- from the German magazine 'War-Chronicle', November 1916
- a multi-language publication for foreign distribution
- 'Cavalry Attacks in the Dobrudscha'
German Soldiers' Letters
from the German war-time history publication 'die grosse Zeit' - coverpages depicting cavalry in action on the Eastern front
A German cavalry officer has sent the following graphic description of his experiences in the course of the advance of Mackensen's army to a friend who placed same at the disposal of the "Kolnische Volkszeitung," from whence we have taken it:
After our rapid triumphal advance through the Dobrudscha, we were condemned to remain quiet and had to, as so often before, have recourse to shovel and spade, while the men kept guard rifle in hand. The Rumanians, who had received strong support from their Russian friends, had taken up firm positions on the fortified Rasowa Constanza line and offered a bitter and obstinate resistance. The Dobrudscha had been pretty well cleared of the beggars and we were afforded some rest before the new line. It was not very agreeable for us as it meant once more dismounting from our horses and entrenching for all we were worth. My men who had become re- animated during the splendid days of mobile warfare, growled again, even the horses began to hang their heads on their rations being lessened. Consequently it came as a relief for man and horse when we were suddenly called off in the midst of dirty entrenching work and were allowed to march back. We started on our way directly on leaving the rallying point and could not even say goodbye to the people where we had our billets, and they were such nice people. We did not yet know where we were going, although reports were current here and there to the effect that the Rumanians had crossed the Danube and intended falling upon us from the rear.
When after a long, sharp gallop we sank down to rest our tired limbs in the sweetly smelling hay, we knew that we were making for the Danube and hardly any of us could sleep, as we were all excited at the idea that the splendid adventurous cavalry activity was to recommence accompanied by its excitement and danger, joy and glorious deeds. On the second day we came in touch with the enemy, that is with some patrols that had advanced very far on their fast horses. They were but weak cavalry patrols that quickly made off on our approach. The enemy cannot have command of large numbers of cavalry, otherwise we should have seen more of them. It was a pity, as we were just in humour for a gay cavalry battle. But we soon had an occasion to come into contact with infantry, two companies of which had occupied a village and were busily engaged in plundering same. This was one of the most advanced Rumanian outposts.
On our sudden appearance they were absolutely dumfounded, as they did not at all expect us here, their consternation however lasted but a short time, although allowing us to break through the safety chain and with a thunderous hurrah rush into the village from three sides. The first bullets rained on us here, as in he meantime the Rumanians had grouped together in small bands and put up a desperate resistance. Attacked however as they were from all sides. it did not avail them much, and they were shot together or ridden down in the village street. Yet the rascals had managed to set fire to some houses, probably thinking that the ensuing confusion would render their escape easier. We found stolen objects on the dead and few captured prisoners emanating partly from this last and partly from former plundering expeditions. Here at least, the inhabitants regained possession of their own quickly, and the punishment followed the crime in due course. But a few had succeeded in escaping and we speedily inaugurated a hot pursuit.
Now the excitement began. Across ditches and banks through the fields and woods larger and smaller groups of enemies when on reconnoissance or plunder were surprised and shot down before they could think of resisting. We were there like lightning and often surprised the enemy in the midst of their profitable activity in violation of all international law. Thus we came to a mill standing alone in a valley, some shots that had been heard had attracted our attention and coming round the corner of the wood, the mill lay before us in the midst of a wild and romantic valley. From an adjoining building thick black smoke was ascending and wild flames bursting through the shingle roof. We recognized at once that the Rumanians were at work here and urged our horses to give their best. We arrived just in the nick ot time to prevent a group of Rumanian soldiers shooting the old miller and his grandson, who had obviously offered resistance to the plunderers The cattle had been collected for transport and the miller's cart was packed with his own stolen goods. His wife knelt weeping and groaning before the rascals begging for the life of her dear ones. It was at this point that we arrived, and the moment they saw us they took to their heels. But horses legs can cover more ground than human legs and we soon caught them up. The quiet valley that they had so frivolously desecrated became their grave and we helped the miller and his family to quench the flames before we proceeded on our way.
Bulgarian cavalry coming from the west, had begun the great razzia, and deployed like a fan we scoured the country and jointly stormed a village in which the enemy had maintained a footing. Dismounted, with our carbines in our hands, we pressed into the village, passed the burning houses towards the treacherous enemy troops, who withdrew in disorder, having set fire to as many buildings as possible beforehand. Screaming madly, the inhabitants kept running to and fro rendering our advance all the more difficult. At last, we had succeeded in forcing the enemy from the village. The reserve squadrons came rushing through the burning village and soon had annihilated the enemy, when a pursuit was continued on any that might have escaped, automobiles carrying our infantry men, who were now to participate. The Bulgarian infantry also came in forced marches, so that the Rumanians were attacked from three sides. Ever forced to retreat by our artillery, they withdrew along the whole line, our pursuit being kept up continually. The guns that had been silenced by ours, were dismounted and hurriedly removed towards the Danube and a new catastrophe.
an Austrian Danube monitor in action
The gallant Austrian Danube monitors had in the meantime done good work and destroyed the bridge laid across by the Rumanians partly by mines and partly by gun-fire. In spite of a violent fire from the bank batteries, the gallant ships went right up to the bridge, although kept continually under fire. The retreat was made impossible for the Rumanians, as owing to the fire of the monitors it was impossible to repair the bridge. Thus the Dobrudscha invaders took up a footing in two villages on the right hank and once more offered a desperate resistance supported by the batteries from the opposite bank .... The third night fell and the enemy under cover of darkness succeeded in removing some of their artillery on rafts and lighters, the rest was destroyed and thrown into the river. The remains of the enemy infantry endeavoured to escape in pontoon-boats and wherries, but the majority of them were drowned and who can tell how many lighters, rafts and wherries filled with Rumanian artillery and infantry fell victims to our guns and those of the Austrian monitors, while attempting to cross the river. The few that succeeded in escaping will be certain to ever remember their crossing.
Those who had remained on this bank cut off as they were from their comrades and deprived of the support of their artillery, fought with desperate courage, although they could clearly recognize their fate. Pressed back as they were step for step, owing to the murderous fire of our artillery and the raging Bulgarians, whose wrath had been raised owing to the inhuman atrocities committed by the enemy, they had no choice but to surrender, or trust to swimming across
The drama was nearing its end, thousand of Rumanian corpses covered the Dodrudscha soil, their plundering expedition having been turned into a funeral, a gigantic and frightful reparation for their frivolity. By the afternoon there was not a single Rumanian on the bank of this river, but the numbers of corpses told the tale of the reckless crossing.
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