Prussian Grenadier Garde

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Origin and History

Grenadier Garde at Hohenfriedberg - Source: Carl Röchling

The regiment was raised in May 1675 for the Hereditary Prince Frederick. It then counted two battalions. Upon his accession to the electoral throne as Frederick I, it became the King's Regiment.

In 1677, the regiment took part in the campaign in Pomerania.

In 1686, as part of the Holy League's army, the regiment took part in the reconquest of Ofen (present-day Buda) in Hungary.

During the Nine Years' War, the regiment was at the actions of Kaiserwerth and Bonn (1689), Leuze (1691), Steenkerken (1691), Namur (1695), Gent (1696) and Oudenarde (1697).

At the beginning of the War of the Spanish Succession, in 1704, the regiment took part in the siege of Geldern and in the Battle of Blenheim. Then from 1706 to 1712, it was involved in various battles and sieges: Menin, Oudenarde, Gent, Malpaquet, Tournai, Mons, Bethune, Douai, Landrecy and Meurs. In 1710, the Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm I raised the famous "Red Bataillon" or "Die langen Kerls" and took over command himself in 1711. The regiment was used for intensive tactical training and implementation of new concepts.

In 1713, when Friedrich Wilhelm became king of Prussia, the regiment was initially stationed in Potsdam.

In 1717, King Friedrich Wilhelm I incorporated this "Red Bataillon" into the existing King's Regiment who thus counted three battalions. Personnel came from the field regiments of the army and from the king's district.

In 1740 the regiment was reduced to one battalion of Grenadier Guards by Frederick II (the two other battalions were transferred to other infantry regiments: the II./Garde Bataillon coming entirely from its ranks), and permanently stationed in Potsdam.

During the War of the Austrian Succession, on June 4 1745, at the battle of Hohenfriedberg, the Grenadier Guard fought in the Guards Brigade and lost 184 men. Three "Pour-le-mérite" were awarded. On September 30 1745, at the Battle of Soor, the Guards Brigade pushed through the middle of the Austrian and Saxon lines. The wing grenadier company fought in the Grenadier Batallion von Treskow, who stormed the "Graner Koppe" and lost about one third of its men.

Grenadier Garde Battalion in 1745. - Source: Richard Knötel Uniformkunde

Garrison: Potsdam

During the Seven Years War, the regimental "Chefs" were:

  • from October 27 1745: Colonel Wolf Friedrich von Retzow
  • from February 5 1760 till December 20 1766: Major-General Friedrich Christoph von Saldern

In 1763 the Grenadier Guard had a nominal manpower of 25 officers, 59 NCO’s, 6 medics, 27 musicians, 137 wing grenadiers incl. carpenters and 610 grenadiers, for a total of 864 men.

The numbering system (Stammliste) was first used by Leopold I., Fürst von Anhalt-Dessau (Der alte Dessauer) in the Dessauer Spezifikation from 1737. Around 1780 the numbers were used in the printed Stammlisten, still with some variations for the fusilier regiments. It became official by "Cabinets-Ordre" from October 1, 1806. The present infantry regiment was attributed number 6.

In 1806 the battalion was attached to the main army and surrendered at Erfurt and Prenzlau.

Line of tradition: in 1914 the 3rd and the 4th Company of the 1st Garde-Regiment zu Fuß. After WW1 in the Reichswehr and later in the Wehrmacht 1st Company Infantery Regiment 9. Today in the Bundeswehr, the tradition is carried by the “Wachbatallion” (Guard battalion). The motto of the battalion is "Semper Talis". Today the "Wachbataillon" is stationed in the Julius-Leber-Kaserne in Berlin-Wedding and in the Brückberg-Kaserne in Siegburg. It has about 1,800 soldiers in eight companies.

Service during the War

Grenadier in 1745 - Source: Adolph von Menzel "Heerschau der Soldaten Friedrich's des Großen"

On August 26 1756, when the Prussian Army was ordered to proceed to the invasion of Saxony, the battalion was part of the centre column led by Frederick II. More precisely, it belonged to Keith's Corps. The centre column had concentrated at Brietzen and advanced unopposed upstream along the Elbe River by Torgau, Wittenberg, leaving Meissen to its left. The wing grenadiers initially remained with the regiment. It's only after the arrival of the regiment in the camp of Cotta that they were converged with those of Anhalt-Dessau Infantry. On September 6, the battalion encamped at Rothschönberg and finally reached Wilsdruf. While the Prussian Main Army moved forward to engage the Austrian Army at Lobositz (October 1), the battalion remained in the Pirna Country to maintain the blockade of the Saxon Army which surrendered on October 17.

