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Infantry Regiments

The infantry was the principal arm of the army, not only in regard to numbers, but for its capacity of being employed at any time and in any country. It formed, consequently, the principal part of the army. The infantry consisted in 1910 of 216 regiments, mostly of three battalions each. These were numbered, apart from the eight Guard regiments and the Bavarians, serially throughout the army. Certain regiments were styled grenadiers and fusiliers. In addition there are eighteen chasseur or rifle battalions (Jäger). The battalion had always four companies, each, at war strength, 250 strong. The armament of the infantry is the model 1898 magazine rifle and bayonet.

A German infantry regiment had almost the strength of a British brigade. It was formed of three battalions, each of four companies and the company is divided into three sections, or, as they are called in the German army, Zugs. The strength of the company on a war footing was 250 men. During recent years the infantry battalions in all the frontier districts towards France and Russia had been kept at a peace strength of 180. The battalions in the other corps had a company peace strength of 160. Thus on mobilisation each company in the frontier corps required only 70 reservists to bring it up to war strength. Those of the other corps would require 90. But in the whole first line army on mobilisation more than two-thirds of the men in the ranks would be trained regulars, the reservists forming a much smaller proportion than in any other European army.

The battalion with its four companies when mobilised was a little over 1,000 strong - 26 officers and 1,031 men - under the command of a major. Three battalions united in the regiment under the command of the colonel had a war strength of 3,171 officers and men.

The infantry weapon was the Mauser magazine rifle of the 1898 pattern. The calibre is .311 - a little more than the calibre of our British army rifle. The cartridges were loaded in clips carrying five each. Every regiment had a considerable number of machine guns using the rifle cartridge.

In peace time the uniform of infantry of the line was dark blue, but the war uniform was of a greenish-grey color, which was said to melt very well into the background of a European landscape. Many thought in this respect it is better than khaki, which was originally adopted for service in sun-baked Indian districts and Soudan deserts, and which showed up rather too strongly against a green background. The head-dress of the infantry was a leather helmet with a spike at the top of it, a rather heavier and clumsier form of head-gear than the spiked helmets the British adopted for the infantry after the Franco-German war, as a kind of imitative tribute to the successful army. The German helmet with its polished black surface and brass or gilded badges, reflected the sun too strongly for modern battle conditions, and in the Great War it was covered with a piece of fabric of the same color as the uniform.

The German infantryman carried rather a heavy load in his knapsack. The object was to lighten to a corresponding extent the weight carried on the baggage waggons and make the men more independent of them. The mounted officers - colonels, majors, adjutants and captains - carried in the same way a good deal of weight on their horses or spare chargers, and the officers who were not mounted were equipped with smaller and rather more elegantly made knapsacks than those carried by the men, and thus had all immediately necessary kit with them wherever the regiment halts.

The infantry drill had been made fairly simple. The company drawn up with its three Zugs, or sections, in two-deep lines, one behind the other, was the unit. The ordinary assembly formation was that of the four company columns in lines. Column formations were the ordinary or narrow column formed by these company columns following each other in succession, or the broad column, in which the battalion was arrayed in two columns, each of two companies or six sections placed side by side. Marching in fours was the usual order for the column of route. Fighting formations were made by deploying into firing lines and supports from the line of company columns.

In the old Prussian drill-book of Frederick the Great's time, the infantry march was a slow step with the leg kept stiff. This curious stiff-legged march was still practised in the German army, and was used at times at reviews. It is a survival just like the slow march which is used by the British brigade of Guards every year at the trooping of the colors on the King's birthday. This slow step was the ordinary marching pace of all the British army until about 1840, when the quick march was introduced. At Berlin and Potsdam, on great occasions, the Prussian Guards not only march past with the old-fashioned stiff-legged "Parade step," but also wore the quaint mitre-shaped head-gear of the eighteenth century Grenadiers. The "Parade step" was very absurdly described as the "Goose-step," an exercise which long survived in the British own drill-book, and consisted of a slow-marking time, bending the knee and raising the foot high.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:54:35 ZULU