Guards Corps (German Empire)

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For the Haganah Guard Corps, see Guard Corps (Haganah). For the Prussian military unit known as the Prussian Guard, see Gardes du Corps (Prussia).
Guards Corps
Gardekorps
Stab eines Generalkommandos.svg
Flag of the Staff of a Generalkommando (1871–1918)
Country  Prussia /  German Empire
Type Corps
Size Approximately 44,000 (on mobilisation in 1914)
Garrison/HQ Berlin
Engagements

Austro-Prussian War

Battle of Königgrätz

Franco-Prussian War

Battle of Gravelotte
Battle of Sedan (1870)
Siege of Paris
Battle of Le Bourget

World War I

Battle of the Frontiers
First Battle of the Marne
First Battle of Ypres

The Guards Corps / GK (German: Gardekorps) was a corps level command of the Prussian and then the Imperial German Armies from the 19th Century to World War I.

The Corps was headquartered in Berlin, with its units garrisoned in the city and nearby towns (Potsdam, Jüterbog, Döberitz). Unlike all other Corps of the Imperial German Army, the Guards Corps did not recruit from a specific area, but from throughout Prussia and the "Imperial Lands" of Alsace-Lorraine.

The Corps served in the Austro-Prussian War. During the Franco-Prussian War it was assigned to the 2nd Army.

In peacetime the Corps was assigned to the II Army Inspectorate but joined the 2nd Army at the start of the First World War.[1] It was still in existence at the end of the war[2] in the 4th Army, Heeresgruppe Kronprinz Rupprecht on the Western Front.[3] The Corps was disbanded with the demobilisation of the German Army after World War I.

Austro-Prussian War[edit]

The Guards Corps fought in the Austro-Prussian War against Austria in 1866, including the Battle of Königgrätz.

Franco-Prussian War[edit]

The Corps served in the Franco-Prussian War against France in 1870–1871 as part of 2nd Army. It saw action in the Battle of Gravelotte, Battle of Sedan and the Siege of Paris (including the Battle of Le Bourget), among other actions.

Peacetime organisation[edit]

The 25 peacetime Corps of the German Army (Guards, I - XXI, I - III Bavarian) had a reasonably standardised organisation. Each consisted of two divisions with usually two infantry brigades, one field artillery brigade and a cavalry brigade each.[4] Each brigade normally consisted of two regiments of the appropriate type, so each Corps normally commanded 8 infantry, 4 field artillery and 4 cavalry regiments. There were exceptions to this rule:

V, VI, VII, IX and XIV Corps each had a 5th infantry brigade (so 10 infantry regiments)
II, XIII, XVIII and XXI Corps had a 9th infantry regiment
I, VI and XVI Corps had a 3rd cavalry brigade (so 6 cavalry regiments)

Each Corps also directly controlled a number of other units. This could include one or more

Foot Artillery Regiment
Jäger Battalion
Pioneer Battalion
Train Battalion

The Guards Corps was considerably above this norm, with 11 infantry regiments (in 5 brigades) and 8 cavalry regiments (in 4 brigades). In addition to the normal 2 Infantry Divisions (1st Guards Infantry and 2nd Guards Infantry Divisions), the Guards Corps also commanded the Guards Cavalry Division, the only peacetime cavalry division in the German Army. It also incorporated an exceptional number of "Corps Troops" units, in particular school and demonstration (Lehr) units.

World War I[edit]

Organisation on mobilisation[edit]

On mobilization on 2 August 1914 the Corps was extensively restructured. The Guards Cavalry Division (less 4th Guards Cavalry Brigade) was assigned to the I Cavalry Corps (Höhere Kavallerie-Kommando 1);[7] the 4th Guards Cavalry Brigade was broken up and its regiments assigned to the divisions as reconnaissance units. The Lehr Infantry Battalion was expanded to form the Lehr Infantry Regiment.[8] It formed 6th Guards Infantry Brigade (with the Guards Füsilier Regiment) and together with the 5th Guards Infantry Brigade formed the 3rd Guards Division of the Guards Reserve Corps. Divisions received engineer companies and other support units from the Corps headquarters.

