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In 1906 Generaloberst v. Moltke was named chief of the General Staff and at the time of mobilisation in 1914 he took command of the Generalstab of the Feldheer (commanding all the Armies in the field).


Because of "health reasons" the Kaiser replaced v. Moltke with Kriegsminister v. Falkenhayn on the 14th September 1914. For political reasons this change was not made public until the 3rd November 1914.

In 1916 the Kaiser recognised that the population had become war weary and the entry of Romania into the war added to the gloom. To improve the moral of the troops he replaced von Falkenhayn and appointed Generalfeldmarschall Paul von Hindenburg as the new chief of staff of the Feldarmee.


Above: von Falkenhayn



When taking command of the German forces in the East in 1914 von Hindenburg had said " Say that General Ludendorff and I are inseparable for the length of the campaign. We complement each other and neither of us alone is capable of achieving that which we would achieve together.", so it was no suprise that when von Hindenburg took over from von Falkenhayn at the end of August 1916, Ludendorff came with him as part of the deal. To create a place at the Headquarters for Ludendorff, he was promoted to full General and the position of Ersten Generalquartiermeister was created.




The Kaiser remained head of the army, Hindenburg served as commander of the Feldarmee and Ludendorff served as his chief of staff. To the public von Hindenburg was at the helm, in reality Ludendorff wielded an immense power behind the scenes.

Describing his working relationship to von Hindenburg, Ludendorff wrote...

"The Feldherr carried the responsibility. He carried it in front of the world, and more difficultly, he carried it in front of his men and the Fatherland. As Erster Generalquartiermeister I was aware of a shared responsibility for all decisions.
Our strategic and tactical philosophies were in tune and there was trust and harmony while working together.
After discussing issues with my staff I would briefly present my thoughts about operations and the situation to the Generalfeldmarschall and make some concrete suggestions. It pleased me that the Generalfeldmarschall always, from Tannenberg to the time of my resignation in October 1918, agreed with my suggestions and acted according to my advice."

Ludendorff resigned on the 26 October 1918 and the position was held for a couple of days by Oberst Heye, before being taken over by Generalleutnant Groener on the 29 October.


The Higher Commands on the Western Front: Armee level

At the outbreak of the war in the west seven Armeen were in the field, each under the command of an Armee-Ober-Kommando, or A.O.K., these were independent commands although for a short time in 1914 the A.O.K.7 fell under the command of the A.O.K.6 and the A.O.K.1 under the command of A.O.K.2.

When Germany marched to war in 1914 the A.O.K. were arranged from the A.O.K.1 on the right flank to the A.O.K.7 on the left.

In September 1914 the A.O.K.6 and 7 were pulled westwards to provide extra support during the battle of the Marne. To fill the gap created on the left flank the Armee-Abteilung-Gaede and Armee-Abteilung-Falkenhausen were formed. These Armee-Abteilungen were in reality slightly smaller A.O.K.s

Above: The Deutsche Kronprinz

During the race for the sea where the armies leapfrogged towards to the coast, the order of the units was obviously disturbed and by the time the front had become static and the troops had dug their trenches the order, from the right flank to the Swiss border, was as follows.
A.O.K.4,6,2,1,7,3 And 5, followed by Armee Abteilung Stranz, Falkenhausen and Gaede.

Technically they could be considered as 10 A.O.K.


The chain of command for a Feldheer of this side had numerous difficulties, and as a result, at the end of November 1914 the A.O.K.s were divided into 3 commands, each being commanded by the senior A.O.K. commander within the group.

The right wing consisted of the A.O.K.4,6 And 2 (under A.O.K.6)
The middle with A.O.K.1,7 and 3 (under A.O.K.7)
and the left wing had the A.O.K.5 with Armee-Abteilung Gaede, Falkenhausen and Stranz (under the command of A.O.K.5

In January 1915 there was another shake up and the following four groups were formed.
I Gruppe - A.O.K. 4 and 6 (under A.O.K. 6)
II Gruppe - A.O.K.2 and 1 (under A.O.K.2)
III Gruppe - A.O.K. 7 and 3 (under A.O.K.7)
IV Gruppe - A.O.K.5 with Armee-Abteilungen Gaede, Falkenhausen and Stranz and Kampfabscnitt Metz (under A.O.K.5)

In March 1915 these groups were disbanded and the armies became independent again, other than Armee-Abteilung Stranz and “Kampfabschnitt Metz” which stayed under the A.O.K.5, and the Armee-Abteilung Gaede which came under the Oberkommando Falkenhausen.


