© 2019 by 353rd Inf. Div.

WORLD WAR I
Uniform and Basic Field Gear Standards

 

 

 

The 353rd Inf. Regt. was a part of the German 88th Infantry Division. The division was formed in November 1914 as the Menges Division, named after its commander, and made up primarily of Landwehr troops. It became the 88th Infantry Division in August 1915. The division was disbanded in 1919 during the demobilization of the German Army after World War I.

 

The division initially served on the Eastern Front, receiving its baptism of fire in the Battle of Łódź. In 1915, it participated in the Gorlice-Tarnów Offensive, breaking through at Przaznysz and fighting in the battle on the Narew. On Aug. 2, 1915, it became the 88th Infantry Division. From November 1915 to December 1917, the division occupied the line near Daugavpils. In December 1917, after the armistice on the Eastern Front, the division was transferred to the Western Front, where it entered the line in positions near St. Quentin and on the Oise. It participated in the 1918 German Spring Offensive, fighting in the First Battle of the Somme (1918), also known as the Battle of St. Quentin or the Second Battle of the Somme (to distinguish it from the 1916 battle). From April to July 1918, it was in the line in the Champagne region, and then fought in the Second Battle of the Marne. Except for minor periods, it remained in the Champagne region until the end of the war, and faced the Allied Meuse-Argonne Offensive in October and November 1918. Allied intelligence rated the division as fourth class.

 

Order of Battle 1915

The 88th Infantry Division was formed as an overstrength square division, with three infantry brigades. The order of battle of the division on Aug. 2, 1915 was as follows:

  • 175. Landwehr-Infanterie-Brigade

    • Landwehr-Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 349

    • Landwehr-Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 350

  • 176. Landwehr-Infanterie-Brigade

    • Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 351

    • Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 352

  • 177.Infanterie-Brigade

    • Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 353

    • Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 354

  • Kavallerie-Regiment Nr. 88

  • Feldartillerie-Regiment Nr. 88

  • Landwehr-Fußartillerie-Bataillon Nr. 6

  • Landwehr-Pionier-Bataillon Nr. 6

 

 

 

Late-War Order of Battle 1916-1918

The division underwent a number of organizational changes over the course of the war. It was triangularized in the summer of 1916. Cavalry was reduced, artillery and signals commands were formed, and combat engineer support was expanded to a full pioneer battalion. The order of battle on Oct. 21, 1918 was as follows:

  • 176.Infanterie-Brigade

    • Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 352

    • Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 353

    • Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 426

  • 1.Eskadron/Jäger-Regiment zu Pferde Nr. 10

  • Artillerie-Kommandeur 59

    • Feldartillerie-Regiment Nr. 88

    • Fußartillerie-Bataillon Nr. 123

  • Stab Pionier-Bataillon Nr. 88

    • 3. Reserve-Kompanie/Pionier-Bataillon Nr. 33

    • Pionier-Kompanie Nr. 249

    • Minenwerfer-Kompanie Nr. 88

  • Divisions-Nachrichten-Kommandeur 88

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basic Uniform

This is the uniform kit for all members of the 353.Infanterie. All unit members are expected to have their uniform complete by their first year anniversary with the unit.

  • Field cap (Feldmütze with red band prefered)

  • Tunic — we allow the M1914, M1915 and M1907 or M1907/10 modified versions. The M1915 can be used for all impressions in the unit, except for early war scenarios.

  • Trousers — WWII German wool pants allowed as a stop-gap otherwise appropriate trousers for the tunic you wear.

  • Belt — Brown rough side out belt for Mid-1915 and earlier, Black rough side out belts after Mid-1915 to end of war (We allow WWII German black belts for later war impressions)

  • Belt buckle —The unit is Prussian, so the proper buckle has the crown in the center of of a circular emblem and has "Gott mit Uns" at the top (looks similar to WWII buckles, but has a crown instead of an eagle)

  • Boots — We allow Jack boots or ankle boots with leg wraps. WWII boots allowed as a stopgap. Main difference between WWI and WWII boots is seam is on the side for WWI, instead of the back of the boot.

  • Shirt — We prefer the collarless, button front white shirts, but will allow other styles of home-sent collarless shirts.

  • Boots-- Many members wear M1866 WWI boots but others use WWII low boots or WWII Jack boots

Equipment:

  • Steel helmet (Stahlhelm) — For late war impressions we require the steel helmet M1916, M1917 and M1918 are all allowed.

