German Infantry eating Lunch, 1914

German Infantry eating Lunch, 1914

German Infantry eating Lunch, 1914

German infantry receive their lunch of bread and ham at some point during the period of open warfare in 1914. Most of the men are wearing the famous Pickelhaube, with its fabric cover to hide the gleam of the polished metalwork.


Soldiers' food in the trenches

Far from being a given, food was often considered a luxury to soldiers in the trenches during World War One. It was almost impossible at times to deliver hot food from the field kitchens to the trenches on the front lines, particularly when battle was in full swing.

However, when soldiers were enjoying a few moments of rest, food was much easier to deliver on both sides and it was even possible for troops to enjoy relative regularity in terms of their diet.

Even so, the field kitchens were based so far from the front lines that hot foot invariably arrived cold and fresh food such as bread often arrived stale. Many soldiers came up with their own methods of making it more palatable, such as mixing onions, potatoes and sultanas in with their rations.

Rations were supposed to contain 10 ounces of meat each day but as the war went on this was reduced to six, and in many cases the troops were forced to eat tinned meat instead of fresh or frozen. The bread ration also varied, particularly when the flour shortage hit Britain, which affected a huge proportion of the soldiers’ daily meal. However, alternatives were put in place including biscuits.

Troops from the 6th Battalion, Queen's Royal Regiment, prepare dinner in trenches on the Western Front

Aside from meat, the typical daily ration for a British soldier was as follows:


36 Rare Color Photos from the First World War

The Great War began on July 28, 1914 and lasted until November 11, 1918. We usually see images of the WWI in black and white. But it was also the time when the global war was captured on camera in color. With luck, we stumble upon this incredible collection of rare historical photos of the First World War in color images.

1. A French soldier, circa 1915.

©Mark Jacobs Archive /The Image Works

2. View of Verdun after 8 months of bombing, September 1916.

©R Schultz Collection / The Image Works

3. French Gunners receive instruction, 1916.

4. The remains of a dead French soldier and his gun rest under a tree on the Western Front in France.

©R Schultz Collection / The Image Works

5. French soldiers of the 370th Infantry Regiment eat soup during the battle of the Aisne in 1917.

©R Schultz Collection / The Image Works

6. French Artillery soldiers are shown at the entrance of their shelter on the Western Front.

©R Schultz Collection / The Image Works

7. A French soldier with an acoustic listening device capable of tracking aircraft on the Western Front.

©R Schultz Collection / The Image Works

8. ection of machine gunners take positions in the ruins during the battle of the Aisne in 1917.

©R Schultz Collection / The Image Works

9. A crater caused by the explosion of 19 mines placed underneath German positions near Messines in West Flanders by the British on June 7, 1917.

©R Schultz Collection / The Image Works

10. The wreck of a German tank, which was destroyed during a battle on the Western Front.

©R Schultz Collection / The Image Works

11. A little girl plays with her doll in Reims, France in 1917. Two guns and a knapsack are next to her on the ground.

©R Schultz Collection / The Image Works

12. A soldier in uniform with three medals stands next to a cannon in Paris in 1918. His left leg has been replaced by an artificial limb.

©R Schultz Collection / The Image Works

13. French soldiers rest in the grass after lunch on the Western Front in Aisne, France, in 1917.

Colour photo by Fernand Cuville.(Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

14. A French soldier stands next to a table with German shells and an aircraft propeller, along the Western Front in Reims in 1917.

Colour photo (Autochrome Lumière) by Fernand Cuville. (Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

15. Two French soldiers from Africa heat up a meal on an outdoor fireplace made from brick on the Western Front in 1917.

Colour photo (Autochrome Lumière) by Fernand Cuville.(Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

16. A soldier is shaved by a barber in a French military encampment in Soissons, 1917.

Colour photo (Autochrome Lumière) by Fernand Cuville.(Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

17. The town of Soissons in the Aisne department in Picardy in northern France was taken over by German troops twice during the First World War and heavily damaged by artillery fire.

Colour photo taken in 1917 by Fernand Cuville.(Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

18. Three French soldiers stand with their truck in front of a heavily damaged building in Aisne.

Colour photo taken by Fernand Cuville in 1917.(Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

19. Graves of French soldiers killed at Laffaux on May 14, 1917 are seen in this colour photo taken by Fernand Cuville in Soissons, Aisne

colour photo by Fernand Cuville in Soissons, Aisne(Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

20. Victory celebration at Arc de Triomphe, Paris, July 14, 1919.

21. Soldiers pose in a concrete trench.

©TASCHEN/LVR LandesMuseum Bonn/Photo: Hans Hildenbrand

22. A sergeant of the Lancashire Fusiliers in a flooded trench opposite Messines near Ploegsteert Wood. January 1917.

23. Troops walk along a duckboard track through the remains of Chateau Wood, Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele), 29 October 1917.

24. Nine French soldiers investigate a fatally injured horse on the Western Front.

©R Schultz Collection / The Image Works

25. The corpse of a French soldier of the 99th infantry regiment, who was poisoned during a German gas attack on March 23, 1918 and died eight days later of pneumonia.

©R Schultz Collection / The Image Works

26. French officers of the 370th Infantry Regiment pose in the ruins after a German attack at the Chemin des Dames near Reims in 1917. They have a bicycle and the flag of the 370th Infantry Regiment. The region was one of the worst battle grounds on the Western Front during World War I.

©R Schultz Collection / The Image Works

27. Ammunition depot in France, 1918. The photo was taken on assignment of the American Committee for Devastated France (1917–24).

©Collection Mark Jacobs/Photo: Shells-Lafaux

28. Soldiers from the Kings Liverpool Regiment listening to the news being read out as they wait in their trench during World War One. 1918.

29. British soldier giving a light to a German prisoner of war. September 1914.

30. As the sun rose over the distant hills heralding the dawn of another day it revealed the lonely figure of a British sentry standing at his post. The picture was taken “somewhere in France.” March 20th 1915.

31. Members of the Scots Fusiliers are seen taking cover in front of a German trench they had just charged and captured. 16 June 1915.

32. A British Cavalry Scout on alert. This image shows the care our men take of their horses, for although the horse has only a slight injury he is well bandaged. Circa November 1914.

33. King George V visits the Western Front. France. World War One. 26th July 1917. The King picks up a Boche helmet.

34. Carrying party of the 1/7th King’s Liverpool Regiment, 156th Brigade, 55th division bringing up rations in containers to the men in the trenches in the La Bassee Canal Sector. 15 March 1918.

35. Female road sweepers cleaning the streets of Liverpool as the men are away fighting. 21st March 1916.

36. British official observes from a distance the destruction of an ammunition dump before retreating from the advancing German army. April 1918.


