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General Ludwig von Falkenhausen, 1844-1936

General Ludwig von Falkenhausen, 1844-1936

General Ludwig von Falkenhausen, 1844-1936

General Ludwig von Falkenhausen was the German commander during the battle of Vimy Ridge, one of the few clear-cut Allied victories of 1917. Von Falkenhausen entered the Prussian army in 1856 as a cadet and fought in the Seven Weeks War (June-August 1866), where Prussia established her supremacy within Germany, and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, which ended with the formation of the unified German Empire.

By 1914 Falkenhausen had retired, but he was called back to the colours and given command of the Ersatz Corps of the Sixth Army on the Western Front. During the Race to the Sea Falkenhausen's corps was one of the few units that remained in Lorraine as the main German armies rushed north. Falkenhausen had command of a slightly larger force, Army Detachment Falkenhausen. The Sixth Army itself moved north, but Falkenhausen remained in the south into 1916, fighting in Lorraine. He was awarded the Pour le Merite on 23 August 1915 for his efforts on the Lorraine front.

In April 1916 Falkenhausen was given command of the coastal defences near Hamburg. At the same time he was awarded the Oak Leaves to his Pour le Merite (15 April 1916).

On 28 August 1916 Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria was promoted from command of the Sixth Army to command of the Army Group on the Somme. Falkenhausen was moved back from the coast and given command of the Sixth Army.

This meant that Falkenhausen was in overall command when the British attacked at Arras in 1917, and in particular for the famous Canadian attack on Vimy Ridge. At first glance the ridge was a very strong defensive position, but the topography didn't really suit the current German tactics of defence in depth. Ideally the German second line, where the main battle was to be fought, would have been a few thousand meters behind the lightly held front line, but the ground fell away steeply east of the ridge, so any second line placed at the standard distance would have been overlooked from the front line on the top of the ridge. As a result the Germans decided to concentrate most of their defences in an unusually strong first line. The third line of defence was made up of counter-attack units, which were meant to be used to attack enemy troops caught up in the second line. Despite the absence of that second line at Vimy Ridge Von Falkenhausen decided to keep his counterattack units at the usual distance behind the first line, so at best they would only be able to enter the battle just over three hours after being called into action. In normal circumstances this probably wouldn't have mattered, as the strong front lines could be expected to hold any attack for several days.

The Germans were thus entirely caught out when the Allies attacked in April 1917. The southern part of Vimy Ridge was captured in the initial well-planned assault, and the German reserve divisions were too far away to mount a successful counterattack. Although the Allies were unable to make much progress in the days after the initial attack, the Germans were eventually forced to retreat to their next line of defences, leaving Vimy Ridge in Allied hands.

In the aftermath of this failure Ludendorff removed Falkenhausen from command of the Sixth Army. He was appointed Governor-General of Belgium in May 1917 and held that post for the rest of the war. He retired in 1918 and died in 1936.

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History [ edit | edit source ]

At the outbreak of World War I, command of the army was given to Rupprecht, Crown Prince of Bavaria (Kronprinz Rupprecht von Bayern). The 6th Army initially consisted of the units of the Bavarian Army (which had retained military sovereignty after the unification of Germany), with some additional Prussian units. During the execution of Plan XVII, the 6th Army was stationed in the Central sector, covering Lorraine.

In August 1914, in the Battle of Lorraine, Rupprecht's 6th Army managed to hold against the French offensive, using a feigned withdrawal to lure the advancing armies onto prepared defensive positions.

After the Western Front turned to stalemate and the opposing forces formed lines of trenches, the 6th Army was based in Northern France. Most of the Bavarian units were gradually dispersed to other commands, with units from outside Bavaria joining the 6th Army. Nevertheless, command of the 6th Army remained with the Bavarian Crown Prince, who would eventually come to be regarded as one of Germany's most able generals.

On 24 September 1915, the 6th Army was the target for the British Army's first chlorine gas attack of the war. Despite the horrific casualties inflicted, the British offensive became bogged down after several days.

Rupprecht was promoted to the rank of field marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) in July 1916 and assumed command of Army Group Rupprecht on 28 August that year, consisting of the 1st, 2nd, 6th and 7th Armies. Following Rupprecht's promotion, command of the 6th Army was given to General Ludwig von Falkenhausen.

In March 1917, the 6th Army was the target for the assault of the Canadian and British forces at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The 6th Army under von Falkenhausen suffered over 20,000 casualties in the ensuing fighting and were pushed back from the ridge by the Canadian Corps.

At the end of the war it was serving as part of Heeresgruppe Kronprinz Rupprecht. Α]

Order of Battle, August 1914, Lorraine [ edit | edit source ]

For the Battle of Lorraine in August 1914, the 6th Army had the following composition: Β]

Organization of the 6th Army - August 1914, Lorraine
Army Corps Division
6th Army XXI Corps 31st Division
42nd Division
I Bavarian Corps 1st Bavarian Division
2nd Bavarian Division
II Bavarian Corps 3rd Bavarian Division
4th Bavarian Division
III Bavarian Corps 5th Bavarian Division
6th Bavarian Division
I Bavarian Reserve Corps 1st Bavarian Reserve Division
5th Bavarian Reserve Division
Under direct Army command 1st Bavarian Foot Artillery Brigade
6th Pioneer General
5th Bavarian Mixed Landwehr Brigade

Order of Battle, 30 October 1918 [ edit | edit source ]

By the end of the war, the 6th Army was organised as:

Organization of 6th Army on 30 October 1918 Γ]
Army Corps Division
6th Army 55th Corps (z.b.V.) 38th Division
12th Bavarian Division
5th Bavarian Division
two thirds 4th Ersatz Division
9th Reserve Division
IV Corps 2nd Guards Reserve Division
one third 4th Ersatz Division
36th Division
XXXX Reserve Corps 16th Division
8th Division
XI Corps No units assigned

