Lieutenant-General Hermann Ritter von Speck

 

Hermann Ritter von Speck was born on August 8, 1888 in München.  During the First World War he fought in various battles on the Western Front.

 

On September 7, 1914 at Gellenoncourt:

 

“Leutnant Speck, der Abteilungsadjutant der II./3. b. Feldartillerieregiments hatte bei einem Erkundungsritt festgstellt, daß das III./10. b. Infanterieregiments vor diesem stark besetzten Ort festlag und nicht vorwärts kam. Nach Einbruch der Nacht brachte er aus eigenem Entschluß zwei Geschütze vor und eröffnete mit ihnen aus nächster Entfernung das Feuer auf die Häuser des Dorfes. Durch das überraschend abgegebene Artilleriefeuer zermürbt, räumte der Verteidiger den Ort. Die deutsche Infanterie konnte um Mitternacht einrücken, durch das tapfere Eingreifen des Führers der beiden Geschütze war ihr ein verlustreicher Häuserkampf erspart geblieben.”

 

A rough translation into English:

 

“Lieutenant Speck the Section Adjutant of the II. Battalion 3rd Bavarian Field Infantry Regiment had been on a reconnaissance ride for the III. Battalion 10th Bavarian Infantry Regiment that prior to this was stopped at the strongly occupied village and could not move forward. After nightfall, he brought forward two guns of his own accord and opened fire on the houses of the village with them from close distance. Worn down by the surprising artillery fire, the defenders conceded the location. The German infantry could move at midnight, the brave intervention of the leader of the two guns spared them a costly urban battle.”

 

Lieutnant Speck was awarded the Bavarian Military Max Joseph Order Knight’s Cross for his actions on September 7, 1914 :

 

“…wegen seiner im Gefecht bei Gellenoncourt bewiesenen Tapferkeit bei einem mit großem Schneid augeführten Erkundungsritt und bei der freiwillig übernommenen Führung eines Artilleriezuges in die Feuerlinie trotz besonders schwieriger Terrainverhältnisse”.

 

A rough translation into English:

 

“…because of his displayed bravery with great courage in the Battle of Gellenoncourt above mentioned reconnaissance ride and when he voluntarily assumed leadership of an Artillery Train in the line of fire despite particularly difficult terrain conditions.”

 

 

Figure 1: Photograph of Reichswehr Colonel-General and Chief of Army Command August Wilhelm Heye and Major Hermann Ritter von Speck taken in 1929 in Buenos Aires.  Major Hermann Ritter von Speck is wearing an adjutant’s aiguillette (Adjutant Achselschnur).  The photograph is by photographer Oscar Tellgmann (*9.20.1857,  †1936). Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

During the late 1920’s Reichswehr Colonel-General and Chief of Army Command (Generaloberst u. Chef der Heeresleitung) August Wilhelm Heye was part of the German delegation which visited Chile and Argentina as military advisors to the governments of those nations.  Reichswehr Lieutenant Ritter von Speck (promoted to Major on November 1, 1927) was also part of the delegation which visited Chile and Argentina.  It was undoubtedly because of his involvement as an advisor during this time that he was awarded the Chilean Order of Merit.  The photograph in Figure 1 shows Major Hermann Ritter von Speck wearing what is believed to be an adjutant’s aiguillette (Adjutant Achselschnur).  It would therefore stand to reason that Hermann Ritter von Speck was Colonel-General and Chief of Army Command August Wilhelm Heye’s adjutant at the time.

 

 

Figure 2: Reverse of the photograph shown in Figure 1 on which is written: ” General Heye – Chef  der Oberste Heeresleitung u. Maj. ? von Speck Buenos Aires 1929.” (General Heye – Chief of the Supreme Army Command and Major ? von Speck Buenos Aires 1929.)  Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

Figure 3: Undated photograph (<1933) of Hermann Ritter von Speck with Melitta, née Rogetzki his wife. Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

Figure 4: Undated photograph (>1933) of Hermann Ritter von Speck wearing his large medal bar. In the forth position from the left is a Chilean Order of Merit. Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

On February 1, 1932 Hermann Ritter von Speck was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel (Oberstleutnant).  On August 1, 1937 Hermann Ritter von Speck was promoted to Major-General (Generalmajor).  And, on June 1, 1939 Hermann Ritter von Speck was promoted to Lieutenant-General (Generalleutnant).

 

 

Figure 5: Undated photograph (>1937) of Hermann Ritter von Speck wearing a General’s uniform. Image from the author’s archive.  This photo was taken by a photographer from Mannheim and was therefore probably taken while Hermann Ritter von Speck was the Commander of the 33rd Infantry Division headquartered at Darmstadt.

