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Gustav Landahl and 5th Landwehr Division


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#1 fusslappen

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 06:47 PM

I am trying to research my German grandfather's military unit and likely locations during the war.

From stories he told, we believe he was a Pionier and served exclusively in France for the entire war. We have a tape recorded interview with him in which he mentions some place names--Fresnes, Saulx, Ville ("a Moselle town," "down there near Verdun, at the foot of the fortifications")... He also brought home postcards of Fresnes-en-Woevre and Saulx.

We found one 1915 Verlustlisten entry for a Gustav Landahl of Hamburg who was with the
Landwehr-Pionier-Kompanie/XVI. Armeekorps (There were also a few other entries that seemed not to correspond with our grandfather--one fellow who went missing mid-way through the war, and another who was an infantryman and may have gone to the eastern front, etc).

According to Wikipedia, this pionier unit was part of the 5th Landwehr Division which saw action in the vicinity SE of Verdun. I also found the page about the 5th Landwehr at http://www.militaerpass.net/5ldwd.htm that mentions engagements at Fresnes, Champlon (near Saulx), Marcheville, and later the St. Mihiel/Mont Sec sector. This was an exciting find, as it seems to correspond well with some of the place names and postcards we have from grandpa.

Some of my remaining questions, though:

Does anyone know if there is a full regimental history of this Division in print or online somewhere?

Also, how would a 17-year-old living in Hamburg (in 1914) end up in the XVI Armeekorps (and a Landwehr unit) based in Metz? Wouldn't he have normally been inducted into the IX Armeekorps? And aren't the Landwehr Divisions comprised of older men?

Also, grandpa mentioned a few other place names that don't quite match places the 5th Landwehr saw action. One of these sounds like "Talure", but I am wondering if it might have been Tahure (or Talou?) Yet the 5th Landwehr division did not fight at Tahure or Talou Hill as far as I can tell? Also, he said that place was "near the Rhine," which doesn't sound right at all, though perhaps near the Rhine-Marne canal? And it was a terrible fight there, "too much artillery," he said. He said that was where he lost his hearing, and many of his comrades were killed.

Grandpa also mentioned "Cambria" as a place they were sent, up "in them mountains." Could this be Cambrai? Or perhaps more likely Combres (Heights)?

I am also trying to understand what a pioneer in this unit would likely have been doing at the various places and points in time. He clearly mentioned being involved in nasty battles at these last two places, though we also got the impression that mainly he was well behind the front lines. He also mentioned being off the "com lines" for a time getting training, possibly in sharpshooting.

Thanks in advance for any insight or resources anyone might have!

Becky

#2 ph0ebus

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 07:37 PM

Hi Becky,

Welcome to the forum! I am not sure if I can be of very much help with your questions above, but I did find an August Landahl from Hamburg who shows up in the Verlustlisten (page 14699, issue 1147, dated 1916-09-09)...any relation? This fellow was with 6. Kompanie, I.R. 75.

Happy hunting!

-Daniel

#3 fusslappen

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 12:18 AM

Thank you, Daniel. I don't believe that we have any relative named August Landahl, though my grandpa Gustav did have a brother named Franz or Frank. We did find one listing for Frank in the Verlustlisten (via Ancestry.com search).

Do you know much about the Verlustlisten? Grandpa Gus told us that he was hospitalized in Metz with influenza during the spring or summer of 1918 (one of the two waves of the big worldwide epidemic), yet we find no Verlustlisten entry for that. Wouldn't that have been published as a listing, too? Or, would there be a record of his hospitalization somewhere else? Or were things falling apart for the Germans by then (or the epidemic was so large?) that they got behind or stopped publishing all influenza cases as casualties? (I have seen reference in a few places to the disintegration of the German record keeping toward the end...though other sources also note just how accurate the German records were...hmmm.)

-Becky

#4 ph0ebus

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 12:14 PM

Thank you, Daniel. I don't believe that we have any relative named August Landahl, though my grandpa Gustav did have a brother named Franz or Frank. We did find one listing for Frank in the Verlustlisten (via Ancestry.com search).

