After his July push through between the Chapitrewald
and Fleury in the direction of Souville had failed, von Falkenhayn had ordered the
5th Army to stop the offensive at Verdun
and to begin to fight defensively.
The Period between mid July when the German Offensive
stopped until October when the French offensive began saw a series of bloody
local attacks and counter attacks launched for the most part to gain the high
ground, slopes and hills. The Germans still wished to take Souville,
Froideterre, the Vigne-Schlucht and Tavannes the French wanted to push the
Germans back from their positions in front of Souville, retake Thiaumont, la
Haie-Renard and the Vaux-Regnier. Of course, top of the French list was also to
On the 12th of July 1916 General Nivelle ordered
General Mangin to " ...clear the area in front of Fort Souville and retake
the village of Fleury " without delay.
The French 33eme Division, arriving at Verdun on the 13th of July,
was one of the units at Mangins disposal.
On the 15th of July the 37eme and 8eme Infantry
Divisions attacked but were brought to a halt by German machine gun and
artillery fire. The only gain was the P.C.119 which fell to the 115eme Regiment
d`Ìnfanterie. Over the next few days the fighting continued unabated. On the
18th the Germans tried and failed to retake the P.C.119, the French launched a
failed attack on Fleury. On the 19th the Zouaves took the Poudriere behind
Fleury, on the 24th the 11eme Regiment d`infanterie (33eme I.D.) took the
Scroll to the bottom for information on the medal pictured left.
Bavarian soldiers in the trenches at Fleury. Fort Douaumont can be seen in the background.
On the 1st of August Falkenhayn authorised a new
German offensive. Attacking from the Vaux-Chapitre Wald the troops were
supposed to pierce the French lines in the direction of Fort Souville
and Tavannes. From there the advance to Verdun
would be a cake walk. On the morning of the 1st at 9:00 am the Germans
attacked. The offensive reached a depth of 800 meters then came to a halt, the
German infantry fighting with bayonets and entrenching tools against a foe who
refused to give way.
On the 3rd of August Mangin launched his planned
attack on the Z.W. Thiaumont and the Village
of Fleury. On the 4th of
August the Bavarian 6th Division counter attacked at Fleury pushing the French
back to the Ravin des Vignes and the Poudriere.
Nivelle now planned a systematic reduction of the
Fleury pocket with Mangin`s troops and the Vaux Chapitre pocket with Baret's
men. The 24 hour long bombardment however tipped the Germans off to the coming
offensive and at 5:00 a.m. on the 8th of August the 1st bavarian Jäger Regiment
of the Alpenkorps beat Nivelle to the punch by attacking and retaking
On the 17th-18th of August Fleury changed hands for
the last time as Mangins men finally took the ruins,
Hans Heiß of the Bavarian Leib Regiment describes a
trip to Fleury in mid July of 1916
A red streak in the starry night, then another, then
another. They burst into red stars. Are they fireworks? A game? No, they are
serious, deadly serious. Whizzing over Fleury and Douaumont. The Frenchies had
noticed that we were being relieved and had called up an artillery barrage. A
barrage meant hell!
Run Comrades, run for your lives!
There is the railway embankment... a ghostly area,
keep running. The first salvo comes screaming in... flames, smoke... keep
running... move forward. Into the hollow ground beyond... here hell opened up!
Whizzing, Howling, gurgling the shells come in. Black earth, smoke and flames
shoot up into the air. A wall of death.
Panting, the breath is stilted. Jumping from shell
hole to shell hole... through! then FORWARD! Keep running!
Up the embankment, stumbling, falling. The heart
beating in the throat...falling, getting up, continuing. Foam on the lips... up
there, the large shell crater... get into it! Once there you can get your
breath back. Almost there, there where they are all headed for.
Whizz, bang! Flame and smoke... right in the heavy shell
hole! Don’t go in, pass it by!
Here they crawl forward, blood stained and blackened
by smoke "Kamerad! Kamerad! For Gods sake... help me!" "And
me!" "And me!"
Cannot, have to get forward into position... don’t
listen, don’t look! Go past! Move... faster!
"I cannot carry on Hans!...I cant go on!"
"But the machinegun is needed up there, it must
go forward...must! Give it here... and a case of ammunition."
