Imperial Iron Cross documents

This section will explain the levels of command of the Imperial German army from 1914 to 1918, the evolution of the different branches of service and provide overviews of various battles. The various sections will also explain the context of the awards and numerous eye-witness accounts to illustrate the events as seen by the men themselves.

The sections describing the evolution of the various arms of service draw on Cron's Geschichte des deutschen Heeres im Weltkrieg as a base and have been elaborated in the parts that are relevant to Iron Cross collectors, and include information added from many other sources. In this way we hope to provide a good technical overview in the first part of the chapter while the second part of the chapter will be rounded off with accounts of that branch of service in action. This should give the reader a better understanding of the function of the branch of service.

The battle sections will primarily deal with events on the Western Front. No effort has been made to attempt a detailed history of any particular action, as there are enough books written on this subject by many very qualified historians. We simply aim to provide a short, concise overview of events with accounts of actions in which the men whose documents are pictured served. In this way the reader can place the unit in the broad overview and at the same time read a descriptive account of the type of action it saw. Sometimes accounts are used of units serving in the same sector and experiencing the same conditions.

It would have been possible to limit the text to a blow-by-blow account of the events the unit was involved in at the time of the award, but the obvious down side to this approach is that with the thousands of different units in the German army, fighting over years on many different fronts, the chance of a reader finding something specific to his unit are pretty small.

By casting our net a bit wider we hope to present a work that will:

We use a wide range of sources, both German and allied, with the intention of giving a well-rounded view. We have made extensive use of period works, published during or just after the war.

We do not try to establish the truth in anyway, the truth as seen by a writer who participated in events and that seen by historians writing many years after the event often differ substantially, but there are many history books available that seek to provide an objective truth. Our interest is in the awards and the men who earned them, and as such their views and stories have been accepted at face value. If some truths have been twisted in the patriotic fervour of the time, the account still serves as a good example of the spirit of the time and the circumstances in which the Iron Cross was awarded.