Alfred Enrich

Post war photograph of Alfred Enrich following his 1921 award of the MMThOAlfred Enrich was born on the 23rd of February 1882 in Innsbruck. After attending local schools he entered Landesschützen-Regiment I as a "One Year Volunteer" in 1904. Deciding on a military career he became a regular soldier and was appointed to the rank of Kadett-Offiziersstellvertreter in May 1906 and commissioned as a Leutnant in Landwehr-Infanterieregiment Nr. 29 on the 1st of May 1907. Promoted to Oberleutnant on the 1st of May 1912, he was assigned to Landwehr-Infanterieregiment Nr. 5 at Pola on the 1st of May 1913. Following a clash with a local in January 1914 he was discharged from the k.k. Landwehr and deprived of his officer's rank¹.

On mobilisation in 1914 he entered Landesschützen-Regiment III at Innichen as a Schütze (private soldier). The regiment was transported by rail to a concentration area at Grodek in Galicia as part of Generalmajor Karl Georgi's 88. Landesschützen-Brigade. He took part in the August battles for Lemberg and for Grodek in early September. The regiment saw heavy fighting in the confused see-saw battles in Galicia for the remainder of the year and winter before being transferred to eastern Galicia in March 1915. The regiment participated in the Gorlice-Tarnów offensive of May 1915 and Enrich was awarded the Silver Bravery Medal 1st Class on the 10th of June 1915.  Following Italy's entry into the war in May 1915 his regiment was deployed to the south western front in late July and was initially deployed to the Isonzo sector. In August the regiment was transferred to the Tyrolean front  where it  conducted high alpine operations and where with effect from the 29th of August 1915 Enrich had his commission as an Oberleutnant in der Reserve restored and was also awarded the Silver Bravery Medal 2nd Class on the 1st of October 1915. In the meantime transferred to Landesschützen-Regiment I he was given command of the regiment's High Alpine Detachment formed on the 11th of May 1916. The detachment had an authorized strength of two officers (Enrich and his second-in-command, Leutnant Bartholomäus Hofherr) and 50 NCOs and Schützen. Oberleutnant Josef Freiherr von Hippoliti of Landesschütenregiment Nr. II was additionally assigned on account of his local knowledge of the area.

The High Alpine Detachment of Oberleutnant Enrich was assigned a special and hazardous mission at the start of III Corp's assault during the May 1916 South Tyrol Offensive (Strafexpedition). Although the main offensive had commenced on the 15th of May with XX Corps to the South and XVII Corps to the north advancing in the Val Sugana, III Corps had initially remained in its original defensive positions where its artillery had provided support for the corps to the south. Four days later on the 19th of May III Corps started its own advance to the east from the direction of Vezzena and thence towards Asiago. The northern or left boundary of the corps was the mountainous massif running generally east-west above the Val Sugana valley and it was Enrich's task to neutralize and secure the Italian artillery observation post on Cima Mandriolo (sometimes referred to as Manderiolo) with a height of 2050m just to the rear of the enemy's right flank². Once the position was secured, his small unit were to be joined by the advancing elements of the 22nd Landwehr-Infanterie-Brigade (Oberst Otto Ellison). During the evening of 18th of May 1916, Enrich led his small group to a jumping-off position in the forward most Austro-Hungarian outposts to the north of and some five hundred metres below the objective - point 1555. The following morning, accompanied by Oberleutnant Freiherr von Hippoliti and Leutnant Hofherr he set out to reconnoiter the approach route for the final phase of the assault. The north face of the massif below Mandriolo is almost a sheer face for 430 metres below the summit and under cover of the dead ground they successfully carried out this phase of the operation and returned to point 1555 to await the order to go. At 0400 hours the following morning (20th May) the field telephone in the outpost rang and Oberst Ellison personally came onto the line to order the commencement of the mission. In two groups the detachment set off to start the 500m ascent and under the cover of heavy Austro-Hungarian barrage fire they reached the summit of Cima Mandriolo unseen at 0800 hours. Initially no Italian soldiers could be seen but then the entrance to a cavern was observed which in turn was protected by trenches. Enrich then divided his small command into two assault groups; one commanded by himself and the other by Leutnant Hofherr. Oberleutnant Freiherr von Hippoliti was to secure the area covering the withdrawal route back down the face of the massif. Both assault groups then rapidly advanced towards the cavern and when about half way to the objective received fire from a flanking position. Enrich's group laid down supporting fire while Hofheer's group assaulted and cleared the enemy position. Both groups then assaulted the cavern entrance and cleared the trenches. The enemy telephone wire was cut and the closed door to the cavern entrance was shot open. The garrison of two officers and forty soldiers surrendered and the Landesschützen soldiers entered the cavern and followed the gallery which led to the north face of the massif. There they saw the magnificent field of view which this post had commanded of the entire Val Sugana. Now the Landesschützen were subjected to heavy Italian artillery fire. Enrich had the prisoners of war and captured materiel escorted back down the mountain under the escort of two of his men. Over the next few hours the small group of Austrian defenders repelled numerous small scale counter attacks but in the meantime the link up with Oberst Ellison's brigade had not materialized due to the heavy suppressive Italian artillery fire. At about 1800 hours, the Italians mounted a concerted attack in two battalion strength and although this was beaten off, it now became apparent that with ammunition running out and a further link up attempt having failed,  withdrawal from the exposed position back down the face of the massif was the only option. Covered by Baron Hippoliti's group, Enrich's men withdrew to the edge of the face and then under cover of fog moved back down the mountain. Despite the best efforts of the intrepid little band of Landesschützen, the mission had not achieved the desired result. However Cima Mandriolo would only remain in Italian hands for another day. The position was finally taken by III./Landwehr-Infanterie-Regiment 3 the following evening and by the 2300 hours the entire position was secured. Oberstleutnant Millanich, the battalion commander of III./LIR. 3, on being ennobled for this action would take the predicate "von Manderiolo". For his part, Alfred Enrich, who had received a head wound in the action would later be awarded the Order of the Iron Crown 3rd Class with War Decoration and Swords. 

