Military


Kaiserliche Heer / Imperial German Army

  • Strength
  • Conditions of Service
  • Uniforms and Insignia
  • Orders, Decorations and Awards


  • Great General Staff
  • Army Supreme Command - OHL
  • Generalfeldmarschall

    Some Senior Generals
  • Helmuth von Moltke
  • Hans von Seeckt
  • Erich von Falkenhayn
  • Erich Ludendorff
  • Army of Prussia
  • Army of Bavaria
  • Army of Saxony
  • Army of Wurttemberg


  • Armies
  • Corps
  • Divisions
  • Brigades
  • Regiments - Infantry
  • Regiments - Cavalry
  • Regiments - Artillery
  • Regiments - Auxiliaries


  • Fortresses / Festungen
  • His Majesty the Emperor was Supreme War Lord. In him resided the ultimate authority over the army and navy. The commanders-in-chief of the land and sea forces were responsible to him. Subject to His Majesty's pleasure, the Chief of the General Staff of the field army had full control of the direction of operations. Decisions of the first importance required His Majesty's approval. He had no executive authority. The Emperor was thus the head of the General Staff.

    The German army, strictly speaking, dated only from 1871, or at earliest 1860. Before the unification of the German empire or confederation, the several states possessed distinct armies, federal armies when required being formed from the contingents which the members of the union, like those of an ordinary alliance, engaged to furnish. The armies of the Holy Roman Empire were similarly formed from "single," "double," or "treble" contingents under the supreme command of specially appointed field marshals of the Empire.

    In the troubles of 1848 there was witnessed the curious spectacle of half of a victorious army being unable to pursue the enemy; this, being composed of "Prussian" as distinct from "federal contingent" troops, had to stop at the frontier of another state. The events of i860 and 1870 put an end to all this, and to a very great extent to the separate armies of the old confederation, all being now remodelled on Prussian lines.

    The bitter humiliation and suffering endured under the French yoke aroused a national spirit which was capable of any sacrifices. The civilian became eager to be trained to fight against the oppressor of his country; and when Prussia rose in 1813, the armies she poured into the field were no longer professional, but national armies, imperfectly trained and organized, but animated by a spirit which more than compensated for these defects.

    At the close of the war her rulers, with far-seeing sagacity, at once devoted themselves to organize on a permanent footing the system which had sprung up under the necessities and enthusiasm of the moment. Universal compulsory service, and a three years' term in the ranks, with further periods in the reserve and Landwehr, were then introduced; and though variations have subsequently been made in the distribution of time, the principles were substantially the same as those in force in 1914.

    By the law of 1814 the periods of service were fixed at three years in the army, two in the reserve and fourteen in the Landwehr, and the annual contingent at 40,000 men. As the population increased, it was felt that the service was unequally distributed, pressing unnecessarily heavily on some, while others escaped altogether. Further, the experiences of Bronnzell and Olmütz in 1850, and of 1859, when Prussia armed in anticipation of a war with France, aroused great doubts as to the efficiency of the Landwehr, which then formed the bulk of Prussia's forces, and of whom many had been as long as ten years away from the colors. At this time the French remark that the Prussian army was " a sort of militia " was by no means untrue.

    Accordingly, by the law of 1860 the annual contingent was fixed at 63,000, the period in the reserve was increased from two to four years, and that in the Landwehr reduced from fourteen to five. The total armed force thus remained nearly the same (12 contingents of 63,000, in place of 19 of 40,000), but the army and its reserves were more than doubled (increased from 5 X 40,000 to 7 X 63,000) while the Landwehr was proportionately reduced. This change was not effected without great opposition, and led to a prolonged struggle between the king, guided by Bismarck, and the parliament.

    It required the victories of 1866 and 1870, and the position thereby won for Prussia, to reconcile the nation to the new law. The military alliance (1866) of Prussia with the other German states gave place in 1871 to the union of all the armies into the German army. Some retained their old peculiarities of uniform, and even more than this was allowed to Bavaria and to Saxony, but the whole army, which has been increased year by year, was modelled on the Prussian part of it.

