Comparison German Field Army 1917 vs 1944 [Document]

Special thanks to Matthias Hoffmann for providing information on the German Field Army in 1917.


The title of this video may appear like click bait, yet actually it is the short version of a document from the organization department of the German Army’s Generals Staff in July 1944.

The original title of the document was:
“VERGLEICH DES FELDHEERES 1917 MIT DEM FELDHEER 1944” which means “comparison of the field army in 1917 with the field army 1944”

So, this video is mainly a visualization of selected parts of the document with some additional information and context. The document has a quite interesting date, namely the 20th July 1944, which was the day of the best known attempted assassination of Hitler. I don’t know if this is a coincidence or not, after all the officers behind the assassination wanted prevent an unconditional surrender similar to 1918. And in their assumptions stable front-lines were an important foundation for any negotiations. (Müller, Klaus-Jürgen: 20. Juli 1944 – Der Entschluß zum Staatsstreich, in: Beiträge zum Widerstand 1933-1945, S. 5)

What is the Field Army?

Now, you probably want to know what is the difference between the Army and the Field Army? Well, the field army is the part of the Army that does most of the killing and dying, one could say the field army is out in the field. For some contrast, other parts of the army would be the Reserve Army (Ersatzheer) or the Occupation Army (Besatzungsheer).
So, since we got that covered let’s get started.

Front Length

In terms of the front lines the Western Front in 1917 had a length of 650 km, whereas in 1944 it was 151 km, yet this only covered the invasion front not the coast lines.
The Italian the front was 450 km in 1917 and 281 km in 1944.
Yet, the huge difference was of course on the Eastern Front with 1700 km in the First World War vs 2720 km in 1944, whereas the later number does not include the front lines in Northern Finland and Norway.

In total the 1917 front length was 2800 km, whereas the 1944 front length was 3152 km.
Now, let’s look at the number of divisions next.

Number of Division

On the Western Front in 1917, there were 148 German divisions, whereas in 1944 there were 60 division of those 22 division were on the invasion front.
On the Italian Front there were 54 Austro-Hungarian divisions in World War 1, whereas in 1944 there were 22 German divisions and 1 foreign division, for a total auf 23 divisions.
On the Eastern Front in 1917 the Germans were probably not up to modern diversity regulations, but still a quite mixed composition with 82 German, 43 Austro-Hungarian, 3 Bulgarian and 4 Turkish division, in 1944 there were 128 German and 36 allied division. Thus in total of 132 and 164 divisions for the Eastern Front.
If we add all these numbers together we get 334 Division for 1917 and 247 division in 1944. Thus there is a total difference of 87 division. Additionally, you can clearly see that in World War 2, the Eastern Front was the most important frontline, whereas in the Great War it was the Western front.

Total numbers

Now, the total numbers of men in the field army are from December of the previous year, because in the document there are only the numbers given for December 1943 and the number for the First World War is missing, but thankfully someone provided proper sources for the First World War.
Now, the total number of men in the field Army in December 1916 were almost exactly 4.8 million (4 799 095), whereas in December 1943 it were about 4.3 million (4 270 000). Note that this difference is considerable smaller than the gap of 87 division, because these numbers only account for the manpower of the German Field Army and not their Allies.

Manpower per Front km

Now, since we have the total numbers of men and front lengths, let’s see how the many German soldiers were available for each front kilometer. Although note that the total numbers of men are from December 1916 and 1943, whereas the front lengths are from July of the following years. So this part is more about giving you a general idea on the situation than historical accuracy.
For final stages of the First World War there was a total front length of 2800 km, which had around 4.8 million men stationed there, whereas for the final stages of the Second World War there was total front of 3152 km with about 4.27 million men. Thus, we get 1714 men per km in World War I vs 1355 men in World War 2. (2759 per mi, 2180 per mile)
Note that these numbers are only for the German soldiers and don’t include the manpower of all Axis Forces in Europe, which had considerable more manpower in World War 1, thus the difference in men per front kilometer was even more significant.