Do you know much about the Verlustlisten? Grandpa Gus told us that he was hospitalized in Metz with influenza during the spring or summer of 1918 (one of the two waves of the big worldwide epidemic), yet we find no Verlustlisten entry for that. Wouldn't that have been published as a listing, too? Or, would there be a record of his hospitalization somewhere else? Or were things falling apart for the Germans by then (or the epidemic was so large?) that they got behind or stopped publishing all influenza cases as casualties? (I have seen reference in a few places to the disintegration of the German record keeping toward the end...though other sources also note just how accurate the German records were...hmmm.)

-Becky

Hi Becky,

I am at this point really just a student of the verlustlisten...there are quite a few others who have far more familiarity and experience with them. I am not sure that illnesses such as you describe would have shown up in the verlustlisten, but they certainly would have appeared in their Soldbuch. My own grandfather contracted Typhoid while serving on the Eastern Front and while I have not to date found any verlustlist entry for that occurrence is was noted plainly in his Soldbuch and also in his medical records held at LAGeSo, which is sadly still closed to research at present. Do you have or have you seen either his Soldbuch or his Militärpass?

I just rechecked the new Verlustliste website and still no traces of either Gustav or Franz/Frank, but then again, it is still a work in progress...

-Daniel

#5 fusslappen

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 10:57 PM

Hello, again, Daniel, and thanks for taking an interest in my case. I am such a novice that your answer has helped me learn several new things--first, the distinction between Soldbuch and Militarpass, and also that there is a German agency, the LAGeSo, where medical records might be held. I had a different agency name and web site before.

Alas, I suppose the distinction between Soldbuch and Militarpass is academic at this point, since we have neither document for my grandfather. However, I am trying to put the word out to more of our family members, in hopes these things might turn up some year among someone's files or papers--so now I have a better idea of how to describe what we are looking for. Also, a family story reports that Grandpa burned his uniform and military articles in a big bonfire immediately upon his return to Hamburg after the war--apparently in disgust about the whole experience. I'd first thought that his Militarpass must have been among those things he burned. However, after reading a bit more about the Soldbuch and (esp.) Militarpass, I am now wondering if that makes any sense. I see reference in another thread on this forum that the pass would have been "of great importance" to soldiers following their discharge (though I am not entirely sure why--were there specific benefits that discharged veterans received?) Anyway, if this is true, would he really have burned his? Maybe there is hope it will yet be found...

Also, you mention a Verlustliste web site that is a work in progress. Is that the same site that is accessed via Ancestry.com? Can the Verlustliste records be accessed (and searched) without going through Ancestry? And is it true that the Ancestry-accessible database is not yet complete with some records, perhaps those from later years still being added? I had suspected this, but have not been able to confirm that the online data is not yet complete. Sorry I am such a greenhorn that I am asking really basic questions. I have tried to find answers on my own, but there is so much information to comb through on the web, and much of it outdated or of uncertain validity (or in German).

Also, from one page of Verlusliste entries that I did work to translate, it seems that there were quite a few entries for soldiers who were sick as well as injured or missing. Thus, I'd assumed that sicknesses were reported (at least in 1915, they were). Hmmm. Still lots of loose ends...

Thanks again for your suggestions and information--as you can see, there is much I don't know, and every little bit helps!

-Becky

#6 ph0ebus

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 11:27 PM

Hello, again, Daniel, and thanks for taking an interest in my case. I am such a novice that your answer has helped me learn several new things--first, the distinction between Soldbuch and Militarpass, and also that there is a German agency, the LAGeSo, where medical records might be held. I had a different agency name and web site before.

Alas, I suppose the distinction between Soldbuch and Militarpass is academic at this point, since we have neither document for my grandfather. However, I am trying to put the word out to more of our family members, in hopes these things might turn up some year among someone's files or papers--so now I have a better idea of how to describe what we are looking for. Also, a family story reports that Grandpa burned his uniform and military articles in a big bonfire immediately upon his return to Hamburg after the war--apparently in disgust about the whole experience. I'd first thought that his Militarpass must have been among those things he burned. However, after reading a bit more about the Soldbuch and (esp.) Militarpass, I am now wondering if that makes any sense. I see reference in another thread on this forum that the pass would have been "of great importance" to soldiers following their discharge (though I am not entirely sure why--were there specific benefits that discharged veterans received?) Anyway, if this is true, would he really have burned his? Maybe there is hope it will yet be found...

