In peacetime, training for a German recruit began in October of the year of their class, having been examined and accepted in the Spring muster.
In the infantry, assignment to a specific company was based upon height. The tallest men were assigned to the 1st, 5th, and 9th companies of each regiment, the shortest to the last company in each Battalion, the 4th, 8th, and 12th. Issuing of uniforms was from the battalion supply depot, which drew upon the regimental depot.
After several weeks of basic preparatory discipline and drill, the imposing and solemn ceremony of the administering of the oath was accomplished by 3 or 4 recruits at a time, who, in time honored tradition, placed his left hand on the staff of the colors and raised their right hand for God and the Fatherland, after which the regiment was formed and addressed by the regimental officer or a representative from Berlin, quite often the Kaiser or some other member of the royal family, or possibly the “honorary chef” after which the unit was named. This very personalized ceremony made an everlasting impression upon every new recruit who participated, and the solemn weight of responsibility and duty that descended upon each man’s conscience was never taken lightly or easily forgotten, even under the most trying of circumstances.
Their quarters consisted of large brick or stone barracks, with guard rooms for 10 to 20 men. Each man had a wooden wall locker for storage of uniforms and equipment, with rifles being locked away in an arms rack. Bunks were wooden doubled decked, with straw mattresses.
These brick wall enclosed military “Kasernes” were off limits to all civilian and unauthorized personnel. Special approval had to be granted by the Kaiser for any foreign officer to enter the compound. There were usually three barracks buildings for an infantry regiment, one for each battalion, with other outbuildings providing two mess halls, 4 toilet buildings, a drill building for inclement weather, and a number of other buildings used for various fatigue duties, storage, and cleaning duties.
Within each of the three 4 or 5 story barracks buildings was a number of wash and storage rooms, equipment cleaning rooms, sick room, detention room, officer administrative rooms, and a few training officer/NCO rooms. Heat was provided by steam, or individual stoves of tile or cast iron. Our large city US National guard buildings would be comparable to these facilities.
The mess hall was next to the barracks where in most cases, the soldiers ate their meals, with only a few instances of soldiers eating in their rooms. In this mess hall was the battalion barber shop, tailor shop, shoe/bootmaker, armorer shop, and canteen, making it a hub of activity for the new recruits.
Meals were prepared in the kitchens by those who held comparable jobs in civilian life. This rule of using qualified technical personnel held true for each specialized service within the compound. In some cases, their pay was slightly higher to compensate their skill level.
Breakfast was usually coffee w/milk and rye bread with whatever toppings were available through various sources.
The substantial noon meal was usually a cooked one with some sort of stew(beef, mutton, or pork) prepared in large kettles. The light supper meal was tea, coffee, or chocolate and bread. Soup was served on occasions. Fruits and desserts were not provided. The subsistence was meager, but it taught the soldier frugality and endurance which would prove useful in the front. The soldier was expected to add to his meal from his own pocket, particularly breakfast and supper. The meager rations forced families to send food, money and creature comforts to their loved ones, thus greatly reducing the expenses of the government. In addition, the families of the soldiers were forced to become a part of the military machine by playing a very important role in the subsistence and comfort of each of “their” soldiers. This carefully crafted idea was not an accident, and it worked quite well throughout the war. In the American Army, anything sent from home was a luxury, but in the German Army it was viewed as a necessity.
The day of a soldier began with the awakening of the training NCO at 0445 by the barracks guard, after which the men were awakened and did their morning washing, shaving, and barracks cleaning and tidying up. At about 0545, the training Unterofficers formed squads under arms in the barracks for personal inspection. Ten minutes later the squads were formed by the training First Sgt. and the corporals reported their squads. The training lieutenants arrived at 0600 and the Sgt. reported the company to the senior Lt. present. Officers then inspected their respective platoons and the senior Lt. reported to the commanding officer upon his arrival. First Sergeants then reported all discrepancies, leaves, and company matters with the commanding officer. The company commander handed out punishments, made decisions of leaves, etc., then marched the men to the drill field, returning at about 1115 hours for noon meal. At 1200 noon the first Sgt received the next days orders from battalion headquarters, which he reported to the to the company commander and received instructions for the company. In the afternoon, the troops were drilled on the parade ground, put through physical exercises, or participated in other unit activities. Upon completion of the assigned daily routine, troops returned to the barracks and prepared for the evening meal, after which they were free to visit the canteen where 5 pfennings bought half a litre of beer and 1 pfenning a pipe of tobacco.
Actual individual barracks training, aside from the normal drill, consisted of hygiene, physical training, bayonet drill, and rifle manual of arms accompanied by practice sighting and dry fire. The German soldier was probably more proficient with the rifle than most armies on continental Europe. At about their 11-12th week of training, recruits began live fire exercises. Meanwhile, weekly trips to the field with full packs increased their stamina, with loads being increased to maximum 59-1/2 pounds by training’s end. By the first week of February, the unit was ready for inspection by the commanding officer, who judged their proficiency and assigned those who passed the test to a permanent position within the company. The new recruits then went on to company level training which lasted 6 weeks, after which they were expected to perform all aspects of company level maneuvers and drills. Upon satisfactory completion of this phase, the company went on to Battalion drill for two weeks, after which they were reviewed and inspected by the Regimental commander and other dignitaries such as General Staff officers.
Summer field exercise training began in May to prepare for regimental inspection in August. Divisional exercises then followed, and in September, each fall Corps maneuvers took place. The famous “Kaisermaneuvers”, or yearly mock engagements to which many foreign heads of states and other dignitaries were invited, involved 3 or 4 designated Army Corps. Winston S. Churchill attended the 1906 & 1909 maneuvers, and Theodore Roosevelt was the Kaiser’s guest in 1910. A unit could win the coveted Army Corps “Kaiserschiessabzeichen” (straight sided crown for Prussian Army Corps), or “Konigschiessabzeichen”(swelled sided crown for Bavarian, Saxon, or Wurttemberg Army Corps) if they excelled in marksmanship and tactical maneuvering on a specially prepared combat shooting course set up in the countryside with silhouette targets. Machine gun units competed every other year. There were also individual shooting “cords” to be won for marksmanship within each regiment. September was an ideal month since the weather was usually good, crops had been harvested, and the soldiers due for discharge were in their last month of duty. After these maneuvers, the units returned to garrison, those due for discharge were released, and new recruits inducted.
The pay for a German soldier in 1904 was not high to US standards, but very equal in European standards. The German soldier was paid on the 1st, 11th, and 21st of each month. In 1904, the private received an equivalent of $1.65 at each payday. The NEW pay scale, according to the April 1918 German Army Handbook, lists the DAILY pay rates as follows (in “marks”, with one mark being equal to about 1 English shilling, or $.24 US):
Sgt/Unteroffizier(after 5-1/2 years) 2.25
Gefreiter (dismounted) .75
A private in the German Army made about $5.10 US per month (30-day month), whereas a US soldier made 30.00/month w/an extra $6.00 if on “foreign” service. This was comparable to other European Army pay, and it taught the soldier to spend his money on necessities and hardened them for tough times in the field.
Promotions were reserved for the career soldiers. Seldom did a two year recruit receive any rank. The unit commander made all recommendations for promotions when a vacancy appeared, which was then approved by the regimental commanders. One year volunteers with excellent records and at least 9 months service could be promoted.