The purpose of this book is to provide a one-volume resource for collectors and historians with an Imperial German army interest. The more we researched, the more we found there were more stories, myths and misunderstandings about Imperial Germany than there were facts. Different authors addressed different aspects: collectors, historians and educators all had their own area of expertise, but there was no readily available resource to give a general overview of Imperial Germany. Though it is convenient to call it "Germany," at the start of the First World War, there was still no united Germany, no German army, and no German officer corps. At 333 pages with 183 pictures and over 670 footnotes, this is an attempt to explain the intricacies of how the country worked -- militarily, politically and socially.
The complexity of governing the German nation and the army resulted in too small of an army for an industrialized age. Further, society had created an officer corps steeped in tradition and stuck in the past. Upon mobilization, this small army rapidly expanded beyond its capabilities.
The army had four distinct components - Prussian, W rttemberg, Saxon, and Bavarian armies. This was and is incredibly confusing as far as terminology is concerned. Even Bismarck was confounded by the references. He admitted that it was not constitutionally correct, but rather than name each individual army, he elected to use the expression “imperial army” for the sake of succinctness. Reichsheer was the term favored by the Kaiser. The Imperial German army is the term used in many sources, but most of time one sees “German army” used even though it is not correct.
According to the imperial constitution, the empire covered the expenses of the Prussian, W rttemberg and Saxon components. Bavaria had to cover the peacetime expenses of its army from its own resources. Only upon mobilization did Bavaria receive financial support from the Reichstag. Art. 53 of the imperial constitution declared that the Navy of the Empire was united and under the Supreme Command of the Kaiser. Art. 53 was written, in part, because of all the 25 states, only Prussia had a navy prior to the Constitution. Art. 63 stated: “The entire land force of the Empire shall constitute a united army, which in war and in peace shall be under the command of the Kaiser.” Art. 63 is legal language, which makes for many loopholes. There was no imperial army but simply contingents of the member states. The navy was an internal indivisible organization set forth in the constitution. The army was a collective unit and its unity did not cancel the existence of state contingents. The term “Imperial German Army” is an improper collective phrase that is used continuously under which the combining of the different armies may be easily understood.
The key to understanding this is that when the states joined the Imperial German Empire, they ceased to be sovereign but did not cease to be states. Nowhere did the states give up sovereignty more completely than in military affairs. Most states had their own armies but each army was recruited, organized, equipped, and drilled not in conformity with state regulations but rather by the rules of the empire, which were determined by Prussia. Formally, the state possessed military supremacy but the content and extent of that supremacy was determined by the military conventions between the state and Prussia.
The Hanseatic cities and four principalities did not form their own military .
Janet and Joe Robinson are both retired colonels and both graduated from the U.S. Army War College. Having two masters degrees, Janet was an exchange student in Germany and taught German before entering the military. Joe lived in Germany growing up and spent much of his military career in Germany. Now retired and empty-nested, the couple is focusing on collecting, researching, scrapbooking and travel.