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Chris.

I agree with much of what you have said as well.

Believe me ............. I have seen some junk skulls on eBay.

But nice original items from WW1 (and, dare I say it, stormtroop units) do turn up from time to time.

Remember the 'Rohr' certificate I flagged up a few years back? :whistle:

The point I'm trying to make is that I am sure in my own mind that the black TK is period. I don't know what it is, and may never do, but I live in hope that one will show up in a photo some day.

So far as I know, there are only two in existence, both from the same source.

I don't intend to rehearse all the old arguments about needlewomen, supply and demand, etc., but suffice it to say that I have a good gut feeling. If I didn't, I'd have tossed the skull long ago.

It was one of these items that I bought cheaply with some doubt ............. but when the thing arrived and I opened the package, all the doubts evaporated. In hand, it's a one looker. A mystery, but still a one looker.

You know what I mean. :cheers:

Edited by Robin Lumsden
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And here's Bernhard Reddemann in the background, the big guy with a notebook and pencil, his overcoat on his shoulder. The flamethrower is the Kleif M.1914. Notice that he doesn't have a Totenkopf sle

IR92 tankard lid............

Brunswick HR17 flask...............(with Prussian skull !!)

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What was the reference that puts the gas regt soldiers in with the shock troops?

German Notes on Minor Tactics, describing Operation Summer Harvest.

Destruction and salvage squads.--The First Bavarian Division will form 12 salvage squads, Nos. 1 to 12 (four per infantry regiment), and the First Pioneer Battalion 12 destruction squads, 1 to 12.

Total strength of salvage and destruction squads.

Infantry: one warrant officer, three noncommissioned officers, 21 men.

Pioneers: one noncommissioned officer, four pioneers, three pioneer gassers.

Total, one warrant officer and 32 noncommissioned officers and men [in each squad].

Twelve men of each salvage squad will carry the ammunition for the light trench mortars of shock troops A, B, C.

Details of Execution of the Operation.

The forces entrusted with the operation will be arranged for the attack in the following order:

a) Shock troops 1 to 12 (first wave).

b) Shock troops A, B, C (second wave).

c) Salvage and destruction squads (third wave).

The principal shock troops (2, 7, and 10) will regulate the progress of the others.

The role of the shock troops will be to open a passage through the enemy's positions for the salvage and destruction squads, to break down the remaining resistance, to attain the objectives assigned them, and to protect the salvage and destruction squads during their operations.

Edited by Thomas W
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As for badges, I deal only in period photos, not the badges themselves. I'm agnostic about Robin's skull, but I think it's entirely likely that it's authentic.

I never saw this design until a couple of weeks ago. I didn't get the period photo, but I remember the design. Never saw it in 25 years of looking. I was outbid on the photo, and the guy who now owns it won't let me use it in my book. But I did a drawing I'm going to use. It's a sleeve badge worn above the left cuff by the Assault Company of the 38th Division.

Never seen it before, and it looks very odd, but it's real...

post-3717-002545500 1294741321_thumb.jpg

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Hi,

do you have the original German text and the German name for the operation?

All the best

Chris

I don't have the German text, but it was called Unternehmen Sommerernte. It was to take place in the Champagne in September of 1917, but German deserters revealed the preparations to the French, who used artillery to destroy the gas-cylinder emplacements. The Germans postponed the operation and moved the gas cylinders back to the second trench lines, but then they canceled the mission.

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I don't have the German text, but it was called Unternehmen Sommerernte. It was to take place in the Champagne in September of 1917, but German deserters revealed the preparations to the French, who used artillery to destroy the gas-cylinder emplacements. The Germans postponed the operation and moved the gas cylinders back to the second trench lines, but then they canceled the mission.

Hi,

an interesting event. I will look up once I get home. It would be interesting to see the original document. I think we would agree though that this constellation was tailor made for the operation and that Gas Pionier were not standard members of assault units. I have a book on Bavarian pioniers somewhere and will see if i can find any extra info.

Best

Chris

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I think we would agree though that this constellation was tailor made for the operation and that Gas Pionier were not standard members of assault units.