General Ludwig von Falkenhausen, 1844-1936 - History

By Jerome Baldwin

By the fall of 1916, Canadian soldiers fighting in the trenches on the Western Front had already distinguished themselves in battle. In 1915, they had staved off disaster at the Second Battle of Ypres when they plugged a gap in the Allied line after panicky French troops fled in the face of the war’s first poison gas attacks. Amid the noxious clouds of chlorine, the Canadians had improvised gas masks—urine-soaked handkerchiefs held over their faces—and saved the day. Now, in October 1916, the months-long disaster of the Somme was finally drawing to a close. The Canadian Corps alone had suffered 24,000 casualties. Their morale badly shaken, they were relieved to receive orders transferring them out of the battle area, but that relief was cut short when they saw that they were going into line opposite the notoriously dangerous Vimy Ridge.

Vimy Ridge

The Germans had taken the ridge in the first months of the war in 1914 and had managed to hold it ever since, despite repeated Allied attempts to capture it. Both the British and the French had tried to take it and failed, suffering heavy losses, and many on both sides considered it to be all but impregnable. Rising gently northwest from the Scarpe River valley, the ridge resembles a humpbacked whale, cresting at a height of 470 feet at Hill 145. About a mile north of Hill 145 was Hill 120, known as the Pimple. South of it was another hill, and the fortified positions of La Folie Farm, La Tuille, and Thelus, with Farbus on the reverse slope. While they held it, the Germans threatened the strategically important city of Arras and prevented the Allies from recapturing the Douai Plain and the coal-mining areas of Lens.

German troops at an advance post in the area between Laon and Saint-Quentin, France, during the Second Battle of the Aisne in World War I, April-May 1917.

The ridge was defended by three divisions of the German Sixth Army, under Col. Gen. Ludwig von Falkenhausen. The Germans had constructed a defense in depth, with three belts of trenches and fortified dugouts, some complete with electricity and running water. Gun emplacements had been dug into the forward slope of the ridge, and there was artillery on the reverse slopes as well. Bristling with machine-gun nests housed in concrete and steel pillboxes, protected by massive rolls of razor-sharp barbed wire, and pitted with huge craters and countless shell holes for attacking infantry to move through, Vimy Ridge was an extremely tough nut to crack.

From the heights of the ridge, the Germans had a clear view for miles around, enabling their snipers to turn the entire area into a virtual killing ground. It was lethal to be out from under cover or concealment in the Canadian lines—even at night the wily Germans simply sent up flares that turned night into day. The Germans were supremely confident that no one, certainly not the colonial troops from Canada, could take Vimy Ridge. One Bavarian soldier defiantly told his captors, “You might get to the top of Vimy Ridge, but I’ll tell you this: you’ll be able to take all the Canadians back in a rowboat that get there.”

“Welcome Canadians”

When the Canadians arrived, the Germans hoisted up an ironic sign that read: “WELCOME CANADIANS.” The carnage of the war and the grisly evidence of the savage fighting that already had occurred there were all around, with nearly every surrounding farm and town reduced to piles of rubble. No-man’s-land was an eerie moonscape of massive craters, littered with debris and the remains of thousands of men. Bones, grinning skulls, and entire skeletons in rotting uniforms of French blue or German gray lay everywhere, and the air was filled with the sour stench of death. Riven with destroyed trenches, the terrain was honeycombed with tunnels through the subterranean chalk surrounding the ridge, which was devoid of vegetation along its shell-blasted length. As the winter settled in and the temperature dropped to record-breaking lows, the Canadians endured all the miseries of trench life while the underground war continued. The troops were often hungry and always cold, but the war was going to heat up for them very soon.

Three German divisions in Col. Gen. Ludwig von Flkenhausen’s Sixth Army defended Vimy Ridge above the Scarpe Valley in northern France.

A New Offensive

Championed by the new Allied commander, French General Robert Nivelle, the wildly ambitious plan for 1917 called for nothing less than to break the German lines, end the stalemate, liberate northern France, and win the war. While the French attacked at Chemins des Dames, farther south, the British were to begin an offensive between Givenchy in the north and Croisilles in the south. It would be the Canadians’ job to protect the northern flank of the British attack, and that meant taking the bastion at Vimy Ridge. Canadian Corps commander Lt. Gen. Sir Julian Byng was given the daunting task in mid-January the high command wanted it done by April 1.

Lessons from the Somme: Practice Makes Perfect

Byng was an aristocrat, a career British Army officer, and a personal friend of King George V. An experienced officer, he had fought in South Africa and at Ypres, Gallipoli, and, most recently, the Somme before taking command of the Canadian Corps in September 1916. In many ways, Byng was a man ahead of his time. While many officers went nowhere near the front line, he often went right up to the forward trenches, inspecting defenses and talking to the men. In an era when it was unheard of to brief every man on an upcoming attack, Byng insisted that everyone, down to the private soldier, know the battle plan inside and out. He told his officers: “Explain it to them again and again. Encourage him to ask questions. Remember also, that no matter what sort of a fix you get into, you mustn’t just sit down and hope that things will work themselves out. You must do something in a crisis.” It was an unprecedented approach to command and training, and it would prove crucial in the upcoming battle.

Byng was determined that the bloodbath of the Somme not be repeated. During the agonizing winter months, glaring problems had come to the surface: not everyone had been briefed on the entire plan and not enough training had been conducted. The enemy’s barbed- wire installations had not been destroyed, and intelligence about enemy positions and strength had been lacking.

