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German army conscription period


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#1 RodB

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 03:14 AM

I understand German infantrymen were typically conscripted for 2 years, on attaining age 20.
Were there fixed induction dates or was induction on a rolling basis, with new recruits constantly coming as soon as they reached 20 and time-served men leaving ?

I refer specifically to the currently serving men in August 1914, not the reserves, who I understand all had received 2 years training and ongoing yearly camps.

Reason for my question is : what was the period of training attained by the typical German soldier in the standing army in August 1914 ? Logic suggests that if induction was on a fixed date each year, the best time for a war was just before the induction date, so that half the men had 2 years' training and half had 1 year's training, whereas just after induction date would give half the men with 1 year's training and half with none. With rolling induction dates, the training level would vary between none and 2 years. Anecdotal evidence suggests it took a year of training and/or experience for a typical soldier of any army to become effective in action.

Logic indicates that German troops still undergoing basic training (up to 3 months ?) would be in separate units and not suitable for going to the front in August 1914. Yet all the literature just says the standing army was shipped off to the front : it cannot have been this straightforward. Does anybody have info on where training was at for the standing German army in August 1914, and whether indeed everybody got shipped to the front irrespective of how many months training they had ?

#2 bill24chev

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 03:33 PM

I may have read this wrong, but as I understand it the high casualties suffered by the Germany army at First Ypres included many young soldiers of the 1914 intake with only a few weeks service/training.

if this is correct the German standing army would have been made up of the 1912 & 1913 cohorts with two or one years service/training.

#3 Ron Clifton

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 04:04 PM

Hello RodB

As I understand it, the German Army took in its annual contingent at a fixed date every year, and all who had reached 20 between 1 Oct of the previous year and 30 Sept of the current year joined at once. They would serve in the Active army for two years (three in the cavalry and possibly other arms) and then for five years in the Reserve (four in cavalry etc). Thereafter there was service in the Landwehr and Landsturm. Those entering at age 20 would also have had some preliminary training from age 17 in the Landsturm.

Therefore, in 1914, that year's intake had joined the depots but the Active army consisted basically of the intakes of 1912 and 1913 as you say, but the previous five years' intakes would have been recalled immediately to the Colours and would have been fully trained during their service.

There was a separate category of men, the Kriegsfreiwilliger or war volunteers, who joined for one year only, and paid largely for their own upkeep, with the intention of seeking commissions at the end of the year and becoming career officers. It was men of this type, many of them students, who were mowed down in their hundreds at First Ypres in what has been called the "Slaughter of the Innocents", and who now lie at Langemarck.

Most of the Germans who went to war in Aug 1914 would have had at least a year of training. You also have to remember that the German Army was being trained largely for one particular type of warfare - invading France and Russia - whereas the British Army, which was entirely made up of volunteers and recruited on a rolling basis, had to prepare men for different types of warfare, mostly in India or the Empire.

Ron

#4 bob lembke

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Posted 06 May 2012 - 11:00 AM

RodB;

Has the above explainations sufficed? (I think that they are largely correct.)

One thing that is important and does not seem to have been mentioned is that each year's "crop" of conscripts came in in the fall.

Also I think that it was suggested that prospective conscripts between 17 and 20 were members of the Landsturm and received some training there. I think that they were members of the Landsturm (sort of like how I think all American males between the ages of 18 and 65 are members of the "Unorganized Reserve" - or at least were when I was young), but I doubt that they received any training as same; in fact the Landsturm did not even train it's adult members (men between 35 and 45). When men left active duty, two or three years, as described, they were in the Reserve for 5 or 4 years, and had several sessions of summer training, each several weeks long. Then, at about 28, they were transferred to the Landwehr, first the 1. Ban, then the 2. Ban, for another 7 or 8 years, but there the training were less frequent and/or less lengthy (probably less frequently, but still several weeks long; only every few years.). But I think once they were transferred to the Landsturm, at 35, I think that the re-training sessions stopped.

Are these explainations sufficient? Always happy to "flap my gums". I think that I am broadly knowledgable here, but not really expert, and I have not resorted to poking thru references.

Bob Lembke

#5 RodB

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Posted 06 May 2012 - 12:11 PM

Thanks for the details... If there was a single intake each year in the Fall (I assume this means September, October or November), then I would assume that August was the time of maximum training in the standing army : half the men had nearly a year, the other half nearly 2 years. Correct ? If so, did this factor have any influence on the outbreak of the war at that particular time ? And was this intake date based on a premise that campaigns were most likely to occur in Summer ?