From the American translation of the German order:

The role of the sappers-gassers operating with the shock troops and squads is to point out the passages free from gas and to warn the men against the danger of being overcome.

I think gassers were indeed a standard part of shock troops when poison gas was used. From the research I've done for my upcoming book on shock troops, I've also learned that all soldiers accompanying shock troops were trained in shock-troop tactics. Infantrymen, pioneers, telegraph operators, artillerymen, machine gunners, train personnel, drivers, reinforcement personnel, medical orderlies, buglers--all attended assault courses and learned shock tactics and the use of close-combat weapons.

So, even though these pioneer gassers were assigned the role described above, they were also trained and equipped to fight as shock troops. As I said before, one of the men is wearing colored brassards on both sleeves, in the manner of infantry assault troops. This means he was out on the battlefield and had to be recognized quickly. Gassers who stayed in the trenches and operated the cylinders did not wear special insignia. These two pioneers are part of a shock troop, I'm sure.

Edited by Thomas W
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Hi,

but in this case they are not with the shock troops but with the 3rd wave.

The original document is from a 1917 US published booklet, I think it important to get a German source to clear it up.

This refers to a major offensive, so everyone and his dog must be included somewhere in the order of battle.

Best

Chris

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Hi,

but in this case they are not with the shock troops but with the 3rd wave.

Waves were often separated by only a few meters. I have photos that show this. Besides, the orders say the following:

The role of the shock troops will be to open a passage through the enemy’s positions for the salvage and destruction squads, to break down the remaining resistance, to attain the objectives assigned them, and to protect the salvage and destruction squads during their operations.

Thus we see that the shock troops and the following waves were in the same area at the same time.

The shock troops were often divided into "principal" and "secondary" shock troops. It's clear from this order that gassers accompanied shock troops into battle. They were not "principal" shock troops, but like battery squads and infantry-accompanying artillerymen, they were trained in infantry shock tactics.

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Dont want to seem like I am being argumentitive but...

it seems that the shock troops do this...

"The role of the shock troops will be to open a passage through the enemy’s positions ...and.... to break down the remaining resistance, to attain the objectives assigned them,"

Then the pioniers do this...

"salvage and destruction" .

The break down of wave 1 seems to be 12 squads of Assault troops, Wave 2 three larger units, and wave 3 the pioniers.

Like I said before, I really think a study of some primary source material, or at least from the histories of the German units is needed.

best

Chris

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I'm agnostic about Robin's skull, but I think it's entirely likely that it's authentic.

I never saw this design until a couple of weeks ago. I didn't get the period photo, but I remember the design. Never saw it in 25 years of looking. I was outbid on the photo, and the guy who now owns it won't let me use it in my book. But I did a drawing I'm going to use. It's a sleeve badge worn above the left cuff by the Assault Company of the 38th Division.

Never seen it before, and it looks very odd, but it's real...

Good example of a previously unknown, but authenticated, badge.

Thomas ............. I think only four people in the world have voiced the opinion that the black skull COULD be original.

1. You.

2. Me.

3. Stefan.

4. The seller.

It's great to be part of a very select group, isn't it? :cheers:

Especially as the skull is in the colours of the pioneers.

I have been accused of 'wishful thinking' ....... i.e. I have the skull, so I wish it was original.

Maybe the truth is that some others are also engaged in a bit of 'wishful thinking' ......... i.e. they missed out on a rare badge, so they wish it wasn't original! :cheeky:

Wishful thinking cuts both ways.

Edited by Robin Lumsden
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Dont want to seem like I am being argumentitive

I just post what I read and see. The order says gassers accompany the shock troops, and I have a photo of a gasser wearing colored brassards of the type worn by shock troops.

It's not really a huge jump to conclude that pioneer gassers accompanied shock troops. I'd even go so far as to say it was logical to make such a conclusion.

I've discovered a lot in my research that I didn't know before and that nobody else has published since about 1918.

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I've discovered a lot in my research that I didn't know before and that nobody else has published ..........

