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Remembered Today:

German military discipline


Aaron Pegram
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Egbert, physical abuse is illegal in the British Army but last week saw the trial of NCOs accused of just that. Fortunately, they were found not guilty but the case had to go to trial and hinged on exactly where the line should be drawn. The fact that a practice is against the law suggests that it does occur else why legislate against it?

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No Bob,

with all due respect, I took the time to translate something for you. I would appreciate a response... "Same things with different emphasis"?

where points are sidestepped or ignored when they don't fit the argument :-(

Best

Chris

I am not sidestepping or ignoring anything. I want to make detailed responses. As I said, I had to go out the door, and my helper was already there waiting for me. I have just popped back to my house for a few minutes to pick up a couple of needed tools, and just peeked at the Forum to see what is happening. I can respond in a few hours. I have noted that before my procedure the doctors spoke about six weeks' recovery, after the procedure they talk about six months recovery

Bob.

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I don't get your last sentence into the right perspective: do you want to say my link to the legal basis is of no relevance here?

If so, I wonder on what basis you are discussing here and would like to suggest reading the beginning of the thread :blink: .

Hi,

I am suggesting that in any army, British, German or French... NCOs LEGALLY beating up the troops is not allowed. I dont think it is a point that needs to be proved.

The question is rather, what ACTUALLY happened? Bob claims that the Germans did NOT smack their troops around, the diary above shows they did, and not at just one place, but at three different camps.

It was done, and it seems to have been tolerated to a large extent, so what is Legally allowed is academic.

Its like Saying "On the Autobahn past the Rasthoff Weiskirchen the law says you cannot travel more than 130km" and then to take this law and say "Germans don't travel at 160km past Weisskirchen, I have a law to prove it!".... I would argue that the law and reality have little in common there.

2nd Point, Paul has made some notes earlier up the thread about field punishments... They are worth reading.

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Hi,

I am suggesting that in any army, British, German or French... NCOs LEGALLY beating up the troops is not allowed. I dont think it is a point that needs to be proved.

The question is rather, what ACTUALLY happened? Bob claims that the Germans did NOT smack their troops around, the diary above shows they did, and not at just one place, but at three different camps.

It was done, and it seems to have been tolerated to a large extent, so what is Legally allowed is academic.

Its like Saying "On the Autobahn past the Rasthoff Weiskirchen the law says you cannot travel more than 130km" and then to take this law and say "Germans don't travel at 160km past Weisskirchen, I have a law to prove it!".... I would argue that the law and reality have little in common there.

2nd Point, Paul has made some notes earlier up the thread about field punishments... They are worth reading.

I am sorry that I have not gotten back to this earlier; after working, or more correctly directing a helper to do 4-5 hours of work I physically crashed, and just woke up at 5 AM.

There was, in my opinion, a series of previous posts that asserted that there were established field punishments in the German Army 1914-1918 similar to those in the British Army of the period. My "colonel" friend wrote what is in fact a legal brief, going back to the regulations of 1843 (Prussian, I assume), and including the regulations of 1872 as posted by Egbert, and later regulations, and in his commentary said that the only legal corporal punishment was a much milder version of "Field Punishment No. 1" (the wagon wheel treatment, correct?), in which the soldier could be tied up for a limited period, in a fashion that did not threaten his health; this had to be performed indoors, and no other OR/EM were allowed to witness this punishment, to avoid a sense of humiliation. This punishment could not be ordered by a NCO, and not by most officers, but only by a select set of officers with some sort of special designation as a punishment officer. One of the previous posts described the application of a Field Punishment No. 1, by the victim, and, as it involved being strapped up tightly for two hours at a time in bitterly cold weather, could easily have killed him by pneumonia. It is clear that the focus of the punishment was humiliation.

