Quality of German Reserve and Ersatz units in WWI

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Baltasar
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Quality of German Reserve and Ersatz units in WWI

Postby Baltasar » 31 Oct 2012 04:26

Gents,

I'm trying to find out what the real difference between regular, Ersatz and Reserve units was. I do know that there was a difference between field army and home army and that the Ersatz units were part of the latter. However, the Germans did raise numerous units and seem to have used them regardless of whether they were regular, ersatz, reserve or even landwehr units and this is quite puzzling to me. Was there a fundamental difference in training, equipment, supplies or anything?

PavelKirilovich
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Re: Quality of German Reserve and Ersatz units in WWI

Postby PavelKirilovich » 15 Nov 2012 06:00

I am certain that someone here can answer this in more detail than I. I'll try and start things off though on constructing an answer.

My understanding is that with the German conscription and service system, troops were recruited, trained and served for a set period. I believe specialist arms such as cavalry, artillery and the navy had a term of enlistment a year longer than usual, so three instead of two if I remember correctly, likely having to do with them needing more time to become proficient and then the Kaiser still needing X amount of service from them.

After being released back to civvy street, they were assigned to a Reserve unit for X number of years. This unit would conduct periodic training and was called up on mobilization exercises and for field manouevres. German Reserve units thus retained a higher degree of proficiency than Allied Reserve or Territorial units. Again, if I remember correctly, reservists at a certain age ended up automatically transferred to the Landwehr.

Reserve Divisions were identical in composition to Regular Divisions save for lacking one (or two) battalions of divisional artillery. Presumably Landwehr and Ersatz units had different scales of issue and thus tables of organization to Reserve units, possibly fielding more antiquated equipment, but undoubtedly the Kaiser was not doling out Dreyse Needle-Rifles to the Ersatz or Landwehr battalions by 1914.

Because the differences in Regular and Reserve were so minimal, commanders were able to use the formations interchangeably. This gave the Germans what I feel is a decided operational advantage, but the development of operational art and tactical methodology during this time was not such that it could have been capitalized on. Landwehr and Ersatz units may have been radically different, but if their employment seems to be interchangeable as with Regular and Reserve units I would surmise that they are quite similar in TO&E, though probably lacking in artillery and possibly, by the Ersatz or Landwehr stage, machineguns also.

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Baltasar
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Re: Quality of German Reserve and Ersatz units in WWI

Postby Baltasar » 16 Nov 2012 20:00

Thanks Pavel.

I noticed that the German units were rated in quality by Entente command. Is there a similar rating available for Entente units, probably by Entente command themselves?

Latze
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Re: Quality of German Reserve and Ersatz units in WWI

Postby Latze » 27 Nov 2012 23:23

Hm. Depends on what one considers "fundamental differences" and on the time frame one is looking at.
Generally the percentage of active duty officers was 100% in active units, erserve units had only 50% of their company commanders active duty, Landwehr was mostly commanded by reserve officers.
Quality of the soldiers was equally different: as not anybody eligible was drafted pre-war the active units had top notch personnel, Reserve units were older, Landwehr was not fit for frontline service (and wasn't used in the front line if it was possible to avoid it), Ersatz personnel was not trained (not drafted pre-war) but earmarked as 'good enough for active service'. So physical these were good units, unfortunately with big deficits in training (like all the Reserve Infanterie-Regimenter) raised after the initial mobilization.
The lack in machineguns and howitzers (= raw firepower) was so serious in the Reserve-Infanterie-Divisions/Korps that it was fixed ASAP.

By 1916 I think one can assume that Reserve, Ersatz and active were on the same level.

regards
Matt


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