Story This Week: Musketier Ernst Schmidt

This week our story comes from Heinz Stephan of Ettlingen Town, whose uncle Ernst Schmidt served as a Musketier in the Great War.

Musketier Ernst Schmidt



Ernst Schmidt was born on June 24, 1884 in Karlsruhe. His parents and sister Maria lived in Ettlingen and his brother Karl, who was exempted from military service due to his work, lived in North Germany.

Ernst served in the Reserve Infantry Regiment No. 30, 1st Batallion, 1st company. This regiment was subordinate to the 15th and 16th Reserve Divisions and the 25th Landwehr Division of the German Army and was deployed only at the Western Front. The regiment took part in the Battles of the Somme and the Aisne.

Heinz has two letters from his uncle. The first was written on February 10, 1917, to his mother and sister. He writes that he is in the foremost trench, 50-60 meters from the French. He mans the listening and observation post, standing for two hours, then has four hours off, day and night.





Ernst's dugout is 7 meters underground, and he shares it with rats, mice and lice. It is the lice with which he has the most problems. Since he has been living in the dugout, he has not once been able to wash or change his clothes. In fact, he has never removed his clothes and feels extremely uncomfortable as a result.

The second letter was written on March 5, 1917. Ernst describes how he is no longer in the trench but now living in a village a few kilometers behind the Front.

Ernst's unit is expecting an attack by the French during the night. He is not scared, he writes, because God is with him.

He says, "I am here to protect the hearth of the mothers, the wives and the families. God is with me and will help me to fight, under his protection nothing can happen to me. It would be terrible if the French got through. What would become of the existence we have painstakingly built for ourselves?"



This letter of March 5, 1917 is the last letter received by Ernst. He fell in March 1917, very probably on the night of the French attack.