 

 

In the photo above, Hermann Ritter von Speck can be seen wearing a field ribbon bar with a soft backing with ribbons signifying the following awards (From left to right):

  1. Prussia, 1914 Iron Cross, 2nd Class.
  2. Bavaria, Military Max Joseph Order Knight’s Cross.
  3. Bavaria, Military Merit Order (Class unknown).
  4. Bavaria, Military Merit Order 4th Class with Swords and Crown [Awarded on October 24, 1918 to Captain (Hauptmann) Ritter von Speck 3rd Field Artillery Regiment].
  5. Hamburg, Hanseatic Cross.
  6. Honor Cross of the World War for Combatants with Swords (aka: “Hindenburg Cross”).
  7. 3rd Reich, Long Service Award for 25 Years of Service.
  8. 3rd Reich, Long Service Award for 12 Years of Service.
  9. Chile, Order of Merit (Class unknown).
  10. Bavaria, 1905 Jubilee Medal for the Bavarian Army (This ribbon could signify another award however).

 

 

Figure 6: Undated photograph (>1937) of Hermann Ritter von Speck reviewing troops. Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

Major-General (Later Lieutenant-General) Hermann Ritter von Speck was the Commander of the 33rd Infantry Division (33. Infanterie-Division) from March 1, 1938 until April 29, 1940.  Lieutenant-General Hermann Ritter von Speck was the Commander of the XVIII Army Corps (XVIII Armeekorps) from June 5, 1940 until his death on June 15, 1940 at Pont sur Yonne.

 

Regarding the action at Pont sur Yonne:

 

‘Ein Kriegsberichter schreibt am 6. 7. 1940: “Am 15. 6. fiel bei einer Erkundung der Brückenstelle bei Pont sur Yonne der stellv. Kd. Gen., Genlt. Ritter v. Speck. Am Vormittag hatte der Gen. einen Frontflug m. d. Fieseler-Storch unternommen, um die Brückenverhältnisse über die Yonne zu erkunden u. das Vorgehen seiner Truppen zu beobachten. Auf Grund dieser Lufterkundung begab er sich m. seinem Gen.St.Chef nachmittags im Kraftwagen an die Brückenstelle, um sich dort über das Ansetzen einer Vorausabt. zu unterrichten u. auf die Brückenstelle selbst für einen etwaigen Übergang Einblick zu gewinnen. Gen. v. Speck traf in der Nähe der Brücke einen seiner Div.Kdre. u. begab sich mit diesem u. seinem Chef, ungeachtet des dort einschlagenden Inf. Feuers an den Fluß. Einige Pi. Unter Führung eines Obstlt., sowie Angehörige der Vorausabt. hatten die Sicherung an der Brücke übernommen.

Kurz nachdem Gen. v. Speck an der Brücke eingetroffen war, wurde das Feuer lebhafter, Gewehrgranaten schlugen ein und zwei fdl. M.G. bestrichen die stellenweise ungedeckte Landstraße. In wenigen Minuten war ein regelrechtes Gefecht entbrannt. Die Franzosen schossen plötzlich von allen Seiten und versuchten, dem Gen. u. seinem St. den Rückweg abzuschneiden. Dabei erhielt Gen. v. Speck einen Schuß quer durch den Oberkörper, der Div.Kdr. einen Steckschuß im linken Oberarm. Im heftigsten Feuer trugen der verwundete Div.Kdr. u. der Chef des Gen.St. sowie ein Ordonn.Offz. d. schwerverwundeten Gen. hinter eine kleine Deckung. Währenddessen fuhr der Fahrer des Chefs todesmutig den Wagen a. d. offenen Straße heran, drehte i. d. Geschoßgarbe der M.G. kaum 100 Schritt vom Feind um und ermöglichte damit, den Gen. aus dem Feuerbereich zu bringen. Nach kurzer Zeit stellte sich die Verwundung also so schwer heraus, daß die Fahrt abgebrochen werden mußte. Noch ehe der inzwischen herbeigerufene Arzt eintraf, schloß Genlt. V. Speck die Augen für immer. Er ruht im Waldfriedhof zu München. An seinem Todestag erhielt er das Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes.”’