  • Pikelhaube-- We allow the leather picklehalbe for early war impressions. We encourage helmet covers with the unit number 353 in green on the front.

  • Weapon — The Gewehr 98 (Gew 98)  is our standard weapon. Others allowed include the Model 1888 Commission Rifle (all versions allowed) and the Model AZ Mauser carbines.

  • Bayonet and bayonet frog — Model appropriate for the rifle you carry. We prefer the Model 1905 Butcher or all metal Ersatz bayonets.

  • Cartridge pouches — 3 pouch type, brown for impressions up until mid-1915, black afterward. The WWI pouches look similar to WWII, but have larger compartments to hold 3 or 4 instead of 2 stripper clips.

  • Spade with carrier — Same as WWII straight handle German spades and covers

  • Gas mask and carrying can — Atlanta Cutlery used to sell the best repros of the gas mask canister we have seen. Gas masks optional, but you will be a casualty in gas attacks. The unit produces its own reproductions, otherwise commercially made repros start at $120.

  • Bread bag — Ochre brown/khaki used early war, light gray for rest of war. We build these within the unit.

  • Canteen — The M1907 (with metal screw cap) or the M1915 (has arrow head shaped spout and uses a cork) are both allowed. We convert WWII covers for use with WWII metal cap canteens. The unit also converts Czech surplus canteens into the M1915 pattern.

Weapons:

Please note that these are firearms and we deal with the operation

and safety of these devices with strict rules and regulations. You must be

of proper age and how proper handling and safety techniques. You must

also have all proper legal documentation to handle a firearm. Failure

to do so may result in lose of group membership and or legal action.

Rifle: "Preferred": 

Buying your first uniform

Many guys borrow uniforms to start with, but at some point you will purchase your own uniform. Before you do that, talk to other unit members and learn from their mistakes. Most of us have purchased uniforms or equipment that turned out to be poor quality or unnecessary. Do not shy away from used gear and uniforms. This can save you quite a bit of money. Ask around and bring cash to events.

Buying a feldbluse (tunic) for WWI is pretty straight forward. You will need to select the model for the impression you wish to portray and add a set of shoulder boards. You will need a set of field grey wool shoulder boards with white piping. For Early War impressions these should have the unit number 353 embroidered on them. Late War Shoulder boards may be plain.

The really challenging uniform item to purchase is trousers. Select the model that is appropriate for the tunic you have chosen and then forget what you think you know about your size. You are probably wrong! The only way to get proper trousers is to take a tape measure and measure around yourself at your natural waist. THIS IS NOT WHERE YOU WEAR YOUR BLUE JEANS! The tape measure should be wrapped horizontally around you at the level of your belly button. I know you think you wear a size 36 pants but when you actually take the measurement you will probably find that you need a pair of 42s or some other equally ghastly size. One major contributing factor to the size dilemma is that clothing manufacturers lie about the sizes of their clothes.  If you actually measure a pair of blue jeans you will probably discover they come out to be between 2 and 6 inches LARGER than the tag reads. That is because of vanity — no one wants to admit they have gotten fat. We look for brands of jeans that fit our body style. When we do this we are actually searching for brands of jeans that LIE TO US in just the right way to fit our bodies. This is called Vanity Sizing. This website provides the information quite clearly http://www.ties.com/blog/pants-size-comparison I compared many brands of pants and found that EVERY SINGLE pair was larger that the listed size with the average being 2.5 inches larger and they ranged up to 4 inches larger.  When all is said and done, put your ego aside and buy the size you measured.

Grooming standards:

You will need to have and appropriate haircut for a German soldier. This means, among other things, no hair should be touching your ears. You will also need have appropriate facial hair. Prior to 1915 many soldiers had beards. However with the advent of gas warfare soldiers became clean shaven to allow the gas masks to sit more tightly. Mustaches were very popular though some soldiers had van dyke or goatee type beards. Full beards are discouraged for soldiers wearing anything but early war uniforms..

Eyewear:

Glasses were comparatively rare in the German army. If you can see without your glasses please put them away. If you cannot see without correction then consider contact lenses. If this is not an option then get some appropriate eye where. Most photos of German soldiers wearing glasses show them wearing civilian frames. For this an option is to get modern glasses that pass for period correct civilian frames. Another is to buy original WW1 period vintage frames at an antique store or flea market and have the lenses replaced. A company called Zenni Optical will sell you glasses in your prescription for under $20 (including frames, lenses and delivery).  This is the pair I wear. http://www.zennioptical.com/450015-metal-alloy-full-rim-frame-with-spring-hinge.htm They are not perfect, but they are a decent approximation and will get you going.

