German Army Infantry Replacement System
Tobey, revised by Jonathan Bocek
method of inducting and training replacements was
complex and went through continual change during the
war. In order to give a "Landser's eye
view" of the process and to avoid getting into a
detailed thesis on the ERSATZHEER (Replacement Army),
we will follow two different recruits through the
system at different periods in time.
a resident of Wolfenbüttel in Wehrkrise XI and
received his call-up in the mail in September of 1940.
The letter instructed him to report to the Infanterie
Ersatz Bataillon 17 (17th Infantry Replacement
Battalion) located in Braunschweig. Although
Fritz did not know it, what had happened was that this
Replacement unit's affiliated field unit, the 17th
Infantry, had sent back a requisition for replacements
to make good its losses suffered in the invasion of
France; the replacement unit then sent out the
required number of induction notices to fill this
first stop was the STAMMKOMPANIE of the Replacement
Battalion. This unit functioned as the reception
company and its basic purpose was to induct recruits,
issue uniforms and equipment, and generally begin to
acclimate the recruit to military life. It was
here that Fritz would have turned in his Wehrpaß and
received his Soldbuch and identity disc.
spending a brief period (a week or two) with the
stammkompanie, Fritz would have moved on to one of the
four AUSBILDUNGSKOMPANIE of the Battalion. The
transfer probably meant no more than moving to another
barracks in the same camp. The first three
companies were rifleman training units, and the fourth
was a machine-gun training company. After
completing his training, the new soldier would
graduate to the Battalion's MARSCHKOMPANIE or
"transfer company". This unit was
responsible for transporting new soldiers to the field
unit after issuing them the appropriate field gear.
one more company in the Ersatz Bataillon which
hopefully Fritz would never be aquainted with: the
GENESENDENKOMPANIE or Convalescent Company. This
unit was composed of previously wounded or sick men
who were collected together for light duty before
being sent back to the field unit.
be noted that during this time period, all of the
replacement and training units were organized into the
single Ersatz Bataillon.
born in 1925 near Hannover and was called to the
colors in January of 1943 by his local reporting
office, Wehrmeldeamt Hannover 1A, and ordered to
report to the STAMMKOMPANIE of GRENADIER ERSATZ
BATAILLON 588 in Hannover. Here he relinquished
his Wehrpaß, and received his Soldbuch, ID disc, and
basic uniform issue. Immediately after
induction, he and nine other recruits were sent to a
camp at Nijmegen in the Netherlands for a week or two
of basic military instruction. From here he was
transferred early in February to a training unit from
his Wehrkrise, RESERVE GRENADIER BATAILLON 211 of the
171st Reserve Division. This battalion was
stationed in Culenborg in the Netherlands.
Before leaving Nijmegen, the replacement unit would
have stamped its name in section B of page 4 of the
soldiers' Soldbuchs under the heading "Zum
Feldheer Abgesandt von..." (sent to the Field
Army by...). Upon reaching Culenborg, the 211th
would enter itself in Section C of page 4 under the
heading "Feldtruppenteil", despite the fact
that this unit was not a part of the Field Army.
completion of his training in April, Hans was sent
back to the MARSCHKOMPANIE of the 211th Reserve
Battalion's affiliated replacement unit, in this case
GRENADIER ERSATZ BATL. 211 in Hannover. In this
unit he was transported to GRENADIER REGIMENT 895 in
Hameln which was a component of INFANTERIE DIVISION
265 which was in the process of formation. An
existing Wehrkrise XI replacement unit, GRENADIER
ERSATZ BTL. 12 in Halberstadt was made responsible for
the new regiment, and Hans would have been sent back
to this unit if for any reason he was transferred back
to the Replacement Army.
arrival at Gren. Regt. 895, this unit would have
notified Gren. Ers. Batl. 211 of his appearance; this
was unnecessary earlier in the war because at that
time the replacement units knew exactly which field
unit the man would join because there was a 1 to 1
relationship between replacement units and the field
units. At an early stage in the Russian campaign
however, it was often found necessary to divert
replacements to field units other than that to which
they were intended, and after that the affiliation
from the replacement unit to the field unit was
violated more and more frequently. The
affiliation from the field unit to the replacement
unit, on the other hand, was always carefully
maintained and was always entered by the field unit in
section D of page 4 of the man's Soldbuch headed
"Jetzt zustandiger Ersatztruppenteil"
(Present Responsible Replacement Unit). Oddly
enough, the new replacement unit, in Hans' case Gren.
Ers. Batl. 12, would not have been notified of
Hans' enrollment and would remain unaware of his
existence unless he was wounded or otherwise sent back
for some reason.
training units of the Replacement Army in Hans' day
were split away from the replacement units for number
of reasons. First, it gave barracks room in
Germany to the formations of the new units (like the
265th Division), and second it automatically provided
occupation troops for the conquered territories.
Training units were formed into Reserve Divisions and
were located in almost every annexed region: Holland,
Belgium, France, Poland, etc.. Late in the war
when the Allies were in the process of retaking these
areas, the replacement and training units were once
again united into single units know as GRENADIER-
ERSATZ UND -AUSBILDUNGSBATAILLON. These units
were located in one area in Germany, as in the pre-
and early war Ersatz Battalions.
this type of replacement system produced new soldiers
who were more content than their U.S. counterparts.
During the training process they developed a sense of
unit loyalty since they often knew which units they
would join before going to the front, and throughout
the training cycle they were with their friends and
neighbors. They seldom worried about being
accepted by the old timers in the combat unit, since
they would all have gone through the identical
training regimen and were all from the same
geographical location. In addition, veterans
from the field units were commonly used as instructors
in the training and replacement units.
result was the production of brand-new soldiers who
generally made formidable fighters.