    In the German Empire the whole of Prussian military legislation was placed in the sphere of the federal union by Article 61 of the Constitution, and then in 1874 the so-called great military law was issued, to which later numerous additions and accessory laws have been added. The uniformity is complete with the exception of special provisions for Bavaria and Wurttemberg.

    Whatever may have been the theory underlying the Imperial Constitution, so far as the actual facts are concerned, the armed force of the Empire was not made up of twenty-five contingents, one from each State in the Empire, but of four contingents, those of Prussia, Bavaria, Wurttemberg, and Saxony. The fundamental principle on which the military organization constitutionally rested may be summed up as to the Empire belonged the military organization and arrangement of the army, the supreme command in war and peace, the fixing of the requirements as to recruits and as to the budget of expenditures; to the States was left the formal supremacy over the contingents and self-administration.

    The old Hanoverian Army disappeared, with the annexation of Hanover to Prussia in 1866, but it was still represented officially by certain regiments of the X army corps, and, in one case at least, battle honours won by the King's German Legion in the British service were borne on German colors. The Hessian Army was represented by the XXV (Grand-ducal Hessian) division, which formed part of the XVIII. army corps. The Prussian army corps were the Guard, and the line numbered I to XI, and XV to XVIII. The peace strength of the Prussian contingent of the imperial German army consisted, in 1905, oí 20,646 officers (including surgeons), 448,365 men and 82,786 horses.

    The Saxon army was modelled on that of Prussia. It formed the XII and XIX army corps in the imperial German army, with headquarters at Dresden and Leipzig respectively. The Bavarian troops were equipped with the same arms as the other divisions of the Imperial German army but wear a different uniform. They were commanded by native generals and consisted in 1912 of three army corps wnich were divided as follows: 23 infantry regiments, 11 cavalry regiments, 14 artillery regiments, 2 chasseur regiments, 3 battalions of pioneers, 3 transportation battalions, and 1 railway battalion. Including all the reserves the Bavarian army numbered over 200,000 men. The annual cost of the army was $20,000,000.

    Württemberg furnished one army corps (XIII; headquarters, Stuttgart), organized, clothed and equipped in all respects like the Prussian army. Like the Bavarians, the Württembergers fought against the Prussians in 1866, but in 1870 made common cause with them against the French, and by the convention entered into the following year placed their army permanently under the command of the Prussian king as emperor. The emperor nominated to the highest commands, but the king of Württemberg retains the nomination and appointment of officers in the lower grades.

    The military expenditure of Germany, according to a comparative table furnished to the House of Commons by the British war office in 1907, varied between £36,000,000 and £44,000,000 per annum in the period 1899-1902, and between £42,000,000 and £51,000,000 per annum in that of 1905-1900.

    By order of the commander-in-chief a number of Prussian regiments and independent battalions bore the names of princes and prominent generals, for the purpose, as it was expressed in the order, "of honoring and keeping alive for all time the memory of his [the King's] ancestor's resting in God, and of such highly merited men as stood by their side in peace and in war, and by their distinguished services acquired just claims to a grateful remembrance by King and fatherland." A few regiments were also given names of families who had excelled by furnishing for long years an unusually large number of their members to the army and to prominent positions in the same.

    The terms of the Armistice required the surrender by Germany of 5000 guns, 25,000 machine guns, 3000 trench mortars, and 1700 aeroplanes but did not specify the size of the German army or the degree of demobilization. In 1919 the President was authorized by the Reichstag to disband the existing army and to raise a provisional national defense army pending the creation of a permanent defense force. On 8 May, 1919, the demobilization of the German army was completed and the defense force came into being. By the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the number of effectives was to be reduced to 100,000 men; universal compulsory service is abolished, also the German Great General Staff and all similar organizations. The Public Safety Police (50,000), Emergency Volunteers (150,000), and Civic Guards (350,000) formed in 1919 on the claim that they were needed to maintain order, were ordered disbanded, as being contrary to the terms of the Versailles Treaty. In January 1921, 30,500 guns had been surrendered, 6000 guns in process of manufacture had been destroyed, 10,000 trench mortars, 63,100 machine guns, and 2,524,000 rifles had been surrendered.




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