Of course, in an army of about 6 1/2 million, in the mid of a brutal war, everyone realizes that there would be instances of physical assaults by NCOs and perhaps by officers, even if illegal, (in the case of officers I would think that the regimental courts of honor would be a deterrent to offences by officers, but I do not know how active they were during the war) but my assertion is that as far as I can puzzle out, based on reading German sources perhaps two hours a day for seven years, sources of every sort, many family letters, an extensive family oral history that I carefully wrote out before any reading or research, published letters, manuscript accounts (as I mentioned, I bought a manuscript diary of a NCO from my g-f's army corps and am transposing and translating it at present), many personal accounts, secondary sources (although I usually avoid them), official and unit histories (including a few duplicates, I have 110 German official histories, although I do not read them a lot - and of course they are very unlikely to mention the sort of abuses we are talking about). In all of this reading, I cannot recall seing mention of the illegal imposition of field punishments or beatings.

However, there are mentions of the sort of legal punishment described by others, the repetative performance of physical drill and exercising to the point of exhaustion, as was and is utilized in every army in the world. My father told me an example in his unit, the simple ordering of a complete inspection of the men and equipment in field/combat trim (grease on gear, etc.), and then in the following hour an inspection to the standards of garrison/peacetime, then an hour later an inspection to field/combat standards, this regieme being imposed literally all night.

My father felt that the command structure of his company, which was dozens of km. from the nearest other unit of his regiment, which reported directly to OHL, was very abusive and corrupt, and he was a very naughty soldier and ringleader of mischief. The unit was rarely in the front line, they were picked, smart men, trained to independent action, and really raised hell on an almost industrial level. As I have reported in other threads, the worst thing related to the company CO, who stole from the men, was a coward that never went into combat or even close to the front (one company assigned to an army; deployed by Trupp or Zug), allowed the Feldwebel to abuse the men, insulted the Pionier branch, etc. Finally the men had an opportunity on a manuver ground, and my father and others killed the rotten officer. The barracks was surrounded with infantry after the men returned to the barracks, and there was a three day investigation, officers coming in and conducting interviews and taking formal depositions, and at the end of this process the infantry was withdrawn and barrels of beer were delivered to the barracks! The staff clearly decided that a elite storm company was worth more than one rotten officer. My father also had a sharp mouth, and sometimes treated officers to his opinions as well.

But he never mentioned any actual corporal punishment. Of course his unit was probably not a good place to try to apply such measures. They specialized in FW attacks, mostly basically trench raids, and every enlisted man was armed with a P 08. It is instructive that the one NCO who ventured close to physical abuse was the Feldwebel, who was the one NCO that did not go into combat, as the company never went into combat together in the time my father was with that company.

I mentioned my father and the sergeant's face. The unit was put into an obstacle course, and my father stated that he had a recent arm wound that would preclude him from getting over a wall obstacle. The sergeant at that obstacle said that he would "help him" over. When my father was at the wall obstacle my father expected a boost, and instead the sergeant drew his bayonet and poked (without injury) into my father's butt. Pop kicked down and back and caught the sergeant's face with his hobnailed sole, causing major modifications to the sergeant's face. This led to a race thru the obstacle course, the sergeant chasing my father with his drawn bayonet. This came to the attention of an officer, and his question to the sergeant was simple: "How did he kick you in the face when you remained four paces from him?" The sergeant could not answer that and was punished, my father was not; of course he had intentionally kicked the NCO in the face.

So my summation is that:

#1 , to the best of my knowledge, in 1914-1918, corporal punishment was illegal in the German Army, with the exception of the very limited indoors ty-up.

#2, based on what I have come across in all my study, it of course actually must have occurred, as in all armies since the beginning of time, but that it seems to have been very much the exception.

#3, to generalize horribly, in the German Army of 1914-18 discipline was much more humane than that of the Allies; for example, according to IWM data, in the Army of say 6 1/2 million men, at any one time, a total of 82 men were shot over 4 1/3 years, but of those only about 13 were shot for military offences, the rest for acts like rape and murder. In the much smaller British Army, as we know, about 2300 were sentenced to death, 325 actually shot, and additionally much pressure was brought on the Commomwealth forces to also shoot their men. As far as I know, only in the German Army were men always afforded a proper trial in the case of serious charges, with actual lawyers, including a defense attorney/officer (many German reserve officers had doctorates of law, as the CO of my father's regiment, Major Dr. Reddemann, did). It would be interesting to know how many men were sentenced to death but had the sentence put aside, I have no idea, but I would not be astonished if it was none. Anyone know?