In August 1915 the Heeresgruppe Deutsche Kronprinz was formed. Its Oberkommando was the A.O.K.5 and it included the three Armee Abteilungen and Kampfabschnitt Metz. The A.O.K.3 was under its command for the period from the 26th of September untill the 7th of  December 1915.

Due to the front conditions caused by the static warfare on the Western Front  the A.O.K.1 was deemed superfluous and was dissolved in September 1915. The units were distributed to other A.O.K.'S, and the staff of the A.O.K. 1 went to the eastern front to create the A.O.K. 12.

Right: Von Gallwitz

The mass of reinforcements sent to the Somme front during the battle resulted in a very large 2. Armee which resulted in the creation of a new A.O.K.1 and the splitting of the troops under A.O.K.2 command. The A.O.K. 2 and 1 were named Heeresgruppe Gallwitz after the Commander of A.O.K.2.
The Heeresgruppe Gallwitz was a stopgap measure and on the 28th of August 1916 it became the Heeresgruppen-Kommando Kronprinz von Bayern and incorporated the both the A.O.K.7 and 6.
At the same time the A.O.K.3 joined the Heeresgruppe Deutsche-Kronprinz.

The reorganisation saw the following 3 commands.

A.O.K.4 on its own
Heeresgruppe Kronprinz von Bayern (A.O.K.6,1,2 and 7)
Heeresgruppe Deutsche Kronprinz (A.O.K.3,5, Armee Abteilung Struntz, Gaede and Armee Abteilung A (as Armee Abteilung Falkenhausen was renamed in mid April 1916.).

Up to this time the Heeresgruppen each had a commander from one of its A.O.K.s, but in September 1916 the Heeresgruppe Kronprinz von Bayern became a separate command unit and the Kronprinz gave over command of his A.O.K., this was followed in November 1916 when the Deutsche Kronprinz handed over command of the A.O.K.5 to concentrate on his Heeresgruppe.


Above: the Kronprinz von Bayern

In March 1917 the A.O.K.4 joined the Heeresgruppe Kronprinz von Bayern and the commander of the A.O.K.4 left to take over the newly formed Heeresgruppe Herzog Albrecht.
In April 1917 when the Germans shortened their lines by retiring to the Siegfried line the A.O.K.1 moved from the Heeresgruppen on the right flank to the middle one and the Heer on the western front was as follows.

Heeresgruppe Kronprinz von Bayern 4,6 and 2 Armee
Heeresgruppe Deutsche Kronprinz 7,1,3 and 5 Armee
Heeresgruppe Herzog Albrecht Armee Abteilung A,B,C
(Armee Abteilung Stranz had become Armee Abteilung C and Armee Abteilung Gaede had become Armee Abteilung B .


The planned attacks for 1918 saw a reshuffling and the formation of 3 new Armees. The 18. was formed on the 27.12.1917 and the 17. and 19. at the beginning of February 1918.

At the beginning of February 1918 the Heeresgruppe Gallwitz was formed for the Verdun Sector.

On the 4th February 1918 the Army on the western front was arranged as follows

Heeresgruppe Kronprinz von Bayern with the A.O.K.s 4,16,17,2
Heeresgruppe Deutsche Kronprinz with the A.O.K.s 18,7,13
Heeresgruppe Gallwitz with the A.O.K. 5 and Armee Abteilung C
Heeresgruppe Herzog Albrecht with the A.O.K.19 and Armee Abteilung A and B.

The A.O.K.9, arriving from Romania, joined the Heeresgruppe Deutsche Kronprinz taking a place between the 18. and 7. Armeen.

In August 1918 Heeresgruppe Boehn was formed taking up position between Heeresgruppe Kronprinz von Bayern and Heeresgruppe Deutsche Kronprinz.

The final breakdown was as follows

Heeresgruppe Kronprinz von Bayern with the A.O.K.s 4,6 and 17
Heeresgruppe Boehn with the A.O.K.s 2,18 and 9
Heeresgruppe Deutsche Kronprinz with the A.O.K.s 7,1 and 3
Heeresgruppe Gallwitz with the A.O.K.5 and Armee Abteilung C
Heeresgruppe Herzog Albrecht with the A.O.K. 19, and Armee Abteilung A and B.


In September 1918 the 9. Armee was dissolved and on the 8th October the Heeresgruppe Boehn followed.


To continue to the Higher Commands on the Eastern Front please click HERE

 
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