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Marines in the German Military

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  • Marines in the German Military

    With my reading of African Kaiser and several other books on World War I and the Scramble for Africa I've run across references to the Sea Battalions of German Marines (I know three battalions existed by WWI (one in Kiel, another in Willhelmshaven, and another in Tsingtao) and of marines aboard German vessels.

    Specifically I'm referring to German marines aboard SMS Koningsberg who were detailed away to form 'Delta Force', the contingent of marines and sailors and select members of Von Lettow Voerbeck's Schutztruppe assigned to protect the Konigsberg's anchorage in the Rufiji.

    What I'm curious about is what was the purpose of marines aboard German High Seas Fleet (and lesser extent other European fleets at the time) warships? I assume to act as landing parties, raiding expeditions, and security forces, yes? How many marines were carried aboard different classes of warships?

    What rank structure did the German marines use? Navy ranks or more like Army style ranks (i.e. private, lance corporal, etc...)?
    "Conquer Yourself." -Vladimir Salnikov, 1500m Olympic Swimming Champion, 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

  • #2
    Originally posted by LoneRider View Post
    With my reading of African Kaiser and several other books on World War I and the Scramble for Africa I've run across references to the Sea Battalions of German Marines (I know three battalions existed by WWI (one in Kiel, another in Willhelmshaven, and another in Tsingtao) and of marines aboard German vessels.

    Specifically I'm referring to German marines aboard SMS Koningsberg who were detailed away to form 'Delta Force', the contingent of marines and sailors and select members of Von Lettow Voerbeck's Schutztruppe assigned to protect the Konigsberg's anchorage in the Rufiji.

    What I'm curious about is what was the purpose of marines aboard German High Seas Fleet (and lesser extent other European fleets at the time) warships? I assume to act as landing parties, raiding expeditions, and security forces, yes? How many marines were carried aboard different classes of warships?

    What rank structure did the German marines use? Navy ranks or more like Army style ranks (i.e. private, lance corporal, etc...)?
    They were probably ranked as the British Marines were, as of Army. They were possibly used on the big guns also as the British were, lcm1
    'By Horse by Tram'.


    I was in when they needed 'em,not feeded 'em.
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    • #3
      Originally posted by lcm1 View Post

      They were probably ranked as the British Marines were, as of Army. They were possibly used on the big guns also as the British were, lcm1
      Can't add much to this except that they seem to have been the shipboard machine gun specialists. They used a slightly different model of Maxim to the Mg 08 used by the German army the naval version being tripod rather than sled mounted. When from 1915 onwards the German surface navy was, apart from some commerce raiders, limited to operations in the North Sea and the Baltic the need for landing parties etc was significantly reduced and many marines became part of the German equivalent of the Naval Division for operations on the West and/or Eastern front. There is a photo of German marines with dog drawn machine gun carts (which may have been former Belgian army kit). There is also photographic evidence that they manned coastal defences on the Belgian coast.
      Last edited by MarkV; 12 May 19, 05:22.
      Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
      Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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      • #4
        Originally posted by lcm1 View Post

        . They were possibly used on the big guns also as the British were, lcm1
        The RM Artillery did indeed man the Coventry Ordnance Works developed 15in Howitzers but this had no maritime connection - rather it was because Churchill was Lord of the Admiralty and had taken the gun under his wing as it were. Germany had its Big Bertha and the Dual Monarchy had its Fat Emma and so Britain had have one too. The Army weren't keen so Winnie leapt in and acquired it for the RM. He had a habit of adopting projects that the army weren't keen on and sometimes - as in the development of the tank - he was right and sometimes - in the case of what the RMA nicknamed Granny - he was wrong. The range of the Grannies was far too short and they were subject to counter battery fire. The RMA eventually passed them over to the army (the RGA) which made very little use of them preferring railway guns.

        As the German admiralty had no Teutonic Churchill it's unlikely that their Marines could have been saddled in the same manner. Whether they might had copied British practice of using marines in one turret on a big ship (IIRC X or Y ) is difficult t say without knowing why the Andrew did this in the first place.
        Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
        Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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        • #5
          I had heard that there were British Royal Marines tasked to shipboard duties and others more in the Commando role but that was more a WWII distinction, yes?
          "Conquer Yourself." -Vladimir Salnikov, 1500m Olympic Swimming Champion, 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

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          • #6
            I believe that 1cm1's referring to the "big guns" may mean that many times one main gun turret of a battleship was manned by the RM.

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            • #7
              I assume marines of the German High Seas fleet would also have been the sort to secure the pier area and such that a vessel was docked at during time in port?
              "Conquer Yourself." -Vladimir Salnikov, 1500m Olympic Swimming Champion, 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by johns624 View Post
                I believe that 1cm1's referring to the "big guns" may mean that many times one main gun turret of a battleship was manned by the RM.
                Yes I referred to this in my post
                Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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                • #9
                  How many marines were part of a vessel's crew, ordinarily?