Atrocities in East Prussia, 1914

When Steve Barnes invited me to join this project, I hadn’t given much thought to blogging as a scholarly enterprise. I have read academic blogs from time to time and I usually enjoy them. Sometimes helpful, sometimes self-indulgent, often stimulating, frequently ranting, I’ve put them on the list of things I’ll browse for intellectual pleasure in odd moments in the day, say the ten minutes I have between lunch and my one-fifteen class. But I didn’t plan to write them myself. Steve convinced me, however, that the blog as a genre held real possibilities for scholars. I won’t go into all of those possibilities in this first post, but I will point out a couple of obvious facts about the current limitations of scholarly publication: we only review new books, we review articles anonymously or in the safety of our classroom, and we comment very infrequently upon the strengths of particular works for teaching. And, of course, the publishing process takes a long time. At one time, listserves promised to break down some of these barriers, but few of them really do. So this group blog, from my perspective at least, is a chance to experiment with short-form publishing in which the peer review comes after publication (in the form of responses to the posts, which are always welcome) rather than before. It’s an exciting opportunity.

My first post is a short translation I’d like to share and briefly comment upon. Aleksandr Subbotin was a cavalryman from the village of Kolkovo in Tver’ province who served in Rennenkampf’s First Army at the start of World War I. Bright and literate enough to keep a diary, but occasionally clueless enough to be confused about the actual army he was in (he wrote that he was serving in the Fourth Army), he left behind a diary of the war and several photographs. These remnants were preserved by local historians and ended up in a special room of the House of Trades in the town of Goritsy. They were read there by Vladimir Burdin, who thought the story of the local boy off at the Great War merited publication. His edited volume of the diary was published in 2008 in the small burg of Kimry (pop. 50,000). As far as I can tell, only one library in the United States owns the book, and only the magic of WorldCat and interlibrary loan brought it to me.

Despite this unusual provenance, Subbotin’s diary is not all that different from other Russian soldier diaries I have read, but there is one significant difference. Subbotin reports his own behavior and the behavior of his comrades just after they crossed the German border in 1914 without a hint of self-censorship. Given the delay of publication, there was also little outward censorship, which was fortunate given the political ramifications of atrocity stories in the twentieth century. At the time and long afterwards, German sources insisted that East Prussia had been despoiled and its inhabitants violated by the invading Russian troops in the time period between the Russian invasion and the German victories at Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes that drove the Russians back on their side of the border. Others wondered whether these German protestations were little more than an attempt to divert attention from the atrocities they were accused of committing in Belgium and France at the same time. Mutual recrimination was the dominant mode for many years. That situation has begun to change with the publication of a good deal of high quality scholarship on the events on the Western Front, most notably John Horne and Alan Kramer’s German Atrocities, 1914, but scholarship on the events in East Prussia is far thinner. Most students of atrocity on the Eastern Front have focused on Galicia or Anatolia, with good reason. The scale and duration of civilian abuse in those regions was much greater than anything that happened in East Prussia. Nevertheless, the events in East Prussia ought to be of interest more broadly to students of twentieth century Russia and to students of the Great War.

Subbotin is exceptionally, almost painfully, cool and frank in his short descriptions of raping and pillaging below. It is precisely the normality of his tone that is most shocking. What soldier wouldn’t race to get the best cheese? Who would be concerned by shooting “about” eight spies over the course of a day’s march? Why not wink at the comrades who “courted” two girls they grabbed off the road and dragged into the rye? The fact that these men were whipped by a German baron for driving their horses too hard (and not for raping the locals) says volumes about relations between soldiers and officers, ethnic groups within the Russian army (which had plenty of ethnically German officers in 1914), and the mundane violence of life on the front starting from the very first days of the war. It makes you wonder whether all the talk of a gradual breakdown of Russian discipline gets the story wrong, for where is the discipline in this tale?

The dates below are old style (13 days behind the western calendar), and the place names are straight transliterations from the Russian (thus Suvalki rather than Suwałki)

29 July 1914. We set out from the town of Suvalki and arrived in the village of Motula, where we only paused to eat, and in the evening we marched to the village of Ol’shanka, where we stood six versts (one verst is 1.06 kilometers – js) from the border of East Prussia.

30 July 1914. The division remained in the village of Ol’shanka, and on the 31 st we set out in the direction of Magriboven. We traveled lightly, taking only our weapons, the rest we left behind, we were on field patrol.

A region of more than forty versts of East Prussia along the border was enveloped by fire. A battle was going on, strictly artillery. Exploding shells were visible, both from us and the Germans. The Germans retreated. The battle lasted all day and night on the first of August. On the second, we stayed in place and went on field patrol. The division had received its first baptism. Many soldiers and officers were buried over the course of those days. Our lieutenant was killed early on, the soldier Seleznev was killed, and others too.

3 August. The division set out and at six o’clock in the evening crossed the border near the Filippovskii customs post in the direction of the town of Marusken, which is a verst from the Russian border. At 6:45 we arrived in the town of Marusken. But as we halted on the edge of town, just to the right of us a group of our infantry was already leaving the town’s cheese factory. The infantrymen had loaded up planks with six or more wheels of cheese and were carrying cups and rolling away whole barrels of Russian butter, which they were eating directly with their hands or spreading on the cheese. And so upon our entry into the city we also began to plunder. We broke open their cellars, took out harmonicas, brought some wine, and began a real party. On the tables appeared geese, ducks, eggs, beef, and apple wine. But we had hardly begun feasting when the alarm was raised. We quickly saddled our horses, and the news spread like lightning that German infantry was marching upon us. Our artillery got into position, and we extended into a line. We fired a rifle volley at the Germans creeping up our left flank, but the darkness hampered the shooting. The Germans retreated back. Soon everything had calmed down and we unsaddled the horses and began to feast again. After the feast I lay down to sleep next to my horse Gabal’nik and soon fell asleep.

4 August. I woke up early in the morning and set a table between two apple trees, red apples hung directly over the table. A lot of guys were very drunk. You couldn’t find any soldiers smoking makhorka (a cheap tobacco – js). Everyone without exception was smoking cigars, the very best taken from the shops, and they were eating chocolate. Everyone was all mixed up together, someone groaned, someone threw up. At 9 AM they roused the whole division and we marched to the Danilin farmstead.

8 August. We marched to the village of Al’botvingen. On the road to the village we shot about eight spies. Marching along the road, we destroyed two tall observation towers. At four in the morning, Riazanov and Iurchuk arrived. They had found two girls along the way and had dragged them into the rye in order to court them. And in order to make up for lost time, they drove their horses at a full gallop in order to catch up to the regiment. On the way, they ran into the commander of the division, General Gurko, and his adjutant Lieutenant Argnol’d, who ordered them to be given five lashes for overworking their horses. And upon their arrival they were sent for punishment to Lieutenant Rekunov. Argnol’d did not like Russian soldiers in general, since he himself was a German baron, and Rekunov also was strict.

