Exclusive: Uniform Notes: Bavarian Winter Warrior 1917
Private Mueller of the Landwehr pressed the release button inside the triggerguard of his issue Gew 88 to eject the partially expended Mannlicher clip. He removed the spring-steel clip with two loose rounds, and lifting the pocket flap of the linen snow-camo cover, placed the cartridges and clip in the ammunition pocket of his M1915 greatcoat. He withdrew a fresh 5-round clip from his ammunition pouch and in a single smooth movement, pressed the fresh packet of 8x57mmJ cartridges downward into the rifle magazine where it clicked in place.
Hans closed the bolt, stripping the top round into the chamber, the rifle ready to fire. Shouldering the Gew 88, he scanned the tree line across the snow filled clearing where the French patrol had taken cover after opening fire on Mueller and his comrades. Just out of arms reach, Private Meyer lay still in the fresh fallen snow, the red blood stain spreading from the chest wound, each fading beat of his heart pumping another rush of pinkish, oxygenated blood from his lung, steaming into the cold, crisp air of the Vosges Mountains.
Movement in the pine trees across the way! Line up the sights… Hold low… squeeze the trigger… Fire! The recoil of the rifle brought the muzzle skyward. With the rush of adrenaline coursing through his body, Hans feverishly cycled the bolt. Hastily realigning the sights on a shadowy figure across the clearing, he squeezed the trigger. The French Chasseur sheltering in the clump of trees was bowled over backward by the 225-grain roundnose bullet striking his forehead. A sudden fusillade of fire erupted in response, clipping several branches of pine boughs above Pvt. Mueller’s head. Hans returned fire, racking fresh rounds into the chamber as rapidly as possible, firing repeatedly in an attempt to suppress the return fire of the Frenchmen. As the clip dropped from the opening in the magazine floorplate, Pvt. Mueller was already reaching into his ammunition pouch for another 5-round clip…
This is the uniform of a Bavarian Infantryman as he would have appeared during the winter of 1917. He has been issued a white linen winter camo cover with detachable hood worn over his Bavarian issue M1915 Greatcoat. A variety of patterns of the winter camo covers were produced during the course of the war along various fronts when winter and heavy snows set in. The M1916 Stalhelm has been given a coat of white paint, a practice commonly employed by both sides during the conflict.
Our Bavarian has also been issued a pair of Alpine winter gaiters, to be worn over his boots and trousers, to help keep out the snow and the cold.
His field equipment consists of the standard issue M1895 Tornister, the cowhide-covered infantry pack featuring straps that hook to the loops on the rear of his M1908 3-pocket ammunition pouches. A winter-issue woolen blanket is strapped to the pack, along with the M1910 mess kit. Two additional equipment straps secure a common-pattern trench mace to the blanket on the left side of the pack. Maces, whether officially manufactured, locally produced by depots behind the lines, or by the soldiers themselves, were a favored weapon, along with trench knives, pistols and revolvers for the inevitable face-to-face encounters with the enemy during the course of nightmarish trench raids.
Suspended from his M1895 belt, with its subdued field-gray Bavarian buckle, is the M1887 bread bag in which field rations and spare ammunition was carried. Clipped to the D-ring of the bread bag is his M1893 water bottle. On the left hip is a M1916 trench knife, just ahead of which can be seen an issue-M1888 Linnemenn pattern entrenching tool with the distinct FAG-manufactured sheetmetal ersatz bayonet scabbard, strapped in tight within the retaining strap of the e-tool in order to maintain noise discipline when on the move. Properly wrapped around the leather bayonet frog is the Troddel, in this instance the blue/white/blue of the 4th Infantry Company. The combination of colors appearing on the slider, stem and crown of the Troddel were different for each company, allowing NCO’s or officers to identify each company at a glance, if they were close enough to recognize the different color combinations.
Slung around our Bavarian’s neck in the ready position is the M1917 gas mask canister. Within the canister, the M1917 Lederschutzmaske gas mask manufactured with horsehide, featured a cartridge filter to which additional filters could be fitted, depending on which type of gas might be encountered. Poison gas, first introduced by the Germans in April 1915, represented one of the many horrors of the Great War that set it apart from other conflicts before or since.
Our Bavarian soldier is carrying an Infantrie Gewehr 88S in its original en-bloc clip loading configuration, the “S” denoting that the rifle has had the sights adapted to match the flatter ballistics of the 8x57mmS cartridge, instead of the 8x57mmJ cartridge for which it was originally chambered. The S88/98 ersatz bayonet (Carter EB22) mounted on the rifle in this display is one of the rare examples produced with a cast-brass grip. Surviving examples are extremely rare since the majority of these bayonets were recalled later in the war to salvage the brass. The success of the Allied blockade had contributed to a shortage of brass in Germany.
By John Sheehan
This member of the 107th Infantry has been issued an unknown variation of the Gew 88 with the
brass-gripped S1871 bayonet. The regimental number on the pickelhaube cover dates this photo
to sometime in 1914 or 1915. The Gew 88 was issued in large numbers to German troops early in the war.
The stern-looking Prussian soldier in this photo appears to be old enough to be a member of
the Landsturm, however, based on the absence of “collar dogs” on his tunic collar, he could
be a combat-aged member of the Landwehr. The Gew 88 rifle he is holding at parade rest
sports a S88/98 ersatz bayonet and a sheet metal magazine floorplate cover.
The soldier in this photo is a member of the 24th Landwehr Regiment from Brandenburg, as
identified by the L/24 sewn to his pickelhaube cover. He is armed with a Gew 88 with S88/98
ersatz bayonet. An unusual feature in the photo is the leather export sling that has been
converted to accept the standard German quick-detachable sling swivel.
This soldier appears to be one of the younger members of the 3rd Landsturm Battalion, as
evidenced by the “collar dog” insignia on the collar tabs of his tunic. He wears a feldmutz,
the standard fatigue cap of the Imperial German Army. In keeping with his status as a member
of the third-line reserves, he has been issued the obsolete M1887/88 ammunition pouches,
supported by the bread bag strap, rather than the current standard issue M1909 3-pocket
pouches. His issue Gew 88 lacks a sheetmetal magazine floorplate cover.
The soldier in this photo is a member of the 50th Landsturm Battalion, as indicated by the
“collar dogs” numerals on his pre-war dark blue tunic. He has been issued a shako instead
of a pickelhaube and his cartridge pouches are the obsolete M1888. The German cross insignia
on the front of the shako was the official badge of the reserves. The Gew 88 he is carrying is
slung for the march and lacks a bayonet, although it’s possible he is carrying one on his left
hip just out of the photo.
Here we have another member of the Landsturm, however he lacks “collar dog” insignia on his
tunic and his shoulder boards are not clear enough to identify. The German Imperial cross on
the front of his shako is that of the reserves. He is fully equipped for the field with his
bayonet scabbard and the handle of his entrenching tool just visible on his left hip. The Gew
88 in the photo is slung for parade without the bayonet mounted. A blued sheetmetal magazine
floorplate cover can be seen snapped over the clip ejection port.