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German Armies Plural?? 1914


JJWilson

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Hello everyone, I was reading today in World War I by H.P. Willmott, that the German military had an Imperial Navy, and four armies. "It possessed an Imperial Navy but no army. In fact there was no such organization as the German Army until after the 1918 armistice. Up until then, Germany had four armies, those of the kingdoms of Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, and Wurttemberg." (Willmott). I had no idea Germany never had one unified Army until after the war, but instead had 4 armies to go along with the 4 kingdoms. I'm rather confused as to why Germany did this, and I have a few more questions regarding this matter.

 

1. Why an Army for each kingdom, rather than one Army?

2. Did each army have it's own commander in Chief?

3. Did these Armies carry out operations with other kingdoms armies, or just their own?

4. Were the soldiers and officers of each army given visual distinctions from the others (Uniforms and caps)?

5. How large were each of these armies in 1914, before the war.

6. Did each army have it's own supply lines and logistics, or was that shared between all 4?

 

I know those are quite a few questions, but I'm really curious as to why the Germans handled their military this way, is it similar to the British Empire, with England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland? I don't need all of these questions answered, but it would be great if you could! If it's to complicated to explain briefly, please direct me to a different source. Thank you for any replies!! :)

JJ

Edited by JJWilson
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Hello JJ!

Right now, I don´t have any time to answer, but I will do it this weekend, if no-one else does it before.

If you are interested in the german army I can recommend  the following book:

https://www.militaria.at/Book.aspx?book=2277660&Language=de

 

 

Edited by The Prussian
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To cover a few points.

 

Quite - there was no Imperial German Army but there was an Imperial German Navy.

 

(1) Because of the nature of the constitutional agreement that resulted in the proclamation of the German Empire in 1871.

 

(2) In the sense that the King of the various 'states' mentioned was. like the Queen, C-in-C - with rather more practical clout. IIRC, each had its own War Minister. They could act independently to some small degree - for example, Wurttemberg provided extra artillery for their men defending the Somme off its own bat at the request of the local commander when he was not getting much joy from OHL. 

 

(3) For all practical purposes during the war they came under the operational control of OHL

 

(4) Yes, in the detail, not in the overall look.

 

(5) Pass. Bavaria and Saxony would have had the biggest, and quite substantial, armies. 

 

However, the best bet would be to go the authority on this matter, viz The Great War Dawning: Germany and its Army at the Start of World War I, Frank Buchholz, Joe Robinson and Janet Robinson, Verlag Military, Vienna, 2013. It is quite exhaustive and tackles, as you might expect, all the questions you list above. It has a comprehensive contents list, some excellent appendices but, alas, has no index. Still, it is logically set out and so quite easy to find particular pieces of information. It has an excellent and large plate section (in colour) and has a couple of large maps/sheets of diagrams which are loose and inserted inside the back cover. If you are that interested I would strongly strongly recommend that you invest in it.

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4 hours ago, nigelcave said:

(5) Pass. Bavaria and Saxony would have had the biggest, and quite substantial, armies. 

The "German Army" in 1914 consisted of twenty-five Army Corps. Three of these were from Bavaria, two from Saxony, and one from Wurttemberg. The Bavarian units were numbered in separate series, the others were integrated into an overall numbering system.

 

There is some analogy with the four parts of the UK but perhaps a better analogy is with the Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, Indian and other Dominions troops fighting with the British Army. However, you may be interested in the following statistics:

 

POPULATION DISTRIBUTION
IN THE GERMAN EMPIRE. 1914

    PRUSSIA                    78 %
    BAVARIA                    11 %
    SAXONY                      7 %
    WURTTEMBERG         4 %

POPULATION DISTRIBUTION
IN THE UNITED KINGDOM. 1914

    ENGLAND                  75 %
    SCOTLAND               11 %
    IRELAND                     9 %
    WALES                        5 %

 

Ron

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Note also that regiments from Prussia, Saxony and Wurttemburg (but not Bavaria - see below) and some of the smaller technically semi-independent areas (22 or so) had two numbers, their own and a number according to the 'German army' system.