On May 6 1757, the battalion did not take part in the Battle of Prague. It was rather deployed on the left bank of the Moldau near the Weissenberg as part of Keith's Corps. At the end of August, the regiment was part of the small Prussian army hastily assembled at Dresden by Frederick to head towards Thuringia and to offer battle to the Franco-Imperial Army invading Saxony. On November 5, the battalion fought in the Battle of Roßbach where it was deployed in the first line of the infantry left wing under Lieutenant-General Prince Henri. One month later, on December 5 at the Battle of Leuthen, the regiment was deployed in Kahlden's Guards Brigade in the first line of the infantry centre. The battalion performed a "miracle of bravery" when, at about 2:30 p.m., this battalion along with the second and third battalions of the Garde were hurled against the village of Leuthen. A dreadful and destructive contest of infantry ensued with the Austrians defending the village with extraordinary determination. The Prussian elite units stormed the churchyard and, with the help of the entire infantry left wing, finally prevailed. During this battle, the battalion lost 36 dead and 156 wounded (27%)

On October 14, 1758, in the catastrophic Battle of Hochkirch, the regiment was initially deployed in the centre of the first line, in front of Rodewitz covering the headquarters. It counter-attacked together with the Garde, Bornstedt InfantryWedell Infantry west of the village. They pushed back the enemy for a while but suffered heavy losses (335 men or 47%).

In 1760, Major-General Friedrich Christoph von Saldern took over command. He was an ideal teacher for his officers, great tactician, intelligent philanthropist, and a father to his men. On August 15, at the Battle of Liegnitz, the regiment was stationed on the left wing by the Katzbach River. On November 3, in the Battle of Torgau, as part of the Guards Brigade, it attacked as advance guard of Zieten's Corps. They attacked the enemy at nightfall on the flank, as well as from behind, and achieved the decision. They lost eight officers and 338 men (48%).

Two years later, on July 20 1762, the regiment seized the Castle of Ohmsdorf as starting point for the attack on the Austrian entrenchments between Burkersdorf and Leutmannsdorf. Some weeks later at Reichenbach they arrived after the decision was reached.

During the war the grenadiers from the wing grenadier company were put together with the grenadiers of Infantry Regiment 3 forming the Grenadier Batallion 3/6 (please refer to this article for the details of the service of the grenadiers during the war).

Uniform

Privates

All privates wore a grenadier mitre.

Uniform in 1756 - Source: Kronoskaf
Uniform Details
Headgear
Musketeer not applicable
Grenadier mitre with reddish brass (Tombac) front plate and headband, red back with yellow piping, red within white pompom (see Grenadier Batallion 3/6 for an illustration)
Neck stock red
Coat Prussian blue coat with 6 brass buttons and 6 golden braid loops, 2 additional unlaced buttonholes (hidden by the sleeve in our illustration) and 1 brass button in the small of the back with 1 golden braid loop
Collar red
Shoulder Straps blue laced red
Lapels none since 1736
Pockets horizontal pockets laced red, each with 3 brass buttons
Cuffs red slit cuff (in the open Prussian pattern) each with 4 brass buttons and 4 golden braid loops on the sleeve
Turnbacks red
Waistcoat straw
Breeches straw
Gaiters black
Leather Equipment
Crossbelt one white belt over the left shoulder for the cartridge box and one narrower white belt over the right shoulder for the haversack
Waistbelt white
Cartridge Box black
Bayonet Scabbard brown
Scabbard brown
Footgear black shoes


Privates were armed with a musket, a bayonet and a sabre with a curved blade.

NCOs

NCOs wore uniforms similar to those of the privates with the following distinctions:

  • black and white quartered pompoms on the mitre
  • no shoulder strap
  • golden cord loops
  • gold laced cuffs
  • yellowish leather gloves
  • black and white sabre tassel

NCOs were armed with a sabre and a yellow half-pikes measuring 7 ½ Rhenish feet (2.37 m.) in the fusilier companies and 13 Rhenish feet (4.10 m.) in the grenadier companies (carried by the 3 most senior NCOs while other grenadier NCOs were armed with rifled muskets since 1744).

NCOs also carried canes (normally attached to a button at the top of the right front while carrying the half-pike).

Officers

Grenadier Garde Officer - Source: Menzel, Adolph von, Die Armee Friedrich's des Großen

Officers had tricorne edged with a thin golden lace and a gilt button. They always wore tricornes notwithstanding if they were commanding fusiliers or grenadiers. They also wore a white neck stock and a black and silver sash around the waist. They carried an officer stick and a silver and gold gorget. Their coats had no collar otherwise, they were similar to those of the privates but had no turnback and had gilt buttons and 4 pairs of golden loops on the front of the coat; 4 golden loops at the cuffs; 2 on each pocket as well as sidewise at the waist and in the small of the back.

Officers carried yellow spontoons measuring 7 ½ Rhenish feet (2.36 m.).

Lace of the officer uniform in 1755 - Source: Tressenmusterbuch von 1755


Musicians

Lace of the drummer uniform in 1755 - Source: Tressenmusterbuch von 1755

Gold-red-yellow-red-gold drummers lace. Each swallow nest with five bars; each sleeve with 8 chevrons. Lace on the pocket and on the front and back of the coat. All button loops were also made with this lace.

