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Remembered Today:

The Enemy....


Chris Boonzaier

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Here is a very rough translation of a Autobiographical Novel written by a Bavarian soldier... I thought it may be of interest...

..... At noon the fog lifted. At about 2:00 PM Johannes Hofmann comes to me.

"There is a wounded Scotsman in front of the trench" he says.

I go with him.

It is true, there is someone sobbing out there. Amongst the dead a man is crying. I feel a cold shudder... "Which one is it?" I ask myself.

I stand on the fire ledge and carefully look over the top. As soon as I raise my head a shot sounds and a bullet hits the sand behind me. The British are firing at me.

I become excited, this did not happen often. From behind the shield there was not much to see, through the slit I can only see 2 dead men and a bit of the British trenchline. One of the dead was missing his head, it has been hit by some of the many the bullets fired at random at night. The other man has the bones of his feet exposed, the flesh has been eaten by rats. It could not be either of them.

I call out in broken English and ask if the man is a wounded Engländer.

He answers "Yes sir!"

I ask where he is laying, and he says between the two bodies.

Adam Kirsch runs up with a trench periscope. I look over the top and say "Comrade, move your arm a bit so I can see you!"

It is true, between the bodies an arm lifts itself painfully.

He is not more than 10 meters away. He is just in front of the shooting shield, but is protected because he is laying out of sight in a bit of dead ground.

We tie some groundsheets together and throw out the rope. The Scot holds on and we pull slowly. He cries and screams.

The British shoot again.

I decide to wait until it is dark and call over to the wounded man, but he begs us to fetch him in now. He seems to be terrified of the night which is understandable,

the attack had been 9 days ago! He has been laying there for 9 days and 9 nights.

9 days and 9 nights.....

The British have stopped firing. They seem to understand what is going on here, they are only 60 meters away...

I carry the young Scot in my arms like a child, he does not weigh more than 100 pounds anymore. His face is black, just some grey-white dirt under the eyes as you often see on dirty children who have been crying. Only here the crying has been for something more serious than those kids would be able to imagine.

We quickly cook some tea, four or five of us fussing over our findling.

I tell them to put no sugar in the tea, his stomache will not be able to handle it. He drinks greeily. It is odd for an Englishman to appretiate German tea, but that thought does not occur to us.

The young man has been shot through the thigh. After the tea he is content and begins to speak to us but I do not understand most of it. Adam washes his face but the dirt stays put.

The leg looks bad, it is blue and black although under usual circumstances it would not have been a dramatic wound. A simple flesh wound, a little bone damage.. it would have been his ticket hme.

9 days and nights he lay there. During the day he played dead, and at night tried to crawl back. Initially he had been to scared to move, then unable to move, each effort causing him to cry out in pain.

We pack him in a shelter half.

He is a young Scot. Not what we imagined a Scot to be, with their swirling kilts and wailing bagpipes. It was the first time we had had anything to do with one. He was a recruit and had been afraid of us. We were "Huns" according to their newspapers. He pulls a newspaper cutting from his pocket with the title "Ready for the Huns!", it showed a long line of Scots soldiers and he points to one "Thats me..."

"And now..?" I ask.

"Its over for me" he says without emotion. A Frenchman would have cursed and fumed but the young Scot is resigned to his fate. He gives me his bible, as a souvenier. He has nothing else, it is his most valuable possesion. His sister would not mind, she had written a dedication in it before he had left for the front, now he wants me to have it, maybe it will protect me.

Then two men carry him to the rear. 9 days and 9 nights in Nomans land, to scared to move because of a newspaper article. It had taken so long for him to make contact. His leg had to become blue and black before he felt he should risk calling to us... The newspaper was the sickness that killed him.

When my men bring him to the rear the doctor just shakes his head.

The poor lad remains a vivid memory.....

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Who was the Scotsman and did the bible protect the German, I wonder?

Mandy.

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A cracking tale, and one that would have dispelled a few rumours about the ferocity of the german

John

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I have been working on a chapter for my book (the chapter deals with the wounded and WW1 German Medical services) and have the following, very rough, translations...

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The rain had stopped. The sun glows white behind the thin cover of clouds. It hangs over the ,,Kalte Erde,,. Soon it will shine through the clouds turning the grey earth brow.

High above the shells of the heavy guns curve through the air. They appear from nowhere and dissapear over the hill.

Here and there there are bodies in the shellholes. Here there are Germans, there Frenchmen. In one hole there are two Germans and two Frenchmen. A German lays chest to chest with a Frenchman. The Frenchman has a bayonet stuck in his chest, the Germans skull has been crushed with a riflebutt. The second Frenchman has a bayonet wound to the throat and the second German a rifle bullet in the forehead. They lay together legs entangled.

A tack tack tack sounds in front of them and the bulets whistle over their heads. Wammsch jumps into the next crater, Siewers follows him.

"How much further."

"It cant be more than 50 meters." answers Siewers.

"Do you have a white handkerchief ?"

"Yes."

Wammsch takes the cloth and ties it to the barrel of his rifle.

