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Musketen Battalions (Part II)
The German Army of the First World War
At some point in the program to train men of the Hessian Life Guards in the handling of Madsen light machine guns, the Prussian War Ministry applied the term Muskete (“musket”) to the new weapon. While often described as a code name adopted for purposes of deception, this term evoked the old Prussian distinction between the heavier large-caliber flintlocks carried by Musketiere and the lighter, more accurate, shoulder arms of the men of Füsilier battalions.
Over the course of the winter of 1915 to 1916, the Musketen Ersatz Company of the Hessian Life Guards formed five operational companies. Each of these consisted of four officers, a first sergeant, a deputy first sergeant, ten non-commissioned officers (nine of whom served as squad leaders), twenty lance-corporals (Gefreiten), and a hundred and twenty privates.
In March of 1916, the Musketen companies received designations that identified them as units of the Hessian Life Guards. Thus, the first company became the 15. (Musketen)/IR 117, the second company became the 16. (Musketen)/IR 117, and so forth. Likewise, when these companies were formed into a pair of battalions, those battalions were often described the fourth and fifth battalions of the regiment: IV. /IR 117 and V./IR 117. On most occasions, however, the battalions were called the 1st and 2nd Musketen Battalions.
Notwithstanding the connection between the Musketen units and their parent regiment, the officers commanding the Musketen battalions obtained the disciplinary powers and administrative prerogatives usually reserved for the commanders of separate battalions.
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