To get around the problems, Byng arranged for German defenses to be simulated in the rear using flags and colored tape to represent enemy strongpoints, roads, and trenches their accuracy was based on trench raids and aerial photographs. Attacks were practiced repeatedly and the men learned the “Vimy glide,” how to advance safely behind a creeping barrage. The attacking infantry was synchronized with the artillery to move forward at a pace of 100 yards every three minutes, which would put the Canadians right on top of a German position so soon after the artillery barrage that the defenders would have no time to recover. Mounted officers carrying flags represented the creeping barrage as the men moved over the mock battlefield and learned the new attack strategy. Timing was everything. Byng told the men bluntly, “Chaps, you shall go over exactly like a railroad train, on the exact time, or you shall be annihilated.”

The Effectiveness of Trench Raids

German barb wire is shelled before the Attack on Vimy Ridge.

During the fighting of the previous summer, thousands of British soldiers had been cut to pieces by German machine gunners while they got snarled on rolls of barbed wire whose five-inch barbs could ensnare a flailing soldier like a fly in a spider’s web. The wire was supposed to have been destroyed by Allied artillery at the Somme, but it had not—the shells exploded above the wire instead of on contact, and no one had gone out to verify if the wire had been destroyed prior to the attack. It was a case of criminal neglect that led to thousands of dead soldiers—the cream of British society and virtually the entire junior-officer class from the various elite universities. At Vimy Ridge, Byng intended to make sure that destructive No. 106 shell fuses were used they did explode on contact and could blow pathways in the wire for attacking troops.

The fact that the shelling had been successful in destroying the wire was verified by trench raids that began at Vimy Ridge in December 1916. Armed with Lewis guns and Mills bombs, trench raiders provided invaluable intelligence from captured German documents and prisoners. When the raids began in December, they consisted of just a handful of men. Later, they would grow in size until well over 1,000 troops went over the top at any one time.

Besides gathering intelligence, the raids were used to familiarize the men with the territory they would be crossing on Zero Day. Each raid, in effect, was a dress rehearsal in working together. The raids had the added advantage of keeping the Germans in a constant state of tension, denying them rest and fraying their nerves. By the time of the actual attack on April 9, the Germans would be so exhausted that many of them were in no condition to fight.

The Cost of Preparation

Despite their advantages in intelligence gathering and experience, the raids were nevertheless costly—1,653 Canadians died at Vimy Ridge before the main attack even began, most of them in trench raids. But none was considered a real catastrophe until the largest raid was mounted on March 1, 1917, when 1,700 men of the 4th Division went over the top. Days prior to the raid, French civilians were inquiring about the upcoming attack. That should have raised a red flag in itself—if local civilians knew about the raid, the Germans too must have known. And they did. Some of those who had been taken prisoner had escaped the Canadians and made it back to their own lines with news of the buildup. Gas cylinders the Canadians were to use made a metal clanking sound as they were carried up to the line, alerting the Germans even more. Conversations in Canadian dugouts and tunnels had been overheard by Germans who had tunneled through the chalk close enough to eavesdrop. Some Canadian officers, realizing that another Allied disaster was brewing, tried to get the attack called off, but it was to no avail.

On the day of the raid, the Canadians unleashed deadly phosgene gas toward the German lines—delayed payback for the Huns’ poison-gas attack at Ypres—but some of the gas blew back into their own faces when the wind changed. Heavier than air, the gas also hung undispersed in the various shell holes and craters in which the attacking troops took cover, with predictably horrific results. The Germans had sited their machine guns to cover the gaps in the Canadian wire, conveniently marked with signs, turning them into kill zones. When it was over, there were over 600 Canadian casualties, many of them experienced officers and men whose absence on April 9 would be sorely felt.

“The Week of Suffering”

Despite the fiasco, the battle itself was fast approaching. Preparations continued with rising intensity everyone knew the plan but not the date. In another unprecedented move, newly developed sound-ranging and flash-spotting techniques were used to determine the locations, with pinpoint accuracy, of German artillery on the ridge. British and Canadian guns targeted them and would soon blast them out of action. In the underground city the Canadians had created, work crews continued to chip away at the chalk, stringing communication cables back to the rear areas. Tools and ammunition were stockpiled in some dugouts, while others were prepared for everything from dressing stations to command posts. A light-railway system had even been built to bring the massive amounts of shells up to the hungry guns. Thirty miles of approach roads were constructed, two miles of tunnels were dug, and more than 40 miles of water pipes were buried to supply a subterranean city that was so large that the men frequently got lost in it, even with guideposts and street names.

During the final week before the attack, Canadian artillery and trench raiders turned the screws ever tighter on the Germans. Raids were conducted every night the barrages became constant and much larger, with 2,500 tons of ammunition per day hurled at the Germans, who called the period “the Week of Suffering.” Heavy fire greatly impeded the enemy’s ration parties creeping barrages and sudden intensification of fire on a particular section of trench line caused the Germans to raise an attack alarm, forcing them to stand to for an attack that never came and depriving them of much-needed sleep and food as they anxiously awaited the coming fury.

The Assault Begins

Royal Engineers fix scaffolding ladders in frontline trenches on the day before the start of the Arras offensive in April 1917.

Finally, in the early hours of April 9, the assault troops moved into position. Some were in the forward trenches, others lying on their bellies in no-man’s-land, waiting. Thousands more were crammed into the dozen subways, dug into the chalk, which extended rearward. With just minutes to go, the muffled order to fix bayonets ran up and down the line. The metallic sound of thousands of bayonets being locked into place filled the pre-dawn darkness as a late-season snowstorm blew in. At precisely 5:30 am, a single big gun fired, followed by 900 more, creating a noise so loud that Prime Minister David Lloyd George could hear it all the way back in London.

Because it did not exactly parallel the Canadian lines, Vimy Ridge was 4,000 yards away at the southern end, narrowing gradually until only 700 yards separated the two armies at the northern end. As a result, the 1st Division, on the right flank under the command of Maj. Gen. Arthur Currie, had the farthest to go. The division was expected to secure the Farbus Wood on the eastern slope by early afternoon. The first objective was just beyond the German forward trenches, known as the Black Line on the maps the Canadians carried. Following behind the creeping barrage as they had been trained to do, the 2nd and 3rd Brigades reached the jumping-off point on schedule, signaling with flags to low-flying aircraft that they had arrived.

