Theodor Wanke

Major Theodor Wanke pictured as a battalion commander in occupied Poland during WW2Theodor Wanke was born on the 25th of September 1887 in Iglau. In 1905 he entered the second term at the Infantry Cadet School in Vienna from which he graduated with the rank of Kadettoffizierstellvertreter on the 18th of August 1908 with an assignment to the Prague based Infanterieregiment Potiorek Nr.102. He was commissioned as a Leutnant on the 1st of May 1911. Promoted to Oberleutnant on the 1st of August 1914, Wanke went into action with his regiment against Serbia as part of the 9th Infantry Division under Feldmarschalleutnant Victor von Scheuchenstuel where he was wounded. He was awarded the Bronze Military Merit Medal (Signum Ludis) with War Decoration on the 25th of November 1914 and following his recovery he rejoined the regiment and with it was deployed to the southern sector of the Isonzo front as the commander of the 9th company.

In October 1916, Infanterieregiment Nr. 102 under command of the 17th Infantry Brigade, 9th Infantry Division of Gruppe FML. Schenk was holding a sector on the Carso just to the west of the town of Jamiano. Wanke's  9th Company along with the rest of the battalion was in positions on the eastern slopes of hill 144 facing elements of the Italian 16th Division. On the 10th of the month, the Italian's after days of heavy artillery preparation initiated the 8th Battle of the Isonzo with infantry assaults

Despite intense enemy pressure on both flanks of his position, Oberleutnant Wanke was determined to hold and even with both the battalion and regimental* headquarters ready to withdraw, he initiated a counter-attack on his own initiative and compelled an infantry battalion of the advancing Italian 16th Division to pull back in panic. Wanke then took hold of the badly shaken 10th Company to his north (at pistol point) and carried out a further attack to the west and accompanied by just 17 other soldiers captured some 100 enemy infantrymen and freed a group of Austrian officers captured earlier in the day. In so doing. the intrepid Oberleutnant had not only held the positions on hill 144 but had also restored the situation along the southern Carso front and thwarted the Italian attempts to break through to the strategically vital port of Trieste. 

He was rewarded for his gallantry at hill 144 by being awarded the Silver Military Merit Medal (Signum Laudis) with War Decoration and Swords on the 31st of December 1916 and the the Order of the Iron Crown 3rd Class with War Decoration and Swords on the 12th of March 1917. Oberleutnant Wanke remained with Infanterieregiment Nr. 102 for the remainder of the war and was promoted to Hauptmann on the 1st of August 1918. Following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in November 1918, Wanke became a citizen of the newly formed Czechoslovakian State and a captain in the new army. Promotion prospects in the army of Czechoslovakia were however not good for former Austro-Hungarian officers and he soon resigned his commission. He was awarded the Military Order of Maria Theresia at the 186th Promotion on the 10th of March 1921.

Following the incorporation of the Sudetenland into Germany proper in the autumn of 1938, Wanke assumed German citizenship and on account of his high award was granted the brevet or charakter rank of Major in the German army on the 27th of August 1939, the 25th anniversary of the battle of Tannenberg. Following the campaign in Poland in 1939 he was employed as a battalion commander of a Guard Battalion in the General Government of occupied Poland. Later transferred to the Balkans, Major Theodor Wanke was killed in action on the 9th of August 1944 2 kilometres north of Kostajnica in Croatia.

* Regimental commander: Oberst Ferdinand Schenk

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