Cut-Content: Battalion per Front km

A German infantry battalion of 1917 had a required strength of 750 men [NOTE: That before the number was 1050 before and changed to 850 in 1918.] (Nash, David: German Army Handbook April 1918, p 44) As a result about 2.3 infantry battalion per front kilometer.

Now, since a German infantry battalion of 1944 had a required strength of 700 men (708). (Keilig: Bl. 101 – V 64) This means a little less than 2 infantry battalions per front kilometer.


Vergleich des Feldheeres 1917 mit Feldheer 1944, Generalstab des Heeres Organisationsabteilung (I), in: Keilig, Wolf: Das Deutsche Heer 1939-1945; Bl. 201 / 1944-1 & 2

Inf. Div. 1944, Keilig, Wolf: Das Deutsche Heer 1939-1945: Bl. 101 – V 64

Müller, Klaus-Jürgen: 20. Juli 1944 – Der Entschluß zum Staatsstreich, in: Beiträge zum Widerstand 1933-1945, S. 5

Sanitätsbericht über das deutsche Heer im Weltkriege 1914/1918

Nash, David: German Army Handbook April 1918

Total Manpower of the German Army in 1916/1917?


Assault Artillery – History & Organization of Assault Gun Units #Stug Life


Time to talk about the famous the German assault guns or as they are called in German “Sturmgeschütze”. Now this video is more about the branch and organization and not individual vehicles. Thus, the name “assault artillery”, because this is the translation of the original name for this branch in German which was “Sturmartillerie”.

Origin Story

Now, the origin story of the assault artillery begins unsurprisingly in World War 1. During the war a common problem was that after a successful initial attack, the follow-up attack advanced too far for proper artillery support or that it took too long to move the guns forward. Furthermore, there was a lack of direct fire support, after all most guns were quite unwieldly and the terrain usually quite deformed from artillery fire, additionally these guns were usually not well protected even from small arms fire. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 2; see also Artillery Combat in World War 1)

The Initiative – Manstein’s Memorandum

The first major call for a “Sturmartillerie” as a mobile and armored infantry support gun was in 1935 in a memorandum from Erich von Manstein, back then, when he was still a Colonel. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 3)

He proposed three main formations as the base for the Army:

1) Independent Tank division with their own organic infantry and artillery units to support the tanks.
2) Independent Tank Brigades that consisted only of tanks and that were under the authority of the Army Command to allow for the localized concentration of force.
3) Regular Infantry division with organic assault gun units to support the infantry units.

Now, the important part here is that the assault gun units should be an organic part of the infantry division. Why is this important? Well, organic divisional units are trained with the division and stay with the division all the time. This means, that other division units are familiar with these units and are also trained in operations where the various different units supported each other, thus everyone involved knows of the strength and weaknesses of the units.
Remember, even to this day tanks without proper infantry support can be quite vulnerable. Additionally, you need to consider that back then most of the German division weren’t even motorized, thus a Sturmgeschütz was quite an oddity that was mostly known from propaganda. Hence, a lot of soldiers attributed qualities to these units that they couldn’t fulfill. Something that could be deadly in combat situations. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 3-4)

Note that the proposed number of units per division was still relatively small. Every division should have one battalion with 3 batteries each with 6 stugs, thus only 18 stugs in total. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 3-4) But, numbers without context can be misleading. So, let’s look at a weapon system with a similar role and its number, this would be the light infantry support gun and in a regular German infantry division of 1940, just 20 of these were present, thus the number of 18 stugs is actually not that low as it might appear at first glance. (Source: Alex Buchner: Handbuch der Infanterie 1939-1945)

The first 5 prototypes were ready in Winter 1937, after which a first series of 30 units was ordered. This series wasn’t completely delivered until May 1940, hence the first time StuGs were used in significant numbers was during Operation Barbarossa. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 4)

Problems & Delays

The original plan called for an assault gun battalion for each active division until Fall 1939. Yet, due to changes in the command structure, delays in the specifications, limits of the German arms industry and internal rivalries this goal was never achieved. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 3-4)