Colours

The colours of this prestigious regiment underwent several changes throughout its history. In 1740, upon Frederick II accession to the throne, the former colours might have had their corner devices modified, retaining the same crown, palm fronds and FWR ciphers but with a blue field. However, it is also possible that the former design was still in use during the Seven Years' War and that the two designs have cohabited within the regiment.

Pre-1740 design

Colonel colour (Leibfahne): White field. Centre device consisting of a white medallion surrounded by a golden palm fronds and surmounted by a gold crown. The medallion is decorated with a black eagle holding a sword and lightning bolts surmounted by a blue scroll bearing the golden motto "Pro Gloria et Patria". Corner monograms (crowns, palm fronds, FWR ciphers) and grenades in gold.

Regimental colours (Kompaniefahnen): White field. Centre device consisting of a blue medallion surrounded by a golden palm fronds and surmounted by a gold crown. The medallion is decorated with a black eagle holding a sword and lightning bolts surmounted by a white scroll bearing the golden motto "Pro Gloria et Patria". Corner monograms (crowns, palm fronds, FWR ciphers) and grenades in gold.

Colonel Colour before 1740 - Source: Dawid adapted from an original by Hannoverdidi
Regimental Colour before 1740 - Source: Dawid adapted from an original by Hannoverdidi

Post-1740 design

Colours of this pattern were captured by the Austrians during the Battle of Hochkirch on October 14, 1758. They are still on display at the Heeresgeschichtlichen Museum in Vienna.

Colonel colour (Leibfahne): White field. Centre device consisting of a white medallion surrounded by a golden palm fronds and surmounted by a gold crown. The medallion is decorated with a black eagle holding a sword and lightning bolts surmounted by a blue scroll bearing the golden motto "Pro Gloria et Patria". Corner monograms (crowns, palm fronds, FWR ciphers) in gold on a blue field and grenades in gold.

Regimental colours (Kompaniefahnen): White field. Centre device consisting of a blue medallion surrounded by a golden palm fronds and surmounted by a gold crown. The medallion is decorated with a black eagle holding a sword and lightning bolts surmounted by a white scroll bearing the golden motto "Pro Gloria et Patria". Corner monograms (crowns, palm fronds, FWR ciphers) in gold on a blue field and grenades in gold.

Colonel Colour from 1740 - Source: Richard Couture and Dawid adapted from an original by Hannoverdidi
Regimental Colour from 1740 - Source: Richard Couture and Dawid adapted from an original by Hannoverdidi

The pikes used as staffs for the colours were yellow.

References

Bleckwenn, Hans: Die Uniformen der Preußischen Infanterie 1753-1786, Teil III/Bd. 3, Osnabrück 1973

Deutsche Uniformen, Bd. 1, Das Zeitalter Friedrich des Großen, 240 Bilder von Herbert Knötel d. J., Text und Erläuterungen von Dr. Martin Letzius, hrsg. von der Sturm-Zigaretten GmbH, Dresden 1932

Die Bewaffnung und Ausrüstung des Armee Friedrichs des Großen. Eine Dokumentation aus Anlaß seines 200. Todesjahres. Ausstellungskatalog, Rastatt 1986

Die Kriege Friedrichs des Großen, hrsg. vom Großen Generalstab/Abt. f. Kriegsgeschichte, E.S. Mittler, Berlin 1890-1913

Dorn, Günter; Engelmann, Joachim: Die Infanterie-Regimenter Friedrichs des Großen: 1756-1763, Augsburg 1992

Dorn, Günter; Engelmann, Joachim: Die Schlachten Friedrichs des Großen: Führung - Verlauf - Gefechts-Szenen - Gliederung - Karten, 1986

Funcken, Liliane; Funcken, Fred: Historische Uniformen des 18. Jahrhunderts, München 1978

Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 1 Pirna und Lobositz, Berlin, 1901, App. 3

Guddat, Martin: Grenadiere, Musketiere, Füsiliere: Die Infanterie Friedrichs des Großen, Herford 1986

Hohrath, Daniel: The Uniforms of the Prussian Army under Frederick the Great from 1740 to 1786; Vol. 2; Verlag Militaria, Vienna: 2011, pp. 42-49

Merta, Klaus-Peter: Das Heerwesen in Brandenburg und Preußen von 1640 bis 1806, Bd. 2, die Uniformierung, Berlin 1991

Schirmer, Friedrich: Die Heere der kriegführenden Staaten 1756-1763, hrsg. von der KLIO-Landesgruppe Baden-Württemberg, überarb. u. aktual. Neuauflage 1989

Summerfield, Stephen: Prussian Musketeers of the War of the Austrian Succession and Seven Years War: Uniforms, Organisation and Equipement of Musketeer Regiments, Ken Trotman Publishing: Huntingdon, 2012, pp. 38-43

N.B.: the section Service during the War is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.