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Flamethrower Attack near Reims 1. 10. 18.


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Dear Pals;

I am asking to see if your collective wisdom can help me pin down the circumstances of my father's last wound in France. I have a variety of clues, from his Militaer=Pass, letters, and a bit of family oral history. Perhaps I can also pin down his locations in the prior month. I will try to put this together as a time-line, with geographic clues at the different points in time. This is all in the area of Reims, where his Flammenwerfer=Kompagnie was fighting. Most of this information is from material written in Suetterlin micro-script, so some actual spelling night be off.

August 22, 1918 - Pop was in the vicinity of "Fort Vitrey" and "Royent", from a letter.

September 4 & 11, 1918 - Near "Rethel" and a train station near "Neufline".

October 1, 1918 - Engaged in an attack or a counterattack with a Bavarian unit. Only two troops of Flammen=Pioniere, 16 men, involved (he commented that it probably was too few); 14 are "gas-sick", mostly blinded by a German gas-shell in no man's land, two men lightly wounded. Evacuated by auto to a train; not sure which day.

October 6, 1918 - Letter to his father written this day; had been evacuated by train to "Giret"; his Militaer=Pass suggested that he entered the (military hospital) at "Flohimont" on October 3, 1918. He wrote: "The Bavarians were very contented with us.", which indicates that on the 1st or earlier they had conducted a useful flame attack with a Bavarian unit. He told me that he was blinded, but only for three days, that his whole Trupp was blinded, and three never regained their sight. But he did not mention being blinded in his letters to his father.

Any of this suggest anything to anyone? As you must know, the documentation and the histories of the last days of the war is fragmentary on the German side.

Bob Lembke

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The locations should be:

"Fort de Witry" and "Nogent" (Nogent l'Abesse), both eastnortheast of and close to Reims.

"Rethel" and "Neuflize", right in the middle of the "Lause-Champagne".

"Giret" = "Givet" in that little French thorn that stabs into Belgium. "Flohimont" is a small village 2 km south of Givet.

The I. Bavarian army corps was in the area of Rethel/Neuflize.

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The locations should be:

"Fort de Witry" and "Nogent" (Nogent l'Abesse), both eastnortheast of and close to Reims.

"Rethel" and "Neuflize", right in the middle of the "Lause-Champagne".

"Giret" = "Givet" in that little French thorn that stabs into Belgium. "Flohimont" is a small village 2 km south of Givet.

The I. Bavarian army corps was in the area of Rethel/Neuflize.

Excellent, rast! Many thanks.

I have a fairly good reference library (but almost nothing specifically Bavarian; I am a died-in-the-wool Sau=Preuss, both ethnically and in research interests), but I don't think I have anything giving an overview of the actions of the bav. I. Armeekorps as of that date. I do not have the excessively rare Band 14, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918. Can any kind soul aim me at a promising source? I probably can figure out the components of the army corps and see if I can scratch up any unit histories; our friend Patrick has a fair number of Bavarian units in his collection.

The Flammenwerfer attack of 1. 10. 18. was clearly a fiasco, as every Flamm=Pionier was wounded. Pop said that as they advanced across no-mans-land a short German gas shell burst amongst them. The history of the FW units that late in the war are fragmentary, and contain nothing on this fighting. My father's comment that: "The Baverians were very content with us" suggests that they carried out more successful attacks at that location before 1. 10. 18. Again, any leads here are happily anticipated.

I guess that there was a Lazarett at Flohimont. Pop was very angry; the hospital was full and they, partially or completely blind, were left lying on the lawn and stripped of their uniforms for cleaning, but they were not returned, so they were very cold. His letter from that Lazarett was his angryist of the war. Plus, the hospital authorities tried to put them (Pioniere) to work on a construction project, with gassed eyes!

Bob Lembke

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The Flammenwerfer attack of 1. 10. 18. was clearly a fiasco, as every Flamm=Pionier was wounded. Pop said that as they advanced across no-mans-land a short German gas shell burst amongst them. The history of the FW units that late in the war are fragmentary, and contain nothing on this fighting. My father's comment that: "The Baverians were very content with us" suggests that they carried out more successful attacks at that location before 1. 10. 18. Again, any leads here are happily anticipated.