Then once again forward, always forward. Its seems
impossible, the entrance to Fleury is a sea of flames. There is surely no way
through. Wait it out..., behind some rocks and burned wooden posts, cowering in
a shell hole...waiting in the middle of hell. Screaming, howling, whizzing and
bursting. Splinters, fire, smoke and gas... a suffocating cloud coming closer,
Above: Bavarian Machine Gunners in front of Fleury
There is a 38cm shell from fort Marre
the explosion sending fire shooting high in the sky, glowing bright, incendiary
There! There! It is terrible, someone is burning. He
tosses his burning backpack away but his uniform is burning. Ha, ha, ha!
Laughing, laughing at the sky...he has gone mad.
Burying the head in the sand. See nothing, Hear nothing,
think nothing! Think nothing!
Then it was over and we could move forward.
It will be four days in the front line now. Four
endless, terrible, desperate days. And four terrible nights. And if we survive...
the same road through hell back again.
Two men pass carrying in a wounded man wrapped in a
A whizz and a bang. Flame and smoke, all three men are
swept away, the medics and wounded man ripped apart, gone forever. No! No! No
further! Throw it all away, the backpack, rifle, gasmask... and now run! Run!
Run far away.. far away from this hell.
But what about the Kameraden up ahead that have spent
the last four days in the frontline? The men who are desperate to be relieved?
And the machinegun is needed up there... it MUST get forward.
It is almost 1 a.m. Keep moving! Forward! the last
hollow. Another pause for breath. The frontline should be just ahead of us, the
barrage now falls behind us. Where is our artillery? Are they sleeping? No,
they are not, behind us on the horizons we see hundreds of flashes, streaks of
light passing over our heads and heading towards the enemy. Revenge and
payback, death and destruction for the others. it seems a rumbling scream and
cry of fury is coming from the other side now, it sounds terrible.
There! What is it? A movement! a spectre rises out of
a hellhole "Who goes there?"
Pictured below: The Military Passes of three Bavarians, Two were wounded at Flury, one was captured.
Above and Left:
The Militärpaß of Ersatzreservisten Josef Scharl of
the 3. Komp. In the 6.
bayerische Infanterie Regiment.
Scharl served at Verdun
where he was wounded on the 26th of July by an artillery shell splinter.at
He later fought on the Somme, in Flanders, at Arras, in Flanders again then in the Artois
He was awarded an Iron Cross in
December of 1917 after a long string of battles, proof that the Iron Cross was
not simply out with the rations.
Strangely enough, Scharl was not awarded a bavarian Militärverdienstkreuz III Klasse.
Left: A map showing the positions of the Bavarian Regiments defending Fleury from the west.
Shown are the regiments of the three Militärpaß shown here.
The /b.11 represents the 11th Bavarian Infantry Regiment, the /b.13 the 13th.
The 6th Regiment (above) was in reserve to be used for counter attacks.
Johann Glasner served in the 3rd company of
the 13th Bavarian Infantry Regiment. The Regiment arrived on the 22nd
of June in Verdun
and was sent to Fleury right away. During the French attacks in mid July he was
wounded by shrapnel in the head. After a long period of recovery he was posted
to a Landsturm battalion in a quiet sector.
The Militärpaß showing the short career of Landsturm-Rekrut
Johannes Paulus. Arriving at the front line on the 27th of July 1916
he was immediately sent to join the 5th Company of the 11th
Bavarian Infantry Regiment to the west of Fleury. The French attacks were
already underway and somewhere between the 3rd and 5th of
August he was declared “Missing at Fleury”.
It was later established that he, along with a number
of men from his company, had been overrun and captured by the French during
their attack on the 4th of August.
Below: Sergent Paul Garron of the 20eme Regiment d`infanterie
was awarded one of his four Croix de Guerre’s during the July attacks. On the
24th of July the 33eme Division d´infanterie attacked Thiaumont, On
the 25th it took part in the attack on Fleury helping to take it on
the 3rd-4th of August before being beaten back by the Bavarian
His citation at Regimental level reads: “An energetic
and courageous N.C.O. On the 26th of July 1916 he took command of
his section under very difficult conditions. Leading by example he encouraged
his section to hold their ground, not ceding an inch of ground to the enemy”.
Garron would be cited at divisional level a year later
for capturing an enemy bunker and taking 20 prisoners. In mid 1917 he suffered
heavy contusions after being buried alive by a large calibre artillery shell. The
stars on his Croix de Guerre hide visions of hell.