"How do you say "we are looking for a wounded man" in French?" asks Wammsch

"Nous cherchons un blesse."

"repeat it again..."

Siewers repeats it

"Lets go..." Wammsch stands on the rim of the crater waving the rifle with the flag, Siewers follows.

Tack tack tack...sss...sss...sss...the firing stops...

"There they are." says Siewers. 40 meters ahead they see a group of Frenchmen.

"Sherschong blessee!" calls out Wammsch, still standing.

"They are right on the spot," says Siewers, "we can forget it..."

A Frenchman tands up and holds up his arm "Voila!" he calls.

The Frenchmen talk amongst themselves then slowly leave the shellhole, climbing into another crater.

They find Esser. Siewers body is shaking. Essers eyes are still open. They stare glassily into nothing.

The face seems smaller, like that of a dolls. Wammsch has climbed down to Esser. He carefully lifts the blond head, then gently lays it back again. He takes his wrist and holds his hand awhile before laying it down. He kneels next to Esser and gently pulls his eyelids closed. For a moment his fingers hesitate on Essers eyes.

He pushes his hands under Essers back and carefully lifts him, taking him over his shoulder. Essers arms hang down behind Wammschs back, his blond hair over his eyes...

"Come.." says Wammsch.

Siewers followed him. As they reached the rim of the crater Wammsch turned.

"Merci..." he called. Then they went.

The Frenchmen climed slowly back into the crater. Not a shot sounded. Over the Kalte Erde the sun shone....

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Two other interesting incidents I have found

1) a 5 page description from a German officer who is found by 3 French soldiers in a shell crater in Verdun. For some reason they take him in a shelter half and carry him to safety, one of them is killed along the way, and although the other two are dead from fatigue, they still carry him through to german lines.

2) A description in 1918 about 2 German Infantryman who simply stand up in the middle of a fight and carry a wounded comrade back, over a Km or so. the enemy stopped firing until the soldiers were in safety.

It seems strange things happened on the front line.

A bit harder was the attitude of the field hospitals....

The entrance to the hospital is large, high and tiled. It resembles a bathhouse or an abattoir....

We lightly wounded sit around on benches and wait for the medics who look after us one by one. In front of us, on stretchers, lay the badly wounded. They lay there under blood soaked covers, moaning, most with stomache wounds.

One of them cries "Water! Water! Water!"

"We need to help him," says Bienemann, "they have forgotten the poor begger."

He is already taking out his field flask, it was filled with tea and rum and lots of sugar. We had been given the drink at the field kitchen in Lens. They had not spared the rum, it was damn strong stuff and went right to the head.

"Hey comrade," said Bienemann, "what kind of wound do you have?"

"In the legs."

"Nothing internal? You are allowed to drink?"

The soldier assured he had nothing on the body, just the legs, and the medics refused to give him a drink, although he had been asking for over 2 hours.

He takes the offered flask and puts it to his mouth. He drinks and drinks. He empties it to the last drop and them gives it back with a thankful grin.

A half hour later the Sanitäts-Feldwebel comes in and looks at the soldier. "Man..what have you done! Have you been drinking? You have not been drinking ?"

No, he has not been drinking the wounded man lies.

The Feldwebel lifts the bloody blanket, then the shelter half under it. We stare....

"Who gave this man something to drink?" the Feldwebel asks as with anger flashing in his eyes. Bienemann steps forward. The Feldwebel dissapears and comes back with a Stabsarzt. The doctors hands are covered in blood. His apron is also covered in blood. He has been operating in the next room, without a jacket or shirt, just a thin vest covers his torso, his officers rank is only recognisable by his hat.

He looks at Bienemann "You gave him something to drink? You are the murderer of your comrade, always remember that!"

Bienemann defends himself excitedly. The doctor listens then turns to the soldier.

"So, it is your own fault... I told you you cannot not to drink. You have no chnace now, do you hear me ?... There is now no force in the world that can save you now, you poor, poor fool."

"Herr Doctor.... please, save me!" moaned the wounded man, "I dont want to die, I did not know about the stomache wound, only knew about the leg wound. Herr Doctor.... I am only 18, please save me !"

He tries to stand but is held down by two lightly wounded at the command of the Feldwebel.

"The syringe..." says the doctor to the Feldwebel as he leaves the room. The Feldwebel nods and exits coming back with a large syringe filled with morphine.

"Come old man, this wont hurt, it will be a relief. It will calm you, come, give me your left arm. There you go..."

Half an hour later the man acts strangely, becomes rigid. He stretches, then tries to stand, he does not succeed. He glances around, wild eyed, then pulls the blanket tightly around him, flattening the wrinkles with his hand. His head jerks to the left, then he pulls the blanket over his head and lays still.

The Feldwebel comes and establishes the death of the soldier without emotion. "Without your damned booze we could probably have saved him." he says.

The beareres carry the stretcher away to a wooden hut on the other side of the square.

The Feldwebel calls our names. We go into the operatingroom,.... in the middle are two operation tables. On one of them lays a Frenchman, shouting through the anesthetic. "Ah, que je suis malheureux" he screams as his hand is amputated.

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