Individual Drill and the Manual of Arms
Einzelausbildung ohne Gewehr, Gewehrgriffe

By Erich Tobey--edited by Marsh

Individual Drill

These would be the "positions of the soldier," or the basic commands the recruit would have to master before training in groups or with weapons. Much more of this will be covered elsewhere in this manual.

  • Raustreten!......Everybody out! This was used to get recruits out of the classroom or barracks.
  • Stillgestanden!......Heels together, toes pointed out at not quite a right angle. Shoulders squared. Arms are thrown slightly forward, with the hands flat, with the middle finger resting against the trouser seam. Eyes forward.
  • Rührt Euch!......Left foot slightly forward, body at rest. Talking is still forbidden.
  • Links... um!......Left face.
  • Rechts... um!......Right face.
  • Kehrt... um!......About face. In the German Army, this is done by turning to the LEFT--repeat: to the LEFT.
  • Hinlegen!......Lie down.
  • Auf!......Get up.
  • Laufen / gehen / halt......Run / walk / stop.

Other Exercises: There were also a number of physical training exercises which were common to the German trainees. One was called the Kniebeugen (k'-nee-boy-gen), or knee bends. This exercise was the German version of our push-ups, and was used in much the same manner. The Kniebeugen was usually done with a rifle in the following manner: from a standing position, the rifle is grasped in both hands and held horizontally in front of the chest. On the first count, the rifle is pushed away from the body as the knees are bent until the soldier is squatting on his haunches and the rifle is held at arm's length. On the second count, the soldier rises up and pulls in the rifle. This completes one Kniebeugen.

The Germans were also fond of doing exercises wearing their gasmasks--climbing ropes, going on forced marches with loaded packs, and bayonet drill, all wearing the stuffy gasmasks. What this accomplished physically for the trainee is beyond us, but it brings back oh-so-fond memories of being made to do calisthenics in a closed-up and steamy shower room in US boot camp--laying in puddles of sweat--Mmmm, what delightful memories!! Probably, it was just training harassment--albeit an effective one. Although, it probably would be quite useful to have actually done physically demanding tasks while wearing a gasmask before one had to do such things "for real" during a gas attack!

Manual of Arms

The basic sequence of movements begins with...

Grundstellung (Order arms)--The weapon's butt is rested on the ground alongside the soldier's right foot, trigger guard facing forward. The rifle is grasped in the right hand near the upper barrel band. The left hand and arm remains in the position of attention.

Das Gewehr...über! (Shoulder arms)--This is done in five counts, and only the hands and arms must move; the body stays absolutely rigid. 1) The rifle is swung up in the right hand. The left hand grabs the piece just under the right hand. 2) The right hand now moves down and grasps the top of the rifle's action. 3) The rifle is placed on the left shoulder with the right hand, while the left hand reaches down and supports the buttplate. 4) A one count pause. 5) The right arm is returned to the position of attention. The rifle is supported so that it is almost vertical.

Gewehr ab! (Order arms)--This is done from shoulder arms in 4 counts, and again, the body must stay absolutely rigid. 1) The left arm extends and lets the rifle slide down the chest. 2) The right hand comes across the chest and grabs the piece near the upper barrel band. 3) The rifle is swung down across the body and the butt is landed on the ground. The trigger guard will be facing away from the soldier. 4) The rifle is twisted so that the trigger guard is facing forward and the butt is slid in towards the right foot. We are now back to Grundstellung.

There is also another maneuver, Present arms, which was generally not taught to recruits later in the war. If needed, we will practice it from time-to-time.

The maneuver starts from "Das Gewehr über."Achtung!…Präsentiert das...Gewehr! 1) At the command: Achtung The rifle is twisted in the left hand until the trigger guard is facing to the left. The right hand simultaneously grabs the rifle at the grip. 2) At the command: Präsentiert das...Gewehr! The rifle is swung forward and down until the upper barrel band is level with the right eye--simultaneously bringing the right foot back a half step. The left hand grasps the rifle near the rear sight.

  1. Das Gewehr...über! From present arms, we always go back to das Gewehr über. It is done in 2 counts: The rifle is lifted by the right hand and replaced on the left shoulder. The left hand supports the buttplate.
  2. The left hand is returned to the position of attention.

Closed Order Formations and Marching
Geschlossene Ordnung Marsch

There were two elementary close formations: The Reihe (rye-eh), and the Linie (leen-yeh). The Reihe was a line with the men facing front-to-back, and the Linie was a line with the soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder. The interval when in Reihe was called Abstand and was 80cm [put in inches or arm lengths], and when in Linie it was called Zwischenraum and unless otherwise ordered was with the elbows just touching on each man. In each formation the end man on the right (or front) was called the Flügelman (in open order called the Anschlußman); the lines always formed on him. Some things to remember when in formation:

  1. Always fall-in at attention (Angetreten) unless instructed otherwise.
  2. If you have a weapon, fall-in at Grundstellung (order arms).
  3. When called to attention--"Stillgestanden," or "Stich" (shteek) click your heels together.
  4. Always fall-in with a Feldmütze on your head unless you are ordered to wear your Stahlhelm.
  5. The first and generally the last formations of the day will usually require Dienstanzug only and no combat gear, unless otherwise ordered by the ranking man.
  6. When placed at Rührt Euch (rest) while in formation, remain in the formation and don't wander off to talk to a friend. If you must leave the formation, ask your Gruppenführer (squad leader) first. Something else about Rührt Euch, it is literally a rest position, not a position to "BS" in. Soldiers should not talk in ranks unless given permission first.

The standard German closed order marching formation was in 3 files, with the squad leader leading each file. In other words, three squads in Reihe formation marching side-by-side made up the Zug Marschordnung. The Gruppe itself can also be put into Marschordnung, with the group leader and the MG team in the front rank, group leader on the right end, and the assistant group leader on the left end of the rear rank.

The command to dress the ranks (to the right) is Nach rechts...richt Euch! Everyone except the Flugelman turns his head to the right and dresses the ranks. Heads remained turned until Augen gerade...aus! is commanded.

The normal command for eyes right is Augen...rechts! The head should be turned smartly. The command for eyes front is Augen gerade...aus! For eyes left, the command is slightly different. The command is Die Augen...links!--the reason for this difference is so that the men would be prepped to look in the proper direction before the command is given. When you hear Augen... you know you will be looking to the right--ALWAYS. Conversly, when you hear Die Augen... you know you will be looking to the left--ALWAYS. Ain't military ways neat?!

The German command for forwards, march, is Marsch! This may be prefixed with a particular command such as Ohne Tritt (route step), Gleichschritt (march step), or Laufschritt (double time). The standard German marching cadence was 114 steps per minute.

The German command for right (or left) turn was Rechts (Links) schwenkt...Marsch! The leading man or rank commences the turn on the Marsch command.