In summary, the Guards Corps mobilised with 26 infantry battalions, 10 machine gun companies (60 machine guns), 8 cavalry squadrons, 24 field artillery batteries (144 guns), 4 heavy artillery batteries (16 guns), 3 pioneer companies and an aviation detachment.

Combat chronicle[edit]

On mobilisation, the Guards Corps was assigned to the 2nd Army as part of the right wing of the forces that invaded France and Belgium as part of the Schlieffen Plan offensive in August 1914.

Soon into the war, at the 1st Battle of the Marne, the Prussian Guards were bitterly defeated in an attempt to take French Positions.

In 1917, the corps was stationed on the Aisne River as part of 1st Army, and played an important role in the German defense against the French offensive in that sector.

It was still in existence at the end of the war[2] in the 4th Army, Heeresgruppe Kronprinz Rupprecht on the Western Front.[3]

Commanders[edit]

The Guards Corps had the following commanders during its existence:[12][13]

From Rank Name
20 September 1814 General der Infanterie Duke Charles of Mecklenburg
30 March 1838 Generalleutnant Prince Wilhelm of Prussia
23 May 1848 Generalleutnant Karl von Prittwitz
2 June 1853 General der Kavallerie Karl von der Gröben
3 June 1858 General der Kavallerie Prince August of Württemberg
30 August 1882 General der Kavallerie Wilhelm von Brandenburg
21 August 1884 General der Infanterie Alexander von Pape
19 September 1888 General der Infanterie Oskar von Meerscheidt-Hüllessem
6 May 1893 General der Infanterie Hugo von Winterfeld
18 August 1897 General der Infanterie Max von Bock und Polach
27 January 1902 General der Infanterie Gustav von Kessel
29 May 1909 General der Infanterie Alfred von Loewenfeld
1 March 1913 General der Infanterie Karl von Plettenberg
6 February 1917 General der Infanterie Ferdinand von Quast
9 September 1917 General der Kavallerie Graf zu Dohna-Schlobitten
2 November 1917 Generalleutnant Alfred von Böckmann

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cron 2002, p. 393
  2. ^ a b Cron 2002, pp. 88–89
  3. ^ a b Ellis & Cox 1993, pp. 186–187
  4. ^ Haythornthwaite 1996, pp. 193–194
  5. ^ War Office 1918, p. 239
  6. ^ Had a third (Horse Artillery) Abteilung of three batteries of 4 guns.
  7. ^ Cron 2002, p. 299
  8. ^ Busche 1998, p. 4 Lehr (meaning teach or training) is usually left untranslated.
  9. ^ Cron 2002, p. 306
  10. ^ a b With a machine gun company.
  11. ^ 4 heavy artillery batteries (16 heavy field howitzers)
  12. ^ German War History Accessed: 20 June 2012
  13. ^ The Prussian Machine Accessed: 20 June 2012

Bibliography[edit]

  • Busche, Hartwig (1998). Formationsgeschichte der Deutschen Infanterie im Ersten Weltkrieg (1914 bis 1918) (in German). Institut für Preußische Historiographie. 
  • Cron, Hermann (2002). Imperial German Army 1914-18: Organisation, Structure, Orders-of-Battle [first published: 1937]. Helion & Co. ISBN 1-874622-70-1. 
  • Ellis, John; Cox, Michael (1993). The World War I Databook. Aurum Press Ltd. ISBN 1-85410-766-6. 
  • Haythornthwaite, Philip J. (1996). The World War One Source Book. Arms and Armour. ISBN 1-85409-351-7. 
  • Wegner, Günter (1993). Stellenbesetzung der deutschen Heere 1815-1939, Bd. 1. Biblio Verlag, Osnabrück. 
  • Histories of Two Hundred and Fifty-One Divisions of the German Army which Participated in the War (1914–1918), compiled from records of Intelligence section of the General Staff, American Expeditionary Forces, at General Headquarters, Chaumont, France 1919. The London Stamp Exchange Ltd (1989). 1920. ISBN 0-948130-87-3. 
  • The German Forces in the Field; 7th Revision, 11th November 1918; Compiled by the General Staff, War Office. Imperial War Museum, London and The Battery Press, Inc (1995). 1918. ISBN 1-870423-95-X.