#4, it is interesting to see the internal dynamics of the Freikorps, which might be considered the cream and distillation of the direction the German Army was evolving toward, how democratic the relations were within a given unit, men serving in a series of 30 day contracts, very friendly relations between men and officers, etc. (Of course they were all volunteers and generally had a common cause.) It is apparent that relations within the storm units generally were also very good and comradely.

I will go back thru the various recent posts and comment if it seems useful. I also will dust off the dictionary and attack Egbert's useful post, and seek and post the "colonel's" essay on disciplinary law.

Bob Lembke

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Hi,

I am suggesting that in any army, British, German or French... NCOs LEGALLY beating up the troops is not allowed. I dont think it is a point that needs to be proved.

True statement

The question is rather, what ACTUALLY happened? Bob claims that the Germans did NOT smack their troops around, the diary above shows they did, and not at just one place, but at three different camps.

Individual misconduct is everywhere to include in the Brit and German armies

It was done, and it seems to have been tolerated to a large extent, so what is Legally allowed is academic.

Another true statement first part of the sentence: I have posted the link in order to show the German legal boundaries which have never been linked so far in this forum

Its like Saying "On the Autobahn past the Rasthoff Weiskirchen the law says you cannot travel more than 130km" and then to take this law and say "Germans don't travel at 160km past Weisskirchen, I have a law to prove it!".... I would argue that the law and reality have little in common there.

Bull analogy! I drive 220 km/h when passing this location

2nd Point, Paul has made some notes earlier up the thread about field punishments... They are worth reading.

I knew them already- of course - I am, how do you say, eh a military expert on the genre at least for the last 38 years ...or am I in my 39th year of active service? I am off to ask my senior NCO. Hope he has time besides torturing his men :lol:

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Here is an abstract from a discussion of the abolition of "Anbindens," or lashing a man to an object, such as a tree, in the German Army during the war:

"The most degrading and contentious form of the punishment at this time was the so-called "Anbinden." The offender was literally bound during several successive days for two hours to a tree or a wall. As a quick and cheap penal method it was wanted and defended by superiors. It signified for the affected men an open humiliation before their immediate surroundings [comrades]. Massive criticism of the procedure moved the Prussian War Ministry at the end of 1915 for a survey of all military authorities as to whether the retention of 'Anbindens' was necessary, and further whether its abolition seemed desirable...a similar inquiry was also arranged a few days later by the Bavarian War Ministry. A majority of military superiors expressed themselves against the abolishment of 'Anbinden.' In mobile, as well as during static warfare, this method enabled carrying out punishment anywhere and immediately, according to the regulation, thus efficiently, and as a correction. Anyway, some voices pointed out, one should not leave the enforcement [of punishment] to the noncommissioned officers, because these not infrequently chose a public place, 'and bind the man too tightly, thinking that the entire 30 m[eters] of forage rope must be used.' Anyhow, the moderate military [also] did not want 'Anbindens' abolished as a penal method. Thus it [only] came about in May 1917, on sustained pressure of the Reichstag majority."

Obviously lashing a man to an object as punishment was permitted in open places in the German Army until May 1917. This punishment could be inflicted by an NCO.

My translation-- from "Meinungslenkung im Krieg," by Anne Lipp, pages 115-116.

Paul

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Many thanks for that Paul. Eye-opening and also rather gruesome. There is quite a lot of material on the subject of field punishments in the Wehrmacht, but much less on the Kaiserheer; the 999 battalion is legendary/infamous among Wehrmacht researchers, and Manfred Messerschmidt has produced a number of books/articles on the general subject of Nazi military justice.

One book which should touch on the subject is Franz Seidler's Fahnenflucht.

http://www.franzwseidler.de/buecher.htm

And also

Die Militärgerichtsbarkeit der Deutschen Wehrmacht, which is solely focused on WW2.

I'm a big fan of Seidler's work; he's a good researcher who has shed light where it is dark on numerous occasions, foreign volunteers in the Wehrmacht, Volkssturm etc, but I've not seen this book yet. There's also an interesting section on punishment in Shulman's Defeat in the West (such as soldiers being castigated for not riding their bicycles in the correct manner...)