Aleksandr Mikhailovoch Subbotin, Dnevnik soldata Pervoi mirovoi voiny (Kimry: IP Mel’nikova N. V., 2008), 21-25. Translated by Joshua Sanborn.


The Origin of the Tale that Gavrilo Princip Was Eating a Sandwich When He Assassinated Franz Ferdinand

It was the great flash point of the 20th century, an act that set off a chain reaction of calamity: two World Wars, 80 million deaths, the Russian Revolution, the rise of Hitler, the atomic bomb. Yet it might never have happened–we’re now told– had Gavrilo Princip not got hungry for a sandwich.

We’re talking the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, of course—the murder that set the crumbling Austro-Hungarian Empire on a collision course with Serbia, and Europe down the slippery slope that led to the outbreak of the First World War a month after Princip pulled the trigger on June 28, 1914. More specifically, though, we’re talking the version of events that’s being taught in many schools today. It’s an account that, while respectful of the significance of Franz Ferdinand’s death, hooks pupils’ attention by stressing a tiny, awe-inspiring detail: that if Princip had not stopped to eat a sandwich where he did, he would never have been in the right place to spot his target. No sandwich, no shooting. No shooting, no war.

It’s a compelling story, and one that is told in serious books and on multiple websites. For the most part, it goes something like this:

Moritz Schiller's delicatessen on Franz Joseph Street, Sarajevo, shortly after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. The "X" marks the spot where Princip stood to fire into the Archduke's open limo.

It is the summer of 1914, and Bosnia has just become part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. A handful of young Bosnian-born Serbs decide to strike a blow for the integration of their people into a Greater Serbia by assassinating the heir to the Austrian throne. Their opportunity comes when it is announced that Franz Ferdinand will be making a state visit to the provincial capital, Sarajevo.

Armed with bombs and pistols supplied by Serbian military intelligence, seven conspirators position themselves at intervals along the archduke’s route. The first to strike is Nedeljko Cabrinovic, who lobs a hand grenade toward Franz Ferdinand’s open touring car. But the grenade is an old one, with a 10-second fuse. It bounces off the limo and into the road, where it explodes under the next vehicle in the motorcade. Although several officers in that car are hurt, Franz Ferdinand remains uninjured. To avoid capture, Cabrinovic drains a vial of cyanide and throws himself into a nearby river—but his suicide bid fails. The cyanide is past its sell-by date, and the river is just four inches deep.

The bombing throws the rest of the day’s plans into disarray. The motorcade is abandoned. Franz Ferdinand is hurried off to the town hall, where he is due to meet with state officials. Disconsolate, the remaining assassins disperse, their chance apparently gone. One of them, Gavrilo Princip, heads for Moritz Schiller’s delicatessen, on Franz Joseph Street. It’s one of Sarajevo’s smartest shopping destinations, just a few yards from the bustling through road known as Appel Quay.

As Princip queues to buy a sandwich, Franz Ferdinand is leaving the town hall. When the heir gets back into his limousine, though, he decides on a change of plan—he’ll call at the hospital to visit the men injured in the grenade blast.

There’s just one problem: the archduke’s chauffeur, a stranger to Sarajevo, gets lost. He swings off Appel Quay and into crowded Franz Joseph Street, then drifts to a stop right in front of Schiller’s.

Princip looks up from his lunch to find his target sitting just a few feet away. He pulls his gun. Two shots ring out, and the first kills Franz Ferdinand’s wife, Sophie. The second hits the heir in the neck, severing his jugular vein.

The archduke slumps back, mortally wounded. His security men hustle Princip away. Inside Schiller’s deli, the most important sandwich in the history of the world lies half-eaten on a table.

Soldiers arrest Gavrilo Prinzip, assassin of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. (Bettmann/CORBIS) Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophie one hour before they would be shot a killed by Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip as they drove through the streets of Sarajevo. (Bettmann/CORBIS) n illustration in Le Paris Journal depicts the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinard and his wife in Sarajevo, 1914. (Leonard de Selva/Corbis) The uniform of Franz Ferdinand drenched in blood. (dpa/Corbis) Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand lies in an open coffin beside his wife Sophie, the Duchess of Hohenburg, after their assassination. (Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS) Gavrilo Princip around age 16.

As I say, the story of Gavrilo Princip’s sandwich seems to be everywhere today—run an internet search for the phrase and you’ll see what I mean. There’s the teacher who has asked his class, for extra credit, to find out what sort of sandwich the killer ordered. (Consensus answer: cheese.) There’s the linguist’s deconstruction. There’s the art project—famous assassins’ faces paired with their victims’ on opposite sides of a sculpted toastie. And I first heard the tale from my daughter, who came home from school one day bursting to tell me the incredible new fact she’d just been taught in history class.

I was astonished by the story, too, though not because of the strangeness of the coincidence. It bothered me, because the details are new (you’ll struggle to find a telling of the tale that dates to before 2003), and because it simply doesn’t ring true. That’s not because the modern version isn’t broadly faithful to the facts it’s not even utterly implausible that Princip might have stopped off at Schiller’s for a bite to eat. No, the problem is that the story is suspiciously neat–and that the sandwich is a quintessentially Anglo-American convenience food. The dish was named in the 1760s for John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, who was in the habit of requesting his meat placed between two slices of toast so he could lunch at his desk. But it took time for the idea to cross the Channel, and I find it hard to believe the sandwich would have featured on a Bosnian menu as early as 1914.

John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich: a hard-working naval administrator and inventor of the convenience food that bears his name. (Wikicommons)

Certainly there is nothing in the main books on the assassination to suggest that Princip was eating anything when Franz Ferdinand appeared. Joachim Remak, writing in 1959, says the assassin waited outside Schiller’s, where he spoke to a friend, but makes no mention of him lunching there. Roberta Strauss Feuerlicht, writing nine years later, makes the separate point that Schiller’s delicatessen stood on the original route planned for Franz Ferdinand’s motorcade indeed, the chauffeur’s fatal uncertainty was caused by the local governor, Oskar Potiorek, shouting at him from the passenger seat that he had should have stayed on Appel Quay. In other words, Princip was standing in precisely the right place to assassinate the archduke if the Franz Ferdinand had stuck to his plans, and so could hardly be said to be the beneficiary of some outlandish coincidence. And David James Smith, author of One Morning in Sarajevo, June 28 1914 (2008), the most recent book-length study of the assassination, notes that the murder took place at around 10.55 a.m.—rather early for lunch. Not one of these authors mentions Princip eating none even seems to be aware of the version of the story being taught today.