 

So, for example, the Königlich Sächsische 9. Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 133, which was the 9th Infantry regiment of the Kingdom of Saxony, was also the 133rd Infantry Regiment of the 'German Reich'. Likewise with 'local' regiments from the Grand Duchies, principalities, etc., such as the 4. Unter-Elsässisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr.143, which was the 4th Lower Alsace Infantry Regiment was also the 143rd of the 'German Reich'.

 

Bavaria was a case apart and did not, as far as I know, fit into the 'German army' numbering system, so the Königlich Bayerischen 3. Infanterie-Regiment Prinz Karl von Bayern just has the single number, preceeded by 'KB'.

 

If I recall correctly, as part of the constitution of 1871, each of the constituent kingdoms (and states?) that made up the 'German Reich' had to supply a set percentage of regiments for the 'German army'.

 

Great War Dawning, referenced above, post 3, is certainly the one to read through to get to grips with the 'German army' in 1914.

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Thank you for all of your replies, very helpful information. I looked to Jonathan North's Uniforms of World War I, and found that each kingdoms uniforms did in fact have small distinctions and elements to the uniforms that set them apart from one another. The only other question I have is what is OHL?

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7 minutes ago, Stoppage Drill said:

Oberste Heeresleitung.

 

Supreme Army High Command

Thank you Drill, I never saw it with the abbreviation OHL, thank you for clearing that up!

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The German kokardes (Cockades) show the utter confusion of the "German Army":

Tafel_XVII_Kokarden.jpg.d94bbc6bcb5e3133722e3d45ee37ac56.jpg

 

As to Reuss: I don't know whether that's  "Elder Line" or "Junior Line", or maybe the two Lines joined together for the occasion?

(Completely and totally unrelated but, a century ago, should Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands (last of her line) remain childless next in line for the Dutch throne was a Prince Reuss (Heinrich XXXIII of the Junior line, if I'm not mistaken. Male childs in that line were all called Heinrich, and the first one born in the new century was nr I etc. So this prince was the 33rd son of that century )

 

"Hanseaten" = the Hanseatic citiies of Hamburg & Lübeck,

"S-Weimar" = Sachsen-Weimar

it's Schwarzburg-Sonderhausen and Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt,

and "Sächs. Herzogt. = Duchy of Saxony.

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Thanks for the info and visuals JWK!!

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20 hours ago, trajan said:

If I recall correctly, as part of the constitution of 1871, each of the constituent kingdoms (and states?) that made up the 'German Reich' had to supply a set percentage of regiments for the 'German army'.

That is correct. The proportions accorded broadly with the relative populations - see my post 4 above.

 

Ron

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Hi,

the question on how the Landstreitkräfte of the Germans were organized is a bit more complicated as detailed in this thread before.

The sovereign states relinquished their right to govern their own army  during peacetime to the Norddeutsche Bund under the leadership of Prussia or to Prussia directly as early as 1862 (Waldeck-Pyrmont) and as late as 1886 (Brunswick. Bavaria relinquished it´s command over their own troops during wartime (and wartine only) in November of 1870. Saxony, Württemberg also kept command over their troops during peacetine until 1918. Each of the sovereign states had agreed on slightly different conditions with regard to the particulars such as role of officers, uniforms etc.

A good way to distinguish between (some) of the contingencies are cockades (as shown) and also belt buckles. Also shoulderboards (Saxons are pointed) and cuffs (German cuffs with saxon uniforms) on some uniforms.

Actually, the drawing supplied by JWK was drawn and published BEFORE 1897, when the double-cockade was instituted. On top the German Reich Kokarde, below the Kokarde of the respective state. And I wouldn´t speak of "confusion", because everything was well regulated, rather of "diversity". On the same date the cockade of the Hansestadt Bremen changed from red cross on white to white-red-white. Sachsen-Weimar got  black-yellow-green. Both not pictured above. As examples a soldier of the IR 75 (Bremen) with cockade after 1897 and two members of the Saxon Schützenregiment 108 with Saxon cockade, pointed Schulterklappen and German cuffs.

