It is interesting to discover the history behind the bestowal of an award whenever possible. Regarding the awards of German States this is not always possible, as most awards were not impressed nor engraved with the name of the recipient. However, documentation will sometimes lead to a wealth of information regarding the recipient of an award.

Starting with just a photograph and a prayer card, we will investigate some of the details regarding Bavarian Gefreiter (Lance Corporal) Georg Herrenreiter and his deeds during the Great War.

The book “Bayerns Goldenes Ehrenbuch” (1) lists all of the recipients of the Bavarian Gold Bravery Medal and their citations (in addition to information regarding recipients of other awards).

 

Figure 1-Gefreiter Herrenreiter shortly after the awarding of his Bavarian Gold Bravery Medal. Image from author’s archive.

 

The following is the entry for Georg Herrenreiter:

Gefr. der 3. Komp. 2. b. Inf.Rgts. Kronprinz. Im Frieden Erdarbeiter. Geb. 2. 5. 1891 zu Reisbach in Niederbayern.

Gefr. Herrenreiter der 3. Komp. 2. b. Inf.Rgts. meldete sich am 26. 9. 1914 freiwillig zum Beziehen eines Baumpostens, von dem aus er alles Lebende, was im vorliegenden Schützengraben und darüber hinaus bei Lihons als lohnend sichtbar wird, als vorzüglicher Schütze mit großem Erfolg beschießt und wertvolle Meldungen über Vorgänge bei den Franzosen abstattet. Solange sein Bataillon bei Lihons vom 26. 9. Zum 15. 10. 1914 in Stellung, bezieht er tagtäglich diesen Posten und halt schießend und beobachtend aus, obwohl mit Einzelfeuer, Salven und Granaten bedacht, obwohl durch Streifschuß verwundet, obwohl ihm zwei Gewehre in der Hand zerschossen, ein drittes stark beschädigt wird. Viele Feinde schießt er weg, meldet auch feindl. Artillerie und Kolonnen und lenst das einige Artilleriefeuer dorthin.

And here is a rough translation into English:

Lance Corporal of the 3rd Company 2nd Bavarian Infantry Regiment “Crownprince”. In peacetime an earthworker. Born May 2nd, 1891 at Reisbach in Niederbayern.

Lance Corporal Herrenreiter of the 3rd Company 2nd Bavarian Infantry Regiment voluntarily reported on September 26, 1914 to occupy a tree observation post, from which he had a rewarding view of all activity, that appeared in the forward-laying trench and also beyond at Lihons, which he fired at as an excellent shooter with great success and delivered valuable messages about operations of the French. As long as his battalion was in position at Lihons from September 26th to October 15, 1914, he occupied this post daily and held shooting and observing from it, in spite of considerable single shots, volleys, and shells, although wounded by grazing shot, although he had two rifles bullet-ridden while he held them, and a third that was heavily damaged. He shot away many of the enemy, and also reported enemy artillery and columns and guided some artillery fire there.

 

The regimental history (4) provides more insight into the actions of Lance Corporal Herrenreiter:

 

Gefreiter Herrenreiter.

Der erste, der sich im 2. Infanterie-Regiment die goldene Tapferkeitsmedaille erwarb, war der Gefreiter Herrenreiter der 3. Komp.  Als er beim Angriff am 28. 1. 1916 bei La Folei fiel, brachte ein Lokalblatt seiner Heimat (Niederbayern) eine Notiz, welche sachlich im allgemeinen richtig ist und hier wiedergegeben zu werden verdient:

Ein bayerischer Held.

Ein Held war der Gefreiter Herrenreiter, ein alter bayerischer Wilderer, welcher bei Neuville gefallen ist, er ist tot, aber sein Andenken lebt in seinem Regiment fort.  Seine Kameraden hielten ihn für kugelfest, weil er sich lachend jedem Schutze stellte und nun ist er doch von einer Kugel hinweggenommen worden.  Ruhmvolle Taten hat der Mann vollbracht; er trug seit langem schon die beiden Kreuze an der Brust.  Als das 2. Infanterie-Regiment noch an einer anderen Stelle der Front stand (Vermandovillers), da hat dieser erfahrene Wilderer und Jäger sich einen Hochsitz auf einem einsamen Baum gebaut.  Hoch ober saß er da, während es um ihn pfiff und heulte, durch viele Tage, und die drübern, was sie auch schossen, konnten ihn nicht kriegen; er aber hat in dieser Zeit aus seiner Höhe, die ihm Einblick in die Franzosengräben gab, mit seinem mit Zielfernrohr ausgestatteten Gewehr 121 Gegner hingestreckt.  Wo es Patrouillengänge gab, da war der Gefreite Herrenreiter dabei; zum Unteroffizier konnte er nicht befördert werden, nicht etwa wegen seiner Vorstrafen, sondern weil es da doch mit Rücksicht auf seinen recht einfachen Bildungsgrad “nicht langte”.  Da, als der prachtvolle Soldat sich wiederum hervorgetan hatte vor allen anderen und in der Franzosenkaserne zu Peronne ihm die goldene Tapferkeitsmedaille überreicht werden konnte, gewährte ihm das Regiment eine Ehrung, wie sie wohl nicht oft in diesem Krieg zuteil wurde.  In Parademarsch zog es vor dem Gefreiten Herrenreiter vorbei; Herrenreiter aber meinte zum Schluß: Na, ich hab’ schon bessere Parademärsch’ geseh’n!  Er war nich zufrieden mit der Marschleistung!