Even far from it, even in in May 1940 only 2 batteries were operational, whereas around 180 would have been necessary to equip all active divisions in May 1940. (Frieser, Karl-Heinz: Die deutschen Blitzkriege; in: Wehrmacht: Mythos & Realität. (S. 184); Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 4-5) Furthermore, the Tank Brigades were realized neither. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 7)

Operational History

At the start of Operation Barbarossa in June 1941 the situation had changed, around 250 StuGs were ready, these were organized in 11 battalions and 5 independent batteries. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 6)

During combat it became obvious that the combat effectiveness of infantry units was increased by a large degree due to the use of the assault gun units. Due to the high amount of training, firepower and mobility. It should be noted that the assault guns were part of artillery branch, thus they were accustomed to supporting infantry from the get go. Furthermore, the better optics and stronger emphasis on artillery practice resulted in higher hit chances. Yet, one major problem was that the battalions were part of the overall Army Units and not organic units of the infantry divisions as Manstein originally had proposed, thus the coordination between the infantry and StuGs was limited. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 6)

By the end of 1942 around 27 Stug Battalions were operational on the Eastern Front, furthermore the required strength increased from 22 to 31 StuGs, although on average only 12 were operational. This means around 320 Stugs operational. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 7)

Although the assault guns were originally intended for infantry support, their role changed on the Eastern Front. Soon they were used more and more as tank destroyers, because the German anti-tank guns with 37mm and 50 mm were simply not able to deal with the T-34 and KV-1, although in Summer 1942 the 75mm Pak 40 was introduced this gun was too heavy to have tactical mobility.
Since Spring 1942 the StuGs were upgraded to the F version that used the long barreled 75mm gun that was also capable with dealing with Russian tanks. And unlike the dedicated tank destroyers like the Marder I and II, it was better armored and also had a far lower silhouette. Thus, the StuG III F was the best German anti-tank weapon at its introduction. As a result, many StuGs were used in the anti-tank role, but thus they were missing for their intended role, namely supporting infantry. This was the reason for the development of the “Sturmhaubitze” (StuH), literally meaning assault howitzer. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 7-9)

By the end of 1943 there were 39 assault gun battalions on the Eastern Front with a total of 1006 StuGs. The average operational rate increased to 15 Stug for each battalion. In 1943 the Wehrmacht was mostly on the defensive and the StuG became a mainstay of the defense. Once Guderian became inspector for the tank troops (“Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen”), he continuously tried to get the assault artillery integrated into the tank destroyer units, yet without success. Nevertheless, quite a large number of produced StuGs were transferred into tank divisions to compensate for the lack of regular tanks. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 9-11) This situation worsened after the failed 20th July assassination attempt against Hitler, after which Guderian became Chief of Staff. He limited the total amount of assault gun battalions to 45 and furthermore assigned a smaller portion of the produced StuGs to the assault artillery branch. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 11)

Although the output of assault guns increased year by year and reached its peak in 1944. More and more numbers were assigned to other branches. Ultimately, in March 1945 the total number of assault gun battalions was 37 with a total number 606 operational vehicles. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 12-13)

Panzertruppe – Parallel Developments “Sturmpanzer”

Now, some of you might wonder, what about the various other variants of German armored support vehicles with large guns that were similar to assault guns, like the Sturmpanzer “Bison”, the Sturmpanzer 38(t) “Grille” and of course the “Sturmtiger”? Well, those were all parallel developments by the German Tank branch.
Most of them were used with rather limited success, they were usually built upon obsolete vehicles and traded firepower for mobility and protection. Thus, giving them a rather unbalanced quality, their combat effectiveness was quite limited and for the most part they were just a waste of already limited resources. To a certain degree these parallel development by the tank branch were motivated by the fact that the assault guns were part of the artillery branch and thus avoid any dependencies to that branch. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 5-6)

Organization of StuG Units

Now, there is one question that military historians up to this day haven’t answered yet, namely what is the difference between Thug Life and StuG Life?
Well, first, the German accent and second, organization, organization , organization, so here we go.

