One uniform item that distinguished the cavalry from the other arms were riding breeches or Reithosen. With the introduction of the new feldgrau uniform in 1907, feldgrau colored Reithosen were also developed. On March 23, 1908, the Prussian War Ministry authorized the issue of a pattern of Reithosen designated, appropriately enough, the 1908 pattern, which had been previous approved on March 16, 1908. Bavaria was quick to follow suit, authorizing the 1908 pattern on May 11, 1908 followed by Saxony on July 17, 1908. The 1908 pattern was also authorized for Jaeger zu Pferd and machine gun detachments (presumably the ones attached to cavalry divisions).
The 1908 pattern Reithosen were similar to the trousers issued to the infantry in that they were made of feldgrau colored wool. However, as typical with riding breeches of the era, the legs tapered down towards the bottom to provide a snug fit and stirrups straps were attached to the bottoms so as to prevent the legs from riding up. More significantly, the 1908 pattern featured a reinforced seat made from heavy chrome tanned leather that was dyed to match the breech’s feldgrau wool body.
Below are some illustrations of the 1908 pattern Reithose:
However, the leather double-seat was found to be unsatisfactory because it was too thick and inflexible. In response, Saxony ultimately adopted a modified pattern utilizing a seat made of matching wool twill. In 1910, the Prussian War Ministry also authorized modifications either using suede (which was lighter and more flexible) or matching wool. On January 1, 1910, the Bavarian War Ministry authorized the use of smooth suede that was lighter and more flexible. Subsequently, in 1913 the Bavarian Army trialed the use of the Saxon pattern Reithosen with the wool twill seat and had favorable results so the use of the Saxon Pattern was also authorized.
With the outbreak of the war, the 1908 pattern Reithose were put to the ultimate test. On august 15, 1914, the Prussian War Ministry issued an order directing that the color of the Reithose was to now be stone grey (steingrau). In response to feed-back from the field, on April 26, 1915, the Prussian War Ministry authorized the use of chromed goat or sheep leather with Saxony following suit on May 5, 1915. Due to the increasing scarcity of leather, on March 3, 1915 the Prussian War Ministry directed that the leather double-seat be replaced with a cloth one and that leather only be used as knee protection. On March 12, 1915 Bavaria issued a similar order followed by Saxony on March 16, 1915 and Wurttemberg on March 9, 1915.
Subsequently, on February 12, 1916, the Prussian War Ministry directed that leather was to be eliminated in the Reithosen and that the double-seat was to be made either of another layer of wool or wool twill. The cow and calf leather were now urgently needed for mountain boots and other items while the sheep and goat leather were urgently needed for head harnesses in Stahlhelms and gas masks. Identical orders were issued by the Bavaria on December 13, 1916, Saxony on December 9, 1916, and Wurttemberg on December 8, 1916.
Below are some illustrations of the 1915 pattern Reithose. Unfortunately, illustrations depicting all the various changes as ordered by the various German states are not available but below is a representative sample.
This is only a very rough overview of the development of the Reithose as issued to the German cavalry. As more information and pictures become available, they will be posted to this blog.
So what does this all mean as far as the unit impression goes for the 2 Chevauleger? Well, in order to portray as much of the war as possible in the most economical manner, the 1915 pattern Reithose are authorized for use and a source of these has been developed. Most of our events will be focusing on the later war, 1917-18 and as such, the later 1915 pattern would be the most appropriate. However, this is not to rule out the use of cloth seats but for now, the leather seat is preferred because it goes the furthest in creating a cavalry “look”.
Admittedly, a lot of this is subjective and without definitive records which may or may exist, it’s a hard call to make, It would be logical that leather would be used less and less as the war went on but by the same token, given the lower numbers of cavalry and lower casualty rates, it’s reasonable to assume that earlier stocks would not have been consumed so quickly as compared to the infantry.
In the end, it is important to note that while exceptions to what was officially issued can be found (in an army numbering in the millions, it’s logical that there will be exceptions and especially in the case of the German Army which had to cope with all manner of material shortages as the war went on), we still strive to establish a definitive look that is both historically accurate plus maintains our identify as a unit.