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Chevauleger Organization:

Like all military organizations, the 2 Chevauleger had a prescribed organization. While often times a unit’s actual strength was much lower than its paper strength, it still is relevant in that it gives an idea of the organization’s capabilities. Below is an organization chart for the regiment and compared to infantry organizations of an equivalent level (i.e. regiment and company), the cavalry was a lot smaller.

Chevy_OrgChart1

In the cavalry, there was no battalion level but rather the individual eskadrons, or squadrons, reported directly to regimental headquarters (the squadron was the equivalent of a company). Essentially, the 2 Chevauleger, like all Chevauleger regiments, consisted of four field squadrons and one depot squadron or Ersatz Eskadron. The Ersatz Eskadron remained back at the regiment’s home station which was Regensburg and was responsible for the processing and training of new recruits.

Each squadron consisted of four platoons or zugs, each zug consisting of four eight-man sections or gruppe. The gruppe was the lowest level of organization. We portray a Gruppe belonging to the 3rd Eskadron.

Like most cavalry regiments of the Imperial German Army, the 2 Chevauleger Regiment was composed of six squadrons (Eskadron) of which four (designated Nos. 1-4) were active in the field, one was a machine gun squadron, and one, designated as the Depot Squadron (Ersatzeskadron), remained behind at the depot which was Regensburg.[1] The cavalry regiment had an official wartime establishment of 36 officers, 688 NCOs and other ranks, 709 riding horses, 60 draught horses, 2 bridge wagons, one telephone wagon, one medical wagon, and five each of baggage, supply, and fodder wagons.[2]

At wartime establishment, the squadron consisted of 6 officers and approximately 163 NCOs and other ranks along with 178 horses and three vehicles. Each squadron was divided into three troops (züges) with each troop consisting of four files (gruppe). Each file consisted of 8 troopers commanded by an NCO.[3]

The Depot Squadron or Ersatzeskadron was responsible for intake and basic training of newly called up soldiers or soldiers who had been either recalled to active duty or transferred from other organizations. Also, the Ersatzeskadron forwarded troops directly to the four active field squadrons to replace losses. However, in response to horrendous losses, in February 1916 replacement troops were forwarded to recruit field depots stationed directly behind the front lines for additional or specialized training. Soldiers returning from medical convalescent leave were also sent to the recruit field depots for refresher training before they were sent to front-line units.

The Chevauleger’s Wartime Role:

As divisional cavalry, the 2 Chevauleger’s primary mission was to perform reconnaissance, scouting out the countryside in front and on the flanks of the 6th Bavarian Infantry Division and reporting the strength, type, and location of any enemy forces encountered. Also, the regiment was to act as a screen, preventing the enemy’s reconnaissance troops from getting any information about the division.

Other roles for the 2 Chevauleger were acting as messengers, escorting prisoners of war, and assisting the Feldgendarmerie with rear-area police duties.[4] Finally, in a pinch, the 2 Chevauleger could be used as a rapid reaction force to reinforce or hold positions in a crisis situation. These were one of the traditional roles for cavalry and as such, the 2 Chevauleger was trained and equipped to carry out this role in August 1914.[5]

During the initial phase of the war from August to September, 1914, the 2 Chevauleger fulfilled the above roles in a war characterized by constant movement. However, as the war on the Western Front turned into a war of static positions with little or no movement (i.e. trench warfare), the 2 Chevauleger, like most of the cavalry, found itself without much of a mission.[6] With a large pool of trained manpower (approximately six or seven divisions worth) that could be better employed as infantry and the need to replace the losses sustained in horses in the field artillery so it was only a matter of time before the German Army started breaking up cavalry units.

Starting in early 1916, the German Army converted a number of cavalry regiments to dismounted cavalry (designated Kavallerie Schuetzen Regimenter) and transferred their horses to the field artillery. Also, to reflect the diminished need for mobile reconnaissance elements within the individual infantry divisions, the divisional cavalry assets were reduced from an entire cavalry regiment to only one squadron. Finally, since many cavalry regiments were split up with their squadrons being assigned to different infantry divisions, their regimental headquarters were made redundant so often the regimental headquarters elements were employed for special duties, principally horse procurement and distribution.

For the 2 Chevauleger, each squadron was assigned to a different infantry division. In particular, the 3rd Squadron (which we reenact) remained with the 6 Bavarian Infantry Division for most of the war. Like divisional cavalry in general, 2 Chevauleger’s primary mission was still reconnaissance but in a form more suited for the static/trench warfare conditions found on the

On the Western Front, the 2 Chevauleger would rotate into the front line for one to two-week periods to relieve the elements of the division’s infantry regiments and would perform raids into the no-man’s land to gather intelligence. Also the 2 Chevauleger functioned as a divisional reserve and in a crisis was used to reinforce critical parts of the line. Finally, along with the infantry, the 2 Chevauleger was also trained in the new storm troop tactics that were to ultimately play a prominent role in the major German Spring Offensive in 1918.[7]

Ultimately, by 1918 the 2 Chevauleger’s operational and tactical mission had increasingly focused on functioning in a dismounted role to the point where it was almost indistinguishable from any infantry regiment. Given the static nature of warfare on the Western Front, it was an inevitable process and had the war continued longer, there was a good chance that it would either be formally dismounted (presumably converted to Kavallerie Schuetzen), or dissolved all together with its personnel absorbed into an under-strength Bavarian infantry formation.

Ironically, when the German’s Spring 1918 Offensive finally did succeed in breaking open the front and restoring a war of movement (albeit in a reduced form when compared to 1914), there were no organized cavalry formations of Brigade/Division size that were able to exploit the situation and perform their traditional combat role. Like cavalry in general, the 2 Chevauleger Regiment was ultimately made obsolete and the First World War was the final nail in the coffin.

[1] The German Eskadron was roughly equivalent to a company in terms of organizational level as used by the US Army; also there was no battalion level of organization in the German cavalry. “Ersatz” in German military usage applied to troops sent to replace any casualties that the active squadrons might have sustained during the course of campaigning.

[2] Hermann Cron, Imperial German Army 1914-18: Organisation, Structure, Orders of Battle (Solihull, West Midlands, United Kingdom: Helion and Company, 2002), p. 128.

[3] D.B. Nash, Imperial German Army Handbook 1914-1918 (London: Ian Allan Ltd., 1980), p. 52; General Staff, War Office, Handbook of the German Army (Home and Colonial), Fourth Edition, Revised by the General Staff, War Office 1912, Amended to 1914. 1914. Reprint (Nashville, Tennessee: Battery Press, 2002), p. 126.

[4] As the war progressed, there was an increase in the formations of Kaiserliche Feldgendarmerie (military police) units and one prime source of personnel was cavalry NCOs.

[5] Friedrich Von Bernardi, Cavalry: A Popular Edition of Cavalry in War and Peace (New York: George H. Doran Company, 1914), pp. 82-97.

[6] The operational and tactical situation on the Eastern Front was much more fluid and cavalry still had a viable, albeit reduced, role.

[7] General Staff, War Office, German Army Handbook: April 1918. 1918. Reprint, with a forward by David Nash (New York: Hippocrene Press, Inc., 1977), p. 63.

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