Bob Lembke

Bob,

a related note I came across in one of Otto Lais' books on the Baden Regiment 169.

It is mentioned in an Order from December 14, 1917:

"This time the Raid will be executed with out flamethrowers (Flammwerfer) since we lost (Totalausfall) the entire Flammwerfertrupps (from Div. Pi. Komp. 104) in the last three missions (Stosstruppunternehmen)."

original text:

"Das Unternehmen wird diesmal ohne Flammenwerfer durchgef?hrt, da bei den letzten drei grossen Unternehmungen die Verluste der Flammenwerfertrupps hundertprozentig waren.

Angeforderte und zugesagte Brandr?hren zur ausr?ucherung der feindlichen Unterst?nde wurden nicht zeitlich geliefert. Was sich empfindlich beim Ablauf des Unternehmens bemerkbar machte."

Here is the link to the thread I started on a trench raid:

http://gmic.co.uk/index.php?showtopic=2116...mp;#entry201790

Regards, Hardy

Edited by Naxos
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Bob,

a related note I came across in one of Otto Lais' books on the Baden Regiment 169.

It is mentioned in an Order from December 14, 1917:

"This time the Raid will be executed with out flamethrowers (Flammwerfer) since we lost (Totalausfall) the entire Flammwerfertrupps (from Div. Pi. Komp. 104) in the last three missions (Stosstruppunternehmen)."

original text:

"Das Unternehmen wird diesmal ohne Flammenwerfer durchgef?hrt, da bei den letzten drei grossen Unternehmungen die Verluste der Flammenwerfertrupps hundertprozentig waren.

Angeforderte und zugesagte Brandr?hren zur ausr?ucherung der feindlichen Unterst?nde wurden nicht zeitlich geliefert. Was sich empfindlich beim Ablauf des Unternehmens bemerkbar machte."

Here is the link to the thread I started on a trench raid:

http://gmic.co.uk/index.php?showtopic=2116...mp;#entry201790

Regards, Hardy

Hardy!

Yes, I have been closely following your interesting thread on the raid.

The citation you gave is very interesting and might be historically important (to my FW tunnel-vision). Of particular interest is some information in the English translation, the information about 104. Pionier=Kompagnie, which is not in the German citation. Do you have information that 104. P=K had FW in December 1917? This is very interesting and surprising. Very early in the war all FW seem to have been taken from the few Pionier=Abteilungen that had them at the beginning of the war. During the war one or more of the storm battalions had their own small FW detachments, but this in a mysterious topic. In the last months of the war some FW were supposed to be distributed to pionier field companies, but that is not really understood, IMHO. A pioneer unit not controlled by Major Dr. Reddemann having FW in December 1917 would be quite interesting.

Can you post more of this interesting material?

Many thanks!

Bob Lembke

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The 3rd German Army battle calendar has: "26.09. - 09.10.18 Abwehrschlacht in der Champagne".

Bavarian units with the same entry are:

- Bayerische ErsatzDiv (RIR 4, 15, 18)

- 1. b. ID (IR 1, 2, 24, MGSSAbt 4)

- 4. b. ID (IR 5, 9, RIR 5, J?ger 2)

- 5. b. ID (IR 7, 19, 21, MGSSAbt 1)

All regiments Bavarian of course.

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rast;

Tremendous! I have decided to shift my writing schedule, and complete a book about my father and perhaps my grand-father before I come out with a Flammenwerfer book or two.

My father's other serious wound was on Dead Man's Hill at Verdun on 28. 12. 16. He saved the life of a German officer minutes before he and his entire Flamm=Trupp were wounded by the burst of a French 75 shell, the same agent of mayhem that blew the officer's hand off minutes before. I have pages of material written by the officer describing the action, his wound, and my father saving him. I sent an author of a book about the fighting on Mort=Homme material from my father from hospital, a letter that mentioned the incident, and names the officer (mis-spelt), and his unit (correct). I also now have a photo of this officer with his fellow officers in 1918; he is hiding the stump of his right hand behind his back, probably not to worry the wives and sweet-hearts of the other officers.

