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Guest ElyssaKowalinski

Uniforms of WW1 Prussian/German soldiers

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I've been able to identify the guy on the left (my great grandfather) as wearing the uniform of a Prussian officer, but that's it. I would like to know more about the insignia things he's wearing and what the uniform is of the portly guy with him. My great grandfather was killed in Marienberg in 1917.

Also, for anyone who's interested, the tent they're standing in front of is a food/mess tent - note the 'chimney' on the top of it!

Here's the photograph:

post-23-1087321507.jpg

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... and this is what was written on the back of it, which I can't read.

With thanks for any help,

Elyssa Kowalinski

(Melbourne, Australia)

post-23-1087321731.jpg

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The portly gentleman is a non-commissioned officer of some sort - the lace on his collar and cuffs gives that away. The officer's shoulder boards he seems to be wearing would make him a temporary officer - an "Offizierstellvertreter" (Deputy Officer) or "Feldwebel-Leutnant" (Sergeant-Major-Lieutenant.)

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Hello,

The guy on the left is definitely a Feldwebelleutnant, the guy on the right is probably a Leutnant (Second Lieutenant).

You don't have his name?

Can you give us a sharp view of his left shoulder board? That may give some more information.

I can't understand a word of what's on the back (and I can read Sütterlin), is it even German?

Regards,

Jan

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Non-commissioned officer - does that mean he wasn't in the army as a career but was granted an officership based on his status? I don't know the name of the fancier-dressed guy. His shoulder boards are as sharp as they can get - if you save the jpeg to somewhere and then zoom in on it, you'll see what I mean.

My great-grandfather (the guy on the right) was named Stanislaus Kowalinski. On the birth certificate for my grandfather in 1909 his occupation was a Gerichtsvoltzieher (sp) - court bailiff. This photo must have been taken between 1914-1917. Possibly he was granted (? - I don't know how the military works) a basic officership based on his status or maybe from something he did during his compulsory Prussian 'national service'. He was apparently killed on the Front by gunfire.

The reason we know so little about him is because my grandfather, his only surviving child, told his kids that his father was a POLISH soldier in WW1, and was shot by the GERMANS. As you can see, it's quite the opposite - that is definitely a german uniform (and technically Poland didn't even exist as a country then). My very-proud-of being-Polish grandparents spent WW2 under Nazi rule in occupied Stettin. There's No Way that my grandfather didn't know the reality, he spoke German as well as Polish, and I'm beginning to suspect that one of the reasons they survived the 2nd war may have had something to do with his father 'Dying For Germany' in WW1. It's only recently that I identified the uniform as Prussian, I'm not really sure how to tell my father yet! - but I think he too knows that something was up.

I can 'read' handwritten german too, but I can't understand the words either. I thought maybe because they were about a place and/or a military unit or something? This is as close as I can get to what the letters say:

'3 Vintasz cige gucye trgne Kwella' ('13 Okt(ober)' stamp). Perhaps 'trgne' is some form of three or thirty. It may in fact be Polish, but do the capitalised words 'Vintasz' or 'Kwella' match any places/battles/units?

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Hello,

the writing is not very spectacular and says:

3 Visitabzüge

ganze Figur

Kwella

No problem so far with Sütterlin, but how to translate into English? :rolleyes:

"3 Visitabzüge" means, that someone (Kwella?) wants 3 single copies (so called "carte de visite") and "ganze Figur" says, he wants the complete figure/body from head to toe and not just a half-length portrait.

I am not sure about "Kwella", which could also be "Devella" but what about Kwella as a short "nick name" for Kowalinski? Germans love these kind of nicks.

Michael

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The mystery continues ...

There are lots of places called "Marienburg" in Germany and Eastern Europe. The only one close to fighting in 1917 was in Latvia. (The fighting near there took place after the fall of Riga in September of 1917. As the number of German units was relatively small, it might be possible to find out a little more about our mysterious Prussian officer!)

Please note that it is the portly man who is the Feldwebel-Leutnant. The smaller man wears the uniform of a full-fledged officer.

As for the connection between Poland and Prussia, there were considerable sections of pre-1918 Prussia that were Polish in language and culture. Indeed, there is an anecdote about a draft of men from Baden being sent to a regiment from one of these areas who found themselves entirely unable to communicate with their comrades. The solution was to form a German-speaking platoon within the regiment! There are also stories off Prussian units that declared themselves part of the Polish Army at the end of the war.

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Elyssa,

I found seven possible Marienberg/Marienburgs in four countries that could be the one. Do you have an exact date of death? That would help narrow the possibilities considerably.