The Infantry Advance

After 38 minutes the barrage, which had shifted ahead 200 yards, began to creep forward again as the men set out for the Red Line, a German trench called the Zwischen Stellung by its defenders. It was now 6:55 am. Resistance was stiffening men fell to German machine-gun fire, but others stepped in to take their places and the attack momentum never slackened. Pockets of enemy resistance were bypassed for the “moppers up” to handle later. Some machine-gun nests were put out of action by extraordinary acts of courage. Private William J. Milne of the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish) single-handedly took two out during the attack and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

The attackers reached the Red Line at 7:13—right on schedule. Once there, the 2nd and 3rd Brigades halted, dug in, and prepared to allow the 1st Brigade to pass through them and carry on the attack. By early afternoon the Canadians were safely in the Farbus Wood, with the shell-blasted village of Farbus securely in their hands.

Meanwhile, the 2nd Division, under Maj. Gen. Henry Burstall, also made good progress. Unlike the 1st Division, the 2nd Division encountered the heaviest fighting at the outset of the attack. German resistance lessened as they advanced farther east and fanned out as the front widened. With a wider front to cover, the Canadians required more troops, and the British 13th Brigade went with them. In all, some 30,000 British artillerymen took part in the Vimy attack, as well as infantry and pilots of the Royal Flight Command. One of the 2nd Division’s objectives was the hamlet of Thelus, a veritable haven for German snipers who used its cellars as cover. Now the Allied artillery zeroed in and blasted the village to ruins, ending the sniping. When the Canadians finally overran Thelus at 10:30, they found a German officers’ dugout complete with a fully stocked bar and a staff of five waiters.

Canadian machine gunners dig themselves into convenient shell holes on Vimy Ridge in support of the infantry attack.

The Essence of Speed

Despite the various warning signs, the Germans were surprised by the speed of the Canadian advance—some of the Vimy defenders were captured in their underwear. On the 1st Division front, attackers discovered a German dugout with meals still hot on the table, hastily abandoned by enemy officers. After subsisting for so long on bully beef and plum jam, the rich fare left behind by the Germans must have been the finest meal the fortunate Canadian soldiers ever tasted in their lives.

Exhausted and hungry, some of the Germans eagerly surrendered, and the trickle of prisoners quickly became a river. But there were many other veteran defenders who simply hid in their dugouts until the Canadians had passed, then emerged to shoot them from behind. Machine guns took a heavy toll on the attackers, their positions becoming easy to spot from the khaki-clad corpses that lay in front of them. To take them out, the Canadians used newly developed platoon tactics, attacking from three sides with Mills bombs and machine guns. They could not have known that they were using tactics their more mobile sons would use in the next war with the Germans.

The 3rd Division, under Maj. Gen. Louis Lipsett, moved quickly to take its objectives. The division had a shorter distance to cover and had only two enemy lines to reach, Red and Brown, before they would be on the eastern slope. After they had advanced nearly to the Brown Line, they began to take sniper and machine-gun fire from Hill 145 on their left. Some of the units there, such as the Black Watch from Montreal on the far left, were particularly hard hit. Something was definitely wrong on the neighboring 4th Division front.

Hill 145 Holds Out

Hill 145 was in the 4th Division sector, and it was vital that it be captured as quickly as possible. Under the command of Maj. Gen. David Watson, the 4th Division did not have the experienced officers and men it once had, owing to the raiding debacle of March 1. During the artillery barrage, the German trenches at the base of the hill were purposely not destroyed because one of the Canadian infantry commanders made the astonishing request that they be left intact for his men to use as cover from the fire expected from Hill 145. Subsequently, when the Canadians attacked, they ran into a wall of German fire that decimated some units, such as the 5th Battalion, which lost 346 men out of 400. While the 4th Division attack stalled, the advance on the far left moved ahead, passing between Hill 145 and the Pimple, both still in German hands. Right away, the Canadians started taking fire on both sides.

Canadian troops tend to a badly wounded German casualty at Vimy Ridge

One of the officers in the thick of the fighting was Captain Thain MacDowell of the 38th Battalion, who would win one of four Victoria Crosses in the battle. Chasing after some fleeing Germans, MacDowell followed them through a dugout entrance and down a long stairway, where he found himself instantly enveloped in darkness. Continuing to advance, he turned a corner and came face to face with 77 Prussian Guards—a seemingly hopeless situation. Thinking quickly, MacDowell called over his shoulder to a nonexistent group of men, as though he was leading a large force (there were only two of his comrades behind him on the surface). The ruse worked the Germans raised their hands in surrender. By taking them up in small groups, MacDowell managed to conceal the fact that he was virtually alone. MacDowell was luckier than Milne: he lived to receive his decoration and eventually became the only VC recipient at Vimy to survive the war. The other two with MacDowell were Lance Sgt. Ellis Sifton of the 18th (Western Ontario) Battalion and Private John Pattison, 50th (Calgary) Battalion.

The success of the attack remained up in the air. If Hill 145 held out until dark, the entire operation would be in serious jeopardy. Under cover of darkness, the Germans would have all night to bring up reinforcements. Hill 145 had to be taken quickly, but where were the men going to come from? Once again the losses of March 1 came into play—there were no men left to spare. The 10th Brigade was slated to attack the Pimple the next day and so could not be tapped. In desperation, the 85th Battalion was found.