We can take the investigation further than those printed sources, too, because when I first took an interest in this problem, Gaius Trifkovic—a Bosnian First World War expert and member of the staff at the Axis History Forum—was kind enough to go back to the original transcripts of Princip’s trial for me. These were published in Serbo-Croat by Vojislav Bogicevic in 1954 as Sarajevski atentat: stenogram glavne rasprave protiv Gavrila Principa i drugova, odrzane u Sarajevu 1914. Trifkovic reports that:

Princip merely said he was present in the vicinity of the “Latin bridge” when the car came along (p.60). A certain Mihajlo Pusara who was talking to Princip just moments prior to the assassination also doesn’t mention Princip eating (p. 258) the same with Smail Spahovic, guard who threw himself at Princip before he could fire the third shot (pp.277-8). Especially interesting for us is the affidavit of a certain Milan Drnic, who was at the time standing at Schiller’s door (Schiller offered his wife a seat) he was standing “some 6 paces” from Princip and clearly saw him holding his Browning before emptying it at the archduke and duchess (p. 300). No sandwich here either.

It seems clear, then, that Princip didn’t mention eating a sandwich June 28, 1914, and neither did any witness. Indeed, eating sandwiches is not a local custom in Sarajevo a Serbian reader of the Axis History Forum chipped in to inform me that “this ‘sandwich’ theory is not plausible—even today, with sandwiches available in every street bakery, few Serbs would go for such option. It’s either burek or pljeskavica.” So where on earth did the idea come from?

My daughter provided the next lead. She had picked up her information from a TV documentary on the assassination made by Lion TV, a British production company, for a series known as “Days that Shook the World.” I tracked down a copy of the program, and, sure enough, in following Princip and Cabrinovic from the hatching of their plot to their deaths in prison of tuberculosis, the script states (at 5:15): “Gavrilo Princip has just eaten a sandwich, and is now standing outside Schiller’s delicatessen … when suddenly the Archduke’s car happens to turn into Franz Joseph Street. Completely by chance, fate has brought the assassin and his target within 10 feet of each other.”

So is “Days That Shook the World” the source of the sandwich story? Probably. The documentary has circulated widely–it has been broadcast repeatedly ever since it was first shown in 2003, not only by the BBC in the U.K., but also by BBC America. It is also available for sale on DVD, which has helped to make it popular in schools. And every telling of the tale I could find in print or online appeared after the original broadcast date.

The writer and director of the “Days That Shook the World” documentary was Richard Bond, an experienced maker of quality historical programs. In an email, he recalled that while the research for the program was “incredibly meticulous” and involved consulting a variety of sources in several languages–”contemporaneous newspaper articles, original documents and out-of-print books containing eyewitness interviews”–he could no longer remember how he sourced the vital bit of information. “It’s possible that ‘sandwich’ was a colloquial translation that appeared in these sources,” he wrote.

As of last week, that’s where the story rested. Let’s note that Bond’s documentary places less stress on Princip’s sandwich than do later retellings, in which the element of coincidence has been stretched, then stretched again. And I can see that my own obsession with getting to the bottom of the story may seem like nitpicking to some. After all, who cares why Princip came to be standing outside Schiller’s deli, when all that matters is that he was in the right place at the right time to pull his gun?

Yet in one vital sense, the problem really is important. Amazing as it may seem, the sandwich story is in danger of becoming the accepted version of events in both the U.S. and the U.K. And by portraying the assassination of Franz Ferdinand as a piece of outrageous coincidence, the story of Gavrilo Princip’s sandwich makes it seem far less important to think deeply about the killer and his companions, and about their motives and determination. Certainly no one who depends solely on the “Days That Shook the World” documentary will come away from it with a deeply nuanced understanding of what Serbian nationalists believed in 1914, or exactly why they thought the assassination of Franz Ferdinand was desirable or justifiable. But that knowledge is precisely what students need to understand the origins of the First World War.

Ever since I started working on this story, I’ve been frustrated by my inability to trace it to a source that appeared before “Days That Shook The World” was first broadcast in 2003. Last week, however, I finally unearthed an earlier version. The source, if it is the source, is appropriately farcical, because it is not a work of history but a novel–indeed, not so much a novel as a burlesque. Titled Twelve Fingers, it was written by a Brazilian TV host named Jô Soares its hero is born to “a Brazilian contortionist mother and a fanatically nationalist Serbian linotypist father” and blessed with an extra finger on each hand. These make him particularly dextrous, and so he trains as an assassin and finds himself sucked, Zelig-style, into many of the most important events of the last century. The book was such a success in the original Portuguese that it was translated into English and published in both the U.S. and the U.K. in 2001—predating the “Days That Shook the World” documentary by enough for the idea to have begun to leach into popular consciousness as the book was reviewed, read and discussed.

On page 31, Dimitri, the hapless hero of Twelve Fingers, encounters his friend Princip near the Appel Quay. Then, for the first time ever, we glimpse the Bosnian assassin in refueling mode:

When he arrives at the corner of the quay, across from Schiller’s market, he bumps into a youth coming out of the market eating a sandwich. He recognizes him immediately. It’s Gavrilo Princip. Feigning surprise, he says, “Gavrilo! It’s been such a long time! What’re you doing here?”

“I’m eating a sandwich.”

“I can tell that. Don’t treat me like a child.”

They fall silent, while Gavrilo finishes his sandwich and takes a grimy kerchief from his pocket to wipe his hands. When he opens his coat to put away the kerchief, Dimitri sees a Browning pistol tucked into the waistband….

The two go their separate ways, walking in opposite directions. Dimitri Borja Korozec returns to his ambush spot in the alley, waiting for Franz Ferdinand to continue with the rest of his schedule, and Gavrilo Princip goes to meet his destiny.


German Infantry eating Lunch, 1914 - History

Tore’s Tuesday – A Kar98A with an unusual history.

I have promised Joe to feature obscure objects, and though the Kar98A is far from unusual and obscure, this specimen is….

The Kar98A was originally issued to artillerymen, cavalry, MG crews, soldiers who had a lot to carry and needed lighter weapons. During the war it became increasingly clear that long rifles and bayonets were not ideally suited for fighting in the confined spaces in the trenches, and these were also issued to infantry, sturmtruppen etc. this particular carbine was made in the government arsenal in Erfurt in 1918 and will undoubtedly have found its way to the front.

The 1918 November revolution in Germany, that led to the establishment of the Republic and the abolition of monarchy, really started with a mutiny in the fleet in late October. The sailors rebelled against the order to go to sea to fight a futile and needless last battle in an already lost war. It soon spread and on November 9th the revolution was a fact. Friedrich Ebers (Mehrheitssozialisten – “Majority socialists”) took over and made a deal with the German high command.

