Prussian Garde Pionier Bataillon

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Gerst
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Prussian Garde Pionier Bataillon

Postby Gerst » 27 Sep 2005 18:48

My great uncle was a member of this unit during the war. Can anyone tell me the organization of German combat engineers in WW One?

Arnim
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Last edited by Gerst on 30 Sep 2005 17:52, edited 1 time in total.

bob lembke
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Postby bob lembke » 27 Sep 2005 22:17

Arnim,

I can't do it right now, but I can look up what there is in the 1914 Rangliste as to the regiment. Wasn't your great-uncle in the watch company in Berlin? If so, it might have been a proper part of the regiment, or sort of attached. For example, the Pionier=Vesuchs=Kompagnie (Pioneer Research {or Testing} Company) was attached to the Garde=Pionier=Bataillon as its 5th company.

The second question covers an enormous area. There were many hundreds or even thousands of Pionier=Abteilungen and they had other roles than that of combat engineers.

Bob Lembke

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Gerst
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Pionier Kompanie

Postby Gerst » 27 Sep 2005 22:47

I hope that you are right. My aunt told me that when Onkel Fritz came home on leave, his shoulders always hurt. Those combat engineers were always building bridges and bunkers and working on the trenches.

Yes, my great uncle was in the guard unit at the Neue Wache - that photo is also posted on another thread.

Thank you again for your help. You guys are great.

Gerst

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"Guard Regiment Nr. 2"

Postby bob lembke » 27 Sep 2005 23:19

Gerst,

Looking through the 1914 Rangliste, I see:

There actually were two infantry "Guard Regiment Nr. 2"'s. The 2. Garde=Regiment zu Fuss and the Kaiser Franz Garde=Grenadier=Regiment Nr. 2. The former was in the 1. Garde=Division, the latter in the 2. Garde=Division, which probably reduced any confusion, although both were garrisoned in Berlin.

I see no mention of a seperate Wacht=Kompagnie, or one attached (zugeteilet) to either of the above regiments, or any of the other Guards infantry units, some of which have MG detachments attached to them, like the pioneer research company was zugeteilet to the Garde=Pionier=Bataillon. So possibly one company of a regiment was used for this duty, either permamently, or rotated through the companies in turn. Someone else will have to give you an answer.

It is surprising that Fritz was transferred from a Guards infantry unit to a pioneer unit. Someone who knows uniforms better than I do can tell you something from the more formal picture. As he has his EK he has been in combat, and he seems to be wearing the Garde=Litzen (Guards collar lace) complicated with the markings for some NCO rank, I think. So he must have gone into combat with the Guards unit, or he is wearing his old uniform with a newly-earned EK, which would not have been "kosher", I think.

Bob Lembke

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Peter H
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Postby Peter H » 28 Sep 2005 09:38

Pionier companies increased from 218 in August 1914 to 649 at the end of 1918.

From what I can gather regarding the Garde:

1914
2 Pioneer Garde Battalions,I & II--4 Active companies,2 Reserve companies

1915
I Garde Pioneer Battalion--increased from 3 to 5 companies
II Garde Pioneer Battalion--increased from 3 to 5 companies
III Garde Pioneer Battalion--newly raised:8 companies

1916
IV Garde Pioneer Battalion--2 companies

The 10 companies of the III & IV Garde Pioneer Battalions formed the Garde Reserve Pioneer Regiment in April 1916.

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Garde=Pioniere

Postby bob lembke » 28 Sep 2005 15:13

Peter;

You posted:

1915
I Garde Pioneer Battalion--increased from 3 to 5 companies
II Garde Pioneer Battalion--increased from 3 to 5 companies
III Garde Pioneer Battalion--newly raised:8 companies

1916
IV Garde Pioneer Battalion--2 companies

The 10 companies of the III & IV Garde Pioneer Battalions formed the Garde Reserve Pioneer Regiment in April 1916.


My comments:

The III. G=P=B and the G=R=P=R were the flame thrower units of the Imperial Army. My father joined the 2nd Company of the latter at Stenay-sur-Meuse on August 12, 1916. If the IV. Garde=Pionier=Bataillon existed at all it must have been very briefly, at least as a flame unit; I have a good deal of writings from within the flame units, and some original documents, and I can't recall a specific mention of it. I have a quote from Major Dr. Reddemann stating that a battalion of 10 companies (plus about two support companies) was unwieldly. Possibly III. G=P=B had 10 field companies, briefly formed the IV. G=P=B, and then got permission to form the regiment.