The 85th Battalion

The 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders) was an orphan battalion, not attached to any division. It had arrived in France only a month before and to date had been tasked merely with menial labor such as building roads and digging trenches. The battalion was referred to derisively as “Highlanders without kilts,” but now history had plucked them from obscurity to be the last hope of the Canadian assault on Vimy Ridge. Attacking directly up the hill into the teeth of the German defenses, the green troops of the 85th Battalion so shocked the enemy by the sheer audacity of their attack that the Germans panicked and ran until the entire section was in full retreat down the reverse slope. Behind them, the 85th dug in. It was truly a miraculous victory.

Capturing the Pimple

Captured German Officers somhow maintain their swagger after the Canadian taking of Vimy Ridge.

Throughout April 10 and 11, the Canadians consolidated their positions. There were still some fierce small-group clashes, and snipers picked off men unfamiliar with their new positions, but the fierce counterattacks for which the Germans were renowned never materialized. All along the ridge, the Canadians gazed in awe at the peaceful French countryside to the east, which the war had barely touched. There, life went on as it always had. Green fields, green trees, and intact buildings seemed like another world compared to the shell-blasted hell of devastation and misery just over the Canadians’ shoulders.

On Thursday, April 12, as another snowstorm kicked up, helping to blind the German defenders, the 10th Brigade of the 4th Division attacked straight up the Pimple and captured it in 90 minutes. With that charge, the Canadian victory was complete. Vimy Ridge would remain in Allied hands for the rest of the war. The price, as expected, was high. The Canadians suffered 10,602 casualties, including 3,600 dead. But the capture of Vimy Ridge cemented the fighting reputation of the Canadian Corps. German Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg called them without hesitation “the best of the English troops,” and British Prime Minister David Lloyd George wrote admiringly, “Whenever the Germans found the Canadian Corps coming into the line, they prepared for the worst.”

Painful Victories and Sustained Stalemate

The Canadian success at Vimy Ridge was followed by similar success to the south, where the British Third Army, led by General Sir Edmund Allenby, punched through German lines for 31/2 miles—a near-miraculous distance after years of snail-like advances on the Western Front. The exultant British prepared to exploit their new openings, but they were quickly disappointed in their hopes. Thanks to a voluntary withdrawal by other German troops just prior to the assaults, the German Sixth Army commander, Baron Ludwig von Falkenhausen, had ample reserves to staunch the bleeding. Despite inflicting some 75,000 casualties on the Germans—and suffering some 84,000 of their own—the British were unable to exploit the stunning successes of early April. The war settled back into a stalemated slugfest.

The disgraced architect of the Allied spring offensive, General Nivelle, was replaced by General Henri Pétain, the hero of Verdun, who returned to a defensive war strategy he summed up succinctly: “We must wait for the Americans and the tanks.” In the meantime, 54 French divisions mutinied and refused to obey orders thousands more deserted. By the time the spontaneous revolt was quelled, more than 100,000 war-weary French soldiers were court-martialed, of whom 23,000 were found guilty. Officially, only 55 soldiers were executed by firing squads, although French officers in the field shot down untold numbers of their own men or sent them forward unsupported to die beneath German artillery barrages. Pétain assuaged the army by promising that there would be no more French offensives in the war.

More Canadian victories were to follow Vimy Ridge, at places such as Arleaux, Hill 70, and Passchendaele. All were costly. As the war drew to a close in 1918, the Canadians spearheaded the Allied advance known as the Hundred Days. After the victorious conclusion of the war, Canada was given a seat at the peace negotiations because of the performance of its troops in the Great War. A total of 60,000 Canadians died in World War I, one in 10 who served at the front, about the same number of men as the United States lost in Vietnam—all suffered by a country of only 12 million people.

The Crest of Vimy Ridge, by Gyrth Russell was commissioned by the Canadian War Memorials Fund.

The Legacy of Vimy Ridge

For Canadians, Vimy Ridge represented more than just the capture of an enemy stronghold on a snowy April morning in 1917 it was the place where Canada literally grew to manhood. Having been a self-governing nation for only 50 years, Canada suddenly emerged from the colonial shadows onto the world stage by gaining the greatest Allied victory to that point in the war.

Nearly 20 years later, in 1936, thousands of Vimy Ridge veterans and their families traveled back to the ridge to witness English King Edward VIII and French President Albert Lebrun dedicate a monument constructed atop Hill 145 after 11 years of work and $1.5 million in costs. The French, for their part, had not forgotten the Canadian triumph that day—thousands more of their own airmen and soldiers were also present at the dedication. In a token of deepest appreciation, 250 acres on the ridge and the surrounding acres were given to Canada by France. Still honeycombed with the ruins of trenches, tunnels, craters, and unexploded munitions, much of the site is closed to the public for safety reasons. It remains, however, a sliver of Canada to this day, a proud but costly reminder of the organized hell that was the Western Front nearly a century ago in World War I.


The progenitor of Falkenhausen is Margrave Carl Wilhelm Friedrich of Brandenburg-Ansbach (1712–1757). The ancestor, also known as the "wild margrave", with his great passion, the hunt with falcons, had, in addition to his official marriage to Princess Friederike Louise of Prussia , a sister of Frederick the Great , one that lasted for many years until his death Relationship with Elisabeth Wünsch (1710–1757), the daughter of a falconer. From this connection there were four children, three of whom survived childhood.

He gave his lover the little Georgental hunting lodge , which is in the middle of his favorite hunting ground , but no longer there today . The young prince entered into a second marriage with her in 1734, tellingly under the name of a sergeant Falk, and appointed her wife von Falkenhausen.

He also gave the name of Falkenhausen to the children of this marriage. They were in 1747 or 1754 by decree of Emperor I. Franz in the realm baron conditions applicable. Sons Friedrich Carl (1734–1796) and Friedrich Ferdinand (1748–1784) founded the Trautskirchen and Wald lines, whose descendants now represent the family. Friedrich Ferdinand grew up in the household of his brother Friedrich Carl, who married Caroline von Beust on September 10, 1755 .