Also, you mention a Verlustliste web site that is a work in progress. Is that the same site that is accessed via Ancestry.com? Can the Verlustliste records be accessed (and searched) without going through Ancestry? And is it true that the Ancestry-accessible database is not yet complete with some records, perhaps those from later years still being added? I had suspected this, but have not been able to confirm that the online data is not yet complete. Sorry I am such a greenhorn that I am asking really basic questions. I have tried to find answers on my own, but there is so much information to comb through on the web, and much of it outdated or of uncertain validity (or in German).

Also, from one page of Verlusliste entries that I did work to translate, it seems that there were quite a few entries for soldiers who were sick as well as injured or missing. Thus, I'd assumed that sicknesses were reported (at least in 1915, they were). Hmmm. Still lots of loose ends...

Thanks again for your suggestions and information--as you can see, there is much I don't know, and every little bit helps!

-Becky

Hi Becky,

All your questions are great ones. I'll share what I have learned through trial and error and the kind, patient assistance of no small number of people right here on the GWF.

Indeed a Soldbuch and Militärpaß are two separate and distinct documents. The Soldbuch is the soldier's paybook, contains records of his various immunizations/vaccinations, and records any trips to the Lazarette/hospital. For example, here's my grandfather's Soldbuch:

Soldbuch

A soldier carried this with him everywhere, for the entirety of his service. You can see how battered my grandfather's book got from being carried around on the Eastern and Western front for almost four years. I have not gotten to putting the explanations/translations in on this page yet.

The Militärpaß was not carried around by the soldier but rather was handed in at the beginning of service and returned to him at the end of service and was updated by various authorities over the course of their Military career. Here's my grandfather's Militärpaß (happily with translations):

Militärpaß

These should give you a general idea of what these two documents look like, and what they have in them.

The verlustliste website I referred to is this one:

Verlustlisten

It is separate from Ancestry but I am sure there is some overlap of content. It is not yet done but it contains quite a bit of information.

You can read more about LAGeSo here:

Landesamt für Gesundheit und Soziales (LAGeSo) - Berlin

I got my research request in just before they closed to inquiries; basically what they provided was a typed extract of what I subsequently found in the Soldbuch.

I hope that other, more seasoned folks join in and either clarify or expand upon my advice or perhaps point you in another productive direction that I am perhaps unaware of, which is quite possible.

:)

-Daniel

#7 Tom W.

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 07:53 AM

And aren't the Landwehr Divisions comprised of older men?

Not necessarily. Here's a shock troop from the 10th Company of Landwehr Infantry Regiment No. 133.

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#8 Tom W.

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 08:06 AM

I am also trying to understand what a pioneer in this unit would likely have been doing at the various places and points in time. He clearly mentioned being involved in nasty battles at these last two places, though we also got the impression that mainly he was well behind the front lines. He also mentioned being off the "com lines" for a time getting training, possibly in sharpshooting.

If he was mostly behind the front lines, he may not have been a combat engineer. He may have been involved in construction of shelters, roadwork, bridge building, fabrication at pioneer parks, repair of mortars at weapons depots, and so on.

If he were in combat, he would have been tasked with blowing up obstacles with explosives and hand grenades. He may have been attached to infantry assault units to serve in a demolition squad to destroy enemy dugouts and weapons during trench raids or larger offensives. Pioneers also operated smoothbore light mortars and grenade launchers after 1916.

Pioneers were jacks of all trades, as this cartoon indicates.

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#9 Tom W.

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 08:24 AM

Does anyone know if there is a full regimental history of this Division in print or online somewhere?

I don't think it's online. It appears to be a relatively sought-after book.

Auler, Carl. Die 5. preußische Landwehr-Division im Weltkriege 1914 -1918. Stuttgart: Chr. Belser Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1923.

This is one of the cheaper copies for sale.

http://www.zeughaus-...-1914-1918.html

#10 ph0ebus

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 12:35 PM

Hi Becky,

It should probably be mentioned, in case you had not already learned this, that the entirety of the Prussian Army archives (which this unit was a part of) all burned to a cinder in WWII. If in fact your grandfather burned his papers and such, probably the only surviving record of any portion of his service will be at LAGeSo.