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Bob wrote:

#3, to generalize horribly, in the German Army of 1914-18 discipline was much more humane than that of the Allies; for example, according to IWM data, in the Army of say 6 1/2 million men, at any one time, a total of 82 men were shot over 4 1/3 years, but of those only about 13 were shot for military offences, the rest for acts like rape and murder. In the much smaller British Army, as we know, about 2300 were sentenced to death, 325 actually shot, and additionally much pressure was brought on the Commomwealth forces to also shoot their men. As far as I know, only in the German Army were men always afforded a proper trial in the case of serious charges, with actual lawyers, including a defense attorney/officer (many German reserve officers had doctorates of law, as the CO of my father's regiment, Major Dr. Reddemann, did). It would be interesting to know how many men were sentenced to death but had the sentence put aside, I have no idea, but I would not be astonished if it was none. Anyone know?

Between 1914 and 1920, a total of 3,080 men who fell under the jurisdiction of the British Army Act were sentenced to death for a variety of capital offences. 312 were actually executed therefore roughly 90% of death sentences were commuted.

What do you mean by a "proper trial"? I am unfamiliar with German civil and military law as it was in the Kaiser's day so you'll have to expand on this. Believe it or not, in the British army, "actual lawyers" were engaged in defending accused soldiers. Many later leading lights of the legal profession appeared at courts-martial during the war, as both prosecuting and defence counsel.

You might also explain to us the distinction between the German legal qualification and the British/Commonweath one. As I understand it, "Doktor", the title conferred upon German lawyers, did not actually mean that the man was educated to doctoral standards. Was not law, as taught in Germany, an undergraduate subject as it was, and is, in the UK?

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Between 1914 and 1920, a total of 3,080 men who fell under the jurisdiction of the British Army Act were sentenced to death for a variety of capital offences. 312 were actually executed therefore roughly 90% of death sentences were commuted.

I have seen British sources cite both the 312 figure and 325. Anyone know how many of these were for "military" offences (e.g., cowardice in the face of the enemy, sleeping on sentry duty) and how many "criminal" (e.g., murder, rape)?

What do you mean by a "proper trial"? I am unfamiliar with German civil and military law as it was in the Kaiser's day so you'll have to expand on this. Believe it or not, in the British army, "actual lawyers" were engaged in defending accused soldiers. Many later leading lights of the legal profession appeared at courts-martial during the war, as both prosecuting and defence counsel.

I am not an authority here, but I have seen it stated that in serious German courts-matrial the judge and the defense attorney, at least, had to be actual attorneys, and the same source stated that this was true only in the German Army of the period. This would not preclude some trials in other armies being also staffed by Lawyers. I unfortunately base a lot of my opinion of the British Army 1914-1918 on reading books like Graves and Dunn and other British serving officers. I remember Graves being tapped for a serious court-martial, then the colonel dropping on him to inform him of the verdict that was to come out of the process, and Graves finding this abhorrent and managing to make himself scarce and not serve on the court. The impression I got was both an amateur court and a kangaroo court process. Maybe Graves was not being fair to the process. Did British practice insist on judges and defense counsel actually be lawyers in serious courts-martial?

You might also explain to us the distinction between the German legal qualification and the British/Commonweath one. As I understand it, "Doktor", the title conferred upon German lawyers, did not actually mean that the man was educated to doctoral standards. Was not law, as taught in Germany, an undergraduate subject as it was, and is, in the UK?

I think that it is common in many countries to give a JD but certainly not have it be the equivilant of an academic doctorate. The JD is a professional degree, not an academic degree. I know in the US they have increasingly been giving the JD instead of the former degree, while requiring the same or close to the same work, which is, usually, I think, 3 years of the study of law, after having already obtained a four year undergraduate degree. In Germany of the period I understand that having a Dr. in law was sort of like a modern American getting a MBA; it was a feather in the cap for the man hoping for high administrative status, who would probably not actually be practicing law per se. My impression is that this education was like law in the US, generally after the first degree, but not truly like an academic doctorate. At least after WW II, in Germany the education for a lawyer is different for that of a judge; at the front end you decide to study for one or the other. I did not know that the law is usually taught as an undergraduate program in the UK; I did know that the courses and degrees in the UK is somewhat different than in the US.

