Günther Felix Otto von Heyking

Information about birth

Date of birth:
Place of birth:
Simla, Garhwal, India, British Raj

General information

Last known residence:
Schloss Crossen, Crossen an der Elster, Sachsen, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire

Army information

Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Imperial German Army
 —  5. Garde-Regiment zu Fuß  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
Place of death:
De Knoet Farm, Zonnebeke, Belgium

Cemetery or memorial

There is no known cemetery or memorial for this soldier.

Points of interest 3

#1 Place of birth
#2 Last known residence
#3 Place of death (approximate)

My story

Günther von Heyking was born on 17 January 1891, the son of Edmund Friedrich Gustav von Heyking and Elisabeth von Flemming. Günther was born in Shimla, India. His father was a diplomat, and therefore lived abroad from 1886 to 1903. He died in 1915. Elisabeth von Flemming kept a travel diary during this period, which would later be published. She gained fame with her debut novella, Briefe, die ihn nicht erreichten. Günther 's mother died in 1925 as a result of a stroke. For Günther and his brother, the lure of the army echoed loudly a decade before. After enlisting, he joined the 5. Garde-Regiment zu Fuss.

The Allies are convinced that the capture of the ridge at Broodseinde will be decisive for their Flemish offensive. The capture is initially scheduled for 6 October. But with autumn weather approaching and a higher risk of bad weather, the attack is brought forward two days. At Zonnebeke, the Flandern I-Stellung is in full view of the opponent. This makes supplying troops and equipment extremely difficult. The German army command is forced to take drastic measures: a major counterattack at Zonnebeke christened Unternehmung Höhensturm. ('Höhensturm' means 'a thunderstorm at high altitude'.) The operation turns into a catastrophe. Hundreds of Germans are killed and a multitude are taken prisoner of war or wounded.

Between 25 September and 10 October 1917, the GRzF5 was deployed at Zonnebeke, near the Knoet Farm on the edge of the castle grounds, along Foreststraat. On 25 September, the German front and hinterland were heavily shelled by British artillery. In the early hours of 26 September, word seeped through that the Allied attack could break out at any moment. At the Battle of Polygon Wood, the German regiments in front of Zonnebeke are overrun. Chaos reigns.

Relief follows on 28 September. At 4am, for GGR5, the relief is finished. It will be until the evening before GRzF5 will also take up its positions. On arrival, the unit writes the following:

"In der Trichterstellung liegen zwischen Häusertrümmern zahlreiche Tote und Geräte aller Art. Baumstümpfe zeigen an, dass einst hier auch kleine Wäldchen standen. Zonnebeke ist nur noch ein großer Steinhaufen."

On 3 October, Zonnebeke is again under heavy fire. Even far behind the front line, supply lines and farms are machine-gunned from aircraft. The German artillery falls short. Some shells fall on their own front line.

On the eve of Operation Höhensturm, scheduled for 4 October, another internal relay follows at dusk. The I./GRzF5 takes over the front and the 1. MGK. In Bereitschaft, GRzF5 now occupies the 10. and 11. Company in front with the 12. and 9. Company positions. That the autumn of 1917 must have been a horrific period is beyond doubt. Both the German army and the Allies would have to go to extremes to hold or win positions.

Operation Höhensturm cost the lives of many. General Enrich Ludendorff wrote on 4 October 1917 that 'we came through it only with enormous losses'. German troops were forced to retreat and the front line shifted about 1,000 metres.

Günther lost his life on 4 October 1917. Not only he, but also his brother Alfred died that same year.

Sources 2

Sieberg H. Elisabeth von Heyking: Ein romanhaftes Leben (Hildesheim, Georg Olms Verlag, 2012).
Sources used
von Stosch A. Das Königl. Preuß. 5. Garde-Regiment zu Fuß 1897-1918 : Nach amtlichen Kriegstagebüchern und Mitteilungen von Mitkämpfern bearbeitet (Berlin, Klasing & Co., 1930).
Sources used