Prussian Guard

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Thaiboxer
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Prussian Guard

Post by Thaiboxer » 31 Aug 2005 07:28

Hello all

Just wondering, can anyone point me to some good material regarding the prussian guard during WWI?

much appreciated

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 01 Sep 2005 11:38

While contemporary Allied accounts promoted great regard when their servicemen faced Prussian Guardsmen in battle,the current historical record on this organisation is patchy and hard to find,at least on the internet.You would think formations that held an elite status much akin to the best of the Waffen SS in WW2 would have their tales told.

I have an incomplete draft on the Garde to follow.My copyright I guess.

DIE KAISERLICHE GARDE 1914-18

“….a very fine stamp of men,by far the finest Germans I have ever seen; the only troops I have ever seen taller even than our own men….”
C.E.W.Bean,Australian Correspondent,September 1916,observing German Guard prisoners on the Somme.

“Even if these Guard Regiments of ours haven’t got their peacetime cadre any more—those men must all be lying in their graves by now,in France or Russia—the present Guardsmen are still an elite…”
Diary of Herbert Sulzbach,January 1917.

“This is my ninth offensive.Now I’ve had a belly full.”
Guard Oberst, quoted May 1918, in the Muller Diaries.

With a history stretching back to 1688, the Imperial Guard of the Royal Prussian Army was considered the premier fighting force of the German Army in the First World War,effectively maintaining its elite status and fighting prowess throughout the four years of that conflict.While never greatly expanded from its 1914 base,the general Allied view that the majority of its divisions were“superior and suitable for all attack and defensive fighting” meant this was a force to be reckoned with. Likewise it became something of a badge of honour for an Allied servicemen to state that he had “fought against the Prussian Guard”.

In 1914 the Garde was an exclusively Prussian organization,recruited from the provinces of Prussia,including the Imperial Reichsland region of Alsace-Lorraine.The minimum height requirement was 5 feet 7 inches.of sound physique and bearing. In 1911 around 64% of conscripted recruits for the German Army came from a rural background (including the Garde Corps) so “robust farm youths” formed the majority of the enlisted men.The officers were traditionally drawn from the Junker class of land-owning families,many aristocrats,even as candidates from the middle class were increasingly being accepted as officers in many other regiments.In 1914 for example all the officers of the 3. Garde-Regiment zu Fuss were entirely aristocratic,highlighting the social distinction,the status (and wealth)required to obtain a sought aftered Garde Officer position.

While a Guardsmen received no special battle training nor carried special weaponary in 1914 to distinguish him from the ordinary infantryman,the “the mystique of their status did result in performances well above the average”.The experiences of the Franco-Prussian War had etched in the popular mind an elite force equivalent to the shock troops of Napoleon’s Guard. Emperor Wilhelm 1’s comments that “My Guard has found its grave in front of Saint-Privat” became a standard quote in German history books after 1870.The very Prussian martial background of the Corps also must be mentioned.In one British officer’s words these were “a hard lot” of men upholding the honour and traditions of the Prussian state.The ingrained obligation to military service found in these northern Germans,many descendants of hardy families of Germans,Dutch and Huguenots that ‘colonised’ the region east of the Elbe from the 13th Century onwards, also with a strict and prominent Protestant work ethic,made them good soldiers.Notwithstanding that, one Australian General who had fought against them commented that the toughest opponent he encountered in World War One was the Bavarian 4th Division.

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 01 Sep 2005 11:43

DIE KAISERLICHE GARDE 1914-18,cont

Quartered in Berlin,its administrative and Corps sector,the Garde also fulfilled its function of “defending the Kaiser” and providing the pomp of military parades in the German capital.The relationship between the Kaiser and what he termed Mein Garde is an interesting separate topic in itself.Stories of his outbursts exclaiming that he “should unleash the Guard on the socialist rabble”,while making good reading have never been confirmed.However enough evidence exists that at least in 1914-18,the Kaiser spent a lot of his time on front line tours visiting the Garde and showing concern for his Guardsmen.This selective interaction with only this part of the Army,and whether opinions on the progress of the war he received from the Garde officer caste he bonded with in anyway coloured his views on the true nature of the crisis facing his regime,is another matter.

The Diaries of Admiral Georg Muller ,Chief of the Naval Cabinet throw practical light on some of these visits,and other concerns with the Garde:

1914
7th September—“…the Kaiser suddenly decided to visit the 2nd Army and,if possible,the Corps of Guard..”

5th October---“…the Kaiser returned from the front this evening.He had also visited the Bavarians and the Guard in Bapaume but did not bother to see his son Eitel Fritz,who is laid up there with a sprained knee.Strange!”