To expand on Hoplophile's anecdote, a considerable chunk of pre-1918 Prussia (West Prussia, Posen and parts of Silesia) was ethnically Polish and was handed over to the new state of Poland after the war. The famous "Polish Corridor" separating East Prussia from the rest of Germany was a part of that area - I'm sure you will have looked at maps of Germany in the 30's.

Curious if you know how they came to be in Stettin. Its part of Poland now, but I was not aware that it had a large Polish population prior to WW2. Did they move there from elsewhere in "Poland" (ie the area now known as, but not then part of :blink: )

Duckman

(ex-Melbourne, Australia)

PS: As to your parents/grandparents concerns - remember that he, like millions of others, was just fighting for his country. He cannot be judged by events that occurred 25 years after his death. "And the truth will set them free...."

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Thank you Michael for your translation :).

According to my grandfather's records, Stanislaus Kowalinski died on 20 December 1917 in Marienburg. Family lore has it that he was killed by machine gun fire, so I assumed he was near The (or a) Front. I am unable to find him listed in the http://www.volksbund.de/ 'soldier search' page, but the database there is incomplete. I don't know in which year the photo was taken, it is quite possible it was taken somewhere completely removed from Marienburg. When I posted the photos here I was only trying to figure out what the uniforms were! Now I'm even more interested in these men.

re Duckman's questions, yep, I'm pretty understanding of the whole Prussia/Poland border changes, I'm researching the genealogy of my Polish/Prussian side.

I think I'm on the wrong war forum to be writing about Stettin in 1939! But to answer your question, my grandparents were from Bydgoszcz. When Germany invaded Poland they were travelling or visiting somewhere, possibly in Szczecin. My grandfather's uncle and cousins had moved there prior to 1936. My grandfather worked in a post office in Bydgoszcz, and hearing that the Soviets were in Bydgoszcz, and being a government employee he was likely to be killed if they returned there, I think he applied to the Germans to be able to stay in Stettin near his extended family - and it would have helped that his cousin was off being a soldier on the front lines, I'm sure. Pop saved a lot of his official documents from that time, I'm just starting to go through them to figure out what they are.

Elyssa

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Elyssa

You can rule out 1914 for your photo the Officer on the right is wearing a 1915 pattern tunic. So you can narrow it down Between 1915 and the end of 1917. Do you know when your grandfather was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd class you may be able to narrow the date down further.

Best Regards

N.S.Regt.

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I didn't know he was awarded anything. Is that what the little square is on his uniform?

What does that mean exactly? What did one have to do to earn an Iron Cross 2nd class?

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Hello,

The only possibility of knowing more about the man is that the regimental number or monogramm on the shoulder board would be clearly visible. You might also contact the Krankenbuchlager to ask if they have some info about your relative (it costs 25 euro though if they have something, which may be only the name of the man from the Verlustliste).

Regards,

Jan

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I didn't know he was awarded anything. Is that what the little square is on his uniform?

What does that mean exactly? What did one have to do to earn an Iron Cross 2nd class?

Yes. It's the ribbon of the Iron Cross 2nd Class, of which about 3.8 million wree awarded during the war. Seehere for a recent discussion, including a breakdown of numbers awarded.

The EKII was awarded for various reasons, gallantry or (more commonly) for meritorious service over a period of time. I've heard it said that in the Army commanded by the Crown Prince of Prussia, the only way to avoid the EKII was to desert or commit suicide!

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Here are some websites of interest. Borden Battery

German & Austrian Great War Websites - Part 24

Note: CEF Study Group member websites denoted with asterisk "*"

==============================================

The Prussian Army - The German Army 1914-1918

This comprehensive website includes extensive details on the following: the Generals and Politicians including biographies and photographs, composition & structure of the German Army including orders of battle, illustrations of complete uniforms and German battle summaries. This website is filled with detailed information, well designed and will be an important website to consult regarding the German Army during the Great War. [CEF Study Group - Oct 2005]

http://home.comcast.net/~jcviser/index.htm/index.htm

Austro-Hungarian Land Forces 1848-1918

The aim of this very well researched website is to document the organisational history of the land forces of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy from just prior to the outbreak of the Great War until the collapse of the monarchy in 1918. Topic areas include: Introduction and Sources, Troops and Units History, Orders of Battle, Orders and Decorations, Badges and Uniforms, Biographies, Engagements and Battles, Gallery and Portraits, the Mexican Adventure and Hungarian-German Military Terms. In addition, there is a discussion forum on this website. [A Glenn Jewison & Jörg C. Steiner website][CEF Study Group - Jan 2006]

http://www.austro-hungarian-army.co.uk/

German Historical Museum - The First World War 1914-1918: Reality and Remembrance

A museum tour of the Great War from the German perspective. Commentary is in both German and English. [CEF Study Group]

http://www.dhm.de/ausstellungen/der-erste-...eg/rundgang.htm

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