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Bavarian 1st Reserve Jäger Battalion

Right: a Postcard sent by a member of the 1. bayerische Reserve Jäger Bataillon

Carency 10-12th May 1915

The 2nd Battle of the Artois, or “Schlacht um die Loretto-Höhe” took place from the 9th of May-18th of June 1915.

The villages of Carency and Neuville, about 5km to the South West of Lens, proved to be bulwarks in the opening stages of the battle, the defenders holding back the French and winning valuable time for the German high command.

Elements of the Bavarian 1. Reserve Jäger Bataillon (5th Bavarian Reserve Division) were in Carency

The Battalion history reports: 

On the morning of 10 May the fighting resumed. Murderous artillery of all calibers rained down on Carency while the French tried to advance towards the village from the ravine through which the Carency river flowed.

Hauptmann Lang countered the attack by sending forward a group under Leutnant Wilke who threw the enemy back after bitter hand to hand fighting. Prisoners were taken. To protect the Eastern flank a section of the Baden G.R. 110 was attached to the Jäger. The single German field gun in Carency had fired its last remaining round; a great loss as it had kept the enemies heads down.

The French were determined to take Carency. It was only by overcoming the Tenacious German defense that they could widen the breakthrough they had achieved the day before.

According to French reports 20 000 shells had fallen on the small group of defenders in just three hours. The artillery fire continued without ceasing throughout the day and night. There was not a single break in the fire in which the men could relax for a few moments. The commanders had to act ruthlessly to keep their men combat ready and alert.

On the whole our men held their heads high, threw back enemy attacks and recaptured any ground that was lost. The losses were steadily mounting, the defensive lines became thinner and thinner. No replacements could be reckoned with on and in the end there was no other option other than shortening the front line.

To achieve this Hauptmann Lang pulled back the men positioned to the South and the East to the edge of the village. Düwellway and the cemetery were abandoned. Leutnant Zwierlein ordered defensive positions to be prepared behind his strongpoint to assure the defense if the enemy broke through to the North, from the direction of the Loretto heights. He intended to defend his positions from attacks coming from all directions.

The men from the R.I.R. 7 were running out of rations. They were supposed to have been relieved the day before, their supplies were back in the barracks and their backpacks (with emergency rations) had for the most part been buried by enemy fire. The main ammunition and food supply had been destroyed by enemy artillery fire on the 9 May. The roofs of three basements full of wounded had collapsed under enemy fire, the doctor of the R.I.R. 7, Dr. Jonk saved the men he could and harbored them in the catacombs under the church. (Left)

On the evening of the 10th the French attacked again, from the east, reaching the edge of the village and capturing the first aid post of Dr. Schuler. They were thrown back by a counter attack headed by Badische Leibgrenadiere and a section of Jäger of the 2. Komp. under Offizier Stellvertreter Schmittinger. There were heavy losses on both sides. Taking care of the wounded became more and more difficult as Dr. Jonk was the only Doctor left and he had only two stretcher bearers. Sandbags had to be used as bandages and there was only water to drink.

In the morning of the 11th reserves arrived, bringing great relief to the men in the front line. Uplifting was the news that our active battalion and a large number of other troops were attacking near Souchez, supported by much Artillery.
In the meantime the enemy was not resting, the French attacked throughout the day, fielding more men and equipment than we could. A terrible battle took place that day, everything was shrouded in smoke and fire and death had a rich harvest. Heavy calibers landed accurately on our last strongpoints, they had obviously captured maps with our positions during their breakthrough.

Hauptmann Lang and his staff dug themselves out of the ruins of their position on the eastern edge of the village and pulled back to the Catacombs. The Hauptmann took over command of the whole sector. New attacks to the South and East were beaten back after more bitter fighting.

Oberjäger Rehm of the 3rd Company particularly distinguished himself. He had been in reserve with his Pionier group and had brought supplies to the front line the night before under terrible conditions. Without being ordered to do so, he and his men joined the defenders in the front line and managed to capture 45 French soldiers, including two officers, and freeing 19 German soldiers who had been captured. For this action he was awarded the Bavarian Bravery Medal in Gold.

