German assault trooper

German assault trooper

A youthful looking German assault trooper pictured on the Western Front, 1916.

Assault troops, or ‘storm troops’ as they were also known, were specialist military troops formed by the German Army as they developed new methods of attacking enemy trenches. The first Assault Detachment (Sturm-Abteilung) was created in March 1915. Under the command of Hauptmann Willy Rohr they began training other German units in new assault tactics. These tactics were based around the coordinated use of small squads of storm troops (sturmtruppen), supported by heavy weapons and field artillery, to infiltrate and clear enemy trenches using hand grenades and small arms.

In March 1916 Rohr’s unit were renamed Assault Battalion 5 ‘Rohr’ –  one of sixteen assault battalions (Sturm-Bataillon) eventually formed by the German Army during the First World War. With a tactical emphasis on concealment and mobility these units were equipped with clothing and equipment specific to their requirements. Assault troopers often wore lighter footwear and their uniforms were reinforced with leather patches on the knees and elbows to protect them when crawling. Special grenade bags were issued and the standard Gewehr 98 rifle was replaced by the lighter Karabiner 98a carried by the grenadier in the picture above.

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