I would like to share with you a collection of papers related to a Saxon soldier named Kurt Steiniger, which I was happy to come across and buy some time ago. The grouping consists of the following items:
WW1 Soldbuch (1), unworn Friedrich August Medaille in Bronze with an original envelope (2) and an award document (3), personal letter from a company’s NCO to Steiniger’s mother, informing her that her son is MIA (4), postcard from the Swiss Red Cross (5), award document to Ehrenkreuz für Frontkämpfer (6), transcript of military record from 1935 (7), Wehrpass issued in 1938 (8).
His military career seems quite interesting as he experienced the first half of the war and spent the second in a British POW camp. Here is a detailed account of his story based on informations from the documents. Please have patience with my English.
Kurt Steiniger was born on October 26, 1893, near Zwickau, Saxony. In October 1913 he enlisted for compulsory military service and was assigned to the 134th Infantry Regiment. With the outbreak of the world war his unit marched into France and Steiniger took part in the initial battles. During one of them, he was wounded in right thigh and was sent to a field hospital in September 1914. This apparently brought him 3 months of recovery time since he returned to his unit at the end of the year. At this point he was also promoted to Gefreiter. He spent the next one and half year in trenches in Flanders, and the only significant change in his military life seems to be the transferred to the 183th Infantry Regiment.
In Mai 1916 Steiniger received Friedrich August Medaille in Bronze, the Saxon equivalent of Iron Cross Second Class. Six weeks later, on July 10, he ran out of his luck and went missing in action during one of the countless skirmishes with British troops. His fate remained unclear for the rest of the month. An NCO from his company sent a personal letter to Steiniger’s mother (who was a widow), announcing that her son is MIA and possibly captured by the enemy. The NCO tried to comfort the poor mother explaining that there is neither evidence nor suspicion that her son could be dead. Furthermore he praised Steiniger for being a brave and reliable soldier who was also popular among his fellows. The NCO’s words proved true when Steiniger’s mother received a post card from the Swiss Red Cross some weeks later. It announced that her son was captured and sent into a POW Camp in Handforth, Chesire. Steiniger was lightly injured on his left hand when captured.
The young soldier had to wait next three years before the war finally ended for him. He was released on October 19, 1919, exactly one week before his 26th birthday. This was his first birthday which he could celebrate as a free man since 1912! Steiniger returned to his home village, got married, and found a job as a factory worker. In 1935 he received, like many other veterans, Ehrenkreuz für Frontkampfer (unfortunately, the award was not part of the collection when I bought it). He was also entitled to receive Verwundeten Abzeichen for his two injuries but most likely did not care to get it after the war. His Wehrpass suggests that he had to present himself twice before a draft commission. Each time (1938, 1943) he was found fit for military service but, luckily for him, never had to enter the army again.