The German Soldier’s Pocket Manual, 1914-1918

Published: July 4th, 2018     
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Cover of book
Author: Compiled and Edited by: Stephen Bull
Reviewed by: 
Scott Hollingshead, IPMS# 34786
Company: Osprey Publishing
ISBN #: 978-1-4728-3106-4
E-Book ISBN #: 978-1-4728-3105-70
Other Publication Information: Hardbound, 4-7/8 x 7-3/8 inches, 140 pages
Price: $15.00

With the centennial anniversary of the end of the "war to end all wars" approaching on November 11, Stephen Bull adds this new pocket manual to the list of Osprey publications covering this period. This new book, which is compiled using excerpts from the German Army as well as from the intelligence sections of the British and American armies, describes German tactics throughout the war. It is an interesting read on a fascinating period in history as the militaries of the world were developing new weapons and tactics at an incredible rate.

After the Introduction, the chapters are Der Spatenkrieg: The Spade War, Proposals for Technical Methods, German Instructions for the Employment of Flame Projectors, Trench Raid Report, Machine Gun Instructions, Nahkampfmittel, Minor Tactics, Notes on Recent Fighting, Anti-Tank Rifle Instruction, and The Attack in Position Warfare, followed by the Index. In addition to color drawings on the inside of the front and back covers, there are 30 figures/illustrations and eight photographs (all in black and white) included in this book.

The Introduction begins with the fact that the German Army had 840,000 men in 1914, which was only smaller than the Imperial Russian Army at the time, but was better equipped and supplied. In 1914, infantrymen served two years in active duty while the cavalry and artillery served for three before moving to the reserves, which was for five years for infantry and four years for cavalry and artillery. There is also discussion on the development of the Stormtroopers during the war, and debunking that they started on the Eastern Front in 1917 and surprisingly appeared on the Western Front the following year.

Der Spatenkrieg: The Spade War comes for information gathered by Heinrich Fitschen, published in Berlin in 1915 and discusses the importance of the entrenching tool including the motto "sweat saves blood". Use of the spade for offensive, defensive, and protecting oneself are topics in the chapter, which also includes seven figures on the construction of trenches.

Proposals for Technical Methods is from a 3rd Army Headquarters document from April of 1915 discussing errors made by the French in a March attack that was too narrow and was not followed up sufficiently. The chapter goes on to describe piercing the line, governing the attack, planning the attack and preparing for the attack. The action of the infantry and artillery during the attack as well as the development of a penetration of the enemy's line are additional topics described.

Chapter 4 on German Instructions for the Employment of Flame Projectors is from a British General Staff document showing both 1915 and 1916 dates, as this was a new weapon developed during the war. The troops and equipment, capabilities, necessary conditions, tactical employment of the flame projector detachment, and general tactical instructions are the main points starting the chapter. The discussion moves on discussing the objectives, time of the attack, assaulting troops, preparations for the assault, the assault in conjunction with a flame attack, action of the artillery and trench mortars, forces on the flanks of the front of attack, equipment, ammunition, and rations, and telephone communications.

The Trench Raid Report of Chapter 5 is from a German document from April 1916 providing details on the attack at La Boisselle between 4 pm and 9:05 pm in good detail. Chapter 6, Machine Gun Instructions is taken from an order of the 6th Bavarian Division, a German 1916 regulation, and German General Staff instructions from 1918, which mention the use of both light and heavy machine guns.

Nahkampfmittel, Weapons of Close Combat, is taken from Manual of Position Warfare for all Arms, Part 3, which was released 1 January 1917 in Berlin and provides detail on the use of hand grenades including tying together the heads of stick grenades for additional destructive power. Chapter 8, Minor Tactics was compiled from German notes that were translated and compiled by the Army War College in Washington in 1917. This chapter provides a page showing the disposition of a company prior to an attack being made and includes a photograph of a German soldier preparing to throw a stick grenade with multiple heads in use.

Chapter 9, Notes on Recent Fighting is from observations by the British in 1918 and mentions the initiative being allowed by leaders of all ranks during attacks as well as pushing forward until resistance is met. Anti-tank Rifle Instructions is only two pages long and mentions not targeting the tracks and that the commander and driver are behind the front plate, and that the engine is in the center of the tank, along with the male tanks including cannons while the females are only armed with machine guns.

The final chapter is the Attack in Position Warfare and comes from the German General Staff in 1918. As noted by the British, and described in Chapter 9, directions are given to allow the subordinate commanders the ability to lead on his own. I enjoyed as I read this chapter the discussion on the use of models for the ground to be attacked as being advantageous.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to any modeler or historian wanting a unique reference to German tactics of World War I as the book is well written and informative. I would like to thank the folks at Osprey Publishing for providing this book to the IPMS-USA for review, and I appreciate having been afforded the opportunity to write this appraisal. As always, thanks to you the reader for taking the time to read my comments.

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