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The Kaiser's Army

David Stone
ARRSE Rating
3.5 Mushroom Heads
This book describes the German Army of World War One. In a praiseworthy level of detail, the author, David Stone, has described the organisation, equipment, training and, perhaps most importantly, the culture of this force and thus how it waged its campaigns in the Great War.

For those interested in the period, this is fascinating. I especially enjoyed those elements which described the history and culture of the Army from the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-71 to the First World War. In this time, the Germans only fought in two wars, the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 and the Herero and Namaqua Revolts of 1904-07: compared to the British Army in the same period, this is a very small amount of operational experience. Its culture, doctrine and training were developed largely in isolation from operational testing and principally through staff procedures and annual exercises (which the Kaiser was not above fixing to make sure that his side won!).

As Germany as a nation was very young in this period, the states within the nation (eg Prussia, Saxony, Bavaria) had a very strong impact on how the Army was recruited and trained and its organisation was very much regionally based. This was similar to the British Army’s county regiment construct but centred on the Corps as a regional organisation; something which would have stretched the British Army!

The author’s attention to detail is quite superb. The references are exhaustive and there has been a lot of research which has been used in a focussed and controlled manner. The book is structured in approach describing the Army in peace and then in war, the structure of the Army and then its officers and soldiers. Uniforms and equipment and then the various arms are then covered as are tactics and doctrine and, finally, the end of the Army after the war. This is all-encompassing and thorough and a student of period would find this logical and clear structure invaluable.
I must confess that I was the victim of my own assumptions. I presumed that it would be more akin to Richard Holmes’ ‘Tommy’, which makes great use of the words of the soldiers themselves to describe the British Army of the period. Parts of ‘The Kaiser’s Army’ encompass this but much of the rest is straight description by the author. This did become slightly wearisome in the chapters on uniforms with much comparison of the cut of jackets and colour of piping. Stone places other technical details into annexes (eg description of weapon systems) and this would have been a better place for the uniforms as well.

Additionally, a degree of comparison with other combatants in World War One (eg the British and French) to place the German concepts in context would have been beneficial.

This is a detailed reference book which is very useful. I recommend it more to the student of period for whom it would be invaluable. Those with a more casual interest may well be put off by the level of detail but would still find it an interesting read.
First release
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