If the period of crisis had dragged on without war breaking out, would the class due for discharge have been retained in the active army ? The dynamics of mass conscript armies would I assume have been standard across Europe, so I assume all parties would have had to factor this into political calculations ? Or did Germany assume that if a war began just after the discharge/intake date, then the lack of experience in the standing army would be offset by the freshly trained class in the Reserves ? If, say, the war had begun in October, or just after the discharge/intake, what would have been the status of that half of the standing army that would still have been in basic training, as regards mobilization ?

#6 bill24chev

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Posted 06 May 2012 - 05:55 PM

I beleive Admiral Fisher predicted the start of WW1 when construction of the Kiel Cannal was started. He sugested that the canal would be fully operational by 1914 and war would break out in the late summer or early autumn (fall for those across the big pond) to allow the harvest to br got in prior to German Mobilisation.

August would also ensure that Two Cohorts with at least a years service training would be in the standing army although early August may have been a bit early for the harvest. I dont know, but difficulty in getting in the 1914 harvest may have caused a problem with food reservers in the following tears.

#7 joerookery

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 03:48 PM

Once again I am late to the party. My feeble excuse is that we had a wedding for our only daughter and I have been consumed as a father of the bride. So once more into the breach! We have done considerable work on this subject for our next book. It is one of those areas where I have great umbrage with Zuber's approach. He does that without providing a general understanding of the cyclical nature of training in these units. It was indeed an annual intake. It was very regimented. In calendar year one the new inductee would undergo somewhat different training than the 2nd year “old soldiers.” In the middle of October–after harvest–those selected to begin their service time would report into their units. The starting date was known as the Einstellungstag. These brand-new soldiers were treated as recruits for 15 weeks in a period of basic training known as Rekrutenschule. Instruction included drill, hygiene, physical training, and dry fire marksmanship. There were weekly training exercises in the countryside where the weight of the pack was increased gradually until it reached approximately 60 pounds. The second-year soldiers also underwent a period of individual training and weapons drill. This was known as Exerzierausbildung. Individual training ended in the 1st half of February with the evaluation of basic training success (Rekrutenbesichtigung) conducted by the battalion commander.

Even given the cyclical training active units were not full. Reservists filled them up in time of mobilization. An active infantry company was supposed to be comprised of 250 NCOs and men. When Bloem first addressed his company, “#2” Company, 1st Battalion, 12 Grenadiers, early in the mobilization of 1914, he had 14 NCOs and 162 men, of which 50 were reservists who had already reported in. The numbers get a little complex here. After your active time, there were an additional five classes of infantrymen. Looking at the start of the war, the active-duty soldiers were those who had turned 20 in 1912 and 1913 (those who were born in 1892 and 1893). The reservists were the next five classes: 1891, 1890, 1889, 1888, and 1887. There were more reservists than there were positions in the active regiment. Left over reservists formed or filled out other units.

Active Units: 54 percent active duty soldiers
46 percent reserve soldiers.
Reserve Units: 1 percent active duty soldiers
44 percent reserve soldiers.
55 percent Landwehr soldiers from the 1st Contingent
Landwehr Units: 62 percent Landwehr soldiers from the 1st Contingent
38 percent Landwehr soldiers from the 2nd Contingent


I do not pretend to understand any link between campaign planning and induction. It was possible to retain active soldiers in times of crisis but this had huge political and financial ramifications.

A few comments based on the conversation that has transpired.

1. Reservists while trained had not trained with all of the soldiers they were about to go into combat with. This is a big issue. The doctrinal employment of those soldiers varied tremendously by Army Corps and there was no universal acceptance of doctrine per se.
2. What I have presented is a very watered-down version. It gets really complex when you start thinking that there were lots of people at the age of 20 who did not get inducted into the military at all and went back through the selection process for a number of years.
3. Landsturm soldiers between the ages of 17 and 20 received no training. It was only a paper accounting.
4. Kriegsfreiwilliger or war volunteers served for the duration, were not in any officer training program and are often confused with one-year volunteers who did indeed serve for only one year and had the possibility of becoming a reserve officer.
5. Landwehr soldiers of the 2nd ban no longer trained.
6. The soldiers of 1st Ypres were completely different than any of the original serving soldiers. I can really recommend you to the book by Jack Sheldon on that battle. He does a magnificent job and you really get a good sense of how those soldiers were just not trained but were utilized.

Again I am sorry for my late response but I'm also a pauper!
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