The following letter, which refers to the fighting on the Aisne, has been printed and circulated to the troops:
Cerny, South of Laon, Sept 14, 1914.
My Dear Parents: Our corps has the task of holding the heights south of Cerny in all circumstances until the Fourteenth Corps on our left flank can grip the enemy’s flank. On our right are other corps. We are fighting with the English Guards, Highlanders, and Zouaves. The losses on both sides have been enormous. For the most part this is due to the too brilliant French artillery.
The English are marvelously trained in making use of ground. One never sees them, and one is constantly under fire. The French airmen perform wonderful feats. We cannot get rid of them. As soon as an airman has flown over us, ten minutes later we get their shrapnel fire in our positions. We have little artillery in our corps; without it we cannot get forward.
Three days ago our division took possession of these heights and dug itself in. Two days ago, early in the morning, we were attacked by an immensely superior English force, one brigade and two battalions, and were turned out of our positions. The fellows took five guns from us. It was a tremendous hand-to-hand fight.
How I escaped myself I am not clear. I then had to bring up supports on foot. My horse was wounded, and the others were too far in the rear. Then came up the Guards Jager Battalion, Fourth Jager, Sixth Regiment, Reserve Regiment Thirteen, and Landwehr Regiments Thirteen and Sixteen, and with the help of the artillery we drove the fellows out of the position again. Our machine guns did excellent work; the English fell in heaps.
In our battalion three
Iron Crosses have been given, one to C.O.,
one to Capt. ——, and one to Surgeon ——. [Names probably
deleted.] Let us hope that we shall be the lucky ones next time.
During the first two days of the battle I had only one piece of bread and no water. I spent the night in the rain without my overcoat. The rest of my kit was on the horses which had been left behind with the baggage and which cannot come up into the battle because as soon as you put your nose up from behind cover the bullets whistle.
War is terrible. We are all hoping that a decisive battle will end the war, as our troops already have got round Paris. If we beat the English the French resistance will soon be broken. Russia will be very quickly dealt with; of this there is no doubt.
We received splendid help from the Austrian [Transcriber: original ‘Austrain’] heavy artillery at Maubeuge. They bombarded Fort Cerfontaine in such a way that there was not ten meters a parapet which did not show enormous