Station:  Portrait of Wilhelm von Lotterer
F: On the 21st of February 1916, at 7.15 a.m. precisely, German troops launched the battle for Verdun. The French trenches were battered by an artillery barrage. The German army rapidly advanced, capturing the strategically important Fort Douaumont almost unopposed. Finally, after almost two years of static trench warfare, things appeared to be moving. German high command at Fort Douaumont included one Wilhelm von Lotterer, of whom a lieutenant wrote:
M: "There was not much rest for the general (...). He was constantly on the front line, not just with his batteries, but also in the foremost trenches with the infantry, to establish where artillery support was needed most. (...) Careless of any danger, he stayed at the front even under the heaviest fire. (...)"
F: Wilhelm von Lotterer was born in 1857 in Eningen unter Achalm near the city of Reutlingen. During the First World War, he commanded the 5th Field Artillery Brigade. Unusually, von Lotterer pushed for cooperation between the artillery and the infantry. Until then, the artillery had operated by strictly targeting specific grid squares. As a result, they regularly shelled troops from their own side, who were still on the move in the field.
M: "The general knew every tiny nook of our own trenches in detail, as well as every piece of enemy terrain that was moderately well overlooked. On several occasions, I accompanied the general on night-time patrols of the infantry. During those rounds, [he] (...) wanted to gather detailed information about the enemy situation at daybreak. That’s why he was so profoundly trusted and respected among his artillery as well as the infantry."
F: On the 3rd of March 1916, Wilhelm von Lotterer was seriously wounded during the battle for Fort Douaumont. The lieutenant noted:
M: "At around 10 a.m., we (...) were taken to the lower casemates, badly wounded, and, having only been provisionally bandaged, were obliged to wait there until midnight, before we could be moved. (...) It was only after I arrived at the military hospital in Mainz that I discovered the general had died of his wounds en route."
F: Wilhelm von Lotterer was buried at the New Cemetery in Ludwigsburg, where he lies next to his only son. Maximilian von Lotterer was killed in October 1914, not long after the war began.
Foto: © Garnisonsmuseum Ludwigsburg