                  In the case of the SMS Konigsberg I know she carried a crew of 355 personnel. From there I guessed the marine detachment was company strength at the largest, possibly platoon. Either way I know the crew provided enough personnel (marine and sailor alike) to man the Rufiji Delta's defenses from 1914-1915.
                  "Conquer Yourself." -Vladimir Salnikov, 1500m Olympic Swimming Champion, 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by LoneRider View Post
                    I assume marines of the German High Seas fleet would also have been the sort to secure the pier area and such that a vessel was docked at during time in port?
                    Possibly. Before 1916 responsibility for guarding coastal installations was entirely with the German Admiralty but in 1916 much of this was transferred to an independent military authority (a bit like the US Coast Guard) which had some troops of its own but also utilised the Landsturm for guarding the coat and providing garrisons for coastal installations. After Jutland the major ships of HSF spent most of their time in its own bases
                    Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                    Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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                    • #11
                      Thanks MarkV I appreciate the heads up.

                      About how many marines were carried aboard naval vessels of the period (1900-1918) in any navy? Would something like the Konigsberg carry a detachment of platoon or company size given her crew was 355 embarked?
                      "Conquer Yourself." -Vladimir Salnikov, 1500m Olympic Swimming Champion, 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by LoneRider View Post
                        How many marines were part of a vessel's crew, ordinarily?

                        In the case of the SMS Konigsberg I know she carried a crew of 355 personnel. From there I guessed the marine detachment was company strength at the largest, possibly platoon. Either way I know the crew provided enough personnel (marine and sailor alike) to man the Rufiji Delta's defenses from 1914-1915.
                        AFAIK neither the Konigsberg or the Emden carried marines as part of their regular complement. However the Konigsberg had met with two German merchantman off the African coast from whom she took some coal and a number of German sailors and marines trying to get back to Germany from China (probably having escaped from Tsingtao). These are probably the marines who helped defend the delta. They would only have been a handful
                        Last edited by MarkV; 14 May 19, 11:31.
                        Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                        Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by LoneRider View Post
                          I had heard that there were British Royal Marines tasked to shipboard duties and others more in the Commando role but that was more a WWII distinction, yes?
                          British RM did man the guns, from a history of the HMS Lion
                          Lion served as the flagship of the Grand Fleet's battlecruisers throughout World War I, During the Battle of Jutland she suffered a serious propellant fire that could have destroyed the ship had it not been for the bravery of Royal Marine Major Francis Harvey, the turret commander, who posthumously received the Victoria Cross for having ordered the magazine flooded. The fire destroyed one gun turret which had to be removed for rebuilding while she was under repair for several months. She spent the rest of the war on uneventful patrols in the North Sea, although she did provide distant cover during the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight in 1917. She was put into reserve in 1920 and sold for scrap in 1924 under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty.

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                          • #14
                            AFAIK neither the Konigsberg or the Emden carried marines as part of their regular complement. However the Konigsberg had met with two German merchantman off the African coast from whom she took some coal and a number of German sailors and marines trying to get back to Germany from China (probably having escaped from Tsingtao). These are probably the marines who helped defend the delta. They would only have been a handful
                            I recall it was 100 marines headed for Germany for scheduled leave when the war broke out, and the Konigsberg picked them up and they, to a man, volunteered for the Schutztruppe.

                            It sounds plausible that they were the marines referred to in African Kaiser who defended the Rufiji.

                            I also recall Von Lettow-Voerbeck had commanded II Seebattalion, and thus was aware of the fighting potential and the like of marines, of course welcoming them to his forces at the time.
                            "Conquer Yourself." -Vladimir Salnikov, 1500m Olympic Swimming Champion, 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

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                            • #15
                              MarkV I re-read African Kaiser, Chapter 13 and came across the following passages that may be of interest:

                              The significance of this code was well known to Officer Neimyer and within moments to Korvettenkapitan Loof and within the hour to all the sailors and marines aboard the Konigsberg. EGIMA meant war between Germany and the rest of the world.
                              It seemed SMS Kongisberg carried marines aboard her, I guesstimated about a platoon or small detachment sized element.

                              Reading further into the chapter, the author describes this encounter:

                              Before eight a.m. Konigsberg's lookout spotted a plume of smoke in the distance; she closed to bombardment range, only to find the German Lloyd liner Zieten, making for Dar es Salaam as instructed, with a company of 100 marines headed back from China for home leave in Germany.
                              The author subsequently described these marines as having volunteered to join Von Lettow-Voerbeck's forces to a man in time for the campaign.

                              Looks like, then, the Rufiji may have been defended by as large as a reinforced company of marines rounded out with some Schutztruppe askaris and sailors from Konigsberg.
                              "Conquer Yourself." -Vladimir Salnikov, 1500m Olympic Swimming Champion, 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

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