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Munitions Crisis

(504 words)

Author(s): Thoss, Bruno
Munitions Crisis Serious shortages of munitions experienced by all the warring powers between fall 1914 and spring 1915. Nations had failed to adequately mobilize their industries for war, or to stockpile raw materials needed for the war. Moreover, industrial manpower shortages were soon experienced owing to the growing personnel needs of the military. The result was a serious shortage of munitions supplies by fall 1914. The shortfall of munitions worsened for all armies until there was only enoug…

One-Year Volunteers

(349 words)

Author(s): Thoss, Bruno
One-Year Volunteers Men of military age who were permitted to fulfill their obligation for active service in one year instead of two, as volunteers. The arrangement was introduced in the course of military reforms in the Kingdom of Prussia as early as 1814 in order to ease the path of the educated and land-owning middle classes into military service. After the foundation of the North German Confederation in 1866, and that of the German Reich in 1871, the scheme was gradually introduced in all Germ…

Rear Area

(318 words)

Author(s): Thoss, Bruno
Rear Area Originally the term for the area devoted to the storage of military supplies behind the frontline. The German term Etappe derives from the French étape. The zone located directly behind the rearward limits of the combat area, and serving, among other things, for the supply and transportation of men and materials. Owing to the increased supply needs of large-scale modern armies, the term came to refer to the zone linking the fighting troops with their home territory. Its forward limit was defined by the operatio…

Troop Strength

(1,120 words)

Author(s): Thoss, Bruno
Troop Strength The initial numbers of soldiers mobilized for immediate wartime service. The peacetime strength of the individual armies before 1914 provided the foundation for troop strength in the war. A cadre of commanders for reserve units and an attachment of reservists for these troop units were included in their mobilization plans. This would make it possible to raise units to wartime strength once the mobilization was begun. The troop strengths planned in the event of war, and the troop str…


(664 words)

Author(s): Thoss, Bruno
Mobilization The conversion of a nation’s military forces to a state of war, callled specifically “military mobilization,” and the adaptation of its government and industry to the demands of the war, known as “military mobilization.” Military mobilization for the World War had been planned in detail during peacetime. The preplanned procedures were intended to outfit military units with personnel, uniforms and equipment so as to bring them swiftly up to war strength. When the war began, frontier p…

Medals and Military Decorations

(510 words)

Author(s): Thoss, Bruno
Medals and Military Decorations Externally visible decorations recognizing particular achievements and merits. Starting with absolutist France, in the 18th and 19th centuries orders were created in all states as signs of particular attachment to the ruling house, or to reward military achievements. Their design and distribution, and the manner of wearing them, were precisely laid down in laws, statues and regulations. As a rule, decorations were given in a number of classes, the highest of which were linked…

Matériel, Battle of

(671 words)

Author(s): Thoss, Bruno
Matériel, Battle of Characteristic form of positional warfare that prevailed in particular on the Western Front. In combat operations that lasted for months on end and involved the massive deployment of heavy weapons, the belligerents aimed for the total destruction of the opponents’ fortified lines and of the troops fighting in them. The ultimate goal of the armies was to break through the enemy front line and to begin regaining ground in depth. Notable examples of the battle of matériel are the Battles of Ver…


(539 words)

Author(s): Thoss, Bruno
Railways A means of mass transportation of persons and goods, developed in the 19th century, and adapted for military purposes in the second half of the century. The first extensive and operationally effective implementation of plans for the transportation of major bodies of troops by rail occurred in the wars of 1866 and 1870/1871. From that point on, all general staffs included the railways in their operational plans, and created specialized military units for the construction, safeguarding, an…

Infantry Weaponry/Weapons

(3,025 words)

Author(s): Thoss, Bruno
Infantry Weaponry/Weapons Weapons technology during the First World War was geared mainly to the ground war, drawn from traditional types of infantry and artillery weapons. At the beginning of the war, cavalry was still relatively important, though they no longer had a decisive function in battle. For equipment early in the war, troops relied upon firearms such as rifles, carbines, machine guns and pistols; cutting and thrusting blades including bayonets, sabers, and lances; and explosive devices …

Rommel, Erwin

(313 words)

Author(s): Thoss, Bruno
Rommel, Erwin (November 15, 1891, Heidenheim an der Brenz – October 14, 1944, Herrlingen [now Blaustein]; compelled suicide), German officer (after 1942, field marshal). The son of a gymnasium teacher, Rommel was commissioned a lieutenant and joined the 6th Württemberg Infantry Regiment. In 1914–1915 Rommel was decorated several times for personal valor. For his bravery in the storming of Monte Matajur on the Isonzo Front in 1917, Rommel received the highest German decoration for bravery, the order Pour la Mérite, and was promoted to captain. Accepted into the Reichswehr (regular ar…


(249 words)

Author(s): Thoss, Bruno
Requisition The coercive demand for, and taking of, foodstuffs and other troop needs in enemy territory – that is, confiscated items. This action was allowed under the Hague Convention of 1907 IV, The Laws and Customs of War on Land. According to Article 52, in wartime on the authority of the local commander in chief, requisitions and services for the troops could be demanded from the inhabitants of an occupied territory, and also collected against resistance. There was to be no disproportionate use of force. Also, the extent of the …

Army Daily Report

(260 words)

Author(s): Thoss, Bruno
Army Daily Report This was the official, daily summary report given by the commanders-in-chief of the warring states to inform the public about developments in the World War. The events recorded in the German Army Daily Report were at first compiled by the quartermaster general; later, by Department IIIb of the Deputy General Staff in Berlin; and then, by the Operations Office of the Supreme Army Command. In addition to press censorship, an additional means for military control of news releases to the homeland was made available t…

War Damage

(2,196 words)

Author(s): Thoss, Bruno
War Damage Damages and costs incurred during the war through the destruction of military equipment and weaponry, but also as a consequence of property damage in the regions directly affected by the war. War damage thus refers to the material costs of the war in the narrow sense. The calculation of war costs in the wider sense as well as of material losses in the narrow sense is so fraught with difficulties that all figures can only be seen as rough approximations. This already became evident during a first general assessment carried out for t…