The Battle as seen by Lt. Col Ernst Lettenmayer, commander of the 2nd Bavarian Jäger Battalion
On the 11th
of August 1914 the 2nd Bavarian Jäger Battalion made a frontal
assault on the village of Lagarde (Gerden). The Battalion was attached to the
65th Infantry Brigade.
Action Gefreiter Dees became the first German soldier to capture a set of
French Colors during the war, while Oberjäger Mecking captured the first
Jäger were commanded by Oberstleutnant Ernst Lettenmayer who wrote the
following account which appeared in the "Sonderausgabe der Aschaffenburger
Zeitung” on the 31st of October 1914. Also shown are a Iron Cross 2nd
Class and Bavarian königlichen Militär-Verdienstorden 3. Klasse mit Schwerten
award documents for Lettenmayer’s actions as commander of the 2. Bay. Jäger
Bataillon in 1914.
The account of Oberstleutnant Lettenmayer (Right)
On the 10th
of August 1914 the French succeeded in driving the 8th Company of the I.R. 131 (1)
occupying Lagarde out of the village. The Company retreated to a line to the
west of the Chanal-Holz forest.
Bavarian 2. Jäger Battalion arrived in Bourdonnaye that afternoon. A planned
night attack on Lagarde was cancelled due to the number of French troops in the
village and the unknown terrain the Battalion would have to cross. The Jäger
Battalion was given the initial task of guarding the Kavallerie-Brigade in
Bourdonnaye, the company of the I.R. 131 was attached to the Jägers.
Battalion dug in, the 1st and 4th company dug in on either side of the road to
the south of Bourdonnaye, the 2nd company at the eastern exit to the village
the 3rd company to the west. The 8./I.R. 131 was positioned in the village.
the commander of the Kavallerie-Division and the sector commander of the
“Grenzschütz-Abteilung” (Border Protection Abteilung) planned a coordinated
action for the following day.
Bayerische Jäger Bataillon was to mount a frontal attack on Lagarde starting
from Bourdonnaye. A Grenzschutz column consisting of elements of the I.R. 131
would advance between Ommeray and the Ommeray Pond, attacking Lagarde from the
against possible French attack from the forest of Kreuzberg the 1. Bayerische
Jäger Bataillon advanced from Ommeray over Punkt 285.
Grenzschutz column (elements of I.R. 138) advanced to the South of the Canal.
Grenzschutz Artillery was ordered to take up position at Point 259 to the South
of Marimont to support the attack. Generalmajor von Kehler commanding the 65.
Inf. Brig. had the overall command.
Kavallerie-Division was to support the attack and it’s “Reitende Abteilung” of
the division’s Field Artillery was
ordered to the west of the forest of Bourdonnaye.
At 9:00am just
as the 2. Jäger were ready to leave Bourdonnaye Hauptmann Melms, commander of
the 4. Batterie of light Field Howitzers (Art. Regt. 8) arrived. He had decided
that a position on the northern slope of Height 274 (South of Bourdonnaye) was
optimal for supporting the attack on Lagarde and he intended to advance with
his Batterie. The Jägers delayed their advance and waited for the artillery to
get into position.
The names used in the article differ from those on the map.
Lagarde was known to the Germans as Gerden, Bourdonnaye as Bortenach.
the Jägers were ready. The 1. Komp. would form the right flank, the 4. Komp.
the left. The Companies had orders to advance through the Chanal-Holz to the
Height 282 to support the advance of the Howitzer Batterie. The 2nd wave of the
advance had the 2. Komp. on the right and 3. Komp. on the left flank. The 3rd
wave had the 8./I.R. 131 in the middle, at the disposition of the 2. Jäg.
Battalion commander with his staff advanced along the road between the 1st and
As soon as
the 1st wave left the Chanal-Holz the French opened fire with shrapnel rounds
on the forest and the open ground in front and behind it. The first casualties
appeared in the ranks of the Jäger. The advance continued without interruption
in spite of the artillery, difficult terrain and sweltering heat. At 10:00am
the first wave reached Height 282 and opened fire on the eastern edge of
Lagarde. The French infantry returned fire but with little effect as their rounds
passed overhead. The advanced companies gained some ground with a number of
forward bounds opening the way for the artillery to take up their positions on
By now the
supporting fire of the Reitende Abteilung from the heights to the west of the
Forest of Bourdonnaye began to take effect.
by both the Reitende Abteilung and the light Field Howitzer the advance of the
2. Jäg. Batl. met less resistance. The French artillery positions behind Height
266 had been recognized and taken under fire bringing relief to the advancing
Jäger. The French artillery was soon silenced. Between 10:30 – 11:00 the Jägers
were within 800-1000 meters of the edge of the village. The left flank of the
4. Komp straddled the road and the 3. Komp. was sent forward to fill the gap
between the road and canal forming the left flank of the battalion.
