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Imperial German Infantry, circa 1915

This is another in a series of display threads I am going to post in order to update everything for the new website that Tuco has been so kind as to open in order to save threads such as this from eventually losing all of their photographs due to the current server set up for the Gunboards Forums.

Here we have an Imperial German Infantryman from the 86th Reserve Regiment as is denoted from the cloth “pickelhaube” cover. These covers were issued to obscure the bright brass state emblems that adorned the front of the Model 1895 “pickelhaube”. At the beginning of the war, each cover had the regimental number either stitched to the front of the cover or in some instances, painted on the front of the cloth cover. Reserve regiments were identified by the addition of an R above the numeral on the obverse of the crown.

The red regimental numbers proved to be a liability in combat since the color stands out too much against most natural backgrounds. The numerals were then switched to green and eventually, like the unit markings on weapons and equipment, and the removable shoulder straps on the uniforms, were completely eliminated in combat due to the information they could potentially provided the enemy in terms of the German order of battle when soldiers were either killed or captured.

In 1915, the stamped sheet metal furniture on the “pickelhaube” was painted gray to make it less conspicuous in the field when a cover was not worn. The “pickelhaube” was retained in German service as late as 1917 in some of the regiments that were serving on the Eastern Front. The M1916 “stalhelm” that replaced it was first tested in the field in December of 1915, however it was not until late 1917 that every front line combat soldier in the German Army had received their own steel helmet.

Underneath his M1915 greatcoat, our soldier wears either the prewar M1907/10 woolen tunic or the later wartime M1914 or M1915 simplified tunic, neither of which can be seen when the greatcoat was being worn. The M1907/10 woolen trousers were produced in same shade of “feldgrau” as the tunic, although differences in dye lots resulted in quite a bit of color variation. The M1907/10 trousers had red piping added to the seam of the side of each pant leg. Our soldier wears the M1914 trousers. These were produced in a darker shade of gray known as "steingrau", which translates as “stone-gray”. The red piping was retained officially, however as a wartime expedient, many of the surviving trousers show that the piping was omitted on a percentage of the production.

Beneath the trousers can be seen the M1866 marching boots. These were retained throughout the war but were later supplemented with standard laced boots and puttees, which were particularly popular among the “Sturmtruppen”.

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Moving on to the accouterments, here you can see the M1895 equipment belt, this particular example having the wartime Prussian “Got Mit Uns” buckle painted gray rather than appearing in the original polished brass. The M1909 leather ammunition pouches are worn on the front of the belt and were produced with a pebble-grain finish in medium to dark shades of brown. Later in the war the order was issued to blacken the equipment, however this directive was not universally followed. Each of the ammunition pouches had three compartments, each of which held four five-round cartridge chargers (stripper clips), giving the soldier 120 rounds of ammunition readily available on the front of his belt. Additional ammunition was frequently carried in the bread-bag or the pack. To help support the weight of the fully laden ammunition pouches, two leather straps with hooks that were attached to the pack’s shoulder straps, engaged heavy wire loops that were sewn to the back of each set of ammunition pouches.

On his left hip, our soldier carries the M1887 “Linneman” pattern entrenching tool along with his pipe-backed S1898 bayonet. To reduce the noise generated by equipment banging together, the bayonet scabbard was retained tight against the E-tool via the retaining strap of the leather carrier. This practice was pretty much universal during this era. Attached to the leather bayonet frog is the “troddel” or bayonet knot, the color pattern of which identified each of the different companies in a regiment.

Beginning in late 1915 to early 1916, the S1898 bayonet was gradually replaced by the more rugged S1898/05, which is commonly referred to today as the “butcher blade” bayonet. Approximately 6% of the bayonets issued in the German Army were saw-back patterns. Despite Allied propaganda, the purpose of the saw-back was NOT to inflect ghastly wounds, but was intended to function as a general-purpose tool. While the S1898 and S1898/05 bayonets were the most widely used during the war, the Germans produced a myriad of other patterns, however there are so many of them that they are a study unto themselves and fall outside the scope of this presentation. The standard issue and saw-back version of the S1898 (top) and the S1898/05 (bottom) bayonets are shown in the photo below.

Moving around to the soldier’s right hip, we find the M1887 haversack, which was commonly referred to as a bread-bag. Suspended via a spring hook from a metal loop on the bread-bag is the M1893 water bottle and issue drinking cup. (Per Chip Minx, the later water bottle, the M1907 has a screw cap while the M1893 retained the earlier cork closure). The wartime produced water bottles exhibit quite a bit of variation, particularly in regards to the cloth covers.

Carried on the belt and partially obscured from view by the bread-bag is one of a wide variety of the trench knives that were issued to German troops during the war. They could be used in combat or as a general-purpose knife. The blades on most of these knives are double edged.

This brings us to the M1895 leather pack, tanned with the hair in place on the flap for enhanced wear. The soldier carried his personal belongings and additional kit in his pack. Strapped to the top and sides of the pack are the M1892 shelter half and issue woolen blanket. Strapped to the rear flap of the pack can be seen the wartime model M1915 mess kit. These were painted a variety of colors during the war with most of them appearing in shades of gray, green (this example) or black (thank you for the correction Chip! Chip correctly IDed this as the wartime M1915 mess kit rather than the prewar M1910).

