Peter Scheider

Peter Scheider pictured in the uniform of a Kaiserschützen Leutnant sometime after his 1931 award of the Military Order of Maria Theresia.Peter Scheider was born on the 2nd of July 1890 in Munich, the son of a carpenter. After  studying to become a teacher at Innsbruck he received his first teaching post in the Kitzbühel district. As a teacher he only served short periods as a reservist in 1912 and 1913 each of four weeks duration and on mobilization served initially in the 3rd Tyrolean Kaiserjäger regiment as a reservist. He served with TJR.3 becoming a non commissioned officer until transferred to Landesschützenregiment Nr. III in 1916 as an officer candidate. Scheider had already won both the 1st and 2nd class silver Bravery Medals at this time. He was commissioned as a Leutnant i.d.R. on the 1st of December 1917 and by the spring of 1918   was commanding Hochgebirgskompanie (high mountain company) 17 which alongside several other high mountain companies was extracted from its positions in the Presena area southeast of the Tonale Pass to take part in the proposed attack against the heavily defended Lagoscuro ridge (3 km south of the Tonale Pass). The enemy positions in the Presena sector were situated on the hardly passabe ridge of the Presena (3329) and seemed unassailable and for this reason an urgent mission for the high mountain companies was envisaged. In the middle of the preparations for the proposed attack the Austro-Hungarian positions on the Presena, the adjacent Paradiso Glacier as well as the Cello Ridge were engaged by sudden and unexpected drum fire which shook the entire front. The enemy attacked, took numerous prisoners and captured a great quantity of materiel. The garrison had failed completely. As a result the area from the Tonale Pass to Busazza 17 km to the southeast in an easterly direction to the Val Vermiglio was absolutely clear for an assault by the Italians.

In this extremely critical situation components of the battle tested high mountain companies 17 (Leutnant Scheider) and 28 (Oberleutnant Kaserer) received the order from Oberstleutnant Steiner, the sector commander at 03:30 hours on the 26th of May 1918 to occupy the as yet not completed enemy positions on the east ridge of the Monicello (3 km east of the Tonale Pass) and to hold it at least until 11:00 hours until neighboring forces could carry out their withdrawal from the Paradiso Glacier. In the event, the planned retreat was not carried out.

Presena May - June 1918. Click to enlarge.However the two high mountain companies held the exposed ridge for 24 hours under very heavy enemy artillery fire until their relief by a freshly brought up Feldjägerbattalion. Attacks mounted by the enemy during the night were repulsed and continued Italian assaults into the Vermiglio Valley were prevented. As a result of this success it had not been necessary to withdraw the defensive front but indeed much of the stockpile of enemy guns and materiel in the Vermiglio valley were captured. The danger to the southern Tonale front was thus averted and the enemy here had to be satisfied with his gains on the Presena and Paradiso Glacier.

A counter attack was planned for the 13th of June 1918 in which two regiments and various storm battalions would assault the Tonale Pass and the Presena south of the Tonale after preparation by the artillery. Prior to this however, Leutnant Scheider and his high mountain company 17 were to carry out a very difficult attack after extensive artillery preparation over the Monticello Ridge to the summit of the Cello (2591).

The action however began with the misfortune of the reserve platoon of the company in positions further to the rear being hit at around 06:00 hours by two direct enemy artillery hits and being completely destroyed. Scheider could therefore expect no support during his advance. Additionally several guns were rendered inoperable and their crews killed by these hits. Despite heavy enemy fire and under the additional pressure of the lack of his reserve platoon Scheider and his detachment succeeded after a strenuous climb with his encouragement and all possible effort to reach the ridge and assault over the crest and take the position. In the meantime the high mountain company's two attached machine guns arrived and opened fire on the summit of the Cello although they too were under enemy artillery fire.

The Austro-Hungarian artillery had now also commenced firing and his detachment would have to move forward under the added danger of it's own artillery fire. Leutnant Scheider's detachment advanced towards the summit overrunning each enemy outpost in turn and taking prisoners along the way until eventually reaching the position just below the summit. Due to a misunderstanding with the light signals the artillery then ceased fire and Scheider and his men had to complete the final 300 paces to the well constructed summit position only with the direct support of the two machine guns. Scheider launched his final assault and despite flanking fire took and cleared the peak of the Cello. By 07:30 hours the Cello and it's defenders - 189 men, 1 mortar and a great amount of war materiel were captured.

High mountain company 17 had suffered considerable casualties in it's attack. Only the commander and 35 of his men remained after the successful assault. Although the southern flank overlooking the Tonale Pass was now secure, the planned Austro-Hungarian attack failed due to heavy artillery fire.

Peter Scheider was decorated with the golden bravery medal for officers and eventually received the MMThO at the final postwar promotion in 1931. He returned to the teaching profession after the war and with the outbreak of the 2nd World War he became the garrison commander at Wörgl as a Hauptmann der Reserve in the German Wehrmacht. He saw further action as a battalion commander of a mountain rifle battalion in Finland, Russia and the Balkans. Following the war he again returned to teaching, receiving a doctorate on the 18th of December 1948 and retired in 1953. He died on the 13th of January 1976 at the age of 85.

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