In June 1918 The Great War was still raging in Europe, and Willy got his chance to be a German soldier. As was the custom, he started a journal recording his observations and experiences . Morale was low with the young soldiers knowing that Germany couldn’t win. He never saw action since the WWI ended before his training was over. I am posting some excerpts from this journal:
German Army Training
June 28, 1918: Today we left the barracks for the first time. We were on the land maneuver field in the Ruster Forest. Hey, it was so great to be away from the barracks! We dug up an underground mine tunnel that some Pioneers had built: digging, a break, hauling beams, lunch. The food was not good, but I was really hungry. Quarters cleaning duty was from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., then hauling beams again. Today I was smart and was not where they were detonating. The first time, I jumped out of my skin, but after that it was old hat. The shock wave pushed my cap askew. Some of the men folded. I was chipper as can be but with chest pains. In the evening, I had mail. What joy! I was finally part of The Great War.
Homesick In WWI
July 4, 1918: Today we were out with guns for the first time. On the land maneuver field, the exercises are going pretty well already. The company all lined up is a pretty sight. We practiced handling the gun and did individual target practice. I did fairly well at everything. A lot of the soldiers are sick. I am finally rid of my sore throat and chest pain, but my back pain is worse! Sometimes I am fed up and would rather be with Mother who would make me well in no time. Today we had maneuvers again in the rain, and on our way back, we walked through ankle-deep water. In the evening, we washed thoroughly and had to clean our side-arms. I don’t like it. The German army is not for me.
Monday, July 15th – Hurrah!
There are 120 men leaving for the front today. They had assembled and were not following orders too closely. The major gave a speech. Everyone stood still. Then one man moved. The major stopped in mid-speech and roared, “What is your name?” No answer. “You had better watch yourself!” At the end of his speech, the major’s thin voice called out the time-honored, “Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!” The men did not raise their hands, and only a few of them gave a low hurrah. Then the major said, “auf wiedersehen.” (ed. good bye) There was no answer from the soldiers. Let’s hope something will happen soon to put an end to this. Moral is low in the German army.
Wednesday November 12th – The Kaiser Abdicated
We were in the barracks putting things back in our lockers. Then Sergeant Buschel came in, “Get up, carry on. Do you want to take part comrades? Tonight at 7 o’clock.” Yes, we wanted to take part, but we didn’t know what was going on. When we were in the canteen getting our grub, the old newspaper man called, “The Kaiser has abdicated!” (ed. On November 9, 1918, Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated. On November 11th, Germany surrendered and signed an armistice that ended the Great War. Sixteen million soldiers and seven million civilians died because of The Great War.)
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