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The EK1

Franz Rudolph Jonkheer de Casembroot was born on 1 November 1883 at Tschetzkowitz in Silesia.

He entered Feldartillerie-Regiment von Peucker (1. Schlesisches) Nr. 6 as a Fahnenjunker on 8 November 1906. Promoted to Fähnrich on 20 July 1907, he was commissioned a Leutnant on 18 August 1908.

When the regiment marched out of barracks in Breslau at the beginning of the war, Jonkheer de Casembroot was serving as adjutant of the 2. Abteilung. By the 1st of July 1915 he was in the same appointment, but by now an Oberleutnant. Some time between then and June 1916 he was promoted to Hauptmann and took over as battery commander of the 6. Batterie, 2. Abteilung.

He was in command of the battery at the start of the battle on the Somme but was wounded early in the fighting. After his recovery he was reassigned to the 9. Batterie, 2. Abteilung and took part with his battery in the fighting at Passchendaele.

Hauptmann Jonkheer de Casembroot was still in that appointment on the 1st of April 1918 but by the 1st of October 1918 had moved to a different regiment.

Left: The tunic of Hauptmann Jonkheer de Casembroot. The tunic was tailored the month after the fighting at Passchendaele described below.

The following extracts are taken from the regimental history of Feldartillerie-Regiment Nr. 6. and describe some of the actions in which de Casembroot participated.    

On the Somme  

"The 6./6. Feldartillerie Regiment in the Fuchsbauwäldchen ("Foxhole Copse") north of Belloy had been under heavy artillery fire since the early morning hours on the 1st of June. When the enemy attacked from its positions at Fay the rapid fire of the batteries caused it heavy losses to the north of Fay in the vicinity of Assevillers. Despite the well-prepared positions of the 6th's batteries they lost two of their guns to direct hits. Soon there were no more German infantry in front of the battery; it was late in the afternoon when infantry reserves marched through the positions of the batteries to form a line of defence to the south of Assevillers. Hauptmann Jonkheer de Casembroot, the battery commander, led them forward personally and was wounded. Oberleutnant d.R. Grospietsch took over command."

Above: German Field Artillery move their gun across the battlefield


The 235th Infantry Division took up position to the east of Wieltje where it suffered through British bombardment and then met the British attack on the 31st of July. The troops suffered heavily and the division was withdrawn from the front the next day. The 9th Battery was to serve as a mobile reserve and the men stood ready with their guns limbered up, waiting for the order to move out.
At about 10 a.m. Hauptmann Jonkheer de Casembroot was given a rundown on the British breakthrough. He was ordered forward with a section to take up position on Lübeck Street where enemy tanks were expected to arrive. He was directed to act according to his own initiative. At around noon he took up position with his two guns to the north of Grafenstafel and was very successful in helping beat back the British attack on Almenhof.
The rest of the battery was left in reserve. The staff of the III./6. in the meantime was looking for new positions for the support batteries and found two by the "Haus Kirchner", which they reported back to the regimental HQ.
After the section of the 9./6. had completed its mission at Grafenstafel it was reunited with the rest of the battery and along with a section of the 2./6. were assigned to the Nahkampfgruppe ("close combat group") Hummel. From there they were able to support the counterattack of the 50. Reserve Division. In the Wieltje sector to the east of the Nahkampfgruppe two further positions were created for reinforcements. At 6 p.m. the 5th and 6th batteries of Feldartillerie-Regiment Nr. 78 arrived to occupy them. These batteries, along with 5./6, supported the 221. Infanterie Division's advance on Fortuin and Wiesengut to the east of the Albrechtstellung ("Position Albrecht"). Replacement guns and ammunition reserves arriving in the sector were sent forward to the Nahkamfgruppen so that they were well-supplied on the night of the July 31-August 1.