Under this deal the conservative/right wing Freikorps were formed and fought the communists

Bavaria was at this time declared to be a Soviet republic. (Not a Part of the Soviet Union, as that was not yet formed, but in the meaning that it was a republic ruled by the workers councils) As you can imagine, the conservatives and the extreme right wing, were far from delighted about that.

So, among the militias/freikorps that were established, one of them was the Einwohnerwehr Bayern (The citizen’s army of Bavaria) They were central in conquering Bavaria from the hands of the communists. The fighting was especially severe around Rosenheim, but the capture of München was no walk in the park either.

The Einwohnerwehr Bayern marked their weapons with the abbreviation EWB on the buttstock of their rifles, and this one has that stamp.

However, the Entente powers were very skeptical about the many armed militias in Germany and pushed to have them disarmed and disbanded. Though the Weimar Republic were, to put it mildly, somewhat half-hearted about confronting them, they caved to the pressure in the end and finally disbanded the EWB. The weapons handed in were taken into the Weimar Republic Arsenals and marked with the Weimar Republics property mark, 1920, stamped on the receiver of the gun. So, this carbine was then in the interwar years used by the Reichswehr, who were trained to become the officer corps of a resurrected German army…

So, this particular Kar98A went on through history, being used in the invasion and occupation of Norway 1940-45. And, post WWII, being obsolete, ended as a training weapon for a local brach of DFS (the volunteer shooting association of Norway). When I found it it had a .22 barrel insert, just as such guns that I myself fired in the 80s in DFS. So, a rifle with a long and dramatic history to it, and a service life of more than seven decades.


Germans capture Langemarck during First Battle of Ypres

On October 22, 1914, in a bitter two-day stretch of hand-to-hand fighting, German forces capture the Flemish town of Langemarck from its Belgian and British defenders during the First Battle of Ypres.

The trench lines built in the fall of 1914 between the town of Ypres, on the British side, and Menin and Roulers, on the German side—known as the Ypres salient�me the site of some of the fiercest battles of World War I, beginning in October 1914 with the so-called First Battle of Ypres. The battle, launched on October 19, was a vigorous attempt by the Germans to drive the British out of the salient altogether, thus clearing the way for the German army to access the all-important Belgian coastline with its access to the English Channel and, beyond, to the North Sea.

The German forces advancing against Ypres had a numerical advantage over the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), as General Erich von Falkenhayn was able to send the entire German 4th and 6th Armies against the BEF’s seven infantry divisions (one was held in reserve) and three cavalry divisions. For reinforcements, Sir John French, commander of the BEF, had only a few divisions of Indian troops already en route to Flanders in the days to come, however, these replacement troops would distinguish themselves with excellent performances in both offensive and defensive operations.

After the initial rapid movement of the German offensive, the Battle of Ypres became a messy, desperate struggle for land and position, leaving the countryside and villages around it in a state of bloody devastation. A German artilleryman, Herbert Sulzbach, wrote on October 21 of his experience in the battle: “We pull forward, get our first glimpse of this battlefield, and have to get used to the terrible scenes and impressions: corpses, corpses and more corpses, rubble, and the remains of villages.” After the German capture of Langemarck on October 22, fighting at Ypres continued for one more month, before the arrival of winter weather brought the battle to a halt. The Ypres salient, however, would see much more of the same bitter conflict before the war was over, including a major battle in the spring of 1915𠅊lso a German offensive𠅊nd an attempted Allied breakthrough in the summer of 1917.


Trench Warfare on the Western Front, 1914-1918:

Attrition warfare is a military strategy in which a belligerent attempts to win a war by wearing down the enemy to the point of collapse through continuous losses in personnel and materiel. The war will usually be won by the side with greater such resources.

  • First World War began with movement: a series of mobilisations in countries that were bound by treaty obligations.
  • Process was caused by the assassination in Sarajevo in June 1914 of an Austrian archduke by a Serbian nationalist.
  • Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia (28th July)
  • 31st July, Russia mobilised its army to help Serbia.
  • Russia lacked railways and so Germany predicted it would take weeks to ready their army.
  • French were fearful of being outnumbered in a war with Germany, and so mobilised fast.
  • Using Russian immobility as an excuse, Germany declared war on Russia on the 1st August and France on the 3rd.
  • Belgium decided to not allow Germany through its borders to get to France.
    • Germany declared war on them.

    Entrenchment and the building of defensive systems:

    • German plan of attack in the west had been first drawn up in 1905 by Alfred von Schlieffen, who was the chief of the army General Staff.
    • This plan was further modified by Helmuth von Moltke, and the plan aimed to defeat France in 6 weeks.
    • Part of the German army would tie down the French along the border in Alsace-Lorraine, while the main German force attacked in the west, through Belgium and into France to encircle Paris.
    • Plan aimed to avoid the strong French defences.
    • Campaign of movement would use roads, and railways.
    • German railways were extensive, and key line were aimed at France.
    • Germany might have to fight on two fronts, but hoped Russia would be slower to mobilise.
    • Russians attacked within three weeks and lost to Germany at the battle of Tannenberg.
    • French also planned to attack:
      • 800,000 soldiers were to advance into Alsace-Lorraine into Germany.
      • Small British Expeditionary Force took up a position in Belgium around the town of Mons.
      • Its role was defensive.
      • However, the French wanted a Napoleonic style, surge to victory.
      • Germans moved through Belgium, taking Brussels on the 20th August.
      • Masterplan required the German 1st Army to cover 15 miles a day for the first 3 weeks.
      • This was too fast even for Germany.
      • Troops pushed too fast ahead of their railway-supply.
        • The further they pushed, the worse the supply problems became.
        • Field kitchens could not keep up men and animals went hungry.
        • In 1914, armies heavily relied on horses and the British took to France roughly as much hay and oats as ammunition.
        • The Germans became starved and so the advance faltered.
        • French tried to attack the German centre in the Ardennes forest region, losses were severe after they were mowed down by modern firepower from machines guns and artillery.
        • By 29th August, the French had lost more than 250,000 casualties, which was twice than the number of the entire BEF.
        • Comprised of Sir Douglas Haig’s 1st Army Corps and Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien 2nd Army Corps.
        • War of movement quickly became a war of attrition and defensive entrenchment.
        • Germans swung away from Paris in September 1914:
          • This allowed the Allies to launch a flank counter-attack at the Battle of the Marne.
          • Both armies attempted to outflank each other in a series of battles: “Race to the sea”
          • As part of the manoeuvring, using railways to shift reserves along the line, the Germans attempted to push the British out of the Belgian town of Ypres.
          • After 4 weeks, the Allies held Ypres, but France and Britain had lost 100,000+ doing so, + 20,000 Belgians.
          • Race ended in a stalemate.
          • The issue was how infantry would overcome the new firepower.
          • This was theorised by Sir Horace-Dorrien,
          • He said that the individual initiative and intelligence was more important than classic warfare.
          • Sacked by Sir John French.
          • However, commanders on both sides assumed that in a war of attrition, the side that won would be the one that held out the longest with the most soldiers.