So I have enought material to write 20 interesting pages (or 50 boring pages) on this attack, and these matters. I also have a piece of my father's left arm bone knocked off on that day, in a little labeled envelope seemingly made up by the surgeon who gave it to him. (Eat your heart out, militaria collectors!)

So I want to understand my father's other serious wounding better. Thanks for all this help, guys.

Bob Lembke

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Hardy!

Yes, I have been closely following your interesting thread on the raid.

The citation you gave is very interesting and might be historically important (to my FW tunnel-vision). Of particular interest is some information in the English translation, the information about 104. Pionier=Kompagnie, which is not in the German citation. Do you have information that 104. P=K had FW in December 1917? This is very interesting and surprising. Very early in the war all FW seem to have been taken from the few Pionier=Abteilungen that had them at the beginning of the war. During the war one or more of the storm battalions had their own small FW detachments, but this in a mysterious topic. In the last months of the war some FW were supposed to be distributed to pionier field companies, but that is not really understood, IMHO. A pioneer unit not controlled by Major Dr. Reddemann having FW in December 1917 would be quite interesting.

Can you post more of this interesting material?

Many thanks!

Bob Lembke

Bob,

I will have to check my literatur specific to Flammenwerfer Eins?tze and get back to you.

So far my understanding is that when Flammenwerfertrupps were used by the 52.Division, they were under the command of Div.Pi.Komp.104.

If the FW-Trupps originated from PK104 or were placed under the command of PK104 only for the duration of the mission, I can, at this time, not answer.

Hardy

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Bob,

I now believe that the Div.Pi.Komp.104 had two Flammenwerfertrupps in March 1917.

Sorcers:

Das 9. Badische Infanterie Regiment Nr.170 im Weltkriege, Ihlenfeld; Offenburg, 1926

Die Schlacht im Kreidekalk 1917, Otto Lais; Karlsruhe, 1942

(I will scan and post the actual pages of the books later)

Trench Raid: Unternehmen "Scheinwerfer" March 20 1917

Location: (Karspacher Loch) Upper Alsace between Rhein-Rhone-Kanal and Altkirch

Command: Oberst Ihlefeld, Commander of IR170

The three Stosstruppf?hrer:

Leutnant d.R. F?ssler, commander of the 3./Masch.Gew.170

Leutnant Engelhardt, commander of 12./170

Leutnant d.R. Caroli, II.Batl.170 (wounded in the raid)

The Stosstruppunternehmen used both Flammenwerfertrupps of Div.Pi.Komp. 104 commanded by a Pionier-Feldwebel (name unknown)

It is mentioned that this was not the first action of the Flammenwerfertrupps of Pi.Komp.104

The Flammenwerfertrupp operating on the left of the Raid was pushed away and eliminated by the French defenders.

Twenty french prisoners were taken along with three light machine guns and other items.

In 1917 Div.Pi.Komp.104 and Div.Pi.Komp.103 belonged to the 52.Artillerie-Brigade of the 52.Division

Later the Div.Komp.103 and 104 belonged to the new Stab-Pionier-Bataillon 37 of the 52.Division.

Regards, Hardy

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Sorces:

Das 9. Badische Infanterie Regiment Nr.170 im Weltkriege, Ihlenfeld; Offenburg, 1926

File0001-3.jpg

Die Schlacht im Kreidekalk 1917, Otto Lais; Karlsruhe, 1942

File0002-5.jpg

File0004-3.jpg

The twenty French Prisoners taken by IR170 Raid on March 20, 1917

File0005-2.jpg

Regards, Hardy

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Bob,

in the 1923 edition of the Brockhaus Lexikon I found a reference to this book:

Ch. Theune

Flammenwerfer und Sturmtruppen

Berlin; Landesverlag 1920. 251 Seiten

not sure if you know this book

Hardy

Hardy;

It is an important book. I was able to examine a copy in the British Library in London, and then the Deutsches Buecherei Leipzig kindly made a copy of their copy for me. But, many thanks for the lead, and please suggest any other leads that you may have. I will respond later to your very interesting material on the 1917 raid, which raises some interesting questions.

