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Otto Schmidt.jpg

Otto Schmidt


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Otto Schmidt


As it was for many Germans, the declaration of war was a dream come true. A former hunter from Bavaria, Otto had been down on his luck, and had moved to the city to find work. The declaration of the war meant that Otto could join the army for a bellyful of food and a steady wage. He volunteered at the start of the war and was sent to the Western Front. By the time of the British attack at Passchendaele, Otto was a sergeant in the German 4th Army. Otto had become hardened by his experiences and by the loss of so many of the young men who had come to rely on him as their commander.

Patriotism, a love of the Fatherland and the promise of fair pay and warm food had drawn so many into the blut und stahl, blood and steel of the Western Front. Otto had been defending the salient at Bellevue before the ANZACs advance. After the opening bombardment ceased, Otto was sure to have expected an imminent attack, and unfortunately for him, it came. The guns opened up on the advancing British troops but due to the artillery many of the machine guns and their operators were out of action and the advance couldn’t be stemmed. While Otto tried to organise his men, he surely didn’t hear the clattering of the mills bomb as it bounced into the trench floor over the noise of the battle ... nor would he have heard the subsequent explosion that killed him.

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'Patriotism, a love of the Fatherland and the promise of fair pay and warm food had drawn so many into the blut und stahl – the blood and steel of the Western Front.'

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'Patriotism, a love of the Fatherland and the promise of fair pay and warm food had drawn so many into the blut und stahl – the blood and steel of the Western Front.'

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Otto had been defending the salient at Bellevue before the ANZACs advance. After the opening bombardment ceased, Otto was sure to have expected an imminent attack, and unfortunately for him, it came. The guns opened up on the advancing British troops, but due to the artillery, many of the machine guns and their operators were out of action – the advance couldn’t be stemmed. While Otto was trying to organise his men, he did not hear the clattering of the mills bomb as it bounced on the trench floor over the noise of the battle. Nor would he have heard the explosion that killed him.

 

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Would You hear the Grenade?

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Mills Bomb

The deadly grenades of the First World War

 
 

can you hear that?

The Mills bomb was a popular hand grenade used by the British in World War One. It was often lobbed into a trench, or hurled at a tank, in order to slow down or kill the enemy, and was how Otto met his maker.

Otto was taking desperate pot shots at the enemy as they advanced toward him and his men, shouting orders in order to survive, when the small Mills bomb bounced onto the trench floor next to him and exploded. Would you hear the small hand grenade tumbling around on the ground?

Close your eyes, and play this sound on your earbuds. Get a friend to throw a drink bottle on the ground behind you. Can you hear the bomb dropping in the heat of battle? Can you throw it back in time? Test your speed and hearing in this interactive activity, and send us a message with how you went.

 

 
 

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Write a piece of descriptive writing illustrating Otto Schmidt's last moments.

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