25th December---“…with the Kaiser to Douai to visit the Plettenberg Group,Prince Eitel Fritz,and the First Regiment of Guard…the Kaiser made a speech to the regiment and spoke of ‘overpowering the enemy until he bit the dust’…”


1915
15th September---“…afternoon drive to Nasjelsk,where the 2 Guard Division under General von Luttwitz is stationed prior to its transfer to the West. Small companies and pathetically few officers.A very banal speech by the Kaiser which did not touch the men’s hearts…”

4th October---“a letter from Prince Eitel Friedrich reporting appalling losses of the 1 Guard Division at Souchez(4,500 men)…Plessen requested permission from the Kaiser to go and find the truth on the spot…”

1916
6th September---“His Majesty,who had just read a report from Prince Eitel Friedrich on the situation of the 1 Guard Division in the Somme battle,looked very ill…”

1917
26th July---“…Tarnopol…then from the Headquarters of the 1 Guard Brigade,Colonel von der Osten,drove to a hill to the east of the town from where,without risk,we could watch the slow progess of the division—in particular the 2 Guard Regiment—pursuing the Russians.Lyncker said:’Exactly like being on boring Imperial manoeuvres,but far quieter’.

But the subsequent guard of honour outside the cemetery afforded a remarkable picture.His Majesty on the ruins of a still-smouldering house,the picturesque troops with steel helmets…and finally the Russian prisoners against a background of trees…”


1918
21st March---“after lunch we drove in the direction of St.Quentin to the 1 Guard Division…lightly wounded men were on their way down the line…”

7th April—“..the Guard Division has lost 3,000 men in the past few days,and 8 officers were killed from the 1st Regiment alone…”



Muller’s son also served with the Garde(as did Plessen’s) ,a particular right of passage for many of the sons of the Kaiser’s entourage.The Kaiser’s second son,the later Generalmajor Prinz Eitel Friedrich, commanded the 1. Garde-Regiment zu Fuss in 1914, the 1 Garde Brigade in 1915,and the 1. Garde Division in 1916-18,showing that there was a family connection to the welfare of the Corps as well.Prinz Eitel distinguished himself early in the war, during the Battle of Guise(St Quentin to the Germans) in August 1914.His Regiment faltering,he seized a drum from a regimental bandsman and lead the renewed attack against the French.When they arrived at the French positions they found that the enemy had already pulled out. According to the Muller Diaries the Kaiser henceforth "dubbed him the Hero of St Quentin,which the prince in his modesty found embarrassing..."
More to follow.

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JPK
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Post by JPK » 01 Sep 2005 14:50

A german postcard " Generalmajor Prinz Eitel Friedrich...."Regards
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Thaiboxer
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Post by Thaiboxer » 02 Sep 2005 01:18

Thanks Peter H and JPK for that info, much appreciated.

Do you know where I could find unit info at all, which battles they fought in etc?

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 02 Sep 2005 05:39

Jean,

Great relevant pic on Eitel.

Best regards,
Peter

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 02 Sep 2005 05:44

DIE KAISERLICHE GARDE 1914-18,cont

In July 1914 the regular Garde Corps consisted of the 1.Garde-Infantrie and the 2. Garde-Infantrie Divisions,the Garde-Kavallerie-Division(the only peacetime cavalry division in Germany),and the Infanterie-Lehr-Bataillon (Infantry Instruction/Demonstration Battalion).Included in these formations were diversified units like the Regiment der Garde du Corps,the Garde-Jager-Bataillon,the Garde-Schutzen-Bataillon(Rifles/Sharpshooters),Garde-Maschinengewehr –Abteilung 1. and 2.(Machine-gun battalions),the 1 to 4 Garde–Feldartillerie-Regiments(Field artillery),the Garde-Fussartillerie-Regiment(Foot artillery),the Garde-Pionier-Bataillon,and the Garde-Train-Abteilung(supply train).

On mobilisation the Garde Reserve Corps of the 1.Garde-Reserve and the 2. Garde-Reserve Divisions came into being,but with both divisions serving separately under different Corps command.The 3. Garde-Infantrie-Division was also formed in August 1914,from surplus peacetime regiments,and with the conversion of the Lehr-Bataillion to a full regiment,the Lehr-Infantrie-Regiment.

The Garde-Fussartillerie-Regiment was further split in two,with the 1. Garde-Fussartillerie-Regiment and 2. Garde-Fussartillerie-Regiment.The latter included in its ranks many members of the Lehr-Regiment der Fussartillerie Schiessschule,stationed at the Artillery School at Juterborg,near Berlin,since 1912.The Garde-Pionier-Bataillon was also split into two,with two battalions now in existence. Garde reservists were the key to bringing all formations,including the peacetime regular,all up to numbers and also in the subsequent expansion of those selected units for a wartime role.The Garde-Ersatz Division,formed from ‘supplementary’,Ersatz reservists also came into being.Garde Reserve Cavalry Regiments were further deployed,some broken down as Cavalry squadrons to serve in other non-Guard and Reserve divisions.

An estimated 120,000 Guardsmen,including 10,000 cavalry,regulars and reservists,were available for the Field Army in August 1914.Infantry were distinguished in the field by their tall stature,the litzen on their Feldgrau uniforms(bars of lace worn beneath their cuff buttons and the corners of the collars),and by generally not having regimental numbers on their Pickelhauben covers.The Garde were ready for war.


The Garde deployed to the West as follows in August 1914.