Do you have any other materials that might relate to his wartime service, such as photos, equipment, postcards, letters, and such?

-Daniel

#11 fusslappen

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 09:46 PM

Tom, thanks for the photo and the drawing...yes, those fellows are awfully young looking, despite the "Landwehr" designation.

And yes, I gather the pioneers were jacks-of-all-trades! I know that some units specialized in all sorts of particular things...and I just wish I had a better understanding of exactly what grandpa's unit might have done. From what he said (and one photo we have of him with a mallet and chisel in hand, with a saw lying nearby), I think we'd figured it was a more ordinary construction-type unit rather than anything that was involved in clearing obstacles with explosives during combat, etc. However, we don't really know the range of what he might have done, and whether he was involved with using mortars, explosives, etc. Also, I'd not really thought about it much, but if pioneers really were the trench-builders, you'd think that would put them right in harm's way at the very front lines, perhaps even ahead of the infantry, since the latter would not have had a place to shelter until the trenches were built. I wonder if the regimental history of the division would likely shed any light on those kinds of details? (And THANKS for that link where I can buy it--somehow I had failed to turn this up despite some hunting around.)

Also re: tools, on the tape recording we have, grandpa did mention having a shovel, and also what he calls an axe (but with two different heads--a sharp blade, and a hammer). This latter tool figured prominently in a story he told. It was at the very end of the war, when things were really falling apart for the Germans, food rations were being diverted or stolen, and the men were really hungry. Grandpa and another man had spotted a hog belonging to a local farmer, and they decided to kill it for meat. Grandpa gave the other man his "axe," intending him to club the pig on the head with the hammer end. Instead, the young man tried to use the sharp axe end to cut the pig's head off while it was running around squealing and putting up a fight. Grandpa couldn't believe the fellow was such a greenhorn that he thought he could cut the head off a live pig in that way...and he was terrified that the ensuing ruckus was going to bring the Commandant and get them both shot! It didn't...and he survived to tell the story. They finally killed the pig, and he said they had "meat to glory," enough for their whole unit...and as it turned out, that was how they celebrated the armistice, which occurred the very next day--eating pork and drinking two bottles of whiskey they got from the commissary.

That reminds me of another question: he uses a word I couldn't make out for describing his unit--all the men who got some of the pork. It sounds kind of like "garage" to me, with a hard G at the start and a soft g sound at the end. I've hunted and hunted for what German word this might be that he would have used to describe a small unit of men he was part of. It certainly didn't sound anything like "Kompanie"...but could it have been "Gerätzug?" I finally stumbled across that term, but am not entirely sure what it means, or whether it would have made any sense in this context.

-Becky

#12 ph0ebus

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 10:28 PM

Tom, thanks for the photo and the drawing...yes, those fellows are awfully young looking, despite the "Landwehr" designation.

And yes, I gather the pioneers were jacks-of-all-trades! I know that some units specialized in all sorts of particular things...and I just wish I had a better understanding of exactly what grandpa's unit might have done. From what he said (and one photo we have of him with a mallet and chisel in hand, with a saw lying nearby), I think we'd figured it was a more ordinary construction-type unit rather than anything that was involved in clearing obstacles with explosives during combat, etc. However, we don't really know the range of what he might have done, and whether he was involved with using mortars, explosives, etc. Also, I'd not really thought about it much, but if pioneers really were the trench-builders, you'd think that would put them right in harm's way at the very front lines, perhaps even ahead of the infantry, since the latter would not have had a place to shelter until the trenches were built. I wonder if the regimental history of the division would likely shed any light on those kinds of details? (And THANKS for that link where I can buy it--somehow I had failed to turn this up despite some hunting around.)