Ditto.

The biggest lesson I ever learned during 24 years of published research was .......... 'Never say "Never"' :cheeky:

Whenever I was dogmatic about something, somebody came along and proved me wrong.

A lesson there for everyone.

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Good example of a previously unknown, but authenticated, badge.

My forthcoming book has photos of several unofficial shock-troop badges, as well as the following uniform anomalies:

1. Bavarian reservist wearing a Prussian "Gott Mit Uns" belt.

2. Bavarian Alpenkorps member wearing Prussian belt and cap.

3. Württemberger mountain machine gunner wearing Bavarian cap.

4. Bavarian 3rd Infantry Regiment Unteroffizier wearing field jacket with Swedish cuffs.

5. Shock troop of Bavarian foot artillery regiment armed with hand grenades and equipped as trench raiders.

6. Telegraphers wearing Brandenburg cuffs.

7. Württemberger wearing Prussian belt and the Alpenkorps badge on the right side of his cap.

8. German shock-troop officer wearing a steel helmet with the front brim cut off, Romania, 1917.

9. Musician of Assault Battalion No. 16 wearing an M1915 blouse with "swallow's nests."

10. Pioneer gasser wearing field jacket with Brandenburg cuffs.

11. Guard artillerymen wearing shoulder straps with "NG" on them (There was no Guard Close Combat Battery).

12. Grenadiers of Assault Battalion No. 7 wearing Guard Pioneer uniforms.

13. Machine gunner of a field-artillery regiment wearing light-colored cap piping and a badge on the upper right sleeve.

14. Musketier of Württemberger Infantry Regiment No. 180 wearing Swedish cuffs and and an all-green Jäger bayonet knot.

15. Grenadier of the Asienkorps (there were no Grenadier regiments in Asienkorps).

The sky is the limit, Robin...

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Old photos are weird things. I have lots of photos of Guard Pioneers with black shoulder straps that register almost the same hue as the field-gray uniform.

It is hard to believe that the Garde=Pionier in Tom's photo has black shoulder-straps. I have several photos of groups of Garde=Pioniere that my father saved, in one about 30 men together, and typically one man in three had black shoulder-straps in these photos.

Someone asked about the Pionier=Regiment Nr. 35. A useless but interesting factoid about that formation: Probably the only unit of its size, from WW I, that had four of its officers later win a Nobel Prize in Chemistry or Physics, including the tragic Fritz Haber.

I am finding an association of the Death's Head with this unit somewhat of a stretch. The Garde=Reserve=Pionier=Regiment (Flammenwerfer) was only authorized to wear the patch in mid-1916, after its 150th flame attack, if memory serves, and only for the duration of the war. I think that it may have been 100 years (I may be wrong here, in detail) since any German unit had received authorization to put a Death's Head on their uniform. May 1915 was awfully early in the war. This sort of unit attracted visits from high brass; I can furnish a description of an important officer from the OHL visiting the unit and engaging in high-jinks with Dr. Haber. Who would tolerate a Pionier "unofficially" attaching the personal insignia of the Crown Prince to his uniform? This was not a Freikorps formation.

Have followed this epic thread, but I am not especially interested in uniform details, nor expert in same.

Most regrettably, my father retained one of his Totenkopf patches, but it frightened my mother, and she tossed it, probably in the 1950's. If it had not been lost it would have provided a very solid "chain of custody" for proof of authenticity.

Bob Lembke

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It is quite possible that enlisted pioneers were still wearing gray shoulder straps later in the war, especially on the simplified wartime pattern tunics (exposed button fronts). The black straps were authorized in 1915, but the previous patterns continued to be worn on tunics that were already issued. It would have been a slow process to outfit the older tunics with the new shoulder straps (if it was done at all). The first priority was getting them on the Blusen that were coming out of the factories for new recruits, for replacement of unserviceable tunics, etc..

