Imperial German Army (Reichsheer)

The imperial German army in its basic form already existed at the time of the North German Confederation under Prussian leadership. After the accession of the South German States and the founding of the German Reich after the Franco-German War, the southern German armies joined the imperial army, but retained some autonomy. It was not until 1917 that a general unification of the army began, but could not be completed until the end of the war.





The foundation stone for the imperial army was already laid in the North German Confederation. This was an amalgamation of the German states north of the Main Line under the leadership of Prussia. During this time also the armies of the respective German states were adapted to the Prussian military for the most part and unified. With the Franco-German War of 1870 and 1871, the North German Confederation and the South German States Grand Duchy of Baden and Hesse, as well as the kingdoms of Bavaria and Württemberg joined the Confederation. After the victory over France, the German Reich was founded on 1 January 1871.

Like the Kingdom of Saxony in the North German Confederation, the kingdoms of Bavaria and Wuerttemberg had obtained special rights for their army. Thus, the three states maintained their own war ministries, set their own equipment or created their own training guidelines.

Only in the case of a war and thus the beginning of the covenant case, all armies were directly subordinated to the emperor and the great general staff.





During the peacetime until mobilization in August 1914, the entire army consisted of 8 Army inspections with 25 Army Corps.
The Inspector General supervised the training status, equipment and organization of the army in representation of the Supreme Warlord (the German Kaiser). In addition, they led large military maneuvers.


Construction of the German army:

Construction of the German army



At the beginning of the war, the German army maintained 8 inspections:

I. Army inspection based in Gdansk
- I. Army corps
- II. Army corps
- XVII. Army corps

II. Army inspection based in Berlin
- Garde corps
- XII. (1. Kgl. Sächsisches) Army corps
- XIX. (2. Kgl. Sächsisches) Army corps

III. Army inspection based in Hanover
- IX. Army corps
- X. Army corps

IV. Army inspection based in Munich
- I. Bavarian army corps
- II. Bavarian army corps
- III. Bavarian army corps

V. Army inspection based in Karlsruhe
- IX. Army corps
- XV. Army corps

VI. Army inspection based in Stuttgart
- IV. Army corps
- XI. Army corps
- XIII. (Kgl. Württembergisches) Army corps

VII. Army inspection based in Saarbrücken
- XVI. Army corps
- XVII. Army corps
- XXI. Army corps

VIII. Army inspection based in Berlin
- XI. Army corps
- XVIII. Army corps
- XX. Army corps


In addition, there were separate inspections for the cavalry:

  • General inspection of the cavalry based in Berlin
  • 1st Cavalry Inspection based in Königsberg
  • 2nd Cavalry Inspection based in Szczecin
  • 3rd Cavalry Inspection based in Münster
  • 4th Cavalry Inspection based in Potsdam


In 1914, the German army comprised about 794,000 soldiers, divided into

  • 651 Infantry battalions
  • 18 Hunter / Rifle battalions
  • 9 Non-commissioned officer Schools, 1 Infantry Battalion, 1 Infantry Shooting School, 1 Rifle Examination Board
  • 11 machine gun departments, 233 machine gun companies, 15 fortress machine gun departments
  • 490 Cavalry cartridges
  • 48 Cavalry cartridges
  • 633 Field artillery batteries
  • 1 Field artillery shooting school
  • 1 Foot artillery shooting school
  • 48 Foot artillery battalions
  • 28 Pioneer battalions with 26 headlight trains
  • 2 Pioneer regiments (No. 23 and No. 30)
  • 8 Railway battalions
  • 9 Telegraph battalions
  • 5 Airship battalions
  • 5 Air battalions
  • 1 Motor battalion
  • 25 Train departments
  • 317 District commands




The military service:

After the founding of the German Empire, military service was regulated by the Reichs Military Law of 1874. In this every German was, as long as he was fit and had no dishonorable punishments, committed to military service.

This could be completed in the age group of 17 to 45 years, with the service in the army or the Navy (before the First World War, there was no air force) was completed at the age of 20 to 39 years.