Also re: tools, on the tape recording we have, grandpa did mention having a shovel, and also what he calls an axe (but with two different heads--a sharp blade, and a hammer). This latter tool figured prominently in a story he told. It was at the very end of the war, when things were really falling apart for the Germans, food rations were being diverted or stolen, and the men were really hungry. Grandpa and another man had spotted a hog belonging to a local farmer, and they decided to kill it for meat. Grandpa gave the other man his "axe," intending him to club the pig on the head with the hammer end. Instead, the young man tried to use the sharp axe end to cut the pig's head off while it was running around squealing and putting up a fight. Grandpa couldn't believe the fellow was such a greenhorn that he thought he could cut the head off a live pig in that way...and he was terrified that the ensuing ruckus was going to bring the Commandant and get them both shot! It didn't...and he survived to tell the story. They finally killed the pig, and he said they had "meat to glory," enough for their whole unit...and as it turned out, that was how they celebrated the armistice, which occurred the very next day--eating pork and drinking two bottles of whiskey they got from the commissary.

That reminds me of another question: he uses a word I couldn't make out for describing his unit--all the men who got some of the pork. It sounds kind of like "garage" to me, with a hard G at the start and a soft g sound at the end. I've hunted and hunted for what German word this might be that he would have used to describe a small unit of men he was part of. It certainly didn't sound anything like "Kompanie"...but could it have been "Gerätzug?" I finally stumbled across that term, but am not entirely sure what it means, or whether it would have made any sense in this context.

-Becky

Hi Becky,

If you have a photo of him in uniform you may have far more information than you might realize. If you post a scan in this thread we may learn even more about him, depending on the type of uniform, whether he has a hat or not, items in the scene, and so on. If it has writing on the reverse of any kind that may be even more helpful still.

Daniel

#13 fusslappen

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 11:52 PM

Daniel, thanks so much for posting your grandfather's Soldbuch and Militarpass. It is very interesting to see what these items really looked like. I am amazed at the detail, too.

Thanks for the link to the other Verlustliste site, as well. I'd not come across that one, despite some poking about. Besides Ancestry, I did find the Polish library site...but had some issues with the interface and ability to search on that one. And it looks like the Ancestry site may be the most complete (though still don't know if it purports to be fully complete or not.) At least, it has entries for both my grandfather and uncle that are not in the site you linked. Hmmm. Well, nice there is a site that is accessible for free, at least. I suppose in time it will be more complete, and worth checking back.

So, do you know if the LAGeSo records are open for any kind of searching at all? What if people visit in person? (We are planning a trip to Germany in the fall...perhaps could visit Berlin accompanied by a German cousin...)

I will try to post a few of our old photos online soon...

-Becky

#14 fusslappen

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 06:42 AM

OK, here is the first of three photos we have of my grandfather while he was in the German Army during WWI. He is the fellow front and center, with the mallet in hand.

Alas, the original is in terrible shape. And it looks like I can only upload a fairly low resolution version...so we'll see how this comes out!

I'd be very pleased to hear any ideas about what this might represent, or any aspects I may not be fully appreciating from the background, uniforms, etc. The next pictures I'll send are in a little better shape...

-BeckyAttached File  GusPionierWWISmallest.jpg   39.94KB   0 downloads

#15 fusslappen

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 06:47 AM

Here's another photo. My grandfather is the short fellow against the wall, just behind the man holding the rabbit! Alas, even in the original, the sign the men are holding is illegible--just looks blank.Attached File  GusWWIMenRabbitSmall.jpg   34.24KB   0 downloads

#16 ph0ebus

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 11:43 AM

Here's another photo. My grandfather is the short fellow against the wall, just behind the man holding the rabbit! Alas, even in the original, the sign the men are holding is illegible--just looks blank.Attached File  GusWWIMenRabbitSmall.jpg   34.24KB   0 downloads

These photos are great! If you have the ability to do high-resolution scan and zoom in on the Schulterklappen (shoulderboards) of the other fellow standing in front of your grandfather or the fellow to his left with the pipe we may be able to read the numbers off them. Strange how the fellow in the front seems to be holding a sign, but it's blank!

I do not see any other things that help me further along at present...I'll look at these some more and see if other ideas or suggestions come to mind.

-Daniel

#17 Tom W.

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 12:28 PM

I know that some units specialized in all sorts of particular things...and I just wish I had a better understanding of exactly what grandpa's unit might have done. From what he said (and one photo we have of him with a mallet and chisel in hand, with a saw lying nearby), I think we'd figured it was a more ordinary construction-type unit rather than anything that was involved in clearing obstacles with explosives during combat, etc. However, we don't really know the range of what he might have done, and whether he was involved with using mortars, explosives, etc.

