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German Empire
Imperial German Army

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My story

When Wilhelm Segin was born on 15 January 1898 in Wewelsburg, North Rhine-Westphalia, his father Caspar was 39 and his mother Theresia 23. His father ran an inn. A postcard from the turn of the year 1915 - 1916 reveals the perfidy of trying to persuade young people to go to war: "May your wish be fulfilled soon, so that you can still do good service to the fatherland and then return home after a glorious victory as a young hero adorned with an iron cross and many honours." However, Casper Segin withdrew the permission he gave his son to join the army. Wilhelm first had to attend another year of school at the Gymnasium Theodorianum in nearby Paderborn.

On 4 December 1916, Wilhelm was drafted into the German army. He was then 18 years old. Wilhelm was assigned to the third company of Infanterieregiment 457 (IR 457). He had been fighting since the spring of 1917, first in France and eventually taking part in the Third Battle of Ypres. On 26 September 1917, as reserve troops, they reached the ruins of the pre-war hamlet of Molenaarelsthoek. Soon they were forced northwards because of the heavy British resistance they met. The account recorded by Wilhelm, Musketeer, of 25 and 26 September 1917, the day he was wounded, says: "Under each steel helmet, a serious face stares out into the world, lost in dreams but determined.... A pause... Forward... At last 'Stop!'".

This was followed by a description of the horrors experienced by the young men under massive shellfire near the front at Molenaarelsthoek: "The ears already no longer hear each blow, but only a tremendous, uninterrupted thunder and crash: the eyes ache and can hardly see the trembling, sulphur-coloured flashes. [...] The lungs work hard and do not have enough air supply. [...] One only feels how powerless a poor little person is in the face of the hail of iron and has only one wish: away, away, as quickly as possible!"

The last sentences Wilhelm jotted down in his report allude to what happened to himself: "Da, were das Schreie? Das Donnerkrachen verschlingt jedes Geräusch. Nur weiter! weiter!.... Da wird es heller. Durch! Gott sei Dank!... Da tauchen auch Kameraden auf. Irgendwo vor uns muss Molenaarelsthoek liegen. Hier warten! Jeder verschwindet im Boden. Noch ein paar Kameraden reißt die Granate aus der Reihe. Die anderen erwarten den Befehl zum Vorrücken. Doch der kommt nicht mehr." ("There, was that shouting? The thunderclap swallows up every sound. Go on! Go on!.... There, it gets brighter. Go on! Thank God. Comrades appear. Somewhere ahead must be Molenaarelsthoek. Wait here! Everyone disappears into the ground. A few more comrades are torn out of line by the grenade. The others wait for the order to advance. But it won't come again.")

Wilhelm was seriously injured during the fighting on 26 September 1917 near the Polygone Forest. He was hit on his back by several shrapnel fragments. It is very likely that he was wounded during the actual counterattack, as mentioned in a footnote in "Das Buch der 236. I.D.". Wilhelm was transferred to field hospital 112 in Izegem. Here he underwent several operations. Despite this, he was later labelled "70 per cent damaged by the war". He was then in Buch near Potsdam until May 1918. From May, he underwent further operations in Paderborn and later in Münster.

Due to his health problems, he was considered only "conditionally fit" to study theology. In 1933, almost 16 years after his injury, he spent several more months in hospital with the lingering wound on his back. Despite his bumpy course, Wilhelm will teach. A 1929 school report for prospective teachers notes, "Unfortunately, severe war damage affected his health. Bravely, however, he fights emerging bouts of physical weakness." Ten years later, he married Hildehard Meschede. Their firstborn daughter, born in the war winter of 1941, was named - not coincidentally - Irene. She was named after the Greek goddess of peace, Eirene. Later, Wilhelm taught German and history at the Theodorianum in Paderborn. Wilhelm Segin died on 14 March 1980 at the age of 82. He was buried in the Westfriedhof in Paderborn, a cemetery west of the city where he taught and lived.

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