 

Re-enactor Etiquette

If this is your first event you will want to take a lot of pictures. That is understandable but do this after hours or where no one else can see. It is very poor form to allow the public to see you walking around with your digital SLR taking pics unless you are the official photographer for the event or the unit. If you want to take pictures take your uniform off and become a member of the populace.

Leave modern items behind. You don’t need that cooler and lawn chair. If you have medication or something you need to carry, by all means bring it, but keep it out of sight. Put it in a pocket or in your gas mask can.

Turn off your phone. If it is vital you have it on then you must silence it and get out of sight before answering any calls or replying to any texts.

When you die in battle do so in a comfortable position and be prepared to stay there for a long while. If you are dead — be dead. Lay still and don’t talk about the Chicago Bears with the other dead guy next to you.

As a new guy, be prepared to work hard. Look for what needs doing and lend a hand. If someone asks for a volunteer (or Freiwilliger) step up and do the work. If the unit is hosting or helping with the event (such as Rockford) be prepared to come early and stay late to take care of that which needs to be done. You are no longer a visitor. This is your duty. Do it willingly.   

If someone who outranks you tells you to do something do it immediately and without question. You are re-enacting a German soldier. It is not your job to ask the feldwebel why he wants that crate placed behind the house it is your job simply to put the crate behind the house. If a more seasoned re-enactor (even one who does not outrank you) tells you to do something take their advice and do it. There is probably a reason for it. In this case you may want to ask them why so you can learn from the situation.

Leave your drama at home. We are all about cooperation with one another. We work hard together and are all pulling our oars in the same direction. We get much further that way.

There is lots of cool stuff at a re-enactment. Much of it is very expensive and a lot of it is very valuable originals. Please do not touch anything without getting permission. This is especially true for firearms. These are expensive and may be damaged from improper use. If your buddy dies next to his full auto MG08/15, do not jump on it in the heat of battle and start blazing away.

Remember you are re-enacting a member of the German army. Germans are traditionally a neat and orderly people. This is even more so in the Military. Do not leave your junk lying about. If you slept overnight in a zeltbahn or in a barracks, straighten up your bunk or the area in which you slept.

Take care of yourself physically.

Being at a re-enactment is exciting. It is easy to forget to eat or drink. You will often be walking or running more than you are used to. Your will also probably be wearing more wool in the summer than you are used to. Don’t be afraid to take a break. Drinking enough water of vitally important. Even when it is in not hot or sunny you need to keep drinking. There are three rule of thumb to keep in mind with staying hydrated--

1. if you are thirsty you are already dehydrated,

2. if you are not urinating frequently you are not drinking enough, and

3. if your urine is anything but clear, you need more water.

Speaking to and in front of the public:

At a public event while engaged in a battle where the public can see and hear you speak in German. If you are not able to speak German then you should remain silent to the maximum extent possible. If you must speak in English during a battle do so in such a way that the public cannot hear you. When you are interacting with the public during static displays or in question and answer type sessions it is strongly encouraged that you speak in English and answer any questions you are asked in a knowledgeable fashion. If you do not know the answer do not be afraid to tell them you do not know. If possible seek out a more experienced re-enactor who can answer the question.

When in the public eye (or ear) do not talk about blatantly modern topics unless directly addressed about that topic by a member of the public. There is plenty to talk about with your fellow re-enactors. This is a great time to listen to them and learn. Feel free to ask questions about what other re-enactors are doing and why. You will learn and so will the public.

Often the public will assume you can speak German because you are wearing the uniform. If you are able to converse with them feel free to do so. It is a great opportunity to practice. If you cannot speak German politely tell them that you can't. Obtaining your Rifle:

The one and only firearm you need is a Mauser Gewehr 98. This rifle was the backbone of the German army. Firearms such as pistols or the MP18 were reserved for specific ranks within the army or specific duties. You do not need to buy a rifle right away. There are far more Mausers in the safes of our unit members that there are people. Let folks know you need to borrow a rifle and someone will bring you a rifle and blanks. If you borrow one, treat it with respect and return it cleaned and well cared for (See below.)