Sturmbatterie / Sturmgeschützbatterie 1939 (K.St.N.445)

Now the original Assault Battery from 1939 had the following organization:
1 battery headquarters, 3 Platoons, an lightly armored ammo column, a transport unit and a maintenance squad.
Each of the three platoons consisted of just of 1 observation halftrack, 2 StuG III and 2 ammo half tracks.
Now, this is a rather odd setup, because the headquarters unit actually is only equipped with an observation halftrack, whereas armored headquarters units usually had a similar vehicle than their combat units. In total the unit had 5 light observation vehicles, 6 StuGs, and 6 light armored ammo carriers.
Note that this was an intended organization that was probably never achieved due to a lack of proper halftracks, which to a certain degree were replaced by trucks in the following layouts.
(Spielberger, Walter: Sturmgeschütze. S. 233)
(Fleischer, Wolfgang: Die deutschen Sturmgeschütze 1935-1945. S. 18)

Sturmbatterie 1941 (K.St.N446)

Now, the 1941 version was quite similar, a major change was the addition of the 7th StuG in the headquarters unit. Furthermore for this unit, I have some data on men & equipment.
In total there were 5 officers, 1 official, 37 NCOs and 83 enlisted men. Additionally, 9 light machine guns, 17 trucks, 6 cars, 7 StuGs and 3 light armored ammo carries.
As you can see the early batteries were quite small with only 2 guns, this number increased throughout the war.

Sturmgeschützbatterie (mot) K.St.N.446 (1.11.1941)
(Spielberger, Walter: Sturmgeschütze. S. 236)
(Fleischer, Wolfgang: Die deutschen Sturmgeschütze 1935-1945. S. 33)

Sturmgeschützabteilung November 1942 (K.St.N. 446a)

Now, let’s take a look at the organization of an assault gun battalion from November 1942.
It consisted of a headquarters unit and 3 assault gun batteries. Each assault gun battery consisted of a headquarters unit, 3 platoons and a transport unit. Now each platoon now had 3 StuGs and each headquarters unit one Stug, now if add the multipliers, we get a total of 31 StuGs. Finally, let’s take a look at a late war unit.

Sturmgeschützbatterie (mot) (zu 10 Geschützen) – K.St.N.446a (1.11.1942)

(Fleischer, Wolfgang: Die deutschen Sturmgeschütze 1935-1945. S. 67)

Heeres-Sturmartillerie-Brigade Juni 1944 (K.St.N. 446B)

One of the latest organizations was the “Heeres-Sturmartillerie-Brigade” which means Army assault artillery brigade from 1944.
It consisted of a brigade headquarters, 3 assault gun battalions and 1 support grenadier Battery. Each of the assault gun battalions consisted of a headquarters unit,1 assault gun battery and a transport unit. Finally, the assault gun batteries consisted of 2 assault gun platoons, 1 assault howitzer platoon, an ammo column and 1 maintenance column.
Now, if you think this is overly complicated, well, you might be right or you may not be German enough. Anyway, each assault gun platoon consisted of 4 StuGs, whereas each assault howitzer platoon consisted of 4 assault howitzers. Now, let’s take a look at the whole unit. The headquarters units together consisted of 9 vehicles. Whereas the Combat platoons for each Battalion had a total of 12 vehicles. Together there were 30 assault guns and 15 assault howitzers in the brigade.
(Fleischer, Wolfgang: Die deutschen Sturmgeschütze 1935-1945. S. 105)


To summarize, the original concept for the StuG was to be a direct fire support weapon for the infantry, especially in the attack against enemy defensive position. The StuG combined mobility, firepower and protection, additionally since it was part of the artillery branch, its members were better trained in firing and also are more accustomed to support infantry units, unlike regular tank units.

Due the lack of proper tank destroyers the StuGs were used quite often as tank destroyers, for which it was also ideally suited due its strong frontal armor and low silhouette, although this was not their initially intended role. Ultimately assault gun units were also added organically to infantry divisions, but at this stage the German side was on the defense, thus the StuG was mainly used as a tank destroyer and not its original role supporting infantry in offensive operations.


