24cm Railway Gun, photographer unknown, Rolf Kranz / Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

Max Kranz's war commitment began on 3 August 1914, the day of the declaration of war of Germany to France. He was summoned to go to Metz, which was a German town at the time. Soon his artillery battery was moving forward into France. 

The division to which Max belonged to was designated to a section of the front near Verdun. During the winter of 1914/1915 his battalion was quartered in the small peasant village Parfondrupt on the river Orne. Later in 1915 Max moved to less modest lodgings near the village of Bouzonville. 

The idyllic pictures taken from his immediate surroundings are in sharp contrast to what was happening at the front which only a few kilometers away. 

Horses of the Bataillon in the river der Orne near Bouzonville, Juni 1915, photographer unknown, Rolf Kranz / Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA
Horses of the Bataillon in the river der Orne near Bouzonville, Juni 1915, photographer unknown, Rolf Kranz / Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

From September 1914 to February 1916, his unit was deployed in the Woëvre plain in front of the Verdun fortress. We can see the severe destruction in the frontier areas occupied by German troops, which were still within reach of the French artillery. They were made in the town of Étain and the villages Olley and Pareid. For a film report from that time on the devastated Woevre plain see this video

View on the village Puxe with the belltower of chapel of Chateau Puxe, 1915, photographer unknown, Rolf Kranz / Europeneana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA
View on the village Puxe with the belltower of chapel of Chateau Puxe, 1915, photographer unknown, Rolf Kranz / Europeneana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

These pictures were made in the spring and summer of 1915, a year before the start of the renowned Battle of Verdun, which was to cause much greater devastations.

Ruins in the village of Olley, May 1915, photographer unknown, Rolf / Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA
Ruins in the village of Olley, May 1915, photographer unknown, Rolf / Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

The picture below shows Fort Douaumont on 19 February 1915, four days after it had been taken under fire by German heavy artillery, to try out the effect of the 42cm mortar "Dicke Bertha" and the 38cm railway gun "Langer Max".  The shell craters are clearly visible. 

Fort Douaumont from the air, February 1915, photographer unknown, Rolf Kranz / Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA
Fort Douaumont from the air, February 1915, photographer unknown, Rolf Kranz / Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

In the Summer of 1916 the Supreme Army Command moved several German divisions from the West to the Eastern Front and Max Kranz and his unit were deployed in Galicia on the Eastern Front. These reinforcements were meant to reinforce and support the Austro-Hungarian army to withstand the Russian Brussilov offensive. After severe defensive battles in August and September 1916, the situation in the East calmed down again and in the spring of 1917, Max Kranz was transferred back to the western front again.

Accomodation for Max Kranz and his fellow officers, Galicia, Winter 1916/1917 , photographer unknown, Rolf Kranz / Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA
Accomodation for Max Kranz and his fellow officers, Galicia, Winter 1916/1917 , photographer unknown, Rolf Kranz / Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA