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The EK1

On the 23rd of June 1916 Bavarian divisions launched the last major German offensive at Verdun. The 1st Bavarian Infantry Division forced their way along the Kalte Erde. They took the strongpoint Thiaumont the 10th Bavarian Infantry regiment continuing on to the strongpoint Kalte Erde where they were brought to a halt. The Alpenkorps in the centre took the village of Fleury and pushed its way onto the Fleury heights. The Jäger Regiment 2 of the Alpenkorps fought its way through the Chapitre Wald and was stopped along the length of the Souvilleschlucht.

The force of the assault was extremely worrying for the French high command. General Nivelle gave desperate orders to counter attack right away without awaiting orders and ignoring the sector limits of the units. He passed on the Message that "Vous ne les laisserez pas passer mes camarades!" (You won’t let them pass comrades). 

Left: The German advance on the 23rs of June. The 171eme R.I. was rushed into the line to the North of Fort Souville

Petain, who's confident "Ils ne passeront pas" (They will no pass) in the opening phases of the battle had become one of the catch phrases of the war was very worried. On the telephone to General Castelnau on the 24th to June he insisted that the attack on the Somme be moved forward to take the pressure off his troops at Verdun. He reported that his best troops had been overrun; Fort Souville and the strongpoint Froide Terre (Kalte Erde) were in danger. If the enemy overran them and reached the "Ligne de La panique" (Fort Belleville and Fort Saint Michel) he would have to abandon the East bank of the Maas.

Right: Soldat 2eme Classe Eugene Guillaume 20 years after the battle.

A typically implacable Joffre called Petain on the 25th and informed him that the Somme barrage would intensify on the 26th of June, the attack would start on the 29th. He informed Petain that he should not worry about losses, when the Somme offensive started the pressure on Verdun would ease. As a gesture he released four divisions to join the line art Verdun. Joffre had read the cards right. On the 24th Falkenhayn had telegraphed the Heeresgruppe Kronprinz that due to the situation on the Western front it seemed best to limit the material, ammunition and manpower losses at Verdun. He asked for a report how this could be best achieved while keeping the land gained (strongpoint Thiaumont, Fleury and ground in front of Fort Vaux). On the 27th the Heeresgruppe answered that the Angriffsgruppe West (Attack group on the west bank) would dig in in the positions they had reached. On the East bank the attack would be continued with the men and ammunition that they had, with no requests for further reserves.

The 127eme Division had been brought out of reserve and rushed to Verdun relieving the decimated units along the Southern flank of the Bavarian pocket. The 171eme Regiment d'Infanterie taking over the sector held by the remains of the 45eme R.I. (52eme D.I.) and the 54eme R.I. (12eme D.I.) in the Ravin des Fontaines (Souvilleschlucht) towards the Bois Fumin (Fuminwald).  

Soldat Georges Feret of the 172eme R.I. of the 127eme D.I. wrote "On the night of the 27th we relieved the 106eme. The ground was churned up by shells, shell hole after shell hole. We found our way by the light of the explosions. I suddenly found myself face to face with a lad of the 106eme. Screaming above the thunder of the explosions I asked him for information about the positions. He responded with a hoarse voice, his throat on fire. He was barely able to articulate his words, his thirst enormous. I offered him a drink from my canteen but he responded "Ah! No, keep it, you will need it".

The memory has never left me. The brave man who knew what lay ahead of me and did not want to take what he knew I would soon need. If ever he reads these lines I would one day love to shake his hand".

Elements of the 127eme D.I. including a parts of the 171eme R.I. counter attacked upon their arrival on the 24th of June. While divisions on their left flank fought desperately to regain Fleury and Thiaumont the 127eme attacked trying to regain sections of the Chapitrewald. The attack was beaten back by the Germans, the battalion commander of the 3eme Batl. was killed, his Adjutant wounded. Each battalion involved lost six officers. The 1st machinegun company lost three officers and 75% of its men.   On the 25th the Regiment was ordered to straighten its front. In spite of tremendous efforts it failed, suffering heavy losses. All along the front opponents stumbled across each other, fighting to the end.  

On the 26th another attack was launched by the French but beaten back.  

Left and above: two Croix de Guerre award documents to a member of the 171eme R.I. On the 27th of June Soldat 2eme Classe Eugene Guillaume of the 5eme Compagnie was wounded at his post. His was awarded the Croix de Guerre with a citation at Regimental level. It read "A soldier with remarkable courage and sense of duty. He was wounded at his post of combat on the 27th of June 1916"  

On the 3rd of July the 171eme and 172eme Regiments were at the "Batterie de Damloup" when it was taken by the German 99. Infanterie Regiment. On the 4th and 5th they counter attacked in an effort to retake it but the attacks broke up under German artillery and infantry fire. On the 6th of June the 127em D.I. was pulled from the line and sent to recover from their losses and prepare for their part in the Somme battle.