 The prisoners were sent back over Ablain. The route was still navigable, but under heavy artillery fire. Enemy Aircraft crossed the skies looking for prey. It was becoming evident that Carency could not be held for much longer, no matter how bravely the defenders fought. It was questioned if the town should be abandoned. The answer was obvious to the soldier, difficult for the Human Being. The sacrifice of the defenders assured that the enemy advance was considerably slowed down and inflicted heavy casualties on the French. In the night of the 11th-12th of May a pullback to the Baden frontline positions would have been possible but the order came through to defend Carency to the last man.

In front of the 2. Komp. strongpoint the French seemed to have run out of steam and no longer tried frontal attacks. The occupants were severely weakened, the remains of the 2nd Company, a dozen Pioniers and 2 machine gun crews. In spite of the situation, Leutnant Zwierlein reported to Major Düwell “Now that food supplies have arrived there is no need to relieve the company. Although the men are exhausted they have fought excellently and the spirits are high…”

Right: The souvenir of a French soldier, the Tschako of  an unknown Reservist of the 1st Bavarian Jäger battalion
Düwell could not expect better news from his Jäger!
Hope took a knock on the morning of the 12th. Instead of the expected ammunition and food resupply with fresh reserves a small group of exhausted men arrived in the positions. It became clear to the defenders that their fate would be sealed that day. The remaining reserves of strength, ammunition and food were at a new low. Even the pockets of dead, both German and French were empty. In spite of this, the men held out throughout the day, beating back new French attacks with their last grenades. Oberleutnant Weißmann and his men resorted to using captured rifles. Leutnant d. Res Scheibenbogen, back at the unit after a serious wound, was killed in the last moments of the fighting by an artillery shell.

At 3 pm, the French launched a mass attack without preparatory bombardment and overran the Badische Grenadiers in the Bayernschanze, effectively cutting off Carency to the North. The Badeners fought wildly, at one time taking 200 colonial troops prisoner but the French were also attacking from the East, gaining ground that eventually crushed the Badener defenses.

With that, the fate of Carency (and the Jäger) was sealed. Now completely surrounded, out of food and ammunition, no hope of relief and the hoped for breakout towards friendly lines no longer an option due to the masses of enemy to the rear.

Above: a scarce M1896 reservist Chin strap as shown at the Kaisersbunker

Above: whats seems to be shell splinter damage piercing the shell and liner of the Tschako.

With heavy hearts, the remaining defenders were forced to surrender and marched into captivity.

The Jäger of Carency had carried out the most difficult orders a soldier can be given. They had sacrificed themselves to save the rest, defending a position, which had been deemed impossible to hold.

“Only those who had fought in Carancy can appreciate what the Jäger had achieved and how they had suffered. Both friend and foe spoke in awe of the tenacious defense, which had won the German command enough time to considerably slow down the French offensive.

Major Düwell wrote ...

An outstanding fight was put up by the defenders who carried out their duty until the last moment. That the Carency sector was held for so long is to the credit of the dogged defense and skill of the men and their commanders. I can confirm that their capture was not their fault.  

Neuer Absatz

Above: the Militärpass to two Jäger who were captured at Carency, both pass books stayed with the Unit and were completed and given back to the men after their release from captivity in 1920

1) Fridolin Felbermeier was a servant, born on the 9 July 1894 in Bieselbach. He joined the 1. Jäger battalion as a Recruit in November 1914 and was posted to the 1. Komp., 1. Bavarian Reserve Jäger Battalion on the 26 February 1915. He was captured on the 12 May 1915 and released on the 28.2.1920.

2) Josef Bornschlegel was a store man from München, born on the 29 Aug 1886. He had done his national service with the 1st Bavarian Jäger Battalion in 1906-08 and mobilized with the 2. Komp., 1. Bavarian Reserve Jäger Battalion in August 1914. He took part in all of the unit’s actions until the 12 May 1915.

20.8.1914 Schlacht in Lothringen (Stranhof)
25.8.-14.9.14 Schlacht vor Nancy
25. Vitrimont
26. Friscati
4/5. Vitrimont
10.10.14 Vieux Berquin
12/13.10.14 Neuf Berquin
20.-30.10.14 Warneton-Messines
13.11.-6.12.14 Maison Blanche + La Targette
3.1.-12.5.15 Carency

He was reported missing in the 12.5.1915 then confirmed as a prisoner of war. He was released on the 28 Jan 1920 and awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class on the 5.5.20

Above: An Iron Cross 2nd Class award document to Jäger Johann Schuhmacher, awarded for the fighting around Carency. Schuhmacher was not captured and served in the unit until he was wounded in June 1918.