          The need for military adjustment:

          • Adjustments were vital.
          • Entrenchment war involved constant construction and reconstruction.
          • Trench building took six hours for 450 men to dig 250 yards.
          • Required huge labour, barbed wire, timber and sandbags.
          • First trenches were shallow, made in a hurry and easily collapsed.
          • As the Western Front stabilised, through the winter of 1914-15, both sides constructed complex, deep-trench systems.
            • This was not just trenches, but field kitchens, first-aid posts and casualty-clearing stations, hospitals, command posts, ammunition dumps, artillery parks, and telephone lines.
            • Fire trenches ran in one direction, communication trenches criss-crossing them.
            • A trench was never straight for long.
            • Had sharp bends so that an enemy invading it could not shoot through the entire length.
            • Forward trench nearest the enemy was the front line attack point.
            • Behind this was the support trench.
            • Behind this was the reserve trench.
            • Soldiers were rotated between these trenches.
            • Miles of barbed wire were laid out in front of the trenches.
            • Between the two sides was called “No Man’s Land”
            • They often break down or become stuck in mud.
            • Armies had to adjust fighting tactics following the failure of movement, and the war became a series of attacks and counter-attacks.
            • Enemy trenches were the target, for artillery, rifle and machine-gun fire.
            • Putting your head above the trench was fatal, snipers can pick you off.
            • Trench was usually 8 feet down.
            • A soldier had to stand on a fire step to rest his rifle to shoot.
            • Periscopes gave a better chance at a view.
            • British high command was worried that soldiers were becoming passives.
            • A raiding party would sneak into the enemy trenches to hurl grenades or take prisoners.
            • Soldiers in the trenches often had to eat and sleep in miserably poor conditions.
            • Latrines, which were holes dug in the ground, were very basic.
            • Washing was a luxury/
            • Rats were everywhere.
            • Soldiers reported rats as big as cats, feeding on the corpses as well as army rations.
            • Scratching was a familiar symptom of infestation with lice.
            • Trench foot was common caused by wearing wet, dirty socks.
            • Eventually soldiers were ordered to change socks 3 times a day.
            • In trench warfare, the two sides were at times close enough to observe one another, and even at times allow burial parties to retrieve bodies.
            • On rare occasions, soldiers met to fraternise.
            • During the Christmas truce of December 1914, British and German troops emerged from their trenches to meet in No Man’s Land.
            • Fraternisation was widely condemned by the authorities, still happened.
            • Communications were erratic.
              • Officers based in dugouts and trenches could use buried telephone landlines to give and receive orders.
              • They often relied on runners who risked being shot as they carried messages.
              • Attacking from the trenches, soldiers communicated using shots, horns and whistles.
              • They also had very little idea of progress. As a result, generals tried to plan for every possible outcome which made battle plans very complicated.

              New fighting techniques and technologies:

              • By January 1915, the war of movement was over.
              • British army Field Marshal Kitchener realised as much, writing in a letter to Sir John French that he supposed they must recognise the French army was not making a significant enough breakthrough to force a retreat of the German Forces from Northern France.
              • He set about recruiting a new army to bolster the BEF.
                • One necessary adaptation was the issuing of metal helmets.
                • Another was getting rid of colourful uniforms and introducing a khaki or grey.
                • The cavalry sword and lance were relegated to history.
                • The Breakthrough, achieved by cavalry rushing through gaps in the enemy lines created by artillery and infantry, never happened on the Western Front.
                  • This is because entrenchment and barbed wire made horses big targets for machine guns.

                  Rifles and attack strategies:

                  • The most common firearm used by infantry soldiers was a rifle.
                  • A 1914 rifle could fire 15 rounds a minute in skilled hands.
                    • Hit targets 800 yards away.
                    • Soldiers did not just stand in lines and fire volleys, but shot from their trenches or from whatever cover they could find.
                    • An officer had little control over riflemen’s fire once the order to open fire was given.
                    • Other weapons like grenades and knives were given to infantry to use, officers carried revolvers.
                    • Troops in the open were exposed to machine gun fire.
                    • A machine gun had a greater killing power than a rifle.
                    • A rifleman required a high degree of skill.
                    • All a machine gun team had to do was feed ammo into the guns and spray bullets in an arc.
                    • Typical fire rate was 60 rounds p/m
                    • Machine guns were sited in pairs, or in batteries of four-eight.
                    • Some were hidden in dugouts or pillboxes which made them hard to destroy except at close range.
                    • Pre 1914, tests showed that one machine-gun had the same value as 50 rifles in terms of spraying at infantry and cavalry.
                    • British Lewis machine gun could be carried by one man, and so could be used in attacks as well as defence.
                    • Heavier Vickers gun needed three gunners.
                    • In 1914, an infantry regiment had 12 times as many rifles as machine guns.
                      • (12:1) which changed to (2:1) in 1917
                      • This shows that the army learnt the value of the machine gun.

                      Grenades, flamethrowers and mortars:

                      • For hand-to-hand combat, troops used the bayonet and grenades.
                        • Such as the British Mills bomb, and the German stick grenade.

                        Artillery and the creeping barrage:

                        • Generals clung onto the idea that stalemate could be broken by artillery.
                          • This is because quick-firing field guns like the French 75mm gun were capable of firing 15 shots p/m.
                          • Also heavier weapons such as the howitzers could pulverise enemy trenches.
                          • This only works if communication is good and the gunnery was accurate.
                          • If the artillery fell short, it risked hitting its own troops if shells fell too far ahead the barrage did little to support the advance.
                          • Timed: exploded in the air and sprayed shrapnel – weak to those in trenches and barbed wire.
                          • High explosive: Meant to penetrate defences before exploding, were also ineffective in clearing barbed wire.
                          • A sensitive percussion device that caused shells to explode sideways.
                            • This stopped them from burying themselves in mud.
                            • This also created a smokescreen.
                            • Tried in 1916, but used in 1917.
                            • Used in the Battle of Arras.
                            • Troops saw an improvement in artillery support.
                            • Chemical weapons, were first used on the Western Front by the Germans in April 1915 at Ypres, though commanders pointed out that prevailing westerly winds would blow the gas back at the Germans.
                            • They used 6000 canisters of chlorine gas set on the ground, gas clouds made French troops retreat, but German soldiers without gas masks were unable to take advantage.
                            • By June 1915, the first gas masks were issued to allied troops.
                            • In September 1915, the French used gas.
                            • Phosgene gas, first used by the Germans in December 1915, then by both sides, were six times more toxic than chlorine gas.
                            • They caused 80% of gas casualties.
                            • In July 1917, the Germans were the first to use mustard gas. Which caused lung and skin damage, and blindness.
                            • Gas Masks for troops improved from primitive fabric helmets.
                            • Special artillery shells to deliver gas were developed.
                            • Gas caused relatively few deaths, 8000 in the British forces.
                              • Therefore gas was claimed to be more humane.