Bob

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I have seen British sources cite both the 312 figure and 325. Anyone know how many of these were for "military" offences (e.g., cowardice in the face of the enemy, sleeping on sentry duty) and how many "criminal" (e.g., murder, rape)?

The figures do vary. The figures put forward by Putkowski & Sykes refer to death sentences passed between August 1914 and March 1920. The vast majority were sentenced for military offences and there were roughly 35 murder convictions. No British soldier was executed for rape although one member of the Chinese Labour Corps was shot for the rape/murder of a French civilian in 1919.

I am not an authority here, but I have seen it stated that in serious German courts-matrial the judge and the defense attorney, at least, had to be actual attorneys, and the same source stated that this was true only in the German Army of the period. This would not preclude some trials in other armies being also staffed by Lawyers. I unfortunately base a lot of my opinion of the British Army 1914-1918 on reading books like Graves and Dunn and other British serving officers. I remember Graves being tapped for a serious court-martial, then the colonel dropping on him to inform him of the verdict that was to come out of the process, and Graves finding this abhorrent and managing to make himself scarce and not serve on the court. The impression I got was both an amateur court and a kangaroo court process. Maybe Graves was not being fair to the process. Did British practice insist on judges and defense counsel actually be lawyers in serious courts-martial?

Capital cases were tried before either a General Court-Martial or a Field General Court-Martial, the latter being somewhat less formal than the former. The president and other members of the court were usually non-lawyers but a judge-advocate or court-martial officer was in attendance to provide legal advice to the court. Sometimes, the JA would prosecute the case but this did not happen all the time. The accused had the right to counsel and in many instances he was represented by an officer known as the "accused's friend". Many were trained lawyers whilst others were not. When the accused had no representation, it was the duty of the president and the JA to assist his case to ensure fairness.

I think that it is common in many countries to give a JD but certainly not have it be the equivilant of an academic doctorate. The JD is a professional degree, not an academic degree. I know in the US they have increasingly been giving the JD instead of the former degree, while requiring the same or close to the same work, which is, usually, I think, 3 years of the study of law, after having already obtained a four year undergraduate degree. In Germany of the period I understand that having a Dr. in law was sort of like a modern American getting a MBA; it was a feather in the cap for the man hoping for high administrative status, who would probably not actually be practicing law per se. My impression is that this education was like law in the US, generally after the first degree, but not truly like an academic doctorate. At least after WW II, in Germany the education for a lawyer is different for that of a judge; at the front end you decide to study for one or the other. I did not know that the law is usually taught as an undergraduate program in the UK; I did know that the courses and degrees in the UK is somewhat different than in the US.

In Britain, the degree of LL.B is awarded to undergraduates. Oxford and Cambridge (and maybe Durham) award a BA (Jurisprudence). The graduate who wishes to enter the legal profession then has two choices: (1) if he decides to become a barrister, he must attend the Inns of Court School of Law where he receives professional training prior to his call. He must then serve his time as a pupil under a more experienced barrister before being allowed to take a brief. (2) if he decided to become a solicitor he would become an articled clerk with a firm for a period of years before qualifying. In the modern world things have changed but the process I have described was in place during the early 20th century. There were other routes to the bar for non-law graduates but I won't go into those here.

There is very little difference between the core courses taught at English law schools and American ones. The law of most states is grounded in English common law. Students study contracts, tort, evidence, criminal law, and property. Of course the law has evolved to suit the jurisdictions in which it is applied but the basic theory is the same. For example, the requirements for contract formation in England are the same in New York or Pennsylvania or California.

The degree of doctor of laws exists in the UK (LL.D) but it is an honorary degree. Postgraduate degrees in law or law-related subjects are offered by many universities. An LL.M can be awared as a taught or research degree as can an MA. Academic lawyers generally follow the PhD route. All this is a bit general but it gives you an idea of how things were/are on this side of the pond.

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  • 10 months later...
Bob,

I found some additional information after being pointed in the right direction by a learned German friend. The punishment known as "Anbindens," being tied to a tree, or a wagon wheel was used, and was not abolished until 21.3.1917.

