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The EK1

The evolution of the Infantry Regiment 1914-1918.

As always, a big debt is owed to the very late Hermann Cron for the information below.

Left: The face of the Infantry 1914. "Max" of the 27th Infantry Regiment

The Infanterie-Regiment of 1914 consisted of a staff, 3 battalions and a Machinen Gewehr Kompagnie.  

The M.G.K. was lacking in about a third of the reserve and all of the landwehr regiments and number of the reserve and landwehr regiments had only 2 battalions.  

A regimental staff consisted of 4 officers (Kommandeur, Adjutant, Arzt (doctor) and an officer responsible for the heavy baggage of the regiment.) 49 other ranks (37 of who were in the regimental band and doubled as stretcher bearers), 16 horses, a "schanzzeug" (entrenching and construction equipment) wagon and a baggage wagon.  

A battalion had a Kommandeur, 4 Kompagnie-Führer, 18 Leutnanten (An Oberleutnant could be counted either as a Kompanie-Führer or as a Leutnant), a Bataillon- Arzt, an Assitent-Arzt, the Zahlmeister (Paymaster) and 1054 other ranks including 30 Train (Supply) soldiers. The Battalion had 58 horses and 19 wagons (The 4 ammunition wagons, the medical wagon, and the 4 field kitchens were considered fighting baggage, the 5 baggage and 5 alimentary wagons were counted as heavy baggage).  

The Reserve, Landwehr and Mobile- Ersatz-Bataillons conformed to the above although many initially lacked a full complement of field kitchens.  

The battalion strengths remained unchanged until 1916 at which point each company received 3 light machine guns. This increased the firepower of the companies and allowed the battalions to reduce to 650 men. By 1918 replacements had become a major problem and in August 1918 the high command ordered that battalions with a combat strength of less than 650 should reduce from 4 to 3 companies

The infantry regiment underwent many changes during the war, not only its organisation, but also its material and armament. Cron gives the following example of one particular regiment which saw the following changes.  
11.12.14 Received hand grenades
04.01.15 Received a small number of telescopic sites
01.02.15 Received rifle grenades
25.04.15 Received a protective shield for machine guns
29.04.15 Received Bataillon-Schanzzeugwagen
15.08.15 Short bayonets replaced officer’s swords
14.12.15 Gas masks issued
01.02.16 Established field recruit depot at the division
05.08.16 The M.G.K. reached strength of 15 guns
15.08.16 Received steel helmets
29.09.16 Extra M.G.K.s formed, one per Battalion. A M.G. officer joined each regt staff
15.02.17 Received 24 Granatwerfer (The regt in question formed them into 3 Zuge, each with 2 batteries of 4 guns)
28.02.17 Received 12 light Minenwerfer (each battalion a Zug with 4 Werfer) 18.04.17 Received 4 light machine guns for instructional purposes
24.04.17 Each company receives 3 telescopic sights
06.05.17 Each company receives 2 light machine guns
28.08.17 The Granatwerferzuge are dissolved, each company gets 2 of the Granatwerfer
01.09.17 Light machinegun complement increased to 4 per company
20.12.17 Formation of a Nachrichten-Abteilung for the regiment
01.02.18 Light machine guns increased to 6 per company, 2 light wagons to carry them and their ammunition
15.03.18 Nachtrichten-Abteilung restructured to form 4 Nachrichten-Zuge, one going to the Regt staff, the others to the Battalion staffs.
04.09.18 The Minenwerfer Zuge are withdrawn from the Battalions and formed into a Regimental Minenwerfer-Kompanie
21.10.18 Battalions reduced to 3 companies.

Left: The face of the Infantry 1918

After the changes above the Regiment was as follows  

The Regimental staff had acquired a Machine Gun Officer and a Nachrichten-Zug. There were 3 Battalion staffs with attached Nachrichten-Zuge. 9 companies, each with 6 light machine guns and 2 Granatwerfer, 3 Machinen Gewehr Kompagnie’s each with 12 heavy machine guns and a Minenwerfer company with 3 middle and 9 light Minenwerfer.  

This was to become the standard for all infantry regiments with the exception of some regiments in the Ost-Divisions who, due to their policing role were mostly lacking in material and men.  

