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German WW1 unit help


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I apologize if this belongs in the "soldiers and their units" section. I have seen these types of posts in both.

I am trying to determine the German unit my great-great grandfather may have been in.


What I know... His name is Johann Adam Franz Kromer and I know he was in Hamburg in 1910 until about 1917 but I have also found records putting him in the Heidelberg (where he was born) and Mannheim area as well. Sometimes he also went by Hans. I also found records that he was a police officer when in the Hamburg area, but I have no confirmation of this outside of reference in a marriage license and an apparent business card of his that I was given by my grandfather.


What I was told... My grandfather was not too aware, but for whatever reason he always said he was a "1st Lieutenant" in either "Sharpshooters 3" or "Machine gunners 4". I have not had much luck with this given information and I am not sure how much of it is truth but I figured I would provide it maybe someone here can piece together something that I am not aware of.




The bottom of a plated photo of my great-great grandmother that was with this photo reads "P. Bollo Heidelberg Leopold-Str. 25.(Anlage)"


IMG_1047.jpg.d695f8fdf060fe8c7ec6fd6221f17821.jpg "Spring 1917" is written on the back of this photo.



This is his apparent business card



"Aug 1918" is written on the back of this photo.



I brought up that he was a police officer because I was not aware if any of these photos are from that profession and not from the military. Each photo he appears to be dressed slightly different, perhaps due to ranks or unit changes, etc.


Thanks in advance for any information or clues! I also apologize for the quality of the pictures. I can try to scan for better quality if needed but they were not very well taken care of prior to my possession.

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Digging into this further I found a handbook of the German Army and it states a Machine gun marksman detachment was established after 1916. All ranks wear a metal badge representing a machine gun on the left arm. This is the badge and it appears to match the badge from the photo marked Spring 1917.



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In the war time photos he is dressed as a what in english would call a sergeant major, in a Cavalry unit. (German NCO rank structure is more nuanced than that, but it's the closest substantive rank we have I think).


The flat lace edging around the collar, the button on its side, and the sword knot hanging from his bayonet indicate the rank. Sergeant Major is also the rank that officer candidates held after they had passed their lieutenant's exam, but before they were commissioned. 


In the lower photo he also has the same kind of flat lace edging around his shoulder straps (not present in the first photo) which makes him an Offizierstellvertereter at that point (basically a "deputy officer"  - there isn't an exact equivalent rank in english - it's like a Sergeant Major on their way to being an officer).  If the photos are from 1917 he definitely would have been an officer by the end of the war.


The belt buckle is as for mounted troops.   The three stripes are related to proficiency at arms for cavalry troops (not related to rank). By the way he appears to be wearing a privately tailored M1915 tunic.


His business card indicates he was a police officer in the state of Baden with the rank of Senior Lieutenant -  so the Heidelberg connection fits.


If we assume that he enlisted more or less where he lived, it is probably one of the three Baden Dragoon Regiments (20th Life Dragoons - 1st Baden , 21st Dragoons - 2nd Baden and 22nd Dragoons - 3rd Baden.


If you could get a better scan of the shoulder strap - a Crown would indicate 20th Life Dragoons, and the numerals 21 and 22 would indicate the other two.



Edited by Tom K
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You're not correct. The stripes on his sleeve are Feldwebel-stripes. The buckle is not relevent, he was not part of a cavalry unit with the machine gun sharp shooter's badge.


I'll look a bit more into this. An Offizierstellvertreter is not a RSM, but an "acting officer". It was a rank that allowed NCOs with a long and good career to serve as officers without being commissioned (basically in the German army, you couldn't become an officer if you didn't start an officer's career).



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Johann Kromer was an Offizierstellvertreter in 1918 and was slightly wounded at some point early 1918, see http://des.genealogy.net/search/show/7808163


If he was serving in a Baden unit, you want to try and contact the Generallandesarchiv in Karlsruhe. They may have more information there. There should at least be a personnel file there from his time with the police, which may also shed a light on his WWI career.




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I agree with almost all Jan pointed out, except that you´ll find most of the files on the Badische Gruppenpolizei at the Staatsarchiv in Freiburg:



There are, however also a few files at Karlsruhe within the file-group 233.

Also: There were a few Kromer in Hamburg from 1910 on, yet Johann Kromer is listed only  1914 in Grenzstrasse 17. 1915 not listed, 1916 listed again as Hans Kromer, Müggenkampstr. 3 until 1918 under this address. He probably moved to the South of Germany after that. I haven´t checked Heidelberg 1919, but in 1920 there is a civil servant by the name of Hans K. listed under Hauptstr. 120. During the years prior to 1914 he might have lived in the household of one of his relatives in HH, that would explain why he is not listed.

A few remarks on the uniforms: 1st photo shows a Unteroffizier, Sergeant or Vizefeldwebel in the Bunter Rock with Schützenschnur (marksman) 2nd level. To have reached the rank of Unteroffizier you must have served for quite a while, so when this photo was taken, he must have been in the army (infantry) for more than two years. The 2nd photo shows him as Etatmäßiger Feldwebel after February 1916. So the first photo was taken before that date. Why after February 1916? Above the Feldwebel patch on his arm you see the MG Scharfschützenabzeichen which was awarded after successfull completion of a special course. You will find some of those soldiers in regular units, but more often in special units, the MG Scharfschützen-units. Their special emblem was the said MG Scharfschützenabzeichen on the sleeve, introduced in February of 1916. Although it was meant only to be worn with the special units, called MG-Scharfschützen Trupps (from February 1916), later (from September 1916) MG-Scharfschützen Abt., there were some soldiers in regular infantry units, who wore this badge. They were probably transfered to these units and kept the badge. His uniform (Feldbluse M1915) was officially distributed from April 1915 onwards. He wears an EKII and probably the Baden equivalent next to it. You see the shoulderflap and its white piping. Again: infantry. So, much goes in favour of Scharfschützen-Abt. 3 or 4.

The Sipo/ Gruppenpolizei was founded 1919 / 1920, so that woul coincide with his move to Heidelberg.

Hope this helps,


Edited by GreyC
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Wow thank you all for the replies. I have a lot to dig through now but already looking at some of the records it appears to be him. His birth date was Aug 26 and that is listed in some of the records. I have to dig through year by year to try and marry some information I have with the records here.

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On 05/09/2020 at 04:23, GreyC said:

Also: There were a few Kromer in Hamburg from 1910 on, yet Johann Kromer is listed only  1914 in Grenzstrasse 17. 1915 not listed, 1916 listed again as Hans Kromer, Müggenkampstr. 3 until 1918 under this address. He probably moved to the South of Germany after that. I haven´t checked Heidelberg 1919, but in 1920 there is a civil servant by the name of Hans K. listed under Hauptstr. 120. 

Can I ask where you located these? Or which document/website you were lookin at? I know of the Hauptstr. 120 address so that is probably a match there. I will have to look through the others 

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