 

And here is a rough translation into English:

 

Lance Corporal Herrenreiter.

The first to win the gold medal for bravery in the 2nd Infantry Regiment was Lance Corporal Herrenreiter of the 3rd Company. When he was killed in the attack on January 28, 1916 at La Folei, a local paper in his homeland (Lower Bavaria) published a notice which is factually correct in general and deserves to be reproduced here:

A Bavarian Hero.

One hero was Lance Corporal Herrenreiter, an older Bavarian poacher who fell near Neuville, he is dead, but his memory lives on in his regiment.  His comrades considered him to be bulletproof because he laughed at every protection provided and now he has been taken away by a bullet. The man has accomplished glorious deeds; he had been wearing the two crosses on his chest for a long time.  When the 2nd Infantry Regiment was at another point on the front (Vermandovillers), this experienced poacher and hunter built a perch on a lonely tree.  High up he sat there while he was whistling and howling for many days, and those over there, whatever they shot, couldn’t get him; during this time, however, from his height, which gave him a glimpse into the French trenches, he struck down 121 opponents with his rifle equipped with a telescopic sight. Wherever there were patrols, Lance Corporal Herrenreiter was there; He could not be promoted to Sergeant, not because of his previous criminal convictions, but because, considering his very simple level of education, “it was not enough”.  When the splendid soldier had once again distinguished himself from everyone else and was presented with the gold medal for bravery in the French barracks at Peronne, the regiment granted him an honor that was probably not often bestowed in this war.  In parade march it passed in front of Lance Corporal Herrenreiter; but Herrenreiter said at the end: Well, I’ve seen better parade marches! He wasn’t satisfied with the march performance!

 

The passage refers to the “two crosses” worn on his chest for a long time.  One of the crosses was a Prussian Iron Cross 2nd Class as worn in the photo above.  The other cross was a Bavarian Military Merit Cross (class unknown).

 

Figure 2-Examples of the types of ribbons worn by Georg Herrenreiter in his buttonhole. Image from author’s archive.

 

In Figure 1 Georg Herrenreiter is wearing his Bavarian Bravery Medal in Gold in his buttonhole. It is assumed that this photo was taken shortly after he was awarded the medal, as soldiers did not wear these medals on a regular basis, nor in the field. The ribbon was usually worn by itself in the second buttonhole of the tunic per regulation. We also see Georg Herrenreiter wearing his Prussian Iron Cross 2nd Class, and with this award, the regulations were similar. Note that as a Bavarian soldier, the Bavarian Bravery Medal was a more prestigious award than the Iron Cross 2nd Class and was thus worn in a higher position. Early during the Great War, the Prussian Iron Cross 2nd Class was awarded rather sparingly compared to the flood of awards which came in later years, and was also regarded as a rather prestigious award at the time. In the upper-portion of Figure 2, is an example of a 35mm wide Bavarian Bravery Medal ribbon. Below this in Figure 2 is an example of a 30mm wide Prussian Iron Cross 2nd Class ribbon.

 

Figure 3- An example of a Bavarian Gold Bravery Medal (obverse). Image from author’s archive.

 

Figure 4 – An example of a Bavarian Gold Bravery Medal (reverse). Image from author’s archive.

 

Figure 5 – An example of a Prussian Iron Cross 2nd Class (obverse). Image from author’s archive.

 

Figure 6 – An example of a Prussian Iron Cross 2nd Class (reverse). Image from author’s archive.

 

In Figure 3 and Figure 4 are shown an example of a Gold Bavarian Bravery Medal of the type which was awarded to Georg Herrenreiter.  In Figure 5 and Figure 6 are shown an example of a Prussian Iron Cross 2nd Class which was also one of the awards made to Georg Herrenreiter.