Your first gun should be a plain and simple Mauser rifle. Look for one that is in solid condition, but not a collector’s item. Some amount of wear and tear on the rifle is perfectly fine, but it should be serviceable. Remember this rifle will be in the field and will be subjected to rain, mud, sand and other forms of abuse. The prices on Mausers can vary wildly and there are many Mauser models that appear similar to the Gewehr 98 that can confuse you. If you are not sure of a rifle, don’t buy it without asking for help. There are many knowledgeable gun guys in the unit who would love to steer you in the right direction. Someone may even have one for sale. Buying from other unit members or re-enactors in general tends to be a very economical and safe way to purchase a gun. Remember these are real guns and all gun laws apply. In Illinois, where many of our members live, you will need to have a FOID card and be legally able to possess and purchase a firearm. Here is a link to Illinois gun laws http://www.isp.state.il.us/docs/ptfire.pdf. If you do a face to face sale/purchase you must follow all applicable laws. Two important laws are the requirement for a 24 hour waiting period (This begins when the parties agree on the sale not necessarily when the transaction takes place) and the new requirement for the seller to verify that the buyer’s FOID is valid on face to face sales between private parties. This form is located here and requires only two pieces of information (the buyer’s date of birth and FOID number) takes only seconds to complete. https://www.ispfsb.com/Public/Firearms/FOID/PersonToPersonFirearmTransfer.aspx  

Blanks and Firearm Care:

Different guns need different blanks. For most Mauser Gewehr 98 rifles the red tip 8mm blanks work perfectly. These however are very loud, forceful and can be expensive. The unit resizes 7.62x51 Nato (.308) blanks to fit into 8mm rifles. Some of these rifles have well used and worn chambers. If this is the case with your rifle you may find that it can run 7.62x51 Nato (.308) blanks just fine without resizing. For some rifles, even the dark green or black West German plastic .308 blanks will work. It is best to try out several types of blanks to see what works in your rifle.

When you are done shooting for the day, you need to clean your rifle. Blanks can be quite dirty and a small percentage of the blanks on the market are even corrosive. The shorter .308 blanks also deposit more material in the chamber, which can build up and prevent loading of full length 8mm blanks.  There are plenty of videos on the internet on how to properly clean a rifle. (Here is one of many https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nB5ckKcebMY) If you are not sure what to do and the videos did not tell you enough, feel free to ask for help at an event. We were all new once and caring for a 100 year old Mauser rifle is not second nature to most folks. Take your time and do it right. Your firearm is both an expensive item and a piece of history. These rifles are not being made any more. You are the caretaker of this rifle for a future generation. Treat it with respect and give it the maintenance, cleaning, and lubrication it deserves.

Re-enactor Safety: (adapted and expanded from the HRS website)

  • No weapon is to be fired directly at anyone closer than fifty (50) feet or whenever anyone is close to the muzzle of a rifle. This applies to the persons who are next to you, as well as in front of the muzzle. Watch out for the other person's hearing. Never fire a firearm when the muzzle is near another re-enactor or spectator even if they are on your side. Be especially aware of where the “dead” are lying. One very safe practice would be always to misdirect your fire and never aim at another person.

  • Strongly consider wearing earplugs to preserve your own hearing.

  • In any urban type setting be aware of windows. These can be shattered by the force of a blank’s shockwave near the muzzle.  

  • Be aware of where the hot brass ejected from your firearm is going. It is really bad form to send a hot piece of brass flying into the crowd of spectators.

  • No projectile may be fired at less than a forty-five (45) degree angle from the horizontal. Signal flares must be fired at (90) degree angle from horizontal.

  • No live ammo is to be in possession of any participant at an event EVER! This includes bringing your concealed carry firearm into the event, even if you are properly licensed to do so.

  • No one may fix any bayonet to any rifle, except for controlled (posed, staged) photographs.

  • Wood tipped blanks may only be used in semi-automatic and automatic weapons equipped with blank adapters, NEVER IN A BOLT ACTION RIFLE.

  • Star crimped blanks may be used in all firearms. Firearms must be fired at a safe angle and not less than fifty (50) feet at anyone. All firearm bores must be clean of any debris at all times.

  • Helmets must be worn by all participants during public battles.

  • All glasses must have safety or shatter-resistant lenses.

  • All shoulder weapons must be on safe when a person is loading or unloading from a vehicle and in the field, except when actively engaging a target.

  • All firearm laws and regulations that apply to a particular location whether federal, state, or local must be followed at one of our events.