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La prise de Steinbach ...

La prise de Steinbach ...

Unknown artist
La prise de Steinbach …
The capture of Steinbach. Our progress in Alsace…
Lithograph with hand colouring through stencils. Publisher: Tolmer & Co. 1915.
Given by Sophie Gurney 1994
No. 38 from the 2nd series La Grande Guerre .

With this print the series shifts its focus back to Alsace to relate France’s progress in the region during the fortnight after Christmas 1914. General Joseph Joffre began an offensive in southern Alsace in order to reconquer the town of Mulhouse, which had been taken by Germany on 7 August. The attack was planned to last only a few hours, but dragged on for 15 days. Newspaper reports described the slow progress made by the French army:

Advancing step by step, the French found every lane an ambuscade, every cottage a fortress. Possession of a wall or a door became the object of furious hand-to-hand fighting. (The Argus, 7 January 1915).

French troops referred to the siege as ‘The Hell of Steinbach’. Soldiers wrote about seeing whole streets alight, the heat from the flames burning their cheeks, the smell of noxious odours and of hearing nothing in the evening but crackling flames and collapsing walls. The once pretty town was rendered hideous, dotted with craters from shells. Residents were evacuated late in December.

The French caption with English translation:

LA PRISE DE STEINBACH. Nos progrès en Alsace du 25 décembre 1914 au 5 janvier 1915.
Le fait le plus saillant de ces mémorables journées fut certainement la prise de Steinbach par nos chasseurs : il y eu là de terribles combats. Nos soldats avançaient avec un entrain magnifique, dans la plus joyeuse exaltation. Maison par maison et rue par rue ils conquirent une partie du village ; cependant les Allemands exaspérés de ces progrès soutenus prononcèrent une très belle contre-attaque et refoulèrent nos troupes hors du village. Sans attendre le jour nos vaillants chasseurs ripostèrent vigoureusement et avant l’aube ils reprirent tout Steinbach et chassèrent à nouveau l’ennemi. L’échec allemand fut complet et important.

The storming of Steinbach. Our progress en Alsace from 25 December 1914 to 5 January 1915
The most prominent event of these memorable days was certainly the taking of Steinbach by our cavalrymen: fierce fighting took place there. Our soldiers advanced with a magnificent spirit, in the most joyous exaltation. House by house and street by street they conquered part of the village, but the Germans, exasperated by this steady progress, began a big counter-attack and drive our troops back, out of the village. Without delay our valiant soldiers fought back vigorously and before dawn they took back Steinbach and drove out the enemy. The German failure was complete and significant.

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