GreyC

xBremerKokardewrw_nach1897.jpg.09a71085e2ba9fe3bf8f375a357d86fd.jpgx108_IR_TromlerHornistenGrey.jpg.3a9884c935c67a1fb50c7b94cdca45a6.jpg

Edited by GreyC
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On 23/06/2018 at 13:01, GreyC said:

... two members of the Saxon Schützenregiment 108 with Saxon cockade, pointed Schulterklappen and German cuffs.

 

x108_IR_TromlerHornistenGrey.jpg.3a9884c935c67a1fb50c7b94cdca45a6.jpg

 

The Schulterklappen were squared-off on the 'colourful' (in this case, very dark green) uniform but of conventional German pattern on the Feldgrau uniform. You can see both in the above photo, but this should make it clearer (it also illustrates how the hunting horn emblem of the Saxon Schützen and Jägers was not worn by the officers of those units - the same was true with the pick and shovel emblem worn on the Schulterklappen of Saxon Pioniere).

 

WGMR_SR108.jpg.7064d0e04693d3239e177ed07c00e8ed.jpg

 

Your photo also shows another unique Saxon distinction - the drummers' Trommelhaken (drum hook) shaped like the Saxon coat of arms rather than the Prussian eagle pattern.

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In 1870-1 the Royal Saxon Army consisted of a single corps (XII.AK) of two divisions (23. and 24.ID). By 1914 it had been expanded to a peacetime strength of two corps (XII.AK with 23. and 32.ID; XIX.AK with 24. and 40.ID). At mobilisation Saxony formed another complete corps (XII.RK with 23. and 24.RD, equipped to a notably higher standard than many other reserve units) plus two mixed Landwehr brigades (45. and 47. gem. Ldw. Brig.), a mobile ersatz division (19.ED) and most of a cavalry division (8.KD).

 

In September 1914 the XXVII.RK was formed as a joint venture between Saxony (corps staff, 53.RD and 1/3 of 54.RD) and Württemberg (the rest of 54.RD). This arrangement was obviously intended to preserve the independence of the two minor armies by avoiding mixture with the dominant Prussian Army; despite the often fractious relationship between the contingents within the corps, two more mixed Saxon / Württemberg divisions (58. and 204.ID) were formed in 1915-16. Ultimately though all three mixed divisions became homogenous by exchanging units (54.RD and 204.ID became purely Württemberg divisions, and 58.ID purely Saxon). Similarly the Saxon Army exerted continual pressure on the Prussians to recover e.g. even individual Saxon battalions that had been incorporated into mixed regiments of the 300 series assembled from garrison troops in the East in 1915.

 

The Royal Saxon Army reached a peak strength of nineteen divisions (eighteen infantry and one cavalry) in Spring 1917. In the final year of the war 8.KD (in April) and 53.RD (at the end of September) were both disbanded prior to the armistice - the former as the divisional staff was considered superfluous for its police duties in the east, but the latter due to catastrophic losses. 

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14 hours ago, bierast said:

Your photo also shows another unique Saxon distinction - the drummers' Trommelhaken (drum hook) shaped like the Saxon coat of arms rather than the Prussian eagle pattern. 

Thank you Bierast,

I didn´t know that. And thank you, too, for the info on the formations of Saxon troops.

GreyC

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On 23/06/2018 at 00:31, JWK said:

Prince Reuss (Heinrich XXXIII of the Junior line, if I'm not mistaken. Male childs in that line were all called Heinrich, and the first one born in the new century was nr I etc. So this prince was the 33rd son of that century )

From Wikipedia:

Numbering of the Heinrichs[edit]

All the males of the House of Reuss are named Heinrich (Henry) plus a number. In the elder line the numbering covers all male children of the elder House, and the numbers increase until 100 is reached and then start again at 1. In the younger line the system is similar but the numbers increase until the end of the century before starting again at 1. This odd regulation was formulated as a Family Law in 1688, but the tradition of the uniformity of name was in practice as early as 1200. It was seen as a way of honoring the Hohenstaufen Emperor Heinrich/Henry VI, who raised Heinrich der Reiche/Henry the Rich (+1209) to the office of provost of the Cloister in Quedlinburg.

 

Ron

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