Wettsein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie Geschichte einer Waffengattung (free article)

WW2 day by day – Kriegsstärkenachweissungen ” T&OE” (Homepage)

Spielgerger, Walter: Sturmgeschutz & Its Variants (affiliate link)

Spielberger, Walter: Sturmgeschütze. Entwicklung und Fertigung der sPak (affiliate link)

Fleischer, Wolfgang: Die deutschen Sturmgeschütze 1935-1945. (affiliate link)

Buchner, Alex: The German Infantry Handbook 1939-1945 ( affiliate link)

Buchner, Alex: Das Handbuch der deutschen Infanterie 1939-1945; Gliederung – Uniformen, Bewaffnung – Ausrüstung, Einsätze. (affiliate)


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Update: HOI 4 – Historical Infantry Division Layouts – Early War #Hearts of Iron

Original video & script: HOI 4 – Historical Infantry Division Layouts – Early War #Hearts of Iron


Since my first historical division layout video was a major success and a lot of people asked for more, I will do more, but first I have to address the errors in my original layouts, so here is a short update were I discuss the errors, some community contributions and of course the updated layouts briefly.

Thank you

First, thank you all for the great feedback, especially on the paradox forums. Now, there are two people I want to mention explicitly:
First, the steam user ramadawn, who created a mod with various historical divisions, which is also available on the steam workshop.
Second, the paradox user elfiwolfe for giving a lot of good feedback and creating a wiki page with divisions that are derived from my layouts with additional ingame values.
In both cases I didn’t have time to check them out thoroughly, but from their conduct, comments and the data I looked at, I have a good initial impression.

Errors in my first video

Now, when I did my first video I missed a few things that lead to several errors, most notably:
1) Initially, I wasn’t sure if the Artillery Battalions ingame were actually artillery regiments or not.
2) I missed that the support units have less equipment and guns than their equivalent regular combat units.
3) I assigned far too small numbers of anti-tank units in the original video.
The first part, the ingame artillery battalions are actually 3 historical artillery battalions, additionally the game files calls them artillery brigade. Whereas a historical artillery battalion had 12 guns the ingame has 36. For this reason the number of artillery units in my original videos were way too high.
Second, I missed that the number of guns in the support units for anti-tank, artillery, and anti-aircraft is less than that of the regular combat battalions. Basically, a regular combat unit has 50 % more guns than the support version. This allows a bit more fine-tuning, but also note that the support units have special characteristics ingame that I won’t cover here.

Third, in my original video I was far too strict on the anti-tank units. For some reason I neglected the ingame number of guns and used the German Infantry division as reference, whereas in this video I will set the ingame numbers in direct reference to the historical numbers.

The Changes

Since I covered the historical division setups in the original video, I will not narrate the whole setup again, so if you are interested in the background and haven’t see the original video you might want to check it out beforehand, it is mostly military history.

Note that these units are optimized historical accuracy and not gameplay.

German Infantry Division 1940

So, let’s get started, the adapted setup for the German Infantry Division from 1940is as follows:
Due to the high number of more than 70 anti-tank guns, I recommend to use 2 regular anti-tank battalions and remove the support anti-tank gun unit. The number of artillery battalions should be reduced from 4 to 1, since the ingame artillery battalion are three times the size of historical ones.

Now, since the historical unit had 48 artillery guns, an alternative setup would be to use no regular artillery unit, but two support artillery units, this would give the correct amount of artillery pieces for this unit.


Soviet Rifle Division 1941

Since, we covered fifty shades of grey, time to take a look at Big Red, well no that is too scary, so let’s go with the Soviet Rifle Division from April 1941 instead.
Based on the data, I propose the following changes:
Reduce the number of artillery battalions to 1 or 2 units. Since, the division had 54 anti-tank guns and my original proposal had a regular anti-tank battalion included, one could add an additional support anti-tank unit. This would bring up the total ingame number of 60 guns, which slightly above that of the historical numbers.

Source: Sharp, Charles: Soviet Order of Battle World War II – Volume VIII


US Army Infantry Division 1943

Yeah, well, the Fourth of July is over, but freedom never ends, so next is the US Army Infantry division layout from July 1943.
The changes are very similar to the German and Soviet unit. Reduction of the artillery units to just 1 artillery battalion. Then adding a regular anti-tank unit and also an optional support anti-tank unit, since the historical division had a total of 57 anti-tank guns, thus just being short 3 guns to be on point. Also similar to the German division, it had 48 artillery guns, so an alternative setup could be no regular artillery unit, but two support artillery units, to get the same amount of artillery pieces as the original division layout.