That reminds me of another question: he uses a word I couldn't make out for describing his unit--all the men who got some of the pork. It sounds kind of like "garage" to me, with a hard G at the start and a soft g sound at the end. I've hunted and hunted for what German word this might be that he would have used to describe a small unit of men he was part of. It certainly didn't sound anything like "Kompanie"...but could it have been "Gerätzug?" I finally stumbled across that term, but am not entirely sure what it means, or whether it would have made any sense in this context.


From 1915 to late 1915 pioneers were required to do construction and use hand grenades and explosives, as the infantry weren't trained in the use of the latter. I've included a photo of pioneers with a saw, an axe, and hand grenades, the tools of their trade. You grandfather could easily have been sawing wood and building shelters one day and taking part in a trench raid the next.

A "Gerätzug" is an equipment platoon. It could be the men who handled the light, smoothbore mortars, or the bridge-crossing equipment, or the axes and saws.

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#18 Tom W.

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 12:32 PM

As for the photo of your grandfather, there's definitely writing or a drawing on the board. Maybe it's a depiction of a rabbit hunt. The problem is that the image is too pixilated to see. If possible, make a high resolution scan of the image (at least 600 dpi) and play around with the contrast. You may be able to identify the number of the shoulder straps, too. By the way, you've confirmed that he's a pioneer. The type of cuff--two buttons in a horizontal line on a shallow cuff--is called a "Swedish cuff" and was worn by pioneers, among other technical troops.

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#19 ph0ebus

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 12:42 PM

As for the photo of your grandfather, there's definitely writing or a drawing on the board. Maybe it's a depiction of a rabbit hunt. The problem is that the image is too pixilated to see. If possible, make a high resolution scan of the image (at least 600 dpi) and play around with the contrast. You may be able to identify the number of the shoulder straps, too. By the way, you've confirmed that he's a pioneer. The type of cuff--two buttons in a horizontal line on a shallow cuff--is called a "Swedish cuff" and was worn by pioneers, among other technical troops.

Tom,

I've just learned something new (the details about the cuffs). I really need to study those books on German Uniforms and Equipment I bought a few months back.

I hope a high-res scan helps with the sign. I thought it was weird for the fellow to be just holding a random piece of wood like that. A high-res scan of the sign in the first photo might also be revealing.

Oh, that fellow chugging wine in the back row looks like some character.

I see no other rank insignia, EK ribbons or anything. Perhaps this was early in the war...maybe it's just my perception but it seems the later in the war we get the more fellows in group photos like this have a ribbon in their buttonhole.

-Daniel

#20 Tom W.

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 12:55 PM

I've just learned something new (the details about the cuffs). I really need to study those books on German Uniforms and Equipment I bought a few months back.

The man with the rifle is wearing the simplified tunic mandated on March 3, 1915. You can tell by the plain, turn-back cuffs. By the way, field-artillery troops wore Swedish cuffs and collars piped in black, just like pioneers. The only real way you can tell pioneers from field artillery is by the shoulder straps.

I don't know when the EK ribbons started appearing in large numbers. These are definitely the older men that Becky was talking about earlier. Since her grandfather was so much younger, he may have had a health issue that kept him in the Landwehr for the entire war.

#21 Tom W.

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 01:14 PM

Becky, to give you an idea about the duties of Landwehr pioneers, here's an excerpt from my book German Assault Troops of World War I, to be published by Schiffer in May:

On September 9, 1915, the 3rd Guard Pioneer Battalion launched two assaults in the Vosges Mountains in northeastern France. One was in the area known as the Schratzmännele... The second assault took place in the Hartmannsweilerkopf, a rocky, heavily wooded ridge where elite German and French alpine troops clashed. Flamethrower squads from the 9th and 10th Companies of the 3rd Guard Pioneer Battalion carried out the combined stationary and pouncing attack, but [Major] Reddemann failed to note the mission [in his history of the flamethrower arm]. This omission is puzzling given the scale of the operation and the deployment of five “gasoline sprayers” used in addition to Reddemann’s flamethrowers. The devices were ordered built after artillery bombardments were deemed ineffective.