                              The tank and the return to movement:

                              • The arrival of the first American troops in 1917 coincided with the first battle won by tanks.
                              • Americans were aggressive, but inexperienced at trench warfare their commander, Pershing, believed in mobility and rifle fire.
                                • He made little use of tanks.

                                How did reporting of the western front battles influence government policy and public opinion?

                                Public perception of the Western Front:

                                • War began in a mood of patriotic optimism.
                                • 1014, anti-government groups were largely suspended protests, without abandoning their aims.
                                • Labour and TUC supported the war until victory, public opposition came only from anti-war socialists (Ramsay MacDonald) and any pacifists against war entirely.
                                • Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the militant Women’s Social and Political Union, called on the government to allow women equal status in munitions factories.
                                • Many women joined the workforce.
                                  • Took on new roles, such as nurses.
                                  • Refused to do this were sent into the army or jailed.

                                  Government control and censorship:

                                  • There were no opinion polls or focus groups for the government to judge the public mood off of.
                                  • They did so by looking at reactions to news that came from the front, reactions expressed to MPs, in letters to press or in public meetings.
                                  • British government let newspapers censor themselves, but controlled direct war reporting by the official correspondents through censors at the front and agreement with the newspapers.
                                  • Soldiers’ letters home were read by the army censors who removed all references to plans, battles or unit names.
                                  • Many papers published casualty lists in full from the summer of 1915.
                                  • Provincial newspapers printed more letters from soldiers.
                                  • Somme battles were reported and a film was made about it.
                                  • Some parts were staged and not live.

                                  Changing attitudes:

                                  • The public were frustrated by what Prime Minister Asquith called the “patriotic reticence of the press”.
                                  • In September 1914, the War Office began issuing its own reports.
                                    • Some headlined “eyewitness”, they written by Colonel Ernest Swinton, but were too technical for readers.
                                    • Swinton commented that he tried to tell as much of the truth as was safe.
                                    • Former MP Charles Masterman, headed the War Propaganda Bureau, which was set up in 1914.
                                    • Propaganda at home focused on “war aims” and not just defeating the Germans but social reform – a better world for all.
                                    • Propaganda was also focused at foreign countries.
                                      • Especially America.

                                      Restricting direct reportage by journalists:

                                      • By 1917-18, both the government and the army had learned that it was more useful to direct reportage than denying it.
                                        • This also kept the press on side.
                                        • This was particularly among the volunteer “Pals” battalions formed by friends, neighbours and workmates around the country.
                                        • Cameras called the Box Brownie and Vest Pocket Kodak were small enough to carry.
                                        • Many soldiers took photos.
                                        • Some taken at Christmas 1914 of British and German troops meeting in No-Man’s-Land, which worried the authorities.
                                        • Pictures of “Tommy” and “Fritz” sharing a drink did not fit the stereotype of a bloodthirsty Hun.
                                        • Sir John French banned soldiers from taking photos which came into effect on the March of 1915.
                                        • Daily Mirror was popular for its photographs and offered £1,000 for the best Western Front “snapshot”.
                                        • Daily Sketch (rival) published in July 1915 an “untouched action” shot of the Second Battle of Ypres.
                                        • Magazines such as The War Illustrated and the Illustrated London News relied on drawings by artists.
                                        • Magazine illustrations portrayed heroic incidents which usually avoided the scary realities of the trenches.
                                        • First War photographer was Ernest Brooks in 1916.
                                        • By the war’s end, there were 16 cameramen, all of whom had censored war photos.
                                        • They were published as to show that there was a positive side of the army being in action.
                                        • The British Expeditionary Force took official war artists to the Western Front, at the instigation of Charles Masterman of the War Propaganda Bureau and the painter William Rothenstein.
                                          • He went to the front himself.

                                          Trench Humour and literature at home:

                                          • In Britain, in 1915, Masterman commissioned John Buchan to produce an official war history in the form a monthly magazine: Nelson’s history of the War and it proved to be very popular.
                                          • Buchan had close links with the army.
                                          • Rudyard Kipling, who lost his only son at the Battle of Loos in 1915, also worked on propaganda.
                                          • Government had no control over trench humour.
                                          • Soldiers on the Western Front produced a newspaper, the satirical and usually cheery Wipers Times, which first appeared in 1916.
                                          • A cartoonist Bruce Bairnsfather created “old bill” – a grumpy infantryman.
                                          • Army disapproved of Old Bill as vulgar, but he was so popular.
                                          • Black humour abounded in the trenches, while at home music-hall songs made light of the dangers. (Hush, Here Comes A Whizzbang was the most popular
                                          • Government struggled to censor war poets writing about the Western Front.
                                          • Most were not published until after the war.
                                          • Some notable examples:
                                            • Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, John McCrae and Robert Graves.

                                            What was the significance of Haig’s major offensives for the conduct of the war and attitudes to it?


                                            WWI German History

                                            This site which is dedicated to Imperial German History, does a blog every day focusing on the Great War otherwise known as World War I.. There are quite a few of them and they can be accessed through the links on the right. We also recommend books associated with the blogs if you want more detail. As time allows I will go back and do the older blogs. We do not sell anything. By we I mean my wife, Janet Robinson and I – Joe Robinson. We have also been known as Col. J. The names Joe and Janet start with the J and we both retired as full Colonels. Get it? Contrary to the views of some ill-informed people, there is nothing nefarious or self-aggrandizing about it we’re just trying to stay within the navigation beacons of legality and tax reporting. We are older, retired, and travel a lot. We do a lot of presentations for groups. classes and case studies. All pro bono. If you are within 700 miles of Pensacola and need a presentation for your group or club, we likely might do it.

                                            Will we write a book number six? YES.. We are working on the sequel to German Failure.” This is about to go to the editor. That tentative title is ” chasing the Great Retreat.”We have established the website www.german1914 to put things all in one place. We moved our old website to here. If you do Facebook, you should join the Facebook group: ww1 German History.