Source: Stanton, Shelby: Order of Battle of the US Army in World War II


British Infantry Division 1939

Now, if you like to call things Spandau, here we go, the British Infantry Division in 1939 of the British Expeditionary Force.

The changed layout for the British is as follows:
I would add an anti-tank battalion and maybe an anti-tank support unit, although the real division had only 48 anti-tank guns, it had a large amount of anti-tank rifles. Also only one artillery battalion. The rest stays the same.

Source: (Note: that it lists 147 pieces of the 25mm anti-tank gun, a number that seems completely off and likely is, because it was a French anti-tank gun and I doubt they received so many of them. )


Japanese Infantry Division 1940 Standard B

Now the war situation may still not necessarily develop to your advantage, nevertheless here is the update for the Japanese Infantry division Standard B around 1940.
The changed layout for the Rising Sun is as follows:
No regular artillery battalion, because of the very limited amount of firepower provided by the Japanese. At most one artillery support unit should be added.
(Source: Rottmann, Gordon: Japanese Army in World War II – Conquest of the Pacific 1941-1942)


Italian Infantry Division 1940

In case you want to go full duce, here is the changed layout for one of the most dangerous pizza delivery services in history, the Italian Infantry division from 1940:
I would make the optional anti-tank support unit a definite one, since the original division had 24 anti-tank guns, which is exactly the number of the ingame unit. No regular artillery unit, but one support artillery unit, although the historical unit had 36 artillery guns those had limited firepower. (12 guns with 100mm and 24 with 75mm, thus of rather weak firepower.)
Source: Schreiber, Gerhard: S.56-62, in Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Band 3;
Soruce: Handbook on the Italian Military Forces, August 1943, Military Intelligence Service – TME 30-420


French Infantry Division 1940

What is faster than a pizza delivery, well, some argue it is the United Baguette Division, so, let’s look at the changes for the French Infantry division of 1940:

There should be a reduction of the regular artillery battalions to just one. Instead of the support anti-tank unit a regular anti-tank battalion and optional an additional one as support, similar to the US and Soviet division, because the French division had 58 anti-tank guns historically.

Source: Sumner, Ian; et. al: The French Army: 1939-45


Polish Infantry Division 1939

Now, of course this is for Hearts of Iron IV and not Space Invaders, nevertheless, some update on the Polish Space Division is necessary, the changes for the Polish infantry division of 1939, is as follows:
The once optional support anti-tank unit is now definitely a part of the division, because the historical division had 27 guns. Since the historical artillery was quite similar to that of the Italian division, no regular artillery battalion neither, just one support artillery unit.

Ellis, Johen World War II – A Statistical Survey – The Essential Facts & Figures for All the Combatants, Edition: 1995 reprinted with corrections


Romanian Infantry Division 1941

And the last division layout for this video, the setup of the Romanian Infantry Division of 1941.
Now, the updated Vampire Legions are as follows:
The historical division had 30 anti-tank guns, hence either a regular anti-tank battalion or support anti-tank unit are possible. The artillery battalions should be reduced to one support artillery battalion, since their firepower is just a bit more than that of the Polish or Italian divisions. (36 field guns with 75mm and 16 howitzers with 100mm present. )

(Source: Axworthy, Mark: Third Axis, Fourth Ally: Romanian Armed Forces in the European War, 1941-1945)


Suggestion for Proper Artillery Battalions

Now, once I realized that the ingame artillery battalions are actually the size of 3 historical artillery battalions, I added a suggestion to the Paradox Forums. Maybe there is a good reason for this, but I haven’t found one so far. Because, well there are enough slots in the division designer to support very large units. Additionally, the other battalions have mostly correct values for manpower and equipment numbers that are on par with historical numbers.
If you think the same or otherwise, please check the link below to my suggestion post on the forums and add your thoughts and/or support there.



