A Bavarian Gold Bravery Medal won on the Reichackerkopf
Coming from the West the valleys running
past Soultzeren (Sulzern/Sultzeren) in the North and Metzeral in the South enclose
the Reichackerkopf and join together to form the Münstertal, a valley also
known as the „Tal der Fecht“ after the Fecht River that runs through it. From
the town of Münster the valley runs to the North
East, like a highway to Turckheim, then into the Rhein valley at Colmar.
At the beginning of February 1915 the
French had decided to maintain their positions in the sector, holding fast on
the Hartmannswillerkopf to assure the Germans did not advance along the Vallee
de la Tour, and at the same time trying to progress into the Münster valley.
Above: A portion of a map showing the strategic importance of the Münstertal. A more complete map is shown below. The front line is shown in Green
In the sector were the still green troops
of the 8. bayer. Reserve Division and the 6. Württembergischen Landwehr
On the 19th of February 1915
the Germans made the first move. In the early morning artillery opened up
firing on the Reichackerkopf and on the Col Du Sattel signaling the start of an
offensive action. This was not long in coming, at 08:00am the Germans attacked
gaining a foothold at the foot of the Reichackerkopf. The fighting is intense
and lasts all day, many losses suffered in the ranks of the Bavarians and
Württembergers. The French Chasseur are at home on the slopes, sharpshooters
firing from up in the trees. The bay. Reserve Infanterie Regiment 19 takes the
Reichackerkopf, The Commander of the
French 47eme Division judges the situation to be grave and calls up his
reserves who are resting in Geradmer. The reserves have an 8 hour march to
reach the front. They arrive exhausted and are right away thrown into the fray.
On the 20th of February the
French counter attack and in spite of the enthusiasm of the Chasseur they do
not succeed in taking the peak of the Reichackerkopf. At 17:00 they are hanging
on to the western slope when a German attack throws them back to the Col du
Sattel. A few isolated pockets of Chasseur remain in the treeline to the west
and North of the Reichackerkopf.
The Germans continue to push and on the 21st
of Feb they take the Barrenkopf and push the remaining French elements from the
Reichackerkopf to the Col du Sattel.
Stosswihr was now endangered and the tree
line to the east and the chateau fall to the Germans that evening. Two
Compagnies of the 14th French Chasseur Battalion manage to take the
Chateau back that evening with the help of a company of Territorials.
On the night of the 22nd-23rd
of Feb the French abandon Stosswihr and pull back to Sultzeren.
By now the German troops were exhausted.
They contented themselves with a ragged bombardment of the French lines. Both
sides used the next few days to reorganize. On the 1st of March 2
battalions of the 22nd Bavarian xxx attacked and managed to take the
houses on the outskirts of Sultzeren but a French counter attack pushed them
back causing relatively heavy losses in the German ranks.
Right: The Bavarian Gold Class Bravery Medal awarded to Franz Riethmann for his bravery during the actions on the Reichackerkopf. To continue to the page with his awards go HERE
On the 6th of March the French
47. Division mounted a powerful attack. The objective was to gain ground to the
East of Sultzeren, to retake the Reichackerkopf and if possible retake the village of Stosswihr.
The 23e Bataillon de Chasseur were to
attack the Reichackerkopf, which they managed in 45 minutes of fighting. The
French artillery, which had been successful in preparing the way for the attack
now failed to adjust their fire and the Chasseur were not able to pursue the
retreating German troops. The French troops managed to defend the peak in spite
of numerous counter attacks.
The 8. bayer Reserve Division was in
Münster when the 6th of March offensive began. They were rushed
forward and counter attacked, each attack broken up by fire out of the dark
depths of the forest. To retake the Hill a concentrated effort would be needed.
To the east of Sultzeren and in the
direction of Stosswihr the progress is modest. The advancing French troops were
hit by Flanking German machine Gun fire.
On the 20th of March artillery
and Minenwerfer fire sends columns of smoke and dust rising up from the hill.
The Bavarians attack but the attack falters under the small arms fire of the
Chasseur. Gefreiter Lutz of the bay. Reserve Infanterie Regiment 19 grabs some
comrades and drives forward on one flank while Lt. d. Res Doser of the 1. Komp.
Bay. R.I.R. 22 attacks the highest point of the peak with his men. The German
attack throws the French off the Reichackerkopf and into the Col du Sattel. The
French counter attack on the 22nd and 23rd of march but the attacks
fail and they return to their trenches.
In certain places only 20m separate the
French and German lines and as a result artillery support is nullified. Both
sides now dug in for the duration. There would still be fighting in the sector,
but no movement for a long time.
Below: The citation for Franz Riethmann
On the 21st of Feb 1915 the Bayer. Reserve
Infanterie Regiment 22 was to storm the Reichackerkopf. At 9:00 am the I. Batln. began the assault and right away suffered heavy
losses as they came under a withering enemy fire. The 7. Komp (II. Batln.) lay in a tree line to the left of the I. Batln. They were to support
the attack and received the order to join them to continue the attack. Arriving
at the level of the Battalion the (then) Unteroffizier Riethmann saw two men
jump up and run forward. They did not get further than 30m before being shot
down. He then saw a badly wounded man about 70m in front of their position,
laying doubled up in pain. He right away turned to Infantryman Vogt and asked
him to help him save the wounded man. Under extremely heavy enemy fire they
made their way forward to where Hauptmann Holler was laying and they managed to
carry him back to the aid station 200m behind their lines.
Above: Reichackerkopf/Reichsackerkopf as seen from Metzeral
Above: The "col du Sattel" mentioned in the text is the depression between the Reichackerkopf and Sattelkopf.
To continue to the section dealing with the second battle at Münster and an action by the Sturm-Abteilung Rohr go HERE