 

A rough translation into English:

 

‘A war reporter wrote on July 6, 1940: “On June 15 the Acting Commanding General, Lieutenant-General Ritter von Speck fell during a reconnaissance of the bridge position at Pont sur Yonne. In the morning the General had undertaken a front flight with the Fieseler Strorch to explore the condition of the bridges over the Yonne and to observe the action of his troops. On the basis of this aerial reconnaissance he came with his General Staff Chief in the afternoon in motor vehicles to the bridge position, where they placed an advance detachment to advise and to gain insight on the bridge position itself to obtain a possible crossing. General von Speck met one of his Division Commanders and came with him and his Chief near the bridge, despite the impacting infantry fire on the river. Some engineers under leadership of a Lieutenant-Colonel, as well as members of the advanced detachment had taken over securing the bridge.

Shortly after General von Speck had arrived at the bridge, the fire became livelier, rifle grenades hit and two enemy machine guns coated the partially unprotected road. In a few minutes a veritable battle erupted. The French fired suddenly from all sides and attempted to cut off the return route of the General and his Staff. Thus General von Speck received a shot through the torso, the Division Commander a penetrating shot in the left upper arm. In the fiercest fire the wounded Division Commander and the Chief of the General Staff as well as an Orderly Officer carried the heavily wounded General behind a small cover. Meanwhile the driver of the Chief fearlessly drove the car up on the open road, turned in the field of fire of the machine gun scarcely 100 steps from the enemy and therefore allowed, the General to be brought out of the range of fire.  After a short time it became evident that the wounds were so severe, that the trip had to be discontinued.  Even before the meanwhile summoned doctor arrived, Lieutenant-General von Speck closed his eyes forever.  He was laid to rest at the Waldfriedhof in München.  On the day of his death he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross.”’

 

A temporary field memorial (cenotaph) was erected for Lieutenant-General Ritter von Speck at Pont sur Yonne at the location where he fell.  The inscription on the field memorial read: “Hier/ fiel am 15.6.1940/ die Kommandierende/ General des XVIII.A.K./ Generalleutnant/ Ritter von Speck” (“Here/ fell on June 15, 1940/ the Commanding/ General of the 18th Army Corps/ Lieutenant-General/ Ritter von Speck”).

 

 

Figure 7: Photographs taken in 1940 at Pont sur Yonne showing the field memorial for Generalleutnant Hermann Ritter von Speck. Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

Figure 8: Detail of  a photograph of the field memorial for Generalleutnant Hermann Ritter von Speck at Pont sur Yonne. Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

Figure 9: Photograph of the body of Generalleutnant Hermann Ritter von Speck lying in repose in 1940. On his uniform is his field ribbon bar along with other awards. Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

In the photo above, on the uniform of Hermann Ritter von Speck can be seen a field ribbon bar with a hard backing with ribbons signifying the awards noted above.  Note that the field ribbon bar in the photo below is a match to the type shown in the photo above.  It is therefore possible that the field ribbon bar shown below once belonged to Hermann Ritter von Speck.

 

 

Figure 10: A field ribbon bar that may have once belonged to Generalleutnant Hermann Ritter von Speck as the awards represented are identical to those awarded to him. Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

 

Figure 11: Memorial publication regarding the death of Generalleutnant Hermann Ritter von Speck circa 1940. Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

A rough translation into English of the memorial publication shown above:

‘During the attacks in the West General von Speck personally led his Corps to the enemy.  As a Pioneer (Engineer)-First-Lieutenant turned his attention to the Yonne, that the bridge was being fired upon, he said: “In war one is often shot.”  A few minutes later this exemplary General, that the Leader subsequently awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, was struck by the deadly shot.’

 

Thank you for your interest regarding this article.  Comments are welcome.

– Lorin

 

Literature:

Kramer, Rudolf von, Waldenfels, Otto von, and Pechmann, Dr. Günther Freiherr von.  Virtuti Pro Patria, Der königlich bayerische Militär-Max-Joseph-Orden, Kriegstaten und Ehrenbuch 1914-1918.  Selbstverlag des königlich bayerischen Militär-Max-Joseph-Ordens, München, 1966.

Roth, Erhard. Statistische Ausarbeitungen zur Phaleristik Deutschlands Band VI, Verleihungen von militärischen Orden und Ehrenzeichen des Königreichs Bayern im Ersten Weltkrieg 1914-1918.  PHV Phaleristischer Verlag Michael Autengruber, Offenbach am Main, 1997.

 

 

6 Comments
  1. Hello Lorin, congratulations on the very successful article about Ritter von Speck. In addition to this a few pictures.

    greetings from Bavaria
    Walter

    • Servus Walter,

      Thank you for your comment regarding the article. I appreciate your addition of this fantastic information regarding Ritter von Speck.

      MfG,

      Lorin

  2. ..

  3. .

  4. as the last picture

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