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Online Resources

German Infantry Division 1914/18 – Visualization – Organization & Structure

Infographic – German Infantry Division 1914/1918 – Organization & Structure


German Infantry Division 1914/1918 Organization & Structure- 1,049px × 2,499px

Intro – Basic Numbers of 1914 Division

In 1914 a German infantry division consisted of about 18000 men. The division was equipped with 4600 horses. 24 heavy Machine guns and 72 light field guns. (Source: Stachelbeck: Deutschland Heer und Marine im Ersten Weltkrieg (S. 120) – affiliate link)

Organization of 1914 Division

Now in terms of organization and structure, a German Infantry division in 1914 consisted of 2 Infantry brigades, which themselves consisted of 2 Infantry regiments each, which consisted of themselves of 3 infantry battalions and 1 MG Company. Furthermore, the division had one artillery brigade, which consisted of 2 artillery regiments, which consisted of 2 artillery battalions each. Additionally in some cases there were also cavalry, engineer and medical units attached.

Infantry Company in 1914

This structure is quite abstract, so to get a better grasp on it in terms of men, let’s get one level lower. Each Infantry battalion consisted of 4 infantry companies. Since a division had 12 infantry battalions there was a total of 48 infantry companies. Such a company itself consisted of 150 men in peacetime, yet was increased to 270 during wartime. This meant that around 13000 (12960) of the 18000 men served in the Infantry companies.

This Layout was soon changed for various reasons. One was to get a more uniform structure, the structure of 2 subunits levels was replaced with a structure of 3 sub-units. This structure of 3 was still the determining in World War 2 infantry divisions. (Note that changing this structure didn’t necessarily lead to a change in total men or equipment, for instance the numbers of guns for a battery was changed from 6 to 4. (S. 123-124))

Changes during the War

There were many other changes throughout the war concerning the division layout, some were to deal with the change in necessities of the war and others about strategy. To note a few changes, there was the addition of a permanent medical company in 1916 and the increase engineer companies throughout the war. But probably the greatest change was in terms of equipment.

Comparison 1914 – 1918

To give you a short impression on how much an early-war Infantry Division was different from a late-war Infantry division, let’s revisit the initial numbers and compare them to a division that was intended for offensive operations in 1918, the so called “Mob-Division” or “Angriffsdivision”.

The early war division had around 18000 men, whereas the late war had 15000 to 16000 men, note that the second number is an estimate by an expert on this topic.
In terms of horses there was a decrease from 4600 to 4300, since the attack divisions received more horses than regular divisions the number of horses in overall decreased to greater extent than this display might suggest.

In terms of light machine guns there was an increase from 0 to 180.

Furthermore, the number of heavy machine guns also increased from 24 to 108.

Whereas in terms of light field guns the number of 72 was halved to 36.

Yet, there was a significant change in other artillery weapons, whereas the early war division relied solely on light field guns the 1918 division had: 12 heavy artillery guns, 18 light mine launchers and 6 medium mine launchers. Note that the mine launcher in German is called “Minenwerfer” meaning literally “mine thrower”, which is the old German name for a mortar.
(Source: Stachelbeck: Deutschland Heer und Marine im Ersten Weltkrieg (S. 120) – affiliate link)

End Note – Visualization of the men to machine gun ratio

As you can clearly see, the number of machine guns increased substantially by more than 10 times from 24 to 288 machine guns, thus several times multiplying the amount of firepower of the division.

To illustrate in 1914 there was one machine gun for every 750 men. Whereas in 1918 there was a machine gun for every 56 men.
The number of artillery pieces in total didn’t change and stayed at 72, but the number of types was increased and thus resulted in a far more versatile artillery force. The heavy artillery provided more firepower and the mortars allowed for short range indirect fire in close coordination with the infantry, thus the overall flexibility and effectiveness of the division was increased without increasing the total number of artillery pieces itself.



Stachelbeck, Christian: Deutschland Heer und Marine im Ersten Weltkrieg ( link)


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Online Resources

Reorganization of the German Army, 1914-1918

Artillery of the Great War

Why the Luftwaffe Failed in World War 2 – Failures, Shortcomings and Blunders


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