Opposing front lines at the Hartmannsweilerkopf were close, creating a No Man’s Land no wider than 35 yards on the summit. Accordingly, Leutnant der Reserve Schlayer of Cavalry Motor Transport Column 24 (Kavallerie Kraftwagen-Kolonne 24) was appointed on May 13 to design a device that could spray flammable liquid across this short divide. It is not clear why a cavalry motor-transport officer was chosen to design a flamethrower, but the rationale may have been that the central focus of his branch of service was machinery and the combustion of gasoline. In addition, some motor-transport personnel are known to have trained as firefighters, allowing them to become familiar with spraying equipment...

The resulting construction consisted of one tank that held 69 gallons of gasoline connected to two propellant tanks containing carbon dioxide pressurized to 147 psi. (10 atmospheres). Pressure inside the gasoline tank was reduced to 73.4 psi. (5 atmospheres) so that a range of 115 feet could be achieved. Beginning May 31 two days of trials were carried out at a training field near Westhalten. The observers were high-ranking officers, among them General der Infantry Mengelbier, commander of the 12th Landwehr Division.

Spraying ignited gasoline proved insufficient to burn trenches and blockhouses, and it was also very dangerous for the personnel. A safer and more efficient process was to spray unlit gasoline and ignite it by throwing fire tubes. The months of June and July were dedicated to improving the device and finding the best mixture of gasoline. On August 7, 1915, the Schlayer sprayer was demonstrated to General Gaede and the commanding infantry officers of the 12th Landwehr Division, and the decision was made to proceed with a flame attack. The target was the first French trench line on the summit of the Hartmannsweilerkopf.

On September 8 Reddemann observed the Schlayer sprayer in action and judged it wanting. He said that the ignition took place too late, and the flame would not be effective against shelters. Nevertheless, preparation for the assault continued, and pioneers of the 1st Landwehr Pioneer Company, XIV Army Corps (1. Landwehr-Pionier-Kompagnie XIV. Armee Korps) adapted five positions in the foremost German lines where Schlayer’s equipment would be installed.

The attack was planned for the late afternoon of September 9. It would be led by two companies of Mecklenburger Jäger Battalion No. 14 (großherzoglich mecklenburgisches Jäger Bataillon Nr. 14) and pioneers of the 1st Landwehr Pioneer Company armed with hand grenades. The troops of the 3rd Guard Pioneer Battalion would bring two portable army-issue flamethrowers (Heeresflammenwerfern). Since pioneers from two companies of the flamethrower battalion took part in the attack, it appears that Reddemann’s men also operated the Schlayer sprayers.

After a one-hour artillery bombardment, the French lines were attacked at three points. One Schlayer sprayer on the southern flank was damaged and could not be fired. The remaining four joined Reddemann’s flamethrowers in driving the French out of their positions. At the end of the day, the Germans had gained a section of trench 98 yards wide. Three officers and 82 men of the French 213th Infantry Regiment were taken prisoner, and three machine guns and two trench mortars were captured. The newly won trench gave the Germans an unobstructed view of the open terrain in front. German losses were 10 dead, including one officer and one ensign, and 44 wounded.



#22 fusslappen

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 06:04 PM

Thanks, Tom and Daniel, for your interpretive help with these photos. Alas, I was unable to upload to this site the highest resolution scans I have for these, and was also unable to upload after I saved them at a somewhat lower resolution. Had to reduce them even further to even get them up here. Is there some trick to posting higher res. images? Also, alas, even the highest resolution scans I have are not the highest possible resolution, and I don't have the original photos with me to be able to scan them again--they are in my mother's collection. I had already intended to go back and re-scan at the highest possible resolution on her scanner, then see what I can do with them in some other program...but won't be able to do that until my next trip home.

The sign looks utterly blank in the original to my eye, but maybe with some kind of digital enhancement...who knows, I suppose.

So, good, though. These are almost surely pioneers, it seems--though possibly field artillery. And it is probably after March 3, 1915.
And yes, they are older, so Landwehr seems a good match.