Here is the M1907 enlisted pattern strap for the Garde Pioniere. The simplified version was similar, but without the red piping and attaching tongue on the reverse.

post-500-012467500 1294803827_thumb.jpeg

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It is quite possible that enlisted pioneers were still wearing gray shoulder straps later in the war, especially on the simplified wartime pattern tunics (exposed button fronts). The black straps were authorized in 1915, but the previous patterns continued to be worn on tunics that were already issued. It would have been a slow process to outfit the older tunics with the new shoulder straps (if it was done at all). The first priority was getting them on the Blusen that were coming out of the factories for new recruits, for replacement of unserviceable tunics, etc...

True, but both the photos I posted are of the M.1915 Bluse. The straps are indeed black; they just look gray, which was why I posted the images.

Flamethrower pioneers could wear one of three field jackets, three styles of Guard Litzen, two styles of shoulder strap, and two styles of sleeve badge. Since "plain" pioneer uniforms with no Guard Litzen were also worn and the sleeve badge was often omitted for various reasons, that works out to over 30 different uniforms that a flamethrower pioneer could have worn. In some of my photos of flamethrower platoons no two men are uniformed exactly alike.

Modern historians sometimes place far too much emphasis on written regulations.

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Refering to the documentation of the proposed 1st Bavarian Div attack.

Thomas is right... the 35th and 36th Gas pioniers were along to help. As it was their attack 3 pioniers were attached to the first wave and 3 to the 3rd. Their job was to act as Gasschutz personel and help the storm troops find their way through the gassed areas.

I think it safe to assume that the men of the gas units fulfilled this role in attacks their unit took part in. Leaves the question open ... who did it in attacks where they did not take part? i.e where the gas was fired only by arty and minenwerfer.

I was looking through a couple of books on the gas war last night, published in the DDR. It becomes apparent that the set up of the gas systems used by the 35th and 36th required a lot of manual labour. I think this may explain the "armierungs" troops attached to the regiments.

Best

Chris

P.S. in case it sounds like I am beating on Thomas here... He is doing a great service to us all.

His work on FW and Sturm units is pretty much ground breaking. There really is not a lot of info out there and it must take tremendous effort to get it all together.

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... Thomas ... is doing a great service to us all.

His work on FW and Sturm units is pretty much ground breaking. There really is not a lot of info out there and it must take tremendous effort to get it all together.

... I totally agree!

Thank you Thomas for sharing!

.

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There's a reference above to gas being 'fired' by Minenwerfer.

Could there be any significance in the fact that the black (gas ???) TK was apparently found along with some items that included minenwerfer straps ??

Sorry .......... I'm ignorant of WW1 gas/minenwerfer tactics.

It just seems to me a bit of a coincidence, in view of recent discussions .............. which the seller could not have 'pre-planned', so to speak.

post-153-005987400 1294865778_thumb.jpg

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There's a reference above to gas being 'fired' by Minenwerfer.

Could there be any significance in the fact that the black (gas ???) TK was apparently found along with some items that included minenwerfer straps ??

Sorry .......... I'm ignorant of WW1 gas/minenwerfer tactics.

It just seems to me a bit of a coincidence, in view of recent discussions .............. which the seller could not have 'pre-planned', so to speak.

Black was the facing color of the pioneers, who exclusively operated trench mortars until November of 1916, when the OHL declared that light trench mortars were weapons of the infantry.

In World War II the Germans used black death's heads on small flags to warn of poison gas.

http://beck-militaria.de/index.php?article_id=2&clang=1&SHOPLANG=en&SHOPKEY=1933+-+1945/Sonstiges/6719_Minen-+%28Gas%29+F%C3%A4hnchen%2C+mit+kleinem+Totenkopf.html

So far I haven't found any photos of black skulls used to denote gas in World War I, but your badge is clearly unofficial if it's authentic, so I don't think it's significant that I've found no documentation yet.

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In World War II the Germans used black death's heads on small flags to warn of poison gas.

Thanks, Thomas.

I just wondered ........... badge and straps found together.

I've had these WW2 pennants for many years, and never thought about any (albeit very tentative) connection, until now.

post-153-084898400 1294869522_thumb.jpg

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