However, it would be for another decisive action that Alfred Enrich would earn his Knight's Cross of the Military Order of Marian Theresia. Shortly after the Cima Mandriolo operation he assumed command the 4th company of Landesschützen-Regiment I. Following the draw down of the Strafexpedition in late June 1916, the forces of Army Group Erzherzog Eugen withdrew to more easily defensible lines. Generalmajor Karl Englert's Landesschützen-Division of which Enrich's battalion was a part was holding the line from west to east from the Zugna Torta - Vallarsa - Monte Testo. I./Landesschützen-Regiment I was deployed in and around the Austrian fort of Valmorbia astride the Vallarsa valley. The fort had still been in the construction phase prior to the war and had been abandoned in May 1915 when the Austro-Hungarian forces in this sector withdrew to just south of Rovereto. Retaken in May 1916 during the offensive it now formed  the major part of the forward Austro-Hungarian defence in the Vallarsa. In the early morning hours of the 29th of June 1916 Oberleutnant Enrich's company were holding positions in a cavern to the north of the fort when a large force of Italians managed to deceive the Austrian defence by using German words of command and entered the fort from the south. The Italians managed to force their way into the battalion command post and take captive the battalion commander and his staff. Fortunately for the Austro-Hungarian defenders, the duty telephone operator just had time to raise the alarm and duly alerted, Oberleutnant Enrich's company in its cavern positions immediately stood to. Enrich was able to have the iron doors to his cavern position closed with the Italians a mere thirty paces away. As leaving the cavern through the iron door was now impossible due to the intense fire from the enemy outside, Enrich led his 60 strong company through a series of galleries that exited to the north. Even here his company immediately came under fire but Enrich decided to act decisively and he instantly assaulted the Italian positions. He then divided his force of four small platoons, sent two directly to the south to take out the so-called Kehlgraben (trenches) and he led the other two to expel the enemy from point 906. In a brief but bloody engagement he cleared Fort Valmorbia of the enemy and released the battalion commander and his staff.  Six enemy officers and and 168 soldiers were killed, a further four officers and 300 soldiers were captured³. The losses to his own company amounted to seven dead and twenty one wounded. Had the fort fell, that part of the front would have become untenable and by his decisive action Alfred Enrich had secured the front. 

Alfred Enrich remained with Landesschützen-Regiment I for the remainder of the war on the Italian front. During the border fighting in Carinthia in 1918/1918 he served with the Tyrolean Volkswehr Battalion and then returned to civilian life in Innsbruck. In the mid thirties he moved to Vienna. In 1939 as a recalled Hauptmann of the German Wehrmacht he served in the Polish campaign and then as a battalion commander on occupation duties. Alfred Enrich died on the 9th of October 1961 in Linz and was buried in Innsbruck. The present day Bundesheer barracks at Kufstein in the Tyrol is named Enrich-Kaserne after the victor of Valmorbia.

¹. Hohe österreichische Auszeichnungen an Tiroler im 1. Weltkrieg by Wilhelm Eppacher.

². Schauplätze des Gebirgskrieges II. Pellegrinopass - Pasubio by Walther Schaumann.

³. Der Militär-Maria-Theresien-Orden 1914-1918.

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