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Where Have All the Landwehr Crosses Gone?
Joseph P. Robinson.
3 December 2007.

This might sound like a song from Peter, Paul and Mary but while I was working on Ersatz things, this kept bothering me. Why are landwehr crosses on enlisted helmets so rare? I am not talking about rare as in almost never seen. I am saying that the numbers do not add up. By all rights there should be a heck of a lot more of these.

Have you ever thought about the numbers involved in the mobilization of the German army in 1914? The Germans initially had a peacetime army of about 700,000 people. Once mobilization began the numbers were a lot larger. Total of the eight field armies; 1,637,000. In addition there were the following other groups. Ersatz Gruppe in Lorraine (6 Divs, 1 Brigade) 120,000. Army of the North (Danish border) 60,000. Border Fortress Commands( very roughly equivalent to 6 Divisions) 120,000. Landwehr Corps 1,2,3,4 in the static defense of Eastern Germany border 160,000.

Total: 1,637,000
2,097,000 Field Army Requirement.

So in general terms, we have 2,100,000 soldiers split up basically like this:

Active Units : 54% active duty soldiers
46% Reserve soldiers.
Reserve Units: 1% active duty soldiers
44% Reserve soldiers.
55% Landwehr soldiers from the 1st Ban
Landwehr Units: 62% Landwehr soldiers from the 1st Ban
38% Landwehr soldiers from the 2nd Ban

While the exact numbers are not known certain generalizations can be made. Most but not all of the eight armies had existing helmets of one sort or the other. Some of these were older and did not match exactly. There were no existing reserve infantry regiments or landwehr regiments. However, some were formed on an annual basis to support the training requirements of specific corps orders. The key question of this article is: if there were over 2 million soldiers and most of them are either landwehr or reserve; why are landwehr crosses on enlisted helmets so rare?

For the officer corps this is not a problem. There were different methods to gain a commission either as an officer of the active force or to get a commission as a reserve officer. Reserve officers would transfer to the landwehr upon their request, and the attainment of the adequate age.
Pictures such as this are common, helmets frequently found, and documentation of unit histories and rank lists abound. It is true that this individual who received his commission in the reserves was not considered an equal to the active officers by their own clique. There were specifically different wappen for Prussian officers of the active, reserve, and landwehr forces. The same cannot normally be said for enlisted soldiers. Understanding these differences in the Prussian eagles is useful. the active eagle looks like this:

The reserve eagle is similar but omits the bandeaux on the wings. These are sometimes used for Beamte without a cross.

Two key features of this Wappen are the large letters FR a the center of the Eagles chest and the Landwehr cross in a lower position.


The Landwehr Eagle has no large letters and the Landwehr cross is in the center of the chest or the upper position.while a distinction in Eagle was obvious for officer helmets there was no reserve eagle for enlisted soldiers. Regardless of the eagle, the Landwehr cross should seldom be in the lower position for enlisted helmets. Examples like the picture below exist.


Before the war, reservists and landwehr enlisted soldiers had specific training requirements. They had no helmet at home. In the annual Verordnungsblatt the requirement for a certain amount of soldiers to fulfill the training requirement were published. The Bezirkscommando responding to a tasking from the army Corps district sends out notifications to individual soldiers to report for that years maneuvers. There are no landwehr units or reserve units. So they are created for the exercise. These are called Übungs units. Here is a picture of a 1911 Übungs unit and as usual, they have no landwehr cross on the helmet.

When reservists showed up they were organized into Übungs units and drew their equipment from somewhere. Did the Bezirkscommando have a store? Did the Regiment maintain a stock for training? So what helmets exactly had landwehr crosses on them? What about reserve soldiers filling up active units? If you are a reservist reporting in for your training did the company Kammer have helmets with landwehr crosses on them? A humor book from 1888 tracks induction of any Landwehr Ubung soldier. This gentleman drew his helmet from the company Kammer that was supporting his training. Therefore, he had no Landwehr cross.

During the war the numbers imploded. Scores of group pictures exist was no landwehr cross. In addition, most pictures that have pickelhaube show them are under a cover. In fact certain War Ministers published directions to use helmets without certain articles or with the wrong color fittings, knowing full well that they would be covered by an Uberzug. Early Uberzugs had markings that could determine a units origin. There were landwehr crosses used by some of the mobilizing troops, and in fact were used on some of the Ersatz helmets like the example shown below.

The problem is simple. Based on the number of reservists and landwehr soldiers one would expect there to have been more crosses. Obviously their application was spotty and probably based on availability. Clearly not all of the reservists and landwehr soldiers before or during the war wore the cross. The mysteries continue.

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