Station: [12] Ludwigsburg Garrison in the First World War

M: On the 28th of June 1914, a shot was fired in Sarajevo. The heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne was killed. A month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.

F: The German Empire assured Austria of its full support and followed suit on the 1st of August by declaring war on the Russian Tsar. The First World War had begun. People responded with widespread enthusiasm. They were convinced the war would be over within a few weeks.

M: The photograph shows the Infantry Regiment no. 121 “Alt-Württemberg” moving out. The troops would go on to fight in France, Poland and Serbia; they’d be present at the Battle of the Somme and at the Second Battle of Flanders.

F: The troops went to war wearing the classic spiked helmet, neatly polished of course. But in the field, you had to be camouflaged, so they wore a special cover. In the early days, the regiment's number was embroidered on the cover in distinctive red yarn. It’s not hard to guess why that changed after just a few weeks. The uniform colour also changed in the early days of the First World War. Brightly coloured uniforms were replaced by styles made up in grey or green fabric.

M: The object next to the spiked helmet is an infantry field cap that’s been turned inside out. On the inside, you can see the manufacturer’s stamp, the hat size and the reference "BA 1316". The abbreviation stands for "Bekleidungsamt 13 des 16. Armeekorps". The office was in charge of procuring and inspecting kit for the soldiers. If it was found to be fit for purpose, it was stamped and then issued to the troops.

F: Contrary to all expectation, the war didn’t just last a few weeks, but dragged on for four years. During that time, some 12,000 sick and wounded soldiers were treated at Ludwigsburg’s military hospitals. Though most weren’t injured by poison gas in use for the first time, or by small arms fire, but by shrapnel. That’s why the spiked helmet was gradually replaced by a steel helmet from 1916 onwards.

M: On the 11th of November 1918, the First World War finally ended with Germany’s surrender. The Kaiser and the King of Württemberg both abdicated. The subsequent demobilisation and disbanding of all military units and authorities drew a line under Württemberg's independent military history. Over the coming years, Germany would be granted permission for an army of only 100,000 men.

Foto: © Garnisonsmuseum Ludwigsburg