Our soldier carries a “Gewehr” 1898 Mauser, the standard infantry rifle of the German Army when they entered the war. Later a fairly large percentage of the Gew 98s were supplemented in infantry regiments with the Kar 98, due to its shorter overall length, a feature that represented a distinct advantage in the confines of the trenches. Shown here are two examples of the Gew 98, the bottom rifle being the early version, which lacked grasping grooves on the forearm and had a regimental marking disc inlet into the right side of the stock. The top rifle is the later wartime pattern, which shows the addition of the grasping grooves, the elimination of the marking disc and the introduction of the bolt take down washer mounted in the butt stock. This feature was used to protect the firing pin while tension was released from the striker spring during disassembly. The later pattern rifle in the photo is equipped with a removable sheet metal trench cover that was introduced to help keep dirt and debris from fouling the action in the deplorable conditions in the trenches.

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
This excellent synopsis of the 86th Reserve Regiment was provided by T.P. Hern, my co-moderator on the WWI Forum. T.P. was kind enough to research the Regiment’s WWI service for me for this presentation since I do not currently have access to my library. T.P. is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to just about anything that is WWI related. As many of you already know, T.P. produces excellent quality reproduction leather work for WWI re-enactors.


The History of the 86th Reserve Regiment during WWI

The 86th Reserve Regiment was part of the 35th Reserve Brigade (along with the 84th Reserve and later the 31st Reserve as well) and according to the "Histories of the 250, etc." was joined with the 17th Reserve Division in the 9th Reserve Corps. (Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg)


At the War's outbreak in Aug., 1914, the 18th Res. Div. was guarding the coast of Schleswig-Holstein. They entrained for Belgium on or about the 22nd and advanced to Belgium where they advance rapidly. They took and sacked Louvain on Aug. 25, occupied Hamme on Sept. 21 and Tormondo on Sept. 4.

They went from there by rail to action at Carlepont and Lassigny on Sept. 15 - 21.

At the beginning Oct. the 18th Res. was taken to the valley of the Avre where they fought at Laucourt, Oct. 2-3. At the beginning of Nov., the Division Front extended from Avre and Beuvraignes. On Nov. 15 it was sent south to hold the region of the Loges - Lassigny wood.


March, 1915 the 90th Reserve was transferred to a new formation, the 54th Division.

The 18th Res. Div. Lassigny until Oct. without any serious engagements. About Oct. 23, the Division was sent to Artois (Givenchy), where it launched several local attacks.


The 18th Reserve remained in the Lievin-Givenchy sector until July, 1916. July 13 - 28 they took part in the battle of the Somme, north of Poazieres, in several serious attacks. It was reorganized in the Valenciennes area during the second half of August. At the end of Aug., sent northeast of Lens (Pont a Vendin). At the beginning of Oct. they went into action along the Somme, north of Combles, (Morval and Sailly Saiisel) where it suffered heavily in a series of local attacks. Withdrawn from the front about Oct. 12 - 16, the Division was transferred to Belgium. On Oct. 23 - 25 it went into the line north of Ypres.


Occupied the Ypres Salient until the end of March, 1917.After a short rest in Roulers, the Division was concentrated at Vitry en Artois on April 1.Going into action S.E. of Arras (Heinel), it underwent the British attack (April 9), which caused heavy losses (500 prisoners). They left the Artois front about April 15 and after a few days rest took over the sector of Cherisy-Guemappe (southeast of Arras in May). Relieved at the beginning of June they were relieved and sent to rest. Transferred to Flanders, June 16, remained in reserve behind the Messines front. July 3, in action west of Houthem and suffered severe losses in local actions and bombardments. Relieved Aug. 8, at rest in the Cambrai area until Aug. 16. Occupied the sector (west of Cambrai) until middle of Oct.


18th Res. Div. is recruited in Schleswig-Holstein. Mecklenburgers, according to an order in 1917, had to return to their national regiment, the 90th Reserve, which no longer belonged to the 18th Reserve Div. A limited number of men from the 7th and 10th Corps districts (Westphalia and Hanover) are found.

Value estimate – 1917

At the end of 1917 it is difficult to form an opinion as to its combat value. It has not been in any serious action since the battle of Arras, having arrived in Flanders when the autumn operations were about to end. Morale considered passable. (British Summary of Information, Feb. 1918)


18th Reserve Div. relieved by the 214th Div. on Jan. 6. At rest in the vicinity of Menin and while there intensively trained in open warfare. On Feb. 18 it relieved the 214th in its former sector. Relieved by the 7th Reserve Div. on March 31. It reinforced the battle front near Locon (Northwest of La Basse) on April 9, and was withdrawn on about the 18th, going to Sainghin area (southeast of Lille). On May 14 it relieved the 25th Division west of Locon, and was relieved by the extension of fronts of the neighboring divisions about the 18th of June, when it went to rest in the region of Gonecourt (east of LaBassee). About the 14th of July it relieved the 1st Guard Reserve Division near Givenchy (north of the La Bassee Canal – west of La Bassee).; relieved Sept. 3, it went to rest in the region north of Denain. On the 29th of Sept, the division reentered the line near Proville and Rumilly (South of Cambrai), and was still in line when the Armistice was signed. It was thought to have been withdrawn Oct. 8, again on the 18th and on the 4th of November, but considering the speed with which the German withdrawal was executed, the confusion necessarily incident there to, and the fact that the Division always turned up a day or two later in the same relative position it had previously occupied, it seems best to assume that it was continuously in line.

Value – 1918 Estimate

The 18th Reserve is considered a second-class division. It did not distinguish itself in the Lys offensive, and it is reported that thereafter it was to be used only as a holding division. At any rate, it engaged in no other German offensives and, indeed, no other heavy fighting, until the beginning of October or sometime after practically the whole front had become active on account of the combined allied push.


I hope you have enjoyed this presentation. This is one of my favorite displays and will soon be supplemented with a late war German display of a “Sturmtruppen” in assault order.

Happy Holidays!

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