In contrast to the today's compulsory military service was subdivided in the German Reich not only on the standing army, but further on the Landsturm and Landwehr units. These were reserve units in which, after active military service, a membership of several years affiliated and served as reserve units in case of war.

Pure military service lasted 2 years for infantry and other infantry, 3 years for cavalry, horse artillery and navy. For men with a certificate of one-year attendance of the Untersekunda, the school leaving certificate or the existence of the one-year examination, the military service could be shortened also to 1 year. These 1-year-olds were trained with appropriate suitability then to NCOs or officers of the reserve and Landsturm associations.

The payment of the soldiers took place in a 10-act rhythm always in advance.

Rank Monthly pay Money for food Housing allowance
Meaner 6,60 9 none
Corporal 8,10 9 none
non-commissioned officer 21,60 13 none
Sergeant 32,10 13 none
Vice sergeant 41,10 13 none
Sergeant 56,10 13 none



Rank Monthly pay Money for food Housing allowance
Sergeant stuff 1104 to 1404 300 Tied housing
Lieutenant 900 to 1188 288 to 420 216 to 420
Captains and Captain II. Class 3900 432 to 972 360 to 900
Captains and Captain I. Class 5850 432 to 972 360 to 900
Staff officers
(no regimental commander)
5850 594 to 1314 540 to 1200
Staff officers
(as regimental commander)
7800 594 to 1314 600 to 1500
Commanding General 12000 1188 to 2520 Official residence with furnishings





Equipment of a German soldier


At the beginning of the war, the German soldiers wore the still known "Pickelhaube". This headgear was already introduced in 1843 in the Prussian army, later also adopted by the armies of the countries joined to the German Reich. In 1895, although an improvement of the hood, but was already in the first battles of the First World War of the Supreme Army Command aware that the hood neither provided sufficient protection against bullets and splinters. In addition, the pimple on the hood was a very good target for enemy snipers.

As a result, Prof. Friedrich Schwerd designed a successor model, which laid the foundation for all subsequent helmets of the world's armed forces. Under the designation steel helmet M1916 a model was presented, which fulfilled the requirements of modern warfare. The model was made of stainless steel and thus provided sufficient protection against small-caliber bullets and shrapnel.




The uniform of the German army was introduced only in 1907 and was considered at the beginning of the war as one of the most modern. This was mainly due to the introduction of green and gray colors, which should reduce the visibility of the soldier on the battlefield. So had e.g. the French troops at the beginning still light blue uniforms with red caps, with which the soldiers were to be seen already from a distance and accordingly high were the losses in the first battles on the part of France.

During the war, the appearance of the uniform changed only slightly. Due to the shortage of materials, the uniform was later made by replacement fibers. The color also changed from green to stone gray or field gray. However, the uniform did not provide protection against shelling or weathering. Only the shock troops and the operating crew of MGs additional protection and a breastplate was introduced.




Most of the German soldiers were already equipped with the rifle 98 from Mauser at the beginning of the war. Only a few units and most of the Landsturmeinheiten still had the rifle 88, which did not quite reach the performance of the successor model.

As a handgun in the German army served the parabola pistol or pistol 08 called by Luger.




A detailed listing of the ranks of the German army until 1918 can be found in a separate post:
Click here!



The flagship:
The oath was a solemn promise to call God to witness the firm intention of keeping the promise. The soldiers swore on entering service on the respective flag, standard or a branch of his unit.

The oath formula was in Prussia and Alsace-Lorraine:

"I (first name and surname) swear to God the Omniscient and Almighty a bodily oath, that I give His Majesty the King of Prussia (in Alsace-Lorraine: the Emperor), William II my most gracious sovereign, in all and every incidents, on land and on water, in times of war and peacetime, and wherever it may be, to serve faithfully and honestly, to promote the utmost and the best, but to avert damage and disadvantage, to strictly obey the war articles I have read and the instructions and orders given to me wants me to behave as befits a righteous, unprecedented, dutiful and respectful soldier.