Friedrich Carl, born in Georgenthal in 1734 , was enfeoffed with the Trautskirchen manor . The descendants of this line emigrated to Silesia at the beginning of the 19th century because they did not want to take the Bavarian oath of allegiance , where they served their royal Prussian cousins ​​in high offices.

After the male line of the von Zocha family had died out in 1749, the Wald fiefdom fell back to the House of Brandenburg-Ansbach. This came in handy for the margrave Carl Wilhelm Friedrich to use it for the proper care of his younger son. Friedrich Ferdinand Ludwig (* 1748) was enfeoffed with the manor that had become vacant. It has remained in the possession of the Franconian barons of Falkenhausen until the present.

Wilhelm Freiherr von Falkenhausen, KK Rittmeister i. R., and Julius Freiherr von Falkenhausen on forest, royal Prussian lieutenant a. D., were enrolled in the baron class in the Kingdom of Bavaria in 1813.

Friedrich Freiherr von Falkenhausen (1781–1840) on Wallisfurth, Bielau, Steinhübel, Mohrau, Eylau and Broslawitz, had with Benigna Freiin von Welczeck the natural son Friedrich. He legitimized him and so he received the Prussian nobility in 1836, but not until 1862 the Prussian baron, together with his four sons Friedrich, Konrad, Alexander and Ernst and their successors depending on the law of the firstborn in the possession of Wallisfurth (Friedrich), Bielau and Steinhübel (Konrad), Mohrau and Eylau (Alexander) and Broslawitz (Ernst).

Ernst Freiherr von Falkenhausen auf Bielau (1846-1897) married Elsbeth Friedenthal (1864-1897) in 1883, a daughter of the Prussian statesman Karl Rudolf Friedenthal (1827-1890) and Fideikommissherrin on Friedenthal near Neisse. In 1894 he obtained an increase in his name as Freiherr von Friedenthal-Falkenhausen , name and baron status inherited from Fideikommiss Friedenthal. Baron Axel Varnbüler took over the guardianship of the seven children of Baron Ernst von Friedenthal-Falkenhausen, who died in 1897. It was a matter of administering the possessions in Bielau, the Bielau sugar and oil factories and the Giesmannsdorf factories from father-in-law Friedenthal for the heirs. In this context, Günther von Falkenhausen was incapacitated in 1906 because of waste. In 1910 a division of the estate began, the stake in the newspaper "Die Post" was sold, but the estate regulation lasted until 1918.

Falkenhausen during the First World War ↑

At the beginning of the war, Falkenhausen chose to be reactivated and was appointed leader of a reserve corps with the Sixth Army in Lorraine on August 28, 1914. After the battle of Marne and the retreat of his troops, he served as commander-in-chief of the Army Unit Falkenhausen (later renamed to Army Unit A). His task was to secure the territory between Metz and the Vosges while engaging in static warfare, which had developed in the meantime. On Christmas Eve 1914, he was promoted to Colonel General.

In mid-April 1916, Falkenhausen was transferred to Hamburg as “Supreme Commander of coastal defence” [1] to counter suspected British landing operations in Schleswig-Holstein. In August 1916, he was appointed leader of the Sixth Army in Flanders following the establishment of the army group Kronprinz Rupprecht. In April 1917, he left this post after some territorial losses in the Battle of Arras and replaced the deceased Moritz Freiherr von Bissing (1844-1917) as governor-general at the Imperial Government General in Belgium. Falkenhausen fulfilled the orders of the Oberste Heeresleitung and continued the harsh policy of forced labor and economic exploitation by confiscating commodities of all kinds and forcing the occupied to pay contributions and monetary penalties. He also supported the attempt to divide Belgium into a Flemish and a Walloon territory so as to extend German influence. In September 1918, shortly before Max von Baden (1867-1929) became chancellor, Erich von Falkenhayn (1861-1922) had suggested Falkenhausen for this position instead. Falkenhayn expected him to rule “as a man with dictatorial powers”. [2] But such ideas did not take hold within the political elites and this is why the apparently liberal Prince Max von Baden took office. After the armistice and revolution in Germany, Falkenhausen and the occupation forces left Belgium step by step until the end of November. On November 26, Falkenhausen’s mobilization-order was abrogated.

During his service in World War I, Falkenhausen received several decorations including the Iron Cross First Class (September 1914), the medal Pour le Mérite (August 1915) and the Order of the Black Eagle (January 1917), amongst others.

Sebastian Rojek, Universität Stuttgart

Conclusion ↑

Instead of the institutionalized and periodical cooperation between the single bodies and divisions of the Zivilverwaltung and the “Government General,” the governor-general ruled until the end of the occupation years with the help of the aforementioned occupation bodies and inter-official committees, commissions and personal commissioners (Persönlichen Beauftragten). Within this increasingly personalized (and of course fragile) [5] occupation order, numerous “cliques” of occupation officers competed in a “court like” [6] or “polycratic” [7] power structure to gain the governor-general’s favour. This strange “intermediate Reich” came to an abrupt end with the defeat of Germany and the breakdown of the German Kaiserreich in the autumn of 1918.

Christoph Roolf, Heinrich-Heine-Universität

Conclusion ↑

Instead of the institutionalized and periodical cooperation between the single bodies and divisions of the Zivilverwaltung and the “Government General,” the governor-general ruled until the end of the occupation years with the help of the aforementioned occupation bodies and inter-official committees, commissions and personal commissioners (Persönlichen Beauftragten). Within this increasingly personalized (and of course fragile) [5] occupation order, numerous “cliques” of occupation officers competed in a “court like” [6] or “polycratic” [7] power structure to gain the governor-general’s favour. This strange “intermediate Reich” came to an abrupt end with the defeat of Germany and the breakdown of the German Kaiserreich in the autumn of 1918.

