Profile - Compulsory Military Service, France and Germany, 1914
France and Germany spent the 40-some years between the Franco-Prussian War, which ended in 1871, and the First World War, which broke out in 1914, getting ready. One aspect of “getting ready” was tapping their manpower.
|20||Active Army||Active Army|
|21||Active Army||Active Army|
|22||Active Army||Active Army|
|36||Territorial Army||Landwehr II|
|37||Territorial Army||Landwehr II|
|38||Territorial Army||Landwehr II|
|39||Territorial Army||Landsturm I|
|40||Territorial Army||Landsturm I|
|41||Territorial Army||Landsturm I|
|42||Territorial Army||Landsturm I|
|43||Territorial Reserve||Landsturm I|
|44||Territorial Reserve||Landsturm I|
|45||Territorial Reserve||Landsturm I|
|47||Territorial Reserve||Landsturm I/ Landsturm II|
|48||Territorial Reserve||Landsturm II|
|49||Territorial Reserve||Landsturm II|
|50||Territorial Reserve||Landsturm II|
France had not quite 40 million people, only about two-thirds the manpower of Germany, which had slightly over 60 million people. So in order to have an army roughly comparable in size to Germany’s, France drafted more men, about 80-pecent of those eligible, and kept them on active duty longer. In contrast, Germany rarely took as many as 50-percent of the available manpower. As a result, in the years preceeding World War I about 1.5-percent of Frenchmen, but only about 1-percent of Germans were on active duty at any time. Germany men not drafted went into the first ban of the Landsturm until 38.5 years of age, and then into the second ban.
There were, by the way, many small variations, depending upon the arm of service. For example, in Germany cavalrymen spent more time on active duty than infantrymen.
Being a reservist in these armies was not quite the same thing as it is today in the U.S. Although both French and German reservists had to report periodically for inspection and administrative details, regular training was by no means as rigorous as it is today. In the French Army, a reservist had two periods of refresher training during his entire eleven years, one of 23 days and one of 17, plus a stint of nine days during his time as a territorial. The Germans provided more rigorous training for their reservists, landwhermen, and landsturmmen, but even so it only amounted to about a week a year. However, the French neglected their reserves in other ways as well, giving them much smaller contingents of artillery and supporting arms than did the Germans, and incorporating the younger reservists directly into the active army, thus leaving their reserve divisions with much older men. This proved critically important in 1914, when German reserve divisions were able to take the field alongside active army units with only somewhat less combat ability. In contrast to French reserve divisions, which were unsuited to such duties, German reserve divisions constituted 35-percent of the Imperial Army’s first line offensive forces when the war broke out..