Right: Theo Günther just before joining the I.R. 182
Leutnant Theodor Günther was born on the 10th of June
1897 in Nossen near Dresden.
On his 18th Birthday he joined the Infanterie Regiment 182 as a
Fahnenjuncker. A year later he was serving as a Leutnant (Without patent) in Flanders. In July 0f 1916 the Regiment (as part of the
123rd I.D.) moved to the Somme in
the Maurepas sector. In less than 3 weeks the division was to loose almost 6000
men, wounded or missing.
Theodor Günther was wounded with shrapnel in his left
shoulder on the 18th of July 1916. On the operating table the
doctors removed the ball from his shoulder joint leaving him with a left arm 2
inches shorter than his right arm. He would continue to serve winning the Iron
Cross 1st class in 1918.
The regimental History lists no major actions for the
18th of July 1916 although the regiment was under heavy artillery
and gas bombardment. The only incident of note was a supply column carrying
food to the front getting and suffering a number of losses while in a sunken
road near Maurepas. It is probable the Theodor Günther was leading this column.
Supply columns on to the front line were hazardous
affairs. Artillery fire, gas, machine gun fire and not uncommon, simply getting
lost in no mans land. A senior NCO describes a column on its way to the frontline on the Somme
in the passage below.
Left: The Iron Cross awarded to T.G. on the 17th of August 1916 while still in hospital.
It was a sinister, dark night. The first company
formed a ghostlike snake in the twilight. One heavily laden man behind the
next. Barbed wire, wooden boards and Iron bars to be brought to the frontline.
Each soldier carried a rifle and gasmask with three
clips of bullets in their jacket pocket... Just in case.
At the head of the column was an
Offizier-Stellvertreter followed by the the snaking column, one NCO to every
eight men. As senior NCO I brought up
the rear. I had two sandbags filled with flares which I was to personally give
to the commander of the 10th company. It was essential as there were few signal
flares left in the front line.
We were still on the road feom Roquiny-Sailly
Saillisel. Things were still going alright. Here and there we passed a
shellhole but the mud still did not reach the tops of our boots.
We reached the sunken road. A complete company was
lodged here in a gigantic dugout. It had three exits out of which candlelight
flickered. It was stuffy and clammy in the dugout but safe. 40 stairs down under
the earth made it bomb proof.
The column turbed to the right. Now the frontline was
1500 meters away as the crow flies. On the Konigsstrasse in Stuttgart it would take less than 20 minutes
to walk, as long as one did not do too much window shopping.
Right: T.G.s wound badge
"Only 1500 meters", .... what that meant on the Somme!
I shuddered at thought, 1500 meters, a sea of
shellholes, one crater next to the other, filled with mud and filthy water... A
swamp. With each step we sank to the knee. Amazingly we moved forward. We could
not see our hands in front of our faces, the man in front of us could only be
followed by sound.
"Just 1500 meters", without a path or
boardwalk, no tree to orientate ourselves with.
Where is forward? Following the
flares in the distance seemed to be the logical way. It was all too easy to get
lost. There were too many curves and bends. It was not unheard of for an
overnight supply column to march all night, then at dawn to find themselves a
few hundred meters fron where they started out. Walking in circles all night,
or "riding the carosal".
18 year old Leutnant Theodor Günther in hospital after his wound. 2nd from the right in the back row. The Iron Cross has not yet been awarded.
"Just 1500 meters" 1500 meters through enemy
fire, death waiting for a victim. All night long the British machineguns sweep
over the land. Bullets fly past causing us to duck. It is great luck when one
does not get snagged on the barbed wire. Almost everyone has a torn uniform.
There are anxious moments when we see muzzle flashes
on the horizon followed by the whoosh of incoming shells. The old hands could
guess the path of the shells, but sometimes they to made an error in judgement.
Sometimes the Tommy field guns would fire directly from the frontline.
When this happened we heard the shell explode before
we heard the cannon fire. Many unfortunate soldiers heard neither as a shell
snuffed out their lives.
"Only 1500 meters", swearing and cursing,
moaning and complaining, duty and courage.
A soldier looses his boots in the mud, his footrags
are sucked off by the mud as well. The poor man stands there, barefoot in the
mud. Behind him the column comes to a halt, ahead of then they continue
marching. Calls and orders are shouted from the rear. Suddenly a dozen shells
explode around us.
As last man in the column I have to keep the men at
the back moving. I must see that noone falls out or tosses his load into a
foxhole. The newly arrived replacement troops are struggling. How to keep them
moving? Harsh rebukes achieve nothing, it is best to try and improve their
spirits, appeal to them as comrades, set a good example...
At last the road Transloy-Sailly is reached. A breath
of relief. Next to the 10th company command post the barbed wire and other
materials are dropped into a shellhole. The company commander signs for the
material without looking at it, who could possibly control it under these
circumstances. It is for that reason he has ordered more than he actually
There is light on the horizon and we begin to make our
way back to the rear in groups. The assembly point is the badly dameged
roadside cross near Bus. From there it is an hour to the Kanalstellung
(canal position) where the company is dug in. Where are there at 8.00am, at 9.00am we
are on the way forward again.