The original eight field companies of III. G=P=B were numbered 9. Kompagnie through 16. Kompagnie; when a ninth company was formed to meet the needs of Verdun it was called the Reserve Kompagnie. This can create confusion when reading the sources. For example, 9. Komp./III. G=P=B became 1. Komp./G=R=P=R.

I have also discovered that another unit served as a recruit depot of the flame units, in addition to the recruit depot that the unit had at HQ in France. Major Dr. Reddemann did not refer to it directly, probably because he did not directly command it. However, I will identify that unit when I publish "the book". I am also looking for a third source to nail down this finding. Additionally, the regiment had a research company and a workshop (where they made specialized weapons, including some of their flame throwers) in France at their HQ.

Peter, I would be very interested in any reference you have to IV. G=P=B.

In mid-1914 the Garde=Pionier=Bataillon (no #, it was the only one at the time) had four companies and the Pionier=Vesuch=Kompagnie also attached to it. (1914 Rangliste) Perhaps in 1915 the 4th Company had been split off to form II. G=P=B. I have solid original documentary evidence (a Militär=Pass) that the P=V=K existed in mid-war and engaged in combat.

More than you ever wanted to know about the Garde=Pioniere!

Bob Lembke

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Gerst
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Onkel Fritz

Postby Gerst » 28 Sep 2005 17:56

Here is another photo. I think that someone "inked in" the Prussian cockade. This photo was taken during the war. He is wearing his EK II - It looks as though he must have recently won it. Does the photo give you any clues?

Arnim
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Gross=Onkel Fritz

Postby bob lembke » 28 Sep 2005 18:33

Arnim;

Get an opinion from someone who knows about uniform details on the collar decorations in the two pictures. The large buttons on the collar in the last photo gives a NCO rank, as does the "lace". Someone can give you his exact rank in both photos, I think.

He already had a EK II in the first photo. The cross in the second one seems to be a EK I (More curvature to the arms), and wearing it hanging on the crossed ribbons again seems to indicate that he just got his EK I. Later he would, I think, shift the actual cross to his lower left breast, or possibly in the field not wear it at all; the crossed ribbons would indicate that he had both awards.

He must have done more than dig dugouts to be a mid-rank NCO (I think) and have the EK I. My grandfather got the EK II and EK I only 2-3 months into the war, but he was a leading staff officer on the Generalkommando of III. Res.AK (the Id), and they captured the great fortress complex of Antwerp, pleasing the Kaiser mightly, who showered awards on the staff, including a PlM. But the rules were different for enlisted men.

What is on his belt? A P 08 holster, or a binocular case?

Bob Lembke

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Gerst
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Iron Cross

Postby Gerst » 28 Sep 2005 18:57

I was under the impression that the 1st Class level of the medal was a pin-back or screw-back medal worn on the left pocket. The medal in this photo has a ring and is suspended from a ribbon. He is wearing NCO's collar disks so must be at least a corporal in the third photo. I have no idea about the holster. He may have worn a side-arm. Perhaps one of our other members can offer an opinion. I may post the photo on the equipment forum also.

Gerst

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Postby Peter H » 29 Sep 2005 03:29

Bob,

Details on the Garde pioneer are from Cron,Imperial German Army 1914-18.


Regards,
Peter

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Garde Pionier Bataillon

Postby Gerst » 29 Sep 2005 15:36

I do agree that my great uncle was in a Garde Pionier Bataillon during the war. He served from 1913 onwards so he would have been in the 1st or 2nd Bataillon.

How were these deployed, by company? Since my Onkel Fritz is wearing the uniform of the 2nd Garde Regiment, I would assume that his Pionier company must have been attached/assigned to that regiment. Would you agree?

Gerst

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Garde Pionier Bataillon

Postby Gerst » 29 Sep 2005 16:53

I have done a little web surfing. According to the 1914 Order of Battle (Tulip Academy website), the 1st Garde Pionier bataillon was assigned to the Garde Korps which also included the 2nd Garde Grenadier Regiment which was assigned to the 2nd Garde Infanterie Division. According to http://www.altearmme.com, the 2nd company of the Garde Pionier Bataillon was assigned (attached?) to that (2nd) regiment. Does that make sense?

The question now becomes, do Pionier troops wear the Garde Grenadier uniform or the Pionier uniform if they are attached to a Grenadier unit?

