasing in intensity. We begin to hear the short, angry cracks
overhead. We duck. The Vize lights a new cigarette “Watch out for the
handgrenades, make sure they are secured”.
We gingerly feel our grenades. A new, loud whoosh. A
red flash. 20m away a salvo of enemy shells lands in the swampy ground of the
Branches crack and leaves fly around us...
We gingerly check the grenades. A new, louder
"whoooosh", a red flash.
Twenty meters away a salvo of fieldgun shells explodes
in the swampy forest floor. Branches and leaves fly around us. The truck driver
steps on the gas to get us out of the danger zone.
We are speeding down an unlit road with no headlights.
The only light comes from muzzle flashes of the artillery and exploding shells.
Suddenly a whoosh as a shell screams in, before we can
even duck the shell hits home. It thuds into the ground right in front of the
a Blindgaenger (dud)!
Earth and stones are thrown at the truck, and at the
same time the motor cuts out. The driver and co driver jump out and begin to
crank the engine.
It belches and comes to life again then slowly, very
carefully, he begins to inch the truck around the shell. It could explode at
The truck passes the shell without incident but the
right wheel of the trailer goes over it with a small bump.
Our hair had been standing on end, but now we can
breathe again. The Vice gives his cigarette to Gefreiter Quint, he had lost the
desire to smoke... so he is human after all...
At last we reach the end of the forest. Azannes, the
village on the front line lies in soft moonlight. We debark into a ditch on the
end of the village. The trucks turn around, we watch them longingly as they go.
We lie there until 10.30 before receiving the order to
Left: The Iron Cross and post war veteran association award belonging to Bauer.
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