Garde Corps(General von Plettenberg)
Attached to 2 Army with the following formations:
1.Garde–Infantrie-Division
2.Garde-Infantrie-Division

HKK 1(1 Cavalry Corps)(General von Richthofen)
Preceding 3 Army:
Garde Cavalry Division
5. Cavalry Division

Garde Reserve Corps(General von Gallwitz)
Also with the 2 Army:
3.Garde-Infantrie-Division
1.Garde-Reserve-Division

X Reserve Corps(General von Kirchbach)
2 Army:
2.Garde-Reserve-Division
19. Reserve-Division

Mobile Ersatz
Deployed with the other 4 Ersatz Divisions to Lorraine,under the control of 6 Army:
Garde Ersatz Division

HKK 2(2 Cavalry Corps)(General von der Marwitz)
Preceding 1 and 2 Armies
The Garde-Jager-Bataillon and the Garde-Schutzen-Bataillon were attached to the
2. Cavalry Division


The Garde Fuss-Artillery Regiments(Heavy Artillery) were deployed as follows:

1.Garde-Fussartillerie-Regiment
Staff with 1 Army
1/1 Garde Fuss Artillery Regt-Garde Corps
II/1 Garde Fuss Artillery Regt-IX Reserve Corps(Danish border)
III/1 Garde Fuss Artillery Regt-III Corps

2.Garde-Fussartillerie-Regiment
With the Garde Reserve Corps


Depot troops and three garrison battalions remained in Berlin.The later three battalions were brought together to form Garrison Regiment Berlin in June 1917.

Acting as the Kaiser’s escort and bodyguard was the Leib-Gendarmerie-Regiment,a select,small size unit of two platoons(zugs),many being line cavalry NCOs.

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 02 Sep 2005 05:51

1.Garde–Infantrie-Division

1914-Belgium,Guise,St Gond marsh(Marne),Artois,1. Brigade detached to Ypres

1915-Champagne,Alsace,Tarnow,Artois

1916-Artois,Somme

1917-Chemin de Dames,Russia,Riga,Champagne

1918-March Offensive,Aisne,Marne,Argonne,Champagne

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Post by monk2002uk » 02 Sep 2005 05:53

There is a unit history, of sorts, on the Garde-Kavallerie-Division. It is entitled '3000 Kilometer mit der Garde-Kavallerie' and was written by Dr Vogel, the chaplain. It covers the period up until the GKD was transferred from the Western Front in 1915.

Robert

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 02 Sep 2005 05:56

2.Garde–Infantrie-Division

1914-Belgium,Guise,Marne,Artois,4. Brigade detached to Ypres

1915-Champagne,Alsace,Tarnow,Artois,Noyon

1916-Noyon,Somme

1917-Siegfried Line,Chemin de Dames,Russia,entered Riga,Laon

1918-Metz,March Offensive,Aisne,Marne,Somme,Le Catelet,Ypres

The Australians ran into the 2.Garde Division at Mont St.Quentin in August 1918.A good formation and unlike the 1.Garde Division, which was mauled in the Argonne,still functional at the end of the war.OHL had plans to use it for crushing civil disturbance in Germany in November 1918.

The original Garde Corps had a history of breaking apart and then being united for offensive actions on the Eastern Front(1915,1917).The detached brigades from both the 1st and 2nd Divisions that fought at Ypres in 1914 were under Winckler's control.Note also that both divisions never participated in the inferno of Verdun.

The 2.Garde–Infantrie-Division enters Riga,September 1917.

Image
http://forum.axishistory.com/files/riga1917_3.jpg

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Post by Duckman » 02 Sep 2005 06:13

This excellent site should help, although it is still under development.
Last edited by Duckman on 02 Sep 2005 06:31, edited 1 time in total.

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 02 Sep 2005 06:24

3.Garde–Infantrie-Division

1914-Belgium,Namur,Poland,Lodz,Bzura

1915-5.Brigade East Prussia(later basis for 4.Garde Division),6.Brigade Carpathians,Tarnopol,Russia

1916-Russia,Champagne,Somme,Dixmunde,Galicia,France

1917-Lorraine,Bullecourt,Arras,Ypres,Cambrai

1918-March Offensive,Lys,Lorraine,Champagne,Argonne

An excellent fighting unit as witness its role in the Lodz fighting of 1914.Fought against the Australians at Lagnicourt,2nd Bullecourt in 1917.

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Post by JamesL » 02 Sep 2005 15:51

My grandfather's regiment went against the 1st Prussian Guards Division during the Meuse-Argonne Campaign. During one attack the Guards killed or wounded 1,417 Americans in 1 hour.

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 03 Sep 2005 05:13

Allied intelligence estimates is that the 1.Garde Division suffered a loss of 4,000 men in the Argonne battle,including 1,788 captured.A fairly much depleted force after that battle.

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 03 Sep 2005 05:19

4.Garde–Infantrie-Division

Formed in the East,March 1915,using the 5. Garde Brigade from the 3.Garde Division.


1915-Poland,Kovno,Messines sector

1916-Messines,Artois,Somme,Flanders

1917-Somme,Lens,Ypres,St.Quentin

1918-March Offensive,Oise,Lorraine,Marne,Aisne,Ardennes

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