                                            This is our last book. Winner of the Tomlinson book prize for best book on world war one in 2020 in the English language.. Buy it at Amazon or buy it at McFarland. We do not sell any. Actually the Kindle price is not bad. However, for nominal fee we are willing to sell you a selfie.


                                            Disaster at Königgrätz.

                                            The heavy blow that the Austrians suffered at Nachod became a catastrophe at Königgrätz just a week after, on July 3. The Battle of Königgrätz was the decisive point in the Austro-Prussian war. Once again, Austrians were the victims of their own tactics combined with the might of Dreyse needle-guns.

                                            King Wilhelm I on a black horse with his suite of officers, Bismarck, Moltke, Roon, and others, watching the Battle of Königgrätz.

                                            An Austrian army of 215,000 soldiers met 39,000 Prussians in a valley between the River Elbe and the River Bistritz. During the battle, the Prussians received reinforcements when the 2 nd Army arrived with 85,000 soldiers.

                                            The decisive fight took place in the forest of Swiepwald, where the Prussian 7 th Division was holding its position against the Austrian 2 nd and 4 th Corps.

                                            In the dense forest terrain, the Prussians again used the advantages of a higher rate of fire and the ability to reload their rifles in a concealed position to inflict heavy losses on the Austrians.

                                            Dreyse needle gun, model 1862. Photo by PHGCOM – CC BY-SA 3.0

                                            After two and a half hours, the Austrians managed to push the Prussian 7 th Division out of the woods. But their victory came at a very high price, and it came too late.

                                            The Prussians had been holding on long enough for the 2 nd Army to arrive on the battlefield. With the high casualty rate and now facing fresh enemy reinforcements, the Austrian commander, Field Marshal Ludwig von Benedek, had no choice but to retreat.

                                            Even though the Austrians were fighting the majority of the battle on the defensive with almost twice as many soldiers, their losses were even higher than at Nachod.

                                            Around 45,000 Austrian soldiers were killed, wounded, or captured. The Prussians had casualties of 9,000 soldiers.

                                            1) infantry flintlock rifle Prussia (1770) 2) German Dreyse needle gun (1854) 3) German infantry rifle (1871) on exhibition in the Spandau Citadel, Spandau, Germany Photo by JoJan – CC BY 3.0

                                            The loss at Königgrätz meant the end of the war for the Austrians. On August 23, 1866, Austria signed a peace treaty with Prussia, giving them over dominion over German states.

                                            The Prussians set a foundation for the German Empire and became one of the most frightening military powers in history. It was that same power that led the world into two of the biggest conflicts humankind has ever seen.

                                            The question is whether the course of history would have been different if the Dreyse needle-gun hadn’t been in the hands of Prussian soldiers.


                                            Organization of an Infantry Division

                                            At the time of mobilization in the summer of 1914, there were 44 active divisions in "metropolitan" France -- 41 infantry divisions (1st-36th, 39th-43rd) and 3 colonial (1st-3rd). An additional three divisions were formed upon mobilization: the 44th DI (composed of 4 regiments reserved solely for the defense of the Alps), and the 37th and 38th DI constituted in North Africa. In the first weeks of the war, the Moroccan Division and the 45th DI are formed in North Africa as well. Therefore, in August of 1914 there were a total of 47 divisions. However, in early September the 44th DI is dissolved permitting the 76th and 77th DI to be formed. At the end of the year then the number of active infantry divisions stands at 49.

                                            The infantry division was composed of 2 brigades of 2 regiments. An artillery regiment from the brigade of the corps artillery, with 9 batteries of 75s, is attached to each infantry division. Each active infantry division was to also have 2 reserve regiments attached to it. However, upon mobilization most of these were grouped into 25 reserve divisions (51st-75th). Additionally, some (but not all) divisions were bolstered by the attachment of 1 or 2 battalions of chasseurs.

                                            Number of Effectives (When at Full Strength)
                                            Division:

                                            16,000*
                                            Brigade:

                                            *Note: Of this number, over 13,000 (or 85%) were infantrymen.

                                            There were also 25 reserve divisions (51st-75th), 4 of which are assigned to the defense of fortified regions (57th DR at Belfort, 71st DR at Epinal, 72nd DR at Verdun and 73rd DR at Toul). The other 21 reserve divisions were field formations. However, in September 1914, the 54th and 75th DR are dissolved. Thus, by the end of 1914 there are only 23 reserve divisions.

                                            Reserve divisions were composed of 2 brigades of 3 regiments each. However, the reserve regiment was constituted of only 2 battalions (unlike the active regiments which had 3). Thus, both active and reserve divisions were made up of 12 battalions, although the latter was smaller in size.

                                            Number of Effectives (When at Full Strength)
                                            Division:

                                            In 1915, the difference between active and reserve disappeared through the inter-division exchange of active and reserve infantry regiments. Additionally, a second company of sappers-miners, a park company and a telegraph detachment are added to each division, while the engineers are put under the command of the battalion leader. An amalgamation of non-divisioned formations and the incorporation of the class of 1915 allows for the formation of 26 new divisions (of which 4 are colonials), making a total of 98 infantry divisions.

                                            By 1916, the process of removing the reserve regiments and the chasseur group from the infantry division was completed and these were formed into their own respective divisions. In the summer, a battery of trench artillery was added along with a divisional depot. Another major reorganization was the dissolving of the infantry brigade. An infantry division was now to be composed of 3 infantry regiments. This reorganization allowed for the creation of 9 new divisions and, by the end of the year, their total number had risen to 107. However, the average number of effectives now rested at 13,000 men.

                                            In 1917, 4 divisions were formed from the transformation of territorial divisions into active ones, along with the creation of another 5 new divisions (of which 1 is colonial). The reorganization to a divisional infantry of 3 regiments (9 battalions) a gradual one. Though most had completed the change, by November 1917, 8 divisions had still not done so. At the same time, a further 14 divisions had either 8, 10 or 11 battalions. Divisional artillery was to now have a battery of 155 "TRs" (Rapid Fire) attached and the divisional depot created the year before became the divisional instruction center. This too was gradual and only 4 divisions contained such a unit in 1917 -- the change would be completed by the following spring. At the end of the year, 3 other divisions were dissolved (88th, 130th, 158th DI) and the total number of divisions would reach its maximum at 113.

                                            In 1918, a pioneer battalion was added to each division and the services branch was expanded further. In 1918, no new formations were created. The 55th DI was dissolved, while the 65th DI became the 2nd Morocan Division and the 63rd DI became the Polish Division. At the end of the war, there are only 109 infantry divisions.

                                            Number of Effectives (When at Full Strength)
                                            Division:


                                            Watch the video: Friends and enemies. Freunde und Feinde