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First World War

The First World War has begun. On August 1, 1914, Rommel was awarded the "Wehrmacht Long Service Silver Medal, IV Class", and the next day, August 2, 1914, Rommel's regiment was sent to the front, Erwin Rommel himself joined it a few days later, having finished all his business in Weingaarten. At the outbreak of the First World War, Rommel was a Lieutenant, he served in the Alpine battalion in France, Romania and Italy. For more than 2 years Rommel remained on the Western Front, where the hope of a quick war gave way to the nightmare of trench warfare.

Lieutenant Rommel got his first fight when he turned 23. From the beginning of his combat career, Rommel showed himself to be a brave officer, fearlessly attacking enemy trenches. In September 1914, Rommel was wounded in the leg when, having spent all the cartridges, he fought in the bayonet with 3 Frenchmen at once. For this, on September 30, 1914, he received his first award "Iron Cross II Class". He became the first Lieutenant in his regiment to receive such a high award.

Brigadier General Desmond Young later wrote: "From the day he was first under fire, he began to stand out as a perfect war machine: cold-blooded, intelligent, ruthless, tireless, quick in decision and incredibly brave." One of Rommel's comrades once said: "He was the soul and body of war."

Erwin Rommel after First World War

Near Varenne, he was wounded in the thigh - during a bayonet attack he was shot by a French infantryman. Rommel spent 3 months in different hospitals, and in January 1915 returned to the front near Aragon. He now commanded the 9th Company of the 124th Infantry Regiment.

On February 25, 1915, Rommel was awarded the "Württemberg Gold Medal of Merit", on March 22, 1915, he received the first very high award for his bravery - the "Iron Cross I Class". The courage and charm of his personality impressed everyone with whom he communicated. According to the recollections of his colleagues, "he was strict and demanding at work, sociable and friendly outside the barracks." Continuing to demonstrate an extraordinary determination and courage, on April 8, 1915, Rommel was awarded the "Württemberg Military Merit Order".

On September 18, 1915, he was promoted to Oberleutenant and appointed company commander. In September 1915, he was transferred to the mountain units for training. At the end of 1916, Rommel was sent to the Eastern (Carpathian) Front, to the Sibenburgen area, where he fought the Romanians. In those distant autumn days of 1916, Rommel's special gift was manifested - to fully use military cunning in battle. Already at that time, the future general was able to secretly transfer reserves, skillfully bypass the enemy from the flanks, break through to the rear, surround, dismember and destroy the enemy unit. The essence of his commanding talent was the ability to find a paradoxical and unexpected for the enemy, but logically flawless solution to a combat mission of any degree of complexity. Also at this time, another facet of his warlike talent appeared, which in 1941-1942 in North Africa will enable Rommel's troops to win battles, the outcome of which was predetermined not in favor of the Afrika Korps: the ability to find the most vulnerable spot in the enemy's defense and, leaving him no time to think, to attack contrary to all the rules of military art, when the main trump card is the lack of trump cards. Between 1915 and 1916, his courage was rewarded with two awards: "Bavarian Cross for Military Merit, II Class" and "Austrian Military Merit Cross, III Class".

Erwin Rommel with friend and Pur le Merit


After a short period of training in the Austrian Alps, in May 1917, Rommel and his soldiers were sent to the Romanian front. Here, with fewer than 200 soldiers, Erwin Rommel captured 400 Romanians in a decisive attack in January 1917. And again his merits were noted with awards: "Bavarian Order of Military Merit with Swords, IV Class" and "Friedrich Order of Württemberg with Swords, I Class". In May 1917, he was transferred to the Western Front, in the Hilsen Ridge area, and in August of the same year, Rommel and his Württemberg battalion were thrown into battle in the Italian Alps, where at the end of the year they took part in the storming of Mount Kosna and Caporetto.

According to the superiors of his company, Rommel treated his duties with "sacred zeal." In the mountains, the opposing sides acted in separate groups, in such a situation the commanders on the battlefield get a little more freedom of action. It was a great opportunity for Rommel to show courage and assertiveness. To merge with the harsh alpine nature, dissolve in ice and rocks, and suddenly attack the enemy - this was Rommel's element.

The hopes that he had shown in his youth were justified. During the battle on October 25, 1917 at Mount Matajur (Caporetto), which lasted 50 hours without interruption, Erwin Rommel secretly led his unit through enemy lines. By this time, Rommel's division was increased to 6 companies - about 600 people. He then captured Italian artillery positions and attacked the 4th Bersaglier Brigade, the Salerno Brigade and several smaller units, forcing them all to surrender. As a result of this attack, the troops of the "Central Powers" captured the strategically important Mount Matajur. In battle, Rommel took 9,000 prisoners, of which 150 officers, and about 150 guns. For this incredible success, he was awarded the highest German award "The Cross Pur le Merit" - "for valor". Rommel was the first young officer to receive this award, since the "Pur le Merit" was intended solely to reward generals. He got the award on December 10, 1917 from the hands of Kaiser Wilhelm II at the suggestion of the commander-in-chief of the 14th Army, Konrad Krafft.

WWI Rommel's attack on Matajur on 25 October 2017
Erwin Rommel attack on Caporetto in 2017


Not sparing either himself or the enemy, always going forward, Rommel was even captured when, during hand-to-hand combat, he pursued the retreating enemy and was far away from his soldiers. Luck did not leave him - very soon he managed to escape and return to the location of the German troops. Upon his return, Rommel was presented with the "Wound Badge in Silver". This sign marked only the repeatedly wounded front-line soldiers, which Erwin Rommel already was, despite his young years.

A short time later Rommel departed for the distribution center for young officers, where he remained until the end of the war. Also, in connection with the end of the war, Rommel could not fail to be noted, having presented on December 1, 1918, the "Honor Cross of the World War 1914/1918".

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