Below is a letter from a witness to such a punishment, in German:

"Heute wurden bei uns zwei Mann bestraft. Der eine wegen Lügens und unstatthaften Benehmens gegen einen Unteroffizier [...] wurde zur Strafe 2 Stunden, der andere wegen unflätiger Bemerkungen zu einer Stunde am Baume festgebunden. Eine wirklich scheußliche Strafe. Nicht wahr?" BA/MA Freiburg, MSg2/3461, Feldpostbriefe des Gefreiten A. Benedict/Westfront an seine Eltern, Brief v. 26/27.6.1915.

Paul

Although it will not convince Bob, I was reading some German Field manuals from 1918 today... "Anbinden" to trees etc. seems to be listed in the field manuals as a standard field punishment.

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[pedant mode]

In Britain, the degree of LL.B is awarded to undergraduates. Oxford and Cambridge (and maybe Durham) award a BA (Jurisprudence). The graduate who wishes to enter the legal profession then has two choices: (1) if he decides to become a barrister, he must attend the Inns of Court School of Law where he receives professional training prior to his call. He must then serve his time as a pupil under a more experienced barrister before being allowed to take a brief. (2) if he decided to become a solicitor he would become an articled clerk with a firm for a period of years before qualifying. In the modern world things have changed but the process I have described was in place during the early 20th century. There were other routes to the bar for non-law graduates but I won't go into those here.

In Scotland option (1) is to become an advocate at the Court of Session; but essentially the same.

[/pedant mode]

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[pedant mode]

In Scotland option (1) is to become an advocate at the Court of Session; but essentially the same.

[/pedant mode]

Do you happen to know how many Scots advocates served during the war? My area of study has encompassed only English barristers, solicitors, and articled clerks. The fours Inns of Court actually had their own officer training scheme that was open to members of the bar, students from Oxford and Cambridge, and boys from "certain public schools." When first they formed, they were christened the "Devil's Own" by King George III, when he learned he had a battalion comprised of lawyers.

As of December 1914, there were 500 barristers serving, and a further 1200 plus solicitors and clerks. As the war progressed, more joined the ranks but I don't have the numbers from 1916, 1917, and 1918 to hand. I'll be in London next week and plan to visit the Inns to view the roll of honour.

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I'll see what I can find out. It might take a call to the Faculty of Advocates.

I can do that. I was just hoping that you might have had the information to hand.

I've searched the archives of The Times and the Manchester Guardian but could find nothing relating to Scottish advocates under arms. Perhaps there's something in the archives of The Scotsman, but if they're online, I haven't got access to them.

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Although it will not convince Bob, I was reading some German Field manuals from 1918 today... "Anbinden" to trees etc. seems to be listed in the field manuals as a standard field punishment.
Very interesting, Chris. As far as the field manuals were concerned, Anbinden had not been abolished in 1917?

Robert

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I can do that. I was just hoping that you might have had the information to hand.

I e-mailed the Faculty but no reply yet.

I haven't got round to e-mailing the Law Society of Scotland

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Very interesting, Chris. As far as the field manuals were concerned, Anbinden had not been abolished in 1917?

Robert

Hi,

The Prussian Instruction book (1917) and the bavarian AND the Sachsen Instruction books (1918) all have Anbinden in them. (I have the Instruction manuals for MG troops but the general service chapters are the same for all branches)

They also say quite clearly that Guards should make free use with but strokes from their rifles to keep unruly people in order.

Maybe the 1917 change did not make it to the Author of the Manuals in time (same Author).

best

Chis

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Hi,

The Prussian Instruction book (1917) and the bavarian AND the Sachsen Instruction books (1918) all have Anbinden in them. (I have the Instruction manuals for MG troops but the general service chapters are the same for all branches)

They also say quite clearly that Guards should make free use with but strokes from their rifles to keep unruly people in order.

Maybe the 1917 change did not make it to the Author of the Manuals in time (same Author).

best

Chis

Very interesting stuff Chris. Do you mind if you PM me the reference of those instruction books? I'd love to check them out.

Cheers,

Aaron

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