Left: Two Aschaffenburger Jäger (2. bay. Jäger Bataillon) at mobilisation
artillery changed positions on Height 282 the attack continued.
must be credited with mastering the use of the terrain. Even with the best
telescope it was difficult to recognize their positions. The French preferred
to use houses for defense and well positioned trenches and camouflaged walls.
Machine Guns were positioned in the church tower but we did not see them, we had not expected such a devious trick.
Unfortunately these Machine Guns caused many casualties, especially in the 4.
Komp., including the company commander.
In spite of
the difficult terrain, the attack took place down slopes which offered no cover
and under constant observation by the French, the attack swept forward. The
fresh élan which drove the advance cost the 4th company the life of its
commander (Hauptmann Scherer) while Hauptmann Bauernschmitt of the 1. Komp was
wounded. Bauernschmitt stayed with his company continuing the attack. As the
day progressed the Battalion lost not only men to enemy fire but also due to
It was due
to the young Jägers whose bravery and automatic implementation of their
peacetime drills/training in the face of the enemy that the advance continued
so smoothly. It would be amiss to forget the role played by the artillery. The
Jäger Battalion commander (Lettenmayer) was in constant contact with the
artillery commander and they were able to adjusted fire as needed to prepare
for the attack on the village.
after noon the front line lay between 300-400 from the edge of the village. A
couple of houses were burning . To the south of the canal the attack on the
Chateau of Martincourt was in progress. Gunfire was also heard to the north of
Lagarde. On the edge of the village French soldiers were observed pulling back.
In some positions the enemy fire became weaker.
large bound forwards the 1st Wave broke loose with a loud “Hurra!”. They were
supported with fire from the 2. Komp. and the 8./I.R. 131. They reached the
edge of the village where the enemy troops were forced to abandon their
positions. The fate of the village was
however not yet decided. The bulk of the defenders were still in the village,
occupying houses, in the attics and cellars. Some hid to avoid capture; many
did so to fire on the Jäger from hidden positions. While the French initiative
may be admirable, the sneak attacks on our soldiers, men used to open and
honest action provoked an understandable angry reaction. The fighting that followed as the Jäger and
infantrymen cleared the houses was bitter. The anger increased as some of the
surrendering French soldiers fired on our men. A number of civilians fired on
our men and were executed right away.
Above: Approaching Lagarde across the open fields. The German cemetary is at the entrance to the village on the left.
the fighting in the village cost us a number of casualties it also gave the men
a chance to show their determination and bravery under fire. With exceptional
bravery a number of Oberjäger and Jäger fought their way into the houses to
clear out the defenders. A Jäger of the 1. Komp. was able to capture French
colors but when his comrades came under fire from a neighboring house he put
them aside to return fire. Soldiers of the I.R. 131 or I.R. 138 arriving on the
scene then claimed the colors.
confusion following the fighting it was difficult for the officers to gather
the men of their depleted companies and advance to the western edge of the
village. It was just a question of luck that the French did not counter attack.
They were probably still reeling from the Jäger attack and a subsequent attack
by the Ulanen Brigade outside the village. Shocked and weakened by the fighting
they were probably too exhausted to continue the fight. As the Jäger reached
the western edge of the village they saw the evidence of the brave Ulanen
early afternoon troops were gathered on the Height 266 and the neighboring
heights ready to intervene should the French counter attack. The French passed
up the opportunity and pulled back to Xures.
Jäger Bataillon stayed on Height 266 until evening before joining the
strength at Lagarde was approximately two Battalions. The Battalion thanks its
brave members who paid the ultimate price for the victory on the 11th of August
Article written by Oberstleutnant Lettenmayer in the
“Sonderausgabe der Aschaffenburger Zeitung” from the 31. October 1914
Above Left: The Iron cross 2nd Class document to Ernst Lettenmayer Above Right: The Bavarian Military Service Order 3rd class with Swords to Ernst Lettenmayer
Left: the Wound Badge document to Ernst Lettenmayer
1) In this “pre” Alpenkorps phase of
the war the 2nd Jägers were active on various parts of the front, during the
battle at Lagarde they were on attachment to the 65th Infantry Brigade which
was part of the Grenzschütz-Abteilung (Border Protection). The I.R. 131 was
part of the 65th Brigade.