 

Figure 7- Prayer card in memoriam of Georg Herrenreiter. Image from author’s archive.

 

Note that the “Bayerns Goldenes Ehrenbuch” and the history of the K. B. 2. Infanterie-Regiment “Kronprinz” lists his last name as “Herrenreiter”.  On the prayer card however, his last name is listed as “Herrnreiter”.

According to the prayer card (Sterbebild), shown above in Figure 7, Georg Herrenreiter bravely died for the Fatherland on January 28, 1916 in combat against France and England at Arras at the age of 24 years old. The prayer card interestingly utilized the same photograph as shown in Figure 1.

As an aside, note that the prayer card makes reference to the award of the “goldenen Tapferkeitsmedaille” (Gold Bravery Medal) which was an as of yet un-official, yet common, term for the award. At the time that the award was bestowed upon Georg Herrnreiter for his actions in 1914, the Gold Bravery Medal (Goldene Tapferkeitsmedaille), was officially known as the Gold Military Merit Medal (Goldene Militär-Verdienst-Medaille). It wasn’t until March 2, 1918, that His Majesty King Ludwig III of Bavaria by proclamation changed the official name of this award to “Tapferkeitsmedaille” (Bravery Medal) to coincide with the term which had previously commonly been used for the medal. (3)

 

Figure 8 – A period advertisement for Reichert rifle scopes by Optische Werke C. Reichert (Optical Works Carl Reichert) mentioning the exploits of Gefreiter Herrenreiter. From: Die Fackel, Nr. 462-471, 9. Oktober 1917, Page 75.

 

Per the advertisement for rifle scopes by Optische Werke C. Reichert, Wien (Optical Works Carl Reichert, Vienna):

“Gefreiter Herrenreiter machte sich einen Ansitz auf einem Baume gegenüber den französischen Schützengräben und streckte mit seinem Zielfernrohrgewehre 121 Gegner von sein luftigen Höhe herab nieder.  Zielfernrohr und Hochsitz würden wohl manchesmal ähnliche glänzende Erfoge ermöglichen, wie sie von diesem bayrischen Gefreiten gemeldet werden.”

And here is a rough translation into English:

“Gefreiter Herrenreiter set up a hide on a tree opposite the French trenches and struck down 121 opponents from his lofty heights with his telescopic sight. A rifle scope and high seat would sometimes enable similar brilliant successes as reported by this Bavarian corporal. “

 

It is interesting to note that on April 29, 1937 Neustätterstraße in München was re-named Herrenreiterstraße. In 1947 the name of the street was changed back to Neustätterstraße as part of the post-war demilitarization. More information is available here: Herrenreiterstraße

Thus we now have some insight regarding the brave acts and ultimate death of Gefreiter Georg Herrnreiter, a soldier who fought so many years ago.

Thank you for your interest. Comments are welcome.

-Lorin

References:

1. Bearbeitet vom Bayerischen Kriegsarchiv. Bayerns Goldenes Ehrenbuch. Verlag Joseph Hyronimus, München, 1928.

2. Kraus, Karl. Die Fackel, Nr. 462-471, 9. Oktober 1917, XIX. Jahr, Verlag “Die Fackel”, Wien, 1917.

3. Schmitt, Hugo. Orden der Bayerischen Tapferkeitsmedaille. Ordenspräsidium, 1969.

4. Staubwasser, Generalmajor a. D (Otto).  Das K. B. 2. Infanterie-Regiment Kronprinz.  Verlag Bayerisches Kriegsarchiv, München, 1924.

 

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4 Comments
  1. Very interesting story about a bavarian sniper. Thank’s for sharing.
    Regards Andreas

    • Hello Andreas,

      Thank you for your kind words regarding the article. I also appreciate your research
      that found that Herrenreiter was awarded the Bavarian Military Merit Cross 3rd Class with
      Swords and that it was returned to the Ordensamt (Orders Chancellery) by his family after his death.
      It is surprising that even the MVK was still returned according to statute this late in the War.

      With friendly greetings from the USA to Germany,

      Lorin

  2. Servus Lorin,

    a very well researched article. Congratulations on that. I did not know that a street in Munich was named after him. Thank you for this very interesting post.

    many greetings from Bavaria
    Walter

    • Servus Walter,

      Thank you for your kind words regarding the article. Thank you also for your research
      assistance and your help proofreading my German transcriptions.

      With friendly greetings from the USA to Bavaria,

      Lorin

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