So help me God through Jesus Christ and his holy Gospel! "
(Jewish soldiers just said, so help me God)

In the various federal states there were some deviations in the oath, which come from the respective title of the ruler or state-owned formulations.






You can find the right literature here:


The Kaiser's Army: The German Army in World War One

The Kaiser's Army: The German Army in World War One Hardcover – October 13, 2015

In this comprehensive book, David Stone describes and analyzes every aspect of the German Army as it existed under Kaiser Wilhelm II, encompassing its development and antecedents, organization, personnel, weapons and equipment, inherent strengths and weaknesses, and victories and defeats as it fought on many fronts throughout World War I.

The book deals in considerable detail with the origins and creation of the German army, examining the structure of power in German politics and wider society and the nation's imperial ambitions, along with the ways in which the high command and general staff functioned in terms of strategy and tactical doctrine. Stone examines the nature, background, recruitment, training, and military experiences of the officers, NCOs, and soldiers, as well as personal and collective values relating to honor, loyalty, and conscience.

In addition the army's operations. Stone gives context with an overview of the army at war, covering the key actions and outcomes of major campaigns from 1914 to 1918 up to the signature of the Armistice at Compiègne. For anyone seeking a definitive reference on the German Army of the period--whether scholar, historian, serving soldier or simply a general reader--this remarkable book will prove an invaluable work.

Click here!



German Assault Troops of World War I: Organization Tactics Weapons Equipment Orders of Battle Uniforms

German Assault Troops of World War I: Organization Tactics Weapons Equipment Orders of Battle Uniforms Hardcover – April 20, 2012

This book covers the organization, tactics, weapons, equipment, orders of battle, and uniforms of official and unofficial units, from early raiding parties to formal assault battalions. Rare photos depict badges and insignia not previously known, while primary documents describing regulations and training are provided in their entirety. New information on the origin of shock tactics is presented, gleaned from German archives and not previously published in English. Specific operations on all fronts are included, along with extracts from German army manuals for shock-troop arms such as flamethrowers, mortars, machine guns, grenade launchers, assault artillery, and tanks.

Click here!



Field Grey Uniforms of the Imperial German Army, 1907-1918

Field Grey Uniforms of the Imperial German Army, 1907-1918 Hardcover – February 28, 2013

This book is the culmination of many years' work from two authors who have "lived and breathed" the subject for the past forty years: one, a military antiques dealer of international standing; the other, an extremely knowledgeable collector of German World War I uniforms and equipment. Using mostly never before published period photographs as well as a wealth of highly detailed color studio photos of tunics drawn from one of the world's greatest private collections, it is an absolute must for any collector of World War I uniforms. Indeed, for any collector of German World War I memorabilia, laying out as it does in a very clear and precise way, all the variations of tunic, their origins and usage. This reader-friendly book will help guide the novice and experienced collector alike through the often difficult and confusing information on the subject.

Click here!



Sturmtruppen: WWI German Stormtroopers (1914-1918)

Sturmtruppen: WWI German Stormtroopers (1914-1918) Hardcover – December 3, 2014

The first assault units (Sturmtruppen) were formed during the spring and summer of 1916, when the Sturmbataillon Rohr was organized and after General Falkenhayn, head of the OHL, gave orders for the creation of special detachments. These detachments had the mission of spreading the Stosstrupptaktik, a new tactic which decisively transformed the fighting methods of the German Army. But long before this happened, another type of troops had been created within the German infantry during the winter of 1914-1915: the Shock troops (Stosstruppen), fresh infantry groups that were never officially recognized as such and never belonged to any permanent unit, but remained active until the end of the war and contributed to improving the offensive capacity of the German infantry.

This book is a narration of the history of the shock and assault troops and covers their combat methods. Finally, it offers a comprehensive description of their uniforms, equipment, and weapons, along with a large number of illustrations and period photographs rarely seen.

Click here!






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