The first large attack of the British (July 31) in the Passchendaele sector had failed. The goal they had set for themselves (as found in captured papers) had not been achieved. However, the British Infantry, tanks and cavalry had almost succeeded in wiping out the infantry of the 235. Infanterie Division. The division's artillery, however, had stood steadfast in position, the 1./6, 4./6, 5./6 and 9./6, reinforced by the 7./221, 8./221 and 9./221 were largely responsible for stopping the enemy advance. This in turn was only possible due to the sacrifices of the other batteries (esp. the 7./6 and 8./6) who had helped to thin the ranks of attackers.  

In spite of the heavy losses in men and material, it was one of the most glorious days of the regiment's history.

The 9./6 under Hptm. Jonkheer de Casembroot had been standing ready to intervene wherever they were needed. After the order arrived at 10 a.m. to advance, he left the 2nd section under Leutnant d.R. Tschauner with Nahkampfgruppe Hummel and moved forward with his men. Ignoring the incoming enemy artillery fire the section moved forward. Shellhole touched shellhole, the road no longer existed.

Over and over the order was given "Gunners! To the wheels!" The groaning horses could not manage on their own. Passing over the dead, destroyed wagons, horse cadavers... all around was the horror of war.

The battery arrived in position and set up, right away opening fire on the advancing British troops at a range of 1500 meters. A tank appeared, coming closer and closer... it took eight shots to bring the monster to a standstill. The British were now 1000 meters away. The battery tore holes in their line but these closed again and again as if by magic. Rapid fire began to deplete the stocks of ammunition, and soon it became evident that the gunners would have to change position. A messenger was sent back to a copse where the horses and gun carriages waited but he came back with bad news. Two drivers were badly wounded and the horses were either dead or had run away in panic. Gunners were sent to carry the drivers to the next first-aid position and a rider was sent to inform the Nahkampfgruppe of the situation. In the meantime the firing continued, every shell had to count! The enemy was 800 meters away. At 1.30 p.m. the guns reported only four rounds per gun were left! The horses lost, the ammunition running out, the enemy just in front... the situation was critical.

No panic, the British were not in the position yet, the gunners had to try and save their guns. The chances were slim, the one and only street (Lübeckerstrasse) was under heavy fire but it had to be tried, the enemy should not be allowed to take the guns! Six more shots were fired, each gun kept one shot for a final stand.

And now, along the road! The gunners strained at the wheels, first the one gun, then the other... 50 meters covered. Then the first gun again... A way was cut through a wire barricade, then a trench had to be crossed, luckily flattened by two shells.... at 2:30 pm they reached the road. Here the going was no easier and the gunners groaned as they pushed the guns forward, meter by meter...

Suddenly a light at the end of the tunnel! German infantry (the 221. I.D.) was counterattacking. The spirits of the gunners rose and they continued their struggle. Suddenly there was a roar overhead and a heavy artillery shell exploded just 10 meters ahead of the lead gun tearing a large hole in the road. Did it have to land there!! Spades and picks were taken in hand and the hole was filled... Then onwards! Ahead on the road was an ambulance blocking the way; it had taken a direct hit which had scattered the occupants on both sides of the road. It was a sobering sight for the gunners as they cleared a path... then once again they put their shoulders to the wheel and began to push the guns.

From behind came a loud honking and a shout of "Passing left!"; one of the men had salvaged the klaxon from the ambulance... the bit of humour brightened up the situation.

Suddenly a loud howl and a heavy shell crashes into the soft earth just 2 meters to the side of the road at the level of the first gun. The crew is thrown to the ground. One by one they get up, shocked and astounded... they had all survived! The soft earth had absorbed the explosion. Once again the men of the 2nd gun sounded the klaxon, and in good spirits the men continued their journey... The road sloped upwards, and with a last effort the men pushed the guns up the hill past a ruined house. A few meters further and they were over the crest of the hill and out of sight of the enemy gunners.

It had taken three hours of back-breaking effort. Hptm. Jonkheer de Casembroot reported to the commander of the Nahkampfgruppe who greeted and congratulated him. He was informed that his section had long been written off! Within an hour the battery took over new positions and had opened fire on the enemy once again.