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Remembered Today:

German Sharpshooter MG Units


Bill M.
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Greetings All,

I have been reading up on the Somme battles as of late and have come across several mentions of German sharpshooter MG units. Can someone fill me in as to what exactly these units were? What made them different from other MG units/sections? When were they formed and introduced to the battlefield? In other words just about any and all information about these units would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks

Bill M.

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Hi Bill,

I assume You are talking about the Machinen Gewehr Scharfschützen Abteilungen (1916). (in 1915 Machinen Gewehr Scharfschützen Trupp)

These units were specially trained and formed from picked machine gunners, training included special use of machine guns in attack.

MGSSA are not attached to infantry regiments but depend from H.Q. (attached to division)

They had a metall badge on the left arm, showing an machine gun.

Regards,

Cnock

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Cover Soldbuch member Machinen Gewehr Scharfschützen Abteilung Nr.38 - 3rd Coy

who fought at the Somme in 1916

Regards,

Cnock

post-7723-1270481838.jpg

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Bill;

A little more information. Abteilung, like so many German words, has several meanings; militarily, the principal one is close to the English "detail", and usually suggests a military formation, perhaps temporary, and of indeterminate size, that is usually fairly small, like the word "detail" does.

However, a second meaning is an artillery battalion, usually of three or four batteries. Probably because of that meaning, MG battalions began to be also called Abteilung. These formations were, typically, I think, battalions of three MG companies of about 110 men each. By the time that these were being formed the typical German MG company had already gone from a compliment of six MGs to a compliment of 12 MGs, plus perhaps a few MGs in reserve. I recently read of a German MG company whose primary MGs were the German Maxim MG 08, but the company had, in reserve, three British Vickers, and one Russian Maxim. About mid-1915, of about 4800 MGs in the field, the Germans were using 1200 captured MGs, many Vickers and Russian Maxims, some re-worked to use German SAA.

Just guessing, but possibly a factor in calling these "sharp-shooter" formations, many of the heavy MGs in these units were equipped with MGs with telescopic sights, and at least two men of each MG team were issued binoculars. These physically heavy MGs (about 140 lbs) on very stable sled mounts were able to lay down very accurate fire at ranges of several hundred yards, and the MGs were then often not put in the first line, but in MG nests and pits several hundred yards behind the first line, thereby often missing a pre-assault bombardment on the first line, and offering continuous fire support. They also probably provided more flanking fire supporting neighboring units than direct fire supporting the unit before them. This practice required accurate fire over long ranges, hence the telescopic sights and spotting and fire direction. At the same time lighter MGs began to be issued to infantry companies for support from the first line.

These sharp-shooter units shoulds not be confused with the small number of Musketen=Bataillonen (hope the grammar there is OK), first equipped with very light Danish Madsens, and then captured British Lewis Guns.

Bob Lembke

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Correction - At the end of 1915 the German Army had about 8000 MGs, of which 1900 were Beute, or "booty", captured Allied weapons, not the figures posted above.

Bob

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