Rommel at the Battle of Bleid. 22 Aug 1914.

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  1. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    0015 22 Aug 1914. German 27th Infantry Division order.
    27th Infantry Division (i.e. Rommel’s unit) would seize the town of Bleid and the heights north of town. Attack to begin 0400 22 Aug 1914.

    French infantry were thought to be in the area. (Information obtained by Lt. Rommel and several other German patrols the previous day).

    27th Division conducted its approach march in thick fog.

    26th and 27th Infantry Divisions were initially ordered to occupy attack positions while waiting for the fog to lift, which would allow artillery to support the infantry. Patrols reported the French occupied positions at Bleid, Mussy and Barancy.

    0500 22 Aug 1914.
    1LT Rommel scouts the road leading to Hill 325. Fog limited visibility to 50 yards.

    “Having been on the go for nearly 24 hours, I could scarcely stay in the saddle.”

    0530 22 Aug 1914.
    XIII Army Corps ordered the attack to begin without waiting for the fog to lift.
    (The fog lifted between 0700 and 0745)

    124th Infantry Regiment (i.e. Rommel’s unit) had to make an approach march of 3 to 4 km before reaching attack position at Hill 325. This required three hours across rolling, wet terrain, cutting down barbed wire fences along the way. They came to the front of a shallow valley with a line of French skirmishers visible on the opposite side.

    124th Infantry Regiment attacked immediately without waiting for further orders. 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry (i.e. Rommel’s battalion) noted that German artillery support was excellent. The French fell back into a copse of trees.

    “My company commander ordered me to deploy my platoon, make contact with the right of 1st Battalion, and advance on the southeast of Bleid.

    In skirmish formation we advanced toward Bleid through potato fields and vegetable gardens over the southeast slope of Hill 325. A heavy fog hung over the fields and visibility was still limited to 50 or 80 yards.”

    “I went on ahead with Sgt Ostertag and two range estimators to investigate the farm ahead of us. Nothing could be seen or heard of the enemy. We reached the east side of the building and found a narrow dirt path leading down to a highway on the left. On the far side through the fog we could distinguish another group of farm buildings. Without doubt we were on the Mussy-la-Ville side of Bleid. Cautiously we approached the highway; I peered around the corner of the building. There scarcely 20 paces to the right I saw 15 or 20 Frenchmen standing in the middle of the highway drinking coffee, chatting, their rifles lying idly in their arms. They did not see me.

    Four of us would be able to handle this situation. I quickly informed my men of my intention to open fire. We quietly released the safety catches; jumped out from behind the building; and standing erect, opened fire on the enemy nearby. Some were killed or wounded on the spot; but the majority took cover behind steps, garden walls, and wood piles and returned our fire.”

    0805 22 Aug 1914.
    2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry assaulted directly into the town of Bleid. The French were driven out after some bitter street fighting.

    “We now rushed from building to building. The 2nd Section was called up. Wherever we ran into the enemy, he either surrendered or took cover in the building recesses from which he was soon routed.

    In a side street I rushed forward to a church surrounded by a wall from which heavy rifle fire was being directed at us. Making use of available cover and rushing from house to house, we approached the enemy. As we advanced to the assault, he gave way, retreated westward, and was soon lost in the fog.

    We rushed forward by groups, each being mutually supported by the others, a maneuver we had practiced frequently during peacetime.

    During our advance we encountered a number of Frenchmen in the bushes along the road. It took a lot of talking to get them out of their hiding places and make them lay down their arms. They had been taught that the Germans would behead all their prisoners. We got more then 50 men out of the bushes and grain fields, including 2 French officers.

    1200 22 Aug 1914.
    XIII Army Corps orders 27th Infantry Division to hold in place.

    1300 22 Aug 1914.
    124th Infantry Regiment ordered to assemble at newly captured Bleid. This allowed the scattered units to reorganize and troops to be fed from field kitchens.

    “The horrors of war had swept over this town in the middle of nowhere. Many houses had been shot to pieces or were in flames; the bodies of French and German soldiers and Belgium civilians lay everywhere.”

    1500 22 Aug 1914.
    27th Infantry Division orders pursuit of the retreating French. They do not make further contact as the victorious but tired German troops advance slowly. This continued until 2100 when the unit went into bivouac.

    573 German and 2,056 French soldiers are buried in cemeteries around Bleid. French 14th Brigade and several artillery batteries were destroyed.

    124th German Infantry Regiment casualties.
    47 killed.
    385 wounded.

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