Arnim

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Garde=Pioniere

Postby bob lembke » 29 Sep 2005 17:48

Gerst;

First of all, we need an expert opinion on the collar lace in the second photo. Looking at it again, it is likely that it does belong, not only to a NCO, but to a Garde=Soldat. Unfortunately, due to his blouse not having shoulder straps, you can not see the black shoulder straps of the Pioniere.

A word of caution. I have, or have seen, dozens of photos of soldiers that are surely Garde=Pioniere. In group photos, only about half of them will have Garde=Litzen (lace) on their blouse, only about half will be wearing the black shoulder straps of the Pioniere, if they are wearing shoulder straps at all. Probably the only sure thing would be that a NCO would wear the marks of his rank, for reasons of military efficiency. In a studio shot, the guy would make an effort to wear his best blouse, that would be more likely to have his special markings from an elite unit. People who study these things today often seem to think that the principal concern of these units, in wartime, was to be sure that they were wearing every scrap of allowed uniform detail, not stay alive, fight, etc.

I have read dozens of primary source books and official histories in German about, among other things, pioneer detachments fighting with infantry. I cannot recall ever reading about a pioneer unit being permamently attached to an infantry unit, below the level of brigade or, mostly, division. They were moved about a lot according to need. Certainly, they would not change into the uniform of a unit that they were attached to. They would have no right to wear the uniform, and the logistics would be impossible.

I am happy that he seems to have become a Garde=Pionier, not an "ordinary" pioneer. His being transferred from the infantry to the pioneers is unusual, his being transferred out of the Guards Corps to a regular army corps would have been almost unthinkable. Possibly he was wounded in a fashion that made it hard for him to march long distances with the infantry, but did not otherwise weaken him for work. It is an odd transfer. I have studied about 50 Militär=Pässe, many from pioneers, and can't recall such a transfer. My father was transferred at least 11 times between units, mostly due to being weakened by a wound and unfit for fighting with a flame thrower, and they all were pioneer units.

I am no expert on medals (I do have my father's EK II), but have spent a lot of time on another forum that specializes in Imperial decorations, but has a lot of interesting historical discussion and experts on history. So I have seen scans of say 100 EK, displayed and discussed by real experts. Fritz's has the curved cross arms that seem to be identified with the EK I. Additionally, the ribbon crossed over the second ribbon seems to indicate two medals. When a guy got a new EK I it always seems to have been hung like that in the picture, from the two ribbons; later for routine wear he would transfer it to the lower left chest, and then need a second screw-back EK I to wear in that fashion. The medal itself was nothing, it was the award, and the award document, that was the special thing. Just like a guy could get a minature, I am sure that he could buy a second one for daily wear.

We have had dozens and dozens of posts in a number of threads. Can you point me to your posts of the Soldbuch? With what I know now, I might find an entry that might pinpoint a unit and hopefully a date.

Bob Lembke

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Garde Pionier Bataillon

Postby Gerst » 30 Sep 2005 18:02

The attached photo shows members of the Garde Pionier Bataillon at the Neue Wache in Berlin in 1914, a few months before the war. The uniforms are those of the Garde Pionier Bataillon. I had initially thought that my great uncle was in one of the Garde Regiments and later transferred to the combat engineers. That is not correct. He was in the guard engineer battalion from the start and stayed with them until the end of the war.

Thanks for all the help my friends.

Gerst
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Garde=Pioniere

Postby bob lembke » 30 Sep 2005 18:51

Gerst;

That clears a lot up. He was neither transferred from the infantry to the Pioneers, which would have been odd, or out of the Guards Corps to a regular unit, which would have been really strange and possibly illegal.

Looking again at the photo, one can make out the black pioneer shoulder straps on some of the men.

Note that in the construction scene photo, neither man (from memory) was wearing either Guards or NCO detail on their great-coat, as I mentioned often happened.

Something else was cleared up; obviously the prestigous watch duty was rotated about, even to the Garde=Pioniere. Although I think that there was a special watch company in Berlin or Potsdam.

Regards him getting the EK II and what I think was the EK I (I think I am 90% right here, although no expert), the Pioniere were not only building things, but in wartime were always being used to stiffen storming formations, often doled out like one platoon to each company or two of infantry. Early on they were the only troops with hand-grenades, and they had several special weapons and explosive charges for use in storm attacks. He might get the EK II, but he would not get the EK I for getting blisters on his hands digging out a dugout.

Keep on showing the two-ribbon picture about to get an expert opinion on the medal, ribbons, and collar lace and NCO buttons on the collar. I'm glad that you have sorted a lot of this out.

Bob Lembke


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