Christoph Roolf, Heinrich-Heine-Universität

World War II Database

ww2dbase Ernst Alexander Alfred Herrmann von Falkenhausen was born in Germany from a line of Bavarian officers. He was the nephew of Ludwig von Falkenhausen, the German Governor General of Belgium during WW1. He entered military academy in 1897 and was later commissioned as a second lieutenant in the German Army in 1897. He married Paula von Wedderkop, daughter of a German aristocrat. He then spent time in China fighting in the Boxer Rebellion and in Japan as a military attaché before WW1. During WW1, he served with the Ottoman Army as the Chief of Staff of the Turkish 7th Army in Palestine, earning the honor of Pour le Mérite for his gallantry. After the war he became one of the few who remained with the German Army. He was involved with the border negotiations between Germany and Poland, and then in 1927 he headed the Dresden Infantry School.

ww2dbase In 1930, Falkenhausen retired from the German Army and served as a military adviser to Chiang Kaishek, training Chinese troops to fight Japanese aggression in China. He played a vital role in the modernization of the Chinese military of all branches, and his guidelines for the defense of China written in Jul 1935 heavily influenced the campaign the Chinese carried out during the Second Sino-Japanese War which began two years later namely, a war of attrition which Japan could not afford to engage in, and the use of guerrilla warfare. In 1936, Adolf Hitler officially appointed Falkenhausen a member of the German military mission in China. After the Second Sino-Japanese War began, he was sometimes seen in Chinese Army uniform, which was an inspiration to the Chinese troops he was training. During the Second Battle of Shanghai in Sep 1937, he personally led troops in Luodian, earning further respect from fellow Chinese officers. As Germany and Japan grew closer, along with Germany's preparations for the European War, Falkenhausen was recalled by the German Army in Jul 1938. As he said goodbye to Chiang, he promised him that he would never reveal any Chinese military secrets to the Japanese, and it was apparent that he had kept his word.

ww2dbase Returning to Europe, Falkenhausen first served as an infantry general, then was briefly a high-ranking commander at Dresden. In 1940 he was named the military governor of Belgium, where he was accused of atrocities involving execution of prisoners of war and the deportation of Jews. He was dismissed on 18 Jul 1944 on various charges, and then two days later, the 20 Jul Plot failed to assassinate Adolf Hitler. For his involvement with the conspirators of the plot, he was arrested and sent to concentration camps. Before that, however, post war records showed that even before the July Plot, he had already offered his support for a possible coup d'etat by Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben.

ww2dbase After the war, Falkenhausen was captured by the Allies at a concentration camp and deported to Belgium for war trials. In Mar 1951 he was sentenced to 12 years, but was acquitted three weeks later when evidence was found that he attempted to save as many Jews and Belgians as possible from harm as the head of the German occupation government in Belgium. When he turned 75 in Oct 1953, Chiang, now President of China, sent him a gift check for US$12,000 as a sign of continued appreciation for what he had done for China. Falkenhausen died in Nassau, Germany, in 1966.

ww2dbase Sources: Jewish Virtual Library, Joric, Spartacus Educational, Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Jun 2007

Alexander von Falkenhausen Timeline

29 Oct 1878 Alexander von Falkenhausen was born.
31 Jul 1966 Alexander von Falkenhausen passed away.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Gary Li says:
2 Jan 2006 01:15:45 PM

Some of the evidence presented to the war crime courts that freed von Falkenhausen were from a Chinese woman named Qian Xiuling, who knew him from his days as an advisor to Chiang Kai Shek. It was her who appealed to him for the lives of over a hundred Belgian hostages in 1944 and it was these people that provided the evidence.

2. Bob Chiang says:
1 Nov 2009 11:17:47 PM

Chinese people will never forget those who made contributions to China, never!

3. Michael Cha says:
26 Jan 2013 01:31:27 PM

Because Germany lost the war. Heroic German Generals are rarely mentioned. The Allies seem to forget that because the best of *** Army were bogged down and died in China, the American and British would have much harder time to defeat the Jap if it weren't for the German trained Chinese Army.

4. Michael Cha says:
27 Jan 2013 09:53:07 AM

General Falkenhausen along his his predecessor Max Bauer, and all his German officers laid the foundation of Whampoo Central Military Academy. Unlike all the previous instructors from Russia, all they cared was turn Chinese into communist, which we later see in the civil war after defeat of Japanese. General Falkenhausen actually worn Republican Chinese Army uniform led troops in defense of Shanghai. As General Chiang Kai Shek wrote to General Falkenhausen at his 72nd birthday, "friend of China"

5. John Koster says:
19 Apr 2015 10:34:37 AM

General Alexander von Falkenhausen was a Prussian royal through a natural connection and his attitudes were representative: no hatred for Jews unless they were Communists. great hatred of Communists, and a friendly and respectful attitude toward the Chinese. His utter contempt for Hitler was part of the same equation.

All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.

General der Infanterie

Allemand: Général der Infanterie / Anglais: Général de l'infanterie

prénom Photo Née Temps dans Rang Info armée Décédés
Quand Date de classement Date de départ Raison Date de base Quand Âge
Empire allemand
Ludwig Alexander Friedrich Août Philipp
13 sept. 1844 Brandenburg,
Royaume de Prusse

1900 ()

1902 ()
Retraite 1870 -
Reinhard Gottlob Georg Heinrich
28 mars 1851 Grand-Duché de Hesse
1908 ()
() Inconnu 1870 08 novembre 1925 74 Brandenburg,
Weimar Allemagne
von EMMICH ,
Albert Theodor Otto
04 août 1848 Royaume de Prusse
00 mai 1908 ()

22 décembre 1915 ()
La mort dans le rang 03 juillet 1866 22 décembre 1915 67 Hanovre,
Royaume de Prusse
von FABECK ,
Herrmann Gustav Karl Max
06 mai 1854 Berlin,
Royaume de Prusse

