Young Adolf Hitler

Young Adolf Hitler

An early picture of Adolf Hitler (seated far right) with fellow soldiers of the 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment, circa 1914-15.

Although born in Austria, Hitler applied and was accepted into the Bavarian Army at the outbreak of the First World War. He was enlisted as a volunteer and posted to the 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment, which he served with on the Western Front until the end of the war. He was wounded in action twice, first during the Battle of the Somme in 1916, and again in October 1918 when he was temporarily blinded by a mustard gas attack. Promoted to the rank of Gefreiter (lance-corporal) he was also decorated for bravery twice, being awarded the Iron Cross, 2nd Class, in 1914 and then the Iron Cross, 1st Class, in 1918.

Bavaria was one of only four kingdoms within the German Empire (the others being the kingdoms of Prussia, Saxony and Württemburg) and as such retained a large degree of autonomy in managing its internal affairs. This included the privilege of retaining its own army. That said, the Bavarian Army was effectively made a sub-component of the wider German Army once the Empire went to war and its distinguishing characteristics were progressively worn down as the war went on.

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