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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

General Officers German Army


Old Tom
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I have only recently noticed that the ranks or perhaps grades of German generals are more complicated than I had understood. The complication (if that is a fair term) is the range of 'specialist generals' such as General of Infantry, General of Artillery etc. that do not have equivalents in the British service. I have assumed, in the past, that a German general was an officer who had been trained for staff employment and after having demonstrated his competence at staff and command or regimental jobs became a general and depending on skill or luck commanded divisions. corps and armies and might become a Field Marshal.

I do not know how a General of Artillery , or the others, gained their rank. I suppose they might have been specialists who had shown particular expertise in their field, but had not been trained for staff employment. I believe they commanded formations from time to time and if so seem to be the equivalent of the other generals except, perhaps, they did not fill the important Chief of Staff appointments.

Can anyone confirm or enlarge please.

Old Tom

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Hello,

General der Infanterie, Artillerie etc. refers to a general (nowadays one would say a 3 star general probably). The arm (der Infanterie etc.) refers to the arm in which the general had been an officer.

Jan

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General of Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery etc was the rank corresponding to "full" General. It did not denote any arm or staff specialisation.

The equivalent ranks between German and British Armies were as follows, which are not how they are often portrayed:

Generalmajor = Brigadier-General, usually commanding an infantry brigade or equivalent.

Generalleutnant = Major-General, usually commanding a division.

General der Infanterie etc = Lieutenant-General, usually commanding an Army Corps and, in peacetime, a District.

Generaloberst = General, usually commanding an Army.

Generalfeldmarschall = Field Marshal, usually the effective C-in-C or an officer promoted for especially distinguished service, or a Royal.

Things were slightly different in the Luftwaffe in WW2 where Adolf Galland, for example, was designated General of the Fighter Arm. But even in WW1, you sometimes see references to "General der ..." for specialist posts, where British practice would have GOC or Inspector.

Ron

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Fools rush in... But, broadly speaking, as I understand it, they are all full generals who had trained and progressed to the rank in either infantry, cavalry, or artillery, and were eventually elevated to being corps commanders (Kommadierender General), the suffix indicating their original arm of service. The best parallel I can think of is of how a relative through marriage entered WW2 as a sapper sublatern , ended his career as a Brigadier, so commanding all-sorts!

EDIT: Aha, Jan and Ron got there at the sameish time..

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Thanks for that. Do your replies imply that all 3 star generals (current term) were Generals of one arm or the other and that there were no plain Generals. I suppose that could well have been the case and that my confusion arises from loose terminology used by authors ? It is simpler now that the rank no loner exists. NATO influence?

Old Tom

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Yes - all officers of the rank currently called "3-star" were General der Infanterie/Artillerie/Kavallerie/Pioniere.

I'd like to start a campaign to call all NATO officers of the grades equivalent to second lieutenant, lieutenant and captain to be called 1-pip, 2-pip and 3-pip officers.

Ron

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Yes - all officers of the rank currently called "3-star" were General der Infanterie/Artillerie/Kavallerie/Pioniere.

I'd like to start a campaign to call all NATO officers of the grades equivalent to second lieutenant, lieutenant and captain to be called 1-pip, 2-pip and 3-pip officers.

Ron

But, wasn't the General der Pioniere a 3Reich appointment? I have not come across it in connection with the GW... Either way, as for using three-star or OF-3, you can take your pick!

Julian

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How many pips would colonels have? 6?. That would sound better then 5 stars.

Old Tom

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General der Pioniere existed as a function during WWI but not as a rank. A General der Pioniere Nr. ... was usually the commander of all pioneer/engineer troops in a certain Army. This was usually an Oberst or Oberstleutnant with a staff when I'm not mistaken. The rank of General der Pioniere similar to General der Infanterie was indeed instituted after WWI if I'm not mistaken (I don't have my documentation at hand for the moment).

Jan

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