The high-water mark for regiments was spring 1918 by which time the numbers had increased from 406 to 700 regiments (excluding Jäger and Landsturm) but in the course of the war a number had been created and dissolved. These do not appear in the total above.  

The “Besatzungs Regimenter Posen” (Occupation regiments in Posen) became the Infantry Regiments 329-336. The Landwehr-Ersatz-Infanterie-Regimenter became the Infanterie-Regimenter 351-354 and 5 Landwehr Infanteriy Regiments. Portions of the Ersatz-Infanterie-Regimenter became the 7. and 6. Garde-Infanterie-Regimenter and the Infanterie-Regimenter 376-378.  

The initially strict barriers between Active/Reserve/Landwehr etc. had by that stage fallen away, a fact shown by the ranks on many of the award documents.  

The Brigade-Ersatz-Bataillone that had come into being at the outbreak of the war were reformed into Ersatz-Infanterie-Regimenter. This was also the case for the Feldbataillone. These Battalions had been created in Germany as “4th Batallions” by regiments who had a surplus of manpower, and a number of regiments had even created 4th battalions in the field. These Feldbataillons were reformed into regiments for the 75-82 Reserve Divisions.

By 1918 there were only 3 independent Infanterie-Bataillone, the 701-703 serving with the Turks.  

At the outbreak of the war 334 Landsturm Bataillone were planned of which 142 were already in service by the end of August 1914.  

The first major task for the Landsturm units was securing the borders on the Eastern front but as the war progressed they took over the job of securing the lines of communication in the Etappe, freeing Landwehr units from this task. They were also used to hold the line in certain quiet areas of the Western front.

To facilitate their duties a number of Battalions were formed into Landsturm Regiments. A total of 30 Landsturm regiments were formed, of which 2 were redesignated as Infanterie-Regimenter (the Ldst.I.R. 1 and 2 became the I.R. 329 and 330) and one became a Landwehr-Infanterie-Regiment (the Ldst. I.R.109 became Ldw.I.R. 111).  

The naming of the Landsturm-Bataillone changed as the war progressed. Initially they were named after the area they came from (Ldst.Inf.Btl. Braunsberg 1). Due to the increasing number of Battalions there was a change to numerical designations (10. Ldst.Inf.Btl.XX.A.K.) which in turn changed to mixed named/numerical designations (1. Ldst.Inf.Btl. Braunsberg (XX.10)).  

Initially the training of ersatz (replacement) troops was to take place at home in Germany but the lack of instructors with any form of combat experience showed when the new recruits reached the front. Already in 1914 some Korps had set up schools to give the newly arrived Erstaz a crash course before sending them to their regiments. The Kriegsministerium recognised the advantages of the Feldrekruten-Depot. Soon troops were to be given a basic training lasting just four weeks before being sent to the Feldrekruten-Depot to be prepared for the front. The Feldrekruten-Depot was to become a fixed part of every division on on average each infantry regiment could recon with 1-2 companies of ersatz getting ready for them at the divisional depot.  

At mobilisation there had been 218 Infantry Regiments, 113 Reserve Infantry Regiments, 75 Landwehr Infantry Regiments = 406 regiments (If the 86 independent Ersatz Battalions are included as an extra 29 regiments the total is 435 Regiments)

At Demobilisation there were 364 I.R., 197 R.I.R., 125 L.I.R., 10 Ersatz I.R., 4 Reserve Ersatz I.R. =700 regiments (not included in this figure are 16 Jäger and 27 mobile Landsturm Regiments)  

Regiments disbanded before the end of the war:   Infantry Regiments 193, 332, 334, 342, 361, 364, 372, 377, 378, 389, 390, 397, 418, 419, 427, 432, 454, 455, 456. Reserve Infantry Regiments: 11, 20, 24, 32, 34, 67, 75, 81, 116, 130, 215, 216, 218, 220, 233, 243, 246-248, 257-260, 440 Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiments 4-6, 8, 11, 13-15, 18, 21 Landwehr Infantry Regiments 9, 110 Ersatz Inf. Regt. 29, Bavarian Ersatz Inf. Regt. 3, Res. Ersatz Regt. 1

Above: A scarce Iron Cross 2nd class to Vizefeldwebel Düring of the Feldbataillon Reiser