1910 ()

16 décembre 1916 ()
suicide 1871 16 décembre 1916 62 Royaume de Bavière
von Mudra ,
Karl Bruno Julius
01 avr. 1851 Brandenburg,
Royaume de Prusse

00 sept. 1911 (60)

1919 ()
Inconnu 1870 21 novembre 1931 80 Mecklembourg-Schwerin,
Weimar Allemagne
Friedrich Bertram
27 novembre 1851 Rhénanie,
Royaume de Prusse

1913 ()

00 novembre 1919 (67)
Démission 1870 30 sept. 1936 84 Saxe,
Allemagne nazie
16 janvier 1856 Grand-Duché de Hesse
00 mars 1913 (57)

1918 (62/63)
Retraite 21 sept. 1871 22 mai 1940 84 Bavière,
Allemagne nazie
von LOCHOW ,
Constantin Ferdinand Friedrich
1er avril 1855 Brandenburg,
Royaume de Prusse

16 juin 1913 (58)

1917 ()
Retraite 1873 11 avril 1942 87 Berlin,
Allemagne nazie
Ludwig Alexander Friedrich Août Philipp
13 sept. 1844 Brandenburg,
Royaume de Prusse

1914 ()

1918 ()
Retraite 1870 04 mai 1936 91 Saxe,
Allemagne nazie
von QUAST ,
18 octobre 1850 Brandenburg,
Royaume de Prusse

00 août 1914 (63)

07 juillet 1919 (68)
Démission 19 juillet 1870 27 mars 1939 88 Brandenburg,
Allemagne (Troisième Reich)
06 déc. 1855 Berlin,
Royaume de Prusse

18 août 1914 ()

1919 ()
Déchargé 1874 24 janvier 1939 83 Berlin,
Allemagne nazie
von ZWEHL ,
27 juillet 1851
02 sept 1914 (63)
() 02 août 1870 28 mai 1926 74 Berlin,
Weimar Allemagne
Hans Carl Adolph
25 mars 1858 Royaume de Saxe
10 septembre 1914 ()

14 janvier 1919 ()
Déchargé 1879 09 juillet 1928 70 Saxe,
Weimar Allemagne
Julius Friedrich
16 avril 1855 Prusse occidentale,
Royaume de Prusse

27 janvier 1915 ()
() 15 juin 1935 80 Hesse-Nassau,
Allemagne nazie
Robert Paul Theodor
05 avril 1856 Silésie,
Royaume de Prusse

18 août 1916 (60)

10 janvier 1919 (62)
Inconnu 23 avril 1874 22 déc. 1942 86 Berlin,
Allemagne nazie
Georg Karl
15 déc. 1851 Silésie,
Royaume de Prusse

22 mars 1917 (65)

1919 ()
Inconnu 18 ?? 11 décembre 1923 71 Hesse-Nassau,
Weimar Allemagne
01 octobre 1859 Prusse occidentale,
Royaume de Prusse

00 Oct 1919 (59)
- - 01 oct. 1879 28 novembre 1930 69 Hesse-Nassau,
Allemagne (République de Weimar)
Hermann Karl Bruno
31 janvier 1856 Grand-Duché de Luxembourg
19 ?? ()

00 Oct 1918 (62)
Retraite 1875 15 mai 1933 77 Inconnu
Allemagne / République de Weimar
Walther Gustav
[[Fichier: 24 mars 1872 Royaume de Wurtemberg
1925 ()

1927 ()
Déchargé 08 août 1930 58 Berlin,
Allemagne (République de Weimar)

Constantin von Alvensleben Ernst von Bacmeister Prince Wilhelm de Baden Eduard von Ci-dessous Ernst von Ci-dessous Fritz von Ci-dessous Otto von Ci-dessous Richard von Berendt ( Walter von Bergmann Curt von dem Borne Karl von Borries Kuno-Hans von Les deux Hermann von Brandenstein Ludwig Breßler Heinrich von Bünau Hermann Ritter von Burkhardt (Général de l'Artillerie) Adolph von Carlowitz Martin Chales de Beaulieu Siegfried von la Chevallerie ( Eberhard von Claer Richard von Conta) Viktor Dallier Johannes von Dassel Berthold von Deimling von Dieffenbach Hermann von Dresler und Scharfenstein Johannes von Eben Gottfried Edelbüttel Oskar von Ehrenthal Hugo Elstermann von Elster Otto von Emmich Nikolaus Ritter von Endres Georg von Engelbrechten Franz von Epp Friedrich von Freiherr von Esebeck Ludwig von Estorff Alexander von Falkenhausen Erich von Falkenhayn Karl von Fasbender Bernhard Graf Finck von Finckenstein Paul Fleck Sigismund von Foerster Ernst Freiherr de Forstner Adolf Franke (général de l'Artillerie) Lothar Fritsch Georg Frotscher Georg Fuchs Arthur von Gabain Hans Emil Alexander Gaede Max von Gallwitz (General der Artillerie) Georg Freiherr von Gayl Friedrich von Gerok Friedrich von Gontard Konrad von Goßler Kurt von Greiff Hans von Gronau (General der Artillerie) Erich von Gündell Hans von Guretzky-Cornitz

One Comment

[…] It’s not all doom and gloom. Mark A. Rayner at The Skwib presents the lost powerpoint slides of Vimy Ridge. Richard Scott Nokes at Unlocked Wordhoard links to a spectacular animated version of the Bayeux Tapestry. You’ll be pleased to know that it skips all the boring stuff about succession and oaths, and just cuts straight to the invasion. Dave at Shorpy gives us a colour photo of B-25s on the assembly line in 1942. And at Damn Interesting Alan Bellows reveals the US Military’s now not-so-secret project to build flying saucers in the 1950s. […]

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