Bob Lembke

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Bob,

I found another account:

April 1918, fighting at the grave yard near the chapel of Saint Aignon.

52. Division headquaters called Major Berthold, commander of the I.Batl.169, to advise that no artillery support is available, but two Flammenwerfer units commanded by a Pionieroffizier were sent by the Division to assist him in the attemt to relieve the company trapped in the grave yard.

The Flammenwerfertrupp got lost at night on the way to Berthold's battalion and did not arrive until the morning.

The day was already dawning when the attack over 800 meters of open fields finally took place. The two Flammenwerfer crews including the Pionier lieutenant were taken out by enemy fire before they could deploy their flamethrowers.

Source: Ein Regiment stirbt den Heldentod, Otto Lais; Karlsruhe, 1936

This account shows that Flammenwerfer units were available to infantry battalions of the the 52.Division within hours if needed.

Ergo: Flammenwerfertrupps were a part of the Div.Pi. companies in the 52.Division and had not to be requested from Korps or Armee levels.

Regards, Hardy

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From the Regimental History of IR126

Trench Raid against the British bunker Mebu 509 code named "Sommerreise"

On the Raid that took place near Hendecourt/Fontaine on the night of July 30/31, 1917,

the raid party belonging to the W?rttemberg IR126 took along a Flammenwerfertrupp from the 10th company of the Garde=Pionier=Reserve=Regiment. The flamethrower crew did not engage the enemy in that raid.

Source:

Das 8. W?rttembergische Infanterie-Regiment Nr.126 "Grossherzog Friedrich von Baden" im Weltkrieg; Generalmajor a.D. Gl?ck; Stuttgart, 1929

10GRPR1.jpg

10GRPR.jpg

Regards, Hardy

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Hardy;

I will require a good while to digest and answer your many interesting points and accounts of FW actions.

The framed document is interesting but troubling. Gefreiter Wilhelm Schneider is not in my roster of Garde=Reserve=Pionier=Regiment men, which I estimate to presently include about 1200 men. As the full regiment comprised close to 3000 men at any one time, my roster to date of course includes a minority of the men of the regiment and predecessor units. I have a Pionier Wilhelm Schneider dying in Lazarett on March 10, 1916.

To the extent that my tired eyes can read the framed document, the document raises some troubling questions. It uses wording to describe the flame unit that I have never seen in my collection of authentic documents of the flame regiment (even a de-lousing certificate from when my father was about to leave for leave in Germany!), many of which come down directly from my father. I am not a document collector in general, I do not know the extent of the creation of false material, but in all of my work on the history of this unit, in my reading hundreds of pages written by officers of the flame regiment, in all of the other accounts that I have collected and read, I have never seen a descriptor such as "12 K. Garde Feld Pionier Flammenwerfer Abteilung", which I seem to read in the document, allowing for my completing a couple of abbreviations in the original. Every one of those words were at one time used in describing the succession of flame units commanded by Major Dr. Reddemann, but never together in that fashion, which is at varience with the terminology used to describe the flame units in about three or four different ways, and additionally with the unit stamp on the document.

I cannot make out a date on the certificate. The description used on the unit stamp, which appears authentic, was used over only a short period of time. One of the parts of the verbal description above was used prior to this brief window of time, another only after, while another term, although sometimes used as a descriptor, was never used as above. (For quite a while the name of Reddemann's flame unit changed every few months.)

The sleeve patch is consistant with photos of proven authenticity. (It has been counterfeited.) Regrettably, many years ago, my mother, who was mentally unstable, threw my father's patch away, perhaps being afraid of it, or thinking that it was Nazi material.

Can I assume that this item is currently on e-Bay? Could you aim me at the auction; it would be interesting to follow the action.

Bob Lembke

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