I was wondering if a possible reason my grandfather ended up with a(n older) Landwehr Division was because he was so short? I don't know that he was sickly, and suspect not. The grandpa I knew was strong as an ox, and a hard-working laborer his whole life. He did have TB as a young child, and had been institutionalized for that for a year or two (perhaps at age 2 or 3). But he seems to have recovered from that. We have stories of him and his buddies on the Hamburg waterfront diving off the docks and all the way under the huge ships there in contests with each other. I guess they lived in the water in the summer, at the waterfront and a nearby swimming hole. And he was also part of a Wandervogel group, and went walking/hiking in the "mountains" or countryside every weekend in the years just before the war. So, I don't think he was physically incapacitated in any way. However, I saw note somewhere in my readings about the German military that short men were put into regiments of other short men, tall men with tall, etc. (Maybe in some cases, short with old??) Grandpa mentioned at one point on the tape we have that he was "the runt of his family," and that prevented him from being allowed to apprentice on a sailing ship (as his older brother did, and he wanted to do). He also mentioned that at one job he had as a teenager, they "tried to stick him in the office," but he didn't like it, and quit. He really liked being outside rousting around and being physically active. But it seems he was so short that it was considered almost a defect--people made assumptions about his abilities, and his options were curtailed because of that.

Would this theory make any sense? Or, maybe it was just a random assignment that he ended up in this Landwehr Division/company, as he did have some carpentry skills and interest, and this pioneer group needed bodies?

And how big would a "Gerätzug" be? How many men in a platoon? Would that be a normal term to use for some kind of subunit within a pioneer company?

I'll post another photo soon...

-Becky

#23 Tom W.

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 09:22 PM

Thanks, Tom and Daniel, for your interpretive help with these photos. Alas, I was unable to upload to this site the highest resolution scans I have for these, and was also unable to upload after I saved them at a somewhat lower resolution. Had to reduce them even further to even get them up here. Is there some trick to posting higher res. images?

I was wondering if a possible reason my grandfather ended up with a(n older) Landwehr Division was because he was so short? I don't know that he was sickly, and suspect not. The grandpa I knew was strong as an ox, and a hard-working laborer his whole life. He did have TB as a young child, and had been institutionalized for that for a year or two (perhaps at age 2 or 3)... But it seems he was so short that it was considered almost a defect--people made assumptions about his abilities, and his options were curtailed because of that.

Would this theory make any sense? Or, maybe it was just a random assignment that he ended up in this Landwehr Division/company, as he did have some carpentry skills and interest, and this pioneer group needed bodies?

And how big would a "Gerätzug" be? How many men in a platoon? Would that be a normal term to use for some kind of subunit within a pioneer company?

Your grandfather's history of TB could be the reason he was kept in the Landwehr for the duration of the war. There are thousands of photos of extremely short soldiers serving in active-duty units; a favorite joke photo was to pose the tallest and shortest man in the unit together.

But since your grandfather was institutionalized, his medical records would have been available to the military authorities. Or he may have told them himself when signing up, and they decided to put him in with a third-line unit.

If you have the ability to crop the highest-resolution photos you have, post a section with the sign holder and one with a visible shoulder strap. Maybe we can figure out the unit that way.

#24 egbert

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 09:06 AM

Becky, I only had discovered your thread by now.
Pioneers like my Granduncle were often engaged in the most fierceful fights as they were considered kind of "Feuerwehr" (fire brigade as a last resort to save...)to support the front line troops. They were dealing with weaponry the ordinary infantry men did not carry, like flame throwers or bundles of explosives etc etc. My Granduncle was platoon leader in a Pionierzug and these guys were called when the situation became tricky.
Well, I see the text on the saw picture "Üb' immer Treu' und Redlichkeit" (= "Be loyal, practice honesty" or "Forever true and honest").
Anyway, is your audio tape in German or English language please. If in German language I can help you, as it happened that I do speak German well and can decipher the nuances of German pronounciation and slangs, like yes, it for sure will be "Tahure".
As all the other posters mentioned: it is necesary to identify the regiment from one of the pictures as there is most likely a detailed regimental chronic available.

#25 egbert

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 09:09 AM

The locations you mentioned all fit:
My link